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Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Book Review

Book Review

Book Review of Ship Breaker: 3 Treasure Boxes
Publisher: Audible Studios, Audible Audio Edition, Listening Length: 9 hours and 8 minutes
Program Type: Audiobook, Version: Unabridged, Audible.com Release Date: May 4, 2010, ASIN: B003KWL65SBook Review

In a dystopic society set in the future where the gap between the wealthy and the poor is vast and impassible, and the world has been depleted of natural resources, life for the poor is almost unbearable. Nailer, a fifteen year old boy, tries to exist working as a ship breaker on the south-east coast of North America. He, along with his crew mates, scavenge abandoned oil tankers for anything of value. It is imperative they meet the quota set by their bosses, or they could end up discarded, and become beach rats with nothing. Nailer not only has to deliver the goods, but he has to do this while avoiding his drug-crazed and violent father. So what will Nailer do when faced with a choice between killing a beautiful but helpless rich girl his own age, or letting the swank live and watch his chance for the easy life slip away?

Paolo Bacigalupi has been nominated, and has won, many awards for his work. For Ship Breaker he won the Michael L. Printz Award for Best Young Adult Novel in 2011. Bacigalupi has written 5 novels including Ship Breaker, with a 6th one on its way, and he has written numerous short stories. He writes primarily biopunk, science fiction, and young-adult stories. Ship Breaker is a young-adult science fiction story told in a third-person narrative from the point of view of the main protagonist, Nailer.

There are many fascinating aspects to this story. The setting is well thought out and the characters are well developed. The reader is immediately drawn into the story right from the first page when Nailer is introduced climbing through a service duct tugging at copper wire. The story shows both the depth of despair that the people working on the salvage rigs face, as well as the intensity of the connection between the people working together as crew.

This is a dystopian society that takes place many years in the future, yet it is also a story about people. I really enjoyed this novel, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading YA dystopian stories. I rate this book as a very good read, and I am looking forward to reading more stories by Palol Bacigalupi.

 

 

To purchase Ship Breaker from Amazon, click here

 

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Flow my Tears, The Policeman Said by Philip K. Dick

Book Review

Book Review

Book Review: 3 Treasure Boxes
Publisher: Mariner Books; Reissue edition (July 17, 2012); Reissue edition (July 17, 2012), Paperback: 256 pages, ISBN-10: 0547572255, ISBN-13: 978-0547572253

Book Review

Book Review

Flow my Tears, The Policeman Said is set in a dystopic future where everyone does drugs, genetic modification exists, and the police have supreme power. In one moment Jason Taverner has it all. He, along with a select few, has been genetically modified to be the perfect human. He is a famous singer and television personality. He has charisma, grace, good looks, extreme intelligence, and plenty of luck. Until one day when his luck runs out, and he wakes up with nothing. He not only has no identification on him, but now no one knows his name, and he is a nobody. He risks facing death or ending up in a forced labour camp unless he can prove who he really is, but is that even possible?  Taverner goes on a race against time and the authorities to discover what happened.

Philip K. Dick was a prolific writer, having published 49 novels and over a hundred short stories, and all were primarily science fiction. Much of his work concerns altered realities and drug use, and Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said, certainly delivers these and more. This book is a science fiction novel that includes drug use and an alternative universe. Interesting enough several of my favourite science fictions movies, like The Adjustment Bureau, Minority Report, Paycheck, A Scanner Darkly, Blade Runner, and Total Recall have all been based on stories by Philip K. Dick. Flow my Tears, The Policeman Said is written using a third person point of view, primarily from the point of view of Jason Taverner, but also at times moving into the point of view of the Police General Felix Buckman.

There is some really incredible writing in this story, but there are also a few areas which do not make sense and contradict what previously occurred. It is possible that these were intentional, and perhaps support the premise of the book, because their existence could explain movement between alternate realities. Like for example on page 26, when Eddy, the police informant, exits the building leaving Jason alone with Kathy so she can prepare forged identification documents for Jason. Then on page 32, suddenly Eddie is in the room with them, and Eddy “lurked in the background, smoking a fake Havana cigar; he had nothing to say or do, but for some obscure reason he hung around.”

At times the writing alludes to unknowable past events while at the same time pulls the reader into the story. Like on page 6, “Forty-five beautiful years ago, when the world was young and droplets of rain still clung to the now-gone Japanese cherry trees in Washington, D.C. And the smell of spring that had hovered over the noble experiment.” While this is never explicitly explained, the story itself points to past events that may have lead up to the current dystopic society. The characters in the story are interesting and well drawn. The plot is intriguing and the reader is immediately pulled into the story. If you like science fiction stories, then I recommend Flow my Tears, The Policeman Said as a very good read.

 


To purchase: Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said from Amazon, click here

 

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From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her Island by Lorna Goodison

Book Review

Book Review

Book Review: 4 Treasure Boxes
Publisher: Amistad; Reprint edition (April 23, 2013), Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers, File Size: 635 KB, Print Length: 306 pages (Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0061337560), ASIN: B00C0UHKEM

In From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her People Goodison tells her mother’s story through tales from the past. Although the book is a memoir, much of it is fiction because it is an imaginative reconstruction of Goodison’s family history using both fact and fiction. Goodison utilizes ghosts—the specters of her ancestors—as a method of linking the past to the present, and tells the story through voices from the past. Almost all memories of Margaret (Goodison’s grandmother) are reimagined, because as Goodison writes, “[e]xcept for the eldest siblings, Barbara and Howard, most of the children had no real memory of Margaret”. Yet “they always felt her presence, for Doris [Goodison’s mother] quoted her every day” (Goodison 254). Ghosts are the history of the past coming forward, reappearing, and providing insight on prior events.

Lorna Goodison is a poet, an author of short stories, and an artist. She has received several awards for her work, and she has been writing poetry since her teens. She was born in Kingston, Jamaica on August 1, 1947, and From Harvey River is the legacy of Goodison’s roots. Much of the writing reflects the impact of her family’s heritage—a legacy that is driven by spirits and ghosts derived from both African and Jamaican beliefs.

The book itself is a return to childhood, and contains the forgotten and unknowable history of the past, of Goodison’s past, of her mother’s past, and of her mother’s people’s past. Ghosts are non-corporeal beings that are manifestations of ethereal or metaphysical conscious energies. The appearance of ghosts in this story is the transcendence of people from the past moving through linear time and space in order to interact with the characters. This communication creates cracks in space and makes room for a connection between the past and the present, and this breach is often transcended through dreams. Goodison informs the reader the book itself was “handed” to her by her mother’s ghost, when the author “began to ‘dream’ her [mother], as Jamaicans say” (Goodison 2).

From Harvey River is a memoir of Goodison’s mother. On the surface this history appears unremarkable, but the combination of fiction, history, and family lore, told from the point of view of spirits in the past, creates an interesting and intriguing tale. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found it touching, and at times it made me laugh, and other times it made me cry. If you enjoy a good read about interesting people in a unique and fascinating setting then I recommend this book as an excellent read.

To Purchase, From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her Island from Amazon, click here or on above picture

 

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Wool Omnibus Edition by Hugh Howey

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Silo
Book Review

Book Review

Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1 – 5) – 3 Treasure Boxes
Books 1 – 5 in the Silo SeriesPublisher: Broad Reach Publishing (January 25, 2012), Kindle edition File Size: 711 KB, Print Length: 550 pages, Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1469984202, ASIN: B0071XO8RA

The outside world is uninhabitable and humanity has moved underground. The livable world is now encased by a silo that starts at ground level and extends far into the earth. This existence has continued for hundreds of years, and numerous strict rules ensure the maintenance of the current lifestyle. However the worst offense an inhabitant can make is to talk about going outside. If anyone suggests or even implies an interest in the outside, they are forced out, and end up dying within steps of the silo. Until one day when Juliette is sent out, but doesn’t die. Instead she goes beyond the sightline of the silo and survives. But what she finds, and the reason she was put out are very surprising.

Wool is a science fiction story that is told in a third person narrative. It comprises five short stories that have been combined to create Wool. Currently there are two more books in the series, the next one is called Shift, and it comprises three stories. Shift is a prequel to the events in Wool. The final book in the Silo Series is Dust and it immediately follows the events in Wool.

Wool is an interesting story with a curious title. It took me awhile to figure out why Howey called the book Wool. There are numerous possibilities. There are several references in the story to knitting—including the titles of the middle three sections of the book. There is a reference to pulling the wool over people’s eyes. Regardless, I believe the meaning implies something deeper. I believe the title refers to humans as sheep, and suggests that when one person jumps off the cliff all the others will follow.

Wool is a dystopian story that deals with human nature, and it poses the question: can we learn from our past mistakes, or are we destined to continue to make the same mistakes over and over and over? Initially, the plot line appears to suggest that as humans we are destined to continually make the same mistakes. Yet the end of story seems to point in a new direction. I am curious to see where Howey is going with this and I am planning on reading the next two installments in the series.

The characters are well defined and the world that is created in fascinating. The nature of society, and of time itself is at issue. There is both a sense immediacy and delay, and the story sparks many questions, causing the reader to question humanity. I enjoyed this book and I recommend it as a very good read.

 

 

To purchase Wool from Amazon, click here or on picture above

 

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The Passage: A Novel by Justin Cronin

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series The Passage Trilogy
Book Review

Book Review

Book Review of The Passage: 2 Treasure Boxes First book in The Passage Trilogy

Random House Audio, Audible Audio Edition, Listening Length: 36 hours and 52 minutes (785 pages), ASIN: B003QL14NC

The Passage is a vampire story. It is about blood sucking abominations that man-kind created while developing  a serum in the hopes of  discovering immortality. But instead of  infinite healing potential, they invented an illness that resulted in humans transforming into immortal monsters. Their experiment created millions of vampires while at the same time killing off billions of humans. While the army was secreting developing the virus they injected a special composition of it into six year old Amy, and due to her young age, she was altered in a different manner. She would have been considered a success, if the virus did not abolish the majority of mankind.  She seemingly became immortal and after 93 years appears to have only aged 10 years, she retains most of her humanity and did not become a vampire, yet she has a connection to them. She is able to communicate with them telepathically. The Passage details the development and the devastating effect of the virus during the 93 years since its inception. This book shows what has happened to mankind, and how a small group of humans are fighting back.

Justin Cronin has to date, written four novels, two of them in The Passage trilogy. The third book in the series, The city of Mirrors, is supposed to be released sometime in 2014. Cronin has won numerous awards for his writing. The Passage is a horror story, and it is told in a third person narrative using several different tactics including diary entries. I found the switch between third person narrative and diary readings to be confusing, especially when some of those diary entries were 1000 years after the events in the book. There are numerous protagonists throughout the novel, but Amy seems to be the constant.

The story was interesting and original. I really enjoyed the beginning, which I thought was well written and engaging. However, I found the middle of the book to drag a bit, and to be a bit boring. I understand that Cronin wanted to fill in some information to gap the years between the onset of the virus and year 93, but I did not enjoy how he did it. I did not like the use of the diary entries. I did think that Cronin’s concept of the vampire was fascinating. I also liked the characters that he focused on, and I thought his character development was well done. I recommend this book as a good read, and I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series. I liked how this book ended, and I could see the potential for a future story.

 

To purchase The Passage: A Novel from Amazon, click here or on picture above

 

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The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Book Review

Book Review

Book Review of The Storyteller: 3 Treasure Boxes
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books; First Edition edition (November 5, 2013), 480 pages, ISBN-10: 1439102775, ISBN-13: 978-1439102770

The Storyteller is comprised of several separate and distinct stories that interconnect. Sage is a young woman who has a disfiguring facial scar, and she is battling an inner torment that disfigures her far more than the scar on her face. Josef is a 94 year old, healthy, German man who no longer wants to live because he is tormented by his past and the things he did as a Nazi commander at Auschwitz. He asks Sage to help him end his life. Minka is Sage’s grandmother and she is many things including a survivor of the Holocaust as well as a creative writer. Within is included a story that Minka wrote about a young woman who falls in love with a vampire.

Jodi Picoult has written 20 novels, including My Sister’s Story. The Storyteller is both a drama and a historical novel. The story is told in a first person narrative from the point of view of the character whose story is being revealed.

I enjoyed the story and I liked how the past and present combined to slowly reveal the truth. I thought the characters were well developed and multidimensional. My favorite was Minka; I enjoyed reading her tale. I thought she was a strong and resourceful woman, and I found it fascinating how her fictional story about Ania and the Vampire saved her life. It provided both a sense of hope, as well as entertainment to the other prisoners, because it was a metaphor for love and redemption.   The Storyteller may have been about the Holocaust, and parts of the story provided a heart-wrenching view into what it was like, but it was so much more than that. It was really about forgiveness, and not just for Josef, but for all of the characters and on many different levels.

I liked how the story unfolded, and I was surprised by the twist at the end. I recommend this book as a very good read, and if you enjoy reading about the Holocaust, both the horror of it as well as the triumph over it, then you will enjoy The Storyteller.

 

Favorite Quote

“Mary folds her arms. “I know I’ve told you how I left the convent, but did I ever tell you why I entered it?” she says. “My mother was raising three kids on her own, because my father walked out on us. I was the oldest, at thirteen. I was full of so much anger that sometimes I woke up in the middle of the night with the taste of it in my mouth, like tin. We couldn’t afford groceries. We had no television and the lights had been turned off. Our furniture had been reclaimed by the credit card company, and my brothers were wearing pants that hit above the ankle because we couldn’t afford to buy new school clothes. My father, though, he was on vacation with his girlfriend in France. So one day I went to see our priest and I asked what I could do to feel less angry. I was expecting him to say something like, Get a Job, or Write your feelings down on paper. Instead, he told me to forgive my dad. I stared at the priest, convinced he was nuts. ‘I can’t do that,’ I told him. ‘It would make what he did seem less awful.’

I study Mary’s profile as she speaks. “The priest said, ‘What he did was wrong. He doesn’t deserve your love. But he does deserve your forgiveness because otherwise he will grow like a weed in your heart until it’s choked and overrun. The only person who suffers, when you squirrel away all that hate, is you.’ I was thirteen, and I didn’t know very much about the world, but I knew that if there was that much wisdom in religion I wanted to be part of it.””

“She faces me. “I don’t know what this person did to you, and I am not sure I want to. But forgiving isn’t something you do for someone else. It’s something you do for yourself. It’s saying, You’re not important enough to have a stranglehold on me. It’s saying, You don’t get to trap me in the past. I am worthy of a future.””

(page 451)

This was my favorite quote because it sums up forgiveness and why it is important.

 

To Purchase The Storyteller from Amazon, click here or on picture above

 

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Children of Air India: un/authorized exhibits and interjections by Renée Sarojini Saklikar

Book Review

Book Review

Book Review of Children of Air India: 3 Treasure Boxes


In the early part of 2014, I went to a poetry reading where Renée Sarojini Laklikar read from her book: Children of Air India: un/authorized exhibits and interjections. I found her words moving and unforgettable.  This assemblage of poems is dedicated to the people who died on Air India Flight 182 on June 23, 1985, as well as to those who lost their loved ones.  While this plane was flying through Irish airspace, in route from Montreal to Delhi, with a planned stop in London, a bomb exploded. The Boeing 747 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean and 329 people died.

Although this book is a work of fiction, and many of the details were derived from her imagination; it merges fact with the fiction.  It many ways it is a form of docu-poetry. Saklikar spent many hours researching and reading transcripts and archives. She was born in India, and lost an aunt and uncle in the bombing of this airplane. She experienced the loss first hand and through her work she has brought the loss of these 329 people into the hearts of her readers.

I found the book well laid out and presented in an interesting manner. It starts with a short introduction that shares with the reader the terrible loss of the individuals as well as the unfathomable injustice of the resulting trial. Throughout the book, Saklikar redacted all the names of the victims, and in many instances, simply refers to the individuals as “Redacted.” For me, this represents the finality of the loss and death of each person.  From page 113, she writes, “Write the names all the way through. Write them down. In writing there is redaction, redact. That is the burning that is the body.”

Part One of the book is “in which N imposes meaning” with “N” representing niece and/or narrator, in other words, herself.  She is searching for meaning for herself, and for those who perished. Through her words she brings the departed briefly back to life, as in page 21,

“…she loves to read,

wins a prize in math.

 

Her sister follows, arms holding

large heavy books…

 

Status: bodies not found.”

 

Saklikar makes the passengers real, and at the same time is able to impact to the reader the  horrendous plane crash. I found the poems that related directly to the passengers very touching, and there were many such poems throughout the book.

Throughout the text, Saklikar effectively uses white space. In so doing she speaks volumes without the use of words. I found this technique haunting, because many of these people’s bodies were lost in the open space of the ocean.

Saklikar is able to blend the terrible with the dispassionate and in doing so able to combine human tragedy within the confines of the impersonal court. In this way she brings into the poetry the injustice of the mishandling of the trial, without sermonizing. She effectively shows both to the reader.

However there were other parts that I did not understand. Like on page 61, it is filled with what appear to me to be random letters, “ACI-ACISS ACPS ACS…” and this page also includes two randomly placed 2.2cm2 squares. Additionally on page 85, entitled “Exhibit: June 4, 1985, in the woods outside Duncan, items of examination,” I did not understand what these items were nor why they were included.

In writing this review, I found the subject matter quite upsetting, and very, very sad. Several times I was moved to tears for the lost of so many people, each one cherished. I recommend this book of poetry as a very good read.

 

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Dead and Alive by Dean Koontz

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Frankenstein
Book Review

Book Review

Book Review of Dead and Alive: 1 Trash Can
Frankenstein, book 3
Publisher: Random House Audio; Unabridged edition (July 28, 2009), (352 pages), ISBN-10: 0739317172, ISBN-13: 978-0739317174

Dead and Alive continues the story of the modern day Doctor Frankenstein. The premise is that Doctor Frankenstein, now known as Victor Helios, has created a way to prolong life, including his own and that is why today he still appears to be relatively young. Not only has he created a way to prolong life, but he is also creating an army of genetically modified humans. 

I was not able to finish this story. I found the writing atrocious, and the story improbable, as well as gruesome. But what I disliked the most was how undeveloped the characters were, especially Victor Helios, who was one-sided, all evil. I do not recommend this story, I thought the book would be better used as tinder.

To purchase: “Dead and Alive” from Amazon, click here or on picture above

 

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Reverb by J Cafesin

Book Review

Book Review

Book Review of Reverb: 3 Treasure Boxes

Reverb is a story of redemption, healing, and love, with a twist of foreboding. The majority of the story takes place in Greece and revolves around James, a musician in hiding, and Elizabeth, a young mother recovering from the death of her husband.

The book captured my interest from the first page. The story was well told, and I liked all the characters, who I found to be well-rounded and complex. I enjoyed how the tale unfolded, and many parts I found original, although I did think the ending was a bit abrupt, and perhaps a tad too concise. Overall, I enjoyed the story and I recommend this book as a very good read.

To Purchase Reverb from Amazon, click here or on picture above

 

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Longbourn by Jo Baker

Book Review

Book Review

Book Review of Longbourn: 3 Treasure Boxes
Publisher: Knopf (October 8, 2013), Sold by: Random House LLC, File Size: 1708 KB, Print Length: 353 pages, Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0385351232, ASIN: B00CCPIITQ

 


Longbourn is a look at the world of Pride and Prejudice from a different point of view, from the view downstairs. It is the story of the servants who work at Longbourn, the home estate of the Bennets. The author, Jo Baker, has created interesting backgrounds for the lives of these people.

I really enjoyed the book. I thought it was well written and I liked the characters. I enjoyed tying the story into Pride and Prejudice. I thought it was an interesting look at the separation of class, especially in England during this time. I recommend this book as a very good historical read.

Favourite Quotes:

“She was as sweet, soothing and undemanding as a baked milk-pudding, and as welcome at the end of an exhausting day.” Page 50

“A blur of rich colours—one green velvet coat, one blue—and the soft creak of good leather, and a scent off them like pine sap and fine candlewax and wool. She watched their glossy boots scatter her tea leaves across the wooden floor. The two gentlemen were so smooth, and so big, and of such substance: it was as though they belonged to a different order of creation entirely, and moved in a separate element, and were as different as angels.” Page 195

“Fear now was a creature; it slithered around him, covered his face and got in amongst his hair and he could not breathe and he could not think, and he just stared across the wide poor land, and along the empty road, then spun to look back off the way they’d come from.”  Page 236

“ It was not the end, of course; it was just an end. Mrs. Hill’s thread may have become snarled up into an intractable knot, but others were still unspooling. One had wound all the way out through the wild Derbyshire hills, and then along the gentler lanes of Cheshire, and then drifted across to the flat lands by the sea.” Page 328

To purchase Longbourn from Amazon, click here or on picture above

 

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