The Boss Book Review



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Review:

All the fuss about the release of EL James’s latest novel, Grey, which is 50 Shades of Grey from the perspective of Christian Grey, reminded me that months ago I downloaded The Boss, by Abigail Barnette, as a free Kindle ebook.

Abigail Barnette is the pen-name of Jenny Trout, who did a hilarious sporking of 50 Shades of Grey on her website a few years ago, and then decided to write, essentially, the “good” version of 50 Shades, including a realistic portrayal of BDSM and a hero who doesn’t confuse being “Dominant” with being an abusive, controlling stalker.

I have no intention of ever giving EL James a penny of my money if I can help it, but thanks to Grey reminding me yet again of everything I hate about the 50 Shades phenomenon, I decided to finally sit down and read The Boss as a sort of personal protest against that fact that EL James is about to get even richer.

The novel follows Sophie Scaife, an overworked and underappreciated assistant, whose future is left uncertain when the magazine where she works is purchased by billionaire media mogul Neil Elwood. Sophie immediately realizes Neil is the same guy she had a one night stand with six years earlier – a one night stand she still remembers as the best sexual experience of her life – and it’s not long before the two renew their relationship.

I liked the novel okay, I guess. I’m not really sure it’s my kind of book, to be honest, although if you like m/f BDSM romance, you’ll probably love it. I read Dominant and submissive stuff occasionally in slashfic (m/m), but the power dynamics seem to inevitably end up making me a little uncomfortable in m/f romance, even when there’s an attempt, as there is in The Boss, to be feminist about it. Also, the age difference was way bigger than I personally prefer – I’m fine with a certain difference (heck, my own husband is 6 years older than I am, which is probably above average) but in The Boss, Neil literally has a daughter the same age as Sophie. Which grosses me out when man-child Hollywood stars do it, and grossed me out a little in The Boss, too. I also felt that the initial development of the D/s relationship between Neil and Sophie was a little rushed. It was established early on that she liked to be spanked, but aside from that, I thought she went awfully quickly from “sure, I’ll try anything once” to “I have an uncontrollable urge to submit to you sexually.”

What I did like about the book was that it did indeed have a realistic and respectful portrayal of BDSM that put a lot of emphasis on consent, which is (in my admittedly limited understanding) absolutely critical to a healthy BDSM relationship, and gave a balanced presentation of what both parties get out of a BDSM relationship, both sexually and emotionally. Both the book itself and Neil are VERY pro-female pleasure, which makes for a much nicer dynamic than Ana cringing and crying when stuff goes too far.

I also loved the positive portrayal of friendships and other close relationships between women, which is an area where both 50 Shades and Twilight were deeply, disturbingly lacking. (Note how Jenny began her sporking of 50 Shades with the subtitle “why Ana is the shittiest friend ever?” Yeah. It doesn’t get any less true.)

Finally, I enjoyed the actual plot, which, while it didn’t take up nearly as many pages as the pr0n, was reminiscent of The Devil Wears Prada in that it involved a lot of backstabbing and other shenanigans at a New York fashion magazine. Evidently, I’m a sucker for political intrigue even when it involves no actual politics.

Bonus: as I mentioned, it’s free for Kindle! However, the three sequels – The Girlfriend, The Bride, and The Ex – are $3.99 each.

My rating: (3 / 5)

To Marry an English Lord Book Review



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Review:

If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey, the novels of Edith Wharton, or similar period pieces, I can’t recommend To Marry an English Lord, by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace, highly enough. Starting in the 1870s, many wealthy and beautiful American heiresses, snubbed by stuffy New York high society, moved to England, where they married into the British aristocracy, saving many a bankrupt family estate in the process. These matches had surprisingly far reaching consequences for both British and American society, and included Randolph and Jennie Churchill, parents of Winston, George and Mary Curzon, who became the second highest ranking woman in the British Empire after Lord Curzon was named viceroy of India, and James and Frances Burke-Roche, great-grandparents of Princess Diana. The book also focuses a great deal on Alva Vanderbilt and her daughter Consuelo (pictured on the cover), who married the Duke of Marlborough and later shared her experiences in the classic memoir The Glitter and the Gold. (If you’re interested in the Vanderbilt ladies, I also recommend Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt: The Story of a Daughter and a Mother in the Gilded Age.)

To Marry an English Lord is a well-written, informative, and highly entertaining peek into the lives of wealthy and aristocratic Americans and Brits in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras. Many parts read kind of like a Victorian People magazine, and the gossip is still as scorching now as it was 120 years ago! My only complaint is the format of the book, which is copiously illustrated and stuffed with so many info boxes and two page spreads on different details that it can be difficult to read. Hard to fault a book too much for providing too much information, though, especially when it’s as fascinating as this one!

Originally published in 1989, To Marry an English Lord has been re-released as a result of the popularity of Downton Abbey, which features an Anglo-American marriage between Lord Robert and Cora Crawley that is similar to those described in this book.

My rating: (4.5 / 5)

Humans of New York Book Review



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Review:

I have been to New York City only once, when I was 7 years old. I barely remember it. On top of that, as a lifelong resident of “flyover country” I’ve always felt a certain resentment at the amount of screen and page time devoted to stories about the city, at the expense of almost every other American city but LA (and perhaps Washington DC), and even worse, the common (though not universal) attitude of New Yorkers themselves that their city is the center of the world and anyone not lucky enough to live there (or at least visit regularly) is blighted, uncultured, and backwards. I mean, I’d like to go back some day, just so I can say I have, but it’s substantially lower on my list than, you know, visiting all 59 national parks or something like that. I have exactly ZERO interest in living there, even for a year. Big cities are not my forte to begin with and New York is both populous and compact. The very thought of all that humanity piled on top of itself practically makes me break out in hives.

So it was much to my own surprise that I found myself pulled in by the popular blog Humans of New York, by photographer Brandon Stanton. I think what makes the blog so wonderful (for me) is how it distills the essence of all that humanity – the wit and wisdom, the beauty and eccentricity, the stories – without the stench and noise and claustrophobia of it all.

If the blog is distilled essence of humanity, the book is distilled essence of blog – 400 of Stanton’s best and favorite photos from his first three years of photoblogging. It’s a beautiful book – by turns uplifting, thought-provoking, and funny. Not bad to look at either.

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My rating: (4 / 5)

Friends With Benefits Movie Review



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Review:

Saw this with my husband on “date night” without especially high expectations, but ended up really enjoying it. Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis had great chemistry and the script was crackling with energy and banter. Even the raunchy parts were kind of cute, thanks to some realistic awkwardness.

My rating: (4 / 5)

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Enchanted Movie Review

Review:

Disney isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself! Enchanted is a charming and fun send-up of many of Disney’s stock tropes and cliches. Amy Adams is adorable as Giselle and Susan Sarandon looks like she’s having the time of her life as the wicked stepmother. I also loved James Marsden as the well meaning but hopelessly oblivious Prince Edward. My only question is why they hired a famous Broadway star like Idina Menzel and then never had her sing!

My rating: (4 / 5)

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You’ve Got Mail Movie Review



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Review:

A smart and charming update of The Shop Around the Corner that benefits from the great chemistry between Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. As a confirmed hick, this film is also to be commended for accomplishing the rare task of making me want to visit New York.

My rating: (4 / 5)

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