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189: Our Recs for Books We Can't Stop Reading

On today's Unabridged episode, we share about a popular topic - books we cannot stop reading! We share about a fantasy favorite, Sarah J. Maas, with A Court of Silver Flames, and romance favorite Alyssa Cole with her thriller When No One is Watching. We also talk about Laura Hankin’s Happy and You Know It. It's always fun to read a book you can't put down, so we wanted to share some that had that effect on us!

Bookish Check-in

Ashley - Peter Heller’s The River (Amazon |

Jen - Tahereh Mafi’s An Emotion of Great Delight (Amazon |

Sara - Laura Taylor Namey’s The Library of Lost Things (Amazon |

Mentioned in Episode

Ashley - Alyssa Cole’s When No One Is Watching (Amazon |

Jen - Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Silver Flames (Amazon |

Sara - Laura Hankin’s Happy and You Know It (Amazon |

Give Me One - Go-To Snack Foods

Listen to the episode to hear our go-to favorites, and be sure to let us know your faves on social media @unabridgedpod where we share Give Me One topics on Mondays!

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Bookish Check-in

Book Cover of The River by Peter Heller

Ashley said, "So, I just started this one. This is Peter Heller's The River, and I have wanted to read this since it came out. And it's just been patiently waiting on my Kindle for quite a while. But I absolutely love Peter Heller. Jen actually introduced me to him early on in our friendship, and I read The Dog Stars of his and absolutely loved it. I think that he is such an impactful writer. And he also has traces of his writing that echo books that I loved for a long time--like Cormac McCarthy is someone I really love. And I think a lot about Cormac McCarthy's work when I'm reading Peter Heller, even though they're quite different. And so I absolutely love Dog Stars, and then read The Painter of his as well. And I think that with both of those, part of what I enjoy is the sparseness of the language and the situations. He's so good at setting up the place, and a sense of place, and also putting people in complicated situations where they have to make really hard choices. And I think in both of those books, you find yourself really rooting for these people who are doing things that objectively, you know, are bad but, you know, quote unquote, bad things to do. And I think that's what I love is just seeing that exploration of the shades of grey. And the way that we can do the right thing, even if it seems like it's the wrong thing, or vice versa. There's a lot of that. So I've been wanting to get this to this one for a long time. And I've only read a little bit so far. But this is the story of Jack and Wynn, and they are in a canoe out on a river. And they are going on what they planned to be just a really relaxing vacation. But they're totally off grid, so they don't have a phone, they don't have any anything with them. So in the beginning, another thing with Heller's books, I realized I was insecure about talking about it, because it takes a while to get yourself in what's happening. And that's true. And his other two that I read as well. And so I'm I'm early on, so I feel like I'm not positive what's happening yet. But there is a fire far away that they can see. And it is very far away. Which is, you know, for me being an outdoor person that is terrifying. So, like the fact that they can see it. And it's so far away still suggests it is very large. And of course, fires move very fast. So they know that there's this forest fire, they are off grid, and then they encounter just a couple of other people. And they regret that they didn't warn them. But then when they go back to look for the people who had been fighting they can't find them. And so there's this a sense of there's kind of an ominous undertone of what's happening. And even though they're both pretty laid back, and they're still feeling like they can continue on the river, and they can keep going on their journey. There's also this sense that things are happening that they're not quite sure about, and that that could negatively impact them. And so it's that balance of you have that like warning bell in your head. There's that happening. And both of them are trying to kind of push that down so that they can just carry on. And so I'm really intrigued so far, I absolutely love his work and I've been wanting to get to this one. So I don't have a lot to report yet but I am interested in the characters and I always love his settings and the connection between nature and people. I think all that's really interesting. So again, that's Peter Heller's The River."

Book Cover of The Library of Lost Things by Laura Taylor Namey

Sara shared, "Our book club pick for June last June was Laura Taylor Namey's A Cuban Girls Guide to Tea and Tomorrow. So, I loved this book so much and thought it was a great YA book. And so I wanted to read more of Namey's work. So, I picked up her first book, The Library of Lost Things. And while I didn't love it as much as A Cuban Girls Guide, I did really enjoy it. And I thought it was a great YA read. And I think that the audience will love it. And so I'm giving myself away a little bit, I did just finish it. But I did want to talk about it, since we we read A Cuban Girl's Guide, I wanted to talk about it on the podcast. This is a book about Darcy, she lives with her mom in an apartment, and she never has friends over to her house. And she really has to kind of parent her mom--her mom had a traumatic life event. And she was kind of pitched from being a collector into a hoarder. So, her apartment is filled with things. And so it starts off and you know, this pretty much from the beginning. And the book is just about Darcy navigating this really complicated relationship with her mom who she loves, but has she's almost become the parent in the relationship. And Darcy is this collector of books and of words, she knows so many things about about a wide range of literature and she just loves words and their meanings. And that's kind of where the name of the book comes in. She works in a bookstore, and she meets a boy. And it's, I mean, it's just, it's a really sweet, sweet story with a lot of heart about getting to that point where you're making all these life decisions and transitions. She's going to be graduating high school, and it's just about her navigating all these things with also having to deal with the fact that she is embarrassed of her home and she can't, you know, she doesn't want to bring anybody there. And she has like there's a complicated issue with her father. It's just about navigating life as a teenager when you have a lot of really difficult circumstances that are out of your control. And so I thought it was really good, that the love story was really sweet. And I really enjoyed it. So if you are looking for a quick read-- it's a quick read. So if you're looking for a quick YA romance with extra, which I feel like also describes The Cuban Girls Guide. You know, there's just more to the story than the romance, but it's just really sweet. So that is The Library of Lost Things by Laura Taylor Namey."

Book Cover of An Emotion of Great Delight by Tahereh Mafi

Jen said, "So thanks to, I am listening to Tahereh Mafi’s An Emotion of Great Delight. I love Mafi's work. So she wrote the Shatter Me series which is a dystopian series. She wrote A Very Large Expanse of Sea which is historical YA that takes place right after 9-11 and focuses on a Muslim girl. This one is also historical YA. So, this one takes place in 2003 right after the US has declared war on Iraq, and it focuses on a character named Shadi. She is going through a lot. So, in addition to facing racism at her school and prejudice at her school, her brother, her older brother, recently died and in the aftermath her family is falling apart. Shadi and her sister have never been close. But this has created even more of a wedge between them. Her father had a heart attack and has been in the hospital for months. And her mother is deeply depressed and refuses to seek help. And Shadi's one anchor was her best friend. And she was also really close with her family, including her brother Ali. And there was some sense that there was attraction there. But her best friend just basically ended their friendship. And so the one anchor that she had, in all of this turmoil is now no longer there for her. And so I will say the beginning of this book is difficult because Shadi's life is very difficult. And Mafi makes us feel every moment of that in the narration. It's a great audio book. And I just feel every moment of her pain. She so desperate to do the right thing and to try to help her family and to try to hold it together and not to bother anyone. She's very desperate not to add to anyone else's burden. But then you see what a burden that is for this teenager to try to take on the burden of her family, but also to hide the fact that she is also struggling. So, she hasn't told her]he's still maintaining this facade that everything is continuing in her life just the way it was. But that then is deepening the wedge with her sister who feels as if she's the only one who is suffering because Shadi is so desperate to make it seem like everything is normal. I would say it's a character study, but it is a really compelling character study. I have not wanted to hit pause, I just want to keep listening, which you know, and life is not always possible, but I have just not wanted to stop. And I just think-- Mafi if you've not tried her work, I think she is an exceptional writer. And she's one of these people-- it's really interesting, she would be great for the Unabridged Reading Challenge, because she's one of those people who is navigating different genres. She also has some books for middle grade readers that I've not read, but they're definitely on my list. I know she writes fantasy. And I think she does all of this with just brilliant writing at the center of her world building and her storytelling and her character development. So, that is Tahereh Mafi’s An Emotion of Great Delight which I would absolutely recommend thus far."

Main Discussion--Our Recs for Books We Couldn't Stop Reading

Book cover of Laura Hankin's Happy & You Know It

Sara said, "I was trying to think--this was actually more difficult than I thought it was going to be. Because while I have read a lot of great books in the last year or two years. I was trying to think of a book that was-- I think, like for the podcast, we can read a lot of really deep books, but that sometimes are aren't necessarily plot driven. And for me a book that is something that I can't put down is something that is super plot driven. It might not be a character study, it might not even be the best book I've ever read. But it's something that I just have to know and just want to stick with. So, I that's why I think I had a little bit of trouble figuring out one but I did have a list. But these are ones that I read a little bit a little while ago. And so please bear with me if my memory is a bit fuzzy. The one I want to talk about is Laura Hankin's Happy and You Know It. The reason I chose this one is--I just randomly chose to pick up this book. I didn't know anything about it. I just thought the cover was interesting. And I was like, I'm just going to read a few pages and oh my goodness, it grabbed me from the beginning. It's a book set in New York in the city and is about these women who are very privileged and have a mommy playgroup that they get together and have their kids come together and play. But it's all very carefully curated and one of the mothers is an Instagram influencer. And so while the kids are playing, it is definitely not what happens when my kids play. It's very curated. There are photo opportunities, there's a lot of let's not get dirty, that type of thing. So the mothers are looking for entertainment for this playgroup, and Claire is a musician who is kind of down on her luck and having some issues with money and she happens to get in contact with this playgroup and they hire her to be basically come in and sing with the kids. But there are all these twists and turns. I mean, that is the what I just described is the center of what, what the book is about. But then with that are all these women you learn about all their different lives, the way that they interact with their spouses, and just how they interact with their kids. And it is very, it is just so twisty. I just didn't see it coming. So, I don't want to give any spoilers, but I think that if you like, I mean, you have to be okay with reading about very privileged people. And you know, everybody has problems, but these people are very privileged and they are very out of touch with reality in some ways. But I can see past that, and I just thought it was it was very compelling. I felt like I often didn't know where we were going. But then when we got there I felt like it was a huge payoff. So, I really enjoyed it. I thought it was a page turner. I almost read it in two sittings, which that's a lot to say for me. I just really liked it. And I thought it was surprising and very well done and really smart. And I liked it a lot. So it is Laura Hankin's Happy And You Know It."

Book Cover of When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole

Ashley shared, "I wanted to share Alyssa Cole's When No One Is Watching. This was my first book by Cole, I have been really wanting to read her work. I admire her because I think it's so cool that she writes in so many different genres. And I so I knew a lot about her as an author, but was eager to read something by her. And this one is classified as a thriller. But it still has components that I believe are true in a lot of her books. There are good relationships, there's a romance component, those things are happening as well as there being kind of this thriller component to this one. So, I listened to this on audio thanks to And I think what is fascinating about this story is that you can tell that there is something going on in the Brooklyn neighborhood where Sydney, the main character, and later Theo, who we come to know, he's the other main character, there's something going on where they live. And yet it's unclear what that is. And the signs of it are that people who seem like they're going to be there forever, are suddenly selling their homes. People are disappearing at night. So there there was an elderly man who they saw it seemed like he was getting taken away during the night. And so there's all these unsettling things happening. And each thing that happens in isolation doesn't seem like a lot. But then as Sydney who is interested in the well being of the neighborhood, starts to put together the events, she realizes that something's going on, and early on Sydney and Theo are at odds. So, she is a black woman. She has come to live with her mom--she has come back home. So, she's dealing with that this is her childhood home, she'd been away and now she's coming back. And so she's kind of navigating that feeling of her life didn't play out the way she wanted it to and she wants to care about her a mom, and she also is reeling from the ways that her life changed and didn't happen in the way that she hoped it would be. And so she's working on that. And then early on, she has this impression that Theo is amid the newly arrived white neighbors who are thoughtless and inconsiderate of the community and the culture. And she sees him as being part of that early on. And it makes a lot of assumptions about him. And he has a lot of assumptions about her. And so part of the unraveling of the story is them learning more things about each other, and that things are not always as they seem. And so I loved that. I loved the way that Cole explores what we assume we know about other people. and the ways that that is not always the reality. That was really fascinating. But as they get to working together, so they wind up in a situation where they're working together on some things related to the neighborhood. And as that happened, and he's helping her put together some historical information for the neighborhood, they start to see this really sinister map of dots coming together that suggests that there's more than just people choosing to move out of the neighborhood. And the more that that happens, the more you get into the thriller realm. And so I loved all of that. I saw different reviews of this particular work, because I think some people went in thinking it was going to be a super plot driven thriller. And it's not that which for me is great, what people who listen often know that I'm not a big plot thriller person, but a lot of it is building up relationships and characters. But then there is, as the story progresses, this component of wanting to figure out what is happening and worrying for their well being and, you know, rooting for them as they try to unpack what's going on. And I thought all of it was fantastic. I loved the way that things evolved between Sydney and Theo. I thought all of that was really interesting and worked really well. And then I also really loved what Cole shows about gentrification, and the way that that can hit communities, and the underbelly of who has power and how that power can be abused. And so I thought all of that was just really richly done. And it was definitely a book that I could not stop reading. And also one that I think had a really powerful message, aside from being a really great thriller. So again, that's Alyssa Cole's When No One is Watching, and I loved it. I think it's a great one for this category."

Book Cover of A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

Jen said, "So, I often have this problem, I guess that I don't want to stop reading books, but I wanted to highlight--so I love fantasy and I love series books. And right at the beginning of summer, I dove into a really long fantasy book that's part of a series. It is Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Silver Flames. I'm going to tread carefully here because as always, books in series--it's difficult to talk about them because spoilers abound. The reason I feel like I can talk about this one at all is because the previous books in this series focus on Feyre. And this one focuses on Feyre's sister, Nesta, and so I can't really talk about the fantasy part of it too much because that is definitely going to be a spoiler. But basically, Nesta is, I think I have problems with this term, but I'm going to use it because I think most people understand what it means. I would say Nesta is an unlikable character. She is really tough. She is really strong. She has been through a lot of things. And she has come out very prickly and very unwilling to smooth over relationships with people. She wants to be who she is. And she has made some decisions that have made the people who love her really worried about her and she just does not care at all. She is not willing to give in to what they think is best for her at all. And eventually her sister sort of puts her foot down and says you need to start taking care of yourself and you need to start accepting help from people. And I've tried to think about how to say this without a spoiler, but I'll just say so she is sort of forced into accepting help. She is very grumpy about having to accept the help. But one of the things that Feyre sets up for her is that she is going to train to learn how to fight. And so the book has these fantastic like training montages. I could totally hear like the Rocky soundtrack in the background. It would be great on film. And there's also a romance with Cassian, who also appears in the earlier books. So this one has fantasy, it has action, it has romance. You get these characters he you have learned as sort of secondary characters in the earlier books. Now we're shifting a focus to them. But you still have that sense of familiarity, Feyre, and some of the other characters who have been the protagonists in earlier books appear in this one. And I think that works for me, no matter the genre. I love that sense of stepping into a world that seems familiar with people who I have come to know and love or not love, but I have a relationship with them. And so that's something for me, that always means I can't stop reading because I want to continue to see their stories develop. This is a long book, and I will say it had been a long time since I had read book three, this is book four in the series. And so I was dipping into books series recaps, because that's the one negative about a series is if it's a long time between books being released, I'll forget plot points and things like that. But once I got those, you know what happened at the end of the last book, under my belt, I just dove in and it was as if it hadn't been any time at all since the previous books in the series. I just love it. So that is Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Silver Flames, but also series in general. I know a lot of people will prefer standalones and I totally get that. But I also think if you want to have that sort of propulsive quality, a series is a great way to get that."

Give Me One - Go-To Snack Foods

Listen to the episode to hear our go-to favorites, and be sure to let us know your faves on social media @unabridgedpod where we share Give Me One topics on Mondays!


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