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133 - Underrated Books and Authors with Mariely Sylvette Martinez of PodQueens Latinas

In this Unabridged Podcast episode, we have so much fun talking with Mariely Sylvette Martinez of PodQueens Latinas about underrated books and series. She joins us for our Bookish Check-in, and then we chat about what it means to be underrated and why some great books and authors don't seem to get as much buzz as others. Finally, we end with our Give Me One segment and recommend some podcasts that we're enjoying right now.

Bookish Check In

Ashley - Mindy McGinnis's A Madness So Discreet

Jen - Kel Kade's Fate of the Fallen

Sara - Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible

Our Underrated Books and Authors

Ashley - Laini Taylor

Jen - Lauren Oliver

Sara - Beth Vrabel's Caleb and Kit

Give Me One - Podcast

Ashley - NPR's Life Kit

Other Mentions

Marie Lu's Rebel

Talia Hibbert's Get a Life, Chloe Brown

Cassandra Clare - City of Bones

George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire series

Rhonda Byrnes's The Secret

(A note to our readers: click on the hashtags above to see our other blog posts with the same hashtag.)

Interested in what else we're reading? Check out our Featured Books page.

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Ashley 00:02

Hi and welcome to Unabridged. This is Episode 133, "Underrated Books and Authors." Today we are so excited to have Mariely Sylvette Martinez with us and she is going to share a little bit with you about what she does and about her podcast. We're excited to talk with her and then we're going to get into our book is check in and then we really want to talk today about all things underrated. We really want to discuss some thoughts we have about particular authors that we think are underrated, but also about just how things flow in general and what books get noticed and why. And so we're interested in having that discussion today.

But before we get started, we wanted to share with you that if you haven't checked out Patreon recently, we have got a lot of extra content on there now. We've got some extra episodes and also some video for you. So, if you haven't checked that out recently, be sure to give that a look. We have really updated that in May and June and are excited to share fun things with you on there.

So, as I mentioned today, we have Mariely with us and does a lot with personal branding and entrepreneurship. And so I would love for you, Mariely, to just give us an overview of what you do. And then I'd also love for you to share with us about PodQueens Latinas.

Mariely 01:51

Thank you, Ashley. Thank you all for the invitation to be here with you. Right now what I'm doing is I help solopreneurs build a strong brand online, mainly on platforms such as LinkedIn, and also Facebook and all the others. But I use LinkedIn because I work with professionals who want to move forward their careers or businesses. And I feel that is an underused platform. And I like to help solopreneurs with that, and also with content creation in platforms such as the podcast. I teach a lot of people from business to create a professional podcast. We have an academy and a recording studio that we cannot use right now because of the quarantine. But we have produced dozens of programs so far. And I have a podcast that is called PodQueens Latinas, which is a podcast about podcasting targeted towards women and it is in Spanish, so we can teach concepts about podcasting, but also marketing your podcast, reaching a bigger audience, and also creating a brand through your podcast.

Ashley 03:08

That's awesome. We really appreciate having you here today. So, we met Mariely and got to hear her speak at PodFest in Florida in March. And we were just really amazed with everything you had to share and felt like you had great ideas that were immediately actionable for us. And so that was really helpful. And for sure, I felt like you understood what it was like to plow the way with business, particularly for women. So we appreciate that. A lot of our listeners are people in the book world and so a lot of our listeners, like the three of us, are working on being present on Instagram because there's a big bookstagram community on there. So it's a niche community focused on books. And you know, people have blogs and things like that, but a lot of people in the book review world are trying to build their personal brand. And I just wondered if before we got into our bookish check in if you had any tips or suggestions, just quick ideas of something that you think really helps people to hone their personal brand.

Mariely 04:14

Well, the first thing we need to look at in terms of branding is making sure you know exactly what makes you different and sets you apart from everybody else that is doing that same thing you do. And also, I like taking a look at everything you've learned in your life, your knowledge, your experiences, your talents and abilities--all of that. And how can you make something special and new out of that, and creating that brand and making sure how you can put those to the service of the people that need that knowledge and that experience and all that. It's making sure that your communication portrays exactly how can you help your people with everything that you know and your experience. Everything that you do every picture that you put in your social profiles must communicate exactly what you do. I've seen many people use pictures that do not represent and do not make any justice for them. Like the other day, I was having this conference with a photographer, and we were looking at this picture, she was a lawyer, but when we asked everybody else what they thought that person did, they all said that they thought she was like an administrative assistant because you know, the way she looked on her picture. So, those little details like the photographs that you use, to portray who you are, you need to be very careful that they are portraying the right message.

Ashley 05:56

Awesome. That's a great tip. And that really helps because I think that a lot of people in the book world are so frantic to keep posting. There's a lot of pressure to post all the time and to post every day. And so sometimes it's easy to get hurried and to kind of forget about the focus and purpose.

Mariely 06:17

That's another thing, that the type of content that you put out there--you need to be strategic about it. Right? Then you need to make sure that it's serving a real purpose. That it is solving real problems from real people. And you're not just--"What do I post today? I need to post something." No, we need to be a little bit more strategic than that.

Ashley 06:42

Awesome, thanks. Thanks for sharing those tips with us.

Jen 06:45

That's great.

Bookish Check-in

Ashley 06:46

So we are going to start like we always do with our bookish check in and just share a little bit about something that we're reading right now. Sara, do want to start us off.

book cover of Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible

Sara 06:55

Sure. I am reading right now, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. It is one that's been on my list for a long time. And we did an interview with Toni from @readwithtoni and she was doing a buddy read and it just kind of inspired me to read that book. And I like it. It is going slower for me than I normally would like. But I'm appreciating the writing and learning about these characters and just this whole life that they have in the Congo. So I am enjoying it. I read a bunch of really quick books lately. And so I was kind of on a roll and this one is has much slower pace, but I'm enjoying it.

Jen 07:44

Yeah, that one. I love literary fiction, but the pace is definitely different. It's very descriptive and the sentences are beautiful. But because of that, you can't just-- I should say we're all doing the buddy read, all three of us. But yeah, you can't just skim over details because they're all really important.

Sara 08:03

But it is beautiful writing.

Ashley 08:05

I talked about that one in an earlier episode that I love it. I read it a long time ago and and it really stayed with me but it is nice to reread. It is something I don't do very often.

Jen, what about you? What are you reading?

book cover of Kel Kade's Fate of the Fallen

Jen 08:18

So I am reading, this is a Book of the Month selection, one of my goals for the year is to catch up on all these Book of the Month books that I have piled up. They're beautiful, but it would be nice not to have a huge stack of them in my to be read pile. So, this one is Kel Kade's Fate of the Fallen. And it is the first in a new fantasy series and it has been a while since I've read high fantasy and so I'm just loving the world building. It's based on--there are two boys, well young men at the beginning, Mathias and Aaslo. I'm not positive I'm saying those right. They are best friends but they are quite different and they are living in this world where the dead roam basically. And so there's this frame story that we're supposed to find out the origins of when that all happened. And yeah, I know that sounds a little bizarre. There's a point at which very early on I cannot describe because it is a huge spoiler, so I'm not going to say that, but I'll just say I really appreciate the relationship between these young men who are so understanding of each other, even though they are really different. One is very extroverted and loves to be in town and loves to be around people and the other is very introverted. He's a forester, and the contrast between the two of them is quite compelling. So, it's a great story so far. We'll see how it goes.

Ashley 09:42

That sounds fascinating, man. Mariely, what about you? What are you reading?

Mariely 09:49

What I've been reading is the Run Your Race book, which is going to discussed in the underrated section, but I don't know if you want me to give you a little bit about it right now.

Ashley 10:00

Sure, yeah.

book cover of Jack Canfield's The Success Principles

Mariely 10:01

It's a nonfiction book. It's about setting goals and choosing one and focusing. It's about this woman that I met personally. I met her at a Toastmasters club. And she decided in 2006 that she wanted to run a marathon at the age of 38. It was the first time for her. And because she said that if she could do that, it would give her the confidence to achieve any other goal she set her mind to. So yeah, it's a really good book. And she was personally mentored by Jack Canfield. Probably you've heard about The Success Principles book from Jack Canfield. So she applied all of those success principles throughout the book, in order to achieve her goal, which she did. After that, she achieved many, many other gigantic goals. It's a person I admire a lot. And it's a really light and inspiring read.

Ashley 11:08

Wow, that's great.

Sara 11:09

That sounds great.

Ashley 11:11

Yeah, and I think that kind of read is great right now to think about some goal setting and how to keep moving forward, even when there are obstacles in your way. So yeah, that sounds really interesting.

Mariely 11:23

Absolutely. Yeah. Very inspiring.

book cover of Mindy McGinnis's A Madness So Discreet

Ashley 11:26

So, I am reading Mindy McGinnis's-- I just have read a tiny bit of this. This is Mindy McGinnis's A Madness So Discreet. Jen read this one recently, and I am a huge Mindy McGinnis fan. I've only read two of her books so far, but I'm hoping to read several more because I just love her style. I think her characters are really gritty and they are tough. And I think they do a lot of really admirable things in the face of really hard circumstances. I think that's something that a lot of her books have in common. So I read her Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust books. Those two are a duology. And I really love the characters They're very focused on the women in the story and the relationships between the women in the story. And so I love all of that. And I think she does a great job of showing complex characters in tough settings. And so I'm excited about this one that grabbed me right at the beginning. And I look forward to continuing with it. It's been a great read and something that I talked about on Instagram recently and had some good conversation with people about was just reading more of an author that you already love. And I think that as I have been driven by deadlines and books that are coming out and stuff like that. I don't always make as much time for reading more books by the same author. But I really think that that's something that I want to do as I move forward because once I know that I love someone's work, it's just really comfortable to read more by that same author. And if I know that all of her stuff is working for me, then you know, I think that that's a good reason to pick it up.

Jen 13:11

I'm laughing because I always talk about how many auto-buy authors I have. And y'all make fun of me. But that is why.

Ashley 13:20

It's a long list.

Jen 13:21

Yeah, it is a long list. And that is probably worth making fun of, but I do think like, once you have that comfort, and you trust the author, enough to go anywhere they want to take you. I think there's something nice about that. And there's something nice about just kind of doing an author study and thinking about the themes or the style that run through an author's work, so I endorse the decision to make Mindy McGinnis an auto buy author for you, Ashley.

Ashley 13:46

I was fortunate that Green Valley Book Fair, which we . . . it's a local place for us here and they have phenomenal books at great prices, and they had a couple of hers, and so I picked them up a lot, a while ago, and then I yeah, I just had to prioritize it. I mean, I think lately, I've had to recognize that I'm not going to get to everything on my shelves, and certainly not anytime soon. And so I have to think about how I'm going to fit in the ones that I really want to read and also just how to kind of alternate between different kinds of books. Like you were saying, Sara, I mean, The Poisonwood Bible is a really powerful book, but it's not super fast moving, so then I think it was nice to have something to offset it that does--her books are YA--are all . . . I don't know if all of them are, Jen?

Jen 14:29

So far, yes.

book cover of Marie Lu's Rebel

Ashley 14:30

Okay. So her books are YA, they're fast moving, and I think that they just have a lot that I'm interested in. So yeah, I've been thinking a lot about that. And speaking of auto-buy authors, Jen, I did get Marie Lu's Rebel, and I'm very excited to read that one.

Jen 14:44


Ashley 14:44

We are huge Marie Lu fans. So . . .

Jen 14:47

Yeah, that is awesome. I know you'll love it. It's so nice to be back in that world.

Ashley 14:52

Yeah, yeah. I think that, like I said, I've been thinking a lot about reading more of the same author and also reading in a series because I think all of those things, at times when it is harder to move through books, those are things that can help me keep moving and be more forceful with, you know, making progress and continuing to move forward. So, yeah.

Main Discussion: Underrated Books and Authors

Ashley 15:12

So we are going to move into our discussion for today, which is focused on underrated books, authors and series. We just wanted to talk about that topic because it's something that's been on our minds lately, and something that we think, yeah, deserves some attention. So, so Jen, do you want to start us off?

book cover of Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall

Jen 15:32

Sure. So I've been thinking about this question a lot. And I just want to say up front, I am considering this to be a compliment to the author I have chosen. Like I think the fact that I consider her to be underrated is because I love her work so much, and bookstagram as my primary mode of judgment here which may be illegitimate, but I don't think she gets enough attention on bookstagram, and so I think she is amazing, and while she has a great presence on Instagram itself, I would love to see her books just everywhere. The author I want to promote here is Lauren Oliver. And she actually reminds me a little bit of Mindy McGinnis in that I feel like she's one of those authors who is constantly challenging herself to do something different. So you were talking about Mindy McGinnis, A Madness So Discreet. That book is historical fiction. She has other books that are contemporary, realistic fiction she's taking on. She takes on dystopia. dystopia in the series that you've read before, the duology you've read before. Lauren Oliver is similar. So I first became aware of her work with the book Before I Fall. And that is like a YA version of Groundhog Day, kind of, in that the protagonist is in a car accident and wakes up again to start that day over again, and is constantly trying to find her way to another day, instead of every day, instead of that day ending with a car accident, which I thought was really clever, and the character is this really popular girl who is kind of the mean kind of popular girl. And so to see the way that she's growing, I mean, it's just like Bill Murray's character in Groundhog Day, when you have to relive the same day over and over, you start to reflect on maybe the things that you've done, that aren't so nice, or the things that you didn't think about that might have an impact on someone. And then all of a sudden, you realize that you're really having a big impact on them.

Ashley 17:31

I love hers. Yeah.

Jen 17:34

It's so clever. And I never watched the movie. I know it was made into a movie. And again, I do think she's underrated. But like that was made into a movie. She has another book that's been optioned into a series, so she's definitely finding success. But again, I would just like to hear more buzz about her.

book cover of Lauren Oliver's Delirium

Jen 17:51

So then the second thing that came out was a dystopian series. It was a dystopian trilogy, that I absolutely loved. It started with the book Delirium. And it was one of those I thought was brilliant, but it sort of got, like, I didn't think it came to the forefront of the dystopian books that were out at the time. So it's just like she's continuing to challenge herself. I don't want to list every book she's written, but she has quite a number of books. She's bridged a bunch of genres and a bunch of styles. She's written for children, for middle grade, for young adults, and for adults. And so I don't know if that's some of it. If it's that authors who are trying a lot of new things all the time, maybe don't get the same audience as someone who's always writing the same type of book. But I just really appreciate her willingness to try new things. I think I've enjoyed all of her books that I've read. I have not read her adult book Rooms or her children's books, but I've read most of her YA books, and I think they're just really, really strong, really interesting, really looking at people who are growing, that whole coming of age theme that's so important. You see them really being challenged to learn about themselves and about the world around them. Have you guys read, so you've read Before I Fall, Ashley?

Ashley 19:11

So I read Before I Fall, and I also read the whole Delirium series. There were three, right? All right, three. Okay, so yeah, so I read that whole series, and I really loved it, but I have not revisited her since then. So it is. Yeah, I like that idea of coming back to her because she's written quite a bit. I mean, I think that's another thing about her as being underrated. I think I haven't seen a lot of her stuff, considering how many books she has out there. No, for sure. That's, I like that. It's interesting to think about, and I read when I didn't, then I just haven't thought to revisit, you know,

book cover of Lauren Oliver's Panic

Jen 19:41

Yeah, I don't know what that's about. So the the book that she has, it's going to be the television series, is called Panic. And it's about these kids. It has a male and a female protagonist. And they, their small town has this challenge every year, and the winner gets a bunch of money, and it's sort of like your way out of poverty and out of this small town life, but the things that you have to do for the challenge are death defying, like it's they are really risking their lives in doing it. And so I think that's a really fascinating premise. I think it's gonna be a great series. So yeah, and I just, I don't know, I think maybe you guys will get into this a little bit, but it's just made me think about like, how do . . . is it all just an author's presence on a social media platform? Like what makes an author or a book get more or less buzz and what makes them get, I think, the credit that they deserve to get from readers and from the public? I don't know.

Ashley 20:40

Yeah, yeah. I have thought a lot about that recently, because I, as we get more ARCs and as you have, you know, I mean, there are certain books I can access for free in advance. Those are going to be a priority for all the people who have access to them because first of all, when they become available in a lot of settings, you are promising that you're going to review them. And so then there's pressure to prioritize those other over other books. And I think that you notice them because in these social circles online, of people who are doing the reading and talking about the books that are coming out, those ones that are being promoted by publishers are going to be the ones that you're seeing a lot more of. So even if, even if people are saying, I mean, certainly, I've seen some come out that a lot of people did not love. Even so, you're seeing a lot of them if they are more available to people in advance. And so yeah, I've been thinking about that a lot lately, as I've looked at my TBR list, and like I was saying about Mindy McGinnis, I mean, just thinking about how do I fit in these books that are my backlist books that are people I love and it really want to read and sometimes it feels like it's hard to get to them because of this pressure to read the things that are coming out right now and also the ones that are being pointed to by, you know, whoever, by the publisher or by the different companies that release the advance books. Yeah, so I've been thinking about that a lot and how that affects what we read.

Jen 22:14

It reminds me, Mariely, at the beginning, you were saying you have to think about what makes you different and you have to have this strong personal brand. And I certainly think that's true of authors and publishers, and like, is it just the publishers have found a way to market certain authors more effectively than others? Or I don't know it. It's made me wonder.

book cover of Chicken Soup for the Soul

Mariely 22:34

Marketing a book is such a gigantic work. I always remember this story also from Jack Canfield, when they wrote the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. They had to put a lot of work to make that book the huge success that it is today. I mean, they took it to over, they had like over 144 rejections, and we're talking about a time that you couldn't self publish like today. So they, I remember that one strategy that they used is that they sent the books to the jury of the OJ Simpson trial, I think, because they couldn't read newspapers or see TV but they could read books. So they sent boxes of these books, and then the media thought that the jury where all carrying these little books.

Jen 23:34

Oh my gosh, that is fascinating.

Ashley 23:38

That's brilliant marketing. And yeah, I think about that because it those are so widely and and wildly successful now. So yeah, that's really interesting.

Ashley 23:51

Mariely, what about you? What's a book or a series that you . . . you had mentioned earlier the book that you referenced as being underrated. Did you want to talk some more about that?

book cover of Dr. Mayra Llado's Run Your Race

Mariely 24:02

Yeah, absolutely. This book was released in 2013. And this book was written--this lady is Puerto Rican--but she wrote it in English. I mean, her first version was in English--Run Your Race: A Guide to Making Your Impossibles Possible by Dr. Mayra Llado. Because there are other books with this same title. I'm just making sure it's the one from Dr. Mayra Llado, who is a cosmetic dentist here in Puerto Rico. And beyond writing about her experience of completing her first marathon, she gave you a guide with strategies with practical tips that you can put in place to achieve your goal with whatever it is. It doesn't have to be running a marathon. So when I read this, I mean I could have sat down with my journal and I still have homework to do, to go ahead and through the action steps that she gives you at the end of each chapter so you can achieve your goal. And she talks about things that I haven't read in other books about the same subject. For example, when she talks about your visualization techniques, when she talks about it, sometimes people say like, oh, visualize everything the way you want it, like all positive, but she talks about visualizing, also the negatives. The what ifs. What if it rains when I'm running? What if I get injured? What if my goggles break when I'm swimming? So you can also visualize how would you go about it and you're prepared if one of those things show up when you're doing the thing that you want to do. So that was really interesting for me. How do you prepare mentally for that moment? And also what I like about it is that she's very honest. And she also talks about those days when she had 16 weeks to train for this marathon.

Ashley 26:16

Oh wow.

Mariely 26:16

And only 16 weeks. And she talks about how some days, I mean, she didn't eat properly or she went out to drink with friends. And you know, and she missed a couple of training days. But then she reminded herself, well, the only way to fail is if I quit. So she reminds you to keep on going. And the other thing that is so great about this book, is that she brings the stories of a lot of people. It's not only herself. It's not only her point of view. She brings the story of her husband, and also her trainer, and also Doña Anna, which is a 68 year old woman, who started walking because of her arthritis, and she started walking and walking, and then her coach challenged her to do a marathon and she did. At 68.

Ashley 27:21

Oh, wow.

Jen 27:22

That's amazing.

Mariely 27:23

She mentioned all of these inspiring stories and the team of Hoyt Team (Team Hoyt). I don't know if you've heard about this on the news. It's this old man who does marathons with his son, his paraplegic son, who has a wheelchair. He runs a full marathon pushing the the wheelchair. And those were just things that inspired her to say, "Oh my god, I mean, if he can do this, of course I can finish mine." I mean, it's not about winning first place. It's just about finishing and finishing this book at some point in chapter nine, she's being very honest about you know, I mean, "I already hit the wall right into this book and this chapter took forever to write, but I kept on going" And also the book is a product of all of that. So, I mean, I believe everybody, I mean, even people I think in high school should be reading this.

Ashley 28:26

Yeah, great. That sounds great, man. And yeah, I think I need that kind of encouragement right about now. And I like that it sounds like it's a good balance of being inspiring, but also honest, because sometimes I have a hard time you know, I mean, if everything is super upbeat, or if they overlook some of the challenging parts, I can be turned off by that.

Mariely 28:52

Exactly. No, no, she mentions the real stuff about people who really got really injured and how people around them, which is something else that I really like about about building a team of people that are your rocks, people that won't let you quit even if you want it badly to quit, and how they helped a friend who was about to quit because he couldn't train properly. And they knew that if he did that he wouldn't forgive himself for not doing it. So they ran with him. And at some point, his knee hurt very badly. And there was still a long way to go. And they said, "No, we're going to stay with you and we are going to walk if we have to and they walked all the way until the very last mile." And then they said, "Well, probably you want to run this last mile." And that person who was severely injured, he said, "Okay, let's do it." And they ran the last mile.

Ashley 29:52

Oh wow.

Jen 29:53

That's so great.

Mariely 29:54

I mean, again, a lot of stories where people against all odds, could do it. I mean, I'm not a runner at all. I mean, I've done 5Ks, walking and running, because I am not a runner. But it inspired me to even sign up for a 10K to just challenge myself a little.

Ashley 30:12

That's awesome. That's really cool. Sara, what about you? What's an author? Or I don't know if you're-- yeah, I realize I didn't know--is it an author you're going to talk about but somebody who's underrated?

book cover of Beth Vrabel's Caleb and Kit

Sara 30:25

Yes. Well, first of all, our conversation and just thinking about this topic over the week has really made me think about making sure that I am supporting content creators and people who are creating creative work--that I'm supporting those people that are doing things that I like. I think sometimes it's easy to get caught up, especially for us like in what we were talking about before, just like I just need to post a book on Instagram, and I just need to get it out there. And I just really appreciate our conversation and talking about supporting people that we love and that we are happy that they are putting content out into the world. So, I'm really appreciating this conversation. So one of the people that I want to talk about or the only person I'm going to talk about--there are so many people that are putting out great stuff that are not getting, you know, either their books are being published by a small publisher or they just don't have the push on like the Bookstagram community where we are primarily, to get their stuff out there, but the person that I'm going to talk about is Beth Vrabel. And she writes middle grade literature. The way that I found out about her was I was part of the Diverse Books Club on Instagram. And we did themes every month and one of the themes was chronic illness. And Beth has written an excellent book. So I'm going to focus on this book, but she has a pretty prolific middle grade repertoire that she that I think all sound really good and she does a really good job of relating to middle grade readers. The one that I'm going to focus on is Caleb and Kit. It is a story about a 12 year old boy. He is living with cystic fibrosis. And the book is just a great example looking at living with chronic illness from all angles. Because Caleb, the boy with cystic fibrosis is the main character, but you also see how that impacts a family, how it impacts a marriage, how it impacts Caleb in his interactions with adults and children. And I don't know. She just does a great job of writing a really, really well rounded book, great characters and in a hopeful story and something that can often be a really hard thing to write about, so I felt like it was really hopeful. So I think it's good for middle grade readers. And she just has a knack for connecting those characters and writing middle grade so very well. So her name is Beth Vrabel. Like I said, she has a lot of books, but the particular one that I love, and I feel like it just didn't get a ton of love on Instagram and I feel like middle grade is kind of like that, in general, like I think middle grade is an underrepresented category of books as middle grade is not as prevalent on Instagram and in other places. So Beth Vrabel. Caleb and Kit is great. I know Jen read it and I read it with my son, and he loved it as much as I loved it. So I think also, a 10 year old is a tough audience and he really liked it. So that's who I think is really underrated. And I wish she had more visibility so more people could give her a try.

Jen 33:55

Mm hmm.

Ashley 33:56

Yeah, that sounds awesome. I've heard you speak about that one before, Sara, and really want to read that.

Jen 34:04

Yeah, it's excellent. And you're right about--it hits the audience. So I enjoyed it as an adult, but it's definitely one that I think for middle grade readers, it hits that audience really solidly.

Sara 34:16

And what we found when we were even doing this theme for Diverse Books Club is that it's really difficult to find books for both children and younger readers like middle grade readers dealing with chronic illness but it is something that a lot of kids deal with either for themselves or with a family member. And there's just not a lot of representation there. So I think this is also a really underrepresented category in terms of topic and theme. So I also like it for that as well.

book cover of Brigid Kemmerer's A Curse So Dark and Lonely

Ashley 34:49

Yeah, I was thinking about that, Sara, that I feel like it's been nice to see that. I feel like there have been some coming out recently that are YA or adult, but I don't read as much middle grade, like you said I think it's underrepresented and under read and I was thinking about the Heart So Fierce and Broken books that came out recently and--A Curse So Dark and Lonely is the first one--and I think that was one--a fantasy story--that's Brigid Kemmerer. That is one that is a fantasy book, but one of the main characters has a chronic illness and I really love that because the story is not about her chronic illness at all. But it does speak to her life with that illness and I really appreciated that. Similarly, I'm reading, not for kids, Get a Life, Chloe Brown. Talia Hibbert's book and I just think that that one also I love Chloe. I love the relationship between her and Red. It is steamy, so again not for kids, but I think that what I loved about it is that not only does she speak to what that chronic illness is like for Chloe, but also the way that it impacts her personality. And I really love that because I think that you come to see that some of her iciness. Like she comes off kind of abrasive to other people. And that all of that speaks to her background and the way that as she became more ill people abandoned her. And so then that affects her personality in the way she interacts with other people and not in a bad way. I mean, she's an awesome character, but I thought that it spoke a lot to how illness impacts your life, and changes the way that you interact with other people. And I really appreciated that because again, I feel like books--and it's a romance book and like I said, it's very steamy. It's, you know, it's solidly in the romance category. That's definitely what the story is about. And again, I liked seeing in a genre that was not, you know, literary fiction, but instead was a fun romance book, to see somebody speaking to that experience.

Sara 37:00

Ashley, what is your underrated, or who I should say is your underrated author?

book cover of Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Ashley 37:05

Yeah, so I did pick an author as well, but I do think, I mean as we're talking, I'm so . . . I'm interested in this topic. I think we could come back to talking about just categories that are underrepresented and things that are getting overlooked in a lot of ways, but the one that I thought of first and wanted to speak to--because I've read a lot of her books and really love her--is Laini Taylor. She is a fantasy, a YA fantasy writer. And I think that why she comes up in my mind a lot as being underrated is that when I look at the bookstagram community and the conversations taking place about fantasy, she's just often overlooked, and it really has made me think about how she, just how again, I think we talk to each other about books, and then when someone is not mentioned in those kinds of circles and conversations, then their work doesn't get noticed even though I think that her fantasy books are fantastic. I think her world building is brilliant. I think that she is a very sophisticated writer. And I, and her, her worlds also are very intricate. And there's a lot of thought into how the storylines fit together, and the weaving of the characters and their experiences. And so I feel like there's so much richness in her books. And yet, I see a lot less conversation about her than some of the other fantasy authors who I love. But I just have noticed that it just, you know, that was an area that was just one of the many examples of where, when I think about fantasy books that appear on Instagram, that is one that just doesn't come up as often. And, you know, I think that she is . . . I do think--maybe you could speak to whether you agree with this, Jen, but I do think that her books are a little bit more work than some of the other fantasy authors, and so going back to what you had said earlier about like, what makes people gravitate toward one over another? Maybe that's a factor. But I definitely believe that her books are worth the work and that you're richly rewarded for the reading experience.

book cover of Laini Taylor's Strange the Dreamer

Jen 39:14

Yeah, I would agree with that. I think, too, she has a couple of series . . . well, a duology and a trilogy, and then a couple, there's another duology. There's like a short story collection. She's not publishing as frequently as like you mentioned Maas and Clare, and their series tend to be very long, and I feel like they're publishing, like a book a year or more. And so I wonder if some of it's just presence, like if it takes you longer, if you have to wait a little longer for Laini Taylor's books, does that mean she falls off your radar a little bit?

Ashley 39:48


Sara 39:48

So I think with the I think with fantasy, especially like fantasy authors, there's a certain component that fandom plays in the . . . in the success of a series. And I think those authors that are are publishing a book a year keep up that fandom really well, whereas like, it's harder for fantasy authors who don't publish as frequently, whose books might take longer to create that fandom in.

Ashley 40:17

Yeah, that's a great question.

Sara 40:19

Yeah, especially for fantasy. Fantasy seems to be a place where there is a lot of fandom and people wanting to collect things, and I'm just thinking Game of Thrones for, you know, like in TV and also books, but once a TV series came out, people want like all the things . . .

Jen 40:37

Well, and like Harry Potter.

book cover of Tomi Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone

Sara 40:38

. . . and Harry Potter. Yeah. And I think fandom became more of a thing after all those books were published, you know, like after Harry Potter was published, the fandom in terms of collecting. I mean, like Pop Funkos and things like that that I see on Instagram. I think the fandom has become even more of a player in the success, and like the foll-, kind of like the following of a particular character, and also when you have so many books, you know what I mean? Yeah, writing? Because I mean, I think of Children of Blood and Bone. And that was, I mean, that was a great book, and it had a lot of buzz, but I mean, then, you know, what if you don't have that, like, if you lose that momentum, it's harder to gain it back I think.

Ashley 41:21

Yeah, I was thinking about Tomi Adeyemi, too, with The Children of Virtue and Vengeance because I think that's a great example, Sara, of where the first book, in my opinion, got quite a bit of buzz, all things considered. I mean, again, I think you could argue: was it underrated? Maybe, but there was a lot of buzz for it. But then the second, there wasn't nearly as much traction, and I thought it was a great book. I really enjoyed--especially for the second in the trilogy--I think a lot of times, second books in a trilogy suffer from this sort of phenomenon of hard-to-hold-on-in-the-middle kind of thing, like a lot of times they're the in-between, and that doesn't always go well for trilogy books, but I definitely felt like that second one didn't get anywhere near the notoriety of the first, and I wasn't sure why I mean, yeah.

Jen 42:07

Well, and again, it just makes me wonder about the ad campaigns. Like, is all of that just naturally popping up? Or are publishers and publicists doing things to nurture that kind of fandom or to even like plant the seed to begin it?

Give Me One . . . Podcast You're Loving Right Now

Ashley 42:23

Yeah. So we wanted to end today with our Give Me One. And we are talking today about a podcast that we're loving right now. So Mariely, you want to start us off?

graphic for Trailblazing Out of Corporate Life Podcast (with Ina Coveney)

Mariely 42:37

Yes. Yes, I love a podcast from this girl that I met at a podcasting convention, actually. Her name is Ina Coveney, and her podcast is Trailblazing Out of Corporate Life. She does salary replacement, and she's done my website. She is great at what she does. And she's always talking about how to . . . things like how to weed out non-ideal clients, how to be sure of your business idea, how to be a solopreneur while homeschooling.

Ashley 43:20

That's an important topic right now? Uh huh.

Mariely 43:23

It's a great podcast though.

Ashley 43:24

That sounds great. Yeah. I do think I could use some tips with some of that right now?

Ashley 43:31

Sara, what about you?

graphic of By the Book Podcast

Sara 43:33

I listen to The Popcast a lot, because I think they are hilarious, but I talk about them on the podcast a lot. So I wanted to talk about a new, a new podcast that I've listened to frequently, and it's called By the Book Podcast. It is hosted by Jolenta and Kristen. And they basically take . . . it's kind of, they kind of tout it as a self-help/reality, which you know, I'm here for a reality content. Like, they that's kind of how they tout it, and it is, basically they take a book that someone has published. So, like, way back when, The Secret, and The Life Changing . . . The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. They take a book like that, and they read it, and they live by it to the tee for a certain amount of time. And then they podcast about it. And it's very interesting. They have done all different, all different kinds, and then they . . . when they talk about their kind of their journey, living it, and then they debrief on it as well. And sometimes they have their husbands on to, like, give their experience of them trying to live this book. And it's just really . . . it's funny. It's very, you know, interesting, and it's enlightening, and it definitely makes you consider or definitely not consider reading one of those books. So, I think it's a really cool idea. And they have great chemistry, host chemistry, and I just . . . I really like it. So that's By the Book Podcast.

book cover of Brandy Ferner's Adult Conversation

Ashley 45:14

That sounds awesome. That's really, yeah, that's really interesting. It reminds me of, Mariely, we, the three of us recently read a book called Adult Conversation by Brandy Ferner, and in it, the main character is given a copy of one of Marie Kondo's books, and she, I think it was The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, maybe. I can't remember which one is referenced. But anyway, and she's like, did she have kids? And the answer was, no, which, of course, now she does. But anyway, she was like, does she have kids? The answer was no. And she basically like threw it in the trash or something. It was, like, this feeling of like, this book is dead to me. There is no way, there is no way I can go down that road. I'm not interested in making a bigger mess. It's just really funny because I felt like it's spoke to that experience of all these people are having this great experience with this book, but then when you try to put it into your own life, and I mean, I love her work, I talk about her on here, I love her work. But anyway, it's just funny to see a perspective like that. It sounds . . . it reminds me a little bit of that, Sara, just this like real-life application of these methods people are suggesting and what it means for you.

Mariely 46:26

That's really funny.

Ashley 46:29

I think you do have to . . . it has to come along at the right time and be where you can receive it, you know. So what about you, Jen?

graphic for Pop Culture Happy Hour

Jen 46:37

So I absolutely love NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour. That is a short, it's usually under 30 minutes, short podcast that comes out twice a week. And I love pop culture. So I love hearing their recommendations or their analyses. Sometimes they're not recommendations, they're just criticisms of a TV show or they do mostly TV and movies, but they do branch out into other things occasionally. And I just really like their discussions. I think they're really thoughtful and in depth, even though they're only in 30, you know, they only take 30 minutes. And then every, at the end of every second episode per week, they do what's making us happy. And they just go through very quickly how whoever's on the podcast that day, talks about something that's making them happy right now. And I think that is something right now that we all need a little bit more of. Sometimes they're not things I would ever go listen to or watch, but hearing other people talk about what makes them happy makes me happy. Just that little experience at the end of their episodes is a nice little mood lifter. So that's NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, which is just consistently a favorite listen each week.

Ashley 47:52

That sounds great.

Jen 47:54

Yeah, what about you, Ashley?

graphic for Life Kit podcast

Ashley 47:55

So one that I have been loving just recently is NPR's Life Kit. And I've listened to that before, but I think that why I've come back around to it is that maybe I'm looking for some life advice. And I think that they just speak to, they cover a lot of different topics, and Life Kit actually has, you can subscribe to all of them or you can do it kind of by topic. So they have ones about parenting, they have ones about money and finance. And so they kind of have different areas, and you can choose how much of it you want to be, you know, you want to participate in, but I think why I'm been listening recently.

graphic from Wow in the World podcast

Like you, Sara, I talked about Wow in the World, the podcast, all the time. So that is a favorite in our house. That is one that my daughter has on. I'm not kidding. Five, you know, five or six episodes a day she will re-listen over and over again. So that's a really great podcast for us. That's been really fun for her interest in science. But anyway, they mentioned Life Kit just the other day on one of their episodes, and what I really loved was that the host of Life Kit did a . . . did a special episode for kids, and they brought on Sesame Street's Grover. And they talked with Grover about what's going on in our world, and how that might make people feel. And he just talked with them about ways to stay connected to each other. And he talked about video chats, and he gave examples of things that they could do together like you could, with your friends, have a board game, and if both of you have the game at your house, then like you can play that game together and be connected that way or you could play Uno together or you could, you know, and he talks about baking or doing some kind of cooking thing that like you could do at your, at each house and then share that experience. And so he just talked a lot in a very kid-appropriate way about how we can continue to have shared experiences with each other, even when we are apart, and that this isn't going to last forever, but that when we start worrying about what's coming or how long it's going to go on, he gave some tips about things to do. And I just loved it, like I, so I have listened to their Life Kit podcast before and have really appreciated the things that they share. And they talk about hard topics, and just how to navigate those, and so I really love that. But then I just appreciated that they are so present with where we are right now and thinking about how to help people, including, you know, the kids of people who listened to that podcast, like how to help navigate that. So yeah, so that was NPR's Life Kit, and I think it's great.

Ashley 50:42

Thank you all so much for joining us today, and Mariely, we so appreciate you coming on the podcast and speaking with us about your experiences and expertise and also sharing with us about your underrated book, which I will definitely be checking out, so . . .

Mariely 50:58

Thank you. Thank you. It's been . . . I had a great time being here with you.

Ashley 51:03

Thank you so much. Thank you and thank you everybody for listening, and we will be back with you soon.


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