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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Fallen by Lauren Kate

Yeah, I totally read this one for the cover.  I mean, look at it.  Gorgeous!

The book itself though, not so much.  It was a relatively entertaining, quick read, but on the whole it didn’t do too much for me.  I really like the concept of fallen angels, but I feel like so much more could have been done with it.

I suppose the biggest problem I have is the characters.  The only ones who have any personality are Arriane and Penn.  None of the other characters – Luce and Daniel included – seemed remotely real.  Luce doesn’t do much besides feel sorry for herself and moan about how misunderstood she is, how she doesn’t belong in a place like Sword & Cross, etc.  She wasn’t all the bright either – I mean, you figure out that this guy you’ve been seeing is essentially a violent control freak, so when he leaves you a note telling you to get in the car and the driver will take you to him god-knows-where, you actually go?  Really? I’m pretty sure this is the type of situation my parents were referring to when they told me “Don’t get in the car – if you do, you’ll probably never be seen again.”

Ok, enough ranting about Luce.  It got better towards the end, with some surprising twists and others you saw coming – and once Luce finally figures out what’s going on, some of the fallen angel stuff gets pretty cool.  There’s enough romance in this with the same sense of mystery that Twilight has that I think it will do well – especially with all the hype, upcoming sequel, and a movie on the way already!

Fallen Angels, anyone?

As I’m sure you noticed (like you could avoid it if you tried), vampires have been it this year. The paranormal trend (in YA especially) doesn’t seem like it’s going away anytime soon. Not that I have a problem with that, there’s some pretty cool stuff out there. But I’m not the only one who’s noticed that fallen angels seem to be on the rise (ha. ha.)

Exhibit A:
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
I haven’t gotten around to reading this one yet, and from reviews I’ve read it can be rather love it or hate it.  I get the impression that Patch is rather Edward-esque – he’s either the man of your dreams, or a control freak that you should stay far, far away from.  Once my copy comes in from the library, I’ll let you know my take on it.

 

Exhibit B:

Fallen by Lauren Kate

I first saw the cover for this over the summer, and just love it.  Gorgeous.  It just came out this week (although no libraries in my system have it yet…grrrr).  Apparently Disney has optioned film rights for it already…just one more reason to be on the lookout for more angels.

 

Exhibit C:

Angel Star by Jennifer Murgia

Not crazy about the cover art on this one, but I came across it on Goodreads…from the description, it seems to fit the upcoming trend nicely.

 

 

These are just the ones I’m aware of; have you come across any others??

The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein, and more!

Before I get into my review of Peter Ackroyd’s newest novel, I wanted to mention that Karin’s Book Nook is having a contest for a signed copy of Linger, the upcoming sequel to Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver!!  Shiver was just so good, and I don’t know about you, but I would love to win this one!  Here’s her post about the contest. I’m really looking forward to reading this one either way…loving the cover, too!

 

 

 

 

 

Ok, so on to the The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein.  I love neo-Victorian novels.  And Victorian novels.  And anything to do with that era.  I really do.  So I really wanted to like this, but, well, I didn’t.

It was rather slow to start for me. That may partially be because this has been a stressful week for me, but it finally picked up about 150 pages in.

Ackroyd has a great style – I didn’t feel so much like I was reading a neo-Victorian novel as I was the real thing at times. His settings and descriptions were wonderful, and the overall atmosphere of this was great.

As far as story and plot go, however, I wasn’t all that impressed by this one. It has an interesting take on the tale, with Frankenstein being a friend of the Shelleys rather than merely the subject of Mary’s tale (which does make an appearance, by the way), but something in the execution was lacking for me. The “twist” was obvious to me well before I got to the end, so I was disappointed by that as well.

This one gets three stars from me…I considered giving it two, but it gets an extra one for style.

Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater

So I read Shiver and really enjoyed it.  By a stroke of luck that rarely occurs for little old me, I won a copy of Ballad from the wonderful Angieville.  Intrigued, I grabbed Lament from the library (Ballad‘s predecessor, although both can be read as stand-alones without too much confusion, I think) and got reading.

Lament was great, although I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as Shiver – it just seemed to be missing that unidentifiable something.  I enjoyed the Celtic edge it had to it, and Stiefvater’s use of faerie lore.

After reading so much about Dee and Luke, I was disappointed to find that we really don’t get much about them in Ballad, except through Dee’s unsent text messages to James.  I know this is supposed to be his story, and more of a companion novel than a sequel, but I found myself wondering about them quite a bit.  Also, although I really liked Dee in Lament, I found myself disliking her a bit here – from James’ point of view she seems incredibly selfish.

For whatever reason, I wasn’t a huge fan of reading from James’ POV – I’m not really sure why, since I love him as a character.  I have a tendency toward the bad boy rather than nice guy characters, but Luke (although I did like him) just seems so superficial in comparison to the depth and character that James has.  Nuala’s POV was always entertaining, especially as I watched her go from thinking about James as a victim to thinking about him as someone she cares about.

It also seemed like all of the action and all of the big reveals were clumped together at the end – there were some great scenes, but they might have been a little more effective if they were spread out.  I love the world she’s created though, as well as her characters – Mr. Sullivan in particular.  I’ll be interested to see where James and Dee’s relationship goes from here – it seems to be left a bit open for another book featuring them (perhaps the events of Ballad from Dee’s point of view?), and if there is another, I can’t wait to read it.  As it stands, Dee’s entanglement with Faerie as the cloverhand doesn’t seem like it will be over anytime soon.

Overall, an enjoyable read.  Great ending, too.  If you like Stiefvater’s style, you won’t be disappointed with this one.

Rampant by Diana Peterfreund

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Great story, fantastic premise. It really got going at the end, and I had a hard time putting it down. The whole alternate mythology of the unicorns was very well done – I found myself wondering if I’d be laughing at images of killer unicorns, but Peterfreund really makes them frightening and horrible creatures (even little Bonegrinder).

There were a couple of things that bothered me, though. I’m older than the target audience, so that may have something to do with it, but I thought the whole virginity thing could get a bit preachy. If you look more closely at the whole “hunters must be virgins” thing, and the powers that hunters have, it has some interesting implications. We see what happens to girls who aren’t hunters: vulnerable to attack, lessened physical abilities, etc. So, (and perhaps I’m looking too far into this, but I can’t help but look for this kind of stuff) as soon as you lose your virginity, you lose your strength and power as a woman. You can no longer fight for yourself. Hunters (virgins) do not need men, do not need to be protected.

Then there was Astrid’s character. She was a bit too wishy-washy for me. One minute she’s on the phone begging her mom to let her come home, even willing to sleep with a guy she barely knows to get out of her “duty” (another interesting facet of the virginity thing) whereas two months ago she had zero intention of going all the way. And then all of the sudden, she’s off enjoying the rush she gets with hunting.

Now what I had some serious issues with was her mother. At the beginning, yeah she’s a bit kooky, but then again it turns out all her stories about unicorns are true. Okay, that’s fine. When she doesn’t let Astrid come home, it’s a bit mean, but she’s a mother living vicariously through her daughter. Happens all the time. Doesn’t make it right, but not uncommon. And then, she comes to be the temporary donna while Neil is away. And we discover that she is, apparently, absolutely psycho. Sure, you can be a bit more rigorous in the training. But having no problems with the other girls dying so Astrid (aka she herself) can get the glory? Mocking Phil, her own niece, being downright cruel, and TORTURING her own daughter to get a promise out of her???? Really?? This lady has some serious mental health issues! And even that doesn’t tip Astrid off. On the next page, she’s defending her by saying that they’ve become better hunters since Lilith became the donna (hmm, her name is Lilith as well. How interesting). And then we’re supposed to be ok with all of it because she grieves when she thinks Astrid is dead. I mean, yes, she’s your mother, but after what she did, you should probably disown her and stay as far away from her as you can.

Ok, I’m done with my rantings. It would have been 4 stars if it weren’t for these problems with characterization, etc. It had a great story, turned out not to be as predictable as I thought it would be, and really drew me in. A great twist on a myth, that, for the most part, was executed very well. It ended a bit abruptly with some loose ends, which I think points to a sequel. I may not go rushing out to get it, but I’ll absolutely read it.