What’s Ashley Reading?: The A.B.C. Murders

The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie

First line: It was June of 1935 that I came home from my ranch in South America for a stay of about six months.

Summary: Alice Asher is found murdered in Andover with a copy of the ABC Railway Guide near her body. Next comes Betty Bernard in Bexhill. As the murders progress the famed detective, Hercule Poirot, is being taunted by the killer. Why can’t Poirot figure out who is killing these people even when he has fair warning? How many letters in the alphabet before Poirot finds his killer?

My Thoughts: I’ve been on an Agatha Christie kick lately. I was hoping to read them in order but I decided that when taking a trip with my mom to Kansas City we should listen to one of Christie’s best known stories during the drive. We both have really enjoyed the other Poirot stories and this one was no different.

As the story went along Christie kept giving us peeks into the murderer’s whereabouts. Or did she? She is the master of crime novels because as a reader you never know what is real or what is a distraction from the truth. It is masterfully done. I never once considered who the killer was until it was revealed at the end.

Plus the writing is fun. I love when Poirot talks about “the little grey cells”. If you have not picked up an Agatha Christie novel then I would highly recommend you did. Especially her Hercule Poirot series. They are always entertaining. And then watch the movies based on the novels, Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile. Beautifully done!

FYI: Perfect reads for anyone who likes a good story and one that has stood the tests of time.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Fuzz

Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law by Mary Roach

First line: For most of the past century, your odds of being killed by a cougar were about the same as your odds of being killed by a filing cabinet.

Summary: Mary Roach attends an animal attack forensic investigator training, interviews locals about leopard attacks and watched the setup of a laser to keep gulls away from the Vatican’s flower arrangements. In her newest book, Roach takes the reader into the little known world of animals who break the law.

My Thoughts: The minute I saw this I knew I had to read it. It is a concept I never even considered. But what happens when wild animals “break the law”? I have been to Colorado many times where we have seen bears, elk and mountain goats but never having lived there I was not aware of all the rules for residents. Bear proof trash cans. French door handles are a no-no. Leaving food outside is a big draw for animals and can lead to the animal being hurt or killed plus the danger to humans too.

But I was really shocked when reading about the elephants, monkeys and leopards. Going to zoos makes a person not consider that these are animals that can cause lots of harm or mischief. Who knew that there are elephant interventionists? They try to move elephants on when they wander into farmers’ fields or a village. Or that monkeys have learned that stealing from humans gets them food? I think visiting Asia would be fascinating and beautiful but now that I know that elephants could be deadly or monkeys may steal my phone, I’m a little more cautious.

I was constantly telling my mom all the new facts and statistics I was reading. Near the end of the book it dealt more with birds or smaller animals which I did not find as interesting but it was worth the read. I learned a lot!

FYI: If you love to read weird facts then this book is for you!

The Lineup: Monica

Monica’s Lineup

TV Series: Gilmore Girls

Lorelai Gilmore and her daughter, Rory, live in the small town of Stars Hollow. Their life is full of drama, life changes, and small-town relationships. My mom and I first watched this when I started high school, and every year since then, we have watched it. Somehow, it has become our cozy series to watch during the holiday season. All of the actors and actresses in the show are talented and well-known today. Despite the series being released in 2000, it is a timeless coming of age story that is enjoyable for all audiences.

Available for checkout through the Derby Public Library

Podcast: Dark History hosted by Bailey Sarian

Bailey Sarian is the host of the Dark History podcast, which I listen to on Spotify. She started the podcast to talk about topics that are a little too dark or theory-based to cover in history class. I first found Bailey on YouTube with her Murder, Mystery, and Makeup series, where she does a full face of makeup while explaining a true murder story. She has a talent for researching and retelling stories with such dark topics. She is loose with her language and is a little sarcastic. Although in my opinion, that adds to the story. Most podcast episodes are pretty short and fun, and I enjoy listening to them in my free time.

Available on Spotify, Youtube, or whatever you listen to your podcasts.

Book: An Edited Life by Anna Newton

Organizing and reorganizing are two of my favorite things to do. Last year, I aimed to adopt a capsule wardrobe. If you are unfamiliar with this idea, essentially, you own just enough clothes that you will regularly wear and nothing more. I first found the author, Anna Newton, on YouTube as The Anna Edit. On her channel, she has videos explaining her wardrobe. She explains what she looks for when purchasing new items, quality over quantity.

Her book, An Edited Life, describes living a semi-minimalist lifestyle. It gives the basics of how to start decluttering your mental and physical space. Anna Newton uses comedic writing and colorful language in this book. It makes it feel like she is just a friend chatting with you about living a simple life.

Available for checkout through the Derby Public Library

Audiobook: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I listened to Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell on Libby. This is a young adult book about a college freshman, Cath. Her twin sister, Wren, has committed to the college girl lifestyle and leaves Cath on her own. Cath is a writer of Simon Snow fan fiction. She has spent years editing the fictional world of her favorite story in order to escape her reality. Throughout the story, Cath is falling in love with a real guy, not a fictional character, and it was fun to hear her inner dialogue as she tries to navigate her priorities and emotions. I enjoyed how easy this book was to listen to, and that it was a simple boy meets girl kind of story.

Audiobook available for checkout through the Sunflower eLibrary or the Libby app, book available for checkout through the Derby Library

Music: Surface Sounds by Kaleo

I love all kinds of music, but lately, this album by Kaleo is the only thing I play. I am a fan of their album A/B which they released in 2016. So, when Surface Sounds came out in 2021, I was more than ready to hear it. Kaleo is an “Icelandic blues-rock” band, and their style checks all the boxes for what I think makes music enjoyable. My favorite songs on this album are Skinny and Backbone. Plus, this CD is available for checkout at the Derby Public Library!

What’s Ashley Reading?: The House on Mango Street

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

First line: The boys and the girls live in separate worlds.

Summary: Told through vignettes, the reader is taken through the life of a young Latina girl in Chicago.

My Thoughts: This was like peeking into the a scrapbook or the memory of a young girl. We get little snippets of information about the people around her, the life on her street and her thoughts as things change over time. It was a sweet little book. I listened to the audio version which is read by the author and has introduction by her as well. Some of the stories gave me nostalgia for my childhood playing with neighborhood kids but even though it was similar it was also very different. This is a great choice for Big Read Wichita. It can open up many conversations and be incorporated into programs and learning experiences.

FYI: This is something that can be read in one sitting. Pick it up and join us at the library for our many events between February and May.

Monica’s Musings: The Notebook

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

“I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and for me, that has always been enough.”
– Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook

With Valentine’s Day approaching, I felt like listening to The Notebook on Libby was appropriate.


            Noah and Allie fall in love during a summer when they were young. Allie’s family does not approve of Noah, and the two end up being pulled away from each other. Allie is all that Noah can think about, and he even spends time writing her letters that always go unanswered. After 14 years, Allie sees Noah in the newspaper and returns to him, but she is engaged to a new man. It is now up to her to choose between Noah or her fiancé.

            This story is being read from a notebook to a woman with Alzheimer’s, presumably Allie, by a man, who is possibly Noah. He does this daily to remind her of who she is, and he hopes that she will remember him as well.

My thoughts:

            My favorite aspect of this love story is that it shows the viewpoint of a man who is in love. I appreciate that Nicholas Sparks focused on Noah rather than Allie. I am torn between which I like more, the book or the movie. Both give the story justice, and I would recommend either to anyone looking for a classic love story to enjoy this Valentine’s Day.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Betrayal of Anne Frank

The Betrayal of Anne Frank by Rosemary Sullivan

First line: On August 4, 1944, a thirty-three-year-old German SS officer, Karl Josef Silberbauer, a sergeant in the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) Referat IV B4, known colloquially as the “Jew-hunting unit,” was sitting in his office on Euterpestraat in Amsterdam when the phone rang.

Summary: A former FBI agent, Vincent Pankoke, along with a team of investigators decided to dive into one of the most famous cold cases in recent history. Who betrayed Anne Frank? Using new technology they poured over interviews, documents and photographs, looking for clues that may lead them to betrayer. As the pieces began to fall together they believe they have found who may have been responsible for the raid on the secret annex in 1944.

My Thoughts: I remember reading The Diary of Anne Frank when I was younger. It fascinated me then and lead me to love the history of World War II. I watched the movies and read everything else I could get my hands on about this time period. Over the years though, my fascination waned as I found new topics to explore but after reading this I think I need to read it again.

I found the methodical research of the team intriguing. They looked in places I never even knew existed. I realized as I read that I did not know as much about the time period as I originally thought. There were thousands of Jews in hiding. It was not an uncommon event to have a hiding place raided. But the fact that the Frank family’s life in the annex was so well documented by Anne made the topic available to the world. After reading her diary, the reader feels connected to them and makes it much more real.

Even though I knew how the story ended I kept hoping that it would change. I liked the layout of the narrative. We start with the history and events surrounding the secret annex, the concentration camps and aftermath of the war. Then we dive into the evidence which is spread near and far. Some has disappeared with the witnesses. But the researchers used every avenue they could find. Interviewing family members, historians, archivists and even the Anne Frank Organization. I found myself saying just one more chapter!

I kept hoping for a definitive answer. Even though they think they discovered the betrayer there is still some doubt because there may be more evidence that has not been uncovered yet. They do make a very strong argument which I found believable and likely. Let me know in the comments what you think!

FYI: This can be a difficult topic since it deals with the Holocaust and the death of millions.

The Lineup: Anni

Anni’s Lineup

TV Show: White Collar

A TV show that I have been watching is White Collar. This TV show is really funny and enjoyable for the whole family. This show ran several seasons. It is about the FBI White Collar division and several cases they handle on a daily basis. The lead actor Matt Bomer plays Neal Caffery, a notorious art thief and con man that is doing his time by helping the White Collar division catch thieves and con men. Neal uses several tactics, most of which are not FBI approved and he always gets out of trouble. His handler/assigned detective grows close to him and eventually calls him family. This show was funny and heart warming with a tad bit of mystery all in one. I liked this especially when I had a long day and needed something to laugh at and something to calm down to. It quickly became a routine to watch after getting off work.

Available for checkout from the Derby Public Library

Game: What Do You Meme?

Currently I am playing a board game called ‘What do you Meme.’ This game is really fun to play with friends and family. I play it every Wednesday night with a group of 7 friends and we always end up laughing and having a great time. There are different variations of the game, but I like the Tik Tok version. It is a lot of fun.

Available for purchase through Amazon, Walmart, or Target.

Emoji: Smiley with hearts

My favorite emoji is the smiley emoji with the heart eyes. I use this emoji a lot because it tells people that I am super happy. I am pretty sure that I use it 20 or more times a day.

Book: The False Prince

I am currently reading The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen. I am enjoying this book so much. I have read it several times and every time I read it, the book gets better. I love the thrill of going on an adventure to pick out a false prince and con the king and queen, but is it really a con?  I love the mystery and the new little bits I pick up from reading it over and over.

Several copies are available for checkout from KanShare Libraries.

Soundtrack: Encanto

My favorite soundtrack right now is the Encanto soundtrack. I am loving the upbeat and catchy music. Every time I hear it I just want to sing and dance along. In the soundtrack, my favorite song is We Don’t Talk About Bruno because it is really catchy, plus it tells the story really well.

Available for checkout from the Derby Public Library