On the Horizon – gray wolf island (Tracey Neithercott)

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

gray wolf island (Tracey Neithercott)

Title: gray wolf island

Author: Tracey Neithercott

Publisher: Random House Children’s / Knopf Books for Young Readers

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

ISBN: 978-1524715304

Source: NetGalley


The stunning cover is what originally drew me in:


Then the first line of the blurb was “for fans of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender.”  I loved that book so the comparison drew me in further.  Then I discovered it is about five teens who go on a treasure hunt on the mysterious Gray Wolf Island.  Treasure!  Adventure!  Islands!  Maps!  Magical realism!  Arrrrrrr!

I was so excited to read this book and it did not disappoint.  The magical realism in this novel was a lot more subtle than in ava lavender and I loved it. The opening chapter is one of the best set-ups for a story I have read in a very long time.  I was immediately sucked into the story and entranced.  The main character, Ruby, loses her twin sister Sadie.  Ruby was Sadie’s shadow and is lost without her sister.  But before she died, Sadie made Ruby promise to complete one unfinished quest – to find the treasure.

One of the greatest choices of the book was that Ruby is the reluctant treasure hunter.  Her sister was her treasure and now is gone.  Ruby has survivor’s guilt and feels strangled by her promise.  But she eventually feels compelled to see it through.  Unfortunately this means that she has to have assistance and Ruby is not a people person.  One “helpful” teen brings friends and Ruby finds she needs them all.  Each teen also has a secret and the island demands the truth in exchange for survival.

I absolutely fell in love with the characters.  All five teens were uniquely drawn and interesting.  Also the many adults in the novel also had distinct personalities and actually cared about the teens.  Refreshing.  While I love a treasure hunt, the friendships portrayed in the novel become the true focus.  I cannot even adequately explain the love I feel for these teens and how absolutely delightful it was to watch them grow and interact with each other.

The mythos of the island were captivating and rich in detail.  The treasure hunt details were well wrought and suspenseful.  The only problem I had was with a sideline story about Cooper.  It tied in well and is seemingly explained but I think I missed a crucial detail and so am a bit confused. Small detail though.  Maybe one of me crew can explain it to me one day.

Bottom line – fabulous read so check it out.

So lastly . . .

Thank you Random House Children’s and Knopf Books for Young Readers!

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

To visit the author’s website go to:

Tracey Neithercott – Author

To buy the novel please visit:

gray wolf island – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List


The Captain’s Log – the screaming staircase (Jonathan Stroud)

Ahoy there me mateys!  I absolutely loved the author’s Bartimaeus trilogy + 1.  I could gush about these books all day but I am on tight schedule so another day mehaps.  I hadn’t known about this series for some unknown and presumably silly reason so when NetGalley offered me the chance to read the first book I of course said Aye!!  It is listed as a middle-grade but bah!  I don’t put age limits on things.

This was the perfect read for the beginning of Spooktober.  Ghosts!  The story is set in England where several decades ago the Problem began.  Paranormal phenomenon became widespread.  The catch is that only children and young adults can see and deal with the unsavories.  Society has adapted and agencies have sprung up to deal with the problems.

Lucy Carlyle is one such ghost hunter.  She has traveled to London to find work at a new agency.  However her past is getting in the way and so she ends up working for a bottom of the barrel agency run by Lockwood.  It is an agency run by teens with no adult supervision.  Mistakes and chaos abound.  Lockwood & Co. mess up big time and discover an unsolved murder mystery case.  With the firm in peril, the agency gets a chance at redemption with one of the most haunted houses around.  Will they survive?

That was one of the items I liked best – that ye can learn from and improve upon past mistakes.  I also loved the relationships between the three ghost hunters, the wonderful atmospheric writing, the sophisticated world building, and the engrossing storyline.  I had to know what happened next.  While the murder mystery villain was extremely predictable I still had fun watching the case unfold.  And the haunted house was just plain awesome.  I actually got tingles.  I highly recommend this one for readers of any age.

Side note: Apparently the fifth and final book of this series was just released in September!  I think I may try to read the other four this month if I can track them down.  Challenge accepted!  ::brandishes cutlass::  Arrrr!

Check out me other crew members effusive reviews:

Bentley @ bookbastion

Hannah Greendale @ goodreads

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

When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.

Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.

Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again  . . .

To visit the author’s website go to:

Jonathan Stroud – Author

To buy the book go to:

the screaming staircase – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for me honest musings.  Arrrrr!

On the Horizon – 13 minutes (Sarah Pinborough)

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

13 minutes (Sarah Pinborough)

Title: 13 minutes

Author: Sarah Pinborough

Publisher: Flatiron Books

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

ISBN: 978-1250123855

Source: NetGalley

I was perusing fer treasure as I do and I came across this.  I previously read poison and charm by this author and truly enjoyed her writing style.  So when I saw she had a young adult thriller me curiosity was piqued.  Luckily I managed to snag a copy.

The book begins with a girl in the process of drowning.  This girl, Hannah, is found by a passerby and is subsequently saved but not before being dead for 13 minutes.  She wakes with amnesia and begins to unravel how she ended up in the river and who wants her dead.  She trusts no one and so enlists the help of her former best friend, Becca, to figure out what happened.

This book kinda reminded me of the movie “Mean Girls” with some murder mystery thrown it.  The chapters in the novel changed perspectives though the majority of it is told through Becca’s point of view.  Add in a sprinkling of text messages and other documents that give the reader clues that add excitement but certainly still kept me guessing.

I found meself enthralled with this book.  I read this in one evening and actually stayed up into the wee hours of the morn readin’ in me bunk because I had to know how it ended.  It was a bit of a roller coaster actually.  I found meself changing me mind about the perpetrator, which girl involved I sympathized with the most, which girl I wanted to stab through with me cutlass, etc.

One of me favorite bits was the tie-in to the crucible because I stage managed the show back in the day and therefore am very familiar with it.  The layering of those themes was lovely.  What made this a slightly less fun story was the last chapter which annoyed me and an “aha” moment that involved a grownup reminiscing.  I was however entertained by the teens perspectives on how useless grown-ups were.  I am very glad I never had friends that nasty or teenage apathy and angst that strong.

In any case, this was a super fun read that was outside of me normal young adult fantasy and sci-fi fare.  I certainly will read more of this author’s work.

So lastly . . .

Thank you Flatiron Books!

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

To visit the author’s website go to:

Sarah Pinborough – Author

To buy the novel go to:

13 minutes – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

The Captain’s Log – every heart a doorway (Seanan McGuire)

Ahoy there me mateys!  This young adult novel caught me eye because many many crew members wouldn’t stop talking about how good it was.  I have been meaning to read a Seanan McGuire book because I loved her Newsflesh trilogy that she wrote under the name Mira Grant.

Plus this novella won all these awards:

So I read this novella and found it to be absolutely stunning.  I have to admit that the style took a wee bit to get used to but then I grew to love the worldbuilding, writing style, diverse characters, and just well everything.  I don’t even know how to adequately explain this one and frankly think it is better to go into this story blind as I did.  I don’t have the words.

Check out me other crew members effusive reviews:

Lauren @ wonderless reviews

Lynn @ lynn’sbookblog

Brad @ goodreads

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Seanan McGuire – Author

To buy the book go to:

every heart a doorway – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

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 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

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