After a whirlwind relationship of steamy sexual awakening and riotous sex, Ana Steele has discovered just how depraved hottie CEO Christian Grey is. A...moreAfter a whirlwind relationship of steamy sexual awakening and riotous sex, Ana Steele has discovered just how depraved hottie CEO Christian Grey is. And when it's all considered, maybe it's just a little too close to black. After a brutal dom/sub exchange, Ana decides Christian's lifestyle isn't for her and takes off. But Christian can't leave well enough alone and approaches her once again with a new outlook on sex - maybe vanilla is the way to go. Ana can't refuse that offer and they begin again. But all is not roses in the garden of Christian's dark psyche. Ana must navigate through thorns with faces of Christian's ex-submissives, his powerfully threatening Mrs. Robinson, and his own dark desires not yet put to rest.
At the end of "Fifty Shades of Grey" I was surprised and a little bit pleased that Ana finally took a stand and told Christian enough was enough. After expressing her fear of punishment, Ana takes a different tack and tells Christian, "gimme all you got" and he does. She doesn't tell him to stop or even scream out until he's done, which makes her look like an idiot, however, the point was made. Christian's dark desires are just too much for her. So she leaves.
Good on her! I thought. Now we are getting somewhere instead of chapters paraphrased with just enough plot to keep the story moving from one sex-capade to the next. But only five days later and Ana is back in Christian's controlling arms once again. Five days? Yes, five days of moping around and starving herself and Ana and Christian are back together within the first chapter and the sex must go on.
Further extending her idiocy, Ana stops taking her birth control pills during these five days. Why? Why did she stop? I dunno, she probably figured she would never have sex again EVER and just quit while she was ahead. So Christian has to slap on the old condoms again (good on E.L. James for continuing the practice of safe sex) and they carry on with their "relationship".
Christian decides that Ana is too important to him to mess around with his darker urges and decides to give them up for her. Just grand! And the vanilla sex continues on and on and on and on ... and on ... and on? and on and on and on. Pretty much this novel is just chapters of sex scenes. Is there a storyline? I'm not sure, because it seems that every small plot point that pops up is resolved by Christian's big ass cheque book. (view spoiler)[ Ana's boss is sexually harassing her? Buy the company and fire his ass. Crazy ex-submissive lolita girlfriend threatening to kill current girlfriend? Give her a dominant stare-down and pay for her psychiatric care since she's bonkers over you. Helicopter goes down with electrical problems? Buy a new one. Buy a house. Buy a car, a laptop, a blackberry, an ipad, a new wardrobe, a boat ... (hide spoiler)]. Ana likes to pretend that she isn't completely taken with the rich and famous lifestyle that Christian leads, but it's plain to see that she's ready to hop into whatever shoes he tells her to as fast as possible.
This second novel marks a huge change in Ana. In "Fifty Shades of Grey" Ana is no more than a clone of Bella Swan (being that this story started as a Twilight fanfic, this is not a surprise). She's dark haired and pretty without knowing it, klutzy, blank on the inside so you as a reader can replace Bella's personality as your own and live the dream. In "Fifty Shades Darker" Ana's "Bella" personality is replaced with an even emptier shell. Ana is no longer the tomboy collage student with no makeup and Converse on. Now she's a powerhouse publishing company exec, stomping around in high heels and low-cut dresses all purchased for her by Mr. Grey. The fantasy takes a new level. Who wouldn't want to be showered with expensive gifts and clothes to be paraded around as the trophy girlfriend? For all her complaining about "not being used to" Christian's lifestyle, Ana's personality becomes even more an outline of a person as she accepts point blank ever single thing he gives her.
One thing I am grateful for is the toned down repetition of phrases from the first novel. Someone must have come in with the black pen, because we see a lot less of the "subconsciousness" and "inner goddess". They aren't gone, but it's not as annoying as "Fifty Shades of Grey". Ana is still a bit afraid to say "vagina" because she keeps referring to her "down there" as if she's not sure what it is.
Christian's complexity outweighs Ana's paper-thin personality and "Fifty Shades Darker" is forthcoming on his back story. Though it wasn't really as shocking as it was made out to be (view spoiler)[ He gets sexually aroused by beating and spanking girls who look like his prostitute mom? Weird, yeah. Shocking? I think the butt plug stuff shocked me more. (hide spoiler)]. Christian's no-touch zones was a sad revelation as it makes aware of children in situations of abuse everyday. His relationship with Mrs. Robinson is examined once again and the question is raised about her actions ultimately drawing Christian into a BDSM relationship that may not have been actually helpful. Was it merely her own dark desires to lead a young boy down the same path in the hopes that it would "cure" him of his sexual limitations and destructive behavior? Or did it actually help Christian solve the issues he struggled with as an abused child? Ultimately it doesn't matter as Ana grinds any relationship that Christian and Mrs. Robinson may have continued to a halt with her (view spoiler)[ cocktail tossing (hide spoiler)] actions.
After reading these first two novels I am still at a loss to understand why these books are such best sellers. They really aren't anything different from the hoards of other erotic novels that line the shelves at any bookstore. Ana and Christian are not insanely compelling characters by any right, but they seem to have captured the imaginations of so many. Perhaps what E.L. James has done so well is leave Ana a blank slate for us to all imagine ourselves in a torrid sexual fantasy relationship with a rich, handsome young man that would literally do anything to make us happy.
Romance doesn't come by often for passive, shy, introverted Ana Steele. No man has ever been enough to catch her interest. Until she meets business ty...moreRomance doesn't come by often for passive, shy, introverted Ana Steele. No man has ever been enough to catch her interest. Until she meets business tycoon Christian Grey, that is. Shocked at his young age, and more so by his blistering good-looks and ice calm demeanor, Ana is completely taken by this mysterious man. And he with her as well. So taken that he decides to pursue Ana for a sexual relationship that travels to dark places, darker than anything that Ana has ever experienced. So infatuated with Christian is Ana that she willingly takes the plunge into his strange world of wealth, power and sexual deviance. But how long can Ana hold out before she must give Christian what he truly wants, complete control over her life? And what would she sacrifice to give that to him?
It is absolutely obvious that this novel has attained some kind of genre status that other erotic novels have not. This is not because it is better written, has a unique plot or even extremely likeable characters. It is marketing done correctly that has skyrocketed E.L. James into the spotlight for her tawdry tale of sexual fantasy. And make no mistake, this book is nothing except sexual fantasy. There is no real storyline except for the wary circling of the two protagonists as they try to discover their lust for one another. And lust is pretty well all they've got.
I will admit that I read this novel because of the hype. But it is no more spectacular than any other harlequin. Yes, it's dirty. A lot of books are dirty. But "Fifty Shades of Grey" is most notable because of the type of dirtiness that it is presenting. It puts into the mainstream a very specific type of sexuality, no surprise to anyone following the media, of BDSM. Ana and Christian get up to some fairly strange sex, all the more unbelievable because Ana is sexually inexperienced. I found it hard to believe that someone who has never had a boyfriend, never had sex, and by her own admission, does not touch herself, would willingly do some of the things suggested by Christian. However, as this is sexual fantasy at its most extreme, maybe it isn't so curious. Many erotic novels focus on young virgin girl who is seduced by older, sexually experienced man. Women, so it is said by these novels, want a man to "take care of them", to teach them, explore the untapped sexuality that burns within them. In this case, Ana's first boyfriend wants her to be a sex slave. Granted, an extreme way to start discovering your sexuality. Christian and Ana have sex so often that it is almost impossible to keep up with them. At one point, Ana has around ten orgasms in one bout of bed-rolling. Unless these two are porn stars in another life, this seems a bit unrealistic, even as far as harlequins go. Sex in the tub is also not a safe way to do it, inadvisable really. Christian and Ana having sex while on her period may not have been so bad had it not been for Christian's incorrect assumption that women can't get pregnant while bleeding. For someone who was so completely paranoid about knocking up his sex-toy, this seemed to be a major oversight in Christian's otherworldly knowledge about the carnal arts. And Ana, being a woman, should maybe have known that too, considering it is her own gender and it's not a secret.
There are some aspects of this first-time novelist's book that surprised me. Early on in the bone-jumping, James stresses Christian's use of condoms. In a lot of erotic novels, this is by-passed or explained away, or simply that, at the end of the novel, girl gets pregnant and they get married. Because, as standard society would have you believe, that is what every woman wants, thus every book shall end this way. But before the period-sex, Christian does make a point to use condoms during sex, and I think that is a strong message to be shared among our youth.
Another surprise, while Ana is mostly infatuated with Christian's dreamy good looks, she also challenges him by not blindly following his lead in every aspect. Much of the novel is Ana's inner monologue dueling it out between signing Christian's kinky sex contract or holding out for a more tender, gentle sort of love. Ana fears the punishment that Christian so desperately wants to dole out as part of his controlling nature. Scenes of her being spanked for not obeying him are uncomfortable and demeaning. Christian wants to control every aspect of her life, from sex to food to clothing, and it becomes such a great strain to watch Ana agree to some of these things. As a woman who has grown up in a feminist environment where women and men should be seen as equals, having some guy force such an iron fist around Ana's personality is barely tolerable, as thin as it is. (view spoiler)[ I was kind of relieved at the end of the novel when Ana leaves, deciding that she cannot give Christian the type of submission that he wants from her. After serious physical abuse from him, she makes herself walk away to protect herself from a darkness that she doesn't share. (hide spoiler)]
Ana herself is not much of a narrator. While the sex scenes are fairly well described, the rest of the book suffers from a "just get to the sex" tone of writing. The actual prose is just not that great. James re-uses multiple phrases and words (you can only use "medulla oblongata" so many times in a non-medical book before it becomes very irritating). Often cited are the frequent uses of "oh my...", "hmmm..." and "holy crap" for which Ana is quoted. For someone who is suppose to be a literary student, Ana has the worst vocabulary. She speaks like a seventeen year old when it comes to anything having to do with Christian (who is just "so hot! Ohmygawd!") One would think that James could have come up with some other expression for a character who concerns herself with classic books. Ana's overuse of her two other "selves", her "subconscious" and her "inner goddess" are so frequently repeated that, frankly, she seems kind of crazy.
And what about Christian, you say? Well, he's a whole other bag of yowling cats. Overbearing, snarky, controlling ... on the flip side of his grand gestures that only the extremely wealthy can pull off. The most interesting thing about him is his aversion to being touched. Take away the bondage and kinky sex stuff and maybe this could be a serious study of a flawed character. But it always comes back to the sex in "Fifty Shades". Even when Ana stresses their need to talk about said sex contract or Christian's controlling nature, the two of them dissolve into animals in heat. So difficult is their ability to be near one another without having sex, Christian buys Ana a laptop and a Blackberry so he can talk to her without the pressures of wanting to jump her. (And you are telling me that a 20-something literary collage student, who must write essays and do research as part of her studies, doesn't have a computer? I think this is the most unbelievable joke in the whole novel!) While some of their technological exchanges are actually quite funny, it is really just an excuse for Ana to say something dumb and Christian to jet his way over to her wherever she may be so he can reassure her of his attraction to her by panting all over her.
I won't say I didn't "like" this book, because I've read a lot of erotic novels and I feel about them the way I feel about this one. It was ok. They are usually not so bad they are unreadable, but based on the hype this novel has received, it really should be better written. Someone might have wanted to say to Ms. James, "don't you think she says "inner goddess" too much?" Among several other overused phrases. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Unlikely heroine Lisbeth Salander fights for her life after a misguided encounter with her mobster father and step-brother. After confronting her fath...moreUnlikely heroine Lisbeth Salander fights for her life after a misguided encounter with her mobster father and step-brother. After confronting her father at his country home, their struggle to kill each other leaves both maimed and in hospital. Lucky for Lisbeth, her tenacious angel journalist Mikael Blomkivst comes to her rescue and continues his quest to free Lisbeth from the lanced trap that has been set for her. The hunt for her is still on by numerous members of Sweden's police and special forces to bring her to justice for murders she did not commit. In addition to her growing list of charges, Lisbeth remains in great danger as she is the key to exposing a decades old secret kept hidden by the Swedish Secret Police. With one group trying to silence her and the other trying to lock her into an insane asylum, Lisbeth and Mikael attempt to prover her innocence in all things, while exposing the injustices done to her in her rocky past.
Like those novels before it "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" is long winded and complicated. Larsson seems to revel in the details giving every scrap of history the same importance. Introductions to new characters, mainly those working investigations in additions to the ones from "The Girl Who Played with Fire", are pages long with background that may or may not be important to the story. Everyone who appears in this new novel is given a run-down of the events, both recent and historical. So many times, in fact, it became a challenge to even want to continue to read this novel. Larsson repeats himself so often about the Zalachenko affair, Lisbeth's confinement in the Children's Hospital, the multiple cover-ups, the political history of Sweden, that it becomes irritating. Huge sections of this novel could have been left out and the trilogy would have made sense just fine. Not to say that Larsson's trilogy isn't a classic of suspense/thriller novels in it's own right, but I question the intention of an editor leaving huge chunks of text that is basically filler. Have we gotten to the point where writers can do no wrong and their every word is sacred?
An example of this is Erika Berger's storyline. Tagged into the grander scheme is Berger's unimportant fiasco of time-wasting. (view spoiler)[Berger's resignation from Millennium to go to newspaper giant SMP sees her fall victim to sexual harassment and sexism in her new workplace. Throughout her moaning about leaving Millennium, whining about being tired and busy and stressed out, subsequently not getting to screw around with Mikael we are lead around by the hand to watch her be tormented by sexually threatening emails and her home broken in to. Nothing comes of this, however, as the harasser is caught, Berger's sensitive, sexual personal material is returned, and Berger herself abandons SMP and limps back to Millennium. (hide spoiler)] This detour in the major storyline doesn't actually accomplish anything, except to provide more power to women wronged, which seems to be the theme of the story. Larsson prefaces every major chapter with historical data on woman warriors who have triumphed. Truly, this last novel focuses on strong women and how they rise to the occasion, as many of the significant players are women. Including Lisbeth, Berger, Mikael's lawyer sister Annika, super-cop Monica Figuerola, and regular cop Sonja Modig, Larsson gives these women the strongest roles in this last novel, possibly to negate all the terrible things that happen to women in his first two novels. Though I did not mind the strong women connotations, I personally felt no love for Berger throughout this whole series. Larsson takes great pains to describe her sexual relationship with Mikael (over and over and over again ...) and I could have cared less. Actually, she could have been omitted from the story and I don't think we would have lost a great deal.
"The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" does complete the trilogy laid out in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" for all intensive purposes. There are still several minor loose ends that I was looking forward to having Larsson touch upon. It could be that he had plans for other novels, but his sudden death halted those sequels. (view spoiler)[ In particular, I would have liked to learn the origin behind Lisbeth's prominent dragon tattoo, which Larsson teases with and drops like a hot stone. And Lisbeth's sister was a complete mystery. She never appears in the story at all, though she is mentioned several times. With no love lost between them, it was no surprise, but as a reader I would have liked to meet her. (hide spoiler)] These novels work together as a catharsis for Lisbeth. Though she endures many hardships throughout, she puts her life back to rights and finds herself in a better place because of it. While I appreciate Larsson's works as a very successful series that holds no prisoners when it comes to hard issues, like sex trafficking, rape and abuse, his writing style was sometimes difficult to swallow and extremely over-the-top detailed. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
After solving the mystery of Harriet Vanger and destroying his nemesis in the Wennerström Affair, Mikael Blomkvist returns to journalism at Millennium...moreAfter solving the mystery of Harriet Vanger and destroying his nemesis in the Wennerström Affair, Mikael Blomkvist returns to journalism at Millennium and skyrockets its popularity. With the intention to keep Millennium in the up-and-coming news, Blomkvist welcomes new journalist Dag Svensson to write his opus on the sex trade, exposing high-profile johns and publishing a book on the matter. His girlfriend, Mia Johansson, has been writing her thesis on the subject as well, and together they plan to publish the book through Millennium's new publishing branch. As Millennium reaches for the stars, Blomkvist is troubled by the disappearance of Lisbeth Salander, who he had become intimate with during the search for Vanger. Lisbeth wants nothing to do with him, and attempts to cut all ties with her former lover and most of her other contacts in her life. She begins to plan to reformat her whole life and start anew. However, beyond her control are forces in motion, and Lisbeth finds herself embroiled in the darkest of plots to destroy her. When Svensson and Johansson are murdered, her fingerprints appear on the weapon and she finds herself the highly-sought suspect of murder. Blomkvist throws himself in her corner and attempts to prove her innocence, without much help from Lisbeth herself. Lisbeth, meanwhile, goes in search for a dangerous man who holds the key to her dark and turbulent past.
Once again Larsson has written a complex and thrilling mystery that drags its feet with an overload of information. The first half of this book contributes nothing to the story, other than to follow Lisbeth as she trips around the Caribbean on holiday. In a sense, Lisbeth discovers herself as a new person, with the desire to change her lifestyle. In terms of character development, this section of the book is interesting, but long-winded, and on the subject of highly-theoretical mathematics, it didn't seem to contribute much to the narrative beyond establishing how smart Lisbeth is (we got that, thanks). It felt like the start of the book could have been a short story that Larrson used as a character piece, instead of part of the broader storyline. Once the story starts moving though, there is a complexity that builds as Lisbeth is drawn into a situation that she cannot control. The hunt for her, from the police investigation, Mikael's own private investigation and the newspapers following the story, becomes frantic and complex. I did find that because there are so many people involved in several different investigations and searches, Larsson tended to repeat himself over and over again. It makes sense that everyone involved in the story should be initiated into the fold, but this repetition gets increasingly tiresome. Especially as Mikael explains it to eight or nine different people: his coworkers, his sister, the police ... and on and on. On top of this is the very detailed background given for every character who appears for more then a paragraph. Is it so important to know what political party someone voted for ten years back? Am I missing out on a crucial aspect of the story by not caring about the political bent?
Lest I sound like I did not like this book, it does have some good points. It is very thrilling and when Larsson actually gets down to the action, it is fast paced and wild. We root for Lisbeth even though she is a lone wolf among bigger predators. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" gets into the meat of her childhood and does not shy away from her particularly ugly upbringing. Unfortunately, Larsson seems to intentionally pit most of his characters again Lisbeth, some with almost no motive for hating her as much as they do. Everyone seems to have a severe hate-on for women, almost to a fault. It certainly seems like all the men in these novels are misogynistic, except for Blomkvist, who has toned down his hot-to-trot sexuality to search for Lisbeth. (view spoiler)[ Sleeping with Harriet Vanger? Puh-leeze! Is there anyone Mikael WON'T sleep with? (hide spoiler)]
"The Girl Who Played with Fire" segues right into "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest", so be prepared to slide from this novel into the next without taking a breather. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Edith Small lives a life of pretend. Pretend that her family is perfect, pretend that she is a normal teenager, pretend that she doesn't wish she was...moreEdith Small lives a life of pretend. Pretend that her family is perfect, pretend that she is a normal teenager, pretend that she doesn't wish she was dead. At home she toes the line drawn by her controlling, passive-aggressive step-dad whom she must refer to as "Sir". At school she sneaks dark clothing and black makeup, stealing newspapers from the library to read the obituaries to see how other people have escaped this life and died. Lest this sound like the most emo novel you've ever read, Edith's reasons are sad rather than dark. The death of her little brother careened her family onto the path of darkness, of forcing to forget. But Edith can't forget and won't, and paints herself into a corner to keep others away. After moving to a new town, Edith tries to please Sir by accepting a date from one of the local boys. Unfortunately the event turns traumatic, beginning a whole new downward spiral for Edith's life at school and at home. Several of her schoolmates are injured, some dead and Edith is rescued by a curious creature that cannot be real.
In "Breathless" Cole Gibson has crafted a sweet love story from a complex and sometimes depressing story. Imagine that mermaids were real. What would they be like? Lovely creatures swimming under the water, singing to lure sailors to their rocky death? Sure, but they might also be hell-bent on destroying the race which has so poisoned their oceans and destroyed their homes. They may be vicious and blood-thirsty. They may look strange with candy-colored hair and ink black iris-less eyes. The moon is their mother and in her light they can walk on land. Gibson has taken a well-loved concept and made it a story of Romeo and Juliet, two lovers who can never be allowed in each others worlds.
Edith is rescued from her ill-fated date by Bastin, the prince of the Mer. Taken with her, he starts to stalk her at night, coming to her window and luring her out. Together they form a friendship based on their status as loners in their respective societies. They discover, through one another, the physical and cultural differences between their races. Edith longs for friendship and Bastin, curious to learn more of the creatures on land they had been brought up to despise, is eager to provide. Together they begin the relationship of tentative teenagers, exploring the world of sexuality with slow, determined strides. Their friendship grows and soon Edith longs for Bastin to take her with him to his world, instead of staying in the slog that is her daytime life.
At home, Edith is compressed into a shell of a person, walking on eggshells to keep everything seemingly "normal". Her step-father is a tyrant and the cause of all the pressure. In short, Edith's step-father is an ass. He is demanding, ruthless, cruel and unnecessarily hard on Edith. Though he never actually hits her, Edith suffers from abuse in every paragraph they share. Her mother turns a blind eye, so numb to the pain of losing a child that she carries on as if nothing is wrong with their broken little family. Edith struggles with being the "perfect" daughter so Sir can't find an excuse to send her to military school and break the rest of her. Complex and sad, Gibson's story about love and mermaids is equally about family, heartbreak and acceptance.
While other characters fade in and out of this novel, Edith, Bastin and Sir are by far the most interesting and well-managed. A fair and easy read, "Breathless" has both beauty and grotesque when it comes to human interaction. Gibson doesn't waste time with endless paragraphs of teenagers making-out, or drag plot points out through the span of multiple novels. Instead it is short, sweet and to the point. Maybe this novel doesn't end with endless immortal love where our star-crossed lovers become forever joined. Maybe we are left with some of the sadness and heartbreak that seems to follow Edith as she navigates her young life. And maybe, just maybe, there is more to Edith's story than just "Breathless".(less)
Journalist Mikael Blomkvist retracts from his job from political magazine Millennium after being convicted of libel. This stormy action in his life se...moreJournalist Mikael Blomkvist retracts from his job from political magazine Millennium after being convicted of libel. This stormy action in his life sets him up as the perfect candidate for aging business mogul Henrik Vanger to hire him to solve a mystery. Henrik has been plagued with the disappearance of his niece Harriet 40 years ago. He is convinced that someone in the family has murdered her and no investigation was ever able to solve the puzzle. The last wish of an old man, he tasks Mikael with writing his family chronicle, while actually digging in the family's dirty laundry to find the truth. Drawn together under these mysterious circumstances, troubled and difficult Lisabeth Salander is asked to work as Mikael's research assistant. Lisabeth, dealing with dark secrets of her past and deeply disturbing issues in her present, regularly finds ways to shut people out. A gifted and experienced hacker, Mikael uses Lisabeth's talent to claw through decades old data to solve Harriet's supposed death and uncover a truth that is darker than anyone ever imagined.
The first of three novels in a trilogy dealing with Ms. Lisabeth Salander, this novel is extensive. There is just too much information to conclude a tight, neat package of a review. Much of this novel could be described as an "info-dump" as Stieg Larsson regularly drops massive paragraphs of historical fiction on the reader. Whether it concerns the Vanger family's epic chronicle, or the political turbulence of Sweden, or even just the in-depth background of one of the main characters, there is a lot of detail here. Larsson's writing style can border on the clinical sometimes, giving a flat, unemotional tint to some of the scenes. I found he was incredibly detailed on the make and model of every character's computer, but then failed to describe some of the more intimate scenes that would have enhanced the relationships between the characters.
It's obvious that Lisabeth is the show-stealer in this novel. Despite her unruly and anti-social behavior, Larsson has managed to coax out a likeable character under all those piercings and tattoos. Lisabeth's life is shitty and Larsson does not mince words about her past, nor her present, abuses. When Mikael treats her like a human being, she responds in kind and is actually able to become something more than a mute genius.
This whole novel is about sex. Not referring to the over-descriptive mind-blowing sex of harlequin novels, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is about sexual power. Whether someone is being forced by an abuser or welding their own sexual freedoms, there is a lot of sex happening in this book. Mikael seems to have the most liberal views about sex with any woman who might feel like a hop in the bed. (view spoiler)[ In the year in which the reader is with Mikael, he has three different partners. A feat in itself! (hide spoiler)] As a reader more accustomed to romance novels then mysteries, I felt that Larsson often dropped the love-making paragraphs a bit early. While it didn't detract from the novel in any way, it certainly made it less interesting!
As for the mystery of Harriet Vanger's disappearance, which the novel focuses much of its obsession on, it relies entirely on if the reader can remember all of the many characters in the Vanger clan. There are so many most of them become lost in the text and I had to keep referring to Larsson's helpful little family tree in the front of the book. With the many names of people, there are also many names of places, and if you are at all familiar with Sweden, it might help to get a map to have a bit of a visual. There are maps out there with the fictional island of Hedeby.
I don't read many mystery novels but I found this one enjoyable. I'm taking a break before continuing in the Millennium series as it was pretty heavy material. The books are quite massive too, and I found that hauling this beast to and from work was giving me shoulder issues (not really, but it would be funny). I happened to watch the US movie version of this novel while reading it and I'm not sure if that helped or hindered in any way. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Bess Grey is lonely. She longs for her life to have the stability of marriage. To have a life partner to love, children to rear and that comfort of 'f...moreBess Grey is lonely. She longs for her life to have the stability of marriage. To have a life partner to love, children to rear and that comfort of 'forever' that matrimony can bring. When her friend suggests throwing a singles party, she is at first resistant. But with prodding and at the threat of being called "boring", she does and meets Rory, who sweeps her off her feet. But Rory has a past which Bess finds out a bit late. After a few months of dating, Rory proposes and it is revealed that Rory has been married before. Several times in fact. Rory has been married eight times before, which would make Bess the ninth, if she says yes. She embarks on a quest to seek out these other wives, to discover why Rory's marriages failed, and on the way, tries to understand if marriage is the 'forever' promise it's all cracked up to be.
It is sort of ironic that I would go on a rant about the fantasy of marriage and children in my review for "Mockingjay" by Suzanne Collins, and the immediately read a book that is about the desire for those very things. I wanted a change from genre fantasy and in this book, I got it. Realistically "normal", this is a book about a regular woman who finds herself in love with a strange situation wrapped around her. Should she marry Rory when all his previous marriages have failed? Is it him in particular that is the problem or has he found himself in a bout of bad decisions? This novel winds around the reasons why people get married and if marriage itself is brokered by love or duty. Through stories told by Rory about his eight failed companionships, Bess' grandparent's rocky marriage and her neighbour Cricket losing the love of his life, the reader is taken through the questions and left to form their own opinions.
One thing that really bothered me about this novel was the style in which it was written. It jumped around with the intention of having several different voices explaining their situational history. From first person, past tense to third person present tense, it skipped back and forth erratically. I realize that I am a bit picky about books following one direction, but this book was annoying. I nearly had a fit reading Anne Rice's "Queen of the Damned" and that followed only two perspectives. This one has many voices, and it drove me nuts. I suppose that Stolls wanted to avoid having characters giving long speeches and instead had them describe their stories in chapters. This vague style is just not my cup of tea, I suppose, and it really hampered my enjoyment of this novel.
The characters themselves are likeable. Bess is a normal 30-something woman with typical urges to start a family. She has an interesting job as a "Folklorist" which is just vague enough that you don't know exactly what she does. Rory is charming, funny and romantic, which is good because he is sort of the "bad guy" in this story. Bess attempts to dig up dirt on Rory's past to see if he is worthy of marrying, since none of his previous marriages have stuck. Bess' grandparents, Millie and Irv, are good examples of "old people" and Bess' neighbour Cricket, a gay widow whose neurosis is worn on his sleeve, is funny without crossing the border of annoying.
I suppose I read too many romance novels of the Nora Roberts variety because the sex, though fairly frequent in this novel, just didn't do it for me. It was rather boring and came off as about as exciting as dishwater, which was in keeping with the rest of this book. It just wasn't exciting at all. Maybe it was too domestic for me, maybe I'm used to reading a different "style" of book, but this one was just sort of vanilla. I didn't mind it, but I'm glad I'm finished it, so I can move on to other things. There were some good issues raised, such as the discussion on marriage, commitment and elder abuse, but ultimately I was sort of bored. There were a few things that made me laugh, a few that felt totally relatable (when admitting to a grandparent that you admire something of theirs and they immediately offer it to you), and some things that just weirded me out (view spoiler)[ (she likes to watch him pee??!? Ew! Is that a thing!?) (hide spoiler)]. It did make me think about my own personal reasons about getting married, though I can't say it changed my mind about any of them. This novel might make a good gift for someone who is engaged or is longing to be engaged, or if you just need to leave it on the table to give your boyfriend a hint that you want to be engaged.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
**spoiler alert** Once again, Katniss has survived the Hunger Games. And once again, her life is thrown in danger. The impossible happened after she m...more**spoiler alert** Once again, Katniss has survived the Hunger Games. And once again, her life is thrown in danger. The impossible happened after she managed to blow the Hunger Games arena, throwing the Capitol into chaos. District 13 has survived in secret and has hosted rebels in an underground bunker. Katniss was rescued to become part of this uprising, to lead the people of Panem to freedom from their oppressive Capitol rulers. To become the Mockingjay. District 12 has been decimated. Peeta in the hands of the enemy. Every District in a state of panic. Katniss is still reeling from her second turn in the Hunger Games, yet she must find the courage to step up and become what everyone wants her to be.
I have taken a long time to write this review because upon finishing it I had no idea what to think. I suppose I wanted what everyone else wanted: for Katniss to be a hero. Painfully, that is not what "Mockingjay" is about. While it survives to be the completion of an intense, exciting series, it is not the joyful celebration of a nation freed. Instead, "Mockingjay" is a hard-hit reality of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The "Hunger Games" presented to us a confident, strong, capable female protagonist who we cheered for as she began her climb to heroism. She survived the Games to return to her people of District 12 and reward them with her success. "Catching Fire" sees Katniss slipping from the role as President Snow plants seeds of paranoia and fear. His threats to her about her family, about Peeta and Gale, and her constant struggle to win his approval and stay alive begins to erode the confidence that Katniss had in herself. By "Mockingjay" a whole new persona has risen from this former heroine. She is shattered and broken, twice in the Games has destroyed her confidence and unhinged her mind. She is feral, resorting to wild explosions of action and long periods of vacant depression. She spends much of "Mockingjay" finding places to sleep, hiding from the world and from her responsibilities. Being forced to kill her fellow peers has made her afraid of human contact and of what she has become in the process of trying to save her own life.
Much of the novel focuses on Katniss' inflamed hatred for those around her. She hates the Capitol and President Snow, but so too does she hate the Rebel Forces of District 13. President Coin, who actively dislikes her, while knowing how important she is to the cause, sees Katniss as a threat and keeps her at an arm's distance to control her. Peeta, who has suffered greatly and whose mind is broken and confused, rounds on Katniss for failing to make a decision between Gale and himself. Through his eyes, Katniss realizes how painfully arrogant, dismissive and manipulative she appears to those around her. Even Gale is not exempt from the hatred, as Katniss verbally attacks him more than once for being secretive and cunning. It becomes apparent through her lack of engagement in the Mockingjay plan, the sleeping, the anger, the fear is all because she hates herself so much for failing to do what is expected of her. Instead, she becomes what she despised before she became a player in the Hunger Games; her mother. After her father's death, her mother shut down in a classic depressive response to grief. Katniss resented her for exiting the responsibility she had to both Katniss and Prim, which forced Katniss to grow up and become the backbone of her family. Katniss fails the way her mother failed, by shutting out the world and succumbing to depression. This shouldn't be a surprise when considering what Katniss has been through up to this point. Reality is Collins' method in "Mockingjay", to which she does the opposite of what we expect our heroine to do. We might expect that Katniss would fight from her depression and emerge the kick-ass winner that defeats the Capitol with her determination to do what is right. To overcome the odds and bring a new day to Panem. But what we are presented with instead is a shaken heroine whose mind is not at all complete, who is only 17, and a broken, fearful, panicked teenager. She fears losing those she loves and becomes unable to do anything, which may be a realistic way of presenting this idea, but not an all-together exciting one.
I don't believe that a book has to have a "good" ending to tell a good story. Life is not always kind and sometimes the best stories to be told are the hardest. That being said, "Mockingjay" doesn't have a "good" ending. It ends appropriately and somewhat anti-climatically, but it keeps the tone that "Mockingjay" carried throughout. Collins had me fooled the whole time reading this series, which I attributed the final book to be about the choice that Katniss would be forced to make between Gale and Peeta. These books are not about the love story. At least, "Mockingjay" is not. Love is an emotion that I don't know that Katniss can feel anymore, based on what she struggled through in "Hunger Games" and "Catching Fire". The love triangle between Katniss, Gale and Peeta is no more than a superficial scar on the surface of this story's skin. I personally never felt any affection for Gale throughout this series, but Katniss' reminiscence at the end of the novel about Gale's fiery passion and Peeta's calm, gentle demeanor seemed to be reflective of what Katniss needed for her life to be complete. And the last few lines of the novel (before the epilogue) were particularly touching.
"So after, when he whispers, 'You love me. Real or not real?" I tell him, 'Real.'"
Can I say something about epilogues for a moment? Just to break from this novel specifically. I really think I'm starting to dislike them. It wasn't that the epilogue in "Mockingjay" was particularly offensive in any way. Not that it was inappropriate or unjustified. But I've found that authors are writing epilogues that stamp "THE END" into their novels, as if there are no more adventures, no more stories to be told. It seems to be a way to protect their work from any one else coming along and creating other endings to their works. Which I guess is fair in some respect. But they seem unnecessary. "Mockingjay"'s epilogue was unnecessary. The ending of the book was poignant and beautiful, and it was good enough. The epilogue didn't confirm much else except for the oft repeated ending "and they got married and had kids". The worst offender for this is probably "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows", in which J.K. Rowling ties every knot with a sweet bow of happily married couples and children. Are we assuming that all these characters who were children at the time have stayed together in partnerships, softly scented with sweetheart loves? It seems unlikely. But, maybe that's just me. Watching the ridicules ending to the movie of "Deathly Hollows, Part 2" made me want to scream. Is it that we need the 'happily ever after' in every novel to be satisfied? "Breaking Dawn" did that and it was awful, truly awful. Did Peeta and Katniss live their 'happily ever after'? Hard to tell with Katniss' reservations about children and marriage, but perhaps those questions would have been moot without the epilogue. In any case, I'm tired of epilogues and their vague wrap-ups of who married who and had kids. Boring. It seems like this is the only ending to every novel, just like how every popular song is about love. But this is not about epilogues and how I feel about them, it's about "Mockingjay".
Reflecting at the end of this series, I think that "Hunger Games" was my favorite novel. It had the surprise factor, the strong heroine, the excitement and the wonder that the last two novels seemed to only follow along behind. They were exciting too, don't get me wrong, but I didn't feel as much passion for "Catching Fire" and "Mockingjay" as I did with "Hunger Games". The movie caught my interest in the novels, and I'll be interested to see how both "Catching Fire" and "Mockingjay" are represented as films.(less)
The Capitol is not happy. There were two victors of the Games this year, a monumental occasion that has never happened before. The Districts celebrate...moreThe Capitol is not happy. There were two victors of the Games this year, a monumental occasion that has never happened before. The Districts celebrate the star-crossed lovers Katniss and Peeta for surviving together, for love triumphing the Games. But Katniss knows the truth. There are those who doubt her love for her partner Peeta, and those who believe their attempted double-suicide was an act of rebellion against the Capitol. Returning home as a victor, Katniss believed that her life would be easier. A house, money, more food on the table than ever before. But she didn't count on the Capitol's fury and their motion to make her life a challenge to continue to survive. On top of that, she has been rocked by a choice between two men. Peeta, who's confessed love for her propelled her to victory in the Games, and Gale, who has always been her solid companion. But President Snow will not give her time to make a choice. The Games must go on and the President has designed a way to clip the rebellion in the wings and rid himself of Katniss at the same time.
We return to Katniss struggling beneath the weight of her success after six months of being home. Her relationships have become strained. Not only is her friendship with Peeta awkward and somewhat forced, her best friend Gale is having a hard time accepting that the romance between Peeta and Katniss was false. What began as survival now has consequences that Katniss did not foresee. Thus begins the "Team Peeta/Team Gale" debate over who Katniss will choose as her final suitor. I felt a strong disconnect with Gale. It is obvious that Katniss knows him well based on the stories she shares about their exploits together. However, as the reader I am more familiar with Peeta. We get to know Peeta as Katniss does, strong, dependable, affectionate and loyal. Gale is nothing but grouchy every time he appears in the novel. He is unpredictable and easy to anger. It's obvious Katniss has feelings for him and maybe even had the idea that the two of them would end up together eventually. But her lack of direction when it comes to her own emotions is heavy in "Catching Fire". We can argue that she has never really had time to sort out her feelings for both boys, but honestly, it's clear she already knows the answer of who she loves in her heart.
We are also privy to Katniss as a coward. After being through the Hunger Games, Katniss relied on the fact that she'd be left alone, but early on in the novel, it is clearly not the case. Here Katniss begins to show how much the Games have affected her, and she goes from brave but reluctant hero to forced-courage survivor. When things go down, Katniss is one of the few who will stand up and fight, but it's clearly an effort to claw her way to survival than it is from any heroic notions of bravery. Most novels would attempt to shower their heroes and heroines in a wash of brightly colored skills and charm. Katniss certainly has skills from her years of hunting, but "Catching Fire" illuminates her flaws more than her positives. We know from "Hunger Games" she struggles with her relationships with people and "Catching Fire" reiterates this point. Not to say she isn't a successful heroine, as flawed characters are often the more interesting and captivating.
"Catching Fire" completes my only real complaint about the "Hunger Games". (view spoiler)[I felt that the tributes should have been older. (hide spoiler)] Of course, using children to bloodlustily kill one another in televised combat speaks volumes about the state of the Capitol and their control over their oppressed people. That everyone accepts this yearly trial says something about how demoralized the people of Panem are. "Catching Fire" brings to light the shaky grip that the Capitol has on the control of Panem. Since Katniss' win, lovestory and all, the Districts have been stirring trouble. This year is the 75th Hunger Games, which means they are at the Quarter Quell. Every 25 years a new surprise is paraded out to keep the game more interesting and more challenging. President Snow seeks to rid himself of two problems that are now plaguing the Capitol. One being squashing the second-coming rebellion in which Katniss is a figurehead and the other simply removing Katniss from being a continuing player in the game. Snow continues to using his most powerful weapon against the people of Panem to remind them that the Capitol is still in control, the Hunger Games.
I can't say that I thought "Catching Fire" was a better book than "Hunger Games". If anything, the quality of this book is consistent with the first. "Catching Fire" was the first book in a long time to make me gasp, laugh and have tears spring to my eyes. (For heavens sake, stop with the three-fingered District 12 salute, it gets me every time!! ;_;). I felt that "Catching Fire" lost the shock-value that the "Hunger Games" had. We as the reader are familiar with Panem and it's world-building was done in "Hunger Games". The horror of what the Capitol manages to do to its District people is no longer a surprise. While there was more of the same in "Catching Fire", it still managed to throw a few loops in it's own right and keep everyone on their toes.
This series seems to be berated by many readers for the books being cliff-hangers. I think it's important to remember that it was written as a trilogy. They were meant to be read together. No one would pick up "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" and then stop reading. Frodo has barely begun his journey! What happens to the nine companions and their quest to destroy the ring!? So is the same with Katniss. The "Hunger Games" is just the beginning of Katniss' journey. It relies on the next two novels to complete it's tale. I didn't feel that it was much of a cliff-hanger at all, but I had the luxury of reading all three books together way after they were published. Perhaps a would have felt differently if I had to wait with bated-breath for the next novel to come out.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
In post-apocalyptic America, society has survived by dividing into twelve districts ringing a shining Capitol. Life has become fraught with poverty an...moreIn post-apocalyptic America, society has survived by dividing into twelve districts ringing a shining Capitol. Life has become fraught with poverty and the people of the districts live off the mercy of these rich socialites, struggling to stay alive. To keep the lesser folk in line, the Capitol has created the Hunger Games in which each district must submit two contestants, a boy and a girl, to fight to the death as televised to the whole country. Between the ages of 12 to 18, every teenager must enter their name for the unlucky lottery to violently kill each other. The rewards are great: the winner's district is showered with food and supplies for the whole year. Winners are honored. The dead are unfortunate causalities of a capitol raked with greed. Heroine Katniss Everdeen volunteers for the Hunger Games when her younger sister's name is pulled. Ready to take the challenge and die to protect her sister, she is thrown into a desperate game of survival.
I will admit that I wasn't sold on the Hunger Games at first. It came to me by happenstance. A co-worker recommended the series, I did a little reading and decided it sounded a lot like the Japanese film "Battle Royal". Maybe too much like the movie "The Running Man". Children violently killing one another didn't quite appeal to me, and I passed on putting my money down. A few months later, the "Hunger Games" was given to me, passed down as an extra copy from someone who didn't need two. I was curious about the hype and now had one in my possession, no loss if I didn't like it. I've read much worse, really. So it begins.
The first thing I was struck by was the quality of the writing. Collins weaves a believable world in which America, now Panem, has fallen and struggles to right itself again. Rocked by poverty, each district supports the Capitol and to a lesser extent, each other. They all have specialties that are leaned on to sustain the rest. District 12 mines coal, District 11 grows grain, and so on. We follow Katniss as she details not what happened to America, but how life is lived for the poor in the Districts. Katniss herself knows very little about the other districts, save for their special commodity. The Capitol tries to keep the poor in the dark, feeding them threats and sparse information to keep them from any rebellion. Hence the Games.
Katniss' sense of loyalty and determination is what makes her such a strong female lead. She promises her sister Prim that she will return from the slaughter, even though she doesn't quite believe it herself. At first anyways. Katniss has skills that give her an advantage over some of the other contenders. She hunts regularly in the woods outside her district (illegally) and is a crack shot with a bow and arrow. She is strong willed, sturdy and capable. Not clumsy, not particularly beautiful, not obsessed with sacrificing herself for the love of a man. The opposite of Bella and her "Twilight" love story.
It could be argued that the "Hunger Games" is a love story. I felt the novel particularly morbid knowing all the people Katniss met would eventually be cut down to their gory death. But Collins uses this base violence as a method to tell another story. One that changes the way the Games are played. Katniss' opposite in the Games is a boy named Peeta Mellark. The baker's son who is slightly more privileged than herself, but humbled by love. You see, that's the real hook in the "Hunger Games". (view spoiler)[ Peeta is in love with Katniss, (hide spoiler)] and it's used as a ploy to give the audience watching the Games a good show and gain more sponsors, the difference between life and death. Katniss thinks this angle is a game too, (view spoiler)[and though she plays along with the idea that her and Peeta are in love, (hide spoiler)] she doesn't realize the consequences of her actions as she tries to survive.
While the overt themes of this novel are the struggle with poverty, oppression and government control, the idea that love can be used to subvert those who run the Games becomes an undercurrent of survival. (view spoiler)[Katniss can not mentally separate her feels from her actions which are propelled by survival. She and Peeta have a small history in which she feels she owes him for her life. Peeta has carried a torch for her for a long time and his confession is used as bait for entertainment. As they grow closer and are rewarded for their on-screen affection, Katniss' actions drag her into confusing territory. Are Peeta's feelings real, or just fuel for the fire? Is there truth to their affectionate kisses, or can they be played off as acting? What happens if they go home and this love story is revealed as a sham? How does Katniss herself feel about these false affections and are they becoming more heartfelt? What about Gale, Katniss' hunting partner back in District 12? Are her feelings for him more than just platonic? Katniss herself can't answer these questions as the tumultuous quest of navigating the Games takes precedence in the grander storyline. (hide spoiler)]
I feel that these questions are what makes the "Hunger Games" so successful. It's not the violent hack-and-slash of teenagers murdering one another for glory. Katniss questions the motivations of the Capitol every step of the way and her own as well. It's the underlying moral compass that we are asked to navigate as we follow Katniss. While she is strong and loyal, she is also naive and lacks experience in relationships on all levels. Her confusion makes her approachable, her strength makes us root for her.
This is one of those books that I'm glad I didn't give up on because I thought negatively of it based on its hype. While I still frown on the age of the contestants of the Game (killing 12 year olds still doesn't make sense to me), I applaud the quality of this novel and what Collins brings to the table in this situation. The dangers of reality tv have been done before in "The Running Man", "Videodrome", "Battle Royal" and countless others, but Collins takes a different tack by headlining a cunning heroine and love. Onwards to "Catching Fire".["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I've read a lot of Nora Roberts over the years. I think she was the author of my first romance novel. You know what you get when you read a Nora Rober...moreI've read a lot of Nora Roberts over the years. I think she was the author of my first romance novel. You know what you get when you read a Nora Roberts book; no real surprises, same destination it's just the journey that varies. That can be said for this double edition of the Donovan Saga. This is really more of a guilty pleasure than any kind of "advanced reading". I read so much that romances really just fill the time and are entertaining. This book was just that: entertainment.
"Charmed" is the story of Ana and Boone. Ana Donovan comes from a long lineage of very powerful witches. Yeah, that's right. She's a witch. She and all of her cousins (see other Donovan novels) practice witchcraft in varying ways. Ana is an empath. She is sensitive to other's feelings, their aches and pains, and can link psychically to their minds. She works as an herbalist making lotions and potions for her cousin's shop, Wicca, and specialized treatments for her clients. She lives alone and has resigned herself to helping others without getting close or letting them know her true self. This changes when her new neighbors move in next door. Boone Sawyer, father of spunky 6 year old Jessie, has moved to escape the pressures of his extended family and give him and his daughter a fresh start. After Boone's wife passed away four years ago, pressures to find "a mother for his child" were becoming increasingly stressful after constant badgering from his mother and mother-in-law. Boone falls for the lovely lady next door, who picks flowers in the moonlight, takes long walks on the beach and is enamored with his daughter. Yet, Ana is reluctant to give over her heart and afraid to reveal her true heritage having been burned before. Boone, a moderately successful children's book author, seems to have walked right into his own fairytale and found that the witch isn't so wicked.
Seeing as I've read so many of Robert's books, this one tilted me the wrong way. It's no surprise at the end that the main characters are going to be together. That's kind of the mandate of romance novels. What I take issue with is the common belief of these types of novels that all women want is to get married and have kids. I'm not sure when this particular female fantasy died for me, I just know that it did. And I tire of reading the epilogues of these kinds of books where they end up married and have like 10 children. I get it. It's one of those things that is to be assumed all women want. Maybe, in life. But reading allows a type of fantasy free from "normal" life. Especially in a novel about witches. Let's be honest. Are you reading a Nora Robert's novel for the happily ever after ending? No. You aren't. You're reading it for the crazy love-fest that's going to be happening once the main characters stop fighting and realize how bad they want each other. So why the tagged on ending where everyone is married and pregnant? I'm so tired of reading this ending that it makes me roll my eyes and gag with all the sappy sweetness. Maybe I should stop reading the epilogues. Clearly I'm over them.
Another issue with Robert's work is the archetypal female lead who is controlled by her main man. Often during a fight, the woman gets lifted up and tossed over the man's shoulder as he drags her away to a place where she will be forced to listen to him. While the woman doesn't always take this graciously, I think this is one of the most offensive things a man can do to them. Picking someone up and carrying them away by force is degrading, praying on the "weak-willed" female who needs a man to set her straight. Sorry, but if someone lifted me up and whisked me away so that I would stop screaming at them, they are likely to get a booted kick right to the man parts. As wonderfully romantic as it seems to be "swept off your feet", this is directly the opposite - being controlled by man used to getting his way.
As long as we are complaining, why is every female lead a virgin? Ok, I get it. Ana was burned by her former boyfriend who spurned her after she told him she was a witch. They didn't make it to the fun part. Is it fear of labeling a woman as a slut because she's slept with someone else and not the very handsome stranger that happens to appear and romance her? Boone slept with other women. Several, actually! He admits to having lots of "female companions" after his wife died. So, that's ok then? But Ana having one boyfriend isn't? Let's ditch this sorry-story and get real. Why label every female as "virgin"? Just once I'd like to read a story about a woman who isn't innocent as white fallen snow to her rough-and-tumble male counterpart. That's all I'm asking.
If you've put up this far with my ranting, you'd probably assume that I didn't like this novel. On the contrary! Aside from the niggling issues of most romance novels, this story was pretty enjoyable. Ana's magical practices are nifty and homegrown. She's an avid gardener and the whole "naturalist" witch appealed to me. Making poultices, potions, lotions, seemed like a reasonable way to make a living, especially in our organic-crazed world. And unlike some novels (ahem, "Among Others" by Jo Walton), Ana actually did magic. Lots of it too. Not just weaving spells and crafting thunderstorms, but healing and comforting magic. As with most of Robert's "saga" novels, the whole family comes together once or twice and jumbles the story into a mash of names and inside references. Robert's mostly does a good job of keeping everyone straight and giving a first time reader a background story if they missed the first, or even second, installment. I felt a little lost when the extended family showed up, but Robert's clearly knows her stuff and didn't make it about them. This was Ana's story in the Donovan history books. In all, "Charmed" was an enjoyable read. It also spurred some research on the productive Mrs. Roberts, and I realized that, though Goodreads doesn't reflect it, I've read a boat-load of her books. Next up ...
It took me a long time to get through this book and I'm not sure why. Time and lack of interest I suppose. Rowan Murray is tired of having her life planned for her by her well-meaning but safe parents, and her well-meaning but boring boyfriend. In desperation to escape, she flees to a friend's cottage in Oregon to find herself again and get some space. There she can relax, spend her days enjoying herself and renew long-buried passions like drawing while in the wilderness. Rowan finds comfort in a wandering lone wolf who appears skulking in the woods around her cottage. She doesn't fear him and even lets him in during lonely nights for company. Then there is her neighbor on the other side of the forest, Liam Donovan. Difficult, stubborn and unfriendly, Liam just wants to be left alone for the most part. Nursing his own life-changing decision, Liam has left his family to make up his mind about his heritage and accepting his birthright. He didn't want to get involved with Rowan, but seeing as she is around and willing, he might make an exception about sleeping with her. It's not until her own heritage becomes apparent that Liam may have fallen in love with the perfect girl.
To be honest, "Enchanted" was a bit hokey. Whereas "Charmed" was cute and vaguely Wiccan, "Enchanted" is just bordering on silly. White robes and glass orbs, glowing white lights and shape-shifting spirit animals, it sort of read something like one of those knick-knack stores that sells incense and wizard figurines. The magic was unimpressive and the psychic "mind-sex" felt sort of wrong, not thrilling. Liam has so many talents in magic that it was almost irritating how many things he could just DO without trying. His attitude fell short of being attractive either, and I found myself wondering why Rowan even liked the guy.
Rowan's character was fine, if a little predictable. I know we aren't inventing the wheel here, but her only character flaw is liking a jerk. While Liam was encouraging of her talents, he was also using her most of the book to his own ends. The best part of the book is when Rowan tells him off and stands up for herself. Mostly she spends her time eating cookies for breakfast and taking long trips into the woods.
I was glad to be finished this one. Don't go looking for anything special. Some of the sex scenes are intense, but otherwise, there are better Harlequins than this one. (less)
"Ironside" continues where "Tithe" left off. Pixie Kaye is struggling to deal with the fact that she stole someone else's life. She feels excluded fro...more"Ironside" continues where "Tithe" left off. Pixie Kaye is struggling to deal with the fact that she stole someone else's life. She feels excluded from both the human world and the faerie world, and can't seem to figure out where she belongs. On top of that, her faerie boyfriend, Roiben, has become the King of the Night Court and doesn't seem to have time for her anymore. At his coronation she makes a pledge to be his consort against his will. Roiben wants to keep Kaye safely away from the machinations of the faerie world, but now she's gone and nailed herself right into it. He gives her an impossible task: to find a faerie that cannot lie. Disheartened and no longer allowed to see him until she completes the mission, Kaye returns to the human world feeling more depressed. In New York City with her friend Corny, in true screw-up fashion, Kaye and Corny embark on a series of misadventures that eventually lead them into the thick treacherous mess between the Night Court and the Bright Court. Duels, promises and oaths fly through the pages of this novel as Kaye tries to right the wrongs that she created and get back her faerie king.
"Ironside" differs from both "Tithe" and "Valiant" in that Black seems to have reigned in her writing style. Gone is the heavy use of profanity, drug use and extreme mood swings. Don't get me wrong, all of these things still pop up in the novel, but Black has calmed down some over the last two books. Here too, Black has listened to someone's advice and actually made a plot that makes sense. "Ironside" is the least confusing of this trilogy and has the benefit of being coherent.
Characters from the previous novels are brought back and given depth. Corny is depressed over the loss of his sister Janet, who was drowned by a kelpie in "Tithe". He seeks revenge on faye kind, but can't stop wanting the pleasure that they offer him through enchantment. His desperation to be someone else causes him to make stupid decisions and put both him and Kaye in danger too often. Also returning is Luis from "Valiant", who is making a living lifting faerie curses from humans who have found themselves enchanted. Luis seems softer than the version in "Valiant", which may explain his willingness to courier Kaye and Corny to and from the faerie world.
Kaye seems to undergo the most transformation in this novel. She feels torn between both worlds, not fitting into either the human or the faerie world. She struggles to find her allegiances as she has given her loyalty to Roiben's Night Court, but was born into the Bright Court. Bouncing between the two, she mostly tries to keep Corny out of trouble, as he seems hell-bent on involving himself in the faerie war. Kaye seems to understand the responsibility of her actions more throughout this novel, and for her part, tries to do good. The reader is never made to understand who Kaye's real parents are, or why she was switched out for the human changeling, but perhaps Black thought this wasn't an important aspect of the story. Here the main focus is on resolving the rivalry of the Bright and Night Courts.
I felt "Ironside" was a fitting ending to the tale that Black had started with "Tithe". While it wrapped up the grander scheme, I feel like this series could have been better executed. "Ironside" was certainly the best of the three, but I feel like I read both "Valiant" and "Ironside" to 'get them over with' since "Tithe" had set such a disappointing standard. Now that I'm finished with this trilogy, I probably won't read any of Black's other novels as I am not fond of her style.(less)
Continuing in the tradition of "bad girl who lost her way", Holly Black explores her Modern Fairytale world with a new set of characters. "Valiant" fo...moreContinuing in the tradition of "bad girl who lost her way", Holly Black explores her Modern Fairytale world with a new set of characters. "Valiant" follows Valerie (Val), who runs away to New York after discovering her mom and her boyfriend are having an affair. Distraught, she takes off to New York City and latches herself on to a few street kids she meets by chance. With nowhere else to go, she makes the plunge into their world, living in an abandoned subway tunnel. With wild-child Lolli and troubled brothers Luis and Dave, she is drawn deeper into the dark world of faerie as her new friends act as couriers to a topside-living troll, named Ravus. Stranger still are the mysterious deaths of some faeries receiving the couriered packages. Val attempts to navigate being a homeless streetrat, drug abuse and falling for the guy on the wrong side of the tracks all while trying to stay alive as the faeries play a dangerous game of murder.
It must be said that this book is better written then "Tithe". Where "Tithe" was a confused jumble of terribly written sentence structure, "Valiant" seems to have a better sense direction. The plot is clear from the get-go and there is a steady progression as faeries begin to die that kickstarts the mystery aspect. While this novel is more coherent than "Tithe", Black still has trouble arranging some of the heavier plot-lines, especially when it comes to double agent faeries, and who is on which side and why.
Our heroine, Val, is not much of a hero at all. Reading this novel is like watching someone thud their face into a brick wall until they are unconscious. Val seems hell-bent on making every poor decision possible in order to destroy any part of her "normal" life. Val does undergo heavy character development as she tries to change herself throughout the book, seemingly for the worse. Following the tradition of "Tithe", Black focuses on making Val, and her supporting characters, as unlikeable as possible. While "Tithe" was heavy on the smoking and Kaye's foul mouth, "Valiant" is a story about drug abuse. Val falls easily into this world, where her new friends shoot up a faerie drug they've named "Nevermore". She becomes hard to root for and eventually I stopped caring about her, since she cared so very little for herself. It's not that she's not an interesting character, she just seems hell-bent on breaking herself into the worst type of person possible. Her friends are likewise hard to empathize with, though the complicated relationship between Lolli, Luis and Dave was put together well and kept things interesting.
While I appreciate the "inner beauty" love story here, between Val's broken self esteem and Ravus being a troll, the moments they spent together are glazed over in the haze of Val's use of Nevermore. Fortunately we are able to make a connection to Ravus, as he is rather lenient on the humans in his service and seems more identifiable than some of the human characters, such as Lolli, because he has a sense of humanity about him. The relationship between Val and Ravus also seemed a bit more feasible than the one between Kaye and Roiben in "Tithe", because of the connection that they share that goes beyond looks to emotional support. (view spoiler)[Though, how Ravus didn't notice that Val was using some kind of drug and stealing from him is a bit unlikely, since Black made a point to talk about how awful Val looked most of the time. (hide spoiler)]
I keep comparing "Valiant" to "Tithe" because I was very disappointed in "Tithe". I felt that for the praise it received, it should have been better written. It should have been "Valiant". "Valiant" is a much stronger novel and it's plot is better laid out. Black deals with the consequences of drug abuse and living on the street rather lightly in my opinion, things could have gotten a lot worse. (view spoiler)[Val seems to pick her life right back up where she left it when she returns home. (hide spoiler)] But that doesn't mean that the issues were not relevant.
On to "Ironside" then, to complete the trilogy.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
**spoiler alert** Having only watched the original movie adaptation "The Wizard of Oz" once during childhood and having no real love for musicals pers...more**spoiler alert** Having only watched the original movie adaptation "The Wizard of Oz" once during childhood and having no real love for musicals personally, I was skeptical about going to see the play adaptation "Wicked". However, I was won over by the excellent portrayal of these reworked interesting characters and a story that evoked a 'good vs. evil' plot line while throwing preconceptions into question as well as a tried and true love story. Buoyed by this amazing work of creativity, I decided to read the book with the intentions of losing myself within this mysterious world of Oz that I had not explored as a child.
The novel "Wicked" is the basis for the play's script, but has only characters in common. While the book fleshes out these characters, giving them more personality than can truly be achieved in only two and a half hours of singing and dancing, they are often left with confusing motivations that left me feeling like I didn't truly know them at all. Unfortunately, while we are introduced to these characters who, based on previous iterations you assume you know, their personalities often feel lackluster and broken. The Wicked Witch's sister, Nessarose, often had the strongest personality in the whole novel, based on the fact that she was, at least, consistent.
In short, "Wicked" tells the tale of how the Wicked Witch of the West came to be: where and how she was born, her family relations, her misunderstood intentions. It describes the periods in her life through childhood, her attendance at university, her years as a political radical and subsequent maunt (nun), and finally her final years as an experimental witch. Elphaba, as she is named, goes through life with her heart on her sleeve and a chip on her shoulder, meeting various characters along the way which she influences more than them influencing her. She stays mostly the same throughout her life: difficult to deal with, prickly and stubborn. Throughout the journey, Macguire's heavy-handed muses on evil bog the narrative down with often confusing rantings.
Throughout the story, the narrative is plagued with an overwhelming amount of political and religious strife. There is political upheaval due to the Wizard of Oz taking control over the Emerald City and consequently most of Oz. This upheaval is bookended by the rather confusing religions that Macguire presents the reader, which he explains in great detail without actually telling the reader anything at all. The mess of religions become confused during the text and it becomes difficult to remember who believes in what and why. The Dragon Clock, confusingly introduced and little explained, becomes the birthplace of Elphaba and where she discovers her true parentage later in life. Nothing in the book explains the prophetic qualities of the Clock, or how it is able to generate tictok creatures at will (tictok being the term for robot in this novel and also being left to the imaginations of the readers to how they fit in the story). Though it would probably benefit from a second reading, both the religious and political narrative in "Wicked" is rather boring and heavy-handed, often repeating over and over again what had been said before, but in no clearer terms.
Magic is a subject of mystery as well, as it is clear that magic is practiced in Oz, but it is not explained at all how. Macguire mentions spells, but we are not privy to any understanding of how it is performed or why it can be done. Even Glinda the Good professes that she is "lucky" at best at doing magic and magic seems to be more of a suggestion than an actual act. Disappointingly, Elphaba hardly does any magic at all, and aside from barely understanding the magical book she acquires called the Grimmoire, she is not much of a witch to speak of. I found this one of the most disappointing parts of the book as I was waiting for Elphaba, Glinda and even Elphaba's sister Nessarose to perform some kind of spectacular magic, but nothing was done whatsoever. The most magic to be had is the bewitching of Nessarose's ruby shoes which eventually becomes Dorothy's, and Nessarose cursing a woodcutter to eventually become the Tin Man in an almost forgettable story plot.
There are some interesting family relations that spiral in and out of the greater story, ones that shape Elphaba's attitude and give insight to her personality. The relationship between Elphaba, her father and Nessarose is a subject of contention which sees Nessarose favored over her green-with-envy older sister in the eyes of her father. The rocky friendship between Elphaba and her roommate Glinda, and their acceptance into a larger group of university peers with extreme differences gives Elphaba the chance to learn about the give and take of relationships. Her affair with Fiyero sees her adopt a lover and eventually brings about a bizarre relationship with his wife and children in her desperate attempt for forgiveness. I found the triad relationship between Elphaba, Glinda and Fiyero a stronger narrative in the play, which was not a part of the book at all. This, I felt, was a much more solid and exciting storyline, giving cause to Glinda and Elphaba's friendship going sour and Fiyero's turn into the Scarecrow neatly tying in to the movie adaptation of Wizard of Oz. Maguire bumbles through Elphaba's affair and drops the friendship with Glinda completely until the end when both women have nothing to say to one another. The whole friendship is a lost legend that could have been much more explored. Instead, Maguire focuses on the rather dull and extremely strange relationship between Fiyero's wife and children and Elphaba's self imposed exile to the land of Vinkus.
When we reach the point of Dorothy showing up on the scene, Elphaba has almost completed her decent into complete madness. She blames Dorothy for the death of Nessarose due to bad piloting of her house and the theft of the ruby shoes. Elphaba becomes obsessed with the shoes, which have become a sort of religious object as Dorothy begins her unintentional destruction of the powers of Oz. First by accidentally murdering Nessarose, eventually melting Elphaba and then unseating the Wizard as the ruler by sending him back to where he came from.
It is unfair to judge this book based on the original series by L. Frank Baum. Maguire is not trying to reinvent the wheel. His take on the whole experience is a fairly original concept and to expect "Wicked" to read like the classics is a dire mistake. Maguire's use of language is often unnecessarily crude and there are some passages that made me question his intent, such as the S&M scene in the Philosophy Club or the strange sexual relationship between Fiyero's wife and daughter Nor. These seemed to be included more for shock value instead of any real addition to the story. However, "Wicked" is an adult novel and is read as such. Sex and violence streak through it, with the occasional tilt into ironic humor. As we meander through Elphaba's life, Maguire often skips parts that could be more interesting then the ones he chooses to focus on. Her childhood through the Quadling country, her years after abandoning her education at the university in Shiz, her secret life as a political crusader and then the lost years living as a maunt. All these things are mentioned but not explored in any great detail unlike the long suffering in Vinkus which we are subjected to.
"Wicked" seemed to me a wonderful idea when presented as the play in concise, tight story lines with the weaving of the original characters as key players in Elphaba's life. The novel, while steeped in originality, was often confused and preachy, and could sometimes become a trial. I'm not sorry that I read this novel, as it was wonderfully inventive, but I probably will not continue to read the sequels "Son of a Witch" or "A Lion Among Men".(less)
I just finished reading "Among Others" by Jo Walton. This was a book that I had heard about and waited painfully for as it made it's slow climb to pap...moreI just finished reading "Among Others" by Jo Walton. This was a book that I had heard about and waited painfully for as it made it's slow climb to paperback. I was excited to read it: Mori is crippled and her twin sister dead after an accident involving her evil witch mother. She runs away to a father who she never knew and begins life in a boarding school where there is no magic except for the magic she makes herself. Unfortunately, that magic captures the attention of her mother who attempts to bring her around to the dark side. This sounds like a great premise! I had high hopes, but this book never quite measured up to it's potential.
Not that there aren't some great ideas in the novel. The magic is interesting, it's subversive and quiet. Consequences could easily be explained as coincidences and no one really realizes any magic is being performed except for Mori. The connection that is shared between objects, food, treasured books and their owners is touching; the way we feel nostalgic for items from our childhood or gifts given to us creates a bond that connects us with those objects. The fairies were strange and fantastic. That they couldn't communicate with humans nor understand us in any way gave them that feeling of "otherness" that in most other books only describe their untouchable beauty. This felt more realistic and tangible, that fairies would try to blend with the scenery, most were "gnarly" as Mori describes them. Trips through the English countryside described a great deal of the world, though I found it hard to remember we were in 1979/1980.
While all this world building was great, the content of the story was lacking. Mori writes dutifully in her journal, detailing her daily life as she copes with the aftermath of the accident: her crippled leg, the death of her twin, a father she doesn't know and fear of her mother. She spends time explaining unnecessary and boring information about her ancestry that is never brought up again, the daily grind at her boarding school where she is mostly cloistered in the library seeing as how she is exempt from sports due to her disability, and how much she hates all the girls there. Mori spends her time rejecting friendship from the schoolgirls and then complaining about how they don't like her.
The bulk of Mori's journals compile the books that she's been reading, and she reads alot of them. As she wades through their words she uses the ideas inherent in Sci-Fi novels to cope with the pain of growing up coupled with the loss of her other half. This book spends a lot of time name-dropping Science Fiction authors in the 1970s and it feels a bit pretentious. I felt as though the author expected me to know all of these author's novels and that I was missing out on something if I didn't. Mori's love of reading certainly translated and while it was great to have people in the novel bonding over books, it felt like most of the book talked about other books.
One of the most disappointing aspects of this novel was the lack of anything happening. The accident that causes the whole book to occur is only hinted at, her mother's motivation for doing any dark magic isn't described in any detail at all. Even the ending (view spoiler)[as Mori is confronted by her mother (hide spoiler)] is a few paragraphs and doesn't solve any questions about the events past, the magic or the fairies. It was actually pretty anti-climatic. In fact, Mori doesn't describe what happened with her mother well enough to know if it's Mori who is crazy or her mother. Magic is such sub-text in this novel and Mori is the only opinion that the reader has as they navigate through the book.
The few times that Mori does do magic are quite interesting. Her conversations with the fairies are interesting. Her interactions with her dead sister are interesting. Unfortunately, all these things are few and far between. This book didn't quite live up to my expectations of it. I think I was expecting just a little more magic from it.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
In the year, 2044 the Earth has been left a heap of destruction. Resources are tapped out, cities are in ruins and abandoned, the public is poor and n...moreIn the year, 2044 the Earth has been left a heap of destruction. Resources are tapped out, cities are in ruins and abandoned, the public is poor and no one really cares. Or notices even. Because in this wasteland is a saving grace that everyone shares. That salvation is called the OASIS. Build by eccentric programmer James Halliday, the OASIS is a virtual internet in which everything is possible. People live, work, play and dream inside the OASIS. It has taken over real life, because frankly, the OASIS is better than real life. Upon Halliday's death, having no heirs to continue his legacy, his will stipulates the most fantastic game ever played. If a user can discover the Easter Egg hidden within the OASIS, they will inherit Halliday's fortune, and the keys to the OASIS itself. However, a user must first decipher the clues that Halliday has left behind: three keys will open three gates to discover the treasure. And another thing, Halliday himself was obsessed with the 80's, the years in which he grew up as a teenager. "Ready Player One" follows Wade Watts the first user to crack the first clue and thereby winning himself a place in history. As Wade navigates the OASIS attempting to stay one step ahead of his fellow Egg Hunters (or "gunters" as they are called), he must take steps in the real world to protect himself from the ever increasing danger the hunt has become.
This book was fun. After "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" this novel was a welcome light-hearted leap in the other direction. And more my style in terms of genre as well. In "Ready Player One" we are told how much the world how sucks based on our current method of over-taxing the Earth to the point of harm. The descriptions of what is left of our home planet are not positive. It's always cold, there are no more trees, you are likely to get attacked and killed while walking down the street. But this is not the focus of the novel. Instead we are cast into a loving representation of a fantasy world peppered with 80's nostalgia. Much of this novel focuses on 80's trivia, from movies and tv shows, video games, commercials, you name it. It is clear that Cline has a love of the minutia of this culture that he grew up in and made it a playable world in which this novel exists. While it certainly helps to be in on all the jokes when it comes to 80's culture, references that might go over your head are gently explained to those who might not get them all. And there are a lot of them. Occasionally it feels as though Cline is merely listing a bunch of his favorite stuff through Wade, though it can be justified based on the fact that Wade would actually remember chunks of trivia this way.
Wade is a fairly young kid, only age 18, and he still attends high school (in the OASIS) and is unable to travel anywhere else inside the OASIS because he is also completely broke. As the novel progresses, it becomes difficult to remember how young he and his companions actually are. I found myself forgetting he is basically still a kid, even though his journey takes him outside of the OASIS for periods of time and his intelligence, though good for extremely trivial 80's pop culture, is put into play. Wade thinks of everything. All the time. Nothing escapes this kid, to the point of bordering on deux ex machina. Several times Wade is "saved" by his sudden before-undocumented foresight to get himself out of a jam. Cline seems to have neglected this aspect of proof-reading and just made a judgement call based on what he wanted to happen. (view spoiler)[ The exception to this is the quarter Wade wins by defeating the high score on the arcade version of Pac-Man. Here Cline sets up a boon and makes good on his story-telling. (hide spoiler)]
Though being a gunter is solitary work, Wade's friends, Art3mis, Aech, Shoto and Daito are well constructed and personable. Like our current internet, users are able to navigate the OASIS with avatars they create and control. The difference is that using a visor and gloves, users are able to virtually interact with the OASIS software and become those avatars physically. Based on avatars in our own world, you can imagine the types of characters that people invent as their OASIS placeholders. Most of them are ridicules (just like our own internet), and Cline nails this right on the head. Others are more realistic and when it comes to Wade's friends, even likeable. Wade (known as Parzival in the OASIS), often needs his friend's help and support. His childish need to humiliate other players, especially when it comes to the Big Bad overseeing corporation, IOI, is often tempered by his friends coming to the rescue. Wade acts as many other people do online, their mouths are bigger and bolder when threatened online than they would be in reality.
"Ready Player One" was an awesome read and lots of fun to boot. Growing up in the 80's, I could relate to a lot of the subject matter that Cline pulls from obscurity. Though most of the book is focused on the search for Halliday's Easter Egg, there is a light touch of deeper subject matter concerning our loss of personal interaction with one another and the destruction of our world as we sacrifice the Earth for progress. Wade is likeable but appropriately flawed, he sees little value in human contact or humanity in general. His relationship with Art3mis gives him something to strive for, a personal growth of seeing humanity as something to save.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)