What’s Ashley Reading?: Tidelands

Tidelands by Philippa Gregory

First line: The church was grey against a light grey sky, the bell tower, like a watchtower, dark against the darker clouds.

Summary: It is 1648 in England. The country is in turmoil. Alinor is a poor woman living on Sealsea Island with two children. Her husband disappeared several months before and left his family with nothing. One night while Alinor is holding vigil at the local church she stumbles upon a man hiding in the churchyard. He asks for her help to guide him to the home of the local land owner. She learns that he is a priest who is working as a spy for the imprisoned King Charles I.

For her silence about the mysterious visitor she earns the respect of the Peachey family. As she gains favor from her landlord she also draws the suspicions of her neighbors. In this time of witchcraft and superstition, Alinor is in danger of being accused of using spells to bewitch them to advance her ambitions.

My Thoughts: I absolutely loved this book. It is a beautiful story. The descriptions of the land are as vivid as a picture. It is easy to imagine the small island village in the south of England where life is controlled by the tides.

Alinor is a poor simple woman but she stands out from all the other people on her island. She is knowledgeable about herbs, she can read and write. Gregory does an amazing job writing about strong and interesting women. Alinor has been abandoned by her husband but she is able to continue to survive using her own gifts.

The time of Charles I is not one that I am very familiar with. Wikipedia is one of my best friends while reading about a new era in history. I have heard of the English Civil War and the Oliver Cromwell but I have never spent much time reading about it. Gregory did extensive research in order to bring the turbulent time to life. The fear of witches, the hatred of the king and the devastating poverty are just a few issues she covers. It was a time of great change.

A connection is being made here.

Throughout the novel I was constantly worried for Alinor. She is a wise woman. Many of her neighbors come to her for help in delivering babies or curing a sickness. But it is easy for people of the time to turn on women like her. I kept waiting for something to happen her. I was completely invested in her life. As I read the last few pages I was praying that it would not end. I want to know what will happen next for Alinor and her family.

We are SUPER excited!

Last week I was lucky enough to get to travel to Denver and meet Philippa Gregory. My cousin, Alaina, accompanied me to the event. It was a on my bucket list to meet and have a signed copy of one of her books. I was beyond excited to meet her. She was absolutely lovely to listen to. She did several readings from Tidelands and answered audience questions. I love attending author events. For me it is like meeting a movie star. I was literally shaking and nervous. I am so happy that I made the eight hour drive to Denver to meet her. It was surreal.

FYI: Philippa Gregory is my favorite author! My favorite book is The Other Boleyn Girl.

Random Reading Thoughts: How do you get out of a reading slump?

Drawing of book wity images coming out of it representing a story narative
Tell us in the comments how you get out of a reading slump.

If you’re a reader, you’ve experienced it: a reading slump. You know, that week, or month, or longer, when no matter what book you pick up, you just can’t seem to get interested in it.

If you’re in a slump now, here are 10 tips to help get your reading back on track. If you’re not in a slump, save this for later, because you know one will hit sooner or later.

1. Reread one of your favorite books. Not a re-reader? Give it a shot. There’s a reason we love our favorite stories and revisiting them can rekindle the feeling we had when we first read them.

2. Read a book completely out of your comfort zone. Normally read romantic comedies? Try a thriller. Love mysteries? Give a fantasy novel a shot. Picking up something completely unusual for you can pique your interest.

3. Judge a book by its cover. Go ahead. Do it! That cover that just grabs your attention? The book inside might just do the same and help break you out of a rut.

4. Pick up a nice short, easy to read book. If you’re in a slump, picking up that giant doorstop of a book might feel like too much. Give yourself permission to read a short, fluffy, brain candy kind of book.

Sometimes a new format can kick your reading back into gear.

5. “Read” in a different format. Do you usually read on an e-reader or mobile device? Try print. Always read print books? Listen to an audiobook. Consuming that story in a new way may prod your brain to respond more actively to the story.

6. Visit the library or a bookstore. Just browsing the shelves and being around books might get your brain back into a reading mode.

7. Participate in a reading challenge. Reading challenges abound on the internet, challenges with a few books or a lot of books. Locally, check out the Wichita Eagle #READICT Challenge group on Facebook. The Eagle’s annual challenge is to read 12 books from 12 categories.

8. Or, participate in a read-a-thon. The library has a month-long read-a-thon coming up Oct. 1-31, where you can journey through the Forbidden Forest as you read.

9. Join a book club. It can be motivating to have a deadline to finish and then meet and discuss what you loved — and didn’t — about the book. The library has three active book clubs, all open to everyone.

10. Take yourself on a reading date. Set aside some time for just you and your book. Find a comfortable place and have a cup of your favorite tea or coffee. Take a couple of hours and surrender yourself to the words on the page. Have a few books to choose from, in case the first “date” doesn’t quite work out.

Lit Pairings – Vintage 1954

Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain

When Hubert Larnaudie invites some fellow residents of his Parisian apartment building to drink an exceptional bottle of 1954 Beaujolais, he has no idea of its special properties.

The following morning, Hubert finds himself waking up in 1950s Paris, as do antique restorer Magalie, mixologist Julien, and Airbnb tenant Bob from Milwaukee, who’s on his first trip to Europe. After their initial shock, the city of Edith Piaf and An American in Paris begins to work its charm on them. The four delight in getting to know the French capital during this iconic period, whilst also playing with the possibilities that time travel allows.

But, ultimately, they need to work out how to get back to 2017, and time is of the essence.

Every once in a great while I just want a sweet little read to put me in a good mood. When I’m over the thrillers and the horror that usually occupy my reading lists, Antoine Laurain seems to always be there for me. His books are short, sweet and most importantly French!

Of course a book set in 1954 Paris gives me unlimited amounts of food inspiration. If I were to recreate a day from this story I would start out the morning with a Bloody Mary at Harry’s Bar. This recipe includes celery salt which I understand the original from Harry’s didn’t, so you’ll need to make your own judgement call there. Around mid day I’d pack a Traditional French Picnic and head to a cozy spot with a good book. Then after what I’m sure would be a wonderful afternoon of snacking, reading and lazing about I’d stop by the fish market on my way home and pick up a Whole Trout to roast and perhaps a nice bottle of Sauvignon Blanc to go with it.

Unfortunately I can’t travel back in time to Paris in 1954, but I think I can still recreate this food day right here in the present. I’m going to give it a go before fall sets in. Let me know if you do the same!

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Escape Room

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

First line: It was Miguel who called 911 at 4:07 a.m. on an icy Sunday morning.

Summary: Vincent and his financial team from Stanhope and Sons is told to attend a team building exercise on a Friday night. When they arrive they enter an elevator that takes them up several floors where it stops and the clues begin. As the team tries to figure out how to get out of the escape room they realize that the clues are very specific. However, as the clock clicks on they are not let out of the room. Tension begins to mount and the team begins to let their fears and secrets come to the surface. Will they survive the escape room?

My Thoughts: Following a popular trend with thrillers now we have a book split into a two part narrative. We meet Sara Hall, a young business school graduate who is looking for a job. She lands the job of her dreams at Stanhope and Sons in New York City. She works on big accounts and makes tons of money. But the hours are long, the work is grueling and the people are not very nice.

The other side is the team in the elevator. It is a group of very unlikeable people stuck in a very tight space together. I really enjoyed these scenes as their true personalities came to the forefront. We find out what secrets they have and how truly terrible they are. I could honestly say that I did not care for any of them but I was very interested to see where their story ended.

Even though the ending was rather predictable it was loads of fun! Our staff did an escape room for our Christmas party last year. We had a great time. There are tons of clues and just a short amount of time to put them together. If you have a chance to try one you should but maybe not in an elevator. 😉

FYI: Great for fans of Ruth Ware and Shari Lapena.