Reading the End Bookcast, Ep. 94: Cozy Reads for Winter Nights, plus Tell the Truth Shame the Devil

I hope all the Christmas celebrators out there had wonderful Christmases! It’s Wednesday, and me and Whiskey Jenny are back to talk about the books we like to read when the weather turns chilly. We have a lot of thoughts about how this type of reading differs from comfort reading. Then we turn to Melina Marchetta’s first novel for adults, Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil, about which we each went on a dramatic emotional journey. You can listen to the podcast using the embedded player below, or download the file here to take with you on the go!

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Here are the time signatures if you want to skip around.

1:00 – What We’re Reading
4:50 – Serial Box Book Club
10:53 – Cozy reads for winter nights
28:02 – Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil, Melina Marchetta

Books Discussed This Episode

The Skriker, Caryl Churchill
Whipping Girl, Julia Serano
The Templars, Dan Jones
Geek Actually (episodes 5 and 6)
Sunshine, Robin McKinley
Jo Nesbo
Robert Galbraith
Miss Marple mysteries, Agatha Christie
A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong, Cecilia Grant
A Curious Beginning, Deanna Raybourn
Ada. or Ardor, Vladimir Nabokov
The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton
City on Fire, Garth Risk Hallberg
Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil, Melina Marchetta

Get at me on Twitter, email the podcast, and friend me (Gin Jenny) and Whiskey Jenny on Goodreads. Or if you wish, you can find us on iTunes (and if you enjoy the podcast, give us a good rating! We appreciate it very very much).

Producer: Captain Hammer
Photo credit: The Illustrious Annalee
Theme song by: Jessie Barbour

If you want to read a transcript, check it out under the cut!

THEME SONG: You don’t judge a book by its cover. Page one’s not a much better view. And shortly you’re gonna discover the middle won’t mollify you. So whether whiskey’s your go-to or you’re like my gin-drinking friend, no matter what you are imbibing, you’ll be better off in the end reading the end.

GIN JENNY: Welcome back to the Reading the End bookcast with the demographically similar Jennies. I’m Gin Jenny.

WHISKEY JENNY: And I’m Whiskey Jenny.

GIN JENNY: And we are here again to talk to you about books and literary happenings. On today’s episode, we’re going to discuss episodes five and six of Geek Actually for our Serial Box book club. We will talk about cozy reading for the winter months, and we’ll review Melina Marchetta’s mystery novel– ish?– which Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil.

Before we get into all that, Whiskey Jenny, what are you reading?

WHISKEY JENNY: I just started this play called The Skriker, by Caryl Churchill. I think that’s how you say it S-K-R-I-K-E-R. And it is bananas.

GIN JENNY: It sounds bats.

WHISKEY JENNY: It’s insane. But I’m really enjoying it. So it’s like, the skriker is described in the beginning as a shapeshifter and death portent.

And she’s got like four pages of monologue in the beginning that’s pretty hard to understand. It’s a lot of wordplay, and it reminds me a lot of the Lord’s Prayer from Umami, that we read a couple of episodes ago, where she’s playing around with all the like words, and rhyming different things. And it’s like that, but for four pages. It sounds really cool, but I’m not totally sure I know what happened during it.

And then I think it’s going to be like modern day London, except also there’s a bunch of scary folk creatures. So the cast of characters includes Fair Fairy; Green Lady; Bogle, a brownie; Nellie Longarms, spriggan. I don’t– [LAUGHTER]

My favorite part so far– well not my favorite part, but right after that four page monologue, where you’re like, OK, here we go. Now we’re into the dialogue. The stage directions go, “Lily is visiting Josie in a mental hospital. Lily is pregnant. Also there is the kelpie, part young man, part horse.” I like how just casual about it. Like, oh by the way, also there’s a half men, half horse. And go. Scene.

He just hangs out in the background. I don’t think he’s had a line yet. So anyways, I have no idea what’s going to happen, but I’m kind of enjoying it.

GIN JENNY: What made you decide to read it?

WHISKEY JENNY: It’s for book club.

GIN JENNY: Oh, wow. OK, cool. Plays in book club. Way to go!

WHISKEY JENNY: Yeah, I know. I’m excited.

GIN JENNY: I always wish I read more plays, but then I never do it.

WHISKEY JENNY: Same. What are you reading right now?

GIN JENNY: So I finally picked up Julia Serano’s book Whipping Girl, which is about her perspective as a trans woman on sexism and the way that femininity is scapegoated in American society.


GIN JENNY: Yeah. So I’ve been meaning to read it for a really long time. But you know how it is with major feminism texts, where you keep meaning to read them, and then it’s like Harvey Weinstein all the time, and all you want to do is not think about sexism. And time just moves inexorably forward and you keep not reading the things. Yeah, that’s been me.

WHISKEY JENNY: But you read it now.

GIN JENNY: I’m reading it now. It’s really good. I like it a lot.

I’m also reading Dan Jones’s history of the Templars, which is called The Templars. And it’s pretty enjoyable.

I think we just got through with the Second Crusade, and it is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.


GIN JENNY: OK, one of the major campaigns in the stupid Second Crusade was that these huge armies of Europeans went to try and take over Damascus, right? And they had to besiege Damascus. It was in a great big fort or something, I guess. And their whole plan depended on the fact that while they were camped out for this siege, they were hanging out in the fruit orchards on one side of Damascus, right? So they had all these food provisions.

So after a while of besieging Damascus from their position amongst the fruit orchards, they got bored. And they were like, well this sucks. We should besiege Damascus from this other direction.


GIN JENNY: So these dumb jerks wandered off–


GIN JENNY: –leaving behind their only source of food.


GIN JENNY: And then they had no food and they still were not able to successfully besiege Damascus, and then they just went home like a bunch of incompetent dodos.

And to be clear, I didn’t want them to successfully win over Damascus. I just couldn’t believe how stupid they all were.

WHISKEY JENNY: They just had such a bad plan.

GIN JENNY: It’s the worst place in the world. But you know, it’s interesting. And I don’t know much about the Crusades, so, you know. Learned about that.

Well, do you want to get into the Serial Box book club?

WHISKEY JENNY: I do. I feel like we haven’t checked in on them in a while, so I’m excited to chat about them again.

GIN JENNY: We read episode five, “Beware of Rage Bait,” by Melissa Blue, and episode six, “Can You Not?” by Cecilia Tan. Whiskey Jenny, how’re you feeling about things?



WHISKEY JENNY: Some rough stuff happened during these.


WHISKEY JENNY: Some stuff that I think the thing knows is rough and I’m really not into, obviously, because it’s terrible. But then some other things where I’m like, I don’t think you know why I don’t like this, story. What did you think?

GIN JENNY: Yeah, I felt kind of the same. Honestly, one of the big things that happens in episode six is that Taneesha gets doxed by another guy at her workplace and starts getting all these really horrible threats all the time. And it’s not that I find it unrealistic. It’s just that it’s such a huge bummer to read about.

I was so excited for things to turn around for Taneesha. I thought she was going to have an amazing triumph in her professional life and start dating the comic store guy, Diego– who, by the way, I’m like 95% sure is a virgin.

WHISKEY JENNY: Oh. Why is her brother being so weird about it then?

GIN JENNY: I don’t know, but I think that’s what it is. Listeners, what happens is that Taneesha’s talking to her brother about how Diego’s being real slow to ask her out on a proper date. And her brother is like, well, there’s some stuff you don’t know about, but I can’t really talk about it.

WHISKEY JENNY: And he does it again!

GIN JENNY: Yeah, it’s really weird.

WHISKEY JENNY: And he’s so mysterious about his past and his capital-R Reasons.

GIN JENNY: Yeah, I think he’s a virgin. I think that’s what the reasons are.

WHISKEY JENNY: Oh. Well, that’s a lame reveal.


I don’t know, why is the story building it up to be some weird thing?

GIN JENNY: I know. Anyway, instead of having a professional triumph or starting to date Diego, Taneesha gets doxed instead. And it really, really– I don’t know. It was rough to read about.

WHISKEY JENNY: It was really rough to read about. The whole– the two were just really infuriating for her. Talking about the doxing, and her HR did not go great. You had some work meetings that were very frustrating to read about, because she’s just getting condescended to and not listened to.

GIN JENNY: Yeah, and then she’s getting terrorized in her private life.


GIN JENNY: You know, I just– I just kind of thought this would be more rom-commy than it is.

WHISKEY JENNY: Yeah. I don’t know, maybe if we’d read it six months ago we would have been more open to it.

GIN JENNY: Yeah it definitely does– I’m sure my reaction is being influenced by the all the sexual harassment that’s in the news constantly.

WHISKEY JENNY: Yeah, I think mine is, too.

GIN JENNY: But even so.

WHISKEY JENNY: What did you think of it otherwise?

GIN JENNY: Whiskey Jenny, honestly– you tell me how you feel. I would not be sad if we stopped reading this. It’s just making me so– [SIGH]. Just reading it this week–

It’s not just Taneesha who’s facing really toxic racism. Michelle tries to explore her new interest in BDSM, and someone is super racist to her, as well. And you know, I don’t. Know seeing this kind of really specific racial humiliation against two of these characters in areas where they’re really vulnerable, maybe it’s too much for my heart.

WHISKEY JENNY: Of course we can stop if you want to stop.

GIN JENNY: Not if you don’t want to. I was going to see if you also felt the same way. And if not, I can press on. I might read the end, though.

WHISKEY JENNY: Um, I would be fine either way. I would not be disappointed if we stop, and I would not cry if we kept reading.

GIN JENNY: If it were just you and you were just reading this on your own, would you continue?


GIN JENNY: OK, well then let’s stop. We’re free women.

WHISKEY JENNY: Yeah, I just feel like it’s not what we were expecting. And I’m still just flummoxed by how it’s handling the BDSM storyline with Michelle.


WHISKEY JENNY: She’s doing work at the sex party, and I can’t–


She’s doing work at the sex party, and then she just goes into the sex room with a random person. And I was just so shocked that she went to a sex party by herself. She went from not even knowing what BDSM meant to going to a party alone and playing at it. I was like, this is too fast for me. She went from zero to 60 way too fast.


WHISKEY JENNY: And then Christina and Vivi are also really stressing me out, as well. There’s not anyone who is not stressing me out, so.

GIN JENNY: Well, Elli seems to be having a perfect fairy life over in perfect no employment land.


WHISKEY JENNY: A charmed life of never doing work is working out so great for her.

GIN JENNY: Yeah, so Christina is the one who’s a production assistant on a sci-fi show. This also really upset me. The sci-fi show apparently is super rapey, which also sucks.

And Christina is dating Vivi, who is a recurring guest star on the series. And she and Vivi are going to go to an event together, and Vivi totally will not listen to Christina when she is talking about her preferred mode of gender expression when she’s being dressed for this party. It’s really uncool.

WHISKEY JENNY: It is. And she tries to manipulate her into doing what she wants, and it’s just not great.

GIN JENNY: And Christina keeps saying, I don’t want to wear this dress. I don’t like looking that femmy. And Vivi’s like, no, it’s probably fine.

WHISKEY JENNY: What did you think you signed up for?

GIN JENNY: Yeah. It’s upsetting and kind of coercive, and I didn’t care for it at all.

I think for both of us– and probably this is more on me, because I think I sold it to you as a rom com when I was talking about it. But also the title of the series makes it sound rom commy. And it actually really isn’t.

WHISKEY JENNY: I don’t know, maybe it was an expectations thing. And I don’t want to knock it for addressing important things.

GIN JENNY: No, me neither. And I think it’s doing a good job, because obviously it’s inducing feelings of great pain and sadness in me. But it is a lot. It is.

All right, so, I mean– is that it? Are we throwing in the towel?

WHISKEY JENNY: I think– I mean, I think so.

GIN JENNY: Yeah I think there’s a lot good about this. Maybe I don’t love it in the serial format. That might be a factor.

WHISKEY JENNY: Because it sort of stretches it out more.

GIN JENNY: Yeah, and I do think there was an expectations gap. I’m still probably going to read the end, because I want to see that Taneesha gets a happy ending as she so richly deserves.

WHISKEY JENNY: Well, let me know what happens.

GIN JENNY: Will do. Like we said, no shots at this one. It just isn’t what we expected and is pretty sad.

WHISKEY JENNY: It’s just too hard right now.

GIN JENNY: It is. It’s been a rough year.

Well, turning to a completely different type of topic, we were going to talk today about cozy books for the winter.


GIN JENNY: All right, Whiskey Jenny, what do you read when it’s cold outside?

WHISKEY JENNY: OK, well first of all, I just want to clarify. We talked about the fact that we had previously done good comfort reads, and would this be too close of a topic? And we came down and decided that it would not be too close. But I think the subtle shadings of the differences between them was a lot of fun to figure out.

And the first thing that I would say is a difference between comfort reads and cozy reads for me is, I am much more of a rereader for comfort and will try new things for coziness.

GIN JENNY: Me too!

WHISKEY JENNY: But just sticking in the cozy genres that I already know. So sorry, you’re the same way?

GIN JENNY: Yes, that is in my notes. When I’m doing cozy, huddled up with blankets winter reading, I don’t reread very often at all.

WHISKEY JENNY: Yeah. Everything else, I guess the safety of the blanket helps.


GIN JENNY: I was expecting a lot more overlap between cozy winter books and comfort reads. And I was kind of surprised when I started thinking about it. There really isn’t much overlap at all. Like, Sunshine is the overlap, and that’s it. By Robin McKinley.

WHISKEY JENNY: Yeah, OK. See, I think there’s probably more overlap for me. But what I ended up doing was thinking of genres that I like to cozy read.

GIN JENNY: Oh, me too. OK, cool.

WHISKEY JENNY: Because I end up reading new stuff more as cozy. So I have examples of past cozy reads. But then comfort, I always go back to the same specific books.

OK, well do you want to go through your genres?

GIN JENNY: Yeah. But first can I ask, is there anything that unifies your various genres for you?

WHISKEY JENNY: No. Well, maybe you’ll find something that I didn’t find.

GIN JENNY: An outsider’s eye cast upon it.

WHISKEY JENNY: Yeah. I have three genres.

GIN JENNY: OK, I have two, so you go first.

WHISKEY JENNY: OK, great. Well, I guess I have two, but one of them has some subgenres. [LAUGHTER] It’s fine. You don’t need the specifics of the graph.

OK, so I love a mystery for cozy reading. But there’s two kinds of mysteries that I really like.

GIN JENNY: Oh boy.

WHISKEY JENNY: I like the sort of dark Scandinavian mystery, perhaps partly because it’s cold in the book and it’s cold outside. But I’m warm, and I’m like, this is great. I’m cozy, so bad things can happen in this book and it’s OK. Because they’ll figure it out in the end.

They just better. I’m not here for mysteries where they don’t figure it out in the end.

GIN JENNY: No, that’s absurd.


GIN JENNY: Tana French!

WHISKEY JENNY: So I think I talked about Jo Nesbo in previous podcast. Robert Galbraith, which is JK Rowling’s mystery pseudonym. Those kinds of things, which get pretty bloody, I would say. But ultimately they figure out who did it, and they catch him or her. And it’s cold in the book. And they’re so cold, and I’m so warm.

And then the other mystery subgenre– oh, you know what I wanted to also mention is, you know, there’s bad things happening, but there’s not bad things happening to me. And I think that’s scratching the same itch that horror movies do for some people.

GIN JENNY: Oh, sure. Yeah.

WHISKEY JENNY: Then I also really like– I guess they’re called cozy mysteries. I like the super delightful low-stakes mysteries where you are 100% sure that nothing bad is going to happen. And there’s probably some knitting, maybe some recipes.

Miss Marples are really good. I love those for comfort reads– or, for cozy reads. So sorry! Big difference.

GIN JENNY: How dare you?

WHISKEY JENNY: I know. But that kind of low-stakes mystery. Maybe they’re in an inn. Inns are great for cozy reads.

GIN JENNY: Inns are great across the board. Romance novels– also love an inn in a romance novel.

WHISKEY JENNY: Absolutely. Great point.

GIN JENNY: They definitely always have the correct number of beds for the number of people at the inn.

WHISKEY JENNY: That’s right. Always. Just works out great. I just read A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong.


WHISKEY JENNY: And they have to stop over at an inn. And the order muppet is being so rigidly orderly that he’s sleeping on the floor, but getting hypothermia doing so, because it’s a really, really cold. So eventually he, like, hates himself but gets into the bed with her. And I’m like, dude, you’re going to die otherwise. It’s OK. [LAUGHTER] So anyway, that was very cozy.

GIN JENNY: You know what, I’m constantly recommending this novella, A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong, by Cecilia Grant. And I think I’m just going to have to reread it. You talking about it is just reminding me of why I liked it so much.

WHISKEY JENNY: It was pretty cute.

GIN JENNY: Well, my first category– the reason I asked about a unifying theory for yours is that I think the unifying theory for mine is books that I can really hunker down with and dedicate a large chunk of time to.

So my first category is, anything that’s slightly Gothic is really good for me. And it’s better if it’s not the greatest book in the world. Just being able to slightly click off my critical faculties and sit there and read a slightly dumb book from cover to cover is so satisfying. And slightly Gothic ones are exactly what I want. Like Mary Stewart, or Elizabeth Peters has an alter ego, Barbara Michaels, where she writes kind of ghosty romance stories. And those are really good when it’s cold outside.

And I read Deanna Raybourn’s first ever book on a winter’s night many years ago, and I super enjoyed it. I got the hugest kick out of it, and I did not enjoy her subsequent books at all. But friend of the podcast Ashley is very much recommending her new series, so I checked out the first one. It’s a historical mystery series. And I’m hoping I can recapture the magic.

WHISKEY JENNY: And that’s the Veronica Speedwell series?

GIN JENNY: The Veronica Speedwell series, yeah.

WHISKEY JENNY: Cool, yeah. Yeah, she does love those. I’ve been meaning to check them out as well.

GIN JENNY: Yeah, they sound fun. And I think that if I could sit down and read the whole thing, it’d be really satisfying.

WHISKEY JENNY: I’m really interested in this throughline that you said, where it’s something that you can sort of– how did you phrase it?

GIN JENNY: Hunker down with?

WHISKEY JENNY: Hunker down with, yes, thank you. And it’s the time aspect where you can dedicate a large chunk of time to it. Because I think– obviously I like doing that as well. But I think it’s interesting that we both don’t– well, I don’t know what your second one is. Maybe you’ll blow this theory out of the water.

But I don’t typically gravitate towards super meaty, serious, literary stuff for cozy reading, even though when I want to read something cozy, I do have the time to dedicate towards it. And it’s not that there are not super, super enjoyable books in that category. But it’s like I’m not willing to bet on them. I’m not willing to be disappointed and find out that it’s not actually enjoyable.

I would love to be able to find like the Marisha Pessl of the group.

GIN JENNY: Oh my god, absolutely.

WHISKEY JENNY: But instead, I don’t want to try and find that but accidentally end up with something else that’s just a slog. So I usually play it more safe, which I think is an interesting psychological thing that I just learned about myself. [LAUGHTER]

GIN JENNY: I actually think that’s a really great point. I think when I tell you my next category it will seem to contradict your point, but in fact I think it exactly aligns with it. It’s that I don’t want there to be a big risk. Like, I would never sit down on a winter’s night and try to read Ada, or Ardor.

WHISKEY JENNY: You had to go and bring that up, didn’t you? [LAUGHTER] I think I said in my New Year’s resolutions that I was going to finish that this year. And it’s mid-December, and reader, I have not.


GIN JENNY: Well maybe it was an infelicitous example.


GIN JENNY: Let me say it another way. I wouldn’t sit down on a winter’s night and hunker down and read The Luminaries.

WHISKEY JENNY: Oh. Yeah, but had we done so– well, I really enjoyed that.

GIN JENNY: No, I’m sure I would have liked it.

WHISKEY JENNY: Yeah, it would have been great. But you don’t always know if you’re going to get The Luminaries or not.

GIN JENNY: Right, exactly. Yeah, and with a slightly trashy Gothic book– and no shots to Deanna Raybourn. I think her books are really fun. But something like that, where I don’t expect it to be undying literature, it can be nice to just read a whole book from cover to cover.

And I also do feel like, when you are able to read an entire book in a couple of sittings, it maximizes your enjoyment of the book.


GIN JENNY: It does for me, yes. I guess that is not a universal principle. [LAUGHTER]

WHISKEY JENNY: Well, I guess we can address that later.

GIN JENNY: Yeah, sorry. I– when I sit down and read a book all the way through I tend to enjoy it more. Do you not find that?

WHISKEY JENNY: I don’t think it makes a difference for me.

GIN JENNY: Interesting.

WHISKEY JENNY: I mean, I think I also read slower than you, so it’s a good thing that that’s not the case. That would never work for me. Otherwise I would always be disappointed.

GIN JENNY: Well, I don’t do it that often. I think the times that I tend to do it are on camping trips. Heh, camping trips. My family used to do this thing where in the winter, we would go on quote-unquote camping trips. And my family and my aunt and uncle would get two cabins, and over a long weekend we would just go back and forth between the two cabins making a bunch of meals and reading a bunch of books.

WHISKEY JENNY: That sounds great.

GIN JENNY: Oh, it was great. So I read a lot of books all the way through during camping trips. And also when I’m traveling I often read books all the way through. Like if I’m on a plane.

And I feel like I do encounter a higher number of books that I really, really enjoy and advocate for in those two settings.

WHISKEY JENNY: Fascinating. I wonder if it’s the airplane thing.

GIN JENNY: Oh, it totally might be the airplane thing.

WHISKEY JENNY: Anyway, what’s your second category that I will fear contradicting my premise?

GIN JENNY: OK, so my second category is nonfiction. I like the feeling– when I was a kid, we used to play hurricane, and we had to gather all our supplies together and prepare for the big storm. And that’s how I feel when I’m settling into my comfy armchair with a bunch of nonfiction books and a mug of something warm to drink, and a notebook, and a pen. And I’m like, all right, the time is now. I’m going to do some learning!

And I think it does go to your thing about being able to predict how much we’re going to enjoy a thing. Because nonfiction, I feel like, is more predictable in that regard than fiction. Because it depends less on the writing style of the author, maybe?

WHISKEY JENNY: Right. You sort of have a higher baseline agreement, because you already want to learn about the thing that they’ve said they’re going to teach you about.

GIN JENNY: Right, exactly. You’re not depending on suspending disbelief or finding characters sympathetic or all these other things. So I really, really, really love reading that.

As I was preparing for this podcast I was looking at my shelves and all the nonfiction books I haven’t gotten around to, and I was like, oh man, this weekend. Me and these books should have a date. I’ve got How to Survive a Plague, which I’ve been meaning to read forever, which is huge. I just think I could learn a lot.

WHISKEY JENNY: I thought you were going to say, I just think I could survive one.


If anyone could, it’s you.

GIN JENNY: Yeah, maybe not. I don’t think so. In the last year we’ve learned that even if my nephew is quite sick, I can’t resist kissing his sweet baby face.

WHISKEY JENNY: That’s right. That will be your downfall.

GIN JENNY: Baby’s just real, real cute. I don’t know what to say.

WHISKEY JENNY: He sure is.

GIN JENNY: Yeah, so that’s my second category. What’s yours? What’s your second category?

WHISKEY JENNY: Well, so my second category is rom coms. I just really enjoy reading a rom com type book in my robe in a comfy chair when it’s cold out. It’s really nice.

GIN JENNY: With your feet all tucked up under you.

WHISKEY JENNY: Yeah, exactly. And I am much more willing– comfort read to me is like, I’m already maybe kind of sad about something and I need to some cheering up. And cozy could be like, I’m already in a good mood and I just want to do a fun thing.

GIN JENNY: Oh yeah. That’s a great distinction.

WHISKEY JENNY: When I’m already in a good mood, I’m much more willing for present day people to also be happy and fall in love and have hijinks. So like your gruff British businessman books are great cozy reads, I find.

GIN JENNY: Yeah, definitely.

WHISKEY JENNY: But I’m still so fascinated that you brought up The Luminaries. Because that would have been such a great cozy read, I never gamble to find those. Maybe I should gamble some more. I probably shouldn’t. What if I get disappointed? What if my heart gets broken?

GIN JENNY: Yeah, I mean, here’s the thing. Being inside under blankets, with something warm to drink on a cold day or night–

WHISKEY JENNY: Already aces.

GIN JENNY: –is an almost perfect human experience, you know? And I just don’t know that you want to throw a potential wrench in the works of that.

WHISKEY JENNY: Yeah, you’re right. But what if I had done that, plus also I’d been reading The Luminaries.

GIN JENNY: Here’s the thing. Sometimes you would be reading The Luminaries, but sometimes you’d be reading City on Fire.

[MUSIC] City on fire! City on fire!

WHISKEY JENNY: I knew– I was like, don’t say it! [LAUGHTER] I was trying so hard not to use that as the alternate example. Because I’m going to finish it! And it’s a perfectly fine book. It’s just too damn long.

GIN JENNY: OK, I’m sorry. I’ll use a different example.

WHISKEY JENNY: No, but had I gotten City on Fire in such a situation, I would have been disappointed, because it’s fine, it’s meh, and it’s too long.

GIN JENNY: Yeah, well that, I think, is what you don’t want to do to your perfect cold weather experience.

WHISKEY JENNY: No, you’re right.

GIN JENNY: You want to maximize your chances of joy.

WHISKEY JENNY: I do. I absolutely do.

GIN JENNY: So that’s why I think your existing categories are the way to go.

WHISKEY JENNY: I’m glad we got to the bottom of it.

GIN JENNY: Me too. I really feel like we’ve uncovered a lot of important things here.

WHISKEY JENNY: I feel like we have, too.

GIN JENNY: I have to add, as well, they have to be physical books.

WHISKEY JENNY: Ooh, say on.

GIN JENNY: For me. I think that, again, because I like the idea of myself gathering all my supplies together and hunkering down in my chair. I’m there for the long haul. I just like the feeling of collecting books and piling them in with me.

I also do– overall I do prefer physical books to ebooks. I don’t know, especially with nonfiction, it just feels really nice to have like a big, heavy book. And I’m like, yeah, I’m getting stuff accomplished, book-wise.

WHISKEY JENNY: Interesting. I don’t think I care. I mean, obviously if it’s a complicated layout or something and the experience is less in the ebook, that’s annoying. But all things being equal, I think there’s benefits to both. It’s a lot easier, I find, to juggle an e-reader and a mug than a giant book and a mug.

GIN JENNY: That’s a super great point. So as you know, I moved this year. And I set up my spare bedroom as my library, sort of. And I have a big armchair in there, and I put the big armchair in such a location that there’s places for me to put cups on either side of the armchair. So no matter what configuration I’m in, I can always reach my cup. And it is the best choice I’ve ever made.

The armchair, I reiterate, was 45 American dollars.


GIN JENNY: It’s so comfortable. It’s like sitting inside a hug. And I have these two cup locations, one on either side.

WHISKEY JENNY: It sounds aces.

GIN JENNY: It’s so good. I’ve never made such a good choice. I’m making myself very covetous of some hunkering down winter reading. Because we’re actually having cold weather, which is nice.

WHISKEY JENNY: Yeah, we had snow on Saturday.

GIN JENNY: Oh, how nice. Did you make a snowman?

WHISKEY JENNY: No, it didn’t super stick that much.

GIN JENNY: The South got some snow this past weekend, and I kept seeing all these pictures on social media of these really terrible snowman that people were making. They were actually really sweet. Every time I saw one I was filled with tenderness. And everyone was so excited. It’s just nice to see people be happy about something.

WHISKEY JENNY: It really was. And this was the first snow for New York, so that’s always a little magical.

GIN JENNY: Yes it is. And it’s kind of good that it doesn’t stick, because snow in New York gets really gross really quickly.

WHISKEY JENNY: Yeah, it does. I don’t know if they were doing a good job of shoveling sidewalks or something. I had to wear wellies, but I didn’t have to wade through mountains of snow.

GIN JENNY: That’s nice. Thanks, winter.

WHISKEY JENNY: Thanks, winter. I mean, check back in in February, but.


GIN JENNY: This is true. The first winter I was in New York, it snowed pretty much from the beginning of December to the end of March. It was too much.

Well, I think we’ve done an excellent job of teasing out the differences between cozy and comfort reads.

WHISKEY JENNY: The murder wall is complete.

GIN JENNY: Right. Listeners, if you have cozy winter books that you would like to recommend to us based on our stated categories, please get at us at Twitter or Facebook and let us know. Or email us.

WHISKEY JENNY: Or Goodreads.

GIN JENNY: Or Goodreads! Because yeah, I’m always, always in the market for something nice to read in the winter.

WHISKEY JENNY: Oh my gosh, yes, please. Gosh, it is the best reading, holiday reading. Especially if you get books for Christmas and then you get to start them that afternoon.

GIN JENNY: Oh, it’s so good. That’s the best.

WHISKEY JENNY: It’s the best.

GIN JENNY: I still remember this one year I was 6. My dad made me a bed, and my uncle got me my own clock radio, and I got a bunch of books for Christmas. And I still remember climbing up on my bed. I put the clock radio on to play some Christmas music, and I was reading my books one after the next in my loft bed. It was just the most amazing Christmas of all time.

Do you mostly get books for Christmas, Whiskey Jenny? I mean, most Christmases, do you get books?

WHISKEY JENNY: I think all.

GIN JENNY: Yeah. Good. That’s the way it should be.

WHISKEY JENNY: Yeah, people know what I like. It’s great.

GIN JENNY: Yeah, me too. This is why I don’t get my ears pierced. If I got my ears pierced, people would give me earrings instead of books, and I don’t want to live that life.

WHISKEY JENNY: Would they?


WHISKEY JENNY: Huh. I don’t feel like I get that many earrings.

GIN JENNY: My sister gets so many earrings. She has like 300 pairs of earrings.

WHISKEY JENNY: Fascinating. Well, I guess I also have a smaller family.

GIN JENNY: Oh, yeah, that’s a great point.

WHISKEY JENNY: Does she get them from family people, or friends people?


WHISKEY JENNY: All right, well.

GIN JENNY: Also I’m scared of needles. There’s a number of reasons.

WHISKEY JENNY: Well, sure. That too.

GIN JENNY: All right, so this week we read Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil, by Melina Marchetta. And the premise is that disgraced divorced police officer– not my favorite brand of character, by the way, Whiskey Jenny– Bish Ortley, gets a call that his daughter was on a tour bus where a bomb went off. He rushes to France to get her. She’s OK, but he discovers that this girl called Violette LeBrac was also on the bus. And she’s the daughter of a woman who went to jail 13 years ago for a bombing that killed 23 people. So there’s immediate media attention, and Violette disappears. And Bish is determined to find her and bring her home safely.

So, Whiskey Jenny, what did you think?

WHISKEY JENNY: Um, gosh. It was a real roller coaster. But I would say, at the end I ended up really enjoying it and liking it. What did you think overall?

GIN JENNY: So it’s been kind of a while since I read a book by Melina Marchetta, so I forgot how they work. Because I’ve read a bunch of her YA stuff. This is her first adult novel.

And basically, the way all her books have worked for me is that I go along for most of the book being like, meh, this is fine. My life is the same whether I read it or don’t read it. And then all of a sudden, all these things you thought were plot threads actually turn out to be fuse wire for a feelings bomb.

WHISKEY JENNY: Oh my god! This is– I cannot stress how accurate this description of this experience is.

GIN JENNY: Or actually, a better metaphor would involve feelings minefield. Because about 2/3 of the way through the book, it was just like, pow, pow, pow, pow in my heart.

WHISKEY JENNY: Yeah, no, it was. This is so accurate. Which is why I turned around again on it. Because going through it, I was like, I don’t know. This is just really stressful, but there’s no payoff. And then suddenly– [LAUGHTER] I found myself in this minefield.

Interestingly, I found myself in that minefield during one of my traditional weekend alone brunches.

GIN JENNY: Your alone brunches sound so great.

WHISKEY JENNY: Which means I was in public. [LAUGHTER] And the bartender kept being like, do you want another mimosa? [LAUGHTER] I was like, [SOBBING] yes please!

And then friend of the podcast Ashley was going to meet up with me, and I was like, OK, you can come, but fair warning, I’m pretty teary. And she got there and she was like, oh wow, you are really teary. So yes, it was a real feelings minefield.

GIN JENNY: I think that I actually talked to friend of the podcast Ashley about this book when I finished it. I think I was like, listen Ashley, this book almost made me cry, and I’m a noted automaton. So I hope Whiskey Jenny’s going to be OK.

WHISKEY JENNY: I was OK. I mean, I was weeping in public, but I’m OK.

And the strange thing is, it was a book about a bombing, but most of the feelings at the end were really happy.

GIN JENNY: Yes they were.

WHISKEY JENNY: I don’t know how she pulled that off.

GIN JENNY: It turned out to be pretty cheerful at the end.

WHISKEY JENNY: I still don’t know how she did it.

GIN JENNY: No, I don’t really either. And it’s interesting, because the first probably 2/3 of the book go along these very standard mystery novel beats, where the detective keeps tracking down leads and running into dead ends, and this and that. And that was all fine. And I thought, not only do I not care that much about the main character, I also don’t really care about any of the subsidiary characters. And then just, I turned a corner and suddenly–

WHISKEY JENNY: Suddenly I would die for all of them.



GIN JENNY: So can I ask when the book turned for you? Because I had a really specific moment.

WHISKEY JENNY: Oh. I don’t think I had a specific moment. I think it was a little bit past halfway, and I was like– it was this story clicking for me, in addition to the feelings. So I got super invested in what was going to happen, which I hadn’t been before. And then suddenly I started caring about the characters, too, no matter what happened.

And I feel like it was just a race to the finish line after that moment. I couldn’t put it down, and I couldn’t bear to look away. I was like, god, what’s going to happen next? What was your specific moment?

GIN JENNY: So the LeBrac family comes from a council estate, which is like public housing. And the brother of the woman who was imprisoned lives abroad. He can’t come home, but he is given a pass to come home for two days. And he meets up with a bunch of his old friends from the council estate, and he’s not sure how they’re going to feel about him, because it was 23 people from the estate who were killed in this bombing 13 years ago.

WHISKEY JENNY: And people didn’t really super stand by that family at the time.

GIN JENNY: Yeah, the community definitely didn’t stand by them. And this guy, Jamal, and his family all feel that there was a heavily racial element to it, because they’re a Muslim family. But he comes home, and he meets up with the lads, and they give him a bunch of money to look after himself. But what really got me, Whiskey Jenny, is that they keep telling him the money’s clean. And they’re like, it’s for Noor’s kid.

WHISKEY JENNY: It’s for Noor’s kid!

GIN JENNY: Which is Violette, the girl who’s run away. I was just– I– gosh, I was just destroyed. Communities coming together is a lot for my heart.

WHISKEY JENNY: It sure is. Can we also talk about how much grudging respect there was in this book?

GIN JENNY: Oh, infinity! Amongst all the characters!

WHISKEY JENNY: It was so great.

GIN JENNY: Like all of them.

WHISKEY JENNY: Yeah, so before then, I was sort of on the gallop, but then there’s actually one emotional moment that I wrote down that was an example of the great family feelings that this book was giving me. So there’s this one moment– ooh, this might be a spoiler.

GIN JENNY: Well, that’s OK. Just say it’s a spoiler.

WHISKEY JENNY: So maybe skip ahead like 20 seconds if you don’t want to get spoiled. But there’s one moment where Charlie says something kind of threatening towards Violette after Violette and Eddie, her brother, come to see him while they’re on the run. And Eddie’s like 13 and Charlie is like 17 or something. And scrappy little Eddie immediately pinned him to the ground.


WHISKEY JENNY: He’s like, don’t you dare talk to Violette like that. And it’s also totally fine, because Charlie is actually on their side, so everything’s OK. And he was just so protective, it with the sweetest. Tiny little Eddie!

GIN JENNY: It really was. And actually– so one of the other kids on the bus, Charlie, is not very sympathetic at the beginning of the story.


GIN JENNY: To say the least.


GIN JENNY: He does a couple more things that are also extremely unsympathetic. And you’re like, man, this kid’s the worst. I hope this kid set the bomb. And again, this was my fault. It’s been so long since I read a Melina Marchetta book, I forgot how she works as a writer. And I knew better.

But it turns out Charlie is the greatest.

WHISKEY JENNY: Charlie is pretty great, yeah.

GIN JENNY: I was wrong. And I should have known.

WHISKEY JENNY: Yeah. Charlie was great. Gosh, it was just so great.

GIN JENNY: It really was. And when the book turns the corner on Charlie, I was like, oh man, Whiskey Jenny’s going to be all about this.

WHISKEY JENNY: Yeah, listen, he’s punching people for the right reasons.

GIN JENNY: Yes he is. He is punching people for the right reasons, and stealing cars for the right reasons and such.

WHISKEY JENNY: You didn’t realize it was for the right reasons that he was doing all these things. And you just thought he was terrible. But then it turns out it was for the right reasons. Gosh, it was so great. It was great.

In addition to the feelings, that were super, I’m also so impressed that the action scenes came together so well in the end. Because it is not easy to write a compelling action movie scene, basically. And it really worked for me.

GIN JENNY: It worked for me as well. I thought that Melina Marchetta did a lot of tricky things well. Not just the action scene, but also having such a large cast of characters that you have to care about and pay attention to.

WHISKEY JENNY: Was there anyone that you felt like you didn’t? Even after the end you didn’t care about as much, or didn’t totally work for you?

GIN JENNY: Well, I wasn’t completely board with Bish and Noor being into each other at the end. I just wasn’t sure I bought that she liked him that much by the end of the book.


GIN JENNY: Really?

WHISKEY JENNY: I think I would have bought it more if they– because they’re sort of romantically interested in each other.

GIN JENNY: Yeah. And they’re antagonistic for most of the book.

WHISKEY JENNY: I would have bought it so much more if they had formed a friendship, grudging respect. Because I think it would certainly feel the same to me, and they could even end the same. Nothing else would need to change and I would buy it more. She can still write him from prison and keep in touch, and they can do the appeal. Nothing would have to change, and I would find it a lot more realistic.

And especially, I don’t know, I didn’t super love reading about it from Bish’s perspective at the beginning, when she clearly doesn’t like him, and he kind of is confused about her but also attracted to her, and talks about the things that he’s imagined doing to her. And just I did not enjoy reading about that.

GIN JENNY: Yeah, me neither. I mean, like I said, this is not an archetype of character that I tend to like at all. I think that Melina Marchetta did a better job than a lot of mystery writers of making me not want to punch Bish for the type of father and ex-husband that he is.

WHISKEY JENNY: I would say he’s still the least compelling character.


WHISKEY JENNY: You’re like, meh, whatever. Fine. I like you, but I would not read your sequel. Or I would read your sequel, but I would rather your sequel focus on someone else.

GIN JENNY: Oh, me too. I would definitely read a sequel about pretty much anyone, though.

WHISKEY JENNY: Oh, absolutely I would.

GIN JENNY: If you got to choose, who would you read a sequel about?

WHISKEY JENNY: Ooh. OK. Well, I think I would– oh, gosh. Lordy. [LAUGHTER] I was about to say something really fast, and then I remembered just how many characters in this book that I care so much about there are.

Well, I’ll say I really enjoyed reading about Jimmy, or Jamal. Noor’s brother. I enjoyed reading about him, but I feel like I have the least handle on who he is. So I would be interested in getting more from his perspective.

GIN JENNY: Also I would just like to know what happens to him going forward.

WHISKEY JENNY: Yeah. He I assume is going to keep teaching young ruffians how to be a good person.

GIN JENNY: Which is amazing. Great job.


WHISKEY JENNY: I will note, because this sort of– I guess it’s not a surprise for that character, but it kind of was a surprise for me, is Bish is pretty alcoholic. And that took me by surprise. Maybe it was in the marketing copy, but.

GIN JENNY: I don’t remember seeing it. I also wasn’t surprised, again, because that’s kind of the archetype that he is.

WHISKEY JENNY: Yeah, it’s that archetype, but I was like, oh, this is– it was a little tough to read that. But the other thing I will say is it took me a moment to get over the fact that I just did not believe that someone would give Bish all of that investigatory power and responsibility.

GIN JENNY: Well, I don’t know how things work in the UK.


WHISKEY JENNY: Sure. Oh, was there a but?

GIN JENNY: Nope, that’s it. I don’t know how things work in the UK. Honestly.

WHISKEY JENNY: I don’t either.

GIN JENNY: You could tell me virtually anything about the UK criminal justice system, and I’d be like, all right. Sure.

WHISKEY JENNY: Yeah, and I eventually got over it. Just, it seems like some pretty important people in the British CIA are getting him to do investigations for them. And he’s a suspended cop. And I just didn’t buy that they would be, like, you’re our guy.

GIN JENNY: I can see that. I mean, if I were going to rationalize it, I would say that there’s the guy who knows him from school. And I can imagine, based on historical spy novels I’ve read–

WHISKEY JENNY: OK, great, yes.

GIN JENNY: So a really reliable source. That there’s a bit of a good old boy network amongst the British home office spy people. I don’t really, again, know how England works.

WHISKEY JENNY: Yeah, if anyone listening in England wants to weigh in and give us a little primer on–

GIN JENNY: Yeah, how spies work over there. Let us know.

WHISKEY JENNY: What the home office is, even? I don’t know. [LAUGHTER] I think it’s spies, right? Yeah? Spies? Yeah?

GIN JENNY: Well, and the other thing is, when we watched State of Play, which is a British miniseries about journalists investigating a corrupt politician–

WHISKEY JENNY: So great, by the way.

GIN JENNY: Yeah, terrific. Also but, journalism seems to work really differently over there.

WHISKEY JENNY: Oh yeah, super different.

GIN JENNY: And it was disorienting. They would just give someone $100 and be like, OK, tell us information.

WHISKEY JENNY: And I guess we confirmed with Snapple Alex that that’s not super as common of a practice?

GIN JENNY: Yes. Snapple Alex agreed it was not. And I’ve also read some more stuff since then about that you’re not supposed to pay sources.

WHISKEY JENNY: Really? OK. Yeah they just paid them left and right. Their bribe budget must be out of control.

GIN JENNY: I think they mention it one time. I think they mention that their–

WHISKEY JENNY: They have a fund for it! Yeah!

GIN JENNY: –their bribe budget is like $30,000 or something. I mean, pounds.

WHISKEY JENNY: And it’s like a line item.


WHISKEY JENNY: You know, bribes, $200.

GIN JENNY: Yeah, so as I say, you could tell me anything about spies in England and I would believe you.

WHISKEY JENNY: Sure. You’re absolutely right. You could.

I have one other spoiler that I really want to talk about.

GIN JENNY: OK, go for it.

WHISKEY JENNY: So there’s a prologue about a kid from the ’70s, talking about– his nickname is Scouser Jimmy, and he’s talking about how there’s another Jimmy who just got signed to a soccer team. And I figured out pretty quickly that was Noor’s brother.

GIN JENNY: The soccer team Jimmy.

WHISKEY JENNY: Yeah, the soccer team Jimmy was Noor’s brother, because he talked about him playing soccer. But I sure did not figure out who Scouser Jimmy was until the book told you. And it hit me like a freight train.

And I even knew– I even figured out that Eddie’s parents lost someone in the bombing. I just did not put it together that it was prologue kid, Jimmy from the beginning. And I kept even thinking, how is that prologue going to come into play? Was that just like, here’s a snapshot of someone from the bombing or something? I could not put it together, until suddenly it all made sense. And I’m so amazed and impressed, still.

GIN JENNY: Me, too. Well, OK, so that leads me to another question I wanted to ask you about the book. Did you feel like the ending was maybe slightly too pat?


GIN JENNY: I did too, but I also–

WHISKEY JENNY: But I also really liked it?

GIN JENNY: Yeah, I didn’t care at all. I was strongly in favor.

WHISKEY JENNY: Yeah. I mean, we talked about how pretty much everything works out OK for most people in the book. Right?


WHISKEY JENNY: Actually, everyone you get to know. Everything is fine for everyone.

GIN JENNY: I think that’s correct.

WHISKEY JENNY: Which, I mean, it’s a bombing. I don’t think everything’s going be fine for everyone. However, I was perfectly fine reading about it being fine for everyone.

GIN JENNY: Me too. Even, you kind of start to have positive feelings towards the mysterious spy guy.

WHISKEY JENNY: You do! Yeah, you absolutely do. Elliot or Grazer?

GIN JENNY: Grazer. Both, I would say, honestly.

WHISKEY JENNY: Yeah, I would say both. You don’t have to pick which ones you develop a grudging respect for, because it’s literally everyone in the book. Yeah, it probably is too twee.

GIN JENNY: Yeah, but I didn’t care. When they showed up at the end, when Charlie shows up at the end with–

WHISKEY JENNY: The bus! Ooh!

GIN JENNY: The stolen bus. I just– my heart melted. It was so charming. It was like the book suddenly became One Plus One, by JoJo Moyes.

WHISKEY JENNY: Yeah, it was amazing. My heart melted so much in this book. It’s a real heart melter.

GIN JENNY: And I have to say, this is pretty characteristic of Melina Marchetta’s books across the board. So if you want to read anything else by her, a lot of it’s exactly like this.

WHISKEY JENNY: Good to know.

GIN JENNY: And I would recommend it. Her YA books are terrific. She has a pretty dark YA fantasy trilogy that my emotional journey during each of those books exactly mirrors my emotional journey for Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil.

WHISKEY JENNY: Which again I want to reiterate, A, what a great journey that was, and B, what a great title that is.

GIN JENNY: Oh, yes. An excellent title.

WHISKEY JENNY: It’s a good title.

GIN JENNY: I’m so glad you liked it. Because I liked it a lot, and I wasn’t sure– while reading it, I was like, of course Whiskey Jenny’s going to like this. And then I would fall into uncertainty again.

WHISKEY JENNY: Well, I’m going to be honest. I was also uncertain. In the first quarter I was like, oh I don’t– this is so tense. I feel like everything’s going to fall apart, and he’s going to drink himself to death, and I was really quite nervous and not super enjoying it. And that it suddenly turned a corner.

GIN JENNY: Yeah. Melina Marchetta, ladies and gentlemen.

WHISKEY JENNY: And yeah, everything was fine.

GIN JENNY: One other thing that I thought she did really well was portray the way kids and adults interact with each other. Because I definitely do remember that very instinctive mistrust of adults, and disbelief that they would do the right thing if I told them what was going on. Not my parents, but administrations.

WHISKEY JENNY: I really enjoyed that scene where there’s an English girl and a French girl getting interviewed by the police in France. And they both kind of wordlessly agree how much they’re going to tell and how much they’re not going to tell about what actually happened that night. I just thought that was really true to life.

GIN JENNY: Yep, same. So I guess overall my verdict on this would be, do read it, listeners, but just be aware it takes a while to get going.

WHISKEY JENNY: It does, yeah. And that would be one of the notes I would give, is it just takes a while to get going. Now that I have read her, maybe I’ll be more soothed from the beginning that things that don’t look like they’re going to work out might work out anyway.

GIN JENNY: Yes, this is exactly how I felt about Jellicoe Road, which was the first book by her that I read. Again, all of her books, it’s exactly like this.

WHISKEY JENNY: Well, great.

GIN JENNY: This was great. Really reminded me of why I like this author. And I’m so glad that you had the same arc.

WHISKEY JENNY: Really did, yeah. So we’re not saying what we’re reading next time, because we’re not actually reading anything next time. We’re going to do our year in review episode.

GIN JENNY: Always such a good episode. I’m really looking forward to it.

WHISKEY JENNY: I enjoy that, too. We will probably revisit some of the same questions from last year, and there’s probably going to be charts. It’s gonna be great.

GIN JENNY: Data. Color coding. Uh huh, uh huh.

WHISKEY JENNY: But until then, this has been the Reading the End bookcast, with the demographically similar Jennies. You can visit the blog at You can follow Gin Jenny and she will pass it on to me on Twitter at readingtheend. We’re both on Goodreads as Whiskey Jenny and Gin Jenny. And you can email us, we hope you will, at

If you’re listening to us on iTunes, please leave us a review. It helps other people find us. And until next time, happy new year.

GIN JENNY: Happy new year!



THEME SONG: You don’t judge a book by its cover. Page one’s not a much better view. And shortly you’re gonna discover the middle won’t mollify you. So whether whiskey’s your go-to, or you’re like my gin-drinking friend, no matter what you are imbibing, you’ll be better off in the end reading the end.