Monday, December 3, 2012

Fifty Shades Darker by E L James

I actually liked the first book in this series. (Review here: ) I wish I could say the same for this second book. In James’ first book she had at least a passable vocabulary. In this book, I did not see the same. At least there were still a few complex sentences scattered about the book. Despite that, it seemed the overall writing went downhill. I also noticed more repetition in this book. If I read the phrase “inner goddess” one more time I swear I will gouge my eyeballs out with a spoon!

Further, the book simply did not hold my attention. It took me weeks to read this book. That is uncommon. I simply could not get into this book. Frankly I found it boring. The author in no way caught my attention in this second book as she did in the first. In fact, I only finished the book out of pure stubbornness. I paid good money for this book, so by God I’m gonna finish it!

Now I will say that the characters did show a bit of development in this installment of the Fifty Shades series. I can’t say that they developed in any surprising way. As with the first books the characters and the character development was clich├ęd and very predictable.

The one thing I was very thankful for was that this book was not quite as “educational” as the last. Admittedly it was still quite sexually explicit, but to my relief, it didn’t embarrass me this time. Perhaps because the sex was more vanilla in this book?

I still would not recommend this book or this series for the younger reader or the timid reader. Neither would I recommend these books for the easily offended. And, if you’re open minded and don’t mind graphic sex, I’d only recommend this book if you’re truly interested in reading the whole series. Frankly, I fear this series will go the way of the Twilight series it was based on -- steadily downhill with each installment.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James

Frankly I'm embarrassed to admit I read this book and mortified to admit that I liked it! I almost didn't write a review. The temptation was great to just let this be my dirty little secret. And dirty it is indeed!

I originally picked this book up for the same reason I read the Twilight series: I never tear apart a book unless I've read it. I refuse to parrot what others are saying. So, off I went to Barnes and Noble. I should have gone where they don't know me. The girl that always helps me was shocked I would read this. I was simply humiliated. Nevertheless, I bought the book.

Given what I knew of the book going into this, I knew I would be judging it on the same scale as all other mind candy. Well, to my great surprise, I actually began to enjoy the book. Certainly I am not saying this book possessed some great hidden literary gem, but despite myself, I still started to enjoy it. Maybe what helped was that I was super excited to see fanfic go mainstream.

That said, kudos to E L James for possessing at least a passable vocabulary and the ability to use complex sentences once in a while. The writing style wasn't scholarly, but it was better than your average romance. I will say that some phrases were a bit overused, but nobody's perfect and this isn't a classic, so it's forgivable.

The story itself was pretty much what I expected. It was cliched and certainly some parts were obviously borrowed from Twilight, but that's to be expected when this is a Twilight fanfic. I can't say the story really broke any new ground, other than the obvious. (More on that later.)

The characters were fine. Again, cliched, but this is romance. You won't find many characters that aren't cliche in romance. Face it, if you read romance this type of character must have some draw for you. I admit the tortured, battered male soul is my undoing. Frankly it is one of the biggest draws for me when reading romance. And Christian Grey has it in spades.

Now for the elephant in the room: This book was practically pornographic! And the subject matter was a bit shocking. About the only word I can use to describe this aspect of the book is "educational". I had no idea...

Obviously I would not recommend this book for the young, those who are offended by explicit sexual content, and those who are not open to alternative lifestyles. If you fall into any of these segments of the population, do yourself a favor and read something else. For the more adventurous, go ahead, give it a try. Just remember, it's romance not classic literature.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

My Men Are My Heroes by Brad Kasal and Nathaniel R. Helms

This is one of those books that manages to succeed despite its failings. The story this book has to tell is one everyone should hear. Yes, the book’s poor execution detracts from the readability of the book, but I would encourage you to slog through the antiseptic prose and lack of personality to reach the important underlying story. Understand that this book isn’t as much about Brad Kasal as it is about his men. The title of the books is My Men Are My Heroes. It is not I Am My Own Hero. If you can remember that as you read the book, the book starts to make a little more sense to you and becomes more readable.

Kasal’s story is one that reminds us of those things that are truly important in life. This book does not focus as much on the actions in which Kasal took part, but more on the life beyond those actions -- both before and after. Sitting comfortably on our couches at home, it is easy to forget that the time a Marine spends at war is quite limited compared to the number of years in which he lives outside of the war. Yet that time becomes a defining moment for these men that inevitably affects every aspect of their life and the lives of those who interact with them. And that is where this book succeeds.

This book does a good job of helping the reader better understand the Marine as a whole. This book takes you from the young man who dreams of becoming a Marine to the battle tested warrior and beyond. It gives a fuller picture of the Marine and his mindset. And that mindset isn’t an egocentric “it’s all about me” mindset. Again, reference the title of the book.

Take the time to read this book and consider what Kasal’s story is really about. This isn’t a war story so much as it is a life story. Of course when you’re a battle tested warrior, I suppose it is safe to say that your life story is indeed a story of war and its far reaching affects on your life. That my not be a war story in the classic sense, but it is still a story of war nevertheless.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Beauty by Robin McKinley

A retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast.

Where to start? It isn’t often one stumbles upon such a wonderful book! From the technical to the mundane, this book delivers! And to think I could have so easily missed out! I found this book in an antique store. I always check out the books, but I almost skipped over this small knot of books in favor of going back out the truck to wallow in my back pain misery in peace. I’m glad I toughed it out just a little longer.

One thing I like about older books is that the authors don’t seem to have dumbed down their writing for an almost illiterate audience. Released in 1978, this book impresses with it’s varied vocabulary and use of beautifully complex sentences. It is refreshing to come across a writer who actually knows proper grammar and usage! This book was an absolute joy to read. The vocabulary and sentence structure drew me in and wrapped me up in the story, completely obliterating the memory of all the other books that fail so miserably in this area.

And the story itself was very well told. Obviously, this being a retelling of the Beauty and the Beast tale, I knew what to expect. I knew where the story was headed and had a fairly good idea of the stops along the way. Despite that, the story drew me in and simply captivated me. I thoroughly enjoyed the parts of the story the author added. Although some of the story was the author’s original spin on the tale, those parts fit seamlessly and truly added so much to the story itself. Frankly, I would use this book as an introduction to the Beauty and the Beast tale if I had to introduce this story to someone who had never encountered the story of Beauty and the Beast.

Even the characters were wonderful. The characters in the book stayed true to the characters in the original tale, however the author imbued them with such deep personality! Even the author’s original characters didn’t disappoint. Sometimes in a book like this it is easy for the author’s characters to pale in comparison to the well known characters of the tale. Not in this case. The author took care to round out and build up the new characters until they had the same substance and appeal as those that had been in the tale all along.

Don’t miss this book! And don’t do yourself the disservice of thinking that a retelling of a fairy tale can’t really be all that great. This book has easily been one of the best books I’ve read in years. I can’t begin to praise this book enough. From its originality (yes, even a retelling of a classic tale can be original!) to its technical prowess, this book delivers on all levels. And unlike some retellings of fairy tales (ala A.N. Roquelaure's, aka Anna Rice's, disgusting Sleeping Beauty trilogy) this retelling of Beauty and the Beast is completely safe for older teens and adults alike.

I'm Still Here!

I'm still here and I haven't forgotten my followers or this blog!  I know it may seem as if I have, but I promise I have most certainly not!  At the end of last year I took on a new position at work.  Since then I've been working 12 to 16 hour days most days of the week.  Only recently have things slowed down enough at work to allow me to try to get my personal life back in order.  As things return to normal, I'll do my best to keep this blog updated with all the great stuff I'm reading.  Unfortunately, because I was so busy, I've read a lot of romance because it's easy and doesn't make me think.  So there will be some of that showing up, but I've also taken the time to read some better quality books so you'll see some of those too.  Until then, enjoy your reading and please don't give up on me!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Regency Christmas Magic by Various Authors

Regency Christmas Magic by Amanda McCabe, Allison Lane, Edith Layton, Barbara Metzger, Sandra Heath

As I do every Christmas, I just had to indulge in a good sappy Christmas read.  I always make it a point to read at least one Regency Christmas romance during the Christmas season.  Although I will admit I sometimes indulge in one of my Christmas books in the middle of summer!

This particular book was a mixed bag. I find this often happens with short story anthologies. Overall, I’d say the book was “ok”. I liked it, but speaking generally of the book, it didn’t exactly take my breath away. That said, certain stories within the anthology were great and I really enjoyed them.

My one complaint about this book was that it really took the whole “Christmas Magic” thing to heart. I wasn’t thinking in terms of “real” magic when I picked the book up. I thought the magic in the title referred more to an improbable match that worked out more than the whole concept of magic and fairies, etc. Not generally something that I would associate with the Christmas season.

The first short story in the book was “Upon a Midnight Clear” by Amanda McCabe. Now I truly enjoyed this story about two lonely souls, one far from home and the other suffering the after effects of a major trauma that left him scarred for life. I’m a sucker for sad characters like Captain Payne. And an even bigger sucker for happy endings where the downtrodden find happiness.

The second story was “The Ultimate Magic” by Allison Lane. This story really didn’t appeal to me. The whole story seemed a bit contrived and was rather forced. Throughout the story the leads really didn’t seem to see each other as a love interest. There was no spark. Then suddenly, in an effort to finish the story in the allotted space, they declared their love and found themselves in a passionate embrace. Huh? Where did that come from? It just sort of blindsided me. This story could have been left out of the anthology and it would have been fine.

The third story was “The Two Dancing Daughters” by Edith Layton. This story I liked. Again, we have a wounded male lead who ends up happy by the end of the story. The story itself was a little far fetched. I found the supporting character of the father to be a bit unbelievable and the ending of the story was a bit contrived, but I don’t want to give anything away by discussing that. Truthfully, the things I didn’t like about the story didn’t detract enough from the things I did like to make me give it a low rating.

The fourth story was “The Enchanted Earl” by Barbara Metzger. This story wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad. I’m a sucker for any “remake” of the Beauty and the Beast story so I enjoyed this story simply because it was a different take on Beauty and the Beast.

And the last story was “Green Gauze Gown” by Sandra Heath. I really can’t say I liked this story. It was OK, but it really didn’t resonate with me. I found that surprising since there was another wounded male lead in this story as well. I think what detracted from this story was the whole fairy thing. Had that been left out, I think I would have enjoyed the story much more. I just found it much too far fetched. Especially the ending about the dress. That was really the deal breaker for me. Again, I don’t want to give anything away so I won’t go into more detail.

All in all, the book is fine for a quick read. However, there are better collections of Christmas short stories out there. I would skip this book and try something else if you’re interested in a truly satisfying holiday read.