Top Ten Tuesday (December 4): Christmas Wish List

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the Broke and the Bookish!

So today I had the following conversation with my husband via Gchat:

Hubs:  Jon’s [Christmas] party is Friday
me:  Yes
Hubs:  THIS Friday.
me:  yes
Hubs: since when is Christmas sooooo close?
me: I KNOW

And that pretty much sums up my feelings on Christmas this year. I realize it’s not ever a surprise that Christmas comes at the end of December every year, and yet, somehow, it kind of is. You know?

(Also, see how that conversation drew subtle attention to the fact that, occasionally, I have something resembling a social life and do not, in fact, spend all my time on my computer/shouting at fictional characters/being introverted and awkward? People invite us to things! There’s hope for us to join the world of normal humans! Except that I just pointed it out, so maybe not after all.)

Fortunately, now that we live in the world of Amazon Wish Lists (or at least…that’s where my family lives), it’s okay to procrastinate on Christmas shopping until the week before. So let me just skedaddle over to mine so I can tell you the…

Top Ten Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Bringing Me
(in no particular order)

1. The Demon King (The Seven Realms #1) by Cinda Williams Chima.
You’re going to notice a theme with some of this list, and that theme is FANTASY. There’s several fantasy series/authors I’ve heard awesome things about, and I think it’s high time I became acquainted with them.

2. Finnikin of the Rock (The Lumatere Chronicles #1) by Melina Marchetta
I haven’t read…any…Melina Marchetta. [ducks flying rotten vegetables]

3. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
I do not own nearly enough books about dragons.

4. On Writing by Stephen King
I’ve been told numerous times by numerous people that this is a must-read, and I’ve put it off long enough!

5. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
I loved Anna and the French Kiss so much.

6. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
I’ll admit, I had mixed feelings on Graceling, but I really liked Fire, and I want to see how it ends. Plus, Kristin Cashore’s writing is SO PRETTY.

7. Girl of Fire and Thorns and Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
I’ve read and loved both of these, but I checked out the first one from the library and received the second as an ARC. I really need to just own them.

8. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Yet another fantasy! I’ve heard nothing but good things about this one.

9. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
I keep reading Maggie Stiefvater books and loving her writing, but not the actual story, and I think the problem is that I keep reading books that other people tell me are good, and not the kinds of books that would actually draw me in in the bookstore based solely on the jacket summary. This book, on the other hand, is one would pick up without other people having to tell me to.

10. The Iron King (Iron Fey #1) by Julie Kagawa
Yet another book where I know I like the author, but haven’t read the series that actually seems more “me” yet.

So there you go. Santa? Do you have Internet up in the North Pole?

Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

I have had For Darkness Shows the Stars sitting on my shelf since summer, because as soon as I hear the magic words “sci-fi Jane Austen retelling,” I am SOLD. (Not that I hear those words often, which is sad). But life and procrastination and over-commitment being what they are, I didn’t actually read it until over Thanksgiving. All the while being berated by friends who had red it and liked to yell at me, “WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?” And it was getting ridiculous, so I read it.

The Plot (from Goodreads)

It’s been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot’s estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth–an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret–one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she’s lost him forever.

Inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion, For Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

My Thoughts

You know what Jane Austen does really, really well? Break my heart. She has this knack for making her characters suffer and suffer and suffer — all internally, where no one else can notice — and then, when you are pretty much ready to throw the book, she turns things around. In a way that is beautiful and immensely pleasing and redeems all the prior suffering.

This is what Diana Peterfreund does extremely well in For Darkness Shows the Stars. The childhood letters between Elliot and Kai, spanning all the years of their friendship, are an excellent illustration of what sort of relationship they had, and why Elliot is so heartbroken when he comes back cold and distant. I loved the character development, and Elliot’s struggle between loyalty to her family, her people, Kai, and the people under her care. All of the many ways she is pulled make sense, and there’s no obvious answer to what she should do. And of course, there’s the Austen-esque dilemmas of characters who are constantly trying to do what they think is best for another person, and of propriety and decorum keeping people from speaking their minds. Even though For Darkness Shows the Stars takes place in the future instead of Victorian times, the way the world is constructed makes the Austenian society work.

I also liked the premise of the world, and the back story of what happened with the Luddites and the Reduction. It was fascinating, and I actually wish the details had been more fully explored. All we ever got was a broad overview of what happened, and while it didn’t leave me with any confusion, I still had questions.

The only thing I had a problem with — which unfortunately kind of tainted my overall feelings of the book — is that Kai does something that Elliot has a huge ethical problem with. It’s a major conflict in the book, and there are extremely legitimate reasons why she SHOULD have a problem with what he did. And yet, by the end of the book, it’s like she’s decided this major thing — the thing that kept them apart four years ago, the thing that’s kept her from being able to trust him when he comes back — that thing suddenly is a non-issue. And it really shouldn’t be. I wish it had been addressed. Even a look into Elliot’s head at WHY this thing no longer mattered to her would have been helpful. As it was, I felt like a huge part of her character and the plot was left kind of unresolved, and that bothered me.

Did I still love the slow, torturous romance between Elliot and Kai? Absolutely. Did I cry reading Kai’s final letter? Buckets. The emotions were handled masterfully in this book, and again, the characters are wonderful. It’s just that pesky logic thing that kept me from absolutely LOVING this book. As it stands, I really, really enjoyed it.

Content guide: Contains mentions of physical and sexual abuse