Reviews in a Minute: The Rest of June

A few more June releases for you! And, another solid batch!

A Year to the Day by Robin Benway
Invisible Things by Mat Johnson
Katzenjammer by Francesca Zappia
The Song That Moves the Sun by Anna Bright

This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede

Reviews in a Minute: The Rest of June A Year to the Day by Robin Benway
Published by HarperTeen on June 21, 2022
Pages: 352
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

It’s been a year—a year of missing Nina. A year of milestones—holidays, birthdays, everything without her.

Leo feels like she should remember what happened that night. But all she knows is that she left the party and got into a car with Nina and Nina’s boyfriend, East.

East, who once promised Nina he’d watch out for her younger sister. East, who has been trying to keep that promise every day since. But East won’t give Leo the one thing she wants—the one thing she needs. He won’t tell her anything about the accident. He won’t talk about that night at all.

As the days tumble one into the next, Leo’s story comes together while her world falls apart. The only constant is the one person who can help her bear the enormous weight of her love for Nina—and East might be carrying too heavy a load of his own.


Can we please talk about how underrated Robin Benway is? I have never read anything by her that didn’t fully deliver, and yet she always seems to fly under the radar! Let’s change that, yeah?

Anyway. I loved this book. Can I give you a hint that may help you love it more? When you finish, go back and read the first chapter again. It will give you a whole new perspective on what you’ve just read. When I first finished, I was hoping for a little more…. but then I went back and reread the beginning and I kind of felt totally fine with it! Just my suggestion, for what it’s worth.

Anyway, as always with the author’s stories, this one is emotionally driven. Given the synopsis, that was to be expected, and I do love when a book leaves me feeling a lot. This one certainly did. But beyond just the inevitable sadness about the loss of Nina, there was a lot of hope in the story, too. It was about more than just the grief that Leo was obviously feeling from the loss of her sister. Things like:

  • Family dynamics, especially in the wake of a tragedy. Leo was going to have to move forward within her family unit in a different way, there is no question there. Because while she is grieving this huge loss, so are her parents. One of the things I loved most about this story was how the family was portrayed. The parents are divorced, but the stepmom Stephanie is wonderful. She’s compassionate, and tries so hard to be understanding of the devastation of everyone around her- even while dealing with her own grief. Both parents are also handled really well. They aren’t perfect, no, and they’re both dealing with a lot, but it’s so clear to see how much they love their children, and how much they are trying to be there for Leo.
  • Leo’s other friendships. Leo has always felt a bit alone, which is why it is great that she finds a friend in schoolmate Madison. East, Nina’s boyfriend, also becomes an even more significant part of Leo’s life after the accident. They bond because they miss Nina in a way that none of their peers can understand, and over time, they bond over more than just Nina. It’s wonderful to see Leo building relationships.
  • Therapy positive. In the same vein as Leo’s parents supporting her, they also encourage her to talk to someone. Leo has to come to terms with her grief, which is no small task, but it is handled really well in the book.

There are a few loose ends that I might have wanted answered a bit more- and I will fully admit that I was hoping for an epilogue of sorts. But like I said, when I went back and reread the beginning, I felt more satisfied.

Bottom Line: Emotional and complex, this was another hit for Robin Benway.

Reviews in a Minute: The Rest of June Invisible Things by Mat Johnson
Published by One World on June 28, 2022
Pages: 272
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

A sharp allegorical novel about a hidden human civilization, a crucial election, and a mysterious invisible force that must not be named, by one of our most imaginative comic novelists

When sociologist Nalini Jackson joins the SS Delany for the first manned mission to Jupiter, all she wants is a career opportunity: the chance to conduct the first field study of group dynamics on long-haul cryoships. But what she discovers instead is an entire city encased in a bubble on Europa, Jupiter's largest moon.

Even more unexpected, Nalini and the rest of the crew soon find themselves abducted and joining its captive population, forced to start new lives in a place called New Roanoke.

New Roanoke is a city riven by wealth inequality and governed by a feckless, predatory elite, its economy run on heedless consumption and income inequality. But in other ways it's different from the cities we already know: it's covered by an enormous dome, it's populated by alien abductees, and it happens to be terrorized by an invisible entity so disturbing that no one even dares acknowledge its existence.

Albuquerque chauffeur Chase Eubanks is pretty darn sure aliens stole his wife. People mock him for saying that, but he doesn't care who knows it. So when his philanthropist boss funds a top-secret rescue mission to save New Roanoke's abductees, Chase jumps at the chance to find her. The plan: Get the astronauts out and provide the population with the tech they need to escape this alien world. The reality: Nothing is ever simple when dealing with the complex, contradictory, and contrarian impulses of everyday earthlings.

This is a madcap, surreal adventure into a Jovian mirror world, one grappling with the same polarized politics, existential crises, and mass denialism that obsess and divide our own. Will New Roanoke survive? Will we?


Invisible Things was certainly an interesting concept: some astronauts on a trip to Jupiter find themselves kidnapped, then trapped on what can be described as a microcosm of human society (but think human society à la Pleasantville) in Europa, Jupiter’s moon. And then, some other folks decide to try to rescue the first bunch, but they too find themselves stuck.

This book showcases some great commentary on our current society, wrapped up as an adventure story about our main characters trying to find their way back to Earth. It’s not even subtle commentary, it’s full stop showing the characteristics of this society that will doom it, and ours which will doom us. There’s definitely an element of humor laced throughout the story too, which is great because it made it much easier to consume.

The characters, while I certainly sympathized with their plight, and obviously cheered them on, I didn’t feel particularly connected to them. I suspect that wasn’t really the point anyway, it was more about what the characters discover on New Roanoke, and whether they will stand up to fight against the current system. The current system, of course, forbids them to take their spaceship to return home. Because frankly, gotta keep the oppressed as oppressed as possible, yeah? New Roanoke runs on a smaller version of the US: looks peachy to those in power, those who live in the nice towns. But look deeper, and you’ll find all the people they’ve used and stepped on to get to where they are. Obviously, the higher ups don’t want their cushy lifestyle to change, no matter who it hurts.

Sound familiar? The Jerks In Charge™ are also willing to cheat, lie, steal elections, and flat out kill people who get in their way. Like I said, not subtle, but it’s a great way to illustrate how absurd our society currently is, when you look at it from the lens of a smaller one like New Roanoke.

Bottom Line: Fabulous commentary and humor, and a delightfully quirky story to boot.

Reviews in a Minute: The Rest of June Katzenjammer by Francesca Zappia
Published by Greenwillow Books on June 28, 2022
Pages: 304
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Edelweiss

Cat lives in her high school. She never leaves, and for a long time her school has provided her with everything she needs. But now things are changing. The hallways contract and expand along with the school’s breathing, and the showers in the bathroom run a bloody red. Cat’s best friend is slowly turning into cardboard, and instead of a face, Cat has a cat mask made of her own hardened flesh.

Cat doesn’t remember why she is trapped in her school or why half of them—Cat included—are slowly transforming. Escaping has always been the one impossibility in her school’s upside-down world. But to save herself from the eventual self-destruction all the students face, Cat must find the way out. And to do that, she’ll have to remember what put her there in the first place.


Content warning: School bullying and violence, mention of eating disorders, and scenes of gore, blood, and death.

So, I have no idea whatsoever how to review this book! I mean- if I tell you what I didn’t like about it, it would probably be a huge spoiler. But it seems unfair to just be like “there was this thing I didn’t love” and then rate it thusly, no explanation provided. I’ll try, okay? I’ll do my best, but if you want the 100% Spoiler Free Guarantee™, here are my thoughts: it was bizarre but compelling, and I was definitely invested, but I wasn’t sure I liked the road it took.

I was going to break it down into a likes versus dislikes but… I don’t even think that is necessary, fully. I liked that it was fast-paced and exciting and I cared about what happened to Cat. I certainly was concerned for her, and the other kids, and I found myself very invested in her story, as unconventionally told as it was. Heck, I enjoyed the different kind of storytelling, it felt rather refreshing!

There is gore, yes. Which I did expect going in, so I was okay with it. The ending though…. look, the ending kind of tainted it for me? It’s one of those that kind of overshadows everything you’ve just read, and without spoiling anything, just made me feel kind of uncomfy with the whole story. So while I did enjoy most of the book, even with the horror/gore elements, the ending of this one really lost me. But, I have seen reviewers who feel much differently, so if you can handle the content, it may be worth the read. It’s certainly unique, there’s no question there!

Bottom Line: I was really invested in this story, bizarre as it was, but felt a bit let down by the ending.

Reviews in a Minute: The Rest of June The Song That Moves the Sun by Anna Bright
Published by HarperTeen on June 28, 2022
Pages: 464
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

This sweeping YA fantasy romance full of star-crossed love, complex female friendship, and astrological magic is perfect for fans of Laini Taylor, Alexandra Bracken, and V.E. Schwab. From the acclaimed author of The Beholder.

Best friends Rora and Claudia have never felt more like their lives are spiraling out of control. And when they meet Major and Amir--two boys from one of the secret cities of the spheres, ruled by the magic of the astrological signs--they discover they're not alone. There is a disruption in the harmony between the spheres, and its chaos is spreading.

To find the source of the disharmony, Rora and Claudia will embark on a whirlwind journey of secrets, romance, and powerful truths--about themselves, each other, and two long-ago explorers named Dante and Beatrice, who were among the first to chart this course toward the stars.

Inspired partly by the classic works of Dante Alighieri, this gorgeous stand-alone contemporary fantasy will captivate readers of Lore and Star Daughter.


Content warning via the author’s site: Readers should be advised that this novel deals heavily with anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses. It also makes reference to suicide, infertility, and disordered eating and contains content that may be triggering to readers with emetophobia. 

I have to say, the concept of this one was so unique! I mean, songs that coincide with planets and astrology? Talk about imaginative! And look, you do have to suspend some disbelief when it comes to this story. You just do. But if you can, it’s quite rewarding!

What I Liked:

  • The history! Wow did I get lost down a few Wikipedia rabbit holes while reading this one! I loved that the author used real historical figures in the world building/for inspiration, especially Beatrice’s– it takes a much happier route than her true life. I loved learning about all these people, and frankly, the book was worth it for this facet alone.
  • The characters were great. I really liked the main characters, Rora and Claudia, as well as the boys they ended up being drawn to. I mean, sure it’s a wee bit convenient that they both end up falling in love with dudes from other planets, but alas. I still liked it. It was cute, if not groundbreaking.
  • Traveling on different planets! I mean, who among us does not want to hang out on Saturn and such? I won’t go into too many details about the worldbuilding, since it is a huge part of the plot itself, but suffice it to say, I loved it!
  • Great mental health rep! I am so, so glad that we’ve started to get more fantasy and sci-fi books that include mental health and mental illness representation. And I extra love that, as it is in this story, it’s just part of who the characters are, not their defining trait. I thought it was handled really well, and I must applaud the author for that!

What I Had Trouble With:

  • I just couldn’t totally suspend my disbelief? Sorry, this is probably on me, but I am just bad at it. The thing was, I didn’t fully understand the magic system I don’t think, which is probably a bit of it. I had some questions, and I will say that the author did a great job of answering some of the biggest ones, hence why I was still able to really enjoy the story.

Bottom Line: Amazing world building, a ton of cool historical references, likable characters, and interplanetary travel made this quite a fun read!

Reviews in a Minute: The Rest of June This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede
Series: The Last Finestra #1
Published by Wednesday Books on June 28, 2022
Pages: 448
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches.

Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.

Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?

Emily Thiede's exciting fantasy debut, This Vicious Grace, will keep readers turning the pages until the devastating conclusion and leave them primed for more!


**The author very helpfully posted a list of content warnings here**

Yeah so, I loved this book. And so instead of word vomiting in hopes of doing it justice, I will attempt to tell you what I loved about it in list form. Because sometimes you just need a list.

  • Alessa was such an amazing main character! She’s been through it, as we learn in the first chapter, killing everyone who had been meant to be her partner. So she’s obviously sympathetic, but she also just really worked her way into my heart in general.
  • The story itself was so high stakes. I mean, she could kill any person she touches, that is kind of a lot. But not only that, if she fails to find a partner who can help her defeat the monsters that threaten her world, everyone will die.
  • I really enjoyed the camaraderie that developed throughout the story. Alessa had been so alone for so long, that it was great to see her form some bonds. Sure, they may have been forced bonds at some point, but eventually, people come to love her for who she is, and that was amazing.
  • There were so many great funny moments to lighten the mood. As you can imagine, at times, the story was pretty brutal! But the moments of levity really helped balance the story. There is a lot of fun banter, and witty humor, and I was here for all of it.
  • Speaking of banter, the romance was amazing. Gah, I can’t say much, but I looooved the romance aspect of this book! Like I mentioned before, banter is A+, too.
  • It was a perfect blend of action and character development. It was never too overwhelming or overdone, which I really appreciate especially in a fantasy story. There were moments of downtime for characters to connect to each other and do some soul searching.
  • I just plain loved it. Sometimes that is enough. It’s definitely enough when added to the above!

Bottom Line: I fell in love with the characters, the story, and the world. I might already own two copies of this book, and I will be very eagerly awaiting its sequel!

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

Posted June 27, 2022 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in In a Minute, Review / 8 Comments

8 responses to “Reviews in a Minute: The Rest of June

  1. I’ve read a few by Benway before and a couple of them were huge hits. Brought me to tears, and stayed with me… well, until even now. I’m thinking I need to pick up A Year to the Day. I’ll just have to be prepared for no epilogue (sobs).

  2. So many on this list are on my TBR, and then others are ones that are new to me! I did just see a review for Katzenjammer on another blog with basically the same review as you. Although that kind of makes me want to read it more just to see! lol And then I keep needing to read Benway, but have yet to. Will look into this one for sure! Great reviews! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Benway is underrated. Her books are so wonderful, and she has evolved quite a bit too. I read one of her older books, and you tell how her storytelling has changed over the years. That’s a fun tip to go back and read the beginning after the end. The story was heartbreaking, but also lovely. I appreciated how far they came as family in their healing process.

  4. That’s an eclectic mix! I’m super curious about the issues with Katzenjammer, and will definitely be picking up This Vicious Grace. Thanks for reviewing these!

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