This February, we all found love…in several amazing, buzzworthy books! Looking back at all the reading we’ve done and the books we’ve talked about on Off the Shelf this month, here’s what resonated with you the most.
From the first few pages of THE MISSING TREASURES OF AMY ASHTON, I could tell I was reading something special. Amy Ashton’s house is littered, cluttered; she’s spent the past twenty years hoarding vases, ceramic birds, newspapers, and mugs. But as you uncover the story behind each object and learn to appreciate its beauty, your heart will open for Amy more and more. And as Amy gets to know her unjudgmental neighbor Richard and his sons, you’ll be reminded to be gentle and patient with yourself. THE MISSING TREASURES OF AMY ASHTON (publishing as EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL in the UK) will remind you what it’s like to fall into a story and back in love with reading. Publication Date: June 8, 2021
Read more of the 6 Books That Made Us Fall Back in Love with Reading
For fans of The Keeper of Lost Things and Evvie Drake Starts Over comes a funny and tender debut about a reclusive artist whose collection has gotten out of control—but whose unexpected friendship with a pair of new neighbors might be just what she needs to start over.
Amy Ashton once dreamed of becoming an artist—of creating beautiful objects. But now she simply collects them. Aquamarine bottles, bright yellow crockery, deep Tuscan red pots (and the odd slow-cooker) take up every available inch of space in her house. Having suffered a terrible tragedy—one she staunchly refuses to let herself think about, thank you very much—she’s decided that it’s easier to love things than people. Things are safe. Things will never leave you.
But when a new family moves in next door with two young boys, one of whom has a collection of his own, Amy’s carefully managed life starts to unravel, prompting her to question why she began to close herself off in the first place. As Amy embarks on a journey back into her past, she has to contend with nosy neighbors, a meddlesome government worker, the inept police, and a little boy whose love of bulldozers might just let Amy open up her heart—and her home—again.
Quirky and charming, big-hearted and moving, The Missing Treasures of Amy Ashton proves that it’s never too late to let go of the things that don’t matter...and welcome the people who do.
Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, this is an unforgettable tale of romance, friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together. Its World War II setting alternates with Montana in the 1960s, and as the author skillfully drew the two plotlines together, I was totally rapt. Perfect for book clubs and bookworms alike!
Read more of the 14 New Reads We're Falling in Love with This February
Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, this is an unforgettable story of romance, friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together, perfect for fans of The Lilac Girls and The Paris Wife.
Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet has it all: her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into Paris, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.
Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbor. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbor’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.
A powerful novel that explores the consequences of our choices and the relationships that make us who we are—family, friends, and favorite authors—The Paris Library shows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest of places.
Even after closing the final chapter of YELLOW WIFE by Sadeqa Johnson, I find myself continually revisiting Pheby Delores Brown's story in my mind. The intensity of emotions displayed throughout the pages of this historical fiction book caught my heart right from its opening pages. Growing up on a plantation as the daughter of the estate's medicine woman, Pheby inherited a sense of confidence and self-worth that had been stripped from the other working slaves. Pheby learned to read, mastered the piano, and—most important—was promised freedom on her eighteenth birthday. But after the plantation master and Pheby’s mother were caught in an accident, Pheby is sent away to the most infamous slave jail in Virginia, Devil’s Half Acre. Knowing in the back of my mind that Pheby’s story was based off a true “yellow wife” from history made the novel that much more profound.
Read more of our YELLOW WIFE book review
“A fully immersive, intricately crafted story inspired by the pages of history. In Pheby, Sadeqa Johnson has created a woman whose struggle to survive and to protect the ones she loves will have readers turning the pages as fast as their fingers can fly. Simply enthralling.” —Lisa Wingate, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours
Called "wholly engrossing" by New York Times bestselling author Kathleen Grissom, this harrowing story follows an enslaved woman forced to barter love and freedom while living in the most infamous slave jail in Virginia.
Born on a plantation in Charles City, Virginia, Pheby Delores Brown has lived a relatively sheltered life. Shielded by her mother’s position as the estate’s medicine woman and cherished by the Master’s sister, she is set apart from the others on the plantation, belonging to neither world.
She’d been promised freedom on her eighteenth birthday, but instead of the idyllic life she imagined with her true love, Essex Henry, Pheby is forced to leave the only home she has ever known. She unexpectedly finds herself thrust into the bowels of slavery at the infamous Devil’s Half Acre, a jail in Richmond, Virginia, where the enslaved are broken, tortured, and sold every day. There, Pheby is exposed not just to her Jailer’s cruelty but also to his contradictions. To survive, Pheby will have to outwit him, and she soon faces the ultimate sacrifice.
This debut literary thriller is memorable both in setting and in character. Ivy is not always what she appears to be, her manners hiding secret thieving—until she’s caught and sent from her home outside of Boston to live in China. When she returns, she finds herself drawn once again to Gideon, a boy who’d once caught her attention and now gives her a chance to attend fancy get-togethers and weekends away. A study of choices and perceptions, magnetism and manipulation, WHITE IVY is a coming-of-age tale that has you rooting for Ivy with all of her flaws and glories.
Check out more Awe-Inspiring Reads That Transcend Genre
***LONGLISTED FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION’S FIRST NOVEL PRIZE***
From prizewinning Chinese American author Susie Yang, this dazzling coming-of-age novel about a young woman’s dark obsession with her privileged classmate offers sharp insights into the immigrant experience.
Ivy Lin is a thief and a liar—but you’d never know it by looking at her.
Raised outside of Boston, Ivy’s immigrant grandmother relies on Ivy’s mild appearance for cover as she teaches her granddaughter how to pilfer items from yard sales and second-hand shops. Thieving allows Ivy to accumulate the trappings of a suburban teen—and, most importantly, to attract the attention of Gideon Speyer, the golden boy of a wealthy political family. But when Ivy’s mother discovers her trespasses, punishment is swift and Ivy is sent to China, and her dream instantly evaporates.
Years later, Ivy has grown into a poised yet restless young woman, haunted by her conflicting feelings about her upbringing and her family. Back in Boston, when Ivy bumps into Sylvia Speyer, Gideon’s sister, a reconnection with Gideon seems not only inevitable—it feels like fate.
Slowly, Ivy sinks her claws into Gideon and the entire Speyer clan by attending fancy dinners, and weekend getaways to the cape. But just as Ivy is about to have everything she’s ever wanted, a ghost from her past resurfaces, threatening the nearly perfect life she’s worked so hard to build.
Filled with surprising twists and a nuanced exploration of class and race, White Ivy is a glimpse into the dark side of a woman who yearns for success at any cost.
I was in a big-time reading rut during the holidays. My TBR pile was massive, but I had no desire to pick up anything new—until I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance reader copy of THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME by Laura Dave. I was immediately drawn in by the main character, Hannah Hall, who’s just so down-to-earth and no-frills, who gets thrown into this crazy situation. She’s been married for only a year when her husband, Owen, goes missing, leaving behind a note that says Protect her. It’s so vague; you feel just as confused and infuriated as Hannah does, which kept me reading and reading and reading. You accompany Hannah and Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey, on this incredible investigative journey as they push the limits to figure out where he is. The book comes out in May, so mark your calendars!
Read more on the 6 Books That Made Us Fall Back in Love with Reading
From internationally bestselling author Laura Dave comes a riveting new suspense novel about a woman’s search for the truth about her husband’s disappearance—no matter the cost.
We all have stories we never tell.
Before Owen Michaels disappears, he manages to smuggle a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers: Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.
As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered; as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss; as a US Marshal and FBI agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.
Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth, together. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they are also building a new future. One neither Hannah nor Bailey could have anticipated.
With its breakneck pacing, dazzling plot twists, and unforgettable characters, The Last Thing He Told Me is bestselling author Laura Dave’s finest novel yet, certain to shock you with its final, heartbreaking turn. This propulsive thriller with a heart is for fans of Liane Moriarty and Jojo Moyes.
A mysterious island, a seance, house guests with secrets to hide, a terrible storm, and murder all make for an enchanting gothic novel, and Ryan successfully pulls all of these elements together in A HOUSE OF GHOSTS. I also love that this novel is a historical fiction set during the first world war. Lord Highmount is desperate to find out what happened to his two sons who were lost in conflict, so he hosts a spiritualist event at Blackwater Abbey in hopes of making contact with them. However, everyone that arrives has a secret. And once the storm rolls in, those secrets are trapped inside with them. A HOUSE OF GHOSTS is a great locked-room mystery with touches of the supernatural and an incredible atmospheric feel.
Read our picks for 8 Mesmerizing Gothic Novels to Read While the Winter Winds Blow
Finalist for the Irish Book Award for Crime Fiction Book of the Year, a Classic Cozy Big-House Mystery Haunted by the Specters of World War One—For Readers of Agatha Christie and Simone St. James
Winter 1917. As the First World War enters its most brutal phase, back home in England, everyone is seeking answers to the darkness that has seeped into their lives. At Blackwater Abbey, on an island off the Devon coast, armaments manufacturer Lord Highmount has arranged a spiritualist gathering to contact his two sons, both of whom died at the front.
Among the guests, two have been secretly dispatched from the intelligence service: Kate Cartwright, a friend of the family who lost her beloved brother at the Somme and who, in the realm of the spiritual, has her own special gift; and the mysterious Captain Donovan, recently returned from Europe. Top secret plans for weapons developed by Lord Highmount’s company have turned up in Berlin, and there is reason to believe enemy spies will be in attendance. As the guests arrive, it becomes clear that each has something they would rather keep hidden. Then, when a storm descends, they find themselves trapped on the island. Soon one of their number will die. For Blackwater Abbey is haunted in more ways than one . . . .
An unrelenting, gripping mystery, packed with twists and turns and a kindling of romance, A House of Ghosts is the perfect cold-weather read.
What would you do if you woke as a version of your future self, next to a new man in an entirely different apartment than the one you live in now? That is exactly the premise of IN FIVE YEARS. Dannie Kohan spends one hour exactly five years in the future before reawakening in her present-day life. This is a story about self-discovery and life choices that will have you grasping the tissue box.
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A Good Morning America, FabFitFun, and Marie Claire Book Club Pick
“In Five Years is as clever as it is moving, the rare read-in-one-sitting novel you won’t forget.” —Chloe Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Immortalists
Perfect for fans of Me Before You and One Day—a striking, powerful, and moving love story following an ambitious lawyer who experiences an astonishing vision that could change her life forever.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Dannie Kohan lives her life by the numbers.
She is nothing like her lifelong best friend—the wild, whimsical, believes-in-fate Bella. Her meticulous planning seems to have paid off after she nails the most important job interview of her career and accepts her boyfriend’s marriage proposal in one fell swoop, falling asleep completely content.
But when she awakens, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. Dannie spends one hour exactly five years in the future before she wakes again in her own home on the brink of midnight—but it is one hour she cannot shake. In Five Years is an unforgettable love story, but it is not the one you’re expecting.
In history class, many of us read about convicts sent from England to Australia. However, I never learned about the children sent from England to Canada. Children! From 1869 to 1939, over 100,000 orphaned, abandoned, and destitute children were sent to Canada, where they were often used as a source of free farm labor. In this novel, Winny is an English teen who’s forced to leave her entire life behind as she faces the unknown. Through her eyes, we learn the plight of several Home Children—those who were adopted and cherished as well as those who were treated like slaves and abused. The author’s note gave me chills. We see the courage of these children. We see their hard work and hope.
Read more of author Janet Skeslien Charles's recommendations of 5 Books with Inspiring, Courageous Characters
The Home for Unwanted Girls meets Orphan Train in this unforgettable novel about a young girl caught in a scheme to rid England’s streets of destitute children, and the lengths she will go to find her way home—based on the true story of the British Home Children.
At ninety-seven years old, Winnifred Ellis knows she doesn’t have much time left, and it is almost a relief to realize that once she is gone, the truth about her shameful past will die with her. But when her great-grandson Jamie, the spitting image of her dear late husband, asks about his family tree, Winnifred can’t lie any longer, even if it means breaking a promise she made so long ago...
Fifteen-year-old Winny has never known a real home. After running away from an abusive stepfather, she falls in with Mary, Jack, and their ragtag group of friends roaming the streets of Liverpool. When the children are caught stealing food, Winny and Mary are left in Dr. Barnardo’s Barkingside Home for Girls, a local home for orphans and forgotten children found in the city’s slums. At Barkingside, Winny learns she will soon join other boys and girls in a faraway place called Canada, where families and better lives await them.
But Winny’s hopes are dashed when she is separated from her friends and sent to live with a family that has no use for another daughter. Instead, they have paid for an indentured servant to work on their farm. Faced with this harsh new reality, Winny clings to the belief that she will someday find her friends again.
Inspired by true events, The Forgotten Home Child is a moving and heartbreaking novel about place, belonging, and family—the one we make for ourselves and its enduring power to draw us home.
My latest novel, THE SEA GATE, is set in my native Cornwall, in the far southwest tip of England. It’s a dual-timeline novel about an eccentric old lady and her eccentric old house, and about the secrets buried in both. Sometimes a place is ingrained so deeply in your psyche that you look past it toward more exotic locations, but there comes a time when you have to come home and dig into the history of the place that shaped you.
Read more from author Jane Johnson on 5 Entrancing Books That Capture England's Beauty
A broken family, a house of secrets—an entrancing tale of love and courage set during the Second World War.
After Rebecca’s mother dies, she must sort through her empty flat and come to terms with her loss. As she goes through her mother’s mail, she finds a handwritten envelope. In it is a letter that will change her life forever.
Olivia, her mother’s elderly cousin, needs help to save her beloved home. Rebecca immediately goes to visit Olivia in Cornwall only to find a house full of secrets—treasures in the attic and a mysterious tunnel leading from the cellar to the sea, and Olivia, nowhere to be found.
As it turns out, the old woman is stuck in hospital with no hope of being discharged until her house is made habitable again. Rebecca sets to work restoring the home to its former glory, but as she peels back the layers of paint and grime, she uncovers even more buried secrets—secrets from a time when the Second World War was raging, when Olivia was a young woman, and when both romance and danger lurked around every corner...
A sweeping and utterly spellbinding tale of a young woman’s courage in the face of war and the lengths to which she’ll go to protect those she loves against the most unexpected of enemies.
THE LOVE PROOF is the book I’m most anticipating reading this February. The story follows Sophie, a physics prodigy, as she falls in love and leaves academia until a shocking discovery pushes her back into her research. Spanning decades, Sophie’s research on the nature of time shows us how we are always connected to those we love. This story sounds like the perfect blend of heartwarming and heart-wrenching and I can’t wait to dive in.
“Henry has done a masterful job…This book is academic and heartfelt and tender and loving. It is worth every minute spent reading it.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
A brilliant physicist studying the nature of time embarks on a journey to prove that those we love are always connected to us, leading to surprising revelations in this fresh and unique love story.
Sophie Jones is a physics prodigy on track to unlock the secrets of the universe. But when she meets Jake Kristopher during their first week at Yale they instantly feel a deep connection, as if they’ve known each other before. Quickly, they become a couple. Slowly, their love lures Sophie away from school.
When a shocking development forces Sophie into a new reality, she returns to physics to make sense of her world. She grapples with life’s big questions, including how to cope with unexpected change and loss. Inspired by her connection with Jake, Sophie throws herself into her studies, determined to prove that true loves belong together in all realities.
Spanning decades, The Love Proof is an unusual love story about lasting connection, time, and intuition. It explores the course that perfect love can take between imperfect people, and urges us to listen to our hearts rather than our heads.
Photo credit: istock / olaser