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review 2014-08-14 21:30
I'm Just Tired of FSoG Tropes
Little Black Book - Tabatha Vargo,Melissa Andrea

You know the deal...rich alpha-hole is looking for no strings attached sex; instead he meets the perfectly gorgeous virgin who he can't resist falling in love with and now wants to live happily ever after with her.  I'm exhausted...


Sebastian Black has a little black book with names of women he calls when he's feeling in the mood for no-strings sex.  He doesn't want to know these women's names so he names them all after cartoon characters.  There's Wilma and Betty for when he's in the mood for a threesome and there's blonde, doe-eyed Bambi.  They collect a weekly salary for their time.  The rules are that they can't fall in love and they make themselves available any time Sebastian calls.  He's looking for his Jessica Rabbit -- the perfect red-headed bombshell.  


Rosslyn is in dire straits. Her parents were killed 12 years ago so she and her 13 year old brother have been living with their grandmother since.  Granny just passed away and they've lost their home.  Rosslyn and her lil bro are living in their Oldsmobile so Rosslyn has no choice but to take a job at Sebastian's club.  As soon as Sebastian sees Rosslyn, he has to have her.  She's his Jessica Rabbit...


Rosslyn's situation couldn't be more perfect for Sebastian's nefarious plans.  He likes his girls desperate so they can't refuse his offer to add them to his stable of available pussy.  So what does Sebastian do? He fires Rosslyn then presents his offer. Add in Rosslyn getting arrested and her lil brother being taken by child protective services and...


I didn't like the way Sebastian used his power to take advantage of Rosslyn's situation to get what he wants.  

I didn't like that Rosslyn just falls in line so easily as if selling herself is her only option to put food on the table and a roof over their heads.  And letting Sebastian call her by another name, OH HELL NO! Also, I hate the naive 20-something virgin who is the best lay ever in the history of sex after one time.  


I did like the pace of the story, the tension, and the plot twist here, but I must say that I figured it out early after a few clues.  Overall, Little Black Book kept me engaged, so isn't a bad book but it definitely didn't blow me away either. LBB gave me that been-there-done-that (many times over) feeling.  

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text 2014-04-25 04:23
"She didn't take a dime. She took everything that mattered."
Beg - C.D. Reiss

Heart wrenching passion is throughout this book. It is very deep, involved and on point. Set in LA the heroine Monica is a struggling artist who waits tables. She falls for the boss and bites off way more than she can chew.. The prose is excellent. Great art references and C.D. Reiss describes LA with perfection. 


Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC... I read the book because I could, I bought the entire series because I am a fan!!!! 


This is what FSOG will be if it grew up..

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review 2013-11-05 18:20
Sugar Daddy
Sugar Daddy - Rie Warren

Despite the slightly FSoG-esque plot -- you know, the über rich man looking for a contractual, but no (love) strings attached mistress for his pleasure, who eventually falls in love and reforms his hard-hearted ways, I was intrigued. I had sworn off this trope but my resolution was weakened by a bit of a book slump. The title/blurb sounded like something that'd be a quick, light romantic read.  That's not what I got AT. ALL. In some ways that was a good thing; in others not so good.

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text 2013-10-08 13:00
30 Day Book Challenge, Day 8 - Most Overrated Book
A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin

Ah, today is the day we all insult each other’s favorite books. 

I have seen the Harry Potter books declared overrated so many times it doesn’t even register any more.  In addition to them, I suspect Twilight and Fifty Shades of Gray will appear often.  Also Wolf Hall.  I think every bestseller is overrated to someone.  A chacun son gout!


I can’t choose Fifty Shades of Gray because I haven’t read it and I am not going to.  Ever.  I read bits of Master of the Universe and thought it was dreadful.  I’ve read parts of a few of the dozens (or are we up to hundreds now?) of stupid new adult knock offs of it and they are all dreadful as well.  So I am certain it is dreadful, but I haven’t read it and it is basically “fantasy with a very personal purpose” and I suppose it succeeds well enough at that, so instead my personal choice is:

My personal choice:


I like fantasy.  I like complicated world building and I like family sagas (and let’s face it, this is one).  I tried to like this book.  I tried four times to like this book.  And I don’t hate it.  I’m not even disappointed in it.  I just don’t think it is the incredible book that I keep hearing it is. 

I found it almost all the characters unlikeable or worse - boring.  The only one I liked was the illegitimate son who was serving at some outpost and I was sort of interested in the warlord (Khal Drogo, I think) and the brother-sister team that were involved with him.  But every time the book returned to the Starks and Lannisters, I fell asleep.  Blaaaaah.  Which is what I think of most of this book.  It is just blah.

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review 2013-09-28 11:30
Fifty Shades of Rape Culture
Fifty Shades of Grey - E.L. James

*Trigger Warning: This review contains strong themes, to include rape.*

To those that followed my reading progress, thank you. Many of the conversations we had in the comments sections of my status updates got my mind churning and were what led to the amount of research I did on the subjects I plan to cover here.

Before I begin what will likely become a very long rant/public service announcement, let me first say a few words. I have nothing against E.L. James. Nothing. She’s said that this series is a fantasy she managed to put on paper and that she never expected it to gain such momentum. Good for her for perusing her dream of writing. If this book also fulfills one of your fantasies or if you just plain enjoyed it, good for you too. This review is in no way meant to belittle or condemn you for liking these books and nor is it an attack on the author. These are solely MY OPINIONS about how dangerous FSoG is to society and specifically to women. 

Needless to say, this book does not fulfill one of my fantasies. It’s pretty much my biggest nightmare.

“But it’s just fiction!”

No. You can’t use that argument with me. Not anymore. This book is not “just fiction”. This book has become a frigging phenomenon. As I write this, over 70 million copies have been sold in the United States alone, hardware stores have run out of“natural fiber” rope and there are even ‘BDSM for Beginners’ classes cropping up in small town America.

So excuse me, but I can’t just read this and think of it like a fantasy, not when it’s become a reality for so many people and not when I was so enraged by what I found within it.

*Part one of the review* 

Okay everyone, take a deep breath, grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and settle in. We’re going to be here for a while. First up is probably the most inflammatory of the statements I’m going to make so we might as well rip the band aid off.


There, I’ve said it. I’m not taking it back and I’m not apologizing. If you’re unfamiliar with this phrase, allow me to elaborate.Wikipedia defines rape culture as:

“A term used within women's studies and feminism, describing a culture in which rape and other sexual violence (usually against women) are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media condone, normalize, excuse, or encourage sexualized violence.”

Let’s look at the first half of that definition. As much as we may want to ignore the facts, rape and sexual violence are common in America. According to RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted every 2 minutes. On average that’s about 207,754 sexual assaults each year. 54% of sexual assaults are not reported, 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail and 2/3 of these assaults are committed by someone known to the victim.

I could go on for days about how prevalent attitudes, practices and the media condone sexual violence but I won’t because I’m really going to try and keep my words and links relevant to FSoG. Thankfully, throughout my research, I found several…hundred.

The University of California has an interesting article about how social and cultural norms perpetuate rape and rape culture. In it, they specifically address how women are conditioned from early ages to be passive and accept and affect certain attitudes and behaviors. Here are some of the social rules they list and elaborate on:

1. When spoken to, a woman must acknowledge the other person with a gracious smile.
2. Women must answer questions asked of them.
3. Women must not bother other people or make a scene because they are uncomfortable.
4. When in trouble, it is best to defer to the protection and judgment of men.
5. Casual touching or suggestive comments in social settings are meant as a tribute to a woman’s desirability.
6. It is the natural state of affairs for men to carry the financial burden of social situations.
7. When engaged in a social encounter, it is not proper for a woman to superior in any game, sport or discussion if she wants to be accepted.
8. Women should always accept and trust the kindness of strangers if they offer help.

There’s a blog post by Harriet Jacobs that also speaks to this and I urge you to read it in its entirety. In short, it says “…women are raised being told by parents, teachers, media, peers, and all surrounding social strata that:

· it is not okay to set solid and distinct boundaries and reinforce them immediately and dramatically when crossed (“mean bitch”)
· it is not okay to appear distraught or emotional (“crazy bitch”)
· it is not okay to make personal decisions that the adults or other peers in your life do not agree with, and it is not okay to refuse to explain those decisions to others (“stuck-up bitch”)
· it is not okay to refuse to agree with somebody, over and over and over again (“angry bitch”)
· it is not okay to have (or express) conflicted, fluid, or experimental feelings about yourself, your body, your sexuality, your desires, and your needs (“bitch got daddy issues”)
· it is not okay to use your physical strength (if you have it) to set physical boundaries (“dyke bitch”)
· it is not okay to raise your voice (“shrill bitch”)
· it is not okay to completely and utterly shut down somebody who obviously likes you (“mean dyke/frigid bitch”)

Now how do these two examples relate to FSoG? Simply put, Ana, the main character in this series, continuously exhibits the behaviors listed in the rules and seems to have the mentality of those listed in the bullets. She might as well be the case study on which both were based.

Early in the book there’s an interaction between her and a young man named Paul, the son of the couple she works for. This is someone she says has “always been a buddy”. Just after they greet each other with a hug “he releases me but keeps a possessive arm draped over my shoulder. I shuffle from foot to foot, embarrassed. It’s good to see Paul, but he’s always been overly familiar”

Does she tell him that she’s uncomfortable or step out from beneath his arm? No, that’d be going against everything that rule number three has taught her. Plus, she wouldn’t want to come across as a “mean bitch” now would she? 

Just after this, Paul asks her out. “Whenever he’s home he asks me on a date, and I always say no. It’s a ritual.” Is it a ritual? Or is it something more than that? Has Ana, like many of us, been conditioned to follow the rules to such a degree that she doesn’t know how to tell him “It’s not okay to keep asking me out”? Is she so terrified of breaking cultural norms and coming across as a mean-crazy-angry-dyke-shrill-frigid bitch that she’ll put up with his pursuit of her indefinitely? Or does she just not know to put a stop to it because she hasn’t been taught to?

When she turns him down, yet again, he goes on to say “Ana, one of these days you’ll say yes.” Creeped out yet? You should be. How does Ana respond to this declaration? By escaping the room they’re in and getting back to a crowded store floor. What does this tell us? She felt the need to flee. She felt the need to not be alone with him. Part of her clearly recognized the danger of the situation and the repeated advances of her “friend”. But instead of speaking up, she fled.

She never voices her discomfort. She is the submissive, quiet person that society has taught her to be. And 70 million people have read about her and have had these dangerously passive behaviors reinforced, yet again, through her actions, behaviors and words (or lack thereof).

How will this same mentality play out in a situation involving sexual assault? I can tell you, because just a few chapters later, she’s sexually assaulted, by another of her “friends”.

“José, I’m okay. I’ve got this.” I try to push him away rather feebly. 
“Ana, please,” he whispers, and now he’s holding me in his arms, pulling me close.
“José, what are you doing?”
“You know I like you Ana, please.” He has one hand at the small of my back holding me against him, the other at my chin tipping back my head. Holy fuck…he’s going to kiss me.
“No, José, stop – no.” I push him, but he’s a wall of hard muscle, and I cannot shift him. His hand has slipped into my hair, and he’s holding my head in place. 
“Please, Ana, cariƄo,” he whispers against my lips… He gently trails kisses along my jaw up to the side of my mouth. I feel panicky, drunk, and out of control. The feeling is suffocating.
“José, no,” I plead. I don’t want this.

Luckily, Ana is spared further abuse because the one and only Christian Grey arrives on the scene and saves her. How? By saying “I think the lady said no.” That’s right. Ana can try to push José away and tell him ‘no’ multiple times but that’s not good enough. One sentence from a man and José immediately releases her, bringing us back to rule number four: When in trouble, it is best to defer to the protection and judgment of men. You got that, ladies? Don’t try to fight back because you’ll just be ignored, rely instead on a man. Sort of a catch 22 when the one who’s going to get you into trouble will likely also be a man.

Bear in mind that this little scene takes place in the parking lot outside of a crowded bar, just a shout away from salvation. You’re probably wondering why Ana didn’t scream. Why she didn’t fight harder. Well, I’d like to bring up Harriet Jacob’s blog post again because just after her “bitch list” she says this:

“If we teach women that there are only certain ways they may acceptably behave, we should not be surprised when they behave in those ways.

And we should not be surprised when they behave these ways during attempted or completed rapes.

Women who are taught not to speak up too loudly or too forcefully or too adamantly or too demandingly are not going to shout “NO” at the top of their goddamn lungs just because some guy is getting uncomfortably close.

Women who are taught not to keep arguing are not going to keep saying “NO.”

Women who are taught that their needs and desires are not to be trusted, are fickle and wrong and are not to be interpreted by the woman herself, are not going to know how to argue with “but you liked kissing, I just thought…”

Women who are taught that physical confrontations make them look crazy will not start hitting, kicking, and screaming until it’s too late, if they do at all…

Nobody obtains the superpower to behave dramatically differently during a frightening confrontation. Women will behave the same way they have been taught to behave in all social, professional, and sexual interactions.”

Eerie, isn’t it? I sure thought so. Hopefully by now you’re beginning to understand the inflammatory statement this all started with.

Not only do Ana’s actions and behaviors throughout the book reinforce the horrible societal conditioning that I mentioned earlier but this series also contains a lot of the other facets of rape culture, like victim silencing. For instance, once she’s collected herself, this happens:

“Turning, I glance at José, who looks pretty shamefaced himself and, like me, intimidated by Grey. I glare at him. I have a few choice words for my so-called friend, none of which I can repeat in front of Christian Grey, CEO. Ana, who are you kidding? He’s just seen you hurl all over the ground and into the local flora. There’s no disguising you lack of ladylike behavior.”

That’s right folks. It isn’t ladylike to yell (shrill bitch). It isn’t ladylike to swear (crazy bitch). It isn’t ladylike to defend yourself after you’ve just been sexually assaulted (mean bitch). Leave that to the menfolk. Surely they’ll defend you. Surely they’ll be the ones to address the fact that you were just sexually assaulted. Men, you know, the other sex, the ones that have been raised to talk about emotions. In public.

And while we’re discussing this scene we can’t forget about rule number eight: Women should always accept and trust the kindness of strangers if they offer help. That’s what Christian is to her at this point in the book. A stranger. She’s seen him only three times, in formal or work-related settings, and knows nothing about him other than he’s rich, good looking and that his shopping list resembles those of serial killers (I’ll get to that last part later in the review). But accept his help and trust his kindness she does. She lets this complete stranger remove her from the bar, assuming that as he’s just saved her from a sexual assault, he's not planning one of his own.

When she wakes up in his suite the next morning, pantsless by the way, she accuses Christian of stalking her. He defends himself by saying:

“…if I hadn’t come to get you, you’d probably waking up in the photographer’s (José’s) bed, and from what I can remember, you weren’t overly enthused about him pressing his suit,” he (Christian) says acidly. 
Pressing his suit! I glance up at Christian. He’s glaring at me, eyes blazing, aggrieved. I try to bit my lip, but I fail to repress my giggle.
“Which Medieval chronicle did you escape from? You sound like a courtly knight.”

You got that? Stalking’s okay. Because it’s better than being raped.


I’m almost at a loss at how to address the rest of this without copious amounts of swearing. How little she’s concerned with her “friend’s” behavior is appalling. That there’s no thought on her end about Christian’s allusion to her rape escape is appalling. How she glosses over it all and makes a fucking joke about it is appalling. It continues by the way.

“I would have been fine. I was with Kate.”
“And the photographer?” he (Christian) snaps at me.
“José just got out of line.” I shrug.

A shrug is a dismissive gesture, just in case you were wondering. She dismisses sexual assault as ‘getting out of line’. She downplays the severity of what happened. Why does she do this? Because it’s awkward to talk about it? Because it’s scary to think that someone she knows and trusts assaulted her and that when she tried to push him away and said ‘no’ he ignored her? Guess what? It’s always going to suck to talk about. It’s always scary to realize that statistics say that if you’re raped, you’ll know your attacker. But we need to talk about these things because if we don’t, nothing will ever change.

And now the grand finale, victim shaming and blaming. You see, José feels bad for what he did. At first, Ana is pissed at him, as she should be, and even after he calls her numerous times and leaves several messages, she continues to ignore him, deciding to “let him stew”. Then the NEXT DAY, this happens:

"The memory of José’s attempted kiss haunts me. I’m beginning to feel a bit cruel not calling him back."

She feels cruel? She feels cruel for not returning the calls of the man that forced himself upon her? Well, of course she does. She's been trained to be gracious and polite. He's addressing her. Rule number one has taught her that she should smile in this situation so it would make sense that she feels bad for not doing so. 

Two days later, they talk:

“Can I see you? I’m sorry about Friday night. I was drunk…and you…well. Ana – please forgive me.”
“Of course, I forgive you José. Just don’t do it again. You know I don’t feel like that about you.”

Here’s where I start to get really angry. “..and you…” what exactly? Were there? Were breathing? Had tits? How can José’s behavior in any way be blamed on Ana? This is the “she deserved to be raped because she was wearing a skirt” mentality that needs to be burned from our collective minds. No one can ever make you do anything. Everything you do, every way you behave is a choice that you and you alone make. So no, there is no “…and you…”.

Books like this, with scenes like the ones I’ve spoken about only perpetuate our silence, our ignorance, our discomfort, and our complicity. They reinforce unhealthy behaviors and thinking patterns and they perpetuate rape culture. 

Authors, I beg you, don’t cover tough issues and strong themes if you can’t do them justice. Grant them the depth and the severity they deserve. Please.

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