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168: Get Back into Reading with Favorite Tropes

Episode 168 Graphic: Our Favorite Tropes featuring a photograph of a stack of books

In this Unabridged Podcast episode, we discuss some of our favorite tropes and share some book recommendations that have included those tropes. Our recommendations include Beth O’Leary’s The Switch, Helena Hunting’s Kiss My Cupcake, and John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. We talk about some of our favorite and not-so-favorite tropes in romance novels, and we discuss the benefits of tropes for readers.

Bookish Check-in

Ashley - Yaa Gyasi’s Transcendent Kingdom ( | Amazon)

Jen - James McBride’s Deacon King Kong ( | Amazon)

Sara - Sarah Morgenthaler’s The Tourist Attraction ( | Amazon)

Our Recs Featuring Our Favorite Tropes

Ashley - Beth O’Leary’s The Switch ( | Amazon)

Jen - Helena Hunting’s Kiss My Cupcake ( | Amazon)

Sara - John Green's The Fault in Our Stars ( | Amazon)

Mentioned in Episode

Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing ( | Amazon)

James McBride’s The Color of Water ( | Amazon)

James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird ( | Amazon)

Farrah Rochon’s The Boyfriend Project ( | Amazon)

Alexis Hall’s Boyfriend Material ( | Amazon)

Talia Hibbert's Take a Hint, Dani Brown ( | Amazon)

Emma Lord’s You Have a Match ( | Amazon)

Emma Lord's Tweet Cute ( | Amazon)

Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game ( | Amazon)

Casey McQuiston’s Red, White, and Royal Blue ( | Amazon)

Emily Henry’s A Million Junes ( | Amazon)

Rachael Lippincott (Author), Mikki Daughtry, and Tobias Iaconis’s Five Feet Apart ( | Amazon)


Gilmore Girls

Peanut Butter Falcon

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Bookish Check-in

Book cover of James McBride's Deacon King Kong

Jen said, "So I am reading James McBride's Deacon King Kong, and this is one of the books that is in the bracket for the Tournament of Books. My real-life book club is also reading it this month, and and it's been one I've been wanting to read—I love James McBride's work. I'd heard a lot of good things, but as we often talk about sometimes with literary fiction, it's a little bit of a hurdle for me to pick the book up without having it without having a deadline or a due date or some sort of motivation attached because I know it's going to be some work. And my brain is not always functioning these days anyway. So I'm looking at the summary now, and I'll just say this is a tough book to summarize, even at the beginning, because it's very much more about the character and the writing than it is the plot. But it does have a really cool incident at the beginning, not cool, but maybe compelling incident, at the beginning.

"So there's an older man in this neighborhood named Sportcoat, whose wife died two years ago, and since then his attachment to reality has been a little sketchy. He wanders down the street one day, and he's talking sort of nonsense, but nobody really pays attention to him because that's his normal. Suddenly, he goes up to this young man who is a drug dealer in this neighborhood and who everyone is scared of, and he shoots him in the head. Nobody has any idea why . . . I don't want to give a spoiler, but I will just say everyone is pretty sure at this point that Sportcoat is going to die because the kid, whose name is Deems, Deems's influence in the neighborhood is such that he has all of these people who were looking out for his interests and invested in his business, and the fact that this loss happens means that Sportcoat is probably not going to make it very long.

So yeah, it's really interesting. Again, the characters are really interesting. They're really vivid, and McBride's writing is just phenomenal. So he has these long winding sentences that are talking about the state of the neighborhood, and different people's points of view within that neighborhood and the different roles that have emerged for people, those who are dependent on the drug dealers, those who hate them, but don't want to do anything to stand up to them, those who are really frustrated by it and doing what they can to act out against it. But their power is not the same as the people who have the money behind them. So it's really looking at sort of the social hierarchy that's behind it. That all sounds very solemn, but it's also really funny."

Book cover of Sarah Morgenthaler's The Tourist Attraction

Sara said, "A while back, Ashley was talking about having all these books that she needed to read, and then she was talking—it was during a book check in and she was talking about how she requested Sarah Morgenthaler's The Tourist Attraction from the library, and then she just decided to read it even though she had all these other obligations. So right after we recorded that episode, I was like, I'm going to look and see if my library has that request. So I did. I put a hold on it, and then the hold came in, and I ignored it just to get through what I needed to get through, and now I have four days left, and I need to plow through it.

"I am reading Morgenthaler's The Tourist Attraction. Both Jen and Ashley have talked about this one. So I'm just gonna give a teeny brief summary. It's set in Alaska. It's about a grumpy curmudgeonly guy who runs a diner and then a woman who comes with one of the frequent tourists that comes to the area often. Her name's Zoe, and she comes with her friend Lana, and then they just have met, but you can tell it's gonna be possibly a love connection. I'm loving it so far. I love the diner, and I think we talked before in the episode we talked about this particular book before we talked about The Gilmore Girl, and I'm definitely getting all The Gilmore Girl vibes and Stars Hollow. . . . So I'm really enjoying it, and I will be enjoying it quickly because I need to plow through it before my library hold is complete. So that is Sarah Morgenthaler's The Tourist Attraction."

Book cover of Yaa Gyasi's Transcendent Kingdom

Ashley said, "So I just started this one this morning. I am reading Yaa Gyasi's Transcendent Kingdom. I absolutely loved Homegoing; I thought it was a fascinating story, so richly drawn. I loved her examination and her writing style, and so I was so excited when this one came out and wanted to read it right away, and I just hadn't gotten to it yet. So I'm excited to start it. I am listening thanks to And Bahni Turpin is the narrator, so I didn't realize that until I started, and I absolutely love all of her narration, I just think she's a phenomenal audiobook narrator so that was really great as well, and I didn't know that that was an unexpected joy to start that, and so this one is about Gifty who is the main character.

"Again, I haven't I haven't listened to very much of it yet. But so far, it's clear that her family is from Ghana and lives in Alabama, but she is now an adult living in California. And her mom has had struggles with her mental health throughout Gifty's life. Those struggles have been difficult for the family, and it appears that now the mom is having an episode and is going to need some help. So at the very beginning of the book, Gifty's been contacted by people in her mom's community, and they have said, you know, we really think that she needs some help. So she is picking up her mom at the airport, and her mom is pretty non responsive. So she's preparing herself for working through that, and so she is a researcher, she works in a lab. Immediately I think there is a sense of how she is different from her family. She always talks about her having a bleeding heart. So it's a really fascinating look also at how her mom is from Ghana and has some of that connection. But then she also is entrenched in some of the culture of the deep south and the attitudes of the people in Alabama. So that's a really interesting thing as well. So again, I don't know a whole lot yet, it's clear that her family, she's experienced loss and her family there, her father and her brother are no longer alive, and that's apparent in the beginning, but we don't know the backstory yet. So I'm just thrilled. I am excited to start it. Like I said, I meant to get to it as soon as it came out. I was thrilled to see it on, and it hasn't been a long time, but it's been a few months. So I'm happy to dive in and again, that's Yaa Gyasi's Transcendent Kingdom."

Main Segment - Our Recs Featuring Our Favorite Tropes

Book cover of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars

After a discussion about tropes, Sara said, "The one that I'm choosing, although this one, I think kind of rises above the trope, because it's so good. I love John Green so much, but the one that I'm going to talk about is The Fault in Our Stars. This is star-crossed lovers because we have Hazel and Gus. Hazel has cancer, and Gus is in remission. But you know his cancer could could come back at any time, and they form this relationship. It's very beautiful, but throughout the whole book, you have this sense of impending doom that something's going to happen that is gonna take away their ability to be together. I think this is a great example of this trope because, like I said, it rises above. The trope is clearly there, but there's also so much other really thoughtful content in the book, and John Green just says, like, we've we all fangirled over him all the time. . . .

Book cover of Helena Hunting's Kiss My Cupcake

Jen talked about the enemies-to-lovers trope and said, "So the one that's officially my pick I read recently, and it's Helena Hunting's Kiss My Cupcake, and it is so much fun. So it's about two people, both of whom are opening new restaurants, new businesses. So Blair comes from a family who has very a very successful restaurant chain that is super high end, and she does not want to be a part of it. She does not want to charge people $2,000 for a steak. She wants to give people food that is comfort food and just to have a fun experience, so she opens a cupcake and drink shop where she makes these really interesting mixed drinks. These gorgeous cupcakes that have unusual flavors mixed together. Right next door, Ronan is renovating his grandfather's pub that has been in his family since his grandfather and grandmother started this business and his grandmother has died. His grandfather really resists change, but finally has agreed to let Ronan renovate the place and make a go of it. So it's a pub with axe throwing in the back, and the way that they meet is Blair is just getting ready to have her grand opening, and she has this beautiful mirrored wall of glass shelves with all these cute glasses set up on it, and something hits the wall, and the glasses fall off and shatter. She goes next door, and it's Ronan doing these renovations and trying out the axe throwing, which of course is against the wall where all nice glass stuff is. So that's the first meeting.

"Well, then Ronan decides that it would be really funny if he starts pranking Blair, and actually at the beginning, he's pretty much a jerk, like it's one I really had to work through. He decides to have his grand opening on the same night that Blair has hers. He comes into her grand opening and passes out flyers to his pub while she is trying to get new customers. So it starts out where I really disliked Ronan, but then you find out that he just thinks is funny, and then he really wasn't meaning to take her business: their hours are different, so she is more during the day and to like dinner time, and then he really gets going at dinner and after. So he thought it would be okay that they could send business to each other, but he never articulated that to her. But communication is key, people. But yeah, so it's just really funny. There's a lot of a lot of banter back and forth. . . . So, again, that's Helena Hunting's Kiss My Cupcake."

Book cover of Beth O'Leary's The Switch

Ashley said, "So the trope that I wanted to share is the switching lives trope, and the example that I wanted to give that I highly recommend is Beth O'Leary's The Switch. The reason I love this one is because this centers on Leena Cotton and Eileen Cotton who are a granddaughter and a grandmother. Leena is a workaholic, living in London, and she feels that her work is at the center of her life: she doesn't really know who she is outside of work. She doesn't do much for free time, you know, and she's just very work centered. Then Eileen Cotton lives in a tiny village and is a very active person and very involved in her community. But she is much more balanced in her life and just lives much more of a small-town community life. They have lost Leena's sister to cancer, and all of them are still including the mom, who is involved in the story as well. All of them are still reeling from that loss and also finding their way. So in the beginning of the story Leena's boss tells her that she has got to take some time off.

"So they're giving her paid leave for her to have time off, so that she can have some time to grieve and to take care of herself, and she has no idea what to do with that. So the beginning of the story is really about how she is lost instead of feeling like she, you know, a lot of people might feel that they're rejoicing if their employer does that for them. Instead, she feels unmoored and doesn't know what to do. So the idea for them to switch places and the reason for Eileen to come to London is that she is looking for love. She's in a tiny village, and she is an older lady, and there's not a lot of eligible bachelors ready, you ready to get to know her. So that's kind of the motivation: for her to go to London so that she can get involved in the dating scene and try out some of the online dating so that she can meet some people and then for Leena Cotton to be in the village where her mom lives as well and to have some time to just force herself basically to be away from work. . . . That's Beth O'Leary's The Switch."

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