The Lineup: Hannah

Hannah’s Lineup

Podcast: Edith! by Crooked Media

Edith! is a scripted podcast about the somewhat-true story of Edith Wilson being the first unofficial female president of the United States. 28th President Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke in 1919, one year before the end of his presidential term. Rumors have long said that his wife Edith assumed many of his presidential duties. Edith!, starring Rosamund Pike, fictionalizes that story with humor and intrigue.

I love listening to scripted podcasts. It reminds me of old-time radio shows and is a nice change from traditional talk radio or audio books. Scripted podcasts are also perfect for short or long summer road trips!

Available here or wherever you get your podcasts.

TV Show: Ted Lasso

Starring Jason Sudeikis, Ted Lasso is a feel good show for the entire family. Ted Lasso is a football coach from Wichita State (funny for us Kansans!) who travels across the pond to England to become a manager of a soccer team. It’s hilarious. It’s heartwarming. It’s good TV!

I don’t rewatch many shows. But when I’m sick or in a bad mood, a handful of shows can perk me up…Gilmore Girls, Parks and Rec, and Ted Lasso. I do prefer season 1 to season 2, but I can’t wait for season 3!

Available on AppleTV+

Hobby: Sourdough

I grew my first sourdough starter from scratch in May 2019. The then-preteen boys named him Thanos. We just celebrated his 3rd birthday! I’ve baked yeasted breads for many years, but sourdough was a whole new adventure. In the last three years, I’ve explored different methods, experimented with recipes, and collected a myriad of equipment.

Working with sourdough and baking bread is a source of stress relief for me. The pandemic hasn’t been good for anyone’s mental health, and it’s important to find a hobby that brings you peace and happiness. Working with sourdough brings me a sense of calm. It might sound weird to some people, but prepping, baking, and enjoying the fruit of my labor is my happy place. After all…carbs = happiness!

For more information about growing your own sourdough starter and several starter recipes, check out The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion : The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook.

Game: Monument Valley

Monument Valley is an award winning puzzle game from ustwo games. It’s available on a variety of platforms, from iOS to Android to PC. It’s different than any other puzzle game you’ve ever played before. The artwork and music are smooth, mellow, and beautiful. The puzzles make you think, but they won’t stress you out. If you like puzzles and adventure games, definitely give Monument Valley a try. It’s even a game you can revisit later. The puzzles are so intricate that you won’t remember every step of the journey.

There are two seasons available, Monument Valley I and Monument Valley II. If you are lucky enough to have Apple Arcade, you can play both for free!

Book: The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

The House is the Cerulean Sea pulled me out of a reading slump. It’s one part humor, one part fantasy, one part romance, and one part science fiction. It ticked all the boxes of my favorite genres in one book! The book does start a bit slow, but you will be rewarded if you plow through the first three chapters.

The book tells the story of Linus Baker, who is a social worker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. These magical youth reminded me of mutants from the X-Men. Linus has to visit an orphanage run by the mysterious, intelligent Arthur Parnassus, who has several secrets of his own. Arhur’s charges are likely the most dangerous youth Linus has ever come across, including the Anti-Christ himself. As Linus spends time with Athur and his wards and gets to know them, the line between his duty and his heart begin to blur.

Available for checkout from KanShare Libraries

What’s Ashley Reading?: Gilded

Gilded by Marissa Meyer

First line: All right. I will tell you the tale, how it happened in truth.

Summary: Years ago a miller wished to marry a beautiful maiden. He asked the old gods to grant him this wish. When it was granted they also bestowed a gift on the couple’s child. She would be able to tell stories so fantastical that fascinated and awed her audiences. But they were also not true.

Years later, Serilda, the child of the miller catches the attention of the feared Erlking and his wild hunt. She tells a story of her ability to spin straw into gold thread. Fascinated by her the king kidnaps her on the full moon and makes her spin or lose her life. Unfortunately, Serilda cannot actually spin straw into gold but as she worries for her life a ghost appears to her in the castle who claims he can do the task but for a price.

As the months progress, Serilda is sure that the king will find out. However, an unexpected twist happens when Serilda starts to fall in love with her mysterious helper but she knows that not everything in the enchanted castle is as it appears.

My Thoughts: I was really excited to see that Marissa Meyer was once again doing a fairy tale retelling. I loved her Cinder series. The premise, the cover and the setting all appealed to me. I knew that this would be a book I would love. I wish I was right. I did like it and most likely will read the next one but the middle was just too long. I loved the beginning. And the end was very dark and twisty. But the middle stretched out for far too long. It seemed rather repetitive.

I enjoyed Serilda’s character. Her stories were interesting. I would read just a bunch of her short stories. But when she starts to fall for Gild I felt that it was a little forced. I did not really feel the chemistry between them until near the end as some of the pieces started falling into place for the lead up to the sequel.

The ending was really dark. Much more so than Meyer’s other books. But this may be a homage to the original authors of the story of Rumpelstiltskin by the Brothers Grimm. I will be interested to see where Meyer goes in the next book with Serilda’s story.

FYI: Trigger warning: death of children.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Once Upon a Broken Heart

Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber

First line: The bell hanging outside the curiosity shop knew the human was trouble from the way he moved through the door.

Summary: Evangeline Fox believes she has found her true love until the day she discovers that he is going to be married to someone else. In the hopes of stopping the wedding, Evangeline makes a dangerous deal with the Prince of Hearts. All he asks of her is three kisses to be given at a time of his choosing. But Evangeline learns quickly that making a deal with a Fate is not as easy as it seems. The Prince of Hearts appears to have a plan for Evangeline that could lead her to her happy ending or her doom.

My Thoughts: From the cover to the description to the world of Caraval, this book was excellent! I was desperately awaiting its release. I loved Stephanie Garber’s first trilogy. And when I learned that this new one is set in the same universe I knew it was going to be just as wonderful.

The story feels like a fairy tale. It has beautiful characters, magic and dark twists. You do not have to have read the Caraval series to understand this book but I highly recommend it. Several characters and references are made to the other trilogy. One of my favorite parts of Garber’s writing is how descriptive and beautiful it is. There are lots of colors, patterns and imagination. It is not like anything else I have read.

I love her characters as well. She always has a strong female lead. But best of all, as a reader you can never tell who to trust and what they are going to do next. Some characters, such as the Prince of Hearts, may appear to be bad but what if he’s not? Or is he? In the world of Caraval not everything is as it seems.

FYI: First book in a new series by Stephanie Garber.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Blade of Secrets

Blade of Secrets by Tricia Levenseller

First line: I prefer metal to people, which is why the forge is my safe space.

Summary: Ziva, an eighteen-year-old female blacksmith, makes magical weapons in her forge. But one day she takes a commission from a powerful warlord. With this commission she makes the most deadly weapon ever. It has the power to bring nations to their knees. In order to keep it from the woman who wants to use it to take over the country she and her sister flee their home to find a way to destroy the weapon before it can be used.

My Thoughts: I have come to love Levenseller’s books. She writes such fun stories that have great characters. This one was the same. Her main character deals with social anxiety while also have a powerful gift and talent. It is great to see author’s bringing in characters that are not perfect. Everyone needs a hero that represents them.

The beginning of the story seemed to drag for me. It took a while for me to get invested in what was happening which was really disappointing because usually I am all in for the author’s stories. About halfway in I started loving the characters, enjoyed the possible romance and was waiting for some big twist to happen. But the end is what made it hard trying to decide how to rate this book. I loved the last 25% or so. Characters became more developed, secrets are revealed and a big battle happens. And of course a cliffhanger.

I will definitely read the next book.

FYI: This is the first book in a duology.

Mama Lala Reads: Maya and the Rising Dark

My Thoughts (SPOILERS): This book makes me want to research. I know I’ve heard of the Orisha before…

First Line: “T- minus five days.”

Summary: There is magic in this world, and the rest, and nobody knows it. One day Maya watches the color drain from the world, and wonders if she is going crazy. Then her dad disappears– literally– and Maya knows something is going on. When the truth is revealed to her, she knows she must go save her father.

Rating: 4.5 stars! I know something about this book must not be perfect, but I cannot think of it!

My Thoughts (SPOILERS): This book makes me want to research. I know I’ve heard of the Orisha before, I believe it is an African folklore, but i want to KNOW. I want to compare these characters to the Gods they are based on. I want to dive deep into the mythology.

A little warning, I wanted to read this book with my daughter, who is 9. I’m a little glad I didn’t. Some kids could handle this book at that age, and others would have nightmares. I’m not sure which side my girl would land on, and that is why I’m glad I didn’t share. The villain is quite creepy, and he can kill you in your dreams (which is why I was timid to share with my young one).

All in all, it’s a wonderful book, just be sure your creepy kid won’t get nightmares before you bring it home to them.

You can check it out at the library via the link above. Hope to see you soon.

Happy Reading my friends,

Chelsea (Mama Lala)

What’s Ashley Reading?: A Deadly Education

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

First line: I decided that Orion needed to die after the second time he saved my life.

Summary: The Scholomance is a school for wizards. However, this is not your ordinary school. There are no teachers, monsters lurk around every corner and allies are more important than friends. El has spent her years here trying to stay alive, literally. And even though she has extraordinary powers she has to keep them in check otherwise she could destroy the school and everyone in it. With her reputation as a dark wizard and her grumpy attitude she has never made any friends but that all changes when Orion Lake decides to save her life, again.

My Thoughts: This book was crazy! The first few chapters had so much information, world building and magic system in it that it nearly overwhelmed me but I stuck with it. It was worth it! There are many books that are trying to be like Harry Potter but this takes it to another level. Monsters creep out of every nook and cranny. The school is forever changing. Fellow students may try to ally themselves with you or kill you. No teachers or even any adults are in the school. And graduation is a life or death situation.

Everything about this book was different and exciting. I loved the ending. It was thrilling and fast paced. I wish it didn’t have to end but it gave such a good cliffhanger that I am eagerly anticipating the next book. It cannot come soon enough!

FYI: Lots of death, violence and magic.

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.

Random Reading Thoughts: The Challenges of Reading a Series

Hi blog readers! I’ll be writing a monthly blog post, which will be posted the first week of the month. As the title suggests, each post will be some random thoughts I have about reading. Hopefully, they’ll be thoughts that our readers will find interesting as well.

Poison Study, Book 1 in the Soulfinder series by
Maria V. Snyder

Today, my thoughts have been swirling about book series. I love reading a good series, but sometimes a wrench gets thrown into the works or something else comes up that makes me long for more standalone books. For instance, an author has several books out in a series, hasn’t completed it, but stops writing to pursue other writing adventures (I’m looking at you Jim Butcher and Chris Grabenstein!). Or, a series gets marketed and advertised and sold as a trilogy (yay! only three books!) and then turns into a series of way more books, but now I have to wait a whole year for each book in the series.

Or, along the same lines, you start a series with the first book, and now you have to wait a whole year for each new book. I find myself wondering why I didn’t just wait until the series was finished before I started reading. I’m so impatient to start the next book!

Magic Study, Book 2 in the Soulfinder series by Maria V. Snyder

And that leads me back to what started me thinking about series in the first place. One of my book clubs read a fantastic book last month, the first in a series. I gobbled down the first three books in the series and immediately grabbed book four. Opened it, and realized that some really important stuff had happened that I had no record of! Lo and behold, the author interrupted the series and wrote a related trilogy based on one of the characters, and those three books have all the good stuff I missed. So, I’ll be reading those three books in anticipation of getting back to the original series.

I can’t decide if I’m annoyed with the author for doing that, or looking forward to getting more of the story from a different character’s perspective and seeing more of this fabulous world she’s built. What about you? How do you manage series? Do you wait until they’re finished or do you devour each book as they come out? Drop us a comment below and share what your favorite series is, as well as how you prefer to read them.

Fire Study, book 3 in the Soulfinder series by
Maria V. Snyder

PS: The series that has every bit of my attention right now is the Soulfinder series by Maria V. Snyder, and the trilogy that tucks in the middle is her Glass series.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Red Scrolls of Magic

Recently Miss Hannah and I recorded a podcast where we gushed about how much we love the author Cassandra Clare and her work. If you love everything Shadowhunters then you should listen to our podcast episode and check out her newest book, The Red Scrolls of Magic.

The Red Scrolls of Magic by Cassandra Clare & Wesley Chu

First line: From the observation deck of the Eiffel Tower, the city was spread at Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood’s feet like a gift.

Summary: Following the Mortal War against Valentine Morgenstern and his followers, it is time for a much needed vacation. Alec Lightwood and his warlock boyfriend, Magnus Bane, are on a romantic adventure through Europe. However, everything does not go as planned. With the arrival of an old friend, Magnus is warned that there is a demon worshipping cult making trouble in Europe. And the rumored leader is none other than Magnus Bane himself. In order to clear his name and bring down the cult he and Alec travel across Europe fighting demons and attending some rather exciting parties.

My Thoughts: I have been waiting for this for years! I love Alec and Magnus. I have been a huge fan of their relationship from the very beginning. And now they are traveling across Europe. Yes please! One of the best things about Clare’s characters, especially Magnus, is their wit. He always has perfect little quips.

The story started a little slow and the pacing seemed a little off from Clare’s other works but that may be due to having a co-writer on this novel. However, once I got into the story I was hooked. I read the last 200 pages in one day. I could not put it down. I loved their banter. I was happy to see some characters from later timelines make an appearance. Even though this novel is much shorter than her more recent ones it does not lack any of the pieces that makes her other books so gripping. There is a lot of action, romance and demons.

And this novel is her first adult novel in the Shadowhunter universe. It is evident that this is written for a little older audience because there is some more graphic scenes but it does not go too far. At the end Cassie writes about how she wanted to write this novel for a long time and left a gap in her timeline in case she was able to get it written. I could tell that it was a project she felt very passionate about.

FYI: This is the first in a new trilogy, The Elder Curses. It takes place after the first three books in the Mortal Instruments series.

What’s Ashley Reading?: King of Scars

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

First line: Dima heard the barn doors slam before anyone else did.

Summary: Nikolai Lantsov, the young king of Ravka, has spent the first several years of his reign trying to hold his country together. With the help of his Triumvirate he hopes to strengthen the borders, improve diplomatic relations and rebuild the Second Army. However, as miracles continue to happen around the country and a darkness still infects his land, he is met with more than he imagined.

My Thoughts: Nikolai was one of my favorite characters from Bardugo’s original trilogy. He has a sharp wit and charisma that lets him steal every scene. I was so happy when I learned that he was getting his own duology. Authors do answer prayers! Ha! And Nina from The Dregs Duology has a starring role as well. I loved every one of her chapters. She is daring and smart. And she does not mind causing a little trouble along the way.

“But it’s a very arduous path,” Nikolai said. “Who will carry my snacks?”

In addition to past characters we meet several new ones. I did not know how I was going to feel about them when they first entered the storyline but they surprised me. It was a fun plot twist. I am excited to see where these new characters take us.

The first half of the book was a little slower, a trait which I have noticed in the other books. But when the action picks up the story flies by. Trust me and stick with this. It is worth every minute you spend reading it.

And finally that ending! Wow! It was shocking. It literally gave me goosebumps as I was reading it. I will be highly anticipating the next book. I hope I do not have to wait too long.

FYI: I would highly recommend you read The Shadow and Bone Trilogy and The Dregs Duology before picking this one up. There are lots of characters and storylines that carry on into this latest addition to the Grishaverse.