Thursday, November 29, 2012

Oh, hey, how ya doin'?

I can't find my Kindle, so no new Fifty Shades until I figure out where it is. I'm really upset that I can't find it...I have books I actually like on that thing!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Chapter by Chapter Synopsis: Fifty Shades Darker: Chapter 6

When last we left Christian and Ana, he had just helped her mark out the territories of what she an and can't touch on him. Forgive me if this seems sort of nitpicky, but couldn't he just say, "Don't touch my chest or back, okay?" Now they're ready to have sex. I only make alternate suggestions for sex when they're doing it when they should be doing something else like talking, so I'll let this pass. Christian tells Ana she's "so. Beautiful. Yes. She. Is." Oh that is so not annoying!

Christian starts enumerating the many, many men that are supposedly after Ana. Her boss, Jack Hyde is on the list. So is Jose. This is just so dumb. Guys who do this stuff are the ones that end up hitting you for "flirting" when instead you actually told a guy to buzz off. In real life, this conversation, unless it's done in a "Wow, I'm so lucky!" light sort of way, is a huge red flag that you need to leave and not look back.

To punctuate this, Christian says, "Trust me. They want you. They want what's mine."

Soooo not creepy. (see picture above.)

So, they have sex all afternoon and then Ana takes a shower and thinks about all of the information she's had to absorb in the last few hours. This is where I think the author makes a huge mistake and has too many things happening at once. This much crap happening in one day usually makes a person go fetal in their fuzziest pajamas, but Ana's all having sex with her boyfriend because he's so hot and rich and she loves him so much because he's so hot and rich.

Someone posted in the last comments that she wondered if Ana would still like Christian if he wasn't so rich. I really think it's more that if he wasn't so hot, but now she's talking about his bottom line like it's something she's really proud of. I guess it would be nice to date someone wealthy, and I think it would be hard to separate it out from who he is and keep it from ever being what he is. The bottom line, I think, is whether or not you like someone for their money, or if you would like them even if they were dirt poor. I do think Ana would like Christian if he were dirt poor.

Ana thinks about the sweet things Christian said to her. Like how other guys want to have sex with her. You know. Oh, and he's crazy about her. Then she wonders what will happen the next time she crosses an arbitrary line. I think the author gets this half right. When you're in an abusive relationship, you do wonder about that, but it's more of a heart-pounding fear, not a bemusement. Ana should be mostly terrified of Christian. But she's not.

Ana puts on fancy lingerie for the party she's about to attend with Christian (See? So MUCH is going on in one day! Why can't this be more than one day?), and Christian walks in with the benewah balls again. He wants Ana to wear them for the night.

Okay, you're only supposed to use the balls for a few minutes at a time. They're only supposed to help strengthen your kegels. You wouldn't pump weights for hours at a time, would you? And you certainly wouldn't start out doing it for hours at a time, you'd start small. This is one of the parts of the story that I think is just dangerous. Yes, you can actually hurt yourself if you do this. Actually, you probably wouldn't be able to. They'd just slip out until you built up the muscle. But anyway! This is a poorly researched book, and I'm going to say when it is.

After he puts the balls in Ana, he gives her a Cartier box with diamond earrings in it. Ana pushes the box away and says, "I'm sorry, Christian, but I simply cannot accept such an enormous gift from a man I am not related to."

Just kidding, she thinks they're great.

She hates Christian for putting $24,000.00 into her bank account, but she's fine with diamond earrings? Yes, that makes perfect sense. I'm so glad the author is clearing this up for us.

*I should have a picture of "Does Not Compute" here, but Blogger seems to be borked when it comes to showing pictures. I'll upload it later if I can*

Ana admires herself in the mirror and we learn what the author feels is passable as makeup--just some mascara, a little eyeliner, blush, and pale lipstick (no fire engine red for virginal Ana!). But it doesn't really matter since it's a masked ball and no one will see her makeup anyway.

I went to a masked ball back in June. I loved it, but the mask drove me crazy. My best friend took me (it was the Labyrinth of Jareth ball in LA), and we were halfway there when she realized she spent a lot of time making sure her makeup matched her dress and looked really awesome and fairy-like when we were just going to spend the night in masks. I only bring this up because Ana seems to be doing the same thing, and I'll tell her what I told my friend: As long as you feel good and confident about yourself!

Ana goes and finds Christian, who apparently looks "stunning" in a black dinner jacket and bow tie. I mean, I know I snark on how "hot" Christian supposedly is, but jeez, girl. He ain't James Bond. (BTW, Tom Ford is who tailors Daniel Craig's suits and tuxes for the movies. God bless him!)

I do think men look great in suits and tuxedos. Honestly, ZZ Top knew what they were talking about when they said, "Every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp-dressed man." It's true. So, I believe Ana when she says she thinks Christian looks really hot. It's just that she says it all the freaking time, it's stopped holding any meaning.

There's going to be a security detail for the evening arranged by Taylor, and Ana compliments Taylor on how versatile he is. I wonder how long it will be until Christian starts feeling jealous of his security guard because Ana can't compliment a guy without Christian getting weird.

Christian takes Ana on a tour of his apartment, and we find out he has a library with Beast-style floor-to-ceiling books. It also has a pool table (Oh, Dear God. If you can hear me, please don't let them have sex on the pool table. Please? I'm begging you...) and Elliott apparently calls it "the balls room."

*double face palm*

Christian suggests they play pool some time, and Ana's all for it because Jose taught her how and she's a real shark at it now.

Like the author will ever let her be better than Christian at something.

And we learn that Ana is going to meet Dr. Flynn tonight.

Hey, EL James? There's this thing called "chapters." I know it's a crazy concept, but you can actually split your book up using them. You can have a chapter devoted to just Ana meeting Dr. Flynn on some night when a million other things aren't happening. You can have Ana and Christian take a tour of the house on a night when they aren't getting ready for a masked ball. You can split your book up into days and weeks and months and years. Other authors have done it before you, and they have been really successful with stuff like character development and plot. You know. Things you keep missing out on while trying to cram as much crap into this book to keep us from realizing that there is no real plot or character development.

This book is the equivalent of the guy date and do all sorts of stuff with him, but never actually spend time with. You guys go out all the time, movies, Disneyland, shows, places, things, stuff! But you never actually do anything together that bonds you. And then one day, one of you gets a cold or something, and the other one comes over to take care of the sick one, and you realize that you don't really have anything in common. It's all just been county fairs and roller coasters and the illusion of togetherness when it's all been distraction. I've said it before and I'll say it again: There's no "there" there. (The words of Gertrude Stein, of course.)

So, anyway, moving forward because we can't find reverse.

They head out to the party and we get excruciating detail about Ana's balls and what they're doing to her insides. To distract herself, she asks where Christian got the lipstick. Remember that? All that time ago? My goodness...this book is so full of details and yet actually full of nothing substantial. Apparently, he got the lipstick from Taylor. I would love it if Taylor were a cross-dresser, but I doubt the author has the cajones to pull that off.

They arrive at the party and there's a line of "expensive" cars in the driveway. Since the author seems to think that Audis are the height of what multi-billionaire playboys want in their garage, I'm assuming that there are Subarus, Volvos, Saabs, and maybe the occasional Porsche hanging around. OMG, maybe someone even has a Fiat. Because, you know, a Rolls Royce is just showing off or whatever.

They get their picture taken for the Seattle Times, and Ana's amazed that the photographer recognizes Christian with his mask on. Because a half-mask just makes you look like a completely different person. It's not like you have facial features and hair or anything.

Mia accosts Christian and Ana and introduces them to her friends. Of course, there's a complete and utter bitch there who just hates Ana for dating Christian.

Okay, the author goes on to describe a garden party, which is great, and then we get to the table where the family is all going to be sitting, and we meet Grace's parents. Grace is Christian's mother, in case you forgot. They could be totally awesome, eccentric people, but the only awesome people in the book are Christian and Ana, so of course they love Ana, but they overwhelm her with being nosy and sweet and inclusive towards her. Those jerks.

The night goes on, and finally Ana decides she has to remove the balls. Christian wants to follow her to the powder room and "help" her, but Mia cockblocks him. I really can't stand Mia, but it's moments like this that make her even more insufferable. I know, I hate it when Christian and Ana have their non-kinky-that's-supposed-to-be-kinky sex, but eh. I just can't stand Mia and people like her. And the fact that I'm supposed to love her just makes her worse.

Ana is of course worried that Christian is mad about not being with her during the big "reveal", but he doesn't seem to be. I keep waiting for her to make a big deal about it anyway.

There's a charity auction and Christian's place in Aspen is on the list as a weekend getaway. Ana bids her $24,000.00 for it, and of course Christian is going to be completely pissed off at her because he wants her to have the money, he just doesn't want her to spend it.

But thankfully, that's the end of the chapter.

Was it good for you, baby, or did you get cockblocked? Tune in next time.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Hey, how's that whole "college" thing going?

I'm taking microbiology this semester. It's two five-hour classes a week, and it's pretty hard, but I'm enjoying myself. I love my lab partner, and the hot marine MP looking to get his nursing degree is totally talking to us and making the other women jealous.

I'm not the oldest person in the class. I'm not even close. More than half the class is older than me. A lot of them already work for medical facilities. All of us want something else, something more.

I've applied to volunteer at a zoo, and I want to apply to volunteer with a rescue of some sort. I really need to start getting involved in my field. It's what I need.

I can't say how much I love school. It's fun. The labs make me geek out. We're using agar plates! We have bacterium that we inoculate slants with! It's so much fun! It's a lot of work, too, but it's fun work.

I keep trying to envision my life in ten years, me doing what I want, maybe working on a Master's or PhD. Maybe I finally will get married, or maybe I'll just go for that villa in Spain and take that spate of European lovers that I keep daydreaming about. Maybe I'll have ten cats by that point and be totally alone. Who knows? The future's wide open!

I do know that I'll be doing what I love. Maybe I'll finally move to the South and be closer to my family and my friend Kim (who I will be marrying as soon as the laws allow us to ;-P). It's going to be great. I can't wait 'til it happens, but I don't want to cut the journey short, either. I just hope I finish college before this blog has to change its name to College at Forty.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Chapter By Chapter Synopsis: Fifty Shades Darker: Chapter 5

When last we left Christian and Ana, Christian had taken Ana to the salon owned and operated by his former mistress, whom Ana likes to call Mrs. Robinson owing to the large age difference and the fact that Christian was a teenaged boy when she started training him to be her sub.

Sort of makes the whole "You totally hugged Jose and kissed him on the cheek" thing seem nominal and stupid, no?

Oh, but this is Christian, not Ana, so it's okay. You see, Jose and Ana never actually slept together, so they have WAY more of a connection than Christian and Mrs. Robinson have, so it's totally normal for Christian to spend time with his ex-lover while it's wrong for Ana to do anything platonic with Jose. That's the way life works.

So, Ana gets into another conversation with her "sub-conscious" (I'm going to pretend that it's an imaginary friend that she calls Sub  Conscious) about how it's so upsetting that Christian has a good relationship with the pedo woman who had sex with him when he was a teenager, but really after Jacob and Renesmee, this seems pretty tame to me, so I guess I just don't care right now.

Mrs. Robinson finally realizes that Ana's unhappy, so she tells Christian about it. I sometimes just want to know what the author was actually going for with Christian. I mean, I really can't tell. Is he supposed to be smart-yet-naive? But all I get from him is the "me, me, me"-centeredness of a narcissist. I would think that even a guy who has never dated before would know better than to trot the new girlfriend in front of the old lover. Christian's naivete does not come across as innocent misconception, but rather as blatant unfeeling towards Ana. I just get the feeling that it's supposed to look like something else, that the author is attempting to paint Christian in a different light, but I can't figure out what that light is supposed to be. All I see is him being a jerk, especially in light of the Jose/Ana thing.

So, Christian finally figures out that Ana's not real happy and asks her what's wrong. She wants to go. Now.

They walk for a bit, and Ana aks him terse, tense questions about how he's taken other girls there, and they've all met Mrs. Robinson, though none of them knew who she was in relation to Christian. She turns and faces him, and he seems to be frightened.

This is the first NORMAL thing that Christian has done so far. He should be frightened. This is so messed up, and Ana calls him on it. He sees now that it is messed up.

People bustle past us, lost in their Saturday morning chores, no doubt contemplating their own personal dramas. I wonder if they include stalker ex-submissives, stunning ex-Dommes and a man who has no concept of privacy under US law.

Aw, poor Ana! Gosh, it's so horrible that your life is so much more complicated than anyone else's! You poor, poor dear. I mean, it's not like you can actually just walk away from this guy, change your identity, flee to a foreign country where he can't find you or anything. You're just totally and completely stuck here.

Good gracious. Yes, wallowing in self pity is a valid choice to make when something bad happens, and it's always a really horrible, terrible thing because it's happening to you and not someone else. I get that. Trust me. But Ana has choices. This isn't a mom trying to decide whether she should stop packing lunches for herself so she can buy Christmas presents for her kids with the money she saves, or a guy whose wife left him and filed false charges of child abuse against him so she can gain sole custody of their kids. No one has made choices for Ana that she has to roll with here. I'm sorry she's got problems, but they're her problems. These are not global-scale issues. They are not injustices. They are not commentary on the very real issues that people face every day. They're superficial, and I just can't care because she can walk away.

Ana and Christian are totally Dee and Murray from Clueless. Except, you know, we like Dee and Murray. And they were teenagers, which made their daily dose of drama bearable.

Ana's virginity status totally went from "technical" to "non-existant."

While Ana is feeling sorry for herself, Christian gets a phone call where he says all kinds of cryptic stuff like, "She's here. She's watching us." And "Two or four, twenty-four seven...I haven't broached that yet." and then he looks at Ana and we're supposed to wonder what this means. Oh, the comments for this author when this was a fanfiction. "Wut duz Xtian meen wehn he sed htat!!111!" someone would say in their review. The author would smile to herself. "I guess you're going to have to wait until I update!" she'd think smugly.

Okay, Leila is obviously watching them, and Christian is apparently thinking of adding some sort of security detail to Ana, because that just wouldn't completely piss her off or ruin her life or anything. What does he think Leila's going to do to Ana exactly? She's had plenty of opportunity to hurt her or kidnap her at this point.

Of course, that just makes too much sense. Instead, they have a scene on the sidewalk. Christian wants Ana to go to his house for safekeeping (he could always have her stuffed like he did his last few victims...), but Ana isn't having it. So he picks her up and carries her over his shoulder, because that wouldn't be weird or upsetting.

See, this is all about Christian. He wants Ana safe because she's his. He wants her at his house because that's where he keeps his stuff. She is his stuff, therefore she belongs at his house. Her feelings don't count because she doesn't count. He counts, so his feelings are the only ones that matter.

Christian, in a nutshell

Ana gets a good mental list going of stuff she's mad about, but of course she never brings it up to him and instead demands he tell her about Leila. You see, while she was compiling her list, she figured out that something bad must have happened with Leila to make Christian even more unreasonable and megalomaniacal than he was before, and she's figured out that it's Leila.

She got a concealed weapons permit, apparently. Which makes no sense.Not only has there not been time for the requisite background check, but no law enforcement agency in America would sign off on a suicidal person getting a CWP. That's why you have to apply for it. It's not the same as buying a gun, which you also have to get a permit for. This is a permit that allows you to conceal a weapon on your person and carry it into stores, malls, parks, and certain public transportation. Leila wouldn't even be able to buy the gun in the first place, let alone get a CWP. I don't know who EL James thinks she is, but a researcher, she is not.

Also, if Leila is really operating under a psychotic break, then why would she bother to do things legally? Why not just find some back-alley grifter? Of course, I have a hard time believing she could talk a black market gun runner into selling her a gun if she's so unstable, but she'd have a better chance. That just makes no sense.

This whole part right here? It's because the author has to move things along. She has to create a plot, so this is how she does it. It's Deus Ex Machina on stupid pills. Maybe even crazy pills. Or crazy stupid pills. If Leila had just obtained an illegal firearm, Christian wouldn't be able to freak out. But the books are based on him freaking out (like Edward! she screams. Only Edward from Growing Up Cullen, not Edward from Twilight.), so we have to freak out. Therefore, Leila gets a gun. It's so sloppy and lazy, but then so are the people who read this shit (including myself), so it passes.

No wonder the aliens want to become our overlords. Compared to Christian Grey, they'll be a cakewalk.

So, they go to Ana's house and she packs some stuff. She tells him that Ethan (Kate's brother, remember him? He's not really important) will be moving in on Thursday, so she'll need to be back by then. Christian is really pissed at this, of course, but it's totally not the same thing as his relationship with Mrs. Robinson.

Ana asks if all Christian's subs have been brunettes and if they look like her. He says yes.

Just think about that for a moment.

Mrs. Robinson was blonde, and Christian says that she put him off of blondes.

The first book with all the blonde interns is suddenly starting to get a whole lot creepier.

So, Christian surrounds himself with women he's not attracted to? What does that say about him?

Back at Casa Gris, Ana makes herself at home in the Sub Room and finds lots of expensive clothes in the closet. She gets upset and sad and calls her mom and it turns out her mom is having issues too. Ana seems surprised by this.

Okay, maybe the narcissism in this relationship goes both ways.

Actually, Ana cares about Christian. She doesn't care about anyone else. Christian cares about Christian, and he cares for others as far as they are important to him. So, he's the real narcissist. Ana's just self-centered and oblivious.

Christian walks into the closet (heh) and finds Ana sitting amongst the designer duds. He wants to know what the problem is. Ana wants to know why he's after her instead of a person who will actualy be submissive. It turns out that Ana gives him hope. She translates this to be cryptic in some way. I don't see how it is. If she doesn't love him for his money and actually expects stuff from him and it gives him hope, then that is not cryptic to me at all. So now I want to know what the author's plans are for Ana's characterization, because she seems like a big old drama queen to me. If Christian wanted to have pie for dessert, she'd analyze what that means in agonizing detail. "It's so weird that he wants pie!" she'd say to herself. "Why pie of all things? OMG, what does it mean?"

Christian's so deep, man.

Franco, Ana's hairstylist enters the scene. He's "small, dark, and gay." Ana loves him.

There is, of course, no reason to introduce Franco at all. He gets a paragraph and a few speeches. That's it, and he's done. We don't need to know anything about him, really, but we do. I have a suspicion that EL James is a character hoarder. She wants people in her books who aren't completely horrible, so she has this huge supporting cast. But then, she doesn't know what to do with them, so they just sort of exist off-stage, out there somewhere.

Christian, after the haircut, of course tries to get Ana in bed. She's having none of it, so she lists all of her grievances over lunch. One of her biggest grievances is that she can't touch him, but Mrs. Robinson can. She actually holds out her hand to touch him, and he backs away and says, "Hard limit." It's one of the few "real" scenes we really get so I'm going to savor it for a minute. Christian doesn't want to be touched, and it's a condundrum for Ana because he loves to touch her, so how can he not want it for himself? He would feel deprived and devastated if he couldn't touch her. I mean, if this were a better book, this scene could be heartbreaking.

This ends and they have an argument about how he knows so much about her. The best part is that the author confirms what I've been saying. "He stares at me blankly, and there it is, his problem in a nutshell--empathy, or lack thereof." and "This is it, the crux of his Fifty Shades, surely. He can't put himself in my shoes."

Let us all say it together: Narcissist!

Ana starts making an omelet and wonders if all men have no empathy and are baffled by women like Christian. Okay, she gets that he has no empathy, but then she turns it into him being "baffled" by her. No, this won't do. He knows what he does is wrong, and he knows it upsets other people. But because he's a narcissist, he can't understand how it makes them really feel on the inside. He doesn't get how voilating it is, how upsetting it would be for your name and social security number to be in a file in your boyfriend's study along with lists of known contacts and highschool yearbook photos. It's creepy and strange and one step away from starting a frozen toe collection in the basement. It's not normal. It's the opposite of normal. It's just crazy.

Christian comes to watch Ana dance and cook and tries to get close to her, but she pushes him away. "How long are you going to keep this up?" he asks. See, to him, this is a game. It's something she's doing in order to get whatever it is that she wants. The thought that she's actually pissed off about something real does not enter into his equations, because he has justified all of his actions, and to him there is no argument. He's right, she's wrong. End of story. Now he just has a waiting game to see how long she can be angry at him while she deprives herself of all the hot sexxorz he could be giving her. Because that's a huge motivation, you know.

Protip: most women can do it better on our own. We don't need you guys. Sometimes we want you guys. But we don't need you.

Thankfully, Taylor comes around and interrupts them. They eat lunch and Christian turns into Mr. Bad Mood, which is almost indistinguishable from his usual self. Ana notes that he's like several people in one body and wonders if that's schizophrenia.

No, Ana, it's not. Schizophrenia is usually accompanied by delusions and hallucinations, both auditory and visual. Christian is a narcissist. I don't know how many times I have to point this out to you. It's one thing to mess around with concealed weapons permits, it's another to bring this sort of thinking into the book. People with psychological and neurological disorders already have enough trouble, we don't need people like you getting involved and making these ascertations, EL James. Jeez. Next she'll be saying that poor Leila is bipolar or something equally stupid.

Well, at least Christian walks in on Ana reading over the MPD wikipedia page, so I hope she's happy. They joke about her research a little, and then he hands her a "harlot red" tube of lipstick.

Well, that's great, James. Let's relegate all colors to specific types now, shall we? Harlots get red, I guess good girls get light blue since you dress Ana in that color all the time. You know, maybe The Handmaid's Tale was really onto something with their classifications. Of course, then you'd have to say "unwomen" instead of "harlots," so that's getting a little complicated.

So, Ana's slut-shaming a tube of lipstick. Both she and Christian agree it's not her color, and it's sort of like it's no-one's color. No one respectable. He wants to use it to roadmap his body so she knows where she can touch. He suggests he could get a tattoo, but Ana can't imagine him "marring" his beautiful body in such a way.

Oh ugh, now we're lifestyle-shaming.

Great work here, James! Maybe you can say a few despariging things about the GLBTQ crowd and work in a slight against migrant workers, and we'll be all set for understanding your views of the world. Yes, tattoos are just teh ebul! OMG! I bet only schizophrenics get them. Gay schizophrenic migrant workers who wear fire engine-red lipstick and really high heels.

Oh, wait, you don't seem to have a problem with really high heels. Hmm...Maybe EL James is the one who doesn't know who she truly is. (I think she's Mitt Romney.)

Ana uses the red lipstick to draw a sort of boundary on Christian. Like the boundary you'd get if you drew a vest or a wife-beater (ha!) on someone with fire engine-red lipstick.

The chapter ends, thankfully, before they have sex.

And we're done for the night. More to come.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Book Review: Flowertown by SG Redling

My Kindle must have been pushing this book at me for weeks. First, it was advertised as "Coming Soon," and then it was "here!" and I kept ignoring it because ever since I downloaded both Breaking Dawn and the Fifty Shades trilogy, my Amazon recommendations have read like a Harlequin Romance gone very, very wrong. I'm talking love triangles a-plenty, minimal characterizations, heroines who are practically comatose, and lots of vampires.

To try and even things out, I downloaded several adult fantasies and it seems to have worked. But Flowertown I actually purchased as an accident. I clicked on the advertisement and read what it was about. I wanted to download a sample and I ended up with the whole book.

I could have hit the "purchased in error" button, but I didn't. For one thing, the description seemed really interesting, and for another, it appeared to be about zombies. I'm all for a good zombie book.

No, this book isn't actually about zombies. But it's good anyway. Oh MY is it good!

There's a huge difference between allowing a story to unfold and watching grass grow. Some stories that start out slowly highly resemble watching grass grow. This story unfolds beautifully. And it has to. You have to have the background, you need to know and understand the characters that you're dealing with. Since it's more character-driven than anything else, the foundation is necessary.

You meet Ellie in painstaking detail. She's a slob. She has no issues with wearing clothes that are three or even five weeks old. She likes to be stoned. All the time. She lives in Flowertown, and as soon as you know what Flowertown is, those other things about her all make sense. Sure, she's the person at work who shows up, goes on eight breaks and a four-hour lunch every day, draws her paycheck, calls in sick every chance she gets, and doesn't contribute to any part of the office through either work or morale. She's the black hole. She's the one you roll your eyes over and whisper about when she leaves for her ninth smoke break of the morning and it's only 10 o'clock.

But here's the kicker: Ellie isn't working in your office. She's in a secure quarantine facility that spans seven square miles in the middle of Nowheresville Iowa. She's not supposed to be there. She was only visiting her boyfriend's parents while she was on her way to another country, and then the chemical spill happened, her boyfriend died, and she's just stuck there. She's not THE stoner-slacker at work. She's A stoner-slacker at work with a whole bunch of other stoner-slackers who also managed to pull the short string of Fate in this scenario.

As the book progresses, we find out more about the chemical spill and the pharmaceutical company that designed it (it was a pesticide), and what they're doing to counteract the toxins. In the meantime, everyone's been stuck in one place for seven years, seeing the same faces day in and day out, no change of routine, no reason to not get stoned and slack off, no real reason to shower every day and wash your clothes and care.

If you suggested that Ellie might be clinically depressed, I think you'd be right.

So, I was along for the ride because I was pretty sure that I had this all figured out, and in a lot of ways, I did. I'm the annoying person who sits down to watch a movie and says, "Bruce Willis is really dead," or, "Kevin Spacey is Kaiser Soze." I mean, there are only a few stories out there, so when you tell one, you have to make it your own. I think Redling made this story hers.

Ellie is a real person. You maybe even know her. She's driven and ambitious, but take away her dreams and she's left with nothing to strive for. She has a best friend, Bing, and a roommate, Rachel. Bing supplies Ellie with her pot. Rachel supplies Ellie with someone to care for. Rachel was just a teenager when the spill happened, so Ellie is a slightly maternal, very big-sister to her. Bing is a conspiracy theorist, though his conspiracies never really entail the pharma company keeping them all there in the middle of nowhere to use as human guinea pigs, which I found lacking (could it be a plothole, or foreshadowing? Both? Maybe!). Things start getting crazy when Bing starts looking less right-wing nutjob and more right. It's not paranoia if you're right, right?

Throughout the town, people keep using the expression "All You Want" and it keeps appearing on things, like trucks and newspapers.

Things begin to unravel, and as Ellie's life starts getting worse, she finds herself fighting against the unfairness of it harder and harder until she finds the house of cards that can send it all tumbling.

It really is a great story. I'm glad I bought it, and I'm glad I didn't delete it when I could have.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

But is it ableism?

I've mentioned that I'm heavy on this blog more than once. I'm a healthy girl. I have DDD boobies and size 16 jeans. I'm pretty comfortable in my own skin for the most part, and I think I'm pretty.

Of course, lots of people tell you I'm not because I'm heavy.

I'm not going to act like I wouldn't like to be smaller. Not skinny or anything, just smaller and more fit. More solid, less flabby.

Now that I'm working nights, I feel like I mostly sit or sleep throughout the day. I walk at school, but I can't take walks during work any more because it's the middle of the night in the Downtown District (any district, really), and I can't do it.

Things I do do on my own, though, are yoga and jogging (on the treadmill), and I've signed up for the aerobic kick-punch class at the community center. It's a great class, and it's three days a week, though I can only attend two because of my schedule. I really like the class. The teacher is awesome and he seems to care about people. Not money or how big/small they are. He cares about you. If you have a fitness goal, he wants to help you achieve it. He does this job as a volunteer. I doubt he makes any money at all.

The part I don't like about the class are some of the people. Not all of them. Just some of them. There are two ladies there who have been going to this class since George Burns was a little boy, and they think they just know everything there is to know.

Obviously, I don't like them. I mean, I don't like much of anyone, but I really don't like them. They make class miserable for me, and they're a huge reason why I'm not sad to not be able to go Saturday mornings. If the instructor is talking to you, they get in the middle and start trying to separate you two because really, they're all he needs! No, really!

But they're neither here nor there. That up there is just venting. This down here is what I'm talking about.

So, when you're heavy and you decide on an exercise routine, you suddenly get people involved in what you're doing. My friend Susan is a stick figure, has a routine of her own, does one with me every now and then, no one ever bothers her. If I go to my mom's gym for an afternoon with her instead of using the one here at my apartment complex, I always get some jerk walking up to my treadmill to try and find out what it is I do. I get people who move to the treadmill exactly next to mine who try and keep up with my jogging, though they could just be rude because there are literally fifteen other treadmills that they could get on (no, really, there are), and these people all feel the need to comment on what I'm doing.

"Oh, I saw you running last week too! You're doing such a great job!"


A blogger who is curvy like me (are we curvy now? Is that what they're calling us? I like it better than BBW, but is it curvy?) say that this sort of thing is ableism. I have issues with that because that sort of intimates that being fat is a disability, but I think in a way, she's right.

There was a Little Person in our class for a while. She was pretty cool. She just wanted to work out, do her own thing and go home. When we would leave, people would do the same thing to her.

"You're doing such a great job in there!" they would gush to her.

"Uh..thanks?" she'd say in return.

On Saturday mornings, if we were practicing our kicks one at a time, they'd all clap when she was done. I started clapping for everyone else because I felt for her, being the only one who got clapped for. Well, besides me. They clapped for me too.

She started going first to kick across the floor, and then she'd stand by me and we'd both clap for everyone.

I never knew her name. She's not there any more. I hope it's just that her schedule couldn't permit it anymore, and not that she's tired of being singled out by people who think they're doing good.

The fact that people think they're doing good is really the only thing that makes it bearable for me. They really honestly believe that their comments to me are just going to inspire me and make me say, "Yeah! I need to do more!" when in reality, I feel awkward and singled-out. They aren't saying it to anyone else.

It's like when you meet someone who's never been clinically depressed and they feel like telling you, "Oh, we all get sad sometimes." They don't know what it's like to be born to this body. They don't know what it's like to see pictures of themselves, looking freakishly large next to normal-sized humans. I always wonder if these people who feel the need to comment, to offer suggestions, ever have that happen to them? What do they think of it?

The next time someone says, "Wow, you were doing so well in there!" to me, I'm going to say, "Yeah, you too! Can you believe it?" and see what happens.

So, one last thought: a part of ableism is focusing on the disability (or percieved disability) rather than on the person. When people tell me how "good" I'm doing and admonish me to "keep it up!" I feel like they are attempting to conform me to their ideals of what I should be. They see my body as being fixable despite the fact that there is no scientific or medical evidence to support a fat person losing and keeping weight off for any satisfactory amount of time. I'm "fixing" myself by being there, despite the fact that losing weight is not my goal. In that sense, I can see how this might be ableism.

This poster is on the wall at the Community Center.
I like to think that Thor and his manly biceps
are rooting me on. Also, I pretend his favorite
song is "If I Had a Hammer."

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Chapter-By-Chapter Synopsis: Fifty Shades Darker, Chapter 4

When last we left Christian and Ana (and yes, I'll recap because it's been a while), they had just made up after a lengthy absence of, like, a week away from each other. This was great because the author left us in no suspense, just sort of picked up where we left off with minimal angst. There was no character development, either, no soul-searching. Ana wants Christian because he's hot, he wants her because she's a doormat. It's a perfect relationship, really.

They had just had sex, after sexily preparing a mis en place for a stir fry that Ana was going to make before the sex took over. Both Christian and Ana accused her of being the one who broke them up, and apparently instead of it being about the fact that Ana didn't want to be Christian's living, breathing punching bag like the end of Book 1 said, it was really more about how Ana didn't say the Safe Word. I'm not sure if this was a continuity error as much as it was an author error, but let's go with neither. It is a mistake in Christian's makeup, at the end of it.

Christian is a Narcissist, and everything he does is for his own pleasure. Even the BDSM is not so much about mutual enjoyment over pain, but him doing what he wants with the girl he's with. Ana broke up with Christian and he was devastated, but when he saw that Ana had been too, it was a foreign concept to him. This is telling about his personality. He breaks up with his subs and goes about his life like it ain't nothin' but a thing. Ana broke up with him, so he never thinks that maybe it was a hard decision for her, he just thinks that she's moved on and ready to go because that's how he is, and that's just how everybody is because that's how he is. His comment, "You broke up with me, you know," is so dismissive, so cold and unforgiving. "You hurt me," he's saying. Who cares that she was also hurt, and that leaving him was a tough decision for her? This is not a concept for Christian.

And so, when they got back together, he makes a joke about how he's not going to touch her until she begs him for it. I don't know if he wanted full-down-on-knees, hands-clasped-to-chest begging, but he wanted her to want him. He needed her to need him.

It was a real cheap trick.

So, all that to say, Ana is coming down from an orgasm at the beginning of Chapter Four. Because there is apparently only one thing Christian can do right, and that's make her orgasm (but only if he feels like it).

He's holding her hands so she can't touch him, and he gives her a kiss, "asking for what? I don't know. It leaves me breathless."

Hey, Ana? Protip: you can actually say, "hey, what was that for?" and he'd probably tell you. I don't understand why she's always in her head. All she does is stand around wondering what's happening, biting her lip. I imagine her like a little kid, toeing some invisible line on the floor while she rocks back and forth, being completely useless. There is this wonderful, crazy thing called communication. Thankfully, Christian doesn't know how to do it either, so they're sort of perfectly horrid for each other, but my goodness. This girl wants to get into publishing?

Christian asks for Ana to promise to never leave him again (without giving any promises) and Ana says yes. Then he calls her a wench and orders her to cook for him.

It was funny when Thor shouted, "I need sustenance!" because he was an arrogant ass and it fit his personality. He also changed by the end (somewhat...we still want him to be a little arrogant) and gained perspective. From Christian, who will never change, it's just another demand, and as a reader, you roll your eyes. If it was actually not serious and playful, it would be funny. But all of Christian's orders, no matter how playfully he gives them, are to be carried out exactly to his personal specifications. Or else it gets the hose again.

I just want to point out that I was way less creepy than Christian.

They eat, and Christian finally gets curious about Ana's life. She finally explains about her mom's husbands, and how Ana preferred living with Ray and taking care of him. This is great. If this was their first or even fourth date, it would be great. But it's not. They've been together for a couple of weeks, even broken up, and Christian knows nearly zero about her. And she about him, too, to be frank.

He remarks that she's used to taking care of other people, and that he wants to take care of her. She points out that he's sort of psycho about it, and he agrees, but it's all he knows. Ana brings up how he bought the company she works for and asks that, if she left and got a new job, would he buy that company too? Yes. Yes he would. And Ana realizes she can't do anything about it, and she doesn't want to fight, so she drops the subject.

And there you go.

I as a reviewer could stop here. If I weren't, if I hadn't committed, I would stop here. This is all we need to know about this man and this woman. Really. It's all. This is the series in a nutshell.

Christian does something to make Ana unhappy.

Ana is unhappy.

Ana gets mad at Christian.

Christian gets mad at Ana for being mad at him.

Ana is upset with Christian for not seeing why she would be upset.

They have sex.

Forget conflict and resolution. It's's nothing. This book is less-than. In the real world, Ana is the sort of person who will wake up one day and kill Christian. Probably stab him to death with a kitchen knife eighty times. Then she'll either go catatonic or kill herself because she doesn't know who she is without him.

So, Christian wants to stay the night, and Ana is fine with that. He asks where she keeps her ice cream, and she snarks that it's in the oven. Christian says that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. Only idiots who don't know how to use it effectively think that. People with brains know that it's fucking hilarious and also laugh at you behind your back.

Okay, people. Bear with me here. Ana has Ben & Jerry's in her freezer.

It's vanilla.

Do they make vanilla?

I guess they do.

Okay, okay. Deep breaths.

Look, I love vanilla ice cream. There is nothing I'd rather have sitting jauntily atop my boysenberry pie. But when I buy something that has more calories in it than a steak? It'd better be something like Americone Dream, Chubby Hubby, or Marsha Marsha Marshmallow.

(Incidentally, B & J: I'm still really pissed off at you for changing that to the name "S'mores." I mean, I understand if it was a copywrite thing,'s still Marsha Marsha Marshmallow to me. Also, can you bring The Full Vermonty back? Thanks!)

I keep saying that this author has no imagination, but this takes the cake. If you're going to buy Ben & Jerry's, why get vanilla? If you're going to have vanilla in a story, does it have to be Ben & Jerry? At least Haagen-Dasz would make sense! Their vanilla ice cream is like a statue erected (heh) to the vanilla bean. You buy B & J for the names and for the stuff they put inside. Plus, it's freakin' good ice cream.

Well, apparently it's Ben Jerry so that Christian can make the joke, "Ben and Jerry and Ana..."

Thanks for telling us how this story would suddenly get more interesting, Christian. I guess you guys are going to have sex again, huh?

So, my game is to suggest fun things for Christian and Ana to do instead of having sex so they can get to know each other better. Since we're just now learning more about Ana's life in this chapter than we did in the last book, I think it's a really valid game. But I said I was only going to play it when they have sex instead of talking things out like normal people, or instead of doing anything like normal people. Honestly, if this were any other couple, I'd encourage them to have sex at this point, so no game. Sorry.

I will skip over the sex for you, though. I'll only point out that Ana's whole body convulses when Christian tells her he's going to mess up both her and her sheets. Oh, and he puts ice cream on her and licks it off of her. It's as boring and uncomfortable as it sounds.

So, that's done. Ana voices concern that Christian might want to leave her, but he promises not to. In any other guy, this might be nice. In him, it's scary. He invites her to some charity dinner at his dad's house, and she says she'll go.

Ana has a dream about the girl who came to see her, the girl who looks just like her. Only she's the girl this time.

I want to point out to the author that this right here is a sub-conscious. Not the character who purses her lips at Ana and disapproves of stuff. Dreaming. That's the sub-conscious.

Anyway, she wakes up screaming.

Christian wants to know what's wrong, so she tells him about the girl and the dream. It ends up that the girl was Leila, a sub who put the song "Toxic" on Christian's ipod from the first book. I guess she's still not easing his foolish pride.

Christian goes into "crisis" mode, which means that he makes a phone call and sounds all important. Clearly something is up, but he's not talking about it. He wants Ana instead, but she wants tea because that's the answer when you have a problem.

Depends on who you have it with...

So, this is what happened with Leila: She was with Christian three years ago. About two years ago, she moved on and married some other guy. Then she had a psychotic break and went to Christian's house while he was in Georgia with Ana, and tried to kill herself. She was sent to a hospital, but checked herself out before Christian could get there.

I don't think you can check yourself out with a mandatory 48-hour hold, but whatever. Maybe things are different in Seattle. I'm not the author. I don't have to research this stuff.

Anyway, now Christian is turning the tables because he knows he should have told Ana about this girl a while ago, before she showed up at Ana's work, but he didn't so he goes for his trademark deflection and asks why she didn't tell him about Leila showing up at work. Ana has a good excuse (it wasn't all that important and other stuff was going on, so she forgot), so he decides on sex instead.

Now we get to play the game. Really, these two need to talk, and I don't see how either of them could feel sexy after all this. But for Christian, he has to re-mark his territory like a bull moose, so he needs to sex Ana up already.

I am still open to suggestions, but I'm getting through my list too. I think a really great thing that Ana and Christian could do with each other to open lines of communication would be for them to start either volunteering regularly at a soup kitchen/charity of some sort.

Soup kitchens are great because you don't necessarily have to be homeless to go to one. One in seven American homes have trouble putting food on the table every day, and soup kitchens can help. They run on volunteers and donations, so even if all you have is 25 cents, if you can find a soup kitchen, you can find a good meal.

I actually chose soup kitchens because in the first book, Christian admits to having been hungry a lot in his first few years of life before he was adopted by multi-millionaires and became batman a vain narcissistic billionaire who aparently cares about the agricultural department of an Oregonian college enough to donate a million to it. (Yes, a whole million.) (No, that's not very much in the state of education, why do you ask?)

I sort of got this idea that if Christian really cared (he doesn't), he'd want to give back in a tangible way (he won't), so this would help.

Soup kitchens get lots of volunteers at the holidays, but they sort of flounder the rest of the year. Since volunteers are needed to cook and clean and serve and do everything, the faithful often find themselves wearing several hats.

My dad is really involved with the American Legion and the VFW, being a VFW himself, so I know from him all of the issues that surround putting on even a weekly free breakfast for veterans (homeless and otherwise), so I imagine that someone with Christian's name would be really welcome to the community in Seattle, where there are a lot of homeless people and people who just need a hand-up for dinner tonight. I bet if he got involved, then lots of other people would, too. I mean, imagine if Bill Gates started regularly volunteering with soup kitchens. That'd bring awareness and also more volunteers. Of course, it might also bring lots of problems with it, but Christian isn't quite on that level yet. Bill gates gave 90 million to schools. That's way more than Christian did.

This would be a great bonding experience for Ana and Christian, because he could talk to her about his childhood in a meaningful way that she could understand, and they'd both have crazy stories to tell at the end of the day. Of course, Christian would probably hover over Ana all day and be a menace to anyone who behaved even remotely kind to her, so that would suck.

Okay, so that's over. Our lovebirds shower and get ready to face the day. Ana asks Christian if she can start meeting up with his personal trainer, and Christian reacts like he's gotten Christmas early. Then they talk about how Ana needs a car, and he reminds her that she has an Audi and they have an argument about it. 

I have an argument about the Audi. Why an Audi? If I had more money than God, you'd bet I wouldn't get an Audi. I'd get a Mazerati or a Rolls Royce or something really freaking expensive and ostentatious. My Grandma owned an Audi.

Anyway, Ana says she'll give Christian her check from the sale of her VW for the Audi, but Christian isn't having it. She rips the check up and he calls the bank and has the money directly transferred to her account. Now they're both furious with each other. Hey, they should have sex!

Thank god they don't. But they don't have a resolution, either. Christian gets his way, Ana doesn't, he's mad at her for defying him, and she feels impotent in the face of his control.

I'm telling you, he's going to run into her knife nine times.

Pop, squish, six, uh-uh, Cicero, Lipschitz...
Ana and Christian head on down to a salon so she can get her hairs did, and Ana soon comes to realize that this is where he brings his women for their pampering. Even worse? Mrs. Robinson owns the place. You know, the lady who started all of this? Yeah. Her.

I think it's interesting that Ana can't even give Jose a friendly hug and kiss, but Christian gets to hang out with his ex-lover all the time. It's so...them.

End of chapter. I'll be back with more soon!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Will I ever get back to reading Fifty Shades?!

Yes, I will. I'm working on it. Sorry, my life has gotten crazy and I just don't have time, but I think I've figured out a way to keep it going.

Besides, we don't need to leave off the snark.

In the meantime, find my friend Cassandra's book: Fifty Shades Lighter. Half of the proceeds are going towards foundations for abused women, so you get to laugh and maybe be a part of helping an Ana get away from a Christian!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Where the heck have I been?

Ahmagerd, I can't even tell you.

I've been adjusting to the Graveyard Shift and not having weekends (I get off during the week now), and I've been here, there and everywhere.

I feel like Mr. Rogers because I have so much to share!

First things first. I've been thinking about the retort "Ur jus jellus!" a lot because I think sometimes something happens and if you have a negative reaction to it, people think you're just jealous about it.

Case in point, I broke off a relationship at the beginning of the year and it was sort of sad and ugly, but I've been better since it happened. I wonder every now and then if my former friend thinks I was just jealous of her when in fact, I'm not. In fact, I really think our lives took different paths and we just could no longer be compatible at all.

It made me think of EL James and how I'm tearing apart her Magnum Opus: Ode to a Narcissist AKA Fifty Shades of Grey. I'm sure there are people out there that see that and think, "Oh, she's just jealous."

As with my dissolution of my friendship, my issues with EL James don't stem from a place of jealousy. I'm not jealous about her piss-poor writing, characterizations, or even the fact that she got published. These aren't goals that I have. My goals are to read good literature and to enjoy it. I didn't enjoy reading her, but I sure am enjoying tearing her work apart.

Speaking of both bad writing and EL James, I found out that a blogger called The Slactivist has torn apart the Left Behind series in the same way I'm going at Fifty Shades. Now, I'm not even going to pretend that a work of heresy such as Left Behind has anything in common with a work of heresy like...wait. Wait.

Left Behind is dangerous because it paints an unreal picture of what Christianity should be.

Fifty Shades is dangerous because it paints and unreal picture of what relationships should be.

Neither work is actually representative of any sort of reality other than an abusive one...

Both works are held up quite often as being important cultural phenomena that people are using to shape themselves and their decisions regarding the way they react to those around them...

Hmmm. I don't know, it's up to your interpretation.

Anyway, all that to say that I feel a grateful energy towards The Slactivist for going through these books (long ago, but never mind) so that I don't have to. I've wanted to read them just because I'm a Christian and I wanted to see what the hooplah was about, but then Kirk Cameron was in the movies and I said, "No way, Jose!" Jose said, "Dios mio!" (Just kidding. There's no Jose.) So, I'm not going to read the books, but I am loving the commentary on Left Behind and the sound orthodox Christianity behind The Slactivist's comments. I think with the election and the Republican Party being what they currently are, it's important to remember that there is a fringe sect of Christianity that is trying to make itself more mainstream and take over the nation. They are the people who read books like Left Behind, but never question the fact that they're trying to turn the country into a Christian Theocracy so that...what? The Antichrist can take over? I mean, what's the goal? There's no reason to do what they're doing. It's so very odd and weird, and I can't get their doctrines to mesh with each other.

Speaking of BDSM....

When I started with Fifty Shades, I made sure to say that I do not know much about the lifestyle, and that I did a little bit of research to understand what is considered an acceptable norm when it comes to BDSM. Now, I acknowledge that BDSM is not considered a cultural norm, though I do think it's more pervasive than some people realize, and that as human beings, we should be more open and honest about our sexuality and accept that there are things that we do that we like and that we shouldn't have to apologize about them. I think that if BDSM were considered more normative and if there were more knowledge about it, then this horrible book would never have been written.

So, to that end, I did publish in the early chapters of Fifty Shades of Grey some "norms" that I found according to my research, and that one of the norms was that people who are BDSM don't necessarily always mix sex with BDSM. I'm sure that this is not true with everyone. I'm sure that there are people out there that always combine the two. I'm also not saying that I think the two things are separate or different. I think, from my limited outside point of view, I see them as both means to the very same (or maybe similar?) end. Just because you don't engage in traditional PIV sex, that doesn't mean to me that you didn't have a sexual experience or a sexual release. And I do totally acknowledge that someone could want to have totally "typical" sex after a BDSM episode, or even during (which starts getting into grey areas anyway because PIV obviously doesn't fly with all GLBT partners) a BDSM episode, but I'm trying to debunk a really stupid and frankly dangerous book, not start a political debate.

So, I wanted to give you guys someone to turn to who is being open and honest about her sexuality and her experiences with BDSM. Clarisse Thorn blogs, and she wrote an excellent piece on BDSM Vs. Sex, and here is part II which I particularly enjoyed because I felt like I could really hear her "voice" for this one more than the first one.

I particularly liked this:

Although Part 1 was all about how the divide between “BDSM” and “sex” is often nonsensical, or purely political, or socially constructed … that doesn’t mean that the divide does not exist. I once had a conversation about ignoring social constructs with a wise friend, who noted dryly that: “One-way streets are a social construct. That doesn’t mean we should ignore them.” Just because the outside world influences our sexuality, does not mean that our sexual preferences are invalid.
Her insights are great, and I did read other bloggers, but her voice was the one that really spoke to me.  She goes into detail about times that she was and wasn't turned on, and she also talks a great deal about ending BDSM relationships, which as I understand (again, this is my understanding, from the outside), are way more intense than "typical" sexual relationships. And that makes sense to me. The thought of allowing someone to hurt you for mutual pleasure would take a great deal of trust to me. I couldn't imagine doing it myself, mostly because of the huge trust factor I would need. When I take this into account with Ana and Christian's relationship, I am always struck by how much neither of them really knows the other very well, or seems to trust the other very well. This is especially glaring to me in light of the most recent chapter post where Ana kicks herself for not using the "safe word" and Christian similarly is pissed off at her for not using it, but neither of them bring up how wrong Christian was to not look after Ana more carefully as he was punishing her.

I'm not even going to touch on the fact that if Ana had used the safeword, Christian would still be a sociopath and Ana would still be stupid.

So...there you go. That's what I've been doing.

Oh, and I've been sending my friend little short stories and getting some back in return. It's been a lot of fun.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Good Romance Novel Review: No True Gentleman by Liz Carlyle

So, I have more Fifty Shades to throw shade at (see what I did there?), but all of this negativity is getting me down. So is abuse, victim blaming and slut shaming. So, I wanted to review a book that's really good. And I've read a few that are really good lately. But...why go for a new book when you can go to an old, loved, wonderful book? A book that makes you feel good and warm and sexy, like that old pair of jeans that you'll never get rid of.

That book for me is No True Gentleman by Liz Carlyle, and it features one of my favorite literary couples since Emma and Mr. Knightly.

Max and Catherine are to Ana and Christian what hawks are to handsaws. Catherine is intelligent, funny, interesting, lively, self assured, confident, sexy, and not willing to take crap from anyone. Especially not from Max. She has a huge, closely-knit family, lots of friends, and wonder of wonders, she's a widow who not only is not a virgin, but she's no stranger to orgasms, either. In the literary world, this is a huge anomaly. Heroines are almost always virginal, even if they've been married, and the hero is the first one to teach them how to orgasm. You get the impression that Catherine figured it out on her own.

Max is also not a typical romance novel hero. He's got a lot of demons, but they make him complicated rather than just making him a man-whore. He's actually not a man-whore, which is completely unheard of in romance novels. He also has a network of friends (though he's reluctantly good friends with them...more on that later) and he has a good family connection with his family that is still alive. Yeah, he's sort of a woobie, but he's just enough of one. Just like how Catherine manages to not be too independent and aloof, Max manages to not be too broken over the deaths of his parents and the loss of his family home, name and title.

At the beginning of the book, Catherine and Max spy each other in Hyde Park, where Catherine runs her horse early in the morning. Max is looking into some sort of police investigator looking into corruption. There will be a murder to solve, but let's not look at that. Catherine actually has a conversation with her aunt--her late husband's aunt, mind--and Auntie suggests Catherine find herself a lover. Catherine's like, "Yeah, I was thinking the same thing." After reading so many romances where heroines are practically raped because they are so reluctant about sex (but then really enthusiastic about it, but only with the hero), this was a hugely wonderful change of pace. I don't know why so many romance novelists are prudes who think that sex should only happen between a woman and one man (and him and every other woman in the world), but it so often works like that. Carlyle's like, "Yeah, my couple likes sex. Deal with it."

So, one of Max's "friends" Cecilia Delacourt who featured in her own book (as a virgin widow, boo, Carlyle) makes him take on the investigation of her sister-in-law's murder. Her brother is the main suspect, but no one really thinks he could have done it. Catherine likes Cecilia, although most people do (she's sort of that Elle Woods/Cher Horrowitz airhead blonde who's smarter than she looks and acts), so she starts getting involved too. Max thinks this is a bad idea, mostly because he's actually a good cop and doesn't want civilians involved. But it's a romance novel, so of course Catherine gets involved.

I've mentioned that the murder plot really doesn't matter, and it doesn't. It's all the interraction between the people that really matter. In fact, we first met Max in A Woman of Virtue by the same author, and we all fell in love with not only Cecilia but also Lord Delacourt, the guy who just wanted to wear his ravensblood waistcoat although his valet wouldn't let him, so the continuation of characters is really what I was looking for. And I totally wasn't disappointed that we got to know more about Max and his reluctant ways of entering friendship.

The last person I want to hit on is George Jacob Kemble (his name is my name too), who played Lord Delacourt's valet in A Woman of Virtue (and said that Delacourt was too pale to wear that red waistcoat, though it looked great on Max), who is gay, but not in that really annoying way that writers seem to be doing nowadays where he's just flapping and lisping in such a way that even Carson Kressley would say was too much. Instead, he's also a really interesting character who knows his way around a fist fight, but is too fastidious to allow blood to stain his cuffs. As with her other characters, Carlyle manages a balance between this and that to make him an excellent character and completely not overdone.

I can't say enough about this book. It's good, and the sex is hot, unlike a certian Fifty Shades I can think of. In fact, I wish there was more sex, but ah well. What we get is great.

Two enthusiastic thumbs up.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Chapter by Chapter Synopsis: Fifty Shades Darker: Chapters 2-3

Okay, Ana and Christian are back together again and it only took a chapter and a really stupid prologue to get us here.


Before I continue, though, I want to congratulate Emma Watson for saying that she wasn't interested in playing Ana, nor had she been sent a script. Good girl. Now don't have any tawdry affairs with any middle-aged men and you'll be better off than ninety percent of Hollywood.

Okay, onto the book.

Chapter Two

Christian takes Ana to a restaurant that she thinks is nice, but he thinks is just sort of middling. My cousin is dating a guy who was taking her to restaurants and then complaining that they weren't good enough and she confronted him about it. He apologized for bringing down what to her was a nice date, and he's been working on being positive since.

I'm just saying that Christian took Ana to IHOP in the last book, maybe the author needs to snob him down just a bit.

Ana starts getting worried about what Christian might say. Why, we're not exactly sure. It's not like she's done something wrong. I guess she's just worried because he's an unstable person in need of deep therapy so she's never sure what he'll say or do.

He orders steak for both of them (Steak and fries...has this author even been to America, or has she never left England?) and Ana snarks that she might want to make her own decisions. He calls her childish and tells her to not start with him.

Okay, I'm pretty sure that if she walked out right now, Jose would make sure she got home safe and she wouldn't have to rely on Christian's kindness. Honestly, what is it with this guy? Does he have crack on his dick?  Why is he attractive?

Oh, but he's not upset about her not wanting to eat steak. He's upset about how she "flirted" with Jose.


Okay, this is the whole of what happened with Jose: He took pictures of Ana and displayed them for sale at a gallery without asking her for permission. Ana forgave him when he apologized, and she honestly wasn't that upset. Then she hugged him and gave him a peck on the cheek. Then she said goodbye and left with Christian.

Christian says this was leading Jose on. Keep in mind that Jose tried to kiss Ana at the beginning of the last book and Christian hasn't been able to forgive him for that. Even if what Ana did was flirting (I have this idea that the author is a Duggar in disguise and would never dream of even touching a boy on the arm without first thinking of marrying him, I mean, this messed up relationship is a product of her rather than anything based in reality), why does Christian care? He thinks what she did was mean to Jose.

"My sister said, 'You shouldn't have kissed him. If you didn't plan on going all the way.'"

How many times do I need to say that I just can't with these two? If I had a nickel for every time I kissed a male friend of mine platonically, I'd have...maybe a buck. But still, people are intelligent! If Ana left with Christian, then I'm pretty sure even Jose has figured out that she's with him.

Finally, Ana accuses him of being grumpy. Understatement of the year. He's all, "And why would that be, hmm?" like she should be upset that it's her fault he's grumpy. He has no reason to be, but if he keeps gaslighting her enough, maybe she'll finally believe him.

Ana snarks that he's setting a great tone for a conversation about their future together. He apologizes, but we're not sure for what. He doesn't seem to understand what he's done wrong. Ever.

"Ana, the last time we spoke, you left me. I'm a little nervous. I've told you I want you back, and you've said...nothing." His gaze is intense and expectant while his candor is totally disarming. What the hell do I say to this?
Okay, let's break it down again. The last time Ana and Christian "spoke" was on the phone, making the plans for the night they're currently enjoying. But let's put that aside. The last time they were together, he beat the crap out of her and she left him. Both because he beat her and because he has a need to beat and subjugate women like her. He is taking something that he did to her and making it into something about himself. He is upset that Ana left him, but he can't see why she left him. He isn't apologetic about that. He is not empathizing with her or even accepting that Ana made a decision based on what was correct and right for her to do at the time. When someone is hurting you, you need to do everything you can to move away from that person, even if you hurt them. If they really care about you, if they are sincere in wanting what is best for you, then they will hide their hurt in order to help you make the best choice for you. Only a sociopath will try and downplay your hurt by displaying their own. That is called blaming the victim. It is also emotionally manipulative.

So, Ana says that she can't be what Christian wants her to be. She's not that kind of girl. He says he likes her just the way she is.

Since they've been back "together," he has berated her for her eating habits, accused her of leading on a good friend by hugging him, called her childish, and ordered food for her. He does not value her as an autonomous human being. The fact that she lets him get away with that crap just goes to show that she doesnt' value herself either.

Christian says that what he did was stupid, but then says that she never used the safe word.

She made him do it.

"You never actually said, "Stop.""
Ana forgot the safe word. I have to quote again. I mean, this is "Domestic Violence 101" up in here.

"I don't know. I was overwhelmed. I was trying to be what you wanted me to be, trying to deal with the pain, and it went out of my mind. You know...I forgot," I whisper, ashamed, and I shrug apologetically.
Perhaps we could have avoided all this heartache.
"You forgot!" He gasps with horror, grabbing the sides of the table and glaring. I wither under his stare.
 Shit! He's furious again. My inner goddess glares at me, too. See, you brought this all on yourself!
"How can I trust you?" His voice is low. "Ever?"

Oh geez. How? This is the 21st century. How can we have this in a book with no victim advocacy groups standing up and yelling, screaming, trying to raise awareness that if a guy ever...ever...oh good gracious, EVER FUCKING BLAMED YOU AFTER HE BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF YOU THEN YOU NEED TO FUCKING RUN AWAY AS FAST AS POSSIBLE! HOW? HOW IS THIS A WOMAN WRITING THIS? HOW DID ANYONE PUBLISH THIS? THIS BOOK IS SAYING THAT IT WAS ANA'S FAULT THAT CHRISTIAN NEEDED TO BEAT HER SO HE COULD FEEL GOOD ABOUT HIMSELF.


I can handle a book about pseudo-BDSM. I can handle a book about a stupid heroine having sex with idiots. I can almost even sort of deal with the formatting and run-on sentences up there (seriously, a capital letter after a question mark and quotation?), but I cannot excuse victim blaming, nor can I feel sympathetically towards a character who doesn't even feel sympathetic towards herself!

I love how Christian deflects. That is classic abuse behavior. Ana has good reason to be upset with him, but then he deflects by bringing up the safe word. Like that would have made everything better. Like if she had just used it, it would make him a different sort of man and her a different sort of woman. And then he turns the tables by blaming her for what happened and finally says he doesn't know if he can trust her.

This author is a psychologist's wet dream, I swear. What sort of fucked up woman do you have to be to fantasize about being with this guy? To not only fantasize, but to write him into existence?

The inner goddess glaring at Ana is what sets the final pathetic nail into the coffin. She is now blaming herself. She has accepted that she could have prevented all of this. I am embarrassed for this author. I am embarrassed for my sex and any of us who find these books thrilling and erotic. I am embarrassed for the editor who had to read their way through this. But I am not embarrassed for any person, male or female, who has been abused. I'm sure they feel ashamed and guilty, but I will not let this book go on confirming their feelings. I will not let this piece of..."literature"...stand as a beacon of what women want, or what sexuality should be. And I most certainly won't let it stand as a blueprint for relationships. If this is you, then there is help for you. There are people who want to help you get out of your abusive relationship. It is not your fault.

It's not your fault. It's his fault. He was the one who hit you, you did not run into his fist.

Okay, are we all good?

Well, Ana's not. She apologizes and Christian says that yes, they could have avoided all of this with a safe word.

If you need to go and cry now, I don't blame you. I think I might need a moment.

Oh, and if you think Christian might change or go into the "honeymoon" phase of domestic abuse, then you need to know that he threatens to spank Ana if she won't eat her food, right there in the restaurant. This guy is just a gem.

I'm going to stop using the Bingley picture for him because I quite like Bingley, and I no longer want that actor associated with Christian.

Okay, I guess I was wrong thinking that they're back together. Apparently nothing has changed for Ana. But Christian has a proposition. He calls Taylor to pick them up and they get in the car so he can drive them home. I guess taking the chopper would make too much sense.

So, Christian asks if Ana wants only vanilla, or if she's good with some kink. What she's not good with is punishment for crossing lines. She doesn't want rules, and she doesn't want to be something that he punishes to make himself feel good.

He's fine with that. No rules, no punishment. But he likes to spank her, and she likes being spanked, so that's a good thing.

She says that she is the undeserving one in the relationship. I sigh with resignation. People, you can actually have self-esteem. It's something that is really quite easy to get to. You can do it. Start by staring in a mirror and thinking only positive thoughts. The minute you think something negative, walk away. This isn't a failsafe way of never being taken in by an abuser--most abusers know how to worm their way into your life--but it gives you a good foundation.

I also want to point out that Ana looks at how "beautiful" Christian is and thinks that he's not for her because he's so perfect or whatevs. How someone looks is not the same as how they act, how they treat other people, how they treat you. It is no indication about whether or not they are an addict or a spendthrift or if they have herpes. If they regularly drive drunk. There are many things that make attractive people unattractive. Like my mom says, "Beauty is only skin deep but ugly goes straight to the bone." I don't care how "perfect" Christian looks. He acts like every cliche about a basement-dwelling pedophile with kiddie porn all over his computer.

Oh look! A panda nomming bamboo! How cute! Let us meditate on this image for a while.

So, Ana falls asleep on Christian's lap in the car and he wakes her up outside her apartment. She wants to go with him to his house. Oh, but Christian isn't taking her there. And he's not going to her apartment, either. He's not going to touch her until she begs for it.

Well, this won't last long. Anyone want to make a bet?

Christian is going to pick Ana up tomorrow night after she goes for drinks with her boss. Then he gives her a gift for her to open inside.

Inside the box is her old laptop, blackberry and a new ipad.

She listens to the music stored on it and they e-mail back and forth about it. Once again we get a spectacular playlist that means absolutely nothing  because we're reading instead of listening. I don't think I could hate EL James more if I tried, but I will try because of this. One last thought before the end of the chapter: the author seems to like Coldplay. Do with that what you will.

Chapter Three

Ana waltzes into her office grinning like a fool and her boss Jack Hyde (the author insists on using his name, so I will too) tells her she looks radiant. Ana thinks this is inappropriate. I am now going to keep a running tally of all the inappropriate things I think Ana will be doing throughout the day.

One: Ana immediately starts in with her cutesy e-mails to Christian instead of reading manuscripts for Jack Hyde.

Two: after lunch, Ana starts in again. Only this time, Christian tells her that her e-mails are monitored at SIP where she works with Jack Hyde. I want to point out that Christian initiated the e-mails, so...yeah. Here we go again with him blaming her for what he started.

Three: she seems to believe that her boss, Jack Hyde, is hitting on her for no good reason (he probably is, but there's no basis to think that.)

They're going to a bar called "Fifty's."

I really hate this author.

Ana goes to the bathroom to e-mail Christian on her blackberry and tells him what the bar is called. He then makes me yearn for the days of "Laters baby" by saying "Sooners rather than laters baby."

Ana examines herself in the mirror, and I only bring this up because apparently after a week of being all pale and wan and mopey, she looks happy. Gee, you think that this is why Jack Hyde noticed a change in her?

The eighth dwarf, Mopey.
On her way out, a strange woman approaches Ana. Ana wants to know who she is, but she just says she's nobody. She wants to know what Ana has that she doesn't.

We all want to know that, sweetheart. Apparently she has a high tolerance for being a doormat. I wouldn't call that a positive.

The woman has a bandage around her wrist and it disconcerts Ana. She also looks a lot like Ana with pale skin and dark hair that contrasts starkly against her skin. I mean, I've already figured out that she's a former submissive, but I have a feeling Ana won't parse this out for a few ages.

Oh, wait, her subconscious seems to think that the girl has something to do with Christian. Well, nice to know that one of Ana's personalities is on top of things.

At the bar, Jack Hyde hands Ana a bottle of Budweiser.

Wow, I guess this guy really hates her. That's too bad, Ana. And he's your boss, too.

Someone urinated in this bottle!
Wait, that's how it's supposed to taste.

Hey, English authors of the world, I'm not a huge beer drinker, but I can tell you that we have plenty of good beers here in America, and a lot of bars have their own microbrews. You know. Like European countries do. It's amazing.

I was writing this last night, and now that I come back to it, I want to point out that a hipster capital like Seattel would more than likely NOT have Budweiser on bottles. More like PBR or something equally annoying. You can also find Guinness, Heineken, Jefer (some places), and of course the afforementioned microbrews.

Yes, the lack of research actually really bothers me.

Claire, the receptionist who brings our POC total in this book to a whopping two, the lady that Ana wants to be friends with (or at least wanted to in the previous book) notes that Ana seems happier today. Ana changes the subject without thinking that Claire is hitting on her. Why is that?

Claire starts talking to Ana about her weekend plans, and Ana suddenly realizes that she hasn't spoken to another woman since Kate left for Barbados. And she finally starts thinking about Kate.

I'm thinking about making some stuffed dates. Maybe bleu cheese? I have this idea that I can wrap them in fakon instead of bacon and have them be better for me.

Oh, wait, am I supposed to care about Ana and Kate? Because I'm having a hard time here considering the fact that Kate is about as three-dimensional as a cartoon.

Ana lets us know that Ethan, Kate's brother, will be moving into the apartment, and she muses that Christian won't be happy about that. Like Christian would be anything other than unhappy about any sort of news.

Jack Hyde then comes over and starts engaging Ana in conversation. He asks if she has plans for the weekend, and she thinks he's being creepy. I just want to point out that she asked Claire what her plans for the weekend were, so it's sort of disingenuous of Ana to get tetchy about Jack Hyde asking her in return.

Christian then comes in and pees on Ana so Jack Hyde will know she's his.

Oh, wait. He just puts his arm around her and kisses her hair.

It's just like saying "hello"!

I glance up at Jack who is mentally assessing the fine specimen of manhood in front of him.
So...Jack's gay? Or he's intimidated in the face of Christian? Or...what am I supposed to think of this exactly?

Jack isn't happy and tells Christian that he thought he was an EX boyfriend. They then start strutting and sticking their chests out in a primal display of beastial fury.

Seriously, WTF is wrong with this author?

Ana actually calls him out on his pissing contest and Christian says that Jack Hyde wants inside Ana's panties.

Well, that's good. I thought maybe he wanted inside of Ana herself. I guess she can just throw her drawers at him and we're all good.

Christian wants to know if Jack Hyde is good at his job, and Ana says that he seems competent. But you see, he seems to want what belongs to Christian, and we can't have that, so if he makes a move, Ana needs to tell her man so he can throw Jack Hyde out on his ass.

Ana says he doesn't have that kind of power...or does he...?

Oh, he's bought SIP. Come on people!

Christian needs Ana safe, and no woman has ever been safe working at a company that her boyfriend doesn't own.

I just...what sort of world does this author live in? Why? And what sort of communications mogul wants to buy a publishing company? I mean...this is making me laugh so hard. And it's ridiculous and stupid all at the same time, too.

Christian's like, "Are you mad at me?"

Ana calls him an ass and then gets scared because she may have gone too far. People, when you're afraid your partner is going to haul off and smack you, the fear makes sense. For everyone else, it's like, "Wha..? of course she's angry..."

Ana of course won't stay angry for long.

Pretty soon, they're inside and Christian is telling Ana that she still has to beg. Yeah, after everything he's been up to, she has to beg for him. See what I mean? it's all about him and what he wants. Anything to do with her is incedental.

Ana goes to touch Christian, and he tells her no, he still doesn't like to be touched. Ana suggests that they use a marker and make a map of places she's safe to touch. He thinks that might be an idea with merit.

Christian then decides they need to eat because Ana hasn't been taking the pill, and that makes so much sense. Ana, true to form, begins begging for sex. I'm telling you; he has a dick made out of crack and laced with heroine.
So, they need to go grocery shopping because Ana doesn't have any food. Naturally, Christian has never set foot in a grocery store.

Christian asks why Ana doesn't have any food, and she says he knows why. He's like, "You left me, bitch." Of course, the reason she left him can't factor into this. The fact that she left him is the only part of this that affected Christian. That everything that happened before caused Ana to leave is immaterial. The part that made Christian upset was her leaving him, therefore, it is the only part that matters in this conversation.

"I lost a bullet! Has anyone seen my bullet! OMG, you better not have gotten melted crayon all over my bullet!"

Ana finally thinks something relevant: that if she hadn't left, Christian might never have offered any sort of alternative for their relationship. She's got a good point. Of course, this is assuming that she really wants to have a relationship with Christian. I mean, she does, but a normal woman wouldn't.

So, Christian tries to find good wine in a grocery store. The author's snobbery rears its ugly head again, as there are many wonderful vineyards in California that produce excellent, award winning wines (but only in blind tests because the French would never willingly vote on a Californian wine), and most of them are available in grocery stores across America. Also, Seattle is painfully cosmopolitan. I'm sure you could get Cristal in a grocery store if you looked hard enough. I know you can here in OC, so why not Seattle?

While Christian leaves the store in search of drinkable wine (Barefoot Vineyards, just saying!), Ana concocts a plan to get him in bed. There is no way this can end badly.

So, at home, Ana starts thinking about how little she knows about Christian.

Finally, the author is agreeing with me! I feel like this is a long time coming. My god!

I love being right.
So, instead of talking, they decide to have sex.

Well, let me back that up. Ana starts chopping and prepping her mise en place, and in doing so, she starts bumping and grinding on Christian, so he finally gets hot and bothered enough to beg her for sex.

So, true to his threat, he won't do anything to her unless she asks for it, so she starts telling him what to do.

Fun new game time! I'm so excited, I hope you are too.

Every time Christian and Ana have sex instead of talking about stuff like normal couples do (I'm not going to do this when they have sex at normal times like normal couples do, in other words...which is never, so we'll see) I'm going to bring up an idea for a fun activity that they can do together in order to foster a better understanding of each other. What's funny is that preparing and eating a meal together is number 8 on the list, so we see how badly these things can go. But! We're starting with #1, which is something I would do if I were as rich as God, and that is to buy and put together the Lego Millennium Falcon.
Right? I know!
You can't tell me this toy was created for a kid. This is pure adult fantasy in action, and at five hundred bucks, only an adult could afford one.

Look at tiny little Chewy! And the buns on Princess Leia's head! And the wee little light saber in Vader's mighty fist! So adorbs!

Did I mention it OPENS UP?  Because it opens up.

I mean, think about this. You're making dinner and putting together a great little model with your boyfriend, and then the next thing you know, you're both talking about your childhood and how you would beg your mom to take you to McDonalds so you could get the Lego Happy Meal and use it to build more, bigger, better stuff than was on the little card. My brother and I had a castle that took us forever to build, and my parents got in on the action, too. It was great. This of course brings up other toys and childhood memories, and anything else in your past. THEN you can have sex. And you'll know each other better for it.

And that's the end of the chapter.

I think we've done enough for now.