Monday, April 30, 2012

Review: Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James

fify-shades-of-grey-review_320Author: EL James
Genre: Romance, Erotica, BDSM
Format: Kindle (also available in paperback)
Published: Vintage
Publisher: 3 April 2012
Series: Yes
Price: $9.99 (Kindle price)

Synopsis: {via Amazon}

When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.

Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.

Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.

Let me tell you, I'm really struggling with this one. By the end of a book, I normally know exactly how I feel about it. With this book, I have no idea where to even begin, there are so many things I could say. So, I'm going to try to stick to my usual format (Characters, Plot, Verdict) and see where that gets me--and if I can't quite make it, forgive me, this may be wordy! I know this book is pretty controversial, people seem to either love it or hate it, and everyone has their reasons--it has ~1,100 5 star reviews & ~600 1 star reviews on Amazon as of right now. But, I bought it before I realized it was self-published and I started it before I knew that the author is a notable Twilight fan-fiction author. I went into this with zero preconceptions, except for the fact that everyone was talking about it and, since I enjoy Romance/Erotica I figured I'd like it. Any book so divisive was something I just had to read.

The Characters:

Anastasia Steele is a really interesting young woman and I liked her almost immediately.  She's "every-girl" and, in a way, is all of us. She's young and smart, but doesn't think much of her looks or her worth. She's really very sympathetic, but she's also a little bit Bella, at least at first. She has some of the same characteristics as Twilight's Bella, which are, incidentally, the only things about her I didn't like. Let's just say Bella isn't my cup of tea, she's fairly weak, and some of her weaknesses show up in Anastasia which I suppose is to be expected of an author famous for writing fan-fiction. For example, Anastasia and Bella both live in Washington State, they're both ungraceful and downright clumsy,and both of them are enthralled/in-love with men who they feel they're unworthy of. Fortunately, Anastasia redeems herself by doing things and making decisions Bella would never make, which make her much stronger than Bella.

Christian Grey is going on my "Leading Man" page; I absolutely adore him. I tend to be attracted to the darker characters, the ones who're most messed up, and he fits the bill. He's absolutely stunning, even though there are moments when Anastasia is admiring him that make me think "oh brother!" and roll my eyes (something he, incidentally, hates!).  He's got major issues, which render him much m ore believable and sympathetic than he might otherwise have been. Like, he's a major control freak. You don't wonder, the way you do with Edward & Bella, why he's interested in Anastasia. It's clear what he's looking for, it's clear he thinks she's it, but there are still some very Edward/Bella like moments. For instance, he tries to warn her off, which is something Edward also does. Overall, however, Christian is much deeper and more complex, which I love about him.

The other characters are all really on the periphery to the main story. Kate, Jose, Elliot, Ray, Carla, they're all sort of there as props and ways for the story to work, but aren't so much important. I do like them all, and they're all fairly unique and different, distinguishable from one another, which is a good thing.

The Plot:

The plot is fairly straightforward, but by the end of the book you certainly have a sense that this story is not anywhere near being done. There's still much to say and do for and about these characters, so the end of the book was grossly unsatisfying for me. Still, even though it's BDSM erotica, it's still the same "boy-meets-girl, boy-and-girl-have-issues" type scenario, but there's really no happy ending here, not yet, at least. There's no "boy-and-girl-live-happily-ever-after" in this story and if you're expecting it, like I was, you'll be disappointed, too. I must say, though, the pacing of the plot was perfect... beyond perfect, really. The way their relationship progresses is pretty fast, but is natural to the type of situation the author was setting up. It works, it's whirlwind, but it works. What I didn't care for about the plot was the seemingly innocuous situations she puts the characters into now and then, and while most of them pan out into something useful for the story, they're still not really all that interesting.


Before I move on to The Verdict portion of this review, I'd like to take a few minutes to talk about some of my issues with this book. Foremost, the price is ridiculous for a self-published book. Further, the fact that the Kindle version is more expensive than the paperback sort of ticked me off. I've never paid more than  $7.00 for a kindle book, and I have never, ever, bought a kindle book that was more expensive than the paperback. I know a lot goes into formatting a kindle book, but it's almost free to publish, there's no paper, no ink, no binding, nothing that should lead this book to be more than $10 after tax.  I did like, no love, the cover and I think it's so appropriate to the story and so well done that it mislead me. I never even bothered to see if it was self-published, which is a good thing for the author.

My other problems are with the books mechanics. It needed a little closer editing and the writing was, at first, really stiff. The narration and dialogue were difficult to get through at first, but rest assured they actually do get better. There are still some cringe worthy moments, when the author uses too many rather big, and frankly unnatural, words--something she makes fun of herself for in the book, really--and the excessive uses of the words "baby," "inner goddess" and "subconscious." I mean really, her references to Anastasia's inner goddess are so frequent I started to be annoyed by them.

The Verdict

Rating: 4/5
The one thing I know about this book, beyond my struggle to decide how I feel about it, is that I could absolutely not put it down. While I should have been writing my last thesis chapter, I was reading this book. While I should have been in bed asleep at 2am because I had to be up for work at 7:30am, I was reading this book. I could not put this book down and had I had the next two books in the trilogy I wouldn't have gone to bed at all. I'd have been up, all night, reading. I'd still be reading, rather than writing this review and waiting not-so-patiently to get paid tomorrow so I can get books 2 & 3.  So even though it had issues, and I'm still upset about the cost, I have to give this book a good rating. I can't not, because now that I've thought about it and written about it, I think I really, really, liked it.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Review: Entangled & Entwined by Colette Gale

Entwined Author: Colette Gale {site}
Genre: Erotica, Classic Retold, Romance
Format: Kindle
Published: 23 January 2012 & 8 April 2012
Publisher: Avid Press
Series: Yes {serialized fiction}
Price: $0.99 & $2.99

Synopsis: {via GoodReads}

When not-as-proper-as-one-would-think Victorian woman Jane Clemons convinces her father to take her on an expedition in the jungle, her only goal is to find her lover Jonathan, who disappeared three years earlier. She and her father, along with Jonathan’s trusted friend Kellan Darkdale, set off on their journey. But shortly after their party arrives on the coast of Madagascar, Jane finds herself enthralled not only by the freedom and beauty of the lush jungle, but a reclusive wild man who seems to be fascinated by her. ENTWINED is a novella (about 80 pages). It’s the first in a series that will follow Jane Clemons and her explicit, erotic adventures in the jungle.

The erotic adventures of Miss Jane Clemons in the jungle of Madagascar continue in this second installment.

For mature, over-18 readers only.

I've been a fan of Colette Gale since reading Bound By Honor, An Erotic Tale of Maid Marian, in 2010. As a fan of classical romance, and the classical tales, these erotic re-tellings are right up my alley and I've enjoyed every book she's written! This, I admit, is no exception. The most awesome thing about them is that both Entwined and Entangled are really quick reads. That's a huge thing for me right now because as I race to finish up my master's thesis I have almost no time to put aside for casual reading--I think it may have taken me two hours to read both of them. Awesome!

The Characters:

As an erotic re-telling of an older story, the characters are all a very familiar part of our collective culture. We all know the story of Tarzan & Jane, so the characters are cozy from the start. Jane Clemons, the main character, is bright, young, and vibrant. She's fun and much more sexually liberated than most Victorian woman. What I liked about her is that although she has a very clear understanding that some of the things she's doing are culturally unacceptable for a good English girl, she doesn't much care.

Tarzan, on the other hand, is both Tarzan and isn't.  He's the perfect (sexy) Tarzan archetype, but his name is Zaran. She spends most of the book calling him "wild man" and lusting after him, which is quite believable. He's also incredibly sympathetic and there are moments when his mix of intelligence and innocence are very touching.

The other characters are a mix of good and bad. Jane's long-lost fiance, Jonathan, is not a nice guy but Jane can't see that. Meanwhile, his business partner, Kellan Darkdale is troubling and handsome, and while I get the feeling he's supposed to be a sort of bad-guy, I actually like him. I'm attracted to the darker guys, so it works for me, except for the fact that he's a little too sexually aggressive, and not in a good way, but you get the idea that he actually cares about Jane in his sick way, which, again, works for me.  Jane's father and her maid are also alright, but they're the only characters in the whole story I feel are stock archetype characters. They're okay, but not my favorites.

The only character issue I had is actually with Jane's maid, Effie.  In the first book, Effie has a dialect about her speech. In the second book, her dialect is all but gone. The change in her speech is really noticeable when they're read back to back, and while it's a small issue, it was pretty distracting.

The Plot:

So far, the plot is really good, but since this is only two of a serialized series it's hard to say what the future will bring. The frame of the story is pretty simple, but works brilliantly. Jane goes to the jungles of Madigascar with her butterfly hunting father and Kellan Darkdale, where they reside in an old "treehouse" built by, and abandoned, previous occupants. There Jane hopes to find her long-lost-fiance, Jonathan. Overall, I think it took longer to get to the sexy fun in this story than it has in any of her previous novels of this type, but when it does it's worth the wait. There are a few awkward moments, but the plot flows well from one point to the next and is believable.

The Verdict:

Rating: 5/5
I'm really, really looking forward to the next installment. The one thing I don't much like about this series is also the one thing I think is really neat about it: the serialization. Victorian literature was often serialized, so this works in the fashion of literature of the time. However, waiting months between installments is brutal. I want the rest of the story now, but there's no clear idea of how many installments there will be or how long it will take to publish the whole story. All in all, I definitely recommend this story to anyone who enjoys erotica, but it's definitely for audiences 18 and older.