Anne Z.'s blog

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.”

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)

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 

Thursday Reviews at Inklings

The Heiress Gets a Duke (The Gilded Age Heiresses Book 1) - Kindle edition  by St. George, Harper. Romance Kindle eBooks @ Scene: Liked 'Bridgerton'? Try these titles

Review by Anne Zastrow

The Bridgertons have been everywhere since the Netflix show started. It has been watched by 82 MILLION accounts in its first month. Because of that the books for the series are backordered everywhere.

But we at Inklings have some alternatives to keep you busy until more copies come out (please contact us if you want to put your name down for the Bridgerton books when they arrive).


- Someday My Duke Will Come by Christina Britton ($8.99, Forever- Jan 12, 2021)

Quincy did not have an easy childhood. He runs from home at a young age and when he returns it is to find out his brothers have passed and he has inherited the dukedom. Lady Clara has no intention of ever getting married, but now that her sister is engaged her well-meaning aunt has set her sights on her. So when the new Duke of Reigate shows up at her doorstep in desperate need of help, she does the sensible thing, she helps him. The problem? the words that come out of her when his evil mother shows up: "we are engaged". Quincy is surprised, but he needs her help, in any way he can get it! 

"This book will pull at your heartstrings. It is unexpectedly touching, has funny and entertaining side characters, and a romance that will leave you smiling" -Anne Z.

- The Prince of Broadway by Joanna Shupe ($7.99, Avon- Dec 30, 2019)

Clayton is the merciless owner of a New York Casino. A place for the upper class male society to gather and enjoy the evening. Florence Duncan Greene, the daughter of the man he wants to destroy, is a headache and a temptation he doesn't want but can't say no to. He is tired of kicking her out, because yes, she keeps finding ways to enter his male-only Casino. He finally gives in and asks her why she keeps coming back. As it turns out, Florence wants to open her own Casino for ladies and wants him to teach her his ways. Why not? her father will be mad and he will enjoy every second of it. 

"I just recently started reading this series and I am in love with the Greene sisters. One is more wild than the other in a time when that was often frowned upon" -Anne Z.

- The Heiress Gets a Duke by Harper St. George ($7.99, Berkley- Jan 26, 2021)

American heiress August wants only one thing: the family business. But when her father offers her youngest sister in marriage to the highest bidder she has no choice but to change gears. She is not letting her sister marry and be unhappy. The Duke of Rothschild will not walk away from the marriage agreement regardSome Like It Scandalous by Maya Rodaleless of which bride he got. He has only recently inherited the title just to discover the coffers empty, he needs this. August decides she will not peacefully accept her fate, she is not your usual London wallflower. But Evan, the Duke of Rothschild only finds her more endearing the more she provokes him.

- My Last Duchess by Eloisa James ($7.99, Avon- Oct 27, 2020)

Hugo Wilde, the Duke of Lindow, has a drafty castle, eight naughty children, and no wife.

Ophelia, Lady Astley, has a fine house, one well-behaved daughter, and no husband. 

It's love at first sight for Hugo. It most certainly isn't for Ophelia. 

- Some Like it Scandalous by Maya Rodale ($7.99, Avon- June 18, 2019)

Theodore Prescott the Third is rich, handsome, and always in trouble. Daisy Swan has a formidable reputation and plans to use it to her advantage. In a time when cosmetics were only used by women of a 'certain lifestyle', she plans to create and sell cosmetics to the upper class. When Theodore gets in trouble yet again the only way to survive the scandal is to marry someone respectable. Daisy doesn't want a loveless marriage, but she does need a smooth-talking charmer good with words and making things look appealing to sell her products. It is a business transaction, nothing more. Or at least that is how it starts...

"One of my favorite Historical Romances from last year!" -Anne Z.

Thursday Reviews at Inklings CIRCE eBook: Miller, Madeline: Kindle Store'Circe' - an epic retelling of a goddess' story

Reiview by Emma Pietsch

Age-old Greek characters come to life in Madeline Miller’s bestselling “Circe.” The story’s heroine, Circe, faces numerous struggles while discovering who she is and the power she holds.

Surrounded by a family of powerful immortals, Circe shrinks away in the shadows of her father’s great halls until it comes to light that she is a skilled witch. Afraid of her powers, Circe gets cast out of her father’s world and is exiled to live alone on an island. She soon faces many evils and eventually brings the wrath of a vengeful god upon her.

“Circe” brings to light the many faults of man, but also shows that in discovering yourself there are many joys and beautiful moments to experience. Circe is a courageous character who falls in love and experiences emotions we all know only too well, including fear, loss and hope. Miller does an excellent job making the reader feel Circe’s heartbreaks and joys as she faces the world.