Saturday, July 23, 2011

Review - Ship Breaker

Ship Breaker (Ship Breaker #1)
by Paolo Bacigalupi
Date: 2010
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Reading level: YA
Pages: 336
Source: Chapters

Nailer lives amongst the ruins and shanties of the Gulf Coast, eking out a living on the light crew that scavenges the wrecks of old oil tankers. The work is dangerous... but so is his drug-addicted father. Life seems bleak, and sometimes only the loyalty of Nailer's friends -- his crew -- means he'll live to see another day.

After a massive hurricane, Nailer comes across the wreckage of a pristine clipper ship. Thinking to claim the salvage for himself, he investigates, only to find that there is a survivor... and she could very well change his life forever.

This book's been sitting in my TBR pile for ages.  I wish I had known how good it really was; I would have read it sooner!

This is a great example of YA dystopian fiction, made all the more unnerving because our world could so easily become Nailer's.  In the world of Ship Breaker, we see what might happen after the economic rise of China, the melting of the polar ice caps, unfettered genetic research, and a further widening of the gap between rich and poor.  Category 6 hurricanes are common enough to have a name ("city killers") and people have finally given up on New Orleans, a city that can't exist in a world of rising sea levels.  All these details help drive the plot forward and make Nailer's situation more plausible.

I thought the characters were all very interesting and well developed.  Nailer is appealing as a main character; you want him to survive and succeed in that rough world of his.  His father is just the opposite... but he's a great villain.  The members of Nailer's surrogate family -- his crew -- are all unique and interesting in their own right.

Despite lots of details, the pace is good and holds the reader's interest.  I don't think I ever got bored reading this one.  It didn't lag, and I wanted to find out what happened next.  My only complaint (and it's a small one) was that the ending seemed to come very quickly, and it was a bit open; I don't know if there are sequels planned or if this is a stand-alone title.  I would not hesitate to pick up another book about Nailer and his world, though.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one.  It's one of the best YA dystopian novels I've read.

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
Pace: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Editing: 5/5
Originality: 5/5
Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall: 4.86 out of 5

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Review - Tempestuous

Tempestuous (Wondrous Strange #3)
by Lesley Livingston
Date: 2010
Publisher: HarperTeen
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 368
Format: paperback
Source: Chapters

After declaring that she doesn't love Sonny Flannery, Kelley Winslow finds herself caught in the middle of trouble. Faerie monarchs are falling ill, weird things are happening in Central Park, and to top it all off, Kelley has lines to learn for her part as Ariel in The Tempest.

She must learn to summon and control her own Faerie powers... because dark forces are conspiring and nobody is safe.

This book is really difficult to summarize. That's probably because, much like its immediate predecessor in the trilogy, it has very little plot.

The whole time I was reading this book, I was lost.  Because these books come out once a year, readers are either forced to re-read or remember what happened previously... and remembering is kind of hard when something is so unmemorable.  While Wondrous Strange was a very enjoyable and well-plotted book, I felt that Darklight and Tempestuous were written just for the sake of making a trilogy.  Wondrous Strange can stand on its own; neither of the second books can.  (Contrast this with a series like Harry Potter.  I read the whole series of seven books over a period of way more than seven years... and yet I didn't have to re-read anything because each book had enough explanation and back story to refresh the reader's memory.)

The characters fell flat for me in this book, too.  I remember that I really liked Sonny in the first book.  He was actually kind of crush-worthy.  But here, he just came off as bland.  The attempted love triangle felt forced, and I thought the resolution (although it had been hinted at) was just a tad too pat.

While the plot was virtually non-existent and the characters didn't impress me, the writing and editing were pretty good.  That was one thing that struck me about Wondrous Strange when I read it.  It's just too bad there wasn't more of a story in the rest of the trilogy to go along with the writing.

All in all, I didn't really enjoy this one.  I was pretty bored throughout.  The climax was a bit more of a whimper than a bang and I felt sort of cheated; this is the final book of the trilogy, after all.  I would definitely recommend Wondrous Strange, especially to fans of urban fantasy.  But the rest of the trilogy left me confused and unimpressed.  Stick with the first book.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
Editing: 4/5
Originality: 3/5
Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 2.86 out of 5

Monday, July 4, 2011

Review - Shiver

Shiver (The Wolves of Mercy Falls #1)
by Maggie Stiefvater
Date: 2009
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Reading level: YA
Pages: 400
Source: Chapters

Grace has been watching the wolves for years, ever since she was almost killed in an attack. She feels especially drawn to the wolf with the yellow eyes. One night, a yellow-eyed boy shows up, bleeding, on her back porch. Grace knows right away that it is her wolf.

When a classmate goes missing and is assumed killed by the wolves, Grace discovers that there has been a lot more going on in the woods around town than she could have dreamed. As her feelings for her yellow-eyed boy, Sam, grow stronger, she is forced to confront some troubling possibilities. And those possibilities could have dire consequences for those she holds most dear.

When I read a book that's had lots of hype, I'm always a little bit wary. Will it live up to my expectations? Or will I end up tossing it aside, wondering what all the fuss was about? I've had Shiver in my TBR pile since Halloween 2009... and I only just got around to reading it now! I'm glad I was pleasantly surprised by what I read.

While this is essentially another paranormal romance (it's a werewolf book), the author did some interesting things with the mythology. There are no full moons, silver crosses, or wolfsbane in this rendition of the tale. I quite enjoyed this variation, as the author was able to make it fairly original (and that's not easy to do with all the paranormal titles on the market).

The story is told in alternating first-person points of view, so we get to see the story through Grace's and Sam's eyes. To be honest, I wasn't a huge fan of this technique in this book because I found it a bit confusing. Sam's character seemed consistent, whether he was the storyteller or the subject. Grace, on the other hand, didn't work as well for me. I felt like her character was a bit different when she was telling the story as opposed to when she was being described by Sam. My other complaint with the characters in this novel was with the parents. Why were they all so uninvolved? I don't think I've ever read anything like it. While this sort of characterization may be convenient for the plot, I found it to be very unrealistic. One set of lousy parents, sure... But it seemed like every parent in Mercy Falls couldn't care less what their children were up to!

The book was a page-turner, though, and I had a difficult time putting it down at times. I did like the writing style (descriptive without being overly flowery) and the author knew how to write dialogue properly.

So, all in all, I can see now what all the fuss was about, and I'm glad I dug this one out of the bottom of my TBR pile to read it. Unfortunately, now I need to get my hands on Linger and Forever. Darn addictive trilogies...

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Editing: 5/5
Originality: 5/5
Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 4.29 out of 5

Sunday, July 3, 2011

In My Mailbox (46)

Bought from Kobo:
Charlotte Sometimes
by Penelope Farmer

A time-travel story that is both a poignant exploration of human identity and an absorbing tale of suspense.

It's natural to feel a little out of place when you're the new girl, but when Charlotte Makepeace wakes up after her first night at boarding school, she's baffled: everyone thinks she's a girl called Clare Mobley, and even more shockingly, it seems she has traveled forty years back in time to 1918. In the months to follow, Charlotte wakes alternately in her own time and in Clare's. And instead of having only one new set of rules to learn, she also has to contend with the unprecedented strangeness of being an entirely new person in an era she knows nothing about. Her teachers think she's slow, the other girls find her odd, and, as she spends more and more time in 1918, Charlotte starts to wonder if she remembers how to be Charlotte at all. If she doesn't figure out some way to get back to the world she knows before the end of the term, she might never have another chance.

I've been wanting to read this book for ages, but I couldn't find a decent-priced hard copy. It finally came out in EPUB format earlier this year, so now I can afford to read it! I just hope it has the original ending...

What was in your "mailbox" this week?

In My Mailbox was started by Kristi of The Story Siren.