amazon prime = I buy more stuff (from amazon at least)

Huh, Amazon is having a big “prime” day on the 15th.  We didn’t know that when we first queued up this post.  Go us?

#1 had resisted getting Prime for a long time.  Not because of the annual cost of the thing (we spend more than that on Netflix each year), but because of the behavioral changes I worried might come with it.  It’s not so bad to wait for products– waiting encourages introspection and makes it easier to put something on the wishlist since getting it in 7-10 days isn’t so much different than getting it at the next holiday (or failing that, getting it at Target on the weekend).  Once it’s on the wishlist it either displaces a potentially unwanted present, or it might no longer be needed.

Without Amazon Prime I would also batch up orders to make sure I could get to $35 before purchasing to get free shipping.  Though sometimes if I needed something, I would either have to pay shipping or find something I didn’t need right away to add to the list (but, of course, there’s always the wish-list for those items).

But then I needed Blues Clues and Dora the Explorer because DH had taken the ipad and its children’s games with him.  We do have Netflix, but at the time it mainly only had PBS Kids stuff (now it’s got a lot more variety, like My Little Pony, which I swear is the best show on kids’ TV these days, except maybe Doc McStuffins).  Also DC1 wanted to read more Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja and that’s on the list of things that can be read free (one book a month) for Amazon Prime members.  So we did their free monthly trial.

Like many technology things, Amazon Prime is one of those things that you don’t need until you have it and once you’ve had it it seems essential.  Yes, it has increased our amazon spending– if we need something soonish, we really do just go on amazon and order it.   This is especially useful for when we get a flyer from school at the beginning of the week saying we need something by Friday.  However, it has also, I think, cut down on our Target and Home Depot purchases.  So I’m not sure what the overall net effect is on spending and stuff-acquisition.  The number of amazon boxes randomly showing up at the house seems to have slowed in the months since we first got it, though I’m not sure how much of that is due to the Prime effect slowing down and how much is due to, you know, getting ready to move.

Should you get Prime?  Probably not, unless you care more about convenience than spending and stuff acquisition, which you may.  Or really want Nickelodeon kids’ television.  Once you have it, you may find it hard to ever give up, even after the free month is over.

#2

The shelter put the foster kittens on a kind of kibble that I can’t find in my local stores, so I ordered it from Prime rather than driving around to any more stores.  Also the special kitten-safe litter, just because that’s heavy and awkward to carry home from the store 2 blocks away with the other groceries.

Privilege, I haz it.  And it’s super-great!

I shop through smile.amazon.com, which is the exact same as amazon (same interface, account info and preferences) except it also donates to a charity you choose.  Not a lot (a Google search suggests .5% or $5 for every $1000 you spend), but more than 0.  Partner and I don’t factor this in to our yearly charitable donations.

This post is not a plug, we don’t get paid for this post (though we do get paid a bit if you buy any stuff through affiliate links).  We’re just spitballin’ about the conveniences of our lives.

We know very well that Amazon can treat people badly.  We are not unconflicted about this.  But the convenience is just too much.

Do you use Amazon Prime?  Why or why not? If you do, have you noticed it affecting your spending habits at all?

In which we talk about good books that are great to read

#1:  BTW, *all* of the Survivors’ Club books I’ve read so far have been delightful.  It is a fun fun series.
#2:  I stayed up late reading The Escape.  It was so good!  I was impressed with how Balogh managed to work everything out neatly at the end of The Escape.  Not TOO neat and tidy, but everything turned out in the end!

#1:  right now I’m knee deep in the first one I think the Escape’s been the best so far, but I seriously enjoyed the first two.
#2:  who gets together in the first one?
#1: Hugo, Lord Eames.

#2: Big ups for disability representation. I was impressed.
#1: YES! and she’s obviously done her research on the disabilities, even the mental health ones, which you will see in Flavian Lord Ponsoby’s story
#2:  excellent.  He has the stutter, and doesn’t Hugo have the PTSD? At the end of The Escape is a short story called “The Suitor” about Vincent, too.
#1:  Hugo mostly came to terms with his disability in the 7 years between leaving the war and the book starting. But there’s another mental health story that rings really true in the first book
#2: Excellent.
#1: You know I’m going to have to get the series.
#2:  Phillippa Dean is supposed to go marry Vincent the Viscount, but her heart is set on old flame Julian Crabbe…. CAN TRUE LOVE WIN THE DAY?
#1:  oh man oh man.  We meet Phillippa Dean at the beginning of Vincent’s book and her engagement is mentioned in his book near the end. They’re all so good. Vincent is a good guy.
#2:  well we already know who Vincent marries

#1: Get The Proposal (Book 1) next that’s the one I am thoroughly enjoying.  It also has a lot of commentary on class and culture and some signs of the end of the victorian age. The only thing it’s lacking is more stuff about agriculture.  I mean, it talks about agriculture, but doesn’t get into the weeds like I like.  Heyer does a good job getting into the weeds there.
#2:  if you want long tracts about agriculture you can always read Anna Karenina
#1: ugh, no thank you
#2: so many cabbages
#1:  I wrote a paper in college on Emma in the midst of an agricultural revolution
#2:  you are delightfully nerdy
#1:  My prof was especially impressed with me noticing that the only time Harriet says anything sensible is when she’s talking about agriculture.
#2:  you are one smart cookie.
#1:  That semester I was taking three classes that spent large portions of time on 19th century England.  Only my math class was exempt.
#2:  in college I wrote snarky-ass papers about how much I liked the characters in the V.I. Warshawski Novels by Sara Paretsky.  Especially Lotte, the Austrian Jewish doctor who performed free safe abortions
#1:  I have not read Sara Paretsky
#2:  I dunno that you’d like her. Chicago-based private eye VI Warshawski solves mysteries. If you like detective novels they’re good.
#1:  My mom left a bunch of similar themed books here the last time she stayed.  They haven’t been light enough for me to want to get into them
#2: yeah, they’re probably not fluffy enough for you right now
#1: it must be a sub-genre, mystery novels with abortion doctors in them.  My mom left one series about a historical midwife who solves crimes, I think.  They’re all just a little bit sordid
#2:  oh, hunh.  I didn’t know that.  This character’s main trait isn’t that she does abortions though, it’s that she is a great friend
#1:  mostly they seem to be early 20th century.  Wait, does this have an Australian mini-series based on it?
#2: no
#1: have you seen that?
#2: not that I know of anyway.  What series?
#1: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries I think set in the 1920s.
#2:  no, these ones are later than that
#1:  we saw two episodes and it was really high quality but too sordid for me
#2: these [Paretsky] ones are like in the 1990s
#1:  ah, the ones my mom left are all 1920s-1950s
#2: and I think (IIRC) that the friend is not specifically an abortion doctor, just that she knows how to do abortions and so she does them (in addition to other doctoring).  The VI Warshawski ones are like 1990s. If I’m thinking of the right series, she goes rollerblading.
#2:  hunh! Never heard of those but it does look like lovely production values
#1:  I suspect you will love it.  Australian.  Really interesting because the upper-crust all have British accents, but the normal people have Aussie accents.
#2:  actually I think I have heard of the book series but not read them
#2: I will probably enjoy that, you’re right

#1:  I want to read the stories of some of these other characters too [in the Survivors’ Club].  The glimpses of backstories are so interesting that I’m certain there must be another series that gives them full attention.  I love the way Balogh has created an entire world and we see people in it multiple times.  Even if there are still more young attractive dukes than could ever be possible.  I wonder what book is Lily’s story
#2: mmm delicious dukes
#1: this one has a lovely way of showing the same scene from both the hero and the heroine’s perspectives. Aiee, I just hit the part where the reader is firmly convinced that they’re perfect for each other.  Balogh is CLEVER.

What’s on your iPod?

This video because I am a huge nerd.  Also this video (NSFW!) because it is the funniest thing in the whole world.  Kanye’s song Power.  Albums and songs by Monty Python, MC Frontalot (quite a lot of songs), U2, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (singing Handel), Kathleen Battle, Michelle Branch, OAR, old Madonna, TMBG, Jessie J, Jonathan Coulton, the Muppets, P!nk, the Police, the Lion King, and the complete soundtrack of Labyrinth.

Podcasts about books and video games and other nerdy stuff and general stuff (some from maximumfun.org).  A photo of my cat.  A photo of my coolest pair of shoes.  A cartoon.

#2 does not have an ipod.  It is very sad.  Hir DH mostly keeps audio books on his mp3, and the occasional wait wait don’t tell me podcast or splendid table podcast.  We outnerd #1.  NPR nerdz!

What about you?

 

Who are your favorite authors of color?

Excelsior Bev recently asked her students who their favorite African American authors were, and we thought that was a fun question, but that we’d broaden it a bit.

#1:  Alexandre Dumas (Jr) hands down– though I didn’t know he was black until recently!   He’s not so great with his female characters (who are either paper dolls or evil villains), but his books are so much fun that I forgive him.

After that I know there are a lot of worthy POC authors who write amazing award winning serious fiction (and I did like Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and Their Eyes Were Watching God, but as worthy books, not fun books), but I really like popcorn books.  I really do.   So that means people like Lisa Yee and Justina Chen.  I also love almost all of A. Lee Martinez’s books.

Scalzi had a post the other month talking about the “read just women and people of color” challenge someone was doing, and I asked for recommendations for fun light stuff, but the only person who replied has a very different definition of “light” than I do (pro-tip:  Stephen King is not light).  That post also indicated to me that romance novelist Courtney Milan is a POC, which I didn’t know (I like her stuff!).  Recommendations for light stuff welcome in the comments!  (I did read some Marta Acosta light vampire stuff, and it was ok, but not worth owning.) (#2 owns the first but not the second book.)

#2 ZOMG, N. K. Jemisin all day long.  Saladin Ahmed.  Justina Chen Headley (again).  Y. S. Lee.  Nnedi Okorafor.  Dia Reeves.  Michelle Sagara (her stuff sometimes makes #1 cry on airplanes).  Gene Luen Yang.  I recently read Sofia Samatar’s award-winning novel and liked it.

And, as everybody should already know, Octavia E. Butler is objectively one of the best science fiction authors of all time.  (But not light!)

Start there!

Of course, we’re of a couple of minds about these segregated lists.  Well, not really.  It’s just a nuanced stand.  We hate the need for these separate lists and we wish that people would be included on the regular lists of “best of” because many *belong* there.  However, society isn’t there yet, so these lists are a way for people to broaden their horizons so that they can come into contact with amazing authors they wouldn’t normally read.  Being on one of these segregated lists should in no way preclude someone from going on the more general lists of “best of” and we should think really hard when we make a general “best of” list about composition to make sure we’re not running into implicit biases.  A standard procedure is to think about the best POC or female etc. author not on the general list and to compare him or her to the worst person on the general list (iterating to the next underrepresented person etc.).  More often than should be the case, that person really belongs on the general list too and was not included because of subconscious biases.  Eventually, thinking about people from underrepresented groups while making the list rather than after the list is made becomes more automatic.

One place where there are plenty of authors of color is the banned books list.  Boo.

Got anyone else we should read?  Spend your tax refund on books!  Or save it and use your library.

On sex scenes in books

#1 and #2 have somewhat differing views on this topic.

#1 dislikes most sex scenes in most books and skips over them because they tend to be boring and gratuitous.  The book would have been better served just closing the door before the scene occurred.  #2 loves sex scenes and appreciates them way more, and never ever skips them.

However, occasionally a book will have a good sex scene in it.  What makes a good sex scene in #1’s view is that it either drives forward character development or it drives forward the plot.  A really good sex scene will not be identical for every character.  The lovers will discover something about themselves or about each other, or the reader will discover something.  It isn’t just sex!

There’s only one Georgette Heyer novel that #1 wishes had a sex scene in it, A Civil Contract.  In it they have to have had sex, but how?

Good sex scenes:  Freedom and Necessity had a fantastic true-to-life scene.  One Good Earl Deserves a Lover had three really good sex scenes in it, each different and full of character development (and steamy!)  Both of us love those two books!  There are many others that aren’t coming to mind right now (the former is the first sex scene I came across worth reading, the latter is the most recent #1 has read).  Mary Balough is pretty good at them too.  I don’t remember which book it was, but there was a great regency where the hero kept asking for consent and the heroine kept giving it… despite what the Jonathan Chaits of the world would have us believe, consent is really sexy.  #2 agrees and also thinks there are way more good sex scenes than #1 has found!  But then again, I read erotica and slashfic, neither of which #1 reads.

Bad sex scenes:  Anything non-consensual or that starts out non-consensual, especially if it starts out non-consensual (furthering the myth that she’ll like it once it gets started).  This includes characters who are not capable of consent.  Unanimous Ewwww.  Any sex scene that could be repeated with any other pair of characters is also bad to #1 (but not as bad to #2)… the generic scene written without the characters in mind.  And, of course, there are certain over-used turns of phrase that tend to make the reader giggle… that works if the sex scene is supposed to make the reader giggle (or it fits the characters’ thought processes), but usually it’s just a really badly written scene.  Turgid!  #2 wishes that men in sex scenes would quit laving everything.  Find a thesaurus.

Readers, tell us the best sex scenes in fiction!

breaking news: Books are good

You should read Love Is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson.  Just get it.

This book is so good and I stayed up way too late to finish it. Also, if you can get the hardback, do, because the design is quite beautiful.  [Note, however, that the kindle version is $2.99, so even if you don’t love it as much as #1 did, you’re not out that much.]

The book is about high schoolers dealing with race and romance at an expensive prep school in DC.  The protagonist, Emily (or “Bird” to her friends), goes to a party and wakes up in the hospital, unsure what happened.  But there’s a spy chasing her, convinced she knows something important about the pandemic virus that’s sweeping the country.  She doesn’t, but maybe the mysterious drug dealer she’s been flirting with does?  Who can she trust?  Not her parents, not her boyfriend, and probably not the government.

 

I’m not doing it justice but it’s got all kinds of goodies.  Try it out!

(#2 has not read it… it sounds too suspenseful and #2 is in the regency romance portion of her non-work reading ability right now.  The kind where she reads the last chapter after the first just to make sure it turns out ok.  Even though there’s no way it’s not going to turn out ok because it’s a @#@#ing regency romance.  But #2 can’t really handle surprises right now.)

Time to spend those gift cards ON BOOKS

While we’re out of town at a huge NYE bash (well, while #1 is out of town at a huge NYE bash… #2 is probably currently driving in the snow from one small rural town to another, thank goodness for audible), let us give you some suggestions for how to spend all that money you got for Christmas/Yule/Hanukkah/Year-end bonus/blackmailing that guy, or whatever kind of denominational or non-denominational holiday-type thing you might have.

These are books I have LOVED from the library.  So many to love!

The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter.  Love it, love it, repeatedly recommended it.

I’ve been enjoying Will Thomas’s series starting with Some Danger Involved.  Fascinatingly diverse Victorian London murder mysteries.

Emerald House Rising by Peg Kerr.  Light high fantasy, sure to become a future soothing read (sadly out of print but ILL it if you can!).  Standalone, happy ending.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison.  Also fantasy: court intrigue, fish-out-of-water.

Clariel, the Lost Abhorsen by Garth Nix.  I like the Abhorsen series and this is a prequel.

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding: A Memoir, by Kristin Newman.  I like memoirs.

No Castles Here by A.C.E. Bauer.  A poor kid from the barrio finds a magical book of tales…

The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby.  Essays about books and reading.  Two of my favorite things.

Moth and Spark by Anne Leonard.  Another fantasy to recommend repeatedly.

Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher contains the recommendation letters I wish I could have written as a pre-tenure faculty member.  Epistolary, funny, but not a happy ending.

Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis.  Are you sensing a YA theme here?

The Silvered by Tanya Huff.  I mean, it’s Tanya Huff!

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography.  Heartwarming and amusing; worth getting in hard copy so you can flip around for an authentic choose-your-own-adventure experience.  (#2 fully enjoyed this one too, and was actually ok about spending full price for a hard copy in an airport bookstore when she discovered she’d forgotten her kindle.  It was worth it!)

Books I was NOT keen on:

Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling.  Really not as good as Bossypants; I didn’t finish it.

Shadow’s Son by Jon Sprunk:  was doing ok until Rape As A Plot Point.  Bzzzt!

 

This post isn’t all the books I’ve been reading, not by a long shot!  But it has just a few of the things that I think you might like to read.  Not exhaustive, though maybe exhausting.

Any more suggestions???

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