Hello everyone and welcome to one of my most popular monthly posts: Book of the Month At A Glance. Its a post where I share my breakdown of Book of the Month’s monthly selections and add ons. I pour over countless reviews, read excerpts and explore the themes of each pick in order to help you better decide the right pick(s) for you. That way, you can spend less time researching and more time reading.
My general feelings about December’s picks were that they picked a solid combination of backlist and new releases. I felt thrilled to get four of them correct and am kind of annoyed I took Flicker in the Dark off my predictions list because I was so sure there were plenty of thrillers coming out in December that would push it out of the running. I was wrong and I definitely added it to one of my boxes this month because I’m super curious about it.
I continue to be floored by the amount of nonfiction titles that Book of the Month has been including. I wonder if they are thinking about bringing back their nonfiction subscription box in the new year and the last few months have been a sort of trial period to see how it would do. We’ll see though.
As always, if there is anything I am leaving out of these posts, let me know and I will do my best to include it. Regardless, I hope my post gets you excited for this month’s selections and that you find something you know you’ll love!
Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez (Contemporary Fiction)Olga 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.
I know I featured a lot of early releases on my predictions post, but I’m excited that this particular title made the cut. 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. Olga Dies Dreaming is an ode to feminism and social justice. Reviews for this one are generally positive with a few frustrated by the slower pacing and their difficulty in connecting to the characters. But I think if you are looking for a character driven, prescient novel, you need to add Olga Dies Dreaming to your box.
A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw (Magical Realism)A 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.
I finished this book over the holiday weekend and absolutely loved it. 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. Book of the Month has categorized this title as magical realism and while there are definitely magical elements- Travis can see visions of people based off of objects they touched and Bee who can hear things that ordinary people can’t (like a baby’s heartbeat inside a mother’s womb)- I think people turned off by the label should still give it a chance. I absolutely loved this one with its slow burn mystery and the steady reveals, even if I guessed most of them. One reviewer described it as a dark fairytale meets a compulsive mystery and while some were disappointed by the direction of the story, most absolutely adored it and I was definitely one of them.
A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham (Thriller)A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham
Published by Minotaur Books on January 11, 2022
From debut author Stacy Willingham comes a masterfully done, lyrical thriller, certain to be the launch of an amazing career. A Flicker in the Dark is eerily compelling to the very last page.
When Chloe Davis was twelve, six teenage girls went missing in her small Louisiana town. By the end of the summer, Chloe’s father had been arrested as a serial killer and promptly put in prison. Chloe and the rest of her family were left to grapple with the truth and try to move forward while dealing with the aftermath.
Now 20 years later, Chloe is a psychologist in private practice in Baton Rouge and getting ready for her wedding. She finally has a fragile grasp on the happiness she’s worked so hard to get. Sometimes, though, she feels as out of control of her own life as the troubled teens who are her patients. And then a local teenage girl goes missing, and then another, and that terrifying summer comes crashing back. Is she paranoid, and seeing parallels that aren't really there, or for the second time in her life, is she about to unmask a killer?
In a debut novel that has already been optioned for a limited series by actress Emma Stone and sold to a dozen countries around the world, Stacy Willingham has created an unforgettable character in a spellbinding thriller that will appeal equally to fans of Gillian Flynn and Karin Slaughter.
I’m honestly kind of mad I didn’t include this one on my list. I looked at it, but decided to feature other books in its place. Regardless, I’m always excited to see a debut as the thriller pick of the month, so I’ll get over it. A Flicker in the Dark is getting compared to a handful of previous Book of the Month picks, namely: The Whisper Man by Alex North, Too Good To Be True by Carola Lovering, and The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins. When Chloe Davis was twelve, six teenage girls went missing in her small Louisiana town. By the end of the summer, Chloe’s father had been arrested as a serial killer and promptly put in prison. Chloe and the rest of her family were left to grapple with the truth and try to move forward while dealing with the aftermath. Now 20 years later, Chloe is a psychologist who owns a private practice in Baton Rouge and is getting ready for her wedding. She finally has a fragile grasp on the happiness she’s worked so hard to get. Sometimes, though, she feels as out of control of her own life as the troubled teens who are her patients. When a local teen goes missing, Chloe is thrust back into the nightmares of her past that she’s worked so hard to forget. The biggest complaint I can find about this book from early readers is how repetitive the narrative felt in places. But most reviewers raved about how amazing A Flicker in the Dark is for a debut. If you add it to your box, be sure to let me know what you think of it!
Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford (Memoir)Somebody's Daughter by Ashley C. Ford
Published by Flatiron Books: An Oprah Book on June 1, 2021
One of the most prominent voices of her generation debuts with an extraordinarily powerful memoir: the story of a childhood defined by the ever looming absence of her incarcerated father and the path we must take to both honor and overcome our origins.
For as long as she could remember, Ashley has put her father on a pedestal. Despite having only vague memories of seeing him face-to-face, she believes he's the only person in the entire world who understands her. She thinks she understands him too. He's sensitive like her, an artist, and maybe even just as afraid of the dark. She's certain that one day they'll be reunited again, and she'll finally feel complete. There are just a few problems: he's in prison, and she doesn't know what he did to end up there.
Through poverty, puberty, and a fraught relationship with her mother, Ashley returns to her image of her father for hope and encouragement. She doesn't know how to deal with the incessant worries that keep her up at night, or how to handle the changes in her body that draw unwanted attention from men. In her search for unconditional love, Ashley begins dating a boy her mother hates; when the relationship turns sour, he assaults her. Still reeling from the rape, which she keeps secret from her family, Ashley finally finds out why her father is in prison. And that's where the story really begins.
Somebody’s Daughter steps into the world of growing up a poor Black girl, exploring how isolating and complex such a childhood can be. As Ashley battles her body and her environment, she provides a poignant coming-of-age recollection that speaks to finding the threads between who you are and what you were born into, and the complicated familial love that often binds them.
Remember how I said that Book of the Month frequently circles back to some older releases and usually highlights one of them as a main pick every December? Well Somebody’s Daughter is the circle back pick for 2021 and while its shocking that its already December, its unsurprising that Somebody’s Daughter was their pick. I feel like they have been making a greater effort to feature memoirs, especially memoirs by people of colors. Somebody’s Daughter is a heavy, gritty memoir about growing up poor and Black in the Midwest. It is as much about Ashley’s familial struggles– with a father in prison and a mother who struggled to be the mother she needed and wanted- as it is a story of Ashley coming to terms with her changing body and what it means to be a woman. This book deserves all the trigger warnings and seems to fit with other memoirs Book of the Month has picked in the past like Aftershocks and Beautiful Country. Ford’s debut is unapologetically brutal and honest and reminds me of emotionally resonant memoirs like Educated and The Glass Castle. The writing is lyrical and picturesque. But real talk here, a lot of people did not enjoy Ford’s memoir and I will tell you why. Ford tackles a plethora of issues within the pages of her book and unfortunately for many, she does so rather sporadically and disjointedly. All the reviewers who disliked Somebody’s Daughter were frustrated by the lack of cohesiveness and struggle to feel invested in Ford’s experiences. Its always hard to talk about and rate a memoir but if you are going into this one hoping for one young woman’s grappling with her father’s incarceration and her mother’s abuse, that’s only part of what you’ll get when you pick this title up. There are definitely strong feelings on both sides of the spectrum and I’ll be curious to see where Book of the Month readers fall.
The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox (Romance)The 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?
This one kind of felt like an obvious pick because Book of the Month was using the cover art of the novel on their website to advertise for their December picks. Compared to previous Book of the Month picks: In A Holidaze by Christina Lauren and One Day In December by Josie Silver it sounds delightfully seasonal. In this festive romance novel, identical twins Cass and Charlie decide to switch places days leading up to the Christmas holiday. The book is told from the sisters’ alternating perspectives. Meet Charlie, a chef who judges a baking show and has lost her sense of taste and smell after an on set accident. Then there is Cass, who runs a bakery in her cute, rural, adorable hometown but is plagued by the stresses of work and an ex who just won’t leave her alone. As festive as they come, The Holiday Swap is a lighthearted, snowy romp of a book perfect for this time of year. This is a closed door romance, meaning there is virtually no on the page sex, which, from what I can tell reading reviews, seems to be the norm for holiday-focused love stories. Readers who didn’t like this one disliked it for the reasons that I think a lot of other readers adored it: its kind of hallmark-y a bit unbelievable, and lacks depth (according to some). I think if you ware looking for a read that feels like a Hallmark movie, look no further. So curl up on the couch with a warm blanket, a hot beverage, and cozy up with this seasonal read!
But You Seemed So Happy by Kimberly Harrington (Essays)But You Seemed So Happy: A Marriage, in Pieces and Bits by Kimberly Harrington
Published by Harper on October 5, 2021
In this tender, funny, and sharp companion to her acclaimed memoir-in-essays Amateur Hour, Kimberly Harrington explores and confronts expectations, marriage, failure, a sort-of-divorce and the ways love, loss, and longing shape a life.
Six weeks after she and her husband announced their divorce, Kimberly Harrington began writing a book she thought would be about divorce, heavy on the dark humor. After all, she and her future ex had chosen to still live together in the same house with their kids as they slowly transitioned from being a married couple to single people (someday) living separately.
Over the course of two years of what was supposed to be a temporary period of transition, Harrington sifted through her past—how she formed her ideas about relationships, sex, marriage, divorce—and dug back into the history of her marriage—how they met, what it felt like to be in love, how she and her husband had changed over time, the impact having children had on their relationship, and what they still owed one another.
But You Seemed So Happy is a time capsule of sorts. It’s about getting older and repeatedly dying on the hill of being wiser, only to discover you were never actually all that dumb to begin with. It’s an honest, intimate biography of a marriage, from its heady, idealistic, and easy beginnings to its slowly coming apart to its evolution into something completely unexpected. As she probes what it means when everyone assumes you’re happy as long as you’re still married, Harrington skewers engagement photos, small-town busybodies, Gen X idiosyncrasies, and the casual way we make life-altering decisions when we’re young. Ultimately, this moving and funny memoir in essays is a vulnerable and irreverent act of forgiveness—of ourselves, our partners, and the relationships that have run their course but will always hold permanent meaning in our lives.
In this poignant and moving essay collection, Kimberly Harrington explores and confronts expectations, marriage, failure, a sort-of-divorce and the ways love, loss, and longing shape a life. Six weeks after she and her husband announced their divorce, Kimberly Harrington began writing a book she thought would be about divorce, heavy on the dark humor. After all, she and her future ex had chosen to still live together in the same house with their kids as they slowly transitioned from being a married couple to single people (someday) living separately. Over the course of two years of what was supposed to be a temporary period of transition, Harrington sifted through her past—how she formed her ideas about relationships, sex, marriage, divorce—and dug back into the history of her marriage—how they met, what it felt like to be in love, how she and her husband had changed over time, the impact having children had on their relationship, and what they still owed one another. It’s an honest, intimate biography of a marriage, from its heady, idealistic, and easy beginnings to its gradual but indelible shift into something completely unexpected. It’s a moving and irreverent memoir in essays about the rash decisions we make when we are young and how those decisions shape the rest of our lives. Reviewers adored this one, regardless of your station in life and the biggest downside the rare reviewer mentioned was Harrington’s general unlikeability. I for one, am curious about it and look forward to more reviews.
Taste Makers by Mayukh Sen (Narrative Nonfiction)Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America by Mayukh Sen
Published by W. W. Norton Company on November 16, 2021
Who’s really behind America’s appetite for foods from around the globe? This group biography from an electric new voice in food writing honors seven extraordinary women, all immigrants, who left an indelible mark on the way Americans eat today. Taste Makers stretches from World War II to the present, with absorbing and deeply researched portraits of figures including Mexican-born Elena Zelayeta, a blind chef; Marcella Hazan, the deity of Italian cuisine; and Norma Shirley, a champion of Jamaican dishes.
In imaginative, lively prose, Mayukh Sen—a queer, brown child of immigrants—reconstructs the lives of these women in vivid and empathetic detail, daring to ask why some were famous in their own time, but not in ours, and why others shine brightly even today. Weaving together histories of food, immigration, and gender, Taste Makers will challenge the way readers look at what’s on their plate—and the women whose labor, overlooked for so long, makes those meals possible.
Taste Makers is a group biography from an electric new voice in food writing that honors seven extraordinary women, all immigrants, who left a permanent mark on the way Americans eat today. Taste Makers stretches from World War II to the present, with absorbing and deeply researched portraits of figures including Mexican-born Elena Zelayeta, a blind chef; Marcella Hazan, the deity of Italian cuisine; and Norma Shirley, a champion of Jamaican dishes. In imaginative, lively prose, Mayukh Sen—a queer, brown child of immigrants—reconstructs the lives of these women in vivid and empathetic detail, daring to ask why some were famous in their own time, but not in ours, and why others shine brightly even today. Weaving together histories of food, immigration, and gender, Taste Makers will challenge the way readers look at what’s on their plate—and the women whose labor, overlooked for so long, makes those meals possible. Carefully researched and intimately woven, Sen chronicles food through the decades and the amazing women who shaped the larger food trends of today’s America. It was hard to find negative reviews of this title to be honest, though a handful of reviewers thought the author buried the lead in places. Regardless, I think if you love food, immigrant stories, and strong women (or any combination of the three!) you will love this book!
The Anthropocene Review by John Green (Essays)The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green
Published by Dutton on May 18, 2021
A deeply moving and mind-expanding collection of personal essays in the first ever work of non-fiction from #1 internationally bestselling author John Green
The Anthropocene is the current geological age, in which human activity has profoundly shaped the planet and its biodiversity. In this remarkable symphony of essays adapted and expanded from his ground-breaking, critically acclaimed podcast, John Green reviews different facets of the human-centered planet - from the QWERTY keyboard and Halley's Comet to Penguins of Madagascar - on a five-star scale.
Complex and rich with detail, the Anthropocene's reviews have been praised as 'observations that double as exercises in memoiristic empathy', with over 10 million lifetime downloads. John Green's gift for storytelling shines throughout this artfully curated collection about the shared human experience; it includes beloved essays along with six all-new pieces exclusive to the book.
Another release from much earlier in the year- hello release from May of this year- it does not surprise me that we are seeing John Green’s essay collection as a circle back pick. John Green’s previous book, Turtles All The Way Down was a popular pick some years ago and I know Book of the Month loves to feature repeat authors when they branch out of their typical genre. The Anthropocene Reviewed is a deeply moving and insightful collection of personal essays from a #1 bestselling author. The Anthropocene is the current geologic age, in which humans have profoundly reshaped the planet and its biodiversity. In this remarkable symphony of essays adapted and expanded from his groundbreaking podcast, John Green reviews different facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale—from the QWERTY keyboard and sunsets to Canada geese and Penguins of Madagascar. Funny, complex, and rich with detail, the reviews chart the contradictions of contemporary humanity.. John Green’s gift for storytelling shines throughout this masterful collection. The Anthropocene Reviewed is an open-hearted exploration of the paths we forge and an unironic celebration of falling in love with the world. This essay collection covers a range of topics and is rather all over the place, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for this collection. John Green tackles difficult topics sensitively and with a dry wit that will have you laughing out loud. People who didn’t like it apparently didn’t like that it was a book about John Green’s “ramblings” about the world, which I find rather amusing because that’s exactly how the book is billed. I think if you love John Green, or other essayists like David Sedaris, you won’t be disappointed if you add Anthropocene Reviewed to your box.
The Postmistress of Paris by Meg Waite Clayton (Historical Fiction)The 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.
Weirdly, The Postmistress of Paris is the only fiction add-on for the month of December. Book of the Month tried to claim that It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover was one of their December add ons – according to their Instagrm anyway- but we know that’s not the case. In The Postmistress of Paris our protagonist is Naneé, who was born in the Midwest but in her youth developed a desire 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. It’s a story of love, hope, heartbreak and resilience and is a perfect read for our difficult times. Reviewers praise The Postmistress of Paris for its intricately drawn characters, rich setting, and immersive plot. The author weaves in fascinating historical detail that bring the characters and time period to life. Reviewers had a big complaint though that I think readers should be aware of when adding The Postmistress of Paris to their box: There was not as much emphasis on the deliveries Mary Gold made during the course of story and ended up being more of a story about a love strong enough to withstand the time and distance created by war. Regardless, if you are looking for a historical fiction to cozy up with this winter, Postmistress of Paris might be perfect for you.
I think Book of the Month definitely has room for improvement. They really lacked in their featuring of authors of color as well as their featuring of LGBTQIA+ authors and stories. I was happy to see so many debuts. Keep an eye out for some charts I’m planning on doing from the years data closer to the New Year!
- Authors of Color: 3/9 – 30%
- Female Authors: 8/9 – 88%
- LGBTQIA+: 0/9 – 0%
- Repeat Authors: 0/9 – 0%
- Debut Novels: 4/9 – 45%
In My Box This Month
I was actually excited that the add ons didn’t really appeal to me this month so I was able to grab some older add ons.
What About You?
What did you add to your box this month? What do you think of my picks? What books might you add to your box next month? Let me know in the comments!