Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Hotness of Fifty Shades of Grey

I know I had PMS when I first encountered Fifty Shades of Grey. I could raise hell whenever I have sanitary pad down there. All I remember was, I was pissed off by my pantry dinner and was begging my husband to make a quick detour for French fries. To cut the long story short, the most popular food chain can brag about its 24-hour operation near a BPO zone, but still can run out of fries at 11:15 PM! How unfortunate. So I grabbed a Time magazine, with high hopes that the same will bore me and bring me to dreamland immediately. 

I did a quick scan and – voila – these words captured my PMS-stricken body and soul: MOMMY PORN! What the… H-E-double-hockey-sticks! Tremendous amount of curiosity followed me until the next morning. I asked Fully Booked thereafter to reserve me a copy. Apparently, all the major bookstores were waiting for the next shipment of this book that time. Although this creature visits me regularly every month, the PMS monster gave me a gut kick, painfully reminding me that patience is not and will never be a virtue (in my case).

You, article, you!

The Time article said that the books are selling like hotcakes in Kindle and even in bookstores. Whenever I’m interested about something, I usually match that curiosity with diligent research. I did my fair share of online research why Fifty Shades is a hush-hush among the conservative crowds. Blame BDSM. It led me to google BDSM discreetly in my office table (wi-fi at home could be a pain in the ass sometimes). Two weeks after, I got my own copy of Fifty Shades of Grey (a grateful shout out to Lucy of Fully Booked!) My two-week old hunger manifested right away. I finished reading Fifty Shades of Grey in less than 24 hours. I admit I cringed, I squirmed and I blushed several times. Two days after, I finished reading the Kindle versions of Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, the second and last book, respectively, of the trilogy. I tell you, I've never been swept away by series reading addiction since Stephenie Meyer's Twilight and George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Hot copy. Fan please!

At first, I thought Fifty Shades of Grey borders on a suspense thriller and love story. It is an eye-opener and instant blush-on for me. Chapter by chapter, I could feel my cheeks get warm without warning because of how graphic a storyteller E.L. James is. I could also feel my heartbeat quickened whenever Grey gets angry.

Brushing BDSM aside, Fifty Shades is a love story of Anastasia Steele (Ana) and Christian Grey (Grey). Despite his hectic CEO life, Grey showers Ana with precious time and equally precious gifts as well. From 1stedition of Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles  to an Audi, Anna just couldn’t say no to those plus the fact that Grey is described as heart-stopping handsome and mysterious. And, Grey is Anna’s hymen conqueror. Please pretend this is highly significant.

Grey and Anna’s relationship got steamier and steamier as each chapter goes on. It progressed from vanilla sex to more graphic BDSM cartwheel acts. Every non-sexual encounter can be likened to a foreplay already. Thanks to their non-disclosure agreement (NDA). Well, it turned out Grey has some conscience not to subject virgin Ana to BDSM during their first night together. Otherwise, female readers would hate him. It’s funny though such NDA is unenforceable in reality.

I dislike Grey in the beginning. Yes, he has stalking tendencies and has commitment issues. I really thought he would kill Ana if the latter will say no to BDSM. I thought he’s a psycho who will eventually end up in an asylum. I thought he would beat Ana and slapped her to death in the Red Room of Pain. I fear for Ana's life. He would force Ana to eat and would not allow Ana to touch him (chest part) during sex. Frustrating? Yes.  He is a control freak, a total jerk. But he earns $100,000 an hour.  He can fly a helicopter during dates, buy a fruit-and-vegetable painting in a random alley in France at 5,000 euros and could afford to buy a company in a snap. His generosity in giving gifts can be likened to a fairy tale. For Ana, Grey is her fairy tale which came true.

His behaviour was gradually explained throughout the series and the scale of balance tipped in his favour. Grey had a dark past. As a reader, I can’t help but feel pity on him towards the end. And you will eventually forgive him for letting our poor Ana undergo those heavy emotional dramas. It turns out that he loves Ana very much from the start. Ana could give Helen of Troy a stiff competition in the beauty department. As the story progresses, Ana became bolder and bolder. Grey was a great teacher and Anna was a willing, straight-A student.

True enough, it’s highly comparable to Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series, save for the BDSM part. Anastasia Steele is similar to Bella Swan. She is pale-looking, unassuming and doesn’t think highly of herself when in fact she’s incredibly attractive to male population. And they both have cool moms who had divorce (make it two divorces for Ana’s mom). On the other hand, Christian Grey is handsome, mysterious and oozing with sex appeal and obscenely rich. He is every inch an Edward Cullen, except he's 101% lust-driven human.

But what separates Fifty Shades from all love stories I have read is obviously BDSM. All the steamy Harlequin-esque romance novels I’ve read in senior HS till college seemed to pale in  comparison to Fifty Shades in terms of sexual activities. Think red chili pepper kind of hot!

After reading the trilogy, I did not really recommend it to anybody. I wouldn’t dare recommend it to my sister and female cousins. I recommended it to friends whom I know have an open mind, in a mature relationship and Twilight fans as well. I’m quite hesitant since some people have been vocal that the trilogy is actually smut pretending to be a love story. Really, the BDSM part is taboo for some.

Maybe this is just a result of social networking power that propelled Fifty Shades to Kindle stardom. If you trace the history of Fifty Shades, it’s actually a fan fiction.

At this point, I am absolutely hoping that Universal Pictures will be able to make - as E.L. James bluntly said - “kinky fuckery”  worth watching in the big screen. I dread that it might come across as cheap sex flick. I am also crossing my fingers (and toes) that Ian Somerhalder of The Vampire Diaries fame will be dom Grey and Kristen Stewart as sub Ana.

 Ana prefers it weak, black and bag out. I, on the other hand, want it with sugar and lotsa creamer. Instant nai cha.

Lastly, I can never look at Twinings English breakfast tea or Ben and Jerry's ice cream the same way again. May the erotica flames brought by Fifty Shades die down just a little bit so I could enjoy the ice cream. Cheerio!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

On Books and Authors

Hit rewind please.

There was a time in my life when I was addicted to romance novels. I devoured them like a lioness in the field with a smorgasbord of prey animals. My hunger was uncontrollable I would skip meals just so I could buy a novel. This crazy phase transpired during college and post-grad. Yes, I cheated out of those thick heavy books. Somewhere between sleepless nights and nerdy essays was my addiction to romance novels. Bookstore is a happy place for me, a horizon where I could care less about details and facts.
After getting out of post-grad, I went back to that horizon. I had the money to buy the books that I want. I had the time to browse National Bookstore, Powerbooks and Fully Booked for top picks and Booksale for bargains. I had, of course, the eagerness to scan every nook and cranny of that portion in a bookstore devoted to fiction. I enjoyed this simple luxury since I was then a bratty boarder at my parents' house.
I may be living in the real world then but my mind was still trapped in a fictitious place. For me, fiction can be translated to reality – using most likely the same formula with how we treat our dreams. Dreams of a bookworm can be as trivial as finding an ancient bestseller amongst the piles and piles of bargain paperbacks. Or finding a bestseller which carries the same price as your favorite hot fudge sundae. Or meeting your favorite author and get him or her to sign your copy or shirt or even your underwear (wild imagination, sorry).
Meet Author # 1.

September 18, 2012 
32nd Manila International Book Fair
SMX Convention Center
Mall of Asia
I was in Cebu City when I first came across with the name Samanta Sotto. My husband attended a seminar at the Waterfront Hotel, thus he brought me along with him. I was  unnecessary in his purpose of travel, but I must be a wonderful wife (thank God for spices and seasonings in the cupboard) that he bribed me with shopping money in Cebu. Fully aware of our third world economy, he alloted a specific amount for me through the plastic card. Who am I to say no? I practically roamed around Ayala Center Cebu to kill time. Oh, impulsive shopping is a no-no to cheapskates like yours truly.
Obviously my first stop is the bookstore, my proverbial happy place. I was meticulously scanning the bestseller section, mostly filled with foreign authors. Then one hardbound carries the name which struck me as almost Filipino or Hispanic. The name is Samantha Sotto. I did not look for any "stray" copy which would allow me to take a sneak peek. Every potential buyer-slash-bookworm loves a copy uncovered in plastic so he could catch spoilers without the prying eyes of a saleslady. Blindly trusting my instincts, I picked it up and went directly to the cashier. For one nano-second, I felt guilty swiping my plastic card. For my husband and I, shopping money is meant to buy basic essentials. Basic is the word. Unfortunately, books don’t fall under that category these days. But husband knows I have rebellious genes.
I immediately positioned myself in the nearby coffee shop. Was it Starbucks? I hardly remember. What stuck to my mind though was how fascinated I am with the first few chapters. I was giddily happy. Not just because I have a new book but the fact that the author is a traveler herself. The book is like a living testament of her European travels and her fascination with baked eggs. But what struck me the most is her creativity to inject some historical stuff into a love story. It’s not a lovely love story (if you know what I mean); it’s rather tragic. Oh yes, it reminds me of The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.
All throughout the book I was transfixed with the interesting historical details and whatnots. I was fascinated with the places, the transformation of characters and the various dishes. I am always hungry for words and food, and Samantha Sotto’s novel surprisingly cured me from hunger. Yes, both for words and food. If an author does that to me, then I’d be singing praises for her till kingdom come.

Meet the woman who taught me to appreciate backpacking and baked eggs.
Fast forward to the 32nd Manila International Book Fair at SMX Convention Center. I took the chance to meet the author herself. I braved the epic EDSA traffic and the long line which was carefully guarded by event marshalls. My goal is pretty straightforward: to get Samantha Sotto sign my own copy. Anyway, I did manage to squeeze in my butt into the long line, never mind if my book carries Fully Booked price tag. (Note: The book-signing event was organized by National Book Store, so yes, you have to show proof that you bought the book from them. Whatevs.) Playing deaf and dumb to the event marshalls, I took my cue and smiled widely at the author. She was very friendly, toothy smile and all. I remembered asking her if a sequel is forthcoming. My inner bookworm goddess did a somersault on a trampoline! It's strange though that I don't remember her answer to my question. Hmmm.
Meet Author # 2.
October 28, 2011
Nicholas Sparks: Live in Manila
The Podium Mall
Looking back, I was thrilled to death when rumor has it that Nicholas Sparks is coming to Manila.
My excitement over his arrival went from skyrocket high to rock bottom. Podium Mall is so small to be filled with screaming fans. And I entertained images of stampede or my book getting dog-eared if I'm accidentally (or worse, purposely) shoved by a fan.
You know when they say don’t expect too much? It is so true. I did not expect at all. I was even passive when first asked if I am willing to line up to get that precious signature. 

The day has arrived. It’s the day that Nicholas Sparks will be signing hundreds of books. Clutching the newest novel The Best of Me, I went to Podium hesitantly.
Thank heavens, fellow bookworms are not as rowdy as I imagined. Reading surely make people inclined to peace and order. Who would want to put his or her precious book getting shabby at the book-signing event? No one, trust me. I held The Best of Me like it's a newborn.

Starstrucked is an understatement. I could not believe that I was finally face to face with the author! Lots of hospitable acts flashed through my mind. In no particular order, they are: Can I offer him a glass of halo-halo? Has he toured Intramuros already? Would he like to ride a jeepney? Would he even bother to taste our national dish – adobo? Kill me and my silly thoughts! If only, if only, if only. I could go on and on with my Filipino hospitality, but I totally forgot that he’s a Southerner. Of course, hospitality is stamped on his DNA! Predictably, the National Book Store team pampered him with our own brand of hospitality. And I wonder if Nicholas Sparks scribbled notes just to learn some Filipino lines. C'mon, magandang araw/gabi is very Araneta Coliseum concert. The guy can do better than that.

Meet the man who made me cry and fall in love with the true meaning of love.
I still remember the first time I picked A Walk to Remember among the bestsellers. Skeptic as I am, I never developed any fondness over plots with loved ones dying at the end. My principle is clear. If I am going to devote hours in reading, then I might as well read books which will make me feel good at the end. It's almost judicial notice that Nicholas Sparks' books are tear-jerkers. I have to thank Shane West for making me an enthusiastic convert. I watched the movie mainly because I love Shane West's broodin' and smokin' hot persona. To put it simply, he was my flavor of the year that year. Oh gee, I forgot the year!

Since I was secretly enamored with Shane West (Hollywood's too far, you know! And he looks like my crush then, but I got cured of my temporary farsightedness. Thank you. ), I felt obliged to read the book after watching the movie. Lo and behold, I found myself crying. It was a good cry. In fact, crying never felt that good. Sparks must be good, I thought, because he made me cry. So I picked up another Sparks. And it made me cry again. I bought another Sparks and tears streamed down my face again. So, the rest is history. One's tear glands can be seriously activated while reading Sparks. I became addicted to good crying moments. Crying suddenly became therapeutic. Crying became normal while reading Sparks. I never cried over stories that I've read until I picked up a Sparks book. So, thank you, Shane West!

To borrow that cheesy placard at the book signing, life without Sparks is no life at all. See? Cry if you must! A good kind of cry, that is. 

Update (as of 25 May 2012):

I tagged the author Samantha Sotto in my tweet, and much to my amusement, she replied in a jiffy. Certainly, one of Twitter's sweet rewards!