What’s Ashley Reading?: Katharine Parr, the Sixth Wife

Katharine Parr, the Sixth Wife by Alison Weir

First line: Katharine was five when death cast its black shadow over her life.

Summary: Katharine Parr, the sixth and final wife of King Henry VIII of England, grew up as a simple country gentry but she made several advantageous marriages. However, each husband died early leaving her a widow and childless. Then when she meets the handsome brother to the late queen, Jane Seymour, she believes she has found the love of her life.

But fate has different plans. Katharine catches the eye of the King of England. With the hopes of swaying the king towards the new faith, Katharine accepts his proposal. With her marriage comes the enmity of the Catholic faction at court. Bishop Gardiner and his men are determined to bring down Henry’s new queen.

My Thoughts: I liked this book. I liked how we got a look into Katharine’s early life. Many of the books about her center around her time as queen and afterwards but very little on her first two marriages. I enjoyed learning a little more about her time before the throne and how she became a strong proponent of the new religion, Protestantism.

Katharine is one of my least favorite queens. Her story is not very exciting and centers around religion a lot. She did much for the reformists in the court and even became the first woman to publish a book under her own name in English. It is quite an achievement. Alison Weir did a great job giving all the queens in her series a new life and bringing more of their stories to readers. I will be anticipating her next collection of books.

FYI: This is book six in the Six Tudor Queens series.

Tami Recommends: The Island of Sea Women

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

First Line: An old women sits on the beach, a cushion strapped to her bottom, sorting algae that’s washed ashore. 

Summary: Mi-ja and Young-sook, two girls living on the Korean island of Jeju, are best friends that come from very different backgrounds. When they are old enough, they begin working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective, led by Young-sook’s mother. As the girls take up their positions as baby divers, they know they are beginning a life of excitement and responsibility but also danger. They spend all their time together, as best friends do, sharing secrets, dreams, wishes and their shared plans for their futures. Life and circumstances have a way of altering the best of plans. Separated when they are married, they try to maintain their friendship until a tragic event drives them apart. 

Thoughts: Lisa See writes of relationships between women with such insight. Despite their circumstances, she always finds a way to make them triumph over pain, loss and political unrest. The women in her books are strong and resilient.

This book truly is a deep dive and was well-researched. I did not know about the haenyeo, their matricentric society or their culture. I learned a lot about its history through the context of the story. Korea has had a volatile relationship within its borders, with China and with the US yet remains a beautiful country with a rich history. I don’t know what I found more fascinating: the diving culture, the relationship of men and women in the society, the various occupiers/overseers of the country … I couldn’t put it down. The writing lets you feel the hurt and violence and yet allows you to contemplate the true nature of love and forgiveness over the course of a lifetime.

The Island of Sea Women taught me about a way of life I never knew existed and also about human suffering, redemption and forgiveness. 

FYI: (trigger warnings……murder, suicide, graphic war descriptions, abuse). The book covers a large time period through WW2, the Korean War and into the present. So many historical events and tragedies occur over that time period for this small spot in the world. 

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Therapist

The Therapist by B. A. Paris

First line: My office is small, perfect and minimalist.

Summary: When Alice and Leo move into their new home in an exclusive gated community in London they see this as the perfect beginning to their life together. But as Alice meets her neighbors, she learns about the dark history of her new home. After this discovery, Alice becomes obsessed with finding out what happened and who was involved.

My Thoughts: B. A. Paris always writes a fun, twisty thriller. They are always very fast reads. Something that will keep you reading until you finish the book late at night. This one kept me wondering throughout. Everyone is a suspect. Even with a headache I finished this book because I had to know how it ended. There is lots of misdirection to throw the reader off.

I admit that it was nothing groundbreaking or original. It was just plain fun to read! I have been in a slump with lots of 2 star reviews so it was nice to find something that kept me interested and wanting to read. If you want a quick summer read then this would be it.

FYI: Violence.

Grace’s Book Review: Yorick and Bones

Yorick and Bones by Jeremy Tankard and Hermione Tankard

First Line: “Grumble, grumble. So tired.” Spoken by a man, pushing a hotdog cart. 

Summary: This graphic novel tells the classic story of a skeleton and his dog. Accidentally awakened by a witch’s potion, our hero, Yorick, finds a world that is a little different than the one he knew four hundred years ago. The main difference being that people run from him in fear. One individual will stick by his side, though—a dog he affectionately calls Bones.  

My Thoughts: This book has it all—Shakespeare references, dogs, jokes about death, a skeleton going through an existential crisis—truly, what more can you want from a book? 

Despite the fact that this book is written to an 8–12-year-old audience, the humor is extremely enjoyable no matter how old you are. I read it and am in my twenties and loved it, and I recommended it to multiple friends who also enjoyed it (forsooth, I cannot begin to shut up about it, a mere inquiry of my coworkers would show you that). Of course, it is a very quick read if you are above the intended audience, but it’s hilarious.  

If you think a book written in slight Elizabethan English sounds fun, if you know (or are) a kid who likes dog books, if you are looking for something different, or if you just want an easy feel-good read, Yorick and Bones is the one for you! 

What’s Ashley Reading?: For the Wolf

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten

First line: Two nights before she was sent to the Wolf, Red wore a dress the color of blood.

Summary: The Second Daughter of the kingdom of Valleyda is destined for the Wolf. It has been a century since a sacrifice has been made but now it is Red’s destiny to enter the Wilderwood. She has known her whole life what would happen on her twentieth birthday but nothing prepared her for what happened once she entered the forest.

Her sister, Neve, is determined to find her sister and rescue her from the Wilderwood and the Wolf. She befriends a priestess who says she knows a way to make it happen. Will they be able to save Red from the dark woods?

My Thoughts: I was really excited about this book. I remember hearing about it months ago and thinking it was the perfect book for me. I really enjoyed the first few chapters and thought that I would love the rest of the book. But as the story progressed I became bored with the whole plot line and the characters. And then I saw it was going to be a series which made me less invested in reading it. The one thing I really liked about Uprooted, which this was compared to, is the fact that it is a stand-alone novel.

FYI: First in a new series. Debut novel.

Justin Recommends: The Fisherman

The Fisherman by John Langan

First Line:   Don’t call me Abraham:  call me Abe.


Summary:   The Fisherman is a mythical horror novel about a man named Abe, who after the loss of his wife, takes up fishing to fill that empty hole.  He soon discovers the horror and legend of a creek that leads him into a world of long buried secrets and a mysterious figure known as Der Fisher: The Fisherman.


My Thoughts:   I’ve been on a quest lately to fulfill a need for a quiet horror book if you will.  Quiet meaning, not in your face gore for gores sake, more of a mental throttling.  A book that is unsettling and makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck.  The kind of book that you read alone in a house and every little noise startles you.  The Fisherman is the 3rd book I’ve read hoping it would fit into the category.  

I’m not entirely sure it fulfills that need but it comes close.

I really enjoyed the first half of this book telling the story of Abe losing his wife and his journey to recollect himself through fishing.  It is very quiet and melancholy as it guides you along on his journey into discovering his passion for fishing and later attempting to help a coworker struggle through a similar situation.  Abe’s character is fully drawn and very relatable.  I was onboard with his journey from the very beginning and to be honest.  It was really making me want to take up fishing!

In the middle of the book we begin to learn about the myth of Der Fisher and how it draws Abe into a world you might even call “Lovecraftian”.  Eventually we get drawn completely into the nightmare and while I certainly enjoyed it, I found it a bit weaker than the first half of the book. The world John Langan was creating went just a little off the rails for me.  I won’t go into details but the old adage “less is more” could have been a little more front and center.  Don’t let that deter you though, it was still a really great read and I was very satisfied.  But I’m still looking for that book that just grabs your brain with both hands and wrecks you.  I want it.  I’ll let you know when I find it.


FYI:  Very graphic depictions of fishing.  Oh, and scary things that hide in the shadows.

*This item is available as an audio book on Hoopla or through Interlibrary Loan.*

What’s Ashley Reading?: Survive the Night

Survive the Night by Riley Sager

First line: Fade in.

Summary: Two months earlier, Charlie’s best friend, Maddy was murdered by the Campus Killer. But what makes things even worse is that Charlie could have done something to stop it from happening. She blames herself. And the only way she feels that she can move on from this tragedy is to leave school and go home to try and heal.

At the university ride board she meets a young man who offers to drive her home since it is on his way. Charlie is so desperate to leave Olyphant that she accepts. But as soon as she gets into his car she starts to wonder if she has made a terrible choice. Little things start to happen which makes Charlie wonder if Josh is not what he seems. Will she survive the long night time drive?

My Thoughts: I had so much fun reading this book! I kept having to tell myself to relax. I was caught up in the tension and fear. It immediately sucked me in. And Charlie is a very unreliable narrator since she has a disorder that takes her out of reality if things become too much for her. As I read I never knew what to believe and what is one of the movies in her head.

Riley Sager’s books always have the feel of an eighties horror movie. That may be one of the reasons I love them so much. They can be cheesy at times but that is how I want an eighties movie to be. There was lots of twists and turns. I did not expect the ending at all. Some things seemed a little obvious but I was very shocked by big reveal. I would highly recommend this to anyone who wants a fast and fun thriller for the summer. It hits the spot perfectly.

FYI: Violence, murder, and some language.

Terese’s Thoughts: Between Two Kingdoms

Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad

First Line: It began with an itch.

Summary: When we first meet Suleika, she is finishing her final year of college. An aspiring international correspondent, Suleika is exceptionally talented, speaking several languages and having previously earned a scholarship to Juilliard for the double bass. Her future is bright and she’s looking forward to the adventure of figuring out who she will be and what she will contribute to the world. Although suffering from a maddening itch and debilitating exhaustion, Suleika chalks it up to hard work and hard partying. Before graduating, Suleika lines up a job in Paris, and falls in love. It isn’t long before her boyfriend follows her to Paris and they begin a life together.

But Suleika’s exhaustion only intensifies and she finds herself in the hospital again and again, with doctors assuming her frequent illness is the result of a young person’s lifestyle. Finally, a nurse urges Suleika to go home to her family and get the medical care she needs. The following morning Suleika flies to New York, at this point so run down she’s escorted by wheelchair.

Suleika is diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia, discovers she will need a bone marrow transplant, and is given a 35% chance of survival. The next chapters are devoted to her journey through cancer—the setbacks, the pain, and the changing relationships with her family, friends, and boyfriend. She suffers many losses, but also finds a creative outlet and is uplifted by the words of strangers who relate to her story.

The book concludes with Suleika struggling to return to normalcy post-sickness. She realizes she no longer knows who she is or what she wants her life to look like. Suleika decides to embark on a 100-day journey of self-discovery and adventure across the U.S., visiting some of the people who wrote to her while she was sick.

My thoughts: This is an emotional read. Suleika’s story is as much about love as it is about sickness. Her words served as a wakeup call, reminding me that we only have one shot at this–better to make it a life of my choosing rather than to settle. In my view, living is a continuous cycle of taking this whole beautiful mess of a world and the people in it for granted and then remembering how precious it all is. This book made me feel the latter in spades.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Dream Girl

Dream Girl by Laura Lippman

First line: Gerry dreams.

Summary: After an accident that leaves author Gerry Anderson immobilized strange things begin to happen. He keeps getting calls from his fictional character, Audrey, from his bestselling book Dream Girl. Even though he knows he is talking to someone neither his nurse nor his personal assistant have heard the phone ring or heard the mysterious woman on the other end. Then one night he wakes up from his drug addled sleep to find a body on the floor by his bed. What is happening? Is he starting to lose touch with reality like his mother?

My Thoughts: I felt like this book had a lot of promise. Lippman has written some really great thrillers but this one was boring. It took nearly half the book to reach the point where the body appears. There is lots of time hops and characters. Everything seemed to drag on and on. I kept waiting for some crazy reveal or big shock but when something finally happened at the end I was underwhelmed. It was a big letdown for me. And none of the characters were likeable. I got really annoyed with the main character, Gerry. He was constantly trying to worry about how he is perceived in the new “woke” society and #MeToo movement. It got old.

FYI: Check out Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman. Much more fun.

Linda’s Favorite Books: Sold on a Monday

Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris

2 CHILDREN FOR SALE

The sign is a last resort. It sits on a farmhouse porch in 1931, but could be found anywhere in an era of breadlines, bank runs and broken dreams. It could have been written by any mother facing impossible choices.

For struggling reporter Ellis Reed, the gut-wrenching scene evokes memories of his family’s dark past. He snaps a photograph of the children, not meant for publication. But when it leads to his big break, the consequences are more devastating than he ever imagined.

Inspired by an actual newspaper photograph that stunned the nation, SOLD ON A MONDAY is a powerful novel of love, redemption, and the unexpected paths that bring us home. (www.amazon.com)

This book was an emotional read with its ups and downs of what happened in the Great Depression especially to children. The historical events are sad but true and I have recommended this novel to several others to read.