Review: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

Title: Fifty Shades of Grey
Author: E.L. James
Genre(s): Adult Erotic Romance
How To Purchase: Paperback (Amazon) | Kindle (Amazon) | Kobo.com

My rating: 1 out of 5 stars

When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.

Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.

Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.

This book is intended for mature audiences.

Guys, I’m not going to lie. I hated Fifty Shades of Grey. Hated it so much that I’m reviewing it even though it’s not speculative fiction. It took me over six months to slog through this error-ridden, barely believable farce of a novel, and the only reason I finished was because I don’t like giving up on things. Even the novel’s cover makes the blood in the base of my spine simmer.

I started the book during the swirl of hype, and I’m glad, in a way, that I read it. I’m glad, in the same way that I’m glad that I saw the first half hour of the remake of Evil Dead, which is to say that I’m content it’s over, I never have to experience it again, and I don’t have to finish the rest of it.

Where do I begin?

The writer in me is annoyed at the grammatical errors (which I’m sure were fixed in recent editions by someone the author threw money at with her now untold piles of cash), repetitive use of words, and poorly constructed plot, which ended in a wholly unnecessary and mundane cliffhanger. Am I jealous of E.L. James’ success? If you mean, “Do you have a wee bit of trouble understanding why pop culture embraced this book instead of more substantial work, such as your own?” the answer is yes. Do I want to be jealous? No. But I’m not going to sit here and rip this book to shreds while pretending I’m not irked at its popularity.

The intelligent person in me is scratching her head at the annoying use of not one, but two imaginary voices in the main character’s head, her “oh, wow, I’ve never seen a penis or a whip before!” naivete, and her obsession with a guy she only just met. I’m not a teenager any more, but even when I was, I had heard of BDSM. Good Lord, Anastasia, do you not go on the interwebs beyond checking your email for Mr. Grey’s love notes?

Finally, the feminist in me is appalled at the popularity of this novel. Is this what women really want? A good-looking billionaire who can buy them crap, take them on helicopter rides, order them around, and lift them out of their ho-hum lives? The premise itself sickens me. I’m completely over romances where an obvious, built-in disparity of status exists: where the woman is at a disadvantage because of her social situation and the man is at an advantage because, well, women authors are still writing that we all need to be “saved.” At least Elizabeth and Jane in Pride and Prejudice had no other choice in life but to marry into money.

The one thing I applaud is that this novel’s success has brought erotica into the limelight. I’m bored with Western culture’s Victorian-era morals regarding sex, especially the disparity between women who have sex and men who have sex. The erotic scenes were well-written, which begs the question: Why were the rest of the novel’s plot and actions scenes so thin?

I wish Ms. James success in her future writing endeavors and hope that she uses her time to craft something that is worthy of her fame. I see potential. I just don’t see why everyone else loves this novel so freakin’ much.

Tell me what you thought of Fifty Shades of Grey. Am I being too harsh?

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Update 10/19: If you’d love to hate FSOG some more, here are links to a couple more in-depth analyses:

Give me more! I love them.

 

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Review: How To Discipline Your Vampire by Mina Vaughn

How To Discipline Your Vampire by Mina VaughnTitle: How To Discipline Your Vampire
Author: Mina Vaughn
Genre(s): Adult Paranormal Erotic Romance
How To Purchase: Kindle | Kobo.com
Author Website: Kink With a Wink

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

In this exciting paranormal erotic romance, a dominant schoolteacher with a serious role-play fetish finds the perfect submissive in an infamous vampire lover.

Cerise Norrell, Type A substitute teacher by day, is ready to quit being a domme. Despite her best intentions, none of her partners can keep up with her scene fetish and attention to detail—let alone her demand that they have a costume and set waiting every afternoon by the time she’s home from school.

Over a dozen potential subs have left her in the past year, but just when Cerise thinks it’s impossible—that she’ll have to go back to vanilla relationships, or be alone forever—she meets William, who wants to make all her fantasies come true. He turns her home into a geisha’s dream apartment, a concert hall with a grand piano (which he uses to play an original composition while wearing a tuxedo), and even rents an abandoned loft for a zombie apocalypse scene—complete with canned goods.

But there’s something strange about William. Well, a lot of strange things. He must be absurdly rich, since he can afford to provide extravagant costumes and props on a daily basis without having to leave work early. He must be insane, since he puts up with Cerise’s over-the-top demands. And most importantly, he doesn’t redden when he’s spanked, and his skin is as cool as satin sheets. When Cerise discovers she’s become dome to the infamous “Chilly Willy,” as he’s known throughout the BDSM urban lore, she begins to find out there’s a whole lot more to her handsome submissive than a creative mind and a hard body.

And when it’s William, ironically, who starts pressing Cerise to give him the kind of commitment she’s never given anyone, it’ll take everything she has to work through her issues, confront her past, and learn to be vulnerable.

How To Discipline Your Vampire was a fun, breezy read that had me captured until the end. It chronicles how substitute teacher and dominatrix Cerise meets vampire William, who’s looking for more than just a dom. Both characters have pasts to deal with, and meeting one another makes cathartic sparks fly.

Cerise’s obsession with having everything in order made for an interesting, flawed protagonist. She was frustrating and over-the-top demanding in an unapologetic way, and I loved her for it. William’s deferential but defiant manner created an interesting dynamic. I was fascinated at the things Cerise let him get away with. I thought the book did an excellent job of showcasing a realistic dom/sub relationship, showing how it’s not just the dom in charge of the relationship.

Before reading the book, I read another review that stated the reviewer grew bored with the scenes. Not so for me: I was disappointed that there weren’t more. Maybe it’s my own slightly kinky side, but I wanted to see more role play between the two. I cheered with Cerise when William rose to the challenge of creating fully realized scenes; I shared her pain when she remembered some of the half-assed attempts of her past subs.

How To Discipline Your Vampire didn’t invent anything new about vampires, and I’m ok with that. Vampires have been around long before the emo sparkly ones, and they’ll be around once the emo sparkly ones are forgotten. Mina did a great job using the mythos to augment her storytelling.

This book was well thought-out and polished, with just the right amount of sex. It balanced an interesting plot, believable character development, and a detailed setting. If you like urban fantasy and erotic romance, you’ll like this.

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