What’s Ashley Reading?: Magazines on Libby

Magazines on Libby!

Recently I have been working my way through the collection of history magazines on the library’s Libby app. The three I mostly read are History Revealed, All About History and BBC History. Each one has a wide variety of topics, beautiful colored pictures and interesting articles from historians plus book recommendations! There is a backlog of several years of each of these magazines plus special editions.

But there is so much more on Libby if you are not interested in history. We have magazines that cover all ranges of topics. Recently, as I am trying to plan a trip, I found travel magazines (Britain and Discover Britain) with interesting insights into sights, hotels and tips for travelers.

And for all the Star Wars fans we have a wide collection of magazines covering the original trilogy to the newer additions. Or maybe some crafting inspiration? We have those magazines too. Check out Libby on your phone, tablet or computer to see everything available to you free from your Derby Public Library.

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.

Linda’s Favorite Books: Invitation Only Murder

Invitation Only Murder by Leslie Meier

“The little bell on the door to the PENNYSAVER newspaper office in the quaint coastal town of Tinker’s Cove, Maine, jangled and Lucy Stone looked up from the story she was writing about the new recycling regulations—paper, glass, and plastic would not be accepted unless clean and separate, no more single stream—to see who had come in, and smiled broadly”.

This is the twenty-sixth book in the Lucy Stone Series. Lucy receives an invitation to spend a weekend at the private Maine island of Scott Newman, an eccentric owner and billionaire. She hopes to interview him concerning his life as an avid environmentalist, but finds that the island has no cell service or electricity. When Lucy finds one of his daughters dead at the bottom of a cliff, ruled an accident, she must try and outwit the killer before she is next.

I enjoyed this cozy mystery novel with its details of life on the Maine coast and Lucy’s family situations add to the story. Just when you think you have figured out who the killer is, a twist in the plot makes you step back and rethink your idea!!

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.

Anni’s Book Pick: The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.”

Summary: The Great Gatsby is a story told by Nick Carraway, who was once Gatsby’s neighbor, and he tells the story sometime after 1922, when the incidents that fill the book take place. As the story opens, Nick has just moved from the Midwest to West Egg, Long Island, seeking his fortune as a bond salesman.

Shortly after his arrival, Nick travels across the Sound to the more fashionable East Egg to visit his cousin Daisy Buchanan and her husband, Tom, a hulking, imposing man whom Nick had known in college. There he meets professional golfer Jordan Baker. The Buchanans and Jordan Baker live privileged lives, contrasting sharply in sensibility and luxury with Nick’s more modest and grounded lifestyle. When Nick returns home that evening, he notices his neighbor, Gatsby, mysteriously standing in the dark and stretching his arms toward the water, and a solitary green light across the Sound.(cliffsnotes.com)

Thoughts: This book is a classic work of art, it is full of symbolism, drama, and suspense. I thought that this book was somewhat difficult to read in the beginning, but after reading past the first chapter I finally got the hang of all the symbolism. This book is full of people cheating others and falling in love, just to be heartbroken all over again. I thought it was funny at times and I thought it was sad at times. Overall this book is an amazing read for anybody.

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.

Courntey’s Book Chat: The Gilded Wolves

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

First Line: Severin glanced at the clock: two minutes left. 

Summary: In this YA Historical Fantasy set in 1889 Paris, when Severin is offered his true inheritance in exchange for stealing a precious artifact, he and four recruited experts work to hunt it down while staying ahead of a dark mystery.

My Thoughts: I didn’t want The Gilded Wolves to end.

I loved each of the characters. They were all fully developed and each had their own quirks, strengths, and weaknesses. My favorite part was how they all interacted with each other, complete with witty banter and genuine love. Chokshi pulls off an ensemble cast exceedingly well. The characters are also richly diverse, with the main characters being people of color, two fitting in the LGBTQ community, and one reading as neurodivergent. I enjoyed reading each of the four point-of-view characters’ chapters.

The plot is ripe with tension and twists. Each moment is suspenseful, intriguing, and replete with mystery as the characters go through their mission. The puzzles and codes the characters have to solve are so interesting, incorporating bits of world building, history, and math. I especially loved how each character’s interests and backgrounds help them solve the codes.

The re-imagined history is also intriguing, with the fantasy elements skillfully woven into the story. Chokshi writes incredibly lush descriptions, and though dense, the writing never feel tedious to read through and adds to the smart and sophisticated story, world, and cast of characters. This book also addresses colonialism, repatriation, and greed, which makes for an interesting and relevant read.

I found the end slightly disappointing, but The Gilded Wolves as a whole is a beautiful and stunning, filled with twists and turns, a delightful ensemble cast, and plenty of mystery.

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.

Dylan’s Book Recommendation: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

First line: I was born with water on the brain.

Summary: Junior is a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian reservation. Born with a variety of medical problems, he is picked on by everyone but his best friend. Determined to receive a good education, Junior leaves the rez to attend an all-white school in the neighboring farm town where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Despite being condemned as a traitor to his people and enduring great tragedies, Junior attacks life with wit and humor and discovers a strength inside of himself that he never knew existed. Inspired by his own experiences growing up, award-winning author Sherman Alexie chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one unlucky boy trying to rise above the life everyone expects him to live. (summary is from the back of the book)

Thoughts: If you are a young adolescent, and are feeling sad, I highly recommend this book. I highly recommend anything that has unfiltered humor in it. It may be offensive, but offensive things are truly hilarious if you think from an objective point of mind. I found this book to be incredibly hilarious.

Warning: there is a lot of mild sexual humor in this, but it is incredibly hilarious.