Smart Bitches, Precious Palicos, & Suggestions for the Suggestible

Greetings, Dames Nation!

We’re humbly honored to be your guest editors this week. We are Sarah Wendell and Amanda Diehl from Smart Bitches Trashy Books, a website devoted to the marvelous genre that is romance. Our mission is to connect romance readers worldwide with one another and with the books they want to read.

That’s a really nice way of saying we’re here to enable everyone’s poor impulse control when it comes to buying books because really, we have none.


Sarah: Allow me to introduce Amanda...because introducing yourself is awkward and having someone compliment you while you’re not exactly listening is even more awkward!

Amanda hails from Florida, hates humidity and cold, and now lives in Boston because that makes total sense. Several years ago (she can tell you how many) she emailed me about doing an undergraduate internship with SBTB, which over the years has evolved into a full-time position as the Organatrix and Creative Mixologist at Smart Bitches. Amanda remembers everything (including what day and year it is), can find anything, and is impossibly brilliant at all the things she does.

Among Amanda’s impeccable skills:

Amanda: Hi there!

It’s a tough task to introduce one’s own boss, but it’s a good thing Sarah is so amazing.

 And no, I’m not contractually obligated to say that. She started SBTB thirteen years ago, which is ancient when we’re talking about the longevity of things in the internet. I’ve been blessed to watch SBTB grow under Sarah’s tender care and she’s aces at crafting a lovely and welcoming community where romance readers can discuss things they enjoy and hate. She’s also literally written the books on romance reading - Beyond Heaving Bosoms and Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romance Novels - and a super cute Hanukkah summer camp romance, Lighting the Flames.

Oh and if you need a good dad joke, Sarah always has one primed and ready. Go on, ask for one. She’s at @SmartBitches on Twitter, and hosts the long-running weekly podcast Smart Podcast, Trashy Books.
 


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We'll be sending out one final reminder on Sunday, but that's all the news from Your Dames tonight. And now-- back to the Smart Bitches' show!


Links! And Suggestions! We hope you are feeling suggestible.

You're going to find appropriate methods for self care riiiiight... THERE!

For our Guest Editorialship, we wanted to share with you some recommendations for restoration and replenishment of your fine self. Of course, we can recommend books to read - and do not worry, we shall, as we are terribly expensive people to know - but we also wanted to provide some links, suggestions, and recommendations.

Sarah: Reading is not the only way we create time and space for ourselves to recharge, but it is one of my favorites. When my internal batteries are running very low, I find that I tend to seek out both things to read and things to learn.

There is a lot to bemoan about the internet, but there’s also a lot to celebrate, specifically that if I’m curious about any random subject, I have a million-plus options at my literal fingertips. Stretching my very nosy brain makes me incredibly happy. Here are a few things I’ve learned with or learned about recently.

If you want to learn a language, it’s very likely that your library can help you, and you don’t have to put on real shoes or even real pants to do so. HOW RAD IS THAT.

I’ve been learning French and practicing advanced Spanish (subjuntivo! An entire tense built of guess culture!) with Mango Languages through the Montgomery County Library system. Many libraries offer language learning software online and for borrowing, and it’s simply sublime. Mango uses conversations broken down into words and phrases and then reassembled to teach practical language usage. Their method is very useful for travel, too. When I traveled to Greece last year, being able to say hellothank yougoodbyeplease, and goodnight/good morning made a big difference in our interactions with people: trying to bridge a barrier with a handful of words communicates a lot. Also, I’m an unabashed language nerd.

More learnings? How about video game learning!

If you like documentaries and/or video games, please allow me to introduce you to Gaming Historian on YouTube. Norman Caruso has created many documentaries of various lengths tracing the history of individual games or incarnations of popular franchises. I very much recommend the recently released The Story of Tetris, which may surprise you with how it keeps the tedium of contract negotiations visually interesting, and how much it will make you want to play Tetris. (Sorry about that part.)

Why video games? Why reading? Why language learning from your couch? Because rest and consciously not working are very important, especially when the possibility exists for you to work All Of The Time.

For a deeper dive into the importance of rest for a creative mind, listen to this recent episode of Hurry Slowly, 012: Alex Pang - Prioritizing Rest and Reflection.  The conversation is fascinating, and worth listening to twice (I did). The discussion is devoted to rest and creativity, and is a gentle, brilliant way to examine how you replenish your brain and make space for creativity.

One Last Thing, Unrelated to Rest But Definitely Related to Euphoric Admiration

Ten minutes later...sorry, where were we?

When I need a superior, infallible, high-grade pick-me-up, I pull up this video: Alicia Keys at the BET Awards nearly ten years ago. After her own performance, at about 2 minutes, she brings out SWV, En Vogue, and TLC, and even though I’ve probably watched this 25 times, I still get chills. So much talent in one place in one song after another: it’s the best seven-minute power break. 

Amanda: My prime form of restorative care is naps. I highly recommend them.

Remember: always remove your suit & tie before napping, for maximum comfort.

However, I’d love to expand on Sarah’s mention of video games because I am nuts about them. I grew up in a video game household, sitting on my mom’s lap while she played Doom and Duke Nukem on the computer. The first game systems we owned were for my mom, but were quickly hogged by my brother and I.

Reading books and talking about them for a living sounds awesome, I know (and it is), but reading for fun is often hard to do. The burnout is real. Instead, I often turn to video games as a way to rest my brain while still getting my narrative, story-telling fix.

Repetition and Routine

A routine can be really soothing because you don’t have to think too hard about what it is that you’re doing. Muscle memory usually kicks in.

My current obsession for this is Monster Hunter: World, the latest release in the long monster-hunting franchise. If you need one reason to pick up this game, I have two words: cat sidekicks. They’re called Palicos in the game and yes, you can definitely customize them to look just like your very own furry friend.

I did so with my cat, Linus: 

Linus in the flesh.

Linus in the pixel.

The cyclical nature of the game is amazing. There is no leveling up and no pesky skills to worry over. The game play is that you eat a special meal that gives you bonuses to your character (prepared by a chef cat), go hunt a huge monster in lush and terrifying settings, make new armor and weapons from your spoils, repeat.

Yes, you will spend a lot of time hitting dinos in the butt.

Character Narratives

Embodying a character who isn’t me is a great way for me to stop thinking about what I need to discuss at my upcoming therapy appointment or beat myself up over the fact that I’ve eaten cold cuts without bread for three dinners in a row.

I’ve never claimed that my life was a glamorous one!

But that doesn’t mean I can’t “pretend” to be a sex-positive witch with hair that turns into a vicious dragon. Read those words again and then get ready to meet Bayonetta. When I die, I want to be reincarnated as her.

Bayonetta has a case of amnesia and can’t really remember who or what she is. As you play through her story, she begins to remember bits in pieces while dodging an adorable, nosy photographer. You have a buff weapons dealer that hangs out in a swanky lounge and your arch nemesis is a gorgeous woman.

It’s very much like reading a book with wonderful settings, heart-stopping moments, and glorious triumphs because hello...you get to summon a dragon made out of your own hair.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Introduce a game where I can control every aspect of my character and give them plenty of companion options for maximum smooching and you’ve met my kryptonite.

If you asked my what my favorite game is, my answer would be the Dragon Age games. The latest in the franchise is Dragon Age: Inquisition and it’s a game series that keeps getting better and better. There’s adventure, romance, and of course, dragons. And yes...there are sex scenes.

If you’re curious, one character, Iron Bull, gives a great intro into BDSM. He’s also voiced by the always swoony Freddie Prinze Jr.

Gaze upon this buff hunk.

What I love about these games is how much control I have. Do I want to be diplomatic? Or should I focus more on cultivating a spy network? This fantasy world is my oyster!


And of course, we have book suggestions. Ready, set, read!

Sarah!

I must echo Dame Margaret from last week’s edition, as I will always and forever recommend Lucy Parker’s Act Like It and Pretty Face. I’ve read each book at least three times each, and listened to them in audio as well. This series is set in and around the London theatre world, and features brilliant dialogue, intelligent and talented people each with their own ambitions, and wonderful emotional depth. Key moments you will enjoy: feeding Cat Richard in Act Like It, and the high-stakes poker games in the hospital waiting room in Pretty Face. Her new book comes out this May, and I have an ARC which I cannot wait to read.

I also am deeply charmed and so excited about A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole.Cole is a friend of mine, but I’m also that terrible friend who will tell you what I think of the book you wrote. Now I will tell you and the author and everyone: this book is charming, adorable, and so very, very fun. You will love Ledi, the heroine, a PhD student in epidemiology who keeps receiving what she thinks are spam messages about her being the long-lost fiancee of an African prince. If you’re thinking you may have some royal wedding or after seeing Black Panther you find yourself in need of more stories of African royalty, do not pass go, and head directly to this book. (And if you peek at the cover and think to yourself, Gee, I like that dress, you can buy it or a similar one from Adorned by Nicole on Etsy!)

And if you’re craving sports romance, after a guest review from Tara Scott, I read Edge of Glory by Rachel Spangler, and I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s a f/f romance between an Olympic snowboarder and a downhill skier, both pushing themselves physically and emotionally through the training to compete. It’s got incredible body positivity, and a serious dose of food pr0n, too.

Live footage from SBTB HQ

Amanda!

Book time is my favorite time!

I’ve loved Kristen Callihan’s contemporary romances. Her book, The Game Planreduced me to sobs, so I dipped into her backlist and started her Darkest London series. It’s historical romance with magic and paranormal goodness! I brought Firelight with me on a reading retreat and it’s so amazing. A “beastly” hero who wears a mask and has a love of botany, a marriage of convenience though the hero has wanted to marry the heroine for years, and a fire-starting, street smart heroine.

I’m nearly finished with it and I already ordered all 7 seven books in the series from Book Depository because I love the UK covers (Ed's Note: Amanda is a woman after Your Dames' own hearts).

After I finish Firelight, I know I’ll be devouring The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang and I plan on designing a cocktail for the book’s release this summer. I’m so pumped for Hoang’s debut and I’m foreseeing incredibly great things. The heroine works in a STEM field and has Asperger’s. Wanting to increase her experience with social and romantic situations, she hires an escort, described as a “Vietnamese and Swedish stunner.” Hijinks, necessarily, ensue. 

And here’s a book I have recommended to everyone: Dating You/Hating You by Christina Lauren. I’ve read everything by Lauren so far and this is my favorite from their extensive backlist. It features a heroine dealing with workplace misogyny and sexism and addresses how often women have to work twice as hard as men for just a modicum of the same recognition. There’s also a little nerdery and office pranks. A great read if you want your face to hurt from smiling so much.