In this Unabridged episode, we talk about a favorite topic for us on the podcast—auto-buy authors! We share some favorite authors and talk about different ways to support authors. We also share our perspectives on what an auto-buy author is for each of us and what would work for that category on the Unabridged Reading Challenge! If you haven't signed up for the challenge yet, you can still join us! Find out everything here.
Mentioned in Episode
Sarah J. Maas
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Ashley stated, "So one of the books I'm reading this week is Sumi Han's The Mermaid from Jeju. I'm listening to it thanks to Libro.fm. When I saw it come out as one of the ALCs, I was so excited because I absolutely loved Lisa See's The Island of Sea Women, and that is set in Jeju as well in Korea and covered the female divers there. I was totally fascinated by that book. That's been one of my most favorite historical fiction novels that I've read in recent years, so when I saw this one and saw that was the same place and thought that the mermaid part reference the female divers I was excited to dive in. I've been wanting to get to it, because again, I just am fascinated by that culture and wanted to learn more about it. This story focuses on Goh Junja, who is a young in the beginning. She's a young female diver, and she comes from a family of them. It's set in the 1940s. Right at the opening of the book, there is a quick historical note that gives you some background information about what exactly was happening in the 1940s during that time, and there were atrocities related to the war that took place. So again, I didn't know much about that at all before I read The Island of Sea Women. That also covered a huge span of time, but it did show that part in the war and the ring of fire and the scorched earth methods that were used at the time. So, there's a note at the beginning to kind of anchor the reader in some of that historical context. Then you see the present day with Junja and her family—her daughters and her husband—and it is the moment of her death, basically. Then you're moving back to her as a child: you focus on the backstory of her and her family for a lot of the book in the 1940s. You're seeing her experience, the ways that the island is changing as American occupation takes place.
"So, they had been under Japanese occupation for a long period of time, and then in the 1940s, during the war after the bombings, the Americans came in, and people were hopeful that that was going to bring about positive change. But in a lot of ways, they went from a Japanese occupation that was really awful for the citizens there to having Western soldiers who also committed a lot of heinous acts as well, and so there's a lot of turmoil. These are very, very small, very rural villages that were impacted by this. So it's just a story of her and her family and the opening scene of her and her youth. She's wanting to go on a journey to take the abalone that the female divers had gotten. She wants to take it up and sell it to the mountain farmer who has a pig and then she's going to bring the pig back to exchange. Her mom was planning to go but she really wanted to make the journey—it would have been her first time going alone. She'd never left the village before. So, she's looking to make this trip as a young person and her mom, because of some other obligations in the village agrees to let her go. A lot of this story is just seeing her go on this journey and meeting the family who are the pig farmers. So Yang Suwol is the son of the pig farmer, and he is immediately entranced by her. He's never seen a woman, a young woman who was so strong. She had made this very arduous journey, and she also was carrying a tremendous amount of weight. When Suwol offered to take the pack for her, he discovered just how heavy everything was that she had carried. So I just love all of that exchange between them and seeing the innocence of them, getting to know each other and that story. But then shortly after that, she makes her journey back and early on, she experiences a tragedy that she doesn't realize at first is related to the war, and so then things evolve from there."
Sara stated, "I am almost finished with Alix E. Harrow's The 10,000 Doors of January. This is a fantasy book. It starts out with a young girl. She's around seven; her name is January, and she is basically a ward of this very wealthy white man who is a collector of archaeological mysteries. He is into collecting things, and January's father is basically a scout for him, so he goes out to look for these anomalies. January stays with the man Mr. Lock. It is a really hard story to sum up because there's a lot happening. But I mean, to me, it's really a story of journey, this journey that January takes looking for things and finding them and losing them again. If you don't like fantasy, you're not going to enjoy it, but if you like fantasy, if you are a fantasy lover, I think it is it is so well written. It is really again, hard to talk about without giving something that spoils it, because it's pretty long, and it has a lot going on. So, I don't want to spoil anything, but I think what really stands out to me the most is the love between January and her father and the people that she meets along the way that are so interesting, and the way that Harrow builds these alternate worlds. It's just really, really complex. It's beautiful. The writing is so, so magnificent. I really am enjoying it. I am listening to it, and the narrator is fantastic. It is part of one of the reading challenge that I'm doing this year for Beyond the Bookends. One of my challenges for the year is to read a book that's won an audio award. So you obviously can listen or read, and I decided if it won an award, I should listen to it. The narrator is fantastic. So, it is a great fantasy book. It's full of twists and turns and really interesting things. So if you are into that, I think that you will love it."
Jen said, "I am reading Christina Hammonds Reed's The Black Kids. And oh my goodness, this has been such an interesting reading experience. So, it is set in the spring of 1992, after the Rodney King trial, and I was a sophomore in high school at that time. It's been one of those strange experiences when you read historical fiction about something that you live through, and yet, I was aware of it on the vaguest level, but did not have a great understanding of everything that was happening. So, it's about a girl named Ashley Bennett, who lives in Los Angeles, she is Black. But she is also removed from what is happening. She and her family live in a very wealthy part of the city, and she goes to a private school with very few students of color. While she is aware of it, because she has some connections who are very much impacted by the protests and the riots that happen—her uncle runs a store and lives beside the store that was begun by her grandmother. So her uncle is very impacted by it. Her cousin is impacted by it, but she has some distance because her parents have decided to remove themselves from that part of the city. So physically, they are outside of the city. They are in a part of the city that is not impacted by the protests and the riots at school. nobody's really talking about it at any length. So yeah, just seeing Ashley's perspective, and her view of what's happening is really interesting. So she's a senior, she is getting ready to go into the world. She is looking at her older sister whose name is Josephine. She's named after Josephine Baker, but everybody calls her Jo. Jo went to college, was very successful in high school, and basically just decided that college was not for her. So, she dropped out, and she got married to someone that her family has never met and told them after she was married that she had gotten married. So, Ashley is now facing all of this pressure to be the good sister who follows through on her family's plans, who goes to college. She has impeccable grades. She's super successful at her school, and she is feeling that pressure just every day. She is also friends with a group of girls who are all white. So, she is constantly walking around the neighborhood with this group of white girls. Right at the very beginning of the book, they're home from school, they skip school one day, and they decide to go swimming at the neighbor's house when the neighbor is not there. Someone calls the police, and you see right then that Ashley's awareness of the fact that her race makes her treated differently by the police and that her parents have given her instructions of how to behave that her friends have just no awareness of—you are very aware of racism and politics. There are so many threads running through this book that are just absolutely brilliant. I think Ashley is a super vivid character. She makes some major missteps with her friends with her family. She makes some big mistakes. But she is a character who grows a great deal through the book. So it's amazing. And again, it's really really good. So that is Christina Hammonds Reed's The Black Kids.
Main Discussion—Auto-buy Authors
Jen explained, "So, as you all probably know, this year, we are sponsoring the Unabridged Podcast Reading Challenge, and one of our categories is auto-buy authors. This may or may not have been inspired by my own penchant for having auto-buy authors, I'll give you one guess as to whose list of auto-buy authors is the longest on the document for this episode. So we just thought this would be fun. Hopefully, these are authors who you will be reading anyway, and now you get credit for it for the challenge. So, if you haven't signed up, you can sign up at unabridgedpod.com/readingchallenge2021. All right, well, we thought rather than just listing individual books, we would each define auto-buy author a little bit differently. Some of us buy more books than others or have more auto-buy authors than others. So yeah, we just wanted to make this kind of a loose conversation where we can talk about some authors whose books we will always buy, and why we really like them."
Sara said this about one of her auto-buy authors: "So I actually, unlike Jen, I don't really have a ton of auto-buy authors. I tend to buy books or get books, if it's from the library or wherever, based on what I've heard from people who I trust to read like Jen and Ashley, or my mom and my sister. Or if I hear someone talk about something on TV or on a podcast. Oftentimes, that's how I pick books—more about the content and the story rather than the author. I do have a couple or a few I should say that I do usually auto-buy. One of those—I just read two of her books almost in a row—is Taylor Jenkins Reid. I first was exposed to her writing with The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and I love that book. It was so unexpected. Jen let me borrow her copy, and it's one of the books I gift the most because I just think it it's so unexpected. That's what I find with her writing. She writes complex characters and stories that you think you know how you feel about that thing. But she writes about people who have flaws, but that you still are rooting for and have stories that are really complex. At the end of the book, you still feel satisfied. At the end you don't feel like anyone lost out and I just really liked that in her writing. Her books are so fast moving. So she is an auto-buy author for me."
Here's a snippet about what Ashley had to say about her auto-buy authors: "So Angie Thomas is a great one because I've already read two of her three that she has so far. It's easier for me when I think about an auto-buy author, I think of that as a person who I've read their whole collection. And if they have a lot of books—like Marie Lu is another one that I absolutely love her work, but she is very prolific, and I have not read every single book that she's written even though I've read probably six books by her. So just thinking about that makes a difference for me too—the same with ones that I'm going to purchase automatically. Like if somebody doesn't publish as frequently, I might be more likely more likely to pre-order those books. Whereas if it's somebody who I love, but they publish books all the time, I'm probably not going to pre-order those as frequently. So yeah, I think as far as people that I'm definitely going to read as soon as their work comes out or shortly after, Angie Thomas is a big one for me. Like Sara said, Taylor Jenkins Reid has become one for me, but I'm working on her backlist. She one where I have discovered her recently. I love her work, but I am not yet through a lot of the backlist."
Here is a portion of what Jen said about her auto-buy authors, "So, Cassandra Clare's definitely one, Leigh Bardugo, Sarah J. Maas, all these great fantasy series, I think are so much fun. Then there are people like Penny Reid or Alyssa Cole, who are quite prolific. Penny Reid and Alyssa Cole both do have series, but Penny Reid's are all these interconnected books, they're romance novels, and you start to know the different characters who are recurring. So it feels like there's a family at the center of several of them. It feels like you have to know what happens to the other brother also, and Alyssa Cole has the same thing. There's just a great sense of satisfaction from that. So Alyssa Cole also is someone who genre hops, even within romance, although now she started putting out sort of suspense and thriller novels as well. But she genre hops. I have some authors who I really love because I want to see what they're going to do next. So, Alyssa Cole is one. Sherry Thomas does this: she writes historical fiction and romance and fantasy. Brandy Colbert does this. She's a young adult author who publishes usually it's contemporary, realistic, but they are all on very different topics, very different tones. Some are quite serious and others aren't. "
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