Reviews in a Minute: New for November

Here we have the first batch of my November books- and an October book that I received recently! Pretty good bunch here!

Reckoning by W. Michael Gear
Desert Creatures by Kay Chronister
The Hollows by Daniel Church
Cruel Illusions by Margie Fuston

The Red Sky by Timothy D. Minneci
Tread of Angels by Rebecca Roanhorse
Gleanings: Stories from the Arc of a Scythe by Neal Shusterman, David Yoon, Jarrod Shusterman, Joelle Shusterman, Michael H. Payne, Michelle Knowlden,& Sofía Lapuente


Reviews in a Minute: New for November Reckoning by W. Michael Gear
Series: Donovan #6
Published by Daw Books on November 8, 2022
Pages: 512
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

The sixth 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.

Three years after Ashanti spaced for Solar System, Turalon reappears in the Donovanian sky. The Corporation has returned. Donovan's wealth is a lure for the powerful families who control the Board. Unburdened by morals, they are bringing their battle for supremacy to Port Authority and a showdown that could tear The Corporation apart.

Much to her disgust, Falise Taglioni has been chosen to ensure that her family emerges triumphant; she comes with instructions for her brother, Dek. After all, she could always manipulate him to her will. And she will again, even if she has to destroy Talina Perez in the process. And if her war with the Grunnels, Xian Chans, and Radceks destroys Port Authority in the process? Who cares?

But nothing on Donovan is static, and in the three years since Ashanti's departure, life on the planet has hardened Kalico Aguila and the scrappy inhabitants of Port Authority. Life in the bush breeds a different kind of human, genetically altered, tough, and self-reliant. And on Donovan, determining who is predator, and who is prey has never been easy.

Meanwhile, for Kylee Simonov and her bonded quetzal, Flute, there will be a final comeuppance. Because on Donovan, blood vendetta needs to be paid. And then she's going to town. After which, nothing will be the same.

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The Donovan series is just such a win. In fact, I really want someone to make it into a show. Imagine the visuals, if you will: a whole planet with crap that can (and make no mistake, will) kill you. I know I have said this before, but this would be gold. If I keep proclaiming this enough, maybe it will come to fruition. (Feel free to add me to the Writer’s Room, I have ideas.)

Erm, I digress. Obviously, I need to keep this pretty vague because by book six, all sorts of chaos has ensued on and around Donovan. I would say that Reckoning is easily the most character-driven book of the series, but I think it worked. Especially considering how dark and chaotic (in the good way, mind) book five was, I think it was a great choice to allow the characters a bit of respite- or rather, some milder chaos and danger, this is Donovan after all. I loved that we did get to see how the characters are processing all that they’ve been through, and we did get to meet some new characters who seemingly will figure in a lot as the series goes on.

Having them grapple with who they are now versus who they have been (and what they have done) in the past really brings not only a great spotlight on their respective growth, but gives the reader a lot to ponder. What would we do in their shoes? Who would we have become after all they’ve had to go through, and the choices they’ve had to make. Always here for not only the grayest of gray morality, but the aftermath of having to make the most dire of choices.

Bottom Line: A very character-driven installment, but still completely chock-full of your favorite Donovanian nightmares. Bring on Book 7!
P.S.: Some really cool people think you should read this series. Literally, the coolest.

This genuinely never ever fails to make my whole week.



Reviews in a Minute: New for November Desert Creatures by Kay Chronister
Published by Erewhon on November 8, 2022
Pages: 352
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

In a world that has become treacherous and desiccated, Magdala has always had to fight to survive. At nine years old, she and her father, Xavier, are exiled from their home, fleeing through the Sonoran Desert, searching for refuge.

As violence pursues them, they join a handful of survivors on a pilgrimage to the holy city of Las Vegas, where it is said the vigilante saints reside, bright with neon power. Magdala, born with a clubfoot, is going to be healed. But when faced with the strange horrors of the desert, one by one the pilgrims fall victim to a hideous sickness—leaving Magdala to fend for herself.

After surviving for seven years on her own, Magdala is sick of waiting for her miracle. Recruiting an exiled Vegas priest named Elam at gunpoint to serve as her guide, Magdala turns her gaze to Vegas once more, and this time, nothing will stop her. The pair form a fragile alliance as they navigate the darkest and strangest reaches of the desert on a trip that takes her further from salvation even as she nears the holy city.

With ferocious imagination and poetic precision, Desert Creatures is a story of endurance at the expense of redemption. What compromise does survival require of a woman, and can she ever unlearn the instincts that have kept her alive?

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True story, I think that the desert would be the worst place to find oneself in during the apocalypse. It’s hot, there’s no water, and if you’re as pale as me you’re definitely dying of sun poisoning. There’s illness, and sketchy creatures,  and don’t forget terrible humans, the biggest bad of all. So, welcome to the absolute hellscape of Desert Creatures!

Seriously, this place is bleak. It’s set in what was the American southwest, and Magdala and her dad are heading with some others to Las Vegas, which has been heralded as some sort of saving grace in the middle of this otherwise hostile wasteland. Only, very few people make it more than a few miles in the desert, so Magdala finds herself alone and in some very precarious situations. Over, and over, and over, the poor girl can’t seem to catch a break. She holds out a desperate hope that a purported saint in Vegas can miraculously fix her club foot, as it makes it extra difficult to traverse the brutal landscape with it.

Without giving much away, this book sure did an incredible job of delivering on the atmosphere and creating a very bleak look at the world. Sure, there were tiny pockets of hope, but overall, Magdala’s situation (and that of everyone else who had survived) seemed quite dire. The book also had a very lonely and desolate vibe, making it perfectly clear how few people were left, at least in this part of the world. Magdala was able to meet some folks along the way, whose stories were fabulous additions. It showed the reader not only how Magdala interacted and formed relationships, but how others were faring in this world.

While I did find the ending a tad underwhelming, I loved reading about Magdala’s journey, and the journeys of those she met along the way. I definitely enjoyed the element of survival, especially in such a desolate landscape, and I loved trying to decipher who among the survivors would be able to retain their humanity as the world- and the morality of society in general- collapsed around them.

Bottom Line: Set in a bleak and incredibly atmospheric wasteland, Desert Creatures looks at what exactly makes us human.


Reviews in a Minute: New for November The Hollows by Daniel Church
Published by Angry Robot on November 8, 2022
Pages: 460
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

In a lonely village in the Peak District, during the onset of a once-in-a-lifetime snow storm, Constable Ellie Cheetham finds a body. The man, a local ne'er-do-well, appears to have died in a tragic accident: he drank too much and froze to death.

But the facts don't add up: the dead man is clutching a knife in one hand, and there's evidence he was hiding from someone. Someone who watched him die. Stranger still, an odd mark has been drawn onto a stone beside his body.

The next victims are two families on the outskirts of town. As the storm rises and the body count grows, Ellie realises she has a terrifying problem on her hands: someone – or some thing – is killing indiscriminately, attacking in the darkness and using the storm for cover.

The killer is circling ever closer to the village. The storm's getting worse... and the power's just gone out.

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So, if you didn’t like the idea of dying in the desert in the last offering, maybe you want to die in the snow in The Hollows! No? Okay fine. That isn’t fun either. The Hollows opens in a snowy small town, where one of the members of the local criminal family finds himself dead in the midst of a terrible storm. When the local police find him, what at first glance seems like a drunken mishap makes little sense when the clues start adding up.

Of course, right when the local authorities realize that this wasn’t just an unfortunate accident, the town is completely isolated by a severe snowstorm. And nothing is what it seems, with some of the townsfolk panicking that this killing signifies the start of an ancient evil entity that has promised to attack. Not only that, but the family of the dead miscreant seems to want to be the only survivors left at the end of the storm. Right here, I will deliver some content warnings: View Spoiler »

The atmosphere is certainly on point in this novel, as you can feel the bitterness and desperation of the characters. They have no way to contact the outside world for help, and no idea how they are going to make it through the storm. I will say, at times, it felt a bit repetitive, and that would really be my only complaint with the story. Overall, I was very invested in the fate of the town, and definitely curious to find out how the story would wrap up.

Bottom Line: Very atmospheric and full of high stakes, this snowy horror tale definitely kept me turning the pages.


Reviews in a Minute: New for November Cruel Illusions by Margie Fuston
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on November 1, 2022
Pages: 512
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

Caraval meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer in this deliciously dark young adult fantasy about a girl who makes a deal with a magical secret society to enter a potentially deadly competition for the chance to avenge her mother’s death.

Ever since a vampire murdered her mother, Ava has been determined to get revenge. This all-encompassing drive has given her the fuel she needed to survive foster home after foster home.

But it’s been ten years since anyone’s seen a vampire, and Ava has lost hope that she’ll ever find one…until she stumbles across a hidden magic show where she witnesses impossible illusions. The magicians may not be the bloodsuckers she’s hunting, but Ava is convinced something supernatural is at play, so she sneaks backstage and catches them in acts they can’t explain.

But they’ve been waiting for her.

The magicians reveal they’re part of an ancient secret society with true magic, and Ava has the same power in her blood that they do. If she joins them, they promise to teach her the skills she needs to hunt vampires and avenge her mother. But there’s a catch: if she wants to keep the power they offer, she needs to prove she’s worthy of it. And to do so, she must put on the performance of her life in a sinister and dangerous competition where illusion and reality blur, and the stakes are deadly.

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Cruel Illusions was a really different look into the lives of vampires, infused with magic, and with a character who was very sympathetic from the start. I mostly enjoyed it, though I had a wee bit of trouble with a few things, so let’s break it down!

What I Liked:

  • It was definitely a unique and creative take on vampires! I love when creatures who are usually depicted as “bad guys” are given much more morally gray stories, and that is what we find here. I won’t say much more for fear of spoilers, but it basically asks the reader to consider whether all vampires are just evil by nature, or whether it is more nuanced.
  • Loved the concept of found families. At the start of the book, we’re introduced almost immediately to Deb, the amazing foster mom who wants to adopt our main character Ava and her brother. Deb is the best, which I kept writing in my Kindle notes over and over. Like I’ll take a whole book about her, honestly. It highlights that there are some good eggs out there in the foster system, while also highlighting some real issues, too. Again, nothing is all good or all evil, is the point. In addition to Deb, Ava meets a lot of other people along her journey who compliment this idea of choosing our own people. But since that is spoiler territory, I’ll leave it at that.
  • Ava undergoes so much growth during the story. I mean, girl has been through it, right? So we can imagine that there’s a lot to unpack here, and Ava has a lot to figure out, in terms of who and what she wants to be, and the kinds of relationships she wants to have with others moving forward.

What I Had Trouble With:

  • It was just longer than it needed to be, really.  There were a lot of times when I thought that the book felt a bit draggy- like maybe some of the descriptive bits were overkill? Where I just kind of wanted to… move along, I guess.
  • I did find it a bit predictable. Didn’t ruin the story or anything of that level (and let’s face it, I get all sorts of proud of myself when I guess plot points, so it isn’t a total loss) but I knew quite a bit that happened before it was actually revealed.

Bottom Line: Great take on vampires and morally complex, albeit a bit long at times, I’d recommend this especially if magic is your jam!


Reviews in a Minute: New for November The Red Sky by Timothy D. Minneci
Series: Perseverantia #2
Published by Reverbose on October 11, 2022
Pages: 299
Format:Paperback
Source:Copy provided by author for review

Alliances have formed, but peace is fragile. Two sides seek to rebuild the United States eleven years after an asteroid nearly wiped out humanity.

West of the Mississippi, the New American Alliance ruled by Jasper Reynolds expands daily. In the East, Sandra Nolan guides Manhattan back to democracy while assembling the United Cities Coalition. Will an unknown assassin sabotage her plans? In the free city of Bangor, Tessa and Bishop Dawes attempt to return to a normal existence, but the trauma of the past haunts them both. As they build a new future, the looming standoff threatens a new apocalypse.

THE RED SKY is the second book in the Perseverantia series, started in 2020 with THE BLACK SKY.

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After really enjoying the first book in this series, The Black Sky, I was certainly excited to dive back into the world for the second installment! I will fully admit, since it has been a minute (two and a half years, to be precise), I kind of forgot some stuff? But that is on me- in fact, the author did a really great job of reminding the reader of events that happened in the first book, and he did so in a really authentic way that fit in with the story and didn’t make it feel info-dumpy. So thanks for that, because I needed it!

This book starts off somewhat peacefully for the characters we know from the first book (and far less peacefully for someone who we’re not familiar with, which of course goes to provide proof that the rest of the book will be far less peaceful for everyone else, too), as most of our faves have made it to a safe-ish spot in a very unsafe world.

And make no mistake, the world is even possibly bleaker than it was in the first book- mostly because awful people are still awful. But, it is also a lot more hopeful in spots too, since it is really clear that decent folks do still exist and want humanity to do better. Speaking of the decent folks, I did love the characters who were really trying to do better in this world, and that was quite a lot of them! Even those more villainous in nature had motivations that the reader could understand, which was great character development.

I have two minor qualms in this sequel. The first is that at a few points, I really had a bit of trouble keeping track of all the characters. That might be on me though, so. The other is that there are quite a few smaller errors in the copy. Not enough to like, make it unreadable or anything like that! Just enough that it started to catch my attention.

The book ended in a pretty satisfying way- I don’t know if there are plans for a third installment, but it could certainly go either way. It ends in a way that you are content if this is it, but there are also definitely enough threads to expand on for another book- the world is really well constructed, and I think there would always be enough material for more!

Bottom Line: A very solid sequel that thoughtfully expanded on both the world and the characters.


Reviews in a Minute: New for November Tread of Angels by Rebecca Roanhorse
Published by Saga Press on November 15, 2022
Pages: 208
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

Celeste, a card sharp with a penchant for trouble, takes on the role of advocatus diaboli, to defend her sister Mariel, accused of murdering a Virtue, a member of the ruling class in the mining town of Goetia, in a new world of dark fantasy.

High in the remote mountains, the town of Goetia is booming as prospectors from near and far come to mine the powerful new element Divinity. Divinity is the remains of the body of the rebel Abaddon, who fell to earth during Heaven's War, and it powers the world’s most inventive and innovative technologies, ushering in a new age of progress. However, only the descendants of those that rebelled, called Fallen, possess the ability to see the rich lodes of the precious element. That makes them a necessary evil among the good and righteous people called the Elect, and Goetia a town segregated by ancestry and class.

Celeste and Mariel are two Fallen sisters, bound by blood but raised in separate worlds. Celeste grew up with her father, passing in privileged Elect society, while Mariel stayed with their mother in the Fallen slums of Goetia. Upon her father’s death, Celeste returns to Goetia and reunites with Mariel. Mariel is a great beauty with an angelic voice, and Celeste, wracked by guilt for leaving her sister behind, becomes her fiercest protector.

When Mariel is accused of murdering a Virtue, the powerful Order of the Archangels that rule Goetia, Celeste must take on the role of Advocatus Diaboli (Devil’s Advocate) and defend her sister in the secretive courts of the Virtue. Celeste, aided by her ex-lover, Abraxas, who was once one of the rebels great generals, sets out to prove Mariel innocent. But powerful forces among the Virtues and the Elect mining barons don’t want Celeste prying into their business, and Mariel has secrets of her own. As Celeste is drawn deeper into the dark side of Goetia, she unravel a layer of lies and manipulation that may doom Mariel and puts her own immortal soul at risk, in this dark fantasy noir from the bestselling mastermind Rebecca Roanhorse.

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I really enjoyed this short novel! It is set in a town that sort of reminds me of a Gold-Rush Era western city meets Old Las Vegas, which I am here for. The main character, Celeste, is determined to solve a murder that was pinned on her sister before her sister is executed by the town leaders, who happen to be Angels. The whole setup of the world pits Angels versus the Fallen, and of course, the Fallen are considered “less than”, which obviously shows a lot of parallels to our own society.

I was worried that the world building would confuse me, especially when laid out in such a short number of pages, but I really didn’t have much trouble deciphering it. While I think there is a lot of room to delve deeper (which seems like the plan for subsequent books, though I am not sure), it was also fairly easy to follow. I also really enjoyed the characters, and how wonderfully flawed they are. Celeste herself often refuses to acknowledge her own blind spots and biases until she is forced to face them head on. I loved how realistic they all felt, especially in a matter of two hundred pages.

I really hope that this becomes a series, because I absolutely need more time with these characters, and exploring this very creative and intriguing world! It was faced-paced and I really could not put it down, excited to find out all the answers. I also loved how the author infused bits of humor into this otherwise rough world and situation.

Bottom Line: Exciting and well-constructed, I simply devoured this genre-defying mystery!


Reviews in a Minute: New for November Gleanings: Stories from the Arc of a Scythe by Neal Shusterman, David Yoon, Jarrod Shusterman, Joelle Shusterman, Michael H. Payne, Michelle Knowlden, Sofía Lapuente
Series: Arc of a Scythe #3.5
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on November 8, 2022
Pages: 432
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

The New York Times bestselling Arc of the Scythe series continues with thrilling stories that span the timeline. Storylines continue. Origin stories are revealed. And new Scythes emerge!

There are still countless tales of the Scythedom to tell. Centuries passed between the Thunderhead cradling humanity and Scythe Goddard trying to turn it upside down. For years humans lived in a world without hunger, disease, or death with Scythes as the living instruments of population control.

Neal Shusterman—along with collaborators David Yoon, Jarrod Shusterman, Sofía Lapuente, Michael H. Payne, Michelle Knowlden, and Joelle Shusterman—returns to the world throughout the timeline of the Arc of a Scythe series. Discover secrets and histories of characters you’ve followed for three volumes and meet new heroes, new foes, and some figures in between.

Gleanings shows just how expansive, terrifying, and thrilling the world that began with the Printz Honor–winning Scythe truly is.

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As a huge fan of the Scythe series, I was so excited that there was going to be a whole book of stories set in this world! And they certainly didn’t disappoint. As with all the books in this series (and honestly, every book Neal Shusterman has ever written), Gleanings is both incredibly thought-provoking and extremely relevant to our own society. Every story in the book is smartly written, and intricately woven into the greater arc of the series.

Sure, I enjoyed some slightly more than others, but every story added something to the narrative, and was a welcome addition. We got to meet new characters, and be reacquainted with some we’ve already read about but now get a deeper look and insight into. We are also given glimpses, at various points in the history of the Scythedom, to the world at large and how certain events came to fruition.

Bottom Line: If you have read the series thus far, you will certainly enjoy this collection, and if you haven’t read it yet, what the heck are you waiting for? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go read my bonus story from the B&N Exclusive Edition. Because of course I do.

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

Posted November 11, 2022 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in In a Minute, Review / 14 Comments


14 responses to “Reviews in a Minute: New for November

  1. I just saw that new Furston book (loved the last one!), but it didn’t seem like it was my thing. It’s a personal pet peeve when books are over-long for no reason.

  2. Such a great bunch, Shannon! I just finished Reckoning and it’s definitely a little light on action compared to the other books, but I love the nuanced characters. And very cool your blurb is on the back😁 Looking forward to The Hollows and Desert Creatues as well.

  3. Ahhhhh Tread of Angels just arrived (I won a Goodreads ARC) and it’s very tiny so I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I also didn’t realize it’s the 3rd in a series?? I love the author’s Black Sun series so far, so I’m not surprised this one is good….and now I’m even more eager to dive into it!

  4. So I’m totally sold on Donovan now. I’ve been wanting to read this anyway, but dang… they just sound like something I’d love. And again congrats on the blurb. Sweet. 🙂

    Illusions sounds great- and what a beautiful cover. Love it. And Red Sky. Another one I probably need.

  5. How exciting you are quoted on the back of a book! Congrats! I have not read any of these, but thanks for sharing. And I just read a book that was too long as well. It’s a complaint of mine. LOL

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