I can’t fall asleep unless I’ve torn through the pages of an excellent novel first, and I probably read three or four books a week. I devour commercial fiction in all different genres, and it’s not easy to narrow down my favourites. But the following twelve books, in no particular order, are the reads that I just can’t get out of my mind because they’re that spectacular.
The Arrangement, by Robyn Harding
I’ve inhaled all of Robyn Harding’s books, but The Arrangement really hooked me right from the first line. Take Natalie, a desperate art student; a sugar baby website; Gabe, a rich, older man; add in a murder, and you’ve got the most tantalizing story-line. It's a fantastic, emotional, twisted, perfectly paced read, set against a vivid New York City backdrop, and is so seductive I couldn’t put it down.
Hurry Home, by Roz Nay
Roz Nay is a remarkable writer. In her forthcoming novel, Hurry Home, which will be released in July, 2020, she weaves a taut, stunning, suspenseful, gripping tale about two sisters, Alexandra and Ruth Van Ness, forever connected through their lies and losses. It delves into child protection, the bond of sisterhood, and how two people deal very differently with a past trauma. Captivating and brilliant twists and turns, expert plotting and pacing, and an emotional, incredibly satisfying ending, it’s a must-read page turner.
Still Mine, by Amy Stuart
Amy Stuart’s debut, Still Mine, which released in 2016, is extraordinary. Set in the remote mining town of Blackmore, Still Mine has one of the snappiest titles I’ve ever seen. With a deft hand, Stuart tackles heavy and important themes of drug addiction and domestic violence, and small-town secrets and lies. With a cast of extremely well-drawn, unreliable characters, the one I connected to most is the protagonist, Clare, who’s on the run and becomes tasked with finding Shayna, a missing girl. Full of brilliant twists, gritty and atmospheric, this novel is unforgettable and sensational.
The Last Resort, by Marissa Stapley
I’ve devoured all of Marissa Stapley’s books and each has affected me deeply. The Last Resort takes place against the gorgeous setting of the Mayan Riviera at The Harmony Resort—a couples’ retreat run by married doctors Miles and Grace Markell. I had just returned from the Mayan Riviera when I read this powerful, haunting book and could completely immerse myself in the pages because Stapley describes the location so authentically. More than the geography, though, it’s the layered, very real characters I was so intrigued by. Each has their own struggle to grapple with, and as their intricate stories unfold in chilling and twisted ways, a deadly tropical storm is heading straight for them. It’s an emotional and explosive read that hooked me from the first line to the last.
Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune, by Roselle Lim
The stunning cover of Roselle Lim’s debut is just the beginning of its beauty. From the lyrical prose that evokes so much emotion to the sprinkling of magic in the pages, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is stunning. And the food! A novel about love, loss, family obligation, and finding oneself, it’s an astonishing read.
The Choices We Make, by Karma Brown
Every Karma Brown book has made me cry. She excels at creating real, fully fleshed out characters working through extremely difficult situations, and The Choices We Make made me sob. Hannah and Kate, best friends since childhood, would do anything for each other. When Hannah and her husband are unable to have a baby on their own, Kate offers to be their egg donor and surrogate. All is wonderful until a gut-wrenching tragedy hits both families, threatening to tear them apart and destroy their happiness. What unfolds is both devastating and hopeful, and ultimately heart-breaking and beautiful.
Sister Dear, by Hannah Mary McKinnon
I’ve read all of Hannah Mary McKinnon’s suspense novels and loved them, but her forthcoming book, Sister Dear, releasing May 26, 2020, takes her mastery of character development to a whole other level. When Eleanor Hardwicke loses her beloved dad, she’s shocked to find out he wasn’t her biological father. Grieving and untethered, Eleanor sets out to find this man who is. She’s stunned to discover she also has a half-sister, Victoria, seemingly perfect and poised, everything Eleanor is not. Layer by brilliant layer, McKinnon captures the essence of twisted sisters in this slow-burn domestic suspense that hurtles to a shocking, fiery climax you won't see coming.
Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters, by Anita Kushawa
Ottawa-based author Anita Kushwaha is a phenomenal talent. I was mesmerized by the early copy I read of Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters, releasing on January 28, 2020. It’s a stunning, gorgeously written intergenerational tale about Veena, Mala, and Nandini, three very different mothers, each harboring their own secrets, and a young woman named Asha, who links them all. A layered, emotional, powerful story about duty, desire, and the secrets we keep in the name of love, it’s a book I savored through every word.
The Jane Austen Society, by Natalie Jenner
The cover for The Jane Austen Society, the debut novel by Oakville author Natalie Jenner, which releases May 26, 2020, is stop-in-your-tracks exquisite. And while the title might make readers assume that they need to be die-hard Jane Austen fans to enjoy this charming, beautiful novel, you don't even have to have read her. Because this book is really about what connects and bonds us all. Jenner does such an impressive job of introducing eight very different main characters, four men and four women, each of them grappling with how to find hope and purpose in post-WWII England. I loved how imaginative, moving, and witty this book was, often all at the same time.
Jar of Hearts, by Jennifer Hillier
From the intriguing title and stunning cover to the killer premise, Jar of Hearts is simply unforgettable. It’s a dark, intense, captivating, and terrifying story of obsession and lies. Fourteen years after sixteen-year-old Angela Wong disappears, her remains are found near her childhood best friend, Georgina (Geo) Shaw’s home. Angela’s other best friend, Kaiser Brody, is now a detective who’s sure Geo knows what happened to Angela the night she went missing. When more bodies turn up, killed in the same manner as Angela, the trail leads to alleged serial killer, Calvin James, Geo’s first love. Gripping, shocking, and absolutely riveting, this is a book that I still think about often, months after finishing it.
Sorry I Missed You, by Suzy Krause
I love quirky books that make me laugh, cry, and inspire me all at the same time. Books that make we want to have dinner with the author because I know she must be a special person. Such is Sorry I Missed You, out June 2, 2020, by Saskatchewan-based author Suzy Krause. Quirky, original, hilarious, and poignant, it’s an unforgettable read with a knockout premise. With ghosts from their pasts, and perhaps real ones in their present, four strangers connect through one rental unit, and their combined searches for someone who has disappeared from each of their lives. Inspiring and heart-warming, this novel is a delight.
The Couple Next Door, by Shari Lapena
There’s nothing scarier for a mother to read about than a couple enjoying a dinner party next door only to come home to find their infant daughter missing. It’s that terror that made me whip through the pages of Shari Lapena’s explosive debut,The Couple Next Door. Delicious, superbly drawn characters Anne and Marco Conti, and Detective Rasbach make this a nerve-wracking, addictive, fully satisfying read.
A moment on the subway platform changes two women’s lives forever—a debut thriller that will take your breath away.
A total stranger on the subway platform whispers, “Take my baby.”
She places her child in your arms. She says your name.
Then she jumps...
In a split second, Morgan Kincaid’s life changes forever. She’s on her way home from work when a mother begs her to take her baby, then places the infant in her arms. Before Morgan can stop her, the distraught mother jumps in front of an oncoming train.
Morgan has never seen this woman before, and she can’t understand what would cause a person to give away her child and take her own life. She also can’t understand how this woman knew her name.
The police take Morgan in for questioning. She soon learns that the woman who jumped was Nicole Markham, prominent CEO of the athletic brand Breathe. She also learns that no witness can corroborate her version of events, which means she’s just become a murder suspect.
To prove her innocence, Morgan frantically retraces the last days of Nicole’s life. Was Nicole a new mother struggling with paranoia or was she in danger? When strange things start happening to Morgan, she suddenly realizes she might be in danger, too.
Woman on the Edge is a pulse-pounding, propulsive thriller about the lengths to which a woman will go to protect her baby—even if that means sacrificing her own life.
Samantha M. Bailey is the author of Woman on the Edge, a gripping debut thriller about motherhood, gaslighting, and paranoia. Samantha is a Toronto-based novelist, journalist and freelance editor. She was a writer-in-residence for Kobo Writing Life at Book Expo America 2013. She is the co-founder of “BookBuzz,” a promotional and interactive author-reader event held in New York City and Toronto.
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