Book Review: Dark Tracks (Book 4 in the Order of Darkness series)

First line: There was an angry bellow from inside the woodcutter’s hovel; the woman, struggling up from the stream with a heavy bucket of icy water in each hand, raised her head and shouted back.

Summary: In the fourth installment of Philippa Gregory’s young adult series we follow Luca, Isolde and their companions on their journey. As they stumble into a small village, they find the townspeople besieged by a troupe of dancers. However, these are no ordinary dancers. These dancers seem to be possessed. What is causing this dance sickness and how can it be cured? These are just a few of the questions Luca wants to find out. But when Isolde is taken by the dancing fever the need to find a cure becomes even more important.

Highlights: I have really enjoyed Gregory’s young adult novels. She is my favorite author. Her historical fiction is amazing. She does a great job of describing the time. This is a great way to get younger readers interested in the past. Even as an adult, I learn new bits of information with each story. I also really like the covers. But if you have read my other reviews you know how much I love a good cover!

Lowlights: These are definitely for young adult. They are not as in-depth and detailed but still gets the story told in a fun and interesting way.

FYI: This is book 4 in the series. Check out her other books (Changeling, Stormbringers, and Fool’s Gold) before reading this one!

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!

Book Review: The Elizas

The Elizas by Sara Shepard

First line: I’m screaming as I wake up.

Summary: When Eliza Fontaine, a debut author, is found at the bottom of a pool her family believes that she has tried again to commit suicide. Eliza knows that she was pushed into the pool but cannot remember who pushed her. As she looks deeper into the incident, she learns more secrets have been kept from her. Why is everyone assuming that her upcoming book is a parallel with her life? It is fiction. Or is it?

Highlights: I liked the mystery and fast pace of the second half of the novel. I kept thinking the story was finished but a new twist was added digging deeper into the mystery. The cover was really pretty as well. I really enjoy reading Sara Shepard’s books. She can write a fun story that keeps me coming back for more. Dorothy was a very interesting character. She is flamboyant and eccentric. She added a little fun and spice to the story.

Lowlights: The first half of the novel was slow moving. I nearly gave up on it. I did not like the intertwining with Eliza’s book but as the story progressed, it grew on me. And Desmond was not a character I liked or connected with.

FYI: Check out her Pretty Little Liars series!

Book Review: Children of Blood and Bone

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

First line: I try not to think of her.

Summary: Magic once flowed through the land of Orisha. Maji’s controlled the magic. However, the king led a raid on the Maji of the land, killing them all. Zelie had to watch her mother die because of her magic and she has never forgotten. When Zelie stumbles upon the escaping Princess Amari she starts a quest to bring back magic to the land and revive the Maji. On their tail is Amari’s brother, the prince of Orisha, Inan who is determined to stop the return of magic but he is also hiding a dark secret.

Highlights: That cover! Skies! It is amazing. The author, Tomi Adeyemi, is a born storyteller. In her debut novel, she develops a fantasy world with great cast of characters and rich history. Tomi builds a world that resembles West Africa. The beasts and landscape are easily comparable but also very different. She weaves magic and heart into the whole story. While I was reading, I could easily picture it all happening right before my eyes. I loved all the action sequences. Zelie is badass! She has to hide her skills but she can whoop anyone. Also secretly, Amari is skilled as well. I love seeing amazing female characters that can kick butt and do!
The story is told from three different perspectives. Zelie, Amari and Inan each play an important part in the narrative. Zelie, a Diviner, is the child who had everything taken away from her when the Raid killed her mother. Amari is the princess who grew up sheltered but sees her friend, a Diviner like Zelie, killed by her father. And Inan, the crown prince, who has been taught to fear magic and fight to eradicate it. From each character, we get a look into the prejudices and history of Orisha and its people. All three have to learn from the events of the story and overcome their challenges in order to find peace and equality.

“You crushed us to build you monarchy on the backs of our blood and bone. Your mistake wasn’t keeping us alive. It was thinking we’d never fight back!”

This book is a powerful story that was written in a time of unrest. In the author’s note, she describes turning on the TV and feeling afraid. It is important that we have more books that show that just because we look different we are really all the same no matter what.

Lowlights: The only fault I found was the quick progression of the love story. At least to the reader very little time had passed and they were already talking love. This is one of the biggest troubles with YA fiction but it can easily be overlooked when there is a great story line like this.

FYI: Perfect for fans of Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard and the movie, Black Panther!

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.

Book Review: How To Stop Time

How To Stop Time by Matt Haig

First line: I often think of what Hendrich said to me, over a century ago, in his New York apartment.

Summary: Tom Hazard may look like an ordinary man but he is anything but. He is several hundred years old. He has seen the world change from Elizabethan England to the modern era. Sounds like a dream right? Maybe so but it can be lonely. When a group called the Albatross Society discovers him, he learns that there are many more people like him. Their main rule is to never fall in love. It complicates things. Tom has led many different lives but now he takes on a role that could jeopardize his existence, a history teacher. When he intrigues a fellow teacher, he has to decide if it is worth it to break from the rules of society or start over again.

Highlights:

“I sometimes want to stop time. I sometimes want, in a happy moment, for a church bell never to ring again. I want not to ever have to go to the market again. I want for the starlings to stop flying in the sky…But we are all at the mercy of time.”

Such a great story! I love the thought that someone can live forever and see so many things. I would love to be able to see the world of Shakespeare and the Roaring Twenties. These are iconic times in history. Being a history major, this book was right up my alley.

“It’s not that long ago, not really. History is right here, Anton. It’s breathing down our necks.”

I like that Tom does age. He is not immortal. He just ages slower than the average person does. He has demons. He wants to know what and who he is. He feels guilt. He knows love. He is a flawed character instead of the perfect ones in many stories of immortals. He has made mistakes and learned from them. He has not collected tons of wealth and profited off his condition. He has lived. He has searched for years for someone and never given up.

Lowlights: I listened to part of this on audiobook. The reader was good but when there are many changes from time and location it makes that story harder to follow. Tom often looks back at his past in order to help explain his present. However, while reading it flowed much easier.

FYI: It is already optioned to be a movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch!

Early April new releases

Cover of The Female Persuasion by Meg WolitzerApril 3: The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
From Goodreads: “Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman when she meets the woman she hopes will change her life. Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant at sixty-three, has been a central pillar of the women’s movement for decades, a figure who inspires others to influence the world. Upon hearing Faith speak for the first time, Greer- madly in love with her boyfriend, Cory, but still full of longing for an ambition that she can’t quite place- feels her inner world light up. And then, astonishingly, Faith invites Greer to make something out of that sense of purpose, leading Greer down the most exciting path of her life as it winds toward and away from her meant-to-be love story with Cory and the future she’d always imagined.

Cover of Dread Nation by Justina IrelandApril 3: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (young adult)
Zombies, Gettysburg, and combat schools to put down the dead. What’s not to love? It’s the Civil War, and at the battles of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville, the dead begin to walk, completely derailing the war and changing the country forever. The safety of the country’s citizens lies in the hands of a relatively few people. New laws require certain people to attend combat schools where they learn to put down the dead. And for Jane McKeene, this means more opportunity than she would have had otherwise as she studies to become an Attendant, and trains in weaponry and etiquette to prepare to protect the well-to-do.

Cover of A Necessary Evil by Abir MukherjeeApril 3: A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee
In this followup to A Rising Man, Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant “Surrender-Not” Banerjee are called upon to solve the mystery of the assassination of the heir to the throne of the kingdom of Sambalpore. Prince Adhir was a moderniser, but his attitudes and romantic relationship may have upset the religious elements of his country. But the new heir, Prince Adhir’s brother, appears to be an irresponsible playboy. As Wyndham and Banerjee work to untangle the mystery of the murder, they find themselves in a race to find the murderer before the murderer finds them.

Cover of Macbeth by Jo NesboApril 5: Macbeth by Jo Nesbo (Hogarth Shakespeare)
Famed crime writer Jo Nesbo tackles the classic story of Macbeth. From Goodreads: “Set in a dark, rainy northern town, Nesbo’s Macbeth pits the ambitions of a corrupt policeman against loyal colleagues, a drug-depraved underworld and the pull of childhood friendships. Get ready to helter-skelter through the darkest tunnels of human experience.

Cover of Circe by Madeline MillerApril 10: Circe by Madeline Miller
Circe is the daughter of a Titan, but without the powers of either her mother or her father. Because she is such a strange child, she turns to the mortal world for companionship, where she learns she is not powerless. She discovers that she possesses the power of witchcraft, which allows her to transform her rivals into monsters. Threatened by this discovery, Zeus banishes Circe to a deserted island, but this just allows Circe to hone her craft.

Cover of Love and Other Words by Christina LaurenApril 10: Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren
A then-and-now story of love. Macy is a pediatrics resident who is busy planning her wedding to a financially secure older man. She has a plan — keep her head down and her heart tucked away. Then she runs into Elliott, the love of her life, around whom her whole world used to revolve. From the teenage Elliott and Macy who grow from friends to much more, to the adult Elliott and Macy who have become strangers until their chance reunion, this story explores what happens when love gets a second chance.

 

Book Review: Batman: Nightwalker

First line: The blood underneath her nails bothered her.

Summary: As an eighteen-year-old Bruce Wayne is graduating high school and inheriting his families company and fortune he becomes entangled in the crimes of Gotham City. When trying to stop an escaped criminal Bruce lands himself on probation at Arkham Asylum. While cleaning floors he meets an elusive member of the group called the Nightwalkers, a group determined to kill the rich of the city and use their money to help the under privileged. Madeleine has been arrested for the murder of three prominent Gotham citizens but refuses to talk to the police. However, something about the young billionaire starts her talking. As Bruce gets more involved in the case, he sees that he could be in danger too.

Highlights:

“The darkness was his ally, not his enemy.”

Batman was probably my first superhero. I remember watching Michael Keaton play the caped crusader and being a little scared of the dark plotline. I continued to follow the Bat of Gotham through the Dark Knight trilogy (Heath Ledger as the Joker—AMAZING). Now I currently watch the show, Gotham on Fox, which follows the younger years of Detective James Gordon, Bruce Wayne and the villains like Penguin and the Riddler. Lu’s depiction of Bruce reminded me a lot of the boy in Gotham. She does a great job of bringing him to life and carefully crafting him into the superhero he is to become.
I really enjoyed the relationship between Bruce and Alfred his protector and guardian. It is one of my favorite parts from the movies and TV show as well. They have a bond that is deeper than blood. Alfred takes care of him but also has respect for the man he is becoming. At the same time though Bruce realizes that Alfred means more to him and that without him he would not be who he is. The story also touches on themes of the times. The struggle between the upper and lower classes, racial tensions and the need to equal rights for all. Batman is a symbol that something good can live in such a dark place.

“The world would always have the liars and traitors and thieves, but there were still those who were good at heart.”

Lowlights: I missed not having the normal Batman villains. Madeleine was okay. Most of the Batman villains are flashy with lots of humor thrown in. She was smart but a little dull. I am looking forward to the villain story in Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas later this year!

FYI: Check out Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo!

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!