What’s In The Box!- October 2021 Predictions

Posted September 22, 2021 by stuckint in Book Subscriptions, BOTM / 0 Comments

Hey stackers. Let me just say how much I appreciate your patience with these posts. They are a lot of work and I do my best to get them up as quickly as I can. I always shoot for anywhere between 15th-20th of each month but sometimes it doesn’t always happen. 

Also, a few things about my list. I know it’s long. There are so many amazing books coming out these next few months. I actually had to narrow it down a lot. So yes, this is the abbreviated list. Also, I chose to highlight all holiday romances. After Book of the Month picked In A Hollidaze last year, I’m more inclined to think that they could be leaning towards a holiday themed romance but we shall see. I also included a few extra picks because I carried over several guesses from last month and wanted to make sure there were plenty of new titles for you to read about and add to your TBRs. 

As always, if you love the content, please follow me! I’m so close to 1000 subscribers and once that happens I’ll be doing an awesome mystery box giveaway as well as a free three month sub to Book of the Month or the sub box of your choice. 

Contemporary Fiction

Black Girls Must Die Exhausted by Jayne Allen

What’s In The Box!– October 2021 PredictionsBlack Girls Must Die Exhausted by Jayne Allen
Published by Harper on September 28, 2021
Pages: 352

The first novel in a captivating three-book series about modern womanhood, in which a young Black woman must rely on courage, laughter, and love—and the support of her two longtime friends—to overcome an unexpected setback that threatens the most precious thing she’s ever wanted.
Tabitha Walker is a black woman with a plan to “have it all.”  At 33 years old, the checklist for the life of her dreams is well underway. Education? Check. Good job? Check. Down payment for a nice house? Check. Dating marriage material? Check, check, and check. With a coveted position as a local news reporter, a "paper-perfect" boyfriend, and even a standing Saturday morning appointment with a reliable hairstylist, everything seems to be falling into place.
Then Tabby receives an unexpected diagnosis that brings her picture-perfect life crashing down, jeopardizing the keystone she took for granted: having children. With her dreams at risk of falling through the cracks of her checklist, suddenly she is faced with an impossible choice between her career, her dream home, and a family of her own.
With the help of her best friends, the irreverent and headstrong Laila and Alexis, the mom jeans-wearing former "Sexy Lexi," and the generational wisdom of her grandmother and the nonagenarian firebrand Ms. Gretchen, Tabby explores the reaches of modern medicine and tests the limits of her relationships, hoping to salvage the future she always dreamed of. But the fight is all consuming, demanding a steep price that forces an honest reckoning for nearly everyone in her life. As Tabby soon learns, her grandmother's age-old adage just might still be true: Black girls must die exhausted.

In the vein of books like Queenie and Skye Falling, Black Girls Must Die Exhausted follows Tabitha Walker, a thirty three year old black woman who appears to have her life on track. She has a solid job, is preparing to buy a house, and is in a stable, happy romantic relationship. When Tabitha gets an earth shattering medical diagnosis her life is suddenly in upheaval and her perfect life plan goes out the window as she is forced to reorient and navigate the unexpected turns. Black Girls Must Die Exhausted is also being compared to previous Book of the Month pick Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers. The first in a three book series, it seems like a solid pick. In addition to its similar themes to the Book of the Month picks mentioned above, Emily Henry (author of Beach Read and The People We Meet on Vacation) described the novel as “sharp social commentary with a heartwarming story”. Especially with Book of the Month’s recent trend in contemporary fiction by BIPOC authors, its solid guess I think.

Historical Fiction

Matrix by Lauren Groff

What’s In The Box!– October 2021 PredictionsMatrix by Lauren Groff
Published by Riverhead Books on September 7, 2021
Pages: 272

Lauren Groff returns with her exhilarating first new novel since the groundbreaking Fates and Furies.
Cast out of the royal court by Eleanor of Aquitaine, deemed too coarse and rough-hewn for marriage or courtly life, seventeen-year-old Marie de France is sent to England to be the new prioress of an impoverished abbey, its nuns on the brink of starvation and beset by disease.
At first taken aback by the severity of her new life, Marie finds focus and love in collective life with her singular and mercurial sisters. In this crucible, Marie steadily supplants her desire for family, for her homeland, for the passions of her youth with something new to her: devotion to her sisters, and a conviction in her own divine visions. Marie, born the last in a long line of women warriors and crusaders, is determined to chart a bold new course for the women she now leads and protects. But in a world that is shifting and corroding in frightening ways, one that can never reconcile itself with her existence, will the sheer force of Marie's vision be bulwark enough?
Equally alive to the sacred and the profane, Matrix gathers currents of violence, sensuality, and religious ecstasy in a mesmerizing portrait of consuming passion, aberrant faith, and a woman that history moves both through and around. Lauren Groff's new novel, her first since Fates and Furies, is a defiant and timely exploration of the raw power of female creativity in a corrupted world.

I have never read a novel by Lauren Groff, but given the success of her previous works like Fate and Furies as well as Florida, Matrix seems like a strong potential pick. Set in 12th century England, Groff’s fist novel since Fates and Furies follows Marie de France. After being deemed unfit for life at court she is essentially exiled to a crumbling English abby full of starving and impoverished nuns. Throughout the course of the novel, Groff tackles prescient issues such as feminism, poverty, obsession and what it means to be human. With comps to other Book of the Month selections like Unsheltered by Barabara Kingsolver and Circe by Madeline Miller (more for the feminist angle than anything to do with mythology), I think it has a strong chance of being a Book of the Month pick, even though some might argue that Groff may just be a little too big for Book of the Month these days. Not only is Groff a repeat author, but Matrix is blurbed by past Book of the Month authors Brit Bennett (The Mothers, The Vanishing Half) and Emma Donoghue (The Wonder). Occasionally Book of the Month will feature books by previous Book of the Month authors the month after they come out and Groff’s newest novel seems like a solid candidate for that treatment.

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

What’s In The Box!– October 2021 PredictionsThe Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles
Published by Viking on October 5, 2021
Pages: 416

The bestselling author of A Gentleman in Moscow and Rules of Civility and master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction returns with a stylish and propulsive novel set in 1950s America
In June, 1954, eighteen-year-old Emmett Watson is driven home to Nebraska by the warden of the work farm where he has just served a year for involuntary manslaughter. His mother long gone, his father recently deceased, and the family farm foreclosed upon by the bank, Emmett’s intention is to pick up his eight-year-old brother and head west where they can start their lives anew. But when the warden drives away, Emmett discovers that two friends from the work farm have hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Together, they have hatched an altogether different plan for Emmett’s future.
Spanning just ten days and told from multiple points of view, Towles’s third novel will satisfy fans of his multi-layered literary styling while providing them an array of new and richly imagined settings, characters, and themes.

Amor Towles’ previous novels: Rules of Civility and A Gentleman In Moscow have both been Book of the Month picks and Towle’s latest, The Lincoln Highway check a lot of pertinent boxes as a potential pick. Intricately plotted, character-driven, and stylistically complex, Towles latest is reminiscent of beloved works and previous Book of the Month picks such as Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward and The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr. Set in the 1950s our story follows Emmitt Watson, recently released from prison after serving fifteen years. When Emmitt realizes that a handful of his bodies have stowed away in the warden’s trunk, their scheming will take the group on a trip to New York City. I am actually quite confident that this old timey, road trip book will be a Book of the Month pick beyond the fact that Towles previous books have been picks- and popular picks at that, but its blurbed by previous Book of the Month author Tana French. I think regardless, it’s going to be a big book for Fall and you don’t want to miss it!


Cackle by Rachel Harrison

What’s In The Box!– October 2021 PredictionsCackle by Rachel Harrison
Published by Berkley Books on October 5, 2021
Pages: 304

All her life, Annie has played it nice and safe. After being unceremoniously dumped by her longtime boyfriend, Annie seeks a fresh start. She accepts a teaching position that moves her from Manhattan to a small village upstate. She’s stunned by how perfect and picturesque the town is. The people are all friendly and warm. Her new apartment is dreamy too, minus the oddly persistent spider infestation.
Then Annie meets Sophie. Beautiful, charming, magnetic Sophie, who takes a special interest in Annie, who wants to be her friend. More importantly, she wants Annie to stop apologizing and start living for herself. That’s how Sophie lives. Annie can’t help but gravitate toward the self-possessed Sophie, wanting to spend more and more time with her, despite the fact that the rest of the townsfolk seem…a little afraid of her. And like, okay. There are some things. Sophie’s appearance is uncanny and ageless, her mansion in the middle of the woods feels a little unearthly, and she does seem to wield a certain power…but she couldn’t be…could she?

I’m really hoping for a legitimate horror novel this coming October. Ever since Book of the Month offered Imaginary Friend by Stephen Cbosky as an add on a few years ago, I have been pining for something creepy and season appropriate. I think Cakle would be a great pick because it isn’t too horrific and is getting comparisons to previous Book of the Month author Simone St. James and historical horror writer Alma Katsu, who writes more literary horror. Cackle is well named because of its darkly comedic lense, through which it examines toxic female friendships and female empowerment. It’s a character driven novel with a bitter, small town high school teacher named Annie at its center. At the beginning of the story she moves to a small town to start a new job and meets Sophie, independent, high strung and kind of creepy Sophie. Things spiral out of control as the two develop an unhealthy and toxic relationship as Sophie tries to push Annie to take what she wants, no matter the consequences. I know this one isn’t blurbed by any previous Book of the Month authors, but it’s a perfect October read and great for those who want something a little darker than Alice Hoffman in their boxes. 

Reprieve by James Hans Mattsson

What’s In The Box!– October 2021 PredictionsReprieve by James Han Mattson
Published by William Morrow on October 5, 2021
Pages: 416

A chilling and blisteringly relevant literary novel of social horror centered around a brutal killing that takes place in a full-contact haunted escape room—a provocative exploration of capitalism, hate politics, racial fetishism, and our obsession with fear as entertainment.
On April 27, 1997, four contestants make it to the final cell of the Quigley House, a full-contact haunted escape room in Lincoln, Nebraska, made famous for its monstrosities, booby-traps, and ghoulishly costumed actors. If the group can endure these horrors without shouting the safe word, “reprieve,” they’ll win a substantial cash prize—a startling feat accomplished only by one other group in the house’s long history. But before they can complete the challenge, a man breaks into the cell and kills one of the contestants.
Those who were present on that fateful night lend their points of view: Kendra Brown, a teenager who’s been uprooted from her childhood home after the sudden loss of her father; Leonard Grandton, a desperate and impressionable hotel manager caught in a series of toxic entanglements; and Jaidee Charoensuk, a gay international student who came to the United States in a besotted search for his former English teacher. As each character’s journey unfurls and overlaps, deceit and misunderstandings fueled by obsession and prejudice are revealed, forcing all to reckon with the ways in which their beliefs and actions contributed to a horrifying catastrophe.
An astonishingly soulful exploration of complicity and masquerade, Reprieve combines the psychological tension of classic horror with searing social criticism to present an unsettling portrait of this tangled American life.

I debated putting this title here or in the thriller section but decided to leave it as horror because of its darker elements. Don’t let the title lull you into a false sense of security with its characterization as a “social horror” novel and its comparisons to Leave The World Behind by Ruman Alaam (in themes not in style) and Friday Black. Its literary horror at its finest accompanied by searing social commentary and a diverse cast. Our three part narrative and unconventional style- incorporating transcripts, evidence descriptions and first person narratives- converge in the room of an extreme, full contact haunted house (which exist and you should Google if you haven’t done so before) that promises a sizeable cash prize to anyone who can make it through without shouting the safe word “reprieve”. In the last room, a man breaks in and murders one of the contestants and the reader is left to unravel what exactly happened and the motivations behind the killer’s heinous act. Featuring a grieving teenager, a hotel manager caught up in some dangerously toxic relationships and a gay immigrant, the cast is incredibly diverse. Its blurbed by previous Book of the Month authors Angie Kim (Miracle Creek) and Ruman Alaam (Leave the World Behind). This phenomenal sophomore novel blends important themes of prejudice, cultural complicity, racism and privilege with the author’s own experience as a Korean boy adopted by a white family, Reprieve is sure to appeal to horror and literary fiction lovers alike. 

Literary Fiction

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

What’s In The Box!– October 2021 PredictionsCloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
Published by Scribner on September 28, 2021
Pages: 640

Thirteen-year-old Anna, an orphan, lives inside the formidable walls of Constantinople in a house of women who make their living embroidering the robes of priests. Restless, insatiably curious, Anna learns to read, and in this ancient city, famous for its libraries, she finds a book, the story of Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so that he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky. This she reads to her ailing sister as the walls of the only place she has known are bombarded in the great siege of Constantinople. Outside the walls is Omeir, a village boy, miles from home, conscripted with his beloved oxen into the invading army. His path and Anna’s will cross.
Five hundred years later, in a library in Idaho, octogenarian Zeno, who learned Greek as a prisoner of war, rehearses five children in a play adaptation of Aethon’s story, preserved against all odds through centuries. Tucked among the library shelves is a bomb, planted by a troubled, idealistic teenager, Seymour. This is another siege. And in a not-so-distant future, on the interstellar ship Argos, Konstance is alone in a vault, copying on scraps of sacking the story of Aethon, told to her by her father. She has never set foot on our planet.

All the Light We Cannot See was offered as an add on some time ago, so I am not sure how confident I am about Doerr’s newest being a pick, but its on my list anyway because it sounds very Book of the Month-ish. Feel free to use the adjective as needed. Doerr’s newest novel is a sweeping epic, following three characters in three very different and distinct time periods. All three characters are joined together by the Greek play of Aethon. The first thread follows young Anna, who lives just inside the city walls of Constantinople and reads the story of Aethon to her ailing sister during the famous siege of the great city. Fast forward five hundred years to Zeno who, in an Idaho library, directs a play of Athenon with five young children while a bomb is hidden in the stacks by a troubled young man. Finally, fast forward to the future where Konstance is copying down the story of Aethon based on the memories of how her father told it to her. With comps to epics like Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell and Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, readers are in store for a lush, vivid and immersive novel that will leave you thinking long after you have turned the last page.

Small Pleasures by Claire Chambers

What’s In The Box!– October 2021 PredictionsSmall Pleasures by Clare Chambers
Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson on July 9, 2020
Pages: 352

1957, south-east suburbs of London.Jean Swinney is a feature writer on a local paper, disappointed in love and — on the brink of forty — living a limited existence with her truculent mother: a small life from which there is no likelihood of escape.
When a young Swiss woman, Gretchen Tilbury, contacts the paper to claim that her daughter is the result of a virgin birth, it is down to Jean to discover whether she is a miracle or a fraud. But the more Jean investigates, the more her life becomes strangely (and not unpleasantly) intertwined with that of the Tilburys: Gretchen is now a friend, and her quirky and charming daughter Margaret a sort of surrogate child. And Jean doesn't mean to fall in love with Gretchen's husband, Howard, but Howard surprises her with his dry wit, his intelligence and his kindness — and when she does fall, she falls hard.
But he is married, and to her friend — who is also the subject of the story she is researching for the newspaper, a story that increasingly seems to be causing dark ripples across all their lives. And yet Jean cannot bring herself to discard the chance of finally having a taste of happiness...
But there will be a price to pay, and it will be unbearable.

Already released in the UK, this sleeper hit of a novel is being compared to previous Book of the Month picks like The Remains of the Day and Fleishman Is In Trouble. It’s a literary novel that examines issues of family, love, and belief. Jean Swinney is a writer at a London newspaper, who ingratiates herself into the lives of a family when claims of their daughter’s virgin birth reaches Jean’s office. It is simultaneously a mystery and a love story- in more ways than one- and feels very reminiscent of the book Wonder by Emma Donoghou, albeit with a slightly faster pace. This character driven story about motherhood, romantic entanglements, and found family was already a bestseller in the UK and is making its American debut in mid october. While it is not blurbed by any previous Book of the Month authors, it tackles issues similar to those of previous favorites like The Push, A Woman Is No Man, and Good Company by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. Set in the 1950s, Chambers does a fantastic job bringing mid 20th century London to life. While the author does not tie her loose ends up with a pretty bow, it sounds like an intriguing pick for book clubs and hopefully it finds its audience in the US market. 

We Are Not Like Them by Christine Pride and Jo Plazza

What’s In The Box!– October 2021 PredictionsWe Are Not Like Them by Christine Pride, Jo Piazza
Published by Atria Books on October 5, 2021
Pages: 336

Told from alternating perspectives, an evocative and riveting novel about the lifelong bond between two women, one Black and one white, whose friendship is indelibly altered by a tragic event—a powerful and poignant exploration of race in America today and its devastating impact on ordinary lives.
Jen and Riley have been best friends since kindergarten. As adults, they remain as close as sisters, though their lives have taken different directions. Jen married young, and after years of trying, is finally pregnant. Riley pursued her childhood dream of becoming a television journalist and is poised to become one of the first Black female anchors of the top news channel in their hometown of Philadelphia.
But the deep bond they share is severely tested when Jen’s husband, a city police officer, is involved in the shooting of an unarmed Black teenager. Six months pregnant, Jen is in freefall as her future, her husband’s freedom, and her friendship with Riley are thrown into uncertainty. Covering this career-making story, Riley wrestles with the implications of this tragic incident for her Black community, her ambitions, and her relationship with her lifelong friend.
Like Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage and Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things, We Are Not Like Them explores complex questions of race and how they pervade and shape our most intimate spaces in a deeply divided world. But at its heart, it’s a story of enduring friendship—a love that defies the odds even as it faces its most difficult challenges.

This literary gem of a novel is all about the diverging lives of two best friends, one white and one black, as they navigate their very different worlds. Jen and Riley met as children and have maintained contact ever since. Jen, married and pregnant and Riley, finally pursuing that anchor job in Philadelphia. Then Jen’s police officer husband is involved in the shooting of an unarmed black teenager and Riley has the opportunity to cover the career changing story. Its a situation that tests both women as well as their lifelong friendship. Like An American Marriage by Tayari Jones and The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, We Are Not Like Them tackles racism as it continues to permeate a deeply divided world. It is also blurbed by a plethora of previous Book of the Month authors including: Atticka Locke, Laura Dave (The Last Thing He Told Me), Greer Hendricks, and Nancy Johnson (The Kindest Lie). Smart, heartfelt and tragically prescient, We Are Not Like Them sounds about as Book of the Monthish as one can get and is a must read for those who adored previous reads like The Exact Opposite of Okay and Such A Fun Age. 


No One Will Miss Her by Kat Rossenfield

What’s In The Box!– October 2021 PredictionsNo One Will Miss Her by Kat Rosenfield
Published by William Morrow on October 12, 2021
Pages: 304

On a beautiful October morning in rural Maine, a homicide investigator from the state police pulls into the hard-luck town of Copper Falls. The local junkyard is burning, and the town pariah Lizzie Oullette is dead—with her husband, Dwayne, nowhere to be found. As scandal ripples through the community, Detective Ian Bird’s inquiries unexpectedly lead him away from small-town Maine to a swank city townhouse several hours south. Adrienne Richards, blonde and fabulous social media influencer and wife of a disgraced billionaire, had been renting Lizzie’s tiny lake house as a country getaway…even though Copper Falls is anything but a resort town.
As Adrienne’s connection to the case becomes clear, so too does her connection to Lizzie, who narrates their story from beyond the grave. Each woman is desperately lonely in her own way, and they navigate a relationship that cuts across class boundaries: transactional, complicated, and, finally, deadly. A Gone Girl for the gig economy, this is a story of privilege, identity, and cunning, as two devious women from opposite worlds discover the dangers of coveting someone else’s life.

This thriller is definitely at the top of my predictions list because Book of the Month loves a good police procedural. It follows Detective Ian Birds as he attempts to uncover the truth behind a grisly murder. It takes him south where encounters Adrienne Richards, who was renting out the victims townhouse and has a mysterious connection to her and the murder itself. Told in alternating perspectives, the book promises some solid twists that will have readers’ heads spinning. More than that, No One Will Miss Her explores issues of poverty, especially in rural areas, female friendships, the detriments of social media, and drug addiction. Its getting comparisons to previous Book of the Month pick The Perfect Mother- another novel about female friendship. More convincingly, it is blurbed by past Book of the Month author AJ Finn (The Woman in the Window). It sounds like so many Book of the Month thrillers before it and honestly, that’s one of the biggest reasons I think it could be a pick. 

Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger

What’s In The Box!– October 2021 PredictionsLast Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger
Published by Park Row on October 5, 2021
Pages: 400

Secrets, obsession and vengeance converge in this riveting thriller about an online dating match turned deadly cat-and-mouse game, from the New York Times bestselling author of Confessions on the 7:45.
Think twice before you swipe.
She met him through a dating app. An intriguing picture on a screen, a date at a downtown bar. What she thought might be just a quick hookup quickly became much more. She fell for him—hard. It happens sometimes, a powerful connection with a perfect stranger takes you by surprise. Could it be love?
But then, just as things were getting real, he stood her up. Then he disappeared—profiles deleted, phone disconnected. She was ghosted.
Maybe it was her fault. She shared too much, too fast. But isn't that always what women think—that they're the ones to blame? Soon she learns there were others. Girls who thought they were in love. Girls who later went missing. She had been looking for a connection, but now she's looking for answers. Chasing a digital trail into his dark past—and hers—she finds herself on a dangerous hunt. And she's not sure whether she's the predator—or the prey.

From the author of the acclaimed and much loved thriller: Confessions on the 7:45, Last GirlGhosted is a thought provoking, psychological thriller that feels right up Book of the Month’s alley. Reminiscent of previous Book of the Month pick: Ghosted by Rosie Walsh, only much much darker. Wren meets and falls hard for a man she meets online. As their connection deepens, Wren begins to think there could be something more. Then he ghosts her. Deletes everything. Completely disappears. So she does what anyone would do. She goes looking for him. Her quest takes her to some dark places. Writing complex characters, Unger weaves a tale of forbidden secrets and revenge. It is blurbed by a plethora of previous Book of the Month authors including: Megan Abbot (You Will Know Me) and  Shari Lapena (Not A Happy Family). It’s a twisty novel that might be more dark drama than fast-paced tale but it definitely worth a read if you are familiar with Unger’s work or experiencing it for the first time. 

As The Wicked Watch by Tamron Hall

What’s In The Box!– October 2021 PredictionsAs the Wicked Watch by Tamron Hall
Published by William Morrow on October 26, 2021
Pages: 384

The first in a thrilling new series from Emmy Award–winning journalist Tamron Hall, in which a reporter unravels the disturbing mystery around the deaths of two black girls, the work of a serial killer terrorizing Chicago.
When crime reporter Jordan Manning leaves her hometown in Texas to take a job at a television station in Chicago, she’s one step closer to her a dream: a coveted anchor chair on a national network.
Jordan is smart and aggressive, with unabashed star-power, and often the only woman of color in the newsroom. Her signature? Arriving first on the scene—in impractical designer stilettos. Armed with a master’s degree in forensic science and impeccable instincts, Jordan has thus far been able to balance her dueling motivations: breaking every big story—and giving voice to the voiceless.
From her time reporting in Texas, she’s sure she has covered the vilest of human behaviors, but nothing has prepared her for Chicago. You see, Jordan is that rare breed of journalist who can navigate a crime scene as well as she can a newsroom—often noticing what others tend to miss. Again and again, she is called to cover the murders of black females, many of them sexually assaulted, most brutalized, and all of them quickly forgotten.
All until Masey James—the story that Jordan just can’t shake, try as she might. A fifteen-year-old girl whose body was found in an abandoned lot, Masey has come to represent for Jordan all of the frustration that her job—with its required distance—often forces her to repress. Putting the rest of her workload and her (fraying) personal life aside, Jordan does everything she can to give the story the coverage it desperately requires, and that a missing black child would so rarely get. Three young boys are eventually charged with Masey’s murder, but Jordan remains unconvinced.
There’s a serial killer on the loose, Jordan believes, and he’s hiding in plain sight.

This ownvoices thriller, featuring Black journalist Jordan Manning,  who moves to Chicago to work as a reporter in the hopes of eventually pursuing her dream of being a news anchor. When she becomes caught up solving the murder of a fifteen year old black girl whose body was found in an abandoned lot. Determined to give Masey James the coverage she deserves, Jordan comes face to face with the darker side of the criminal justice system, including the systemic racism that permeates it. This gritty, compelling story features an amateur sleuth (think Two Girls Down and The Broken Girls), explores racism within a wider system- similar to The Other Black Girl and Sing Unburied Sing-, and promises plenty of twists and turns. Considering Hall’s extensive experience as a TV journalist, As The Wicked Watch is sure to contain a sense of authenticity that many thrillers lack these days. It’s a popular trend in light of recent releases like While Justice Sleeps by Stacy Abrams and Red Widow by Alma Katsu, where authors draw on their work experience in other fields to write compelling thrillers. I guess all that’s left to do is wait and see if Book of the Month decides to climb aboard this growing trend. 


The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling

What’s In The Box!– October 2021 PredictionsThe Ex Hex by Erin Sterling
Published by Avon on September 28, 2021
Pages: 320

New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins, writing as Erin Sterling, casts a spell with a spine-tingling romance full of wishes, witches, and hexes gone wrong.
Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones nursed her broken heart like any young witch would: vodka, weepy music, bubble baths…and a curse on the horrible boyfriend. Sure, Vivi knows she shouldn’t use her magic this way, but with only an “orchard hayride” scented candle on hand, she isn’t worried it will cause him anything more than a bad hair day or two.
That is until Rhys Penhallow, descendent of the town’s ancestors, breaker of hearts, and annoyingly just as gorgeous as he always was, returns to Graves Glen, Georgia. What should be a quick trip to recharge the town’s ley lines and make an appearance at the annual fall festival turns disastrously wrong. With one calamity after another striking Rhys, Vivi realizes her silly little Ex Hex may not have been so harmless after all.
Suddenly, Graves Glen is under attack from murderous wind-up toys, a pissed off ghost, and a talking cat with some interesting things to say. Vivi and Rhys have to ignore their off the charts chemistry to work together to save the town and find a way to break the break-up curse before it’s too late.

Writing under the pen name of Erin Sterling, The Wife Upstairs author Rachel Hawkins has written a truly delightful romantic comedy perfect for Halloween. Vivienne Jones is a witch and nine years ago when her boyfriend Rhys Penhallow (what a name!) broke up with her, she did the only thing she could do to move on: she cursed him. But when Rhy returns to town, Vivienne is faced with the reality that a little hex might cause some big problems. The two must work together to save the town and break the curse. The Ex Hex sounds like an incredibly fun, Halloween-themed romp with plenty of chemistry and crazy shenanigans. It’s a whimsical novel that is getting comparisons to romance favorites like Get a Life Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert and one that romance author Tessa Bailey describes as “the perfect Fall read.” Some are saying that Book of the Month might not lean into Halloween that much but I think if they pass on Sterling’s latest, it will certainly be a missed opportunity for their members. 

The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer

What’s In The Box!– October 2021 PredictionsThe Matzah Ball: A Novel by Jean Meltzer
Published by Mira on September 28, 2021
Pages: 400

"The Matzah Ball had me laughing out loud...an all-around terrific read."—Debbie Macomber, #1 New York Times bestselling author
Oy! to the world

Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt is a nice Jewish girl with a shameful secret: she loves Christmas. For a decade she’s hidden her career as a Christmas romance novelist from her family. Her talent has made her a bestseller even as her chronic illness has always kept the kind of love she writes about out of reach.
But when her diversity-conscious publisher insists she write a Hanukkah romance, her well of inspiration suddenly runs dry. Hanukkah’s not magical. It’s not merry. It’s not Christmas. Desperate not to lose her contract, Rachel’s determined to find her muse at the Matzah Ball, a Jewish music celebration on the last night of Hanukkah, even if it means working with her summer camp archenemy—Jacob Greenberg.
Though Rachel and Jacob haven’t seen each other since they were kids, their grudge still glows brighter than a menorah. But as they spend more time together, Rachel finds herself drawn to Hanukkah—and Jacob—in a way she never expected. Maybe this holiday of lights will be the spark she needed to set her heart ablaze. 
"A luminous celebration of all types of love, threaded with the message that everyone is worthy of it.”—Rachel Lynn Solomon, author of The Ex Talk 

I feel like when it comes to holiday romances the market is saturated with love stories centered around Christmas- thank you Hallmark, I guess? So it’s refreshing to see a new twist on the subgenre. Rachel is a Jewish girl who is obsessed with Christmas. Unbeknownst to her very Jewish family she writes  Christmas romance novels that are NYT bestsellers. But then, her publisher asks that she write a Jewish romance, so she attends the Matzah Ball, a  Jewish celebration held annually the last night of Hannukah, even if that means teaming up with her childhood nemesis, Jacob. There is so much to love about the book from its enemies to lovers romance, Jewish rep, and its chronically ill protagonist, making it an important read. While its not blurbed by any previous Book of the Month authors it is getting compared to previous Book of the Month authors Christina Lauren and Jasmine Guillory. It is ultimately thoughtful and refreshing to read in light of an full to the brim holiday romance market. I know I will be getting this one regardless of whether Book of the Month picks it or not. 

A Holly Jolly Diwali by Sonya Lalli

What’s In The Box!– October 2021 PredictionsA Holly Jolly Diwali by Sonya Lalli
Published by Berkley Books on October 5, 2021
Pages: 336

One type-A data analyst discovers her free-spirited side on an impulsive journey from bustling Mumbai to the gorgeous beaches of Goa and finds love waiting for her on Christmas morning.
Twenty-nine-year-old Niki Randhawa has always made practical decisions. Despite her love for music and art, she became an analyst for the stability. She's always stuck close to home, in case her family needed her. And she's always dated guys that seem good on paper, rather than the ones who give her butterflies. When she's laid off, Niki realizes that practical hasn't exactly paid off for her. So for the first time ever, she throws caution to the wind and books a last-minute flight for her friend Diya's wedding.
Niki arrives in India just in time to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, where she meets London musician Sameer Mukherji. Maybe it's the splendor of Mumbai or the magic of the holiday season, but Niki is immediately drawn to Sam. At the wedding, the champagne flows and their flirtatious banter makes it clear that the attraction is mutual.
When Niki and Sam join Diya, her husband and their friends on a group honeymoon, their connection grows deeper. Free-spirited Sam helps Niki get in touch with her passionate and creative side, and with her Indian roots. When she gets a new job offer back home, Niki must decide what she wants out of the next chapter of her life--to cling to the straight and narrow like always, or to take a leap of faith and live the kind of bold life the old Niki never would have dreamed of.

At first glance, A Holly Jolly Diwali might sound like your run of the mill romance featuring a competent heroine who is just too busy for love and I would say to you, what’s wrong with that? Full of lush descriptions of Indian beach resorts, Lalli’s latest novel feels like the perfect escape as we move into colder months and some of us dream of warm beaches. Our main character is the independent and successful Nikki, who books a last minute flight to her friend Diya’s wedding after she is laid off. Its uncharacteristically impulsive of her, but she’s spiraling and could use a vacation- me too girl, me too. While there, she meets a London musician by the name of Sameer, the creative to her practical, and sparks begin to fly. In a voice colored by humor Lalli tackles issues of race, identity and work life balance in a gorgeous setting. Like previous picks such as The People We Meet on Vacation and The Sweetest Remedy, A Holly Jolly Diwali features a strong, career-driven female lead, ownvoices rep, and plenty of steamy moments. It sounds like such a fun read and an unconventional holiday romance.

Sci Fi/Fantasy

The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman

What’s In The Box!– October 2021 PredictionsThe Book of Magic (Practical Magic, #2) by Alice Hoffman
Published by Simon Schuster on October 12, 2021
Pages: 400

Master storyteller Alice Hoffman brings us the conclusion of the Practical Magic series in a spellbinding and enchanting final Owens novel brimming with lyric beauty and vivid characters.
The Owens family has been cursed in matters of love for over three-hundred years but all of that is about to change. The novel begins in a library, the best place for a story to be conjured, when beloved aunt Jet Owens hears the deathwatch beetle and knows she has only seven days to live. Jet is not the only one in danger—the curse is already at work.
A frantic attempt to save a young man’s life spurs three generations of the Owens women, and one long-lost brother, to use their unusual gifts to break the curse as they travel from Paris to London to the English countryside where their ancestor Maria Owens first practiced the Unnamed Art. The younger generation discovers secrets that have been hidden from them in matters of both magic and love by Sally, their fiercely protective mother. As Kylie Owens uncovers the truth about who she is and what her own dark powers are, her aunt Franny comes to understand that she is ready to sacrifice everything for her family, and Sally Owens realizes that she is willing to give up everything for love.
The Book of Magic is a breathtaking conclusion that celebrates mothers and daughters, sisters and brothers, and anyone who has ever been in love.

After Book of the Month offered two Alice Hoffman books in a single month- a bold choice in my opinion- it seems highly likely that the final book in her Practical Magic series will be a pick. Where Magic Lessons and Rules of Magic were prequels, The Book of Magic is a sequel to the original Practical Magic. When aunt Jet Owens hears the death beetle in a library, it’s clear that she only has a matter of days to live. Consequently, the Owen family sets out to break the curse that has haunted their family for centuries. Bringing together characters from previous books, as well as some new ones. Unlike some of the books on this list, I would recommend reading Hoffman’s other novels in the series before reading The Book of Magic. At the very least, I would recommend reading Practical Magic. In the conclusion to her much loved series, Hoffman explores issues of love, family, and what truly connects us. While it’s not blurbed by any previous Book of the Month authors, I’m confident that it will be available through Book of the Month just in time for Halloween.

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow

What’s In The Box!– October 2021 PredictionsA Spindle Splintered (Fractured Fables, #1) by Alix E. Harrow
Published by Tordotcom on October 5, 2021
Pages: 128

USA Today bestselling author Alix E. Harrow's A Spindle Splintered brings her patented charm to a new version of a classic story.
It's Zinnia Gray's twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it's the last birthday she'll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no one has lived past twenty-one.
Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia's last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.

Harrow’s debut, Ten Thousand Doors of January was a pick and was received relatively well among the Book of the Month community. While her sophomore novel, The Once and Future Witches was passed over as a pick, I do think Harrow’s third story, albeit a novella,  has a strong chance of being a pick. A Spindle Splintered is Harrow’s take on Sleeping Beauty and it is a real gem. Book of the Month has featured retellings in the past, including: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, Ariadne by Jennifer Saint, and Circe by Madeline Miller. Like January, A Spindle Splintered is a portal fantasy and our main character Zinnia, falls into the world of Sleeping Beauty when she pricks her finger on a spindle at her 21st birthday party. Not only is it a feminist reimagining of a classic fairytale- a favorite of Book of the Month, but it explores issues of illness, female power, and querness. It’s blurbed by Mike Chen, author of We Could Be Heroes and promises Harrow’s beautiful writing and strong, subversive female characters.  

Honorable Mentions

The Graduate by Naomi Novik (Fantasy)

What’s In The Box!– October 2021 PredictionsThe Last Graduate (The Scholomance, #2) by Naomi Novik
Published by Del Rey Books on September 28, 2021
Pages: 400

A budding dark sorceress determined not to use her formidable powers uncovers yet more secrets about the workings of her world in the stunning sequel to A Deadly Education, the start of Naomi Novik's groundbreaking crossover series.
At the Scholomance, El, Orion, and the other students are faced with their final year--and the looming specter of graduation, a deadly ritual that leaves few students alive in its wake. El is determined that her chosen group will survive, but it is a prospect that is looking harder by the day as the savagery of the school ramps up. Until El realizes that sometimes winning the game means throwing out all the rules . . .
Praise for A Deadly Education
"The scholomance is the dark school of magic I've been waiting for, and its wise, witty, and monstrous heroine is one I'd happily follow anywhere--even into a school full of monsters."--Katherine Arden, New York Times bestselling author of The Bear and the Nightingale "Novik deliciously undoes expectations about magic schools, destined heroes, and family legacies. A gorgeous book about monsters and monstrousness, chockablock with action, cleverness, and wit."--#1 New York Times bestselling author Holly Black
"A must-read . . . Novik puts a refreshingly dark, adult spin on the magical boarding school. . . . Readers will delight in the push-and-pull of El and Orion's relationship, the fantastically detailed world, the clever magic system, and the matter-of-fact diversity of the student body."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

With all the controversy surrounding the first book, I just don’t know if Book of the Month will include the sequel to A Deadly Education. Its still making my list as an honorable mention because there is still possibility but I’m doubtful that we will actually see it as a pick or add on in October. 

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward (Horror)

What’s In The Box!– October 2021 PredictionsThe Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward
Published by Nightfire on September 28, 2021
Pages: 352

Catriona Ward's The Last House on Needless Street is a shocking and immersive read perfect for fans of Gone Girl and The Haunting of Hill House.
In a boarded-up house on a dead-end street at the edge of the wild Washington woods lives a family of three.
A teenage girl who isn’t allowed outside, not after last time.A man who drinks alone in front of his TV, trying to ignore the gaps in his memory.And a house cat who loves napping and reading the Bible.
An unspeakable secret binds them together, but when a new neighbor moves in next door, what is buried out among the birch trees may come back to haunt them all.

My horror loving heart really wants to see Book of the Month pick a straight horror novel. Several years ago they chose Imaginary Friend and I absolutely adored it. But, early reviews are saying that Ward’s latest is a really strange book, making me wonder if its just a little too weird and niche for their readership. 

Comfort Me With Apples (Thriller)

What’s In The Box!– October 2021 PredictionsComfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente
Published by Tordotcom on October 26, 2021
Pages: 112

A terrifying new thriller from bestseller Catherynne M. Valente, for fans of Gone Girl and Spinning Silver
Sophia was made for him. Her perfect husband. She can feel it in her bones. He is perfect. Their home together in Arcadia Gardens is perfect. Everything is perfect.
It's just that he's away so much. So often. He works so hard. She misses him. And he misses her. He says he does, so it must be true. He is the perfect husband and everything is perfect.
But sometimes Sophia wonders about things. Strange things. Dark things. The look on her husband's face when he comes back from a long business trip. The questions he will not answer. The locked basement she is never allowed to enter. And whenever she asks the neighbors, they can't quite meet her gaze...
But everything is perfect. Isn't it?

I think this one sounds awesome and plan to read it regardless of whether its a Book of the Month pick or not, but I think it may be too short- Comfort Me With Apples clocks in at 112 pages- and its been a while since Book of the Month has picked anything that brief. 

My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson (Short Stories)

What’s In The Box!– October 2021 PredictionsMy Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on October 5, 2021
Pages: 224

A young woman descended from Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings driven from her neighborhood by a white militia. A university professor studying racism by conducting a secret social experiment on his own son. A single mother desperate to buy her first home even as the world hurtles toward catastrophe. Each fighting to survive in America.
Tough-minded, vulnerable, and brave, Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s precisely imagined debut explores burdened inheritances and extraordinary pursuits of belonging. Set in the near future, the eponymous novella, “My Monticello,” tells of a diverse group of Charlottesville neighbors fleeing violent white supremacists. Led by Da’Naisha, a young Black descendant of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, they seek refuge in Jefferson’s historic plantation home in a desperate attempt to outlive the long-foretold racial and environmental unravelling within the nation.
In “Control Negro,” hailed by Roxane Gay as “one hell of story,” a university professor devotes himself to the study of racism and the development of ACMs (average American Caucasian males) by clinically observing his own son from birth in order to “painstakingly mark the route of this Black child too, one whom I could prove was so strikingly decent and true that America could not find fault in him unless we as a nation had projected it there.” Johnson’s characters all seek out home as a place and an internal state, whether in the form of a Nigerian widower who immigrates to a meager existence in the city of Alexandria, finding himself adrift; a young mixed-race woman who adopts a new tongue and name to escape the landscapes of rural Virginia and her family; or a single mother who seeks salvation through “Buying a House Ahead of the Apocalypse.”
United by these characters’ relentless struggles against reality and fate, My Monticello is a formidable book that bears witness to this country’s legacies and announces the arrival of a wildly original new voice in American fiction.

A stellar debut by any standards, My Monticello consists of a series of six stories that explore racism and otherness. While Book of the Month has been trying to include more short story collections as well as nonfiction I am not super confident that it will make the cut for October. 

These Silent Woods by Kimi Cunningham Grant

What’s In The Box!– October 2021 PredictionsThese Silent Woods by Kimi Cunningham Grant
Published by Minotaur Books on October 26, 2021
Pages: 288

A father and daughter living in the remote Appalachian mountains must reckon with the ghosts of their past in Kimi Cunningham Grant's These Silent Woods, a mesmerizing novel of suspense.
No electricity, no family, no connection to the outside world.
For eight years, Cooper and his young daughter, Finch, have lived in isolation in a remote cabin in the northern Appalachian woods. And that's exactly the way Cooper wants it, because he's got a lot to hide. Finch has been raised on the books filling the cabin’s shelves and the beautiful but brutal code of life in the wilderness. But she’s starting to push back against the sheltered life Cooper has created for her—and he’s still haunted by the painful truth of what it took to get them there.
The only people who know they exist are a mysterious local hermit named Scotland, and Cooper's old friend, Jake, who visits each winter to bring them food and supplies. But this year, Jake doesn't show up, setting off an irreversible chain of events that reveals just how precarious their situation really is. Suddenly, the boundaries of their safe haven have blurred—and when a stranger wanders into their woods, Finch’s growing obsession with her could put them all in danger. After a shocking disappearance threatens to upend the only life Finch has ever known, Cooper is forced to decide whether to keep hiding—or finally face the sins of his past.
Vividly atmospheric and masterfully tense, These Silent Woods is a poignant story of survival, sacrifice, and how far a father will go when faced with losing it all.

This literary mystery in the vein of books like When the Stars Go Dark and What Comes After, tells the story of a father and daughter living isolated in the woods and what happens when their past catches up with them. It didn’t make the cut for my main list because its not blurbed by any previous Book of the Month authors. I would be happy to see it as a pick though!

What About You?

What books are you hoping to see as picks for the month of October? What do you think of my list? Let me know in the comments!

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