Reviews in a Minute: February Fun

What is up with February?! I am drowning in reviews so here, take some, I beg! 🫠

Out of Body by Nia Davenport
The Imposition of Unnecessary Obstacles by Malka Ann Older
Your Shadow Half Remains by Sunny Moraine
Among the Living by Tim Lebbon
Projections by S.E. Porter
A Suffragist’s Guide to the Antarctic by Yi Shun Lai
What Feasts at Night by T. Kingfisher

Reviews in a Minute: February Fun Out of Body by Nia Davenport
Published by Balzer + Bray on February 6, 2024
Pages: 272
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

A high-stakes, propulsive YA thriller with a body-swap twist thoughtfully exploring themes of friendship and identity, perfect for fans of Tiffany D. Jackson.

Seventeen-year-old Megan Allen has been jumping from friend group to friend group in her high school, trying on identities like outfits. Nothing ever seems to fit—until she meets LC, the adventurous, charismatic girl who appears at her favorite coffee shop one day like magic. Finally, Megan feels like she’s becoming the person she’s meant to be: someone like LC.

On the night of their friendiversary, what was supposed to be a bonding experience ends in a waking nightmare. Suddenly, Megan is no longer herself. Too late, she realizes that LC has secrets—dangerous ones. Betrayed by her best friend, thrust into another girl’s life, and targeted by LC’s enemies, she must claim what makes Megan Megan to get her life back . . . or die trying.

Oh, I could not put this book down, friends! If you are looking for a story that will keep you up reading far too late, look no further! I was hooked. As this is a mystery, I will be keeping this short and sweet. Suffice it to say, I was hooked from the start, and the book never let up. We’re thrown right into the switch from the beginning, which did feel a tad overwhelming, but nothing too crazy. But obviously you cannot help but feel for Megan, whose body is literally stolen from her.

The twists and turns kept me on the edge of my seat, and like I said, I basically needed to know what happened next! A lot of the twists I did not see coming, and it was very readable. I also liked how much the characters grew during the book, especially considering it was on the shorter side and involved an intense mystery.

Bottom Line: Tons of twists and excitement, and great character development, this was an unputdownable win!

Reviews in a Minute: February Fun The Imposition of Unnecessary Obstacles by Malka Ann Older
Series: Mossa & Pleiti #2
Published by Tordotcom on February 13, 2024
Pages: 224
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

Investigator Mossa and Scholar Pleiti reunite to solve a brand-new mystery in the follow-up to the fan-favorite cozy space opera detective mystery The Mimicking of Known Successes that Hugo Award-winning author Charlie Jane Anders called “an utter triumph.”

Mossa has returned to Valdegeld on a missing person’s case, for which she’ll once again need Pleiti’s insight.

Seventeen students and staff members have disappeared from Valdegeld University—yet no one has noticed. The answers to this case could be found in the outer reaches of the Jovian system—Mossa’s home—and the history of Jupiter’s original settlements. But Pleiti’s faith in her life’s work as scholar of the past has grown precarious, and this new case threatens to further destabilize her dreams for humanity’s future, as well as her own.

Mossa and Pleiti are back, with a brand new mystery to solve, and just as the first book in the series, I quite liked this one!

Where in the first book I struggled a bit with the worldbuilding and figuring out what exactly was going down, I understood it much better and had a far easier time getting into the story. That said, I think some of the spark of the first book was lost a bit as Mossa and Pleiti are in a relationship now and therefore lost the “will-they-won’t-they” angst. Still, I quite enjoyed watching them navigate their new relationship, and I think many of us can sympathize with Pleiti’s insecurities and worries. Pleiti overthinks so much and I really enjoyed seeing a character who does that! Now, there are also a lot of Thesaurus Words™. Like a lot. It reminded me at times of that scene from Friends where Joey uses the thesaurus to write the adoption recommendation letter? Yeah, it felt a wee bit unnecessary. Like- I get that Pleiti is scholarly, but it got exhausting after a while!

So overall, this installment was a huge win for me! As I understood the world and characters more, I was better able to get into the story and become invested in the mystery, too. Definitely looking forward for more Mossa and Pleiti’s adventures!

Bottom Line: Solid sequel, can’t wait for more!

Reviews in a Minute: February Fun Your Shadow Half Remains by Sunny Moraine
Published by Tor Nightfire on February 6, 2024
Pages: 176
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

One look can kill.

Riley has not seen a single human face in longer than she can reckon. No faces, no eyes. Not if you want to survive.

But when a new neighbor moves in down the road, Riley’s overwhelming need for human contact makes her throw caution to the wind. Somehow, in this world where other people can mean a gruesome, bloody death, Ellis makes her feel safe. As they grow closer, Riley’s grip on reality begins to slip and she can no longer fight her deepest desires.

All Riley wants to do is look.

Look at this asshole bird on the cover. And look at it trying to merge into the person! I did not notice that at first, hate it, thanks. (Please note: the art is impressive, no hate there!) Anyway! There were parts of this story that I absolutely enjoyed, and then parts that kind of fell shorter for me. So let us dive in! 

What Worked For Me:

  • I do love me an apocalypse! And some parts of it are handled really well. There is a great quote that summed it up for me: “As it turns out, for no apparent reason, something can break in your world, and suddenly, all around you, people are dying bloody and screaming every fucking day. It’s horrifying. Then it’s weird. Then it’s inconvenient. Then it’s just every fucking day.” I mean how damn true does that seem? Even compared to other global events like COVID or wars or what have you, how on point does it really seem? Basically things did not just cease, but you can also tell that it is not great. Every day, more seems to be lost, and wow, that is depressing but also seems legit.
  • It is quite compelling, when you put yourself in Riley’s shoes. You know that this is a messed up world, and things are awful, and lots of people are dead, and society is basically in collapse. And Riley is so alone and it is really sad, and when she finally interacts with someone, you just cannot help but want to see what will happen with that.
  • I enjoyed the backstory and finding out what happened to the world. I mean. It is pretty nuts, right? I loved getting bits and pieces of the past from Riley’s thought flashbacks.

What I Struggled With:

  • The bird part was weird, and didn’t really totally fit into the story for me. I mean you know I don’t love them in general, but they just felt… extraneous I guess here? Nothing I love less than an extraneous bird.
  • I felt like they both figured out this apocalypse impossibly quickly, while simultaneously not understanding glaringly obvious things. Like- how the heck did they all figure it out within a couple weeks?! Guys. It took us like three months to figure out that a virus was killing people. So for people to crack the code so quickly seemed a little… iffy. But then! They have been living like this for a minute, right? But no one can find like, proper eyeball-filtering goggles or something!? They still have Amazon, and you’re telling me Bezos hasn’t been selling those bad boys for beaucoup profits? It just… it can’t be both, right? Either you get it, or you don’t, but I struggled with the in between.
  • Not much actually happened. I can’t tell you everything of course, but the present-day story is rather quiet. Makes sense in a way, since the world is pretty quiet at this point, but there weren’t really any major surprises for me. (See below for more on that.)

Just a Sidenote…

Don’t read the synopsis if you haven’t already. Honestly I feel like it gives away far too much of the story.

Bottom Line: A quieter post-apocalyptic fare with some great insight but a few issues.

Reviews in a Minute: February Fun Among the Living by Tim Lebbon
Published by Titan Books on February 13, 2024
Pages: 304
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

From the New York Times bestseller and author of Netflix’s The Silence comes a terrifying horror novel set in a melting Arctic landscape. Something deadly has lain dormant for thousands of years, but now the permafrost is giving up its secrets…

Estranged friends Dean and Bethan meet after five years apart when they are drawn to a network of caves on a remote Arctic island. Bethan and her friends are environmental activists, determined to protect the land. But Dean’s group's exploitation of rare earth minerals deep in the caves unleashes an horrific contagion that has rested frozen and undisturbed for many millennia. Fleeing the terrors emerging from the caves, Dean and Bethan and their rival teams undertake a perilous journey on foot across an unpredictable and volatile landscape. The ex-friends must learn to work together again if they’re to survive... and more importantly, stop the horror from spreading to the wider world.

A propulsive horror thriller––fast-moving, frightening, and shockingly relevant—this adventure will grip you until the final terrifying page.

Ah, more reasons to fear climate change, for who knows what the frozen depths will unthaw for us. Nothing good, if you ask Mr. Lebbon. The premise is fairly straightforward: two groups of folks end up unearthing some messy stuff in the Arctic. The ramifications will not be good. This is why greed is no bueno. Ditto climate change.

Dean and his group are trying to find some kind of… idk, let’s say Expensive Earth Junk™ for lack of a better term. Who cares, doesn’t matter. Bethann and her group are trying to stop people like Dean’s group from ruining all the things. This is how they find themselves together in this less-than-optimal situation. And, of course, Bethann and Dean have some Backstory, so you know that will be a thing.

This story is incredibly atmospheric, and I kept thinking what an amazing show or movie it would make. There is a lot of action, and very cool imagery that would be so fun to see on screen! Obviously, the stakes are high too- imagine the implications if some sort of millenia-old junk escaped, right? So that obviously kept me turning the pages! My only minor qualm is that I never felt that connected to Bethann or Dean? Like- we did get to know a decent amount about them, which was great! I just didn’t get a huge feel for who they were deep down. But alas, that is often par for the course when people are trying to survive and save everyone!

Bottom Line: A very intense and atmospheric cautionary tale about what could be lurking under the ice!

Reviews in a Minute: February Fun Projections by S.E. Porter
Published by Tor Books on February 13, 2024
Pages: 496
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review

S.E. Porter, critically-acclaimed YA author of Vassa in the Night , bursts onto the adult fantasy scene with her adult novel that is sure to appeal to fans of Jeff Vandemeer and China Mieville

Love may last a lifetime, but in this dark historical fantasy, the bitterness of rejection endures for centuries.

As a young woman seeks vengeance on the obsessed sorcerer who murdered her because he could not have her, her murderer sends projections of himself out into the world to seek out and seduce women who will return the love she denied―or suffer mortal consequence. A lush, gothic journey across worlds full of strange characters and even stranger magic.

Sarah Porter’s adult debut explores misogyny and the soul-corrupting power of unrequited love through an enchanted lens of violence and revenge.

Also by Sarah Vassa in the NightWhen I Cast Your ShadowNever-Contented Things

So disclaimer: this book took me a minute to get into. Okay maybe even more than that. That said, once it got going, I found myself very invested in the story. So if you’re cool with waiting for the payoff, I definitely think this one is worth it. The beginning was… confusing, and a little bland, and definitely verbose. And I was not sure I wanted to keep going. But at some point, probably around the 30% mark, I found myself reading and not even checking to see if I made progress, so that was a great sign!

And in fact, I had become very invested in this story, and especially in Catherine. It seemed all too real that Gus would murder Catherine, and still blame her for “making him” do it. Like is that not the grossest white guy crap you’ve ever heard? And you know it happens. All. The. Time. Not necessarily to the extent of murder (though it does happen, make no mistake) but with abuse in general. Anyway, somewhere along the way, I became as invested in Gus getting his comeuppance as Catherine was.

There ended up being a lot of very cool twists and turns, and things connected to one another that I hadn’t even thought about, which made the book become very readable. And I found myself quite curious about how Catherine was still hanging around, how the world worked, and what had truly happened in the past, all of which unfurls throughout the story. I am so glad I stuck with this one!

Bottom Line: The start was a little rocky, and it could have been shorter, but man did I get hooked by the story and its characters as it went on!

Reviews in a Minute: February Fun A Suffragist's Guide to the Antarctic by Yi Shun Lai
Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers on February 13, 2024
Pages: 336
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

A teen’s fight for suffrage turns into one of survival when her crew’s Antarctic expedition ship gets stuck in the ice in this historical novel told in journal entries.
November 1914.

Clara Ketterling-Dunbar is one of twenty-eight crew members of The Resolute —a ship meant for an Antarctic expedition now marooned on ice one hundred miles from the shore of the continent. An eighteen-year-old American, Clara has told the crew she’s a twenty-one-year-old Canadian. Since the war broke out, sentiment toward Americans has not been the most favorable, and Clara will be underestimated enough simply for being a woman without also giving away just how young she is. Two members of the crew know her nationality, but no one knows the truth of her activities in England before The Resolute set sail.

She and her suffragist sisters in the Women’s Social & Political Union were waging war of a different kind in London. They taught Clara to fight. And now, even marooned on the ice, she won’t stop fighting for women’s rights…or for survival. In the wilderness of Antarctica, Clara is determined to demonstrate what a woman is truly capable of—if the crew will let her.

More ice! Good thing Clara didn’t run into that situation up there with the melting, right? Oh, and TW for animal death and assault/attempted rape.

Erm, anyway. Clara is a young suffragette who decides to apply to an Antarctic mission to prove herself, to prove women in general. Only, whoopsie, the expedition does not go as planned, and Clara finds herself stuck on the literal ice with a bunch of men- some of whom are none too keen to share their mission with a woman. I really enjoyed the history behind this, and Clara’s experiences as a suffragette, both home and abroad.

It was certainly interesting to read about Clara’s experience, which is told through her journal entries. As such, we spend a lot of time in Clara’s head, which of course is a bit limiting. Still, we also get to know her innermost thoughts, which is a plus. I will say that one thing that I really did not love was the ending. I wanted more, and also, I felt like her decisions didn’t totally make sense for what we knew about her thus far. Plus you know how I feel about openness, which is probably more a personal preference, but alas.

So to sum up, yay for the history and survival adventure and the commentary on women’s struggles (and how they are very, very ongoing). Points off for the meh ending, and the fact that I would have probably preferred to be a little more “in” the adventure with Clara, rather than read her thoughts about it afterward.

Bottom Line: Loved the history and survival, would have also loved a bit stronger ending.

Reviews in a Minute: February Fun What Feasts at Night by T. Kingfisher
Series: Sworn Soldier #2
Published by Tor Nightfire on February 13, 2024
Pages: 160
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

The follow-up to T. Kingfisher’s bestselling gothic novella, What Moves the Dead .

Retired soldier Alex Easton returns in a horrifying new adventure.

After their terrifying ordeal at the Usher manor, Alex Easton feels as if they just survived another war. All they crave is rest, routine, and sunshine, but instead, as a favor to Angus and Miss Potter, they find themself heading to their family hunting lodge, deep in the cold, damp forests of their home country, Gallacia.

In theory, one can find relaxation in even the coldest and dampest of Gallacian autumns, but when Easton arrives, they find the caretaker dead, the lodge in disarray, and the grounds troubled by a strange, uncanny silence. The villagers whisper that a breath-stealing monster from folklore has taken up residence in Easton’s home. Easton knows better than to put too much stock in local superstitions, but they can tell that something is not quite right in their home. . . or in their dreams.

Love to be back with Alex Easton and the gang for another round of Wacky Shenanigans in a Fake European Countryside! Is that not the series name? It should be. Anyway. I just adore the characters and the world, so I was sold. I also won’t say much because look, it’s a sequel novella, and I should not be writing more words than the author, right?

I will say, I did not like the story quite as much as its predecessor. I cannot decide if it is just a personal preference (I personally preferred the environmental mystery to a paranormal one, which is definitely a “me” thing) or if the story didn’t hit as hard. Regardless, the truth is I would probably be totally fine with just reading a hundred or so pages about the characters traipsing through their daily lives, so it wasn’t a huge problem for me. I love learning more about them, and about the world. I also enjoyed the new characters we were introduced to, and thought it was great to see some new viewports from different people and places.

Bottom Line: Still wonderfully weird and full of delightful humor and characters, while this mystery didn’t pull me in quite as much, I still definitely enjoyed the story!

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

Posted February 10, 2024 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in In a Minute, Review / 6 Comments


6 responses to “Reviews in a Minute: February Fun

  1. Almost all of these are new to me. I am always leery of books that I think should have been shorter. It’s why I question those really long books. I am surprised to see Porter commit this crime. I read both Vassa and Shadows (some dark books). I don’t remember them being very long.

  2. “Nothing I love less than an extraneous bird.”

    Suffragist sounds very unique, though I understand your concerns. Kingfisher isn’t my jam – I read Book 1 (which everyone seems to like more than the second) because a friend gifted it to me, and I found it interesting, but retellings and historical are not my go-to genres…

  3. Ooooo lots of post-apoc and horror reads up there. That seems perfect for this hell year and also for the dark winter bleakness. Yay! Looks like an overall pretty good batch. Out of Body sounds like my jam, so I’m excited for that. Bring on the high stakes stories!

Leave a Reply