We are back with a break down of the November Aardvark Book Club picks! We know most of you have already picked your boxes but we still wanted to put this post together for those who are thinking about potential add ons next month.
Overall, we really appreciated the variety of the November selections. It seemed like there was a little some thing for everyone from a literary science fiction novel to a handful of mysteries. We are also thrilled because we guessed four of the five picks correctly from the hints.
But enough about that, here are the picks and what readers like you are saying about them!
Singer Distance by Ethan Chatagnier (Literary Science Fiction)Singer Distance by Ethan Chatagnier
Published by Tin House Books on October 18, 2022
The odds of the planet next door hosting intelligent life are—that’s not luck. That’s a miracle. It means something.
In December 1960, Crystal Singer, her boyfriend Rick, and three other MIT grad students take a cross-country road trip from Boston to Arizona to paint a message in the desert. Mars has been silent for thirty years, since the last time Earth solved one of the mathematical proofs the Martian civilization carved onto its surface. The latest proof, which seems to assert contradictory truths about distance, has resisted human understanding for decades. Crystal thinks she’s solved it, and Rick is intent on putting her answer to the test—if he can keep her from cracking under the pressure on the way. But Crystal’s disappearance after the experiment will set him on a different path than he expected, forever changing the distance between them.
Filled with mystery and wonder, Ethan Chatagnier’s Singer Distance is a novel about ambition, loneliness, friendship, exploration, and love—about how far we’re willing to go to communicate with a distant civilization, and the great lengths we’ll travel to connect with each other here on Earth.
Part road trip novel, part science fiction story that tackles the depths of human connection across continents and worlds. It follows five friends in 1960 who take a road trip from Boston to Arizona to paint a message for the planet of Mars in the desert. When one of the friends, Crystal, disappears after the experiment, it sends the other four friends on a trajectory that explores loneliness, empathy and our place in the universe. Like Blake Crouch and Andy Weir, Chatagnier has the talent of writing about scientific concepts clearly and accessibly for the reader. With a literary bent it is sure to appeal to a wide audience. Set in an alternate history where Martians and earthling communicate through a mathematical language, Singer Distance is an emotional novel with poetic prose that explores the human condition, grief and our hope that we are not alone in the universe. Reviews are sparse but readers are describing this one as gorgeous, evocative, and thoughtful.
Closer To Okay by Amy Watson (Contemporary Romance/Debut)Closer to Okay by Amy Watson
Published by Alcove Press on October 11, 2022
Weaving culinary delights with an honest, appraising look at how we deal with the world when it becomes too much, Closer to Okay is the comfort food we all need in these, well, crazy times.
Kyle Davies is doing fine. She has her routine, after all, ingrained in her from years of working as a baker: wake up, make breakfast, prep the dough, make lunch, work the dough, make dinner, bake dessert, go to bed. Wash, rinse, repeat. It's a good routine. Comforting. Almost enough to help her forget the scars on her wrist, still healing from when she slit it a few weeks ago; that she lost her job at the bakery when she checked herself in as an inpatient at Hope House; then signed away all decisions about her life, medical care, and wellbeing to Dr. Booth (who may or may not be a hack). So, yeah, Kyle's doing just fine.
Except that a new item's been added to her daily to-do list recently: stare out her window at the coffee shop (named, well...The Coffee Shop) across the street, and its hot owner, Jackson. It's healthy to have eye candy when you're locked in the psych ward, right? Something low risk to keep yourself distracted. So when Dr. Booth allows Kyle to leave the facility--two hours a day to go wherever she wants--she decides to up the stakes a little more. Why not visit? Why not see what Jackson's like in person?
Turns out that Jackson's a jerk with a heart of gold, a deadly combination that Kyle finds herself drawn to more than she should be. (Aren't we all?) At a time when Dr. Booth delivers near-constant warnings about the dangers of romantic entanglements, Kyle is pulled further and further into Jackson's orbit. At first, the feeling of being truly taken care of is bliss, like floating on a wave. But at a time when Kyle is barely managing her own problems, she finds herself suddenly thrown into the deep end of someone else's. Dr. Booth may have been right after all: falling in love may be the thing that sends Kyle into a backslide she might never be able to crawl out of. Is Jackson too much for her to handle? Does love come at the cost of sanity?
We are so excited that Aardvark included a romance this go around- and not just because we love the opportunity of getting a hardcover copy of a book which is only available in paperback to the rest of the world. The publisher is describing this one as “comfort food” and an examination of how we deal with the world when it all feels like too much. Closer To Okay is what we on Stuck in he Stacks call romance plus- a romance novel that also tackles difficult issues but our characters still have a happily ever after. Closer To Okay is about Kyle, who recently lost her job after she checked herself into an in-patient facility and still has literal scars as evidence of her emotional struggles. Then Kyle finds herself gazing daily out her window of the mental health facility at the coffee shop across the street and more specifical, at Jackson who owns the space. While many reviewers caution that Closer to Okay is heavy, dark and a little depressing- read, this is not a romcom- they have also characterized it as honest, realistic and beautifully written. So, maybe don’t pick this one if you’re looking for a funny, heartwarming story. But it’s worth a read for those who can handle the content warnings, maybe have their own mental health struggles, and are aching to be seen.
The Socialite’s Guide To Murder by SK Golden (Mystery/Debut)The Socialite's Guide to Murder by S.K. Golden
Published by Crooked Lane Books on October 11, 2022
The hotel was her refuge, but scandal is afoot—and a killer stalks the halls in this charming series debut perfect for fans of Rhys Bowen and Ashley Weaver.
It’s 1958 and Evelyn Elizabeth Grace Murphy has not left the Pinnacle Hotel in fourteen months. She suffers from agoraphobia, and what’s more, it’s her father’s hotel, and everything she needs is there. Evelyn’s always been good at finding things, she discovered her mother dead in a Manhattan alleyway fifteen years earlier. Now she’s finding trouble inside her sanctuary. At a party for artist Billie Bell, his newest work is stolen, and Evelyn’s fake boyfriend (and real best friend), movie star Henry Fox, is accused of the theft. But just as Evelyn sets out to prove Henry’s innocence, she finds Billie Bell dead.
The murder weapon links the crime to the hotel’s chief of security. But why would he use a knife with his initials on the handle? With her beloved home in disarray, Evelyn joins up with hotel employee (and her secret crush) Mac Cooper to get to the bottom of the case.
As Mac picks locks and Evelyn snoops around the hotel, they discover the walls around them contain more secrets than they previously knew. Now, Evelyn must force herself to leave the hotel to follow the clues—but when she and Mac set off to chase a lead, their car crashes and they barely escape with their lives. Someone snipped Evelyn’s brake lines, and now the stakes have become dangerously high.
Evelyn’s knack for sleuthing—and her playful imagination—are always hard at work, and she throws an elaborate party at the hotel where every guest is a suspect. But will the killer emerge from the glamorous lineup? If not, Evelyn just might find herself…next in line for murder.
This historical, locked room mystery set at a hotel for the wealthy was the hottest title of the month- or so we’ve been told. In fact, it’s already sold out on the site. Aardvark has said that they while they are not currently planning on restocking it, they may do so at a later date if there is enough interest. Keep in mind that if you missed it from Aardvark you can always get the title through you’re local library or Libro.fm (for audiobook listeners). Anyway, Golden’s debut tells the story of Evelyn Elizabeth Grace Murphy, who hasn’t left her father’s hotel in over a year. Suffering from agorophobia, she likes to keep to herself. But when a stolen piece of art leads to murder and the head of hotel security is being framed, it’s up to Evelyn and a rag tag group of hotel employees to solve the case. With comparisons to works like Murder in the Air by Frances Brody and The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsey Faye, this title is sure to delight mystery lovers of all stripes. Reviewers are pretty evenly split on this one, some calling the novel a “delight” with “charming characters”. Still others complained that the novel felt very YA both in writing an execution. We think for readers who don’t mind the YA, it will be a solid pick.
The Other Side Of Night by Adam Hamdy (Mystery/Debut)The Other Side of Night by Adam Hamdy
Published by Atria Books on October 11, 2022
The Other Side of Night begins with a man named David Asha writing about his biggest regret: his sudden separation from his son, Elliot. In his grief, David tells a story.
Next, we step into the life of Harriet Kealty, a police officer trying to clear her name after a lapse of judgment. She discovers a curious inscription in a secondhand book—a plea: Help me, he’s trying to kill me. Who wrote this note? Who is “he”?
This note leads Harri to David Asha, who was last seen stepping off a cliff. Police suspect he couldn’t cope after his wife’s sudden death. Still, why would this man jump and leave behind his young son? Quickly, Harri’s attention zeroes in on a person she knows all too well.
Ben Elmys: once the love of her life. A surrogate father to Elliot Asha and trusted friend to the Ashas.
Ben may also be a murderer.
This was one of the confirmed picks for November and based on the description and early reviews it’s easy to see why. The Other Side of Night is a contemporary mystery- we think the characterization of the novel as a thriller is misleading- that opens with David Asha writing about the his motivations and regrets over abandoning his only son Elliot. Then there is Harriet, trying to clear her name as a disgraced police officer who is led to David- who was last seen stepping of a cliff- through a cryptic and concerning note: “Help me! He’s trying to kill me.” Many reviewers found the plot to be complicated- a positive for some readers and frustrating for others. At the center of this book is a secret that the publisher has explicitly asked early reviewers not reveal- color us intrigued! The reason we are calling this one a mystery and not a thriller is due the universal agreement that this book is slower paced. It is not a page turner in the same sense as a typical popcorn thriller would be. It’s thought provoking and twisty, but it’s not hasty in it’s reveals. There are also some science fiction elements that don’t appear to disrupt the flow of the narrative. Overall, if you want a poignant and quiet novel that reflects on choices made and family bonds, you’ll want to add this one to your November box!
Gilded Mountain by Kate Manning (Literary Historical Fiction)Gilded Mountain by Kate Manning
Published by Scribner on November 1, 2022
Set in early 1900s Colorado, the unforgettable tale of a young woman who bravely faces the consequences of speaking out against injustice.
In a voice spiked with sly humor, Sylvie Pelletier recounts leaving her family’s snowbound mountain cabin to work in a manor house for the Padgetts, owners of the marble-mining company that employs her father and dominates the town. Sharp-eyed Sylvie is awed by the luxury around her; fascinated by her employer, the charming “Countess” Inge, and confused by the erratic affections of Jasper, the bookish heir to the family fortune. Her fairy-tale ideas of romance take a dark turn when she realizes the Padgetts’ lofty philosophical talk is at odds with the unfair labor practices that have enriched them. Their servants, the Gradys, formerly enslaved people, have long known this to be true and are making plans to form a utopian community on the Colorado prairie.
Outside the manor walls, the town of Moonstone is roiling with discontent. A handsome union organizer, along with labor leader Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, is stirring up the quarry workers. The editor of the local newspaper—a bold woman who takes Sylvie on as an apprentice—is publishing unflattering accounts of the Padgett Company. Sylvie navigates vastly different worlds and struggles to find her way amid conflicting loyalties. When the harsh winter brings tragedy, Sylvie must choose between silence and revenge.
Drawn from true stories of Colorado history, Gilded Mountain is a tale of a bygone American West seized by robber barons and settled by immigrants, and is a story infused with longing—for self-expression and equality, freedom and adventure.
The historical fiction pick of the list, Gilded Mountain just feels like a book club book. We had originally predicted it might be a Book of the Month picks because it just had the right vibes, so we’re entirely unsurprised that Aardvark scooped it up. This literary, historical novel is set in early 1900s Colorado and revolved around a marble mine, both it’s workers and owners as well as the people who come into contact with them. Our protagonist is the witty and observant Sylvie Pelletier who come to work at the Padgett’s manor- the owners of the marble quarry. When she gets taken under the wing of the local newspaper’s editor and become embroiled in the press’ efforts to shed light on the ugly working conditions of the quarry workers, Sylvie must decide where her loyalties lie. Drawn from true accounts of the forgotten American west, Gilded Mountain is a stirring novel riddled with the harsh realities of everyday poverty and inequality. We think this is perfect pick for lovers of sweeping historical novels, while those who prefer a concise and evenly paced narrative might better be served by another pick on this list.
In Our Boxes
What About You
What did you think of this month’s selections? What are you hoping to see in December? Let us know in the comments!