About this time last year, I got into reading a lot of erotica/erotic romance - ssh, don't judge me, the British winters are cold and lonely :P But IAbout this time last year, I got into reading a lot of erotica/erotic romance - ssh, don't judge me, the British winters are cold and lonely :P But I stopped pretty quickly because there was so much bad. Most of my reviews were 1 star rants and, let's face it, when you've read about one throbbing penis then you've read about them all.
So we parted ways. I read more YA, fantasy, sci-fi and contemporary, and I forgot about erotica... until I saw this book highly recommended in my Goodreads feed. What was this?An erotic romance filled with unique dynamics, diverse characters and more than a touch of the girly tingles? No way! But apparently yes.
The Companion Contract is surprising in the best of ways. For one thing, as much as I pride myself on being liberal and open-minded, I'm a bit of a puritan when it comes to relationships - by that, I mean that I like two characters (don't care about their gender) who have sex with each other, don't dally in that whole "love triangle" business, and don't go around shagging others outside of their relationship. It's not that I care if other people do this, just that it doesn't turn me on. I'm also not a big fan of threesomes.
However, this novel actually challenged the way I think about things. Perhaps the most interesting thing about The Companion Contract is how Ames clearly distinguishes between sexual activity and passion/romance. The protagonist and narrator, Amy Mendoza, is an American-born Japanese-Filipino porn star looking to get out of the business. She's had sex with countless men and women and never feels ashamed of her sexuality. She enjoys sex and doesn't have any qualms about getting down and dirty with men she's just met.
In this book, Amy is offered a job as a sober companion for a rock star recovering from a drug addiction. She's happy to do it because the guy - Miles - is hot, she likes having sex with hot men, and she gets paid to do it. They have a lot of sex, often kinky sex, and she enjoys it. But things get more complicated when she begins to develop a very different set of feelings for the albino man who hired her - Emmanuel.
I imagine this story might be hard to swallow for those who feel that love and sex are inextricably entwined, but I appreciated the way Ames managed to challenge my views. She also portrays all the difficulties female sex workers face in the industry without ever turning this into a lesson on the "dark truths" of porn work. It was surprisingly sensitive, thoughtful and interesting.
I also think there is much room for praise where the characters are concerned; firstly, because of their diversity - a Japanese-Filipino protagonist, a Colombian albino and a transgender woman, to name but a few - and secondly, because of the way the author never neglects their characterization. For example, I felt sure that Miles would be a throwaway character used to bring Amy and Emmanuel together, but he had a complex personality and history of his own.
Top off all this good writing and seriousness with a heavy dose of hot sex and you have a pretty damn impressive erotic novel. I think my only complaint is that the book is a little too long. There were a couple of scenes that could have been shortened, or simply cut all together. But still, definitely worth reading.
Hmm, so there's a girl whose name is a colour (Violet) and a boy whose name makes him sound like he burst from the pages of a Dickens' novel (TheodoreHmm, so there's a girl whose name is a colour (Violet) and a boy whose name makes him sound like he burst from the pages of a Dickens' novel (Theodore Finch) and they're both super quirky, intelligent and know the names of a bunch of dead poets. Then there's that whole death thing hanging over this novel... why does it feel like I've read this before?
Okay... so don't you just hate it when reviewers try to tell you what you should or shouldn't read? And they make universal statements like "who could possibly love a book like this?" Yeah, me too. Which is why I'm not going to tell you to do anything; but I am going to strongly recommend that you consider reading Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock instead of this book. Because the theme is the same, only I believe it to be so so much better.
Perhaps it's just me, but I am getting so tired of these Lifetime special kind of books that seem to hit me over the head with emotional manipulation. John Green, of course, created his own set of quirky characters to make a humorous book about cancer, and now we've reached the same for suicide.
If you did happen to love The Fault in Our Stars and other books like it, don't let me keep you from snapping this book up - it probably will become a new favourite. But it just did not work for me. These characters all feel so fake; like plot tools the author uses to extract our emotions. From the very first page, I felt like the book took centre stage and introduced itself as: "I am a book about suicide. Cry, bitches!"
I knew how this was going to end; I just knew it. Not even any surprises. Apparently, it's some flaw in my character for not loving All the Bright Places because these books constantly claim commercial and critical success. I should be drowning in my own tears and mucus right now. Oh well, sucks.
And honestly... Augustus Waters and Theodore Finch? Please. What century am I in?
I was torn between rating this 1 star because it is ridiculous, and 5 stars because it is possibly the most I've laughed in months. And yeah, I actualI was torn between rating this 1 star because it is ridiculous, and 5 stars because it is possibly the most I've laughed in months. And yeah, I actually downloaded it from smashwords and read it because I am a masochist like that. Truly side-splitting stuff.
Just one of my favourite quotes:
“...if it is for a very tiny country, it doesn't take much to be the #1 reviewer and best reviewer in your country. Especially a country where the majority of the population can ill afford books, computer equipment and eReaders in order to be a member of Goodreads.”
Oh, you pesky third-worlders thinking you're the big #1 when most of your country can't even read. Stop being so insensitive and start feeling sorry for the authors who get put on “wouldnt-pee-on-it-if-it-was-on-fire," shelves.
I must say... even though I've had many issues with Hoover's books in the past, she and Tarryn Fisher have weaved one hell of a compelling tale here.
TI must say... even though I've had many issues with Hoover's books in the past, she and Tarryn Fisher have weaved one hell of a compelling tale here.
The only real downside to this first installment is how quickly it was over, leaving us hanging with an evil cliffhanger that won't be resolved until May! This strange little book gives up so few of its secrets - a fact I might have withdrawn stars for if it wasn't such a damn intriguing pageturner.
I'm going to be honest: Colleen Hoover has been responsible for many of my rants in the past and some might think me a masochist for even trying to enjoy another of her novels. I hated the way she glorified controlling boyfriends in Hopeless. I thought the writing in Slammed showcased an author who had not yet found her footing. And Maybe Someday had more than its fair share of slut-shaming.
But... I've said in my past (negative) reviews that I like Hoover's easy-to-digest style of writing that demands you turn the pages. I like how her characters are mostly three dimensional and not all typical NA stereotypes. So I cast aside my reservations and tumbled into this... mystery? Romance? Paranormal thriller? The jury's still out.
This book opens with our two narrators having absolutely no memory of who they are, where they live, who their friends and family are... or how they managed to get in this state. Piecing together clues about their lives and their relationship, it seems like the more they discover the weirder everything gets. Who were they before? How did they lose their memories? Do they even want to find out?
Romance does come out when Charlie and Silas are trying to figure out the details of their relationship - as well as many skeletons in the closet - but unlike Hoover's other works, this story feels like so much more than a romance. It's dark, mysterious, even creepy at times. Probably not for readers who like a clear distinction between the realistic and the supernatural because I'm still not sure which applies here.
Characters I care about, complex relationships (not just of the romantic kind), and a whopping great mystery... I'm ready for the sequel. Now please.
I can see already why this book won't be for everyone. It's like a Cloud Atlas for young adults. Complex, mind-benMarcus Sedgwick is nuts. I love him.
I can see already why this book won't be for everyone. It's like a Cloud Atlas for young adults. Complex, mind-bending and thought-provoking. I don't even know how to classify this book. It is essentially four very different short stories wound together with the strangest of links. A link that is never-ending, that has been with us since the dawn of time and will continue long after we are gone.
Are you intrigued? Oh, you should be.
Imagine... • A story of the Paleolithic era; a free verse weird little story about a girl, her tribe, other tribes, death, and the mysterious caves where humankind will leave their first artwork for the future to find.
• A historical tale of a woman wrongly accused of witchcraft. As the evidence piles up against her, more and more of the people she once called friends turn their back and the hangman's noose draws ever closer.
• A "lunatic asylum" in 1920s America where a new doctor discovers the dark truths lurking within the halls of the mental hospital he has just arrived at.
• A story set in the future; a spaceship hurtles through the universe to find a new Earth-like planet after ours has become too overcrowded. But when the ship's sleeping occupants start to die mysteriously, it seems like someone somewhere must be awake on the ship. Or perhaps the truth is far far worse. Will they ever make it to the planet alive?
These mesmerizing stories can be read in any order; the links between them remain unchangeable. The characters are three-dimensional, vivid, alive and demand our sympathy. For somebody like me who isn't a big fan of short stories, it was quite wonderful to have them all speak to me, drag me in and make me need to see what the next would offer.
I will issue one warning: the first story (if read in order) was a little confusing to me, possibly made more so by the use of free verse. As it moved on, I became more intrigued by where Mr Sedgwick was taking it, but I didn't fall in love with this book until the second story. My love was then cemented by the third and fourth. But if the first doesn't grab you, I would say read on.
This book contains a running symbolism throughout, revealed gradually in both the smallest, most mundane of details, and the central themes. What I like most is that the stories really do stand on their own as individual masterpieces. Sedgwick is painting a bigger picture but the four stories he uses to do it are wonderful, heartbreaking and clever in their own right.
This book made me sad, angry, curious and excited. Putting it down was like walking out into the sun after being in a movie theatre... a little lost and dazed. I'm half sad that this sophisticated book will probably be judged negatively because it is "YA", and half thrilled that teens are lucky enough to have such an amazing author writing in their corner.