These books don’t have a ton in common, other than “oh crap, I need to review these soon”, but the good news is, I pretty much liked them all! 

Relative Strangers by Paula Garner
Isle of Blood and Stone by Makiia Lucier
Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu



Relative Strangers by Paula Garner
Published by Candlewick Press on April 10, 2018
Pages: 368
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

Why is there a gap in Jules’s baby album? A wry and poignant coming-of-age novel about finding the truth in lies, salvaging hope in heartbreak, and making peace with missing pieces.

Eighteen-year-old Jules has always wished for a close-knit family. She never knew her father, and her ex-addict mother has always seemed more interested in artistic endeavors than in bonding with her only daughter. Jules’s life and future look as flat and unchanging as her small Illinois town. Then a simple quest to find a baby picture for the senior yearbook leads to an earth-shattering discovery: for most of the first two years of her life, Jules lived in foster care. Reeling from feelings of betrayal and with only the flimsiest of clues, Jules sets out to learn the truth about her past. What she finds is a wonderful family who loved her as their own and hoped to adopt her — including a now-adult foster brother who is overjoyed to see his sister again. But as her feelings for him spiral into a devastating, catastrophic crush — and the divide between Jules and her mother widens — Jules finds herself on the brink of losing everything.

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After loving the author’s debut, Phantom Limbs, I knew I had to get my hands on this book. And yay, it did not disappoint! Let us talk about why!

  • Paula Garner does an amazing job of getting the feels into her books. This is the second time that I have felt more empathy and love for characters than I ever assumed I would, and I love it. I cried and frankly, tears are the mark of a good book to me.
  • I found Jules so, so relatable. Our life situations had zero things in common, but I could relate to her on such a human level. On the level of someone who just wanted to be loved and accepted, as we all do. She had amazing friendships, and an often difficult relationship with her mom, but she genuinely cared about the people in her life. She made plenty of mistakes, and she often took the hits hard, and I guess she just seemed so well fleshed-out, so very human.
  • The plot was quite family-focused. Of course, you may have gathered this from the synopsis, but it made for quite a powerful story. Hence the tears and such. I loved that Jules was reconnected with loving people from her past, and that it forced some honest, real talk with her mother.

Now, the matter of Jules’s crush is… hard to talk about without being spoilery. I will say, it was written (and as we are reading from Jules’s POV, it could be just projection, but I don’t think so) as though her thinking that Luke’s feelings for her were more than a quasi-foster brother’s would be. I will also say that Luke wasn’t my fave. If you’ve read the book… View Spoiler » That didn’t make me not like the book but it did leave me with some questions.

Bottom Line: Lovely and full of feels, this book was one of my most anticipated of the year, and I am quite glad that it lived up to my own self-hype!


Isle of Blood and Stone by Makiia Lucier
Series: Isle of Blood and Stone #1
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on April 10, 2018
Pages: 400
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

Ulises asked, "How can I look at these maps, see this riddle, and do nothing? They are my brothers."
Elias reached across the table and flicked aside two shells with a fingertip. The map curled into itself. "It's bound to be a goose chase. You know that?"
"Or a treasure hunt," Ulises countered, "and you've always been good at those."

Nineteen-year-old Elias is a royal explorer, a skilled mapmaker, and the new king of del Mar's oldest friend. Soon he will embark on the adventure of a lifetime, an expedition past the Strait of Cain and into uncharted waters. Nothing stands in his way...until a long-ago tragedy creeps back into the light, threatening all he holds dear.

The people of St. John del Mar have never recovered from the loss of their boy princes, kidnapped eighteen years ago, both presumed dead. But when two maps surface, each bearing the same hidden riddle, troubling questions arise. What really happened to the young heirs? And why do the maps appear to be drawn by Lord Antoni, Elias's father, who vanished on that same fateful day? With the king's beautiful cousin by his side—whether he wants her there or not—Elias will race to solve the riddle of the princes. He will have to use his wits and guard his back. Because some truths are better left buried...and an unknown enemy stalks his every turn.

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I know I usually start with the positives of a book, but today, I am starting with the negative. The reason is, there really only was one negative: I really just didn’t feel a ton about this book either way. Objectively, it was good and the plot was pretty interesting. But it didn’t leave any kind of huge impression on me, and I feel like that’s probably an important thing.

But I did like some stuff! I enjoyed the characters, and thought that they were well-written. I loved the romance aspect of the story, too. The plot is a bit of a slower paced one, and isn’t full of action, but is more the characters trying to figure out certain things about their world and their loved ones. I don’t dislike that sort of plot, so it was fine with me, but something to be aware of.

Bottom Line: I feel like I should have more to say, but I simply don’t. It’s one of “those” reviews, sorry to say. While nothing really stuck out as negative, neither did I have overwhelmingly positive feelings. It was a fine book, but not particularly memorable for me.


Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu
Published by First Second on March 6, 2018
Pages: 304
Format:ARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review

Throughout history and across the globe, one characteristic connects the daring women of Brazen: their indomitable spirit.

With her characteristic wit and dazzling drawings, celebrated graphic novelist Pénélope Bagieu profiles the lives of these feisty female role models, some world famous, some little known. From Nellie Bly to Mae Jemison or Josephine Baker to Naziq al-Abid, the stories in this comic biography are sure to inspire the next generation of rebel ladies.

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This was super informative and fun, and also, so very pretty. If learning about some badass ladies from the days of yore is your thing, then I definitely think this book will be a win. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the format, but the graphic novel was actually kind of perfect? Obviously, it didn’t go in depth about any one woman; that wasn’t the point of the book. There was a great introduction and great facts about so many women, many of whom I’d love to research more later.

Also, the illustrations are some of the most beautiful and mesmerizing I’ve ever seen in a book. The way the women and their various cultures and achievements were drawn, the use of color, it was all just gorgeous, so I had to add some pictures so you can see for yourself how much you’ll need to grab this book:

Bottom Line: I just adored reading this book, learning about some awesome women that I may have otherwise never stumbled upon. Also, my eyes are happy that I looked at these pictures.

Have you read any of these books? Planning on it? Let’s talk about them! 

Posted April 10, 2018 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in In a Minute, Review / 12 Comments


12 responses to “Reviews in a Minute: Oh Look, It’s These Books!

  1. Relative Strangers sounds really interesting, and I can see where it would be an emotional read also. Glad it lived up to your expectations! Isle of Blood and Stone is new to me and sounds like one of those just okay books- ones that aren’t bad but just not memorable either? I guess some books have to be that way. 🙂

    The art in Brazen does look nice. 🙂

  2. I was hoping to see your review for Relative Strangers soon, because I know you, like me, loved Phantom Limbs. Your thoughts on Luke were awesome! I had a hard time with that too. It was really the only part of the story that sort of worked me in the wrong way. Other than than, I agree. I absolutely love the Garner pushed that discussion between Jules and her mom, and that there was progress made for so many of the characters in the story. And yes, tons of feels. I cried as well.

  3. So the only one I have on my pile is Isle of Blood and Stone and I’m kind of saaad. I mean 3-stars isn’t a bad rating but I have so little patience for books unless I feel ALL THE THINGS. *throws feelings in the air like confetti* And also I love the look of that Brazen book?! SO PRETTY. MORE BOOKS SHOULD HAVE PICTURES.

  4. I am so excited to read Relative Strangers! I loved Paula Garner’s debut. This one sounds as good. I love that it focuses on the family aspects.
    Aww! Bummer you didn’t love Isle of Stone as much as you wanted. It sounded like a good book, but maybe I’ll wait for the sequel.

  5. I’ve been super excited for Relative Strangers and I’m so relieved to see that – from the reviews I’ve seen so far – it’s living up to the advance hype. I love the focus on family and all the different interactions. Can’t wait to pick this one up.

  6. I’m not surprised that Isle of Blood and Stones was a “meh” book. I just read The Traitor’s Prince and I felt the same. Like didn’t love it, didn’t hate it, just didn’t have anything to say about it.

  7. I had higher hopes for Isle of Blood and Stone, but then again, I think I expected it to not be as good? I think I just requested it to request it LOL.

  8. I have Relative Strangers on my to buy list so I’m glad to see you enjoyed it. I’d seen a really positive review and the story sounds wholly original and very interesting so I definitely want to read that. Brazen sounds utterly amazing, definitely one I need to get my hands on. I’m loving the pictures alone so now I am dying to own a copy.

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