For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Do you have a favorite Jane Austen book? If you're reading this bloggy I'm more than a little positive you do. In fact, I'd wager a guess that many of you discerning readers place her timeless tale of Persuasion at the top of the pile. I do. More than a little bit. I remember cracking open its pages for the very first time after buying it at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England while on study abroad and just knowing that this was The Book for me. And it was. I've re-read it so many times but I still manage to cry (over Capt. Wentworth's letter of course) and to laugh and to smile and to sigh deeply at its end. So when I say that after hearing that a favorite author of mine was penning a retelling of said novel, I was a bit on tender-hooks. To discover that it was to be a post-apocalyptic retelling...well, say it isn't so Ms. Peterfreund.

As a Luddite, it has been ingrained in Elliot North since birth that her job is to watch over the laborers on her family's estate, the docile yet mentally 'incompetent' Reduced. 
Knowing full well she was the only North capable enough left to run the farm after the death of her sensible mother, Elliot nevertheless was ready to leave it all behind four years ago. Ready to leave with her best friend Kai, a Post-Reductionist (or a descendant of a Reduced who is normal) who was raised on the North estate. Yet responsible, practical Elliot changed her mind at the last moment as she forced herself to think of all those who depended on her for support and care, knowing her feckless father and prissy sister would never be able to keep things going on their own. A decision which left her heartbroken and alone, watching Kai leave for parts unknown with nary a word for over four years.

Imagine Elliot's surprise when Kai appears right in her backyard with a group progressive Post-Reductionists who want to rent her grandfather's boat building warehouse in order to build a new type of ship for exploration. No longer the childhood friend she remembers, Captain Malakai Wentforth (don't you love his new name?) is now cold and aloof and not at all pleased to be near Elliot. Which of course puts Elliot in a bit of a spot because how do you begin to tell your heart to stop loving someone just because they don't seem to want you anymore?

Diana Peterfreund you are a genius. Seriously. In a wash of classic retellings, you have managed to take my ALL TIME FAVORITE Jane Austen story,
Persuasion, and remake it into a heart wrenching Sci-Fi adventure without the aid of a single vampire or zombie. Who does that?! In all seriousness though, I loved every stinkin' detail about this book. She reeled me in with those first few pages of letters between Elliot and Kai as children and then proceeded to sink her hooks into my heart as I watched Elliot try her best, fail and yet still managing to keep going -- even in the face of extreme suffering and betrayal. That is my kind of character, someone who I was rooting for and sympathizing with from the moment I saw that lovely cover.

Part of what makes
For Darkness Shows the Stars such a special retelling is that I loved much how Ms. Peterfreund made this well-known story into her own. Yes, there are similarities between the two (enormously large ones in places) but readers can easily fall into the story and enjoy it solely on the basis of character conflict and story-building alone without having to have read Persuasion. My sole issue with this book is the ages of Elliot and Kai, who are eighteen at their reunion. I liked the characters being a bit past their prime in the original -- it added to the sense of life passing Ann Elliott by, but the age different does work here, if not as effectively.

I love reading authors' 
acknowledgments sections -- due to all the hidden gems contained therein -- and Ms. Peterfreund's proved exceptionally satisfying as she included Ms. Austen in her thanks saying: "Thank you for giving me the bones of this story, and forgive me the changes I've made to its DNA." Honestly, I can't think of a better way to describe this story. And really, I don't think she would have minded one bit.

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Angieville review
Book Harbinger review
Good Books & Good Wine review
The Readventurer review

book source: my local library

Book Haul (2): Birthday Edition

Happy Birthday to me!

This year saw some very purty books come my way -- some old friends and some recently discovered treasures. Plus a few digital books that I purchased for my kindle with a gift card (
love family who know me so well!). 
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (!)
Cold Magic by Kate Elliott
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Stand Down by Zack Emerson (I have been dying for a copy of this fourth book for ages!!)
A Breath of Eyre by Eve Marie Mont
Easy by Tammara Webber

I must admit Howl will be my very first ever foray into the world of Diana Wynne Jones and I am full of anticipation. Now the only question is...which to (re)read first?

Best of 2012 (so far)

Unbelievable. 2012 is halfway over! Crazy. So far this year has been a pretty decent reading wise. Not only have I discovered some truly unforgettable new books but I've also discovered some incredible oldies too. As of the end of June I've read 58 books, a little less than my tallies from previous years but still pretty decent. Out of those 58, here are some of my favorites (at least so far).
Click on the image to go to my review.

Published in 2012

Published before 2012


For their exceptional characters and unique storytelling abilities, Honorable Mentions should go to:

Embarrassingly enough out of these eight book I've only reviewed four. Shameful. Perhaps that should be my resolution for the second half of 2012.

So, what's on your Best Of list for 2012? Are you on track to meet your reading goals for the year? 
What fantabulous books have I missed out on? Anything you think I should pick up like right now?

This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

When I first heard that Courtney Summers, an author known for her contemporary novels exploring tough issues, was writing a zombie apocalypse book I sorta scratched my head and had to reread the synopsis of This is Not a Test again. Sure enough zombie apocalypse. Really? At first I assumed it was another YA author jumping on the bandwagon, but really, it's Courtney Summers we're talking about here. The woman is an absolute genius with a pen and never does anything halfway so I figured I better give her latest a shot. 

One moment Sloane is worried about being punished for being late to breakfast (her dad is not a nice man at all) when pandemonium breaks out and the world ends. No joke. As she is swept up in a group of six kids who have barricaded themselves into Cortege High School against their friends and family turned zombies, Sloane doesn't know how long she can pretend. Because the morning the world ended for everybody else, Sloane had tried to end her own life. And just how does she expect herself to keep going when all she wants to do is give up?

This is Not a Test is NOT AT ALL what I've come to expect in your typical zombie book. That said, it is (for the most part) what I've come to expect from a Courtney Summers novel. First of all, this story is really a contemporary novel exploring the issues of life and death and family drama with a side of zombies thrown in to keep things interesting. If by interesting you mean bloody and run for your life. Which I do.

Courtney Summers is fantastic at exploring family drama without making you feel like you're watching a soap opera. While exploration of Sloane's terrible relationship with her abusive father and the abandonment of her sister are at the forefront, we also get a glimpse at the tight bond between Trace and Grace, twins who Sloane used to hang out with. I'm not sure why, but their relationship killed me folks. Watching them deal with loss and anger and forgiveness was a sight. But really, every single character and every single relationship was complicated and raw but still detailed with such haunting clarity.

I think the one point that
This is Not a Test utterly blows away every other young adult zombie apocalypse/end-of-the-world book is that this book doesn't just focus on the here and now; the physical and emotional turbulence of surviving such destruction. Sure, such problems are explored -- how to get food and water, finding shelter, whom to trust -- but This is Not a Test goes one step further (maybe I should say back?) by focusing on the past. In Sloane's case, her internal turmoil stems from something that happened a few months prior, when things were supposedly normal. Not because life as everyone knew it ended. For her, the world didn't end when zombies attacked that morning, it had already ended months ago. She had been ready to give up for weeks and now the prospect of trying to survive seemed pointless. Really, this isn't a novel concept when you look at Ms. Summers' previous books, but for this genre, it's nothing short of groundbreaking. Well played indeed.

Still not sure? Read this first chapter here.

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
The Book Smugglers review
Bunbury in the Stacks review
Chick Loves Lit review
Good Books & Good Wine review
Presenting Lenore review

book source: review copy from the publisher