Though it may have been the shortest month of the year, there was certainly no shortage of books being read. But we did notice a theme that emerged in our most popular books of February—page-turners took the lead! It makes sense—with fewer days in the month, we readers need all the help we can get to plow through more than our usual monthly page average.
The 12 Most Popular Books of February
Set in Copenhagen, Katrine Engberg’s series is an international phenomenon that’s now breaking out in the U.S. Her latest novel, THE HARBOR, finds our odd-couple detective duo called to investigate the case of a missing teen from a well-to-do family. There are no clues other than a mysterious note with an Oscar Wilde quote . . . and the longer it takes Jeppe and Anette to track the boy down, the more likely their missing person case will turn into a murder investigation. Immediately we meet a host of possible suspects, but every time you think, “Aha, it’s that guy,” Engberg throws another twist at you. The plot pulls together threads of art, class, and environmentalism in a way that seems almost impossible to unite, and yet comes together in a satisfying conclusion.
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From the #1 internationally bestselling author of The Butterfly House, called “brazen and original” by The Toronto Star, comes a timely, suspenseful, and darkly original new novel about a missing child and the web of lies that has threatened his life—and may prevent him from ever being found.
When fifteen-year-old Oscar Dreyer-Hoff disappears, the police assume he’s simply a runaway—a typically overlooked middle child doing what teenagers do all around the world. But his frantic family is certain that something terrible has happened. After all, what runaway would leave behind a note that reads:
He looked around and saw the knife that had stabbed Basil Hallward. He had cleaned it many times, till there was no stain left upon it. It was bright and glistened. As it had killed the painter, so it would kill the painter’s work, and all that that meant. It would kill the past, and when that was dead, he would be free.
It’s not much to go on but it’s all that detectives Jeppe Kørner and Anette Werner have. And with every passing hour, as the odds of finding a missing person grow dimmer, it will have to be enough.
When I started THE APPEAL, I simply couldn’t stop, inhaling nearly one hundred pages with my morning coffee. A new take on the epistolary novel—told entirely in emails, messages, and WhatsApp texts—this crime novel unfolds in ways you’ll never expect, leading you to suspect every character until its final breathless moments. —Kaitlin O., Editor
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Perfect for fans of Ruth Ware and Lisa Jewell, this “dazzlingly clever” (The Sunday Times) murder mystery follows a community rallying around a sick child—but when escalating lies lead to a dead body, everyone is a suspect.
The Fairway Players, a local theatre group, is in the midst of rehearsals when tragedy strikes the family of director Martin Hayward and his wife Helen, the play’s star. Their young granddaughter has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, and with an experimental treatment costing a tremendous sum, their fellow castmates rally to raise the money to give her a chance at survival.
But not everybody is convinced of the experimental treatment’s efficacy—nor of the good intentions of those involved. As tension grows within the community, things come to a shocking head at the explosive dress rehearsal. The next day, a dead body is found, and soon, an arrest is made. In the run-up to the trial, two young lawyers sift through the material—emails, messages, letters—with a growing suspicion that a killer may be hiding in plain sight. The evidence is all there, between the lines, waiting to be uncovered.
A wholly modern take on the epistolary novel, The Appeal is a “daring…clever, and funny” (The Times) debut for fans of Richard Osman and Lucy Foley.
Gina Reinhold and Duncan Lowy are two people in love, heading off to get some alone time—which is pretty easy, given that the story takes place before cell phones. Well, they are in love, right? Gina, a dancer, can’t recall the last year of her life, after suffering a head injury during her honeymoon. And she never had a reason to question her love, except that Duncan begins acting strangely. Soon their former lives seem to be catching up to them and Duncan is frantically trying to get her as far away as he can from the gruesome truth. THE END OF GETTING LOST has romance, but the bond between these two lovebirds grows darker and more questionable with every page.
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A psychologically suspenseful, cunning love story following a young dancer unable to recall the last year of her life after suffering a head injury on her honeymoon, revealing an intimate portrait of love’s powers—as well as its dangers.
The year is 1996—a time before cell phones, status updates, and location tags—when you could still travel to a remote corner of the world and disappear, if you chose to do so. This is where we meet Gina Reinhold and Duncan Lowy, a young artistic couple madly in love, traveling around Europe on a romantic adventure. It’s a time both thrilling and dizzying for Gina, whose memories are hazy following a head injury—and the growing sense that the man at her side, her one companion on this strange continent, is keeping secrets from her.
Just what is Duncan hiding and how far will he go to keep their pasts at bay? As the pair hop borders across Europe, their former lives threatening to catch up with them while the truth grows more elusive, we witness how love can lead us astray, and what it means to lose oneself in love... The End of Getting Lost is “atmospheric, lyrical, and filled with layered insights into the complexities of marriage” (Susie Yang, New York Times bestselling author of White Ivy). “Kirman is wonderfully deft with suspense and plot” (Katie Crouch, New York Times bestselling author of Girls in Trucks) in this “electric page-turner” (Courtney Maum, author of Costalegre and Touch), a novel that is both a tightrope act of deception as much as it is an elegant exploration of love and marriage, and our cherished illusions of both. With notes of Patricia Highsmith, Caroline Kepnes, and Lauren Groff, Robin Kirman has spun a delicious tale of deceit, redemption, and the fight to keep love alive—no matter the costs.
I’m a huge mystery/thriller and murder mystery fan, so picking up an early copy of GREENWICH PARK was a no-brainer for me—and I am so glad I did. Katherine Faulkner’s whip-smart, twisty thriller about impending motherhood, unreliable friendship, and the high price of keeping secrets is unputdownable. I don’t remember the last book before GREENWICH PARK that I read in one sitting. With reminiscences of THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins, this will keep even the most seasoned mystery reader guessing until the last page.
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“Gripping and haunting and gorgeously suspenseful. I couldn’t put this thriller down and can’t recommend it highly enough.” —Zakiya Dalila Harris, author of The Other Black Girl
A twisty, whip-smart debut thriller, as electrifying as the #1 New York Times bestseller The Girl on the Train, about impending motherhood, unreliable friendship, and the high price of keeping secrets.
Helen’s idyllic life—handsome architect husband, gorgeous Victorian house, and cherished baby on the way (after years of trying)—begins to change the day she attends her first prenatal class and meets Rachel, an unpredictable single mother-to-be. Rachel doesn’t seem very maternal: she smokes, drinks, and professes little interest in parenthood. Still, Helen is drawn to her. Maybe Rachel just needs a friend. And to be honest, Helen’s a bit lonely herself. At least Rachel is fun to be with. She makes Helen laugh, invites her confidences, and distracts her from her fears.
But her increasingly erratic behavior is unsettling. And Helen’s not the only one who’s noticed. Her friends and family begin to suspect that her strange new friend may be linked to their shared history in unexpected ways. When Rachel threatens to expose a past crime that could destroy all of their lives, it becomes clear that there are more than a few secrets laying beneath the broad-leaved trees and warm lamplight of Greenwich Park.
A coworker raved to me about THE FAMILY UPSTAIRS, and she wasn’t exaggerating. It’s one of the best thrillers I’ve read in a while—I devoured the whole thing during my holiday travels. This book is set in an abandoned mansion, haunted by a crime: twenty-five years ago police found a healthy ten-month-old baby in her crib. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies. The four other children reported to live at the house were gone, never to be found. However, the mystery starts to unravel when Libby, the sole beneficiary of the home, comes to claim her inheritance. Lisa Jewell is a master at writing suspense-packed chapters, and I simply never knew where the story would go next!
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INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A GOOD MORNING AMERICA COVER TO COVER BOOK CLUB PICK
“Rich, dark, and intricately twisted, this enthralling whodunit mixes family saga with domestic noir to brilliantly chilling effect.” —Ruth Ware, New York Times bestselling author
“A haunting, atmospheric, stay-up-way-too-late read.” —Megan Miranda, New York Times bestselling author
From the New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone comes another page-turning look inside one family’s past as buried secrets threaten to come to light.
Be careful who you let in.
Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.
She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.
Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.
In The Family Upstairs, the master of “bone-chilling suspense” (People) brings us the can’t-look-away story of three entangled families living in a house with the darkest of secrets.
I could not put down this sweet, charming, earnest, and hilarious debut novel—except for my copious laugh breaks. The optimistic and hapless duo of Signor Speranza and his assistant Smilzo are the very definition of ‘quixotic.’ After a year of dark times, this novel is a ray of sunshine. —Kaitlin O., Editor
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The self-appointed mayor of a tiny Italian village is determined to save his hometown no matter the cost in this charming, hilarious, and heartwarming debut novel.
Vacuum repairman and self-appointed mayor of Prometto, Italy (population 212) Signor Speranza has a problem: unless he can come up with 70,000 euros to fix the town’s pipes, the water commission will shut off the water to the village and all its residents will be forced to disperse. So in a bid to boost tourism—and revenue—he spreads a harmless rumor that movie star Dante Rinaldi will be filming his next project nearby.
Unfortunately, the plan works a little too well, and soon everyone in town wants to be a part of the fictional film—the village butcher will throw in some money if Speranza can find roles for his fifteen enormous sons, Speranza’s wistfully adrift daughter reveals an unexpected interest in stage makeup, and his hapless assistant Smilzo volunteers a screenplay that’s not so secretly based on his undying love for the film’s leading lady. To his surprise—and considerable consternation, Speranza realizes that the only way to keep up the ruse is to make the movie for real.
As the entire town becomes involved (even the village priest invests!) Signor Speranza starts to think he might be able to pull this off. But what happens when Dante Rinaldi doesn’t show up? Or worse, what if he does?
A “hilariously funny and beautifully written” (Julia Claiborne Johnson, author of Better Luck Next Time) novel about the power of community, The Patron Saint of Second Chances is perfect for fans of Fredrik Backman and Maria Semple.
At the end of 2021, I was hit hard by a reading slump. My goal of finishing three books over the course of December dwindled to one; between being home for the holidays and catching tonsillitis, I lacked the motivation to pick anything up. However, there was one book that I could not put down, and that was THE WORLD CANNOT GIVE by Tara Isabella Burton.
At equal turns suspenseful and atmospheric, THE WORLD CANNOT GIVE follows sixteen-year-old Laura Stearns as she transfers into the prestigious St. Dunstan’s Academy in Maine. When she attends the school’s mandatory Friday night church service, she is immediately enraptured by the choir and its leader, the magnetic Virginia Strauss. Soon, Laura is pulled into a world of transcendence, ritual, and secrecy, and falls farther under Virginia’s sphere of influence. However, as the school year progresses and Virginia’s power is increasingly challenged, Laura must question her devotion.
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The Girls meets Fight Club in this coming-of-age novel about queer desire, religious zealotry, and the hunger for transcendence among the devoted members of a cultic chapel choir in a prestigious Maine boarding school—and the obsessively ambitious, terrifyingly charismatic girl that rules over them.
When shy, sensitive Laura Stearns arrives at St. Dunstan’s Academy in Maine, she dreams that life there will echo her favorite novel, All Before Them, the sole surviving piece of writing by Byronic “prep school prophet” (and St. Dunstan’s alum) Sebastian Webster, who died at nineteen, fighting in the Spanish Civil War. She soon finds the intensity she is looking for among the insular, Webster-worshipping members of the school’s chapel choir, which is presided over by the charismatic, neurotic, overachiever Virginia Strauss. Virginia is as fanatical about her newfound Christian faith as she is about the miles she runs every morning before dawn. She expects nothing short of perfection from herself—and from the members of the choir.
Virginia inducts the besotted Laura into a world of transcendent music and arcane ritual, illicit cliff-diving and midnight crypt visits: a world that, like Webster’s novels, finally seems to Laura to be full of meaning. But when a new school chaplain challenges Virginia’s hold on the “family” she has created, and Virginia’s efforts to wield her power become increasingly dangerous, Laura must decide how far she will let her devotion to Virginia go.
The World Cannot Give is a shocking meditation on the power, and danger, of wanting more from the world.
In this inspirational and heartbreaking tale, a cohort of strangers comes together for one final, transformative experience. When Mark receives a fatal diagnosis, he plans a cross-country trip that will end in him driving off a cliff. But as his journey in a junky bus commences, he collects other loners along for the ride: a bipolar neo-hippie, a coder with a heart defect, and a young woman bullied for her weight. They may be driving toward their deaths, but together they will come to terms with more than they ever thought possible.
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The Breakfast Club meets The Silver Linings Playbook in this powerful, provocative, and heartfelt novel about twelve strangers who come together to make the most of their final days, from New York Times bestselling and award-winning author J. Michael Straczynski.
Mark Antonelli, a failed young writer looking down the barrel at thirty, is planning a cross-country road trip. He buys a beat-up old tour bus. He hires a young army vet to drive it. He puts out an ad for others to join him along the way. But this will be a road trip like no other: His passengers are all fellow disheartened souls who have decided that this will be their final journey—upon arrival in San Francisco, they will find a cliff with an amazing view of the ocean at sunset, hit the gas, and drive out of this world.
The unlikely companions include a young woman with a chronic pain sensory disorder and another who was relentlessly bullied at school for her size; a bipolar, party-loving neo-hippie; a gentle coder with a literal hole in his heart and blue skin; and a poet dreaming of a better world beyond this one. We get to know them through access to their texts, emails, voicemails, and the daily journal entries they write as the price of admission for this trip.
By turns tragic, funny, quirky, charming, and deeply moving, Together We Will Go explores the decisions that brings these characters together, and the relationships that grow between them, with some discovering love and affection for the first time. But as they cross state lines and complications to the initial plan arise, it becomes clear that this is a novel as much about the will to live as it is the choice to end it. The final, unforgettable moments as they hurtle toward the outcomes awaiting them will be remembered for a lifetime.
When I heard about THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD MOTHERS, it instantly reminded me of THE HANDMAID’S TALE by Margaret Atwood, one of my all-time favorite books . . . and I always gravitate toward a bright pink cover. In this explosive novel, one lapse in judgment lands a young mother in a government reform program where custody of her child hangs in the balance. I selected this book because I was drawn to how Chan examines the idea of “perfect” parenting and the systems that separate families. I have a feeling this one will be a binge read.
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In this taut and explosive debut novel, one lapse in judgement lands a young mother in a government reform program where custody of her child hangs in the balance.
Frida Liu is struggling. She doesn’t have a career worthy of her Chinese immigrant parents’ sacrifices. She can’t persuade her husband, Gust, to give up his wellness-obsessed younger mistress. Only with Harriet, their cherubic daughter, does Frida finally attain the perfection expected of her. Harriet may be all she has, but she is just enough.
Until Frida has a very bad day.
The state has its eyes on mothers like Frida. The ones who check their phones, letting their children get injured on the playground; who let their children walk home alone. Because of one moment of poor judgment, a host of government officials will now determine if Frida is a candidate for a Big Brother-like institution that measures the success or failure of a mother’s devotion.
Faced with the possibility of losing Harriet, Frida must prove that a bad mother can be redeemed. That she can learn to be good.
A searing page-turner that is also a transgressive novel of ideas about the perils of “perfect” upper-middle class parenting; the violence enacted upon women by both the state and, at times, one another; the systems that separate families; and the boundlessness of love, The School for Good Mothers introduces, in Frida, an everywoman for the ages. Using dark wit to explore the pains and joys of the deepest ties that bind us, Chan has written a modern literary classic.
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Eva Luna is the imaginative daughter of a professor’s assistant and a snake-bitten gardener born poor, orphaned at an early age, and working as a servant. Though she has no wealth, she trades her stories like currency with people who are kind to her. In this novel, she shares the story of her own life and introduces readers to an eccentric cast of characters including the Lebanese émigré; her unfortunate godmother, whose brain is addled by rum and who believes in all the Catholic saints and a few of her own invention; a street urchin who becomes a leader in the guerrilla struggle; a celebrated transsexual entertainer; and a young refugee whose flight from postwar Europe will prove crucial to Eva’s fate.
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“A remarkable novel” (The Washington Post) from New York Times bestselling author Isabel Allende’s introducing her most enchanting creation, Eva Luna: a lover, a writer, a revolutionary, and above all a storyteller.
Eva Luna is the daughter of a professor’s assistant and a snake-bitten gardener—born poor, orphaned at an early age, and working as a servant. Eva is a naturally gifted and imaginative storyteller who meets people from all stations and walks of life. Though she has no wealth, she trades her stories like currency with people who are kind to her. In this novel, she shares the story of her own life and introduces readers to a diverse and eccentric cast of characters including the Lebanese émigré who befriends her and takes her in; her unfortunate godmother, whose brain is addled by rum and who believes in all the Catholic saints and a few of her own invention; a street urchin who grows into a petty criminal and, later, a leader in the guerrilla struggle; a celebrated transsexual entertainer who instructs her in the ways of the adult world; and a young refugee whose flight from postwar Europe will prove crucial to Eva's fate.
As Eva tells her story, Isabel Allende conjures up a whole complex South American nation—the rich, the poor, the simple, and the sophisticated—in a novel replete with character and incident, with drama and comedy and history, with battles and passions, rebellions and reunions, a novel that celebrates the power of imagination to create a better world.
I binge-watched the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House. I was soon hungry for a replacement, a novel that would delicately balance bone-chilling terror and deep sadness. Jennifer Fawcett’s debut BENEATH THE STAIRS landed in my inbox at the right moment—and it wasn’t a replacement. It’s undoubtedly unique, an atmospheric and elegantly constructed novel about a woman’s descent into the heartland of mourning and guilt. Blending the best of horror, mystery, and suspense as we move through past and present storylines, this book will haunt you in more ways than one. —Loan L., Editor
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“An enthralling debut by a gifted storyteller!” —Wendy Walker, author of Don’t Look for Me
In this spine-tingling, atmospheric debut for fans of Jennifer McMahon, Simone St. James, and Chris Bohjalian, a woman returns to her hometown after her childhood friend attempts suicide at a local haunted house—the same place where a traumatic incident shattered their lives twenty years ago.
Few in sleepy Sumner’s Mills have stumbled across the Octagon House hidden deep in the woods. Even fewer are brave enough to trespass. A man had killed his wife and two young daughters there, a shocking, gruesome crime that the sleepy upstate New York town tried to bury. One summer night, an emboldened fourteen-year-old Clare and her best friend, Abby, ventured into the Octagon House. Clare came out, but a piece of Abby never did.
Twenty years later, an adult Clare receives word that Abby has attempted suicide at the Octagon House and now lies in a coma. With little to lose and still grieving after a personal tragedy, Clare returns to her roots to uncover the darkness responsible for Abby’s accident.
An eerie page-turner, Beneath the Stairs is about the trauma that follows us from childhood to adulthood and returning to the beginning to reach the end.
I read IN FIVE YEARS within the span of twenty-four hours. I’m not kidding. The premise immediately drew me in. Dannie is nothing like her spontaneous, believes-in-fate best friend, Bella. Instead, she has a carefully laid-out life plan that is just coming together: she nails the most important job interview of her career and accepts her boyfriend’s marriage proposal. But at the beginning of the story, Dannie spends one hour exactly five years in the future—in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. She then awakens back in the present and starts to question everything. And wow . . . this was not the love story I was expecting at all. I couldn’t stop reading because I had to find out what happened next, and I felt so many emotions as I watched the pieces slide into place.
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