Monday, February 16, 2015

Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades, #1)

Yes, I did it. I read the infamous Fifty Shades of Grey, the first book in E.L. James' erotic trilogy. To be perfectly honest I did attempt to read this book when it first debuted in 2011. But I just couldn't do it. I got maybe halfway through before I gave up.

Now that the movie version has just been released, I resolved to read the entire book before I saw the film. And my review can be summed up in a single sentence:

This book woudn't be so bad if everything about it was completely different.

Don't get me wrong: I love erotica. I've been reading it since I was a teenager. For me, good erotica should be fun, sexy, and titillating. Unfortunately, Fifty Shades is not any of those things.

Let's start with the two main characters: Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey. Ana is the most naive character I have ever come across. She doesn't seem to know anything about sex. She's never kissed anyone, touched herself, touched anyone else, or even had a wet dream. I'm not against innocent, virginal characters but this is just ridiculous. In the 21st century, even if you're a virgin, it is almost impossible to go through puberty without at least thinking about sex. Sex is everywhere in our culture. The only explanation for Ana's innocence is that she time-traveled from an earlier era. Like the Victorian era. 

But of course, that all changes once she meets billionaire bad boy Christian Grey. Now I know that there are a lot of women (and I'm sure some men too) who think Mr. Grey is the epitome of the tortured, romantic male hero. I just don't get it. He's misogynistic, abusive, controlling, and emotionally unavailable. Everything is about him and his needs. Ana spends the entire book trying to please him, trying to figure out how to give him what he wants and he never seems to consider her needs at all. She protests the expensive gifts that he's giving her; he tells her she's overthinking things and should just be appreciative. She wants to have a serious discussion; he shuts down or distracts her by fucking her brains out instead. 

I'd like to point out that I have nothing against the BDSM community or people who like to experiment with their sexuality and express themselves in different ways. But this book is not about that. A sexual relationship between two (or more) adults should always be consensual. In Fifty Shades, Ana is unsure about the kind of lifestyle that Christian is into but she tries it because she wants to be with him and she's decided that it's the only way she can be with him. She's not doing it because she wants to. It seems Christian always has to coerce her into it. He says that she can walk away at anytime, but when she thinks she might leave (or even jokes about leaving) he immediately shows up and fucks her into submission. 

As far as plot goes, there really isn't one. It's basically Ana trying to decide what kind of relationship she wants to have with Christian and crying a lot because Christian doesn't care what she wants or needs. Oh, and there are a lot of repetitive sex scenes that aren't sexy. There was maybe one that I liked. 

The only thing that kept me reading was Ana's laughably bad inner monologue (or should I say dialogue since it consisted of her, Ana's 'subconscious', and her inner goddess.) But even the entertainment factor of the bad writing isn't enough to cover up the fact that this is a book about a woman being emotionally and physically abused by an emotionally stunted asshole. After a while it stops being funny and just becomes depressing. 

I will go see the movie because I am intrigued to see how this story will translate onto the big screen. And I will probably read the other two books in the series out of curiosity. Love it or hate it, Fifty Shades has become a cultural phenomenon and I think it's important to explore the message that this book sends out to readers. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Reading Wishlist: February 2015

 Feb. 3

Shutter by Courtney Alameda

Genre: YA Horror
What It's About: Micheline Helsing is a descendant of the famous Van Helsing - and she follows in her ancestor's footsteps by slaying monsters in the modern world. (Can I just say that I love that creepy cover?)

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
The Nightingale

Genre: Historical Fiction
What It's About: A tale of two sisters living in Nazi-occupied France during World War II.

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman
Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances

Genre: Fantasy/Short Stories
What It's About: A brand new collection of short stories from one of the modern masters of fantastical fiction, Neil Gaiman.

Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Judd Trichter
Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: A Novel

Genre: Science Fiction
What It's About: Set in a near-future LA, a man falls in love with an android.

In Search of Lost Dragons by Elian Black'mor
In Search of Lost Dragons

Genre: Fantasy
What It's About: A tale of dragon encounters complete with full-color illustrations! I am so excited for this book!

Daughter of Gods and Shadows by Jayde Brooks
Daughter of Gods and Shadows

Genre: Fantasy
What It's About: Eden Reid, a 24-year old woman living in Brooklyn, discovers that she is an ancient god.

Dark Intelligence (Transformation #1) by Neal Asher
Dark Intelligence (Transformation, #1)

Genre: Science Fiction
What It's About: A man is brought back to life 100 years after a devastating war between humans and aliens.

Feb. 10

Red Queen (Red Queen #1) by Victoria Aveyard
Red Queen (Red Queen, #1)

Genre: YA Fantasy
What It's About: In this new trilogy, the common Reds are ruled by the Silvers, an elite race with god-like powers.

The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand
The Last Time We Say Goodbye

Genre: YA Contemporary
What It's About: Lex is left reeling after her brother commits suicide. In the devastating aftermath, she tries to piece her life back together.

The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons
The Glass Arrow

Genre: YA Science Fiction/Dystopian
What It's About: Aya, along with a small group of women, is on the run from men who would auction them off for their breeding rights.

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
My Heart and Other Black Holes

Genre: YA Contemporary
What It's About: Sixteen-year old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death.

Crazy Love You by Lisa Unger
Crazy Love You

Genre: Thriller
What It's About: Ian meets Megan, a sweet beautiful girl who makes him want to change for the better. The only problem is his troubled ex-girlfriend Priss doesn't want him to move on. 

Feb. 17

Half the World (Shattered Sea #2) by Joe Abercrombie
Half the World (Shattered Sea, #2)

Genre: Fantasy
What It's About: The second installment in Abercrombie's Shattered Sea series.

Dendera by Yuya Sato

Genre: Fiction
What It's About: Elderly Kayu is abandoned by her family on a snowy mountaintop. Instead of passing into the afterlife, she discovers a utopian society of other old women who take her in. The only threat to their peaceful community is a hungry mother bear.

Feb. 24

A Wicked Thing (A Wicked Thing #1) by Rhiannon Thomas
A Wicked Thing (A Wicked Thing, #1)

Genre: YA Fantasy
What It's About: A retelling of Sleeping Beauty which explores what happens after happily ever after.

I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
I'll Meet You There

Genre: YA Contemporary
What It's About: Skylar is determined to leave her small town and go to art school - but her plans are derailed when her mother loses her job.

The Sin Eater's Daughter (The Sin Eater's Daughter #1) by Melinda Salisbury
The Sin Eater's Daughter (The Sin Eater's Daughter, #1)

Genre: YA Fantasy
What It's About: Seventeen-year old Twylla lives in a castle and is engaged to the prince. But she also serves as the royal executioner.

The Art and Making of Hannibal by Jesse McLean
The Art and Making of Hannibal: The Television Series

Genre: Entertainment
What It's About: The title is pretty self-explanatory. I just had to feature it because I am a huge Fannibal.

A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab
A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic, #1)

Genre: YA Fantasy
What It's About: Kell is a Traveler - a rare magician that can move between parallel universes.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Reading Challenges 2015: January Update

1. Goodreads Reading Challenge

Towards my goal of reading 200 books this year, in January I read...11 books. It's a pretty abysmal start, especially since, according to Goodreads, I am already 6 books behind schedule. But my goal for February is to at least get back on schedule, if not get a little bit ahead. I'm not giving up!

2. POPSUGAR 2015 Reading Challenge

Of the 50 reading tasks on the POPSUGAR reading challenge checklist, I managed to complete 8 of them in the month of January. Here are the tasks I completed along with the books I read:

A book with magic
Midnight Riot (Peter Grant, #1)

A book set in a different country:
Moon Over Soho (Peter Grant, #2)

(I live in Canada and the Peter Grant novels are set in England)

A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit
Whispers Under Ground (Peter Grant, #3)

(This book is set in London, a place I've wanted to visit for a long time)

A book by a female author
The Shining Girls

A nonfiction book
The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being In Charge Isn't What It Used to Be

A book published this year
The Girl on the Train

A mystery or thriller
Foxglove Summer (Peter Grant, #5)

A book set in high school
The Fever

Eight tasks down, forty-two more to go!

3. The Book Riot 2015 Reading Challenge

Of the 24 tasks in the Book Riot challenge I managed to complete one task. But I am on track to complete at least a few more in February. 

A book by a person whose gender is different from your own:
Midnight Riot (Peter Grant, #1)

4. The Gothic Challenge

This challenge, hosted by Books Under the Bed challenges readers to read Gothic fiction. I pledged to read 10 books and unfortunately I didn't read any in January but I'm hoping to read at least one in February.

5. Fairytale Challenge

The Daily Prophecy

This challenge, hosted by The Daily Prophecy, challenges readers to read Fairytale retellings. I challenged myself to read at least 9 books for this challenge. I didn't read any in January but I am planning to read Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles in February so that's going to be at least 4 books right there. (I'm not sure if I should include short stories or not.)

6. Books to Screen Challenge

Okay, a minor update for this challenge. I originally pledged to try to read all of the books being turned into movies this year. But there were seven movies based on books coming out in January alone. So I am going to modify this challenge a little bit. I'm going to read as many as I can but I won't be reading as many as I originally planned. I haven't read any in January but a certain romance novel is being brought to the big screen in February so I might have to revisit the source material. (Is anyone else fifty shades of excited?)