Not A Book Review

August 22, 2012 at 9:55 pm (Giveaway) (, , , , , , , )

So, today is supposed to be a book review day. It’s a Wednesday (or at least it is as I’m writing this) so it’s supposed to be a book review day.

And I even finished my book yesterday- spent the entire book going o.O and LOVING IT and thinking of all the wonderful things I wanted to say about it. But even before I finished the book, The Grossness hit. I spent most of yesterday in bed with the cat, even though I was supposed to be packing, because of The Grossness. I don’t know what this thing is, if it’s a cold, if it’s sinus issues, if it’s allergies on sterioids, what, but what I do know is that it’s majorly kicking my ass. I’ve reached the point where I can barely breathe (nose stuffed, chest tight) and blowing my nose produces a feeling equivalent to getting stabbed through the ear with a knitting needle.

Fighting The Grossness all day yesterday and all day today (and today was a full work day) has left me with a mental level on par with Ron Weasley in Advanced Arithmancy. (Yes, I know he never took it- there are reasons for that.) So, incoherence is strong with this one today. Seriously, it’s disgusting how many tries it’s taken me to get things right just to this point. The thought of trying to intelligently discuss a book I loved, in all its intricacies, is actually painful.

Buuuuuuut I feel kind of guilty for piking off a review.

You get to reap the benefits of my guilt.

I am giving away a finished copy of Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars AND Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina. You can enter through Wednesday, 29 August, and I’ll contact the winner the next day.

All you have to do to enter?

Comment below with your favorite read of 2012 so far, and why you love it so much.

That’s all you have to do!

(Plus, the giveaway for the ARC of Melissa Marr’s Carnival of Souls is still active through Wednesday 29 August, and check back on Sunday for ANOTHER giveaway of the book that blew me away even before the descent of The Grossness)

Until next time~

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Interview! With the Wonderful Diana Peterfreund

July 15, 2012 at 9:00 am (Interviews) (, , , , )

Everyone, we have a guest today! Please welcome the amazing Diana Peterfreund, author of the Secret Society novels, Ascendant, Rampant, and For Darkness Shows the Stars. I LOVED For Darkness Shows the Stars, so I was over the moon when Diana agreed to answer my questions. Be kind!

Okay, icebreaker question: favorite superhero?

I am partial to Toph from Avatar: The Last Airbender. But if you mean traditional comic book superheroes, I think Storm.

Aaah, Toph! I think the greatest earthbender EVAR can safely be called a superhero, classical definition or no. Speaking of classics (okay yes, very bad segue): what was it about Persuasion that made you want to do a retelling?

It’s one of my favorite novels and I don’t think it necessarily gets the love of other Austen novels. I’ve always loved reunion romances, and this one is such a doozy. I hope I bring this marvelous story to a new audience.

It’s one of my favorites too, but how did planning a retelling change how you read the original?

I’m afraid I may have passed into the memorization phase with Persuasion at this point. :-) I do find now that I have a special appreciation for those bits of the story that I did not, for various reasons, incorporate into my retelling, just because I haven’t spent months and month analyzing them from every angle the way I have with the rest of the book (the most prominent example may be Mary Musgrove’s family life).

Obviously Astrid and Elliot have very different stories- was one more difficult to write than the other?

Every book and every character has her own difficulties. Elliot was a challenge to me because her shyness and silent self-possession, inherited from her Austen counterpart, was a very different type of character than I’ve ever written before. All my heroines have such different strengths. Amy’s weapon of choice is her smart mouth, Astrid’s is… well, ACTUAL weapons, and Elliot’s is her constancy and willpower.

What is an ideal day of writing like for you?

An uninterrupted one — rare enough with a toddler around! I still find it amazing how much my mood is lifted by getting a good chunk of writing done.

I think words are like endorphins- the more on the page, the better the mood, even if it does take discipline to get them there. Is there anything about a writer’s life that continues to surprise you?

How much I still don’t know. There’s a saying that “writing a book teaches you only how to write THAT book” and it’s true. Every book comes with a unique challenge, lessons to be learned or relearned. And publishing works that way too. I think it’s because we’re in a time of such rapid change, but even stuff that worked two or three years ago in publishing is not the way things are done now, and I’ve been in this business for only six years.

When did you realize you actually wanted to BE a writer, rather than simply someone who writes?

I think I wanted to be a writer since I knew what writing was — when other first graders were learning to use vocabulary words in sentences, I was writing stories with my vocab lists. I had this awesome epic going on in my little black and white composition notebook. But I didn’t think that was something I could do for a living — I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Have you ever had a smaller/side character whose story you wished you could explore more?

Often! That’s one of the things I love so much about short stories; they give me that opportunity. I’ve written connected short stories (usually free) for all of my books, and they are most often from the perspective of minor characters. In “On a Field, Sable”, my story in the free anthology Eternal Spring, I was able to more fully explore Melissende’s emotions after the tragedy on the mountain in Ascendant. In the free prequel “Among the Nameless Stars”, I could explore Kai and the rest of the Cloud Fleet’s history in a way that’s only hinted at in For Darkness Shows the Stars. And of course, there are the “secret stories” on my website that tie into my secret society girl series. I really love short stories, even though I came to them the “wrong way ’round” according to most writing careers. I sold six novels before I ever sold a short story.

What books have influenced you as a writer?

I love love LOVE On Writing Well, by William Zinsser. I first read it when I was 14 and it’s still the basis of a lot of my personal craft philosophy. On the fiction side, I am still very much influenced by the books I read as a child and adolescent, which is probably why I gravitate to writing books for younger readers myself. Then again, I think a lot of people forget how much time your average student spends reading the classics. I read more Shakespeare in high school than out of it. Some of my favorites from childhood are the Narnia series, the Anne series by L.M. Montgomery, and The Count of Monte Cristo. And Austen, of course!

What are your most anticipated reads of 2012?

I’m lucky enough that I’ve read most of them. Team Human, Foretold, Code Name Verity, Born Wicked, Thumped, A Million Suns, The Book of Blood and Shadow… and they all exceeded my expectations! I know I’m forgetting some, though. Next up I’m reading Something Like Normal, by Trish Doller, which I’ve been waiting for for like, five years. I’m also doing a lot of catch up reading. I hang my head in shame.

I think our TBR stacks catch up with all of us- mine’s nearly as tall as I am now! Which…sounds less impressive for anyone who’s ever seen me in person…So let’s say you get to corral a gaggle of YA authors: where do you go, and what do you do?

Usually out drinking, sometimes off to eat pie (as in Y’ALLFest in Charleston, SC) and once even to a castle in Ireland. Beating the castle in Ireland is going to be a challenge, I think, though there are a bunch of places I’m kind of wild about doing a retreat at, once my baby is a bit older. People keep sending me drop dead amazing retreat ideas (I have one friend who is trying to get a group together in Costa Rica!) but I just can’t leave her alone too long right now. Maybe next year. I mean, Costa Rica!

Costa Rica sounds amazing!

Thank you so much for stopping by, Diana. Everyone else, if you haven’t read For Darkness Shows the Stars yet, do NOT miss out on this amazing book, and don’t forget to check out Diana’s website for information about signings and upcoming projects.

Until next time~

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Book Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund

June 20, 2012 at 7:40 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , , )

Four years ago, Elliot North’s world turned upside down when her best friend Kai left to find his fortunes elsewhere. Left behind to care for her family’s crumbling estates, Elliot’s life is a daily battle against her cruel, feckless father and self-indulgent older sister as she struggles to grow enough food to keep them solvent and feed all their tenants. The Luddite lords, scornful of the genetic experiments and technology that led to much of the human race being broken to the mental level of six-year-olds, care for the Reduced, but a new generation is breaking free of those restraints into a society that doesn’t know how to define them. When Kai suddenly returns as the rich, successful Captain Malakai Wentforth, the Cloud Fleet is a way for Elliot to save her tenants and her lands- if he doesn’t finish shattering her heart first.

I adore Jane Austen in a way that I never expected to when I was younger. In middle school and most of high school, I thought she was synonymous with everything that could possibly be wrong with required reading, something that had to be deathly dull and uninteresting and of absolutely no relevance to anything. Senior year, we had to read Pride and Prejudice over winter break, and I fell in love. (Colin Firth in tight pants didn’t hurt) That started my Jane Austen kick, and when I got to Persuasion, I fell hard for this slow, poignant unfolding of a love gone horribly wrong and the painful, stuttering chance for redemption.

When I found out about a YA retelling, I was both giddy and terrified.

After reading, I can say the verdict came down fully on the side of giddy.

It’s rich and atmospheric, with a beautifully claustrophobic setting that brings the pain and desperation of this shattered relationship into sharp relief. Within any story the setting would be amazing. The history of the Reduction and the gradual evolution away from that wholesale devestation creates a three-part society filled with conflict and responsibility. The delicate compromises made by the Luddites in order to keep their farms and lands functioning serve as stark contrast to the Posts’ willingness to adapt or invent technologies, but also show how finite their resources are, which makes extravagance painful to see. The nature of a society in such a severe rate of change is gorgeous.

Elliot is an amazing character, strong and resourceful, someone who genuinely cares about so much more than herself. I’m not sure if she’s more indicative or symptomatic of the changing times and sensibilities, but she’s caught between the Luddite Protocols by which she’s been raised- the same Protocols that instruct her to care for those who whose bloodlines have been devestated by the Reduction- and the drive to try new things in order to better care for those same people. She’s hard-working, willing (and able) to put the needs of others ahead of her own desires, and having made the decision to do just that four years ago, she faces the painful consequences every single day. Part of what makes her so fascinating- and so eminently likable- is how strong those conflicts are within her. She tries to take the high road- doesn’t always succeed- and tries desperately to reconcile the constant pain of Kai’s departure and his return as the very different Malakai with the knowledge of just how much she’s needed on the North estates. She made the right decision but that doesn’t make it easier to live with the consequences. She’s placed in the not-so-unique position faced by every teen when the tough choices come due. Elliot is a hero for a generation.

Kai is a little more problematic. His bitterness upon his return is completely understandable. His rage, his hurt, they make sense, but the way he constantly insults Elliot, the way he consistently and purposefully stomps on her when she’s down, it makes it hard to even like him, much less swoon for him. Except- oh, except- the chapters are interspersed with years of letters between Kai and Elliot as children, full of beautiful innocence and friendship that gradually evolves not only into a true friendship, but also shows how quickly and completely children can lose than innocence in a society so patently unequal. Kai becomes likable- even lovable- through the letters, and in the quieter moments when he’s startled or his guard is down, the moments where he genuinely sees Elliot, rather than the monster he’s created through four years of bitterness and hurt feelings. In those moments, he’s amazing. (and changing his name from Wentworth to Wentforth makes me geekily happy more than it probably should)

Most of the side characters are beautifully realized, given life and breath outside of the originals. In a retelling, there’s a difference between faithful and slavish, and this definitely comes out to the better of that line. Elliot’s older sister Tatiana is a wonderful amalgam of the oldest and youngest Elliot sisters from the original, with the additional virtue of having a few moments of genuine sympathy. She’s not a likable character- nor is she ever truly meant to be- but that we feel for her at any point is a superb bit of writing. The Posts are as richly varied as the Luddites, and with varying degrees of innovation (no pun intended) and daring. Most of them aren’t the first generation of Posts, but that gives many of them a sense of recklessness that goes hand in hand with the daring experiments carried out by their ancestors. Andromeda is cautious and prickly and protective- in some ways a more extreme version of Elliot’s own protectiveness- while her brother is gloomy and sorrow-burdened at times, at other times almost manic. The Innovations are a wonderful blend of Austen’s Crofts and, in the case of Mrs. Innovation, something new and terrifying and reassuring. Ro, a Reduced girl born the same day as Kai and Elliot, is sweet and sincere, with remarkable leaps of understanding that mark her as special without making her less than (or more than) Reduced. It gives her grace without taking away the reality of what she is. Dee, a Post woman who serves as the North’s foreman, is practical and compassionate, a wonderful mother figure for the motherless Elliot without ever feeling like she’s trying to replace anyone. She’s willing to give Elliot the hard truths, to puncture comforting illusions or beliefs in the name of helping Elliot become a stronger and better person. The neighbors are lively and intelligent, a good example of moderation in both Post and Luddite thinking. The wholly original character of the Boatwright, Elliot’s maternal grandfather, was gorgeous and moving.

The only side character I truly found problematic was Elliot’s father, Baron North. He’s cruel and menacing, but given that we never actually see him carry through any of his horrible threats- nor are even told of times previous to that, other than the burning, that he did so- the menace becomes almost comical in nature, like a punch clown who just snaps back up into place without a true reaction.

Within this shifting society, the setting poses more questions than it answers, but that’s actually okay- most of those questions are things we haven’t figured out for ourselves yet, so it seems like cheating to create a falsely simple solution and feed it through the characters. They’re not simple questions, and they’re ones that have been plaguing us for a long time. I really like that those questions- some practical, some ethical, some a little more esoteric- are explored without being sacrificed in the name of tidiness.

On its own or as a retelling, this is an amazing book with all the wonder, pain, and fragile hope of the original while taking a brave new world and a distinctly YA cast that makes this, in a word, unforgettable.

For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund, absolutely not to be missed.

Until next time~

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