April is Poetry month and in lieu of that it seemed the perfect time to read poetry, which is not my usual genre. TheLost Spells by Robert Macfarlane seemed a good place to start with its small size and beautifully illustrated poems. I very much enjoyed Macfarlane’s previous poetry book, The Lost Words, which is about the importance of hanging on to the words that describe nature. His newest book expands on this idea by celebrating different plants and animals in nature with cute short poems and gorgeous illustrations.
The book starts with an introduction that speaks of the necessity of seeing nature’s beauty and the joy and importance of sharing that beauty with others. The author then highlights several different plants and animals found in nature, like red foxes, daisies and oak trees. For all the flora and fauna listed, a short but clever and often rhyming poem is presented. These poems serve to educate and delight the reader with half-factual information and half-witty perceived personalities of each creature or plant. Jackie Morris is the illustrator and provides the most stunning watercolor illustrations for each poem. Her work brings out the depth and magic of each critter, plant, and tree so each entry is truly enchanting.
I enjoyed this book immensely. I fell in love with the entertaining poems and stunning artwork right away. I especially liked the poems about animals because they were so fun to read. While I feel every entry is breathtakingly beautiful, my absolute favorite poem is called Heartwood andis about trees. I think this book is perfect for anyone looking to dip their toes in poetry or is already a longtime lover of the genre. This book is definitely now in my top recommendations for poetry.
Review by Anne Zastrow; contribution from Lisa Martin.
The Last Tiara by M.J. Rose is inspired by real missing Russian Crown Jewels. M.J. Rose explains in an article to The Adventurine how she stumbled upon an NPR article about the disappearance of the missing Russian Crown Jewels that to date, have not been found. Captivated by it and how such amazing items could simply disappear she decides her new novel will tell the story of the lost tiara.
It is apparent throughout the book that M.J. Rose researched well the Romanov Jewels, the Russian Revolution, and especially the impact it had on the Russian people. Although she never goes into gruesome details, the poverty and difficulties the people experienced at the time are carefully and respectfully mentioned.
The book is told from two different perspectives, that of mother and daughter. The alternating chapters reveal Sofiya's life in Russia from 1915 through 1922, and Isobelle's in 1948 Manhattan, US.
First we have Isabelle, a young architect in post World War II Manhattan. While renovating her mother's home she finds a hidden box, and inside the box, the remnants of what once was a beautiful tiara. She knows very little of her mother's past during the fall of the Ramanovs in Russia or about the man her mother loved, her father. Curiosity and longing to feel closer to her now gone mother propels her forward into finding out more details about the tiara, and consequently, her mother and father. With the help of a young jeweler, who is conflicted by his loyalty to the Midas Society, an international organization whose mission is to return stolen items to their rightful owners, they start investigating.
The second perspective is that of her mother Sofiya. In 1925, young Sofiya was close friends with the daughter of the Tsar of Russia and together they tended to the wounded soldiers in the makeshift hospital within the grounds of the Alexander Palace in St. Petersburg. While there, Sofiya meets a wounded soldier and finds love. But it is not easy, it is not simple, and their journey is long, painful, and full of twists and turns.
The Last Tiara is indeed about a lost tiara. But it is also about love. It is historical fiction mixed with romance and mystery. The historical aspects are well researched, the mystery keeps you wanting to know more, and the romances are tender and passionate. The perfect weekend read!
Lisa Martin here at Inklings also loved the book. Here is what she had to say: "I finished this book and loved it. The mystery and intrigue kept me wanting to read just one more chapter. It is a great story for those who love historical fiction."
There is just something about history that draws me in, and this novel was no different. I have read many books about World War II, but I especially loved this one as it focused on three women codebreakers at Bletchley Park.
The Rose Code deals with two time periods, the first starting 1940 and the second taking place in 1947. I thought the back and forth might be difficult to follow, but it made the story better.
In 1940 three women met while working at Bletchley Park in England. Under normal circumstances you would not find them even in the same place and yet the bond they formed was unbreakable, or so one would think. Osla Kendall, a debutant, mixes with the English elite and is dating Prince Philip of Greece (yes, the future husband of Queen Elizabeth), Mabel (Mab) Churt is from a working-class family and is striving to make a better life for her mother and young sister, Lucy. Bethan (Beth) Finch is a spinster and under the thumb of her overbearing mother who loves to belittle her. Beth feels as though she is dumb and worthless.
Sworn to secrecy by the Official Secrets Act of 1939, these women are each doing jobs that are part of the entire network that decodes enemy messages. These messages can change the course of the war, save thousands of lives, and determine if our side has misled the enemy from the inside.
The story is told from the viewpoint of all three women, and I found myself rooting for all of them. I was crazy to find out what turned them against each other and left Beth in a sanitarium.
In 1947 with the frenzy of the royal wedding between Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip approaching Osla and Mab meet again. They have received a coded message from Beth begging for help. They must decide to put aside their anger and suspicions and decode a message with the purpose of determining who paid a spy in their midst who passed on military secrets to the Germans and now the Russians.
The conclusion is exciting and fast paced with a frantic chase through the crowd that lines up to witness the Royal Wedding procession.
Kate Quinn is a master storyteller, and this book is a must read. I recommend to readers who enjoy historical novels set in London during the war and are interested in the codebreaking that helped end the war. This novel in based on facts and one last bit of information, Osla Benning was a real person. She was fluent in German and she did work at Bletchley Park.
Reading with children is always an excellent way for us to bond and impart a love of reading. Faith-themed books help introduce growing minds and hearts to the belief and practice of a family’s faith, make a loving space to ask questions, and promote an appreciation for those who believe differently.
Next week, Christian and Jewish families will observe some of their faiths’ highest holy days: Holy Week and Easter, and Passover, respectively. Here are a few new and classic books to share with little ones in baskets or at bedtime.
The Jewish observance of Passover, celebrating the release of the enslaved Israelites from Egypt, includes a Seder service and meal. In a new picture book, "Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale with a Tail" by Lesléa Newman, we enter the home of an evening Seder and a little boy anticipating celebrating with a diverse family. The text alternately contrasts the lamplight of the home and the moonlight of the night outside, where a lonely kitten wanders and waits. After the meal, when the door is left open for Elijah, the boy welcomes a new friend. The richly painted art will have you lingering over the warm tradition of Passover. The author’s note concludes with the history of Passover from the Book of Exodus and some rituals of the Seder. This would make a beautiful gift for adults and cat lovers, too.
"Who Was Jesus?" by Ellen Morgan is a short biographical chapter book written for ages 8-12. You may already be familiar with the well-researched Who HQ history series with its bobblehead cover art. Here’s a fun way to learn more about where and when Jesus lived, who followed him, and what Christians believe about his life, death and resurrection. The book includes a helpful bibliography, timelines and illustrations to support the text.
A favorite for a preschool read-aloud or school-age independent reader is "The Story of Easter" by Jean Miller. This Little Golden Book now has updated illustrations with remarkable details. Events include Jesus’ last Passover meal with his disciples through the Ascension. The book finishes nicely with an explanation of how Christians observe Easter today and how eggs, as a symbol of new life, have become a central part of the celebration.
For the littlest page-turners, two board books make the list. "Great & Small Easter" by Pamela Kennedy is a new book with extra thick and glossy pages for durability. Each right-hand page has a sturdy flap to lift and reveal baby animals with a “splish splash” or “peekaboo” playing in springtime scenes, finishing with a short scripture and Easter cross. A classic for the season is "Richard Scarry's I Am a Bunny" by Ole Risom. Nicholas the bunny leads us on a seasonal tour of his world, starting with spring. These are some of the most charming nature illustrations you’ll find in a children’s book, which is certainly why this story has endured for almost 60 years.
Take a look at these and other children’s books for this season of faith. You will likely learn something new and find your own belief enriched!
Time is certainly flying by for us here at Inklings. It feels like it was just a week or two ago that I was putting together our bestseller list for fall. It was exciting putting this one together because we have ourselves read quite a lot of the titles in it!
We hope you find something in this list that works for you. Have fun reading!
"The prologue hooked me. A father and son were bear hunting one spring day. The son got his bear, but they got a whole lot more than that.There is witty and realistic dialogue, familiar places that I can picture on almost every page, and even a little romance. I stayed up way too late to finish the story and trace the creepy villain along rivers and forest service roads after smelling a few red herrings. This is a good, solid story, told by a guy who knows bears, bad guys and biology." - Susan Richmond, Inklings owner, about Cascade Killer.
Cascade Vengeance is the second book in the series and we are sure it is just as good!
"This collection is not just for children, but for anyone at any stage of life. There are takeaways in its wisdom about life, friendship, self-worth and, of course, cake. It has the gentle lovability of Winnie-the-Pooh paired with the introspection and character dynamics of Calvin and Hobbes. This heartwarming book would be a real treasure for your bookshelf." - Emma Welch, Inklings Bookseller
There are quite a few Inklings Booksellers in love with this book at the moment.
"The Four Winds is a gut-wrenching journey through the Dust Bowl and the life of Elsa Wolcott. It is beautiful and sad, filled with despair and hope. One of Kristen Hannah's best novels to date." - Irene Pearcey
I read this book while on a visit to Texas, perhaps that is why it so resonated with me...it was hot and dry. I could look around the landscape, feel the hot wind, touch the gritty dust that clung to everyone and everything. It was Texas 1934 for me as I became immersed in the pages of The Four Winds and the life of Elsa Wolcott.
Elsa was 25, unmarried, a spinster. She was "on the shelf". It wasn't just that she had survived Rheumatic fever as a child, that certainly added another dimension to her life...overly protected by a "loving family" for fear that she would become ill again...it was because she wasn't pretty...being pretty was everything and she wasn't. She was "too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself" and so on the eve of her 25th birthday she decides that she wants to live and not just exist. Defying her overbearing father, her overly protective mother, she puts on the red silk dress she has made, borrows her mother's make-up, and walks out the door for an evening at a local speak-easy. When she meets Rafe her life is changed forever, but for that one night in the bed of a pickup beneath a beautiful Texas sky she found acceptance and love. And now she is also a "tainted" woman.
Marrying Rafe and moving in with his family compounds the guilt and shame Elsa has known all her life. She cares not if they love her, she wants only to know that the child she carries will be loved. Rafe is a dreamer and as the years pass his lost dreams slowly eat away at him and his love for Elsa. In the midst of a changing landscape, rains that do not come, crops that wither and die in the Texas heat, Rafe slips aways in the dark of the night leaving his wife, his children, and his parents to face what will be known as the "Dust Bowl" on their own.
Elsa had always been strong, she just didn't know that she was. She understood love, loyalty, and compassion, perhaps because it had been denied her all her life. It was Elsa that kept the family from starvation during those early years of the Dust Bowl, it was Elsa who packed up her small family and joined the Dust Bowl migration to California in search of a better life, but the reality of it was that California was filled with hatred and prejudice for an economic inequality that was no more her fault than were the rains that failed to come.
The Four Winds is a gut-wrenching journey through the Dust Bowl and the life of Elsa Wolcott. It is beautiful and sad, filled with despair and hope. One of Kristen Hannah's best novels to date.