Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Quote for the Week

Where we love is home, home that our feet may leave but not our hearts.
                   Oliver Wendell Holmes

Friday, February 13, 2015

Mr. Grey Will See You Now

In view of all the excitement surrounding tomorrow's release of Fifty Shades of Grey:  The Movie, I felt I should join in by reposting the book review I wrote a couple of years ago. 

At the Houston Galleria I saw the poster shown above hanging in Galleria 4.  If I hadn't read the book, I'd have been tempted to see the movie...but I have read the book.

In an L.A. Times interview the director said it was a dark and tragic love story, very complex, with an empowered heroine.  Possibly she read a different book than I did.  The movie review in the Houston Chronicle was titled "Fifty Shades of, Huh?" and the actor who plays Christian Grey was likened to a male model made of balsa wood or lego blocks.  I guess he won't be up for next year's Oscars.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy my book review and the movie too if you're so inclined.
* * *
I confess.  I’ve joined the club.  I read Fifty Shades of Grey this week.

The first I knew of it was when I overheard two ladies discussing it in the beauty shop.  I couldn’t help but wonder why the gushing. Given the context, I assumed it was a guide to hair coloring. 

 It wasn’t long before I realized my mistake.  Really, how can one be alive and remain unaware of The Book of the Century?  Still, I resisted.  I’m a former romance writer and my books were pretty hot, but I never wrote or read erotica.

 Then last week I heard a woman say Fifty Shades transformed her life.  As Ana, the heroine, would say, “Wow!”  I figured if it was that powerful, I’d better get a copy.   But how?  Should I buy a paperback so I could show the world I’m cool or an e-book so I could avoid the smirks of other people?  (Smirking is very common in Fifty Shades; it may become a fad in the real world)  I settled on the e-book.  As soon as it appeared on the screen, my Kindle started to sizzle.

 And so I began.  Mousy girl with low self-esteem views herself in the mirror.  Oh, no.  I’m nodding off already.  But wait.  She’s going to take her roommate’s place and interview a business tycoon for the student newspaper of Washington State University, which seems, by some quirk, to be located in Portland. 

 Here she is at the business tycoon’s office.  Oh, no.  She stumbles as she enters and he has to grab her before she lands on the floor.  Despite her clumsiness, mousiness and low self-esteem, the businessman, who is not only the Richest, Most Successful Man in the World but also the Sexiest Man in the World is intrigued.  Perhaps he’s having an off day?

 As readers, we know (because we’ve read the umpteen million reviews) that Sexy Christian Grey is into BDSM, which stands for Bondage and Discipline; Sadism and Masochism—I know because I looked it up on Wikipedia.  And just in case we missed the synopses, Christian shows up at the hardware store where Ana works and buys (hint, hint) masking tape, cable ties and rope. 

Ana, our heroine, who is given to exclaiming, “Wow!” or “Holy crap!” a lot, is twenty-one years old but she’s never been kissed, never even held hands.  Is it her innocence that attracts Christian Grey?  The fact that she’s an English lit major? Or is it that during a drunken bar scene, she vomits all over him?  No worries, he’ll soon (wink, wink) whip her into shape.  And yes, they get together and suddenly Ana is beautiful, feisty and willing to try anything.  Wow!  Holy crap!

Here is Ana, visiting Christian’s penthouse for the first time.  (He flew her up to Seattle in Charlie Tango, his very own helicopter).  And here’s an example of their scintillating dialogue:

Ana:  “You have a big place here.”

Christian:  “Big?”

Ana:  “Big.”

Christian:  “Yes, it’s big.” 


Christian shows her around his sexy abode and then he opens a door and, Holy Crap, here is a room filled with all manner of torture gear.  Aha!  Now Ana knows that beneath his urbane exterior, Christian is into Dominance and he wants Ana to become his Submissive.  But he’s a businessman after all, so he provides her with a contract which we get to read twice in case we overlooked something on our first run-through. 

Christian deflowers Ana.  It’s his first time with a virgin.  And Ana?  Here are her thoughts:  Wow, that was extraordinary.  So that was what all the fuss is about. And later, thinking about her first orgasm (because of course she had one, no, several.) she compares it to the spin cycle on a washing machine.  And that’s a first for me, the spin cycle, I mean.  I’ve never read a comparison like that and trust me, I’ve read a lot of romance novels.  Nor do I have a point of reference in the real world.  Being inside a washing machine is so not part of my life experience.

At any rate, afterward Ana discovers Christian playing Bach on the piano (Of course he plays better than anyone in the world, possibly because of his long index fingers, which we hear about many many times).  And we realize that in another layer beneath the sadistic inner  man is a misunderstood, abused, confused little boy.  We’ll learn more about that later.

We also are treated to views of Ana’s inner life, which is extraordinary.  While inner monologue is a hallmark of the romance genre, we meet two inner Anas.  They aren’t just thoughts either.  They are apparently tiny “people” who reside inside her head.  There’s her subconscious (We’ll call her the Superego) who frowns on the lifestyle Ana is choosing and there’s the inner goddess (the Id perhaps) who dances about, turns cartwheels, and on one occasion wears a red hula skirt.  Where does the inner goddess do her shopping, I wonder. 

Do we get to witness scenes of S and M?  Fear not; we do.  But by the time they come up we’re so overloaded with scenes of sex, thoughts of sex, fears about sex, lust for sex, etc. that the scenes are boring.  In fact, on a scale of one to ten, this author gets an eleven in overloading her readers with sex.  Another hallmark of the romance novel is not sex itself but sexual tension.  Will they make love?  When?  Where?  How?  In a standard romance the answer to that last is what Christian terms “vanilla sex,” but it’s still pretty hot.  If you want to read about the Richest, Sexiest Man in the World, check out Nora Roberts aka J.D. Robb’s “In Death” books.  Roberts is a master of sexual tension as well as memorable love scenes.  Warning:  She doesn’t write S and M and she also writes books with plots.

At last I come to the final pages of the book.  Whew!  The ending is a sad one because (Spoiler alert, here!) even though she loves him, Ana leaves Christian after a particularly painful…I think it’s called a flogging.  There are two more Grey books so we can be reasonably certain that Ana and Christian get back together.  The second book is called Fifty Shades Darker and we can only wonder what devastating punishments Christian has in store for Ana.  Does he bite her neck?  Oops, no, that’s another series.

Will I read books two and three?  Are you kidding?  One was enough.  However, in the book’s favor, I’m sure it has heated up a lot of marriages and has doubtless given rise to more experimentation in sex which is probably a good thing, and despite its limitations (and, holy s#@t, there are a lot of them) the book has stimulated some interesting discussions about women’s sexuality and about control and/or equality between partners.  Plus it’s contributing to the economic recovery; 20 million copies of the book, more than twice the population of Belgium, have been sold, hotels in the Pacific Northwest are offering Fifty Shades weekends (equipment not furnished), and I understand that the sales of sex toys have increased exponentially.  I bet sales of gray silk ties are rocketing, too.  If you read the book, you know what I mean.

So, kudos to the author .  She may not be much of a writer but she’s one helluva marketer and she’s created a pop culture phenomenon.  (Not sure what happened to my font here.  My computer must have been exhausted from all that sex.)

* * *
Am I going to see the movie you may ask?  Probably not, unless I'm desperate for something to do. But as for you, make up your own mind.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Books of January

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin is a fictionalized account of the life of Anne Morrow Lindbergh from her meeting with Charles soon after his historic flight until his death.  I loved the book, but I couldn't help but wonder why such an intelligent, educated woman would stay with such a jerk.  Grade A

Essays by the esteemed poet Donald Hall, some fascinating, some meandering.  And doesn't he look scary on the cover, sort of like a grumpy Santa Claus?  Grade A-

The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins' debut thriller is touted as this year's Gone Girl and is #1 on the best seller list.  I couldn't wait to read it.  None of the viewpoint characters are very likeable but the story has many twists and turns, beginning with the girl who imagines the lives of a couple she sees from a train window.  After the wife disappears, she becomes involved in their lives.  This has already been optioned for a movie, which will probably be a blockbuster.  Grade A-.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Quote for the Week For Valentine's Day

If you have only one smile in you,
give it to the people you love.
Maya Angelou
Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 8, 2015


I never (hardly ever) pick up the phone when my called ID shows an unfamiliar number.  But three weeks ago I did.  In my defense, I was distracted, trying to find my business checkbook which seemed to have disappeared, getting ready for a medical appointment while scrambling around hunting the checkbook so I picked up the phone.  First mistake.

The caller identified herself as a person from Microsoft.  I didn't believe her, of course, but she was persuasive, insisting my computer was overrun with viruses and was about to crash. "Look me up on Google," she said, and sure enough, she was @Microsoft.com.  "Click on Control R and I'll show you the viruses," she said.  Second mistake: I did.

Next thing I knew I had clicked on another place.  I felt like I was being hypnotized. A guy who identified himself as a technician came on and announced he was now connected to my computer and could help me get rid of the virus. Time to hang up, but I didn't. Third mistake.

 "Oh," he said.  "You don't have a firewall."  "I don't want one," I said.  "Just put me back on my computer."

His voice turned ominous.  "I've blocked your computer,  You have to buy the firewall."  I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience, watching myself from across the room, doing exactly what he told me.  "Stupid, stupid, stupid," my "other" body told me...but I didn't know what to do.  I was afraid if I hung up, he'd still be on my computer.  Soon I saw myself giving him my credit card number and mumbling, "Okay," as he said he'd clean out the viruses and it would take about two hours  "Bye bye," he said in a snarky voice..  Little green lines appeared on my computer as I left for my doctor's appointment.

When I got home, of course the computer would not boot up. I closed my credit card and then  I put in an emergency call to my IT guy, whose name is, appropriately, Angel Eden, and when he called back he told me this was a common scam, "Often," he added apologetically, "targeting older people."

The next day Doug, Angel's technician was here, working with the computer when my scam buddy called back, wanting to know how my computer was doing.  "I'll let you talk to my husband," I said and handed the phone to Doug.  Doug made him provide the syskey to get back on the computer and then shouted at him that he was scum.

Unfortunately, Doug couldn't fix the computer right then.  He took it to the office.  I was computerless for two weeks.  And of course, it was an expensive mistake.

Do I get the prize for being the most utterly stupid person in the world?  Probably I'm not the only one who was "hypnotized" by these people.  That doesn't make me feel any better.



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