Reviews in a Minute: February Meets March

I felt like I needed to keep this melty face because I still feel overwhelmed by books and also life so he stays until I feel less sođź«  But here are some books, quite a few awesome ones, from Late Feb/Early March!

Listen for the Lie by Amy Tintera
Moon of the Turning Leaves by Waubgeshig Rice
Breathing Underwater by Abbey Nash
Thirst by Marina Yuszczuk, Heather Cleary (translator)
Tomorrow’s Children by Daniel Polansky
Tender Beasts by Liselle Sambury
The Truth of the Aleke by Moses Ose Utomi

Reviews in a Minute: February Meets March Listen for the Lie by Amy Tintera
Published by Celadon Books on March 5, 2024
Pages: 352
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

What if you thought you murdered your best friend? And if everyone else thought so too? And what if the truth doesn't matter?

After Lucy is found wandering the streets, covered in her best friend Savvy’s blood, everyone thinks she is a murderer. Lucy and Savvy were the golden girls of their small Texas town: pretty, smart, and enviable. Lucy married a dream guy with a big ring and an even bigger new home. Savvy was the social butterfly loved by all, and if you believe the rumors, especially popular with the men in town. It’s been years since that horrible night, a night Lucy can’t remember anything about, and she has since moved to LA and started a new life.

But now the phenomenally huge hit true crime podcast "Listen for the Lie," and its too-good looking host Ben Owens, have decided to investigate Savvy’s murder for the show’s second season. Lucy is forced to return to the place she vowed never to set foot in again to solve her friend’s murder, even if she is the one that did it.

I loved every last thing about this book. Everything! I simultaneously could not put it down, but also did not want it to end. Best combination ever, right? How can I even convince you to read this, since it is a mystery and therefore must keep things short? I’ll try.

The first thing you need to know is that the voice of our narrator, Lucy, is everything. She is hilarious and sarcastic and messy and just so readable. She was so entertaining that I kind of wanted to stay in her head forever. She remembers nothing of the night that her best friend Savvy died, and everyone in town thinks she is the guilty party. She has a lot of feelings about this, and they are just so fun to read about! She heads home at the behest of her beloved grandmother, under the rouse of her 80th birthday party. The truth, however, is that Grandma wants her to meet up with Podcast Ben, who is in town to do a story on Savvy’s murder and wants to interview her. Sidenote here, I adored Lucy’s grandmother in ways I cannot properly communicate.

Anyway, Lucy comes back, and Ben has been digging around and unearthing all kinds of secrets about literally everyone in town. Lucy finds herself wanting to know, once and for all, what happened the night Savvy died, and ends up meeting with Ben. And this is when things get bananas, and where I cannot tell you anymore. They uncover all kinds of mysteries, and I was unable to put this book down, beyond eager to find out what happened to Savvy (and all the other juicy gossip they unearth along the way).

Bottom Line: In love, will be buying for friends and family.

Reviews in a Minute: February Meets March Moon of the Turning Leaves by Waubgeshig Rice
Series: Moon of the.. #2
Published by William Morrow on February 27, 2024
Pages: 320
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

In this gripping sequel to the award-winning post-apocalyptic novel Moon of the Crusted Snow , a brave scouting party of hunters and harvesters led by Evan Whitesky must venture into unknown and dangerous territory to find a new home for their close-knit but slowly starving Northern Ontario Indigenous community more than a decade after a world-ending blackout.

For the past twelve years, a community of Anishinaabe people have made the Northern Ontario bush their home in the wake of the infrastructural power failure that brought about governmental and societal collapse. Hunters and harvesters, they have survived and thrived the way their ancestors once did, but their natural food resources are dwindling, and the time has come to find a new home. Evan Whitesky volunteers to lead a dangerous mission south to explore the possibility of moving back to their ancestral home, the “land where the birch trees grow by the big water” in the Great Lakes region.

Accompanied by five others, including his daughter Nangohns, a great archer and hunter, Evan begins a journey that will take him through the reserve where the Anishinaabe were once settled, the devastated city of Gibson, and a land now being reclaimed by nature. But it isn’t just the wilderness that poses a threat as they encounter other survivors. Those who, like the Anishinaabe, live in harmony with the land. And those who use violence to fulfill their needs. . .

Well, this is how you do a sequel! I enjoyed the first book, and was pleased to see a sequel in the works, but this one exceeded my expectations. In this installment, instead of following Evan, we follow his now-teen daughter Nangohns. I must say that I enjoyed Nangohns’s character quite a bit more. She barely has any memory of the “before”, which is, our current society which collapsed when she was a child. As such, she sees the world so differently, and it was such an interesting contrast, especially to her parents’ perspective, as so much had changed for them.

The beginning of the book is slow and quiet, much like its predecessor, but once there is movement, it becomes quite exciting. It is still a quieter book, don’t misunderstand, but the addition of this bigger quest makes it far more entertaining. There is a lot of lovely character and relationship development as well, which makes for a very satisfying story. There is a lot of great cultural content about the Anishinaabe people, as we learn so much more of their customs and lifestyle. There is also quite a bit of commentary on humanity in general, and the sorts of people who would survive a catastrophic event.

Bottom Line: A fabulous sequel that was definitely worth the journey!

Reviews in a Minute: February Meets March Breathing Underwater by Abbey Nash
Published by Holiday House on March 5, 2024
Pages: 224
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

In this slice-of-life, sensitively written novel, a teen girl grapples with a sudden epilepsy diagnosis, all while figuring out a new crush and an uncertain future.

Seventeen-year-old Tess Cooper lives by three train hard, study hard, work hard. Swimming is her best chance at a college scholarship. It’s what her parents, her coaches, and even her best friend expect from her—and Tess can always deliver.

Until tragedy strikes. Tess has a seizure, and her world suddenly becomes one of doctor visits, missed practices, and a summer job stuck behind a counter—not sitting high in the lifeguard chair like every year before.

Instead, her spot goes to new guy Charlie. Sure, his messy hair and laid-back demeanor sends Tess’ heart racing, but this isn’t really the time. She’s got to focus on getting back in the pool—regardless of what her doctor or anyone else says.

Breathing Underwater is a contemporary book about Tess, who is a swimmer hoping to obtain a college scholarship, when her life is upended by a series of seizures. Obviously, I am drawn to any swimming book.  The author mentions that any errors are her taking creative license, which  I really appreciated- sometimes it can take me out of a swimming book especially when there are errors, so I like that she said this! (In fairness, she did a pretty solid job, too!)

Obviously, you have to feel for Tess here. Putting myself in her shoes, I’d have been next-level devastated. But she is also determined not to let her epilepsy diagnosis totally railroad her life, which is admirable but also kind of scary- what if this is not the best option for her? She also has to work through relationships with her friends/teammates, a new potential love interest, and her parents, who are at opposing ends of whether she should get back in the pool.

I don’t know how much this one will stick with me if I am being honest, but it was enjoyable to read and was a great spin on trying to navigate life and reevaluate your plans when a health condition derails them. Obviously, the scholarship angle is a big deal, but beyond that, no one really becomes a “professional swimmer”. It just doesn’t exist. People training for the Olympics usually have to have day jobs if they are out of college. There are a handful who get sponsored by Speedo and the like, but that’s literally a one-in-a-billion, so I don’t really think Tess is being realistic at points, but alas. Also, swimming scholarships are basically unicorns. She’d get some money if she was Olympic-level good, but usually swim teams get one or two full scholarships to divide, or give to one superstar I guess. Anyway, just some of the ways that women and non-ball athletes get shafted. Regardless, even if she wasn’t going to be financially impacted by the epilepsy, it is still a huge personal toll, which I think I wish was explored just a little more, but overall, I really liked the story!

Bottom Line: A great sports-based story about a young woman having to overcome an unfortunate diagnosis.

Reviews in a Minute: February Meets March Thirst by Marina Yuszczuk, Heather Cleary
Published by Dutton on October 1, 2020
Pages: 276
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

Across two different time periods, two women confront fear, loneliness, mortality, and a haunting yearning that will not let them rest. A breakout, genre-blurring novel from one of the most exciting new voices of Latin America’s feminist Gothic.

It is the twilight of Europe’s bloody bacchanals, of murder and feasting without end. In the nineteenth century, a vampire arrives from Europe to the coast of Buenos Aires and, for the second time in her life, watches as villages transform into a cosmopolitan city, one that will soon be ravaged by yellow fever. She must adapt, intermingle with humans, and be discreet.

In present-day Buenos Aires, a woman finds herself at an impasse as she grapples with her mother's terminal illness and her own relationship with motherhood. When she first encounters the vampire in a cemetery, something ignites within the two women—and they cross a threshold from which there’s no turning back.
With echoes of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and written in the vein of feminist Gothic writers like Shirley Jackson, Daphne du Maurier, and Carmen Maria Machado, Thirst plays with the boundaries of genre while exploring the limits of female agency, the consuming power of desire, and the fragile vitality of even the most immortal of creatures.

In Thirst, we follow two characters: One, a vampire, over a century ago as she moves from Europe to Buenos Aires; the second, a modern woman struggling with a lot of current-day problems like single motherhood, the illness of a parent, and general dissatisfaction with life. While I did appreciate a lot of the things this book had to offer, a few left me wishing for more. So, as I love to do, let’s break it down!

What Worked For Me:

  • The location and time periods! I do wish we’d gotten to see a bit more of Buenos Aires, though I was quite excited to be there! I also loved that we got to experience it in two very different time periods (technically, even more I suppose, but two for sure), which showed two very different examples of the city. I mean, did you know about the Paraguayan War? I didn’t, but now I do! There was also a plague, and to the best of my sleuthing, it seems to have been yellow fever? Regardless, I know now quite a bit more about the history of Buenos Aires than I did before, and that is a win.
  • I quite enjoyed the character of Alma. I mean- don’t get me wrong, the vampire part was fascinating, too. I just liked the character of Alma more. (Interestingly, I read plenty of reviews that felt the opposite, so do with this what you will!) I did enjoy the journey to see how these two very different women, with stories vastly differing from each other, would connect. (As you’ll see below, I did not enjoy the way it all went down, but I did enjoy trying to figure out how it would all happen.) I felt a lot for Alma, and her current life situations. She was compelling, for me, and I was eager to see what would happen next.
  • The atmosphere was on point. This definitely had a gothic, vampiric feel to it, which I definitely appreciated!

What I Struggled With:

Okay here’s the thing, my biggest issue with this book: the character development is completely incongruent with the choices they make. I am keeping this vague, but I will do spoiler tags to explain more. But look- I actually liked the character development, especially that of present-day Alma, like I mentioned. But then some of the things that end up happening make absolutely no sense to who the book has been making her out to be all along! It could be that something is lost in translation here, but I can’t say for sure, as me and my very basic Spanish can’t exactly translate it ourselves. It just kind of made me feel like the whole of the story is pointless, if nothing that Alma said or felt was genuine, if that makes sense? View Spoiler »

Also, I didn’t fully understand what made the vampire character tick. Bloodlust, obviously, as the title implies, but little else. As such, I could not understand fully the appeal of her, as a character. That part may be on me, as I said above, others seemed to quite enjoy her character, even if she didn’t do it for me.

Bottom Line: A dual-timeline, dual-character POV story that I enjoyed but also felt let down by.

Reviews in a Minute: February Meets March Tomorrow's Children by Daniel Polansky
Published by Angry Robot on February 27, 2024
Pages: 400
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

From Hugo Award nominated author comes a high-octane post-apocalyptic romp set in the ruins of Manhattan.

Tomorrow, the funk descends on Manhattan, a noxious cloud which separates the island from the rest of the world and mutates the population. Some generations on, the surviving population exists amid the rubble of modernity, wearing our cast-off clothing, worshipping celebrities as dim gods and using emojis in place or written language. The Island exists in a state of uneasy peace, with each neighborhood an independent fiefdom, protecting itself with scrap metal spears and Molotov cocktails.

But something new has come to the Island, the first tourist in centuries, and this uneasy equilibrium is about to shatter…

Well, this was a bizarre book! I won’t lie, it took me some time to get into. Like, to the point where I thought about stopping because I was so lost? But at some point it just… started growing on me? I don’t fully understand how or why, but I ended up feeling invested in the character and story, so there you have it.

It’s the future, long after some apocalypse or another wreaked havoc on the world. And it seems to be clinging onto Manhattan specifically, in the form of some kind of fog they call “the funk”. Now, most of the characters use slang that has evolved over the years, a lot of which I had trouble understanding. So while I think I understand stuff, who knows if I actually do. Anyway, the city is divided into several factions, and they seem totally down with killing each other if it is so needed. Also, they eat dogs, so maybe a TW for that? But yeah, most of the plot involves the factions trying to overthrow each other and also some attempts to destroy the island.

There is a lot of personality in this book, that is for sure. The footnotes in particular I enjoyed, and there were definitely a lot of (dark) humorous moments, which I appreciated. Also, it seems that the world in general may not be quite as messy as Manhattan, which I kind of wish had been discussed a bit more because I was very intrigued. I also found the vast differences between the factions interesting, and like I said, many of the characters grew on me, even if it was kind of against my will. And be aware, there are a lot of characters (thanks again to the footnotes, they do help!)

Bottom Line: This was a strange book, yet one that ended up sucking me in even if I was overwhelmed for a bit.

Reviews in a Minute: February Meets March Tender Beasts by Liselle Sambury
on February 27, 2024
Pages: 416
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

After her private school is rocked by a gruesome murder, a teen tries to find the real killer and clear her brother’s name in this psychological thriller perfect for fans of The Taking of Jake Livingston and Ace of Spades.

Sunny Behre has four siblings, but only one is a murderer.

With the death of Sunny’s mother, matriarch of the wealthy Behre family, Sunny’s once picture-perfect life is thrown into turmoil. Her mother had groomed her to be the family’s next leader, so Sunny is confused when the only instructions her mother leaves is a mysterious note: “Take care of Dom.”

The problem is, her youngest brother, Dom, has always been a near-stranger to Sunny…and seemingly a dangerous one, if found guilty of his second-degree murder charge. Still, Sunny is determined to fulfill her mother’s dying wish. But when a classmate is gruesomely murdered, and Sunny finds her brother with blood on his hands, her mother’s simple request becomes a lot more complicated. Dom swears he’s innocent, and although Sunny isn’t sure she believes him, she takes it upon herself to look into the murder—made all the more urgent by the discovery of another body. And another.

As Sunny and Dom work together to track down the culprit, Sunny realizes her other siblings have their own dark secrets. Soon she may have to choose: preserve the family she’s always loved or protect the brother she barely knows—and risk losing everything her mother worked so hard to build.

CW via author’s note: “Content warnings: death of a parent/ grief, animal death (on page—cow and lizard; off page, referenced but not described—cat; off page, referenced and somewhat described—unspecified animals), mentions of self-harm/ suicide, drinking and drug use, infidelity, discussions of toxic intimate relationships, detailed body horror/ gore, violence, death (includes child death)”

Gosh, I have yet to meet a Liselle Sambury book I didn’t devour. This one was no exception! In Tender Beasts, we meet Sunny, who has recently lost her mom and finds herself trying to navigate family dynamics in a family that… well look, it doesn’t quite operate like most of ours, I suspect. The Behre’s are quite wealthy, the owners of a private school for students who need the opportunity of a better education. Sounds really noble, right? And it is… until a student is murdered.

Sunny, who is extremely pragmatic when we meet her, almost to the point of coldness, is determined to find out what happened. She is insistent that her mother wanted her and her alone to take over the role of matriarch, but her oldest sister and father are hearing none of it. Add to it, her younger brother, Dom, has been a family outcast since they were children, for reasons Sunny can’t discern. And the more time she spends with Dom trying to figure out what is happening, the more she realizes that her family was pretty messed up to cast out a child to begin with.

This is when the secrets start unfurling left, right, and center, and Sunny finds herself in the midst of all kinds of messed up stuff. Hidden family secrets from long ago and recently threaten to hurl the family into chaos, and the siblings don’t know who among themselves they can even trust. There is so much to unpack, so many relationships to navigate, and it really was quite the ride!

Bottom Line: Delightfully messed up and full of family drama, this is another win from Liselle Sambury!

Reviews in a Minute: February Meets March The Truth of the Aleke by Moses Ose Utomi
Series: Forever Desert #2
Published by Tordotcom on March 5, 2024
Pages: 112
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley

Faith is their armor. Truth is their spear. History is their battlefield.

500 years after the events of The Lies of the Ajungo, the City of Truth is the last remaining city of the Forever Desert. Long ago, it stood alone against the might of the monstrous Chief Tutu, and has since become a bastion of freedom and peace. The city has successfully weathered the near-constant attacks from the Cult of Tutu, who have besieged it for over a century, capturing any passerby and using them as human shields.

17-year-old Osi is a Junior Peacekeeper in the City. When the mysterious leader of the Cult, known only as the Aleke, commits a massacre in the capitol and steals the sacred God's Eyes, Osi steps forward to valiantly defend his home. For his bravery he is tasked with a tremendous responsibility—destroy the Cult of Tutu, bring back the God's Eyes, and discover the truth of the Aleke.

Another fabulous installment in the Forever Desert series! Man, the author has a way of pulling you into the world and characters in so few pages! Just like its predecessor, we are treated to a glimpse of the world, though much time has passed since the first book. Still, the characters and plot are incredibly compelling, and I felt so very emotionally connected to the characters. There are moments of humor mixed in with the more serious matters at hand, and I just found this an equally strong installment. If you have not yet started this series… well, what the heck are you waiting for?

Bottom Line: Great commentary, amazing characters, and a very intriguing world, I cannot wait for book 3!

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

Posted March 4, 2024 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in In a Minute, Review / 7 Comments


7 responses to “Reviews in a Minute: February Meets March

  1. I have been seeing a lot of great reviews for the Tintera book. I loved those Ruined books, so I am not surprised, And that bottom line made me smile.

  2. Wow, such a varied bunch here! I’ve always wanted to read the Rice series, so I may buy both books so I have them for future TBR jar reads. I just read a glowing review of Thirst today, so I love seeing a different take on it. I hope to squeeze it in later this month. Awesome reviews, Shannon!

  3. The Tintera book must be something – it relies on a number of tropes and still makes them seem fresh, I guess? (I’ve just read Ethan’s glowing review as well).

    I have Sambury’s former book on my list, after which, who knows…if I like her style, I might tackle this one!

  4. Jessica

    I don’t know Waubgeshig Rice wrote a sequel. His first book was so awesome. I will be getting the book soon, but I have so many books to read right now. I’m reading right now Watchers by Dean Koontz. My mother has been bugging to read it. She had listened to it on youtube. She wanted me to listen to it, but I rather read it.

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