What’s Ashley Reading?: Evermore

If you have not listened to our library podcast, Novel Ideas: The Library Podcast, you are missing out.  We discuss so many different things and love to chat books.  Recently Alyssa, Hannah and I spent an hour discussing our love of young adult books and the tropes that are found within them.  Most of the time they are easily dismissed because the book is so good.  How do you feel about the typical YA tropes?

Evermore by Sara Holland

First line: Tonight, I will make the Alchemist’s blood—Jules Ember’s blood—into a weapon.

Summary: Jules Ember was raised listening to stories of the Alchemist and the Sorceress. When she learns that she is the Alchemist and Caro, a lady in waiting to the queen, is the Sorceress, she must learn how much of the stories are really true. Jules is blamed for the murder of the queen and is on the run from Caro and the rest of the kingdom. With the help of Liam and Elias she is able to piece together her past and decide how to save her country.

Highlights: This cover is stunning. It is very eye catching and filled with little details from the story. I really enjoyed the first book and the idea of blood being a source of currency. Even though it is mentioned and a known entity the blood currency is rarely discussed in the sequel. But I did like that when we meet Elias we learn that other countries do not have the same issue with blood. It is only Sempera. Very interesting!

Jules is one of those characters that falls into the savior trope.  It is a commonly used idea but it can be a lot of fun. She has a secret that means she is the only one who can change the world. While Jules is searching for answers I really enjoyed the story. She takes looks back into her past lives as the Alchemist to see how her conflict with the Sorceress came about.

Lowlights: The insta-love is what brought this down for me. She loved Roan. He gets killed. She was kind of scared of his brother Liam. However, shortly after spending a little time with him they are in love. Okay. Sometimes the story needs to move along but it happened really quickly.

FYI: This is a sequel. Read book one, Everless, before picking this one up.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Midnight Riot

We have several new apps and services.  My new favorite is RBDigital Unlimited.  It has a wide selection of older audio books available to download onto your mobile device.  I love to read the new releases but sometimes there is a book that I have been meaning to read but have not gotten around to it yet.  Well this is a good way to get them off the TBR list!  The best part of this is that there is no waiting for a title.  Every title on the site is available immediately.

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

First line: It started on at one thirty on a cold Tuesday morning in January when Martin Turner, street performer and, in his own words, apprentice gigolo, tripped over a body in front of the West Portico of St. Paul’s at Covent Garden.

Summary: Peter Grant, a probationary constable, has hopes of becoming a detective. When investigating a disturbance he gathers some information from a witness. However, this witness also happens to be dead. With the knowledge that Peter can communicate with ghosts brings him to the attention of Chief Investigator Thomas Nightingale. He heads a special department in the London PD who deal with magic and supernatural occurrences. As a string of murders overtakes the city, Peter is thrust into the world of magic and mystical beings.

Highlights: I found this to be a mixture of Sherlock and Harry Potter. This is a fun book. As a grownup who loves to read a mixture of YA, fantasy and mysteries, then this is the perfect combination. It was originally recommended to me by my German sister, Melanie. This sat on my to be read pile for a long time but when I saw that I could listen to the audiobook using RBDigital Unlimited, I immediately checked it out. It was gritty and dark but at the same time a little lighthearted. There was humor mixed in with the murder.  One thing that I found to be new and interesting is that several of the characters are rivers in human form.  This is the name of the series, Rivers of London, but I never actually considered that they would be actual characters.  If you want something a little different than this may be it.

Lowlights: A lot of the story was building the world. Who is Peter Grant? What is the magical department and what do they do? As with all new series it takes a bit to get the ball rolling. I think this was my main issue but I will definitely pick up book 2, Moon Over Soho.

FYI: There is language and violence.

What’s Ashley Reading?: A Well-Behaved Woman

A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler

First line: When they asked her about the Vanderbilts and Belmonts, about their celebrations and depredations, the mansions and balls, the lawsuits, the betrayals, the rifts—when they asked why she did the extreme things she’d done, Alva said it all began quite simply: Once there was a desperate young woman whose mother was dead and whose father was dying almost as quickly as his money was running out.

Summary: Alva Smith is from an old New York family. However, after the death of her mother and her father’s financial troubles they are nearly destitute. Through the scheming of her friend, Consuelo Yznaga, she meets William K. Vanderbilt. He is the grandson of railroad tycoon, Cornelius Vanderbilt. William is looking to bring his family into New York society and Alva needs to take care of her family by marrying a wealthy husband. With this marriage of convenience Alva appears to get everything she wants. She helps the poor, builds grand new homes and travels the world. Yet it appears that something is missing…

Highlights: Before picking up this novel I had never heard of Alva (Smith) Vanderbilt. I remember the Vanderbilt name from high school history on the robber barons but nothing specific about each individual. I was pleasantly surprised by her story. She was a woman who did so much in a time when women were still thought of as dolls that needed to be sheltered. Her drive leads to grand homes, an opera house, women’s suffrage and a title for her daughter.

I cannot imagine living the life of Alva Vanderbilt. The amount of money she had and what she spent it on. If you have time you should Google their house, Petit Chateau, on Fifth Avenue. Spectacular! The costume ball she threw in 1883 was so extravagant that they spent nearly one million dollars (in today’s money) on champagne alone. Can you imagine?

Lowlights: Alva’s story seemed to drag on a little bit with much of the same thing happening over and over again. I was a little sad that so much of her drive came with the need to be a part of society. I understand wanting to be accepted. Everyone wants to be accepted. And it could be that I just do not come from that world or lifestyle.

FYI: Check out Fowler’s first novel, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Two Can Keep a Secret

Do you like true crime novels?  We have a really good selection here at the library.  I have not personally read many from this genre but they are constantly being checked out.  Authors like Ann Rule are the leaders in this area.  If you are looking for a true crime book we would be happy to help you find one or browse the 364.1 section of the non-fiction.

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

First line: If I believed in omens, this would be a bad one.

Summary: Ellery and Ezra move to live with their grandmother in the small town, Echo Ridge. This idyllic little town has a dark past. The twins’ aunt disappeared here more than 20 years ago. Another girl was murdered at the local theme park. Now there is a stalker bringing back the old memories and threatening the homecoming court. Ellery, a true crime enthusiast, is determined to get some answers. However, there everyone has a secret making it even harder to unravel the mysteries of Echo Ridge.

Highlights: I was really excited to get an advance copy of this book. I really enjoyed the author’s debut novel, One Of Us Is Lying. From the very beginning the mystery and intrigue presented to the reader. I loved how fast paced everything was. I liked all the little twists and turn throughout. I kept considering all different angles and was shocked when the killer is revealed. Great job, Karen! The characters were a lot of fun. I really wish we could have gotten more of Sadie, the twins’ mom. I want to visit Fright Farm, the Halloween theme park. Who doesn’t want to have Halloween all year around?

Lowlights: There are lot of characters and the chapters bounce back and forth between Ellery and Malcolm. I had a hard time keeping track of who was saying what. I think I needed to pay more attention to the chapter titles. So this may be more my fault rather than the books.

FYI: Perfect for fans of Sara Shepard’s, Pretty Little Liars series.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Sadie

Did you know that we have a podcast?!  It is called Novel Ideas: The Library Podcast. You can find it on Sound Cloud, iTunes and Google Play.

It has been a lot of fun being able to sit down with Alyssa and several of our staff and talk about books.  I have learned a lot about my fellow librarians through our chats and listening to the podcasts.  Each of us have a wide range of interests and thoughts.  We have chatted about things ranging from cookbooks, re-reading and David Sedaris.  We always bring along a nice hot beverage and some snack to enjoy while we are talking.  So grab yourself a cup of tea and listen with us!

Sadie by Courtney Summers

First line: It’s a beautiful day in the city.

Summary: Sadie has had a tough life. Her mother abandoned her at a young age. She took care of her younger sister, Mattie, until the day that she was found dead. Sadie is determined to seek revenge for her sister’s murder. She leaves town in search of the man she believes to be the culprit. When word of Sadie’s disappearance reaches the ears of West McCray, a radio personality doing a serial podcast, he starts to look into what happened to Sadie.

Highlights: I loved the way this story was constructed. It is very different than any other book I have read. It alternates between Sadie’s story and point of view to a podcast detailing the search for Sadie. It was a great book to listen to which is how I would recommend it. There is a full cast for all the characters. This brought the story to life and gave it a more realistic feel.

The story is heartbreaking. Sadie had a hard life with a mother who was not very involved. She brings home men including Keith. Listening to Sadie’s determination to find him is fascinating. With every little twist and turn I was continually nervous and cheering her on. The ending is hard. Be warned you will feel all the feelings with this book.

Lowlights: I struggled in the beginning while the story is building. It was a little slow moving until the story reached the halfway point it picked up and took off.

FYI: Trigger warning: child abuse and language.

Best book lists rule this time of year, so here’s our list of lists!

Man, Thanksgiving hit, and all my book-related newsletters and websites have been filled with “Best of 2018” and other types of end-of-year book lists. My first response was “Can you not wait until the end of the year? What if the best book of the year gets released in December?!”

But alas, the lists have not slowed down and there are so many of them I don’t know where to start or how to decide which ones I should choose books from! In other words, all these lists have me a little paralyzed. Kind of. I mean, now that I’ve looked at so many lists of what are supposed to be the best books of the year, I have no idea how to manage my to-read list, because now I want to read everything.Image result for choose a book

So, to help you build a TBR (to be read) pile for 2019, here is a Top 10 of the lists we’ve found, from the traditional, to the not-so-traditional.

    1. Image result for new york times book reviewFrom The New York Times Book Review, here’s a list of the 10 best fiction and nonfiction titles chosen by the paper’s book editors.
  1. Here’s a list from Literary Hub billed as the “Ultimate Best Books of 2018 List.” The titles were culled from 52 best-of lists and the titles that appeared most often on those lists show up here.
  2. Here’s a list from Digg that used a similar tactic to review lots of lists  and come up with the Top 10 for 2018.
  3. This Washington Post Book World Top 10 list includes not just the 10 books that caught the editors’ attention, but lots more lists, including the 10 best graphic novels and the best children’s books.
  4. Is any Top 10 list complete without a list from a publishing publication? We think not, so here’s a list of Publisher Weekly‘s Top 10 from 2018.
  5. GQ chose its list of 9 favorites, then each of those authors also chose a favorite, for a list of 17 recommended books for 2018.Goodreads Choice Awards
  6. Goodreads (you are on Goodreads now, aren’t you?!) has its users vote for their favorite books in an end-of-year poll, for a crowd-sourced list.
  7. Another best-of list from Literary Hub is its list of the best-reviewed books from its companion site Book Marks.
  8. Book Riot has a list that is a little different take, and is guaranteed to have some titles that aren’t included on the lists above. It’s a list of 50 must-read books that you likely missed this past year.
  9. And the final list I want to share with you is one of my favorites, and it’s not technically a traditional list. NPR’s Book Concierge is a fun way to find new books that appeal to you, as you can sort using filters (and can combine filters). In addition, NPR makes its Book Concierges from 2008-2017 available as well!

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What’s Ashley Reading?: The Only Woman in the Room

The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict

First line: My lids fluttered open, but the floodlights blinded me for a moment.

Summary: Hedy Kiesler was a young actress in Austria in 1933 when she meets Fritz Mandl, a munitions manufacturer. Her parents urge her to marry him in order to keep her safe with the threat of Nazi Germany looming over much of Europe. However, married life is not what she imagined. After fleeing her husband and the coming war, she travels to Hollywood and becomes the famously beautiful, Hedy Lamarr. As the path to war progresses, Hedy is determined to help save as many people as she can, even with very unconventional ways.

Highlights: Going into this novel I knew next to nothing about Hedy Lamarr. The one interaction with her was on the show, Timeless. I think this is one reason that I devoured this book. I did not know what to expect. Many authors have been taking readers back to the golden days of Hollywood but this is by far my favorite! Marie Benedict does a fantastic job of blending truth and fiction.

Hedy is not the normal Hollywood actress. She had other interests and was very intelligent. Her work on the guidance systems for torpedoes was leagues ahead of anyone else. It took months of work but she was not taken seriously by the men of the time. The technology is still used today in cell phones! Even though she has been called the most beautiful woman in the movies she wanted to be defined by more than that.

“Let me understand.  You are turning down our invention—which would have made your fleet unsurpassed in ocean warfare—because I’m a woman?  A famous one that you’d rather have shilling war bonds than helping build effective systems?  I can do both, you know—sell bonds and assist with your torpedoes, if that’s what it takes.”

After finishing her story I picked up the documentary, Bombshell, which goes past Benedict’s narrative but is a great companion to it. As with all the other Hollywood stories, I had to interlibrary loan several of Hedy’s movies. I cannot wait to watch them!

Lowlights: At first I was irritated that we spent such a long time in Austria and centering around her life with her husband as I read though the pacing made more sense. When Hedy arrives in the United States, she feels the guilt of leaving behind her loved ones. In addition, the knowledge she gains from her time with her husband help inform her for her inventions. I was sad that it ended so soon when there was still so much of her life to live but I think that now I have had time to reflect that the author made a good choice of ending it where she did.

FYI: If you enjoyed this than try books by Susan Meissner and Melanie Benjamin.

**Release date: January 8, 2019**

What’s Ashley Reading?: Becoming

Did you know that you can pick up voter registration forms and applications for advance voting ballots here at the library?  The elections are over but the forms are available all year round.  Just ask at the front desk. 

I do not follow politics very closely but I know that it is important to vote.  No matter who you are voting for it is your right and a way to help serve your country.

Michelle Obama, former First Lady of the United States, in her recent best selling book gives us a peek into her life in and out of the White House.  One of my favorite parts was that she focused on herself and her family rather than politics.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

First line: When I was a kid, my aspirations were simple.

Summary: In her memoir, former First Lady Michelle Obama tells her story from her childhood in the south side of Chicago to her years living in the White House. It is filled with stories of her family, career, and her life in the public eye.

Highlights: I absolutely loved this. The cover is beautiful. Her story is inspirational. Other reviewers have stated that it felt like having a conversation with a close friend. I felt the same way. I listened to the audiobook version where Michelle reads it herself. She is very open about her life.

I enjoyed hearing her stories of her family life in Chicago. I learned so much about her inside these pages. I knew very little about her. I do not follow a lot of politics. That was not my motivation behind reading this. I genuinely just wanted to hear her story. I am awed by her life. She grew up in an environment that is completely foreign to me. She is an intelligent and driven woman. It really shows that you can go from very poor beginnings to becoming one of the most recognizable women in the world.

Some of my favorite parts were her years in the White House. Upon one of their first visits to the Presidential home the Bush sisters showed them around and pointed out the fun parts of the mansion. As part of her role as First Lady she takes on several causes to support. She discusses her goals to help children around the country. The initiative to bring healthier meals to schools started with her own child. Michelle ended up starting a vegetable garden on the lawn of the White House. Local school children came in to help plant and take care of it.

No matter which side of the political universe you are on this book is about a woman. A woman who set goals for herself and achieved them.

“And here is what I have to say, finally: Let’s invite one another in.  Maybe then we can begin to fear less, to make fewer wrong assumptions, to let go of the biases and stereotypes that unnecessarily divide us.  Maybe we can better embrace the ways we are the same.”

Lowlights: Nothing.

FYI: Listen to the audiobook. It is 19 hours but it is worth it.  We do not have a hard copy at the moment but you can find it on Sunflower eLibrary and RBDigital. But you also need to see the pictures so grab a copy of the book as well.  If you enjoyed this, check out Sisters First by Barbara Bush and Jenna Bush Hager.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Tattooist of Auschwitz

History has been my favorite subject since middle school.  I loved the stories of people’s lives and how they shaped the world we live in today.  I read a lot of historical fiction novels.  When I was younger my interest was on World War II and the Holocaust.  It was and is hard to imagine what happened and reading about it helped me to understand it better.

We have some wonderful databases that are useful when studying history.  It covers world and American history.  There are links to articles and journals that are helpful for writing research papers.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

First line: Lale tries not to look up.

Summary: Based on the true story of Lale Sokolov, a Jew from Slovakia, who spent several years in Auschwitz as the Tatowierer. His job was to tattoo the numbers onto the arms of all incoming inmates. He witnesses shocking things every day. It is hard to imagine a happy world after the atrocities of the camp. When he meets a young woman, Gita, he uses his influence to keep her alive and safe.

Highlights: This story is heartbreaking but also beautiful. Lale is put in the most terrifying place but somehow keeps his spirits up in hopes of a brighter future. He learns quickly how to navigate life in Auschwitz. He “befriends” an officer who gives him news of the camp. The job of tattooist is a stroke of luck bringing him privileges which he uses to help out his fellow inmates. He was a good and honest man who did much to keep people alive and strong. It shows how being kind can lead to good things. I love his relationship with Gita. Even in such a horrible place he found the love of his life.

The writing was very simple but the story is powerful. It is shocking to hear the stories of survivors of such a place. I cannot even imagine living through those conditions. Read the author’s notes at the end where she discusses the interviews over years where Lale told his story.

Lowlights: Like I said before the writing is very simple. Sometimes it seemed a little choppy but if you can get past that the story is well worth the read.

FYI: If you found this interesting then check out The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Other Woman

There are so many good book clubs out there!  We have 3 here at the library.  Joyful Page Turners, our longest running book club.  Bemused Bibliophiles, our hot and popular book club.  And last but not least, Hauntingly Good Reads, our paranormal book club. I love to see how each club is expanding, adding new members and picks a wide variety of books.

It is great that we have options but sometimes it is not always easy to make it to a meeting.  Or you are an introvert who likes to read but not talk.  I have found several online book clubs that I like to follow.  I read the book and can chat on websites like Goodreads.com about my thoughts without leaving home.  The most recent one I have checked out is Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine book club.  Her book for November is The Other Woman by Sandie Jones.

The Other Woman by Sandie Jones

First line: She looks beautiful in her wedding dress.

Summary: Emily thinks she has found the perfect man in Adam. He is handsome and smart. However, she has a rival. His mother, Pammie, is determined to keep Emily and Adam apart. Will Emily be able survive a mother’s love?

Highlights: Debut author, Sandie Jones, brings us a psychological thriller with the mother-in-law from hell! Emily meets the man of her dreams and everything seems perfect until she meets his mother. I immediately hated Pammie. She was terrible to Emily in every interaction. She was so smooth about everything. However, the closeness of Adam and Pammie seemed almost too close. I started to doubt my theories after each interaction. I was a little surprised by the ending. It was one of the options I had considered but it was still shocking to read it.

Lowlights: I kept getting mad at Emily too. Is he really worth all this mental torture from his mother? She keeps sticking around and taking it. Why? I did like it when she tried to stand up for herself rather than just letting it go.

FYI: Did you like this?  Try Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris for something similar!