Reviews in a Minute: Spring Into Books

Look, these books didn’t even all come out in the spring, but shh. It’s spring now so that has to count for something, right?

Dark Lullaby by Polly Ho-Yen
The Lost Village by Camilla Sten
Mission in Paris 1990 by Bill Pearl
The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman



Reviews in a Minute: Spring Into Books Dark Lullaby by Polly Ho-Yen
Published by Titan Books on March 23, 2021
Pages: 320
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

For fans of Black Mirror and The Handmaid's Tale, in Dark Lullaby a mother desperately tries to keep her family together in a society where parenting standards are strictly monitored.

When Kit decides to have a child, she thinks she's prepared. She knows how demanding Induction is. She's seen children Extracted. But in a society where parenting is strictly monitored under the watchful gaze of OSIP (The Office of Standards in Parenting), she is forced to ask herself how far she will go to keep her family together.

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This book was not kidding about being “dark”, let’s get that cleared up. The premise is incredible, and it definitely delivered. I was a bit nervous, I won’t lie, because doing awful things to kids and/or parents always hits a little harder. But it was so good that even though it is upsetting (wildly so), it’s also very readable.

The thing is, the world is so believable, which is kind of what makes it so upsetting. In this society, which seems to be set in a foreseeable future where most people cannot conceive children without some major medical reproductive assistance (read: taking copious amount of drugs that, at best are debilitating, at worst will straight up kill the woman). As such, when a child is born, it’s monitored extremely closely by the government. And if they don’t like how you’re raising your kid? Well, it’s their kid now. So you can just imagine the kind of emotional pull we’ll see during this book. It alternates between present and past timelines, so we see what Kit has gone through in her journey, what horrors she’s seen inflicted upon loved ones.

I am trying to keep this intentionally vague, as not to spoil anything, but there are definitely great twists along the way. And like I mentioned, the emotional component of the story is intense. You’ll be rooting for Kit and her family, and of course, yelling at the agency willing to take children from their families for really ridiculous “infractions”.  My only minor qualm is probably a very personal one, and also a bit spoilery, so: View Spoiler »

Bottom Line: Brutally emotional, and all too plausible, Dark Lullaby gripped me from the start and never let up.


Reviews in a Minute: Spring Into Books The Lost Village by Camilla Sten
Published by Minotaur Books on March 23, 2021
Pages: 352
Format:ARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review

The Blair Witch Project meets Midsommar in this brilliantly disturbing thriller from Camilla Sten, an electrifying new voice in suspense.

Documentary filmmaker Alice Lindstedt has been obsessed with the vanishing residents of the old mining town, dubbed “The Lost Village,” since she was a little girl. In 1959, her grandmother’s entire family disappeared in this mysterious tragedy, and ever since, the unanswered questions surrounding the only two people who were left—a woman stoned to death in the town center and an abandoned newborn—have plagued her. She’s gathered a small crew of friends in the remote village to make a film about what really happened.

But there will be no turning back.

Not long after they’ve set up camp, mysterious things begin to happen. Equipment is destroyed. People go missing. As doubt breeds fear and their very minds begin to crack, one thing becomes startlingly clear to Alice:
They are not alone.

They’re looking for the truth…But what if it finds them first?

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The Lost Village is a mystery/thriller about… well, not surprisingly, a lost village. And it’s an interesting story- a town in Sweden called Silvertjarn has misplaced all its inhabitants. They disappeared, without a trace, seemingly vanishing into thin air in 1959. Decades later, descendant of Silvertjarn Alice has found herself completely immersed in the story. Her late grandmother left the town not long before the disappearances, and she lost her parents and sister to the unknown. Alice uses her grandmother’s stories and references, as well as scraps she’s found along the way to put together the makings of a documentary. Now, the only thing left to do is, well, document. 

With a miniscule budget and only five crew members, the team sets out to film, explore, and gather any evidence that might have been overlooked. From the start, the author does a fabulous job setting up the eerie atmosphere. Because the place has been virtually untouched since the disappearances, it’s kind of like a creepy time capsule. The book alternates between the present, at Alice’s filming site, and the past via both letters and recollections from Alice’s ancestors.

The book started off a little slow for me. Sure, things were eerie, don’t get me wrong, and I definitely wanted to know what exactly happened here. But I felt like it took awhile for things to take off. And a big part of me wondered if everyone was just being needlessly paranoid. Things did pick up though, and the story got the excitement that I was hoping for. I absolutely loved reading the past parts of the story, especially to notice all the little bread crumbs the author left along the way. So while it did take me a bit to get into it, I did become quite invested in the story, and solving the mystery of Silvertjarn.

Bottom Line: After a bit of a slow start, both the mysterious disappearance and the current atmosphere had pulled me into Alice’s story and Silvertjarn’s history.


Reviews in a Minute: Spring Into Books Mission in Paris 1990 by Bill Pearl
Published by Fifty Years Late Publishing on February 2, 2021
Pages: 156
Format:Paperback
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review

A SKILLFULLY CRAFTED, PAGE-TURNING SAGA OF THE ENDURING POWER OF LOVE AND FORGIVENESS

The year is 1990. Vietnam and America have not yet made peace. Vietnam is freshly wounded from fighting border wars with China and on the eve of becoming a market economy. The first bombing of the World Trade Center is three years away, so America is not yet awake to the dangers of terrorism. Vietnam and America begin to recognize the importance of ending their differences. Mission in Paris 1990 is the story of how an American media tycoon, Robert Samberg, whose youth in 1968 tied him to Vietnam's future, is recruited to serve his country, never expecting that a mission to explore political reconciliation would lead him to a path of personal reconciliation. On the eve of his greatest business triumph, he rediscovers My Hanh, a long-lost love from Vietnam, and learns they have a son. Robert's life is upended in this tale about the enduring strength of love and the power of forgiveness. This novel, set during the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Vietnam, explores reconciliation among people and nations. It also tells a powerful love story - between a man and a woman as well as between a father and a son.

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When this book was pitched to me for review, I was drawn in by the historical time period and the promise of an emotional story. And I definitely think that both delivered as promised. And while I overall liked more than I didn’t, I had a few mixed feelings about the book, so I will break it down!

The Stuff I Loved:

  • It really was emotionally provocative! Okay, I was a bit hesitant at first, because I didn’t feel connected to Robert, the main character. In fact, I confess, I rather hated him. We’ll get to that later, but I wasn’t sure how I would have feelings of anything but contempt for this dude. BUT! To the author’s credit, I did! I began to really grow attached, especially to Robert’s relationships. This is a companion novel to the author’s Hearts on Fire Paris 1968, but it can easily be read as a standalone, which I did.  You can gather that Robert and My Hahn have a complicated past, and it was kind of impossible not to feel for them both, as they try to navigate how to do the right thing- not just for themselves, but their countries and families.
  • So much character growth! So, remember when I said Robert sucked? Robert sucked. Apparently, back in 1968, he was some kind of champion for peace in Vietnam, which yay, right? Well, ol’ Robbie has been taking his douchecanoe pills since then I guess, and has declared himself a greedy, casually racist, cheating shell of a man. But the fact that Robert was redeemable was important, and a real high point in the story. And he wanted to make amends for real, not just like, give lip service to his past wrongs. In the end, I actually grew to kind of like the guy, go figure! Impressive, especially in such a short novel.
  • It’s a very quick read. It is super readable, as there is quite a bit of action, and you know, it’s short. I like those things.
  • I really enjoyed how all the historical events were tied together. I will admit, I didn’t know where the story was headed, in terms of some of the political storyline, so finding that out was quite entertaining too.

One Thing I Want to Mention:

  • I was really upset at some of the Muslim characters’ story, at first. It felt like an attack on Muslim folks, and that is not okay with me. However, by the end of the book (and especially in the author’s note), it makes more sense in a historical context. So I’ll just say that I am conflicted, and since it’s outside my lane, I want to just… put it out there I guess. If you really want more info, which may be spoilery: View Spoiler »

The Stuff I Didn’t:

  • A few of the characters’ reactions seemed inauthentic. For example, Robert finds out some pretty shocking news at one point, and his response seems incredibly blasé. It happened more than once, and took me out of the story a bit.
  • We see a lot of Robert’s inner monologue, which was quite different than the tone of the story. The story itself is eloquent, Robert is… less so. I sort of wondered, with so many asides to Robert’s psyche, why the author didn’t simply tell the story from Robert’s point of view. I will say, at least it’s very decipherable, and clear when we’re in Robert’s head as opposed to third person.
  • Robert’s chauvinism and racism were tough to swallow. I know he turned it around, and I applaud that. But I can’t simply let his past slide. He started to atone, it’s true, but I do wish some of his racist and sexist behavior was called out more.

Bottom Line: While I kind of hated Robert at the start, the story really did become quite compelling (and yay for character growth!)


Reviews in a Minute: Spring Into Books The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Series: The Infinity Courts #1
on April 6, 2021
Pages: 482
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is certain her life is just beginning. She has a great family, just graduated high school, and is on her way to a party where her entire class is waiting for her—including, most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years. The only problem? She’s murdered before she gets there.

When Nami wakes up, she learns she’s in a place called Infinity, where human consciousness goes when physical bodies die. She quickly discovers that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used by humans on Earth, has taken over the afterlife and is now posing as a queen, forcing humans into servitude the way she’d been forced to serve in the real world. Even worse, Ophelia is inching closer and closer to accomplishing her grand plans of eradicating human existence once and for all.

As Nami works with a team of rebels to bring down Ophelia and save the humans under her imprisonment, she is forced to reckon with her past, her future, and what it is that truly makes us human.

From award-winning author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes an incisive, action-packed tale that explores big questions about technology, grief, love, and humanity.

Westworld meets Warcross in this high-stakes, dizzyingly smart sci-fi about a teen girl navigating an afterlife in which she must defeat an AI entity intent on destroying humanity, from award-winning author Akemi Dawn Bowman.

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Well, this was unique and emotional! When I am crying by the first chapter, you know it’s going to be a hell of a ride! The Infinity Courts has such a unique premise, and the execution is fabulous. Nami is likable and relatable from the first we meet her, so obviously we’re going to feel for her during the story. When she’s killed, and desperately upset about her family and friends, it just makes her all the more likable. But she finds herself in Infinity, and it changes everything she thought she knew.

Infinity is bonkers. It legit reminded me of if ALIE had been in charge of Transcendence in The 100, that is the best way I can describe it. If you are not a The 100 fan, well, sorry, that’s all I have (besides, you should know by now that most references I use will be The 100 references. I can’t help it.) Human consciousnesses go here after death, but a rogue AI has decided to capture them for her own purposes. This renders most of (dead) humanity to mindless, controlled husks. So obviously Nami doesn’t want this for herself, but she also really doesn’t want it to happen to her loved ones when they die either. She ends up joining some rebels who plan to overthrow the AI, but Nami thinks there has to be a better way than annihilation.

I loved Nami and her band of rebel friends. They all clearly want to save the afterlife, but there is disagreement about how to do so. The story of Nami finding this new family, as well as learning that sometimes there are no good choices, makes for a compelling and exciting book. I am quite excited to continue her story!

Bottom Line: I loved this unique, exciting, and emotionally provocative book, and simply couldn’t put it down!

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

Posted March 27, 2021 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in In a Minute, Review / 7 Comments


7 responses to “Reviews in a Minute: Spring Into Books

  1. I am not really one for fantasy, but I like Bowman. I was curious about The Infinity Courts, and reading this review has me even more interested. You know I love to cry.

  2. The Lost Village sounds really creepy and intriguing! Slow pacing is my biggest pet peeve in horror books too: I get the need for buildup but honestly, I’m too anxious to see what will happens next! Usually when the pacing is way too slow, I ended up skipping pages or just straight up flip to the end of the book hahaha!

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