Friday, October 21, 2011

Ship Breaker

By Reviewer NadineTitle: Ship Breaker
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Primary Audience/Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Speculative Fiction (dystopian)
# of Pages: 352
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Year of Release: 2010
Part of a Series? Yes (1 of 2 so far)
Rating: 2 View Scale
Recommend? No

Description: Nailer's job is to strip the inside of abandoned ships and oil tankers for what metal, copper, or worthwhile materials can be salvaged before other scavenger groups get it. He's small and lithe but not for long. In the futuristic dystopian America, scavenging is a common job that anyone would give their left lung for (and often do give thanks to the fumes). He and his crew live every day hoping for a "Lucky Strike"--a precious find of oil or materials that will pay their way to a new and
better life....or just a guarantee of food every day (which might as well be a new and better life). When Nailer's "Lucky Strike" finally comes in the form of a beautiful shipwreck , it's not as easy as he hoped to just cash in the chips. Tests of character and morals threaten to deprive him of any profit at all.

Review: I've never nearly drowned in oil and, after reading the first few chapters of Paolo Bacigalupi's Ship Breaker, I decided I'd rather melt like a wicked witch a hundred times instead. My lungs burned, my eyes stung, and I felt exhausted after fighting a pool of oil for freedom alongside the ship scavenger, Nailer.

I enjoyed this novel more than I expected to. Bacigalupi did an excellent job pulling the reader into Nailer's culture and time period without bogging down the story with too many details. I felt Nailer's desire to be free of this ship-breaking life he's trapped in. When he had a chance for an out, I cheered right beside him, urging him on.

The only downside to this novel for a reader might be the excessive swearing. Depending on your background or comfort level, it will affect you differently. For those wishing to steer clear of foul language, I wouldn't recommend this book. It also has some other adult themes such as drug-use, intoxication, and mentions of prostitution.

Though there is a sequel to Ship Breaker being released in 2012 (The Drowned Cities), I thought that Ship Breaker ended well as a single novel. It tied up all loose ends, and I closed the back cover with a content sigh. I enjoyed it. I may read it again, but I can't say it blew my socks off.

Rating: 2 for language

Positive: Nailer is very focused on doing what’s right even if he’s risking his own survival. Even though his father is abusive and a drunkard, Nailer still cares about saving him when a hurricane hits. When Nailer finds a big break with his scavenger friend, his morals stop him from taking what he wants and leaving someone to die. It’s neat to see the morals in his character even though he’s grown up in a horrible family situation, and he’s just hoping for enough food to survive until the next day.

Spiritual Elements: No Christian ones. Nailer's culture focuses a lot on luck and the "Luck God". There are dark spiritual rituals with some of the "religions" mentioned, alluding to things like cutting off body parts and/or human sacrifices. The author doesn't go in-depth, but I think it was interesting insight into what may happen to our culture in the future.

Violence: There are instances of knife killing, half-wolf men, physical abuse, bombs, guns, etc. There are events of murder and also someone getting ground up in ship gears. It gets a teensy graphic.

Language: b*****d, s**t, b***h, d***, SOB

Sexual Content: One kiss and a few mentions of prostitution.

Other: None

Recommendation: It’s hard with this book because I enjoyed getting into the albeit fictional culture, but the swearing is much too excessive for anyone who’s not prepared or able to skim over it. Another reviewer actually counted—203 swear words over the course of 352 pages. That’s a lot. Basically, I read it and enjoyed it when I finished, but I can’t say I’d ever hand it to anyone and say, “Read this!”

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Grandma's Attic Series

Reviewed by: Shawna
Title: Still More Stories from Grandma's Attic (Grandma's Attic Series);
Treasures from Grandma's Attic (Grandma's Attic Series)
Author: Arleta Richardson
Primary Audience/age group: 8-12
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction
# of pages 159
Publisher: David C. Cook
Year of Release: 2011
Part of a series Yes, books 3 and 4 of 4 (Grandma’s Attic Series)
Rating: 5 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes

Description/Review: The late Arleta Richardson grew up in a hotel in Chicago overlooking Lake Michigan. Underneath the care of her grandmother, Arleta would sit and listen to her share story upon story of when she was a girl in the late 1800’s. Based on her grandmother’s stories, Richardson wrote the Grandma’s Attic series. The latest two books, Still More Stories from Grandma’s Attic and Treasures from Grandma’s Attic continue the refreshed classic series. The stories may be from a different era but are still appealing to adolescent girls today.

In Still More Stories from Grandma’s Attic, Grandma Mabel relives her childhood growing up on a farm in 1880s Michigan by retelling funny yet memorable stories to her granddaughter Arleta. As young girls, Mabel and her best friend Sarah Jane have mishap after mishap from getting into a sticky situation with face cream to believing Mabel’s childhood companion, a dog named Pep, could spell. All the stories have a valuable lesson to teach her granddaughter Arleta. My own six year old daughter enjoyed hearing how the two friends Mabel and Sarah Jane couldn’t help but get into trouble. She especially enjoyed the face cream disaster.

The follow-up book, Treasures from Grandma’s Attic, has Mabel and Sarah Jane around the ages of thirteen but still as mischievous as always. The adventures continue as the girls find themselves pitted against a new classmate as well as forming a plan to take revenge on Mabel’s brother. It seems the two of them concoct more precarious plans together than by themselves.

The series is a great read-aloud set of books that teach not only about the time period our great-grandmothers grew up in but also how they felt and did some of the same things little girls do today. Timely lessons and loads of laughs make this book a great read for any adolescent girl.

Rating: 5 for promotion of good values

Positive: Each chapter is a different short story that teaches a lesson. Some of the lessons learned are about being deceitful, respecting the elderly, procrastinating as well as forgiveness. On more than one occasion, Mabel wrongly accuses another, but by the end of each story Mabel has learned her lesson and made amends when appropriate.

Spiritual Elements: Mabel lives in a Christian household and learns much from the Bible. Mabel’s mother talks about God to her. Some of the lessons are spiritual lessons: be happy where God has placed you and God will never leave or forsake us. Mabel prays when she is afraid and she memorizes Scripture for a contest. Mabel’s family often uses Scripture to encourage right choices.

Violence: none

Language: none

Sexual Content: none

Other: none

Recommendation: These books are something you can enjoy together with your daughter. The stories are very light-hearted and witty, which make them an ideal way to learn timely lessons. Read them together then discuss the choices Mabel and Sarah Jane made. These books are appropriate for the ages 8-11 but younger girls will find them entertaining as well.