In this Unabridged Podcast episode, we circle back to the books we recommended to each other in episode 139. Each of us got a recommendation from each of our co-hosts, and we read those books and are reporting back about how we felt about them! Be sure to check out episode 139 if you'd like to hear more about why the books were recommended.
Our Reviews of the Books We'd Been Recommended
Recs for Ashley
Recs for Sara
Recs for Jen
Give Me One - Go to the Movies or Movie at Home
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Ashley said, "So I just started one on audio thanks to Libro.fm, and it is Raquel Vasquez Gilliland’s Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything. I was really intrigued by when I saw it come out because the cover is really inviting--it looks kind of magical. So I was interested in this one. It caught my attention. This is about Sia Martinez, and she is in school as the story opens, and you come to see that her mom is missing and has been gone for three years, and is believed to be dead. She is Mexican American, and her mom was Mexican and was deported. I don't know all the details that will become clear as the book continues, but it's clear that there is involvement of a student who is a boy who she had some connection with, and his father is the officer who led to her mom's deportation. So there's a lot of grief that she's experiencing, but also a lot of hurt feelings about what transpired that led to that situation. Her mom had lived in the States since she was an infant, so it was a nasty situation that happened and had a profound impact on Sia. Then her mom, after waiting years and trying to get back to her family, her mom tried to cross the border, and since then has not been seen. So she is grieving from that. But also, you know, trying to maintain her life.
"She's going to school. She has a great friend, Rose, and they are experiencing normal teen things and doing their best to move forward, but also her grandmother always lit candles for her mom on the new moon and would have a ritual that she was doing to maintain hope for her mom's return. So she picks up that tradition of going out into the desert, and she has a ritual that she does to continue to light the way for her mom. She's tried to come to terms with the fact that she believes her mom is dead, but Rose, her friend, and obviously her grandmother had been holding on hope that her mom could be alive, and they don't know definitively. So all of that is happening. There also is a new boy in town who has gotten everyone's attention. He also has gotten Sia's attention, but it's because the place where she goes in the desert to have her ceremony, he also goes. So this is considered her kind of private space, and there's this truck there that she feels is really invading her space--what she considers to be her territory. Then she comes to realize that this is the new guy at school who is in that space. I think it's a great story so far. I haven't gotten into very much, but I can tell that something unusual is coming and and seems like really fun. I mean, I think that a lot of the things that I described are really heavy, and they are real experiences that people are having in America, and that is being addressed. It also was just a really inviting story and is a lot of fun to experience and see a great character. I'm loving it. The moonlit beginning of everything is what she calls that area, and that becomes apparent the first time she sees the guy because she says, "Well, this is the beginning of everything like this space," and that's why she's kind of territorial about it. So again, that is Raquel Vasquez Gilliland’s Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything. And I think it's great so far. I'll report back when I get farther in, but I'm loving it."
Jen stated, "So, I am almost done with Mieko Kawakami’s Breasts and Eggs. This is a work in translation that is on the Tournament of Books shortlist, and I'm almost at the end of that. So, this is my next-to-last book for the Tournament of Books, and I am really enjoying it. I was sitting here as always thinking about how I was going to describe it, and it's tough because I would say this one has very little plot. It is very much an internal book. There are three women who are at its center, and it is about what is going on in their heads. One character is unnamed through most of the book, and she is 30 years old. Then her sister Makiko comes to Tokyo to visit her with her daughter Midoriko. The two sisters grew up extremely, extremely poor. Their mother died of cancer when they were quite young and left a lot of debt behind. Then their grandmother raised them, and she also died when they were just a little bit older. So the sisters essentially raised each other. Their poverty has had a definite impact on both of their lives that you can see from page one. When Makiko comes she is obsessed with having a breast enhancement surgery, and the narrator just does not understand because she knows what her financial situation is like. She knows what her life is like. She's a single mother raising this 13-year-old daughter. They do not have any excess cash, and yet she has been talking for a year about this surgery and has decided to visit her sister primarily to have a consultation with this group that does breast enhancement surgery. Her daughter has not spoken with her for almost a year. She only writes her messages. You see her journal through the story, but otherwise, we don't hear her voice at all because something happened with her and her mother's relationship. She just stopped talking at all. So it's all of these things, you're just trying to get into these characters' heads and to understand them—they don't really understand each other, sometimes they don't understand themselves. I know that probably doesn't sound very captivating because there's not a lot of forward motion, but the writing and translation is so strong that I have just been compelled since I began the book. So I wouldn't call it fast paced, but it is absolutely compelling. I'm really looking forward to seeing how everything wraps up. I don't want to give any spoilers about part two, but I will just say that part two of the book takes place 10 years later. So that's been really interesting, too, that there was so much to unravel about their lives at the beginning, and then we see what has happened 10 years later, and some things have changed and some things have not, so yeah, it is just a brilliant book. I wish I could do it justice, but I do think it's a reading experience worth having yourself. So that is Mieko Kawakami’s Breasts and Eggs."
Sara said, "So, I am reading V. E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. Jen talked about this several episodes ago, and when she was talking about it, I just thought it sounded fascinating. So it's been sitting on my TBR stack, and I just wanted to read it, even though I have other things I need to read. So, I started it, and it is just such an interesting story. What I'm so struck by is the beautiful writing. I've never read anything by V.E. Schwab—I've heard other people talk about her work—but the writing is transformative. I mean, I just am so impressed. I have also been listening to some of it because my library had the audiobook, so I've been able to switch back and forth, and the audio is just gorgeous. Anyway, this is the story of Addie LaRue, and she is a woman living--or is a young woman, I should say, living in the early 1700s. She is being forced into a relationship--a marriage that she does not want. She is a dreamer. She has all of these things she wants to do, and she, you know, she doesn't want to be tied down. So when she's kind of forced into this relationship, she makes a deal with the Darkness and basically trades her soul for an untethered life. Well, because she made the deal with the Darkness, the Darkness kind of takes advantage of her in the deal. He keeps up his end of the bargain in that she has an un-tethered life, but in that no one ever is able to remember her and she loses her name. She is not able to make a mark anywhere. It's definitely not what she wanted. He tricks her. So the story basically goes back and forth in a timeline from like the 1700s into 2014 and what is happening with her in the beginning when she first gives up her soul, and then how she is living in the current day. So, it goes back and forth in it. I mean, I really love it, I have to force myself to not continue reading, and when I have to continue other things because I really want to know what's going to happen. I'm almost in part three. So, some some major things have just happened, and I really want to know what is going to transpire between a couple of the characters. I'm really enjoying it. I think it is such a beautiful writing style, and I've really thought about some of the passages would be such a great example to use in the classroom because she also writes in a present tense kind of way that a lot of books are not written in. I think that that would be really cool thing to talk about in the classroom. So, I'll say I would read the whole book in the classroom, not the whole book, but excerpts. So I've just really been enjoying it. I think it's really well done. I think it is definitely worth the read. So that is V. E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue."
Main Discussion—Recommendations Update
Next, Ashley, Jen and Sara talked about their thoughts on the books that had been recommended to each of them by the other members of the podcast.
Sara recommended R. Eric Thomas's book Here for It, Or How to Save Your Soul in America for Ashley. This is an excerpt of what Ashley had to say about it: "I really enjoyed his humor and his insight, and I thought it was great. I had a lot of fun reading it. So I mean, I think that what worked really well for me is sometimes—we've talked about this on the podcast before—sometimes when nonfiction is not narrative driven, it is less inviting to the reader if you read a lot of fiction, so it is not driven by a narrative. It is essays that fit together, but I think that what really ties all of them together is his style and the way that he provides his insights and commentary and humor on each situation that he describes. So all of that I thought was great. I really had a lot of fun with it, and really enjoyed it. It was a great recommendation and a good fit for me and something that I enjoyed."
Jen recommended Kiley Reid's Such a Fun Age for Ashley. This is an excerpt of what Ashley had say: "I think that Kiley Reid really does a great job of examining race and class in America, and she does it in a way that is relatively light considering all the things that happen in the story. So I really I loved it. I loved Amira, the character who is the babysitter in the story, I talked about this a little bit in my Bookish Check-in when I was reading it that you know pretty quickly how to feel about Amira, who is one of the main characters...But also Kiley Reid has this ability to incorporate race and racist attitudes and to use that lens as a way to access a lot of these settings, and I think that's really fascinating."
Sara recommended Sharon Huss Roat's How to Disappear for Jen. This is an excerpt of what Jen had to say about it: "So, Sara recommended, Sharon Huss Roat's How to Disappear, which is an excellent YA novel about social media in a way that I have not read before. So, the main character, Vicki begins this. She's desperate because her best friend has moved away, and she has some of the more extreme social anxiety I've read about in a book. I thought, first of all, that the author just did an amazing job. portraying just how difficult it was and how much she had come to depend on her best friend to get her through every single social situation in her life. There are definitely parts of that I could identify with. "
Ashley recommended Pénélope Bagieu's Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World for Jen. This is an excerpt of what Jen had to say, "So this is Pénélope Bagieu's Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World. This is basically like a graphic essay collection. I wouldn't want to say it's a graphic novel because it's nonfiction, and it's not one continuous narrative. It's all these little essays about these amazing women in history. Parts of it are really funny. There's this great near-snarky presentation of their lives and of the events of their lives. The author just has this great touch with the details that are going to drive home exactly how each woman was brazen and exactly how something that she did changed the world in some way. Some of those ways are very small, and some are big. Then they get papered over by the men who come after them in history, and there were some women here who I had heard of and sort of knew their stories, and there were other women I had never heard of, and I sort of felt bad. So it was really compelling."
Ashley recommended Dhonielle Clayton's The Belles for Sara. This is what Sara had to say: "Ashley recommended Dhonielle Clayton's The Belles, and the funny thing is that she recommended it, and I have had that on my shelf since it came out. You know, it's just one of those books I've always wanted to read, but I guess it just got kind of got down to the bottom of the TBR stack. I mean, the cover is gorgeous. So every time I would see it, I would think I have to read that book, but this gave me the push I needed. Holy moly, I adored it. I thought it was so good. ust an alert, it ends on a major cliffhanger, and I when I ended it, I was like, 'What? What happens?' So I immediately read The Everlasting Rose, which is the second in the series. I read it in one day."
Jen recommended Rachel DeLoache Williams's My Friend Anna, "Oh my goodness, this one was also so compelling. They both pick these books that I just had this compulsion to read. When I was reading My Friend Anna, my husband was like, are you still reading, and I said, I just have to find out what happens. This is narrative nonfiction. It's kind of a ripped-from-the-headlines, true-crime type feel book, and basically, Rachel writes the book, and this is her story about her encounter with Anna, a woman who claimed to be a German heiress and do all of these extravagant things, only to find that she was just a criminal who was trying to swindle people and live beyond her means. What I loved about this is that it was so current because so I had to stop myself from looking at headlines while I was reading because I wanted to get the full experience of the book without knowing exactly what happened."
Be sure to listen to our Give Me One segment to find out which each of us prefers--movie in the theater or movie at home?
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