Saturday, 17 March 2018

MY COUSIN RACHEL (film) is passionless and tedious

Director: Roger Michell.
Cast: Rachel Weisz / Sam Clafin / Iain Glen / Holliday Grainger
Score: Rael Jones.
Cinematography: Mike Eley.
Content Advisory: PG 13 for some sexuality and brief strong language
Source: Rented.

A young Englishman plots revenge against his late cousin's mysterious, beautiful wife, believing her responsible for his death. But his feelings become complicated as he finds himself falling under the beguiling spell of her charms.

Because I've been desperate to read the Daphne du Maurier book for ages, naturally I was excited to see the movie, too. I'm also a huge fan of Rachel Weisz. I had high hopes for the film.

Visually, it's stunning. The cinematography is excellent, the scenes well crafted, and the setting and landscapes magnificent. The direction is also very good, and the scenes are atmospheric.

But the script is poorly written. The film starts off extremely rushed, and we're flung into the story without nuanced development. The scenes are also discontinuous, and I personally think they could've been either rearranged or replaced with alternative sequences and the plot would've been tighter - better - for it. As it is, they feel like missed opportunities. It doesn't help that the pacing is odd, too.
I was so bored. The story is just dull. Because the scenes aren't taken to their full potential and the writing isn't brilliant, the whole story drags and every scene is slow. I wasn't gripped - I wasn't entertained. It's disappointing.

The story doesn't leave an impact. I was never certain what the theme was, or who I was supposed to be rooting for, or what I should have been thinking. It's not powerful enough; it dragged me along and showed me characters and incidents but I was never sure how I should react. I couldn't appreciate the content.

Sam Clafin's performance is good, but overwrought. He doesn't make an impression. Rachel Weisz, on the other hand, is intoxicating. She's ethereal, terrifying, seductive, and captivating. Her acting is spellbinding. She carries what she can of the boring story and almost makes the film worth watching.

But Weisz and Clafin have no chemistry. There's zero spark between them. I think this definitely contributes to the overall impression of their relationship, and took a lot away from its soul. I also don't like how little is seen of the progression of their characters' relationship; Rachel arrives, Philip sees her, and he's utterly charmed by her. There's no solid development to their romance. I wish we could've seen him slowly falling under her spell, but the story misses that.

My Cousin Rachel is beautifully filmed and led by a mesmerising Weisz, but otherwise it's insufferably boring and poorly plotted. It's a missed opportunity.

Friday, 16 March 2018

FIREBLOOD (Frostblood #2) - by Elly Blake

FIREBLOOD - Elly Blake
Published: 2018 - Hodder Paperbacks 
Genres: Young adult / fantasy / romance
Pages: 416.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Mild fantasy violence
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Against all odds, Ruby has defeated the villainous Frost King and melted his throne of ice. But the bloodthirsty Minax that was trapped inside is now haunting her kingdom and everyone she loves. The answers to its demise may lie to the south in Sudesia, the land of the Firebloods, and a country that holds the secrets to Ruby's powers and past.... Despite warnings from her beloved Arcus, Ruby accompanies a roguish Fireblood named Kai to Sudesia, where she must master her control of fire in a series of trials to gain the trust of the suspicious Fireblood queen. Only then can she hope to access the knowledge that could defeat the rampaging Minax - which grows closer every moment. But as sparks fly in her moments alone with Kai, how can Ruby decide whom to trust? The fate of both kingdoms is now in her hands.

I buddy-read this book with my wonderful friend Di from Book Reviews By Di. We both felt similarly about the book, and you can check out her review HERE!

I absolutely love Blake's descriptions. They are gorgeous and vivid, with beautiful, unique language that stops just short of flowery. I adore the tangibility of every description. I think Blake writes them so well. I'm not mad on the writing, but it's easy to read.
That said, the dialogue is awful. There's no wit or spark to any of the characters' conversations and it's like the author's more concerned with getting information across than she is about the characters' personalities leading the interactions. It's aggravating.

Despite being rather predictable, the plot is a lot better than it was in the first book. It's enjoyable and fun. But unfortunately, the cliches are still there. There's nothing new to this fantasy story, nothing we haven't seen before, and a lot of the directions this book takes (namely Kai's role and Ruby's trials) feel like a lazy way out of creating something original and fresh. It's still fun, but it's also disappointing because it's uninspired.
The pacing isn't bad, though. And the end climatic fight is brilliant. But the plot did give me a lot of mixed feelings, and I just wish it was more original.

Petals like white wood shavings rose above gently curling stems, and shrubs flaunted leaves in the most delicately crocheted lace. Tall feathery fronds drowsed over tightly woven packs of icy rosebuds....Miniature trees with translucent trunks etched in a frosty wood-grain pattern sported flat, veined leaves and peach-shaped globes. Icy crystals hung like frozen tears from every branch and stem.

To look at the positives first, I love Marella's character and her arc. Her role in the story starts off a bit stereotypically, but she soon comes into her own. I like her character.
Ruby also gets good character development. She has a few big "realisation" moments in terms of discovering who she really is, and I love that we get to see that. But at the same time, she's also very much The Chosen One. That annoys me. I don't like how she's leaning toward becoming a special snowflake, and I also think she could use more flaws - and more enemies. She's too much on a pedestal. It's cliche.

The secondary cast isn't great and no one is particularly memorable. Kai's character - a rougish, witty, arrogant Prince come Privateer - is a stereotype, but I don't dislike him. He's just very predictable and stereotypical.

I'm not shipping anyone, to be honest. The love triangle is completely unnecessary. Arcus is a bit of an idiot in this book, and Kai is a cliche. It's not easy to root for either of the relationships Ruby gets into.

Fireblood is a solid sequel and one that improves marginally upon the first book. But the cliches are too overwhelming, and the plot lags more than it flies.  It's enjoyable, but it's not amazing. 


Thursday, 15 March 2018


Published: March 2018 - Wildfire 
Genres: Adult / thriller / contemporary / mystery
Pages: 352.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Infrequent bad language.
Format: Paperback
Source: Thank you so much to the publisher for sending me this book in exchange for a honest review.

Juliette loves Nate. She will follow him anywhere. She's even become a flight attendant for his airline, so she can keep a closer eye on him. They are meant to be. The fact that Nate broke up with her six months ago means nothing. Because Juliette has a plan to win him back. She is the perfect girlfriend. And she'll make sure no one stops her from getting exactly what she wants. True love hurts, but Juliette knows it's worth all the pain...

It was the unique premise that grabbed my attention. You don't often find a thriller told from the point of view of who is, essentially, the villain; nor is it usually the girl who tries to get back the guy. I was enthralled by that premise.

The writing is captivating. It's also an example of telling versus showing where telling actually works; it fits the character, and the reportive style actually enhances the chills and the atmosphere. It excels where it typically wouldn't. It suits the story.

The story is a combination of the past and present of Juliette's life. The flashbacks are so seamlessly interwoven with the present that even without clear-cut breaks in the chapter it isn't hard to follow them. They're also just as entertaining as her present situation, and I enjoyed the glimpses into her history.

But the plot left me with mixed feelings. It is slow, which doesn't actually bother me all that much because I love the writing and characters, but it does get a bit confusing. As much as I love the originality of Juliette's job, I do think the many changing settings as she flew here and there and back again got rather bizarre. She just moved so fast. Not to mention the different places aren't always announced when she arrives. There's also the fact that the people she wants to meet with or who are essential pieces in her evil master plan, always just happen to be where she is - where her plane touches down. Maybe I'm missing something, but personally it seems very convenient and too easy.

There's also the ending. It's unsatisfactory, and it doesn't resolve things properly. There's not enough closure. I don't hate it, and it's not enough to make me angry, but it's still a bit of a cop-out.

“If you love someone, set them free. If they come back, they’re yours. If they don’t, make them.”

The thing I've discovered about guilt is that some days you can live with it. Other days, it hits - like grief - without warning and it burns, all-consuming and acidic. And the worst of it is that there is nothing you can do. You can't change a mistake. Ever. Instead it weaves its way inside you, becomes an embedded part, a bad, rotten, suffocating part.

Inside me exists a sense of dread which has never, ever truly left me. And without a major change - something wonderful to focus on - I fear it never will. Because without love and acceptance, all that's left is something dark and hateful.

The characters are stunning. Everyone is multi-faceted and incredibly well written, and despite a big cast they're all unique, three-dimensional, and compelling. I particularly love all the female characters, of which they are many. Katie, Amy, Bella, and Babs are all very human and well-realised and they make up an awesome female cast.

Juliette is a chilling anti-heroine. I love how complicated and damaged she is, and it's so unnerving to have her (as the narrator and point of view character) do things that are so obviously wrong as if they're right. It's weird, but it's fascinating. It's scary, but it's so naturally written; I love how deeply the author gets inside her head.

Another thing I adore is how strong Juliette's motivations are. The author has built up such a powerful past for her character, and I found myself sympathising with her even though she's doing terrible things that should not go without punishment. She's a terrific anti-heroine.

The Perfect Girlfriend is a clever, quiet, and slowly twisting thriller with excellent characters and writing. The plot often left me a bit confused, but otherwise I loved the the story.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018


CRYSTAL KINGDOM - Amanda Hocking
Published: 2015 - Pan Macmillan
Genres: Young adult / fantasy / romance
Pages: 422.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Fantasy violence.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Cast out by her kingdom and far from home, she's the Kanin people's only hope. Bryn Aven - unjustly charged with murder and treason - is on the run. The one person who can help is her greatest enemy, the enigmatic Konstantin Black. Konstantin is her only ally against those who have taken over her kingdom and threaten to destroy everything she holds dear. But can she trust him? As Bryn fights to clear her name, the Kanin rulers’ darkest secrets are coming to light… and now the entire troll world is on the brink of war. Will it tear Bryn from Ridley Dresden, the only guy she’s ever loved? And can she join forces with Finn Holmes and the Trylle kingdom? One thing is certain: an epic battle is underway—and when it’s complete, nothing will ever be the same…

I am so, so, so disappointed with this book, and I don't think I'm going to be reading another Hocking novel anytime soon. I used to enjoy them simply because they were light and fun, but I can't take her writing style any more.

The writing is the main issue. There is so much telling and exposition that it grates on my nerves till I want to shriek. Just when an action scene gets going, Hocking has to throw in some pointless dialogue or monologuing to give the reader useless information. She doesn't allow you to think for yourself - she dishes everything out in painful, thick dollops. It's so unnecessary!
Oh, and the dialogue is terrible, too. It's really bad.

The characters are one-dimensional. Bryn has some personality (although the fact that she's literally perfect annoys me to no end), but everyone else is weak. I'm also annoyed with the love triangle, which is forced and badly written and has Bryn not wanting to pull away from another guy's kiss even after she's decided loves Ridley. I don't get that. It's so inconsistent.

But to be positive, the plot of this book is much better than the first two in the trilogy (excluding the love triangle aspect). There's more intrigue, and it's not so predictable. So yay.

Published: 2015 by Macmillan Children's Books
Genres: Middle grade / fantasy /
Pages: 224.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Nothing.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

People are flocking to Ghastly-Gorm Hall from far and wide to compete in Lord Goth's Literary Dog Show. The esteemed judges are in place and the contestants are all ready to win. Sir Walter Splott is preparing his Lanarkshire Lurcher, Plain Austen is preening her Hampshire Hound and Homily Dickinson and her Yankee Poodle are raring to go. But there's something strange going on at Ghastly-Gorm - mysterious footprints, howls in the night and some suspiciously chewed shoes. Can Ada, the Attic Club and their new friends the Vicarage sisters (Charlotte, Emily and Anne) work out what's going on before the next full moon?

Oh please people, if you have a little kid, or if you're in the mood for an outrageous, innocent adventure, read this book. It's Middle Grade at its very best. It's absolutely lovable.

The characters are fantastically eccentric, and the themes of family and friendship are tender against a backdrop of craziness and absurdity. The plot is all over the place, but it's still so much fun. It's beautifully written, and the imagination is incredible. The bizarreness of everything is both overwhelming and exhilarating. It's a wonderful, heartwarming tale.

And the humour is amazing! It's so cute. The characters include "Homily Dickenson", "Anne Bowl-In", "Anne of Peeves", " Georgie Elliot", "Plain Austen", "Hands Christmas Andersen", and more - they are an absolutely hilarious. I also adore the many absurd twists on famous literature classics and lines; I lost count of how many times Austen was misquoted. It's delightful. I smiled so much.

The black and white sketches are also gorgeous. The detail is exquisite, and they're just adorable. I love them.


Jazzy Jessie: Going for Gold - Emma Moss
Published: 2017 by Macmillan Children's Books
Genres: Middle grade / contemporary /
Pages: 305.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Nothing.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Jessie's got a lot going on . . . As well as having to give up her bedroom to the new lodger, she's busy filming her popular pranking videos for the Girls Can Vlog channel, there's an important gymnastics competition to prepare for, and the SummerTube convention is just around the corner! But there are only so many hours in a day, and the girls are getting fed up with Jessie constantly running late. When a huge row breaks out, she is faced with an impossible choice . . .

This is a sweet, relaxing, fun story, but I didn't love it.

The writing is irritating. There are so many exclamation marks, and all the teen slang is overdone and cringy - I got sick of hearing the girls say stuff like "Hashtag incredible!" and "Hashtag ridiculous!" And yes, they actually say hashtag. It's not funny or adorable, it's embarrassing and cringy.

The story is okay. I like the themes of female friendship and the vlogging, but all the "mean girl" drama gets too much. I rolled my eyes at that.

Just FYI: I've eaten some of the chillies Jessie and her father ate and let me tell you there is NO way her whole family reacted so calmly to eating those chillies. They wouldn't have laughed about it - they would've been screaming and possibly vomiting. Believe me, I know. I've been there.

This is a decent book, but all the slang and "cool, hip, teen talk" is way overdone.

Hope you liked these reviews! Have you read these books? What did you think of them? 

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Romanticised Abuse: Crazy House by James Patterson

Our goal is to raise awareness and draw attention to romanticised abuse in films, books, etc, in order to fight it
- Join us! Start posting whenever you want.
- Share examples of romanticised abuse you've seen in books or films - doesn't even have to be a whole book or film; simply one scene is enough, if there's an instance of romanticised abuse in it.
- Please link to my blog as the original creator.
- This is not only about romanticised abusive relationships. It is about romanticised sexual assault, rape, and harassment, as well.
- Please consider the following statement a trigger warning: this blog series explores and draws attention to themes of abuse in fiction. I will discuss sexual assault, abusive relationships, and rape. I will infrequently explore those topics in depth as the fictional example requires it. Please read on with care. These subjects could be triggering.

Last year I read Crazy House by James Patterson, a YA dystopia thriller. I ended up hating the book (you can read my rant review HERE) but the main issue I found with the story was the author's handling of certain topics, namely rape and sexual abuse. 
I'm horrified at his treatment of them. 

On pages 98-99 we are told that a teacher has raped one of the main female characters. Without warning, without build-up, without even a hint, we are smacked in the face with this disgustingly written scene: 

I actually felt the blood draining from my face.
"Don't you talk about my ma," I said in a low, shaking voice. Something inside me came undone and I went on, not sounding like myself at all. "You're not the only one who can make threats. Remember when you pushed me into the supply closet? Remember shoving your tongue down my throat?"
Mr. Harrison got red, his eyes narrowing.
"I'm sure you do, because I bit the hell out of it," I went on. "But Becca wasn't so lucky, was she? No, you actually got her alone that time. And you forced yourself on her! You're just a rapist! Not any kind of teacher."
"You listen here," Mr. Harrison began, striding towards me angrily, "The girl had it coming to her! Just like you!"
(Yes, there's also sexual assault mentioned in this scene - with the supply closet incident. I'm not going to go into that now, although it's also handled terribly and treated solely as a plot device). 

My problem with this scene? Rape is used as a plot device. To make it worse, it's there for shock value. Cassie tells us that Mr. Harrison raped her sister - Becca - and the information comes in the form of a flippant outburst. Yes, the information is obviously horrifying, but it's handled terribly. For goodness sake, Cassie shouts out the accusation like she's having a spat with a friend! The author is splaying the details of a rape scene across the page and basically having the two characters in the scene have fun with the whole incident! They bring it up as if Patterson just thought "hey, how can I make Mr. Harrison a bad guy? Oh wait! I know!" So he hastily writes in that exchange, and doesn't worry about making sure there are proper consequences. And there aren't consequences. Cassie (the narrator) doesn't mention it again, and the scene quickly moves onto other topics. 

I feel revolting. I cried when I first read that scene, and now I just get furious. Not only is rape just "thrown in" out of nowhere, but it's just as easily dismissed once it's provided the plot with some drama (I feel sick writing that, but that's honestly how it comes across). 
Read pages 136 and 178 ↓↓↓ : 

"You were pregnant?"
"Yeah, I guess so. I didn't want to admit it - even to myself. But I was.......A teacher back home - he raped me.....Anyway, I got pregnant. Well, now I'm not."

I had to tell her. " know, Harrison.... Anyway. I got pregnant."
My sister looked appropriately horrified......"Oh, honey. I'm so sorry."......
"Yeah. But a couple days ago I had a miscarriage. I got kicked really hard. And they operated on me to make sure it was all gone."......
"Someone kicked you?"

BTW: She tells her sister she got raped and that she miscarried and her sister IS SHOCKED SHE GOT KICKED. AND THEN THEY CONTINUE TALKING ABOUT OTHER STUFF.

The author obviously needed something to keep the plot moving, so he decided to have Becca get pregnant as well. It's like he wants to "milk the incident for all it's worth, which sounds absolutely outrageous to say, but that's how it comes across. I'm sorry I have to share all this horror, I truly am; it makes me sick. It's extremely disturbing. But I cannot not criticise Patterson's flippant attitude towards what's happened to Becca. She was raped, she got pregnant, and miscarried after being beaten up. That. Is. Serious. It's beyond serious. It's psychologically - not to mention physically - damaging for life. It is not something you get over. 
And yet, the incidents are dismissed. The only tiny closure we get is this one female character eventually killing Mr. Harrison later on in the book; in a very quick, painless way. Which isn't all that satisfying. 

Then there's Becca and how she's dealing with what's happened to her. Except, she isn't. Patterson obviously thinks that what happened to her has no purpose other than packing the plot with some drama. 
Hey. Hey hey hey hey. I don't care if this is a brutal world - someone who has experienced what Becca has experienced does not simply cope with it, get over it and not even mention it again

Someone who's endured what that poor girl has endured does not move on without pain, suffering, and unspeakable trauma. She will be emotionally and physically affected for the rest of her life, and for the author to never mention her ordeal again or even allow her a proper response to it is atrocious. It's not realistic, if anything else. And it's extremely offensive to people in real life who've undergone such horrors. 

This book handles rape and a miscarriage/abortion disgustingly. They're skimped over, with the characters barely acknowledging them, and it all comes across childish, immature, and "oh well, it happened. Let's move on." I strongly think that if you're going to mention topics like that it's your responsibility to handle them well and make sure they get the closure, attention, and sensitivity they deserve. As it is, I'm furious and heartbroken at the way Patterson addresses the incidents. Even if the story world or characters don't give the topics proper handling, that in itself needs to be addressed in the story. But in this book it never is.

Crazy House was my second James Patterson read and it's my last. I will not support an author who deals with incidents of rape and female abuse as crudely, insensitively, and trivially as Patterson does.