What’s Ashley Reading?: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

We recently added a new service called Hoopla!  It is a website/app that patrons can use to check out ebooks, audiobooks, TV shows, movies and music on their devices.  Each patron is allowed eight items a month.  The items range from new and popular to the classics.

I have started to play around with it a little bit.  I like that there are a wide variety of books, old Disney movies, British TV shows and soundtracks available.  I recently realized that I can even add the app to my Fire Stick and stream the movies on my TV!  How cool is that?!

One of the features I found most intriguing even though I do not read a lot in the genre is graphic novels.  The site has a very good selection.  While enjoying the story the reader can hover their mouse over the images to enlarge them (because sometimes that print is very small). This also helps when looking at the artwork and seeing more of the details.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Robert Aguirre-Sacasa

Summary: Sabrina Spellman, a teenage witch is the daughter of a mortal and a warlock. On the eve of her sixteenth birthday she has to make the decision to join the Church of Night. She is currently living with her two maiden aunties in a funeral home.

Highlights: I picked this as one of my first items to check out from Hoopla. I had recently watched the new Netflix series based on the graphic novel and I watched the original TV show as a teenager. I enjoyed the stories in the first volume. They are very dark! The art work is very interesting.  I never read the Archie comics (which these are a spinoff of) but several characters from their universe appear in the Sabrina stories.

So if you are expecting the nice and bright Melissa Joan Hart version this is not it. Salem, the cat, is still here as well as her aunts, Hilda and Zelda, but after that everything is different.

Lowlights: Since graphic novels are more centered around the art work the stories are much shorter. I wanted a little more story but I guess I will just have to check out volume 2 for that.

FYI: There is very dark themes and imagery.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Becoming

Did you know that you can pick up voter registration forms and applications for advance voting ballots here at the library?  The elections are over but the forms are available all year round.  Just ask at the front desk. 

I do not follow politics very closely but I know that it is important to vote.  No matter who you are voting for it is your right and a way to help serve your country.

Michelle Obama, former First Lady of the United States, in her recent best selling book gives us a peek into her life in and out of the White House.  One of my favorite parts was that she focused on herself and her family rather than politics.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

First line: When I was a kid, my aspirations were simple.

Summary: In her memoir, former First Lady Michelle Obama tells her story from her childhood in the south side of Chicago to her years living in the White House. It is filled with stories of her family, career, and her life in the public eye.

Highlights: I absolutely loved this. The cover is beautiful. Her story is inspirational. Other reviewers have stated that it felt like having a conversation with a close friend. I felt the same way. I listened to the audiobook version where Michelle reads it herself. She is very open about her life.

I enjoyed hearing her stories of her family life in Chicago. I learned so much about her inside these pages. I knew very little about her. I do not follow a lot of politics. That was not my motivation behind reading this. I genuinely just wanted to hear her story. I am awed by her life. She grew up in an environment that is completely foreign to me. She is an intelligent and driven woman. It really shows that you can go from very poor beginnings to becoming one of the most recognizable women in the world.

Some of my favorite parts were her years in the White House. Upon one of their first visits to the Presidential home the Bush sisters showed them around and pointed out the fun parts of the mansion. As part of her role as First Lady she takes on several causes to support. She discusses her goals to help children around the country. The initiative to bring healthier meals to schools started with her own child. Michelle ended up starting a vegetable garden on the lawn of the White House. Local school children came in to help plant and take care of it.

No matter which side of the political universe you are on this book is about a woman. A woman who set goals for herself and achieved them.

“And here is what I have to say, finally: Let’s invite one another in.  Maybe then we can begin to fear less, to make fewer wrong assumptions, to let go of the biases and stereotypes that unnecessarily divide us.  Maybe we can better embrace the ways we are the same.”

Lowlights: Nothing.

FYI: Listen to the audiobook. It is 19 hours but it is worth it.  We do not have a hard copy at the moment but you can find it on Sunflower eLibrary and RBDigital. But you also need to see the pictures so grab a copy of the book as well.  If you enjoyed this, check out Sisters First by Barbara Bush and Jenna Bush Hager.

The Dreaded Reading Slump

Lovely library patrons, I must confess something absolutely atrocious. I have been in a reading slump. I can feel you clutching your pearls as you read those miserable words. As readers, we delight in the stories, the characters, and the magic of a book, but sometimes, our minds turn dreary and our attention spans rival that of a two-year old. Sometimes, we just don’t want to read.

This slump couldn’t have attacked at the worst possible time. With only a month left in 2018, I’m seeing my goal of reading 100 books for the year drifting further and further away. It’s a shameful thing, but I am determined to break this slump and return to the hours curled up with a world in my lap. Here are five tips to ease this burden if you find yourself sitting with the slump monster.

  1. Don’t Read.

How can I say such things?! Have I betrayed my clan of librarians and forever ruined our good name? No, because frankly, we’ve all been there. Reading should be fun. It’s a hobby, a leisure activity, and just like sometimes you get tired of sewing or scrapbooking, you can get tired of reading. It doesn’t mean the love of it has left. It’s just taking a vacation. So take a vacation too. Don’t force yourself to read. Binge watch that Netflix show, take walks with your family, start up a new exercise or just stare blankly at the wall. A part of you is telling yourself that you need something whether it’s rest or re-connection. Instead of pushing that away, listen to it and soon, you’ll find yourself craving a book.

  1. Make It Social

Reading is primarily a solo activity, and that can make isolating. To get out of a slump, try mixing it up by adding others to your experience. Join a book club (we have some awesome ones) or even read a book informally with a friend. I’m currently reading a book recommended by one of my good friends who heard about it through Reese Witherspoon’s book club. Once I finish it, we’ll meet up to discuss!

  1. Start Small

When the slump monster shows up, it’s not the time to bust out Anna Karenina. It’s the time to give your brain a little breather with a shorter work. Try reading a book that’s less than 100 pages or something light in content. Remember, it’s perfectly acceptable for grown-ups to read middle grade and kid’s fiction! Also feel free to give poetry a try. There’s a pretty awesome collection of poetry books to download on Hoopla!

  1. Read a Favorite

Why visit something unknown when you could return to a world you know and love! A reading slump is the perfect time to revisit an old favorite story from childhood or your favorite book from a few years ago. You’ll gain something new from your current perspective, and it might be just the push you need to get you back on track.

  1. Mix It Up

Seeing your reading slump as an opportunity instead of an opposition can be a helpful shift. Try diving into a genre you would have never explored before or an author that you’ve heard a lot about but never given a chance. Also use this time to mix up the way that you consume stories. Download an audio book or give e-books a try. You might even want to read a play or script. It all counts, and it all can help in moving you forward.

 

No matter what you do, remember that reading slumps aren’t forever. A book will come along and re-spark your interest or time will pass and you’ll find yourself reaching out for a great story!

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Tattooist of Auschwitz

History has been my favorite subject since middle school.  I loved the stories of people’s lives and how they shaped the world we live in today.  I read a lot of historical fiction novels.  When I was younger my interest was on World War II and the Holocaust.  It was and is hard to imagine what happened and reading about it helped me to understand it better.

We have some wonderful databases that are useful when studying history.  It covers world and American history.  There are links to articles and journals that are helpful for writing research papers.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

First line: Lale tries not to look up.

Summary: Based on the true story of Lale Sokolov, a Jew from Slovakia, who spent several years in Auschwitz as the Tatowierer. His job was to tattoo the numbers onto the arms of all incoming inmates. He witnesses shocking things every day. It is hard to imagine a happy world after the atrocities of the camp. When he meets a young woman, Gita, he uses his influence to keep her alive and safe.

Highlights: This story is heartbreaking but also beautiful. Lale is put in the most terrifying place but somehow keeps his spirits up in hopes of a brighter future. He learns quickly how to navigate life in Auschwitz. He “befriends” an officer who gives him news of the camp. The job of tattooist is a stroke of luck bringing him privileges which he uses to help out his fellow inmates. He was a good and honest man who did much to keep people alive and strong. It shows how being kind can lead to good things. I love his relationship with Gita. Even in such a horrible place he found the love of his life.

The writing was very simple but the story is powerful. It is shocking to hear the stories of survivors of such a place. I cannot even imagine living through those conditions. Read the author’s notes at the end where she discusses the interviews over years where Lale told his story.

Lowlights: Like I said before the writing is very simple. Sometimes it seemed a little choppy but if you can get past that the story is well worth the read.

FYI: If you found this interesting then check out The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Other Woman

There are so many good book clubs out there!  We have 3 here at the library.  Joyful Page Turners, our longest running book club.  Bemused Bibliophiles, our hot and popular book club.  And last but not least, Hauntingly Good Reads, our paranormal book club. I love to see how each club is expanding, adding new members and picks a wide variety of books.

It is great that we have options but sometimes it is not always easy to make it to a meeting.  Or you are an introvert who likes to read but not talk.  I have found several online book clubs that I like to follow.  I read the book and can chat on websites like Goodreads.com about my thoughts without leaving home.  The most recent one I have checked out is Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine book club.  Her book for November is The Other Woman by Sandie Jones.

The Other Woman by Sandie Jones

First line: She looks beautiful in her wedding dress.

Summary: Emily thinks she has found the perfect man in Adam. He is handsome and smart. However, she has a rival. His mother, Pammie, is determined to keep Emily and Adam apart. Will Emily be able survive a mother’s love?

Highlights: Debut author, Sandie Jones, brings us a psychological thriller with the mother-in-law from hell! Emily meets the man of her dreams and everything seems perfect until she meets his mother. I immediately hated Pammie. She was terrible to Emily in every interaction. She was so smooth about everything. However, the closeness of Adam and Pammie seemed almost too close. I started to doubt my theories after each interaction. I was a little surprised by the ending. It was one of the options I had considered but it was still shocking to read it.

Lowlights: I kept getting mad at Emily too. Is he really worth all this mental torture from his mother? She keeps sticking around and taking it. Why? I did like it when she tried to stand up for herself rather than just letting it go.

FYI: Did you like this?  Try Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris for something similar!

Lit Pairings – The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jump-start her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late ’80s and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds – revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love – Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

This book was so readable, and deliciously yummy! Reid has a great talent for writing likable characters, and that makes it impossible to put her book down. I have yet to hear from someone who read this and didn’t really enjoy it. So if you find yourself in one of those horrible reading slump this books will pull you out. And if you aren’t in a reading slump you should still dive into this one. You won’t be sorry!!

Now for the food. This book let me indulge in one of my favorite genres of eating, the old school steak house meal! Did you mouth just water thinking about it, because mine did! First we’re going to start with a Wedge Salad, because that’s just what you do! This one is from Ina (who else?) and it’s of course wonderful. Then I want a big beastly Butter-Basted Rib Eye Steak. This time of year I find myself pan searing steaks more then grilling. So to do this right you absolutely must have a cast iron skillet! If you don’t have one 1. Why not? 2. Go get one ASAP! You can find them anywhere from Walmart to Williams-Sonoma. It will live forever and you can pass it down to your children! Ok, I’m done with my rant. Now we’re going to follow up that steak with a baked potato. I’m not going to give you a recipe for this I’m just going to tell you a life changing way to make baked potatoes. Rub those taters with a little olive oil and then roll them in coarse kosher salt and dried rosemary. Put them on a baking sheet in a 450 oven until you can squeeze them and they feel soft inside 50 mins. to an hour depending on the size of the potato. When these are done they will have a crazy crispy skin that makes me cry tears of joy just thinking about it. Pair this with a nice drinkable Pinot Noir and you’ve got yourself an amazing dinner.

In the words of Julia Child bon appetit!

 

What’s Ashley Reading?: An Assassin’s Guide to Love and Treason

Some of the classics are hard to read.  Either we do not understand the language or the story is not as fast paced as the latest thriller.  However, there are so many great things about them.  They have survived the times.  The stories still speak to readers today.  One of greatest is the bard, William Shakespeare.  I read several plays during high school English, my favorite being Hamlet.  Do you have trouble with Shakespeare?  Trust me sometimes I do too.  Check out Alyssa’s blog post about her recent interest in the works of Shakespeare.

An Assassin’s Guide to Love and Treason by Virginia Boecker

First line: It is not the usual interrogation.

Summary: When Katherine’s father is killed in front of her she vows that she is going to take revenge on the person responsible, Queen Elizabeth I. She travels to London dressed as a boy to meet with fellow Catholic conspirators to hatch a plan to kill the Protestant queen. Toby, an agent of the queen, is on the lookout for any assassination plots. When he teams up with William Shakespeare and his company of players, he sets a trap for the would-be assassins. However, Katherine and Toby are drawn to each other complicating both of their missions.

Highlights: Assassination plots and William Shakespeare?! Yes please! I found the story to be lots of fun from the very beginning. I enjoyed both of the main characters. Katherine is a strong willed young girl who is determined to avenge her father. Toby is a heartbroken playwright working as a spy for the queen. I loved watching Katherine throwing off her inhibitions as she took on the role of a man. She gets to see things that women would not be privy to normally. As their relationship progresses I got more and more nervous about how the story would end. This story was fit for Shakespeare with the mistaken identities, daring murder attempts and tragic love.

Lowlights: I would have loved more Shakespeare. Any time he entered the story it became even better! His patron even mentioned how he liked to make up words, which he does throughout the story. Such a nice little historical tidbit to add into the dialog.

FYI: Perfect for fans of A Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Marilla of Green Gables

As a kid I remember walking the one block down to our local library.  My sister and I would spend hours every week browsing the shelves and picking up more items.  One of my favorite items was Anne of Green Gables starring Megan Follows.  Anne was so imaginative and fun.  I wanted to be her or at least be her best friend.  I watched the VHS all the time.  I was so happy when I started working here that we have a copy on DVD, which I have checked out multiple times.

When I saw that there was going to be a “prequel” to the Anne novels, delving into the girlhood of Marilla Cuthbert, I was immediately interested.  I needed to read this!  I hope that if you love Anne as much as I do that you will enjoy this look into life at Green Gables.

Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy

First line: It’d been a rain-chilled May that felt more winter than spring.

Summary: Before Anne there was Marilla of Green Gables. Marilla is an intelligent and strong willed young woman. She is just starting to venture into adulthood and a budding relationship with the handsome, John Blythe. When her mother dies in childbirth Marilla is left as the matriarch of the Cuthbert home. Even with her new responsibilities, Marilla ventures forth into the world and sees that there is more than just Avonlea.

Highlights: I recently read the books for the first time and enjoyed following Anne through her imaginative life.  McCoy’s book is a perfect companion to the original story. We get to know Marilla in a completely new way. She was young and was in love. I remember hearing Marilla talk about how John Blythe was her beau, which always made me wonder what happened. I am so happy that I was able to take a look into her past.

The writing was very well done. The author stayed true to the times and added little details to flesh out the Cuthbert’s lives on Prince Edward Island. I never realized how much Canada was involved in the Underground Railroad and the path to freedom for so many escaped slaves. As a narrative and a historical fiction book, this is a fantastic read!

Lowlights: It was so short! I could have read so much more in this world. Maybe it is time to revisit Anne and Gilbert?

FYI: Perfect for fans of Anne of Green Gables!

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Kennedy Debutante

Learning about the lives of important figures in history is just fascinating.  Over the years I have started picking up more biographies because of my love of historical fiction.  Nonfiction has a bad reputation as boring.  This is not always the case.  Many nonfiction books now are reading almost like fiction.  They flow well and tell a great story.  I laughed out loud while listening to Tina Fey read her biography, Bossypants!  I was shocked while reading, A Stolen Life, by Jaycee Dugard.  I cannot wait to listen to the upcoming autobiography, Becoming, by former first lady, Michelle Obama.  Everyone has a story to tell.  Browse through our biographies (92s and 920s) and see what catches your eye.

The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher

First line: Presentation day.

Summary: In her debut novel, author Kerri Maher introduces us to Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy. She is the second oldest daughter of Ambassador Joe Kennedy Sr. While living in London Kick does everything a good debutante is supposed to do. She attends balls, is presented to the King and socializes with the aristocracy. However, she wants something more. When she meets Billy Hartington, the heir to the dukedom of Cavendish, she finds what she has been looking for. Their dreams are derailed when Hitler invades Poland and Kick is sent back to the United States. She becomes even more determined to return to England and the man she loves even if it means defying her family and her religion.

Highlights: A fantastic example of biographical fiction! Everyone in the U.S. has grown up hearing about John F. Kennedy and his family. However, I had never heard of his sister, Kathleen. I was fascinated by her story. She was a young debutante who was practically American royalty. She lived in England and fell in love with the heir to a dukedom. Her life though was not perfect. She had many struggles in her life.

My heart broke for her when her family and society were against her relationship because she was Catholic and he was Protestant. The author does a great job of bringing her confusion and inner battles to the reader. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for her to make a choice between the man she loved and her family. I liked this look into the life of the Kennedys. Her parents were very strong willed and wanted their children to achieve great success, which several of them reached. Kick became the rebellious one who followed her heart.

“At the end, she said, ‘I just don’t know what to do.  It’s all mixed up in my head–my mother, my father, his mother, his father, my religion, his religion, my heart.  I don’t know what to listen to.  None of them agree.'”

I was nearly in tears (which rarely happens) while finishing this book. The family became so real on the pages and their heartbreaks became mine as well. This was wonderfully researched and written. I cannot wait to see what Kerri Maher writes next!

Lowlights: While I appreciated the insight into Kick’s years of separation from Billy and the personal struggle to come to terms with what life with him would entail, I felt that it stretched out a little too much. For several chapters we watch as she continues to debate and think about her choices. I felt that this made us understand how important it was but at the same time, it slowed the plot down.

FYI: If you love the Kennedys or World War II historical fiction than I would highly recommend this!

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

There are many different versions of Frankenstein.  They range from the classic film with Boris Karloff to hilarious Young Frankenstein starring Gene Wilder.  It has been 200 years since his first appearance.   What fascinates us with this monster? 

On a trip to Germany in 2002, my family and our German family visited Frankenstein Castle outside of Darmstadt, Germany.  Even though it is not the actual home of the monster it is still very formidable.  I could easily picture the Gothic tale happening in the ruins.

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White

First line: Lightning clawed across the sky, tracing veins through the clouds and marking the pulse of the universe itself.

Summary: In this retelling of Mary Shelley’s classic novel, Frankenstein, we see the story unfold through the eyes of the Frankenstein family’s ward, Elizabeth. She is brought to Frankenstein manor as a playmate and helper to the strange eldest son, Victor. As they grow up the two become dependent on each other. However, when Victor disappears with no word, Elizabeth must search for him and bring him home. When she finally finds Victor, she learns the truth of what he has been doing those many months he has been gone. She has kept his secrets for years but can she keep this one?

Highlights: Kiersten White did a great job of fleshing out the story and adding to the original. I think that she made it even darker than the original. Which I really loved. I liked the character of Elizabeth. She was secretive, cunning and not shocked by the things that Victor did. For a woman of the time she relied on the men in her life. She tried to guarantee that she would be taken care of by any means necessary.

Lowlights: I read Frankenstein several years ago and was not as impressed as I had wanted to be. I love to read classics. I love Dickens and Stoker. I listened to the audio version and it was rather slow moving for the first two thirds. There is more description and little conversation. The last third was more engaging and fast paced. I would recommend reading this one instead of listening to the audio.

FYI: If you love Frankenstein then you should read this!