What’s Ashley Reading?: Queens of the Crusades

Queens of the Crusades by Alison Weir

First line: On Sunday, 19 December 1154, Henry II, the first Plantagenet King of England, was crowned in Westminster Abbey, along with his Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, amidst great splendor and rejoicing.

Summary: In the second installment of Alison Weir’s histories of the queens of England is Queens of the Crusades. It covers Eleanor of Aquitaine, Berengaria of Navarre, Isabella of Angouleme, Alienor of Provence and Eleanor of Castile spanning their lives over several centuries. These women lived in an age when they were expected to be humble and pious. But the queens of this time held power over their lands and income that drew the ire of their male subjects giving several of them tarnished reputations that Weir tries to dissolve.

My Thoughts: I enjoyed learning about these remarkable women. I love Eleanor of Aquitaine. She is one of my favorite queens of England. She lived for such a long time and was queen of France and England as well as duchess of Aquitaine. I was very excited to learn more about her daughter-in-law, Berengaria. She is glossed over so much in fiction since she was queen for such a short time and did not do much to gain prominence in England.

I like that Weir takes into account how often names are reused for different people that she tries to vary the spellings in order to keep them straight for the reader. I knew nothing about the queens after Eleanor. The amount of wealth these women had and spent is astounding. I love to see what the conversions are because it is so shocking.

Having visited England several times I have been to some of the places listed such as Westminster Abbey. I knew many of the tombs there but now I will need to find the ones for these medieval queens on my next visit.

FYI: Second installment of a four part series. Part one was Queens of the Conquest.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Clanlands

Clanlands by Sam Heughan & Graham McTavish

First line: Well, in The Beginning…there was a man in a kilt.

Summary: Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish, stars of the widely popular TV show Outlander set out on a trip around the Highlands of Scotland exploring the history, culture and landscape of this beautiful countryside. In their camper van they traverse the roads, lochs and pubs while sampling whiskey and traditional foods of the Highlanders.

My Thoughts: I highly recommend checking out the audiobook on CloudLibrary because I feel that this is what made the book much more interesting. Sam and Graham narrate the book. They recount times on set and with fellow cast members. They goof around and make fun of each other. I could tell that they really enjoy each other’s company and are good friends.

I learned a lot about the history of Scotland while reading this. As I listened I looked up the locations and people mentioned. It is astounding that there are homes older than our country. I could tell how proud they are to be Scottish.

I have always wanted to visit Scotland but I want to go even more after reading/watching Outlander. The land is beautiful and wild. The culture is rich and enduring. Much of my genealogy comes from Scotland. I want to experience the world my ancestors knew.

FYI: Find the audio book on CloudLibrary.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Hedy Lamarr, An Incredible Life

Hedy Lamarr: An Incredible Life by William Roy and Sylvain Dorange

First line: Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, it’s time for our mystery celebrity.

Summary: Hedy Lamarr, once considered to be the most beautiful woman in the world, was an actress and an inventor. She was born and grew up in Austria. However, when Europe seemed to be on the brink of world war, she fled to England and then the United States. Upon arrival she started her career in Hollywood. She starred in blockbuster films, married multiple times and lived the life of celebrity. But she also had a secret. She was a scientist. She loved inventing things and learning about the world around her.

My Thoughts: Several years ago, I read The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict, where I learned about Hedy Lamarr for the first time. It was a wonderful story about a fantastic woman. She was greatly overlooked for her inventions and only remembered for her looks. I love that people are now realizing her greatness.

I loved this version of her life. Graphic novels are becoming a form of literature that I have been more open to recently. I loved the artwork. It was all beautifully done and had lots of detail. Sometimes I find myself overlooking the art in a graphic novel but this one I took my time to look longer at the scenes before turning the page. If you are looking for a quick read and want to learn something new then this is perfect for you.

FYI: This is available on Hoopla only.

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.

Book Review: Hunger

Hunger by Roxane Gay

First line: Every body has a story and a history.

Summary: A memoir told by Roxane Gay. It is a letter to and about her body. She looks back over her childhood and young adult life to see what led her to love her body. As an overweight woman in a culture that sees beauty in being skinny, she tells her story and how she has coped with the invisibility that is incorporated with it.

Highlights: The author’s writing style is very simple and easy to follow. She is very candid about her life and the tragic events that have happened to her. She is comfortable in who she is and she portrays this in her writing. She is unapologetic and outspoken. The chapters are very short and the book is a quick read but not always and easy one.

Lowlights: Many points that she makes become repetitive. And I had a tough time listening to her read and talk. You feel terrible for her but at the same time applaud her for being true to who she is. I have mixed feelings about this book. I understand being comfortable in your body but at the same time being healthy and taking care of yourself is important too. I liked that she was very upfront about her life and struggles.

FYI: Very open. Some language. All the feels.

Book Review: The Latehomecomer

The Latehomecomer by Kao Kalia Yang

First line: From the day that she was born, she was taught that she was Hmong by the adults around her.

Summary: A memoir by Kao Kalia Yang, an author, activist, and public speaker. She was born in a refugee camp in Thailand. Her family are Hmong. They spent many years running and hiding from Vietnamese soldiers who were hunting the Hmong people. She spent her first years in the camp. When the chance to travel to America became available, her family took it. The first years in Minnesota were hard. They had to learn English, live off welfare checks, and try to feed their expanding family. Over years, her parents got jobs, learned to drive and encouraged their children to better themselves. As a young woman, she now looks back at her life and the strength of her family.

Highlights: I had never heard of the Hmong people. While reading this I was earning a history lesson as well as a social one. Refugees have to be strong to leave their homes and try to start over in a new country. Yang has a great way with words. I was scared for her family. I was happy when they were happy. It surprises me that something this terrible was happening in such modern times. Most of the events happened during my lifetime. This book can open the reader’s eyes to troubles of refugees. It is easy to overlook these people. But many of us are here because of “refugees” even though we call them immigrants. We need to have more sympathy and help for people who have lost everything and are trying to begin again.

Lowlights: I have no complaints about the book. I am just sad I could not go see Yang speak when she was in Wichita.

FYI: Big Read Wichita 2017 book.

Book Review: On Edge

On Edge by Andrea Petersen

First line: Fear ambushes me. 

Summary: Part personal experience.  Part research study.  This book delves into what it is like to have an anxiety disorder and how to understand them.  Millions of people in this country suffer from anxiety.  There are many new techniques and treatments being developed in order to help the people struggling with this disorder.

Highlights: I really enjoyed reading about her personal stories dealing with anxiety.  When I am feeling anxious, it seems like no one else can seem to understand.  Knowing that there are so many other people out there that are feeling the same way is comforting.  I have considered trying the mindfulness training and yoga as another way to help with my anxiety but have yet to start either. 

Lowlights: I did get a little lost in the technical babble at times and all the acronyms.  I wanted more of her personal success stories as a guide to help myself.

FYI: Slow reading but very informative.