Memorial by Bryan WashingtonMemorial by Bryan Washington
Published by Riverhead Books on October 27, 2020
A funny, sexy, profound dramedy about two young people at a crossroads in their relationship and the limits of love.
Benson and Mike are two young guys who live together in Houston. Mike is a Japanese American chef at a Mexican restaurant and Benson's a Black day care teacher, and they've been together for a few years -- good years -- but now they're not sure why they're still a couple. There's the sex, sure, and the meals Mike cooks for Benson, and, well, they love each other.
But when Mike finds out his estranged father is dying in Osaka just as his acerbic Japanese mother, Mitsuko, arrives in Texas for a visit, Mike picks up and flies across the world to say goodbye. In Japan he undergoes an extraordinary transformation, discovering the truth about his family and his past. Back home, Mitsuko and Benson are stuck living together as unconventional roommates, an absurd domestic situation that ends up meaning more to each of them than they ever could have predicted. Without Mike's immediate pull, Benson begins to push outwards, realizing he might just know what he wants out of life and have the goods to get it.
Both men will change in ways that will either make them stronger together, or fracture everything they've ever known. And just maybe they'll all be okay in the end. Memorial is a funny and profound story about family in all its strange forms, joyful and hard-won vulnerability, becoming who you're supposed to be, and the limits of love.
At A Glance: Memorial is an ownvoice contemporary novel that is billed as rom-com full of shenanigans, but according to some trusted reviewers this one is a lot darker than some might think. The trigger warnings are extensive and we have attempted to list them all here: domestic violence, illness, death, drug use, racism and homophobia. Additionally the sexual scenes are rather graphic and there is quite a bit of profanity. However, the reviews on this one are stellar and praise the book for tackling difficult issues dealing with familial and marital relationship, coping with grief and finding one’s self. Throughout the course of the novel Mike and Benson must figure out if they are happier together or apart and work through familial struggles along the way. Definitely a must read for anyone looking to pick up an ownvoice novel this November.
Spine Logo: Yes
Pretty Little Wife by Darby KanePretty Little Wife by Darby Kane
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on December 29, 2020
Debut author Darby Kane thrills with this twisty domestic suspense novel that asks one central question: shouldn’t a dead husband stay dead?
Lila Ridgefield lives in an idyllic college town, but not everything is what it seems. Lila isn’t what she seems.A student vanished months ago. Now, Lila’s husband, Aaron, is also missing. At first these cases are treated as horrible coincidences until it’s discovered the student is really the third of three unexplained disappearances over the last few years. The police are desperate to find the connection, if there even is one. Little do they know they might be stumbling over only part of the truth….
With the small town in an uproar, everyone is worried about the whereabouts of their beloved high school teacher. Everyone except Lila, his wife. She’s definitely confused about her missing husband but only because she was the last person to see his body, and now it’s gone.
At A Glance: Pretty Life Wife is a domestic thriller that is fairly ubiquitous among Book of the Month picks- every month it seems like there is at least one. But this one has a few interesting twists. First, although it’s being reviewed as a debut, it’s actually not — Darby Kane is a penname for HelenKay Dimon, a well-known and prolific romance author. (As a sidenote, for anyone who is interested in book drama, HelenKay was the President of the RWA just before the implosion earlier this year and was a very vocal proponent of much needed diversity changes within the romance genre). This is very much not a romance, and so for marketing reasons — new author name! Early reviews are INCREDIBLE — apparently even though this one got slapped with a pretty generic cover, it’s not at all what you expect inside. Basically, wife kills husband and drops him and his car off somewhere else so as not to be caught. However, before he’s discovered, both body and car disappear. Lots of twists and turns here and sounds like a great pick for fans of the genre. ALSO, this is a WAY early release for BOTM — the book doesn’t come out until December and was actually only recently pushed up from February.
Spine Logo: Yes
The Star Crossed Sisters of Tuscany by Lori Nelson SpielmanThe Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany by Lori Nelson Spielman
Published by Berkley on November 17, 2020
A trio of second-born daughters set out to break the family curse that says they’ll never find love on a whirlwind journey through the lush Italian countryside by New York Times bestseller Lori Nelson Spielman, author of The Life List.
Since the day Filomena Fontana cast a curse upon her sister more than two hundred years ago, not one second-born Fontana daughter has found lasting love. Some, like second-born Emilia, the happily-single baker at her grandfather’s Brooklyn deli, claim it’s an odd coincidence. Others, like her sexy, desperate-for-love cousin Lucy, insist it’s a true hex. But both are bewildered when their great-aunt calls with an astounding proposition: If they accompany her to her homeland of Italy, Aunt Poppy vows she’ll meet the love of her life on the steps of the Ravello Cathedral on her eightieth birthday, and break the Fontana Second-Daughter Curse once and for all.
Against the backdrop of wandering Venetian canals, rolling Tuscan fields, and enchanting Amalfi Coast villages, romance blooms, destinies are found, and family secrets are unearthed—secrets that could threaten the family far more than a centuries-old curse.
At A Glance: Ok, man, HOW did we miss this one? It looks like the quintessential BOTM pick. Family drama echoing across the generations, a little bit of magic, and female focused. Mea culpa. (How do you say “our bad”? Us-a culpa?) ANYWAY. This is a magic-tinged novel with a generations-old curse that keeps the second-born female in the family from finding love. It mostly takes place in Italy, and apparently appreciation of the setting is a major part of the enjoyment of the book. I think a lot of readers will pick this one up — it just sounds like a BOTM pick. I’m excited to check it out.
Spine Logo: Yes
These Violent Delights by Chloe GongThese Violent Delights (These Violent Delights, #1) by Chloe Gong
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on November 17, 2020
Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.
The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.
A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.
But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.
At A Glance: This is absolutely going to be probably in both of our boxes, but definitely in Emily’s! I am a huge sucker for YA historical fiction AND for slightly less frequently done retellings. Of course Romeo & Juliet is pretty popular, but I haven’t seen one set in 1920s Singapore, so this is ticking all of my boxes. It’s an ownvoice fantasy novel with AMAZING early reviews and virtually no complaints, which is rare these days. It’s historical fiction with a splash of fantasy and sounds just incredible. As a sidenote, it is a first in a duology, and there’s no guarantee that BOTM will carry both books, so keep that in mind if you want books to match!
Spine Logo: No
This Time Next Year by Sophie CousensThis Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens
on December 1, 2020
In this warm-hearted love story for fans of One Day in December, a man and woman who were born at the same hospital on New Year’s Day meet on their thirtieth birthday and discover the many times their paths almost crossed before.
Down-to-earth baker Minnie Cooper knows two things with great certainty: that her New Year’s birthday has always been unlucky, and that it’s all because of Quinn Hamilton, a man she’s never met. Minnie and Quinn were born at the same hospital just after midnight on New Year’s Day thirty years before, and not only did he edge her out by mere minutes to win the cash prize for being the first baby born in London in 1990, but he stole the name she was meant to have, as well. With luck like that, it’s no wonder each of her birthdays has been more of a disaster than the one before.
When Minnie unexpectedly runs into Quinn at a New Year’s party on their mutual thirtieth birthday, she sees only more evidence that fortune has continued to favor him. The handsome, charming business owner truly seems to have it all–including the perfect girlfriend. But if Quinn and Minnie are from different worlds, why do they keep bumping into each other? And why is it that each frustrating interaction somehow seems to leave them both hoping for more?
At A Glance: Ok, this is another one we for sure should have guessed, but BOTM pulled out another surprise early release on us! This one doesn’t release until December officially, but BOTM has it this month. It’s a perfect BOTM will they/won’t they kind of romance, which sounds similar to One Day in December (and was in fact, recommended by the author of ODID, Josie Silver). This is going to be the perfect pick for the BOTM Romance fans out there.
Spine Logo: Yes
White Ivy by Susie YangWhite Ivy by Susie Yang
on November 3, 2020
A dazzling debut novel about a young woman’s dark obsession with her privileged classmate and the lengths she’ll go to win his love
Ivy Lin is a thief and a liar—but you’d never know it by looking at her. Raised outside of Boston, she is taught how to pilfer items from yard sales and second-hand shops by her immigrant grandmother. Thieving allows Ivy to accumulate the trappings of a suburban teen—and, most importantly, to attract the attention of Gideon Speyer, the golden boy of a wealthy political family. But when Ivy’s mother discovers her trespasses, punishment is swift and Ivy is sent to China, where her dream instantly evaporates.
Years later, Ivy has grown into a poised yet restless young woman, haunted by her conflicting feelings about her upbringing and her family. Back in Boston, when she bumps into Sylvia Speyer, Gideon’s sister, a reconnection with Gideon seems not only inevitable—it feels like fate.
Slowly, Ivy sinks her claws into Gideon and the entire Speyer clan by attending fancy dinners and weekend getaways to the Cape. But just as Ivy is about to have everything she’s ever wanted, a ghost from her past resurfaces, threatening the nearly perfect life she’s worked so hard to build.
Filled with surprising twists and offering sharp insights into the immigrant experience, White Ivy is both a love triangle and a coming-of-age story, as well as a glimpse into the dark side of a woman who yearns for success at any cost.
At A Glance: White Ivy is a stellar debut that has been on our radar since it had its date pushed back due to COVID. It is a promising, coming of age immigrant story about a girl who is seeking to find her place in the world. Yang’s writing has been described as easy and compelling- similar to that of Celeste Ng. What’s more, this amazing first novel examines issues of privilege, identity, racism and elitism. If you are going into this novel hoping that Ivy will be a likeable narrator than you should pass this one over because Ivy is anything but that. In style, it is a literary thriller, simultaneously propulsive and evocative. Reading White Ivy is supposed to make you uncomfortable and question your own biased perspectives.
Spine Logo: No
Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life by Christie TateGroup: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life by Christie Tate
Published by Avid Reader Press / Simon Schuster on October 27, 2020
The refreshingly original debut memoir of a guarded, over-achieving, self-lacerating young lawyer who reluctantly agrees to get psychologically and emotionally naked in a room of six complete strangers—her psychotherapy group—and in turn finds human connection, and herself.
Christie Tate had just been named the top student in her law school class and finally had her eating disorder under control. Why then was she driving through Chicago fantasizing about her own death? Why was she envisioning putting an end to the isolation and sadness that still plagued her in spite of her achievements?
Enter Dr. Rosen, a therapist who calmly assures her that if she joins one of his psychotherapy groups, he can transform her life. All she has to do is show up and be honest. About everything—her eating habits, childhood, sexual history, etc. Christie is skeptical, insisting that that she is defective, beyond cure. But Dr. Rosen issues a nine-word prescription that will change everything: “You don’t need a cure, you need a witness.
So begins her entry into the strange, terrifying, and ultimately life-changing world of group therapy. Christie is initially put off by Dr. Rosen’s outlandish directives, but as her defenses break down and she comes to trust Dr. Rosen and to depend on the sessions and the prescribed nightly phone calls with various group members, she begins to understand what it means to connect.
Group is a deliciously addictive read, and with Christie as our guide—skeptical of her own capacity for connection and intimacy, but hopeful in spite of herself—we are given a front row seat to the daring, exhilarating, painful, and hilarious journey that is group therapy—an under-explored process that breaks you down, and then reassembles you so that all the pieces finally fit.
At A Glance: In a similar vein as Maybe You Should Talk To Someone, but is a memoir style story set around a series of group therapy sessions. We should be upfront and say that reviews on this debut memoir are extremely mixed and accompanied by very strong opinions lauding its praises or condemning its flaws. On the pros side, many reviewers felt it was a fine distraction from the woes of a pandemic ridden world thanks to the author’s wit and humorous narrative style. However, the book is drawing significant criticism for the relationship between the therapist and Tate, as well as for the somewhat murky ethics of writing about group therapy sessions, which necessarily include other people’s issues.
Spine Logo: Yes
Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee MalloyGoodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy
on October 13, 2020
Newlyweds Sam Statler and Annie Potter are head over heels, and excited to say good-bye to New York and start a life together in Sam's sleepy hometown in upstate New York. Or, it turns out, a life where Annie spends most of her time alone while Sam, her therapist husband, works long hours in his downstairs office, tending to the egos of his (mostly female) clientele.
Little does Sam know that through a vent in his ceiling, every word of his sessions can be heard from the room upstairs. The pharmacist's wife, contemplating a divorce. The well-known painter whose boyfriend doesn’t satisfy her in bed. Who could resist listening? Everything is fine until the French girl in the green mini Cooper shows up, and Sam decides to go to work and not come home, throwing a wrench into Sam and Annie's happily ever after.
At A Glance: BOTM surely loves a good psychological relationship-driven thriller, and why wouldn’t they?! These have been incredibly popular over the last few years and this one sounds great. We can’t say much because all of the various reviews say that this one is best handled going in blind, but if you love a psychological thriller, this one is a great add on to consider.
Spine Logo: Yes
Overall Diversity Rating
Like we’ve said before, we do like to try to keep BOTM honest to their commitment to diversify their selections and this month they did a pretty good job. 2/5 of the main picks are from authors of color and virtually all are female authors. We’re also so much happier this month with the focus on little known authors or not-as-popular books. This is why we come to BOTM and we are thrilled to see them returning to form this month.
- Authors of Color: 3/8 = 38%
- Female Authors: 7/8 = 88%
- LGBTQIA+: 1/8 = 13%
- Repeat Authors = 2/8 = 25%
- Debut Novels = 3/8 = 38% (NOTE: We aren’t counting Pretty Little Wife as a Debut, even though BOTM is)
What About You?
How did you like these choices? What will be in your box? Did we miss anything? Can’t wait to chat with you in the comments!