If your book club is looking for a fast-paced page-turner that packs a punch, this list is sure to delight. From gripping sagas to taut thrillers, these reads will give everyone in your book club something to love. Plus, all of these books are 300 pages or less, so you’ll be able to devour them in one sitting. Publishers’ descriptions included.
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
A dazzling debut novel from an exciting new voice, The Mothers is a surprising story about young love, a big secret in a small community — and the things that ultimately haunt us most.
Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett’s mesmerizing first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, love, and ambition. It begins with a secret.
“All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we’d taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.”
It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, 17-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. Luke Sheppard is 21, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance — and the subsequent cover-up — will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt.
In entrancing, lyrical prose, The Mothers asks whether a “what if” can be more powerful than an experience itself. If, as time passes, we must always live in servitude to the decisions of our younger selves, to the communities that have parented us, and to the decisions we make that shape our lives forever.
Faithful by Alice Hoffman
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Marriage of Opposites and The Dovekeepers comes a soul-searching story about a young woman struggling to redefine herself and the power of love, family, and fate.
Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.
What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion — from dark suffering to true happiness — a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls — including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.
Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last. For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way, Faithful is a roadmap.
Winter Storms by Elin Hilderbrand
Gather under the mistletoe for one last round of caroling with the Quinn family in this heartwarming conclusion to Elin Hilderbrand’s bestselling Winter Street Trilogy.
Some of the stormy weather of the past few seasons seems to have finally lifted for the Quinns. After a year apart, and an ill-fated affair with the Winter Street Inn’s old Santa Claus, Mitzi has returned to rule the roost; Patrick is about to be released from prison; Kevin has a successful new business and is finally ready to tie the knot with Isabelle; and best of all, there’s hopeful news about Bart, who has been captured by enemy forces in Afghanistan.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few dark clouds on the horizon. Kelley has recently survived a health scare; Jennifer can’t quite shake her addiction to the drugs she used as a crutch while Patrick was in jail; and Ava still can’t decide between the two lovers that she’s been juggling with limited success. However, if there’s one holiday that brings the Quinn family together to give thanks for the good times, it’s Christmas. And this year promises to be a celebration unlike any other as the Quinns prepare to host Kevin and Isabelle’s wedding at the inn. But as the special day approaches, a historic once-in-a-century blizzard bears down on Nantucket, threatening to keep the Quinns away from the place — and the people — they love most. Before the snow clears, the Quinns will have to survive enough upheavals to send anyone running for the spiked eggnog, in this touching novel that proves that when the holidays roll around, you can always go home again.
The Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop Crispell
Twenty-six-year-old Rachel Monroe has spent her whole life trying to keep a very unusual secret: She can make wishes come true. And sometimes the consequences are disastrous. So when Rachel accidentally grants an outlandish wish for the first time in years, she decides it’s time to leave her hometown — and her past — behind for good.
Rachel isn’t on the road long before she runs out of gas in a town that’s not on her map: Nowhere, North Carolina — also known as the town of “Lost and Found.” In Nowhere, Rachel is taken in by a spitfire old woman, Catch, who possesses a strange gift of her own: She can bind secrets by baking them into pies. Rachel also meets Catch’s neighbor, Ashe, a Southern gentleman with a complicated past, who makes her want to believe in happily-ever-after for the first time in her life.
As she settles into the small town, Rachel hopes her own secrets will stay hidden, but wishes start piling up everywhere Rachel goes. When the consequences threaten to ruin everything she’s begun to build in Nowhere, Rachel must come to terms with who she is and what she can do, or risk losing the people she’s starting to love — and her chance at happiness — all over again.
The Vanishing Year by Kate Moretti
Zoe Whittaker is living a charmed life. She is the beautiful young wife to handsome, charming Wall Street tycoon Henry Whittaker. She is a member of Manhattan’s social elite. She is on the board of one of the city’s most prestigious philanthropic organizations. She has a perfect Tribeca penthouse in the city and a gorgeous lake house in the country. The finest wine, the most up-to-date fashion, and the most luxurious vacations are all at her fingertips.
What no one knows is that five years ago, Zoe’s life was in danger. Back then, Zoe wasn’t Zoe at all. Now her secrets are coming back to haunt her.
As the past and present collide, Zoe must decide who she can trust before she — whoever she is — vanishes completely.
A “dark, twisty, edge-of-your-seat suspense” (Karen Robards), The Vanishing Year combines the classic sophistication of Ruth Rendell and A. S. A. Harrison with the thoroughly modern flair of Jessica Knoll. Told from the point-of-view of a heroine who is as relatable as she is enigmatic, The Vanishing Year is an unforgettable new novel by a rising star of the genre.
Only Daughter by Anna Snoekstra
In this chilling psychological thriller, one woman’s dark past becomes another’s deadly future.
In 2003, 16-year-old Rebecca Winter disappeared.
She’d been enjoying her summer break: working at a fast-food restaurant, crushing on an older boy, and shoplifting with her best friend. Mysteriously ominous things began to happen — a presence in her room at night, periods of blackouts, a feeling of being watched — though Bec remained oblivious of what was to come.
Eleven years later she is replaced.
A young woman, desperate after being arrested, claims to be the decade-missing Bec.
Soon the impostor is living Bec’s life. Sleeping in her bed. Hugging her mother and father. Learning her best friends’ names. Playing with her little brothers.
But Bec’s welcoming family and enthusiastic friends are not quite as they seem. As the impostor dodges the detective investigating her case, she begins to delve into the life of the real Bec Winter — and soon realizes that whoever took Bec is still at large, and that she is in imminent danger.
Evelyn, After by Victoria Helen Stone
Evelyn Tester is sleepwalking through her suburban life — until a late-night phone call startles her awake. Her husband, a prestigious psychiatrist, has been in an accident. And he isn’t alone.
Suddenly Evelyn’s world isn’t as tidy as she thought. And in the midst of it all is Juliette, not only her husband’s secret lover but also his patient. If news of the affair were to get out, it would ruin more than just Evelyn’s marriage. Although it’s a bitter pill for Evelyn to swallow, protecting her family means staying silent — even if, as she begins to discover, the night of the accident has consequences far more dangerous than the unmasking of an affair.
But the more Evelyn learns about Juliette’s picture-perfect life — complete with a handsome, unsuspecting husband — the more she yearns for revenge… and satisfaction. Her growing obsession fuels her rage, burning away her complacency. What will be left of her after it flames out?
Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
A brilliant novel from the author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette about a day in the life of Eleanor Flood, forced to abandon her small ambitions and awake to a strange, new future.
Eleanor knows she’s a mess. But today, she will tackle the little things. She will shower and get dressed. She will have her poetry and yoga lessons after dropping off her son, Timby. She won’t swear. She will initiate sex with her husband, Joe. But before she can put her modest plan into action, life happens. Today, it turns out, is the day Timby has decided to fake sick to weasel his way into his mother’s company. It’s also the day Joe has chosen to tell his office — but not Eleanor — that he’s on vacation. Just when it seems like things can’t go more awry, an encounter with a former colleague produces a graphic memoir whose dramatic tale threatens to reveal a buried family secret.
Today Will Be Different is a hilarious, heart-filled story about reinvention, sisterhood, and how sometimes it takes facing up to our former selves to truly begin living.
From a Paris Balcony by Ella Carey
Heartbroken and alone, Boston art curator Sarah West is grieving the recent deaths of her parents and the end of her marriage. Ultra-sensible by nature, she’s determined to stay the course to get her life back on track. But fate has something else in mind. While cleaning out her father’s closet, she finds a letter from the famous Parisian courtesan Marthe de Florian, dated 1895. The subject? Sarah’s great-great-aunt Louisa’s death. Legend has it Louisa committed suicide… but this letter implies there’s more to that story.
Determined to learn the truth, Sarah, against her nature, impulsively flies to Paris. There she’s drawn into the world of her flatmate, the brilliant artist Laurent Chartier. As she delves deep into the glittering Belle Époque to unravel the mystery, Sarah finds that her aunt’s story may offer her exactly what she needs to open up to love again.
Following Sarah in the present day and Louisa in the 1890s, this moving novel spans more than a century to tell the stories of two remarkable women.
Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber
Continuing in a festive annual tradition, Debbie Macomber returns with a new original holiday novel full of romance and cheer — and the magical prospect of finding love in the most unexpected places.
Friendly and bubbly, Julia Padden likes nearly everyone, but her standoffish neighbor, Cain Maddox, presents a particular challenge. No matter how hard she’s tried to be nice, Cain rudely rebuffs her at every turn, preferring to keep to himself. But when Julia catches Cain stealing her newspaper from the lobby of their apartment building, that’s the last straw. She’s going to break through Cain’s Scrooge-like exterior the only way she knows how: by killing him with kindness.
To track her progress, Julia starts a blog called The Twelve Days of Christmas. Her first attempts to humanize Cain are far from successful. Julia brings him homemade Christmas treats and the disagreeable grinch won’t even accept them. Meanwhile, Julie’s blog becomes an online sensation, as an astonishing number of people start following her adventures. Julia continues to find ways to express kindness and, little by little, chips away at Cain’s gruff façade to reveal the caring man underneath. Unbelievably, Julia feels herself falling for Cain — and she suspects that he may be falling for her as well. But as the popularity of her blog continues to grow, Julia must decide if telling Cain the truth about having chronicled their relationship to the rest of the world is worth risking their chance at love.
The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict
In the tradition of The Paris Wife and Mrs. Poe, The Other Einstein offers us a window into a brilliant, fascinating woman whose light was lost in Einstein’s enormous shadow. It is the story of Einstein’s wife, a brilliant physicist in her own right, whose contribution to the special theory of relativity is hotly debated and may have been inspired by her own profound and very personal insight.
Mitza Maric has always been a little different from other girls. Most 20-year-olds are wives by now, not studying physics at an elite Zurich university with only male students trying to outdo her clever calculations. But Mitza is smart enough to know that, for her, math is an easier path than marriage. And then fellow student Albert Einstein takes an interest in her, and the world turns sideways. Theirs becomes a partnership of the mind and of the heart, but there might not be room for more than one genius in a marriage.
The Twilight Wife by A. J. Banner
From bestselling author A. J. Banner comes a dazzling new novel of psychological suspense in the vein of S. J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep and Mary Kubica’s The Good Girl that questions just how much we can trust the people around us.
Thirty-four-year-old marine biologist Kyra Winthrop remembers nothing about the diving accident that left her with a complex form of memory loss. With only brief flashes of the last few years of her life, her world has narrowed to a few close friendships on the island where she lives with her devoted husband, Jacob.
But all is not what it seems. Kyra begins to have visions — or are they memories? — of a rocky marriage, broken promises, and cryptic relationships with the island residents, whom she believes to be her friends.
As Kyra races to uncover her past, the truth becomes a terrifying nightmare. A twisty, immersive thriller, The Twilight Wife will keep readers enthralled through the final, shocking twist.
Release date: December 27
Which of these do you plan to read? Tell us in the comments.
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