Friday, 4 May 2012

The Haunting by Alan Titchmarsh

I've quite enjoyed the few Alan Titchmarsh novels I've acquired (usually from my mum!) and thought his last, Folly was really rather good!  In hopes of something similar I tracked down a cheapish, second hand copy of this one and settled for a more subdued read, after the explicit contents of the Fifty Shades series!

Harry is a sadly disillusioned History teacher in his early forties, although he seems much older in his manner and lifestyle!  Still getting over his brief but disastrous marriage he's resigned from his job and decides to buy a quaint but neglected cottage by the river.  He is quickly enamoured by Alex, his new neighbour who lives alone with her daughter, Anne.  New love distracts him from his search for his ancestors but through his new home and an unexpected find from his best friend Rick, history finds him.  Running alongside and eventually coinciding with the modern story is the tale of Anne Flint, a fifteen year old housemaid with aspirations who finds excitement isn't all it's cracked up to be when her adventure quickly leads to tragedy.
It was pretty much as I expected - a gentle paced, easy read.  I enjoyed it, but felt there was a much "bigger" story to be made of the idea.  The whole "haunting" element was a bit of a red herring and the decline of his old headteacher is quickly forgotten; it all felt a bit rushed and skimmed over as if a more extended and in depth book had been hacked about.  Due to this, none of the characters were really memorable and I thought the modern day Anne had so much potential.  Shame really as I liked what was there but just wanted more.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Fifty Shades Trilogy

*** for the whole trilogy
So I gave into all the hype and was pressurised by Elaine at work and bought this series.  I've decided to do the whole trilogy in one post...mainly as I don't feel I have awful lot to say about them, so here goes!  Apologies to all who love the series, but this is only my opinion.

Fifty Shades of Grey
Firstly, I feel that I ought to make it clear that I am pretty unshockable, there is nothing in here that I hadn't already heard of, but it's just not my usual reading fare.  However, my work colleague (Elaine, you know who you are!!) had pushed it as a "love story with interesting add-ons".  She has talked endlessly about the series as it has now filled the gap left by Twilight (which she found very, very late!) and had her eyes opened very wide by having to visit the Ann Summer's website to find out what the items in Christian's playroom were for!  I decided to give it a go, partly to stop her nagging me and so I could contribute to her monologue of how wonderful Christian is!
To be blunt, this book irritated me, it was sooooooo repetitive and as it's a pretty chunky book, that's an awful lot of repetition to have to wade through!  It's written in an over simplistic way from Ana's overly naive view.  (How has that girl managed to survive life to this point?)  Constant biting lips, rolling eyes, descriptions of long, expert fingers and the whole inner goddess thing?!! Argh!  Ana is a woefully weak character, Christian (and yes, I get that he's damaged) has no redeeming features apart from being "gorgeous" and having his own helicopter.  As a minor aside, I also felt that Christian was too young considering the huge wealth he's amassed and the power imbalance in all his relationships, to me his whole demeanour (and not just his playroom antics) would have worked better with someone in their mid to late thirties. When I reflect, not a lot actually happens in this book and although I can't say I didn't find some of it enjoyable, I finished it finding the whole thing slightly distasteful.
As an example of how my view differed with Elaine:
Elaine said, "Ooh, when he did that with the tie and then wore it, I knew just how she must have felt!"
I said, "There's no way that tie would be fit to wear to a graduation ceremony after that, even with dry cleaning!"

Fifty Shades Darker
Elaine was horrified that I didn't love the first book and tried to convince me that the second was better and the third was "lovely".  As it was two books for £7, I threw them into the shopping trolley and gave up a large part of my weekend. Surprisingly, I am still talking to Elaine, but not for book recommendations!
I actually thought this one was a bit better, I even liked some bits of it (the masked ball), there was a more romantic feel and even some humour.  We finally get to find out the true extent of Christian's tortured past and how it's made him what he is and tries to explain his neediness and control, but what's Ana's excuse then?  What I don't like is the acceptance that his stalkerish and beyond obsessive behaviour is an aspect of his deep love for, it's just scary and wrong, imo!  But what bothered me even more is the huge Ana fan club, why is every male in these books instantly attracted to her when she is so sappy and self-obsessed?

Fifty Shade Freed
I'm so glad they've changed this cover from a set of handcuffs to a key - I just couldn't take that cover seriously.
I just thought this was boring.  There are only some many ways a girl can be restrained and I'd had enough, I yawned or flicked through the sex scenes which became increasingly repetitive and dull...even Ana was desperate for a bit more variety by this time!  My main problem is that Ana is no more endearing and the whole "don't be angry/ mad at me" was disconcerting in what is supposed to have developed into a loving marriage.
Elaine got her happy ending and the epilogue was sweet, but the Fifty Shades pov section didn't add anything new.

So, to sum up - and I'm rolling my eyes at this point...I can't see how it's going to change your life (except my house is considerably less clean as I read all weekend rather than doing the housework) - although I believe it's worked for a lot of American mommies and made their husbands very happy!
Anyone who has followed my reviews, I am known for loving my "flawed" heroes!  I'm a complete Phantom of the Opera fan, so I get the whole idea of damaged personalities.  For heaven's sake I adore (as does my inner goddess) my brooding, obsessive heroes, but Fifty Shades just doesn't do it for me!  I'm no book snob and appreciate that there's lots of people out there lovin' it.
Well done to the author for tapping into the moment and making the most of the shrewd marketing, it's obviously doing something for a lot of women, but my inner goddess is looking elsewhere.