BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small #blogtour

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the Bright Burning Stars blog tour! A huge thanks to Brittani Hilles for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. There was just something about the blurb of this story that caught my attention right away and I have been excited to read it. And while it turned out to be not entirely my cup of tea, I’m having a feeling the right reader will fall in love with it. Please join me while I share my thoughts on Bright Burning Stars!

Title: Bright Burning Stars
Author: A.K. Small
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 21st 2019
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Finished reading: May 10th 2019
Pages: 304

“Marine, notre monde, this world of ours – the stage and studios and barres – is intense and lonely. There is no space for friendship, love, or even an old and perhaps sacred bond between twins. Nothing shadows the art of dance. It’s a union of body, mind, and music. Classical dance is known for being ruthless.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Algonquin Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Like I said before, there was just something about the blurb of Bright Burning Stars that caught my attention right away and I have been excited to finally read it. It’s true that it turned out to be not entirely my cup of tea, but I do believe the right reader will enjoy this story immensely. Fans of more gritty and slow-paced YA contemporary romance will be in a treat with this ballet-inspired story mainly set within the Paris Opera Ballet School.

Why wasn’t Bright Burning Stars a good fit for me personally? It’s hard to put my finger exactly on the why, but I think part of the reason has to do with the sheer amount of cliche drama relating to both competition, jealousy, romance and friendship. All this drama made it hard for me to stay focused and I confess it took me longer than expected to actually reach the final page. On top of this we have what you can call multiple love triangles and more jealousy and drama resulting from that… And you all know by now how I feel about those pesky love triangles in the first place. I’m sure romance fans who don’t mind a cliche or two will react different to this part of the story though. Another thing I didn’t like was the fact how they skimmed over abortion and basically make it seem like you can just go to the pharmacy, get a little something as if you were buying a cure for a headache and solve your problems that way. I’m not going into the whole abortion discussion, but I do feel this gives the wrong message to teenagers about safe sex and having to face the consequences of your actions and mistakes. Trigger warnings are also in place for other sensitive themes including eating disorders, suicide and drugs. I understand the ballet world is brutal and unrealistic (and basically unhealthy) demands are made of the bodies of the dancers, and I do think this is well portrayed in Bright Burning Stars, but it can potentially trigger more sensitive readers so you’ve been warned.

The story is told with the help of a dual POV, where we get to know Marine and Kate and learn more about how the constant competition has changed their relationship and how their final year once again puts a lot of pressure on both their bodies and their minds. I’m not sure I actually liked them, especially since their is a lot of teenage drama, boy stuff and jealousy involved, but they do help address various issues related to the ballet world. Bright Burning Stars is mostly a character-driven story where we follow the development of Marine and Kate. The pace is considerably slow at times, but shouldn’t be problem for those who enjoy this kind of story. I did wonder about the use of random French words in the text, as they didn’t seem to add anything substantial to the story… And with a Paris setting aren’t they speaking French all the time anyway in the first place? Instead of the French words, I think I would have liked to see more dancing and more descriptions of Paris and the school. But that could have been just me. Overall this was still a solid read, and while not my cup of tea, I can see how others could fall in love with Bright Burning Stars.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A.K. Small was born in Paris. At five years old, she began studying classical dance with the 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.

SOCIAL LINKS

aksmallwords.com
Twitter: @aksmallwords 
Instagram: @aksmallwords 


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YVO’S SHORTIES #72 – A Spark Of Light & Doll Bones

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around the final two books I managed to read in 2018. A Spark Of Light by Jodi Picoult turned out to be a powerful and thought provoking read that will stay with me for a long time… While Doll Bones by Holly Black mostly only managed to disappoint me.


Title: A Spark Of Light
Author: Jodi Picoult

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: October 2nd 2018
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Finished reading: December 30th 2018
Pages: 352

“We are all drowning slowly in the tide of our opinions, oblivious that we are taking on water every time we open our mouths.”


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After my experiences with Jodi Picoult‘s recent novels, I couldn’t wait to read A Spark Of Light. There has been a lot of hype around this title, and I can understand why now. Abortion is actually quite a controversial and ‘hot’ topic right now in Argentina, so it definitely came at an interesting time for me… Disclaimer: I won’t be discussing pro-life or pro-choice politics here, just the story itself. I’ll start off with saying that abortion is a very tricky topic to write about, and I think Jodi Picoult did it splendidly. Her writing style is just as strong as ever and I also loved the reversed time chapter technique she used. I admit I was confused at first because I didn’t realize that straight away, but I think it adds a little something extra to the story. Why? It’s simply very intriguing to meet the characters at such a critical point in their lives and then slowly find out how they got there… I did see part of the final plot twist bombs coming, although not all. The ending was a bit abrupt for me, and I personally would have liked to see the main characters being followed up for a while longer. Still, I also understand why she decided to end it in that way, as the main event was over by then. A Spark Of Light brings a very controversial but important topic to light and while especially pro-life supporters might be offended by the story, I would still recommend reading it as it does show both sides (although not equally, which is a hard balance to obtain in the first place). For me it was one of the stronger books I read during 2018 and without doubt one that provoked strong emotions as well. A good way to finish the reading year!


Title: Doll Bones
Author: Holly Black

Genre: MG, Fantasy, Horror
First published: May 7th 2013
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderrly Books
Finished reading: December 31st 2018
Pages: 256

“He wondered whether growing up was learning that most stories turned out to be lies.”


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I was looking for a little something different to read as my last read of 2018 and when I came across this title on my kindle I decided to pick it up on a whim. Sadly, I can’t say I actually enjoyed reading Doll Bones. I can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but part of it had to do that I didn’t like the characters and I had a hard time connecting to the story. The story wasn’t exactly credible and not as scary as I would have thought either. This is more a coming of age story with Zach in the spotlight as he struggles with the consequences of growing up… And then we have Poppy who is the person behind the quest and most of the action even though she is not the main character, which throws off the balance of the story considerably. I felt Doll Bones lacked cohesion and a proper plot, although I did like the idea behind the three creating their own magical world where their toys go on adventures. The paranormal aspect of the story could have been interesting, but it just didn’t manage to convince me… And I had a lot of doubts about the credibility of it all. All in all not the experience I was expecting, but twelve-year-olds might enjoy the story better.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #61 – Every Note Played & The Cheerleaders

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different stories I both ended up enjoying. Every Note Played by Lisa Genova and The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas, both Goodreads Choice Awards nominees.


Title: Every Note Played
Author: Lisa Genova

Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
First published: March 20th 2018
Publisher: Scout Press
Finished reading: November 3rd 2018
Pages: 321

“Life is not a static organism. Every day, he’s a little more shut down, shut in, turned off. A little less in motion. A little less alive. “


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This is already my third Lisa Genova story… I’m always in awe how she is able to put a devastating neurological disease in the spotlight, mixing medical facts and symptoms with a fictional story in such way that you end up both being educated and entertained at the same time. This balance between facts and fiction is what makes Every Note Played such an interesting read for me. It’s not just a simple description of ALS and its symptoms. Through the main character Richard we get to see exactly how this disease evolves and what effects it has on both his life and those close to him. This impact is shown really well through both Karina and Bill, and in a lesser role Grace and other characters  as well. As always, I enjoyed the writing style and the way the story was told, although I do have to say I wish there would have been a bit more focus on the character development itself. I understand and appreciate a very present role of ALS in the story, but it did make me feel the main characters as persons were pushed a bit in the background. I would have liked to learn more about Richard and Karina and their background. I guess this would have made it easier to connect to them straight away… I loved the musical element though, and how music played a role throughout a story. In short, despite a few minor details Every Note Played was without doubt another excellent and fascinating read.


Title: The Cheerleaders
Author: Kara Thomas

Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: July 31st 2018
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Finished reading: November 5th 2018
Pages: 384

“Everyone goes through shit, and there’s always someone somewhere who has it worse. It doesn’t make what you’re feeling any less real or any less shitty.”


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After really enjoying Little Monsters last year, I’ve been looking forward to read more of her work. It took me longer than expected, and it isn’t the book I originally planned to read first, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t excited to be starting The Cheerleaders. There was just something about the blurb that caught my attention, although the blood spatters on the cover alone weirdly made me want to read this story already. A possible high school murder mystery with cheerleaders involved? Talk about an interesting twist! I already knew I was probably going to enjoy the writing style after Little Monsters, and my instincts were absolutely right. There is just something about the writing that draws you right in, makes you forget about your surroundings and just read. I was intrigued from the start, and even though not all characters are likeable and there are a few high school cliches involved, somehow the mystery around the death of the five cheerleaders was enough to forget about those objections and keep on reading. Entertaining and twisty enough to finish it in record time. The Cheerleaders is without doubt one of the strongest YA contemporary/mystery reads I’ve had the chance to read this year, minor flaws and all.


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ARC REVIEW: Little Fires Everywhere – by Celeste Ng @penguinpress

Title: Little Fires Everywhere
Author: Celeste Ng

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: September 12th 2017
Publisher: Penguin Press
Finished reading: August 25th 2017
Pages: 384

“Rules existed for a reason: if you followed them, you would succeed; if you didn’t, you might burn the world to the ground.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Penguin Press in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’m sure I’m not the only one who has Little Fires Everywhere on their list of most anticipated releases and you can imagine I was over the moon when I found out my request for such a popular title was actually approved. I have been looking forward to this title ever since I first received my copy on my kindle, and now I’ve read it I can predict this title will receive a lot of love. Because Celeste Ng has created a very intriguing story full of drama, complex characters and a wide range of emotions and themes. The first thing that stands out is the writing style, which is excellent and helps set the right atmosphere for this story. Little Fires Everywhere kind of starts with the ending and then slowly shows you how everything gets to that point, unraveling secrets, lies and learning more about the main characters, their history and the town the story is set in. Shaker Heights makes for a very interesting setting and only reinforces the contrast between the successful and rich Richardson family and both Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl. This clash is the basis for a well developed and intriguing story not only about the relationship between both families but also about how they react to a different situation that will affect both. Celeste Ng is very good at developing her characters and making them feel realistic with all their flaws and other signs of their humanity. I personally struggled a bit to connect to them, but that might have just been me not agreeing with some of the choices the characters make. It’s probably one of the reasons I didn’t LOVE love Little Fires Everywhere, even though I still can’t put my finger exactly on the why. There is no doubt that this book is an excellent read though and fans of her books and the genre in general will be in for a treat.

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Shaker Heights is a placid suburb of Cleveland where everything is planned until the very last detail. The people living there are expected to live successful lives in their grand houses and the guiding principle in the community is to play by the rules. The current residents all seem to follow this principle, including the Richardsons. But then Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl arrive in town, and they don’t seem to fit in that mold. Mia is a single mother and an artist who doesn’t seem to follow the same rules and managed to live her life so far anyway. Elena Richardson first rented them a house, but later seems to start resenting Mia for not fitting in; although her children seem to think otherwise. And then something will happen that will endanger this delicate balance…

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Even though I ended up giving Little Fires Everywhere a slightly lower rating than expected, there is no doubt that this was still a very good read. Both the writing, character development and twists were very well done and turn Little Fires Everywhere into an excellent contemporary fiction read with a healthy dose of drama, secrets and lies. The flashbacks to the past are interesting as well as the way as some sensitive themes as abortion are incorporated. And I just loved the photography elements! Fans of the genre will love this book.


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