Fifty Shades of Really

Yes. I really just read these. All three. So here’s my 50 cents on Fifty Shades of Grey (et all). Sorry Mom.

fifty shades of grey fifty shades darker fifty shades freed e.l. james

 

Honestly, before I read these books, my experience was limited to Gilbert Gottfried’s reading *Link NSFW* which I urge you all to watch. Oh, and this, which I can believe… but also… really? Thankfully (?) I borrowed the Overdrive audiobook, as to avoid any and all possible contact with lingering ews. Now that I’ve finished them, I do have a bit of praise — shocking.

The books are marketed as “Mommy Porn” and I suppose to the bookish heterosexual female, this would satisfy some of those needs, but anyone calling themselves bookish may pause before considering reading these for any literary value. There’s little to these books that I find actually believable. The actions and reactions of characters are over exaggerated, yet predictable. If the narrator Ana says “Oh, Christian’s going to be angry,” you can be sure he throws a tantrum. Ana seems to notice every nuance, especially flashes of emotion over people’s faces. Really? She’s perceptive enough to see the someone’s past flash across their face, but she doesn’t know appropriate use of language she sends through corporate email accounts? Give Me A Break.

I won’t pluck out memorable quotes and pick them to pieces, and I’ll refrain from … wait… Didn’t I say I was going to dish out some positivity? Looking past the glaring flaws of these books, let’s consider what this story has to offer besides a possible trip to the free clinic.

We’re presented with a semi-sheltered college-aged girl who is forced into helping her over-zealous and over-booked roommate by interviewing an (unrealistically) successful young CEO. Their encounter develops into a relationship, which our doe-eyed protagonist should have no part of, but ultimately succumbs because she is showered with gifts (and sex). I’m inclined to think that if any other woman found herself in this situation, things would have turned out very differently; however, Ana’s naivety was grossly taken advantage of– and maybe that was the point. What’s interesting to me isn’t the sex (STG, if I hear “apex of my thighs” one more time….SMH. Snore!) it’s the childhood abuse that Christian experiences.

Highlighting the abuse he suffered as a child, and how it affected Christian in his adult life is something I never expected to develop though the narrative. The issues of dependency, dominance, ownership, and strong emotions are all directly related to his past, explaining (but not excusing) his behavior. The constant fights Ana and Christian had, though the reasons may have been weak, made sense… But really? Those outbursts were just too over the top. I’ve never rolled my eyes so many times at a book. And yes, I rolled them defiantly, with no fear of disciplinary action!

But wait… This is supposed to be a smutty explicit erotica book, right? Things are supposed to be unreal and fantastical! So… Why delve into character development? Because it’s trying to be something it’s not. Fifty Shades of Grey was originally a Twilight fan fiction (don’t get me started)… But it’s not Twilight. It’s trying to be, but it’s not. It’s an erotica, but it’s not traditional erotica. It’s trying to be, but it’s not. It’s trying to be a trilogy, and though it is physically… That was a clear marketing ploy.

What’s the point? Fans. That’s it. Fans are the money makers, and companies love fans. As long as the fans are happy, there is easy money to be made. Not to mention movies to be made — oh, and not just the rates R version, but an NC-17 version too… So all those fans can go see BOTH movies!

Sigh… Really?
Yeah. Really.

 

Not Quite A Ten

With a hook claiming to be a modern-day Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, I had high hopes for Ten by Gretchen McNeil. Then I realized Gretchen McNeil did the voice of a character on a short-lived but very much-loved (by me) animated show on G4TV called Code Monkeys, a show dripping with raunchy witty humor. I thought this would be brilliant! I first fount this title during my Young Adult literature course (it was on a YALSA list somewhere… or won an award… one of the two), and purchased it through Amazon’s Kindle store for $1.99. Seeing what I paid for it again in print doesn’t make me feel as bad about buying it… But part of me wishes it was only $0.99.

 

ten

 

The structure should already be familiar to anyone who read And Then There Were None, or fans of the movie Clue. The story even starts the same — guests traveling on a ferry-boat to an island in the middle of a storm. Ten introduces us to a cast of high school students, all fraught with ex boyfriends and jocks, the one black guy, an asian girl, and nerds. Okay, I’m thinking, cliché, but let’s see where this leads. The cast is spending the weekend on this island to celebrate graduating. I think. It wasn’t really clear, and didn’t really matter anyway. They make dinner together after awkward interactions, and someone nearly dies from finding nuts in their salad. Ooh, scary nuts! Yes, they were allergic… So I suppose anaphylactic shock would be a little clever way to knock someone out right away… but let’s move on. The kids find a movie and pop it into the DVD player and there’s an odd reel of slashing and scrambly clips and words flashing on the screen and paint slashes on the wall, like a college freshman’s first attempt at a visual arts assignment. The film foreshadows everyone dying, basically.

For anyone wanting to read this, I suppose I’ll leave out the spoilers… but I found the whole story played out like a discount-bin horror flick. I suppose that’s all you really need to know. The story whittled down to somewhat of an anti-bullying story, except the victim was a kook. And I had to recount the number of people who died, because of the ten teenagers… **SPOILER** two survive… meaning only eight died… (Oh, but that’s right, there were two random neighbors’ bodies found in that one scene…but that seems like a cop-out).  I suppose retitling the book to EIGHT wouldn’t have had the same impact… Unfortunately, Ten did not inspire a ten-star ranking.

To wrap things up: The idea was there, the creativity was sorta there, the execution was a bit lacking. The book would have been a bit more enjoyable if it had been shortened. In defense, I think it’s a bit difficult to compose a mystery like And Then There Were None without duplicating it. Sadly, I think the blurbs you read about this book may provoke a more imaginative story in your  own imagination than reading the full story.

Now if only I could slash this title off my list with a swatch of red paint just like in the book. That would be satisfying.

The Fault in My Stars

Okay.

I get it. Sort of. Yeah, I get it, but… really?

This isn’t going to be a raving review, but it won’t be scathing either. I also won’t dispute or judge the witty banter of the characters… for it seems as though that afflicts many, if not all, of John Green’s characters. All the same, I was quite motivated to read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green for this month’s book club pick. In fact, I breezed through it in about a day and a half. As soon as I posted a little photo one morning saying I was starting the book, I was bombarded with “tissues tissues tissues you need tissues boohoo boohoo saddest book ever,” and although it was sad (Come on… it’s about cancer), it was also over saturated with hype.

 

the fault in our stars john green

This month marks the 1st anniversary of The Odyssey’s YA for Adults book club, and we had our (seemilngly) biggest meeting ever! This meeting was also a first: a double-feature, where we discussed the book (briefly) and high-tailed it to the neighboring movie theater to catch the next showing of the film.

Now, I’ll have you readers know: I cry at movies all the time. Any time there is an emotionally charged part of a film, where the music swells, oh, and if there’s a touching montage… I start to bawl. Books, on the other hand, I do not often tear up over. That could be because I would find my tears getting in the way of my reading, which I wouldn’t find very practical… BUT, I will go on the record to say that I HAVE indeed cried at books. (Most recently, Ready Player One, and also The Hunger Games.) All I’m trying to say is that I’M NOT HEARTLESS.

So, I have my tissues… I’m staying up til wee hours of the morning, waiting for at least a sniffle… and nothing. I flip to the final page and nothing hits me. Yes, it’s sweet, yes, it’s sad… but I was expecting SUCH a strong emotional impact and I was disappointed. I certainly did not need tissues. To be honest, I thought the book was going to travel in a different direction. **Spoiler Alert** I thought the book was going to end in the middle of a sentence just like An Imperial Affliction did. There was an incredible amount of build up surrounding the happening of this book within the book, and I was left dissatisfied.

I felt as though these characters already garnered such sympathy because of their prescribed situation, which is addressed in the book – Cancer Perks – but despite recognizing this pity, it still illicits an emotional response for a reader. I also felt rather disconnected from their situation. This was a safe, encapsulated way to deal with cancer. It has to be! Afterall, it is YA lit. (That’s not to say all YA lit is safe… not at all… just in general!) Would the book been as good if it wasn’t about cancer?

Here is a bit of praise: The narrative and dialogue flow very smoothly. I never felt jolted away from what was happening and once I accepted the quirky methods of postulating and hypothesizing and philosophizing… I really did enjoy it. Also, the film adaptation did a nice job of weeding out the bits of extra “stuff” that was in the book that I found unnecessary. (Though, there is an interaction between Hazel and a young girl in the mall that I found to be particularly touching that was cut from the film… but I understand why.)

SO! Read the book? Watch the movie? This one is a tough call. The effect is the same. Though, the movie is much quicker than reading the book.

Sigh. I’m sorry… I know this is a number one selling book in… what, most of the world? But I just didn’t fall in love with it. I wanted to! It wasn’t lack of trying! I even thought I would take Hazel’s approach: falling in love like sleeping… gradually, and then all at once. Except… I think this time I just passed out.

Why, My Little Party’s Just Beginning

Ah, here we are! Finally I can dish out a bit of chatter on Dorothy Must Die. Danielle Paige has not let me down with her interpretation of Post-Dorothy Oz. As I mentioned in my prior post that I hold this franchise in high regard… tangled up in that regard is my nostalgia, and therefore a clear bias, along with the utmost of love for this piece.

Imagine trusting someone so much, you just know that anything they do or say is golden in your eyes. Coming from one as apprehensive about making new friends as me, earning that level of trust takes time… slowly inching the door open. But once that door is open, it stays that way! It’s a lot easier to overlook flaws or short-comings.

Uh oh, now it sounds like I’m going to rip into things! Not so — I just want you, Kind Reader, to understand my clear stance on Oz-ian things.

Dorothy Must Die

After finishing No Place Like Oz, I immediately picked up my (signed!) copy of DMD and sped through the first few chapters. Just like NPLO, Paige pays homage to the original books. I know she did a lot of reading and research into them, too, sending a fan like me squee-ing when I encountered old characters like Jellia Jamb, The Patchwork Girl and Frogman later in the book. Paige, however, is really out for blood. Her protagonist Amy Gumm (taken from Judy Garland’s true name!) is continually forced into some form of solitude… and I’ll tell you why I like that:

In so many books, characters are transported to another land/world/time and thus begins the questions and quests that plague every RPG video game… Where am I? How did I get here? What’s my name again? I know this literary device helps the reader/player insert themselves into the novel for a closer connection with the story, but many times I find these characters turn out to be husks, lacking depth. Not so with our Amy. She has a clear outward persona at the beginning of the story, but through many events, she is separated from things… her home, her mother, even her new friend after landing in Oz (OMG, I was shocked!). Again and again, Amy is forced into being alone, which forces her to think and ponder and muse. These inner monologues, for me, greatly strengthened her characterization. Far from a husk, Amy is a smoldering ember.

Realizing this is the first of a trilogy (right?), there’s much to be said for a writer of young adult literature to pen a character with, from what I can tell, a clear path for her development and growth over the course of the story. I never found myself rolling my eyes like I have with other YA protags. Amy, like a rock in the tumbling waves, is slowly being shaped by her environment. Loss after loss after mishap after near misses… she keeps getting beaten down.

What will be interesting in the future installments is how her further development is treated. It is clear that she is being built up to be a desensitized assassin, but with no clear-cut motives from her surrounding cast members, I can guarantee she’ll be faced with a decision that will question her moral integrity. Where’s the line between Good and Wicked? Perhaps she’ll discover it’s all a matter of perspective. (And therefore, fits snugly into the YA genre. Yay for morality & ethics building!)

~ ~ ~

Awrighty, Danielle — You’ve got me believing Dorothy is an evil bitch. And in those final scenes, you also got me asking: Does Dorothy HAVE to die?? Ugh, look what you’ve done!

Let’s see what else ya got comin’ our way! ;D

Mid-year Appraisal

Six months ago I posted an entry detailing my method of selecting the order of what books to read next for this year. Now that it’s June, I thought I would do a quick tally of what I’ve read so far of that list, and what’s in progress. Again, strikethroughs represent finished entries, bold represents currently in progress, and asterisks* represent e-books.

  1. Reached
  2. Insurgent
  3. Cujo
  4. Dogs of Babel
  5. Hero
  6. Ten*
  7. The Brothers Bishop
  8. A Year in Provence
  9. Rebel Heart
  10. Beautiful Darkness
  11. Will Grayson, Will Grayson
  12. In The Line of Beauty
  13. Misery
  14. Better Nate Than Ever*
  15. PTown
  16. Little Children

I’ve tried to keep things in order, but after reading Cujo, reading another book about a dog turned me off a bit. I got about 30 pages into Dogs of Babel and had to switch over to Danielle Paige’s No Place Like Oz and Dorothy Must Die. (Those will have their own blog post!) Now I split my time between Ten, since I can now read in bed at night, thanks to my Kindle Paperwhite, and Dogs of Babel. Admittedly, looking back along this list, I believe all of the books I’ve finished were in audio format… which could explain why it’s taking me so long to get through Dogs of Babel. Try as I might to get a hold of the audiobook copy, the only one in my library system I could find was at a school for the blind, and my librarian said they couldn’t request it. (Why not?? Ugh…) There is a rhythm to Dogs of Babel’s chapter structure that I am finally getting in to, and I am really surprised by how much I appreciate Parkhurst’s writing style. Her dialog between characters seems so natural and ‘real-worldy’ that I am easily able to imagine illustrious scenes as I work my way through the narrative. That’s the whole point of story-telling anyway, right?

On the other hand, Ten is not as exciting as I hoped it would be… I had high hopes, but I suppose there really is little sense in recreating Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Why bother sticking modern day teens on an island and have a power outage? There hasn’t been a desperate attachment to technology that has been built upon to make the power outage worth sending the cast into a frenzy over. I’m about a third of my way into it and nothing is blowing me away… But I’ll save the rest of my judgement until I finish. Every time I sit down to read it, I’m compelled to go ‘home’ on my Kindle to try and read something else, like The Madman’s Daughter or Better Nate Than Ever, but so far, my willpower has been steadfast. Not all hope is lost… yet!

 

Besides this list, I’ve made my way through many other books, all listed on the Unmentioned page, which has just been updated. With all of the new ARCs from BEA this year, I’ll have to take another stab at that separate page… I may just combine them all together  and use a different symbol to differentiate them, similar to the e-books. Oh, I can’t wait to read those!

 

As always, stay tuned! Thanks for reading!

Strike from the Record

Today marks a big day for my Sickness. With the recent acquisition of all of these books from BEA, and little room on my new shelves, I decided it was time to say goodbye to some old friends. Taking books to the library to be donated felt like abandoning a beloved cat on the stoop of an animal shelter.

Okay, so that’s a bit over-dramatic… especially since the books I donated mostly had uncracked spines – meaning I listened to them through audiobook instead – but all the same, I can remember where I got each of those books. Some came from school classes, others from Christmas and birthday gifts, some from bargain racks…

Let’s take a moment to remember those donated today, and hereby strike the following entries from the record of my master list.

 

Taking on the Big Boys – Ellen Bravo
Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
The People of Sparks – Jeanne DuPrau
The Prophet of Yonwood – Jeanne DuPrau
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter – Seth Grahame-Smith
The Girl on the Fridge – Etgar Keret
Comfort Food – Kate Jacobs
The Friday Night Knitting Club – Kate Jacobs
Knit Two – Kate Jacobs
Knit the Season – Kate Jacobs
The Cobra Event – Richard Preston

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

P.S.
Right, you thought there were going to be a lot more than that, huh? One step at a time here, people! Sheesh!

BEA – Books Everywhere…Ahhh!

Where do I even begin?

The last few days have been incredible — and I know my tendency to blather on about things I find exciting, but I’ll try to keep my gushing to a minimum.

This year, I had the wondrous opportunity to attend BEA – Book Expo America – which, I’m convinced, is where all my dreams come from. My favorite wordsmith, Jane Yolen, along with her daughter, Heidi Stemple, ushered me to the convention as Morpheus and Hypnos would upon a dark steed (or in this case, their black Hyundai), through the perilous nightmares of New York City streets.

36 books, 21.5 miles, 3 car jump starts and 1 sippy cup later (and only one caffeinated beverage!), I’m back home, still reeling from how much was packed into the last three days.

My biggest take-aways from my first BEA:

The hype is real and it’s a lot of fun!  Now, here’s what I’m going to tell you… because somehow I missed this in all my preparations… What I failed to gather was an understanding as to just how much time I would spend standing in line.

My first stop was waiting in line for Neil Patrick Harris. Letdown #1: a billion other people thinking the exact same thing. Letdown #2: He might not get to sign for everyone. Letdown #3: Rather than a full galley copy, he was signing a sample.  Whoa, whoa… a sample? What is this?? I stood in line for 45 minutes for someone to hand me a 30 page pamphlet? Why would I want this signed? That’s when reality set in. I ditched the line.

Til I got sucked in again when I saw Anjelica Huston. (At least this time, it was a hardcover copy of the full book!) And again for Marie Lu. And Rainbow Rowell. And Lev Grossman. And Tim Federle. And Ally Condie… Though there were so many I missed! Garth Nix, Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, David Levithan, R.L. Stein, Stan Lee, A.S. King, Alan Cumming, Jane Lynch, Gregory Maguire… and Grumpy Cat 😦

Luck was not on my side when it came to any author in the autographing area. Each attempt was thwarted by a early closed line, or a mile-long line of squatters. Squatters. You know, the folks that decide to sit down because they’ve been waiting in line since the night before the universe was created. That kind of patience extended ell beyond my threshold for this event. Whether I arrived an hour before a signing, or ten minutes before a signing, I never stood a chance. That’s another thing: expect your plans to be changed. All of the authors mentioned above were those I intended on meeting, but then again, I suppose meeting 1/3 of my list isn’t too bad.

Instead, I found my biggest rewards at book drops. That’s where a publisher births about 100 ARCs on a tabletop while people rush by and swoop them up. These lines, though also rather long, rush through rather quickly, usually yielding a satisfying three or four ARCs at a time.

What I missed out on the most were the author panels (many took place on Saturday, the day after I left when BEA became open to the public) but also on the conferences and talks. I inadvertently bypassed so many networking opportunities with other bloggers. Though, I should point out, the few that I met while waiting in lines were all lovely! Here’s to hoping I’ll get to attend next year!

In the meantime, I submit this list of acquisitions to my Sickness. These were not purchased! So based on my original rule set, they’re acceptable additions. With all of these new ARCs, I will need to revisit and reformat how to account for them… But until then…:

 

  1. Trial By Fire – Josephine Angelini
  2. Miles to Go – Connie Bailey
  3. Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas – Stephanie Barron
  4. Witch Island – David Bernstein
  5. The Iron Trail – Holly Black & Cassandra Clare
  6. Atlantia (sample) – Ally Condie
  7. The Emissary – Patricia Cori
  8. So We Read On – Maureen Corrigan
  9. Not My Father’s Son – Alan Cumming
  10. Hell to Pay – Garry Disher
  11. Endgame: The Calling – James Grey & Nils Johnson-Shelton
  12. The Magician’s Land – Lev Grossman
  13. Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography (sample) – Neil Patrick Harris
  14. Skink– No Surrender – Carl Hiaasen
  15. Bombay Blues – Tanuja Desai Hidier
  16. The Devil’s Intern – Donna Hosie
  17. Flying Shoes – Lisa Howorth
  18. A Story Lately Told – Angelica Huston
  19. Mastering Toby – Jan Irving
  20. Evil Librarian – Michelle Knudsen
  21. Amulet: Escape from Lucien – Kazu Kibuishi
  22. The Young Elites (sample) – Marie Lu
  23. On A Clear Day – Walter Dean Myers
  24. Last Winter We Parted – Fuminori Nakamuri
  25. Young Houdini: The Magician’s Fire – Simon Nicholson
  26. Clariel – Garth Nix
  27. King Dork Approximately – Frank Portman
  28. Mort(e) – Robert Repino
  29. Jackaby – William Ritter
  30. Landline – Rainbow Rowell
  31. Dataclysm – Christian Rudder
  32. I Became Shadow – Joe Shine
  33. Sway – Kat Spears
  34. A Sudden Light – Garth Stein
  35. Sisters – Raina Telgemeier
  36. The Black Butterfly – Shirley Reva Vernick