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Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades, #1) - E.L. James Pre-reading: I don't normally put pre-reading thoughts, but I thought I ought to on this one. I'm reading this out of curiosity, mainly. It can't be as bad as some people are saying, surely?

It says three stars, but it's probably more of a 2.5. I wish Goodreads had a ten star system.

When her friend Kate gets the flu, Anastasia Steele is drafted to go and interview the enigmatic Christian Grey, CEO and one of the most eligible bachelors in Seattle. Ana is instantly attracted to Christian, but Christian has a dark past and alternative tastes. Can they make it work between them?

Weirdly, despite it's many flaws, I enjoyed this book. It frustrated me beyond belief, but I felt compelled to keep reading. I only read it out of curiosity (and I'll read the other ones), but on some level (some strange, guilty level) I'm glad I did.

Let's start, I guess, with the negatives. Where to begin?

Okay, firstly, the biggest problem I have with this book is the BDSM. It's just... the way James portrays it just seems so negative. Christian comes across as a freak for liking it, and that's not a message that should be spread about this lifestyle. I understand that it was from Ana's point of view, and she was totally new and innocent to the whole thing, but the way she went on and on about how 'depraved' and 'wrong' it was really annoyed me. Besides, as far as D/s relationships go, Christian is surprisingly vanilla (despite all his claims to the contrary). Also, don't capitalise 'submissive'. Really.

Also, just because someone is into BDSM doesn't mean they're messed up and need therapy, really! It's like James is using Christian's past as an excuse for his tastes. I would have found it a hell of a lot more interesting if Christian lacked the dark past and was just an ordinary (albeit very rich) guy who was into the D/s lifestyle. Blegggh. I just had a massive issue with how this whole part of Christian and Ana's relationship was handled. Ana is a total moron for going along with it when she DIDN'T REALLY WANT TO DO IT. (Even though she really liked it. Make up your mind, girl!)

I've read some reviews condemning Christian, but I don't want to condemn him for the Dom thing. The controlling thing isn't an issue for me. The stalker thing, a bit more of an issue, though it all stems from a misguided attempt to protect her. Ana knew what she was getting into, though, that's the thing. He's not brilliant boyfriend material, but it seems worse because of the negative portrayal of BDSM. (Though occasionally James redeems herself slightly in that regard.) But, well... there were things that bugged me about Christian, and that's my next point.

Second issue - Christian. I really liked him at the beginning of the story, with his intensity and his cold aloofness. I liked his playful side. I hated his mood swings. Seriously, half the time he was pissed off it seemed like there was no reason for it. I think another review I read mentioned it, but he seriously is the epitome of that Katy Perry song, 'Hot N Cold'. Dom or not, it drove me crazy. Ana wasn't much better, though - she wanted things, then she didn't. Especially in the final scene - you asked him to give you everything he had punishment wise, and he did, and then you freaked out and called him horrible names? Bitch.

Thirdly, the inner goddess/subconscious personification thing. Ana, hate to break it to you, but it made you sound multiple. Also, I'm not entirely sure a subconscious is what you think it is, honey. The first few times this happened, it didn't bother me. I thought it was rather unique and quirky. However, as it began to happen over and over and over it got rather wearing.

Fourthly, the writing. This is not a great piece of literature, and it never will be. The sentences are quite clunky and clumsy, there's grammatical errors, and the same words are repeated again and again. 'Beguiling', anyone? Some words seemed completely jarring - 'evuncular' being one of them - like they had no place in Ana's vocabulary. Then, there was the habit of describing views as beautiful or stunning but not really describing them at all. Show, not tell. On the flipside, Christian's eyes were described in about a billion different ways. We can tell exactly where Ana's priorities are. >.>

Some little things: It is painfully obvious that EL James is British, and trying to be American. Ana's obsession with tea is a big indication, but there's other little things too. Knowing James was British, the American spellings annoyed me, but that's just a small thing. What else was there? Hm. Continuity issues. There were several. One that really stuck out was when she made a point of saying Christian was nowhere to be seen and then he suddenly spoke as though he'd been there all along. Nothing was said. Also, Ana claims to love her stepdad, Ray... but then is always going on about how his phonecalls are 'mercifully brief' and how they don't talk about anything. So weird.

Oh, the Twilight fanfiction thing. It was painfully, painfully obvious. I don't have a massive problem with Twilight, but I do have a massive problem with taking someone's characters and ideas, changing the names and getting it published. Fanfiction is one thing, but should never be for profit.

On a slightly random note, the tampon scene wasn't as bad as everyone led me to believe. Seems a lot of people are more squeamish than me.

However, as you notice, I haven't given this book one star, despite everything that was wrong with it. I actually think it has a couple of redeeming qualities.

First, I enjoyed it. It was trashy, and stupid and frustrating, but damn it, I enjoyed it. I think I was preparing myself for a lot worse than what I actually got. Enjoyable in that Mills and Boon kind of way, I suppose. "Oh, God, why am I reading this and why can't I stop?"

Second, I loved the emails. I know the emails have divided opinions amongst people who've read the books, but I thought that they were great. I liked how the subject changed from email to email, and I actually liked how ballsy Ana could be in print. Sadly, it didn't carry through to real life meetings, but you know. At least she had a glimmer of personality.

The sex scenes... well, they were kind of hit and miss. A couple were kind of kinky, though I think James was more in her element when they weren't. Sometimes the descriptions felt very mechanical and not sexy at all. Especially their first kiss. I wasn't feeling that at all. But, as I said, very hit and miss. It might have helped if Ana managed to say stuff other than 'Holy shit, that look.' What look? Pray tell. She had a habit of telling us that Christian was hot, and talking about his 'impressive length', but I never really felt like I was seeing him. It was like listening to someone babbling on the phone.

Also using almost the same (or similar) description/metaphor for orgasms every damn time is not very interesting. If you're shattering into a million pieces that often, I'm sure Christian is running out of super glue.

Overall, though terribly exasperating, Fifty Shades of Grey is not as bad (or amazing) as everyone is making it out to be. It's not brilliant - in fact, it's shockingly mediocre - but it's not the worst thing to ever grace the hallowed halls of Amazon.co.uk.

This is not a book I'd recommend to anyone wanting to know more about BDSM or read BDSM erotica - for that, there's some Listopia lists with a good list of authors and books. Ignore the fact that Fifty Shades of Grey is on the lists. I know some people have praised it for bringing BDSM to the mainstream, but I can't get past the fact it's described as 'depravity' and how it all stems from Christian's tortured past.

However, if you're looking for a brainless read with a sexy male lead, go for it. It'll never be a brilliant book or a must read, but it passed some hours. I'll be reading the other two, but they're not an immediate priority.