(Blog Tour) Review: Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small

brightburningstars.jpgHello booklovers, I am so pleased to have been invited to be a tour host for A.K. Small’s compelling new debut, Bright Burning Stars, releasing May 21st from Algonquin Young Readers. Read on for more information about the author, the book’s description, my review and where you can purhcase a copy of your own!

As a young ballerina in Paris, young adult novelist A. K. Small studied at the famous Académie Chaptal and later danced with companies across the US. Inspired by the dancers from her childhood, Small weaves a vivid story of a fiercely competitive female friendship in Bright Burning Stars. Following two teens fighting for center stage and a spot in the Opera’s prestigious corps de ballet, this page-turning novel explores the lengths it takes to turn talent into a career. A gifted new writer, Small brings the reader into the passionate world of ballet all while telling an engrossing story of female friendship.


DESCRIPTION

Best friends Marine Duval and Kate Sanders have trained at the Paris Opera Ballet School since childhood, where they’ve formed an inseparable bond forged by respective family tragedies and a fierce love for dance. When the body of a student is found in the dorms just before the start of their final year, Marine and Kate begin to ask themselves what they would do to win the ultimate prize: to be the one girl selected to join the Opera’s prestigious corps de ballet. Would they die? Cheat? Seduce the most talented boy in the school, dubbed the Demigod, hoping his magic would make them shine, too? Neither girl is sure.

But then Kate gets closer to the Demigod, even as Marine has begun to capture his heart. And as selection day draws near, the competition—for the prize, for the Demigod—becomes fiercer, and Marine and Kate realize they have everything to lose, including each other.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A.K. Small was born in Paris. At five years old, she began studying classical dance with aksmallthe legendary Max Bozzoni, then later with Daniel Franck and Monique Arabian at the famous Académie Chaptal. At thirteen, she moved to the United States where she danced with the Pacific Northwest Ballet for one summer in Seattle and with the Richmond Ballet Student Company for several years. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary and has an MFA in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts. When she’s not writing, she spends time with her husband, her puppy, and her three daughters, and practices yoga. Bright Burning Stars is her first novel.

aksmallwords.comtwittersmall.png@aksmallwords |   instagramsmall @aksmallwords


REVIEW

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Bright Burning Stars is a tumultuous, dramatic and frenzied read that shows the dark side of a competitive ballet school, in the vein of Black Swan.

Best friends Marine and Kate would do almost anything to win the coveted Prize … to become one of the students retained for the Paris Opera’s ballet company. The problem? There is only room for one male and female pair. Despite their friendship, Marine and Kate are rivals and their loyalties to each other will be tested. With sights set on the Prize, both girls become entangled with Cyrille, aka The Demigod, considered to be the best male dancer in the student company and a ballet prodigy.

Things get pretty intense from here and I would only recommend this to mature readers, as the story tackles some realistic but tough topics. The relationships in this book are highly manipulative and toxic and the characters use each other for their own gain, while lacking a degree a emotional connection. Some of the darker themes in this story could have been better highlighted and discussed and the adults in this story certainly should have played a larger role in ensuring the mental and physical health of their students.

That said, the setting of this book is superb and this is the type of book one could compulsively read over a weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed the competitive aspect. You never knew what the characters would do next, especially Kate, to achieve their goals.

Overall, this book is a dark contemporary showing how cutthroat the world of ballet is. This book is psychologically taxing at times, but never ceases in dishing out the drama!

Trigger warning for eating disorders, mental illness, suicide, abortion, unclear sexual consent, and unhealthy romantic relationships and friendships.

Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review and inviting me to be a host on the blog tour.

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Release Date: May 21st, 2019

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Cover Reveal: Jersey Six by Jewel E. Ann

There’s nothing more intimate than revenge.

Jersey Six, an all-new mind-bending, romantic suspense from Jewel E. Ann, is coming June 13th and we have the sexy cover! Jewel has become my newest favorite author and I am so pumped for her latest release.


DESCRIPTION

A hit-and-run accident leaves Jersey Six orphaned and homeless on the streets of Newark, shattering her dreams of school dances, pink nail polish, and a diploma.

Eight years later, a burn victim with amnesia wanders into Jersey’s barely-existent life. She resists his efforts to form a friendship until he reveals knowledge of the person responsible for derailing her future. Through their unusual friendship, she discovers a way to avenge the deaths of her foster parents.

All she has to do is destroy the world’s biggest rock star.

In the ultimate game of sex, lies, and manipulation, can Jersey discover the truth? Or will she be blinded by attraction, deceived by love, and destroyed by her past?

Add Jersey Six to Goodreads


Are you ready for this cover!?

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Jewel is a free-spirited romance junkie with a quirky sense of humor.

With 10 years of flossing lectures under her belt, she took early retirement from her dental hygiene career to stay home with her three awesome boys and manage the family jeweleannbusiness.

After her best friend of nearly 30 years suggested a few books from the Contemporary Romance genre, Jewel was hooked. Devouring two and three books a week but still craving more, she decided to practice sustainable reading, AKA writing.

When she’s not donning her cape and saving the planet one tree at a time, she enjoys yoga with friends, good food with family, rock climbing with her kids, watching How I Met Your Mother reruns, and of course…heart-wrenching, tear-jerking, panty-scorching novels.


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[ARC] Review: Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Review of Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Series: The Aurora Cycle #1

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Thank you to Knopf Books for Young Readers for sending me a review copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


DESCRIPTION

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

They’re not the heroes we deserve. They’re just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.


REVIEW

And though this pack of losers and discipline cases and sociopaths might’ve been the last picks on anyone’s mind during the Draft, turns out none of them are bad at their jobs.

FLOORED. I am floored.

Zila would say it’s statistically impossible for Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff to continue putting out these amazing stories (both together and individually) – one after the other. But in truth, they’re just THAT good. Kaufman and Kristoff (sounds like the name of a law firm) are back to scatter our minds across the ‘Way with more unthinkable twists and to wrench our hearts out of our chests with more romance, tragedy and soul-stopping moments.

Its hard not to compare this to the Illuminae Files but besides an amazing cast of characters and space setting we’re going to stop the comparisons there (other than to say both are great, read both!). I recently attended a panel in which Jay Kristoff was present and one of the questions was, could you change the genre of your book from sci fi to fantasy or vice versa? He answered yes and it couldn’t be more true. Aurora Rising has a sci fi setting but will absolutely appeal to fantasy fans as well – due to many strong fantasy elements (magic kinda stuff, mythology AND QUESTS). A friend recently called it “scifantasy” and I’m going to do the same because IT FITS.

We the Legion
We the light
Burning bright against the night

Aurora Rising made me so nostalgic for stories I love: Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Serenity/Firefly, Starship Troopers, Defiance, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy … elements from each are there and waiting for us to indulge in them.

And Squad 312 … this squad is so disjointed and an utter disaster in its infancy. Hold onto your butts though, folks. This is a squad we can all stan. There is witty banter, established and budding friendships, romance (insert googly eyes) and a genuine kinship between Tyler and Scarlett. I loved witnessing Squad 312 go from reluctant allies to working together as if they already know each other’s next move. I wont say much about the individual characters as I feel you just need to read the book and meet them, but the authors have done such a fantastic job of creating a team that is well balanced in knowledge, personality and background. As well as representation of sexuality, disability and ethnicity. ALSO. SPACE ELVES ARE A THING.

Do moons choose the planets they orbit? Do planets choose their stars? Who am I to deny gravity, Aurora? When you shine brighter than any constellation in the sky?

The story itself will keep you on the edge of your seat with it’s constant motion. The world is vibrant and well developed in ways I haven’t experienced lately. This book is one hell of a ride and you won’t be able to set it aside once you start. I was captivated!

View Review on Goodreads


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Blog Tour (Q&A + Review): Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

wickedsaints.jpgWhat is your most anticipated 2019 debut?

Well, I’m here to introduce you to mine. Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan is a seductively dark and entrancing new fantasy novel, kicking off a series that will undoubtedly be one of the most talked about for years to come. I devoured this book in less than a day and you WILL NOT see the plot twists coming until they’ve knocked you off your feet and are standing over you. Make sure your sitting for the last chapters of this one!

That said, I am so thrilled to be apart of the Wicked Saints blog tour and had the chance to ask Emily A. Duncan herself some questions. Continue reading for our exchange, my review and more information on this enticing new story.

I love how Wicked Saints combines Slavic folklore, morally grey characters and even a nod of Joan of Arc. How was Wicked Saints born?

Procrastination, Skyrim, and a lot of metal music. There was actually never any Joan of Arc — that came later, as a marketing comp — I had more in mind Dungeons and Dragons clerics when I was forming the magic system and the world.

Which character surprised you the most during the writing process?

Malachiasz. I didn’t plan for him. He was never in early drafts. He was supposed to be in the book for a grand total of three chapters before he went off to do his own thing but then he refused to leave. Not only did he refuse to leave, he pulled the whole story out of my hands and decided to put himself at the heart of it. I adore him, he’s the worst.

(We all adore Malachiasz.)

What book would you recommend to each of your three main characters?emilyaduncan

Oh, man. Malachiasz needs a self help book… Actually… they all need self help books. Oh, god, someone help them.

EMILY A. DUNCAN works as a youth services librarian. She received a Master’s degree in library science from Kent State University, which mostly taught her how to find obscure Slavic folklore texts through interlibrary loan systems. When not reading or writing, she enjoys playing copious amounts of video games and dungeons and dragons. Wicked Saints is her first book. She lives in Ohio.


DESCRIPTION

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy.


REVIEW

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

HOT DAMN THIS WAS INSANE.

Launching myself into the sun would be less stressful than reading the final chapters of this book. Emily A. Duncan is the maestro of dark boys and probably evil gods. Emily is a bloodmage and this is her spellbook, I am entranced.

Wicked Saints is a bold and creative novel that takes some of our best loved themes and flips them on their head. This remarkable dark fantasy debut is rooted in a Slavic inspired world that will hold you hostage. Once you get started, you won’t be able to look away.

This is the type of story that will seek deep into your bones and consume you. I’ve seen it compared to Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse and while there are similarities and certainly appeal to fans of the aforementioned, Wicked Saints is wholly and uniquely its own story. There is nothing quite like it that I’ve read.

The story follows three characters – a young cleric and conduit of the Gods, a runaway heretic magic and a sassy alcoholic prince. These are the characters I didn’t know I needed. These are the characters you didn’t know you needed.

Full of witty banter and a chilling atmosphere, Wicked Saints soars to the top of my favorite debuts list. The hype is well deserved, you need this stunning book (inside and out!) on your shelf.

Thank you to Wednesday Books for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review and inviting me to be a host on the blog tour.

View Review on Goodreads


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Blog Tour + Review: The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie

thelastvoyageofpoeblytheHappy Thursday, fellow readers! I am so pleased to be talking with you about The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie from Dutton Books for Young Readers. Most recognized as the author of the wildly popular Matched trilogy, this was actually my first Ally Condie book and I blew through the book and audiobook in less than a day.

This book is out NOW and you can follow the links below to grab your own copy. The physical book is absolutely stunning (I mean, look at those deep blue and gold tones, swoon!) and the audiobook was well done. Whatever format you prefer, this is a new YA release you NEED on your shelves.

Thank you to Dutton Books for Young Readers (Penguin Teen) for sending me a finished copy and inviting me to be a host on the blog tour. I couldn’t be more thrilled to have been included.


DESCRIPTION

Who do you become when you have nothing left to lose?

There is something Poe Blythe, the seventeen-year-old captain of the Outpost’s last mining ship, wants far more than the gold they tear from the Serpentine River.

Revenge. 

Poe has vowed to annihilate the river raiders who robbed her of everything two years ago. But as she navigates the treacherous waters of the Serpentine and realizes there might be a traitor among her crew, she must also reckon with who she has become, who she wants to be, and the ways love can change and shape you. Even–and especially–when you think all is lost.

Intricately crafted and emotionally gripping, The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe is the compelling story of one young woman’s journey to move beyond the grief and anger that control her and find the inner strength to chart her own course.


REVIEW

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe is one of those books that sneaks up on you. Its strong in a silent sort of way, stringing you along page after page until you realize, near the end, that the story is more powerful than you could have ever imagined it to be. It’s a desperate story of survival and touching in its own sort of feral and savage way. It shows us that living is more than just waking the following day and going about our routines.

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The story focuses primarily on Poe Blythe, her story of revenge and seeking her own form of survival – through some of the most barbaric means. From the very first chapter, this book will pull at your heart strings. I felt such a fierce pull toward this story from just that first chapter, which does a superb job of setting the stage for the rest of the book.

In addition to Poe’s story, Condie has created a fascinating dystopian world that I would absolutely read more of. I loved every aspect we were given, from Poe’s settlement, to the river mining to how those outside the settlement live. It is clear that Condie put her heart into every aspect of creating this story.

Additionally, there is a huge mystery subplot – as Poe tries to discover who on her team can be trusted and who is seeking every opportunity to betray her trust. I did NOT see those plot twists coming and by the end I couldn’t help but to think, “I wish this wasn’t a standalone!” Seriously, I would read the next chapter in this story immediately.

Overall, this book is so incredibly underrated and deserves all of the praise, word-of-mouth and readership. I loved every underlying theme, particularly how one can find a path, a place they belong, even after everything has been ripped away from them. The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe is a must read new release, with fantastic crossover appeal and will absolutely be one of my favorite reads of the 2019.

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Review: Blade & Rose by Miranda Honfleur

Review of Blade & Rose by Miranda Honfleur

Series: Blade & Rose #1

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆


DESCRIPTION

A kingdom in turmoil or the love of her life. Which one will she save?

Elementalist Rielle hasn’t heard from her best friend in far too long. Yet no one at the Tower of Magic seems to care about Olivia’s silence, or the curtain of secrecy surrounding the distant capital. Before Rielle can investigate, she’s assigned a strange new mission: escort a paladin named Jon across the kingdom.

When whispers reveal mercenaries have killed the king, taken the capital, and that no one is coming to help, Rielle can’t leave Olivia in peril. But as infamous mages and deadly assassins hunt Jon, she can’t leave him unprotected either—especially as she finds herself falling for his strength, his passion, and his uncompromising goodness. Her past returns to haunt her, a werewolf stalks their steps, and an ancient evil is gathering, yet the restraints forbidding their love strain and snap one by one.

Saving Olivia and the kingdom means defying orders and sacrificing her every ambition, and could mean losing the man who’s become so much more to her than a mission. Which will she choose: her best friend and the kingdom, or the love of her life?

Dive into a medieval world sensual and dark, full of magic and greed, love and blades, where factions vie for influence and there are no easy choices.


REVIEW

One thing I am always looking for is fantasy stories with a new adult vibe. This book absolutely fits that bill and I loved it! This is the type that I could binge and binge and binge on and I am definitely looking forward to the next.

My only caveats are that it’s a little insta-lovey, there could be clearer world building and it probably doesn’t need to be 600+ pages long. However, the characters have riveting back stories and the pacing is on point. This book does not stop giving in the action department. It’s a non stop ride!

Note that this book does have a heavy romance subplot and trigger warning for physical abuse and sexual manipulation/abuse. These are not terribly huge aspects of the plot.

I love the complex relationships between the characters in this and the author did a fine job of giving some of the more morally gray characters redeeming qualities that kept you guessing at your own loyalties.

Overall I HIGHLY recommend this if you’re looking for a book with an adult atmosphere but more YA fantasy vibes. This is it! I am DYING to start the next one but I have other books I’m obligated to read first and it’s killing me!

View Review on Goodreads


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[ARC] Review: The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

Review of The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

Series: The Gilded Wolves #1

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books for sending me a review copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


DESCRIPTION

No one believes in them. But soon no one will forget them.

It’s 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood.

Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history—but only if they can stay alive.


REVIEW

Don’t capture their hearts. Steal their imagination. It’s far more useful.

The Gilded Wolves is a wonderful, powerful and imaginative story, teeming with representation for marginalized groups and with a superb cast of unforgettable characters.

With lush descriptions and thought provoking narratives, I was swept into the world of Belle Époque Paris. Roshani does a wonderful job of painting a world teaming with life, while shining a strong light onto those who pay for other’s privileges.

This book is PERFECT for fans of Six of Crows. If you are in dire need of #squadgoals and heists, this is the book for you. I absolutely adore how these characters work together, how each has their own specialty and their backstories – particularly what brought them into Séverin’s life.

Anything could fall. Towers that scraped the heavens, Houses with pockets deeper than empires, shining seraphs who had once been in the confidence of God. Even families who were supposed to love you. Nothing was invincible but change.

Séverin is the heir to a fallen House. Disgraced and forgotten, Séverin is a highly complex character whose main goal is the gain back everything he’s been denied. You will find yourself regularly charmed by and frustrated with him. He is my next favorite character of 2019 and I was constantly LIVING for his POV chapters in this book.

Enrique hit close to home for me, as my grandfather emigrated to the United States from the Philippines in the 1920s. I adore his character immensely, his dry humor and constant exasperation with his compatriots, and support him 110%.

If you get in the way of a woman’s battle, you’ll get in the way of her sword.

Laila is her own mystery and a tantalizing one at that. Battling with her identity and feelings, she is probably the strongest personality of this book and the glue that holds everyone together. Serious #momfriend over here. Just don’t tell her I said that.

Zofia is too damn smart for her own good. No really, her character represents several groups rarely featured in fantasy literature. As the mother of an autistic child, I loved Zofia’s narrative and analytical mind. Roshani did a great job of portraying Zofia and I cannot wait to see her discover more of herself in the sequel.

Tristan is so lovely and sweet, I loved everything he brought to the page and how everyone seeks to protect him while all he wants is to feel useful. His relationship with Séverin is so important for the story and a driving force for much of the future plot.

It seemed the world couldn’t help but want to be near her . . . every beam of light, pair of eyes, atom of air. Maybe that’s why sometimes he couldn’t breathe around her.

While I certainly loved the plot of this and the world Roshani has created – I was absolutely ravenous for one of the romance subplots. It was so angsty, with history and wanting and I swear I was absolutely riveted every time these characters interacted with each other. I cannot wait to see where their relationship goes in the sequel – which has a fantastic set up in that regard as well.

Additionally, there are other romantic subplots hinted at in this including possible gay and bisexual feelings and I am just HERE FOR IT. These characters are still discovering their sexual identity and I am readily holding their hand through it all. I SUPPORT YOU.

My only complaint is that some of the historical and scientific descriptions can be a little lengthy and hard to follow. However, I loved the almost “treasure hunt” life vibe to this and easily looked past these instances.

Overall, this book opens a rich and vibrant world with a dark underbelly, unexpected twists and suffering, and is truly a statement piece for those under the heel of colonialism, racism and prejudice. The book ends with a captivating set up for the second book that will have you screaming from the rafters and dying for more!

View Review on Goodreads


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