Reviews in a Minute: Happy July 28th Book Birthdays!

Happy Book Birthday to these lovelies!!

The Stepping Off Place by Cameron Kelly Rosenblum
Afterland by Lauren Beukes
Ever Cursed by Corey Ann Haydu
Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon



Reviews in a Minute: Happy July 28th Book Birthdays! The Stepping Off Place by Cameron Kelly Rosenblum
Published by Quill Tree Books on July 28, 2020
Pages: 480
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Edelweiss

From debut author Cameron Kelly Rosenblum comes a stunning teen novel that tackles love, grief, and mental health as one girl must process her friend’s death and ultimately learn how to stand in her own light. Perfect for fans of All the Bright Places and We Were Liars.

It’s the summer before senior year. Reid is in the thick of Scofield High’s in-crowd thanks to her best friend, Hattie, who has been her social oxygen since middle school.

But summer is when Hattie goes to her family’s Maine island home. Instead of sitting inside for eight weeks, waiting for her to return, Reid and their friend, Sam, enter into a pact—to live it up, one party at a time.

But days before Hattie is due home, Reid finds out the shocking news that Hattie has died by suicide. Driven by a desperate need to understand what went wrong, Reid searches for answers.

In doing so, she uncovers painful secrets about the person she thought she knew better than herself. And the truth will force Reid to reexamine everything.

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I think I cried through at least seventy percent of this book, and for me, that’s a good thing. I adore when a book makes me feel, but this one will be hard hitting, no question. But there’s hope and rebuilding, too, so it has a very bittersweet feeling. Let us talk about why I adored this one so much! 

  • Like I mentioned, the feels! Look, going into a book that features a best friendship broken apart by suicide, you know you’re going to be exploring a lot of emotions. Or at least, you will if the book is done well, which this one absolutely is. I cried, hard, through a pretty significant portion of it. But it was more than just a sobfest. There was also so much love and rebuilding, and ultimately, hope.
  • Reid felt so very relatable. Who among us hasn’t felt like “the best friend”? You have a friend who is seemingly larger than life, and you’re just along for the ride. This is how Reid feels, and I have 100% been there. The thing Reid learns, and what I have learned in life, and what is just a good lesson for us all, is that sometimes a person is not as happy as they outwardly seem. I too have felt overshadowed by friends whose personalities simply glow, and it’s hard to navigate. Reid is okay with being the sidekick in The Hattie Show, but what happens when she learns how hard Hattie’s reality had been?
  • Loads of mental illness talk. Obviously, this book is full of mental health discussion. Though most of it is Reid learning to cope with her grief, and what Hattie’s mental illness looked like, it’s certainly still present. And I think just as important, frankly. It’s easy to not understand what someone is going through; this book allows the reader to take the journey of understanding more of what Hattie was struggling with. There’s discussion about medication, and warning signs, and I thought the author handled it really well.
  • There is a huge focus on relationships of all kinds. Obviously, Reid and Hattie’s relationship is a huge plot point, but it’s also about Reid forging new bonds and expanding on her existing bonds. There is some romance, but there is a lot of friendship building as well. There’s also a big focus on Reid’s family and how she navigates her relationships with them which is great. Reid’s brother has autism, and one of the best things about their relationship is her growing to see how awesome he is, just the way he is. I won’t lie, it’s disarming at first, the way she reacted to him at times (Cait @ Paper Fury wrote an amazing post about this) but I think her growth and appreciation of him by the end makes it worthwhile.
  • Ultimately, it’s a story about Reid’s growth and finding herself. Gosh I love these stories. Who Reid was with Hattie, who she will be moving forward, and who she will be in new relationships are questions at the forefront. And I love when a character can see that maybe they’re more capable than they ever gave themselves credit for.

Bottom Line:Beyond lovely and completely heartfelt, this book brought all the tears, but also, all the hope.


Reviews in a Minute: Happy July 28th Book Birthdays! Afterland by Lauren Beukes
Published by Mulholland Books on July 28, 2020
Pages: 416
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

Children of Men meets The Handmaid's Tale in this "bowstring-taut, visceral, and incredibly timely" thriller about how far a mother will go to protect her son from a hostile world transformed by the absence of men.

Most of the men are dead. Three years after the pandemic known as The Manfall, governments still hold and life continues -- but a world run by women isn't always a better place.

Twelve-year-old Miles is one of the last boys alive, and his mother, Cole, will protect him at all costs. On the run after a horrific act of violence-and pursued by Cole's own ruthless sister, Billie -- all Cole wants is to raise her kid somewhere he won't be preyed on as a reproductive resource or a sex object or a stand-in son. Someplace like home.

To get there, Cole and Miles must journey across a changed America in disguise as mother and daughter. From a military base in Seattle to a luxury bunker, from an anarchist commune in Salt Lake City to a roaming cult that's all too ready to see Miles as the answer to their prayers, the two race to stay ahead at every step . . . even as Billie and her sinister crew draw closer.

A sharply feminist, high-stakes thriller from award-winning author Lauren Beukes, Afterland brilliantly blends psychological suspense, American noir, and science fiction into an adventure all its own -- and perfect for our times.

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Ah, another book that hits wayyyy too close to home, I personally kind of love it. Plague? Check. United States being awful to immigrants and kids? Double check. Literally taking people captive for arbitrary crap? Oh all the checks. Ironically, that last point hadn’t been front page news when I read the book, so it’s just a fresh, horrific tie in to add to the mix.

Afterland hit me right in the motherly feels, guys. Cole will do anything, absolutely anything, to save her son Miles from being taken captive. As one of an incredibly small number of genetically male humans left in the world, Miles is a terrifyingly hot commodity. So, Cole and Miles (as “Mila”) go on the run from those who would do… well, Cole doesn’t know what they’ll do to Miles but she doesn’t intend to find out. She just wants to get them back to their home in South America, near friends and hopefully safety. Meanwhile, Cole’s sister Billy is one hundred percent awful and is basically willing to also do anything… to capture Miles and the reward she’ll get for bringing him in.

I loved that they were basically running across the country, trying to get out of it, and that was a great adventure. We see Cole’s and Miles’ perspectives as they traverse and dodge, and as they encounter others along the way. Miles feels pretty much like you’d expect a terrified thirteen year old on the cusp of hitting puberty and having to dress up as a girl, all while being chased. My one gripe is that for all the excitement of the chase, the ending felt a bit easy. I guess I wanted a bit more from it, though it did end on a satisfying note.

I found the pandemic interesting in itself, and I liked that the author addressed the issue of other genders and such, which I find can always be a worry with this sort of book. I also liked that there were bits of world status updates interspersed, especially because they contained a bit of dark humor and levity in an otherwise downright depressing world. Overall, definitely a win!

Bottom Line: A great look at the lengths a mother will go to in order to keep her child safe… and the depravity some people will inventively choose at the end of the world. Realistic and quite close to home, I definitely recommend!


Reviews in a Minute: Happy July 28th Book Birthdays! Ever Cursed by Corey Ann Haydu
Published by Simon Pulse on July 28, 2020
Pages: 304
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

Damsel meets A Heart in a Body in the World in this incisive and lyrical feminist fairy tale about a princess determined to save her sisters from a curse, even if it means allying herself with the very witch who cast it.

The Princesses of Ever are beloved by the kingdom and their father, the King. They are cherished, admired.
Cursed.

Jane, Alice, Nora, Grace, and Eden carry the burden of being punished for a crime they did not commit, or even know about. They are each cursed to be Without one essential thing—the ability to eat, sleep, love, remember, or hope. And their mother, the Queen, is imprisoned, frozen in time in an unbreakable glass box.

But when Eden’s curse sets in on her thirteenth birthday, the princesses are given the opportunity to break the curse, preventing it from becoming a True Spell and dooming the princesses for life. To do this, they must confront the one who cast the spell—Reagan, a young witch who might not be the villain they thought—as well as the wickedness plaguing their own kingdom…and family.

Told through the eyes of Reagan and Jane—the witch and the bewitched—this insightful twist of a fairy tale explores power in a patriarchal kingdom not unlike our own.

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I adored the feminist messages that Ever Cursed set forth. The story itself fell a bit short for me from time to time, but I absolutely appreciated the themes the author was incorporating into the book. So let’s break down what I enjoyed versus what I did not so much.

What I Loved:

  • Obviously, the “I am woman, hear me roar” chant is strong with this book! After so very long of being used, abused, and treated as lesser citizens, the women in this story rise up to stop the mistreatment and that is clearly fantastic.
  • Getting the perspective of both parties, witch and princess, was pretty great. This way, we got to see why each character made the choices they did, and took the actions they had.
  • The spells were intriguing, especially watching each of the princesses try to navigate life with them. Plus, the stakes felt certainly high, as many of them would have died had the spells become permanent.
  • This is a dark book. So please do beware, there is a lot of triggering content (which is addressed by the author before the book begins). I do love me a dark story though, especially because that level of awful can be a very powerful motivator for change, and change is what the women in this book seek.

What I Didn’t:

  • I found the world-building to be lacking. I think maybe that was purposeful, so please keep that in mind (in the sense that “Ever” could be anywhere, if you will), but I am just too curious to not know more. That is on me, but here we are. If that isn’t a huge issue for you, then you’ll be fine!
  • I didn’t connect deeply to the characters. Of course they were going through a lot and it’s probably hard to get to know someone when they’re hangry from not eating for half a decade, but still. I just didn’t get a sense of who they were, other than the hurt and wrong that had been done to them, which is obviously awful and provoked my sympathy, but not necessarily a true connection to them as individuals.
  • Sometimes I felt like things were dragging a bit. Like- obviously there was a particular endgame at play in the plot, which was “uncurse the cursed”.  Beyond that, and the message of the atrocities done to so many people in the kingdom, there wasn’t much else happening.

Bottom Line: Awesome message with a slightly less awesome execution, it’s still worth a read if you can handle the tough subject matter.


Reviews in a Minute: Happy July 28th Book Birthdays! Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Published by Simon Pulse on July 28, 2020
Pages: 384
Format:eARC, ARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley, Won

Today, she hates him.

It’s the last day of senior year. Rowan Roth and Neil McNair have been bitter rivals for all of high school, clashing on test scores, student council elections, and even gym class pull-up contests. While Rowan, who secretly wants to write romance novels, is anxious about the future, she’d love to beat her infuriating academic nemesis one last time.

Tonight, she puts up with him.

When Neil is named valedictorian, Rowan has only one chance at victory: Howl, a senior class game that takes them all over Seattle, a farewell tour of the city she loves. But after learning a group of seniors is out to get them, she and Neil reluctantly decide to team up until they’re the last players left—and then they’ll destroy each other.

As Rowan spends more time with Neil, she realizes he's much more than the awkward linguistics nerd she sparred with for the past four years. And, perhaps, this boy she claims to despise might actually be the boy of her dreams.

Tomorrow . . . maybe she’s already fallen for him.

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I genuinely have no idea how to do a review of this book justice. I loved it so freaking hard. That’s really what you need to know more than anything. I guess I will try to talk about why I loved it, but it’s just going to be a nonsensical gush session, okay? Great.

  • I think part of the reason why I adored it so much is that related to it so much. Not like, accidentally catching feels for my mortal enemy, but the whole “oh crap, it’s time to leave high school, now what?” mood. I was Rowan, analyzing every “last”, anxious about the future, etc. And I love that the author wrote about the end of high school with an actual love of said school, because I swear we do not see that enough. Sure some people hated high school, but some of us didn’t and it was hard to leave. Rowan feels me, basically.
  • The romance was so much perfection! Oh I shipped it from the start, I sure did! I mean, enemies to lovers is such a great trope, is it not? And this one was handled to absolute perfection and I will say no more except just read the thing.
  • I need to go to Seattle. No seriously, so many references to Seattle, and while I have always wanted to go, Rachel Lynn Solomon has made me need to go. It just seems like such a cool place!
  • Speaking of traveling around Seattle, the senior scavenger hunt is the coolest thing ever. Talk about an incredible way to end your high school days! Going around the city with all your classmates, one last time having fun and competing and such, it’s such a clever and entertaining premise!
  • The book is very sex positive. Not to mention, romance novel positive! I like how done Rowan got with the shaming. And how she was very comfortable talking about sex and body related things, and how she credited romance novels for making her more open with her sexuality. Talk about a double dose of fabulousness!
  • We also see a lot of friendship and family focus. Rowan isn’t only getting ready to move away from high school, but from her core friend group (who happen to be in a romantic relationship, complicating things for Rowan who at times feels left out) and her family. I like that we got to see so much of how Rowan navigates these challenges.
  • Rowan gets the chance to delve deeper into a lot of her experiences as a Jewish woman. I love that she calls out classmates on their antisemitism, and that she is able to really discuss her experiences further and more in depth with both Neil and her parents.

Bottom Line: I can honestly say I’ve never loved a contemporary romance book more. This book won me over with its brilliant, well-written characters, perfect romance, and a fun plot that I related to so very much. If it’s not on your radar yet… put it there.

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

Posted July 28, 2020 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in In a Minute, Review / 15 Comments


15 responses to “Reviews in a Minute: Happy July 28th Book Birthdays!

  1. I guess the universe was sure TTT would be a bellringer for you as you received via so many channels. I have nothing but love for that book and a fact that she mentioned characters from her other two books earned Solomon bonus points.

  2. Even the Ever Cursed cover looks like Damsel’s. It sounds like a nice story, but the bare bones worldbuilding would annoy me. I am a fan of authors including trigger warnings in their books though.

  3. Beth W

    Oooooo thanks for these! From the premise, I expected Today Tonight Tomorrow would be cheesy in a disappointing way. I’m glad to see it is not! And GIRL YES, come visit Seattle! (after COVID and the military bullying here is over)!

  4. It’s very rare that I pick up any YA novels anymore but there’s just no denying all the rave reviews I keep seeing for Today Tonight Tomorrow. And your comment about never loving a contemporary romance more is pretty powerful. I obviously need this one!

  5. Hey Shannon! It’s been a while! Lovely reviews and normally I would gravitate towards your higher rated book, but I seem to be piqued by Ever Cursed. I am slowly going back to blogging and OF COURSE your blog is the first one I checked out to see reviews and other shenanigans!

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