What’s Ashley Reading?: Time’s Convert

The last several months have been filled with the project of weeding and shelf reading the juvenile non-fiction books.  This is quite a daunting task since there are TONS of books!  I was ready to take on the challenge though.  As I have been working my way through the Dewey decimal system I have found some very interesting books.  Even though they are titles geared towards children there is so much good information to be found here.  And the fact that kids LOVE to check these out is wonderful!  If you have not browsed our children’s non-fiction titles you definitely should.

I am someone who likes to learn a little bit while I read.  Before I started working at the library I read mainly historical fiction.  I love learning about the history of people and places.  Deborah Harkness’s newest book, Time’s Convert, is my latest historical fiction but with a fantasy twist.

*May contain spoilers if you have not read the All Souls Trilogy!*

Time’s Convert by Deborah Harkness

First line: On her last night as a warmblood, Phoebe Taylor had been a good daughter.

 Summary: In continuation of her best-selling series, Deborah Harkness takes us on an adventure spanning from the American Revolution to modern day as we follow the early days of vampires, Phoebe Taylor and Marcus MacNeil.  Marcus grew up in time of great change.  He saw the birth of a new country but when he meets Matthew de Claremont on the fields of battle his life was changed forever.  Phoebe, an art dealer and Marcus’s fiancé, has made the decision to become a vampire.  In the early days after her rebirth, she learns that her journey to immortality is not any easier than it was for Marcus.

 Highlights: I love Harkness and her writing.  It is immediately engaging.  I read the All Souls Trilogy several years ago which made the details of the story a little fuzzy.  However, as I started this newest installment she gave tidbits that helped me remember more of the previous novels storyline.  I was worried that in this new book I would not get to revisit characters like Matthew and Diana because the story focused on Marcus and Phoebe but Harkness must have known I would always want more of them.  She alternates her chapters between the characters and plot lines.  We jump from eighteenth century to the twenty-first and back again.

I have been fascinated with the American Revolution since middle school.  I was pleased that Marcus’s story took us back to the American colonies and the fight for liberty.  I enjoyed reading as Marcus met famous people of the time including the Marquis de Lafayette.  After seeing Harkness at a Watermark event a few years back, I learned that her focus of study is on the history of science.  It really comes through during this time when Marcus, as well as the nation, is dealing with a small pox epidemic.  The history of inoculations for the disease was fascinating and fit perfectly into the story.  I am so glad that small pox is not something that we have to worry about now because it looks truly frightening!

Phoebe is a character that I vaguely remember from the trilogy but I cannot say that I felt too strongly about her.  In this book, she has a fascinating story.  I loved seeing her progress as she fought her urges and dealt with the new strengths.  Her first night out in the world interesting.  In addition, her preference for the blood of middle-aged white women definitely made me laugh aloud!

Matthew and Diana’s twins were probably my favorite part of the story.  Each of them have their own traits from both their mother and father.  Watching their parents try to figure out how to deal with a daughter who drinks blood and son who can weave spells was entertaining.  I do not want to give too much away but I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

 Lowlights: I wish I could get more Gallowglass!  He makes a few appearances but not enough for me.  Maybe the next book?!  Please Deborah!!

 FYI: Lots of blood, violence, magic and some sexual situations.

*I do not think it is a must but I would recommend reading her All Souls Trilogy, starting with A Discovery of Witches before picking this one up.*

Book Review: The Masterpiece

The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis

First line: Clara Darden’s illustration class at the Grand Central School of Art, tucked under the copper eaves of the terminal, was unaffected by the trains that rumbled through ancient layers of Manhattan schist hundreds of feet below.

Summary: For Clara, a struggling artist and illustration teacher, Grand Central School of Art is a stepping stone in the hopes of greater things to come. She has dreams of working for Vogue as an illustrator. By moving to New York City, she left behind everything but so far, things have not turned out the way she had planned.

After her divorce, Virginia Clay has been trying to figure out how to support herself and her daughter after spending years as the wife of a powerful attorney. When she gets a job at Grand Central Terminal in the information booth, she does not realize how much it will change her life. She discovers a watercolor behind a cabinet in the old art school and it leads her on search for the artist and the history of the terminal.

Highlights: I really enjoyed the character of Levon. He was fiery and temperamental. He portrays the iconic angsty artist. He had a rich back-story and little quirks that made him stand out. I wish that he were a real person so I could see some of the work that Davis describes in her novel.

The descriptions of Grand Central were amazing. Google is my best friend when reading historical fiction. I am always pausing my reading to search for pictures or more information about places and characters. It is sad that the terminal was in such bad shape in the 70s and that at one point it was going to be torn down. I have never traveled to NYC but I have seen the station at Kansas City and if it is half as pretty as that, it would have been a shame to lose it.

I have enjoyed the time jumps in Davis’ work. I think the thing that makes her work so great. She is able to switch between characters and time while keeping the flow of the story. I have not read her second book, The Address, yet but I am on hold for it now.

Lowlights: The beginning was a little slow to start. Davis gave us some background on the characters plus some information about the time. Then the speed of the relationships went very fast. I was a little shocked by Virginia early on but she grew on me as I continued to read. One scene in particular stood out between Virginia and Dennis.

FYI: If you like this try the novels of Susan Meissner.

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!

Late March new releases

Happy first day of spring! OK, so it’s kind of gloomy and gray and cool outside today, but still. Spring! It’s officially here even if it doesn’t much look or feel like it. That means temperatures will eventually be warming and it will be easier (and more comfortable!) to spend time outside.

When the weather warms up, where’s your favorite outdoor location to read? Tell us in the comments. In the meantime, since spring is a time of new beginnings and fresh starts, here is a list of great new books for spring reading.

March 20: The Broken Girls by Simone St. James
If you are a fan of creepy gothic novels, Simone St. James serves up just the right flavor. In Vermont in 1950, Idlewild Hall was a boarding school for girls—the girls no one knew what to do with. Four of these girls bond over their shared fear, and then one of them disappears. In Vermont in 2014, Idlewild Hall is an abandoned ruin, where 20 years earlier, the body of journalist Fiona Sheridan’s murdered sister was found. Despite a trial and conviction in the case, Fiona can’t shake the idea that something more is going on.

March 20: Every Note Played by Lisa Genova
From the author of Still Alice comes this story of Richard, an accomplished concert pianist who now suffers from ALS, and his ex-wife, Karina, who reluctantly agrees to become his caretaker. As Richard’s disease and paralysis progress, and Karina struggles with her own past including her divorce from Richard, the couple works to reconcile their past and find peace before it’s too late.

March 27: I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon
A new take on a favorite Russian mystery: Did Anastasia survive the executions of her family in 1918 by Bolshevik police? And was Anna Anderson actually Anastasia? In Lawhon’s story, a young woman is pulled from a freezing canal in Berlin. She bears an uncanny resemblance to Anastasia Romanov. Her body is covered with horrible scars. When she finally speaks, she claims to be the duchess. Told from both Anastasia’s point of view before the executions, and Anna’s point of view in reverse chronology, the story spans more than 50 years.

March 27: The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristin Hamel
Do you still love reading novels about WWII? There have been so many good ones recently, and this one is one more to add to your list. Meet American newlywed Ruby Henderson Benoit who has come to France with her French husband; Charlotte Dacher, who is 11 when German forces roll into the French capital; and Thomas Clarke, who joins the British Royal Air Force out of a sense of patriotism. The paths of these three cross in Paris, where they will work together against the Nazi forces that have invaded the city.

March 27: Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter (young adult)
Maddie’s dad used to be head of the Secret Service. But now they live in a cabin in the Alaskan wilderness with no phone and no internet. Then Logan, Maddie’s former best friend, and son of the president, suddenly shows up—six years later. And when he does, so does an unknown assailant who pushes Maddie off a cliff and kidnaps Logan. Maddie really wants to kill Logan after everything he’s put her through, but she has to rescue him first.

March 27: The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton
A king drains his island kingdom of nearly all its magic leaving it vulnerable to enemy nations, which now surround it, waiting for the time to strike and gain a valuable trading port. The king’s three daughters know that a new sovereign must be chosen to save the kingdom and restore its magic, but the king won’t choose an heir until the longest night of the year. So the daughters prepare for battle.

Early March new releases

I love spring! I know it’s not here yet, but these glimpses of warmth and sunshine we’ve had recently are such a breath of fresh air after days of cold and gray.

That’s how a new book feels to me—like a breath of fresh air! I walk past the display of new books in the front of the library, and it seems to call to me. And because of that, I can’t walk by it too often, or I’ll find myself buried in new books that are just begging to be read!

I hope you’ll possibly find some books on this list (that will be released this week and next) that call out to you. If you read any of these titles, be sure to pop back over here and let us know what you thought!

Cover of The Last Equation of Isaac SeveryMarch 6: The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs
A book about books is always going to grab my attention, and I am looking forward to reading this one. Hazel, owner of a struggling bookstore, gets a letter from her grandfather, a mathematician,  just a few days before his apparent suicide. The letter asks Hazel to entrust his final bombshell equation to a trusted colleague of his, before a secretive organization can find it. Hazel must decipher a set of clues her grandfather left in her favorite novel to find the equation, and she learns that if she fails, disastrous consequences will affect the entire family.

March 6: All the Beautiful Girls by Elizabeth J. Church
Vegas showgirls. In the 1960s. At 8, Lily Decker unexplainedly survives the car accident that takes the lives of her mother and father. Raised by her aunt and uncle, dance becomes her solace. When she is grown and ready to leave home for good, she changes her name to Ruby Wilde and goes to Las Vegas to become a troupe dancer. However, she lands work as a showgirl instead. She look like a success story, in her elaborate costumes and 5-inch heels, but like every other girl in Vegas, she has to learn how to navigate the world of men she works in and she has to figure out what true love really is.

Cover of The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto UrreaMarch 6: The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea
A Mexican-American immigrant story by the author of “Into the Beautiful North,” Wichita area’s Big Read selection of a few years ago. Miguel Angel De La Cruz, beloved family patriarch, is ailing, and before he dies, calls for one last legendary birthday party. In the days leading up to the party, his mother also dies, so now it’s a double farewell. For one weekend in San Diego, the De La Cruz family revisits the many tales that have been passed down in family lore. NOTE: Luis Alberto Urrea will be in Wichita to discuss this book at 6 p.m. March 22 at Watermark Books.

March 13: Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney
Amber Reynolds wakes up in a hospital, in a coma, and she can hear everyone around her. From Goodreads: “Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?

Cover of Islandborn by Junot DiazMarch 13: Islandborn by Junot Diaz (picture book)
Lola’s school is one of children from everywhere, but she can’t remember the island she came from. When her teacher asks the children to draw a picture of where they came from , everyone but Lola is excited.  But her family and friends share their memories, and as they do so, Lola’s imagination takes her on a wonderful journey back to The Island.

Early February new releases

I’m having a hard time believing it’s already February! How did January go by so fast? I’d like to think that it’s all the reading I’m doing, but I’m afraid that’s not actually the case.

In the meantime, there are more great books being released every week. Here are four that we think look pretty appealing. If you decide to read any of them, please comment below and let us know what you thought of it.

Remember, click on the book’s title to go to the catalog where you can see if it’s available or put it on hold.

Feb. 6: As Bright as Heaven by Sarah Meissner
The 1918 Spanish flu epidemic is at the center of this book about family and relationships. The Bright family moves to Philadelphia in 1918, with the hope that they can give their three daughters better opportunities. Just a few months after they arrive in Philadelphia, where Thomas goes to work in his uncle’s funeral home, the Spanish flu hits the town. As the pandemic spreads and kills 12,000 people in the city, the members of the Bright family find the things they believe in challenged.

Feb. 6: The Glass Forest by Cynthia  Swanson
It’s autumn of 1960 and Angie is living her dream life with her husband, Paul, and new baby. Then a phone call shatters their comfortable world. Ruby calls her Uncle Paul to report that her father, Henry, has committed suicide and her mother, Silja, is missing. Angie and Paul immediately head to upstate New York to be there for Ruby, who is 17. As Angie learns more about her husband’s family, she begins to wonder about her own marriage.

Feb. 13: Miss Newman isn’t Human! (My Weirdest School #10) by Dan Gutman (juvenile chapter book)
From Goodreads: “In this tenth book in the new My Weirdest School series, Sprinkles Newman, the local TV meteorologist, is coming to Ella Mentry School! She’s going to teach A.J. and the gang all about the weather. But what happens when a real live (well, not live) hurricane comes to the school? Hold on to your umbrellas!

“Perfect for reluctant readers and word lovers alike, Dan Gutman’s hugely popular My Weird School chapter book series has something for everyone. Don’t miss the hilarious adventures of A.J. and the gang!”

Feb. 13: White Houses by Amy Bloom
Lorena Hickok grew up desperately poor in South Dakota, but in 1932 she met Eleanor Roosevelt during FDR’s first presidential campaign. Hick, as she was known to her family and friends, was able to rise above her circumstances and by 1932 had fashioned herself as the most prominent female journalist in America. Bloom’s novel explores the relationship between Eleanor and Hick, as Hick moves into the White House and her status as “first friend” is an open secret, along with FDR’s own lovers.

Early January new releases

It’s a shiny, brand new year and oh, the reading possibilities that brings! With the advent of a new year, we are getting into the seasons of many more new books being released! With that in mind, here are a few titles we are looking forward to in the first half of January. Click on the title of the book to go to our catalog to check availability.

Tell us in the comments what your reading goal is for 2018.

Jan. 2: The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black—young adult
At 7, Jude lost her parents when they were murdered. At the same time her sisters were spirited away to live in the High Court of Faerie. Now 17, Jude desperately wants to join them, but to do so, she’ll have to defy Price Cardan, the youngest and most wicked of the sons of the High King.

Jan. 2: The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
Anna Fox hasn’t left her home in 10 months. Over those months, she has sat at her window day after day watching her neighbors. When a new family moves in, she feels particularly drawn to what looks like a picture-perfect family living what used to be her life. Then she hears a scream rip the silence and sees something no one should ever have seen, but what should she do?  She’s not certain anyone will believe her, but she must get to the bottom of what happened.

Jan. 9: The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor
In 1986, Eddie and his friends spend their time biking around their English village, sharing information with each other via little chalk figures. One day, a figure leads them to a dismembered body and everything changes. Now, it’s 30 years later, and each of them gets a letter in the mail that contains a chalk stick figure. Then one of them turns up dead. Eddy figures it’s time he learns what really happened all those years ago.

Jan. 9: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
A traveling psychic shows up in New York City’s Lower East Side in 1969, a woman who claims to be able to foretell the day a person will die. Four teenagers, the Gold children, sneak out to hear their fortunes. The prophecies they hear guide their stories for the next 50 years.

Jan. 16: Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict
From Goodreads: “In the industrial 1860s at the dawn of the Carnegie empire, Irish immigrant Clara Kelly finds herself in desperate circumstances. Looking for a way out, she seeks employment as a lady’s maid in the home of the prominent businessman Andrew Carnegie. Soon, the bond between Clara and her employer deepens into love. But when Clara goes missing, Carnegie’s search for her unearths secrets and revelations that lay the foundation for his lasting legacy. With captivating insight and stunning heart, Carnegie’s Maid tells the story of one lost woman who may have spurred Andrew Carnegie’s transformation from ruthless industrialist into the world’s first true philanthropist.”

Jan. 16: The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin
Two of Hollywood’s earliest female superstars are at the center of this book, which explores the friendship and creative partnership shared by Mary Pickford and Frances Marion. In 1914, Frances meets Mary, who is already making a name for herself. But together, these two women will hold much power in the movie industry and in Hollywood itself. Mary Pickford was knows as “Queen of the Movies” and Frances Marion is considered one of the most important female screenwriters of the 20th century.

 

December new releases

Ah, the holiday season is upon us. And that means the gift-giving season is upon us as well! If you are having a hard time finding the perfect gift for that hard-to-shop-for person on your list, maybe a book is the answer. We’ve got several great new releases listed below, and most of them will be out  before Christmas—with the exception of the last two titles, which will be out Dec. 26, perfect for late gift-giving!

Do you have a favorite book that you love to give as a gift? If so, share it with us by leaving a comment.

Dec. 5: Year One (Chronicles of the One #1) by Nora Roberts
On New Year’s Eve, a sickness suddenly spreads across the land. Within weeks technology begins to fail, governments have collapsed and half the world’s population is dead.  Survivors have to figure out how to work in this new world, a world where magic is beginning to rise up as science and technology have been destroyed. Some of the magic is good, and some is evil. In this new landscape, one is never sure if someone they meet is a savage or a savior.

Dec. 5: Enchantress of Numbers
by Jennifer Chiaverini
Ada is the only legitimate child of poet Lord Byron, and as such, destined for fame even before she was born. Her mother is estranged from Ada’s father in an attempt to save Ada from “her perilous Byron heritage” by immersing her in study of mathematics and the sciences. When Ada is introduced into society, she develops a relationship with inventor Charles Babbage and over time, comes to terms with her own imagination.

Dec. 5: The Girl in the Tower (The Bear and the Nightingale #2)
by Katherine Arden
Vasya returns as a young woman, and is compelled to choose between a forced marriage to a prince or life in a convent—both of which will leave her cut off from the world she longs to explore. Instead, she chooses to leave home disguised as a boy and sets off on an adventure. A battle brings her to the attention of the Grand Prince of Moscow, from whom she must hide her secrets, even after she realizes that she is the only one who will be able to stop the mysterious forces that could destroy his kingdom.

Dec. 12: You’re Gonna Love Me by Robin Lee Heather
Samantha, an accountant, lives her life as safely as she knows she should. Then Nick comes into her life and she can’t help falling for him. However, when he plans a dangerous kayaking trip, Samantha ends their young relationship in anger. Fast forward two years, and Samantha’s grandmother has had an accident, so Samantha travels to Thunder Falls, Idaho, to be with her. Who does she find there, but Nick. With the encouragement of their family and friends, and a whole church congregation, can they try again?

Dec. 19: Bad Call by Stephen Wallenfells (young adult)
Four boys from a prep school make plans to go on a camping trip in Yosemite National Park. What could possibly go wrong? Before the group even gets out on the trip, one of them backs out. Then, a girl replaces him. Then, there’s a fire at their intended campsite. So they decide to take a treacherous trail to the top of Yosemite Valley and the bad decisions really begin to pile up. After more mishaps and issues, one of them doesn’t make it back to their tent and the rest of the group tries to figure out what happened while desperate to survive themselves.

Dec. 26: The Road to Bittersweet by Donna Everhart
Wallis Ann Stamper is 14, and lives in the Appalachians, which is not easy but she finds it satisfying. Her older sister is a mute and musical savant and is constantly watched over. Wallis, however, is rugged and and practical. When a flood forces her family from their home in the middle of the night, Wallis is exposed to a whole world beyond the banks of the creek that carries the family name. As the family makes its way to the hill country of South Carolina, the experiences Wallis has will take her across some rough terrain, not all of which is physical.

Dec. 26: Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins
The scholarship Nora Tufts received was a step toward becoming a medical specialist. Then she was hit by a car. Then she overheard her boyfriend hitting on another doctor and that was two huge steps backward. So Nora goes back to the tiny Maine community she was so eager to leave 15 years before. And they don’t necessarily want her back.

Book Review: Mr. Dickens and His Carol

Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

First line: On that unseasonably warm November day at One Devonshire Terrace, Christmas was not in his head at all.

Summary: Charles Dickens had instant success with his first books but his most recent one was a flop. When the publishing firm begins to lose money, they devise an ultimatum. Write a Christmas story or pay back the advance. With less than six weeks left between the notification and Christmas Eve, Dickens has very little time to figure out his biggest success, A Christmas Carol.

Highlights: This was a very cozy little novel about one of my favorite stories. I have watched many adaptations of Dickens’ novel with my favorites being The Muppet Christmas Carol and Scrooge (with Albert Finney). The fact that this story was written in such a short period is shocking. I liked the Easter eggs in the story that tie in with A Christmas Carol. While reading I wanted it to be Christmas time and have a cup of tea. Very good debut novel!

Lowlights: There was a lot of buildup but not enough bang at the end. It was cozy and not as gripping as I hoped.

FYI: Spoilers! I have not read all of Dickens work but now I know how some of them end. Its okay. I guess after 150+ years everyone should know the stories and their endings.

Book Review: The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence

First line: It was a large canvas, big enough that it had taken two men to carry it into Il Magnifico’s chambers.

Summary: Simonetta, a new bride to Marco Vespucci, is considered the most beautiful woman in Florence. When she meets the rising star, Sandro Botticelli at the home of Lorenzo de Medici, she becomes the muse for the artist. He uses her as the model for one of his most famous works, The Birth of Venus.

Simonetta in The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli

Highlights: I really enjoyed the story. I love the time and the history of the Medici family. They were leaders of the Republic of Florence as well as supporters of the Renaissance in Italy. I had never heard of Simonetta Vespucci before reading this but since I have Googled her to see the paintings done by Botticelli. The writing was well done and flowed nicely. This is a good example of historical fiction. It has just enough history to learn from but is not filled with facts. I plan to read the author’s debut novel soon.

Lowlights: I got tired of the repetition of her being the most beautiful woman and being used to having people stare at her. It is the title of the book. It was too much. I did not need to be reminded.

FYI: Check out the artwork of Botticelli. It is amazing!