What’s Ashley Reading?: Queen’s Peril

Queen’s Peril by E. K. Johnston

First line: The girl in the white dress had her mother’s brain and her father’s heart, and a spark that was entirely her own.

Summary: Padme, Queen Amidala, has just been elected as the new queen of Naboo. With it comes changes. The captain of her guard is extremely worried about her safety. In order to protect his queen he decides to look for body doubles who could stand in for her in dangerous times. As he gathers her handmaidens the young women form a lasting bond and a devotion to their new queen. It is tested earlier than they thought when the Trade Federation forms a blockade around the peaceful planet leading to the events of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

My Thoughts: Once again I really enjoyed Johnston’s look into the world of Padme. She is a strong female character who gets overlooked in the movie trilogies. I love seeing more behind the scenes and expansion on the movies. Even though Padme is the leading lady we also get a look into the lives of handmaidens. They each had different backgrounds that helped prepare the queen for the trials ahead.

I remember seeing The Phantom Menace in the theaters (multiple times) As with many fans it is not my favorite but this book gave me a new appreciation for it. This is why the books are so important to the movies. Extra is given to the readers. We get more details, backstory and heart.

I hope that Johnston writes more in this “series” or adds to the Star Wars canon. I have enjoyed each and every one of her stories so far. I love that authors have brought even more of Star Wars universe to us and done it so well.

FYI: If you enjoy this then try Claudia Gray’s Star Wars novels too!

Terese’s Thoughts: Call Me American

Call Me American by Abdi Nor Iftin

First line: “I was born under a Neem tree, probably in 1985.”

I have felt at various times in my life that our country has lost its way. But at her best, I believe the United States can still be a shining example of democratic ideals–a nation that inspires hope of a better life and delivers on it.

Summary: Abdi liked to try out his best Michael Jackson moves for his friends and hung posters of American stars on his bedroom walls, despite his mother’s disapproval. Born in the countryside, Abdi’s family moves to Mogadishu, Somalia after a drought decimates their herds. His father becomes a successful basketball player and takes his sons out on the town. Abdi loves the city life, but soon his city is unrecognizable. Abdi watches as warlords overthrow the government and take control, killing indiscriminately and destroying Mogadishu. Abdi’s family is forced to flee.

Abdi, his brother, and his pregnant mother get separated from his father and eventually return to war-torn Mogadishu, having nowhere else to go. As Abdi says: “I am six years old and learning that nowhere in the world is safe.” The once cosmopolitan city has been reduced to rubble, and dead bodies pollute the roads.

A neighbor starts showing American movies in her garage and kids crowd around the tiny television screen to watch. While others talk through the dialogue, Abdi studies it closely and finds he had a knack for English. He idolizes Arnold Schwarzenegger and the brave Americans he sees on-screen. Thus, he becomes known as Abdi American. So when U.S. troops arrive to restore the freedom he used to know, he cheers them on. Then he watches in horror as the militiamen violently defeat the soldiers and parade their bodies through the streets.

To make matters worse, al-Shabbaab, a radical Islamist group, rises to power. With each passing year, the options for Abdi’s future narrow. Teenage boys are recruited and kidnapped by al-Shabaab, and his only way out is to become a madrassa teacher or flee. In his escape to Kenya, Abdi faces many setbacks. But then a life-changing event: Abdi has a chance encounter with an American journalist and they exchange information.

Life in Kenya is still fraught with danger. With the help of the journalist he met, Abdi risks his life leaving the safety of his apartment to secretly record his story. His account is broadcast on NPR and BBC radio programs for millions to hear. After overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds, and with the help of several dedicated people and a stroke of luck, Abdi American finally makes it to safety in the United States.

My thoughts: Abdi’s memoir offers a glimpse of what life is like in war-torn regions and sheds a light on the limited options available to those who live in them. I take democracy for granted, but Abdi wasn’t lucky enough to. It’s shocking to witness how quickly this modern capital city with restaurants and theaters is destroyed.

On a positive note, it’s refreshing to see the United States viewed through Abdi’s eyes. The idealized version of this country he imagines growing up becomes more complicated once he actually arrives, but I think it’s safe to say Abdi still loves America. And I like to think he’s still practicing those dance moves.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Dead to Her

Dead to Her by Sarah Pinborough

First line: The candle burns.

Summary: Marcie Maddox has fought hard for the life she has. She is the second wife of a rich and successful Savannah lawyer. Lunch at the Country Club and a giant house is her new normal. However, when her husband’s business partner returns from England with a young new wife, life in her social circle gets turned upside down.

Keisha, a young girl from London, married the rich William Radford IV. She is completely different from his first wife. It seems like being a rich wife will be an escape from her family and their poor life. But William plans to train her to be the obedient wife.

As these two women meet and become friends life starts to change for both of them. Weird appearances and pieces of dark magic start to surround them. Who or what is trying to destroy their lives?

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this! I was worried when I started it that it would not live up to my expectations because of its low rating on Goodreads. But I was pleasantly surprised! All the characters are awful. There is no one that is likeable. They are all flawed and have dark pasts but that was one of the things I enjoyed the most. I had to find out how it was going to end.

This is a fun mixture of thriller, high society, and voodoo. What’s not to enjoy? The beginning centers on establishing the characters. We meet everyone and get snippets of what their lives have been to this point. And then it all comes to a point. All the secrets are released. So many suspects and theories. It was a wild ride that I highly recommend for a fast summer thriller!

FYI: Sexual content.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Above the Bay of Angels

Above the Bay of Angels by Rhys Bowen

First line: If Helen Barton hadn’t stepped out in front of an omnibus, I might still be sweeping floors and lighting fires at an ostentatious house in St. John’s Wood.

Summary: Bella Waverly was raised by a disinherited member of the aristocracy. She was taught to speak well and have good manners. However, when they fall on hard times she is forced to work as a servant in the home of a wealthy Londoner. Then one day she witnesses the death of a young woman with a letter of introduction to work in the Buckingham Palace kitchens. Taking on a new name she enters a new world and finds that life as a cook is maybe what she has been looking for her whole life.

My Thoughts: I first heard about this book when I went to an author event at Watermark Books in Wichita. My mother is a huge fan of Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness series. When Ms. Bowen started telling us about her new stand-alone book I was immediately interested. I love the PBS show Victoria so this sounded like my cup of tea.

I found the book to be a light and quick read. It was a mixture between historical fiction and mystery. The first 80% were surrounding Bella and her work in the kitchens but then disaster strikes in the royal family and a mystery appears. I loved how the food took center stage though. I was constantly Googling the items to see what they were. I ate a lot while reading this because everything sounded so good.

Then there is the location. I have never been the south of France but it sounds like a magical place. The Hotel Excelsior Regina is still standing but has been converted to apartments. I would love to visit and see the hotel that was built for Queen Victoria.

And the author brings in one of the most intriguing characters from the time period and Queen Victoria’s reign, “the Munshi”, Abdul Karim. He was the Indian servant and advisor to the queen. But he was disliked by many of her family and staff. Very little was known of him until the last 10 years when his journals came to light. If you want to get a more sympathetic and dramatic view into his story then try the movie Victoria and Abdul. I just rewatched it after finishing the book and it was a lovely story.

FYI: This is a perfect summer read. It is light and fun but with a little intrigue.

Grow a Reader Packs

Click here to put one on hold today!

Feeling a little cooped up? Are the small children at your house staring at you wanting to know, what’s next? Worried you aren’t providing enough education for your small charges?

The Library can help.

First off, you are rocking this whole parent thing. The kids are all fed and brushed most of their teeth so you deserve a huge gold star! We do have something to help entertain and educate them though. Check out a Grow a Reader Pack.

There are 15 themed Grow a Reader Packs. Each pack comes in a blue backpack filled with books, games, puppets, and more! Everything found in a pack will help strengthen your child’s early literacy skills. Just by bringing one home, you can pat yourself on the back for scoring a few more parenting points.

You can put one pack on hold and then pick it up in the drive-thru. Don’t even take those lovely littles out of their carseat! We are taking extra steps to ensure each pack is clean and ready to go. A couple clicks and you are this much closer to super parentdom. Way to go!

Cathy’s Book Chat

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr Review

                The One Memory of Flora Banks is a wild ride! This story is about a seventeen year old girl named Flora who has suffered from anterograde amnesia since the age of ten. The book is told from Flora’s point of view so she frequently repeats to herself the few things she can remember or she writes them down (on post-its, in her journal, or on her arms). Flora is on medication for her amnesia and she lives with her parents. Paige is her only friend, they’ve been friends since they were quite young, but lately things with Paige are fractured. Drake, Paige’s ex-boyfriend kisses Flora on the night before his trip to Svalbard. A few days later, Flora’s parents flee to Paris to be with Flora’s brother, Jacob since he is very ill. Flora is tasked with staying home and having Paige look after her. The only problem is that she kissed Paige’s boyfriend, so Paige backs out of this plan and Flora is home alone. Will Flora be able to care for herself while her parents are gone? Will things with Drake become more than just a kiss? Read this adventure to find out!

                I found the perspective of this story to be quite interesting. Since the reader only has Flora’s thoughts to work with, you learn bits and pieces of her past as well as her current reality. It becomes a mystery for the reader to connect the dots of Flora’s life. At times I felt annoyed by Flora’s repetitive nature, but overall I really felt for what Flora and her loved ones were going through. It must be annoying and frustrating for them to have to retell Flora about her life, but it would be even tougher to be stuck in a state of unknown. This book teaches the reader to have sympathy for what other people are struggling with. This is a story you will not want to put down! It has adventure, mystery, love, and a unique narrator.

Love, Cathy–Youth Services

Ready to put this on hold? Click here!

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Little Book of Lykke

The Little Book of Lykke by Meik Wiking

First line:

“What are you holding on to, Sam?”

“That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.”

Like Tolkien, Hemingway once wrote that the world is a fine place and worth fighting for. These days, it is easier to notice the fighting rather than what is fine.

Summary: In his second book, Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, embarks on finding out what happiness is and how the world defines it. He explores six different areas of happiness and how we can find happiness in our everyday lives.

My Thoughts: The last several months have been stressful and uncertain. If you are like me it has been hard to find something to be happy about when the world around us is changing so drastically. I read The Little Book of Hygge earlier this year and got inspiration from its pages. Now I needed something more. I need to find happiness in the little everyday things.

I cannot help but smile when I see this little colorful book. It immediately catches the eye and draws me to it. I loved Wiking’s look into what makes us happy. Things like friends and family, money, kindness, trust, freedom and health are all factors in our happiness. He references several studies he and his team have done as well as other notable groups around the world. Not only does he focus on the science but the people and ways happiness is spread. He has met so many people and learned how different communities have made the lives better for their residents.

While reading I wanted to do all the things. I now want to buy a bicycle and spend more time outside (when it’s less hot, of course). I want to live in Denmark. I want to live in a bofaellesskab, a cohousing development that is popular in Scandinavian countries where residents have their own space but also share communal space and everyone knows their neighbors. How cool is that?! I have lived in the same apartment for 3-1/2 years and don’t know any of my neighbors’ names.

This is a book I can see myself going back to for inspiration when times are tough. It makes me realize that there is good in this world and we can find happiness in the small things around us. If you need a pick me up then this may be what you are looking for.

FYI: This can be found on Hoopla as well as our catalog.