Book of the Month At A Glance- August 2021

Posted July 30, 2021 by stuckint in Book Subscriptions, BOTM / 5 Comments

Hello everyone and welcome to one of my most popular monthly posts: Book of the Month At A Glance. Its a post where I share my breakdown of Book of the Month’s monthly selections and add ons. I pour over countless reviews, read excerpts and explore the themes of each pick in order to help you better decide the right pick(s) for you. That way, you can spend less time researching and more time reading. 

My general sense of the picks this month is that they are pretty diverse where genre is concerned, ranging from meandering, thoughtful literary fiction debut to a page turning thriller from a seasoned author. I know a lot of people were hoping for books from other repeat authors and I completely understand! There were definitely some other books I would have loved to see but I appreciate the balance between new and established authors that Book of the Month hit this time around.

As always, if there is anything I am leaving out of these posts, let me know and I will do my best to include it. Regardless, I hope my post gets you excited for this month’s selections and that you find something you know you’ll love!

*People have been asking me lately what they can do to support me and the work I do here. The biggest thing you can do right now, is subscribe and share my blog with your reader friends. Thank you everyone for all you do to make Stuck in the Stacks happen.

Main Picks

Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy (Contemporary Fiction) 

Once 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 am thrilled to see McConaghy’s novel as a pick. I have to confess that I have an incredibly soft spot for wolves and anything that relates to them. This literary novel is set in the Scottish Highlighands. Short and powerful, Once There Were Wolves is by the same author as Migrations. It 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, which drove them from their previous home to seek solace in isolation and nature. Simultaneously wild and provocative, Once There Were Wolves seems reminiscent of past selections like Long Bright River, and Valentine; a sort of literary suspense that makes the reader think and dig a little deeper. Early reviews are overwhelmingly positive with most characterize the novel as deeply moving and beautifully written. The mystery lends a quiet urgency to the story that kept readers turning pages. The biggest complaint seemed to be that the narrative jumped around quite a bit, not lending itself to well developed characters. However, such complaints are rare. I think if you have loved recent literary suspense novels like When The Stars Go Dark and What Comes After, you  need to add Once There Were Wolves to your box.

Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson (Literary Fiction)

Damnation 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.

Someone in a forum commented that a lot of my predictions for August carried a bit of an environmental conservation theme. At the time, I chalked it up to the fact that I have started playing the post apocalyptic game Biomutant, where you play as a rabbit like creature to heal the world after it has been destroyed by pollution and toxic waste. It’s a fun game, but let’s focus on the book at hand. I would say now that I simply had strong reasons for including a handful of environment focused novels and with Book of the Month choosing two of my three related guesses, I’m pretty proud.  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.  Since Davidson’s novel is quite literary, the pacing is a little bit slower than some readers might enjoy. There is also a lot of technical logging language that a few found tedious. While some found the plot winding and repetitive others considered it immersive and spectacular. I’m not usually one for long, literary novels, but I definitely added this one to my box. Will you?

The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang (Romance)

The 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.

I don’t know if I can adequately express in writing how excited I am that Hoang’s final installment in the trilogy that began with the Kiss Quotient is a main pick. For those concerned that they shouldn’t read the novels out of order, let me assure you that while the books are a series, they can be read independently of each other. The trilogy’s final installment 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 before they 100% commit to each other. Enter tattooed, motorcycle riding Quan. There is instant chemistry between them, 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 and Hoang explores difficult issues caring for a terminally ill family member, being diagnosed with Autism 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. A few have said they didn’t enjoy the Heart Principle because it didn’t feel the same as the other two. But I don’t know that it’s necessarily a bad thing.

The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina (Fantasy)

The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova
Published by Atria Books Pages: 336

Perfect for fans of Alice Hoffman, Isabel Allende, and Sarah Addison Allen, this is a gorgeously written novel about a family searching for the truth hidden in their past and the power they’ve inherited, from the author of the acclaimed and “giddily exciting” (The New York Times Book Review) Brooklyn Brujas series.
The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations. They know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low or empty, or why their matriarch won’t ever leave their home in Four Rivers—even for graduations, weddings, or baptisms. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed, leaving them with more questions than answers.
Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways for Marimar, Rey, and Tatinelly’s daughter, Rhiannon, granting them unexpected blessings. But soon, a hidden figure begins to tear through their family tree, picking them off one by one as it seeks to destroy Orquídea’s line. Determined to save what’s left of their family and uncover the truth behind their inheritance, the four descendants travel to Ecuador—to the place where Orquídea buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked backed.
Alternating between Orquídea’s past and her descendants’ present, The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is an enchanting novel about what we knowingly and unknowingly inherit from our ancestors, the ties that bind, and reclaiming your power.

So listen up everyone. This book was totally on my radar. As a book that comes out in September. If Cordova was not on your TBR before this and you have loved past selections like those of Alice Hoffman and Alix E. Harrow, she should be. Rooted in Cordova’s Ecuadorean heritage, this standalone fantasy follows Orquidea Divina as a young woman and her posterity years after she is gone. In the present day, a mysterious individual starts picking the family members off one by one until they are forced to return to Ecaudor and uncover the truth about their family line and Orquidea Divina herself. With its very fairytale-ish feel, magical realism and plenty of mystery, the reader discovers the truth of the Montoyas and the family secrets that have been passed down for generations. I would like to think that this one would have made my September predictions list if for no other reason than its epic feel in a contemporary fantasy package- think The City We Became by NK Jemisen and Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo, which were both previous Book of the Month selections. There are very few negative reviews on this one with the only main complaint being a disconnect between the two timelines. However, if you love magical realism, family stories, or are looking for a novel to keep you occupied until Alice Hoffman’s new book comes out in October, this one’s for you!

Not A Happy Family by Shari Lapena (Psychological Thriller)

Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena
Published by Pamela Dorman Books Pages: 352

The new domestic suspense novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Couple Next Door and Someone We Know who has sold more than 7 million copies of her books worldwide
In this family, everyone is keeping secrets--especially the dead. Brecken Hill in upstate New York is an expensive place to live. You have to be rich to have a house there. And they don't come much richer than Fred and Sheila Mercer. But even all their money can't protect them when a killer comes to call. The Mercers are brutally murdered the night after an Easter Dinner with their three adult kids. Who, of course, are devastated.
Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their capricious father and neglectful mother, but perhaps one of them is more disturbed than anyone knew. Did one of them snap after that dreadful evening? Or was it someone else that night who crept in with the worst of intentions? It must be. After all, if one of your siblings was a psychopath, you'd know.
Wouldn't you?

I’m actually kind of mad that I didn’t include this one in my prediction post for August. I think it threw me because it has a release date of July 27th and while I know that Book of the Month will occasionally pick thrillers by repeat authors that came out a few weeks before, I just neglected to include it. Shari Lapena is a repeat Book of the Month author who wrote favorites like The Couple Next Door and A Stranger in the House. This domestic thriller is set in the very ritzy, upscale and wealthy New York neighborhood of Brecken Hill. The set up is quite Knives Out in my opinion (a movie that I loved) and features the Merton siblings, whose parents are brutally murdered the night after a tense Easter dinner. The problem: they all have a motive. If you have enjoyed previous Book of the Month authors like Riley Sager, Ruth Ware, Lisa Jewell, as well as Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, you’ll definitely want to get your hands on Lapena’s latest novel. It promises plenty of twists, family secrets and mystery. Like all the other books on this list, most of the reviews praise the book for the fun thriller that it is, while a handful of reviewers found it difficult to connect to the characters, struggled to suspend belief and thought the ending was just a bit predictable. My general sense is that those who adored Shari Lapena’s other books will like Not A Happy Family may not love this one, while those new to the author might enjoy it just a little bit more.

Add Ons

We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz (Psychological Suspense)

We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz
Published by Ballantine Books Pages: 304

An annual backpacking trip has deadly consequences in a chilling new novel from the bestselling author of The Lost Night and The Herd.
Emily is having the time of her life--she's in the mountains of Chile with her best friend, Kristen, on their annual reunion trip, and the women are feeling closer than ever. But on the last night of their trip, Emily enters their hotel suite to find blood and broken glass on the floor. Kristen says the cute backpacker she'd been flirting with attacked her, and she had no choice but to kill him in self-defense. Even more shocking: The scene is horrifyingly similar to last year's trip, when another backpacker wound up dead. Emily can't believe it's happened again--can lightning really strike twice?
Back home in Wisconsin, Emily struggles to bury her trauma, diving head-first into a new relationship and throwing herself into work. But when Kristen shows up for a surprise visit, Emily is forced to to confront their violent past. The more Kristen tries to keep Emily close, the more Emily questions her friend's motives. As Emily feels the walls closing in on their coverups, she must reckon with the truth about her closest friend. Can she outrun the secrets she shares with Kristen, or will they destroy her relationship, her freedom--even her life?

Bartz’s novel The Herd was relatively popular when it was released and it would appear that We Were Never Here is on track to be even bigger. The novel follows Emily who is backpacking with her best friend Kirsten in Chile when she walks into their hotel room to find a stranger and Kristen claiming self defense. Fast forward to when Emily is back in Wisconsin, throwing herself into work in an effort to silence her guilty conscience. When Kristen shows up on her doorstep she threatens everything that Emily has built. We Were Never Here is a leisurely paced psychological suspense that plunges the depths of guilt, female friendship, and how the secrets we keep impact us and those within our orbit. Bartz’s latest release is about frenemies with unlikeable characters told from a first person perspective. This one is definitely for fans of Riley Sager and Chevy Stevens. Reviews are overwhelmingly positive, however, some felt the pacing to be a bit uneven. But I think if you go into it expecting more of a character driven suspense story as opposed to a page turning thriller, you won’t be disappointed.

Afterparties by Anthony Viasna So (Short Stories)

Afterparties: Stories by Anthony Veasna So
Published by Ecco Pages: 256

A debut story collection about Cambodian-American life—immersive and comic, yet unsparing—that marks the arrival of an indisputable new talent in American fiction
Seamlessly transitioning between the absurd and the tenderhearted, balancing acerbic humor with sharp emotional depth, Afterparties offers an expansive portrait of the lives of Cambodian-Americans. As the children of refugees carve out radical new paths for themselves in California, they shoulder the inherited weight of the Khmer Rouge genocide and grapple with the complexities of race, sexuality, friendship, and family.
A high school badminton coach and failing grocery store owner tries to relive his glory days by beating a rising star teenage player. Two drunken brothers attend a wedding afterparty and hatch a plan to expose their shady uncle’s snubbing of the bride and groom. A queer love affair sparks between an older tech entrepreneur trying to launch a “safe space” app and a disillusioned young teacher obsessed with Moby-Dick. And in the sweeping final story, a nine-year-old child learns that his mother survived a racist school shooter.
With nuanced emotional precision, gritty humor, and compassionate insight into the intimacy of queer and immigrant communities, the stories in Afterparties deliver an explosive introduction to the work of Anthony Veasna So.

It’s been a while since Book of the Month has featured a short story collection, but if you love them, Afterparties is definitely for you! Exploring the intricacies of Cambodian-American life, this short story collection is simultaneously witty and searing in its commentary. While nine separate stories make up the collection, there is a sense of connectedness that permeates the book, creating a sense of community as many characters wrestle with their immigrant experience and the genocide that several of them escaped. Literary in its prose and reflective in its tone, Afterparties deals with LGBTQIA+ issues as well as those of first generation Americans. For the most part, reviewers found the collection moving, humorous and prescient. Its a solid pick as Book of the Month continues its effort to offer diverse selections. The biggest complaint from early readers appears to deal with how repetitive some of the stories felt. However, what some people considered repetitive, others viewed as cohesive and artful. In short, I think if you have a penchant for the genre, you’ll just have to pick it up and see what you think. Oh and be sure to report back and tell me all about it!

CW: This book does involve the topics of death, suicide, genocide, domestic violence, stalking, and a school shooting.

Diversity Breakdown

I felt like in some instances Book of the Month improved on their stats. I was surprised by the lack of repeat authors and debuts.

  • Authors of Color: 3/7- 43%
  • Female Authors: 6/7- 85%
  • LGBTQIA+: 1/7- 14%
  • Repeat Authors: 2/7- 27%
  • Debut Novels: 2/7- 27%

In My Box This Month:

Box 1

Box 2

What About You?

What did you add to your box this month? What do you think of my picks? Let me know in the comments!

5 responses to “Book of the Month At A Glance- August 2021

  1. Jaime McHale

    I was much happier with the selections this month than I was last month! I selected Damnation Spring and The Heart Principle. And then I finally added-on Malibu Rising, which I’m been waiting to do since June! (I skipped last month because I wasn’t thrilled with any of the books and BOTM wouldn’t let me pick an add-on for my main choice.)

  2. Ann

    “I think if you have loved recent literary suspense novels like When The Stars Go Dark and What Comes After, you need to add Once There Were Wolves to your box.”

    I think you’ve helped me decide!

    I have skipped a couple of months recently, so I have some credits & it is my birthday month as well. I may go with Wolves & some past books I missed.

    These August selections suit me better than the previous months.

    I get so many new releases in a timely manner from my local library, I may be cancelling my BOTM in the near future. I am running out of room too! With the library, I can still enjoy, but return the books.

  3. Laura Holmberg

    I chose Once There Were Wolves and The Heart Principle. I’m a huge Helen Hoang fan so that pick was a given for me. As for OTWW, I’m happy to hear a similarity with Long Bright River. I adored that novel! The storyline of Wolves just spoke to me. I’m genuinely looking forward to reading it!

  4. Lynn J.

    This breakdown is really awesome, I love that you do this. And I loved the picks this month! I got The Inheritance of Orqidia Divinia, The Heart Principle (Main pick- loved the first two,) and Not a Happy Family. I’ll probably get We Were Never Here next month, AND I’d like to read Once There Were Wolves & Damnation Spring, whenever I get around to them.

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