Thursday, May 23, 2019

Blog Tour: Spotlight on Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small

Today I'm here to spotlight Bright Burning Stars, a recently released novel that takes place at a ballet school where the competition is fierce and two best friends must learn what matters most to them. I found this book to be a really compelling read that tackled a variety of hard and realistic topics in some well-written ways. If you like books that feature dancers and the struggle to stay on top then this might be the book for you to check out!

Title: Bright Burning Stars
Author: A.K. Small
Pub. Date: May 21st, 2019
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Pages: 304
Find it: Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, Book Depository, Indiebound
*Please note that some of the links used are affiliate links!

"Kate and Marine have trained since childhood at the Paris Opera Ballet School where they formed an intense bond after respective family tragedies. Their friendship seems unshakeable until their final year when only one girl can be selected for a place in the Opera’s company. The physically demanding competition takes an emotional toll, and their support for each other starts to crumble. Marine’s eating disorder begins to control her life as she consumes less and dances more, and Kate discovers the depths of depression and the highs of first love as she falls for the school heartthrob—who also happens to be Marine’s dance partner. 

As rankings tighten and each day is one step closer to the final selection, neither girl is sure just how far she’ll go to win. With nuance and empathy, the intense emotions of teenage years are amplified in Small’s debut as the girls struggle with grief, mental health issues, and relationships, all set against the glamorous backdrop of Paris. 

With the incredible success of the film Black Swan and dance reality TV shows today, dance seems to be more popular than ever. Kirkus Reviews praises the debut as “addictive, angst-y, and heartfelt” while Entertainment calls out that Bright Burning Stars is “notable for the way it tackles sensitive topics such as mental illness and eating disorders”. In Bright Burning Stars, debut author A. K. Small pens a stunning, propulsive story about girls at their physical and emotional extremes, the gutting power of first love, and what it means to fight for your dreams."

“Debut author Small, herself a dancer, brings authenticity (fascinating day-to-day details abound) to what it takes to flourish or wither amid the soaring highs and crushing lows of a competitive dance school while sensitively exploring the girls' many emotional and physical extremes... Addictive, angst-y, and heartfelt.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Bright Burning Stars is the compulsively readable story. I was breathless and battling tears up until the very last stunning turns onstage and beyond. A dazzling, heart-wrenching debut.” — Nova Ren Suma, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Room Away from the Wolves 

“The fascinating, competitive ballet world may get the YA novel it deserves with Bright Burning Stars...Pitched as an immersive, propulsive story into the world of ballet, Bright Burning Stars is also notable for the way it tackles sensitive topics such as mental illness and eating disorders.” —

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.
Photo credit: Becky Thurner Braddock

LINKS: Website | Twitter | Instagram

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Last Bus to Everland by Sophie Cameron & The Mask Collectors by Ruvanee Pietersz Vilhauer

Can't-Wait is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released! This meme is based off of Jill @ Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday meme.

This week's upcoming book spotlight is: 

Last Bus to Everland
Last Bus to Everland by Sophie Cameron
Publication: June 18th, 2019
Roaring Brook Press
Hardcover. 336 pages.

"Brody Fair feels like nobody gets him: not his overworked parents, not his genius older brother, and definitely not the girls in the projects set on making his life miserable. Then he meets Nico, an art student who takes Brody to Everland, a “knock-off Narnia" that opens its door at 11:21pm each Thursday for Nico and his band of present-day misfits and miscreants. 

Here Brody finds his tribe and a weekly respite from a world where he feels out of place. But when the doors to Everland begin to disappear, Brody is forced to make a decision: He can say goodbye to Everland and to Nico, or stay there and risk never seeing his family again."
"Knock-off Narnia"? I'm 100% in. I don't know if I'll ever get tired of this sort of portal fantasy, but for now I'm just going to keep soaking it all up.


The Mask Collectors by Ruvanee Pietersz Vilhauer
Publication: June 1st, 2019
Little A
Hardcover. 352 pages.

"The alumni of an international boarding school have gathered at a campground in rural New Jersey when a scream breaks the silence of the woods. Classmates are shocked to find journalist Angie Osborne suddenly dead. The medical examiner’s report isn’t what anyone expects. Oddly, the death scene reminds anthropologist Duncan McCloud of a thovile, a Sri Lankan ritual he’s spent years studying. 

When Duncan’s new employer, a pharmaceutical giant, sends him overseas under shadowy pretenses, and his wife, Dr. Grace McCloud, starts to receive anonymous warnings to doubt everyone and everything, the threads of a sweeping conspiracy begin to unravel. Risking more than their own lives, Duncan and Grace embark on a treacherous journey through occult ceremonies and their own hidden pasts to discover a secret worth killing for. 

In taut, precise language, Ruvanee Pietersz Vilhauer’s debut novel The Mask Collectors tells a story about deception, the power of belief, and what is left unspoken between husbands and wives."
I've not really heard much of anything about this book, but it sounds like the type of thriller-esque book that tend to keep me hooked. I'm always here for some good occult-related stories.

What do you think about these upcoming releases? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Please Don't Touch These Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly book blog meme now hosted by Jana over at The Artsy Reader Girl!

This week's topic is: Books That I Refuse to Let Anyone Touch

I feel a little called out by this topic because I am notoriously strict and picky about the ways in which my books are handled. I'll admit I probably go a bit overboard at times with how I take care of my books, but what can I say? I'm a  bit of an amateur collector so I love to keep my books in the best condition possible. I also realize that my OCD plays a huge role in how I handle my books. (The only exceptions are if I buy a book used or something, then I'm much more lenient because it's already been loved and I'm fine with that.)

All that being said, here are a few of my extra-special books that are particularly important to me. Some are beautiful collector's editions and some are worth absolutely nothing, but have special sentimental value to me.  Also, I tried to take photos of all of these, but it's a rainy day here and the lighting is horrible so some just weren't working out and I just had to include a picture from the internet.

Kushiel's Dart  Kushiel's Chosen
Kushiel's Dart & Kushiel's Chosen by Jacqueline Carey
Subterranean Press editions
These are limited edition copies that are some of the most beautiful books I've ever seen or owned. The full cover art is stunning and the illustrations littered throughout both books are truly gorgeous. I absolutely cherish these two books and I pretty much refuse to let anyone else handle them. I'd probably only trust my mother because she gets it, but even then....I'd rather not.

Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle, #1)Godsgrave (The Nevernight Chronicle, #2)
Nevernight & Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff 
Goldsboro Editions
Anyone who is a fan of the Nevernight trilogy has probably heard something about the crazy mad rush for these Goldsboro editions and I got extremely lucky with my ability to obtain these. I read Nevernight night back in summer 2016 as an ARC from NetGalley, loved it, and was able to purchase the Nevernight Goldsboro one right away when it was available. With each subsequent release, Goldsboro has contacted previous buyers of the books to give them early access, so that's how I managed to get Godsgrave and my pre-order for Darkdawn (mine are all #200). I love these books so much and I don't feel the need to let others handle them.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt
This copy presumably has little to no monetary value, but it does have immense sentimental value. I bought this used at my library's little used bookstore section (it even has the ltitle library sorting tag on the spine and crossed off stamps on the top of the page edges) and when I read it I ended up staying up  late to finish it. I have incredible memories associated with this book--it is one of my all-time favorite books, after all--and I can only imagine that it is a small part of what sparked my interest in Classics and becoming a Classics major. Obviously (and thankfully) my experience as a major in Classics wasn't quite the same as in this book, but that close-knit group feel was so relevant to my experience and I desperately need to re-read this one.

The Girl in the Tower & The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden (ARCs)
ARCs have no monetary value, but I love this trilogy so much that having these two ARCs really just means a lot to me. I was shocked when I received each of these, but eternally grateful. I missed out on getting my hands on the hardcover of the UK editions for the first and second book, so this is a weird roundabout "make up" for those. Sort of.

German Bible from 1871
This Bible is not in great shape at all, but my Grandma gave it to me many years back when she learned how much I loved books and reading. It's an old family Bible I believe (?), but I don't know a whole lot else about it. I'm not religious anymore, either, but I still love it so much and think it's just lovely. It's entirely in German, of course, and the typeset and design is simply gorgeous. It means a lot to me for many reasons, but mostly because my grandma thought to give it to me.

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)
The Name of the Wind by Patick Rothfuss
Alternate Cover (book club edition)
So when The Name of the Wind first came out the covers were, naturally, different from the one that it is now. I missed out on some early cover variations and now they are extremely hard to find and also ridiculously expensive. A few years back, however, I managed to get my hands on a copy that has one of the alternate covers I really enjoy. It's technically a book club edition which means it has very little to no value, but that's more than fine with me because all I wanted to do was collect this other cover of one of my favorite books.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Grim Oak Press
This was a gift from my husband and is a beauty that I will for sure cherish for years to come. It has these gorgeous shiny silver-edged pages, incredible illustrations, and this sleek leather bound exterior that really sets it apart. Grim Oak definitely knows how to put together a special book.

The Wolf in the Whale
The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky
I purchased a finished physical copy as soon as I finished my ARC, but since I first read this as an ARC I will always have a special place in my heart for this copy. I managed to read it without damaging it, and then later I dropped it while rearranging my books and it now has a nice rip through the back and bend on the front cover. I was very sad, but now it just looks about as well-loved as how I feel about it.

Undying: A Love Story
Undying by Michel Faber
Mty mom bought this for me for my birthday a while back from Book Depository and unbeknownst to us--it was signed! Michel Faber is one of my favorite authors and this particular collection of poems means more to me than I could possibly put into words. Having this special little book just means so much to me.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Review: Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin

Mistress of the Ritz
Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin
Delacorte Press
Publication: May 21st, 2019
Hardcover. 384 pages.

About Mistress of the Ritz:

"Nothing bad can happen at the Ritz; inside its gilded walls every woman looks beautiful, every man appears witty. Favored guests like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Coco Chanel, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor walk through its famous doors to be welcomed and pampered by Blanche Auzello and her husband, Claude, the hotel's director. The Auzellos are the mistress and master of the Ritz, allowing the glamour and glitz to take their minds off their troubled marriage, and off the secrets that they keep from their guests--and each other. 

Until June 1940, when the German army sweeps into Paris, setting up headquarters at the Ritz. Suddenly, with the likes of Hermann Goring moving into suites once occupied by royalty, Blanche and Claude must navigate a terrifying new reality. One that entails even more secrets. One that may destroy the tempestuous marriage between this beautiful, reckless American and her very proper Frenchman. For the falsehoods they tell to survive, and to strike a blow against their Nazi "guests," spin a web of deceit that ensnares everything and everyone they cherish. 

But one secret is shared between Blanche and Claude alone--the secret that, in the end, threatens to imperil both of their lives, and to bring down the legendary Ritz itself. 

Based on true events, Mistress of the Ritz is a taut tale of suspense wrapped up in a love story for the ages, the inspiring story of a woman and a man who discover the best in each other amid the turbulence of war."

There is a seemingly endless supply of books set somewhere and sometime during World War II, which makes it rather difficult to find stories that take a new approach to the setting and are able to introduce something that hasn't been seen before. Mistress of the Ritz was a refreshing take on this time period and I truly enjoyed following the characters in this book as they navigated the tensions and struggles associated with the Nazi regime. I don't generally read that many WWII books anymore because I got so burnt out on them, but I'm glad I decided to give this book a shot!

Mistress of the Ritz follows married couple Blanche and Claude Auzello as they learn how to live through the Nazi regime--and more importantly as the Nazis both take over control of the famed and luxurious Ritz hotel as headquarters and take over more and more of France and surrounding countries. I absolutely loved the hotel setting (pre-Nazis, of course), and this was part of what first enticed me to read this book. The cameos and appearances of famous figures and celebrities were exciting and felt rather like inside jokes at times, which I appreciated, and the descriptions of the goings-ons and regular routine of the hotel were such an interesting component. I loved the behind the scenes look of how luxurious things were and also how things slowly changed over time as the Nazis remained at the hotel and essentially dictated how everything was handled there. It was a tense, melancholy sort of atmosphere that permeated at many times and led to a really interesting narrative. Even with this atmosphere, however, the story still remained fairly upbeat and steady as the characters handled various obstacles and learned how to take new steps to adapt to their surroundings while also remaining true to their morals.

Much like in the previous book I read by Benjamin, The Girls in the Picture, the protagonists were heavily flawed, but also relatable enough that I found myself drawn to them and eager to see how things worked out for them. Blanche felt like the main focus of this book and I really loved seeing her character develop from someone rather flighty and carefree to someone who really makes an effort to change her ways and do things that are bigger than her to make a difference. Claude took a while for me to warm up to, as he has some less-than-favorable qualities as both a man and a husband that made it hard for me to understand him or get behind his actions. That being said, he does have some slow development that put me into his shoes and let me at least understand his actions, even if I didn't always agree with them. Both characters have many layers to unpeel throughout the story and I thought that Benjamin executed this really well. These are characters that aren't always easy to love, but struggle with so many things that everyone can relate to that it's easy to follow into their lives.

The POV switches between Blanche and Claude, as well as between various time periods in their lives, centering largely between the present narrative and starting at a specific time in the past when they first met. I found the time period switches slightly difficult to follow at times because of how often it jumped around and also with how the two characters would often reminisce about moments in the past while telling the present narrative.  It made it easy for me to forget that we were in the present narrative rather than the past--if any of that makes sense. This is similar to what Benjamin did in The Girls in the Picture, so it seems to be a stylistic preference. Other than that hiccup in the storytelling, I had no problems with the POV.

Overall, I've given Mistress of the Ritz four stars! This was a really well done book set during WWII with colorful characters that are full of mixed morals, but also entirely compelling. If you, like me, ever find yourself fatigued of WWII books--or even if you love them and just want something new--I encourage you to pick up Mistress of the Ritz.

*I received a copy of Mistress of the Ritz in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Friday Face-Off: A Fantasy Beast

Friday Face Off New
Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme here at Books by Proxy. Join us every Friday as we pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in our literary universe. You can find a list of upcoming topics at Lynn's Books.

This week's topic is:
“The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn. Go back to the Shadow!” – A cover featuring a fantasy beast

I feel like the go-to for this topic would be a dragon, so I wanted to avoid that and do something more unique....but for some reason I only came across dragons, so here we are with dragons! I did initially think of one of the Witcher books, but I'm pretty sure I've done one for a Friday Face-Off before so I opted not to. I love dragons, however, so I'm not really too upset about this outcome. Since there are so many books out there with some badass dragons on the cover--and so many with only one or two covers--I thought I'd fall back and share some covers for different books with dragons.

  A Natural History of Dragons (The Memoirs of Lady Trent, #1)Tess of the Road (Tess of the Road, #1)The Dragon’s Legacy (The Dragon's Legacy #1)

  The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland, #1)Tooth and ClawHis Majesty's Dragon (Temeraire, #1)

The Language of SpellsOf Cinder and Bone (Of Cinder and Bone #1)The Rage of Dragons (The Burning, #1)

My choices:
I did not consider the fact that I'm supposed to choose a favorite when I decided to share multiple covers. I love the A Natural History of Dragons cover (and frankly, all the books in that series would be perfect for this topic), I adore the Tess of the Road cover, The Dragon's Legacy is incredibly cool, and the Fairyland cover is adorable also. I'm choosing the two that stand out the most to me, and those are A Natural History of Dragons and Tess of the Road!
A Natural History of Dragons (The Memoirs of Lady Trent, #1)Tess of the Road (Tess of the Road, #1)

Which covers do you like best?

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Novella Mini-Reviews: The Test by Sylvain Neuvel & Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

The TestThe Test by Sylvain Neuvel
St. Martin's Press
Publication: March 1st, 2019
Paperback. 112 pages.

About The Test:
"Britain, the not-too-distant future. Idir is sitting the British Citizenship Test. He wants his family to belong. Twenty-five questions to determine their fate. 

Twenty-five chances to impress. 

When the test takes an unexpected and tragic turn, Idir is handed the power of life and death. How do you value a life when all you have is multiple choice?"

I was never able to get into Sylvain Neuvel's first trilogy, the Themis Files, but the concept of this novella was too good to pass up and I ended up enjoying it much more than his other books. The concept of The Test is very simple: an immigrant who traveled with his family to a future Britain must pass a citizenship test. The execution of that test, however, is much deeper and more compelling than that. As far as plot goes, I really can't tell you any more than that without spoiling anything, but rest assured that this book takes off at a thrilling pace only a couple pages in and doesn't stop until you hit the last page. Since it's only about an ~100 page story, it reads extremely quickly, but it packs a lot into those pages.

The exploration of morals, prejudice, and decision-making were contemplated in a striking--and rather shocking--manner that is certain to leave you thinking about it long after you put it down. The story takes an initial unpredictable twist that will put you on edge, then just when you think you know how this whole story is going to go, it still manages to shake things around and leave you constantly unprepared for the results. This story works perfectly as a novella and every page was utilized in a precise and exacting manner; Neuvel truly knows how to write about about powerful topics in a short but fulfilling manner.

Overall, I've given The Test 4.5 stars!

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, #2)Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
Publication Date: June 13th, 2017
Hardcover. 187 pages.

About Down Among the Sticks and Bones:
"Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. 

This is the story of what happened first… 

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline. 

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you've got. 

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted. 

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices."

I've been holding onto a copy of this novella pretty much since it came out and I don't have a good explanation for as to why I hadn't read it yet. I loved Every Heart a Doorway and consistently heard nothing but raves for the additional novellas that have been published, yet something prevented me from picking it up. And wow do I regret not picking it up sooner!

I loved Down Among the Sticks and Bones even more than the first novella in this series and it's probably going on my favorites of the year list. This novella somehow managed to pack everything I love into its short 187-page journey and I still have a genuine book hangover for this one. It follows Jack and Jill as they embark upon a journey that will act as the precursor to them being sent off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. This novella was filled to the brim with a stunning dark fairy tale atmosphere that truly permeated the entire plot and setting and made it impossible for me to stop reading (or even thinking!) about it.

The themes explored in this book also felt so relatable and hard-hitting, full of tough decisions and heartbreaking consequences. Jack and Jill were nothing like I expected--in the best way possible--and the characters that inhabit the world they enter were equally engaging and constantly begged for my attention. At this point, I really can't think of anything that I didn't like about this novella and I couldn't ask for anything more, so of course overall I'm giving it five stars!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse & Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Can't-Wait is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released! This meme is based off of Jill @ Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday meme.

This week's upcoming book spotlight is: 

The Burning Chambers
The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse
Publication: June 18th, 2019
Minotaur Books
Hardcover. 592 pages.

"France, 1562: Nineteen-year-old Minou Joubert receives an anonymous letter at her father’s bookshop. Sealed with a distinctive family crest, it contains just five words: SHE KNOWS THAT YOU LIVE. 

But before Minou can decipher the mysterious message, a chance encounter with a young Huguenot convert, Piet Reydon, changes her destiny forever. For Piet has a dangerous mission of his own, and he will need Minou’s help if he is to stay alive. 

As the religious divide deepens, and old friends become enemies, Minou and Piet both find themselves trapped in Toulouse, facing new dangers as tensions ignite across the city. 

All the while, the shadowy mistress of Puivert Château—obsessed with uncovering the secrets of a long-hidden document—strengthens her power and waits for the perfect time to strike..."
In a beautiful coincidence, an ARC of this one turned up on my doorstep today and I cannot wait to read it! I have been dying to read some good historical fiction lately, and who better than Kate Mosse? Everything about this synopsis screams intrigue, so I look forward to diving into it!

Sorcery of Thorns
Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
Publication: June 4th, 2019
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Hardcover. 464 pages.

"All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power. 

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them. 

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined."
"Magical grimoires" is usually the only phrase I need to hear to decide I want to read a book, but the rest of this plot synopsis sounds pretty damn good as well, so I'm really looking forward to this one. I also don't generally care for people on covers, but I actually really love the artwork for this cover!

What do you think about these upcoming releases? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?