Fifty Shades of Grey

This book is extraordinary in some ways and, after so long of not really getting pulled into anything, a great change and a total keeper on my shelf.

The plot in short.

Anastasia Steele stumbles ungracefully into Mr. Grey’s office to interview him for the university’s newspaper. Oh, what a hot and enigmatic guy he is. He falls for her smart mouth and her innocence at the same time. An immoral offer is the consequence. But Mr. Grey is fucked up and he expects the impossible from Ana. She’s trying really hard to maintain a relationship with him where she gets what she wants (love) and tries to give him what he wants (submission). It doesn’t work out.

But there’s more to this book. In fact, there are fifty shades more. (I’m rolling my eyes here.)

Christian’s reason for his fucked up personality stems from a terrible beginning of childhood. The way he is – dominant, controlling, demanding, closed up, detached – it’s all coming from something that’s gone terribly wrong. Throughout the book you feel that Ana, though she doesn’t exactly know what happened to Christian in his past, is trying to reach past that part of him and find more of the small boy who can laugh and be excited about sunrises. She’s willing to give everything, but she’s expecting a door – however small – to the most protected part of him in return.

It’s clear in everything Christian does, that he cares deeply for Ana. He wants to give her what she’s seeking in a relationship, which they both call “more”. And he succeeds in very small steps. But for two steps forward, he takes one step back. He needs to control people, also Ana. If she doesn’t obey, he punishes her – by spanking, flogging, whipping, or just fucking her hard. He soon has her intimidated in a way that was hard for me to handle. She was afraid of speaking her mind, let go of life-long habits, like rolling her eyes, frowning or even just biting her lower lip, and changed to someone that wasn’t her. In fact, the only time when she could talk honestly about how she felt about all the shit that was Christian Grey is in their epic e-mail conversations. He gave her a Macbook and a Blackberry, just so he could stay in contact with her when she wasn’t with him. How awesome is that of a guy – even of a control freak. I loved the e-mail parts in this book the most.

What I didn’t like was the fucking (among other things that I will get to later). Too much. Even if it’s part of what makes this book so popular and outstanding (was it sales strategy to pack the book with as many sex scenes as possible and then some?), it really bothered me at some point, especially where Christian took Ana’s virginity. In a few places he told her that he didn’t fall under the normal department. He doesn’t do the girlfriend thing. He doesn’t make love, but he fucks. He inflicts pain for pleasure. If you don’t believe all this, you’ll be taught a lesson in this book. Christian Grey always means what he says. But he’s ready to change. Slowly. Veeeery slowly. In fact, the change happens over 1,500 pages.

There was also something absolutely essential missing. The talk before a BDSM relationship. The character Anastasia Steele could have used some more shaping and it really didn’t work that she headed into something that she didn’t even have the guts to talk to him about. This probably is where the opinions about this book drift apart. It gave me a hard moment considering putting the book down even, but then I couldn’t because I was mystified by the character Christian Grey and just had to get through to the end.

Sometimes, during reading the first book I was thinking “Oh dear (author), you could have written this story on one third of the amount of paper used. It would have delivered the message, the emotion, the mood, and all just as well.” But then I really happened to enjoy the world around Christian Grey and loved to explore with Ana. I mean, the man flies a Helicopter to get from one town to another. He has a garage full of boy toys (mostly Audis) and he knows his way around food and wine. So yeah, why make it a short book when you could live in that place a little longer?

Things that bothered me nonetheless were Ana’s permanent blushing. Oh damn, she does it twice on every page, throughout the entire book. Can you imagine? Come on, I get it she’s a shy girl after her first two or three blushes and I’m capable of remembering that without reading it time and again. The story could rightfully have been titled “1001 flushes”. It’s also something about Ana that made me roll my eyes quite early into the book. Her referring to her inner goddess and her subconscious with half-moon spectacles is just too much. And I really mean it. Those two disembodied characters give their opinions on everything by either scowling, hopping, or clapping their hands. They even hide behind the couch, duh! It is getting tiresome. Nothing in that book went that badly on my nerves as this. Oh wait, one thing did. It’s called “Fifty Shades”. Ana refers to Christian as her fifty shades after he used that term for himself once and, apart from it being the most impersonal term Ana could use for Christian, it’s totally overdone and out of place. There are so many redundant lines in this book actually (Holy shit! Holy fuck! His long fingers. I look at my hands. Beatiful man, bla bla bla) that they get predictable really soon, which again didn’t really turn me on. But on the other hand, the author has a style, that totally speaks to me and kept me turning pages long after I should have been gone and doing something else. What can I say? Impressive writing.

Fifty Shades of Grey is a book of contrasts, polarities even, without much of a plot, but with an intriguing story just the same. And then I’m yet to figure out into what genre it really belongs. Quite obviously, it’s a romance. But is it also erotica? I don’t know. There’s a lot of kinky sex in it – things that make you wonder if you could ever be content with simple “vanilla” sex again. And yeah, that’s just what this book does to me.

FIFTY SHADES DARKER

I’m not going to give a summary of the plot, because you get it in the thousands of other reviews anyway. Just my personal thoughts here:

After loving Fifty Shades of Grey, I had high expectations for the sequel, Fifty Shades Darker. Unfortunately, they weren’t met. The book is over 500 pages long, while it basically tells a story that could have been done in three chapters, if all the redundant sex (again, marketing tactics of the author?) had been cut. The minor subplot about a mental ex of Christian stalking Anastasia didn’t really capture my interest. A little more did finding out what it really was with “Mrs. Robinson”. At least that part had a cool showdown in the end. Other than that there was really only one scene in the entire book – I’m serious here – that made me go “hey, now that is a cool twist of things”. It’s when Christian can’t cope with his panic in a moment and turns into the sub. But that was it. Nothing whatsoever interesting happened in this book otherwise. Any yet I’ll read book three, because I do love the character Christian Grey and I want to see his personal happy ending.

Having that said, I love the cover.

FIFTY SHADES FREED

This book seemed endless. They are married now and other than having sex again (lots of it – surprise, surprise) there’s not much going on. The plot around someone wanting to get back at Christion for whatever reason fades into the background and is overshadowed by a dramatic overuse of “Mr. Grey” and “Mr. Grey” as they love to call each other. It’s only the last 50 or so pages that gripped my attention again, really, because there was an interesting twist of things. Christian found his happy ending at long last and everyone could breathe again.

What I loved most about this book, however, was the bonus material after the end. It’s a POV switch. Christians perspective on the beginning of the story, when Ana fell into his office and when he met her again in the store in Portland afterwards. If there’ll ever be a book in his POV, I’m certainly going to read it.

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Hush Hush

By accident this book landed in my hands, and I’m unspeakably happy it did. This is a fast paced, sometimes thrilling, absolutely capturing book, which I read in less than two days. I just couldn’t put it down once I started. The interaction and beginning relationship between Nora Grey and fallen angel Patch is told in an enticing and teasing way that makes one cheer for both of them. One of my abso-favorite scenes takes place in BIO when Patch reads Nora’s unspoken words to the entire class…and he’s dead on with what he interpretes.

But this romance is everything but sweet. With Patch’s ever so cryptic behavior, you’ll never be able to tell which side he’s currently on. There are times in the book, when you think you finally figured out who’s the good guy and who’s the bad, but already several pages later, you’ll question your decision once again. Fitzpatrick worked amazing plottunrs and twist into the story that won’t let to you go to sleep until you turned the last page.

Brilliantly done. One of the best books I ever read.

CRESCENDO

The second on the Hush Hush saga was a difficult read for me. I love Becca’s way of telling the story, but I found myself thinking “really?” more often than not. All in all, it’s a brilliant book again, but lacking some plausibility at times, like when a cop drops a 16-year old at home, with no one there, then leaves her to herself and this after she almost got shot by a psycopath… Apart from things like that (which unfortunately keep threading through the book) it’s another great experience of reading.

SILENCE

An absolute page-turner once again. If you’ve read the first two books in the series, you mustn’t miss this one.

FINALE

Finally I could finish this book. It’s sad to say that now I’m totally cured from my book-boy-crush, Patch, because the story, the characters and the writing itself didn’t capture me any longer. As highly as I thought of book one in the Hush Hush Saga, as disappointed I’m in the ending.

Nora Grey has been made leader of the Nephilim army, and a blood oath to her dead father, the Black Hand, ties her to a terrible fate. Lead the Nephilim to war and free them from the subjugation (sorry, I can’t think of a better word at this moment) by fallen angels, or die herself. Not a great future to face. But she gets help in this misery. Enter Dante. He’s a hot guy, like her he’s Nephil, and he trains her to be fit for battle.

Unfortunately, Patch comes a little short in this book, which is why I didn’t like it from the start. There was nothing left of a romance. Also Vee, her best friend, drops to the shadows. Too sad. This book was missing some great personalities. On the other side, Marcy Millar once more turns out to be a real pain in the neck, even more so than in all the other books. What really shocked me, though, is how Becca Fitzpatrick turned her adorable character Nora from book one into a shallow girl with zero personality. All the spice, all the wit, all the loveliness has gone. Nora allows Marcy to dictate her every step and doesn’t object to any crap Marcy or even her mother give her. More than once I wondered if I should just stop reading this book, but I just wanted to know how it all would end. I was glad when I turned the last page. The ending wasn’t the best, to be honest, some plot issues and inconsistencies, but after all, I made it through.

Rule

I read over 50 reviews of this book before I decided to get it, and they all said the same. Brilliant but oh so many errors. As a writer and freelance proofreader this really turned me off, and even after I bought the book, I waited about a month before I decided to finally give it a try…because seriously, I can handle a lot, but heck no errors in a book. And yes, that’s where I was mistaken.

In fact, RULE is written in such an awesome style that the errors didn’t even start to bother me. And hell, yeah, that is a first!

The story begins with Rule waking up next to an ink bunny, who he better get’s out of his bed soon, because he has business to do. And before we learn what’s really going on, SHE already stands in the door. Shaw. He doesn’t bother that she sees him naked with a slut in his room. Heck, she’s seen it every Sunday over so many years. He only knows, he has to get up, get clean, and get his ass into her car in ten minutes, or she’d drive off without him.  Everything that comes after this particular scene is pretty cool romance staring a nice girl that doesn’t want to be as nice any longer, and a guy who has tattooed BAD all over him. They do match! Just not from the start.

And now I’d like to stop giving you a rerun of the book, which you can read in mostly all of the 1400 reviews on Goodreads anyway, but focus on the one fact that really hooked me and made me read all the way through, even though the story line seemed a little dragged on after the middle. It’s Jay Crownover’s amazing way to play with words. Being a writer myself, I of course look at books differently than most other readers, and it takes a lot for me to fall for a book. I’ve put more books down in the past couple of month after the first chapter than I actually finished reading, but with RULE, I realized after page two that this is remarkable writing and totally worth to be read.

It’s when we’re in Rules mind at the beginning and see him struggle to get his shit together in time, that I felt myself starting to hold my breath, reading that bit faster, just to get to the point where the first real bit of information is revealed. His name.

I was all set for a silent ride, but apparently she had things to say today, because as soon as she pulled the car onto the highway, she turned the radio down and said my name. “Rule.”

The author has a unique way of letting her mouth loose and making a point with everything she says. Her dialogues are a bit long at times, but they always serve a purpose and make sense, and it’s just beautiful to listen to Rule and Shaw debating things.

Now I gotta go see if I still have a girlfriend or if I managed to drink myself single last night.

However, the most memorable line came from a person you may deem as a side character, but the gal sure gives everybody shit who messes with her guys in the tattoo shop. Her name is Cora, and she’s just the friend Shaw needs at this phase in her life.

I think it’s genetically impossible not to be kind of in love with him, when you come equipped with a vagina.

Some of you follow my reviews, and you all know I’m honest to a fatal point with what I say about books. So I won’t lie here either. There were a few moments in the book where I wanted to jump right in and slap the heroine upside her head. It mostly happened when she was around or thinking about her parents. The way the author made this woman crawl in front of her folks just didn’t work for me. I would have wanted the girl to stand for herself from the first time her idiotic mother opened her mouth, or when her absent father threatened to stop coming up for tuition if she didn’t play nice with the jerk, who’s mostly called Polo Shirt in this book. But for the sake of a nice story, I turned my rage button off and just read over it until the very end.

And the end came clean and beautiful, with enough setup for more books in the Marked Men Series, but also with a nice solution that doesn’t leave you hanging like some other books I’ve read.

Over all, I totally enjoyed this book, but eventually I have to say that something happened to me here, which is very rare. When I finished Rule, I didn’t go like “Aww, I want to reread it and just relive all the beautiful moments with this sexy guy” like I normally do when I close a good book. No, this time my only thought was, Heck, I wish I could write like Jay!

The Duff

Oh wow, this book was a challenge for me. The title is cool and the blurb really intriguing, but the story itself didn’t capture me from the start.

Bianca is a 17-year-old with major issues. She’s neurotic, she’s reserved, she’s cynical, and most of all, she is bitter. And here comes straight away why I almost put the book down after page 50, and then again after page 100, and 150. I really can’t handle that sort of book where reading about a character claws on your happy mood. Whenever I picked The Duff up again and forced myself to read on, just because I wanted to finish it and put it away for good, I felt how my light mood dropped with every line I read.

Bianca lives in a house with her dad. Her mother is the one running away in this book, and she’s the only totally unbelievable character in this story. Whatever she does, whenever she opens her mouth, or wherever she’s mentioned, I’m wondering whether the book would have worked better for me if the author had tried a little harder to make the mother three dimensional rather than the copy of a magazine cover model with no human traits at all.

Bianca’s dad is lovable through the first half – until he starts drinking because he can’t handle the divorce forced upon him. All very bad family drama. So…where comes the romance? I’ll tell you where. After page 150. And that’s when I finished reading the book in one go.
There’s a boy. His name is Wesley Rush. And he’s an asshole. Well, according to the heroine, anyway. I never thought he was. He’s a playboy, a seriously bad one, which is my favorite in books, because if that guy falls for the heroine in the end, it does mean something. (I’m not going to touch on the Toby Tucker issue, because I really didn’t like how that was going.)

What I’m going to touch on is the sex in this book. Somewhere in the middle I was asking myself if this was a porn for teens. Not because of any graphic sex, you don’t get that, but because of the quantity in which it’s dumped on the reader. Sex turns out to become Bianca’s stress-relief button. She’s pushing herself on the playboy, Wesley, and he doesn’t say no, of course. But while the author could have made this a sweet romance after only a one-nighter, Bianca is seeing Wesley like a whore. Frequently. Continuously. At any given moment. It really disgusted me.

Wesley, on the other hand, turns out to be the nicer one out of the two of them. He soon sees through Bianca’s shit and tries to be there for her. I really felt bad for him, when Bianca turned him down because she couldn’t handle her budding love for him.
The ending was seriously cheesy, but at least it was happy and we got past all the bitterness. So all is good on that front. However, The Duff will probably stay the only book I read by this author.

I’m sorry that I can’t say nicer things about this book.

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The one for me

Seriously, rating this book is a hard task. I’ll start off with the good things…

I loved the story, but then I love pretty much any High School drama so that was to be expected. Katy and Liam are two characters I totally rooted for from the first line I read about them. The book is written in first person POV, which tends to be my favorite, but it’s also written in present tense, which I really hate.

The story starts in the middle of the divorce of Katy’s parents, and we get a good feel of her emotions here. She’s hurt, she’s angry, she can’t understand what’s going on and why her dad had to cheat with this awful woman from his office. At the same time her boyfriend abandoned her for a Barbie Clone, and to top it all her best friend Jen (an adorable and lovely side character) has to empty her seat in Science to make room for bad boy Liam Erickson. Katy is stuck with the guy for a project on…tada, sex. At this point I want to mention that there are so many parallels to the book HUSH, HUSH from Becca Fitzpatrick, that I really wondered if this was going to be a lousy copy. But the story soon goes into a different direction…thank God.

Katy tries to get Liam to do the assay with her, but he has other plans. Going to a party, particularly. She follows him, and when her ass-wipe of ex-boyfriend shows up with his new gf, Katy feels the need to do ‘something’. So what the hell, she just kisses Liam. Not a good thing to do in her situation. Within a minute she has the reputation of a rebound girl, class whore and what not (which was a little drastic in my opinion, but for the sake of the story, well…let the author have her way). To pull her neck out of the noose, Katy offers a deal to Liam. He becomes her pretend boyfriend and she helps him get a nicer reputation and better grades. Here I was wondering again why the boy would be looked at differently by the teachers only because he has a girlfriend, but again…it’s part of a working story.

What the author managed brilliantly in this book is making the reader feel the chemistry between Katy and Liam. He’s a bad boy, all right, but he’s sexy, smart, dark and always has a perfect come back. The dialogue was the one thing that convinced me to read the book in the first place when I skimmed through the excerpt, and it kept going smoothly all the way to the end. Congratulations to the author for that.

Unfortunately, there were a few things that spoiled the book, and I think it’s fair to say spoil here, because it totally destroyed the reading pleasure of what could be a YA bestseller. Apart from a bad habit to start almost every sentence with ‘I did this…and I did that…’, the book was littered with typos. And it wasn’t just the occasional misplaced comma. In fact, commas were all over the place, there were typos, grammar mistakes, and the author even got the names of her heroes wrong in several places. I’m a writer, too, and I know how hard it is to catch your own mistakes. But, honestly, that’s why you have critique partners and proofreaders. If she’d done her homework, she would have produced an excellent teenage novel worth 5*. This way…well, I think 4* are okay. I really loved the characters and the story (except for a few inconsistencies like the thing about Liam’s mother moving away and not getting in touch with him, then ‘oh-so-emotional” returning when Katy calls her).

I know this is partly a harsh review, but I’m always honest when I write something for someone. And if I didn’t like the book so much, I wouldn’t feel the need to write anything at all. Make sense? Good.

In fact, I tried to contact the author and tell her all this personally, but there’s nothing about her to be found in the web. Luckily, a writer friend of mine just informed me that all the mistakes were corrected in a late run of edits and a new file was uploaded. I believe that now everyone will love reading this book.

On a final note, it seems the author has also changed the cover picture over night, which is a very good thing, because the former one sucked. It had the same couple as are posted on every other teenage romance, and it really catches your eye…in a bad way. Love the new one!

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Torn

Samantha, the average 17-year old, suddenly discovers she’s not that average after all. After her father dies, she finds out things about herself, powers that intrigue her and at the same time scare her out of her pants. Moving into a cabin in the woods with two boys, both deliciously tempting in their very own way, she has to learn to control these powers, train to be ready when it’s time to fight the dark side, and keep this annoying voice of a stranger the hell out of her head.

With a sizzling passion budding between Sam and Ethan, one of her protectors, this story is right up my alley. Hughes describes perfectly how a teenager’s emotions threaten to escalate while she struggles to stay sane in a world that turns upside-down on her over night. What I found a bit troublesome was the hop back and forth in time at the beginning of the book and the overuse of names in dialogue, but the fast paced story, the light humor in Sam’s voice, and just the right dose of sarcasm, made up for it all the way through the book. TORN comes with far more than just one twist, and Hughes’ skills to build tension to a maximum in each single chapter is impressive. As I’ve heard, she is working on the sequel to it right now. Definitely something to grab.

Wild About You

Oh no… I’m so disappointed.

I got this book a few weeks ago, but when I started reading it, I had trouble staying focused. The book opened with a chapter in Shanna’s POV and not in one of the main characters, which is totally untypical for a romance. Also it was so boring, that I considered putting the book down before I got to the main part. And the main part (which is called a romance) started around chapter 4 or 5.

This is, oh I don’t know, book 12 or 13 in the Love at Stake series, and I expected to find another strong heroine, humor, and sexiness in it. But there was none of it. Or none that I would call worth to be mentioned. This never happened before with one of Kerrelyn Sparks’ books. She’s one of my favorite authors, but this time, I’m really disappointed. Of course, this is only my opinion, and there are plenty of people loving the book just as much as any before that. So what exactly put me off?

Elsa is a construction worker, taller than the average woman, and she loves to pull down houses. That is okay, as it would work well with Howard, a grizzly bear shifter. But in my opinion, the author made a major mistake, as she gave this woman a weak side that was becoming annoying to a frustrating point, and fast. Elsa was behaving like a small girl, when her aunts told her to stay away from Howard, the bear, because of an unfortunate family curse that might cause her death if Howard was losing control. She let her aunts scare her, and sort of dropped her own will and mind outside the front door, doing whatever they told her. Elsa is – or turned into – a guardian of the forest. This new side of her scared her a little at first, but she adjusted to it very quickly. Here I would have advised K. Sparks to give some deeper emotions. Elsa could be shocked beyond words, or intrigued to a fantastic point, but she just grew used to it. Very flat writing here.

Howard was an okay character. He didn’t blow me away – unlike most male leads in the books before this one – but he wasn’t as annoying as Elsa. He said and did some nice and sexy things, but when it came down to the important parts of any romance, the worshipping and the “get together” he totally sucked. Or rather…the author sucked it up. She rushed though the intimate scenes, like you’d read about them in the local newspaper the next day. The subplot was about revenge, and that is a major “turn me down”. A side character died in the process of destroying the antagonist, Rhett, the were-wolf. There are reasons over reasons why Howard is allowed to hate Rhett, but the way the author created this thread, she gave Howard a very dark side. Something that made it hard to like him. For me, anyway.

What happened here? Sometimes during reading, I wondered if K. Sparks was under pressure to deliver another book and so cut down the quality for the sake of quantity. Seriously, I hope she’s doing better with her next book.

Somehow I feel the need to apologize now. I hate giving bad reviews, really, but I also don’t want to lie in them. So yeah, sorry, but I just didn’t like this book very much.