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.

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Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

2537053A fantastic novel.  I don’t know how I missed reading this one years ago, but I’m glad I picked it up when I did.  It was exactly the kind of book I needed this week – well written, engaging, at times dark and mysterious and at others a look at how lost a “silly” young girl can be when out of her element.  I’d seen bits and pieces of the movie version(s) on TV, so while I knew the premise of the story going into this, I didn’t know the twist – and it was a good one!  And who knew a housekeeper could be so terribly creepy?

Although the narrator was naive, needy, and sometimes not the sharpest tool in the shed, I found myself sympathizing with her.  She’s thrown into a world she knows nothing about, knowing that she will always be compared to her beloved predecessor.  Her main concern seems to be what others will think of her – she constantly imagines the conversations that the household staff or the town gossips will be having about her, and admits freely that it’s one of these imagined conversations that push her to go downstairs to the fancy dress party.  When she loses this towards the end of the novel, and gains some confidence in her position as mistress of Manderley, I think she lost a little personality as well; even Maxim bemoans the loss of her innocence and youth.

The way du Maurier can set a mood is wonderful, though.  It could be supremely creepy, have an underlying sense of danger, or, as it did for the last few chapters, make me a nervous wreck, right along with the narrator.  Loved it!

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