The Lauren Drought continues, but in her absence we discuss books that she picked out for us, and it’s unanimous. Every book was a perfect fit. We conclude that Lauren must be a book whisperer.
As per Lauren’s suggestion, Aileen read and thoroughly enjoyed Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal a lively, sexy, and thought-provoking East-meets-West story about community, friendship, and women’s lives at all ages.
Lauren made a potential stalker out of Alisa by suggesting Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches. Not only did the book tick all of Alisa’s dream storytelling boxes, but the author’s life and interests turned out to be Alisa’s cup of tea and her lifelong mission now is go out to dinner with Deborah.
And Lauren made Josie a Naomi Novik fangirl for life after suggesting A Deadly Education, which Josie read twice, then went and bought the second book in the series, and after cursing at Apple Books when she realized that book three in the series isn’t out yet, she bought another book by Naomi Novik, which she also read twice.
We again missed Lauren’s calm, classy ways and after a long, raunchy conversation about penises, um, I mean, “eggplants”, we decided that if she doesn’t come back soon the show will be utterly tasteless.
The following transcript was translated by an AI program so unfortunately we can’t vouch for its accuracy.
Alisa: [00:00:00] Oh no. So much of it
Aileen: Oh, Josie is getting naked. What’s happening over there. Josie just pulled off her sweater.
Josie: I’m drinking ginger tea and all of a sudden I got super hot.
Aileen: It just makes you wild
Josie: it makes me crazy. I go off my nut.
Aileen: Let’s play strip podcasting.
Josie: Oh no. I see a trend.
Aileen: Anytime someone says book, take off the layer of clothing,
Josie: hello and welcome to fiction between friends, a podcast, dedicated to books and book lovers like us. I’m Josephine, Angelini
Lauren: I’m Lauren Sanchez.
Alisa: I’m Alyssa Hillfinger,
Aileen: and I’m Aileen Calderon,
Josie: we’re four childhood friends from the suburbs of Massachusetts.
Lauren: Who’ve always to read almost as much as we love to talk to each other.
Alisa: We started this podcast as a way to celebrate how a really good book can come into your life and change.
Aileen: So if you’re looking for fun and engaging conversations about books, stick around.
Josie: This is fiction between friends. And we’re glad you’ve joined us.
Welcome back. This is episode six, season one. I’m Josefine, Angelini, and joining me are my friends, Aileen Calderon, and Alyssa hillfinger. [00:01:00] Lauren is still out, but hopefully she will join us again next week.
I also just wanted to take a moment and remind our listeners to please leave a brief review on apple podcasts. When you get a chance, it would mean a lot to us doing so would help our podcast move up the ranks and allow for like-minded people to find our little book club.
We would truly appreciate it. So how’s everyone doing?
Aileen: Good. You’ve such a good announcer voice doozy. I listened to your voice and I’m like, I need voice lessons. I want to talk like Josie, or I want you to read me books every night, sleep. I assume my voice might change. I know I talk really loudly on the phone cause my husband has commented particularly scream when I’m on the phone and it’s not intentional. I’m not even aware of it, but. Yeah, I and I think, I think some of it is like, sound really old right now. Not trusting the technology. Cause we grew up with, you know, the phones that you would hold to
Aileen: and there’d be something right in front of your mouth that you would talk into. And I still like, I’ll be wearing my earbuds and talking on the phone and it still seems amazing to me that it’s actually [00:02:00] capturing the sound of my voice and transmitting it to Cause I still feel like I shouldn’t have something in front of my mouth.
Josie: No, but we also went through the early days of cell phones where it was like every other second, there was like a bit a bleep or a dead zone. Do you remember like the first cell phone I got? Are you there? Are you there? Are you there? It was like, you were O and P calls would just get dropped out of nowhere. I mean, it doesn’t happen anymore, but I still have that knee jerk reaction if I’m talking on my phone. Like, I mean, I think we have a ground line here. like, in theory we have a phone somewhere in our house, but we both use our cell phones all the time. I don’t know why we have It I think it’s like, I don’t know, like.
Aileen: It came with the house that you can just kept it.
Josie: It’s like, a museum piece. We’re hoping it’s worth something someday, but no, like I’m still so used to being like,
Josie: are you there? Are you there? Did you drop me? Because there’s, there are those dead zones still, but they’re much less frequent, but there isn’t the same. Like when you talked on an analog phone, it really wasn’t like somebody was sitting right next to you. [00:03:00] When you were talking, there was no pause. There were never any breaks. And no matter how good the technology gets now, there’ll always be that delay because it has to go to a satellite and come back, you know? So it’s just, it’s just a different way of talking now. And it’s less organic.
Aileen: I remember when everybody, when text became a big thing and I finally got a cell phone and I resisted texting for a while. And then obviously like, that’s what everyone does all the time now. And during the pandemic, like, I had so many texts going with so many friends because that was sort of my connection to the world. And I hit a point where I was like, I want to talk on the phone to someone and hear their voice. And I would actually like, some people will be like, hello, why are you calling me? What’s wrong? Are you okay? I was like, the pandemic.
Aileen: it. I just need to hear another person’s voice. I just need to like, make that connection.
Josie: Remember having to re rewind VHS
Alisa: Yes, well in cassette tapes,
Aileen: Do you remember? Busy signals,
Josie: Definitely. Oh yeah.
Aileen: in trouble for that. We had one phone [00:04:00] line at my
Aileen: but then there was call waiting and it was magical
Aileen: would call your call and get interrupted. If it was for your mom or dad, you had to get off the phone. And I would
Aileen: I mean, I still hate talking on the phone. It’s fine. During the pandemic. I hate, oh
Josie: We talked on the phone for hours.
Aileen: Yes. We were teenagers. Yeah. I spent all night talking on the phone and then I became an adult and I just makes me kind of like, me uncomfortable. Like I’m like to call the doctor, what am I going to say? Like kind of planning out what I’m going to say. Like stupid. And I’m like, this is dumb. I’m a grownup. I should be able to do this. And then when zoom started during the pandemic. That made me so uncomfortable because I’ve never been comfortable on video. And so it was just weird talking to a computer and being able to see myself and feeling like people couldn’t quite hear me. Cause if you’re on, if you’re on a zoom with multiple people and if you’re having a few drinks and everyone’s talking and you get like, okay, I’m just not going to say anything because everyone’s trying to talk and no one can hear you. Like, it just gets so frustrating, but yeah.
Alisa: Yeah, [00:05:00] I don’t like people.
Aileen: I wasn’t going to call you out Alyssa.
Alisa: So truthfully I can, I can be in an auditorium full of teenagers and I’m fine. They’re my people. But parent night, I get the cold sweats. I have to control my teeth from chattering. It’s I can feel myself racing, trying to get through everything that I need to say. And I don’t know why. I don’t know.
Josie: So Amy, what was your book about this week? I didn’t, we all picked books actually. No, our books were chosen for us Lauren because she couldn’t be here. So she gave us suggestions as to what to read. And I have no idea what she suggested for you.
Aileen: Um, she nailed it. I got to say if, if you want to read a book, have Lauren the library and recommend one for you because she knows all of us. Yeah. And she just, so mine was erotic stories for Punjabi widows. Um, and I [00:06:00] realized because she recommended it. I am looking to see who wrote it because I have no idea of the author is it’s Bali car John as well. I should have looked up how to pronounce that name because I think I probably butchered it.
Josie: butcher it. and I feel so terrible, but
Aileen: Yeah. I mean, my name’s Aileen, everyone always gets it wrong. So I feel like I should get people’s names. Right. And I feel bad when I don’t, um, It was great, cause it’s a well-written book, but it’s also really light and a quick read, which is exactly what I’m into these days.
It’s about, um, the main character is this woman, Nikki who lives in England. And she comes from a very conservative, traditional Indian family. Um, the father in the family dies. She, before that, though, she is in law school decides to drop out of law school, which is obviously not what anybody had envisioned for her.
And then the father dies and she just decides to go on her own way. And she decides to move out of the house. She gets a job at a bar and is living above the bar, which obviously is not what her family had envisioned for [00:07:00] her. Meanwhile, her sister is looking for dating services because she wants a traditional arranged marriage.
Um, so it’s very like east meets west. And like, you know, this modern girl kind of rebelling against what her family wants. So, um, Nikki is trying to make ends meet. She finds out that there, she’s also really interested in reading and writing and she finds out that, um, there’s this. Got an Indian church.
That’s looking for a teacher to help teach women how to write in English. So she goes there to teach the class expecting, you know, it’s going to be actually, she expects, it’s going to be like a creative writing course. She gets there and discoveries. It’s all of these widows, their husbands have died.
Most of them are older and they actually need to learn how to write. They have absolutely no idea how to write. Like they’ve existed in London. They’ve been dependent on their husbands that have never learned how to write. And so Nikki’s like, this is not what I signed up for. [00:08:00] Turn of events. Nikki happens to have a book of erotic stories on her one day in class.
And one of the widows who knows how to read a write, finds a bucket, starts reading it aloud. So they think that’s amazing. And they’re like, oh, we can write this. So this class turns into this group of women writing erotic stories and some of the they’re clips of these erotic stories in the book. And they’re yeah, they live up to the name. They’re very well written. and then there’s, there’s like a death or murder that sort of emerges that, that sort of like a subplot throughout this.
But it’s really interesting because it makes you think about, I guess, perception versus reality, because these are kind of older forgotten women. You know, their husbands are gone and now they’re just kind of existing and no one takes them seriously. And they, you know, they not, a lot of them don’t have careers and Nikki comes in and.
Channels their creativity and also [00:09:00] just their stories and their experiences. And it, it, it sort of becomes something amazing because it becomes something that has to be kept secret because they don’t, the men can’t hear about this and outsiders can’t hear about it. Eventually it gets out and it gets to be very big and very popular.
But, um, it made me think about getting older and being an older woman. And I mean, a lot of these women are older than we are, and I feel like everyone’s so obsessed with youth that, you know, you get older and exactly, and that’s why a lot of these women feel, and you’re reading these stories. These are erotic stories is women have written it and it’s like, Should we call it an egg plant.
I mean, it’s big, like an eggplant or is it more like a banana, you know, they’re like, they’re all these like graphic descriptions it’s cause even reading, you’re like, wait a minute. This is like a 60 year old Punjabi widow. And she’s talking about the size of this guy is cock, but then you’re like, but they’re women, they have desires and wants and [00:10:00] know, they’re, they’re not dead.
This is still things that they, that they talk about. Um, I don’t know if I ever would have picked it out for myself because it’s such odd title, like erotic stories for widows. I’m like, I don’t even know what
Alisa: do you think Lauren picked it for you?
Aileen: Oh boy. That’s a big question. Um, I think because it’s a story about. women bonding and coming together. Um, so it, it, it’s kind of very like uplifting, like everyone sort of learns a little bit about themselves and about other people. And it’s also just, it’s an easy read, it’s, well-written, but it’s just like a, a fun, fast paced story, but it’s still smart. And it’s, it’s the kind of book that I liked. So I really appreciate that. Lauren picked it out for me.
Josie: Is there a love story in it?
Aileen: Yes, of course.
Aileen: there actually a couple of love stories in it. Their love stories woven throughout it. And like they, the erotic stories bring couples together.
Josie: No, but do you like love stories? I’ve never really pictured you [00:11:00] reading that many
Alisa: No, because they lean growing up was like heavy metal and kind of the gore and horror. I would not Peggy lean as a romantic.
Aileen: No, you’re, you’re, you’re pretty right. Although my husband would laugh. If he heard you say heavy metal, cause like he loves Metallica and I’m like, oh my God, turn that off. I hate it. But this was, this was like love stories rooted. In reality. It was like real women dealing with real relationships and finding their way to love, I guess,
Alisa: Do you have, do you two know the book? Uh, is it Robert munch? I don’t know if it is, but the paper bag princess.
Josie: Oh yeah.
Alisa: It’s a children’s book. Why get it for a while? It’ll be fantastic. But the paper bag princess Eileen is the paperback princess.
Aileen: I have to read it. Wait, what does that mean?
Alisa: so it’s a children’s book and is a castle and Ronald I believe is the prince and a dragon comes and burns down the princess’s castle.
And the princess is pissed because [00:12:00] Ronald didn’t try and save her. And the only thing she has to wear as a paper bag, cause that’s the only thing that’s left. So she puts on this paper bag and she goes out to avenge her castle being burned down and she finds the dragon and she tricks the dragon into losing a bet or a challenge, or I forget exactly what.
And then finally she comes to Ronald and she was like, I don’t need you like done,
Aileen: That’s my kind of love story
Alisa: but it is a children’s book.
Aileen: it, it, oh, okay. I’ll have to re and this one, I will say Nikki, the main character in this, she meets someone and is very skeptical of him. And at one point. He pisses her off and she’s like, yeah, I’m done with you. Like, she just doesn’t, you know, I like that she she’s her own person. She defies her family and her culture to do what she thinks is right.
And what kind of follow her own path, which I respect and appreciate
Josie: what was the thing about the book that you liked the most? Like what, [00:13:00] struck you the most? Was there ever a moment where you were reading and you went, wow, that’s And I really like one of those shining moments in a book where you’re like, I know, or
Aileen: I mean, I just, I really enjoyed the whole book. It really, it was, it was just thinking the, these older Indian women who have all of these stereotypes around them and you make assumptions about who they are. And then all of a sudden they became these incredibly funny, interesting characters. And I was like, oh God, I have these biases too.
I’m like, I’m just like these like men and in this book and it was, it was just. I don’t know, it makes you realize how much you just automatically stereotype type people and think of them as a certain way and about how just the complexity of people and everyone is so much more than they appear. And you need to take time to get to know people and talk to them and understand what they come from.
And there’s one woman in it who she’s kind of a bitch. She’s just really mean to everyone all the time. And people [00:14:00] are scared of her, but then you find out her backstory and her daughter died. And like she’s been through a lot and there’s just so much more to her. It’s just, she puts up this armor around her and no one has bothered to go beyond that.
And once they do you, you sort of start to understand why she is the way she is and their reasons for her being awful to people there, you know, not that excuses it, but you know, there’s more to everyone. So it was just, yeah, it was a really interesting book. I think anytime I can read a book, that’s not about white people.
It’s great. Okay. You know, I I’ve read a lot of books about white people growing up. So like, I’m almost a little, a little hesitant talking about it because I’m like, I don’t wanna like punch up. Like, I don’t want to say the wrong thing describing this culture. That’s not familiar to me. I want to show it respect and make sure I’m not, you know, something stupid because it’s so hard to speak these days.
I was actually having this discussion with some people in my family about just language and how you have to be so careful [00:15:00] with what you say, because everyone’s trying to be so politically correct all the time and you don’t want to offend anyone ever. You don’t want to get canceled. And, and is so important.
It’s very powerful. Like the, the words that you use really matter, but it also gets kind of stressful sometimes to worry about every word that comes out of your mouth. You’re like, wait, is that what we’re calling it now? I don’t know. I forget.
Josie: I get really, I get really funny around the pronoun thing. I’m always like, oh God, I don’t know what I should call you. Ma’am or so I don’t know. And I don’t want to assume, but we all do. And then I don’t want to offend you by assuming the wrong thing. And I get really, I get really tangled up on that one,
Aileen: Well, because it’s also it’s. I think we’ve talked about this for everything’s become so black and white and there’s no forgiveness, you know, like you should, you should know all the new rules as they develop. You should not mess up at any point, if you do, you’re a bad person and that’s not good either because we should all feel comfortable making to make making mistakes.
You know, it’s okay to make mistakes. If you [00:16:00] have good intentions, it’s okay to slip up or screw up or to not know something, because there’s so much to know now, you know, like people, there are so much more to people like people’s sexualities and gender identity and all of that. Like it used to be very black and white and now there’s this whole spectrum and it’s, it can be hard to keep up with it.
Alisa: Well, What you’re saying. And the underlying information behind what you’re saying is it was expressed as black and white, and now we’re able to
Alisa: much more, a much broader spectrum. And, and that’s where a lot of the confusion is, um, is just, it is so different. There’s oh, it’s the gender unicorn that could be there used to be the, the gender And now I think if you look up the gender unicorn, it breaks everything down in terms of what is, um, vocabulary around sexuality, what is vocabulary around [00:17:00] gender and pronouns. And it’s very interesting. I recommend it. I’ll see if I can find it
Josie: but you’d never know that individual how that
Alisa: right, right.
Aileen: Yeah. And it is true. We used to have a really simplistic view of what it. To be a person, you know, what it meant to be male, what it meant to be female. Like it was just, way over simplified. And now it’s like, oh, of course people aren’t that simple. There’s so much more to everyone.
Alisa: Okay. Leanne, I have a question for you. Um, as the master of, let’s see so many things, um, marketing, raunch, um, were there any, uh, interesting euphemisms, you mentioned a few eggplants and bananas. Was it, was there anything in this book in particular that made Ilene Calderon,
Aileen: I can’t think of specific. There was a lot of discussion about the best way to describe a penis like that. You kept using one vegetable term. And I was like, what is that? I’m not sure, but they [00:18:00] discussed it a lot.
Alisa: Is there an Indian vegetable that maybe is more adept at
Aileen: I sh I should have, I should have marked it, but there was like, there were lots of, like, it was funny at times too, because they were so intent on describing it just the right way, but like what, it was a little thicker and not as skinny. And like, we like.
And then stories well-written like, they’re pretty, some of them are pretty risque, which was interesting. Cause you’re reading this book that you’re like, okay, I get it. And all of a sudden it’s like, they’re just nailing each other on the kitchen table or whatever’s going on? Like, is his policy, eggplant is wet Oasis.
Aileen: It’s better written than that. I’m just very much paraphrasing. I don’t remember.
Alisa: Oh, it’s warm in here.
Josie: Well, listen, you’re going to be taken off your sweater
Alisa: Oh yes.
Aileen: Um, here’s part of, one of the stories. His throbbing, Oregon was the color and size of an Abra Jean. And [00:19:00] as she gripped it with her hands and guided it towards her mouth, he became so excited that his knees began to shake.
Alisa: I don’t know how I feel about that.
Aileen: Trashy supermar. It’s great.
Josie: That’s awesome.
Josie: Alyssa, Alyssa, what did Lauren suggest for you this week?
Alisa: Lauren suggested for me a book, it’s actually a series by Deborah Harkness and it’s the all souls trilogy. And originally she had suggested she, what came to mind is she said the book of life. And so I got that and I started looking at it and I’m trying to read it and I’m very confused. And I thought, no, if, if Lauren recommended this.
I will be able to figure it out. And then I thought, oh, well this is book three of the trilogy. So she’s speaking to me with my reading backwards. So if I read the third book before, so [00:20:00] I then happened to casually say to Lauren, like, Hey, I I’m really liking this book. I’m having a hard time understanding some of the characters. I feel like I’m missing something. And Lauren said, oh yeah, you need to start with the first book. So a discovery of witches is the first book and there is a series they’re about to start season three.
Uh, I forget what channel, um, but this has been out for awhile, so I’m not quite sure about spoilers because there’s a TV show. This book has been, I’ll try to be careful with what I say.
Josie: Okay, but I think it’s, it’s been out for over a decade now. I know that. So it’s go ahead.
Alisa: So I actually have two parts of this that I’m really excited about. And one is the author herself. And then there’s the book. Do you have a particular, which one do you want me to go?
Josie: I want to hear about the [00:21:00] author first so that we can set it up for the book.
Alisa: Okay. Deborah Harkness is awesome. She is who I want to be in another life.
Alisa: uh, I I’m obsessed with just with the woman and then her books. Okay. So Deborah Harkness, she’s an academic and her, her, um, bachelor’s degree was from Mount Holyoke. I don’t know where she is originally, but at Mount Holyoke and then Northwestern and then UC Davis and for her doctoral degree.
Oh my gosh. She researched the history of magic and science in Europe, especially during the period from 1500 to 1700. And she lists all of these different libraries in Europe that she was, um, has done research in and she calls herself what an expert [00:22:00] on or an enthusiast of wine science, the history of science, um, and the, the coincidence of magic and science, especially during the enlightenment. plus she taught medical history for a while at Northwestern. the history of science and medicine at UC Davis and paleo paleography at the center for medieval and Renaissance studies at Oxford. I want to have dinner with this woman and just let her tell me everything. And all of this gets dumped into her books. I mean, the characters
Josie: It starts in the library. Isn’t the
Alisa: the yeah.
Josie: to the library.
Alisa: And her, her main character, Diana is a woman who is studying alchemy and science and the development of, you know, science history and the confluence of the development of magic and science. And, and, and [00:23:00] then the other character. Matthew is one of the aspects of his personality is how much he loves wine.
And so all of these little gems from, uh, miss Harkness show up in the book and her characters, and it is so fun. And a lot of it takes place. One of the towns is just outside of Syracuse. And so there’s a whole bunch of things taking place in Madison, New York, right outside of Syracuse. And they’re talking.
So I went to school at Syracuse. My husband is from the greater Syracuse area. So I’m reading all about that. And I’m like, well, I know that town, I know that newspaper. I know that road.
And then the other parts of it are because it’s a discovery of witches. So there’s a whole lot about Massachusetts, really Salem and the witch trials and all of that history that I don’t know, maybe it’s not just us, but I feel like we’ve had more of a connection to it because it’s local ish, you know?
So we’re like, [00:24:00] oh yeah, Salem. We know that that’s cool. Plymouth plantation. She talks about how Diana grew up working on Plymouth, plantation as a kid. I mean, all of these things.
Josie: how they used to take us there? Every year,
Alisa: was the third grade, the third grade field trip. Ella went for third grade and,
Aileen: was a rock, right?
Josie: there was a rock and then there was a
Alisa: right, right. So, um, uh, discovery, which is it, I have all these little, like your marks in the, in the bar. I don’t know if you can see them in the book. And then I have my little sticky notes and I almost don’t even quite remember what all of the different things were. I’ll give you a synopsis. So Diana is doing research and she’s trying to prepare for a big conference where she’s going to be giving unaddressed on something related to alchemy and the development of the philosopher’s stone. And she studies illustrations largely illustrations [00:25:00] in the symbolic representation that the pictures have connected to elements and minerals and earth, wind fire water. And so she’s constantly calling up all of these archived, very old. Your first son has manuscripts and she puts in an order she’s at the library at Oxford and this book comes up and she looks at it and it’s very odd and it’s very old and she can’t open it. Like she tries to open it in it. And it’s exuding this essence that she can’t quite put her fingers on.
And she has the book in front of her and she kind of settles herself and takes a breath and just lays her Palm on the book. And then she feels a shift and she’s able to open the book and she’s looking at it. And she notices that three pages from the very front have been cut out very neatly with a straight edge.
And she starts looking through, the book and make some notes then she returns it[00:26:00] goes about her business. And that’s before you know, anything, you know, sort of particular. but there’s nothing special. She’s just a researcher, but then I’m trying to find the line. she’s walking through the library and she’s noticing all these other people and she refers to. Feeling, um, the look from this other woman and she felt the tingle go up her spine. And she said, but that’s always what one, which feels when another, which looks at her. And that’s the first inclination that you’re like, oh no, she’s a witch. And there’s other witches here. Okay. So then she goes back to the library and a couple of days later, she thinks she’s by herself, but she’s not.
And she uses some magic, which she never does. She refuses to acknowledge that she’s a witch. And the story unfolds part of this is understanding her background and who she is, where she came from. Her parents died when she was young. She lives with her aunt and she really has never wanted to use her [00:27:00] magic.
But instead of trying to climb up this big ladder to get this book, she used her magic and the book comes down, falls into her hand. And then she realizes because she feels icy patches. Boring into her shoulder blades, which is the feel when a vampire is looking at you, she turns around and realizes that Matthew declare malt is looking at her and that’s when they first meet.
And so the whole book is about the two of them getting to know each other. She’s actually in grave danger because of this book, this manuscript that she called up, that she had first couldn’t open, but then it opened for her. And then she realized the pages were missing and she sent the book back, not realizing that for the past, I don’t know, 1200 years, every different creature.
And there are four different creatures in this world. There’s humans, there’s vampires, there’s witches and there’s demons. all the creatures are trying to get ahold of this book because they think it, it documents the [00:28:00] history of where they all came from. And so as the story unfolds.
Alisa: A love story between Diana and Matthew, who are never supposed to be together. And
Alisa: to stay safe as different creatures are trying to find her and her discovering depth of her witness and her powers and why she can’t access them as easily as other witches camp. And so that’s book one.
It is so she, Diana ends up needing to go to a safe place and that safe place is Matthew’s home where his mother lives, his vampire mother. And one of the things that is really nice about this story is it becomes a story of acceptance because these four different creatures are not supposed to interact.
They’re not friends. They certainly cannot have any type of, um, romantic relationship there. I mean, they’re not [00:29:00] even supposed to be gathering in the same social settings, uh, in a meaningful way. And so when Matthew brings Diana home, his mother at first is like, oh, no way, no, how? And then. Matthew and Diana’s connection becomes more and more necessary to the survival of everybody.
The mother becomes very accepting of her and it’s, it’s really nice. But one of the things I, I laughed at was Diana needed to sit. And the mother, she convinced me to sit though, the chairs carving had clearly been designed to acquaint its occupants with the discomforts of hell. So like, like constantly the mother was like accepting her, but then also torturing her at the same time. which I
Alisa: was funny.
Aileen: very appropriate.
Alisa: Um, all right. And then I think the last, I I’ve finished the book, but I haven’t really finished the book because definitely read the last several chapters. So I started the book and then I [00:30:00] jumped to the back.
Josie: Yeah, you started the book, then you read the back,
Aileen: wait? So you did read it backwards in typical Alyssa fashion,
Alisa: entire way. I started the first several chapters. And then I was like, wait, I need to know what we’re going to be dealing with at the end.
Aileen: even though someone you trusted had recommended it for you,
Josie: reading your books backwards. It’s weird.
Alisa: I find that it adds to the story though, because I, I want to know how you get from a to Z now that I know Z is there, I feel like I can pay more attention and pick up on more details and of the foreshadowing or little, you know, hints that are put in. know it’s weird, I find it enjoyable.
Aileen: do you remember it? Do you remember choose your own adventure books?
Aileen: out there. Those were made for you. You get to decide what happens next. Those were always pretty brilliant, but [00:31:00] those were, those were written for Alyssa.
Josie: but Alyssa, so you read the first few chapters, then you went and you read the last two or the last one.
Alisa: don’t know. I just started reading and then I kept going backwards more and more.
Josie: And so you read the book completely out of order.
Alisa: And then I kept going and I read the first, probably three quarters. It’s also a really big book. It’s, almost 600 pages. And I just got the book on Monday because I had tried reading the third book and that didn’t go well. And,
Josie: I read the series backwards.
Alisa: and it’s, it’s really difficult to find time to read. I, think I might need to switch, although don’t know if I can to audio books so that as I’m doing stuff around the house or taking the dog for a walk or going grocery shopping, I can be listening to a book because otherwise, especially with this being the holiday week and we hosted,
Aileen: I know I was thinking about that when I was driving four hours to Massachusetts and I was like, I should [00:32:00] be listening to a book and I’ve never done an audio book either.
Aileen: stick in my head, but I’ve also gotten into listening to podcasts and those usually stay with me. So
Aileen: you say, write a book if you listened to it?
Alisa: I think you can, it’s, it’s a
matter of experiencing the story,
Aileen: Oh yeah.
Alisa: things that a book can do for you when you see a word printed. You have to work to pronounce word,
Josie: The word jumps off the page into your head. Yeah. It’s like in the way that words lay on a page, you know, writers spend some time thinking about that, how they break up their chapters, how they break up their paragraphs, like the way it lays on the page. It’s actually kind of important to us sometimes for certain things.
Alisa: Well, I remember in what in Twilight and one of the books when Edward goes away and Bella is just there and she’s numb and time is passing and the way
Josie: Oh, new moon and new moon. [00:33:00]
Alisa: And the way that that was expressed written was just in the middle of the chapter, there was one page and on it, it said September, and then you turn the page and it says and then you turn the page and there’s just these names of months on the page.
And you just see that. It evokes emotion based on the visual impact of just the single
Alisa: time passing and just nothingness. And I don’t. Yeah. You know, you could say those words, the audio book, but I don’t know that it would have the same
Josie: I like it as I lay dying where, um, there’s a whole chapter. That’s just, my mother is a fish.
Aileen: Oh, yes.
I always remembered that. I was always like, damn, that’s good.
Aileen: You have one person who reads all of your books.
Josie: Of my star-crossed books, um, Devin, and it was really? weird. Um, I got so lucky the, my publisher sent me three voices to listen, to just [00:34:00] reading a few set lines that they gave them. And I was like, I don’t know what it is about. Number three. I just really, there’s something about her voice. That calls to me turns out I went to NYU with her.
I knew her really well, like yeah, Devin and I knew each other really well. And she was always so talented and what a great actress. And like, I just always admired her and I loved watching her work it was just hilarious when the name came back, they were like, okay, you’ve picked Devin Subara and normally you don’t get a choice as to who reads your books.
I had a different reader and a wonderful one for, um, trial by fire and all that stuff. But. I loved that her voice, I love the sound of it. I was like, I feel like I know her. And I was like, dang it. I do. It was so funny. So she did first three and hopefully she’ll do the last books in the series for
Aileen: That’s so funny.
Josie: six and seven.
Aileen: Would you ever read one of your books?
Josie: I, you know,
Aileen: Do the,
Josie: talking about it. So for sun Grazer, one of the, books that we want to put out, I’d never do it for my star cross books. Like I want Devin, I want like a [00:35:00] trained actor reading. I mean, she’s just so good, you know?
Aileen: a trained actor, right?
Josie: Well, no. Okay. Let’s let me put it to the side. I went to school for it, but by the time I was a junior,
Aileen: You went to college for it. I
Josie: I went to college for it. And by my junior year, I was like, well, I’m not very good at this.
Josie: I need, well, honestly, I had directors who literally, they were like, you’re a hard worker, but you know, you’re a writer, right. I’ll never forget it. Louis eater. He like, me. He was my Shakespeare teacher. Director. He pulled me aside. He was like, you know, you’re a writer. Right. And I was like, yeah, I know don’t tell anyone because the Tish scholarship and I’m afraid they’re going to take it? away from me
Aileen: W what was it?
Josie: I don’t,
Aileen: What was it that made him think you were a writer?
Josie: was always right. And I would say, you know, I watch the, this, so there’s always like scene study classes and I’ve watched people working the questions that I would ask and the way that I would pull apart, the scene [00:36:00] is very much the way a writer goes about pulling apart the action and the character arcs and all that stuff.
And so he was just like, you know, you just, you think like a writer. And I always, I was always writing in between classes. Like I was always writing down ideas or things or snippets stuff that I’d seen. And, um, yeah. And I was like, duh, and one night, like, he was just like, you’re he he’s like, you’re, you’re a writer.
You really need to do that. I was like that. It scared the crap out of me. I was so terrified. To, to start writing. I was terrified to be a writer?
You know, I had a girlfriend of mine, my friend, Liz York, she’s actually out here in LA. She said, the thing that you love the most is the source of your greatest fear.
Just like in everything that you do in your life. And if it’s something that you truly love, it’s going to scare the shit out of you. And that’s exactly why you have to do it. And that’s when I was like, fuck, I guess I got to be a writer. Now
Alisa: so a quick juxtaposition here as Josie is walking around in [00:37:00] between classes with a notebook and I picture, you know, fashionable, beautiful Josie frolicking around the streets of New York city, know, jotting down ideas in her notebook and wandering around and looking up at the sky daydreaming.
I was carrying around my dead wet cat, uh, from my anatomy class to my dorm. Oh yeah. Because my comparative anatomy class, we had to dissect a cat. And
Aileen: Oh my God.
Alisa: I would, the cat would come back and forth with me to, and from.
Aileen: Did you name it?
Alisa: it was dead wet cat. It was the fattest cat. I gave it a nose ring and some earrings
Aileen: You’re dead. Cat
Alisa: I was respecting him. No, he was loved. He also was so fat that he, he had been shot with a BB in his hind quarters.
And the [00:38:00] layer of fat was so thick that it never penetrated muscle. And it just healed over my cat. Josie, you could write so many amazing stories about my dead white cat and his little farm adventures. And
Aileen: What did you carry your dead
Alisa: dead wet cat was carried around in the grade bags. They weren’t clear though. They weren’t clear.
Aileen: so people could see you dead.
Aileen: So people thought you were a weirdo, or they’re like,
oh, she’s a
Aileen: science major.
Alisa: I was a weirdo and I also, but I wasn’t the only one I had a really good friend, Bob, who actually is living my, alternate dream life. He is, uh, works at the Albany museum of natural history, um, as a paleontologist, but he, he and I would carry around her dead white cats together.
Aileen: So you dated a lot in college. [00:39:00]
Josie: That’s what I’m thinking. Could you imagine a guy being like, and that’s my girlfriend right over there.
Aileen: The one with the dead cat.
Alisa: Well, I didn’t date a lot. No.
Josie: Oh, good Lord. Okay. So back to books,
Okay. So Lauren officially with me hit it out of the park like this. So she recommended anything by Naomi. No. I read a deadly education, which came out two years ago and then I read the second book in that same series. Right after it. And then of course, I had to read another book by her called uprooted, which I’m rereading, I’ve read every single one of these books twice over the past two weeks. Like I can not,
Aileen: much time do you spend reading everyday Josie?
Josie: I really, if, um, you know, I really should be writing more and I’m not,
Josie: I am not writing as much [00:40:00] as I should be and I really need to finish this book, but, Um,
I’ve just really been reading her stuff over and over. Okay. So the second time that I’ve been reading it I’ve been skimming, but I can’t tell you. How good these books are. I seriously, it’s one of those things where I can’t even be jealous because I’m just so happy that these books are in the world and I get to read them that I can’t even okay. Oh my God. Yes. Here we go. A deadly education. It’s about a school for wizards and that’s where all comparison to Hogwarts ends.
Like this is not Hogwarts. It’s set in modern times and magical kids go to this place called the skull, the mats. And because as soon as they get, as they hit puberty, their mana, which is their magical. Stuff. It’s sort of like connected to your life force and all these mysterious and shady ways, but she definitely has a system for it.
Um, there mana starts to blossom when they hit puberty and all of these things [00:41:00] called malls, the malefic carrier, um, they’re magical creatures, but they’re like these twisted, magical creatures. It’s not like beautiful dragons and unicorns. It’s like these really shady, creepy creatures. A lot of them have been created by wizards themselves and they’re hunting for the mana like that source and the malls hunt, magical people, and they go through kids going through puberty because they are having this surge of manna. And also they don’t have enough magic to really defend themselves. They don’t know enough. So full-grown wizards are sort of like really hard to kill, but these kids are they’re described as being like.
You know, like basically candy with a soft sugar shell on the outside. That’s easy to get at. So the, her writing in this, it’s just so funny too. She’s funny girl. Oh, she’s funny. And she’s clever. So good. So the school events was built to protect them and it, but it kind of turned into this killing ground too.
So all the malls, like the way the school demands is built is that a space is made in the void. [00:42:00] So it’s outside of the real world and the only place where it touches like this tiny little, like a sphincter, this tiny little space where it connects into this world and surrounded by the void malls, can’t get in the malefic area.
Can’t get in where the void is. They can only get through this one little door, but the door is protected by all these magical wards and like spells. And so there’s this huge door that protects. And then there’s the graduation hall, which is like the hall that’s right in front of it. And then there are all these little pipes and stuff that lead up into the actual ScholarMatch and kids are sort of like teleported right in.
They stay for four years. You don’t leave. There’s no teachers there, no parents. And if you survive, you have to get through the graduation hall, which is where all the malls build up.
So like in the skull of mats, only one out of four kids actually makes it through the graduation gates.
Like over the course of their time, there they’re either eaten by malls that managed to like squeeze through these [00:43:00] little pipes or cracks and they like get in. Cause they, you know, sugarcoating, they want that sugar coating they’re going for it. So. The, like the work comes in front of you and the class, the class works really hard to like, you have to learn multiple languages.
You have to learn how to cast spells there’s alchemy track. There’s all this stuff. That’s and it’s hard and it’s competitive. so the graduation is the worst and everybody’s sort of like leading up to get through the graduation hall. And that’s, if you survive just lunch cafeteria, because even the food sometimes, sometimes comes out with like poison in it and spells and like kids just die sitting down to lunch.
it’s not Lord of the flies, but it does bring out this, like what’s in it for me. Like all these kids, there’s a weight limit for how much can be brought in. So you can only come in. The clothes on your back and like a few things in a bag and that’s it.
And you’ve got four years there. So there’s this massive like trading system and kids are always like, what can I get out of it? And they have to do it because if you do a bad trade, you could [00:44:00] die. Like you won’t have the spell that you need to save yourself from a mall or you won’t have shoes and you won’t be able to run away when they come after you.
The place is brutal and inside the skull, immense, but it’s not written like it’s brutal. Her tone is much lighter than that. She’s got a much lighter touch and it’s not sad. Although it is, you feel this competition, this constant competition, this constant pressure. If I don’t succeed, I’ll die.
Aileen: Who is the main character, like whose perspective.
Josie: main character, her name is Okay. And she hates her mother for naming her collateral. But her mom is like this hippie loving lives in a year. She’s like give away my magic for free. She never asks for anything from anyone. She’s like the exact opposite of. Like a practical, which she’s just sort of like this, she’s very loving and giving and she’ll heal anyone and she’ll help anyone.
So there’s this setup where they’re basically the haves and the have-nots, the haves are on enclave, kids, kids who have grown up in spaces like the school [00:45:00] limits where a group of wizards, usually wealthy ones or powerful ones have sort of pushed out into the void and built these cities like entire cities with monorails and skyscrapers.
And the kids who come from these places, everybody wants to be. An enclave. Everybody wants that protection because there are all of these indie kids, kids whose families don’t belong inside an enclave and their parents are more like the gardeners and the maids. And they they’ll like work for people who live in the enclaves, but they don’t have that safety that they don’t have that protection of being away from the malefic area.
So all of these kids, while they’re at the school limits, they’re trying to make alliances with enclave kids, to like score themselves a seat or score themselves an interview, something, anything. So that there’ll be safe from the malls once they get out, if they get out And what was so well done in these books is that there’s no preaching. There’s no finger shaking. There’s no like you should be this way or understand what you’ve done to me, [00:46:00] or you’ve taken advantage of my people.
You know, you’re rich, you’re white, you’re privileged. It doesn’t really, how do I put it? Let me just, let me just read this one excerpt to you. It’s written first person from point of view. And she says, but why should they do anything else? They don’t have any reason to care about us. She’s talking about the parents and the enclaves were not, their children were the other Gazelles, all of us trying to outrun the same pack of lions.
And if we happen to be faster than their children, more powerful, their children will get eaten. If not, while we’re in home here in the skull of mints, when we get out and we decide that we want some of the luxury, they have tucked into those enclaves for ourselves. If we’re too strong, we might even threaten their own lives.
So they shouldn’t care about us. Not until we sign on the dotted line, which you signed these agreements to protect the kid and get them out during graduation. That’s only sensible. You can’t blame people for wanting their own kids to live. I understand. Every last bit of it. And [00:47:00] she’s like, one of the girls who’s on the outside and she’s like an indie kid and she’s also a Desi girl.
And this is like another aspect that comes into it. She talks a little bit about like, she has to go through these dual levels of understanding. Like when she was younger, growing up in England, one girl said that her skin was the color of weak tea and made her feel bad about it. And so she was just starting to understand that there was something wrong with her or that other like white kids thought there was something wrong with her because she was biracial.
And she’s also got to go through this other thing where, you know, now she goes to the scholar mats and since she’s an indie kid and she doesn’t belong to an enclave, And on top of that, she’s really unlikable. Like, so everyone thinks that yeah, she’s Like really harsh. She’s a really abrupt she’s there’s, there’s something creepy about her.
Aileen: as the reader, don’t
Josie: No, you as the reader lover You as the reader lover. So other characters. Don’t like her, there’s something super creepy about her. And what’s super creepy about her. is that she’s and she knows this she’s destined to be this [00:48:00] dark sorceress who destroys the world If she starts using this particular brand of evil magic. So like, if she goes to the dark side and she used uses Malia instead of mana.
So mana is the energy, the life, the magical force that you get by like doing pushups or crochet that really annoys you, or like
and then there’s Malia, which is ill-gotten. So it’s like, if you kill a hamster it’s you can take out it’s Somalia and you can take out its life force.
Alisa: dial their own.
Josie: I know, but this is like on purpose. So you have to like do something evil. And so she’s like this very unsettling woman and she’s beautiful, but she’s beautiful. The way a dark goddess would be beautiful. Everybody’s a little creeped out by her and she does have this power. And her problem is that she can’t do these little spells.
She can only do. So if you ask the scholar, man, it’s like, I need a spell to clean my room. It’ll give you a spell book. Like a spell book will fall out of the void and you have to read all of the spells to get to the one that you want or else, you know, you got to basically read the whole book and the [00:49:00] spells that she gets are, oh, if you want to clean your room, here’s mortal fire.
It will destroy everything with it, like on that. And she’s like, no, I want to clean my room. I don’t want to wipe out everyone on my floor. And like, so those are that’s her problem.
So the book is basically about her. Oh, Ryan lake Orion lake is he’s an enclave boy, but his, the what’s different about him is he’s the only wizard who can get mana out of killing the malefic carrier. So if he kills a monster, he gets their mana and he can put it into a pool and like that the enclave can share. So they have more and more magic and they have more power, but he’s just in it to kill all the malefic area.
So he’s this huge hero who saved literally like a hunt, like 600 kids. By the time they’re juniors in high school, he’s saved her life twice and it pisses her off. This is how the book starts. I decided that Orion needed to die. After the second time he [00:50:00] saved my life. That’s the opening line of the book.
And it’s because the second time he saves her life. There’s a soul leader. that’s climbing into her room and she’s working at her desk and the door’s behind her. And it climbs into her room. He busts into her room, kills the sole leader before she has a chance to do it herself, or even try herself. And the only way that she’s going to make a graduation Alliance is if she proves to everyone that she’s got like hella magic, but she can’t do that.
She can’t prove how great. big and terrible her magic can be because she can’t go and kill another student. And all that she has are these like, yes, you shall destroy multitudes, like with a wave of your hand, like, that’s the kind of spelled it. She gets so she could destroy a multitude of like malefic area or students.
And she doesn’t want to tell the students to prove that she can do it. So every time she tries to like Prove that she’s powerful and that she’s worth being part of one of these alliances that it’s going to help her survive and get out the gates. Friggin Orion lake comes leaping in and kills it before she can get [00:51:00] around to doing it.
And he’s basically screwing up her life. So after this, like, and she does this whole thing with him, it’s hilarious. Cause she does this whole thing with him. She’s like, oh, thank you. Thank you so much for saving my life again. And he’s like, wait, what? Like he’s never had anyone.
Aileen: He’s like the anti prince charming.
Josie: Yeah. And he’s actually kind of really socially awkward too.
He’s like a malefic carrier geek. It’s super cute. I love these two characters it starts off with him sort of like following her around because. First she’s weird. And then he kind of thinks, oh, she’s gotta be a , which is one of the bad witches or wizards who use, Malia, which is like, you have to kill something to get that power. he thinks that she’s a Maleficent, but she only uses mana. Like she never would ever do that or she’d be horrible. And so he starts sitting with her at lunch and stuff and following her around and walking with her places. And like, everybody’s like, what the hell? He’s like the most popular. And she’s like the scariest girl.
[00:52:00] And she’s never had a friend in all of these years. And all of a sudden people are like trying to sit at the same table with them. Because if you sit near Orion lake, you’re probably not going to get eaten by anything. And she’s like, Figure out how to like trade on this. Like, how am I going to get some power out of this?
And it’s really well done in that. She’s like, they’re not dating, but everyone thinks that they’re dating.
The character herself is unintentionally funny. It’s all written first person and she’s just like, awesome.
She’s very prickly and dry, but the moments where she is emotional, it’s very true. It’s like she allows the depth and the vulnerability to come out to. And that’s such a hard line to walk. Um, I can’t say enough good things about it, because for me it was sort of like it’s creative, it’s original.
It’s like the anti Hogwarts. It’s a great idea. It’s unique in its own way, even though we’ve seen like the magical school thing a bunch of times, and it’s done in such a different way, and it’s done with [00:53:00] such social conscience,
Aileen: that’s such a hard thing to do.
Aileen: this world, writing this work of fiction, but having a moral in it, that’s relatable to people and relevant to the world that you’re living in. I mean, not have it sound preachy and not have people be turned off by it, but just having it naturally woven into the story, like that seems really difficult to do.
Josie: And that’s fantasy or storytelling at its best where it holds up a mirror to the world. And it says, I’m not judging you. I’m not telling you, you sh I’m just saying, this is the way it is. And have one of your characters say I’m going to try something different, you know, was wonderful. Just wonderfully written. I would recommend it to anyone. Even people who don’t like fantasy alien. I actually think that you
Aileen: I was gonna say, maybe I’ll read it. You’re kind of convincing me.
Josie: Anyway. All right. I’m going to shut up about of my hero worship for Naomi Novik. So Ayleen
Josie: me your final thoughts on your over jeans and your horny. Punjabi went, no, wait a minute.
Aileen: It’s your [00:54:00] horny and you like good writing. This is the book for you. I mean kind of, if you want a glimpse into a different culture, and if you want to, I don’t know, I have it’s lighthearted, but it really makes you kind of think about the own judgments you make on people and how different people are from what they appear.
And there’s also a little murder mystery thrown in there. There’s some erotica. I mean, there’s, there’s something for everyone
Josie: so that’s erotic stories for Punjabi women. Can you, what was her name again?
Aileen: So it’s erotic stories for Punjabi widows by Bali car just well,
Josie: Cool. Awesome. Alyssa.
Alisa: I read book one, of which is in a trilogy by Deborah Harkness. And I really liked that book. One is all about character development and you really become connected to the character of Diana and Matthew. And guess the theme [00:55:00] is groups of creatures and even though they are very different and they have all these assumptions about each other, that they need to overcome these assumptions and work together.
And you know, these, these boundaries that have been placed on them through stories throughout time, just aren’t real. And the separation of the creatures is something. That doesn’t have to be sustained and that really wonderful relationships can happen between the creatures. And that’s where I think the, the series is headed.
I dunno, I’m on book one.
Josie: And I read a deadly education by Naomi Novik. And takeaway from this is that it’s Brilliantly written a great characters, um, uh, a unique world with it’s a very complicated, but fascinating, magical system that is all very well explained throughout all of it. And it has a lot of commentary about social [00:56:00] and about privilege and it’s commentary that is relatable and accessible to everyone. So it’s not, there’s no judgment in this book. It just feels very natural. And I thought it was fantastic.
Alisa: did a great job.
Aileen: Lauren nailed it.
Josie: Lauren is amazing
Well, that was awesome. Thank you guys so much. That was so much fun to read and reread and reread and so much fun to talk about.
Aileen: throbbing, Abra genes
Aileen: and dead cats and children.
Alisa: no, I wonder this would be a really interesting set of keywords for this episode.
Josie: those will not be the keywords. I can tell you that much. Okay. I’m going to, I’m going to stop recording now Thank you so much for joining us. We will see everyone next week.
Alisa: Next week.
Josie: You’ve been listening to fiction between friends to find the show notes for this episode, or to subscribe and get new episodes delivered automatically. Visit fiction between [00:57:00] friends.com. Also, if you happen to have a moment and you’ve liked what you’ve heard, please help support our podcast by leaving a review on apple podcasts.
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