Reviews in a Minute: These Books are Books

These books are books. Sometimes I get sad when I cannot find a common link for mini-reviews. This is not that time. These books… are all books. That’s it, and here we are, a lovely, motley group of books with zero things in common, woo! 

Notes from My Captivity by Kathy Parks
The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts
Mariam Sharma Hits the Road by Sheba Karim



Reviews in a Minute: These Books are Books Notes from My Captivity by Kathy Parks
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on July 10, 2018
Pages: 352
Format:ARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Edelweiss
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"Like Siberia itself, this story is wild, mysterious, full of danger--and then, quite unexpectedly, captivates you with its beauty. I was so glad I went on the adventure." --Goldy Moldavsky, New York Times bestselling author of Kill the Boy Band

Notes from My Captivity is a sharp, sensitive, and darkly funny novel perfect for fans of Libba Bray's Beauty Queens and Adam Silvera's More Happy Than Not.

Adrienne Cahill cares about three things: getting into a great college; becoming a revered journalist like her idol, Sydney Declay; and making her late father proud of her.

So when Adrienne is offered the chance to write an article that will get her into her dream school and debunk her foolish stepfather's belief that a legendary family of hermits is living in the Siberian wilderness, there's no question that she's going to fly across the world.

But the Russian terrain is even less forgiving than Adrienne. And when disaster strikes, none of their extensive preparations seem to matter. Now Adrienne's being held captive by the family she was convinced didn't exist, and her best hope for escape is to act like she cares about them, even if it means wooing the youngest son.

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It’s mixed feelings time, y’all! Some parts of this book were kind of awesome. I mean, Siberia? Sign me up! I love survival stories in general, and in that respect this book delivered for sure. But then some things really threw me off, too. So let’s discuss them all, shall we?

The Things I Liked:

  • Adrienne really grows a lot during the book. She starts off kind of bratty, honestly. And I get that she was still grieving the loss of her father (and I assume she always will, I don’t think people “get over” such things) but that really didn’t mean that she needed to be awful to her stepfather, who was kind of risking a lot to take her on this trip. Alas, she learns quite a bit about herself on this journey, and I really loved watching her development.
  • The survival part of the journey was awesome. Especially when the group her father worked with was in the mix, as they made me chuckle a lot. But even when there were moments of humor, it was clear that the terrain and climate were no joking matter. And frankly, I’m a sucker for a survival journey, so that worked.
  • It definitely had intense moments, and I wasn’t always sure if or how things would work out. It was good that the story definitely did not feel safe, and that the stakes seemed very high at every turn. Made for a very readable experience, as I was eager to know what was going to happen next. Plus, the intensity definitely made for some solid feels. 

The Things I Didn’t:

  • The first part of the story focuses a lot on her stepdad’s mission, and whether the family is real. Unfortunately, the synopsis tells us which way that played out (so don’t read it if you don’t want to know!) and so that part of the story seems a bit anticlimactic, maybe even unncessary to an extent. In addition, we spend a lot of time getting to know the members of her dad’s team (and her dad himself), which is good. Until they aren’t in most of the story (also in the synopsis) View Spoiler »
  • There was a bit of magical realism in the book that didn’t really attract me. I think it kind of made the story seem… a little “much”? Like if you’re already in Siberia being captured by a family you thought was fake, maybe that is enough outlandish stuff for one book?

Bottom Line: Incredible setting, awesome adventure. It would have been a bit better if the title/synopsis hadn’t given so much away, but still a fun read.


Reviews in a Minute: These Books are Books The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts
Published by Tachyon Publications on June 12, 2018
Pages: 192
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley
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She believed in the mission with all her heart.But that was sixty million years ago.

How do you stage a mutiny when you're only awake one day in a million? How do you conspire when your tiny handful of potential allies changes with each shift? How do you engage an enemy that never sleeps, that sees through your eyes and hears through your ears and relentlessly, honestly, only wants what best for you?

Sunday Ahzmundin is about to find out.

Note from the publisher: The red letters in the print edition (and highlighted letters in the e-book) indicate special bonus content from the author.

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I had been super curious about this book since I first read its synopsis on Netgalley. But then I was kind of afraid that it might be a bit too “science-y” for my brain to handle. I needn’t have worried, though! I decided to go for it and request after reading Evelina’s review because she basically abated my fears while making me even more excited for the book. What I’m saying is, if you’re on the fence, check out her review!

And now, I will tell you why I loved it! First, the concept is incredible, and the book delivers. It’s hard to even wrap one’s head around the thought of being alive in space for millions of years, really. But in a good way, because it’s so very thought provoking. It made me think about time in a whole new way, and of course had me questioning whether I could ever do the things that Sunday’s had to do.

In addition, it’s full of action and adventure, and contains a lot of really diverse and well fleshed out characters. The fact that this comes in at under 200 pages makes it an even more impressive feat, since I genuinely cared about the fates of not just the main character, but side characters as well. And, thanks to The Captain’s review, I found out that there are more stories set in this world! Of which I shall be devouring immediately, obviously. The only problem I’d had really is that I wanted more of this world and well… problem solved!

Bottom Line: If you love a sci-fi that makes you really think, but is also full of action, this is one you won’t want to miss!


Reviews in a Minute: These Books are Books Mariam Sharma Hits the Road by Sheba Karim
Published by HarperTeen on June 5, 2018
Pages: 320
Format:Hardcover
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Edelweiss
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Three Pakistani-American teenagers, on a trip through the land of pork ribs, mechanical bulls, and Confederate flags. It's going to be quite an adventure.

The summer after her freshman year of college, Mariam is looking forward to working and hanging out with her best friends: irrepressible and beautiful Ghazala, and religious but closeted Umar.

But when a scandalous photo of Ghaz appears on a billboard in Times Square, Mariam and Umar come up with a plan to rescue her from her furious parents. And what could be a better escape than a spontaneous road trip down to New Orleans?

With the heartbreaking honesty of Julie Murphy's Dumplin' mixed with with the cultural growing pains and smart snark of When Dimple Met Rishi, this wry, remarkable road-trip story is about questioning where you come from--and choosing the family that chooses you back.

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I assumed I would love this one, based on the fact that I will never, ever turn down reading a road trip book. Especially when best friends come together to help one of their other friends, so this one sold me from the synopsis. Unfortunately, it didn’t end up being as epic as I’d hoped. But alas, there were some definite high points, so let’s start with those!

The Good:

  • It deals with a ton of really important real-life issues, especially in our current climate. The characters face some pretty severe hate in certain parts of the country. These scenes were painful to read, but obviously incredibly important, too. Especially some of the more subtle instances. For example, they meet a woman who seems nice and understanding, but has a terribly racist bumper sticker. And of course, she thinks she’s totally justified in her thoughts (which she isn’t of course, but no one is going to convince her). The characters have to navigate these awful situations that frankly, no one should have to deal with.
  • The closeness of the characters was really awesome. They had very solid friendships, and this was evident by the fact that they’d drop everything for a pal in need. I also really liked Mariam’s relationship with her mother, as it was one of the healthier parent relationships that was shown in the book.

The Not-So-Good:

  • The Muslim hate. Okay- I am not a member of this community, and I don’t want to step on toes of course. This is all from my (outsider) perspective, but I feel like it is still worth mentioning. The characters are quite disparaging in regards to more conservative and more religious Muslims. And that seems… really not great. Like it was hard for me to read at times, because I was so wildly uncomfortable with all the hateful remarks about members of the Muslim community. I mean, don’t get me wrong, of course there are members of any community who do the things the characters spoke about, but that is true of all human beings. To make these jabs about Muslim people seems incredibly irresponsible- especially because they’re never addressed or corrected in any way. Again- outside my lane, but very uncomfortable with the disdain toward any group.

    ANYWAY, my friend Rashika complied an awesome list of books by Muslim-identifying authors that you should check out!
  • The other random hate in general. I mean- obviously none of us is perfect, and I won’t pretend to have never been a little judgey in my life. The thing is, it crossed a line for me. I felt like they just wanted to snark on everyone, and that made me sad. And again, there is no growth, no point where everyone is like “wait, no one is perfect, maybe we should spend less time judging all the people’s actions and focus on the internal!” or something. It’s just… what they did.
  • I honestly just didn’t feel a ton for the characters. Like, they were okay I guess, but they really weren’t very fleshed out. They seemed a little.. blah, for lack of a better word. I never felt like I really knew Mariam, which was a bummer, considering she’s the MC.
  • I don’t even fully understand what the point of the book was overall? I mean, a road trip, some discovery about family stuff, and about self (I guess) but I just never felt particularly riveted by the actual plot of the book. 

Bottom Line: Great in theory, less so in execution. I could have overlooked some of the other flaws, but the straight up vitriol directed toward Muslims pushed me over the edge into Nope Territory.

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

Posted July 6, 2018 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in In a Minute, Review / 18 Comments


18 responses to “Reviews in a Minute: These Books are Books

  1. I am a black sheep when it come to Notes From My Captivity. I am really onboard with all your likes – the setting, all the stressful situations, Adrienne’s growth. I loved the way she wormed her way into the family, and that the affection between them grew, and I liked the magical elements too. I thought they added a little mystery to the story. The ending had me pushing out some tears too. I am so sad to see your review for Mariam Sharma. I was looking forward to that one. =/

  2. Great reviews as always, Shannon! I hadn’t actually heard of any of these before but The Freeze-Frame Revolution sounds so interesting – I’ll have to check that one out, especially as I don’t think I read enough sci-fi.

  3. Kel

    How about a patriotic link? They all have little hints of red, white and blue on the cover! (Okay, the tent on Notes from My Captivity is more orange, but close enough.) The Freeze-Frame Revolution sound really interesting. I’ll have to keep an eye out for that. Great review as always, Shannon!

  4. I love how the biggest thing these have in common is… they are all books. LOL Nice.
    I was *just* talking about Notes From My Captivity to someone. I’m kind of intrigued to see how it plays out but the fact that there’s magical realism thrown into the mix makes me put on the brakes. Me + magical realism have never been friends so this one’s probably going to be a pass for me. Meh.

  5. Great reviews! I wanted to read Notes from My Captivity when it first came out, but I think I’ve only seen 1 really good review. People seem to feel pretty “meh” about it. Now it’s so far down on my list that I don’t know if I’ll ever read it.

  6. I’m laughing at the “these books are books”… 😂It’s TRUE though. You are spot on there!! And ugh sadness about the last one. That was the only one vaguely on my radar, but I really hate it when characters just snark about other people the whole time?! Like surely there are other topics of conversation. Sheeeesh.

  7. Siberia *nods* that definitely has possibilities. The Freeze frame Revolution though is the one I’m curious about- it just sounds so different? And who even writes books under 200 pages anymore? Yay for THAT.

  8. Oooooo! Freeze-Frame sounds great! Thanks for boosting that signal (I hadn’t heard of it before, but it’s right up my alley). Sounds like this set of books was a bit of a mixed bag. *wompwomp*

  9. Notes From My Captivity sounds super-unique, but it does suck that so much of the plot was spent on something that the blurb already spoiled. I *hate* when that happens. Might still read it, because it does sounds cool aaand I love the cover haha. This is the first time I’m hearing about The Freeze Frame Revolution but I love the sound of it so much!! Definitely adding it to my to-read list. Fantastic reviews. 🙂

    Veronika @ The Regal Critiques

  10. Wow, The Freeze-Frame Revolution sounds awesome! The concept sounds interesting, and I’ve been really getting into science fiction books recently, so I think it’ll be going on my TBR list.
    Great reviews! 🙂

  11. Freeze-frame Revolution sounds really good. I like the sound of Notes from My Captivity but I don’t really like magical realism.

  12. Road trip books usually are pretty fun, but sorry to hear Mariam Sharma was mostly a NOPE for you. I’m not Muslim either, but I don’t think you have to be to realize that being mean about any group of people – and not having that called out or people growing/changing – is NOT COOL.

    -Lauren

  13. I’ve literally been judging books based on their covers, because I feel like more and more blurbs are giving away crucial aspects of the story. I don’t want to feel like I’ve read the most important parts of a book just by reading the back. It’s like when a movie trailer shows you a condensed version of the movie–not cool! I tend to read things on a whim, books that are sent to me, and books based on reviews from trusted reviewers!

    L @ Do You Dog-ear?

  14. I’m just coming back from the comment where you said you managed to request and receive Freeze-Frame! Was so glad to hear that 🙂 oh, and you’ve already reviewed it! OMG I really didn’t have time to reply to comments, did I. LOL.

    Thanks for linking my review (I guess I’ll find that pingback there somewhere too :D) I’m so glad you loved this one 🙂 it’s so cool. One of my friends was apparently reading a print copy, and guess what. As it turns out, the print copy contains these red letters that spell out a hidden message from the author supposedly in eight-notes (kind of like the messages in the story) and it links you to an ongoing story. Message me on Twitter if you want me to send you the message and the link. IT’S JUST SO COOL, who’d even come up with that idea, right? This author just really rocks.

    And I hope you know that he has at least three free books on his website, and some free short stories set in the same universe as this one (oh wait, I can see you already know that about the stories). It was so undeservedly free that I donated to his fund when I downloaded it xD I think I will be reading more of this world too 🙂

    But seriously, message me for that link 😀 apparently, it’s an ongoing story about Eriophora.

  15. I am SUPER interested in The Freeze-Frame Revolution. Last year I read and loved both All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai and Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. They are both more sciencey, adult fiction books that deal with time travel, quantum physics, and all other theoretical things that would normally confuse me. However, I loved both of them and I have been trying to find more cutting edge adult science fiction to read. I have also been scouring my library for more science space fiction after starting to watch The Expanse. Normally I totally hate science, but there is something about time travel and space that can pull me into a story! Thanks for the great mini reviews!

  16. I’m always so impressed that you manage to nearly always find a connection with all the books that you are reading, so don’t feel too bad if from time to time there doesn’t seem to be a running link. Starting bottom up, the Miriam Sharma one sounds like it has too much hate for me. The Freeze Frame book actually intrigues me, and since I’m reading a sci-fi at the moment (with you, yay!) it has me in the mood to try more. As for the Captive Life story, it sounds okay but not amazing or anything,

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