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 #85 – Shatter Me (DNF) & Wintergirls

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books that have been published over five years ago and titles I’ve been meaning to get to for a while. The first, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, sadly turned out to be my first DNF of the year. The second, Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, is without doubt an emotionally tough read to read with lots of trigger warnings and a prose that is both beautiful, almost bordering the magical realism realm and at the same time somehow started to irk me.


Title: Shatter Me
(Shatter Me #1)
Author: Tahereh Mafi

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Romance
First published: November 15th 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins
Finished reading: February 13th 2019
Pages: 357
DNF at 51% (182 pages)

“The moon understands what it means to be human. Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.”


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WARNING: It’s unpopular opinion time again! Please don’t feel offended if you love this series. We are all entitled to our own reactions and feelings after all…

Ever had your sixth sense screaming at you to back off and stay away? Well, that is what happened to me whenever I started thinking about trying the Shatter Me series. I’m not sure why or how, but there was just something about it that made me think it wouldn’t be for me… But curiosity won in the end and made me ignore my instincts. I should have known better… Because sadly this turned out to be my very first DNF of the year. Why? There were various reasons, but the main one is this: I absolutely could not stand the writing style. The endless metaphors, the short sentences, the wacky grammar, the 1 2 3 4 numbers… It seemed like every single word and page was destined to annoy me to the limit and I simply reached a point where I couldn’t take it anymore. I feel sad for reacting this way to a story I know so many seem to love, but that doesn’t take away that Shatter Me and me definitely didn’t get a long. Nothing much was happening in the pages I read either; lots of words, metaphors and feelings, but no real actions or proper worldbuilding descriptions. The fact that I could already see a love triangle coming from a mile away didn’t really help either. Things might have improved in the second half, but since I had such an extreme reaction to the writing style and had already started skimreading just to reach the end faster, I decided to throw in the towel and leave this series alone to be enjoyed and treasured by those who can connect to it. Oh well, at least I know for sure now… Intuition, you were right. Sorry I didn’t listen to you.


Title: Wintergirls
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: March 19th 2009
Publisher: Speak
Finished reading: February 20th 2019
Pages: 300

“The sentences build a fence around her, a Times Roman 10-point barricade, to keep the thorny voices in her head from getting too close.”


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I have been meaning to try one of Laurie Halse Anderson‘s books for years, but somehow other books always ended up getting in the way. The BTB Epic Bingo challenge was the perfect excuse to finally pick up Wintergirls. I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading this story, and if you go in blind you will definitely be up for a surprise. Trigger warnings are in place for eating disorders, self harm, cutting, suicide and mental health problems… Wintergirls is a story that will bring those cold and chilling winter feels and is an emotionally draining read that shows us the struggle of the main character with her eating disorder and the way she sees herself and her surrounding world. It’s not an easy or happy read, but I thought the topic was well handled and represented in Lia. The prose is both beautiful, almost bordering the magical realism realm and at the same time somehow irked me at points. I named magical realism because the writing sometimes almost has that otherwordly and magical feel, especially the descriptions of how Lia sees herself and the world. The story also has a hint of paranormal with a symbolic feel; those two aspects making it hard to properly place the story in just one genre. I suppose you can say this is mostly a realistic fiction story with a mental health angle, where we can see how the eating disorder takes over Lia’s life through her very own eyes. I had a hate/love relationship with the writing style, but there is no doubt that the writing has that original and almost otherworldly feel and I can understand why so many people seem to love this story.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #58 – The Princess Saves Herself In This One & The Smallest Part

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two genres I don’t read all too often, but two titles that turned out to be winners. The Princess Saves Herself In This One has a very powerful message and The Smallest Part was simply brilliant.


Title: The Princess Saves Herself In This One
(Women Are Some Kind Of Magic #1)
Author: Amanda Lovelace

Genre: Non Fiction, Poetry, Feminism
First published: April 23rd 2016
Publisher: CreateSpace
Finished reading: October 25th 2018
Pages: 156

“When I had
no friends
I reached inside
my beloved
books
& sculpted some
out of
12 pt
Times new roman.

— & it was almost good enough.”


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I actually read the second poetry bundle of this series earlier this year, and I’ve been meaning to pick up The Princess Saves Herself In This One ever since. While there is no complicated poetry style to admire and the main technique seems to be the use of the space bar, somehow I wasn’t as bothered by that. Because there is one thing for sure: where The Princess Saves Herself In This One might lack in proper technique, it’s the words themself and the powerful message behind them that will blow your socks off. WOW! It doesn’t happen often that I’m able to connect this much with poetry… Relatable, emotional, clever wordplay; these words will no doubt move you. I still prefer the second bundle, but I can understand why so many seemed to have enjoyed this one. It shows Amanda Lovelace has gone through a lot in life, and I admire her for being so open about it and her not afraid to show the hurt and beat the monsters by throwing words and poems at them. I will definitely be looking forward to the third bundle coming out next year.


Title: The Smallest Part
Author: Amy Harmon

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Paranormal
First published: February 13th 2018
Finished reading: October 27th 2018
Pages: 325

“We’re more than just a collection of bones, cobbled together by God or eons of evolution. We have souls, We have purpose. We’re more.”


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I have enjoyed every single Amy Harmon book I’ve tried so far and I love how different and unique each story is. I have been looking forward to read The Smallest Part ever since it came out earlier this year, and decided to finally read it as a treat to myself. This story has once again reconfirmed my love for her work. What an absolutely brilliant and moving story! I think this is one of the first times I wasn’t bothered at all by the appearance of a love triangle, and somehow I actually enjoyed the romance. Between the wonderful writing style, the excellent character development, an interesting plot and the paranormal angle The Smallest Part has everything and more needed to turn this into one of my top reads this year. The flashbacks added history and more background to the characters, which I was able to connect to immediately and they will stay with me for a long time. Well developed, original and an emotional rollercoaster… The Smallest Part will take you on a wonderful journey with highs and lows and characters you will cherish. This is without doubt one of the must-reads I will be recommending to everyone.


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ARC REVIEW: Closer – by K.L. Slater

Title: Closer
Author: K.L. Slater
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: October 24th 2018
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: October 8th 2018
Pages: 331

“Little did I know it was a portent of far worse to come.”

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

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I’m a big fan of K.L. Slater‘s psychological thrillers and I’ve read every single one published so far. Of course I’m always stoked when I find out a new book is about to come out, and my reaction to Closer was no different… I’ve been excited to start reading this one ever since I was granted a copy. Closer once again shows us just now good of a psychological thriller writer she is. The writing style is spot on and makes you fly through it! I literally finished it in less than a day… It was just THAT good. While I do think it wasn’t my favorite and there were a few things that didn’t completely convince me, overall this was yet another solid, well written and thrilling read. Why not five stars? I think it has a lot to do with the predictability of the plot; sadly I was able to see the final twist coming from a mile away, or at least a big part of it. I guess I wished I would have been wrong about it all, but in the end my instincts were right. The ending was also quite abrupt to me, and I would have liked to see a more elaborated one. I’m still on the fence about the characters as well. BUT. The writing is excellent, the suspense well crafted and it brings attention to two very important topics (eating disorder and bullying). I enjoyed my time with Closer, was invested enough to really experience some of the nail biting and frustrating moments and it’s always a great sign if you are emotionally invested in a story right? If you enjoy reading well written psychological thrillers, I can definitely suggest adding Closer to your wishlist.

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Emma and Shaun realized their marriage no longer worked, but decided to keep living in the same house to give their daughter Maisie a stable homefront. They have worked out a routine that worked for both of them… Until Shaun falls in love again and wants to move on with his life. Emma is desperate to protect her little girl, and doesn’t trust his new girlfriend or the daughter… But Shaun just sees it as jealousy. Does Emma just see things or is there really something shady going on?

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Closer is yet another solid psychological thriller I’ve read by K.L. Slater, and has only reconfirmed to me I will always have my eyes out for any of her feature reads. While not perfect, since I guessed part of the final reveals early on and found the ending a bit abrupt, the plot is still well crafted and the creation of the suspense is spot on. I always have a great time with her books, and Closer is no different. I really appreciated the discussion of eating disorder and bullying as well, since it’s something that cannot get enough attention. If you are a fan of the genre, I can highly recommend all of her books.


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ARC REVIEW: The Perfect Friend – by Barbara Copperthwaite @bookouture @BCopperthwait

Title: The Perfect Friend
Author: Barbara Copperthwaite
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 5th 2018
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: June 23rd 2018
Pages: 295

“I am a Russian doll of secrets, so many cradled one inside the other, all looking like me but diminishing until what is left is so tiny I fear I’m disappearing.”

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

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!! Happy publication day !!

I have consistantly enjoyed Barbara Copperthwaite‘s psychological thrillers in the past, so of course I couldn’t resist trying out her newest title The Perfect Friend. And now I’ve finished it, and I can’t believe what I’ve just read. Oh yes, don’t let the bright and cheery yellow cover deceive you… This one will mess with your mind. When I think of Barbara Copperthwaite‘s books, I think of well written, intricately developed plots full of twists, secrets and lies to fool us readers. The Perfect Friend is no exception to this rule. I’m normally not a big fan of unreliable characters in psychological thrillers, but somehow this technique works really well in this story. Nothing is as it seems and between the intricate web of lies and secrets and the mystery around the past and background of both characters you will be drawn right in as you try to figure out what is really going on. What is a lie, what is the truth and how does it all fit together? Your brain will have a field day with this one, and I’m promising you the final reveals will leave you flabbergasted. Oh yes, The Perfect Friend has quite a few shocking surprises for us in store, as nothing is as it seems and it’s impossible to guess the full truth. The main characters are actually quite easy to like for unreliable characters, making it easier to connect to the story from the start. I did start wondering about the credibility of it all, but I was too distracted by all the plot twist reveals to be really bothered by that. Definitely read The Perfect Friend if you enjoy reading well written psychological thrillers full of surprises!

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Alex her life has fallen apart ever since her husband had left her and her children won’t speak to her. She has been struggling with an eating disorder ever since, anorexia almost meaning her death sentence. But somehow Alex managed to come back from that experience, and has been trying to recover ever since. Her life changes when she meets Carrie during a group meeting, and despite the age difference the two become fast friends. And when Alex discovers Carrie’s cancer is back and this time it’s terminal, she decides she would do anything to help her friend. But is Alex truly the only one hiding secrets connected to her past?

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If you are looking for a well written, engaging, twisty and surprising psychological thriller, The Perfect Friend is just the book for you. Trigger warnings are in place for abuse, (mental) illness, eating disorder and some sensitive scenes, but overall nothing too shocking to handle. This is not the easiest read and there is no doubt you will find yourself tangled in a web of lies and secrets along with the main character. I always love it when a story manages to mislead me! I also really liked the relationship between Alex and Carrie and how the story unfolded. All in all a very solid read.


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ARC REVIEW: Two Sisters – by Kerry Wilkinson @kerrywk @bookouture

Title: Two Sisters
Author: Kerry Wilkinson

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 23rd 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: June 6th 2017
Pages: 350

“A magician is only as smart as the audience is stupid – and when someone is as good at not eating as I am, everyone becomes very stupid indeed.”

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

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I always have a weak spot for a good psychological thriller and I was drawn to Two Sisters as soon as I saw the cover and blurb. My first impression wasn’t wrong: this story without doubt delivered. Two Sisters isn’t just another well written suspense story with an intriguing plot and a mystery to unravel though. Why? One of the main characters (the older sister, Megan) has an eating disorder and her struggle is present throughout the story. Besides the fact that it was really interesting to see how she deals with this on a daily basis while also being exposed to very stressful situations, her situation was very well described and added a whole different level to this story. I’m not sure I actually liked her character (or most of the others), but the development of the characters in general is very realistic and they feel genuine. The writing style is very engaging and makes it really easy to enjoy this story, and the many many plot twists will keep you guessing about what is really going on until the very end. Trust me, you won’t see the final revelations coming! In short, Two Sisters is a well written psychological thriller with a healthy dose of mystery and suspense that also manages to incorporate a very important topic (eating disorder) realistically while adding an original touch to the story at the same time. There are lots and lots of plot twists as well to keep you busy and all in all it’s a great read!

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Megan was ten and Chloe only six when their older brother Zac went missing in the small seaside town of Whitecliff. The family owns a cottage there and they tend to spend the summer there, although not always together. The summer Zac went missing, he had been spending most of his time there alone, so they didn’t miss him until it had been nearly two days. It was told he probably drowned, but his body was never found… And Megan is not so sure if that was what really happened. When a car crash takes the lives of both their parents, Megan and Chloe return to Whitecliff to get their parents’ affairs in order there. But is that all there is to it? Or is Megan hiding something? And what do the locals really know about what happened to Zac that summer?

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Two Sisters is without doubt a well executed psychological thriller that is both entertaining to read, filled with plot twists and has a little original touch with the incorporation of the ‘eating disorder’ theme. I like how this element plays a role throughout the story and the importance it is given; it not only turns Megan into a very interesting character but also helps spread the word about the topic in the first place. And while the characters weren’t exactly likeable, this story is still very much appealing anyway. You will want to unravel Whitecliff’s secrets for yourself!


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ARC REVIEW: Those Who Lie – by Diane Jeffrey

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Title: Those Who Lie
Author: Diane Jeffrey

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: January 27th 2017
Publisher: HarperCollinsUK
Finished reading: January 17th 2017
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“Everything looks the same, but everything has changed, she realises with a jolt. She has the strange impression that she has just stepped into someone else’s life.”

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

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Is it just me or has the whole amnesia angle been quite a popular angle in psychological thrillers lately? I personally don’t mind that much because I find it fascinating to read about, but it does get less original… Luckily in Those Who Lie, amnesia doesn’t actually play as big as a role as I thought initially. Sure, the main character Emily Klein suffers from mild amnesia after the accident and doesn’t remember the details around her husband’s death, but that is only minor compared to her very messed up past and her history with mental illness and eating disorders. Those elements turn her into what is basically the perfect unreliable narrator and an easy victim to anyone who wants to play with her mind. The writing was very enjoyable and the story itself quite intriguing, although I do have to say I kind of already guessed the ending about 60% into the story and it was kind of predictable. The lack of surprise put a minor damper on things, but I still found it enjoyable to find out all the details on both what exactly happened to Emily to made her into the person she is today and what really happened to her husband. If you are looking for an entertaining and fast-paced psychological thriller, Those Who Lie is definitely a great choice.

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When Emily Klein wakes up in the hospital, she doesn’t remember what happened to her or how she ended up in the hospital in the first place. Even worse, she doesn’t even know her husband has died until the day of his funeral… Apparently, the two were in their car and it crashed, but was it really a tragic accident or is there more at play? Emily is trying to piece together the events before his death and get her memory back. But does she really want to remember what is going on? Or are some things better left alone?

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Even though the ending wasn’t exactly a surprise, there were still quite a few plot twists that did manage to do so. And more importantly, the writing style was very enjoyable to read and I was able to finish Those Who Lie in record time due to its fast pace. The main character might not be all that likeable, but she is without doubt intriguing and I liked both her development and learning more about her past. All in all a worthy psychological thriller!


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