Hello everyone and welcome back to another What’s In The Box post, where I make predictions for next month’s Book of the Month picks.
There are so many amazing books coming out in August, I had a really hard time narrowing it down. You’ll notice that my honorable mentions consist entirely of thrillers this month because there are so many coming out and I honestly no idea which one(s) Book of the Month will choose.
Keep in mind that these are simply guesses and I could get most or all of them wrong. Be that as it may, I hope my guesses get you excited for August and bring some under the radar titles to your attention.
Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghyOnce There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy
Published by Flatiron Books Pages: 272
From the author of the beloved national bestseller Migrations, a pulse-pounding new novel set in the wild Scottish Highlands.
Inti Flynn arrives in Scotland with her twin sister, Aggie, to lead a team of biologists tasked with reintroducing fourteen gray wolves into the remote Highlands. She hopes to heal not only the dying landscape, but Aggie, too, unmade by the terrible secrets that drove the sisters out of Alaska.
Inti is not the woman she once was, either, changed by the harm she’s witnessed—inflicted by humans on both the wild and each other. Yet as the wolves surprise everyone by thriving, Inti begins to let her guard down, even opening herself up to the possibility of love. But when a farmer is found dead, Inti knows where the town will lay blame. Unable to accept her wolves could be responsible, Inti makes a reckless decision to protect them. But if the wolves didn’t make the kill, then who did? And what will Inti do when the man she is falling for seems to be the prime suspect?
Propulsive and spell-binding, Charlotte McConaghy's Once There Were Wolves is the unforgettable story of a woman desperate to save the creatures she loves—if she isn’t consumed by a wild that was once her refuge.
I feel like lately, Book of the Month has been offering some more reflective titles that are meant to make the reader think deeply about humanity and our relationship to the natural world. Which is why Once There Were Wolves is on my list. Set in the Scottish Highlands, this short but powerful novel from the same author as Migrations, follows Inti and her twin sister Aggie as they, alongside a team of Biologists, attempt to reintroduce fourteen grey wolves into the highlands. The novel is as much an examination of their conservation effort as it is about the sisters themselves and their attempt to heal from past traumas. Simultaneously wild and provocative, Once There Were Wolves seems reminiscent of past selections like When The Stars Go Dark and Girl A, a sort of literary suspense that makes the reader think and dig a little deeper. Blurbed by Emily St. John Mandel, Once There Were Wolves is worth picking up whether it’s a Book of the Month pick or not.
Damnation Spring by Ash DavidsonDamnation Spring by Ash Davidson
Published by Scribner Pages: 464
An epic, immersive debut, Damnation Spring is the deeply human story of a Pacific Northwest logging town wrenched in two by a mystery that threatens to derail its way of life.
For generations, Rich Gundersen’s family has chopped a livelihood out of the redwood forest along California’s rugged coast. Now Rich and his wife, Colleen, are raising their own young son near Damnation Grove, a swath of ancient redwoods on which Rich’s employer, Sanderson Timber Co., plans to make a killing. In 1977, with most of the forest cleared or protected, a grove like Damnation—and beyond it 24-7 Ridge—is a logger’s dream.
It’s dangerous work. Rich has already lived decades longer than his father, killed on the job. Rich wants better for his son, Chub, so when the opportunity arises to buy 24-7 Ridge—costing them all the savings they’ve squirreled away for their growing family—he grabs it, unbeknownst to Colleen. Because the reality is their family isn’t growing; Colleen has lost several pregnancies. And she isn’t alone. As a midwife, Colleen has seen it with her own eyes.
For decades, the herbicides the logging company uses were considered harmless. But Colleen is no longer so sure. What if these miscarriages aren’t isolated strokes of bad luck? As mudslides take out clear-cut hillsides and salmon vanish from creeks, her search for answers threatens to unravel not just Rich’s plans for the 24-7, but their marriage too, dividing a town that lives and dies on timber along the way.
Told from the perspectives of Rich, Colleen, and Chub, in prose as clear as a spring-fed creek, this intimate, compassionate portrait of a community clinging to a vanishing way of life amid the perils of environmental degradation makes Damnation Spring an essential novel for our time.
Set in the pacific northwest, this character driven debut explores the lives of the residents in a rural logging town, grappling with a mystery that could destroy the town and upset its way of life. Told from three alternating perspectives, the novel follows Rich Gunderson, his wife and local midwife Colleen, and his son Chub as they face the realities of an incredibly dangerous job and navigate the struggles that come from generational poverty. For readers who enjoyed books like Landslide by Susan Conley and The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller, Damnation Spring is a gritty but realistic look at rural, blue collar life in America. It is also blurbed by past Book of the Moth selection Madhuri Vijay, author of the literary novel The Far Field (a December 2018 selection). If you loved family sagas like Ask Again Yes and The Poisonwood Bible, you’ll want to pick up this title up.
LA Weather by María Amparo EscandónL.A. Weather by María Amparo Escandón
Published by Flatiron Books Pages: 336
FORECAST: Storm clouds are on the horizon in this fun, fast-paced novel of an affluent Mexican-American family from the author of the #1 Los Angeles Times bestseller Esperanza’s Box of Saints
L.A. is parched, dry as a bone, and all Oscar, the weather-obsessed patriarch of the Alvarado family, desperately wants is a little rain. He’s harboring a costly secret that distracts him from everything else. His wife, Keila, desperate for a life with a little more intimacy and a little less Weather Channel, feels she has no choice but to end their marriage. Their three daughters—Claudia, a television chef with a hard-hearted attitude; Olivia, a successful architect who suffers from gentrification guilt; and Patricia, a social media wizard who has an uncanny knack for connecting with audiences but not with her lovers—are blindsided and left questioning everything they know. Each will have to take a critical look at her own relationships and make some tough decisions along the way.
With quick wit and humor, Maria Amparo Escandón follows the Alvarado family as they wrestle with impending evacuations, secrets, deception, and betrayal, and their toughest decision yet: whether to stick together or burn it all down.
An early release if Book of the Month selects it for August, LA Weather follows a Mexican-American family, the Alvarados, as they hope for rain and are rocked by the revelation that Kellia wants a divorce from her husband Oscar. Now everyone, including Oscar and Kellia’s three daughters must wrestle with the paradigm shattering news. It’s a story about family and how major events force us to examine so many aspects of our personal lives. It’s also a story about environmentalism, how our personal and professional relationships shape us, and what it means to be family when everything feels like it’s falling apart. While LA Weather is not blurbed by any previous Book of the Month author, it’s caustic wit and loveable characters make it a strong contender for an early August release or September pick. Let’s not forget that it has rave reviews from a plethora of ownvoices reviewers and from major review sources like Publisher Weekly and Kirkus.
The Women of Troy by Pat BarkerThe Women of Troy by Pat Barker
Published by Doubleday Pages: 304
Following her bestselling, critically acclaimed The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker continues her extraordinary retelling of one of our greatest myths.Troy has fallen. The Greeks have won their bitter war. They can return home victors, loaded with their spoils: their stolen gold, stolen weapons, stolen women. All they need is a good wind to lift their sails.
But the wind does not come. The gods have been offended - the body of Priam lies desecrated, unburied - and so the victors remain in limbo, camped in the shadow of the city they destroyed, pacing at the edge of an unobliging sea. And, in these empty, restless days, the hierarchies that held them together begin to fray, old feuds resurface and new suspicions fester.
Largely unnoticed by her squabbling captors, Briseis remains in the Greek encampment. She forges alliances where she can - with young, dangerously naïve Amina, with defiant, aged Hecuba, with Calchus, the disgraced priest - and begins to see the path to a kind of revenge. Briseis has survived the Trojan War, but peacetime may turn out to be even more dangerous...
Not only is Pat Barker a repeat Book of the Month author, but her latest novel, The Women of Troy, picks up pretty close to where The Silence of the Girls left off. The novel follows Briseis, who is left grieving after the death of Achilles. While everyone waits for favorable winds from the gods so that the ships may begin their voyage home, she aligns herself with Priam’s widow Hecuba and the shamed soothsayer Calchas. But really what Briseis wants is revenge. While the Women of Troy is not blurbed by any previous Book of the Month authors, it would fit comfortably into Book of the Month penchant for feminist retellings of classic stories. Mostly recently I’m thinking of Ariadne by Jennifer Saint and Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian. Additionally, the story explores themes of grief, resilience, and trauma. The reader is also provided the POV of Achilles’ son, who struggles with the weight of his father’s legacy. There is so much to love about this novel, both for those who adore mythology retellings and reimaginings and readers looking for a character study of how different people handle and process the aftermath of war and the loss that inevitably accompanies it.
The Ophelia Girls by Jane HealeyThe Ophelia Girls by Jane Healey
Published by Mariner Books Pages: 368
A mother’s secret past and her daughter’s present collide in this richly atmospheric novel from the acclaimed author of The Animals at Lockwood Manor.
In the summer of 1973, Ruth and her four friends were obsessed with pre-Raphaelite paintings—and a little bit obsessed with each other. Drawn to the cold depths of the river by Ruth’s house, the girls pretend to be the drowning Ophelia, with increasingly elaborate tableaus. But by the end of that fateful summer, real tragedy finds them along the banks.
Twenty-four years later, Ruth returns to the suffocating, once grand house she grew up in, the mother of young twins and seventeen-year-old Maeve. Joining the family in the country is Stuart, Ruth’s childhood friend, who is quietly insinuating himself into their lives and gives Maeve the attention she longs for. She is recently in remission, unsure of her place in the world now that she is cancer-free. Her parents just want her to be an ordinary teenage girl. But what teenage girl is ordinary?
Alternating between the two fateful summers, The Ophelia Girls is a suspense-filled exploration of mothers and daughters, illicit desire, and the perils and power of being a young woman.
This richly atmospheric novel from the same author who wrote The Ophelia Girls is a dual timeline novel about mothers and daughters, dark secrets, and what it means to be a woman. The first timeline is set in the summer of 1978, where Ruth and her Raphaelite-obsessed friends reenact the painting of The Drowning Ophelia in the river behind Ruth’s home. As you can imagine, in the Secret History-esque scenario, the sweltering summer full of passion, art and intense obsession, ends in tragedy. Fast forward nearly twenty five years and Ruth returns to her childhood home with young twins and seventeen year old Maeve. When Stuart, Ruth’s childhood friend, joins them things start to get weird and quite disturbing. Not only does the book contain popular Book of the Month themes of girls growing up, the complexity of mother-daughter relationships, and the dangers of obsession, The Ophelia Girls is blurbed by previous Book of the Month authors Elisa R. Sloan (The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes) and Sara Flannery Murphy (The Possessions). The novel promises page turning suspense, well developed characters, and a strong sense of place.
Velvet Was The Night by Sylvia Moreno GarciaVelvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Published by Del Rey Pages: 304
From the New York Times bestselling author of Mexican Gothic comes a “delicious, twisted treat for lovers of noir” about a daydreaming secretary, a lonesome enforcer, and the mystery of a missing woman they’re both desperate to find.
1970s, Mexico City. Maite is a secretary who lives for one thing: the latest issue of Secret Romance. While student protests and political unrest consume the city, Maite escapes into stories of passion and danger.
Her next-door neighbor, Leonora, a beautiful art student, seems to live a life of intrigue and romance that Maite envies. When Leonora disappears under suspicious circumstances, Maite finds herself searching for the missing woman—and journeying deeper into Leonora’s secret life of student radicals and dissidents.
Meanwhile, someone else is also looking for Leonora at the behest of his boss, a shadowy figure who commands goon squads dedicated to squashing political activists. Elvis is an eccentric criminal who longs to escape his own life: He loathes violence and loves old movies and rock ’n’ roll. But as Elvis searches for the missing woman, he comes to observe Maite from a distance—and grows more and more obsessed with this woman who shares his love of music and the unspoken loneliness of his heart.
Now as Maite and Elvis come closer to discovering the truth behind Leonora’s disappearance, they can no longer escape the danger that threatens to consume their lives, with hitmen, government agents, and Russian spies all aiming to protect Leonora’s secrets—at gunpoint.
Velvet Was the Night is an edgy, simmering historical novel for lovers of smoky noirs and anti-heroes.
As a repeat author, I think we will see at least one Sylvia Moreno Garcia novel as a pick or add on in the next few months. I’m just not sure if Book of the Month will choose Velvet Was the Night or Certain Dark Things since its getting a reprint. Regardless, I think both should be on your radar and so I have included Velvet for my August predictions. Set in 1970s Mexico City, Moreno’s tale features an amateur sleuth obsessed with romance novels (Instructions for Dancing anyone?) and who sets out to discover what happened to her neighbor who has gone missing. In her search, she teams up with a gangster who has secrets of his own. Not only does its noir feel, strong sense of place, and solid character development make it a strong contender for August, but it’s also blurbed quite favorably by Simone St. James (The Broken Girls, The Sundown Motel) and SA Cosby (Razorblade Tears). Its historical fiction with suspenseful and atmospheric writing that I think will be absolutely irresistible to genre and literary lovers alike.
My Heart Is A Chainsaw by Stephen Graham JonesMy Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
Published by Gallery / Saga Press Pages: 416
In her quickly gentrifying rural lake town Jade sees recent events only her encyclopedic knowledge of horror films could have prepared her for in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature,
New York Times
bestselling author Stephen Graham Jones.
“Some girls just don’t know how to die…”
Shirley Jackson meets Friday the 13th in My Heart Is a Chainsaw, written by the author of The Only Good Indians Stephen Graham Jones, called “a literary master” by National Book Award winner Tananarive Due and “one of our most talented living writers” by Tommy Orange.
Alma Katsu calls My Heart Is a Chainsaw “a homage to slasher films that also manages to defy and transcend genre.” On the surface is a story of murder in small-town America. But beneath is its beating heart: a biting critique of American colonialism, Indigenous displacement, and gentrification, and a heartbreaking portrait of a broken young girl who uses horror movies to cope with the horror of her own life.
Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.
Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges…a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body. My Heart Is a Chainsaw is her story, her homage to horror and revenge and triumph.
This is definitely wishful thinking on my part, though Book of the Month has occasionally dabbled in the horror side of the thriller genre with books like The Whisper Man by Alex North and Mexican Gothic by Sylvia Moreno Garcia, so my dream isn’t entirely baseless, even if it is quite unlikely. The latest offering from Stephen Graham Jones is about a girl who adores slasher movies and I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t that just like Charlie from Survive the Night? My response, A little! But there is so much more to Jade and how her love of 80s slashers colors her worldview and narrative voice. Beyond all the horror/slasher tropes that she loves, My Heart Is A Chainsaw dives deeply and respectfully into issues of race, trauma, and social class. Stylistically complex and compelling, Jones offers the story of a native American girl who is forced to grapple with who she is and the place she wants to occupy in the world. Blurbed by Sylvia Moreno Garcia (Gods of Jade and Shadow and Mexican Gothic), My Heart Is A Chainsaw is being hailed as one of the horror novels of the year and you don’t want to miss it.
All’s Well by Mona AwadAll's Well by Mona Awad
From the critically acclaimed author of Bunny, a darkly funny novel about a theater professor suffering chronic pain, who in the process of staging a troubled production of Shakespeare’s most maligned play, suddenly and miraculously recovers.
Miranda Fitch’s life is a waking nightmare. The accident that ended her burgeoning acting career left her with excruciating, chronic back pain, a failed marriage, and a deepening dependence on painkillers. And now she’s on the verge of losing her job as a college theater director. Determined to put on Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well, the play that promised, and cost, her everything, she faces a mutinous cast hellbent on staging Macbeth instead. Miranda sees her chance at redemption slip through her fingers.
That’s when she meets three strange benefactors who have an eerie knowledge of Miranda’s past and a tantalizing promise for her future: one where the show goes on, her rebellious students get what’s coming to them, and the invisible, doubted pain that’s kept her from the spotlight is made known.
With prose Margaret Atwood has described as “no punches pulled, no hilarities dodged...genius,” Mona Awad has concocted her most potent, subversive novel yet. All’s Well is the story of a woman at her breaking point and a formidable, piercingly funny indictment of our collective refusal to witness and believe female pain.
I feel like I have been seeing this one everywhere. The author’s debut, Bunny, while met with mixed reviews, was deeply loved by those who enjoyed it and All’s Well promises more of the same darkly dazzling storytelling. The novel follows chronically ill Miranda, a down on her luck college theatre director, who is attempting to put on the Shakespeare’s play: All’s Well That Ends Well while her cast would much rather perform Macbeth. To make matters worse, her friends and family are tired of Miranda. Her husband has left her and she is developing an increasingly, concerning dependency on prescription painkillers. Then Miranda meets three omniscient benefactors who know far too much about her past and future. What follows is an exploration of female pain and the human condition and is perfect for those who like the macabre with touches of dark humor. There are a lot of things to recommend this novel from its unique voice to its chronically ill protagonist, as well as the themes mentioned above. It also holds water as a potential Book of the Month pick due to its glowing blurb from past Book of the Month author Lauren Groff (Fates and Furies). Having recently realized that I enjoy dark comedy in books, I will be reading this one with enthusiasm!
The Eternal Audience of One by Remy NigamjeThe Eternal Audience of One by Rémy Ngamije
Published by Gallery/Scout Press Pages: 384
The Eternal Audience of One
is laugh-out-loud funny with writing that is sometimes so beautiful that it dances off the page—to a millennial beat—in perfect tempo with its tales of migration, love, loss, and friendship.” —Sarah Ladipo Manyika, author of
Reminiscent of Zadie Smith and Michael Chabon, this “gorgeous, wildly funny and, above all, profoundly moving and humane” (Peter Orner, author of
Am I Alone Her
) coming-of-age tale follows a young man who is forced to flee his homeland of Rwanda during the Civil War and make sense of his reality.
Nobody ever makes it to the start of a story, not even the people in it. The most one can do is make some sort of start and then work toward some kind of ending.
One might as well start with Séraphin: playlist-maker, nerd-jock hybrid, self-appointed merchant of cool, Rwandan, stifled and living in Windhoek, Namibia. Soon he will leave the confines of his family life for the cosmopolitan city of Cape Town, in South Africa, where loyal friends, hormone-saturated parties, adventurous conquests, and race controversies await. More than that, his long-awaited final year in law school promises to deliver a crucial puzzle piece of the Great Plan immigrant: a degree from a prestigious university.
But a year is more than the sum of its parts, and en route to the future, the present must be lived through and even the past must be survived.
From one of Africa’s emerging literary voices comes a lyrical and piquant tale of family, migration, friendship, war, identity, and race following the intersecting lives of Séraphin and a host of eclectic characters from pre- and post-1994 Rwanda, colonial and post-independence Windhoek, Paris and Brussels in the 70s, Nairobi public schools, and the racially charged streets of Cape Town.
This lyrical, character-driven story is perfect for fans of previous Book of the Month picks like Sing Unburied Sing, The Vanishing Half, and A Burning. Ngamje’s debut is a gritty coming of age story set against the backdrop of Nambia in the 1990s- with some divergences into other decades and places. Our protagonist is Seraphin, who fled Rowanda in the wake of genocide and who wrestles with the pressures of choosing a career as he draws close to college graduation. He also struggles with the reality of being an immigrant. While there are humorous moments- think The Bad Muslim Discount- Nigamje examines difficult subjects in his debut novel, especially racial issues within southern Africa. Book of the Month tends to enjoy reflective coming of age tales like Betty and We Could Be Vikings and Eternal Audience of Once would fit right into the milieu. Additionally, it is blurbed by past Book of the Month author Candace Carty Williams (Queenie). I think with Book of the Month’s trend towards heavier, contemplative novels, The Eternal Audience of One had to be on my list of August predictions.
A Slow Fire Burning by Paula HawkinsA Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins
Published by Riverhead Books Pages: 320
9 hours, 20 minutes
The scorching new thriller from the number-one 'New York Times' best-selling author of 'The Girl on the Train'.
When a young man is found gruesomely murdered in a London houseboat, it triggers questions about three women who knew him. Laura is the troubled one-night-stand last seen in the victim’s home. Carla is his grief-stricken aunt, already mourning the recent death of yet another family member. And Miriam is the nosy neighbor clearly keeping secrets from the police. Three women with separate connections to the victim. Three women who are – for different reasons – simmering with resentment. Who are, whether they know it or not, burning to right the wrongs done to them. When it comes to revenge, even good people might be capable of terrible deeds. How far might any one of them go to find peace? How long can secrets smolder before they explode into flame?
Look what you started.
From the acclaimed author of Girl on the Train and Into the Water, Paula Hawkins is back with another pulse-pounding thriller that is sure to delight devoted fans and the uninitiated alike. A Slow Fire Burning follows three women who are loosely associated with a man who has been brutally murdered and found in his houseboat in the novel’s opening scenes. As much about solving the murder as it is about the events that shape us and our future actions, Hawkin’s latest promises to be a solid revenge story full of twists and turns. Not only is Hawkins a repeat author with Into the Water being featured as an add on some years ago, but her latest book is blurbed by previous Book of the Month authors Ashley Audrain (The Push- an incredibly popular title chosen as an add on in January 2020) and Lisa Jewel- whose books have been chosen both as main picks and add ons numerous times in the past. While I’m never comfortable claiming that a thriller author is a shoe-in as a pick (except for perhaps Riley Sager of course), I do think the chances are good that A Slow Fire Burning is a pick. But we’ll just have to wait and see for sure.
The Turnout by Megan AbbottThe Turnout by Megan Abbott
Bestselling and award-winning author Megan Abbott's revelatory, mesmerizing, and game-changing new novel set against the hothouse of a family-run ballet studio, and an interloper who arrives to bring down the carefully crafted Eden-like facade.
Ballet flows through their veins. Dara and Marie Durant were dancers since birth, with their long necks and matching buns and pink tights, homeschooled and trained by their mother. Decades later the Durant School of Dance is theirs. The two sisters, together with Charlie, Dara's husband and once their mother's prize student, inherited the school after their parents died in a tragic accident nearly a dozen years ago. Marie, warm and soft, teaches the younger students; Dara, with her precision, trains the older ones; and Charlie, back broken after years of injuries, rules over the back office. Circling around each other, the three have perfected a dance, six days a week, that keeps the studio thriving. But when a suspicious accident occurs, just at the onset of the school's annual performance of The Nutcracker, a season of competition, anxiety, and exhilaration, an interloper arrives and threatens the delicate balance of everything they've worked for.
Taut and unnerving, The Turnout is Megan Abbott at the height of her game. With uncanny insight and hypnotic writing, it is a sharp and strange dissection of family ties and sexuality, femininity and power, and a tale that is both alarming and irresistible.
Set in the competitive world of dancing, repeat Book of the Month author Megan Abbott returns to the literary stage with a sharp and biting thriller that crackles with tension. The novel follows three sisters who dress alike but could not be more different. When a horrible accident occurs as the dance school prepares for its annual performance of The Nutcracker, it sets off a chain of events- including the arrival of a stranger that could result in disaster. The novel explores the dynamics of sisters in the competitive world of ballet and also examines the issues of female rage and power. Beneath the frills of decorated leotards and pretty ballet shoes, hides the grittiness that underpins all of Abbot’s novels. Not only is Abbott a repeat Book of the Month author but The Turnout has received glowing praise from the likes of Tana French and Attica Locke. Festering and gothic, The Turnout promises to be a simmering, slow burning ride that will keep you turning the pages until the very last pirouette.
Lightning Strike by William Kent KruegerLightning Strike (Cork O’Connor, #0) by William Kent Krueger
Published by Atria Books Pages: 400
The author of the instant New York Times best seller This Tender Land returns with a powerful prequel to his acclaimed Cork O’Connor series - a book about fathers and sons, long-simmering conflicts in a small Minnesota town, and the events that echo through youth and shape our lives forever.
Aurora is a small town nestled in the ancient forest alongside the shores of Minnesota’s Iron Lake. In the summer of 1963, it is the whole world to 12-year-old Cork O’Connor, its rhythms as familiar as his own heartbeat. But when Cork stumbles upon the body of a man he revered hanging from a tree in an abandoned logging camp, it is the first in a series of events that will cause him to question everything he took for granted about his hometown, his family, and himself.
Cork’s father, Liam O’Connor, is Aurora’s sheriff, and it is his job to confirm that the man’s death was the result of suicide, as all the evidence suggests. In the shadow of his father’s official investigation, Cork begins to look for answers on his own. Together, father and son face the ultimate test of choosing between what their heads tell them is true and what their hearts know is right.
In this masterful story of a young man and a town on the cusp of change, beloved novelist William Kent Krueger shows that some mysteries can be solved even as others surpass our understanding.
In my opinion, This Tender Land is one of the underhyped novels that Book of the Month has chosen in recent memory. It’s well loved by those who have read it, but the book is a solid historical fiction and adventure that deserves so much more attention than it gets. Lightning Strike is a prequel to Krueger’s popular Cork O’Connor mystery series, making it easy for readers who are not familiar with the books to get in on the ground floor. The story features a twelve year old Cork, who finds the body of a much beloved citizen of Arora. While Cork tries to make sense of the death, along with the rest of the town, his father Liam who is also the sheriff, sets out to figure out the who and the why of the murder. A decision that doesn’t exactly sit well with the rest of the town. As both father and son dive deeper into the case, the truths they uncover about the crime and themselves will change them forever. Blurbed by Kristen Hannah and Heska Wanbli Weiden (author of Winter Counts), This Tender Land was so beloved by the readers that picked it up that I am really crossing my fingers for Lightning Strike.
The Heart Principe by Helen HoangThe Heart Principle (The Kiss Quotient, #3) by Helen Hoang
A woman struggling with burnout learns to embrace the unexpected—and the man she enlists to help her—in this heartfelt new romance by USA Today bestselling author Helen Hoang.
When violinist Anna Sun accidentally achieves career success with a viral YouTube video, she finds herself incapacitated and burned out from her attempts to replicate that moment. And when her longtime boyfriend announces he wants an open relationship before making a final commitment, a hurt and angry Anna decides that if he wants an open relationship, then she does, too. Translation: She's going to embark on a string of one-night stands. The more unacceptable the men, the better.
That’s where tattooed, motorcycle-riding Quan Diep comes in. Their first attempt at a one-night stand fails, as does their second, and their third, because being with Quan is more than sex—he accepts Anna on an unconditional level that she has just started to understand herself. However, when tragedy strikes Anna’s family she takes on a role that she is ill-suited for, until the burden of expectations threatens to destroy her. Anna and Quan have to fight for their chance at love, but to do that, they also have to fight for themselves.
Hoang’s last two novels have been popular selections previously so I’d be willing to put money on the final installment in the trilogy being a pick and hopefully we will see it as an early release for August. The novel features Anna Sun, a violinist who becomes famous overnight due to a viral Youtube video. At the beginning of the novel, Anna is suffering from intense burnout as she tries to create another video with the same overwhelming success. To make matters even more complicated, her boyfriend announces that he wants an open relationship. Enter tattooed, motorcycle riding Quan. There is instant chemistry, even as Anna tries to convince herself that Quan is nothing but a one night stand and an outlet for her frustrations. Sparks fly as Anna and Quan get to know each other. Hoang explores difficult issues including: caring for a terminally ill family member, being diagnosed with ASD later in life, and the burden of societal and familial expectations. Many are saying that The Heart Principle is their favorite of Hoang’s novels so far. The early rave reviews, as well Hoang’s last two novels being picks, makes me think chances are high that we will have a completed, matching set of Book of the Month editions for our bookshelves.
Small Favors by Erin A CraigSmall Favors by Erin A. Craig
Published by Delacorte Press Pages: 480
Ellerie Downing lives in the quiet town of Amity Falls in the Blackspire Mountain range--five narrow peaks stretching into the sky like a grasping hand, bordered by a nearly impenetrable forest from which the early townsfolk fought off the devils in the woods. To this day, visitors are few and rare. But when a supply party goes missing, some worry that the monsters that once stalked the region have returned.
As fall turns to winter, more strange activities plague the town. They point to a tribe of devilish and mystical creatures who promise to fulfill the residents' deepest desires, however grand and impossible, for just a small favor. But their true intentions are much more sinister, and Ellerie finds herself in a race against time before all of Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves go up in flames.
Many will recognize this YA author from her debut, House of Salt and Sorrows which was a dark reimagining of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. Well Craig is at it again with another fairytale-like story that has been described as The Village meets Needful Things- yes please! Set in the cloistered town of Amity surrounded by a potentially haunted forest, Small Favors promises plenty of tension, atmosphere and just the right amount of creepiness. Aside from Craig being a repeat author for Book of the Month, it tackles themes of how our deepest desires shape us and asks if we really know the people that we love. As beautiful as it is haunting, Small Favors has the strong sense of place characteristic of books like When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McClain and The Whisper Man by Alex North. I know Book of the Month doesn’t always pick YA books as add ons or main picks, but I think this is a good option both in subject matter and thematically.
The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewel (Thriller)The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell
Published by Atria Books Pages: 416
2017: 19 year old Tallulah is going out on a date, leaving her baby with her mother, Kim.
Kim watches her daughter leave and, as late evening turns into night, which turns into early morning, she waits for her return. And waits.
The next morning, Kim phones Tallulah's friends who tell her that Tallulah was last seen heading to a party at a house in the nearby woods called Dark Place.
She never returns.
2019: Sophie is walking in the woods near the boarding school where her boyfriend has just started work as a head-teacher when she sees a note fixed to a tree.
'DIG HERE' . . .
A cold case, an abandoned mansion, family trauma and dark secrets lie at the heart of Lisa Jewell's remarkable new novel.
I think we will see Lisa Jewel as a pick. I’m just uncertain whether it will be next month or in September. Jewel has been a selection numerous times and her novels are generally popular. Her latest features a missing young couple and a mother determined to find them. It’s blurbed by Book of the Month author Megan Collins (The Winter Sister), Sarah Pekkanen, and Lucey Foley.
The Husbands by Chandler Baker (Thriller)The Husbands by Chandler Baker
Published by Flatiron Books Pages: 352
"Chandler Baker, queen of the feminist thriller, has delivered once again! The Husbands is a poignant exploration of what it would take for women to have it all. --Sally Hepworth, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Sister
Chandler Baker, the New York Times bestselling author of Whisper Network, is back with The Husbands, a novel that asks: to what lengths will a woman go for a little more help from her husband?
Nora Spangler is a successful attorney but when it comes to domestic life, she packs the lunches, schedules the doctor appointments, knows where the extra paper towel rolls are, and designs and orders the holiday cards. Her husband works hard, too... but why does it seem like she is always working so much harder?
When the Spanglers go house hunting in Dynasty Ranch, an exclusive suburban neighborhood, Nora meets a group of high-powered women--a tech CEO, a neurosurgeon, an award-winning therapist, a bestselling author--with enviably supportive husbands. When she agrees to help with a resident's wrongful death case, she is pulled into the lives of the women there. She finds the air is different in Dynasty Ranch. The women aren't hanging on by a thread.
But as the case unravels, Nora uncovers a plot that may explain the secret to having-it-all. One that's worth killing for. Calling to mind a Stepford Wives gender-swap, The Husbands imagines a world where the burden of the "second shift" is equally shared--and what it may take to get there.
While I included this one as a potential early release last month, its mixed reviews from major review sources make me think that The Husband has less of a likelihood of being a pick than in previous months. But it is still possible, The Maidens has pretty mixed reviews and was still a pick. We shall see.
In My Dreams I Hold A Knife by Ashley Winstead (Thriller)In My Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark Pages: 368
Six friends. One college reunion. One unsolved murder.
A college reunion turns dark and deadly in this chilling and propulsive suspense novel about six friends, one unsolved murder, and the dark secrets they’ve been hiding from each other—and themselves—for a decade.
Ten years after graduation, Jessica Miller has planned her triumphant return to southern, elite Duquette University, down to the envious whispers that are sure to follow in her wake. Everyone is going to see the girl she wants them to see—confident, beautiful, indifferent—not the girl she was when she left campus, back when Heather’s murder fractured everything, including the tight bond linking the six friends she’d been closest to since freshman year. Ten years ago, everything fell apart, including the dreams she worked for her whole life—and her relationship with the one person she wasn’t supposed to love.
But not everyone is ready to move on. Not everyone left Duquette ten years ago, and not everyone can let Heather’s murder go unsolved. Someone is determined to trap the real killer, to make the guilty pay. When the six friends are reunited, they will be forced to confront what happened that night—and the years’ worth of secrets each of them would do anything to keep hidden.
Told in racing dual timelines, with a dark campus setting and a darker look at friendship, love, obsession, and ambition, In My Dreams I Hold A Knife is an addictive, propulsive read you won’t be able to put down.
This page turning thriller features a lot of well known tropes, including old friends reuniting after years of being apart. Told in dual timelines which really amp up the tension, In My Dreams I Hold A Knife is blurbed by Riley Sager, Julie Clark (Her Last Flight), and Darby Kane (Pretty Little Wife). The only reason it did not make the main list is because of the popularity of the other titles. I do still think it has a good chance of being a pick though.
The Family Plot by Megan Collins (Thriller)The Family Plot by Megan Collins
Published by Atria Books Pages: 320
When a family obsessed with true crime gathers to bury their patriarch, horrifying secrets are exposed upon the discovery of another body in his grave in this chilling novel from the author of
Behind the Red Door
The Winter Sister
At twenty-six, Dahlia Lighthouse has a lot to learn when it comes to the real world. Raised in a secluded island mansion deep in the woods and kept isolated by her true crime-obsessed parents, she has spent the last several years living on her own, but unable to move beyond her past—especially the disappearance of her twin brother Andy when they were sixteen.
With her father’s death, Dahlia returns to the house she has avoided for years. But as the rest of the Lighthouse family arrives for the memorial, a gruesome discovery is made: buried in the reserved plot is another body—Andy’s, his skull split open with an ax.
Each member of the family handles the revelation in unusual ways. Her brother Charlie pours his energy into creating a family memorial museum, highlighting their research into the lives of famous murder victims; her sister Tate forges ahead with her popular dioramas portraying crime scenes; and their mother affects a cheerfully domestic façade, becoming unrecognizable as the woman who performed murder reenactments for her children. As Dahlia grapples with her own grief and horror, she realizes that her eccentric family, and the mansion itself, may hold the answers to what happened to her twin.
While Megan Collins is a repeat Book of the Month author (The Winter Sister), Family Plot did not make it onto the main list because I think the other picks have a higher chance of being chosen. However, this thriller that dances on the edge of horror territory is blurbed by Kathleen Barber (Truth Be Told) and features a creepy house, family secrets, and a macabre atmosphere.
What About You?
What do you think of my picks? What will you be picking if my guesses are correct? Did I forget any that you are.hpping will be picks? Let me know in the comments!