What’s Ashley Reading?: Rizzio

Rizzio by Denise Mina

First line: Lord Ruthven wanted him killed during this tennis match but Darnley said no.

Summary: On the night of March 9, 1566, the personal secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots was murdered by assassins in the Queen’s apartments at Holyrood Palace. David Rizzio was dragged out and stabbed fifty six times while the pregnant queen was restrained by her husband, Lord Darnley.

My Thoughts: I remember the first time I learned about David Rizzio. It was a in a book by Jane Yolen, The Queen’s Own Fool, that I stumbled upon in a book sale. It seems like such a fantastical story but it is actually history. Mina’s book is a quick story about these events, the people involved and the reasons behind them.

Even though I liked the story I found the writing style strange. I didn’t feel like it flowed well. This was my first book by Denise Mina, so maybe this is her normal style but it’s not one that I found appealing.

Mary had such a tragic life. But I think that is why so many people, including myself, find her interesting. She was a woman with power in an age when many women had no power. And she is constantly being compared to her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. If you have never heard about this event in Mary’s life or need a short book (118 pages) to complete your reading challenge then I would recommend picking this one up!

FYI: Very bloody. He was stabbed 56 times!

What’s Ashley Reading?: A Slow Fire Burning

A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins

First line: Blood-sodden, the girl staggers into the black.

Summary: A young man is found murdered in his houseboat in Regent’s Canal. As the police look into what happened they focus on three women. The young woman with whom he had a one night stand, the grief stricken aunt and the nosy neighbor. Each one has their own dark pasts with lots of mistakes. And their own reasons to kill.

My Thoughts: This book started great! It felt like it was going to be an exciting story with lots of twists. And it was fun but so much of it seemed to not matter to the whole storyline. Miriam especially seemed like she was just an addition to get the book to a certain page count. Plus there was lots of characters at the beginning. Keeping track of them while listening to the audio version made it hard to keep track of the plot.

I did enjoy the relationship between Irene and Laura. Seeing two women who are lonely and very different be friends and support each other is heartwarming in a murder mystery. I felt bad for both of them throughout the book because of the prejudices against them by society.

I was not surprised by who the killer was. It seemed rather obvious from the beginning as we learn the women’s backstories. With each one we see the connections and can figure out how the story will play out. Especially if you have read other thrillers. But I will say I still had fun reading it and would recommend it.

FYI: From the author of The Girl on the Train.

What’s Ashley Reading?: For Your Own Good

For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing

First line: Entitlement has a particular stench.

Summary: Belmont Academy is the best school in town. It churns out smart and well connected students to Ivy League universities. Teddy Crutcher, an English teacher, has just won Teacher of the Year. It is a high honor, especially for someone who did not attend Belmont as a student. And as a teacher he has high hopes for his students. He wants the ones who deserve to do well to achieve great things but he must teach the students who are entitled to learn a lesson. For their own good of course. When a parent dies at a school function the Belmont community is thrown into chaos. But then another murder happens. What is going on in this prestigious school?

My Thoughts: This is fine. I liked it. The characters were mostly terrible people. They each had such strong opinions about everyone else around them and were not afraid to act on their urges. Teddy was definitely scary in a calm methodical way. He could always justify his actions. But he also seemed to make sense in some of the things he thought which is even scarier.

I felt like the book was aimed more for young adult readers. And this may be because several of the main characters were teenagers. It felt like it was missing something that her other novels had which led me to give them a higher rating.

There were plenty of little twists but the reader knows from the very beginning who is killing. It was fun to read. And the ending was satisfying. Perfect for the story and the characters involved.

FYI: Death.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Not a Happy Family

Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena

First line: There are many expensive houses here in Brecken Hill, an enclave on the edge of Aylesford, in the Hudson Valley.

Summary: In the rich neighborhood of Brecken Hill live the Mercer’s. They have lived here for years where they raised their family, grown a business and been the envy of all. But one Easter weekend after a family dinner the Mercer parents are found brutally murdered in their home. It appears to be a robbery but with all the secrets in the Mercer family the police are sure that one of the adult children has something to do with it. As they dig deeper they find that there are more secrets than anyone originally thought.

My Thoughts: This was a solid book. Lots of suspense. Red herrings around every corner. Lots of backstabbing, threats and secrets. I finished it in just a few days. It kept me interested throughout but I feel like it has been done before like so many thrillers lately. All the characters were awful people. Not one was likeable. There were some loose ends that I felt were not dealt with and characters that seemed a little nonessential. But did I have fun reading it? Yes. Will I recommend it? Yes. It was fun for a quick summer read.

FYI: Perfect for fans of B. A. Paris and J. P. Delaney.

Grace’s Book Review: Yorick and Bones

Yorick and Bones by Jeremy Tankard and Hermione Tankard

First Line: “Grumble, grumble. So tired.” Spoken by a man, pushing a hotdog cart. 

Summary: This graphic novel tells the classic story of a skeleton and his dog. Accidentally awakened by a witch’s potion, our hero, Yorick, finds a world that is a little different than the one he knew four hundred years ago. The main difference being that people run from him in fear. One individual will stick by his side, though—a dog he affectionately calls Bones.  

My Thoughts: This book has it all—Shakespeare references, dogs, jokes about death, a skeleton going through an existential crisis—truly, what more can you want from a book? 

Despite the fact that this book is written to an 8–12-year-old audience, the humor is extremely enjoyable no matter how old you are. I read it and am in my twenties and loved it, and I recommended it to multiple friends who also enjoyed it (forsooth, I cannot begin to shut up about it, a mere inquiry of my coworkers would show you that). Of course, it is a very quick read if you are above the intended audience, but it’s hilarious.  

If you think a book written in slight Elizabethan English sounds fun, if you know (or are) a kid who likes dog books, if you are looking for something different, or if you just want an easy feel-good read, Yorick and Bones is the one for you! 

What’s Ashley Reading?: For the Wolf

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten

First line: Two nights before she was sent to the Wolf, Red wore a dress the color of blood.

Summary: The Second Daughter of the kingdom of Valleyda is destined for the Wolf. It has been a century since a sacrifice has been made but now it is Red’s destiny to enter the Wilderwood. She has known her whole life what would happen on her twentieth birthday but nothing prepared her for what happened once she entered the forest.

Her sister, Neve, is determined to find her sister and rescue her from the Wilderwood and the Wolf. She befriends a priestess who says she knows a way to make it happen. Will they be able to save Red from the dark woods?

My Thoughts: I was really excited about this book. I remember hearing about it months ago and thinking it was the perfect book for me. I really enjoyed the first few chapters and thought that I would love the rest of the book. But as the story progressed I became bored with the whole plot line and the characters. And then I saw it was going to be a series which made me less invested in reading it. The one thing I really liked about Uprooted, which this was compared to, is the fact that it is a stand-alone novel.

FYI: First in a new series. Debut novel.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Midnight Library

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

First line: Nineteen years before she decided to die, Nora Seed sat in the warmth of the small library at Hazeldene School in the town of Bedford.

Summary: Nora Seed has decided to die. Everything is falling apart around her. She is single, her cat died, she lost her job, her parents are dead and her brother won’t talk to her. What’s the point anymore? As she dies she finds that there is a library filled with possible other lives that would have existed had she made different choices. The librarian directs her to the books of these alternate lives where she can decide if she would rather live in those instead. Which one will she choose?

“Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?”

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this story. At the beginning it can be depressing as Nora keeps having her world fall apart around her. It almost seems like an It’s a Wonderful Life situation. But this is more inventive and adds another dimension to story. Rather than seeing the world without her, it looks at the world if she had made different choices.

I liked how different each life was because of one small choice. It’s the Butterfly Effect. One decision can change so much for you and every person you come into contact with. But we also see that what may appear to be perfect can still have its challenges. Nothing is perfect.

Everyone has things that they regret. I know I do. I wish I had spent a year abroad in college. But if I did that I would never have gotten my dog, Winston. I regret not staying at K-State in order to save money on college but if I hadn’t I would not have traveled around Europe with a group from Tabor College. There is always something that could be different but with every regret there is something good you would lose too.

Even though this sounds like a depressing book, it is really uplifting. It has a great message to anyone who is struggling with life choices and how to make the best of what we are given. Find joy in the small things.

FYI: Trigger warnings: suicide, drug overdose, language.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Mother May I

Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson

Summary: Bree Cabbat has the perfect life; a loving husband, beautiful children and a nice home. But one night she sees a witch at her window and the following day her baby son is stolen from her car with a mysterious message containing instructions on how to get her little boy back. As she follows “the mother’s” instructions she finds that there is more to this diabolical plan than she first thought. Racing against the clock Bree tries to find the secrets that could lead them to her son and “the mother”.

My Thoughts: This is my first book my Joshilyn Jackson. I really enjoyed it. It started off with a bang and continued to have the same high drama throughout which can be hard to maintain. As the story progressed I didn’t know how the author was going to continue because the end seemed so imminent but then whole new mystery appeared. As more layers were added the suspense got even higher until the last chapter. I will finally read her other thriller, Never Have I Ever, which I have checked out numerous times but never read yet.

Listening to the audio book I was a little annoyed at the readers voice. It was rather whiny but that could be because of the playback on the app. I liked the reader’s interpretation of “the mother’s” voice. It was witchy and creepy. And you need to stay focused while listening or you may miss something.

FYI: Great thriller!

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Hunger

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

First line: Everyone agreed it had been a bad winter, one of the worst in recollection.

Summary: A wagon train of settlers head out from Independence, Missouri, who would later be known as the Donner Party. They are bound for the bountiful lands of California. Among them is Tamsen Donner, who some believe to be a witch. And when strange things start to occur along the trail many look towards her for someone to blame. As they cover the long miles over prairie, desert and mountains, members of the party begin to change. Will the group be able to make it to the promised land of California or die trying to take the shortcut?

My Thoughts: Practically everyone has heard of the ill-fated Donner Party. They spent a long winter in the mountains on their way to California. After several of the party are rescued there has been rumors and debate about if the survivors resorted to cannibalism to stay alive. The story is such a dark piece of history which I think is what makes it so fascinating to so many people.

This book was recommended to me and I used it as part of my Traveler’s Reading Challenge. I had really high hopes of a spooky story mixed with cannibals. But I felt that there was a lot of build up to an ending that wasn’t as good as I had hoped. I expected to spend a lot more time in the mountains and the cold months. But this only was a small portion at the very end. It was a fun read for someone interested in a twist on history.

FYI: The author’s next book is The Deep which gives a twist to the story of the Titanic.

Kristy’s Reviews: The Deal of a Lifetime

The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman

First Line: Hi. It’s your dad. You’ll be waking up soon, it’s Christmas Eve morning in Helsingborg, and I’ve killed a person.

Summary: A father and a son are seeing each other for the first time in years. The father has a story to share before it’s too late. He tells his son about a courageous little girl lying in a hospital bed a few miles away. She’s a smart kid—smart enough to know that she won’t beat cancer by drawing with crayons all day, but it seems to make the adults happy, so she keeps doing it. (www.amazon.com)

My Thoughts:   Intriguing quick light read. What would you do? What would anyone do when you have cancer and know you’re gonna die? What would you do? For one man that lived a decent life, the end was an easy choice. Looking thru the windows at the hospital said it all. He knew from the first moment he saw this little girl what he would do in the end. And for him it was an easy choice to save the life of a little girl he barely knew. So he traded his life for hers with the help of the lady in the grey sweater and clipboard.