Note: I'm uploading my books from Goodreads and since there are like 200+ it's going to take awhile. The uploading seems a bit wonky too, so hang with me as I fix things. Also there may be spoilers until I can make all the appropriate tags.
I'm an ex-English Major who, sick of reading classics after college, decided to read all the trashy books I didn't before because I was too snobby. Since graduating, I've entertained myself with comics, YA, and romance novels, finding out they can not only be decently written, but superbly written. I've since recovered from my classics aversion, but I'm now more open-minded reader willing to read from any genre. If a book has kick-ass heroines and/or witty banter and/or takes place in a different time or place (including fantasy settings), I will most likely fall in love with it. My favorite authors are Jane Austen, Shakespeare, E.M. Forster, Meljean Brook, Sarah Rees Brennan, Rachel Hartman, Catherynne M. Valente, and Aliette de Bodard.
4.5 out of 5 Stars
I declare 2012 the year I discovered Sarah Rees Brennan and her awesomeness. Unspoken is unlike any other PNR YA I’ve read (but I can’t tell you the secret because that ruins the mystery). Kami (a quarter Asian heroine this time, SRB is pretty awesome in regards to diversity), the heroine, is self-possessed, strong, and independent like nobody ever was at that age (but hey, that’s part of the charm of YA). Jared is that type of rough-around-the-edges, but incredibly vulnerable hero I eat up with a spoon. Kami’s relationship with him was heartbreaking. Brennan somehow manages to blend laugh-out-loud humor with the beautiful and haunting English town Kami and the gang live in. The secondary characters are wonderful and memorable, each deeper than they appear on the outset (I love Angela and her naps – I can relate). The only problem was this book ended and I have to wait until June for the release of Untold. DAMN YOU YA AND YOUR LOVE OF TRILOGIES/SERIES! Unspoken is a beautiful novel that is both funny and heartbreaking at the same time.
2.5 out of 5 Stars
Leaving off where Bared to You left off, billionaire Gideon Cross and Eva Trammel try to work through their pasts as child sexual abuse survivors and their destructive tendencies, while becoming further and further obsessed with each other.
There are some things I really like about this novel (and series) and some things I absolutely want to burn to ashes. Sadly, this book seemed to focus more on the burning ashes than the things I enjoyed in the first book.
I read Bared to You because it was reviewed as a better written version of 50 Shades. I knew it had probably the biggest trope I hate in romance novels – the controlling alpha-male asshole. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t like Gideon very much, but Bared to You had me rooting for him and Eva. I loved Eva’s voice and her self-awareness. I loved the secondary characters, especially Cary, Eva’s messed-up best friend. I was riveted by two very damaged people and how they fought to be together. I liked how the book didn’t disguise the unhealthy parts of their relationship and their problems were being worked through realistically, with therapy instead of the ‘healing power of lurve.’ Overall, my takeaway was positive. While I still didn’t drink the caveman kool aid, I felt Gideon was right for Eva and wanted them to be together.
However, Reflected in You lost much of what I loved about Bared. In fact, by the end, I felt Eva would be better off without Gideon and if she does stick with him, it will only lead to tragedy. The fight, passion, and self-awareness I saw in Eva in the first book were gone and replaced by a wimpy doormat. Gideon’s possessiveness ratchets up to 11, putting him into crazy possessive stalker territory. Instead of focusing on the very real emotional obstacles in their relationship, the book uses outside forces such as exes to create petty drama between the two.
The first part is filled with petty fights and 7th grade emotional outbursts. Gideon and Eva constantly use sex to solve the problems in their relationship, even when their therapist (who they go to for fun I guess, because they don’t listen to a word he says) points it out. Eva lets Gideon string her along while he doesn't tell her anything about himself and Eva pouts, fights, and then gives into him because he’s just sooooooooooooo hot. Gideon has Eva tailed by security (who intercede when she harmlessly flirts with other men), his chauffeur follow her, wishes to have her followed to the bathroom that is 20-feet away, demands she have him drive her to work and eat at her desk (without explanation), watches her from security banks, and manipulates elevators in his own buildings to talk to her. He doesn’t respect Eva’s space or trust her to make any decisions on her own. He constantly says things like “You're not going to get a hundred percent equality in this relationship.” Like WTF? (And Gideon, you can’t have 50% equality. Equality doesn’t work like that. YOU’RE AN IDIOT).
Also, the sex scenes? RIDICULOUS. It started to be like one every 5 pages and I was getting sick of the sex because it didn’t do anything to further the plot and just kept enforcing destructive behavior. I love me some good sex scenes, but there are only so many ‘hard long cocks’ and ‘shattering orgasms’ before it gets repetitive. The sex isn’t all that groundbreaking. They basically just fuck multiple times in the three main positions (which granted is a step up from the erotic missionary sex of the first book).
The second part was better because Gideon basically drops Eva like a sack of oats (for reasons he doesn’t tell her because adult conversations and talking things through don’t lead to pointless irritating drama) and the focus is more on Eva and secondary characters. Cary was as awesome as ever. Despite his flaws, I find him completely lovable (though I do hate how Eva and the text insinuate the women he sleeps with are sluts). He’s a ray of sunshine amidst Eva and Gideon’s constant ‘wah wah fuckfuckfuck.’ I loved how Eva’s Mom and Dad wanted to eat each other up, but were totally wrong for each other (though Eva talking about her ‘smoking hot dad’ was really really weird).
Eva finally does start to stick up for herself at the end and takes a proactive position. Eva puts her foot down, forcing Gideon to *finally* tells her his past. Still, after chewing Gideon out, she always puts herself down, undoing all the ‘YEAH GURRRRRRRRRRRL!’ that came before. Gideon finally fesses up at the very end, so I do wonder if the first half was just filler to unnecessarily drag out the story.
The ending completely shocked me. In some ways, it shows how perfect Gideon and Eva are for each other, but at the same time, Eva now ‘owes’ Gideon.
Eva is dark enough and violent enough to want someone dead, but I don’t know if that’s a healthiest part to bring out of her. I mean, whatever POS rapist Nathan was, was killing him the answer? Does Gideon have the right to pass judgment like that? I mean HE KILLED SOMEONE. But the narrative implies that this is a good thing, a noble thing, not only through Eva’s somewhat flawed (but clearly not flawed enough) perspective, but the FREAKING HOMICIDE DETECTIVE INVESTIGATING THE MURDER as well. I hated how the detective was basically like ‘Yeah, he killed a dude. Isn’t he the most awesome bestest boyfriend EVA?
This only reaffirms Gideon’s godlike status (not to mention he can use his incredible wealth and influence to cover up) and that his crazy stalker ‘I rule the world’ tendencies are in the RIGHT. And I don’t agree with that. AT ALL.
I think I could enjoy these books more if they weren’t romance, but a story between two people who become unhealthily obsessed with each other (like Wuthering Heights –another not-romance). I enjoy the author’s voice, I love many of the secondary characters, and I like Eva and am rooting for her. Sadly, Reflected in You changed my mind and made me believe Gideon was not the way for Eva to find happiness. Great sex only goes so far. I can’t imagine either of these two with a happy ending. Gideon brings out the worst in Eva and I wish there was someone better for her than Gideon. Losing herself in a man when she’s finally accepting herself for the first time after having lost so much of herself seems tragic, not romantic.
2 out of 5 Stars
WARNING: TV Tropes links ahead! You've been warned.
Jane travels with her Darwinist father to Africa in search of fossils to prove humanity’s evolution from apes. When betrayed by their guide, Jane is saved by a handsome jungle man, Tarzan. While her remarkable rescuer teaches Jane how to survive in the jungle, Jane realizes Tarzan himself may hold the key to the missing evolutionary link...
Jane is a reimagining of the Tarzan stories through Jane’s perspective. I was never a huge fan of Tarzan (not even the Disney movie that everyone loved), but I love classic retellings. Sadly, Jane did not convince me to love Tarzan.
My biggest problem was that this book felt too preachy. Jane felt more like a soapbox for the author than her own character. I hate it when books are holier-than-thou, even when extolling my own beliefs. Usually, in these types of books, the characters are very shallow and either good or evil – there is no grey. “Good” characters posses all the “good” traits and “bad” characters posses all the “bad” traits. And while this may work for some epic fantasy and simple stories like fairy tales, legends, etc., it doesn’t work in a book trying to be passed off as somewhat realistic and “literary” fiction.
Part of the problems stem from the problems inherent within the original Tarzan story. I haven’t read the original books, but from what I gather they are very much a product of their times. African characters are “savages” and “cannibals” and Tarzan constantly plays the role of conqueror. While maybe not blatantly racist, Jane hits other problematic stereotypes such as “Noble Savage,” “Going Native,” “Magical Negro,” and “Mighty Whitey.” I had hoped a retelling could maybe subvert these tropes and give a more modern politically correct take, but alas it was not to be.
The main problem is the character of Jane herself. She reads like a modern 21st century woman – feminist, atheist, and pro-science – with no trappings of the Victorian upbringing she would have had. I’m all for characters who buck tradition, but Jane reads more like an anachronism than a nonconformist. It doesn’t help that every other white female character (minus a Hooker with a Heart of Gold) is written as old-fashioned, frivolous, irrational, and not-as-awesome-and-amazing-as-Jane. The other girls attending university with Jane, girls who would be considered very progressive and improper in 1905, aren’t as “enlightened” and “admirable” as the anachronistic Jane. Jane is even dismissive of her own mother. Her mother is written as a buffoon, when she is a woman of her time. Any worthwhile mother-daughter conflict is ruined by the cartoonish nature of her characterization. It’s even more disturbing when, more often than not, male characters prefer Jane for her radicalism. Jane is more attractive and awesome to men than “those silly feminine girls.” The judges of female worthiness are men and, in the end, it’s all about male attention and male acceptance. Not very feminist, eh?
The one other positive white female character is a textbook “Hooker with a Heart of Gold” who awkwardly gives Jane all the sex knowledge she needs to fuck like a porn star. However, Jane still looks down upon her, stating *she* would never deign to sell her body to a man. Well, that’s great. It’s really nice being a member of the gentry, where you don’t have to worry about money and surviving on your own and have the money, time, and resources to skip around dissecting corpses and digging up fossils. Check your privilege and shut the fuck up Jane.
In fact, the politics in this whole book read as very elementary white, upper-middle class, Second Wave feminism. Before feminism realized there were other voices and problems not being addressed. White guilt shows up too because ALL the African characters are noble and accommodating and perfect, yet utterly helpless without Tarzan and Jane to save the day (well, mostly Tarzan. For all her I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROAR!, Jane is incredibly useless in any climatic scene). None of the African characters are fleshed out beyond their inherent nobility to welcome and serve white people. Jane muses they probably have their own gender issues, but they get a pass unlike the Victorians because everything in Africa is SO AMAZING AND WONDERFUL AND SIMPLE as opposed to corrupt Western society. Not problematic at all.
The plot itself is a bit disjointed (but then again most adventure stories are). In the frame story, Jane relates her story to Edgar Rice Burrows, the author of the original Tarzan novels (of course, he is infatuated with Jane and scoffs at his own wife to prove Jane is the most special of all women). Jane, a Victorian lady, is really going to tell all the sexy bits to a male stranger she just met? From there the plot jumps back and forth between when Jane first meets Tarzan and the events leading up to the Porter expedition. At least a third of the story is spent before Jane even gets to Africa. The jungle parts of the story are full of episodic adventures that for the most part, do lead to one whole story. However, the main story is abruptly cut off on a cliff-hanger, and then related through the frame story in an extremely rushed second hand account. I had whiplash.
Tarzan himself was a very loveable character and I liked his interactions with Jane away from any sort of civilization. I thought it was clever how Maxwell tied the apes and Tarzan to the burgeoning evolutionary science that Jane and her father studied.
The Tarzan stories are fraught with problems many Victorian novels fall into – gender issues, racial issues, etc. I had hoped this book would try to tell a more modern tale, avoiding those pratfalls. Instead, it zoomed to the other side, getting a soapbox anachronistic heroine and perfect noble yet characterless African characters there to serve the white characters. Jane is an alright story, but too preachy to be enjoyable. I’ll stick to George of the Jungle reruns.