If It’s Not a Rant, It’s a Rave: Review of Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne

Brightly Burning
Author: Alexa Donne
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Retelling, Science Fiction

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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

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If we have ever discussed favorite books together, you probably know that Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë is my all-time favorite book. I love the Gothic elements, the brooding Mr. Rochester, and Jane’s fierceness. But most of all, I adore Jane because she is bold, a fighter, and holds a firm ground in her beliefs. So when I found out that Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne was a sci-fi retelling of my favorite classic, I was on a mission to read this book as quickly as I could.

Brightly Burning parallels with many elements found in Jane Eyre, and although this Jane Eyre-retelling in space plays true to the classic, it also holds up on its own as a great book. The main character Stella, an orphan like Jane, is smart, determined, and hardworking. She has no family and she’s not rich, but she does have so much potential to prove that she is great at her job, and you know what, she deserves a good life.

And Hugo, Stella’s new boss and our very own re-imagining of Mr. Rochester, is a teenage boy that is bombarded by so many “adulting” responsibilities. Hugo is far from perfect, and he knows it, but when he and Stella cross paths and fall into a routine of sharing personal thoughts and their love for books, I was swooning so hard. SO HARD! Does Hugo always make the right decisions? No. Do these decisions have consequences that go awry? Yes. But I will tell you, each and every plot twist in this book will have you spinning and on the edge of your seat. And trust me this wild ride is worth it.  

Like its classic counterpart, Brightly Burning is littered with secrets that unfold just in time to a make mess out of all the characters’ lives. Stella is so straightforward and honest that it is hard for her to not react to the chaos that is thrown into her life when she works aboard Hugo’s spacecraft the Rochester. Add in the humanity’s destruction of Earth from hundreds of years ago and living on ships floating in space, and you too will feel the madness that comes with cabin fever, terrifying room fires, jealousy,  and creepy laughs echoing in the hallway. 

Even if you are not familiar with Jane Eyre, but you love adventurous romantic stories and you enjoy novels that are set in space, definitely give Brightly Burning a read. The characters are sassy and snarky and so darn lovable. The futuristic feel and living on spaceships adds that dark and lost feeling that is often depicted in Gothic novels, and works perfectly for this retelling. 

4 star rating


Note: Thank you to HMH Teen for providing me a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All statements and opinions are my own.

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Don’t Kiss the Messenger by Katie Ray



Title: Don’t Kiss the Messenger
Author: Katie Ray
Publication date: April 10, 2017
Publisher:  Entangled Teen Crush
Genres: Young Adult, Contempoary, Romance


For most of her teenage life, CeCe Edmonds has been dealing with the stares and the not-so-polite whispers that follow her around Edgelake High. So she has a large scar on her face—Harry Potter had one on his forehead and people still liked him.

CeCe never cared about her looks—until Emmett Brady, transfer student and football darling, becomes her literature critique partner. The only problem? Emmett is blindsided by Bryn DeNeuville, CeCe’s gorgeous and suddenly shy volleyball teammate.

Bryn asks CeCe to help her compose messages that’ll charm Emmett. CeCe isn’t sure there’s anything in his head worth charming but agrees anyway—she’s a sucker for a good romance. Unfortunately, the more messages she sends and the more they run into each other, the more she realizes there’s plenty in his head, from food to literature. Too bad Emmett seems to be falling for the wrong girl…

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book involves one fiercely scarred girl who wants the new guy in town, the new guy who thinks he wants the new girl, and the new girl who really isn’t sure what she wants, and the misunderstanding that brings them all together. You’ll laugh, you’ll swoon, you’ll fall in love.

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My Rants and Raves of messenger

Don’t Kiss the Messenger is a gender-reversed, high school retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac. It’s a story about disguise, miscommunication, and hidden crushes. Often I find stories about deception frustrating because I am so impatient for the truth to be revealed, but in this book the use of modern technology to disguise flirtation is creatively thought out and well executed. I thought (and loved) that the book gave off vibes that reminisced the classic independent heroine and witty banter that is portrayed in the movie 10 Things I Hate About You. 

One of my favorite parts of Don’t Kiss the Messenger was the constant references to Shakespeare. You cannot go into a story focused on disguise and deception without Shakespeare’s works making an appearance. And every time Cece, the main character, quoted a Shakespeare play, I would get so excited. It’s not every day you read a character that appreciates the language of the Bard. 

Not only is Cece a Shakespeare fanatic, but she is also likable, sarcastic, confident, and fierce. Although she faces scrutiny every day from strangers who take pity on her or are awe-struck by the scars on her face, Cece keeps her head up high and tries to excel in every way she possibly can. She tries not to let her flaws define her, but it’s hard because she lives in a world that focuses on perfection as a defining factor. Cece has excellent taste in music, she’s fearless, and I love that she knows that sometimes a good cry is the best medicine.

I also liked Emmett, Cece’s crush. Emmett is not set up as the perfect high school jock. He has a past that is heartbreaking, and a future that needs mending. Emmett might be clueless on a few things, but his interest in literature, music, and defending his friends makes him stand out. 

Cece and Emmett’s friendship and relationship is an emotional roller coaster. And even though they have their twists and turns, the chemistry between these two characters is electric. Their friendship is based on witticism, sarcasm, and laughs. I love how they feed off each other’s energy and their banter is so cute and hilarious. I rooted for them the entire book, even when the disguised messages were grating my last nerve, hahaha.

Although stories that use disguises as a tricking mechanism sometimes frustrate me, the deceiving charade that takes place in Don’t Kiss the Messenger is heartwarming and swoony. Yes, I might have gotten annoyed at times, mainly because I wanted the truth leaked, but deception was perfectly set up as a steady beat throughout the pages and had me hooked to the very end. I highly recommend this book to fans of Shakespeare, literature nerds, music fiends, and anyone who appreciates a good love story. 

star rating

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


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Katie Ray


About the Author:

Katie Ray (also known by her previous author name, Katie Kacvinsky) writes teen and new adult fiction novels. Her books have been nominated for YALSA awards, and First Comes Love was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Her screenplay, A High Note, was a semifinalist in the Austin Screenplay Competition in 2015. She currently lives in Ashland, Wisconsin with her husband, two children, and a slightly insane dog.

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