The Snail's Readers Circle, our team of volunteer reviewers, is working for you — reading, reviewing, and telling you all about their favorites. Think of these as our "staff picks," books specially selected by all kinds of readers. Click on each title to read the full review. We'll be glad to deliver these highly rated books to you!
I could not put this down, a lovingly traumatic tale for each character and relationship ... especially for this girl and her father. All involved are illuminated at their best as well as their worst as they navigate a game they can't win. The twists and turns pulled me in and dropped me flat again and again. Really well done; I cannot recommend enough. Perfect for anyone who enjoys a good page-turner or edge-of-your-seat read.
— Tracie, Snail Readers Circle
This story was absolute perfection, and I can't decide who I'm most in love with after finishing: The 1940's heroine Marian, whose only goal is to be a pilot in a world where females are preferred to stay home; her artistic twin brother, Jamie, orphaned with her as an infant; or perhaps their best friend, Caleb, who raises himself to love Marian and Jamie in a way only he can. Perhaps it's the WWII friends, Sarah the artistic patron, or the pilot couple Eddie and Ruth. Or maybe it's the disgraced actress in 2014, Hadley, charged with bringing Marian to the screen, despite how little is really known about her and her relationships. Regardless, each character is full of life, complexity, and honesty, and their relationships, histories, and adventures have left me missing them desperately since the moment I closed this book.
— Sarah Catherine Richardson, Snail Readers Circle
In Revival Season, 15-year-old Miriam Horton's eyes are opened to the complexities of spirituality and the depraved nature of humans, including one who she admires the most: her own father, an Evangelical Baptist preacher who plans revival circuits every summer. After witnessing her father violently react to a man who questions his ability to heal, Miriam's world is turned upside-down as has a front-row seat to the downward spiral of her father's confidence and his treatment of others. She realizes that her father has developed a God complex, and that his healings have become unsuccessful because he has begun to believe in himself more than God. In the midst of her father's crisis, Miriam grapples with the discovery of her own gifts and the tension between wanting to use her gifts to do God's work, and her father's conviction that women are unfit for such work.
— Allison Hendrix, Snail Readers Circle
I absolutely loved The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth! This story is told by twin sisters, Rose and Fern. Fern is a librarian and has sensory processing issues while Rose is an interior designer and suffers from diabetes. As the story progresses, we learn that Rose was the more outgoing twin while Fern is not as independent and shies away from public places and is more dependent on Rose to be her protector. This "protector" role continues onto their adulthood even though Rose marries and Fern lives on her own. Due to some unfortunate event from their childhood, Fern believes she can never be independent and would always need Rose to look out for her. Upon finding out Rose is struggling to become pregnant, Fern jumps at the chance to help her sister by becoming pregnant and providing Rose with a baby. However, the past may not be what it seems and Fern must come to a decision on who she is and who she can really trust. This book was so captivating! I was on the edge of my seat throughout reading and was shocked on the twists and turns! The sheer cunning and manipulation was just phenomenally written! The characters were well developed with Fern and Wally being my favorite characters! I highly recommend to readers who want a fast paced thriller!
— Nicole, Snail Readers Circle
Grady Hendrix's latest offering is an homage to '80s and '90s slashers, and a nonstop sprint to the bloody end. Lynette Tarkington, a lone survivor of a brutal massacre, is one of several middle-aged women who fight for their lives against a mysterious and vicious opponent determined to rid the world of "final girls." In The Final Girl Support Group, Hendrix takes a campy look at female horror archetypes that are often little more than tropes in their original material, and gives them heart, ambitions, regrets, and raging PTSD. The Final Girl Support Group reads more like an exceptionally gory thriller than a horror novel that'll keep you up at night, but you may want to leave a baseball bat by your bedside table just in case. (I LOVED it because this was ultimately about the perseverance of female friendship ... provided that everyone survives to the final reel, of course!)
Note: This book deals with PTSD from violent attacks, and contains gory violence.
— Whitney Sheppard, Snail Readers Circle
One of the signs of a good book is when you find yourself thinking about it often, well after you finish it. Matt Bell’s Appleseed is one of those books. The novel steers the reader through three plots: a story of Johnny Appleseed set two hundred years ago, a tale of a civilization on the brink of ecological disaster fifty years from now, and a story of an inhospitable Earth one thousand years in the future. Each tale is a strange and riveting journey on its own, encompassing a vast swath of human narrative, from Greek myth, the Bible, and Grimm’s fairy tales to early American folklore, but the stories become even more fascinating as Bell starts to pull them together into one epic tale of humanity’s relationship with the planet.
I LOVED Appleseed because it's a strange and beautiful book and it made me think about humanity's relationship to the Earth. Especially for people who like both sci-fi and literary fiction. Readers who've also enjoyed Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake trilogy, The Overstoryby Richard Powers, and Neal Stephenson's Seven Eves.
— Elizabeth Hardin, Snail Readers Circle
The Barbizon Hotel may not be a name you're familiar with, but after reading The Barbizon you will want to know as much as you can about this famous hotel for women and its celebrity inhabitants. From the '20s to late '70s it acted as a safe haven for bright-eyed young women looking for independence in the big city (Liza Minelli, Sylvia Plath, Princess Grace Kelly just to name a few). Bren does a fantastic job of taking the reader back in time when women and NYC were coming into their own. It's more than just a story about a hotel. It's about the women that called the hotel home. The hotel allowed them to make their dreams happen and the safe space to create new dreams. So many themes you see in this book still hold true today: women struggling with careers and the pressures of starting a family; making it to the top and staying there. I've always loved reading historical nonfiction and learning people's stories that haven't been told before. I highly recommend if you enjoy historical nonfiction and appreciate female empowerment.
Especially for readers who enjoy historical nonfiction and are interested in learning about women in history, female bosses, and fashion through the decades.
— Candice Kirk, Snail Readers Circle
World War II looms in London, and Evelyn Varley wants to find her place in the world. She joins the MI5 counterintelligence unit but, as the reader learns in the very first chapter, finding a place for yourself may not mean that it’s the right place. I was pulled into Evelyn’s story on the first page and stayed hooked through the end in a race to find out what has happened in Evelyn’s life to shape the woman she has become. The Unlikely Spy is a great read for those interested in how WWII shaped the lives of young people in England.
For lovers of WW2 fiction and character studies.
— Jennifer Elwell, Snail Readers Circle
Garcia's debut novel, Of Women and Salt, touches on the lives of women in Miami from two families and explores how their lives intertwine and move about one another. This book dives into topics of generational trauma and abuse cycles repeating and reshaping themselves in a heartbreakingly beautiful way. A diaspora story, the novel explores topics of immigration and the gut-wrenching truths that families in our country face daily. The prose is fluid and poetic at times, elevating the mood from a somewhat tough story line. This book is filled with portraits of women who are tenacious, whose choices have vast consequences and whose stories make them stronger when they choose to tell them. The timeline is difficult to maintain at times but overall the individual stories stand firm.
I loved it because it felt real and raw and still remained beautiful and hopeful.
— Sallie Keene, Snail Readers Circle
Elizabeth Packard forever impacted women's rights with her passion, zeal, intellect, and steadfastness. Her story comes pouring through the narrative Kate Moore weaves in this book. Against all odds, Elizabeth's story shows how progressive she was for her time, and how she convinced others to join her in making changes for good. If she were alive today, there's no doubt she would be challenging and fighting the system to be better and fairer.
— Kirsten Wilson, Snail Readers Circle
Come join the Gogarty family as three different generations deal with their own issues yet somehow get entangled in each other's activities, often unknowingly. This novel, which touches on teenage angst, marriage instability, and getting up in the years, is heart warming and showcases how important family truly is. Readers will laugh out loud at the elderly Gogarty's antics and enjoy the Irish brogue and colloquialisms.
— Michelle P, Snail Readers Circle
From the Prologue of THE OTHER BLACK GIRL to the very last sentence, I could not put Zakiya Dalia Harris's writing debut down! This is the tale of two Black women co-workers in the cutthroat publishing industry trying to determine if they are friends or enemies. A literary fiction tale with a side of suspense, this expertly woven critique on society is bound to keep you on the edge of your seat.
— Kirsten, Snail Readers Circle
The Four Winds follows Elsa Martinelli and her family throughout the Dust Bowl of the Great Depression. From a hard childhood, we get to see Elsa transform into a wife and mother, endure unimaginable hardship, and later truly find herself. Elsa is a character that will stick with me for a long time. I loved her grit and determination, and also her vulnerability. Once again, Kristin Hannah tells such a beautiful story with strong characters and wonderful writing.
(Note on subject matter: Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, Suicide, Substance Abuse)
— Katie, Snail Readers Circle
Between them, 17 year old Lenni and 83 year old Margot share 100 years of life experiences- love, joy, heartbreak, and everything in between. Both dealing with serious illnesses, they become unlikely friends and bond with each other through and arts and crafts class where they set out to create 100 paintings to document those years. The story is wonderfully told through flashbacks where we learn about what made our main characters who they are. The main and supporting characters are lovable and easy to connect with. The book is quirky, funny, sweet, and tough. I loved it because it was so tender and hope-filled even in the midst of tragedy.
(Note on subject matter: Terminal illness)
— Jess Depew, Snail Readers Circle
Easily one of the best books I've read this year. Krueger effortlessly weaves lilting language, thought-provoking issues, and an extremely compelling mystery into a historical, small town setting. A young boy follows in his father footsteps as he searches for "crumbs" to help solve a crime and discovers some much larger truths along the way. The characters are unforgettable, the story is suspenseful, and the writing is beautiful.
Especially for readers who enjoy murder mysteries, coming of age stories, Native American stories, and well-written fiction. It is almost Southern Gothic, but maybe not quite dark or southern enough. Some of the theological threads remind me a bit of Marilynne Robinson as well.
— Angela Rawls, Snail Readers Circle
Ten-year-old Fischer “Fish” Branson has seen and heard enough of his friend Dale “Bread” Breadwin suffering at the hand of a physically abusive father, so when he pulls the trigger, he feels his actions are justified. And then they run. Thinking themselves killers, Fish and Bread flee the small town of Claypot, Wisconsin and head to the woods in order to avoid facing the consequences. As the boys traverse the dense Upper Midwestern terrain, they face many unanticipated challenges. Meanwhile, the Claypot Sheriff, Fish’s grandfather, Fish’s mother and the purple-haired gas station attendant all set out on a mission to bring the boys home safely. In searching for the boys, each of the adults grapples with their own individual struggles. In this high-stakes story of adventure and hope, Graff vividly describes the rugged landscape of the Upper Midwest as the search party races against time to save the boys from the known and unknown dangers of the Ironsford Gorge wilderness and beyond. I loved that I found myself a part of the adventure!
Especially for readers who love nature, adventure and survival stories
— Allison Hendrix, Snail Readers Circle
The Personal Librarian tells the unbelievable but true story of Belle da Costa Greene, who serves as librarian, art collector, and friend to J.P. Morgan. The reader gets a glimpse into the world of Mr. Morgan and his astounding collection of art, manuscripts and books, as well as the New York art and social scene in the early years of the 20th Century. But it is Ms. Greene's secret - she is actually Belle Greener, an African-American passing as white - that makes this story so very compelling, timely, and unforgettable.
(Note on subject matter: Racism, Anti-semitism)
— Angela, Snail Readers Circle
Game Changer is a book that you have to read to fully appreciate. The subject matter is familiar, yet sometimes uncomfortable in a refreshing way. This book messed with my head in a purely satisfying way and felt very relevant to the world around us. Shusterman truly achieved something incredible through this book and it is something that everyone should read, no matter who they are, and find something that will resonate with them.
(Note: some drugs, though not extensive, and some violence. I think this book is definitely for kids who are a little older. The subject matter might be a little much for younger readers and the book makes references to events or concepts that younger readers might not fully understand yet.)
— Ava, Snail Readers Circle, age 14
James Kennedy’s fascinating novel Dare to Know starts with a sci-fi speculation: what if science could pinpoint the exact date and time of your death? That’s an intriguing proposal; however, this novel isn’t satisfied by simply exploring this question. What could have been a societal sci-fi story turns into something else entirely—a very personal and riveting horror story full of terrors like sagging careers and failed relationships, oddly specific Gen X fears (bearded 1970s hippies and Don Henley songs), and universal horrors like death and the end of the world.
Especially for adults, sci-fi and horror readers, fans of Blake Crouch and Stephen King
— Allison Hendrix, Snail Readers Circle
Bookish and the Beast is a perfect conclusion to the Once Upon a Con series. Even though it is not as focused on the con scene, it still has the same wholesome, fangirl feel as the first two. This book had many elements I enjoyed, including an amazing friend group, a strong father-daughter bond, and an enemies to lovers trope. Don’t be put off by the fairytale theme; it is a new twist on Beauty and the Beast. Which is personally one of my favorite stories, and this book is one of the best retellings I have read.
Especially for teenagers who are fan girls (like I am) of books, tv shows, movies, or actors
— Scarlett, Snail Readers Circle, age 14
Zhu Chongba disguises herself as a man (specifically, a monk) in order to stave off death by starvation during a drought. Along the way, she gets involved with fighting the invading Mongols, using her cleverness rather than military brawn to gain power. She Who Becomes the Sun is a bleeding, aching, heavy tome of desire, survival and sacrifice, a grim tale about identity, gender, public versus private perception, and most of all ambition: who do you become when you when you force destiny to take notice of you? What horrors will you commit to keep destiny's attention?
(Note on subject matter: It's a military fantasy in 14th-century China, so it's violent and has a great deal of misogyny. It's definitely an adult fantasy as well — not YA.)
— Whitney Sheppard, Snail Readers Circle
Heartbreaking, dripping in gore, life-affirming, nasty, and sweet, My Heart Is a Chainsaw had me from the first thirty pages and didn't stop. You’ll be terrified to turn the page, but so invested in the story that you can’t help but do just that. Jade is a half-Indian teenager with an axe to grind nearly as big as Jack Torrance's literal one. She's obsessed with slasher flicks, and when a new girl and her wealthy family arrive in town, Jade is certain she has glimpsed an incredible omen to a bloody and exciting summer: an actual Final Girl in the flesh. People start dying, and violently. Are their deaths horrible coincidences? Or is something more sinister stalking the town?
Especially for lovers of slow-burn horror and horror movies (there are lots of pop culture references!), anyone with a love of camp, fans of Stephen King
(Note on content: sexual abuse, graphic violence, animal cruelty)
— Whitney Sheppard, Snail Readers Circle
Wow! Lisa Taddeo is immensely talented. Rarely do I read a fiction novel that feels so real and provokes such raw emotion. Taddeo’s great attention to detail and unsparing descriptions about pain, violence and abuse are powerful. I found her writing mesmerizing and the book impossible to put down because Taddeo presents multiple mysteries that are uncovered throughout. Who is Alice? What is Leonard’s dark secret? Who is Joan talking to in second person? And what happened to her as a child that caused her such trauma? Animal defines female rage in a way I’ve never read before which was both eye-opening and thought-provoking.
(Note: this book comes with many trigger warnings — rape, suicide, domestic violence, murder, infidelity, miscarriages and sexual violence. Although it may not be a pleasant reading experience, I can promise readers that this is a story that will haunt your mind for a long time and is unputdownable.)
— Abigail Lindemann, Snail Readers Circle
This book, and especially Joan’s life is disturbing, but the writing was so compelling that I couldn’t stop. Every line was meticulously crafted, and on every page I was pulled in for more! Each character was so interesting, Joan was the sort of protagonist that you don’t necessarily like but definitely want to know more. After reading reviews of Taddeo’s nonfiction, Three Women (I haven’t read it myself), I think Animal is a book that brings that story to life.
— Sara Catherine, Snail Readers Circle