for darkness shows the stars

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.

description from goodreads

this book had me at ‘sci-fi adaptation of jane austen’s persuasion’. in fact, that description might have… gotten me a little over-excited. there were several things i liked, and some that fell flat.

while i definitely enjoyed this book from a jane-austen-adaptation standpoint, it raised a lot of interesting and valid questions about the balance of progress and responsibility and never truly answered them.

elliott is a good main character, but kai felt slightly under-developed (“kai is your romantic lead so you must find him dreamy”). at 50 pages to the end i honestly didn’t know how the book was going to wrap up, but when it did, it felt over-simplified and tidy.

while it might sound like i didn’t enjoy this book, that is untrue. i really liked this book, these were just a few points where i felt it didn’t live up to the potential it created for itself.

before i move on, a quick note regarding the cover: in the book, elliott is described as black haired, dark-eyed, and given to tanning very easily. WHO IS ON THE COVER? cuz it ain’t the main character. excuse me while i go grumble to myself about this, but i hate it when they do that…

the book thief

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, this is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

description from goodreads

it’s fundamentally unfair that the more one enjoys a book, the more difficult it is to write a review. i’ve been meaning to read this for several years, but similar to the fault in our stars, i needed a some ramp up time before reading a book set in nazi germany. what i desire in a book, more than almost anything else, is characters. complex, interesting, well developed, sympathetic characters. and this book provides them by the dozens. the character of death, who acts as narrator, is great in both his familiar approach to things, and at the same time, his very alien perspective, and throughout, his wry voice. i love his role as narrator, as it provides both an interesting frame to the book, and also a little emotional distance at times when that is just what you need to pull yourself together.

i could go on forever about each of the characters, but i’m having a difficult time trying to summarize my feelings on the book. it’s good, guys. it’s very very good. here’s a quote: “I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”