Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fiftly Shades of Grey by E.L. James (2011)

I had to find out what the fuss was about. I knew I didn't want to listen to this in the car, so read this one in print. OK, so it had quite a lot of eroticism in it, way beyond the vanilla type portrayed by the likes of Nora Roberts. The writing wasn't great, but there was also a story, characters with issues, families, friends. Lots of cliche's, but kept me reading.

Anastasia or Ana Steele is forced by her roommate's illness to go interview Christian Grey, a very young successful businessman in Seattle. (I liked the Seattle/Portland references.) She literally stumbles into the interview, but as she is not a journalist nor has she researched the man, she asks the prepared questions, but then follows them up with blunt observations of her own, which intrigues Grey. He is to talk at her college graduation anyway, but he goes out of his way to contact her. The attraction is mutual, though Ana is inexperienced and does not believe this guy is interested. So we are treated to this whirlwind romance in a matter of weeks, but there is definitely a dark side to Mr. Grey, thus the "fifty shades of grey." Ana lightens him up, but it is complicated.

Turns out this book evolved from fan fiction from Twilight, and in the U.K. Amazon, this trilogy has outsold the Harry Potter series. I even saw this translated into Latvian. It has mostly been panned by critics, but is highly popular as female erotica, and seems to have revived the dirty book genre, which was left behind when porn became so available through the Internet. Seems also to be providing material for discussion in the feminism and women's studies ranks.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Red House by Mark Haddon (2012)

Since Haddon's Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time book was so fascinating, and I know I read another of his books, I thought I should read this one too, but was disappointed. It is about a family - two families - Angela and her husband Dominick, children Alex, Daisy and Benji, who go off on holiday with Angela's brother Richard, his second wife Louisa and her daughter Michelle. Angela and Richard haven't spoken much, and this time together gives them the opportunity to reconnect, straighten out some misremembered family history. Each family member is struggling with something in their lives, and this leisurely time in the country (someplace in the UK) gives them time to work on it.

Haddon does have a great skill into getting into the heads of different types of people, but in this case none of them really appealed to me. The kids more than the adults, but even there I found myself not really caring what happens to them. If I had to pick a favorite, it might be Alex, who is a teen focused on sex and does a lot of running to use up his energy and maybe to be in shape. He ends up being the adult taking care of problems quite a few times.

Haddon tells the story from the point of view of all the characters, so you do get to  see inside each of them. His style includes random quotes appropriate to each character, and stream of consciousness words. This was a bit disconcerting when listening to the book, as I did not know with which character these quotes and words were associated. I tried to find a physical copy of the book to see if there were visual clues if you read the book, but neither our library nor the bookstore had it. I looked at his previous book - A Spot of Bother - as that was also written from many viewpoints, but had no visual clues as to which character was being described. I also looked up my blog entry for A Spot of Bother and found that I had a hard time warming up to it, but in the end liked it. This one, not so much.

I knew others would like it, so the review in GoodReads says:" The Red House is a literary tour-de-force that illuminates the puzzle of family in a profoundly empathetic manner."

Monday, October 01, 2012

Innocent by David Baldacci (2012)

Needed a good suspenseful book for the road, so chose poor Baldacci again, and once again, he held my interest and kept me awake.

We have a new tough guy - Will Robie, an assassin sanctioned by some government agency. We see him execute two foreigners that are a danger to U.S. security. (I really hope our government does not do this, though the idea is tempting if you could just take out a few behind the scenes trouble makers, the world might be a better place. But where do you start, and where do you stop? And we have seen some things our government has done in the past, so I think we believe they just might be capable of this.) On his third job Robie balks, as it is a woman and she has a small boy sleeping next to her. When he doesn't shoot them, a sniper does so through the window. (Now that I know the whole story, that seems like overkill.) Well, the plot thickens considerable after that. Seems like a lot of innocent people are getting killed in a pretty sophisticated manner.

My favorite character was Julie, a stree-wise 14 year old, who holds her own with Robie. He keeps wanting to protect her, but she constantly surprises him. There is also super FBI agent Nicole Vance, who Robbie is assigned to help out, and the possible love interest in neighbor Annie Lambert.

I was wondering how all these things would tie together. Baldacci did it, but it did strain credibility a bit more than usual. So the enemy has unlimitted funds, but the logic in keeping Robie and Julie alive was unclear, and the enemy expected Robie to figure out and put together some pretty far fetched facts. Still, a fun ride.

Vixen by Jillian Larkin (2010)

I was going to stop listening to this book on numerous occasions, as it was such a teen view of love and relationships, but I stayed with it as the setting intrigued me, which is why I picked it up in the first place. I had recently read a non-fiction book about the prohibition, so this was fiction in the 1920's with speakeasies, flappers, mobsters, jazz, blues, hidden drinking everywhere. Most of the action took place in Chicago, and I have actually been to the Green Mill in Chicago today. The main characters are all rich society types with parents who are too busy to be involved with their children, who are supposed to lead these debutante lives, but are drawn to the exciting world of the speakeasies.

Gloria is the good girl, engaged to Harvard grad Sebastian, with side kicks Lorraine and Markus. Cousin Clara comes in, supposedly from the farm in Pennsylvania, but actually sent by her parents to get away from a wild year as a flapper in New York City. I could not take the teen-age "Oh, he looked at me, he must love me" nor when the relationships started getting serious, and in some cases mean and vindictive, I could not believe that this was all happening to 17-19 year olds. The story was told by the different characters, and so the story jumped around in time, as one character did not continue the story where the other left off, but jumped back or forward a few hours or days. In one place I was sure the author made a mistake, putting her characters in a situation that only happened quite a bit later, but in an audio book, it is hard to "flip back" to check it out. I liked the setting, that the author did try to tackle race and class issues, but I do not think I will read any more, as I just realized this was just the first in a series "The Flappers."