Reviews in a Minute: June Gems

June starts off with a bang, friends! Happy book birthday to three of these lovelies!

Adrift by W. Michael Gear
The Love Song of Ivy K. Harlowe by Hannah Moskowitz
Girl One by Sara Flannery Murphy
We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This by Rachel Lynn Solomon


Reviews in a Minute: June Gems Adrift by W. Michael Gear
Series: Donovan #5
Published by Daw Books on June 1, 2021
Pages: 512
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

The fifth book in the thrilling Donovan sci-fi series returns to a treacherous alien planet where corporate threats and dangerous creatures imperil the lives of the colonists.

The Maritime Unit had landed in paradise. After a terrifying ten-year transit from Solar System aboard the Ashanti, the small band of oceanographers and marine scientists were finally settled. Perched on a reef five hundred kilometers out from shore, they were about to embark on the first exploration of Donovan's seas. For the twenty-two adults and nine children, everything is new, exciting, and filled with wonder as they discover dazzling sea creatures, stunning plant life, and fascinating organisms.

But Donovan is never what it seems; the changes in the children were innocuous--oddities of behavior normal to kids who'd found themselves in a new world. Even then it was too late. An alien intelligence, with its own agenda, now possesses the children, and it will use them in a most insidious way: as the perfect weapons.

How can you fight back when the enemy is smarter than you are, and wears the face of your own child?

Welcome to Donovan.

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I feel like every time I do a review of a book in the Donovan series, I say the same thing: This world is incredible, this series is epic. Incidentally, I think it would make a phenomenal series, so someone should get on that. Gimme a call, I have ideas!

I digress. The thing that makes the Donovan series so engaging and memorable is its characters. Yes, the world is beyond bananas, and I love every single minute of this planet’s shenanigans. But the crux of the story really is how the characters handle these situations. Who they become in spite of (or perhaps, because of) the hardships presented to them day after day.

Adrift is, dare I say, more brutal than we’ve seen yet. And we’ve seen a lot. Our characters have been through it, from cannibalism to man-eating plants to aliens infesting their DNA and that is just your basic Tuesday on Donovan. And in this book, some of the newcomers have to learn that lesson the hard way- the very hard way.

If you haven’t started this series and are at all a fan of sci-fi and adventures on new planets, I am going to beg you to do so. You won’t regret it.

Bottom Line: Another winning installment of the Donovan series, Adrift is at once the most brutal and emotional of the series.

P.S.: I keep promising to buy them as I beg for more books in the series, so… here’s my pre-order!



Reviews in a Minute: June Gems The Love Song of Ivy K. Harlowe by Hannah Moskowitz
Published by Entangled: Teen on June 1, 2021
Pages: 330
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

Ivy K. Harlowe is a lot of things.

She’s my best friend.

She’s the center of attention.

She is, without fail, the hottest girl in the room. Anytime. Anyplace.

She has freckles and dimples and bright green eyes, and with someone else’s energy she’d be adorable. But there is nothing cute about Ivy. She is ice and hot metal and electricity.

She is the girl who every lesbian wants, but she has never been with the same person twice. She’s one-of-a-kind but also predictable, so I will always be Andie, her best friend, never Andie, her girlfriend.

Then she meets Dot, and Ivy does something even I would have never guessed—she sees Dot another day. And another. And another.

Now my world is slowly going up in smoke, and no matter what I do, the flames grow higher. She lit that match without knowing who or what it would burn.

Ivy K. Harlowe is a lot of things.

But falling in love wasn’t supposed to be one of them…unless it was with me.

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Whew, where to begin with Ivy? Well. I definitely had some mixed feelings about it, especially at the start. But I’ll also say that I’m very glad that I followed it until the end, because I enjoyed the second half a lot. So, I’ll break down what worked for me versus what did not. But first, a word from the author!

“Author’s Note: The Love Song of Ivy K. Harlowe includes themes, imagery, and content that might be triggering for some readers. Scenes depicting alcohol consumption, drunkenness, drug use, and drug overdose appear in the novel. American Addiction Centers offers free and confidential guidance to those suffering from addiction.”

What I Liked:

  • Sure, Andie was an actual disaster, but who among us hasn’t been there? I fully admit to wanting to throttle Andie a time or twenty, before realizing… I have one million percent been Andie. Oh, pining tirelessly for someone who didn’t reciprocate? Check. Doing things for them because they’re your “great friend”? Double check. No idea what to do with her life? Still checking! Sigh, I realized fairly early on that pretty much everyone I have ever known has been Andie at one point in their lives, in some capacity. She was realistic in her messiness, is what I am saying.
  • There is definitely a lot of growth for many characters. I admit, I was a wee bit worried about these young women. Not just for their seemingly laissez-faire attitude toward drugs (which prompted a whole discussion from me heh), drinking, sneaking into places illegally, random sexual encounters, etc., but because of some of their life choices in general. Andie, sad over Ivy’s apparent lack of interest in her, grabs the first woman who does show interest, even though she ends up being a toxic shitshow. And look, again, these choices are messy, but they’re real. Goodness, they’re real, and honest, and I was just exceedingly thrilled that the author used all of it as an opportunity for growth.
  • I really did become invested in the characters, especially in the second half. The story took a turn after A Big Thing™ happens, and I think at that point was when I really started to connect with the book, and when my enjoyment spiked. The characters became more empathetic, and frankly, more honest with themselves, which is hugely appealing.
  • The age range of the characters is refreshing, and their struggles mirrored that. There’re not enough new adult books. There just are not. And this is kind of what I am hoping to see from that age range- the whole “okay we’re adults but… now what?” situation. And that is so huge here. The main characters are all in such fluctuating stages of life, and are trying to navigate that mess. Whether they want to go to college, the workforce, join the family business, etc., these are things they’re all dealing with. I had a very rough time navigating that personally (I mean, I still do) so I think it’s so great to read about others who may not have it all figured out yet.
  • There is a ton of amazing rep here. Lots of positivity surrounding both sex and being gay, mental health, and disability. I think the author handles all of these phenomenally and realistically.

What I Didn’t:

  • I didn’t get a sense of who Andie is outside of Ivy. To be completely fair, I don’t think Andie knows who Andie is outside of Ivy, but I would have liked her to find out more, perhaps? Like I said before, I do understand Andie’s infatuation (fine, obsession, perhaps) with Ivy, but I just wanted her to have more of her own personality, too. I just felt it harder to connect with her, not feeling like I “knew” her. She just seemed very bland as a person, I guess.
  • The way Andie treated Dot bugged me. Look, I know she’s jealous. I get it! But like… Dot didn’t do anything to you, girl! (Frankly, I was also a little concerned with Dot, who was 17, hanging out with them anyway. I know they were only two years apart, but their levels of experience were… well, wildly different.) And I guess it is part of how it was shown to the reader that Andie is fairly obsessed with Ivy, but I think because of Dot’s situations, Andie could have been kinder just on a human level.
  • Why Ivy? I mean, she’s pretty, cool. Plenty of women are pretty, I guess I never got the allure of Ivy? It sounds like every woman in the tri-state area was trying to take her home, and maybe she’s just one of those people who others are drawn to. And I understood Andie’s love for her, because they’d been close for ages, to a point. And frankly, I wish we’d gotten to know some of the other group members a little better!

Bottom Line: Loved the character growth and excellent rep, even if Andie and I didn’t completely connect.


Reviews in a Minute: June Gems Girl One by Sara Flannery Murphy
Published by MCD on June 1, 2021
Pages: 368
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

Orphan Black meets Margaret Atwood in this twisty supernatural thriller about female power and the bonds of sisterhood

Josephine Morrow is Girl One, the first of nine “Miracle Babies” conceived without male DNA, raised on an experimental commune known as the Homestead. When a suspicious fire destroys the commune and claims the lives of two of the Homesteaders, the remaining Girls and their Mothers scatter across the United States and lose touch.

Years later, Margaret Morrow goes missing, and Josie sets off on a desperate road trip, tracking down her estranged sisters who seem to hold the keys to her mother’s disappearance. Tracing the clues Margaret left behind, Josie joins forces with the other Girls, facing down those who seek to eradicate their very existence while uncovering secrets about their origins and unlocking devastating abilities they never knew they had.

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Okay I do not know how I am going to do a proper review without giving anything away- and trust me, I have no plans to give anything away! The most fun part of Girl One was uncovering all the secrets and twists, so I’d not want to rob anyone of that!

I will say, the story takes a different path than I’d expected. I suppose I thought it would be more of a sci-fi focus, and it does have those elements, but at its core it’s very much a mystery/thriller. And it certainly delivered! The concept, from the start, is awesome. This dude… created babies from only female DNA? Is it cloning? Is it something else? It’s undoubtedly intriguing, and no surprise that the girls and their mothers have remained of high interest to the general public as the years have gone by.

Josie wants to replicate the doctor’s accomplishments, but her trajectory takes a turn when her mother goes missing. Not only does Josie suspect foul play, but her mother leaves some very cryptic clues that Josie can’t quite make sense of. Thus begins the adventure of uncovering all the secrets, both past and present, of the Girls and their creation.

I absolutely loved how the mystery unfurled, how the author would give us some information, followed by all new questions to answer. It kept me guessing the entire way, and I was so excited to keep reading to figure out what happened. I loved Josie’s journey, and felt that she grew a lot as a character. I also really enjoyed the relationships she forged along the way.

Bottom Line: I found the mystery and the twists to be captivating, the characters to be well developed and sympathetic, and the story behind their creation to be wholly fascinating.


Reviews in a Minute: June Gems We Can't Keep Meeting Like This by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on June 8, 2021
Pages: 336
Format:ARC, eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

A wedding harpist disillusioned with love and a hopeless romantic cater-waiter flirt and fight their way through a summer of weddings in this effervescent romantic comedy from the acclaimed author of Today Tonight Tomorrow.

Quinn Berkowitz and Tarek Mansour’s families have been in business together for years: Quinn’s parents are wedding planners, and Tarek’s own a catering company. At the end of last summer, Quinn confessed her crush on him in the form of a rambling email—and then he left for college without a response.

Quinn has been dreading seeing him again almost as much as she dreads another summer playing the harp for her parents’ weddings. When he shows up at the first wedding of the summer, looking cuter than ever after a year apart, they clash immediately. Tarek’s always loved the grand gestures in weddings—the flashier, the better—while Quinn can’t see them as anything but fake. Even as they can’t seem to have one civil conversation, Quinn’s thrown together with Tarek wedding after wedding, from performing a daring cake rescue to filling in for a missing bridesmaid and groomsman.

Quinn can’t deny her feelings for him are still there, especially after she learns the truth about his silence, opens up about her own fears, and begins learning the art of harp-making from an enigmatic teacher.

Maybe love isn’t the enemy after all—and maybe allowing herself to fall is the most honest thing Quinn’s ever done.

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Well, she’s done it again. Rachel Lynn Solomon has hit another one right out of the park. I am zero percent surprised, frankly. She has such an incredible gift, a way to somehow make me connect with characters from the start that draws me into every single thing she writes. And as you’ve surmised, We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This fits that bill. I will try to break down some of the reasons why, yet again, Rachel Lynn Solomon’s book stole my heart.

  • As I mentioned, the characters are just all so fabulous. Even when they’re messy or making the wrong choices (or perhaps, especially then), they are just so relatable, and so very human that I could not help but love them wholeheartedly.
  • The mental health rep was on point. I loved that both the main character and the love interest were dealing with mental illnesses. And even more, that they were able to have open and difficult conversations about it was pretty awesome.
  • Speaking of the love interest, I absolutely adored him. And this was the note I wrote to myself while reading: “Love Tarek and the college situation and depression. Like thank you for this, RLS, this book would have made me feel so not alone in college. Hell, it still does now.”  I loved too that he was able to talk about it and share his feelings, it’s so refreshing to see. Plus, he was just a really great fit for Quinn.
  • Quinn grew a lot, too. Oh how I related to Quinn! She has no freaking clue what she wants to do with her life, and hard same, my friend! What she does know is that she doesn’t want to be tied to her family’s wedding business for the next semicentennial. Oh, sure, her parents have her whole college career figured out, but no one thought to… Idk, ask actual Quinn? I had such a similar experience, and again, I’d have felt so much less alone reading both Quinn and Tarek’s stories.
  • Huge focus on family and friends, too! As always, the author doesn’t let family or friends take a back seat to romance! They’re all huge parts of the story. My heart broke for Quinn, whose best friend would be moving across the country soon, but also I was so happy that they had each other. As for family, there is a lot to unpack here. Quinn’s parents have been so focused on the business that they haven’t really taken Quinn into account. Similarly, her sister (who is incredibly awesome) is planning her own wedding, so weddings have sort of taken over Quinn’s life. The thing I loved the most though is how the whole family grew together, and the message that even though things can get rough or messy, they still loved each other completely. They were all just humans who needed to try to do better for each other.
  • It was just an enjoyable, entertaining story that I never wanted to put down. Full stop, I just loved it.

Bottom Line: Full of heart, plus incredible characters and wonderful growth, it’s another slam dunk from Rachel Lynn Solomon that I would recommend to literally everyone.

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

Posted June 1, 2021 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in In a Minute, Review / 22 Comments


22 responses to “Reviews in a Minute: June Gems

  1. I was on the fence with the Moskowitz book. I wasn’t sure, but I think I am a “no” for now. I always enjoy an RLS book, and what a treat that she gave us a Rowan and Neil cameo!!! I like jumped up and down when that happened. This is something she started in the last book, and it must continue. I did love the characters, the focus on family, and all the positive mental health stuff, but it didn’t wow me the way her last two books did. Not sure why. I still really enjoyed it though.

    • Yeah I don’t know how you’d feel about it- it definitely isn’t going to give you those warm fuzzy vibes, that is for sure! YES I agree about the cameo! SO cute! I did really enjoy it, it wasn’t quite a favorite, but really good!

  2. Wow nice cover on adrift. I feel like I’ve overlooked that series somehow, but oceanographers, cannibalism, man eating plants… where have I been with this series? Sounds like I’d eat this up.

    Girl One… hmm. Sounds pretty good. The Orphan Black reference caught my eye…

    • You did overlook it. And I feel like every time I review one, I tell you you need to read it. The hardcover is only $10 on Amazon- https://amzn.to/2T91HjW (And the paperback is not even $8, BUT it also doesn’t have my name on the cover, and frankly, I think that is worth two more dollars.)

      Girl One was good! It does have a bit of an Orphan Black vibe, come to think of it!

  3. I don’t think I’ve seen much about any of these, so thanks for sharing. I’m glad that you really enjoyed most of them too!!

    There are just so many books coming out this summer. I can’t keep up!

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