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.

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.

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.

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.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Ariadne

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

First line: Let me tell you a story of a righteous man.

Summary: Ariadne is a princess of Crete. She is the daughter of the mighty king Minos. She is the half-sister to the fearsome Minotaur. As she grew up in the palace she learned from a young age how women can suffer because of the men in their lives. But she sees her savior in the hero, Theseus of Athens. He has been sent to Crete as an offering to the Minotaur. Ariadne takes pity on him and helps him navigate the Labyrinth and defeat the Minotaur. With Theseus’ victory they escape the island but will this be Ariadne’s happy ending or will the legends repeat themselves?

My Thoughts: This book was so much better than Circe. I struggled through that one so I was a little hesitant reading another Greek myth retelling. I know that it isn’t the same author but it was still something I thought of as I picked up Ariadne.

I loved the cover. It is eye catching but simple. I remember seeing it many times before it was released. The marketing was really well done for this book. I felt like the story moved along at a perfect speed, the characters were likeable. It stuck to story lines of the original myths while also giving the sisters their own personalities.

I was not familiar with Phaedra and Ariadne’s stories. I knew of the Minotaur, Daedalus, Icarus and Theseus but not all the details. Greek mythology is filled with shocking tales, death, and tragic love stories. I liked how the author intertwined the story lines. The love and devotion of the sisters was a strong theme but also how women are ruled by the men in their lives. I think it was a great read and a fun retelling.

FYI: Death, gore and disturbing events.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Hour of the Witch

Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian

First line: It was always possible that the Devil was present.

Summary: Mary Deerfield, a young married woman in 1662 Boston, has been hiding a secret from her friends and family. In the years that she has been married her husband has hit her numerous times while drunk for imagined slights against him. But then one day he takes his cruelty one step further. He drives a three-tined fork, the Devil’s tines, into her hand. With a strong conviction of finally divorcing her abusive husband she also faces suspicion from the Puritan community. She finds that she is suspected of things that could lead her to a death on the gallows.

My Thoughts: This book started very slowly for me. Much of it dealt with the time period, life and getting to know the characters and their history. I felt that story finally picked up after the divorce trial. The pace seemed to be faster and the story more intriguing. But once the story picked up I was completely enthralled but disgusted by everything.

It is hard sometimes to read historical books, especially if the author writes them accurately. I feel like the author brought to life the true sense of the ridiculousness of Puritan Boston. Their views on women, the Devil and anything that was different. I rolled my eyes so many times during the trials because of the hearsay, circumstantial evidence and belief system of the time. Reading these types of books we see how far society has come but we still have a long way to go as well.

I enjoyed Mary’s story. She was a strong woman in a very restrictive society. She endures a lot throughout the book and much of it at no fault of her own. I was definitely rooting for her the whole time. I wanted things to be better for her with every disappointment and injury. But her husband and many of the other characters were awful people that I could not wait to see the end of.

I do not know how I feel about the ending. It almost seemed like a cop-out. Too easy of an ending but at the same time I liked aspects of it. Rating this was difficult but I think that it was worth the read.

FYI: Wonderful historical fiction. Perfect if you are interested in colonial America and the Salem Witch Trials.

What’s Ashley Reading?: How Stella Learned to Talk

How Stella Learned to Talk by Christina Hunger

First line: “Bye, Stella,” I said while I ate breakfast at the dining table.

Summary: Speech-language pathologist, Christina Hunger, had recently received her degree. She was nearly done with her first year working with children with speech therapy when she decided to try something new. Her and her boyfriend, Jake, brought home an 8 week old puppy named Stella. As they were working on training, Christina wanted to see if some of the same techniques she used with children would work to teach Stella to communicate. By introducing programed buttons with words that would be important in Stella’s life she was able to communicate her needs, wants and feelings to Christina and Jake.

My Thoughts: I was first introduced to Stella and Christina about a year ago. My sister had seen one of the interviews Christina did where she discussed using buttons (AAC device) to train her dog, Stella, to talk about her wants and needs. I instantly followed her on Instagram. I love to see new videos of Stella talking. It is amazing how much she can express with these buttons.

I loved the first story Christina shares about one of her clients. She showed how using devices can help a child who is struggling with language can still get their thoughts known by people around them. I found the idea fascinating. Christina laid out the book chronologically showing Stella’s progress, any setbacks, and gives advice at the end of each chapter on how to try this at home.

I cannot wait to try this with my puppy, Dudley. He already knows how to use a bell to tell us when he needs to go outside. And he already seems to understand lots of words. I have the buttons already in my Amazon wishlist for when I can bring him home and start working on his language skills.

FYI: Check out @hunger4words on Instagram for videos of Christina and Stella.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Broken (in the best possible way)

Broken (in the best possible way) by Jenny Lawson

First line: You probably just picked up this book thinking, What the shit is this all about?

Summary: In her newest book, Jenny Lawson otherwise known as the Bloggess, details her struggles with memory loss, health insurance and taxidermy animals. She is honest and real about her life and people in it but brings humor that gives the reader a giggle between serious topics.

My Thoughts: I love Jenny Lawson. I have read all her books. I went to see her when she visited Wichita several years ago. She brings real topics like mental illness to the forefront but also adds humor to it. She struggles with so much but has been able to overcome a lot with the help of her family. I listened to this, because that’s the best way to read this book, and I was nearly crying while laughing. Her stories can be hilarious and thoughtful.

There were a few chapters that I skipped over when they got too real. Sometimes reading about depression can make a person feel down. I did not want that so I chose to skip them for the more humorous stories. But I think my favorite part of the book was her open letter to her health insurance company. It is ridiculous how these companies treat people. Rather than help they give even more hoops to jump through. Luckily I have never had to deal with something like what she goes through but many people probably do and it is heartbreaking.

FYI: Very serious but also hilarious at times too.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Blade of Secrets

Blade of Secrets by Tricia Levenseller

First line: I prefer metal to people, which is why the forge is my safe space.

Summary: Ziva, an eighteen-year-old female blacksmith, makes magical weapons in her forge. But one day she takes a commission from a powerful warlord. With this commission she makes the most deadly weapon ever. It has the power to bring nations to their knees. In order to keep it from the woman who wants to use it to take over the country she and her sister flee their home to find a way to destroy the weapon before it can be used.

My Thoughts: I have come to love Levenseller’s books. She writes such fun stories that have great characters. This one was the same. Her main character deals with social anxiety while also have a powerful gift and talent. It is great to see author’s bringing in characters that are not perfect. Everyone needs a hero that represents them.

The beginning of the story seemed to drag for me. It took a while for me to get invested in what was happening which was really disappointing because usually I am all in for the author’s stories. About halfway in I started loving the characters, enjoyed the possible romance and was waiting for some big twist to happen. But the end is what made it hard trying to decide how to rate this book. I loved the last 25% or so. Characters became more developed, secrets are revealed and a big battle happens. And of course a cliffhanger.

I will definitely read the next book.

FYI: This is the first book in a duology.

What’s Ashley Reading?: How Y’all Doing?

How Y’all Doing? by Leslie Jordan

First line: “Well, shit. How y’all doing?”

Summary: Leslie Jordan has spent years acting in shows like Will and Grace, The Help and now is on Call Me Kat. Even with his long list of acting credits he never dreamed of the fame he would get from joining Instagram. During the start of the pandemic he was “hunkered down” with his family in the South. In order to keep himself entertained he made little videos that he shared with all his new friends on Instagram. He became an overnight success! In this collection of stories from his life we get a look into his life before and during the pandemic.

My Thoughts: I love Leslie Jordan. He first caught my attention as Beverly Leslie on Will and Grace. Every episode he appeared in, he stole the show. His lines and persona were perfect for such a fun and quirky show. When I saw he was on Instagram at the start of the pandemic I immediately started following him. He made me laugh a lot, which was much needed during the spring of 2020. I have re-watched many of his shenanigans and stories several times because they are so lighthearted.

Reading this book was just like when I read a David Sedaris book. I can hear the author telling their story in their voice while I read. I laughed and learned a lot about this man who has done a lot in the years of his career. I would highly recommend this for its uplifting and charming stories about a small gay man who lives his life with a smile on his face.

FYI: Short little book with lots of heart.