Book Review: Her Viken Mates

Book: Her Viken Mates

Author: Grace Goodwin

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This is not my normal reading fare, as you may have noticed from my other book reviews. I am not entirely sure why I picked it up.

Okay, that’s not true. I do know. It was curiosity, plain and simple. It appeared in my Amazon feed, and while I was intrigued, but didn’t buy it. The book then intruded on my consciousnesses during my drive home, and as I had some digital credit with Amazon, I decided to give in to temptation and see what it was all about.

 

Characters

These are flat, one dimensional characters. Expect no growth because you’re not going to get any.

 

Plot

There was one. Somewhere. But it’s even less important than most other romance novels I’ve read. The plot is as one dimensional as the characters, and I’m actually somewhat surprised how contrived it was. I was shocked how quickly characters believed a heroine from another planet who was there as an interstellar bride. There is no real reason for them to do that. Nor is there a reason that the villain would do what they did or give their hand away as they did. But, you know, plot wasn’t what this book was about.

 

Steamy Scenes

This is why you’re reading the book. The novel opens with steamy scenes, and the steamy bits probably take up at least 50% of the story, maybe more. It does include multiple lovers simultaneously, and I have never read anything like it, though I know this is not uncommon in romance. Just uncommon to me. As far as I can tell, the author handled it well.

 

Writing Style

While the writing was just okay, it was relatively free of grammatical and punctuation errors. It was also properly formatted to the Kindle. When she did a jump in PoV, which she did often, she used a new chapter and labeled the chapter with the person whose eyes you were now seeing through.

 

Themes

Despite the fact that this was really just an excuse for steamy scenes, there were some pretty interesting themes running through a book that was mostly steamy scenes. Issues of trust came up time and again, but more than just trust, it was also about consent. This played throughout the book. I was pleasantly surprised by this. There was never even a hint of rape culture in the book, and while rushed, it did let the heroine explore her sexuality without guilt. Rather, her mates encouraged her to explore it.

 

 

 

Beach Reading Without Getting “The Look”

I want to be reading more, but it’s been a hectic summer with all the activities for the kids, DH having a much heavier than normal work schedule, and events for family and friends. Our vacation was less than spectacular, and we failed to potty train DD2 during it.

Now that summer is in its last throws and we’re gearing up for school to start, we’re taking one last long weekend. I haven’t gotten in much reading this last month with everything else going on, so I want to pack some beach reading.

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What I plan to be doing. Wishful thinking with a toddler, I know.

This means no iPad. While I do really like my iPad, it doesn’t like sand or water. And, it’s pretty tough to read in direct sunlight.

So, I have to find some actual, real paper books. I have mixed feelings on this. See, I love holding a real paper book in my hands. There’s just something about it I enjoy.

What I don’t enjoy is the traditional half-naked romance cover. On the beach. With the kids. And all the other snickers from family that come with it. Invariably, someone comments on it.

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So, even dressed, still obvious.

I don’t *hide* that I love reading romances, though most people don’t think I’m your typical romance reader. They’d be wrong, as demographically, I fit the profile perfectly.

The iPad hides this cover beautifully, and no one ever need know I’m reading either a bit of Regency, a retelling of a fairy-tale, or if I’m really lucky, a love story with dragons instead of the Economist.

I wish Amazon sold romance books with an optional hide-what-I’m-reading cover. Make it a plain and boring cover without eve a title. Or a title like Complete History of the Napoleonic War. So us Regency readers know exactly what that means, but the rest of the beach can be blissfully unaware.

I don’t know why DH can bring a book with space ships and laser battles on the front, and no one looks twice. But a half-dressed hot guy and suddenly it’s nothing but snickers.

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A book by DH’s favorite author. Less clothes than the romance novel, still gets fewer comments.

Oh well. Maybe I’ll have to borrow one of his space ship books. He’s been trying to get me to read more than the one book I did by Charles Stross anyway.

 

How about you? How do you read at the beach? Or on vacation? Do you prefer to read on an electronic device or a book? If you read romance, do you have any tricks to disguising your reading fare? Or maybe you just don’t care? Or maybe your family is less prone to teasing you?

Taking Time to Unplug

It’s Sunday night, and the family is getting ready to go back to our work schedule. I’m trying to get dinner ready while sneaking in a few more words, and DH and DD1 are trying to enjoy a game together.

Enter DD2.

She is angry and upset, crying for no apparent reason. We’re all testy with her. She cries harder.

One of our cats has had made a mess, and DH is irritated as he gets the vacuum to clean it up. Terror sparks in DD2’s eyes as she sees the dreaded vacuum. I put my iPad away, gather her up, and carry her to our bedroom.

Her tears instantly dry up as we lay on the bed together and play silly games of counting her toes, getting tickled (we took turns tickling each other), and just laying together with her head on my shoulder.

Her laughter and giggles made my night.

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Or trying to understand and bond with a toddler?

Holding that in my heart, I cuddled with DD1 before work Monday morning. She is getting so big, but she still likes snuggles. For now. We talked a little, but she mostly just wanted to be held.

I’m starting to feel like the whole family is too busy, but not busy with the right things. Time goes by so fast now. I was looking at pictures of DD1 when she was just a few days old. Hard to believe that was almost six years ago. It seems like only last year we were bringing her home and learning what it was really like to have an infant in the house.

I need to slow down. Make connections. Build a relationship with my girls, and strengthen the one I have with DH.

Writing is a part of the equation. I really shouldn’t have been trying to sneak in words. But there’s more to it. I feel like my family has all become too reliant on technology for entertainment. We need to unplug.

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Not this bad. Yet.

Bored? We turn on Netflix or Amazon, and we don’t even have to sit through commercials. Open the iPad or Kindle. Pull out your phone. A lot of this isn’t deeply entertaining, but the companies know how to lure us how. How to grab our attention and keep it. How many times has boredom had me checking my phone for a quick fix rather than getting up and actually doing something meaningful?

I got so consumed with these distractions that I got annoyed with my beautiful and amazing toddler rather than giving her the love and attention she both wants and needs.

A part of me wants to give away all of the electronics, but that’s just not reasonable.

Still, I need to find a way to unplug and disconnect more, help my family unplug more, so that we can really connect. So that we spend more time counting toes and less time staring at screens. I just don’t know how.

 

How about you? Ever tried to unplug? What did you do? How did it work? Ever try to unplug your whole family? What did you do? How did it work?

Hulless Barley

What is Hulless Barley, you might ask?

Here’s a pretty good look at it:. Not pearlized barley, mind you, though this is what most of us think of when I say barley. Hulless is quite different from its processed cousin, both in taste, texture, and fiber content.

I came across hulless barley back when we were really trying to add more whole grains into our diet. I really like it. To me, it tastes faintly sweet and nutty. I can take or leave rice, but I actually will eat hulless barley without butter or other toppings.

But then, our local grocery store stopped carrying. Yes, I could drive across town and get it from the organic store, but let me tell you about shopping with a toddler and preschooler in tow.

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So, yes, we make one trip to one grocery store per week. My husband and I make the grocery list together, and one of us goes on a mission to acquire the groceries while the other stays home with the kids. It’s sort of like a mini-mission impossible: get out of the house without either child noticing and going into a fit of tears because mommy or daddy is leaving.

Of course, if you ask them if they want to go to the store, the answer is always no. If you take them anyway, there is a price to pay, and I’d rather them cry at home than at the store.

Anyway, we gave up on the hulless barley and moved on to other grains.

Then, my love of Amazon reminded me I could check there.

Lo and behold, while Amazon didn’t sell it, one of their third party vendors did. On prime, no less, and their with shipping included was less than what I’d been paying at my local grocery store. You know I hit that Buy button.

So, we made it with stir fry the other night. Yes, that’s right, barley instead of rice. Delicious. And really good for you. Then, I had it the next day in my lunch. But, I’d forgotten what eating such a high fiber food when you aren’t used to it does to you.

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Moderation. I won’t forget again.

 

How about you? Any whole grains you like? Perhaps something new and amazing, or something you’d like to warn the rest of us about?

One-Way Love Affair

I have a one-way love affair with Amazon, and this worries me a little. Okay, maybe a lot.

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It started out small back in “the old days”. Amazon sold mostly books, and when I wanted an author’s back list and couldn’t get it at Barnes and Noble, this is where I’d go.

Then, they started selling more stuff. I was skeptical at first, but the free shipping for a $25 purchase at the time really helped me get over my skepticism. I was working full time, newly married, and going to grad school at night. Time was a premium.

Best thing was Amazon’s prices at the time weren’t any higher for the things I was buying at brick and mortar stores. Sometimes, they were even a lot lower.

Another few years rolled past, and we were expecting our first child. I’d been buying a lot from Amazon at that point, but they hadn’t lured me into their Prime club yet. I actually thought it was pretty ridiculous to give $89 a year to get stuff a few days sooner.

But, they knew exactly how to get me.

They gave a free one year subscription to Prime to all new moms who enrolled in their mom’s reward club (the club has since been discontinued). Along with the Prime membership came a sizable discount on diapers and wipes, things I was about to need a lot of, and they promised to deliver in two days. I figured it was free, so I had nothing to lose.

Yeah, they had me after the first few months.

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Like there’s any better transformer to be!

More years later, and I’m still a Prime member. A paying Prime member. Not only that, but we now get monthly Amazon shipments. We tune in to their Prime streaming service, and our kids have loved several Amazon-created children’s shows. Once Netflix lost Sesame Street, we turned to Prime.

I even got my kids a Kindle and was super impressed with the yearly subscription that lets them play a slew of the most popular kids apps, and with the subscription, all the in-app purchases are included. Want another life? Click the button, no fee required.

Amazon was luring me deeper and deeper into the Amazon morass.

Then, this year at Christmas, I was shocked at the deals Amazon was running on popular kid toys. They were running 20-40% toys that my kids wanted. Even if other stores had the items on sale, most of the toys were still cheaper at Amazon.

I look at all of the plastic stuff invading my house, and a lot of it came from Amazon.

I do my Christmas shopping early, so the two day shipping was nice but not necessary. Then Amazon started running specials where if you were willing to wait five days to get your packages, they’d give you $2 or more towards a digital purchase. Hello more Kindle books!

Now I’ve been reading about the struggles of so many bricks and mortar stores to stay open.

I squirmed a little.

That’s somewhat my fault, right? I would way rather pop onto Amazon and have something magically appear at my door two days (sometimes in less than twenty-four hours) later than actually drive to the store, wade through the merchandise, hopefully find what I want, then wait in line to pay for it. About the only thing we get at the store anymore is toilet paper and paper towels because Amazon can’t touch Target’s pricing.

Yet.

My first thought was that Amazon was servicing a time-strapped American population. Sure, a lot their products don’t go on sale like they do at Target, Aldi’s, or wherever you shop, but I don’t usually bother with sales. Sounds stupid, I know, but if I need paper towels, I’m not driving 20 minutes out of my way to get them a dollar cheaper. My lack of frugality on this drives my poor mother insane, but I’m willing to pay $1 to keep 40 minutes of my time.

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Or a good idea to drive two towns over to buy it.

 

I am careful on Amazon lately as there have been instances where Amazon (no, not a third party seller, but Amazon), is quite a bit more expensive than other stores. Last year, when DD1 wanted a pony castle for her birthday, Amazon was $20 more expensive than Target or Toys R Us. Yeah, $20. They came in line a few weeks later, but I’d already bought it from Target by then.

Once you start talking third party sellers, all bets are off. Might as well be eBay.

So, I always check an Amazon purchase with other stores’ online offerings.

But what happens if those stores go out of business? Does that mean Amazon can get away with charging me $20 more than I would’ve paid at Target or Toys R Us?

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I don’t know.

But it worries me.

I’d love to say anti-trust laws would come into play to prevent a monopoly like that, but I have no faith or trust in our government to enforce such rulings. Especially not recently.

Will this concern change my behavior? Yes. I have been regularly checking Target.com for things and ordering if I can wait the few extra days for them to arrive. I love Amazon, but I’m not sure I’m ready to pay the price of assimilation just yet.

 

How about you? Have you been lured into the Amazon morass? Are you a Prime member? Are you worried about them becoming a monopoly and crushing their competition to the point they can charge us whatever they wish?

Rise of Consumerism

In this post,  I discussed some of the key things that Americans spend their money on. A couple of readers brought up the concept of consumerism and how it’s made some people with a good income still live on the edge.

This resonated with me as I actually know some of these people. They have solid middle class earnings, yet, they still live paycheck to paycheck. The three categories I talked about before definitely come into play here. Buying more house than you can afford. Having new cars all the time. Eating out a lot.

This was definitely true for one person I knew who’d bought a massive four bedroom home, then his wife quit working when their first child was born. Suddenly, making the mortgage was really hard.

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I decided to do some investigating. Things usually happen for a reason, and I discovered that while the the drive to overspend is huge, it wasn’t always. Consumerism came into play at the same time the cosmetics industry has. I believe for the same reasons.

The rise in consumerism, whether buying a bigger house, new car, or just having stuff is a manufactured need. And it was manufactured on purpose. Consumerism has risen along with advertising and the ability for advertisers to reach large sections of the population. Advertising makes us want things. That’s what it’s designed to do, and it’s no coincidence that consumerism has grown along with increasingly sophisticated ads that target humans’ deepest needs.

 

A little history.

After WWI, corporations were making more stuff than people needed. Paul Mazur of Lehman Brothers (yes, that Lehman Brothers) wrote, “We must shift America from a needs, to a desires culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things even before the old had been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality in America. Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.”

Rather than rejecting this premise, the US government openly supported it.

Advertising was key, and Mazur knew this, so he recruited Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud. Bernays began to figure out how to make people want things they didn’t need by linking mass-produced goods to unconscious desires.

  •  He was the first to work with car companies on selling cars as a symbol of masculine sexuality than as a means of getting from point A to point B.
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Seems to work to this day.
  • He helped break the taboo of women smoking so cigarettes companies could sell cigarettes to women. He persuaded a group of debutantes to smoke in public at a parade. He then told the media ahead of time that this was happening, and called the cigarettes “Torches Of Freedom” and linked women smoking with challenging male authority.
  • He pioneered product placement and celebrity endorsements

 

Bernays would continue his work, with future generations further refining their understanding of human desire and preying on/satisfying it. Presidents starting with Herbert Hoover embraced consumerism, and after WWII, the National Association of Manufacturers and other groups launched PR campaigns that linked consumerism with capitalism and glorified both.

Advertising got increasingly sophisticated, and with the advent of social media, people were no longer comparing themselves to the Joneses. They were now comparing themselves to the Kardashians.

It’s been a win all around for businesses, and in some ways, for the consumer as we’ve never had such choice.

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And, companies have had to cater to consumer demand and preferences, pushing froward innovation on computers, social media, and even cars. Remember when there weren’t SUVs or crossovers? Or the focus American car companies have had to put on quality or lose their consumers to Japanese companies.

 

Where Does It Leave Us

Does this mean consumerism is the new normal? That there is no escape from it?

I’m going to argue “no”.

For all the bad rap Millennials regularly get, they are driving some industries to worry. They are more focused on experiences than stuff, and this has the diamond industry very concerned. A Millennial is more likely to skimp on the ring and splash out on a huge honeymoon. They want memories, or as some cynics might say, lots of stuff to post on social media.

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Still, millennials are harder for advertisers to reach, and advertisers are fighting to find ways to get to them.

This inability to reach people is part of the reason why advertisers are terrified of “cord cutting” and consumers moving to Netflix or Amazon Prime for their viewing needs. Why? Because they can’t easily reach large numbers people. They can’t influence us to want their product by making us think it makes us sexier, more worthy of love, of whatever other needs they’re now trying to appeal to.

Advertisers are scrambling to find other ways to reach us. Many of us don’t want to be reached. Amazing how many people pay for an ad-blocking service.

In the advent of the internet, it also makes it more difficult for advertisers as there is no longer a mass market. The internet makes it much easier for niche markets to take hold, and for very personalized preferences to be met.

 

My Experience

I can say I’ve seen a significant change in my home when we “cut the cord” (got rid of all cable and even regular TV) in 2009. It was the Great Recession, and we had to trim expenses. Cable was an easy one for us. (So was our gym membership, but that’s another story!).

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We’ve never looked back. After seven years of being close to commercial free, you find yourself a little outside the “cutting edge” of pop culture, but we’ve learned to accept that, too. And if there’s a show you really want to watch, you can usually purchase the individual episodes or find them for free a few days later.

When we’ve gone to a friend’s house and they happened to have a football game on, we were astounded at how many commercials there were.

Afterward, we looked at the average kids’ show our daughters watch. They range between 20 and 22 minutes for a 30 minute time slot. That means a full 1/3 of a child’s show is advertising!

There’s a reason our kids’ Christmas lists are small (other than them being a little spoiled), and why we can walk down the cereal aisle and walk out with only Cheerios and no tears.

 

 

What do you think? Do you see the side-effects of consumerism? Maybe you’ve experienced them? Know someone who has? Do you think advertisers create desire? Do you think they’re part of consumerism?