What’s Ashley Reading?: Long Live the Pumpkin Queen

Long Live the Pumpkin Queen by Shea Ernshaw

First line: At the crisp, inky hour of midnight, Jack and I are married atop Spiral Hill in the Death’s Door Cemetery.

Summary: Sally has married the skeleton of her dreams, Jack. She is now the Pumpkin Queen but she feels that maybe she is not cut out for the job. After their honeymoon, Sally decides to take some time alone where she stumbles upon a new door hidden in the tree grove. As her curiosity takes over, she discovers the door leads to Dream Town but with her actions she has let a monster loose on the other holiday towns. And now it is up to Sally to figure out how to stop the Sandman and wake the residents of Halloween Town.

My Thoughts: Only several years ago did I finally watch The Nightmare Before Christmas. It really is a fun movie. I liked the music but most of all the technique used to create the movie, stop animation. When I saw that a novelized version of what happens after was being released I thought it would be a fun read for the fall leading up to Halloween. And I did find it fun. A little more juvenile than I had originally expected but still a good little story. It brought all the characters from movie and added several new characters plus we got a peak into Sally’s background.

I enjoyed the narrator. She did a good job of mimicking the voice of Sally from the movie but also adding some the voices of other characters as well.

FYI: Definitely watch the movie, even just for the artistry of it.

Monica’s Musings: That Summer

That Summer by Jennifer Weiner

“Death would be too easy. Death would let him off the hook. Life, though, life with the knowledge that Daisy knew what he’d done and who he was…”

― Jennifer Weiner, That Summer


While Daisy tries to identify the root of her dissatisfaction in her own life, she’s also receiving misdirected emails meant for another woman, whose email address is just one punctuation mark away from her own. While Daisy’s driving carpools, the other woman is chairing meetings. While Daisy’s making dinner, the other woman is making plans to reorganize corporations.

The emails give insight into a glamorous, sophisticated, single-lady life, which is miles away from Daisy’s simpler existence. Eventually, the misdirected emails are acknowledged, which leads to the two women meeting and becoming friends. But, as they get closer, you learn that their connection was not completely accidental. Who IS this other woman, and what does she want with Daisy?

My Thoughts:

In my opinion, it is best to go into this book blind. It goes back and forth between the past and the present. You realize pretty early on how the two women are connected. However, it’s what happens after that point that is intriguing and kept me engaged. It’s a thoughtful, meaningful story, but it is one that is not easy to read at times. I think it is a great show of wealth, privilege, and control.

I was expecting an easy summer read, but That Summer was much deeper and more meaningful than I was anticipating. It alludes to the #MeToo movement, and I think it is done very well. With that though, it might be good to double-check the content if you are sensitive to that topic.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The It Girl

The It Girl by Ruth Ware

First line: Afterwards, it was the door she would remember.

Summary: Hannah Jones arrives at Oxford for her first term to find her life changed forever. It has been her dream to attend university and when she meets her roommate April, she feels as if she has won the jackpot. April is smart, beautiful and thrilling. However, by the end of the year April will be dead.

Ten years later, Hannah is married to Will and is expecting their first child. She has spent the last decade trying to forget that terrible night when she came home to find her best friend murdered in their dorm room. But when the news of April’s killer dying in prison it starts to bring everything back. Then a reporter contacts her hoping to get more insight into that night because he believes that the wrong person was convicted of April’s death. If Hannah was wrong, then who killed April?

My Thoughts: I go back and forth on Ruth Ware. Some books have been good and others have been very predictable. I think this one is probably close to being her best. It had a twisting plot filled with flashbacks which I love. And parts of it were set in Edinburgh which I also love!

The beginning moved fairly slowly as we are introduced to the characters and the layout of the story plus all of the introspection on Hannah’s part but at the end the pace picked up. I could easily imagine a girl like April. I feel we have all known someone similar to her making it easy to sympathize with Hannah. Throughout I kept changing my mind on who I suspected as Hannah kept looking into the past. And until just before the big reveal did I finally get it. Even though the book is rather large it seemed to quickly once I was invested in Hannah’s search for answers.

The Lineup: Parker

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Parker’s Lineup

Book: Last night a DJ saved my life: The history of the disc jockey by Bill Brewster

Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey: Brewster,  Bill: 8601417208380: Amazon.com: Books

As a member of the MTV generation, I love music, especially techno, electronica, and house music, and this book dives deep into range of music scenes, from Chicago house music to Balearic beats and much more. You’ll find narratives about the top DJs, including Frankie Knuckles and Jose Padilla, and learn about their backgrounds and their approaches to mixing.

Available to check out here.

Music: Luxury

Luxury is one of my all-time favorite albums from one of my all-time favorite DJs, Fantastic Plastic Machine, and it’s been on repeat in my iTunes for weeks. Like many Shibuya-kei albums, it’s a mix of electronica, syncopated samba and bossa nova rhythms, and kitschy ‘60s sounds, especially from French pop music.

Luxury — Fantastic Plastic Machine | Last.fm

My favorite singles are “Honolulu, Calcutta” and “Bossa for Jackie,” but I love every track.

Available to stream here or here.

Book: Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood

Cocaine Blues (Phryne Fisher Mysteries, 1): Greenwood, Kerry:  9781590583852: Amazon.com: Books

Phryne Fisher, a former street-urchin who, thanks to a large inheritance and experience as a nurse in the Great War, has transformed into a most glamorous private detective. After showing quick-wit in capturing in jewel thief, Miss Fisher is hired by a colonel to investigate the suspected poisoning of his daughter, Lydia. She throws caution to the wind and sets sail for Melbourne, but her hometown has become dangerous in her absence. Between the main suspect, Lydia’s husband, turning up dead, and an illegal abortion market, it’s anyone’s guess whether she’ll track down the culprit or get eliminated. Having enjoyed Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, I knew I’d like the novels. This first one is definitely superior to the show, fast-paced and complex. I’d recommend it for anyone who enjoys cozy mysteries.

Available to check out here.

Visit: Tacos from Roadrunner Mexican Fast Food in Wichita

I find myself gravitating toward Roadrunner when I don’t want to cook, which, to be honest, has been more often lately. It’s also reasonably close to my house. They have all sorts of good food, but I love their simple beef tacos best. You should check it out when you’re in the area.

Visit their website for location and more information.

Writing Challenge Winner: The Villain, the Traitor, and the Daredevil by Isaac McKinnie

Isaac McKinnie is a twelve-year old writer who participated in the 2022 Seafarer’s Writing Challenge in which he wrote a 5,000 word original short story this summer. Isaac’s sci-fi thriller involves a young motorcyclist participating in a race that takes a drastic and traitorous detour.

Read the full story below!

Roads are dull. There is no other way to describe them. They are just slabs of concrete shaped to make a meaningless line. However, roads are even more mind-numbing when no one is using them. On these occasions it almost hurts to see a sight so boring. Luckily for the road next the small harbor in Winfred, Sasnak, this was hardly ever the case; and today was no exception.  If someone had been counting how many cars had passed through, they would have lost count in the first ten seconds.

Yet, in all the hustle and bustle of this road, one vehicle stood out. It was a motorcycle, a Hoss Boss to be exact. Its black body paint glistened like obsidian in the early afternoon sun. The beautiful Hoss Boss sped down the (still dull) road with the same amount of importance as King Arthur and his own steed would have. The driver was unfortunately neither wearing a helmet nor taking any safety precautions at all. You might say that he was not very smart. If you did, I would commend you for being smarter than him. However, he seemed to prefer riding without any safety measures. Dylan (for that was the name of the motorcycle rider) laughed as the salty sea wind blew back his black hair and lifted the smell of the ocean to his nostrils. After he finished admiring the view, he revved the engine and sped off. As he rode, he decided to take a route he had not taken yet before going to the meeting place. He sped and then took a random turn. This was what excited him about motorcycling the most: the constant adrenaline, the rush of fear when he took a sharp turn, and the idea that anything might happen. He wove his way around the roads until he finally found his way to the meeting place. There it was––an abandoned warehouse. Now, this warehouse might look like any other abandoned warehouse.  But if you went inside and walked through the abandoned warehouse you would find a tear in the wall. If you squeezed through that tear, you would see a small shed. It was there that Dylan met up with his friends.

Continue reading “Writing Challenge Winner: The Villain, the Traitor, and the Daredevil by Isaac McKinnie”

Monica’s Musings: The Tuesday Night Survivors’ Club

The Tuesday Night Survivors’ Club by Lynn Cahoon

“She’d spent long enough pretending she wasn’t still recovering from the cancer treatments. It was time to check into her body again.”

― Lynn Cahoon, The Tuesday Night Survivors’ Club


Two things got Rarity through her breast cancer treatments: friends and books. Now cancer-free, Rarity is devoting her life to helping others find their way through the maze of healing. She’s also started the Tuesday Night Survivors book club. It is the perfect fit for Rarity’s bookstore and a close-knit group of survivors.

Their club is disrupted when one of their members suddenly goes missing. Martha has always kept to herself, never opening up much of her personal life to the group. Now she’s nowhere to be found. With her car abandoned on a trail and her dog left home alone, Rarity is sure something terrible has happened—but will she be able to uncover Martha’s secrets before it’s too late?

This is the first book of a new series by Lynn Cahoon.

My Thoughts:

Honestly, cozy mystery is not really my jam. I wanted to give this one a try because it sounded interesting enough, but the overall story line seemed to drag on compared to many other mysteries I have indulged in.  I can’t complain too much though, because the story wrapped up nicely, and although the book seemed slow in a few places, I found it good enough to finish it! If you are a fan of cozy mysteries this is right up your alley.

I did appreciate the fact that the author drew from her own cancer journey. She stated in her dedication that a nurse gave her a bag of cozy mysteries to read during her cancer treatments, and that had made all the difference in her journey. This particular genre is sentimental to the author because of that.

*This is available as an eBook or eAudiobook on Sunflower eLibrary, or potentially through interlibrary loan.

Writing Challenge Winner: The Worst But Somehow the Best Summer Ever by Amy Rogers

Amy Rogers is a twelve-year old writer who participated in the 2022 Seafarer’s Writing Challenge in which she wrote a 5,000 word original short story this summer. Amy’s contemporary story explores a young girl’s unexpected summer with her aunt which turns bloodier than expected.

Read the full story below!

Original artwork by Amy of her main character, Ana

I was happy with my life. No, I wasn’t just happy with my life, I loved it! I had indoor plumbing, electricity throughout the whole house, a comfortable smelling house [you know that nice scent when you come into a clean inviting house], and best of all I got to watch television and play video games! I didn’t have to worry about goats needing milked, and leaky roofs needing fixed, or even any chores at all. In short, I was a lazy, selfish, entitled princess who only cared about herself and nothing else.

But one day, a week before summer break, my father and stepmother told me something that changed my life forever…

Continue reading “Writing Challenge Winner: The Worst But Somehow the Best Summer Ever by Amy Rogers”

What’s Ashley Reading?: Upgrade

Upgrade by Blake Crouch

First line: We found Henrik Soren at a wine bar in the international terminal, thirty minutes from boarding a hyperjet to Tokyo.

Summary: Logan Ramsay is a part of the Gene Protection Agency. He spends his days hunting down scientists and criminals who are using gene technology to enhance or harm the world’s population. However, after a raid that leaves him in intensive care he starts to notice changes to his body and mind. It appears that the explosion at the raid infected him with a gene altering substance that appears to be upgrading his DNA. But the government will not let him continue living as a regular citizen which leads him to make the decision to run for his life.

My Thoughts: Blake Crouch writes a solid story. I do not understand the science behind the plot but the story is always fast moving and thrilling. The story appears to take place in the near future which gives the story a feeling of reality. We have been living through a pandemic and racing to find cures. I can see how easy it would be to rely on science to change humans to survive as the world around us is falling apart. It seems hopeful but Crouch shows that behind every bright spot there is a dark underbelly. As with his other stories I flew through this and cannot wait for his next sci-fi thriller!

FYI: Read his other books if you have not yet. Dark Matter is a book I have recommended many times for its instant action and thrilling plot.