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Ship Breaker – Paolo Bacigalupi

Title: Ship Breakershipbreaker3-paolobacigalupi
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Genre: Young Adult/Dystopian
Pages: 326
Category: 10. Read a book labelled as young adult
Format: Paper

Date Started: September 5th 2017
Date Finished:  September 13th 2017

Set in the same world as Bacugalupi’s earlier book The Windup Girl, this novel is the first in a series aimed at young adults. Taking us back to America somewhere around New Orleans we get to explore the world of ship breaking through young Nailer’s eyes.

His job is dangerous. He crawls through the innards of big old ships, the kind we’re used to seeing photos of today huge iron ships that haul cargo all over the world. His job is to pull them apart though, just the small bits, copper wiring and such, then the so called heavy crew will come in and pull the ship itself apart.

One day he almost dies but he doesn’t, so he becomes known as Lucky Boy. Then he really does get lucky when a storm shipwrecks one of the new clipper ships just off shore and he is the first one to find it. There’s more wealth than he’s ever seen before. And then he finds something else that changes everything. Maybe he could even get out of this place and make it somewhere better.

Unlike the Bangkok we saw in the Windup Girl, New Orleans is completely underwater aside from the occcasional tip of a high rise building to be seen at low tide. Nailer and everyone he knows survives in tiny huts along the beach and everyone he knows works on the ships. He can only dream of what’s away from there. He dreams about the clipper ships that they see in the distance and wishes he was on one but his little corner of America has been forgotten by the rest of the world.

Rating: 4/5 stars (definitely be reading the other books in the series)

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Into the Water – Paula Hawkins

Title: Into the Water61oleghqzvl-_sx329_bo1204203200_
Author: Paula Hawkins
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 386
Category: 14. Read a book published this year
Format: Paper

Date Started: August 2nd 2017
Date Finished: August 4th 2017

I’ve been pretty excited to read this for a while after loving the Girl on the Train so much but I was just the tiniest bit disappointed in this compared to the Girl on the Train.

That being said. I really loved it despite not having quite such an unexpected twist at the end. I loved the character development in this one though, in part because I love books that are set in a small town where everyone knows each other so this town was perfect for me. Not just did everyone know each other but many of them had known each other as children as well. So there’s this feel of the past meeting the present and history repeating itself in a way.

I won’t give too much away, but the story follows a woman who’s estranged sister has died leaving her to look after a teenage niece she barely knows in the house they spent their summers in. At first the death seems to be a suicide in a popular suicide spot but it’s not that simple and of course there was some kind of foul play involved.

One of my biggest frustrations with the book though, is that the main character is painted as this ‘ugly duckling’ who lost some weight and grew up to be pretty. I’d love to see tv shows and movies that bothered to tell their story with a little more effort than this. I understand why it was done because it made her an easy target as a child for bullying and what not but there’s no reason it needed to be touted as some great transformation story.

But anyway, check out both these books because they really are great.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Windup Girl – Paolo Bacigalupi

Title: The Windup Girl6597651
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 361
Category: 35. Read a book labelled as dystopian
Format: Paper

Date Started: August 1st 2017
Date Finished: August 15th 2017

So this is the second book by this author I’ve read this year and the two books really couldn’t be much different if they tried. At least on the surface. This is actually the first novel he released way back in 2008. His novel Shipbreaker released in 2009 is kind of a companion book to this one aimed at a slightly younger audience. But it’s only when you consider these two in conjunction with his more recent novel The Doubt Factory that many similarities begin to emerge.

The Windup Girl (and Shipbreaker) are set in the not too distant future in a world that has suffered from both a rise in sea level leaving many major cities submerged, partially submerged or in the case on Bangkok (pictured above) surrounded by a huge sea wall. But this is only the start of the world’s problems. In bioengineering food horrible diseases have emerged killing many people and leaving many starving as well as many species of fruit and vegetables completely removed from the ecosystem.

The novel follows a white man in Bangkok trying to get access to the Thai seedbank under the guise of a factory owner. The novel switches between his story and that of his Chinese assistant, as well as government officials and a windup girl from Japan. A windup girl is essentially an engineered human who is highly prized in Japan but not so much in the streets of Bangkok where it is a struggle just to survive.

Slowly the stories of the characters converge leading to a huge climax. Though for me it was not the story that was a s compelling as the setting. Beyond the bioengineering and sea level rise there is also a huge step backwards in technology with the characters relying not on cars or fossil fuels but on the burning of calories. Though you’ll still see guns and ships as well as factories all of it is powered by people or animals rather than the traditional fossil fuels.

But to step back to the Doubt Factory and the similarities between the two. Doubt Factory took place in a society almost identical to our own but explored the dangers of huge companies telling lies to consumers and hiding behind ‘doubts’. For me, and I have to assume for Bacugalupi as well, this is like a precursor to the world we’re introduced to in the Windup Girl and Shipbreaker. What could happen if we don’t question companies and governments and engage with the world we live in as a whole. In essence, Bacigalupi’s works are a call for all of us to take responsibility for how we live and what our ambivalence could do to the world for our children and grandchildren.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami

Title: Kafka on the Shore41qubmy2pol-_sx309_bo1204203200_
Author: Haruki Murakami
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Pages: 615
Category: 1. Read a book originally published in a language you do not know
Format: Paper

Date Started: July 8th 2017
Date Finished: July 29th 2017

So this is my first experience with Murakami, I had no idea what to expect from it. It was an interesting read but definitely not what I was expecting. I’m not even sure how to describe this to someone who’s never read it.

The novel opens on a boy running away from home, he takes the name Kafka and ends up at a charming private library where he is helped by the people who work there. There is a secondary plot though which follows an older gentleman Nakata who receives a disability pension after an event in childhood left him unable to read. But, he can talk to cats.

Ultimately, at the conclusion of the book I’m left wondering how some things connect to one another and how much of what happened was actually real and how much was some kind of hallucination. And perhaps this is because apparently Murakami writes as if if a dream but also that he doesn’t have much of an idea of the bigger picture of the novel when he begins writing. This is kind of baffling to me as someone who has spent a lot of time writing. I’m not sure if I could ever write a book without knowing how it would end or what it meant. But perhaps that is part of the charm of Murakami’s work.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Spiderman: Homecoming (2017)

Title: Spiderman: Homecomingmv5bntk4odq1mzgznl5bml5banbnxkftztgwmtmymzm4mti-_v1_uy1200_cr8006301200_al_
Year: 2017
Director: Jon Watts
Genre: Action
Date Watched: July 20, 2017
Category: #1 A film released in 2017

I was actually really skeptical about this movie. Mostly because I’m 27 and this is already the third version of Spiderman movies that I’ve been alive and old enough to see. I was never a huge fan of the version that starred Kirsten Dunst and Tobey Maguire. But I really loved the Amazing Spiderman series with Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield which were released in 2012 and 2014 not even 5 years ago. So I was left asking myself what is going to be so great about Spiderman: Homecoming that it warrants an entirely new movie just a few years after the last movie was released? It seemed basically like a money making endeavor to me.

All of that being said, my friends and fiancee were super excited to see this movie so I tagged along. And you know what, as much as it had a lot of similarities to the previous movies, I thought it was super clever and incredibly well done, enough so that I actually really enjoyed it. The casting was really good, as was the plot which was just a little bit more in depth than the other movies.

Perhaps most exciting was the new improved spidersuit provided by Iron Man himself. It has so many great new features that I’m excited to see being used. At the same time though I’m a little conflicted because it’s made Spiderman much less about his cool abilities and much more about the tech that he uses, tech that he didn’t even make himself. Part of what makes the Iron Man technology so great is that Iron Man did actually make it himself.

I’m looking forward to the upcoming movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to see what they incorporate.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

 

4:50 From Paddington – Agatha Christie

Title: 4:50 From Paddingtoncover
Author: Agatha Christie
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 288
Category: 8. Read a book written by a woman
Format: Paper

Date Started: July 5th 2017
Date Finished: July 7th 2017

This is the third and final of my Agatha Christie reads today and focuses not on the famous detective Poirot, instead it is one of her Miss Marple novels.

Miss Marple’s friend Ms. McGillicuddy is on her way to visit when she saw a woman being strangled on a train that passed by her very close to the station. Naturally nobody believes this older lady could have actually witnessed a murder except Miss Marple. But, and here’s the weird part, no body shows up. So this murder mystery is part search for the murderer and part search for the dead body.

This book is so short that I really don’t want to spoil any of the greatness by telling you more than that. But in traditional Agatha Christie fashion there is a twist at the end. And for once I actually saw the twist coming.

At any rate, there’s a chance there will be more Agatha Christie to come next year. So, what are your favourite Agatha Christie novels that I should be checking out?

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

 

 

Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

Title: Never Let Me Go71rpwxqqd3l
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Genre: Dystopian
Pages: 288
Category: 43. Read a book where the main character goes on a journey
Format: Paper

Date Started: June 29th 2017
Date Finished: July 5th 2017

It’s possible I would’ve have picked this up if it weren’t for this challenge. Okay, I wouldn’t have. But like so many other books that I’ve picked up because of this challenge, I actually ended up liking it.

The book switches between the past and the present intertwined. The past explores Cathy’s experiences at a boarding school which seems to be located somewhere in the British countryside. The present explores Cathy’s job as a carer where she occasionally comes into contact with people she went to school with.

Right off the bat though, the boarding school seems a little weird and not quite right. First off each student cultivates their own collections which they are able to purchase from sales at the school that happen quarterly. They don’t use money though, they use tokens which they receive in exchange for their art with better art getting more tokens. In turn, the art is sold at the quarterly sales in addition to items brought in from outside the school like clothes.

There’s also this constant mention of donations which is threaded through both the past and present stories, though it’s easy to make guesses what this means since Cathy is a carer for those who have made donations. She travels between care facilities working with her clients. Of course, after she’s finished been a carer she will make her own donations.

This book has the same feel as the Handmaid’s Tale for me, even though this society is a little more rooted in our current reality than the Handmaid’s Tale is. But, I think it’s safe to say that if you were a fan of the Handmaid’s Tale then you should give this a try.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Nerve (2016)

Title: Nervenerve_2016_poster
Year: 2016
Director: Ariel Schulman & Henry Joost
Genre: Action/Mystery
Date Watched: July 10, 2017
Category: #8 A streamed film

This movie is half romance, half ‘the dangers of social media’. I half expected this movie to be terrible but it was so intriguing that I decided to give it a shot anyway.

Vee is a senior (played by Emma Roberts), she’s not as rich as the girls she goes to school with and doesn’t quite fit in. But she has friends anyway. One of her friends is playing an online game called Nerve. You can pay to be a watcher or you can play the game and potentially earn a bunch of money. To earn money you have to complete dares which start out quite mundane and become more gutsy as the game goes on. Failing a dare results in elimination.

Nobody thinks Vee has the guts to play, but she decides to give it a shot. Her first dare is to kiss a stranger, another shown in the movie’s trailer is to try on a rather expensive dress.

But starting the game is much easier than finishing it.

I love the first half of the movie which focusses on playing the game, but then things take a strange turn and ultimately I don’t quite agree with where the movie ends but, I still really enjoyed it, especially with cameos from some of favourite Orange is the New Black actresses including an incredibly adorable Samira Wiley.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie

Title: Murder on the Orient Express853510
Author: Agatha Christie
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 274
Category: 5. Read a book written before 1950
Format: Paper

Date Started: June 24th 2017
Date Finished: June 28th 2017

This is the second of my Agatha Christie books for the year, this is probably one of the most well known Agatha Christie books out there. So well known that it’s getting a brand new movie to be released this year. In fact, that’s the reason I chose this book because I wanted to read it before seeing the movie. Of course, having read the book I’m now wondering about some of their casting choices but we’ll see. Okay, mostly I’m wondering about Michelle Pfeiffer who is playing a character who is described as ‘homely’, a word I never would’ve thought to associate with Pfeiffer. But we’ll see.

At any rate, the famous detective Poirot boards the Orient Express on the way to a job, but someone is murdered on the train and it’s up to him to solve the murder. There aren’t that many people on the train but the victim seems to have rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.

And again there’s a classic Christie twist at the end which is super fun and I won’t spoil it for you.

If you read no other Christie book then definitely read this one.

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Unexpected Guest – Agatha Christie

Title: The Unexpected Guestthe-unexpected-guest
Author: Agatha Christie
Genre: Murder Mystery/Play
Pages: 114
Category: 44. Read a book where a stranger comes to town
Format: Paper

Date Started: June 20th 2017
Date Finished: June 24th 2017

Okay, so this is a play not a novel as such but… It’s well worth a read. This is the first of 3 Agatha Christie works to make it onto my list this year. So I’ll address the obvious criticisms of Agatha Christie now. She has been criticised for having poor character development and while I agree that if Agatha Christie were writing now she probably wouldn’t get published for that reason it’s also important to remember that she is not writing now. Her books were written half a century ago when much character development was of a similar level. So yes the characters are incredibly superficial but it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of any of the books I read of hers. In part perhaps because these books are incredibly short, but also because they have such great reveals that I wasn’t expecting.

In fact, that was my favourite thing about this play. Just as I was thinking it was a little bit boring and that it wasn’t worth my time, it turns out boom. Actually here’s this thing I just wasn’t expecting. Boom here’s another one.

This play is set entirely in a single room, with an unexpected guest coming across a house where a woman is standing over a dead man. A very clearly murdered man. And thus begins the murder mystery.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars