I gave in and read the “Twilight Saga”

I was trying to avoid this.  Really, I was.  I am usually a big supporter of self published and small press authors.  I try to avoid anything on the best sellers list.  But discovering new genres over the past few years has brought me to this point, namely romance and paranormal romance.

Also due to a very profound “vampire aversion” developed in high school, I have ardently tried to avoid anything vampire in order to prevent flashbacks.  But after reading zombies, werewolves and witchcraft books, starting to read vampire books was inevitable.

Actually, a self published author of zombie books asked me to read her vampire series.  So I blame her completely.

I was able to download the entire “Twilight Saga” via my local library.  I read it all in four days.  I think that’s over 2000 pages.  It helps that I’ve been in bed most of the time due to my health.

I wasn’t in high school when this entire phenomenon went down about 10 years ago.  I vaguely knew about the movies, the books etc just from not living under a rock.  But I had never seen the movies.

I was very surprised that these were good books.  And I don’t know why.

Sometimes I read these paranormal romance books and they are just awful.  I usually don’t blog about those ones.  They are sappy, way too superficial, and cliche.  So it was very refreshing to read these books and realize that there are much, much deeper themes than a vampire love story.

Aside from the romance, there is the issue of female self confidence, a hint of “race relations” and the undercurrent of the definition of family.

The writing is fantastic.  Absolutely fantastic.  When a writer can move me to tears, I am greatly impressed.  Last night I was finishing “Breaking Dawn”, and the entire thing with Renesemee and the final climax of the book had me sobbing.  I actually went to hold my daughter for a bit while she was sleeping. Stephanie Meyers struck the motherhood chord and describes it so completely, I was speechless.

I do see the other themes, i.e. the “no sex before marriage”, but I really don’t see the abortion debate.  I see it more as a pro-choice debate than anything else.  Even though her baby could (and did) kill her, Bella couldn’t stand the thought of destroying anything that she and Edward created.  Even though I created a baby with a man who didn’t love me (I thought he did at the time), I can’t ever imagine not having my daughter.  She is my entire world.  If you are interested reading more about her, check out my other blog .

I am also impressed with the depth of the characters.  You absolutely KNOW these characters, inside and out.  Their motivations, their desires, their points of view.  Even the secondary characters are brilliantly fleshed out and made real. Many of the paranormal romance books do not go to these levels of description.

And I can see how these books greatly influenced the entire genre of paranormal romance (and now erotic romance) after they were published.  Throughout the book, I found elements that following books “borrowed”.  I can’t count how many werewolf and vampire books have used very similar elements.  Except for the sparkles.

I knew that “Fifty Shades of Grey” was originally a fan fiction based on “Twilight”.  I was intrigued to see how an all powerful, strikingly beautiful man with a BDSM fetish could possibly be inspired by a teenage vampire story.  But it’s all there.  Just in different contexts.  The big difference being that it is completely X rated.

So now on to the movies.  And while I’m on a “very successful books turned into movies” kick, I may read Harry Potter.

Don’t judge me 🙂

 

 

Book Review: Hers to Choose and His to Lose by Lizzie Ashworth

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** This is a review of extremely x rated books**

Nothing like a disclaimer at the beginning of a book to pique my interest.

I have absolutely no qualms with reading extremely x rated stuff.  Most of it is curiosity.  But sometimes I am really surprised at how well written one of these novels can be.

That is the case with these two books, Hers to Choose and His to Lose by Lizzie Ashworth.  I received a copy of each in return for a review.

Here is the synopsis of Hers to Choose:

Bryn McClure is running out of time. With foreclosure in the last stages, she’s about to lose the beloved twelve-hundred acre Ozark farm she inherited from her grandparents. Her desperate last hope is to sell hunting rights for deer season.

Alex Cannon is running out of options. After a humiliating discovery about his wife, Alex’s cousin and property development business partner Dan has spiraled into a life-threatening depression. Alex hatches a brilliant idea of what might help Dan, and on advice from an old friend, contacts Bryn. A hunting trip might be the perfect route to a new outlook for Dan, especially with the extra touch Alex wants from Bryn.

When Bryn agrees to Alex’s special request, she’s thrilled not only with the promise of badly needed income, but also with the prospect of bondage and discipline. Her appetite for kink has sharpened during her lonely year of rural living. It seemed like such a good idea when she agreed to it.

But standing on her porch watching these two gorgeous men climb out of their truck and walk toward her, she thinks maybe she hadn’t fully appreciated how complicated things could become. Alex stuns her with his warmth and charm, but the cold and angry Dan is the one she’s supposed to submit to. By the second day, when the first spanking sparks her passions, she realizes she may be in for a wild ride.

For adult readers only. Contains explicit language and intense sexual activity including BDSM, anal, and m/f/m interactions.

This goes far beyond what was discussed in “Fifty Shades of Grey”, and I think that is what made it so much better.  It is a peek into the lifestyle without looking through the virginal eyes of Anastasia Steele.

Bryn had a previous BDSM relationship, she knows what to expect, and she actually likes it and craves it.  Not because she is a twisted individual, not because she is trying to please someone, but because this is actually her sexual preference.

One thing I have learned through reading books like this, and especially as a nurse, is that sexual behavior varies along a pretty wide spectrum.  BDSM is just one of stops on the spectrum.

The book also discusses the “why” behind the preference.  That is something you really don’t get in Fifty, outside of Christian Grey’s outward explanations of his desires to Anastasia.

BDSM is not deviant or dangerous when practiced safely between two consenting adults.  And this book shows that.

The author even goes as far as illustrating how this type of activity can be very dangerous when it is unwanted and practiced by the uninitiated.

Even without all the kink, this book would be seriously hot.  The author is adeptly skilled at creating sexual tension throughout the story.  In most books that are somewhat similar, it is just graphic sex scenes broke up by a few bits of non-sexual story.  Fifty is somewhat like that.

Not so with this book.  Several times where I thought I knew where the action was headed, I was pleasantly (sometimes annoyingly) surprised that the interaction didn’t end up with wild sex.

The only complaint I have is with some of the language used in descriptions of sexual acts.  The word “squishy” comes to mind.  I understand that there are only so many ways to describe a certain activity, but for some reason, that really stood out.

The synopsis of His to Lose:

Dan Cannon confronts the worst experience of his life when he discovers money, and lots of it, is missing from company accounts. He’s a little heartbroken over the loss of Bryn in the intimate threesome he and his cousin Alex shared with her, even though he’s happy the couple is ready to start a family. He blames himself for being distracted so much that Cannon Company has suffered. When he hires CPA Riley Montgomery to track down the money, the last thing he expects is to find himself completely distracted by the woman. 

Riley can’t afford to venture off into unethical dalliance with a client, even if the client is the devastatingly handsome Dan Cannon. She tries to stay focused on the pact she’s made with her old friend and current lover Lucy Duncan, after failed marriages caused both women to swear off men. But Lucy decides Dan is too good to pass up, especially after he makes good on his threat to spank her. 

Things go from bad to worse when Riley uncovers a money trail pointing to Cannon Company’s long-time employee and Lucy realizes that the sparks flying between Dan and Riley scream for friendly intervention. With her role in the investigation ended and her attraction to Dan testing her limits, Riley becomes mystified about his lack of follow-up and decides to take bold action.

Again, very graphic, but a good story as well.

It is less a BDSM primer than Hers to Choose and more of a story about two people who have been seriously hurt in the past and are reluctant to risk their hearts again.

Again, the sexual tension is palpable.  Just through the descriptions of looks, gestures and words, the author is able to convey the highly charged atmosphere.

I appreciated the turn of the tables later on in the book.  Things go both ways, apparently, and that isn’t readily conveyed in Fifty.

And as before, the book would be scorching without the kinky shenanigans.  The BDSM is more of a subplot than the focus.

With both of these books, if you are squeamish at all about human sexual behavior, do not pick it up.

If you are at all offended by sexual practices that are out of the conventional “norm” do not pick it up.

But if you are curious and like hot sex scenes, then give it a try.

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Favs for 2012

As of right now, I have read 125 books this year.  All kinds of books, across all genres.  Mainly ebooks.  Due to my financial situation during the last half of the year, most of the books were free via the kindle lending library or on smashwords.  I also review books posted on bookbloggers.net.

This year I started branching out of my usual reading patterns and started reading more horror, romance and erotica.  Thanks to the phenomenon of “Fifty Shades of Grey”, apparently most women have started on the “mommy porn” craze.  You can read my ideas on “Fifty” here and here.

And zombies!! I started watching “The Walking Dead” after the first season, yet I didn’t start reading zombie books until this year.  And now I’m hooked.

Here is a list of my favs (that I read) this year, in no particular order:

Crossfire trilogy by Sylvia Day– I love this romance/erotic series much more than “Fifty”, I outlined my reasons above.  I just feel that it is more realistic, better written, and takes in to account that 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted in some way during their lifetime.  This in mind, some of the BDSM presented in “Fifty” are huge triggers for survivors.  Can’t wait for the next book in May 2013.

Future Perfect by Tony Bayliss– My fav religous/political statement book.  Very intense and thought provoking. For another amazing read, try Past Continuous as well.

There Goes the Galaxy by Jen Thorson – Fun, hilarious, an epic journey through space.  Absolutely loved it.

Double Cross:  The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre – I am a huge fan of these books.  Yes, spy books are fun, but these are TRUE spy books outlining the missions and lives of real spies who helped to save the world.

Automaton by Cheryl Davies – futuristic sci-fi with a romantic twist.

Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins – what more can be said?

Faking It by Elisa Lorello – my first foray into a different kind of chik lit.

War Brides by Helen Bryan – I love historical fiction, this book was very emotional and provided a different perspective on WWII.

And I can’t pick a favorite zombie book…I loved all of the ones I read, check through my reviews.  I love the Zombie Bible series by Stant Litore, I finally read World War Z by Max Brooks and the Zombie Orgins Series by Kristen Middleton is funny and thrilling.

Any suggestions for 2013?  Any new genres I should explore?  What are your favs for this past year?

Better than Fifty Shades of Grey

** This post is at least R-rated and discussed adult subjects such as sex and sexual abuse.  It also contains spoilers for Fifty Shades of Grey and the Crossfire Series (Bared to You and Reflected in You).  Reader discretion advised.**

I didn’t review Bared to You/Reflected in You by Sylvia Day   (Crossfire series) because apparently many people already have.

I have written in other posts that Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James (and the subsequent books) were recommended to me by a friend.  I finally read it after libraries and bookstores in the South started banning it.  Nothing like a good, old-fashioned book ban to get my attention :).

I do have my complaints about the series, namely the BDSM, and also with the poor writing.  But overall I enjoyed the intense love story.

My main complaint with the BDSM is because I am a survivor of sexual abuse.  I had to skip over big sections of Fifty because it really got to me.  There are small elements of BDSM in Crossfire series, but they just discuss it (i.e. who is dominate, who is submissive) and there is nothing like the “red room of pain” as in Fifty.

The same friend who recommended Fifty sent me her physical copies of Bared to You and Reflected in You by Sylvia Day.  This friend doesn’t know my past. See my post on books I avoid.

In my opinion, this series is much better than Fifty.

Almost same premise, but much stronger characters.  Extremely well written.  More believable.  And it is entirely accurate in regards to survivors of sexual abuse.

Eva is a much stronger character than Ana.  She accepts what has happened to her.  She has moved on, she has bettered herself, she has taken on the responsibility of other people (her mother, and Cary).  She knows her triggers, she knows her boundaries, she knows when a situation isn’t good for her.  She has goals, she has determination to reach those goals. She is sexually aware.  She knows what she wants sexually and how to get it.  She is uninhibited.  She has dealt with her past and how it affects her sexual relationships.  Although she still has some nightmares and occasional issues, she knows how to deal with it.  My kind of girl.

Ana, on the other hand, is naive.  She is the same age as Eva, but she’s a virgin (not that its a bad thing, but if you are going to take on Christian Grey, you really shouldn’t be a virgin).  She really hasn’t had the life experience that Eva has had.  She has goals and is working to achieve them, but I’m not sure how she would have reacted to walking in on a friend’s orgy.

In the Crossfire trilogy, both partners are deeply “fucked up”.  Eva even asks their therapist if a couple such as she and Gideon can even survive, given what they have been through.  Both Eva and Gideon have to deal with each others baggage/issues/jealousy/rage.  In Fifty, Christian is the “fifty shades of fucked up” one, and Ana can’t comprehend, and goes along with his need to punish “little dark haired girls”.

But at least with Eva and Gideon, they can understand each other.  They understand the nightmares, the flashbacks, the self-esteem issues.  They understand the triggers, the fear, the anxiety. They can turn to each other, if they can first get over the jealousy.

In both series, there is the undeniable attraction and passion that each couple has for each other.  I don’t know if I’m a romantic or crazy or what, but I do believe in the “soulmates” thing, the “one person out there just for me” thing.  I’m certain I have that in my marriage (and this is my second marriage), and I know I didn’t have that before with any other relationship.  So when I read these books, I can relate to the “electricity” and the intense attraction that is described. And the incredible, mind-blowing sex.

And I can’t ignore the sex that is dripping of the pages of these books.  The sexual situations in the Crossfire series are plentiful.  If I were Eva, I’m not sure I could walk.  And I’m not sure that solving arguments with sex is a good idea.  But I do understand Gideon’s need to feel love through sex.  I think that’s a male thing.  Nothing in the Crossfire series made me uncomfortable.  I didn’t have to skip pages or passages.  Very well written.

The atypical parasomnia scares me.  It does exist.  Just ask any wife (or husband) of someone with PTSD.  Sleep is still a mystery to the medical field.  It is not surprising that Gideon would act out his revenge in his sleep.

Both series have an element of danger to them.  With Fifty its a former boss of Ana who was sexually harassing her.  With Crossfire its the former stepbrother and abuser of Eva.  I found Crossfire more believable in how it was presented and resolved.  In Fifty, I liked how Ana was the heroine, however.

Both series had me captivated.  I do feel that Crossfire is the stronger series, however, in terms of character development, writing, and plot.  But as Sylvia Day points out in her acknowledgements, E.L. James was the one who first made erotic romance novels mainstream.

I do thank Sylvia Day for writing about sexual abuse of both females and males.  This was the first book I have read that dealt with survivors and what they go through.  I truly identified with Eva’s past (the late teen years) as well as her self talk, both positive and negative.  I appreciate the way Sylvia Day highlighted how men are also subjected to sexual abuse, and the different ways they cope:  Cary by self-sabotage, Gideon through dreams and control.

I can’t wait for the third installment of the Crossfire series, set to be released in May.

 

 

Books, books and more books!!

The Eclectic Bookworm has her hands full!!

I am usually a speed reader, but a combination of events has conspired against me, and I now have a backlog of books that I want to write about.

I am currently reading Past Continuous by Tony Bayliss.  I recently reviewed his book Future Perfect and it was incredible.  This one is shaping up to be just as good.

I was recently send Adulation by Elisa Lorello, and as I have loved her other works, and have reviewed them on amazon.com (but not on this site), I am anticipating more magic.  Her books are usually chick lit, very character driven with some romance.

This morning I was sent Shiver by Kristen Middleton.  It is the sequel to Blur which I reviewed here.  This series is about vampires.  I hate vampires, but I absolutely love her work  and she has hooked me.  I’m also anxiously awaiting her latest installment of Zombie Games.  You can read the review here

Thank you!!

And last, but not least, a friend from high school was kind enough to physically mail me her copy of two books that she thinks I will enjoy.  She is the one that started me on the whole romance/erotic genre and recommended Fifty Shades of Gray.  She feels that I will like Bared To You and Reflected in You by Sylvia Day just as much as I loved Fifty.  You can read my take on the whole phenomenon of bodice rippers here.

So I will be deep in the world of plasma picochips, interpersonal relationships, vampires and erotica for the next few weeks.

Happy reading!!

Books I avoid like the plague

I know I said “I read all”.  And that is mostly true.  But I have found some books that I just cannot read due to issues in my personal life.  I will occasionally violate “Da Rules” for books that have been highly recommended by friends, or after I have read a ton of reviews and can satisfy myself that the component I have issue with is minimized and absolutely crucial to the plot.

In time, maybe some of these rules will relax, and I can read some of these books, but right now this is where it stands:

  1. Avoid war books about Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.  I know people who have fought in these engagements and had horrible PTSD as a result.  I have tried reading books on these wars, and I could not get the image of these people out of my mind, and how they dealt with the horrors that they witnessed.  Especially Vietnam.  My dad, on the other hand, has more of these books in his collection than I do WWII in mine.  I do have a grandfather who fought in WWII, but he did not see any action.  My grandfather who was in Korea and Vietnam was wounded and still had nightmares until his recent death.  He was a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient.  He never spoke of his time in Vietnam, and I’m not sure if I wanted to hear it.  I never want to think of what he had to endure or witness, so I avoid it.  Maybe after more time has elapsed.  Iraq/Afghanistan– close friends of mine were in the initial invasion, at Fallujah and came back different people.  Its my generation fighting this war of dubious necessity, and it pains me to think of an entire generation dealing with PTSD and traumatic brain injury.
  2. Death of children and disappearance of children. This rule wasn’t entirely intact until after my child was born.  I have heard from others that they were the same way as well, and apparently it crosses over to movies/tv too. I guess reading or watching anything happening to children makes you think of it happening to your own.  So I try to avoid it.  See Books that haunt me.
  3. Violence against women/sexual assault.  I’m a survivor.  I try to avoid any books that have any of these elements as a central theme.  Too many issues for me.  I made an exception for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “The Lovely Bones” because I was hearing so many people talking about them.  “Fifty Shades of Grey” also bordered on this with the BDSM, but I was able to either page forward and skip the details or skim with the knowledge that the participants were two consenting adults participating of their own free will.  This does eliminate most murder mysteries and serial killer books.  But that is just how it is right now and it might change in the future.
  4. I don’t do vampires.  I have read the occasional short novel (The Vampire Club by Scott Nicholson), but I don’t like vampire movies, TV shows etc.  Something about using  looks and charm to lure someone into a trusting relationship and then sucking their blood just freaks me out.  So, no, I did not read Twilight or see the movies.  Nor do I plan on doing so.  And unless it seems really compelling or I receive an iron clad recommendation from a friend that knows me well, I don’t plan on taking this rule off of my list in the near future.

Romance novels used to be on this list, but since I read “Fifty” I have read many others.  I thought they were lacking literary value and actually kind of cheesy.  Granted, they won’t win a Pulitzer, but I enjoy reading about relationships and happy endings.  See my post on romance novels.

What’s up next?  My dad has been reading about WWI, and I would like to read some about that war.  I would like to read some more memoirs (I’ll be posting about the ones I have read shortly).  And zombies.  Lots of zombies.

I usually don’t even look at the best-sellers lists at all, because I usually don’t have a budget for books. The next two books I might actually pay for are “Mercury Rests” by Rob Kroese and “Strangers in the Land — The Zombie Bible” by Stant Litore.  I have been patiently waiting for these books, but they have been released at a time when I have absolutely zero funds in my book budget.

I have so many books stored in my Kindle for these dry spells, I know I can wait it out until I can get what I want.  I love the fact that I can do that.  Yay Kindle!!

 

Bodice rippers

I have to thank a friend from high school for starting me down this sordid path.  She is another woman that is hooked on books and frequently posts on fb what she is reading.  She was posting the virtues of “Fifty Shades of Grey” and I asked her about it.  I have never, ever read any book that could even be considered in the romance or chick-lit genre before.  But I kept on hearing about this “Fifty” book.  When I heard that libraries in the deep south were banning it I had to see what all the fuss was about.  And with my friend’s glowing recommendation I bought all three books at once.

Yes, at times it is poorly written.  And completely unrealistic.  And I did have to skip some of the BDSM parts because I’m just not into that.  But the overall story was highly entertaining.  I really liked the story between the main characters.

And then I started reading more books from the “romance” section on the smiley box website.  They are usually quick reads, usually for free and usually predictable. They have some things in common:

  • For some reason there is a run on brunettes.  Brunettes with blue eyes and “translucent skin” or “ivory skin”.  They are always “perfectly proportioned with their hair “cascading down their shoulders sometimes to “encircle their breasts”. Women with dark hair seem to be 3:1 over blondies, at least in my reading, but rarely do they have the brown eyes to go with the dark hair.  That’s some kind of genetics.
  • All of the women have self esteem issues.  They can’t possibly fathom why anyone would want to be romantically involved with them!! I have seen this theme over and over again.  I usually just ignore it.
  • Neither character is actually “looking” for a relationship.  Both have been unlucky in love, or usually in the case of the men, they like playing the field and can’t possibly fathom settling down.  Typical.
  • In half of them, the characters have a love-hate relationship or are at odds in some way.  Then they are brought together by circumstances and fireworks go off and they realize they are attracted to each other.  Right.
  • For some reason these days, a majority of the men are filthy rich.  Filthy, stinking, rolling in money, rich.  I have seen this across the genres of the romance world:
  1. So fresh and so clean – this type of romance novel is a pure as driven snow.  And so are the characters.  In their inner monologue, the reader is supposed to believe that both male and female characters do not let sex enter their mind at all.  Sure, you may get an appreciation of the physical form, something like “muscular arms” or “shapely legs” but nothing noting breasts or bulges.  The characters get as far as first base, or maybe share a night due to circumstances (but they only SLEEP together, usually in separate rooms, and only because one of them was sick or injured…right.)  Even by the end of the book they haven’t slept together, or if they have there is no details, only a sentence or two about them being mutually satisfied. Sigh.
  2. Naughty by Nature – This one definitely gives you the details.  This one is my favorite.  It’s not overly crude, and provides just the right information for the reader (or at least me) to enjoy.  There is a decent story, the relationship with the characters is usually developed and the physical attraction and subsequent sex between them seems realistic and natural.  I have noticed that sometimes there is an element of danger present in these ones, the male character is a cop, the woman is in the witness protection program or is being stalked etc.  Descriptions of physical sex acts is not shocking and is almost tender.  And of course, they always stay together at the end of the book.
  3. DO NOT READ IN PUBLIC –   I found out that anything with “erotic” can be placed in this category.  The sole purpose of these books is to provide material for when the husband is out of town.  They are usually short and provide a flimsy story in between shocking sex acts.  Not that I completely dislike them, but they are just not for me.  And the ones written in the U.K. are especially graphic.  The “storyline” is usually completely unrealistic, I read one where a woman was providing sex acts to her boss in exchange for him not pressing charges of embezzlement.  This is where the BDSM crowd finds their kicks.  I realize that everyone is different with what turns them on, this one just isn’t for me.  I even found one so appalling that I had to stop in the middle because it made me physically ill.

Recently I have come across some more atypical romance novels.  “Faking It” by Elisa Lorello is one of those atypical ones.  The main character, Andi, is a thirtysomething starting over after a broken engagement.  She meets a male escort at a party and is fascinated by him and his lifestyle.  She impulsively calls him and offers him writing lessons in return for lessons on how to be a better lover.  But it isn’t what you think.  This book goes deep to the core of womanhood, how we see ourselves and how we behave in relationships.  Excellent read.

“Pulled” by Danielle Bannister is another atypical one.  The two main characters are extremely different.  Different cultures, life experiences.  But they feel literally “pulled” to one another when they attend the same college.  They find out some similarities in their background as they get to know each other, including one crucial detail.  This book was a tearjerker.

So why do I read romance novels?  Not for their stellar, thought provoking writing.  Occasionally I roll my eyes at the stereotypical way women are presented.  I read them because I am in love with my husband.  They are feel good stories, most of the time, that touch on the emotions I feel for him.  And its a change from zombies, the apocalypse, WWII and all of the other things I read most of the time.  Its refreshing to have a rotation: Hitler, the undead, silly love story, Gettysburg.

Now back to the romance novel that involves James (Bond) Donovan…right…

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