‘Sam’s Letters to Jennifer’ is a predictable little book because James Patterson didn’t even try and add any depth to this very formulaic story. There...more ‘Sam’s Letters to Jennifer’ is a predictable little book because James Patterson didn’t even try and add any depth to this very formulaic story. There were plenty of opportunities, especially where the overarching theme of “love never dies” is concerned. This idea is said over and over as a refrain but never shown in any of the characters’ actions or thoughts. If love truly never dies, how does Jennifer (view spoiler)[ reconcile the information about her Grandfather’s abuse with her strict but loving remembrances of him? How does Jennifer’s feelings for her first husband change into a love that will allow her to move onto a new relationship? Even though Brendan’s cancer is removed, the chance of it returning is high. How do Jennifer and Brendan decide to make a life together when Brendan succumbing to cancer is a real possibility? To love in spite of such a fate is powerful and moving but the book glosses over it for “Yea, he’s cured!” platitudes. The book doesn’t so much advocate “love never dies” as “love is a random feeling that comes and goes, so do whatever.” (hide spoiler)]
Ultimately, it feels like James Patterson threw as many tear-jerking scenarios and shocking “twists” against the wall to see what would stick. And, really, none of them do. (less)
I came to the “Fifty Shades of Grey” party pretty late, after all the jokes about BDSM babies and people speculating about who would play Christian Gr...moreI came to the “Fifty Shades of Grey” party pretty late, after all the jokes about BDSM babies and people speculating about who would play Christian Grey in the movie. Based on all the collective panting and face fanning done by women everywhere I had already decided that I hated the book. Yes, yes, I jumped to all kinds of conclusions. But “Fifty Shades” was chosen as the August book for my book club, so I grudgingly bought it. The emotion I ended up having after finishing the book was bewilderment. Really, people? This is what everyone is all worked up about?
The story of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele reads like fanfiction. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I dedicated large chunks of my late teens to reading X-files fan fiction- and not just the normal “what if Mulder and Scully switched bodies” stories - the weird stuff. I have a certain affection for fan fiction writers, they spend their own free time making characters they love do dirty, dirty things to each other. Hey, if you can’t let your freak flag fly on the internet, where can you? I guess the thing that really got me is the fact that I paid money for “Fifty Shades of Grey”. That lots of people are paying money to for it.
Why is the book so popular when it rates as middling fanfiction? The plot, revolves around Anastasia’s ambivalence about signing Christian’s BDSM contract. It serves as the ‘conflict’ which moves the story from one sex scene to another. After Ana reads the contract and is horrified, Christian acknowledges that it is in no way legally binding. Not only is it not enforceable, it smacks of the 2006 case in which Travis Frey created a four-page “Contract of Wifely Expectations” which explicitly laid out how his wife must act, dress, sleep and even set up a system for good behavior points. You know how that ended? He went to jail for kidnapping and sexual abuse when he went further than his wife wanted to go. I don’t know if these kinds of contracts are common in the BDSM community- it seems like they have to lay out ground rules and limits somehow-but Christian is trying to force a woman with no experience with sex- let alone the BDSM lifestyle- to sign a contract defining the parameters of sexual conduct. How ridiculous! In real life that ends with jail time and tabloid infamy, NDA or not.
The characters are muddled and poorly defined. Christian has so many issues that he had a lifetime subscription to Crazy Rich Guy Magazine. He has deep-seated control and anger issues. I guess it is supposed to explain his interest in BDSM and make him mysterious, dominating and vulnerable all at once, but he vacillates between goofy and angry so quickly it’s scary. That’s what you really like to see in a romantic lead, a short fuse and the potential for violence.
Anastasia is supposed to be smart and virginal to the point of being completely uninterested in the men around her. She goes as far to say she’s never had any romantic/sexual feelings for any guy ever. As soon as she meets Christian she turns into multiple-orgasm-having, sex-crazed nitwit. It's like she’s been saran wrapped and keep in storage for 21 years: she has no prior thoughts or expectations about sex, she never had any crushes (not even on literary characters) or heartbreaks. She gleaned no information about relationships from her mother’s three marriages or her choice to live with her stepfather. Ana is caught up in Christian’s crazy storm and can’t even begin to fight it because she is written without an intellectual or emotional center.
Do I care enough about the characters to keep reading the series? No. Was it a marginally entertaining way to spend half a Saturday? Meh. What is keeping me up at night are the larger implications of the book’s popularity. Why has this book captivated women the way it has? The story is ultimately about a naive young woman falling under the sexual, financial and social control of a psychologically damaged billionaire. What’s the appeal? Christian’s money? Being so confidently pursed and wanted- even stalked- by a man so handsome that the waitress at IHOP can‘t even keep it together while taking an his order? The idea that love can “cure” Christian and ease his pain? The whole thing reads like a fucked up Fairy Tale- Stockholm Syndrome style. It’s more than a little depressing to think that there are lots of women out there that are attracted some aspect of the story and are out there looking for their own Christian Grey. Ladies, we can all do better. (less)
This story is about two people who get stuck on a slightly-magical, tropical island in the Bermuda Triangle and how they fall in love. Two people with...moreThis story is about two people who get stuck on a slightly-magical, tropical island in the Bermuda Triangle and how they fall in love. Two people with very specific but not quite believable backstories. Diedre is a shy, virginal librarian who doesn't have much to say about reading or literature beyond that fact that she "misses books" on the island. There are so many shipwrecked/castaway books that it was weird that she didn’t think about or reference any of them. Even one simple aside, such as, “This would have worked for Karana in ‘Island of the Blue Dolphins’” as Diedre is trying to start a fire or throw a spear would have made a world of difference towards her believability.
Sterling is an ex-Green Beret turned ninja. I think if a guy told me he was a ninja, even if that guy was a totally cut beefcake and we were stranded on a island, I would say, "Where's your dojo, your mom's basement?" It seems like a pretty big ninja-foul to just straight up tell people you’re a ninja. I don’t know that much about ninjas beyond the fact that they’re awesome (I think that’s what the author is banking on) but wouldn’t you say that you’re a practitioner or master of ninjutsu instead? It would have been much more mysterious and smooth (dare I say ninja?) if Sterling had said, “I’m a student of ninjutsu” and let Diedre wonder exactly what that means as he is running up coconut trees instead of him saying, “Yeah, I’m a ninja” and then ripping off his shirt.
Total aside- how creepy, great would it have been if it ended with the next couple washing up on shore and finding Diedre and Sterling’s bones entwined in the cave? If it’s true love then the island keeps you hidden, if it’s not you get rescued. Don’t steal that! I’m writing that shit now!
Anyway- there is some very thin plot line that forces Diedre to flee when they are rescued and Sterling has to pursue her and carry her out of the library like the animal-man he is. Then they retire to a cave themed ’FantaSuite’ (NOT a motel!) and make declarations of love and marriage. Awwwwwww. I would have given this book five stars if there was an epilogue in which our wild, savage love-birds argue over the cable bill. (hide spoiler)](less)
There always comes a time in a chick-lit/romance book when the plucky main character is so overwhelmed by her life and her complicated plans to open a...moreThere always comes a time in a chick-lit/romance book when the plucky main character is so overwhelmed by her life and her complicated plans to open a vegan bakery while going to law school/ finish her speculative novel about what Earth would be like if Noah only brought cats on the Ark/ tell the gorgeous deaf guy she’s been dating that she’s not actually deaf- her twin is deaf and she stood him up and our plucky main character felt so bad seeing him waiting in the rain that she pretended to be her sister for one date but now she’s falling for him that the weird best friend/grumpy neighbor who seemed like a jerk but really isn’t has to give the main character a pep talk. Weird best friend says, “You’re so smart- your plan to open an ice rink shoe store will totally work. You deserve all the happiness in the world.” Grumpy neighbor says, “You’re so big hearted. I see you feed that stray dog everyday when you think no one is watching you. If 6’2” wandering rodeo cowboy doesn’t see that that’s his loss.” And as the reader I need to believe these pep talks. I need to be in the main character’s corner saying, “You can do it! Open that dance studio for pets! Dogs in tutus are adorable!” That’s the whole point of these types of books: to watch a woman’s transformation from a totally hot mess to slightly neater mess with more confidence and a hot astronaut boyfriend/her own pawn shop.
I say this because when I got to that very critical part in the book “Knowing Me Knowing You” when new-agey best friend Hermione tells the main character Kate “You’re a wonderful person Kate. A good friend, an exceptional mother and a bright, intelligent young woman with her whole life in front of her” I almost shot soda out of my nose. I realized that Hermione said the exact opposite of how I felt about the main character. Kate is an awful person: she’s self centered, rude, constantly bored by others, the worst kind of insecure- half of the time complaining about how she’s not good enough the other half saying mean things, whiny, and a borderline alcoholic. In the end she doesn’t learn anything and gets everything she wants. Boo. (less)
Maybe it was a mistake to jump right in and read begin with book 7. So, some of the disconnect could be my bad. However most of the blame I'm putting...moreMaybe it was a mistake to jump right in and read begin with book 7. So, some of the disconnect could be my bad. However most of the blame I'm putting on the author because the book reads like a skipping DVD on fast forward. After five pages the hero is hot to trot for the heroine- normally not a bad thing but they are ogling each other while talking about the sexual abuse and murder of children and heroine's own physical and mental abuse. A plot like this can work but takes a subtle hand: you need to be able to intertwine a stroy about a quest for justice over a sexually deviant monster and a story about two people that want to get in on. But the plots can never directly cross! There has to be transitions! Don't cross the streams! More than once the heroine is talking about the awful situtation she barely escaped from and the dude can't pay attention because he is lost in her smokey eyes. That is not sexy, that is creepy as hell. (less)