Friday, May 11, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey
Author: E.L. James
Vintage, 2012
528 pages

I first heard about this book a couple of months ago, when it was being offered at a discounted price on At the time I remember reading the description and thinking: "Hmm. This doesn't sound like my type of book. I'll pass." But for about a month now (maybe longer) it's been number one on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, followed closely by the second and third books in this series known as The Fifty Shades Trilogy. And then a good friend of mine confessed to me over lunch one day that she'd recently read all three books in a very quick span of time. Calling it "mommy porn" and "Twilight for grown-ups but without the vampires and werewolves", she found it to be very, um, shall we say compelling.

Obviously, I took the bait. And here we are.

Anastasia "Ana" Steele is a university student who is about to graduate with a degree in literature. One day she does a favor for her best friend that brings her into contact with one of the most successful young businessmen in the country - billionaire Christian Grey. Despite being worlds apart (Ana's from an 'average American' sort of family and is in many ways quite average herself; Christian's from a very wealthy family, is model-handsome, and quite a powerful man), they're drawn to each other.

OK, I really don't want to say much more except this:

There is mucho sex in Fifty Shades of Grey.

Hence the mommy porn. But look, here's the deal: I don't want my Mom to read this. And I don't want my niece to read it, either, although she probably already has -- kinda like I read Jacqueline Susann in seventh grade. :)

If you like romantic fantasy, you'll probably like Fifty Shades of Grey. As to whether I'll read the second and third books, the jury is still out. This is not my typical genre, and I'm ready to get back to a good international thriller or mystery now. Curiosity sated!

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Ottoman Cage

The Ottoman Cage
Author: Barbara Nadel
Minotaur Books, 2005
320 pages

It's been very busy here these past few weeks. I've only had time for reading 20-30 pages a night . . . so it's taken me way too long to read The Ottoman Cage, the second installment in British author Barbara Nadel's series featuring Istanbul's chain-smoking, brandy-drinking detective Çetin Ikmen. (You can find my thoughts on the first book, Balshazzar's Daughter, by clicking here.)

This time, crotchety Ikmen and his colleague, the dashing young Suleyman, are working together to solve the murder of a delicate young man who had apparently been imprisoned in a private home for a very long time. As they try to determine: a) who the victim is and b) whodunnit, the case takes them in all sorts of directions and as usual, they encounter several interesting (putting it mildly) characters, including a delusional man who thinks he's Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, several pimps, and an extremely creepy murderer.

One of the things I love about Nadel's books is the emphasis on Istanbul as a very diverse city, and of course it is a major cultural crossroads. Whereas Balshazzar's Daughter highlighted the Jewish community, The Ottoman Cage puts the spotlight on the Armenian community . . . and we learn a bit more about Istanbul's complex and rich history.

But Ikmen and Suleyman are the ones we really care about. Ikmen has been married to his wife Fatma for more than two decades. They have nine children, and now Ikmen's elderly father -- who has dementia -- is living with them. Fatma is going through a difficult time and is having some health issues which she doesn't want to bother her husband with. The plot thickens with the introduction of their adult daughter, an international flight attendant who has her mind on . . . you guessed it . . . a pilot.

As for Suleyman, well, he's been unhappily married for several years. It was an arranged marriage, and he's tried very hard to make it work. Enter Ayşa Farsakoǧlu, a police sergeant who might possibly have a crush on Suleyman. Or does she? Whatever the case, his life is about to become much more complicated.

Read this series if you have any interest at all in Istanbul, Turkey, or the Ottoman Empire . . . but mostly if you just want to read a solid police procedural. Who knows, you might even decide to kick back with a strong cup of Turkish coffee. That would certainly keep you up so you could read.

P.S. In case you're wondering why the second book was published in 2005 and the first one in 2006 (if you clicked the above link to the first book) . . . well, I don't know the reason for certain, but most likely it has to do with the publisher. I just wanted to add this here in case you thought the mistake was mine. THIS TIME, it isn't. :)