Fifty Shades of Throwing Shade

I will take any excuse for a night out with one of my best friends while our baby-daddies hold down the fort. This includes spending $50 on dinner, drinks, and full price movie ticket for a movie that was nowhere near my top five. My friend, a fan of the books, really wanted to see Fifty Shades of Grey, so I obliged. I have no problem with the premise of the book/movie, even if it’s not a choice I would personally make. I do have problems with the execution of the tale, but literary criticisms have not hurt E.L. James’s bottom line one bit. I freely confess that I read the first book out of professional curiosity. Was it as bad as the literary snobs claimed? Was the sex that titillating? Was the love story compelling enough to birth a trilogy? It seems unfair that a book in the C+/B- range should be so successful when truly well-written fare struggles to sell a few thousand copies. The book, and the movie, lived up to my expectations. Not truly horrible, although I rolled my eyes enough times to earn my bum a visit from Christian’s twitchy palm. Not great, but intriguing enough to keep me engaged until the end. There are plenty of lessons to glean in what not to do, but also examples of story structure well implemented, as Larry Brooks points out. Good or bad, Fifty Shades has us talking. Talking about feminism, quality writing, sexuality, and casting choices (I like Jamie Dornan but he was not a great fit for this role). It is frustrating to listen to the opinions...

Book Review: Another Man’s Treasure, by S.W. Hubbard

Running your own business requires great strength of character, high risk tolerance, and a lot of passion. For Audrey Nealon, these same qualities also come in handy when solving the mystery of how her long-dead mother’s ring wound up in a box of jewelry at her current client’s estate sale and figuring out why investigating it puts her life in danger now. Throw in some romance and an ailing father, and you find yourself rooting for this heroine with all you’ve got. This mystery has a well-formed plot and characters with depth, and it also examines issues of racial prejudice, politics, and family dynamics without turning preachy or detracting from the main story. More than once I had to tear myself away from the page. I appreciated the awkward love triangle, and that both men revealed surprising layers in Audrey’s company. There was no black and white, good and evil, obvious path to the solution. The resolution was satisfying yet bittersweet. I think Audrey and I would get along. We’re both 30-something small business owners who want to believe that most people are good at heart and that small acts of faith will pay off. I hope Audrey’s next adventure takes place at a spa. She deserves it. * * * The above is an affiliate...

Wild

I’m still kind of amazed that I accomplished the feat of reading Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail and also seeing the movie in less than two months. Amazed because since having my son (now 21 months), I’ve watched maybe five movies in the theater and my voracious reading habit has turned into the crumbs of words I can snatch at night before sleep overtakes me. I read the book over the four weeks my husband, son and I spent traveling to/from/around England visiting my in-laws. I watched the movie while on a weekend holiday to Edgefield with a group of friends. I recommend all of the above: traveling, reading the book and seeing the movie. While I didn’t come away with a burning desire to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, I did appreciate a true life story so beautifully told. The honesty so unflinchingly revealed by the author was enhanced by the flow of the narrative, at turns exciting and introspective with a thread of dark humor to sew things together. The movie, adapted for the screen by Nick Hornby, takes all the right pieces from the book and provides a viewing experience that neither relies on the book nor discounts it. The movie is whole on its own, but having read the book made it even more of an event. Also making it an event was the theater, a small little thing on a property known as “Disneyland for Grownups.” If you aren’t familiar with the McMenamins properties, this is the essence: take a nursing home/school/convent and turn it into a funky...

Book Review: Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith

It has been hit and miss for me when I pick up a book through Book Bub. Truthfully, more miss than hit, even when the book is touted as having “over 100 five-star reviews.” I have stopped reading more books after the first chapter than I can count, so I always hold my breath a bit when reading the first few pages. My exact note after about a page and a half of Radiant says: “Yes! Great hook. Intriguing concept, compelling protagonist.” I absolutely loved the world the author has built, which feels like a mash-up of urban fantasy and post-apocalyptic sci-fi. The herione, Xhea, has so much grit and determination for a young wisp of a girl that I now find myself asking, “What would Xhea do?” in challenging situations (like waking too early to a hollering toddler). Her carefully crafted facade is just vulnerable enough to allow for her journey from street urchin to the ultimate best friend. The reader intimately feels her hurts, both physical and emotional. As Xhea risks her life to save an unlikely friend, she must learn how to manage a dark magic that is as rare as her ability to see ghosts, all while pitting herself against the forces of a society she wishes would both save her and leave her alone. One of the first lines that grabbed me is: “Never before had she felt a ghost’s presence like a bruise in midair.” This is how I feel about the forthcoming second book of the series. I am impatient but I can hear Xhea say, “You have to wait for a book release? So what?”...

Life’s Too Short to Read Bad Books

Or drink bad wine, unless that’s the only kind you can get and even then sometimes it’s better to just go sober. My mom posted on Facebook the other day that she was trying to get through Grapes of Wrath because it’s one of those books you “should” read. Lots of people chimed in with how much they loved the book, what a classic it was, etc. I said that no matter how good it was, if she wasn’t enjoying it she shouldn’t waste her time. Who knows how long we have on this earth to spend doing things we love, including reading? I have my fingers crossed that heaven is like a huge library but I’m not counting on it. It’s like eating well. Lots of folks will tell you that you “should” eat broccoli, but if it’s not your thing you can actually get the same nutrients from a vegetable you enjoy. Thanks to indie publishing, there is a truly limitless supply of reading material out there. I download quite a few free/99 cent books in the hopes of finding new authors to support. I also give up on them if the first few pages don’t grab me. Sometimes this is a quality issue, sometimes it’s a not-my-vegetable issue. But whether it’s a classic, bestseller, newbie author or whatever, I don’t have the time for stuff I don’t enjoy. So unless your teacher is forcing you, just put the book down. You probably won’t be on your deathbed lamenting all of the books you “should” have read. You’ll be frantically trying to get through all the books...