ARC Review – Jack’s on Fire

Hello, everyone! Today I am reviewing Jack’s on Fire by Owen Lach, which was just published last week. As the cover suggests, it is a cute YA romance. So, if that’s your cup of tea, be sure to check it out!

What if you were a queer teenage musician outed by his vengeful ex-boyfriend and not a fairy tale princess trapped in a castle tower? What if your wicked stepmother was your ordinary, thoughtless, uncaring mother? What if your fairy godmother was your older brother? What if your Prince Charming was captain of the JV soccer team? Maybe you’d be forgiven for not realizing you were living in a sort of fairy tale.

Faced with the impossible choice of staying home to risk being sent away to Father Sullivan’s special school for exceptionally happy boys or moving in with his older brother in California, 16-yr-old Jack Martin leaves behind everything he knows in Minneapolis to go to San Francisco. He finds himself at a new school with new friends and the freedom to be himself. Then sparks fly when Jack meets Damon, his Geometry tutor (and captain of the JV soccer team.) But Jack wonders if Damon feels those sparks, too. And does their budding friendship have a chance to become something more?

Jack’s On Fire is a heartwarming, modern, queer fairy tale about friendship, chosen family, and young, queer love perfect for fans of Heartstopper. Sure, there aren’t any fairies or wands. But what else would you call it when everything starts magically going your way?

***Thank you to Jetspace Studio for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

This book is exactly what the cover and synopsis suggest: a delightful queer fairy tale focused on found family and the healing power of acceptance. Jack was such a great protagonist, and I appreciated the realistic portrayal of anxiety his character represented. He experienced so much growth, both in managing his anxiety and learning to trust and be open with others. I felt so much joy watching him realize that people could not only accept him but also love him for who he was.

His relationships with others, especially his brother and Damon, were the highlights of the story for me. He had a fun, easygoing relationship with his brother despite the circumstances of the two of them being thrown together, and I just loved the honesty and mutual support they shared. The friendship, and eventual romance, between Jack and Damon was sickeningly sweet and an absolute delight to read. The slow burn friends to lovers romance created a will-they-or-won’t-they tension that was fun, even though it was fairly obvious they’d end up together. This was a fairy tale after all.

On that note, this was largely a low angst story about the queer kid getting everything he had ever wanted after being moved from a hostile environment to a supportive one. There were moments of despair, but the general vibe of the book was very positive and devoted to giving Jack the perfect healing experience. That being said, sometimes I wished things wouldn’t have gone quite so easily for him. What can I say? I love drama. lol. However, I did enjoy the book for the positive vibes, and seeing Jack live the dream so many queer kids have of unconditional love and acceptance was a cathartic experience.

Now I’m going to be a bit picky. There was one character who seemed to exist only to create the conditions needed for the final climax. Their arc felt removed from the rest of the narrative, and I found the eventual outcome obvious despite also feeling a bit blindsided by it because it seemed like it should have been part of another story. Despite this pickiness about a relatively small detail, I loved this book and think it would be perfect for fans of Heartstopper because of its focus on queer joy and an absolutely adorable friends to lovers high school romance. Therefore, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars!

Top 5 Tuesday – Top 5 Anticipated Reads for Oct-Dec 2022

Hello everyone! It’s been way too long since I’ve participated in Top 5 Tuesday. What can I say? I’ve been super lazy when it comes to blog posts that aren’t reviews or wrap-ups. I’m still feeling lazy, but this is a pretty easy topic. So, I thought I’d hop on board for at least this week with my top 5 anticipated reads for this last quarter of 2022. Strangely enough, the first two actually released TODAY, and I’ll be making a trip to B&N to snatch them up. 🙂 Top 5 Tuesday was created by Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm, and is now being hosted at Meeghan Reads!

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Monthly Wrap-Up: September 2022

As I’m sitting here thinking back about this month, nothing special really stands out. I honestly can’t believe it has already been a month since the last wrap-up post. It seems like it was just the other day. I’m excited the weather is finally getting at least a little cooler. Although, I’m sure we will still have several last gasps of summer before fall really arrives. I do live in Louisiana after all. I don’t really have anything else to say about September. So, let’s just move on to my updates about reading. lol.

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Mini Reviews – Daughter of Sparta/Blood of Troy

Hello, everyone! Today I’ve got two mini reviews. The first is a review of Daughter of Sparta by Claire M. Andrews. I’ve had this one on my shelf since last year, and I was happy to finally get to it.

Sparta forged her into a deadly weapon. Now the gods need her to save the world!

Seventeen-year-old Daphne has spent her entire life honing her body and mind into that of a warrior, hoping to be accepted by the unyielding people of ancient Sparta. But an unexpected encounter with the goddess Artemis—who holds Daphne’s brother’s fate in her hands—upends the life she’s worked so hard to build. Nine mysterious items have been stolen from Mount Olympus, and if Daphne cannot find them, the gods’ waning powers will fade away, the mortal world will descend into chaos, and her brother’s life will be forfeit.

Guided by Artemis’s twin—the handsome and entirely-too-self-assured god Apollo—Daphne’s journey will take her from the labyrinth of the Minotaur to the riddle-spinning Sphinx of Thebes, team her up with mythological legends such as Theseus and Hippolyta of the Amazons, and pit her against the gods themselves.

A reinterpretation of the classic Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo, Daughter of Sparta, by debut author Claire M. Andrews turns the traditionally male-dominated mythology we know into a heart-pounding and empowering female-led adventure.

This was a very unique retelling of several classic myths that centered the exploits of Daphne as the main protagonist. She was enlisted by the gods to assist in finding stolen items crucial to the power of Olympus and its residents. Apollo joins her on the journey to save Olympus, and they have a myriad of adventures that take them from Crete to the depths of Tartarus. I liked both of these characters a lot. Daphne was determined to be a great warrior despite everyone discounting her for being a girl, and Apollo was haunted by his past mistakes and hiding behind a mask of glib cockiness. Their relationship was my favorite thing about the book, and their banter was fun to read. Unfortunately, the writing was lacking and seemed very unpolished. Some of the transitions between scenes/chapters left me scratching my head wondering if I’d missed something. I also found all the secret-keeping really annoying, and the way the relationship between Daphne and Apollo left off at the end was incredibly unsatisfying and felt like it yanked away much of the character progression. It was also a bit weird that Daphne worked so hard to save the existing social order of the dominance of the gods when much of the rest of the book was inherently feminist in its approach to the story. Overall, there were some fun moments and clever re-imaginings of the source material, but the lackluster writing and annoying ending left me wanting more. Therefore, I rate this book 3 out of 5 stars.

My second review of the day is about Blood of Troy by Claire M. Andrews, which is the recently published sequel to Daughter of Sparta.

The Sparta you know will be gone forever on the bloody fields of Troy.
 
A year after Daphne saved the powers of Olympus by defeating Nyx, the Goddess of Darkness, she’s haunted by still-looming threats, her complicated feelings for the god Apollo, and the promise she made to the Olympian gods that she would help them again when they called upon her. When their command comes, it is deceptively simple: secure herself a spot as one of Queen Helen’s guards.
 
A war is coming, and all of Sparta must be prepared.
 
In the midst of a treaty summit among the monarchs of Greece, Daphne and Helen uncover a plot of betrayal—and soon, a battle begins. As the kingdoms of Greece clash on the shores of Troy and the gods choose sides, Daphne must use her wits, her training, and her precarious relationship with Apollo to find a way to keep her queen safe, stop the war, and uncover the true reason the gods led her to Troy in this thrilling sequel to Daughter of Sparta.

I’m honestly at a loss for words in regards to how disappointed I was by this book, which is weird because I went in with super low expectations after not really loving the first one. I think that it comes from the fact that this book did so many things much better… until it didn’t. The writing significantly improved in this book compared to the first one, and the pacing felt much more deliberate and less frantic. Many of the secondary characters got more time to shine, especially Helen, and I enjoyed many of this author’s unique twists on the Trojan War and the Titanomachy. The focus on the politics of Olympus and the machinations instigating the Trojan War was probably my favorite thing about the book, and I loved that it took the time to give a closer look at the culture and politics of Sparta and Troy. Daphne’s journey navigating both the Olympian and human squabbles was also interesting, and I appreciated the depiction of her PTSD and the real impacts the events of the previous book had on her psyche. My favorite thing from the first book was missing, though. Apollo had a much smaller presence in this story, and his relationship with Daphne was insufferable. I missed the easy banter between them a lot. So, why was I so disappointed in this book? Put simply, the ending. It felt like a rushed mess. There were so many ‘shocking reveals’ it made my head spin, and there are some things I still don’t understand because the deliberate nature of the rest of the book was thrown out the window at the end. I’m honestly not even sure if all the things that happened in the end make any sense at all, but I’m at the point of not caring. Needless to say, I won’t be picking up the third book despite enjoying most of the book quite a bit. I thought this was going to be a solid 4 star read for most of my time reading it, but the mess of an ending drops it down to 3 stars.

Monthly TBR – October 2022

Hello, everyone! I don’t have very many ARCs this month. So, I’m going to try to catch up on the ones where I missed the release date and then get a head start on some of November’s releases. I’ll also be doing a bit of mood reading beyond these selections. I just got a ton of new audiobooks from the Audible sale last month, and I’m dying to get to some of them. I’ve also got some library books that aren’t listed here. So, stay tuned to see what they are when I get to them over the next couple weeks. 🙂 I hope you all have a great month and are enjoying the start of spooky season!

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