Rank #1: 381. Our Favorite Books of the Year, Part One: Lara, Tara, Carrie S and Charlotte
I hope you enjoy this reading recap, and that you share with us your favorite books that you read in the past year, too!
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Dec 13 2019
Rank #2: 281. Alyssa Cole and Alisha Rai: Romance and the Resistance from Politics and Prose
Jan 12 2018
Rank #3: 318. Sharp Academics and Paranormal Romance: An Interview with Kelly Baker, PhD, and Tressie McMillan Cottom, PhD
Both are writers, and both are major fans of paranormal romance. They snuck paranormal romances to read during grad school, they hid their love of romances, and dealt with being shunned and shamed for loving the genre.
We talk about how reading fills in gaps in knowledge about culture and history, and we also discuss:
- How romance and genre fiction broadened their understanding of worlds outside their own
- Their take on anyone who can or tries to remove the politics from anything - including historical romance
- The idea that history can somehow not be political (?!)
- The ways that romance, specifically fantasy and paranormal romance, interrogates race, society, gender, and colonialism - and the ways that it does not
- The politics of escape fantasy in different romance genres
- The politics of who is permitted to get angry in a written world
Plus we take a hilarious deep critical dive into Dr. Cottom’s love of Hallmark movies - and how they are talked about as “unpolitical” as well. She talks, after some prodding, about how she reads Hallmark films. Here’s a hint: they’re alarmingly similar to a very specific romance genre, and it’s not contemporary. Get ready to have your mind blown and also laugh a lot, too.
Sep 28 2018
Rank #4: 351. Hidden Gems in Romance and Listener Email with Amanda & Sarah
We also answer listener email, and talk about traveling with siblings, plus we answer a question from a reader who has some questions about sexuality.
Stay tuned for bonus book and lipstick recs from Amanda at the end.
Thanks to Lauren, Paroma, and Anonymous for email!
May 17 2019
Rank #5: 364. Love, Romance, and Beautiful Friendships: Melody and Erin from Heaving Bosoms Podcast
Does the dog bark? Yes.
Are they each other’s biggest fans? Absolutely.
Is this delightful? Totally.
Don’t miss the part where they reveal the secret ingredient to everything.
TW/CW: at about 35 minutes in, there's a discussion of old skool romances, and in particular a Johanna Lindsey viking romance with some on-page assault.
Aug 16 2019
Rank #6: 285. Labyrinth, Girl Scout Cookies, and Good Book Noise: An Interview with S. Jae-Jones
How being an editorial assistant prepared her for a career as an author - and what secret knowledge (not really secret) she shares with fellow writers.
How Labyrinth, Phantom of the Opera, the myth of Hades and Persephone, The Magic Flute, fanfic communities, and fandom terms influence her writing.
How she navigates the issue of sexxytimes in YA with her own writing.
And, in a key portion of this interview, we discuss the parameters of identifying Which Girl Scout Cookie Are You? Spoiler alert: Amanda has very strong opinions about peanut butter, Girl Scout cookies, and oatmeal.
JJ also discusses bi-polar characters, writing mental illness, writing with mental illness, making Cho Chang the heroine of a magical world, and how head canons help her with feelings of isolation.
This interview goes everywhere, and sometimes the audio is a little muddy, for which I apologize. But fear not! We have an extra-strength collection of recommendations from JJ, complete with Good Book Noise®, creepy stories, and books that are hard to describe but should be required reading. Heads up: she likes to read books specifically looking for the romances, so this is a tasty recommendation list indeed.
Feb 09 2018
Rank #7: 310. Heroine Sociopaths and Emotional Suspense: An Interview with Victoria Helen Stone
Victoria Helen Stone, also known as romance author Victoria Dahl, has a new book out, Jane Doe [bookmention slug="jane-doe"]. I read it in one sitting - it was terrifyingly good. Her heroine, Jane, is a self-acknowledged sociopath, and hanging out in her head was quite an experience as she gets revenge on someone who did irreparable harm to her best friend. In this interview, we talk about shifting from romance to revenge thrillers - or as Stone calls them, Emotional Suspense.
We also discuss:
The catharsis of addressing double standards and processing rage through her writing.
The enjoyment of burning shit down.
The use of genre terms such as “women’s fiction,” “chick lit,” “psychological thrillers,” and “book club fiction.”
The empowerment of women taking control, including when they lose control.
The freeing experience of writing Jane Doe, a sociopathic heroine who has zero self-doubt, and being inside the head of a person who is determined to exact complete and total revenge.
Among her recommendations, we talk about safe spaces to explore kink in romance fiction, and her frustrations with the horror genre.
Stay tuned to the end of the interview where she drops this fascinating idea:
“Romance and horror are the flip sides of the same human drive to survive.”
CW: We talk about gas lighting, harassment, school shootings, entitlement, the foundations of emotionally abusive relationships, and then have an in-depth discussion of sociopathy.
Aug 03 2018
Rank #8: 354. Six Books Amanda’s Excited About, and Other Stories from BEA 2019
We talk about her impressions of this year’s BEA, who it’s for, and how it’s changed over her time working in various parts of publishing. We also talk about how much Amanda likes reading blurbs on the covers of new books.
We talk about so many upcoming releases that aren’t available yet, so we’re very sorry in advance. Key terms to listen for: “claustrophobic thriller” and “snakes are having a moment.”
Plus we talk about what Amanda’s reading right now.
CW/TW: Amanda tells some stories about wrangling snakes in her childhood - so if you’re not on board with snake discussion, heads up at 39 minutes in, when Amanda mentions snake stores, you might want to skip ahead about a minute total.
So, what about you? Would you want to attend BEA? Do you like meetings? Do you read blurbs from other writers on the covers of books? I'm curious!
Jun 06 2019
Rank #9: 240. Extraordinary Optimism Through History: An Interview with Alyssa Cole
Sometimes the connection was uneven and there are some crackles in the audio - my apologies. Alyssa lives in the caribbean, so it was a long, long, very long distance recording!
Mar 31 2017
Rank #10: 311. A Nerdy Bookish Deep Dive into My Oxford Year with Julia Whelan
In this episode, we do a deep-dive into the book, the themes and Easter eggs hidden within it, and the structural and stylistic decisions that went into the creation of the story. If you haven’t read it and you think you might want to, beware of all the spoilers herein.
We talk poetry, and the reasons to tell a story with a big twist. We talk about the ways information is hidden in first person present tense narratives, and why trust is a big component of making that narrative choice work. We talk about grief and the challenge of perseverance when facing and departing from loss, and how writers have communicated grief. I also have questions from folks on Twitter, and from the Patreon community as well. There’s a lot of nerdy literary talk, so if you’re a book nerd, welcome! Come join us! The water’s fine.
Thanks to folks who supported the podcast Patreon, and to folks on Twitter who asked thoughtful questions: Sarah Rider, Ellen Grafton, Cat McGuire, Hayley Ann Gienow-McConnell, and Megan Larsen.
Aug 10 2018
Rank #11: 276. An Interview With RWA President Elect HelenKay Dimon
Dec 08 2017
Rank #12: 243. Discovering Romance and Navigating Approval: An Interview with Faith Salie
And! I'm giving away four copies of Approval Junkie, Faith's book, now out in paperback. Head over to SmartBitchesTrashyBooks.com/podcast and enter to win a copy! Open until 27 April 2017.
Apr 21 2017
Rank #13: 342. Stories are Everything: Learning about Narratology with Arkady Martine
Today I’m speaking with Arkady Martine, also known as Dr. AnnaLinden Weller. As Arkady Martine, she’s a science fiction and fantasy writer, and as Dr. Weller, she’s a Byzantine scholar, a narratologist, and also a city planner. There was a tense moment where I almost scrapped the whole interview to ask about city planning, but no, we’re going to talk about narratology!
Arkady recently wrote an essay on Tor.com that introduced me to narratology as a field, and I emailed to ask if she’d be willing to talk more about the subject on a podcast. So if you haven’t heard of narratology - which, essentially, is the study of how a story works - buckle up because it’s nerdy deep dive time. I brought enough snacks for everyone.
We talk about:
Terminology used by narratologists, and how it differs from terms readers use.
How cognitive narratology explores a very cool question: “How does the brain respond to experiencing narratives?”
The rules of world building and the meaning of “story world.”
The multiple meanings of the term “News Stories” and the powerful impossibility of getting someone to change the way they understand the world.
And of course we talk about what she’s reading - and her upcoming science fiction novel, A Memory Called Empire.
Key concept from this episode? Everything is a narrative. Everything is a story - and we can learn a lot from understanding why and how a story works.
Mar 15 2019
Rank #14: 279. The Bitches Look Back at 2017
Dec 29 2017
Rank #15: 380. Tropes and Good Books are Eternal: A Snortlaugh with Angela James
Dec 06 2019
Rank #16: 304. “You Have a Type and it Might be Mullets” – Sarah, Amanda, and Elyse are VERY Silly About Books and Villainy
While we were at Romantic Times BookLovers Convention in May, we recorded two podcasts, which I should not ever do again because it makes the editing quite a challenge. This is Part one, which is Incredibly Silly.
We recorded after dinner one night, s o we’re Sleepy and Goofy (and perhaps also Doc and Dopey - I’m definitely Dopey). We talk about books we are interested in or have seen at RT, and then we get really silly. Our discussion includes:
1. Why does Amanda have a weakness for Val Kilmer?
2. How does Amanda rank the Hemsworths in order of physical density?
3. How does Amanda rank the Real Housewives franchises in terms of quality?
4. How bad of a style icon was Anita Blake?
5. How many Alfreds were there in the Batman film franchise?
6. What fanfics are Elyse and Amanda’s favorite?
7. Which Backstreet Boy was Amanda and Elyse’s favorite?
8. Can Amanda and Elyse find a villain hero that interests me? (Spoiler alert: nope).
This is what happens when Sarah, Amanda, and Elyse get really silly, and stop making sense. And given that this has been A Rough Week, we hope you enjoy our completely bubbly, goofy, discussion.
Jun 22 2018
Rank #17: 335. Sweet Valley Nostalgia: An Interview with Karyn Moynihan and Anna Carey from the Double Love Podcast
Sometimes I get to interview people whose work I admire, and it is SO much fun. Today I’m chatting with Karyn Moynihan and Anna Carey from the Sweet Valley High podcast, Double Love.
We start by talking about Irish slang, and then we get into what it is about Sweet Valley High that creates so much opportunity for examination, even decades after they were first published. They contain a mix of nostalgia and camp, and there’s no limit of, as Karen and Anna say, strange and terrifying things to talk about in the world of Sweet Valley.
We begin with how they found Sweet Valley, and what led them to start a podcast about each book. We also discuss:
How many people have some familiarity, if not fluency, in Sweet Valley lore.
What an Irish book token is, and how badly I want one.
The terrible messages contained in the series world regarding dating, sexuality, masculinity, healthy body weight, class, consent, and generally existing in the world. To say nothing of the kissing booths (ugh).
They’re compelling! Ridiculous! Campy! Addictive! So of course we talk about them, and about what they say, and how much some of the more horrific parts shock us today.
You also get a little nostalgia from me about my college’s beauty pageant, which was indeed a real thing, and we talk about what they’re reading.
TWO MAJOR NOTES of the Content and Trigger variety.
First: at around 41:00, we talk about and criticize the messages about body image and fat shaming that are rampant in Sweet Valley.
Second: I'm doing a little something different for this episode. During the recording, we talked a little about the Irish referendum to repeal the 8th amendment, which banned abortion in Ireland. Both Anna and Karyn campaigned actively and after the amendment was overturned by a very wide margin, they talked about it on one of the episodes of Double Love - and their exhausted joy and relief was incredibly reassuring to me as I listened.
So I asked them about it, about the 8th amendment, and what for them has been a lifetime of activism on behalf of women.
However, because they discuss the details of some of the horrible events caused by the 8th amendment that may be triggering for some listeners, I’ve relocated this conversation so that it’s after the outro, and after the music.
That way, if you’d like to hear our conversation about the referendum, their activism to overturn the amendment, and the inspiration of actually winning a thing that you worked for, you can do so, but if details of assault and abortion activism are not for you, you won’t miss any other part of the interview.
And if you want to cry a little (or a lot), here’s one of the #HometoVote videos of people who traveled around the world to go home to Ireland to vote:
Jan 25 2019
Rank #18: 322. Breaking Up with Damaging Conventions in Romance: A Conversation with Kate Cuthbert
Kate recently gave a keynote speech at Romance Writers of Australia that received a lot of attention after it was posted online. She addressed the tropes that are damaging, toxic, and regressive, and explained that maybe it’s time we broke up with them.
I read her speech online, but because speeches are meant to be heard, I asked her if she’d both talk about the development of her speech, and read it again for you all.
It’s very thought provoking and affectionate while being critical and I think attentive to what the genre says to readers. She talks about dubious consent, making deliberate choices about writing, and what our defaults in tropes, character type, and cliche really mean, or actually say beneath the familiarity.
We also talk about hot fox characters (because reasons), and of course she recommends a book that’s been passed around the office to everyone who’s had a rough day. Stay tuned for that, for sure.
Oct 26 2018
Rank #19: 369. It Never Stops Being Magical: History, Books, and Romance with Olivia Waite
Do we take a side trip to Finnish declensions? Sure, why not?
Special Note! Use coupon code " TRASHYBOOKS " for $10 off your first box at www.fabfitfun.com!
Sep 20 2019
Rank #20: 367. The Vagina Bible, Shoes, and Other Essentials: A Conversation with Dr. Jen Gunter
We talk about debunking junk science, and how pervasive bad information is about vaginas and vulvas. We talk about vagina pain, caring for trans patients, and sources for good information. And we take a long detour through shoes, because obviously. Priorities.
Key point from this episode: “Misinformation and disinformation about your body is the opposite of feminism.”
At about 12:00 there is mention of child death.
And at about 27:00 there's a detailed discussion of fat shaming , mental health shaming, and junk science messaging in Marianne Williamson’s books.
Sep 06 2019