Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

I only read this because I was able to borrow it from my sister, and because as many people were buying it and going crazy over it, I felt it was important I at least gave it a try.  And I wasn't really mistaken in my original thoughts about this book.  I gave it a 1 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.com.  Now, let me warn you that this is definitely a very adult book, and so my review will have some very adult topics and examples in it, so please don't read on if you are afraid you'll be offended.
First, the good?  Well, I can understand a tiny bit how it can be enjoyed.  It is very titillating in the sex scenes.  They are very explicit, and definitely can get a person's mind imagining.  However, I have seen similar writing of these types of scenes in the Penthouse Letters books.  Yes, I have read those before.  I went to college, those things were around then, and it was a naughty thing to read now that we were away from home and on our own.
Unfortunately, that is really the only good thing about the book.  So now I will describe all the problems I have with the book.  One reason I was not going to read them, is that an author friend of mine had said she'd started reading it, and it was so similar to Twilight she couldn't go on.  Okay, hopefully everyone knows this book started as Twilight fan fiction.  And if you are a fan, both of the books, and have seen the movies, you will see all the connections in the story.  The brother named Elliott.  All the fancy sporty cars that Christian Grey, the "Edward" of the book, owns.  Anastasia, our "Bella", who just goes by Ana, like Bella instead of "Isabella".  When Ana is in a bar drunk, kind of in trouble, Christian shows up out of nowhere to save her, like Edward did in Twilight when Bella was in trouble in Port Angeles.  Which, there is your setting too, it all happens around the Seattle area, as Twilight is in the state of Washington as well.  Ana's mother lives in Florida, and is scatterbrained, and divorced, etc.  And Bella, excuse me, Ana goes to see her, and her mom just seems to know there is something different about her with this guy.  Now, those are mostly things from the book.  But, anyone who watched the Twilight movie, without having read the book, didn't understand how Bella and Edward fell in love, and it is like Fifty Shades of Grey followed the movie technique in that you don't really understand how the two of them are in love.  I could name so many more Twilight connections, but I'll move on to another criticism.
The second thing I have to say is that it is so poorly written.  This article by Patti Greco sums up one of the problems:  The 50 Worst Synonyms in Fifty Shades of Grey.  And I hate criticizing the writing for the main reason that as I began reading it, I actually am afraid that it reminded me a bit of how I write.  So I can take that one of two ways, either I'm a sucky writer too, or if that's how "good" my writing is, I should finish my novel and get it published.  And I don't know if the writing got better as I got further in the book, or if I was just used to it by then and ignored the problems, but I didn't notice the problems as much at the end.  Also, this whole "inner goddess" bit that kept being brought up, really got old and annoying.  It was not a clever device to use, at least not to the extent it was used.  The "laters, baby" thing.  Also so stupid sounding.  If someone said that to me, I'd laugh at them, seriously laugh AT them.
And the third problem.  Okay, anyone who ever said that Edward was a stalker and abusive boyfriend, well, I hope that those aren't people who like this book.  This guy IS a stalker, whereas Edward really did do the "stalking" to protect her, Christian Grey shows up in all kinds of places, her work job, then he is there at her college graduation as the speaker, then he just happens to have a business meeting in Florida when she goes to visit her mother and get some space to think about her relationship with him.  How is that giving her space and time to think?  And why is she okay with it?  And abusive?  Edward "wants" to kill her, but as we see, he keeps himself away from her until he is able to control himself so that isn't a problem.  Mr. Grey does not keep himself away, and the way he wants to have her is through BDSM, a very interesting acronym for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadomasochism.  He even says he only wants her if he can discipline her.  When she rolls her eyes at him, he wants to spank her, and even does it one time!  Now, okay, whatever floats your boat in the bedroom, okay. I don't have a problem if that is what you're into.  But the fact that he NEEDS it that way.  He won't let her touch him.  I admit I've only read the first book, and I'm going to assume that he gives in and gets more normal eventually, but wow.  It's like the old saying that you can "fix" someone.  You know, sometimes yes, sometimes no, but don't count on it.  I can see that the idea of some of it might sound exciting and spice up a sex life, but I'm not sure a lot of it is that great.  And really, with all the tools and such in the "red room of pain/pleasure" I don't feel that Christian ever gets quite that far into what could be done, at least not in the first book.
At the end of this book, she tells him to make it as painful as he would ever go.  And she doesn't like it.  And she leaves.  He's shocked, and hurt.  I'm sorry, but he's hurt??????  Another reason I began reading this is because another review I read said that she did tell him no, and he did it any way.  I'm not sure I found anything in this book that seemed that way.  At least not in a way that he didn't change her mind to where she was okay with it.  Until the end, and then she let him do that, but knew that it wasn't what she wanted.
I could actually go on and list more issues I had.  BUT, this is already getting to be a really long review, and I don't want to really spend any more time on this.  Now that I have actually read it though, I am having a harder time when people who buy it at the bookstore go on and on about how good it is and didn't I really enjoy it.  I can't say to them that I thought it was horrible written, I'm supposed to be selling books.  So I just say that I can see why it is such a big deal.  And leave it at that.  And, I was not left hanging at the end, I am glad she left, and don't really care to read about her changing her mind and going back to him, as she obviously must do since there are two more books.
Please leave your opinions in the comments, whether you agree with me or vehemently disagree, I really do want to hear my fellow bloggers' thoughts.  I just ask that you keep your comments based on the book, or reasons I have listed, and don't do any name calling of me, (of course :-), or of other people who may comment with their opinions that may differ from yours.

16 comments:

  1. Well said, Lisa. My thoughts exactly. I sort of want to know what happens but not enough to buy the books or actually spend the time reading them. Might just read the synopsis on wikipedia. :)

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    1. I can just ask my friends I guess who have read it, to find out. Thanks for letting me borrow your copy so I didn't have to spend the money.

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  2. I do disagree. I liked the storyline in the books. The "inner goddess" was one of my favorite parts of the book! I am curious though had you not known about the twilight connection prior to reading it would you have even noticed? I am a fan of twilight and did not see the similarities between the two till you pointed them out. It was nice to read a review that didnt like the book and the dislike had nothing to do with the fact there was so much sex in the books. Thank you for your honest review!

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    1. I'm definitely glad to hear from someone that disagrees with me! The fact that you liked parts I didn't like is exactly why I think there are so many books out there, so that there is something for everyone! I normally would like the inner goddess thing, it just kind of seemed thrown in, or a little bit too much for me. I don't know, I wonder if I would have noticed, but as many times as I've watched the Twilight movies, or read the books, I think I would probably have noticed some of it.

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  3. I've said it before, but I just don't like the fanfic is being published as original fiction. I've checked the copyright laws (law school drop out here) and it seems to be legal, but it doesn't seem fair.

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    1. I kind of feel that way. But really, it seems like there are so many books that have similar storylines these days, trying to capitalize on whatever the new craze is. I'm guessing there will be a lot of these type of erotic stories getting the green lights from publishers now.

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  4. I didn't have any problems with this author publishing her fanfic creation. I support any writer who wants to give birth to their ideas. Though I wonder how she feels about creating something that's really, technically not her own.

    I read this fanfic and at the time, I was well uhm, addicted. I'm still in shock by how popular it became.

    I really hope she writes something she can call her own to at least prove she didn't have to ride the coattails of someone else's popularity to be a successful mainstream writer.

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    1. When it was actually fanfic, were the names Bella and Edward? To me fanfic is more actually using the characters from what you're a fan of. But yeah, I'd like to see her write something that doesn't rely on another story to see if she is as good a writer as people are saying.

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  5. I'm glad I got to read this review, because I doubt I'll read the book, but I have heard so much about it, that I had a few questions you cleared up for me. I didn't understand the Twilight connection everyone kept talking about, for one thing. I wonder what Stephanie Meyer thinks about this? It seems like there might be some copyright issues here.

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    1. Yeah, I guess there are lots of fanfic issues out there. But it is easier to get away with. I would be interested to hear what Stephenie Meyer thinks as well.

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  6. I am glad to see a review that is less than stellar about this book. I picked it up, from the library, just to see what the hype was all about since so many people have been talking about it and loved it. I don't have issue with the kinky stuff, but I thought the writing itself was mediocre at best. I honestly think that if she hadn't done a Twilight Fanfic, and so many people read it, that this would not have been published. Although there is the fact that it is a bit of "forbidden fruit" for people who otherwise might not have read something like this. Now they are in the "club". It did keep my interest enough to finish it though. I am not sure about the other two. I might read them, although I am really not in any kind of hurry to do so.
    A friend of mine summed it up perfectly for me: The book is so poorly written as to take away from the sexy parts, but it is still sexy enough to keep reading. In a more groomed author's hands, I wonder how this book might have turned out.
    Obviously, with BCM being YA, I will not be reviewing it there, but it is nice to be able to comment on someone else's review of it. :)

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    1. In the case of this book I definitely think the internet world of fanfic got her published. Which, awesome for her! I still can't believe that it is breaking so many records though! Kind of sad to me. But hey, again I say if it gets people reading, that is a good thing. It was interesting enough to keep reading, partly because I wanted to see what it was everyone was so excited about.

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  7. I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline. I felt like this was so much more than a story about kinky sex.

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    1. I agree, it was more than just a story about sex. I just didn't like it that much. But I really want to hear specifically why people liked it, especially people who do read a lot. Because I feel a lot of the people who come into the bookstore to buy it aren't normally readers. I am glad it is getting people reading though!

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  8. As you know, I gave this a 4 out of 5 rating, and reading your review and keeping in mind mine, we actually agree on a lot of points. It seems to be a paradox that we ended up giving the same book so different ratings, based on many similar thoughts. I think one reason for it is what each of us went in looking for.

    My level of expectations was to be entertained, not in the sense that classics entertain me, for instance, but in the way True Blood entertains me. You know what I mean? And it did that, so I felt well pleased with the overall effect. I try to read and rate each work without really comparing it to something else, even if I'm aware I do on a subconscious level anyway. But consciously, I don't really go in with any expectations beyond being entertained, you know? Because if I were to go in expecting to be swept off my feet in the literary sense, that would be hard to near impossible. Anna Karenina swept me off my feet, or Crime and Punishment, or The Picture of Dorian Grey. I'm not saying that literary writing is better then commercial, but I do have two very different scales for them, you know? This commercial kind of reading, I just expect it to entertain me, like movies do.

    Actually, this movie-in-words take is pretty popular from what I've seen and this read to me like that sort of read. You know how the movie adaptation of the book almost always glosses over the really deep, character-building sort of parts and just goes for the shock factor to make up for it? This book read like the movie version of the hypothetical first book. Did that make sense? lol.
    It's like the Twilight series, I read the books and had fun with them, I saw the movies and had fun with them too, but I went in in each case with a bit of a different set of expectations.

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    1. I always go into books or movies to be entertained. I don't like classics, most of the time they don't entertain me. But this book was soooo poorly written. It was hard for me to read it. When I stumble over the words in my head, because they don't fit well or easy to be read. I can read a Stephen King book, totally a "commercial" kind of reading, and it's not bad writing. So on that point, you're not quite getting what I was saying. I read so many YA books, and most of them are much better written than this. That's what I meant. Believe me, I hate the critics who make such a big deal about movies, when all I needed was to be entertained, and they did that. Same with books. This one didn't entertain me. Poor writing made it hard to read, and the copying of Twilight, I don't actually tend to read a lot of vampire teen stories because they often remind me too much of this, although not like this. And, I just wouldn't put up with the crap she puts up with in this book. Her behavior makes no sense to me. Believe me, I remember being that innocent at one time, and I would not have given in to that kind of stuff that easily. Again, I definitely like to hear everyone else's opinion! And yours made me understand reasons that people liked it, even if I didn't like it. :-)

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