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The Brilliance of Stars

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Member Reviews

The Brilliance of Stars by J’nell Ciesielski
This was a very unusual book, and personally not my type of story.  But that being said, I do have to commend the author for her creativity and the amount of research she did to write it.  Her characters were out of the ordinary and their banter was very witty.  The plot moved quickly and centered on the three main characters, Jack, Ivy and Philip.  They were part of a crack assassin team tasked with taking out an arms dealer in the time period between the two great wars.  
Besides the amount of killing the story contained, there was little to no mention of God or faith in the story line.  It was a clean read, even though Jack and Ivy get married and spend their wedding night while on assignment.  The author handled that with discretion.
The ending left the reader certain that a sequel will follow and gives hints of the nemesis that they will attempt to foil.  Readers or historical fiction may enjoy this truly different book and the characters of Jack, Ivy and Philip.  I received a complimentary copy of this from the publisher and this is my honest opinion.
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I will still be reading and posting a review. I downloaded the book prior to the archive but had problems accessing the book. I will come back and update the review.
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Full of Intrigue, Action and Romance

I was swept away into this amazing book from the moment I began reading. J’nell Ciesielski has a way of making you feel you are right there with the Ivy, Phillip & Jack and the rest of the Talons. They come alive and take you on their journey of friendship, love and a fight for their lives.

The teaser at the end already has me wondering about the next book. I had to read it twice to make sure I picked up the clues. I can’t wait for the next book now!

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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This  author has become one of my go to for her amazing books. She captures you in with her characters and storyline. I have read a few of her novels many times over. I just couldn’t connect with this story of Jack and Ivy. There is a cliffhanger in the end as well. It just wasn’t for me. 

 "I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own."
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Read if you like: secret spy agencies, WW1 fiction.
This book was so good. It follows Ivy and Jack as they both are orphans who end up working for a secret spy agency and they find a new sort of family. Along with the great character relationships, there is also a lot of action and adventure as Ivy and Jack go on a mission in Russia during WW1 and the start of the Russian Revolution.
I thought that this book was fun and I was engaged most of the book and became very invested in Jack and Ivy's story.
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What a wild ride from Virginia to Russia to Romania. Ivy, Philip, and Jack chase so many bad guy, survive so much snow, and bullets it’s crazy. I’m not even sure where to begin. But amongst the fighting and chases a beautiful love story is growing. Cielski writes romance in such a captivating way that makes you want to experience it. I felt more like Philip in this one…the third wheel, and oh the depth to Philip.
And the ending of this. I have no clue where the sequel is going to take us, but I have a feeling it’s gonna be a wild ride.
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Wow.  I did not want to put this book down.  I loved the characters and their adventures.  
Many thanks to Thomas Nelson Fiction and to NetGalley for providing me with a galley in exchange for my honest opinion.
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I want to allocate ALL the stars for Jack and Ivy and their night-sky romance in The Brilliance of Stars. Oh, and there’s a secret noble society, assassins, and a trek across Eastern Europe and Russia to root out a sinister organization, all during the upheaval of WWI. In short, all things that make this a story after my heart, and a must read.

As author Ciesielski states, this tale imagines what would happen if the Marvel character Bucky Barnes AKA The Winter Soldier fell in love. And, this is clearly seen in the spin of the story if you are familiar with the Marvel persona, with nods to Bucky and his BFF, Captain America, seen in Jack’s life and in his compatriot Phillip’s part. This is book 1 in a duology, so it sets up some of these elements to continue to book 2, To Free the Stars, which I am highly anticipating.

The ROMANCE of Jack and Ivy is truly unique, with them sparring one chapter, or fighting out of a life and death situation, then kissing and sharing a truly emotional moment in the middle of a battle or a quiet moment on a rooftop in the next chapter. Ciesielski’s authorial voice shines in this tale, uniting her typical historically detailed premise with two protagonists whose romance unfolds in the most unlikely circumstances within a plot likened to the best kind of action movie.

Thank you to Netgalley for the review copy. I voluntarily purchased a paperback copy. This is my honest review.
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3.5 stars, rounded up to 4.

I am a big fan of Ciesielski's writing, and this book is a great addition to her repertoire. She particularly excelled at the scenes in Russia and Romania--but it was all good! (And the Washington, D.C., fangirl in me geeked out at all the references there to places and street names that are still around to this day--Ebbitt's Grill, Pennsylvania Avenue, and more. Scenes set there had me fondly reminiscing of many a visit of my own to that lovely city!)

A few scenes, I wouldn't have minded if the door shut a bit earlier (for my own brain/mental pictures)--both some romantic ones and some violent ones. And, the book definitely takes a long look at some morally gray areas--always an interesting mental exercise, but a little flat on resolution.

Overall a very unique combination of espionage, murder, mystery ... and Dracula. :D (Which I also geeked out a bit over, having read _Dracula_ earlier this year. That lent an added layer of depth to the read!)

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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Anytime I see a J'nell Ciesielski book, I am immediately drawn in. Okay, yes, her always stunning covers may have a little something to do with that... but I also know the storytelling skill that I will find behind the covers as well. This is no exception with a beautifully written story that offers the perfect blend of history, romance and spy action! 

Sometimes before writing a review, I like to check out what other readers have thought about the book as well. I was a bit surprised when I read other reviewers saying they felt like this one-despite being published by a Christian publisher and being marketing as such- didn't really read as a Christian novel. I suppose that really depends on exactly what it is you're looking for in Christian fiction. For me personally, I read Christian fiction not because I necessarily think that every story needs to quote scripture and be overtly Christian, but because I know they won't contain language or otherwise inappropriate content. This particular book didn't have much (if any) talk of God, faith, etc and also did have a fade to black love scene between a married couple. While it certainly might be more than a lot of books in the genre, it was quite tame and again between a married couple as well... though I can certainly see where some readers might not prefer that, it personally did not bother me at all. That is certainly something to keep in mind depending on your preferences though. 

Overall, this is an enjoyable read that fans of historical romance are sure to want to check out. 

**I received a complimentary copy for consideration. All thoughts are my own.
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The premise of this book sounded really interesting - history, romance, espionage... what more could you want in a book? While I did enjoy the fast-paced action, the story overall fell a little flat for me. Some parts seemed a little unrealistic, trending more towards fantasy or science fiction mixed with history. I enjoyed the friendship between Jack, Ivy, and Phillip, but I had a hard time really connecting with them as characters. However, I know this book has received many rave reviews! It may not have been my cup of tea, but fans of historical fiction with plenty of action may enjoy it more than I did.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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It was really hard for me to rate this book, primarily because I expected a historical Christian romance, but it turned out to be an action adventure/romance novel written by a Christian fiction author. If you've come looking for the action adventure part, this is your book! There were bullets flying from the first page! I have no idea if half of the stuff mentioned in this book even existed during WWI (or could be found in Russia) but it was so cool how modern sounding inventions were worked into the story, and I definitely recommend reading the author's note at the end. I loved the relationships between Jack and Ivy, Ivy and Philip, and Philip and Jack. The family they created together was lovely, and it's clear that Talon agents don't generally find that sense of home. That being said, I didn't find that the book really benefitted from some of the gratuitous violence, pillow talk, or innuendo, and it made it a little complicated to follow at times. I'm not opposed to a secular novel, but it's hard to keep up when I expected one thing and totally got another. Now that I have a better idea of what to expect, I can't wait for the next exciting adventure of Jack & Ivy! I received an advanced copy of this book and was under no obligation to write a positive review.
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If there were more WW1 books with this kind of energy it would probably be my most read genre!
This book has most of the things that check my boxes for a perfect read.

Action- check
Swoony romance  - check 
Intrigue - check 
High stakes - check check
Fast paced - check!

Seriously, these are the kind of stories that I crave. Daring adventure, protective heroes, heroines that you can root for. 
Imagry and settings from around the world.
A villain that you just cant wait for him to be vanquished. 
If I had to compare it to something....its like and American version of The Kingsman, mission impossible, and Sherlock with what seems to be a supernatural twist but better because, Hello, Jack.
Loved Jack's integrity and loyalty, a great hero.
And Ive was smart, loyal and a crucial part of the team in a way that didn't have her striving to be something she wasn't. 
A great pairing. 
The only thing that I felt was lacking was a faith content. There were mentions of good vs. Evil and the Almighty.  But I would hope to see a touch more since the nature of their foe.
Yet the whole thing felt like a bit of an almost historical fantasy so it was completely enjoyable and I read it far faster then any other book in a long stretch.
I recieved a complementary copy of this book from the publisher through Netgally.  All thoughts and opinions are honest and completely my own.
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The synopsis of this book sounds fantastic.  I love historical fiction and I was excited to read this one.  However, my e-copy was a bit messy on my kindle which made it difficult for me to read and enjoy.  Unfortunately I wasn't able to finish this one purely because of the formatting on my Kindle.  Otherwise, I think I would have enjoyed this book.
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This was not the kind of book I was expecting after reading this author’s other books recently. Not a bad thing, but I will say I don’t think this was her best work. 

The plot and concept are interesting - a spy ring that literally answers to no one but themselves (could potentially be a problem in and of itself) recruiting people with no family or ties (essentially people who won’t be missed if they die) to fight what they determine as threats to liberty around the world. Enter our main characters - all orphans, which makes sense since the spy ring had to use people who won’t be missed. They complete their training in two years, and that was the first hard pill I had to swallow. Really? Two years barely literate orphans had learned the art of combat, weaponry, fluency in multiple languages, and read every book in their extensive library. Not likely. Actually, not possible. Why the rush? Why did the characters have to barely be 18 years old? It would have been more believable if they’d been older.  But I was willing to look this over. 

Then starts their adventures in Russia - found a lot of it to be just too coincidental than actual skill on their part. I know it’s a book and it doesn’t have to be super realistic, but when I’m reading about spies I guess I want to see that they find answers through their skills and not by pure coincidence multiple times. I also found them doing things that “the best assassins in the world,” as they call themselves, would never do - they made some pretty rookie mistakes in my opinion, which again just contributed to the unbelievability of this book for me. 

The romance was sweet and simple. I like that for once we didn’t have to wait till the end of a book for characters to get married. 

I also didn’t anticipate this ending in a cliff hanger until very close to the end, but it became pretty clear that there would be a betrayal and who the next target would be for “the silver one.” 

Will I read the sequel? Probably not. It was a decent book, but I wasn’t drawn into the characters qnd caring about what happened enough because of how many unrealistic things happened. It just didn’t add depth so I’m not super interested to know what happens next.
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A thrilling spy story pulled from the pages of history.  Good vs evil, backs against the wall fights, danger possible around every corner, and all hidden behind the bloody Great War.  This story is from the files of a secret society in the US.  It was formed to stop the dangers the average citizen knows nothing about.  They fight the battles that rage in secret but threaten to unleash the most danger and damage to the world.  Falcon recruits not from high society but from those who have an inner drive to serve and protect no matter what station in life.  Enter 2 orphans that have created a special friendship/family to help each other survive.  A chance encounter when looking for a dry place to wait out a storm changes the course of their lives.  But with a new madman using the Great War to profit and set a deadly plan into motion, the future is at best uncertain.  This well crafted story takes the reader along on their daring attempt to save the world from this madman.
J'nell Ciesielski uses rich and vivid details to bring a new world to the reader.  The characters' depth sweep the reader into the story , adding extra depth to the story.  I found myself having to close the book for a few minutes to catch my breath and worry over the harrowing danger these characters face!  I thoroughly enjoyed each page and was so disappointed when the story ended.  I can not wait for the next book, what a cliffhanger!  J'nell Ciesielski has quickly become one of my go to authors with each new release on my TBR pile.  I highly recommend this stunning new book.  I received a complimentary copy of this book.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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Title:  The Brilliance of Stars
Author: J’nell Ciesielski  

Ch: 28 plus prologue and epilogue

Pg:  400

Series: Jack and Ivy book 1

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Rating: 5 stars

Publisher: Thomas Nelson


“She kissed Jack hard on the mouth, then aimed her Beretta over his shoulder and fired a round of shots down the medieval corridor of Dobruzov Castle.”

This first line gives me Black Widow and Winter Soldier vibes. So, if that’s what the author was going for, it worked. I normally don’t include first lines in my reviews but this one needed it because I feel like it adds to my review. Because that first line hooked me from the get-go, and that rare.

Ivy is a woman of her time but she’s also quite capable. And Jack knows this doesn’t overstep. Which in my book makes him the perfect hero?. And it doesn’t hurt that books play a part. As both are readers. It’s rare to get a hero in historical fiction that’s a reader who has a balance of intelligence and strength. A sniper needs both. And that’s what we get in Jack. I do believe Jack Vale has become my new favorite historical hero.

The Brilliance of Stars gave me everything I love in historical fiction spies, Russia, Eastern Europe war. Loved that this one takes place during WWI which we don’t have enough of.

In The Brilliance of Stars J’nell gave me something the MCU failed to give me. A chance for the Winter Soldier/ Bucky has a chance to fall in love. She gave me the Winter Soldier and Black Widow vibes that was missing.



I received a copy of this book from the publisher through netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone.
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Hmmm. I adored the first third. Yes, it's a bit of a stretch to have two orphans become super spies/assassins in like two years, but I can overlook that kind of timeline. The part that lost me was the wandering around Russia second half. It felt amazingly coincidental that Ivy would stumble upon some random stranger in the woods who would move the plotline forward.

Also, and this is just a personal preference, I struggle when a couple gets married mid-book. As a married woman, I cringe to say this, but it kind of kills the romantic intrigue. OK, maybe it doesn't "kill" it completely, but the vibe definitely changes. So once Ivy and Jack were officially together, I didn't care about their romance anymore. Jack could've still chosen Ivy over Phillip, and it would've preserved the romantic tension if they weren't already married.

I've generally loved all of J'Nell Ciesielski's books, but I'm not sure if I'll pick up the sequel.
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Bravery is about standing up and moving forward in spite of fear.

Set in Washington, DG and various places in Russia during The Great War, the historical detail alone will keep you reading. As orphans, Ivy and Phillip have survived by looking out for each other. Suddenly thrust into a situation they cannot control, how will they fare?

Talon is a long standing group that prides themselves in being defenders of righteousness and protectors of the weak. Jack is a wonderful example of a hero you can swoon over and still expect nothing but the best from. The well developed characters are bound by different chains and yet will stop at nothing to secure their assigned target. Add some romance and a cliffhanger at the end, and you have a fantastic beginning to a series. 

This copy was received through Thomas Nelson and NetGalley. These thoughts are my own and were in no way solicited.
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I found the concept of The Brilliance of Stars by J’nell Ciesielski to be fascinating, though I do wish there was more emotional depth and growth in this story.  It was a book full of action and I liked the quirky characters with their found family. In some ways, it felt like a Marvel movie, just set in World War I and without the super powers. 

*Thank you to the author and publisher for an e-arc. All opinions are my own.
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