Ten Doll Q&A Review: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
Author: E.L. James
Book: Fifty Shades Of Grey
Release: May 26th 2011
Series: Fifty Shades Trilogy 1
Reviewer: Day, Noa, Kitt, Alli, Lil, Believer, Steph (Eowyn), Suz, Chrissy, Mona Leigh
Source: Personal Library, Lent
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
When literature student Anastasia Steele is drafted to interview the successful young entrepreneur Christian Grey for her campus magazine, she finds him attractive, enigmatic and intimidating. Convinced their meeting went badly, she tries to put Grey out of her mind – until he happens to turn up at the out-of-town hardware store where she works part-time.
The unworldly, innocent Ana is shocked to realize she wants this man, and when he warns her to keep her distance it only makes her more desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her – but on his own terms.
Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success – his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving adoptive family – Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a passionate, physical and daring affair, Ana learns more about her own dark desires, as well as the Christian Grey hidden away from public scrutiny.
Can their relationship transcend physical passion? Will Ana find it in herself to submit to the self-indulgent Master? And if she does, will she still love what she finds?
Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.
Kitt: See what had happened was… It all started with an innocent inquiry from Alli about Fifty Shades of Grey “Has anyone read it?” From there Day, dratted woman ;p, decided we should all read it. Most of us involuntarily volunteered, but what the hell, we’re all game for the challenge. Except how to have one review with ten women that would be different – and short (ha! yes, this is the short version!) – hence the Q&A. All the Dolls were charged with reading Fifty Shades, once completed, were to submit two questions. Here’s the result:
Did you finish reading FIFTY SHADES OF GREY? If not, how far did you make it and why did you stop reading? If yes, how did you rate it on Goodreads?
Day: Yes, I finished the first one. I had to keep reading. I kept thinking… “Okay. Any minute now something really amazing will happen and I will realize why so many women are obsessed with this book.” That moment never came for me. I rated it a one on Goodreads. (Sorry)
Noa: Day, that was my reaction too! I kept telling myself “maybe the next chapter…maybe the second book…the third?” Then I realized it wasn’t going to happen. This wasn’t even a one star series for me.
Mona: I stopped at a point shortly after Ana’s graduation. My inner goddess told me she was going to kick my ass if I didn’t give her something less annoying to read.
Eowyn:Yes, I finished the book and felt I liked it a little more toward the end. I only gave it two stars on Goodreads.
BLVR: Devoured all three. I took time off whenever my feelings were too overwhelmed. The first book was particularly emotional for me.
Alli: I have as of yet not finished. It’s not because I don’t like it, it’s just my pregnant brain won’t allow me to read for more than 10-20 minute spans before zoning out and thinking about nesting!
Lil: I did not finish it. I tried repeatedly but could not do it. I stopped at Chapter 4 and decided to skip ahead (something I never do). I got through “basic training” and I couldn’t keep going. I became angry because I have a TBR full of really good books I was ignoring them to be annoyed by head cocking, murmuring, and one really noisy subconscious. I reluctantly gave Fiddy 1 star because giving Minus Stars is not an option.
Chrissy: Yes I finished reading it despite the fact that I did not enjoy it.
Suz: Yes, I did finish it although I haven’t rated it on Goodreads yet because I’ve been waiting to do this review first. I give all cliff-hanger endings a one star rating because I believe them to be manipulative marketing thievery. This book will get one star when I rate it for that reason. I read all three of the books, back-to-back.
Kitt: Yes, I did. I read the first two – both I gave 2 stars – and then I had other books to read. I may eventually go back to read the last, Fifty Shades Freed, just to see how it ends.
Suz: Did you begin reading FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY with preconceived notions, and if so what were they?
Day: Yes. Due to all the hype I was expecting the “grand poopa” of books. Something that is extremely well written with incredible character development and a new and unique twists on erotica.
Mona: No preconceived notions here. I tend to take every book on its own merits, but this one had more demerits than merits, IMHO.
Noa: I guess I did. It would be very hard not to with everything going on out in the media and social media world proclaiming it as the literary accomplishment of the year if not decade.
Eowyn: I began reading the book expecting it to be extremely racy considering all of the media hype. I must admit, though it is slightly racy, I found it quite tame to what I had been led to believe from all of the hype.
BLVR: Yes, I did. I had heard a lot of media hoopla surrounding this piece, “Mommy Porn” , “BDSM in the Burbs”, “Publishing Phenom”. I was very intrigued.
Alli: I had heard some talk of the book bringing sexy back to the bedroom on the radio and how all these women just couldn’t put it down. I expected it to be amazing.
Lil: I didn’t even know the book existed until Day brought it up. I live with my nose in books or at Swimmer Girl’s practice or I’m working (not lots of book discussion there) so I missed all the media attention. But I trust Day’s opinion so I did go in thinking I was going to regret it. Which of course made me feel guilty for not giving a new author a chance.
Chrissy: I had a few preconceptions. From what I’d seen online it seemed as if 50% of readers loved it and 50% of readers loathed it so I figured it could go either way.
Suz: Yes. I had heard it was fanfic of Twilight and that it also had a lot of BDSM. I assumed the quality of writing, or at least the editing, might be substandard and was therefore skeptical but tried to remain open minded. My biggest concern, however, was that BDSM would be presented as some sort of psychological and emotional work around for the deeply broken. I think that’s how it was presented in the movie The Secretary and I was fearful I would find that to be the case here. In all honesty I had not really exposed myself to too much of the hype other than to be aware of its existence. I don’t spend a lot of time scouring sources for controversy as I find it unpalatable.
Kitt: Yes, I believe I did. Even though, like Mona, I try to take every book on it’s own merit, it’s hard to ignore the massive amount of hype surrounding this book. Going in I thought “This must be one of the best erotic books ever”
Day: Have you read other books that are classified as Erotica fiction? If so, how does this compare? If not, will you now read more?
Day: Yes. This one is nothing spectacular when it comes to the genre. There are some that are much better and some worse. In my opinion, 50 Shades is just mediocre.
Mona: I’ve read a LOT of erotica. Heck, I even corrupted Kitt with my choices. FSoG doesn’t even register on my radar.
Noa: I have read Erotica fiction and many of its sub-genres. As with any genre there are books I enjoyed more and books I enjoyed less. If not for me forcing myself to finish it (see answer 1) I would have stopped in the middle and put it in the “Do Not Read” pile.
Eowyn: I have not read other Erotica books. I can’t say that I won’t read more after reading this but I’m not inclined to run out and check out all of the Erotica books. I have enough Fiction on my TBR list at the moment.
BLVR: Yes. I often read Erotica written by Emma Holly, Portia Da Costa and several authors who might bristle at being labeled Erotica but whose work clearly fits. I am not a huge fan of Erotica for its own sake, instead I prefer erotic themes or events that are part of a larger work.
Alli: I have not read any books that are classified as Erotica. It’s just not my style typically, but doesn’t mean I’m not open to exploring it as an option later.
Lil: I have been told over and over if I’m going to write then I had to read everything, fiction, nonfiction, cookbooks, Archie and Jughead…. so yes I’ve read Erotica, I hated it in the beginning, it was torture for my creative juices. Then I discovered Lorelie James and Cat Johnson and what can I say, Giddy Up Cowboy ;). They opened me up to the world of Erotica where there is juicy story line and a plot that makes sense with dominant men and strong women, since then I have found other writers I enjoy but they remain at the top of my list.
Chrissy: Erotica is one of my favorite genres to read. I’m quite fond of the works by Alison Tyler and Rachel Kramer Bussel.
Suz: Yes. This one had comparable heat to other erotica in terms of excessive quantity but the quality of erotica can vary pretty widely and 50 Shades is not exceptional in regards to the quality of the erotica. In fact, given that it was supposed to be kinky I found it to be more than a little tamer than I expected. In terms of quantity I suppose I would praise 50 Shades because the sex scenes were relatively brief and not over written with flowery prose. I did have trouble with suspension of disbelief because the protagonist was a virgin who became multi-orgasmic from her very first experience, but I suppose that’s a trope you could find in just about any romance novel. A wishful thinking trope. As for whether I’ll read more, I read a lot anyway and much of what I read is “chick lit.” There is often a lot of erotica in that whether it intends to be classified as erotica or not. So I don’t think I’ll read any more or less than I was reading of it before. I LIKE a bit of sex in my books, I just tend to prefer there to be a STORY with it, too.
Kitt: Mona is one of the worst book pushers! So yes, I’ve read my fair share.
Mona: After reading FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, do you think people will assume BDSM will magically revive sexual desire, and if so, will they be brave enough to try it? What happens if their partner is offended/disgusted by it?
Day: If readers are naive, they’ll believe anything I suppose. The media sure would like us to believe that millions of women have revived their sex lives with BDSM, but I don’t think it’s likely. And if it has actually sparked a flame in their bedrooms, I think it will be short lived. Good sex has a lot to do with breaking the monotony and in my experience everything gets old after a while.
Mona: I had to ask this question after seeing a news program about the increase in women buying the ‘toys’ to spice up their marriages. I wondered if any of them actually had any idea what they were getting into, and what their husbands thought about them just coming up with this out of the blue.
Noa: Mona, I was wondering about that too. I have to agree with Day. I’ll add a little bit of wisdom I got from my mom: Spicing up the sex life is awesomesauce. So long as both sides are happy with what’s happening. But I doubt it will make readers decide to take on the BDSM lifestyle.
Eowyn: I honestly think it might spice up their sex lives but not with the BDSM life style. I think perhaps women are getting a little turned on from reading the book and perhaps making sex exciting again but I’m not so sure they are adding anything other than some possible role play to the mix.
BLVR: I wouldn’t classify these acts as true BDSM but it doesn’t matter I suppose. I would hope that a reader would be inspired to bring the themes that move them into their own lives and act upon them. Absolutely! Harry Potter can help children feel brave and courageous. There are countless examples of literary characters or scenes giving people solace, hope, courage and inspiration. If 50 Shades helps reignite a romantic spark – I’m all for it! These games are not for everyone and there will be readers who will stop reading or simply enjoy being voyeurs.
Alli: To be quite honest, a book shouldn’t be the catalyst to revive someone’s sex life. Reading about non-vanilla sex might make them desire sex more with their partner, but would it make them branch out and try something new? Probably not.
Lil: What Day said.
Chrissy: I’m sure that many readers will view it that way but both parties are not always apt to participate. If it works for them then great if it doesn’t at least they can say that they tried. Although I agree with Alli, it shouldn’t be the catalyst.
Suz: Although 50 Shades uses the correct shibboleths from the BDSM community and suggests the proper forms it’s not, in my opinion, a BDSM book. It’s a slap & tickle bedroom book in which the virginal, inexperienced female protagonist manipulates and controls the highly experienced but emotionally bankrupt dominant throughout. In the BDSM scene they call it “topping from the bottom.” Since there really isn’t any BDSM other than references and props and a bit of spanking and light bondage, I would say it’s not really a BDSM book. Do I think it will help people feel better about wanting to shake up their sex lives and try something “new and naughty?” Yes. It already is. Will that be BDSM? I doubt more than a very few people will find their way into a BDSM community or lifestyle from these books. As for partners that are offended/ disgusted – I suppose they will do what curious partners have been doing from the beginning of time: either forget about it or go exploring on their own.
Kitt: What is there really to add to this that hasn’t already been said, except no, I don’t think the majority of women will suddenly feel the urge to take BDSM into their bedroom. At least I didn’t. However, I do think that this book is having the same effect of other erotic romances by giving the women the urge to have sex more often.
Chrissy: If you enjoy the overall storyline of a book, can you overlook the unnecessary reiteration throughout a novel or does it annoy you? Example: the continuing emphasis on the fact that Ana is a bookworm and that Christian is gorgeous.
Day: Yes. IF I enjoyed the overall storyline those things could be overlooked.
Mona: A book must be really good for me to overlook something that annoying. Oh, my.
Noa: I think it would be very difficult to say. There are just so many things that annoyed me in this book. Ana’s inner goddess, Christian’s hair, Ana’s inner goddess, her other inner character, her inner goddess… See? annoying right? And the storyline didn’t help.
Eowyn: I think perhaps I can overlook unnecessary reiteration if I’m really enjoying the book. For most of this book I felt it was strained and I was back in High School.
BLVR: I did overlook it eventually. I found that the character development and story arcs became increasingly interesting enough to make me more generous towards forgiving certain crutches the author employed.
Alli: Probably. I do get annoyed with repetitive themes being beaten into my skull, but if the story is amazing I tend to ignore the nagging voice inside my head.
Lil: No I can’t. I tried. Really really hard.
Chrissy: For me, it takes away from the book and can be the difference between whether or not I like a book at all. Writing style is very important to me as both a reader and a writer.
Suz: It depends on the book and whether or not I’m getting properly lost in the story and characters and the world. Generally if it’s annoying me it’s also pulling me out of the “world.” There was a lot of annoyance factor with unnecessary reiteration in this book. In fairness, that does improve a bit as you move through each book but since we’re only talking about the first book I’d have to say it was above average annoying in this book, but not as bad as I have seen in some books by much more established authors.
Kitt: I’d have to really like the book. But like Chrissy, it can make or break a book for me. In Fifty in particular, I couldn’t ignore it, like a little electric shock every time she mentioned her inner Goddess, her subconscious, every time she said ‘Oh my’
Kitt: What are your thoughts on Anna and Christian in general? Were they well developed or one-dimensional? How about the secondary characters of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY?
Day: Unimpressed all down the board. More development with all characters would have been nice.
Mona: Paper dolls. Repetitive paper dolls.
Noa: There were characters in 50 Shades of Grey? O_o
Eowyn: Character development was lacking.
BLVR: Yes – I believe that James imbued her Ana & Christian with complexity. But Ana could have acheived a higher level of complexity without a doubt. I think James was exceptionally brave in the last book when she gives us Christian’s POV of his first meeting with Anna. He is truly unappealing and a cad.
Alli: Like most of the other dolls, I felt that the character development was very one-dimensional. We learn about them at only the most superficial level. I had a hard time connecting to Ana and Christian, which makes me like the story a lot less.
Lil: I didn’t really read enough to make an observation about character development. I can say the characters did not draw me in and I didn’t find myself invested in them in the least. I guess that made it easier to put the book down.
Chrissy: I strongly agree that the characters were one dimensional.
Suz: It was fairly poor in the first book but improved a bit as you move through the rest of the trilogy, for both the protagonists and some of the secondary characters. In the first book there was so much reiteration and so much mind talk that seemed juvenile and insipid that it left the characters fairly flat. I think that time could have been better spent developing situations to put the characters in that would have shown us their characters.
Kitt: I’m going to agree with Suz here, and some of the other Dolls. As the books continue, we do get to see further growth from both Christian and Ana, but for Fifty Shades by itself, both characters were flat. <laughs at Noa>, I could see how you missed them.
Lil: How did you feel about the POV? Was the inner dialogue helpful to you as a reader or distracting from the story?
Day: My thoughts on Ana’s inner dialogue? Annoying. Personally, I wanted to scream at her to shut up about her inner goddess. But that is just me.
Mona: My inner goddess kicked the crap out of her inner goddess….and her noisy subconscious, too. Just shut up and let me read.
Noa: Her inner goddess, her subconscious… I take it back, there were characters in 50 Shades, they were all in Ana’s head.
Eowyn: I have to agree with the rest of you on the inner dialogue. I was so sick of her inner goddess! I wanted to scream at her inner goddess and it didn’t even make sense to me the things her inner goddess would be doing. I mean really? I think inner dialogue can be helpful but in this book I wanted to scream at it.
BLVR: A-ha!!! I loved it! I really did! Those are the moments and devices that make literature great. A visual medium could not have done those moments justice. James chose a clever way to showcase her character’s logic fighting with her libido.
Alli: I teeter-tottered between meh and annoyed with the inner dialogue. By the way, where’s my inner goddess these days?
Lil: I asked this question because I wanted to strangle the inner goddess and tell that noisy subconscious to put a lid on it. I felt like I wanted to see more action and a lot less hemming and hawing.
Chrissy: I’m on board with everyone who says that it was annoying. It truly was.
Suz: The inner goddess thing was insipid, the addition of the subconscious to the mix was unnecessarily confusing and left us with entirely too much annoying inner dialog.
Kitt: It’s not just you, Day. I think Ana may have been a schizophrenic. There weren’t just two main characters, there were four. At some points, her inner Goddess and subconscious overshadowed everything else.
Mona: Is it logical to assume a virgin would go from zero interest in sex to overwhelming lust overnight?
Day: Yes and no. I think a virgin can (and most often do) have a strong interest in sex and healthy curiosity about it, but I think what isn’t logical and purely fantastical is the assumption that after the first time they want more and more and more…That my friends is fiction.
Mona: I agree with Day’s answer.
Noa: Yes. Yes. Yes. Sorry, I agree with Day and Mona.
Eowyn: I get it, in the beginning of a relationship we all want sex quite often. At least I hope everyone else does or they’re missing out. I’m not sure a virgin would jump right into the type of sexual relationship the book is about with the lack of intimacy and BDSM tendencies.
BLVR: Well let’s bring it specifically to Ana. Initially it was very difficult for me to embrace this character twist because James went out of her way to paint Ana as almost asexual. In fact it isn’t until book 3, I believe, that she gives us details into Ana’s romantic/sexual life BC (Before Christian.) In the world of romance novels – I am always amazed at how most of the virgins have phenomenal de-flowerings and could care less about birth control and of course no one’s cootchie or prick gets chaffed. But as to the world at large, just because you are a virgin doesn’t mean you don’t have sexual desire.
Alli: Drawing on my own experience, I don’t think so… but it depends on the person. I think virgins can have a strong libido, but to have like 2 back to back after school specials when losing your virginity? Highly unlikely.
Lil: Everyone is different. Everyone has a different first time experience and I’m sure it’s possible….. Okay who am I trying to kid? I’m sorry but I couldn’t suspend reality on that one, I think if you are writing all human fiction then some real life mixed in to the fantasy goes a lot farther than this notion that sex the first time is all roses and multiple orgasms.
As far as sexual desire getting turned on like a light? Hell yes virgins can have it click for them. I think it’s a little bit of the miracle that our bodies sometimes know what we want before our inner goddesses do. It’s called pheromones to the science types and lust at first site for the romantics.
Chrissy: I agree with Day 100%.
Suz: I agree with the other Dolls. It’s not unusual to get a new taste of sex and want more and more like a toy you don’t want to stop playing with. I’ve even seen the occasional virgin in the BDSM scene, so it’s unusual but not unheard of. Zero to multi-orgasmic on the first run from someone who has never even masturbated is over the top, though.
Kitt: :::Dies::: Ah Believer, that’s hysterical. I agree with them all. I think it may depend on the person, but going from 0 to 60 doesn’t seem all that strange and happens quite often, though I think Ana had to be in some series pain. However, what Suz says, multi-orgasmic out of the gate? O.o
Kitt: As a continuance to Mona’s question, what are the probabilities of 21 year old women from the 21st century, and English major to boot, not having a personal computer or being on social networking sites?
Day: NOT FECKING LIKELY. But, it is FICTION:)
Mona: If they’re not destitute… highly unlikely. Most people try to stay in touch, and there’s only so much one can do from a smart phone.
Noa: But Ana is a budding rose closed in darkness, who can only bloom thanks to Christian’s water hose, no?
Eowyn: There was a time that I used to use my roommates computer but that was yikes 13 years ago. I think it is extremely unrealistic to think that an English major would not have their own computer. There are quite a few models that are inexpensive today and so I don’t see how this adds to her character image to show how poor she was.
BLVR: That one was odd. I started to feel thankful that she wasn’t using the university computer lab for her e-mails.
Alli: *Laughs at Noa’s answer* For her to not have a computer was very odd..
Lil: *blink* *blink* I found it even odder that the editor of a COLLEGE newspaper would not reassign her most important piece EVER to say I don’t know one of her reporters instead of her mousy roommate who had no idea what she was doing? Again I could not suspend reality. How hard would have been to make Ana part of the paper?
Chrissy: Two words: utterly unrealistic.
Suz: I can’t stop laughing about Noa’s response. hahahahaha
Kitt: Bwahahaha Noa’s answer kills me. But no, not likely, even in fiction. Lil also makes a good point, why would she ask her roommate? It seems like another highly unlikely situation.
Eowyn: Do you think the popularity of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY says anything about our acceptance of controlling men in a relationship?
Day: Not really. I think it is women wanting literary porn.
Mona: I think it sends a terrible message. I’m considerably older than the rest of the Dolls, so I remember when women as doormats was de rigueur. I spent too much time as one myself to ever contemplate going back. And being male is not enough of a reason to elevate a man to a position of dominance. *I think I just threw up in my mouth a little*
Noa: Like Day, I think it’s about literary porn. I mean, just because I love a hero who is a pirate who kidnapped his heroine doesn’t mean I want to be kidnapped and taken on board a ship with 20 un-bathed ragingly hormonal sailors does it? But a girl can dream…
Eowyn: I asked this because I am concerned with the romance of mail characters that are extremely controlling of the women in their lives. I don’t understand why so many women are drawn to a character that is so controlling. It’s downright scary and often leads to abusive tendencies. I wanted to tell him to F**k off quite often yet everyone seems to be enamored by this book.
BLVR: Ahhhh. See James is very vocal in her interviews about Ana saving Christian. And if read in that light – there are a ton of women who will put up with this behavior if they think they can change a man and save him from himself.
Alli: Not really. I think it’s a fantasy of a lot of women to be “dominated” by a man sexually, not necessarily controlled in the other aspects. We want our cake to tell us how to eat it, but we don’t want it yelling at us to bake it :)
Lil: Oh Alli, love that answer!
Chrissy: I don’t really see it that way. But I agree with what Alli said. (very nicely put Alli )
Suz: As a dominant woman who has been involved with a lot of submissive people, both male and female, I think I can address the “why?” There are some people who prefer to not have to accept responsibility, who find freedom in letting go and letting someone else take the reins. There are more than a few women who have been told all their lives that sex is “dirty” and that “good girls don’t” and now they have that stereotype in their heads to get around (whether they believe it or not). Having a dominant “make” them do things is like receiving permission to be as sexually loose as they want to be. In those ways it can be rather freeing for them. What we see in 50 Shades isn’t dominance and submission. Ana never agrees to accept that role; instead she walks on eggshells to avoid upsetting him and uses sex and passive aggressive head games to control the situation. Theirs is not a functional relationship, nor is it a good example of a BDSM relationship. I think folks are turned on by it because they like the idea of being “done” by someone. I mean, who doesn’t want to kick back and let someone else get them off?
Kitt: No I don’t. I have yet to read a romance that the heroine isn’t dominated in some form or another. James doesn’t touch on anything new here, even if her delivery is different. I think women like the idea of being dominated. To Believer: Would a women really put up with Christian Grey’s antics if he wasn’t a bazillionaire?
Alli: Do you feel that FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, a BDSM book, currently #1 on the NYT bestseller list is a contradiction to the current state of American societal values? (IE: we’re trending more conservative, but yet have a BDSM book #1?)
Day: To be honest, I haven’t given that much thought. I actually don’t think they are connected. There have always been taboo subjects that have gained popularity at various times in history. I am more apt to believe that this is a result of ingenious marketing.
Mona: I think it’s odd, but what it tells me is too many women are letting themselves get pushed around and bullied by men. I love men…they make wonderful cooks and housekeepers….but they have no business making decisions for us. Hell, they can’t even make proper decisions for themselves.
Noa: As the non-American I can tell you the book has been making waves everywhere be it conservative or liberal societies. I think liberal societies tend to take things like this with a shrug whereas in a more conservative society, it is hard to ignore the marketing (very ingenious as Day said) so it makes more of a splash as people get excited and want to find out what all the fuss is about.
Eowyn: I think it’s quite interesting and perhaps points out that women in conservative society are acting like they are appalled by such behavior in public yet when they are alone they are an entirely different person.
BLVR: I love this question! I was wondering the same thing! How utterly out of touch and hypocritical, no? But what if it isn’t really. This book is a perfect reflection of the ultra conservative tide that has washed US politics over the last 10 years. Let someone else be in charge of my body, my reproduction and my health. They are richer, older, smarter – ergo – they must know better.
Alli: I think it’s a false dichotomy, being liberal or conservative and that there is always many shades of grey **No pun intended** :) I’m going to quote my ATLien roots with my boy Ludacris saying “We want a lady in the street, but a freak in the bed.” Perception is everything isn’t it? I do think it’s ironic that fifty shades of grey is #1.
Lil: I think people like to keep their kink to themselves for the most part. We-all-know-it-exists-but-let’s-not-talk-about-it is the common rule in polite society.
Another common rule is Do as I say Not as I do, and let’s face it, the ones who often are the most conservative on the outside are the freakiest behind closed doors, whether they be bedrooms doors or public bathroom jons…..
Chrissy: I know I am answering most of these questions with “I agree” statements, but you ladies are spot on with the answers and I couldn’t word it better myself. Lil, again, I am on board with what you stated.
Suz: I think it’s stereotypical for sex to be a sensation to a conservative society. BDSM has been around for a very long time and this is not the first BDSM erotic novel out there (it’s not even the best). I hope that interest in kinky fuckery suggests that the people who have been asleep in their conservatism are ready to break out a bit. One can hope.
Kitt: Ok I’m like Day, I actually haven’t even thought about it, but I think I tend to agree more with Lil’s answer, We-all-know-it-exists-but-let’s-not-talk-about-it is the common rule in polite society.
Believer: I guess I’m the dissenting voice here. I think she did a great job. She is a first time novelist writing this on her Blackberry on the way to work. She purposely wrote this in a first person present voice. It has typesetting errors like many self pubbed/indie pubbed first novels do. But frankly the story moves forward except in one or two places. We are witness to the heroines self-journey through the process of analyzing her reaction to this massive issue in their relationship. Except for her reliance on some crutch words (a rookie mistake) the story has interesting scenes. Really the ending is momentous!
I love that a woman decided to write a story and shared it with her friends. They encourage her to keep on going and started to ask for copies along the way. Next thing you know she is getting so many requests that she decides to use e-publishing and print on demand to share her story. (This could not have been done in this fashion 20 years ago!). Bloggers start passing the word around and before you know it the book is picked up by a major publisher and is no. 1 on Amazon and NYT. This is the ultimate Cinderella story! How can you not love this?
Day: Koudos to E.L. James for succeeding the way she has. I just didn’t like the book very much and think there are far better books in the genre. In my opinion the hype is much ado about nothing.
Mona: Since I’m working toward publication, I must give her kudos for getting her work out there. That said, she was in too much of a hurry to publish and didn’t take the time to polish it or get the proper input that would have made it a lasting literary work. Compared to Story of O (which supposedly was also written by a novice), this one will fade away into the sunset while O will live on simply because of the writing. Also, the BDSM in O makes FSoG look like tiddlywinks.
Noa: I’ll agree with Mona and Day again. I think it’s a wonderful step for anyone hoping to get published or anyone concerned over not being able to be a success just because they’re going the independent route. That said, if this is the quality we get, it gives other aspiring authors a bad rep. A book first and foremost should be about the story – and that story needs to be well written. This was not.
Eowyn: I think it’s awesome that E.L James successfully self published and is so popular. I just struggled to read the book and the editing could really use some help. I was extremely distracted by some of the typos. It is amazing that we live in todays age and can become popular in such a way.
Alli: By crutch words, do you mean “cocked” LOL I props where props are deserved. Good for her for following her dreams, writing a book and getting it published. I have to agree with Noa when she says that a book should be about the story and be well written. I find flaws with both of those requirements within this book.
Lil: Noa, Day, and Mona said it all.
Chrissy: I think it is great that EL James has found success in self publishing. However, I will stick what I was taught during a workshop at the Romantic Times Convention: never self publish. It only cheats you out of earning constructive criticism and the ability to really present your best foot forward to readers.
Suz: I like the story of how she got it to market better than the story she wrote, at least with the first book. I admit they did get better moving through the books, but not the first book as a stand alone, no.
Kitt: I agree with the other girls and I’ll even give mad props to Ms. James. However, I’m the only Doll to read the tree copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. In her and her publishers haste to get it on the shelves, they still neglected to fix the major problems and isn’t that what books are all about? A well-written story one can loose themselves in?
Eowyn: How do you think this book will affect the publishing industry? Will we start to see more self-published books become popular and considering the quality difference could this affect the quality of books available in the future?
Day: In all honesty, I really hope so. If anything positive is to come from this it’s that more people will discover new genre’s or give indie authors a chance.
Mona: The self-pub industry was already on the upswing before FSoG came along. Many traditionally published authors have gone the self-pub route (in addition to the Big Six) simply because of the financial returns. I belong to many online author groups and this discussion has been fodder for quite a while. Of course, all of them reiterate the need for proper editing, but even the big publishing houses have editing problems nowadays.
Noa: I think my answer to Believer’s question fits here too.
Eowyn: My motivation for this question lies in an actual concern over the popularity of this book. For those of us who love to read this book was a bit difficult to get into yet it is hypes as the most awesome literary work. I wonder will the quality of the other books we enjoy reading begin to be degraded. I hope not, I would hate to not enjoy reading.
BLVR: Oh – I think this will have an extremely positive effect on the self publishing industry, without question. It will actually make things easier on big publishers in a way because the public will bring what it wants to their attention. No need to wade through query letters and uncertainty of the unproven author. Instead – you just watch what is exploding on the street and offer to pick it up.
Alli: I’m all for self-publishing if it goes through some kind of editorial process, like peer-reviewed scientific literature papers do. Maybe by people who love grammar and volunteer to do it for little or no cost (pipe dream!). I do think that this will add to the momentum of self-publishing.
Lil: Believer your answer scares the crap out of me. The last thing I want is the general public making publishing decisions if Fiddy is your example of what the public will be choosing.
Honestly though I think it’s all about marketing for indie writers and without going into details but the community that was behind the push on Fiddy was a determined bunch and they helped one of their own blow up. I think if self-pub writers can learn anything from Fiddy it would be how to market themselves and that is a good thing for everyone.
Chrissy: I think that it is a good thing but I would advise other writers to only use this as a means of a last resort. I’ve read many books that were self published and found tons of grammar errors and spelling mistakes that an editor would have likely caught before the book was printed.
Suz: It’s already pretty difficult to wade through self-published books looking for the gem in the pile, but it’s also improving. I’d like to know more about how the marketing and sales trends were with this book before I could comment. I mean, did it really take off after she sold the movie rights, after she published with a publisher, or how much of it was strictly word of mouth? Either way I do hope we see more self-published books, but I hope that with an increase in quantity we might also see an increase in quality even if it’s just a proportional growth thing.
Kitt: Ms. James isn’t the first to garner such a fantastic response to her books – Amanda Hawkings anyone? – and I do hope she isn’t the last. But my fear is like Noa said, a substandard, badly edited sleuth of books flooding the market. “A book first and foremost should be about the story – and that story needs to be well written. This was not.”
Noa: It is very obvious that word of mouth played a huge part in making FIFTY SHADES OF GREY a major success, what do you think this means for blogs and review sites? Positive? Negative?
Day: I suppose time will tell.
Mona: We (blogs) ARE that ‘word of mouth.’ Good grief, it’s not like we’re getting paid for this or anything. (If we are, I want a raise.) ‘Word of mouth’ turned into blogs, tweets, and review sites as a normal progression of things. Perhaps more people will pay attention to the opinions proffered on these sites as a result.
Noa: Mona – Due to the economic downturn and the fiscal concerns for future TBR list purchases we will not be able to fulfill your raise request at this time. ;)
Eowyn: I am laughing so hard at Noa right now! I think it does point out that we have an impact on the book industry. If people enjoy your book with social media today the word can get out quickly and affect far more people than in the past when you could only tell your neighbors.
BLVR: I think blogs will become an even more important vehicle for readers and authors. With more novels on the street, bloggers/reviewers will help readers cull through the onslaught to find what suits them best. When a reader follows a blog, it becomes an extension of their reading network or book club. You trust their opinion to promote what you will like. It’s not like the NYT Lists etc. This doesn’t have to do with how many copies sold. It is a recommendation based on taste and opinion.
Alli: I think sometimes people forget how powerful word of mouth can be. Blogs do their best to praise the best books by the best authors…but for me personally, I’m going to believe my BFF over someone on the internet (Sorry guys, You know I love you!). That being said, unless you aren’t completely weird like me, I foresee blogs playing an extremely important role in helping promote and make successes out of new books and authors.
Lil: Wow y’all made this one easy. What they said!
Chrissy: I’m with BLVR on this one. Since we are pretty much the voices that spread the word about which books are hot and which books are not, I would say that people will begin to look at our opinions more and likely hold them in higher regard.
Suz: I think word of has always been a significant assist with book success. Now that we have social media and the internet (blogs, review sites, social networking groups, etc.) the ability to interface and get the word out has increased exponentially. A word of caution to the aspiring self-publishing author – blatant marketing on these “social” venues is usually not well received. If you’re there to market and not to share you may do yourself more harm than good.
Kitt: I’m with Suz on this one. <laughs at Noa>
Chrissy: Do you think that the popularity of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY comes mostly from readers who want to improve their own sex lives or readers who simply consider the novel a guilty pleasure and keep the details to themselves?
Day: I think the popularity is because people want to see what all the buzz is about and from there they either like it or don’t and are vocal about it.
Mona: Guilty pleasure. Nothing ensures popularity more than condemnation.
Eowyn: I think it’s popularity, we read it to see what the hype was all about and I think others are as well. I do think perhaps they are just wanting to spice up their sex lives a little.
Noa: Guilty pleasure and the fact that most readers have never picked up erotica so don’t really know there is an entire genre of books that focus on the same theme as 50 Shades…only much better written.
BLVR: Well- I certainly don’t think that people are buying 50 Shades as a how to book. And I truly don’t see why it should be considered a guilty pleasure. It’s a love story, a romance novel. I really don’t see the difference between this and a highlander, a pirate captain, a vampire, or a shifter.
Alli: Guilty pleasure, or perhaps.. naughty little secret!! (yes I went there!)
Lil: Everyone is buying it to see what all the hoopla is about and this is one of those books that fall into one of two categories: Love! or Repressing the Urge To Throw the IPad Against the Wall! So I guess if you love it, it may rev your engine, but I don’t see it as a BDSM for Dummies.
Chrissy: I think that many people want to see what all the uproar is about. But I’m sure that many readers will purchase this book as a guilty pleasure as well.
Suz: I’m sure the truth is somewhere in the middle, like most things.
Kitt: At first it was the guilty pleasure, now it’s the hype. Like us, people are reading it now just to see what it’s all about.
Day: Do you think the comparisons to TWILIGHT are obvious or are they apparent only because of the author’s start with the story being conceived in TWILIGHT fan-fiction?
Day: To be honest, the TWILIGHT fan-fiction beginning of this story really didn’t bother me. I think there are several stories out there that can be compared to TWILIGHT that didn’t originate as fan-fiction. So, it’s possible if I had become obsessed with either series that I would compare the two, but it wasn’t blatant to me.
Mona: Honestly, if I hadn’t heard that tidbit, I would never have connected the two. My brain simply couldn’t draw comparisons between them, but that might simply be because I never cared enough to analyze it.
Noa: Never managed to finish Twilight – I’m not one for whiny heroines that need to be saved and would kill themselves over a man.
Eowyn: I haven’t read TWILIGHT so I can’t compare.
BLVR: I flip flop at times on this because if I had not known this started as fan fiction would I be looking for similarities? You know it’s just like BRIDGETTE JONES’ DIARY in a way. Once you know it is inspired by PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, don’t you start to look for similarities? But at the end of the day – they are vastly different – no vamps, no weres, lots of sex.
Alli: The similarities made me roll my eyes a couple of times.. same region of the country – an older experienced guy who is beautiful – a clumsy, inexperienced, low self-esteem younger girl, etc. At least Christian wasn’t a sparkly vampire.
Lil: I happened to have read some of this when it was FF. I didn’t like it then either. I must mention I read it so long ago that it did not click for me that I had read it before. I had a fellow FF friend remind me of this little tidbit during a private yet necessary venting session. Can we all say Light-bulb Moment?
Chrissy: I saw many Twilight comparisons in this book. And every single one of them are things that people hated about the Twilight series.
Suz: I think there are a few things that are obviously inspired by TWILIGHT but no more so than a lot of other books on the market. I think there are probably a few nods to TWILIGHT that could be considered homage, too. I mean, the heroine considers herself frumpy, clumsy, and bookish. It’s harped on a little in the first book but it falls away pretty quickly, too, much more quickly than it did in TWILIGHT. The hero likes Audi cars. Audi cars are popular with a lot of people, not just TWILIGHT fans, but I think it was a nod to TWILIGHT. In truth, I didn’t see anything overwhelmingly drawn from TWILIGHT in these books.
Kitt: For me, there were tons of similarities between Twilight and Fifty. I could make you a laundry list. Location, statuses, descriptions, stalking, cars, secondary characters, plot devices. Yes, I have more, but I’m done for now.
Noa: After reading FIFTY SHADES OF GREY do you believe this work would stand on its own? Or is hype the only thing contributing to its success?
Mona: Definitely the hype.
BLVR: I think it would stand on its own but, again, it is timing. It is a reflection of the hyper conservatism we are seeing around us. People are freaky behind closed doors but they still need to sit next to their neighbors in church on Sunday.
Alli: Hype, for sure.
Lil: James can thank the movie studio for the continuation of the hype. Don’t be fooled by all the attention, it’s contrived so they can make back their investment. There is a reason why every show that wasn’t already taped more than a month ago is jumping on the bandwagon, it’s all about PR and having the book thrown at every producer who has a host with a mouth.
Chrissy: Hype, all the way.
Suz: I think it can stand on its own as well as a lot of other books in romance genres. There are a lot of rather successful writers who have been writing for many years who pretty much regurgitate the same story once or twice a year and change the names a bit but otherwise it’s the same book and the same sex scenes and the same tropes, over and over. The SUCCESS of the series, I think, can be attributed to hype.
Kitt: It will stand on it’s own, but it’s success and endurance will be short lived. It’s all hype.
Believer: Literature (and cinema) has a long history of publishing “re-works” of previously successful stories. I think the works are different enough in some very key ways to make them totally separate works. Good golly let’s start with the fact that he’s not a vamp and that they have gobs of sex! So why are people so angry that EL James readily admits that she was inspired by TWILIGHT and that this originally started as fan fiction that evolved into its own mythos?
Day: I think it is just a touchy subject right now.
Mona: Every idea has to originate somewhere. Personally, I’ve never been drawn to fanfic sites so I have no idea how widely the stories on them can differentiate. I’m still having trouble with the Twilight/FSoG connection. If you stop and think about it, there are only so many plots about which to write…after that, it’s all a matter of putting one’s own twisted spin on them.
Noa: I’m not angry over the Twilight connection, I honestly don’t know why people are angry about that. I’m angry that this tripe was published. Sorry, I really saw no redeeming qualities in this series. Wait, there is one: It got us to all have a joint discussion.
Eowyn: I agree with Mona all writing today is still based on the same principles and stories that have always been written about with a new twist.
Alli: As a scientist, all we do all day long is take someone elses research and try to do something different/better with it. That’s exactly what happened here. I ain’t mad at cha.
Lil: It’s called All-Human Fan Fiction, when you take characters from a paranormal or UF and rewrite them in the world you see for them. Legally it’s called an adaption if the rights have been properly bought. I can think of one very popular adaption that has driven many bookies to distraction *cough* True Blood *cough*.
I’m honestly on the fence with the FF aspect. At first I was sooo mad but over time I’ve looked at it from a more rational place. I’ve seemed to have gotten stuck in the weeds though….. I mean I’ve read some really amazing FF that I would have paid for and never known it was FF.
HAH! And this just hit me upside the head, when Twilight came out it was tossed around that Meyer gleaned bits and pieces from other paranormal vampire stories to build her world and flipped and twisted these bits and pieces into her own. I think all writers do it to some extent some are just better at it than others. It’s the I-would-have-done-it-this-way thought that got me writing again, though I would never have had the balls to self-pub that piece! I’ll readily admit as a writer I was more mad at myself for not believing in myself enough to bite the bullet and finish the piece I’ve been sitting on for quite some time. So I guess I can add E.L. James to the list of authors who have inspired me.
Chrissy: While I understand firsthand that all writers are inspired by other works, I feel like it’s a little unfair and lazy. She (in my opinion) pretty much ripped off of characters that she didn’t even take the time to create herself. To me, that shows lack of creativity.
Suz: I was taught in Art School that you draw your inspiration from where ever you can find it and then you make it your own. I believe very much in this principle and I think E.L. James accomplished that. I can’t speak to the fanfic thing because I don’t read much of it, my to-be-read list is already too long to manage and I do not wish to spend a lot of time seeking out reading material that is sorely in need of editing and polishing. As for the anger it’s probably very impolitic of me to say it but the bulk of the anger I have seen has been from the people I know who are aspiring or struggling writers. Assume what you will about that.
Kitt: While I get the notion that people get their inspiration from other works, I think people are mostly upset by the fact that James went a touch far beyond a mere ‘inspiration’ and more in to the territory of ripping off key aspects of Meyers works. The way I see it, and understand it, authors gleam ideas from everything around them from a multiple of places. When reading Fifty, it’s blatantly obvious to me that it was once FF and I don’t see this trilogy as ever making it’s debut if it weren’t for Twilight and 91/2 Weeks. Like Chrissy says, it feels to me also, as unfair and lazy especially when we have fabulous authors like Jess Michaels, Lorelie James, or Maya Banks.
Alli: If you could change one thing about FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, what would it be and why?
Day: I wouldn’t have wasted my time reading the first book.
Mona: Hmmm. There’s not enough space here for me to cover everything, and I can’t focus on just one.
Noa: What Mona and Day said.
Eowyn: I would calm down the inner voice. It’s nice to have a little bit of the inner voice but I seriously wanted to throw something at her inner goddess after a few discussions about it.
BLVR: A part of me wishes she had left it with the first book. That story is about a woman setting her worth. It is very similar in that regard to 9 1/2 weeks, when Elizabeth leaves because she realizes that John can’t give her the emotional intimacy she needs. John would also have to be “fixed”and at what cost to her?
Alli: I agree with Eowyn. Tone down the inner dialogue.
Lil: We don’t have that much time.
Chrissy: I wouldn’t have read it.
Suz: I really resented that BDSM was the emotional work-around of a broken person in this book.
Kitt: First and fore most, I wouldn’t have read it. Except, since I did, I agree with Believer, she should have left it with the fist book. And I also agree with Eowyn, calm down the inner dialogue. Suz, I remember discussing how broken Christian was with you. I do not even ‘dabble’ in BDSM and even I found it really off putting how she depicted the people in the culture. It wasn’t just Christian, all the characters that engaged in this type of play were broken shells, emotional wrecks.
Kitt: What do you think of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY’s price listing, currently $9.99 for the ebook at Amazon, from a debut, self-published author?
Day: I think that it’s great for E.L. James but a tad insulting to veteran authors in the genre.
Mona: I think Amazon saw an opportunity to make some money. That’s the name of the game. But it won’t be my money they’re collecting.
Noa: I agree. Yay to E. L. James. Boo hiss Amazon and my apologies to authors who have earned the right to have their books in that price range.
Eowyn: I agree, it’s great for E.L James and most new books are more now. I do feel that if I really want to read a book for enjoyment I would pass on the price point for this book and get something more interesting.
BLVR: No problem.
Alli: I agree with Mona. Money is the name of the game. Who cares about the little guys. SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Lil: I can’t talk about it. I think of all the amazing writers who have their books sold at less who are PROVEN and I get all….. GAH!!
Chrissy: Again, I concur with Lil.
Suz: She’s charging what the market will bear, and from sales I’d say it’s bearing it. Would I pay that for this book? No.
Kitt: Outrageous. But then again, I eschew ebooks anyways.
Suz: What were your feelings in regards to your preconceived notions after you finished reading FIFTY SHADES OF GREY?
Day: I think that it was more of a rip off of other popular BDSM stories like “9 1/2 Weeks” and not as awesome as I had anticipated.
Mona: I was disappointed. I’ve read some really good authors *cough* *Jess Michaels* *cough* who kept me reading from first page to last, and their works were head and shoulders above FSoG. Ana and Christian were merely dysfunctional role players who couldn’t remember who was Dom and who was sub.
Noa: Disappointment city.
Eowyn: I was a bit disappointed as well. I honestly was expecting some really crazy things in the book. All of the hype made it seem like the sex was really outrageous and I really felt it was quite tame compared to the hype.
BLVR: 50 Shades is genuinely a deserving book. I wish that less emphasis were put on the sex and more on the psychological aspects of the storyline but I’m going against the grain here.
Alli: I’ll reserve judgement until I completely finish the book, but I’m disappointed in the lack of story. It was just too superficial for me.. too much about sex and less about characters and plot.
Lil: Proud of myself for putting it down. A year ago I would have suffered through, but a super wise doll (Day) once told me, ‘”Life’s too short, if you don’t like it, don’t read it!”
Chrissy: Words cannot express how disappointed I was with this novel.
Suz: The series (all three books) was better than I expected it to be, but I would not say that about the first book alone. Again, the books get more polished and James gets a bit more adept at giving us more story and character development as you move through the series, but the first book by itself was fairly close to my expectations in terms of writing and the use of BDSM as an outlet for a broken person. I did expect more extreme BDSM and was disappointed that it was really no more than light slap and tickle being portrayed as BDSM.
Kitt: Disappointment is not a big enough word. While I’ll agree with Suz, the second book is better than the first, it was just slightly better. Fifty Shades of Grey by itself is not a romance. It isn’t even very sexy, or daring either. I was expecting some real kink and bondage and instead got a light slap and tickle. Plus a whole chapter of legal papers. I did really like the Christian and Ana email exchanges and felt it was the only real time that any sort of personality revealed it’s self from each character. In terms of Believer’s comment on focusing on the psychological aspects of the storyline, it’s almost impossible to do just in Fifty Shades of Grey alone. Maybe in the series as a whole, but just focusing on the first book, like Alli said, It was just too superficial – the story, and the characters.
Lil: Now that you have read FIFTY SHADES OF GREY will you suggest it to friends and fellow book lovers?
Day: For reviewing purposes, I already have suggested it to 7 ladies. For a friend who is wanting some steamy reading, I would suggest other titles.
Mona: Only if they need a laugh. But honestly, don’t even get my inner goddess started on that one. She’s been such a bitch lately since she found out Ana’s inner goddess got a lot of page time. Now she’s on my ass to put her in my manuscript. I keep telling her she’ll mess up a perfectly good YA with her foul mouth. Damn troublemaker.
Noa: I would recommend not to pick it up, not to read it and not to waste your money.
Eowyn: I’m really not sure. If someone is an avid book reader I probably wouldn’t but for those who only read a few books a year and want to know what the hype is about I think they will enjoy the book. I feel we are so used to reading for critique purposes that perhaps we miss what the average person who doesn’t read much sees in this book.
BLVR: Well it’s not for everyone. I don’t believe there is one book for everyone. But I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.
Alli: Probably not. I personally only recommend books that I am absolutely sure the other person will want to read and enjoy.
Lil: I personally think if you want to read it, Read it! Just because the book wasn’t for me doesn’t mean someone else isn’t going to love it. James didn’t draw me into her world and that is mostly because of the writing style wasn’t one I could warm up too. My honest belief is book reviewing is about one reader’s opinion and that is why I almost never read a review before I read a book, I don’t want someone else’s opinion to help form mine through power of suggestion. *** I do read my fellow dolls though because I wuv them***
Chrissy: I have openly stated that this is the worst book that I have ever read. Friends don’t let friends read poorly written books.
Suz: I doubt I would suggest it because there are others I would suggest first, but there has been no shortage of discussing it since everyone has already heard about it.
Kitt: No, but I also would never discourage anyone from reading a book. It’s fabulous how people are so different even when they’re so similar. What I dislike, maybe something they’ll love. One thing is for certain, like Suz says, there has been no shortage of discussion. *Goes to plot my revenge on Day*