10,928 of 11,725 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2012
First, a disclaimer. I am a male senior citizen, a semi-retired gynecologist whose customary literary fare is spy novels and military techno-thrillers. I have never read a romance before, except perhaps for junior high's "A Tale of Two Cities" (or was that a classic?) But after the recent hullabaloo over James' "Fifty Shades," I opted to give the genre a glance.
The book's protagonist is college student Anastasia, who has never had sex or even "touched herself." I had to suspend disbelief at the social and sexual naivete of this twenty-one year-old, but I guess this implied vulnerability makes her more attractive as a romantic heroine. Yet it doesn't take her long to rectify this situation, and soon she is having orgasm after orgasm at the behest of her "dominant" partner, Mr. Grey. At my age, my arthritis flared up just reading about Ana's sexual gymnastics. And for some reason, I kept thinking about her contracting genital warts. Soon, however, Ana's endless pyrotechnic climaxes resembled repetitively watching porn: after a while, it leaves me bored and yawning. That said, there was a definite infectiousness to the plot; and taking Viagra to stiffen my resolve, I persevered.
James' strong suit is her ability to elicit sympathy in the protagonist. I wanted to find out what happened to Anastasia, and that lent the story a compelling, page-turning quality. James is a polished novelist. Her dialogue is crisp, her prose poised, and her paragraphs well-parsed. The author's considerable skills notwithstanding, would I pick up an erotic romance like this again? Probably not.
But that's just me.
122 of 132 people found the following review helpful
on April 13, 2012
I began the book expecting not to like it, based on only what I heard, and nothing more. I felt that if I was going to comment on it, at least I should read it.
50 Shades reminds me of a song that starts just above or below pitch, and the singer never quite finds his/her way. Pleasant moments in between make you forget momentarily that something is...not right, but the overall feeling at the end is a letdown. I liked the story more than I thought I would, but big problems with the theme and the writing somewhat overshadowed what, with some major editing, could have been a very good romance.
I want to begin with the idea that this is erotica and that, thanks to this book, the genre has been given new life. 50 Shades of Grey is not erotica. To write it well, you need variety. The sex is the same every time, and it is quite vanilla. She runs her fingers through his hair--every time. He pulls her hair back so she can look at him--every time. The coupling is the same--every time. To write erotica well you need visuals, you need feelings, you need to make your reader tingle and tighten right along with her, or him. The reader of 50 Shades learns that when turned on, those tingles reached Ana all the way `down there' (italics on 'there' are the author's, not mine). For some reason, the author felt that having Ana's `inner goddess' and her `subconscious' rear their clueless heads throughout the book in lieu of learning Ana's true feelings was the best route. In fact, I believe the author was hiding behind these props because the idea of writing the more erotic names for genitalia was undoable for her. And, I'm sorry. In erotica, this language is essential--otherwise, it's romance.
Sadly, the reader is not treated to what Ana is feeling during all the generic-same-sex, during which she climaxes every time (congratulations) in the exact same way. The author did not feel obligated in any way to switch things up, make each scene a bit different, maybe introduce some oral sex, some anal play--something else besides inserting tab A into slot B. From the kink standpoint, the scenes in the Red Room of Pain (silly) were too quick and, frankly, very dull and generic for those familiar with BDSM. The author breezed through the scenes (only 3) so quickly that I didn't have time to get into the scene myself. It all just got glossed over somehow, in favor of the romance and the psychological twist that is Christian. The book would have been so much better if we could have seen how twisted Christian was, instead of being told.
Christian as a true Dominant becomes a hard sell once he threatens to spank her and then does not follow through. For fans of erotica, BDSM and spanking in particular, this was incredibly unsatisfying. For me, from that first error in judgment, the book became a formulaic romance with (gasp) a troubled, tortured hero and the seemingly normal woman who tries to save him. Nothing unique here. The author's unfamiliarity and obvious discomfort with a subject matter like BDSM was evident in so many ways; the most glaring to me was the heroine Ana's reference to a spanking Christian gave her as 'hitting'. A Dom would immediately correct her on that, pointing out the cavernous difference between hitting and spanking, yet Christian used the term 'hitting' himself toward the end when he punished her for some transgression. For a Dom to say, 'I am going to hit you...' is so wrong, that the only conclusion I could come to is that the author did not do her research--or she did, and it made her uncomfortable. So, then don't write BDSM erotica. Write romance. But, for God's sake (and ours), get it right.
Now I'll move on to the biggest disappointment about 50 Shades, and that is the writing. The author has not met an adverb or an adjective she doesn't love, and so as not to play favorites, she uses them all with equal vigor, which takes the reader immediately out of the story. `Greatly relieved' (is there any other kind?), `blond woman smiles pleasantly...' (is there ever a smile that is unpleasant?) These are juvenile mistakes that I hope the good editors at Vintage will correct. The other habit the author must be broken of is her references to her `inner goddess' and her `subconscious'. It's irritating by the third reference, and downright cringe-worthy by the 333rd. The author also filled a lot of page space by the innumerable `oh my's, `holy cow's, and the constant reminder to the reader that Christian was good-looking and that Ana was into him. Take all the above out and you have a novella, but a good one. Oh, and it's OK to be British in Seattle. Both characters are so obviously British; so introduce them as British. To NOT acknowledge that, yet pepper the book with so much Brit-speak, AGAIN, takes the reader out of the story.
I could go on and on, but what's the point? This is review number thousand-and-something, and I'm saying the same things many others are saying. That this is the book that is getting wives back into bed with their husbands is wonderful but somewhat surprising, given the very generic subject matter and the immature writing style. I have to say that I would re-read after Vintage gets hold of it, just to see what changes they make. It will be interesting to see what the motivation was for Vintage to pick this book up. Was it to produce a good book and promote a somewhat promising author, or was it to ride on the back of a horse that has already crossed the finish line? We shall see.
47 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2012
3.5 *s, God help me but I liked it. It was addictive, honestly I don't know why. I don't think I've ever rolled my eyes so much while reading a book, which is actually pretty dangerous to do around Fifty Shades.
The writing is this books, honestly, is pretty damn bad. It reads, in my opinion, very much like fan fiction. If I had been reading this as a print book I would have been completely baffled, it is very obvious it is self published. It doesn't help that I am not a fan of 1st person present tense. But either way, the writing isn't very good. I'm not talking grammar or puncuation, because I'm so bad at that myself I hardly notice, although there were a few typos. But the writing at times was very bland, often repetitive, and clinical almost.
With that being said, the emails were fantasic. I frquently had to stop myself from scimming text and jumping right to the email exchances when I saw them coming up. They were a great way to see in to Christian's POV and they were also where Ana's claws came out and she said what she was really feeling and thinking instead of her "inner goddess" *painful groan* swooning at the sight of one Mr. Grumpy Beautiful Enigmatic Sex God.
My other main problem was the heroine, Ana. Quite frankly, she was annoying. Or should I say her "inner goddess" was annoying. I swear to all that is holy I wanted to strangle the fictional bitch. Towards the end I seriously almost couldn't take having to read about this "inner goddess" and her mental cartwheels and victory dances for one more page. It was infuriatingly annoying. Which is made even more teeth grindingly worthy by the fact that I outside of that I was starting to come around to Ana. I felt for the girl. Every girl who has fallen for a guy she shouldn't have can probably relate to her. And while her actions and decisions sometimes left me questioning her high GPA overall she was starting to grow on me. Her naivete was at times tiresome but it fit her character and could actually be very amusing. Take this for instance, (very minor spoiler...maybe...if you don't know what the book contains ;])
"Are you growling at me Miss Steele?
I possess a cat of my own for growlers."
"Cat of his own? I've never seen a cat in his apartment."
Man, I laughted my bottom off. Maybe I have a sick sense of humor but I found little things like that hilarious.
Christian is one sick puppy. One drop dead gorgeous, sexier than any mortal should be, sick puppy. I liked him. I can't help it. Would I ever go near someone like him in real life? Hell to the no. I'd knee him in the groin like he deserves and get a restraining order and a personal body guard. But this is fiction and we're all allowed a little guilty pleasure man, right? Right. At least that is what I'm telling myself.
The ending sucked. Not because of how it actually ended, because that left me with a FINALLY, CHICA! moment. But I felt it was so out of the blue and rushed. I didn't buy it. I didn't understand why the characters made the decisions they did for the last 20 pages or so. It seemed out of character for them both. I would have liked a little more build up and for the process to go at a more nature pace.
Over all I enjoyed this book, it was addictive unlike anything I've read in awhile. It has it's issues, a lot of them, but I'm glad I read it. And Merlin help me but I'm eager to move on the the sequels.
42 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on April 4, 2012
I've read a lot of reviews for this book/series. And I've come to the conclusion that most folks are either going to *love* the 50 Shades series, or they're going to loathe it. Having read my fair share of fanfiction, while also getting my degree in English lit, I've seen both sides of the writing coin and have to say that this book has the makings of a *great* novel, with a great romantic pair akin to Romeo and his Juliet, and Catherine to her Heathcliff... the *makings*. This was a hastily released book/series. It was as if the author had the first draft leaked and just left it like that. Marks of greatness are there in the fatal flaws of Christian, the supreme innocence of Ana, hints at delicious complexities and satisfying resolution. However, more than just Christian has fatal flaws, sadly.
The amount of repetition is almost embarrassing. And I'm not just talking about the sheer overload of sexual encounters described in this book, of which there are far too many (can there be too many you ask? YES!), but also of the turns of phrase that are beaten into the text until they're nothing but a bloody pulp. "Fair point well made", and "don't bite your lip" come to mind. Trimming these items down so that they aren't showing up every two or three pages, but often enough to create a rapport between the two main characters, would make this book a 4 or 5 star piece, easily.
And can I simply point out that no woman "comes" as easily nor as often as Anastasia? I think the ease at which she orgasms could be considered a medical *disorder* that should be checked out by a doctor. Make sure that poor girl doesn't have some sort of very pleasurable cancer or something. It's embarrassing.
Like I said though, these are hiccups that could have been smoothed out with further revision. Sadly, that was not done, and we have what we have. It's rough, but for those of us with an imagination, we can see where the book could go, and create satisfying corrections for ourselves to fill in the blanks. And for those without any imagination, well, just enjoy the sex scenes: there's a lot of them.
1,552 of 1,933 people found the following review helpful
I am not into BDSM stories, but I have to say that I liked this one. I found this book to be addictive, which is kind of disturbing. While this book is not the best book I have read, you just have to take it for what it is, a trashy romance novel, not to be taken seriously.
This is the love story of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey. Christian is such a complex character. You love him and hate him at the same time and it's really confusing. He's the ultimate alpha male, bad boy with a very dark and disturbing desire to inflict pain. He literally gets off on it. He meets and falls for Anastasia. When they meet she is an innocent college student and happens to still be a virgin. This is their love story and its deeply disturbing. Our boy Christian has some serious demons and its making Ana think long and hard about their relationship. This is not your typical boy meets girl let's date and fall in love romance. He wants to dominate her and he wants her submissive. He comes up with a contract that he wants her to sign. She's torn between her love for him and her fear of him. She wants to know why he is so Fifty Shades of "f'd" up. She wants to get to the bottom of what happened in his past to make him need this type of relationship and why he hates to be touched. He introduces her to the "dark side" of his sexual habits and in his desire to keep her and make her happy, tries for the "vanilla relationship" she desires. Will Ana embrace Christian's dark side or will it be more than she can handle? The way he makes love to her is so erotic, steamy, sexy and scary all at the same time.
I know it does not sound like it, but there is a real love story there. Ana brings out feelings in Christian that he has never felt with anyone else.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2012
So I finally finished the most hyped book of the year. What can I say? How can I sum it up? Here goes. . .
It was interesting to see how E.L. James showed the similarities between Ana and Christian with those of Bella and Edward. At times when I was reading my mind thought Bella even though the page read Ana. Ana was more so Bella than Christian was Edward. Ana is clumsy, her mom's had multiple marriages. The both live in the state of Washington.
I really enjoyed the beginning of the book. It was LOL funny. And a lot of what made it funny was the parody on Twilight in my opinion. I enjoyed the email banter between Ana and Christian. That was a highlight of the book for me. I loved it when she referred to Christian's stalker tendencies.
Perhaps after 30% into reading, the book got tedious and it never let up. It took me a full 5 days to read this. I'm so glad the Kindle has a built in dictionary because I think E.L. James was playing around with her thesaurus just like she had Ana accuse Christian of doing. There were words that I'd never heard of before. One that sticks out was "avuncular." Why not just say uncle. And if I hear about Ana clambering onto the bed again I'll have to scream.
Now this book is suppose to be erotica. Well it's not. I did not get hot once. And good erotic will do that to you. There were some scenes that I think were written for shock value such as the toothbrush and tampon scenes. Those just grossed me out. My fave erotica writers include Selena Kitt, Emma Holly, Maya Banks, Lena Matthews, Lora Leigh's earlier works.
If this is your first introduction to "mommy porn" you'll probably not recover from true erotica!
P.S. Twilight wins hands down over 50 Shades!
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2012
Holy crap! It turns out that my Inner Goddess got as bored with the repetitive language in this novel as I did. By the end of chapter two it's crystal clear that Ana often bites her lip, blushes, and rolls her eyes. It's also clear that Christian's eyes are grey. Really really grey. Um, did I mention that Christian's eyes are grey? Nevertheless I found this to be a fairly interesting read. Steamy
sex scenes even though I'm not into BDSM. Even found myself wondering near the end of the story what happened in Fifty's life that turned him into such a train wreck. The answer will probably turn out to be predictable if I can make it through book two in the trilogy. I'm a little hesitant about starting the second book. If the language is as repetitive as this first novel I may find myself rolling my eyes like Ana and wanting to spank someone like Christian.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 2012
If you wish to read about someone in an S&M type of relationship, a much more deftly written erotic novel is Elizabeth McNeil's "Nine and a Half Weeks" which was made into movie in the 1980s starring Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger. McNeil's book is a memoir - but that's not why it's much more compelling. The reason that Nine and a Half Weeks is more gripping is because Ms. McNeil is a much more skillful writer than Ms. James.
After all the buzz surrounding "Fifty Shades of Grey", I borrowed it from a friend. I was surprised at how vastly over-rated it is. I think the reason it's getting so much attention is because this topic is not generally explored in mainstream fiction. It's an interesting premise, but the book is rather poorly written. Ana and businessman Christian Grey have about as much depth as a pair of paper dolls (yes, I'm dating myself - if you were born in the 1970s or later, you've probably never seen a paper doll).
If you read the Chapter 1 excerpt on here, you'll notice that the women who work for Mr. Grey speak in an overly stiff and formal manner that sounds unnatural. I learned later that Ms. James is British. Once I knew that, it made much more sense as to why the characters' speech sounded odd. Experts say 'write what you know'; Ms. James should have set this book in the UK.
Another point of contention - throughout the book, Ana is continually shocked by Grey's desire to inflict pain on her. Really??? After being smacked the first 10 times, she still thinks 'wow, he said that since I broke one of the rules on the list he gave me, he's going to take me to the Red Room where he keeps all his whips and canes and belts. Is he really going to do that?' Unless Ana is incapable of forming new memories, she couldn't possibly continue to be surprised by his behavior/desires.
This book violates most of the basic rules of Fiction Writing 101 that I've studied in Creative Writing classes.
Ms. James uses cliches like they're going out of style (yes, I realize "going out of style" IS a cliche.) Other tips I learned from my Professors: When writing dialogue, use the dialogue tag "said" 80% of the time. For example, instead of saying someone stammered something, SHOW it. I threw together 2 sample sentences to illustrate types of dialogue tags:
USE "I g-gu-guess so," said Sandy
NOT -- "I guess so", sputtered Sandy.
Also, since this book is written in 1st Person, Ms. James could have easily allowed us to hear Ana's thoughts. Instead she employs a VERY corny technique: Ana has what she calls her "inner goddess", who does things like drop to her knees and clasp her hands as she implores Ana to give in to her urges to be submissive to Christian Grey. This reminded me of the old Bugs Bunny cartoons where Bugs has a "mini-me" Angel on one shoulder and a miniature devil-like Bugs on his other shoulder, each trying to convince Bugs to do what they want. I couldn't shake the image of a little Tinkerbell-like character fluttering around Ana gesturing at her. I began to wonder if there would be a big twist at the end that would possibly reveal that Ana either:
A) Suffers from Visual and/or Auditory Hallucinations
B) Suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder
(an old term - I think the disorder is currently referred to as Disassociative Disorder.)
Finally, to show how truly horrible the quality of writing is, here's a cleaned up version similar to a sentence used by the author: "he will probably want to beat seven shades of !+ (crap) out of me." When I read that, I laughed aloud. I re-read it because I couldn't believe that an editor let that one slide. The sentence sounded like something a 15-year-old boy who is a C student would write.
The thin plot (I use the term VERY loosely) simply serves as a conduit to carry the reader from one sexual encounter to the next. I cannot imagine why this "story" needs to be dragged out over the course of 3 books. Apparently, the publishing company believes it will make more money if it's a trilogy. Must be some sort of "Twilight/Hunger Games" effect - everything is better in threes. In summary, there is ONE shade of Grey that gets rehashed in 50 slightly varying ways. Before long, any eroticism wears off because what was shocking in the first few chapters does not continue to shock the reader.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2012
I, like many of you, was recommended this book by many women who couldn't put it down. And I'll admit, I couldn't either. However, and that's a big "however", many things in the book really irked me. While it was a page turner, because I was interested in finding out what happened to the female lead, I just couldn't quite get past several issues. The first being that I felt like I was reading some teenage girl's fantasy. (Come to find out, not too far off, as this whole series started off as Twilight fan-fiction, apparently.) Second, it really bugs me when books, especially those on the New York Times Best Seller's List, have typos. Seriously? Who edited these books? Another thing that I really hate is seeing the same word multiple times in a book, describing the same happenings, over and over again. How many times can someone murmur in the span of 300 pages? (I noticed on another review that popped up, the reviewer had used their Kindle to count...yeah, it's that bad.)
Not sure that anyone will ever see this review, as there are 5,400 at this point only for the first book. Yep, even though I was irked half way through the first book, I still read all three. I'm the kind of person who finishes something once they start it. All in all, if you want a quick read, go ahead and read them. They are entertaining, nothing quite like I'd imagined they'd be, but to each their own.
55 of 69 people found the following review helpful
Having heard everyone rave on the discussion boards about this book, I was really looking forward to an awesome possesive alpha male read. After finishing it, I was left drained and somewhat annoyed. The heroine was unbelievable. She starts off super innocent then starts contemplating spanking and restraints. Why did she instantly fall in love? Why did he? The constant reference to her biting her lip drove me crazy! I love a good overbearing male, but the hero was just a freak. I realize he had a bad childhood, but it was just too much for me. I am not into the whole real pain aspect with sex. Light spanking is oK, not crying because it hurts. The whole book was sex scene after sex scene with pretty much just talks of sex in between. Since I'm not into bondage or pain, I wasn't thrilled. The reason why I gave it 3 stars is because it held my attention, and I wanted to know how it ended. I don't think this is worth nearly $10, not by a long shot. Depending on your tastes, you may love this book as others have. If you prefer alpha males that don't get off on the h's physical pain, skip this book.