It is that time of the month where all of us Book of the Month subscribers start to anxiously anticipate the next month’s releases. I am here to speculate and possibly predict which books will be selected for Book of the Month (BOTM) main picks and add-ons.
I am particularly excited to see how BOTM kicks off the new year and what tone they set for their picks. There are a bunch of great debut novels releasing in January, and I am hoping to see at least a few as selections.
Contemporary & Literary Fiction
Age of Vice
I think this is going to be one of the biggest new titles of January. This month’s hint appears to refer to it, so I already have my hopes up for it to be a pick. While it may be labeled Literary Fiction, it could also fall into the Thriller genre.
Synopsis: Equal parts crime thriller and family saga, transporting readers from the dusty villages of Uttar Pradesh to the urban energy of New Delhi, Age of Vice is an intoxicating novel of gangsters and lovers, false friendships, forbidden romance, and the consequences of corruption. It is binge-worthy entertainment at its literary best.
The Bandit Queens
This is another book that I am personally looking forward to, although I have seen some mixed reviews. I think it is a toss-up whether it will be selected. I will be posting my review on Friday.
Synopsis: Five years ago, Geeta lost her no-good husband. As in, she actually lost him—he walked out on her and she has no idea where he is. But in her remote village in India, rumor has it that Geeta killed him. And it’s a rumor that just won’t die.
It turns out that being known as a “self-made” widow comes with some perks. No one messes with her, harasses her, or tries to control (ahem, marry) her. It’s even been good for business; no one dares to not buy her jewelry. Freedom must look good on Geeta, because now other women are asking for her “expertise,” making her an unwitting consultant for husband disposal. And not all of them are asking nicely.
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I have not seen this book on any other predictions lists. It sounds like a BOTM pick to me, and it has been blurbed by a number of previous BOTM authors. I am crossing my fingers that it is a pick.
Synopsis: Audrey Zhou left Hickory Grove, the tiny central Illinois town where she grew up, as soon as high school ended, and she never looked back. She moved to New York City and became the person she always wanted to be, complete with a high-paying, high-pressure job and a seemingly faultless fiancé. But if she and Manhattan-bred Ben are to build a life together, in the dream home his parents will surely pay for, Audrey can no longer hide him, or the person she’s become, from those she left behind.
But returning to Hickory Grove is . . . complicated. Over the course of one disastrous week, Audrey’s proximity to her family and to Kyle forces her to confront the past and reexamine her fraught connection to her roots before she undoes everything she’s worked toward and everything she’s imagined for herself. But is that life really the one she wants?
Ever since I learned about this book, I have kept it at the back of my mind as a BOTM pick. It is a January 31 release, but I think there is a chance it will be an early release this month. (Although I do not think a book published at the end of the month should be considered an early release.)
Synopsis: It’s fair to say that Maddie’s life in London is far from rewarding. With a mother who spends most of her time in Ghana (yet still somehow manages to be overbearing), Maddie is the primary caretaker for her father, who suffers from advanced stage Parkinson’s. At work, her boss is a nightmare and Maddie is tired of always being the only Black person in every meeting. When her mum returns from her latest trip to Ghana, Maddie leaps at the chance to get out of the family home and finally start living.
Smart, funny, and deeply affecting, Jessica George’s Maame deals with the themes of our time with humor and poignancy: from familial duty and racism, to female pleasure, the complexity of love, and the life-saving power of friendship. Most important, it explores what it feels like to be torn between two homes and cultures―and it celebrates finally being able to find where you belong.
Debut | Early Release
Really Good, Actually
This debut sounds like it will be a fun book that a lot of BOTM readers may be able to relate to. However, it is being billed as funny, which is not often the kind of book BOTM selects. I think there is only a small likelihood of this being a pick.
Maggie is fine. She’s doing really good, actually. Sure, she’s broke, her graduate thesis on something obscure is going nowhere, and her marriage only lasted 608 days, but at the ripe old age of twenty-nine, Maggie is determined to embrace her new life as a Surprisingly Young Divorcée™.
Now she has time to take up nine hobbies, eat hamburgers at 4 am, and “get back out there” sex-wise. With the support of her tough-loving academic advisor, Merris; her newly divorced friend, Amy; and her group chat (naturally), Maggie barrels through her first year of single life, intermittently dating, occasionally waking up on the floor and asking herself tough questions along the way.
A Thousand Miles to Graceland
Kristen Mei Chase
This book seemingly falls somewhere between contemporary fiction and romance. The cover and the story seem like a book BOTM would select. There are a few similar-ish books coming out later this year. So, if this is not a pick, I think one of those will be.
Synopsis: Grace Johnson can’t escape the feeling that her life is on autopilot—until her husband announces he’s done with their marriage. Grace has a choice: wallow in humiliation . . . or reluctantly grant her outlandish mother’s seventieth birthday wish with a road trip Graceland. Buckle up, Elvis. We’re on our way.
Now the two are hightailing it from El Paso to Memphis, leaving a trail of sequins, false eyelashes, and difficult memories in their wake. Between spontaneous roadside stops to psychics, wig mishaps, and familiar passive-aggressive zingers, Grace is starting to better understand her Elvis-obsessed mama and their own fragile connection.
I have not read much about this book other than the fact it is highly anticipated. It is also blurbed by a previous BOTM author. I think this may be a book pick that surprises us all.
Synopsis: Slate editor Dan Kois makes his fiction debut with this stunning coming-of-age novel set in New York City, about the power of leaning into the moment, the joys of unexpected life-altering relationships, and learning to forgive ourselves when we inevitably mess everything up.
A sharp yet reflective story of a young woman coming into herself and struggling to find her place, Vintage Contemporaries is a novel about art, parenthood, loyalty, and fighting for a cause—the times we do the right thing, and the times we fail—set in New York City on both side of the millennium.
This will be Jenna’s January pick, which BOTM sometimes overlaps with. I am including it primarily for that reason. However, I do not think there is a high likelihood that this will be selected.
Synopsis: What happens to a girl’s sense of joy and belonging—to her belief in herself—as she becomes a woman? This unforgettable portrait of coming-of-age offers subtle yet powerful reflections on class, parenthood, addiction, lust, and the irrepressible power of dreams.
Night Wherever We Go
Tracey Rose Peyton
This is one of a couple similar books that I think are possibilities. I feel pretty certain that this or one of the two following books will be a pick. I do not think all three will be choices though.
Synopsis: On a struggling Texas plantation, six enslaved women slip from their sleeping quarters and gather in the woods under the cover of night. The Lucys—as they call the plantation owners, after Lucifer himself—have decided to turn around the farm’s bleak financial prospects by making the women bear children. They have hired a “stockman” to impregnate them. But the women are determined to protect themselves. Now each of the six faces a choice.
Visceral and arresting, Night Wherever We Go illuminates each woman’s individual trials and desires while painting a subversive portrait of collective defiance. Unflinching in her portrayal of America’s gravest injustices, while also deeply attentive to the transcendence, love, and solidarity of women whose interior lives have been underexplored, Tracey Rose Peyton creates a story of unforgettable power.
In the Upper Country
Based upon the publisher, I think this book has a slightly greater likelihood of being a selection than Night Wherever We Go.
Synopsis: The fates of two unforgettable women – one just beginning a journey of reckoning and self-discovery and the other completing her life’s last vital act–intertwine in this sweeping, deeply researched debut set in the Black communities of Ontario that were the last stop on the Underground Railroad.
Sweeping along the path of the Underground Railroad from the southern States to Canada, through the lands of Indigenous nations around the Great Lakes, to the Black communities of southern Ontario, In the Upper Country weaves together unlikely stories of love, survival, and familial upheaval that map the interconnected history of the peoples of North America in an entirely new and resonant way.
Moonrise Over New Jessup
This book is being compared to The Vanishing Half and The Prophets, which are both past BOTM selections. However, it is being published by Algonquin Books who does not work with BOTM much. I think it may be more likely to see this as an Aardvark selection.
Synopsis: It’s 1957, and after leaving the only home she has ever known, Alice Young steps off the bus into the all-Black town of New Jessup, Alabama, where residents have largely rejected integration as the means for Black social advancement. Instead, they seek to maintain, and fortify, the community they cherish on their “side of the woods.” In this place, Alice falls in love with Raymond Campbell, whose clandestine organizing activities challenge New Jessup’s longstanding status quo and could lead to the young couple’s expulsion—or worse—from the home they both hold dear. But as Raymond continues to push alternatives for enhancing New Jessup’s political power, Alice must find a way to balance her undying support for his underground work with her desire to protect New Jessup from the rising pressure of upheaval from inside, and outside, their side of town.
River Sing Me Home
This novel’s synopsis reminds me a bit of The Girl with the Louding Voice, which was a super popular past BOTM pick. Along with the fact that it is being published by Berkley Books, I think there is a strong possibility it will be a selection.
Synopsis: The master of the Providence plantation in Barbados gathers his slaves and announces the king has decreed an end to slavery. As of the following day, the Emancipation Act of 1834 will come into effect. The cries of joy fall silent when he announces that they are no longer his slaves; they are now his apprentices. No one can leave. They must work for him for another six years. So Rachel runs.
Away from Providence, she begins a desperate search to find her children—the five who survived birth and were sold. Are any of them still alive? The grueling, dangerous journey takes her from Barbados then, by river, deep into the forest of British Guiana and finally across the sea to Trinidad. She is driven on by the certainty that a mother cannot be truly free without knowing what has become of her children, even if the answer is more than she can bear.
BOTM seems to select quite a few Greek mythology retellings. While this is not one, it sounds like a cross between The Cloisters and a mythology retelling. Because I think there is a retelling BOTM will choose for February (Stone Blind) and this may be deemed too similar, I am not especially confident this will be a selection.
Synopsis: London, 1799. Dora Blake, an aspiring jewelry artist, lives with her odious uncle atop her late parents’ once-famed shop of antiquities. After a mysterious Greek vase is delivered, her uncle begins to act suspiciously, keeping the vase locked in the store’s basement, away from prying eyes—including Dora’s. Intrigued by her uncle’s peculiar behavior, Dora turns to young, ambitious antiquarian scholar Edward Lawrence who eagerly agrees to help. Edward believes the ancient vase is the key that will unlock his academic future; Dora sees it as a chance to establish her own name.
But what Edward discovers about the vase has Dora questioning everything she has believed about her life, her family, and the world as she knows it. As Dora uncovers the truth, she comes to understand that some doors are locked and some mysteries are buried for a reason, while others are closer to the surface than they appear.
The Three Lives of Alix St. Pierre
Because this author has previously successful books and is not a repeat author, I do not think it is by any means a shoe-in as a selection. However, the synopsis sounds like it may be something BOTM readers would enjoy.
Synopsis: In 1943, with WWII raging and men headed overseas to fight, Alix St. Pierre lands a publicity job to recruit women into the workforce. Her skills—persuasion, daring, quick-witted under pressure—catch the attention of the U.S. government and she finds herself with an even bigger assignment: sent to Switzerland as a spy. Soon Alix is on the precipice of something big, very big. But how far can she trust her German informant…?
After an Allied victory that didn’t come nearly soon enough, Alix moves to Paris, ready to immerse herself in a new position as director of publicity for the yet-to-be-launched House of Dior. In the glamorous halls of the French fashion house, she can nearly forget everything she lost and the dangerous secret she carries. But when a figure from the war reappears and threatens to destroy her future, Alix realizes that only she can right the wrongs of the past …and finally find justice.
The Night Travelers
Armando Lucas Correa
I debated a lot whether to include this book or not. I have mixed feelings about a male author writing a book from women’s point of view. While I think it is a toss-up as far as BOTM selection, I think it sounds interesting, and so far, it is highly rated.
Synopsis: Four generations of women experience love, loss, war, and hope from the rise of Nazism to the Cuban Revolution and finally, the fall of the Berlin Wall in this sweeping novel. Separated by time but united by sacrifice, four women embark on journeys of self-discovery and find themselves to be living testaments to the power of motherly love.
Daughters of Victory
This is another book with a small possibility of being chosen. I am including it, because I am hoping that BOTM will pick more historical fiction that is beyond WWII in the coming year. I think this may be a slight enough deviation that is has a chance.
Synopsis: From the acclaimed author of The Last Checkmate comes a brilliant novel spanning from the Russian Revolution to the Nazi occupation of the Soviet Union and following two unforgettable women…their fates intertwined by ties of family and interrupted by the tragedy of war.
Lauren Kung Jessen
Synopsis: Olivia Huang Christenson is excited-slash-terrified to be taking over her grandmother’s matchmaking business. But when she learns that a new dating app has made her Pó Po’s traditional Chinese zodiac approach all about “animal attraction,” her emotions skew more toward furious-slash-outraged. Especially when L.A.’s most-eligible bachelor Bennett O’Brien is behind the app that could destroy her family’s legacy…
Liv knows better than to fall for any guy, let alone an infuriatingly handsome one who believes that traditions are meant to be broken. As the two businesses go head to head, Bennett and Liv make a deal: they’ll find a match for each other—and whoever falls in love loses. But Liv is dealing with someone who’s already adept at stealing business ideas . . . so what’s stopping him from stealing her heart too?
Synopsis: As the star of the popular teen drama Girl on the Verge, Liv spent her adolescence on the screen trying to be as picture perfect as her character in real life. But after the death of her father and the betrayal of her on-screen love interest and off-screen best friend Ransom Joel, Liv wanted nothing more than to retreat, living a mostly normal life aside from a few indie film roles. But now, twenty years after the show’s premiere, the cast is invited back for a reunion special, financed by a major streaming service.
Liv is happy to be back on set, especially once she discovers Ransom has only improved with age. And their chemistry is certainly still intact. They quickly fall into their old rhythms, rediscovering what had drawn them together decades before. But with new rivalries among the cast emerging and the specter of a reboot shadowing their shoot, Liv questions whether returning to the past is what she needs to finally get her own happy ending.
Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
BOTM has not selected these authors’ previous books. However, this cover screams BOTM to me.
Synopsis: Eliza and Graham are anticipating an anything-but-sexy, weeklong getaway to celebrate their five-year anniversary.
When a well-meaning guest mistakes Eliza and Graham for being single and introduces them at the hotel bar, they don’t correct him. Suddenly, they’re pretending to be perfect strangers and it’s unexpectedly…fun? Eliza and Graham find themselves flirting like it’s their first date, and waiting with butterflies in their stomach for the other to text back.
Everyone at the retreat can sense the electric chemistry between Eliza and Graham’s alter egos. But when their scintillating game of roleplaying ends, will they still feel the heat?
Loathe to Love You
Last year, Ali Hazelwood published three STEMinist novellas as e-books. They are now being published as a collection with a special bonus chapter. Because BOTM has previously featured Hazelwood’s titles, I think there is a possibility we will see this as an add-on.
Synopsis: Under One Roof
An environmental engineer discovers that scientists should never cohabitate when she finds herself stuck with the roommate from hell—a detestable big-oil lawyer who won’t leave the thermostat alone.
Stuck with You
A civil engineer and her nemesis take their rivalry—and love—to the next level when they get stuck in a New York elevator.
A NASA aerospace engineer’s frozen heart melts as she lies injured and stranded at a remote Arctic research station and the only person willing to undertake the dangerous rescue mission is her longtime rival.
Thrillers, Mysteries, & Horror
I think that The Villa will without a doubt be a pick, because BOTM has an obsession with Rachel Hawkins/Erin Sterling. I, personally, am not a fan. I think there is a tiny chance it will not be a pick since at some point or another Rachel Hawkins/Erin Sterling will breakaway from BOTM.
Synopsis: As kids, Emily and Chess were inseparable. But by their 30s, their bond has been strained by the demands of their adult lives. So when Chess suggests a girls trip to Italy, Emily jumps at the chance to reconnect with her best friend.
Villa Aestas in Orvieto is a high-end holiday home now, but in 1974, it was known as Villa Rosato, and rented for the summer by a notorious rock star, Noel Gordon. But he also sets in motion a chain of events that leads to his companions writing one of the greatest horror novels of all time, composing a platinum album––and ending up brutally murdered. As Emily digs into the villa’s complicated history, she begins to think there might be more to the story of that fateful summer in 1974.
Inspired by Fleetwood Mac, the Manson murders, and the infamous summer Percy and Mary Shelley spent with Lord Byron at a Lake Geneva castle––the birthplace of Frankenstein––The Villa welcomes you into its deadly legacy.
What Lies in the Woods
Kate Alice Marshall
Synopsis: Naomi Shaw used to believe in magic. Twenty-two years ago, she and her two best friends, Cassidy and Olivia, spent the summer roaming the woods, imagining a world of ceremony and wonder. They called it the Goddess Game. The summer ended suddenly when Naomi was attacked. Miraculously, she survived her seventeen stab wounds and lived to identify the man who had hurt her. The girls’ testimony put away a serial killer, wanted for murdering six women. They were heroes. And they were liars.
For decades, the friends have kept a secret worth killing for. But now Olivia wants to tell, and Naomi sets out to find out what really happened in the woods―no matter how dangerous the truth turns out to be.
In years past, BOTM has featured books published by Celadon Books, although last year they did not. I think Locus Lane will be a big title in January and has a chance at being a BOTM selection, especially when the synopsis suggests it is for fans of Little Fires Everywhere.
Synopsis: On the surface, Emerson, Massachusetts, is just like any other affluent New England suburb. But when a young woman is found dead in the nicest part of town, the powerful neighbors close ranks to keep their families safe. In this searing novel, Eden Perry’s death kicks off an investigation into the three teenagers who were partying with her that night, each a suspect. Hannah, a sweet girl with an unstable history. Jack, the popular kid with a mean streak. Christopher, an outsider desperate to fit in. Their parents, each with motivations of their own, only complicate the picture: they will do anything to protect their children, even at the others’ expense.
Liar, Dreamer, Thief
I am not super confident that Liar, Dreamer, Thief will be a selection. Between its publisher and its synopsis, I think there is a slim chance it may be picked.
Synopsis: Katrina Kim may be broke, the black sheep of her family, and slightly unhinged, but she isn’t a stalker. Her obsession with her co-worker, Kurt, is just one of many coping mechanisms—like her constant shape and number rituals.
But when Katrina finds a cryptic message from Kurt that implies he’s aware of her surveillance, her tenuous hold on a normal life crumbles. Driven by compulsion, she enacts the most powerful ritual she has to reclaim control and witnesses Kurt’s suicide. Before he jumps froma bridge, he slams her with a devastating accusation: his death is all her fault.
A gripping page-turner, as well as a sensitive exploration of mental health, Liar, Dreamer, Thief is an intimate portrayal of life in all its complexities—and the dangers inherent in unveiling people’s most closely guarded secrets.
The House in the Pines
I am always leery of Reese’s mystery or thriller picks. This one is not well-rated so far, but I have seen it on some lists. It is also blurbed by Riley Sager. I think all of this gives it a chance to be a BOTM pick.
Synopsis: Armed with only hazy memories, a woman who long ago witnessed her friend’s sudden, mysterious death, and has since spent her life trying to forget, sets out to track down answers. What she uncovers, deep in the woods, is hardly to be believed….
The Things We Do to Our Friends
Because of the fact it is billed as a literary suspense novel and it has received mixed reviews thus far, I think this novel only has a small chance of being BOTM selection. But look at that cover!
Synopsis: She’s an outsider desperate to belong, but the cost of entry might be her darkest secret in this intoxicating debut of literary suspense following a clique of dangerously ambitious students at the University of Edinburgh.
Fantasy, Science Fiction, & Magical Realism
Hell Bent (Alex Stern, #2)
Ninth House has turned into a super popular book, and I know that Hell Bent is much anticipated. I am sad to say that I am not super hopeful it will be a BOTM pick. But I think there is a small possibility and am, therefore, including it in my predictions.
Synopsis: In the stunning conclusion to the Elements of Cadence duology, A Fire Endless finds the delicate balance between the human and faerie realm threatened by Bane, the spirit of the North Wind, whose defeat can only come through fire, song, and heart-rending sacrifice.
The Minuscule Mansion of Myra Malone
This is another book that I think is a total toss-up but likely will not be a pick. It has a fascinating premise and is a mix of romance and fantasy/magical realism.
Synopsis: From her attic in the Arizona mountains, thirty-four-year-old Myra Malone blogs about a dollhouse mansion that captivates thousands of readers worldwide. Myra’s stories have created legions of fans who breathlessly await every blog post, trade photographs of Mansion-modeled rooms, and swap theories about the enigmatic and reclusive author. Myra herself is tethered to the Mansion by mysteries she can’t understand—rooms that appear and disappear overnight, music that plays in its corridors.
Across the country, Alex Rakes, the scion of a custom furniture business, encounters two Mansion fans trying to recreate a room. The pair show him the Minuscule Mansion, and Alex is shocked to recognize a reflection of his own life mirrored back to him in minute scale. The room is his own bedroom, and the Mansion is his family’s home, handed down from the grandmother who disappeared mysteriously when Alex was a child. Searching for answers, Alex begins corresponding with Myra. Together, the two unwind the lonely paths of their twin worlds—big and small—and trace the stories that entwine them, setting the stage for a meeting rooted in loss, but defined by love.
Emily Wilde’s Encyclopedia of Faeries
I think this one may be slightly outside of the realm of BOTM, but you never know when it comes to their fantasy picks. (Or at least, I don’t.) It is the start of a series, so it may have that working against it.
Synopsis: A curmudgeonly professor journeys to a small town in the far north to study faerie folklore and discovers dark fae magic, friendship, and love in the start of a heartwarming and enchanting new fantasy series.
The Faraway World
Patricia Engel’s last book, Infinite Country, was a BOTM selection, which I really enjoyed. I think there is a possibility this will be as well. However, BOTM does not choose short story collections often, so I am not super hopeful.
Synopsis: Two Colombian expats meet as strangers on the rainy streets of New York City, both burdened with traumatic pasts. In Cuba, a woman discovers her deceased brother’s bones have been stolen, and the love of her life returns from Ecuador for a one-night visit. A cash-strapped couple hustles in Miami, to life-altering ends. Intimate and panoramic, these stories bring to life the liminality of regret, the vibrancy of community, and the epic deeds and quiet moments of love.
BOTM has had fewer nonfiction selections in the past year or so. However, I like to include them in my predictions every month hoping that one will be a pick and to expose people to some nonfiction books that may be of interest.
Drinking Games: A Memoir
Perhaps it is just me, but Drinking Games seems like a book that BOTM members would enjoy.
Synopsis: Candid and dynamic, this book speaks to the all-consuming cycle of working hard, playing harder, and trying to look perfect while you’re at it. Sarah takes us by the hand through her personal journey with blackouts, dating, relationships, wellness culture, startups, social media, friendship, and self-discovery.
In this intimate and darkly funny memoir, she stumbles through her twenties, explores the impact alcohol has on relationships and identity, and shows us how life’s messiest moments can end up being the most profound.