Unputdownable Books

The Sea of Tranquility
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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Recommended as Unputdownable. I never, and I mean never, would have picked this up on my own. I read this because it was a Book of the Month selection, and was surprised to love it. It's a sci fi novel whose premise is pretty out there and wow, was it fun. Wild premise, interesting structure, great narrative drive.
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This has been on my TBR for a while, because so many historical fiction fans recommended this to me as Meissner's best novel. The action goes back and forth in time between two women, a century apart, who are linked by a beautiful scarf and by their unlikely survival in two devastating tragedies in New York City. Meissner's tone makes this an easy, enjoyable read despite the tough subject matter—I read this in a day.
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In the second of Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series, which can be read in any order, detective Cassie Maddux is pulled off her current beat and sent to investigate a murder. When she arrives at the scene, she finds the victim looks just like her, and—even more creepy—she was using an alias that Cassie used in a previous case. The victim was a student, and her boss talks her into trying to crack the case by impersonating her, explaining to her friends that she survived the attempted murder. The victim lived with four other students in a strangely intimate, isolated setting, and as Cassie gets to know them, liking them almost in spite of herself, her boundaries—and loyalties—begin to blur. A taut psychological thriller that keeps you guessing till the end.
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I devoured this in one sitting on a recent Saturday afternoon. Usually I don't think the premise sells the book, but this one does: Julie was kidnapped from her own home when she was thirteen, and eight years later, the mystery is unsolved. Her family assumes the worst but can't be sure. Then one day, the doorbell rings, and it's Julie. But as she settles in to her new, old family, inconsistencies begin to emerge in her story. Why would she lie? Is it really her? From the publisher: "Propulsive and suspenseful, <em>Good as Gone</em> will appeal to fans of <em>Gone Girl</em> and <em>The Girl on the Train</em>, and keep readers guessing until the final pages."
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This gorgeous novel can almost be categorized as literary fiction, which too many readers dismiss as inaccessible. Don't make that mistake. This Gatsby-esque novel pulls several shocking plot twists, and I definitely didn’t see that ending coming.
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This fast-moving thriller is showing up on all kinds of best-of-the-year lists (and will soon be making an appearance on What Should I Read Next as a favorite). What The Martian did for space exploration, Dark Matter does for physics, and it works. The publisher calls this "a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of."
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This novel had me pinned to the couch for two days (or it might have been just one). It reads like the breeziest chick lit, but has a surprising depth that makes me love it even more.
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When Hannah moves back to her hometown of Los Angeles, she spends a night on the town with an old friend. The decision she makes at the end of that night changes her life, and in alternating chapters, we find out exactly how. Like many Taylor Jenkins Reid books, this one is compulsively readable, but serious themes lay beneath the surface. Imagine a happier <em>Sliding Doors</em>, with less cheating and more cinnamon rolls.
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This psychological thriller was good enough to make the Summer Reading Guide, but I ran out of room! A British single mother gives her 8-year-old son permission to run ahead a little on their evening walk in the park ... and he disappears, without a trace. MacMillan invites the reader to come along on the hunt for the boy, alternately focusing on police procedure and family drama. The tight writing and sharp execution made this hard to put down. I've seen a lot of comparisons to The Girl on the Train, but instead I'd recommend this one for Tana French fans.
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I feel like I've been holding out on you on this one because I read and loved this book months ago. (I DID recommend it on this episode of What Should I Read Next with Leigh Kramer.) A girl-next-door type suddenly finds herself in an elite California prep school, and has to figure out how to navigate this new privileged world while still grieving her mother's death. When she gets an email from an unidentified boy who calls himself "Somebody Nobody" offering to be her spirit guide to her new school, she doesn't want to say yes—but she really needs his help. A sweet and fun teen romance, but also a pitch-perfect portrayal of the grieving process. I couldn't stop myself from cheering for Jessie as she put her life together again. Published April 5 2016.
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In a season where every suspense novel is expected to have a "shocking plot twist!" this tightly-crafted novel makes your jaw drop time and again, without feeling gimmicky or manipulative. I was stunned as I slowly came to see that the story wasn't about what I thought it was about at all. On a dark, rainy night, a mother lets go of her son's hand for just an instant. The devastating accident sets the plot in motion. Part police procedural, part domestic suspense, with the ring of authenticity, no doubt thanks to Mackintosh's own 12 years as a police officer. This is an emotional roller coaster of a book. (Sensitive themes ahead, so mind your triggers.)
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Jane Eyre lovers, you can relax: while Faye—and her heroine, Jane Steele—draw serious inspiration from Jane Eyre, It draws serious inspiration from Brontë's classic, it's not a retelling. Instead, it's delightfully meta: our titular narrator tells us the inspiration to write down her story came from "the most riveting book titled Jane Eyre." This Jane is a wise-cracking, whipsmart, unconventional young woman who rebels against Victorian convention, but she has a heart of gold. Though not a retelling, there are numerous winks to the original novel: Jane becomes a governess, there's a stand-in for Mr. Rochester, and of course, something important is locked away in an attic. Perfect for readers who love plucky Victorian heroines, like you'd find in Deanna Raybourn novels. Published March 22 2016.
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Janie knows her 4-year-old son Noah is not like other children. He's terrified of water. He asks for his "other mother." And he always, always wants to go home—even when he's in his very own bed. But one night, thanks to a late-night bourbon-fueled internet session, Janie stumbles upon the work of an eccentric scientist, and begins to confront the possibility that her precious son not only lived a previous life, he'd been murdered in it. The plot resists simplistic solutions and easy answers which keeps you glued to the page. If you have a friend or loved one obsessed with reincarnation, this book is obviously for you—but you don't have to buy the premise to find this a satisfying read. Published February 2 2016.
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A new nail-biter from Thriller Award winner Abbott is always news. She's best known for The Fever, a book I've been meaning to read for ages. I know her by reputation, though I haven't yet read her work, and was surprised to hear her forthcoming novel is focused on an elite teen gymnast, a tragedy that rocks her training facility, and the subsequent unraveling of everything the characters thought they knew about each other. Add Audible narration for $12.99. Publication date July 26 2016.
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I finished this one on a weekday afternoon when I was supposed to be working, because all I wanted to do was finish this book. (Interestingly, I also inhaled Rowell's newest, Landline, which just came out yesterday. But I didn't like it nearly as much.)
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