Fifty Shades of Grey By E.L. James
April 16, 2012

This is a dirty book. It is probably the dirtiest book I have ever read, and that is really saying something, because I am not new to dirty books.

As teenager, after I finished all the Sweet Valley High Books, I started reading adult fiction of the Jackie Collins variety. These were really fun books. On the whole, the stories themselves were only slightly more sophisticated than the YA books of my youth. But, instead of focusing on high school politics, they were about grown up teenagers, almost-recognizable celebrities living very scandalous lives.

It was like harmless celebrity fan fiction. Except that they were very, very racy. The first adult fiction book I read was Jackie Collins’ Lovers & Gamblers. While I was far too young to be reading it, I seriously loved it and read it multiple times. And not just for its blushingly explicit depictions of casual and frequently kinky sex.

Lovers & Gamblers is positively puritanical when compared to E.L. James’ Fifty Shades Trilogy.

Given that the plot of the series seems to exist only to facilitate explicit sex scenes, its not that surprising that the plot and characters are lifted blatantly from the Twilight series.  The author openly admits that the story started as a piece of Twilight fan fiction called Master of The Universe.

The only difference between the stories is that instead of Edward Cullen being a vampire, Christian Grey is an emotionally damaged sexual Dominant who wants his Bella Swan – Anastasia Steele – to agree to play Submissive in a kinky BDSM relationship.

I realize that sounds really different, but in practice, it isn’t.

Basically, Christian looks and behaves almost exactly like Edward Cullen – down to the copper hair and chiseled abs. Like Edward, he fights a compulsion to hurt the girl he loves, and obsesses on controlling and protecting her.

Like Bella Swan, Anastasia (Ana) Steele is beautiful and special, and only she thinks she is ordinary. She believes that she is too pale and skinny, that her eyes are too big and she is too clumsy. These ridiculous insecurities prevent her from realizing that the most beautiful and mysterious man on earth is hopelessly in love with her. He almost immediately wants to give up his dangerous ways have a real relationship with her and she is somehow FURIOUS about it!  The only thing keeping them apart is Ana’s stubborn insistence on acting like an idiot.

Exactly like Bella Swan, you guys.

I know that Twilight itself is rather poorly written, but the writing in Fifty Shades is epically awful. I’m never one to complain about a little explicit sex in my reading, but even Jackie Collins included an actual plot between the “good parts”. Otherwise, it’s just LadyPorn for the Twilight Soul. There is literally so much distractingly narrated sex in these books that I actually tried to stop reading those scenes.

But, literally nothing else happens.

Any semblance of a story runs out halfway through the second book, so the third book consists of Ana and Christian being rich and in love and hanging out with their bodyguards and maids. It would be very Downton Abbey, if Downton had a sex dungeon.

I have to admit that the biggest complaint I had about Twilight was that it didn’t have enough sex in it. But, the biggest complaint I have about Fifty Shades, is that it has too much sex. I think this makes a pretty convincing argument for splicing the books together. (If someone does this, please let me know!)

Having started as fan fiction – which is really just a fantasy about a fantasy – this book is just using the plot of Twilight as a vehicle for wish fulfillment.

So, to me, the most interesting thing about both stories is to consider what these fantasies say about the reality it is intended to stand in contrast to. Does this mean that ladies these days are beset by men who are mean for no reason, never buy them anything, criticize them for eating too much, make them have jobs, drive their own cars and engage in boring and infrequent sex?

That’s kind of sad, ladies.

I have no comment on the cover art for these books. I was grateful to read it on my phone, so I didn’t have to admit to anyone that I was reading porn.

Caitlin: A Trilogy of Trilogies
January 30, 2011

Man, I love a trilogy.

Francine Pascal loves trilogies too. Perhaps more than even I, because in the late 80s she decided that one trilogy was not enough to contain a heroine as bitchy and dark as that beautiful demoness Caitlin Ryan.

Of course, as with that magnum opus Sweet Valley High, Francine dosen’t love these books enough to write them herself. That lowly task falls to ghostwriters, but its Francine’s name emblazoned across the cover.

Obviously, I loved Sweet Valley High back in the day. I was an active fan and sought the books out at the library and bookstores as they were published, and it seemed for a while like new books would come out at least once a month. I don’t remember when I first saw the Caitlin Series, but I imagine that it was advertised in the backs of SVH books. I loved these book covers. The drawings of Caitlin Ryan’s raven hair, pale skin and blue eyes captivated and inspired  me in my burgeoning interest in black hair dye.

Francine was in rare form when she conceived Caitlin’s tale. A regular old “series” wasn’t epic enough to contain this sweeping tale of 80s fashion, horses and the mining industry. It was a story suited only for a trilogy – but still too vast for just ONE trilogy. No.

Only a Trilogy of Trilogies can do this legend justice.

The Love Trilogy: Loving, Love Lost, True Love

The Promise Trilogy: Tender Promises, Promises Broken, A New Promise

The Forever Trilogy: Dreams of Forever, Forever & Always, Together Forever

I read and loved them all. Perhaps more than even SVH, because they were dark. Caitlin wasn’t just rich, beautiful and cruel – she was self destructive, sociopathic and lonely.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to dig around at garage sales to locate these fabulous books. Through the wonder of technology that even super-rich Caitlin didn’t have access to back in the day (i.e. Amazon.com), over the next few weeks I plan to read them and report back. It is my gift to you, Interwebs. You are welcome.

Hello, what’s this? Another blog?
April 18, 2010

Apparently, while I was reading Twilight, the entire planet was starting a Sweet Valley High blog. All the SVH blogs are funny and awesome and been around since long before I knew who Edward Cullen is. (So, 2008 or so for the historians out there). So, I was late to Twilight and now I’m late to the SVH resurgence. NOW Diablo Cody is making SVH into a movie, and therefore its all played out. Its basically Twilight already. *Sigh*

Everyone has recapped every fun SVH book. Ditto The Babysitters Club (which I didn’t read, but would have if I wasn’t already into heavy metal and Marlboro Reds by then).

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have things to say about the Wakefield twins, and the Girls of Canby Hall. And I will, don’t you worry about that.

But I’m different than the YA Nostalgia Snarkers you already know. For one, I am not stuck in the past. I don’t just lurk in the DirtyOldBooks section of Goodwill searching for YA goodness. Oh no, I march purposefully into the BrandShinyNewBooks Barnes and Noble and head straight for the YA section. I cleverly feign disinterest as I peruse such contemporary classics as The House of Night Series and LA Candy by Lauren Conrad. As a rule, I do not make eye contact with the teenagers I encounter there.

OK, one time I couldn’t contain myself and gushed about how much I LOVED Richelle Mead’s Blood Promise to a sullen-faced teenager skimming through a copy of it. I think I thought that having a superhip lady in her 30s endorsing the Vampire Boarding School-themed novel she was examining would ensure that she would totes want to purchase it…Sorry, Richelle I think I owe you a reader. My bad.

For the most part, I bravely pretend like I’m buying a gift when I haul my books to the counter. Its too bad I don’t have kids I could use as an excuse for lurking in the YA section. Its kind of like the ironic mirror image of teen-aged me loitering outside a liquor store looking for some old lady in her 30s I could convince to buy me beer. Except I’m the old lady and its books I want those whippersnappers to hook me up with.

Its a little sad. But awesome at the same time.

Also, I genuinely love some of these books. Not SVH or the House of Night, obviously, but my copy of Blood Promise is stained with my actual tears. I’m planning my summer vacation from work around the release of the last Hunger Games novel, Mockingjay.

So, you see its not just nostalgia and snark. Its not just SVH. Its modern. Its now. Its awful. Get ready.