Series Review: Fifty Shades by E.L. James

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

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Synopsis for Fifty Shades of Grey (from Goodreads):
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.

breakdown

Series: Fifty Shades Trilogy
Author: E.L. James
# of Books: 3 + 1 (Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, Fifty Shades Freed, Grey)

Grey is an alternate POV retelling of Fifty Shades of Grey

Complete?: Yes
Genre: Erotica, BDSM, Romance, Adult, Contemporary
Heat Rating: Smokin’ (BDSM: High)
Point of View: First Person, Single
Movie Review: Catch my thoughts on the movie here!
Publication Dates: May 2011 – June 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

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Preface:

This will probably taint all future book blogs I do, BUT I actually did enjoy the Fifty Shades Series. Were they the best books I ever read? NO. Did I like all the sex? Not particularly. Is it the next writing masterpiece? Definitely not.

My Review:

So why, you might ask, did I (and so many others) like this series if my answers were negative? The answer is that I liked the plot and concept. Roll your eyes, do whatever you must but I am telling the truth–I enjoyed the plot.

Now, I’m not going to lie: so I will admit the truth that there is absolutely no plot in book 1, Fifty Shades of Grey. It is mostly just sex at every turn with little tid-bits of plot thrown in here and there. You know how most romance novels have three solid sex scenes at most and then the rest are just alluded to? Not the case here. I think in the entire series, there are only 2 sex scenes alluded to, the rest we all get to read.

What I did like about book 1 was the pursuit. It is a fiction novel and Christian Grey takes the pursuit to a whole other level. It’s over the top but I can appreciate that it is fiction and it can be over the top. I think that is the best way to read this novel–knowing that it is FICTION and not as a realistic storyline. It provides an escape from other romance novels out there which is why I think it has been so successful.

Fifty Shades Darker follows the evitable pattern of 2nd books where the couple has broken up only to be quickly reunited. But here, I find we get to see another side to Christian and Anastasia. Although Christian can come across stalkerish and a little too alpha male, there is a sweeter albeit darker side (hence the title) and we get to see that in this book. More of his past is revealed and that past comes back to make this book (and the last one) that touch more suspenseful (which is what I enjoyed about this series). I also really liked Ana. She was strong (although extremely naïve in book 1) but I think she grows as a character as the series progresses. I think in this book you really get to see why they are drawn to each other besides the sex.

Finally, the last book Fifty Shades Freed was also enjoyable for me. Again, it’s a little more plot driven and I like that. Not much else to say here without giving everything away.

As for the movie adaption, it can be done I think. There is enough plot in the later books to work with but the first one will be hard to pull off I think. And for my casting picks, I have a few in mind but we will wait and see 😛 You can read my thoughts on the movie here!

updates

–August 22, 2015– Book 4: Grey

When they announced Grey was coming out, I was a little excited. James had included little excerpts of Christian’s POV at the end of the original books and I thought they were interesting reads. While I would have liked one Christian book that encompassed the entire series (not just the first novel), I looked forward to the breakdown of what exactly Christian was thinking in that first book.

Prior to reading Grey, I read the critic reviews that it was just a regurgitation of Fifty Shades of Grey. “It has all the same scenes and dialogue” the complaints would say and I remember scratching my head and thinking: of course it does! It’s an alternate POV sequel for goodness’ sake! I think retellings have a fine line to walk. People want the memorable scenes but they don’t want the exact same novel again and I think that is a hard think to deliver for any author.

It has been 3 years since I read Fifty Shades of Grey so I don’t really remember every single detail of the book (and the movie doesn’t have everything in it). Therefore, I didn’t really mind the “regurgitation”–I feel like it saved me from rereading Fifty Shades of Grey (which I wanted to do in the near future to see how I feel about it years later and after being subjected to its harsh criticism for years). I thought it was in interesting insight into Christian’s mind and I thought James did a great job considering there really isn’t too much plot-wise.

Reading Grey reaffirmed my appreciation for Ana’s character and their relationship overall. While I don’t think her affect on Christian is realistic in real life, I do like novels that have relationships that challenge people to be better individuals. I like to think that love can save, especially in my books and I saw it again in this book. Do I think their relationship is something to aspire to? No I don’t and I like that it brings that much needed conversation to light.

And I really liked that this book emphasized consent and discussion between partners. Ana doesn’t do anything she doesn’t want to. She questions, she tries when she feels comfortable doing so but she is always clear that she needs something else in their relationship and that if she doesn’t think she is going to get it, she will walk away. I think people think that because she is a virgin she is manipulated into something she doesn’t want but I never get that impression in either Grey or Fifty Shades of Grey.

I’m going to digress before I write a really long post, so I’ll just end by saying that I liked Grey and recommend that you read it AFTER you read the trilogy (if you did enjoy the trilogy) because it does give some spoilers about events/revelations revealed in Fifty Shades Darker.

Series Rating: 4/5

Fifty Shades of Grey 4/5 | Fifty Shades Darker 4/5 | Fifty Shades Freed 4/5 | Grey 4/5

overall

If you want to try a different type of romance, give it a shot but keep in mind it is over the top. It definitely isn’t for everyone though. I know that the BDSM label turns people off but I would say in terms of the actual scenes it’s a “lighter” BDSM than some novels out there (ex. Maya Banks’ Sweet Series) but if you are uncomfortable with the concept, I wouldn’t read this.

Read if You Like: alpha males, contemporary erotica, mysterious heroes
Avoid if You: dislike erotica, dislike BDSM, dislike alpha males

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