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.

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.

What’s Ashley Reading?: A Year in Review

This year I read a lot less than I normally do. I spent a lot of time reading magazines or listening to podcasts. The theme of the year seemed to be a short attention span. I did not want long books or even to watch movies. I was more interested in something that would occupy my time for about 30 minutes to an hour. But I did squeeze in some really great reads during the year too. Below are my top 10 picks from 2021!

Hopefully everyone found a new book to love or reread a favorite book. Let us know in the comments what you read and what is on your TBR list for 2022.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Clanlands Almanac

Clanlands Almanac by Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish

First line: I love almanacs.

Summary: Stars of the Outlander TV show, Graham McTavish and Sam Heughan, take the reader on a journey through a year in Scotland. They cover important figures, dates, and events in the Scottish year.

My Thoughts: I really enjoy the bromance between these two men. They pick at each other good-naturedly but genuinely like each other’s company. While entertaining the reader they bring some really fascinating information about Scotland. I enjoyed the personal touches as well including stories about young Graham and Sam in Scotland and how they interacted with important sights in their native homeland. Plus adding some more items to my bucket list I also found a few whisky recommendations. I am not a whisky drinker but when I visit Edinburgh this spring I plan to taste a little to experience the Scottish life.

This is a perfect addition to their previous book, Clanlands, and their show, Men in Kilts. I would highly recommend each of these if you are planning a trip to Scotland or love Outlander.

FYI: Definitely go for the audiobook on CloudLibrary with your Kansas library card.

Terese’s Thoughts: The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

First Line: “I remember, in no particular order:
–a shiny inner wrist;
–steam rising from a wet sink as a hot frying pan is laughingly tossed into it…”

Summary: Tony has lived a relatively unremarkable yet comfortable life and is now retired. He was married and divorced, but remains friends with his ex-wife. They have a good relationship with their adult daughter who now has a family of her own. After receiving a letter notifying him that his former girlfriend’s mother has left him a couple of things in her will, Tony begins a journey of reflection and reexamination, thinking back on his youth—his idealism, his friends, and the brief but formative relationship he shared with Veronica. This piece of mail also puts him back in touch with Veronica, whom he finds as enigmatic, frustrating, and exciting as when he was young.

My Thoughts: You know how you can be staring out the window and to an outsider it may look like you’re doing nothing but really there’s a lot happening behind the eyes? That’s a bit what this book is like. It is a man, past his middle-age, ruminating. The action is mainly of the thinking variety. And I’ve been thinking about Tony and his life and my life and how much you can know yourself or another person ever since. But because I’m also a simple being who is completely satisfied in life with a beverage and a good meal, this book also makes me want to take myself out to dinner at a cozy pub and order a bitter and fish & chips.

FYI: I’ve just now discovered that this book was turned into a movie with a stellar cast including Jim Broadbent and Charlotte Rampling.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Hidden

The Hidden by Melanie Golding

First line: Leonie presses her palm to the outside of the shop window.

Summary: Ruby has spent many nights watching her neighbor do yoga. She is startled when she notices his previously unknown family. After a chance encounter with her neighbor she is invited into his world. Even though she is drawn to Gregor she feels that she cannot interfere with his family. But as she gets to know Gregor, Constance and their daughter, Leonie, she finds out that the Gregor she knows is not the same as the one seen by his family. With each encounter, Ruby becomes more convinced that Constance and Leonie need to leave and she plans to help them.

My Thoughts: Melanie Golding does a great job again by merging a thriller with mythical events. In the story, Ruby believes that Constance has some mental issues when she talks of her life in the sea. How does this woman believe that she was once a seal?! And as a reader I kept wondering if I believed her or not too. It seems outlandish but also Constance really believes it to be true.

The story is told during different time hops. We see Ruby’s sister dealing with the near death of man in his bathtub, Ruby meeting Gregor and memories of a man who has done some dastardly deeds. As a reader you know that it is all leading to one point but how it’s going to get there is the fun of it. When everything comes together it was shocking. There are many little things from Gregor’s past that make the story thrilling. I could not wait to get to the end as I was reading. It was an elaborate cat and mouse game until the very end! And I was not disappointed.

FYI: Thriller with a mystical twist.

*This can be found on Hoopla in eBook and eAudiobook form.

The Lineup: Parker

Parker’s Lineup

TV Show: The Nanny

The Nanny is a reliable old favorite, perfect for relaxing after a day of non-stop social interaction. Fran Drescher is charming in the title role. The stories get convoluted, often, but you watch it for the humor; and who doesn’t love Niles and C. C.?

I have the DVD, but it is now available on HBO Max and Prime Video.

Movie: Almost Christmas

I saw Almost Christmas for the first time. Gabrielle Union, one of my favorite actresses, portrays perfectly the awkward girl-next-door we all know, Mo’Nique shines in anything, and Danny Glover is substantial as the family patriarch. It’s a good family comedy with some high-key dramatic moments.

Available for streaming on Prime Video and for checkout as a DVD through KanShare Libraries.

Book: You Got Anything Stronger? by Gabrielle Union

I recently read Gabrielle Union’s second memoir You got anything stronger?: Stories. She’s intimate and self-aware, sharing her journey in self-development and overcoming adversity as a black actress in Hollywood, as a mother, and as a woman. I believe it will inspire others to share their stories.

It’s available here at Derby Public Library.

Music: Demon Days by Gorillaz

Demon Days is Gorillaz’ second album and one of my all-time favorites. When it came out, I was in college, going through early-adulthood growing pains, and it spoke to me. “Feel Good Inc.” was the big single, played a lots of nightclubs, but I also like “Dare”, “Dirty Harry”, and “Demon Days. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. I only recently learned that Damon Albarn from Blur co-created the Gorillaz, with comic book creator Jamie Hewlett, as a satire of the music industry.

Available on iTunes and for checkout as a CD through KanShare Libraries.

Video Game: Sumikko Gurashi

I started playing Sumikko GurashiGonna Make a Garden because I wanted something to do when I need a break from Pokémon Go. Perfect for Kawaii fans and Farmville nostalgics, it combines crop and product management with set-building, as you gain plots of land, facilities, decorations, and increased productivity as you progress. You can also make friends in-game and send them gifts.

Available on the App Store and Google Play.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Letters From Father Christmas

Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien

First line & Summary: To the children of J. R. R. Tolkien, the interest and importance of Father Christmas extended beyond his filling of their stocking on Christmas Eve; for he wrote a letter to them every year, in which he described in words and pictures his house, his friends, and the events, hilarious or alarming, at the North Pole.

My Thoughts: The Hobbit is one of my all-time favorite books. I have read it numerous times, I own several copies, watched all the movies and even have a lanyard with the map on it. Tolkien wrote magical worlds filled with interesting characters and I have loved each story. However, I had never seen this book before.

I figured since it is Christmas time that this book would be a perfect quick read. It is beautifully created using images of the letters and drawings that Tolkien wrote to his children from Father Christmas. Each year he builds on the stories and characters such as Polar Bear and the snow babies and their shenanigans. As he brings to life the world at the North Pole he also reminds his kids about some of the hardships that other families are dealing with during the depression era and beginning of the Second World War.

I am glad that the author decided to transcribe the letters because they can be a little hard to read at times but being able to see the actual letters makes them even more enchanting. I can imagine the kids’ joy when they received the letter from Father Christmas. I am very thankful that the family saved and shared these little peeks into the lives of the Tolkien Christmas tradition.

FYI: Perfect for fans of Tolkien!

*This can also be found on Hoopla and Libby.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The King’s Painter

The King’s Painter by Franny Moyle

First line: When Samuel Johnson published his Dictionary of the English Language in 1755, more than two hundred years after Holbein’s death, he understood a biographer to be ‘A writer of lives; a relator not of the history of nations, but of the actions of particular persons.’

Summary: Hans Holbein was the court painter to Henry VIII of England.  But even though he achieved stardom at the English court he started as the son of painter in Augsburg, Germany.  He learned his trade from his father and worked his way up the social ladder with introductions for well-known clients until he reached the height of his career.  Using his talent, he brought the world the best known portraits of the Tudor court including the king himself, his courtiers and several of his wives. 

My Thoughts: I have loved Holbein’s work ever since I became interested in the Tudor period.  His art is beyond his time.  He brings life to his subjects making them almost appear in 3D.  Many of his works survive and there are probably some still to be discovered.  The few that I have seen are outstanding in their detail.

I really enjoyed this look into Holbein’s life.  Before reading this I basically knew his name and his works.  I learned a lot about the time period in which he lived, his rise through friendships with Erasmus and Thomas More, and the lives of painters in the sixteenth century.  I always assumed that someone who worked for the court was well off but many painters struggled to make enough for their families.  There are many rules surrounding the painters’ world including inclusions in guilds and requirements of marriage.  I found this to be a great insight into another world inside the one I already knew from my years of reading Tudor history.

Moyle’s biography can be fairly dense with information but I found it easy to read.  She follows a linear storytelling while she explains the culture and religious tensions of the time and how they affected the young painter. 

The book includes color prints of some of his father’s works (Hans Holbein the Elder), early religious works (Hans Holbein the younger), and his portraits from the royal courts. 

FYI: For fans of art history or the Tudor period.