Cross the Stars came out earlier this week and let me start with saying I'm happy more books are being published with characters of color holding higher profile roles. (The male lead is a Muslim from Jordan.) This is initially what pulled me to sign up to review this book. I value the effort put in to the Arabic script is illustrated in the background of some of the pages. It was also refreshing to read about different parts of a culture with the appropriate language (for the most part) in regards to native food, clothing, etc.
I'm not going to get any more political than that.
For complete transparency, I was given a free copy of this book by Xpresso Book Tours via PDF in order to write a review. However, I'm not going to compromise my review in light of that. Also, it should be said that I have an eye for detail and, even though I may like a book okay, I will still critique the hell out of it.
Before I get down to the nitty gritty negatives, I'm going to go over the positives. Aside from the people of color thing I pointed out earlier, the description of the volunteer work that the main character does in Jordan is purposeful and inspiring. I have a thousand questions for the author, including if she ever volunteered abroad.
Also, once you get past page 159 (more on that below), the story really seems to take off and, while the author's storytelling skills are still developing, the plot can be consuming. The story also has romance smut, always fun, and she writes the sex scenes pretty well.
The rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Action and Opening
The story itself was a good idea. Kind of like a modern The King and I with some twists. But, it wasn't executed well enough for me. The action doesn't start until page 159 and the only reason I got to that page was because I signed up for this review.
The opening is just an information dump that doesn't seem realistic at all. (This info dump problem continues throughout the beginning and middle of the story.)
Cursing in Novels
It's just too much. While this may be an accurate amount in real life, at times, it feels like it's just thrown in and loses its impact. It also doesn't seem to fit some of the characters or scenes, as if the word "fuck" is just thrown in to artificially heighten the argument rather than weaving a captive scene that shows me the character's anger.
Main Character is NOT Likable
Also, the main character is just so whiny. There are a lot of remarkable and good things about her, but they are all smothered by her condescending, complaining mouth. The first time she talks to a man who has saved her life (who is also the male lead and romantic interest), she is unbelievably snotty and sulky. Her attitude comes out of nowhere, inexplicable. She also gets an attitude on page 63 with her interviewer and future employer when he worries that she wouldn't be comfortable in a foreign country. She tells him that he doesn't know her life and blah blah. It's like: whoa, what a brat. (I could go list all of these moments, but that would lengthen the review.)
The book ends on a cliffhanger and, god, I'm so tired of trilogies. It's not even a good cliffhanger, where everything is mostly wrapped up, but you still figure there is something more to come. No, it's just cut off with the main character being kidnapped. (Not a spoiler because the intro alludes to this happening.)
Amidst all of these issues, there are simple grammar and punctuation mistakes. At one point, the main character remarks about wearing a halter and feeling the hair brush her navel. Clearly, here the author meant "air" so, yeah.
There are two main characters which trade off every chapter to tell the story. Good idea, but their individual voices are not distinct enough. Scenes are missing bits of action so it'll seem like a character is sitting at a table and then the next minute they are across the room. The text switches from past to present tense sometimes, and no this isn't during a flashback.
Honestly, it's not a bad book and my review would probably be up at four stars if a professional editor had gone over it a few more times. Oh, well.