What’s Ashley Reading?: The Feather Thief

The Feather Thief by Kirk W. Johnson

First line: By the time Edwin Rist stepped off the train onto the platform at Tring, forty miles north of London, it was already quite late.

Summary: In 2009, a young American student broke into the Tring Museum and stole hundreds of bird skins and feathers. The museum was known for housing thousands of specimens gathered by scientists in the nineteenth century. Why did he decide to steal birds? Well, he was a part of an exclusive group of artists, he was a fly-tier. For nearly two years the young man had gotten away with the crime.

While fly-fishing in New Mexico, Kirk Johnson heard about this wild heist. He became intrigued by the case and how the culprit was caught and prosecuted. Kirk had to know the answers. He began asking questions of other fly-tiers. He tried to interview witnesses, friends and even the thief. As he got answers he kept coming back to one question. What happened to the missing skins?

My Thoughts: Dawn and her book club, The Bemused Bibliophiles, read this book several years ago. She recommended it to me and even encouraged me to buy it for my father as a Christmas gift, which I did. He loved it and passed it along to my uncle who is a fly-tier and an avid fly fisher.

Finally this year I decided it was time to pick this up myself. I found it absolutely fascinating. I finished the book in 2 days. I had no idea the level of passion that fly-tiers had for the different feathers that are used in tying. People pay loads of money for feathers but many do not even use the flies for fishing. It just blew me away learning all this!

I liked that the book took me through the history of how the birds came to the museum, about the man who discovered them and why these species have become so rare. It is terribly sad to learn how humans have hunted these birds to extinction in the name of fashion and art. I did have to do a lot of Googling to see what these birds looked like. I would highly recommend doing this while reading Johnson’s book. The different species are stunning. I would have loved to see these birds in real life.

Even for someone who hates fishing (aka me) I found this book to be interesting. It is a very quick read with lots of information and shocking facts.

FYI: Perfect for that fisherman in your family or anyone who loves a good true crime.

The Lineup: Terese

Terese’s Lineup

TV Show: This Way Up

I absolutely adore this show. It was created by the Irish actress, comedian, and writer Aisling Bea, who also stars alongside the hilarious and talented Irish actress and writer Sharon Horgan. Bea plays the younger sister to Horgan and is struggling to regain her confidence after spending some time in a mental health facility. 

The show consists of the two women trying to figure out their lives and relationships, and also goofing around together. It is really funny, but it’s also sad and relatable and poignant. In addition to being hilarious, Bea and Horgan’s characters are complex and feel real. If you’re anything like me, you’ll wish you could hang out with them!

Available on Hulu and best watched with a large glass of wine

Newsletter: Read Like the Wind with Molly Young

I recently came across this newsletter in the Sunday New York Times and had such a good time reading her book reviews I tore through a bunch more from an earlier iteration with Vulture as well. Young is witty and concise. At one point, she admits to being a slow reader and was practicing to get faster. I mention that just to say, I admire her honesty and slightly confessional tone.  

She reviews books old and new—it’s all fair game. But perhaps my favorite feature of each review is the “read if you like” bit at the end. They’re creative, and helpful in figuring out whether or not to add the book to my reading list. Here’s an example from Young’s most recent newsletter about the book “The Possessed” by Elif Batuman:

Read if you like: Sherlock Holmes, wearing a big shapeless coat, reflecting on your plight, the comedy of Tim Robinson”

Here, I’ll take a stab at my own:

Read Read Like the Wind if you like: Telling jokes under your breath no one can hear, black and white movies, freshly sharpened pencils, Dorothy Parker, endlessly adding to your reading list

Book: Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket by Hilma Wolitzer

I saw this book in our new book section at the Derby Library and immediately picked it up. For starters, the title. And then to go with it, that far away look in the woman’s eyes on the cover. It’s that kind of Betty Draper, privileged, overwhelmed, lonely woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown thing. Her life looks perfect from the outside but she probably goes into her giant walk-in closet and screams when no one’s home to hear, kind of thing. I’m into it.

The book contains a collection of short stories centered around domestic life, and Wolitzer captures it so well. It’s a quick read–light and fun but also thought-provoking. 

Available for checkout at the Derby Public Library

Activity: Standing over a steaming kettle

It’s winter in Kansas and therefore super dry. Although I have two little humidifiers, I’ve recently taken to putting an analog kettle on the stove and standing over it so the steam rolls over my face. It makes my skin dewy and my hair curl up. The trick is forcing yourself not to run off and check your phone or get distracted by what you could be doing. It feels like this little bit of time I’m taking to do something nice for myself. I put on some music and might pour myself a beverage and just lean into that steam. It’s my version of a spa day. 

Podcast: Cover Story: Power Trip by New York Magazine

I binge-listened to all available episodes of this podcast on my way back from visiting family in Lawrence about a week ago. Perhaps, like me, you’ve never stopped to ask yourself whether there might be a dark side to the re-emergent world of psychedelic therapy. Turns out, it isn’t all well-intentioned professionals harnessing the benefits of powerful substances to heal others.

It is a fascinating and at times horrifying glimpse at some of the things happening inside the psychedelic therapy community.

Available wherever you listen to your podcasts

FYI: The experiences told describe the use of psychedelic drugs and instances of sexual abuse.

What’s Ashley Reading?: You’ll Be the Death of Me

You’ll Be the Death of Me by Karen M. McManus

First line: I respect a good checklist, but I’m beginning to think my mother went overboard.

Summary: Ivy lost the student council election for senior class president to the class clown, Brian “Boney” Mahoney. She is desperate not to go to school after her loss. And when she runs into two of her friends from middle school, Mateo and Cal, they reminisce over the best day of their lives. The day that they skipped school together and became friends.

With the bright idea of trying to rekindle that day, the three decide to head into Boston. But as visit an unfamiliar neighborhood they spot none other than Boney Mahoney. Ivy, angered that he would skip the assembly for his election, she decides to confront him. As they follow him into an empty building they suddenly find him dead on the floor in an upstairs room. Before they can decide what to do the sound of sirens comes to their ears. Rather than being caught with the dead body, they flee the building.

However, as more information about Boney’s death emerges they find that they may have stumbled into something that will be very hard to get out of.

My Thoughts: As with McManus’ other books, this one takes the reader on a wild ride. I enjoyed all the twists and turns throughout the story. It gave me a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off vibe mixed with Pretty Little Liars. It was a quick read and/or listen. I flew through the story, needing to know what happened next. Part of me guessed at the ending but I felt it was a reach so I did not consider it too strongly. But when it was revealed it made lots of sense.

I don’t know about anybody else but the donut shop that Cal takes the group to sounds delightful. It reminds me the Voodoo Doughnut with their quirky combinations and experiments with flavor. If you haven’t experienced Voodoo then definitely add it to your list of places to eat before you die!

FYI: Trigger warnings: death and drug use.

What’s Ashley Reading?: My 2022 TBR List

My 2022 TBR List

A new year. A new reading challenge. But the same long TBR list. I have so many older books I would love to read but when so many new ones come out in a year it is hard to get to my back listed items. Below I’m going to list the 2022 releases I am most excited about!

Not all of these are on the library’s catalog yet but trust me they will be as soon as possible! Get yourself on hold because I have a feeling this year is going to have some excellent titles in addition to these.