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This Week's Review at Inklings



The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

Review by Irene Pearcey

I read this book while on a visit to Texas, perhaps that is why it so resonated with 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 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.

This Week's Review at Inklings


Outlawed by Anna North

Reviewed by Luanne Clark

What if the nineteenth century had played out differently than it did? What if there had been no massive westward migration? What if there had been no Industrial Revolution? What if there had been no Civil War? In her new book, Outlawed, author Anna North imagines just such an alternate history for the American West. 

Instead of the events as actually happened, imagine instead that Earth suffered an influenza epidemic (that’s a timely topic, right?) in 1830. Remembered as The Great Flu it decimated the world’s population. Before the epidemic had run its course, ninety percent of all men, women, and children were gone.  Instead of a westward migration communities were left picking up the pieces of shattered lives. As plantation owners and their families died, slaves moved into the abandoned mansions or left and made their way elsewhere to farm on their own. So much effort is spent on rebuilding what was lost that America never emerged from the agrarian society of the preceding centuries.

In a world so bereft, great emphasis is placed on rebuilding the population. Children are treasured and motherhood is a woman’s greatest contribution.The dark side of this culture is that infertility is shameful, and a barren woman is shunned and may be prosecuted for witchcraft. It is 1894 in this American West that  we meet Ada, a 17 year old girl training to be a prestigious midwife. As our story begins she has just gotten married. She’s a glowing bride just beginning her happy life with her young husband. Looking forward to a lifetime full of children and family she is distressed when she hasn’t conceived in the first months of her marriage. Laws are such that if she hasn’t conceived in the first year, she is considered barren. Her husband is obligated to set her aside and marry a woman with more “potential”. As she nears her first anniversary, other events set the community against her as a witch. As the sheriff says, not unkindly, “When a child dies, or two people in love can’t conceive, or a man loses his wife in childbirth--these things aren’t bearable, Ada, not without help. But if you know why it happened, if you have someone or somebody to blame, then sometimes that’s enough to keep going...We all have to make sacrifices, Ada. I’m sorry, but this is yours.”

Our Favorite Reads in February!

Thursday Reviews at Inklings

The Best of Children's Picture Books!

Reviewd by Amy Halvorson Miller

For children’s picture books published in the U.S., the Randolph Caldecott Medal carries the highest honor among illustrators. The medal and a few honors are awarded each January for distinguished artwork for a children’s book published in the previous year. While picture books are generally recommended for ages 4-8, story-lovers of all ages should not miss out on the literary magic of a well-crafted picture book.

We Are Water Protectors Cover ImageThe medal for 2021 was awarded by the American Library Association to Michaela Goade for We are Water Protectors, written by Carole Lindstrom. In this Native American author/illustrator team, Lindstrom (Ojibwe) and Goade (Tlingit & Haida) celebrate the indigenous-led movement to protect the earth’s natural water sources, specifically from the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Goade’s skillful illustrations are composed from watercolor and colored pencil paintings which are then collaged together digitally. Shades of blue and aqua propel the text as a flowing river, immersing readers in the truth of our reliance on water and interdependence with one another. Floral and faunal motifs swim through waves. The water becomes a character in the story, carrying energy, spirit, and life itself.

2021 honor books:

  • A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart (illustrator Noa Denmon, author Zetta Elliott, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $17.00)

  • The Cat Man of Aleppo (illustrator Yuko Shimizu, author Irene Latham & Karim Shamsi-Basha, G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, $17.99)

  • Me & Mama (illustrator and author Cozbi A. Cabrera, Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $17.99)

  • Outside In (illustrator Cindy Derby, author Deborah Underwood, Houghton Mifflin, $17.99)

Our Favorite Reads Last Month!

This Week's Review at Inklings

What DID happen to Agatha Christie in 1926?

Review by Irene Pearcey

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict

"On a cold December night in 1926, Agatha Christie went out in her beloved Morris Cowley roadster and didn’t return home for 11 days."

Police investigators found her car at the edge of a nearby lake, a fur coat lying inside.  Missing was the attache case she had taken with her on that cold Friday night and Agatha Christie herself.  After an eleven-day nationwide search, that involved hundreds of police, a call for public assistance, and the use of dogs, including Mrs. Christie's own beloved pet, Mrs. Christie turns up at a spa in Harrogate, England under an assumed name, Mrs. Neele.

Marie Benedict weaves an intriguing scenario of events beginning with the letter she left for  her husband Colonel Archibald Christie:  "Read on and follow my instructions closely if you wish the safety of the first path and the security of its conclusion." Ms. Benedict then takes us back to a fateful event in October of 1912, the night Agatha Miller meets her future husband, Archibald Christie.

Detective Chief Constable Kenward is dogged in his pursuit of the truth and despite Mr. Christie's claims of innocence, he remains a suspect in the disappearance of his wife...he is, after all, having an affair with Nancy Neele.  The one thing that can redirect attention from himself as the perpetrator of a supposed crime, he cannot share for it now lies in ashes in the fireplace.  He was directed to destroy the one thing that could save him.

This is not so much a story of "whodunit" as it is an intriguing tale of why.  This is a novel that weaves its way from 1912 to the events of December 1926.  The twists and turns befitting of an Agatha Christie mystery. 

A great read with characters that are as fascinating as they are believable.  Meticulously researched it is sometimes difficult to separate fact from fiction.  Ms. Benedict takes us on a fascinating journey into the private life of Agatha Christie and her explanation for the mysterious disappearance of Mrs. Christie will leave readers with perhaps more questions than answers.  A mystery novel worthy of Agatha Christie herself.

Thursday Reviews at Inklings

A romantic comedy to warm your heart for Valentine's Day!

Happy Singles Day by Ann Marie Walker

Review by Anne Zastrow

How do you feel about holiday reads? or small town/seaside novels? Happy Singles Day reminds me of the easy to read novels that come out every Christmas, and of small town & seaside novels that come out every summer.

Paige, a Certified Professional Organizer in Chicago has everything in her life in order. After one very bad experience with her ex and her old boss she started her own company and is very successful. But, she is in desperate need of a holiday. The perfect opportunity appears after she clicks on an ad for "Singles Day", the day after Valentine's day. What better time to go away? Because who needs  a man? Certainly not Paige. 
Once Paige arrives at the small seaside town in the middle of nowhere she soon realizes things are not as they appeared on the website. For starters, there are no cars in town. She needs to get on a bike to get to the B&B. Once she does get to the B&B it looks like someone's house, with crap all over and definitely not set for the peaceful holiday week she was looking for. On top of that, the guy at the door is rude and unwelcoming. She turns back on her heel, and because she is lucky like that, a storm comes in. She has no choice but to return to the B&B and beg for her room back.

What Paige doesn't know is that the ad was set by Lucas (the moody guy at the door) sister. Ever since his wife died and left him a single dad he has been struggling to keep the house afloat and has not taken any guests. When Paige arrived he had just found out about his sister's doing and although he is not happy about it, his sister is right. He has bills and taxes to pay, he needs to start using the B&B again. Though a little more warning from his sister so he could get the place cleaned up (since it is his house with his little daughter as well as a B&B) that would have been great. A rude 'city slicker' lady as a first guest back in operation did not help.

As their worlds collide and they are forced to spend time together Lucas finds Paige is not as obnoxious as he first thought. She is bossy and a little OCD, but she is also kind and sweet. And Paige finds Lucas is not that rude. Maybe at first, but mostly he is a man in pain with a little too much on his plate.

A storm, an animal rescue, and a sea shell expedition with Lucas' little girl later, and the chemistry between them becomes undeniable. But can two people from very different worlds be anything more than just friends?


2021 Book Awards

Wednesday, February 10, 6:00 pm, PNBA and its 130 member stores will present the first ever virtual celebration of the annual Pacific Northwest Book Awards. In the program's 55+ years, the honors have been celebrated in many ways by the winning authors and the PNBA member stores, but we've never brought the winners, booksellers, librarians, and book loving customers from across the indie Northwest to the same venue to revel together!

Attendance is free. The only registration stipulation is for the attendee to share the name of their local independent bookstore—that's it!

Come Join us!

Here is the link to register for the Awards Celebration: Webinar Registration