Reviews in a Minute: March Third Madness

Here’s books that were released on March 3! I had many. This is not even all of them, which, wow.

Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis
The First 7 by Laura Pohl
Open Fire by Amber Lough
The Companions by Katie M. Flynn



Reviews in a Minute: March Third Madness Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on March 3, 2020
Pages: 240
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Edelweiss

The world is not tame.

Ashley knows this truth deep in her bones, more at home with trees overhead than a roof. So when she goes hiking in the Smokies with her friends for a night of partying, the falling dark and creaking trees are second nature to her. But people are not tame either. And when Ashley catches her boyfriend with another girl, drunken rage sends her running into the night, stopped only by a nasty fall into a ravine. Morning brings the realization that she's alone - and far off trail. Lost in undisturbed forest and with nothing but the clothes on her back, Ashley must figure out how to survive despite the red streak of infection creeping up her leg.

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Two things I love: Mindy McGinnis and Survival Stories. So this was sure to be a win for me, and indeed it was! I really couldn’t put the thing down (which, if you ask me, is the hallmark of a good survival story. And in typical Mindy McGinnis fashion, this book goes there. Where? Wherever she damn well pleases for the sake of an awesome story, basically. The author does not, ever, hold back. And that goes for this book just as much as always. And frankly, it’s what I’m here for. I have read some “survival” stories that are like… mildly inconveniencing at best. This one is downright harrowing and makes you want to not even step foot in any place with even more than two trees ever again.

And look, this is a survival story, which means I shan’t tell you much about it. Ashley is an awesome character, which is an incredibly good thing since we spend a huge chunk of the book alone with her. I mean, she is lost after all, but sometimes books that take place with just one person can feel repetitive. This one does not, I assure you. While Ashley has to worry about a ton of physical challenges, she also has a lot of time to ponder all kinds of stuff. Namely, who she is as a person, who she wants to be, amends she wants to make, people she wants a chance to repair bonds with. And much more, frankly, but that should give you an idea.

Bottom Line: It was simply unputdownable, because I absolutely needed to know what was going to happen next. And perhaps even more, what profound lessons about herself Ashley would learn during the next obstacle.


Reviews in a Minute: March Third Madness The First 7 by Laura Pohl
Series: The Last 8 #2
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on March 3, 2020
Pages: 384
Format:ARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review

In the thrilling conclusion to the Last 8 duology, the Last Teenagers on Earth return home to find a colony of survivors who aren’t who they seem

Clover Martinez and the Last Teenagers on Earth are busy exploring the galaxy after leaving earth behind...even if they are homesick. So when their ship receives a distress signal from their former home, they hope against hope that it means that there are other survivors. But as soon as they arrive, they realize something's deeply wrong: strange crystal formations are taking over Earth's soil and threatening to destroy the planet.

Seeking the origin of the formations, the group discovers a colony of survivors hidden in the mountains. Relief gives way to panic as the teenagers realize these survivors aren't who they seem…and Clover and her friends might not be able to escape.

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I quite enjoyed The Last 8 when I read it last year. I thought it would make an awesome movie, and I stand by that, and I add to it, because I think that this sequel would make a pretty badass movie as well.

This is an even harder than usual sequel to review (and as you know, I frequently find them difficult!) because of how massively spoilery it would be for me to tell you, oh, anything about this one. World, characters, plot… hard nopes all around. I will say this: I got to know all the characters much better than I did in the first book, which was quite great. Also, the plot didn’t go where I expected it to, and I ended up really enjoying it and found it to be a great choice on the author’s part.

I will say that I found a few things a little… convenient, which is probably the only thing that I didn’t fully enjoy. (Well, that and I found parts of the ending a wee bit convoluted and hard to wrap my head around, but that could just be me tbh.) But as a whole, it was a pretty solid sequel and a satisfying conclusion.

Bottom Line: “First we have to survive. Then we can find our humanity again.” -Marcus Kane, The 100


Reviews in a Minute: March Third Madness Open Fire by Amber Lough
Published by Carolrhoda Lab (R) on March 3, 2020
Pages: 264
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

A dramatic page-turner that captures the devastating toll of war and the impact of women's struggles and solidarity, through the lens of a little-known slice of history.

In 1917, Russia is losing the war with Germany, soldiers are deserting in droves, and food shortages on the home front are pushing people to the brink of revolution. Seventeen-year-old Katya is politically conflicted, but she wants Russia to win the war. Working at a munitions factory seems like the most she can do to serve her country―until the government begins recruiting an all-female army battalion. Inspired, Katya enlists. Training with other brave women, she finds camaraderie and a deep sense of purpose. But when the women's battalion heads to the front, Katya has to confront the horrifying realities of war. Faced with heartbreak and disillusionment, she must reevaluate her commitment and decide where she stands.

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Usually when we think of 1917 Russia, one thing comes to mind: Anastasia. But no worries, Open Fire is here to remind you that there was a whole heck of a lot more going on in early twentieth century Russia! I mean, I had heard of Bolsheviks, but did I know what one was? Not particularly. I knew some people were no longer fans of the Tsardom (obviously) but not the ins and outs, nor the country’s involvement in WWI. This book not only is quite informative in nature, but emotive as well. Let’s chat about it!

What I Liked:

  • Like I said, it’s wonderfully historical. Yes, I found myself down a few Wikipedia rabbit holes. No, I have no regrets. Not only was the author awesome at the facts, but she did an incredible job of making me feel like I was in Russia of yore.
  • Friendship is so freaking huge. This is a book in which the friendship gives you all the feels. I genuinely can’t recall the last time I loved a friendship in a book so much. And while I will get to this more in my next point, the women in this story fight (often literally) so hard for each other, it was not only emotional but inspirational.
  • Female power. The women in this book are not going to sit back and let the war happen without them. Nope, they’re going to just go fight it themselves. And look, these are not career soldiers. These are your average, every day women- factory workers, students, mothers, and the fact that they are willing to train and fight and die for their cause is just mind-blowing, especially in a society that frankly finds them dispensable.
  • Family is a big deal too. Whether it be positive, negative, or somewhere in the middle, we learn so much about not just Katya’s family, but of her friends’ family lives. Which just shines an even greater light on their lives and what drives them.

What I Didnt:

  • Some of the military stuff got to be a bit overwhelming. Obviously I get that training is going to be a big deal, but there were a few points that it felt a bit draggy to me.

Bottom Line: Incredibly inspiring, with a stunning look into a period of time we don’t usually get a glimpse of, this book tugged at my feels for sure.


Reviews in a Minute: March Third Madness The Companions by Katie M. Flynn
on March 3, 2020
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

Station Eleven meets Never Let Me Go in this debut novel set in an unsettling near future where the dead can be uploaded to machines and kept in service by the living.

In the wake of a highly contagious virus, California is under quarantine. Sequestered in high rise towers, the living can’t go out, but the dead can come in—and they come in all forms, from sad rolling cans to manufactured bodies that can pass for human.

Wealthy participants in the “companionship” program choose to upload their consciousness before dying, so they can stay in the custody of their families. The less fortunate are rented out to strangers upon their death, but all companions become the intellectual property of Metis Corporation, creating a new class of people—a command-driven product-class without legal rights or true free will.

Sixteen-year-old Lilac is one of the less fortunate, leased to a family of strangers. But when she realizes she’s able to defy commands, she throws off the shackles of servitude and runs away, searching for the woman who killed her.

Lilac’s act of rebellion sets off a chain of events that sweeps from San Francisco to Siberia to the very tip of South America. While the novel traces Lilac’s journey through an exquisitely imagined Northern California, the story is told from eight different points of view—some human, some companion—that explore the complex shapes love, revenge, and loneliness take when the dead linger on.

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I found The Companions incredibly thought provoking, invoking relentless questions about what it means to be human, to be alive, in an eerily plausible future where the lines aren’t so clear. So let’s break it on down, shall we?

What I Liked:

    • Again, holy thought provoking! This just made me think a lot. Like okay if you could continue your mind as a consciousness… would you? Should you? And what happens when people use this technology for evil (because gosh, you know they will)? And none of the answers are clear cut, honestly.
    • I loved the world, and that we got to see quite a lot of time pass. This book doesn’t take place in a few days, or even a few years- it’s decades, and  it was a great choice. We really get to see how this technology changes lives, changes humanity, and I think it’s brilliant.
    • The characters’ stories are woven together, in a way that made me care about them. I will admit (and more on this in a bit) that there are a lot of characters introduced. And while it was a little overwhelming, I did enjoy that they all had a point in the grand scheme of things, and we followed many of them throughout the years.
    • It felt eerily plausible. I mean, we’re so going to do something awful like this as a species, aren’t we? We so are. And the way the author wrote the world felt realistic as well.
  • Also, the atmosphere was incredibly on point. Because it felt kind of the way you’d expect it would feel when you start stealing people’s memories and redefine what makes someone “alive”.

What I Didn’t:

  • Like I said, there are a lot of POV characters. Which at times became a bit confusing, because I couldn’t quite place them all immediately. And perhaps a few of them were extraneous. 🤷‍♀️

Bottom Line: Thought provoking and startlingly plausible, I immensely enjoyed seeing the consequences of the decision to grab people’s consciousness play out throughout the years and characters.

Have you read any of these books? Plan to? Let us chat about them! 

Posted March 4, 2020 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in In a Minute, Review / 19 Comments


19 responses to “Reviews in a Minute: March Third Madness

  1. Beth W

    Well obviously, being in a town near to being under quarantine right now, I’m going to have to read The Companions. 😀 These were all on my radar, so I really appreciate you reviewing them!

  2. Beth W

    P.S. Russian history is fascinating and dynamic (including the countries Russia has subsumed in its expansion), but I’m still waiting for a fiction novel about the WWII all-female pilot squadron that the Germans nicknamed Night Witches. Seattle’s Museum of Flight has an exhibit about them- they used to fly into enemy camps at night and cut their engines, coasting in silently, then drop bombs (manually!), and soar out.

  3. Tânia @MyLovelySecret

    I read A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis and I loved it. McGinnis really isn’t afraid of mentioning hard topics and that’s something I adore about her. Can’t wait to read Be Not Far From Me.

    Happy readings!
    Tânia @MyLovelySecret

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