On the Horizon – the emperor and the maula (Robert Silverberg)

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

the emperor and the maula (Robert Silverberg)

Title: the emperor and the maula

Author: Robert Silverberg

Publisher: Subterranean Press

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

ISBN: 978-1596068452

Source: NetGalley

The cover drew me in and three things convinced me to read this book:

  1. It is a retelling of the Scheherazade tale with alien conquerors;
  2. It is a Subterranean press book and they do great work; and
  3. It discussed the author Robert Silverberg’s genius and I didn’t know who he was . . .

The fact that it was a sci-fi Scheherazade tale would have been enough in and of itself.  And this book was a wonderful one.  Our Scheherazade, Laylah Walis, is a human from Earth.  Earth has been conquered by an alien race.  She travels to the forbidden city of Haraar which she knows is punishable by death.  Her goal is to meet the emperor.  But for what purpose?

Of course the fun of this tale is that the reader is learning Laylah’s story at the same time that the emperor is.  She certainly is a compelling character and her stories sped along.  The cliffhangers at the end of each night’s tale bothered me as much as the emperor.  I needed to know more!  The only downside is that by the end of the book, I could have listened to many more of Laylah’s stories.  The ending was good but I still need more!

As for the author, I learned from sandy @ fantasyliterature‘s review of this novel several amazing facts.  Apparently Mr. Silverberg is the author of no fewer than “78 sci-fi novels, almost 450 short stories and novellas, around 70 books of nonfiction, and around 185 novels of, um, “adult fiction,” in addition to having edited over 130 anthologies.”  Talk about prolific!  He is currently 82 years old.  Goodreads says that he has won 5 Hugos and 5 Nebulas.  Also he is a 2004 Grand Master from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.  Sheesh!

I am regretful that I didn’t know about him before but am delighted to have remedied that fact.  If ye be not familiar with this author then mayhaps ye should pick this book up.  I certainly enjoyed the foray.

So lastly . . .

Thank you Subterranean Press!

Netgalley’s website has this to say about the novel:

To visit the author’s website go to:

Robert Silverberg – Author

To buy the novel go to:

the emperor and the maula – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

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Second Reflections of a Banned Book – the witch of blackbird pond (Elizabeth George Spears)

Ahoy there me mateys!  While drawin’ up me lists of 2016 for me log, I realized a curious thing – out of 134 books read, not a single one was a re-read.  In me enthusiasm of discovery and taking suggestions from me crew, I did not revisit a single old port for plunder!  And part of what I love about readin’ is re-visitin’ old friends.  So I decided to remedy that in this here year and thus created this category where I take a second look at a previously enjoyed novel and give me crew me second reflections, as it were, upon visitin’ it again . . .

the witch of blackbird pond – Elizabeth George Spears

This being Banned Books Week and having just finished a historical fiction about witchcraft in England, I thought it be high time to read the beloved favorite. I reread this in one delightful sitting.

This book is a young adult historical fiction about a girl named Katherine, i.e. Kit, who is forced to leave her home in Barbados and move to Connecticut to live with her Aunt and Uncle.  She goes from a care-free rich island lifestyle to a hard-working Puritan one in America.  It is a tale about growing up, change, and family.  And it has witchcraft.  Or better yet it doesn’t.

The two people accused of witchcraft in the book are not witches.  However this book has been banned because of promoting witchcraft and violence.  Huh?  What is shown instead are the consequences of gossiping, fear, and ignorance.  The book dispels the notions of witchcraft using proper proof.  Instead the book promotes hard work, good relationships, and education.  I find the idea of banning this book to be ludicrous.

The book certainly stood up to the passage of time and I found meself happily rediscovering old details that had been clouded over.  Kit is strong, intelligent, and above all changes for the better.  The other characters are equally well drawn and compelling.  I love that Kit is challenged over her ideas of politics, religion, slavery, and class.  It is still fast paced and engrossing.  The love and friendships and bonds formed by Kit and her family and neighbors made me happy.  I also think credit goes to this novel for teaching me to call kittens “tiny balls of fluff.”  I believe that it completely deserved winning the Newbery Medal of Honor.

If ye haven’t read this one then hoist those sails and get moving!

The back of me very old copy of the novel has this to say:

Kit Tyler knew, as she gazed for the first time at the cold, bleak shores of Connecticut Colony, that her new home would never be like the shimmering Caribbean islands she left behind.  She was like a tropical bird that has flown to the wrong part of the world.  And in the stern Puritan community of her relatives, she soon felt caged as well, and lonely.  In the meadows, the only place where she could feel completely free, she meets another lone and mysterious figure, the old woman known as the Witch of Blackbird Pond.  But when their friendship is discovered, Kit is faced with suspicion, fear, and anger.  She herself is accused of witchcraft!

To visit the author’s Goodreads page go to:

Elizabeth George Spears – Author

To buy the novel visit:

the witch of blackbird pond – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Off the Charts – the witchfinder’s sister (Beth Underdown)

Ahoy there mateys!  Though this log’s focus is on sci-fi, fantasy, and young adult, this Captain does have broader reading tastes.  So 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.  Here is a very good historical fiction:

the witchfinder’s sister (Beth Underdown)

One standard “non-standard for me” genre is historical fiction.  While I love history by itself, I enjoy historical fiction for the blending of history and getting to feel like the historical characters are real people.  I mean, I know many of the historical characters in historical fiction books were real people, as that is the point.  But I like the idea of knowing what they may have thought about the strange circumstances they found themselves in – especially if it involves women’s perspectives.

This story is told from the perspective of Alice Hopkins.  Tragedy forces Alice to go back to stay with her brother whom she left under less than ideal circumstances.  However, when she goes back she does not find the brother that she remembers.  Matthew Hopkins has gone from a nobody to one of the most important figures in the village.  Why?  Because he is determined to hunt down all the witches.

Matthew Hopkins (link to Wikipedia) is the actual historical personage in this novel.  He is credited with having helped kill over 300 women in the period from 1644 to 1646.  Some believe that is over 60% of all “witches” killed in over three centuries.  And he did that in just over TWO years.  Ugh.  He seems to even have given himself the title of “Witch-Finder General.”  Here is what this horrible man might have looked like:

 

Apparently he also wrote a book called “The Discovery of Witches” in 1647 wherein this was the frontispiece showing witches’ familiars:

Matthew Hopkins’ book was later used in law texts and to help catch witches located in the the United States, including Salem.

While there is no historical record concerning his sisters, Matthew Hopkins likely had two.  I thought telling the story from a sister’s perspective was excellent.  Alice was able to give her perspective on the women she knew who had been accused, life as a woman at the time, and how women actively participated in the accusations and torture of the “witches.”  Even though women were seen as technically inferior and beneath men, their pettiness and gossip could be power in and of itself,  and some of them used it.

I thought Alice’s story was disheartening and compelling.  Every relationship shown was fraught with subtext and peril.  In fact, the histories of all the characters were rich and in depth.  The pace, while slow, was filled with tension and confusion about what was going to happen next.  Even though it seems crazy that witch hunts existed then, I am reminded that they still occur today in some places of the world.

Overall this was a fantastic book that I am glad I read.  I am grateful fer me crew member’s review that brought me to this story.  Check it out at:

crystal @ lostinagoodbook

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

“It has been waiting in the dark, Matthew’s history – our history.  Now I must turn over the stone: that you might see it, wriggling to escape.”

1645. When Alice Hopkins’s husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.

But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women’s names.

To what lengths will Matthew’s obsession drive him?

And what choice will Alice make when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?

To visit the author’s website go to:

Beth Underdown – Author

To buy the novel go to:

the witchfinder’s sister – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Off the Charts – the cat encyclopedia for kids (Joann Mattern)

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

the cat encyclopedia for kids (Joann Mattern)

Title: the cat encyclopedia for kids

Author: Joann Mattern

Publisher: Capstone

Publication Date: March 1, 2018 (paperback)

ISBN: 978-1623709372

Source: NetGalley

Who doesn’t love cats?  Arrrr!  I saw this and couldn’t help but be drawn to a book with cat facts.  They claim it be geared for 9 – 12 year olds.  Bah!  There be no age too high to stop learnin’.  So I read this book in me bunk with me three ship cats at me side.  Puurrrrfect!

I have to admit that I be torn on this book.  On the one had it had lots of stunning cat photos and some awesome facts.  I loved the blue “fun fact” boxes in particular.  It focuses on 12 of the most popular breeds in the United States.  The major problem was the writing style.  I thought a lot of the sections sounded too similar – in particular the long lists of the various color points and the caring for your cat sections.  I thought perhaps those facts would have been better as single sections for all cat breeds with check box charts showcasing the differences.  Perhaps the color points would have been better off shown with more photo examples rather than just written descriptions.  That said, I highly enjoyed all the new information I did learn.

Fun cat facts I learned (a sampling):

  • A group of cats hanging around together is called a clowder.
  • Cats generally sleep 13 to 14 hours a day.  I wish I could!
  • The Persian cat was the most popular cat in America from the 1970s until 2014.
  • The oldest living domestic cat was Creme-Puff from Austin, Texas.  She lived to be 38!

So ultimately I think this is a decent overall read that beginning and older cat lovers can enjoy.

Side note: have ye ever seen an Egyptian cat mummy?  I have!

So lastly . . .

Thank you Capstone Books!

Netgalley’s website has this to say about the novel:

To visit the author’s website go to:

Joann Mattern – Author

To buy the novel go to:

the cat encyclopedia for kids – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Shiver me Timbers! Guess what today is . . .

Happy International Talk Like a Pirate Day!  Avast me beauties!  Grab yer grog, yer wenches, yer parrots an’ yerselfs an’ celebrate with yer Captain.  From the lowliest bilge rat to the scurviest dog in the crow’s nest, indulge yer inner pirate.  It’s a day where even ye landlubbers can develop sea legs and participate in the gloriousness that be the high seas.

In honor of the fine day here be some shanties to help prepare to wet yer whistle:

A traditional version:

A silly version:

A more modern pirate remix version:

So wave yer Jolly Roger an’ spend those pieces of eight ye scalawags, seadogs, and fellow explorers.  Always remember:

Q: What did the ocean say to the pirate?

A: Nothing, it just waved.

x The Captain

Parley with an Author – Jim Morris

Ahoy there me mateys!  Yesterday I reviewed feel me fall and enjoyed it.  So what better way to celebrate then giving ye scallywags a better introduction to the newest member of me crew, Matey Morris.  Arrrr!  So without further ado . . .

  • How did ye find this Captain and what made ye choose to send a parley communiqué?

I found you through Goodreads, and I figure that’s the place to find readers/reviewers/bloggers who might be interested. So I approached. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of The Captain, but I’ve found that The Captain is a seaworthy person!

  • When did ye start scrawlin’ yarns?

I’ve been writing (mostly bad) stories since elementary school. But it was never an activity where I thought: gee, someone can do this? I remember seeing Ray Bradbury’s picture on the back cover of a book, holding his cat. And he looked so happy in that photo. That’s probably the first inkling where it clicked that people actually did this for a living. (Of course, growing up in Illinois in the 70s, becoming a writer was like saying you wanted to join the circus.) It’s always been my North Star, even if I’ve sometimes gotten a bit lost along the way.

  • How long did it take ye to write this yarn?

Writing itself is the easiest part of the whole process. And the most fun. The hardest part is coming up with an idea that a) seems unique, at least to me, and isn’t a rehash of every other book out there; b) an idea that won’t run out of steam and c) is an idea that can sustain the amount of time necessary to write, re-write, and re-write again. It’s so easy to fall in love with an idea, and 2 months later, find you’re not interested anymore. So, I spend a lot of time on the front end, pulling an idea like taffy, before I ever set a word on paper. The writing then happens quite quickly, probably because the unconscious has had a lot of time to simply let it bake. All in all, I spent over a year working on Feel Me Fall.

  • What was the hardest part of writing this yarn?

Akin to finding the right idea, the hardest part is sometimes spending time in the headspace of whatever I’m writing. (I worked on a YA horror, and while I’m happy with the outcome – to be published soon – I won’t do a horror again because it’s just not a headspace I want to spend that much time in!) It’s hard to “be there” with the characters with all their faults, trying to survive. I’d love to write a comedy – it seems like it would be a blast to write. Unfortunately, I’m not really a comedy writer.

  • What did ye enjoy most about writing this yarn?

I can’t really differentiate between this yarn, versus another. They are always a puzzle, with their own problems and challenges. No matter how much I write, no story is ever easy. And I don’t think they should be. If they were, it would mean I was repeating myself, telling the same basic story over. And I don’t want to do that. What I like about writing itself is finding that solution. There’s something great about feeling as if you are using the gifts that you have. I can’t play basketball. I can’t sing. I can’t dance. I can’t do many, many things. But I find when I write, that I’m tapping into My Thing. And that’s a wonderful feeling.

  • Why did ye choose to sail the self-publishin’ route?

Two of my other books were published by Amazon’s crowd-sourcing imprint Kindle Press, and they’ve been very helpful with promotion. I actually tried a campaign with Feel Me Fall, but it wasn’t selected. My theory is that they had a plane-crash novel already. But I could be wrong. So, it’s not as if I purposely chose the self-pubbed route. It’s much harder to promote. But I felt the book was strong enough that I didn’t want it sitting on my hard-drive. Self-pubbing has been an experiment and learning curve for me. So far, I’ve enjoyed it. I think the key with any type of writing (and this is easier said than done) is to remove the expectation from it, and that means all of it – the idea of good reviews, money, attention. Of course, I’m not a robot, so my Zen attitude gets a lot of practice rubbing against the real world!

  • Are ye a full-time writer? If not, what be yer job that pays the bills?

I was a full-time TV writer several years ago. I had a writing partner, but we broke up, and it kind of killed any momentum I had. So I turned to books. But unless you’re Stephen King, or a number of “name” authors, writing books doesn’t pay the bills. In fact, after the cost of copyediting, cover and paid promosmany writers lose money on their books! It’s like an insane hobby. So, as a day job, I’ve worked freelance doing editing, research, and UX writing, and a variety of other jobs to keep me afloat.

  • What be your ambitions for yer writin’ career and plans for the future?

I’d love, of course, to be a full-time writer, making a living. Maybe that would be through books alone, or maybe a book-to-film option, or maybe going back to TV writing. Either way, I like writing stories. Can someone pay me to learn how to surf?

  • Do ye have any favorite words in the English language?

Can’t say that I do. And if I did, they are probably swear words that I need to nix from my vocabulary.

  • Do ye have any hated words in the English language?

I am not a fan of the use of “asshat.” For some reason, it just bugs me when people use that word. I can’t even rationally tell you why. Maybe it’s because I simply don’t like the person who used the word when I heard it for the first time.

  • Name yer top five favorite authors.

Ray Bradbury is a favorite, as I read him when I was younger, and his writing was like poetry on a page. Stephen King when I was younger too – his storytelling is simply excellent. Erik Larson – his nonfiction reads like fiction, and I always feel like I’m learning something. I can’t say I have other favorites. There are too many books on my TBR list! I’m sure there are a bunch of favorites in there.

  • Name yer top three recent favorite reads.

I read a wide variety of genres, but most recently: The Wild Robot by Peter Brown, The Lost City of Z by David Grann, and The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North.

  • What are yer other hobbies outside of writin’?

Writing can be lonely, and sedentary. You kind of sit. In front of a screen. And I sit in front of a screen for my day job. So I’ve been doing more active hobbies, like swimming, or paddleboarding in Marina Del Rey. There’s something about getting outside, feeling the sun on my skin, and hearing the sound of water. It’s become my therapy. Of course, I still read, and sometimes I cook. But I think I’m happiest outdoors, which is a surprise, because I grew up being pretty much the most inactive person ever. (That’s how getting older is sometimes a fun surprise. I’m like, I can’t believe I’m doing this. This is so unlike the old Jim. And it tickles me that we can still evolve and surprise ourselves. The glory days are not always behind us!)

  • Who is yer most favorite pirate? (outside of this Captain of course!)

    I grew up before there were any “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, so the only pirates I knew of, were you know, the bad ones. Like Bluebeard. Or Blackbeard. Maybe both? I can’t call him a favorite – I mean, really, he was a pirate in every sense of the word and did bad things – but I remember thinking: that guy was scary. I trust The Captain would do battle with Bluebeard and The Captain would come out victorious.

  • What is yer favorite memory involving the sea?

I live in Southern California, though I grew up in a small town in the Midwest. And while there were tiny lakes, there is nothing like the Pacific Ocean. I try to drive up to Malibu and stick my feet in the sand, or linger among the waves. There are some gorgeous beaches, very clean, and the horizon stretches, and I can imagine The Captain and your boat sailing over those swells. I do it as often as I can. This past summer, it was almost every weekend. Mind you: it’s open to the public, and it’s my way of living like the 1%. There is something, too: I grew up wanting to be part of Hollywood, and to move here. I watched 80s movies of kids playing at these same beaches. And once again, it tickles me that I’m here. My career certainly didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, but I live in an area I love, and I made it happen. I did that. Me. Not that people held me back, but like I mentioned: in the 70s, the idea of moving to Hollywood was not, let’s say, encouraged. But you can make your dreams come true. They might not turn out exactly the way you imagine, but they come close enough.

  • Have ye ever gone off the edge of the map? And if so, what happened?

I have gone off the edge of the map, in a figurative sense. On one hand, in a good, way, I say: using the imagination is going off the map, and while writing can be a brutal career, writing itself is a wonderful meditation, an active meditation. I could say even a spiritual endeavor. And I love going off the map. In a bad way, I did get over a prolonged illness recently that took me to the edge of the map. But I think the extremes sometimes gives you more compassion, more depth. I don’t want to promote suffering, but if you suffer, then it forces you to…I hate to use the word “grow,” but it does open your eyes to what’s important to you.

So much thanks to Matey Morris for the glorious scroll exchanges, the chance to review his book, and this parley.  I am glad he came back from the edge of the map, that he takes time to enjoy the Pacific Ocean (Arrrr!), and above all that he continues to write and do what he loves.

Thus ends our parley an’ this adventure.  I be sad that this adventure be over.  But a new adventure can’t start until the last one ends.  I do encourage the crew to take a journey to read this fun novel and share ye tales of the experience with yer Captain . . .

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

Secrets and survival in the Amazon

Emily Duran is the sole survivor of a plane crash that left her and her teenage friends stranded and alone in the jungles of the Amazon. Lost and losing hope, they struggle against the elements, and each other. With their familiar pecking order no longer in place, a new order emerges, filled with power struggles, betrayals, secrets and lies. Emily must explain why she’s the last left alive.

But can she carry the burden of the past?

Discover the gripping new adventure novel that explores who we are when no one is watching, and how far we’ll go in order to survive.

To visit the author’s website go to:

James Morris – Author

To buy the e-book go to:

feel me fall – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Previous Parley with An Author Log Entries:

Matey M.J.R. Parr

On the Horizon – feel me fall (James Morris)

Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this young adult thriller eARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . .

feel me fall (Jame Morris)

Title: feel me fall

Author: James Morris

Publisher: Inkspot Imaginarium

Publication Date: Available Now! (paperback/e-book)

ASIN: B071KR8F63

Source: the author!

 

I found out about this novel from a member of me hearty crew.  I had recently finished castle of water about plane crash survivors on a deserted island, and I loved it.  So when I read Liz’s review and praise about a YA novel where a plane crashes in the Amazon and there is a sole survivor I added it to me list.  Imagine me surprise when the author read me comment and offered me a copy.  Arrrrr!

I am so very glad he did.  This book was a thrilling look into the story of the sole survivor, Emily.  Now the book begins with Emily in a hospital bed.  So ye know that she makes it.  Her story is partially told through the use of her journal.  At first I thought this juxtaposition between the present and tales of Emily’s past would spoil the sense of suspense.  Little did I know that instead these slips back and forth in time added to the drama.

The survivors of the crash (all six of them teens of course!) have history between them.  And not all of it is good.  Their lives back home have direct consequences on how they treat each other in the jungle and the choices they make towards their ultimate survival.  Whether we were dealing with Emily’s thoughts about “normal” school life, the chaos in the jungle, or with Emily’s present thoughts, each part was engaging.  Somehow each switch felt perfect in the moment.

I loved reading about the relationships between all the characters.  I loved that I would change me thoughts back and forth about their behavior as I read.  I would love Emily one moment and want to strangle her in the next.  The relationship between Emily and her best friend Viv was of particular interest.  The suspense was wonderful, the pace was quick, and the plot twists super fun.  Even the cliche aspects that I normally dislike (student/teacher romantic relationship – ugh) somehow were turned into plot points that became fascinating.  And that ending!  Divine.

I truly enjoyed this novel and think its a great read.  I recommend it to any of me crew.

Side note: Come back tomorrow for a parley with the author!!

If ye want other viewpoints from me crew check out these reviews:

Liz @ covertocover (who introduced me to this novel!)

Marie @ drizzle&hurricanebooks

So lastly . . .

Thank you Matey Morris!

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

Secrets and survival in the Amazon

Emily Duran is the sole survivor of a plane crash that left her and her teenage friends stranded and alone in the jungles of the Amazon. Lost and losing hope, they struggle against the elements, and each other. With their familiar pecking order no longer in place, a new order emerges, filled with power struggles, betrayals, secrets and lies. Emily must explain why she’s the last left alive.

But can she carry the burden of the past?

Discover the gripping new adventure novel that explores who we are when no one is watching, and how far we’ll go in order to survive.

To visit the author’s website go to:

James Morris – Author

To buy the e-book go to:

feel me fall – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List