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'Fifty Shades' is the ramen noodles of books

The series could have benefitted from a better copy editor, but it turned into a guilty pleasure that I actually did enjoy.
The series could have benefitted from a better copy editor, but it turned into a guilty pleasure that I actually did enjoy.
Courtesy of Vintage Press

The Fifty Shades Trilogy by E. L. James


My friend Elizabeth fussed at me over my review for "Fifty Shades of Grey," telling me that I wasn't being fair and I needed to read the other two books before I made my decision. Okay, that may be. And I'm always willing to give something a second chance. If the truth be told, I was listening to the audiobook and the reader was pretty lame. But since the box set is scheduled for release on Tuesday, June 12th. I decided to read the next two books, "Fifty Shades Darker" and "Fifty Shades Freed", and see if I felt as passionate about them as she did. Having done so, I'm ready to issue my verdict on the whole series.

Everyone has guilty pleasures. For me, it's ramen noodles. I love 'em; I can't get enough of the stuff. I used to cook two or three packages at a time and chow down. That is until I read the back of one of the packages and saw that one has almost 500 calories, and more sodium that I should have in a week. I immediately stopped eating ramen. But I still love it and, once a year, I indulge myself in a ramen orgy.

After reading all three books in the "Fifty Shades" trilogy by author E. L. James, I've decided they're the literary version of ramen to me. I heard you just gasp -- read on.

Yes, they're are not that good as far as literature goes. The plot is a bit predictable and still smacks of "Twilight" to me. The leading lady is inexperienced and a bit immature. The leading man is impossibly gorgeous, rich, and mysterious. Together, they fight a lot and have kinky sex a lot (and I mean a lot). The first book is a bit slow, setting up the relationship. The second book heats up with the romantic triangles. The third book heats up further with the threat to the clan/family.

Yes, the prose is a bit juvenile -- I think the only thing Ana Steele knows how to say is "oh" and "oh my." The only facial expression any of the characters can make is a smirk -- and they smirk a lot. There were so many repeated phrases and words that my inner goddess -- who happens to be a copy editor -- was shaking her head while I read. Some missing punctuation along the way made reading a wee bit confusing in places. These books could have used a better editor and that tells me a great deal more about the publisher than it does the author.

And yet....

I can't believe I'm about to say this, but my friend, Elizabeth, was right after all. They did get better. The plot did tighten up in the second and third books; the tension between the two lead characters was pretty thick and the tension in the outer issues (one of Christian's former submissives is mentally unstable and stalking Ana; tensions with Mrs. Robinson, Christian's first "lover"; a saboteur threatens Christian's family in revenge) aggravates the new couple's insecurities. Add in the BDSM lifestyle that tends to unnerve as well as excite Ana and that Christian seems to need to survive, the plot improved greatly in the second and third book to make them real page turners.

There's still not a great deal of character development in anyone other than Christian, but then that makes sense, really -- the book is written entirely in Ana's voice and from her point of view. This is about Christian and her perceptions of him. While I think this could have been executed a lot better -- again, this really needed a better editor -- I got so involved in the books that I really did get into the story line. There are a few chapters -- a very few -- that we see through Christian's eyes and turn out to be memories and/or bad dreams. They're very telling about the character and the man, and a bit heart breaking to read.

I still wanted to smack Ana a few times. But I also had a great deal of respect for her in "Darker" and "Freed," more so than the first book. Finding more and more of the reasons for his darker tendencies, we find the layers of Christian Grey and how he came to be the man he is. The man truly is "fifty shades of f**ked up" because of childhood traumas and Ana's character has the strength to help him heal. She has quite a few times to bail and run, and chooses not to, instead choosing to stand by him no matter what. I have to respect that.

So, while the "Fifty Shades" trilogy isn't going to make the annals of classical literature along side such books as "Jane Eyre" or "Pride and Prejudice," and while it's got more mechanical issues than a beat up '63 Chevy, I can't help but think that this trilogy is one of those guilty pleasures that I will be reading once a year and enjoying. Right along with my annual ramen noodle feast. And one that I can recommend reading -- although, I definitely recommend reading them together, back to back, for anything to make sense. They're not standalone books and need to be read together.

Lexington, have you read these books? Will you be reading them? Are you tempted? Tell me what you think in the comments -- I'd love to know.

You can find copies of the "Fifty Shades" Trilogy ("Fifty Shades of Grey", "Fifty Shades Darker", and "Fifty Shades Freed") through all online bookstores, as well as locally from Joseph-Beth Booksellers in the Lexington Green Mall on Nicholasville Road or Barnes & Noble in the Hamburg Pavilion Shopping Center at Man o' War Blvd and Sir Barton Way.

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