Off the Charts – when the emperor was divine (Julie Otsuka)

Ahoy there me mateys!  For those of ye who are new to me log, a word: though this log’s focus is on sci-fi, fantasy, and young adult, this Captain does have broader reading tastes.  Occasionally I will share some novels that I enjoyed that are off the charts (a non sci-fi, fantasy, or young adult novel), as it were.  So today I bring ye:

when the emperor was divine (Julie Otsuka)

I have no idea where I first heard about this novel but it it was kismet to have picked it up to read.  Ye see when I was perusing the news, I read a fascinating (and depressing) piece on the Japanese internment camps of WWII.  Later that same day, I picked up this novel thinking it would be a young adult novel but found instead a fantastic historical fiction book about a Japanese family in America and how WWII affected them.

Ye see this story was “based on Otsuka’s own family history: her grandfather was arrested by the FBI as a suspected spy for Japan the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, and her mother, uncle and grandmother spent three years in an internment camp in Topaz, Utah.” source.  Yet the novel is told from multi-person perspective of a single family who remain nameless in the novel.

I don’t know how to do this book justice – it was that good.  I found this novel to be evocative, lyrical, haunting, engaging, and heart wrenching.  I read it in one sitting and found meself avoiding picking up another book and pondering the ramifications in what I had read for a couple days before I could even begin to process the effects of this book on my being.  And yet I continue to fail at capturing its resonance despite this effort of putting me thoughts down.

This dark period in United States history was captured beautifully and soul-crushingly in this author’s work.  Especially in the details.  Small details helped me feel the horror of the family’s pain.  Images of slippers, the smell of horses in the racetrack stalls where the family was forced to live, a single rosebush.  The last chapter in particular was extremely powerful.

Words truly fail me.  But I recommend this one without a doubt.

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

Julie Otsuka’s commanding debut novel paints a portrait of the Japanese internment camps unlike any we have ever seen. With crystalline intensity and precision, Otsuka uses a single family to evoke the deracination—both physical and emotional—of a generation of Japanese Americans. In five chapters, each flawlessly executed from a different point of view—the mother receiving the order to evacuate; the daughter on the long train ride to the camp; the son in the desert encampment; the family’s return to their home; and the bitter release of the father after more than four years in captivity—she has created a small tour de force, a novel of unrelenting economy and suppressed emotion. Spare, intimate, arrestingly understated, When the Emperor Was Divine is a haunting evocation of a family in wartime and an unmistakably resonant lesson for our times. It heralds the arrival of a singularly gifted new novelist . . .

To visit the author’s website go to:

Julie Otsuka – Author

To buy the novel visit:

when the emperor was divine – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

The Captain’s Log – robopocalypse (Daniel H. Wilson)

Ahoy there me mateys!  This novel was on me radar forever and finally got around to reading it.  While I did enjoy many parts of the novel, overall it was just an okay read for me.  Mostly I found myself comparing it to other robot related novels and finding it slightly lacking.

This story involves the history of the robot war against the humans run by an AI named Archos.  The story is told by a survivor of the robot war,  Cormac, who finds surveillance footage left behind by Archos and relates the history of the war through journals, newsfeeds, and other media.

Now to be fair there are many things about the novel that I liked:

  • This story is set just far enough in the future that the start of the robot war seems plausible.  The technology advances could happen.  For example we already have self-driving cars.  Such technology turning on us was fun.
  • There were some awesome characters that I really cheered for.  In particular I loved the husband and wife team of Dawn and Marcus in New York City, Paul in Afghanistan, and Mathilda Perez.
  • The toy scene was creepy.
  • There are a diverse bunch of characters and scenery.
  • I really enjoyed how the author tied the stories of the seemingly unrelated different humans together.

Some things I didn’t like:

  • Though the story was supposed to be told from multiple perspectives, the filter of Cormac made many of the segments seem flat and/or unbelievable.  Cormac commentated on issues and added his own thoughts on the other characters feelings and experiences.  I wanted more of the segments to feel like first-person encounters.
  • Archos was a very odd bad guy.  I mean I know AI are supposed to be way smarter than humans but the computer seemed to make stupid and irrational choices.  Humans could have been wiped out fairly quickly and weren’t.
  • There were a lot of unanswered questions about certain situations.  The robots relationship with nature for example.
  • Also there are several human story lines with no resolutions.  As a couple of those were my more favorite characters, I was grumpy.
  • How Archos is taken down.  Sigh.

Now I did learn that there is a second novel that perhaps would answer some of the outstanding questions I have.  I am just not sure if I will read it yet.

Another member of me crew just reviewed this novel.  Check out her review:

Sarah @ thecritiquingchemist

The author’s website has this to say about the novel:

They are in your house. They are in your car. They are in the skies … Now they’re coming for you. When the Robot War ignites humankind will be both decimated and, possibly, for the first time in history, united. Robopocalypse is a brilliantly conceived action-filled epic, a terrifying story with heart-stopping implications for the real technology all around us…

To visit the author’s website go to:

Daniel H. Wilson – Author

To buy the e-book go to:

robopocalypse – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

The Captain’s Log – octopus pirate (Jane Yates)

Ahoy there me mateys!  Okay with a title like that how could I not be intrigued?  Would this novella finally settle the grand debate once for all: octopi or octopuses?  And what exactly does an octopus pirate look like?  The author’s website shows this possibility:

I was intrigued. The story is set in the Victorian era wherein the pregnant wife of a ship’s captain is washed overboard.  Miraculously, the baby survives and is washed to the shore of a Scottish island.  An elderly solitary nun named Mary discovers him and vows that he is a gift from God for her to raise.  She loves young Coco despite his so-called deformities and they form a strong bond.

The set-up to the story and the early years detailing Coco’s life on the island were the highlights of the story for me.  Now don’t get me wrong, Coco goes adventuring and joins the circus and starts to learn to become a pirate.  Arrrr!  But the simplicity of Coco’s early years were me favorite part of the book.  The relationship between Mary and Coco was heartening even fer this salty Captain.

Once Coco is forced to leave the island, we add in a larger cast of characters.  Ye see the circus actually does have some magical talent.  Whether it is a mermaid, a teleporter, or even Coco with his own burgeoning magical discoveries, life gets a little more complicated.  Plots are hatched to travel back in time to fight as pirates.  Plots are hatched to harm Coco.

The plot and motivations fer the whys and hows are very light.  However awesome and fun Coco is, he is not really in charge of his destiny in this installment and luck seems to direct his path.  Though the next book seems set-up for him to begin to truly stand on his own and I do believe I shall partake of that adventure.

And the octopus of the title?  Coco’s special relationship with octopuses needs to be read about and not spoiled.  So if ye like octopi then nab a copy and tell me what ye think . . .

In case ye need further proof of the awesomeness of an octopus:

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

Octopus Pirate is a time travelling steampunk tale set in the Victorian period. It’s the story of a foundling who discovers he has unusual talents . . . As a baby, the hero of this book is washed up on an island off the Scottish mainland. An eccentric former nun called Mary, who lives there alone with her cats, brings him up and names him after her favorite character, Pinocchio . . .

The teenage Coco joins a circus where he makes friends with Eric, an electronic magician who has an act where he makes a robot teleport across the tent.  Coco, narrowly escaping plots against him, flees to Cornwall with Eric.

Here they raise funds to build a replica pirate ship, which is also an airship so they can travel back in time to fight real pirates.
The crew consists of Victorian men who want to fight without any repercussions. It’s a ‘Fight Club’, but with a twist or twenty.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Jane Yates – Author

To buy the book go to:

octopus pirate – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Here be Dragons – the copper promise (Jen Williams)

Ahoy there me mateys!  So along with me love of the sea, I also have had a fierce love of dragons.  The Copper Cat Trilogy, of which this is book one, was on someone’s list of awesome dragon books.  The problem was that the author lives in London, the books were published in the UK, and I was not anywhere near that port!  Getting a hold of these novels was proving troublesome.  Then I heard rumors of books one and two being found on the other side of the pond.  Arrrrr!  Got me copies.

I found this one to be a highly enjoyable read.  While the dragon is fun (aren’t they all) the highlights for me were the characters of Wydrin, Frith, and Gallo.  Wydrin is the Copper Cat of the story.  She is strong, intelligent, snarky, and loves her knives.  Frith is a complete and total jerk whom I ended up loving anyway.  And well Gallo just has to be experienced fer yerself.

The magic in this story made me happy.  The plot diverges a bit with a stint on an island of magical training but I adored that entire section.  I also adored a creation of the dragon’s called “the brood.”  Books are cleverly involved.  The dragon is more like a force of nature.  In my mind she was like a giant locus devouring everything in her path with flames and fury.  She is not a nice dragon.

The only minor problems that I had were that the world building was kinda neutral and that I didn’t love how the dragon was dealt with in the ending.  I am told that book one was originally four shorter stories that tied together.  That aspect makes a lot of sense.  That being said, I loved the characters and so will likely read book two at some point (plus I already own it – Arrrr!).

Don’t just take me word fer it.  Check out these other reviews from me crew:

mogsy @ thebibliosanctum

lynn @ lynnsbooks

The author’s website has this to say about the novel:

There are some far-fetched rumours about the caverns beneath the Citadel: some say the mages left their most dangerous secrets hidden there; others, that great riches are hidden there; even that gods have been imprisoned in its darkest depths. For Lord Frith, the caverns hold the key to his vengeance. Against all the odds, he has survived torture and lived to see his home and his family taken from him … and now someone is going to pay. For Wydrin of Crosshaven and her faithful companion, Sir Sebastian Carverson, a quest to the Citadel looks like just another job. There’s the promise of gold and adventure. Who knows, they might even have a decent tale or two once they’re done. But sometimes there is truth in rumour. Sometimes it pays to listen. Soon this reckless trio will become the last line of defence against a hungry, restless terror that wants to tear the world apart. And they’re not even getting paid.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Jen Williams – Author

To buy the e-book go to:

the copper cat – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

The Captain’s Log – frogkisser! (Garth Nix)

Ahoy there me mateys!  So I have a wee bit of an obsession with Garth Nix and his wonderful stories.  I love him so much that he was the featured author in me first broadside.  I have read 25 of his novels.  So when I heard he was writing this fairy tale I had to have it.  Plus awesome cover:

In his “Acknowledgments” of this novel, Mr. Nix claims inspiration from “the works of Lloyd Alexander, Nicholas Stuart Gray, Diana Wynne Jones, Robin McKinley, and T.H. White.”  I don’t know Nicholas Stuart Gray’s work (must remedy) but I can certainly see nods to all of the other authors he listed in the story.

The story centers around Anya who is the youngest princess of the kingdom of Trallonia.  One of her sister’s suitors is transformed into a frog by their evil sorcerer step-stepfather.  In order to stop the tears and hysterics, Anya promises to turn him back into a human.  This inadvertently becomes way more complicated than originally planned thus leading Anya off on a Quest!

The subversive nature of the story is what I loved about it.  Favorites include the use of the magic carpet, Gerald the Heralds, otters transformed into people, how the army is formed, having step-stepparents, snow white, etc.  I very much enjoyed Anya as a character.  And the frogs were just delightful.

The only downside to this novel for me was the pacing.  It is a very episodic story where the heroine gets a lot of help from people she just happens to meet along the way.  Makes more sense after reading the acknowledgements but I would have preferred Anya to show a lot more initiative.  Of course Anya doesn’t really show initiative in the beginning and is a very reluctant hero who grows into her role.  But unlike many of me other Nix reads, this didn’t zing.

I am okay with that lack of zing.  This was a solid story with a lot of fun ideas and characters.  Mr. Nix continues to remain an auto-buy author.  And apparently he has a new novel coming out in October this year.  Arrrr!!!

The author’s website has this to say about the novel:

Poor Princess Anya. Forced to live with her evil stepmother’s new husband, her evil stepstepfather. Plagued with an unfortunate ability to break curses with a magic-assisted kiss. And forced to go on the run when her stepstepfather decides to make the kingdom entirely his own.

Aided by a loyal talking dog, a boy thief trapped in the body of a newt, and some extraordinarily mischievous wizards, Anya sets off on a Quest that, if she plays it right, will ultimately free her land-and teach her a thing or two about the use of power, the effectiveness of a well-placed pucker, and the finding of friends in places both high and low.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Garth Nix – Author

To buy the book go to:

frogkisser! – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

The Captain’s Log – fever 1793 (Laurie Halse Anderson)

Ahoy there me mateys!  Did ye know that in 1793 in Philadelphia there was a yellow fever epidemic?  Or that said epidemic killed 10 percent of the city’s population in 3 months?  Or that there was a Free African Society that helped citizens of Philadelphia in the epidemic regardless of race or class.  Or that the first hot air balloon launched in the United States happened in Philadelphia in 1793?

Yup, history can be fascinating and sad and sometimes even unknown when it has happened practically in yer own backyard.  The author apparently began this book in 1993 after coming across an article in her local newspaper that discussed the epidemic that had happened two centuries before.

This young adult historical fiction tells the story of 14 year old Mattie whose family owns a coffee shop in the city.  Ye follow her story as the yellow fever epidemic unfolds.  She is a typical teenage girl with big dreams and fancies who finds herself growing up fast as the city life unravels around her with every passing day of the fever.  I thought Mattie was a great character and that this book brought the idea of epidemic to life.

The history of Philadelphia is one that I know very little about and it was fascinating to take this look into one of the city’s worse experiences.  I found the details in the story to be engrossing.  I didn’t know that coffee houses were a thing.  Also that there were warring factions of French and American doctors regarding treatment.

Looking through Mattie’s eyes helped bring this period in history to life in a way that reminds me of why I love historical fiction.  And of course as always I love doing further research upon finishing.  The appendix of this novel is full of interesting facts.  If ye like young adult historical fiction, quick reads, and an interesting time period, give this one a gander.

The author’s website has this to say about the novel:

It’s late summer 1793, and the streets of Philadelphia are abuzz with mosquitoes and rumors of fever. Down near the docks, many have taken ill, and the fatalities are mounting. Now they include Polly, the serving girl at the Cook Coffeehouse. But fourteen-year-old Mattie Cook doesn’t get a moment to mourn the passing of her childhood playmate. New customers have overrun her family’s coffee shop, located far from the mosquito-infested river, and Mattie’s concerns of fever are all but overshadowed by dreams of growing her family’s small business into a thriving enterprise. But when the fever begins to strike closer to home, Mattie’s struggle to build a new life must give way to a new fight—the fight to stay alive.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Laurie Halse Anderson – Author

To buy the book go to:

fever 1793 – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

On the Horizon – lightning in the blood (Marie Brennan)

Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . .

lightning in the blood (Marie Brennan)

Title: lightning in the blood

Author: Marie Brennan

Publisher: Macmillian-Tor/Forge

Publication Date: April 25, 2017 (paperback/e-book)

ISBN: 978-0765392015

Source: NetGalley

If ye haven’t read the first book in this series,  cold-forged flame, then ye might want to skip this post and go read me review for the first installment.  If ye keep reading this log then ye have been forewarned and continue at yer own peril . . .

Now I cannot say enough goodness about the first book.  I reread it in preparation for this second installment and enjoyed it just as much the second time around.  I adore Ree as a character and the world-building so very much.  I cannot believe I had to wait 268 days between the two, however it was worth the wait!

One of the awesome circumstances of the first story is that Ree cannot remember anything about herself, her nature, or even her name.  I am a sucker for that kinda thing.  By the end of story one, ye know her partial name and some of her nature but have way more questions than answers.  As does Ree.

I was so exited to see where she would go next.  It of course did not go anywhere that I expected!  This story takes place several years after the events in the first one.  While this episode has a lot less mystery than the first, I still found it engrossing and enthralling.  In this second installment, Ree meets another archon which sets off another mission fer Ree, answers some of her questions, and of course gives her so many more.  My favorite aspects are following Ree in her journey to reclaim parts of herself and her attempts to figure out what has been lost.  The glimpses ye do get are tantalizing.  It was also extremely nice to see Aadet again.  Oh and this cover is awesome:

Don’t ye want to read about giant black cats?  Ye know ye do.  And that is all I am going to say about this one cause it is short and awesome and ye should discover what happens fer yerself.  I want the third one!

Random fact about book two from the author’s website is this:

And you’ll see the Mayan calendrical system with a minor fictional paint job showing up in Lightning in the Blood because years ago I read about it for fun and wound up incorporating it into a story more or less wholesale, complete with fiddly little details about Year-Bearers.

I need to go off an’ do research bout Mayan calendrical systems now.  Go out and get the first episode if ye haven’t.  Read this one if ye have.

So lastly . . .

Thank you Macmillian-Tor/Forge!

The author’s website has this to say about the novel:

Once, there was a call–a binding–and so, a woman appeared, present in body but absent in knowledge of her past self. Making the ultimate journey of rediscovery was not without its own pitfalls–or rewards–and now Ree, a roaming archon, spirit of legend and time and physically now bound to her current form, has yet to fully uncover her true identity.

Ree has spent her last innumerable seasons on the move–orbiting, in some sense, the lands of her only friend in this world, Aadet, who has become intricately involved in the new post-revolution politics of his people. Swinging back from the forests surrounding Solaike, Ree falls in with another wandering band, some Korenat refugees searching for their own protection on a trade route besieged with the fallout of the recent uprising. The Korenat’s plight might not have stricken Ree so deeply, but they are accompanied by their own archon, who seems to know much more about Ree’s own origins than she ever dared to hope.

Lushly woven against a foreign, and yet familiar, fantastical setting, this is the second epic adventure in Marie Brennan’s novella series with Tor.com. Only such an acclaimed and beloved fantasist could so deftly handle the intricacies of self and society, the struggle between reclaiming one’s own fate and suffering the ravages that time brings to every life.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Marie Brennan – Author

To buy the novel please visit:

lightning in the blood – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List