Monica’s Musings: The Tradition

The Tradition by Jericho Brown

“Let me be
Another invisible,
Used and forgotten and left
To whatever narrow miseries I make for myself
Without anybody asking
What’s wrong? Concern for my soul offends me….”

― Jericho Brown, The Tradition

Summary: The Tradition is the third collection of poems by Jericho Brown, an American, Louisiana-born, prize-winning poet. This book of poems details the normalization of evil and its history. The variety of poems ranges from political to personal. Fatherhood, legacy, blackness, queerness, worship, and trauma are all brought together to make you angry, confused, and self-reflect.

My thoughts: I am not typically a poetry reader, but I felt like I could manage this short collection. While I did enjoy it overall, some poems are a tough read. Politically, this collection is meant to make you angry. No matter where you stand on these topics, Brown is telling from his perspective, which is real and valid. I am not familiar with all of the life experiences detailed in these poems, however, I can respect them and learn from them nonetheless. I encourage all of us as readers to expand our horizons and appreciate works even if they make us uncomfortable.

*This is available as an eAudiobook on Sunflower eLibrary or through interlibrary loan.

Monica’s Musings: Coraline

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

“She had the feeling that the door was looking at her, which she knew was silly, and knew on a deeper level was somehow true.”

― Neil Gaiman, Coraline

            I, like most people, love the claymation movie, Coraline. When I first watched it back in 2009, I was young enough for it to sort of scare me! Now it is one of my favorites to watch during Halloween season. I chose to listen to the audiobook this year because I have always heard that books are better than movies, and I wanted to see if that was true for this one.

            Coraline is a young girl who has just moved into a new apartment with her mom and dad. Their new place is big, and they have a lot of odd neighbors. Coraline’s parents are workaholics who refuse to look up from their computers to give her any attention. So, she spends her time exploring, and one day she finds a tiny door in her apartment that leads to another world! It is an alternate universe of such, and it seems a little too perfect. In this world, her mother and father have all the time in the world to spend with her, which is what keeps her coming back. However, her excitement begins to disappear when she finds out the real motive of her “other” parents.

            I knew I would love this book because of how amazing the movie is. Honestly, I did not think that either one was superior to the other. Each allowed me to imagine a strange world that exists inside the mind of the author, Neil Gaiman. Not to mention, Gaiman reads the audiobook version, so it is told exactly how he imagined it to be read. I will listen to this story again, and I will watch the movie again! Overall, it is a great story in all formats.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Gwendy’s Button Box

Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

First line: There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs.

Summary: Gwendy is a twelve year old girl from the town of Castle Rock. One day while running up the stairs to Castle View she is stopped by a gentleman in a black hat. During their conversation he gives her a box. The box has buttons. Some are harmless but others are not. He tells her that the box is her responsibility and to keep it secret. As the years go by Gwendy notices changes in herself and the world she lives in. Is it the box? And what price does she have to pay for its gifts?

My Thoughts: I had no idea what I was getting in to when I started this book. It seemed to walk the line between a sweet little story and a nightmare. I listened to the audiobook while cross stitching on a Sunday morning. I was completely engrossed in the story. I even gasped and set my stitching down at several points so that I could focus on the story.

When Gwendy first gets the box it appears to be a dream come true. The box spits out silver dollars and chocolates that suppress cravings. Everything in her life starts going better. What’s not to like? But when she starts getting curious about the other buttons I knew something bad was coming. Books like this show how great of a writer Stephen King truly is. He can mix the genres and write an excellent story in less than 200 pages.

FYI: There is a sequel written by the co-author called Gwendy’s Magic Feather.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Holidays on Ice

Holidays On Ice by David Sedaris

First line: I was in a coffee shop looking through the want ads when I read, “Macy’s Herald Square, the largest store in the world, has big opportunities for out-going, fun-loving people of all shapes and sizes who want more than just a holiday job!  Working as an elf in Macy’s Santaland means being at the center of the excitement…”

Summary: In his holiday collection of essays, David Sedaris covers topics from his time as an elf in Santaland at Macy’s, holiday traditions in other countries and his family’s traditions.

My Thoughts: I am not one who looks for holiday books to read at Christmas time.  But this book is the exception.  Ever since I was introduced to this collection I was hooked.  I listen to it every year.  I love to hear about his time in Santaland. It is my favorite part. But I do enjoy when he questions people on his travels about their local traditions. I wish I would have thought about this while traveling abroad.

It is best enjoyed as an audiobook.  David reads it himself which adds an extra bit of wonderfulness to the stories.  No one can deliver the lines like he can.  I laugh every time I hear it.  I was so happy to find that it is available on Hoopla, so I can listen to it whenever I want!  If you are looking for something funny for your annual holiday read than this is my recommendation.

FYI: If you are easily offended then this may not be the book for you but we do have lots of other Christmas titles available on our displays!

What’s Ashley Reading?: Becoming

Did you know that you can pick up voter registration forms and applications for advance voting ballots here at the library?  The elections are over but the forms are available all year round.  Just ask at the front desk. 

I do not follow politics very closely but I know that it is important to vote.  No matter who you are voting for it is your right and a way to help serve your country.

Michelle Obama, former First Lady of the United States, in her recent best selling book gives us a peek into her life in and out of the White House.  One of my favorite parts was that she focused on herself and her family rather than politics.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

First line: When I was a kid, my aspirations were simple.

Summary: In her memoir, former First Lady Michelle Obama tells her story from her childhood in the south side of Chicago to her years living in the White House. It is filled with stories of her family, career, and her life in the public eye.

Highlights: I absolutely loved this. The cover is beautiful. Her story is inspirational. Other reviewers have stated that it felt like having a conversation with a close friend. I felt the same way. I listened to the audiobook version where Michelle reads it herself. She is very open about her life.

I enjoyed hearing her stories of her family life in Chicago. I learned so much about her inside these pages. I knew very little about her. I do not follow a lot of politics. That was not my motivation behind reading this. I genuinely just wanted to hear her story. I am awed by her life. She grew up in an environment that is completely foreign to me. She is an intelligent and driven woman. It really shows that you can go from very poor beginnings to becoming one of the most recognizable women in the world.

Some of my favorite parts were her years in the White House. Upon one of their first visits to the Presidential home the Bush sisters showed them around and pointed out the fun parts of the mansion. As part of her role as First Lady she takes on several causes to support. She discusses her goals to help children around the country. The initiative to bring healthier meals to schools started with her own child. Michelle ended up starting a vegetable garden on the lawn of the White House. Local school children came in to help plant and take care of it.

No matter which side of the political universe you are on this book is about a woman. A woman who set goals for herself and achieved them.

“And here is what I have to say, finally: Let’s invite one another in.  Maybe then we can begin to fear less, to make fewer wrong assumptions, to let go of the biases and stereotypes that unnecessarily divide us.  Maybe we can better embrace the ways we are the same.”

Lowlights: Nothing.

FYI: Listen to the audiobook. It is 19 hours but it is worth it.  We do not have a hard copy at the moment but you can find it on Sunflower eLibrary and RBDigital. But you also need to see the pictures so grab a copy of the book as well.  If you enjoyed this, check out Sisters First by Barbara Bush and Jenna Bush Hager.

Time To Work on the TBR List

I have an endless reading list.  It continues to get bigger no matter how many books I read per year.  I will never be able to read everything I want to read but I will try my hardest!

One way that I have found to be very helpful in reducing my to be read pile is audiobooks.  There are many ways that audiobooks can be useful including digital downloads and books on CD or Playaway.  Some books are great in audio form while others are not.  It all depends on the reader and story.  Moreover, when you find that one perfect story you will be hooked.

My favorite audiobooks are the Harry Potter series.  Jim Dale, the reader, does a great job of creating new voices for the characters.  He brings the stories of J.K. Rowling to life.

When I go on road trips, especially by myself, I like to have something to listen to in order to stay awake.  I feel like I am traveling with someone rather than alone.  When I bought my most recent car, the only thing I really cared about having was a CD player so that I can listen to audiobooks.  It really surprised the car dealer that I did not want blue tooth or back up cameras.  Very simple tastes for this librarian!

Another time I have learned is wasted and could be filled with reading is during my morning routine.  Apps like RB Digital and Sunflower eLibrary (Overdrive) are perfect for this.  I always have an audiobook downloaded on my iPhone that I can have playing while doing my hair and eating breakfast.

With the wide variety of audiobooks available it is never difficult to find something interesting.  The last several years I have been able to read over 100 books due to audiobooks.  It gives me much more freedom to work my way through my list of books.

Book Review: Caraval

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

First Line: It took seven years to get the letter right.

Summary: Scarlett is a young woman who lives on an island with her sister and cruel father.  She is engaged to be married to a man she has never met but has high hopes of him taking her away from her father and the life she has known.  But she has dreams of visiting Caraval, the mysterious carnival/game that is filled with magic and wonder.  Her grandmother raised her on stories of Grand Master Legend and his amazing magical world.  When she suddenly receives an invitation for her, her sister and her fiancé, she is thrust into a game she does not know how to win.  Her father forbids her to leave but when her sister goes missing she has to believe that she has left for Caraval and it is up to Scarlett and the arrogant seaman, Julian to find Tella and bring her back before her father discovers them missing.

Highlights: The world of Caraval is beautiful.  The descriptions of the island and its inhabitants are as detailed as a painting.  I wanted to live in this world apart from the terrors and trials that Scarlett had to endure.  I love how strong and passionate Scarlett was about finding her sister.  It is great to see relationships like that with strong female characters.  And the twist at the end was fulfilling for the whole story.

Lowlights: Some pieces of the story were a little predictable.  I was able to guess things before they happened but other pieces I thought I had figured out and was not even close.

FYI: I listened to this on audio while taking the long drive to Colorado and really enjoyed it.  It made the dreariness of I-70 fly by.