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on 24 June 2012
Oh My, I mean really, Oh my, oh my, oh my......No readers, I have not just been whipped (pardon the pun) into a bosom heaving wreck by the size of my partner's "impressive length". I have in fact, just dragged myself through to the final page of this ludicrous nonsense and found myself almost speechless. Almost...

The main character, Christian Grey, is quite obviously deranged. This does not however, deter Ana, who for some inexplicable reason, has spent so long with her head in a book that she has never looked in a mirror and noticed that she is a "total babe". A "total babe" who also happens to be a 21 year old virgin. No, Ana, in the space of 3 weeks, falls so crazily in love with "Mr Grey" that she manages to bypass the whole deranged thing and instead concentrates all her efforts on a) going from virgin to porn star faster than Hussain Bolt off the blocks and b) deciding whether to let him hit her with stuff. As you do.

As for Mr Grey, obviously, readers can't be allowed to see him as simply a deranged, manipulative psycho so let's give him smouldering good looks, a few zillion quid to throw around and hey, and this is the clincher, the ability to love art and music (y'know, like Nazi's do in the war films). (Note - the bit where he plays the "haunting" piano piece, semi naked, with his eyes closed actually made me laugh so much that I almost wet myself - in a non-orgasmic way. Check it out....enjoy! ). As if that wasn't enough he also has a personal and financial interest in saving the world from famine. Just that old world peace and cancer to sort out and then hey, job's a good `un. I mean really, how did the world ever shamble along without him? So what made this beautiful, charismatic and talented man so brutal? Could it be a traumatic childhood perhaps? Why, yes I think it could...yaaaaawn....

So, the 2 beautiful people come together (Oh my, another pun) and the rest of the book is basically about Ana wondering if she should let him hit her with stuff and then letting him hit her with stuff and Mr Grey wondering if he should stop hitting her with stuff but still hitting her with stuff while she whines on about wanting "more" love and less of the hitting stuff and he whines on about how he doesn't know how to give "more" cos he has only ever hit people with stuff.

In between these nonsensical blatherings they have lots of sex, which, like piano playing, speaking foreign languages and making zillions of quid, he possesses boundless expertise. Obviously. Luckily, virginal Ana also has her "inner Goddess" to guide her on the art of sex play and soon becomes an orgasm machine, chucking them out all over the place in a rampant, fevered haze of lust. So much so that she overlooks Mr Grey's general bastardry and bends over nicely for a few beatings. She is also too enraptured to take much notice his incessant stalking, which would have got lesser men arrested. Oh, and his `feeder' tendencies that, if successful, would have surely added a good 10 stone onto Ana's lovely buttocks which in turn would have incurred the cost of a refurb' to the `red room of pain' when his ceiling shackles needed reinforcing. Luckily he can afford it.

As many other readers have noted, the writing is appallingly poor and, if you removed the sex bits, would resemble a love struck teenager's diary. It's all been said before so I won't dwell on it. I will just say, if you are looking for erotic fiction, look elsewhere, if you are looking for an unintentionally laugh out loud bit of fluff and nonsense then crack open a bottle, put your feet up and prepare to be amused. Personally I would just say that there goes a day of my life that I will never get back. Oh my!
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on 6 July 2012
"So" he asks, looking at me with his grey eyes "what did you think of the book?"
I bite my lower lip, looking at his beautiful face.
"well?" he asks. I roll my eyes and blush and have an earth shatttering orgasm as I see his trousers hanging in.... That way. My inner goddess faceplants.
"oh my" I say.
We bonk for a few minutes.
He points his long finger at me. "you haven't answered me yet."
Holy crap I mutter.
He spanks me, I have an orgasm which makes me shatter into a thousand pieces then burst into tears.
Him and his twitchy palms. Ooh and his white linen shirt.
He tweaks my nipple. I orgasm again. From virgin to sex kitten in less time then it takes most people to clean the fridge. Not bad!!!
We have earth shattering sex AGAIN.
And again

Repeat until authors pen runs out.
The end.
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on 20 April 2012
I downloaded this one morning whilst listening to BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour and hearing E.L James being interviewed.

I'll confess: I did read it from end to end, and I must also confess that my Trollope took a backseat for a couple of days. But when I'd finished 50 SoG, it was a relief to go back to some proper literature, feeling saddened, cheapened, almost used, by having read it. Make no mistake: 50 Shades of Grey is utter rubbish!

The central theme is that a rather naive college student, Ana, is swept off her feet after a chance encounter with a fabulously wealthy business man, Christian Grey CEO. (He's ok though because his company sends aid to Darfur.) Not only is he immensely rich, but he has the looks to match - of which we are constantly reminded. He has "two penetrating gray eyes". Yes, that'll be both of them, and they combine to give him a "penetrating gaze"; he has "beautifully chiseled lips" and a square jaw. This together with the way his gray sweat pants hang off his hips "in that way", leave the poor girl wobbly at the knees.

His penis of course is equally magnificent. Indeed it scarcely ever appears without her being bowled over by its "impressive length". His erection (permanent, it appears) is "impressive". And of course he only has to enter her for her to have an an orgasm that causes her body to "convulse and shatter into a thousand pieces". Next time she "shatters again into tiny fragments", before "her traitorous body explodes in an intense body-shattering orgasm". She wonders will her body withstand "another earth-shattering moment". At least he is polite enough to comment in a moment of untypical post-coital congeniality, "You're shattered, aren't you?".
And so it goes on. The book does not reveal the mechanics by which the tiny fragments of the orgasm-shattered Ana were constantly put back together again. The secret of this process might have served Humpty Dumpty well.

The twist in the tale is that Christian is a sadistic sexual dominant who likes to tie his women up and thrash them before intercourse. It's not entirely clear whether this is consensual - but having been gagged Ana doesn't manage to say "no", so at least it's not rape. The agonising decision that Ana has to make is whether to lose him, or sign a contract submitting to his perversion.

As an undercurrent there is a suggestion that Christian himself was abused as a child, and this may explain his brutal treatment of women. Although she discovers that she is his 16th submissive partner, his own sad childhood engenders sympathy in Ana's mind - and so being whipped, spanked, gagged, tied up and forcibly screwed is the least she might do for him.
The man is not totally thoughtless: he arranges for her to be seen by his ice-cool, blonde doctor who prescribes contraception. After all, what fun would it be thrashing a woman who was pregnant? In the meantime he carries an endless supply of condoms, referred to by James as "foil packets". So he "grabs a foil packet"; releases her hair in order to rip a foil packet; and this delightful passage:
"You want it, you got it, baby," he mutters producing a foil packet from his pants pocket while he unzips his pants. Oh, Mr Boy Scout. He rolls the condom over his erection and gazes down at me. "I sure hope you're ready," he breathes, a salacious smile across his face. And in a moment, he's filling me [...] I groan... oh yes. "Christ, Ana. You're so ready," he whispers in veneration.

Again it would be wrong to traduce Christian while ignoring his good points: he replaces her ageing and much loved Beetle with a new Audi and takes her for a trip in his helicopter; and he buys her a first edition of Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Yes, he's not a total arse: he likes Delibes and Pouilly Fume and can play the piano with haunting melancholy - before his thoughts inevitably turn to sex. ""Maybe on my piano," he whispers. Oh my. My whole body tightens at the thought. Piano. Wow." I kid you not.

The story is desperately thin: poorly written, repetitive in its descriptions (there is an almost unbelievable amount of eye-rolling and lip-biting - both offences that lead to a spanking), one dimensional characters, and it's frankly stupid. Nothing really happens: rich man woos innocent women; he shags her; he beats her; she wonders if she is doing the right thing. That's about it.

Apart from using orgasms as some kind of punctuation, the book also features unbelievably tedious e-mail exchanges between the two characters. After reading a couple of lines I found myself skipping the rest. They are just puerile. You are, I suppose, to take note of some of the subtleties of these conversations: his use of "shouty capitals" and the funny way that he signs himself "Christian Grey Palm-Twitching CEO" after he has given her a good spanking. Oh dear! So endearing.

At a risk of sounding repetitive myself, how many times do you think an author might use the expression "my inner goddess" in one book? Once or twice might suffice, but Ms James uses it 65 (yes, 65) times. Example:

"Ha! My inner goddess is thrilled. I can do this." (She manages to get the Impressive One into her mouth.)
"My inner goddess smacks her lips together glowing with pride." (He gives her an 'A' for swallowing.)
"... he looks at me hungrily. Jeez, my inner goddess swoons"; (He "squeezes carnality" into her name. At least that is one you can try at home.)
"My inner goddess polevaults over the fifteen-foot bar" (she didn't wear her panties when she meets his parents for dinner);
"My inner goddess is still basking in a remnant of post-coital glow. No - we are all clueless. I towel-dry my hair...".
By the end of the book I was ready to strangle the inner goddess and the external part too.

The book ends inconclusively. At first I thought that maybe the author had got bored with the whole thing and decided to pack it in. Then I discovered that there are two sequels. I also didn't realise until later that the book had originally been posted as fan-fiction. I don't pretend to know much about this, but I guess it may explain the lack of structure and the repetition. If you are turning out a couple of hundred words at a time for serialisation, maybe there is no imperative to write well.

As a piece of titillating light-hearted fun, this might keep you amused for a little while; but as a piece of literature worthy of the author making the hallowed interview seat on Woman's Hour, NO! It's awful.
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There are hundreds of reviews here and people are clearly split into two camps: the 5 stars `loved it', and the 1 star `hated it'. I'm in the latter (forced to read this for a book group). But for all the leaden, wooden, repetitive, frequently juvenile-sounding prose, and the profoundly unerotic sex scenes, this book is so awful that it's brilliant... in an unintentional kind of way.

Read aloud in the pub over a bottle or two, this provided hours of fun as our `heroine' took one look at Christian Grey's gray eyes (yes, really) and his messy hair, and the way his trousers hang "in that way" (what way?) and literally falls flat on her face in front of him. Clearly smitten by her cute innocence, Christian of the grey eyes, sculptured lips, and spicy scent is soon whipping out his little "foil packets", his riding crops and hand-cuffs, and giving our previously-virginal Ana multiple and seemingly instantaneous orgasms, all of which are "shattering".

We particularly enjoyed the way Christian manages most of his sexual exploits either fully-dressed (just a quick unzipping and a coy fiddle with a "foil packet") or with his shirt (always white linen) still on, while Ana bit her lip, and breathed `oh my!' for the umpteenth time.

So, really, this IS as bad as people say - but for barely more than two quid it managed to provide hours of derisive laughter.
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on 16 April 2012
I did read this in 2 days and found it overall entertaining - BUT - like many others I found myself intensely irritated by the repetetive prose - Holy Moses, Holy Crap, Inner Goddess,Subconscious, not to mention all the running of hands thro hair, clenching, tightening, quickening, blushing and bloody lip biting!!!!!

However, the bones for a decent storyline are there - a damaged male and an innocent female, some possibilities for a genuine love story and psychological development of characters - and I DO want to find out what will happen to Ana and Christian, so I will be reading the rest of the trilogy, whilst trying to ensure that my 13 year old son doesn't read it over my shoulder and assume it is a typical sexual experience!!!

With better editing, more mature prose and a little more rounding of characters, plus less repetitive descriptors in the sexual scenes (got too predictable) it could have been a 5 star for me.
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on 24 June 2012
Finished Fifty Shades of Grey.

While I'm in no way a literary type - as we all know - I still believe a novel can teach us something vital.

Here's a brief list of the many lessons this novel has taught me.

1. People in Seattle, USA talk exactly the same as in Surrey, UK.

2. University-educated women still wear pink PJ's with fluffy bunnies on them.

3. University-educated women say 'Oh my God!', 'Crap!' and 'Double crap!' more times hourly than a teenage male thinks about sex daily.

4. A 'mega-industrialist tycoon' talks like a character from Le Morte D'Arthur...

5. ...and has time to spend his day ceaselessly e-mailing.

6. Newcomers to oral sex have no gag reflex.

7. The more ham-fisted allusions to Thomas Hardy, the more gravitas.

8. Forcing the word 'dearest' as many, many times as possible into a sentence really, really, improves it.

9. Spelling out your theme for the reader in every third chapter is an adroit strategy.

10. A sub's contract needs 3 appendices.

11. Orgasms feel like 'a spin cycle'.

12. A sentence like 'He's my very own Christian Grey-flavored popsicle' is deathless.
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on 10 July 2012
I must have done something truly noble in my past life because I was lucky enough not to spend money on this trash. Maybe I was a professional kitten rescuer. Or maybe I saved a pope from being raped by rabid dogs. i was however unfortunate enough to waste my time, precious time which will not be coming back.

So a few things. I was a 22 year old virgin when I met my husband. He was my first everything. I too didn't know how to get my rocks off myself and I too hot off the starting blocks ended up with a man who is an exceptional lover (but I have nothing to compare, so how would I know!). So that part was not so unbelievable to me. However, my husband was not a dominnering as$hole, and I was not a mincing idiot. This wasn't in 1962 in case you're wondering. I'm 30. And the first few times hurt like a mofo. Seriously, exactly no women orgasm five times the first time they have sex. Except for porn stars.

Anyways, on with this epic piece of literature! Meet Mr Grey, a man who is the Michael Flatley of sex. And boy does he like to have a lot of it. I'm not complaining, au contraire. I wish often that I too was getting banged as often as the door of an atheist in a Jehovah's Witness neighbourhood. But then along comes Ana, a girlwoman about as interesting as George Osborne's nasal hair. She's never had sex! Doesn't even know what it is! The man-whore and the virgin? Jeez, get outta here!

Predictably, Chris wants her. And she's all like "You want me? For serious? Gollygoshwow!" CG by the way has made a lot of money by marrying rich old oil tycoons and waiting for them to pop off, thus inheriting their huge amounts of cash. Joking! He's a billionaire at 27, runs his own company and still has ample time to harass and stalk Ana and shower her with inappropriate gifts. He has made his money by being Richard Gere in Pretty Woman.

But there's a twist... Chris is into shackles and whips and bondage, oh my! But whatevs, Ana is too astounded by his enormous assets (literally and figuratively) to care. Her kitchen scares her. Note - a man who lives in a house that doesn't look like anyone lives in it ever is kind of a warning.

Lots of haymaking ensues. Around this the author has cobbled together snippets from Pretty Woman, teenage novels, the Sun's problem page and online porn. Eyes roll, lips are bitten. Most ground breakingly of all, there is a tender scene where Christian lovingly removes her tampon to engage in some peiord humping while Ana's mother is in the hotel's bar downstairs. I kid you not. At this point, so many of my braincells had died. My eyes wanted to commit suicide by blinding themselves. My brain wanted to be rinsed. I wish I could unread the whole book.

Anyway, towards the end Ana grows a second braincell that confers with the first one and is all like "Jeez this may not be such a good idea". THE END. Ha! I wish. I wish she'd choked on her own lip. But there's two more books. Two. More. Books.

Well there you have it. I'm not a prude, I like erotic fiction, and if you've ever read Anais Nin you know it can get weirder than anything FSOG has to offer. It's just not written like literary vomit from the mind of a 12 year old who just typed `SEX" into Google. The hottest S&M scene I ever read was in Paulo Cohelo's 11 minutes. It was astoundingly well written and extremely erotic. The comparison is Justin Beiber and Pavarotti.

It amazes me that so many women love this book. Let's face it, Christian Grey is only attractive because he's rich. That makes all his issues ok. If he was broke, Ana would have run a mile the other way from his stalking and domineering ways. Wrong on so many levels. Ask yourself, would you want your daughter going out with a man like this? NO! I pray to God that never happens to any female I know and love. Hot sex doesn't make up for you being half crazy. Though if you're as stupid as Ana you probably deserve it.

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on 2 July 2012
This is a landmark piece of literature: not just the fastest book ever sold in the UK, but conclusive evidence that you are allowed to steal somebody else's novel, take out the only element that made the original bearable,add a bit of middle-age-fantasy S&M and hit the "replace" key for all names, and inexplicably not get sued for it.

There is nothing good about this book. At least with Twilight it had the excuse of being aimed at teenagers who couldn't be expected to know that a) it had been done before and b) it wasn't very good: this is being purchased by grown up ADULTS, and I'm ashamed to say I'm now one of them. It's not just offensive to erotic novels, it's offensive to men, women, sex, England, America and literature. Which is, if you look at it in a positive light, quite a massive achievement with just a few bits of paper.

In terms of basic writing, it's unbearable. Worse, it tries so hard to drag itself into an intelligent arena by name-dropping - repeatedly - real literature: Austen, Bronte, Hardy, Shakespeare. At one point I literally found myself screaming "GET YOUR DIRTY LITTLE HANDS OFF THOMAS HARDY, JAMES", because frankly crap of this standard has no right whatsoever trying to claw its way out of the literary swamp by quoting sections of Tess of the D'Urbervilles and comparing its protagonist to one of the most fragile, brave, three dimensional heroines ever written.

Ah, Ana Steele. It didn't seem possible that there would ever be a lead female character as boring, constantly tremulous or silly as Bella Swann, but James has done a magnificent job: Ana Steele is even worse. For all of their love of "classic British fiction", both James and Ana seem to be missing the key to their success: classics have real women, with believable and likeable personalities. Not lip-biting, slightly schizophrenic, weak and consantly-orgasmic hussies. Put Ana Steele into any Austen book, and she'd be the one-legged prostitute the other characters try not to step on on their way to parties.

The epynonymous Christian Grey is without exception the creepiest male character I've ever read, and I want him out of my imagination RIGHT NOW. Stalking, obsessive, possessive, controlling, humourless men like Grey are not sexy: they're the subject of court cases and restraining orders. This isn't a triumph of representation, by the way: if James was aiming for skin-crawling repulsion, at least she'd be succeeding somewhere. But Christian Grey - despite being a man who gasps nearly as regularly as Ana - is supposed to be an Alpha Male, because apparently strong men don't take "no" for an answer.

I WISH I was offended by the sex scenes. I WISH I could throw it across the room, decide that the world's taste in literature is too horny for me, and simply pat myself on the back for being an uptight prude. But I'm all up for sex in books, as long as it's done well: this is not. It's as bad as a grainy porn film from the 80s, and as old-fashioned.

What makes me sad, really, is knowing that a book like this can make a woman like James rich, and take thousands and thousands of hours from the lives of people all over the world. What makes me even more sad is that I am one of them.

Save your money, save your soul, and - for the love of all things literary - just go buy Tess of the D'Urbervilles.
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on 26 June 2012
I didn't want to give this any stars but according to Amazon I must give something so I have, very reluctantly, given it one. I am SO mad at the author for passing off such god-awful writing that I am tempted to write to her. Yes, yes, I know, it's supposed to be an erotic novel so I shouldn't expect it to be well written. In my defense I didn't know it was the modern-day answer to Jackie Collins, (I only read it cos my boyfriend is currently working at the Heathman and he was telling me about an author who was staying there and was causing a stir with the book she wrote....) ANYWAY, that's my excuse.
Honestly though, is being an erotic novel mutually exclusive to good writing? Or even just READABLE writing?! This book reads like she wrote a total of 2 scenes and then just slightly changed them over and over again to stretch out over a whole book. She seems to find words that she thinks sound intelligent and then just use them again and again and again and again. Not a word of a lie. I have never read the words "impassive" "mercurial" and "woah" more in my life. And I never want to read them again. The characters are SO unbelievably cliched, I just wanted to smack them, especially the beautiful, young, intelligent, self-deprecating, headstrong, hardworking, much beloved lead female character who has many male friends who all want to shag her something rotten but she "just doesn't realise" and she just loves them like "a brother". By the way, this is the same girl who is a university graduate but doesn't have a computer, email address or mobile phone. Yeah.
The writing and irritating characters were SO annoying that any semblance of eroticism was completely knocked out of the book, it's that bad.
I could go on and on but I won't because it's making my blood boil.
Needless to say I don't recommend it.
If you are in the market for erotic novels (and this is my first and will be my last) I suggest you write your own. I promise, it will be much better. Or just watch some porn.
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on 4 July 2012
I have just done a Masters degree in Publishing where we were taught that in the world today, publishing houses are so desperate for the next best thing that they will literally kill their own mothers to plug a book they think will be a bestsellers. Well written, non-sensational books that provide excellent writing, good characters and a whole heap of imagination and skill are being shoved to the bottom of the pile and stamped 'QUITE NICE, BUT WON'T MAKE ANY MONEY'.
This is obviously what happened here. Someone went 'Oh my! This is a scream! It will revolutionize bedrooms! It will redefine the boundaries of eroticism! It will trounce those saps at Mills and Boon! And more importantly, it'll make us shed loads of cash!'

It is patently clear that the book has never seen an editor - because why would any self-respecting editor let it go? Where would any self-respecting editor even know where to start? Shouldn't someone, at some point, have said, 'Er, look, EL James, we really like what you're doing here and it's all very saucy and a bit rude, tee hee hee, but we've got a bit of an issue with repetition. You see, at the moment, Ana Steele says 'Holy crap' 230,493 times, and says 'Oh my' 1,435,500 times, which we think is a bit much. Great work, an' all, but do you think you could cut a few out?' That obviously never happened. Instead, they shoved it all in, gave the book a snazzy, sleek cover, which is a million times classier than the book itself, yelled 'It's mummy porn!' from the rooftops in the hope it would catch on, and there we have it, a record-breaking bestseller.

Quite aside from the frankly ridiculous sex scenes - no one, and I repeat, no one, has that much fun losing their virginity - I was actually shocked by the writing. Reader, it is so bad. I knew it would be bad, but I didn't know it was that bad. Let me give you an example:
'Sunday at the store is a nightmare. We are besieged by do-it-yourselfers wanting to spruce up their homes. Mr and Mrs Clayton and John and Patrick - the other two part-timers - and I are besieged by customers'.
I was on the train when I read that sentence. I actually went 'You are joking!' out loud, and looked around wildly for someone with whom to share my outrage. Where was the editor? Where was this editor who was supposed to say 'Sorry, EL James, do you think you can use a different word to 'besieged', as you have used it twice in two sentences and, as we all know, word repetition is a classic sign of terrible writing'??

I'm sorry, reader. But reading this book made me feel stupid. I actually feel that, while my knowledge of sexual exploits may have been vaguely lifted, my reading age has plummeted. If you want some cheap titillation - for that's all it is - then go for it, it'll make you smile, it'll make you raise an eyebrow or two - but if you can get past the God-awful, horrendous, basic, dreadful, atrocious writing style, then you've done better than me. It's a shame - a real shame - that a book of this standard has broken records and made a lot of people a lot of money. What hope is there for the talented writers who don't want to write about genital clamping?
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