Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My Bookish Thoughts on the Books I Swore I'd Never Read

I read Fifty Shades of Grey (Vintage, 2012; 528 pgs) by E.L. James. And Fifty Shades Darker (Vintage, 2012; 544 pgs). I never intended to. These are so-oo not my type of books. I caved to the buzz. Everyone around me was talking about the books. Some loved them and couldn’t recommend them enough. Most people I know hated the first book and could barely, if at all, get through the it. I resisted. I had no interest in the books. I’m not sure when that changed. The talk got to me. The thing is, I didn’t pick up the first book because I thought I would like it. I picked the book up to read because I wanted to see how ridiculous it was. I wanted a laugh. I know, welcome to Book Snob City.

Hmm.  How to explain what the books are about . . . The man, Christian Grey, is damaged.  Abused and neglected as a child, he has a rather strong need to control everything--and everyone--around him.  And I mean control.  In walks Anastasia, quiet and rather clumsy and seemingly pliable.  Just like he likes his woman.  Only, Ana isn't quite as easy to mold as he first thought.  Not completely anyway.  He balks at first--but he's smitten.  He can't let her go.  He stalks her.  She reprimands him. She can't quite let go of him either.  He needs her.  She can change him!  There are crazy exes, plenty of sex, jealousy (because both protagonists are gorgeous and everyone's in love with or lusting after them), many tears, and much stalking.

Anyway, I didn’t hate it. Not exactly. I didn’t like it either.  Not at all.  I’m not even sure why I picked up the second book to read. Darn cliff hangers. At least now I know what everyone is talking about. It wasn’t what I expected in one regard—the plot line, anyway (yes, the books have one; I really think you have to read the first two books at least to get the best overall impression of it). The characters were just as I imagined from all the talk. The writing left a lot to be desired. My husband exclaimed, “Oh my!” the other night and he’s lucky to be standing. I don’t ever want to read the word “murmur” in a book again.

The male protagonist, Christian, is one sick f**k. I don’t care how wounded and sorry for him we’re supposed to feel (I didn't). Any sane woman should run from him.  I don't care how wealthy he is.  Anastasia . . . Well, I liked her more than I expected--to a degree. I thought she'd be more the damsel in distress--and while at times she was, she also wasn't as accomodating as some people lead me to believe when I first started reading reviews of the books. Still, that whole woman-fix-man routine annoys me no end. In real life and in books.  And she let Christian get away with way too much.

The sex?  There was a lot of it, but then, the series is labeled erotica.  So, it's a given.  I actually was surprised there wasn't more in the first book.  The second book more than made up for it.  As for the type of sex? I knew what I was getting into so there was little surprise there. I did take issue with the punishment clause in Christian's rather stiffling contract (dictating when and what his submissives ate, what they wore, how they behaved in public).  Punishment for pleasure is one thing--but real punishment to intimidate and hurt is something entirely different.  *Spolier Alert* I was so glad when Ana took issue with it too and refused to agree to it (eventually). *End Spoiler Alert*

I can see some appeal in the books. At least, I can understand why some people might like the books. Unfortunately, I am not one of them.

I did laugh. I did make fun. And, yes, I kept reading. I did read two of the books in the trilogy. I think I’ll skip the third. I kind of already knows what happens anyway, and I don’t think I’ll survive any more “Holy crap!”

To learn more about E.L. James and her books, please visit the author's website.

This book counts towards The Eclectic Reading Challenge.



© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

24 comments:

  1. I'd rather have a root canal that read the second or third book. By the end of the first, I could really care less what happened to any of them. As I said in my review, lock them in a room and let them spank themselves into oblivion. I just don't want to read about it any more. But like you said, at least now I can legitimately argue with the people that think this is the most wonderful romantic book ever.

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    1. Haha! I understand. I don't know why I felt compelled to know what would happen after Ana left Christian at the end of the first book. I just did. Maybe it's one of those instances when a person can't take their eyes off the train wreck as it happens? The second book had a bit of a cliffhanger ending too, but I was done by that point.

      Well, we tried. We were less than impressed and can move on.

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  2. It's nice to see someone who had heard all the bad of the book and then still read it with an open mind. In terms of the writing, don't forget that the only editor she had was her husband, there was no big publishing house helping to edit the book for her.

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    1. Laters Baby - Even though I knew I was going into the books with a bias, I really did try to keep an open mind. I think there are a few misconceptions out there about the books--particularly by those who haven't read them--or even those who started but couldn't finish. I don't regret reading the books, and in fact am glad I did.

      As to the writing, I may not have liked the author's style or the lack of editing, but clearly there was enough there to keep me reading--and to go on to read the second book. I've refused to continue books based on the writing before. That says something, right?


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  3. I read your review with interest, as I am curious what readers of a slightly older generation will think of them. I remember when Anne Rice's Beaudelaire (I think that's the series name) of sex books came out, and everyone was titillated and thought they were good. This fuss about these books reminds me of then. And I may be a prude, but I don't really want to read about control like that - it seems a step backwards in relating, and really, he makes them sign an agreement? ugh. So your review is as close as I'm going to come to the books, since I'm already itching to slap both characters and make them come into the real world of love and getting hurt, just based on what you say about them! lol

    sigh, I didn't want to put them down without reading them, either. It's interesting the polarization these books are causing, too.

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    1. Susan - A coworker and I were just talking about Anne Rice's series. I never read it, but I do remember the buzz surrounding it. It's crazy the fuss the 50 Shades books have caused. I remember being surprised at the polarization over the Twilight series--so perhaps expected it with this series to a degree. Still, I can't believe how popular these books have become. I just don't get it. I felt that way about Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code too--although I liked that one.

      I can see the attraction to these books to a degree, even if I don't feel the same. And I didn't really take issue with the whole S&M aspect of the novels. Some people are into that. I get that. I just didn't like the why of it--and the degree to which Christian took it. My biggest question when I went into the books was if the "abusive" aspect was really "abusive" or if it was just sexual preference. I came away with the opinion that it's kind of in that gray area--but leaning towards abusive. He didn't do anything to anyone without consent on one hand. But, on the other, he had all the earmarks of a spousal abuser--the stalking, the controlling factor, and using intimidation. Plus I still can't get past his punishing them if they broke his rules. Sure they had to consent to the punishment, but still. I don't know enough of that lifestyle to know if that's normal and acceptable. I don't think it's okay though. And interesting enough, neither did the character, Ana--at least to a point. She refused to sign any contract, anyway, and took a stand about the punishment issue.

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  4. I have had no desire to read this book once I found out what it was about, and even my book club read it! I just can't stand controlling men, and the fact that the female protagonist wants to "change him" and goes through all this nonsense with him really makes me shudder. I can understand why you read them, and I can sympathize with your reaction. The fact that this one took the nation by storm really frustrates me. I mean, what the hell? What about all the good books out there?

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    1. Heather - I noticed a lot of book clubs decided to read the books after they became popular. They do lend themselves to discussion, I suppose . . . I wouldn't have read the books had there not been such heated discussions about them. I wanted to find out why for myself.

      I was really disgusted by Christian. His behavior was appalling. There's nothing remotely sexy about him, in my mind. The whole change him thing--big turn off for me. Ugh.

      I don't quite understand how they got so popular either, frankly.

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  5. I haven't caved yet either...and my reasons are similar to Heather's...I don't have a lot of tolerance for a man who wants to control women (in fiction or real life), so I'm pretty sure up front that I'm not going to like this Christian Grey. So, I've struggled with the temptation to read it just to see what everyone is talking about myself and the knowledge that without all the hype, this would probably not be a book I would choose to read bc of that particular personal issue. I'm still tempted...but I'm not sure my opinion would be fair?

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    1. I don't generally have much tolerance for men like that either. I did try to give him the benefit of the doubt initially, but the more I read, the more upset with him I became.

      I went into the books with a bias, knowing full well they weren't my type of books. And even though I tried to keep an open mind, I couldn't keep that bias out. So, I'm not sure how fair my review of the books is. I nearly didn't post my thoughts as a result.

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  6. I read the first and didn't pick up the second book right after. It was entertaining, but I have to admit I was kinda fed up with their charade over and over again, lol.

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    1. Melody - Yes, there was that, wasn't there? They did seem to go in circles sometimes.

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  7. Interestingly, no one in my circle of friends has read these books, or at least has admitted to it, so it hasn't been on my radar except for seeing the reviews on blogs. My friends are mostly in my professional circle (women's rights, DV advocacy, etc), so I can see why we'd probably avoid the novel, but I must admit that I'm intrigued by its path to success.

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    1. A.M.B. - I am surprised--and fascinated--by the attention the books have gotten. I'm sure the polarization over them has helped with their popularity to some degree. It got me to read them, at least.

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  8. Bah!! Now your review makes me feel like I need to pick up #2! I agree with everything you've said here and while at times it was an fun ride to take ultimately I took issue with Ana contemplating if her broken heart hurt more than her sore bottom at the end of the first book. That was the last straw for me. My sister was supposed to tell me what happened in the second but all I know is that there is a twist of some sort. Like you I read the first to see what the hype was all about and because my non-reader friends were giving me the guilt trip of a lifetime. I'm still stunned at the phenomenon that this series has started.

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    1. Trish - I am amazed at how the series has taken off. It really makes me wonder how that happens. There are other erotica books out there with similar stories and themes, I am sure. I don't get it.

      I'd be happy to spoil the second book for you, if you want. :-) The only twist I can think of was the very end, which I imagine foreshadows what is to come in the third book. It wasn't enough to make me care to continue though.

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  9. I felt very similarly to you on this one! I mainly read it because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and because I like romance in general. I really did not like it, which made me disappointed in the fact that it's *this* one that has taken off ... but oh well. At least now we both have the knowledge to discuss it effectively. :)

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    1. Meghan - You have to wonder, don't you? Why this trilogy? Clearly they resonated with someone--or someones as the case may be. It doesn't mean we understand it.

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  10. I really have no desire to read these books at all. When I was in Barnes & Noble with my daughter, who is 15, she picked one up and said, "Emma Watson is going to be in the movie." So now teenagers want to read the book because they've got Hermoine Granger in the film? Great.

    My friend Lorelei James writes very good erotica, with interesting characters and real plots, if anyone's interested. (She writes mysteries under her real name, Lori Armstrong).

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    1. Karen - I was just eying the Lori Armstrong book on my shelf . . . I actually read a short story of hers recently and really liked it. I am not a big romance fan, but i may have to give one of Lori's erotica books a try just to have something to compare with 50 Shades.

      So, it was decided? I heard a rumor that Emma Watson was being considered for the movie, but didn't know she'd accepted the role. That makes me sad. I wonder if she's read the books.

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  11. Considering how much I've bashed it, I should read it, too. But I'll just keep quoting the bloggers I trust. :-D

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    1. Jill - Don't waste your time. Although . . . I can see you turning your reading experience of at least the first book into a song. LOL

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  12. I've told myself I won't read these. I have a few friends that have told me about the series and now after your review I am convinced I can skip them!

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