Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Audiobook Series Review: Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy by E.L. James

Genres: Contemporary Romance, Erotica, BDSM
Format: Audiobook (Book #1 | Book #2 | Book #3)
Narrator: Becca Batoe (Audible)

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY: When college student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly Ana realizes she wants this man, and Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian’s secrets and explores her own desires.

FIFTY SHADES DARKER: Daunted by Christian’s dark secrets and singular tastes, Ana has broken off their relationship to start a new career. But desire for Christian still dominates her every waking thought. They rekindle their searing sensual affair, and while Christian wrestles with his inner demons, Ana is forced to make the most important decision of her life.

FIFTY SHADES FREED: Now, Ana and Christian have it all—love, passion, intimacy, wealth, and a world of possibilities for their future. But Ana knows that loving her Fifty Shades will not be easy, and that being together will pose challenges that neither of them would anticipate. Just when it seems that their strength together will eclipse any obstacle, misfortune, malice, and fate conspire to turn Ana’s deepest fears into reality.

This book is intended for mature audiences.

For a while, I'll admit, I hopped "Fifty Shades Hate" bandwagon. Thinking, ermahgerd S&M and originally Twilight fanfiction??? No way I'm reading that! But so many people were talking about it and then there was the movie... I got curious. Setting my Twilight and S&M prejudgments aside, I dove in. In the end, my mind was changed. I love Christian, I like Ana and I love all their kinky fuckery. Yep, I said it!!!

I've decided to do a review of the series as a whole, since no single book was a standout for me. What struck me the most was how the stories arch the stages of a relationship so well:
  • Fifty Shades of Grey = "excitement" and "first challenge" phases
  • Fifty Shades Darker = "reconciliation" and "commitment" phases
  • Fifty Shades Freed = to quote Cher, the"do you believe in life after love" phase (i.e. after the love goggles come off you have to learn how to live together... forever, faults and all)

  • Christian:: One of the things I appreciated most was how complex of a character Christian is. Nothing about him is on the surface or even predictable. I loved that he showed a full range of emotions: confidence, dominance, vulnerability, immaturity, and a sense of being lost and broken. And, boy that last one is a doozy. His submitting to Ana scared the crap out of me in Fifty Shades Darker. But I liked him a lot. He's definitely not book boyfriend material, but I got his charm. 
  • Christan & Ana's banter:: Christian and Ana's email exchanges were what I most looked forward to. I love love love them!!! In their face-to-face interactions, everything was so tense. These emails let both of them relax and with Ana, using words to express herself allowed her to be bolder. I get that. 
  • The contract:: This might seem like a weird thing to like, considering I know nothing about the BDSM world. Before reading this, I could never understand why someone would want to submit to someone else giving up all their autonomy. But now I know it's not like that. Everything is out in the open -- hard limits, soft limits, expectations. More importantly, everything was negotiable. Even when Christian "went too far", the behavior was still was within the contract's boundaries. With this complicated man, Ana got a disclaimer. Real relationships don't come with disclaimers, but after reading this it would be nice to know upfront. Come on ladies, wouldn't you love a "I probably will cheat on you, if I'm not already", or "yes, you most certainly are the side chick", or  better yet, "I have no intention of ever marrying you no matter how many years we date". Wouldn't that be nice to know from the get-go?
  • The sex scenes:: They were hot, what can I say. I'm not ashamed or embarrassed to admit that.
  • Ana's stubborn, pig-headed behavior:: This girl drove me nuts!!! 
    • FIRST, the food issue. Yes, I get that it was not good for Christian to try and force feed her. That said, it really did seemed like she'd only eat 50% of what she needed. Did she have an eating disorder? Was Ana's not eating representative the only thing she felt she could exert control over under Christian's ever-watchful eye? I didn't get it and hoped it would get resolved. But it continued, even into the early stages of her pregnancy. 
    • SECONDLY, her ridiculous reaction to abandon ship whenever things go complicated. Poor Christian. Looking back throughout the series, to me, Christian was more scarred by the relationship than Ana was. 
    • ALSO, Ana didn't ever seem to think she was to blame. It's always Christian's 50 Shades messing things up. Which was laughable. No only did she blame him, she blamed others. Oh no, I got pregnant because I didn't take my medicine. My fault? No way. It's Hannah. She moved around my appointments and didn't tell me. She let herself off the hook too much. 
    • LASTLY, Ana never really changed and that was simply disappointing.
  • The language divide: Ana was a bright, well-read woman. So why did it seem like reaction to to everything was expressed with: Oh my. Holy Shit! What? At various times in the book, she'd used her extensive vocabulary. Then she'd slip back into these expressions, which kept her feeling very immature and young compared to Christian, when there was only 6 years or so between them. I was hoping she'd get away from these, especially after she starts showing some cajones in Fifty Shades Freed, but she didn't. 
  • Ana's Inner Goddess//Subconscious: Why was this needed? If anything, it kept me from connecting with Ana because I never really understood how she felt. For instance, if Christian wanted to try something new sexually, Ana would react shyly while her inner goddess stripped and her subconscious pursed her lips. Which was her true reaction?
  • Jack Hyde storyline: Was it really needed? 

I close with this final question; was Ana actually good for Christian? I'm going to say no... and I'm going to defer to Rihanna to explain. I was listening to her song, What Now, and a line makes me think of Christian: "I found the one he changed my life | But was it me that changed | And he just happened to come at the right time".

To be with Ana, Christian had to change. But was this because she truly a positive influence on him? Or, was she just the right motivation? Taking into account how depressed Christian seemed at the beginning, it seems like Christian was ready and waiting for something new. But he just didn't know how to get it, because everyone just submitted to him. No one ever challenged him until Ana; with him being as rich, successful, and intimidating, I believe it. Ana forced him to change because she would leave him and for the first time, he didn't want someone to go. 

If you think about it, Christian dove head first into changing his life to be with Ana with seemingly no regrets. Yes, he grumbled and whined from time to time, but he never relapsed sexually, and showed more and more self recrimination and disgust when he visualized his behavior through Ana's eyes. Seeing himself through someone else's perspective was probably something he never would have considered doing before Ana.

Eh, I'll just stop here. Just like with Bella, I didn't get the allure of Ana. Obviously, if it weren't for Christian's character development, I wouldn't have much to say. Did I enjoy this series? Yes, I did. More than reading Twilight, so there!

All in all, it's an enjoyable read.

Lastly, I must not forget to compliment Mrs. James on her exceptional taste in music. My Soundtracks playlist thanks you. I love every single song on all her book playlists, and that's saying something! And no  I am not talking the movie soundtrack. Go to her website.

BECCA BATTOE did a fabulous job narrating this series. I am like a little kid saying, "do the voices, do the voices" when it comes to audiobooks, and I'm happy to say each character had a distinct voice. And kudos to her, because her Christian voice came off as masculine and sexy. It was an experience rather than just a reading, and I love that so much. She performed the heck out of the series, and I'd be very happy to check out into something else she's done.

“Stop biting your lip.”
― Christian

“Laters baby.”
― Pretty much everyone...

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