Reviews in a Minute: More June Fun!

Here are more June books! Enjoy them as I did!

You Say It First by Katie Cotugno
The Sullivan Sisters by Kathryn Ormsbee
Hunted By the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena
Sisters of Sword and Song by Rebecca Ross



Reviews in a Minute: More June Fun! You Say It First by Katie Cotugno
Published by Balzer + Bray on June 16, 2020
Pages: 368
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Edelweiss

Meg has her entire life set up perfectly: her boyfriend Mason is sweet and supportive, she and her best friend Emily plan to head to Cornell together in the fall, and she even finds time to clock shifts phonebanking at a voter registration call center in her Philadelphia suburb. But everything changes when one of those calls connects her to a stranger from small-town Ohio, who gets under her skin from the moment he picks up the phone.

Colby is stuck in a rut, reeling from a family tragedy and working a dead-end job—unsure what his future holds, or if he even cares. The last thing he has time for is some privileged rich girl preaching the sanctity of the political process. So he says the worst thing he can think of and hangs up.

But things don’t end there.…

That night on the phone winds up being the first in a series of candid, sometimes heated, always surprising conversations that lead to a long-distance friendship and then—slowly—to something more. Across state lines and phone lines, Meg and Colby form a once-in-a-lifetime connection. But in the end, are they just too different to make it work?

You Say It First is a propulsive, layered novel about how sometimes the person who has the least in common with us can be the one who changes us most.

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I both love and hate when a book makes me feel stuff. Especially when it was stuff I wasn’t trying to feel! But regardless of whether I like feelings, it does mean it was clearly a damn good book. So let’s talk about why I enjoyed it so much! 

  • The relationship just felt so honest. Meg and Colby are so wonderfully flawed, so messy as individuals, and that is just plain relatable. Then, they bring their messy selves into this relationship, and they actually have to like, choose whether they want to make it work. Obviously they have great chemistry and such, but in a relationship like this, where they live hundreds of miles apart, and have no prior connection, it would be easy to give up. Sometimes, each of them wants to because it gets hard sometimes to be open and work at something. And that is just real as anything.
  • Both characters grow a lot during the book. One of the elements of this book that I loved the most is that both characters had to work through their own crap. It wasn’t like “oh look they found each other and everything is perfect”, no. It was more that they needed to grow as individuals before there would even be a chance for them to work as a couple.
  • Voting! Meg volunteers for an organization that registers people from all over the country to vote over the phone. This of course is how Meg meets Colby, which the synopsis tells you. But more than that, there is a ton of great discussion on why it is so important to vote!
  • The characters each have their own strong relationships outside the romance. Family and friendships play a huge role in both of their stories, which is as it should be. They had to navigate growing and changing friendships, and how family dynamics change over time. It was great to love each character in their own “home world” as well as when their worlds collide.
  • There were feels. Which I said, and sometimes it is rude when books make you think about stuff that you don’t want to think about, and hit you right the heck in the feels. Which this one did. But how can I be mad when it felt so honest? Alas, I cannot.

Bottom Line: It’s a feel-good story that still somehow feels incredibly realistic and relatable. Basically, a huge win.


Reviews in a Minute: More June Fun! The Sullivan Sisters by Kathryn Ormsbee
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on June 23, 2020
Pages: 384
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

Time changes things.

That painful fact of life couldn’t be truer for the Sullivan sisters. Once, they used to be close, sharing secrets inside homemade blanket castles. Now, life in the Sullivan house means closed doors and secrets left untold.

Fourteen-year-old Murphy, an aspiring magician, is shocked by the death of Siegfried, her pet turtle. Seventeen-year-old Claire is bound for better things than her Oregonian hometown—until she receives a crushing rejection from her dream college. And eighteen-year-old Eileen is nursing a growing addiction in the wake of life-altering news.

Then, days before Christmas, a letter arrives, informing the sisters of a dead uncle and an inheritance they knew nothing about. The news forces them to band together in the face of a sinister family mystery…and, possibly, murder.

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Having sisters must be wild. In fiction and in reality, there is always a story with sisters. And with The Sullivan Sisters, there certainly is one. And it’s changed over the years as the girls have gotten older, developed their own lives, and drifted a bit away from one another. But a chance letter revealing a relative they never knew existed thrusts them back into each other’s orbits.

I absolutely loved that they had this chance to reconnect. There is a lot of love among these young women, of that I had no doubt. But there is also a lot of pain. Their mother works so much to provide that she’s basically absent and each sister is on her own. Eileen, the oldest, is a mess, she’s become an alcoholic, and sees pretty much no future for herself. Claire tries to overcompensate by being the best at all the things and assumes that she needs to be some perfect version of herself. Murphy, the youngest (and my favorite) is lonely and lost, but such a genuinely delightful character. So off they go to a quaint town on the water to an old, inherited house.

The atmosphere of this place is perfect for both a mystery and a rediscovery of sisterhood. As it’s a small town, the sisters have little choice but to sort out their problems, and the clues of their ancestors. And while I won’t say too much about either journey, it’s wonderful to see the parallels between the mystery and their own reconnection.

It’s obviously a very family-focused story, but also a story about self-discovery too. For the sisters will never be able to properly patch their relationships if they first cannot heal within themselves.

Bottom Line: Atmospheric and full of love and heart, this mystery-slash-sisterly love story is one not to be missed!


Reviews in a Minute: More June Fun! Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena
Series: Hunted by the Sky #1
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on June 23, 2020
Pages: 384
Format:ARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review

Gul has spent her life running. She has a star-shaped birthmark on her arm, and in the kingdom of Ambar, girls with such birthmarks have been disappearing for years. Gul's mark is what caused her parents' murder at the hand of King Lohar's ruthless soldiers and forced her into hiding to protect her own life. So when a group of rebel women called the Sisters of the Golden Lotus rescue her, take her in, and train her in warrior magic, Gul wants only one thing: revenge.

Cavas lives in the tenements, and he's just about ready to sign his life over to the king's army. His father is terminally ill, and Cavas will do anything to save him. But sparks fly when he meets a mysterious girl--Gul--in the capital's bazaar, and as the chemistry between them undeniably grows, he becomes entangled in a mission of vengeance--and discovers a magic he never expected to find.

Dangerous circumstances have brought Gul and Cavas together at the king's domain in Ambar Fort . . . a world with secrets deadlier than their own. Exploring identity, class struggles, and high-stakes romance, Hunted by the Sky is a gripping adventure set in a world inspired by medieval India.

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**Enter to win a copy!!**

It must be said: This is one of the most amazing book covers ever. I could stare at it all day really. Glad we got that out of the way. The story is told in dual POVs; that of Gul and Cavas. And it details how Gul finds herself at the epicenter of a prophecy, how Cavas gets involved, and a plan to take down the king.

What I Liked:

  • The characters were wonderful! I really loved Gul, she was such a fierce spirit! Forced to run when her parents are killed while she was being hunted because of her prophetic birthmark, she is a survivor. She’s taken in by a group of warrior women who are not about killing young women due to random bits of skin pigmentation, and I love them so much too. Cavas is much more reserved, especially initially. He’d do anything to save his ill father, and really isn’t about anything that will get in his way.
  • The world itself was very captivating. I loved the setting, I definitely was able to get a feel for Gul and Cavas’s surroundings, and I loved that part! Imagining all their locations was easy to do.
  • Quite high stakes for sure. I mean, they are killing girls and women because of birthmarks for goodness sake! So yeah, it seems like high time someone put a stop to this! The problem is, the royals are very brutal, so this adventure won’t be an easy one. Even with the rebel assistance, it’s a big ask.

What I Didn’t:

  • I didn’t fully understand the magic system/world. Like, on a surface level I could get it, but it all went much deeper than that. And then I started to just… not care as much and skim those parts a little. But I think that also ties into my other issue…
  • The pacing felt a bit off. There were some parts that seemed to drag, and then some parts where I was getting whiplash from all the excitement. And this may just be me personally,  but I don’t like either lags or a breakneck pace.

Bottom Line: Great characters in a high stakes, vivid setting that was dragged down for me a bit by pacing issues.


Reviews in a Minute: More June Fun! Sisters of Sword and Song by Rebecca Ross
Published by HarperTeen on June 23, 2020
Pages: 432
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Edelweiss

After eight long years, Evadne will finally be reunited with her older sister, Halcyon, who has been proudly serving in the queen’s army. But when Halcyon appears earlier than expected, Eva knows something has gone terribly wrong. Halcyon is on the run, hunted by her commander and charged with murder.

Though Halcyon’s life is spared during her trial, the punishment is heavy. And when Eva volunteers to serve part of Halcyon’s sentence, she’s determined to find out exactly what happened. But as Eva begins her sentence, she quickly learns that there are fates much worse than death.

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Sisters of Sword and Song really took me by surprise! I really had no idea if it’d be my “thing”, it was more of an impulse request if I am being honest. But wow did it pay off! I ended up totally sucked into this lovely book. And, we have more fun with sisters, woo! I shall now tell you all about why I liked it!

  • Oh, I could not put it down! Like, from the start I was completely enamored. I can’t even fully explain why, I just kind of started reading and forgot to stop, which is a sure sign that I am loving a thing. I also couldn’t wait to pick it back up when I did stop, which is another guaranteed clue.
  • I loved the sisters in this story! Evadne and Halcyon have been apart for a pretty significant chunk of their lives, but the fierce love and loyalty they’ve always shared remains. It seems at the start that Halcyon is the warrior while Evadne is sort of the more “average” sister, but oh, that is so false. It’s such an interesting commentary about how who we think we are, who we’re told we are or should be, isn’t necessarily the case at all.
  • To that end, there are great family dynamics involved. Because of where Evadne thinks she fits in with her family, it makes some of her choices even more of a struggle. She worries for herself, for her sister, for her parents and extended family. And frankly, I loved that we got to see so many close relatives! Seeing uncles and cousins and such being really important to a character is kind of refreshing.
  • There is a romance and it’s my favorite. That is all I am telling you. Not sorry.
  • Lots of morally gray characters and decisions. You know how I love gray morality, right? Oh do I ever! I also love Clarke Griffin-esque “no good choices” decisions, and there are definitely some to be made here.
  • The magic was fairly straightforward and fit with the story well. You know how I can be with magic, but this was one case where it was definitely on point. I understood it, it made sense, and even better, it had limits instead of being a crutch for the progression of the story. Quite a win!
  • There is adventure and secrets and all kinds of fun! What I am saying is, there was always something to unfold in the story. I never once felt bored, or as though it was lagging. Nor was I overwhelmed, it was kind of the perfect balance that kept me entertained throughout.

Bottom Line: An incredible tale of sisterly love and devotion mixed with a daunting mission, this is a fantasy that certainly hit the mark!

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

And don’t forget to enter to win a copy of Hunted by the Sky!! 

Posted June 19, 2020 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in In a Minute, Review / 17 Comments


17 responses to “Reviews in a Minute: More June Fun!

  1. I’ve had You Say It First on my TBR since I first heard of it. I love Cotugno’s books and the way she’s not afraid to have her character’s be flawed and messy and make the wrong choices at times. I love the sound of Meg and Colby and the way their story seems so realistic – they actually had to work to come together. Not just a meet-cute and then happily ever after. LOL

  2. I just saw you laud a romance. I thought I was going to pass out. YEAH!!! Sisters of Sword & Song sounds like a real winner to me. I liked the Cotugno book a lot, and I agree with you. It felt realistic and so much growth. I did want a bit more at the end, but I am always found wanting that.

    • Bwhahha I DID! I love Katie’s books tbh. She does romance in a way that I can relate to! I agree that the end was a WEE bit underwhelming, which is why I only gave it 4.5, but I couldn’t get too mad because it had a hopeful feel! And YES- Sisters of Sword and Song was awesome.

  3. Kim Giarratano

    I reviewed two of those books for BookPage (The Sullivan Sisters and Hunted By The Sky). That cover on HBTK is gorgeous.
    You Say It First was not on my radar, but seems right up my alley.

  4. I didn’t know much about any of these, so thanks for sharing. Looks like a pretty good bunch all around. I do love books that evoke a lot of emotion, but these days, I feel like I’m overly emotional so it’s a bit tough. LOL

    -lauren

  5. Beth W

    Ohhhh nice to have a bunch of great ones! I wasn’t aware of The Sullivan Sisters, but now all of these are on my list. Thanks!

    • Yeah it really is! I mean, it had me feeling things but that was more of a personal issue that you probably wouldn’t have to worry about unless there is something I REALLY don’t know 😂 Sisters is GOOD. I highly recommend!

  6. I passed up Hunted By The Sky because it just didn’t sound like my kind of book, and now I’m kind of glad I did. Sounds like it would’ve frustrated me. I also happen to have passed up Sisters of Sword and Song, and now I have all the regrets, and need to rectify that and add it to my TBR immediately. xD Obviously. I have seen the error of my ways. You totally had me at sister bonds and morally gray characters … also, I’m more than a little curious about the romance.

    • Yeahhh I am sad that I didn’t love it more, but alas. I find fantasy SO hit or miss for me, that I guess it’s just par for the course. But I DID love Sisters of Sword and Song! The romance was perfect, and slow burn, and the sister bond is kind of perfect- because Evadne thinks Halcyon is the strong one, and the “superior” sister, but she has no idea the strength she has! I loved it!

  7. stooop my tbr isn’t thanking you 😂💛💛 I was curious about the Sullivan sisters one so now I know I need it! And I’m glad You Say It First is secretly full of feels 🥺 sounds so perfect.

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