By Infinite TBR
Infinite TBRMay 16, 2023
E21: The Ebb and Flow of the Smack Shelf
Smack and Gabi go over their best (and not so best) recent reads, most of which will be coming or going from the Smack Shelf (a shelf in Gabi’s apartment that contains all the loans from Smack). The incomers are all surprisingly good YA reads while the outgoing books include three powerhouses - a perfect fairy-tale-esque novella, an incredible Malaysian-American ghost story, and a sci-fi novel with maybe the best multiverse worldbuilding we’ve ever seen. Other fun recent reads cover a paladin and necromancer begrudgingly becoming friends, a cat astronaut desperately trying to eat pizza, a Holmes-ian mystery with plenty of pining, and a Navy captain (who is definitely not a pirate) trying to deal with sea dragons (and pirates).
Book discussed in this episode include:
Blade of Secrets (Bladesmith #1) & Master of Iron (Bladesmith #2) by Tricia Levenseller
The Corpse Queen by Heather Herrman
Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves (Edge Worlds #1) by Meg Long
A Touch of Darkness (Hades x Persephone #1) by Scarlett St. Clair
Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong
Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher
Black Water Sister by Zen Cho
The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
To Kill a Necromancer (Blackwing #1) & Hetgarib’s Curse (Blackwing #2) by C.M. Alongi
The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza (The First Cat in Space #1) by Mac Barnett and Shawn Harris (Illustrator)
Death by Silver (Julian Lynes and Ned Mathey #1) by Melissa Scott and Amy Griswold
The Bright and Breaking Sea (Captain Kit Brightling #1) by Chloe Neill
B5: The Absolute Rant - That Thing Is 626 Pages
A few months ago Smack went on an insane 626-page journey with the Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox and then dragged Gabi along for the wild ride. This episode starts with an older recording of Smack's spoiler-free summary to entice Gabi, followed by our fuller exploration of the nitty-gritties that made the Absolute Book so absolutely bonkers. The best part was the saltwater crocodile.
E20: Reluctant Un-Retirees
Smack and Gabi reconvene after Gabi’s (second) bout of COVID and Smack’s adventure dog-sitting in Oregon, during which she got lost in Powell’s (which, we establish, is what the entire state of Oregon is for) and drove in the snow for the first time, but mostly got to curl up with the pups, enjoy the green gloom of the Pacific Northwest, and read. We discuss our hoard of recent acquisitions, including the ongoing presents from our past selves, courtesy of Barnes & Noble’s problematic preorder sales. We have a lot to look forward to: witches, spooky woods, real-life plagues, zombies, 18th century broad-shouldered secret agents, xianxia-inspired adventures, reluctant un-retirees, friends-to-enemies-to-lovers, pirates, and more!
B4: Elder Races - The F***ing Hands
In this bonus episode, Smack goes on her own "Green Creek rant" (i.e., full of spoilers!) about the Elder Races series of paranormal romances by Thea Harrison. Despite occasional appealing features that kept her reading through four novels and four novellas she finally found the fortitude to DNF, but not before accumulating a host of thoughts and frustrations to share with the masses. May she be an inspiration to us all.
E19: Break Me Gently
Smack and Gabi discuss their reading highlights since the summer, which included spooky Halloween reads and a couple of very excellent duologies. Some reads will be spun off into their own future bonus episodes, including a set of paranormal romances that were Smack’s “Green Creek” and a brick that is impossible to describe in brief. Gabi explains blorbos and poor little meow-meows, we sulk about novella marketing decisions, Smack breaks down the HarperCollins strike, and we tie everything off with a completely understandable meltdown about Our Flag Means Death, which is not a book but is nonetheless an excellent but tragically incomplete piece of media.
Books discussed in this episode include:Squad by Maggie Tokuda-Hall Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match by Sally Thorne Wolves of No World duology (Lobizona and Cazadora) by Romina Garber Great Cities duology (The City We Become and The World We Make) by N.K. Jemisin The Necessity of Stars by E. Catherine Tobler
E18: 2nd Annual Mysterious Galaxy Summer Bingo Throwdown Showdown 1-on-1 PvP Fights - Part Three
The "fight" continues! In the third and final part of our second annual showdown, we (finally) find out who had the better reading experience during Mysterious Galaxy's 2022 summer bingo. Smack was ahead at the halfway mark at the end of Part Two, but the only way to know who ultimately won is to listen! We also found out that Mysterious Galaxy has fifty (FIFTY) book prompts for a 2023 challenge in honor of their 30th birthday so we may be doing this...a lot.
The books competing in this last segment are:Spell on Wheels, Vol. 2: Just to Get to You (Spell on Wheels #Vol. 2) by Kate Leth, Megan Levens (Illustrations), Marissa Louise (Illustrations) v. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson v. An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed (Elderly Lady #2) by Helene Tursten, Marlaine Delargy (Translator) Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki v. Heartstopper: Volume Two (Heartstopper #2) by Alice Oseman Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal (Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson #1) by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona (Artist), Ian Herring (Colorist) v. Not Your Average Hot Guy (Not Your Average Hot Guy #1) by Gwenda Bond Sabotaged (Sundance #3) by C.P. Rider v. The Date from Hell by Gwenda Bond The Incubus Job (Mission: Magic #1) by Diana Pharaoh Francis v. Killer Dreams by Iris Johansen The Problem with Promises (Mystwalker #3) by Leigh Evans v. Servant Mage by Kate Elliott On Fire by Nancy Holder: A Teen Wolf Novel v. An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good (Äldre dam #1) by Helene Tursten, Marlaine Delargy (Translator) Burn (Dark in You #1) by Suzanne Wright v. Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller Among Thieves (Thieves #1) by M.J. Kuhn v. The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold by Francesca Lia Block Malice (Malice Duology #1) by Heather Walter v. Heartstopper: Volume One (Heartstopper #1) by Alice Oseman Mr. Wrong Number (Mr. Wrong Number #1) by Lynn Painter v. Second Time Around by Mary Higgins Clark
E17: 2nd Annual Mysterious Galaxy Summer Bingo Throwdown Showdown 1-on-1 PvP Fights - Part Two
The stakes are high!! In part two of a yet-to-be-determined number of parts, Smack and Gabi are at it again, going toe-to-toe to see who had the better reading experience during this year's Mysterious Galaxy Summer Bingo. By the end of this episode there are some tough calls and a surprising number of ties, but one of us has pulled ahead at the halfway mark (you'll have to listen to find out who!). Will our friendship survive another twelve PvP fights?? Only time will tell...
The books competing in this segment are:Get Your Book Selling Wide: Get the Basics of Publishing in Print, Ebook, Audiobook, Translations, Apps, and More (Book Sales Supercharged #1) by Monica Leonelle v. A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot, #1) by Becky Chambers The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold by Francesca Lia Block v. Jade City (Green Bone Saga #1) by Fonda Lee A Safe Girl to Love by Casey Plett v. A Spindle Splintered (Fractured Fables, #1) by Alix E. Harrow Starfang: Rise of the Clan by Joyce Chng v. Recognize Fascism edited by Crystal M. Huff Let the Mountains Be My Grave by Francesa Tacchi v. Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live by Rob Dunn Summoned (Sundance, #2) by C.P. Rider v. If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy
E16: 2nd Annual Mysterious Galaxy Summer Bingo Throwdown Showdown 1-on-1 PvP Fights - Part One
Who’s gonna win?? It’s time for ITBR’s 2nd Annual Mysterious Galaxy Summer Bingo…thing! Smack and Gabi go head-to-head to find out who had a better reading experience during our favorite bookstore’s summer bingo event by selecting titles at random and defending our own books until a champion for each pair (or a tie) is declared. The one with the most champions at the end of…three or four??...episodes will win a steak prepared by the loser!! Or they might, if either of us liked steak. The books pitted against each other in this first episode are:Spell on Wheels Vol 1 by Kate Leth, Megan Levens (Illustrator), Marissa Louise (Colorist) v. Hardly Haunted by Jessie Sima Help! My Launch Plan Sucks (Help! I'm an Author Book 3) by Mal Cooper, Jill Cooper v. The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller Uncommon Charm by Emily Bergslien, Kat Weaver v. The Last Dragonslayer (The Last Dragonslayer #1) by Jasper Fforde Recognize Fascism edited by Crystal M. Huff v. Handbook for a Post-Roe America by Robin Marty Scales and Sensibility (Regency Dragons, #1) by Stephanie Burgis v. Basic Japanese Through Comics Part 1: Compilation of the First 24 Basic Japanese Columns from Mangajin Magazine by Mangajin Magazine, Ashizawa Kazuko (Illustrator) Earp & Chandra (Sundance #2.5) by C.P. Rider v. Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex by Angela Chen
E15: It’s So Good and It’s Not Even Animorphs
Smack and Gabi continue their discussion from the previous episode swapping opinions about recent reads, a surprising number of which we had in common. Smack soaks in the nostalgia of a formative book of tactile fairy tale retellings that took her on a profound journey of self-discovery. Gabi delights in a cozy speculative historical haunted house mystery/romance about a scandalous widow and a sweet family of mad scientists. We talk about our individual challenges and approaches to reading on planes and stress out about (or are pleasantly surprised by) contemporary romances. Along the way we learn the difference between blackmail and extortion, celebrate delightful surprise glow-in-the-dark covers (with whales!), and covet cat-sized pet dragons (who wouldn't?).
Main books discussed include:The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold by Francesca Lia Block Spell on Wheels by Kate Leth, Megan Levens (Illustrator), Marissa Louise (Colorist) The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller Night Shine by Tessa Gratton If the Shoe Fits (Meant to Be #1) by Julie Murphy Among Thieves by M.J. Kuhn Scales and Sensibility (Regency Dragons #1) by Stephanie Burgis
E14: That's Fun
Smack and Gabi announce the winner of their Annibirthday drawing and touch base on our Mysterious Galaxy Summer Bingo progress, for which Gabi has been tricked into reading a trilogy of three chonkers. We then catch up on some recent reads we’ve had in common. Gabi rage-quit a trilogy over a dead beloved character and Smack is still soaking in a book of incredible writing with a bizarre world of violin prodigies, deals with the devil, and refugees from another galaxy who sell donuts. We compare notes on frustrating worldbuilding and how to nip fascism in the bud, and conclude by yet again trying to remember what year it is. At least we’re consistent.
Main books discussed include:The Green Bone Saga by Fonda Lee Serpent & Dove series by Shelby Mahurin Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki Recognize Fascism: A Science Fiction and Fantasy Anthology edited by Crystal M. Huff
E13: No One Will Ever Be As Entertained By Us As Us
Smack and Gabi are celebrating ITBR's Anni-birthday by inviting you (our precious listeners) to email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or follow & tweet @infinitetbr with your favorite book of this year OR the name of a book that we recommended that you enjoyed. One lucky participant will be chosen to receive a $20 gift card to the independent bookstore of their choice. We went on to answer selections (requested by our #1 fan) from the Mid-Year Book Freak Out tag, complete with copious tangents and unrepentant cheating when it came to answering prompts. Winners include:Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher The League of Gentlewomen Witches by India Holton Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki Summoned by C.P. Rider Gifting Fire by Alina Boyden Misrule by Heather Walter A Strange and Stubborn Endurance by Foz Meadows The Whispering Dark by Kelly Andrew Naomi Teitelbaum Ends the World by Samara Shanker A Taste of Gold and Iron by Alexandra Rowland
B3: Genre Stigma - Don't Make Fun of Me, You D***
In this bonus episode, Smack and Gabi discuss genre stigma. We review general trends and discuss our personal experiences encountering it in the wild as readers, writers, and academics. We also discuss strategies for overcoming stigma in ourselves (an ongoing process) and how best to encourage others to do so (the power of friendship!).
E12: We Are the Ultimate Book Crawlers
Smack and Gabi review their San Diego Independent Bookstore Day Book Crawl a.k.a. Book Crawl a.k.a. Book Crawlidays adventure. They recount their experiences and book hauls from each of the eleven(!!) participating independent bookstores in San Diego, noting their faves and their…not-so-faves, as well as the sweet swag accumulated along the way. They are also gearing up for the 2022 Mysterious Galaxy Summer Bingo and celebrating ITBR’s first birthday! Happy Birthday to Us!!
E11: Post-Apocalyptic Futuristic Science Fiction Dragons with Spirits and a Cat
Smack and Gabi cover a lot of reading ground from March and April. Smack gives a teaser about her faves (further discussion pending Gabi catching up…some day); Gabi waxes poetic about feathered dragons, Faustian bargains, violin prodigies, and donut-selling aliens; and we both gush about a gross and incredible werewolf horror novel. Smack’s been listening to a lot of popcorn audiobooks while Gabi pre-gamed for Book Crawl. We finish by reminiscing about nice dragons - one of our all-time favorites!
Main books discussed include:The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah Stealing Thunder (#1) and Gifting Fire (#2) by Alina Boyden Fae Games trilogy by Karen Lynch Inferno by Dante Alighieri (translated by Mary Jo Bang, illustrations by Henrik Drescher) Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki Mongrels by Stephen Graham-Jones Impact Winter by Travis Beacham Rylee Adamson series by Shannon Mayer Hunt the Stars (Starlight’s Shadow #1) by Jessie Mihalik Mr. Wrong Number by Lynn Painter Scorpica by G.R. Macallister So This is Ever After by F.T. Lukens DFZ trilogy by Rachel Aaron Heartstrikers (a.k.a. Nice Dragons) series by Rachel Aaron
B2: Green Creek Part Two - Everything Exists in Werewolf Fiction
In our second bonus episode, Smack and Gabi continue their discussion surrounding the Green Creek saga by TJ Klune. Topics include some hot tea re: the publishing industry, some common werewolf tropes that were not adequately explained during Gabi’s insane Green Creek tangent of the previous bonus episode, a recap of Brothersong (the final book in the quartet), and a couple of essential plot points that Gabi remembers very suddenly mid-sentence. We’re also not 100% sure what year it is.
Other werewolf books of note mentioned in passing that we think everyone should read include Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones and The Devourers by Indra Das.
E10: Book Haulidays Part Two - On a Hunting Trip and Haven't Been Home in a Few Days
Smack and Gabi continue their recap of their Book Hols with the rest of their recent reads and coverage of their (first) Barnes & Noble Pre-Order Sale Extravaganza. Gabi belatedly learns a well-known Supernatural trope and bemoans a missed opportunity for a character's Enemies-to-BFFs relationship with a big bad evil serpent. Smack explains the best friend prop and describes how to get good translator recommendations when reading classics. Both reiterate their goal to make 2022 the Year of Indulgences and Rereads.
Main books discussed include:The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski translated by Danusia Stok Never Have I Ever by Isabel Yap A Psalm of Storms and Silence by Roseanne A. Brown Pawn by Karen Lynch
B1: Green Creek Part One - Tragedy and Gay Werewolves
In our first bonus episode, Gabi goes off on an incredible tangent in which she narrates to a very patient Smack the happenings of the first three Greek Creek books by TJ Klune, which she purchased during the Book Haulidays described in the previous full episode.
E9: Book Haulidays Part One - Eat Your Nemesis
Smack and Gabi ring out 2021 with a round-up of their Book Hols from the end of the year and set some 2022 goals. Gabi did a not insignificant amount of stress-shopping while Smack (somehow?!) didn’t receive a single book during the holidays. We celebrate the accomplishment of our 2021 book/page count goals and review the highs and lows throughout the year. For 2022, we decide to skip insane book/page count goals in favor of making it the Year of Indulgences and Rereads. Gabi’s supplemental goal is to get through her Smack Shelf, while Smack’s supplemental goal is to keep Gabi from accomplishing that goal. We also start discussing our recent reads (to be continued!).
E8: Sirens Part Two - That Sure Is Something I Read
Smack and Gabi continue with their Sirens (a conference dedicated to examining gender and fantasy literature) catch-up by playing a tier-ranking of the 2021 Sirens Reading Challenge. The Reading Challenge last year consisted of 25 main books which could be replaced by a selection from a supplemental list of 25 if any of the main books had been read in advance of the challenge. Both full lists can be found at:
And our custom tier-ranking game (filled only with selections which at least one of us read) can be found at:
E7: Sirens Part One - It’s Not Hoarding If It’s Books
Smack and Gabi reconvene in the new year to catch-up on the final quarter of 2021 starting with a review of their experiences at Sirens, a conference dedicated to examining gender and fantasy literature. In this episode, they itemize their very reasonable book hauls (Gabi walked away from the auction with a tote bag stuffed full of books, while Smack scored some long-anticipated novels at the Sirens bookstore), chat about their favorite conference sessions, and celebrate Gabi’s murder mystery win, all while taking only a minor detour to rant about a recent read.
Books discussed include:Payback’s a Witch by Lena Harper Black Water Sister by Zen Cho Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel The Bone Witch trilogy by Rin Chupeco
E6: Mysterious Galaxy Summer Bingo Showdown - Part Two
Smack and Gabi compete to find out who read the best combination of books for the Mysterious Galaxy Summer Bingo by having random PvP fights between their books. Books pitted against each other in this episode (part two of two) include:Fierce Fairytales by Nikita Gill v. Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses by Kristen O’Neal v. Galactic Hellcats by Marie Vibbert Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson v. Burning Roses by S.L. Huang Pocket Workshop: Essays on Living As a Writer edited by Tod McCoy and M. Huw Evans v. Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu v. Soul of the Sword by Julie Kagawa Galactic Hellcats by Marie Vibbert v. The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho Lobizona by Lobina Garber v. The Shell Game by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston v. Harriet Porber and the Bad Boy Parasaurolophus by Chuck Tingle Gifting Fire by Alina Boyden v. The Blood in the Thread by Cheri Kamei The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson v. I Really Am A Slag Shou! (我真的是渣受) by 你的荣光 Among the Silvering Herd by A. M. Dellamonica v. Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid v. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown
E5: Mysterious Galaxy Summer Bingo Showdown - Part One
Smack and Gabi compete to find out who read the best combination of books for the Mysterious Galaxy Summer Bingo by having random PvP fights between their books. Books pitted against each other in this episode (part one of two) include:The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett v. Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara v. Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses by Kristen O’Neal The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison v. Legendary Cracow by Ewa Basiura Stealing Thunder by Alina Boyden v. Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction by Sami Schalk The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen v. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin v. The Night of the Dragon by Julie Kagawa Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor v. The Demon in the Wood by Leigh Bardugo Shuri: The Search for Black Panther by Nnedi Okorafor v. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Gods and Monsters by Shelby Mahurin v. Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi The Resurrectionist of Caligo by Alicia Zaloga and Wendy Trimboli v. The Heist by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison v. Shuri: The Search for Black Panther by Nnedi Okorafor The Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi translated by Cathy Hirano v. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
E4: What's a Gyarados?
E3: No One is Safe
After a bunch of trilogies, Smack and Gabi recover from book trauma, discuss savvy heroines, and critique French-inspired worldbuilding. Main books discussed include:Shadow of the Fox, Soul of the Sword, and Night of the Dragon by Julie Kagawa Girl of Fire and Thorns series by Rae Carson Serpent & Dove trilogy by Shelby Mahurin Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses by Kristen O'Neal
E2: When In Doubt, DNF
Smack and Gabi do a few deep dives into some recent reads and learn to trust our DNF instincts. Main books discussed include:Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows duology) by Leigh Bardugo A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison Burning Roses by S.L. Huang
Show notes are available HERE.
E1: Don't Bring Hardcovers on Vacation
Smack and Gabi talk their current, recent, and upcoming reads. Highlights include trying to convince Smack to DNF the Book of the Unnamed Midwife and trying to convince Gabi to not bring a hardcover trilogy on vacation to Hawaii.
Main books discussed include:The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson Burning Roses by S.L. Huang The Simon Snow trilogy by Rainbow Rowell The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes (Pandava Quintet #3) by Roshani Chokshi Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard
Show notes are available HERE.
E0: Intro to ITBR
Introduction to the Infinite To-Be-Read podcast and its hosts Smack and Gabi, who are doing their best to put a dent in reading books they already own and trying to resist buying more.