This week's Review at Inklings

History comes vividly alive in Davis grad's 'The Verge'

Inklings guest reviewer this week is not an employee but a Friend of Inklings. Linda C. Brown taught at Davis High School for more than 33 years!

Old English teachers, like me, hope former students find their way, that the ragtag roots that students are given in high school miraculously become polished in college or by life. Clearly, Patrick Wyman, who graduated from A.C. Davis High School in 2003, meets that criteria and beyond. Wyman, having earned a doctorate from the University of Southern California, has developed and produced podcasts called “Tides of History” and “The Fall of Rome” that capture and shape hundreds of amazing adventures into history-rich stories from all over the world. I would have discovered this sooner had I been able to figure out how to download podcasts.

Wyman, son of Yakima’s Kathy O’Meara-Wyman and Tom Wyman, has now added a new achievement: his first book. “The Verge: Reformation, Renaissance, and Forty Years that Shook the World (1490-1530)” takes nine events in history and makes them come alive.

Admittedly, I am a recalcitrant reader of history because often it was presented to me as lists of names and dates that had to be committed to memory, and I couldn’t become immersed in the events because the stories conveyed a bunch of facts, but thank you, Dr. Wyman, for breathing life into what lies in the past and continues to influence the present.

The events covered aren’t surprises. They cover a 40-year segment of history that each of us has some knowledge of, like the explorations of Christopher Columbus, the arrival of Martin Luther and the printing press and the Ottoman Empire as well as Charles V. All of these will remind you of what you studied in high school and beyond; however, here they come alive through the details of daily life that we rarely were told.

Readers will notice immediately the rich sensory sounds, smells, sights, the sense of touch that make “The Verge” vivid and compelling. The stories are painted with incredible detail. In Rome, bells toll, “an incessant pealing” breaking “an otherwise still and silent dawn” with “carts rattling and scraping down the darkened streets”. Boots tramp, swords scrape against steel breastplates, leather scabbards slap, and all the men are “lean and dirty”. You, the reader are there! Thousands of Romans barely awake head to the walls. Martin Luther, who lusts after the rich holdings of the papacy, attacks. Germans, Spaniards, mercenaries raise their ladders against the walls and a battle to redistribute wealth ensues. The Duke of Bourbon (Charles V) wearing a “white coat” (what mother would let that happen?) is the first to scale the walls as the fog is rising from the Tiber. You can hear the sounds, smell the gunpowder exploding from the arquebuses and see the Duke raising his ladder. We feel the dampness from the fog and watch as “a violent shade of red” spreads across that white coat.

It is that real. I promise you that if you are a history lover, this book is definitely for you. But, if you are more like me, a resistant reader of history, it is even more compelling, because history no longer lies limply on the page.

A video produced by Powell’s Books in Portland introduces Wyman and a cohort, Mike Duncan, discussing “The Verge” as well as their shared interests in history. Duncan asks Wyman: Who are you writing for? And Wyman, without hesitation, answers, “I write for an audience of one: my dad, who is the most prolific reader of history I know. He wants history books that are not slow, not dry.” The elder Wyman prefers books that entertain, but the academics have to be there as well and there has to be a compelling story. That’s what “The Verge” brings to the reader.

In the interview, Duncan confesses that he loves the book, but had no interest in a character named Jakob Fugger (pronounced foog-uhr, although yes, for many years it was pronounced like a familiar curse word) until Duncan says that even he has been captured by Fugger’s story. That presents me with a challenge, and I must admit that Fugger has won my attention as well. It turns out that the Fuggers in the early 1500s were bankers and traded textiles with Italy; they were one of the wealthiest families in the world for over a century and their wealth and influence in the 16th century and beyond are astounding. According to Wikipedia, Fugger, in his day, accumulated $160 billion in wealth, which today, with an adjustment for inflation, would be valued at $400 billion. That grabs one’s attention, right?

Today, in Augsburg remain historical buildings from the 16th century like the Fuggerei built by Jakob Fugger the Younger, which had 52 houses at the time for poor, homeless Catholics. It continues today with each apartment having a direct link to the street, but the entire housing unit is apparently contained by a wall and the gate is locked at 10 o’clock each night. Since Fugger made much of his money from manufacturing linen and money lending, I wonder if the fear of being called a “usurer” inspired his generosity or rather his devotion to Catholicism. That’s another question for the next time I see Dr. Wyman.

I’ve more to read, but I promise you that all readers will embrace this book. It’s that good. Did I mention that I was one of his teachers?

Cozy Mysteries for Halloween!

Cozy Mysteries for Halloween by PNW Authors

One of my favorite things is getting to meet authors and finding out the inspiration behind their stories. And so, I am very excited to share that this Saturday, October 16th, 2-4pm, Inklings will have a meet and greet with PNW authors Emmeline Duncan and Alexis Morgan.

Emmeline Duncan is a mystery writer based out of Portland, Oregon. Her novels include the Ground Rules series, starting with 2021’s Fresh Brewed Murder, which will be title she will be signing for us this Saturday, and followed by 2022’s Double Shot DeathWhich ofcourse, you will have to pre-order after falling in love with Fresh Brewed Murder.

"I'm still waiting for the day when I magically turn into an adult" Fresh Brewed Murder by Emmeline Duncan - chaper 1

In this novel we get to know barista Sage Caplin. Sage has high hopes for her new coffee cart, Ground Rules, until she finds the body of one of her very first customers in front of her cart. There are plenty of suspects, from longtime vendors annoyed at Ground Rules taking a coveted spot in the food truck lot, to protesters demonstrating against a new high-rise. But who committed murder? To makes things worse, one of Sage's own box cutter is discovered as the murder weapon. 

Mystery lovers and coffee fanatics alike are bound to be enthralled with this story. 

Alexis Morgan is a USA Today Bestselling author with over 45 novels, novellas, and short stories that span a variety of genres. Her latest venture is the cozy mystery series The Abby McCree Mystery. There are four books out and we will have all four in store: Death by Committee, Death by Jack-O'-Lantern, Death by Auctionand Death by Intermission

Death by Committee is the story of Abby McCree. Abby suddenly inherits her favorite's relative property in the small town of Snowberry Creek, Washington, and soon realizes the inheritance comes with strings attached. The estate is in bad shape, there is a slobey mastiff impossible not to love, a tenant who growls more than the dog. But one could handle those things. It's what she finds in her aunt's backyard that makes things a little too complicated: Aunt Sybil's only known rival is buried in her backyard! But was her beloved Aunt really a murderer? or is the murderer on the loose? 

This one is for the lovers of Mystery and quilting. Abby gets involved with a tight quilting guild and her quirky quilting friends do jump in to help try to solve this mystery. 

Two other PNW Cozy Mystery authors could not join us this Saturday but have sent us some lovely signed bookplates. We will have available, on top of the two authors coming, A Christmas Carol Murder by Heather Redmond and The Witch Way Librarian series by Angela M. Sanders.

Have a Cozy Halloween! 

Children's Chapter for Halloween

 

Happy Halloween! I admit it. I am a horror/suspense/thriller novel junkie from way back. My love affair with the spine tingling genre began as a young reader and has never abated.  

Question: What’s as good as reading a good scary book?

Answer: Sharing a good scary book with  middle grades readers. As an elementary school teacher I was able to share my love of the genre with fifth graders. There’s something special about reading a scary story aloud, using different voices for different characters, and stopping at that cliff-hanger moment. It’s  rewarding to see them leaning forward to listen, bodies tense with suspense, and then see them relax with disappointment at the end of a session. What’s even better than that is when those readers go to the library and ask for other books by that author! 

Question: Are scary stories good for children?

Answer: I say yes.  Scary stories serve a purpose. Stories are a safe place to experience emotions. Children can feel emotions like fear and anxiety through a character’s actions and thoughts without being in actual physical danger. And we know that learning how to feel, express, and deal with emotions is an important part of childhood development. A little suspense and resolution in a safe situation is a release.

Question: How can I share scary stories with children?

Answer:  Of course, it’s important to know your audience. You don’t want to cause nightmares or trauma. After you have determined which book you would like to share there are many options. You can read aloud. Sitting next to someone you love while you share something suspenseful is reassuring and powerful. 

You can listen to an audiobook during car travels. I suggest trying Librofm as an audiobook option.

You can read the same book as your young reader. In this way you can talk about characters and motives and choices. It also validates the youngster as a reader. When a child knows that an adult is reading the same thing they are reading, it leaves the impression that the reading is valuable.

You can have a family book night. I know a family that has a weekly book night. Every Wednesday, for an hour after dinner, the entire family gathers in the family room and reads. They each read their own book, but it’s still a communal activity. I love that idea. If I still had children at home, I think I would adopt the practice.

Question: What scary books are out there for middle grades readers?

Answer: There are choices galore! But let’s talk about one special author. Mary Downing Hahn could be called the Stephen King of children’s literature. She published her first book in 1979 and is still contributing to the genre. Her novels are the standard to which all other children’s thrillers are compared. Here are some of my favorites:

The Thirteenth Cat  This is the latest of Hahn’s 41 published middle grades thrillers. It came out in September of this year. Zoey is spending the summer with her aunt and next to her house is a creepy, overgrown forest. There are feral cats in the forest and rumors of dark forces in the woods. Zoey is in danger as she tries to discover the secret of the cats and the old woman that lives in the woods.

Wait Till Helen Comes was probably the breakthrough novel for Hahn. First published in 1987 it still stands as  a quality ghost story. It’s about Heather, a lonely girl who finds a new friend: a ghost named Helen. And Helen wants to lure children into the pond--to drown! Will Heather’s new stepsister be able to save her? Spoiler: She does.

Took: A Ghost Story  Daniel and his family have moved from Connecticut to rural West Virginia. The kids at school tell him about the scary old auntie in the woods that steals children. They’re just messing with the new kid--right? Then Daniel’s 7 year old sister goes missing. Was she “took”? 

The Puppet’s Payback and Other Chilling Tales This would be a great choice for an introduction to the genre in general or Mary Downing Hahn in particular. The stories are short enough to each be read in one session. Although the plots are more predictable and the characters not as well developed as in her novels, the stories are still fun and a little bit scary.

October is a great time for some fun, scary stories.The air is crisp, it gets dark a little earlier each day, and, after all--Halloween is just around the corner!

 

Review by Luanne Clark

This Week's Review at Inklings

The City We Became by NK Jemisin 

Review by Tony Hoffart

The City We Became is a modern fantasy that pulls heavily from the mythos created by H.P. Lovecraft.  Credited with being the father of modern Horror, Lovecraft wrote a mythology in which there were many alien universes. Sometimes these other places bleed into ours and unspeakable horrors would spill forth to cause destruction and madness.  

Lovecraft was also an unabashed racist.  

Jemisin herself is a well-known civil rights advocate, so it would seem incongruous for her to write a serious work featuring the background created by a self-proclaimed racist.  How to acknowledge great art while denouncing the harmful beliefs of an artist is part of an ongoing discourse. This book shows that such a thing is possible.

The story is set in the modern world where cities, once “mature” enough, adopt a human avatar. The Avatar personifies the culture of their realm, is immortal and has magical powers.  “The City”, this time is New York’s Avatar in the process of being born. A hungry, beautiful, ethnically and racially ambiguous boy who is starting to experience the city speaking to him.  As he comes into his power, a Lovecraftian horror,  its trademarked alien and unknowable evil, attacks the city.  This manifests as a terrorist attack on the Williamsburg Bridge. The boy is a fast learner and manages to beat off the invader, but only barely.  Drained from the ordeal, the avatar of New York, falls into a coma.  This is the story’s introduction.

The main characters of the story are the Avatars of the five official boroughs.  Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklin, Queens, and Staten Island.  They awaken to their newfound powers and connection to the city while also being attacked by horrors as well. The alien creatures affect the real world in the form of racists, litigants and online trolls.  This is where the story really comes alive.  The hidden magical world premise is one that has been done before, but it’s a challenge to balance the wonder and danger alongside the mundane concerns of one’s “secret identity”.  In this story the monsters use the monstrous aspects of human nature to gain a foothold in the real world. And as appropriate for Lovecraftian horrors, in this book that’s racism. 

The overall plot is a simple one; bring everyone together to save the city.  That simplicity becomes daunting because each avatar is a strongly independent persona.  The boroughs of New York are known for intense rivalries.  These rivalries are exploited by the adversary to divide and undermine the boroughs in their attempts to form a united front.  The monsters use bland retail chains to buy out beloved institutions damaging  culture and morale of the city; alt right trolls to dox online personas  and chauvinist protests to jam up pivotal moments.  

It takes talent to make our familiar world into something fantastic and magical.  Jemesin has that talent. But writing a new world uses up a lot of plot bandwidth.  Even though substantial, there is obviously a lot still untold. Many of the other cities’ avatars were hinted at.  (Hong Kong and Sao Paulo feature in the story.)  New Orleans is mentioned as a casualty whose avatar was killed in their infancy which manifested in the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina. Two more books in this series are promised, and I’m excited to see what else this world has to offer.

This Week's Review at Inklings

Ruff and Tumble by Lucy Gilmore

Adorable puppies, emotional pasts, and a happily ever after!

Ruff and Tumble was a bestseller at Inklings this summer and it is easy to see why.. Adorable puppies, emotional pasts, and a happily ever after... the perfect read to submerge yourself in! 

"If there was a way to hide a heavily pregnant golden retriever under a desk, Hailey had yet to discover it."

Hailey is a production assistant for the Puppy Cup. It is pretty much what it sounds like, puppies "playing football". The Puppy Cup is an yearly event where rescue dogs simulate playing football during the football season. Hailey therefore knows all things puppy and all things football. Especially the Seattle Lumberjacks.

What she doesn't know is family. She lost her parents young and grew up in the foster system. She is a pre-teen by the time she is adopted and her adoptive father leaves her too soon. She has no one, just the puppies. It is a lonely life but she is going through the motions and making it work. She loves her job, she loves fostering pups, and takes immense joy in finding homes for all the rescue dogs used in the Puppy Cup after the event. 

Cole's entire life is football. His family has dedicated their whole lives to his career. His sister is his manager and his father sees the career he was not able to have on Cole. Cole must succeed for them, for his team, and his fans... Except he is not sure he can. A past injury is hurting more than he is letting on and he needs a way out. Hailey and her puppies might not be the way out he needs exactly, but he knows a way they can help with the transition. 

They meet in an elevator with a big mama golden retriever ready to pop. The elevator is old and breaks down. The moments that followed were tense but also very beautiful. Their relationship was fun to read. Hailey knows football well and has a lot of things to say, not all -if much- very nice. Cole appreciates the honesty. She sees him for who he is and not just 'the' star quarterback. The problems start when she realizes he is failing to see there is more to life than football. That yes, his family will be devastated when they learn he can't play anymore, but he at least has a loving family, something she can only dream of. 

The book is cute and fun to read, how could it not be with so many puppies? But it also pulls at your heartstrings. A great weekend read!

Summer 2021 Bestsellers

1- Cascade Killer, Cascade Vengeance, and Cascade Predator by Rob Phillips ($17.75 each, Latah Books)

Rob Phillips mystery series has been selling well since day one! Hundreds of copies have flown out of the door and we are so glad to see a very local author succeeding. The books are fast paced, full of intrigue and mystery, and being set all right here in Washington it is easy to lose yourself to the story. 

2- Witches Get Stitches by Juliette Cross ($18.99, Juliette Cross)

This is the third book in the Stay a Spell series (though they can be read as stand alone) and it is just as charming as the previous books. Set in Louisiana the Savoi sisters are slowly coming into their own. Violet dreams of opening her own tattoo shop, which will cater to the supernaturals in need of permanent charms. Nicco, her business partner, needs one more than most, but can she do one so powerful and can they resist each other in the meantime?  

3- Neon Gods by Katee Robert ($14.99, Sourcebooks)

A modern day retelling of a Greek Mythology classic by an author right here in Washington. It reimagines the story of Hades and Persephone. A surprise unwanted betrothal arranged by Persephone’s mother to Zeus, has Persephone crossing the river Styx and seeking refuge with Hades. The romance between them develops quickly and it is not for the faint of heart. 

4- The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesey ($22.99, HarperOne)

From a revered British illustrator The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is a modern fable for all ages that explores life's universal lessons, featuring 100 color and black-and-white drawings. It has been read by many of our own staff and is loved by all. 

5- American Marxism by Mark R Levin ($28, Threshold Editions)

Publisher Marketing: “In American Marxism, Levin explains how the core elements of Marxist ideology are now pervasive in American society and culture-from our schools, the press, and corporations, to Hollywood, the Democratic Party, and the Biden presidency-and how it is often cloaked in deceptive labels like "progressivism," "democratic socialism," "social activism," and more […] Levin exposes many of the institutions, intellectuals, scholars, and activists who are leading this revolution, and provides us with some answers and ideas on how to confront them.”

6- Ruff and Tumble by Lucy Gilmore ($8.99, Sourcebooks Casablanca)

The third book (if we count Rob Phillips’ books as one) on our list from a local Washington author! The book kicks off with a pregnant golden retriever about to pop in a broken elevator. The main characters Cole and Hailey must unite forces to avoid catastrophe. The book is full of heart, puppies, and a romance to remember. 

7- Pax by Sara Pennypacker ($8.99, Harperteen)

Pax is a compelling story of friendship between a boy and his fox. These two have been inseparable since Petter rescued Pax. But when Peter’s dad enlists in the military he is ordered to let go of his fox friend. He goes to be with his grandad and missing his dad, his fox, and full of grief he embarks on a journey to get his fox back. In the meantime Pax is waiting for Peter and also having an unexpected adventure.

8- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline ($17, Ballantine)

With the release of Ready Player Two, over eight years after the release of Ready Player One, people are finding their way back to this great Science Fiction tale. The year is 2045 and most of humanity spends their days lost inside a virtual world called OASIS. When the creator of that world dies he leaves a quest and the first to solve it inherits his fortune.

9- Dune by Frank Herbert ($10.99, Ave Books)

Whenever it is announced a movie is coming out based on a book, you bet the book will sell well. The new Dune movie comes out in October and old fans of this classic are rereading it while also inspiring others to pick it up. Dune is a blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics. It has won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what is now considered one of the greatest science fiction series of its time.

10- Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton 

It is not often we have kids' board books on the bestseller list. Sandra Boynton is a popular American cartoonist, children's author, songwriter, producer, and director. Since 1974, Boynton has written and illustrated over sixty children's books! All adorable.  This classic book encourages youngsters to imitate the sounds made by Boynton's seriously silly signature animals. 

This Week's Review at Inklings

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Review by Krystal Griswold

Regret is something that we all have wrestled with, it is a part of human existence. What if we made a different choice, would our life be better or worse? This is an impossible question that can send us deeper down into despair and keep us bound, if we let it. 

Matt Haig brings this human struggle into the light and beautifully explores what would happen if we could choose a different life. In “The Midnight Library”, we follow the story of Nora who has battled with crippling anxiety and depression. Her life has been full of failures, loss, and doubt. The overwhelming despair she feels wins the fight for her life and instead of death she finds herself in the Midnight Library. Here she has the opportunity to come face to face with all of the things she hoped for herself but didn’t get the chance to have. 

This book puts to words what many of us have felt when we are faced with our own what if’s. We all want to know if our life has meaning, if we were meant for something more, or if we will ever find true happiness. The story gives the reader permission to explore these personal questions for their own lives and put themselves in Nora’s shoes. 

As we follow Nora’s journey, we begin to see that regret has many layers. The choices that we thought would bring us the life we wanted, turn out not to be what we expected them to be. We get to see how the dreams of others can impact our own, how the pressures of society sculpt our ideas of happiness, and how fear plays a role in our decisions. 

If you have ever battled with anxiety, depression, or suicide, this book will bring healing to your soul. I am very thankful for the author's transparency and willingness to put his heart on the pages. Because of Matt’s own journey to find freedom, he is showing others how to find it as well.  

One of the biggest lies that depression will tell us is that our life isn’t worth anything. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We all have a unique purpose and our own journey to get there. Don’t let the comparisons of others, your past mistakes, or doubt of the future cut your story short. 

If you are wrestling with life’s big questions, this book is a great place to start. It gives you a chance to step into the life of someone else who is struggling with the same things. This book will give you a friend and let you know the most important thing of all: you are not alone. Happy reading friends! 

This Week's Review at Inklings

Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean and Furia by Yamile Saied Mendez

Review by Sue Domis

Two young adult novels have stood out for me this year.  Each story centered around  young women. The first novel is Toykyo Ever After.  It takes place in Northern California and moves on to Tokyo. The second book is a sports novel in Argentina.  The books are both about a girl maturing and involves a love story.  I enjoyed each book for different reasons.  One, because it involved soccer and a strong willed character, and the other because of the locations and the love story.

    Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean is a book about best friends and has a close mother daughter relationship.  Izumi Tanaka is a high school girl growing up in a small Northern California college town.  Her mother is a botany professor and is a single parent.  Izumi's mother has never talked about or identified Izumio's father. Izumi and her friend discover a poem written to her mother by a love interest that was written the same year Izumi was born.  This begins a search to find out who the author is.  With help from the internet the girls discover a man who attended the same school, at the same time Izumi's mother did.  Then we are reading about life in Japan and the Japanese royal family.  Is Izumi part of that family?  The novel follows Izumi and her mother coming to grips with the truth which her mother had never shared.  Eventually, after much arguing, Izumi's mother allows Izumi to try to contact her father.  After reading a lot about the small California town Izumi grew up in, the next location is Japan, as Izumi tries to be accepted by  a very large Japanese royal family,  The young girl tries to follow. proper social   etiquette but she makes some painful  mistakes.. A handsome young imperial guard is assigned to Izumi and may be a love interest for her.  This was a book that was fun to read.  There is a lot of family, friendships, and trying to fit in.  And may I say again there is a lot of romance in it to enjoy.

   Furia by Yamile Saied Mendez is another book about a young school girl. This book takes place in Argentina.  Camila is a young student and she is a soccer player.  Camila's brother is a beginning professional player, & his close friend Diego. is already a popular pro. Camila and Diego grew up together. It's no surprise that Camila is also a good player.  She plays on her school  team and wants to play on a women's professional team.  Camila's parents don't approve of women playing sports and don't even know about her goal.  After one of Camila's school games, because of her power and fury, she is nicknamed Furia.  Furia spends her life at games, practices and working to keep her grades up.  As Diego becomes more successful and popular. he starts to pressure Furia to give up her soccer goals to become part of his life as his wife.  This is a feminist book about girls and women being strong in their lives and endevours.  It's about not giving up their dreams and hard work to live in a man's shadow. Camila's mother became pregnant at a young age and had to give up her greams and marry Camila's father.  Their marriage is an unhappy one.  Camila's father cheats on her mother and drinks a lot.  Furia doesn't want to be forced into another unhappy situation.  

   Furia and Toykyo Ever After are about different girls in different countries, but they are both about independent young women who are willing to work to become a success on their own merits.  Each book is well written and they are  very powerful and inspiring.

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