Reviews in a Minute: Much August

Oh look, so many August books!

Blood Like Fate by Liselle Sambury
Cake Eaters by Allyson Dahlin
Face by Joma West
The Memory Index by Julian R. Vaca

The Women Could Fly by Megan Giddings
The Awoken by Katelyn Monroe Howes


Reviews in a Minute: Much August Blood Like Fate by Liselle Sambury
Series: Blood Like Magic #2
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on August 9, 2022
Pages: 480
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

Voya fights to save her witch community from a terrible future.

Voya Thomas may have passed her Calling to become a full-fledged witch, but the cost was higher than she’d ever imagined.
Her grandmother is gone. Her cousin hates her. And her family doesn’t believe that she has what it takes to lead them.

What’s more, Voya can’t let go of her feelings for Luc, sponsor son of the genius billionaire Justin Tremblay—the man that Luc believes Voya killed. Consequently, Luc wants nothing to do with her. Even her own ancestors seem to have lost faith in her. Every day Voya begs for their guidance, but her calls go unanswered.

As Voya struggles to convince everyone—herself included—that she can be a good Matriarch, she has a vision of a terrifying, deadly future. A vision that would spell the end of the Toronto witches. With a newfound sense of purpose, Voya must do whatever it takes to bring her shattered community together and stop what's coming for them before it’s too late.

Even if it means taking down the boy she loves—who might be the mastermind behind the coming devastation.

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Blood Like Fate is a wonderful sequel that I was really excited for! I adored Blood Like Magic, and was very eager to jump back into this world. It did not disappoint! As with its predecessor, the story did start out a little slow, but once it got going, I was yet again hooked by Voya and her family. I feel like I gave a lot of the reasons for loving this series in my review of the first book, and I hate to just repeat myself, so. We’ll keep this one short and sweet.

The thing I loved the most about this sequel is Voya’s growth. She grew a lot during the first book too, but this one took it to the next level. Voya had to find her strength time and time again to save both herself and her family. She had doubts along the way, so many self doubts. But her learning to overcome them was such a joy to read!

As with the first book, family is by far the biggest focus in this one. Obviously there are other relationships that are tested and cultivated, but the familial one takes center stage. I thought it was so great that we not only got to see Voya’s character growth, but that of her family as well. They all felt very well developed, and I loved that each member had their own story and personality.

The events in this sequel are very high stakes, even more than the first book. Without giving away too much, Voya must quite literally save her family and herself from death. And it isn’t simple, or cut-and-dry. First she needs to figure out what is happening within the witch community, then how to stop it. Makes for a very exciting reading experience!

Bottom Line: A wonderful follow up to the first book, I was wholly satisfied with this excellent conclusion!



Reviews in a Minute: Much August Cake Eater by Allyson Dahlin
Published by HarperTeen on August 9, 2022
Pages: 448
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Edelweiss

She has a million followers on social media.

She uses her fashion-forward eye to pick the perfect angle and filter on every photo.

She’s iconic.

She’s a trend-setter.

She’s Marie Antoinette, the year is 3070, and she’s arrived in the Franc Kingdom to marry the prince, secure an alliance, and rake in likes from her fans.

Versailles is not the perfect palace Marie’s seen on The Apps. Her life is a maze of pointless rules, and the court watches her every move for mistakes. Her shy husband Louis is more interested in horses and computer-hacking than producing heirs. Versailles seems like a dream full of neon-lit statues, handsome android soldiers, and parties till dawn. Under the surface, it’s a creepy den of secrets: surveillance in Marie’s bedroom, censored news feeds, disappearing courtiers.

When Marie and Louis become king and queen long before they’re ready to rule, any efforts to aid their suffering subjects are stamped out by the mega-corporations of the First Estate. Between riots in Paris and image-wrecking social media firestorms, Marie can’t afford to lose her head. Using her social media savvy and Louis’ hacking knowledge, they try to fix their reputations and change their kingdom for the better, but the royals may find it’s already too late. They’re ruling over the end of an era.

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Cake Eater has a very unique and entertaining premise, and I mostly enjoyed it!

What I Liked:

  • I grew to really care about the characters. Not just Marie herself, but all of the people she ends up befriending in Versailles. Her husband and his whole family are really great, and she makes some very interesting friends along the way too. Marie herself starts out a bit vapid, but you can tell that she really does care about others, even from the beginning.
  • There were some great messages and commentary. Without getting into spoiler territory, I liked the turn that the book took in recognizing the plight of the common citizen in France. While we’re first shown the glitz and glamour of the palace, it’s clear that it is a mirage, and what is happening in the rest of the world is not so shiny at all.
  • The story was exciting! It was definitely a well-paced story, no question. There was a great balance of character development and interaction, as well as action and adventure within the plot. There is also a bit of sleuthing involved, which upped the excitement levels for sure.
  • It definitely provided some feels. There were so many emotions that this book evoked! I laughed, I cried, I cheered. It was, yet again, a great mix of providing fun and lighthearted moments with serious and high stakes ones.

What I Struggled With:

  • This is supposed to be a whole millennium away but… people are still texting? Look. People are not going to be texting a century from now, let alone a thousand years in the future.  Or using hashtags, for goodness sake. The world and technology seemed far too close to our current world than it ever would be. Think of it this way: how much do our lives differ to those in 1022? A loooot, right? Nearly nothing is the same. Yet we’re expected to believe that in a thousand more years, people are still living a daily life similar to our own, replete with social media and cell phones? Yeah, I can’t buy it.
  • I needed to know more of a reason why this world existed. I mean, it’s bizarre that they are all fashioned after long-dead people and empires, yeah? There are some references to capturing the few bits of history that were not lost in the cataclysmic event that occurred at some point, but I just never really “got” it. Also, where is everyone else? Clearly, a few European societies are still in existence, but where’s the rest of the world? I guess I would have just appreciated more world-building, especially since communication seems fairly easy.
  • I have mixed feelings about the end. That is obviously all I can say. I liked certain aspects, did not like others, but I will say that it at least ended, and we won’t be left wondering about things!

Bottom Line: A solid debut with very enjoyable characters and story that could have benefitted from a bit more worldbuilding. Overall though, quite entertaining!


Reviews in a Minute: Much August Face by Joma West
Published by Tordotcom on August 2, 2022
Pages: 272
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

Life is competitive; all the best babies are designed now.

Schuyler and Madeline Burroughs have the perfect Face—rich and powerful enough to assure their dominance in society.

But in SchAddie’s household, cracks are beginning to appear. Schuyler is bored and taking risks. Maddie is becoming brittle, her happiness ever more fleeting. And their menial is fighting the most bizarre compulsions.

In Face, skin color is an aesthetic choice designed by professionals, consent is a pre-checked box on the path to social acceptance, and your online profile isn’t just the most important thing—it’s the only thing.

Face is a novel about the lies we allow ourselves to believe in order to make us feel whole.

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I have been super intrigued by the concept of Face since I first heard about it. It is set in (seemingly) the near future, where social media has taken center stage, and the rich can literally design their own babies, from top to bottom. It’s a great concept, and I liked more than I didn’t, so let’s break it down!

What I Liked:

  • People designing babies and living their entire lives for social media status? Yeah, sounds legit. The whole concept of this book is fairly plausible- perhaps not in the exact way it’s executed, but certainly in the social constructs and ideas it presents. Nearly the entirety of society is concerned with what sort of image they project to the world, and very little about just living their own lives. As you can likely imagine, it takes a certain amount of privilege to even compete in this society- you can’t exactly be born into poverty and become rich/famous, since it takes a vast amount of resources simply to play the game.
  • I was quite interested in how the various characters coped with this world. There are several points of view during this book, from the Haves, the Have Nots, and even those in society who aren’t deemed good enough to be given the label of person. Those in the positions of wealth and power are perfectly willing to preserve the status quo, even though they may even understand on a moral level how wrong it all is. But a few are seemingly more willing to at least consider whether their way of life is just (we the reader obviously know it is not), or whether there are better ways to live.
  • It is certainly thought provoking. I mean, I don’t think I’d do very well in this world, frankly? I am not wealthy or popular enough to manufacture my own baby, and I highly doubt anyone would be interested in my social profile, so… things are looking bad for me. But imagine you were born into this mess, how exactly would you ever have known anything different? Honestly, it is a very depressing world, and I for one am glad to not be in it!

What I Had Trouble With:

  • The repeated conversations from multiple POVs is… A choice. So, as we’re reading the POVs from various characters, often there was an overlap in conversations and events. For example, if Dad is talking to Daughter, we get the conversation repeated, from both of their points of view. This provides no real additional information, but does make things longer than necessary. I assumed that the purpose was to give the reader glimpses into how both characters were relating to a situation, but more often than not, it actually didn’t, and just felt repetitive and unnecessary.
  • I was a little confused about how the whole Face system worked, honestly. There were virtual reality type events and places, but then there were real places, but it all seemed to somehow come back to how much society liked you as a concept, no matter where you were. That part I could grasp of course, but the day-to-day basics were a little tougher for me to connect to, and I think as such, I had some trouble figuring out what the characters were up to at times.
  • I didn’t feel much connection with the characters. In fairness, I assume that was probably part of the point? I mean- how can you connect with someone when they’re constantly revamping their persona for the most social media views? Still, it makes it a bit harder to care about what happens to them, since we’ve no real idea who most of them are beyond the Face.

Bottom Line: Incredibly interesting and thought provoking concept, I just wished it had been fleshed out a bit more.


Reviews in a Minute: Much August The Memory Index by Julian R. Vaca
Series: The Memory Index #1
Published by Thomas Nelson on August 9, 2022
Pages: 384
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

In a world where memories are like currency, dreams can be a complicated business.

In an alternative 1987, a disease ravages human memories. There is no cure, only artificial recall. The lucky ones--the recollectors--need the treatment only once a day.

Freya Izquierdo isn't lucky. The high school senior is a "degen" who needs artificial recall several times a day. Plagued by blinding half-memories that take her to her knees, she's desperate to remember everything that will help her investigate her father's violent death. When her sleuthing almost lands her in jail, a shadowy school dean selects her to attend his Foxtail Academy, where five hundred students will trial a new tech said to make artificial recall obsolete.

She's the only degen on campus. Why was she chosen? Freya is nothing like the other students, not even her new friends Ollie, Chase, and the alluring Fletcher Cohen. Definitely not at all like the students who start to vanish, one by one. And nothing like the mysterious Dean Mendelsohn, who has a bunker deep in the woods behind the school.

Nothing can prepare Freya and her friends for the truth of what that bunker holds. And what kind of memories she'll have to access to survive it.

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The Memory Index was certainly a unique concept, and I really enjoyed it for the most part! Let us break it down!

What I Liked:

  • I loved the whole concept and the connection to memories. It was so thought provoking, because how important are our memories, right? Imagine if yours could simply be stolen out of thin air, how much of a panic that would induce. Well, it’s no different in this book, but since society is more or less used to this happening, they have been able to develop some work-arounds.
  • I liked the characters. I really enjoyed Freya and her newfound group of friends. Freya’s story was the most compelling at first, but we’re then introduced to their stories as well, and they were all quite well developed.
  • The story takes some very exciting turns. It isn’t simply about memory loss, but about what this new program is trying to accomplish. Without giving too much away, everyone’s intentions may not be as innocent as they claim them to be. And when classmates begin to vanish from the campus, Freya and her friends want to make sure they are not next.

What I Had Trouble With:

  • Kind of felt “easy” at times. Like- yes, the stakes were high at times, but a lot of the ways that things were resolved felt a bit easy to me, without giving away too much. Even the relationships that the characters formed almost felt a little easy. Maybe that is a boarding school thing, but the fact that they all found each other and fell into a group dynamic immediately and without issue made me unable to suspend my disbelief.
  • This may very well be a personal gripe, but the songs felt really randomly placed and like, too much. It was sort of like they were screaming at me every few pages “Look! It’s 80s music because we are in the 80s!!!” Maybe some kind of alternative would have worked better, like maybe making the songs a chapter title or something? That way they could have been infused into the story without seeming out of place. Idk about you, but my inner thought process doesn’t do a full stop when some random song starts playing somewhere, so it just seemed to take me out of the story a bit.

Bottom Line: Very cool premise, and a lot of intrigue, though sometimes it felt resolved too quickly.


Reviews in a Minute: Much August The Women Could Fly by Megan Giddings
Published by Amistad Press on August 9, 2022
Pages: 288
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

Reminiscent of the works of Margaret Atwood, Shirley Jackson, and Octavia Butler, a biting social commentary from the acclaimed author of Lakewood that speaks to our times--a piercing dystopian novel about the unbreakable bond between a young woman and her mysterious mother, set in a world in which witches are real and single women are closely monitored.

Josephine Thomas has heard every conceivable theory about her mother's disappearance. That she was kidnapped. Murdered. That she took on a new identity to start a new family. That she was a witch. This is the most worrying charge because in a world where witches are real, peculiar behavior raises suspicions and a woman--especially a Black woman--can find herself on trial for witchcraft.

But fourteen years have passed since her mother's disappearance, and now Jo is finally ready to let go of the past. Yet her future is in doubt. The State mandates that all women marry by the age of 30--or enroll in a registry that allows them to be monitored, effectively forfeiting their autonomy. At 28, Jo is ambivalent about marriage. With her ability to control her life on the line, she feels as if she has her never understood her mother more. When she's offered the opportunity to honor one last request from her mother's will, Jo leaves her regular life to feel connected to her one last time.

In this powerful and timely novel, Megan Giddings explores the limits women face--and the powers they have to transgress and transcend them.

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Wow, so this is incredibly timely! Women having no agency over her own choices? Check. Black women bearing the brunt extra? Double check. In The Women Can Fly, we are introduced to Josephine, who is living in a world all too similar to our own. Perhaps this world starting out being more strict than ours when it started, but by the time of its publication, we’re drifting terrifyingly into the very world that Jo is living in. Minus accusing women of being witches, probably. But like, don’t give these guys any ideas, yeah?

Any woman who is unmarried by thirty is on a government watchlist, as she’s now under scrutiny for being a witch. So… forget having independence, ladies. Either a man controls your life, or The Man controls your life. Good times. As you can imagine, Jo finds this to be a load of crap. Of course, Jo is already under extra surveillance because her mother left their family when Jo was a teen (therefore leading authorities to assume Mom is a witch), because she is unmarried with no real prospects, because she is bisexual, and because she is Black. The cards are stacked against her, basically. But as you can imagine, she isn’t particularly keen to give up her job and her life, but neither does she want to be forced into marriage.

The story mostly reads as a (unfortunately mildly) alt-contemporary, with a dose of magical realism. Jo’s world is much like our own, save for the witch situation (but seriously, like I said, I bet there is at least a few members of Congress who’d be down for accusing women of witchcraft, yeah?), so Jo’s character is even more relatable. It’s heartbreaking to see her slowly losing agency over her own life as she inches closer to some ridiculous, arbitrary age limit the government has set for her, and again, it feels so completely relevant to women’s history and present.

The story isn’t particularly fast paced, and a great deal of it involves Jo navigating her relationships with her best friend, her lover, and her father. I really enjoyed this aspect of the story, as it gave us a great insight into Jo’s life. Jo’s complex feelings about her mother are another huge focal point, as you can certainly imagine the mixed emotions that she has.

My one qualm with the story is that I would have liked a bit more insight into the world itself, how magic/witches came to the forefront, and how the government ended up making some of these rules (and the ramifications, because there certainly must have been some). I also maybe would have preferred a bit more action at certain points, but again, minor qualm.

Mostly, I found the story to be incredibly captivating, and I was so very angry on Jo’s- and all women’s- behalf. And frankly, you will see so very many parallels to our world- so many incredibly similar situations, that it will make you mad for us, too. And even madder for the marginalized groups within the female and female-identifying community, because just as in this story, their plight is far more difficult in our world as well.

Bottom Line: A quiet yet moving tale of a young woman who seeks her own agency, despite being told at every turn that she doesn’t deserve it.


Reviews in a Minute: Much August The Awoken by Katelyn Monroe Howes
Published by Dutton on August 9, 2022
Pages: 416
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

A cinematic, speculative debut about a woman who undergoes cryogenic preservation at the time of her death and wakes up a century later in a world where her very life is a crime.

When Alabine Rivers, a politically active young woman with a bright career and romance ahead of her, finds out the devastating news that she has terminal cancer, the only thing that gives her solace is the possibility of a second life through the emerging field of cryogenics.

A century later, scientists have indeed discovered how to bring back the dead from preservation, but humanity has been locked in a philosophical battle over the ethics of this new Godlike power, a battle that has turned violent: those who are resurrected, the Awoken, have been declared illegal and are to be shot on sight.

This is the world Alabine is brought into by the Resurrectionists, an underground militia fighting for the rights of the Awoken. Finding herself in a completely unfamiliar world, and one where she is an outsider for the first time in her life, Alabine must figure out how to survive and determine her place in this new world, all the while being haunted by lucid memories of her previous life and the man she loved.

The Awoken is a gripping, action-packed story full of plot twists and high emotion. It's a look at prejudice, complicity, the fears that tear us apart, and the hope that can bring us together.

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I was convinced from the moment I saw the synopsis that this was going to be my kind of book, through and through. And turns out, I was right. I love being right, and I love this book. Alabine wakes up a century after she died of cancer. That right there is a trip, right? Well, the problem is, even though she woke up in a world where it is possible to cure the cancer that was her demise, her whole existence was no longer legal.

Talk about a thought-provoking book! There are so many concepts in the story that had my mind reeling, in the best possible way. First, we have the issue that started it all: preserving oneself in cryo after death. I mean, talk about a loaded moral question, right? But beyond that, Alabine realizes that the world she awakens in is vastly different than the one she died in. For one, the concept of cryogenic preservation was just starting when Alabine decided to give it a shot. The scientific community was excited, and hadn’t really considered much of the aftermath. Now, a hundred years later, what is left of the United States now deems The Awoken as “inhuman”, and it is perfectly legal to murder an Awoken.

Basically, just like in our current era, a group of people decided that their morality needed to be inflicted upon the country as a whole. So, as they decided that their own beliefs didn’t jibe with cryogenics, new laws were passed basically ensuring that the Awoken had no rights under the law. Alabine finds that she was woken by the rebellion, and they want her to be their spokesperson. Apparently, she became a beloved figure after her death, and her fiancé Max had taken up her cause to find a way to bring her back. And guess who else decided to take a trip to cryo? Max! Only he is being held somewhere that Alabine cannot get to, and so she ends up needing the rebellion as much as they need her.

I really loved everything about this book, from start to finish. Let us list a few things:

  • Alabine was really relatable. Oof, can you even imagine being dead for a century and then popping back into a very different world? Yeah, me either. Alabine’s reactions to everything around her seemed so very honest and realistic, and obviously she was incredibly empathetic. I felt for her, as she realized that everyone she knew was dead, along with the world she knew being dead. Hell, she woke up in a different country! I loved seeing the world through her eyes, and watching her rebuild her life as she went along.
  • The messages of this book certainly were timely. A lot of things that the “United American” government was doing reeked of current events. Sure, they were fighting slightly different battles, but the outcomes were the same: stripping rights from groups of people based on the moral beliefs of one group who deemed themselves more important.
  • Loved the backstory of how the world changed over time. It was so interesting to read about how we got to the world that Abaline was now a part of. The author did a phenomenal job of answering every question that popped into my head, and the world-building was kind of perfect.
  • The world was bleak, but also hopeful. I love my dark, awful worlds with a side of hope, and that is exactly how this one felt from start to finish. Yes, Alabine woke in a terrible situation. The government was garbage, the people resigned to just take it. But there were glimmers of hope laced throughout the story. Hope that maybe people could change, that the world could change.

Bottom Line: A beautiful and thought provoking tale about a very plausible future, complete with an incredible cast of characters.

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

Posted August 7, 2022 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in In a Minute, Review / 10 Comments


10 responses to “Reviews in a Minute: Much August

  1. I was worried for you. The first book rated high, but it was downhill until the last book. That is a crazy concept. cryogenics is something I could not see doing for myself.

    • Well- in fairness, I at least LIKED all of them, so that is something! (Also, fun fact: I always put my favorite books first and last, and my less-favorites in the middle, since I figure people are more likely to read the first and/or last!) I feel like I would do cryo- a chance to see the future sounds too cool to pass up!

  2. “Think of it this way: how much do our lives differ to those in 1022? A loooot, right? Nearly nothing is the same. Yet we’re expected to believe that in a thousand more years, people are still living a daily life similar to our own, replete with social media and cell phones? Yeah, I can’t buy it.”
    Put that way, it makes SO MUCH sense!

    Wow, this was mostly a “set in a scary future that became our almost-present in the meantime” bunch…

  3. What an interesting batch of books! I’ve never even heard of The Awoken, and now I need to track it down. I have a copy of Face, so that will be an interesting read. And I’m also very curious about The Women Could Fly, although to be honest I have sort of reached my limit when it comes to oppressed women stories. Awesome reviews!

  4. The Awoken and The Women Can Fly both sound great! Looks like I’m going to need to be in a particular mood to read them each, though. Thanks for putting these on my radar.

  5. The Awoken totally sounds like my kind of thing. I mean, cryogenic stuff is always fascinating. And timely too- why do we like to read about train wreck societies when we LIVE in one? I don’t know lol. The Memory Index too sounds good- I mean how terrifying would it be to lose memories? I do feel like in books like that though sometimes the nostalgia elements- like 80’s music or whatever- do seem a bit gratuitous or on the nose, so I can definitely see that. It’s a fine line. 🙂

  6. Always such interesting books (that I’ve never heard of).

    I’m totally drawn to Cake Eater but I can see what you’re saying about it being so similar to now. I’ve been seeing that in a lot of recent books supposedly in the future. Even so – I’m curious lol

    Karen @For What It’s Worth

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