Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Um, wow.  This book was just awesome.  I mean, there is a lot of great YA out there, but this is some of the best I’ve read in a while.

In a future where the Gulf Coast is characterized by its drowned cities, the divide between rich and poor is wider than ever, and a few powerful trade families control it all, Nailer is at the bottom of the totem pole.  Nailer works as a ship breaker on “light crew,” stripping grounded oil tankers for copper wiring and brass fittings, anything that will help them fill quota.  When he isn’t risking his life at work, Nailer must constantly try to keep his abusive, drug-addicted, and very dangerous father happy – not an easy task.  He knows when his dad is “sliding high,” and knows well enough to avoid him when he can.

When Nailer’s beach is pounded by a terribly powerful hurricane – what has become known as a “city killer”  – he and his friend Pima come across a grounded clipper ship, full of more wealth than they thought possible.    It’s their ticket to a better life, if only they can keep it a secret for long enough to strip the scavenge from it and claim it as their own.  But when they find it has a survivor, the wealthy and beautiful Nita, Nailer has a choice to make.  The gold rings on her fingers alone are worth more than any scavenge they could get from the ship – Pima insists that the smart thing to do would be to kill her, and Nailer knows she’s right.  Yet having had a close brush with death himself only days before, Nailer can’t bring himself to let Pima do it.  To let her live would be to risk everything – not only the scavenge, but his life as he knows it – and it’s the most important choice Nailer will ever make.

I just couldn’t put this one down.  Fast-paced and full of action, it also manages to ponder some serious issues.  To make the leap from today’s reality to the dystopian society in Ship Breaker isn’t all that difficult – in fact, it’s probably not that far off from the way thousands live in third-world countries.  To see places so familiar to us with those economic and social conditions is what makes it scary.  One thing I really liked about the world he’s created is that the scope is revealed to us bit by bit, rather than all at once.  From revealing the fate of New Orleans to showing just how disparate the distribution of wealth is, the world that Nailer inhabits is always gaining another layer.

Speaking of Nailer, he’s a great character – over the course of the book, he grapples with the meanings of family, wealth, and humanity itself, adding some real meat to the story.  It’s a bit dark, but very well written – Bacigalupi has a style that’s almost stark, and it worked very well for the book as a whole.  I enjoyed every page of this book from the time I was sucked in on the first page, and it’s one you should definitely keep on your radar!

*FTC disclosure – review copy received from the publisher.

Between Here and April by Deborah Copaken Kogan

51y1unarD0L._SL500_This was one of those books that was really tough to put down. It was a quick read that kept me interested and engaged throughout, and I can’t really think of a place where it slowed down.

The author does a fantastic job of intertwining and juxtaposing two very different, yet also very similar stories. Adele Cassidy’s story is echoed throughout the novel by Elizabeth’s own relationship with her mother, and again by her relationship with her two daughters. Although Elizabeth and her mother did not react to the struggles of motherhood as severely as Adele, it is becomes easier for the reader to sympathize with Adele, and to see her as something other than a monster.

*Spoiler Alert*

Although the ending was poignant, it left a few holes to be filled – most notably, how Elizabeth and Mark saved their marriage. Did they go to therapy? Does he know about her infidelity? Did she tell him about her rape, and if so, did it help him to understand her hatred of his bedroom behavior and/or was she able to get past that experience as a compromise? I know it’s a somewhat trivial thing to wonder – they clearly worked out their problems for the time being at least, I just couldn’t help but wonder how they worked through them successfully. And of course we do know what he did about his job, and that she was able to go back to some semblance of her career. But anyways, enough of my rambling about what I’d like to know about a fictional relationship 🙂

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was a page-turner, and one with substance that really made me think. I found it easy to relate to the characters, even without having (yet) the experience of being a mother.

*Review of ARC

Love Marriage by V.V. Ganeshananthan

9781400066698Love Marriage was certainly a solid first novel. Ganeshananthan explores not only the life of a young Sri Lankan woman living in America, but also the lives of several generations of her family and the history of her country.

One thing I enjoyed about this novel was the structure. Ganeshananthan focuses each section on a certain character and their ancestors, so that the reader discovers much more about them. All of this background (which is detailed, but not overwhelming) builds up to great character development. Her attention to detail and ability to create such a diverse cast of characters is impressive. Each section is like a vignette, and to see how they all tie together to become part of who the narrator is is fantastic.

This novel also taught me a great deal about Sri Lanka and the customs of its people. I knew very little about the country before picking it up, and I enjoyed learning so much. The descriptions of marriage and funeral rituals were especially well-written and interesting.

I did feel a bit let down by the ending of the novel. I anticipated something much more climactic. I was also a little thrown off by a section close to the end where the narrator (Yalini) tells the reader about her body image, etc…I felt like it came too late in the novel. Her character was already so well developed, and there was very little sense that she was so obsessive about some of things she mentions in this section – it was like a curveball that forced me to reevaluate what I knew of her as a character. If this section was moved up to an earlier point in the novel it would make much more sense structurally and in terms of character development.

Overall, a very intriguing and informative read. I would definitely recommend it.

*Review of ARC

The Sister by Poppy Adams

41-O8RenE4LThis novel is a fascinating exploration of the ways in which the mind can work, distort, and deteriorate. At the outset, this seems to be a fairly simple story of estranged sisters reuniting in their old age. While I could tell from reading the jacket that the real story would probably come in the possible scandal or heartbreak of their estrangement, I wasn’t expecting the instability of the narrator.

It’s the little things that tip you off gradually to what is happening here. Once you realize that Adams is using the classic technique of the unreliable narrator, it’s impossible not to look beneath the surface of everything that she sees and remembers for the truth. It’s also amazing how easily you can understand or sympathize with Ginny’s logic, as twisted as it is – almost frightening once you realize how easily a mind can warp the truth.

The novel is a little slow to start out, but the story really picks up fairly soon. The descriptions of the moths and the processes that come with studying them may seem a little tedious, but I think they are necessary to completely immerse the reader in Ginny’s mind – especially at the end of the novel. Adams includes little details in all the right places.

This is definitely a novel worth reading. Adams does a fantastic job of mapping the way Ginny’s mind works, and also of manipulating the story. It’s fascinating to see things from Ginny’s point of view, all the while trying to figure out what’s truly happening outside of her comfort zone and under the surface. This really is an impressive first novel – Adams certainly did her research, and knows what she’s doing when it comes to her narrative.

*Review of ARC