Hey stackers. Let me just say how much I appreciate your patience with these posts.
Where has November gone! I feel like it was just the 10th and I was sitting down doing my preliminary research to figure out what books I’ll include in this post and what I’ll leave off. Maybe one of these days I’ll give you a deep dive into my process. Work has been crazy and while publishing has slowed down, the chaos of family and holidays has just amped up it seems. For my predictions today, I did a pretty even split of December and January releases, as well as a few books that come out towards the end of November. December is a hard month to nail down since Book of the Month is notorious for choosing early releases as well as a backlist title or two that they missed earlier in the year. I’m not even going to try and guess that.
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The Ballerinas by Rachel Kapelke-DaleThe Ballerinas by Rachel Kapelke-Dale
Published by St. Martin's Press on December 7, 2021
Dare Me meets Black Swan and Luckiest Girl Alive in a captivating, voice-driven debut novel about a trio of ballerinas who meet as students at the Paris Opera Ballet School.
Fourteen years ago, Delphine abandoned her prestigious soloist spot at the Paris Opera Ballet for a new life in St. Petersburg––taking with her a secret that could upend the lives of her best friends, fellow dancers Lindsay and Margaux. Now 36 years old, Delphine has returned to her former home and to the legendary Palais Garnier Opera House, to choreograph the ballet that will kickstart the next phase of her career––and, she hopes, finally make things right with her former friends. But Delphine quickly discovers that things have changed while she's been away...and some secrets can't stay buried forever.
Moving between the trio's adolescent years and the present day, The Ballerinas explores the complexities of female friendship, the dark drive towards physical perfection in the name of artistic expression, the double-edged sword of ambition and passion, and the sublimated rage that so many women hold inside––all culminating in a twist you won't see coming, with magnetic characters you won't soon forget.
Rumored to be a book club pick, this contemporary novel features three friends who met and became friends while they worked in the Paris Opera Ballet. An unknown event lead to their estrangement and, in the same vein as picks like In A Book Club Far Away, the reader uncovers the truth of the estrangement throughout the course of the novel. Alternating between past and present the book is told from the trio’s perspective as this compelling story explores the complexities of female friendship, the precarious nature of seeking physical perfection in the name of art, and the suppressed female rage that so many women hold onto. While I would not describe The Ballerinas as a fast paced-twisty thriller but the mystery in this novel leads to a big twisty reveal that will surprise you. It’s also blurbed by a handful of Book of the Month authors including Araminta Hall (Our Kind of Cruelty) Ella Berman (The Comeback), and Andrea Bartz (We Were Never Here). As a December release, I think it still has a high chance of being a pick!
Tell Me How To Be by Neel PatelTell Me How to Be by Neel Patel
Published by Flatiron Books on December 7, 2021
From rising star Neel Patel comes a darkly funny and heartbreaking debut novel about an Indian-American family confronting the secrets between them
Renu Amin always seemed perfect: doting husband, beautiful house, healthy sons. But as the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death approaches, Renu is binge-watching soap operas and simmering with old resentments. She can’t stop wondering if, thirty-five years ago, she chose the wrong life. In Los Angeles, her son, Akash, has everything he ever wanted, but as he tries to kickstart his songwriting career and commit to his boyfriend, he is haunted by the painful memories he fled a decade ago. When his mother tells him she is selling the family home, Akash returns to Illinois, hoping to finally say goodbye and move on.
Together, Renu and Akash pack up the house, retreating further into the secrets that stand between them. Renu sends an innocent Facebook message to the man she almost married, sparking an emotional affair that calls into question everything she thought she knew about herself. Akash slips back into bad habits as he confronts his darkest secrets―including what really happened between him and the first boy who broke his heart. When their pasts catch up to them, Renu and Akash must decide between the lives they left behind and the ones they’ve since created, between making each other happy and setting themselves free.
By turns irreverent and tender, filled with the beats of ’90s R&B, Tell Me How to Be is about our earliest betrayals and the cost of reconciliation. But most of all, it is the love story of a mother and son each trying to figure out how to be in the world.
This contemporary novel with its irreverent tone that can be compared to The Bad Muslim Discount, would fit right in as a December Book of the Month pick Our protagonist is Renu Amin, who by all accounts, appears to have the perfect life. Enviable family, financial stability and successful children. But she can’t stop wondering if, thirty-five years ago, she chose the wrong life. The other perspective is her son, Akash, who also appears to have everything he ever wanted, but as he tries to kickstart his songwriting career and commit to his boyfriend, he is haunted by the painful memories that haunt him even decades later. The two come back together when Renu informs Akish that she is selling the family home. As the two pack up a place that contains so may memories, through a series of decisions and occurrences, they come face to face with the pasts they left behind. After seeing books highlighting parent/children relationships in recent months- I’m thinking specifically of titles like Sankofa and A Little Hope- I think Tell Me How To Be would fit in nicely with other relationship fiction picks featuring long held secrets. In addition to its thematic similarities to other Book of the Month picks its blurbed by The Last Story of Mina Lee author Nancy Jooyoun Kim and Ruman Alaam (Leave the World Behind). I think it’s a thought provoking, evocative contemporary about a mother and son, the price of reconciliation, and the struggle of trying to carve out one’s place in the world.
Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl GonzalezOlga Dies Dreaming by Xóchitl González
Published by Flatiron Books on January 4, 2022
A blazing talent debuts with the tale of a status-driven wedding planner grappling with her social ambitions, absent mother, and Puerto Rican roots, all in the wake of Hurricane Maria
It's 2017, and Olga and her brother, Pedro "Prieto" Acevedo, are bold-faced names in their hometown of New York. Prieto is a popular congressman representing their gentrifying Latinx neighborhood in Brooklyn while Olga is the tony wedding planner for Manhattan's powerbrokers.
Despite their alluring public lives, behind closed doors things are far less rosy. Sure, Olga can orchestrate the love stories of the 1%, but she can't seem to find her own...until she meets Matteo, who forces her to confront the effects of long-held family secrets...
Twenty-seven years ago, their mother, Blanca, a Young Lord-turned-radical, abandoned her children to advance a militant political cause, leaving them to be raised by their grandmother. Now, with the winds of hurricane season, Blanca has come barreling back into their lives.
Set against the backdrop of New York City in the months surrounding the most devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico's history, Olga Dies Dreaming is a story that examines political corruption, familial strife and the very notion of the American dream--all while asking what it really means to weather a storm.
Another book on the list that explores family relationships, Olga Dies Dreaming is set in 2017 and follows siblings Olga and Pedro Acevedo. Set in New York, Pedro or “Prieto” is a popular congressman representing their gentrifying Latinx neighborhood in Brooklyn, while Olga is the wedding planner for Manhattan’s power brokers. In the public’s eye, their lives are perfect. But they have family secrets that begin to come to light when Olga meets and starts to fall for Matteo. The aspect of the novel that intrigues me most is the storyline of Prieto and Olga’s mother, who abandoned her children to be raised by their grandmother while she pursued a radical and extremist political agenda. To complicate things even more, New York is preparing for the touchdown of one of it’s biggest storms in history- which gives me serious What Storm, What Thunder vibes!- I would love to see Book of the Month include more Lantix authors in their continued and ongoing efforts to be more diverse. Furthermore, Olga Dies Dreaming is blurbed by repeat Book of the Month authors Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney and Ruman Alaam. Book of the Month has been including a ton more relationship fiction, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them continue that trend.
Joan is Okay by Weike WangJoan Is Okay by Weike Wang
Published by Random House on January 18, 2022
A witty, moving, piercingly insightful new novel about a marvelously complicated woman who can’t be anyone but herself, from the award-winning author of Chemistry
Joan is a thirtysomething ICU doctor at a busy New York City hospital. The daughter of Chinese parents who came to the United States to secure the American dream for their children, Joan is intensely devoted to her work, happily solitary, successful. She does look up sometimes and wonder where her true roots lie: at the hospital, where her white coat makes her feel needed, or with her family, who try to shape her life by their own cultural and social expectations.
Once Joan and her brother, Fang, were established in their careers, her parents moved back to China, hoping to spend the rest of their lives in their homeland. But when Joan’s father suddenly dies and her mother returns to America to reconnect with her children, a series of events sends Joan spiraling out of her comfort zone just as her hospital, her city, and the world are forced to reckon with a health crisis more devastating than anyone could have imagined.
Deceptively spare yet quietly powerful, laced with sharp humor, Joan Is Okay touches on matters that feel deeply resonant: being Chinese-American right now; working in medicine at a high-stakes time; finding one’s voice within a dominant culture; being a woman in a male-dominated workplace; and staying independent within a tight-knit family. But above all, it’s a portrait of one remarkable woman so surprising that you can’t get her out of your head.
From the same author as previous Book of the Month pick Chemistry, I’ll be really surprised if Joan Is Okay isn’t a December or January pick. Joan is a thirtysomething ICU physician at a busy New York City hospital. She’s a workaholic with little interest in having friends, let alone lovers, and her medical colleagues misread her dedication to work as ambition. The daughter of Chinese parents who immigrated to America to secure the American dream, Joan sometimes looks up and wonders where her true roots lie: at the hospital, where her white coat makes her feel needed, or with her family, who try to shape her life through their own social and cultural expectations. A series of events throw Joan’s life into chaos when her father dies and her work forces her to take a leave of absence in the name of work/life balance. Joan Is Okay introduces us to a marvelously complicated woman who can’t be anyone but herself. Not only is Weike Wang a repeat author, but her latest novel is blurbed by Angie Kim (Miracle Creek), Lily King (Writers and Lovers), and Rachel Khong (Goodbye, Vitamin). Featuring a strong, female lead with plenty of cultural and social commentary, I’ll be shocked if it’s not a pick this month or next.
The Postmistress of Paris by Meg Waite ClaytonThe Postmistress of Paris by Meg Waite Clayton
Published by Harper on November 30, 2021
The New York Times bestselling author of The Last Train to London revisits the dark early days of the German occupation in France in this haunting novel—a love story and a tale of high-stakes danger and incomparable courage—about a young American heiress who helps artists hunted by the Nazis escape from war-torn Europe.
Wealthy, beautiful Naneé was born with a spirit of adventure. For her, learning to fly is freedom. When German tanks roll across the border and into Paris, this woman with an adorable dog and a generous heart joins the resistance. Known as the Postmistress because she delivers information to those in hiding, Naneé uses her charms and skill to house the hunted and deliver them to safety.
Photographer Edouard Moss has escaped Germany with his young daughter only to be interned in a French labor camp. His life collides with Nanée’s in this sweeping tale of romance and danger set in a world aflame with personal and political passion.
Inspired by the real life Chicago heiress Mary Jayne Gold, who worked with American journalist Varian Fry to smuggle artists and intellectuals out of France, The Postmistress of Paris is the haunting story of an indomitable woman whose strength, bravery, and love is a beacon of hope in a time of terror.
This historical fiction WWII novel might feel like one in a dozen but a few things make it stand out as a potential Book of the Month pick for November. Our protagonist is Naneé, born in the Midwest but longing for adventure. Finding herself in Paris when German tanks roll across the border into France, she decides to join the resistance. Known as the Postmistress because she delivers information to those in hiding, Naneé hides those fleeing the German occupation and guides them to safety. Inspired by the real life Chicago heiress Mary Jayne Gold, who worked with American journalist Varian Fry to smuggle artists and intellectuals out of France, The Postmistress of Paris is a sweeping tale of romance and danger, filled with political intrigue and intense passion. Its a story of love, hope, heartbreak and resilience and is a perfect read for our difficult times. I have seen some people pining for something inspirational, I definitely think this one fits the bill. This title is also blurbed by Book of the Month favorite Kristen Hannah (The Nightingale, The Four Winds, The Great Alone) and Yangsze Choo (The Night Tiger). While Book of the Month hasn’t included a historical fiction pick every month, this would be a solid choice for December!
Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea KimBeasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim
Published by Ecco on December 7, 2021
An epic story of love, war, and redemption set against the backdrop of the Korean independence movement, following the intertwined fates of a young girl sold to a courtesan school and the penniless son of a hunter
In 1917, deep in the snowy mountains of occupied Korea, an impoverished local hunter on the brink of starvation saves a young Japanese officer from an attacking tiger. In an instant, their fates are connected—and from this encounter unfolds a saga that spans half a century.
In the aftermath, a young girl named Jade is sold by her family to Miss Silver’s courtesan school, an act of desperation that will cement her place in the lowest social status. When she befriends an orphan boy named JungHo, who scrapes together a living begging on the streets of Seoul, they form a deep friendship. As they come of age, JungHo is swept up in the revolutionary fight for independence, and Jade becomes a sought-after performer with a new romantic prospect of noble birth. Soon Jade must decide whether she will risk everything for the one who would do the same for her.
From the perfumed chambers of a courtesan school in Pyongyang to the glamorous cafes of a modernizing Seoul and the boreal forests of Manchuria, where battles rage, Juhea Kim’s unforgettable characters forge their own destinies as they wager their nation’s. Immersive and elegant, Beasts of a Little Land unveils a world where friends become enemies, enemies become saviors, heroes are persecuted, and beasts take many shapes.
A family saga comparable to novels like The Nightingale and Pachinko. With comparisons to previous Book of the Month picks like The Night Tiger and A Woman Is No Man, I think Book of the Month is overdue for an expansive epic likes Beasts of a Little Land. Set in the early 20th century, one of our main characters is Jade, who is sold by her family to Miss Silver’s courtesan school, sentencing her to a life of poverty and societal condemnation. Then Jade befriends an orphan boy named JungHo, who scrapes together a living begging on the streets of Seoul and they form a deep friendship. Over the course of half a century, Jade and JungHo must make decisions about who they are and the place they wish to occupy in the world. Immersive and elegant, Beasts of a Little Land unveils a world where friends become enemies, enemies become saviors, heroes are persecuted, and beasts take many shapes. Not only does this book don the appearance of a Book of the Month pick thematically and stylistically, but its blurbed by previous Book of the Month author Brandon Hobson (The Removed). Profound and poetic, Beasts of a Little Land is the sweeping historical novel you didn’t know you needed!
Yonder by Jabari AsimYonder by Jabari Asim
on January 11, 2022
The Water Dancer
meets The Prophets in this spare, gripping, and beautifully rendered novel exploring love and friendship among a group of enslaved Black strivers in the mid-19th century.
They call themselves the Stolen. Their owners call them captives. They are taught their captors’ tongues and their beliefs but they have a language and rituals all their own.
In a world that would be allegorical if it weren’t saturated in harsh truths, Cato and William meet at Placid Hall, a plantation in an unspecified part of the American South. Subject to the whims of their tyrannical and eccentric captor, Cannonball Greene, they never know what harm may befall them: inhumane physical toil in the plantation’s quarry by day, a beating by night, or the sale of a loved one at any moment. It’s that cruel practice—the wanton destruction of love, the belief that Black people aren’t even capable of loving—that hurts the most.
It hurts the reserved and stubborn William, who finds himself falling for Margaret, a small but mighty woman with self-possession beyond her years. And it hurts Cato, whose first love, Iris, was sold off with no forewarning. He now finds solace in his hearty band of friends, including William, who is like a brother; Margaret; Little Zander; and Milton, a gifted artist. There is also Pandora, with thick braids and long limbs, whose beauty calls to him.
Their relationships begin to fray when a visiting minister with a mysterious past starts to fill their heads with ideas about independence. He tells them that with freedom comes the right to choose the small things—when to dine, when to begin and end work—as well as the big things, such as whom and how to love. Do they follow the preacher and pursue the unknown? Confined in a landscape marked by deceit and uncertainty, who can they trust?
In an elegant work of monumental imagination that will reorient how we think of the legacy of America’s shameful past, Jabari Asim presents a beautiful, powerful, and elegiac novel that examines intimacy and longing in the quarters while asking a vital question: What would happen if an enslaved person risked everything for love?
While this literary, historical novel isn’t blurbed by any previous Book of the Month authors, it is being compared to The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates and The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr- both very literary previous picks. Yonder is a gripping, beautifully rendered novel exploring love and friendship among a group of Black slaves in the mid-19th century. saturated in harsh truths, Cato and William meet at Placid Hall, a plantation in an unspecified part of the American South. Subject to the whims of their tyrannical and eccentric captor, Cannonball Greene, they never know what harm may befall them: inhumane physical toil in the plantation’s quarry by day, a beating by night, or the sale of a loved one at any moment. The reader follows these characters as they fall in love, experience loss, and suffer despicable abuses. Their relationships begin to fray when a visiting minister with a mysterious past starts to fill their heads with ideas about independence. In an elegant work of monumental imagination that will reorient how we think of the legacy of America’s shameful past, Jabari Asim presents a beautiful, powerful, and elegiac novel that examines intimacy and longing in the harshest of circumstances. As I said, its not blurbed by any previous Book of the Month authors, but it’s going to be an important book and we’ll just see if Book of the Month wants to be part of the conversation!
The School For Good Mothers by Jessamine ChanThe School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan
Published by Simon Schuster on January 4, 2022
In this taut and explosive debut novel, one lapse in judgement lands a young mother in a government reform program where custody of her child hangs in the balance.
Frida Liu is struggling. She doesn’t have a career worthy of her Chinese immigrant parents’ sacrifices. What’s worse is she can’t persuade her husband, Gust, to give up his wellness-obsessed younger mistress. Only with their angelic daughter Harriet does Frida finally feel she’s attained the perfection expected of her. Harriet may be all she has, but she’s just enough.
Until Frida has a horrible day.
The state has its eyes on mothers like Frida — one’s who check their phones while their kids are on the playground; who let their children walk home alone; in other words, mothers who only have one lapse of judgement. Now, a host of government officials will determine if Frida is a candidate for a Big Brother-like institution that measures the success or failure of a mother’s devotion. Faced with the possibility of losing Harriet, Frida must prove that she can live up to the standards set for mothers — that she can learn to be good.
This propulsive, witty page-turner explores the perils of “perfect” upper-middle-class parenting, the violence enacted upon women by the state and each other, and the boundless love a mother has for her daughter.
This debut novel with a dystopian edge features a young mother who finds herself in a government reform program where custody of her child hangs in the balance. Frida Liu is struggling. She doesn’t have a career worthy of her Chinese immigrant parents’ sacrifices. She can’t persuade her husband, Gust, to give up his wellness-obsessed younger mistress. Only with Harriet, their adorable daughter, does Frida finally feel she achieves the perfection demanded of her. But one bad day means a host of government officials will now determine if Frida is a candidate for a Big Brother-like institution that measures the success or failure of a mother’s devotion. Faced with the possibility of losing Harriet, Frida must prove that a bad mother can be redeemed. That she can learn to be good. Using dark wit, Chan explores the pains and complexities of motherhood, the unrealistic expectations society places on mothers, and what it means to be a good parent. This book is being compared to a lot of previous Book of the Month picks by the publisher, including: The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave, White Ivy by Susie Yang, The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris, Red Clocks by Leni Zumas, The Leavers by Lisa Ko, The Power by Naomi Alderman, Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel, The Mothers by Brit Bennett, and Normal People by Sally Rooney. Its also blurbed by Liz Moore (Long Bright River), and Red Clocks by Leni Zumas. Regardless of whether its a pick or not, I will definitely be reading this all too prescient debut!
Notes on an Execution by Daniel KukafkaNotes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka
Published by William Morrow on January 25, 2022
In the tradition of Long Bright River and The Mars Room, a gripping and atmospheric work of literary suspense that deconstructs the story of a serial killer on death row, told primarily through the eyes of the women in his life—from the bestselling author of Girl in Snow.
Ansel Packer is scheduled to die in twelve hours. He knows what he’s done, and now awaits execution, the same chilling fate he forced on those girls, years ago. But Ansel doesn’t want to die; he wants to be celebrated, understood. He hoped it wouldn’t end like this, not for him.
Through a kaleidoscope of women—a mother, a sister, a homicide detective—we learn the story of Ansel’s life. We meet his mother, Lavender, a seventeen-year-old girl pushed to desperation; Hazel, twin sister to Ansel’s wife, inseparable since birth, forced to watch helplessly as her sister’s relationship threatens to devour them all; and finally, Saffy, the homicide detective hot on his trail, who has devoted herself to bringing bad men to justice but struggles to see her own life clearly. As the clock ticks down, these three women sift through the choices that culminate in tragedy, exploring the rippling fissures that such destruction inevitably leaves in its wake.
Blending breathtaking suspense with astonishing empathy, Notes on an Execution presents a chilling portrait of womanhood as it simultaneously unravels the familiar narrative of the American serial killer, interrogating our system of justice and our cultural obsession with crime stories, asking readers to consider the false promise of looking for meaning in the psyches of violent men.
I will grant that it is quite possible this book will be a January pick instead of a December selection, but I wanted to promote it early because I think its going to be one of the big book club books of 2022. In the tradition of Long Bright River and The Mars Room, Notes on an Execution is a gripping and atmospheric work of literary suspense (Girl A or When the Stars Go Dark anyone?) that deconstructs the story of a serial killer on death row, told primarily through the eyes of the women in his life. Technically taking place over the course of the twelve hours before Amsel’s execution, the reader gets to know Amsel through a kaleidoscope of women—a mother, a sister, a homicide detective—we learn the story of Ansel’s life. As the clock ticks down, these three women sift through the choices that culminate in tragedy, exploring the rippling fissures that such destruction inevitably leaves in its wake. Blending breathtaking suspense with astonishing empathy, Notes on an Execution presents a chilling portrait of womanhood as it simultaneously unravels the familiar narrative of the American serial killer, interrogating our system of justice and our cultural obsession with crime stories, asking readers to consider the false promise of looking for meaning in the psyches of violent men.Y’all, this book is blurbed by SO MANY Book of the Month authors. They include: Brit Bennett, Megan Abbott, Ashley Audrain, Paula Hawkins, and Paula Maclain. I think this one will be for the literary fiction and true crime lovers alike and will spark important and provocative conversations among individual readers and book clubs!
Mysteries & Thrillers
Hello Transcriber by Hannah MorrisseyHello, Transcriber by Hannah Morrissey
Published by Minotaur Books on November 30, 2021
Hannah Morrissey's Hello, Transcriber is a captivating mystery suspense debut featuring a female police transcriber who goes beyond the limits to solve a harrowing case.
Every night, while the street lamps shed the only light on Wisconsin's most crime-ridden city, police transcriber Hazel Greenlee listens as detectives divulge Black Harbor's gruesome secrets. As an aspiring writer, Hazel believes that writing a novel could be her only ticket out of this frozen hellscape. And then her neighbor confesses to hiding the body of an overdose victim in a dumpster.
The suspicious death is linked to Candy Man, a notorious drug dealer. Now Hazel has a first row seat to the investigation and becomes captivated by the lead detective, Nikolai Kole. Intrigued by the prospects of gathering eyewitness intel for her book, Hazel joins Kole in exploring Black Harbor's darkest side. As the investigation unfolds, Hazel will learn just how far she'll go for a good story―even if it means destroying her marriage and luring the killer to her as she plunges deeper into the city she's desperate to claw her way out of.
A fresh take on your typical police procedural, this suspenseful debut features a female police transcriber who goes beyond the limits to solve a harrowing case. Every night, Hazel Greenlee listens as detectives divulge Black Harbor’s gruesome secrets. As an aspiring writer, Hazel believes that writing a novel could be her only ticket out of the frozen hellscape that is her rural Wisconsin town. And then her neighbor confesses to hiding the body of an overdose victim in a dumpster. The suspicious death is linked to Candy Man, a notorious drug dealer. Now Hazel has a first row seat to the investigation and becomes captivated by the lead detective, Nikolai Kole. Intrigued by the prospects of gathering eyewitness intel for her book, Hazel joins Kole in exploring Black Harbor’s darkest side. As the investigation unfolds, Hazel will learn just how far she’ll go for a good story—even if it means destroying her marriage and luring the killer to her as she plunges deeper into the city she’s desperate to claw her way out of. Blurbed by Megan Collins (The Winter Sister), Morrissey’s debut is another book on this list that explores society’s unhealthy obsession with crime stories and the lengths individuals will go for a chance in the limelight.
True Crime Story by Joseph KnoxTrue Crime Story by Joseph Knox
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark on December 7, 2021
THE #1 INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER!
What happens to all the girls who go missing?
The thrilling story of a university student's sudden disappearance, the woman who became obsessed with her case, and the crime writer who uncovered the chilling truth about what happened...
In 2011, Zoe Nolan walked out of her dormitory in Manchester and was never seen or heard from again. Her case went cold. Her story was sad, certainly, but hardly sensational, crime writer Joseph Knox thought. He wouldn't have given her any more thought were it not for his friend, Evelyn Mitchell. Another writer struggling to come up with a new idea, Evelyn was wondering just what happened to all the girls who go missing. What happened to the Zoe Nolans of the world?
Evelyn began investigating herself, interviewing Zoe's family and friends, and emailing Joseph with chapters of the book she was writing with her findings. Uneasy with the corkscrew twists and turns, Joseph Knox embedded himself in the case, ultimately discovering a truth more tragic and shocking than he could have possibly imagined...
Just remember: Everything you read is fiction.
Okay, let me preface my discussion of this book by saying that the synopsis provided by the publisher makes it sound like a nonfiction true crime novel, but it is not. It’s fiction. With similarities to the nonfiction title I’ll Be Gone In The Dark and previous Book of the Month pick: The Night Swim by Megan Goldin. True Crime Story is the thrilling fictional narrative of a university student’s sudden disappearance, the woman who became obsessed with her case, and the crime writer who uncovered the chilling truth about what happened. In 2011, Zoe Nolan walked out of her dormitory in Manchester and was never seen or heard from again. Her case went cold. Joseph Knox, as a character in his own novel, would not have cared about Zoe’s story, until Evelyn, another writer struggling to come up with a new idea. Evelyn began investigating herself, interviewing Zoe’s family and friends, and emailing Joseph with chapters of the book she was writing with her findings. Uneasy with the corkscrew twists and turns, Joseph Knox embedded himself in the case, ultimately discovering a truth more tragic and shocking than he could have possibly imagined. Blurbed by John Boyne, this uniquely structured novel combines a Daisy Jones-esque oral history and a twisty missing-girl thrillers, while pulling the author into the novel in a mind-bending way. For those who liked previous Book of the Month author Max Brooks, and novels that incorporate unique formats, True Crime Story will be an interesting read for sure!
A History of Wild Places by Shea ErnshawA History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw
Published by Atria Books on December 7, 2021
Travis Wren has an unusual talent for locating missing people. Hired by families as a last resort, he requires only a single object to find the person who has vanished. When he takes on the case of Maggie St. James—a well-known author of dark, macabre children’s books—he’s led to a place many believed to be only a legend.
Called Pastoral, this reclusive community was founded in the 1970s by like-minded people searching for a simpler way of life. By all accounts, the commune shouldn’t exist anymore and soon after Travis stumbles upon it… he disappears. Just like Maggie St. James.
Years later, Theo, a lifelong member of Pastoral, discovers Travis’s abandoned truck beyond the border of the community. No one is allowed in or out, not when there’s a risk of bringing a disease—rot—into Pastoral. Unraveling the mystery of what happened reveals secrets that Theo, his wife, Calla, and her sister, Bee, keep from one another. Secrets that prove their perfect, isolated world isn’t as safe as they believed—and that darkness takes many forms.
Hauntingly beautiful, hypnotic, and bewitching, A History of Wild Places is a story about fairy tales, our fear of the dark, and losing yourself within the wilderness of your mind.
An unconventional thriller that I think would be an interesting pick for Book of the Month. I must confess that I could not wait for the publication date and am about a fourth of the way through my egalley. The book opens with Travis Wren, who has an unusual talent for locating missing people. When he takes on the case of Maggie St. James—a well-known author of dark, macabre children’s books—he’s led to a place many believed to be only a legend. Called Pastoral, this reclusive community was founded in the 1970s by like-minded people searching for a simpler way of life. By all accounts, the commune shouldn’t exist anymore and soon after Travis stumbles upon it…he disappears. Years later, Theo, a lifelong member of Pastoral, discovers Travis’s abandoned truck beyond the border of the community. No one is allowed in or out, not when there’s a risk of bringing a disease—rot—into Pastoral. Unraveling the mystery of what happened from three alternating perspectives reveals secrets that Theo, his wife, Calla, and her sister, Bee, keep from one another. With comparisons to Long Bright River by Liz Moore, The Sundown Motel by Simone St. James, and The Girls by Emma Cline, A History of Wild Places is as much a book about missing people as it is about an off the grid commune that might not be as idyllic as it first appears. It’s blurbed by the author of one of my favorite Book of the Month picks ever: Ruth Emmi Lang- author of Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance. Atmospheric and haunting, it deserves all the hype!
The Latinist by Mark PrinsThe Latinist by Mark Prins
Published by W. W. Norton Company on January 4, 2022
Iowa Writer's Workshop graduate and Truman Capote Fellow Mark Prins's THE LATINIST, pitched in the vein of A.S. Byatt and Patricia Highsmith, in which a young American doctoral candidate in Classics at Oxford comes to suspect that her distinguished mentor has taken steps to sabotage her career prospects, and a startling discovery about an obscure 2nd-century Latin poet only raises the professional stakes and leads ultimately to a grand showdown between advisor and advisee, to Helen Thomaides at Norton.
In the vein of books like The Maidens and The Secret History, which were both previous Book of the Month picks, The Latinist is a contemporary reimagining of the Daphne and Apollo myth. Book of the Month has sunk hard into the Greek mythology retelling trend with previous picks like Circe by Madeline Miller and Ariadne by Jennifer Saint. This page-turning exploration of power, ambition, and the intertwining of love and obsession follows Tessa Templeton, who has thrived at Oxford University under the tutelage and praise of esteemed classics professor Christopher Eccles. As she prepares for her thesis defense Tessa learns that Chris has sabotaged her career—and realizes their relationship is not at all what she believed. Driven by what he mistakes as love for Tessa, Chris has ensured that no other institution will offer her a position, keeping her at Oxford with him. Then Tessa makes a discovery that could make her career and take her far away from Oxford and Chris’ obsessive tendencies. Not only do the above elements lend itself to being a December pick, but this one is also blurbed by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (Good Company) and Maria Hummel (Still LIves).
Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn SolomonWeather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Published by Berkley on January 11, 2022
A TV meteorologist and a sports reporter scheme to reunite their divorced bosses with unforecasted results in this charming romantic comedy from the author of The Ex Talk.
Ari Abrams has always been fascinated by the weather, and she loves almost everything about her job as a TV meteorologist. Her boss, legendary Seattle weatherwoman Torrance Hale, is too distracted by her tempestuous relationship with her ex-husband, the station’s news director, to give Ari the mentorship she wants. Ari, who runs on sunshine and optimism, is at her wits’ end. The only person who seems to understand how she feels is sweet but reserved sports reporter Russell Barringer.
In the aftermath of a disastrous holiday party, Ari and Russell decide to team up to solve their bosses’ relationship issues. Between secret gifts and double dates, they start nudging their bosses back together. But their well-meaning meddling backfires when the real chemistry builds between Ari and Russell.
Working closely with Russell means allowing him to get to know parts of herself that Ari keeps hidden from everyone. Will he be able to embrace her dark clouds as well as her clear skies?
Another title that I think has a better chance of being a January pick rather than a December selection, I think Weather Girl sounds like a perfect contemporary romance for Book of the Month to choose. In light, breezy prose, it tells the story of a TV meteorologist and a sports reporter’s scheme to reunite their divorced bosses with unsurprisingly romantic results from the author of The Ex Talk. Ari Abrams has always been fascinated by the weather, and she loves almost everything about her job as a TV meteorologist. Her boss, Seattle weather woman Torrance Hale, is too distracted by her tempestuous relationship with her ex-husband, the station’s news director, to give Ari the mentorship she wants. But Ari, always the optimist, is sick of it. The only person who seems to understand how she feels is sweet but reserved sports reporter Russell Barringer. In the aftermath of a disastrous holiday party, Ari and Russell decide to team up to solve their bosses’ relationship issues. Between secret gifts and double dates, they start nudging their bosses back together. But their well-meaning meddling backfires when the real chemistry builds between Ari and Russell. Blurbed by previous Book of the Month authors Jasmine Guillory, Sophia Cousens, Helen Hoang, and the surprising hit of the year Love Hypothesis’ Ali Hazelwood, this one is sure to brighten the coldest of winter days!
The Holiday Swap Maggie KnoxThe Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox
on October 5, 2021
The International Bestseller--A feel-good, holiday rom com about identical twins who swap lives twelve days before Christmas--perfect for fans of Christina Lauren's In a Holidaze and Josie Silver's One Day in December
All they want for Christmas is a different life.
When chef Charlie Goodwin gets hit on the head on the L.A. set of her reality baking show, she loses a lot more than consciousness; she also loses her ability to taste and smell--both critical to her success as show judge. Meanwhile, Charlie's identical twin, Cass, is frantically trying to hold her own life together back in their quaint mountain hometown while running the family's bustling bakery and dealing with her ex, who won't get the memo that they're over.
With only days until Christmas, a desperate Charlie asks Cass to do something they haven't done since they were kids: switch places. Looking for her own escape from reality, Cass agrees. But temporarily trading lives proves more complicated than they imagined, especially when rugged firefighter Jake Greenman and gorgeous physician assistant Miguel Rodriguez are thrown into the mix. Will the twins' identity swap be a recipe for disaster, or does it have all the right ingredients for getting their lives back on track?
I was struggling to nail down a good holiday romance to include in my list, then part of the cover of Holiday Switch appeared on the Book of the Month site, so maybe it’s a clue? But who can say for sure. Maybe Book of the Month is simply dreaming of the holiday season already. Regardless, this October release has a lot to suggest it as the December romance pick, First and foremost, it’s compared to previous Book of the Month picks: In A Holidaze by Christina Lauren and One Day In December by Josie Silver. In this festive romance novel, identical twins Cass and Charlie decide to switch places days leading up to the Christmas holiday. Wit plenty of festive atmosphere and reminiscent of popular rom-coms like The Holiday- you know the one with Jack Black, anyone?- I think this will be a solid holiday romance. Aside from the potential hint on the site its blurbed by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Holiday Switch seems like a light and breezy romance, which is frequently just what the doctor ordered for the holidays!
Science Fiction & Fantasy
The Kindred by Alechia DowThe Kindred by Alechia Dow
Published by Inkyard Press on January 4, 2022
“Utterly swoony…an endearing reminder that true love can change the world”—J. Elle, New York Times bestselling author of Wings of Ebony
To save a galactic kingdom from revolution, Kindred mind-pairings were created to ensure each and every person would be seen and heard, no matter how rich or poor…
Joy Abara knows her place. A commoner from the lowly planet Hali, she lives a simple life—apart from the notoriety that being Kindred to the nobility’s most infamous playboy brings.
Duke Felix Hamdi has a plan. He will exasperate his noble family to the point that they agree to let him choose his own future and finally meet his Kindred face-to-face.
Then the royal family is assassinated, putting Felix next in line for the throne…and accused of the murders. Someone will stop at nothing until he’s dead, which means they’ll target Joy, too. Meeting in person for the first time as they steal a spacecraft and flee amid chaos might not be ideal…and neither is crash-landing on the strange backward planet called Earth. But hiding might just be the perfect way to discover the true strength of the Kindred bond and expose a scandal—and a love—that may decide the future of a galaxy.
I’m combining my Sci fi/Fantasy pick and my YA pick this month since these are genres that Book of the Month is less likely to feature. Alechia Dow is a repeat Book of the Month author and it is primarily for that reason that I’m including The Kindred on this list. This romantic science fiction novel is billed as The 100 meets The Sun Is Also A Star- a book that was a previous Book of the Month pick I might add. The novel features Felix, prince of a galactic kingdom who has a telepathic connection to a commoner. In this world, in order to stave off an imminent revolution, kindred mind-pairings were created to ensure each and every person would be seen and heard, regardless of social class. Things are fine, then the royal family is assassinated, putting Felix next in line for the throne and accused of the murders. Someone will stop at nothing until he’s dead, which means they’ll target Joy, too. Meeting in person for the first time as they steal a spacecraft and flee amid chaos might not be ideal…and neither is crash-landing on the strange backward planet called Earth. But hiding might just be the perfect way to discover the true strength of the Kindred bond and maybe, they’ll discover love in the process. Honestly this sounds like a sweet, unique YA novel and a fun pick for Book of the Month readers.
No Land to Light On by Yara ZgheibNo Land to Light On by Yara Zgheib
Published by Atria Books on January 4, 2022
meets An American Marriage in this breathtaking and evocative novel about a young Syrian couple in the throes of new love, on the cusp of their bright future…when a travel ban rips them apart on the eve of their son’s birth—from the author of The Girls at 17 Swann Street.
Hadi and Sama are a young Syrian couple flying high on a whirlwind love, dreaming up a life in the country that brought them together. She had come to Boston years before chasing dreams of a bigger life; he’d landed there as a sponsored refugee from a bloody civil war. Now, they are giddily awaiting the birth of their son, a boy whose native language would be freedom and belonging.
When Sama is five months pregnant, Hadi’s father dies suddenly in Jordan, the night before his visa appointment at the embassy. Hadi flies back for the funeral, promising his wife that he’ll only be gone for a few days. On the day his flight is due to arrive in Boston, Sama is waiting for him at the airport, eager to bring him back home. But as the minutes and then hours pass, she continues to wait, unaware that Hadi has been stopped at the border and detained for questioning, trapped in a timeless, nightmarish limbo.
Worlds apart, suspended between hope and disillusion as hours become days become weeks, Sama and Hadi yearn for a way back to each other, and to the life they’d dreamed up together. But does that life exist anymore, or was it only an illusion?
Achingly intimate yet poignantly universal, No Land to Light On is the story of a family caught up in forces beyond their control, fighting for the freedom and home they found in one another.
Reckless Girls by Rachel HawkinsReckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 4, 2022
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Wife Upstairs comes a deliciously wicked gothic suspense, set on an isolated Pacific island with a dark history, for fans of Lucy Foley and Ruth Ware.
When Lux McAllister and her boyfriend, Nico, are hired to sail two women to a remote island in the South Pacific, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. Stuck in a dead-end job in Hawaii, and longing to travel the world after a family tragedy, Lux is eager to climb on board The Susannah and set out on an adventure. She’s also quick to bond with their passengers, college best friends Brittany and Amma. The two women say they want to travel off the beaten path. But like Lux, they may have other reasons to be seeking an escape.
Shimmering on the horizon after days at sea, Meroe Island is every bit the paradise the foursome expects, despite a mysterious history of shipwrecks, cannibalism, and even rumors of murder. But what they don’t expect is to discover another boat already anchored off Meroe’s sandy beaches. The owners of the Azure Sky, Jake and Eliza, are a true golden couple: gorgeous, laidback, and if their sleek catamaran and well-stocked bar are any indication, rich. Now a party of six, the new friends settle in to experience life on an exotic island, and the serenity of being completely off the grid. Lux hasn’t felt like she truly belonged anywhere in years, yet here on Meroe, with these fellow free spirits, she finally has a sense of peace.
But with the arrival of a skeevy stranger sailing alone in pursuit of a darker kind of good time, the balance of the group is disrupted. Soon, cracks begin to emerge: it seems that Brittany and Amma haven’t been completely honest with Lux about their pasts––and perhaps not even with each other. And though Jake and Eliza seem like the perfect pair, the rocky history of their relationship begins to resurface, and their reasons for sailing to Meroe might not be as innocent as they first appeared.
When it becomes clear that the group is even more cut off from civilization than they initially thought, it starts to feel like the island itself is closing in on them. And when one person goes missing, and another turns up dead, Lux begins to wonder if any of them are going to make it off the island alive.
The Replacement Wife by Darby KaneThe Replacement Wife by Darby Kane
Published by William Morrow & Company on December 28, 2021
The #1 International bestselling author of Pretty Little Wife returns with another thrilling domestic suspense novel that asks, how many wives and girlfriends need to disappear before your family notices?
Elisa Wright is a mom and wife, living a nice, quiet life in a nice, quiet town. She's also convinced her brother-in-law is a murderer. Josh has one dead wife and one missing fianc�e, and though he grieved for them he starts dating someone new. Elisa fears for that woman's safety, and she desperately wants to know what happened to her friend, Josh's missing fianc�e.
Searching for clues means investigating her own family. And she doesn't like what she finds. A laptop filled with incriminating information. Other women.
But when Elisa becomes friends with Josh's new girlfriend and starts to question things she thinks are true, Elisa wonders if the memories of a horrible incident a year ago have finally pushed her over the edge and Josh is really innocent. With so much at stake, Elisa fights off panic attacks and a strange illness. Is it a breakdown or something more? The race is on to get to the truth before another disappearance because there's a killer in the family...or is there?
Anthem by Noah HawleyAnthem by Noah Hawley
Published by Grand Central Publishing on January 4, 2022
An epic literary thriller set where America is right now, in which a band of unlikely heroes sets out on a quest to save one innocent life—and might end up saving us all.
Something is happening to teenagers across America, spreading through memes only they can parse.
At the Float Anxiety Abatement Center, in a suburb of Chicago, Simon Oliver is trying to recover from his sister’s tragic passing. He breaks out to join a woman named Louise and a man called The Prophet on a quest as urgent as it is enigmatic. Who lies at the end of the road? A man known as The Wizard, whose past encounter with Louise sparked her own collapse. Their quest becomes a rescue mission when they join up with a man whose sister is being held captive by the Wizard, impregnated and imprisoned in a tower.
Noah Hawley’s new novel is an adventure that finds unquenchable lights in dark corners. Unforgettably vivid characters and a plot as fast and bright as pop cinema blend in a Vonnegutian story that is as timeless as a Grimm’s fairy tale. It is a leap into the idiosyncratic pulse of the American heart, written with the bravado, literary power, and feverish foresight that have made Hawley one of our most essential writers.
Wish You Were Here by Jodi PiccoultWish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult
Published by Ballantine Books on November 30, 2021
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes a deeply moving novel about the resilience of the human spirit in a moment of crisis.
Diana O’Toole is perfectly on track. She will be married by thirty, done having kids by thirty-five, and move out to the New York City suburbs, all while climbing the professional ladder in the cutthroat art auction world. She’s not engaged just yet, but she knows her boyfriend, Finn, a surgical resident, is about to propose on their romantic getaway to the Galápagos—days before her thirtieth birthday. Right on time.
But then a virus that felt worlds away has appeared in the city, and on the eve of their departure, Finn breaks the news: It’s all hands on deck at the hospital. He has to stay behind. You should still go, he assures her, since it would be a shame for all of their nonrefundable trip to go to waste. And so, reluctantly, she goes.
Almost immediately, Diana’s dream vacation goes awry. The whole island is now under quarantine, and she is stranded until the borders reopen. Completely isolated, she must venture beyond her comfort zone. Slowly, she carves out a connection with a local family when a teenager with a secret opens up to Diana, despite her father’s suspicion of outsiders.
Diana finds herself examining her relationships, her choices, and herself—and wondering if when she goes home, she too will have evolved into someone completely different.
Bright Burning Things by Lisa HardingBright Burning Things by Lisa Harding
Published by HarperVia on December 7, 2021
Sonya used to perform on stage. She attended glamorous parties, dated handsome men, rode in fast cars. But somewhere along the way, the stage lights Sonya lived for dimmed to black. In their absence, came darkness—blackouts, empty cupboards, hazy nights she could not remember.
Haunted by her failed career and lingering trauma from her childhood, Sonya fell deep into an alcoholic abyss. What kept her from losing herself completely was Tommy, her son. But her love for Tommy rivaled her love for the bottle. Addiction amplified her fear of losing her child; every maternal misstep compelled her to drink. Tommy’s precious life was in her shaky hands.
Eventually Sonya was forced to make a choice. Give up drinking or lose Tommy—forever.
Bright Burning Things is an emotional tour-de-force—a devastating and nuanced look at an addict’s journey towards rehabilitation and redemption.
Her Hidden Genius by Marie BenedictHer Hidden Genius by Marie Benedict
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark on January 25, 2022
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Mystery of Mrs. Christie and The Only Woman in the Room.
Rosalind Franklin has always been an outsider―brilliant, but different. Whether working at the laboratory she adored in Paris or toiling at a university in London, she feels closest to the science, those unchanging laws of physics and chemistry that guide her experiments. When she is assigned to work on DNA, she believes she can unearth its secrets.
Rosalind knows if she just takes one more X-ray picture―one more after thousands―she can unlock the building blocks of life. Never again will she have to listen to her colleagues complain about her, especially Maurice Wilkins who'd rather conspire about genetics with James Watson and Francis Crick than work alongside her.
Then it finally happens―the double helix structure of DNA reveals itself to her with perfect clarity. But what unfolds next, Rosalind could have never predicted.
Marie Benedict's powerful new novel shines a light on a woman who sacrificed her life to discover the nature of our very DNA, a woman whose world-changing contributions were hidden by the men around her but whose relentless drive advanced our understanding of humankind.
What About You?
What books are you hoping to see as picks for December? What do you think of my list? Let me know in the comments!