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.
This month was interesting in terms of selections. There were quite a few thrillers and mysteries chosen but all of them are slower paced atmospheric than the break-neck, page turners that Book of the Month frequently chooses. Honestly, some of the contemporaries feel more like thrillers than the thriller selections! I was also surprised by, but not complaining about, the two romance picks. As someone who became a romance reader thanks to Book of the Month specifically, I always love their romance choices. I also think there was a good variety of debuts vs established authors and a solid diverse selection.
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!
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The Sweetest Remedy by Jane Igharo (Contemporary Fiction)The Sweetest Remedy by Jane Igharo
Published by Berkley Books on September 28, 2021
When a woman travels to Nigeria to attend the funeral of the father she never knew, she meets her extravagant family for the first time, a new and inspiring love interest, and discovers parts of herself she didn't know were missing, from Jane Igharo, the acclaimed author of Ties That Tether.
Hannah Bailey has never known her father, the Nigerian entrepreneur who had a brief relationship with her white mother. Because of this, Hannah has always felt uncertain about part of her identity. When her father dies, she's invited to Nigeria for the funeral. Though she wants to hate the man who abandoned her, she's curious about who he was and where he was from. Searching for answers, Hannah boards a plane to Lagos, Nigeria.
In Banana Island, one of Nigeria's most affluent areas, Hannah meets the Jolades, her late father's prestigious family--some who accept her and some who think she doesn't belong. The days leading up to the funeral are chaotic, but Hannah is soon shaped by secrets that unfold, a culture she never thought she would understand or appreciate, and a man who steals her heart and helps her to see herself in a new light.
From the same author of the previous Book of the Month pick, The Ties That Tether, comes another heartfelt contemporary novel about identity and belonging. The story features Hannah, who travels to Lagos, Nigeria for the funeral of the father she never knew. During this journey of discovery, she meets a family she never knew, finds love in the least likely of places and learns about a culture she never thought she could relate to. The Sweetest Remedy promises more of what made Igharo’s debut so beloved including: strong, audacious, and capable female protagonists and brings in elements of much beloved culturally diverse contemporaries like Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asian series. Reviewers seem to widely agree that The Sweetest Remedy is heads and shoulders better than Ties That Tether and it’s a standalone, which means you don’t have to have read the author’s debut to enjoy her sophomore novel.
Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang (Nonfiction)Beautiful Country: A Memoir by Qian Julie Wang
Published by Doubleday Books on September 7, 2021
An incandescent memoir from an astonishing new talent, Beautiful Country puts readers in the shoes of an undocumented child living in poverty in the richest country in the world.
In Chinese, the word for America, Mei Guo, translates directly to “beautiful country.” Yet when seven-year-old Qian arrives in New York City in 1994 full of curiosity, she is overwhelmed by crushing fear and scarcity. In China, Qian’s parents were professors; in America, her family is “illegal” and it will require all the determination and small joys they can muster to survive.
In Chinatown, Qian’s parents labor in sweatshops. Instead of laughing at her jokes, they fight constantly, taking out the stress of their new life on one another. Shunned by her classmates and teachers for her limited English, Qian takes refuge in the library and masters the language through books, coming to think of The Berenstain Bears as her first American friends. And where there is delight to be found, Qian relishes it: her first bite of gloriously greasy pizza, weekly “shopping days,” when Qian finds small treasures in the trash lining Brooklyn’s streets, and a magical Christmas visit to Rockefeller Center—confirmation that the New York City she saw in movies does exist after all.
But then Qian’s headstrong Ma Ma collapses, revealing an illness that she has kept secret for months for fear of the cost and scrutiny of a doctor’s visit. As Ba Ba retreats further inward, Qian has little to hold onto beyond his constant refrain: Whatever happens, say that you were born here, that you’ve always lived here.
Inhabiting her childhood perspective with exquisite lyric clarity and unforgettable charm and strength, Qian Julie Wang has penned an essential American story about a family fracturing under the weight of invisibility, and a girl coming of age in the shadows, who never stops seeking the light.
I thought of including this in my predictions post but was unsure whether Book of the Month would include a nonfiction pick two months in a row but I’m happy to see that my hunch was incorrect. Even though I’m not much of a nonfiction reader, I think it’s important that Book of the Month makes a big effort to diversify the genres of their selection- something I feel like that I haven’t been doing so well with lately. Anyway, Beautiful Country is a searing and heart wrenching memoir about immigrating to America as a young girl and the difficulties of growing up in Chinatown and Brooklyn. It is being hailed as a modern Angela’s Ashes and getting comparisons to other childhood memoirs like Educated by Tera Westover and The Glass Castle by Jeanette Wells- a Book of the Month pick some years ago. Much of what Qian went through is harrowing and difficult to read, but there is an undercurrent of hope to the novel resulting in a widely adored book by early reviewers. I think it’s a book that will spark amazing conversations and be perfect for book clubs and individual readers alike.
The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood (Romance)The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
Published by Berkley Books on September 14, 2021
When a fake relationship between scientists meets the irresistible force of attraction, it throws one woman's carefully calculated theories on love into chaos.
As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn't believe in lasting romantic relationships--but her best friend does, and that's what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.
That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor--and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford's reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive's career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding...six-pack abs.
Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.
This romantic comedy started out as a Star Wars fanfiction and grew into a hilarious enemies to lovers campus romane that will have readers laughing and swooning simultaneously. One half of our intrepid couple is Olive Smith, a third year PhD candidate and Adam Carlsen, a young professor who agrees to go along with the charade, despite being quite the arrogant jerk. When the two attend an academic conference, things begin to unravel and suddenly Olive’s academic future is in jeopardy. The book features plenty of chemistry- both romantic and of the science variety as well. This book has been widely loved by early readers with an incredibly high rating on sites like Goodreads. The biggest frustrations with the story come in the form of a predictable plot and a menagerie of miscommunications between Olive and Adam. But, I think, with comparisons to beloved titles like The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang and The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory, if you are looking for a fun, light read, The Love Hypothesis would be a good fit for you!
Rock, Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney (Thriller)Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney
Published by Flatiron Books on September 7, 2021
Think you know the person you married? Think again…
Things have been wrong with Mr and Mrs Wright for a long time. When Adam and Amelia win a weekend away to Scotland, it might be just what their marriage needs. Self-confessed workaholic and screenwriter Adam Wright has lived with face blindness his whole life. He can’t recognize friends or family, or even his own wife. Every anniversary the couple exchange traditional gifts – paper, cotton, pottery, tin – and each year Adam’s wife writes him a letter that she never lets him read. Until now. They both know this weekend will make or break their marriage, but they didn’t randomly win this trip. One of them is lying, and someone doesn’t want them to live happily ever after.
Ten years of marriage. Ten years of secrets. And an anniversary they will never forget.
Rock Paper Scissors is the latest exciting domestic thriller from the queen of the killer twist, New York Times bestselling author Alice Feeney.
One of the many domestic thrillers that Book of the Month decided to feature this month, Alice Feeney is a popular thriller writer and I’m actually surprised that Book of the Month had not already featured her. Feeney’s latest features a couple who has been married for ten years, but what exists between them is far from marital bliss. When the novel opens, Adam and Amelia Wright are traveling up to that they allegedly won. The narrative alternates between Adam and Amelia’s perspective and is interspersed with letters that Amelia had written to her husband over the years. It’s a novel that shows the dysfunction of one couple’s marriage, a premise that for me can be hit and miss. Feeney’s latest features two very unreliable narrators, with a wife who is hiding plenty of her own secret and a husband who suffers from face blindness, meaning he cannot cognitively recognize faces, even of the ones he knows and loves. Rock, Paper Scissors is definitely more of a slow burn novel, with simmering tension that gradually ratchets up to a big reveal. While some reviewers found the book too slow, others appreciated the leisurely pace that created a strong atmospheric read. I have never read an Alice Feeney novel, but she has a solid track record among thriller lovers and sounds like the perfect reads as we move into colder months.
The Neighbor’s Secret by L. Alison Heller (Contemporary Fiction)The Neighbor's Secret by L. Alison Heller
Published by Flatiron Books on October 5, 2021
“Addictive, suspenseful and masterfully written...will delight fans of Big Little Lies.” —Michele CampbellHow well do you really know your neighbors?
With its sprawling yards and excellent schools, Cottonwood Estates is the perfect place to raise children. The Cottonwood Book Club serves as the subdivision’s eyes and ears, meeting once a month for discussion, gossip, and cocktails. If their selections trend toward twisty thrillers and salacious murder mysteries, it’s only because the members feel secure that such evil has no place in their own cul-de-sacs.
Or does it?
What happened to Lena’s family fifteen years ago was a tragic accident, and she will never admit otherwise. Devoted wife and mother Annie refuses to acknowledge—even to herself—the weight of a past shame. And new resident Jen wants friends, but as always, worry about her troubled son gets in the way.
When late-night acts of vandalism target the women of the book club in increasingly violent and personal ways, they will be forced to decide how far to go to keep their secrets. At least they all agree on what’s most important: protecting their children at any cost—even if it means someone has to die.
L. Alison Heller, whose work has been praised by Liane Moriarty as "warm, witty…refreshingly true to life,” explores the ultimate sacrifices of parenting in The Neighbor’s Secret, a propulsive and juicy novel filled with gripping twists and instantly recognizable characters.
This contemporary novel that reads like a thriller is reminiscent of past Book of the Month selections like Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng and The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins. Set in the affluent Cottonwood estates, the neighborhood book club watches over the neighborhood even as they read monthly selections mostly consisting of thrillers and murder mysteries. When increasingly gratuitous and threatening acts of vandalism and violence start to occur in the neighborhood, primarily targeting the book club members and their families, it is up to the group to crack the case. If you love books about books, suburban dramas and a good mystery, you’ll definitely want to add The Neighbor’s Secret to your box. While many reviewers reported reading this title in one sitting, unable to put the book down because they just had to know what was going to happen, others felt disconnected from the characters. I think if you are looking for a book with tons of character development, The Neighbor’s Secret may not be for you, but if you want an interesting whodunnit with plenty of book love, Heller’s novel is definitely worth picking up.
Beautiful World Where Are You by Sally Rooney (Literary Fiction)Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
on September 7, 2021
Beautiful World, Where Are You is a new novel by Sally Rooney, the bestselling author of Normal People and Conversations with Friends.
Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend, Eileen, is getting over a break-up and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood. Alice, Felix, Eileen, and Simon are still young—but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart. They have sex, they worry about sex, they worry about their friendships and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world?
I am not terribly surprised that we are seeing Sally Rooney as an add on. However, the sense that I get from early reviews and marketing is that, upon closer inspection, is quite the departure from her previous two novels. Beautiful World Where Are You focuses more on the relationships among a group of four friends and how they experience the world and one another; rather than zeroing in on one or two characters and how they grow throughout the novel. It is getting comps to various works by amazing authors, including: Brit Bennett and Hillary Mantel. My sense from reading all the reviews is that if you love Sally Rooney, the way she writes and how she explore the reality of relationships, you will enjoy this one. If this is your first Sally Rooney book, it seems like readers came away pretty divided. It should also be known that, like Normal People, there are no quotation marks delineating the dialogue. However, if you’re looking for a solid literary fiction pick, you’ll want to make room for this one in your box.
The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell (Thriller)The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell
Published by Atria Books on September 7, 2021
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.
Jewell has been a selection numerous times and her novels are generally popular. Her latest features a missing young couple and the young writer who might just be able to find them after discovering a note in the creepy woods behind her cabin. As someone who loves eerie, wooded locales, the premise of this one intrigues me. Told through three alternating timelines, the mystery is amped up by the constantly shifting viewpoints, as the reader tries to make sense of exactly what’s happening. Featuring ameteur sleuths, rich atmosphere, and a missing persons case, Jewel’s latest offering feels right at home with Book of the Month’s other mysteries like The Turn of Key and The Broken Girls. It seems that early reviewers overwhelmingly love The Night She Disappeared, appreciating Jewell’s solid writing style and ability to build tension and suspense. However, like Rock Paper Scissors above, many found the book slow and a bit predictable. I for one, am curious to see how The Night She Disappeared compares to Jewell’s other novels.
Portrait of a Scotsman by Evie Dunmore (Romance)Portrait of a Scotsman (A League of Extraordinary Women, #3) by Evie Dunmore
Published by Jove on September 7, 2021
Going toe-to-toe with a brooding Scotsman is rather bold for a respectable suffragist, but when he happens to be one's unexpected husband, what else is an unwilling bride to do?
London banking heiress Hattie Greenfield wanted "just" three things in life:
1. Acclaim as an artist.2. A noble cause.3. Marriage to a young lord who puts the gentle in gentleman.
Why then does this Oxford scholar find herself at the altar with the darkly attractive financier Lucian Blackstone, whose murky past and ruthless business practices strike fear in the hearts of Britain's peerage? Trust Hattie to take an invigorating little adventure too far. Now she's stuck with a churlish Scot who just might be the end of her ambitions....
When the daughter of his business rival all but falls into his lap, Lucian sees opportunity. As a self-made man, he has vast wealth but holds little power, and Hattie might be the key to finally setting long-harbored political plans in motion. Driven by an old revenge, he has no room for his new wife's apprehensions or romantic notions, bewitching as he finds her.
But a sudden journey to Scotland paints everything in a different light. Hattie slowly sees the real Lucian and realizes she could win everything—as long as she is prepared to lose her heart.
I feel like Book of the Month has been making an effort to pick a variety of romance novels, beyond just rom coms and am happy to see them dabbling in sub genres like historical romance. I”m also thrilled, like so many, that the three books in Dunmore’s series will match. The third installment in Dunmore’s League of Extraordinary Women, Portrait of a Scotman follows London heiress Hattie Greenfield who, after being caught in the middle of a compromising situation, finds herself wedded to the dark and alluring Lucien Blackstone. Forced by social expectations and propriety into union, each has their own expectations for the other and what the marriage will look like. There exists plenty of sexual tension between the two of them, but that appears to be the extent of their similarities. When the couple takes an unexpected trip to Scotland things start to heat up between them and they both realize that they just might have feelings for the other. Because it’s a romance novel, the story is a bit formulaic with plenty of miscommunications creating rifts and issues, something that made the novel less than enjoyable for some reviewers. However, if you go in remembering that you are reading a historical romance, I think you’ll enjoy the final installment in Dunmore’s series.
In Every Mirror She’s Black by Lola Akinmade Akerstrom (Contemporary Fiction)In Every Mirror She's Black by Lola Akinmade Åkerström
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark on September 7, 2021
A timely and arresting debut for anyone looking for insight into what it means to be a Black woman in the world.
Three Black women are linked in unexpected ways to the same influential white man in Stockholm as they build their new lives in the most open society run by the most private people.
Successful marketing executive Kemi Adeyemi is lured from the U.S. to Sweden by Jonny von Lundin, CEO of the nation's largest marketing firm, to help fix a PR fiasco involving a racially tone-deaf campaign. A killer at work but a failure in love, Kemi's move is a last-ditch effort to reclaim her social life.
A chance meeting with Jonny in business class en route to the U.S. propels former model-turned-flight-attendant Brittany-Rae Johnson into a life of wealth, luxury, and privilege—a life she's not sure she wants—as the object of his unhealthy obsession.
And refugee Muna Saheed, who lost her entire family, finds a job cleaning the toilets at Jonny's office as she works to establish her residency in Sweden and, more importantly, seeks connection and a place she can call home.
Told through the perspectives of each of the three women, In Every Mirror She's Black is a fast-paced, richly nuanced yet accessible contemporary novel that touches on important social issues of racism, classism, fetishization, and tokenism, and what it means to be a Black woman navigating a white-dominated society.
Lola Akinmade Åkerström is an African-American (Nigerian-American) award-winning author, speaker, and photographer based in Sweden. This is her first novel.
This contemporary novel set in Stockholm follows the lives of three different black women, connected to one another through the same wealthy white man. Kemi, Brittany, and Muna’s stories are so different both narratively and stylistically and reflect how each of the women moves through and experiences the world. In hindsight, I’m not surprised that Book of the Month included this title, with blurbs from Taylor Jenkins Reid (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo) and Imbolo Mbue (Behold the Dreamers). With developed characters worth rooting for, a pace that moves and quick clip, and speaks intelligently surrounding prescient and current issues such as fetishization of black women, sex trafficking, autism, and the feelings of otherness experienced by people of color, especially in white spaces. Early reviewers have a lot to praise in this one including its layered and nuanced story and pertinent social themes. The only complaint I could find was the fact that the novel reads a little darker than expected, which will excite some readers, including me!
Velvet Was The Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Historical Fiction)Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Published by Del Rey on August 17, 2021
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.
There has been a lot of chatter about how some are hesitant to try Velvet Was the Night because they worry it will be too similar to Mexican Gothic- which I loved but many hated. I just wanted to kick off the discussion of this title by saying that if you hated Mexican Gothic, you will likely enjoy Velvet Was the Night. For some reason, a lot of people think Velvet Was The Night is a follow up to Mexican Gothic and that could not be further from the truth. 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. The pacing, like a lot of titles on this list, is pretty slow and should not be picked up with the expectations of a fast paced thriller or medium paced murder mystery. However, if you liked Moreno’s previous work for her prose and style, then Velvet Was The Night should be at the top of your TBR.
Book of the Month continues to just barely maintain their promise of 40% being authors of color, though 3/4 of them this month were specifically BIPOC authors. I appreciated the three debuts but would love to see them pick more books by LGBTQIA+ authors, something they have struggled with consistently.
- Authors of Color: 4/10 – 40%
- Female Authors: 10/10- 100%
- LGBTQIA+: 0/10- 0%
- Repeat Authors: 5/10- 50%
- Debut Novels: 3/10- 30%
In My Box This Month:
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!