Monthly Archives: September 2022

The Book Whisperer Recommends a Book for Those Who Love Horses


As a redhead myself, I am often drawn to red-haired characters in stories. Too often, those with red hair get short shrift. Witches and clowns are frequently portrayed with red hair. Redheads are supposed to have violent tempers that flare up at moment’s notice. Then there are the taunts: “I’d rather be dead than red on the head” or “treated like a redheaded step-child.” That one leaves me cringing every time I hear it. Still, in fiction, redheads do have good representation. Take She Who Rides Horses by Sarah V. Barnes as an example.

Barnes features Naya, a redhead and a female, as the first person to tame, train, and ride a horse more than 6000 years ago. Naya discovers the horse she yearns to ride while wandering from her tribe’s camp. The horse is special because it has hair almost the same color as Naya’s. Naya has been giving names to the horses as she watches them. The red one she names Bhokos, meaning Flame.

Naya holds a special place in the tribe because she is the daughter of a clan chief. Still, she is a girl, so she is expected to conform to behavior expected of girls and women. Naya longs for more freedom. Sara, Naya’s mother, gives Naya as much freedom as she can. She too had longed for opportunities when she was a girl. Now, as the clan chief’s wife, she must follow rules and take care of her responsibilities.

Horses represent no more than food for Naya’s tribe. Naya feels the urge to be on the special horse’s back even though no one has ever done that before. Out in the open plain, Naya waits patiently and stays still. Over days of returning to where the horses feed and continuing to wait quietly, Naya finds she can inch ever closer to the horses without causing them to run. The horses are aware of her presence, but she is gaining a little ground each time she visits.

Readers clearly know that Naya will be successful in being able to ride Flame. The story will engage readers on other fronts: Naya’s fierce independence, her strong will, and her determination. Barnes has done a masterful job of portraying a time long ago. Her research in to the period is evident and is woven into the story seamlessly—not as a lecture.

She Who Rides Horses is the first in the series. Readers will look forward to book 2. For book clubs, there is much to discuss: the time period, culture, marriage and child-rearing customs, tribal hierarchy, and the horses themselves.

Sarah Barnes “teaches riding as a meditative art.” Readers will discover that in She Who Rides Horses.


The Book Whisperer Discovers a Delightful Journal for Moms


I received a copy of Take Time: A Mother’s Journal by Katie Clemons from Sourcebooks in exchange for this unbiased review. Take Time is a lovely book! It will make an excellent gift for a young mom. While the journal is designed to record events, information, and thoughts while the children are young, a mom with older children could use it as a way to reflect on her growing family. On her website, Katie Clemons tells readers that “sometimes you only need a spark of inspiration to celebrate who you are today.” She goes on to explain that she provides that spark that you can use then to record your ideas, memories, and activities. A Mother’s Journal provides prompts such as the simple, “Today I am feeling thankful for,” and the page has three hearts where the writer can record what she is thankful for. On another page, the prompt reads as follows: “Beautiful and brave things that past generations of women in my family have done.” These are two examples of the ways Clemons encourages writers to consider and record events from their own lives.A Mother’s Journal is a delightful gift for a young mom or for a mom to give herself!

The Book Whisperer Highly Recommends Letters from Cuba


When my young friend Feride, age 9 and an avid reader, suggested I read Letters from Cuba by Ruth Behar, I immediately got the book. Feride’s recommendation was spot-on! The book features Esther whose father has left Poland as Hitler is making inroads all over Europe. He plans to earn enough money to send for his family consisting of his wife, five children, and his mother. He also sends money home to help the family survive the hard times.

When the father earns enough money to ask his wife to send their oldest son to Cuba to help him earn additional money to bring the rest of the family along. Esther reads the letter and pleads with her parents to allow her, at 12 and the oldest child, to go to Cuba to help her father. Finally, they agree and Esther pretending to be 15 sets sail alone from Poland to Cuba.

Once in Cuba, Esther and her father continue his peddling business of selling religious statues and later sandals. Esther has other plans, however, and she begins putting her sewing talents to use. She makes herself new, lightweight dresses to wear in Cuba to replace the heavy woolen dresses that are not suitable to the hot climate. She also makes a dress for a new Cuban friend she has made and for the doctor’s wife from whom she and her father rent their tiny cottage.

The doctor’s wife gives Esther a sewing machine which the doctor’s wife had never learned to use. Immediately, then Esther’s production increases. She makes several sample dresses in various sizes including a wrap-around dress of her own design and a local store owner allows Esther to put the dresses in her store.

While Esther continues to improve on her sewing skills and creates dresses that are in demand, she and her father do not escape from prejudice. Eduardo, a rich landowner, does not like Jews or immigrants. He threatens Esther’s father and event beats him up, taking what little cash he has in his pockets. Ironically, Eduardo’s grandfather had been an immigrant from Spain, but Eduardo does not see that he himself is only a second generation born in Cuba.

The title comes from the letters Esther writes to her next younger sister. In the letters, Esther tells her sister of all the things she is experiencing, including the people she is meeting and the encounters with Eduardo. Fortunately, the good people outweigh the bad. Esther and her father succeed in making enough money to bring the family to Cuba, thus saving them from Hitler’s wrath in Poland. Esther does not send the letters; she plans to share them with her sister once her sister arrives safely in Cuba.

Letters from Cuba is a heart-warming, uplifting story. It is based on Ruth Behar’s own family’s experiences of escaping from Poland. Ruth Behar was born in Cuba; her family moved to the US when she was five. Esther in Letters from Cuba is Behar’s grandmother. Read Letters from Cuba for a terrific story about survival and a family’s love.

The Book Whisperer Highly Recommends Touch, an Up Lit Novel


After researching uplifting works of fiction, or Up Lit, I created a list of books I wanted to explore. Touch by Olaf Olafsson is on that list, so I began reading. Kirkus Reviews describes Touch as “emotionally gratifying and spiritually challenging – a compelling novel that grabs the reader’s psyche and won’t let go.” I would agree. The following will explain why I agree!

Kristofer, soon-to-be 75, lives in Reykjavik where he owns and runs Torg, a popular restaurant. Unfortunately, the pandemic has hit the world. Already, places are closing down because people are staying home; even carry-out sales have dwindled. Then Kristofer receives a friend request on Facebook that sends him into a whirl of memories and thoughts of what might have been. Once those memories surface, he begins to think of what might yet be.

The friend request comes from Miko Nakamura, a woman Kristofer met in his university days in London in the 1960s. They had a brief and happy relationship before Miko and her father, for whom Kristofer worked in a Japanese restaurant in London, simply disappeared.

Unable to find Miko after much investigating, Kristofer leaves London and returns home to Reykjavik. There he opens Torg, the restaurant, marries Inga and becomes step-father to Sonja, Inga’s young daughter. Kristofer and Inga have a good life together and the restaurant becomes quite popular because it serves excellent food. Now a widower, Kristofer finds he must close the restaurant and that friend request sends him on an adventure as Kristofer decides to go to Japan and see Miko.

Olafsson tells readers the story of the past as well as the present and leads them into the future. We discover how Kristofer meets Miko and how important their relationship is to Kristofer. He is puzzled by Miko and her father’s mysterious departure, but he cannot find anyone who knows where they have gone.

Touch reminds me a bit of Hotel Silence by Auour Ava Olafsdottir, another book on my Up Lit list. These are the similarities: in each story, the main character settles up his life where he lives and goes to a foreign place, taking only a carry-on suitcase with a few changes of clothes. Kristofer also takes with him a precious Japanese tea cup given to him by Mika who said it had belonged to her mother.

Touch is an uplifting story, but it also takes readers into the grief that Kristofer suffers and explains to readers what happened to cause Miko and her dad to leave London so abruptly. Touch makes a good book club choice because there is much for members to discuss.

Olaf Olafsson, born in Reykjavik, Iceland, first studied physics before turning to writing. His other novels include The Journey Home, Absolution, Walking into the Night, Restoration, One Station Away, and The Sacrament. He is an author well worth looking into!