Blog Tour | ARC Review & Giveaway | The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

I am delighted to be a part of The Gilded Wolves Blog Tour for Wednesday Books. Roshani Chokshi has always been an author who has wowed me with her writing. When I heard of this latest release, I was beyond ecstatic. It’s my pleasure to bring you an ARC review of The Gilded Wolves and an opportunity to win a copy of the book from the publisher. Details at the end of the post.

Title: The Gilded Wolves
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Series: The Gilded Wolves, #1
Pages: 464
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: January 4th 2019
**I received a copy of this book from the publisher which does not influence my review**

      “Set in a darkly glamorous world, The Gilded Wolves is full of mystery, decadence, and dangerous but thrilling adventure.
      Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.
      To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.
      Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.”

swirl (2)

     “A creaking sound lit up the silence. Séverin jerked his hand back. Too late. The bear’s teeth lengthened in a blink, forming narrow little bars. Enrique took one look at Séverin’s trapped hand, turned pale, and bit out a single word: ‘Shit.'”

With The Gilded Wolves, Roshani Chokshi has constructed a unique fantasy heist novel that also functions as a commentary on cultural theft under the guise of historical preservation. Séverin Montagnet-Alarie thought he knew his place in the world, as heir to House Vanth. But when the other heads of the Houses of France turned him away, denying him his rightful place as the next patriarch of House Vanth, Séverin made it his mission to steal back what had been taken from him. With a team of smart and unusually gifted individuals, Séverin has caused a myriad of trouble for the Order of Babel, the organization in charge of the Houses of France, stealing back artifacts belonging to his own House and returning stolen cultural artifacts to their countries and peoples of origin. When Hypnos, patriarch of House Nyx offers Séverin a second chance at claiming his inheritance in exchange for stealing a mysterious artifact from another House, Séverin’s blind ambition lands him and his crew in the middle of a conspiracy that will test each character’s resolve and pit them against a dangerous organization.

The Gilded Wolves has one of the best casts of characters I’ve come across. I love how each character has their own personality, set of skills, and way of perceiving in the world. Chokshi excels at creating characters whose cultural and sexual identities are incredibly important to them. Identity is the driving force behind all of their motivations and heavily influences how they see themselves. Séverin is obsessed with reclaiming his birthright and isn’t afraid to take dangerous risks in order to do so. Though a natural leader, he isn’t always honest with himself and holds the faulty belief that if he can just become patriarch, he’ll have everything he’s always wanted. Tristan is Séverin’s closest companion, having grown up in a number of foster homes alongside him. Tristan is more interested in his pet tarantula than his adopted brother’s schemes, but they are both fiercely protective of one another. Laila is in her element when she is either in the kitchen baking or taking care of others. Masquerading as a courtesan becomes incredibly resourceful as she is able to gain access to places that would otherwise be closed off to Séverin and his crew. Laila’s past is the most mysterious. Save for Séverin, no one knows of her ability to read memories tied to objects. This gift, or perhaps more aptly a curse, is tied to her origins that even she doesn’t quite understand.

One of my favorite things about this group of characters is the witty dialogue and no one exemplifies this more than the young historian Enrique. From the get-go, he had me in stitches. His humor is always a breath of fresh air and I really like that Chokshi’s doesn’t sacrifice the rest of his character for the sake of comedic relief. Enrique not only has a passion for history, but for his country’s freedom. The Philippines has been under Spain’s thumb for the last 300 years and Enrique wants to be part of helping his country gain independence. Zofia is more adequate when it comes to making bombs than making friends. Some of the most rewarding scenes in this one involve Zofia and Laila. The latter shows incredible patience, slowly helping Zofia come out her shell. The final character is the enigmatic Hypnos, the young patriarch of House Nyx, who was once childhood pals with Séverin. Hypnos is both arrogant and charming. Though regarded as more of an enemy at first, Hynpos feels draw to Séverin and his friends, to their camaraderie, for there’s no denying that Hypnos’s easy smiles actually hide a loneliness underneath.

If you like fantasies rooted in history, Chokshi’s latest novel is the one for you. Chokshi pays close attention to detail, bringing not only her characters, but this world to life. It took a little bit of time for me as a reader to be comfortable moving through this intricate world, but once I did, it was one I wasn’t quite ready to let go of with the closing pages. Forging was an aspect that I really wanted to explore more of. There are individuals in this world able to manipulate matter and the mind, the latter of which is highly regulated as it includes the ability to control minds and create illusions. The former takes on many forms, including the ability to manipulate metal and stone into different forms, even lifelike creatures.

If you like tragic heroes, found families and impossible heists, Roshani Chokshi’s The Gilded Wolves is one you don’t want to miss. I’ll be spending the next year eagerly anticipating the sequel and reeling from this one’s gut-punch of an ending.

4/5

★★★★

PRAISE FOR THE GILDED WOLVES

“Chokshi has created an inclusive and authentic cast with obvious chemistry and affection for one another and infuses the tale with witty banter and twists. A delectably intriguing adventure for all teen shelves.” School Library Journal, Starred Review

“Evocative writing, sumptuous set pieces, and vividly sketched, authentically flawed characters distinguish this immersive tale of found family and star-crossed romance. Kaleidoscopic narration complements the intricate, high-stakes plot and allows Chokshi to showcase numerous aspects of her richly imagined universe all the way to the closing cliff-hanger.” Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows and Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code converge in this dazzling new fantasy… An opulent heist adventure that will leave readers voracious for more.” Kirkus, Starred Review

“Chokshi delivers a thrilling, gritty new fantasy set in an alternate nineteenth century Paris… Chokshi shines as a master storyteller in her newest novel; the setting, world building, plot, and conflict are all staggering. However, the elements that perhaps shine the most are the history, riddles, mysteries, and science, woven together in a world brimming with power and magic.” Booklist, Starred Review

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: ROSHANI CHOKSHI is the New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen, A Crown of Wishes, and Aru Shah and the End of Time. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Shimmer, and Book Smugglers. Her short story, “The Star Maiden,” was longlisted for the British Fantasy Science Award.

It’s time for a GIVEAWAY. Enter to win a copy of The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi. Click on the Rafflecopter link below to enter, details below.

A Rafflecopter Giveaway

Giveaway Details:

  • Giveaway runs from January 16th at 12:00 am through January 22nd at 11:59 pm (PST)
  • Open to US residents only
  • One lucky winner will win one a copy of The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
  • Winner will be selected randomly and emailed (you have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen)
  • You must provide your name and shipping info, so I can send it to the publisher
  • Prize will be provided by the publisher
Advertisements

ARC Review: Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao

Title: Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix
Author: Julie C. Dao
Series: Rise of the Empress, #2
Pages: 384
Publisher: Philomel Books
Release Date: November 6th 2018
*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher which does not influence my review*

      “This fairy tale retelling lives in a mystical world inspired by the Far East, where the Dragon Lord and the Serpent God battle for control of the earthly realm; it is here that the flawed heroine of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns finally meets her match. An epic fantasy finale to the Rise of the Empress novels.
      Princess Jade has grown up in exile, hidden away in a monastery while her stepmother, the ruthless Xifeng, rules as Empress of Feng Lu. But the empire is in distress and its people are sinking into poverty and despair. Even though Jade doesn’t want the crown, she knows she is the only one who can dethrone the Empress and set the world right. Ready to reclaim her place as rightful heir, Jade embarks on a quest to raise the Dragon Lords and defeat Xifeng and the Serpent God once and for all. But will the same darkness that took Xifeng take Jade, too? Or will she find the strength within to save herself, her friends, and her empire?
      Set in an East Asian-inspired fantasy world filled with breathtaking pain and beauty, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is filled with dazzling magic, powerful prose, and characters readers won’t soon forget.”

swirl (2)

Julie C. Dao concludes her Rise of the Empress duology with Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix. Filled with enchanting storytelling and a likable cast of characters, this companion novel is sure to please fans of the first book. In Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, readers witnessed the downfall of the protagonist Xifeng as she embraced the darkness within. In this follow-up novel, years have passed since Xifeng has become Empress. The empire has suffered under a cruel regime and many of the people have become restless. When Jade, the heir to the Empire, is summoned back home by her stepmother Xifeng, she discovers that evil can take many forms. Xifeng is not the doting wife and stepmother she pretends to be and when Jade uncovers the truth about how Xifeng has been able to hold on to power, she is forced to flee. In order to save her people and regain her rightful place as heir, Jade will have to journey far and overcome challenges meant to crush even the strongest of people.

Jade is just shy of eighteen years old. Having spent the majority of her life in a monastery, Jade’s understanding of the world has been limited. Though she has grown up far from the luxuries befitting her rank, her ignorance is a privilege in itself. Jade has always wanted to forget who she really is, to make vows and become a monk. When she arrives in the Imperial City and sees how much her people are suffering, she is forced to confront the world she’s spent her whole life hiding from. I loved that Jade’s journey isn’t just an outward one, that she must reflect on who she’s been and who she will choose to be. For people like Xifeng, who only see others as pawns in their own story, having friends and family is an easy way to be manipulated. For Jade, the allies she surrounds herself with become her greatest strength. From her surrogate grandmother Amah, who raised her when she was cast aside, to Amah’s granddaughter Wren, who exhibits a very different form of strength than Jade, these relationships are what keep Jade from being entice by the same kind of temptations that Xifeng has fallen prey to. The strongest influences in Jade’s life have always been women, including the mother she lost at such a young age and are the reason Jade, while not necessarily the strongest or bravest character, is able to challenge someone as powerful as Xifeng.

Xifeng is one of my favorite literary characters because she is allowed to want power for power’s sake. While I would never personally side with Xifeng, at the end of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, I could not help but root for her just a little. The biggest challenge with this novel was shifting my own perspective. Seeing Xifeng not just as a ambitious young woman who did everything in her power to get what she wanted, but as an antagonist to Jade, a woman who took her mother’s place and who has continued to poison the people in order to hold on to power. One of my favorite elements of the novel was the importance of folktales. Jade grew up hearing Amah tell her stories and though she didn’t fully appreciate what Amah was trying to teach her, these tales become the building blocks of Jade’s journey.

If you’re looking for a unique take on fairytale retellings, Julie C. Dao’s Rise of the Empress duology is a must. She’s written a vibrant world with characters you can both love and love to hate.

4/5

★★★★

ARC Review: Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria

Title: Beneath the Citadel
Author: Destiny Soria
Series: N/A
Pages: 544
Publisher: Amulet
Release Date: October 9th 2018
*I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher which does not influence my review*

      “In the city of Eldra, people are ruled by ancient prophecies. For centuries, the high council has stayed in power by virtue of the prophecies of the elder seers. After the last infallible prophecy came to pass, growing unrest led to murders and an eventual rebellion that raged for more than a decade.
      In the present day, Cassa, the orphaned daughter of rebels, is determined to fight back against the high council, which governs Eldra from behind the walls of the citadel. Her only allies are no-nonsense Alys, easygoing Evander, and perpetually underestimated Newt, and Cassa struggles to come to terms with the legacy of rebellion her dead parents have left her — and the fear that she may be inadequate to shoulder the burden. But by the time Cassa and her friends uncover the mystery of the final infallible prophecy, it may be too late to save the city — or themselves.”

swirl (2)

Destiny Soria’s Beneath the Citadel has interesting political and magical systems, but I found the story overall to be a little too convoluted. Soria’s debut Iron Cast‘s biggest strength was the friendship at its center and it’s the same with this sophomore novel. Beneath the Citadel focuses on four friends infiltrating the center of an all-powerful political power in hopes of discovering why people in the city of Eldra have been disappearing. In a world ruled by seers’ prophecies, the ruling chancellor and council have used these visions to wield power over the people, squashing any rebellion before it can gain any footing. Cassandra “Cassa” Vera is the daughter of rebels. Her distrust of the council runs deep; she along with her friends, Alys, Evander, and Newt hatch a plan to infiltrate the Citadel and find answers. The novel opens with these four friends being dragged in front of the governing body, their plan having been thwarted. I’m still not sure how I feel about the choice to open the novel with the leads having already been arrested. I was really interested in reading about their scheme, how they each contributed to the plan, and how they worked together. What follows is the lead characters trying to stop the council by teaming up with a mysterious player who has his own motives.

Cassa is the unofficial leader of the pact. She’s bold and confident, with a leap-first-and-ask-questions-later kind of personality. Her drive, however, is infectious. Perhaps the reason people are so drawn to her is the legacy she carries. Her parents were prominent rebel leaders who died trying to protect the people of Eldra. In a way Cassa’s hatred of the citadel is the only way she knows how to honor her parents. Much of the time, it felt like Cassa wanted to do things only on her terms and while there is some character development in this department, it felt like she was never really a part of the group dynamic. I never felt her connection to the other characters, including Evander, with whom she had a past romantic relationship.

I really liked Alys. She’s more brains than brawn and not someone you would immediately think of when trying to break into a secure facility. Still, she’s an invaluable asset to the team and excels in her own area of expertise. She’s very science-based and believes everything can be explained through science, hence her passion for apothecary. Alys also has anxiety which hits her at inopportune moments. I loved her relationship with her brother Evander. These two are very different, but I loved how close they were and that they balanced each other out. Evander was an easy character to like, charming and sly. He’s one of the few bisexual male characters I’ve come across. There’s an openness to him that the other characters didn’t possess. He had a really interesting relationship with Cassa that I kind of wanted to explore more as it gave us more insight into who she was, but I understand why Soria chose to distance him from her as his relationship with Newt is in the first stages of a romance.

Newt has a really interesting backstory involving his father and his tumultuous relationship with the rebel group Cassa’s parents belonged to. His father has raised Newt to be better than him, but in a very abusive way. Due to his size and demeanor, Newt is used to being underestimated, but of the four, I believe he is the most talented. There is also a fifth character who is important to the story who threw me for a loop when I first picked up this book. Juggling so many different perspectives with an already complicated storyline involving people who could not only see visions of the future, but could also take memories, and see your thoughts, sometimes made the novel hard to follow. I appreciated how intricate the story was, but some of the decisions made by the characters didn’t feel like it carried as much weight as they should have. Part of these characters’ motivation is the people of Eldra, but aside from a handful of scenes, we’re never really introduced to regular folk.

I liked the high stakes in this one, but wish the world outside of the political walls of the citadel had been fleshed out. I will say that Destiny Soria’s Beneath the Citadel has one of the boldest endings I’ve read in a long while and I applaud the gutsy move.

3/5

★★★

ARC Review: Star-Touched Stories by Roshani Chokshi

Title: Star-Touched Stories
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Series: Star-Touched Queen, #2.5
Pages: 304
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: August 7th 2018
*I received a copy of this book through a Goodreads giveaway which does not influence my review*

      “Death and Night
      He was Lord of Death, cursed never to love. She was Night incarnate, destined to stay alone. After a chance meeting, they wonder if, perhaps, they could be meant for more. But danger crouches in their paths, and the choices they make will set them on a journey that will span lifetimes.
      Poison and Gold
      Now that her wish for a choice has come true, Aasha struggles to control her powers. But when an opportunity to help Queen Gauri and King Vikram’s new reign presents itself, she is thrown into the path of the fearsome yet enchanting Spy Mistress. To help her friends, Aasha will have to battle her insecurities and perhaps, along the way, find love.
      Rose and Sword
      There is a tale whispered in the dark of the Empire of Bharat-Jain. A tale of a bride who loses her bridegroom on the eve of her wedding. But is it a tale or a truth?”

swirl (2)
Roshani Chokshi’s delicious prose and spellbinding storytelling once again shines in her collection Star-Touched Stories. All three short stories in this collection take place in the same world as The Star-Touched Queen duology. While many novellas or short story collections feel unnecessary, reading Chokshi’s selected tales felt like a real treat. We get the backstory to a The Star-Touched Queen in Death and Night, a look at what happens to the vishakanya Aasha from A Crown of Wishes in Poison and Gold, and a short story featuring Gauri and Vikram in Rose and Sword. These stories reminded me just how much I enjoy Chokshi’s writing and renewed my love for her duology.

The first short story in this collection, Death and Night, is lush and romantic. If you ever wanted to know more about Maya’s previous life as the goddess of Night and how she first met the Lord of Death, this is the story for you. The Lord of Death seeks a bride, but a curse spells doom if he falls in love. Night is an enigma to most who meet her. Her existence a lonely one. Though she ushers in night, she does not have the power to create and shape fate with her own hands. Their meeting does not go smoothly as Night has always dreamed of a union based on love and the Dharma Raja is determined to marry without it. The Lord of Death is both amusingly and endearingly clumsy when it comes to trying to court Night. I loved Night’s sharp tongue and that she isn’t easily moved by the Dharma Raja. This was my favorite novella of the three because of how vivid the world felt and how easily I was able to fall back into The Star-Touched Queen universe.

Aasha was such a curious character in A Crown of Wishes. When I was still hoping for another book in this series, I was hoping to get Aasha’s story. I was delighted to discover that Poison and Gold is about Aasha and her journey discovering her place in a new world. As a vishankanya, Aasha is able to kill with a single touch, but she has taken on another role at Gauri and Vikram’s side. But as loyal as her friends may be to her and she to them, there is unrest in both kingdoms as they are set to unite with their two leaders’ marriage. Aasha must earn her place by their side and is sent to the current Spy Mistress for training. Aasha has been struggling to find where she fits in this world of mortals. Their manners can sometimes be unpredictable and Aasha continues to marvel at how easily they lie. Zahril, the current Spy Mistress, isn’t exactly what Aasha expects. She isn’t friendly, but curt and sometimes merciless. Though most would be unsettled by Zahril, Aasha finds her lack of pretense refreshing. Aasha finally finds a place where she can not only be herself, but where her key to success relies on it. When Aasha begins to develop feelings for Zahril, her secret identity as a vishankanya threatens to unravel their new bond. I loved that both of these characters, who have very different reasons for being closed off, get a chance to be vulnerable with the other. While the first story is about love, this one is about the potential for love and how Aasha and Zahril take those first steps to being open to the possibility of love.

The final story in this collection is Rose and Sword. We get a glance at both the past and future of Gauri and Vikram’s relationship. This one was a personal delight as these two characters were my favorite in the The Star-Touched Queen duology. This story is a little darker than the previous two as a character must venture into the underworld and save a loved one from death. This felt like a bittersweet tale for those who always imagined a happily-ever-after for the two leads of A Crown of Wishes. There’s an underlining bitter honesty to this tale where Gauri must confront the fact that her relationship with Vikram will not always be perfect. They are far too different to always get along and too used to getting their own way. She eventually has to choose whether the time she and Vikram have together is worth all the pain that will come when she loses him. I became unexpectedly emotional while reading this one. It’s amazing what Chokshi can still make me feel for characters I met over a year ago.

Star-Touched Stories is just as enchanting as The Star-Touched Queen duology. Chokshi made me fall in love with her writing each time I picked up this collection. If you are a fan of the original duology, this is an excellent short-story collection that will leave you both satisfied and wanting even more tales from this captivating world.

4/5

★★★★

ARC Review: Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova

Title: Bruja Born
Author: Zoraida Córdova
Series: Brooklyn Brujas, #2
Pages: 352
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: June 5th 2018
**I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, which does not influence my review.**

      “Three sisters. One spell. Countless dead.
      Lula Mortiz feels like an outsider. Her sister’s newfound Encantrix powers have wounded her in ways that Lula’s bruja healing powers can’t fix, and she longs for the comfort her family once brought her. Thank the Deos for Maks, her sweet, steady boyfriend who sees the beauty within her and brings light to her life.
      Then a bus crash turns Lula’s world upside down. Her classmates are all dead, including Maks. But Lula was born to heal, to fix. She can bring Maks back, even if it means seeking help from her sisters and defying Death herself. But magic that defies the laws of the deos is dangerous. Unpredictable. And when the dust settles, Maks isn’t the only one who’s been brought back…”

swirl (2)

In Bruja Born, Zoraida Córdova reintroduces readers to the Mortiz sisters and her world of witches. When Alex Mortiz cast a spell to take away her power, she inadvertently sent her entire family to Los Lagos, a dangerous in-between realm. While Alex was able to save her family, she could never foresee just how much her world would change. In Bruja Born, Alex’s older sister Lula takes center stage. While Alex is learning to accept who she is as an encantrix, an all-powerful bruja, Lula is trying to find her way back to who she was before Los Lagos. When Maks, Lula’s boyfriend and the only person who makes her feel normal, is taken from her, Lula does everything she can to bring him back. Unfortunately for Lula, in her quest to save Maks, her actions will disrupt the very balance of life and death, and in the end, Lula will have to decide what she is willing to sacrifice to right her wrongs.

As much as I enjoyed Alex in Labyrinth Lost, I actually think I relate more to Lula. Before I had finished the first chapter, I was fully invested in Lula’s story. There is something incredibly fragile about her, but the strength and determination underneath is never sacrificed for this fragility. Lula was a character flawed from the very beginning. She makes rash decisions because she is a character driven by emotion. Though her journey has her meeting the Lady de la Muerta, the goddess of death, and facing off against zombie-like creatures, ultimately Lula’s story is internal. I don’t want to give too much away but there is one moment at the end where it felt that Lula had finally taken back control of her life and she was able to see how strong and valuable she was. It made me want to cheer out loud. Watching Lula struggle between being the girl she used to be and the one who emerged from Los Lagos is heartbreaking, but in the end, her story manages to be incredibly hopeful.

I want to touch on how much I enjoy the relationship between the Mortiz sisters. At the beginning of the novel, Lula harbors a lot of resentment toward Alex and Alex, who recognizes that Lula has changed, blames herself. Though tension and anger are always present, underneath it all is love. Alex and their younger sister Rose have done their best to take care of their older sister. While the Mortiz household has be disrupted by the return of their missing father, these three have always had each other. In the end, these sisters would do anything for each other and it’s this relationship that is at the heart of this series. I feel like we get to see this even more in this sequel and after getting to know Rose better, I am really looking forward to her novel.

In Bruja Born, the dead live and the living get their hearts carved out, both metaphorically and literally. If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting the Mortiz sisters and following them on their witchy journey, you’re missing out.

4/5

★★★★

ARC Review: Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

Title: Starry Eyes
Author: Jenn Bennett
Series: N/A
Pages: 432
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: April 3rd 2018
*I received a free copy of this novel through NetGalley which does not influence my review*

      “Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.
      But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.
      What could go wrong?
      With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.
      And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?”

swirl (2)

Jenn Bennett’s Starry Eyes suffers from an interesting synopsis that never quite gets delivered on page. Zorie and Lennon were once best friends, but now regard each other with nothing less than scorn. Though the synopsis boasts of a turbulent relationship between their families, the reality is less dramatic. Zorie’s mother has always been friendly with Lennon’s moms. The major point of contention between the two families is Zorie’s father. His bitterness about the failure of his career and his own bigotry toward Lennon’s moms are what fuels the tension between the two families. At times, the novel felt too long and the conflict between Zorie and Lennon felt too short-lived that the initial animosity at the beginning felt rather pointless.

I liked that Zorie, a devoted planner, learns to appreciate spontaneity, that she learns that there is value in the unexpected. Her relationship with her mother is my favorite in the novel. Joy is patient and understanding with Zorie. She never ridicules her daughter for bad decisions, but is always there to help her through her problems. Joy makes a striking contrast to Zorie’s father, Dan, and much of the time, I wondered what he really brought to the table in their marriage and Zorie’s upbringing. So much of the novel hinges on Zorie’s father’s destructive behavior without giving the character anything else to work with. As a result, Zorie’s father falls very flat. The revelations surrounding his character and the consequences with regard to his relationship with his daughter did not have a strong impact on me as a reader because I never could value him as an important influence in Zorie’s life.

One of my major issues with the novel is the hostility between the main character and her love interest. Part of the build-up is revealing what went wrong between former best friends, Zorie and Lennon. Though the two do their best to avoid one another, it seemed obvious from the beginning that this wasn’t something that Zorie felt strongly about. I expected a relationship with more tension, but after only a couple of bantering scenes, the two were already quickly on their way to reconciliation. My problem with this whole dynamic is when everything is put on the table, I could not help but shake my head because a little communication could have saved both characters from a lot of heartache. Strangely enough, I was more interested in finding out more about their friendship than their thwarted romance. It’s an aspect that is forced to take a backseat, but one I was more invested in.

Starry Eyes will probably appeal to those who enjoy second-chance romances and Bennett’s previous novel Alex, Approximately, but left me wanting more overall.

3/5

★★★