Book Review: Carve the Mark

imageDetails:
Title: Carve the Mark
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Release Date: January 17, 2017
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 438

Synopsis:

In a galaxy powered by the current, everyone has a gift.

Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power—something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand, she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.

Akos is the son of a farmer and an oracle from the frozen nation-planet of Thuvhe. Protected by his unusual currentgift, Akos is generous in spirit, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Aks is desperate to get this brother out alive—no matter what the cost. Then Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, and the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. Will they help each other to survive, or will they destroy one another?

Carve the Mark is Veronica Roth’s stunning portrayal of the power of friendship—and love—in a galaxy filled with unexpected gifts.

My First Thoughts:

I was really excited to hear that Veronica Roth had written a new book, because I absolutely loved the Divergent series. However, I’ve been hearing awful things about the book, not about the plot, but about the characters and racial relations. I walked into this series trying to have an open mind, but also trying to be aware of the criticisms that I had heard.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

I’m unsure about those criticisms that I heard… I find it hard to whitewash or portray a negative bias toward characters whose physical descriptions consist of “can see his veins through his skin,” and “has dark shadows crisscrossing over her body,” or “large and lean,” and “small and fast.” Also, everything in this book takes places on a planet that is not Earth, they aren’t even referred to as humans at any point, so I feel like that is also a point against the criticisms that I had been hurting.
That’s not to say that racism and classism are not heavily explored themes in the book. There are two primary races featured in the book, the Thuvhe and the Shotet.

The Thuvhe are a race that exists on a frozen planet and believes in peace and love and the power of the the current, while the Shotet are a race looked down upon by the entire space system as violent scavengers due to their traditions and practices. Much of the book is spent with the main characters, Cyra and Akos, learning the truth about each other’s culture and seeing the beauty in the cultures that are not their own.

This book was a little more on the “Space Opera” side of science fiction than hard science fiction that has a lot of scientific explanation, which is awesome because that is more of what I am interested in and enjoy. I don’t need to know how it works in too much detail, I just need to understand that it does. I was drawn in by the characters of the series, captivated by the elements of the world, and I never felt stunted by the plot of the book. This book is 438 pages and has a standard sized font and I finished it in just a couple days.

Final Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was a cool story, I thought the cultures were diverse and fleshed out, there was no point where I felt anyone was one-dimensional, and I never felt like I was being told everything going on. It was a cool story that pulled at my heart strings several times and kept me engaged throughout.

Rating(s):

4/5

I really did enjoy this book. I would recommend it to anyone who has a budding interest in science fiction, or simply is interested in a “where two worlds collide” type of story. I am excited to read the next installation of this story.

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

 

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Comic Book Review: Empress #1

Synopsis:

Imagine you’re married to the worst bad guy from your favorite sci-fi movie. An alien dictator feared throughout the universe, who will kill you if you leave — but you need to escape for the sake of your three children. All you have are your wits, your bodyguard, and three guns.

What I First Thought:

I found this comic one day when I went with my boyfriend and his family to their local comic book store. They had the first four issues and it looked interesting enough, so I grabbed it. I’m still new to comic books, I still haven’t quite figured out how to judge whether or not I’ll like it before buying it. This time I went with my gut, so hopefully that was enough!

Ratings:

Art: 5/5

I loved Stuart Immonen’s art! Not going to lie, but at first I was a little leery about the heroine’s character design because from the cover it looked like she would be an unrealistic “space babe”. After seeing the artwork, time and again Emporia was portrayed with realistic body proportions that weren’t too over the top. I think what I liked most about the artwork is that it already appears pretty smooth, some of the past comics I’ve read were a little rough in the beginning. Every line has a purpose, the scenes aren’t cluttered with too much detail, there’s just enough to give the readers all the information they need. The action sequences weren’t overcrowded or overpowered, just enough explosions when needed.

Story: 4/5

This was a pretty good beginning to the series. I’m really intrigued with the setting of this story. The story is set 65 million years ago with dinosaurs, aliens, and space travel; to date I don’t think I’ve ever read a story (outside of watching those few episodes of Doctor Who) in which those three are combined. I’m excited to see where Millar will do with this setting. Already I’ve seen a T-Rex fighting in an arena and a ship having to avoid a flock (?) of pterodactyls, but will there be more to it and will the dinosaurs actually play some sort of role in the story.

This story had just enough information to keep me from getting lost, but still left me with questions. I would’ve liked for a little more background, but I think that’s more my speed. I’m still curious to see what happens next!

Overall: 4.5

Details:

Title: Empress

Issue: 1

Publisher: Icon

Writer: Mark Millar

Illustrator: Stuart Immonen

Colors: Ive Svorcina

Letters: Peter Doherty

Released Date: April 6, 2016

Pages: 32

Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera

Book Review: Moving Target (A Princess Leia Adventure)

Moving Target

Details:

Title: Star Wars: Moving Target (A Princess Leia Adventure)

Author: Cecil Castellucci, Jason Fry

Illustrator: Phil Noto

Publisher: Disney Lucasfilm Press

Release Date: September 4th 2015

Genre: Space Opera, Action, Adventure, Middle Reader

Pages: 231

Synopsis:

Reeling from their disastrous defeat on Hoth, the heroic freedom fighters of the REBEL ALLIANCE have scattered throughout space, pursued by the agents of the sinister GALACTIC EMPIRE.

One rebel task force protects PRINCESS LEIA, bearing her in secrecy from star to star. As the last survivor of Alderaan’s House of Organa, Leia is a symbol of freedom, hunted by the Empire she has opposed for so long.

The struggle against Imperial tyranny has claimed many rebel lives. As the Empire closes in, Leia resolves to make a sacrifice of her own, lest the cause of freedom be extinguished from the galaxy….

My First Thoughts:

I needed a simple book to read while collecting myself between exams. I was stuck between rereading an old favorite and reading from a favorite universe of mine. I had already read a Princess Leia adventure earlier in the year, it was a comic set right after A New Hope, and I absolutely loved it! I had this Princess Leia adventure for a few months and decided that it was the perfect length and focused on my favorite character of the series, so I decided that it would be the perfect book to help me relax between exams.

Story Breakdown:

This Princess Leia adventure is set between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The story is about a single mission that Leia and a small team of Rebels undertake to help set up the major events in Return of the Jedi. It also helps show character development for Princess Leia, especially how she handles duty, and comes to the decision to help save Han. There are also some tid-bits for the newest movie, Force Awakens, which will introduce you to Commander Leia and a few of the other characters.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

This story was absolutely perfect for relieving my stress during finals week! The plot was very straight forward and the language was simple enough to keep me from getting lost when my brain was too tired from studying. I will admit that so much happened in so few pages that I would have liked for the book to be longer, at times some events seemed a little rushed, but I felt like the story as a whole didn’t suffer as much from that. This book did a pretty fantastic job with the world building for the planets that Leia and company travelled too, especially for a short book like this. The authors placed in enough detail to really paint the different planets in your mind and to describe the various peoples that lived on them. The authors also did a really good job of showing the characters develop through the story and bond as their mission unfolds.

I think what I loved most about this story was the depth that it added to Princess Leia’s character. I have always loved her, ever since I was a little girl, but I always felt like some parts were missing. Don’t get me wrong, she is by far my favorite character in the entire series and she wasn’t lacking a lot, but there were some small things that I felt were missing. Just like the last Princess Leia adventure that I read, this one really added in some of the minor details that I never knew that I was looking for. This story really shows Leia’s dedication to the Rebellion and to her duty to the cause, but it also shows how she grows to understand the duty that she neglected to herself. As Leia travels across the galaxy with her small team of misfit rebels, she learns some things about herself and the love that she has for Han, ultimately showing you her decision to go save him.

As a little surprise, this novel will show you sides to characters in the Rebellion that only appeared for a few minutes but had a large impact on the fans. Readers will also get to see just how the Rebels discuss and plan their next course of action, the things they take into consideration and the politics that never quite made it into the movies. As you read, the story shows you how other groups of people cope with the Empire and how they do things without the Rebel Alliance. You’ll see sides from people that support the Rebel’s actions and those who believe them to be futile, only making things worse instead of better. All in all, this story is an interesting read that will add depth to characters that fans loved from the original trilogy and color to a universe that many people have tried to immerse themselves in.

As with the other books in this series, Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, this book was illustrated by the talented Phil Noto. As with the Luke adventure that I’ve reviewed, I’m a bit disappointed and angry that the cover doesn’t list him as an illustrator. You’ll find him accredited on the back flap of the hardcover and the title page in the front, but honestly, how many people actually look back there?

Anyways, like the Luke adventure, I absolutely loved his work in this story as well! He does a fantastic job of creating simple pictures of scenes with enough detail not to give away much, but to make you stop and really take in the work. The simple grey scale coloring is fantastic and it makes the periodic red jump out at you and draw you in at the same time.

Final Thoughts:

I would recommend this book to anyone, young or old. It’s perfect for a parent to read to their child, or for any adult that wants a light read in between heavier books. I would recommend this to any child, boy or girl, because while it does focus on a female character for little girls to look up to, it also has enough action to keep a little boy entertained and interested in Leia’s adventure. Little boys might even grow to like Princess Leia with this adventure because it doesn’t show her as girly, but a capable kick-butt woman with only the title of ‘princess’. And for any fans of the original trilogy and Princess Leia, this story will help add even more depth to the princess you grew to love.

Rating(s):

Story: 4/5

If this story were 100 pages longer it would get a 5/5 hands down. But even though it was shorter than I would’ve liked given the amount of action, it was a great read and a perfect break from exams. I loved the amount of world building that the authors did, even though it wasn’t a whole lot in hind sight, it was enough to really paint the worlds and the people that inhabited them. The authors also did a fantastic job inserting this little adventure between two great movies, giving Leia even more depth and reason behind some of her actions later. I also loved the little moments between her and Mon Mothma! This is definitely going into my favorites!

Illustrations: 5/5

I just love Noto’s work. The illustrations are simple but have enough detail to really jump out at you. The scenes he draws show enough to give a slight preview of what’s to come, but not enough to really spoil anything for the reader, unless you’re really intuitive. Honestly, I should go hunting for his other works because I have been absolutely impressed with his portals of the characters I’ve loved since childhood! His depiction of Carrie Fisher is by far my favorite, even as Commander Leia!

Related Reviews/Books:

The Weapon of a Jedi Princess Leia

Book Review: The Weapon of a Jedi

The Weapon of a Jedi

Details:

Title: Star Wars: The Weapon of a Jedi (Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

Author: Jason Fry

Illustrator: Phil Noto

Publisher: Disney Lucasfilm Press

Release Date:  September 4th 2015

Genre: Space Opera, Fiction, Action/Adventure, Middle Reader

Pages: 184

Synopsis:

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….

The REBEL ALLIANCE has destroyed the Empire’s dreaded DEATH STAR, but the galaxy remains convulsed by civil war, and the Imperial starfleet is hunting the rebels throughout the galaxy.

LUKE SKYWALKER, the pilot who destroyed the Death Star, is now hailed as a hero. But Luke seeks only to support the freedom fighters, serving the Rebellion behind the controls of his X-wing fighter.

Even as he flies alongside the pilots of Red Squadron, Luke feels stirrings in the mystical energy field known as the Force. And this farm boy turned fighter pilot begins to suspect his destiny lies along a different path….

My First Thoughts:

So I got this book, and the others in this series (I use that term loosely), after I saw the Force Awaken. I loved the movie, my family practically raised me with Jedi, Sith, Hobbits, and Star Fleet officers, and I wanted just more Star Wars! I’m excited to see if it will reveal any secrets!

Story Breakdown:

This story is set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, or Episodes 4 and 5. It hasn’t been long since the Death Star was blown up by Luke Skywalker or since his importance, and fame, in the rebellion skyrocketed. Within this novel, we see just how Luke is getting accustomed to everything since the fateful explosion, including how to train with the Force without a wizened teacher.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

I honestly didn’t realize that this book came with illustrations, especially since there was no illustrator credit on the front cover. So I was more than surprised, though rather delighted, to see that this book came with a few illustrations to capture some of the more important scenes within each section. Sure, they might have been a little bit of a spoiler, but honestly I felt like the illustrations were a wonderful addition to the book!

Growing up I always imagined what happened to our wonderful heroes in between each movie, specifically in the original trilogy. Every time I watch the older movies, I felt like there was something missing, that there were important events that shaped the characters into who they were for the second and final films. I always wondered how Luke learned to use the Force without Old Ben there to guide him. Sure, Luke would hear Ben’s voice every now and again, but that doesn’t function as much as a teacher. Well, this book served as an explanation, a little peak into what Luke to better command the Force and how he accomplished it.

When I say a little peak, I really mean that Jason Fry barely described the tip of the iceberg. However, I believe that it was enough to satisfy some of the questions I’ve been harboring since I was a child. It was really interesting to see, years later, your questions answered without an entire movie dedicated to it. The part that Fry did focus on in the book, regarding to Luke’s self-training, was actually pretty detailed in how Luke came to his conclusions and mastered his daunting tasks.

The one thing that irked me some about the book was how it advertised meeting characters from the newest Star Wars movie and being able to get clues into The Force Awakens. This book, and the others like it, was released a few months before the movie came out when nobody (for the most part) didn’t know what was going to happen. So the advertisement that it was going to lead the reader into the world of the Force Awakens was a big leap that everyone took. I read the book after the movie, and honestly the only character you meet that was a new addition to the movie only had about 30 seconds worth of screen time. The character never spoke and you saw him briefly, his name wasn’t even spoken in the film! The only reason why I knew who he was before reading was because my boyfriend got the action figure of the character and did some research, but even that didn’t bring up much. Sure, it was cool to learn more about Sarco Plank and see how he might be tied in later in the new films, but he was definitely not important in Episode 7 like the advertising made it to be.

Final Thoughts:

I would recommend this to any parent who wants to get their child more into the Star Wars universe, or settle the child’s craving for more Star Wars. I believe that it would be a fun story for any young boy or girl, as there are characters for any child to love and connect with. The story isn’t very long and is pretty straight forward, so something that can easily hold a child’s attention.

Honestly, this book isn’t just for younger readers, sure it’s aimed at them, but let’s be real, a lot of Star Wars fans are kids at heart. With that said, I would recommend this book to any age, whether they are a diehard Star Wars fan or wants to become one. It’s a short read, something to use as a break between two larger books or just a fun adventure to help pick up your day!

Rating(s):

Story: 4/5

The story is a pretty straight forward adventure that fills in some of the holes between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. You don’t need to see either of those movies first, or know what happens in them to enjoy the book. Fry actually does a wonderful job highlighting the big events from A New Hope and showing how they might actually affect Luke immediately after. It was also pretty interesting to see how Luke trained himself and how he was able to overcome small, yet daunting tasks. The book ends with hints at possibly having more books following Luke’s adventures, however, the main story gets wrapped up rather soundly. It’s definitely a fun, quick read to fix whatever Star Wars cravings you may be having!

Illustrations: 5/5

I loved the illustrations! I’m actually a bit disappointed that Noto didn’t get credit on the front cover. His illustrations, while few and far between, were a wonderful addition to the book. He always seemed to capture just enough action within the pictures without spoiling anything, allowing the reader to wonder what was happening within the scene. And I loved how he kept each one simple and uniform in coloration, only using true color in one object per image. Fantastic work!

Related Reviews/Books:

Lost Stars

Graphic Novel Review: Star Wars Princess Leia

Princess Leia

Details:

Title: Star Wars: Princess Leia

Volume: 1

Issue: 1-5

Publisher: Dan Buckley (MARVEL)

Writer(s): Mark Waid

Penciler(s): Terry Dodson

Inker(s): Rachel Dodson

Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Cover Art: Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson

Released Date: November 3rd 2015

Pages: 120

Genre: Graphic Novel, Space Opera, Action

Synopsis:

When Princess Leia Organa was captured by the Empire, she never betrayed her convictions – even after the complete destruction of her home world, Alderaan. When her rescue came, Leia grabbed a blaster and joined the fight, escaping back to the Rebel Alliance and helping strike the biggest blow against the Empire – the destruction of the Death Star! But in the aftermath of that victory, the question remains…what is a princess without a world? As Leia comes to grips with her loss, a new mission leads her to the underground world of Sullust. The Empire is rounding up fugitive Alderaanians, and that doesn’t sit well with their Princess! But what can one woman do against the Galactic Empire? They’re about to find out! Join the galaxy’s toughest Princess on a quest to save her people and rebuild her life!

First Thought:

I first found this graphic novel discounted in the reading isle of Walmart. I always loved Leia as a kid, but I never thought that she had enough to do in the movies, like she was missing on some action herself. Sure she had great roles in the movies, but I never felt like her entire character was explored in the originals. So when I found this in Walmart I swept it into my basket, happy to fulfil the little girl dream of reading a Leia centered adventure.

Overall Thoughts and Opinions:

As a little girl, I started watching the originals before I saw the prequels, I even remember watching all three of them before going to see The Phantom Menace in the theaters when it was first released. I never knew a time in which I didn’t know Leia, she will always be my first beloved Princess, but as I got older and the more I saw the originals I felt like her character wasn’t explored enough. Sure, from the movies you get that she is a stronger, independent, and sassy young woman who has a soft spot for a certain scoundrel, but you never see how her people saw her and you never saw her grieve for the loss of her homeworld. In a way, this graphic novel, while short, sheds light on those two missing aspects of her character.

Honestly, I am still getting used to the pacing in comics because they’re a lot different than novels and manga. With that said, I thought the pacing of this graphic novel was perfect and it fit beautifully with the action. Would I have liked this graphic novel to be longer? Sure, I would love to read more about the adventures Leia has between the movies, with and outside of the Rebellion. However, this story per se doesn’t really need much more to it. This story was about Leia doing what she could for the survivors of Alderaan, keeping them safe from the Empire, as her way of grieving for the loss of her people, what she believed to be her greatest failure. This story is short, but it’s sweet and to the point as well. Anymore added to this adventure wouldn’t aid it in the long run.

There were some parts of the story that were a little slow, but for the most part it was a thrilling page turner. A lot of the story was driven by the developing relationship between Leia and Evaan. Leia’s actions in desperate times gains the respect and friendship of Evaan, and with Evaan’s help Leia shows her true colors as a leader and allows herself to see past her ‘failure’ to Alderaan. The story was simple, nothing super elaborate and gut wrenching, but enough to fill in some of the color missing from the image of Leia that I had since being a little girl.

The artwork for this graphic novel was amazing, some of my favorite so far! They were able to make Leia feminine but also badass and sympathetic. The coloring made my jaw drop, especially with the different species they featured and some of the hair coloring of the different people. The character designs were pretty amazing; I loved all the elaborate fashions, the different aliens and the cultures they tried to flesh out. I do have to say that the poses sometimes were a bit dramatic, but that didn’t really hinder the art, it sort of enhanced everything, almost reminding people that this is more of a space drama than an action adventure story.

Final Thoughts:

Still hungry for more Star Wars after the recent film? Always loved Leia and wanted to hear more stories about her adventures? Want to read something that is actually canon? Have a little girl, or boy, that you want to introduce to the world of comics? Or even a friend or family member who is insane about Star Wars? Then look no further, because this novel is for you! It certainly was for me!

Ratings:

Art: 5/5

I absolutely loved the art! I loved how feminine they made their female characters and how they added some extra sense of power or strength to the women who weren’t completely feminine. The coloring was fantastic, especially with the blending and color choices. I loved looking at the different character designs and how they portrayed different species, you could really tell a person’s character through their design. Have I mentioned the various covers? Well, I wouldn’t mind having them as actual posters to hang on my walls!

Story: 4.5/5

However short the story was, they did a fantastic job showing the different characters’ personalities and how they changed over time, it was fascinating to see especially the change in body language and dialogue. I honestly don’t mind that this graphic novel was short. I would love to see more Leia adventures, and who knows, maybe they will. However, this story was stronger because of its length. It was only supposed to be a quick adventure for Leia to have after losing her world, allowing her to see past her failure. It also served to add more to the picture of Leia for current and former little girls who idolized her as a princess, and gave fans another adventure in the canon universe of Star Wars, finally explaining what happened to the survivors of Alderaan’s destruction.

Overall (or average): 5/5

“We are not our enemy. We are Alderaan. We answer rage with wisdom. We answer fear with imagination. We answer war with hope.”

Maybe we should think about taking a few notes ourselves?

Related Material:

COMING SOON!

Book Review: Spinning Starlight

Spinning Starlight

Details:

Title: Spinning Starlight

Author: R.C. Lewis

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Release Date: October 6th 2015

Genre: Young Adult, Space Opera, Romance, Fairytale Retelling

Pages: 336

Synopsis:

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.

My First Thoughts:

When I saw this book over the summer I flipped out and marked my calendar. I even had a little count down for its release back in October! I enjoy fairytale retellings, but a lot of them retell the same fairytales over and over and over. You can only retell a story so many times before all originality is used up. However, I find that setting fairytales in space and turning them into space operas is pure genius! I loved Lewis’s first book, Stitching Snow, and I knew that I would like this one too.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

I’ve found that I have a love/hate relationship with the fairytale retelling genre. While I love the idea of retelling an original work and spinning it into your own creation, many of the retellings focus on the top Disney Princess movies. Honestly, I can’t tell you how many books I have seen that are based on Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, and Rapunzel, which, those are perfectly good stories, however, you can only spin something so many times before all the retellings start to sound alike. That’s why I have really enjoyed reading Lewis’s books. She uses the original story as an outline, but then creates a picture so unique that some people might not realize it was a retelling until told. If I hadn’t done some background research on The Wild Swans, I wouldn’t have been able to pick up that it was a retelling.

I also love that she picked a fairytale that hasn’t been super popularized by Disney. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with Disney, but I love seeing other folk tales get a chance at the spotlight too. In fact, I would’ve never known about The Wild Swans if it weren’t for this book and the research I did to familiarize myself. Now, I’m even looking for a copy of the original story by Hans Christian Anderson to read and own for myself. And that’s what fairytale retellings should do, to introduce readers to new fairytales and folk tales from other cultures and time periods.

Now that that part of my rant is over…to the actual reading! I find that Lewis made the smart decision of writing this book as a space opera, instead of a hardcore sci-fi book. What’s the difference? Space Operas focus more on the setting that the story is in space rather than the technology used in the story, like Star Wars, it is a subset of sci-fi. Hardcore science fiction novels focus more on explaining the technology and the science behind the story than the setting, hence the science in science fiction. Since Lewis spent more time building the worlds and the story than the technology she described, I would classify this story as a space opera. This seems fitting for me because many fairytales have been turned into plays and operas since the creation of theater, so setting it in space is a bit of an upgrade. And because this story is a space opera, Lewis didn’t have to spend a whole lot of time describing the technology, like the conduits or Dom, which allowed for the story to run more quickly and smoothly. If some people couldn’t follow the technology mentioned in this book, imagine if she actually went into great detail and spent an entire page explaining one piece of it…

Anyways, another complaint that I heard for this book was that people found it irritating that Liddi couldn’t speak, so they couldn’t read hardly any of her dialogue…I’m sorry? I wish there were more books in which the main character, or any character, couldn’t speak! That creates such a challenge for an author to be able to tell a story with one less character, especially a main one, being able to communicate. I loved reading about how Liddi tried getting around not being able to use her voice; I believe that it really added to her character as well. Trying so hard to keep from screaming through pain, yelling in frustration, or spewing the words burning on her tongue really showed how strong she was as a person, and how much she loved her brothers. I mean, come on, how many of us would be able to keep from screaming when they get their leg broken? Anyone?

The lack of ability to communicate also allowed Tiav to get to know Liddi in a way she never could with anyone else outside her family. This also created another challenge for Lewis, to spin a love story in which only one side could speak and the other couldn’t give away everything either. Sure, this book was more focused on the love part of the story more than Stitching Snow, but I found this love was not completely unique, but more refreshing than many of the books that I have read recently. So, in my book, Lewis accepted the challenge and aced it with flying colors!

But just like in her previous book, Lewis was able to create a unique cast of characters that really livened up the reading. I absolutely loved how Liddi had so much self-doubt, but she worked through it and overcame her own mountain to help her brothers. Sure, there are a lot of stories with self-doubting heroines, but Liddi actually comes up with the plans to save her brothers all on her own. I really connected with Liddi, because I always doubt myself and my intelligence even when people tell me I’m smarter than I think. It was refreshing to read a character that doubted her own intelligence like myself, but then overcame her conflict with only supporting help from other characters. Liddi didn’t need anyone to dangle the information in front of her, or spell it out, she came up with her own solution, and Tiav was only there to help her in the execution of her plans. Okay, so she wasn’t your stereotypical heir to a multi-million dollar company, but how would we know how an heir to a technology and science based company would act?

Speaking of Tiav, he is very much like Dane from Stitching Snow, not in personality, but in role. Tiav again wasn’t your bad boy or knight in shining armor. Instead, he was guy with some duties to his people and a curiosity that allowed him to get to know Liddi. He was never described as super attractive with chiseled muscles and the body of a god. Tiav was just your average young man in appearance, who loved to help other people and driven by curiosity. It was refreshing to read about such a normal sounding guy, I almost forgot that they existed in young adult fiction, I swear, they’re like unicorns or something! Even when stories have ‘average’ male leads, they never really read as average, there’s always something about them that makes them super sexy or the heroine is in denial. Tiav is actually average, but in a good way, and his reactions to the various things happening around him came across as normal as well. He wasn’t super gallant, and ready to save the day even when Liddi screwed up, but he also didn’t have meltdowns or fits of rage either. Tiav was very cool headed and didn’t completely react until all the information was presented, or at least what he thought was al given. And he never stole the show from Liddi like many other male leads from popular YA novels. Instead, he assists Liddi in her greatest moments, lending support when needed.

As for the other characters that I mentioned before I got side tracked, they had brief appearances, but colorful productions! Each of the minor characters was unique in their own way, making it easy to remember each of them. Well, okay, the eight brothers were a bit hard to distinguish at first, but as the story went on and you learned more about Liddi’s family through her flashbacks (great idea by the way) they become more easily discernable from each other. The other minor characters were mostly aliens, it was really fun to read about how each of the major groups looked like and how they acted. As I keep seeing with Lewis, she never half-asses anything when it comes to world building, with the actual worlds and the people that inhabits them. The aliens she describes are each unique in appearance and behavior, even down to religious beliefs and customs, which I found interesting to read and discover for myself!

Final Thoughts:

Not a fan of super heavy science fiction, but still love space and futuristic worlds and aliens? Looking for a romance with no love triangle and a realistic acting/looking male lead? Want a story with a strong heroine that overcomes herself doubt and saves the day on her own? Looking for interesting worlds and cultures to explore, where the world building is complete? Want a retelling of a fairytale you’ve never heard of or is rarely done? If you said yes to any of these, then Spinning Starlight may be for you!

I know that it was more than anything that I was expecting, and trust me, my bar was set high!

Rating(s):

5/5

Once again R.C. Lewis has written another book that has made it to my favorites shelf! I was able to connect with Liddi and really get engrossed into her story. I absolutely loved the relationship between her and her brothers, and of course the love between her and Tiav. Lewis definitely did a fantastic job setting up unique challenges for herself and her writing, and being able to meet each of them in turn. There were times when I couldn’t put the story down, even when I needed sleep and trust me, sleep and I are very close. I was again blown away by the detailed writing that Lewis put into her world building and the unique aliens that filled the pages. The science wasn’t super complicated, but there was still enough of it to give a futuristic feel to it.

Also, I can never stress this enough, but I loved how Lewis added in the details from The Wild Swans. She wove enough from the original story that anyone paying attention could pick them out. However, if the person wasn’t familiar with the story, or didn’t know that it was based on a fairytale, then it didn’t affect the reader’s experience. I’m so happy that she picked such an unfamiliar fairytale, at least amongst the younger generations, and spun it into a wonderful space opera!

Related Reviews/Books:

Stitching Snow

Book Review: Lost Stars (A Star Wars Novel)

NOTE: This review contains (possibly) one spoiler, not a major one, for The Force Awakens. Nothing of the movie’s plot or characters are revealed, just a tiny tidbit of information. Also, for anyone wondering, this book is canon within the Star Wars Universe.

Lost StarsDetails:

Title: Lost Stars (Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

Author: Claudia Gray

Publisher: Disney Lucasfilm Press

Release Date: September 4th 2015

Genre: Young Adult, Space Opera, Romance, Media Tie-in

Pages: 551

Synopsis:

The reign of the Galactic Empire has reached the Outer Rim planet of Jelucan, where aristocratic Thane Kyrell and rural villager Ciena Ree bond over their love of flying. Enrolling at the Imperial Academy is nothing less than a dream come true for both of them. But Thane sours on the dream when he sees firsthand the horrific tactics the Empire uses to maintain its ironclad rule.

Bitter and disillusioned, he joins the fledgling Rebellion−putting Ciena in an unbearable position between her loyalty to the Empire and her love for the man she’s known since childhood.

Now on opposite sides of the war, will these friends turned foe find a way to be together, or will duty tear them−and the galaxy−apart?

My First Thoughts:

I remember reading Star Wars books when I was younger, especially the ones after the original trilogy, and loving them. With the upcoming movie, I wanted to get into the mood of Star Wars and saw this book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble. One thing led to another, and the book ended up on my reading list, especially since it’s supposed to have hints and tidbits about The Force Awakens.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

After seeing the movie, I would like to say that this book doesn’t really give a whole lot to the newest Star Wars movie. Out of the 551 pages, maybe the last 100 or so was actually set after the original trilogy, and probably thirty of those pages hinted at something in the movie. Spoiler: The book hints at something you see in the background and mentions the planet that the movie starts at. Yea, that’s it.

While the book doesn’t really give away anything pertaining to the characters or the story in the newest movie, it was still a pretty entertaining book. Lost Stars felt very much like Romeo and Juliet. No, seriously, the book smashes the Star-Crossed Lovers peg into the wall because the author beats the theme to death with an inflatable hammer. I’m not saying that the Romeo and Juliet theme was badly written; in fact, I rather enjoyed it at times. However, sometimes the book overplayed the theme, especially when it came to the angst.

Honestly, there was enough angst in this book that the pages were practically dripping with it, and if I flicked the book, angst would spatter everywhere. After a point in the book, it was almost always, ‘Oh, I can’t believe Ciena/Thane could do that! Oh, it makes me so mad; are they crazy?’ A handful of pages later, the lovers would fight it out and realize that they didn’t know each other quite as well as they thought, and then they would make up. Don’t get me wrong, their spats were amusing for a while, but after the fifth squabble, you would think that they would know each other well enough to understand the other’s actions. But other than the angst and love/hate relationship they had, Ciena and Thane had a decent romance. Their love for each other didn’t bloom overnight and it took them years to become attracted to each other, and even then it took some time before they acted on that attraction.

As for the characters themselves, it was a pretty interesting cast. I enjoyed Ciena as being a main character and a character of color. Her skin color wasn’t mentioned often, but subtly here and there, not like some books where they practically beat up the reader with the detail. It was also interesting to read about a female character that sided with the ‘bad side’ for all the right reasons. Usually, it’s the female character to break away from the evil and the male character to be disillusioned. As a whole, Ciena was pretty cool. She was talented and had an insane sense of honor that I resonated with to some degree, until her honor and loyalty got to be a bit too much, but that’s just my opinion. Thane was a pretty neat character too, though his reactions to some things were a little much. His teenage self was too much of a drama queen for my taste, but his character gets better with age, like fine wine. Honestly, I don’t have much to say about Thane. He was a standard male character that was pretty cynical in the beginning but got less so as the war went on.

For the rest of the cast, the minor characters were pretty fun and some of them got quite exotic. The characters were an interesting mixture that helped diversify the original trilogy. What do I mean? If you ever notice in the movies, all the background characters in the Empire and most of the Rebels are white males. The book, however, features many characters of different gender, skin color, and species, even in the Empire, which was a bit weird at first, but in a good way.

Final Thoughts:

For most of the book, you get to read from either Thane’s or Ciena’s perspective as they grow up in the Empire and go through the training, and eventually appear in the original trilogy movies. The first part of the book reminded me of when I would read some of the older Star Wars novels, when the authors would add to the universe you were already familiar with by using new and old characters. However, once Thane and Ciena graduate and join the Imperial Fleet, the book starts following the original trilogy, sometimes using the exact same scenes from the movies and trying to fit them in. That was fine to a degree, but at that point the book just started to read like fanfiction, and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. The story was well written, but a lot of the middle part of the book was character insertions into the original trilogy and tacking some extra stuff on to expand the story some. I was disappointed, though, that the last hundred or so pages of the book talked about what happened after Episode VI but didn’t really get into the setup for Episode VII like I originally thought it would.

Also, I have read other books by Claudia Gray and I was impressed with how she wrote Lost Stars. I read one of her older series, about vampires, and was kinda lukewarm about her writing. This time around though, she either really improved her writing or excels at spinning Science Fiction/Space Operas. I didn’t even realize that I read any of her previous work until I did a little bit of research. After reading this book, I actually want to go back and read her other novels again.

That said, I would recommend this novel to any Star Wars fan that doesn’t mind reading about star-crossed lovers or going through the original trilogy again, but through a different perspective. It was a fun read and definitely got me in the mood to see The Force Awakens!

Rating(s):

4/5

This book doesn’t get the full five stars because it doesn’t give as many details about The Force Awakens as I was led to believe. The book was also pretty predictable, which isn’t a far cry from the Star Wars movies themselves. I knew what was going to happen in the end about a third of the way into the book, which annoyed me to an extent. Some of the character interactions and reactions gave the book a tiny bit of a soap-opera feel, which got on my nerves as well. Other than that, the book was a pretty fun read. It read like Star Wars; it felt like Star Wars. The cast of characters is pretty diverse and interesting, and I loved it when some of the original characters would make a cameo appearance in the story. The romance was alright, not terribly cliché but also not overly heart-wrenching or original either. Overall, the book was pretty fun and sure to impress and entertain Star Wars fans and readers of all ages.

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!