Rachel: 00:00 Let’s talk about books.
Sarah: 00:07 How are you?
Rachel: 00:07 I’m doing good. How are you?
Sarah: 00:09 I am good. I am ready to talk about a lot of books.
Rachel: 00:13 That’s good because I think we’re going to talk about a lot of books today.
Sarah: 00:16 And just talk about a lot of books today. Normally we have, normally we have some sort of other topic, but we’ve sort of fallen a little behind.
Rachel: 00:25 It’s just books today y’all.
Sarah: 00:27 Yeah, we’re a little behind on a lot of books we’ve been reading, so we’re just going to catch up and talk about a ton of books.
Rachel: 00:33 We’ve been talking about too many other things and not enough books. So this week it’s all books. And on that note, Sarah, tell me about what you’ve been reading that you’re super excited about.
Sarah: 00:44 So I want to talk about The Lady From the Black Lagoon by Mallory O’Meara.
Rachel: 00:50 I am so happy you’re talking about, because just as a quick aside, before you dive into how much you loved this. I finished this one recently too. You recommended it to me.
Sarah: 00:59 Yes.
Rachel: 00:59 You had just started it, and you were like, Rachel, have you heard about this book? I was like, yes. And you were like, okay, but have you read it yet? I was like, no. And you were like read it and do it on audio. And it was one of the best recommendations ever.
Sarah: 01:13 Yes. So this book is a biography of a woman named Millicent Patrick, who you probably have not heard of for a lot of reasons.
Rachel: 01:24 But you’ve probably heard of what she did.
Sarah: 01:25 She designed the Creature from the Black Lagoon that was her.
Rachel: 01:31 That creature.
Sarah: 01:32 So, and this book is all about, it’s about her life and sort of her journey to doing that and then why she was sort of lost to obscurity for so many years. And it’s also about the journey the author took into discovering what her life had been and what had happened because no one knew anything about her.
Rachel: 01:50 Yeah. It gave me some The Mortal life of Henrietta lacks vibes in the way that it sort of did that dual narrative about this historical person who’s story hadn’t been told, and also the journey of the author to uncovering that. Yeah story.
Sarah: 02:05 And speaking more about the author and why I particularly recommend the audio book. Mallory O’Meara is the host of a podcast [Reading Glasses], so she’s good at recording, and she does a great job narrating. She’s the narrator of her own book. She does a great job. It’s so interesting to listen to, and I super recommend it as an audio book.
Rachel: 02:26 Yeah, she does a really fabulous job and it’s also just such a fascinating story.
Sarah: 02:31 It is. It’s super interesting.
Rachel: 02:33 Millicent Patrick had a crazy childhood. She was also one of the first female animators for Disney. And then the story of also how her life kind of got buried was just crazy.
Sarah: 02:43 Yeah, it’s a really good book. Even if biographies aren’t really usually your thing. This is a very well written biography, and I think most people would enjoy it.
Rachel: 02:52 Yeah, I definitely agree.
Sarah: 02:54 So tell me about what you’ve been reading.
Rachel: 02:56 So I’ve been reading a lot of good books lately too, including The Lady from the Black Lagoon, but to move on and discuss another book that I really loved, I recently finished We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia. And it’s a book that had been on my radar for a while, so I was really pumped to get my hands on it. Shout out to the library for having it in stock. And it’s this really cool Latin American inspired sort of dystopian novel. It’s going to be, I think it’s going to be a series.
Yeah, it’s going to be a series, but this is the first novel in the series and it’s about this island community where there’s this very strongly delineated hierarchy between the haves and the have nots. And it follows Daniela Vargas, who’s a student about to graduate from the Medio School for Girls, which is the school that prepares young women to be married, and they become either the first wife or the second wife, hopefully of a prominent young man. And in Danny’s case she’s going to be marrying a son of one of the most prominent politicos in the country.
So it’s like a very big deal because the other thing I didn’t mention is that Danny’s papers were faked, and she doesn’t actually have the pedigree, the background to be at this school. She’s actually like an an an undocumented immigrant basically to this community because there’s, uh, obviously some strong parallels to some of the current issues going on really in a lot of places, but including the United States. And on the night before she graduates, she’s approached by some rebels who basically threaten her and tell her, we’re either going to expose you for not having the proper documentation, in which case you’re going to be sent to jail or you work for us.
So she’s really torn because she’s also worried about her parents, you know, who put everything on the line to, to allow this life for her. At the same time she does see, because you know, she grew up in a very different circumstance. She does see how unfair this is and how awful the situation is. It’s, I can’t say too much more than that, I don’t think without giving things away, but it’s kind of about her journey to figuring out where her loyalties lie and how to handle this new situation of being a rebel. And also at the same time pretending to be this very stoic wife of this politico who is definitely not a rebel but secretly is, but also he’s kind of been forced into this position. So it’s a really, really great book. I highly recommend it.
Sarah: 05:30 It sounds really good.
Rachel: 05:31 So what else have you been reading?
Sarah: 05:33 So I actually read this awhile back, and we just like with our recording schedule, I hadn’t talked about it yet, but I read King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo.
Rachel: 05:42 Yes, because you are taking literally all of the books that I wanted to talk about. I wanted to talk about Lady from the Black Lagoon. I wanted to talk about King of Scars because I finished it like three days ago, but whatever.
Sarah: 05:54 Yep, I took them, I wrote my books down in the notes first, so I get them.
Rachel: 06:00 In fairness, you read them first, so I was going to let you have it, but.
Sarah: 06:04 This is the series. It’s, we’re back in Ravka in Leigh Bardugo’s sort of grisha-verse universe and this is the first book that focuses on Nikolai who we meet in her first trilogy. So we’re back in Ravka with Nikolai and Zoya and Nina learning more about the grisha.
Rachel: 06:22 Well Nina’s not in Ravka.
Sarah: 06:24 Okay. Nina’s not in Ravka. She’s somewhere else, but she is a POV character in this book. We get a lot of Nina, and it’s great. Nina’s sort of spying on behalf of Ravka. That’s sort of how she shows up in the book, and it’s really sort of diving further into the grisha and also some of the stuff we’ve learned about in the Six of Crows duology where now we have like jurda parem which messes with grisha powers and all these other things that are like.
Rachel: 06:54 Like the mechanical experimented on grisha people, I don’t remember what they’re called.
Sarah: 06:58 Yeah, they’re sort of like grisha hunters.
Rachel: 07:00 You know the agents from Novyi Zem? [note: they’re actually from Shu Han]
Sarah: 07:03 Yes, it’s great. It’s really exciting to read more about these characters and sort of see the direction this world is going and it ends on a huge cliffhanger.
Rachel: 07:15 Whew, boy. I will also say just to throw out a little more since I’ve also read this book and really enjoyed it. One of the things I thought was so great about it, especially having read Six of Crows a few years ago and then having just read the grisha trilogy, I thought it was really cool because you got to go back, like Sarah said, to Ravka and to Nikolai and to all these characters and sort of plot lines and themes that I think we’re so great and the original Grisha trilogy, like really focusing on the grisha. But then I feel like Leigh Bardugo’s writing and storytelling abilities have grown a lot since then just because she’s been doing this for so much longer. So you kind of get back to some of these original plot lines and characters and storylines and things. But at the same time, her writing is so much more heightened, like on the level or even above when she was writing Six of Crows. So it’s kind of this beautiful blending of the worlds’ almost. And I really enjoyed that about this one.
Sarah: 08:07 Yes. So if you haven’t read the grisha-verse trilogy or the Six of Crows duology you should definitely read all of those books and then start on King of Scars cause there’s just…
Rachel: 08:20 I will say, you can read Six of Crows without having read the grisha trilogy. I actually read the Six of Crows duology first, and I think that’s not uncommon, but you definitely need to have read both before you read this.
Sarah: 08:31 Yes. Um, those do, I read them in a super weird order. I read six of crows, then I read the whole grisha-verse trilogy and then I read…
Rachel: 08:40 Oh then you read crooked kingdom?
Sarah: 08:41 Yeah. Then I read Crooked Kingdom cause my library didn’t have it yet, so I had to wait.
Rachel: 08:45 That’s like, that’s like some weird version of the Star Wars machete order. But like for grisha-verse.
Sarah: 08:52 I will say it was, I think it was a good choice. Because you don’t need to know much about the grisha-verse novels for the Six of Crows. It’s a little handy to know more about the grisha for Crooked Kingdom.
Rachel: 09:05 True. There might be some merit to that order.
Sarah: 09:07 Yeah, it’s, it’s a pretty good order. You know, you can read in whatever order.
Rachel: 09:12 We’ll call this the Sarah order for the grisha-verse books.
Sarah: 09:15 Yeah. So tell me what other book you’ve read recently.
Rachel: 09:19 So the other book I’m going to talk about, it is actually a book I am still in the process of reading because it’s a chunkster. It’s a big one, but it is Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James, which some of you may have heard about. It’s been fairly hyped. But anyway, it’s the first book in a new epic fantasy series. So now you can see why I’m saying it’s, I’m still working on it. It’s a big book. And it’s hmm, how to explain this quickly without, without getting in too deep.
Okay. So basically I guess the short way to get to the premise is it’s about this character named Tracker who along with a group of other people is tasked to go track down this boy who has been lost. But on the way all of these people are coming after them and all of these events are happening that kind of lead them to start wondering who is this boy exactly. Why have they been sent after him? And is there something more going on? Then amidst the backdrop of this, because I say that’s the main storyline, but I should also point out that, uh, I didn’t get to that part of the storyline until about 30% of the way through the book.
And I’m not much far past that yet. So like there’s a lot of other stuff that happens and it’s also dealing really heavily with the various lands and civilizations that their in. All of these ancient cities that they’re traveling through and kind of how Rracker came to be, who he is by the time that he sent on this mission. Because one of the big things about him that makes him so valuable as a tracker is, um, they say like basically quote unquote, he has a nose, which means he has this incredible sense of smell, and he can basically track people based on their sense of smell.
Sarah: 10:55 Hmm.
Rachel: 10:55 And he’ll just know what’s around him from his sense of smell. And it’s a really interesting book. It gives me, it gives me some Wise Man’s Fear or Name of the Wind vibes.
Sarah: 11:08 Yeah.
Rachel: 11:09 In the sense, A. Epic fantasy obviously, but I think initially it was getting some maybe some Game of Thrones comparisons. I don’t remember. I could be, I could be making that up. It’s set. By the way, I didn’t mention this kind of African inspired mythology is very much influencing the this fantasy land that James has created ,and it gives me some Patrick Rothfuss vibes in the sense that it’s a frame story, right? You’ve got an outer frame, which is how the story began. It usually, what that means is it’s kind of a narrator and then you’ve got the inner frame, which is the actual story, like the plotline what we’re seeing.
We get the same thing in the Name of the Wind where he’s telling you the story of, you know, how he went to university and how all these things happen. And in this book Tracker is actually in prison in I guess the current time. And he’s explaining, we don’t exactly know who, but it’s some kind of inquisitor. He’s explaining everything that happened on this journey to this guy from prison. So obviously we know some bad things go down, but so you don’t… And it also in the sense that it’s kind of rambling and meandering, like there’s a lot of that too.
As I said, like we didn’t really get to the main plot until 30% of the way through. So I’m not far enough in yet to like really, I would say pass down judgment on it. It’s definitely a big undertaking. So anybody I would say who’s not into high fantasy and doesn’t like long books, it’s probably going to be more of a challenge than you’re interested in. But it’s definitely a cool book. I’m interested in it so far, so I’m, I’m definitely gonna keep at it.
Sarah: 12:40 Awesome. So this is the point when we would usually talk about our main topic.
Rachel: 12:44 But we’re not talking about anything else this week.
Sarah: 12:47 So we’ve decided that we’re going to go rapid fire through a bunch of books we’ve read recently.
Rachel: 12:53 Yeah, we’re going to try to really quickly recount a bunch of the other books that we’ve been reading and like, I don’t know. What do you think? How do you want to do this? Do you want to do like no more than three sentences to describe the book?
Sarah: 13:04 Yeah, I think that’s good.
Rachel: 13:06 Okay. And then we’re just gonna see how many we can get through.
Sarah: 13:10 Yes.
Rachel: 13:10 Okay. All right. Are you ready for this? Because you’re going to start us off
Sarah: 13:13 I am.
Rachel: 13:13 And this is pretty crazy.
Sarah: 13:15 Okay.
Rachel: 13:15 Okay. All right. Do this. Go.
Sarah: 13:18 Okay. I’m going to talk about An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole, which is a historical romance set during the civil war. It subverts a lot of this standard civil war literary tropes that you read in a lot of classic novels like Gone with the Wind. It’s really sweet. If you like Alyssa Cole, you’re going to love this. Super Fun Book. Go.
Rachel: 13:38 I think that was at least six sentences. I just wanted to say.
Sarah: 13:41 It was like four. It was like four.
Rachel: 13:42 It was, I counted, it was six.
Sarah: 13:44 Whatever. Go.
Rachel: 13:45 Okay. And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness is a novella that’s kind of a Moby Dick retelling, except instead of humans, they’re whales. And so the ocean is literally their sky and they’re hunting. Uh, what’s his name?
Sarah: 14:01 Ahab
Rachel: 14:01 An Ahab type character, except that’s not his name. And it’s super weird and interesting and I loved it.
Sarah: 14:07 Educated by Tara Westover is a memoir about a woman whose family had a very extreme set of beliefs that led to her receiving no education until she decided to go to college. Super interesting talk about her life and what education means to her. Just a really solid memoir.
Rachel: 14:25 I love it. Okay. Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry. A YA novel about a young atheist boy who winds up getting sent to Catholic school after his family moves. He gets involved with this group called heretics anonymous that includes a good Catholic girl who wants to be a priest, which obviously Catholic girls aren’t actually allowed to do at the moment, and a Jewish, a gay Jewish boy, and a Wiccan girl and like all these other people. And they’re kind of trying to have some insurrection I guess to change some of the ways that the school works that they’re unhappy with and it’s really interesting and has a lot of complex discussions of religion and belief.
Sarah: 15:06 The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory is a contemporary romance that feels super, super real. You get both characters’. perspectives and all their insecurities and it makes it feel like a real romance. This is sort of made Jasmine Guillory one of my favorite contemporary romance authors of the moment.
Rachel: 15:23 Okay. Next one. Hurricane Child by Karen Calendar is a middle grade novel about a little girl born during a hurricane, that’s hurricane child, on water island in the Caribbean and it’s kind of considered a curse if you’re born during a hurricane. Her mother’s left, so now she’s living with her single father and she’s interested in tracking down her mother and it’s just kind of this. And she also thinks she’s being haunted by ghosts. Kind of just a very lush, magical realism, middle grade novel.
Sarah: 15:48 On the Come Up by Angie Thomas is her second novel.
Rachel: 15:53 Yes yes yes, yes.
Sarah: 15:53 So we’re back in Garden Heights this time. It’s all about Bri who is an aspiring rapper and just trying to sort of find her way, navigating her goals and her family. And it’s wonderful. It’s not a sequel to The Hate U Give, but because it’s set in Garden Heights, again, you get a lot of similar vibes and she’s definitely sort of continuing on similar themes here. It’s an awesome book.
Rachel: 16:17 Okay. Last book I want to talk about The Only Great Harm. No. The Only Harmless Great Thing. Sorry. It’s a hard title by Brooke Bolander, which is a novella from Tor who does a lot of great novellas we’re discussing one next month. Yay. No, yes? No. When did we discuss that book?
Sarah: 16:32 [laughs a lot] That was our.
Rachel: 16:32 We’re discussing that book next This is good. That’s the book we are discussing later this month The Black God’s Drums also a Tor novella.
Rachel: 16:43 Future Rachel here breaking in for just a second to say that actually the Black God’s Drums is the book we discussed last month that you may have already listened to and if you haven’t, it’s a really great book and you should, but this is what happens when we record out of order. We’re always confused. Okay. Back to the episode.
Rachel: 16:57 Okay. Wow. That did not count as part of my three sentences. Not that we’re really counting at this point. We’re doing real bad. Okay. Anyway, The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander is this really insanely inventive alternate history novella. I’ve never seen anything like it before. It mixes together the story of, the true story separate true stories, of the radium girls and Topsy the elephant who was publicly or electrocuted at Coney island.
And it’s kind of mixing in their stories with the idea of like autonomy and the things we do to people and creatures who may be, don’t have the ability or the say so to really stand up for themselves. In the book the elephants are used to work with the radium in the watch factories and there are also sentient elephants who are able to communicate through their own form of sign language. And it’s also about this woman who’s a translator, who’s trying to negotiate with them and it’s just super weird and super fascinating. Alright, wrap us up here Sarah.
Sarah: 17:54 Okay. The last book I’m going to talk about is Becoming by Michelle Obama, which came out quite a while ago, but my library’s wait list very long so it took me a while to get a copy of it. It’s just a memoir of Michelle Obama’s life. Super interesting. The first half really focuses on her childhood and sort of her life before Barack Obama got into politics. The second half is all about her life as the first lady. I thought both halves of the book were super, super interesting, and I strongly recommend reading it. I haven’t really read another book like this. It gives you such a clear look into what it’s like to actually be in the White House and be the first lady. It’s a really great book.
Rachel: 18:35 Seconded. Seconded because also just Michelle Obama is amazing.
Sarah: 18:38 Yes.
Rachel: 18:38 All right, well I think that is going to do it for this episode where we have told you about so many books. So I dunno if you haven’t found at least one to add to your TBR, I don’t even know. Either we’ve done something wrong or you’re doing something wrong.
Sarah: 18:53 I think we talked about 13 books.
Rachel: 18:56 Did we? I was not keeping, I couldn’t even, I wasn’t even keeping track of how many sentences we were doing after the one time I called you out.
Sarah: 19:02 Yeah. This is a lot of books, and I think it was fun to get to talk about so many ones we’ve read recently.
Rachel: 19:08 Yeah, for sure. I’d like to give a big thank you to Sahara Sky for the use of our theme song. Never Long Time Goes By from the album Escapism.
Sarah: 19:16 And if you want to get in touch with us, you can tweet at unassignedpod over on Twitter. Email us at unassignedreadingpod at gmail dot com or check out our website unassignedreadingpod.com.
Rachel: 19:26 We’ll be back later this month with our anniversary episode, the one you all voted for, the kiss quotient by Helen Hoang.
Sarah: 19:32 It’s a book we both love, and we can’t wait to discuss it with you all. Now go read some books.