Lit Pairings – The Hunger by Alma Katsu

This post won’t have anything to do with it, but Happy Mother’s Day!

Evil is invisible, and it is everywhere.

That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the wagon train known as the Donner Party. Depleted rations, bitter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the isolated travelers to the brink of madness. Though they dream of what awaits them in the West, long-buried secrets begin to emerge, and dissent among them escalates to the point of murder and chaos. They cannot seem to escape tragedy…or the feelings that someone–or something–is stalking them. Whether it’s a curse from the beautiful Tamsen Donner (who some think might be a witch), their ill-advised choice of route through uncharted terrain, or just plain bad luck, the ninety men, women, and children of the Donner Party are heading into one of one of the deadliest and most disastrous Western adventures in American history.

As members of the group begin to disappear, the survivors start to wonder if there really is something disturbing, and hungry, waiting for them in the mountains…and whether the evil that has unfolded around them may have in fact been growing within them all along.

I think a lot of people continue to be interested in the Donner Party. It’s just one of those terrible train wreaks in history you can’t look away from. Katsu puts a completely believable (at least to me) paranormal spin on it that makes you really wonder what happened to those poor people???

Right about now you may be thinking “Where in the world is she going to take us with the food portion of this post”? Well I bet if you think about it for a second you can guess…… RIBS! Yup, I think we need to go there!

I don’t have an Instant Pot, but someone told me they made them and they’re wonderdful, so if you do have an Instant Pot you should definitely make these Instant Pot Country Style Ribs.  What sides you do like with ribs? I polled my co-workers and they all said coleslaw so I would try this fun Dill Pickle Slaw.  Then finish it off with a nice cornbread and you’ve got some good eats!

Now run right to your kitchen and make all of these recipes and let me know what you think!

Book Subscription Boxes

This blog post comes with a few warning labels.

WARNING: If you have a book-acquiring habit that leaves your wallet bare, your shelves stuffed, and your marriage in jeopardy, you may not want to read this post.

WARNING: If you are susceptible to buying bookish items such as Harry Potter merch, posters of book characters, and limited edition covers with stained pages, autographed book plates, and specially designed bookmarks, you may not want to read this post.

WARNING: If your To-Be-Read shelf is so tall that it’s endangering your children, pets, and the value of your home, you may not want to read this post.

Lately it’s been feeling like my birthday every month. It’s because I’ve joined some book subscription boxes. If you’re unfamiliar with subscription boxes, they are a monthly box that features various, usually exclusive, items surrounding a particular theme. There are so many subscription boxes out there with themes for everybody. Beauty boxes, survival boxes, boxes for your dog or cat, boxes for your kid, boxes for your marital status. CrateJoy is the leading search engine to connect you with all kinds of boxes, including book boxes.

After drooling over YouTube videos and Instagram posts, I finally decided to take the financial plunge and buy subscription boxes from two different companies, Owlcrate and Fairyloot. My life (and bank account) haven’t been the same!

Owlcrate

Owlcrate and Owlcrate Jr. are a US-based monthly subscription service that includes either a newly released YA novel or newly released middle grade novel along with other exclusive items from various shops and companies across the country. Owlcrate has a direct connection with US publishers and not only features an exclusive edition of a new release, but a signed edition with a letter from the author and other memorabilia.

Every month Owlcrate’s box has a new theme. This theme ranges in concept and the featured book’s genre. The February 2018 theme was Hidden Worlds, March 2018’s theme was Across the Galaxy, and April 2018’s theme is Shadows and Secrets. Owlcrate releases a teaser of the book and other items in the box so when you receive your crate, everything in the box is a surprise!

I’ve received candles, jewelry, scarves, bags, stickers, tea, coffee, mugs, prints, and even a giant wall tapestry from Owlcrate! Here are some posts of items in past boxes.

February 2018 – Hidden Worlds
March 2018 – Across the Galaxy

With shipping and handling, Owlcrate costs about $38 a month. Considering the price of a hardcover book along with handmade, custom items, I think this is a pretty good deal. Customer service is really friendly, and once you get your first Owlcrate, you can join a private Facebook group to connect with other readers.

Fairyloot

Fairyloot is very similar to Owlcrate, but the differences are that Fairyloot is a UK-based monthly subscription box that features only YA fantasy books. Whereas Owlcrate may include a contemporary, thriller, or mystery book, Fairyloot only features books and items inspired by the fantasy genre. The box includes an exclusive, signed edition of a newly released YA book, a letter from the author, and other awesome goodies. Monthly themes have included Oh So Regal, Ladies That Slay, and Villainous.

January 2018- Twisted Tales
March 2018- Memorable Moments

Fairyloot’s items are mostly European including the candles and food items. Most of the time this is really cool, but there was one item, a bag of hot chocolate mix, that I personally didn’t like the taste of.

Fairyloot’s greatest attribute is the design and quality of their author letters, bookmarks, and book plates. Their graphic designer is outstanding, and every print item in the box is a piece of art. Fairyloot also features some really grand items like tote bags, exclusive scarves, and fabric book covers.

Because of international shipping and customs, Fairyloot is more expensive and takes a little longer to receive. With shipping, Fairyloot is about $60 a month and usually arrives towards the end of the month.

Give to Others or Yourself!

These book subscription boxes shine as gifts. Whether for birthdays, holidays, Mother’s/ Father’s Day, or just as a friendly gesture, both Owlcrate and Fairyloot would be so magical to receive.

It’s also a great form of self-care and indulgence for yourself as a reader. The great thing about both boxes is that they reveal next month’s theme a few weeks before payment is due so you can decide if you’d like to skip that month’s box and save some money.

Owlcrate May 2018 Theme
Fairyloot May 2018 Theme

Whether one time or every month, I definitely recommend giving one of these boxes a try!

Lit Pairings – Dining In by Alison Roman

If you’ve read my other posts I’m guessing you already know I’m a lover of food. So I think it goes without saying that I also LOVE cookbooks! But even though I love them I really don’t own too many. I’m not a fan of clutter and being a librarian means I can almost always find a way to get my hands on any cookbook I want to peruse. However, once I laid eyes on Dining In I knew I’d have to own it.

When we received it at the library I took it home and instantly fell head over heels. Alison’s recipes are a breath of fresh air. They aren’t too difficult or trendy. They don’t call for a crazy amount of ingredients you can’t find or cooking techniques you need a culinary degree to master. Her book is just filled with wonderful food you can’t wait to make and beautiful pictures that spark the desire to get in the kitchen and make something amazing for those you love.

Thankfully my husband knows me well and without any hints he purchased this book for me as a Christmas gift. Since then I have made and loved several of the recipes. The Perfect Steak with Buttered Radish Toast is probably my favorite, but Anchovy-Butter Chicken with Chicken Fat Croutons comes in a close second. I also really enjoyed the Persimmons and Pears with Blue Cheese and Spicy Pecans.

 

If you love to cook or just love to eat I urge you to give this wonderful book a try. If you do, please let me know what you made and how it turned out.

Yoga at the Library and Yoga FAQ

What is yoga? Why is everyone saying it’s so good for you? Can you even practice it despite (enter issue here – age, weight, injury, post-baby body, anxiety, etc.). And why would you do yoga at the library? These might be some possible questions flooding your mind if you’ve happened upon our poster or Facebook event. That’s right, patrons! We’re hosting yoga classes at the library! I’ve been practicing yoga for years and after earning my 200hr yoga teacher certification, I wanted to share yoga with you in a comfortable and non-competitive environment; the library!

What exactly is yoga anyway?

It’s a 5,000 year old practice based in India involving an eight-limb philosophy including a mindful and healing connection between the breath and body. More simply, it’s moving your body while staying aware of your breath. Yoga is a way to exercise and as with any exercise, you can adapt it to your needs. Yoga has a very deep and rich history with a lifestyle methodology attached to it, but you need to know exactly 0% of that if you just want to move your body, get rid of built-up toxins, release stress, and increase your strength and flexibility.

Yoga involves moving into various poses or asanas (the Sanskrit word meaning “comfortable seat”), and each pose targets a certain part of the body. Depending on the style of yoga, you may be holding the pose anywhere between 5 seconds or 5 minutes. No matter what pose you’re in, the most important element of yoga is maintaining a smooth, even inhale and exhale typically through the nose (though you can breathe through your mouth if sickness has you down).

What are the different styles of yoga?

Yoga is really unique in that there are multiple styles developed from various schools of thought, Indian gurus, and interests. The most common styles are Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Power, Hot/Bikram, Yin, and Restorative.

Here’s a brief run-down for you:

Hatha – a slower, mindful practice where the pose is held for 30 seconds to about 2 minutes. Focus is on individual poses, alignment, and release of tension. Perfect style for beginners

Vinyasa – a class emphasizing flow between poses. Each pose moves into the next pose fluidly while matching the inhales and exhales of the breath. Great for detoxifying, raising heart rate, and re-focusing an anxious or stressed mind.

Ashtanga – a style of yoga developed by an Indian guru and follows a specific series of poses held for a count of 10-15 seconds. Lots of Sanskrit is spoken in class and many “pretzel” poses you see on Instagram are from advanced Ashtanga practitioners.

Power – a style developed by Baron Baptise involving a combo of Vinyasa and Bikram. PiYo or Pilates/Yoga takes a lot from Power Yoga and includes fast movements, cardio, ab work, and a comprehensive workout.

 

Baron Baptiste in a crow pose!

Hot/Bikram – Bikram yoga was really popular in America for a while and brought the Hot Yoga craze. Bikram yoga is a specific, copy written series of poses that only a trademarked studio can teach, but any studio can teach Hot Yoga just by cranking up their thermostat. Both Bikram and Hot Yoga are about keeping the room hot so your muscles can completely relax into the poses. It’s intense, but very cleansing!

Yin Yoga – Yin is all about tolerating discomfort. Poses are long-holding, typically for about 5 minutes, and by holding these poses, inter-connective tissues within the muscles are lengthened and stretched in a way that increases and maintains your flexibility and brings healing to aching muscles.

Restorative – this style is about alleviating discomfort. Restorative is relaxing, slow-moving, and incorporates props like bolsters, pillows, blankets, and blocks that allow your body to feel supported. This is a great style for injuries, mental health issues, and trauma.

Why is yoga good for me?

Any movement done for the body is good because it builds your fitness, eases the strain on your heart, and gets rid of unwanted things in the body, but yoga is specifically healing because unlike most exercise which puts the body in a state of stress, yoga aims to put the body in a state of acceptance and relief. Practicing yoga targets muscles in the body not to overwork them, but to release the tension they’re carrying. Poses squeeze then release the organs and the lymphatic system which allows the body to cleanse and detox so you have less aches and pains, less headaches, and less discomfort overall.

Yoga also is healing to the mind. Breathing deeply has been shown to reconnect neural pathways in the brain, lower blood pressure, and purge impurities in the lungs which cause chest tightness. A key component of yoga usually includes some form of meditation or relaxation (savasana) which gives quietness to the otherwise cacophonous mind. While there is a competitive nature to any exercise, yoga is always a practice. It isn’t about perfection or domination but just coming to your mat and doing the best you can with where you are in that moment.

What can I expect from the Yoga for Readers class?

For our first yoga class, I wanted to present something that would be relatable for most patrons, but also similar to any class you would experience at a yoga studio. Yoga for Readers is going to feature a combination of Hatha, Vinyasa, and Restorative styles and include poses that will target parts of the body which hold tension during reading. We’ll do some hip opening poses which are great for people who sit a lot or have lower back/sciatica pain. We’ll do some upper back and posture-strengthening poses to help with back tension, and we’ll go through a wrist sequence to help when you’ve been holding a book open or keeping an e-reader upright for a long time. We’ll round it all out with a fun and easy meditation that will call on your creativity and relax your mind. The class will be accessible and gentle enough for first-timers or those recovering from injuries, but I’ll feature more challenging variations for seasoned yogis or athletes who want to strengthen and tone.

Finally, who in the world am I and what makes me qualified to teach yoga?

Hi, I’m Alyssa! Yoga came into my life 16 years ago when I was an anxious kid looking for something to do. I practiced yoga from DVDs throughout high school and taught yoga workshops in college, but it wasn’t until about six years ago that I took my yoga practice more seriously. I took classes at Siva Yoga Studio in Wichita and practiced daily with teachers Erin Motz and SarahBethYoga to build a more confident and rounded practice. Last year I finally made the commitment to get certified and earned my 200hr Yoga Teacher Certification with Adrian and Whitney Tartler at Siva Yoga Studio which allowed me to become a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT-200) with YogaAlliance.

Beyond my yoga experience, I also have a Masters in Social Work from Wichita State University and experience as a Licensed Masters-level Social Worker in the state of Kansas. This has provided me with a holistic understanding of yoga’s impact on an individual’s psychosocial development and guidance in offering trauma-sensitive and culturally competent services.

Yoga for Readers at the library

We’ve got two free Yoga for Readers classes scheduled for the month of April, and we’ll be offering more classes if there’s interest in the community. Consider this your personal invitation to attend one of our classes so you can relax your mind, strengthen your body, and enhance your creativity! Ages 13 and up are welcome (let me know if you have a child under 13 who would like to attend, and I’ll make sure to modify).

Yoga for Readers classes will be on Monday, April 2 and Monday, April 23 from 6:30pm to 7:30pm in the Community Room. Limited yoga mats available, but we encourage you to bring your own mat, towel, and water bottle. No registration required.

See you on the mat!

~Namaste~

 

Book Review: Fools and Mortals

Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

First line: I died just after the clock in the passageway struck nine.

Summary: Richard Shakespeare, the younger brother of William, is a poor actor on the London stage. He yearns to play a man’s part but he is being forced to portray women by his brother. When he considers leaving his brother’s company, he finds himself entangled in a crime that could change everything. Forced to find and return his brother’s missing manuscript from a rival playhouse he has to use his cunning and skill to keep him and his fellow actors from harm.

Highlights: I had never heard of Richard Shakespeare. He is a good storyteller and gives us an insight into the Bard’s life. Cornwell does a great job of portraying Elizabethan England. The politics, religion and everyday life of the people are wonderful representations of the time. In addition, being able to see the creation and performing of several of Shakespeare’s famous plays is fun to read.

Lowlights: The beginning runs a little slow. Most of the beginning is Richard concerning himself with being kept down by his brother. The pace does pick up about a third of the way through.

FYI: Good as an audiobook as well!

Lit Pairings – I was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

Russia, July 17, 1918: Under direct orders from Vladimir Lenin, Bolshevik secret police force Anastasia Romanov, along with the entire imperial family, into a damp basement in Siberia where they face a merciless firing squad. None survive. At least that is what the executioners have always claimed.

Germany, February 17, 1920
: A young woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Anastasia Romanov is pulled shivering and senseless from a canal in Berlin. Refusing to explain her presence in the freezing water, she is taken to the hospital where an examination reveals that her body is riddled with countless, horrific scars. When she finally does speak, this frightened, mysterious woman claims to be the Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia.

Her detractors, convinced that the young woman is only after the immense Romanov fortune, insist on calling her by a different name: Anna Anderson As rumors begin to circulate through European society that the youngest Romanov daughter has survived the massacre, old enemies and new threats are awakened. With a brilliantly crafted dual narrative structure, Lawhon wades into the most psychologically complex and emotionally compelling territory yet: the nature of identity itself. The question of who Anna Anderson is and what actually happened to Anastasia Romanov creates a saga that spans fifty years and touches three continents. This thrilling story is every bit as moving and momentous as it is harrowing and twisted.

If you’ve read and enjoyed Lawhon’s other two books The Wife, The Maid and The Mistress and Flight of Dreams  as I have then you are probably really excited to settle in and consume this one too! If you haven’t read any of these then I think it’s obvious I highly recommend them. Lawhon has a way of doling out little tasty clues and hints throughout her stories that make you change your mind about what’s really going on several times until the very end when she hits you with a great twist.

The recipes I picked to accompany I Was Anastasia don’t focus on the Romanov’s when they were in power, but like the book highlight the time they spent is exile. This amazingly comforting Russian Chicken and Dumpling Soup seemed like just the thing to get you through a cold winter’s night in Siberia. I took a short cut and used Trader Joe’s Chicken & Mushroom Pelmeni instead of making the dumplings from scratch. If you’re a baker I would suggest making a nice Russian Black Bread to go with it. However, if you’re like me you’ll just go to your local grocery and pick up a tasty loaf of dark rye, throw it in the oven to warm it and call it good.

Let me know if you make the Russian Chicken and Dumpling Soup, and I’d love to know what some of your favorite cold weather reads and recipes are?

 

What’s a Read-A-Thon (and How Can I Participate?)

 

Is your giant to-read pile stressing you out? Do you suffer from the terrible affliction of checking out or purchasing a stack of new books despite having a full shelf at home?! You are not alone, my friend, but there might be a way to tackle that mountain of materials. Take your reading to a new level, and challenge yourself with a read-a-thon!

A read-a-thon is a community-driven attempt to read books during a set amount of time. Read-a-thons can last for 24 hours, a few days, a week, a month, or even an entire year. They’re hosted on a social media site like YouTube, Twitter, Goodreads, or Tumblr and never cost or require sign-up. Read-a-thons also may have challenges, sprints, and even contests or giveaways. Participants interact through the internet platform, and some will even post a wrap-up blog or video to showcase their results.

Recently I posted about my experience with the Biannual Bibliothon, and I have taken to exploring online read-a-thons to decrease my ever-flowing TBR pile, prioritize reading, and push my speed. There are so many read-a-thons out there with themes as specified as your reading tastes. You can find a read-a-thon for Harry Potter, science fiction, fantasy, Young Adult literature, graphic novels, classics, and more.

A YouTube creator, LittleBookOwl, has developed an amazing calendar with links to individual read-a-thon websites. Not all read-a-thons have announced their 2018 dates, but many are already scheduled that you can follow.

LittleBookOwl also released a video covering read-a-thons and organized them based on their length.

Interested in participating? All you need to do is find a read-a-thon that interests you, do a little research using the calendar to find the start and end dates and any specific challenges, and you’re set!

Here are a few Read-A-Thon tips:

1. Plan Your Books

Whether it’s a week-long challenge or just 24 hours, definitely go into the read-a-thon with a plan of what you’re going to read. Many read-a-thons have specific challenges that can guide what books to choose so it helps to have an outline of those books and to make sure you have access to them.

2. Prioritize

The read-a-thon is an actual challenge. It forces you to put down your phone, log off Netflix, and actually get to reading. Even with cutting out social media, it still can be hard to find time to read, especially with work, school, or if you’re around children. Before the read-a-thon starts, look ahead to that week in your schedule and plan your reading time. Even if it’s twenty minutes in the day, that’s still a book being read!

3. Audiobooks

Reading doesn’t have to be just for your eyes. It can also be for your ears! Consider the time you spend in the car or bus, the time doing menial tasks like dishes or laundry, or the places you are where reading a book would be difficult. Use that time as listening time, and you’ll bust through a book without even realizing it!

Read-a-thons are an awesome way to connect with other readers and spice up your reading in a new way. The next read-a-thon I’m going to tackle is the week long Read-O-Rama challenge from March 3rd – 9th.

Feel free to join me! I’ll be posting my wrap-up next month to share all the craziness.

 

 

Run to the Library!

It’s hard to drive around Derby and not notice the abundance of wide, smooth bike paths that line nearly every street. According to the Derby website, there are over 25 miles of hike & bike paths within city limits!

Derby has an active running community that makes use of these sidewalks. Believe it or not the library can be a resource for runners. We have many books that offer advice and inspiration for the running community.

Runner’s Field Guide by Mark Remy
The Runner’s World magazine columnist offers a humorous guide to running and all the things needed to accomplish your goals.

Train Like a Mother by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea
If you need help getting started, this is an excellent book. It includes beginner advice and training plans from 5K all the way up to a full marathon.

Two Hours by Ed Caesar
Can the 2-hour marathon be broken? This book examines the science behind running and analyzes if and when we will see a human break 2-hours in the marathon.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
In Copper Canyon, Mexico, lives the Tarahumara Indians. They run just to run in barefoot sling shoes. Can they beat the most accomplished ultramarathons of the United States? Writer Chris McDougall travels to Mexico to find out and finds some inspiration for his own fledgling running hobby.

The library also carries Runner’s World magazine in print and electronic form through our RBDigital app.

So lace up your running shoes and come check out some running books at the library. Or take your kids to High Park and have them run fartleks between Storywalk pages as you enjoy the latest book on display. A fartlek is fun to run and fun to say!

How do I love books? Let me count the ways . . .

Photo by Michał Grosicki on Unsplash

It’s Valentine’s Day, and as bouquets of flowers are delivered to my co-workers, I’m finding myself sitting at my desk wanting to share my love story — with books. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love books. I remember sitting in second or third grade and being enveloped by stories as my teacher read them out loud. I discovered Nancy Drew when I was in fourth grade and devoured them as quickly as I could get my hands on them. My sixth-grade teacher introduced me to J.R.R. Tolkein when he invited a group of us who were avid readers to read it as a group after school. I’m not completely sure whether it was The Hobbit that was so attractive, or the extra time we’d be allowed to hang out in the reading loft we had in our classroom, but I jumped right in and found a love for fantasy comparable to my love for mystery.

In seventh grade, my English teacher offered up What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw (probably more recognizable as The 4:50 From Paddington) by Agatha Christie. I was utterly enthralled with Dame Agatha’s ability to weave a mystery so completely, and seemingly so effortlessly as I breathlessly reached the end of each of her stories and waited for Miss Marple or Monsieur Poirot to unravel the threads that identified the murderer in their midst. Eighth-grade English introduced me to Ponyboy and Sodapop and Johnny. I learned how important it was to “stay gold.”

 Also around this time a brand new library branch was built just a couple blocks from my house. No more waiting for a bookmobile or being limited to the books in the school library, or bugging my parents to take me to the nearest public library, which was several miles away. A whole new world opened up to me and I would ride my bike down to the library several times a week. The summer between ninth and tenth grades I read 93 novels, thanks to the proximity of that library. My dad hung a hammock in our backyard, and everyone in my family knew that was where to find me that summer after I’d done my daily chores (and sometimes before).

Since that time I have always chosen to read as much as possible. It’s my escape from the everyday. It’s one way that I find happiness. It brings me peace when life gets turbulent.

Books are magic. They transport me to places I’ve never been, to new worlds. They introduce me to characters of all shapes, sizes, colors and temperaments. I can visit the past. I can travel the universe or stay right at home. Because of books, my eyes are opened to possibilities, problems, perspectives, and people I might otherwise never have contact with. I can fall in love over and over and over. I can revisit my favorites places and old friends time and time again.

Maybe some of you feel the same way.

Lit Pairings – Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’ Nan

Perched in the far corner of a run-down New England mall, the Red Lobster hasn’t been making its numbers and headquarters has pulled the plug. But manager Manny DeLeon still needs to navigate a tricky last shift–just four days before Christmas and in the midst of a fierce blizzard–with a near-mutinous staff and the final onslaught of hungry retirees, lunatics, and holiday office parties. All the while, he’s wondering how to handle the waitress he’s still in love with, his pregnant girlfriend, and where to find the present that will make everything better.

I find that most people have serious feelings about Red Lobster. If you grew up when I did, in the late 80’s and the 90’s going to “The Lobster” was a big event! It was probably someone’s birthday or other special occasion, and best believe you were hoping there was an “all you can eat shrimp” situation going down.

However, as I’ve aged my love for The Lobster has waned. Like most food/restaurants we loved as kids it just doesn’t seem to taste as good now. So while reading this book I decided to do a little mini Lobster feast at home. First and foremost you need the Cheddar Bay Biscuits. In my opinion these are just as good if not better then the originals. Next you need to plan your fishy feast. Although not an official Lobster recipe I promise you won’t be disappointed with The Barefoot Contessa’s Baked Shrimp Scampi.

I’d love to know what were your favorite Red Lobster recipes growing up? Do you still enjoy it as an adult?