Reviews in a Minute: April Books

Yayy, time for some April book reviews!

The Sword and the Dagger by Robert Cochran
The Raven’s Tale by Cat Winters
Girls on the Verge by Sharon Biggs Waller



Reviews in a Minute: April Books The Sword and the Dagger by Robert Cochran
Published by Tor Teen on April 9, 2019
Pages: 400
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

When empires clash,

a Princess, a Knight, and an Assassin

embark on the quest of a lifetime

During the time of the Crusades, an unlikely trio—a Christian princess, her affianced prince, and a Muslim assassin—embarks on a quest to the court of the most fearsome warrior the world has ever known, Genghis Khan.

A rousing tale of adventure and romance about three young people who must grapple with fundamental issues of loyalty, friendship, faith, honor, and courage against the backdrop of conflicts that still resonate today.

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This was such an unexpected gem for me! I flew through the pages, and to be honest, I don’t even know if I can fully explain why? I mean, I’ll try though!

  • The Crusades and Genghis Khan and that whole time period are horrible and also fascinating as hell. I mean, this book is not for the squeamish, but it also is pretty accurate from everything I have read about the era. In fact, I think the author does a good job of presenting the absolute horror without being unnecessarily gory, if that helps. But make no mistake, it was a gory time in history, so.
  • I love these three main characters so, so much. You have Elaine, the princess of Tripoli, who is kind of over the patriarchy. Conrad is her would-be husband and prince of Antioch who, at the start, I was hoping got stabbed. Rashid is the assassin, who is from a small, hidden Muslim community who has tasked him with killing Elaine. And I won’t lie, I was scared because ummm are we sure we want to portray it that way? But it wasn’t. At all. Rashid is arguably the best of them, and absolutely the most open-minded. The thing I loved about the characters is that they each underwent so, so much growth, and all had flaws, and a blind spot when it came to judging another group of people.
  • Elaine was a feminist before it had a name. She was sick of being treated like property, and girl, preach. She basically set off to find Rashid knowing she could die, but figuring it was better than being forced to marry Conrad.
  • So. Much. Adventure. They headed off on a quest through… well look I am not even 100% sure how far, but it seemed like a long distance. And through some pretty rough territory- both geographically and politically. And I adore a journey of survival and such, so this was a big draw for me.
  • The trio formed an incredible bond. It was interesting to see them morph from bitter adversaries to… well, you’ll have to read it for yourself to see how it goes down, but it was really great. I will say, that they start to begrudgingly respect each other fairly on, so you’ll just have to find out what happens after that!

My only real issue was at about maybe 60% in, things started to feel a little redundant for about a quarter of the book. I just didn’t feel the same draw to keep reading that I did during the first part (or the last bit, where things picked up again). So that was my only real negative, and I adored how the book ended. From what I can tell, this was a standalone and it wrapped up thusly. The author’s note in the back gives a lot of background on the historical stuff, and it’s very clear that a lot of research went into it!

Bottom Line: Such great character development and an incredibly exciting world made me eager to keep reading!


Reviews in a Minute: April Books The Raven's Tale by Cat Winters
Published by Amulet Books on April 16, 2019
Pages: 368
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

Seventeen-year-old Edgar Poe counts down the days until he can escape his foster family—the wealthy Allans of Richmond, Virginia. He hungers for his upcoming life as a student at the prestigious new university, almost as much as he longs to marry his beloved Elmira Royster. However, on the brink of his departure, all his plans go awry when a macabre Muse named Lenore appears to him. Muses are frightful creatures that lead Artists down a path of ruin and disgrace, and no respectable person could possibly understand or accept them. But Lenore steps out of the shadows with one request: “Let them see me!”

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I have never been so sad to not love a book. Like ever. And usually, when it’s a book by an author I adore, I can find some things to like even if I don’t love everything. But this was just not the book for me, I guess? Le sigh, let us break it down!

The Things I Liked:

  • Young Edgar is, you know, a regular dude. I liked that he wasn’t completely broody and maudlin. He was just a guy who loved to write, had fallen in love, and wanted to make something of himself on his own terms. I mean, sure he was intense and such, but that isn’t a bad thing! It was a good choice to write him in a likable and relatable way.
  • The time period/historical stuff was so fun to learn about! Since I didn’t go to college in Virginia in the 1800s, this was a fun new adventure! I loved the look into the lives that Edgar and his contemporaries lived. Also, the author has a ton of information at the end of the book about Edgar, his family, and his friends that we meet in the book. This was probably my favorite part.

The Things I Didn’t: 

  • Nothing… happened? Like Eddy had a beer today, cool, cool. He hugged his mom, splendid. I just kept waiting for the plot and it wasn’t there. It never came. Like okay he “met” Leonore, his muse. Whatever even that is, I have no idea because it wasn’t ever fully explained.  Fought with his dad. Wrote some stuff. And then this whole thing repeated a few times: Muse encounter, writing, fight with Dad, lather rinse repeat as needed.
  • Lenore was a bore. See what I did there? It’s nice that I amuse myself, no? Anyyyyway, I had to because Lenore certainly wasn’t amusing me. Like, she was pretty pissed, and I get it because hello, Edgar wasn’t exactly treating her nicely. But would I treat a hallucination/bird-person nicely? NO. In part because you all know how I feel about bird people, but also I wouldn’t want to be hallucinating so um of course he wanted her to vanish? Like sweetie, use some common sense. You’re whatever a muse is, and that is probably scary.
  • Like I mentioned, I never completely understood the muse concept. Is this something that was popular in the nineteenth century? Or was it just a thing for the sake of the story? I am fine with whichever, but try as I might I couldn’t find anything specific on this “muse” business, because there are a lot of things/products named Muse. And when I searched “Poe Muse” it just kept trying to link me to a Poe Museum which is decidedly not what I wanted and this is turning into more of a story about Google than a review so I’ll stop. My point is, why did everyone and their mom (literally) see this… thing? Woman? Bird? Look I don’t even know, okay.
  • I just couldn’t bring myself to care about anyone or anything. Okay, except for Poe’s adopted Mom, she’s the real hero here. Maybe next we just write a book about her, but in the book she breaks up with the shitty “father” (who by the by is cheating on her while she lays in her sickbed, what a prince 🙄) and then she takes up… Idk, burlesque dancing to make a living for her and her son, and then she meets a doctor who is able to fix her health stuff but also he falls in love with her and treats her like the queen she really is. And Edgar doesn’t die in a gutter, the end. (I mean technically he didn’t die there, but shh. He was unconscious there and it makes my story sound much better.)

Bottom Line: Wow look I legitimately made up several of my own stories in this review that might have spiced up the actual book in which nothing happens, but it is a look into old-timey stuff and dead folks, which is kinda cool?


Reviews in a Minute: April Books Girls on the Verge by Sharon Biggs Waller
Published by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) on April 9, 2019
Pages: 240
Format:ARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review

A powerful, timely coming-of-age story about a young woman from Texas who goes on a road trip with two friends to get an abortion, from award-winning author Sharon Biggs Waller.

Camille couldn't be having a better summer. But on the very night she learns she got into a prestigious theater program, she also finds out she’s pregnant. She definitely can’t tell her parents. And her best friend, Bea, doesn’t agree with the decision Camille has made.

Camille is forced to try to solve her problem alone . . . and the system is very much working against her. At her most vulnerable, Camille reaches out to Annabelle Ponsonby, a girl she only barely knows from the theater. Happily, Annabelle agrees to drive her wherever she needs to go. And in a last-minute change of heart, Bea decides to come with.

Girls on the Verge is an incredibly timely novel about a woman’s right to choose. Sharon Biggs Waller brings to life a narrative that has to continue to fight for its right to be told, and honored.

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Wow wow wow this is an important book. As more women’s rights are taken away across the U.S., Girls on the Verge shines a glaring spotlight on all the hypocrisy and injustice that accompanies each of these decisions.  And you might be thinking “hey, isn’t this supposed to be a book review and not a political rant?”, but you’d be wrong. Because it’s inherently both. Books have a plethora of purposes: To entertain, to shock, to elicit any number of feelings. But one of the purposes can, and should be, to make a social statement. Sharon Biggs Waller does that here, in a way that still makes for an appealing reading experience.

All the pink flags that I wrote little notes on, like “these laws are garbage!” and “wow this is so horrifically unfair” and “my goodness, can I please stab these old white guys?”

The book is chock full of information that women in general but absolutely young women should know about their rights. It discusses such horrors as “crisis centers”, which are in the business of trying to prey on scared young women in order to push their conservative Christian agenda. It talks about  the amount of people who will try to shove themselves into a woman’s personal reproductive decision making. The vast differences in state laws are a big feature of the book, as are the variations in law when it comes to the time period in which a woman is allowed to seek an abortion, the methods she may use, and whether she needs consent. Which is obviously utter bullshit, because exactly zero of the people making said decisions are a woman and/or her physician.

Girls on the Verge tackles this incredibly important topic, but it’s also at its core a tremendously heartfelt story about female friendship and growing up. Camille doesn’t always see eye to eye with her best friend since forever, Bea. Bea is staunchly religious and is appalled when she learns of Camille’s decision. That is when Annabelle steps up to the plate to basically be the most awesome friend in the history of friendship. She’s willing to help Camille at, quite literally, any cost. I don’t want to go too in depth because this is a story you must read for yourself, and this is spoiler territory. But I promise that Annabelle is complete friend goals. Bea of course starts to come around a bit, and joins them on their journey. But make no mistake, she’s going to have to grow a lot as a person if she deserves Camille’s friendship. And to be clear, this isn’t a bash on religion at all. It’s a bash on using conservatism disguised as religion to judge other people. Which is kind of the antithesis of actual religion anyway, right?

There’s a slight romantic element, but to me it seemed like its purpose was not a focus on romance, but more a focus on how life doesn’t end when you’re faced with a really difficult hurdle. That you still deserve and can find love in all its forms. Also, if there’s anything I love more in a book than roadtrips, it’s a road trip to Mexico with three women who are journeying to find themselves.

Bottom Line: You need to read this book, appreciate its strong feminist message, then you need to make everyone you know read it. And then, you know, get out there and help change the world.

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

Posted April 11, 2019 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in In a Minute, Review / 14 Comments


14 responses to “Reviews in a Minute: April Books

    • I mean, I hope if you try it you’ll have better luck than I did? Maybe the fact that you LOVE Poe will help? I mean- I am interested in him, Idk if I love him though? Hah. Girls on the Verge is so awesome- and was just made even MORE important after the bullshit in Ohio.

  1. Girls on the Verge sounds SO amazing and I so badly need to read this. I used to live really close to one of those AWFUL fake crisis pregnancy centers and glared at it every single time I drove by (which was almost every day).

    • Omgggg that must have been HORRIBLE. I only learned about them recently (Idk if they really exist in the Northeast? Maybe in more rural/conservative parts!) so I was REALLY glad to see them addressed here. Because I cannot even imagine how many women, especially young, terrified women, have been conned by these people. I really hope you love it (and you know, are horrified by it, because that’s par for the course) when you read it!

  2. I’m really sad about The Raven’s Tale because I’m such a HUGE Edgar Allen Poe fan. I mean, to be fair, the Lenore/Raven character/muse thingy is sort of cryptic in the original poem, so it’s not that surprising that it would be in the book as well. Still, unless some other people I trust rave about this one, I guess I’ll skip it.

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