The Black Pearl ★★★★★

blackpearlbig (custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Black Pearl
Series: ———-
Author: Scott O’Dell
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: MG Historical Fiction
Pages: 96
Format: Paperback Edition

 

Synopsis:

A young man, Ramon Salazar, recently turned 16 is made a partner in his father’s pearl business. He learns to grade and buy and sell the pearls the small fleet his father owns brings in each trip. However, what he really wants is to go diving with the fleet. His father allows him to come out with the fleet but only as a handler, not a diver.

The best pearl diver in the fleet is jealous of the opportunities that Ramon has and constantly needles him about not being a diver. This “Sevillano” claims to come from Spain and spins stories of all the exploits he has done. Eventually, it gets to Ramon and when the fleet makes a week long trip, he heads out to an Indian diver and begs him to teach him. Ramon learns how to be a diver and is shown a cave where Manta Diablo supposedly lives. The Indian tells him to not dive in the cave, as Manta Diablo will come after anyone who takes something from him.

Ramon can’t resist the lure and gets a huge clam which gives up a huge perfect “black” pearl. The Indian warns him that he is now cursed by Manta Diablo. Ramon heads home and gives the pearl to his father to show that he is a great diver, and to get back at the Sevillano for all his jibes. The father haggles with the local merchants and in a fit of pique at their stinginess, gives the pearl to the local Roman Catholic Church.

The next week the fleet is destroyed by a huge storm and only the Sevillano survives. This convinces Ramon that the pearl is indeed cursed and he steals it back from the church to take back to Manta Diablo’s cave. The Sevillano catches him and forces him to go to Mexico City where they can sell it for a huge fortune.

On their way, they are overtaken by a huge manta ray. After several incidents, the Sevillano harpoons the manta and eventually jumps on it to knife it to death. A rope wraps around him and he and the manta plunge into the depths never to be seen again. Ramon rows back to his village, returns the pearl to the church and realizes that he has grown up.

 

My Thoughts:

I had read and bought this back in elementary school at a book fair I believe. I enjoyed it a lot as a kid so I was kind of hesitant to dive into again and potentially ruin it. Kind of like how I got fed up with Lucky Starr by the end of the series. Some childrens books just aren’t meant for adults. However, since it was only 96 pages I figured I could pitch on in and rip through it at lunch times. Which is what I did.

What a great book!

This is the kind of adventure story that can capture the imagination of a young boy. O’Dell knows how to write for a youthful audience without churning out simplistic slop. Ramon deals with some huge issues and O’Dell gently guides the reader along that journey and makes a youngster think about what might change in their life and how would they respond? I love, Love, LOVE the fact that at no point is Ramon an angst-ridden whiny baby. O’Dell doesn’t buy into the lie that young people have to be coddled and that anything “tough” will destroy them. He shows that THROUGH adversity is how a man is forged. Phrack, it is refreshing to see that in a middle grade book.

Keeping in mind the target audience, I loved this story. O’Dell writes a character that inspires the reader instead of pandering to them. It is no wonder that O’Dell won so many awards and honorable mentions back in his heyday.

First 5star review of the year. While probably not a real contender for best book of the year, I think that a 96 page story about a 16 year old young man that can inspire a 40 year old like this deserves some attention. Ramon’s quiet fortitude and steady action is what is needed in more books today.

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

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Alfred Hitchcock’s Haunted Houseful ★★★☆½

hauntedhouseful (custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Alfred Hitchcock’s Haunted Houseful
Series: ———-
Editor: Alfred Hitchcock
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 262
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A collection of short stories that purport to deal with haunted houses, things that go bump in the night and other such supernatural goings ons.

 

My Thoughts:

This was part of a “Young Readers” series put out with Hitchcock’s name on it. He wrote an introduction to each book but each consisted of short stories by other authors. I think I was introduced to these when I was 10 or 11 and I loved them. This particular one I re-read because I own it and needed a paper book to read while on lunch breaks. Kindles don’t deal well with sitting in a bookbag in sub-freezing weather for 8’ish hours.

Honestly, besides one story with a ghost and one story that involves a supposed haunted house, this book was more a collection of “boys adventure” stories than anything. Also, several of the stories are from other collections or novels. For example, one of the stories was the Sherlock Holmes “Mystery of the Red Headed League” and a long excerpt from “Tom Sawyer” that involved the story with Tom getting lost in the caves and finding treasure. Several of the other stories I am guessing were also parts of series that I simply wasn’t aware of.

That doesn’t mean they were bad stories, it’s just that the cover is extremely mis-leading. I did find the Sherlock Holmes story too long and the same for the Tom Sawyer excerpt. They weren’t nearly as short as the other short stories. I can easily see a 10 year old getting bored by them and putting the book down.

It helped lunch time pass tolerably well for a week or so, so I consider it to have succeeded at what I wanted it to do. I don’t have any desire to go search out any of the other “Alfred Hitchcock’s….” anthologies however.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Seal of the Worm (Shadows of the Apt #10) ★★★★½

sealoftheworm (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Seal of the Worm
Series: Shadows of the Apt #10
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 641
Format: Digital Edition

Synopsis:

Che and her compatriots are stuck in the kingdom of the worm. They find out that the worm kinden found an alternate source of power to magic or aptness in the form of a giant centipede that they worship as a god. This god wipes out all thought of magic and aptness from the minds of those in its vicinity. Che tries to raise the populace to revolt but it ends up turning into a run for survival as the Worm begins to devour all of its underground slaves in preparation for breaking forth upon the surface.

Empress Seda figures out a ritual to re-seal the seal of the worm but she needs so much power to do so. To obtain this power, she will use the death of the thousands of Inapt subjects of the Wasp Empire. She begins a progrom using the Slave Corp and once the camps are established, uses the Red Watch to oversea the setting up of machinery to distribute the bee-killer gas in the camps.

General Tynan, now governor of Collegium is torn between his duty to the Empire and plain old common sense. The Empress has him rounding up Inapt instead of fighting the Empire’s enemies. He is eventually driven out of Collegium by Stenwold Maker and his sea-kinden allies. Tynan retrenches in the Wasp capital and prepares to face multiple armies that are all taking advantage of Seda’s preoccupation with the ritual instead of running her Empire.

The Worm begins breaking out all over the world and destroys half of Capitas (wasp capital). When Seda begins her ritual, a lot of the guards at various camps rebel and do not use the bee-killer on the prisoners. Seda reaches out to Che, as her sister in magic and Che drags Seda to the underworld. They duel and Che wins. Totho, rogue artificer and rejected lover of Che, is also in the underground kingdom. He is captured and taken to be fed to the worm but has a belt of grenades. He is able to use the grenades and destroys the giant centipede. This destroys all the worm segments attacking the surface world and fighting grinds to an immediate stop.

General Tynan, now in charge, makes treaties with the various armies and their cities. Stenwold dies in a worm attack. Tisamon is finally set free from Seda’s magical imprisonment as her bodyguard. Che and Thalric make their way to the surface.

 

My Thoughts:

I did not race through this book. I would read 20-30 pages here and there and it took me almost 2 weeks to finish this off. Yet at the same time it was not because I wasn’t enjoying it. I immensely enjoyed this re-read. It just felt like a big steak that I simply couldn’t gulp down. I had to take the time to cut it up into small pieces and then chew each of those pieces thoroughly.

My only real complaint was how the worm god died. As I was reading it, it struck me how exactly the same it was as the movie Edge of Tomorrow. Both this book and that movie came out in 2014. They were released within months of each other so I find it hard to believe that one influenced the other. At the same time, the whole idea of a belt of grenades killing the big baddie almost at the end of the story seems too similar to ignore.

I had forgotten that Stenwold dies. I was under the impression that he went back under the sea with his lady friend. It was rather fitting though, since the group that started the book are now all dead. Very “circle of life” and all that.

In that vein, I thought Tchaikovsky did a good job of wrapping up all the various characters and their storylines. Very few have a happy ending but those who live have a decent ending and a chance to go on. After 10 books of almost continual warfare, you really can’t ask for much more than that.

The series overall upon this re-read came out even better. Tchaikovsky can write and each book told a good story while advancing the series narrative. The quality of his writing was top notch and shows that he has mastered the art of writing entertainment. I bought this decalogy when it came out and this re-read has shown me that that was money well spent. I started this re-read back in February of 2017 and am finishing it now, so its been 1 ¾ years of making my way through this. I have enjoyed my time and don’t begrudge it in any way.

I realize that Tchaikovsky isn’t going to be for everyone, but he is one of those authors that I think everyone SHOULD try at least once. Highly recommended.

★★★★½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Dust of Dreams (Malazan Book of the Fallen #9) ★☆☆☆½

dustofdreams (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Dust of Dreams
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #9
Author: Steven Erikson
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 950
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The White Faced Bargast, now returned to their ancestral lands, are hemmed in by the lands current sets of clans and misused.The Bargast are now led by Onos Toolan, a resurrected T’lan Imass. He is trying to change their ways but in the face of a hostile land, the Bargast reject Toolan’s leadership, kill him, hobble his wife and drive off his children. Toolan comes back as a T’lan (hence the Dust of Dreams). The Bargast face their enemies but everyone is destroyed when “something” simply freezes them all into little pieces. Toolan hunts down the survivors and kills them all to fulfill his vengeance against the Bargast. In doing so, he ignores a summons by Adjunct Tavore and the Bonehunters.

The Bonehunters are leaving Lether to head through the Wastes into a kingdom where a piece of the Fallen god is. The Adjunct’s plan is to destroy said piece. They are supposed to meet up with the Bargast (that obviously doesn’t happen) and the Grey Helms, a mercenary branch. The Bonehunters are accompanied by Brys Beddict and his elite guards from Letheri.

A Skykeep of K’chain Che’Malle origin, with the help of a lone surviving human, must find a Shield Anvil and a Mortal Sword if this set of K’Chain want to survive. They get Stormy and Gessler. They meet up with the Bonehunters.

Icarium is now a ghost and haunting a group of people who have found an abandoned Sky Keep. They begin to awaken the Keep, which was created just to destroy the short-tailed K’Chain, the Narruk.

The Narruk, who have a dozen skykeeps from another realm, invade the world of Malaz and end up in the Wastes. It is up to the Bonehunters and everyone else in the area to destroy them. But without the help of the T’lan Imass, the outcome is in doubt.

There is a huge devastating battle at the end and whole armies are destroyed. We don’t know who survives.

 

My Thoughts:

Before I started writing this review, I went and read my original one from 2010, just to see if my perspective on this book had changed. A lot of the time the years give me a new viewpoint and something I used to like I no longer do or something I hated I now enjoy. Unfortunately, the review from 2010 is pretty much exactly the same as what I’ll be writing here.

With this book Erikson has cemented in my mind that he is a real bag of crap. Out of 950 pages, the plot is only forwarded by maybe 200 of those pages. The rest is devoted Erikson spewing out depressing cant and nonsense. Complete and utter nonsense. When somebody does do something good and heroic, Erikson makes sure to piss on it by having other characters destroy the moment with their own regrets and melancholy and depression. Any possible good thing Erikson squats over and craps on with a diarrhea quality.

This is a junk book and once again, while the series starts out so awesomely with Gardens of the Moon, it has descended into a morass of soapbox preaching and what’s worse, extremely BORING soapbox preaching. I no longer recommend this series because of the last 3 books.

This is the level of bloviated writing that destroyed the sales of his Karkanas trilogy (which is stuck at book 2 and looks like it will never get finished). Thankfully, Ian Esslemont seems to be doing a good job of actually writing a real trilogy with a real plot and keeping the world of Malaz alive. I do plan on reading the last book in this series but after that, I’ll just stick to Gardens of the Moon if I ever feel the need to dip my toes into the world of Malaz. It just isn’t fun sticking my head under this faucet of filth.

★☆☆☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

 

Harpist in the Wind (Riddlemaster #3) ★★★☆ ½

harpistinthewind (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Harpist in the Wind
Series: Riddlemaster #3
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 260
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The shapeshifters from the Sea continue and escalate their battle against humanity. But their fighting makes no sense, as they simply occupy areas where the old Earthmasters cities used to be.

Morgan keeps on running away and Raederle keeps finding him and getting him back on track. It is revealed that the High One’s harpist, who betrayed Morgan, is actually the High One and that he was using Gwych for his own ends. Morgan and Gwych duke it out and Morgan, as the Starbearer, wins.

The Shapeshifters are revealed as the losers in a war between the Earthmasters. The High One is the last Earthmaster and when he dies, they will break loose and rule all creation. The High One has made Morgan his landheir and hopes his power can lock them away again.

Morgan succeeds with the help of all the kings and the queens of the land and he is now the High One, a fully human High One married to a sorceress of Earthmaster descent.

 

My Thoughts:

Honestly, so much happened so quickly that if you didn’t read every single sentence huge things would change in an eyeblink. Take Deth the Harpist. He’ supposedly dead and then he shows up as a Wizard and it all takes place in a sentence or as an aside.

Morgan was just as stubborn as the first book and I don’t realy like when a character is fighting against what they know is right “just because”. And then when he seals up the Shapeshifters so he doesn’t have to kill them, that was the exact same problem that the original High One had, for at one point they’ll break loose AGAIN and start the cycle all over. You don’t hold a threat in a pen, you destroy it.

Most likely the least enjoyable McKillip I’ve re-read so far. I wasn’t quite so confused as last time but my goodness, I wasn’t enthralled just kind of whirling along hoping to stay conscious until the end. Definitely would NOT recommend this for a first timer of McKillip. If I ever do another re-read of her stuff, I’m going to try to remember to skip this trilogy.

★★★☆ ½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Best Friends for Life ★★★★☆

bestfriendsforlife (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Best Friends for Life
Series: ———-
Author: Michael & Judy Phillips
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Non-fiction
Pages: 240
Format: Paperback

 

Synopsis:

The Phillips tell 4 different true stories (with particulars changed for anonymity’s sake) about young couples they knew and how they proceeded through their dating, into marriage and how those marriages turned out.

The Phillips are convinced that “dating” has such an abysmal track record when it comes to marriages that last after dating that they want to explore other avenues. Their suggestion? Marry your best friend. Basically, make being friends with the opposite gender a higher priority than romance and really know what you want in a spouse instead of letting it all hang on hormones and feelings.

What does God, through the Bible, say about what is important in a marriage? The Phillips use very few specific Bible verses but count on their audience already having a decent grasp of Scripture. They are writing for someone who already wants what is best according to God’s will and is searching that out.

 

My Thoughts:

I read this originally back in 2000. At the time, I had graduated from Bibleschool. Mrs B was still in highschool and we hadn’t a glimmer of the others’ existence. I was mad to marry and was reading all the advice books I could get my hands on. I wasn’t going to be an “old” man like my dad when he got married. For the record, he was married at 28. I ended up being 30. Ironic isn’t it? So I figured if I could get all that advice then Mrs Right would fall into my lap and whammo, we’d have the perfect married life because obviously we’d have BOTH read all kinds of these books and know exactly what to do and what things to NOT do.

The funny thing is, I actually was friends with Mrs B long before we ever were romantically involved. I met her on Xanga, a blogging site (not sure how much traction it still has any more). She’d written a post about going to a medieval wedding and ended her post with “Have a good Sabbath”. I asked her what she meant by “Sabbath” as I was a Saturday Sabbath keeper and it turned out she was a 7th Day Adventist so she kept Saturday as well. We were friends for a couple of years online but figured we’d never meet. She was in California, I was on the East Coast. I didn’t like to travel and she had nothing to draw her to the East. But then a friend of mine, who I’d gone to Bibleschool with, decided he was going to get married. In California. He was in the Navy and would soon be shipping out in a Sub (subbing out?) and I didn’t know when I’d see him next so a group of us all went to California. I informed Miss Librarian and invited her as my plus one. Her brother, Sir Grumpsalot, came with her to chaperone and my friends were at the wedding, so it was safe all around. After the wedding that night, I asked her if I could court her. I called her mother that week and a year later we were engaged and 6 months after that we were married. Now, 10 years later, we’re STILL happily married.

Now, when I read this book back in 2000, I couldn’t have predicted this set of circumstances. In fact, I didn’t WANT those set of circumstances. I wanted somebody else. She has since gotten married to a wonderful christian man, has a family and is a bedrock of Faith for her family. But she wouldn’t have been right for me nor me for her. It took God to bring the correct Mrs Right into my life. That is what this book is about more than anything. It isn’t a hard and fast set of rules that the Phillips promise will bring you the right spouse. But they give solid advice about involving your parents, your friends, and most of all, not letting your hormones and feelings be in control. They are right.

They also give several examples of how people have changed what they’ve suggested to work for their particular set of circumstances. Some of the things they suggest simply weren’t viable for Mrs B and I, such as having family time with each other’s families while we were courting. The Phillips are very open that what they are suggesting isn’t the end and be all but they do strongly advise young people and their parents to put much more effort into the whole process than just “Oh, we’re in love”.

Reading this again, for our 10th Wedding Anniversary, it is uncanny how much God drew us both down this path in our relationship with each other. I for one am thankful for that. Our marriage is strong, we are happy and content with each other and while our lives together haven’t been what we’ve expected (Mrs B was diagnosed with crohn’s disease in ’10), our foundation of friendship has taken us through the times of hospitalization, lack of work, etc.

The book is a bit dated in regards to things they call out in American Culture, ie, what they considered a cliff is only a mere step compared to the moral cliff America has chosen to step off of now. It was eye opening and a good indicator of just how fast our country has gone down the path of immorality.

But ultimately, God Himself is in charge. He has taken responsibility through Jesus Christ and one day He will return and make it right again. I want to be ready for that and I hope you will be too.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Path of Doom (Superman Action Comics #1) ★★★★☆

pathofdoom (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Path of Doom
Series: Superman Action Comics #1
Author: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Patch Zircher, et al
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 144
Format: Paper Edition

 

 

Synopsis:

Some dummkopfs are holding some people hostage and Lex Luther, wearing an armored suit emblazoned with an “S” comes to the rescue. He is then confronted by the real Superman, father of Jon and husband of Lois. The REAL Superman. They begin to duke it out when suddenly Doomsday appears from a container and begins his rampage from almost 30 years ago all over again. Lex and Superman team up and manage to get Doomsday out of Metropolis. Lex is left behind to help the citizenry in need and Wonder Woman shows up to help.

Superman has learned from his last fight to the death with Doomsday, at least so he says. But basically it turns into yet another slugfest. Jon is watching on tv and gives a super shout that alerts Doomsday to another Kryptonian and Doomsday sets off to hunt down Jon. Supes convinces Wonder Woman to take Lois and Jon to Watch Tower, the JLA space fortress while he has a plan to deal with Doomsday.

Before he can enact his plan though, a group of humans with some sort of super tech appear, open a gate and begin using energy weapons to push Doomsday through the gate. They almost succeed but then Doomsday simply rips through them all like tissue paper.

With some timely intervention by Wonder Woman, Supes manages to get Doomsday into the path of a Phantom Zone Projector and the world is safe. Or so everyone thinks.

During all of this, a mysterious narrator has been watching everything on screens and at the end, he intercepts the Phantom Zone Projector and captures Doomsday for himself. Who he is, what he wants and pretty much everything about him is a mystery.

 

My Thoughts:

Well, I’d like to first thank Bookwraiths for reviewing this book this last year. Gave me some hope that maybe DC hadn’t totally destroyed Superman. Superman: Doomed was truly an epic fail in the saga of Superman and left me reeling.

This was a return to the Superman who was and always should have been. This was the Superman who fought Doomsday to a standstill and gave his life for those he loved. This is the Superman who clawed his way back from death and kicked the ass of every single other Pretender. This was a Superman who was facing death again and yet would NOT turn away. I have to admit, I almost cried.

So while I loved this return to form for Superman and I had no problems whatsoever believing he and Lois now have a son, the rest of the DC comic world has moved on and made some huge changes and I just can’t accept those changes and enjoy them. This whole multiverse thing? That was supposed to have been dealt with back in the 80’s with Crisis on Infinite Earths. The fact that DC has hashed things up so badly that they have just as convoluted a multiverse AGAIN doesn’t tell me anything good about the state of the plan for storytelling.

The second thing is that I am used to getting a completed story arc in a graphic novel. If you can’t tell a complete story arc in one book, then you have no business telling that story at all. It’s DC’s new business model of selling a whole years worth of comics and all associated comics to get a complete story. I won’t buy into that practice.

I think this is going to be my last comic for the foreseeable future. It used to be that comics were in our world and if you knew the origin of the Hero you could pretty much slot into whereever you started reading. Not any more. With things like Flashpoint, New52, Rebirth, things are so complicated that you can’t just jump on board.

I enjoyed this particular set of comics a LOT and feel like it is an almost circle in regards to Superman and Doomsday. But with everything else I stated, I can’t and won’t be continuing.

Adios Kal. You’ve always been the example of True Manhood to me throughout the years and I’m glad to see you being returned to that state. The world nowadays needs real heroes and I hope you can survive our worlds current penchant for destroying heroes with a sneer and glib mockery.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)