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4.3 out of 5 stars
Shades of Gray: A KGI Novel
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93 of 104 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This is the first review I have ever written for a book that I have read. Normally I don't do it, which is probably a bad thing, but it is nevertheless true. I'm often moving on to the next book, because my TBR pile is huge. However, I was so conflicted after reading 'Shades of Gray' that I felt compelled to write my thoughts down. I'm so confused after reading this novel, that this review may make no sense. You have been warned!

This book was fantastic and horrific at the same time. I am really torn over what rating to give it. In one sense, I wish I hadn't read it. In another, I'm glad I did. It deals with very heavy issues. Usually I'm fine with that, and I often search out the angsty books because I often get more out of them than the 'fluff' romance novels. Be that as it may, this book made me feel nauseous. On one hand, that shows the quality of the writing of some incredibly hard scenes to read. On the other hand, I felt like I needed to be sick. My heart was pounding and I had to stop reading. I went and vacuumed the house. Let's be honest, I never put down a book to do housework, but I needed the break. The fact that the break involved housework is just a bit sad, but such is life! I did pick the book up again and kept reading, because I have been invested in these characters throughout the series, and I needed a HEA.

Please don't take what I have just said the wrong way. This book is well-written. There were no grammatical errors that I noticed. The characters stayed true(ish) to who they are. That being said, I strongly believe that this book needs to have a warning on it that it contains graphic scenes of violence. I wish I had known that going in, which is partly why I wanted to leave a review. I felt like I was experiencing everything that the characters were experiencing. Yes, this means that the writing is excellent, and one cannot deny that Ms Banks is one extremely talented woman. I have read so many books of hers and loved them all. It is much harder to read a traumatic scene as it is happening, rather than have the characters talk about it later. For me, that was the difference. It may not bother some people at all; for me, though, I haven't read a book that affected me like this in a long time. I was appalled by what I was reading, because it felt so real and I felt helpless to stop it. The only recourse was to close my kindle for a while.

I'm sorry that this review is so convoluted and hard to follow. That is how I felt after finishing the book. It is an emotional read, and the characters are well written. It was so gratifying to see the interactions between Cole and P.J. I have rooted for them since we were first introduced to their characters. Cole is an absolute sweetheart, and P.J is one tough woman. It was easy to want them to find their HEA. I also loved that some of my favourite characters made an appearance again. For all of these reasons and more, I feel that 'Shades of Gray' deserves 3 stars. I don't think that I would be able to read it again, though, and that is why I was floating between 2 and 4 stars (I know, there is a huge difference between the two). I know a book is superb when I wouldn't hesitate to read it again. I honestly don't think that I could re-read some of the scenes in this book.

Please, if you are sensitive to violence or trauma, be advised that there are scenes that may really affect you. I won't add spoilers in the review, but if you want more information leave a comment (or read through the rest of the reviews - there are spoilers there). If you can cope with that, this book is a good continuation of the KGI series, but perhaps not as good as some of the others. It is just not one that I could stomach reading again.

Edited to add: The major plot-line of the story came about in a very unrealistic, and highly annoying way. It went against everything that KGI has stood for in the past, and that was so frustrating to read. I found that a hard pill to swallow, especially considering what it lead to.
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84 of 98 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2013
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
** spoiler alert ** Apparently, in Banks's world, there are no strong women. Not really. There can be women who THINK they are strong. But what they really need, and what will happen, is that they will be taken down by a man and be cared for and nurtured back to health by another man. It happens in every KGI novel ever written. So that's my insanity moment. The fact that I thought that because P.J. was a sniper and a TEAM MEMBER and not just some girly girl flouncy sundress chick who's got a crush on a KGI member that she'd be, you know, useful and talented and strong in her own right. Since the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, I have declared myself temporarily insane.

Here's what I really think: I think Maya Banks writes too much BDSM. In the BDSM literary world most roles are very strictly defined. Women are feminine and strong in only the sense that they can take the pain and mind games that men dish out. Men are strong in and of themselves and eventually meet a woman that they have the hots for. In a nutshell: In Maya Banks's mind, women can only exist if they are the playthings/objects/partners/ wives/girlfriends of men, while men can just exist without women until THEY DECIDE they want a woman in their life then they just take her.

Banks can't turn this off. Not even when she writes other novels that aren't BDSM. The women are still going to be helpless. They are still going to be incapable of truly functioning without a man. They are always going to be ultra feminine. Even the kick @ss P.J. who does not wear dresses and heels is forced to, you got it, dress up in a tight black mini and heels (for a mission, of course) because Maya Banks needs you to know that P.J. could be a REAL GIRL if she wanted.

It's like Banks can only write one woman over and over. She's feminine. She's a girly girl, even if she kills people for a living. She secretly wants her life to be dominated by men. Because after the mission goes sour, the men DO try to dominate her life. She needs time alone but they won't listen to her. They are determined to lock her up in the KGI compound until she realizes what a meek little girly girl she really is and have her BIG CRY. Yes they do say repeatedly that eventually she will have to snap. Why? Did Nathan cry a lot after he was tortured? Did Swanny? When Ethan thought Rachel was dead was he wandering around town constantly wiping his tear-streaked face because he need a good, long cry?

Maya Banks is secretly sexist. Well, actually, it's not so secret. It's hiding in plain sight. When P.J. goes after a main bad guy, she needs to be rescued by her team. The team that LET her get hurt in the first place because of their idiotic plan that was foiled by TRAFFIC. Are you kidding me? The well oiled mercenary machine lets one of their own get brutalized not because they are outgunned or outmanned or have bad intel or got screwed over by someone they trusted. They let P.J. nearly get killed because it's rush hour. Oh please.

And no one in KGI apologizes to P.J. or is allowed to feel guilty about their screw up, if they are so inclined.

Wow.

The message these books send is that women have to be reigned in, kept close and under thumb 24/7 or bad guys might hurt them. Rio even talks about how he rarely lets his wife and daughter out of his stronghold in the jungle. Even Sophie who is about as tough and capable as P.J. SHOULD be is now just a walking womb. P.J. who is described as being most comfortable with beer and bad music is taken to the family compound for tea time and wait for it....she LIKES IT! Because all women need is to be taken in hand, given tea and babies and they will discover they were always meant to be doting wives of Kelly men and not so much career-minded idealists who want to save the world. Bad girl! Get in that corner! Cross those ankles! Sip that tea! No guns for you!

P.J.'s even smelling babies and thinking how much she wants one of her own. Banks is just setting us up for P.J.'s eventual lobotomy and de-clawing. I'm not even a feminist! I'm a stay at home mom and even I'M offended at some of this tripe.

This book is so cliched it makes my teeth hurt with its sugary sweetness. "Talking to Garrett helped so much when I was raped. Just being honest with my feelings. He's so understanding." "You're in denial but you really need therapy. It really does help once you get over the feeling of being ridiculous talking about your problems to a stranger." "I had a panic attack on my wedding night. That's okay, honey, I'm sure Garrett forgives you." "They didn't pry and they didn't push too hard. They just let me know I wasn't alone and they were there anytime I needed a shoulder." Awwww[...]

The whole book after the failed mission is one giant self-help pamphlet. "This is how she's going to be feeling. This is what she says she wants but here's what she really needs. This is how every woman handles this in the history of the world so you will, too." It's like Banks took every platitude from the "What to do when a loved one has been raped" and put it in the novel because she didn't have anything else to write about. More than 2/3 of the book is just people wandering around talking about rape, how it feels to be raped, how it feels after being raped, how relationships will be after rape. Is this an action novel or a transcript of a rape survivor's meeting? At 80%, I'm reading on Kindle, there have only been two action scenes. It doesn't even feel like a KGI novel.

So then, finally, we have the Big Fight Scene, which through plot contrivance P.J. has to do naked. Yeah, you read that right. Naked. The bad guy makes her take her clothes off. Then she fights him. Why bother with the stripping? It added NOTHING. If she was going to fight anway, why wait until she's naked to do it? This novel has just spun up its FTL drives and jumped into Romance Novel Land, where nothing makes sense, no one acts like they should or like they have up to this point in the novel.

A. NAKED. FIGHT. SCENE.

I've read all the KGI novels. I can't lie to myself and say I'll never read another one. I love car chases, I love explosions, I love gunfire (even though this novel had barely any of that). I will probably still read the series but this was such a disappointment that I'm not all that excited for the next installment and it won't be a day-one purchase for me.
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I love Maya Banks and have enjoyed the KGI series, but this one went to far. I agree with one of the other reviews stating this book should contain a warning about the graphic violence. I've been reading this series from the beginning and was looking forward to PJs story, but now, I wish I never read this book. I don't care that she ends up with Cole or saves the girls, that doesn't undo the horrible things that happened. This is not a happy ending or a feel-good book. I hate the images it put in my head. If it were a true story I could understand the need to tell it, but then you would be warned of the content. I automatically bought this coz it was part of the series, big mistake. I wish I could unread it.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I'm sorry if anyone gets upset but readers should be warned. Even the other reviews i checked out did not warn me. I would have never started this book if i had known.a rape history is one thing having her rAped in the storyis something else. Its not a normal storyline and it should come with a warning. And saying theres violence does not cut it. If she had gotten beaten up i could deAl with that, rape is totally different. Also the fact that it happen due to the total incompetence of herself and her team is another sore spot for me. If you had a choice of making one item undectable would you pick a gps or a mike? If you lose your gps do you let the bad guy take you another location knowing your team wont know where you are? And really would you ever EVER eat or drink anything from a bad guy! This is a problem i often find with this author. The good guys always making rookie mistakes But this was the worse result ever and i'm not even going to try to continue the book i am so upset. Christine feehan did the same thing and readers should be warned.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2013
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
I rarely write reviews and always buy Maya Banks KGI Series for my kindle before it's published. I may have to rethink that policy. I feel like most of these reviewers didn't even read the book. I honestly haven't finished it and think I will just skip to the end. I love the family and the characters but this story didn't make sense. *Spoilers ahead

I think PJ was a strong character. I don't understand why she would go to a secondary location with the trafficker or why she drank something he gave her. She can't be that stupid, right? Then the first person perspective on the rape scene when her whole team is listening. That was horrible. I agree with the other reviewer that it's much easier to read about it happening after the fact. Some of this series has had some rough scenes. But I think this was definitely the worst. Reading her books is supposed to be a turn-on, not something I wish I hadn't read and will be deleting from my Kindle. The KGI series is clearly no longer a "must-buy". Ick!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2013
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
So I have read almost all of Maya's books. I am a big fan of her writing but I have to agree that this was a tough book to read. I felt the set up for the rape was kind of stupid. I mean these guys are supposed to be experts and for them to lose her so fast did not make sense to me. I would have been more sold on it if it was just a random attack. With any of my favorite authors they occasionally publish a book that I don't really love. I loved the story of PJ and Cole but felt the set up was a little off. Although I have to be honest and say that a lot of the KGI books have some odd set ups were you would think the characters would be a little smarter. The end of this was another tough sell for me. After the rape you would think she would have been smarter about attacking without back up and naked. But again it is fiction and Maya is a great writer so sometimes you just have to go with it.

I tend to avoid books with rape it in. Much easier to take when it is in the past although I prefer to avoid the topic when I am reading a book for enjoyment. I guess my one other complaint is there was not much from the past characters and I tend to enjoy a little more time with them. I understand why it did not fit in this book but I still missed it.

I will keep reading but I hope she does not make a habit of this kind of thing or I will wait to buy till the reviews come out to make sure I avoid in the future. One of the reasons I stopped reading Lora Leigh. Besides the horrid editing she just had too much abuse in her books. I just can't take it.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2013
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have been a fan of Maya Banks for years, primarily because of her Alpha male characters. This is the first time that I have tossed a book before finishing it. At page 188, no less. The KGI series started so well and it has progressively worsened, in my opinion. Ms. Banks had been tempting us with glimpses of Cole and PJ in previous books and I thought this one would be pure gold. Instead, the plot is terribly contrived and unrealistic. Poor character development doesn't help either. I don't like the heroine or the hero. Spec Ops have never been so inept. The rape scene is graphic, but I have read much worse in general fiction and in those instances the brutality had a purpose within the book or within the series. The rape scenes and revenge segments are just bad versions of the novel, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Using the title "Shades of Gray" is lame too. Please, Maya, do your research next time and write with the originality that God gave you. You are an extremely talented writer, and I expect more from you.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on January 17, 2013
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
Many reviewers have commented on their upset over the rape scene; I can understand their point of view but that really wasn't the problem for me. THE WRITING WAS TERRIBLE! Other than having a friendly work rivalry and sleeping together once there really wasn't any relationship development. You got some sad background material (pretty standard for these kinds of books)and repeated reminder by the hero that "they were a team" and should support the heroine---OKAY. Also, how the rape came about was totally ridiculous; this highly experienced rescue/combat team looses sight of the heroine CAUSE THEY GOT CAUGHT UP IN TRAFFIC!!! Please! The rest of the story is pretty standard stuff--heroine seeks revenge, the hero (along with the team) helps her accomplish this, big "I Love You", The END. I pretty much skip read about 2/3 of this book; save yourself the $7.99 and pass on this one.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
SPOILER ALERT - My initial reaction to this book is what all of Maya's characters in the KGI books (especially this one) say... WTF! While all of her KGI series have had traumatic and horrific events happen to the heroines, (so they could be rescued) this was the first book where the reader actually experienced the trauma of the heroine firsthand. I had an extremely difficult time reading this book and that almost never happens when it's one of my favorite authors. I almost put the book down and refused to finish it. I feel that overall this book could have been written without all of the graphic scenes. It almost feels that I myself was violated instead of the character in the book. I understand that the topic of rape is important but what I don't understand is why an author would feel compelled to write such graphic scenes and put not just her character through the experience but the reader as well. When I read a book I get totally invested in the story and I get emotional and feel like the events are happening to me right along with the character. That is probably the greatest praise any author can receive to know that her books affect the reader in that way. However, I was extremely appalled and disappointed in this story line and this book in the series. I agree with a previous review that said the book should have a warning label on it regarding the graphic content. At this point I'm not sure if I will continue with the KGI series if the pervasive story line continues to be the brutalization and terrorizing of her heroines.
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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Overall, it was a great addition to the KGI series. I did have some issues. I didn't agree with some of P.J.'s reasons for what she was doing and how it made her a hypocrite when it came to a situation while she was with the S.W.A.T. team she'd been with previous. I think it's why I rated this lower than I thought I would. I can see why she would think that, but they were different situations. My other issues was the fact that in previous books P.J. was kind of gungho when it came to being part of a team, but this book she goes off on her own after she was brutalized. In her line of work and what she'd seen previously seemed like she didn't get a clue that her team and KGI was there to help. But she didn't because it happened to her? That just, I think my issue was that why did we have to have her so brutalized? Why couldn't she have, I don't know, another issue or something. Why do we have to have all the heroines messed up? Why do they all have to go through hell?

I think I'm starting to understand some of the issues with other readers on how most heroines seem to go through so much. I'd love to read one where there wasn't some crazy messed up background or horror tormenting them. I was sooo hoping this for P.J. because she seemed so tough and, well, bad-ass. This story kind of made her vengeful and never dealing with her pain until she got what she wanted: revenge. I get why she did, but it still bugged me. She still seems incredibly strong and probably even stronger than most for what she went through. I'm just still kinda disappointed. I was hoping in a big way that this common theme of brutalizing the heroine would have come to some end or at least with PJ. I was so peaked and interested when she spoke of her former team...and hoping that a story could have sprung up that had her team KGI team members struggling to free her from her old team coming down on her and accusing her of something she didn't do. I think it would have been juicier and somehow it led to the take down of this high profiled child trafficker.

But...alas...it wasn't that way. Still a good plot. I'm just hoping that heroines get a break and dealing with something other than pain. I was sooo hoping our resident badass chic wasn't put through something like this.

I thought seriously about giving it a 3/3.5, but it was still fast paced and really good. Maya still managed to make her the strongest heroine even through all the pain she suffered. BUT omg it was brutal! And your teammates hearing it happening? I can't even imagine. Maya toned it down, but imagining it was ... shudders. I think the worst also was reading it through her teammates eyes. That was what made it more horrific.

Another issue I had, was how the heck did Brumley and Nelson know who P.J. was? She should have been a nameless whore they picked up at the party, from what I was reading right. If you are doing a mission wouldn't you have gone under an assumed name? How the heck did he know who she was and then to have a bounty out for her? That was something I kept going back to see if I missed it or something. That was a plot that I kept thinking might have been handled, um, between the sentences, I think?

Regardless, it made me want more of this series. I seriously can't wait for Steele's story and am quite bummed, in fact,that we have to wait until June/July. BUT in the mean time I can't wait for her new series: Breathless Trilogy! I do hope someday soon we will have a Donovan story! Seriously soon! Joe, I'm intrigued, but I think I'd rather hope to see a story of Donovan first or another member like Swanny. I have a feeling she could even the odds by throwing the two new recruits together LOL. Or if that's not necessary and this series has run its course just please DONOVAN next!!!! It's like you are torturing us Van lovers! Seriously! A computer geek, who is a medic, and kick's ass, and again, a man with a brain! OMG! PLEASE SOON! HINT HINT I kinda picture Donovan with an already made mama and daughter duo for some reason. Like he saved their daughter. A different kind of pain for our heroine, a pain for what your saved child went through. CUZ we all know how Donovan is with kids and women! That HAS definitely been stressed enough in each book! She could be a client or something! And part of that child trafficking or something like that. I just think it's totally Van. Just a suggestion!

Still a good addition! I loved Cole in this. I definitely recommend even aside from my issues! A definite buy!
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