Compulsion: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Compulsion by Martina BooneBarrie Watson’s life in San Francisco was never normal. Not with her mother a shut-in after the fire that left her scarred and in constant pain. Not when so many people failed to appreciate her godfather Mark and his distinct drag style.

But now Barrie’s mother is dead and she has to leave Mark and San Francisco behind. Traveling to South Carolina to live with an aunt she’s never met is not Barrie’s idea of a good time. But maybe life on Watson Island can be different–a chance to be someone braver and stronger, a chance to really put her collection of glamorous shoes to good use.

Watson’s Landing is nothing like Barrie expected. The plantation is decrepit and filled with an overpowering sense of loss despite its neglected grandeur and the pedigree that comes with belonging to one of the island’s founding families. Everyone on the plantation and on the island beyond seems to know more about Barrie and her family than Barrie herself–especially Eight Beaufort, the gorgeous and infuriating neighbor who seems to know what Barrie wants before she knows herself.

With decades-old secrets and a generations-old family feud coloring everything she learns about her new surroundings, Barrie will have to unearth the truth about the island and its three founding families before she can ever call the plantation home in Compulsion (2014) by Martina Boone.

Compulsion is Boone’s first novel. It is also the first book in her trilogy The Heirs of Watson Island which will continue with Persuasion out in October 2015.

Barrie Watson is a sassy, astute heroine who is never afraid to speak her mind. With a gift for finding lost things and a pile of secrets about her past, Barrie’s exploration of her new home is immediately engrossing.

Eight Beaufort serves as an interesting counterpoint to Barrie throughout the story as he helps Barrie begin to separate her own wants and desires from that which she thinks she ought to want. The dynamic between these two vacillates a bit too abruptly from fighting to thoughts of kissing at points but it also highlights real caring and understanding as they work together to unearth some long-buried secrets about the island.

Boone delivers evocative settings and pitch perfect dialog in this Southern Gothic mystery with just a touch of paranormal romance.

In addition to page-turning action and lots of humor, Compulsion is filled with some genuinely scary moments as the story builds to its surprising conclusion. Compulsion is a strong debut on its own while also hinting at things to come later in The Heirs of Watson Island trilogy. Recommended for readers who like their romance a little spooky or paranormal as well as for Southern Gothic enthusiasts.

Possible Pairings: Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins, Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker, Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shephard, The Dolls by Kiki Sullivan, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

You can also check out my interview with Martina!

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Daughter of Deep Silence: A Review

Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie RyanThree people survived when the luxury yacht Persephone sank. Two of them are lying.

Frances Mace knows the truth but at just fourteen, with everyone who ever knew her gone, Frances has no way to contradict the lies being told by the other survivors.

Four years after the disaster, everything about Frances is a lie. Everything about her is a tool meant to help her exact revenge. Frances will stop at nothing to get justice for the victims of the Persephone even if it means giving up the boy she loves and sacrificing her own identity in Daughter of Deep Silence (2015) by Carrie Ryan.

Daughter of Deep Silence is a standalone contemporary thriller reminiscent of the TV show Revenge.

Evocative language and vivid descriptions bring the novel’s South Carolina settings and Frances’ horror-stricken memories of the Persephone to life. Ryan pulls no punches in describing the hardships Frances faced when the Persephone sank nor does she shy away from exploring the post-traumatic stress that obviously plagues Frances four years later.

With rich characters and lavish settings, this story is a classic revenge story with added depth for the main character. Frances’ life is complicated and her sacrifices in pursuing revenge are almost too numerous to count.

Although Frances is a vibrant and strong character, her singular focus and strong personality only serve to underscore the fact that the rest of the characters are thinly drawn. (Shepherd in particularly felt like a prop for most of the story meant to act as a placeholder for Frances’ conscience.)

While Frances’ revenge plot is well-planned, the logic behind it (as well as the truth behind the sinking of the Persephone) both are largely anti-climactic after a book’s worth of build up. Readers seeking a story with more substance and stronger characterization will be left wanting more from this novel.

Daughter of Deep Silence will appeal to readers looking for an edgy, fast-paced revenge story that has its smart moments.

Possible Pairings: The Leaving by Tara Altebrando, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, Dial Em for Murder by Marni Bates, Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman, All Fall Down by Ally Carter,  With Malice by Eileen Cook, The Devil You Know by Trish Doller, Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Pretending to Be Erica by Michelle Painchaud, Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty, I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest, Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt, Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten, Revenge (TV series)

 

Such a Rush: A Review

“In each South Carolina town where I’d lived–and I’d lived in a lot of them–the trailer park was next to the airport. After one more move when I was fourteen, I made a decision. If I was doomed to live in a trailer park my whole life, I could complain about the smell of jet fuel like my mom, I could drink myself to death over the noise like everybody else who lived here, or I could learn to fly.”

Such a Rush by Jennifer EcholsHer senior year of high school, Leah Jones things her life is finally coming together. After three years working at the local airport and flying with her instructor, Mr. Hall, Leah is finally ready for a real pilot job. She’s one step closer to her dream of becoming a professional pilot and getting out of the trailer park for good.

When Mr. Hall dies suddenly, Leah’s future isn’t as certain–especially her future flight career. Mr. Hall’s twin sons Alec and Grayson plan to keep family banner business running. Between Alec’s seeming lack of interest and Grayson’s erratic behavior, Leah has no desire to tie herself to a doomed business.

When Grayson threatens to expose her biggest secret–one that could jeopardize all of her future ambitions–Leah has no choice but to fly for Hall Aviation and go along with Grayson’s mysterious plot involving his brother Alec even if it could ruin everything for Leah in Such a Rush (2012) by Jennifer Echols.

Such a Rush is Echols’ first hardcover novel. She is the author of numerous romantic dramas and comedies for teens.

Such a Rush is filled with potential. The South Carolina setting is immediately evocative even when Leah is at pains to remind readers about how different both ends of her beach town really are.

Leah’s pull toward the air is palpable and adds a unique spin to the story and her character. As a heroine Leah is complicated and multi-dimensional and immediately sympathetic with an upbringing that will break your heart and, from the first line of the novel, an admirable resilience.

I’d even say Such a Rush has all of the pieces that mark a great novel.

Unfortunately, this one also has a lot of extra trappings that diminish the overall quality of the story.

While I loved the opening of the novel and admired Leah’s ambition and commitment to her goals, she is also a frustrating heroine. A lot of things happen to Leah. Throughout the course of the story Leah is exploited by  different characters forced into scenarios and situations she would otherwise avoid.

Aside from being swept up in events rather than actively seeking alternative solutions for herself, Leah’s love interest in the story is also a big problem. Leah and Grayson’s chemistry is immediately obvious. Echols writes moments between them that all but sizzle.* But their relationship is also never on an equal footing.

Sadly, Leah and Grayson’s unequal power dynamic makes their exchanges uncomfortable. Even at their most intimate–their most connected–Grayson holds his authority over Leah forcing her into directions she does not want to go.

Beyond that, it was painful to read how other characters perceive Leah. Despite supposedly being friends to her, other characters always assume the worst of Leah accusing her of everything from sleeping around to being a gold digger.** All while refusing to acknowledge everything Leah has fought against to even get to this point let alone the dedication it will take for her to actually become a professional pilot.

These problems are most apparent in the middle of the story. At the beginning Leah come across as less passive, with more agency, as readers learn what led her to the airport and Mr. Hall in the first place. The middle of the story focuses more on what everyone thinks of Leah, rather than how she is in reality, and forces Leah into a passive role in her dealings with the Hall twins. These two elements combine to make for a slow midpoint of the novel. Things come together in the end for Leah, as well they should, with a sugar sweet ending that almost makes up for the other characters’ abominable behavior during the rest of the novel. Almost.

Such a Rush is a great choice for anyone looking for an original romance even if a close reading might change your view of the characters. Issues aside, Such a Rush definitely proves that Echols is an author worth watching.

*This won’t be the popular opinion since the book is a romance novel but I think Such a Rush worked a little too hard to be steamy. The story was good enough without.

**SPOILER ALERT: Even at one of the seemingly romantic moments of the story these things come up. Right before Leah and Grayson share an intense moment on the beach, Grayson asks Leah–not for the first time–if she really didn’t sleep with Mr. Hall. In other words, the lead up to their big romantic scene is Grayson double checking that Leah didn’t sleep with his father and forcing Leah to justify the one non-dysfunctional relationship in her life. Which (because Leah keeps letting things happen to her rather than making active decisions) results in Leah telling Grayson she could have fallen for Mr. Hall had he been younger (ie: she could fall for Grayson) instead of just admitting she saw Mr. Hall as a father figure and telling Grayson to get his mind out of the gutter. Again, I want to point out this is what happens at a key romantic moment in the story. END SPOILER

Possible Pairings: Sleepless by Cyn Balog, When it Happens by Susane Colasanti, How to Love by Katie Cotugno, The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han, Clarity by Kim Harrington, Swoon by Nina Malkin, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn’t Have) by Sarah Mlynowski

**A copy of this book was received from the publisher for review**