Contemporary Fiction
Belong to Me

Belong to Me

$10.99$1.99Audiobook: 7.49 (Whispersync)

This is the standalone sequel to Love Walked In, but go ahead and read them in order. (Belong to Me has higher ratings on Goodreads, but I enjoyed Love Walked In more. Though comfortably predictable and a little too feel-good for some people's taste, it's well-written, intelligent, and thoroughly readable. This would make a great beach read.

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The Husband’s Secret

The Husband’s Secret

$9.99$2.99Audiobook: 12.99 (Whispersync)

This story about three Australian women whose lives intersect in unexpected ways is packed full of secrets. Moriarty addressed dark topics here, but her tone remains light and witty, and she manages to weave in interesting notes—the Berlin wall, the myth of Pandora, the Snow White fairy tale. I loved this on audio: the Australian accent was delightful.

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The Blue Bistro

The Blue Bistro

$7.99$4.99

Within hours of arriving on Nantucket, Adrienne lands a job at The Blue Bistro, its acclaimed oceanside restaurant. Over the course of the summer, she falls in love, endures family drama, and confronts a medical mystery, but the real star of this book is the restaurant itself. Hilderbrand’s tales from the belly of a fabulous summer hotspot are riveting and realistic: you’ll find yourself rooting for Adrienne as she figures out how to survive in the cutthroat setting. Warning: all that great food on the page will make you hungry. Hilderbrand is queen of the summer novel; this is one of her best.

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The Royal We

The Royal We

$12.99$2.99Audiobook: 12.99 (Whispersync)

This book will not make you feel smarter, wiser, or better read: it’s 100% Kate Middleton fan fiction, and it couldn’t be more fun. Fashion bloggers Cocks and Morgan reinvent the royal fairy tale: when American Bex Porter heads to Oxford to study abroad for a year, she first befriends—and then falls in love with—handsome Prince Nicholas of Wales. Sure, why not. The big enemies of their love are his family—and the tabloids. Especially the tabloids. Bex loves Nick, but does she love him enough to endure a lifetime of public scrutiny? Hugely entertaining and wickedly funny.

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Love Walked In

Love Walked In

$7.99$1.99Audiobook: 7.49 (Whispersync)

Cornelia is a hopeless romantic, obsessed with the epic love stories portrayed in classic films, but floundering in her own life. Everything changes the day a Cary Grant look-alike walks through the door of the coffee shop she manages. Of course she falls for him, and strikes up an unlikely friendship with his 11-year-old daughter. You can’t help but cheer for these characters as they navigate the tricky waters of friendship, heartbreak, and love. De los Santos is a poet by training, and it shows in her prose. If you love this, good news: there’s a sequel.

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Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies

Moriarty’s particular talent is to write novels that read like the fluffiest fluff … but have a depth that will stay with you long after you turn the last page, thanks to her sharp insights into human nature. This story follows three moms who have children in the same kindergarten class in an idyllic Australian seaside community. Parents behaving badly provide plenty of fodder for wicked humor. This is Moriarty at her finest, right up there with What Alice Forgot. Darkly comic: this is summer reading with an edge.

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Little Beach Street Bakery

Little Beach Street Bakery

$9.99$1.99Audiobook: 7.49 (Audible)

Polly’s life is in ruins: in one fell swoop, she’s lost her business, her boyfriend, and her flat. She can’t afford a place in town, so she’s forced to move out of the city—way out of the city, to a remote British island town, in a flat above an abandoned shop. (Everyone’s reaction to her new home: shouldn’t this place be condemned?) Polly turns to baking to cheer herself up, and before long her favorite hobby turns into something more substantial than she ever dared to dream. This is absolutely chick lit, but it’s multilayered and well-written chick lit. (Many readers will appreciate the lack of lascivious scenes. Her characters aren’t all chaste, but that action happens offscreen.) A sweet story about starting over, with lots of heart, perfect for fans of Emily Giffin and Jojo Moyes.

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Garden Spells

Garden Spells

$11.99$1.99Audiobook: 7.49 (Whispersync)

Like all the women in her family, Claire Waverly possesses a unique magic: she uses edible flowers to prepare foods that affect the eater in “curious ways.” Years ago, Claire’s sister fled town—and her Waverly gift—but she discovers her own sort of magic when she returns. What to say about this book? The romance is cheesy, the magic is impossible, but put them together and it sings. A few love scenes are a little racy (ahem). If you’re not down with supernatural food or a magical apple tree, skip this one—but you should know how many readers call this “a wonderful surprise.” (If you loved The Language of Flowers, bump it to the top of your list.) Sweet, sparkly, and thoroughly Southern.

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Einstein’s Dreams

Einstein’s Dreams

Science writer Lightman’s premise is as follows: in 1905, young Albert Einstein dreamed repeatedly about time as he worked on his paper “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies” and made creeping progress on his special theory of relativity. Each dream reveals "one of the many possible natures of time.'' Lightman presents these (entirely fictional) dreams as a collection of poetic vignettes. Small enough to read in an afternoon, but easy to wander in and out of. Unusual and utterly delightful.

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Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore

$8.99$3.99Audiobook: 10.99 (Whispersync)

Harry Potter meets National Treasure. This fast-paced book is mystery, quest, and love letter to the written word, all rolled into one. In this rip-roaring adventure, the best secrets are hidden in plain sight, in the ancient volumes of a magical bookstore. It’s not technically brilliant, but plenty readable, engaging, and just plain fun. Book nerds, beware: you’ll want to climb Mr. Penumbra’s ladders and browse his shelves. Warm, friendly, and smart—and the cover glows in the dark. That’s hard to beat.

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First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen

First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen

$9.99$4.99Audiobook: 12.99 (Whispersync)

Who really wrote Pride and Prejudice? That mystery drives this literary thriller, which plunges the reader into the world of first editions, secondhand books, and zealous collectors. When a young librarian discovers a document that casts doubt on Austen’s authorship of Pride and Prejudice, she struggles to clear her beloved author of plagiarist charges before it’s too late. Lovett flips back and forth between the time when Jane was writing her best-known story and today’s desperate race to prove her innocence. Lovett’s love of books permeates every page. Farfetched? Of course, but piles (stacks?) of fun for booklovers. If you love this, go back and read Lovett's fantastic debut The Bookman's Tale.

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Americanah

Americanah

This is Nigerian novelist Adichie’s third novel, but the first I've read. The story centers around a smart, strong-willed Nigerian woman named Ifemelu. After university, she travels to America for postgraduate work, where she endures several years of near-destitution, and a horrific event that upends her world. She finds her way, winning a fellowship at Princeton, and gaining acclaim for her blog, called “Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black." A highlight: Adichie seamlessly weaves blog posts—about race, national identity, class, poverty, and hair—into the narrative. The novel grapples with difficult issues without becoming overwrought. I would not have read this based on the flap copy, but I was hooked from page one. Haunting, moving, incredibly well done. Terrific on audio.

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The Shell Seekers

The Shell Seekers

$8.99$2.99

This thick paperback seems to be a permanent fixture at beach condo rentals, and I've never touched it—solely because of its cover. (I know, I know!) But recently several of my favorite reader friends have told me that if I just look past the cheesy cover I'll be rewarded with a captivating story about love and heartbreak across a family's three generations. They tell me there's a reason it's one of the top 100 novels in the BBC's Big Read, but I haven't found out for myself—yet.

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Sisterland: A Novel

Sisterland: A Novel

$11.99$1.99Audiobook: 8.49 (Whispersync)

Auden said that for an adult reader, the possible verdicts are five; here's mine. Sittenfeld can write; she does what she does very well. But it's not to my taste. I enjoyed so much about this book. But her brief yet vivid depictions of adolescent sex make me shudder. It’s not because they’re badly written, or particularly graphic: I think it’s because she nails it. These passages are painfully accurate, emphasis on painful. They take me right back to scandalous gossip sessions in the high school bathroom, and that’s not a place I’m eager to revisit.

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The Year of Pleasures

The Year of Pleasures

$11.99$1.99Audiobook: 3.99 (Whispersync)

Okay. I wanted to include Berg in the summer reading guide, and of all her novels I read in preparation, this struck me as the most promising. I appreciated Berg’s portrait of small town life, her likable protagonist, and the significance of all kinds of friendships to the story. I especially liked that when the main character was in a bad way, it wasn’t a man who came to her rescue—it was her friends. But I didn’t find it gush-worthy, and since each category only has room for five books, I held out for the novels that did. That being said, many of you will love this, and I’m glad I read it.

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Magic Hour

Magic Hour

$7.59$5.99

I first discovered Hannah when so many of you recommended her as a sweet spot author. You recommended this as one of her best, and I enjoyed it. The poignant story sucks you right in, and I especially admired Hannah’s depiction of female relationships: mothers, daughters, sisters, friends. But I cried like a baby during the last two chapters, and I don’t think a good beach read should make you cry. At least not a whole box of tissues’ worth.

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At Home in Mitford

At Home in Mitford

$9.99$1.99

This is the first book in the bestselling Mitford series, and the one that made so many readers fall in love with Father Tim and the town of Mitford. I resisted Mitford for a long time because the premise sounded cheesy. And sure, it would be easy for this story to veer into sappy territory—if it wasn’t extremely well done. A story about ordinary lives, (mostly) lovable characters, and the small drama of the everyday. Charming, heartwarming, purely enjoyable. If you love the first book, there’s a whole series to look forward to: the series' 11th book is due out this September.

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The Sea of Tranquility

The Sea of Tranquility

$7.99$3.99Audiobook: 4.95 (AUDIBLE DAILY DEAL)

I blew through this novel from my YA summer reading list over the weekend, even though it's almost 400 pages. If you loved Eleanor & Park, read this next. It's not a read-alike, but it has enough in common with E&P to make it a safe bet. One of the best books I've read this year.

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The Precious One

The Precious One

$12.99$0.99Audiobook: 12.99 (Whispersync)

Taisy Cleary hasn't seen her father in 17 years. After he survives a heart attack, he summons her to write his biography (The Thirteenth Tale, anyone?), and Taisy is plunged back into her past, giving her the opportunity to write past (and current) crucial mistakes. Not my favorite de los Santos work, but the gorgeous writing and Middlemarch references keep it on my "worthwhile" list.

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The Thing Around Your Neck

The Thing Around Your Neck

This short story collection by the author of Americanah was first published in 2009. In these 12 stories, the Nigerian author writes about America, exploring, as she says, "the ties that bind men and women, parents and children, Africa and the United States."

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Family Furnishings

Family Furnishings

$12.99$4.99

Munro is the best—or perhaps the best-known—short story writer of our time. This collection, released last December, gathers two dozen of Munro's stories written between 1995 and 2014. Munro is unquestionably good at her craft: her realistic stories are poignant and piercing, which is why I find them difficult to read.

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Trigger Warning

Trigger Warning

$11.99$3.99Audiobook: 12.99 (Whispersync)

Neil Gaiman is hit or miss for me: sometimes he's too dang scary. Despite that, I think I may tackle this short story collection, which I've heard lets you appreciate his range in a way his novel-length work can't.

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Happiness for Beginners

Happiness for Beginners

$9.99$2.99Audiobook: 7.49 (Whispersync)

A year after getting divorced, Helen Carpenter needs a do-over, so she signs up for a notoriously tough wilderness survival course to prove that she can make it on her own. But then she finds out her kid brother’s best friend is joining her on the trip, wrecking her plans before she even gets to the mountains. Once there, Helen confronts a summer blizzard, a group of sorority girls, rutting season for the elk, and spin-the-bottle—yet she also discovers what it really means to be brave. A fun and light read that still manages to tackle some serious topics. If you love this, go back and read The Lost Husband.

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The Book Thief

The Book Thief

$9.99

"You are going to die," begins this 2006 novel. A fitting beginning to a story about hard things: a little girl and her family struggling to endure in WWII Nazi Germany. The characters are interesting and unexpected, right down to the unusual narrator. You'll see why this was an instant staple on school reading lists when it was published ten years ago, and why it has captured the hearts of readers from age 10 to 110. Beautiful, haunting, fascinating, hopeful.

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The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale

$11.99$2.99Audiobook: 12.99 (Whispersync)

This 2006 mystery, set firmly in the tradition of Gothic greats like Jane Eyre, kept me guessing from start to finish. The premise is intriguing (and you may find yourself a little bit envious of the narrator's bookish existence). A little dark and deliciously creepy, perfect for curling up with on a cold winter's day. Take note: a few unsettling scenes if you're a sensitive sort. (I am.) Add Audible narration for $12.99.

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

$11.99$1.99Audiobook: 7.49 (Whispersync)

This novel told in letters is sweet and sunny, even though it's set during a dark period of history. The action unfolds on the British island of Guernsey (and you'll want to book your trip immediately). A testament to the power of literature, but a love story at heart. (Hot tip: the audiobook is fantastic.)

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Peace Like a River

Peace Like a River

$9.99$1.33

An MMD 2017 Winter Book Club selection. This was one of my favorite books of 2014, although it was published back in 2001. A gorgeous novel that takes you on a journey across the frozen Badlands of the Dakotas in the heart of the frozen winter. Read it for yourself and see why so many readers call this their favorite book ever written. A tragedy, a romance, a coming of age story.

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Lizzy & Jane

Lizzy & Jane

$8.99$1.99Audiobook: 7.49 (Whispersync)

The title sisters are named after the heroines of Pride and Prejudice, but that’s where the similarities end. This modern novel adroitly covers books, breast cancer, fancy cookery, and sisterhood. Book club highlight: It’s a toss-up between the food and family relationships.

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One Plus One

One Plus One

$11.99$1.99Audiobook: 12.99 (Whispersync)

A road-trip-from-hell as a romantic comedy? Yep. Moyes’s latest novel is a departure from her previous works, this time focusing on a single mom, her weird kids, and a geeky tech guy. Financially strapped Jess can’t afford to send her math whiz daughter to a decent school, but then a scholarship opportunity arises—in Scotland, and she can’t afford to drive there. Enter Geeky Ed, who owes her a favor, but mostly wants a chance to think about anything besides the insider trader scandal he’s embroiled in. The story is told from four different points of view, with different voices for each, which makes the audio version great. Quirky and endearing. Add Audible narration for $12.99.

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The Sweetness of Forgetting

The Sweetness of Forgetting

$11.99$1.99Audiobook: 3.99 (Whispersync)

A fellow reader matched me up with Kristin Harmel's work, and I blew through two of her novels this month. It's not a perfect book—I'll be surprised if you don't guess how the love triangle resolves by page 3—but it's very good. Harmel's writing about love, family, and relationships draws you right in to the story, and then compels you to step back and examine your own life. A whole lot of MMD readers are going to love this one.

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