We already shared our most popular books of the year, but a few more magical, moving stories took off within the last few weeks that we just had to share. These book premises are so enticing that they’ll pull you under their spell until, before you know it, you’ve finished the whole book and emerged into an entirely new year!
Amy Snow was abandoned in the dead of winter, saved by eight-year-old Aurelia Vennaway, who convinces her horrified parents to keep the child. But when Aurelia mysteriously dies at the age of twenty-three, Amy finds herself without a home and with only ten pounds to her name. But soon she finds out Aurelia has left her with more than that: she has an inheritance and a mystery to unravel. A Dickensian-style tale of a poor, young orphan struggling to find out who she is, AMY SNOW is the kind of harrowing but ultimately endearing adventure to warm any heart.
Winner of the UK’s Richard & Judy Search for a Bestseller Competition, this page-turning debut novel follows an orphan whose late, beloved best friend bequeaths her a treasure hunt that leads her all over Victorian England and finally to the one secret her friend never shared.
It is 1831 when eight-year-old Aurelia Vennaway finds a naked baby girl abandoned in the snow on the grounds of her aristocratic family’s magnificent mansion. Her parents are horrified that she has brought a bastard foundling into the house, but Aurelia convinces them to keep the baby, whom she names Amy Snow. Amy is brought up as a second-class citizen, despised by Vennaways, but she and Aurelia are as close as sisters. When Aurelia dies at the age of twenty-three, she leaves Amy ten pounds, and the Vennaways immediately banish Amy from their home.
But Aurelia left her much more. Amy soon receives a packet that contains a rich inheritance and a letter from Aurelia revealing she had kept secrets from Amy, secrets that she wants Amy to know. From the grave she sends Amy on a treasure hunt from one end of England to the other: a treasure hunt that only Amy can follow. Ultimately, a life-changing discovery awaits...if only Amy can unlock the secret. In the end, Amy escapes the Vennaways, finds true love, and learns her dearest friend’s secret, a secret that she will protect for the rest of her life.
An abandoned baby, a treasure hunt, a secret. As Amy sets forth on her quest, readers will be swept away by this engrossing gem of a novel—the wonderful debut by newcomer Tracy Rees.
If you need a loyal friend, look no further than Maud Drennan. Maud is a dedicated caregiver with an upbeat and happy outward appearance. Despite tragic events from her childhood, she continues to live a life of comfortable solitude. But when Mr. Flood enters the picture, Maud’s entire life is turned around. Mr. Flood is the lone occupant of an old gothic mansion, and Maud is his last hope of maintaining a normal life with a caregiver before his son sends him off to a home. Maud’s loyal nature steps up for the challenge, and the unlikely pair soon form a bond. Complete with dark humor and delightful enchantment, MRS. FLOOD’S LAST RESORT shows what it truly means to have a loyal companion.
When one of my colleagues with perfect editorial taste passed me THE MISSING TREASURES OF AMY ASHTON, I decided to read a chapter—just a chapter—to see how it felt after my monthlong reading drought. 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 will remind you what it’s like to fall into a story and back in love with reading.
Read more of 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.
On a snowy night in 1890s London, a seamstress jumps to her death, a cryptic message literally stitched into her skin. Thus the mystery of her demise, and its connection to a slew of missing women, begins. The case brings together three unlikely allies: the sharp and wry Inspector Cutter, lovesick college dropout Gideon Bliss, and aspiring journalist Octavia Hillingdon. Together, they’ll uncover dark secrets and surprising twists that will take them to a mysterious and peculiar abode, the titular Vesper Sands. Dark, smart, and cutting, THE HOUSE ON VESPER SANDS is a must-read for any mystery fan in the mood for a winter-themed whodunit.
Every year my book club dedicates our December pick to something cozy and charming. I love a beach read, but there’s no better reading atmosphere than a fleece blanket, a mug of hot chocolate, and twinkling lights. This year’s selection, EIGHT PERFECT HOURS by Lia Louis, was an easy one. We all really loved her last novel, DEAR EMMIE BLUE, so one look at the cover for EIGHT PERFECT HOURS was all we needed. And the plot sounds so endearing: Noelle is on her way home from a disappointing college reunion when she gets stranded alone in a traffic jam during a blizzard. All hope is lost until a handsome passenger from a nearby car, Sam, knocks on her window and offers to help. The two spend eight perfect hours together, but once the roads are clear, they assume they’ll never cross paths again . . . until fate intervenes. As soon as I make my first batch of holiday cookies, I’m going to dig in to this sure-to-be-charming novel.
Read more of Staff Picks: 5 Books We’ve Been Saving for Winter
“I read Eight Perfect Hours in one sitting, in four perfect hours, because I couldn’t bear to put it down without knowing the ending. Lia Louis has become a must-buy author for me.” —Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times bestselling author
In this romantic and heartwarming novel, two strangers meet in chance circumstances during a blizzard and spend one perfect evening together, thinking they’ll never see each other again. But fate seems to have different plans. From the acclaimed author of the “swoon-worthy…rom-com” (The Washington Post) Dear Emmie Blue.
On a snowy evening in March, thirty-something Noelle Butterby is on her way back from an event at her old college when disaster strikes. With a blizzard closing off roads, she finds herself stranded, alone in her car, without food, drink, or a working charger for her phone.
All seems lost until Sam Attwood, a handsome American stranger also trapped in a nearby car, knocks on her window and offers assistance. What follows is eight perfect hours together, until morning arrives and the roads finally clear. The two strangers part, positive they’ll never see each other again but fate, it seems, has a different plan. As the two keep serendipitously bumping into one another, they begin to realize that perhaps there truly is no such thing as coincidence.
With plenty of charming twists and turns and Lia Louis’s “bold, standout voice” (Gillian McAllister, author of The Good Sister), Eight Perfect Hours is a gorgeously crafted novel that will make you believe in the power of fate.
Who doesn’t fondly remember the world of Narnia, first cast into endless winter in THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE? Well, ONCE UPON A WARDROBE takes readers back to that magic land, but not how they expect. Megs Devonshire is an aspiring physicist studying at Oxford when her little brother, George, becomes enthralled by C. S. Lewis’ most famous book. George begs Megs to find out where Narnia came from so she manages to sit down to tea with both Lewis and his brother, who rather than giving her answers, only give her more stories. But those stories, as strange as they might seem, open up a whole new world for Megs and George, full of magic and hope. If you need a novel to give you the warm and fuzzies on a cold, winter’s night, this will do so faster than you can ask about that peculiar lamppost in the forest.
What would you do if, out of the blue, you learned that your new husband’s company was under federal investigation and he was nowhere to be found? It’s not a hypothetical question for Hannah Hall, whose idyllic life turns nightmarish in the space of a day in THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME. Guided only by a cryptic note from her husband that simply reads “Protect her,” Hannah assumes responsibility for her moody teenage stepdaughter, Bailey, and together the two of them try to figure out what on earth is going on. Because while they may not agree on much, they’re on the same page about one thing: Owen Michaels’s disappearance must be solved. Laura Dave’s discussion-worthy thriller was not only a perfect beach read, but it also made me wonder how I would react if I were in Hannah’s shoes. In fact, I’m still thinking about it . . .
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.
I’ve read a variety of pieces on World War II, ranging from both personal and fictional Holocaust accounts to stories from Japan, and GONE TO SOLDIERS is the most complete, complex, and stunning piece of World War II literature I’ve ever encountered. Upon finishing GONE TO SOLDIERS, I immediately recommended it to several friends, my mother, and my sister. I went to social media and wrote the same message to all: this is a book you need to read—all 750-plus pages of it. It’s a beautiful story that will leave you haunted, as the characters are, by a war that shattered so many lives.
“More than 750 pages long, GONE TO SOLDIERS can definitely be intimidating, and I knew when I picked up this novel that it would need to be extraordinary in order to hold my attention for a few weeks. Thankfully, I was not disappointed.”
In Julia Kelly’s latest novel, three women are linked by one very special garden. In present day, Emma Lovett has taken on the project of restoring the famous Highbury House estate gardens, designed in 1907 by her hero Venetia Smith. As Emma digs deeper into this enchanted garden, she uncovers some long hidden secrets of the estate’s past. Jumping between 1907, 1944, and present day, THE LAST GARDEN IN ENGLAND chronicles the history of this treasured land through gorgeously written details of each time period.
Read more of 6 Book Club Novels Where Past and Present Collide
From the author of the international bestsellers The Light Over London and The Whispers of War comes “a compelling read, filled with lovable characters and an alluring twist of fates” (Ellen Keith, author of The Dutch Wife) about five women living across three different times whose lives are all connected by one very special garden.
Present day: Emma Lovett, who has dedicated her career to breathing new life into long-neglected gardens, has just been given the opportunity of a lifetime: to restore the gardens of the famed Highbury House estate, designed in 1907 by her hero Venetia Smith. But as Emma dives deeper into the gardens’ past, she begins to uncover secrets that have long lain hidden.
1907: A talented artist with a growing reputation for her work, Venetia Smith has carved out a niche for herself as a garden designer to industrialists, solicitors, and bankers looking to show off their wealth with sumptuous country houses. When she is hired to design the gardens of Highbury House, she is determined to make them a triumph, but the gardens—and the people she meets—promise to change her life forever.
1944: When land girl Beth Pedley arrives at a farm on the outskirts of the village of Highbury, all she wants is to find a place she can call home. Cook Stella Adderton, on the other hand, is desperate to leave Highbury House to pursue her own dreams. And widow Diana Symonds, the mistress of the grand house, is anxiously trying to cling to her pre-war life now that her home has been requisitioned and transformed into a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers. But when war threatens Highbury House’s treasured gardens, these three very different women are drawn together by a secret that will last for decades.
“Gorgeously written and rooted in meticulous period detail, this novel is vibrant as it is stirring. Fans of historical fiction will fall in love with The Last Garden in England” (Roxanne Veletzos, author of The Girl They Left Behind).
Take a journey to the dark and treacherous Yukon, where a recent discovery of gold draws in Liza Peterson and her family, looking to move their general store in order to make money off the gold rush. But after a tragic accident along the way, Liza is forced to complete the trip on her own, meeting Constable Ben Turner, who is trying to keep Dawson City together. AT THE MOUNTAIN’S EDGE is a tale of love and adventure about starting anew, even in the wake of terrible tragedy and strife.
From bestselling author Genevieve Graham comes a sweeping new historical novel of love, tragedy, and redemption set during the height of the Klondike Gold Rush.
In 1897, the discovery of gold in the desolate reaches of the Yukon has the world abuzz with excitement, and thousands of prospectors swarm to the north seeking riches the likes of which have never been seen before.
For Liza Peterson and her family, the gold rush is a chance for them to make a fortune by moving their general store business from Vancouver to Dawson City, the only established town in the Yukon. For Constable Ben Turner, a recent recruit of the North-West Mounted Police, upholding the law in a place overrun with guns, liquor, prostitutes, and thieves is an opportunity to escape a dark past and become the man of integrity he has always wanted to be. But the long, difficult journey over icy mountain passes and whitewater rapids is much more treacherous than Liza or Ben imagined, and neither is completely prepared for the forbidding north.
As Liza’s family nears the mountain’s peak, a catastrophe strikes with fatal consequences, and not even the NWMP can help. Alone and desperate, Liza finally reaches Dawson City, only to find herself in a different kind of peril. Meanwhile, Ben, wracked with guilt over the accident on the trail, sees the chance to make things right. But just as love begins to grow, new dangers arise, threatening to separate the couple forever.
Inspired by history as rich as the Klondike’s gold, At the Mountain’s Edge is an epic tale of romance and adventure about two people who must let go of the past not only to be together, but also to survive.
Photo credit: iStock / Emilija Randjelovic