Reviews in a Minute: Book Birthday Books!

These are all books that release today, August 7, so give them a big ol’ happy book birthday!! 

The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby
Nine by Zach Hines
Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry
Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells

Reviews in a Minute: Book Birthday Books! The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby
Published by HarperTeen on August 7, 2018
Pages: 256
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Edelweiss

Girl Online meets Wild in this emotionally charged story of girl who takes to the wilderness to rediscover herself and escape the superficial persona she created on social media.

Mari Turner’s life is perfect. That is, at least to her thousands of followers who have helped her become an internet starlet. But when she breaks down and posts a video confessing she’s been living a lie—that she isn’t the happy, in-love, inspirational online personality she’s been trying so hard to portray—it goes viral and she receives major backlash. To get away from it all, she makes an impulsive decision: to hike the entire John Muir trail. Mari and her late cousin, Bri, were supposed to do it together, to celebrate their shared eighteenth birthday. But that was before Mari got so wrapped up in her online world that she shut anyone out who questioned its worth—like Bri.

With Bri’s boots and trail diary, a heart full of regret, and a group of strangers that she meets along the way, Mari tries to navigate the difficult terrain of the hike. But the true challenge lies within, as she searches for the way back to the girl she fears may be too lost to find: herself.


I was so, so certain that I was going to love this book. Survival components, feels, finding oneself, I love all those things! But at the end of the day, some of those aspects just fell short and I didn’t quite love this as much as I’d hoped.

The Things I Liked:

  • I love a good survival story! And it was one, no question. Mari is out on the John Muir Trail (which I spent lots of time looking up stuff about, the author did a good job of setting that scene for sure!) and it’s not an easy hike. For some time, she’s super alone, and that has to be harrowing for anyone, let alone someone without the experience under her belt. I liked it even more when it added extra characters to the mix, because the more people surviving, the more fun it is, for some reason.
  • Character growth was definitely on point. Mari wanted to take this journey for a lot of reasons, but growth was definitely top of the list. And grow she did! She had to face a lot of things about herself that she didn’t like or didn’t want to admit, and she definitely did that. It was nice to see her go through such a personal learning experience.

The Things I Didn’t:

  • It was just so unbelievable to me. My Kindle notes look like “but NO, no one would ever DO that!” and then a bunch of emojis and exclamation points because I was getting stabby. Look, I know some people are risk takers, certainly more than others. But I simply did not buy that this girl, who was only a literal day before completely obsessed with her internet presence, decides to just bag the whole thing, delete everything, and take off on a long hiking trek. When she has never hiked further than the mailbox. I get the cousin’s death jarring something inside of her, but that had happened before all of this, so it hardly felt like the impetus for such a drastic change? Or, if it was, it probably should have been a little more clearly defined as such- it felt so, so sudden.
  • Not only was it wholly unbelievable, it was dangerous! Okay now I definitely sound like someone’s parent, but wow, this was a terrible choice. While I loved that the journey empowered her, I don’t know that risking her life to “find herself” is really the best plan ever? Especially when her cousin died training for this actual hike. Which I guess brings me back around to the unbelievability piece.
  • Even though there was danger addressed, the stakes didn’t feel that high, and a lot of the scary stuff was easily resolved. And again, without experience and training, a lot of it was just summed up to… Mari getting lucky, honestly. Which felt far too easy. 
  • Her food issues weren’t addressed. It seemed like Mari had a bit of an unhealthy relationship with food, and some body image issues, and I felt like these were kind of glossed over. It was like somehow now that she was off social media these problems vanished, and sorry, that isn’t how that works.
  • Lie of omission trope was in full effect. Gosh, I am not a fan of this. Like she was hiding stuff from her fellow hikers. Lots of stuff, lots of times, and look, we all know that’s going to end badly. Everyone will get their feelings hurt, lots of awkwardness when the truth comes out, you know the drill. Maybe it’s just a pet peeve of mine, but it is, and this is my review, so there you have it.

Bottom Line: While I loved the character growth and hiking/survival aspects of the story, the plot as a whole didn’t feel believable enough for me to fully invest. 

Reviews in a Minute: Book Birthday Books! Nine by Zach Hines
Published by HarperTeen on August 7, 2018
Pages: 320
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Edelweiss

In an alternate world startlingly close to our own, humans have nine lives—and they can’t wait to burn straight through them.

As you shed lives, you shed your awkward phases: one death is equal to one physical and mental upgrade. Julian’s friends are obsessed with the idea of burning lives, but Julian is determined to stay on his first for as long as he can. His mother, the ultimate cautionary tale, burned through her first eight in just a few years, and Julian has no intention of succumbing to the debilitating rebirth sickness that she inflicted on herself.

But the regime has death incentives aimed at controlling overpopulation, and Julian realizes that he’s going to have to burn at some point—especially when he becomes a target for Nicholas, the manipulative leader of the Burners, the school’s suicide club. And when Julian eventually succumbs, he uncovers suspicious gaps in the rebirth system that may explain exactly why his mother went so far down the rabbit hole years ago. Along with a group of student dissenters, Julian sets out to find answers and is soon on the verge of exposing the greatest conspiracy ever unleashed on the world.

He has just eight more lives to uncover the brutal truth.


*Trigger warning* The people in this book literally kill themselves and think nothing of it. It isn’t suicide as we think of it, but I assume it has the potential to be triggering so I wanted to put it out there.

This was such a unique topic for a book- the concept of every person having nine lives. It was like cats, but not. But also there were cats involved and I cannot help but wonder if that was purposeful? Anyway. Let us break this down into the stuff I liked versus the stuff I did not as much, because sure.

What I Liked:

  • The concept! It’s really interesting- it’s basically an alternate universe I think, but where people have nine lives. But of course that creates… problems, because overpopulation and such, so there have to be advantages to burning off some of your lives.
  • It’s also quite thought-provoking. A lot of the situations that Julian finds himself in are tough- and it made me wonder what I would have done in his shoes. The answer isn’t always as easy as we’d hope or think.
  • There’s also a lot of discussion about current topics. One of the main issues is how the poorer people are basically coerced into dying in order to stay afloat financially. There are a lot of other issues, but that’s a pretty non-spoilery example of how poverty can snowball, and I thought it was insightful.
  • It’s full of action and a quick read. I was definitely entertained- and sometimes horrified. But never bored.

What I Didn’t:

  • Really, I just wanted more information about the world. In a concept like this, I wanted so many more answers about how and why the world has become this way. I think I would have been better able to understand the motivation behind a lot of the choices that people made if the world made more sense to me. It’s a standalone for now, though I can see it being expanded upon too, so who knows.
  • Some of the political stuff got a little convoluted. I think this probably goes hand-in-hand with the above point, because these were the people whose motivations I didn’t always understand. Or why some of the rules had evolved the way they had, and so forth. But when I didn’t get answers I might have started to get a little apathetic about the political aspects.
  • A few bits were kind of predictable. Not terribly so, but some of the bigger stuff at the end I was pretty easily able to guess.

Bottom Line: A unique concept that is quite dark (yay if you enjoy darker reads like I do!), this book will certainly make you think- though you might also be thinking about how you’d like more world information, too. 

Reviews in a Minute: Book Birthday Books! Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on August 7, 2018
Pages: 336
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Edelweiss

Michael is an atheist. So as he walks through the doors at St. Clare’s—a strict Catholic school—sporting a plaid tie, things can’t get much worse. His dad has just made the family move again, and Michael needs a friend. When a girl challenges their teacher in class, Michael thinks he might have found one, and a fellow nonbeliever at that. Only this girl, Lucy, is not just Catholic . . . she wants to be a priest.

But Lucy introduces Michael to other St. Clare’s outcasts, and he officially joins Heretics Anonymous, where he can be an atheist, Lucy can be an outspoken feminist, Avi can be Jewish and gay, Max can wear whatever he wants, and Eden can practice paganism. After an incident in theology class, Michael encourages the Heretics to go from secret society to rebels intent on exposing the school’s hypocrisies. When Michael takes one mission too far—putting the other Heretics at risk—he must decide whether to fight for his own freedom, or rely on faith, whatever that means, in God, his friends, or himself.


Story time! I loved high school. Like, a lot. Which is probably not the typical reaction, but there it is. Also, fun fact: I went to a Catholic high school. I, personally, am not nor ever was Catholic. It was… an experience. The main character in Heretics Anonymous is also not Catholic in a Catholic school, though I feel confident in saying that’s where our similarities end. But there’s a woeful underabundance of “non-Catholic in a Catholic school” books out there, probably because I’m the only person clamoring for such a thing? Regardless, it’s a fun story.

It deals with religion a lot, as you can imagine. But I thought that the conversations it brought up were quite important. Like respecting other people’s beliefs, or lack thereof. Michael, our main character, irked me a bit in the beginning because he was so dismissive of Catholic traditions and beliefs. And look- I get it. I brought turkey sandwiches on Fridays and watched the nuns balk, but not to be a jerk, I just always ate turkey? He kind of made a bit of a mockery of some of their traditions at first, which… rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t really believe in much of anything, but that is why I was respectful enough not to participate in those things. Michael… was just going ahead and grabbing holy water and such.

But, Michael makes some friends, and they have a bunch of different beliefs, and some don’t have any, and it’s such a great group of people honestly. They teach Michael so much about just like… life and other humans honestly. And they were way more fun than Michael. Is that wrong? And the group (Heretics Anonymous, of course) started to take some stands against some of the Catholic church’s more offensive teachings. And look- it was wholly unbelievable that this would catch on so swiftly, but it was still a good message. They weren’t, at this point, attacking religion- they were just attacking homophobic, sexist, sex-shaming stuff. Which should be a part of zero religions, let’s be real.

Basically, Michael says a lot of crappy stuff and makes some awful choices, but he grows a lot during the course of the book, so it’s nice to see. And I loved loved loved that so many of the protagonists actually liked their Catholic high school- because I loved mine, and it’s refreshing to see it not trashed completely, while still pointing out the definite problematic aspects in an honest, yet respectful way.

Bottom Line: Loved the story, the messages, and the supporting characters. I do wish I’d felt a little more connected to Michael, the main character, but overall it was a win!

Reviews in a Minute: Book Birthday Books! Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells
Series: The Murderbot Diaries #3
Published by on August 7, 2018
Pages: 160
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

SciFi’s favorite crabby A.I. is again on a mission. The case against the too-big-to-fail GrayCris Corporation is floundering, and more importantly, authorities are beginning to ask more questions about where Dr. Mensah’s SecUnit is.

And Murderbot would rather those questions went away. For good.





Val says Murderbot reminds her of me. Idk if it’s a compliment, but I’m going to go ahead and take it as one. Which, is actually a pretty Murderbot-y thing to do come to think of it… Anyway, Murderbot is, as always, highly amusing and entertaining. And just like the second installment, I worried that I would not be able to grow to like new characters in such a short page span. And once again, I was wrong.

First, Murderbot is developing feelings. Like stronger feelings, because they totally already had them, but you know. Basically, Murderbot is now recognizing their feelings, is more accurate.

“They were all annoying and deeply inadequate humans, but I didn’t want to kill them. Okay, maybe a little.”

And of course, it is full of action. It is also full of feels, as you realize how much people (and bots) can care for each other. I am just so, so happy that there is going to be a full-length Murderbot novel because if the next installment was the last? I’d need to go drown my sorrows in endless episodes of Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon.

Bottom Line: Need. Fourth Murderbot. Immediately.

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

Posted August 7, 2018 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in In a Minute, Review / 36 Comments

36 responses to “Reviews in a Minute: Book Birthday Books!

  1. Good to know about the Other Side of Lost. I could probably manage to overlook the believability issue and just read it fast and gloss over that, but I’ll skip it. I was curious because I really liked the last book she wrote, but it doesn’t sound essential.

    Nine sounds very original and nicely dark, and that premise, especially as it deals with poverty and real world ramifications of multiple lives, kinda reminds me of six Wakes. A little? I want nine lives though!!

    Heretics you have me kinda wanting to read. I haven’t had that non- Catholic in a catholic high school experience but it sounds like the author captured it well, if it felt real to you? Sounds like a good read.

    Rogue Protocol. Just bought it. That is all.

    I would so binge Sanctuary Moon.

    • I mean. If you find it lying on the side of the road, maybe give it a quick read? But if you are thinking about spending $18 of your money… I’m going to say hard pass? Maybe I’d say check it out if it was a Kindle deal or something, because you did like her last book more than I did but… IMO that one was way better anyway.

      Nine is quite interesting. I think there are a few ways it could have been improved, but I was glad I read it. I also want 9 lives, though NOT in this world because… it’s messed up hah.

      Heretics was FUN honestly! And I liked the messages, so that’s a win.

      Did you read Murderbot yet!? I think Val is going to send me the 4th one sometime soon (she’d better). And RIGHT? We can’t find anything to watch, but Murderbot gets all the good stuff!

      • No! I’m slacking. I’m stuck in Adrift. Soon though cause fuck it. I need my Murderbot fix. And yeah why isn’t anyone makingggggg Sanctuary Moon for us?????

  2. HA was not perfect, but you point out the things I really appreciated. Henry did not trash religion entirely, and for that, I am grateful. Nothing in this world is perfect, and I think it’s great if we can talk about the parts we like and the parts that don’t work when it comes to things. I loved the vibe of Michael’s group. He learned a lot from him, and when I was in Catholic school, I would say half of my class was not Catholic. Public Schools in Flatbush in the 70s/80s were sort of scary, Catholic school was the better option in my neighborhood, but it was cool, because my friends brought me to their churches sometimes, and I learned about other religions too.

    • Yess I agree! I loved the whole group dynamic honestly. Oh WOW I had no idea that there were that many non-Catholic kids EVER. I was the only one I knew. Well- one or two other kids were like, Episcopalian or whatever, and it was super close? But no one else was straight up NON Catholic, though our local public schools were pretty good- mine was actually (still is) the best in the area, but it didn’t have a swim team. So… off I went! It really IS fun to learn about other religions. I am not a religious person, but I DO love the history and culture behind religions!

  3. I have not read any of these, and that’s a bummer you didn’t really LOVE any of them…well, except for the last one. I do still need to read the Murderbot diaries!!


  4. I was excited for The Other Side of Lost, but all of the reviewers I trust haven’t liked it. I don’t usually like books set in schools, but I like the sound of Heretics Anonymous. I was a non-Catholic who went to a Catholic graduate school. We were all adults, so everyone was chill about our religious differences. I went to a public high school, but pretty much everyone was Christian, and many of them were not nice to non-Christians.

    • Wowww that is crappy about your public school, goodness! And I have found that in colleges, from everything I have heard things are MUCH more chill even at religious places. I also don’t usually love school settings but this one was too interesting for me to pass up haha

  5. Murderbots #3??!!! I haven’t read two yet lol Luckily it’s a quick read so I’ll try to remedy that this week.

    I’ll definitely skip the first one. I’m not a mom but I tend to go into mom mode when they are doing dangerous stuff like that lol

    And my husband was a non catholic in a catholic school and it’s always so interesting to me when he tells me about it.

    Karen @ For What It’s Worth

    • Oh yay, I hope you love them! I love that they are so quick. YES like- WHY would anyone do that!?! That’s always been my take on everything stupidly dangerous, even when I was young!

      Oooh that is fun! I feel like there aren’t that many of us? It’s definitely an experience!

  6. The Other Side of Lost and Nine sound like interesting books. There are so many good books out there though, that I’m not sure if I’ll ever get around to them. If only we could freeze time every night like Santa Clause!

  7. Great reviews, Shannon! Sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy The Other Side of Lost as much as you hoped to, but you’ve definitely reminded me that I need to give the Murderbot novellas a try at some point – I’ve heard so many great things!

  8. Haven’t read any of these but at the mention of nine lives and cats, my ears perked up a bit for 9. But I’m not a fan of books that are standalones posing as standalones with potential for a series. I know the pub is like testing the waters and will proceed with the series if it sells well but that’s plain shortchanging the readers. Lol, clearly I’m having too much opinions.

    The Other Side of Lost sounds like a YA version of a book with a movie adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon. Ah yes, Wild by Cheryl Strayed! Sorry this felt rushed for you.

    Heretics Anonymous, I’ve read an excerpt and it looks fun. Will look out in local bookstore shelves for a copy.

    • Oh my goodness, I feel you SO MUCH with the whole standalone “test” thing, because I feel like it happens WAY too much? And no matter the outcome, it sucks for readers, like you said. And probably isn’t exactly a picnic for the authors, either- can you imagine the stress!?

      Oh my goodness, I could see this as a Reese Witherspoon, funny enough. I think it was supposed to be a sort of YA take on Wild, so you are pretty on point there. I was so mad I didn’t like it more honestly.

  9. Ahh I just bought Heretics Anonymous!! (Actually it’s partially two friends’ rec’ing it and then Book Depository sent me a 10% off voucher and um?? What am I going to do?? Like NOT use it?! What a monster. So basically I was forced and now it’s coming to me and I AM EXCITED.??)

    And omg that first one sounds infuriating!!

  10. Not liking a book is one thing, but when you’re sooo positive that you’re going to love it and then don’t? Ugh, it’s like a personal affront. It’s like, how dare you disappoint me?! Sorry that Jessi Kirby’s latest didn’t do it for you. At least the latest Murderbot release was a hit!

  11. Rogue Protocol sounds really interesting! I’m definitely going to have to check this series out! And Nine looks right up my alley too. The lack of world building would probably bother me too though. Great reviews!

  12. I was looking forward to The Other Side of Lost, but not if it makes you stabby! I have a really hard time with books that are unbelievable, and it doesn’t have to be real to be believable. I wholeheartedly believe in books like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and Sea of Shadows — because the author convinced me through their writing that things were real. It takes serious skill.

    No one should risk their life to find themselves. It’s what turned me off of the Twilight series years ago. Bella starts doing dangerous things because she thinks it brings her closer to Edward. She was obsessed and delusional and almost got herself killed multiple times. I felt that way BEFORE becoming a mother, so now I have even stronger feelings about it.

    I also don’t like lying in books… When a character can say ONE thing to completely change the outcome of a story, I’m over it. If the entire book is based on a lie that doesn’t get resolved until the end, then what was the point?

    Ugh, now I’m angry at a book I haven’t even read but wanted to.

    — Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?

    • I have seen some positive reviews, if that helps? Like, from trusted bloggers. So hopefully you will have better luck! You are SO right about the believability piece though- because authors CAN make worlds like HP and such feel authentic, while somehow this real-world scenario feels totally ridiculous!

      You kind of nailed my problem with it, in a much more eloquent way than I did hahah. Like- she could have gone about it totally differently, even if she wanted to pursue her dead cousin’s dream, there are less reckless ways to do so? And like- I was never a reckless sort of person, so it isn’t even that she’s being “a teen”, I think she’s just being plain ridiculous. There’s a difference between youthful impulsivity and outright stupidity!

      Omg YES YES YES. That is exactly how I feel about that trope. It is TOO EASY. Especially when it is a HUGE portion of the book- I get that people lie and such, don’t get me wrong, but when it becomes this massive focus, it is a turn off. Just… stop lying maybe? UGHHH!

      Thanks, this was cathartic! ?

      • Hahaha! Happy to help!

        There is definitely a difference between being impulsive and being stupid. You can do things impulsively and still be smart about it.

  13. You’re the first person I’ve seen who hasn’t loved the new Jessi Kirby book! I was so excited to get around to buying now i@m a little bit wary because I can’t cope having to suspend my disbelief when reading a book it annoys my too much. Now I’m going to have to reconsider my stand on reading ASAP.

  14. NOOOOOOOO OMG I’M SO SAD YOU DIDN’T LIKE THE OTHER SIDE OF LOST!! I mean, I haven’t read it yet, but I love Jessi Kirby! D: I can’t deal with unrealistic things in contemporaries, and the heroine sounds selfish, idiotic, and… bratty, to be honest. I’m not sure I’ll want to read this anymore.

  15. Heretics Anonymous is on my TBR because anything discussing religion is always something I want to read. It sounds like it handles the important topics really well though, and that there is quite a lot of character development. All things I like to see 😀 I am also quite intrigued by the concept of Nine. I’ve never heard of a book like it before DD: I think it would be so interesting… it really does transform the idea of death if you have nine lives.

  16. I read other reviews for The Other Side of Lost which put the book on my radar, but now that I think about it, it’s very nonsensical and dangerous for someone who never hikes to hike some dangerous trail! I just recently found out about Heretics Anonymous and I want to read it because of the catholic school experience too! xD I am a catholic and went to a catholic school, but it’s always funny reading memes and stories about them and relate a lot xD

  17. Bummer about Jessi’s book! I haven’t read any of her works, but did think this one sounded really interesting. In fact, I think it was on my anticipated books of 2018 (latter half) list. Thanks for sharing your review, Shannon! 🙂

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