Review: Vampirates – Demons of the Ocean

Rating: ★★★½☆

Vampirates – is there a combination of archtypes that were ever more perfect to be merged? Actually, I generally think yes. Despite the play on words made possible in their names, vampires and pirates seem to have very little room for creative overlap. Pirates drink rum, vampires drink blood. Pirates suntan, vampires burst into flames. Pirates spread joy and sunshine wherever they go, vampires spread only misery and┬ádespair. See? Incompatible. And yet, author Justin Somper actually does a decent job of bringing these two entities together into a relatively cohesive and entertaining package. Continue reading

Review: Pirate Latitudes

Rating: ★★★☆☆

I’ll be perfectly honest – I was predisposed to not like this book. I actually found the very fact that it was published at all to be disrespectful to Michael Crighton’s legacy. It was published posthumously, you see. And while that may have been perfectly acceptable had Crighton just completed the finishing touches, but hadn’t yet got it to the publisher, my understanding is that this was far from the actual case. In fact, indications were that Crighton had written this book many years ago, and had chosen not to publish it – presumably because he didn’t feel it met his standards for public consumption.

So yeah, I thought it rude of Crighton’s estate to disregard his apparent wishes regarding this book – but hey, what do I know? I could be dead wrong on my interpretation of the situation. And so I attempted to read Pirate Lattitudes with a clear mind, and to evaluate/enjoy it without dwelling on the circumstances of its publication. Continue reading

Review: Lafitte’s Black Box

Rating: ★★★☆☆
When I started reviewing pirate books, I never would have guessed that I’d so often also be reviewing time-travel books. I suppose it makes sense, as piracy – the swashbuckling, romantic sort, anyways – has long gone the way of the dodo, and time-travel would seem an obvious method of connecting the modern protaganist with a true buccaneer adventure. Also, never would I have guessed all the different methods of time travel I’d discover – antique contraptions, offshore wormholes, time-stretching caverns… and now, sleep. With so many methods of time travel available to us, it’s really a wonder that real-world quantum physisists are having so much trouble pinning it down. Maybe they just don’t read enough pirate books. Continue reading

God Doesn’t Want Me to Review this Book: Hook & Jill

This is an actual photograph of this book as it appeared to me while reading it.

I tried. Really, I tried. But I use a reading light, you see. It’s because my wife doesn’t like to sleep with the lights on, and I can’t read in the dark. So the reading light is our solution. But as with all things, batteries don’t last forever, and so mine died before I was even a full page into Hook&Jill by Andrea Jones. No worries, I have spare AAs… somewhere. I dug and dug, and found four. My light needs four because it’s old and inefficient. I changed the batteries and again set myself to reading, but then the bulb went out. Again, I have spares. I changed the bulb in the dark. It’s tricky business getting those two teensy weensy prongs to fit in place without being able to see. But as with all things, I was victorious in the end. I read another paragraph…

and then the bulb again died. I again replaced it. That one burned out too.

Come morning, I learned that two of my AA batteries only *felt* like ordinary AA’s. Had I been able to see them, I would have known they were special voltage AA’s intended for my cordless mouse. I guess that’s why the bulbs kept overloading and burning out. But burn out they did, and so here is my review of Hook&Jill, as best I can do without having been able to see the words: Continue reading

Review: The Pirate Vortex

Rating: ★★½☆☆
There’s always something special about young adult pirate books. They seem less bogged down than adult books at times, and often revel in a fascination with pirate mythology that’s both nostalgic and timeless. The Pirate Vortex by Deborah Cannon, however, is a strangely different beast altogether. Hardly timeless, it’s rather decidedly contemporary as it follows the adventures Elizabeth, Lulu, Wang, and CJ (a rather foul-mouthed parrot) as they search for Liz and Lu’s mother, being a pirate archaeologist who suddenly disappeared.

While the heroes of the story are quite modern, the journey largely is not. Yes, time travel is involved, and never before in a pirate adventure have I seen the modern in such stark contrast with the historical. The narrative of this story, much like its heroes, is a clear product of modern materialism and technology. Scuba gear, iPhones, Swatch Watches, text messaging… Continue reading

Review: The Riddle in a Bottle

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Pirates… we need more of them. And where do we get more pirates? From little pirates, of course. This is why it’s so important that that wee ones are inundated with pirates during their upbringing. Sure, they should be made to read Treasure Island, and forced to watch the Pirates of the Caribbean flicks again and again and again – but it’s also vital that the necessary pirate exposure occurs in unexpected and surprising ways. Such as in a children’s video about the importance of moving water in our world – yeah, stuff like that. Continue reading

Review: A Pirate Captain’s Guide to Leadership

Rating: ★★★★☆

Using piracy as a vehicle to teach a non-piratey subject can be a tricky thing. The difficulty involves the careful balance that must be maintained – too much pirateyness and you lose sight of the substantive content, thereby reducing your work into a mere novelty. But too little pirateyness and… well, maybe that’s not always such a bad thing.

In “A Pirate Captain’s Guide to Leadership”, author Doug Heatherly demonstrates that when it comes to pirates, sometimes less is more. Certainly the book begins with many references to the tactics utilized by pirates and their commanders, and draws numerous analogies to the modern work environment. Continue reading

Review: Henry & the Crazed Chicken Pirates

Rating: ★★★½☆
henrycrazedchickenDo I really need to review this? I mean, c’mon – it’s a children’s book, and it’s titled “Henry and the Crazed Chicken Pirates”. Seriously, that’s all the info you need to determine whether this book is for you. Oh, and perhaps I should point out that the Crazed Chicken Pirates also seem to be Airship Pirates – so bonus for all you steam-heads out there.

The story begins by explaining the daily life of the Buccaneer Bunnies – proper scalliwaggs that spend their time the way I’d spend *my* time given the opportunity – not raiding and pillaging, but rather lounging about on a tropical island and shooting each other out of cannons. The fun comes to an end, however, when Henry – the youngest of these pirate rodents – discovers a note in a bottle that threatens impending danger. Most of the pirate scoff, but Henry takes the warning seriously and begins preparations. I won’t tell you how it ends, but here’s a hint: It involves Crazed Chicken Pirates (in an airship). Continue reading

Review: Baltazar and the Flying Pirates

Rating: ★★★☆☆

baltazarflyingpiratesLet’s see… a jolly band of misfit pirates take their flying ship to an amusement park in search of treasure – while there they’re bombarded with parents wanting to take pictures, kids thinking it’s ok to climb on the pirates, and security guards who just don’t understand that it’s all in good fun…

Sounds like a typical weekend to me. Well, except for the flying ship. Someday, maybe.

Baltazar and the Flying Pirates is more or less the tale I just described, brought to life in colorful, friendly artwork. The pirates are a misfit crew indeed, with some members you may recognize (Anne Bonney, Long John Silver) and still more that are new to this story (Flynn, Captain Redlocks, Big Queeq, etc.) Each is a character is unique and memorable as their names, to say nothing of the story’s “every boy” protagonist, with the truly unusual name of Baltazar. Continue reading

Review: Flint and Silver

Rating: ★★★★★
flintandsilverThat one Treasure Island sequel should follow so quickly on the heels of another would seem strangely coincidental. Indeed, it seems almost yesterday that I was reviewing “Silver” by Edward Chupack, and yet here I am now reviewing “Flint and Silver” by John Drake. But in truth, the similarities between these two works are few and far between. Where Silver was a re-envisioning of the characters of Treasure Island, full of sinister murder, mind-bending cyphers, and dry villainy that intentionally lacked a devout “faithfulness” to its inspiration, Flint and Silver instead attempts to perfectly mesh with the expectations set by the original work and takes a more swashbuckling, lighthearted approach to material. It follows in the “boys adventure” spirit of Treasure Island, albeit from a slightly more grown-up perspective. Continue reading