Book of the Month TBR

I’ve been subscribed to Book of the Month since… the end of 2016, I think? and I’ve been slowly breaking up with them for the past year or so.  Even though I skip most months I have yet to pull the trigger and cancel my subscription, but I think it’s going to happen very soon.  I’ve become increasingly frustrated with them over the years: their selection is appealing to me less and less (I feel like there was a lot more literary fiction when I joined than there is now), subscription price has gone up, the physical quality of their books has gone down, and they now charge you for the month if you forget to click ‘skip’ which is frankly ridiculous and a really insidious way to hold subscribers hostage for longer than they’re interested.

But I do still have a fondness for BOTM; it’s the only book subscription service I’ve ever used, and I enjoy the simplicity of it (I like watching unboxings but all the swag in OwlCrate and whatnot stresses me out; if I could have a subscription that did literary fiction and tea, maybe with the occasional mug, I would be very happy).  And waking up on the first of every month and looking at the selection will never not give me a thrill (except now they announce it randomly like two and a half days beforehand so there’s always a bit of a panic when I realize the list has been up for a few days and I’ve been wasting time by not selecting anything, but I digress).

I realize that most posts that specifically talk about a service tend to be more positive than this, so I realize this hasn’t been the best opening for BOTM-enthusiasts, but I just wanted to be honest about my experiences, which have ultimately been mixed over the years.  I’d love to hear from you if you also subscribe to BOTM, whether you have the same frustrations that I do or whether you’re still happy with what they provide.

I’ve purchased 28 books through Book of the Month over the years, and of those, I’ve read 19.  That leaves 9 that are still on my TBR.  I wanted to take a look at those now to hopefully inspire myself to pick these up sooner rather than later.

Going chronologically from publication date, with summaries from Goodreads in italics and my own thoughts below:

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Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Jason Dessen is walking home through the chilly Chicago streets one night, looking forward to a quiet evening in front of the fireplace with his wife, Daniela, and their son, Charlie—when his reality shatters.

It starts with a man in a mask kidnapping him at gunpoint, for reasons Jason can’t begin to fathom—what would anyone want with an ordinary physics professor?—and grows even more terrifying from there, as Jason’s abductor injects him with some unknown drug and watches while he loses consciousness.

When Jason awakes, he’s in a lab, strapped to a gurney—and a man he’s never seen before is cheerily telling him “welcome back!”

Jason soon learns that in this world he’s woken up to, his house is not his house. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born.

And someone is hunting him.

This is a textbook case of ‘the hype made me do it’.  Science fiction really isn’t my thing, but I feel like I’ve heard nothing but good things about this book, enough that I ended up adding this as an extra to one of my boxes a while back.  I still haven’t gotten around to picking it up (obviously), but I do still have FOMO about this one and want to pick it up before the end of the year.

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As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner

In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters–Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa–a chance at a better life.

But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without–and what they are willing to do about it.

I actually remember vividly that none of the selections appealed to me the month I chose this, but I had just been in the mood to buy a book.  So, here we are.  Of this entire list, this is the one that I’m most likely to unhaul without reading it, but the completionist in me shudders at the thought.  We’ll see.  If you loved this, convince me to read it!

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Still Lives by Maria Hummel

Kim Lord is an avant-garde figure, feminist icon, and agent provocateur in the L.A. art scene. Her groundbreaking new exhibition Still Lives is comprised of self-portraits depicting herself as famous, murdered women—the Black Dahlia, Chandra Levy, Nicole Brown Simpson, among many others—and the works are as compelling as they are disturbing, implicating a culture that is too accustomed to violence against women.

As the city’s richest art patrons pour into the Rocque Museum’s opening night, all the staff, including editor Maggie Richter, hope the event will be enough to save the historic institution’s flailing finances. Except Kim Lord never shows up to her own gala. Fear mounts as the hours and days drag on and Lord remains missing. Suspicion falls on the up-and-coming gallerist Greg Shaw Ferguson, who happens to be Maggie’s ex. A rogue’s gallery of eccentric art world figures could also have motive for the act, and as Maggie gets drawn into her own investigation of Lord’s disappearance, she’ll come to suspect all of those closest to her.

I have heard… almost nothing positive about this book, but the combination of feminism and art history in its blurb convinced me that it was something I was going to love.  I don’t remain quite as convinced at this point, but I do want to read this as Hummel is a local (Vermont) author.

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Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

Willa Knox has always prided herself on being the embodiment of responsibility for her family. Which is why it’s so unnerving that she’s arrived at middle age with nothing to show for her hard work and dedication but a stack of unpaid bills and an inherited brick home in Vineland, New Jersey, that is literally falling apart. The magazine where she worked has folded, and the college where her husband had tenure has closed. The dilapidated house is also home to her ailing and cantankerous Greek father-in-law and her two grown children: her stubborn, free-spirited daughter, Tig, and her dutiful debt-ridden, ivy educated son, Zeke, who has arrived with his unplanned baby in the wake of a life-shattering development.

In an act of desperation, Willa begins to investigate the history of her home, hoping that the local historical preservation society might take an interest and provide funding for its direly needed repairs. Through her research into Vineland’s past and its creation as a Utopian community, she discovers a kindred spirit from the 1880s, Thatcher Greenwood.

A science teacher with a lifelong passion for honest investigation, Thatcher finds himself under siege in his community for telling the truth: his employer forbids him to speak of the exciting new theory recently published by Charles Darwin. Thatcher’s friendships with a brilliant woman scientist and a renegade newspaper editor draw him into a vendetta with the town’s most powerful men. At home, his new wife and status-conscious mother-in-law bristle at the risk of scandal, and dismiss his financial worries and the news that their elegant house is structurally unsound.

It would be a stretch to say that I’m a massive Kingsolver fan since I’ve only ever read The Poisonwood Bible, but I did really love that.  I actually only picked this up because I was convinced that it was going to be a strong contender for the Women’s Prize longlist: obviously that did not happen.  Unsheltered has been polarizing, but I remain curious about it.

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The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him….

I have a rule that I don’t read thrillers written by men (I find that poorly written female protagonists and using sexual assault as a plot point both occur much less frequently in female-authored thrillers; yes, I’m aware this is a generalization, sue me), but I’m breaking that rule twice in this list.  Further down it’s a favorite author who I discovered before I implemented my female-author-only thriller rule, and here’s in because this book sounds absolutely marvelous.  It’s a loose retelling of Euripides’ Alcestis, a play and a story that I adore, so I am very curious to see how Michaelides has interpreted it here.

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The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

When 11-year-old Ren’s master dies, he makes one last request of his Chinese houseboy: that Ren find his severed finger, lost years ago in an accident, and reunite it with his body. Ren has 49 days, or else his master’s soul will roam the earth, unable to rest in peace.

Ji Lin always wanted to be a doctor, but as a girl in 1930s Malaysia, apprentice dressmaker is a more suitable occupation. Secretly, though, Ji Lin also moonlights as a dancehall girl to help pay off her beloved mother’s Mahjong debts. One night, Ji Lin’s dance partner leaves her with a gruesome souvenir: a severed finger. Convinced the finger is bad luck, Ji Lin enlists the help of her erstwhile stepbrother to return it to its rightful owner.

As the 49 days tick down, and a prowling tiger wreaks havoc on the town, Ji Lin and Ren’s lives intertwine in ways they could never have imagined. Propulsive and lushly written, The Night Tiger explores colonialism and independence, ancient superstition and modern ambition, sibling rivalry and first love. Braided through with Chinese folklore and a tantalizing mystery, this novel is a page-turner of the highest order.

Historical fiction set in East Asia is one of my favorite things to read, and I don’t think I’ve read anything set in Malaysia before.  The magical realism element… makes me a bit nervous, but I ultimately decided to bite the bullet and give this one a try, since I just find the premise so intriguing.

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The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer

In 1940, Varian Fry—a Harvard-educated American journalist—traveled to Marseille carrying three thousand dollars and a list of imperiled artists and writers he hoped to rescue within a few weeks. Instead, he ended up staying in France for thirteen months, working under the veil of a legitimate relief organization to procure false documents, amass emergency funds, and set up an underground railroad that led over the Pyrenees, into Spain, and finally to Lisbon, where the refugees embarked for safer ports. Among his many clients were Hannah Arendt, Franz Werfel, André Breton, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, and Marc Chagall.

My biggest interest outside of the bookish world is art history, so I was never going to be able to resist this premise.  World War II fatigue aside, I think this sounds incredible, and I’ve heard some really amazing things about it.  I’m a bit intimidated by the length, but I shouldn’t be!

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Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

Based on years of immersive reporting, and told with astonishing frankness and immediacy, Three Women is a groundbreaking portrait of erotic longing in today’s America, exposing the fragility, complexity, and inequality of female desire with unprecedented depth and emotional power. It is both a feat of journalism and a triumph of storytelling, brimming with nuance and empathy, that introduces us to three unforgettable women—and one remarkable writer—whose experiences remind us that we are not alone.

I barely know what this is about but I think I’ve been told to read it four times this week alone.  Alright, I give in!

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Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly, disturbingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story . . . until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s dark past and into the secrets kept within its walls. Her discovery that Ingrid is not the first apartment sitter to go missing at the Bartholomew pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.

I haven’t even read the summary that I just copied and pasted here but in my opinion Riley Sager is one of the best thriller writers working today.  Final Girls is arguably my favorite-ever thriller, and though I wasn’t quite as enamored with The Last Time I Lied overall, I couldn’t put it down and I thought the final twist was all kinds of brilliant.  So regardless of what this newest offering is actually about, I cannot wait to dive into it.


So, that’s that!  Have you read any of these books, and if so, which would you recommend that I pick up straight away?  If you haven’t, are you interested in any?  And have you ever subscribed to Book of the Month, and what are your thoughts on their subscription service?  Do you have other [adult lit] book subscription services you’d recommend?  Let me know all your thoughts!

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29 thoughts on “Book of the Month TBR

  1. I found Dark Matter a bit underwhelming; it was a fun read but more of a techno-thriller than thoughtful SF. Unsheltered was enjoyable and worth reading, but not my favourite Kingsolver; she’s always a bit soapboxy, but this one particularly got on my nerves. I really didn’t get on The Night Tiger, I’m afraid; I thought it was overlong with a weak plot and not enough weretigers for my liking!

    I have also put Three Women on my TBR after so many recommendations; looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So all things considered, not too many recommendations from you on this list? I think I can get down with techno-thriller but it’s good to know that I should expect that going in. The soapboxy-ness is the main criticism I’ve heard of Unsheltered and I’m really not sure how I’ll get on with it, but I’ll probably still give it a go. The Night Tiger is another one I’ve heard mixed things about and frankly I haven’t got the faintest idea whether I’ll love it or hate it. But I doubt I’ll love it now given how much our tastes tend to overlap.

      Not to discourage excitement about Three Women (I’m still looking forward to it!) but do you follow Ren at What’s Nonfiction? I found her negative review of it rather interesting, and helpful to manage expectations because I’d otherwise heard NOTHING but raves about it: https://whatsnonfiction.com/2019/07/15/three-looks-at-female-desire-in-three-women/

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sorry, I know you already own them! But I definitely enjoyed reading both Dark Matter and Unsheltered. Interesting review of Three Women! I was already aware of some of its limitations but will have to see what I think.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Haha I don’t mind at all! Especially as I was so apathetic about all of them in my post. I am still curious about each of them but I’d rather know exactly what I’m getting myself into.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Since writing this post I have read half of Lock Every Door and it is SO GOOD. I hate that my favorite thriller author is a man but Riley Sager nails the page-turner like no one else.

      Isn’t it?! Why all the junk, just give the people what they want!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Book of the Month looks amazing from this side of the pond. I mean, I’d probably never get to actually reading the books but I love the idea – so it’s for the best that I cannot subscribe.
    I own Dark Matter as well – I bought it for a holiday because I thought it be a good beach read that I could leave behind after finishing it. But after slugging it part way through the world, I still haven’t read it. It’s one the list of books I might unhaul unread, but I’ll wait for your review before deciding.

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    • Frustrations aside it is SO much fun to see the selection of 5 books every month. I will never get tired of that, even when I inevitably unsubscribe one day. I really hope they go international! I feel like they have expanded their business so much in the last year, I don’t think it’s entirely unreasonable.

      I’m so curious about Dark Matter, because I feel like I’m either going to love it or hate it. I’m really not drawn to sci fi written by men but I’ve heard such good things, so who knows.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have problems with sci fi in general (I always think I might love it and then I am just bored) but I do like sci fi with thriller elements. Plus, the hype really got to me. Who knows, maybe I will actually get to it some day. It will surely be a quick read if nothing else.

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  3. I love this post! Criticisms and all, of course. I think I’ve been a BOTM member since early 2017, and feel pretty similarly about the change in their genre content. For me this year has been a bit better than 2018 simply because they’ve been adding so many extras (and I think you can choose a member favorite title now if you don’t like any of the main 5?) that I can usually find something that I want to try even if it isn’t the lit fic I signed up for.

    Book thoughts-
    I loved Dark Matter’s plot twists! The characters are only okay, so I think the less you know about the science the better because those surprises are the book’s strong suit; and I don’t think they require an outside interest in the subject matter to enjoy. Not sure you’ll love this one as much as I did, but I think you’d like it?
    As Bright As Heaven was one of my absolute least favorites from BOTM, I don’t really think you’d be missing anything by unhauling it.
    You might like Still Lives- I didn’t think it was very feminist, but I found the art and the mystery intriguing.
    The Night Tiger was a mixed bag for me- I thought the romance was unnecessary and only one aspect of the magical realism worked for me, but I quite enjoyed the mystery and cultural history.
    I haven’t read the rest, but all have been on my TBR, so would love to see your thoughts! I just got Lock Every Door from the library, and own Three Women as well, so am especially interested in those.

    I hope you find something to really love from this list! (And I’m sorry this comment got so long…)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Long comments are my fave, never fear!!

      I totally agree that 2019 has been an improvement – 2018 was a dark year for BOTM imo. And the way they’ve been expanding their business model is definitely interesting to watch. I’d still rather have a nice selection of literary fiction than BFF perks, but it’s easy to see how you can get ensnared into subscribing until the end of time. And I do like the way it forces me out of my comfort zone at times with its selection.

      Dark Matter – good to know! At this point in my reading career I’m honestly fine with meh characters. Characters used to be the number one draw for me, but I find that I’m more interested in themes etc now. I think this one could be really interesting!

      As Bright – thanks for the honest assessment. I’m still torn about this one but if I do end up unhauling, I will not be heartbroken.

      Still Lives – helpful to know that feminism is not at the forefront, sadly. But like I said, Vermont author, so I’ll definitely be reading this one!

      Night Tiger – I have no idea whatsoever where I’ll land with this one… but I’m intrigued!

      I finished Lock Every Door and I LOVED IT. Not as good as Final Girls imo but I liked it better than The Last Time I Lied. It’s… an interesting one for sure. I’ll be so curious to hear your take on it. And I’m so intrigued by Three Women!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, the occasional perk of a free book doesn’t quite make up for the fact that their selections aren’t in the same range as what was originally signed up for. But you’re right- it’s been an interesting journey to watch them morph through, at the very least, and the unveiling of the five every month is still a fun event to look forward to!

        I would definitely be interested to see your thoughts on any/all of the titles you mentioned. And I’m thrilled that Lock Every Door was such a success for you! That makes me even more excited to pick it up. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • In a way I kind of like the randomness of them announcing the next 5 whenever they feel like (though there’s probably more of a rhyme and reason to it than I realize) – it’s nice to have a random moment of excitement in the middle of my day when I wasn’t expecting it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • When they first stared coming up early I thought it was to avoid having the reveal on a weekend, and that theory fit for a couple of months, but then it seemed like the day of the week didn’t matter to them after all. So if there is a pattern, it’s escaped me as well. But it is a pleasant surprise to find the selections posted before I really start expecting them!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Omg I know, it’s pandemonium. But a negative side effect is that it’ll be a week earlier and I’ll be bored at work searching the BOTM site like ‘WHY AREN’T THEY OUT YET???’

        Liked by 1 person

      • Agreed- and after the early appearance of the selections, the actual end of the month has become far more anticlimactic!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I read The Night Tiger earlier this year and loved it. One of my favourite reads of this year so far. I do enjoy magic realism but I don’t think it’s overly heavy-handed in this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. omg, I’ve had Dark Matter on my TBR since before it came out. It’s right there on my Kindle but I’ve yet to get to it! As much as I adore fantasy I also am hesitant about sci-fi, as it tends to be hit or miss with me.

    Three Women! I just got approved for that on NetGalley and I’m so excited! I’m seeing it everywhere.

    At this point I have every single one of Riley Sager’s books in some form or other and I’ve yet to read a single one for some reason, even though he comes so highly recommended!! Seriously got to move his stuff higher up on my TBR.

    Liked by 1 person

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