Sweet Damage – book review

Sweet Damage by Rebecca James

Thrilling and enthralling, Sweet Damage is a book written by Rebecca James.

Tim Ellison is aimless and unmotivated after finishing high school. He’s stuck working at his dad’s restaurant with no real ambition to go to university or get a proper job. He still sleeps on the couch of his ex-girlfriend’s home, that she also shares with her boyfriend, even though they broke up months ago because of Tim’s lack of ambition. So when Tim finds a cheap room of a mansion in the perfect location in Sydney, he feels as though finally things are going his way. But this house comes with a catch. Tim will be rooming with the house’s owner, Anna London.

When Tim first meets Anna, he thinks she’s timid and weak. She relies heavily on her lawyer friends Fiona and Marcus, who helped her get a roommate so she doesn’t have to cope all on her own in Fairview, which she inherited after her parents died a few years ago. Tim doesn’t understand why any of this would be a problem for him, until he find out that Anna has a condition. She’s agoraphobic, which is an anxiety disorder that means she is too afraid to go outside. Anna’s a prisoner in her own childhood home.

For the first time in what seems life forever, Tim finally has a hold of his life and things are turning out great. Sure, Anna might be a little odd. She sits up in the attic for hours on end and speaks mysteriously of her lost love named ‘Benjamin’. And then there’s the house itself. Tim hears things at night and thinks he sees a dark figure in the hallway watching him sleep. As more and more crazy and unexplained things happen in Fairview, Tim questions whether the cheap room and good location is worth it. Is he just imagining these things, or is there something more sinister going on?

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I loved reading Rebecca James’s first novel, Beautiful Malice, and I was so excited to see her new book at my local library. I immediately hoped I would like this book as much as I liked her other novel. In fact, I ended up loving this book even more than her first one. Like Beautiful Malice, I grabbed by the alluring cover. Sweet Damage has a really creepy-looking girl on the cover. Behind her is what looks like an old room in a house and the wall behind her has a huge crack in it. The girl’s lipstick is the same colour as the words ‘Sweet Damage’. Coincidence? I think not. I absolutely love the cover and when I picked it up, I couldn’t wait to start reading this book.

Firstly, I loved where this book was set. Like Rebecca’s other novel, this book was set in Sydney as well. After going to Sydney a few months ago for a holiday, I loved reading all about Manley and some of the other locations in Sydney. I liked being able to clearly picture what these places looked like because I’d already been there. Secondly, I knew that Rebecca can convey complex and damaged relationships in such a realistic way so I couldn’t wait to see what characters she had created this time.

The reason why her books are so scary is because they deal with real psychological issues and the way people can behave with these issues cannot be expected or predicted. Beautiful Malice explored mainly the effects of a dishonest friendship, whereas Sweet Damage actually had some pure horror in it. Spiders in the bed, blood-like letters written on the walls, someone watching Tim sleep; it was so scary! And even though is seems that Anna might be the person doing all of this, Tim still falls in love with her, showing that he might have a few issues himself. All of this made the book incredibly thrilling and fast-paced. This is definitely a book to read with the lights on!

Like Beautiful Malice, every character in this book was complex and no two characters were the same. Tim was a very trusting and optimistic person who always tries to see the good side of things. However, he’s obsessed with his ex-girlfriend Lilla and can’t seem to get her out of his head. Lilla is a flirty and self-obsessed person with a few issues of her own. Even though she has a boyfriend, she still flirts with Tim to make herself feel good and boost her ego. Tim knows this, yet he still sticks around like a moth attracted to a light.

My favourite character in this book would be Anna, as weird as that might sound. She started off being a weak and frightened girl to Tim, however as the story unfolded, she gained strength and courage. Everything weird and creepy that happens in the house seems to point to Anna, but she denies doing anything and seems shocked by everything that happens. Even though she clearly has some mental issues, she is sweet and her real personality is shown later on in the book.

The book is pretty hard to fault. The only thing that I didn’t like about this book was that I guessed what the ‘big secret’ was about 150 pages before Tim worked it out. That’s the only problem with reading a lot of these types of books. Even though I guessed what was going to happen, I was still surprised to see that what I had thought was going to happen did in fact happen.

Overall, this book was a real psychological thriller that I was completely engrossed in. I loved the depth of the characters and the complex relationships between these people. I really enjoyed reading Sweet Damage by Rebecca James and I’d give it a score of 9 out of 10. If you haven’t read either Beautiful Malice or Sweet Damage, both are by Rebecca James, I highly recommend reading them. Be prepared for a thrilling rollercoaster of a story that will need to be read with the lights on!

Beautiful Malice – book review

Beautiful Malice book

Menacing, intense and thrilling… Beautiful Malice is the chilling book written by Rebecca James.

When Katherine’s sister is violently murdered, Katherine moves away from her grief-stricken family to start again. Katherine moves to a new town, enrols in a new school, and tries to have a new life. All Katherine wants is to move on from her past. What better than a new friend to help her regain her life?

Katherine’s new friend Alice is the most popular and magnetic girl in the school. She’s flirtatious, confident, unpredictable and always the centre of attention: Alice is everything Katherine is not and doesn’t want to be. But in spite of her hesitancy, Katherine finds herself drawn into Alice’s life.

But Alice has dark and sinister secrets. Her fun and outgoing personality is only a façade and beneath it, Alice keeps her dark secrets hidden. As Katherine and Alice spend more time together, Katherine begins to see who Alice really is… and there’s no escaping this time.

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I had expected this book to be a lot different to what it actually was. I hadn’t heard much about this book before I read it, so I don’t know where my ideas that this book was going to be chilling and menacing came from. Perhaps it was the front cover. The thing that stood out to me from when I first saw this book was the shards of glass. Is it just me, or are shards of glass actually really scary? There’s a woman behind the glass and she’s wearing red lipstick and is almost touching a shard of glass. The red lipstick could echo how she feels about blood. Do I have to mention again that she’s almost touching a shard of glass? That’s creepy. I wouldn’t trust a person who willingly touches shards of glass. Okay, enough talk about shards of glass… it’s creeping me out. Then there’s the blurb. On the blurb, there is an excerpt of the book. In my opinion, this part of the book is one of the best parts of the entire novel.

I was expecting the whole book to be as menacing. For the most part, this book kept me glued to the pages because I wanted to know what was going to happen and what had happened in the past. I had to wait almost the entire book to find out what had happened to Katherine’s sister and how the chapters with Katherine and her child tied into the storyline. But when I found out all the information I had been begging to know, it sure was worth it. The last third of the book was definitely the best part. Everything came together nicely and all the questions I had were answered. At times in the beginning of the book, I didn’t feel as grabbed with the story line. That’s partially my fault, because I read into the front cover too much (which I shouldn’t do but always do anyway… Never judge a book by its cover!). However I did enjoy the first part of the book, even though it wasn’t as action-packed as I had expected, because I liked how I got to know each character really well and got a good sense of how their relationships were with one another.

A strong point of this book would definitely be the characters. I loved how each characters personality was so well thought-out and no character was just thrown into the storyline as a “filler” character. My favourite character would have to be Alice. I loved how much I despised her. She could be rude and awful one minute and bubbly and enthusiastic the next. Her quick changes in emotions made me notice that something was strange about her and that she wasn’t quite right in the head. At the start, Alice seemed like the perfect best friend. She seemed to make those around her feel special and needed and was outgoing and confident in every situation. As time progressed, we began to see the real Alice and what she was really like. It only took a split second for her temper to snap and I loved how she made me frightened of her and her mood swings through the pages. The main character, Katherine, was mostly likable. I really like how the story revolves around Katherine’s journey to overcome her past and move on so she can liver her life. I liked how Katherine didn’t just wallow in self-pity, but how she had tried to move on and continued to try. Katherine developed as a character throughout the book and I liked her much more in the end than I did in the beginning. Once I got to know her more and understand her story, I could feel connected in a way to her.

Overall, I quite enjoyed reading this book. I liked most of the book, but the ending was definitely worth the read. I loved how everything finally fit together and I found out everything I wanted to know. Another thing I loved about this book was the writing style. This book was really well written and literally sent shivers down my spine. It was both disturbing and intriguing and even though it was much different to what I had expected, the book was thrilling nonetheless. I really liked reading Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James and I’d give it a score of 8 out of 10. I will definitely be researching what other books Rebecca James has written and then I will hunt them down to read.

Thank you to Allen & Unwin Australia for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review!