Hello, everyone! Those of you who saw my post last night, already knew this was coming. We sat down with A.K Small, author of The Bright Burning Stars, which comes out on May 21, 2019. This book was featured here awhile back and it still gives me emotions when I think about it. So without me saying anymore, here’s AK Small.
How did you write BRIGHT BURNING STARS? All at once or did you outline the story?
I wrote it all at once but multiple times! I’m trying to learn how to outline. Man, is it hard. My brain goes to the creative before the analytical.
What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters? Which of your characters do you most identify with, and why?
I think that the most surprising aspect of character building is that it took me years to understand and relate to Kate. I had to spend a long time with her before she finally clicked on the page. I identify with Marine because M and I both believe that any artistic success comes not from talent but from sweat and grit.
What gave you the idea for BRIGHT BURNING STARS?
I wrote a short story titled The Art of Jealousy and then I knew I wanted to write a larger piece.
Do you have a favourite scene, quote, or moment from BRIGHT BURNING STARS?
I love the scene where Marine dances to Biggie Smalls and there is a Luc scene I adore but I don’t want to give it away.
If you could tell your younger writing self-anything, what would it be?
I would tell her never to forget about the magic of process and to always trust her instincts.
What is on your current TBR pile?
The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo, The Meaning of Birds by Jaye Robbin Brown, Wilder Girls by Rory Power, How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox, Heroine by Mindy McGinnis. I’m a sucker for books. I LOVE to read.
Do you write to music? If so, what artist were you listening to while writing BRIGHT BURNING STARS?
I usually don’t, but as I was trying to figure Kate out I listened to Unsteady by X Ambassadors and I put on classical piano pieces, literal ballet music, while I worked on studio scenes for atmosphere and rhythm purposes.
Book Summary: 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.
My Thoughts: Book: Burning Bright Stars Author: AK Small Rating: 5 Out of 5 Stars
I would like to thank the publisher, Algonquin Young Readers, for providing me with this ARC. It’s so good to be working with you again.
I was shocked with this one. I really don’t know that much about ballet and the world of dance, but I do like books that show how dedicated characters are to their craft, which is why I decided to check this one out. I must say what the characters put themselves through is pretty amazing. It really makes you think about just how far you are willing to go to achieve your dreams.
I loved the friendships that the characters had. It felt real. However, not only were the characters mostly friends, but they were competing against each other, which is hard. We get to see just how the world of ballet and how it can bring people together, but, yet, tear them apart. What I really loved about the characters was we got to see them at both their best and worst. We get to see them nail that prefect routine, but make a terrible mistake on the next page. I really do like seeing this human element in books. It makes the characters even that much more real.
AK’s writing was also beautiful and packed with emotion. It is very clear that she knows her stuff and does an amazing job with explaining the ballet world to those of us who know nothing about it. I mean, I know nothing about the world of ballet and I was able to follow this book just fine. Going back to the emotion, it was just wow. This book is hard hitting in all the right places and it will leave you reaching for me. I was just stunned at the over all writing.
The pacing was good and the plot was good as well. Sometimes with young adult, there is so much time spent on the world and it throws the pacing off. This is not the case here. AK weaves in what we need to know throughout the book. It is just amazing how much ballet is packed into this short book.
I do think that this is a stand alone….I’m not sure though. I do think that everything was wrapped up very nicely. I mean, not everything is answered at the end, but that’s okay. It leaves you room to think about what happens next. It also opens up the doors to a second book.
Book: Again But Better Author: Christine Ricco Rating: 5 Out of 5 Stars
There’s been a lot of mixed reviews about this one. However, I love Christine and I had a feeling that I was coming to enjoy her book. I read Again But Better at a time where I needed a good light and fun read.
What I really enjoyed the most about this book was the fact that the characters are older. The only other coming of age university story that I can think of off the top of my head is Fangirl. Some many coming of age stories are set in high school. We never really get much from the uni age group. I know a lot of you are probably thinking it’s the same thing. It’s not. Both are trying to find themselves, but both are doing so in a different way. University is the step before real life; it’s when you make all of the decisions that are going to affect your life. it’s also a chance to do something that you never dreamed of doing.
Shane is our lead. I found her to be pretty entertaining. I really did keep picturing Shane as Christine and when she was speaking, I heard Christine’s voice in my head. Now, Shane decides to study aboard for a semester. She’s premed, but isn’t sure if it’s actually the path she wants to take. She loves writing, but her parents don’t support it. She doesn’t know how and if to tell her parents she doesn’t want to be premed anymore. Let’s stop and think: has anyone ever felt this way? Okay, it may not apply to you, but think about it. How many people have settled on a career path based on what is expected by family. I’m going to tell you that it happens more than what you think. Anyway, she goes through this journey of finding herself.
Piolet is our male lead. It did take a little while for him to grow on me. I don’t know what it was about him, but there was just something that made it really hard for me to see what the big deal about him was. After a while, he did grow on me a good bit.
The writing was good for a first book. It was worded kind of strange in a few places, but that’s okay. It was light and fluffy, with a bit of seriousness to it. Really, it was just like sitting down and reading the words from Christine’s Youtube channel. A lot of people take issue with this, but if you enjoy Christine’s channel, then you will not have any problems with this.
Overall, I really did enjoy this fun and light read. It does have some serious tones to it, but overall it was just a fun read.
Book: Crown of Coral and Pearl Author: Mara Rutherford Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars
I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher, Inkyard Press, for providing me with this ARC.
I must say that I was very impressed with this book. This is another one that I was only basing on the summary. I mean, the summary sounded good, but sometimes that can be a real let down. The writing is beautiful and the world is amazing. I love the idea of one group living in the ocean and another on land-in the same kingdom. There was just something about this that made it really magical.
What I really loved about this book was the relationship between sisters. Zadie and Nor live in a world in which the most beautiful girl in the village is chosen to marry the prince. Their whole lives have been centred about this and they have been taught to see beauty as being on the outside, not on the inside. The two sisters share a bond. Both are in the running, but they really don’t want it. Both of them have their hearts set on something else. When something happens, they are forced to live a life that neither one of them of them thought. I loved how Mara made their bond one of the main focuses of the story. I know romance is a major factor in this book, but I love the family relationships even more.
Mara’s writing is beautiful and stunning. I love how she put in little details throughout the story that really added to the world. Inside of us being told about the world in one setting, like it is with most fantasy, we get world building throughout the story. It just makes everything that much more wonderful and engaging.
The pacing was okay. To me, the pacing is what made me knock a star off. The ending felt rushed. Don’t get me wrong, it was good, but it seemed like Mara was aiming for a longer book and that didn’t happen. It felt like so much time was taken on other things and the final battle was just cut short. Hopefully, there will be a second book to pick up where this one left off-I really have no idea what’s being planned.
Overall, not a bad book. This one comes out on August 27, 2019.
Book: These Shallow Graves Author: Jennifer Donnelly Rating: 5 Out of 5 Stars
Um, why wasn’t I aware of this book until now? I found this in the bargain section of Books-A-Million for under five dollars, thought it sounded interesting, and picked it up. I had no idea that I was picking up so an amazing book.
This is a very dark book. I struggled to remember that I was reading young adult. This is set in high society New York City. Those of you who have been reading my reviews know that I love me some high society books that involve things taking a very dark turn. This is no different. We have a family that seems to have everything, but is hiding something. Plus, add in a little bit of gothic writing and you have a great fit. Now, for some reason, I thought this was going to have some elements of the supernatural it-I clearly didn’t read the summary very closely. However, the darkness, the pace and the amazing writing made it very difficult for me to get out of this book.
Jo is our lead character. She is a high society girl, who has all of this pressure on her. She can’t bring shame to her family and must mold into the role that her family wants her. There’s just one problem: she doesn’t want to. She wants to write and be free, which is a big no-no in her world. She has to put on two faces: one for the world and one for private. We see this struggle throughout the book, mostly once her father is killed off. Even though we aren’t all high society, we can all relate to Jo. Think about: how many of you have ever given up a dream for your family? How many of you wear a mask in public? Huh?
Jo’s journey takes us through New York City. Here we get to see people from all tracks of life and see Jo interact with them. Even though they aren’t all rich, Jo gets to see that maybe they aren’t all really that different. No one is free and everyone has a role to play in society. I liked how Jennifer took us on this journey and we got to see the other parts of the world. Most of the time, books like this just focus on the rich and how high and mighty they are. Here, we get see the different levels of society and see how maybe everyone isn’t actually all that different. We also get to see a lot of social injustice and all of that.
Now, I know a lot of you are probably wondering what does any of this have to do with the death of Jo’s father? Well, Jo’s father’s death was a suicide, but she doesn’t believe it. As she tries to discover the truth, she finds herself walking through the different classes of life and realizes that maybe everything isn’t as prefect as it seems. She meets some very memorable people and sees some unforgiving sights. All I have to say, is just read the book.
This is a very fast paced and gripping read. If you are looking for a good historical mystery, then pick this one up. I will say that this is young adult, but this may not be the most appropriate book for younger readers. There’s a lot of sexual references and it is a very dark book.
Book: Zenith Author: Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars
I know there’s been a lot of mixed reviews about this book. However, I really do think you need to read it and make up your own mind. I did got into this one with high expectations. I love Sasha’s Youtube Channel and was hoping to get something that lived up to that.
I can honestly see why a lot of people didn’t like this one. I mean, it’s not really what the summary says it is nor is it the best written book out there. It is an eye roller at times. However, I still found this to be a fun and exciting read. Normally, I am not really into space books and I really didn’t expect to be pulled in like I was. The world is huge and has so many different ways to go. Sasha and Lindsay did an amazing job with this and with keeping it interesting.
The writing is kind of strange. We get both what is happening now and what has happened in the past thrown into one. I really liked this, because it kept me fully informed as to what was going on, but with an element of the unknown thrown in as well. The ending was well done with the final battle and the rebuilding. I love how the authors kept everything kind of hush hush until the very last moment. The ending is just enough of a closer to have me waiting for the next book, which I believe came out today.
The characters were great. Now, I would have loved to see more of the relationship between Andi and her crew. I mean, we know Andi’s backstory, but I think it would have been interesting to see how some of the other girls ended up with her. It would have added a little bit more of a punch to the overall story. I did love Andi and Dex, but I would have just liked to see a little bit of their relationship. Again, I know there is another book, which will probably explore this a little bit more.
Now, let’s talk about that ending. I thought it was really well done and made the book for me. It was action packed and did a really nice job of just wrapping everything up. It set up for the second book, but also closed out this first volume very nicely. I just kept reading and reading the ending to make sure that I wasn’t missing anything. It was just super exciting.
Again, I really can see why a lot of people don’t like this book. However, don’t let all of the hate turn you away. Pick it up and make your own judgement about it. Again it’s not the best book out there, but I found it to be a fun read. I am really looking forward to reading book two and seeing where we get to go next.
Book: Clockwork Princess Author: Cassandra Clare Rating: 5 Out of 5 Stars
So, here we are at the end of the greatest Shadowhunter series once again. I read these books as they were first coming out and really enjoyed them. The second time around is just as good as the first. Every time I read this book, I still get chills-even though I know what is going to happen.
I love Will, Jem, and Tessa They are just the prefect leads and I love how they interact with each other. These characters truly were made for each other. It is very clear that Cassie put a lot of time and effort into creating their characters. What I really love about them is how much they actually worry for each other’s wellbeing. I mean, they are in the middle of a love triangle, but no one wants to actually hurt the others. I know it sounds kind of messed up, but they loyalty and love that they have for each other just outdoes everything else. This is how a love triangle should be written. It’s not about who gets the girl-although it kind of is-it’s about the bonds that are formed. Everyone talks about Jace and Clary, but give me Will, Jem, and Tessa any day.
The writing was just so beautiful and stunning. I really don’t get why all of the other Shadowhunter books can’t be written like this. Sure, we do have the elements of the Shadowhunter world and all of that good stuff, but there just seems to be another layer here. It’s like it more smart than the other books. The other books are just about the battle. In the Infernal Devices, it seems like the characters weigh the options out more and look at everything from different angels. I guess what I’m trying to get at is the Infernal Devices just seem to be put together so much better than the other books.
The plot has so many levels as well. We have the whole Mortmain and the clockwork army thing going on, but we also have that personal level. We have Henry and Charlotte expecting their first child, Jem is dying, the Lightwood brothers are trying to move on, and how everyone is paring up. Yes, we have the battles and the darkness, but we also get to see the hope. We get to see that Shadowhunters really are just normal people, who just happen to fight demons. This is what I really have enjoyed the most about this series.
And, now finally, that epilogue, which brings everything back full circle. I have no other words other than to say that is one of the best epilogues that I Have ever read. It was beautiful and really ended the series where it needed to be ended. Not only that, but everything truly is okay in the end.
Overall, a great ending to a great series! I really do hope that Cassie writes more books like this and doesn’t repeat Queen of Air and Darkness, which just didn’t do it for me.
Book: To Best the Boys Author: Mary Weber Rating: 1 Out of 5 Stars
So, this is a Booksplosion book of the month. I went into this with very high expectations, because Jesse, Christine, and Kat have very good tastes. However, I just couldn’t really get into this one.
This is another one of those books that sounded very interesting, but it was just poorly done. The pacing was really slow and I just couldn’t get into the characters. The writing wasn’t very engaging as well. As a whole, I just thought that most things with this one were just not done as well as they could have been.
Rhen was supposed to be a great lead character, but there was just something about her that I couldn’t get into. She has all the great qualities of a strong female lead, but there was just something about the way that she was presented that I really couldn’t enjoy. I mean, she is supposed be smart and all of that, but a lot of the stuff she did wasn’t really all that smart. I get that she’s human, but if she’s supposed to be as smart as what the author claims-then, I don’t know. I guess we just have different views on what it means to be smart.
Honestly what bothered me the most about this book was how action packed it was supposed to be and how it just didn’t live up to that. I know The Hunger Games has a slow start, but even it has more than this one. I mean, it felt like so much was better paced than To Best the Boys. Actually, The Hunger Games makes sense, this one does not.
The world as a whole just didn’t make sense. There were things here that really didn’t belong. It was almost as if Mary was trying to a fantasy author and not focusing on the key things. I really thought that this was going to be a science fiction, not fantasy. I think everything would have worked better had it been a science fiction. It really did feel like Mary was just trying to throw stuff in here so it could be labelled as fantasy.
I guess that I was just very disappointed with this one. Oh well…Off to the next one.