Off the Charts – the astonishing mistakes of dahlia moss (Max Wirestone)

Ahoy there me 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:

the astonishing mistakes of dahlia moss (Max Wirestone)

I received this silly, goofy contemporary murder mystery eARC from Goodreads Giveaways. Arrrrr!  I was so excited to read this second book in the dahlia moss mysteries series.  If ye haven’t read the first book, the unfortunate decisions of dahlia moss, then ye might want to skip this post and go read me review of the first book.  No spoilers ahead but if ye keep reading this log then ye have been forewarned and continue at yer own peril . . .

So me hearties, I have to say that I really enjoyed this second installment.  It was such a treat to be back with that wacky Dahlia Moss.  This novel deals with the topics of Twitch streaming, which I admit I have never used.  But I am familiar with the concept, having used the interwebs before, and so was perfectly able to follow along.  Like the first novel, there are plenty of pop-culture references that made me chuckle.  Several parts made me laugh out loud and want to share the funny with the first mate.  Sadly he was on deck being productive but I rarely belly laugh like that from books.  I do think that the first book was much stronger in terms of characterizations and the actual murder mystery.  I guessed who the culprit was in this one pretty quickly.  But Dahlia is so absolutely insane and lovable that I didn’t care.  It was another fast, absurd, and jolly read.  I want the next book already!  Arrrrr!

So lastly . . .

Thank ye kindly Redhook Books and Goodreads Giveways!

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

You’d think that after I took a bullet in my arm following my last case that I’d be timid about going in guns blazing a second time. But you’d be wrong. I faced down death, and the only bad thing that happened was that I got a cool scar. Which is a like a tattoo, but with street cred.
I may have been a little overconfident this time. And that may have seriously clouded my judgment. Some small, but confidently made, mistakes include:
  • Unwisely meeting up with an internet stalker in real life.
  • Eating a large breakfast before discovering a corpse.
  • Kidnapping.
  • Standing uncomfortably close to the edge of a steamboat while musing that nothing bad could possibly happen.
  • Kidnapping, again
That’s the thing about a sense of invulnerability — you usually get it right before things go terribly, terribly, wrong.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Max Wirestone – Author

To buy the novel please visit:

the astonishing mistakes of dahlia moss – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Previous Log Entries for this Author

the unfortunate decisions of dahlia moss – book 1 (Off the Charts – Contemporary Humor)

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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

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

Off the Charts – castle of water (Dane Huckelbridge)

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:

castle of water (Dane Huckelbridge)

Title: castle of water

Author: Dane Huckelbridge

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press / Thomas Dunne Books

Publication Date: April 4, 2017 (hardcover/e-book)

ISBN: 978-1250098221

Source: NetGalley

This novel captured me fancy when I read a post from yvonne @ it’s all about books stating that it is a modern Robinson Crusoe type tale wherein two people end up on a deserted island and struggle to survive. Now bein’ a pirate Captain and all, I find books about shipwrecks and deserted islands to be extremely fascinatin’.  I was thrilled to give this one a look-see.

In this tale, a French architect named Sophie and an American ex-banker named Barry find themselves stranded on a small island after a plane crash.  The only problem is that the uninhabited island is “some 2,359 miles from Hawaii, 4,622 miles from Chile, and 533 miles from the nearest living soul.”

This was an engaging tale from the beginning, and I read this in one sitting.  Sophie and Barry are seemingly opposites at first glance but their need for each other to survive slowly allows their commonalities to shine through.  The growth and dreams they exhibit are lovely.  I particularly loved how these two communicated in both their highs and lows.  And of course how and what they did to survive was fascinating in its own right.

The writing style of this novel was lovely.  Interspersed with the story of survival are brief but beautiful glimpses into other places and times.  Ye get the history of the island and the Polynesians who visited it.  Ye get an idea of other castaways from the past.  There is backstory of the doomed pilot and his mistakes that led to the present.  These forays enriched the understanding and depth of the central story of Sophie and Barry.  The eventual explanation and unfolding of the meaning of the novel’s title was mesmerizing and heart-wrenching.

I am so very glad to have this novel imprinted on me heart.  Truly me words are inadequate.

So lastly . . .

Thank you St. Martin’s Press / Thomas Dunne Books!

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

Two very different people, one very small island.

For Sophie Ducel, her honeymoon in French Polynesia was intended as a celebration of life. The proud owner of a thriving Parisian architecture firm, co-founded with her brilliant new husband, Sophie had much to look forward to—including a visit to the island home of her favorite singer, Jacques Brel.

For Barry Bleecker, the same trip was meant to mark a new beginning. Turning away from his dreary existence in Manhattan finance, Barry had set his sights on fine art, seeking creative inspiration on the other side of the world—just like his idol, Paul Gauguin.

But when their small plane is downed in the middle of the South Pacific, the sole survivors of the wreck are left with one common goal: to survive. Stranded hundreds of miles from civilization, on an island the size of a large city block, the two castaways must reconcile their differences and learn to draw on one another’s strengths if they are to have any hope of making it home.

Told in mesmerizing prose, with charm and rhythm entirely its own, Castle of Water is more than just a reimagining of the classic castaway story. It is a stirring reflection on love’s restorative potential, as well as a poignant reminder that home—be it a flat in Paris, a New York apartment, or a desolate atoll a world away—is where the heart is.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Dane Huckelbridge – Author

To buy the novel please visit:

castle of water – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Off the Charts – furiously happy (Jenny Lawson)

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:

furiously happy (Jenny Lawson)

Mental illness is not a laughing matter.  Well, unless ye read this book that is.  Ye see mateys, this book has a psychotic raccoon on the cover.  I picked it up because I a) heard it was funny and b) thought it was a young adult book that had something to do with silly raccoons.  No joke.

Well turns out it is a memoir by a woman named Jenny who has a lot of mental illnesses, an actual taxidermied raccoon named Rory who is the featured on the cover of this novel, and many crazy stories to share.

As the author states in her disclaimers at the beginning of the book:

This is a funny book about living with mental illness.  It sounds like a terrible combination, but personally, I’m mentally ill and some of the most hysterical people I know are as well.  So if you don’t like the book then maybe you’re just not crazy enough to enjoy it.  Either way, you win

I must be crazy because I found a lot of the stories to be laugh out loud funny.  I had to read whole sections out loud to the first mate because they were just too good not to share.  And while the situations the author finds herself in are sometimes absurd and seemingly unreal, I still found them extremely human at the same time and relatable.

Feeling unproductive as a grownup?  Check.  Being unable to sleep for long stretches at a time? Check.  Not wanting to be around people – ever?  Check.  Embracing the quirkiness of being who ye are?  Check.

Add in things that wouldn’t occur to me or haven’t happened to me like:

  • dressing up as a koala in Australia while attempting to hold koalas
  • participating in a sleep study that sounds more like a horror movie
  • leaving voicemail messages for yerself at 2:00 in the morning
  • dealing with killer cannibal swans
  • pondering how to survive the zombie apocalypse, the airport, and the zombie apocalypse at the airport (okay I may have done this one)

Seriously I am not funny enough to do the humor in this book justice.  But the humor is not the whole point.  At the root of the book, there is a woman embracing life in spite of all of the difficulties life has thrown at her.  Whether it is her anxiety or depression  or just the day to day struggle to exist, underneath is a love for life and a determination to win through in the end.  To be furiously happy and savor the moments she can.  That is the true joy in the book.  As she says:

Be bizarre. Be weird. Be proud of the uniquely beautiful way that you are broken.

Be furiously happy.

To see another review of this book by a member of me crew, Emma-Louise “Elou” Carroll, visit:

Review: Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

In her new book, FURIOUSLY HAPPY, Jenny explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

According to Jenny: “Some people might think that being ‘furiously happy’ is just an excuse to be stupid and irresponsible and invite a herd of kangaroos over to your house without telling your husband first because you suspect he would say no since he’s never particularly liked kangaroos. And that would be ridiculous because no one would invite a herd of kangaroos into their house. Two is the limit. I speak from personal experience. My husband says that none is the new limit. I say he should have been clearer about that before I rented all those kangaroos.”

“Most of my favorite people are dangerously fucked-up but you’d never guess because we’ve learned to bare it so honestly that it becomes the new normal. Like John Hughes wrote in The Breakfast Club, ‘We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it.’ Except go back and cross out the word ‘hiding.'”

. . . FURIOUSLY HAPPY is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it’s about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways-and who doesn’t need a bit more of that?

To visit the author’s website go to:

Jenny Lawson – Author

To buy the novel please visit:

furiously happy – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Off the Charts – the sound of a wild snail eating (Elisabeth Tova Bailey)

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:

the sound of a wild snail eating (Elisabeth Tova Bailey)

This was a beautiful and fascinating non-fiction read.  Ms. Bailing was 34 years old and vacationing in Europe when she caught a virus that would change her life’s trajectory.  What seemed like a simple flu led to her being bedridden and unable to move.  The impulse of a visiting friend to bring her some violets and a woodland snail to her bedroom’s windowsill, leads the author on a journey of contemplation and companionship of an unlikely creature.  Part memoir and part natural history lesson, I highly recommend this novel.

Snails are fascinating.  For example did ye know that snails have teeth?  Or that the scientific name for a snail, gastropod, means “stomach-foot?”  Or that snails “tormented & haunted” Charles Darwin? Or that if it is quiet enough ye CAN hear a wild snail eat?

From poems and quotes from scientific literature, to exquisite reflections from the author, this novel was poetic look into the life of snails in general and one snail in particular.  It is a fast and stunning read.  I will never again look at snails in the same way.  Pick this one up.  It’s worth the read.

To listen to a wild snail eating click below (from the author’s website):

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, Elisabeth Bailey shares an inspiring and intimate story of her uncommon encounter with a Neohelix albolabris —a common woodland snail.

While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that this mysterious creature brings and comes to a greater under standing of her own confined place in the world.

Intrigued by the snail’s molluscan anatomy, cryptic defenses, clear decision making, hydraulic locomotion, and mysterious courtship activities, Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer, providing a candid and engaging look into the curious life of this underappreciated small animal.

Told with wit and grace, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a remarkable journey of survival and resilience, showing us how a small part of the natural world illuminates our own human existence and provides an appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Elisabeth Tova Bailey – Author

To buy the novel please visit:

the sound of a wild snail eating – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List