Ah! What a day! The sun is shining! The coffee is iced! And the Book of the Month picks have been confirmed (well the main picks anyway)! You know what that means. Its time for our monthly At A Glance post, where we comb through countless reviews and thoughtfully read excerpts to give you as much information as possible about each pick. That way, you can spend less time researching and more time reading!
The clues were super vague this month (see our guesses here) but we are still pretty proud of how we did.
Home Before Dark by Riley SagerHome Before Dark by Riley Sager
on June 30, 2020
In the latest thriller from New York Times bestseller Riley Sager, a woman returns to the house made famous by her father’s bestselling horror memoir. Is the place really haunted by evil forces, as her father claimed? Or are there more earthbound—and dangerous—secrets hidden within its walls?
What was it like? Living in that house.
Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.
Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.
At A Glance: Riley Sager’s latest is everything you want in a haunted house novel and then some. From doors mysteriously opening to ominous shapes lurking in the dark, it is truly a homage to literary classics like Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House. The story is told in two alternating timelines, the first, is from Maggie’s POV, who lived in Baneberry Hall when she was five years old for 20 days before her family inexplicably fled into the night never to return. Now Maggie is back to flip the house and sell it, but not before she finds answers. The second timeline is he chapters Maggie’s father wrote about the twenty days they spent in Baneberry Hall. Both timelines are at once engaging and terrifying and is definitely Sager’s darkest book yet. The reviews are largely positive with a warning that Home Before Dark as a bit of a different feel from Sager’s other works while most of the negative reviews complained of how derivative it was of Jackson’s work as well as the Netflix adaptation by the same name. However, if your a Sager fan, you won’t want to miss it!
A Burning by Magha MajumbarA Burning by Megha Majumdar
on June 2, 2020
For readers of Tommy Orange, Yaa Gyasi, and Jhumpa Lahiri, an electrifying debut novel about three unforgettable characters who seek to rise—to the middle class, to political power, to fame in the movies—and find their lives entangled in the wake of a catastrophe in contemporary India.
Jivan is a Muslim girl from the slums, determined to move up in life, who is accused of executing a terrorist attack on a train because of a careless comment on Facebook. PT Sir is an opportunistic gym teacher who hitches his aspirations to a right-wing political party, and finds that his own ascent becomes linked to Jivan's fall. Lovely--an irresistible outcast whose exuberant voice and dreams of glory fill the novel with warmth and hope and humor--has the alibi that can set Jivan free, but it will cost her everything she holds dear.
Taut, symphonic, propulsive, and riveting from its opening lines, A Burning has the force of an epic while being so masterfully compressed it can be read in a single sitting. Majumdar writes with dazzling assurance at a breakneck pace on complex themes that read here as the components of a thriller: class, fate, corruption, justice, and what it feels like to face profound obstacles and yet nurture big dreams in a country spinning toward extremism. An extraordinary debut.
At A Glance: Majumbar’s sparkling debut follows three different characters who strive to raise their station in contemporary India. There is a wide cast of characters that vary in age, race, faith and gender identity but, according to most reviewers, Majumbar does her job well and does not allow the narrative or the story to become muddled. Central to the novel is Jivah and the terrorist attack she is accused of carrying out because of an ill timed comment on her Facebook page. Around Jivah’s accusation and trial flit a cast of characters, some more prominent than others, whose experiences encourage the reader to consider how much is sacrificed when power is taken away from people and the influence of politics and social media in the modern world.
The Last Flight by Julie ClarkeThe Last Flight by Julie Clark
on June 23, 2020
Two women. Two Flights. One last chance to disappear.
Claire Cook has a perfect life. Married to the scion of a political dynasty, with a Manhattan townhouse and a staff of ten, her surroundings are elegant, her days flawlessly choreographed, and her future auspicious. But behind closed doors, nothing is quite as it seems. That perfect husband has a temper that burns as bright as his promising political career, and he's not above using his staff to track Claire's every move, making sure she's living up to his impossible standards. But what he doesn't know is that Claire has worked for months on a plan to vanish.
A chance meeting in an airport bar brings her together with a woman whose circumstances seem equally dire. Together they make a last-minute decision to switch tickets ― Claire taking Eva's flight to Oakland, and Eva traveling to Puerto Rico as Claire. They believe the swap will give each of them the head start they need to begin again somewhere far away. But when the flight to Puerto Rico goes down, Claire realizes it's no longer a head start but a new life. Cut off, out of options, with the news of her death about to explode in the media, Claire will assume Eva's identity, and along with it, the secrets Eva fought so hard to keep hidden.
The Last Flight is the story of two women ― both alone, both scared ― and one agonizing decision that will change the trajectory of both of their lives.
At A Glance: Well we guessed Her Last Flight by Beatriz Williams but we ended up with The Last Flight by Julie Clarke which is a psychological suspense novel that follows two women who are both trying to escape their present circumstances. When the two women meet by chance in an airport they switch tickets believing it is exactly what they need. But when the plane to Puerto Rico goes down Claire is left to assume the now dead Evei’s identity. This book is told in alternating perspective between present/past Claire as well as past Evie and details what drove each to such extremes. Reviewers are praising Clarke’s novel as addictive and unputdownable. It should be noted that on Goodreads this novel has no 1 or 2 star ratings/reviews of the nearly 300 ratings. The only “negative” reviews claim that there wasn’t a big reveal like many expected. Basically its a consistent page turner that many are declaring as their favorite thriller of 2020 so far.
Comparable BOTM Titles: The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen; Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson
The Vanishing Half by Brit BennettThe Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
on June 2, 2020
New York Times
-bestselling author of
, a stunning new novel about twin sisters, inseparable as children, who ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds, one black and one white.
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' storylines intersect?
Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person's decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.
As with her New York Times-bestselling debut The Mothers, Brit Bennett offers an engrossing page-turner about family and relationships that is immersive and provocative, compassionate and wise.
At A Glance: I am not surprised to see this one in the line up and am really excited to pick it up. Everyone has been raving about this story that follows two sisters in a family saga that takes place over the span of about forty years. Many reviewers provide warnings about this being a difficult book: there is racism and racially motivated acts of violence. However, many reviewers are lauding The Vanishing Half as Bennett’s best novel yet. Most negative review complain about a slower pace, especially a slow start, but if you love character driven literary fiction you will want to add this one to your box.
One To Watch by by Kate Stayman-LondonOne to Watch by Kate Stayman-London
on July 7, 2020
Real love...as seen on TV
Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers--and a massively broken heart. Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising amount of guys named Chad! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since when is being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television?
Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition--under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. She's in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful anti-fat beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot air balloon ride. That's it.
But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She's in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, Internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale. In this joyful, razor-sharp debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men--and herself--for a chance to live happily ever after.
At A Glance: Book of the Month has featured a slew of diverse romances and June is no different! We are actually super excited about this pick since this is a romance that features a plus-size protagonist who ends up starring on a Bacheloresque reality TV show. There are so many positives to this book that we already can’t wait to read it including: body positivist, diversity among the guys that Bea is supposed to choose from (including a gender non-conforming character), as well as the role of social media in our lives. There are lots of different view points that pull the reader right into the cringe-worthy show as well as the online conversations that happen around it. The only complaint we have been able to find about this book was the rushed ending. But other than that it seems like a pretty solid romance to pick up this summer. I will definitely be adding it to my box!
What About You?
What do you think of these picks? Which will you be adding to your box? Let us know in the comments!