Friday, May 11, 2012

Review: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

Title: Fifty Shades of Grey
Author: E L James
Publisher: Vintage Books
Genre: Erotic, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 3/5

Synopsis: When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.

Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.

Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.

Review:  This is going to be a quick one since a lot of reviews have already been posted on this book and it seems like people tend to either fall into the "love it" or "hate it" camp where this book is concerned. Surprisingly, I fell into the "love it" camp.

What is most surprising about me liking this book are two things. The first is that before I even picked it up, I read a ton of reviews about it, especially the negative ones, and I went into it looking to hate it. The second being that upon starting the book, I could not help but correlate, in my mind, the character of Christian Grey to that of Patrick Bateman a la "American Psycho." When we see Christian buying rope and zip ties, the psycho alarms went off. When we heard about Christian's very clean, muted, sterile-feeling office and apartment, more psycho flags were waved. For me, Christian started at a negative 100 and worked his way up to about 50% on the "OMG WANT!" scale.

Christian, just like our protagonist Anasasia, was written really well - and I'm not talking about mannerisms, language, or avoiding cliches; there were plenty of those. For me, it was more of being able to understand why Ana was so confused about Christian, and why she struggled with what she wanted from him and their relationship. Unfortunately, it seems like the author is a little out-of-touch as to how a 21-year-old American college student would think, speak, and act - and that was a little annoying to read as someone who was, herself, once a 21-year old, English Lit majoring, college student. Like seriously, who uses "surname" in this day and age (in the U.S.)?

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the characters absolutely had their flaws - ones that had me eye-rolling (insert Christian spank), but those flaws did not make me any less emphatic to their situation.

Lastly, the book was undeniably a page-turner. I was held captive under its spell and I wanted to know more! Unlike other books I've read recently, I found myself wanted to read this whenever I had a free moment. The sexy scenes were sexy, but they didn't make or break the book for me. It was that longing to know what happens next that ultimately kept me coming back for more.

Overall, I had to give this three stars, in spite of all the problems it has because it did was a good book is supposed to do - it transported me directly into the story and made me a voracious reader. I'm absolutely going to be reading the rest of the series.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Review: The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry

Title: The Peculiars
Author: Maureen Doyle McQuerry
Publisher: Amulet Books
Genre: YA, Steampunk
Rating: 2/5

Synopsis: This dark and thrilling adventure, with an unforgettable heroine, will captivate fans of steampunk, fantasy, and romance. On her 18th birthday, Lena Mattacascar decides to search for her father, who disappeared into the northern wilderness of Scree when Lena was young. Scree is inhabited by Peculiars, people whose unusual characteristics make them unacceptable to modern society. Lena wonders if her father is the source of her own extraordinary characteristics and if she, too, is Peculiar. On the train she meets a young librarian, Jimson Quiggley, who is traveling to a town on the edge of Scree to work in the home and library of the inventor Mr. Beasley. The train is stopped by men being chased by the handsome young marshal Thomas Saltre. When Saltre learns who Lena’s father is, he convinces her to spy on Mr. Beasley and the strange folk who disappear into his home, Zephyr House. A daring escape in an aerocopter leads Lena into the wilds of Scree to confront her deepest fears.

Review: Before I even go into this review, I have to be very clear that I DID NOT finish this book. I will go into the reasons as to why, and why it's actually not a 1-star book, but I know some people don't consider DNF reviews as real you can stop reading if you're one of those. :)

The story centers on Lena Mattacascar, an 18-year-old girl who was born with a sort of oddity - extremely long, goblin-like, hands and feet. She decides to take a journey into Scree, the land where Peculiars live, to hopefully find her father who left when Lena was just a baby. She is convinced that the odd traits she has must be attributed to him, as she knows very little about who she is.

I was completely in love with the first 25% of the book. I haven't really read any steampunk in the past and I was enthralled with the descriptions of scenery, Victorian clothing and transportation. I thought the characters were a little...meh...but there was still time for them to redeem themselves before I would consider dropping the book. The biggest problems for me started occurring after Lena had arrived at Knob Knoster and began working under Mr. Beasley at the Zephyr House. Instead of taking this time was a way to develop the characters into likeable roles, it was then that they really, REALLY started to irritate me. Everyone was too much! Pansy was TOO bratty, Lena was TOO ignorant, and the others TOO nonchalant. 

What was the deal breaker for me was Lena - gullible and far too easily trusting of the wrong people. I really don't want to give too much away (and I guess I'm not since this part is mentioned in the synopsis), but the mere fact that she trusted the Marshal, Thomas Saltre, enough so that he could coax her into spying on Mr. Beasley really disgusted me. I know she's been kind of sheltered but hello? She's 18 years old AND the book makes a point of mentioning how distrusting she is of strangers, who have often ridiculed her for her odd physical traits. 

The point where I absolutely could not read anymore was when Lena finds out the truth about what is going on at the Zephyr House and, instead of feeling guilty about "selling out" Mr. Beasley to the Marshal, she feels PITY for HERSELF! Umm what?! You've been sharing secrets and stealing Mr. Beasley's private books, yet your first instinct is to get offended because of what you think their intent was in hiring you? If I recall correctly (and I do), you kinda barged in there yourself looking for answers. Then, even after knowing the truth and being so dishonest, she still decides to let Thomas act out his plan for the Zephyr House. At this point, I knew there was no way Lena could redeem herself in my eyes. I really and truly wanted to slap her for the choices she made and how disgusting she acted.

Whoo! That was a big rant to get off my chest but man, I love me a strong and smart heroine and Lena Mattacascar was neither.  It was for this reason that this was a big DNF for me, and a two star book. Maybe other readers are not as quick to anger if their heroine has no redeeming qualities, but for me, nuh uh!