Pageturners: Eight Books to Read in August
Whether you’re into murder mysteries, suspense, literary fiction or rom-coms, every one of these are guaranteed page turners. If you aren’t careful, you’ll spend a week at the cottage serving nothing but mac and cheese and hot dogs because putting the book down won’t be an option.
Beach Read, by Emily Henry
January Andrews is a jaded romance writer who’s not feeling like love is even a thing anymore. Augustus Everett is a best-selling author who prefers writing about dark and disturbing relationships with no happily-ever-afters in sight. They are polar opposites and find themselves living in neighbouring beach houses for the summer. Both suffering from writer’s block, they decide to challenge each other to write for the other’s genre. Gus must write a romance, and January has to produce something gritty and real.
I love a story where the characters are a little (okay, a lot) broken and are just trying so damn hard not to sink, you know? The way Gus and January pull each other through is beautiful, engaging and heartbreaking. A book for both cynics and romantics.
People We Meet on Vacation, by Emily Henry
Poppy and Alex meet the first day of freshman orientation at the University of Chicago. He drives the speed limit; she wants adventure. He’d rather write essays and study for literature exams; she’d rather study travel brochures and scour vacation sites online. When they share a ride back to their hometown after first year, a friendship develops and soon they’re besties. As life takes them down different paths, they still manage to take a vacation together every year, for the last 10 years. Until Croatia, two years ago, and they haven’t spoken since. Poppy decides she wants her friend back, and invites him on one last trip which will either make or break their friendship for good.
Told in flashback style, Alex and Poppy’s history unfolds, and we learn that they have a lifetime friendship that transcends all other relationships. These two are perfect fully formed characters that you get invested in fast. I love me some angst, so buckle up and take a trip with these two as they learn that a life without each other in it is no life at all.
The Survivors, by Jane Harper
A small town on the coast of Tasmania is home to an unsolved crime, and when Kieran Elliott goes back to visit with his wife and child, he finds his guilt over that day resurfacing. While there, dealing with his struggling parents, a girl goes missing, and the town is forced to relive the same nightmare.
The tension starts in the prologue and doesn't let up throughout the entire novel. It's a perfectly paced, cleverly built story of a small town rocked by secrets. I love how the sea plays a character in this novel as it is both a source of life for this this community, and a huge threat. Throughout the book the author subtly addresses the effects of toxic masculinity, which underscores the plot and adds a deeper level of intrigue.
When the Stars Go Dark, by Paula McLain
Anna Hart is a detective whose specialty is finding lost teenagers. When she suffers a personal tragedy, she heads to her hometown of Mendocino, California, to recover. The day she arrives she learns a local teenage girl has gone missing, and her childhood friend is working the case. Anna can’t help but offer her services, since it reminds her of a case that rocked the area when she was young. The story is based around the actual missing person’s case of Polly Klaas in the 1990s. It’s part true crime, part mystical, pure suspenseful psychological thriller. It’s set in the 1990s, a time before the existence of a criminal history database, which creates an extra level of tension.
Are We There Yet? by Kathleen West
If you’ve got social media-aged children, this is the cautionary tale we’ve all been waiting for. During a routine parent-teacher conference, Alice Sullivan discovers her daughter is struggling in the second grade. Then, she gets a call from her son’s school telling her he’s been accused of bullying. From that point on, Alice becomes gossip fodder for the other moms. Then, her mother reveals a family secret that shakes Alice to her core.
The moms try to navigate their children through their first year of junior high, while trying to protect them from the misuses of social media. Despite advice from parenting magazines and psychology books, mistakes are made. Each chapter, told from the points of view of Alice, her two friends, Meredith and Nadia, and the teenagers, Teddy, Evelyn, Sadie, and Tane, we are privy to everyone’s thoughts and feelings. There’s no formula for raising teens, unfortunately, but at least this book helps you realize that there’s no perfect way to parent, and we’re all just flying by the seat of pants regardless of how it all looks on Instagram.
The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary
Driving somewhere for a holiday? Need an audiobook? Then have a listen to this one. Addie and her sister are taking a road trip to Scotland for a friend’s wedding. Playlists and snacks are sorted. But when they get into a fender bender with Addie’s ex, Dylan, and his friend Marcus, on the way to the same wedding, they decide to ride-share. Told in flashback, the story of Addie’s and Dylan’s doomed romance unfolds as they cope with being together after not speaking for two years. Performed by Eleanor Tomlinson (Poldark) and Josh Dylan (Mama Mia: Here We Go Again), the story has a richness of emotion that comes alive through the narration. Be warned, along the journey the characters covers some heavy issues such as alcoholism, sexual assault, drug abuse and mental illness, but it’s well balanced with lighthearted moments.
The Drowning Kind, by Jennifer McMahon
The magic and mystery of Sparrow Crest’s natural spring water has brought miracles into people’s lives for almost a century. In two equally enthralling storylines, we’re taken from 1929 to present day where sisters Lexie and Jax have grown out of touch…and for one of them, completely out of reality (or so it seems). Something sinister is going on in the water, and we’re taken on a journey to figure out what truly lies beneath the surface. This was a story so well composed I was easily transported from the 1920s to the 2020s without confusion (or a time machine, evidently). The exciting inclusion of supernatural elements kept me engaged and creeped out all the way through—seriously, I brought my daughter’s nightlight into my bedroom. It’s dark, it’s haunting and it will surely have you re-reading that last chapter more than once.
The Push, by Ashley Audrain
If you thought your family was dysfunctional, think again. Ha. A Toronto native, Audrain writes of a compelling, heart-wrenching journey through the disintegration of a marriage and the unsure footsteps of motherhood. The stylistic choice to be written as a letter from the main character, Blythe, to her husband gives the reader insight into her paranoia surrounding her daughter’s behaviour.
I love a book with short, punchy chapters that leave me gripped, shocked and wanting more. The Push hurt my soul and got under my skin the way no other book has before. Perhaps I saw myself in Blythe’s “irrational” fears about motherhood? Or maybe I was torn between feeling an immense sense of sympathy for her while simultaneously disliking and judging her—I swear, I’m not usually one of those people. I was hoping that the sense of dread I felt all along would be lifted by the end, but instead I was left wondering—is a mother’s instinct always right? I’ll let you be the judge.