AND THE STARS WERE BURNING BRIGHTLY by Danielle Jawando – double review!

An emotionally rich and current story of suicide, mental health, bullying, grief and growing up around social media.

When fifteen-year-old Nathan discovers that his older brother Al has taken his own life, his whole world is torn apart.
Al was special.
Al was talented.
Al was full of passion and light…so why did he do it?
Convinced that his brother was in trouble, Nathan begins to retrace his footsteps. And along the way, he meets Megan. Al’s former classmate, who burns with the same fire and hope, who is determined to keep Al’s memory alive. But when Nathan learns the horrifying truth behind his brother’s suicide, one question remains – how do you survive, when you’re growing up in the age of social media?


Title : And The Stars Were Burning Brightly
Author : Danielle Jawando
Series : And The Stars Were Burning Brightly #1
Format : Paperback ARC / eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA Contemporary
Publisher : Simon and Schuster UK
Release Date : March 5, 2020

Reviewer : Micky / Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

AND THE STARS WERE BURNING BRIGHTLY is the kind of book you do need a snapshot of insight into before you enter, in this case I do recommend reading the blurb. This is a story about suicide, grief, bullying and social media. It is powerful and painful, chilling and stunning. I think it’s a really important book and it’s 100% worth the emotional investment.

The book started and ended with an author note, I had the privilidge of hearing the author read the beginning note and the first chapter at a publisher event. There wasn’t a whisper in the room and I fought tears listening to her. The reading experience is pretty much like that, the story and the characters plunged me into their worlds, wrapped me up in their fraught emotions and spat me out a bit of wreck.

Nathan was the brother, grieving his older sibling and questioning everything; he needed the why to these events, some reason and he was determined. Alongside Nathan were family, other siblings, his mother, his friend, Al’s friend Megan and some nasty characters. This was a intricately woven story, where as the reader you were alongside Nathan, searching for answers.

“My chest goes all tight, knowing that I’ll never see him for real again, that he’ll only ever be this person in a photo.”

Eli’s character was tangibly written, believable in his cruel manipulations and plain bullying. Tara and Lewi were more subtle in their connections to the situation and how events finally wove together was pretty shocking. Social media was the weapon wielded in this book and some of the elements took my breath away.

The picture of grief was palpable, I could feel the anger, despair and sadness rising out of the pages, I’m not an easy crier at books but I was an easy crier at this book. Nathan’s emotions had the power to affect me deeply as did Al’s short chapter starters.

For me, as a Mancunian, this book was gift in dialogue and narrative. It was written as Mancunians speak, quite literally and I found it easy to sink into. I don’t think this element will be difficult for any other readers, but you might wonder for the first few pages as you settle into this.

Danielle Jawando captured the issues in this book with honesty, she didn’t hold back on the difficult stuff, this was an absolute strength of this book. These issues shouldn’t be diluted to make it more palatable, your heart should break as you navigate this with the characters. I am beyond impressed with this fictional debut and I will be watching avidly for more from this author.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for this early review copy.


Hollis’ 4 star review

Despite what this book made me feel, and the tears, I’m happy I read this book. Not just because it helped to haul me out of a slump but also because this story is so important to read, particularly for teens, and was done so beautifully.

I went into this read pretty unaware, as per usual, and knew only that Micky, blog buddy extraordinaire, has been raving about it for what feels like ages now. I’m so thankful she put this on my radar.

When you’re angry, it takes you away from the pain somehow. Stops it from tearing into you.

I truly don’t have much to say, and certainly nothing to add to my partner’s great review, but I couldn’t not make a point to add something, to repost this, boost it once more, because this story deserves more awareness and, most importantly, deserves your time. It’s heavy but never without hope, without light — just like stars; though they aren’t seen until it’s dark.. they shine so bright.

THE SKY IS MINE by Amy Beashel – Blog Tour

No one has ever asked Izzy what she wants. She’s about to change all that…

In a house adept at sweeping problems under the carpet, seventeen-year-old Izzy feels silenced. As her safety grows uncertain, Izzy know three things for sure. She knows not to tell her mother that Jacob Mansfield has been threatening to spread those kinds of photos around college. She knows to quiet the grief that she’s been abandoned by her best friend Grace. And, seeing her mother conceal the truth of her stepdad’s control, Izzy also knows not to mention how her heart splinters and her stomach churns whenever he enters a room.

When the flimsy fabric of their life starts to unravel, Izzy and her mum must find their way out of the silence and use the power in their voices to rediscover their worth.

For fans of Sara Barnard, Louise O’Neill and E. Lockhart, The Sky is Mine is a powerful exploration of rape culture and domestic abuse, and a moving story of women learning to love themselves enough to demand to be heard.


Title : The Sky Is Mine
Author : Amy Beashel
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 304
Genre : YA Contemporary
Publisher : Rock the Boat
Release Date : February 6, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

See that bright, shiny cover? THE SKY IS MINE is a book that shines but not with cheery goodness. No, this isn’t a story to get comfortable with, it’s a story to get uncomfortable with but it’s really important. This is a spoiler-free review though, so expect a little vagueness.

Izzy was a young woman crushed. Crushed by her home life, crushed by manipulation and crushed by the demise of the most important friendship of her life. Izzy had lost her voice, herself and her perspective. This was a story of spiralling down and then the slow, long swim to the surface.

If things had been different, maybe I could have told Mum…
If things had been different, maybe my dad would have opened his door and his arms…
Things aren’t different though. Things are what they are.

The themes in this book couldn’t be more relevant than they are to contemporary times. The story explored how social media, something said or captured and tracking apps can all make life seemingly impossible. Izzy’s life was on overload but in so many ways. Her story was about trust, grief, finding her voice and her way back to relationships.

THE SKY IS MINE was incredibly discomforting to read but completely worth the journey. There was hope housed within the pages of this book and that made the journey a path that was doable. The narrative voice conveyed by Amy Beashel was compelling and absorbing, taking the difficult and making it readable without losing impact or power. I admired her ability to tackle the subjects in this book, it was a difficult task which she accomplished so well. I am excited to read more from her.

Thank you to Rock The Boat for the finished review copy.

WHAT KIND OF GIRL by Alyssa B Sheinmel

The girls at North Bay Academy are taking sides. It all started when Mike Parker’s girlfriend showed up with a bruise on her face. Or, more specifically, when she walked into the principal’s office and said Mike hit her. But the students have questions: Why did she go to the principal and not the police? Why did she stay so long if he was hurting her? Obviously, if it’s true, Mike should be expelled. But is it true? Some girls want to rally for his expulsion – and some want to rally around Mike. The only thing that the entire student body can agree on? Someone is lying. And the truth has to come out. 


Title : What Kind of Girl
Author : Alyssa B Sheinmel
Format : Paperback Arc
Page Count : 366
Genre : YA Contemporary
Publisher : Atom Books
Release Date : February 6, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

WHAT KIND OF GIRL was such an interesting read that addressed some relevant but less written-about themes in the context of physical abuse in a dating situation in YA. There are some additional trigger warnings at the beginning of the book for those who seek this out.

This story asked the question, what kind of girl would let something like this happen and focused on the individuals but also very importantly, it focused on the reactions from friends, enemies, family and the school community. I can tell you it frustrated me and infuriated me at times with people’s reactions and turns of events but it was utterly compelling.

The way the story was told was innovative and clever. It was told from mulitple POVS (not too many, I hasten to add) but for the first part of the story, you don’t have names for the characters. This worked really well and there came a point where it was all woven together and the reveals came. Interestingly, this story was also told over one week and yet the level of depth to this story was impressive. I loved the style and structure, it felt fresh. There were moments where I felt in the dark but I enjoyed the veil of mystery until the reveals.

There were two key characters in this book and some strong supporting characters. I loved Maya, Hiram and Junie, although there were moments for each of these characters where I felt unsure about who they were, how loyal they would be and how true to themselves they could be. This is the kind of story that builds and builds and really, you don’t know the full story until the final page.

The writing was inviting in story-telling and mysterious voices. I couldn’t put the book down and read it in less than 24 hours. Alyssa B Sheinmel has a strong narrative YA voice that captured my attention with its themes and ability to immerse me in a situation.

Plenty of women never tell. They don’t come forward and say their boyfriends are hitting them. They find thicker cover-up and better cover stories. They opened a cabinet and a mug fell on their faces. They walked into a doorknob in the middle of the night. Sure, it’s completely implausible-why would anyone be eye-level with a doorknob?-but that’s what women in the movies say. They cover for the men in their lives, at least at first. Eventually the woman stands up for herself and says: Enough.

Thank you to Atom books for the early proof copy in return for an honest review.

ANNIE’S SONG by Catherine Anderson

Annie Trimble lives in a solitary world that no one enters or understands. As delicate and beautiful as the tender blossoms of the Oregon spring, she is shunned by a town that misinterprets her affliction. But cruelty cannot destroy the love Annie holds in her heart.

Alex Montgomery is horrified to learn his wild younger brother forced himself on a helpless “idiot girl.” Tormented by guilt, Alex agrees to marry her and raise the babe she carries as his own. But he never dreams he will grow to cherish his lovely, mute, misjudged Annie and her childlike innocence, her womanly charms and the wondrous way she views her world. And he becomes determined to break through the wall of silence surrounding her; to heal…and to be healed by Annie’s sweet song of love.


Title : Annie’s Song
Author : Catherine Anderson
Format : Mass Market Paperback
Page Count : 410
Genre : Historical Romance
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : August 27, 2013

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 3.5 star read

ANNIE’S SONG was an enjoyable read and a breath of fresh in terms of uniqueness of story, I’ve not read the like before, particularly not in the historical romance genre.

Firstly, this book starts out with an incredibly difficult first chapter, there are triggers here front and centre for some people. The issue wasn’t exactly a trigger for me but it still took me aback and felt an abrupt and brutal start.

Annie had a disability and much of the early story is about misconceptions and misunderstandings about her disability. I struggled a little with where the story went in terms of consent issues to decisions made. I really hated observing some of what happened there. Added onto this, Annie had horrendous parents and what she had suffered in her childhood home was difficult to see recounted.

Alex was a man of integrity and I admired his actions on the one hand but I also wanted to knock some sense into him as he navigated decisions, their life and future direction. However, where would Annie have been without him? In a much worse situation is the answer. Alex did learn and grow as a man and partner, he was also a quite a forward thinker for the era.

Their romantic connection was a slow burn but even the were both adults, Annie’s innocence made me feel like my skin was crawling as Alex tried to coax Annie into intimacy. So while I was enjoying much of the story, this element just took the rating down a little for me.

I’m grateful for the rec on this unusual story and I would definitely read Catherine Anderson again.