What’s Ashley Reading?: The King’s Painter

The King’s Painter by Franny Moyle

First line: When Samuel Johnson published his Dictionary of the English Language in 1755, more than two hundred years after Holbein’s death, he understood a biographer to be ‘A writer of lives; a relator not of the history of nations, but of the actions of particular persons.’

Summary: Hans Holbein was the court painter to Henry VIII of England.  But even though he achieved stardom at the English court he started as the son of painter in Augsburg, Germany.  He learned his trade from his father and worked his way up the social ladder with introductions for well-known clients until he reached the height of his career.  Using his talent, he brought the world the best known portraits of the Tudor court including the king himself, his courtiers and several of his wives. 

My Thoughts: I have loved Holbein’s work ever since I became interested in the Tudor period.  His art is beyond his time.  He brings life to his subjects making them almost appear in 3D.  Many of his works survive and there are probably some still to be discovered.  The few that I have seen are outstanding in their detail.

I really enjoyed this look into Holbein’s life.  Before reading this I basically knew his name and his works.  I learned a lot about the time period in which he lived, his rise through friendships with Erasmus and Thomas More, and the lives of painters in the sixteenth century.  I always assumed that someone who worked for the court was well off but many painters struggled to make enough for their families.  There are many rules surrounding the painters’ world including inclusions in guilds and requirements of marriage.  I found this to be a great insight into another world inside the one I already knew from my years of reading Tudor history.

Moyle’s biography can be fairly dense with information but I found it easy to read.  She follows a linear storytelling while she explains the culture and religious tensions of the time and how they affected the young painter. 

The book includes color prints of some of his father’s works (Hans Holbein the Elder), early religious works (Hans Holbein the younger), and his portraits from the royal courts. 

FYI: For fans of art history or the Tudor period.

The Lineup: Anni

Anni’s Lineup

Hobby: Playing piano

Playing piano is one of my favorite hobbies. I have played on and off for about 7 years. I love playing Disney songs like The Colors of the Wind from Pocahontas. I also enjoy playing classical music and one of my favorites is the Moonlight Sonata. I have performed in several places and was part of my former schools’ piano club, serving as vice president.

Television: Psych

The TV show Psych is about 2 best friends who run a psych business. It is a comedy mystery and will make you laugh out loud. I enjoy watching it because it makes me laugh, but also allows for my brain to work by trying to solve the mystery before the actors on screen do.

Available in the KanShare catalog.

Movie: The Princess Bride

My favorite movie is The Princess Bride. I have watched this movie over and over again and memorized half the lines and it never gets old. I love the whole movie, but I like some parts more than others. This movie takes us on an adventure of love, mystery, wonder, and action. Westley, the main character, is off on an adventure to save his beloved from an evil prince. Despite it sounding like an all-around Disney fairy tale it is anything but that. It has blood, sabotage, backstabbing and peoples’ worst fears tied up into one amazing and thrilling movie.

Available in the KanShare catalog.

Book: The False Prince

My favorite book is The False Prince, written by Jennifer A. Neilson. This book is an action packed, thrill giving, hilarious, and mysterious book. It is about several young boys who are being tested to become a false prince. The story goes into depth on how they were trained and life before being kidnapped and forced to train with other boys who all look somewhat similar to each other. We follow the boy who gets picked to be the false prince and see the struggles he faces. This book is fun for any age and I would strongly recommend it to anyone who is stuck on what to read next.

Available in the KanShare catalog and as an ebook or audiobook through the Sunflower eLibrary or Libby app.

Music Genre: Country

I love listening to country because the tune can get stuck in your head but when you need it to go away it does. A few of my favorite country artists are Gabby Barrett, Luke Combs and George Strait. A few of my favorite songs are, I Cross My Heart by George Strait and One of the Good Ones by Gabby Barrett.

Music CDs by George Strait, Gabby Barrett and Luke Combs available in the KanShare catalog. Digital music by George Strait and Gabby Barrett available through Hoopla.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Best Wishes, Warmest Regards

Best Wishes, Warmest Regards by Daniel Levy and Eugene Levy

First line: When we were first approached about putting a book together we asked ourselves the same question that was raised when we first started making Schitt’s Creek over seven years ago: what can we do with this opportunity?

Summary: In this delightful coffee table book the creators of Schitt’s Creek look back on creating and the legacy of this show that took over awards season. It is filled with pictures, character features and insights into episodes.

My Thoughts: I LOVE Schitt’s Creek! But it took me several months of being told about how much I would love it before I started watching. Once I did, I binged it. I have re-watched the show several times, can quote many pieces of the show and have a Christmas ornament with David Rose on it.

This book is not something most people would sit down and read. It is more something to look at the pictures but I read it from front to back. I loved hearing from the cast about their experiences and insights into their characters. Each person brought something different to the show, the town and their characters.

But I think my favorite part was when they showed all of David’s knits and Moira’s wigs. There are so many! And then each was put with a quote from the scene the costumes were used in. I never realized how much thought went into each piece. This gave me a lot of new information about the show. It seems like a good time to re-watch Schitt’s Creek again! Best wishes, warmest regards!

FYI: Very heavy coffee table book but wonderful to look through if you love the Rose family!

Grace’s Book Review: Ghoulia

Ghoulia by Barbara Cantini

First Line: “Ghoulia was no ordinary child.”

Summary: Meet Ghoulia, a young (well, she’s a zombie, so who’s to say how young she actually is) zombie who lives in a spooky old manor with her lively assortment of dead family members. The narration explains how our protagonist passes her days, and some (or most) of the activities are definitely exclusive to members of the undead community. But, as Cantini puts it, “. . . to Ghoulia, her life seemed perfectly normal.” While spooks abound at home, the scariest obstacle Ghoulia faces is making friends with the living and breathing children who live in the nearby village.

I won’t spoil the ending, but I definitely recommend checking this one out! I enjoy reading younger grade fiction, so I can better recommend stories for the kids who come by to ask for recommendations, and while this book is definitely aimed at kids who are ages 6-8, it can be a fun and quick read if you’re a grown up, too!

My Thoughts: This is a book for anyone who’s ever felt a little different (which, I think, is probably everyone). At one point, Ghoulia plays dress up, and she disguises herself as a living, human child. You can take this story literally, and watch as a lonely zombie tries to find friends, and still enjoy the story. But if you look at Ghoulia long enough, you’ll start to see yourself, and the wonderful part is, nearly anyone can relate to her, even if you’re not a member of the undead community (although many of us are before coffee). Whatever part of you that makes you feel so different from other people, that’s the Ghoulia side of you, and it’s something we all share. Maybe when you see Ghoulia, you won’t relate to her now, but you’ll remember when you did. Maybe you’ll remember how you felt after someone you loved hurt you and how you had to learn to trust that people can be kind. Maybe you’ll remember how you felt in high school or middle school, or whenever you were most unsure about what would happen if someone met “the real you.”  I know there are so many, but I love books that teach kids it’s okay to just be yourself. It’s a trope that I’ll never tire of, honestly.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Gilded

Gilded by Marissa Meyer

First line: All right. I will tell you the tale, how it happened in truth.

Summary: Years ago a miller wished to marry a beautiful maiden. He asked the old gods to grant him this wish. When it was granted they also bestowed a gift on the couple’s child. She would be able to tell stories so fantastical that fascinated and awed her audiences. But they were also not true.

Years later, Serilda, the child of the miller catches the attention of the feared Erlking and his wild hunt. She tells a story of her ability to spin straw into gold thread. Fascinated by her the king kidnaps her on the full moon and makes her spin or lose her life. Unfortunately, Serilda cannot actually spin straw into gold but as she worries for her life a ghost appears to her in the castle who claims he can do the task but for a price.

As the months progress, Serilda is sure that the king will find out. However, an unexpected twist happens when Serilda starts to fall in love with her mysterious helper but she knows that not everything in the enchanted castle is as it appears.

My Thoughts: I was really excited to see that Marissa Meyer was once again doing a fairy tale retelling. I loved her Cinder series. The premise, the cover and the setting all appealed to me. I knew that this would be a book I would love. I wish I was right. I did like it and most likely will read the next one but the middle was just too long. I loved the beginning. And the end was very dark and twisty. But the middle stretched out for far too long. It seemed rather repetitive.

I enjoyed Serilda’s character. Her stories were interesting. I would read just a bunch of her short stories. But when she starts to fall for Gild I felt that it was a little forced. I did not really feel the chemistry between them until near the end as some of the pieces started falling into place for the lead up to the sequel.

The ending was really dark. Much more so than Meyer’s other books. But this may be a homage to the original authors of the story of Rumpelstiltskin by the Brothers Grimm. I will be interested to see where Meyer goes in the next book with Serilda’s story.

FYI: Trigger warning: death of children.

The Lineup: Alyssa

Alyssa’s Lineup

Music: El Mal Querer by Rosalia

Fun fact about me; I love Latin and Hispanic culture. I grew up in Houston, Texas where I listened to Selena’s live concert from the Astrodome on repeat and ate as many tacos and sopapillas as I could get my little hands on. That love has now manifested into a Frida Kahlo tattoo and an obsession with authors like Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Isabel Allende.

When I discovered Rosalia early this year, I knew she would be the soundtrack of my 2021. This Spanish album is phenomenal. Rosalia is a musician from Spain who incorporates traditional flamenco with urban rhythms to create a unique sound. The album is inspired by a 13th century novel about a woman who overcomes an abusive marriage. Even if you can’t understand a word that Rosalia sings, both her vocals and the production will pull you in.

I recommend starting with “Malamente,” “Que No Salga La Luna” and “De Aqui No Sales” 

Book: Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls by Kaela Rivera

On the topic of Latin and Hispanic culture, this middle grade novel is a fantastical journey into the world of Mexican mythology. Having been raised in neighborhoods where local women would warn me of the ghostly La Llorona, I’ve always been fascinated by the mythos of Mesoamerica, and this book captures just that.

Cece Rios lives in Tierra del Sol, a desert plagued by vengeful spirits or criaturas. While Cece’s town try to scare off the criaturas, Cece feels they might not be as dangerous as others think. But when her sister is kidnapped by El Sombreron, she teams up with the legendary Coyote to enter a dark and dangerous world.

The characters, writing, and plot are all exceptional, and I was so immersed in the supernatural world. Also, if you are looking for the same vibe in TV form, check out Victor and Valentino here at the library or on Cartoon Network or HBO Max!

TV: Dopesick

This eight-part miniseries on Hulu about Oxycotin is addictive. If you are into court dramas, mental health/health care, stories of addiction, or the insanity that is the pharmaceutical industry, I highly recommend this show, inspired by the non-fiction novel of the same name. It’s not easy to watch at times, but it’s told with such high production and performance quality and with a sincere reverence to those impacted by OxyContin in the early 2000s.

The series gives you all perspectives; members of the pharm company, a sales rep, a doctor, a patient, a DEA agent, and the lawyers who brought a case against the drug. Michael Keaton, Rosario Dawson, and Peter Sarsgaard have lead roles.

Interestingly, my mother worked as a hospital phlebotomist around the time of the drug’s release when I was about ten years old, and I remember her having pens and notepads with its logo. Never would I have imagined the scandal and deception behind it.

Company: Les Mills

Fitness has been a consistent part of my life for nearly four years. I box with Evolution Fitness Studios in Wichita (which I highly recommend), but when COVID hit last year, I had to find something else to keep both my physical and mental health intact. I stumbled upon this video on YouTube and fell in love with the New Zealand-based company called Les Mills.

I use Les Mills Plus, an on-demand subscription where I follow along with videos taught by instructors from all over the world. Les Mills has so many different programs including weight training (Body Pump), HIIT (Grit), shadowboxing (Body Combat), dance (Sh’Bam), cycling (RPM) and more.

I follow Body Pump and Grit Cardio to supplement my boxing work.

The workouts can be tough, but they’ve pushed my fitness level in a whole new way. The instructors are motivating and helpful too. If you are hesitant to get into a gym or you are looking for something new, I recommend giving Les Mills a try.

Terese’s Thoughts: The Farm

The Farm by Tom Rob Smith

First Line: Until that phone call it had been an ordinary day.

Summary: The book begins with the protagonist Daniel getting a call from his father telling him that Daniel’s mother is unwell and has been losing her grip on reality. Daniel is in his mid-twenties and living with his boyfriend in London. Daniel’s mother is Swedish but had been living in the U.K. since she was a teenager. She and Daniel’s father sold their landscaping company a couple years prior and bought a rundown farmhouse in rural Sweden, planning to spend their retirement fixing up the place and living off the land.

Daniel is shocked by his father’s news, since he has always known his mother to be practical and down-to-earth. Before Daniel catches his plane for Sweden, his mother shows up at the airport in London. She is disheveled and gaunt, a noticeable change from her usual clean and tidy appearance. She tells Daniel his father has concocted the entire story of her erratic behavior, that she is in fact very sane, and that Daniel’s father and others from their village in Sweden are trying to get her committed to an asylum so she won’t reveal what they have done. She claims she has evidence in the leather bag she clutches and insists they go somewhere safe to talk.

The remainder of the book is his mom telling the story of their time in Sweden leading up to her arrival in London, carefully revealing her evidence as she goes. As Daniel listens and tries to determine whose version of events is real, he also learns more about his parents and the complexities of their lives. And he reveals more of who he is to his mom, if somewhat anxiously. He grapples with discovering that the narrative of his upbringing he has always told himself does not match what his mother recounts for him. In the end, he must make a decision about who to believe: his mom or his dad.

My Thoughts: This is a really fun read. I could hardly put the book down—I needed to hear more of Daniel’s mom’s story about the insular Swedish village and the cast of characters who lived there. The pacing of the story is perfect. His mom reveals events slowly, dropping hints as she goes. I couldn’t wait to find out what had happened (according to his mom). It also brings up interesting questions about the subjectivity of truth and reality. And of course as the reader, you ask yourself what you would do in the same situation. It is not an enviable dilemma Daniel faces, and as he tries to figure out which one of his parents to trust, the reader tries as well. 

What’s Ashley Reading?: When Women Ruled the World

When Women Ruled the World by Maureen Quilligan

First line: In 1558, when John Knox, the radical Scottish religious reformer, published his misogynist tract, The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, he called attention to what was strangely true in the middle of the sixteenth century in Europe: a remarkable number of women had ascended to supreme governmental power.

Summary: During the sixteenth century four women ruled over some of the most powerful countries in the world; Mary I and Elizabeth I in England, Mary Queen of Scots and Catherine de Medici in France. In this book the author looks how they interacted and changed the countries they ruled over.

My Thoughts: I love the history of the sixteenth century. I have read much on Elizabeth I but a lot less on the other three women. It was interesting to hear how they communicated, worked together and supported each other. Even though the ends of the two Marys was tragic they made their marks on history. I really want to know more about Catherine de Medici. She is someone who seems to be misrepresented in many historical fiction and movies.

FYI: Good introduction to each woman and how they came to be in their positions.

*Can be found in audio format on Hoopla or in book through Interlibrary Loan.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Violinist of Venice

The Violinist of Venice by Alyssa Palombo

First line: The gondola sliced silently through the dark water of the canal.

Summary: Adriana d’Amato has spent years of her life sequestered in her family’s palazzo in Venice. Ever since her mother died she has not been allowed to study the violin or music of any kind. But daringly she sneaks out of the palazzo to find the renowned violinist, Antonio Vivaldi, in the hopes of private lessons. When he agrees to her request she thinks that the only rule she is breaking is practicing violin until she starts to fall for her maestro.

My Thoughts: I finally got around to reading Palombo’s first book and the only one I haven’t read yet. It was just as beautiful as the rest of her works. She creates interesting storylines with fantastic historical characters. Venice nearly becomes a character of its own in this story. With its own charming traits such as Carnavale, the gondolas and the romance of an Italian city on the water, it is easy to get swept up in Adriana’s story.

canal in Venice (2006)

I visited Venice in 2006. Many of the places Adriana visits are vivid in my memory. Venice is a beautiful town filled with history and beauty.

Normally I do not read romance novels but this is a perfect mix between historical fiction and romance. I was frustrated with several of the choices made by Adriana but needing to know the outcomes kept me reading. As a reader I felt for her plight. Life for a wealthy merchant’s daughter could be easy but also had its challenges. I think many readers, myself included, believe that to live in these times would be wonderful. The gorgeous dresses, parties and life without much of the drama we have today. But historical fiction can do a great job of dulling these dreams when you see how women were treated or restricted in their lives. Palombo did a great job portraying this through Adriana’s life.

I know very little about Vivaldi, so this was a great introduction to the musical genius. Plus it also fulfilled a requirement for the Dia de los Muertos read-a-thon!

FYI: Some more adult scenes.

The Lineup: Hannah

Hannah’s Lineup

YouTube: Good Mythical Morning

Is there anything better than watching two grown men who have been best friends literally their entire lives be creative, silly, and ridiculous together? Nope. Good Mythical Morning is one of the longest running YouTube channels and for good reason. Rhett & Link have created a brand that I love. Their show is feel-good, laughter-inducing, usually-wholesome good stuff.

Available here: https://www.youtube.com/goodmythicalmorning

Podcast: Ronstadt

I usually listen to podcasts about running or Rhett & Link’s podcast Ear Biscuits, so this was a new adventure for me. Ronstadt stars Rhett and Link. It is scripted and uses immersive audio. The story line is great for this time of year…action-packed, a little scary, with a touch of mystery. It reminded me of old books on tape that I used to listen to as a child. The immersive audio can be a bit intense. I was listening to it while doing yard work outside and got spooked and truly believed someone was right behind me!

Game: Pokemon Go

Yep…people still play this game. And to be honest, it’s better than it was in the beginning. During the school and work shut down last year, my family started playing it anew. We had a route around our neighborhood mapped out where we could hit up at least a dozen pokestops and 4 gyms. It got us outside and kept us sane together.

Check it out here: https://pokemongolive.com/en/

Book: Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer

I read these books shortly before the Netflix movie came out. In true librarian fashion, I believe the books to be superior. The story is a fun twist on the Sherlock Holmes universe with the addition of a much younger sister who shares the Holmes affinity for mystery and crime solving. There are seven books in total with more potentially on the horizon. The popularity of the movie invited Springer to write the seventh book after an 11-year hiatus from the series.

Available in our KanShare catalog, the Sunflower eLibrary or Libby app

Hobbies: Fall Running

Fall running has to be just about my favorite thing in the entire world. The cool mornings are perfect for picking up the pace and enjoying the peace and quiet before the start of a busy day. There are several free apps you can use to track runs. I typically wear a Garmin, but MapMyRun and Strava are good free options.