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?


Book review: Fallout

Fallout (V.I. Warshawski #18) by Sara Paretsky

3.5 stars. I liked it quite a bit, but I’m not sure I “really liked it.”

First line: “The police say it was drug-related, ma’am. They think August was stealing to deal.”

Summary: Private detective V.I. Warshawski is on the case again, but this time the case takes her to Lawrence, Kansas. When African-American former actress Emerald Ferring and a young African-American filmmaker, August Veriden, disappear after going to Kansas to film Emerald’s life story, Vic is on the case at the request of Bernie. The deeper Vic digs into Emerald and August’s disappearance, the more mysteries she uncovers, and the greater the danger she realizes they, and she, face.

Highlights: This is a tightly written suspense novel, with new information popping up regularly, and when I was in the middle of the book, I wondered how it could all come together. It does, and it does well. There are a cast of characters and even the minor characters are fairly well-developed. I was never quite sure who I could trust, and it seemed like Vic felt the same way throughout the story.

Lowlights (or what could have been better): This book might just require too much of a suspension of disbelief, unless you kind of have an inclination to buy into conspiracy theories.

FYI: If you are from Kansas and familiar with the Lawrence area, you’ll have to recognize right off that this is not the Lawrence you know. Paretsky took liberties in creating landmarks that don’t exist in the area. Roll with it.

Book Review: An Enchantment of Ravens

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

First Line: My parlor smelled of linseed oil and spike lavender, and a dab of lead tin yellow glistened on my canvas.

Summary: Isobel lives in a land ruled by the faerie courts except that these faeries are not the pixie dust-throwing, nature-loving creatures from stories and lore. These faeries are alien, vicious, manipulative, and the only thing they love more than their own immortality is the art of Craft. Faeries cannot wield a pen, a paintbrush, a cooking spoon, or a sewing needle without disintegrating to ash. Therefore, they seek the services of artists like Isobel who will effortlessly paint their portrait. Isobel is the master of her craft and sought out by the most prestigious faeries including the powerful Autumn Prince. But when she paints human sorrow in the prince’s eyes, she infuriates him and is forced to journey to the land of Faerie to suffer the consequences.

High Points: The best part of this story is the writer’s use of language. This book is for readers who love a good metaphor. The writer paints such a vivid and magical image of this world, and its flowery and sophisticated prose will sweep you off your feet and right into the enchanted land of the Fae. This book is also excellent for artists, especially painters. Isobel loves her craft and prides herself on its perfection. The way she processes her art is fascinating and gripped me through the story.

Low Points: This book has two main flaws for me; distraction and “insta-love.” The book tends to distract itself with its own metaphors and artistry to the point that the actual plot gets muddled at times. The middle portion of the book is primarily a journey story in which the characters are traveling from one place to the next in the faery world. At times I found myself asking why they were going somewhere in the first place. The book also suffers from the “insta-love” curse meaning the main character, Isobel, and the Autumn Prince fall in love much too quickly. It’s a typical trope in young adult fiction and over time, I began to feel for their relationship, but it took most of the book for me to accept it.

FYI: This book is a stand-alone young adult novel, a rarity in the genre. I read half of this book and listened to the other half on audio and highly recommend the audiobook experience.

Library staff’s favorite reads of 2017

We work in a library, and as you’d expect, most of us are active readers. While few of us can keep up with Ashley (who read over 130 books last year!), many of us definitely spend a lot of our spare time reading, and we want to share some of the books we enjoyed reading most in 2017.

These are not necessarily books that were released in 2017, in fact some of them are  a few years old. One thing they have in common though, is that someone who works here in the library read them last year and loved them. And now we want to share them with you! Below is the name of each staff member who shared a title and the title and author of the book they recommend. Click on the title of the book and it will take you right to the catalog entry for the book, where you can place it on hold to read it yourself!

Justin: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Rachel: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Kathryn: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Maycie: The Raven Cycle Series by Maggie Stiefvater
Linda: Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelley
Chelsea: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Alyssa: Emma by Kaoru Mori (YA manga)
Kristy N: Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Ashley: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Megan: My (Not So) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
Carri: Took by Mary Downing Hahn
Tami: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
Cori: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

And if you are looking for more reading suggestions, remember to visit our website at and click on “New & Recommended” under the Books & Media tab.

Lit Pairings – Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #1) by Louise Penny

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montréal and yet a world away. Jane Neal, a long-time resident of Three Pines, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more but Gamache smells something foul this holiday season…and is soon certain that Jane died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.

I first heard about this series while listening to the podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour. The reviewer said this was one book she really thought was best enjoyed on audio. So I put it on hold through RB Digital, and because of  it’s popularity I had to wait for it for several weeks. Let me tell you it was worth the wait! Because the story takes place in Quebec there are so many beautiful accents and french words I would have butchered them without having it read to me! This series spoke to me in so many ways. The characters are amazing and the descriptions of the meals they enjoyed were drool worthy. I will admit that the first book wasn’t an earth shattering read, but if you enjoy it please move on to the next book in the series. I think each one is better than the one before.

Now on to the FOOD! It’s really hard to narrow it down to just a few recipes, but I think keeping with the french bistro vibe is the way to go. Steak Frites is one of my favorite bistro dishes and it’s really very simple and delish. Serve with a nice red wine and finish with this easy French Apple Tart.

You may or may not know this but if you live in or around the Wichita KS area you are lucky enough to have a french bistro close by. You could take  your audio book to Georges French Bistro and enjoy a lovely meal with no dishes to clean afterward. I’m planning to go once the weather warms up and sit outside on their Paris inspired patio.

Let me know what french dishes are your favorite!


Book Review – Two Girls Down

Two Girls Down by Lousie Luna

First Line – Jamie Brandt was not a bad mother.

Summary – When two young sisters disappear from a strip mall parking lot in a small Pennsylvania town, their devastated mother hires an enigmatic bounty hunter, Alice Vega, to help find the girls. Immediately shut out by a local police department already stretched thin by budget cuts and the growing OxyContin and meth epidemic, Vega enlists the help of a disgraced former cop, Max Caplan. Cap is a man trying to put the scandal of his past behind him and move on, but Vega needs his help to find the girls, and she will not be denied.

Highlight – This is the kind of book that has you sitting on the edge of your seat, unable to put it down until you finish the last page.  Great original characters and so many twists and turns! I hope this spins off into a series.

Lowlight – I can’t really think of any.

FYI – Some graphic scenes involving children.