Book of the Month At A Glance- February 2021

Posted January 30, 2021 by stuckint in Book Subscriptions, BOTM / 21 Comments

Hello everyone and welcome to another At A Glance post, a monthly post where I try to provide insight into Book of the Month’s monthly book selections so you can spend less time deciding and more time reading.

Overall, my impression this month is that the picks were quite diverse, including three stories that feature immigration, a solid f/f romance, and more than half the selections were written by authors of color. I was happy to see two ownvoices novels with romantic elements for Valentine’s Day and a handful of black authors featured- though I think they could have chosen a few more, but I digress.

As always, if there is some thing I am not including in these posts that you would love to see just reach out and let me know! I do this post for all of you and want it to be as helpful as possible.

Main Picks

The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson (Contemporary Fiction)

The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson
Published by William Morrow on February 1, 2021
Pages: 336

A promise could betray you.
It’s 2008, and the rise of Barack Obama ushers in a new kind of hope. In Chicago, Ruth Tuttle, an Ivy-League educated black engineer, is married to a kind and successful man. He’s eager to start a family, but Ruth is uncertain. She has never gotten over the baby she gave birth to—and abandoned—when she was a teenager. She had promised her family she’d never look back, but Ruth knows that to move forward, she must make peace with the past.
Returning home, Ruth discovers the Indiana factory town of her youth is plagued by unemployment, racism, and despair. While her family is happy to see her, they remind her of the painful sacrifices to give Ruth a shot at a better future—like the comfortable middle-class life she now enjoys.
Determined, Ruth begins digging into the past. As she uncovers burning secrets her family desperately wants to hide, she unexpectedly befriends Midnight, a young white boy who is also adrift and looking for connection. When a traumatic incident strains the town’s already searing racial tensions, Ruth and Midnight find themselves on a collision course that could upend both their lives.
The Kindest Lie examines the heartbreaking divide between black and white communities and plumbs the emotional depths of the struggles faced by ordinary Americans in the wake of the financial crisis. Capturing the profound racial injustices and class inequalities roiling society, Nancy Johnson’s debut novel offers an unflinching view of motherhood in contemporary America and the never-ending quest to achieve the American Dream.

I was thrilled to see The Kindest Lie as a pick if for no other reason than I had a hunch and my hunch was correct. First and foremost, this book gives me major Little Fires Everywhere vibes and I mean that in the best possible way. Set in rural Indiana, The Kindest Lie follows Ruth who, as a teenage, gave birth to a child and then left to make a life for herself at Yale. The novel is all about her experience returning to her hometown and being forced to face her past mistakes and all the people- and secrets- that she left behind. This one is a must read for anyone who is looking for anti racist literature that explores classism, racism and motherhood. Reviewers describe Johnson’s debut as: brilliant, heart-wrenching, and gorgeously nuanced. Ruth is a relatable protagonist who must grapple with past mistakes in the hopes of building a better future. The catharsis of the novel is set against the results of the 2008 US presidential election, with glimmers of hope and redemption at the heart of the story. I definitely think The Kindest Lie will be everywhere and its an important conversation you don’t want to miss out on.

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers (Contemporary/ Romance)

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers
Published by Park Row on February 23, 2021
Pages: 304

A refreshingly timely and relatable debut novel about a young woman whose life plans fall apart when she meets her wife.
With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She’s a straight A, work-through-the-summer certified high achiever. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that.
This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her father’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows.
In New York, she’s able to ignore all the annoying questions about her future plans and falls hard for her creative and beautiful wife, Yuki Yamamoto. But when reality comes crashing in, Grace must face what she’s been running from all along—the fears that make us human, the family scars that need to heal and the longing for connection, especially when navigating the messiness of adulthood.

I might be showing my hand a little but I am positively delighted that Book of the Month chose Honey Girl. This contemporary features a f/f romance and the married in Vegas trope but flips the trope from friends who accidentally get married to complete strangers that don’t even know one another’s names. The novel is rife with queer found family, stars a BIPOC lesbian protagonist and is being compared to Red White and Royal Blue. Are you excited yet? Overwhelmingly, reviewers seem to agree that Honey Girl is contemporary with romantic elements. It’s a little heavier than one might consider a romance to be (think Beach Read though arguably not as visceral). In fact, if reviewers had a single, shared complaint it is that there was not enough romance. But Honey Girl is as much about friendships as it is about Grace and Yuki working through the awkwardness and messiness of marrying someone you don’t know. It’s heartfelt but complicated. Regardless, Honey Girl is a real and relatable story featuring a messy, lesbian relationship. I have high hopes for this one.

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel (Literary Fiction)

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel
Published by Avid Reader Press on February 1, 2021
Pages: 208

For readers of Valeria Luiselli and Edwidge Danticat, an urgent and lyrical novel about a Colombian family fractured by deportation, offering an intimate perspective on an experience that so many have endured—and are enduring right now.
At the dawn of the new millennium, Colombia is a country devastated by half a century of violence. Elena and Mauro are teenagers when they meet, their blooming love an antidote to the mounting brutality of life in Bogotá. Once their first daughter is born, and facing grim economic prospects, they set their sights on the United States.
They travel to Houston and send wages back to Elena’s mother, all the while weighing whether to risk overstaying their tourist visas or to return to Bogotá. As their family expands, and they move again and again, their decision to ignore their exit dates plunges the young family into the precariousness of undocumented status, the threat of discovery menacing a life already strained. When Mauro is deported, Elena, now tasked with caring for their three small children, makes a difficult choice that will ease her burdens but splinter the family even further.
Award-winning, internationally acclaimed author Patricia Engel, herself the daughter of Colombian immigrants and a dual citizen, gives voice to Mauro and Elena, as well as their children, Karina, Nando, and Talia—each one navigating a divided existence, weighing their allegiance to the past, the future, to one another, and to themselves. Rich with Bogotá urban life, steeped in Andean myth, and tense with the daily reality for the undocumented in America, Infinite Country is the story of two countries and one mixed-status family—for whom every triumph is stitched with regret and every dream pursued bears the weight of a dream deferred.

I am thrilled to see Infinite Country as a pick for February. This is the ownvoices LatinX novel that many of us have been waiting for from Book of the Month. Told in two timelines, the novel follows Talia, who was born in America but was raised by her father and maternal grandmother in Bogotá, Columbia. Her story follows the time that she spent at a correction school in the northern highlands of the country. The second timeline features Talia’s parents, and their time falling in love. Readers should go in understanding the varying styles of these POVS, including a fourth POV that book ends the bulk of the story. Some reviewers have complained about the lack of dialogue throughout the story while others have raved about the interweaving of Columbian/Andean myths into the story. This emotional, immigrant story is perfect for those wanting a glimpse into the difficulties of immigrants and what it means to belong. TW: sexual assault.

Girl A by Abigail Dean (Literary/Domestic Fiction)

Girl A by Abigail Dean
Published by Viking on January 2, 2021
Pages: 352

For readers of Room and Sharp Objects, a propulsive and psychologically immersive novel about a young girl who escapes captivity--but not the secrets that shadow the rest of her life.
"'Girl A, ' she said. 'The girl who escaped. If anyone was going to make it, it was going to be you.'"
Lex Gracie doesn't want to think about her family. She doesn't want to think about growing up in her parents' House of Horrors. And she doesn't want to think about her identity as Girl A: the girl who escaped, the eldest sister who freed her older brother and four younger siblings. It's been easy enough to avoid her parents--her father never made it out of the House of Horrors he created, and her mother spent the rest of her life behind bars. But when her mother dies in prison and leaves Lex and her siblings the family home, she can't run from her past any longer. Together with her sister, Evie, Lex intends to turn the House of Horrors into a force for good. But first she must come to terms with her siblings - and with the childhood they shared.
What begins as a propulsive tale of escape and survival becomes a gripping psychological family story about the shifting alliances and betrayals of sibling relationships--about the secrets our siblings keep, from themselves and each other. Who have each of these siblings become? How do their memories defy or galvanize Lex's own? As Lex pins each sibling down to agree to her family's final act, she discovers how potent the spell of their shared family mythology is, and who among them remains in its thrall and who has truly broken free.

I am going to be very clear about this: Girl A is NOT a thriller. I repeat, Girl A is NOT a thriller. It’s being marketed as one in some circles and Book of the Month might try to say it is, but it’s not. It’s a dark, coming of age story about a young woman who escapes her abusive home and serves as a literary, character study of how people survive childhood trauma in varying ways. Trigger warnings for violence and abuse mentioned on the page- but reviewers are unanimous that it does not become gratuitous or unnecessary. Throughout the novel, the reader meets each of Lex’s (Girl A’s) siblings and how each sibling has been impacted by the horrors they suffered as children. Despite the difficult subject matter, Dean handles everything with sensitivity and care. Again, this not a thriller, know that going in.

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah (Historical Fiction)

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
Published by St. Martin's Press on February 1, 2021
Pages: 464

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Nightingale and The Great Alone comes an epic novel of love and heroism and hope, set against the backdrop of one of America’s most defining eras—the Great Depression.
Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work and a drought has broken the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as the crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all. One of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl era, has arrived with a vengeance.
In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life. The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American Dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.

I don’t know that Hannah’s latest novel needs an introduction but it’s the epitome of the historical epic. The Four Winds is set during The Great Depression/Dust Bowl in 1930s Texas and follows Elsa Martinelli, raising her two kids alone, who must decide whether to stay and fight for her farm, or head west and start over in California. Elsa’s story is brutal and visceral, there is nothing easy about it. From what I can tell, if you are someone who cries in books, prepare yourself. The Four Winds gives me serious Grapes of Wrath vibes with a much more feminist bent. It seems a fitting read in light of all the hardship so many have endured in the past year. There are very few negative reviews associated with this book but what I can tell is if you loved Hannah’s other works of historical fiction you will love this new addition to her repertoire. However, if you preferred her earlier works like Night Road, you may not enjoy The Four Winds as much.

Add Ons

We Could Be Heroes by Mike Chen (Science Fiction)

We Could Be Heroes by Mike Chen
Published by Mira Books on January 6, 2021
Pages: 384

An extraordinary and emotional adventure about unlikely friends and the power of choosing who you want to be.
Jamie woke up in an empty apartment with no memory and only a few clues to his identity, but with the ability to read and erase other people’s memories—a power he uses to hold up banks to buy coffee, cat food and books.
Zoe is also searching for her past, and using her abilities of speed and strength…to deliver fast food. And she’ll occasionally put on a cool suit and beat up bad guys, if she feels like it.
When the archrivals meet in a memory-loss support group, they realize the only way to reveal their hidden pasts might be through each other. As they uncover an ongoing threat, suddenly much more is at stake than their fragile friendship. With countless people at risk, Zoe and Jamie will have to recognize that sometimes being a hero starts with trusting someone else—and yourself.

Now you might be sitting there rolling your eyes, thinking that super heroes and super hero stories have been done to desth. A few months ago I would have agreed with you. But then I stumbled across books like Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots and now We Could Be Heroes by Mike Chen. It’s a sci fi novel, set in our contemporary world, that feature a platonic friendships- a rare sight in literature these days. A superhero and a super villain wake up, not knowing who they are or why they have amazing abilities. The story that follows is simultaneously heartwarming and a refreshing read with diversity and LGBTQIA+ rep. Generally reviewers seem to enjoy this one and complain that they wanted more in terms of character development and plot. I think this one would be a good pick for anyone looking for a popcorn read with plenty of representation and an intriguing premise.

The Bad Muslim Discount by Sayed M. Masood (Contemporary Fiction)

The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M. Masood
Published by Doubleday Books on February 1, 2021
Pages: 368

Following two families from Pakistan and Iraq in the 1990s to San Francisco in 2016, Bad Muslim Discount is a hilarious, timely, and provocative comic novel about being Muslim immigrants in modern America. For fans of Hanif Kureshi, Mira Jacob, and Mohammed Hanif.
It is 1995, and Anvar Faris is a restless, rebellious, and sharp-tongued boy doing his best to grow up in Karachi, Pakistan. As fundamentalists in the government become increasingly strident and the zealots next door start roaming the streets in gangs to help make Islam great again, his family decides, not quite unanimously, to start life over in California. The irony is not lost on Anvar that in America, his deeply devout mother and his model-Muslim brother are the ones who fit right in with the tightly knit and gossipy Desi community. Anvar wants more.
At the same time, thousands of miles away, Safwa, a young girl suffocating in war-torn Baghdad with her grief-stricken, conservative father will find a very different and far more dangerous path to America. These two narratives are intrinsically linked, and when their worlds come together, the fates of two remarkably different people intertwine and set off a series of events that rock their whole community to its core.
The Bad Muslim Discount is an irreverent, dramatic, and often hysterically funny debut novel by an amazing new voice. With deep insight, warmth, and an irreverent sense of humor, Syed Masood examines quirky and intense familial relationships, arranged marriage, Islamic identity, and how to live together in modern America.

I had heard about this one thanks to some bookish podcasts that I listen to who cover new releases- I’m looking at you Professional Book Nerds. Unfortunately, I was denied on Netgalley for an ARC but that didn’t quell my enthusiasm for the book or hinder me from adding it to one of my boxes this month. This is the second immigration story on the list but this one features Azza, who immigrated to the United States from Bagdad with her abusive father and not-much-better fiance. There is also Anvar and his family who immigrated from Pakistan. Anvar is cynical about the world and living in the shadow of his older brother. In fact, the humor that comes from this raw difficult story is largely due to his caustic humor and witty observations about the world around him. The biggest complaint I have found from reviewers was the frustration that The Bad Muslim Discount was not as it first appeared. Maybe that is the common thread connecting so many of February’s BOTM picks. Some blurbs would have you believe that the novel is “laugh out loud funny” and “hysterical.” But The Bad Muslim Discount tackles difficult subjects of domestic violence, religious extremism, and racism- to name a few. I definitely think this one is worth picking up, especially for fans of Book of the Month favorites like A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum and Behold The Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue.

Send For Me by Lauren Fox (Historical Fiction)

Send for Me by Lauren Fox
Published by Knopf Publishing Group on February 1, 2021
Pages: 272

An achingly beautiful work of historical fiction that moves between Germany on the eve of World War II and present day Wisconsin, unspooling a thread of love, longing, and the ceaseless push and pull of family

Annelise is a dreamer: imagining her future while working at her parents' popular bakery in Feldenheim, Germany, anticipating all the delicious possibilities yet to come. There are rumors that anti-Jewish sentiment is on the rise, but Annelise and her parents can't quite believe that it will affect them; they're hardly religious at all. But as Annelise falls in love, marries, and gives birth to her daughter, the dangers grow closer: a brick thrown through her window; a childhood friend who cuts ties with her; customers refusing to patronize the bakery. Luckily Annelise and her husband are given the chance to leave for America, but they must go without her parents, whose future and safety are uncertain.
Two generations later, in a small Midwestern city, Annelise's granddaughter, Clare, is a young woman newly in love. But when she stumbles upon a trove of her grandmother's letters from Germany, she sees the history of her family's sacrifices in a new light, and suddenly she's faced with an impossible choice: the past, or her future. A novel of dazzling emotional richness, Send for Me is a major departure for this acclaimed author, an epic and intimate exploration of mothers and daughters, duty and obligation, hope and forgiveness.

I had not heard about this one until it became an add on for Book of the Month but it seems like a solid historical fiction pick. Told in two timelines, the first is set in Germany at the outset of WWII and the other is set in present day Wisconsin- where the author is originally from. Like so many other Book of the Month picks, Send For Me is a multigenerational saga that explores what it is like to be a recent Jewish immigrant and the impact immigration has on subsequent generations. The first narrator is Annelise, who immigrates with her daughter. The second narrator is Annelise’s granddaughter Clare, who finds a trunk full of Annelise’s letters decades later. Reviewers described the epistolary elements of the novel as one of its most moving and evocative aspects of the story. Sweeping in scope, the novel explores issues of familial trauma, grief and loss. The only complaint that I can consistently find from reviewers is that at times, especially in the first half of the book, it was difficult to differentiate which character was telling the story. But honestly, the negative reviews are sparse and half hearted at best. If you love WWII historical fiction, you’ll definitely want to pick this one up.

Diversity Breakdown

As I said above, Book of the Month did well this month. I think they could have chosen one or two more picks by BIPOC authors- it is Black History Month after all- but as far as ownvoices novels are concerned they did well and the majority of the books they chose were by women. I think they could really improve by featuring more ownvoices novels about LGBTQIA+ characters. With all that said, one of my words for 2021 is grace and so I am thrilled to see Book of the Month’s progress and can only hope they continue to diversify their selections. We all deserve to see ourselves represented in the pages of a good book.

  • Authors of Color: 5/8 = 63%
  • Female Authors: 6/8 = 75%
  • LGBTQIA+: 2/8 = 25%
  • Repeat Authors: 2/8 = 25%
  • Debut Novels: 3/8 = 38%

In My Box This Month:

Box 1

Box 2

What About You?

What did you add to your box this month? Are there any books that you plan to get as add ons next month’s thanks to my post? What do you think of my picks? Let me know in the comments!

21 responses to “Book of the Month At A Glance- February 2021

  1. John Connorton

    I wasnt overly impressed with the BOTM selections this month from a diversity standpoint. I picked girl a and the kindest lie and will definitely keep my options open for the other main picks as addons for a future date

  2. Armagan butler

    I got all of your picks also and picked up No Exit as a BD add on … I can’t wait to get lost in all of these books especially the bad Muslim discount (Turkish immigrant here) and the four winds since I have been anticipating this since last year … thank you for your very insightful reviews 🙏

  3. Erika Vogel

    Thank you for your post! I chose Four Winds and Girl A. I loved the choices for this month. I wish they let you pick more than three books per month vs. having an additional account. Maybe, charge $12.99 per book after the first three. Your reviews are great and I love the breakdown. I personally don’t look at the author before I choose a book - I usually end up with a diverse selection and love all topics. I am happy they lightened up on the thriller choices as well. I will definitely be adding the other selections as add ons in the next few months, esp the Kindest Lie! Great job BOTM!

    • stuckint

      Yes! I am glad that they are moving away from picking so many thrillers all the time. I have been surprised to see so little nonfiction.

  4. Annie

    I was so excited about this month’s picks! I had the hardest time choosing but went with The Four Winds, The Kindest Lie and The Bad Muslim Discount. I put Honey Girl and Infinite Country in my TBR. Love your blog, Haley! 🙂

  5. Lauren King

    I wanted 5 books! I was lucky enough to get 4 either through netgalley or on a reasonably short list at the library, so I only ended up buying The Kindest Lie. My first box with just 1 book in a looooong time - my wallet is happy, lol.

    • stuckint

      I don’t know that I have ever only chosen one book. I also had a few of these from Netgalley but I decided I still wanted to own physical copies so I filled two boxes. 😂

  6. Erika Vogel

    Agreed! I am surprised they did not include A Knock at Midnight by Brittany Barnett in one of their selections. If you are looking for a non-fiction read, I highly recommend it!

  7. Robyn

    I love your posts and look forward each month to reading your take on the BOTM picks. Last month I would not have chose any had I not read your post! This month I chose The Kindest Lie as my BOTM pick and I added on Girl A and The Vanishing Half. Thanks as always for posting your thoughts!!

  8. Diane Porter

    Thank you for this. I haven’t chosen yet, and usually go to Amazon to read reviews before deciding. I too wish they would include more authors of color in their monthly selections. I always wonder who is choosing the final selections.

  9. Jenava

    Always look forward to your posts. I already had Infinite Country and The Kindest Lie in my box, then added Girl A after reading this!

  10. Shannon

    As always thanks for these breakdowns. Can’t wait to see what you predict for March. You always get at least half of the selections right which is impressive.

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