The results for the most popular books of November are in, and signs point to full-on hibernation mode activated. Filled with contemplative literary dramas and all-consuming thrillers, this month’s literary leaderboard suggests that readers are nestled snug in their beds and prepared to time-travel into spring via book express.
Tarot cards, crystals, manifestation, and spoken affirmations dominate our zeitgeist. So why not read a book about a fortune teller who holds fate in the palm of her hand? In 1730s England, a young girl named Red travels from village to village, predicting fortunes with her father. Their method of relaying the future via playing cards is known as the Square of Sevens. After Red’s father dies, one fact becomes crystal clear: she can predict everyone’s fate but her own. On a dazzling journey that takes her from Bath to London, Red searches for answers about her dead parents, her card-shuffling inheritance, and the mysterious enemies that covet its power.
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“A big, satisfying, and clever read.” —The Times (London)
An orphaned fortune teller in 18th-century England searches for answers about her long-dead mother and uncovers shocking secrets in this immersive and atmospheric saga perfect for fans of Sarah Waters and Sarah Perry.
Cornwall, 1730: A young girl known only as Red travels with her father making a living predicting fortunes using the ancient Cornish method of the Square of Sevens. Shortly before he dies, her father entrusts Red’s care to a gentleman scholar, along with a document containing the secret of the Square of Sevens technique.
Raised as a lady amidst the Georgian splendor of Bath, Red’s fortune-telling delights in high society. But she cannot ignore the questions that gnaw at her soul: who was her mother? How did she die? And who are the mysterious enemies her father was always terrified would find him?
The pursuit of these mysteries takes her from Cornwall and Bath to London and Devon, from the rough ribaldry of the Bartholomew Fair to the grand houses of two of the most powerful families in England. And while Red’s quest brings her the possibility of great reward, it also leads to grave danger.
Laura Shepherd-Robinson, “the queen of modern Georgian literature” (Susan Stokes-Chapman, author of Pandora), has written a dazzling and Dickensian story of mystery and intrigue, with audacious twists and turns.
FIRST BORN has so much to unpack! If you like slow-building character studies and insanely twisty endings, then you absolutely need to read this book. Molly and Katie may be identical twins, but they couldn’t be more different in personality. Katie is fearless. She is outgoing, spontaneous, ambitious, and completely unafraid to move from London to New York to study at Columbia. Meanwhile, Molly has always been much more reserved, filled with constant anxiety and needing to live a quiet, structured life. Despite their differences, however, they share a connection . . . right? But now the unfathomable has happened. Katie is found dead in her apartment. Grieving and terrified, Molly makes her way to New York as it looks more and more like her sister was murdered. Molly will have to face her fears and enmesh herself in Katie’s former life if she has any hope of catching the killer. But the more Molly learns, the more she realizes that while they may have looked the same, she didn’t really know her sister at all.
From the acclaimed author of The Last Thing to Burn, a psychological thriller about the dark secrets that emerge when a woman’s twin sister is murdered, with his signature “intense, gripping, taut, terrifying, moving, and brilliant” (Lisa Jewell, #1 New York Times bestselling author) prose.
Sisters. Soulmates. Strangers.
Molly Raven lives a quiet, structured life in London, finding comfort in security and routine. Her identical twin Katie, living in New York, is the exact opposite: outgoing, spontaneous, and adventurous.
But when Molly hears that Katie has died, possibly murdered, she is thrown into unfamiliar territory. As terrifying as it is, she knows she must travel across the ocean and find out what happened. But as she tracks her twin’s final movements, cracks begin to emerge, and she slowly realizes her sister was not who she thought she was and there’s a dangerous web of deceit surrounding the two of them.
In GIRL IN SNOW, Danya Kukafka deftly weaves a tale that transcends the bounds of a typical murder mystery as it explores the impact of a high schooler's murder on the lives of three intimately connected individuals in a small Colorado town. The gripping, magnetic prose slowly pulls you into the inner worlds of Cameron, Jade, and Russ as they journey through grief, guilt, and self-discovery in a haunting winter landscape. The novel's power lies not so much in the crime itself, but in its heartrending portrayal of isolation and the longing for connection. This book isn’t for those looking for a quick and thrilling whodunnit, but if you’re a fan of slow burn, emotional suspense, you can’t go wrong.
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“A perfectly paced and tautly plotted thriller…and an incredibly accomplished debut” (Paula Hawkins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Girl on the Train and Into the Water), about a beloved high schooler found murdered in her sleepy Colorado suburb and the secret lives of three people connected to her.
How can you love someone who’s done something horribly, horribly wrong? When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her community is untouched—not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both.
In crystalline prose, Danya Kukafka offers a brilliant exploration of identity and of the razor-sharp line between love and obsession, between watching and seeing, between truth and memory. “A sensational debut—great characters, mysteries within mysteries, and page-turning pace. Highly recommended” (Lee Child, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Jack Reacher novels). Hailed as “Gillian Flynn of 2017” (Yahoo! Style), compulsively readable and powerfully moving, Girl in Snow is “engagingly told… its endearing characters’ struggles linger in memory after this affecting work is done” (The Wall Street Journal).
“Everyone will have their own transportive experience with this book. You can either choose to read this and watch the characters descend, or you can choose to go on that journey with them. Those who choose the former may describe this book as ‘beautifully written’ or ‘heartrending.’ The rest of us will say it defied words. The entire time I felt, as a Black reader, a surreal sense of awe that I could experience the written word of this story in a way Annis, the main character, couldn’t. This book is truth, it is American, it is real, and it will stay with me forever.” —Destinee Hodge, East City Bookshop Instagram | Website
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From Jesmyn Ward—the two-time National Book Award winner, youngest winner of the Library of Congress Prize for Fiction, and MacArthur Fellow—comes a haunting masterpiece, sure to be an instant classic, about an enslaved girl in the years before the Civil War.
“‘Let us descend,’ the poet now began, ‘and enter this blind world.’” —Inferno, Dante Alighieri
Let Us Descend is a reimagining of American slavery, as beautifully rendered as it is heart-wrenching. Searching, harrowing, replete with transcendent love, the novel is a journey from the rice fields of the Carolinas to the slave markets of New Orleans and into the fearsome heart of a Louisiana sugar plantation.
Annis, sold south by the white enslaver who fathered her, is the reader’s guide through this hellscape. As she struggles through the miles-long march, Annis turns inward, seeking comfort from memories of her mother and stories of her African warrior grandmother. Throughout, she opens herself to a world beyond this world, one teeming with spirits: of earth and water, of myth and history; spirits who nurture and give, and those who manipulate and take. While Ward leads readers through the descent, this, her fourth novel, is ultimately a story of rebirth and reclamation.
From one of the most singularly brilliant and beloved writers of her generation, this miracle of a novel inscribes Black American grief and joy into the very land—the rich but unforgiving forests, swamps, and rivers of the American South. Let Us Descend is Jesmyn Ward’s most magnificent novel yet, a masterwork for the ages.
If Black Mirror and The Twilight Zone had a baby (who was a book) it would be FOE. A couple who lives far from the bright lights of the city one day gets an unexpected visitor dressed in a suit and tie. He informs them that the husband has been selected for a trip to go further away from home than ever imaginable. This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the abnormalities ahead of them and their relationship. Be sure to have your book buddy on speed dial when you’re done with this one. You’re going to need to talk about it!
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At its heart, A QUIET LIFE is about perseverance. Not the kind portrayed in war epics or prison dramas but the kind that hums beneath the surface of everyday struggles. The book connects the grief journeys of three characters: Chuck, a widow who agonizes over an argument he had with his late wife; Kirsten, a twenty-something who lost her father in a grocery store robbery and tries to cope by volunteering at an animal shelter; and Ella, a mother who delivers newspapers and works tirelessly at a bridal shop in between waiting for news about her abducted daughter. As the characters move mechanically through their lives, balancing work, love, and loss, they begin to resemble the people we know best: ourselves. We read about Chuck’s wrenching ruminations and replay our own regrets. We read about Kirsten’s dalliances and think of our own yearnings for affection. Ethan Joella’s novel highlights the small feats and failures that comprise daily endurance. It assures us that someone sees our unsung efforts—and finds them honorable.
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From the author of A Little Hope—a Read with Jenna Bonus Pick—comes an enormously powerful and life-affirming novel about three individuals whose lives intersect in unforeseen ways.
Set in a close-knit Pennsylvania suburb in the grip of winter, A Quiet Life follows three people grappling with loss and finding a tender wisdom in their grief.
Chuck Ayers used to look forward to nothing so much as his annual trip to Hilton Head with his wife, Cat—that yearly taste of relaxation they’d become accustomed to in retirement, after a lifetime of working and raising two children. Now, just months after Cat’s death, Chuck finds that he can’t let go of her things—her favorite towel, the sketchbooks in her desk drawer—as he struggles to pack for a trip he can’t imagine taking without her.
Ella Burke delivers morning newspapers and works at a bridal shop to fill her days while she anxiously awaits news—any piece of information—about her missing daughter. Ella adjusts to life in a new apartment and answers every call on her phone, hoping her daughter will reach out one day.
After the sudden death of her father, Kirsten Bonato set aside her veterinary school aspirations, finding comfort in the steady routine of working at an animal shelter. But as time passes, old dreams and new romantic interests begin to surface—and Kirsten finds herself at another crossroads.
In this beautifully crafted and profoundly moving novel, three parallel narratives converge in poignant and unexpected ways, as each character bravely presses onward, trying to recover something they have lost. Emotionally riveting and infused with hope, A Quiet Life celebrates humanity in the midst of uncertainty.
“Once again Krueger has given us a beautiful novel and an in-depth character study about the town, the setting, and the people. It is about life in a small town and the diverse characters who live there, all with their own secrets and baggage and yet with a strong will to survive and be happy with who they are and what they now have. It shows us the true hardships of life, and the prejudices that existed in 1958 in a small farming community in southern Minnesota. It is sad and sometimes tough to read but it also shows us the beauty in human beings and what each will do to protect those they love and to right past wrongs.” – Nancy McFarlane, Fiction Addiction Facebook | Instagram | X | Website Read more of 19 New Fall Releases Adored by Indie Booksellers
In 1958, a small Minnesota town is rocked by the murder of its most powerful citizen, pouring fresh fuel on old grievances in this dazzling standalone novel from the New York Times bestselling author of the “expansive, atmospheric American saga” (Entertainment Weekly) This Tender Land.
On Memorial Day, as the people of Jewel, Minnesota gather to remember and honor the sacrifice of so many sons in the wars of the past, the half-clothed body of wealthy landowner Jimmy Quinn is found floating in the Alabaster River, dead from a shotgun blast. Investigation of the murder falls to Sheriff Brody Dern, a highly decorated war hero who still carries the physical and emotional scars from his military service. Even before Dern has the results of the autopsy, vicious rumors begin to circulate that the killer must be Noah Bluestone, a Native American WWII veteran who has recently returned to Jewel with a Japanese wife. As suspicions and accusations mount and the town teeters on the edge of more violence, Dern struggles not only to find the truth of Quinn’s murder but also put to rest the demons from his own past.
Caught up in the torrent of anger that sweeps through Jewel are a war widow and her adolescent son, the intrepid publisher of the local newspaper, an aging deputy, and a crusading female lawyer, all of whom struggle with their own tragic histories and harbor secrets that Quinn’s death threatens to expose.
Both a complex, spellbinding mystery and a masterful portrait of midcentury American life from an author of novels “as big-hearted as they come” (Parade), The River We Remember is an unflinching look at the wounds left by the wars we fight abroad and at home, a moving exploration of the ways in which we seek to heal, and a testament to the enduring power of the stories we tell about the places we call home.
Even as her Vermont home becomes a winter wonderland, Alison’s holiday spirit is at an all-time low. But her disdain for Christmas cheer is challenged all the more when an unexpected call comes: her estranged, terminally ill mother, Mavis, wants to reconcile. With heavy reluctance, Alison welcomes her into her home, with the hopes of mending old wounds. Yet as Mavis's arrival coincides with a series of eerie disturbances, Alison's dream of a peaceful Christmas quickly spirals into a haunting question of her mother's true identity. MY DARLING GIRL is a thrilling hearthside horror where festive lights dim, revealing a chilling puzzle that Alison must solve to keep her family, which includes her two daughters, safe.
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The New York Times bestselling author of the “otherworldly treat” (People) The Drowning Kind and The Children on the Hill returns with a spine-tingling psychological thriller about a woman who, after taking in her dying, alcoholic mother, begins to suspect demonic possession is haunting her family.
Alison has never been a fan of Christmas. But with it right around the corner and her husband busily decorating their cozy Vermont home, she has no choice but to face it. Then she gets the call.
Mavis, Alison’s estranged mother, has been diagnosed with cancer and has only weeks to live. She wants to spend her remaining days with her daughter, son-in-law, and two granddaughters. But Alison grew up with her mother’s alcoholism and violent abuse and is reluctant to unearth these traumatic memories. Still, she eventually agrees to take in Mavis, hoping that she and her mother could finally heal and have the relationship she’s always dreamed of.
But when mysterious and otherworldly things start happening upon Mavis’s arrival, Alison begins to suspect her mother is not quite who she seems. And as the holiday festivities turn into a nightmare, she must confront just how far she is willing to go to protect her family.
You may recognize Hillier’s name from some of her other thrillers, such as JAR OF HEARTS or THE THINGS WE DO IN THE DARK, but her earlier erotic thriller, CREEP, is just as dark and obsession fueled. Dr. Sheila Tao is an expert on human behavior, so she knows she needs to get her life on track and settle down with the good, kind-hearted, and well-off investment banker who truly adores her. And in order to do that, she needs to end the complicated, sexy, terribly messy, and all-consuming lustful affair with her graduate teaching assistant, Ethan. But when she attempts to end their fling, Ethan refuses to let her go. Obsessed with making her pay for rejecting him, Ethan is determined to ruin her relationship and her career. Ethan and Sheila circle each other in a violent chess match until a female student is found murdered on campus. Determined to keep her secrets, Sheila finds herself playing a far deadlier game than she realized. If you are looking for a fun psychological thriller that is quick, thrilling, and creepy—well, then, CREEP lives up to its name!
Pulsing with the dark obsession of Radiohead’s song “Creep,” Jennifer Hillier’s superb debut thriller is a terrifying cat-and-mouse game between a woman with everything to lose, and the lover she couldn't resist…who’s now the monster who won’t let her go.
A popular psychology professor in Seattle, Sheila works hard to keep her secrets hidden. On the surface, she’s an expert in human behavior and a well-liked educator, but nobody knows she’s a recovering sex addict in therapy—not even the love of her life, Morris. And she needs it to stay that way, or she could lose everything.
But Ethan Wolfe is impossible to resist. The graduate student is brilliant, charming, and seductive as hell. He’s also Sheila’s teaching assistant, and thirteen years her junior. Ignoring the risks to her career and relationship, they begin an illicit affair that lasts three months, until Morris asks her to marry him. Determined to get her life back on track, Sheila commits to a future with her fiancé, a man she’s not sure she deserves.
But Ethan can’t move on so easily. He didn’t pursue his professor for as long as he did to get dumped for some boring, middle-aged suit. Ethan’s made plans too, and he doesn’t take rejection well. When the body of one of Sheila’s students is discovered floating in Puget Sound—a young woman Ethan was rumored to have dated—it’s clear that the graduate student has secrets of his own.
And he’s not about to let Sheila get away.
After picking up THE OTHER MOTHERS, I quickly realized that it would be a book I’d speed through and not put down until finished. As expected, I was immersed in a variety of worlds, with Katherine Faulkner choosing to share first-person perspectives from each character. What we learn in reading is that each character has a reason behind their madness and their well-guarded secrets. Faulkner brilliantly unravels the intricate web of relationships in an upscale London community, juxtaposing the allure of sophistication with the lurking dangers of trust and deceit. The narrative tension built through alternating viewpoints creates a rich tapestry of emotions, revealing the multifaceted nature of motherhood and ambition. By the final chapter, THE OTHER MOTHERS proves itself not just as a thrilling page-turner but also as a poignant examination of the lengths we go to for acceptance and the prices we’re willing to pay. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a thoughtful and captivating read.
The author of the “twisty, fast-paced” (The Sunday Times, London) Greenwich Park returns with a fresh and deftly paced thriller about murder, class, and motherhood in an exclusive London community.
When a young nanny is found dead in mysterious circumstances, new mom, Tash, is intrigued. She has been searching for a story to launch her career as a freelance journalist. But she has also been searching for something else—new friends to help her navigate motherhood.
She sees them at her son’s new playgroup. The other mothers. A group of sleek, sophisticated women who live in a neighborhood of tree-lined avenues and stunning houses. The sort of mothers Tash herself would like to be. When the mothers welcome her into their circle, Tash discovers the kind of life she has always dreamt of—their elegant London townhouses a far cry from her cramped basement flat and endless bills. She is quickly swept up into their wealthy world via coffees, cocktails, and playdates.
But when another young woman is found dead, it’s clear there’s much more to the community than meets the eye. The more Tash investigates, the more she’s led uncomfortably close to the other mothers. Are these women really her friends? Or is there another, more dangerous reason why she has been so quickly accepted into their exclusive world? Who, exactly, is investigating who?
Photo credit: iStock / Kateryna Kravchuk-Rudomotkina