Reviews in a Minute: Jumping… Out of January, and Into February

Idk guys review post titles are hard. Anyway, here are my final January books, with a few early February releases thrown in! (Because I have like 20 February books to review, we have to fit them somewhere đŸ« 

A Quantum Love Story by Mike Chen
Blizzard by Marie Vingtras (Jeffrey Zuckerman, Translator)
Womb City by Tlotlo Tsamaase
You’re Breaking My Heart by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
No Time Like Now by Naz Kutub
No One Can Know by Kate Alice Marshall



Reviews in a Minute: Jumping… Out of January, and Into February A Quantum Love Story by Mike Chen
Published by MIRA on January 30, 2024
Pages: 368
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

The only thing harder than finding someone in a time loop is losing them.

Grieving her best friend's recent death, neuroscientist Mariana Pineda’s ready to give up everything to start anew. Even her career— after one last week consulting at a top secret particle accelerator.

Except the strangest thing a man stops her
and claims they've met before. Carter Cho knows who she is, why she's mourning, why she's there. And he needs Mariana to remember everything he’s saying.

Because time is about to loop.

In a flash of energy, it’s Monday morning. Again. Together, Mariana and Carter enter an inevitable life, four days at a time, over and over, without permanence except for what they share. With everything resetting—even bank accounts—joy comes in the little a delicious (and expensive) meal, a tennis match, giving a dog his favorite treat.

In some ways, those are all that matter.

But just as they figure out this new life, everything changes. Because Carter's memories of the time loop are slowly disappearing. And their only chance at happiness is breaking out of the loop—forever.

Let me tell you a little story about this book. I could have finished in December, right at the end. But I waited, until January first, so that I could start the year off with a winner. This, my friends, is a winner. It’s no secret that I’d purchase Mike Chen’s grocery list without hesitation, but this one was fabulous. In it, Mariana and Carter are facing endless time loops of the same four days, unless they figure out a way to get out of it. I think I shall just tell you why I loved it, then!

  • Time loops! These are always fun, right? I cannot help but wonder what I would do in such a situation, and I loved how Carter and Mariana handle their loops in so many different ways. Obviously, they go through phases of hope, denial, acceptance, etc., and back around again. It makes it feel more realistic, because I imagine that most of us would do the same.
  • The characters! Mariana and Carter were just such different people, which ended up working really well. She was calculated and focused, whereas he was more willing to take risks and think outside the box. Ultimately, they just worked so well together, and I enjoyed them both as characters in their own right, too.
  • The emotions! I had many, reader. We learn quite a bit about the characters’ lives before the loops, and of course, we carry on with them for quite some time during the loops. Without giving away too much, there are plenty of moments that made me laugh, smile, and yes, cry.
  • I was able to moderately understand the science. I mean look, I am no scientist, but I at least had a basic grasp of what was happening. Sometimes, it gets too convoluted when I read a book like this, but I assure you, this is not the case here! The author does a great job of writing it in a way that the reader understands, and I think it helps that while Mariana is a scientist, this isn’t exactly her purview, and Carter is a layperson like most of us reading the book.
  • It is just very heartfelt. I felt like I truly knew the characters by the end, especially Mariana, and I could not help but root for her with a desperation as though she was a friend. That, for me, is just the mark of good storytelling.

All of this said, I did want a little more from the ending. Just a little, and I considered knocking a half a star off, but I really loved it too much to do that. But also, if Mike Chen ever wants to throw an epilogue my way, this would absolutely shoot onto my favorites list. Just saying.

Bottom Line: Wonderfully written with tons of heart and emotion and time loop shenanigans, I fell quite in love with A Quantum Love Story.


Reviews in a Minute: Jumping… Out of January, and Into February Blizzard by Marie Vingtras, Jeffrey Zuckerman
Published by The Overlook Press on January 23, 2024
Pages: 224
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

A runaway bestseller about a boy gone missing in the middle of an Alaskan blizzard, and the people desperate to find him—from multi-award-winning author Marie Vingtras.

Winner of the Prix Des Libraires, the French Booksellers’ Prize for Best Novel of the Year

In the middle of a raging storm in Alaska, Bess stops to tie her shoes. And just like that, the boy is lost, gone in a flash, swallowed up by the snow.

Bess is a California girl, while Benedict, with whom she and the boy live, is the last in his family’s long line of rugged Alaskans. Benedict knows better than to venture out in such weather. But he has no choice. He must find Bess and the boy before it’s too late.

Blizzard is a race against death and destiny. Benedict, the local, and Bess, the outsider, are joined in the frantic search by Cole, an unsavory figure who washed up decades ago and clings on, downing moonshine. Then there’s Freeman, a Black Vietnam vet who seems wholly out of place in the North. What brings him to this remote corner of Alaska? What secrets is he hiding—are they all hiding? And will they find the truth? An award-winning page-turner, Blizzard is a breathless panorama of lonely souls making a life for themselves in the Far North, and of the dark truths they carry.

Content warning for rape and sexual violence, racism, sexism, violence.

Blizzard is a short but satisfying story, quite character driven and quiet, but still a compelling survival story set in a desolate Alaskan landscape. I assumed the survival part, but had no idea how much character story could be packed into such a short thriller! Obviously as such, I cannot tell you much for fear of spoiling, but suffice it to say that it is one of those books you can read in one sitting- and will likely want to!

Obviously as you can ascertain by the content warning, this book includes some pretty serious topics. I think it was such a great narrative choice to tell the physical survival story of the blizzard and searching for those missing in the storm parallel to the emotional and mental survival that the characters are fighting for. The short chapters (which I am a huge fan of, frankly) helped to make the book feel more urgent, and I definitely did not want to put it down.

Bottom Line: Short but immensely efficient, this little novel packed quite a punch.


Reviews in a Minute: Jumping… Out of January, and Into February Womb City by Tlotlo Tsamaase
Published by Erewhon on January 23, 2024
Pages: 416
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

WOMB CITY imagines a dark and deadly future Botswana, rich with culture and true folklore, which begs the question: how far must one go to destroy the structures of inequality upon which a society was founded? How far must a mother go to save the life of her child?

Nelah seems to have it all: wealth, fame, a husband, and a child on the way. But in a body her husband controls via microchip and the tailspin of a loveless marriage, her hopes and dreams come to a devastating halt. A drug-fueled night of celebration ends in a hit-and-run. To dodge a sentencing in a society that favors men, Nelah and her side-piece, Janith Koshal, finish the victim off and bury the body.

But the secret claws its way into Nelah's life from the grave. As her victim's vengeful ghost begins exacting a bloody revenge on everyone Nelah holds dear, she'll have to unravel her society's terrible secrets to stop those in power, and become a monster unlike any other to quench the ghost's violent thirst.

Content notice: Womb City contains depictions of blood, body horror, car accident, child death, death, death of parent, domestic abuse, drug use, emotional abuse, gaslighting, gore, grief, infertility, infidelity, kidnapping, miscarriage, misogyny, murder, physical abuse, pregnancy, rape, sexism, sexual violence, and violence.”

So, before we get to it, this is a dark book, which you can likely tell by the content warnings above from the start of the book. So please take care of yourselves if any of this is too much for you! The commentary that comes out of all of those awful concepts though felt certainly worth the read for me. This is not awfulness for the sake of awfulness, it is to demonstrate the society that our main character Nelah finds herself in. Things are not pretty. Especially for a woman, and even more especially for a woman of color, the world is a very unkind place (see what I mean about the commentary? This is rather important stuff, friends.) Also, because Nelah finds herself in a body of someone deemed “criminal”, and therefore has lost the right to any privacy, including her innermost thoughts, which are monitored by her (awful) husband.

What Worked For Me:

Obviously, saying I “enjoyed” this book would be a misnomer. I appreciate this book. I find a lot of value in this book. This book tells a great story. And that is the crux of what worked for me- seeing Nelah fight, and being mad as hell that Nelah has to fight so constantly. And look- Nelah has flaws of her own, don’t misunderstand! In fact, I really quite like that the author didn’t pain her in some kind of perfect light. No, Nelah makes plenty of mistakes, some choices that I didn’t understand or agree with. But at the root of it is that she is treated inhumanely for simply existing as a woman in this world.

Add to it all, Nelah has to save her own life and the life of her unborn child from this entity that is seeking vengeance. But what will the cost be? Can she even begin to do that with her controlling, abusive husband running interference? Can she trust anyone? There are so many great questions and mysteries to be answered along with the commentary.

What I Struggled With:

The ghost part was a bit hard for me to wrap my head around, honestly. I did begin to understand a bit more as it went along, but I did have some trouble with it for a bit. Also a bit difficult for me was the ending, which obviously I won’t speak of, except to say that I did have a bit of trouble following it at times. That said, it is still worth the story, and while I didn’t totally grasp what was happening at every turn, I grasped enough to make the whole thing satisfying enough.

Bottom Line: A brutal but thought provoking book that covers a range of important topics, with quite a mystery to boot.


Reviews in a Minute: Jumping… Out of January, and Into February You're Breaking My Heart by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
Published by Levine Quierdo on February 6, 2024
Pages: 392
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

Harriet Adu knows that her brother’s death is her fault. I mean, it’s not actually her fault, but it still kinda is, isn’t it?

She would do anything to live in a world where she could take back what she said that morning.

Then a strange girl shows up at Harriet’s high school – a girl who loves the same weird books Harriet does, who doesn’t vibe with anyone at school the same way Harriet does – and that different world suddenly seems possible. The girl speaks of a place underneath the subways of New York, where people like them can go and find a home. A place away from the world of high school, grief, cool people, and depression. A place where one may be able to bend the lines of reality and get a second chance at being a better person.

Will Harriet open the door?

With You’re Breaking My Heart , award-winning author Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich offers a remarkable speculative novel that will hit home for anyone who yearns for that one chance to do things over.

You’re Breaking My Heart is certainly a lovely book, you’ll find no argument from me there. We meet Harriet, who is not doing well and still deeply grieving from her brother’s very untimely, violent death. Obviously, you will feel for her, even more because she blames herself. I knew going in that this was definitely going to give me the feels, and it did, to an extent. In fairness, I think that the things I did not love about this book are more personal preferences, and hopefully won’t apply to all readers. Thing is, I had really thought I was going to be getting a real look into what a do-over would look like, how the outcomes would make Harriet feel, etc. Basically, a big focus on healing for Harriet, her picking up the pieces, etc.

And to some extent, I definitely did, and that is what I liked best about this story. There were, however, some narrative choices that simply didn’t work for me. For one, their is a point of view shift literally in the middle of one of the chapters. We go from third person to first, and perhaps it was supposed to be symbolic but I have no idea. I didn’t care for it, though I do prefer first person so I could live with it once I adjusted. The real struggle for me was the fantastical element, which was far stronger than I’d anticipated. The whole bit with the underworld realm or whatever it was kind of went way over my head, and mostly just confused me instead of providing an avenue for Harriet to explore her grief, which I assume to have been the point.

The story was still worth it, for me, because I did enjoy the parts where Harriet was coming to terms with what happened, was having to reflect on how she can move forward, and was finding people who may be able to help her through this. And if you are a fan of contemporary fantasy, this is certainly one you’ll want to try, as I imagine you’d have more luck with those bits, and would certainly still enjoy the character-driven components as I did.

Bottom Line: A lovely story about grief that was a bit more fantastical than I had bargained for.


Reviews in a Minute: Jumping… Out of January, and Into February No Time Like Now by Naz Kutub
Published by Bloomsbury YA on February 6, 2024
Pages: 320
Format:ARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review

A teen finds himself in a race against time when he learns he's given away more years than he has left to live in this thought-provoking speculative romp.

It's been one year since Hazeem's father passed away unexpectedly, and one year since Hazeem got his special ability: He can grant any living thing extra time. Since then, he's been randomly granting people more years to live: his old friend Holly, his study buddy Yamany, his crush Jack. . . . The only problem is, none of them wanted to spend any of that time with Hazeem.

Now, Hazeem spends most of his days with his grandmother. When she experiences a heart attack, Hazeem is quick to use his power to save her--until Time themself appears and tells Hazeem he has accrued a time debt, having given away more life than he has left to live and putting the entire timeline in serious danger of collapse. In order to save the timeline and himself, Hazeem must take back some of the life he has granted other people. Suddenly, Hazeem is on a journey through and against time, but as he confronts the events of the past, he must confront the mistakes he made along the way. Hazeem will come to realize that when it comes to time, quality is more important to quantity--but is it too late to reclaim the life he's given away so he can really start living?

No Time Like Now is a timely twist on A Christmas Carol that takes readers on a thought-provoking adventure, asking what matters most in life.

Well, this was a sweet book! It reads a bit on the younger end of YA, and features protagonist Hazeem, who has lost his father but seemingly gained the ability to save lives. Unbeknownst to Hazeem, he has not been able to just throw out time willy-nilly, but has been in effect borrowing from his own life. When he accidentally gives away too much time, he basically breaks time as we know it, and has to figure out how to get the world back to working order, with the help of Time Personified, as well as his should-be-long-dead hamster, Mary Shelley.

Now, this obviously is going to require some suspension of disbelief, but the story is just so heartfelt that it is easier to do so. Hazeem is struggling, and he’s struggling bad after the loss of his dad. And his mom has been super distant, because she is going through her own grief, but that isn’t exactly helping Hazeem. While he’s quite literally saved their lives, he’s become quite estranged from his friends, and the only companionship he currently has are the hamster and his grandmother.

I adored the spin on A Christmas Carol, even though Time has made it very clear that it is not their job nor desire to help Hazeem figure out his life. (Time, by the way, is quite entertaining and sarcastic, and I loved it.) But Time does want to get back to the business of… timing, I guess, so they agree to let Hazeem figure some stuff out by visiting the moments that he saved his friends, and what happened in the aftermath, so figure out who to take time back from.

Through it all, Hazeem has to come to terms with what happened with his dad, as well as the reasons his friendships fell apart. In some cases, he needs to work on things himself, but in some cases, he simply has to come to terms with life being messy. It’s a lot for a young person going through such grief to handle, but the author does such a good job of allowing Hazeem that time to heal- even if Time Personified isn’t thrilled with it! It’s a very moving story, and I loved the portrayal of the father-son relationship. Frankly, we need more of this, especially in YA, and extra especially showing healthy, loving, and emotive father-son relationships. Ditto the friendships, really.

Bottom Line: No Time Like Now is a very charming and heartfelt story about a young person dealing with grief and relationships in a fun and unique way.


Reviews in a Minute: Jumping… Out of January, and Into February No One Can Know by Kate Alice Marshall
Published by Flatiron Books on January 23, 2024
Pages: 336
Format:eARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

The author of What Lies in the Woods returns with a novel about three sisters, two murders, and too many secrets to count.

Emma hasn't told her husband much about her past. He knows her parents are dead and she hasn't spoken to her sisters in years. Then they lose their apartment, her husband gets laid off, and Emma discovers she's pregnant―right as the bank account slips into the red.

That's when Emma confesses that she has one more asset: her parents' house, which she owns jointly with her estranged sisters. They can't sell it, but they can live in it. But returning home means that Emma is forced to reveal her secrets to her husband: that the house is not a run-down farmhouse but a stately mansion, and that her parents died there.

Were murdered.

And that some people say Emma did it.

Emma and her sisters have never spoken about what really happened that night. Now, her return to the house may lure her sisters back, but it will also crack open family and small-town secrets lots of people don’t want revealed. As Emma struggles to reconnect with her old family and hold together her new one, she begins to realize that the things they have left unspoken all these years have put them in danger again.

This was good! I don’t think I was quite as connected to the characters as I was to the author’s previous novel, but I was definitely just as immersed in the mystery part! Here, we meet three sisters whose parents died under violent and still unsolved circumstances. They have all taken the deaths (and the subsequent investigation) very differently, but suffice it to say, their relationships with each other are virtually non-existent in the present day.

None of them really want anything to do with their past, but when Emma finds herself pregnant and her husband unemployed and their apartment no longer theirs, she knows she has one option, albeit not one she likes. She and her sisters have ownership of the family home, and since none of them could manage to agree to sell it, they can technically live there. Problem is, this move threatens to unearth trauma from the past, as well as a lot of unwelcome questions still swirling around the murders.

Obviously I shan’t say too much because, hello, mystery! But just as much a focus as the mystery is the relationship among the sisters. Clearly, their relationship was fraught before the murders, and the death of their parents pushed it to seemingly beyond repair. Speaking of the parents, you’re going to hate them and be high-key glad they’re dead. It becomes even more infuriating because not only did they let their daughters down, but then so did plenty of other people since then.

In effect, the story is two parts: one, the mystery of the murders; and the complex relationships of the three sisters. How did they get to this point in their lives, how they had to change their entire personalities, at times, in order to survive their pasts. All of these questions make for quite a compelling story, and I could not put it down, frankly.

Bottom Line: An exciting mystery with a lot of personal and relational development to boot. Definitely a page-turner!

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

Posted January 23, 2024 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in In a Minute, Review / 9 Comments

Divider

9 responses to “Reviews in a Minute: Jumping… Out of January, and Into February

  1. “Short but immensely efficient”
    I love how you worded it! That’s what every novella should aim for!

    It’s funny, because I was afraid that You’re Breaking My Heart would be LESS of a fantasy than the blurb promised – maybe because of the cover? I did enjoy that part, but I understand where you’re coming from – I guess you were expecting it to be more on the contemporary/magical realism side than on the fantasy one (and I agree that it was WILD!).

    “Frankly, we need more of this, especially in YA, and extra especially showing healthy, loving, and emotive father-son relationships. Ditto the friendships, really.”
    And…ditto 😂.

  2. I would like you to know, that I actually had a hold for that Chen book. I remember reading your reviews of his books, and when I read the synopsis for this one, I thought it could be good for me. Well, seeing all those stars has me convinced I made the right decision. Heartfelt, emotions, and time loops – what more do I need?

  3. Mike Chen. Mike fucking Chen. Right? I thought 12 Monkeys when I saw the blurb. And I never don’t like time travel, so… Kutub. Now let’s talk about Kate Marsgall. I’m seeing her everywhere and honestly… sound fantastic.

  4. You’ve totally sold me on the Mike Chen book. How did I miss that? And Womb City has been on my TBR for a long time but I had to cut things out due to time restrictions. Really glad to see you enjoyed it, I love the concept😁

Leave a Reply