Fifty Shades Trilogy

Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed are the books in the trilogy by E. L. James (Erika Mitchell), that has taken the country, and world, by storm. The story of gorgeous billionaire CEO Christian Grey and a virginal college student, Anastasia Steele began as online fan fiction of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. An e-book developed, and by miraculous word of mouth advertising, the e-books broke into printed format.

These books fall into the category of erotic romance. Themes consist of BDSM and the more kinky side of sexual fantasies. However, even though my knowledge of specific terminology improved, I can’t say that these books were a lot worse, (or better, depending on your point of view), than other romance novels. True, there were many more sex scenes, but other than that, the makings of a wonderful story, including great plot elements and very intricate, deep characters were all present.

Christian Grey is a control freak, and by his own admission, “fifty shades of f***ed-up.” He is a business genius, having become an extremely successful and rich businessman at the young age of 27. He has never been in love with a woman before, but enjoys a different type of diversion when it comes to relationships with women. Then Anastasia Steele walks, or literally falls, into his life. Drawn to her, Christian proposes the only type of relationship he knows, and while Anastasia is interested, and has many questions, these parameters do not define their relationship.

At times sweet, heart-wrenching, angering, and of course, hot, I believe these books have found a special place in almost every woman’s bookshelf and heart. I know that these characters will stay with me for a long time, and it’s going to be tough to find the next book that makes me fall head over heels in love with it.

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Her Fearful Symmetry

I’m not much of a fan of horror or scary stories. That being said, I enjoy supernatural and paranormal stories, especially those with deep secrets and mystery. Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger fit the bill, even with a good ghost story thrown in.

Julia and Valentina are identical twins. Well, actually they are mirror twins. Even Valentina’s insides are mirror images, with her heart being on the right side of her body. This causes quite a few medical issues. The girls’ mother, Edie, is also an identical twin. The girls don’t remember ever meeting their Aunt Elspeth, who lives in far away London, and their mother never talks about her.

Elspeth dies of leukemia and leaves her entire estate to Julia and Valentina, with the stipulations that they must live in her flat, overlooking Highgate Cemetery, for at least a year before being allowed to sell it, and that their parents are never to enter the flat or their inheritance is void. Julia is terribly excited, but Valentina has misgivings, much playing the role of “Mouse,” which is Julia’s nickname for her. Based on Edie’s response to this news, as well as other lifelong clues, the girls know that there is some sort of secret and feel compelled to solve the mystery.

In London, they meet their neighbors. It takes a while, but Elspeth’s much younger lover, Robert, finally shows himself. He obviously prefers Valentina, who takes an instant liking to him, which develops into love. Julia befriends Martin, the brilliant and kind man upstairs afflicted with severe OCD. Try as they might, they cannot figure out Edie and Elspeth’s secret. At Elspeth’s request, Robert had removed all her diaries and private papers, but it takes a while to convince himself to read them.

Elspeth always wanted to know the twins, and now they are living in her flat. She is finally able to make her presence known, communicating by tracing letters in the dust that has settled on top of her piano. She is not an overly friendly ghost, nor is she malevolent. She is merely there, and willing to communicate with the twins, and with Robert. But, she is very tight lipped when it comes to the reason she and Edie stayed apart for the past few years of their lives. Although it seems that Elspeth has befriended them, Robert warns Valentina that Elspeth is clever, and not to be trusted.

Valentina desires individuality, a career, a life separate from that of Julia. However, her sister, who is the dominant twin, wants them to always remain together. Feeling trapped and even a bit crazed, Valentina begins to formulate a plan of escape that will end up involving, or affecting, everyone she loves.

I enjoyed this book immensely. It had just the right amount of haunting, sibling rivalry, angst, loyalty and love, mystery, and longing. The reader did have to suspend disbelief a bit, but the writing was so beautiful that was easy to do.

I loved how the title encompassed so many themes of the novel. Valentina was a mirror image, which caused health problems. Edie and Elspeth had a secret symmetry in their own lives. There was also a bit of symmetry in the relationships of some of the characters. And if one pronounces the title in a British accent, “symmetry” sounds much like “cemetery,” which was a central theme and location in the novel as well.

Very well done. I look forward to the author’s future works.

Child of the Mist

So, after finishing The Séance, I needed to find another book to read on the plane. I found Child of the Mist, by Kathleen Morgan, as a free e-book that I downloaded to my Nook. I found it very enjoyable, and a good way to pass the time cramped up on a plane like a sardine.

Set in the 1500s in the Scottish highlands, two rival clans are at war. The feud between the Campbells and the MacGregors has been going on for many years, and no one can even remember exactly how it was started. The might Niall Campbell, next in line for clan chief, gets captured by the MaGregors through the work of a traitor in his clan. The MacGregor’s daughter, Anne, uses her skills in healing to nurse him back to health.

As a way to end the feud, Anne’s father proposes that they unite their two clans through marriage. Niall and Anne handfast, as Niall is still in mourning over his late wife. Anne returns with Niall to his castle, making very few friends and encountering more hostility than she had imagined. Amidst all this, she still manages to see through Niall’s gruff exterior and falls in love with the man inside.

The traitor is still in Niall’s midst and he is suspicious of everyone, including his wife. He must consider the possibility that she is in league with the traitor. Meanwhile, Anne’s reputation as a healer has preceded her, and there are those who would see her burn as a witch. With plots against both Niall and Anne, they each are facing many challenges besides that of a new relationship.

Full of action and budding romance, this book was definitely entertaining. Of course, it was entirely predictable, but still well written and interesting. And unlike other free books I’ve downloaded, this one wasn’t full of errors and strange formatting. Must be the difference between self-publishing (Smashwords, etc) and legitimate publishing…

The Séance

The Séance, by John Harwood, had been recommended to me a few months ago by a friend. I purchased the book, but just hadn’t gotten around to reading it. And as I mentioned in my last review, I’ve been traveling the past week, so after I finished a couple of books on the plane, I knew I would want something good to read on the return trip. Luckily, my friend also has a Nook and The Séance was available for lending! So, after he approved my request, I ended up reading in the evenings, and the book just didn’t last long enough for the return flight!

Set in England in the 1800s, this Victorian thriller had some great spooky elements, including a run-down mansion, an unexpected inheritance, thunder, lightening, and a questioned identity. The story is told through written “testaments” of several characters.

Constance Langton begins attending séances with the hope that maybe her depressed mother will be able to contact Constance’s sister, who died as a baby. However, her plan doesn’t quite work out the way she expects, and she finds herself without a father, (he had previously vacated their home), and without a mother. She goes to live with her mother’s brother, an uncle that she had never known existed.

Quite unexpectedly, Constance is informed that she has inherited Wraxford Hall, a derelict mansion with a sordid history, believed by many to be cursed. John Montague, the lawyer who delivers the news to Constance, advises her to sell the Hall, and “burn it to the ground and plough the earth with salt,” and never to live there. Of course, this only makes Constance more curious, as does the packet of writings also delivered by Mr. Montague, which contains his own testament and that of an Eleanor Unwin.

Eleanor’s testament raises even more questions for Constance. It is not a happy tale. Estranged from her mother and sister, Eleanor finds a chance at happiness with an artist. Before they are to be married, he is studying Wraxford Hall as his next project when he is killed, presumably during the terrible thunder-storm. Dr. Magnus Wraxford tries to befriend Eleanor and proposes to her himself. Knowing he will never take the place of her first love, Eleanor agrees to marry him against her better judgement. After her marriage, she feels trapped for various reasons, and begins to see her husband for who he really is. At the end of reading Eleanor’s testament, Constance has much empathy for this woman and it becomes important to her to discover the truth of what actually happened at Wraxford Hall those many years ago.

So of course, Constance travels to the country, to visit her new estate along with a bunch of men from the Society for Psychical Research. She does manage, despite the best efforts of others, to come out of the visit alive, and with clues to solve the mysteries surrounding Wraxford Hall.

The true terror provided by this story was not necessarily in the events that occurred. Rather, it can be found in the Victorian society’s views of young women, especially those who feel trapped by no money and few prospects for their future. However, the two heroines of this story did survive, not unscathed, and were able to live without fear by the end of the story.

I enjoyed this book very much. It was full of twists and turns and the different view points kept the story interesting. The characters were developed well, as was the sinister Hall. I’m usually not much for ghost stories, but I loved the Victorian setting and the gothic and supernatural elements of the story. I’m definitely interested in reading more of this author’s work.

Unforgettable Embrace

I recently entered a giveaway on goodreads for the book Unforgettable Embrace, by Joanne Clancy. I did not win, but the author contacted me to see if I would be interested in a free e-book version in exchange for a review. I liked what I’d read about the book, so I accepted her offer and added it to my Nook book collection, (definitely nice to have since I was traveling last week).

Rachel Jenkins has become bored with her monotonous, predictable life with her boyfriend of 14 years. Even though it is a comfortable relationship, there is something missing. Rachel ends the relationship and embarks on her own path to self-discovery and happiness.

She sells her apartment, purchasing an RV, which she uses to travel to all parts of Ireland. Along the way, she meets some interesting people, one specifically. Batt immediately captures her attention and makes her rethink being single. A bit flustered by her mixed feelings, Rachel heads back home to Cork to spend time with her best friends, helping one of them plan her wedding.

Rachel keeps in touch with Batt, but is convinced that she doesn’t want to be more than friends, but when she sees him again on New Year’s, that changes, and she knows she loves him and wants to be with him.

Later on, the three friends, along with Rachel’s sister, fly to England for a weekend “hen party.” There, Rachel receives a text message from Batt that she misinterprets. Convinced he is seeing someone else, Rachel behaves badly, making out with Scott, a random man she meets in a restaurant/bar. When she is no longer intoxicated, she regrets her actions, but still responds to a few of Scott’s increasingly insistent text messages, hoping he will get the hint.

She confesses to Batt, and again, they become a bit estranged, but her friend invites him to the wedding anyway. And of all surprises, Scott shows up at the wedding too! When Rachel spurns Scott’s advances, things quickly become scary.

Of course, as predicted, everything turns out fine in the end. Rachel’s friend is happily married and Rachel gets the guy as well.

When I read this, I was looking for a mindless, enjoyable read, as I was on a plane for several hours, etc. For the most part, it hit the spot. However, while Rachel was traveling over Ireland, the descriptions and events described were quite excessive and boring, as was the discussion concerning Hawaii, (her friend’s honeymoon location). Definitely in need of some editing! However, I did enjoy the Irish slang and the way they spoke of certain things.

Maybe this was just with the e-book format, but it was hard to follow conversations when there were multiple people involved, as there were not paragraph breaks for each person’s dialogue, as there should have been. Instead, there were multiple people speaking within the same paragraph! Also, Rachel’s brother’s name was spelled different ways throughout the story, as “Jo” and “Joe.” This, and other similar errors, was very distracting.

Overall, I enjoyed the story, even though it meandered in parts. It was a light read, which was what I was looking for at this time as well. I just wish there had been more attention to detail and much more editing.

A Cure to Die For

I recently read A Cure to Die For, by Stephen G. Mitchell. I won this book in a goodreads giveaway, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have read it. It’s just not the typical genre I usually choose to read.

Described as a medical thriller, this book definitely had some action. I enjoyed the story, but I definitely think that the novel could have used some editing. And if the star of the show, the Cannastar plant, could cure so many illnesses and diseases by ramping up the immune system, how were autoimmune diseases, such as AIDS, cured?

Anyway, like I said, I enjoyed the story. I just wish the telling of it was of a higher quality.