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@Scattered_Laura "@ Scattered Figments" (NEATH, United Kingdom)

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The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle)
The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle)
by Patrick Rothfuss
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.84

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Most Incredible Book, 12 Oct. 2012
It is a rare thing to encounter a perfect book, but when you do it's a double edged sword. On the one hand, you've discovered a story which consumes you and characters who seem so real that you half expect them to walk into your living room, pour themselves some tea and muddy your carpets with the dirt from their adventurous boot-heels. On the other hand, when the story ends, you miss these perfectly-drawn characters as much as you would a friend. The perfect writing is so delicate and so clear that all other prose seems clunky and unrefined. Therein lies the rusty edge of the sword.

I suppose a perfect book is much like finding a perfect lover. While they may ... ahem... rock your world while you have the means to enjoy them; while they may inspire you, fill you with joy and show you what perfection means, once the torrid affair ends, all other lovers seem rather lacking by comparison. As far as this metaphor goes, listening to the audiobook recording of The Name of the Wind is like spending a long, languorous evening with Apollo. However, since finishing this book, I've read several others and, now that I've enjoyed perfection, I've found that other books seem awkward, elbowy, brief and... unsatisfying.

The narrative of the book is largely in the retrospective first person, from the point of view of Kvothe, the protagonist of the tale. There are also interjections of third-person narrative which focus on the events of Kvothe's immediate life. Both perspectives have much to offer. In the first person, Kvothe's story is a bildungsroman which details his humble beginnings and fellows his life through to his fame and notoriety as a hero of legend. In the third person, we see Kvothe as a man who is still young in years (he is described as being in his twenties), but who also seems aged and worn. He hides behind an alias and has assumed the life of a small-town inn-keeper. But there are still hints of strangeness and otherworldly goings on in his new, quieter life of obscurity.

The plot is dense and brilliantly crafted. The world is believable and its magic (known as "sympathy") is so excellently imagined that I'm almost surprised that it isn't a reality! The wealth of characters are all intimately drawn and unique. Even the more subordinate characters come to life in Rothfuss' pages.

As well as praising Patrick Rothfuss' superlative writing, I just have to give a shout-out to the narrative skills of Rupert Degas. He takes the vibrancy of Rothfuss' characters and gives them the final breath of life. He makes their hearts beat and gives each their own unique personality and voice. Even great books can be ruined by bad narration. Thankfully, Degas takes an already great book and manages to make it even better.

The Name of The Wind is book one in the Kingkiller Chronicles and its narrative details the first of a three day discussion of Kvothe's life to Chronicler, a historian sent to find out about the hero of legend. Book Two (detailing the second day) is also available and my review is coming soon! Unfortunately, there's no publication date available for the final part of the trilogy and I have no idea how I'm going to cope with the agony of waiting for news and for the book itself!

There are just some books in this world which must be read and I can't believe how long this one eluded me. While the fantasy genre comes with some stigma attached, please do not let preconceptions put you off. This isn't just a great book "for it's genre", but a great book full stop. If I could give it a million stars then I would. As that would leave my rating system otherwise meaningless, however, I'll settle on five stars!

Into the Wild
Into the Wild
by Jon Krakauer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.74

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring and cautionary., 17 Sept. 2012
This review is from: Into the Wild (Paperback)
Into The Wild, by John Krakauer, was my second venture into the land of the non-fiction audiobook. My first was a disappointing expedition which you can read about here. This time, however, I was pleasantly surprised.

This book is a kind of semi-biography of Chris McCandless, a young man who was looking to get away from too-civilised society and wander into the wilderness. Krakauer's narrative of McCandless' last months is a piecing together of letters, postcards, interviews and notes scrawled in the margin of a book about edible plants. Despite the somewhat scattered threads, Krakauer manages to sew together a tale which is both incredibly inspiring and sadly cautionary.

Readers of this book will, I imagine, fall into one of two camps. One group will see McCandless as an ungrateful fool who didn't make the most of the privileged situation into which he was born. Yes, he gave his money to charity, but it could be argued that someone with McCandless' brains and education could have made more of a difference to the world around him if he had used his idealism and tenacity (and that $25,000) to benefit others instead of indulging his desires to be an intrepid explorer.

The other camp will admire McCandless' daring willingness to live a life less ordinary. He wanted to do something so he did it. He wanted a different kind of life and wished for a different kind of world, and did all he could to make these things a reality. That's a noble ideal, right? Brave even. But also, yes, undoubtedly selfish and somewhat foolhardy.

I find myself with a foot in each of the camps. I understand McCandless' thinking. He was looking for an adventure, for a new and more poignant existence in some untamed part of the world. Unfortunately, he was looking for the sort of adventure that just isn't possible now. There are no blank spots on the map. No "Here be dragons" marking the far reaches. McCandless' desire to explore was like that of a boy who's watched a lot of adventure movies...

You really need to read this to decide which camp you fall into. It might be easy to judge the man's notions and ideals based upon a few tabloid news reports and a movie, but Krakauer's narrative adds a depth and reason to the last days of final McCandliss' life. He could have chosen a better adventure. He should have taken measures to ensure that his need for change wouldn't have hurt those who cared about him. But he was also willing to "be the change". In my mind, that made him special.

Dragon Age Volume 1: The Silent Grove (Dragon Age (Dark Horse Hardcover))
Dragon Age Volume 1: The Silent Grove (Dragon Age (Dark Horse Hardcover))
by Alexander Freed
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.68

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This fan-girl loved it!, 28 Aug. 2012
In reviewing this graphic novel, I am fully aware that I will be revealing myself as a world-class geek! I am also aware that I'll be alienating a few readers here. However, I feel it's worth coming out of the nerdy closet just so I can be a bit of a video-game fangirl in my excitement over this!

I love the Dragon Age games. I like video games in general, and I have ever since I was a kid. I used to love watching my brother play games like Final Fantasy VII and Metal Gear Solid. I loved the stories and could forgive even the corniest dialogue!

Things have moved on a bit since Lara Croft's boobs were hexagonal and the voice actors of games like Resident Evil were so bad that your ears would bleed. These days, there are some games which are like stepping inside a good book and becoming the main character! The Dragon Age games are like that, and because I love their stories, I'm guilty of having spent far too many hours playing them!

Unfortunately, DA3's release date is still being posted as "To Be Announced". This means that fans like myself figured we were whole way away from being able to immerse ourselves in the world of Thedas again.

But, bless David Gaider's soul, Dragon Age has come to the printed page! I have the prequel novels on My Goodreads Wishlist, but could hardly believe my luck (or my eyes) when I saw this! A graphic novel following Alistair, Varic and Isabela on a whole new journey.

Alistair is the king of a land called Fereldan, and he is a character in Dragon Age: Origins. Isabela is a pirate hussy and Varic is a lovable dwarf and both appear as companions in Dragon Age 2. This GN takes place "almost a decade" after the Fifth Blight (the catastrophe that the first game is based around). In this book, Alistair is looking for his father, in search of answers to questions which have haunted him all his life.

Now, I'm a fan so while reading this I was able to sink quickly into the world depicted. I knew the voices and mannerisms of the characters like they were old friends! And yes, I know that's uber-geeky! However, while I read, I tried to imagine what it would be like for someone unfamiliar with this world to read about it. While I think the story had plenty going for it, I think the mentions of other in-game characters and events might leave a lot of readers floundering. But, that being said, I feel like these books are probably designed to appeal to the existing fan base.

The illustration was good, though I would have preferred Isabela and Alistair to be more in-keeping with their game-selves as I feel Freed "uglied them up" somewhat. Varric was a little different, but cool.

Overall, I loved the opportunity to see some of my favourite characters kicking butt and buckling some swash again! I'm not sure how much scope there is for a series as there are so many different possible endings to both of the games (the first more than the second...) that it seems like there might be a few elephants in the room after a while. In my games, for example, Alistair married my character. In other people's games, he ran away and never became King of Fereldan at all. I guess reading this GN is like playing a sequel to a game and loading a default save. The decisions and outcomes of the prequel are just the most typical outcomes.

And yes, I know just how geeky that last paragraph made me sound. I may as well go ahead and give this a well-deserved four and a half stars! Then maybe I should go and watch reruns of Star Trek while trying to to learn how to write in Tolkien's elvish...
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 20, 2012 9:58 AM GMT

Blood Red Road (Dustlands)
Blood Red Road (Dustlands)
by Moira Young
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.94

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful dystopia, 18 July 2012
As I begin this review, I have no idea how many stars this book's going to end up getting off me! Let's see if we can work it out together...

This is a book which has received tremendous praise from many other bloggers and reviewers. On the one hand, there was something strangely powerful about this book. The dialectical spellings and the improper punctuation added something to the dark depth of this story. On the other hand, I found some of the characters to be too shallowly drawn to truly like them...

I loved the echoes of T.S Eliot's Wasteland in the early descriptions of the book. I also wondered if Moira Young might have ever come across Final Fantasy XII; her description of the Sandsea was very reminiscent of the location (of the same name) in that game. There was also a strong Western element to Blood Red Road. These days, (in spite of some valiant efforts from Hollywood) cowboy flicks have fallen by the tumbleweed-strewn wayside. But I grew up watching John Wayne movies with my parents and I still kind of want to jump on a stallion, kiss my favourite gal g'bye and ride off into the sunset with a gun on my hip! So, while some might see this element of the book as a negative, it actually appealed to me.

Now I think about it, given the dystopian and western elements of the book, I suppose it reminded me a little of Roland Deschain's world in Stephen King's Dark Tower series. Moira Young's references to the "Wreckers" who ruined the world, was decidedly evocative of King's novels. Saba's world was one which had moved on. I suppose all books in the dystopia genre portray such worlds though, don't they?

Saba was a great kick-ass female protagonist, but I felt that there were times when she lacked depth. I loved her shaven-headed cage-fighting toughness, but also thought that she frequently seemed a lot younger than her eighteen years. She displayed a lack of empathy which sometimes seemed more like a serious psychological problem than a quirky character trait. She treated her little sister in a way which might have been more forgiveable if she was young girl, but which seemed like bratty selfishness in a young woman. While I believe Saba's immaturity and shallow proclivities were deliberate, (over the course of the book she does develop) even by the end of her journey she still didn't quite fit her eighteen years. And yet, it is her society has kept her young and ignorant...

Hmm... suddenly the character drawbacks of the book seem for more deliberate and meaningful. I'm seeing depth where I didn't before. It's that kind of book. It needs attention. It needs thought. And suddenly, I'm appreciating it a lot more...

The antagonist of the book was a loony-tunes self-proclaimed King who was keeping his subjects high on a substance called "chaal". Dystopian books often tend to portray "The People" as sheep who have lost their way under the thumb of an evil rule, which has the potential to either save or doom itself. This mass is often drugged in some way, whether it be through propaganda, indoctrination or funky Kool-Aid. Young literally drugs her society, so the symbolism wasn't subtle, but it was still effective.

The inevitable love interest of the book was a young rogue by the name of Jack. While I liked his witty banter and his confident personality, Jack also struck me as a bit of a player. His lecherous stare when he first met Saba put me off. I was actually far more intrigued by the leader of the brutal Tonton, DeMalo. Before you start, I'm not swooning over the bad boy. I think my curiosity stems from the fact that DeMalo was a character with secrets. I'm looking forward to learning more about this fella.

Right. It's time to wrap this up and try to come to a conclusion. And you know what? Any book which gives me so much to talk about evidently has power. I don't think I realised the layers that this book had until I sat down to write about it. The flaws I saw in the book suddenly seem like secret little gems to be studied and praised. Saba's journey is going to be one which will test the innocence of her character and force her to be wise beyond her years.

This is a book which has a strange power. It's kind of burrowed under my skin and I just know it's going to stick around! I'm really looking forward to following the rest of the series! I anticipated a four star review, but in discussing the book, I've come to appreciate it even more. Five stars! Gotta be!

Swan Song
Swan Song
Price: £6.64

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant, post-apocalyptic adventure!, 9 July 2012
This review is from: Swan Song (Kindle Edition)
How is it that this book has been off my radar for so long!? Seriously. I love epic, post-apocalyptic tales of survival and so this book should have been on my list from the moment of its release. Okay... maybe not that far back as I was two years old when it was originally released. No. This book was so good that even then I should have had it on my wishlist.

This book is a must read if you are a fan of Stephen King's The Stand or Justin Cronin's The Passage. I happen to be a huge fan of both and Swan Song is a bit like the love-child of these works.

It has a whole bunch in common with The Stand. The survivors of the apocalypse (which takes the form of a nuclear strike instead of a government-engineered plague) fall into two camps of Good vs Evil. There's a "dark man" figure who is decidedly evocative of King's Randall Flagg, and there are many religious undercurrents to the narrative.

King's work was first published in '78 so it pre-dates Swan Song. Even though the argument could be made that McCammon's work is derivative, I actually don't care. I see it more as one great piece of fiction inspiring another. While King's work is definitely superior, McCammon's story is still a wonderful read. Whole bunches of books have been inspired by great predecessors, and just because they don't measure up to them, doesn't mean they can't be great in their own right.

McCammon's protagonists were well-drawn and likeable. His antagonists were deliciously dislikeable in a fashion that was again reminiscent of King. The young Roland was a particular favourite of mine. He was as mad as a hatter and I loved every evil inch of the narrative that followed him.

Another favourite character was Sister. She begins the book as a raving homeless woman on the streets of New York, but the nuclear catastrophe shocks her sane. One of the reasons I've always been drawn to post-apocalyptic stories is because such an event would offer every survivor a clean slate to work with. This clean slate allows Sister's soul to shine and I loved the underlying message of her character development.

Swan, the young heroine of the book, had a lot in common with Amy, the young protagonist of Cronin's The Passage. She was a little girl with strange powers who developed throughout the book into a beautiful young woman who held the fate of the world in her hands. I liked Amy so I also liked Swan!

I guess there was a lot about this book which reminded me of other books, and I know that's not necessarily a good thing. However, in this case I honestly enjoyed every aspect of the book. The situation was gripping, the characters were realistic and the premise was epic. This is one of those books that I'd recommend to people after they'd read and loved The Stand. It's not as good as that, but it's damned decent as a follow-up read! A fab not-so-little read!

A Monster Calls: Illustrated Paperback
A Monster Calls: Illustrated Paperback
by Patrick Ness
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.49

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beatiful, touching and poignant., 9 July 2012
The first couple of paragraphs are going to be really girlie. Fair warning.

Okay, I think I have two new men in my life and they've ended up there entirely based upon their voices. The first is Patrick Ness. I've actually loved Ness as an author since reading his Chaos Walking trilogy. How can you not love that kind of imagination? However, I now have a bit of a fan-girl crush on him due to the introductory author's note which accompanied this recording. You kind of have to listen to the guy tell you to "Run with it. Make trouble." in order to understand the hotness of the guy's voice. I was wishing that he would narrate the whole thing.

And then Jason Isaacs stepped in. If you're thinking that you know the name but can't think where from, then Isaacs was the actor who played Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies. He did a fantastic job with his narration of this book and I could quite happily have listened to him for much longer than the four hours it took to read A Monster Calls.

This was a really touching story. Connor was a great lad and his situation was heartbreaking. His mother, who battles cancer throughout the narrative, was a brave and touching character. Connor's grandmother seemed cold and cruel at times, but was simply a woman trying to remain strong in the face of the inevitability that she would soon have to bury her daughter. Ness subverts expectations with this narrative. He highlights the often sad conclusions of so many real-life narratives, a theme that is all the more poignant given Siobhan Dowd's own untimely death due to breast cancer.

The eponymous Monster of the book was also a subversion of common conceptions. He wasn't scary in a conventional way. Even Connor wasn't scared of him at first. He didn't eat babies or terrorise villagers. He was scary because he made Connor face up to the unfairness of reality and made him see how frightening the truth can be. Sometimes the scariest thing about tragedy is how happy it can make us when it's over...

I enjoyed the tales told by the Monster as I've always enjoyed the sometimes dark-morality of fairy tales. Ness' monster captured this tone and atmosphere superbly.

Overall, this was a moving story. It is impressive that such a short tale can have such depth and beauty, and it is also impossible to forget the circumstances that saw it being written. However, great stories live for a long time. It is a touching tribute to the imagination of a strong writer that this tale was given life by the incredible Patrick Ness. His skills breathed life into a tale that might have otherwise been left to dust.

There was just a teeny tiny drawback to this audiobook. There are definitely times when audios have the advantage over good, old-fashioned dead tree books. However, this is one of those rare occasions when I'm going to suggest that you get the hardback. In using my monthly Audible credit on this lovely story, I missed out on the absolutely tremendous illustrations by Jim Kay. Thankfully, I work in a library so I was able to check them out retroactively!

One Moment
One Moment
by Kristina McBride
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.74

3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't hate or love it, a solid 3 star read!, 9 July 2012
This review is from: One Moment (Hardcover)
After reading this book, I'm in two minds as to how I felt about it. On the one hand, I read this book out in the sun with my toes wiggling in the grass. It was an easy read that was just right for a lazy nearly-summer's day.

On the other hand, I felt that this book was a little on the thin side. The characters were a bit too familiar and it was fairly obvious from the beginning exactly how the story was going to play out. I think I would have preferred this book and felt more conflict if the first chapter hadn't been present.

Maggie was a decent protagonist and the group of friends was, though perhaps a tad clichéd, quite realistic in some ways. I think many of us can look back on our childhood friendship groups and remember a time when the equilibrium was disturbed. I thought this book dealt well with the confusion and loss that comes when comfort zones become disrupted. The death of Maggie's boyfriend was a great vehicle to exacerbate this conflict.

The blurb for this book says, "One Moment is a mysterious, searing look at how an instant can change everything you believe about the world around you." Well, I think that's sort of overselling it. It's a fine little story with some thin, but reasonably engaging characters. Mostly, it was a decent afternoon's read on a sunny day. A three star read!

The Boys Next Door (The Romantic Comedies)
The Boys Next Door (The Romantic Comedies)

3.0 out of 5 stars For a younger audience than I'd hoped..., 9 July 2012
I won this book in a giveaway ages ago. It is actually a set of two books: The Boys Next Door and Endless Summer. Just so's you know, I would not actually purchase a book with the title, "The Boys Next Door." I don't generally go for books in which the central conflict is whether a fella is interested or not! A book should be able to survive without love interests.

However, I was looking for something light to read in my garden on a sunny day.

The book was okay, but it really was just about a decidedly predictable love triangle. I enjoyed the bits about wake-boarding and rather fancy giving that a go, but the rest of it really was like a cheesy episode of some tween TV show.

Lori, the main character, was vapid and selfish. She was one of those characters who had an unrealistic amount of bad ideas, never thought things through and never explained her ideas and intentions with the people whom would be affected. Most of the conflict of the book was engineered by her own stupidity. There were times when other were hurting and all she could think about was how if the situation might help her chances with the guy she fancied! I found her kind of appalling at times.

The two brothers involved in the predictable triangle were Adam and Sean. Adam was the obvious partner for Lori and her crush on Sean was juvenile. I also disliked the way the brothers behaved towards each other and the way the parents were so forgiving of Sean, who was kind of an asshat. It made for irritating and unbelievable reading.

Overall, though I don't sound too positive about this book, it was simply because it was aimed at a much younger reader. I am a big believer in the idea that YA books translate well for readers of any age. Middle Grade books, however, do not always translate...

This is a pleasant enough read for a much younger reader who never had the joy of groaning at the ridiculous schemes of the Saved By The Bell kids! For them, this might hold something a bit more original!

The Wind through the Keyhole: A Dark Tower Novel
The Wind through the Keyhole: A Dark Tower Novel
by Stephen King
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant return to Roland's world., 9 July 2012
Stephen King can really spin a yarn. I've always particularly loved it when he adopts the tone of fairy tales. He has a way of capturing the magic and the darkness that made the stories of most childhoods so enrapturing. He did this in The Eyes of the Dragon and he does it again in The Wind Through The Keyhole. The villains are monstrous and wily. The heroes are noble but flawed and have brilliant names like Tim Stoutheart. The world

The Wind Through The Keyhole is a wonderful return to the world of Roland Deschain and his ka-tet. Now, I'm very familiar with Roland. I've read the Dark Tower series and adored it. However, I can see why the synopsis claims that you could enjoy this book even if you haven't ever visited the world of the gunslinger before. You don't really need much prior knowledge about Roland or his friends because of the way the book is structured.

The Wind Through The Keyhole begins with Roland and his gunslinger-pals seeking shelter from a ferocious storm. While they are hunkered down, Roland tells a story of his younger days which involves him telling a story to another young lad. So it's a story within a story within a story.** The two stories within the frame of Roland's larger narrative are what matter in this novel, so newbies shouldn't feel too put off.

The world in which the gunslinger lives has many echoes of our own, except it has "moved on". Technologies are failing (though some remain) and civilisation is becoming sparse. It's a world where science is dying and so magic is emerging once again. This is a world which is part post-apocalyptic wasteland, part spaghetti western and part Arthurian legend. Very few authors could weave such elements effectively and King is one of them.

If you're one of those people who casts negative aspersions on readers of the fantasy genre, then I recommend you give this book a go. It could be your "gateway" book! It will lead you to the magical darkness that is the journey to the Dark Tower. It will acquaint you with Roland Deschain, one of the most enjoyable protagonists I've ever come across. You'll fall in love. The only downside is that when reading on the bus, you'll have to hide your book inside a less shameful tome. Perhaps an issue of Jugs or Playboy...

** When one story is framed by another, the term is mise en abyme. This is pronounced "mize on ah beam". This made me chuckle. All things follow the path of the beam. (Book-related joke).

Fifty Shades Darker: 2/3
Fifty Shades Darker: 2/3
by E L James
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars No improvement on the first thin instalment..., 9 Jun. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A couple of days ago, I posted My Review of "Fifty Shades of Grey", by E.L. James. I gave it two stars and said that I might read the others, just to see if the fuss over this trilogy becomes justified. Eventually, I did decide to give the second book a go.

"Fifty Shades Darker" continues the re-imagining of the "Twilight" series, but this time James sort of merges ideas from "New Moon" and "Eclipse" within a volume. Mostly the negative aspects! I always hated ho Bella fell apart in "New Moon" when she was separated from Edward. It annoyed me that she needed her manly-man in order to feel whole.

In "Eclipse", Edward was decidedly evocative of Emily BrontŽ's Heathcliff, from "Wuthering Heights". He was domineering and chauvinistic and an all-round pain in the butt! With Christian Grey, James took these annoyances and exacerbated them. I can't understand why women all over the world are swooning over this complete ass-hat of a man. I can't help but feel like it laughs in the face of strong, independent women everywhere.

I'm not the only one who thinks that these books glorify emotional abuse. This was one of the anonymous comments I received on my review of Fifty Shades of Grey:

"i have read this book and having been in an abusive relationship for 20 years, i found it really really disturbing.
i could see the same behavior patterns in Mr Grey of an abusive partner.i think if the book ever revisits Ana in 20 years time she would have been completly destroyed by this man, jumping like a frightened mouse always trying to second guess what he wants to stop being beaten by him!!"

I found this comment very moving. I think it shows just how disturbing these books can be if you a: have had some bad experiences with having to "submit" to the baser desires of others, or b: have got your head screwed on properly.

While I didn't mind Ana in the first book, in this one she really got under my skin. Her worst moment involved her being naive and stupid where her boss was concerned. I just lost a lot of respect for her after one too many daft moments.

This was a book which seemed to get confused along the way. James began to blur the sterile lust of the first book, with more saccharine attempts at romance in this latest instalment. At the very end of the book, an attempt at establishing some conflict was made, but it was a tad weak. Too weak for me to bother buying the third book... at least not any time soon.

So, for "Fifty Shades Darker", I'm awarding two stars yet again. Some things were better, some were worse, so I feel that I don;t need to reduce or increase the star count I gave "Fifty Shades of Grey".

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