What’s Ashley Reading?: The Children on the Hill

The Children on the Hill by Jennifer McMahon

First line: Her smell sends me tumbling back through time to before.

Summary: In 1978, Dr. Hildreth lives on the property of a state of the art psych ward with her grandchildren, Violet and Eric. One day she brings home a young patient, Iris, in the hopes that time with other kids will help her start talking and progressing on her mental health journey. The children bond during play but especially with their love of monsters. As they overhear whispers at the hospital they start to question what their grandmother is doing with patients like Iris.

In 2019, Lizzy Shelley has created a name for herself through blogs, TED Talks and TV appearances on her monster hunting. However, when she hears about a mysterious disappearance of a young girl in Maine, she is drawn to this location. Is it the monster she has spent years avoiding and also hunting too?

My Thoughts: I really enjoy dual timelines. They make for interesting story lines and make the twists even more fun. I did hear a small spoiler while reading the book so some of the twists did not shock me as much as they might have but there was one part that was really not what I was expecting. I literally gasped when I read it.

However, I did find the story rather longer than it needed to be. It seemed to drag in the middle and seemed almost repetitive. But other than that I found the story to be enjoyable. It has a paranormal hint with still being a contemporary thriller.

FYI: Mental illness and monsters.

The Lineup: Hannah

Hannah’s Lineup

Podcast: Edith! by Crooked Media

Edith! is a scripted podcast about the somewhat-true story of Edith Wilson being the first unofficial female president of the United States. 28th President Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke in 1919, one year before the end of his presidential term. Rumors have long said that his wife Edith assumed many of his presidential duties. Edith!, starring Rosamund Pike, fictionalizes that story with humor and intrigue.

I love listening to scripted podcasts. It reminds me of old-time radio shows and is a nice change from traditional talk radio or audio books. Scripted podcasts are also perfect for short or long summer road trips!

Available here or wherever you get your podcasts.

TV Show: Ted Lasso

Starring Jason Sudeikis, Ted Lasso is a feel good show for the entire family. Ted Lasso is a football coach from Wichita State (funny for us Kansans!) who travels across the pond to England to become a manager of a soccer team. It’s hilarious. It’s heartwarming. It’s good TV!

I don’t rewatch many shows. But when I’m sick or in a bad mood, a handful of shows can perk me up…Gilmore Girls, Parks and Rec, and Ted Lasso. I do prefer season 1 to season 2, but I can’t wait for season 3!

Available on AppleTV+

Hobby: Sourdough

I grew my first sourdough starter from scratch in May 2019. The then-preteen boys named him Thanos. We just celebrated his 3rd birthday! I’ve baked yeasted breads for many years, but sourdough was a whole new adventure. In the last three years, I’ve explored different methods, experimented with recipes, and collected a myriad of equipment.

Working with sourdough and baking bread is a source of stress relief for me. The pandemic hasn’t been good for anyone’s mental health, and it’s important to find a hobby that brings you peace and happiness. Working with sourdough brings me a sense of calm. It might sound weird to some people, but prepping, baking, and enjoying the fruit of my labor is my happy place. After all…carbs = happiness!

For more information about growing your own sourdough starter and several starter recipes, check out The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion : The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook.

Game: Monument Valley

Monument Valley is an award winning puzzle game from ustwo games. It’s available on a variety of platforms, from iOS to Android to PC. It’s different than any other puzzle game you’ve ever played before. The artwork and music are smooth, mellow, and beautiful. The puzzles make you think, but they won’t stress you out. If you like puzzles and adventure games, definitely give Monument Valley a try. It’s even a game you can revisit later. The puzzles are so intricate that you won’t remember every step of the journey.

There are two seasons available, Monument Valley I and Monument Valley II. If you are lucky enough to have Apple Arcade, you can play both for free!

Book: The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

The House is the Cerulean Sea pulled me out of a reading slump. It’s one part humor, one part fantasy, one part romance, and one part science fiction. It ticked all the boxes of my favorite genres in one book! The book does start a bit slow, but you will be rewarded if you plow through the first three chapters.

The book tells the story of Linus Baker, who is a social worker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. These magical youth reminded me of mutants from the X-Men. Linus has to visit an orphanage run by the mysterious, intelligent Arthur Parnassus, who has several secrets of his own. Arhur’s charges are likely the most dangerous youth Linus has ever come across, including the Anti-Christ himself. As Linus spends time with Athur and his wards and gets to know them, the line between his duty and his heart begin to blur.

Available for checkout from KanShare Libraries

Monica’s Musings: When the Stars Go Dark

When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain

“What is all the suffering for if not so we can see how alike we are, and not alone? Where will the mercy come from, if not from us?”

― Paula McLain, When the Stars Go Dark

Summary:

Anna, a missing person detective, flees to Mendocino, CA to grieve after tragedy strikes in her personal life. She lived there as a child and felt like it might be the only place left for her. When she arrives, she sees that a teenage girl in the area has gone missing. It reminds Anna of an unsolved murder from her childhood that changed the Mendocino community forever.

She realizes that she was led to this moment. Her expertise has given her insight into how to solve this case. Anna becomes obsessed with the missing girl and goes on a journey of self-reflection. Weaving together actual missing person cases and trauma theory, McLain tells a story of fate, redemption, and what it takes when the worst happens to reclaim our lives.

My thoughts:

While I enjoyed this book, it was terribly sad. Anna has seen more than anyone ever should have to. Her own childhood was traumatic, and her personal growth was painful. She never felt as though she belonged, and when her own family experienced tragedy, she blamed herself and ran. The case of the teenage girl in Mendocino was a distraction for her while she grieved. All of the characters introduced in this story had tremendous baggage. This common factor is what brought them together.

Despite the sadness, the emotions portrayed by each character made it feel relatable. It is a great book to tug at your heart and make you feel exactly what they might be going through. I would recommend reading the author’s note at the end of the book. It gives reasoning for all of the details McLain incorporated into the story.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Happy-Go-Lucky

Happy-Go-Lucky by David Sedaris

First line: It was spring, and my sister Lisa and I were in her toy-sized car, riding from the airport in Greensboro, North Carolina, to her house in Winston-Salem.

Summary: In David Sedaris’ latest collection of stories he tackles events like the pandemic, the death of his father and hurricanes at his beach house.

My Thoughts: As with most of his other books I was laughing through much of it. He can bring humor to such serious topics without being too vulgar. But when he talks about his father it just breaks my heart. He had such a difficult relationship with him and he does not hold back when he talks about it. I think through this collection I learned so much more about David than his previous books. It was a very small book and a quick read which I would highly recommend.

FYI: Some language and difficult topics.

Monica’s Musings: The Guest List

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

“Life is messy. We all know this. Terrible things happen, I learned that while I was still a child. But no matter what happens, life is only a series of days. You can’t control more than a single day. But you can control one of them. Twenty-four hours can be curated.”

― Lucy Foley, The Guest List

Summary:

The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body

Guests gather on a secluded island to celebrate a beautiful wedding. The groom is a handsome and charming rising television star. The bride is smart, ambitious, and a magazine publisher. It is a high-profile and luxurious wedding.

Soon after arriving, all of the guests can feel the dark energy of the island. As the champagne popped and the festivities began, resentments and petty jealousies mingled with the reminiscences and well wishes.

And then someone turns up dead.

My thoughts:

I was very impressed with this book. As the reader, you get to know each character very well, and every detail of their story is important. There is constant drama between the guests, and I was never sure what would happen next. It was full of scandals and secrets.

I was suspicious of each guest while reading. At one point or another, I thought each one of them could have killed another person on the island. The vibe of the island was dark and mysterious. I could imagine the fear of each person while they each experienced the strange feeling of death in the air. Finding a body was almost expected.

Nothing was clear until the very end. All of the dark secrets came out, and everything made sense then. I did not see the ending coming at all, and I am more than satisfied with how the author wrapped up the loose ends!