Tuesday, April 24, 2012

4 Star Review: ‘Fifty Shades Trilogy’ by E.L. James @e_l_james

When unworldly student Ana Steele first encountered the driven, damaged young entrepreneur Christian Grey, it sparked a sensual affair that changed both their lives irrevocably. Shocked, intrigued, and ultimately repelled by Christian's singular sexual tastes, Ana demanded a deeper commitment; determined to keep her, Christian agreed. Now, together, they have more-love, passion, intimacy, wealth, and a world of infinite possibilities. But Ana always knew that loving her Fifty Shades would not be easy and being together poses challenges neither of them ever anticipated. Ana must somehow learn to share Christian's opulent lifestyle without sacrificing her own integrity, identity, or independence; Christian must somehow overcome his compulsion to control and lay to rest the horrors that blighted his past and haunt his present. Just when it seems that together their love can conquer any obstacle, tragedy, malice and fate combine to make Ana's worst nightmares come true.
(Amazon Product Description)

Okay, so if you are living under a rock and unfamiliar with this trilogy, I’ll give you a little background.  Fifty Shades of Grey started out as Twilight fan fiction--very naughty Twilight fan fiction.  As the author developed and revised, the characters became much more than Edward & Bella and the story became something completely different.  The result is that even though there are no vampires and a heck of a lot more “adult” behavior, the adult fans of Twilight are getting their knickers in a twist over these books.  :)

Okay, history lesson over. The truth is, when I heard that an indie published, BDSM erotic romance series scored a $5 million movie deal--I had to see what the fuss was about. 

You can see the echo of Edward & Bella in Christian & Ana, but C&A were much more developed and (for the most part) realistic.  Christian was the more interesting of the two by far.  His psychological issues were fascinating.  He could be ruthless and controlling one minute and completely vulnerable the next, but it was done is such a realistic and believable way.  Watching him grow and evolve throughout the three books was a joy. 

Ana was stronger and more likable than Bella, but I had a few issues with her character.  First, she starts off as a 21 year old virgin who is completely innocent and within a very short time, she is begging to be trussed up and spanked.  It was too radical of a shift, too quickly.  Secondly, Ana kept talking about her “inner goddess” and her “subconscious self” like separate personalities inside her.  Not only was in incredibly annoying, but each time the author mentioned these, it pulled out of the story. 

Another thing that was a little off was the dialog.  The author is British, so there was a tendency for some of the characters to use words or terms that didn’t fit people born and raised in the U.S.  The result was I kept reading them with British accents in my head.

But even these couple of issues didn’t ruin the story for me.  I really did enjoy reading these books.  There is action, danger, suspense, lots and lots of sex and a total escape into a fantasy world that we will never live in.  And in the end, isn’t that what reading is all about? 

Overall, I give the Fifty Shades Trilogy...

Plot - 3 1/2 bookmarks
Character development - 4 1/2 bookmarks (Absolutely loved Christian.  There is a scene in book two where he just slayed me!)
Love story - 4 bookmarks
Sex scenes - 4 bookmarks (For the most part, they added to the story)
Dream cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - I don’t think it’s possible to read these books without picturing Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart as Christian and Ana.  I just saw the Cosmopolis movie trailer with Rob and his character is totally Christian.  I’d die a happy woman if they could cast him in the Fifty Shades movies.  Actually, all the characters were sort of echoes of who they were in Twilight, just older and more mature.  Anna Kendrick (Kate), Kellan Lutz (Elliot), Ashley Green (Mia), etc.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

4 Star Review: ‘Matched’ & ‘Crossed’ by @AllyCondie

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.
(Amazon Product Description)


I have to review both of these books together since I read them back-to-back and I have a hard time separating them out in my head.  I have read several dystopian YA series, but what makes Matched different is that the action is slower paced (at least in the first book it was) and Cassia as a character is not some girl is a natural fighter.  In fact, she starts off the novel very much a good little member of The Society, wanting all of the beautiful things in life that they promise her.  She knows that if she follows the rules, she will be healthy and (reasonably) happy until she is 80 years old.  The Society never makes a mistake, so she has complete trust in them.  That is, until the glitch.

This electronic malfunction which shows Ky’s face on her data card only last seconds, but it is the catalyst that very slowly turns her world upside-down.  When I say slowly, I don’t mean to say that the book is in any way boring.  It’s not.  In fact, I liked that it took Cassia almost the entire first book to have such a significant perspective and character shift.  It made the story realistic.  I would say though that this is a more character driven story than action oriented.  Crossed is a bit more plot driven of the two.  I have a feeling that the third book Reached, which is releasing in November will be a huge action-packed story. 

There is a love triangle in this book, which I generally like.  Xander is Cassia’s best friend and they have known each other since they were kids.  It does not surprise her at all to learn that he is her match, and that pleases her.  But it is Ky who makes her heart race.  It feels fairly obvious to me how this is going to turn out, but I’m hoping Reached will surprise me, or at least make the contest between the two boys more even to give it some interest.  Ky is great though.  The first book is told entirely in Cassia’s point of view, but book two alternates between them.  It’s wonderful to see his perspective and learn about the past that haunts him.  Maybe it is because of this that I don’t feel as interested or connected with Xander. 

A big thing that might jar some readers is that the two books are so different that it might bother some people.  Matched is a little sweeter, a little safer.  Cassia ends the book on an epiphany of sorts that you know is going to change her as a person.  Crossed is much darker.  Both characters are now living outside The Society (tiny spoiler, sorry) and are learning just how dysfunctional their world is.  In some ways, it feels like Cassia is a different character in the second book, but since I read them one after the other, it made sense to me why her character would grow in the direction that it did.  I can see though if someone had a significant time lapse between them, but might find her change jarring. 

Another wonderful literary device that the author uses is to frame much of the story around two poems, Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Dark Night” and Lord Tennyson’s “Crossing the Bar”.  I’m not a big lover of poetry, but Thomas is one of my favorites.  I love the way the author used these poems to both inspire the characters and as code to drive the plot.  Such a brilliant move! I hope that these books will encourage teens to read more by these poets and maybe see poetry in a different light.  If you are a parent who’s kid is reading these books, I encourage you to print copies of these poems and hang them on their wall by their bed where they can read and think about them.  Just a suggestion.  Like I said, I’m not a poetry person, but I had a poem hanging in my bedroom through my teen years and it meant a lot to me. 

Well, enough about me!  Overall, I give Matched and Crossed...

Plot - 3 bookmarks for Matched and 3 1/2 bookmarks for Crossed
Character Development - 4 bookmarks.  Cassia & Ky are very well developed.  We need more of Xander and Indie in the next book.
Love Story - 3 bookmarks. Hasn’t really reeled my in all of the way yet.  My fingers are crossed for book three.
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Ayla Kell (Cassia), Evan Williams (Ky), Nick Roux (Xander), Karen Gillan (Indie)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Review: 'Anew: The Archers of Avalon' by @ChelseaFine

Two years ago, Scarlet awoke in the forest alone, afraid, and unable to remember anything. Lost and confused, her life was a mystery...until she met a boy with a familiar voice.

Gabriel Archer has a voice from her past, and Scarlet is determined to remember why. She immerses herself in his life only to discover he has a brother he's kept hidden from her: Tristan Archer.

Upon meeting Tristan, Scarlet's world becomes even more muddled. While she's instinctively drawn to Gabriel, she's impossibly drawn to Tristan--and confused out of her mind. But as she tries to piece together her history, Scarlet realizes her past...might just be the death of her.

Wow, it is so hard to talk about this book without giving anything away.  Anew starts as a blank slate for Scarlet.  She wakes to find herself alone in a forest with almost total amnesia.  All she knows about herself is her name and that she is fifteen years old.  From there, it is almost best to let the reader discover the mysteries of her past as she learns them, so I won’t say much more about other than it has something to do with an American legend.  Can you guess what it is?  No?  Then read this book! 

Last month, I read and reviewed Chelsea Fine’s book Sophie and Carter.  Fine’s ability to create strong, interesting characters truly impressed me.  Anew proves that the success of Sophie and Carter was not a fluke.  This author knows how to craft characters to a T.  Scarlet is a girl who could have gone all emo about her situation, but instead, has chosen to make the most out of her strange circumstance.  Her best friend Heather is hilarious, and provides an excellent contrast to Scarlet’s character.  It is easy to see why they are so close. 

And as for the boys....?  I think I may be in literary love again.  Unfortunately, I don’t know who I love more, Tristan or Gabriel.  Both brothers are smoking hot, but so is every guy in a YA novel.  I think what I liked best is the contrast between these brothers.  Gabriel is fun and loving and laid back.  Tristan is the brooder, but not without some serious reasons behind his angst.  There is a love triangle in the book, but it’s not your typical situation.  I think reader will find it a refreshing twist. I don't see how this can end well when I want both guys to win.

Anew is a fabulous start to a fun new paranormal series.  Cliffhanger endings drive me insane, and this book is no different.  I’ll be hopping up and down with anticipation until the next book in the series, Awry, comes out. 

Overall, I give Anew...

Plot - 5 bookmarks
Character development - 5 bookmarks
Setting - 5 bookmarks (the Kissing Festival was a fun way to introduce the town of Avalon)
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Skyler Samuels (Scarlet), Jean-Luc Bilodeau (Gabriel/Tristin), Alexandria Deberry (Heather), Olivia Wilde (Lauren)