Monday, 17 November 2014

Book Review: Compulsion by Martina Boone.

Product details:
Publisher: Simon Pulse.
Hardcover, 448 pages.
Release date: October 28th 2014.
Rating:  4 out of 5.
Ages: 14+
Source: Received from publisher for review.

Three plantations. Two wishes. One ancient curse.

All her life, Barrie Watson has been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lives with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some mileage on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison at her aunt’s South Carolina plantation instead--a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions.

Stuck with the ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she cannot see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who knows what Barrie wants before she knows herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family's twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn’t what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead.

Billed as Beautiful Creatures meets The Body Finder, Compulsion, the debut novel from Martina Boone is a sumptuous Southern Gothic that is packed full to the brim with secrets and lies, curses and gifts, romance, unexplained mysteries –and ghosts.

 Life hasn’t been easy for Barrie Watson. Living with her reclusive mother in San Francisco was no walk in the park; and now that her mother is dead –she dropped dead of a heart-attack when Barrie’s fabulously flamboyant Godfather, Mark, announced he was terminally ill-Barrie is on her own. Or at least that’s how it feels. Barrie has been sent to live with her Aunt Pru on the Watson family Plantation in South Carolina. Aunt Pru who thought Barrie’s mother, Lula, had died years before in a fire, aunt Pru who never leaves the Watson plantation, seemingly confined to the place by the character quirks that define her. Moving from San Francisco to Watson Island is a culture shock for Barrie, but she’s not one to let things get her down, deciding instead to embrace the island, the old house, and her aunt, whom she bonds with immediately. Watson Island has many attractions; not least a boy from a neighbouring house –he’s called Eight –and let’s just say he catches Barrie’s eye from the get go. 

 Watson Island holds many secrets –strange fire carriers, Yunwi (mischievous spirits that protect the island) and voodoo curses -and it’s also the key to Barrie’s ‘finder’ gift. As a Watson, Barrie can find anything that’s been lost, something that her ‘poor’ cousins, the Colesworth’s are banking on. Cassie Colesworth is as beautiful as she is exuberant, welcoming Barrie into her inner circle immediately. But is Cassie to be trusted? Eight thinks not. Aunt Pru is also disapproving, but as for Barrie, she’s just happy to finally have family to call her own.

 Compulsion is a beautifully written charmer of a book, wonderfully atmospheric, with a myriad of plot strands that all weave together beautifully on conclusion. That said, I felt that certain plot points were a little far-fetched at times, and the story took its sweet time to get going. Compulsion is a slow burn of a book – it’s not until the final one hundred pages or so that Boone really ups the ante in terms of revelations and spooky happenings. I would have liked things to move a little faster at times, although I can appreciate that this book really has its roots in its Southern setting, and that in itself is something to be savoured. 

 Barrie is presented to us as a headstrong and somewhat feisty, but sheltered protagonist. She has never kissed a boy before, and when she sees Eight she can’t help but crush on him. That’s all fine. Eight is totally crush-worthy. I, myself, was charmed by his impeccably good manners. And we’re told that he’s really hot – so that’s a win all round. However, I felt that the romance between Eight and Barrie was maybe a little forced here at times. Or just too textbook maybe? I dunno, maybe this will be explored in later books, and maybe it can be explained by some Beaufort/Watson family history/binding curse, but Barrie and Eight seemed to go from zero to hand holding and pet names in all of sixty seconds flat; all of this while Barrie found herself constantly annoyed by Eight’s behaviour and bickering with him to that effect. I think that this was meant to highlight Barrie’s sass or whatever, but it just made her annoy me a little bit especially since Eight is pretty much perfect and really not annoying at all.

 p.s. Eight calls Barrie ‘Bear’ which pretty cute, but if I recall correctly nobody ever comments on the fact that he’s christened Barrie with a pet name after, oh, all of three days. Well, no boy ever deigned  give me a pet name after three days. And if anyone ever had I can imagine the eye-rolling that would have ensued. But maybe that’s just me, hey? Sometimes, though, Barrie seems annoyed by the fact that Eight even breathes the same air as her, so I thought this would be a thing. But no. 

Overall, Compulsion is a winner, and it’s a great start to what is sure to be a compelling series. The unique premise and the enviable setting are real winners here, and I can’t wait to find out more about all the Gothic elements and family secrets that make Watson Island the special place that it is when the next book in the series, Persuasion, releases in 2015. I haven’t read a whole lot of paranormal YA this year, but Compulsion stands out as a well-written, enjoyable read. Also, I have to mention that Compulsion is very refreshing in that it does not end on a cliff-hanger and can happily be read as a standalone – a rarity in YA these days!

 Like the sound of this? Then you’ll love The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni. 

 *ARC review. Some details may have changed in final copy.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

NaNoWriMo Update: Over half-way there and falling behind!

Hi guys!

I'm checking in with a NaNoWriMo progress report! As you can see from the title of this blog post I am behind on my word count. I was so disciplined for the first week or so of NaNoWriMo -hitting those word targets every day - but I have to admit I've gotten a little bit lazy of late. I mean, last night I had time to write, but instead I watched The Vampire Diaries. That is not good! And I need to get back on track just like TVD this season after the sometime mess that was Season 5.

So, here's where I'm at:

If I was on target to finish on November 30th I'd be at 26,672 words right now, so this isn't yet a critical level of failure. I mean, I'm already doing better than last year. I can catch up. I know I can. If I write 5,000 words today, for instance, I'll be almost right back on track. But that means I won't be able to watch Scandal. Hmmmm.....You know I need my Fitz fix!

Basically I have no discipline.

You know who does have discipline, though? My NaNo writing buddies.  Cait from Notebook Sisters finished NaNoWriMo in a week. A WEEK! What?! I'm serious - you can read all about it HERE. Also, Christina from Confessions of a Book Addict is having an awesome NaNoWriMo this year. I like that Christina always has a plan. I need to have a plan. You can read Christina's NaNo tips HERE.

I am definitely going to have a plan for next years NaNoWriMo. Okay. Promise.

Right now my NaNo project is kind of a mess. But it's a fun mess, so that's okay. I've had to make some major changes along the way, like:

-I had to give my MC Evie a huge personality overhaul because I HATED her. I hated her so much that I couldn't stand to write her, so now she's a completely different character to the one I started with. Unrecognizable, but somehow still annoying.

- Evie's best friend Emily kept trying to steal Evie's boyfriend, even though that was not part of the story at all -it had absolutely nothing to do with anything. So, I deleted said best friend. That's right, I DELETED A PERSON. She's still there in the draft, because hey, I need all the words I can get, but she's completely vanished from the story. Don't know what happened to her!

- One of my characters is based on Audrey Horne from Twin Peaks (in name and looks) and she's far more interesting to me than Evie. In fact, she's the one I really want to write about. Evie may have had a personality transplant, but she's still a little whiny for my liking. Audrey is sassy and so much more fun!

-Evie's boyfriend was not meant feature so heavily in the story -or at all really. But I can't help it. I need a romance. His name is Jack, and he's an adorable rogue type, with rusty hair and green eyes. Intense green eyes.  Or maybe blue eyes. This keeps on changing.

-My story was meant to be purely light and fluffy, but I've realized that doesn't really interest me. I keep on adding paranormal elements that don't make sense. Like, one of my characters might just be the devil - or a supernatural cult leader.

Yeah, like I said, it's really good to have a plan. This is what happens when you don't have a plan. Ha!

How is NaNoWriMo going for you?

Monday, 3 November 2014

Arianne's Review Round-Up: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna & The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler.

I don’t think there’s a single reader of YA out there who hasn’t heard about The 5th Wave in the year since it was first released. Embraced by fans across the globe, it’s not seen quite as much success as its dystopian forerunners Divergent and The Hunger Games – but that could all change, with production of a film adaptation starring Chloe Grace Moretz already well underway. 

 Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy The 5th Wave as much as I thought I would. Maybe it was the hype, maybe it was the style in which the book was written; maybe it was a combination of both. I opened the book with high expectations that I would love it and be unable to stop thinking about it even after I’d finished it, and while the latter is certainly true, it was for all the wrong reasons. 

 The 5th Wave is billed as taut and twisted and ever so slightly subversive; The Walking Dead meets The 100 it focuses not on any upcoming disasters but rather on the aftermath of the apocalypse, which is refreshing; the characters, however, are not. I didn’t connect with any of them. The love triangle romance is about as unoriginal as it is possible to be, particularly where the end of the world is concerned. And the problem is, it does Cassie a disservice. When are writers of dystopia going to stop underestimating teenage girls? Where are the focused, determined, intelligent, realistic survivors of dystopian worlds? Marie Lu succeeds with it with June Iparis in Legend; why couldn’t Rick Yancey create that with Cassie Sullivan in this book? Or is The 5th Wave, as I began to believe by the closing chapters, simply another attempt to convince teenage readers, particularly girls, that they are not good enough, that they never will be, unless they have a hot guy to get them through the end of the world as we know it?

 In short: The 5th Wave’s worldbuilding is fine. The premise is fine. The plot is fine. But that’s just it; this book is fine, okay, average, but that’s it. For me, it wasn’t fantastic or thrilling or even particularly memorable, and the characterisation – Yancey’s treatment of main character Cassie in particular – was downright awful. This book had all the potential, and I can see why it’s found a strong fan base elsewhere, but for me, there were just too many ways in which it could have been improved. I don’t think I’ll be reading the sequels. 

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey.  Publisher: Penguin Books.  Release date: May 2013.  Ages: 12+.  Rating: 3.5/5. Source: Received from publisher for review.


I’ve tried to write this review so many times, but The Lost Girl is a very hard book to describe. It’s a novel I’m still a little undecided on, because while I wanted to love it, it just didn’t leave that much of a lasting impression on me.

 As an echo, or clone, Eva’s struggles take place both inside her head as she struggles to make sense of her past and outside it as she tries to fill the role she’s always been destined for. If the blurb sounds familiar, that’s because it is – the idea of echoes, or to put it more simply, clones designed to replace specific people, is one that’s been seen in fiction time and again, not least in the recently-released Falls the Shadow by Stefanie Gaither (which, admittedly, puts a slightly darker twist on this plot device than The Lost Girl does).

 There’s no doubt that this is a good, well-written novel. I picked the book up because it intrigued me, and it continued to intrigue as the pages flipped by, but the story didn’t pull me in the way it should have.

 This is a book of almost equal downsides and upsides, and that’s what makes it difficult to rate. There were some characters I really liked, there’s a surprising amount of action in the finale and there’s lots of diversity, which is particularly fantastic if like me you support #WeNeedDiverseBooks. However, because clones comprise a very specific corner of alternate-universe-bordering-on-sci-fi, the downsides seemed to outweigh the positives. It’s slow to start, the world-building is vague, and there are plot-holes which are apparent from the beginning.

 That said, I loved the romance and there are some hugely thought-provoking questions raised throughout the events of the book. Few answers are ever really decided upon, but if you’re looking for a YA read with intellect, I’d look to The Lost Girl. Most of the book is sombre and full of stoicism, but I actually liked the ending. If only there’d been more to it. Maybe I’m just used to flashy, dramatic YA, but I felt there was something lacking here in terms of intensity and unpredictability. In short: I just wanted more from this book. More warmth, more drive, more high stakes. I wanted drama and action as well as thought-provoking questions on science and ethics. It’s a good book, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I expected I would. 

 The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna.  Publisher: Definitions.  Release date: January 2013.  Ages: 13+.  Rating: 3.5/5. Source: Received from publisher for review.


The Forbidden Library is Alice in Wonderland meets A Series of Unfortunate Events – complete with mysterious relatives and even a talking cat! 

The premise itself is fantastic. It’s fantasy bordering on magical realism, which I absolutely loved. It’s an uncomplicated yet enchanting and well-built addition to the middle-grade shelf; the story of a girl who becomes a Reader – one of just a handful of people who have immense power over the adventures, monsters and secrets held within books - and the endless trouble this talent seems to get her into.

 The characters are easy to picture, if not quite as three-dimensional as I expected. I award an entire extra star to the book, however, for Ashes, the talking cat. He was delightful (in a fabulously sharp and snarky way). I just wish there had been more of that throughout the book. The Forbidden Library glimmers with potential and plot, but occasionally, I felt let down by the storytelling and all it failed to deliver.

 This book is heavy on description and positively lavish on detail, which adds a richness to the tale that will enable many readers to better visualise the world within the pages, but also slows the pacing. There’s also an emphasis on several familiar themes and the use of several even more familiar tropes, but that’s forgivable – if only there weren’t even worse problems to contend with. 

Unfortunately, I just don’t see this book holding the attention of young readers. It draws too much on the style of classic, old-fashioned children’s novels, instead of trying to stand on its own two feet. There’s little humour, charm or surprise; it doesn’t capture the imagination the way books for kids should; it simply panders to crossover appeal. Its prose reeks of those things that take the heart right out of middle grade fiction: the need to be seen as “literary” and the underestimation of young readers. This isn’t the arrival of a “fresh new voice” for fantasy kid lit. This is an author who’s writing for children but thinking about adults, and we all know that’s a recipe for disaster.

 In short: I’ve seen a lot of high commendation for this book both in the middle-grade book blogosphere and beyond, but it just didn’t work for me. I was disappointed by its predictable storyline and the fact that it reads as if it’s aimed for some kind of literary fiction market, instead of staying true to the potentially brilliant and enthralling children’s story that should have been its heart. 

 The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler.  Publisher: Doubleday.  Release date: April 2014.  Ages: 10+.  Rating: 3/5. Source: Received from publisher for review.


Friday, 31 October 2014

Anyone for NaNoWriMo?

So, I may have failed miserably last year - I made it to 16,000 words or thereabouts before I quit - but that doesn't mean that I'm not going to try again this year. Oh no.

I've 'won' NaNoWriMo once before - way back in 2011 - and I'm hoping to win again some day!

Two mistakes I made last year:

1. I didn't do any prep work.
2. I kept up a full blogging schedule

This year, I won't be blogging during NaNoWriMo - I may check in here and there, but that's about it.  And I intend on doing some prep. I mean, I already have an idea, which is more than I can say for last year!

Here's what my novel is all about:

It's a  coming of age drama featuring celebrity spats, manipulation and revenge. Loosely inspired by All About Eve.

Let's see how it goes!

If you're participating, add me as a writing buddy. 

If you have any top tips for NaNoWriMo I would really love to hear them!

Scream Screen: Five Scary Movies to Watch This Halloween!

I don't know about you, but I love to watch scary movies. And what better time than to bring on the scares than Halloween.

Here are five scary movies that you just might feel like watching tonight!

 The One to Watch When You Are Home Alone

The Strangers (2008)

Lock the Door. Pretend You're Safe.

If you haven't seen The Strangers, I recommend you check it out. It's one of my favourite modern-day horror movies in that it actually scared me, and that's I guess because it's old school horror. Playing on the 'home invasion' fears that we all have, The Strangers is not so heavy on the gore, but it heaps on the psychological torment - and the scares.  Eeek!  Just wait until you meet Dollface & Co.  A lot of people seem to not like this movie - but I loved it.

The 'New' Classic

The Babadook (2014)

You Can't Get Rid of The Babadook.

I haven't seen The Babadook yet, but as you can see from the poster above, those in the know are saying some pretty spectacular things about this one. Also, The Babadook contains a lot of the horror ingredients that I love: it's low budget, focuses on psychological terror and it stars a creepy little boy. I don't know if the little boy is creepy per se - it's just that kids in horror films always tend to freak me right out. Also, The Babadook is Aussie horror - and just like their Soaps - Aussie's tend to do horror right. Two words: Wolf Creek.

The Babadook Official Trailer - watch it if you dare!

The 'Actual' Classic

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Once You Stop Screaming, Then You'll Start Talking About It.

I love classic horror (Rosemary's Baby, The Shining, The Exorcist...) they all have a place in my heart, but if you haven't seen The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and you want to watch something truly disturbing this Halloween, then this is it. It doesn't get much freakier than Leatherface and family! Fun fact: I watched The Texas Chain Saw Massacre for the first time when I was seventeen and home all alone. So, yeah, that was fun. FYI: I'm talking about the Tobe Hooper movie here, not the Jessica Biel movie. Although, you know what, I watched the remake too and it wasn't totally terrible. Also, Mike Vogel is always cute.

The One to Watch if You Love 'YA'

Ouija (2014)

Keep Telling Yourself It's Just A Game.

If you mess around with an Ouija Board, then you're gonna get...haunted - horror 101 - but I guess these kids didn't get the memo. Anyway, while Ouija doesn't have so many great ratings (a 4.4 average on IMDB at the time of writing) I think it looks like fun - and it's probably not too scary either. It's sometimes good, you know, to watch a little bit of light-hearted horror that doesn't give you nightmares for years and years afterwards.  So, I haven't seen Ouija, but a YA horror I LOVE is The Craft, although I view that less as horror, more coming-of-age drama. I'm not really sure what that says about me, but there you have it. Welcome to the witching hour, indeed.

Ouija Official Trailer - looks like fun, right? Right?!

The Indie Flick You Might Have Missed

The Pact (2012)

Some Doors Should Never Be Opened.

 I like checking out indie horror, in particular, because you never know when you might find that hidden gem with all the scares, right? So, I watch a lot of horror, and I guess it's safe to say that I've seen a lot of dud's in my time. The Pact isn't a dud, though - it's been a couple years since I've seen it now, and while it's not perfect, this one is definitely worth checking out if you want something a little different for your Halloween viewing: it's got a freaky girl (above), a pretty good mystery, some great jumpy bits and a wicked (fairly disturbing) reveal. Enjoy!

So, what are you watching this Halloween?

Tell me your horror movie recommendations in comments!

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