ARC Review: Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne — A Fast-Paced and Brilliant Retelling of Jane Eyre Full of Intrigue, Mystery, Secrets, and Lies

Hi guys! Today, in my hometown, we are celebrating the World’s Biggest Fish Fry! What is that, you might ask? Well, in Paris, Tennessee, (yes I live in a town that is named after the city in France… and yes, we do have a miniature Eiffel Tower), the town fries up literally tons of catfish and we celebrate that by having a week-long celebrating full of eating, going to the fair, and fish-related activities, including catfish races (yes, we race catfish, and we’re not ashamed of it). While I’m watching the parade today, I hope you enjoy this review of one of my most anticipated releases of 2018, Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne!


About the BookBrightly Burning

Seventeen-year-old Stella Ainsley wants just one thing: to go somewhere—anywhere—else. Her home is a floundering spaceship that offers few prospects, having been orbiting an ice-encased Earth for two hundred years. When a private ship hires her as a governess, Stella jumps at the chance. The captain of the Rochester, nineteen-year-old Hugo Fairfax, is notorious throughout the fleet for being a moody recluse and a drunk. But with Stella he’s kind.

But the Rochester harbors secrets: Stella is certain someone is trying to kill Hugo, and the more she discovers, the more questions she has about his role in a conspiracy threatening the fleet.

Brightly Burning releases from HMH on May 1st! Pre-order it today!

Goodreads

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4 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free ARC copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in any way.

It feels so great to finally find a YA novel that I literally could NOT put down; in fact, I finished Brightly Burning in just one weekend, tearing through it like a slice of cake. Brightly Burning is a brilliant and imaginative retelling of Jane Eyre thrust among the stars and full of intriguing mystery, dark secrets, and jaw-dropping technology. Honestly, I tried to read Jane Eyre but never had time to finish it (though I’m determined to read it this summer), but comparing the synopsis of the novel with Donne’s debut, I have got to say that Brightly Burning keeps the essence of Jane Eyre while spinning it into a dystopian and aristocratic space society. It is such a stunning and marvelous book that I fell in love with everything about it from page one.

While I did enjoy the romance and found it to be swoon-worthy and charming (I was rooting for Hugo and Stella the entire time), I was more captured by all the mystery and deception surrounding the Rochester. Curiosity swelled through my body as Stella attempted to learn more about Hugo’s dark past that lies beneath his brooding exterior. The climax took me by surprise, and I did not expect it at all. Every shocking revelation, every plot twist was a punch to the gut. Brightly Burning throws at readers everything from surprise visitors to mysterious secrets to heartbreaking betrayals, and each twist and turn will slowly wrench your heart until the very end.

Alexa Donne is a master at world-building. Brightly Burning is set in a dystopian future where an Ice Age took over the Earth, and only a fleet of space ships holds the remainder of the human race. The deeper I went into the novel, the more I became fascinated by this history. I wanted to know more about the ships, the people, and the politics. I craved answers to questions like “Are there people on Earth? Is it inhabitable?” The author elegantly describes the technology and the ships so well that you feel as if you were on them. I could imagine myself reading in Hugo’s library or walking through the decks of the Rochester or the Stalwart. I even felt the urge to live on a space ship myself! Brightly Burning will enrapture readers so much that they will never want to leave! I know I did not.

You cannot help but fall in love with all of the characters, regardless of their personality. From the strict yet caring Officer Xiao to the kind-hearted best friend George, each character had his or her own complexities that make them memorable, lovable, and relatable. Even the supposed antagonists (I use “supposed” very lightly) will surprise you in many ways when the time comes. However, Stella has to be my favorite character. Firstly, her love of books is one of the best parts of the entire novel. There are so many references to amazing classics and authors that the avid reader will rebound in joy at each one. I now want to re-read some of my favorite books because the novel emphasizes the power of literature. Secondly, she’s one of the strongest characters I have read. She would rather risk her joy and her life to save the lives of others, and she won’t give up searching for answers. Stella’s perseverance and self-sacrifice throughout the novel inspires readers to keep on fighting and moving regardless of the risks.

Brightly Burning is the perfect book for science fiction and mystery fans alike! It is one of the best Young Adult novels I have read in a long time, and I did not want it to end. I became so snuggled up into the Rochester that I did not want to leave. Alexa Donne outdid herself in her debut, and I loved every single aspect of it. Although Brightly Burning is a standalone novel, there will be a companion novel to it in the future, which is so exciting. I know I want to get my hands on it as soon as possible!

Please note that this is a review of an unfinished Advance Reader’s Copy. There may have been major and minor changes between this version of the book versus the finalized novel that will be released to the public.


About the AuthorAlexa Donne

Alexa Donne is a Ravenclaw who wears many hats, including teen mentoring, college admissions essay consulting, fan convention organizing, YouTube-ing and podcasting. When she’s not writing science fiction and fantasy for teens, Alexa works in international television marketing. A proud Boston University Terrier, she lives in Los Angeles with two fluffy ginger cats named after YA literature characters. Visit her at http://www.alexadonne.com or on most social media spaces @alexadonne.

Website | Twitter | Youtube


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Are you excited for Brightly Burning? Do you like YA sci-fi?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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Isle of Blood and Stone Blog Tour: Top 10 Favorite Quotes & ARC Review — A Dazzling Historical Fantasy that Fuels the Adventurer Inside You

Hi guys! I hope you are having a marvelous first week of April! Today I am on the blog tour for one of my most anticipated YA releases of the Spring, Isle of Blood and Stone by Makiia Lucier, and it did not disappoint! This book releases this Tuesday, April 10th, and you do NOT want to miss this epic fantasy adventure!

Isle of Blood and Stone Blog Tour


About the BookIsle of Blood and Stone

Title: Isle of Blood and Stone

Author: Makiia Lucier

Publisher: HMH

Release Date: April 10th, 2018

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

Synopsis: Ulises asked, “How can I look at these maps, see this riddle, and do nothing? They are my brothers.”

Elias reached across the table and flicked aside two shells with a fingertip. The map curled into itself. “It’s bound to be a goose chase. You know that?”

“Or a treasure hunt,” Ulises countered, “and you’ve always been good at those.”

Nineteen-year-old Elias is a royal explorer, a skilled mapmaker, and the new king of del Mar’s oldest friend. Soon he will embark on the adventure of a lifetime, an expedition past the Strait of Cain and into uncharted waters. Nothing stands in his way…until a long-ago tragedy creeps back into the light, threatening all he holds dear.

The people of St. John del Mar have never recovered from the loss of their boy princes, kidnapped eighteen years ago, both presumed dead. But when two maps surface, each bearing the same hidden riddle, troubling questions arise. What really happened to the young heirs? And why do the maps appear to be drawn by Lord Antoni, Elias’s father, who vanished on that same fateful day? With the king’s beautiful cousin by his side—whether he wants her there or not—Elias will race to solve the riddle of the princes. He will have to use his wits and guard his back. Because some truths are better left buried…and an unknown enemy stalks his every turn.

Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Book Depository


4 Stars

Disclaimer: Thanks so much to HMH for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in any way.

I love adventure novels. They take you on wild quests into some of the most dangerous places as the protagonists search for something they long for, only to face evil along the way. A great adventure novel sucks you into the heart of the story, making you forget about your surroundings and feel danger and death lurking around the corner, all while you are on the edge of your seat. Isle of Blood and Stone can be placed into that group. Lucier’s latest novel combines the thrill of exploration with a fantasy world that is full of magic, betrayal, love, and mapmaking. As Elias, Ulises, and Mercedes solve the mystery of what happened to his father and two half-brothers, readers are left guessing until the last page.

Continue reading “Isle of Blood and Stone Blog Tour: Top 10 Favorite Quotes & ARC Review — A Dazzling Historical Fantasy that Fuels the Adventurer Inside You”

Exclusive Interview with Adrianne Finlay, 2018 Debut Author of Your One & Only

Hi guys! I am super excited about the books that 2018 is bringing in! Already, I’ve read some amazing debuts that have stunned me, and I am so glad to say that Your One & Only is one of them! It is already one of my favorite novels of all-time, and to celebrate its release, I have invited the author Adrianne Finlay to speak a bit about herself and her book in this exclusive interview! I hope you enjoy, and please go pre-order this amazing novel!


About the BookYour One & Only

Jack is a walking fossil. The only human among a sea of clones. It’s been hundreds of years since humanity died off in the slow plague, leaving the clones behind to carry on human existence. Over time they’ve perfected their genes, moving further away from the imperfections of humanity. But if they really are perfect, why did they create Jack?

While Jack longs for acceptance, Althea-310 struggles with the feeling that she’s different from her sisters. Her fascination with Jack doesn’t help. As Althea and Jack’s connection grows stronger, so does the threat to their lives. What will happen if they do the unthinkable and fall in love?

Your One & Only is releasing from HMH on February 6th!

Goodreads


Adrianne Finlay Interview

1. Your debut YA sci-fi novel Your One & Only—which is set to release from HMH Books for Young Readers on February 6th—follows the story of Jack, the only human in existence, and Althea-310, a manufactured clone, as they fall in love and uncover hidden secrets about the community of Vispera. If you were a clone in Vispera, which model would you be and why?

Oh, that’s a tough question! The thing is, writing the different clones models—their actions, their dialogue, their motivation—forces me to imagine the world from their perspective. I can’t have a character act in a way that’s mean, for instance, without considering what drives them. In some measure, I understand and empathize with all my characters, because I have to. So trying to pick the one I identify with most is hard! I guess of the traits the different models hold, I’d probably imagine myself most aligned with an Inga, because they’re artistic, and I like to think I am too.

2. One of the main reasons why I love Your One & Only is that it examines the underlying question of “What truly makes each of us human?” How do you explore this theme throughout the novel, and how would you answer this question?

The clones have refined their DNA to foster the form of communication they have, where they commune. Because they commune—a sort of empathic ability that makes them feel the emotions their siblings and their community are feeling—they’re not forced to use their imagination to understand the feelings of someone else, someone different from them. That’s part of what makes us human, I think, our imagination. No other animal has our defined concept of the future or the past, and can’t contemplate its own mortality or the suffering of others. We have that ability, and when we use it to empathize with others, we become our better selves. One of the ways we enact this ability is through storytelling.Adrianne Finlay 2

3. Would you consider yourself to be more like Jack or Althea? Are there any similarities between you and any of the characters in the novel, and if so, what are they?

I’m not as volatile as Jack is—I don’t wear my emotions on my sleeve like he does, so in that way I’m more like Althea, logical and thoughtful. As a parent, and like most parents, I’m definitely like Sam. He worries about Jack, and feels a lot of concern about how Jack will navigate a world that in so many ways is a difficult world to be in.

4. Could you describe to us the world-building process you used to create the society of Vispera, from the nine models and the ceremonies to the Slow Plague and the history behind the community? What were some of the challenges you faced as you created this futuristic dystopia, and how did you overcome them?

One of the challenges was just making it clear how the cloning system worked. Early on, I tried to spell it out clearly in a way that didn’t feel like it was just plopped into the story. The clones create a new generation every ten years. The generations are made up of ten siblings, and there are nine sibling models. Another challenge was figuring out how the naming system would work. I knew from the beginning that all the clone siblings would have the same name within their sibling group, so then I came up with the numbering system that counts up, so Althea is Althea-310, and her siblings are Altheas 311-319.

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Adrianne Finlay, 2018 Debut Author of Your One & Only”

Your One & Only Blog Tour: ARC Review of One of the Best 2018 Debuts

Hi guys! I am so glad to be a part of the Your One & Only Blog Tour, in which I’ll be posting for y’all my review of this wonderful debut by Adrianne Finlay. It’s one of the few ARCs I have received directly from the publisher in exchange for a review (thanks to my amazing publicity contact at HMH), and even though it releases in just a couple of weeks, this book has made it onto the top 10 list of books I’ve read in 2017. It’s that good, and in just a few weeks, I’ll be sharing my interview with the author Adrianne Finlay! I hope you enjoy this review, and definitely check out this debut novel by this wonderful debut author!

YOUR ONE AND ONLY


About the BookYour One & Only

Title: YOUR ONE AND ONLY
Author: Adrianne Finlay
Pub. Date: January 9, 2018
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Pages: 320
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Find it: Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, iBooks, TBD

Jack is a walking fossil. The only human among a sea of clones. It’s been hundreds of years since humanity died off in the slow plague, leaving the clones behind to carry on human existence. Over time they’ve perfected their genes, moving further away from the imperfections of humanity. But if they really are perfect, why did they create Jack?

While Jack longs for acceptance, Althea-310 struggles with the feeling that she’s different from her sisters. Her fascination with Jack doesn’t help. As Althea and Jack’s connection grows stronger, so does the threat to their lives. What will happen if they do the unthinkable and fall in love?

Goodreads


5 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free physical ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in any way. 

Your One & Only is one of the best novels I have ever read. I don’t even know where to begin with this review because after weeks after I finished Jack and Althea’s story, I still am amazed and blown away by this stunning debut. I can’t even think of an introduction to write because there’s so much I want to write about in this review! This novel is one of the few books that has changed my life and the way I view the world. From page one, I knew that this book was going to blow me away, and there was never a dull moment in this entire novel. I don’t use this term often when writing reviews, even for 5-star novels, but Your One & Only was perfect!

Continue reading “Your One & Only Blog Tour: ARC Review of One of the Best 2018 Debuts”

Duology Double Reviews!: Midnight without a Moon (FC) & A Sky Full of Stars (ARC) by Linda Williams Jackson

Hi guys! Back in October, I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting with Linda Williams Jackson, who is super nice and wonderful, at the Southern Festival of Books, and she got in touch with her publisher to send me review copies of her MG historical fiction novels Midnight without a Moon and A Sky Full of Stars, the latter being released next month! I hope you enjoy these reviews, and please consider buying these books either for you or for a loved one for Christmas! You will NOT regret that decision!


About Midnight without a MoonMidnight without a Moon

It’s Mississippi in the summer of 1955, and Rose Lee Carter can’t wait to move north. For now, she’s living with her sharecropper grandparents on a white man’s cotton plantation. Then, one town over, an African American boy, Emmett Till, is killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman. When Till’s murderers are unjustly acquitted, Rose realizes that the South needs a change and that she should be part of the movement. Linda Jackson’s moving debut seamlessly blends a fictional portrait of an African American family and factual events from a famous trial that provoked change in race relations in the United States.

Goodreads


4 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free hardcover finished copy of this book from the publisher HMH in exchange for an honest review.

The moment I read the first chapter of this novel, I knew Midnight without a Moon would be spectacular. My heart was actually pounding from the events that unfolded in just the first few pages, and I tore through the pages like lightning. This year, I have found so many middle grade books that pack the punches, and I am so glad to include both novels of the Rose Lee Carter duology on the list! Jackson’s stunning debut truly shows the struggle of being an African American in the 1950s and presents Rose’s story in such a beautiful way that as you turn the last page, you would either be filled with hope or with tears of joy.

Continue reading “Duology Double Reviews!: Midnight without a Moon (FC) & A Sky Full of Stars (ARC) by Linda Williams Jackson”