Bitten (Women of the Otherworld 1), by Kelley Armstrong

4 Stars

bitten

Bitten is definitely paranormal romance, but there’s a lot more action and adventure to the story than is usual for the genre. That’s both the reason for the high rating and the reason I didn’t award that 5th star. The relationship between Clay and Elena is too central to the story not to categorize the title as romance, but also lacks the emphasis of a typical love story, because of the heavy and engaging plot. At times, I couldn’t decide if I wanted more Clay and Elena or if I wanted to hear more about this whole wolf thing.

The plot itself is original and complex, and a truly unique take on werewolf lore, without creating a new supernatural breed. Honestly, though, I think my favorite aspect of Armstrong’s writing is her characterization. None of her characters are truly perfect. Elena is sort of cold and angry. She holds a wicked grudge against Clay, who is pretty unforgivably barbaric at times, his choices differing greatly from the show. The choice between Clay and Phillip isn’t obvious to the reader, because Phillip is never painted as a villain. Once again, the relationship is not the sole focus of the story. Typically, with PNR, we enjoy the tale, but we know how it ends. This isn’t so in Bitten. Characters die. Hearts are broken. Not everyone is forgiven. It’s quite refreshing in the genre, if you’re looking for refreshing. There’s also the joy of the closely based Canadian show, now available on Netflix.

Review Word Count: 250

Women of the Otherworld
1. Bitten
2. Stolen
3. Dime Store Magic
4. Industrial Magic
5. Haunted
6. Broken
7. No Humans Involved
8. Personal Demon
9. Living With the Dead
10. Frostbitten
11. Waking the Witch
12. Spellbound
13. Thirteen

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Animal Farm, by George Orwell

5 Stars

Can I read this to my children as a bedtime story? I mean, how fucked up, exactly, would that be?

animal farm

This book reminded me of the 9th grade assignment I had to write an existing classical novel as a children’s book. Apparently, my photo of a teddy bear in a noose was “inappropriate” for grade school students. Well, excuse me for the sins of Hester Prynne.

I do actually have a bone to pick with my public high school, though. Why the hell was I reading The Great Gatsby, when I could’ve been reading Animal Farm? Maybe it’s a librarian fail, but I feel trading the beauty of language for a Communist fairytale is a pretty sweet deal. I’d much rather write an essay about the lessons learned in Animal Farm. For instance:

Plan A: Educate yourself and seize control as swiftly as possible, by nefarious means, because the other guy ain’t playing nice.
Plan B: Defect and defect quickly. Loyalty is no one’s friend.
Plan C: Confess to a crime punishable by death, because fuck it.

I loved this book. It was brilliant with the intended focus of Communist Russia and it was eerily relatable when read with our current American political parties in mind. I can’t believe I wasn’t required to read this in my AP literature class or my government class. High five American public schools. High five.

I was only half kidding about the bedtime story.

Review Word Count: 239

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

3 Stars

TGG-orig

Every time I reread a book I was forced to read in high school, I have one of two thoughts:

No wonder they made me read this!

…or in the case of The Great Gatsby..

No wonder I looked up the SparkNotes!

This book is beautifully written. The language and imagery practically define modern classic, making it obvious why we were forced to read it in the 11th grade. The portrayal of 1920’s materialism and the self-absorption of the upper class is both believable and insufferable. Jay Gatsby, himself, is a depressingly realistic portrayal of a man in love with an undeserving fantasy, yet unwilling to settle for less. We see him in every time period, the hero tossed aside for the villain, mourned only by the narrator. In this case, that’s Nick Carraway, who proves redemption is possible in the eleventh hour. Then there’s Daisy.

Daisy… well, Daisy was a hopeless cunt. I know. I know. We don’t use the c-word when reviewing classic literature, but it fits every other character, as well. No matter how gorgeously written, I just cannot enjoy reading about a cast of hopeless cunts, even if that is the point. I also wanted to shoot Gatsby myself by his 44th “old sport.” While intentional, the repetitiveness was distracting. Ultimately, I hated this book just as much at 27 as I did at 17. The best ending would’ve been for Gatsby to serve Kool-Aid laced with cyanide at one of his glorious parties. I’d read that fanfiction.

Review Word Count: 249

Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades 1), by E.L. James

1 Star

fifty shades of grey

I first read Fifty Shades in the height of its popularity, because there must be something to this, right? Spoiler alert:

I reread this series to drunkenly mock an illegal download of the movie. Two years later, I found all of my initial complaints valid. First, it’s not difficult to believe this was fanfiction, because it reads like fanfiction. We experience every selfish thought in Ana’s hateful head as we’re walked through each mundane moment of her day. During the first read, I was wondering if I had the wrong title. This wasn’t sexy at all, because nothing was happening. Once James finally got to the sex, it was just… bad…. and not because of whips. J.R. Ward totally pulled that one off and I’m not even into BDSM. It’s bad because it’s intensely repetitive and childishly worded in a super creepy way.

“I … quickly tie my hair in pigtails. …The more girly I look, perhaps the safer I’ll be from Bluebeard.”

Second, it’s not about a consensual kinky relationship or just one with an alpha male, like most paranormal romance. It’s about a woman who’s pressured to submit and share sexual quirks under threat of losing affection. It’s not that Christian spanks Ana. It’s that she cries, because she doesn’t want it. I’m no stranger to erotica, and that’s exactly why this book failed. The characters are assholes. It’s not sexy. Even if you don’t consider the relationship abusive, MY VAGINA FELT LIKE DRAGON SKIN.

Review Word Count: 246

Five Ways You Offend Women by Insulting Fifty Shades of Grey

Series Reading Order
1. Fifty Shades of Grey
2. Fifty Shades Darker
3. Fifty Shades Freed

Alternative Erotica Suggestions
Bared to You, by Sylvia Day
Knight, by Kristen Ashley (she calls him daddy, so there’s that)
Rush, by Maya Banks