Was there ever a book you stated you would never ever, under pain of never reading another book again, read? That was me and Fifty Shades of Grey. I o...moreWas there ever a book you stated you would never ever, under pain of never reading another book again, read? That was me and Fifty Shades of Grey. I objected to the fact that a book became a bestseller simply because it was about a ‘naughty’ subject. I objected to the fact that friends of mine who hadn’t read a book for pleasure in years were suddenly carting around copies and ignoring my pleas to try and read something else instead. And then April told me she was reading it….
And so, this is my review of the whole Fifty Shades trilogy. YES I READ ALL THE BOOKS OK?! This will be completely stuffed with bad language and spoilers – you’ve been warned….
I will fully admit I went into FSoG (yes I’m abbreviating, whatevs) expecting to hate it and completely rip it to shreds. So yes, you are more than welcome to feel that I probably clouded my judgement and this is making me a mean reader. However, I do like to think that I did TRY to like it – and I wouldn’t have read all three just so I could write mean stuff about it. Think about it, the trilogy is like 1700 pages long AND I READ THEM BACK TO BACK – I’m not a total masochist.
The first notation on my Kindle, marked up at page 2 is ‘I HATE HER’. Yes, I’ve met and declared my dislike for one of the main characters on page 2. This is not an auspicious start. I mean, I could forsake writing (not even necessarily good, just ‘writing’), realistic dialogue and more cheesy drama than a season of Dallas for a main character that I didn’t want to strangle, but no, E.L. James couldn’t even give me that. The problem with Anastasia is that she is just a cardboard approximation of a woman. She’s an English major who never more than once or twice, briefly, in 1700 pages, reads a book despite the fact she talks about how much she loves reading. She’s a loyal BFF who pretty much disappears of the face of the earth as soon as she meets Grey. She starts off as a painfully shy, never-been-kissed, lump of wet cardboard and ends up as a sassy, independent, brave woman. Character progression is great – when you believe it, but I really wasn’t sold – although it was a great idea as a plot device, it’s too uneven – in some places it happens really quickly, and in others I just wanted to shake her and tell her to grow a pair.
And then there’s Grey himself. For readers who enjoy a bad boy, I’m sure he has some awesome bad boy characteristics. BUT – I don’t. So he was also pretty much screwed from the beginning. Apart from the fact he views women as little more than sex slaves, he’s also so fucking lopsided. Yes, he’s a possessive control freak, but he’s also, frankly a twat. And stupid Ana, seems to be of the opinion that she can change him. Which is pretty much the biggest relationship mistake ever – although perhaps as she was completely inexperienced when they met she missed that memo….
So, the sex scenes. Perhaps one of the main reasons these books were so wildly popular is the fact that they are all bursting with sex scenes. Kinky, vanilla, sideways, upside down, blindfolded, that certain scene that made me turn green….it’s all here in abundance. Now, I am fully aware that erotica has far more sexy times than say, a historical romance. And a prude I am not, but MAN I got bored of them having sex. Three, four, five times a day. Which is great for Ana and Grey, seeing as it is pretty much the basis of their whole relationship, but as a reader………it got SO BORING. I started off trying to read them all, but by the middle of book two, I was skimming my little heart out. And now that I’m thinking about it, it’s actually something that really fucked me off – at times it seems like they argued JUST SO THEY COULD HAVE MAKEUP SEX. Which I really couldn’t be bothered to do. Just have sex anyways, ffs.
And then there was Ana’s repetitive language. Firstly, she called her vagina ‘my sex’ and her arse ‘my bottom’ through all three books. Constantly. She also has an earth-shattering orgasm every single time they have sex. Or multiple orgasms every time they have sex. In fact, every time they have sex is amazingly wonderfully better than the last time, let’s have sex constantly until all our bits fall off. Which in itself got really boring too. Oh, the writing. It was one of the many things that had FSoG on my ‘when hell freezes over’ list, BUT when I was actually reading, I found it more amusing than annoying. However, halfway through book three when I was losing the will to live, I tried to switch books for a breather, and it was then that I noticed how truly terrible FSoG is. The language doesn’t feel right, the dialogue is stilted, the characters are so cardboard, and nothing about it is believable.
I can hear your question now – Kat, if you HATED these books so much, WHY did you read the WHOLE series, BACK TO BACK? The thing is, and I actually hate to admit it, FSoG in particular, is SO fucking addictive. It’s like watching a really bad soapie – it’s terrible, you can predict what’s going to happen a mile away, the characters are completely wooden and you hope they meet a fiery death – but you NEED to know what happens. That’s what got me through book one, and most of the way through book two. Then it was all just an exercise in self-flagellation in persevering to the bitter, bitter end.
I would never, ever recommend these books to anyone. I could no longer in any good faith call myself a booklover. Because they are, just to be completely clear, shit.
HOWEVER. The IDEA of this trilogy has made me curious about other erotic romances which is actually something I never thought I would say. So, although the Fifty Shades Trilogy ended up being one of my most painful reading experiences ever, there was actually a positive point. Just one, mind you.(less)
I’d been looking for a book set around the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami for a long time when I came across The Killing Sea. It was an event that had huge g...moreI’d been looking for a book set around the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami for a long time when I came across The Killing Sea. It was an event that had huge global impact and I’m always drawn to stories about natural disasters. It was also particularly important to Australia, as many of the affected areas where full of Australian holidaymakers.
Ruslan is the son of a local mechanic, and dreams of being an artist. His father has always encouraged him to follow his dreams, and when he meets Sarah and her family, he is immediately drawn to her, despite the fact she doesn’t even notice him. When the tsunami hits, their lives come together as they search for their families and try to find treatment for her brother.
I particularly enjoyed the fact that Lewis uses both a local perspective and a foreign perspective. For Sarah, the tsunami and it’s aftermath are more than just confronting in terms of tragedy - she doesn’t understand the language or customs, and finds it very difficult to adjust to the different standards of disaster response and medical care in Indonesia versus what she expects.
The Killing Sea is a book that is short enough to be read in a single sitting, but is also captivating enough. As a reader, you know generally what is going to happen, but the details are unexpected and unpredictable.
The Killing Sea offers a glimpse into the tsunami and its aftermath, and the difference between two very separate cultures in difficult circumstances.(less)
John Parker is pretty much one of the most arrogant characters I’ve ever come across in a novel. And yet, this arrogant attitude is actually part of w...moreJohn Parker is pretty much one of the most arrogant characters I’ve ever come across in a novel. And yet, this arrogant attitude is actually part of what I enjoyed most about Atom Heart John Beloved because for a less self-assured character, I can’t see how to the plot would have progressed along the same lines. However, if you really need a character you can sympathise with and root for, Atom Heart John Beloved is not it. There are moments when he is vulnerable and open, but there are many more moments when his own self-obsession overrides respect for other people’s feelings.
Plot-wise, Atom Heart John Beloved is also pretty confrontational - there are a lot of things that John did that I myself would never have considered, and his rationale is pretty hard to understand in almost every scenario, however in some ways it also feels like he is closer to a real person because of the mistakes he makes.
Although I would be reluctant to call Atom Heart John Beloved a romance in the traditional sense of the word, it’s a romance that nevertheless runs in an undercurrent through the whole story. The ending may not be the typical happily ever after either, but there’s a definite sense of unpredictability of it that perfectly reflects the less-than-usual plot and characters.
Confrontational, shocking and yet unexpectedly absorbing, Atom Heart John Beloved is a book that’s difficult to describe, often uncomfortable to read and yet really rather memorable.(less)
Chandra is sixteen, obsessed with Emily Dickinson, passionate about baton twirling and has had a terrible year physically and emotionally. And whilst...moreChandra is sixteen, obsessed with Emily Dickinson, passionate about baton twirling and has had a terrible year physically and emotionally. And whilst her best friend is a serial dater, Chan is looking for something safer – an online relationship with someone that can’t physically hurt her like her ex-boyfriend did. Sadly, this is my first problem with Chan – she’s so focused on finding a guy to make her happy I started to get frustrated. And I never really stopped. Chan isn’t exactly unlikeable – she’s a great friend to her best friend Devin, she’s had a hard time at school and still faces down her ex-boyfriends nasty new girlfriend on a regular basis, and is incredibly supportive of her younger sister who is dealing with all kinds of issues. However, Vaught tries to cover a lot of subjects in Exposed, and it means that Chan, as the main character, comes across as pretty flighty at times.
Firstly is the online boyfriend thing, which I kinda get. But then there’s the obsession with her weight, her worries about her father, her relationship with her coach that goes from icily distant to best pals in the space of a few chapters, dealing with her overbearing mother, stressing about school and regionals and ex-boyfriends and ex-boyfriends’ girlfriends, her best friends’ dating habits, her major English project and her own health. And of course when she meets someone online it’s just another subject to cover in what is a pretty short book to have so much going on.
I read Exposed in just two sittings, but I found myself skimming parts to get to what I wanted to read about – Chan’s online relationship. And although I get that Chan is pretty vulnerable, she makes some stupid, amateur mistakes in a very short space of time, even taking into account her vulnerability, that just didn’t ring true at all.
Overall, Exposed is a great idea and still a very relevant subject, particularly as Chan’s parents are pretty vigilant and aware, it’s scary what can happen to a susceptible teenager in a short space of time. However, the multiple sub-plot lines left me quite frustrated, and the ending was too fast and didn’t feel completely realistic to me.(less)
Last year I read my first book with an intersex character. It was so incredibly captivating and moving that I desperately went on a search for somethi...moreLast year I read my first book with an intersex character. It was so incredibly captivating and moving that I desperately went on a search for something similar – and pretty much found the literary world lacking. But one book that I did find whilst looking for Australian YA books six months later was Alex As Well – which had to be mine immediately.
Alex (just Alex), has been raised as a boy, but has two distinct personalities – male Alex and female Alex. This also gives a really unique voice to the story, as Alex converses with both personalities internally – at first I found it a little jarring, but by the end of the second chapter I was completely and totally hooked. There is also the alternate perspective of Alex’s mother, in the form of blog posts, complete with helpful and ignorant comments from readers, again adding to the uniqueness of the storytelling format.
I also particularly liked the family dynamic that Alyssa Brugman has created – Alex’s parents aren’t the flawless, understanding and caring parents that they could easily have been – they are also conflicted, argumentative and distant, alternating between depression and indifference. And it isn’t that they are distinctly unlikeable characters either – it’s all just very human, even if it does make it difficult to sympathise with them. They are flawed and struggling themselves to understand the choices that Alex makes which makes them feel very realistic.
The tipping point of their story is Alex deciding to stop taking hormones and dress as a female – and Alex takes complete charge of her life, changing her school, her clothes and exploring what it means to be a girl after living her whole life as a boy. There are conflicts at school, and home, and in Alex’s own mind that she needs to tackle, and has an unusual ally to back her up. Perhaps the only thing that disappointed me slightly was the ending, but in retrospect it was actually quite fitting to both the plot and Alex’s personality, although it took me a little by surprise.
Emotional, funny, moving and ultimately inspiring, Alex As Well is an excellent YA book about fitting in, adapting and working out who you really are.(less)
I’ve not read many New Adult novels, but the ones I have read, even the ones I’ve enjoyed, have had one or two aspects that didn’t work for me. But I...moreI’ve not read many New Adult novels, but the ones I have read, even the ones I’ve enjoyed, have had one or two aspects that didn’t work for me. But I am stoked to say that With This Heart I’ve found a New Adult novel that I absolutely adored.
I’m not even sure how to start talking about this book because there are so many elements that I thought were fantastically done. But I think the best place to start is the characters. Abby is so incredibly likeable – selfless, kind, shy, sarcastic and has been through so much in her nineteen years, that I warmed to her immediately. Beck is sweet, funny and so utterly adorable that I just wanted to keep reading about both of them for another 200 or so pages. They meet under the most randomly awkward circumstance, and although it seems like a really strange way to meet someone, they both completely throw their sensibilities out of the window (there’s a reason for this however), and take off on a road-trip across Texas.
However, With this Heart is not just about a smexy times romance – it’s a relationship that develops in a completely natural way, with Abby learning to take risks and embrace her new life. She’s no longer held back by the medical condition that would seriously shorten her lifetime, and that sense of freedom is like a drug – she’s addicted to being able to make her own choices.
There is also a strong friendship element, and I absolutely adored the relationship Abby had with her best friend Caroline – it was the kind of friendship that few people find in their lifetime, and both girls really live for each other – their bond was formed by difficult circumstances, but is maintained and grows through their mutual respect for each other. It was a plot-line that I really didn’t expect to find in With this Heart, but it made the book even stronger and made Abby even more lifelike. She is also not the girl who lets a boy take over her life – she values her friends so highly and learns to value her own needs too.
I won’t say any more about the plot in case it’s a spoiler, but there are so many things that happen that had me pumping my metaphorical fist – R.S. Grey doesn’t gloss things over to try and make it all cheesy happiness and rainbows – both characters make some very difficult decisions and stick with them, until the heart-stopping, misty-eye inducing ending.
If you love NA Romances, definitely get a copy of With this Heart NOW. If you’re like me and not completely sold on the genre, please take my word for it – this is one very special book.(less)