Mini Reviews – April 2020 Releases

 

It’s time for a new batch of mini reviews and this time it’s April ARCs. I’ve got a bit of a mixed bag here in terms of genre – YA contemporary, YA fantasy, and Historical Romance, but these are the books that have gotten me through the first week of my state’s stay-at-home order.

 

Mini Reviews – April 2020 ReleasesJack Kerouac Is Dead to Me Goodreads

Author: Gae Polisner

Publication Date: April 7, 2020

Publisher:  Wednesday Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

Gae Polisner’s Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me is an oh-so-relatable YA contemporary about the challenges of being a teenager.  The story follows 15-year-old JL Markham who is firmly caught between the pressure of being forced to grow up too fast vs. those of not being allowed to grow up fast enough.  When the novel opens, we learn that JL has had a falling out with her lifelong best friend, Aubrey, and that she is trying to make amends.  It remains to be seen exactly what the falling out was over, but it’s clear the two have been drifting apart for a while now. Aubrey has a whole new circle of friends, while JL is left on the outside looking in.  JL is also dealing with the everyday peer pressure that confronts high school students – parties, drinking, dating, and especially in JL’s case because her boyfriend Max is four years older than she is, the added pressure to have sex, perhaps before one is ready.

Then as if being a teenager isn’t challenging enough, JL is also dealing with absentee parents and thus is pretty much on her own, without any guidance whatsoever, to navigate the issues she is facing.  Her father, although he hasn’t technically abandoned her, has been on the other side of the country for 18 months for his job and rarely checks in, except to push back his return home date.  This is especially disturbing considering JL’s mother is clearly suffering from a mental illness that has left her barely functioning. She sits around wearing kimonos most of the time, drinks a lot, and of all random things, writes love letters to Jack Kerouac (yes, the dead famous author).

Polisner does a tremendous job of making JL a sympathetic character.  She lets the reader inside JL’s head so we can see firsthand how she is coping and what her thoughts are about everything that is going on around her. She’s so lost and overwhelmed, and just hoping that she’s making the right decisions as she tries to figure things out day-by-day.  Max is the only one who is there for her, but is he there for the right reasons?  And where I was sympathetic to JL, I was unfortunately not a big fan of any of the other characters in the book, Max included. It seemed like they were all just either flat out awful to JL or just not there for her at all even though they should have been.  I honestly found myself angry and frustrated at all of them.

Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me is a quick read but it’s also one that packs an emotional punch because of everything JL goes through.  The only reason my rating isn’t higher is because I felt the ending was somewhat abrupt and left me with several questions that weren’t resolved.  Even with my lingering questions, however, it was still another great read from Gae Polisner.  3.5 STARS

 

 

Mini Reviews – April 2020 ReleasesRuthless Gods Goodreads

Author: Emily A. Duncan

Publication Date: April 7, 2020

Publisher:  Wednesday Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

Ruthless Gods is the second book in Emily A. Duncan’s YA fantasy trilogy, Something Dark and Holy. It’s hard to review the middle book of a trilogy for fear of spoiling it for those who haven’t read the first book, but I’m going to do my best and will keep my remarks as general as possible.

What struck me the most about Ruthless Gods is that it definitely took a darker turn than Wicked Saints, which was already pretty dark.  In that sense, it kind of reminded me of The Empire Strikes Back vs. A New Hope.   There are dark forces at work everywhere, and those dark forces are impacting everyone, especially the main characters from the first book.  Nadya, the cleric who is the only one who can communicate with her Gods, can suddenly no longer reach them. It’s like they’ve cut her off.  Serefin, the Prince of Tranavia, is haunted by voices and feels as if his entire body has literally been taken over by someone or something else. And then there’s Malachiasz, the Prince’s brother, who is torn between who he once was and the monster he has become after incidents at the end of book one.  All three are battling inner demons and trying to figure out what is expected of them because it becomes clear they are pawns in someone else’s game.  Watching them struggle, I quickly found myself enamored with and rooting for all three characters all over again and anxious to see what awaited them.

As with Wicked Saints, the world building is phenomenal and I loved how dark and atmospheric it was and that it all felt tinged with the supernatural.  As much as I enjoyed the world building, the characters, and the overall story, I do have to admit that the pacing was a bit slow early on.  As Duncan starts to weave together the pieces that bind Nadya, Serefin, and Malachiasz, however, the book, thankfully, really takes off and I flew through the last half.

Even though I thought this second book was a little uneven in terms of its delivery, Ruthless Gods still gave me enough in that second half to have me anxiously awaiting the final book in the series.  If you enjoy slow-burn, dark fantasies, be sure to check out Wicked Saints and Ruthless Gods.  3.5 STARS

 

Mini Reviews – April 2020 ReleasesTo Have and to Hoax Goodreads

Author: Martha Waters

Publication Date: April 7, 2020

Publisher:  Altria Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

Martha Waters’ debut novel To Have and to Hoax is the hilarious, feel good read we all need in our lives right now. I breezed through it in a couple of sittings and just sat there chuckling to myself the entire time I was reading.  The book is set in Regency, England, and reads very much like a Jane Austen novel, which I loved since I’m a huge Austen fan.

To Have and to Hoax follows a young couple, Lady Violet Grey and Lord James Audley, who meet, fall in love, and marry within just a few months of becoming acquainted.  A fierce quarrel between the two of them early on in their marriage has left them completely alienated from one another.  Both Violet and James are apparently not only stubborn as mules, but they are also quite juvenile and so 4 years have passed with them at a stalemate.   Deciding enough is enough, the two of them start to play mind games with one another – feigning sick to make the other one worry, pretending to have a paramour to make the other jealous. They even actually start to bring outsiders into their games as actors to up the stakes to try to get under each other’s skin.  These two idiots and their antics are just so silly and ridiculous that I couldn’t stop laughing at them and especially at their hilarious sniping banter.

To Have and to Hoax is exactly the bit of fluffy goodness I was hoping for when I started reading and I definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for a light-hearted read about a couple of stubborn fools.  3.5 STARS

15 replies
  1. Sam@wlabb
    Sam@wlabb says:

    I happened to give Kerouac the same rating. I found I was very interested as I was reading the story, and I was often frustrated with the people in JL’s lives (especially her parents), but I couldn’t see the big picture once I got to the end. I guess it was a coming of age of sorts, but I was left a bit confused at the end.

    Reply
    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      The ending really threw me as well. I was enjoying the story itself well enough but then it just seemed to end abruptly, like everything was magically resolved. Strange.

      Reply
  2. Tanya @ Girl Plus Books
    Tanya @ Girl Plus Books says:

    I received an email with a widget for To Have and to Hoax a while back and now I can’t even remember if I accepted it or not. I think I ended up passing on it but now I’m thinking I should’ve went for it. It sounds like the kind of silly fun that would be good about now.
    Tanya @ Girl Plus Books recently posted…The Sunday Post #202

    Reply
    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      I’ll finish it just because I do really like all of the characters so much, but there are definitely pacing issues in the first two books. I’ll probably lower my expectation for the final book for that reason.

      Reply
  3. Dini @ dinipandareads
    Dini @ dinipandareads says:

    Great mini-reviews! I’m currently reading Ruthless Gods right now and I’m not that far into it yet, but I definitely agree that it’s a bit slow moving! I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would though especially since I wasn’t super over the moon about Wicked Saints. To Have and To Hoax sounds hilarious but also like the characters could be a little annoying with how juvenile they are? 😂 I’ve been looking forward to reading it though, so still looking forward to that! I love a book that can make me crack up 🙂
    Dini @ dinipandareads recently posted…#WWWWednesday: 08 April

    Reply
  4. Olivia Roach
    Olivia Roach says:

    These sound like these reads just missed being great books but were still quite good reads! It sure does sound like the main character in Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me is going through a lot and it would be hard without an adult figure there to guide them a bit 🙁 I really like the sound to the Austen inspired novel as I have been reading quite a lot of Pride and P spin offs lately and am just in that Austen mood. I am surprised I haven’t seen more reviews of Ruthless Gods?! I feel like everyone read Wicked Saints and forgot about continuing the series.
    Olivia Roach recently posted…March Wrap Up! [2020]

    Reply

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