Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne


Genre: YA Science Fiction

Rating: 4/5 stars

Are you looking for the retelling of the year? Stop your search, Brightly Burning is the pick for you. Jane Eyre set in space, it has the essence of the classic but reimagined in a futuristic setting to spin an old favourite.

The story follows Stella Ainsley, a teacher and engineer aboard the lowly ship, the Stalwart. Earth is inhabitable due to an ice age, and most of its citizens have been evacuated in to space. Orphaned at a young age, Stella has come to call the Stalwart home, but dreams of bigger things when it seems the Stalwart has been chosen to deorbit and go back to Earth. Money is tight, and there’s no way to know for sure if it’ll make the travel back. A surprise acceptance for a position as governess on another ship, the Rochester, changes her life around. She gives up her scrappy life for one with advanced technology, more food/water rations and a dashing captain, Hugo Fairfax. But nothing stays perfect forever. Stella hear’s strange laughs during the night. Hugo’s life is in danger. And when her own life is on the line, she must ask the mysterious Hugo the very questions he’s been keeping secret for a very long time…

I liked this book. I adore the concept of Jane Eyre so to entwine it with my love for science fiction made this an obvious buy for me.

The good:

– Stella was just great to read about. She’s quirky, smart and likeable in the aspect that she’s very down to earth and a normal teenager. She has her wits about her which definitely ties to the original Jane Eyre we all know and love.

– Hugo’s character was done well, despite what could have been obvious holes with his character. Like the original Rochester, he’s still a drunk and moody character and Alexa Donne still made that believable despite ageing him nineteen.

– The little nuances the author paid homage to made this book so the much more enjoyable. Twisting names from Blanche Ingram to Bianca Ingram for Hugo’s betrothed, and keeping the same linear storyline to the original were amongst many other great choices in the fluidity of the retelling.

The bad:

– Whilst the first half of the book felt strong, the second half fell for me. I was hoping for the plot to stay true in some aspects to Jane Eyre, but I found it steered too much in the other direction and lost some of its beauty. We found out who was trying to hurt Stella and Hugo, and instead of focusing more on this reveal, Donne focussed more on a new idea she brought in: the reveal that Hugo and his employees created the virus that was wiping out the poor citizens across the fleet. I would have loved for the mystery of who was committing the crimes to take centre point for more of the novel.

– A perhaps minor detail that also bugged me was when Hugo deorbits and goes back to Earth to escape his inflictions and is burned considerably in his crash landing. It was so intrinsic in the original Jane Eyre that Rochester loses his eye sight and Jane finds him blind, and it bugged me that Hugo had burns but his eyesight was perfectly intact. I would have loved that direct link to the original as it’s so monumental that their love for one another transcends superficial boundaries.

Overall, I’m really glad I read this book. I’d highly recommend it for all its romance, adventure, and original take on a beloved classic.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Genre: Adult Mystery/Thriller

Rating: 4/5 stars

Two old friends. A renewed connection. A cabin in the woods. Murder. What lies come out of the woodwork?

In a Dark, Dark Wood follows Nora, an author who unexpectedly gets invited to her estranged friend’s Clare hen weekend. Without speaking for over ten years, Nora cautiously accepts the invite to stay in the middle of the woods with a bunch of strangers for a couple of days. Things go sour when Nora realises that Clare is marrying her childhood sweetheart James, a romance she has never truly gotten over. Add mystery footprints in the snow, a secret message on a ouija board and a potentially loaded shotgun, and what was supposed to be a relaxing weekend turns into a nightmare. Sometimes old lies have a way of manifesting themselves, and the monsters aren’t always lurking in the trees…

This is my second novel by Ruth Ware, and I’ll straight up say I liked The Woman in Cabin 10 just that bit more. This book was her debut novel, and was good, but some minor issues in the ending left me disheartened. I still appreciated the story and suspense, and I’m starting to feel that the MC’s of Ruth’s stories are characters I really like.

What I liked:

– I’m not too good with horror or anything gory, and I’m lucky Ruth isn’t like that with her books. They’re more thriller than anything, and I appreciated the suspense.

– Nora was a likeable MC. I hear some people give flack to Ruth’s characters for being whiny or unlikeable in their opinion, but I’ve liked both that I’ve read so far. I find them relatable and just normal. Except for the occasional stupid choice they make, I like reading from their POV.

– The setting was eerie and added to the story. A glass cabin in the woods coated by snow raised the terror factor, and the constant feeling of being watched through the glass from outside was uneasy to read about. The characters were constantly conscious of it, causing underlying tension.

What I didn’t like:

– Clare annoyed me. She was meant to be this character that everyone loved and wanted to be like, but of course, she came across snobby and unlikeable. Why please someone like her? I understand that when you have history with someone, you turn a blind eye, but I always struggle to see past these things.

– The ending bugged me. The reveal of the murderer and their reasoning just felt odd. It was a shame after the lead up for the ending to be that way.

Overall, In a Dark, Dark Wood was a good read with great pacing and suspense all along. Despite the ending, I look forward to picking up more of Ruth Ware’s books.