Wendy Webb: The Queen of Northern Gothic

My favorite book is Jane Eyre, my second favorite being Pride and Prejudice—what can I say? I’m a classics lover.

But now, I have a third favorite book, and it’s all thanks to a magnificent new author on the scene: Wendy Webb. And spoiler alert, it’s not a classic that takes place in Regency Era England. I know, I didn’t think I could be swayed either.

But here we are.

Honestly, I am someone who has a very difficult time branching out and trying new authors. But, as with most good things in my life, I can thank my mom for this one. 

I’ve mentioned this before, but I lived on the gorgeous North Shore of Lake Superior in a quaint little city called Duluth. My second summer of living there, my parents came to visit and see what I kept raving about as “the most beautiful place in the whole world.” 

On one of our excursions, we visited the most charming little town of Grand Marais, and if you know my mom, we inevitably ended up at a bookstore. 

Not just any bookstore. A little Cape-Cod-style cottage painted in pastels that sat just a few hundred yards from the shore of the lake. Oh, and there was a donut shop right next door. I guess this is what they mean by location, location, location.

But I digress. 

In the local authors section (the best section!), she stumbled across a writer named Wendy Webb, someone who had made their debut within the last few years. Trusting the bookstore owner’s incessant praise, my mom purchased the first of many Wendy Webb books we would come to own. 

I remember being hesitant when my mom first suggested I read one of her books. See, Wendy Webb is a Northern Gothic writer—and gothic was not really a genre I tended to dive into. Remember my favorite books? But, I decided to give it a shot and cracked open her most recent novel, Daughters of the Lake. She was a local author after all. 

Best. Decision. Ever. 

While I typically think of mystery/gothic novels as being contrived, Webb was inventive and played with the well-loved framework brilliantly. Instead of being overly-predictable and cheesy, Webb created a believable world that left me guessing until the last chapter. Where I expected flat characters with flatter relationships, Webb breathed raw and wonderful life into every character that graced the pages of her novels. 

But fair warning, her ability to bring a story to life also left me with a fear of turning off the lights some nights. In the best way. 

In the end though, what I found so exciting was that each novel took place along the North Shore of Lake Superior, some even in Duluth—though under different names. It was like a world that she created just for me, because I could envision every town and building she spoke of, having been there myself. 

And so, maybe I’m romanticizing an author because she sets her books so beautifully along the shore I love most in the world—but maybe, just maybe, she really is all I say she is. 

I guess it’s up to you to decide. 


For more information about Wendy Webb, click here.

Wendy Webb’s Full Works: The Tale of Halcyon Crane, The Fate of Mercy Alban, The Vanishing, The End of Temperance Dare, Daughters of the Lake

Literary Event: ‘Meet Your Literary Community’

Head out to Phoenix Public Market on Saturday, October 5th for the incredible event: Meet Your Literary Community.

Taking place annually, this event brings readings, workshops, talks, and more from over 50 local authors, publishers, and others involved in the Arizona literary community.

This event is a great opportunity to make connections, meet local authors, and interact with other lovers of all things literary.

Want more information? Click here.

Location: Phoenix Public Market, 721 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix

Date: Saturday, October 5th, 2019

Time: 8 a.m.-12 p.m.

Book Review

The Land of Dreams by Vidar Sundstøl

Translated by Tiina Nunnally

Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 296
Format: Paperback
Series: Minnesota Trilogy
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Summary

The first of Sundstøl’s Minnesota Trilogy, The Land of Dreams takes place along Minnesota’s northern shore of Lake Superior. When local policeman and genealogist Lance Hansen encounters a brutal murder of a Norwegian tourist, Georg Loftus, the surrounding towns are equally horrified and in awe—as they believe it to be the first murder ever recorded on the North Shore.

However, as Hansen begins to unearth more about the North Shore’s past, he begins to wonder if it is in fact the first murder. Regardless, he soon discovers an unbreakable tie that links him to Georg Loftus’s murder, leaving Lance to question everything he once knew to be moral—and more importantly, how the ties of loyalty shape his morality.

Thoughts

As luck would have it, I came upon this book while wandering through an old used-bookstore along the North Shore of Minnesota. Having lived in Duluth for almost two years, and in that time explored much of the North Shore, I had the privilege of knowing exactly where Sundstøl set his story—right down to the beloved pizza shop in Grand Marais called “Sven and Ole’s.”

For me, it was so fun and very special to be able to read a book and be able to follow along with the characters so acutely, bringing my own personal experiences with the Shore into the reading.

I thought Sundstøl did an exceptional job of capturing the spirit of small North Shore towns like Grand Marais, Grand Portage, and Tofte. But that is just the beginning of his wonderful work. I thoroughly enjoyed the story Sundstøl wove. Complicated as it was, I never once found myself confused or muddled in the stories or characters. It made to be a riveting read, and I cannot wait to pick up the second book in the trilogy.

Sundstøl lived on the North Shore, so he is very knowledgeable of the area, and, at times, his book can feel a bit academic. His ability to explain the history is incredible and interesting. That being said, there were a few paragraphs I simply scanned because I wanted to move on with the story. Send me off to literary jail!

Nevertheless, the history Sundstøl provides is not only interesting, but very important to the story, and I am so grateful he included it in the work. I only suggest that readers have a bit of patience when it comes to a dense part in the novel, as the outcome is extremely worth it.

Due to some graphic descriptions and delicate subject matter, I would suggest this book be read at a high school level or above.

If you’re looking for a great mystery that will also teach you more about one of America’s most beautiful regions, I cannot recommend Vidar Sundstøl’s The Land of Dreams highly enough.

Literary Event

Never-Before-Released Dr. Seuss’s “Horse Museum”

Breaking news: there’s another Dr. Seuss book, and yes, it has never been released before! Too good to be true? Not a chance.

Join Barnes & Noble at Tempe Marketplace for a storytime with the hidden Dr. Seuss treasure, “Horse Museum”—a book about art and how we can create it.

If that in itself isn’t enough, Barnes & Noble will also be giving out free crayons, as well as samples from their Café. Don’t miss out on this incredible event! Be sure to bring your younger siblings or children to this book celebration.

Read more information here.

(P.S. The book is available now!)

Location: Barnes & Noble, 2000 E. Rio Salado Parkway #1032, Tempe

Date: Saturday, September 7th

Time: 11 a.m.

Cost: Free

5 Back-To-School Reads

Alright y’all, it’s that time of year again. Our last days of summer are fast approaching, and for many of us that means we are busy with back-to-school preparation. But amidst all the hustle and bustle of getting ready to hit the books (and the coffee) again, I’m a firm believer you can still find time to read. So, here are some great back-to-school reads that will help your summer go out with a bang. Or, you know, with a book.


A Time to Kill—John Grisham. An oldie, but, a goodie. If you’re a person who needs a little drama, a little thrill, added to your last days of summer, look no further than this classic courtroom thriller. Grisham tells an exceedingly powerful, yet exciting, story that takes place in Clanton, a small Mississippi town in the 90s. Lawyer Jake Brigance (said to be based off of ex-lawyer John Grisham himself) comes face to face with racism and hatred as he fights to save his client’s life. Coming in at a little over 500 pages, don’t let the page count intimidate you. Grisham’s brilliant story telling made each page read more quickly than the next.


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine—Gail Honeyman. For those of you who may be dreading long nights of studying coming around again, don’t hesitate to pick up this book which will, without a doubt, restore your faith in humanity, goodness, friendship, and healing. Eleanor Oliphant is a quirky, blunt, and extremely socially awkward woman. Her life is ordered, exact, and (she thinks) completely fine. But as she spends more time with her coworker, the IT guy Raymond, she comes to discover maybe life isn’t supposed to just be fine—it’s meant to be a whole lot more. Let Honeyman take your hand as you dive into this book, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself rediscovering what it means to live again right along with Eleanor.


The Accidental Empress—Allison Pataki. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think there’s any better way to ease yourself back into academics than with some phenomenal historical fiction. The story of the Austrian empress—known by her nickname Sisi—is not a widely taught one. Before picking up this book, I had no idea what the Austrian empire was like, how Sisi could be an “accidental” empress, and what exactly that entailed for her life. Pataki paints a both fascinating and informative world, one that will leave readers wanting to read on and on about the beloved empress Sisi.


Can You Keep a Secret?—Sophie Kinsella. For our returning readers, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that I’ve included a Sophie Kinsella book on this list. What can I say? She’s hilarious, relatable, and I adore her books—this one being no exception. Emma Corrigan has got to be one of my favorite Kinsella heroins yet. On a particularly scary plane ride home, Emma ends up spilling her darkest (and most embarrassing) secrets with the handsome stranger sitting next to her. Who, come Monday, she discovers is the founder of the entire company she works at. The odds? Next to none. The result? Absolutely priceless. This book is perfect for getting some good laughs in before you start crying into your morning latte on your way to calc. #college


On the Rocks—Erin Duffy. Want a way to relive your best days of summer? Without further ado, I introduce you to Duffy’s adorable, light-hearted, and undoubtedly funny summer novel. After Abby Wilkes’ life takes a rather unexpected turn (dumped by her fiancé via Facebook relationship status), her girlfriends get her out to the beautiful beaches of Newport, Rhode Island for some rest, relaxation, and—they’re hoping—romance. But as the summer goes on, after many dates and many drinks, Abby begins to discover that maybe romance isn’t the key to her happiness—perhaps it could really be as simple as discovering herself. Bound to make you laugh and cringe right alongside Abby, there’s no better book to wrap up the season of crazy summer nights with.


Author Interview

Interview with Songwriter Thomas Muglia

Here at Spellbinding Shelf, we are so excited to announce our newest addition to the blog—author interviews!

In the coming years, we will be sitting down with local authors—ranging from poets, to novelists, memoirists, and beyond—to bring you several interviews.

Our managing editor was lucky enough to sit down with her friend and fellow ASU student, songwriter Thomas Muglia, to kick off our author interview series.

Listen along in this podcast-style interview as they discuss every topic from Thomas’s recent album drop to writing inspiration—with many laughs in between.

You can learn more about Tommy and his music here.

Thomas Muglia Interview

Book Launch @ Changing Hands Phoenix

Heather Hillenbrand: A Girl’s Magic: The Journey Into a Girl’s Life Changes

Parents—this one’s for you. Join Changing Hands Phoenix on Saturday, August 10th at 5:30 pm to celebrate the launch of Heather Hillenbrand’s new book: A Girl’s Magic.

Sitting down to talk with your preteen about her body’s changes can be an uncomfortable—and sometimes uninformed—experience. Enter Hillenbrand’s A Girl’s Magic. In the book, Hillenbrand combines comprehensive information with beautiful illustrations, and even poetry, in order to inform while letting young girls know that they (and their bodies) are truly magical.

An excellent event and book for parents, don’t miss this night at Changing Hands Phoenix!

Read more information here.

Location: Changing Hands, 300 W Camelback Road, Phoenix

Date: Saturday, August 10th

Time: 5:30 pm

Price: Free

Book Review

Strange Diary Days by Blake Edwards

Publisher: Independently published, 2018
Genre: Poetry
Pages: 32
Format: Paperback
Buy Local
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Summary

Hailing from Tucson, Arizona, local author Blake Edwards shares the first volume of his two volume collection, Strange Diary Days.

Beginning in ethereal desert landscapes, readers soon leave the dust behind as they are transported into a world both surreal yet strikingly tangible.

From dirt roads to ancient spells awaking, Edwards’ work truly delivers his promise to his readers—a world where all that can be imagined exists; and you are right in the middle of it.

Thoughts

I would like to preface my review with this tidbit of knowledge about my literary preferences: normally, I am not one to get easily immersed in fantasy. My poetry collections are few, and they are grounded in reality with the likes of Carolyn Forche. To be honest, I just wasn’t sure if I would connect with this collection because of it’s promises.

I have never been so pleased at being wrong.

Edwards took a brilliant approach to this collection; the first poem of the collection, “Strange Diary Days,” hints at the otherworldly themes readers will encounter later, but only just so. He then goes on to ground his readers in beautiful but relatable realities in which he describes the desert and his perspective having grown up in Tucson, Arizona.

My favorite poem from this first part of the collection is “Winter Throes.” I found Edwards’ details so tangible—”I listen to the fire crackle deep, yet the floor is cold”—yet also so ethereal—”Past these boneyards lie quick-wild spring, where colors spill over and salve the scars away.” His words were the perfect balance of grounding and ethereal, poignantly preparing the reader for what was to come in the later half of the volume.

Slowly I saw the ethereal take hold over the realistic, as if each poem were my feet leaving the ground a little bit more, until I looked down and saw that they were no longer on the floor. It was gradual, painless, and so cleverly crafted.

“Wicked” was my favorite poem from the second half of the collection, clocking in at four stanzas and leaving me pouring over them again and again. Edwards’ craftsmanship with each word left an incredible imprint on me as a reader.

I would recommend Strange Diary Days to anyone—no matter what genre, material, or platform you prefer. It was a true delight to be taken into Edwards’ world, and I hope each reader gets a chance to experience what I did.


I would like to thank Blake Edwards for the ARC in exchange
for an honest and unbiased review.

6 Best Movies that Began As Books

There is no way around it: there are some books that are just completely butchered as movies. And it. is. so. painful. I would argue, almost nothing is worse for a literary junkie. However, we don’t like to focus on the bad things here at Spellbinding Shelf, hence why I decided to bring you my list of the “6 Best Movies that Began As Books.” So for those of you who may need your faith restored in the cinematic world, fear not—I have the solutions right here.


The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – J.R.R. Tolkien. If this wasn’t first on the list, I think I could be put in literary jail. Putting myself in Peter Jackson’s shoes, I’m still in awe that he was not only able to undertake such a massive project like this (dealing with a literary legend), but turn it into a cinematic masterpiece as well. While a few of our favorite characters may not have made it to the screen in this iconic trilogy (Tom Bombadil anyone?), there is no doubt that Peter Jackson brought Tolkien’s magnificent world to life in the most fulfilling way.


Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling. “You’re a wizard, Harry.” Bless all of the memes that came from this wonderful line of dialogue from the first book in Rowling’s seven part series. Spanning nearly a decade of filming, numerous directors, and (sadly) two Dumbledores, the screen adaptation of Rowling’s iconic series is—without a doubt—a cinematic masterpiece. With each of Rowling’s characters brought perfectly to life through incredible acting, there is no debate that the Harry Potter movie series is every inch as magical as us Potterheads could ever hope for.


The Fault In Our Stars – John Green. If you try to tell me that Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley’s performance as Hazel and Augustus wasn’t sheer perfection, I call foul, sir. Originally winning the reader’s heart on the page, John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars continued to break our hearts in the most wonderful way as it made its screen debut. With incredibly raw and emotionally-captivating performances by everyone on screen, The Fault In Our Stars remains one of my favorite book-to-movie creations.


The Notebook – Nicholas Sparks. Name one person who doesn’t love this movie. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Don’t worry, I can’t think of anyone either. Each time I watch this movie, I am still so overcome by the incredible performances from Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams as they so poignantly bring Noah and Ally to life. With a love story so ridiculous, crazy, and beautiful, the screen adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook perfectly captures every emotion we as readers felt on the page.


Les Miserables – Victor Hugo. Okay, to be fair, it was a musical long before it was brought to life on screen in 2012, but I say: mere technicality! It’s a movie now. As a viewer, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first found out Les Mis was going to be a movie. Could they capture the vulnerability that Hugo left on the pages and numerous stars had left on stages around the world? Spoiler alert: heck. yes. Boasting some of (what I think to be) the most magnificent performances to have ever graced the silver screen, Les Miserables is a movie that does not disappoint its OG readers.


Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen. And of course, my dear Pride and Prejudice. Did I choose this merely because of Keira Knightley? No, but, if I did, would that really be so bad? Though the movie version may not have Colin Firth in it (*sigh*), watching Jane Austen’s most iconic work come to life on screen is an unforgettable experience. So for any of my classics lovers, if you haven’t already seen the movie, my advice is this: hunker with a bottle of wine, your best friends, and your Mr. Darcy daydreams. It will not disappoint.


Storyline Slam: “Magic”

Get ready for some true storytelling magic to take place on Friday, July 19. Join Changing Hands Bookstore at their Phoenix location for another Storyline Slam where the theme is—you guessed it—magic.

Ten storytellers (drawn at random) will have six minutes to tell their own stories based on the theme.

With crowd judges, prize money, and an hour of magical stories, you won’t want to miss this latest installment of Storyline Slam.

Read more information here.

Location: The Newton, 300 W. Camelback Road, Phoenix

Date: Friday, July 19

Time: 7-9 p.m.

Ticket Price: $6 in advance; $8 at the door