The 10 Most Popular Books of August

August 31 2021
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Anybody else shocked that it’s already the end of August? If you’re not quite prepared to let it go just yet, reminisce with these most popular books on Off the Shelf this month! And consider this the ultimate sign of which deals, trends, and new releases everyone has their eye on.

The Madwoman Upstairs
by Catherine Lowell

In Catherine Lowell’s debut novel, the only remaining descendant of the Brontë family embarks on a modern-day literary treasure hunt to find the family’s long-rumored secret estate, using only the clues her father left behind and the Brontës’ own novels. With the help of a handsome but inscrutable professor, Samantha plunges into a vast literary mystery and an untold family legacy, one that can only be solved by decoding the clues hidden within the Brontës’ own works. A fast-paced adventure from start to finish, THE MADWOMAN UPSTAIRS is a smart and original novel and a moving exploration of what happens when the greatest truth is, in fact, fiction.

Get the eBook on sale for $1.99!

Read more about the August eBook Deals

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The Madwoman Upstairs
Catherine Lowell

In Catherine Lowell’s smart and original debut novel, the only remaining descendant of the Brontë family embarks on a modern-day literary treasure hunt to find the family’s long-rumored secret estate, using only the clues her father left behind and the Brontës’ own novels.

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Lightning Strike
by William Kent Krueger

William Kent Krueger’s prequel to his Cork O’Connor series follows a young boy with as much heart, history, and personality as Kya from WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING, so you’re in for a ride. It starts off with the puzzle of a murder, as Cork doubts that the main suspect actually committed the crime, placing his opinions at odds with his sheriff father and the rest of the townspeople. In the summer of 1963, he sets out to prove them wrong and attain true justice for his murdered friend. In all of Krueger’s books, nature sings and humans grow up and connect with one another across ages and cultures, so you could readily pick up any one of them for a good CRAWDADS comparison.

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Lightning Strike
William Kent Krueger

The author of the instant New York Times bestseller This Tender Land returns with a powerful prequel to his acclaimed Cork O’Connor series—a book about fathers and sons, long-simmering conflicts in a small Minnesota town, and the events that echo through youth and shape our lives forever.

Aurora is a small town nestled in the ancient forest alongside the shores of Minnesota’s Iron Lake. In the summer of 1963, it is the whole world to twelve-year-old Cork O’Connor, its rhythms as familiar as his own heartbeat. But when Cork stumbles upon the body of a man he revered hanging from a tree in an abandoned logging camp, it is the first in a series of events that will cause him to question everything he took for granted about his hometown, his family, and himself.

Cork’s father, Liam O’Connor, is Aurora’s sheriff and it is his job to confirm that the man’s death was the result of suicide, as all the evidence suggests. In the shadow of his father’s official investigation, Cork begins to look for answers on his own. Together, father and son face the ultimate test of choosing between what their heads tell them is true and what their hearts know is right.

In this masterful story of a young man and a town on the cusp of change, beloved novelist William Kent Krueger shows that some mysteries can be solved even as others surpass our understanding.

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Rainwater
by Sandra Brown

Set in Texas during the Great Depression, THE FOUR WINDS tells Elsa Wolcott’s heart-wrenching story: how she perseveres through a sickly childhood, endures backbreaking labor on the farm, and then prepares to find work out West during the Dust Bowl. Her persistence and independence make for one inspiring character—and for a similarly hardworking protagonist, meet Ella Baron, in RAINWATER by Sandra Brown. Ella runs a boarding house in Texas in 1934, and also cares for her son, who has autism. Her life is suddenly upended when she falls in love with a Mr. Rainwater, who comes to town to live out his final days while battling cancer. This book packs in all the drama and history of the time, to illuminate a poor town and its inhabitants as they struggle to love, fight for justice, and survive through harsh conditions.

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Rainwater
Sandra Brown

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Yours Cheerfully
by AJ Pearce

This lighthearted historical fiction tale, set in London during WWII, has been the perfect pick-me-up. Emmy Lake is strong, clever, and ready to stand on the front line of women’s issues. Through her journalistic endeavors, she embarks on a courageous campaign for improved working conditions for mothers. Of course, love and friendship blossom along the way. This sequel to the endearing DEAR MRS. BIRD is a celebration of female solidarity and a testament to the strength of women.

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Yours Cheerfully
AJ Pearce

From the author of the “jaunty, heartbreaking winner” (People) and international bestseller Dear Mrs. Bird, a new charming and uplifting novel set in London during World War II about a plucky aspiring journalist.

London, November 1941. Following the departure of the formidable Henrietta Bird from Woman’s Friend magazine, things are looking up for Emmeline Lake as she takes on the challenge of becoming a young wartime advice columnist. Her relationship with boyfriend Charles (now stationed back in the UK) is blossoming, while Emmy’s best friend Bunty, still reeling from the very worst of the Blitz, is bravely looking to the future. Together, the friends are determined to Make a Go of It.

When the Ministry of Information calls on Britain’s women’s magazines to help recruit desperately needed female workers to the war effort, Emmy is thrilled to be asked to step up and help. But when she and Bunty meet a young woman who shows them the very real challenges that women war workers face, Emmy must tackle a life-changing dilemma between doing her duty and standing by her friends.

Every bit as funny, heartwarming, and touching as Dear Mrs. Bird, Yours Cheerfully is a celebration of friendship—a testament to the strength of women and the importance of lifting each other up, even in the most challenging times.

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Chateau of Secrets
by Melanie Dobson

Secret tunnels snake through the hill under Gisèle Duchant family’s medieval chateau in Normandy, hiding her brother and several friends who are resisting the German occupation of France. But when German soldiers take over the family’s château, Gisèle is forced to host them as well—while harboring the resistance fighters right below their feet.

A present-day story weaves through the past one as Chloe Sauver, Gisèle’s granddaughter, arrives in Normandy to work with a documentary filmmaker, Riley. Riley wants to research Chloe’s family history and the lives that were saved in the tunnels under their house in Normandy. As she begins to explore the passageways beneath the chateau, nothing can prepare her for the shock of what she and Riley discover. With emotion and intrigue, Melanie Dobson brings World War II France to life in this beautiful novel about war, family, sacrifice, and the secrets of the past.

Get the eBook on sale for $1.99!

Read more about the August eBook Deals

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Chateau of Secrets
Melanie Dobson

A courageous young noblewoman risks her life to hide French resistance fighters; seventy years later, her granddaughter visits the family’s abandoned chateau and uncovers shocking secrets from the past.

Gisèle Duchant guards a secret that could cost her life. Tunnels snake through the hill under her family’s medieval chateau in Normandy. Now, with Hitler’s army bearing down, her brother and several friends are hiding in the tunnels, resisting the German occupation of France.

But when German soldiers take over the family’s château, Gisèle is forced to host them as well—while harboring the resistance fighters right below their feet. Taking in a Jewish friend’s baby, she convinces the Nazis that it is her child, ultimately risking everything for the future of the child. When the German officers begin to suspect her deception, an unlikely hero rescues both her and the child.

A present day story weaves through the past one as Chloe Sauver, Gisèle’s granddaughter, arrives in Normandy. After calling off her engagement with a political candidate, Chloe pays a visit to the chateau to escape publicity and work with a documentary filmmaker, Riley, who has uncovered a fascinating story about Jews serving in Hitler’s army. Riley wants to research Chloe’s family history and the lives that were saved in the tunnels under their house in Normandy. Chloe is floored—her family isn’t Jewish, for one thing, and she doesn’t know anything about tunnels or the history of the house. But as she begins to explore the dark and winding passageways beneath the chateau, nothing can prepare her for the shock of what she and Riley discover…

With emotion and intrigue, Melanie Dobson brings World War II France to life in this beautiful novel about war, family, sacrifice, and the secrets of the past.

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The Family Plot
by Megan Collins

Megan Collins’s THE WINTER SISTER has stuck with me since I read it a couple years back, so I knew I needed her new novel before I’d even heard the details. Sure enough, those details have only increased my eagerness, because it’s a gothic suspense story! THE FAMILY PLOT introduces us to twenty-six-year-old Dahlia Lighthouse, who grew up in an isolated mansion surrounded by what sounds like some deeply weird family members, including parents who were fixated on morbid true crime cases. What’s more, her twin brother went missing when they were sixteen, and now, a decade later, she learns he was murdered. Dahlia’s convinced a serial killer is to blame at first, but the more odd behavior she observes from her family, the more she starts to fear her brother’s killer could lurk closer to home . . .

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The Family Plot
Megan Collins

From the author of The Winter Sister and Behind the Red Door, this “masterpiece of gothic suspense and horror, filled with dark family secrets and stunning twists” (Michele Campbell, author of It’s Always the Husband) follows a family obsessed with true crime as they gather to bury their patriarch—only to find another body already in his grave.

At twenty-six, Dahlia Lighthouse is haunted by her upbringing. Raised in a secluded island mansion deep in the woods and kept isolated by her true crime-obsessed parents, she is unable to move beyond the disappearance of her twin brother, Andy, when they were sixteen.

After several years away and following her father’s death, Dahlia returns to the house, where the family makes a gruesome discovery: buried in their father’s plot is another body—Andy’s, his skull split open with an ax.

Dahlia is quick to blame Andy’s murder on the serial killer who terrorized the island for decades, while the rest of her family reacts to the revelation in unsettling ways. Her brother, Charlie, pours his energy into creating a family memorial museum, highlighting their research into the lives of famous murder victims; her sister, Tate, forges ahead with her popular dioramas portraying crime scenes; and their mother affects a cheerfully domestic facade, becoming unrecognizable as the woman who performed murder reenactments for her children. As Dahlia grapples with her own grief and horror, she realizes that her eccentric family, and the mansion itself, may hold the answers to what happened to her twin.

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The Homesman
by Glendon Swarthout

THE HOMESMEN is a devastating story of early pioneers in 1850s American West. It celebrates the brave women whose hearts and minds were broken by a life of bitter hardship. When none of the county’s men steps up to escort the women back East to a sanitarium, a “homesman” must be found. The job falls to Mary Bee Cuddy—ex-teacher, spinster, indomitable and resourceful. Brave as she is, Mary Bee knows she cannot succeed alone. The only companion she can find is the low-life claim jumper George Briggs. Thus begins a trek east, against the tide of colonization, against hardship, Indian attacks, ice storms, and loneliness. Now a major film directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones and co-starring Meryl Streep, Hilary Swank, and John Lithgow, this classic Western novel captures the devastating realities of early frontier life through the eyes of one extraordinary woman.

Get the eBook on sale for $1.99!

Read more about the August eBook Deals

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The Homesman
Glendon Swarthout

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Vera
by Carol Edgarian

If you’re a fan of THE NATURE OF FRAGILE THINGS by Susan Meissner, we recommend VERA by Carol Edgarian. THE NATURE OF FRAGILE THINGS explores the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and its aftermath through a chain of events and characters; similarly, VERA starts when the same disastrous event strikes San Francisco. As buildings capsize and fires rage, fifteen-year-old Vera relies on her cunning and street smarts to survive, maneuvering through Chinatown, brothels, and new alliances. Many key figures of the time period make an appearance, and readers will find this story atmospheric and immersive. You’ll be rooting for young Vera to make it out alive and find a home once more.

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Vera
Carol Edgarian

New York Times bestselling author Carol Edgarian delivers an astonishing feat of imagination, a grand adventure set in 1906 San Francisco—a city leveled by quake and fire—featuring an indomitable heroine coming of age in the aftermath of catastrophe and her quest for love and reinvention.

Meet Vera Johnson, the uncommonly resourceful fifteen-year-old illegitimate daughter of Rose, notorious proprietor of San Francisco’s most legendary bordello and ally to the city’s corrupt politicians. Vera has grown up straddling two worlds—the madam’s alluring sphere, replete with tickets to the opera, surly henchmen, and scant morality, and the violent, debt ridden domestic life of the family paid to raise her.

On the morning of the great quake, Vera’s worlds collide. As the shattered city burns and looters vie with the injured, orphaned, and starving, Vera and her guileless sister, Pie, are cast adrift. Vera disregards societal norms and prejudices and begins to imagine a new kind of life. She collaborates with Tan, her former rival, and forges an unlikely family of survivors. Together they navigate their way beyond disaster.

In Vera, Carol Edgarian creates a cinematic, deeply entertaining world, in which honor and fates are tested; notions of sex, class, and justice are turned upside down; and love is hard-won. A ravishing, heartbreaking, and profound affirmation of youth and tenacity, Vera’s story brings to life legendary characters—tenor Enrico Caruso, indicted mayor Eugene Schmitz and boss Abe Ruef, tabloid celebrity Alma Spreckels—as well as an unforgettable cast that includes Vera’s young lover, Bobby, protector of the city’s tribe of orphans, and three generations of a Chinese family competing and conspiring with Vera.

This richly imagined, timely tale of improbable outcomes and alliances takes hold from the first page, gifting readers with remarkable scenes of devastation, renewal, and joy. Told with unflinching candor and wit, Vera celebrates the audacious fortitude of its young heroine and marks a stunning achievement by an inventive and generous writer.

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Dear Emmie Blue
by Lia Louis

From the first chapter of DEAR EMMIE BLUE, I knew this book would have a special place in my heart. While I may not have placed a note in a balloon and fallen in love with the boy who found it, Emmie’s dedication to being a good friend and putting others first, sometimes to her detriment, is instantly relatable. Throughout her entire story, I felt like I was reading about a dear friend. Lia Louis’s writing allowed me to feel Emmie's highs and lows as if they were my own, and I was cheering her on the entire way. It’s been about a year and a half since I first read Emmie’s story, and yet I still think about it often and recommend it to anyone looking for a feel-good rom-com.

Get the eBook on sale for $1.99!

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Dear Emmie Blue
Lia Louis

In this charming and poignant novel that “oozes charm and wit and speaks beautifully about friendship and love, and the differences between the two” (Laura Pearson, author of I Wanted You to Know), teenager Emmie Blue releases a balloon with her email address and a big secret into the sky, only to fall head-over-heels for the boy who finds it. But fourteen years later, everything Emmie has planned is up in the air.

At sixteen, Emmie Blue stood in the fields of her school and released a red balloon into the sky. Attached was her name, her email address…and a secret she desperately wanted to be free of. Weeks later, on a beach in France, Lucas Moreau discovered the balloon and immediately emailed the attached address, sparking an intense friendship between the two teens.

Now, fourteen years later, Emmie is hiding the fact that she’s desperately in love with Lucas. She has pinned all her hopes on him and waits patiently for him to finally admit that she’s the one for him. So dedicated to her love for Lucas, Emmie has all but neglected her life outside of this relationship—she’s given up the search for her absentee father, no longer tries to build bridges with her distant mother, and lives as a lodger to an old lady she barely knows after being laid off. And when Lucas tells Emmie he has a big question to ask her, she’s convinced this is the moment he’ll reveal his feelings for her. But nothing in life ever quite goes as planned, does it?

Filled with heart and humor, Dear Emmie Blue “beautifully captures the heartache and frustrations of carrying our teenaged selves with us wherever we go” (Anstey Harris, author of Goodbye Paris) that is perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and Evvie Drake Starts Over.

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The Barbizon
by Paulina Bren

Built in 1927, at the height of the Roaring Twenties, the Barbizon Hotel was designed as a luxurious safe haven for the “Modern Woman” hoping for a career in the arts. Over time, it became the place to stay for any ambitious young woman hoping for fame and fortune. Among those housed there were Sylvia Plath; Titanic survivor Molly Brown; actresses Grace Kelly, Liza Minnelli, Ali MacGraw, Jaclyn Smith; and writers Joan Didion, Gael Greene, Diane Johnson, and Meg Wolitzer; and more. THE BARBIZON weaves together a vivid portrait of the lives of these young women looking for something more.

Not everyone who passed through the Barbizon’s doors was destined for success—for some, it was a story of dashed hopes—but until 1981, when men were finally let in, the Barbizon offered its residents a room of their own and a life without family obligations. It gave women a chance to remake themselves however they pleased.

Get the eBook on sale for $3.99!

Read more about the August eBook Deals

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The Barbizon
Paulina Bren

From award-winning author Paulina Bren comes the first history of New York’s most famous residential hotel—The Barbizon—and the remarkable women who lived there.

WELCOME TO NEW YORK’S LEGENDARY HOTEL FOR WOMEN

Liberated from home and hearth by World War I, politically enfranchised and ready to work, women arrived to take their place in the dazzling new skyscrapers of Manhattan. But they did not want to stay in uncomfortable boarding houses. They wanted what men already had—exclusive residential hotels with daily maid service, cultural programs, workout rooms, and private dining.

Built in 1927 at the height of the Roaring Twenties, the Barbizon Hotel was intended as a safe haven for the “Modern Woman” seeking a career in the arts. It became the place to stay for any ambitious young woman hoping for fame and fortune. Sylvia Plath fictionalized her time there in The Bell Jar, and, over the years, its almost 700 tiny rooms with matching floral curtains and bedspreads housed Titanic survivor Molly Brown; actresses Grace Kelly, Liza Minnelli, Ali MacGraw, Jaclyn Smith, Phylicia Rashad, and Cybill Shepherd; writers Joan Didion, Diane Johnson, Gael Greene, and Meg Wolitzer; and many more. Mademoiselle magazine boarded its summer interns there, as did Katharine Gibbs Secretarial School its students and the Ford Modeling Agency its young models. Before the hotel’s residents were household names, they were young women arriving at the Barbizon with a suitcase and a dream.

Not everyone who passed through the Barbizon’s doors was destined for success—for some it was a story of dashed hopes—but until 1981, when men were finally let in, the Barbizon offered its residents a room of their own and a life without family obligations or expectations. It gave women a chance to remake themselves however they pleased; it was the hotel that set them free. No place had existed like it before or has since.

Beautifully written and impeccably researched, The Barbizon weaves together a tale that has, until now, never been told. It is both a vivid portrait of the lives of these young women who came to New York looking for something more, and an epic history of women’s ambition.

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