Book Review- The Missing Piece

Book: The Missing Piece

Author/Illustrator: Shel Silverstein

Format: Hardback

Published:1976

I was at the library the other day, and picked up this book without even looking at the title. It was a kid’s book, it was by Shel Silverstein, it had to be cute and fun and full of poems and such, right? Wrong. Assuming anything was my first mistake. My second mistake was actually reading it.

The entirety of the plot surrounds a circle that is missing a piece from it, and decides to go on a journey to look for said piece. It goes over mountains and across bodies of water, loses a race to a snail, and finds many wrong pieces along the way. Unfortunately, one thing it didn’t find was any sort of entertainment whatsoever. It was quite honestly one of the dullest books I have ever read. On top of that, it does not even end. Not even when it finds its missing piece. It just keeps going and going and going. I think I actually derived more entertainment from Grammar Basics For Dummies (no, I have not completely lost my mind). Overall, I give this book a 1 page rating. If you see this book, run in the opposite direction, and do NOT look back.

Writer Wednesday – Lauren Rachel Tharp

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
My name is Lauren Rachel Tharp.

Tell us (briefly) about you…
I’m 28 years old, I’m hypoglycemic, and I’m a cat owner. Oh, and I’m a writer!

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
I’m a freelance writer for hire. I specialize in taking “dull” topics and making them interesting. Copywriting.

When I’m not doing that, I’m working on short stories, poems, and my young adult novels.

…and what you’re working on right now.
At this exact moment, I’m pretty wrapped up in marketing The Ballad of Allison and Bandit, my first published young adult novel. It’s been very exciting! Next week I’m scheduled to speak to 900 teenagers… Which has left me both ecstatic and absolutely terrified. Haha.

After that, I’ll be working on my next young adult novel. I’ve already written down a ton of notes. It will be a while before it’s finished, but I’m prepared to jump right in.

And, of course, my freelance work over at littlezotz.com.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
My dad used to read aloud to me every night. And then taught me how to read via comic books—mostly Uncle Scrooge & Donald Duck. I adore Don Rosa’s Life and Times series.

He also read a TON of Nancy Drew books aloud to my mother and me during family time. We’d all sit around for a couple hours each night and he’d read them…

However, the first “real” book I read on my own was The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. I re-read it about once a year.

What are your three favorite books?
The Phantom Tollbooth will always have a special place in my heart. I’d put that at the top of the list forever. But the rest of the list… It’s always changing. I love the Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary, but I also love Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. I adore Roald Dahl, but I also get a kick out of Sophie Kinsella. And Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones is brilliant too! And if you throw comic books and graphic novels into the mix… my goodness! Forget it. This question is impossible.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
I tend to read three books at a time: One fiction novel, one graphic novel, and one non-fiction novel.

Right now I’m re-reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle as my fiction book, Absolute Boyfriend by Yuu Watase as my comic book (manga), and Robert Bly’s The Copywriter’s Handbook as my non-fiction book.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I…
…am about to fall asleep. But I try very hard not to!

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
Oh, definitely re-read.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
It sounds a bit mean, but it really does depend on who’s doing the recommending…

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Extremely likely! Haha. I recommend books to people all the dang time. Actually, I recommend all of the books I’ve mentioned in the previous questions!

What do you look for in a good book?
Good pacing. A dash (or a lot) of humor. Good characters and dialogue can get you far with me, even if your plot is simple.

Why do you write?
Because I must!

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
Extremely sad.
Or maybe a private detective?

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Many of my stories start as dreams. So sleep is pretty important. Haha. I also use my own life as a source of inspiration. Write what you know, right?

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
There were a few worried naysayers when I first quit my day job to become a writer full-time, but as soon as I started making a living off of it, they were like “Oh. Okay!” Hahaha.

As Cyndi Lauper says, “Money changes everything.”

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
All of the stereotypes I disagree with have to do with liquids: “All writers drink coffee.” “All writers are drunks by night.”

No and no. I don’t drink coffee or liquor and writing is what takes up most of my time.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
Getting noticed. There are so many writers out there. It’s hard enough to be just starting out, but you’re not going to go anywhere if you don’t stand out as well. And that can be very tough. And a bit depressing if it doesn’t happen right away.

Just hang in there! Persistence pays off.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Even professional writers make typos. I made one just the other week… I wrote “without further adieu” instead of “without further ado.” Ugh. I could have slapped myself silly for that one! Thank goodness I noticed it on time to fix it before it went to print, but I still felt horrible saying, “Oh, um, on that article I just turned in… I made a really stupid error that I should have caught when I proofread it…” Embarrassing.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
I’d love to do something to help the homeless in my state. Homeless people and homeless cats.

And I’d love to do something for Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles… I was born without my right hip and they built me a new one—free of charge! I owe them a lot. I try to make donations every year, but I’d love to do something more.

How do you deal with your fan base?
I actually do have a few people that write to me! Haha. That’s always been such a surprise to me, but I love it. I love hearing from people.

I basically write back to them, answer any questions they have, and just… do my best to be friendly? I’m not sure what else to say to this one. I’ve had a problem once or twice with people getting a bit too friendly/flirty, but so far I’ve been able to stop them in their tracks before things got out of hand (unless they’re peeping in at me right now and I don’t know it! Yikes!).

For the most part, it’s been just lovely. I hope to hear from even more people with the release of my new book, The Ballad of Allison and Bandit. Some of my dear friends actually started out as pen pals. So you never know—if you write to me, we may end up being friends!

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
I’m allergic to soy. Which is in everything here in America—even gum. So, I cook most of the meals I eat myself.

Anything else we should know?
I am absolutely thrilled to be interviewed! I’m usually the one interviewing other people, so it was an absolute joy to be asked a few questions myself. Haha. Thank you so much!

Oh, and please check out my young adult novel, The Ballad of Allison and Bandit. It’s available for FREE as an e-book on my author website at laurentharp.net!

Book Review – Persepolis & Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis:  The story of a childhood
Marjane Satrapi
Translation 2003
Originally published in france 2000
Hardback graphic novel

Marjane Satrapi was a child in Iran in the 80s when the government fell and war broke out.  This graphic novel tells her story in pieces, from being carefree and 10, attending a French-language school in Tehran, where she grew up, to being 14 and sent out of the country because it was the only way to keep her safe.  In the middle, she saw people that she love come and go as prisoners (one batch released, one entered), she went from regular clothes and a mixed school to all-girls, wearing headscarves.  She went from a child to a young teen who knew when to run to the basement bomb shelter and when the bombing was too close to make the run worth it.

There’s not much to say with this book.  It’s told in first person, through Marji’s perspective, and with the innocence of a 10-14 year old child.  That’s both good and bad, as we get little glimpses as to how these changes affected regular people, but only little glimpses.  Also, as a bonus, there is a two page intro that gives us Persia/Iran history, which I think is helpful.

Illustrations are simplistic black and white drawings by the author.

In the end, I’m giving it a four because of the glimpse of history it gives us.  If this were fiction, it’d only be a three.

———————-

Persepolis 2:  The story of a return
Marjane Satrapi
Translation 2004
Originally published in france 2000
Hardback graphic novel

Okay, after reading part 1, the graphic novel about the author’s life in Iran, I really wanted to read part 2.

And this is going to be a short review because I have so many issues with it.  First of all, the author’s life sucked and I didn’t see a lot worth reading in this book.  Her parents sent her off to Europe, and the woman that was supposed to take her in sent her to live with nuns.  On her own, basically, earlier than most of us could drive.

Honestly, the thing I liked about Persepolis was that I was learning about Iran when they switched from progressive society to covering themselves and segregating. The issue I had with Persepolis 2 is that I didn’t care at all about European Beatnicks and underage drug use or teens off on their own.  I wanted to slap the mother’s friend.  Oh, and there was no reminder of what had happened in the first book, this is literally like turning the page and continuing on (I know I make that complaint a lot, but authors need to remember that readers don’t always read their books one after another right away).

When Marjane finally went back because she was homesick, I was left with more questions than answers – after all, the author, according the the blurb on the back cover, was currently living in Paris.  If she was so hot and bothered to get back home, why did she leave again? Was she really that miserable?

If you read the first and thought it was the best book ever, pick it up if you catch it at the library.  But really, there’s no cultural value, nothing special to glean from this.  The art isn’t redeeming.

A very disappointed 2 out of 5 pages.

Book Review–Six Years by Harlan Coben

Title: Six Years
Author: 
Harlan Coben 
Format: 
Electronic / Kindle 
Published:  2013

 

Harlan Coben writes three types of fiction now.  He has his ongoing mystery/thriller series with protagonist Myron Bolitar which chug along in a workmanlike fashion.  He’s recently jumped on the “I want that money too!” bandwagon of Young Adult fiction by creating a series around Bolitar’s nephew.

Six Years is one of the third type of Coben book; a stand-alone suspense thriller.   I first became aware of Coben a decade ago when his third stand-alone novel (Tell No One)  topped the charts.     Since then I’ve read all of his stand-alone books and enjoyed them.     Six Years  would probably fall in about the middle, quality- and enjoyment-wise.

The book’s protagonist, Jacob Fisher, tells the story in first person past-tense.  You spend the entire book riding alongside him while the events unfold.  As with most other stand-alone Coben thrillers, it’s a tale of an average guy with some sort of heartbreak in his past.  In this case, Fisher’s soul mate Natalie dumped him suddenly to marry her previous lover, extracting a promise from Fisher on her wedding day that he never try to find her and her husband again.   Six years later (hence the title) Fisher sees an obituary for Natalie’s husband on his employer’s alumni website.    He attends the funeral hoping to see Natalie again.

When the widow at the graveside service is not Natalie but another woman altogether we fall down the rabbit hole with Fisher, looking for Natalie and looking for answers to a rapidly mounting pile of questions.

The thrill of these types of novels comes from the high curiosity factor.  I plow ahead to find out what happens next and what on earth is behind it all.   That means that the more transparent the mystery the less of a thrill the book is.      Unlike Coben’s best works, the mystery is fairly easily sorted midway through. But it does take a bit longer to suss out than the simplistic webs of his lesser works, so I’d say all in all Six Years is a strong middle entry.

What to rate it?  Well, that’s where things get as complicated as a suspense thriller plot.  I’d honestly give this book two seperate ratings.

If you are just reading it around home or on lunch breaks in dribs and drabs I’d give it three bookworms.

3bookworms

However…

Let’s say you’re on an airplane for five or six hours, in a chair on a beach under an umbrella or in the waiting room of a hospital while a loved one is having outpatient surgery.   In THAT case this is definitely a four bookworm book.    This is the kind of thing that works well for reading in those scenarios where you want to have your attention completely focused on something that compells you and takes your mind off the tedium but doesn’t require a huge lot of brainpower.
4 bookworms

Book Review: Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner

Title: Skippy jon Jones

Author/Illustrator: Judy Schachner

Format: Hardback

Written/Published: 2003

Having worked in education for a few years in college, I became very familiar with several children’s books and many of them walked into my heart and stole it away.  One of those books would be this one.  It is a rather fun and adorable book that is a blast to read aloud.  Of course to read it aloud you have to be comfortable with pronouncing various Spanish words such as frijoles and be comfortable with some slight tongue twisters like Alfredo Buzzito the bad Bumblebeeto who of course is a bandito.  There is a fair bit of rhyming and it can get a little wagging on the tongue when reading aloud but if you put a lot of personality and flair into it, it is a lot of fun and kids love it!

From a teaching perspective there are a lot of great places to pause and ask questions for the kids to help them learn but even if you aren’t going to teach with this book it is still fun to read aloud and I think is better to read aloud than quietly.  Really have fun with this book if you pick it up for yourself.  Read it out loud to yourself if you can and play with the songs they are really cute and are fun!  I can’t encourage you enough on how much fun this book is out loud, though I recommend not getting the audio book of this… I listened to it years ago and I wasn’t that wild about it.  The recording artist did a decent job but his Mama Junebug Jones voice was really awkward!  (That is another fun thing to toss in if you are comfortable with it while reading aloud… voices particularly Skippyjon’s Hispanic accent!)

Over all this is a book I treasure and it is a fun read as Skippy faces off against the great big Bumblebeeto to save the Chimichangos a band of Chihuahua’s that he meets in his closet.  To find out if Skippyjon succeeds in quest you will have to read the book… and I do implore you to have fun with it!  Over all I’ll give this book a 4 page rating as it a rather joyous book but I know it isn’t quite for everyone.

Book Review- Amelia Bedelia

Book: Amelia Bedelia

Illustrator: Fritz Siebel

Author: Peggy Parish

Format: Paperback

Published: 1963

Amelia Bedelia is excited to start her first day of work as a maid. Sure, her list of chores is rather odd- like drawing curtains (she was never a very good artist), or dressing the chicken (they never specified boy or girl clothes). No matter, it is what they want, and she will do it with a smile on her face, a tune on her lips, and one of her famous pies in the oven.

This book was one of my favorites as a child- I loved the silliness of her overly literal antics, so when I say this, I thought ‘why not?’ Sadly, it was not quite as enjoyable as a grown up. Perhaps I was not in the right mood for such silliness, or perhaps (but hopefully not) I have just outgrown it. Either way, while it was decent enough, it really didn’t do much for me. Still, it is not a bad book, and if you have a wee one around, it is a great read. Overall, I give it 3 pages for nostalgia’s sake (though definitely 4 pages if you have a wee one).

Writer Wednesday – Dmitri Ragano

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
Dmitri Ragano. Devoted father and husband. Skilled and experience daydreamer. Citizen of the world.

Tell us (briefly) about you…
I have an insatiable curiosity. I am happiest when I am learning something new that helps me make sense of reality.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
I’ve written three novels so far. The first one, Employee of the Year, is a mystery set in the call center of a credit card company during the recent financial crisis. The second book in the series is called The Voting Machine. It features Temo McCarthy, the same hero as Employee of the Year, and it’s an election thriller set in Nevada during a voter registration campaign. My latest novel, The Fugitive Grandma, is a dark comedy/adventure about the health care crisis in America. It’s the story of a boy and his grandmother who rob a string of big box retail stores for cash and medicine.

I’ve also worked as a freelance journalist for over twenty years, reporting mostly in the US and East Asia. I’ve covered a variety of topics including crime, technology, business and entertainment.

…and what you’re working on right now.
I am writing a fourth novel, The Watch List, a continuation of the Temo McCarthy series. It’s a suspense novel and a meditation on the war on terror.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
My aunt bought me a copy of The Hobbit when I was five or six years old. It was a big hard back version with pictures from the old Rankin and Bass animated version from the 70s. I always identified with Bilbo Baggins. I liked the idea of this simple little homebody going off and having a big adventure in the world. To a certain extent I ended up following in his footsteps.

What are your three favorite books?
The Dubliners by James Joyce will always be my favorite collection of short stories. I read this when I was a teenager and I admired the way Joyce captured the joys and sorrows of ordinary people from different walks of life.

My favorite novel is Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. The purity of Prince Myshkin makes him so memorable and lovable. Dostoevsky was the master of creating larger than life characters that represent the extreme ranges of the human psyche.

The last book on the list is A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. History is usually taught in a manner that makes the audience feel passive and helpless. Zinn turns it around and inspires the reader to think about the past, present and future like an active participant.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
I usually read at least three books in parallel.

Twenty Year Death is a remarkable mystery novel by Ariel Winter. It has three parts, each of them written in the style and milieu of a giant of the genre: Georges Simenon, Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson. Winter is uncanny in his ability to mimic and commemorate the styles of these different writers. It’s really a marvel to behold.

The Social Conquest of Earth is an exploration of human nature from scientist Edmund O. Wilson. Man’s selfish and selfless traits, his aggression and altruism, played varying roles in development and survival as a species. Wilson incorporates concepts from genetics and evolutionary biology to try and understand what makes our species tick.

Thinking in Pictures. This is the autobiography of Temple Grandin, one of my personal heroes for her courage and compassion in providing a first-hand account of living with autism.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
Feel the tantalizing anticipation and hope that another piece of life’s puzzle might slip into place and fit just right.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
If it’s someone who knows my tastes and interests, then I am very likely to read it.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Very likely. I am kind of a chronic, compulsive “recommender” and often need to be restrained due to an excess of enthusiasm.

What do you look for in a good book?
It will help me walk away with a story or an insight and I am a better person for it.

Why do you write?
It’s cheaper than therapy. Also more fun.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
A linguist. I love learning foreign languages. I am fluent in Japanese. I studied Russian for five years and can read it OK. I also can get by in Italian though I tend to forget it between trips to Italy.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Big world-changing ideas and simple everyday experiences.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
It has taught me to become better at empathizing with others and imaging the world from different perspectives. One of my favorite quotes is from Picasso: “To be an artist means never to avert one’s eyes.” I have many blind spots in life and my writing is a way to see things more clearly.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
I wish writing was my career but honestly speaking it feels more like a hobby. I have a career in Internet technology that provides the financial support to do the things I really love. Many of my favorite writers had day jobs and did their writing on the side. Walt Whitman was a postal worker. Franz Kafka was an insurance executive.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
I think writers, like other artists, are sometimes stereotyped as lacking practical and social skills. I don’t think this is necessarily the case. I do think writers probably find some of the rewards that practical and social skills bring less fulfilling than others sorts of personalities.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
The biggest challenge is getting to the point where you are convinced you have something compelling and interesting to say. If you don’t have this conviction, you are plagued with self-doubt and you wonder whether writing is the best use of your precious time on this earth. It took me a while to gain this conviction. But once you have it, it’s hard to lose it.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
My first novel, Employee of the Year, was probably too long by any sort of contemporary standards. Still, some readers like the depth and expanse of the sub-plots and it was difficult to determine what could be cut without damaging the essence of the story.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
I currently love being involved in the evolution of the e-book. My background is working in web start-up companies in San Francisco during the Internet bubble. So the idea that books are going through this period of technological innovation and experimentation is very exciting. I am so glad to be a part of defining a new medium. Yay!

How do you deal with your fan base?
I am not sure I have a fan base, that feels a little presumptuous. I have a reading and I appreciate their honest feedback. I try to understand what they like and dislike about my books. I want to know what characters and themes resonate most powerfully.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
I have a shameful and debilitating addiction to top 40 radio pop dance music. I am coming clean with this as part of my policy of total transparency with my fan base. I’ve tried to wean myself off of this dependency and start listening to classical music in the car but so far this has been an utter failure.

Anything else we should know?
My daughter in elementary school is a much better author than me and I predict her books will dramatically outsell my own before she is old enough to vote.

Book Review – 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James

I’ve been agonizing over when to put this review out there.  Since today’s April Fool’s Day and this book is a bigger joke than Twilight… Here ya go.  I’m warning you, though.  This review is about 2x longer than any other I’ve ever written (or anyone on this blog has ever written) and is absolutely not safe for work.

Title: Fifty Shades of Grey

Author: Writer:  Chick who managed to put words on paper: E.L. James

Format: Paperback

Published: 2012

Also known as: Twilight, the fan fic.  (You did know that, right?  Because, you know, if you didn’t, you’ve been living under a rock.  This shit is fan fiction based on Twilight.)

So, at the beginning of this blog, Catherine made a comment about how we’d never review this book.  But, you know, I read it for the purpose of reviewing it, and hey, I’m reviewing it.

Someone, please hold my lunch.

If you haven’t heard anything about this book, please, crawl back into your cave and stay there.  You’re safe in your cave.  I promise.

I can’t save you if you keep reading.

Run away.

Now.

Quickly.

Why are you still here?

Haven’t you heard me yet?

RUN!!!

Really?  You’re sticking this out?

Okay, then.

I am no longer responsible for you if you stay.

So, I read the book.  And I took notes.  FOUR PAGES OF NOTES.  Then I decided that if I ranted and raved in this review even half as much as I do in person when somebody asks me what I thought… well, you’d be here longer than it took to write that drivel.

Here’s the story in a nutshell:

Ana, college chick, works at a hardware store in Portland/Seattle (the author doesn’t know the difference, why should I?), studies English, only reads old literature… oh, and doesn’t know how to check email and has never masturbated, let alone had sex.

Her roommate gets sick and sends Ana to do an interview in her place despite the fact that Ana isn’t a journalist and not smart enough to prepare for the interview – like, you know, read up on the guy on the internet or any- oh, wait.  She doesn’t know how to use the computer.  Wikipedia is clearly too difficult.  So she goes totally unprepared to her interview with Christian Grey, busy hating herself and thinking she’s a big fat loser, what with her blonde hair, blue eyes and all.  Oh, and as for that fat thing, she hates how skinny and hot her roommate is, but they share clothes so, uh…

Christian Grey on the other hand, is young, rich, and successful, so the list of responsible journalistic questions asked of him include insulting him at every question – is your success all luck?  Are you gay?  You know, that type of responsible journalism thing.   And then he falls for this useless fat ugly whatever thing that interviewed him.

Cause, you know, that totally happens in real life.    Jeez, I wonder who I could interview for this blog and end up in a bondage room with.

Oh, did I skip ahead?  Yeah, well.  That’s because there’s no substance to this book.

And more issues than Time Magazine.

So what do I have problems with?

  • The author can’t figure out the difference between Portland and Seattle and is there a mention of Vancouver for this American born/bred?  My best guess is Seattle, but I, as the reader, shouldn’t be guessing.  The author herself should know.
  • How the hell do you make it to 22-years-old, about to graduate from college, and can barely figure out how to hit the “ON” button on a laptop.  Email, are you kidding?!  What the hell?!
  • The writing is awful.  Aside from the first person present point of view (“I go and I see and I wait and… I vomit”) which I hate, it’s not even well written.  The thing about this POV is you either have to be good or you end up with a shitload of crappy, choppy sentences.  Yeah.  We’ve got those.  We’ve also got a ton of long, repetitive, run-on sentences.  Sentences that repeat words and colors and phrases and oh, dear God, kill me.  Please.  Because I can’t stand this!
  • Which brings me to my second argument about the writing, which is word choice.  Ana says things like “jeez” all the time.  Also, every combination of “good God” “good golly” etc.  I kept expecting a jeez god or a god jeez or something along those lines.  We get it already, James.  Your character is a clueless, stupid, innocent twit.  Wait, what?  That’s not what you want us to think?  You’ll get over it.  Cause that’s what you wrote and that’s what your editor pushed through.
  • Ana harps on everything – from her roommate and herself to every description every thought every whatever. Also, every guy she meets is cute, even though there’s no chance of a relationship with them.
  • Certain characters have names – like Roy, her father-like ex-step-father – but others, like her mother, don’t.  Not exactly a family therapist here, but if you love your ex-step-father like a father, you probably call him Dad.  And if what’s-her-name down in Georgia isn’t Mommy Dearest, you probably don’t call her that.  Just sayin’.
  • Oh, and she FUCKING MURMURS EVERY FUCKING TIME SHE TALKS.  (No, that didn’t bother me at all. </snerk>)  She doesn’t say, she doesn’t speak, she doesn’t yell (unless they’re in the bedroom) she fucking murmurs.
  • Million dollar words.  This here’s another pet peeve of mine.  When your character is a simple minded twit that uses words like “jeez” every time she opens her mouth, you don’t use fancy vocabulary for the rest of what you say.  Jeez.  I’m sorry, EL, but your character is a moron.  And honestly, people that use huge words when cute little tiny ones will do, end up sounding stupid.  I mean, I know our MC is a college-educated woman who can’t use a computer, but still.  [as a side note, several of the words that she throws around like popcorn in this book are so infrequently used that I needed a dictionary… I actually kept a list at one point of the bizarre choices of words she used]
  • She drinks every scene.  – no, I’m not anti-booze (I’m a card carrying member of the Tennessee Squire Association, thankyouverymuch), but I don’t see the point in drinking every time you go anywhere just because you can, and really, she drinks so much she should be sloshed.  What’s wrong with a glass of water once in a while?  Lemonade?  Iced tea?  Coffee?

So fast forward all this stuff.  After a few choice encounters where she happens to randomly run into Christian Grey (like at the hardware store where he buys zip ties and drop cloths), several meetings where her knees go weak, including a photo shoot of Christian Grey, etc., they end up doing a few things like dinner… and each other.

And the sex scenes are awful.  Because, here, ladies and gentlemen, is how every damn one of them works.

  1. Declare that you (the gent) will not do anything that shows any sort of actually caring about the woman you’re with.
  2. Demand she put her arms over her head.
  3. Do her like you’re her rapist.

Seriously, how bad is the sex life of a normal middle aged wife that they find that sexy?  Is it hot because it’s not missionary-style on Saturday night?  Grey’s not the husband and he’s not grunting till he’s done and rolls away?  What the hell?

50shadesabused

And as the book progresses and she does more and more of this even though she hates it, I seriously have to question Ana.  How bad is her self-esteem (and how clueless is she about sex) that she thinks she has to give in to the total control and domination from her man to get any?  How warped and twisted and – fucked up – are you to think that you don’t deserve any better?

As the story goes along, we learn a few more things about Mr. Grey.  He’s “fifty shades of fucked-up” (which is why I said that in the previous line – in Ana’s case, Mr. Fifty Shades becomes her new nickname for her boyfriend), and this includes his first time being with his babysitter, several (it felt like several million) discussions about the bondage contract she won’t sign, and the most agonizingly annoying scene in which she can’t believe she’s so naughty because she goes to dinner with his parents… without underwear.  (Poll women between the age of 18 and 30, and I bet within a dozen of them, someone will admit to having not worn underwear at some point in the past two weeks.)

ARGH!!!!!

You know, I’m gonna stop because, really, I just want to vomit.

Here’s the thing that pisses me off so much about this book.  Ana is a naïve, clueless, moronic twit (have I said that yet?).  And she somehow got into this relationship with a controlling freak.  Now, maybe, just maybe, if she had had several relationships, been a bit older, had a fucking clue, I wouldn’t be so upset.  But to have a main character that doesn’t even touch herself, who can’t refer to her girl parts – the word is not “down there” the word is “vagina” – thinks of her inner goddess or whatever other bullshit words she uses on herself… she is not equipped enough to be with this man.

And really, the author most certainly shows us this herself.

As the relationship progresses, and we see such uber-creepy behavior as Grey finding out where Ana lives because he has her cell phone tracked, demanding she get a new car because he doesn’t like the one she has, etc., and they discuss the contract to death, we learn a couple safe words (and they’re incredibly stupid safe words), get to watch her dream of sex toys and get them (I can never look at riding crops the same way), and eventually get to “the” scene.  I’d call it the climax, but really, slapping her twice gets this girl off, so using the word climax no longer has any meaning at this point.

Pardon the interruption, but… being stalked, tracked, or otherwise controlled is not ever the sign of a healthy relationship.  If you or somebody you know is in a relationship like this, please leave and find somewhere safe to go.  If you don’t feel that you can leave safely, call the police and they will help you.  Abuse is never okay, and you don’t need to be a victim to be in a healthy relationship. There are resources out there, and it’s NOT something glamorous.  

Ana/Bella (because let’s remember, this was based on fan fic, and she’s really just the tortured soul Bella in a new name) has at this point decided that she wants to know what the extent of Grey’s abuse, er, I mean spanking, is.  So she tells him to go  all the way.

And while she’s crying about how awful it is, she has her only moment of light where she decides that it scares the shit out of her and she should leave.  So after it’s done, she breaks it off with him.  End book.

And even this, I need to bitch about.  Because if you already forgot, about a paragraph and a half ago, I pointed out that they had safe words.  Which she doesn’t use.  At all.  And then she’s all “I can’t believe you hurt me like that” and pouts for a while.  Wait a damn minute.  She’s entered into an agreement (even though the contract never got signed) that she would do this sort of stuff, but she has a safe word so that it can’t get out of hand, and then because she’s too stupid to use it, she gets to play the victim?  I don’t think so.

Another side note.  Consensual BDSM happens all over the world.  It does not look like this.  And it is not about being hurt or abused, it’s about control and trust.  There is absolutely no trust anywhere in this book.  The author should be ashamed at writing this shit.

If I tell you to stop, I damn well expect you to stop.  But if I don’t say anything, then it’s safe to assume for whatever reason I want you to keep going.  It’s sorta like… going to a bar and seeing someone drinking across the room and assuming they’re at least 21 (or whatever the legal drinking age is where you are).  So really, all we learned through this book is that Ana needs therapy – not only to see why she thinks so lowly of herself but also to figure out why she has the sexual development of a thirteen-year-old.

Really, I think it’s irresponsible on the writer’s end.  We’re in an age where women (no matter how young or old) are increasingly having body issues.  (Just today, a friend of mine posted a link to Hardee’s new commercial paired with a conversation about how he can’t convince his 16-yr-old daughter that there’s nothing wrong with the way she looks.  For the record, she’s adorable and fairly skinny.)  Date rape cases are rising.  So what did this asshat author do?  She wrote a book where the main character thinks that nothing about herself is okay, is too emotionally stunted to deal with herself in any way, and then made her think that she had to be abused to be cared for.  Note that I’m not saying ‘loved’ because, you know, that doesn’t actually happen at any point in this book.

I thought the worst part was that there were two more books in this series, but no.

Somebody is writing fan-fic.  About this.  A fan-fic.  About Twilight.  And the longer this book is in print, and the more copies that sell, the more people who are going to take this crap and write their own.  And really, one was bad, it being a trilogy should have been the end of it.  But I picture a library full of this shit, and well… *shudders*  Also, even better, when the fan-fic about this was announced, EL James demanded her lawyers issue a statement to the next author saying “You just don’t steal other people’s ideas”  – um…

Can I give a negative pages rating?  Please?

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