83 books directly related to family secrets 📚

All 83 family secret books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

The Tiger's Wife

By Téa Obreht,

Book cover of The Tiger's Wife

Why this book?

This is a gorgeous, poetic, magical book, with a strong female character with a mission that is not about falling in love and having children. Although there are love stories in the book, they are unusual ones (as shown by the title) and that is not the main narrative arc of the central protagonist. I long for books where women do something other than fall in love, have children, or emulate men.


A Woman Is No Man

By Etaf Rum,

Book cover of A Woman Is No Man

Why this book?

In a 2019 interview with NPR, Etaf Rum—the daughter of Palestinian immigrants who was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York—said one of her struggles in writing the book was the fear that she was in a way confirming stereotypes about Arabs and Middle Easterners, including “oppression, domestic abuse, and terrorism.” Thankfully Rum overcame these struggles to deliver a courageous, beautiful, and incredibly authentic debut novel that follows the lives of three generations of Palestinian-American women trying to find their voices and identities within the confines of patriarchal and conservative milieus. In a way, the struggles of Rum and her characters mirror the battles that young people throughout the Middle East have been waging against tyranny and oppression since the start of the Arab Spring in 2010.


The Daughters of Mars

By Thomas Keneally,

Book cover of The Daughters of Mars

Why this book?

The Daughters of Mars provides a unique account of war through the lens of two sisters from New South Wales who serve as nurses on an Australian ship carrying soldiers wounded at the Battle of Gallipoli in Turkey.  After the ship is sunk, the sisters end up nursing on the Western Front.  The novel is a page-turning, authentic account of the personal and professional experiences of Australian nurses dealing with the horrific impacts of war.


How Much of These Hills Is Gold

By C. Pam Zhang,

Book cover of How Much of These Hills Is Gold

Why this book?

I was sold on this book the moment two tiny little girls scooped up their dad’s dead body, put it in a bag, and started toting his remains around the west, his decaying bones clacking about in there wherever they went. This gold rush story is retold from the standpoint of two girls haunted by a past that was never theirs to begin with—and carries a subtle darkness that is beautiful to sink into.


Blood-Tied

By Wendy Percival,

Book cover of Blood-Tied

Why this book?

When Esme Quentin’s sister, Elizabeth, is assaulted, Esme discovers that her sister has a secret. Who is the elderly, Mrs Roberts and what is her connection to Elizabeth? Esme’s attempt to unravels the sixty-year-old family mystery becomes a hazardous mission and she has to reassess her perception of blood ties.


Moonglow

By Michael Chabon,

Book cover of Moonglow

Why this book?

This is a memoir of sorts, but a fiction book nevertheless. Again, the philosophy of life is shown through the dying grandfather. The book highlights the sometimes blurry lines between right and wrong, but also standing up for what is right, questions of personal sacrifice for the common good, and more.


Ivory's Story

By Eugen Bacon,

Book cover of Ivory's Story

Why this book?

Ivory Tembo is a wonderfully dynamic character, brought to life with sensitivity and fascinating insight. The story is set in modern-day Sydney where a killer stalks the night, with Ivory Tembo the officer investigating the brutal murders. Extraordinary character development unfolds in just a few pages, from Ivory’s fractured youth growing up in foster care, to an emotionally vulnerable young woman, to her present-day tough, determined persona that serves her well as a detective. Forced to delve into her heritage, she is supported by a vibrant cast who bring folktale to life. With the help of a medicine woman, the mystery ventures into the supernatural, taking Ivory on an instinctive journey to unify two worlds.


The Couple Next Door

By Shari Lapena,

Book cover of The Couple Next Door

Why this book?

I’m a sucker for domestic mysteries, especially those with plenty of twists and turns. The Couple Next Door checks all the boxes for a gripping psychological thriller, one that I tore through in only two sittings. Anne and Marco, parents of one-year-old, Cora, attend a dinner party at the row house next door. Their babysitter suddenly cancelled just before the outing, so they bring their baby monitor to the dinner and take turns checking on Cora every thirty minutes as she sleeps in her crib. All goes well until Anne’s final check of the night, when she finds the crib empty, and Cora missing. But who could have taken her? I love that everyone had a secret to hide in this deliciously mysterious tale, which reveals plenty of dark family secrets and delivers a bombshell ending. 


The Last House on Needless Street

By Catriona Ward,

Book cover of The Last House on Needless Street

Why this book?

The Last House on Needless Street gets my recommendation because of the deeply unsettling house where most of the story takes place. Located at the end of the street, on the edge of a dark forest with boarded-up windows and falling into disrepair, this house is the ultimate in creepiness. The story of a serial killer, a child who has been kidnapped, a very disturbed protagonist who is haunted by his horrible mother and a black cat imprisoned in the terrifying house. Each page is creepier than the next and the ending shocked me speechless.  


Verity

By Colleen Hoover,

Book cover of Verity

Why this book?

This book was a real page-turner for me. The story had a creepy element that Ms. Hoover managed to convey brilliantly, while beneath the mystery there’s believable chemistry between the male and female leading characters.

This book is a masterclass on how to layer the essential elements of good storytelling seamlessly. She’s woven a strong plot, three-dimensional characters, and a nice little twist.


Behind Her Eyes: A Suspenseful Psychological Thriller

By Sarah Pinborough,

Book cover of Behind Her Eyes: A Suspenseful Psychological Thriller

Why this book?

Some of the most interesting psychological thriller and suspense novels have divisive endings, and Behind Her Eyes is definitely no exception. I found this novel to be compulsively readable and addictingly disturbing. Sarah Pinborough masterfully combines shocking plot points, supernatural elements, and dark twists that readers will not see coming.


99 Red Balloons

By Elisabeth Carpenter,

Book cover of 99 Red Balloons

Why this book?

A beautifully written, cleverly constructed dual-narrative story that follows the abduction of a child and the aftermath experienced by the family, interwoven with the story of a widow whose grandchild also went missing. It’s packed with family secrets and lies and I found it enjoyable trying to untangle it all! This book is emotive and suspenseful and the killer twist at the end is just brilliant.


Artie and the Wolf Moon

By Olivia Stephens,

Book cover of Artie and the Wolf Moon

Why this book?

Olivia Stephens is one of the most skilled cartoonists of our generation. I was lucky enough to blurb Artie: Artie and the Wolf Moon, like all of Stephens’ work, is heartbreaking and heart-mending, gorgeously and lovingly rendered with a voice and eye for the gentle and powerful ways characters interact with one another…“ Like the best graphic novels set in the Pacific Northwest, Artie’s story could not be told without dense forests that hold both danger and sanctuary.


Stay with Me

By Becky Wade,

Book cover of Stay with Me

Why this book?

A friend once told me to read Becky Wade because her books were similar to mine.

I did and wow, I loved her style and immediately put everything of hers on auto-buy! Realistic temptation and passion mixed with heart- and soul-wrenching life lessons—home run for the Christian romance reader!


The Library of Legends

By Janie Chang,

Book cover of The Library of Legends

Why this book?

Chronicling the real-life evacuation of Chinese university students during the Battle of Nanking, Janie Chang makes history and magic come alive in The Library of Legends, perfectly tying together the trials and tribulations of a group of students evacuating Nanking with the myths and legends that they’re sworn to protect – and which protect them in turn over the dangerous 1,000-mile journey to safety. Quite simply, this book is magical.  


The Majesties

By Tiffany Tsao,

Book cover of The Majesties

Why this book?

Originally published as Under Your Wings in Australia, The Majesties could just easily be titled My Sister, the Mass-Murderer. It has one of my favourite openings of all time: beginning in a hospital, where Chinese-Indonesian fashion designer Gwendolyn lies comatose, the sole survivor of her sister Estella’s mass-poisoning of their 300-strong family dynasty. Though it has been compared to Crazy Rich Asians with its globe-trotting plot (taking place in Jakarta, Paris, and Melbourne, among other settings), The Majesties is a more sombre read, exploring corruption and racial tension in the upper echelons of Indonesian society. 


The Tail of Emily Windsnap

By Liz Kessler, Sarah Gibb (illustrator),

Book cover of The Tail of Emily Windsnap

Why this book?

When I was doing research for my children’s novel, Secrets of the Last Merfolk, I read lots of stories about mermaids and The Tale of Emily Windsnap was a real favourite. It’s about a girl who discovers that she's half-human, half-mermaid and follows her adventures as she heads underwater to find her missing father. 

Liz Kessler’s debut novel was so popular that there are now nine Emily Windsnap stories, so if you enjoy the first book, you can carry on and read the whole series!


Next Year in Havana

By Chanel Cleeton,

Book cover of Next Year in Havana

Why this book?

This story of a Cuban-American family sweeps the reader from Havana to Florida, from the years of Fidel Castro’s Revolution into the present-day immigrant experience. Historical fiction is a gift to readers in that it puts us squarely into history’s most tumultuous and dramatic moments, and that is exactly what Cleeton has done with this beautiful and transportive novel of the Perez family.


The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

By Aimee Bender,

Book cover of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

Why this book?

This is a gem of a book: perceptive, quirky, clear-eyed, and dark. Bender uses the tradition and taste of food, starting with her mother’s lemon cake recipe as a mysterious access point that unlocks the complicated secrets of the heart. It’s clever and stunningly written, deceptively deep but also sensuously thrilling. "I reached to the side of the cake pan, to the least obvious part, and pulled off a small warm spongy chunk of deep gold. Iced it all over with chocolate. Popped the whole thing into my mouth."


When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa

By Peter Godwin,

Book cover of When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa

Why this book?

A beautifully intertwined story of the decline of a man and the parallel decline of a nation, Zimbabwe, which pivots into an entirely new story: the author’s dying Christian British father was actually a Polish Jew, born Kazimierz Goldfarb, whose family was killed in Treblinka concentration camp.

Godwin’s story is ultimately inspiring and uplifting as he comes to terms with his family’s past while building his own future in his new country.


Louisiana's Way Home

By Kate DiCamillo,

Book cover of Louisiana's Way Home

Why this book?

I love characters that make me feel like I’m in the room with them and both Louisiana and her Granny check that box. Quirky personalities abound in this sweet but often sad story about a girl who hits the road with her eccentric caretaker grandmother in the middle of a starry night. Granny insists that the time has come to leave Florida and confront the curse that hangs over their heads. That means leaving everything familiar and dear to Louisiana far behind: Her friends, her cat, her home. The two end up in a small town in Georgia and as Louisiana’s grandmother’s world gets smaller, Louisiana is left to her own devices in a world that seems too big to handle. 


Sarah's Key

By Tatiana De Rosnay,

Book cover of Sarah's Key

Why this book?

This is such a fascinating, gripping, poignant but above all emotional story linking two families together with WWII as the binding factor. Informative, but most of all so incredibly moving, I cried my eyes out of both sadness and beauty. Because the story is linked to present-day life through an existing apartment in Paris, the story feels very close to us. A true page-turner and book that will leave an impression forever. I could certainly identify with the main character doing all the journalistic research, stressing the importance of WWII.


Little Fires Everywhere

By Celeste Ng,

Book cover of Little Fires Everywhere

Why this book?

In this seemingly perfect neighborhood, all that glitters is not gold. This is the story of the unraveling of Shaker Heights, an opulent neighborhood in Ohio. A single mother and her daughter rent a house and change all the unwritten rules in this seemingly perfect community. The story unfolds in a matter that you simply must know, literally, what is going to happen next. The characters are well developed, and you find yourself rooting for the underdog. 


When We Believed in Mermaids

By Barbara O'Neal,

Book cover of When We Believed in Mermaids

Why this book?

What begins as a mystery surrounding a missing sister becomes a richly told tale of family, loss, and vulnerability. I loved Kit―she’s a fascinating protagonist―nuanced, multi-faceted, and a mass of contradictions. Seeing her sister, presumed dead, in a news story from across the world ignites a quest to delve into the past to understand the present. It’s an emotional, raw, and cathartic read. 


The Uncommoners #1: The Crooked Sixpence

By Jennifer Bell,

Book cover of The Uncommoners #1: The Crooked Sixpence

Why this book?

Bell’s Uncommoners series is set in a richly-imagined magical world where everyday objects have extraordinary powers – and when darkness closes in, Seb and Ivy Sparrow must race to uncover an Uncommon mystery before it’s too late. Featuring a talking bicycle bell, police officers armed with toilet brushes, and the incredible city of Londinium, these books will fling you straight into a thrilling adventure.


The Hundred-Year House

By Rebecca Makkai,

Book cover of The Hundred-Year House

Why this book?

Some time-jumping novels take you all over the globe. Others unearth the history of a single place. Rebecca Makkai’s novel takes the latter approach and pushes it to the extreme: its setting is a house in a suburb of Chicago, which, as a Midwesterner, I am bound to be excited about. Moving backward through time, the book is a masterpiece in terms of construction, but Makkai’s touch is so light she makes it feel easy. I stayed up late several nights in a row rereading this book recently, and given that I’ve got three kids under the age of five, that should tell you everything you need to know.


The Distant Hours

By Kate Morton,

Book cover of The Distant Hours

Why this book?

I’m a sucker for books with a creepy setting—and a rundown castle in the English countryside was the perfect, eerie location for this twisty, unsettling novel. With alternating timelines, unreliable characters, and multi-faceted mysteries, this tale of family secrets kept me on my toes—and reminded me that the stories behind our favorite childhood stories are often darker than we realize…and often best left untold.


A Reliable Wife

By Robert Goolrick,

Book cover of A Reliable Wife

Why this book?

This novel created a stir when it first came out in 2010; it seemed everyone was talking about it. After I read it, I had to agree it was worth the buzz. In 1909, Ralph Truitt, a successful businessman in rural Wisconsin, places a notice in a Chicago paper advertising for "a reliable wife." But when Catherine Land steps off the train from Chicago, she's not the "simple, honest woman" that Ralph is expecting. She is both complex and devious, haunted by a terrible past and motivated by greed. She plans to win his devotion, poison him, and leave a wealthy widow. But Truitt has his own secrets and plans, and soon they’re both in over their heads. I love novels like this that take me on an unexpected journey.


The House We Grew Up in

By Lisa Jewell,

Book cover of The House We Grew Up in

Why this book?

In England, we have the Queen who opens Parliament and then we have the Queen of Domestic Suspense and that is Lisa Jewell. Lisa has written a slew of phenomenal novels but The House We Grew Up In always comes first to mind whenever I think of her work. The quality of descriptive detail in this book means that years after I first read it, I can still picture every room inside the Bird house and recall every twist and turn in Lorelei Bird’s journey as she transitions from a normal mother in a messy home to a toothless hoarder living out of a depilated den. A fascinating read packed around secrets and lies and an examination of family dynamics. All that glitters isn’t foil-wrapped gold in this one.


Sunny Side Up

By Jennifer L. Holm, Matthew Holm (illustrator),

Book cover of Sunny Side Up

Why this book?

Sunny is spending the summer with her grandfather in his retirement community after the family’s plan of a beach vacation is cancelled. I loved the connection between Sunny and her grandfather. Neither one was counting on this long visit and they both make the best of it. At first, it seems there is nothing much for Sunny to do. Luckily she meets the only other kid in the community and they become good friends, bonding over his beloved comics collection. 

But there are things Sunny sees and doesn’t tell, secrets that weigh on her, troubling memories of home. From funny moments to poignant ones, I couldn’t put this book down. 


The Rest of the Story

By Sarah Dessen,

Book cover of The Rest of the Story

Why this book?

This book isn’t about sports. But it has that small-town vibe that fills a craving you might have. More than that, this book is about knowing yourself and finding that one person who fits with the jagged pieces of your own puzzle. Dessen is a queen of young adult swoon, but what I think she does to perfection is capture the emotions surrounding friendship. This book hits the very core of why everyone needs that one person.


Miss Austen: A Novel of the Austen Sisters

By Gill Hornby,

Book cover of Miss Austen: A Novel of the Austen Sisters

Why this book?

Miss Austen is Cassandra, sister of the more famous Jane, who takes centre stage in this story, though Jane is there, too, as the beloved missed sister, not the novelist. The year is 1840, Jane has been dead for twenty years, Cassandra is in her sixties and though frail is on a quest to find some missing letters which may reveal secrets about Jane and Cassandra which must not be known. It’s a mystery and we want to know if Cassandra will find those letters, but it is also a touching portrait of sisterly devotion. Cassandra makes an admirable heroine, determined and resourceful despite her frailty. It also tells much about the way in which spinsters, usually ignored by society, have a rich and complex inner life.


Oh William!

By Elizabeth Strout,

Book cover of Oh William!

Why this book?

Even though the marriage in Oh William! ends in divorce while my marriage ended (without my consent) in my husband’s untimely death, the book brought me back to the unconventional nature of my marriage. Elizabeth Strout’s uncanny ability to say much in a single sentence had me traveling back in time and heart to the many moments that made our marriage. The tendernesses and fears, the deep trust and insecurities that quietly but forcefully bound us together made up the subtle mysteries of our uncommon relationship. What makes people move apart yet remain forever close, as in Lucy Barton and her ex-husband, William, or what holds two people together when there are many factors that might drive them apart, as in my marriage? These questions made reading this book a thought-provoking and enriching experience.


One Jar of Magic

By Corey Ann Haydu,

Book cover of One Jar of Magic

Why this book?

I began reading this book, thinking it was about magic, but by the time I finished, I realized it was about so much more. I loved how Corey Ann Haydu uses sense descriptions brilliantly in One Jar of Magic to deal with some challenging and emotional topics including identity, family dynamics, and abusive relationships. Her use of sensory descriptions makes these topics subtle and emotionally manageable within the story itself.


Our Endless Numbered Days

By Claire Fuller,

Book cover of Our Endless Numbered Days

Why this book?

Peggy is eight years old when her survivalist father takes her from her London home and moves her into a remote cabin in the woods and tells her the outside world has been destroyed. They can’t go back. 

If you know anything about my novels, it’s that I absolutely love writing adult fiction from the perspective of young adults. People often ask me why I don’t write YA if I enjoy that age for narrators: it’s because I love coming-of-age stories and the emotional spectrum of children learning to understand the nuances of adult life.  

This book nailed it for me: Mental illness, nature, and relationships to the natural world, a young narrator. I’ve read it twice and it broke my heart both times.


Half Past

By Victoria Helen Stone,

Book cover of Half Past

Why this book?

Strong women don’t get that way because their lives have been easy, and I’m a sucker for stories about women facing the worst and getting through it. It doesn’t even have to be with grace and dignity! Half Past has a shattering premise – the utter rejection of a mother to her daughter. The book is a family mystery heavy with heartache, and I devoured it. While there’s grief and angst, the book also describes the journey of a woman who thinks she’s faced her lowest point – and how she manages to rise above it all. The book also had a really clever use of actual, simple science that I appreciated because it was so real and yet led to a horrifying reveal!


The Book of Essie

By Meghan MacLean Weir,

Book cover of The Book of Essie

Why this book?

I felt an almost voyeuristic pleasure in reading The Book of Essie. Seventeen-year-old Essie Hicks is the daughter of an Evangelical pastor, whose family is the subject of a reality television series, Six for Hicks. Essie, as the youngest, has had her entire life aired for their adoring public. As you can guess, when Essie finds herself pregnant no one is thrilled. Essie’s future is determined by her mother and the TV producers: Essie needs to marry. How Essie takes control of the situation and the secrets that are revealed make for a gripping read.


The Okay Witch: Volume 1

By Emma Steinkellner,

Book cover of The Okay Witch: Volume 1

Why this book?

As someone who grew up on Sabrina the Teenage Witch in Archie Digests as well as the TGIF sitcom, I have long had a soft spot for stories featuring witches. As a kid, you always think that magic is the pinnacle of exciting! And that’s how young Moth feels, especially as she finds out that she is a witch. Except her mom has sworn off of magic and doesn’t want that life for her daughter…which I feel for Moth being extremely upset about it. She has to find a way to get in touch with her roots, learn about her magic, and discover secrets about her past that are intriguing and exciting! It’s such a fun story told by a talented creator. Everything about this book is—wait for it—magical!


Magic Lessons

By Alice Hoffman,

Book cover of Magic Lessons

Why this book?

Alice Hoffman’s Magic Lessons is the last in her Practical Magic series that chronicles 200 years of dark secrets that each generation of the Owens family must grapple with. We follow protagonist Maria Owens from her childhood in England to the Caribbean, Massachusetts, and finally New York, carrying her legacy with her. The complexity of mother-daughter relationships, generational wounds, family secrets, plus a good dose of witchcraft and magic holds the tension throughout not only this book, but across the entire series. Part historical fiction, part magical realism, part family saga – Hoffman shows us that, in the end, it’s really all about love. 


The End of Summer

By Tillie Walden,

Book cover of The End of Summer

Why this book?

In a dreamlike fantasy world, a royal family holes up for the three-year winter in their vast, quiet palace. As the winter wends on, cabin fever sets in, but at least the young twins of the family have their giant cat Nemo to keep them company. Even if things don’t go so well for the characters, the palace, with its enormous baths, masses of eiderdown quilts, and mile-high windows for watching the snow fall, feels like a cozy place to spend a chilly night—or several hundred. Tillie Walden is a stunning talent, and in her debut graphic novel, created while she was still in art school, she emerges as a fully-formed artist with a personal, intimate style.


The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray

By E. Latimer,

Book cover of The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray

Why this book?

As a kid, I was always enthralled by the idea of paintings coming to life. Blame it on old Vincent Price movies and Scooby-Doo cartoons!  This book is clever and creepy, and at its heart, speaks to the power art has to change the world by unleashing truths we might not want to talk about. You may want to read some of this book with the lights on! (I did!)


The Secret Life of Violet Grant

By Beatriz Williams,

Book cover of The Secret Life of Violet Grant

Why this book?

Williams is another of my absolute favorite authors. I love anything she writes, but I chose to showcase the Schuler Sisters series because, again, it consists of an overarching saga with some fantastic mystery elements. Williams’ strength is that she is able to place the reader directly in the scene with her perfect attention to detail without overdoing it. She expertly weaves multiple storylines in different eras to produce one delicious book.  


The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir

By Alex Marzano-Lesnevich,

Book cover of The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir

Why this book?

Marzano-Lesnevich was a Harvard law student working a summer internship when they encountered the case of Ricky Langley, who was being held on death row in Louisiana. That case opened up a personal wound for the author, and they vividly and powerfully intertwine the two stories. The author uses speculation and imagination to attempt to fill in blanks that are unanswerable. I recently taught this book in a seminar at Columbia on creative license in nonfiction, and my students were floored. 


Sister Dear

By Hannah Mary McKinnon,

Book cover of Sister Dear

Why this book?

If you happen to like the type of books that end with a gut punch, then you are going to love Sister Dear. This had an ending that I didn’t see coming, which is probably why I love it so much. I have a few authors on my ‘must read’ list and this one holds the title for #1 because of her endings. Warning: you start reading the book thinking you know where it’s headed, but trust me when I say you don’t!


Home Before Dark

By Riley Sager,

Book cover of Home Before Dark

Why this book?

Sager’s novel Home Before Dark is set in a large Victorian mansion in the Vermont woods. Nicknamed the House of Horrors, the creep factor for this setting is high. Our protagonist, Maggie, returns after twenty-five years away to learn the truth of what drove her family out of the house late one night when she was only a child. Was the house really haunted as her mother and father had told her for all of those years or is there a logical explanation for the horrible things that had happened there? This novel gets my recommendation because it has three of my favourite things, ghosts, an old, abandoned building, and a protagonist returning to learn the truth. 


The Darkhouse

By Barbara Radecki,

Book cover of The Darkhouse

Why this book?

The stranger in a strange land theme is unveiled slowly in The Darkhouse.  The story follows Gemma, a teen abandoned by a “crazy” mother. She lives on an island and her only friends are either old or imaginary. Her very protective father is dutiful, though consumed with rodent experiments in his shed out back. Yes. It is creepy! Also poignant: both a goosebumpy thriller and and a heart-breaking coming of age story. And I must mention the lyrical writing, like this line: “The ache of wanting what I can’t have throbs like blood.”

Disclosure: I read this in manuscript form at The Rights Factory, a literary agency where I work. I devoured it in one sitting in a Toronto café, after which I had to go outside to ugly-cry.

Only a Monster

By Vanessa Len,

Book cover of Only a Monster

Why this book?

The protagonist of Only a Monster, Joan Hunt-Chang, also feels like someone caught between two worlds. Joan isn’t just half Chinese-Malaysian and half-British, she’s also half-monster and half-human, something that she learns at the beginning of the book. The rest of the book follows Joan as she tries to save her monster family, striking a balance between doing the right thing and embracing her monstrous heritage. Joan grapples with questions of identity, heritage and morality in this gripping fantasy novel, which also features time travel and a twist I honestly did not see coming. 


The Winemaker's Wife

By Kristin Harmel,

Book cover of The Winemaker's Wife

Why this book?

True confession time…after reading The Winemaker’s Wife I hightailed it to the library and took out all of Kristin Harmel’s historical fiction titles (Book of Lost Names!!). Yes, they are that good! In The Winemaker’s Wife, Harmel transports her readers to 1940, a time when WWII and the Nazi regime threatened the lives and livelihoods of a particular Champagne House in France. She expertly taps into all of the five senses in her tale of love and betrayal, of the unyielding power of the human spirit in the face of adversity, and of a Resistance movement hidden beneath the casks and caves of the winery. A riveting, read-in-one-sitting book!


The Kingdom of Liars: A Novel volume 1

By Nick Martell,

Book cover of The Kingdom of Liars: A Novel volume 1

Why this book?

The Kingdom of Liars follows a man named Michael Kingman, the son of a traitor to the crown. The main character’s father was accused of murdering the king’s nine-year-old son, obviously making him unpopular and unwelcome in high society. Michael is petty and self-serving, taking low-level jabs at a world that’s rejected him. When he’s offered the chance to get back into the court, he jumps at it, accidentally uncovering some dark secrets as he does.

This book is great for a number of reasons, but one of the things I love about it is the magic system. In The Kingdom of Liars, the price of using magic is some of your memories. This adds a fun wrinkle to the story, making it hard for our morally grey, magic-wielding characters to trust anything: Even their own memory.


Royal Wedding: A Princess Diaries Novel

By Meg Cabot,

Book cover of Royal Wedding: A Princess Diaries Novel

Why this book?

I had never read the Princess Diaries books but was a fan of the movies. I had also read some of Meg Cabot’s adult novels. When I heard that Meg was releasing an adult installment of her popular princess series, I had to read it. Royal Wedding follows Princess Mia and her Prince Charming as they plan her fairytale wedding. This book was also unique as it connected to a series of middle grade novels about Mia’s younger half-sister. (From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess) I wound up buying my daughter the whole series for her Easter basket during the first part of the pandemic as I thought it might cheer her up. It did!


The Return of Faraz Ali

By Aamina Ahmad,

Book cover of The Return of Faraz Ali

Why this book?

A brilliant novel with more than one mystery at its heart, with more than one truth about human emotions. Beautifully written, unflinching in its depiction of corruption and cruelty; lyrical in its evocation of loss and longing, love and survival. Faraz Ali, a young Pakistani police officer is sent to Shahi Mohalla, the red-light district of Lahore, where a girl has been murdered: not to solve the crime, but to cover it up. However, Faraz Ali has his own tormented history with the Mohalla. And, unknown to him his dimly remembered sister, the beautiful and fiery Rozina, is facing the stark prospect of her own return. A fantastic read, the characters staying in the mind long after the book has been closed.


One Left

By Kim Soom, Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton (translator),

Book cover of One Left

Why this book?

Millions of victims of man-made historical disasters await rediscovery from the murky corners of history to which they have been consigned. One Left returns to historical memory the 200,000-plus Korean girls who were taken from their home villages during World War Two to serve as sex slaves for the Japanese military in “comfort stations.” The end of this disturbing novel is brilliant: the protagonist reclaims her identity, and by extension that of each of the “comfort women,” by recalling the name given her at birth—a name she has not used in the 70 years since she returned to her homeland after years of sexual servitude.


The Memory House

By Linda Goodnight,

Book cover of The Memory House

Why this book?

I expected great things from this wonderful writer and was not disappointed. This was my first-ever split-time novel, and I was hesitant to pick it up because historical fiction isn’t my favorite genre. But this beautiful tale of love, duty, honor, devotion, and second chances seamlessly wove together two remarkable love stories—one present day, one Civil-War era—in a lovely, lyrical tapestry that tugged at my heartstrings. And as you can see from my list, it opened me up to other stories that use the split-time technique to tell generational stories.


Hope and Glory

By Jendella Benson,

Book cover of Hope and Glory

Why this book?

Hope and Glory has to be one of the most relatable books I’ve ever read, and not just because it’s set in my old stomping ground, Peckham. It follows Hope, a twenty-something British Nigerian who, after returning to London for her dad’s funeral, discovers a life-shattering family secret. What I loved about this book was that I felt as though the author was writing a love letter to those individuals who didn’t have it easy growing up and whose stories are not often told in mainstream fiction. I feel as though Hope and Glory will provide a sigh of relief for so many readers; I, for one, certainly felt seen. Beautifully observed, heartfelt and authentic, I felt a xylophone of emotions while reading this exquisite novel, but in the end, very hopeful.


Are We There Yet?

By Kathleen West,

Book cover of Are We There Yet?

Why this book?

West has authored three books that I’d consider parenting fiction, but this one is my favorite. The main storyline follows a mom as she struggles to parent her teenager through his impulsive decisions and public failures. It also explores how a child’s behaviors or actions can often feel like a reflection on their parents. West is an expert in writing multiple POV novels, so readers get to understand these issues from every angle. 


The Lost Man

By Jane Harper,

Book cover of The Lost Man

Why this book?

This is not a Young Adult book but it’s such a great crime book I’ve got to include it. Plus it’s set just over the ditch in Oz and it’s the perfect antidote after reading my book. In my book you’ll be drowned in the rain, in The Lost Man you get to bake in the hot, hot sun! I loved learning about life in rural Australia and, as farmers in New Zealand, how large sheep ranches are run there. I now want to visit!


It Will Just Be Us

By Jo Kaplan,

Book cover of It Will Just Be Us

Why this book?

There’s no place like home, especially when it’s Wakefield Manor, where ghosts and memories are trapped in an endless loop. When the introverted, quirky protagonist Sam (who reminded me of my favorite Shirley Jackson character—Merricat Blackwood) is forced to welcome her estranged, pregnant sister back to the decaying family manor, Sam’s already-frayed nerves are pushed to the limit. But when her sister’s arrival becomes the catalyst for disturbing visions of a faceless boy with a penchant for cruelty, Sam seeks answers in the claustrophobic halls of her ancestral home. Who is this monstrous, cruel boy? What does he want? Seething with tumultuous family dynamics and a plot as complex as it is unsettling, the atmosphere of It Will Just Be Us had me enraptured from the very first pages and didn’t let go until the gasp-inducing ending. 


Just Haven't Met You Yet

By Sophie Cousens,

Book cover of Just Haven't Met You Yet

Why this book?

This book is about an optimistic journalist who writes about meet-cutes. She goes to the Channel Islands to do an article about how her parents fell in love there, but soon she becomes involved in a romance of her own. The story is sweet, fun, and filled with loads of witty banter and hilarious missteps. It was the setting that got me, though. I could feel the sunshine and smell the salty sea air. It reminded me of a time when I was younger and wanted to get away. I ended up on Anastasia Island, renting a converted shed in a stranger’s backyard and serving oysters at a restaurant on the beach. That shed did not keep out the lizards, but that summer ended up being one of the greatest of my life.


The Night She Disappeared

By Lisa Jewell,

Book cover of The Night She Disappeared

Why this book?

Though the daughter’s story in this novel is full of twists, I connected with her mother who must hold her life together while being a full-time grandma to her missing daughter’s baby, while experiencing a daily living nightmare. While desperately trying to find out why her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend vanished after a date night, she must also step in to care for her daughter’s baby. This story changes POV from the mother and from the daughter’s, building the suspense as the daughter’s POV flashbacks draw closer to the “night she disappeared.” What I really love about Lisa Jewell’s writing is she can take a setting and make it an intriguing character. Also, the whole time I kept imagining how I would survive the disappearance of my daughter and what I would do in this mom’s position. Jewell’s writing is superb. So good! 


The Summer of Lost Letters

By Hannah Reynolds,

Book cover of The Summer of Lost Letters

Why this book?

I am a sucker for contemporary romances with a hint of historical sprinkled in, so when I saw that The Summer of Lost Letters took place on Nantucket (gorgeous), and followed a modern teenage girl whose late grandmother’s love letters to a man other than her grandfather mysteriously show up on her front steps, I knew it was for me. Romance, mystery, and family secrets combine for a compelling summer read!


The Sight of You

By Holly Miller,

Book cover of The Sight of You

Why this book?

There have been other stories like this – those featuring prophetic dreams as the core – but none in recent history have carried quite the emotional impact for me like The Sight of You. When I read it, I felt like it carried me on an emotional ride that was at times, quiet, and then suddenly not. Holly Miller beautifully captures the burden that Joel carries with him in the gift/curse of his dreams and the loneliness and turmoil of his heartbreaking choices. All the while, Callie’s unending love and hope for their future made me believe that somehow, things had to end well for them. A heart-wrenching tale of lost loves, the dramatic conclusion of this beautiful story rocked me to my core.


The Better Sister

By Alafair Burke,

Book cover of The Better Sister

Why this book?

I first met Alafair Burke after my first book was accepted for publication (at a book reading she was giving) and she was extremely generous with her time and advice about being a crime-fiction writer. I’ve read most of her books, but this is my favorite, combining first-rate knowledge of the legal system with long-hidden family secrets and resentments. 


Commonwealth

By Ann Patchett,

Book cover of Commonwealth

Why this book?

In Commonwealth, Patchett weaves together flawed families who fail one another over the decades but keep trying and trusting in spite of the failures. There are no villains here–just complicated characters struggling with their own hopes and inadequacies, and desperate to move on from the difficulties of their pasts. This is not a fast-moving novel, but it is stunning, and it shows, more clearly than any other story I’ve ever read, the enduring power of loyalty, love, and forgiveness. 


The Peach Keeper

By Sarah Addison Allen,

Book cover of The Peach Keeper

Why this book?

Sarah Addison Allen novels enchant readers with lovely prose, multi-layered, engaging characters, and a tone balancing gentle humor against melancholy. In The Peach Keeper, Paxton and Willa are forced to face and overcome their pasts, revealing frailties and strengths as they reluctantly link to solve a decades-old, magic-tinged mystery involving their grandmothers. I loved the unusual mystical quirks in the story, like two dozen snooty women unwillingly shouting out their secrets at a society club meeting. Allen further captures us with heart-rending romance as she builds the allure of the small town, Walls of Water, NC. I’ve been equally compelled by her books The Sugar Queen and Other Birds, a recent release. 


The Children's Crusade

By Ann Packer,

Book cover of The Children's Crusade

Why this book?

The major drama in The Children's Crusade revolves around four adult children deciding whether it's time to sell their childhood home. Each sibling tells their own story in first-person narratives and these chapters are interwoven with omniscient narratives that describe their earlier lives. Each character is such a fascinating individual and while their adult voices are distinct from each other, they're also completely recognizable in their portrayal as children. This book explores the unique bond between people you’ve known your whole life.


Gallant

By V.E. Schwab,

Book cover of Gallant

Why this book?

I've always loved V.E. Schwab's writing and the evocative ways she weaves words. In this book we follow Olivia Prior a mute girl who grew up in Merilance School for Girls, and all she has of her past is her mother’s journal—which seems to unravel into madness. The book starts with us seeing firsthand how the other girls torment her due to her lack of speech, and others in position to help, like the nuns, don't bother learning her sign language. Since Olivia lives a pretty terrifying life as a homeless orphan, who sees ghouls, this additional barrier to communication is one more insurmountable obstacle in her already hard life. No wonder she's willing to put up with a lot to find a home.


Identical

By Ellen Hopkins,

Book cover of Identical

Why this book?

This book sucker-punched me. Trigger warning for child abuse, gaslighting, alcoholism, drug abuse, EDs, Incest, and self-harm. Told entirely in verse, this novel follows the lives of identical twins, Kaeleigh and Raeanne, the seemingly perfect all-American girls. But each sister is hiding a dark secret. Raeanne uses drugs, alcohol, and sex to replace the love her father lavishes on her sister. Neither sister is holding onto their dark secrets very well, and pretty soon one will have to save the other. But who will step up? This novel was my first experience reading a novel in verse, and I still marvel at the technical skill it must have taken and the bruise my heart sustained in the process. 


The Lake House

By Kate Morton,

Book cover of The Lake House

Why this book?

The abandoned Lake House is at the heart of this wonderful family saga that slips in time between the catastrophic events of the Midsummer’s Eve celebrations in June 1933 and the present. The story is centred around Eleanor Edevane and her husband, still shell-shocked after the Great War; their daughter Alice, a budding author, who is secretly in love with the gardener, Ben; and Alice’s two sisters. Each of them has a guilty secret; each feels responsible for the disappearance and probable death of baby Theo. Meanwhile, in the present, disgraced police officer, Sadie Sparrow, seeks to redeem herself by solving this cold case of the missing child.    

Through old letters and diaries, reminiscences and confidences, and with the help of her grandfather and the ageing Alice, Sadie finally discovers the truth of what really happened on that night so long ago.


What You Never Knew

By Jessica Hamilton,

Book cover of What You Never Knew

Why this book?

Fill the genre blender with equal parts contemporary mystery, paranormal, and family dysfunction, and then add several scoops of atmospheric creepiness to replicate the recipe for What You Never Knew. Who doesn’t like a mystery set on a lake, in a cottage located on a private forested island where secrets have been hidden for decades? Especially those associated with June’s father, who left the family (never to be heard from) when she was 12. Now 30 years later, June Bennett returns to Avril Island and the more secrets she unearths, the more her life is in danger. Just as enticing as the genre mix, the narration is delivered by June and her deceased sister, May, who recently died in a car accident. The setting, atmosphere, and pacing will keep the pages turning!


The Family Plot

By Megan Collins,

Book cover of The Family Plot

Why this book?

This book—set again on a remote island in an eerie old family home (are you seeing a trend here?)absolutely immersed me in delightful creepiness. Family has been called home for their father’s funeralonly to discover that the grave is already occupied. I was already totally in at the premise, but then the author added in a group of damaged siblings raised by parents obsessed with true crime, mystery, psychological drama, and some absolutely gorgeous and lyrical writing, and I’m head over heels in love. I practically inhaled this one.


Summer at Hideaway Key

By Barbara Davis,

Book cover of Summer at Hideaway Key

Why this book?

Something was wrong. Bad wrong.” The book begins with a prologue that sets up the plight of two small girls, abandoned by their mother, and it immediately tugged at my heartstrings. I’m not always a dual timeline fan, but I love the way Davis weaves two stories together into this novel, that of present-day Lily, who has just inherited a beach house on Hideaway Key from her recently deceased father, and the tragic history of her aunt Lily Mae, told through a series of journal entries. I love (of course!) the mystery element in this book.

Due to a rift between her mother and her aunt, Lily knows absolutely nothing about her aunt Lily May. When she finds Lily May’s journal in the beach house she begins to uncover the long-kept secrets between her aunt, her mother, and her father—a tale of star-crossed lovers, sibling rivalry, and the heroic sacrifices of a loving heart. Meanwhile, as Lily begins to understand the past, she begins to open up to change in her own life. I loved that even though this book broke my heart in places, it also re-affirmed that there are good people in the world, and it left me smiling at the end.


Write My Name Across the Sky

By Barbara O'Neal,

Book cover of Write My Name Across the Sky

Why this book?

I identified with WIllow, the musician, who poured her whole heart and soul into a record that never hit the big time. She is disappointed with her current level of success and goes home to New York to stay with her Aunt Gloria in her famous mother’s old penthouse. The story revolves around an investigation into stolen art and I adored the seventy-year-old Gloria who chose herself instead of the love she found in the arms of a passionate artist turned art smuggler. The characters are richly detailed and women you want to know, and the prose is lyrical and complex, so beautiful you have to pause to appreciate it. 


Jet Black and the Ninja Wind

By Leza Lowitz, Shogo Oketani,

Book cover of Jet Black and the Ninja Wind

Why this book?

This was the first novel I read that had everything I craved: a setting in Japan, both rural and urban, cool ninja training, ancient Japanese mythology, a half-Japanese kid who’s never been to Japan but must go to fulfill her destiny, and a bit of spy intrigue as well. Yes, it’s the classic tale of “kid who was taught fighting skills but was never told what or why.” However, because of the Japanese angle, especially the descriptions of Japan and its culture which is so different than the western world, I thought the story was fresh. I do think the main character took too long to find herself, but my only real complaint is that the authors didn’t continue the series or write more books like this.  


Lady Jayne Disappears

By Joanna Davidson Politano,

Book cover of Lady Jayne Disappears

Why this book?

Politano brings history to life in such a drama-filled, Gothic nature in a blend of Wuthering Heights meets Northanger Abbey. The story of a missing mother and lady, family secrets and scandals, and more are all the ghosts that plague the pages of this deliciously dark and delightfully hope-filled book. This was Politano’s debut novel, and yet it has become one of my all-time favorites and will definitely be read again and again. A true classic for the annals of Christian fiction.


You'll Be Fine

By Jen Michalski,

Book cover of You'll Be Fine

Why this book?

This novel achieves something that, as a writer, I think is one of the hardest things to pull off: tackling troubling, emotionally fraught material yet finding moments to make readers laugh out loud. The novel’s protagonist, Alex, has plenty of challenges to deal with: the loss of her mother to an apparent drug overdose, a difficult relationship with her can’t-seem-to-grow-up brother, and an uncertain reconnection with an old flame. Through Alex, Michalski manages to both confront these challenges and find humor in them. As I read the book and thought of the difficulties in my own life, I considered how I needed to take a page from this character’s playbook. Another element that leavens the novel’s heavier material is a plot thread that will delight rom-com enthusiasts.


Black Water Sister

By Zen Cho,

Book cover of Black Water Sister

Why this book?

Penang is not a city I know or have ever been to. So when Black Water Sister became one of my favourite fantasy books, I knew it wasn’t helped by familiarity with its setting from life or fiction. The story of Jess and her adventure as a relative stranger in her family’s city, navigating social and familial rules along with gangsters and angry gods while resolving issues ranging from deeply personal to interdimensional, is fascinating in pretty much every aspect of storytelling and craft. But on a reread, I appreciated with greater clarity the skill Zen Cho brought to exploring the physical and social aspects of the city, embedding both the physical and the supernatural into a place that is both real, and feels real. 


Royal Decoy

By Heather Frost,

Book cover of Royal Decoy

Why this book?

There is actually quite the cast of fantastic female leads in this multi-POV fantasy series! Clare, Serene, and Mia are just a few of the wonderful women who make up this cast. From decoys in training to rebellious princesses to captives with more to them than meets the eye, each female perspective in this book adds a new, profound layer against a backdrop of rich worldbuilding. No two women feel the same, and the insight brought on by each immersed me deeper into an ever-expanding, ever-enriching world. This was an instant favorite of mine from Clare’s very first chapter, and it only gets better with each subsequent one!


Whose Waves These Are

By Amanda Dykes,

Book cover of Whose Waves These Are

Why this book?

Amanda’s dual-time novel is like reading a poem—the prose is breathtaking, the story compelling, the characters real and wounded, and the love story! In the wake of WWII, a grieving fisherman, Robert Bliss, submits a poem to a local newspaper and his humble words change the tide of a nation. Decades later, Annie Bliss is summoned back to Ansel-by-the-Sea when she learns her Great-Uncle Robert, the man who became her refuge during the hardest summer of her youth, is now the one in need of help. The time slip is expertly done, the story wild and wonderful, and again, I was inspired to try my hand at a time-slip novel after having soaked up every last drop of the water on the sand in Whose Waves These Are.


White Trash Warlock

By David R. Slayton,

Book cover of White Trash Warlock

Why this book?

Although White Trash Warlock has fantastic world building and a fresh, unique take on supernatural people and creatures, it was the feels in this book that did it for me. I love a wounded protagonist, and the way Adam fights to live life on his own terms while still helping the family that doesn’t support his sexuality or his magic tugs on all my heartstrings. 


Restless

By William Boyd,

Book cover of Restless

Why this book?

This highly original spy thriller gripped me from the first page. It jumps between the 1970s and WW2, with locations in Britain, America, Paris, and Belgium. Ruth Gilmartin’s mother Sally, to all intents and purposes a sweet old lady living in a small English village, decides to reveal that she is in fact Eva Delectorskya, a Russian recruited by the British Secret Service, and she wants her daughter, a single mother teaching EFL, to help her find and take revenge on the double agent who sold her out decades before. The writing is tight and elegant, leaving lots of room for the big issues of motherhood, trust, treachery, and standing up to power.


And After the Fire

By Lauren Belfer,

Book cover of And After the Fire

Why this book?

This is a wonderful historical novel. A woman trying to recover from a personal tragedy is bequeathed a mysterious manuscript. It turns out to be the score of a previously unknown cantata by Bach—but there is a problem. The lyrics contain hateful anti-Semitic texts. What is she to do? Publish the score and allow this music to be heardalong with the awful wordsor suppress it? The author traces the history of the manuscript and how it came into the possession of the heroine. We meet many strong women as we travel 200 years into the past and learn much about the history of Jews in Germany, about Bach and his times, Mendelssohn and his times as well as World War Two. This is a fascinating book featuring several inspiring female characters and is rich in historic background and steeped in music.


Mr. Flood's Last Resort

By Jess Kidd,

Book cover of Mr. Flood's Last Resort

Why this book?

Talk about quirky chararcters and magic! This book is full of them! 

Apparently, I am fascinated with agoraphobics and magical themes! Cathal Flood is a horrible old man.  He is a hoarder and misanthrope. However, he doesn’t want to go into a home, so he hires Maud to help him sort out his home so he can satisfy all that he is sane and orderly.

But there are saints seeping out of the woodwork and cats are everywhere. This hoarder has stories, and Maud keeps uncovering them, along with hints from the saints who comment on the action. This book is what? A thriller? A study of Irish folklore and the Catholic faith? I don’t know, but I just loved the book.


The Tide Between Us

By Olive Collins,

Book cover of The Tide Between Us

Why this book?

The Tide Between Us is similarly typical of many Cornish novels which involve travel to the West Indies. The maritime links between those areas were extremely strong at those times. It therefore relates to the Transatlantic factor in my own novels which involves the West Indies and the slave trade.