What’s Ashley Reading?: Clanlands Almanac

Clanlands Almanac by Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish

First line: I love almanacs.

Summary: Stars of the Outlander TV show, Graham McTavish and Sam Heughan, take the reader on a journey through a year in Scotland. They cover important figures, dates, and events in the Scottish year.

My Thoughts: I really enjoy the bromance between these two men. They pick at each other good-naturedly but genuinely like each other’s company. While entertaining the reader they bring some really fascinating information about Scotland. I enjoyed the personal touches as well including stories about young Graham and Sam in Scotland and how they interacted with important sights in their native homeland. Plus adding some more items to my bucket list I also found a few whisky recommendations. I am not a whisky drinker but when I visit Edinburgh this spring I plan to taste a little to experience the Scottish life.

This is a perfect addition to their previous book, Clanlands, and their show, Men in Kilts. I would highly recommend each of these if you are planning a trip to Scotland or love Outlander.

FYI: Definitely go for the audiobook on CloudLibrary with your Kansas library card.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Hidden

The Hidden by Melanie Golding

First line: Leonie presses her palm to the outside of the shop window.

Summary: Ruby has spent many nights watching her neighbor do yoga. She is startled when she notices his previously unknown family. After a chance encounter with her neighbor she is invited into his world. Even though she is drawn to Gregor she feels that she cannot interfere with his family. But as she gets to know Gregor, Constance and their daughter, Leonie, she finds out that the Gregor she knows is not the same as the one seen by his family. With each encounter, Ruby becomes more convinced that Constance and Leonie need to leave and she plans to help them.

My Thoughts: Melanie Golding does a great job again by merging a thriller with mythical events. In the story, Ruby believes that Constance has some mental issues when she talks of her life in the sea. How does this woman believe that she was once a seal?! And as a reader I kept wondering if I believed her or not too. It seems outlandish but also Constance really believes it to be true.

The story is told during different time hops. We see Ruby’s sister dealing with the near death of man in his bathtub, Ruby meeting Gregor and memories of a man who has done some dastardly deeds. As a reader you know that it is all leading to one point but how it’s going to get there is the fun of it. When everything comes together it was shocking. There are many little things from Gregor’s past that make the story thrilling. I could not wait to get to the end as I was reading. It was an elaborate cat and mouse game until the very end! And I was not disappointed.

FYI: Thriller with a mystical twist.

*This can be found on Hoopla in eBook and eAudiobook form.

What’s Ashley Reading?: When Women Ruled the World

When Women Ruled the World by Maureen Quilligan

First line: In 1558, when John Knox, the radical Scottish religious reformer, published his misogynist tract, The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, he called attention to what was strangely true in the middle of the sixteenth century in Europe: a remarkable number of women had ascended to supreme governmental power.

Summary: During the sixteenth century four women ruled over some of the most powerful countries in the world; Mary I and Elizabeth I in England, Mary Queen of Scots and Catherine de Medici in France. In this book the author looks how they interacted and changed the countries they ruled over.

My Thoughts: I love the history of the sixteenth century. I have read much on Elizabeth I but a lot less on the other three women. It was interesting to hear how they communicated, worked together and supported each other. Even though the ends of the two Marys was tragic they made their marks on history. I really want to know more about Catherine de Medici. She is someone who seems to be misrepresented in many historical fiction and movies.

FYI: Good introduction to each woman and how they came to be in their positions.

*Can be found in audio format on Hoopla or in book through Interlibrary Loan.

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?: The Turn of the Key

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

First line: Dear Mr. Wrexham, I know you don’t know me but please, please, please you have to help me

Summary: Rowan Caine stumbles upon an advertisement for what appears to be the perfect nanny job. It is for a family with four children, in a big house in Scotland, and a yearly salary of fifty five thousand pounds. When Rowan arrives for her interview she is blown away and a little intimidated by the house. It is a smart house. Everything is connected to apps that can be managed from a cell phone.

After her initial interview she is offered the job which seems like a dream come true. However, she does not realize that appearances can be deceiving. On her very first day she is left alone with the three younger children while the parents are at a weeklong conference. The adjustment for the girls is not going as smoothly as she had hoped but she is trying her best to befriend them.

When strange happenings start to disturb her nights she begins look into the history of the house and what could be causing these strange noises in the attic. With each new night she gets less and less sleep as the mysterious sounds gradually increase. Will she be able to make it through her first week or will she leave in the middle of the night like the other nannies before her?

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed Ruth Ware’s previous novel, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, but I think this one blew it out of the water. I seriously considered giving this 5 stars because it was very hard to put down. There was the perfect mixture of spookiness and suspense.

I love how the house appears to be a big old Victorian but inside it is very modern. I love the idea of a smart house but at the same time it is also a little scary. I completely understand Rowan’s unease with the cameras and app enabled features. And the fact that this house is basically out in the middle of nowhere. Anyone could easily be spooked by any sounds in the night.

I enjoyed the way that the novel was laid out. It is done in a series of entries in a letter from Rowan to a solicitor while she is in prison for the death of a child. She eludes to what happens but we do not get the full details until the end.

This is full of twists and turns. When you think you have had the big reveal another one appears. I loved every minute of reading this. I would highly recommend this to anyone who is looking for something that they cannot put down. Trust me. I had to force myself to sleep instead of reading one more chapter.

FYI: Warning: a child does die in the book.

Book Review: The Book Jumper

The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser

First Line: Will ran.

Summary: Amy and her mother, Alexis, decide to make a trip to Scotland to their family estate on an island called Stormsay.  When they arrive at the ancestral home and she finally meets her mother’s family she learns a secret that will take her love of reading to a whole new level.  The two families that live on the island are able to jump into books and interact with the characters and story. Their mission in life is to protect the stories and keep them running smoothly.  On her first day of lessons as a book jumper she enters the world of The Jungle Book but as the days pass things in the literary world start falling apart. It appears that someone is stealing ideas from stories!

Highlights: Once again the cover caught my attention. But the idea that someone could jump into a story and live along with the characters is a dream come true.  What story would I jump into?  The possibilities are endless. The little twists were fun and kept you wondering.  The other stories were chosen well with a variety of different themes.

Lowlights: Spoilers. Several of the books that are mentioned I have not read but the plot gives away the endings to many of them.  It made sense for the story and it isn’t a major problem but it was a little frustrating.

FYI: This story was originally published in German.