February 2023 Book of the Month Predictions

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 had a difficult time putting together this month’s predictions. Except some carry overs that will be published on January 31st, I struggled to find books that really screamed BOTM, particularly by non-repeat authors.

Contemporary & Literary Fiction

Maame

Jessica George

Ever since I learned about this book, I have kept it at the back of my mind as a BOTM pick. I included it in January predictions, since I was not sure which month it would appear as a book published January 31st. I think it is a definite for February.

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

Central Places

Delia Cai

I included Central Places in my January predictions. It will be published January 31st, so I think there is still a possibility we will see it as a February selection. It has been blurbed by a number of previous BOTM authors.

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?

Debut

Book of the Month



Big Swiss

Jen Beagin

This is a highly anticipated February release. It does not sound like a typical BOTM pick, but then I remember that Vladimir and The Lifestyle were selections last year. I am including it, but I do not think there is a particularly high likelihood it will be selected.

Synopsis: Greta spends her days transcribing therapy sessions for a sex coach who calls himself Om. She becomes infatuated with his newest client, a repressed married woman she affectionately refers to as Big Swiss, since she’s tall, stoic, and originally from Switzerland. Greta is fascinated by Big Swiss’s refreshing attitude toward trauma. They both have dark histories, but Big Swiss chooses to remain unattached to her suffering while Greta continues to be tortured by her past.

One day, Greta recognizes Big Swiss’s voice at the dog park. In a panic, she introduces herself with a fake name and they quickly become enmeshed. Although Big Swiss is unaware of Greta’s true identity, Greta has never been more herself with anyone. Her attraction to Big Swiss overrides her guilt, and she’ll do anything to sustain the relationship…

Someone Else’s Shoes

Jojo Moyes

BOTM has selected two of Jojo Moyes’s previous books – Still Me and The Giver of Stars. I think that this book has similar appeal as those two picks, despite them each being in a different genre.

Synopsis: A story about how just one little thing can suddenly change everything. Nisha Cantor lives the globetrotting life of the seriously wealthy, until her husband announces a divorce and cuts her off. She must scramble to cope–she doesn’t even have the shoes she was, until a moment ago, standing in. That’s because Sam Kemp – in the bleakest point of her life – has accidentally taken Nisha’s gym bag. But Sam hardly has time to worry about a lost gym bag–she’s struggling to keep herself and her family afloat. When she tries on Nisha’s six-inch high Christian Louboutin red crocodile shoes, the resulting jolt of confidence that makes her realize something must change—and that thing is herself.

Repeat Author

I Have Some Questions for You

Rebecca Makkai

This is without a doubt one of the most anticipated books of the year. Makkai’s previous book was a BOTM pick prior to winning several awards. I am hoping that her past success will not preclude BOTM from selecting this novel for February.

Synopsis: A successful film professor and podcaster, Bodie Kane is content to forget her past—the family tragedy that marred her adolescence, her four largely miserable years at a New Hampshire boarding school, and the murder of her former roommate, Thalia Keith, in the spring of their senior year. Though the circumstances surrounding Thalia’s death and the conviction of the school’s athletic trainer, Omar Evans, are hotly debated online, Bodie prefers—needs—to let sleeping dogs lie.

But when the Granby School invites her back to teach a course, Bodie is inexorably drawn to the case and its increasingly apparent flaws. In their rush to convict Omar, did the school and the police overlook other suspects? Is the real killer still out there? As she falls down the very rabbit hole she was so determined to avoid, Bodie begins to wonder if she wasn’t as much of an outsider at Granby as she’d thought—if, perhaps, back in 1995, she knew something that might have held the key to solving the case.

Repeat Author

Hayley Aldridge Is Still Here

Elissa R. Sloan

In my opinion, BOTM loves to choose books about celebrities. Sloan’s last book, The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes, was also about a celebrity and was a selection. I think this new book has similar appeal plus what sounds like it may have found inspiration from Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Amanda Bynes.

Synopsis: It’s been years since anyone really thought about Hayley Aldridge. A child star turned television royalty, Hayley spent years in Hollywood partying and being plastered across the front page of all the tabloids before quietly disappearing after a whirlwind marriage and divorce and very public breakdown. Once the tabloids wrung every last drop out of the drama, they moved on to the next It Girl. But Hayley is still here.

For over a decade, she’s been trapped in a conservatorship and had every aspect of her life controlled by her parents. She goes nowhere, does nothing without their approval, which is rarely granted. Her visits with her kids are monitored, her fan mail is censored, and she’s a prisoner in her own home. She thought things might change once she was well enough to work, but the restrictions got even tighter as she continued to bring money in—the only thing her parents ever really cared about. Hayley is beginning to realize that this nightmare is her actual life. And she’s sick of it.

Repeat Author

The Friendship Breakup

Annie Cathryn

I debated whether to include this book in my predictions. Although the synopsis sounds like something that might appeal to the BOTM editors and that it has been compared to two previous BOTM authors, The Friendship Breakup is being released by a publisher with whom BOTM has not previously worked. Essentially, I think there is only a microscopic chance we may see this as a February selection.

Synopsis: Fallon Monroe, mother of one, self-help book junkie, and budding chocolatier, has always relied on her mom friends in the Chicago suburbs to get her through the trials of adulthood. So when her bestie Beatrice inexplicably starts ghosting her and takes all their mutual friends with her, Fallon’s left wondering how everything went so wrong. Pushing down a lifetime of insecurities, Fallon doubles down and decides to win them back. First, she hosts an epic Mexican fiesta that goes epically wrong. Then she joins a friendship app but discovers a disturbing secret about one of her new friends.

Just when she’s about to throw in the towel on the whole friendship mess, Fallon reads a recently unearthed letter she’d refused to deal with decades earlier—and reading it forces her to finally face the deep-seated fears she’d desperately tried to bury. Now, looking at her friendships through fresh eyes, she must decide between hanging on and letting go.

Debut


Historical Fiction

River Sing Me Home

Eleanor Shearer

Another book that I included in my January predictions that has a January 31st pub date. 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. 

Debut

Looking for Jane

Heather Marshall

This is another highly anticipated February release, which may appeal to BOTM. While I think there is a possibility of it being a selection, the subject matter may prevent it from being a pick. BOTM generally tries to steer clear of anything that may be seen as political, even if it is historical fiction.

Synopsis: 2017: When Angela Creighton discovers a mysterious letter containing a life-shattering confession, she is determined to find the intended recipient. Her search takes her back to the 1970s when a group of daring women operated an illegal underground abortion network in Toronto known only by its whispered code name: Jane.

1971: As a teenager, Dr. Evelyn Taylor was sent to a home for “fallen” women where she was forced to give up her baby for adoption—a trauma she has never recovered from. Despite harrowing police raids and the constant threat of arrest, she joins the Jane Network as an abortion provider, determined to give other women the choice she never had.

1980: After discovering a shocking secret about her family, twenty-year-old Nancy Mitchell begins to question everything she has ever known. When she unexpectedly becomes pregnant, she feels like she has no one to turn to for help. Grappling with her decision, she locates “Jane” and finds a place of her own alongside Dr. Taylor within the network’s ranks, but she can never escape the lies that haunt her.

Debut

Time’s Undoing

Cheryl A. Head

This is another novel that I would like to see as a selection. It has been blurbed by several past BOTM authors and is currently relevant. Plus, BOTM tends to love mysteries, even when they appear within another genre. My only hesitance regarding this one is the fact that it includes a BLM storyline that may be considered political.

Synopsis: Birmingham, 1929: Robert Lee Harrington, a master carpenter, has just moved to Alabama to pursue a job opportunity, bringing along his pregnant wife and young daughter. Birmingham is in its heyday, known as the “Magic City” for its booming steel industry, and while Robert and his family find much to enjoy in the city’s busy markets and vibrant nightlife, it’s also a stronghold for the Klan. And with his beautiful, light-skinned wife and snazzy car, Robert begins to worry that he might be drawing the wrong kind of attention. 

2019: Meghan McKenzie, the youngest reporter at the Detroit Free Press, has grown up hearing family lore about her great-grandfather’s murder—but no one knows the full story of what really happened back then, and his body was never found. Determined to find answers to her family’s long-buried tragedy and spurred by the urgency of the Black Lives Matter movement, Meghan travels to Birmingham. But as her investigation begins to uncover dark secrets that spider across both the city and time, her life may be in danger.  

Inspired by true events, Time’s Undoing is both a passionate tale of one woman’s quest for the truth behind the racially motivated trauma that has haunted her family for generations and, as newfound friends and supporters in Birmingham rally around Meghan’s search, the uplifting story of a community coming together to fight for change.

The Porcelain Moon

Janie Chang

BOTM selected Janie Chang’s The Library of Legends back in 2020 (which had an equally beautiful cover). Similar to that historical fiction book, this new novel highlights a diverse perspective and event within a topic (WWI) that previous selections have explored. I think that for those reasons and her previous book’s BOTM success, that The Porcelain Moon is a solid February prediction.

Synopsis: France, 1918. In the final days of the First World War, a young Chinese woman, Pauline Deng, runs away from her uncle’s home in Paris to evade a marriage being arranged for her in Shanghai. To prevent the union, she needs the help of her cousin Theo, who is working as a translator for the Chinese Labour Corps in the French countryside. In the town of Noyelles-sur-Mer, Camille Roussel is planning her escape from an abusive marriage, and to end a love affair that can no longer continue. When Camille offers Pauline a room for her stay, the two women become friends. But it’s not long before Pauline uncovers a perilous secret that Camille has been hiding from her. As their dangerous situation escalates, the two women are forced to make a terrible decision that will bind them together for the rest of their lives.

Set against the little-known history of the 140,000 Chinese workers brought to Europe as non-combatant labor during WWI, The Porcelain Moon is a tale of forbidden love, identity and belonging, and what we are willing to risk for freedom.

Repeat Author

The Woman with the Cure

Lynn Cullen

Historical fiction with feminist themes sounds right up BOTM’s alley. One of the publishers BOTM works with most is releasing this book making it a probable February pick.

Synopsis: In 1940s and ’50s America, polio is as dreaded as the atomic bomb. No one’s life is untouched by this disease that kills or paralyzes its victims, particularly children. Outbreaks of the virus across the country regularly put American cities in lockdown. Some of the world’s best minds are engaged in the race to find a vaccine. The man who succeeds will be a god.

But Dorothy Horstmann is not focused on beating her colleagues to the vaccine. She just wants the world to have a cure. Applying the same determination that lifted her from a humble background as the daughter of immigrants, to becoming a doctor –often the only woman in the room–she hunts down the monster where it lurks: in the blood.

This discovery of hers, and an error by a competitor, catapults her closest colleague to a lead in the race. When his chance to win comes on a worldwide scale, she is asked to sink or validate his vaccine—and to decide what is forgivable, and how much should be sacrificed, in pursuit of the cure.

The House of Eve

Sadeqa Johnson

Johnson’s last book, Yellow Wife, has gained recognition on bookstagram. While that in no way says anything about whether a book may be picked up by BOTM, I think this book may appeal to subscribers. Plus, I always hope to see more BIPOC authors.

Synopsis: 1950s Philadelphia: fifteen-year-old Ruby Pearsall is on track to becoming the first in her family to attend college, in spite of having a mother more interested in keeping a man than raising a daughter. But a taboo love affair threatens to pull her back down into the poverty and desperation that has been passed on to her like a birthright.

Eleanor Quarles arrives in Washington, DC, with ambition and secrets. When she meets the handsome William Pride at Howard University, they fall madly in love. But William hails from one of DC’s elite wealthy Black families, and his par­ents don’t let just anyone into their fold. Eleanor hopes that a baby will make her finally feel at home in William’s family and grant her the life she’s been searching for. But having a baby—and fitting in—is easier said than done.

With their stories colliding in the most unexpected of ways, Ruby and Eleanor will both make decisions that shape the trajectory of their lives.


Romance

In January, BOTM had two romance selections. I am not confident about there being any romance selections this month. But I wanted to at least include a few in my predictions, just in case. No new romance novels jumped out at me as obvious BOTM picks. Anita Kelly, who debuted as a BOTM author last year, has a new book coming out towards the beginning of March that could be an early release.

The Neighbor Favor

Kristina Forest

Shy, bookish, and admittedly awkward, Lily Greene has always felt inadequate compared to the rest of her accomplished family, who strive for Black excellence. She dreams of becoming a children’s books editor, but she’s been frustratingly stuck in the nonfiction division for years without a promotion in sight. Lily finds escapism in her correspondences with her favorite fantasy author, and what begins as two lonely people connecting over email turns into a tentative friendship and possibly something else Lily won’t let herself entertain—until he ghosts her without a word.

Months later, Lily is still crushed, but she’s determined to get a hold of her life, starting with finding a date to her sister’s wedding. And the perfect person to help her is Nick Brown, her charming, attractive new neighbor, who she feels drawn to for reasons she can’t explain. But little does she know, Nick is an author—her favorite fantasy author.

Nick, who has his reasons for using a pen name and pushing people away, soon realizes that the beautiful, quiet girl from down the hall is the same Lily he fell in love with over email months ago. Unwilling to complicate things even more between them, he agrees to set her up with someone else, though this simple favor between two neighbors is anything but—not when he can’t get her off his mind…

For Twice in My Life

Annette Christie

Synopsis: Layla’s chaotic life transformed when she met Ian Barnett. Ambitious, committed, and thoughtful, Ian has been everything she’d dreamed of, and she knows he’d say the same of her. So when he breaks up with her out of the blue, Layla is stunned. What went wrong?

But then, Layla gets a call from the local hospital. Ian’s had a biking accident. He’s okay, but he needs someone—his someone—to get him home safely. As it becomes clear Ian doesn’t remember he ended things, it also becomes clear that the accident has given him a new outlook on life . . . and Layla a second chance to get things right. 

That is, until Ian’s younger brother comes to town. Matt is restless, unpredictable, and threatens to upset the careful balance Layla and Ian have rebuilt. As things get more complicated both at home and at work, Layla realizes she might lose her chance at real love—and real happiness—if she doesn’t come clean about the stories she’s been telling: to Ian, to Matt, to her family, and most importantly, to herself.

Too Wrong to Be Right

Melanie Johnson

Synopsis: After her latest jerk of a boyfriend dumps her (and ditches her with his pet hedgehog), florist Kat Kowalski is done chasing after Mr. Wrong. With her two best friends moving on to more serious relationships, she’s ready to stop repeating the same mistakes that are leaving her stuck in the single lane. Armed with a list of qualities for her perfect Mr. Right, Kat swears off dating until she finds him.

Then in a meet-disaster involving a corpse and a salty cockatoo, she stumbles across Mick O’Sullivan at his family’s funeral home. Their immediate chemistry warns Kat to keep things platonic; after all, following her heart never worked out in the past, and this time she’s determined to listen to her head. But can Kat and Mick be just friends? As she gets to know him better, the lines blur, and Kat starts to wonder if she’s gotten it wrong and Mick is exactly who she’s been looking for…

Something Wild & Wonderful

Anita Kelly

I am not sure how popular Love & Other Disasters was with BOTM subscribers. But I hope that this book will b a pick simply because I like to see BOTM including more diverse romance reads, including non-cis het couples.

Synopsis: Alexei Lebedev’s journey on the Pacific Crest Trail begins with a single snake. And it is angling for the hot stranger who seemed to have appeared out of thin air. Lex is prepared for rattlesnakes, blisters, and months of solitude. What he isn’t prepared for is Ben Caravalho. But somehow—on a 2,500-mile trail—Alexei keeps running into the outgoing and charismatic hiker with golden-brown eyes, again and again. It might be coincidence. Then again, maybe there’s a reason the trail keeps bringing them together . . .

Ben has made his fair share of bad decisions, and almost all of them involved beautiful men. And yet there’s something about the gorgeous and quietly nerdy Alexei that Ben can’t just walk away from. Surely a bad decision can’t be this cute and smart. And there are worse things than falling in love during the biggest adventure of your life. But when their plans for the future are turned upside down, Ben and Alexei begin to wonder if it’s possible to hold on to something this wild and wonderful.

Repeat Author | Early Release


Thrillers, Mysteries, & Horror

The Writing Retreat

Julia Bartz

I have only heard amazing things about this debut novel. I am planning on reading it later this week since I feel like it should be an obvious BOTM selection and want to share my preview prior to the February drop.

Synopsis; Alex has all but given up on her dreams of becoming a published author when she receives a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: attend an exclusive, month-long writing retreat at the estate of feminist horror writer Roza Vallo. Even the knowledge that Wren, her former best friend and current rival, is attending doesn’t dampen her excitement.

But when the attendees arrive, Roza drops a bombshell—they must all complete an entire novel from scratch during the next month, and the author of the best one will receive a life-changing seven-figure publishing deal. Determined to win this seemingly impossible contest, Alex buckles down and tries to ignore the strange happenings at the estate, including Roza’s erratic behavior, Wren’s cruel mind games, and the alleged haunting of the mansion itself. But when one of the writers vanishes during a snowstorm, Alex realizes that something very sinister is afoot. With the clock running out, she’s desperate to discover the truth and save herself.

A claustrophobic and propulsive thriller exploring the dark side of female friendships and fame, The Writing Retreat is the unputdownable debut novel from a compelling new talent.

Debut

On the Savage Side

Tiffany McDaniel

Tiffany McDaniel’s Betty was a popular and well-regarded BOTM selection in 2021. While sometimes I am not the biggest fan of featuring repeat authors, I would love to see BOTM feature more Native & Indigenous authors, like Tiffany McDaniel. In addition, I have heard wonderful things about this book.

Synopsis: Arcade and Daffodil are twins born one minute apart. With their fiery red hair and thirst for escape, they form an unbreakable bond nurtured by their grandmother’s stories. Together, they disappear into their imaginations and forge a world all their own. 

But what the two sisters can’t escape are the generational ghosts that haunt their family. Growing up in the shadow of their rural Ohio town, the sisters cling tightly to one another. Years later, Arcade wrestles with the memories of her early life, just as a local woman is discovered drowned in the river. Soon, more bodies are found. As her friends disappear around her, Arcade is forced to reckon with the past while the killer circles closer. Arcade’s promise to keep herself and her sister safe becomes increasingly desperate and the powerful riptide of the savage side becomes more difficult to survive.

Drawing from the true story of women killed in Chillicothe, Ohio, acclaimed novelist and poet Tiffany McDaniel has written a moving literary testament and fearless elegy for missing women everywhere.

Repeat Author

Stone Cold Fox

Rachel Koller Groft

This is another debut novel with blurbs by previous BOTM author. Besides being released by a frequent BOTM publisher, I think BOTM often tends to choose domestic suspense novels, making this a strong candidate.

Synopsis: Like any enterprising woman, Bea knows what she’s worth and is determined to get all she deserves—it just so happens that what she deserves is to marry rich. Filthy rich. After years of forced instruction by her mother in the art of swindling men, a now-solo Bea wants nothing more than to close and lock the door on their sordid partnership so she can disappear safely into old-money domesticity, sealing the final phase of her escape.

When Bea chooses her ultimate target in the fully loaded, thoroughly dull and blue-blooded Collin Case, she’s ready to deploy all of her tricks one last time. The challenge isn’t getting the ring, but rather the approval of Collin’s family and everyone else in their 1 percent tax bracket, particularly his childhood best friend, Gale Wallace-Leicester.

Going toe-to-toe with Gale isn’t a threat to an expert like Bea, but what begins as an amusing cat-and-mouse game quickly develops into a dangerous pursuit of the grisly truth. Finding herself at a literal life-and-death crossroads with everything on the line, Bea must finally decide who she really wants to be.

Debut

The Angel Maker

Alex North

BOTM choosing The Angel Maker would make Alex North a three-peat author. I think it is only a small possibility that it will happen since BOTM has not featured any books published by Celadon since 2021.

Synopsis: Growing up in a beautiful house in the English countryside, Katie Shaw lived a charmed life. At the cusp of graduation, she had big dreams, a devoted boyfriend, and a little brother she protected fiercely. Until the day a violent stranger changed the fate of her family forever.

Years later, still unable to live down the guilt surrounding what happened to her brother, Chris, and now with a child of her own to protect, Katie struggles to separate the real threats from the imagined. Then she gets the phone call: Chris has gone missing and needs his big sister once more.

Meanwhile, Detective Laurence Page is facing a particularly gruesome crime. A distinguished professor of fate and free will has been brutally murdered just hours after firing his staff. All the leads point back to two old cases: the gruesome attack on teenager Christopher Shaw, and the despicable crimes of a notorious serial killer who, legend had it, could see the future.

Repeat Author


Fantasy, Science Fiction, & Magical Realism

Gone Like Yesterday

Janelle M. Williams

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: A lyrical debut novel that asks what we owe to our families, what we owe to our ancestors, and what we owe to ourselves. Janelle M. Williams’s Gone Like Yesterday employs magical realism to explore the majestic and haunting experience of being a Black woman in today’s America.   

Debut

Stone Blind

Natalie Haynes

BOTM seemingly likes the resurgence of books about mythology. And who does not love Medusa? They have not previously featured one of Natalie Haynes’s books, so I question if this will be the one. If it is not a pick this month, I think that Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati will be one next month.

Synopsis:

The only mortal in a family of gods, Medusa is the youngest of the Gorgon sisters. Unlike her siblings, Medusa grows older, experiences change, feels weakness. Her mortal lifespan gives her an urgency that her family will never know.

When the sea god Poseidon assaults Medusa in Athene’s temple, the goddess is enraged. Furious by the violation of her sacred space, Athene takes revenge—on the young woman. Punished for Poseidon’s actions, Medusa is forever transformed. Writhing snakes replace her hair and her gaze will turn any living creature to stone. Cursed with the power to destroy all she loves with one look, Medusa condemns herself to a life of solitude.

Until Perseus embarks upon a fateful quest to fetch the head of a Gorgon . . .

In Stone Blind, classicist and comedian Natalie Haynes turns our understanding of this legendary myth on its head, bringing empathy and nuance to one of the earliest stories in which a woman—injured by a powerful man—is blamed, punished, and monstered for the assault. Delving into the origins of this mythic tale, Haynes revitalizes and reconstructs Medusa’s story with her passion and fierce wit, offering a timely retelling of this classic myth that speaks to us today.

The Last Tale of the Flower Bride

Roshani Chokshi

This book is being compared to Mexican Gothic and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue – two super popular past BOTM selections. It has also received praise from at least a handful of previous BOTM authors. I think we have a solid chance at seeing it among the February picks.

Synopsis: Once upon a time, a man who believed in fairy tales married a beautiful, mysterious woman named Indigo Maxwell-Casteñada. He was a scholar of myths. She was heiress to a fortune. They exchanged gifts and stories and believed they would live happily ever after—and in exchange for her love, Indigo extracted a promise: that her bridegroom would never pry into her past.

But when Indigo learns that her estranged aunt is dying and the couple is forced to return to her childhood home, the House of Dreams, the bridegroom will soon find himself unable to resist. For within the crumbling manor’s extravagant rooms and musty halls, there lurks the shadow of another girl: Azure, Indigo’s dearest childhood friend who suddenly disappeared. As the house slowly reveals his wife’s secrets, the bridegroom will be forced to choose between reality and fantasy, even if doing so threatens to destroy their marriage . . . or their lives.

The Shamshine Blind

Paz Pardo

This book is not the most likely to be chosen by BOTM. However, I still really hope it is. Similar to a few other books I have mentioned, it may have too many political themes for BOTM. However, it has been blurbed by several past BOTM authors and is a debut novel.

Synopsis: In an alternate 2009, the United States has been a second-rate power for a quarter of a century, ever since Argentina’s victory in the Falkland’s War thanks to their development of “psychopigments.” Created as weapons, these colorful chemicals can produce almost any human emotion upon contact, and they have been embraced in the US as both pharmaceutical cure-alls and popular recreational drugs. Black market traders illegally sell everything from Blackberry Purple (which causes terror) to Sunshine Yellow (which delivers happiness).

Psychopigment Enforcement Agent Kay Curtida works a beat in Daly City, just outside the ruins of San Francisco, chasing down smalltime crooks. But when an old friend shows up with a tantalizing lead on a career-making case, Curtida’s humdrum existence suddenly gets a boost. Little does she know that this case will send her down a tangled path of conspiracy and lead to an overdue reckoning with her family and with the truth of her own emotions.

Debut

Marvelous

Molly Greeley

I have observed that BOTM loves a retelling. Last year, BOTM featured Darling Girl, a Peter Pan retelling. This book sounds unusual in that it is a Beauty and the Beast retelling that takes inspiration from the original fairy tale rather than the Disney movie.

Synopsis: A mesmerizing novel set in the French royal court of Catherine de’ Medici during the Renaissance, which recreates the touching and surprising true story behind the Beauty and the Beast legend. Gorgeously written, heartbreaking and hopeful, Marvelous is the portrait of a marriage, the story of a remarkable, resilient family, and an unforgettable reimaging of one of the world’s most beloved fairy tales.  

Victory City

Salman Rushdie

I debated about the inclusion of this book in my predictions. While early reviews have been strong and it is on quite a few most anticipated books of 2023 lists, the synopsis does not sound like a typical BOTM selection.

Synopsis: In the wake of an unimportant battle between two long-forgotten kingdoms in fourteenth-century southern India, a nine-year-old girl has a divine encounter that will change the course of history. After witnessing the death of her mother, the grief-stricken Pampa Kampana becomes a vessel for a goddess, who begins to speak out of the girl’s mouth. Granting her powers beyond Pampa Kampana’s comprehension, the goddess tells her that she will be instrumental in the rise of a great city called Bisnaga—“victory city”—the wonder of the world.

Over the next 250 years, Pampa Kampana’s life becomes deeply interwoven with Bisnaga’s, from its literal sowing from a bag of magic seeds to its tragic ruination in the most human of ways: the hubris of those in power. Whispering Bisnaga and its citizens into existence, Pampa Kampana attempts to make good on the task that the goddess set for her: to give women equal agency in a patriarchal world. But all stories have a way of getting away from their creator, and Bisnaga is no exception. As years pass, rulers come and go, battles are won and lost, and allegiances shift, the very fabric of Bisnaga becomes an ever more complex tapestry—with Pampa Kampana at its center.


Nonfiction

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.

B.F.F.: A Memoir of Friendship Lost and Found

Christie Tate

Christie Tate’s debut Group was a buzzy book and BOTM selection back in 2020. I think that alone makes it a candidate for BOTM selection. The fact that BOTM has previously picked several nonfiction books about friendship increases that likelihood even more.

Synopsis: After more than a decade of dead-end dates and dysfunctional relationships, Christie Tate has reclaimed her voice and settled down. Her days of agonizing in group therapy over guys who won’t commit are over, the grueling emotional work required to attach to another person tucked neatly into the past.

Or so she thought. Weeks after giddily sharing stories of her new boyfriend at Saturday morning recovery meetings, Christie receives a gift from a friend. Meredith, twenty years older and always impeccably accessorized, gives Christie a box of holiday-themed scarves as well as a gentle suggestion: maybe now is the perfect time to examine why friendships give her trouble. “The work never ends, right?” she says with a wink.

Christie isn’t so sure, but she soon realizes that the feeling of “apartness” that has plagued her since childhood isn’t magically going away now that she’s in a healthy romantic relationship. With Meredith by her side, she embarks on a brutally honest exploration of her friendships past and present, sorting through the ways that debilitating shame and jealousy have kept the lasting bonds she craves out of reach—and how she can overcome a history of letting go too soon. But when Meredith becomes ill and Christie’s baggage threatens to muddy their final days, she’s forced to face her deepest fears in honor of the woman who finally showed her how to be a friend.

Poignant, laugh-out-loud funny, and emotionally satisfying, B.F.F. explores what happens when we finally break the habits that impair our ability to connect with others, and the ways that one life—however messy and imperfect—can change another.

Repeat Author

Liliana’s Invincible Summer

Cristina Rivera Garza

This book sounds like several that BOTM featured long ago when they picked more nonfiction. It has great reviews so far. The fact that it has been translated from Spanish makes me question whether it has a chance as a BOTM selection.

Synopsis: September 2019. Cristina Rivera Garza travels from her home in Texas to Mexico City, in search of an old, unresolved criminal file. “My name is Cristina Rivera Garza,” she wrote in her request to the attorney general, “and I am writing to you as a relative of Liliana Rivera Garza, who was murdered on July 16, 1990.” It’s been twenty-nine years. Twenty-nine years, three months, and two days since Liliana was murdered by an abusive ex-boyfriend—and Cristina knows there is only a slim chance of recovering the file. And yet, inspired by feminist movements across the world and enraged by the global epidemic of femicide and intimate partner violence, she embarks on a path toward justice. Liliana’s Invincible Summer is the account—and the outcome—of that extraordinary quest.

In luminous, poetic prose, Rivera Garza tells a singular yet universally resonant story: that of a spirited, wondrously hopeful young woman who tried to survive in a world of increasingly normalized gendered violence. Following her decision to recover her sister’s file, Rivera Garza traces the history of Liliana’s life, from her early romance with a handsome but possessive and short-tempered man, to that exhilarating final summer of 1990 when Liliana loved, thought, and traveled more widely and freely than she ever had before.


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