We did it! It’s episode 500!
Amanda and I have email and recommendations, your absolute favorite books, weird questions, and a LOT of mayhem. Plus mini interviews with Shana, Tara, Carrie & Elyse. There are so many great questions, clips, and conversations, you guessed it, there will be two episodes celebrating all the fun.
What would you do in the wasp/hair/bus situation?
What’s the worst commute you’ve ever had?
What would an AI generate for your industry conventions?
What book do you love most of all?
Our music in this episode is a custom composition from Sassy Outwater titled, “Rhumba for SB.” Thanks, Sassy!
This episode is dedicated to our fellow Smart Bitch Catherine Heloise McLean, whom we lost earlier in February. May her memory be a blessing, and may we all read wonderful books. With gold lame, glitter and excellent baking. And Eurovision.
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Here are the books we discuss in this podcast:
We also mentioned two Rec Leagues of fantasy options:
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Sarah Wendell: Hello. Thank you for inviting me into your eardrums. I’m Sarah Wendell, and this is episode number 500 – [applause sound effect] – woohoo! – of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. I did just play applause for myself. That is how excited I am. I have been Kermit-flailing all day! Amanda is with me. We have email, recommendations, your absolute favorite books, weird questions, and absolute chaos. I have mini-interviews with Shana and Tara and Carrie and Elyse. We have so many great clips and conversations. Guess what! There’ll be two episodes celebrating the fun! We’ve got five hundred, and then we’re going to start the next five hundred with episode number 501, which will come next week. I am so excited to do this! Thank you for being part of the podcast and for loving the show and for hanging out with me. It is an honor to keep you company. I hope this episode makes you laugh and Kermit-flail as much as it did for me.
I have a compliment! Yes!
To Kendra F.: A reality show producer wanted to create a show based on your personality, but it was so great and contained so much warmth and goodness it was way too much perfection for reality TV. So thank you for being so awesome!
And thank you to our Patreon community, who keeps the show going. It’s really going, right? Five hundred episodes! Yay! If you have supported the show, thank you. It is enormously helpful to have your support, make sure every episode has a transcript, and keep me going! If you’d like to join our Patreon, have a look at patreon.com/SmartBitches.
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This episode is brought to you in part by Headspace. Do you ever feel like your mind doesn’t have an off switch or that tension is constantly traveling through your body? Or do you feel tired no matter how much you sleep? That is just one of the few ways that stress, anxiety, and sleeplessness can harm your mind and your body. This year, why not make small changes to your daily routine that have a big influence on your mental health and wellbeing? Start your year with Headspace. We all say we’re fine when we don’t really mean it, but fine isn’t really an emotion, is it? How many times have you told yourself you’re fine when all you’ve really felt is anger or sadness or just nerves? Headspace is scientifically proven to help you manage your feelings and your mental health. In fact, a recent study proved that in just two weeks Headspace can reduce your stress by fourteen percent. Whether you want to relieve stress and anxiety, sleep better, or improve your focus, Headspace is your daily dose of mindfulness for real life. I personally love the courses on anxiety and on happiness, but I really love the sleepcasts. My favorite is still Cat Marina. However you’re feeling, try Headspace at headspace.com/SARAH and get one month free of their entire mindfulness library. This is the best Headspace offer available, so go to headspace.com/SARAH today – headspace.com/SARAH.
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You ready to get started with this episode? I am ready to get started with this episode. Let’s begin episode number 500!
Sarah: I am currently doing the New Releases/Hide Your Wallet?
Sarah: There are so many books in March! Holy crackers!
Amanda: Mine was very slim. I don’t have any for the second half of March. While you’re looking, I’ll tell you about my day yesterday.
Sarah: Please tell me about your day yesterday.
Amanda: So I worked yesterday; I rarely work Saturdays. I’ve been working more Saturdays than usual.
Sarah: This is when there’s more teenagers and high-schoolers and, and you dislike that intensely, right? Am I remembering that correctly?
Amanda: Yeah. I’m usually the adult on staff. That’s what we call it.
Sarah: That’s no fun!
Amanda: I know.
Sarah: Listen, I, I am regularly the responsible adult. It’s on all these forms I sign for my kids, and it fucking sucks!
Amanda: Yeah, not a fan!
Sarah: Not – no! Really not a fan of being the responsible adult. It kind of blows.
Amanda: But lately I’ve been taking, like, like a meal shake for lunch, ‘cause I don’t have to think about it.
Amanda: I, I’m one of those people who doesn’t give myself, like, a ton of time in the morning? Like, I want to sleep in as late as possible, get my shit together, and go. So I made my little shake, and I’m halfway through my commute –
Sarah: Oh no.
Amanda: – when a woman stops me –
Sarah: Oh no.
Amanda: – and was like, something is leaking out of your bag.
Sarah: Nooo! No, no, no! No, no. Nonononono.
Amanda: And sure enough, my, my little blender, my bottle blender, whatever it was, had opened –
Amanda: – so the entire bottom of my bag was this soupy, chocolaty mess, and then –
Sarah: That’s terrible!
Amanda: – I have, like, a nylon bag, so, like, the corners are a little ripped, so it had been leaking out of one of the corners –
Amanda: – down my back –
Sarah: Oh good God.
Amanda: – and the back of my legs, and I’m, like, leaving a little –
Sarah: So it looked like you pooped yourself. Was this a chocolate shake?
Amanda: It was chocolate, and –
Sarah: Oh, of course it was! Oh no!
Amanda: – leaving a little, like, fucking snail trail behind me of dripping chocolate shake. And, like, life does not prepare you when you’re halfway to work and you discover the back of your body is –
Sarah: Is soupy.
Amanda: – just smeared with shake stuff.
Sarah: That is terrible!
Amanda: So, yeah, I got to – and then, like, shakes, too, are like a different consist- – they’re thick; they’re, like, thick and goopy.
Sarah: Yeah. I mean, they give you the pea burps afterward too.
Sarah: That’s P-E-A burps, for those of you who are listening, and also garlicknitter. That was a P-E-A burp. [Thanks, I was wondering! – gk] The pea protein gives you the burp.
Amanda: So that was my morning, and then, like, I spent like twenty-five minutes in the bathroom just trying to, like, mop up, so.
Amanda: Later on I, like, get home and I’m, like, cooking, and then, like, I nicked my finger with the knife cutting onions, and then, like, I’m putting my hair in a bun, and the fucking hair tie snaps. And I feel like people who have longer hair and use hair ties will know that a hair tie doesn’t snap until you are on the last dregs of your sanity for the day –
Sarah: Yes, and that is just going to –
Amanda: – and it’s like the last thing that –
Sarah: – push you right over the edge!
Amanda: It always happens. It’s like you’re having the shittiest fucking day and you’re like, whatever, I’m home. I’m in my comfy clothes, I’m going to put my hair up, and then you twist it and it just –
Amanda: – and you sit there for a second and you’re like, are you fucking kidding me?
Sarah: That is a really shitty day!
Amanda: That was my Saturday yesterday, yeah!
Sarah: That was an absolutely shitty day! I am not a fan of this day for you. I do not love this!
Sarah: Do not love this for you.
Amanda: There are so, there are so many, like, weird situations that, like, life doesn’t prepare you for? That’s one of them?
Sarah: Oh yeah. I once went to, I once went to work – both my kids, when they were infants, had reflux, and they were on like baby Prilosec and all this stuff to try to control it, but just, my whole world, ‘cause they’re twenty-two months apart, so it’s about three straight years of just vomiting, just all the time, and – well it calmed down by the time they were two, so let’s say two and a half years. One time I went to work, I’m in my office, and I worked in Manhattan, so of course my, my uniform was a, a pair of pants that were black and a top, but usually black pants. And somebody came up to me, one of the nice older ladies on my floor, and she said, there’s something down the back of your pants? And I went, oh! And I turn around and look, and I had baby vomit from my hip to my ankle, straight down the back of my pants like the seam on a stocking, and I had walked around like that all day. Had no idea.
Amanda: I told, like, a friend about it, and they’re like, well, you know, like, I’m sure a ton of people saw it, but they didn’t want to say anything ‘cause they didn’t know how you’d react, ‘cause, like, that’s not helpful –
Amanda: – that a ton of people saw this!
Sarah: No, that’s not helpful.
Amanda: One of the other things, like –
Sarah: This is going to be such a –
Amanda: – in these situations –
Sarah: – bodily fluid episode!
Amanda: Yeah! [Laughs] – that it’s like, life doesn’t prepare you for, one of my –
Amanda: – most chaotic instances was when I was on a bus –
Sarah: Which for you is saying something, I would like to in- –
Amanda: I know!
Sarah: I would just like to –
Sarah: – set the scene here: for Amanda to label something as most chaotic, prepare yourselves. This is something that most humans probably wouldn’t survive.
Amanda: I was on a, a bus, taking, taking me to campus when I was an undergrad, and I noticed a wasp had gotten stuck in a, in a woman’s hair.
Amanda: She was standing in front of me on the bus, and on the crowded bus. Everyone’s going to class, and I’m like, how the fuck do I, like – ‘cause of course whenever there’s like a bee or a wasp, we all kind of like freak out a little bit, right?
Sarah: Yeah, because you assume that if it’s that close to people it’s going to be pissed off, and it’s going to come aiming at you with its ass, especially if it’s a wasp. Wasps and hornets are assholes.
Amanda: And it’s in this woman’s hair –
Sarah: Oh God!
Amanda: – and we’re on a crowded bus –
Amanda: – full of, like, older teens and like young twenty-so- – [laughs]
Sarah: This is bad; this is very bad.
Amanda: – fuck do I do? Yeah, so I was terrible in that I didn’t say anything. ‘Cause I feel like the moment you say there’s a wasp –
Sarah: That person’s going to freak out, put their hands in their hair, get stung. Oh my God. Ah!
Sarah: That’s –
Amanda: I’m like, what do I do? What do I do?
Sarah: That – you know what? That’s a really good question to ask somebody: you’re in this situation; what do you do?
Amanda: I did nothing. [Laughs]
Sarah: I can’t say that I blame you.
Amanda: I did nothing!
Sarah: I understand completely.
Amanda: I feel like I would have caused a panic on this bus.
Sarah: Yeah. And this was a Florida bus, right?
Amanda: This was, yeah! Florida State University, we’re going to class.
Sarah: So we’re talking about high potential of Florida Man on the bus.
Amanda: High Florida Man, high hormones, ‘cause we’re all horny college students –
Sarah: Yeah, that’s a bad combination.
Amanda: – and the wasp.
Sarah: Just, may-, maybe the wasp was just getting really high off of whatever was in that woman’s hair.
Amanda: Lots of pheromones or whatever.
Sarah: Oh my God.
Amanda: But yeah, that’s like one of those situations where, like, I’ve never been in again, I feel like most people will never be in, but, like, what do you do when there’s a wasp stuck in a woman’s hair?
Sarah: I don’t know! It’s a real ethical conundrum.
So happy, Happy Five Hundredth Episode! Yaaay!
Amanda: Happy Five Hundred! Yeah!
Sarah: That’s a lot of episodes!
Amanda: That is, and I will say, like, you rarely take a week off. I think there was one, like, holiday season, like post four-part RWA, you were like, I’m going to take –
Sarah: That was the only time I’ve taken a week off.
Amanda: That’s the only time.
Sarah: For –
Amanda: That’s impressive.
Sarah: – almost eight straight years, yeah.
Amanda: Yeah, there are podcasts that I listen to that it’s like, we’re taking a break off, like a three-week break off between like December and February or whatever.
Sarah: Yeah! People do hiatuses, they have seasons for their podcasts?
Amanda: So yeah.
Sarah: I’m like, wow, that is so smart! Why didn’t I do that? Maybe someday I’ll do seasons, but now is not that time. Just going to keep going.
Amanda: [Laughs] You, you’ve gone too far.
Sarah: I’ve gone too far. I don’t know how to stop myself. I’m, I’m out of control; I’m just a chaos agent now.
Amanda: Hell yeah!
Sarah: So we have some requests for recommendations –
Sarah: – and we have some email from listeners, and I have questions. I’ve already done interviews with Elyse, Carrie, Tara, and Shana –
Sarah: – and they a-, they each brought a question, so I have questions for us to answer, but do you want to read the message from Leslee?
Amanda: This is from Leslee.
Sarah: Hi, Leslee!
Amanda: Hi, Leslee!
“I’ve lately been in a bit of a fantasy romance mood. I read Martineau’s Kingdom of Exiles based on the review on this site, and I’m reading Anne Bishop’s latest book in the Jewels-verse, I also read some Danielle Jensen due to a suggestion on here, and Kati Wilde’s The Midwinter Mail-Order Bride from a rec league in the last year or so. I’m looking for more fantasy romance in the vein of these types of authors/books. If I had to say what the pertinent elements are for me it’s probably heavy emphasis on characters, elements of found family, learning to be loved, overcoming adversity together, interesting worldbuilding and plot that gives the characters chances to interact rather than taking away from that. (As a rule, I dislike mysteries because I find the level of plot distracting. I’m…super character focused.) I enjoy enemies-to-lovers, class difference-type things, and forced proximity, but I don’t particularly need any of that. I enjoy m/f, m/m, and f/f, and all combinations thereof, or multiples. Just let me know if it’s a duology/trilogy and I need to be ready to get the following books. Also, sorry, that’s an insanely long rec ask, feel free to shorten it to ‘fantasy recs.’”
And then Sarah chimes in:
“(So character-driven fantasy recommendations, with emphasis on internal/interpersonal conflict? Do I have that about right?)”
And then Leslee responds:
“Yes. Way to make that SO much more succinct than I managed.”
Amanda: “I will say that the found family part is maybe my like One True Love in life, so anything that has emphasis on that, much appreciated, but yup, extremely well done.”
And Sarah has already listed a few recommendations.
Sarah: I have! I think in advance, ‘cause if you come up to me and ask me for recs like live and in-person, my brain kind of goes, what’s a book?
Sarah: What year is it, and what are, what is a book? I don’t understand.
So I would first of all recommend Becky Chambers. Pretty much all of them are character-driven fantasy. Some are space fantasy, some are focusing on AI, but also in space, and then there’s the Monk & Robot series, and the second book is coming out this year. The first one is A Psalm for the Wild-Built. There’s a moment at the end that was so poignant and so sweet that I, I was reading it on the beach, and I totally started crying, and it was like the nicest, most soothing, warming, warming hug of a book. It is so lovely, and it’s very much about found family and character-driven. Becky Chambers’ books in general are also extremely character-driven.
I also think you might like Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric series? I would check the reviews, though, because some of them are about plagues and outbreaks of plague, and that might not be something you want to put in your brain right about now. But the Penric novellas, especially Penric’s Demon, the first one, will sort of introduce you to the, the style and the sort of gentle fantasy. That’s more what I call medieval floppy shoes fantasy? They all ride around on horses, and it’s sort of a faux medieval –
Amanda: Medieval floppy shoes!
Sarah: You know exactly what I’m talking about, right? Medieval floppy shoes?
Amanda: Ohhh my God!
Sarah: That’s medieval floppy shoes fantasy, whereas Becky Chambers is space fantasy. You know! I’m not wrong.
The last one I would recommend –
Amanda: There’s just something about the phrase “floppy shoes” that is –
Sarah: Floppy shoes! You know, the ones with the little pointy toes –
Amanda: – so funny.
Sarah: – and the fl- – yeah, you know, whatever. Medieval floppy shoes fantasy; I know what I’m talking about.
Sarah: And my last recommendation is Anne Bishop’s The Others series. Some of them – I mean, you’re already reading the Jewels-verse, so you’re familiar with Anne Bishop’s writing. The Others, especially the series starting with Written in Red and then the spinoff series starting with Lake Silence, there is violence, especially violence against women. I tend to flip very quickly through those pages, but the thing that I really like about this series, especially The Others novels starting with Lake Silence and continuing with Crowbones, which I’m reading right now, there are really stupid humans, and those stupid humans get killed for being stupid. It’s very satisfying.
Sarah: That series would definitely work. What are your recs here?
Amanda: Okay, so I shared two Rec Leagues that might be of interest. We have a cozy fantasy one that we just ran that has so many good recommendations in the comments. So not all of them I, I think are romances, but a majority of them are that –
Amanda: – our, our community suggested.
And then we also had a Rec League a few years ago, so it’s a little, might be a little dated, and there could be more in it, but it was character-driven urban fantasy, so like modern fantasy with character focus.
So those are two resources, and then buckle up, ‘cause I have a few.
Sarah: I would not expect anything different!
Amanda: [Laughs] I would say early Grace Draven? So, like, Radiance –
Sarah: Good call!
Amanda: – and Master of Crows.
I would say anything by Juliet Marillier? Very character-driven, found family. There’s always a romance involved, but that is like a connected series –
Amanda: – so I think there are two or three books in it right now.
- J. Klune’s new sweet fantasy? Sweet, tender fantasies; they’re like modern fantasy. So The House in the Cerulean Sea, and then there’s Under the Whispering Door.
Sarah: You know what, that is a solid recommendation right there.
Amanda: [Laughs] I will say, I, I almost – I was talking to a customer at the bookstore yesterday who was looking for The House in the Cerulean Sea and had questions about Under the Whispering Door because, like, heads up: it deals with death and dying, and –
Sarah: Little bit.
Amanda: – you might not want to deal with that right now.
I would also say Freya Marske’s A Marvellous Light. I think, was it Ellen? Ellen might have written the review for it; I can’t remember.
Sarah: I think it was Ellen who wrote that review, yeah. They, they loved it. They just –
Sarah: – loved that book.
Amanda: It’s also sweet and tender.
Another one would be, it’s a duology that’s completed, and I recommend having both of the books on deck, is the Rory Thorne series? So How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse is book two? [Book one, actually] Carrie read that one and loved it, and I read it. It’s like sci-fi meets fantasy, like rompy space adventure. There is a romance, but it’s like a lot of fun.
If you’re curious about kind of like paranormal with, like, witches, obviously Lana Harper’s small town, witchy, romance series. Payback’s a Witch!
Amanda: That’s the first one!
And then, of course, like, Lauren Dane’s small town Diablo Lake –
Amanda: – series is kind of like cozy, modern, fantasy paranormal. That’s another one.
I’m so sorry; I’m just, like, inundating. [Laughs]
The Midnight Bargain by C. L. Polk, or their, their Witchmark trilogy? It’s like –
Sarah: Oh, the Witchmark trilogy would be very good too.
Amanda: Yeah – Edwardian era, England, magic. Though the Witchmark trilogy does deal a lot with, like, PTSD and, like, trauma from war.
I’m trying to think of what else. I feel like there’s an obvious one that I’m just not getting! I mean – ‘kay, I’ll stop there. Those are my suggestions.
Sarah: They’ll be in the show notes! Never fear!
Amanda: That’s a lot. I’m so sorry!
Sarah: Before we move on, I have some crafting pictures to show you.
Sarah: A lot of people will cross-stitch or knit or do all kinds of stuff while, you know –
Sarah: – listening to podcasts, and I had two people email me – I’m pulling up the information right now – I had two people email me, and then they sent me pictures of what they were working on –
Sarah: – and I wanted to share it with you.
Amanda: I want to see.
Sarah: First, Rhonda wrote, “I was piecing a couple quilts while listening to this episode. I use Bonnie Hunter’s leader/ender technique, so I’m working on two projects concurrently.” Very cool.
Sarah: “Then my coworker got involved. I more often knit while listening to podcasts in the evening, except for Saturday mornings when I sew. Attached are pictures of the coworker getting in the way and one of a quilt that I recently finished.”
Are you ready for some –
Amanda: I’m ready!
Sarah: – ridiculous adorableness?
Amanda: Oh my gosh.
Sarah: So there’s an orange cat, and that’s the pieces. That means that the per-, the quilting cannot be done because the cat’s butt is on it.
Amanda: [Gasps] Look at that quilt!
Sarah: And the quilt is so gorgeous, isn’t it? It, it’s –
Amanda: Look at that!
Sarah: – so pretty, isn’t it? I love the colors! It’s all maroon and mustard and dark green.
Amanda: I like how it matches the pillowcases.
Sarah: I like how all of it matches the cat!
Amanda: Does the, does coworker have a name?
Sarah: I do not have the coworker’s name. Rhonda, we need to know the name of the, of your coworker.
Sarah: We need to know. Also, I, I did tell you my favorite subreddit is r/catsonquilts, right?
Amanda: Yes! I think you’ve mentioned that!
Sarah: It is among my favorites. The other crafting I, crafting picture I got was from Sarah Jane who said, “I am sort of a Sarah-of-All-Crafts, but as it happens, this morning, as I was listening to the podcast, I was working on a wedding quilt for my niece. Thank you for always being such great company.”
Amanda: My gosh.
Sarah: “Yours, Sarah Jane” Are you ready –
Amanda: I’m excited. I’m excited to see this quilt. Let’s go.
Sarah: Other people’s, other people’s creativity just makes me so happy! Here we go:
Here is a close-up of the quilt, and it is gorgeous. Looks like that’s a log cabin, and it is just beautiful. I love the fabric colors.
Amanda: I do too. I like the –
Sarah: Isn’t it beautiful?
Amanda: – like – look, I love a millennial pink, you know this.
Sarah: Yep, and each, each log cabin block is framed by millennial pink. I will put all of these, of course, in the show notes, but thank you for sharing your crafting while – [laughs] – I hope you’re doing something nifty right now!
I have another email from Nicole.
Sarah: Nicole is answering my call for tell me what, what thing, what book you absolutely love. Like, everyone who I did an interview with brought a recommendation of a book that they recommend –
Sarah: – above all, and I’ll ask you about that in a minute, but Nicole wanted, wanted to tell us what, what her squee is, what books make her squee, and I love this answer so much. [Laughs] Nicole says:
“Okay, you asked for it, LOL… I absolutely love those time travel romances, whether it’s a real-time or ghosty theme. I loved those 80’s and 90’s books with those themes especially by Jude Deveraux (she wrote a few with that theme like A Knight in Shining Armor…. OMG… Love that one!) and Lynn Kurland, who wrote a bunch of those (especially A Dance Through Time series. It starts with a woman who inherits an English castle, and what do you know, there is a sexy ghost who refuses to leave and haunts her.”
I might want to read that.
Sarah: “There are so many of those books and authors, why did that genre end? lol Another author who wrote those is Sandra Hill and her ‘Viking’ series…”
“I love your show with Amanda and guests, so I know the 500th episode is going to be amazing!”
I hope so too, Nicole! Considering I’m recording it right this moment. I remember –
Amanda: Sandra Hill and her Viking vampire Navy SEALs.
Sarah: This is a different set of Vikings. The Viking series –
Amanda: Oh! [Laughs]
Sarah: – so the, the Viking vampire Navy SEALs is a whole other series by Sandra Hill. The Vikings are time travel – usually the – actually, I think I’ve read them where they both go; one goes forward in time or the other comes back in time. My favorite is The Very Virile Viking, because he has a lot of –
Amanda: I hate the word virile; I don’t like it!
Sarah: Oh, it’s, but it, it’s great alliteration!
Sarah: So do you know how often we get the HaBO requests where somebody writes in looking for a book where the hero has a bunch of kids and everyone assumes they’re his, but they’re not. Like, there’s a couple of those.
Amanda: Yeah. Well, like, we had a HaBO where, like, the, the person described as –
Sarah: [Laughs] Yes!
Amanda: – a comical amount of children, and that’s what I named – [laughs] – the HaBO!
Sarah: I loved the time travel books, and I particularly loved it when a character of the present had to go back to the past and had to adapt and was like, well, I am not not brushing my teeth. I will find a way to clean my teeth effectively.
Sarah: They were all just obsessed with their teeth, and to be fair, they’re important. That was always my favorite thing about the time travels.
So Alanna has an email where they have a lot of recommendations for us, and then we have an email from Malaraa.
Amanda: Okay, Malaraa!
Sarah: Malaraa! All right.
So Alanna says, “I just listened to the episode about knitting and first off, thank you for the tip about The Great Canadian Baking Show!! I just texted my spouse that we need to start that ASAP.
“I mostly play,” Alanna says, “non-verbal games on my phone while listening to audiobooks and podcasts (coloring, puzzles, solitaire), but occasionally I pick up my one knitting project. It is theoretically going to be a 4th Doctor scarf for my dad’s birthday (two years ago, but whatever) and I have been inspired to pick it up again after listening.” Yay!
“I’ve also been meaning to send you recommendations. I read more last year than I have in decades so there was a lot to choose from, but the ones that stuck out in my head were:
“Knot My Type and Love Flushed by Evie Mitchell – Featuring badass heroines with disabilities and emotionally intelligent heroes.”
I love an emotionally intelligent hero.
Amanda: I –
Amanda: I think I featured Knot My Type on a previous, like, Book Beat?
Amanda: Because I was so taken with, like, the illustrated cover. A lot of the covers in that series feature, like, seen disabilities; like, disabilities –
Sarah: Visible disabilities.
Amanda: Yes, thank you.
Together: Visible disabilities –
Amanda: – which we don’t see a lot of on romance covers. Did wind up buying it; it’s sitting on my Kindle, so maybe this is, like, the push I need –
Sarah: Yeah! I think it is.
Amanda: – to –
Sarah: I think you should.
Amanda: Okay. [Laughs] Okay, yeah!
Sarah: Other books that Alanna recommends include: “Boyfriend Material and Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall –“
I know you loved that book.
Sarah: “I described Boyfriend Material to my friends as ‘Monty Python without the racism,’ and Rosaline Palmer was everything I ever wanted in a cooking competition book. Also both are beautifully queer.
“The Perks of Loving a Wallflower by Erica Ridley – A genderqueer Regency that features my favorite theme – sticking it to the powerful and living a happy life no matter what society dictates.”
“And for anyone into monsters, Finley Fenn’s Orc Sworn series does some really interesting things with the orc tropes and has really impressive world building to boot. I especially liked The Midwife and the Orc.”
And I just want to say, that is most number of times I’ve said the word orc in a long, long time.
Amanda: Well, maybe, maybe you should change that! I don’t know.
Sarah: Maybe I should just narrate some orc fiction.
Amanda: Just pepper it into everyday conversation.
And Alanna says, “Thanks for continuing to run my favorite podcast!” Oh, you’re welcome! “I look forward to each week for a reliable dose of the happy brain chemicals!”
Ah, that’s entirely the goal!
Sarah: That’s the whole goal, so thank you, Alanna!
This email from Malaraa requires us to look at a Twitter thread.
Amanda: I’m already on it!
Sarah: Okay. So you’re, you’re on this.
Sarah: So Malaraa has sent us a Twitter thread, which of course I will put in the show notes, and it is a list of AI-generated science fiction convention panels. Malaraa asks, “Which of the AI generated SF convention panels on this thread would you want to go to? and if they fed through the programs of thousands of romance conventions, what do you think the panels for that would look like? Would there still be all the cake? https://mobile.twitter.com/straycarnivore/status/1488514050325626880”
No, there probably – I mean, I don’t know if there’s wine in the titles of romance panels, but I would like to think there would be a lot of wine involved.
Amanda: Do you, like, can you hear Linus howling?
Sarah: I can! He’s very, very mad about something! What did you do?
Amanda: My door’s open. I think Stephanie kicked him out of her room, which he’s probably a monster, but, like, he just sits in the hallway and yowls for no reason.
Sarah: Well, he’s mad! And he expects you to know about it.
Amanda: Oh my God. Linus! Stop it!
Sarah: So in this list of AI –
Sarah: – convention titles, we have to pick one. My two favorite are conveniently in the same tweet?
Sarah: [Laughs] “Fairy Tales Are Cake” and “Maps! Maps! Maps! Maps! Maps! Why We Hate Them?”
Amanda: My runner-up is “BDSM FIREBALL.”
Sarah: I was going to say, I know the BDSM FIREBALL –
Amanda: [Laughs] In all caps, BDSM FIREBALL.
Amanda: But I particularly love the panel name “Why Are We Still Talking About Dune? A Panel About Dune.”
Sarah: Yeah! I love that one. That’s particularly good.
Amanda: I’m one of those who, like, I didn’t see the movie, but, like, book-wise, I found Dune to be boring and a snooze-fest. If you loved it, so glad, so happy for you, but I am one of those people that does not get the Dune hype. So I would –
Sarah: I don’t know.
Amanda: – I would be very curious about that panel.
Sarah: “Quantum Mixtapes of Venus” sounds really good.
Sarah: “Buffy: A Panel of Woman.” [Laughs]
Amanda: Just one, the single – guest, “Guest of Honor Cake”!
Sarah: Yeah, just the one. Guest of Honor: Cake! Ah –
Amanda: Wasn’t there one that was, like, really good – oh, “What is a Semi-Asimov?”
Sarah: So good!
Amanda: What is a Semi-Asimov?
Sarah: I have no idea!
So if there were, the programs of thousands of romance conventions fed through an AI, what would the panels look like? I don’t think there would be all the cake, cause we don’t –
Sarah: – talk about Portal that much. There, but if you remember, the panels for RWA and the panels for, like, Romantic Times were very, very different.
Sarah: And, I mean, I was the MC of a few Sexy Bingo games where if you won Bingo you read a sex scene out loud? Those were very fun.
Amanda: Is, are you really the winner in that?
Sarah: Yeah, you are. And it’s, and, and, as, as you keep going, it’s, it’s more and more fun ‘cause people get more comfortable.
Amanda: Oh boy. Okay.
Sarah: So I think that there’d be some Bingo, there’d be some Bunco. [Laughs] Bingo, Bunco, Wine, and Writing, probably.
Amanda: If it’s like RT Booklovers, I feel like Pajamas would be in one of the panels?
Sarah: [Laughs] Pajamas!
Amanda: Or, like, Slumber Party. There’s, like, a lot of sleepover-titled events. They’re like Pajama Party or –
Sarah: Yeah, and Margaritas, but for R-, for RWA it would be Pants or Plot or Pajamas?
Amanda: Oh yeah! Or, like, something with, like, Craft in the title.
Sarah: Craft! Craft, Craft, Pajamas, Craft, Cake! [Laughs]
Amanda: Oh my gosh.
Sarah: I’m kind of scared of the AI that would take all of those titles, especially the old RT ones where it was just like –
Amanda: I know we have someone super –
Sarah: – Beefcake!
Amanda: – fucking smart who listens to this. Please –
Amanda: – please do this.
Amanda: I’m sure it’s very taxing –
Sarah: I’m sure.
Amanda: – but if you have free time and you feel so inclined, we’d love this!
Sarah: Of course!
Sarah: What recommendation would you have – since this is the five hundredth episode, we’re going for the best jo-, the best, the best recommendation you can possibly think of. What is, what is your recommendation?
Carrie: I am going to stick to the same one I’ve been recommending since I started reading romance, and that is Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie.
Carrie: I believe by now everybody is sick of hearing me recommend it. It was written quite some time ago, and the one thing I notice that’s dated is that everybody is white. However, Bet Me is fantastic. It’s funny; it has real substance. It helped me a lot with my own issues about my body. It has a heroine who struggles with her own body image. Another thing I like is that there’s a big circle of friends; there’s a big emphasis on found family, which is a huge thing for me. It’s super, super funny, and there’s an epilogue – this is a bit of a spoiler, but it’s really vague. There’s a, there’s a bit at the end where they talk about everybody, how everybody ends up –
Carrie: – and one thing that I really love about that book is that everybody gets a happy ending, but those happy endings look very different for different people and include remaining single.
Carrie: It’s a big comfort read for me. When I’m really stressed I’ll just read like a couple pages of it, and then I laugh, and then I feel better.
Sarah: One of the things I really like about that book, it was one of the very first I’ve ever read that had a heroine who didn’t want children and –
Sarah: – that was consistent through the whole book. It wasn’t as if falling in love changed her mind about that at all, and I really appreciated that.
Carrie: I love that about that book. And it’s very much about accepting and honoring who you are as you are, which I, I love.
Sarah: And setting boundaries with people who are unkind to you.
Carrie: Yes! Absolutely, oh my gosh, so much.
Sarah: All right, that’s a great rec. So what is your question? What weird question have you brought for us today?
Carrie: What fanfic – if you read fanfic, and if you don’t you can apply this to something else, some other form of –
Carrie: – media – is objectively terrible, but it still sparks deep joy in your heart and you love it?
Sarah: Ooh, gosh, that’s a hard one. Which fanfic is objectively terrible, but still sparks joy in my heart? What’s the one that everyone makes fun of? Like my name is Raven Dementia –
Carrie: That would be My Immortal.
Sarah: Yes, that one! Even –
Carrie: That one.
Sarah: – even just somebody transcribing – and I remember her name is Raven Dementia, which is just like, great job, Brain – just somebody just transcribing the first line, I start laughing.
Sarah: That one –
Carrie: You are not alone! Many people, like, that was actually the example –
Carrie: – that I was given.
Sarah: It’s just goofy, and when it, and it owns what it is, but wow –
Sarah: – does it go there! It just, it goes there –
Sarah: – and it takes a ferry, it goes even farther. Yeah, absolutely.
Carrie: Yeah. That is –
Sarah: All right, what about you?
Carrie: – excellent answer. Objectively terrible, but I still love it. So I don’t really read fanfic, although the little that has been read to me of My Immortal I do treasure.
Sarah: Oh, it’s like somebody saying Bandersnatch Cummerbund, and I’m going to start laughing.
Carrie: Like, I’ve never sat down and read My Immortal from the beginning to the end –
Sarah: I don’t think I need to! I think I know how it goes! [Laughs]
Carrie: I think you know how it goes, but significant parts of it have been read to me –
Carrie: – but they are absolutely just so beautiful and hilarious and I, I treasure every moment.
Sarah: Absolutely. All right, so did you bring a joke?
Carrie: I brought a joke. This is in the genre of what they call eight-year-old jokes; they’re for eight-year-olds. I have repeated it many times since to eight-year-olds and other people, and nobody thinks it’s as funny as me.
Carrie: So let’s see if any of our listeners also love this joke.
Sarah: Okay, bring it.
Carrie: ‘Kay. Why are there so many Smiths in the phonebook?
Sarah: Why? Why are there so many Smiths in the phonebook?
Carrie: Because they all have phones!
Sarah: That’s perfect! I love it!
Sarah: That is perfect!
Carrie: I love that joke.
Sarah: That is really, really good. Thank you!
Sarah: Hi, Tara!
Sarah: Thank you for doing this!
Tara: Thank you for asking me! I’m so happy to be here.
Sarah: Well, this is my five hundredth episode; I want as many people to be involved as possible. So this is real simple: I’m looking for a recommendation for a book that you unequivocally recommend, a silly question, and possibly a joke.
Tara: Okay. So my recommendation is a book that I finished this week. I was Slacking with you a little bit about it.
Tara: I will be writing, I will be writing something. I had to at least, like, that day I didn’t have it in me to write a review, but I, I blocked out all my points, just to get it out of my head so I could sleep. Like, have you ever read those kinds of books where, like, you read it and you’re like, well, if I don’t write some of these things down, I’m going to ruminate all night, and I had done that the whole previous night. So my unequivocal recommendation is The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo –
Tara: – by Taylor Jenkins Reid, which is wonderful if you love old Hollywood, if you love complicated stories with highly unreliable, self-serving narrators, and as much as yes, there are seven husbands, I mean, the fact that lesbian Twitter freaks out about it every six months or so and that I will be reviewing it personally, I think is a pretty big tip to some of the themes.
Sarah: Oh, just a little.
Tara: I mean –
Sarah: Y’all can’t see me, but the minute Tara started talking I put my chin in my hands and I was like, just tell me everything!
Sarah: You had whopping book hangover from this book, didn’t you?
Tara: Oh yeah, it was bad, and it was like – so the setup is Evelyn Hugo is kind of this, imagine blonde bombshell Elizabeth Taylor.
Tara: Effectively, that kind of a character – reaches out to this reporter at a magazine who is quite low-level, not at all the kind of person that would do an interview with somebody like her, and said, I want an interview and I want it with her, and they’re like, okay, but what about these, you know, more seasoned people? And she was like, fuck you: it’s her or it’s nobody. I’m Evelyn Hugo; you’re going to do it.
Tara: And so this woman shows up and she says, why do you want me to do this? And she’s like, well, here’s the thing: I want you to write my life story. It’s going to be a book. You release it after I’m dead, and you sell it for as much money as you possibly can, and she’s like, but why? And she said, well, I’ll tell you at the end.
Tara: And she goes through, and it’s going back and forth between Evelyn’s history as she tells it –
Tara: – in the first person and her conversations with Monique, who is the interviewer in the present. Crucially important: I highly recommend it in audio.
Tara: The performances are phenomenal. Yeah, there are three different actors that do different parts of the story. It goes back and forth between these two things, but for me it was like, okay, so that twist of like, why is Monique there? Very interesting, but especially for me, it was seeing who she loses along the way –
Tara: – and there is one particular loss that ruined me.
Sarah: Oh no!
Tara: Like, fucking ruined me, which is interesting, ‘cause the whole reason I even listened to it, my podcast partner was so sick and tired of me saying, I’ll get to it, I’ll get to it, I’m waiting for my library, and she bought me the book, and she’s like, listen to it now or I’m going to kill you, and I’m like, okay, okay!
Tara: And for her, it was a different loss that hit her –
Tara: – deeply and profoundly, but in a different way! And so the next day I’m trying to explain it all to Neil, my, my partner, and as I’m explaining it, I’m starting to cry again. Meanwhile, I’ve only had four hours of sleep –
Sarah: Oh no!
Tara: – because of what this book did to me.
Sarah: Oh no!
Tara: Oh yeah. Like, I couldn’t fall asleep, and then when I finally fell asleep I slept for four hours, and then I woke up, and then I was back thinking about it again and, like, lying in bed and almost crying. And so I’m trying to explain it to him; he’s like, okay –
Tara: – why? And here’s the thing! I saw so many people say this: this isn’t going to happen to me ‘cause I know that this is a book that does this to people!
Tara: And because I know, that’s going to take the teeth out of it, and it did not take the teeth out of it.
Sarah: [Laughs] So –
Tara: At all!
Sarah: – when someone says this book is going to make you sob, you think, all right, well, that’ll, that’ll lower the likelihood of sobbing. It did not take effect here.
Tara: Not in the least.
Sarah: All right, so what is your weird question for us?
Tara: Okay, so I turned to someone at work, she is on our People team, and she always has the best icebreakers.
Sarah: Oh, those people are the best!
Tara: Yeah, I love her; I absolutely love her. Her name is Paula. She is a perfect human. Well, she’s probably not, but I love her. And so I said, I’m doing this thing; what do you think? And she didn’t even hesitate. What fruit or vegetable do you embody and why?
Sarah: Oh my God!
Tara: And also, for my answer, I’m going with the answer that she gave me about me, ‘cause it’s better than the answer that I had about me!
Sarah: Oh, I like this person so much! What’s the answer?
Tara: I’m a radish because I bring a fresh perspective and I have some bite!
Sarah: Ah! [Laughs] It’s true! That’s absolutely true!
Tara: Right? Yeah.
Sarah: And you’re surprising too. You know, it’s just like, oh, there’s some greens –
Sarah: – then you pull this bright red powerhouse of vegetable out of the bottom!
Sarah: And it’s peppery.
Sarah: Yeah! All right, I, I like this!
Sarah: Okay. I am going to say that I am a pomegranate.
Sarah: Funky looking on the outside, very tough skin –
Sarah: – very, very enjoyable once you go through the labor of –
Sarah: – getting to the core of it. Don’t agree?
Tara: I like – well, I personally didn’t find it laborious, but –
Sarah: Oh, thank you! Thank you!
Tara: – I don’t know. So that, that’s my only – I don’t, I don’t disagree; it just doesn’t fully align with my experience of you.
Sarah: Well, thank you. Perhaps it would be better to say that a very specific approach is necessary to get past the tough exterior. You, you might need to watch a YouTube video to figure out how to do this.
Sarah: All right, so my question for you –
Sarah: You are in an eating competition. What food are you eating?
Tara: I feel like the question you’re asking me is, what food am I okay with vomiting later?
Sarah: [Laughs] What food am I okay with visiting more than once?
Tara: Yeah, yeah. ‘Cause that’s not like, I imagine if I am in an eating competition, I am probably not going to hold it down. Scrambled eggs.
Sarah: Okay! Do you like scrambled eggs?
Tara: No, but they, they go up very easily. [Laughs]
Sarah: Ah, I see. So it’s an, it’s an ease of emesis that you’re looking for here.
Tara: That’s right.
Sarah: I think if I had to do a food competition I would probably go for cheese pizza. I could never – if it’s a really good cheese pizza, I could just keep eating it and eating it and eating it, and I just don’t even register that I’m full, but the crust will be a challenge ‘cause it requires more chewing. So it might not be the most effective eating competition food, but it is the food that I could just eat nonstop and never get tired of it, especially if it’s a really good cheese pizza with a good sauce and some good melty cheese, and the cheese is just a little bit brown? Yeah, I could do that.
Tara: But could you keep eating it after going through that experience?
Sarah: I don’t know. I might have to order a bunch of cheese pizzas and give it a try.
Sarah: It’s, it’s really interesting how we took this, this question in very different directions? Like, I was thinking, how much of one thing could I eat nonstop without just absolutely getting sick of it? And you’re like, all right, what am I going to barf? [Laughs]
Tara: Okay. To answer the spirit of your question –
Sarah: No vomit, just eating.
Tara: – no vomit, just eating, and I’m –
Sarah: I have to have the weirdest content warnings on this episode! It’s going to be amazing!
Sarah: Elyse and I talked about dog farts; we’re going to talk about barf. It’s going to be great!
Tara: Uh-huh, uh-huh. Can I eat this without my general reflux –
Tara: – consequences as well?
Sarah: Yeahyeahyeahyeahyeah! Yeah. All –
Tara: So I –
Sarah: – all bodily retaliation is off the table here. You just get to eat as much as you want as fast as you can. Yes!
Tara: I think I would choose a sausage and pineapple pizza, because people like –
Tara: – ham and pineapple, but it is actually better with sausage –
Tara: – because sausage is saltier.
Tara: Or even pepperoni! Like, I don’t know why it’s always ham. Ham doesn’t have the same salt content, but you need more salt to the meat, which is where pepperoni or sausage works better to offset, like, with the sweetness, they play better.
Sarah: I’ve never had this. Sausage and –
Sarah: – pineapple.
Tara: When I was in university, one of my three jobs that I worked to put myself through university was at a family-style Italian restaurant –
Tara: – and we got, as part of, you know, we got paid, but also we could have one meal each day for free!
Sarah: Yeah, yeah, yeah!
Tara: And the pizza guys were really sweet and they would let me, like, make my own pizza, and the one that I hit on that I really, really loved: super light cheese, ‘cause I personally am not, cheese and I are not good friends; lot of sauce; but –
Tara: – pepperoni, Italian sausage, tomatoes, and pineapple. And it was beautiful.
Sarah: That sounds really good!
Tara: I know.
Sarah: I’m going to have to try this! All right, do you have a joke?
Tara: I have two jokes.
Sarah: [Gasps] Oh, special.
Tara: Here’s the thing: I’m not like a super big joke person; I’m very much a pun curmudgeon, although if I like one enough I tend to send them actually to you specifically. You’re the only – [laughs] – person that likes puns that much.
Sarah: I love them!
Tara: Okay, so one of my favorite accounts on Twitter is an account called @KidsWriteJokes.
Sarah: Ohhh –
Tara: Have you heard of this?
Sarah: – I have not!
Tara: Do you remember – don’t look at it yet, ‘cause they’re recent ones – do you remember when your kids were around five and six and they would tell you jokes and they, it would make no sense?
Sarah: Yeah, but you laugh anyway because they’re laughing. Absolutely.
Tara: It’s all those. So okay, ask me if I’m an apple.
Sarah: Tara, are you an apple?
Tara: So that is joke one.
Sarah; Okay! I, I love it! I love it so much!
Tara: So I did too! I was like, this is beautiful!
Okay, second joke: what did the FBI say to the person?
Sarah: Oh God, what?
Tara: Open up and give me your credit card and your croutons!
Sarah: [Laughs] Okay! I love all of these children and all of these jokes.
Tara: Mm-hmm! It’s wonderful!
Sarah: One of my favorites this year is the one I sent you about how you keep Canadian bacon from curling, ‘cause you take away its little brooms?
Tara: That was, that was all right. That was cute.
Sarah: Yep. Well, I mean, it’s the Canadian-ness that makes it extra good.
Tara: It’s true!
Sarah: It’s true!
Sarah: I have a lot of people to thank, and I want to start with you. You are listening, and it is such an honor. Thank you for keeping me company and for letting me know how much you enjoy the show, for emailing me, for sending me recommendations, for sending me pictures of your crafting? You can keep doing that; I love it. It is such an honor to do this show, and I love podcasting. It wouldn’t be as much fun without you, so thank you.
I want to thank Amanda, Carrie, Tara, Elyse, and Shana and everyone who emailed us and left messages and sent pictures. It, it’s really fun to have all of you as part of the podcast community.
A very big thank-you to garlicknitter for transcribing every episode. [You’re so very welcome. I love this gig best of all. – gk]
As always, I end with a terrible joke. I told Adam this one, and he was extremely disgusted, so of course I saved it to share with you.
Did you hear about the new diet where you wear bread on your head?
Have you heard about this new diet where you wear bread on your head?
Yeah, it’s a new loaf-hat diet.
[Laughs] Loaf-hat! So bad! Loaf-hat. I love it! Ah! Thank you to u/I’mSoylentGreen for that joke.
I have one last thing to note: this episode is dedicated to the memory of Catherine Heloise McLean, who we lost earlier in February. If you’ve read any of her reviews you know how much she loved books and wanted to do an interview for this episode. I was going to try to schedule one with her. I hope that her memory is a blessing, and may we all read the very best books with gold lamé and glitter and Eurovision and excellent baking.
Smart Podcast, Trashy Books is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find more outstanding podcasts to subscribe to at frolic.media/podcasts.
And Happy Five Hundredth episode to us.
This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.