Reviews in a Minute: More February!

Wow February is bananas. I am not even almost done with my February reviews. So settle in for another round!

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
The Sisterhood by A.J. Grainger
The Great Unknowable End by Kathryn Ormsbee



Reviews in a Minute: More February! We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
Series: We Set the Dark on Fire #1
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on February 26, 2019
Pages: 384
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Edelweiss
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In this daring and romantic fantasy debut perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and Latinx authors Zoraida Córdova and Anna-Marie McLemore, society wife-in-training Dani has a great awakening after being recruited by rebel spies and falling for her biggest rival.

At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children. Both paths promise a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class.

Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her pedigree is a lie. She must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society.

And school couldn’t prepare her for the difficult choices she must make after graduation, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio.

Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or will she give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?

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Do yourself a favor, and be sure to read the author’s note in this one! Sets up the whole book in such a marvelous way, and why this book is such a timely read.

The Things I Liked:

  • The characters were incredibly sympathetic. Even at the start, when they’re making choices I’d rather they didn’t (in some cases), I still fully understood why they were doing it. They had backstories that really made them relatable, and really helped as a reader to form a connection. And they grew so much during the course of the book!
  • The friendships and romance were great! Dani had mostly kept to herself in the beginning, which you’ll understand in terms of where she’s come from. But as the book progresses and she makes new friends and in some cases, more than friends, these relationships help shape the story in pretty monumental ways.
  • Bringing down the patriarchy is a plot I can always get on board with! Ugh, why is society so gross? Ours, theirs, it’s all despicable, let’s be real. The only difference between Daniela’s world and ours is that they’re more honest about the fact that they want women’s only life purpose to be marrying some crappy dude. And wow, the aforementioned dude is truly a pile of human garbage. Dani being involved in taking it down? Perfection!
  • The stakes felt high, and the story was good. I enjoyed it, even the moments that were quieter. I loved the world-building, the marketplaces, and of course, wondering what is going to happen as Dani gets herself involved further and further into the rebellion.

The Things I Didn’t:

  • It reminded me of several other books. I am not saying it was a duplicate of some other book, just a lot of themes from a lot of other books were used, in a way that didn’t feel totally fresh? And because of that, maybe a wee bit predictable?

Bottom Line: Well, now I need to know what happens next! Dani is a strong character who has to make some incredibly difficult choices, and it’s absolutely worth reading about them!


Reviews in a Minute: More February! The Sisterhood by A.J. Grainger
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on February 12, 2019
Pages: 320
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley
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Seventeen-year-old Lil’s heart was broken when her sister Mella disappeared. There’s been no trace or sighting of her since she vanished, so when Lil sees a girl lying in the road near her house she thinks for a heart-stopping moment that it’s Mella.

The girl is injured and disorientated and Lil has no choice but to take her home, even though she knows something’s not right.

The girl claims she’s from a peaceful community called The Sisterhood of the Light, but why then does she have strange marks down her arms, and what—or who—is she running from?

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This wasn’t bad, just kind of predictable.  I am going to keep this short, because it’s a mystery book and you don’t want me to give away too much, of course! So I suppose a likes versus dislikes is the way to go, yet again!

The Things I Liked:

  • Atmosphere on point! It was rainy and creepy and dismal, and that is what I want to happen in a mystery. The author did a good job at setting the scene for all sorts of roadblocks (some literally!) in terms of being able to easily solve the problem, and did it in a realistic way.
  • The cult was definitely a mess. This is the kind of stuff I want from a cult- sketchy leadership, dire situations, and general awfulness. And it was definitely present in this book!

The Things I Didn’t: 

  • Like I said, it was so predictable for me. View Spoiler » I really can’t think of any major plot points that I didn’t know pretty early on, actually.
  • While I was hoping to feel more emotion from the story, especially since we’re talking a cult and missing sisters and such, I felt very little. I just wasn’t that invested emotionally, which was unfortunate.

Bottom Line: While it was entertaining and atmospheric, the predictability and lack of emotional connection left me wanting a bit more.


Reviews in a Minute: More February! The Great Unknowable End by Kathryn Ormsbee
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on February 19, 2019
Pages: 384
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley
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Slater, Kansas is a small town where not much seems to happen.

Stella dreams of being a space engineer. After Stella's mom dies by suicide and her brother runs off to Red Sun, the local hippie commune, Stella is forced to bring her dreams down to Earth to care for her sister Jill.

Galliard has only ever known life inside Red Sun. There, people accept his tics, his Tourette's. But when he’s denied Red Sun's resident artist role he believed he was destined for, he starts to imagine a life beyond the gates of the compound...

The day Stella and Galliard meet, there is something in the air in their small town. Literally. So begins weeks of pink lightning, blood red rain, unexplained storms... And a countdown clock appears mysteriously above the town hall. With time ticking down to some great, unknowable end they’ll each have to make a choice.

If this is really the end of the world, who do they want to be when they face it?

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I have really enjoyed everything I have read by Kathryn Ormsbee. And I didn’t dislike this one, but it definitely isn’t my favorite of hers either. There are definitely some good points, and some that are… less so, so might as well break ’em down!

Things I Liked:

  • The atmosphere and time period were fabulous! The 70s, punctuated by some eerie shenanigans, was quite the trip to read about! I mean, 1977 Kansas probably wasn’t the most exciting place to grow up, so an unexplained potential “end of days” has to shake things up. I definitely felt the vibe of both the time period and the ominousness of the events taking place.
  • I enjoyed the mystery aspect, and wanted to know how it would unfold. I mean, what is happening here? And why? And what about everywhere else? Can it be stopped? Will it be stopped? So many questions, right? And I was quite eager to find out the answers, since I really didn’t have any idea where things were headed, which is another plus.
  • The character growth was really well done. Stella really needed something to shake up her daily mundanity. She was stuck, let’s be honest, and she wasn’t going to become unstuck without some serious intervention. Galliard was stuck too, though I suppose in a more literal sense, considering he was in a cult. But they’re at a precipice when the book starts, and it’s clear that they’re going to have to decide what they want out of their lives.
  • Speaking of the characters, I really enjoyed the family dynamics, especially within Stella’s family. Her sense of responsibility and duty warring with her own dreams and desires is all too common. I also loved the friendships that were presented during the book, and yes, eventually the romance!

Things That Sent Me Down a Research Hole:

  • There is no such thing as 98.5 AM. Okay look obviously I am not going to factor this into my rating, but it drove me bananas, because 98.5 is an FM frequency. I searched many, many sites to make sure that back in the 70s, frequencies weren’t done differently, and my research seems to indicate that this distinction between AM and FM radio has been in practice in the US since the 1930s. If anyone has any different info, please share! Anyway it’s mentioned so many times in the book that I just couldn’t let it go, so here I am, perseverating on a tiny detail. 🤷‍♀️

Things I Didn’t Love:

  • The “talking to dead musicians” is my least favorite trope in the history of books. Ugh I don’t even know why I loathe it so fully, I just know that it irks me and I can’t help it.
  • I wanted the cult to be… cultier. The cult wasn’t actually all terrible? Which is not what I want from my cult! I wanted it to be a little more awful, I guess. Maybe some cults aren’t the worst, and this is some kind of… equal opportunity cult representation? I have no idea, but when I hear “cult”, I am hoping for dark and twisted, and it really wasn’t so much here.
  • I didn’t feel as connected to the characters as I’d have liked. I liked the relationships and their struggles and development and such, but I just wanted to feel a little more of an emotional connection with them, and I didn’t.
  • The end was a little underwhelming for me. I don’t think I necessarily had any particular expectations for how I wanted it to be, but it just felt a little easy, perhaps? Anyway, I don’t want to say anything else about that, for obvious reasons.

Bottom Line: Not bad, but not as epic as I’d expected. The friendships, family, and ambiance made it worth it, though.

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

Posted February 14, 2019 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in In a Minute, Review / 22 Comments


22 responses to “Reviews in a Minute: More February!

  1. Great reviews! I’m so pleased to see you enjoyed We Set the Dark on Fire, as it’s one I’m hoping to pick up soon. I’ve really gone off dystopian stuff ever since I wrote my dissertation on it and had to gorge on it, but I want to support all the f/f this year and it does sound really good. I’m looking forward to getting my copy!

  2. Aw bummer about The Sisterhood. With a title and premise like that (plus the cover) it should have been excellent. After all, cult. Oh well… good to know.

    The Great Unknowable End (how do you find these books?) sounds… interesting. I like the idea of an end of days Kansas 77 setting- that sounds like a 70’s movie actually- and again, a cult? Are you getting ALL the cult books?? And oh my gosh that 98.5 AM thing is awesome.

    • YEP the problem was, it was crazy predictable. Idk if you read the spoiler part, but like they made it seem like WHOA REVEAL only… I knew from the actual start? Which was sad, because at least the cult was terrible!

      HA I put lots of time and energy into cultivating a truly absurd TBR, so. 😂 The setting really was perfect, and I mean, if you don’t plan to read it I’ll tell you the stuff about the ending that irked me hahah. And RIGHT? I sincerely hope they fixed this prior to publication. It. Is. An. FM. Frequency!

  3. The Unknowable End looks interesting (am I judging a book by its cover again? Why yes, of course I am), though a bit disappointing on the not culty enough. And I totally get the 98.5 AM thing! Small details that are wrong in a book bug me sooo much!

  4. The only one I’ve read is the Kathryn Ormbsee one and yeah, agh, I didn’t love it. 😭I didn’t review it though lol so I don’t remember fully *why* but I think it was just the lack of stakes and the characters having zero chemistry lmao. It’s a pity though because I really loved her other book. And I AM glad you liked We Set The Dark On Fire because that’s on my list despite me knowing zilch about it 😂 One of these days I’m going to start reading blurbs.

  5. Great mini reviews again! I loved what you said about the book We Set the Dark on Fire. I am all for books about taking down the patriarchy as well. So so there for it. I see what you mean about it being similar to others but I am all for it too. The other two don’t sound like ones for me. But it’s good you tried them!

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