Starters, Perfect Blood, Black Hearts, & Grey Areas

Usually I select one book to briefly talk about in my monthly Recent Reads posts. This time it’s a quadruple-whammy :)

First up — and please excuse the wholly unintentional pun! — Starters by Lissa Price.

Got this one from the library after seeing a review by the very astute (and tell-it-like-it-is!) Tez Miller, on her blog Tez Says. Here’s Tez’s review if you’d like to read it.

My thoughts? Fascinating premise and I’m interested to see where the series goes with Enders, which is due out in December.

But the reason I mention Starters here is solely because the book cover had a pretty nifty feature I hadn’t seen before: “To bring the book cover to life, simply download the free “Starters” book app from the App Store or Android Marketplace, launch the app and point your device at the front of the book.” So I got DD to download the app to my iPhone and we gave it a go. Way cool! It really does bring the book cover to life–kinda like a mini book trailer. Warning: you need a steady hand because if you move your device around too much, it’ll stop mid-play.

Here’s the link to download the free Starters book app if you 1) have a copy of the book, 2) are curious enough to try it, 3) have the patience to keep your hand steady.

Next up is A Perfect Blood by Kim Harrison.

Back in April last year I somehow I got it through my head that Pale Demon was the last book in Harrison’s Hollows series and I wrote a bit of a spiel about it here. I remember trying to find the positives in the (supposed) end of a series that I loved. And although I found many, I also wished for a big romantic HEA for Rachel, instead of a kinda wistful HFN (Happy For Now). So imagine my immense delight to be so very wrong and learn there was more Rachel Morgan to come!

Stakes were upped. The sh*t hit the fan. Rachel somehow managed to get her ass out of a sling and triumph in the end. More questions arose. In short, awesome! Give me more!

Click here to go to Ms Harrison’s website, where there’s free wallpaper, an excerpt, and a link to read Chapters 1-5 of A Perfect Blood on the publisher’s website.

Third, is Black Heart by Holly Black.

Black Heart is the third book in The Curse Workers trilogy, that kicks off with White Cat and then Red Glove.

Man, I love this series! It’s YA, but with a really gritty edge. And the premise that stems from an alternate-history twist is brilliantly done.

Here’s a quick summary: Magic-workers have been driven underground and into crime. Bare hands are frightening things when you can be “worked” by the most fleeting of touches, so the populace wear gloves. They also and buy gemstone necklaces made by the very workers they fear, which absorb curses and shatter if they’ve been “worked”. Cassel’s entire family are magic workers. His granddad is a death-worker, who loses a finger each time he kills with a curse. His mother is an emotion worker, currently serving time. And his brothers do not have Cassel’s best interests at heart. He’s the black sheep, the only one in his family who can’t work magic. Or is he?

I kept hoping for some sort of happy ending for Cassel and Lila, but as the story progressed, I couldn’t for the life of me see how the author was going to swing it. She kept me guessing right to the very end and gave me a wholly satisfying happy-for-now that left me awed. I highly recommend all three books in this trilogy.

Last is Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James.

Unless you’ve just transported in from another planet, you’re probably aware of at least some of the controversy surrounding this book and the subsequent two books in the series. Briefly, Fifty Shades of Grey started out as Master Of The Universe (MOTU),  a piece of Twilight fan-fic. The two main characters were originally of course — as you’d expect from fan-fic — named Edward Cullen and Bella Swan throughout.  The series was then published by The Writer’s Coffee shop, who specialize in selling fan-fiction. And after selling something like 250,000 copies, it was picked up by Vintage, a literary imprint of Random House. (You can find excellent posts on the journey MOTU has undergone thus far at Dear Author: Fifty Shades of Grey Primer, and, Master Of The Universe vs Fifty Shades Comparison.)

Wikipedia defines fan-fiction as: “fiction-based stories about characters or settings written by fans of the original work”. Many authors turn a blind eye to fan-fic. Others do not, and will issue take-down notices and take legal action. Unintended pun alert: It’s a grey area. And a good deal of the controversy surrounding  Fifty Shades of Grey revolves around the moral implications of publishing fan-fic and selling it for profit.

I believe it’s worth noting that much of the outcry across the blogsphere has originated directly from fan-fic writers who are unhappy with the notion of fan-fic being published for profit. (Dear Author also features some guest posts from fan-fic writers on this topic.) In other words they feel strongly that even though “Bella” has now become “Ana”, and “Edward” has become “Christian”, and BDSM stands in for sparkly vampirism, Fifty Shades of Grey was originally inspired by and heavily based on the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer.

That rather sticky moral issue aside, the current publisher seems to have opted to distance itself from the notion that Fifty Shades is essentially the same book as MOTU by claiming they are “two distinctly different pieces of work”. Interestingly enough, Dear Author has run MOTU and Fifty Shades through an academic plagiarism detector (see Dear Author’s previously mentioned Master Of The Universe vs Fifty Shades Comparison), and to my mind, the results pretty much disprove the publisher’s statement.

I’m not going to debate moral and legal issues surrounding MOTU vs Fifty Shades on this blog — plenty far more skilled and knowledgeable people have done that already. (For example, Passive Guy touches on some of the legal implications here.) I’m still on the fence about it. Like many others, I’m watching and waiting to see Stephenie Meyer’s reactions (if any), her publisher’s reaction (if any), and how the backlash from the fan-fic community may affect fan-fic publishers and the fan-fic community overall. For instance, will we see some sort of attempt to enforce a ban on fan-fic authors officially publishing and selling their works outside the site they are uploaded to? Time will tell, I guess.

Then there’s the “mommy porn” label affixed to Fifty Shades of Grey  that has helped propel the book into the spotlight, increase its readership, and boost it onto the bestseller lists. Not to mention the dismay of some of the BDSM community at seeing BDSM so inexpertly portrayed and even alluded to as a disease to be cured rather than a valid and healthy lifestyle choice.  And don’t get me started on the claims that Fifty Shades is “explicit” and “erotica”, and that it’s being touted as some groundbreaking “new” genre. Really? Oh, please.

I read numerous posts in the blogsphere about these issues, discussed them at length with my husband, and debated how I felt about the moral implications of fan-fic being published in the first place–especially without even a nod to the original author, let alone the moral issues of a subsequently published book raking in oodles of money. But the one thing I hadn’t read was the book itself. How could I possibly form an opinion without reading the book in question? So, although it really really went against the grain to contribute yet another sale for this book, I bought a copy.

And, for what it’s worth, here’s my opinion of the book. Please know I don’t like posting negative reviews. I prefer to say nothing if I can’t say anything positive, so this is a rather unpleasant experience, to say the least. I’ll keep this short and general, without going into too much detail. And keep in mind, this is just my personal opinion. Your mileage may vary and that’s just fine by me.

For me, Fifty Shades was an okay read. I didn’t think it was as badly written as some claimed. I didn’t think it was particularly brilliantly written, either. IMO it hardly fits in the erotica genre, and I wouldn’t even go so far as to call it explicit — unless you think dropping a few f-bombs is explicit, that is. Put it this way, I’ve read a ton of paranormal romances and Regency historicals that use far more explicit language when it comes to the bedroom scenes.

I don’t read a lot of books that feature BDSM, but when I do I want to read a book that makes me care deeply for the characters, and gives me clear, incisive  insights as to why they were drawn to this  lifestyle. For me, unfortunately Fifty Shades wasn’t that book. I’m hardly a widely-read expert on the subject, but compared with other books I’ve read, I thought the BDSM scenes in Fifty Shades were portrayed in a somewhat ingenuous fashion, and I wasn’t overly convinced that the author had truly grasped some of the deeper emotional issues surrounding couples who engage in it. Spoiler alert: By the end of the book I was rather glad that Ana chose to leave Christian. And I was happy to leave it at that, despite knowing there are two more books, so Ana and Christian obviously continue their relationship.

Without delving further into whether or not Fifty Shades is too much an homage to Twilight to be considered an original story in its own right, honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone as an example of erotica, erotic romance, or a romance featuring BDSM. For me, there are far better examples of those genres out there. So if I had to label Fifty Shades, maybe I’d call it women’s fiction? One thing I do know, it isn’t porn (and whoever coined the phrase “mommy porn” needs a smack upside the head). Actually, two things I know: the second being regardless of my feelings about the book, it’s an incredibly popular bestselling story. So all power to E.L. James! I sincerely hope she doesn’t cop any legal flack and I wish her all the best with her publishing career.

Here’s my reading list for May:

  • Spying in High Heels by Gemma Halliday
  • Starters by Lissa Price
  • Flaunt It: Paolo’s Playhouse by Natasha Moore
  • Master of Crows by Grace Draven
  • Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James
  • Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton
  • The Bro-Magnet by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
  • Glimmerglass by Jenna Black
  • Heart of the Dragon by Gena Showalter
  • Thumped by Megan McCafferty
  • Red Glove by Holly Black
  • Black Heart by Holly Black
  • A Perfect Blood by Kim Harrison
  • A Beautiful Evil by Kelly Keaton
And for those of you who live in New Zealand: Happy Queen’s Birthday weekend! If you’re off down country, drive safe and take care.


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2 Responses to “Starters, Perfect Blood, Black Hearts, & Grey Areas”

  1. Tez Miller says:

    My phone isn’t a smartphone, so those apps and such don’t draw me in. Rather enjoyed STARTERS, though :-)

    My sister’s going to Christchurch mid-June – any chance she’ll avoid the aftershocks, or are they ongoing?

    • You’re not missing out on too much, Tez. Really, a phone just needs to be, like, a phone! I hardly use half the stuff on my iPhone, tho I admit the camera comes in handy–as does the GPS when I’m driving somewhere unfamiliar. Oh, and the alarm function. But I might listen to music once a month on it, and now I’ve got a Kindle, it’s rare for me to read a book on it. So do I need all the fancy extras? Mmm. It is rather useful having one device that does it all, I guess.

      As for Christchurch, I don’t know what to tell you. I believe aftershocks are still ongoing, but they’re comparatively small ones. Although I’m told there was a larger one last week. I think I don’t hear so much about aftershocks anymore because my dad and grandma have gotten so used to them they’re rather blase :(