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

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

The Captain’s Log – the outsiders (S.E. Hinton)

Ahoy there me mateys!  Me nephew recommended this one to me.  It happens to be one of his summer vacation reads.  He said it was both very good and short. This amounts to a very high recommendation from him.  So I thought I would give it a shot even though I didn’t know what it was about.  I thought it was a sci-fi judging just by the title.  Nope.  It’s a young adult coming of age story.

I have to say that overall I thought this was highly compelling.  It involves Ponyboy (yes, really) who belongs to a gang of “greasers.”  He is being raised by his older brothers.  His gang fights with the Socs (pronounced SOSH-es) who are the rich boys from the other side of town.  The thing is, Ponyboy is only fourteen, rather intelligent, and sensitive.  As the fighting ratchets up, there are some serious consequences that cause Ponyboy to mature and change his view on life.

This book gave me the feel of catcher in the rye or a separate peace even though the circumstances and writing of the three are very different.  Perhaps it is because they were written around the same decade.  Of those three, I do prefer a separate piece.  That said, the outsiders has some truly memorable characters and some very heartwarming relationships.  It grabbed me attention and didn’t let go until the final page.

I found Ponyboy to be a loving, thoughtful, and rather insightful person.  Even though he hangs out with “hoods,” he isn’t quite one of them.  He watches sunsets, reads books, and doesn’t mind being a loner most of the time.  I particularly loved his relationship with Johnny.  It was sweet and sorrowful.  Actually Johnny was a mascot for the whole gang in a good way.  Though Johnny’s life was particularly hard, his friends cherished him despite their hard exteriors.  This allowed for the reader to see the gang’s softer side.

While the plot is engaging, it is Ponyboy’s commentary and viewpoints that are the foundation of the enjoyment of the book.  I can see why it is considered a classic and I be grateful to me nephew for recommending this one.  So I pass along the recommendation to me crew . . .

Side note:  I did not know that this novel was written by a sixteen year old girl back in 1967.  She received the contract for the book on graduation day.  Cool, huh?  Also I have never seen the movie though it has quite the cast.

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

According to Ponyboy, there are two kinds of people in the world: greasers and socs. A soc (short for “social”) has money, can get away with just about anything, and has an attitude longer than a limousine. A greaser, on the other hand, always lives on the outside and needs to watch his back. Ponyboy is a greaser, and he’s always been proud of it, even willing to rumble against a gang of socs for the sake of his fellow greasers–until one terrible night when his friend Johnny kills a soc. The murder gets under Ponyboy’s skin, causing his bifurcated world to crumble and teaching him that pain feels the same whether a soc or a greaser.

To visit the author’s website go to:

S.E. Hinton – Author

To buy the book go to:

the outsiders – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Second Reflections – a little princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett)

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 new(ish) year and thus created me new 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 . . .

a little princess – Frances Hodgson Burnett

This was an old favorite from back when I was a wee youngster.  I am not completely sure which edition I first read but I do remember that it had the illustrations by Tasha Tudor from the 1960s (as did the secret garden).  The copy I eventually purchased had her illustrations as well:

 

I made the mistake of lending me copy many many long years back to a young lass so she could experience the magic.  And then never got it back!  I could only hope she couldn’t part with it because she loved it so.  Then earlier this year at a Friends of the Library sale, I found an excellent pristine copy and swooped it up with glee.

Then came the day to revisit this old companion.  Ye see I had not read this book since me copy was commandeered and I was looking forward to seeing if I loved it as much as me memory suggested.  The answer is an astoundingly yes!  Arrr!!

I still adore this book.  The reading had the wonderful nostalgia of rediscovering details of the story as well as the perspective of seeing Sara’s journey through me eyes of an older jaded salty dog.  I found Sara to be just as I remembered – compassionate, intelligent, and imaginative.  I still loved the secondary characters of Becky and Ermengarde.  I adored the lady who sold hot buns.  The riches to rags story still appeals heartily.  I loved Sara’s treatment of everyone in spite of her circumstances.  She is polite, hardworking, and caring.

The part I found odd was the portrayal of the role of the adults in Sara’s life.  So many people see Sara as a starving ragamuffin and yet don’t help her.  Underclass poor children are depicted as savages as though it’s their own faults that they have no money or education.  So many people outside of Ms. Minchin’s school see and comment on poor Sara’s state and yet she is not helped throughout most of the book except by a small compassionate child.  Now granted there would be no story if the adults helped her.  But it is odd that these children were left to rot.  Of course the author had her own riches to rags story growing up so I can only assume that it influences this work.

But despite the larger thoughts of child poverty, I still felt the magic of Sara’s story and gobbled up this book.  I only hope that I don’t wait so long for a re-read the next time.

Side note: I have fond memories of the 1996 movie though I haven’t seen it in forever.  And the Broadway musical sucks.

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

Sara Crewe’s young but doting father sends her to a London boarding school when she is seven. On her eleventh birthday her life of luxury comes to an abrupt end when she receives news that her father has died, shortly after losing his entire fortune. The school-mistress turns Sara into a servant to pay off her debts, and though Sara uses the entire force of her imagination and her good heart to remember who she is and keep starvation from the door, her life is desperate. Until the past returns in a very unexpected manner…

To visit the author’s Goodreads page go to:

Frances Hodgson Burnett – Author

To buy the novel visit:

a little princess – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

On the Horizon – no good deed (Kara Connolly)

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 . . .

no good deed (Kara Connolly)

Title: no good deed

Author: Kara Connolly

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Delacorte Press

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

ISBN: 9780385743938

Source: NetGalley

 

So mateys, why should ye check out this book?  Because it is a fun romp of a tale about time travel and a female Robin Hood!  Sign me up.  As usual the cover first drew me interest:

Kick-ass girl with bow?  Sign me up.  I also like the target vibe going on.  And I am so glad I read it.  It is light and silly and fun watching Ellie set the Robin Hood myth into action.  I thought she was a great character – spunky and intelligent.

The secondary characters of Sir Henry and Sir James were fun to read about also.  I enjoyed their animosity towards each other.  Another great character was the young boy, Much, who helpfully is related to practically everyone in Nottingham and surrounding environs.  He is also sweet and endearing.  Eleanor of Aquitane also makes an appearance too.

I had a few problems with the book that stemmed from the anachronistic elements of the story that the other characters seemed to just accept.  Ellie being a girl for one.  I suspended disbelief for this one.  Other things like sneakers and passports I had slightly more problems with.  But overall, once I stopped being so critical, I found even this silliness to be enjoyable.

Oh and also I learned an awesome fact from reading this book – where the word sheriff comes from – “shire-reeve”  Further research led me to this fact:  “The Anglo-Saxon word for chief was gerefa, later shortened to reeve. During the next two centuries, groups of hundreds banded together to form a new, higher unit of government called the shire. The shire was the forerunner of the modern county. Each shire had a chief (reeve) as well, and the more powerful official became known as a shire-reeve. The word shire-reeve became the modern English word sheriff – the chief of the county. The sheriff maintained law and order within his own county with the assistance of the citizens.” source

I have to admit that I kept picturing the sheriff in this novel to be Alan Rickman’s version in Robin Hood: Price of Thieves.  Because Alan Rickman makes everything better.  Anyways if ye want a quick paced retelling then give this one a try . . .

Side note:  The author has a fun post showing showing photos and telling stories from her trip to THE Nottingham.  Ye should check it out by clicking here.

So lastly . . .

Thank you Random House / Delacorte Books!

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

Fans of Dorothy Must Die will love this reimagining of the legend of Robin Hood. Girl power rules supreme when a modern girl finds herself in the middle of a medieval mess with only her smart mouth and her Olympic-archer aim to get her home.

Ellie Hudson is the front-runner on the road to gold for the U.S. Olympic archery team. All she has to do is qualify at the trials in jolly old England. When Ellie makes some kind of crazy wrong turn in the caverns under Nottingham Castle—yes, that Nottingham—she ends up in medieval England.

Ellie doesn’t care how she got to the Middle Ages; she just wants to go home before she gets the plague. But people are suffering in Nottingham, and Ellie has the skills to make it better. What’s an ace archer to do while she’s stuck in Sherwood Forest but make like Robin Hood?

Pulled into a past life as an outlaw, Ellie feels her present fading away next to daring do-gooding and a devilishly handsome knight. Only, Ellie is on the brink of rewriting history, and when she picks up her bow and arrow, her next shot could save her past—or doom civilization’s future.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Kara Connolly – Author

To buy the novel please visit:

no good deed – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

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

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

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

To visit the author’s website go to:

Jane Yates – Author

To buy the book go to:

octopus pirate – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To visit the author’s website go to:

Garth Nix – Author

To buy the book go to:

frogkisser! – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List