Blog Tour: When Stars Are Bright by Amber R. Duell (Review/Giveaway)

When Stars Are Bright
By: Amber R. Duell

when stars are bright

Publication Date: January 7th, 2020
Genre: Young Adult/Fairy Tale Retelling
Publisher: Crescent Sea Publishing

SYNOPSIS

For Lina Holt, a Dutch seventeen-year-old with a flair for singing, 1930 is going to be her year. Her long-time boyfriend is about to propose and her mother will finally realize their relationship isn’t a passing phase. But when a stranger snatches her from her backyard, everything changes.

Lina is thrust into the spotlight of a New York vaudeville show where she’s paired with Nik, a mysterious pianist. The two bond during rehearsals and it doesn’t take long before Nik puts himself at risk to confess a hidden truth. Without Lina, the show is in its last season and there’s no way she’ll be allowed to slip through the owner’s fingers. Not when she carries fairy magic in her blood—an gift that turns her song into a dangerously addictive drug.

If Lina ever wants to return home, she must learn who to trust before she’s forced to remain a prisoner on stage forever.

WHEN STARS ARE BRIGHT is a historical Thumbelina retelling with a touch of magic.

Add to Goodreads

REVIEW

I’m a big fan of fairy tale retelling stories.  The ones that I have read are usually rather unique and have their own twist. However, Thumbelina is not one that I’m familiar with so in this case, I can really only base it on the historical setting and its young adult story elements.

While the story itself is rather predictable in its foundation, there are quite a few decent elements used here. For one, the fantastical elements used such as injecting the magical bits in its characters and the different abilities that these characters have especially the show crew that the main character Lina meets as she learns about her own abilities in this world that is unknown to her. Have the moment for its characters reveal their own abilities and then using this and the situation that they are pushed into gives the character a good level of development, which is always a good element to have in a young adult story. The 1930s historical setting is also one that almost always fascinating to use as it gives it a lot of charm as well as its societal conflicts to revolve around.

While Amber R. Duell has written quite a few books as well as some book series, this is the first book of hers that I’ve read and its definitely a fun book to read. Its a good world to dive into. The characters here focus mostly on Lina and Nik and it navigates a lot as their friendship grows and she starts to slowly trust him more despite her unfortunate situation that causes her to end up in the show in the first place, hoping to find a way home. Of course, things are what they seem on the surface, especially the people that she meets. Its in these little moments of character building that the story shines at its best.

The endgame of the whole thing does do a good job at giving it a decent set-up. The ending itself is rather bittersweet, probably more bitter than sweet, but that all depends on how you connect with Lina’s story in the first place. At the same time, there is a good deal of cleverness at the end that makes sure to add in the element of the fairy tale retelling that was a pleasant surprise.

Score: 3.5/5

Where to Buy:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Kobo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amber R. Duell

Amber R. Duell is an award-winning young adult author, Navy wife, and mom of 2 awesome boys. She has been a #WriteMentor mentor since 2018 and is a co-host on the live broadcast show Young Adult Edition. Red Bull keeps her kicking.

Website
Twitter
Facebook
Instagram

GIVEAWAY

Giveaway: Win a paperback copy of When Stars Are Bright!

Enter HERE

BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

February 17th

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com
Gwendalyn’s Books (Review) https://gwendalynbooks.blog/
Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/
Tales of Natural Spoonie (Review) https://talesofanaturalspoonie.com/

February 18th

Tsarina Press (Spotlight) https://www.tsarinapress.com
C Vonzale Lewis (Review) https://cvonzalelewis.com/index.php/blog/
Life’s a Novelty (Review) https://lifesanovelty.blogspot.com/
Once More with Reading (Review) https://oncemorewithreadingx.wixsite.com/welcome Tranquil Dreams (Review) https://klling.wordpress.com/

February 19th

I Love Books and Stuff (Spotlight) https://ilovebooksandstuffblog.wordpress.com
Cup of Toast Blog (Review) https://cupoftoast.co.uk
Bibliophile Ramblings (Review) http://lego–ergo–sum.blogspot.com/

February 20th

Book Dragons Not Worms (Review) https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/?m=1 Crossroad Reviews (Review) http://www.crossroadreviews.com
Dash Fan Book Reviews (Review) https://dashfan81.blogspot.com/
Port Jerricho (Review) http://www.aislynndmerricksson.com
The Faerie Review (Review) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

February 21st

Ghoulish Life & Reviews (Review) https://ghoulishspirit.wordpress.com/
Rambling Mads (Review) http://ramblingmads.com
Phantom of the Library (Review) https://phantomofthelibrary.com/
Vick’s Bookish Writing (Review) https://vicksblogcom.home.blog/

Blog Tour Organized By:

R&R Button

R&R Book Tours

 

Blog Tour: Drowning by Steven M Cross (Spotlight/Excerpt)

Drowning
By: Steven M. Cross

Drowning

Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary
Publication Date: October 29, 2019
Publisher: Liminal Books

SYNOPSIS

Dean knows being different isn’t always a good thing.

Trapped by the voices and visits from the dead, Dean is drowning. His father, allegedly drowned, and the friend who took his own life taunt like the school bullies he can’t seem to get away from.

A sliver of hope breaks through when his mother announces they are moving. A chance for a fresh start for all of them. So why does she move them to the cottage near the river his father drowned in?

The water begins to envelop him, threatening to pull him under, when Dean discovers nothing changes and the bullies find not only him, but his twin sister, Dee, as favorite targets. Dean’s personal struggles worsen as his tentative grasp on reality weakens.

An unexpected hand plunges through the water toward him, bringing with it questions and a family secret that haunts them all.

Add to Goodreads

EXCERPT

My dad looks up at me, “I’ll catch you.”

I know he probably won’t, but that doesn’t scare me, not today. What scares me is knowing that this day—this perfect day—one of the few my family ever has will end soon, and it will be back to yelling and screaming and being slapped for saying the wrong thing even when I don’t know what is wrong.

I turn to Dee and ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“I don’t ever want to grow up,” she says.

And I realize I don’t want to either. I back away from the cliff.

Dee says, “Finally. Don’t kill yourself.”

“I don’t want to grow up either.”

I run to the edge of the cliff, but this time I don’t jump feet first. I dive. I think as I sail through the air and hit the water that it’s the perfect day to die.

My dad jerks me out of the water. “What the hell are you doing? You could have killed yourself.”

I just look at him and say, “I didn’t.” Then, I swim toward the beach.

Dee yells, “Holy shit, brother! Way to go.”

Buy at Amazon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steven M Cross

Steven Cross remembers his first literary success, a play about a wolfman that his English class read. His first publication was a Haiku about hearing wolves at sunset one evening as he sat on his back deck with Luke his faithful mutt by his side. He also published a horror story about mutant moles whose taste buds begin to crave human flesh.

Cross, born in Missouri, has published plays, novels, and poetry and done well in some screenwriting competitions, most recently as a quarterfinalist in The Bluecat Screenwriting competition, considered one of the best in the country.

Cross often writes about mental illness. He is an example of how a person can overcome mental illness and succeed. His young adult book Drowning covers bullying and mental illness and is a must-read for teenagers, parents, and teachers.

An educator for over 30 years, he is now semi-retired. Right now he and his wife Jean live in Poplar Bluff, MO, where they spend a lot of time spoiling their grandchildren. Cross is a St. Louis Cardinals fan and has been ever since he was old enough to hold a baseball card. He also enjoys music, reading, and of course writing.

Website
Twitter
Facebook
Instagram

BLOG SCHEDULE

January 27th

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com
B is for Book Review (Spotlight) https://bforbookreview.wordpress.com
I Love Books and Stuff (Spotlight) https://ilovebooksandstuffblog.wordpress.com
The Faerie Review (Review) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

January 28th

The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Interview) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com
Tranquil Dreams (Spotlight) https://klling.wordpress.com/
Banshee Irish Horror Blog (Spotlight) http://www.bansheeirishhorrorblog.com

January 29th

Didi Oviatt (Spotlight) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com
Misty’s Book Space (Spotlight) http://mistysbookspace.wordpress.com
My Bookish Bliss (Review) http://www.mybookishbliss.com

January 30th

Dash Fan Book Reviews (Spotlight) https://dashfan81.blogspot.com/
J Bronder Book Reviews (Review) https://jbronderbookreviews.com/

January 31st

Entertainingly Nerdy (Review) https://www.entertaininglynerdy.com
Phantom of the Library (Review) https://phantomofthelibrary.com/
Crossroad Reviews (Spotlight) http://www.crossroadreviews.com

Blog Tour Organized By:

 

TV Binge: Put Your Head on My Shoulder (致我们暖暖的小时光, 2019)

Put Your Head on My Shoulder (致我们暖暖的小时光, 2019)

Put Your Head On My Shoulder

Cast: Fair Xing, Lin Yi, Daddi Tang, Zheng Ying Chen, Zhou Zi Xin, Yi Sha, Zhou Jun Wei, Zhang Hao Lun, Jie Bing

As Si Tu Mo’s graduation is nearing, she is confused about her future plans. She tries out all sorts of things all the time and is unable to make her own decisions. Her ordinary days are suddenly shaken up when the genius Physics student Gu Wei Yi appears in her life. The two accidentally end up living together and chaos begins. – MyDramaList

Watch on YouTube or Netflix (as of December 11, 2019):

QUOTES/SCENE

Put Your Head On My Shoulder

STORY

Set in the same universe as A Love So Beautiful (review) with some characters that actually overlap as they get mentioned in the little details here and there, Put Your Head on My Shoulder is an adaptation of a novel written by the same author as the previous one.

This world of stories is all about quick and light-hearted romance whether its boy chases girl or girl chases boy, more so the former in this case, which adds a lot of fun tidbits here because we have a genius scientist who doesn’t know much about the whole outside who ends up meeting a girl who is almost the opposite of him but bubbly and positive. Just as she learns how to face up to her own future, her appearance changes him as he starts doing the silliest of things to get her attention including a lot of searches for weird tips from the internet. While the story itself is fairly generic as most of these TV dramas tend to be, this one has some fun surprises in simply highlighting the awkward mind of a scientist when met with love. It also is a step further into the future as this one sees the two in their final year of university and getting ready to head into the work life or pursuing higher education.

LENGTH/PACING

Episodes: 24
Episode length: 45 mins approx.

Put Your Head On My Shoulder has the perfect formula for being a good length in episodes and series length. Its one that has enough episodes to create good pacing for both its leads and still have time for the supporting characters to have their stories and adds enough depth to care but never drags on with any element of their life as the scenes progress just like the relationships and the feelings for each other.

And if you think that this 24 episodes isn’t enough, you can even watch an extra story here (which isn’t available on the Netflix version):

CHARACTER/CHEMISTRY

Situ Mo & Gu Wei Yi

Put Your Head On My Shoulder

The main focus for the show is the two main leads, Mo Situ (Fair Xing) and Wei Yi Gu (Yi Lin). These two steal the show because of not only their chemistry with each other but the fact that they both are peculiar but also very fun characters that stand well alone and makes things even more sweet or hilarious whenever they are together. In many ways, they are the typical opposites attract because Gu Wei Yi is just an introvert scientist/researcher who is very set in his own ways whereas faced with Fair Xing’s more direct and noisy attitude and completely not interested in his scientific knowledge that it becomes this curious discovery that brings a lot of joy into his life and it challenges the side of him that wants to keep learning more about her and the way she acts. It brings in a lot of funny awkward moments in after episode snippets (just like A Love So Beautiful) and also more and more cute and sweet moments as they start finding their rhythm together.

Wang Shan & Fu Pei

Put Your Head On My Shoulder

Being roommates and best friends of the previous couple, this relationship became the aftermath of the beginning of Fu Pei and Mo Situ’s friendship and possible relationship that never happened and in the process brought forth this friendship and eventual feelings for each other. The supporting relationship is very much in the background but these two characters actually are the one that is the bridge to A Love So Beautiful and builds the link together. These two have a different type and style of relationship and while its not completely necessary, it has its fun moments.

Parents, Friends and Love Interests

As with more dramas and their relationships, the use of their parents and the various personalities is a staple. In this case, they both have a very opposite type of personality while each of them both hoping that they could both be together, a rather open-minded concept for Chinese parents to let single young adults (boy and girl) but its a nice change in times sort of parents which is pretty fun most of the time to watch as they aren’t that frequently used here.

Put Your Head on My Shoulder

However, the funniest bits of the show does go to the other scientists at the lab, Lei Zhou (Hao Lun Zhang) & Professor Jiang (Jie Bing) helping Wei Yi Gu with his romantic problems as they usually just make it worse and think too alike for Mo Situ to understand their intentions. The three become this bromance bond that truly has so many comedic moments that adds into the fun.

Put Your Head On My Shoulder

Of course, what drama would be complete without even the slightest form of someone trying to come between the relationship even if its only at the literal slightest level of interest as Mo Situ starts her internship and ends up being the main assistant on set for any advertisement related by this growing star, ZhiCun Lin (Jun Wei Zhou). He never becomes quite the intrusion and was relatively underused but still the scenes with him were still rather fun.  On the side note, I really do like Jun Wei Zhou quite a bit from this first acting gig and really hope that he will have more of this although he’s more in the psychological analysis (as that’s his academic forte and his part in Dream Space) as well as singing or songwriting or something of the sort.

OVERALL

Much like its previous series set in the same world, Put Your Head On My Shoulder is a feel-good series. Its positive and down to earth. Its not exactly doing anything too different but the writers who put together the character of Wei Yi Gu really did try to get into a mind of being the awkward scientist who sees the world in a new light because of this girl that suddenly ends up housing with him and awakening some feelings and learning about a world other than one where he runs his own life. Its fun and sweet and comedic and well-balanced. Its one that can be watched over and over again and just feel all happy to see these two whether together or apart or as friends as well as those supporting roles around them, who all add a little something.

MAIN THEME

Sketch by Didi Oviatt

Other reviews of Didi Oviatt’s work:

Search for Maylee
Justice for Belle

SKETCH
BY: DIDI OVIATT

Sketch by Didi Oviatt

When local girl Misty is found dead in an underground bunker, the town is thrown into a whirlwind of panic and speculation. Times are tough, but the spaced-out farmer community pull together as one, trying to uncover who’s guilty.

Thrown smack in the middle of the chaos is a group of teens: local troublemakers, but with good hearts. Although they’re innocent, the local law enforcers believe otherwise, and the true killer is lurking far too close for comfort.

Will the four be able to uncover the truth before one of them pays the price for Misty’s death? – Goodreads

*Book received through R&R Book Tours in exchange for honest review*

Its always been a pleasant time reading Didi Oviatt’s stories and this novella Sketch is no exception. It is a thrilling glimpse into a little country town set in the Old Depression era where the people there are still close-minded and the sheriff and his police department are run with a lot of prejudices and the groups of young adults there have been friends for a long time and specifically a group of friends who get caught in the latest disappearance of an acquaintance called Misty which reveals a deeper level of relationship and connections between the people around her.

The characters here are actually outlined pretty well. There is a good group of people here that are involved in the whole case of finding this crazy killer. The killer reveal was done fairly early however gave it the space to still develop. The brothers here also have their own trajectory of development as they go out to face up to these issues and get caught up in it when they are wrongly accused and beat up by the police department to hopefully have them confess. While the brothers friend who is a rich girl helps them out and there is a little romance that buds in the midst of the crazy stuff. Its something I don’t quite mind having or not but it does end up tying into the story itself well enough.

At the same time, the town has their own secrets which the group of friends eventually follows for multiple reasons like trying to find justice for someone they care about or proving themselves innocent and such. It unveils some past secrets that link back to the present. This is a novella length of the characters and story are paced in a certain way where there is just enough depth. However, where Didi Oviatt excels is in her descriptions. She’s not afraid to dive deep into those truly gruesome and gritty moments and bring the words to life. Sketch does a great job in describing the different scenes and scenarios and getting the whole reading experience very involved because of it.

Overall, Sketch is a gripping crime investigation set in a small town that has a few twists and also, keeps it very intriguing to read. Its a page turner and well-paced in its compact story. Its definitely worth a read.

Goodreads score: 5/5 (rounded up from a 4.5)

Twisted Pines by Lane Baker

TWISTED PINES
By: Lane Baker

Twisted Pines

Where have all the children gone? At rustic summer camp Mendocino Pines, that’s the question on everyone’s mind. First one, then two, then three campers vanish—only to reappear a short while later with no recollection of the missing time. The disappearances raise questions about the children’s safety, not to mention the camp’s time-honored reputation.

When Abe, a freshman camp counselor from UCLA film school, stumbles upon a ghoulish-looking humanoid roaming the coast, he suspects this creature might be responsible for the children’s unsettling disappearances. Armed with a camera, a journal, and a thirst for the truth, Abe sets out to pry the lid off the uncanny mystery hidden among Mendocino’s Twisted Pines. – Goodreads

*Received in exchange for an honest review*

There is an obvious fascination of Lane Baker with science fiction and aliens in particular. Following the previous story Slippery Things (review), this new story is also along the same lines. This time around, the main character is a young adult Abe who takes up a summer job as camp counselor when weird things happen and he discovers what is the cause. As the story unravels about this mysterious lurker, the motives come together.

There are few things done well here. The first is execution. It has something of a novella length which gives it space to develop a story but also a quick pace for events to happen without things lingering and dragging therefore making it a nice little page turner, more and more so as the story pulls together and the heart of the situation and the two central characters start interacting.

Another element done really well here is characters. There are quite a few because of the setting in the summer camp with counselor names bouncing around the pages and young campers being caught up in the mystery. However, there is a definite focus on Abe as the main character and a lot of this going from his perspective. Telling a story from a perspective always works well to still create mystery out of what is unknown to the character. The two sided (both good and bad depending on the part of the story) is that while the humanoid does have some character development and as gaps of mystery behind him because of taking Abe’s perspective, it also has the issue that the character doesn’t have quite the depth and is more of a supporting sort of deal. At times, it works and at times, it doesn’t.

Overall, Twisted Pines is a well-paced YA sci-fi novel. There’s an obvious improvement in dialogue here (in comparison to the previous story).  A lot of Twisted Pines is well-written, whether its building up the suspense or how the chapters are structured and the progression of the Abe’s character and his discoveries, especially on how it starts and ends. I can’t say that Abe, as well done of the character as it is, is too memorable but feels suitable in this story. There’s a lot more that can be explored with this story especially in terms of the humanoid however, its a simple page-turner story that keeps things straight forward and because of that, it also manages to keep it intriguing enough to keep want to know more about what happens next. This one is well worth the read.

Book Review: Within by Clare C. Marshall

Within
By: Clare C. Marshall

Within

Trinity Hartell’s life changed after the accident. Left with irreversible brain damage, she becomes a burden to her mother, a cause for heartbreak for her boyfriend Zack, and a flattened obstacle for her best friend, Ellie.

But then she starts writing. Perhaps it’s a coincidence that the psychotic, murdering protagonist of her novel bears a striking similarity to the charming Wiley Dalton, a mayoral candidate in the upcoming election.

Or, perhaps not… – Goodreads

While it sounds like the plot for a lot of young adult novels out there, especially at the start with the accident and has the potential of going in a very generic direction, however, author Clare C. Marshall has her own unique vision for the story and while it still has the YA elements here, the story takes a much more intriguing turn of events and drags a connection between different elements in the society and the city that these teens live in. The story changes form, touching from one genre to another and making it quite a page-turner.

The novel follows the different characters as it flows through the story. With a more focus on its few leading characters and their observation of Tiffany, it gives each of them a certain level of development. At the heart of this, the main mystery will have to be for Tiffany who doesn’t really get her own narrative but as she is being observed and has each of her episodes, it is suspenseful as it is never certain whether her episodes are supernatural or something else as a result of her accident. On the other side of the spectrum, Ellie as her best friend definitely has her spot and drives the plot development but somehow has some elements that develops which makes her not quite likeable. However, Ellie and Zack are two teenagers dealing with something which is quite over their heads. However, there are always those staple characters like Tiffany’s mother who seems to genuinely lack the understanding and caught up in a situation which causes things to be slightly frustrating at times. However, a really nicely written character is the main character of Tiffany’s character and the politician in running as mayoral candidate who finds his place somewhere near the middle of the story but does have quite a presence and depth. Its one of the well-written characters in the story.

With that said, there are slight pacing issues here. The beginning bits as the youths deal with the accident and their friend with a bright future suddenly reverting back to a child’s mentality is fairly dramatic and very much in the generic which also moves too fast without the characters lacking depth to make it as involving as it should be however, the characters each have their layers and as the plot thickens, the pacing picks up to its advantage creating its suspense and mystery. There are some really plot ideas here and the execution overall works.

Goodreads score: 3/5 (would be 3.5)

Book Review: Lifel1k3 (Lifelike #1) by Jay Kristoff

Lifel1k3 (Lifelike #1)
by: Jay Kristoff

Lifelike

On a floating junkyard beneath a radiation sky, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap. Eve isn’t looking for secrets—she’s too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she’s just spent six months building has been reduced to a smoking wreck, and the only thing keeping her Grandpa from the grave was the fistful of credits she just lost to the bookies. To top it off, she’s discovered she can destroy electronics with the power of her mind, and the puritanical Brotherhood are building a coffin her size. If she’s ever had a worse day, Eve can’t remember it. But when Eve discovers the ruins of an android boy named Ezekiel in the scrap pile she calls home, her entire world comes crashing down. With her best friend Lemon Fresh and her robotic conscience, Cricket, in tow, she and Ezekiel will trek across deserts of irradiated glass, infiltrate towering megacities and scour the graveyard of humanity’s greatest folly to save the ones Eve loves, and learn the dark secrets of her past. Even if those secrets were better off staying buried. – Goodreads

Post-apocalypse, YA, Androids: it seems like a rising theme in the next phase of science-fiction fantasy novels. Its not a bad thing to say the least. After the success of The Illuminae Trilogy, its hard to not give some regard to what comes up next for the two authors. While I have yet to look into Amie Kaufman’s solo novels, I’ve been stocking up on Jay Kristoff’s (coming soon is reading Nevernight). Since I’ve been on this sci-fi roll, I decided to give Lifelike a go, the first novel in a currently ongoing series where the second book has been released recently.

While the end game of the story, the twist and such wasn’t exactly hard to figure out, what works a lot here is the execution of the story. Lifelike introduces its characters very well. It also keeps a decent limit to how many characters are in focus while being able to make sure that all the characters serve their purpose in their existence in the story itself. The world itself gives it a lot more to think about because the main girls are Eve and her best friend Lemon Fresh who end up with their robot dog of sorts Cricket while finding a lifelike android which is referred as the almost-boy Ezekiel who starts waking up the memory of Eve throughout their journey to save Eve’s grandfather from the evil androids. There are relationships and conflicts and dilemmas as more secrets get dug up and remembered. Lemon and Eve’s friendship/sisterhood doesn’t get enough depth, but builds a general foundation, while Eve and Ezekiel end up having a lot of the drama involved.

While there isn’t anything particularly issues with the story, its a pity that the world doesn’t have more focus (although I’m sure as the story moves along in the sequels that it will). The future and the technology and the android lifelikes and such in this mass world feels very intriguing to discover and yet, its more focused on the people in the story than using it to build up. While I can’t say that I liked Lifelike quite as much as say the entirety of the Illuminae Files, even at its lowest point (which was very rare because that trilogy ranks very high on my favorites), Lifel1k3 as the first book does a good build for the foundation and has a decent reveal in establishing its characters. While there is some drag at a little part, it does do itself justice in the big finale and reveal.

Goodreads Score: 4/5