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TOP 100 REVIEWERon April 15, 2012
I really don't like writing bad reviews. I admire people who have the courage to put pen to paper and expose themselves to the whole world, especially those writing erotica. Having just finished this book, however, I feel compelled to write a review.

About half way through the book, I looked up the author to see if she was a teenager. I really did because the characters are out of a 16 year old's fantasy. The main male character is a billionaire (not a millionaire but a billionaire) who speaks fluent French, is basically a concert level pianist, is a fully trained pilot, is athletic, drop dead gorgeous, tall, built perfectly with an enormous penis, and the best lover on the planet. In addition, he's not only self made but is using his money to combat world hunger. Oh yeah, and all of this at the ripe old age of 26! And on top of that, he's never working. Every second is spent having sex or texting and emailing the female character. His billions seem to have just come about by magic. It seriously feels like 2 teenage girls got together and decided to create their "dream man" and came up with Christian Grey.

Then come the sex scenes. The first one is tolerable but as she goes on, they become so unbelievable that it becomes more laughable than erotic. She orgasms at the drop of a hat. He says her name and she orgasms. He simply touches her and she orgasms. It seems that she's climaxing on every page.

Then there's the writing. If you take out the parts where the female character is blushing or chewing her lips, the book will be down to about 50 pages. Almost on every single page, there is a whole section devoted to her blushing, chewing her lips or wondering "Jeez" about something or another. Then there's the use of "shades of". He's "fifty shades of @#$%% up," "she turned 7 shades of crimson," "he's ten shades of x,y, and z." Seriously?

The writing is just not up to par, the characters are unbelievable, and the sex verges on the comical. I don't know what happens in the remaining books and I do not intend to read them to find out. But given the maturity level of the first book, I imagine that they get married, have 2 perfect children, cure world hunger, and live happily ever after while riding into the sunset, as the female character climaxes on her horse causing her to chew her bottom lip and blush fifty shades of crimson. Jeez!
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on March 25, 2012
I enjoy erotica and heard so much about this book that I had to give it a shot, but I'm five chapters in and just can't take it anymore. This has to be the most appallingly atrocious writing I've ever seen in a major release. The pseudonymous British author sets the action (such as it is) in Washington State... for no reason than that her knowledge of America apparently consists of what she read in "Twilight"... but the entire first-person narrative is filled with Britishisms. How many American college students do you know who talk about "prams," "ringing" someone on the phone, or choosing a "smart rucksack" to take "on holiday"? And the author's geography sounds like she put together a jigsaw puzzle of the Pacific Northwest while drunk and ended up with several pieces in the wrong place.

And oh, the repetition...and the repetition...and the repetition. I'm convinced the author has a computer macro that she hits to insert one of her limited repertoire of facial expressions whenever she needs one. According to my Kindle search function, characters roll their eyes 41 times, Ana bites her lip 35 times, Christian's lips "quirk up" 16 times, Christian "cocks his head to one side" 17 times, characters "purse" their lips 15 times, and characters raise their eyebrows a whopping 50 times. Add to that 80 references to Ana's anthropomorphic "subconscious" (which also rolls its eyes and purses its lips, by the way), 58 references to Ana's "inner goddess," and 92 repetitions of Ana saying some form of "oh crap" (which, depending on the severity of the circumstances, can be intensified to "holy crap," "double crap," or the ultimate "triple crap"). And this is only part one of a trilogy...

If I wrote like that, I'd use a pseudonym too.

Like some other reviewers, what I find terribly depressing is that this is a runaway bestseller and the movie rights are expected to sell for up to $5 million. There are so many highly talented writers in the genre... and erotica is so much more erotic when the author has a command of the language and can make you care about the characters. For examples, check out the "Beauty" trilogy written by Anne Rice under the pen name A.N. Roquelaure, or any stories by Donna George Storey or Rachel Kramer Bussel. Just stay away from this triple crap.

*UPDATE*: Thanks to the many other perturbed readers who have shared their own choices of the most annoyingly overused phrases in this masterpiece. Following up on their suggestions with my ever-useful Kindle search function, I have discovered that Ana says "Jeez" 81 times and "oh my" 72 times. She "blushes" or "flushes" 125 times, including 13 that are "scarlet," 6 that are "crimson," and one that is "stars and stripes red." (I can't even imagine.) Ana "peeks up" at Christian 13 times, and there are 9 references to Christian's "hooded eyes," 7 to his "long index finger," and 25 to how "hot" he is (including four recurrences of the epic declarative sentence "He's so freaking hot."). Christian's "mouth presses into a hard line" 10 times. Characters "murmur" 199 times, "mutter" 49 times, and "whisper" 195 times (doesn't anyone just talk?), "clamber" on/in/out of things 21 times, and "smirk" 34 times. Christian and Ana also "gasp" 46 times and experience 18 "breath hitches," suggesting a need for prompt intervention by paramedics. Finally, in a remarkable bit of symmetry, our hero and heroine exchange 124 "grins" and 124 "frowns"... which, by the way, seems an awful lot of frowning for a woman who experiences "intense," "body-shattering," "delicious," "violent," "all-consuming," "turbulent," "agonizing" and "exhausting" orgasms on just about every page.
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on March 6, 2012
I downloaded the book to my Kindle because it was on the best seller list and had 4 stars overall rating on Amazon. I wish I'd taken the time to read some of the reviews. As it turns out I agree with the negative.
I found myself thinking "Twilight, plus some spanking, minus the sparkly vampires." Here, I'll save you all some time (SPOILER ALERT):

Once upon a time...
I'm Ana. I'm clumsy and naive. I like books. I dig this guy. He couldn't possibly like me. He's rich. I wonder if he's gay? His eyes are gray. Super gray. Intensely gray. Intense AND gray. Serious and gray. Super gray. Dark and gray. [insert 100+ other ways to say "gray eyes" here]
I blush. I gasp. He touches me "down there." I gasp again. He gasps. We both gasp. I blush some more. I gasp some more. I refer to my genitals as "down there" a few more times. I blush some more. Sorry, I mean I "flush" some more. I bite my lip. He gasps a lot more. More gasping. More blushing/flushing. More lip biting. Still more gasping.
The end.

The bad:
It was an interesting concept - for a romance novel. However the story is weak, the pace is slow and awkward, the characters come through as more schizophrenic than complicated, the "romance" is a juvenile and dysfunctional crush, and the "erotic" scenes alternate between Penthouse Forum and something that sounds like it was written by a painfully shy and sheltered 13 year old. I have now read through some of the rave reviews and I have to assume that these were posted by people easily shocked and/or titillated. I can't imagine what fans are comparing this to when they describe this as "good."

The good:
Nice cover art.
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on June 12, 2012
Forget reading the book and just read the negative reviews ABOUT the book! They're far more entertaining!
Awesome job guys! You guys are hilarious!
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First, a disclaimer. I am a male senior citizen, a semi-retired gynecologist whose customary literary fare is spy novels and military techno-thrillers. I have never read a romance before, except perhaps for junior high's "A Tale of Two Cities" (or was that a classic?) But after the recent hullabaloo over James' "Fifty Shades," I opted to give the genre a glance.

The book's protagonist is college student Anastasia, who has never had sex or even "touched herself." I had to suspend disbelief at the social and sexual naivete of this twenty-one year-old, but I guess this implied vulnerability makes her more attractive as a romantic heroine. Yet it doesn't take her long to rectify this situation, and soon she is having orgasm after orgasm at the behest of her "dominant" partner, Mr. Grey. At my age, my arthritis flared up just reading about Ana's sexual gymnastics. And for some reason, I kept thinking about her contracting genital warts. Soon, however, Ana's endless pyrotechnic climaxes resembled repetitively watching porn: after a while, it leaves me bored and yawning. That said, there was a definite infectiousness to the plot; and taking Viagra to stiffen my resolve, I persevered.

James' strong suit is her ability to elicit sympathy in the protagonist. I wanted to find out what happened to Anastasia, and that lent the story a compelling, page-turning quality. James is a polished novelist. Her dialogue is crisp, her prose poised, and her paragraphs well-parsed. The author's considerable skills notwithstanding, would I pick up an erotic romance like this again? Probably not.

But that's just me.
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on March 12, 2012
The success of this book baffles me. While I am not an avid reader of "erotic fiction," I have read some, and everything that I've read is so much better than this, it's ridiculous. If you're contemplating buying this book, here's what the book is, if this helps you make a decision:
- Take Stephenie Meyer's ham-handed, awkward writing and turn down the "quality" dial about four - maybe five - notches. Romance novel readers can look at it this way - the writing is about two levels worse than the worst Harlequin romance you've ever read.
- Add in a Stephenie Meyer-esque heroine, a woman so boring it is hard to imagine how anyone - much less an extremely rich, sophisticated, smart, experienced dominant - would ever see anything the least bit interesting in her. Just like Bella in the Twilight novels, Anastasia is mostly just a cipher, a complete blank that women can project themselves onto. She's not that smart, she's not that funny, she has very pedestrian beliefs, goals and ambitions, she has standard mommy-didn't-love-me and divorced-parent issues. Actually, Anastasia is Bella, just this time around she gets into sex.
- Add in some clumsily-written sex scenes and a whole lot of mostly inaccurate, overblown information about BDSM. Then couch the sex scenes in a whole lot of very boring dialogue and "plot" (mainly consisting of the main characters' emails to each other - is there anything more boring than reading someone else's emails?) so there can at least be a pretense that there is a story here, and that the book isn't just bad BDSM erotica.
Part of my problem with the book is the poor quality, including everything I've mentioned above. My other main problem with the book is just how unbelievable the story and the characters are. There are very few experienced doms out there who get involved with uninitiated subs this way. There are very few doms with Christian's resources that have to resort to uninitiated partners, no matter how "fascinating" (not) they are - they can pretty much purchase as much experience and expertise in their partners as they need, and generally, they need and want a lot of experience - bringing someone up to their level takes time and effort and becomes boring pretty quickly. I would actually caution women who might be interested in this kind of arrangement with a dominant, now that they've read the book - experienced doms who look for uninitiated subs do not usually have good intentions of bringing someone along into the lifestyle slowly, and buying them cars and computers. It's something people should steer clear of, not seek out.
I don't know. I guess if this gets some housewives hot and bothered and spices up their bedroom life, there's no harm in it. Husbands everywhere will probably get some awesome experiences out of this whole temporary BDSM-lite erotic-fiction craze. But, the really tragic thing is that there are authors of erotic fiction out there, who have been working for a long time, who actually have - you know - WRITING SKILLS - who will never be as rich or as famous as the woman who wrote this very lackluster book that is getting all kinds of unwarranted attention, for no good reason.
If readers of this are really interested in this whole BDSM erotic-fiction thing, without the thinly-veiled, poorly-constructed romance subtext, I highly recommend the Sleeping Beauty series that Anne Rice wrote under a pen name, A.N. Roquelaure. The first one, The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, is available for Kindle here on Amazon. It's much better written, overall, than this book, and also much more creative (and thus, much hotter).
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on June 19, 2012
Where to begin...jeez, gasping, blushing, lips quirking up, long fingers, touseled copper hair, grey eyes, gray eyes, smoky eyes, dark eyes, breakfast, Twinnings English Breakfast Tea (which I'll never drink again), Portland/Seattle/Vancouver apparently are co-located, hair ties, flannel pants that hang just so, he's 26 or 27--THAT'S NOT OLDER!, inner goddess, lips in a hard line, Ms. Steele, Mr. Grey--WTF?? nobody talks like that!, Anastasia...really?? that's what you named her???, more gasping, a lot of muttering, you're 21 and you've barely even been kissed? never had a boyfriend?, oh my, holy crap, holy hell, damn, concert pianist, pilot, self-made billionaire, you're so into him, something tightens deep down, he's so good looking, breath hitches, heart in throat/mouth, Katherine Kavanaugh, you don't have a mother f*&@ing EMAIL ADDRESS???, down there, dumbest English Lit major ever, biting lips, and my personal favorite, you had the Big O your first time out of the gate and every other time after that, without fail????
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on April 27, 2012
Where to begin?? I'd heard mixed reviews about this book, but as it finally knocked Hunger Games off the top spot on the NY Times best seller list, I figured it might be time to actually give the book a shot. Boy I wish I hadn't. It was poorly written, the characters were so undeveloped you didn't care what happened to them, and even though this was supposed to be some sort of erotica there was nothing erotic about it. Quite frankly it was so tedious and unimaginative it was laughable.

Those who've said this book is basically a rewrite of Twilight, only with sex and character name changes, are absolutely right. However, you'd think they would have done a better job with the writing this go-round. Like Bella, Ana is clumsy, has a mother who has multiple marriages and lives across the country, has a father who is stoic, she has never been interested in a guy until Edward...whoops, I mean Christian, and she would do whatever he wants, even if it goes against what she wants and believes. Edward/Christian are basically the same person, only in Shades, he's allowed to play the BDSM card (and very poorly at that) and insist she call him "sir".

Ana's inner monologue (that whole inner goddess tedium) is overused and over-the-top annoying. It cheers her on whenever Christian wants to "beat" her, even though she's made it clear she's afraid of him. Ana and Christian's interaction and relationship comes across more as domestic abuse than a consensual dominant/subservient one, with her inner goddess urging on these unwanted beatings.

And I'm sorry, but am I really supposed to believe a recent college graduate, in the year 2011, didn't have a bloody email address until Christian bought her a computer for her to do research on 'the lifestyle'?? If the author hadn't already lost my attention with the mind-numbing dialogue between Ana and Christian, which was so awkward, it was cringe-worthy, she would have there.

Run, do not walk, away from this rubbish.
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on May 2, 2012
Fifty Shades of Grey kept nagging me from its top spot on the bestseller list. Then I started to see comments on Facebook about I jumped in and started reading.

A hot single billionaire businessman, outrageously accomplished but deeply emotionally damaged, meets an innocent college senior who can barely walk on her own two feet, much less construct and execute an intelligent sentence in his presence. Inexplicably, he must have her. She meets him once, in a semi-professional capacity - a student interviewing a successful businessman and college benefactor for the student newspaper. Before you can say "creepy stalker" he has her home address, has sent her wildly inappropriate gifts worth tens of thousands of dollars, shows up three and a half hours south in her place of business, and is tracing her cell phone so that he can "rescue" her from her own drunken stupidity, back to his bed in a hotel. This isn't romantic; this is grounds for a restraining order.

The socially stunted and immature characters failed to engage me on any level. The two main characters are so emotionally juvenile that the book often reads as though it were written by a high-schooler. There is also no plot of any sort, which I tend to require in a book, yes - even when it's erotica. The dialogue is ridiculous - stilted and forced to the point of nonsense. The heroine is an English Lit graduate, and she talks like a 12 year old.

When I spend ten dollars on a book from a major publisher, I have a basic expectation that the book has had at least some amount of editing and review. This book, at best, is an amateurish, poorly researched first draft. It is in desperate need of an editor. This book is so wrong, so often, that it is not just distracting, it's obnoxious. Errors in location and dialect, grammar, usage, geography, and many more are rampant. For a while, at least, it was funny - because I could not believe it could be so ridiculously bad. That wore thin pretty quickly, however, and all that was left was to hit "delete."
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on June 13, 2012
I got halfway through the book and just threw in the towel. The characters are unbelievable. The virgin never has even masturbated female character who has supposedly just graduated from an American college in the year 2011, had never owned a computer or even had an email address until this gift from god perfect 26 year old billionaire sexy gorgeous well-endowed athletic trained pilot boy genius Lancelot buys her one so that she can research the "Red Room of Pain" lifestyle she's apparently going to enjoy the 3rd time she has sex ever. Right. And this guy would be interested in an inexperienced, dull as dishwater girl like her. Not only unbelievable, but just completely dull. I wasn't interested in either of them. The writing is repetitious and just ridiculous with the "down there" and "inner goddess", gasping and lip chewing. This is a badly written romance novel.

I am just sick this book was even published. It is complete trash. And that people are reading it and giving it 5 stars!! It's just criminal. There should be regulations or something that prevent the masses from even being given access to a book like this. Save us from ourselves regulations. The kind that keep us from acting against our own best interests. I'm embarrassed for them. And a movie??? Seriously? I plan to boycott everyone involved.
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