Ah, February. It’s a month associated with lots of emotions, however you approach it. You’re probably expecting a list of books which will tug on the romantic heartstrings, but . . . surprise!
These are the books to reach for when you want that cathartic feeling of emptying out your tear ducts. They may shock, surprise, horrify, amaze, delight, or emotionally destroy you. Be prepared to get run over by ALL THE FEELINGS. Whatever these books do, the traditional romance happily ever after will probably be the furthest thing from your mind.
*please note, all book descriptions come from Goodreads*
11.22.63, by Stephen King
All the suspense and unexpected romance feels, with a side of time-travel thriller and American history
“Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away…but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination.
How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke… Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten…and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.”
The Afterlife of Holly Chase, by Cynthia Hand
All the nostalgic, Bah-Humbug, reluctant hero and dark magic feels
“On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she’d become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.
And then she died.
Now she’s stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge–as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past. Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable. But this year, everything is about to change. . . .”
Red Rising, by Pierce Brown
All the Hunger-Games-in-space, with a side order of brutal tension, and nonstop action feels
“Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.
Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.
But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class . . .”
Chaos Walking series, by Patrick Ness
All the dark and chilling, magical realism, road-tripping to escape death YA feels
“Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him — something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too.
With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn’t she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? Propelled by Todd’s gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.”
It Ends With Us, by Colleen Hoover
All the angsty, emotional, gut-wrenching love triangle feels
“Sometimes it is the one who loves you who hurts you the most.
Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up
— she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true . . . As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan — her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.”
The Winter Road, by Adrian Selby
All the gritty, grimdark, morally ambiguous, shades of gray character, fantasy feels
“The greatest empire of them all began with a road.
The Circle – a thousand miles of perilous forests and warring clans. No one has ever tamed such treacherous territory before, but ex-soldier Teyr Amondsen, veteran of a hundred battles, is determined to try.
With a merchant caravan protected by a crew of skilled mercenaries, Amondsen embarks on a dangerous mission to forge a road across the untamed wilderness that was once her home. But a warlord rises in the wilds of the Circle, uniting its clans and terrorising its people. Teyr’s battles may not be over yet . . .”
A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
All the empathetic, existential crisis provoking, grumpy old grouch loving feels
“Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?
Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.”
The Wicker King, by K. Ancrum
All the heartbreaking, uniquely painful, own voices mental health, magical poison feels
“When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.
August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.”
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
All the haunting, beautifully imagined, painfully rendered historical fiction feels
“From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.
. . . Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.”
The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein
All the WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO ME, curling up in a fetal position when you’re done feels
“Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.
Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn’t simply about going fast. On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through.
A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life … as only a dog could tell it.”
The Duke of Shadows, by Meredith Duran
All the brutally emotional yet scorchingly hot historical romance feels
“From exotic sandstone palaces…
Sick of tragedy, done with rebellion, Emmaline Martin vows to settle quietly into British Indian society. But when the pillars of privilege topple, her fiancé’s betrayal leaves Emma no choice. She must turn for help to the one man whom she should not trust, but cannot resist: Julian Sinclair, the dangerous and dazzling heir to the Duke of Auburn.
To the marble halls of London…
In London, they toast Sinclair with champagne. In India, they call him a traitor. Cynical and impatient with both worlds, Julian has never imagined that the place he might belong is in the embrace of a woman with a reluctant laugh and haunted eyes. But in a time of terrible darkness, he and Emma will discover that love itself can be perilous — and that a single decision can alter one’s life forever.”
A Night to Surrender, by Tessa Dare
All the ‘my heart needs a break now, k, thanks’, sweet, funny, historical romance feels
“Spindle Cove is the destination of choice for certain types of well-bred young ladies: the painfully shy, young wives disenchanted with matrimony, and young girls too enchanted with the wrong men; it is a haven for those who live there.
Victor Bramwell, the new Earl of Rycliff, knows he doesn’t belong here. So far as he can tell, there’s nothing in this place but spinsters… and sheep. But he has no choice, he has orders to gather a militia. It’s a simple mission, made complicated by the spirited, exquisite Susanna Finch—a woman who is determined to save her personal utopia from the invasion of Bram’s makeshift army.
Susanna has no use for aggravating men; Bram has sworn off interfering women. The scene is set for an epic battle… but who can be named the winner when both have so much to lose?”