{Review/Giveaway} SPINNING STARLIGHT by R.C. Lewis

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 Week One:
9/28/2015- FangirlishInterview
9/29/2015- A Backwards StoryReview
9/30/2015- Supernatural SnarkGuest Post
10/1/2015- YaReads- Review
10/2/2015- Two Chicks on BooksInterview

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10/9/2015- Please Feed The BookwormReview

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

   AFTER SIXTEEN YEARS, YOU'D think I'd be used to the incessant buzz of vid-cams swarming to chronicle every breath I take. 
   I'm not. Good thing, too, or I might not have noticed when one of the tiny airborne devices slips into the hovercar with me like an errant bumblebee. I shoo it like the pest it is. The lights and hustle of Pinnacle blur by until the city thins, then disappears as I enter the country--or the closest thing to "country" you can find on Sampati. A small river winds through fields and woods extending for several miles, with no signs of any neighbors. The house greets me with a few warm lights along the front path. As nice as it is to be away from the noise of the city, the two seconds of silence as I open the door press in on me, twist in my ears. I hate the sound of an empty house. It isn't natural.
   "Welcome home, Liddi." The disembodied voice breaks silence's hold, the same voice that's greeted me most of my life.
Sometimes I wish it weren't the only voice greeting me now.
(Page 9, US e-ARC edition)

I have been waiting for SPINNING STARLIGHT since the moment I finished reading STITCHING SNOW and found out that R.C. Lewis was creating another stand-alone sci-fi fairy tale. Yep, you read that right: The books aren't connected to one another at all and you can read one without reading the other. They're both great stand-alones that take fairy tales and tell them in brand-new ways. They also both feature super smart females who can do awesome techy things as well as--or better than--a guy, and we need more can-do gals paving the way as role models. That's one of the greatest strengths of both books!

Liddi doesn't start off as a can-do female. She has a lot of self-doubt driven from the fact that her older brothers have brilliant minds and invented new things that have taken the world by storm. She's also the heir of her deceased parents' company, and expectations for her own tech debut are sky-high. But the paparazzi vid-cams are more interested in what Liddi is wearing or where she's seen than they are in her brain, and there has been too much speculation on whether or not Liddi has it in her to be like her older siblings. When her brothers go missing, Liddi finds out that a sinister experiment is at work, and she's the only one capable of saving them. The only problem? She's had a chip implanted near her vocal cords, and if she speaks--to anyone--her brothers will be blown up. It's up to Liddi and Liddi alone to find a way to save them, or else she'll lose the only family she has left.

There are so many fun and interesting elements at play in SPINNING STARLIGHT. You may remember earlier this month, when I posted about books that use fairy tale elements in new ways, making them more loosely inspired than a direct retelling, but still having that tale at the core. This is an example of breaking apart a fairy tale and putting it back together in a new way that works. If you're not a fan of fairy tales, you probably have never heard of Hans Christian Andersen's The Wild Swans, so you'd never see the fairy tale elements in the novel or know it was a retelling. (Even if you are a fan, you still may not have heard of the tale or its Grimm counterpart The Six Swans, since both tales are more obscure.) But if you do know the tale, you'll see so many fun nods to it that work, and work well. For example, Liddi doesn't have to make shirts out of nettle, but she has to make something if she wants to save her brothers. The choice not to talk is taken from her, not with magic, but with technology, and she lives with that every moment. I've read re-tellings of this story where the girl can still laugh/cry/etc. Liddi is too afraid to make any noise at all, because the vibrations in her vocal cords can set her implant off. The stakes are very high, and readers can feel that.

I really love how high-tech and futuristic Lewis makes her fairy tales. There is definitely a market for these. At the same time, sometimes when books get super techy, I personally struggle a little more with them. For example, last year's blockbuster movie Interstellar lost me when it got too science-y. So did the book FLASHFORWARD by Robert J. Sawyer when it got really involved at the end. I appreciate it when books like A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L'Engle or TANDEM by Anna Jarzab include diagrams that help me visualize the mathematical or scientific concept being described. At times, the explanations for what was happening and going on in SPINNING STARLIGHT went over my head. My brain just doesn't work that way. In that sense, I preferred STITCHING SNOW because it was more straight-forward with things I could visualize. But I still appreciated how involved everything in SPINNING STARLIGHT was and how much development went into creating a multi-planetary society with tech concepts we haven't even begun to explore.

On the flipside, one thing I thought was really cool that may cause this sort of mental block with readers who can't visualize it is the language barrier. Liddi comes from a world where the tech is so futuristic that there's no longer a writing system. She winds up on a planet that still uses writing for communication. I like that Lewis put that block in the way, because otherwise, of course Liddi could have written everything down. They still speak a very similar language (Imagine American English vs. British English vs. Australian English), but there are a few words here and there not in one another's vocabulary. Such as the word alphabet. Liddi had never heard that one  before! The planet she flees to, Podra, uses a semi-syllabic alphabet. I don't believe Japanese is such an alphabet, but I lived there for two years and studied the language. When I listened to the explanations of the language roots, I visualized the Japanese system in my head. They have five vowels, and then those vowels pair with consonants to form new words. There's only one pronunciation of the vowel. Ka, Ki, Ke, Ko, Ku. Ma, Mi, Me, Mo, Mu. Etc. But they also change when connected to Kya, Kyo, Kyu. I visualized that structure to make sense of the alphabet. There was also mention of how beautiful the characters looked when together, which reminded me of Kanji, the elaborate Chinese characters that shape words. So it was easy for me to visualize this part of the story. I think some people will struggle with this more and visualize the part where I struggled better. We're all different like that, and that's okay!

I'm also a fan of the way Lewis tied her title into the novel, and the way Disney-Hyperion tied in the cover. It's so much harder to pull the essence of The Wild Swans out and bring the tale to the forefront of the reader's imagination than it is the very well-known tale of Snow White for STITCHING SNOW. The swan on the cover is, of course, the biggest hint. I love how for STITCHING SNOW, circuitry was important, and when you look closely at the cover, it's embroidered circuitry. It's so perfect. At first sight, I wondered about how SPINNING STARLIGHT's jacket would fit in, but it's been handled well, too. There's a scene with constellations that brought this cover to the forefront of my imagination, and there's a character named Spin-Still that helps weave everything in, too, so I wonder how much of that formed the title. It always makes me smile when I find little things inside a story that build the exterior, that it isn't just there for show.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed reading SPINNING STARLIGHT. I really want R.C. Lewis to continue writing futuristic fairy tales with can-do females, and hope Disney-Hyperion will continue to request and publish them. I like how both books are self-contained, but I would really like some sort of companion novel to SPINNING STARLIGHT. It could star one of Liddi's brothers, or someone not related to the Jantzen family at all. But the Jantzen family is a powerful force to be reckoned with, and their company would continue to be in the headlines in a way that could bring moments into other stories with completely new characters that showcase what has become of everyone in small ways. I'd read that in a heartbeat!


Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: PG ( Kissing )
Language: --
Violence: PG ( Fighting and injury, nothing graphic )
Other: --
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I can't wait to see this cover in person! I'm actually really bummed my review was assigned a week before the book came out. I already know I'm going to want to vlog about this cover because I did last year for STITCHING SNOW.

So....I'll just have to do a second post in a week or two that's just about the cover. Deal? ^.~
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: R.C. Lewis
Release Date: Oct. 6, 2015
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Received: For Review

Sixteen-year-old heiress and paparazzi darling Liddi Jantzen hates the spotlight. But as the only daughter in the most powerful tech family in the galaxy, it's hard to escape it. So when a group of men show up at her house uninvited, she assumes it's just the usual media-grubs. That is, until shots are fired.

Liddi escapes, only to be pulled into an interplanetary conspiracy more complex than she ever could have imagined. Her older brothers have been caught as well, trapped in the conduits between the planets. And when their captor implants a device in Liddi's vocal cords to monitor her speech, their lives are in her hands: One word and her brothers are dead.

Desperate to save her family from a desolate future, Liddi travels to another world, where she meets the one person who might have the skills to help her bring her eight brothers home-a handsome dignitary named Tiav. But without her voice, Liddi must use every bit of her strength and wit to convince Tiav that her mission is true. With the tenuous balance of the planets deeply intertwined with her brothers' survival, just how much is Liddi willing to sacrifice to bring them back?

Haunting and mesmerizing, this retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's The Wild Swans strings the heart of the classic with a stunning, imaginative world as a star-crossed family fights for survival in this companion to STITCHING SNOW.

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About the Author
R.C. Lewis teaches math to teenagers—sometimes in sign language, sometimes not—so whether she’s a science geek or a bookworm depends on when you look. That may explain why her characters don’t like to be pigeonholed. Coincidentally, R.C. enjoys reading about quantum physics and the identity issues of photons.

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