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275: Short Reads for Summer

Are you looking for quick reads to breeze through this summer? We're bringing you recommendations for short books to put on your TBR stack (our in your audiobook queue!) for this summer. If you're looking for more short book recommendations, be sure to check out our popular blog post, "9 Great Short Books to Kick Off Your 2024 Reading Goals."

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Bookish Check-in

Ashley - Lyla Lee’s I’ll Be the One ( |

Jen - Rachel Harper’s The Other Mother ( |

Mentioned in Episode

Ashley - William Kent Krueger’s The Levee (

Jen - Improbable Meet-cute Collection on Amazon - See more about the full collection on Goodreads.


Listen in to hear what we're spotlighting this month!

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Full Transcript of Short Recs for Summer

[00:00:33] Jen: Hey everyone and welcome to Unabridged. Today we are talking about some short reads for summer. We thought we'd share some recommendations of books that will, yeah, just be a nice little break during this time of hopefully relaxation. Before we get started I want to remind you about our Patreon. Over there we have a lot of extra resources every month for you.

[00:00:52] We have extra episodes, we have some extra text based resources, and it's a way for you to support our podcast. So you can check that out at All right. To get us started, we are going to do our Bookish Check In. Ashley, what are you reading?

[00:01:09] Ashley: So we're recording just a tiny bit early. And because of that, I am reading our buddy read for May, which our discussion is coming up tomorrow. And, this is Lyla Lee's I'll Be the One. And I am listening to this on audio and I... it is fantastic. I don't know what you think, Jen, and we haven't had our discussion yet, but I am just captivated.

[00:01:33] It focuses on Sky Shin, and she is a dancer and a singer and she is auditioning, as the story opens she's auditioning to be on a reality show for both dancing and singing in the K pop world. And there's just so much discussion about Sky is a very talented dancer, but she is self described as fat and, she feels like... and we see this throughout that she is constantly judged for her body at home.

[00:02:10] She has a lot going on with her mom and then also in the K pop world. And she talks a lot about how there's a lot of pressure for this in general and like celebrity pressure and all those things. But then she talks about K pop culture specifically. And the layering of the pressure there and so all of that's being explored and in a lot of ways people are recommending to her to lean in on her singing because again she's very talented in both but people are leaning in on on the singing because they're thinking that then she doesn't have to deal with all the body commentary and judgment, but at the same time, that's its own judgment that is being imposed upon her.

[00:02:48] And so I just am absolutely loving her perspective. I love her attitude; I love her talent, like we really get to see just how passionate and talented she is. So we see that happening. And then we're also seeing her get to meet new people and make connections and friendships. And there is a celebrity who is also performing, Henry Cho, and he is very famous.

[00:03:17] His family's famous. He's famous, and he shows up and like everyone, you know, has lots to say about that. But she's kind of getting to know him as the competition is going on and is discovering that he is actually very different than the way that he appears on social media. And so, yeah, I'm, I'm loving it.

[00:03:37] I think it's a really bright and energetic book and that it's just, it's fun, but it also talks about, you know, Lee is talking about some really important issues, social issues, and, just body positivity, self esteem, like all those kinds of things are being explored in a really meaningful way.

[00:03:56] So I am loving it. And so again, that's Lyla Lee's I'll Be the One.

[00:04:01] Jen: I love that so much. Well, and she's also, deals with her bisexual identity, which I thought was a really interesting subplot of just how that is and is not accepted in the Korean American community.

[00:04:12] Ashley: Yeah. Yeah. That's all really interesting, too. And as she's getting to know other people, she has a chance to kind of explore more of that and talk about that with people, which is really interesting.

[00:04:22] Jen: Yeah. I thought it was amazing. I just finished yesterday, so I was so happy. I just loved it so much, and I think the audio is really great.

[00:04:30] Ashley: Yeah. Yeah. What about you, Jen? What are you reading?

[00:04:34] Jen: So I'm writing a book. I will say, I need to give away a few things, but I will give you a warning because I kind of wish that there was something I didn't know, even though it's in the synopsis, but I'm reading Rachel Harper's The Other Mother. And this is focused on the main character, Jenry Castillo.

[00:04:51] And it opens on the day that he arrives at Brown University's campus. And his mission is to go to college, but also to find out about his father. So he was raised by his mother, Maria, in Miami, and really never knew anything about his father. He knows who his biological father was. He's a man named Jasper Patterson who was a famous ballet dancer and he died quite, quite young.

[00:05:19] But every time he tries to find out more from his mother, she just sort of clams up and won't share anything with him. And so he gets to Brown and basically the first day he's there, he goes to the library's archives and starts trying to find out more information about his father. Okay. If you don't want to know anything else, maybe fast forward like a minute.

[00:05:41] So when he gets to the archives, he finds some information about his father, but he also finds out that his grandfather is alive. He was a professor at Brown and still keeps office hours there. So Jenry immediately goes to his grandfather's office and meets him and finds out that Jasper was his father, but that he was actually born to two mothers, his mother, Maria and Jasper's sister, Juliet, and that Jasper was only supposed to be the biological father, but his parents were his mother, who he knows, and this other mother, and that she is still alive as well.

[00:06:22] And in town. So, yeah, basically he's really trying to figure out who he is, his identity. He was raised in a Cuban community, but he is part Black. His, his father was Black. And so he never felt as if he fit in because he was obviously Black in this Cuban neighborhood. So he's really trying to find, I think, a place where he feels like he fits in.

[00:06:47] He had no idea about his mother's sexuality. So it's just uncovered this whole part of his identity, what he perceives as his identity, that he did not know. So yeah, it's really interesting. So the first part of the book is Jenry's perspective, and then it switches and we start getting Maria's story of how she and Juliet met.

[00:07:07] It's, it's captivating. The audio is great. I have this in print and audio. I chose this as one of my backlist reads for the year. And when I saw January Lavoie was one of the narrators, I jumped right in cause I love her work. So it's really great so far.

[00:07:22] Ashley: Wow. That is really interesting. I haven't heard of that, but it sounds, it's got a lot going on.

[00:07:27] Jen: It was an ALC for Libro FM. So that's how I had the audio. So maybe... I had forgotten I had it and then I just happened to see it. So sometimes I get those ALCs and I'm like, Oh yeah.

[00:07:38] Ashley: Same. Yeah, well, they're generous with them and, I don't know anybody who can keep up with the quantity every month. So, yeah, which is nice, because it gives you things to choose from, but absolutely, there are some on there that I really want to read but then don't get to right away and then time passes, so.

[00:07:52] Jen: Well, yeah. Well, I recommend so far Rachel Harper's The Other Mother. All right. We're going to get on to our main discussion. Ashley, what did you want to recommend as a short read for summer?

[00:08:04] Ashley: So I... Speaking of Libro FM, this was an ALC and I wanted to share The Levee by William Kent Kruger. I, this is the first of Kruger's work that I have read, or in this case listened to. And I know people love his work, so I'd be really interested to read more. J. D. Jackson is the narrator of the audiobook, and it is fantastic.

[00:08:29] He is just an outstanding narrator. And so I really enjoyed the audiobook experience. I did not know until I was going to look back at character names to recommend it today. I didn't realize it is audio only. So I was really interested in that. I was kind of surprised by that approach. Like, I was like, why, you know, what does that mean?

[00:08:48] Like, why was it an audiobook only? But anyway, it's a novella, so it's very short. And it is really captivatingly told. It is kind of like a radio, like a radio show sort of, you know, so I was like, Oh, maybe that's why they chose the audio format specifically. But anyway, in this one, you start out with these four men in a row boat, and they are in the middle of this horrific storm, and the men... You come to find out it's three convicts and then another man who is has requested from the prison to have the convicts with him so that he can row out to this estate and try to save these people on the Mississippi River.

[00:09:30] So it's set in 1927, it is in the midst of a major flood, and the people in the rowboat have... they don't know at first, but you know, they're, they're coming to understand that Mobley, who is the guy who's kind of hired them out, basically, that he is going to the estate, Valleymore is the name of the estate, and he's going there to try to save the people on it, to convince them to leave the property in order to save them, because with the waters continuing to rise, there is no way that the estate is not going to get washed away. And yet there is a levee that's been built around it because there was a flood prior and so they had built up, the brother in law had built up these, this property and tried to create this security against the river. And so, you know, they get to the estate and the convicts are like, what is happening?

[00:10:26] And they kind of come to find out that they're there. At that point, there's only two servants who have been there forever, who are married, Isaac and Ada. They are still there. And then there is the father, Jeff, and the daughter, Sylvia, who is a grown woman. She's probably like 18 to 20. And, They are the only ones remaining.

[00:10:48] Everybody else has left and they've taken the boats with them to get off of the property. But we see a very proud man who is so sure that his levee will hold. And we see this kind of struggle between humanity and the natural world. And so there's just a lot of layers in what it takes to try to convince them to leave. The father, Jeff, is determined to not leave his wife had died and been buried there So that's the sister of the guy who's coming to save, to try to get them to leave. The wife has is buried on the property and he's really hung up on that and how he does not want to leave her and you know, meanwhile, the brother in law is like if you do not leave you will all be on this property, and that'll be you know, the end of your legacy essentially.

[00:11:39] And so there's a lot going on there. There's a lot of class struggle. There's a lot about Mobley, the brother, had renounced the property essentially and become a priest, and so there's a lot about, there's a lot of tension between the two of them. And then meanwhile, you have these convicts and they have very different reasons why they're in prison.

[00:12:01] Very different reasons why they have feelings about what does or doesn't happen on the levee. And one of them is like in prison because of manslaughter. The manslaughter all had to do with a bridge. And so he is really trained from, again, it's 1927, so he was in World War I and had a lot to do with infrastructure there and like building bridges and levees and stuff like that.

[00:12:27] So he does have this very interesting background that relates to what's happening now with the flood and the levee. So very compelling. There's a lot going on in a very short time and it is both a compelling story, like I found the plot line really engaging, but then also it's this interesting commentary on people and their motivations and how they view

[00:12:51] themselves. And there's a lot about, I mean, I feel like there's a lot of hubris. There's a lot of like that kind of exploration of like this decision for yourself, but the decision is going to impact a lot of other people also. So, I mean, I thought it was fantastic. So again, that is William Kent Krueger's The Levee.

[00:13:07] And it is audio only as far as I can tell, but it is a quick read and a very captivating story.

[00:13:14] Jen: Oh, that sounds so good. So I've only read Kruger's This Tender Land, but I loved it. And so he is one of those authors I definitely want to revisit. I thought, yeah, that sounds great. I

[00:13:25] Ashley: Yeah, there's a really, there's like, the setting is really... I think he does a really great job with establishing time and place in a really interesting way. And then the characters are really nuanced. So yeah, it was a good read. What about you, Jen? What's your recommendation?

[00:13:40] Jen: So I love this recommendation. It's going to be a little complicated to talk about, so I'll, I'll do my best. I'm recommending The Improbable Meet Cute collection. This is an Amazon exclusive. So those of you who don't use Amazon, I'm so sorry, but I really love this. So this is a series of six novellas by romance authors who I love, and they are available both

[00:14:03] as Kindle Reads and on Audible. And I did them all as Kindle Reads, but I'm sure the the narrators are great. So the authors here are Christina Lauren, Abby Jimenez, Sally Thorne, Jasmine Guillory, Ashley Poston, and Soraya Wilson. And that was actually how I came to know it because I follow Christina Lauren on Instagram and they had posted about this coming up.

[00:14:28] I was like, "Oh my gosh, I have to go find this." And I was like, Oh, it's this whole collection of amazing authors. So I don't want to talk about all of the plots, but I will just say a collection like this, I think, is a nice way... if you're already a romance fan, you probably know a lot of these authors, but if you're looking for new authors, it can be a way to kind of dip your toe in their work and see whose work you might want to pursue.

[00:14:47] You could look at their back lists. Probably my two favorite. I loved Abby Jimenez's, Worst Wing Man Ever, and that is pretty consistent. I really love all of their work. this one is a little sad, but as Jimenez, I feel like always taps into these deeper emotions.

[00:15:07] So this one starts with Holly, who's, she knows that her grandmother is very ill and likely to die soon, and she has just suffered a really horrible breakup. And she's really just in a rough spot and she goes out to her car one day and there's a Valentine's Day card on her windshield, and it just brightens her day, and so it starts this little exchange of kindnesses with a mysterious someone and, of course it's a romance, so you know it's going to happen but it was just so sweet and I liked the emotional depth that is built through even such a short work.

[00:15:50] I think that's something Jimenez really excels at. Her new read, Just for the Summer, I feel like has the same thing. So if you like this, you could jump right over to that new release. And then Christina Lawrence is The Exception to the Rule. And this one started with a... This was all released for Valentine's Day.

[00:16:08] This one started with an accidental email on Valentine's day to the wrong person that develops into a years long back and forth... the two people that never meet and then finally at the end, of course, they do, but it's this. Everything's told through emails and letters and cards and things. So it was really clever.

[00:16:28] So yeah, each of them has sort of a different premise. They all do deal with love. You know that there's going to be a happily ever after. And so I think it would just be a great read for summer by the pool. You could finish one in one sitting easily. So yeah, I have, yeah, just highly recommend Improbable Meet Cute Collection.

[00:16:45] Amazon does a lot of these different thematic collections, and I've had really good luck. They'll have great authors. So you can look out for those if you're interested in trying some new authors, but not ready to commit to a full length book. So yeah, that's my rec.

[00:17:00] Ashley: Yeah, that sounds great. And yeah, Jen, I'm familiar with a lot of those authors, but not all of them. And some of them I'm familiar with, but haven't read.

[00:17:07] Jen: Mm hmm.

[00:17:07] Ashley: That seems like that'd be a good option.

[00:17:09] Jen: Yeah. All right. Well we are going to finish off today with our spotlight. Ashley, what do you want to spotlight?

[00:17:15] Ashley: I was like, what am I going to spotlight? So I, faithful to my normal experience have all these things I would really love to watch, and then I always go back to Bob's Burgers, which I'm a big fan of and have seen a lot. So, but I wanted to share one that I have started enjoying. and it is Animal Control.

[00:17:40] And that is a series that focuses on people who are in animal control and their experience of being in charge of all the calls around the city. And it's just really well done.

[00:17:55] So, this one has a lot of people you'd know, but Joel McHale is in it, and we had watched Community before, and he's a big part of this one, too. And I kind of love to hate his characters, typically. So, that's, that's, I've been consistent with this show as well, but I do think it is just a really insightful mix of people who have a lot of different experiences and have a lot of reasons why they have wound up in the animal control arena of, like, civil service.

[00:18:28] And so all that's really interesting, but also it is hilarious. And as you might imagine, there are a lot of shenanigans related to all kinds of animals and really weird situations that come up in the city. So, I wanted to recommend that one because I do think it's fun and it has been going for a while, but not a super long time.

[00:18:44] So maybe people are not familiar, but that's been a good one for me.

[00:18:47] Jen: Yeah, it was just looking. So it looks like it's available on Hulu and Apple TV maybe. Yeah. I think Apple TV.

[00:18:55] Ashley: Awesome. So we've been watching on Hulu and it is like they are still releasing... It may be getting to the end of this season, but anyway, they, they have been coming out and they're, they're really fun. So I have thoroughly enjoyed that. And it's been stable for me. Also the, like the show has held up. So, yeah.

[00:19:11] What about you, Jen? What would you like to spotlight?

[00:19:13] Jen: So I am hoping this is still in theaters because again, we are recording a little early. I would recommend The Fall Guy. That was just such a light for me this month, and that is based loosely on the 80s TV show series. starring Lee Majors, which I did watch when I was a kid. That theme song does come back at the end credits, which I loved.

[00:19:34] And it's starring Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt, who are just people who I think can do no wrong. I love them in everything that they do. And it was, the director was a stunt man. And so all of the stunts are real and in, at the end, they have the stunt men who were doing these stunts for Gosling and Blunt.

[00:19:55] And it's really fun and funny. I don't know that it's going to be this award winner, but it's such a perfect summer movie. It was so much fun. They are so charming. They have a great little romance. There's this funmystery that they're trying to unravel. I know I've said fun like a million times, but that really is the feeling that I left with.

[00:20:14] It's just such a great watch. We took my older son and my nephew, and they both loved it. Yeah. So I highly recommend The Fall Guy. It made my day.

[00:20:26] Ashley: Oh, that sounds great. And I did watch that show also, so that's really fun. I had forgotten about it, but yeah, it's all coming back.

[00:20:33] Jen: Yes. All right. Well, we would love to thank you for listening. We'd love to know what short reads you'd recommend for summer. And I do just want to say we are going to take a break for summer.

[00:20:42] Both of us are doing some traveling, and we have some plans. So we're going to take a break for summer, and we will see you in the fall. We have one more episode coming out this month, and then we'll be gone for two months and then we'll be back in the fall with our new season. So thank you so much for all of your support and for listening today.

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