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!
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THE NIGHT TRAVELERS is exactly what historical fiction is all about. The sections are divided brilliantly, the research is impeccable (hello, bibliography!), and it is beautifully written. Following four generations of women from the rise of Hitler to the fall of the Berlin Wall, it's an incredible tale of family, motherhood, and sacrifice. Yet Armando Lucas Correa showcases these hard choices with tact and respect. If you like World War II historical fiction, definitely put this one on your list! — Kirsten Wilson, Snail Readers Circle
Meet Lillian Waters, a country music star at the end of her career, who is embarking on a nationwide farewell tour on the heels of a career-ending diagnosis. The Farewell Tour toggles between Lillian on her 1980 farewell tour, and the years of her childhood and young adulthood that led up to her eventual hard-earned success in country music. Lillian is rough-around-the-edges and has grit, stopping at nothing to make a name for herself in a man's industry. I enjoyed the complexity of "Lil's" character, and the story of her journey alongside other recognizable country stars. — Allison Hendrix, Snail Readers Circle
One of my favorite books is Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson, so when I found out the author was releasing a new book, I had to read it! The House of Eve does not disappoint. It is a captivating, powerful story of the strength and resilience of women and the sacrifices they make for themselves and their families. Even though the setting is the 1950s, it has relevance to the present day since Ruby and Eleanor are pushed to make tough decisions in order to have a family, advance their careers, and follow their dreams. It also spotlights the shame and ridicule some young women experience as they are coming-of-age and exploring their sexuality. Even more importantly it shines a light on the heartbreaking ideologies society has put on women who become pregnant and are unwed not just during the past but also present day as well. What I love about Sadeqa Johnson's books is that she is a passionate researcher and takes tough topics and shines a light on them. She also effortless intertwines the joy and love that can be found from family and community.
— Nicole Granville, Snail Readers Circle
I read this book in two compulsive sittings! If you liked Knives Out and you re-read Agatha Christie mysteries, this is for you. A unique narrator who blends the golden age of mystery with some modern black comedy. The Cunningham family reunites at a remote Australian ski lodge retreat after the narrator's brother has just been released from prison—for murder. But he's not the only killer in the family, and what appears to be the accidental death of a stranger is probably (definitely) tied to one of the family members. And they're all suspects, because they've all killed someone. While the overarching plot may seem familiar to Christie die-hard fans, it's the little mini-mysteries of which-family-member-killed-who—and their subtle connections—that made me read this one so quickly. This book has an engaging narrator and a fantastic structure even though you know upfront who-done-it: EVERYONE! —Melanie Berry, Snail Readers Circle
Big Swiss is original and quirky! It follows a transcriptionist, Greta, who works for a local sex therapist as she falls in love with one of his clients whom she code-names Big Swiss. First Greta finds herself falling in love with Big Swiss’s voice and her unique perspective towards her traumatic past as she listens and transcribes her sessions. Then the story takes a turn when Big Swiss saves Greta’s dog at the dog park and thus they develop a real-life, in-person relationship. Greta gives a false name, false identity, and pretends like she knows nothing of Big Swiss’s life which you can imagine proves to be difficult and sticky. It was a fun, one-of-a-kind read, although it includes some heavy themes like mental illness, infidelity and romantic obsession. HBO has announced a TV series inspired by it, so I am very excited to watch that too! — Abigail, Snail Readers Circle
"My Heart Is a Chainsaw" was one of my favorite books of 2021; it's knowing, self-referential tone mixed with its wonderful heroine, Jade Daniels, reminded me of my favorite slasher films of times past. I had high hopes for "Don't Fear the Reaper". As a sequel, it should be bloodier, wilder, and more audacious than its predecessor, with both a new antagonist and a few throwbacks to past dangers. Stephen Graham Jones knew this, and boy, do things go off the rails immediately. While "My Heart Is A Chainsaw" had a slow burn to its violence, "Don't Fear the Reaper" revels in danger and fear right off the bat. At the center of the chaos is the reluctant Final Girl, Jade, who'd rather just be a supporting player getting her life back together after fighting legal troubles for the last few years. Unfortunately, Jade has to use her wits and horror movie knowledge to get her and her friends out of death-by-hook range, and of course, the horror is happening during the worst blizzard that Proofrock's ever seen... I loved this book! It started with a bang, had lots of great return characters, some new characters, and a truly terrifying antagonist. If you love Stephen Graham Jones's writing style, you'll get a lot out of this one - it's more of what you loved from "My Heart Is A Chainsaw" in the goriest, most action-packed sequel. This book was apparently 500 pages? I had no idea. It blurred past as I had to find out what happened next to our heroes!!
—Whitney Sheppard, Snail Readers Circle
The Double Life of Benson Yu is a clever novel about art, childhood trauma, and survival. Comic book artist Benson Yu found commercial success with his Iggy Samurai series, but a letter from someone from his past prompts him to start a new project. This project, an autobiographical graphic novel about growing up in 1980’s Chinatown, forces him to revisit his pre-teen self (and vice versa). Different versions of characters from his past seem to coexist as Benson writes and rewrites his past to try to deal with traumatic experiences. —Elizabeth Hardin, Snail Readers Circle
Maggie Smith shares with readers an intimate reflection as she goes through a personal heartbreak, or rather a thousand tiny heartbreaks over the course of her thirteen-year relationship. Not only centered around love and loss, her memoir looks at the complex issues of modern womanhood and patriarchy. Though I have not personally experienced the pain she details in her memoir, I felt as if I have because of the power of her words. You will find someone you know in her story and it will help you understand their pain a little better. Maggie Smith has the ability to take those human feelings and emotions we all have, but sometimes lack the words to describe, and present them through a beautiful metaphor that can make you feel so seen and understood. Maggie does not stay in the pain, she evolves, changes, makes herself new, and always finds a way to make life beautiful.
—Abby Lindemann, Snail Readers Circle
Salem, witches, magic, enchantment, feminism, and heroism. This is a historical fiction novel that creates a story of the woman who might have inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter. The Scarlet Letter was required reading at some point in my life, and I don't remember too much about my opinions of it. However, Hester was so imaginative and descriptive that it drew me right in. Though the stories are set in the past, they have many parallels to the stories of women today. I'd love to listen to the audio version of this book because the language Laurie Lico Albanese uses is just beautiful. This is my first book of hers but will most certainly not be the last!
— Jess Depew, Snail Readers Circle
"Our Missing Hearts" by Celeste Ng is a dystopian science fiction novel about the collapse of society following a terrible economic depression, and a young boy's search to find his missing mother. Ng to my knowledge has never written a science fiction novel before, and while I'm sure this will get shelved under 'fiction' due to her other work, make no mistake - it's a grandly horrific view of a shattered world much like Orwell's 1984, Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, or Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Bird misses his mother, who left him with his dutiful father when he was little more than a child. His life is fraught: half-Asian, Bird is distrusted by many, and books, education, and opportunities are monitored by the government and thinly distributed. Bird's search for his mother uncovers a world he was not prepared for, and the novel is as brutal as it is sensitive in showing the consequences of racism, violence, and a surveillance state. It is a timely novel - we live in a world where rights for minorities and birthgivers are eroding daily. Books are being banned and challenged in court. This is not a happy novel, but it is a smart, kind one, and although its conclusion destroyed me for the rest of the day, I felt it earned its ending. This is one of those books I would recommend to literally anyone, and feel it is a modern classic of our time.
(Note on subject matter: sexual assault, racism, classism, and violence)
—Whitney Sheppard, Snail Readers Circle
A surprising experiment in rhetorical speech practice for an insomniac, The Guest Lecture threads the needle between philosophical reflection on economics and a personal experience of family life, career disappointment, and more. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed and connected with protagonist, Abby. Martin Baker makes the philosophical side uniquely personal and accessible through this novel.
—Sarah Catherine Richardson, Snail Readers Circle
On the Rooftop is a beautiful story about navigating the inevitable change that reshapes a family and a neighborhood. As the matriarch, Vivian, reluctantly adjusts her long held dreams for her daughters, their San Francisco neighborhood faces gentrification. Vivian perfectly encapsulates the sentiment woven throughout the book: “I just don’t know what I’m going to do with all my hope.” All around her, vibrant characters are trying to find a home for their hopes, even as the home they’ve always known is swept up in the churning currents of 1950s America.
—Angela, Snail Readers Circle
Sometimes we hear that the Earth will be fine after an environmental apocalypse. It’s not the “end of the world;” it’s just the end of humans on it. That idea is in The Light Pirate: after being battered by a series of intense hurricanes, Florida itself seems very much at peace with its watery status. It’s just the people who have to adjust. Wanda—named for the storm that raged while she was being born—is a Floridian determined to adapt and survive, even as the water rises. While her father and brother fight to keep the lights on, Wanda and her neighbor adapt and adjust. You will think of this book every time a hurricane bears down on Florida. How much abuse can the infrastructure take? How much is civilization bound up in that infrastructure? How hard do we fight to keep the electrical grid intact? What kind of society will be left when it fails?
—Elizabeth Hardin, Snail Readers Circle
Historical fiction at its best! The Call Of The Wrens features the work that the brave women of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (otherwise know as WRNS or Wrens) did in WWI and WWII. This is a dual narrative, following two fierce female characters and their stories are intertwined in the best way. It was so fascinating learning about the Wrens and the support they provided during these wars and beyond. These specific characters, Marion and Evelyn, are both motorcycle dispatchers who receive and transport important messages from the front lines, sometimes with the help from pigeons which they personally trained to deliver messages back to them. I LOVE that the many women who were vital parts to the war are finally receiving the wide acclaim they deserve and their stories are being told and recognized. You’re going to want to read this one! I flew through it!
—Abby Lindemann, Snail Readers Circle
Old Flame had me hooked from its unique opening paragraph all the way to the end. This book is a love letter to womanhood and her many roles – mother, daughter, partner, friend, and her many choices – Should I quit my job to pursue a passion? Would I make a good mother? Should I just move to Greece and start over? Old Flame details the love, exhaustion, heartbreak, and worry every woman feels. It explores the complexity, joys, thrills, and contradictions of contemporary womanhood set in our patriarchal, capitalist society.
—Abby Lindemann, Snail Readers Circle
William Kent Krueger delivers a another page-turner in "Fox Creek," his latest entry in the Cork O'Connor mystery series. In the Northwoods of Minnesota, a mysterious woman, Delores Morriseau, comes to town seeking help and spiritual guidance from the Obijwe healer Henry Meloux, who is over 100 years old. Cork O'Connor, former sheriff, is working at a local burger joint, Sam's Place, when a stranger enlists his help in locating Delores and Meloux. O'Connor works to uncover the meaning behind his interaction with the stranger, and becomes even more personally invested when his wife becomes involved in Delores' pilgrimage. Meloux, Delores and O'Connor's wife are forced to flee to safety deep in the Boundary Waters as they are pursued by mercenaries who will stop at nothing until Delores is captured. I loved this novel because it nudged me out of a bit of a reading rut. Krueger is a gifted storyteller. I was captivated by his character development, as well as his descriptions of the Minnesota Northwoods, and insight into Obijwe culture. Although I have only read one other novel in his Cork O'Connor series, I was able to track this story line easily. The ending was very satisfying. Like Krueger's "Tender Land" and "Lightning Strike," "Fox Creek" is an excellent work that I highly recommend to all readers.
—Allison Hendrix, Snail Readers Circle
There's a reason the publisher reps are raving about this book: it is a one-of-a-kind gem. I enjoyed getting to know Stella through the eyes of author Michael Frank, who made it a priority to spend his Saturdays with her. Stella Levi is more than a Holocaust survivor. She's a storyteller who reveals so much about life, love, family, community, and courage through the tales she shares with him. I know everyone will be as deeply drawn into this book as I was.
—Lady, Snail owner
I knew I had to pick this one up as soon as I heard that Sally Hepworth had written a new book. If you’re a fan of this genre, The Soulmate won’t disappoint. With clever twists and reveals, this one kept me on my toes and I devoured the entire book in a weekend. The novel is narrated by two women, Pippa and Amanda, whose marriages seem complicated in very different ways, but the women themselves have a couple key things in common: each wife is very much in love with her husband and, just as importantly, each wife is determined to uncover her husband’s secrets. You as the reader are along for the ride as the women individually try to piece together for themselves the full story of the four characters and how their lives intertwine. The tragic love stories add an extra layer to the mystery, and every time I thought I had everything figured out, there was yet another twist. I found the whole thing to be entertaining without being too terribly over the top, and the short chapters make it easy to keep turning pages to find out what happens next.
—Mica Anderson, Snail Readers Circle
This book had me hooked by the first paragraph. It’s heartbreaking, perfectly worded, and beautifully written. The narrative switches between the stories of two children, both recently motherless. Mayken's story (based on real-life events) is the tale of a curious, bold Dutch girl, traveling on the Batavia from the Netherlands to her father's home in the Dutch East Indies in the late 1620’s. Gil is a recent arrival to an island off of western Australia in 1989, sent to live with his grandfather. The author richly paints both characters and their surroundings and the two tales interweave perfectly. The narratives sometimes touch, breaking through the centuries that divide them because of the deliberate language Kidd uses.
—Elizabeth Hardin, Snail Readers Circle
Romance isn't a typical favorite genre of mine, so it was a pleasant surprise that I adored "Kiss Her Once for Me" as much as I did. Like the coziest of stories, you knew exactly where it was going and it hit all the holiday and romance tropes without being too predictable. A charming cast of characters and a truly imperfect-but-relatable lead make "Kiss Her Once for Me" fun to read and satisfying to finish. It set out to be a holiday-themed rom-com, and it succeeded in making me smile. Read this one with a mug of hot cocoa next to a fire.
This book has profoundly changed me and my perspective — as a parent, a friend, a citizen, and an advocate. No matter how accepting we might consider ourselves, this mother's story of raising a transgender child points out our blind spots, because we all have them. With honesty and so much love, Carolyn Hays shares her family's journey as they first reach their own understanding of their child's gender identity and then navigate a world that won't always understand, even when it's attempting. A Girlhood is addressed to her daughter, but it speaks volumes to the rest of us about gender, community, and love. Required reading for anyone and everyone.
—Lady, Snail owner
Pomegranate is a raw, beautiful story of reintegration and a mother trying to do and be better for her kids. Oscillating between present-day Ranita and her past self, this story paints a real, painful picture of a woman caught in a cycle of drug use and eventual prison time, and her daily fight for sobriety and wellness when she returns to her family. — Sarah Catherine, Snail Readers Circle
Living to be 109 years young, Charlie White was one to live life to its fullest. I was amazed at his tenacity and the abundance of adventure he experienced both personally and professionally. I wish I had known him. Charlie White didn't believe you could be too old for anything, and I hope some of his spirit can live on in me. I can picture him saying, "Life is an adventure -- live it!" Biography readers will enjoy this one. — Kirsten Wilson, Snail Readers Circle
I am not a reader of thrillers, but I could not put this down. Following the two octogenarian sons of a future-seeing serial killer, this story weaves between past and present, between investigators and the investigated, and intertwines a horrific legacy with a more recent brutal attack and the siblings that survived. Alex North kept me guessing, and though I had to draw a character map to track all the Englishmen the story follows, I was deeply invested by the end and questioning for myself the roles of family, both blood and chosen.
—Sarah Catherine, Snail Readers Circle
This isn't necessarily a recent release, but it is a recent discovery! When overcome by a debilitating and mysterious illness, Bailey is bedridden while trying to patiently wait for answers. When a friend brings her a snail - thinking she might enjoy it - Bailey is at first puzzled by the gesture, before slowly becoming captivated by the snail. The details are delightfully charming - the snail eats little square hole punches in loose papers and postcards until Bailey gets it more appropriate food - and the gently-paced, short chapters are perfect for a detailed but not dense read. Part memoir and part biology, Bailey lavishes attention on an object of interest and lifeline to the outside world.
—Melanie Berry, Snail Readers Circle