Spinning Starlight

by R.C. Lewis

Cover Beauty Score: 8 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 2 out of 5

Plot Blurb: Liddi Jantzen is a teenager born into the fame of her tech tycoon parents, with eight older brothers who are all tech prodigies as well. When her brothers are trapped in the hyper-dimensional space between places during a portal jump, Liddi discovers it is no accident at all and her voice is taken from her to keep her silent. Sent to a stranger planet she never knew existed, she is dependent on the kindness of Tiav, a native of that planet, to help her navigate the political and religious tensions that exist there and find a way to save her brothers.

My Reaction: I feel really bad giving this book the rating I did. R.C. Lewis is really a great writer, but with this one the plot just was so flat that I couldn't handle it. If I hadn't purchased this one (the cover is admittedly beautiful. Not as beautiful as Stitching Snow, but still pretty!), it would probably have been a DNR for me.

So where did it take a wrong turn? This is a sci-fi retelling of the Swan Brothers fairy tale, which is a personal favorite of mine. I feel like Lewis was really ambitious in taking this story and expecting to be able to weave it into something that would please a YA fan. The complexities of this fairy tale are difficult to cover, even within the confines of an extremely long and drawn out traditional fantasy. There was simply too much ground to cover and not enough time to get us there.

To begin with, we don't ever meet the brothers until they're already missing. I feel like this was probably THE biggest mistake right here. Although Lewis gives us some cookie crumbs of flashbacks throughout, we are never emotionally invested in the fact that they are gone from Liddi's life. Why should I care about brothers that I don't know? It would have been well worth it to have included a chapter or two setting the scene for us to love them and understand Liddi's relationship with her brothers.

And of course, this set up the whole story to feel less than authentic for me. If I don't understand Liddi's stakes, then why should I care about her story?

And let's get to Tiav. Yeah, he's pretty amazing. Pretty much TOO amazing, if you ask me. I know that in this fairy tale her man is supposed to be good and trusting and able to stand by her side even despite the fact it seems like she's betraying him, but there was no intrigue here. Liddi never went through any hardships before she met Tiav who offered her sanctuary, so his character ended up seeming flat instead of necessary for her growth and healing.

There are a lot of things that went wrong here, and none of them were Lewis' technical writing. She has talent, and I just wish the plot on this one had been better. Much like with Stitching Snow, I felt the climax was too much, too soon. Not enough build up to the arch resolution, not enough confrontation to suit the gravity of Liddi's situation.

And don't even get me started on the strange ending. I mean, I can see where Lewis was going, but it could have benefited from some serious plot editing.

And my search for more sci-fi YA/NA continues...
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Cold-Hearted Rake

by Lisa Kleypas

Cover Beauty Score: 6 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 2 out of 5

Plot Blurb: Devon inherits an earldom after his hot tempered cousin's untimely death and finds himself saddled with mountains of debt and responsibility he never imagined falling into his hands. Not to mention his cousin's two sisters and his widow, Kathleen, whom he clashes with instantly. They don't want to deal with one another, but in order to settle the affairs of the inheritance, Devon and Kathleen are thrown together and try desperately to fight the attraction between them.

My Reaction: If you haven't read Kleypas yet, for God's sake don't start with this one!

Man oh man... Lisa Kleypas hasn't written a historical romance in ages. She was probably the first historical romance author that I just fell completely in love with. I literally have every single one of her books and I adore each of them, s you can imagine how excited I was to read this little beauty. But since it has been so long since she's dabble in the historical genre, I can understand why she's probably a bit rusty. I feel almost like I'm betraying her by giving this book 2 stars, but I honestly felt like it was just "ok."

Let's start with the positives - Kleypas is a master of providing us with a look into the historical world without losing interest with stuffy descriptions, actions, and dialogue. As always, her writing flows beautifully and the story moves along with realistic feeling, the interactions between the characters coming alive as you digest each scene.

So where did it fall flat for me? The individual growth of the two main characters really didn't go anywhere. I mean, they did - by all accounts on paper they changed dramatically. But we never really got to see it. Kleypas created this character of a wild bachelor that shirks responsibility, but Devon was never really irresponsible. Quite the opposite. And he is thrown into Kathleen's life so quickly, forcing the intimacy between them in the most strange way seemingly moments after meeting. There was no mutual growth of familiarity.

And don't even get me started on Kathleen and her "no crying" thing - only to have her turn around and sob not five minutes after confessing that she "doesn't cry." It felt contrived and terribly unauthentic.

Now the side stories are where this book showed me the Kleypas I know and love. Devon's brother was an amazing example with this one... I was turning the pages trying to get more of his story to see where his character would go since he was so interesting. And then we had the Rhys and Helen story blossom so beautifully - as soon as this little tidbit was thrown in there I was flipping through pages to see where they would go. Original, whimsical, and touching, I just knew that this was the story I wanted to read. The story I expected from my fave romance author. Am I a little bummed I have to wait for book #2 for them? Yes, but at least they get their own feature length book!

So long story short - this book was NOT what I am used to with Kleypas. However, I won't lose hope because I get the feeling she has some great ones lined up for this series. Maybe she was so excited about those that she lost sight of this story. That's okay though... I'm a fan for life here so she'll definitely get a second chance.
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