Reading the End Bookcast, Ep.16: World War II in Books; Half-Blood Blues; and German or British?

The demographically similar Jennys return to talk about World War II in literary imagination! We review Esi Edugyan’s Half Blood Blues (affiliate links: Amazon, B&N, Book Depository), and we finish up by playing a game of Randon’s invention in which we must guess whether movie villains are German or British. You can listen to the podcast in the embedded player below or download the file directly here to take with you on the go.

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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).

Here are the contents of the podcast if you’d like to skip around:

Starting at 1:16 – Why is World War II such a recurringly popular setting for literature? What are some of our most favorite World War II books in all the land? Weigh in if you wish, and tell us some World War II books we should check out! (Please forgive me for sounding a little like my mouth is full in parts of this segment. My sister had made lemon cream cheese king cake, and it was insanely good.)

4:03 – I had a professor in England who gave a lecture about the American Revolution, and he looked very woeful when he talked about how damaging the American Revolution was to the British psyche. I felt terribly guilty. I just want y’all to know that’s what I was thinking about here.

Starting at 15:22 (ish)We review Esi Edugyan’s award-winning novel Half-Blood Blues, a story about jazz musicians in Nazi Germany in 1940 and in post-Communist Berlin in 1992. Highly recommended!

18:10 – Here’s the bit of Half-Blood Blues I’m talking about:

“Boys,” he said smoothly. “I’d like to stand you a drink.”

 

I was in love. Pure and simple. This place, with its stink of sweat and medicine and perfume; these folks, all gussied up never mind the weather — this, this was life to me. Forget Sunday school and girls in white frocks. Forget stealing from corner stores. This was it, these dames swaying their hips in shimmering dresses, these chaps drinking gutbucket hooch. The gorgeous speakeasy slang. I’d found what my life was meant for.

Starting at 31:00 – Randon wrote us a game. You should play along because it’s fun. Randon describes a movie villain and his/her plan; and we must guess whether the villain is German or British; what the movie is; and the name of the villain. If you get the names of the villains, color us impressed. We struggled with that section.

Starting at 44:41 – Whiskey Jenny gives her recommendation for next time, The Golem and the Jinni! We’ll see you back here in two weeks to find out what we both thought of it.

Starting at 45:36 – Closing remarks and outro.

Credits
Producer: Captain Hammer
Photo credit: The Illustrious Annalee
Song is by Jeff MacDougall and comes from here.

Reading the End Bookcast, Ep.15a: Special Super Bowl Podcast!!

On today’s bonus edition of the Reading the End Bookcast, we play a game in which Randon and I each match up NFL teams to a list of writers provided by Whiskey Jenny. Whiskey Jenny awards points to the answer that most pleases her. You can listen to the podcast in the embedded player below or download the file directly here to take with you on the go.

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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).

If you’re wondering how Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham look at each other (per Randon’s last answer), I refer you to this video, in which Drew Brees gives a manly giggle-shout in response to Jimmy Graham’s athletic prowess. Oh how I love those two people. Here’s the video of Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman giving Super Bowl tickets to little twin girls. You will love it. You should watch it twice.

Reading the End Bookcast, Ep.15: Awards Season, The Luminaries, and New Zealand or Not New Zealand

Julia joins us again for a discussion of book awards and what we like/do not like about them; a review of Eleanor Catton’s award-winning novel The Luminaries (affiliate links: Amazon, B&N, Book Depository); and a thrilling game, written by me and inspired by these guys, called New Zealand or Not New Zealand? You can listen to the podcast in the embedded player below or download the file directly 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.

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).

Here are the contents of the podcast if you’d like to skip around:

Starting at 1:31 – We talk about award season! What do we think is the value of book awards, and what new book awards would we like to institute, if we had a whole bunch of money and time?

Starting at 17:09 – We discuss Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, a book described variously by podcast participants as “Wilkie-Collins-ish”, “structurally brilliant”, and “so cool”. You will notice that Julia and Whiskey Jenny are much much more deliberate and careful readers than I am, but this is not news.

At 38:30 – Here are our choices for the songs that would be on an EP of The Luminaries. My choice is the Decemberists’ song “Down by the Water”, and Julia’s choices are “Hey Hey What Can I Do” or “Going to California” by Led Zeppelin. She also pulled up, I swear to God, a Cantonese opera for us to listen to.

Starting at 40:01 – The game is New Zealand or Not New Zealand, and there are many things to learn here. Here is the video of Stephen Fry meeting a kakapo, the world’s only flightless parrot.

Starting at 52:38 – I answer a piece of listener mail about how to best appreciate Elizabeth Peters, an author I truly love.

Starting at 53:48 – I give my recommendation for next time, Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues.

Starting at 54:58 – Closing remarks and outro.

Credits
Producer: Captain Hammer
Photo credit: The Illustrious Annalee
Song is by Jeff MacDougall and comes from here.

Emma Readalong!: Part One

I have seen Clueless … a few times. It’s not germane to know exactly how many, and also I’ve lost count. In my defense, Clueless is amazing. I’ve seen it so many times, in fact, that I can’t read Emma–even for a readalong where Emma Approved is the adaptation to discuss — without a thick overlay of Clueless: When Emma first starts spending time with Harriet, all I can think of is this:

THE INTERNET MADE THIS GIF FOR ME

Occasionally I worry that I’m not addressing the novel on its own terms, but mostly I feel glad that Alicia Silverstone’s fundamental adorability and goodness makes it possible for me to keep liking Emma Woodhouse even when she’s being terrible. And she is being pretty terrible in the first volume of Emma.

Where other Jane Austen heroines are slightly outsiders, or teetering on the brink of the possibility of outsiderdom, Emma Woodhouse is wealthy, beautiful, and happy to remain single all her days.

“But still, you will be an old maid! and that’s so dreadful!”

 

“Never mind, Harriet, I shall not be a poor old maid; and it is poverty only which makes celibacy contemptible to a general public! A single woman, with a very narrow income, must be a ridiculous, disagreeable old maid! the proper sport of boys and girls, but a single woman, of good fortune, is always respectable, and may be as sensible and pleasant as any body else.

Her motivation isn’t achieving any kind of security — she’s as secure as a person can be. It’s really just finding ways to fill her empty days, whether that be with charitable works (likeable!) or pseudo-charitable works like fixing up Harriet with a posh guy (ick). Jane Austen admitted from the outset that Emma was a heroine nobody but herself would much like, and a big part of that is the privilege Emma’s lived in all her life.

Luckily, Alicia Silverstone! Look how cute she is when she’s self-satisfied!

Awww. But also, ew.

Jane Austen is a smart lady. The storyline that frames the first volume of Emma is about someone who takes Emma’s obsession with class to its logical conclusion. Mr. Elton, the match Emma wants for Harriet, thinks of Harriet the way Emma thinks of the Martins: Good enough in her place, but not a person deserving of any serious consideration or respect. His mindset isn’t the least bit different to Emma’s, just aimed in another direction.

Wish my life gave me more opportunities to say this.

Another piece of brilliance by Jane Austen is that she’s given us an unreliable narrator, and it’s fun — because the stakes are low — to watch Emma’s certainty and enthusiasm as she races full-tilt towards disappointment. You know that Emma is basically good-natured, and also that she’s untouchable by external forces, so she’s only going to do damage to herself. While, you know, growing as a person, and fighting with Paul Rudd over the remote control.

If you aren’t watching Emma Approved, by the way, I recommend it to you once again. Currently it’s on hiatus, and you can catch yourself up before its return in February. The series so far runs to basically the end of the first volume of Emma, when Mr. Elton hits on Cher in the car.

The writers do a fantastic job at making Emma difficult to like at first, and then letting you see the chinks in her armor of self-confidence. Joanne Sotomura, who plays Emma, has wonderful chemistry with Brent Bailey, who plays Mr. Knightley; they perfectly capture the mixture of affection and mutual bossiness (is that fair to say, mutual bossiness?) that these characters have for each other in the book.

Oh Joanna Sotomura, you are just as cute as a little button.

EMMA APPROVED I MISS YOU SO MUCH PLEASE COME BACK.

(Nota bene: I have started rewatching The Lizzie Bennet Diaries as a substitute for Emma Approved. It’s interesting to rewatch it, having seen the new stuff they tried with Emma Approved. I’m watching one episode on a Monday and one on a Thursday, and it is great. I will still be really excited when Emma Approved comes back. Emma and Alex Knightley are adorable, and I want to see poor nervous Harriet find happiness.)

Reading the End Bookcast, Ep.14: Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman

This week on the Reading the End Bookcast, we welcome special guest star Julia of The Card Catalog, and recurring guest star Randon, as we talk about comics once again! On the docket this time are Scott McCloud’s wonderful nonfiction book Understanding Comics (affiliate links: Amazon, B&N, Book Depository) and Neil Gaiman’s foundational comic book Sandman. You can listen to the podcast in the embedded player below or download the file directly here to take with you on the go.

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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).

Here are the contents of the podcast if you’d like to skip around:

Starting at 1:08: We discuss Understanding Comics and the ways it helped us or didn’t help us. Here’s the more in-depth “picture plane”, if you want to see what we’re talking about. If you’re interested in reading the interview with Brian Vaughn that I mention, head over to the AV Club and check it out.

Starting somewhere between 14:00 and 15:00 but it’s tough to say exactly where because my segue is JUST SO SMOOTH: The discussion of Sandman: Overture and a few issues of classic Sandman commences. If you’re interested in knowing which issues I’d have chosen given my druthers, I’d have selected “The Sound of Her Wings” (still); “Calliope”; “The Parliament of Rooks”; “A Tale of Two Cities”; and that one issue from “The Wake” where Hob Gadling is at the Renaissance Festival complaining about how the real Renaissance had a lot more poop and plague everywhere. Here is the Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem classic “Don’t Blame the Dynamite.” They come up in the Sandman conversation, but mainly I just want you to have that.

16:05: The Hugo and Nebula Awards are not the same thing. In any case, neither of those awards is the one that was won by Neil Gaiman’s Sandman issue “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” That issue won a World Fantasy Award. I was just completely wrong about this. I’m sorry.

34:39: Randon is such a guy right here.

38:05: Public service announcement: Joseph Gordon-Levitt is on board to produce the Sandman movie. I did not really know that this was in his area of interest, because I didn’t see any of those Batman movies.

40:12: Here are the Lil Endless, as delightful as ever they were:

Lil Endless

41:14: For next time, Whiskey Jenny has recommended that we read Eleanor Catton’s award-winning novel The Luminaries. Woohoo! Enormously long book alert! I am not the only one who picks tremendously long books!

Starting at 42:56: Closing remarks and outro. I am a jerk and did not mention Randon in the outro. I’m the worst. We love having Randon on the podcast too! Obviously! But he feels less like a guest because he’s always there when we record a podcast. And what with one thing and another, I forgot to thank him for joining us. I’m sorry, Randon! Thanks for joining us for this podcast!

Credits
Producer: Captain Hammer
Photo credit: The Illustrious Annalee
Song is by Jeff MacDougall and comes from here.

Reading the End Bookcast, Ep.13b: New Year’s Resolutions!

Happy, happy New Year! In today’s abbreviated podcast, Whiskey Jenny and I talk about our podcast reading statistics for the year, our personal New Year’s resolutions, and the New Year’s resolutions we would like to see the publishing industry adopt. You can listen to the podcast in the embedded player below or download the file directly here to take with you on the go.

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Or if you wish, you can find us on iTunes (and if you enjoy the podcast, give us a good rating! We will appreciate it very very much).

Below is a beautiful chart created by Whiskey Jenny and her doting family, to track our reading statistics. You can see we read way too many books by white American ladies.

chartCredits
Producer: Captain Hammer
Photograph by the lovely Annalee
Special New Year’s outro song comes from here.

Reading the End Bookcast, Ep.13a: Christmas Books!

Merry Christmas, Christmas celebrating people! Today’s very abbreviated podcast talks about the Christmas books we love! Whiskey Jenny, Randon, and I all list our favorite Christmas books, some well-known and some wildly underappreciated. Let us know your favorites too! You can listen to the podcast in the embedded player below or download the file directly 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.

Or if you wish, you can find us on iTunes (and if you enjoy the podcast, give us a good rating! We will appreciate it very very much).

Credits
Producer: Captain Hammer
If you visit us on iTunes, you’ll notice that the old photo has met its demise beneath the bright eyes of the beautiful Annalee
Special Christmas song comes from here.

Reading the End Bookcast, Ep.13: Music in Books, A Visit from the Goon Squad, and a Game about Similes

This week on the Reading the End Bookcast, we talk about music and the role it plays in books, and we review Jennifer Egan’s greatly beloved A Visit from the Goon Squad (affiliate links: Amazon, B&N, Book Depository). Then we play a game of matching similes to the authors who wrote them, and wrap up by answering some listener mail. You can listen to the podcast in the embedded player below or download the file directly 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.

Or if you wish, you can find us on iTunes (and if you enjoy the podcast, give us a good rating! We will appreciate it very very much).

Here are the contents of the podcast if you’d like to skip around:

Starting at 1:11 – We talk about music in books. Do you prefer books that talk about real music, or books that talk about music the author just made up?

3:45 – While making these show notes, I suddenly realized that all the books we’re discussing are by men. That’s weird, isn’t it? Do male authors write about music more than female authors do? Is that a thing?

8:37 – Can you hear me hastening to put a stop to Whiskey Jenny’s feeling at all favorable towards Stephenie Meyer?

9:40 – Serious question, listeners. We are thinking about doing a thing from now on where we propose Track #1 of the soundtrack to the book we are reviewing that time. Would you hate us if we did that? Would you think we were pretentious?

Starting at 11:48 – We review the much-acclaimed A Visit from the Goon Squad, a book whose name I have a very hard time remembering.

13:32 – Here is Whiskey Jenny’s aforementioned chart of the characters in A Visit from the Goon Squad and the relationships among them. Isn’t it great? Aren’t you impressed by Whiskey Jenny?

Whiskey Jenny's Chart21:23 – Useful writing tip for y’all here.

Starting at 27:15 – We play a game where we have to guess what author produced the simile that Randon reads to us. We have missed game time.

34:10 – I refer you to Monday’s post about the new editions of Harry Potter, about which I am extremely excited. I was just waiting for my opportunity to report this news to Whiskey Jenny.

Starting at 39:25 – Listener mail, and a plea for help! Listener Anna wants some audiobooks to listen to while she’s doing science, and neither Whiskey Jenny nor I are big audiobook listeners. I got some recommendations from Legal Sister, who listens to audiobooks in the car, but I could use some more recommendations from y’all! Please let me know some ideas.

Starting at 41:29 – Our recommendation for next time! The next podcast is going to be a comics podcast, in which we read some classic Sandman and the first volume of the new Sandman: Overture series. We will also read Scott McCloud’s wonderful book Understanding Comics and talk about that. Join us!

And finally, a programming note: Our next podcast would ordinarily drop on Christmas Day, but we know that y’all are far too busy with the holidays to be bothered with listening to us talk. So we’re going to release a short podcast about Christmas books on the 25th, and we’ll be back with our next full-length podcast on 8 January 2014.

Credits
Producer: Captain Hammer
If you visit us on iTunes, you’ll notice that the old photo has met its demise beneath the bright eyes of the beautiful Annalee
Song is by Jeff MacDougall and comes from here.

Reading the End Bookcast, Ep.12: Love Story Failures and Eleanor & Park

This week we talk about some things that can go terribly, terribly wrong when an author tries to write a love story. Then we review Eleanor & Park (affiliate links: Amazon, B&N, Book Depository), a love story in which the author goes right every time. We were going to play a game as well, about lovers in fiction, but we talked about Eleanor and Park too long and too animatedly, and we ran out of time. We will do the lovers in fiction game another time. It’s a good one. You can listen to the podcast in the embedded player below or download the file directly 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.

Or if you wish, you can find us on iTunes (and if you enjoy the podcast, give us a good rating! We will appreciate it very very much).

Here are the contents of the podcast if you’d like to skip around:

Starting at 0:52 – We talk about how love stories fail. Our catalog of pitfalls is listed below:

1:02 – Insta-love! Down with it!

4:18 – Love triangles. I’m over them. I’m not saying you can never not ever have a love triangle ever again, but at least for now, I’d like to be on a break from them.

7:04 – Love that is too pat, like if the characters have one compatible attribute and that’s the only reason for their love.

9:14 – Authors failing to compensate for weird things in the relationship, like significant age difference or power imbalances

14:15 – Horrible descriptions of physical attraction. And here are the promised #BadSex tweets for your edification and delight.

16:57 – The trope that finding someone very, very annoying probably means that they are your True Love.

Starting at 17:40 – We review Eleanor and Park. Short version: We super, super, super loved it. We talked about it for almost an hour, and you are hearing the massively cut-down version of our discussion of it. If you haven’t read Eleanor and Park so far, you should go for it now.

40:30 – 42:30ish – The reason you don’t hear much from Whiskey Jenny about the sad parts of this book is that she was crying really hard when I was talking about them. Whiskey Jenny cries at everything.

Starting at 49:10 – I recommend that we read A Visit from the Goon Squad for next time. You may fairly say that it is Much Too Late to read this book, but too bad! We’re doing it! To hell with timeliness!

Credits
Producer: Captain Hammer
Photo credit: andreybl / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND
Song is by Jeff MacDougall and comes from here.

Reading the End Bookcast, Ep.11: Criminals in Fiction and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch

Note: We each received a copy of this ebook from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

This week we talk about what makes a good criminal in fiction before reviewing Donna Tartt’s new book The Goldfinch. We then play a game involving jailed authors. You can listen to the podcast in the embedded player below or download the file directly 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.

Or if you wish, you can find us on iTunes (and if you enjoy the podcast, give us a good rating! We will appreciate it very very much).

Starting at 1:07 – What makes a good fictional criminal? Randon and the Jennys discuss the qualities that make or break criminals in fiction, although there is no taxonomy of the week. We actually had a weirdly hard time thinking of fictional criminals! Can you think of more?

Starting at 17:09 – We review Donna Tartt’s new book The Goldfinch. It is a very long book, but we implore you not to be daunted! It’s an excellent book, and I want you to be exposed to one of my new favorite characters in all of literature, Theo’s Russian friend Boris.

29:00 – Whiskey Jenny very, very, very much minds about the painting having been stolen. She was clutching her hair while shrieking about the stress of this. You will not that we are not just saying it: Whiskey Jenny really does appreciate following rules. And so do I. We are two extremely law-abiding women.

38:00 – I truly, truly believe this. My guidance counselor in second grade (I swear to God, her name was Ms. Cozy) told us that only boring people get bored, which is not true when you’re in second grade, but is probably true in adulthood when you have the internet. The world is so full of a number of things, we may not all be as happy as kings but seriously it is not that difficult to find things to occupy your time.

39:15 – 41:17 – ENORMOUS SPOILERS about the ending of the book. Skip these sections if you do not want to know the ending of the book.

Starting at 42:01 – GAME TIME! In this game, we learn about authors who went to jail. In particular, I learn some alarming truths about Thomas Malory, author of Le Morte d’Arthur. Did you know? He was a violent criminal! (Oh, but by the way, the Thomas Malory who did all the crimes may not have been the same Thomas Malory who wrote Le Morte d’Arthur. History doesn’t know.)

Starting at 49:54 – Whiskey Jenny recommends that we read Rainbow Rowell’s book Eleanor and Park for the next podcast. I am painfully excited about this. Y’all have all loved it so much, and I want to love it also! I want to be in the loving it club!

Starting at 51:19 – We each highlight a book we’re excited to read! I talk briefly about Brightness Falls from the Air, by James Tiptree Jr, which y’all know I am pleased about. And Whiskey Jenny briefly discusses Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda, a book I sort of suspect she will end up hating.

Starting at 53:49 – Closing remarks and outro

Credits
Producer: Captain Hammer
Photo credit: andreybl / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND
Song is by Jeff MacDougall and comes from here.