Anne Z.'s blog

This Week's Review at Inklings

The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin

Review by Luanne Clark

Melanie Benjamin writes excellent, well-researched  historical fiction. Usually she takes a well-known person and fictionalizes plausible events around the character. This is what she did in The Swans of Fifth Avenue (Truman Capote), Alice I Have Been (Lewis Carroll), and The Aviator’s Wife (Anne Morrow Lindbergh). This time around, her editor gave her a challenge: start with an historical event and fictionalize the  characters who will experience that event. Benjamin chose a freak snowstorm that hit the plains in 1888.

The Children’s Blizzard, so named because of the great number of children that perished, hit Nebraska and the Dakota territory on January 12, 1888. After several weeks of bitterly cold winter weather, the day dawned mild and sunny. The immigrant children and farmers of the plains started their day with light jackets and a hope of spring in the future. About 3:00, just the time when teachers were sending the children home from school, the blizzard struck. Within 30 minutes, the snow was so thick that travel was impossible. Some sources stated that the temperature dropped 100 degrees in the next 24 hours!

Our Favorite Reads in May!

And here is the link to our favorites, in paperback/hardcover from us, and audio from

- The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse Physical Copy- Audio Book

- One Last Stop Physical Copy- Audio Book

- The Peacemaker: Growing as an Enneagram 9 Physical Copy

- The Nine Physical Copy- Audio Book

- An Absolutely Remarkable Thing Physical Copy- Audio Book

- World War Z Physical Copy- Audio Book

- Yes & I Love You Physical Copy- Audio Book

- Klara and The Sun Physical Copy- Audio Book

This Week's Review at Inklings

June marks the beginning of Pride Month for the LGBTQ+ community, and what better way to celebrate Pride than to read! Raymond and I (Samwise) wanted to share some LGBTQ+ books that we are in love with.

Juliet Takes a Breath: The Graphic Novel by Gabby Rivera, Boom Box, $14.99

An adorable, colorful graphic novel about a coming-of-age Puerto Rican, lesbian. Our main character, Juliet, decides to do an internship in Portland with her favorite author, Harlowe Brisbane. When Harlowe’s friends warn Juliet that Harlowe is not as kind as she seems Juliet starts to notice little things that put her on edge. When the dam finally breaks, she has to rethink who she is and what she wants out of her life. She finds comfort in her new friends and finds support from her family. A heart-warming read for anyone who understands the pain of growing up.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas, Swoon Reads, $17.99

Yadriel is a Latinx, trans boy who is trying to prove himself as a brujo to gain acceptance from his family. In trying to prove himself, he decides to summon the ghost of his murdered relative. However, things do not go as he had planned, and he accidentally summons his school’s resident bad boy, Julian. Julian is not about to go quietly back to death as he wants to tie up some loose ends. This leaves Yadriel no choice but to help him. In helping each other out, some heavy emotional topics are touched on in a way that pulls at your heartstrings. Julian had a rough upbringing, Yadriel yearns for acceptance from others. Along the way, Yadriel realizes he is in love with this ghost boy, who will have to go back to the other side eventually.

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman, Graphix, $14.99

Heartstopper is an adorable comic by writer and illustrator Alice Oseman, that follows best friends Nick and Charlie as their relationship blossoms into something more. This series is a great read for anyone interested in a refreshing, modern, gay romance--and the captivating artwork only serves as a bonus!

Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee, Quill Tree Books, $17.99

Noah Ramirez, a newly out trans boy, runs a blog about transgender people making romantic connections. The only problem is, none of the stories are true. When an internet troll forces Noah to provide proof that he’s not making the Diary up, Drew, a cisgender boy, steps in and offers to pretend to date Noah for the sake of his blog. As Noah and Drew’s relationship progresses, Noah realizes that true love might not be as simple as the stories he’s put down in the Diary.

This Week's Review at Inklings

What to get the teen in your life to read this Summer!

Samwise McGinn and Anne Zastrow


It is hard to choose books for teens, but we are here to help! Below are some of our favorite Young Adult titles, both old and new, for the teen in your life.

- Fable and Namesake by Adrienne Young, Ages 12 and up (Wednesday Books - $18.99 each)

"Trader. Fighter. Survivor." That is the tagline for this duology and it describes it perfectly. Fable is the daughter of one of the most dangerous traders in the Narrows, the sea is all she knows. Abandoned by her father she needs to use her skills to somehow get back in a ship, find her father, and demand her rightful place by his side running his crew. Once she finds a trader willing to get her across the Narrows things get even more complicated. He is not all he seems and her father's enemies have all grown in number.

- Crave, Crush, Covet, and Court by Tracy Wolf, Ages 14 and up (Entangled Publishing - $19.99 each. Court releases 09/28/2021)

Crave is the new vampire book for teens. This series is 4 books long and the last one comes out at the end of the year. It is very reminiscent of the popular Twilight series but it has a little more humour. The chapter headers alone had me laughing: "Knock, Knock, Knocking on Death's Door" & "Turns Out the Devil Wears Gucci". Grace's life changed after her parents died in a car accident, she moves from hot California to be with a family she barely knows in frozen Alaska. The cold however is the least of her problems as her new school has some very 'different' students... 

- The Promised Neverland by Kaiu Shirai, Ages 14 and up (Manga, Viz Media - $9.99)

Manga was something I discovered through my niece a few years ago. I didn't think anything of it at the time but have grown to love its weird and funky stories with its beautiful graphics. There is something special about reading a book with pictures as an adult! The Promised Neverland is the story of a bunch of kids growing up together at an orphanage under the care of a woman they call "Mom". They have all they need. But kids are curious, and one day two of them discover the dark truth of the outside world they are forbidden from seeing. 

Asylum by Madeleine Roux (HarperCollins, $11.99)

If you are a fan of suspense and the history of insane asylums, you'll fall in love with this book. The main characters are a ragtag group of nerdy high schoolers, attending a summer camp that takes place at a college that renovated an old asylum as a dormitory. Strange things start occurring with students and faculty alike, causing our main character to look for answers in the closed off ward of the building. The answers they find change their understanding of themselves and what is really happening in this old building. 

I Wish You All The Best by Mason Deaver (Scholastic, $10.99)

Ben is a nonbinary teen, facing the hardest experience they have had to handle before. Their parents kicked them out, they had to start at a new school, and move in with their estranged sister. Learning to trust others with their identity and to allow themself to grieve the loss of their normalcy is the cornerstone of this book. They also slowly find themself falling in love with a boy who has the patience to let them heal and find who they really are. 

This Week's Review at Inklings

Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire

Review by Samwise McGinn

If you enjoyed “The Walking Dead” series, this is the series for you. The story is well paced and leaves you with enough breadcrumbs to come back for more. As questions about the world are answered, there are questions that arise about the main characters.

We follow the tale of hybrid human Gus and his mysterious protector, Jeppard. Jeppard saved Gus from some hunters who were going to kill the boy because of his hybrid status. This is clearly visible since Gus has antlers, which is what makes him the so-called hybrid.

Hybrid-humans started appearing shortly after a mysterious plague killed off most of humanity. Anyone who got pregnant thereafter is guaranteed to have an animal-hybrid child. Most of what is left of humanity is waiting for the plague to take them as it appears inevitable, but the hybrid children are immune to this disease.

This is what makes all of these kids targets of violence. People believe that the cure is within the children and that they can figure out how to save themselves by experimenting and dissecting the children.

This graphic novel is full of violence and action, as well as meaningful dialogue. While the story focuses on Gus, the story does branch off to other perspectives to provide additional world building.

I found that this story was moving and heartwarming in the end, a tale of desperation and friendship as well as knowing when to stand up for yourself. It’s being made into a Netflix series and is expected to be released on June 4.

This Week's Review at Inklings

Looking for a great title to give this Mother's Day? Here are some Inklings recommendations:

The Butterfly Room by Lucinda Riley, $16.50, Blue Box Press

This is my personal number 1 pick for this Mother's Day!

Family. Family and all its beauty. Family and all its problems, mishaps, and hurts. That is the essence of The Butterfly Room. The book as a whole felt like sitting down with your grandmother (or an old friend) and having her tell you her family's story.   

The story is about Posy, Posy at 7 catching butterflies with her dad and ignorant to the problems between the adults in her life. And it is also about Posy approaching 70, with two sons completely different from each other and each with their own set of life problems, a family home she can no longer upkeep, a man she thought she would never see again, and devastating secrets. 

I was confused at first with all the many characters, but once I got them straight in my head I absolutely loved the book. Posy is a charming and strong minded woman and her son's storylines were, for very different reasons, engaging as well as heartbreaking.

Could be Something Good by Fiona West, $14.99, Tempest and Kite Publishing 

Fiona West is originally from Oregon, not too far from us. Her book, Could be Something Good, is a small town contemporary romance story between an experienced midwife and a dyslexic medical resident. It's a story about why age is really just a number, why family matters, and knowing who you are. Daniel was a delight. Fun and easy going while at the same time responsible and knowledgeable. His struggles to read were portrayed beautifully and his pursuit of Winnie was respectful and smartly written. Winnie was a great character as well. A fantastic midwife with a lot on her plate and an overbearing mother. 

Someday My Duke Will Come by Christina Britton, $8.99, Forever

If your mom/grandmother/wife/etc has fallen in love with the new Netflix show this past December, The Bridgertons, this is a title she might enjoy. Lady Clara was sweet and lovable. The kind of women I would happily have as a best friend and call upon in a time of need. Someone you can rely on and is always brave. Her life changed fifteen years when a rogue took her innocence. Determined to never give into temptation again, she settles into a life as caregiver for her family. Quincy has a heart of gold. I was not prepared for the first few pages of the book and the heartbreak he goes through as a young boy. I wanted to hold him! Due to some unexpected events, they end up agreeing to a fake engagement.  The fake engagement gave them the perfect opportunity to spend time together and get to know each other better. During those days Quincy thought Clara how to have fun and smile freely, to let go of control. And Clara thought him to love and to trust. 

What we are Reading this Week!

Find these awesome titles in the links bellow:

- Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid --> print - audio

- The Light After the War by Anita Abriel --> print - audio

- Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes --> print - audio

- Yes & I Love You by Roni Loren --> print - audio

- The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner --> print - audio

- The Moonlight School by Suzanne Woods Fisher --> print - audio

- Victories Greater than Death by Charlie Jane ANders --> print - audio

This Week's Review at Inklings



Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

Review by Emily Ring

When your debut novel gets a cover blurb from none other than Stephen King, it’s safe to say that you have arrived.  Such is the case with Carole Johnstone, whose debut thriller Mirrorland attracted a tremendous amount of attention before its release, including that of the King of thrills and chills himself.  Remarkably, Mirrorland lives up to its hype.  With its devilish twists and turns and psychological trickery, it’s not a book you’ll put down easily, nor one that you’ll forget.

Cat and her twin sister El are mirror twins, perfectly identical. During their troubled childhood, they are inseparable, escaping from the horrors of the real world into their secret hideaway, Mirrorland.  Sometimes as clowns, sometimes pirates, always in one disguise or another, they build up an imaginary world where they are always together, protected from their irrational mother and their unpredictable grandfather.  But when a handsome boy named Ross moves in next door, a rift begins to form between them, one that grows through the tragedy that abruptly ends their childhood.  As they attempt to build new lives, far from the home they’ve always known, their differences grow until an unforgiveable betrayal finally separates them once and for all.

More than a decade later, Cat is unexpectedly pulled back into El’s orbit when word comes from Ross (now married to El) that El has disappeared in what appears to be a boating accident.  Cat abandons her crumbling life in LA and returns to the Scottish home of her childhood, now owned by Ross and El.  The house is full of memories, virtually unchanged by the intervening years and occupants.  And Mirrorland still stands, empty except for the echoes of the twins’ childhood.  As Cat is drawn further into her own past, and her feelings for Ross, inconsistencies appear in the accounts of El’s disappearance. To untangle the mystery and uncover the lies, Cat will have to confront the horror that ended her childhood, and the secrets locked away in her family’s home.  She survived the monsters that bayed outside the walls of Mirrorland once, but can she do it again?

Now, a personal confession: since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve struggled to sit down and read a book.  I listen to countless audiobooks, usually while doing something else, but the low-level anxiety that’s always present at the back of mind makes it nearly impossible for me to focus on the words on the page, to lose myself in fiction the way I always could before.  Mirrorland was the first book in the better part of a year that grabbed me enough that I carried it with me, read it during meals, took it to bed at night.  Its pacing is exceptional; a steady thrum of “just one more page” played in my head whenever it was time for me to set the book down to return to the world.  Mirrorland is scary in the way that Hitchcock movies are scary, with a deep, slithering, existential dread that confounds all sense of reason.  If you enjoy a story that opens like a puzzle box and takes every page to piece back together, then you’ll love Mirrorland as much as I did.