Category Archives: 2.5 stars

The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

Review (Amazon): 

EVERY DAY THE SAME
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

UNTIL TODAY
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

My Review (spoilers):

Executive Summary: pathetic and boring

I have NO IDEA what the hype was all about regarding this book. It is similar to Gone Girl, in that there’s not a single likable character in this book. But Gone Girl was actually interesting, not about a pathetic alcoholic creepily watching people while riding on a train. If I hadn’t been reading it on vacation, I’d have put it in my charity donation box unread.

Rachel, the main character, divorced from her husband 2 years prior after he was caught having an affair with Anne. Rachel moved in with a friend, started drinking heavily, and her train ride into work drives her past her old neighborhood where she had lived with her ex-husband Tom. The train always stopped so that she could look out the window and see one of the houses that was a few doors down from her old house. The couple who lived there had moved in after Rachel moved out, so she didn’t actually know them, but she concocted a story about their happy life.

Eventually Rachel’s drinking gets her fired, but she doesn’t want to tell her roommate, so she just keeps taking the train to and from the area where she worked, and mostly just drank all day. One day instead of seeing the couple outside their house, she sees the woman with another man, kissing.

When that woman goes missing, Rachel feels compelled to help the investigation. She doesn’t feel like the investigators are taking her seriously (she is an alcoholic and because she happened to be in that neighborhood at the same time as Megan went missing but was too drunk to recall anything) so she decides to reach out to the husband herself. It starts as just to try to figure out what had happened the night that she could not remember, and also to tell the husband about the mystery man, who turns out to be the shrink that Megan was seeing. Pathetic Rachel can’t let it go though because it’s really the only thing in her sad life so she keeps going over to visit the husband, but Anne keeps seeing her around the neighborhood and reaches out to the police about it. Tom was “supposed to take care of it” but he obviously hasn’t done so. She keeps calling him at all hours and now she’s hanging around. And to add to Rachel being a pathetic weirdo, she decides that she should also start going to the same shrink that Megan went to so that she can make her own assessment of whether or not he’s a killer.

As Rachel starts regaining some memories of the evening that Megan went missing, she realizes that she saw Tom near the train station, and she sees a woman get into the car. She thinks that it’s Anne, but eventually she realizes that it can’t be Anne because Anne has a baby, and she didn’t have the baby with her, and she wouldn’t have left the baby at home. So she realizes that it wasn’t Anne getting into the car, it was Megan.

She goes over to Anne’s to tell Anne that she and the baby need to leave! Anne doesn’t really believe her, but then Tom shows up. He tells Anne and the baby to go upstairs which they do, and he tells Anne how sorry that he is and that he was only sleeping with Megan when Anne was tied up with the baby. Anne realizes that Tom is just a shady person and has been using all the women he’s been with and telling them lies of his family, his military service, among other things. So once she puts the baby up, she goes back downstairs to find Rachel stab Tom in the neck with a corkscrew. Anne helps to push it in, and when the investigators come by, they have a perfect self-defense story.

Verdict: 2.5 stars

This book was so boring. It felt like a terrible reality TV show. All of the characters were pathetic and dull, and the story itself wasn’t any better. When I was at the beach, a woman asked me whether I’d recommend the book (because she like probably everyone else has heard of it), and I said definitely no. Another woman who was nearby gushed about how much she liked it, but she said that the movie was not worth seeing. Not that I was planning on it, but good to know. Even for a beach read, this book was mediocre.

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My Name is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout

Review (Amazon): Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.

My Review (Spoilers!):

Executive Summary: blah

Yes, that is two “blahs” in a row. Not great. This book is our literary fiction book for the year, and it might actually just be that I don’t really like literary fiction. On the plus side, this is a very quick read. I just happened to really dislike Lucy Barton.

As you probably figured out, the main character is a woman named Lucy Barton who is presumably in her early 30s. She lives in New York City and is married with two children. For some unknown reason she is in the hospital and has been for a little while when her mother arrives.

Lucy and her family (mom, dad, brother, sister) grew up very poor. Lucy’s mom did sewing and alterations and her dad, who had PTSD (although this wasn’t described in extensive detail) wasn’t able to hold a steady job. They had no TV and little climate control. Lucy would stay at school late to take advantage of the heat and space and did very well–well enough to go to college.

She ended up getting married to what seemed like a upper middle class husband and basically spent her entire life in complete denial of where she ended up. It was like mentally she couldn’t believe where she was and seemed somewhat intent on sabotaging it. She was separated from the rest of her family mostly due to the vast difference in their current statuses so it was a surprise that her husband (who doesn’t come to see her much because he hates hospitals) called her mother to come see her.

When her mother arrives, Lucy interacts with her through gossip and stories about people who they used to know. When she tries to bring up painful childhood memories, her mother moves on without addressing them or she simply just cannot remember what Lucy is talking about. However through these stories we learn a slight bit more about Lucy and her life. She wants to be a writer, attending writing workshops with an author she loves. She also has basically only one friend in New York City, an older gay man named Jeremy who ended up dying of AIDS while she was in the hospital.

Eventually Lucy gets out of the hospital from whatever mysterious illness she had. She still doesn’t keep in touch with her mother because she is busy with her own life and children and her best-selling novel (but also mostly just because she doesn’t really want to). She only visits her 9 years later when her mother is dying. She sees her father there as well, and he dies the following year. When Lucy’s children go off to college, she and her husband end up getting divorced. Lucy ends up getting married to a man who also grew up in poverty but now is a cellist in the Philharmonic Symphony.

Verdict: 2.5 stars

This book was not for me. If it had been any longer, I would have not made it through it. It was challenging to even write a review for it because literally nothing happened. I probably could have summed it up in about 3 sentences. When we discussed it at book club, we didn’t really seem to be able to answer any questions because the story was just so vague and focused on a bunch of trivial stories instead of anything important. Although, maybe that is the point? I don’t know.

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Hedy’s Folly – Richard Rhodes

 Summary (Amazon): Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes delivers a remarkable story of science history: how a ravishing film star and an avant-garde composer invented spread-spectrum radio, the technology that made wireless phones, GPS systems, and many other devices possible.

Beginning at a Hollywood dinner table, Hedy’s Folly tells a wild story of innovation that culminates in U.S. patent number 2,292,387 for a “secret communication system.” Along the way Rhodes weaves together Hollywood’s golden era, the history of Vienna, 1920s Paris, weapons design, music, a tutorial on patent law and a brief treatise on transmission technology. Narrated with the rigor and charisma we’ve come to expect of Rhodes, it is a remarkable narrative adventure about spread-spectrum radio’s genesis and unlikely amateur inventors collaborating to change the world.

My Review:

Executive Summary: zzzzzzz

Holy cow was this book boring. I was really excited about reading this because I’m an engineer myself, and I thought it would be really interesting. Unfortunately, no.

Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil worked together during WW2 to create a patent for a radio frequency hopping torpedo, the technology from which helped form things we use today like GPS and wireless technology. Sounds cool, right? And Hedy Lamarr is a famous movie star, the most beautiful woman in the world. And George Antheil, who you maybe have never heard about (I hadn’t), wrote an autobiography called The Bad Boy of Music so he has to be cool (or at least crazy and therefore interesting). Somehow a Pulitzer Prize winning author managed to turn this story into something less interesting than reading a phone book.

Hedy was born in Austria to progressive parents. She dropped out of school to pursue theater and star in a risque German movie. She married Friedrich Mandl, who was involved in munitions during WWI. He forbade her to continue acting, and eventually she had had enough, left him, and moved to Paris. There she met the head of MGM who encouraged her to move to Hollywood.

Through a mutual friend, Hedy and George meet and begin to realize the joining of their skills could be very useful. George spent many years trying to figure out a way to join player pianos together to create a sort of orchestra. Hedy spent time listening in on munitions secrets of her first husband’s. Together they realize that they can come up with a design for a frequency hopping torpedo which cannot be jammed. They apply for the patent which is filed as secret and is sent to the Navy, who decides not to implement it. In the 1970s, it gets revived and is used to progress computer technology leading to wireless, cellular phones, GPS and more although no money ever trickles down to either original inventor as the patent has expired by that time. In 1997, posthumously for George, they are given an award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Verdict: 2.5 stars

As a memoir, also specifically titled to Hedy, you’d expect her to be the star of the book, when in fact, upon finishing, I knew almost the same about her as when I started. Over half the book talks about Antheil, which while fair since he is the co-author of the patent, was not in any way alluded to by the title of the book. And it is strange that the author spent more time talking about Antheil and the patent itself than he did about Hedy. Basically, I expected and wanted this to be a book about a powerful woman inventor, and it spent more time on her male lecherous partner. Fail.

 

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The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

  Summary (Amazon): The Three Musketeers is a novel by Alexandre Dumas. Set in the 17th century, it recounts the adventures of a young man named d’Artagnan after he leaves home to travel to Paris, to join the Musketeers of the Guard. D’Artagnan is not one of the musketeers of the title; those being his friends Athos, Porthos and Aramis, inseparable friends who live by the motto “all for one, one for all”, a motto which is first put forth by d’Artagnan. In genre, The Three Musketeers is primarily a historical novel and adventure. However Dumas also frequently works into the plot various injustices, abuses and absurdities of the ancien regime, giving the novel an additional political aspect at a time when the debate in France between republicans and monarchists was still fierce. The story was first serialized from March to July 1844, during the July monarchy, four years before the French Revolution of 1848 violently established the second Republic. The author’s father, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas had been a well-known general in France’s Republican army during the French revolutionary wars. Although adaptations tend to portray d’Artagnan and the three musketeers as heroes, the novel portrays less appealing characters, who are willing to commit violence over slight insults and through unquestioning loyalty to the king and queen, and treat their servants and supposed social inferiors with contempt and violence.

My Review (Spoilers!!)

Executive Summary: snooze

So for some foolish reason, I read my two longest books of the year back to back. While I loved The Goldfinch, I could not motivate myself to work on this one. It was our classic for book club, and no one finished it. I may be the only one and three weeks after the book club meeting.

I can probably summarize this 400 page book in a few paragraphs, because in the 1600s, it took a lot of time do to anything. And if you were writing a serial, you may have been paid by the word. I don’t know.

The main character, d’Artagnan, goes to Paris with a letter for the captain of the Musketeers. While there, he is challenged by three Musketeers to duels in succession, and when the duels are over, they become good friends. (d’Artagnan is not a Musketeer until much later in the story so it is more like the Three Musketeers + 1). There’s some political drama going on in France at the time involving the Cardinal, the King, the Queen, and England (particularly Lord Buckingham). The Queen loves Lord Buckingham. The Cardinal wishes to embarrass the Queen in this matter, and he gets the help of “Milady”, apparently the most swoon-worthy cunning woman in all of history. d’Artagnan falls in love with his landlord’s wife who is a helper for the Queen who is kidnapped by the Cardinal. d’Artagnan wants to find this woman, and along the way encounter “Milady” who enchants him (even though he’s supposed to be looking for his lover). He realizes that she is evil and branded, and he sets a trap for her. However she’s too clever and basically the rest of the book is d’Artagnan and the three Musketeers trying to catch Milady. Finding the woman is a plot afterthought. It turns out that at some point, Athos was married to Milady, and he helps carry out a scheme to have her sent to England to be punished by Lord Buckingham. However, the guard becomes enchanted with her, helps her escape back to France and kills Lord Buckingham. When she arrives back in France, she ends up at a convent which happens to be the same one that d’Artagnan’s lover is hidden. As her original plan is foiled last minute, Milady ends up poisoning Bonaciex. The group arrives just as Bonaciex is dying and split up to find Milady. Eventually they do, paired up with her brother-in-law who was keeping her in England, as well as an executioner who has been hurt by Milady’s trickery. They try her and execute her. They return to Paris and the cardinal pardons d’Artagnan and makes him a lieutenant in the Musketeers.

The end.

Verdict: 2.5 stars

Not for me. I easily tire of classics, but I expected this one to be a lot more action packed than it was. I suspect too if I were more interested in history, I might have been more interested, but, alas, I am not. For me, there was not much in this book to interest me.

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Innocence – Dean Koontz

photo (1)Book Description (Amazon):

In Innocence, Dean Koontz blends mystery, suspense, and acute insight into the human soul in a masterfully told tale that will resonate with readers forever.

He lives in solitude beneath the city, an exile from society, which will destroy him if he is ever seen.

She dwells in seclusion, a fugitive from enemies who will do her harm if she is ever found.

But the bond between them runs deeper than the tragedies that have scarred their lives. Something more than chance—and nothing less than destiny—has brought them together in a world whose hour of reckoning is fast approaching.

My Review (Spoilers):

Executive Summary: weird

I have never read a Dean Koontz book before, and it seems like this might not have been a good one to start with. This was our “New York Times Best Seller” for the year (which essentially balances our classic). I had no idea where this book was going for most of the book, and when the ending finally happened, I was sorely disappointed.

The story begins with Addison, possibly human, who lives alone after “Father” has died. I say possibly human because there’s something different about him that makes people fear and attack him. A disfigurement perhaps but what sort of disfigurement would cause people to do that?

Addison lives in some sort of bomb shelter of sorts–a secret home below the city. He was born and lived his early life in the country with his natural mother (his father was worthless and left her before he was born). When he was born, the midwife tried to kill him, but his mother pulled a gun on her. Addison’s mother tried very hard to love him, but she spent less and less time with him as he aged (and also spent more time with drugs and alcohol). Luckily he was a mature child as she told him to leave the home at age 8 and then she subsequently killed herself. Ouch.

He found his way into the city where he luckily came across “Father”, another like him in the midst of a fight. Father showed him some of the lays of the land including welcoming Addison into his home (where he had been welcomed in by another many years before). They lived in relative peace until an accident involving some police officers led to Father’s death. (This is technically where the story begins. Addison’s history was pieced together throughout the story with awkward flashback chapters).

Addison, now 26, is in the library one night after hours (he knows when/how to enter buildings at night so he won’t be seen or caught) and there is a girl in there as well. She is being hunted by a man but manages to evade him. Addison knows the library well and seeks her out of her hiding spot after the man has left. Her name is Gwyneth and she is dressed like a goth. She’s 18 and has a similar social anxiety to Addison. Addison hates to be looked at, whereas Gwyneth hates to be touched.

They become friends seemingly out of necessity. Gwyneth’s mother died in childbirth and was raised by her loving father until he was poisoned to death by the man who had been chasing her in the library. She lived alone after that, moving between a series of apartments that her father set up for her.

The book continues in an overly descriptive manner but honestly nothing really happens. They spend their time trying to avoid Ryan Telford (the man from the museum) who is hunting them. In the end, Telford tracks down the mysterious secret girl who Gwyneth has been hiding and kills her guardians. Addison and Gwyneth appear in time before the girl is killed, and they find that Telford is dying due to some genetically engineered Ebola+flesh eating bacteria. They take the girl back to Teague Hanlon’s. Teague had been her guardian since her father died, and it is revealed that he is also the priest who allowed Father, and then Addison, to shop in the food pantry and thrift store after hours.

It turns out that Gwyneth and the young girl whose name is Moriah are both the same as Addison. And it isn’t that they are disfigured; it is that they are devoid of the original sin. The reason people fear and resent them is that when they are looked upon, people see all their sins revealed to them which makes them very angry.

So then Addison and Gwyneth get married. They take Moriah and three other children, given to them by “the clears” who presumably are angels and they leave and go to the country while everyone else dies from the plague. The end.

No, I’m serious. That’s how it ends.

Verdict: 2.5 stars

This book was so strange, and not in a good way. The entire middle 80% or so of the book was nearly impossible to get through, and in the end, the plot lines that occurred during that section didn’t matter anyway because everyone died. In addition to that, this book actually had potential to be a good religious novel, but not by killing off all the “regular humans” (because, we as readers would fall into the “regular human” category even those of us who aren’t pedophiles (there was an unusual attraction to that particular sin in this book)). The characters in the book who were perfect already did not attempt to help any of the “normal” humans either physically or by teaching them how to be better people. This paints a pretty bleak picture that unless you are born without sin (which is no one) you cannot be saved. Yikes.

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Fifty Shades Darker – E. L. James

image(2)Book Description (Amazon): Daunted by the singular tastes and dark secrets of the beautiful, tormented young entrepreneur Christian Grey, Anastasia Steele has broken off their relationship to start a new career with a Seattle publishing house. But desire for Christian still dominates her every waking thought, and when he proposes a new arrangement, Anastasia cannot resist. They rekindle their searing sensual affair, and Anastasia learns more about the harrowing past of her damaged, driven and demanding Fifty Shades. While Christian wrestles with his inner demons, Anastasia must confront the anger and envy of the women who came before her, and make the most important decision of her life. This book is intended for mature audiences.

My Review (Spoilers!):

Executive Summary: meh

I liked about the first half of this book which felt a lot more like the first book. Then it sort of felt like the author wanted to change directions and make the story more “normal”, and I think that fell a little flat.   Verdict: 2.5 stars I had a lot of hope in the first book that this would be more of a modern story–not the damsel in distress being rescued by her valiant knight. But getting engaged to a man you barely know who has control (and many other) issues when you are barely 22 years old was a poor choice. I realize that it would be hard for the author to keep the magic of the first story going forever, but I don’t think this was the right direction to take. It turned the story into one of bickering and arguing, and no one wants to read a romance novel like that.

So we leave book 1 with Ana having tried out the submissive lifestyle, becoming emotionally overwhelmed and walking out on Christian. Book 2 begins 3 days later.

Ana has begun her job at the publishing house, and something is up with her boss, Jack Hyde. Christian sends her flowers for her first day of work, which she doesn’t throw away. He then sends her an email, asking about Jose’s photography show. She realizes that she hasn’t been getting any calls because she has had them all forwarded to her blackberry, which Christian has. Ana agrees to have Christian pick her up for Jose’s show the next night.

Christian picks her up (they have been separated for 5 days) and begins berating her about when she last ate. He really knows how to make girls swoon. Yet, he tells her that he’s missed her, holds her in his arms, and she realizes that’s where she needs to be. They take the helicopter to Jose’s show in Portland. One of the main features at Jose’s opening is a series of candid photos of Ana. Christian buys them all and is furious at Jose (and Ana) for taking them. Geez, lighten up dude.

After their brief appearance at the show, Ana and Christian go eat and talk. Ana reiterates that she can’t be what he wants. He insists that she is. Taylor picks them up and drives them back to Seattle so that they can have a chance to talk. Because a normal relationship is out of the question, they flesh out a new proposition for their relationship. Not really vanilla, but no serious punishment. Somewhere in between.

They arrive at her house, and he gives her a gift to be opened inside. He also agrees to pick her up from the bar the next night (she’s having after-work drinks with her sketchy boss). Everything is pretty much back to normal. She opens the box inside and finds an iPad filled with music and books.

The following day, she begins email banter with Christian who eventually informs her that her email is monitored. As she is heading out to have that drink with her boss, a girl stops her on the sidewalk. The girl looks strikingly similar to Ana, knows her name, and asks her, “What do you have that I don’t?” before walking away. Uh ok.

Ana smartly keeps her distance from Jack at the happy hour, and when he finally starts talking to her, Christian appears. Jack is obviously annoyed at the interception. On the ride home, Christian grills Ana about Jack, and he tells her that if Jack pulls anything, he’s out…because Christian now owns her company (so he’s Jack’s boss). She’s mad, but not for long. They go back to Ana’s apartment, and make up for lost time.

Christian stays over, and Ana dreams about the strange girl outside her office. She awakes with a start and tells Christian about her.  He realizes that it is one of his ex-subs and makes some phone calls (presumably to his security) about it. He wants to just brush it off, but Ana, understandably, wants to know what’s going on.

Leila, the sub, has some mental issues. When Christian and Ana were in Georgia (book 1), Leila showed up at Christian’s and tried to commit suicide. They got her to the hospital, but she checked herself out. No one had been able to find her since, including her husband who she married after Christian, and ran out on him four months ago.

Christian has had Taylor return Ana’s car (which she relinquished during the breakup) and also informs Ana that he has deposited $24k in her account for the sale of her Beatle. Ana is shocked and somewhat upset. She tells Christian that she needs to get her hair cut for his father’s function that evening, and Christian, like a complete and utter idiot, takes Ana to “Mrs. Robinson’s” salon. Ana is understandably furious, and walks out, and Christian arranges for one of the stylists to come to his house instead because he doesn’t want Ana to be alone with crazy Leila on the loose. Ana learns that Leila has obtained a concealed weapons permit.

They go back to his place. Ana gets her hair cut. They talk about Leila, Mrs. Robinson, the $24k sale of her car. Christian tells her that he earns $100,000 per hour. Assuming he’s using a 40 hour week, that equates to $208 million a year. For a 27 year old. Who never appears to actually do any work. Yep that seems realistic.

Christian has ordered some additional security for the party just in case. While getting ready, they do a little foreplay of sorts mapping out the untouchable parts on Christian with lipstick–showing Ana the boundaries where she can touch…which she proceeds to do. Progress, I suppose. They decide to use the Ben wa balls for the charity function. (I bet sales of those dramatically increased due to this series).

They arrive at the party. It’s a bunch of schmoozing. During the auction for the weekend stay in Christian’s Aspen home, which Ana didn’t know about, she decides to bet her $24,000 that she made from the sale of her car. Christian is annoyed with her, why, I don’t understand. He makes $100k/hour. They then have a “first dance auction”. Ana is worried that Christian is going to be upset (get over it!) but Mia assures her that he will win her. He doesn’t. She asks Christian who it was, but he doesn’t say. Instead he leads her to his childhood bedroom for some naughty time. She sees a picture on his nightstand, but he says it’s no one of consequence.

They return to the party, and she is introduced to her first dance partner, Christian’s therapist, John Flynn. After the dance, Ana heads for the restroom and is stopped by Mrs. Robinson who tells Ana that Christian loves her (Ana) and then she proceeds to threaten Ana that if she ever hurts Christian again, that it is not going to be pleasant. Apparently Christian was completely shattered by their 3 day break up. Sometimes I forget that these people are supposed to be grown ups.

Ana talks to Carrick briefly who reveals that his wife was the doctor who took care of Christian when he was rescued as a young child, and that he didn’t speak for two years. No wonder he’s a mess. They stay for the fireworks and then head home. Sawyer, the security guard, hands Ana a letter from Elena (aka Mrs. Robinson). Awkward. And then when they get back to Christian’s, Christian and Sawyer search the apartment for any sign of Leila, but they don’t find any. Ana goes to bed.

She awakes with a start with the feeling that someone is in the room with her. She goes to find Christian, and he is on the phone with Elena. He’s telling her to leave Ana alone. They go back to the bedroom, and realize the balcony door is open. Ana realizes that there was someone in the room with her when she awoke. Christian decides that they need to go to a hotel somewhere. Taylor escorts them to the garage where she sees her car with the tires slashed and covered in paint. She finds out that Christian buys all his subs the same exact car, so that’s how Leila knew which one was Ana’s.

They check into the hotel under Taylor’s name (very sly) and let off some steam. After breakfast, Dr. Green, the OB/GYN, comes by the hotel to give Ana a birth control shot because her breakup was so traumatic that she forgot to take her pill. She gets a pregnancy test, which startles her. Because you know, no one can get pregnant by having the sex without birth control. Ana tells Christian about it after, and he is upset too.

They take a shower, and Ana slowly cleans off the lipstick lines off Christian from the night before. She wants to know who would traumatize him so much. And then Christian tells Ana that he loves her. (Duh.)  They go buy her a new car–a Saab (snore) and then walk around until going on a trip on Christian’s boat. This whole section is really dull and forgettable.

When they get back and Ana decides to start getting ready for work, Christian flips out. Leila is still out there. She shouldn’t work. He’ll take care of her. Ana at least has the good sense to roll her eyes at him. She gets to work and Jack informs her that he wants her to go to New York with him later that week. Well that is not going to fly with Christian especially after he has just asked Ana to move in with him. Since he owns the company, he orders a moratorium on all spending so that Ana can’t go to the conference. Ana is understandably pissed at Christian (because he doesn’t actually talk to her about things ever like a grown up), but he is validated by Jack creeping on Ana later that night.

Christian picks her up from work, and after some sexy time in a stopped elevator, Mrs. Lincoln shows up to tell Christian that she is being blackmailed by her current sub. Who cares? Why is this whole story line thrown in here?

Ethan, Kate’s roommate arrives, and meets Ana at her office to pick up the apartment keys (since Kate is still on vacation with Elliott). After work, Christian picks up Ana, and they go to pick up Ethan for dinner. When they arrive at the apartment building, Ana gets buzzed in since she gave Ethan her keys. When she gets into the apartment, she realizes that it wasn’t Ethan who buzzed her in, it was Leila. Ana keeps her cool and manages to not get shot all the while Leila is asking “what do you have that I don’t?”. Turns out that the whole dom/sub thing is probably not good for some people. Christian eventually realizes what happens and comes up with Taylor and rescues the two of them. Christian stays with Leila in the apartment while Taylor takes Ana and Ethan back to Christian’s. (Ethan showed up which alerted Christian that he wasn’t actually in the apartment).

Ana and Ethan detour to the bar where they proceed to get drunk. Upon arrival back at Christian’s, Ana is in big trouble for going out drinking. Despite the fact that Christian has spent the last x hours bathing and taking care of an ex-sub. And to make her feel even worse, he counters her anger by becoming submissive. They get into a discussion of all of the main issues–Leila, Ana leaving, how all the subs (and Ana) look like Christian’s mother, Christian’s childhood, and then just like that, Christian asks Ana to marry him. Um you’ve known this guy for like a month. You’re 22 years old. He’s a complete lunatic that you barely know with a ton of baggage. Ana tells him she has to think it over and she wants to discuss with Dr. Flynn.

The following day at work, Jack is in an awful mood. He’s shouting at Ana about every minor issue. It probably doesn’t help that she arrived late, met Ethan, took a phone call from Jose (who is going to deliver the paintings), and took a phone call from Mia (who tells her that Saturday is Christian’s birthday) during work. During her lunch break, she realizes that she has to give Christian unconditional love or he will never be OK. She neglects to actually eat lunch during lunch so later in the afternoon, she goes to the break room. She’s followed by Jack who closes the door (whose break room has a door?) and tells her that it’s a good time to discuss her misdemeanors.

Jack has realized that Christian now effectively owns the company, and he is livid. He thinks Ana was put in as a spy, and of course he won’t tell anyone about Christian’s takeover if she does him some sexual favors. Thankfully for Ray, Ana knows how to defend herself, and leaves wounded Jack in a heap as she leaves the office. Christian is there to pick her up so that they can go to the appointment with Dr. Flynn. He hears the story of Jack, and he orders him fired. Security escorts out Jack while Christian makes a cryptic call to someone about “other stuff” on Jack’s computer. (How they did that all so quickly is quite impressive.)

Well everything exciting in the book is over. Ana and Christian alternate between fighting about Christian’s overbearing stubbornness and jealousy, and then having make up sex to fix it.  Seems like a good relationship…*sarcasm*

Because of Jack leaving, she’s been promoted to editor in chief. That seems reasonable. Obviously it was Christian, but in real life, would a shrewd businessman put an inexperienced person in a position of such power? Not likely.

Ana sets up Ethan and Mia (so now there’s a really weird sibling love triangle going on.) Ana gives Christian his birthday present early but he’s not supposed to open it until the party. They meet with Dr. Flynn, and nothing really exciting comes from it. Then Christian takes Ana out to see a house on the sound that he wants to buy for them. And then at his birthday, when he opens Ana’s gift that says “YES”, everything falls into place. Happily arguing ever after. Kate is the only person who thinks this is insane, but she’s easily bullied by Mr. Christian Grey. Elena hates it too but for a different reason of course, and no one cares what she thinks. Christian’s mom overhears some of Elena’s conversation, realizing what went on between Christian and Elena (took long enough) and kicks her out of the birthday party. At the end of the night, Christian gives Ana a “real” proposal with a ring (giant of course).

The book ends with a man talking about how he’s still on Grey’s trail despite him not dying in the helicopter crash.  And it’s pretty likely that man is Jack. On to the next book.

Verdict: 2.5 stars

I liked the beginning of this book because it felt more like the last book, but it just got more and more daytime soap opera as it went on. Not only do we have drama from 2 old partners, we also have this situation with Ana’s boss. And despite Christian being this savvy businessman, he never seems to actually work, and he puts Ana in position to be editor in chief after working there for maybe 2 weeks. And then the whole marriage thing. Yeah totally you should get married to someone who you constantly argue with and barely know. This book was a train wreck, and the sex scenes weren’t enough to save it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Allegiant – Veronica Roth

photo(11)Book Description (Amazon): What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?
The explosive conclusion to Veronica Roth’s #1 New York Times bestselling Divergent trilogy reveals the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

My Review (Spoilers!):

Executive Summary: uneasy

My sister had warned me that this book “was terrible” so I was a bit leery going into it. However, on Sunday I spent the afternoon reading it cover to cover. I have a lot of mixed feelings about it. Overall, I felt like a lot of thought had gone into the first two books and that Roth just didn’t exactly know how to conclude the story, so a lot of things felt a bit out of place.

First thing though, for some reason, Roth decided that instead of sticking to one point of view like she had in the previous two books, she was going to alternate between Tris and Tobias’s viewpoints. However, unless you look at the chapter page, there was almost no way to tell who was “telling” the story. There were no different fonts used, and more importantly, there was no obvious change in writing style. It was needlessly confusing.

So we left off the last book where the Factionless are now somewhat in charge courtesy of Four’s mother, Evelyn. And we know that the fence is supposed to be open to the outside. We start this book with more of the same. Evelyn is leading and trying to make everyone behave like the Factionless (really not a terrible idea in general). But the Factionless of course have a mega chip on their shoulders so there are a lot of fights between the true Factionless and the previously Factioned. At the same time, a group calling themselves the Allegiant have formed (Allegiant referring to their allegiance to the original intent of the factions). They recruit Tris and she brings some of her friends with her. The Allegiant are led by Cara (Will’s sister) and Johanna, the previous leader of the Amity. They decide a plan of splitting up. One half will go outside the fence and the other half will try to overthrow Evelyn and reinstate the factions. Obviously the regulars (Tris, Four, Christina, Uriah, Cara, Peter, and Tori) are the group to go outside. Uriah and Four rescue Caleb from execution (for helping Jeanine) and he joins the group. Johanna admits that people have gone beyond the boundaries before but were taken care of by use of a memory serum. Apparently each Faction has a serum–Dauntless has the hallucination serum used for the fear exercises, Candor has the truth serum, Amity has the peace serum, Abnegation has the memory serum, and apparently the Erudite have a death serum. Interesting but not terribly believable.

They are on their way outside the fence when (seemingly arbitrarily) Tori is killed by Dauntless/Factionless/whoever guards. They get outside and are surprised to see advertisements (I found this really strange but I’ll get back to it later). The group is picked up by a patrol consisting of a woman named Zoe and a man named Amar, who Four is shocked to see. (Four had thought Amar had committed suicide but it was faked to get him out.) They make their way to the Bureau of Genetic Welfare which happens to be in the O’Hare International Airport. Zoe gives Tris a picture of Natalie (Tris’s mother) in her younger years. Natalie also knows Tris’s name (nickname). Something is up!

After going through security, they meet David, the head of the Bureau. He explains that Edith Prior/Amanda Ritter was only partly true in her video. In truth, their city was developed to regrow proper genetics in society. Apparently a long time ago in the United States (a term that the group was unfamiliar with), they tried to get rid of bad genes like fear, low intelligence, dishonesty, aggression, and selfishness. Basically it was an utter failure because when you take away one thing, you usually take away something else too (i.e., you take away aggression and you also take away the ability to stand up for yourself). From this, a “Purity War” developed–essentially a civil war between those with damaged genes and those without (and the scientists who damaged their genes). Apparently more than 50% of the US population was destroyed in this war.  So Chigago and a variety of other cities were used as test societies to get back to correct genetics, aka Divergent. (I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS!!! What sort of history was taught at the schools in Chicago? How did they not know about the United States? How did these “geniuses” at the Bureau think that putting people into factions to essentially inbreed was going to make genetics better? If this is set many generations in the future, how does Chicago not have Coca-Cola ads? For reference, the Hancock building was built in 1969 and Coke came out long before that.)

So of course, everyone is all in a tizzy. Only the Divergent among them are considered “pure”. The rest are “damaged, including Caleb who puts up the most fight. And then David tells them that they have been being watched by the Dauntless security cameras a la  The Truman Show. (I find it hard to believe that David with his lack of compassion is considered “genetically pure”.)

Tris finds out that her mother was not originally from Chicago. She was pulled from another city/research project because she was “GP” (genetically pure) and placed into Chicago because that one was working the best. Tris is upset about all this (the fact that her mother knew that the outside existed, and that they were being watched, and that no one saved her mother like they did to Amar) but it is mostly a fleeting thought. The next day David provides Tris with her mother’s journal/letters she wrote to David. They go meet Matthew, a younger guy who does lab work for the Bureau. He wants to do some genetic testing on her and Four. They go the following day and Four finds out that it’s basically just a fluke that he is resistant to the serum; he’s actually “GD” (genetically damaged). They also learn that all the serums were provided to the factions by the Bureau, and they meet Nita, the lab tech who is also GD.

So then Four basically proves that he actually IS genetically damaged because he secretly meets Nita without Tris’s knowledge. They plan a somewhat hair brained scheme to “stick it to the man”. Eventually Four brings Tris along, and she is sure that Nita is lying. Nita says she is trying to break into a top security vault to get memory serum, but Tris suspects it is more than that. Four doesn’t care. He’s soooo damaged. He goes along with it anyway. In fairness, Nita does offer an interesting point during all of this, one which is not investigated in a lot of detail unfortunately. One of Nita’s associates has information about the old wars prior to the genetic testing. So essentially (as we all know), before the genetic manipulation, the GPs were frequently at war. (This felt very 1984 to me, adjusting the reality that is shown to the general populace.) Nita also reveals that the attack serum used by the Erudite was transplanted into the society by the Bureau to prevent the Abnegation from releasing the video. And now that they have, there is going to be a mass memory reset in Chicago.

In the mean time that Four is being emotionally unavailable, Tris goes up in a plane with the others (kind of a weird pointless part of the story. Also how did no one ever see the plane?) and reads the sections of her mom’s journal. She suspects that there was some sort of relationship going on between her mother and David which ended obviously when her mother made the decision to stay and get married to Tris’s father. Also, Marcus is sentenced for execution (they can see on the surveillance.)

Tris and Caleb are still on rocky terms despite him showing her the library which has Chicago’s family trees on it. (I am curious how many people did live in Chicago. That’s a lot of people to keep track of and do surveillance of.)

Tris finds out that Matthew was previously helping Nita because he doesn’t believe there is any merit to the whole GP/GD thing at all. But he found out that Nita’s actual plan was not to steal the memory serum–it was to steal the death serum instead. (Just like Tris thought). And then a bomb goes off in the Bureau and puts Uriah (who was standing nearby) into a coma. Nita and the others kidnap David at gunpoint and try to get him to give them the code to the Weapons Lab. In a really confusing situation, Tris takes David hostage and gets him out alive (albeit injured). The rebels, including Tobias, are arrested.

Tobias realizes what he did and feels terrible, although really only because Uriah was injured in the accident, which Tobias takes personally since he promised Zeke that he would look after Uriah. Tobias is tried and released because he didn’t know the plan (technically) and of course because he’s GD (so probably too stupid to know what he was doing despite Nita also being GD). Side note, I wonder if GD is the new slang for high schoolers to say that someone is an idiot.

Through the control room, Tobias learns that his father, who was sentenced to leave the city, has been hiding out inside it (good enforcement of the laws there, Evelyn). He meets with Johanna and uses his charismatic ways to become an Allegiant leader. Tobias realizes that there is going to be a war involving his mother and father leading the opposite sides.

Tris gets an invitation to become a member of David’s council which she agrees to so that she can spy. The group of the Allegiant at the Bureau form a plan to try to stop David from wiping the memories of everyone in Chicago. The plan is to wipe David’s memory (and the rest of his posse’s apparently) instead. But at the same time, just in case, they are going to go back to the city and “vaccinate” their family (there sure are a lot of serums here) and Four is going to get Uriah’s family so that they can say goodbye. After multiple visits to the control room, Tobias also decides that he has to reset one or both of his parents’ memories so that they can make peace.

Tris visits Nita and finds out more details about the weapons room. Apparently it is armed with death serum. The Bureau-Allegiants meet and it is decided that Caleb will be the one to open the weapons room while wearing a clean suit. He will still die because he’s GD (although no one can resist the death serum except maybe Tris because she also resisted the truth serum) and the suit only will protect him for a short period of time. Others in the group are going to shut down the security. Exactly the same way that Nita had. (smart). Then before the three groups separate, there is a sappy goodbye between Tobias and Tris…

Tobias’s group succeeds in vaccinating all the family members, and getting Uriah’s family. Peter decides to come with Tobias when he goes to wipe his parents’ memories, and it is revealed that Peter intends to have his memory wiped. He wants to start over so he can be less evil. (Um, Matthew said that it only erased stuff like your name and your address, not innate behavior like knowing how to ride a bike. Peter is always going to be evil, just with a different name!) Tobias decides to start with his mother (easier to find) and he convinces her to stop fighting for his sake and let everyone be happy. (Here’s your Disney ending, folks)

Tris and Caleb (with Matthew’s help) end up having to go earlier than expected due to an emergency lock-down. (Told you recreating the same plan was a stupid idea). They arrive at the weapons room and Tris decides to see whether or not she can survive the serum because Caleb is only sacrificing himself out of guilt, and she can’t let him do it. (Is she not then also sacrificing herself out of guilt for letting him “volunteer” for this in the first place?) She survives the death serum and opens the door to the weapons room…to David pointing a gun at her. He obviously has an antidote to the death serum (duh he has antidotes to the others), and she has no weapon. She goes for the memory serum activator and David shoots her in the process. And she dies. Yes, seriously.

Everyone in the Bureau has their memory erased. Tobias comes back and Caleb relays Tris’s message of “I didn’t want to leave him (Tobias)”. Tobias considers using the memory serum on himself like Peter did, but Christina talks him out of it.

Cut to 2.5 years later, Tobias is back in Chicago but things are different now. Johanna apparently knew how to speak to the government, aka David’s superiors, and request that people be allowed to stay in Chicago (despite the program ending). Tobias takes Tris’s ashes and zip lines down from the Hancock Tower releasing them as he goes (because apparently normal cities are totally OK with zip lines from sky scrapers. Houston is so behind the times.). The book ends with a slight message of hope: “We can be mended. We mend each other.”

 Verdict: 2.5 Stars

I really waffled about this verdict, in fact I had 3 stars until I was about 3/4 of the way through my review. But the more I typed, the more holes I found. David had superiors, an army, enough resources to develop serums to wipe people’s memories and we are supposed to believe that ending? How did Johanna know there was a government, and why would they agree to stop testing they likely spent an infinite fortune on?

And to touch on the elephant in the room, Tris dying, I kind of get the idea that Roth may have wanted to be different. She didn’t want that “happy ever after” ending. Fine. I’m OK with that. I’m even OK with the main character dying. But really, for her brother, who never explained his actions? Who never even really seemed like he felt that bad about it? Tris was brave and led crusades against armies nearly single handedly (yes OK that wasn’t all that realistic either but at least, let’s have some consistency) and she volunteers to die for her brother because she felt bad? No.

I think that the general idea of this book could have worked. But to be successful, Roth should have probably made it 2 books and delved into a lot more detail about this whole genetics thing a la Michael Crichton books. (I read those as a young adult. I don’t think it’s too much.) All in all, I liked the series. The ending was certainly a major let down, so I’m hoping when the movies come out, they remedy some of these oversights.

 

 

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