The Captain’s Log – agent to the stars (John Scalzi)

Ahoy there mateys!  Members of me crew may remember that I have a love for John Scalzi as he was featured in Broadside No. 5, tidings from the crew fer the dispatcher, and on the horizon fer the miniatures.  As I work me way through all things Scalzi, I realized I had never read his first written novel.

His author’s note talks about how this book became published and states:

“It began in 1997 as my “practice novel” – that is to say, the novel I wrote to see if I could write a novel . . . I had no intention of ever selling it or ever really doing anything with it.”

Luckily for me he did eventually publish it.  After one particularly rough day at sea, I decided that I needed a pick-me-up.  So I picked up this novel (hardy har har!)  It turned out to be the right choice fer me mood.  Fer a “practice” novel, it was pretty darn good.

The novel concerns humanity’s first contact with extraterrestrial lifeforms.  The aliens come to Earth looking to make friends.  The only problem is that they are funny looking and smell real bad.  The aliens are certainly not yer stereotypical little green men.  So what better person to contact than a Hollywood agent to help spin their introduction to our world?  Eventually the agency hands the task to junior agent Thomas Stein who has just had the best day in his career.  It is his last best day for quite some time . . .

This first novel certainly contains Scalzi’s brand of zany humor, dialogue, and characters.  While I like the main character’s ingenuity and caring, I also like the secondary characters.  As usual there are strong and powerful women.  Hooray!  The is certainly nothing earth-shattering about this one but it is super enjoyable and while silly still has moments that make ye think.

I don’t suggest this as the first Scalzi book to be picked up by newcomers but fer those already established Scalzi fans, I certain recommend going back to this beginning.

Side note: I like the fun cover design!

The blurb on the back has this to say about the book:

The space-faring Yherajk have come to Earth to meet us and to begin humanity’s first interstellar friendship. There’s just one problem: They’re hideously ugly and they smell like rotting fish.

So getting humanity’s trust is a challenge. The Yherajk need someone who can help them close the deal.

Enter Thomas Stein, who knows something about closing deals. He’s one of Hollywood’s hottest young agents. But although Stein may have just concluded the biggest deal of his career, it’s quite another thing to negotiate for an entire alien race. To earn his percentage this time, he’s going to need all the smarts, skills, and wits he can muster.

To visit the author’s website go to:

John Scalzi – Author

To buy the novel go to:

agent to the stars – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

The Captain’s Log – white cat (Holly Black)

Ahoy there me mateys!  This young adult novel caught me eye because it is written by Holly Black and has a cat on the cover (and in the title!):

I have only previously read two books by Holly Black: 1) the coldest girl in coldtown and 2) zombies vs. unicorns.  The coldest girl in coldtown is a young adult vampire book.  The zombie book is an anthology of short stories that argues about whether zombies or unicorns are better.  I loved both of them and had been meaning to pick up another of her books for ages.  So when I read the blurb for this one, I knew this would be the next Holly Black book I would try.  I was not disappointed.

This novel is the story of Cassel who comes from a family of curseworkers but can’t perform curses himself.  It takes place in our world with the addition of magic.  Only magic is against the law.  Thus Cassel’s family are a bunch of con-artists.  For example, his mother can manipulate emotions.  Mom is serving time in jail, his one brother is studying law and working on his mother’s appeal, and his other brother works for the mob.

Cassel is living a life in a boarding school with “normal” people.  He feels he is an outsider in both worlds.  Plus there is the catch that Cassel murdered his best friend three years ago but doesn’t remember doing so or why.  His family covered it up of course.  All Cassel wants is to fit in somewhere but his life begins to unravel even further when he begins to sleepwalk and has dreams featuring a white cat . . .

This book was very engaging and completely plot-twisting.  I only guessed a couple of minor points.  As Cassel learns the truth about his family’s exploits, he begins to come up with a plan to con the con-men.  Following Cassel’s investigation was the highlight for me because I had no idea where the story was going.  Cassel’s con of the mob was very silly but delightfully so.

A close second were the characterizations.  Cassel self-proclaims that he is “not a good person.”  He loves to con folk and there is the question of the murder.  However as we follow Cassel’s journey, we begin to see that he is very much an unreliable narrator despite himself.  It is wonderful.  Add in secondary characters like the friends that Cassel makes along the way.  There are actually girl and guy friends where there is NO romance.  The romance that is in the book is not the main point and only enriches the story.  I also loved reading about Cassel’s ridiculous family members.  The grandfather in particular is awesome.  His brothers and mom not so much.  But I do understand in some fashion why Cassel makes the choices he does.

The ending was a cliff-hanging doozy of a plot twist.  Normally such things aggravate me.  Not this time.  It seemed perfectly in line with all the other crazy plot twists and turns.  Certainly makes me want to read the rest of the series.  Ye might want to check it out.

Check out me other crew members effusive reviews:

Alienor @ star-crossedbookblog

Cait @ paperfury

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

Cassel comes from a shady, magical family of con artists and grifters. He doesn’t fit in at home or at school, so he’s used to feeling like an outsider. He’s also used to feeling guilty—he killed his best friend, Lila, years ago.

But when Cassel begins to have strange dreams about a white cat, and people around him are losing their memories, he starts to wonder what really happened to Lila. In his search for answers, he discovers a wicked plot for power that seems certain to succeed. But Cassel has other ideas—and a plan to con the conmen.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Holly Black – Author

To buy the book go to:

white cat – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Here Be Dragons – the sleeping dragon (Joel Rosenberg)

Ahoy there me mateys!  I was trying to figure out what to read when I saw this old school cover in the hold . . .

 

The First Mate and his siblings fondly remember this series from childhood.  And well I am an easy mark for all dragon-related things.  So I gave this a shot.  And I had very, very mixed thoughts.  Be forewarned, unlike me usual posts, there are spoilers at the end because of a need to rant.  Continue at yer own peril . . .

The book is set up in five parts:

  1. The Student Union
  2. Lundeyll
  3. Pandathaway
  4. Bremon
  5. And Beyond

“The Student Union” starts out with a group of college age kids who play table-top role playing games in a club.  I was never into that kinda gaming so it took me a bit to get into the novel.  But of course the players end up transported into the game world which is actually an alternate magical universe.  While the characters are rather stereotypical, I did find the students’ entrance and introduction to “Lundeyll” to be comical.  From accidentally destroying their supplies, to having split personalities while coming to terms with the mingling of their real and character memories, the beginning of the magical adventure made me happy.  Plus there were a few unexpected surprises.

The third part when they are journeying to the great city of “Pandathaway” is where the story started to go off track slightly.  This is where the love interest plotlines start to really kick in.  While the good news is that women in this 1983 novel can and do choose to sleep with multiple sexual partners if they want to, the men sulk like whiny babies and get all macho and protective and annoying.  It was a glimpse of things to come.  However I did like the wonderful library in the city and Doria haggling in the market and we get to meet our first dragon.  Arrrr!  I loved the silly dragon and its use in the city.  Made me laugh that the dragon in the book is described as brown with red glowing eyes.  Doesn’t match the cover at all.

After an extremely unexciting tournament (how can sword fighting be boring!) the group heads towards “Bremon” and the book enjoyment soured.  Why ye ask?  Because 1) it is just wandering with no real seeming purpose and more importantly 2) rape becomes a plot point.  The strong men sit in a wagon and listen to the women being raped for hours.  While it is certainly not graphic in the telling, it is completely irrelevant to the story and exists only to make the men feel revengeful, protective (after initially failing), remorseful, and so worse yet there can be a burden the men have to handle for the next segment.  Sigh.

So okay now that the strong women have been reduced to quivering husks now what?  The men get revenge!  Which happens off the page and ends up with a head in a bag.  Huh?  Then more boring traveling.  Then onto the a place “guarded by the most terrifying and deadly enemy of all!” Which is the promised dragon of the title.  Who DOES NOTHING.  Seriously it really does sleep while almost all the characters sneak past it.  This supposed first dragon, THE dragon, doesn’t even twitch when a horde of people go past him.  Its whole purpose it to GUARD the gate.  Some terror.  Some deadliness.  It wakes up just in time to spit some flame.  A super boring dragon!  Urgh!

“And Beyond” that, the book got even worse.  I won’t even get into it.  I finished it because it was short and was remembered with fondness and I just didn’t get it.  I guess I am too old and curmudgeony to suspend any real disbelief at the plot and only find meself disbelieving that this series is beloved by so many folk.

I did have the first mate tell me the continuation of the plot in the later novels.  I am mystified that there are any people who are fond of this and all I can say is that me head hurts and I will be avoiding them indefinitely.

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

CAPTIVES OF SORCERY…
It began as just another evening of fantasy gaming, with James, Karl, Andrea, and the rest ready to assume their various roles as wizard, cleric, warrior, or thief. But sorcerous gamemaster Professor Deighton had something else planned for this unsuspecting group of college students. And the “game” soon became a matter of life and death as the seven adventurers found themselves transported to an alternate world and into the bodies of the actual characters they had been pretending to be.

Cast into a land where magic worked all too well, dragons were a fire-breathing menace, and only those quick enough with a sword or their wits survived, the young gamers faced a terrible task. For the only way they would ever see Earth again was if they could find the legendary Gate Between Worlds – a place guarded by the most terrifying and deadly enemy of all….
THE SLEEPING DRAGON

To visit the author’s Goodreads page go to:

Joel Rosenberg – Author

To buy the book go to:

the sleeping dragon – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

On the Horizon – the list (Patricia Forde)

Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this middle-grade sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . .

the list (Patricia Forde)

Title: the list

Author: Patricia Forde

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Publication Date: TODAY!!! (hardback/e-book)

ISBN: 9781492647966

Source: NetGalley

This book caught me eye because of the premise and the comparisons to the giver and fahrenheit 451.  I loved the concept.  It takes place in post-apocalyptic America.  Climate change has caused the sea levels to rise.  The community of Ark is one of the last places where humans survive.

This village is controlled in every way by its founder, John Noa.  One of the ways in which the population is controlled is through language.  There are 700 sanctioned words on The List.  Because if ye can’t express a concept then ye can’t act on it, right?  The only people who have access to more words are the leaders and the local Wordsmith (kind of a living dictionary and the keeper of more complex words).  For example, if a person learns a trade, like carpentry, then that person is allowed to learn additional words (like 25 or so) relating specifically to that task.  Use words outside The List too often and face banishment or worse.

The story centers around Letta, the Wordsmith’s apprentice.  The master wordsmith goes off on an errand, leaving Letta in charge.  Circumstances ensue which cause Letta to confront everything she has ever believed to be true.

While the concept was fascinating, the execution did not, to me mind, do it justice.  It was a far cry from the two favorite books it had been compared to.  For one thing, the use of language by Letta just seemed too complex.  The List was hardly used at all in the author’s writing.  Letta’s thoughts involve words like cerulean, pineapple, etc. despite having never seen pictures.  How can you truly understand the words without a real frame of reference – especially with such a limited List to try and explain them.  It would have been more interesting to me if the entire beginning of the novel had been put together only using List and got more complicated as Letta’s understanding of Ark grew more complex.

Also the plot was sort of meandering.  Letta makes extremely stupid mistakes to set up future plot points.  For all of her learning, Letta just seemed helpless, unintelligent, and clueless.  There is a type of insta-love connection between her and the non-Ark boy she helps.  People sneak in and out of her house so easily that the guards are practically non-existent or just that plain dumb.  The flow of the story was just not to me taste.  The characters also seemed poorly developed and rather simplistic.  Overall I would like to see this concept tackled in another way.

So lastly . . .

Thank you Sourcebooks Jabberwocky!

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

Fahrenheit 451 meets The Giver for tweens in this gripping story about the power of words and the dangers of censorship.

In the city of Ark, speech is constrained to five hundred sanctioned words. Speak outside the approved lexicon and face banishment. The exceptions are the Wordsmith and his apprentice Letta, the keepers and archivists of all language in their post-apocalyptic, neo-medieval world.

On the death of her master, Letta is suddenly promoted to Wordsmith, charged with collecting and saving words. But when she uncovers a sinister plan to suppress language and rob Ark’s citizens of their power of speech, she realizes that it’s up to her to save not only words, but culture itself.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Patricia Forde – Author

To buy the novel please visit:

the list – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

The Captain’s Log – mechanica (Betsy Cornwell)

Ahoy there me mateys!  This book is a retelling of Cinderella where the main character is mechanically inclined.  There are magicical fae elements, steampunk elements, and classic fairytale elements.  Overall I thought this was a very entertaining read with more positives than negatives.

Our Cinderella is this version is Mechanica.  She is intelligent, hardworking, a voracious reader, and has big dreams for the future.  In particular I loved how the combination of magic and machinery is used to clean the house and deal with the demands of the evil stepmother and the “Steps.”  I also adored the tiny mechanical horse named Jules and the other mechanical creatures that are her friends.  The world-building was fun and the twisting of classical fairytale elements was lovely.

The introduction to the world through the middle of the novel were the best parts.  For me, the problems began when the love interest was introduced.  I mean of course he is the prince and the blurb makes it clear that the ending is not a fairytale romance.  But the setup for the story and Mechanica’s discovery of the workshop and inventions were the fun parts.  Mechanica’s conflict over her love interest and the “resolution” of her relationship problems were kinda irksome.  It was a rather odd version of a love triangle.  I didn’t hate the ending; I just wanted Mechanica’s relationships with her friends to have gone in a different direction.

That said I am glad I read it and I do believe at some point I will read the sequel if it arrives in a local library at whatever port I find meself in.

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have turned her into a servant in her own home.

But on her sixteenth birthday, Nicolette discovers a secret workshop in the cellar and begins to dare to imagine a new life for herself. Could the mysterious books and tools hidden there—and the mechanical menagerie, led by a tiny metal horse named Jules—be the key to escaping her dreary existence? With a technological exposition and royal ball on the horizon, the timing might just be perfect for Nicolette to earn her freedom at last.

Gorgeous prose and themes of social justice and family shine in this richly imagined Cinderella retelling about an indomitable inventor who finds her prince . . . but realizes she doesn’t want a fairy tale happy ending after all.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Betsy Cornwell – Author

To buy the book go to:

mechanica – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Broadside No. 16 – Ann Leckie

Ahoy there me mateys!  Welcome to the sixteenth broadside – the Ann Leckie edition.  She has a new book coming out on September 26, 2017.  Arrrr!  I am so excited that I thought now would be a great time to celebrate her works.  Plus September is just far enough away that if ye try hard, ye can catch up on all her work to date!

Please note: All book descriptions are from the author’s website and book title links lead to Goodreads.

imperial radch series:

Okay so this series comprises of three novels:

  1. ancillary justice
  2. ancillary sword
  3. ancillary mercy

This and a handful of short stories are all that she has written to date.  Don’t be alarmed by the small body of work.  This series is one of my all time favorites with the first book in particular being one that I gush about over and over.  I am not the only one who knows it is brilliant.  The first book in the series won the following awards:

Hugo Award for Best Novel (2014), Nebula Award for Best Novel (2013), Locus Award for Best First Novel (2014), Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Novel (2014), British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Novel (2013), Philip K. Dick Award Nominee (2013), John W. Campbell Memorial Award Nominee (2014), The Kitschies for Golden Tentacle (Debut) (2013), James Tiptree Jr. Award Honor List (2013), Seiun Award 星雲賞 for Best Foreign Novel (2016)

How is that for a list?  The series involves Breq who used to be the artificial intelligence of the starship, The Justice of Toren.  In addition to being the ship, she also had control of thousands of human soldiers.  The catch is that she has lost control of everything except one human body.  She is out for revenge.

This story is absolutely stunning and complex.  Breq is one of me all-time favorite characters.  She is thousands of years old and has such a complex understanding of the connections of society.  The side characters are awesome.  The novel shows her point of views from the present and flashbacks to when she was controlling ancillaries.  I have such fondness for One Esk.  The writing is wonderful.  The world building is delightful.  I absolute adore this series and don’t know who to discuss it without giving away spoilers.  Pick it up fer yerself.  Don’t believe me?

Here are some of the reviews from me crew members who gave book one a five star rating:

J.L. Sutton

carly @ bookaneer

althea ann @ readingtrance

lisa @ tenaciousreader

Did I convince ye yet?

Side note: This log post did not deal with books two and three because no spoilers!

Her website has this to say about book one:

On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.

Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was Justice of Toren–a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.

An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose–to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch.

So that be me introduction to Ann Leckie’s novels.  If ye haven’t read any of her novels I would suggest ye hoist those sails and get moving!

To visit her website go to:

Ann Leckie – Author

To see a complete list of all books she has written visit:

Ann Leckie – Books

To add this author or her novels to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

If ye missed me other author broadsides:

Garth Nix – No. 1

Sharon Shinn – No. 2

John Scalzi – No. 3

Tamora Pierce – No. 4

Brandon Sanderson – No. 5

Robin McKinley – No. 6

Michael Crichton – No. 7

Mercedes Lackey – No. 8

Dean Kootnz – No. 9

Justine Larbalestier – No. 10

Neil Gaiman – No. 11

Kate Elliot – No. 12

George R.R. Martin – No. 13

Rosemary Kirstein – No. 14

Piers Anthony – No. 15