Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Peter Simple

by Frederick Marryat

Young Peter Simple has been told he lives up to his surname, and when he joins Nelson’s Navy (it being the custom to sacrifice the greatest fool of the family to the prosperity and naval superiority of the country”), he certainly fits the role; He’s a na├»ve boy of fourteen when he boards the H.M.S. Diomede, still prone to tears, sure to believe any lie he is told, and ripe for tormenting. But he learns—albeit slowly—and is quickly off having adventures, both daring and embarrassing, with his friend and fellow officer O’Brien. At first I found Peter to be almost pathetic, but he grows on you, as do the rest of the characters. Peter’s ship and acquaintances are filled with some rather eccentric characters, such as the captain who swears every lie he tells (which is many) is the truth, the carpenter who believes the history of the world repeats itself every 27,672 years, and more.

Overall, this book was good; some parts were funny, others sad, the long seafaring stories told by the crew were broken up into two or more chapters so you didn’t get bored, and the ending was satisfactory. I look forward to reading more by the same author. Also, the version I read had helpful footnotes and explanations of sailing terms, Marryat’s typos, and archaic words and phrases, making the reading experience even better.
One of the coolest things about this book is that the author was actually once Captain Frederick Marryat and served in the Royal Navy during the nineteenth-century, giving the events that take place in the book a deeper credibility.

But so you know, there were a few racial stereotypes throughout the book—especially when Peter’s ship was moored in Barbados—which bothered me slightly, but I reminded myself that it was first published in 1833 and that’s probably what most of
the gentry’s opinions would have been.

Note: I didn’t give this book any age range because I’m not sure who would enjoy it; definitely older teens are more likely to be interested, but it depends on the interest in the subject for any age.

The second book I’ve read (up to the rank of Lieutenant now!) and reviewed for the Seafaring Challenge hosted by I Heart Paperbacks. Read others’ reviews at the Seafaring Tales Blog.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Falconer’s Knot

A Story of Friars, Flirtation and Foul Play
by Mary Hoffman

Umbria, Italy, in the year one thousand, three hundred, sixteen.

Silvano is young, handsome, rich, and in love—unfortunately Angelica, the woman he loves, is already married.

Chiara is young, pretty, and lively, but of no use to her brother because he cannot pay a large enough dowry.

When Silvano is wrongly accused of murdering Angelica’s husband, he seeks refuge at Giardinetto, a friary neighbored by a nunnery.

Chiara, too, travels to Giardinetto because a convent is a convenient place for a woman of no great fortune to spend her life.

Neither one is happy about being confined.
Their stories are separate until Silvano reaches the abbey and each, espying the other, is aware of the new novice who doesn’t quite fit the picture of a religious person. The two meet when helping their superiors deliver colors to the famous painter, Simone Martini, and through chance meetings, their friendship grows. Chiara, now called Sister Orsola, thinks her life in the nunnery will be boring, and Silvano believes he will stay a short while until he is proved innocent, but everything changes when a guest of the friary is stabbed in his sleep. Could Silvano be the murderer after all? Or might it be Silvano’s mentor, Brother Anselmo, who acted strangely just before the crime was committed? When more bloodshed occurs even before the first crime is solved, Giardinetto is no longer a place of tranquility and fellowship. It is up to Silvano and Chiara to solve the mystery before more deaths take place. Will they succeed?

The Falconer’s Knot is another riveting tale of Italy by Mary Hoffman—author of the highly praised Stravaganza series—that fills readers with both suspense and anticipation of a happy outcome.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Voyage of Midnight

Being the true story of my, Phillip Arthur Higgins’, misfortunate childhood, and of my subsequent voyage from Africa with a cargo of slaves, of the frightful sufferings endured during that middle passage, and of what happened afterward
As told by Michelle Torrey


In 1818, 12-year-old orphan Phillip Higgins boards the ship Hope and sets off for his new life with his uncle in America. Only, his uncle isn’t there. Phillip is taken in by the kindly Mr. and Mrs. Gallagher, who treat him like the son they never had. For two years Phillip stays there, until one day, while walking along the wharf, Phillip sees his uncle, now captain of the Formidable. Using his knowledge of medicines gathered from working in the Gallagher’s apothecary shop, he signs on with his uncle as surgeon’s mate. Phillip is delighted to be reunited with his only living relation, but once aboard things begin to look a bit strange. It is not until they are well underway that the true nature of their voyage is revealed; the ship is headed for Africa, where “black gold” can be found. Convinced that they are doing the Africans a kindness by bringing them to God and civilization, Phillip goes along with his uncle’s moneymaking plans. He even receives his own personal slave, Pea Soup, from a rich slave trader. Soon though, the horrors of the slave trade come out, and Phillip must decide whose side he is on.
I expected Voyage of Midnight to be an easy-to-read classic-style adventure story, and that’s pretty much what I got. It’s a good introduction to the internal good versus bad battle, mixed with adventure which younger readers would probably enjoy more than I did. Phillip Higgins’ story is based on a true one, but it is not told in a particularly memorable way for elder readers.

My first book read and reviewed for the Seafaring Challenge (hosted by I Heart Paperbacks), making me a Midshipman. Read others
reviews at the Seafaring Tales Blog.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Maximum Ride

by James Patterson

No matter how much you read there’s always those books that you’ve heard about from lots of people and that have received rave reviews, but you’ve never read them. The Maximum Ride series was one of those for me. I picked Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment off the shelf on a whim a few weeks ago because the series is supposed to be so good. Well people are right; the story of Max and her Flock is gripping, fast paced, and fun. Even the first paragraph compels you to continue reading:

“Congratulations. The fact that you’re reading this means you’ve taken one giant step closer to surviving till your next birthday. Yes, you, standing there leafing through these pages. Do not put this book down. I’m dead serious—your life could depend on it.”
Fourteen-year-old Max and her friends—Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gazzy, and Angel—are avian-human hybrids; scientists genetically engineered them to have light bird-like bones, super strength, and wings. Before the book begins, the Flock escaped from the horrible place called “the School,” where they lived in dog crates and were forced to undergo experiments, but now their creators want them back and are hunting them down. Literally, as the scientists command Erasers, a sort of scientifically created werewolf. The sides are constantly changing, and “the bird kids” never know whom they can trust, Max suddenly has a mysterious Voice in her head telling her what to do (how’s saving the world for one?), all of them are looking for their long-lost parents. How do six kids survive against so many odds? Only by using their super powers and sticking together.

After quickly finishing the first novel, I grabbed the next two in the series, Maximum Ride: School’s Out—Forever and Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports. Both are just as high-speed and intense, although I will admit that by the third book all the heart stopping “revelations” (mainly lies made up to scare or test the Flock) became just slightly old. Still, this series is very lively and will entice even a highly reluctant reader in to wanting more. Don’t miss the Flock’s last escapades in The Final Warning: A Maximum Ride Novel, or their adventure when it hits the big screen. Check out Fang’s blog or go to MaximumRide.com for updates.