Tag Archives: ballet

Blog Tour: Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small -a Review

Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small

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.

Published 21 May 2019 |  Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers |  RRP: USD$17.95

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

I couldn’t help myself… A glance at the cover and I’m gone! Yep, I’m definitely reading this one – I just A.D.O.R.E. ballet. When I read the description, I doubted whether this is something I’d like but I still had to try. The bit I didn’t like was that it hinted at a love triangle and that it’ll take over the whole book but it did NOT and boy, I was so thankful!

Bright Burning Stars was so much more than just a love story or even boys. It delved much deeper into the psyches of these two girls who are passionate about dancing but are in a very stressful competitive situation. Their friendship of many years are challenged to the breaking point and their health are at risk to the point of destruction. This was a rather dark read.

Thankfully, this book is told in dual perspective, Kate Saunders and Marine Duval. I am very glad for Marine’s because I think I might have thrown the book if all I had to read was Kate’s point of view. Both Kate and Marine have had their share of childhood grief and each has their own issues in this story but Marine as a character is one you can easily sympathise with while Kate may just make you cry (after wanting to shake her).

As I read Bright Burning Stars & tried to guess the ending (who does that!?), I was reminded of Centre Stage (movie). The more I think of it, the more I see similarities between the 2 but enough differences to exist. Nevertheless, if you love this book, go watch Centre Stage!! And vice versa 😉

My thanks to Algonquin Young Readers for having me on this tour 

About the author

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.

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Review: Dance of Shadows

Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: Courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing and The Reading Room – get your own copy from The Book Depository

In my adolescent years, growing up in Asia, manga was very popular. I devoured many series though my most favourite would have been Sailor Moon. I remember the wait for the publication of the first book then the next and so on and so forth. One other type I would voraciously hunt down are any ballet related manga. I probably would have read all the Mari-Chan’s series and fell in love more and more with ballet. The lines of drawing ballerina gracefully in mid-flight, each character’s love of ballet and determination to succeed –what can’t you love about these series?!

I just love love love this cover of Dance of Shadows –beautiful colours which gave an impression of movement. The blurb falls along the line of a ballet manga and I couldn’t resist. It was a pretty easy read despite struggling with ballet jargons (I know some but not all) and whilst I know the theory, sometimes, it’s just hard to imagine the movement they’re supposed to do. Knowing ballet and ballet terms would definitely help in understanding the characters’ struggles in their ballet class and goals.

Whilst Vanessa was likeable enough, Blaine was the character which made this book for me. He’s Caucasian-Japanese in descent, bread in Texas and bat for the other team. He might be a bit flamboyant and at time, stereotypical, but you can only be stereotypical up to a point with a Texan-Japanese boy. Most of all, he made me laugh! I always fall for guys who make me laugh…

[Blaine] “Or I could settle for a Russian dance. They’re so severe. I love it. I wouldn’t even care if he spoke no English whatsoever. As long as he made sweet, sweet love to me while feeding me caviar, and then helped me play with my set of Matryoshka dolls.” He paused. “Not that I have any Matryoshka dools.”

Vanessa and the girls continued staring at him. “The how would you communicate?” Elly asked quizzically.

“Darling,” Blaine said, leaning forward and batting his eyelashes. “The language of love requires no words. Haven’t you seen The Little Mermaid?”

The story was a little slow for me until maybe the last 100 pages when the pace picked up and things progressed in a tremendous whirl. It began with Vanessa’s arrival at a most prestigious ballet academy though it was foreshadowed by her missing elder sister. The story was slow as we follow Vanessa in fitting into school-life and discovering a mystery surrounding the school. The foreshadowing is there, bits of darkness lurked around but after pushing through 2/3 of the book, I found the resolution quite a bit exciting. All the time I was reading, I could so see it in my head in something like

This story is not in any way light-hearted though much darkness (and slowness) was pierced by chuckle-worthy humour [see Blaine above]. Whilst the ending isn’t a cliff-hanger per se, it is well set up for the next book which I look forward to!

Thank you Bloomsbury and The Reading Room for the privilege to read and review this book

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