Snakewood

By Leann Wilson,

“Mercenaries who gave no quarter, they shook the pillars of the world through cunning, chemical brews, and cold steel.

Whoever met their price won.

Now, their glory days are behind them. Scattered to the wind and their genius leader in hiding, they are being hunted down and eliminated.

One by one.”

Snakewood by Adrian Selby tells the story of the final days of Gant, formerly a member of the legendary mercenary group Kailen’s Twenty. After being fatally poisoned on a job gone wrong, Gant and former Twenty member Shale receive word from their former mentor Kailen that members of the Twenty are being hunted down and killed by mysterious forces. Short on time and resources, Gant and Shale must seek out their former comrades and determine the identity of the assassin, their only clue being Kailen’s suspicions that it has something to do with the group’s disbanding at Snakewood fifteen years prior. Unbeknownst to them, there are far greater forces at work than rival mercenaries or slighted business partners.

Selby presents a grim take on the classic fantasy setting filled with violence and political scheming. In lieu of traditional magic and monsters, soldiers make use of brews and mixtures that grant amazing abilities that take a terrible, sometimes deadly physical toll. Paste is rubbed into the eyes to grant telescopic sight, fightbrews are ingested to grant enhanced strength and speed, salve and bark is administered to close up wounds mid battle. The soldiers with better brews win battles without exception. Warfare is entirely dependent on these effects and the nations of the world are caught up in a chemical arms race to possess the most potent stimulants and deadliest poisons.

The story of Snakewood is told through a series of first-person vignettes put together from writings discovered by Gant’s son after his death. These accounts include journal entries, letters and mission reports. Chapters often switch to new characters and settings with little in the way of introduction or context. These sudden shifts in tone can be jarring but help make the book’s stitched-together feel more tangible. Selby almost never presents information about the setting directly to the reader. Instead, characters usually refer to things in passing and the reader is left to play catch-up. This can lead to confusion but Selby never scrimps on detail and scenes are filled with such vivid descriptions that context alone is often enough to figure things out. The mystery unfolds gradually both in the present and the past and it can feel like vital pieces are being held just out of reach. Each new character’s perspective sheds light on the events at Snakewood and the heroes and villains shift several times throughout the story. 

Snakewood mostly eschews typical good guy/bad guy roles in favor of a more amoral tone. Good deeds and sympathetic backstories are partnered with brutal means and selfish motives. A heroic victory for one means a devastating defeat for another. The backstories of several characters illustrate how lives are transformed by the passage of time. A pursuit of justice can warp into a vendetta and a life devoted to profit can give way to regret. Selby takes care to balance the characters’ perspectives and keep the morality of the book ambiguous from beginning to end. Selby is much more interested in the fate each person chooses for themselves and leaves it to the reader to decide what’s right and what’s wrong.

Evan Jewell

Potions Are For Pushovers

By Leann Wilson,

Selling mystical elixirs and tantalizing tonics is a pretty good way for a fake medium to earn a living–until a villager turns up dead. The cause? Murder by poisoning. Suddenly Ellie’s the prime suspect. Her only recourse is to find the culprit who did do away with Sarah Blackthorne. No one liked the mean old battle-axe. But did anyone hate her enough to kill her?

It’s enough of a mystery to tempt Ellie to take millionaire beau Nicholas Hartford up on his offer to keep her afloat. Except Ellie is not the kind of woman to lean on a man. Besides, she’s taken on two young witches-in-training who are convinced a werewolf is the murderer. Just as Ellie’s wondering if there really is something otherworldly going on, animals begin to disappear–including her beloved cat, Beast. Now Ellie’s on the warpath to uncover the wicked truth about the people and the place she’s only just begun to call home…

This is book 2 in the Eleanor Wilde Mystery Series. I’ve never read these types of stories before, but they are an easy and fun book series to snuggle up with.  Ellie is a fake medium-for-hire. She has found a niche in a little village in England and has taken up residence there. There are lots of mysterious things going on around Ellie, however.  When odd occurrences begin happening, Ellie and her apprentice decide to investigate. This book has a lot of mystery, humor, and maybe even a werewolf!  If you are looking for something cute and exciting, give this series a try. 

Wicked

By Leann Wilson,

Goodreads describes this book as “When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum’s classic tale we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious Witch?

This captivating tale takes place in the familiar land of OZ. This story is a political, social, and ethical commentary on good and evil following Elphaba, the mysterious green-skinned girl that becomes the Wicked Witch of the West. When we heard the classical tale we only get one side of the story, but what about the mysterious witch? Where did she come from and what makes her so wicked?

 I was ecstatic to find this book. It quickly shot up to one of my favorites. I hope you enjoy this read as much as I did.  If you enjoy this book please check out these other titles; Tales Told in OZ, Son of a Witch, A Lion Among Men, and Out of OZ.

Review by staff member Helene D.

The Pisces

By Leann Wilson,

“Maybe [the ocean and I] were on the same side, comprised of the same things, water mostly, also a mystery. The ocean swallowed things up–boats, people–but it didn’t look outside itself for fulfillment. It could take whatever skimmed its surface or it could leave it. In its depths already lived a whole world of who-knows-what. It was self-sustaining. I should be like that. It made me wonder what was inside of me.”

The Pisces by Melissa Broder stars Lucy, a woman who has spent the past nine years of her life writing a dissertation on Sappho, a lyric poet from ancient Greece.  As the frustration of writing this comes to a head, her relationship explodes into dramatic fallout. Lucy struggles to figure out the next steps in her life when her sister, Annika, reaches out and asks if she would be interested in dog-sitting over the summer.

Lucy accepts and travels to Venice Beach, California to live in their glass cubed home with their diabetic foxhound. Despite the fact that this was meant to be a vacation, Lucy can’t escape her thoughts. She becomes increasingly bitter at any sight of PDA and decides to attend a love addiction therapy group.

“In some ways, my moods did and did not exist. People said that you could will a mood into being or will it away. Just think positively. But I never felt that way. My moods were their own entities, even if no one could understand why they were there. That was what made me scared of feelings. I realized now what I had to do, in spite of what others said, was not try to change a mood but surrender to it. I had to surrender to whatever feelings arrived and in doing so I could maybe ride them, floating on the waves. I decided I was going to surrender.”

Eventually, Lucy meets a strange boy swimming alone at the beach one night. Theo isn’t just a boy though, he’s a merman. Lucy and Theo fall into a whirlwind romance, but how can they make it work when they live in two different worlds?

The Pisces is a book that you’re either going to fall in love with or absolutely hate. Lucy spends most of the book being overwhelmed by her own obsessions and compulsions. Theo is sometimes a character who leans too far into narcissism. On the other hand, this book lets out a lot of the emotions most of us don’t allow ourselves to feel and may give us a glimpse into the traits we don’t like about ourselves. Overall, The Pisces is an interesting tale weaving together fantasy and eroticism, and the dark humor may come as no surprise to those who are familiar with Melissa Broder from her “so sad today” twitter account.

Review by staff member Austyn B.

The Institute

By Leann Wilson,

“He was only twelve, and understood that his experience of the world was limited, but one thing he was quite sure of: when someone said trust me, they were usually lying through their teeth.”
― Stephen King, The Institute

Goodreads synopsis: The Institute. In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. … Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window.

I’ve been so excited to read this Stephen King novel! It’s such an engaging story. You won’t want to put it down.  What’s happening to Luke is a nightmare. To be kidnapped, and have no idea where you are or what will be done to you would be terrifying.  Luke is a very likable character, and you feel like you are along for the ride. If you like mystery, suspense, and a bit of horror, you should give this book a try!

Review by staff member Holly S.

48 Hours

By Leann Wilson,

From the New York Times bestselling author of the smash hit One Second After series comes 48 Hours, a nail-biting and prescient thriller about a solar storm with the power to destroy the world’s electrical infrastructure.
In 48 hours, the Earth will be hit by a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) from the Sun, a geomagnetic storm that has the power to shut down and possibly destroy the world’s electrical infrastructure. To try and prevent permanent damage, everything goes dark prior to the hit: global communications are shut down; hospital emergency generators are disconnected; the entire internet, media broadcasting, and cell phone systems are turned off. Will the world’s population successfully defend itself in the wake of the CME, or will mass panic lead to the breakdown of society as we know it? William Forstchen is at his best in 48 Hours, a tale of the resilience of American citizens when faced with a crisis.

William Forstchen’s books are some of the best among the apocalypse fiction genre. His books are realistic and packed with detail. They are fictional adventures that could actually happen. You get emotionally attached to the people at the beginning of the book and then Forstchen draws you into the plot. 48 Hours was well written and moved at such a fast past that  I could not put it down.

 

Review by staff member Leann W.

Every Breath

By Leann Wilson,

Hope Anderson is at a crossroads. At thirty-six, she’s been dating her boyfriend, an orthopedic surgeon, for six years. With no wedding plans in sight, and her father recently diagnosed with ALS, she decides to use a week at her family’s cottage in Sunset Beach, North Carolina, to ready the house for sale and mull over some difficult decisions about her future.

Tru Walls has never visited North Carolina but is summoned to Sunset Beach by a letter from a man claiming to be his father. A safari guide, born and raised in Zimbabwe, Tru hopes to unravel some of the mysteries surrounding his mother’s early life and recapture memories lost with her death. When the two strangers cross paths, their connection is as electric as it is unfathomable . . . but in the immersive days that follow, their feelings for each other will give way to choices that pit family duty against personal happiness in devastating ways.

Nicholas Sparks managed to write and properly execute a happy ever after while simultaneously breaking my heart in two and I’m not sure anyone else is capable of that. He speaks of love, loss, and passion–and wrings out every possible bit of emotion from each scene and story. The long denied love affair of the main characters, Tru and Hope, touches the romantic in all of us that yearns for such a treasured love affair.  A story of two very interesting characters who are remarkable individuals, who together, found the highest caliber of true love, and experienced the triumph of enduring hope.

Review by staff member Leann W.

Uzumaki

By Leann Wilson,

Uzumaki is probably the scariest graphic novel I have ever read. Okay, that’s it. Review over. Thanks for reading! ……..

Well fine. I suppose I could explain why this book is so scary, but I should warn the reader. This book is not what you would expect when you hear ‘graphic novel.’ It’s not a superhero comic nor is it a multi volume overarching story… rather it’s an episodic novel that details a methodical adventure with standalone chapters that are loosely connected by… something beyond anyone’s control.

What is this something? Well, let’s start at the beginning. The book begins with a young high school girl on her way to school when she stumbles by a neighbor acting strangely who is staring intently at a tiny spiraled object that’s stuck against a wall. This may not seem like much until other citizens of the town have similar experiences, each growing more horrifying than the next. It doesn’t matter if the spiraled object is the curl in someone’s hair or little whirlpools that swirl in a nearby creek… something about the spiral fascinates the citizens, leaving in its wake a certain type of madness that spreads until the whole town becomes twisted (figuratively and very literally).

Who created the spiral? Is it a disease? Is it some kind of monster beyond our understanding? Or is the spiral just taking its natural course? Well, what makes the book very interesting is that there is no answer. As I read, I was curious to see how the heroes would save the day. The further I got, the more I realized that the creatures were far beyond what any of the characters could handle. And what’s more frightening than knowing you can’t delay the inevitable?

In any case, there are three things you’ll get out of this book.

  1. You’ll start noticing spirals in your everyday life.
  2. You’ll forever be disturbed by seeing the spirals in your everyday life.
  3. You’ll never want to see a spiral again.

Review by staff member Wimberly W.

Dream Girl

By Leann Wilson,

“Dream Girl” by Clementine von Radics is a book of modern poetry that covers the experience of girlhood. This experience paints a picture of feminism, sexism, dehumanization, idealization, and love. While the experience of being female can be at times raw and disconcerting, Radics openly shows her wounds to us and invites us to open ours as well.

In the poem “Explaining Girlhood to a Boy Who Has Never Been There” the poet muses on the realities of being born female. We find her spilling her feelings on the page explaining to the boy involved in the conversation that nobody “looks at them and says meal” the way she feels men do to her. Furthermore, she goes on to explain that in being objectified as a female, she also feels she is expected to say “thank you” in return.

In the poem “The Fidelity of the Fourth Step” Radics reflects on a relationship that has ended. She realizes that when looking back on the relationship she still sees love while he looks back and sees rock bottom. She ultimately agrees with him and writes to him thanking him for helping her realize that love doesn’t have to look “like a shot glass or a shotgun.” This poem can be found in spoken word form by the author here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBTk0_Sm_lk

In the poem “The Haus in North Portland” we learn about a story of loss delivered in collections of images. During the height of mourning a group of friends gather around a garden they shared. Radics shows us the beauty and devastation of loss by lamenting that “everything sang of your absence and never really stopped singing.”

“Dream Girl” is a great introduction to those who aren’t familiar with poetry and its ability to cohesively weave together reality and fiction. While the poems have a focus on the experience of girlhood, I would also suggest this to boys and men who are curious to understand the experiences of their female friends, partners, sisters, and mothers as well.

Shelter in Place

By Leann Wilson,

Sometimes, there is nowhere safe to hide.

It was a typical evening at a mall outside Portland, Maine. Three teenage friends waited for the movie to start. A boy flirted with the girl selling sunglasses. Mothers and children shopped together, and the manager at the video-game store tended to customers. Then the shooters arrived.

The chaos and carnage lasted only eight minutes before the killers were taken down. But for those who lived through it, the effects would last forever. In the years that followed, one would dedicate himself to a law enforcement career. Another would close herself off, trying to bury the memory of huddling in a ladies’ room, hopelessly clutching her cell phone–until she finally found a way to pour her emotions into her art.

But one person wasn’t satisfied with the shockingly high death toll at the DownEast Mall. And as the survivors slowly heal, find shelter, and rebuild, they will discover that another conspirator is lying in wait–and this time, there might be nowhere safe to hide.

Suspenseful and heart wrenching Nora Roberts draws you in with a story of rebuilding, moving on, and growing.  Nora explores how survivors of a mass shooting continue to live their lives after the news stops reporting. Her characters are so alive; they just drag you into the story and stay with you long after the end.

There is mystery, romance, and police drama all wrapped up in an interesting moving story.

She got the feelings of the victims, victims’ families and also the thoughts of the person causing all the pain.

I like the characters and how they played against one another. Reed and Simone were just as they needed to be.

Another excellent book by Nora Roberts.

Review by staff member Leann W.