Review: “All the Bad Apples” by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

p-3Title: All the Bad Apple
Author:
Moïra Fowley-Doyle
Publication Date: August 1, 2019 (UK) August 27 (US)
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Content Warnings: Homophobia (challenged), suicide (supposed), rape (incestuous & of other minors), murder & arson (implied), institutionalization, forced labor, abuse (physical, mental & emotional), abortion, forced separation of mother & child
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

  ARC access provided by the publisher through NetGalley as part of the Fantastic Flying Book Club’s blog tour. All opinions expressed are my own.

One teen-aged girl’s quest to find her missing sister uncovers more than she expects. Family secrets and curses, and a country’s unspoken history fuel this brutally emotional contemporary by Moïra Fowley-Doyle.

When Deena’s wild and mysterious sister Mandy disappears – presumed dead – her family are heartbroken. But Mandy has always been troubled. It’s just another bad thing to happen to Deena’s family. Only Deena refuses to believe it’s true.

And then the letters start arriving. Letters from Mandy, claiming that their family’s blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions – but a curse, handed down through the generations. Mandy has gone in search of the curse’s roots, and now Deena must find her. What they find will heal their family’s rotten past – or rip it apart forever.

There are stories that just grip you and crush you into tiny little pieces. All the Bad Apples was one of those stories for me.

All the Bad Apples is a force of its own. Combining contemporary and magical realism, its story weaves together intergenerational stories of the women of the Rys family – a long history deeply rooted and intertwined with Ireland’s own unspoken history of Catholic fundamentalism, discrimination, and institutional abuse.

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Queer representation

Though there wasn’t much racial diversity in this story (Finn is the only black character in the book. The rest were white,) queer representation is not a problem for this standalone. The main character, Deena, and her possible love interest Cale are both lesbians. Finn, Deena’s best friend. Mary Ellen, Deena’s great-great-grandmother, and Ann, Cale’s great-great-great-great-aunt, were in a relationship. Before that, Mary Ellen was with Deena’s philandering great-great-grandfather.

All The Bad Apples (1).png

Nitty and gritty

All the Bad Apples tackles some of the toughest issues there is – homophobia, sexual abuse, and abortion to name a few – but it doesn’t pussyfoot. Fowley-Doyle addresses these issues in a very straightforward manner, her words sharply honed to get to the very core of things. This fitted the story and helped propel her narrative on the right ground.

All The Bad Apples (3).png

Rage, rage, rage

“This novel was, in part, fueled by rage,” Moïra Fowley-Doyle wrote in her author’s note, and, indeed, rage was a palpable and dominant emotion throughout the whole story. It was hard not to feel fist-clenchingly angry with what all the women – not just the Rys’ – went through in this story.

It was not just anger that I felt though.

This book dragged me through a whole range of emotions, back and forth several times over. I felt disgusted at the way men objectified and used women, treating them like objects that can be discarded at any time they pleased; felt sadness and betrayal when families turned their backs on daughters because they don’t conform to their notion of right and normal; shame at the righteousness of the people who deemed themselves the interpreters of God’s word and will – more so because, like them, I’m also Catholic.

But at the end of it all, hope.

All The Bad Apples (4).png

The ending definitely was a satisfying one, having gone through a rollercoaster of emotions to get to it. Fowley-Doyle definitely succeeded in making readers feel what her characters feel, using Deena as a touchpoint through which her audience experienced her fictional piece of the world.

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All the Bad Apples is a powerful story. Though the characters and places are fictional, the history peppered throughout the pages of this novel has happened to real people. This is one book that should be read by everyone.

about the author

p-4MOÏRA FOWLEY-DOYLE is half-French, half-Irish and made of equal parts feminism, whimsy, and Doc Martens. She lives in Dublin where she writes magic realism, reads tarot cards and raises witch babies.

Moïra’s first novel, The Accident Season, was shortlisted for the 2015 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize & the North East Teen Book Awards, nominated for the Carnegie Medal & won the inaugural School Library Association of Ireland Great Reads Award. It received two starred reviews & sold in ten territories. Her second novel, Spellbook of the Lost and Found, was published in summer 2017, received a starred review from School Library Journal and was shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Tumblr

Giveaway

Win one (1) of three (3) copies of All the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle. Open to UK/Ireland only.

Giveaway starts August 22nd and ends September 5th.

Follow the Tour

p-1

AUGUST 21ST

AUGUST 22ND

The Book Bratz – Interview
In Between Book Pages – Review + Favourite Quotes
Rants and Raves of a Bibliophile – Review + Favourite Quotes
Bookish Looks – Promotional Post

AUGUST 23RD

The Clever Reader – Interview
Hauntedbybooks – Review + Favourite Quotes
L.M.Durand – Promotional Post

AUGUST 24TH

The Baroness of Books – Review + Favourite Quotes
Story-eyed Reviews – Review
Sometimes Leelynn Reads – Review + Playlist + Dream Cast
Confessions of a YA Reader – Promotional Post

AUGUST 25TH

Downright Dystopian – Review + Favourite Quotes
The Reading Life – Review + Favourite Quotes
Starry Sky Books – Review + Playlist
A Book Addict’s Bookshelves – Promotional Post

AUGUST 26TH

Utopia State of Mind – Review + Favourite Quotes
Dazzled by Books – Review
Portrait of a Book – Review
Book Rambler – Review

AUGUST 27TH

Moonlight Rendezvous – Review + Favourite Quotes
The Reading Corner for All – Review + Playlist
Boook Beach Bunny – Review
Kait Plus Books – Promotional Post
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Review: “How the Light Gets In” by Katy Upperman

pTitle: How the Light Gets In
Author: Katy Upperman
Publication Date: August 6, 2019
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Content Warnings: Drug use, alcohol abuse, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, grief, ineffective coping
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐1/2
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC access provided by the publisher through NetGalley as part of the Fantastic Flying Book Club’s blog tour. All opinions expressed are my own.

A YA contemporary featuring a sweet summer romance and a touch of the paranormal, Katy Upperman’s new offering How the Light Gets In is a perfect beachside read.

Since her sister’s tragic death, seventeen-year-old Callie Ryan has basically given up. Her grades have plummeter, she’s quit her swim team, and she barely recognizes the peope her parents once were.

When she returns to her aunt’s run-down coastal Victorian one year after Chloe’s death, Callie resigns herself to a summer of guilt and home renovations. She doesn’t expect to be charmed by the tiny coastal town or by Tucker Morgan, a local boy brimming with sunshine.

But even as her days begin to brighten, Callie’s nights are crowded with chilling dreams, unanswered questions, and eerie phenomenon that have her convinced she’s being haunted. Will Callie be able to figure out what her sister is trying to communicate before it’s too late?

This is my first book from Katy Upperman, but I can safely say that I will be coming back for more.

How the Light Gets In mixes contemporary charm with paranormal mysticism built on the bittersweet foundations of love, loss, and grief. Emotion-charged straight off page one, this story is set to tug, pull and pluck at your heartstrings and leave you contemplating just how precious moments with your loved ones truly are.

I enjoyed this book a whole lot even though it took a while before I really got into it. Once I did though, there was no turning back. I fell in love with the setting, the characters, and their relationships, at the honesty and realness with which the author portrayed grief and loss in this story.

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Real and honest

How the Light Gets In showed grief with an almost visceral realness – how people’s handling of it differs in varying ways, how sometimes grief and loss can drive a person to grab at whatever thing will make the pain go away no matter how temporary, and how you can still mourn and search for someone even if they’ve long been gone…even if you’ve never known them.

I felt for Callie, her mother and father, and Lucy. Losing a sister – a daughter, someone who has so much more ahead of them – is a tough loss that took something from all of them.

I felt for Tucker. Having lost his mother without even knowing her, and having a father who’s reluctant to even tell him a smidge about the woman who bore him left him with questions and made him mistrustful.

As someone who has lost a number of loved ones, this one is something that deeply resonated with me. Grief plays a crucial role in the plot of this story. It is a delicate topic, but one handled well and with much sensitivity.

How the Light Gets In (3)

Small-town charm

I don’t usually mind a story’s setting much. I trust the author to build her story, its world, place her characters in the setting she deems will best serve her narrative. For this one though, I just couldn’t help but fall in love with Bell Cove and it’s coastal small-town charm. There’s just something magical, at the same time eerie about it especially thinking the paranormal elements this novel has. It’s just perfect!

A ghost story & a mystery

This was a bonus I never expected to get from this book. Yes, the blurb hinted at a bit of a ghost story, but that’s selling it short. It plays a slightly bigger role and totally gives this story an added dimension. The inclusion of small-town mystery – the intrigue and rumors surrounding it included – was a welcome and fresh addition.

How the Light Gets In (4)

Family, friendship & love

It wasn’t an immediate connection, but I grew to adore Callie. There’s a vulnerability in her at the same time that there is a hidden, undiscovered strength. Tucker, meanwhile, first appeared to be Callie’s opposite – the bright sunshine to her gloomy raincloud. As the story progressed though, I just couldn’t help but see how much similarities they have – they’ve both lost people, both still grieving. It was beautiful reading how they discover these similarities bit by bit and use it as a common ground to begin something new that’s just for both of them.

Another thing I loved was Callie’s, and by extension Tucker’s, interaction with the rest of the characters in this book, most especially with Lucy because she’s one of my favorites. More than an aunt, she’s like an older sister for Callie, and like her, is also swallowed up in guilt after Chloe’s death (although she copes with it in a different way.)

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Overall, How the Light Gets In is an enjoyable read that perfectly blends summer romance and paranormal mystery. It has its flaws, yes. It starts slow, and at times it meanders through unneeded introspection. But there’s much more to love in this one that I overlooked them and focused on the good stuff instead. I’d definitely recommend this to YA contemporary readers who love a bit of mystery (and a ghost story).

about the author

p

KATY UPPERMAN is a wife, mama, author, reader, baker, and wanderer. She writes novels for teens and teens at heart. She’s a Washington State University alum (go Cougs!), a country music fanatic, and a makeup stockpiler. She loves the ocean, pedicures, sunshine, Instagram, Dirty Dancing and The Princess Bride, Jelly Bellies, true crime documentaries, and Friday Night Lights.

Katy’s debut novel, Kissing Max Holden, was published August 1, 2017, and her sophomore effort, The Impossibility of Us, released July 31, 2018. Her third novel, How the Light Gets In, will be out August 6, 2019. All three books are with Swoon Reads/Macmillan. She’s represented by Victoria Marini of the Irene Goodman Agency.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Tumblr | Pinterest

Giveaway

rafflecopter
Win a copy of Katy Upperman’s “How the Light Gets In” and some swag. Open INTERNATIONAL.

Giveaway starts August 12 and ends August 26.

Follow the Tour

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AUGUST 12TH

AUGUST 13TH

Flipping Through the Pages – Review + Favourite Quotes

AUGUST 14TH

Phannie the ginger bookworm – Review + Favourite Quotes
The Reading Corner for All – Review + Favourite Quotes
Bemused Bibliophile – Promotional Post

AUGUST 15TH

Wishful Endings – Interview
Books4Jessica  – Review
Bookishly Nerdy – Review
Bookish_Kali – Review + Favourite Quotes
Pages and Pugs – Review
TheBookNerdDiaries – Promotional Post

AUGUST 16TH

The Reading Life  – Promotional Post

AUGUST 17TH

The Clever Reader – Review + Favourite Quotes
Book Rambler – Review
Sometimes Leelynn Reads – Review + Playlist
In Between Book Pages – Review + Favourite Quotes
A Dream Within A Dream – Promotional Post

AUGUST 18TH

L.M. Durand – Interview
Cafeyre – Review + Favourite Quotes
Booked J – Review
Emily The Book Nerd – Review + Playlist
Hauntefbybooks – Review + Favourite Quotes

Can’t-Wait Wednesday: “All the Bad Apples” by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

Can't Wait Wednesday

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted Tressa at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted Jill at Breaking the Spine.


Happy Wednesday!

Today I’m going to be featuring a book about daughters, mothers, and sisters; a story about religion and secrets and a country’s history.

Title: All the Bad Applesp
Author:
Moïra Fowley-Doyle
Publication Date: August 1, 2019
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

When Deena’s wild and mysterious sister Mandy disappears – presumed dead – her family are heartbroken. But Mandy has always been troubled. It’s just another bad thing to happen to Deena’s family. Only Deena refuses to believe it’s true.
And then the letters start arriving. Letters from Mandy, claiming that their family’s blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions – but a curse, handed down through the generations. Mandy has gone in search of the curse’s roots, and now Deena must find her. What they find will heal their family’s rotten past – or rip it apart forever.

I just finished reading this book a couple of hours ago, and I’m telling you this one is a must-read. Written around the Magdalene Laundries and start of initiatives to repeal the 8th amendment in Ireland, and woven into the story of a teen-aged girl’s quest to discover her familial roots, All the Bad Apples is a tough book to read. It made me mad and disgusted – made me hurt – all in equal measures, but it made me hope, too.

All the Bad Apples is now out from Penguin Random House.

Follow the Tour

I’m thankful to be reviewing this as part of the Fantastic Flying Book Club‘s blog tour for this book. If you have the time and want to know more about All the Bad Apples, please do check the rest of the tour stops.

August 21st

August 22nd

The Book Bratz – Interview
In Between Book Pages – Review + Favourite Quotes
Rants and Raves of a Bibliophile – Review + Favourite Quotes
Bookish Looks – Promotional Post

August 23rd

The Clever Reader – Interview
Hauntedbybooks – Review + Favourite Quotes
L.M.Durand – Promotional Post

August 24th

The Baroness of Books – Review + Favourite Quotes
Story-eyed Reviews – Review
Sometimes Leelynn Reads – Review + Playlist + Dream Cast
Confessions of a YA Reader – Promotional Post

August 25th

Downright Dystopian – Review + Favourite Quotes
The Reading Life – Review + Favourite Quotes
Starry Sky Books – Review + Playlist
A Book Addict’s Bookshelves – Promotional Post

August 26th

Utopia State of Mind – Review + Favourite Quotes
Dazzled by Books – Review
Portrait of a Book – Review
Book Rambler – Review

August 27th

Moonlight Rendezvous – Review + Favourite Quotes
The Reading Corner for All – Review + Playlist
Boook Beach Bunny – Review
Kait Plus Books – Promotional Post

First Line Fridays: “The Female of the Species” by Mindy McGinnis

First Line Fridays (feature photo)

First Line Fridays is a weekly feature hosted by Hoarding Books.


Oh, hello there! We made it to Friday!

I’ve been going through my backlist TBR lately, wanting to prevent an impending reading slump. This Friday’s FLF feature is a book I’ve long been intrigued by. A handful of people recommended it when I finished reading Courtney Summers’ Sadie last year, telling me that I’ll love it as well. And they were right, I loved this book – loved it and hurt for the main character.
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This is how I kill someone.
I learn his habits, I know his schedule. It is not difficult. His life consists of quick stops to the dollar store for the bare minimum of things required to keep this ragged cycle going, his hat pulled down over his eys so as not to be recognized.

But he is. It’s a small town.

I watch these little exchanges. They evolve in seconds, from I get paid to smile at you to the facial muscles going lax when recognition hits, the price scanner making a feeble attempt to break the silence making a beep-beep when his food goes past.

I know this pattern but watch it anyway. The bread, the cheese, the wine, and the crackers that sometimes he will crumble and put out for the birds – a tiny crack of kindness that makes him all the more hateful. Because if there’s a version of him that feeds birds as winter descends, then there is a decency that he chose to overlook when he did other things. Other things that also fed the birds. And the hawks. And the raccoons. And the coyotes. All the animals that took mouthfuls of my sister, destroying any chance of proving he killed her.

But I’m not a court, and I don’t need proof.

 

The Female of the Species was a like punch in the gut. It made me angry and sad, and all other complicated emotions. I loved how it tackled and handled rape culture within its pages. This is one important book I think all must read.

I’m not sure when I’ll get to it, but I’m going to review this in the future. I just need a longer weekend, and loads of coffee. Seriously though, you guys need to read this book! Now!

💗💗💗

Rachel

let's chat

Come and join in the fun. Visit Hoarding Books to see what other FLF bloggers have to share.

Can’t-Wait Wednesday: “How the Light Gets In” by Katy Upperman

Can't Wait Wednesday

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted Tressa at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted Jill at Breaking the Spine.


Hey everyone! Happy Wednesday!

Today I’m going to be sharing one of my anticipated August releases. This book is a sweet contemporary perfect for the summer (for those of you in the other half of the world, it’s already been raining a LOT here on my side.)

pTitle: How the Light Gets In
Author: Katy Upperman
Publication Date: August 6, 2019
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Pre-order: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

Since her sister’s tragic death, seventeen-year-old Callie Ryan has basically given up. Her grades have plummeted, she’s quit her swim team, and she barely recognizes the people her parents have become.

When she returns to her aunt’s run-down coastal Victorian one year after Chloe’s death, Callie resigns herself to a summer of guilt and home renovations. She doesn’t expect to be charmed by the tiny coastal town or by Tucker Morgan, a local boy brimming with sunshine.

But even as her days begin to brighten, Callie’s nights are crowded with chilling dreams, unanswered questions, and eerie phenomenon that have her convinced she’s being haunted. Will Callie be able to figure out what her sister is trying to communicate before it’s too late?

I’m almost through the ARC of this book, and I kid you not, I’m kinds of swooning over here. Tucker is just making me go all heart eyes with how sweet he is with Callie. Really, soft boys make me all gooey inside. I’m pretty sure he would make you melt, too.

Follow the Tour

I’m excited to be part of the blog tour for this book care of the great ladies at The Fantastic Flying Book Club. If you have the time and feel so inclined, please do check out the bloggers participating in this tour. The schedule is below:

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August 12th

August 13th

Flipping Through the Pages – Review + Favourite Quotes

August 14th

Phannie the ginger bookworm – Review + Favourite Quotes
The Reading Corner for All – Review + Favourite Quotes
Bemused Bibliophile – Promotional Post

August 15th

Wishful Endings – Interview
Books4Jessica  – Review
Bookishly Nerdy – Review
Bookish_Kali – Review + Favourite Quotes
Pages and Pugs – Review
TheBookNerdDiaries – Promotional Post

August 16th

The Reading Life  – Promotional Post

August 17th

The Clever Reader – Review + Favourite Quotes
Book Rambler – Review
Sometimes Leelynn Reads – Review + Playlist
In Between Book Pages – Review + Favourite Quotes
A Dream Within A Dream – Promotional Post

August 18th

L.M. Durand – Interview
Cafeyre – Review + Favourite Quotes
Booked J – Review
Emily The Book Nerd – Review + Playlist
Hauntefbybooks – Review + Favourite Quotes
Til next time!

💗💗💗

Rachel

let's chat

What book/s are you excited for this week?

 

Review: “Bright Burning Stars” by A.K. Small

42288387
Title: 
Bright Burning Stars
Author: 
A.K. Small
Publication Date: 
April 24, 2019
Publisher:
 Algonquin Young Readers
Rating: ⭐
Get it:
IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks
Content Warnings:
body dysmorphia, severe disordered eating, depression, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, drug use, grief

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

 

Two best friends find themselves in opposite sides of a competition in this compelling debut set in the dazzling world of ballet.

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.

I remember reading the blurb of this book and thinking how interesting it was. A dead body, two best friends in a very cutthroat ballet school, a love triangle – it was like sweet nectar to a honeybee and I fell for it.

Bright Burning Stars was a letdown.

I desperately wanted to love this book, but there were just too many things in it that left a bitter taste in my mouth. Everything from the characters to the story’s pacing down to the way certain arcs were handled and resolved felt off to me. So much so that even if there were still parts of the story that I liked, I just couldn’t shake off the funny (and infuriating) feeling this book left me with.

If I were to only look at this book as solely a ballet story, Bright Burning Stars would have been a good one. Having been a former dance herself, A.K. Small was able to bring to life the drama and the competitiveness of life at a topnotch ballet school. All the best parts – parts that I loved – were contained in these short, sporadic scenes. Small’s exacting descriptions of every step and movement the dancers, especially Kate, Marine and Cyrille, made created a vivid picture in my head.

It was all downhill from there.

This was supposed to be a quick read – just 304 pages. I could have finished reading it in one sitting, yet it took me 13 days to get through the whole thing, and I put part of the blame on the wonky writing.

The pacing, for me, lacked the rhythm this story called for – it slowed in the parts that needed speeding up and careened in the parts that needed more fleshing out. It totally doesn’t help that the characters – both main and secondary – were all shallowly drawn, caricatures made of shadows instead of solid lines. I couldn’t help but think just how big of a misstep this was both for the author and the story. Small, at the best moments of this book, showed great talent. She writes with a certain clarity and sharpness, and with a plot this interesting, she could have done a great deal more.

While the conclusion was satisfying enough, I just couldn’t shake the uncomfortable feeling this book gave me especially with the way it handled some things. I get that this was a story about toxic friendship, and that it dealt with dark, heavy topics, but it could have been handled better. Instead, all of it felt like mere plot points and not integral parts of the characters’ stories.

Overall, Bright Burning Stars could have a been a better story. Some might find something here for themselves, but for me, this just didn’t work.

about the author

Angela Small credit _Becky Thurner BraddockA.K. SMALL was born in Paris, France. At first 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 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.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Book Spotlight + Author Q&A: “Bright Burning Stars” by A.K. Small

Today I feature a debut that promises a whole lot of drama, romance, and ballet.

42288387

Title: Bright Burning Stars
Author: A.K. Small
Publication Date: May 21, 2019
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Pre-order: Publisher | IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

Would you die for the Prize?

Best friends Marine Duval and Kate Sanders have trained since childhood at the Paris Opera Ballet School, where they’ve forged an inseparable bond through shared stories of family tragedies and a powerful 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 how far they woud go for the ultimate prize: to be named the one girl who will join the Opera’s prestigious corps de ballet. Would they cheat? Seduce the most talented boy in the school, dubbed the Demigod, hoping his magic will make them shine, too? Would they risk death for it? 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.

Bright Burning Stars is a promising debut by an equally promising debut author. This book reminded me of Center Stage (go watch it if you want to see baby Zoe Saldana,) The Company and Black Swan. A.K. Small’s ballet beginnings certainly helped in the makings of this book. The drama, the highly competitive setting all felt real.

Want to get a little taste of this gorgeous book? You can read the first chapter here. This one is from Marine’s perspective, but you also get to meet Kate. The whole story revolves around these two best friends as they compete for and against each other for the Prize.

Author Q&A (1)

I was lucky enough to be invited by Algonquin Young Readers to the Bright Burning Stars blog tour. I certainly had a fun time reading all the ballet references in this one. The descriptions of all the performances in this story were gorgeous. It all made me curious about A.K. Small’s inspiration for her book, and here she talks about her writing process, inspiration and the songs she listened to while writing Kate and M’s story.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Do you have a favorite 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Author Q&A (2)

Angela Small credit _Becky Thurner Braddock.jpg

A.K. SMALL was born in Paris, France. At first 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 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.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

 

Review: “You’d Be Mine” by Erin Hahn

You'd Be Mine (Erin Hahn)

Title: You’d Be Mine
Author: Erin Hahn
Publication Date: April 2, 2019
Imprint: Wednesday Books
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
TW: Grief, trauma, alcoholism, drug use, parental death, mentions of suicide
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

Teen country music stars find love in this sweet YA romance by debut author Erin Hahn.

Annie Mathers is America’s sweetheart and heir to a country music legacy full of all the things her Gran warned her about. Superstar Clay Coolidge is most definitely going to end up one of those things.
But unfortunately for Clay, if he can’t convince Annie to join his summer tour, his music label is going to drop him. That’s what happens when your bad boy image turns into bad boy reality. Annie has been avoiding the spotlight after her parents’ tragic deaths, except on her skyrocketing YouTube channel. Clay’s label wants to land Annie, and Clay has to make it happen.
Swayed by Clay’s undeniable charm and good looks, Annie and her band agree to join the tour. From the start fans want them to be more than just tour mates, and Annie and Clay can’t help but wonder if the fans are right. But if there’s one part of fame Annie wants nothing to do with, it’s a high-profile relationship. She had a front row seat to her parents’ volatile marriage and isn’t interested in repeating history. If only she could convince her heart that Clay, with his painful past and head over heels inducing tenor, isn’t worth the risk.

I love music and I love stories. Combine those two elements together and you have me practically eating out of your hands. So you’d understand my excitement over Erin Hahn’s debut You’d Be Mine.

And it was a treat to read.

Summer, music, the sweetness of first love – You’d Be Mine has it all. I can’t remember the last time I fell in love so quickly with a YA contemporary. It completely reeled me in with its first few pages and had me swooning by chapter four. All of these was largely due to the story’s main characters, Annie and Clay.

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Annie and Clay were interesting characters. They were different from one another with their contrasting personalities and temperament, and yet they were still similar. Both had some serious emotional baggage – Annie with her parents and Clay with his brother. These unresolved issues and the different way they dealt and coped with them kept Annie and Clay from really acting on their obvious attraction. At the start, at least. The two young country stars, getting to know each other more and growing closer during their summer tour, eventually getting together close to the end.

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I really enjoyed reading this book. The sweet, satisfying ending of course factors in, but it was more than that. You’d Be Mine tackled grief and trauma, and the different ways people handle these two issues. Clay turned to alcohol to numb the pain of losing his grandfather and brother almost simultaneously. He was close to the edge, driving himself to his own destruction. Annie, meanwhile, became too careful, setting strict rules and boundaries for herself wanting to steer away from the path her parents took. These – their grief and trauma – was a big part of Annie and Clay’s story, and Erin Hahn did a great job tackling this element of their characters. It was realistic but was still handled with great care and sensitivity, something that I hugely appreciate as it opens up avenues for discussions in relation to these to very real issues.

YBM Quote #2

This was a character-driven story – Annie and Clay doing most of the labor with supporting characters adding more color and nuance – but it did not take anything away from the plot. It was still fun and sweet. The glimpses into the inner workings of the country music scene were definitely intriguing. Other readers got A Star is Born vibes from this book, and while I agree it did have that going for it, I was more reminded of two of my old time favorites – Nashville and ­Hart of Dixie – which was a nice surprise for me.

With characters you’d cheer for and a swoony romance, You’d Be Mine is the perfect summer read for YA contemporary lovers. Trust me, this book will definitely give you that funny butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling just by reading it. Erin Hahn may just be a new auto-buy author for me. I’m definitely going to look forward to any other future works of hers.

Author Q&A (2)

Erin Hahn

ERIN HAHN spent the first half of her life daydreaming in a small town in northern Illinois. She fell in love with words in college when she wrote for the campus paper, covering everything from drag shows to ice fishing and took way too much liberty with a history essay on the bubonic plague.

She started writing her own books when her little sister gave her shade about a country music-themed Twilight fanfic. By day, Erin gets to share her favorite stories with her elementary students. By night, she writes swoons. She married her own YA love interest whom she met on her first day of college and has two kids who are much, much cooler than she ever was at their age. She lives in Michigan, aka the greenest place on earth and has a cat, Gus, who plays fetch.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | YouTube

Review: “You Asked for Perfect”‘ by Laura Silverman

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Title: You Asked for Perfect
Author: Laura Silverman
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: March 5, 2019
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
TW: Anxiety, recreational drug use
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest opinion.

 

Utterly realistic and relatable, Laura Silverman tackles the pressures and difficulties teens face in their academic lives in her sophomore title You Asked for Perfect.

Senior Ariel Stone is the perfect college applicant: first chair violin, dedicated community volunteer, and expected valedictorian. He works hard – really hard – to make his life look effortless. A failed Calculus quiz is not part of that plan. Not when he’s number one. Not when his peers can smell weakness like a freshman’s body spray.

Figuring a few all-nighters will preserve his class rank, Ariel throws himself into studying. His friends will understand if he skips a few plans, and he can sleep when he graduates. Except Ariel’s grade continues to slide. Reluctantly, he gets a tutor. Amir and Ariel have never gotten along, but Amir excels in Calculus, and Ariel is out of options.

Ariel may not like Calc, but he might like Amir. Except adding a new relationship to his long list of commitments may just push him past his limit.

It’s been a handful of years now since I finished high school. I wasn’t an exceptional student, but I still remember most of it – the struggle to fit in, competing with your classmates, balancing acads with extra curriculars, the pressure of maintaining high grades and a high weighted average to get into a good university. High school was tough and I was only happy, probably too happy, when I finally walked off with my diploma.

I guess, that’s what I was expecting from You Asked for Perfect when I started reading it:  tackle high school life – the good, the bad and everything in between. And that was exactly what I got! A very likable set of diverse characters, an adorable M/M romance and a whole load of Harry Potter references, there’s just so much to love in this book.

Where was this book when I was in high school myself? 

You Asked for Perfect was a refreshing yet still realistic take on academic anxiety and how the demand and struggle for perfection negatively affects young people. Laura Silverman explored this topic with much care and sensitivity while keeping the story fun and quirky.

Ariel was such a relatable character. Anyone, doesn’t matter how young or not young, will surely see a little of themselves in him (as well as the rest of the characters.) Ariel was smart, talented and funny; self-conscious and highly critical of himself. Reading his story took me back to the past and brought forth into memory a younger version of myself and of coffee-fueled late nights studying for an exam, cramming my head with information.

That I reminisced about high school, a part of my academic life that I’d much rather forget, was a testament to how well and effective Silverman crafted her characters. She brought to life colorful characters, characters that you can imagine living their own stories separate from Ariel’s. Rasha, Malka, Sook, Amir and (my namesake) Rachel – I was invested in what will happen to them and how well they will fare. It was just so much easier to care about a character when you feel like you know them, and that can only happen if they were fully fleshed out.

The romance part of this book was also another thing I loved. Ariel and Amir were ultra cute! These two totally had me shipping them from the very first time they appeared on the same page. And it was so adorable, how they got together! But while Amir plays an important part in Ariel’s life, their relationship played out on the sidelines – a critical subplot there to support the main story – and I appreciate that Silverman remained true to the focus of her story.

There’s much, much more to love about You Asked for Perfect. Diversity and representation, for one, with all the mains and secondary characters coming from different cultural backgrounds and sexual orientations (Ariel, Amir, Rasha, Malka and Isaac are all Jewish, Pari is Muslim, and Sook is Korean. Ariel is bisexual, Amir gay and Sook, a lesbian)  and I’m a 100% down for it. I also love all of the parts involving the parents in this book. Supportive and still very human, very flawed parents – it’s something that I wouldn’t mind reading more in the future.

Overall, You Asked for Perfect is an honest and lighthearted YA contemporary. With a diverse cast of characters, adorable romance and a plot most would be able to relate to, this book is an awesome read. I definitely recommend it to anyone and everyone, but most especially to contemporary lovers. You’ll fall in love with this book!

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Here’s a bonus playlist for y’all, inspired by Ariel and his great musical taste + a few songs that, I think, fits Amir and Ariel!

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About the Author:

Laura SilvermanLAURA SILVERMAN is an author and editor and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. She earned her MFA in Writing for Children at the New School. Her books include Girl Out of Water, You Asked for Perfect, and It’s a Whole Spiel. Girl Out of Water was a Junior Library Guild Selection.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

 

 

 

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GIVEAWAY!

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Win a copy of You Asked for Perfect by Laura Silverman. Open INTERNATIONALLY as long as Book Depository ships to your country. Giveaway ends February 24.

Good luck!

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FEBRUARY 11th

FEBRUARY 12th

The Book Raven – Review + Playlist

FEBRUARY 13th

Young Adult Media Consumer – Review + Favourite Quotes
Milky Way of Books – Review
The Bibliophagist – Review

FEBRUARY 14th

Vicarious Bookworm – Review + Playlist
Novel Ink – Review

FEBRUARY 15th

Literary Meanderings – Interview
Metamorphoreader – Review + Playlist
The Hermit Librarian – Review + Favourite Quotes
Reading With Wrin – Review

FEBRUARY 16th

The YA Obsessed – Review
The Layaway Dragon – Review + Favourite Quotes
Akithroughbooks – Review + Favourite Quotes
In Between Book Pages – Review + Playlist    < == You’re here! 😀 

FEBRUARY 17th

Vicky Who Reads – Review
A Bookish Dream  – Review

 

First Line Fridays: “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” by Jenny Han

First Line Fridays (feature photo)

First Line Fridays is a weekly feature hosted by Hording Books.


Hey! Congratulations! We’ve reached another Friday!

I actually debated whether or not I will be joining today’s FLF since this week has been a slow one for reading-wise. The good news is, I finally finished that damned annual health report and ready to submit it to HR, so they, in turn, could submit it to the Department of Labor and Employment. That out of the way, I’m expecting more reading time for myself. So, yay, for me! 😊

Today I’m going to be sharing the first couple of lines of a book I plan to read this month as part of the Year of the Asian Reading Challenge. If you haven’t yet, go check out Shealea’s post about it and sign up. There are very cute badges for every reading milestone. Plus, you get to immerse yourself into more Asian reads by Asian authors. Ain’t that fun?

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Josh is Margot’s boyfriend, but you could say my whole family is a little in love with him. It’s hard to say who most of all. Before he was Margot’s boyfriend, he was just Josh. He was always there. I say always, but I guess that’s not true. He moved next door five years ago but it feels like always.

 

 

 

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I haven’t read any of Jenny Han’s books even though one of my friends, Lhea, has been pushing me forever to get her titles (starting with Burn for Burn because she’s just so in-love with that series.) I got around to buying the whole To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy in 2017, and it has been languishing on my shelves since then. (I swear my pile of unread books curse me every time I come home with a paper bag from the bookstore.) But its Netflix movie adaptation, which I loved,  reminded me about these books so I’m doing myself service and am picking them up now (kinda fitting too since it’s February.)

Anyway, that’s it for me today. I swear I’ll be working on my blog extra hard in the next week or so to compensate for the lack of posts the last couple of months. Here’s me wishing all of you a great weekend ahead. May it be filled with equally great books that make your hearts happy.

💗💗💗

Rachel

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