Fifty Shades Trilogy by E L James: An Expected Disappointment

Fifty Shades Trilogy, Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, Fifty Shades FreedBook Review
Title: Fifty Shades of Grey
Author:  E L James
Publisher: Vintage
Released: April 3, 2012
Pages: 528
ISBN-10: 0345803485
ISBN-13: 978-0345803481

Title: Fifty Shades Darker
Author: E L James
Publisher: Vintage
Released: April 17, 2012
Pages: 544
ISBN-10: 0345803493
ISBN-13: 978-0345803498

Title: Fifty Shades Freed
Author: E L James
Publisher: Vintage
Released: April 17, 2012
Pages: 592
ISBN-10: 0345803507
ISBN-13: 978-0345803498

Stars:  3.0

When you read 1,664 pages of a trilogy that only covers a period of a few months in the characters’ lives and end up giving it 3 stars, there’s a part of you that cries out, “I can’t get that time back!”  I have 200+ other books on my shelves that are waiting to be read that are probably better than these erotica novels by E L James.  In fact, I don’t usually read erotica (if you like this genre, I recommend A Love That Makes Life Drunk by Karen Roderick) but I read the Fifty Shades trilogy because I wanted to know what all the fuss was about.  No less than four of my girlfriends and my sister (who lent me her books) demanded that I had to read it.  Now that I have, I don’t understand what the fuss was about because it’s not a great piece of work, neither as literature, chick lit, erotica, or fiction.  It was the result of a brilliant marketing strategy as this story could have easily been told to great effect in one book of 800 pages or less and wouldn’t have lost any of its meaning or impact.  That being said, the main characters were interesting enough that I wanted to continue reading the series until the end, although when I got there, I was disappointed.  But I expected to be.  Talk about being wrapped up with a big, shiny bow!

Fifty Shades of Grey should have been called Fifty Shades of Fucked Up.  While the first installment of the tale of 21-year-old literature student turned graduate Anastasia Steele and her handsome, sadomasochistic, control freak, Dominant billionaire lover, Christian Grey was interesting in a psychological way and made me to want to read Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed (the bestselling trilogy of all time in the UK) to find out how things would unfold, the sex scenes in these books did not have me reaching for my vibrator or eHarmony.ca, but instead left me cold.  I’m a diehard romantic who is turned on by getting emotionally involved and attached to the heroes and heroines in a romantic novel, and when I am, and the author (Diana Gabaldon or Jane Porter for instance) writes a sensual and sexy love scene, then I am often capable of being aroused by it.  However, there is something too clinical and matter of fact in the sex scenes in Fifty Shades and they’re so frequent that they became boring.  I just wanted to read about the other parts of the characters’ lives.  I’m not attracted to Type A alpha males, but like Ana, I wanted Christian to talk more about his past so that I could understand why he was so emotionally and psychologically stunted.  And over the course of these three books, talk he did.  James didn’t leave one single thing about the lives of Ana & Christian to readers’ imaginations.  You could see absolutely everything coming for miles, there were no real surprises in the plot line, and she even went so far as to write excerpts at the end of Fifty Shades Freed from Christian’s childhood and his point of view on the day he met Ana.  That was too much for me.

There has been a lot said about the quality of E L James’ writing and while I didn’t think it was awful, it wasn’t great either.  Ana’s constant references to her inner goddess and subconscious drove me crazy and James’ use of them, to me, seemed like lazy writing.  The only way Ana responds to Christian’s words or actions most of the time is to exclaim in italics, “Holy fuck!”, “Holy cow!”, “Oh my!” and that’s just really lame.  She’s supposed to be an intelligent literature student so I think that she could have thought of some other way to express herself.  Mind you, she was a virgin when she met the most disturbed (yet loveable) man she could have possibly got involved with, and had absolutely no reference when it came to sex.  To Ana’s credit, she does get to say some clever things throughout this tale and I did care about her enough to finish reading it.  She’s a strong female character and not submissive at all.

The secondary characters, including Christian’s & Ana’s parents, his siblings Mia and Elliot and staff, Ana’s ex-boss Jack Hyde and closest friends Kate and Jose are almost superfluous and don’t really add much to the story, except to set up reasons for ensuing drama, including Christian’s rage and Ana’s concern for his safety (not her own), followed by more sex.  They are not written with remarkable personalities and Jack Hyde is a caricature of every revenge-seeking antagonist I’ve ever come across.

As a social experiment of a read, Fifty Shades is like watching a train wreck.  I was fascinated by it to the extent that I wouldn’t give up on the story or throw the book away, but it was so ridiculous at times, in the way that Ana & Christian (who I envisioned as Henry Cavill, the actor who seems to be the most excellent choice to play him in the inevitable films) kept enduring one drama after the next, with no time in between except to fornicate and experiment with new sex toys, that you’re just left shaking your head in exasperation.

Would I watch the film version of this trilogy?  Yes, if a reputable director and screenwriter took on the project, Henry Cavill played Christian and someone like Krysten Ritter played Ana…I’d watch it.  I think that Hollywood might be able to make it into something worthy to watch because there’s no way they could put as many of the sex scenes into the film as there are in the books and get away with a publicly acceptable rating.  And sometimes, less is just more.

A Love That Makes Life Drunk by Karen Roderick

Book Review
Title: A Love That Makes Life Drunk
Author: Karen Roderick
Publisher: Pink Cupcake Publishing
Released: 2008
Pages: 320
ISBN-10: 0955791103
ISBN-13: 978-0955791109
Stars: 3.5

The title of UK author, Karen Roderick’s debut novel made me want to read it. A Love That Makes Life Drunk… Sigh, do you remember feeling that way about it? Do you remember a time when there was nothing but love and how it and great sex made you see the world in a different way; hear, smell, taste, and feel everything in the almost indescribably delicious manner that you’d never experienced before, and how you could barely recall those sensations when that love was long gone?

As I started reading, I fell in lust with this scandalous book. The author, who is an unabashedly girly girl with a cerise-coloured naughty streak, as well as writer of the blog, The English Writer, has created my kind of dream guy in her main character, Jefferson James Howie, and it is through his eyes that we witness the love that makes his and Lillian “Lily Ellen” Mills’ lives drunk. Jefferson is a bit of a bad boy, who is always alluring: a handsome, elegant, sophisticated, successful London author; an intellectual with a wildly romantic streak who appreciates every last infinitesimal detail of the beautiful, young, intelligent and very sexy redhead (she’s a Masters student in the History of the Book) that he should not be falling in love with because she’s 12 years his junior and his brother’s girlfriend.

“I thought about why Lily’s parents potentially detest me. It could be the fact I’m 37 and she’s just 25, or that I’ve been sleeping with their daughter knowing she’s in a relationship with my brother; I imagine it’s both, topped off for good measure with the vulgarity of my novels and my occasionally arrogant and pretentious column.”

Jefferson Howie is in turmoil…deeply handsome, intelligent and successful, he is a man used to getting what he wants, that is, except the one thing he really wants – his brother’s beautiful girlfriend Lily.

Through a series of cleverly orchestrated meetings, Jefferson detaches himself from guilt to tempt Lily into his arms. Silently but deliriously, they collide against the back drop of the love letters of Anais Nin and Henry Miller. But is blood thicker than love and desire? With Jefferson’s sexy and charming narration, and Lily’s intensely emotional and sexually explicit Journal, we witness the honest and raw account of two people falling in love.

Karen Roderick has put so much love and effort, not to mention herself, into the creation of these lovers that the authenticity of the story is flawless. These are people who love to read (Miller, Nin, and Salinger), write, enjoy good food and fine wine, listen to music, travel to Paris and talk for hours about things they are interested in. I’ve been looking for a man like Jefferson Howie my whole life! However, I’m not a gorgeous natural redhead who has men buying expensive pink satin corsets for me, although I’m sure Playboy’s Miss May 1972, Deanna Baker – on whom Lily’s character was based – certainly was.

A Love That Makes Life Drunk is not the chick lit I expected it to be. It’s far too sexy and raw for that. In fact, it’s erotica, disguised as chick lit with a pale pink, innocent cover. Be aware of this and be discerning when recommending the book to friends. It’s a bit much for teenagers and should come with a sexually explicit warning label. Jefferson and Lily’s story is enchantingly electric with erotically charged, carnal, corporeal foreplay that leaps off the page. You will feel “clammy in the aftermath of their spectacular collision!”, that is, if you are comfortable with reading erotica, and I am.

However, I noticed my feelings about the book changing, the further I got into it. Like the love that makes Lily and Jefferson’s lives drunk, their story is just a little too over the top for my comfort, but that’s because I’m cynical when it comes to trusting men and believing in that kind of love. Roderick’s descriptions of their feelings for each other are too repetitive and go too far, making you feel as if you’ve completely overdosed on the sugar in those pink cup cakes that Lily is so fond of. Her use of journals as a way to reveal the past lives of the main characters, while done so in homage to Anäis Nin and Henry Miller, are cliché, and although the writer and Jefferson Howie are convinced that Lily’s journal is a brilliant masterpiece of literature, it’s just not. She’s no Anäis Nin and I have no idea how, realistically, Howie was able to make so much money (to pay for their £1.5 million Cotswold farmhouse or their chic, two bedroom Paris apartment) selling his writing either – imagination is definitely needed here. But then again, regular columnists for newspapers like The Independent or The Daily Mail in London earn quite a substantial salary and they’re not literary geniuses either.

Karen Roderick is a very courageous, distinctive writer and I applaud her for staying true to her vision. It is obvious that she is totally in love with Jefferson Howie and Lily Mills and I only hope their story is a reflection of her own happy union. Writing a book is a monumental accomplishment and she should be proud of her achievement. Learn all about her inspirations for the book at pinkcupcakes.typepad.com.

A Love That Makes Life Drunk left this chronically single woman with a hangover; which means I had a lot of fun reading it even if it wasn’t good for me. That being said, I am definitely a fan of Karen Roderick’s writing and can’t wait for her next book!