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Stand in Awe: a Review of J’Nell Ciesiekski’s “The Brilliance of Stars”

When was the last time you read a book?

Now I don’t mean listened to someone read to you through your smart speaker or headphones – I mean, when was the last time you sat down and invested your time and brain cells in a book cover to cover – for better or for worse?

I hope you’re not like me, someone who needs a deadline in order to make time to actually read, but you’re all better humans than I am. You’d never do that.

Naturally it is not often that I get to read a book that hasn’t been released yet and write my honest opinion about it.

In fact, I’m beyond thrilled to be typing right now.

It is with great pleasure that I take you through my full review of J’Nell Ciesielski’s The Brilliance of Stars. I’ve said before that reading a book twice is a huge accolade coming from me. This book in particular may garner that title simply because it is so rich in detail I’m sure I’ve missed something in only reading it once.

Alas, without further ado…


I can’t quite put my finger on it, but this one has a cover that lives in your mind. I remember seeing the cover on Instagram, having it pop up in my feed and into my consciousness. It’s simple but elegant, and makes you really want to get to know the hero and heroine – Jack and Ivy respectively.

Plot – Grab Your Last Grenade! Spoilers Ahead!

How do I even begin? From the very first page, there is action, romance, danger, and downright evil in the ink on these pages. Two extraordinary equals – Jack and Ivy – meet at the most educated, exquisite masters of espionage that I have ever experienced on a page. While both Jack and Ivy are flawed – I mean who isn’t? – they support each other, protect each other, and at times throw caution to the wind and walk into a room full of lethal weapons dealers, all with jerky trigger fingers.

I’m not kidding. This is a book for the readers who love action.

This is a book for the readers who love the impossible escapes.

From page one, this book is action packed with twists, turns, and a whole host of weaponry. Taking on Russian arms dealers who seek world domination, Jack, Ivy, and their team take on their foes, jumping head first into the frozen tundra.

Romance – Yup, That’s Right. This Book is the Whole Package

There’s fighting.

There’s guns.

There are grenades.

And there’s romance.

Only from the brilliant mind of J’Nell Ciesielski, could come a story that embodies truth, patience, sacrifice, and love. We watch (in our mind’s eye) as Ivy – and her street-adopted brother Philip – stumble into a situation in which they can either help the problem, or potentially be killed. Even after being granted mercy, they still choose to serve their county and the organization who has offered to take them in – Talon.

In the course of a few chapters, we watch as one of Ivy’s mentors, (Jack), becomes someone she greatly admires. As Jack and Ivy grow closer, their missions become more dangerous. Just when they think they’ve faced the biggest challenge yet, another one emerges.

Between combat and insecurities, Ivy and Jack are kept apart for a short while, but when the timing is right, Jack proclaims his love for Ivy in a speech that I will never forget.

We though Disney and Jane Austen were to blame for unrealistic expectations of men. Now J’Nell Ciesielski is to blame.

The Heroine – Don’t Let the Demure Eyes Fool You

Ivy is an anomaly. She has an encyclopedia for a brain, and a heart that yearns to do what is right. She lovable, fierce, brave, and perfectly flawed. In fact, I think she puts Natasha Romanov to shame. She modest, kind, and everything a virtuous woman should personify.

You know, if said woman can kill a man with one hand.

That being said – this book is fierce! I was glued to the page absorbing the action, history, and vivid detail.

Staying Power – Mission’s Not Over Soldier

It was hinted – heavily hinted in the book – that this will be the first book in a series. The question is – do we get enough of a taste of the drama to stay for book two?

My answer is yes.

This book breaks conventions – usually in books of this genre, there is an engagement at the end and possibly a wedding in the sequel.

The Brilliance of Stars sets the bar high for book two by letting the wedding already take place in book one. Which begs the question:

What sort out unearthly mayhem will be released in book two?!

The Bottom Line – Reading This Much Action is a Commitment

I was beyond thrilled when I was asked to publish a full review of this book. Honestly, I’ve never read anything like it. It stands alone in a category ruled by lace and rose pedals.

As a writer, I applaud her fresh metaphors, and new ways of describing things. Word choice is everything when it comes to writing and Mrs. Ciesielski is one of the most talented writers I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

As a reader, I was thrilled, captivated, and completely taken in by the world that Mrs. Ciesielski created.

But don’t take my word for it – see for yourself! For more information or to purchase the book click here.

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