Well it’s that time of the year, where Book of the Month reveals their finalists for best of the year. The winner is typically awarded in mid November so that BFFs can add it to their December boxes if they wish. You have to be a BFF by November to quality for this benefit. Regardless, we wanted to provide an analysis of the finalists to help you decide whether you want to read or skip these titles when planning your TBR in the next few months.
As always, don’t hesitate to let us know if we are leaving anything out of these lists that you might find valuable.
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The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood (Romance/Debut)The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
Published by Berkley Books on September 14, 2021
As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn't believe in lasting romantic relationships--but her best friend does, and that's what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.
That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor--and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford's reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive's career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding... six-pack abs.
Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.
This STEM focused romance took the bookish world by storm and really divided readers. Our sense is that you either really love Ali’s work or hate it, we are among those who really enjoy it! The Love Hypothesis combines an enemies to lovers trope with a fake dating trope and features plenty of chemistry and miscommunications. Olive, a budding PhD candidate and Adam, a young but infamous professor, with a reputation of being a hard ass are the center of this steamy rom-com. Loosely based on Star Wars fan fic, Book of the Month has characterized it as funny, sexy, and quirky. Goodread and Book of the Month reviewers alike love this one for the chemistry and the female representation in STEM. Those who disliked it criticized it for its shallow characters and predictable plot. If you are looking for a title weightier themes and more character development, maybe pick another book on this list. I think its a great palette cleanser between heavier reads.
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson (Contemporary Fiction/Debut)Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
Published by Ballantine Books on February 1, 2022
We can’t choose what we inherit. But can we choose who we become?In present-day California, Eleanor Bennett’s death leaves behind a puzzling inheritance for her two children, Byron and Benny: a black cake, made from a family recipe with a long history, and a voice recording. In her message, Eleanor shares a tumultuous story about a headstrong young swimmer who escapes her island home under suspicion of murder. The heartbreaking tale Eleanor unfolds, the secrets she still holds back, and the mystery of a long-lost child challenge everything the siblings thought they knew about their lineage and themselves.
Can Byron and Benny reclaim their once-close relationship, piece together Eleanor’s true history, and fulfill her final request to “share the black cake when the time is right”? Will their mother’s revelations bring them back together or leave them feeling more lost than ever?
Charmaine Wilkerson’s debut novel is a story of how the inheritance of betrayals, secrets, memories, and even names can shape relationships and history. Deeply evocative and beautifully written, Black Cake is an extraordinary journey through the life of a family changed forever by the choices of its matriarch.
This debut contemporary novel is, at it’s heart, a family story. about two estranged siblings who delve into their recently deceased mother’s past. Left with only a recipe for a traditional Carribbean black cake and a recording from their mother detailing her life history. The publisher has compared it to titles like Ask Again Yes, The Vanishing Half, and Girl With The Louding Voice- so if you liked any of those previous selections, you might want to consider Black Cake as your pick. Book of the Month describes it as an emotional read clocking it at 400+ pages. It explores themes of immigration, the stories we inherit, and the different ways we experience grief. Told from multiple POVs, across multiple timelines in short chapters; Black Cake is the perfect for anyone who wants a read that packs an emotional punch.
A Flicker In The Dark by Stacy Willingham (Thriller/Debut)A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham
Published by Minotaur Books on January 11, 2022
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.
This debut thriller was the most surprising title on the list in our opinion. There were a lot of decent thrillers on the list to choose from this year- Haley is kind of shocked that Upgrade did not make the cut. A Flicker in the Dark is a psychological thriller follows Chloe Davis, whose father was implicated in the disappearance of six girls in their small Louisiana town when Chloe was twelve. Fast forward 20 years, Chloe is a psychologist, working at a private practice in Baton Rouge, when girls begin to disappear, much like they did all those years ago. Book of the Month describes this one as movie-ish, unsettling, and full of murder. It has been compared to other titles like Too Good To Be True, The Wife Upstairs, The Dilemma, and The Whisper Man. While some reviewers found the book far too predictable, others described it as one of the best thrillers they’ve ever, with an eerie atmosphere and unputdownable quality to it. Our verdict, if you love a good thriller and haven’t picked up A Flicker in the Dark yet, you’ll want to change that next month.
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles (Historical Fiction)The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles
Published by Viking on October 5, 2021
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.
A bestseller by any standards, we are unsurprised to see Towles on this list. The Lincoln Highway is part road trip novel, part coming of age story, and couples with Towles’ signature prose and deep characters- The Lincoln Highway kind of feels like a shoe in. While the story spans just ten days, at almost 600 pages in length it is a tale to sink your teeth into. Set in June of 1954, recently released Emmett Watson finds himself traveling across the country with his brother and a handful of friends from the prison work camp he left behind. Full of wit, humor and intrigue devotees and the uninitiated alike will enjoy Towles’ latest offering. Readers should pick this one up knowing that there are no quotations marks- which might turn some off. Other reviewers have complained about the book’s length and the pacing. Basically if you are in the mood for a fast paced, plot driven story, The Lincoln Highway might not be for you. But if you want an immersive, beautifully written and poignant, literary novel, be sure to snap this one up!
Tomorrow And Tomorrow And Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (Literary Fiction)Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
Published by Knopf Publishing Group on July 5, 2022
In this exhilarating novel by the best-selling author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry two friends--often in love, but never lovers--come together as creative partners in the world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality.
On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn't heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won't protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.
Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin's Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.
It seems like this book has been every where, both prior to publication and in the weeks since it’s release. With comparisons to other literary novels such as The Starless Sea and The Glass Hotel, this complex literary novel follows the story of Sam and Sadie, whose chance meeting in a children’s hospital launches a tale that spans decades and continents. Interwoven with the narrative are gaming sequences which do not demand prior gaming knowledge from the reader but that explore gaming as an art form and method of storytelling. It’s a unique work to say that least. It is a love story about connection, humanity, failure and hope. The biggest complaint that the rare reader had about Tomorrow (3X) was it’s length. It’s another one on the list of significant length- nearly 500 pages! But if you can hang with the sheer size of it, we think many will enjoy the story of friendship, love and video games!
What About You?
Have you read any of the Book of the Year finalists? Do you know which title you’ll be adding to your box? What did you think of our round up? Let us know in the comments!