What’s Ashley Reading?: Lady in Waiting

Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner

First line: One morning at the beginning of 2019, when I was in my London flat, the telephone rang.

Summary: Lady Anne Glenconner, lady in waiting to Princess Margaret, led a spectacular life. She lived through the Second World War, carried the train of Queen Elizabeth at her coronation and married to an eccentric aristocrat. In her memoir she takes us behind the scenes of important events in the British monarchy and her life. She has many ups and downs but stays strong through them all.

My Thoughts: After watching The Crown I have become fascinated by Princess Margaret. I knew very little about her but came to love her wild side and the way she stirred up the monarchy. When I saw Lady Glenconner’s book on Netgalley I immediately had to request it.

The writing is very simple. It is almost like having a conversation with the woman herself. It flows so easily and is a lot of fun to read. You can feel her emotions as you read along. I loved hearing her memories about life with the royal princesses. I was shocked as she discussed her marriage. Her husband sounds like a very difficult man to be around but that she stuck it out shows her devotion and will to commit to her promises.

I loved looking for pictures as I was reading. And I found the pictures at the end delightful. It was nice to put faces to the names. Mustique looks like paradise. I have never visited the Caribbean but this definitely makes me want to take a trip.

The one thing I was missing was more insights into the lives of the Queen and Margaret. They appear and play important parts in her story but I expected more from reading the blurb.

FYI: If you love The Crown then this is a good follow up read.

Read-A-Thon to the Rescue

It’s a weird time right now. We’re cancelling plans and trying to stay informed, but we’re all unsure about what the future holds. What we do know is that staying home is one of the safest things we can do to minimize our exposure to this virus. If you’re someone who loves to read or has wanted to get back into reading, this time at home could be an opportunity for you to dive into that stack of stories sitting on your bedside.

But do you want to make it interesting? Perhaps try some reading challenges that could get you metaphorically one step closer to becoming a witch or wizard of the beloved Harry Potter world?

The 3rd Annual OWLS Read-a-thon is here, lasting from April 1st to April 30th. I previously covered this read-a-thon in another blog post that I’ll link here, but in essence, it’s a month-long challenge to read books that would align with Hogwarts school subjects. If you “pass” certain subjects, you’ll be able to work in specified wizarding world professions like an auror, a professor, a curse breaker, or Ministry of Magic member.  

The creator of this read-a-thon, TheBookRoast, has gone above and beyond this year for an even more interesting challenge. She’s added additional workshops and trainings and is also hosting a number of Harry Potter-related activities online.

So what are my professional goals this year as a Hogwarts student? When I saw the new Merpeople Linguistics course, I knew that I would definitely want to work in International Relations with Merpeople. I’ll be focusing on earning both a Magizoologist and a Herbologist career with a possible Ministry of Magic credit if I have time. I was definitely an overachiever in muggle school so of course I’d be Hermione-level studious at Hogwarts.

Here’s my tentative OWLS Exam Schedule:

  • Ancient Runes: Sacred Heart by Liz Suburbia (getting this on Hoopla!)
  • Care of Magical Creatures: My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
  • Herbology: A Monster Like Me by Wendy Swore
  • Potions: Arthur and the Golden Rope by Joe Todd – Stanton
  • Defense Against the Dark Arts: Seafire by Natalie C. Parker
  • Charms: The Crooked House by Agatha Christie (my edition has a white cover)
  • Divination: Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

Since the library will be closing its services until further notice, it may be difficult to find physical books to fit your challenges, but don’t forget that all of our online services including Sunflower E-Library and Hoopla will be available for you to use.

I hope you join in on the OWLS Read-a-thon this year and get to add a little magic to your life!

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Return

The Return by Rachel Harrison

First line: “What do you mean she’s missing?”

Summary: When one of their friends goes missing they are all shocked but Elise does not believe that Julie is dead. Even after a year and a funeral she still holds out hope that she will return. Then suddenly after two years she reappears with no memory of what happened to her.

In the hopes of learning what happened and reconnecting the friends decide to get together for a long weekend in a swanky new hotel in the mountains. Upon arrival they notice that something is wrong with Julie. She looks different. She acts different. But no one wants to bring up these changes. As the weekend continues Elise starts noticing strange happenings around the hotel. She cannot decide if it’s her imagination or something truly odd is occurring.

My Thoughts: I do not know how to feel about this book. I like it but something is not sitting well with me too. At the beginning I compared it to The Shining and Pet Sematary but as the story progressed it verged away from this. I liked the little hints of creepiness. I loved the strange hotel. But the ending was just not what I expected. It became more gory than spooky. And the final chapter was just kinda dumb.

The characters were a little bland. I liked Elise. I could relate to her. But I got two of the friends constantly confused and the fact that their names both start with M made it even more confusing.

FYI: A good start for a debut author.

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring! Bringing the Library to Your House

Next week is Spring Break but the weather forecast is filled with rain and gloom. Sometimes getting out into the rain is just to much when you have a houseful of little ones. We’ve got you covered! There are plenty offerings from the library that you can use in the comfort of your home to help keep those kiddo’s and yourself occupied.

Holds

You can put our physical books, dvd’s, video games, audiobooks, and our Grow-a-Reader packs on hold using our website. Log in using your library card number and PIN, pick out anything that strikes your fancy and then place it on hold. Our librarian’s will pull them from the shelf and let you know when they are ready to be picked up. You can even use our drive-thru!

Libby aka Sunflower eLibrary

Our digital collection is pretty spectacular, if I do say so myself. You can find books, audiobooks, and even videos! Download them to your device and you are ready to enjoy. These couldn’t be easier to use, and they will simply disappear when they are due! Go to your App store and download the Libby app to get your started today.

Hoopla

Hoopla is another app that you have free access to using your library card. Hoopla can be connected to any device and even your smart television! You can find movies, music, television shows, ebooks, and audiobooks. There are ten checkouts per card per month. This app can also be found in your app store. You have the option of downloading these to your device or streaming. Whatever works best for you!

RB Digital

I’m old enough to remember the thrill of opening the mailbox to find my magazine subscription had arrived. Now I use my library card to access all the magazines I can handle on my device! Dive in and take a look around. There are so many fun options for kids too. Who doesn’t love a good copy of Highlights? There are audiobooks here as well. All ready to keep you occupied on a rainy day.

Online Resources

Wanting to learn a new language? A new craft? Repair your car? Hiding in the Online Resources link above is an absolute TON of information ready to help you learn something new. Explore today!

Tumblebooks

Tumblebooks are slightly animated picture books read aloud to your child through your device of choice. They are a wonderful option when some screen time is needed. Children can choose from picture books, graphic novels, chapter books, and more.

The Derby Public Library is ready to help keep you and your kiddo’s occupied and happy during a rainy day. We can’t wait to hear from you!

What’s Ashley Reading?: Scavenge the Stars

Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim

First Line: The first thing Silverfish had learned on board the Brackish was how to hold a knife.

Summary: Amaya has spent seven years on a ship working off the debt her parents sold her to cover.  Just a few days before she is due to be released she rescues a man from the sea.  For her kindness he offers her the chance to get revenge on the people who have wronged her. 

As their scheme progresses she becomes entangled with the son of the wealthy merchant they intend to bring down.  The more she learns about him the harder it becomes to follow through with their plans.

My Thoughts: This is a gender swap retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.  It has a stunning cover and a fun plot.  It is always fun to read a retelling especially if it was done well.  I liked Amaya and Cayo’s interactions.  I wish that there was more of it.  Hopefully in the second book there will more.  It ended with a big cliffhanger!  I am looking forward to the sequel coming out next year!

I actually received this as the book from the Owl Crate subscription box. This was my first time participating and I loved the experience. For a fee of $29.99 plus shipping I got a box filled with bookish goodies and a new young adult book. Usually the books are signed by the author, have exclusive covers, and letters from the author. Also inside was an exclusive Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix mug, an enamel pin, The Hobbit banner, a candle, Crooked Kingdom socks, and a tiny mirror pillbox.

It was fun to splurge on something like this. I love to read YA books and I have lots of fandoms. They have new selections every month and several special edition boxes throughout the year. Plus they have added an Owl Crate Jr. edition for younger readers.

FYI: A few trigger warnings are mutilation and violence against children.

* This is my pick for category #9 (A book that features a strong female lead) for the ReadICT challenge.*

Lit Pairings – Ina Garten

So as most of you probably know by now Ina Garten is my hero. Like for real! I love everything about her and her husband Jeffery. They are really who I want to be when I grow up. Ina and her husband love Paris and even have an apartment there. I’ve always wanted to go to Paris, but haven’t made it YET!

As Spring approaches I can’t help but think of Paris and all the wonderful french inspired food Ina makes. To start my ultimate day in french cooking I would make Herbed-Baked Eggs served with a delicious piece of toasted french bread. For lunch I would have to make Croque Monsieur and serve it with a tossed green salad and a glass of crisp white wine. For dinner it would have to be Lemon Chicken with Croutons served with another bottle of white wine. Make sure you finish this day of feasting with a nice cheese plate, more wine and then a nice cup of decaf espresso.

Most of these recipes can be found in Ina’s cookbook Barefoot in Paris, but I think you’ll find all of her cookbooks are amazing and tend to have a hint of frenchness to them.

If you manage to make this dream day of recipes and aren’t too stuffed after, drop me a line and let me know how amazing it was!

What’s Ashley Reading?: Eight Perfect Murders

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

First line: The front door opened, and I heard the stamp of the FBI agent’s feet on the doormat.

Summary: On a snowy morning Malcolm Kershaw gets a call from an FBI agent asking about a list of his favorite fictional murders he wrote years ago on his bookstores blog. What does an old blog post have to do with a string of recent murders? According to Gwen, the FBI agent, it appears that someone is using this list to commit their own murders. Malcolm starts doing his own search into the suspects. Who are they and how are they connected to him? Sometimes life can be stranger than fiction.

My Thoughts: While reading this I found myself comparing it to The Woman in the Window. I don’t think it had much to do with the actual mystery but more with the books/movies recommended by the narrator. I even put holds on several of the movies and looked for copies of the mystery novels mentioned.

I love how the author calls out how so many thrillers are trying to follow the unreliable narrator like in Gone Girl. It has become a mystery trope but not one that is truly new. However, we still continue to read them because they are just so much fun. I think Malcolm though is not an unreliable narrator. He is very upfront about things but he omits some stuff as well until the end.

This was a fun fast paced journey through snowy Boston. I kept trying to figure out the twist. I can honestly say I did not consider how it would end. But he even leaves us wondering if the conclusion is 100% true. This is my first Peter Swanson novel and I think I will read more in the future.

FYI: Be prepared to add old mystery novels to your TBR list.

*This is my pick for category #1 (A book with a number in the title) for the ReadICT challenge.*

Amelia’s Favorites: Monkey & Me

Monkey & Me by Emily Gravett

Summary: This book was especially fun. It’s about a little girl and her monkey saying “Monkey and me, Monkey and me, Monkey and me, we went to see, we went to see…” and each time they see a different animal.

My Thoughts: This book was actually recommended to me by the Beanstack App. Which if you haven’t signed up for you really should. I use the app to log books for the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program for Amelia. Each week it sends me an email with book recommendations and this week’s was Monkey and Me.

Now, I don’t know if they intended it to be this way, but I made it into a song, and after a few times Amelia was singing along which I couldn’t even take. It was SO CUTE! After we read it a few times through, the rest of the day I would hear her sing it, which it turn made me sing it too, and became somewhat of a learning game. I would sing the phrase, then choose an animal and ask her what noise that animal makes. SO MUCH FUN!

Amelia’s Rating: I think she would give it a solid 5 stars, I foresee us checking this book out several times!

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Shadows Between Us

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

First line: They’ve never found the body of the first and only boy who broke my heart.

Summary: Alessandra is the youngest daughter of an earl. She has spent her life sequestered from the world until her sister marries but she has a plan to gain ultimate power for herself. First she is going to get the attention of the Shadow King. Second she will make him fall in love with her and marry her. And finally she is going to kill the king and take over his kingdom.

My Thoughts: Ever since reading Tricia Levenseller’s first book, Daughter of the Pirate King, I have been hooked. It was a fast read and lots of fun! Each book since has been the same. I highly anticipate each new release. When I saw that Netgalley had an ARC of The Shadows Between Us I requested it immediately.

This is my favorite book of her so far. This is being called a Slytherin romance and that 100% describes it. I loved each of the main characters. They were both not good people but they are unashamed of it too. They know it and do not apologize for their faults. From the very first page the story takes off. Alessandra is wickedly charming and cunning. Kallias is dark, moody and brutal. But there are characters with lighter sides that add a little fluff which is refreshing too.

I loved the whole premise of the Shadow King. The magic and the way it works is brilliant. This author has a wonderful imagination and can bring her worlds to life. I could easily picture Kallias and his shadows. The details of the outfits were stunning. I wish I could read this again for the first time. I am so sad I have to wait another year for a new book by Levenseller.

FYI: This is a standalone young adult novel.

From Reader to Writer: Tips from a Master of Suspense

In my constant and nearly obsessive pursuit to understand the craft of creative writing, I’ve given the Masterclass platform a try. I’ve had mixed feelings on the classes, finding that the advice tends to be more vague and open-ended rather than hard concepts and techniques. I started out with James Patterson’s lessons then meandered between both Judy Blume’s and Neil Gaiman’s lectures before finally connecting with a class from suspense master, Dan Brown, author of The DaVinci Code.

I’ll admit to you right now that I’m not aiming to be the next Agatha Christie. When it comes to novels, I don’t write suspense, thrillers, or mysteries (I’ll save that kind of writing for our interactive mystery night events at the library). But in terms of both resonating and applicable advice, Dan Brown threw out some real gems.

Here are a few tips that might help you in your creative process without having to shell out the subscription fees.

Be Tough on Process, Gentle on Output

By this Dan Brown talked about how the process and practicality of writing is more important than the actual writing itself. With any kind of creative endeavor, it’s so easy to be tough on oneself about the quality, the content, or the tiny details, but Dan says to focus that tough-coach energy on getting to your desk every day and being firm about the practical goals of when and how often you will work. Gentleness and forgiveness with oneself needs to be applied to what happens when you’re actually there. If you got to your laptop or notebook today to work, you’ve done your job. What actually happened on the page isn’t nearly as important.

Give Crazy Ideas a Chance

In other words, write the wrong thing in order to write the right thing. This is definitely where I’m at with my work. Writing requires a lot of decision-making. Everything from how a character develops to how the story unfolds is entirely up to the writer. I tend to get stuck on what the “right” decision is for the story, but Dan Brown recommends giving crazy ideas a chance, especially in the early stages of a project. Writing the weirdest or wackiest ideas first without worry of someone’s judgement is the best way to get to those answers that feel the most beneficial for your story.

“Write like no one is watching…because no one is watching ”

Dan Brown

Set the Table for Breakfast

Whether you plan to be creative in the morning, afternoon, or evening, Dan recommends “setting the table” for the next session’s work. This means if you’re wrapping your day’s work by finishing a chapter, go ahead and start the paragraph of the next chapter. Give yourself something to pick up from when you sit down the next day so you aren’t just staring at a blank page or need to go back and re-read everything to remember where you left off. Give yourself as much of an upper hand for tomorrow’s work, and even if the work you added ends up in the trash bin, you’ve at least provided a spring board to start for the next day.

The subjectivity of writing can be both a gift and a curse. Unlike dancing or singing which has a defined and regimented technique, writing can be interpreted in so many ways, and the techniques that work for one writer don’t always work for another. However, I’ve found that the best way to figure out what methods or advice work for you is to listen and try them. Go forth, creator, and be both tough and gentle, crazy with new ideas, and prepared for the work that’s waiting for you.