Fifty Shades of Grey - E.L. James I can't believe I'm writing this, but this book really wasn't that bad. I mean, it's not going to win any literary awards anytime soon, but I do think that a lot of the reviews that completely trashed this book are being overly harsh. Let's take Fifty Shades of Grey at face value and not rate it based on anything more than it is; that is, a novel that began its life as a piece of Twilight fanfiction.

Keeping that in mind, I have to admit this book had its moments (and not just the sex parts). The thing is, I've read a lot of fanfiction. So I know that there's A LOT of crap out there. At the same time, I've also read fanfiction by people who can write better than some well-established published authors. My feelings on this book fall somewhere in between. I don't think it's great, but it wasn't horrible either. In fact, I think I'll make that the tagline as the main gist for my review: "It wasn't horrible."

So, knowing what I was in for beforehand, I'm not going to pick on the obvious, which is to be expected of books like Fifty Shades. I'm going to ignore the fact that the story and the characters are totally unrealistic (speaking of which, for a CEO of a major corporation, Christian Grey sure seems to have a lot of spare time on his hands). I'm also going to ignore the cliches and tropes that can be commonly found in romance novels and which are also in Fifty Shades. Same goes for the utterly bland hero and heroine, and the latter's irritatingly naive and innocent voice. All that is a given.

That said, I can put up with a lot, as long as what I'm reading is in line with my expectations. I actually even might have enjoyed Fifty Shades all the way through, if not for the fact that anything resembling story or character development screeches to a complete halt at around the halfway point. The book then starts rehashing all the same tired plot points and character hang ups. Oh, and there's sex too, of course, but that's the whole point, so it's not the problem.

This book had a whole lot of other issues, but I can tolerate most of it; all I ask is that the characters don't remain static and that we actually get somewhere. I like my books character-driven, and unfortunately, I don't feel Ana's character evolves until the final chapter. And when it does happen, it takes place over a few pages. Oh well, if I had to read one more time about Christian's obsession with food or Ana's infernal lip-biting, I was going to tear my hair out. But anyway, apparently since Ana finally decides to grow a backbone at the very end, I just might actually be willing to give the second book a chance now.

And with regards to what I think about the sex...meh. Some parts were hot, but if you've read as many historical bodice-rippers or slogged through as many Amazon Naughty Nooner freebies as I have, the stuff in this book is actually pretty run-of-the-mill. I am a little surprised to see that such an adult content-laden book has gotten so mainstream, though I wonder what that says about the average housewife's taste in porn? /snark. I will say, however, those interested in a story with a beautiful BDSM relationship should also check out the movie Secretary starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader (whose character's name in it is Edward. Edward Grey. Whoa, now that is just a little weird).

A final note: I had the audiobook edition, which had to be "remastered" because the narrator's voice apparently sounded too young and annoying in the original version. But I think what they actually ended up doing was just slowing down her voice. If you're listening to this on audio format, I highly recommend setting the narrating to 1.25x or 1.5x speed to make it sound less mannish and creepy.