Teen Volunteer Book Review: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan

Book Review by Rachel Johnson

Rachel is fifteen years old and currently a 2021 Summer Teen Volunteer

    When I picked up The Ruins of Gorlan, I did it to escape the constant heckling of my school librarian. According to her, the book was infinite in virtue and would never be praised enough.

    Right off the start, the author caught my attention with his – shall we say interesting – writing. Take the first line for example:

“Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, former Baron of Gorlan in the Kingdom of Araluen, looked out over his bleak, rain-swept domain and, for perhaps the thousandth time, cursed,” – Flanagan pg 1.

That quote gives you a pretty good idea of what the rest of the book is written like. The dialect is interesting and is not unrealistic. Even though the book is set in feudal times, the book is never hard to read and is easy to follow. 

    The Ruins of Gorlan is an exciting adventure that I couldn’t put down. The book starts with an orphan named Will, hoping he is chosen to be a knight, like his father. Though that wish is not fulfilled, he does find happiness being trained to become a ranger by Halt,the mysterious man who lives in the forest. Then Morgarath, lord of a whole bunch of depressing stuff – as was shown in the quote – hatches an evil plot and Will and Halt team up with a few side characters to take care of it. The ending was riveting and plausible. Let’s just say Will got his chance to save the day and prove himself, and leave it at that. 

    Not only is the book interesting, it also encourages hard work. Will starts out with nothing and no one, but through working hard to become a Ranger, he gains skills, admiration, and a few close friends. Will doesn’t get all that stuff for free – he has to study and practice with his bow and knives to earn his triumph. 

    In The Ruins of Gorlan even the side characters are interesting. Firstly there is Alyss, who trains to become prominent in the diplomatic service. She is interesting, strong, and witty. Horace takes Will’s dream and makes it become a reality for himself. He struggles through Battleschool, and truly has a hero’s journey as surely as Will does. He starts out bullying Will, then after joining Battleschool and working harder than ever before, he has a few adventures with Will and they end up as best friends. Halt is perhaps the most interesting of the side characters. He starts out as grumpy and enigmatic. Then through Will’s young and cheerful influence, he becomes cheerful and begins to love Will like a son. One of the most interesting plot lines in the story is Will discovering Halt’s mysterious past.

    I enjoyed this book a lot and owe a big thank you to my school librarian. Even though I might not have enjoyed it quite as much as she did, I still liked it a lot. Since reading the first book, I read the whole series and found each of the books to be just as – if not more interesting than the first. I would recommend this book to anyone who can read and is older than ten.

FYI: There was a little action and violence, but no more than one might expect in a fantasy adventure.

What’s Ashley Reading?: A Year in Review

This year has a been a strange one for everyone, myself included. I spent a lot of the year in a reading funk. I just couldn’t find books that appealed to me or that kept my interest. Even with my slump I read 106 books in 2020! Below is my top 10 books of 2020.

If you have a book that you loved during 2020 or that got you through this crazy year let us know in the comments! And I will be starting 2021 off with Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Scavenge the Stars

Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim

First Line: The first thing Silverfish had learned on board the Brackish was how to hold a knife.

Summary: Amaya has spent seven years on a ship working off the debt her parents sold her to cover.  Just a few days before she is due to be released she rescues a man from the sea.  For her kindness he offers her the chance to get revenge on the people who have wronged her. 

As their scheme progresses she becomes entangled with the son of the wealthy merchant they intend to bring down.  The more she learns about him the harder it becomes to follow through with their plans.

My Thoughts: This is a gender swap retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.  It has a stunning cover and a fun plot.  It is always fun to read a retelling especially if it was done well.  I liked Amaya and Cayo’s interactions.  I wish that there was more of it.  Hopefully in the second book there will more.  It ended with a big cliffhanger!  I am looking forward to the sequel coming out next year!

I actually received this as the book from the Owl Crate subscription box. This was my first time participating and I loved the experience. For a fee of $29.99 plus shipping I got a box filled with bookish goodies and a new young adult book. Usually the books are signed by the author, have exclusive covers, and letters from the author. Also inside was an exclusive Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix mug, an enamel pin, The Hobbit banner, a candle, Crooked Kingdom socks, and a tiny mirror pillbox.

It was fun to splurge on something like this. I love to read YA books and I have lots of fandoms. They have new selections every month and several special edition boxes throughout the year. Plus they have added an Owl Crate Jr. edition for younger readers.

FYI: A few trigger warnings are mutilation and violence against children.

* This is my pick for category #9 (A book that features a strong female lead) for the ReadICT challenge.*

I Take My Books How I Take My Coffee…

Admit it, we all have a type. Some of us prefer the dark and seductive. Some prefer the sickeningly sweet. Others still prefer the strong and straightforward choice. There are many options. Most (if not all) are enticing, but still our vice calls to us.

My vice is coffee. I’ll take it any way I can get it, but a lady does have her preferences. Maybe you’ll find your preferences connect from book to beverage as well.

Tea (earl grey): Beverages :: Literature : Novels

Refined is the theme here. These pages, and leaves, have stood the test of time. Extras are not required. Austen, Shakespeare, Bronte, Melville, Wilde, Lee, Tolstoy, Elliot, Dickens… what more could a reader require? Once each of the classics have been read, though that is a lofty goal, one might move from here into the modern classics or contemporary novels. Who says you cannot read a book more than once, though? Certainly not us.

Prepackaged : Beverages :: Graphics & Comics : Novels

Do you regularly sit in front of a screen into the wee hours of the morning? Is a controller glued to your hand? Is there a checkered board in front of you? Is that a cheeto in your hand? Graphic Novels and Comics might be your preferred choice of literature. Yes, I do mean literature. Have you read “V for Vendetta”, or, like, any comic? They are all so political it’d be hard to miss the theme. It’s just presented in a different format. Just like those drinks in the cooler at the gas station: its still coffee… it just has a few preservatives in it. Drink with caution. They’re addicting.

Hot Chocolate : Beverages :: Chapter books: Novels

There’s something so comforting about a good hot chocolate. I don’t know about you, but it takes me back to childhood Christmases. Just because those days have passed (for me), doesn’t mean I don’t still enjoy the beverage, though. Same goes for the books. Just because the main characters are young, doesn’t mean the novels are any lesser. Read with pride my people. Harry Potter and The Giver do not lessen with time.

Frapuccino : Beverages :: Young Adult Books: Novels

Ah, to be young and not worried about the amount of sugar sure to go to your hips, or tummy, or that annoying double chin I got at twenty-five. Truth is, we all know we’re going to drink it anyway. It’s too good to pass up! It’s just a natural an unconcerned pick for many teens. In the same notion, we all know that new YA book. We all want to read it. We all feel awkward as we traipse the YA shelves of the local library. It’s a worthwhile endeavor, though. A little indulgent, perhaps, but worth the calories.

*Iced Coffee : Beverages :: Young Adult: Novels

**A slightly more adult version of those YA novels. It’s still iced, but a bit less sweet. It’s a bit more to the point– sharper. Watered Milked down a bit, sure, but one cannot be expected to go cold turkey!

Black Coffee: Beverages :: Nonfiction : Novels

“Just the facts, ma’am.”

Actually, I find this beverage also fits the Hard Science Fiction Reader as well. Sometimes High Fantasy draws in the black coffee drinkers as well. It’s science driven. It’s an epic journey, magic driven but more serious than flouncy. These extra genres require no sweetness.

Flat White: Beverages :: Genre Fiction : Novels

So, you enjoy your coffee but you won’t turn down a bit of milk or sugar? It’s not watered down, its plot padding!

Affogato: Beverages :: Specific Genre Fiction(s): Novels

Indulgent. A specialty, many have never considered this option. Once you’ve tried it, it’s hard to go back though. Keep a pint of ice cream in the freezer, just in case you come across one of those nights you need a little something extra.

Chai Latte: Beverages :: Realistic: Novels

Can’t pick between coffee and tea, can you? You own a high brow library (all read and enjoyed), but keep eying that new book at the library. You know, the low brow one you’d never tell your friends about. Rest easy, my friends. We can meet in the middle at a realistic choice.

Pumpkin Spiced Latte : Beverages :: Bestsellers : Novels

Basic. If so many enjoy it, why can’t you. Well, I’m here to tell you: you can, Becky. You can do it! Any kind of reading, is good reading… and any kind of coffee, is good coffee. Why force yourself to drink something different? That PSL calls to you! The barista even knows your name! Why go with some random book you’ve barely heard of, when Patterson, Evanovich, and Grisham know exactly what you like? Ignore the haters, Becky. I got you.

White Chocolate Mocha Latte : Beverages :: Contemporary Romance : Novels

It’s so sweet. From the whipped top, to the white chocolate syrup, it’s designed to hit that sweet tooth with everything it’s got. It’s almost too much, but not quite enough to deter you.

Dulce de leche : Beverages :: Erotic Romance : Novels

Ingredients: kahlua, dulce de leche, coffee, chocolate, heavy cream, sugar

Adult readers only! You must be 21 or older to buy this beverage. With heaps of chocolate, Kahlua (or any liquor of your choice, really), and a heavy dose of heavy cream… this drink is positively sinful. You may feel a bit guilty about this kind of indulgence, even. Ain’t no shame in the game though, honey. As long as you’re legal buying age, everyone deserves a bit of adult relaxation.

I hope if these aren’t your go to genres now, that maybe you’ll consider reading them in the future. Perhaps the reverse as well, try a new beverage! It might be the best one yet.

Happy Reading my friends — Chelsea

What’s Ashley Reading?: Not much…

This week’s blog post is a little different. I have been sick and not really feeling like reading. Sleeping has been a priority for me in the last few days but I have some books that I am really excited about starting.

In December our staff participated in a murder mystery instead of having a traditional Christmas party. Everything was designed by our amazingly talented teen coordinator, Alyssa. She designed everything around a secret society whose goal is to protect and preserve literary works. Over several weeks we were emailed clues then asked to put everything together and reveal the murderer, why they were committing the crime and what the important document was all about. Let me tell you, it was HARD! I truly do not know how Miss Alyssa’s mind holds all of this.

After weeks of pouring over the clues I found out that I had won the grand prize! A $100 gift card to Watermark Books & Cafe! My next free weekend was spent browsing their shelves looking for just the right books. I picked out seven books and an enamel pin. Trust me it was not easy to decide but I did it.

List of books I bought:

So hopefully I will be feeling better by the weekend so I can start on some of these books. If you are interested in winning a gift card to Watermark Books then enter our For the Love of Reading challenge on Beanstack. It runs from February 2-14, 2020. You still have time to log books. The more you read the more chances you have to win!

Welcome to the Forbidden Forest Read-a-thon!

I dare you to read twelve books in one month. I dare you to enter the Forbidden Forest, face cursed ponds, trickster fairies, and a witch’s spells. I dare you to follow the path through the forest, forgoing that hour of Facebook scrolling or Netflix binging to brave the treacheries of the woods. Only you can answer the call, and only you can make it through unscathed. I dare you to try!

Now I know that for most of us, it seems impossible to read that much in a single month, but I can assure you that if you choose your books well and prioritize your time, you can make it through this challenge. Welcome to the Forbidden Forest Read-a-thon!

What is the Forbidden Forest Read-a-thon?

In honor of this year’s NEA Wichita Big Read, the library is hosting its first read-a-thon. Here’s a link to a previous blog post that may answer any questions you have about what a read-a-thon is.

The Forbidden Forest Read-a-thon will take place during the entire month of October and is open to both adults and teens in sixth grade or higher. Each of the twelve reading challenges are themed around obstacles you would find in a forbidden forest.

Who can participate?

This challenge is for both teens in 6th-12th grade and adults over the age of eighteen!

How do I participate?  

Step One: Pick up a tracking log at either the front desk or youth services desk OR print out the log yourself at the link here.

Step Two: Choose twelve books to read for the month by following the prompts. E-books and audiobooks count as do children’s books, middle grade books, and graphic novels/manga. A good rule of thumb is if the book can be found in the Goodreads database, it counts towards your read-a-thon!

Step Three: Read! You have until October 31st to complete all twelve challenges.

Step Four: Write down the twelve books you read on the submission form and turn it in to either the front desk or youth services desk at the library by October 31st. You will be entered to win one of two $50 Barnes and Noble Gift Cards!

We are so excited to be hosting a read-a-thon this year and hope you join us on this adventure!

A whole new year for books!

Aahhhhh! It’s nearly the start of a brand-new year! For many of us, that means new reading goals — Have you set that goal on Goodreads yet?! — and maybe a new reading challenge or two — or 63?!

I know several of us in the library and many of our library patrons participated in The Wichita Eagle‘s 2018 #READICT challenge. The 2019 challenge is looking pretty great as well, with categories including “A book from a genre you don’t normally read” and “A book recommended by a child or a teenager.”

But what if you are looking for a challenge that’s well, a little more challenging? Have no fear, there is apparently no shortage of reading challenges out in the Webosphere, and we’ve rounded up a few — and included links! — that we find intriguing, as well as one awesome clearinghouse that can hook you up with just about any kind of reading challenge you can imagine!

Reading challengesHere are our picks, in no particular order (except No. 1!):

  1. No. 1, of course, has to be The Wichita Eagle’s #READICT 2019 challenge, hosted by Suzanne Perez Tobias. Pick up a copy of the challenge here at our library or a bookmark with the challenge at any Wichita Public Library, register online on the WPL website, and make sure you join the #READICT Facebook group for lots more great reading suggestions!
  2. The Reading Women challenge from the ladies at the Reading Women podcast. This is a great challenge is you are looking to add female authors to your reading lists this year. Categories include a children’s book and a book about a woman athlete.
  3. The Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge is also one of my personal favorites. Not only does Anne Bogel provide you with a challenge sheet to record your books during the year, but she gives you adorable reading planning sheets!
  4. Book Riot has hosted a read harder challenge for a few years, and let me tell you, this challenge can really make you read harder! Categories include a book written in prison and a book published prior to Jan. 1, 2019, with fewer than 100 reviews on Goodreads. There is also a group on Goodreads for this challenge which may be helpful in finding titles in some of the categories.
  5. Another popular reading challenge (I usually find it linked on Pinterest before I see it anywhere else) is the PopSugar reading challenge. This challenge is made up of 40 categories, or 50 if you do the advanced version! There is also a group on Goodreads you can join for this challenge.
  6. And if none of the above recommendations quite floats your boat, over at Girlxoxo.com, they’ve put together a master list of the reading challenges that can be found for 2019. Who knew there were so many?! Surely, there must be something for everyone there.

And tell us in the comments, do you participate in reading challenges? Which one is your favorite and why?

Best book lists rule this time of year, so here’s our list of lists!

Man, Thanksgiving hit, and all my book-related newsletters and websites have been filled with “Best of 2018” and other types of end-of-year book lists. My first response was “Can you not wait until the end of the year? What if the best book of the year gets released in December?!”

But alas, the lists have not slowed down and there are so many of them I don’t know where to start or how to decide which ones I should choose books from! In other words, all these lists have me a little paralyzed. Kind of. I mean, now that I’ve looked at so many lists of what are supposed to be the best books of the year, I have no idea how to manage my to-read list, because now I want to read everything.Image result for choose a book

So, to help you build a TBR (to be read) pile for 2019, here is a Top 10 of the lists we’ve found, from the traditional, to the not-so-traditional.

    1. Image result for new york times book reviewFrom The New York Times Book Review, here’s a list of the 10 best fiction and nonfiction titles chosen by the paper’s book editors.
  1. Here’s a list from Literary Hub billed as the “Ultimate Best Books of 2018 List.” The titles were culled from 52 best-of lists and the titles that appeared most often on those lists show up here.
  2. Here’s a list from Digg that used a similar tactic to review lots of lists  and come up with the Top 10 for 2018.
  3. This Washington Post Book World Top 10 list includes not just the 10 books that caught the editors’ attention, but lots more lists, including the 10 best graphic novels and the best children’s books.
  4. Is any Top 10 list complete without a list from a publishing publication? We think not, so here’s a list of Publisher Weekly‘s Top 10 from 2018.
  5. GQ chose its list of 9 favorites, then each of those authors also chose a favorite, for a list of 17 recommended books for 2018.Goodreads Choice Awards
  6. Goodreads (you are on Goodreads now, aren’t you?!) has its users vote for their favorite books in an end-of-year poll, for a crowd-sourced list.
  7. Another best-of list from Literary Hub is its list of the best-reviewed books from its companion site Book Marks.
  8. Book Riot has a list that is a little different take, and is guaranteed to have some titles that aren’t included on the lists above. It’s a list of 50 must-read books that you likely missed this past year.
  9. And the final list I want to share with you is one of my favorites, and it’s not technically a traditional list. NPR’s Book Concierge is a fun way to find new books that appeal to you, as you can sort using filters (and can combine filters). In addition, NPR makes its Book Concierges from 2008-2017 available as well!

NPR logo

What’s Ashley Reading?: I’d Rather Be Reading

I love to buy books!  I think many of us here at the library have this same problem.  I want to have copies of my favorite books on hand in case I want to reread them or to decorate my apartment.  So when a big book sale is going on I always try and get there to pick up a few treasures.

The library has a running book sale but every so often we have more books than we know what to do with.  That is when we have a bag sale!  What is better than getting a Derby Library bag stuffed full of new and old books?!  We currently have this sale happening at the library running through November 3rd.  Come in and see what is here.  New books are added every day.

I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel

First line: “Can you recommend a great book?”

Summary: Told through a series of essays by author and blogger, Anne Bogel, we get a look into what makes reading a full time hobby of hers. She gives the reader tips on how to organize their bookshelf, tells us what got her hooked on reading and the love of her library next door. This cute little book is perfect for the book lover in your life!

Highlights: I recently started following Anne’s blog (Modern Mrs. Darcy) and her Instagram account. She LOVES books and everything book related. This short little book was quick read that is easily relatable. She knows exactly what it means to be a book lover. I felt like she was talking directly to me. Moreover, learning that I am not the only one who is obsessed by reading and all things books.

I loved her idea of a book twin. Someone who has similar reading likes and dislikes. Someone who can vet books for you and you for them. Her tips and tricks make me want to reorganize my bookshelves and add more shelves too. I never even considered having shelves dedicated to authors I have met or organize based on colors.

Lowlights: The essays are nothing groundbreaking but are a fun read that are easy to connect with as a reader.

FYI: The author also has a podcast, What Should I Read Next.

Get great books cheap at library book sale

It’s that time of year again, when reading can take center stage as you find time to relax and rejuvenate yourself. Whether you’re hanging by the pool, on vacation at the beach, or just lying in a hammock in the backyard, a good book can make that moment even better.

If you are in need of good, inexpensive reading material for times like those, the Friends of the Derby Public Library has got you covered. Come to the Friends book sale at the library July 21 and 22 to find reading treasures, at just 25 cents for a paperback and 50 cents for a hardcover.

There will be hundreds of books to choose from, so you are sure to find something you will enjoy. Music CDs, DVDs and books on CD are also available at the nominal cost of $1 for music CDs and $2 for DVDs and books on CD.

If you are a member of the Friends group, you are lucky enough to have access to a Friends-only preview sale 6:30-8 p.m. Friday, July 20. If you aren’t yet a member, you can join for only $10 at the sale.

The book sale will be 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, July 21, and 1-4 p.m. Sunday, July 22, in the Community Room at the library.

Volunteers are needed to set the sale up Friday; to work the sale Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday; and to box up what books are left after the sale on Sunday afternoon. If you are interested in volunteering, please email the Friends group at friends@derbylibrary.com.