19 July 2015

Pirate Hunters, by Robert Kurson

Before I started this blog many moons ago, I fell in love with Shadow Divers, the bestselling book by Robert Kurson. Never once would I have thought that a non-fiction tale of deep sea divers would hold me spellbound, but before I knew it, the story of these divers who discovered a German U-boat submarine sunk off the coast of New Jersey had me along for the ride and imagining the adventure. I've never scuba dived once in my life as I've always been fearful of dark water and sharks, but something about this book knocked me off course completely and reminded me that I come from a family who thrives and lives off the water in a variety of ways. Not only was my husband in the Coast Guard and is a certified diver, but my father was also in the Coast Guard and my sister graduated from the Naval Academy. Even my husband's family runs a boat chartering business in Boston. My husband and I live in Florida, and the world of diving is right around my corner. I've still not tried it, though. I've been on a boat several times, but never once wanted to dive deep under the surface; fear has kept me away, but with a family so used to the water, perhaps I need to rethink this. No excuses.

On one of the hottest days of the year in Neptune Beach, Florida, I passed by one of my favorite indie bookstores, The Bookmark. I already have more than enough books to be read, but what book lover can resist "just one more?" Not this one. In I went and the display for Pirate Hunters drew me in with the title alone. When I realized who the author was, there certainly wasn't any question on what I was going to do: I had to buy it and begin it immediately. After all, the author himself was going to be at that same store in just a week.

Pirate Hunters tells the story of two men who, on the eve of their start to find a sunken Spanish galleon off the coast of the Dominican Republic, divert their mission to help another treasure hunter locate the pirate ship known as the Golden Fleece, which was operated by a captain whose story alone was enough to convince them to look. The fact that only one other pirate ship from the Golden Age of Piracy (1650s to 1720s) has ever been officially identified and confirmed just made it even more desirable, and the quest these two men take on is, I assure you, every bit as captivating and thrilling as Shadow Divers. The adventures of John Chatterton (one of the main divers and featured in Shadow Divers) and John Mattera, a once mob man turned police officer turned exclusive celebrity bodyguard, absolutely delivered and it brought to mind the reality that fiction can never be as thrilling as real life. Robert Kurson's skillful and perfectly paced retelling of each moment in the adventure to secure a treasure more important than gold or silver was as clear and distinct as any major motion picture. Better, even.

Both Chatterton and Mattera each have their own stories to contribute, becoming characters of hotheadedness and commitment (Chatterton) and dogged determination and research (Mattera) to continue pursuing the location of the Golden Fleece, even in the face of skeptical partners and lazy treasure hunters/claim robbers. Leading the way and working hard by researching in archives and libraries around the world was the only way they could uncover the secrets behind a pirate captain and his crew relentlessly battling the Royal Navy, and the reason why this one man, Captain Joseph Bannister, a seemingly honest man, would leave a life of security as a legitimate merchant ship captain, and decide to become an elusive pirate. It was incredible. I could just picture what life in the Golden Age of Piracy was like in the Caribbean. Standing strong and determined, one man making the decision from the bow of his ship, to steal it and to then pursue a life that could only get him hanged, if ever he was caught. (Pulled into this adventure tale, I wasted no time to head to the Jacksonville Public Library to pick up a copy of The Buccaneers of America, by Alexandre Exquemelin, a Frenchman who rode with the pirates for a period of time, even sailing with the infamous Henry Morgan. This book was mentioned often in Pirate Hunters, and I had to have my reading material lined up after finishing Pirate Hunters.)

Whether it's Captain Bannister's story, or the fierce and determined diving and researching from Chatterton and Mattera, there is no doubt that the book will keep you intensely dedicated to finding out what happens next. Through the investigation of sailor's logs and accounts of battles, Kurson parses through it all to leave you with the amazing and sheer bravado of a man fighting the Royal Navy to keep his stolen ship and save his head. Captain Joseph Bannister was a renegade, a man who threw a lifetime of rules and obedience to the wind and rushed onward into a world of piracy. Whatever made him choose this new life might be forever covered by the clear waters off of the Dominican Republic, but the ship itself is there, and these are really the only two guys who deserve to find it. And only a writer like Robert Kurson can tell it.

I loved this book. Can you tell? And now I need to put scuba diving back on the list of things I can't be afraid to do anymore.

Side note: Robert Kurson is an engaging and vivid speaker and is quite the storyteller. My husband and I went to dinner afterwards and couldn't stop talking about him. And also making plans to go on our own adventure.

The author, Robert Kurson, speaking at The Bookmark
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Release Date: 06/16/15
Pages: 262

About the Author (from his website)
Robert Kurson is an American author, best known for his 2004 bestselling book, Shadow Divers, the true story of two Americans who discover a World War II German U-boat sunk 60 miles off the coast of New Jersey. Kurson began his career as an attorney, graduating from Harvard Law School, and practicing real estate law. Kurson’s professional writing career began at the Chicago Sun-Times, where he started as a sports agate clerk and soon gained a full-time features writing job. In 2000, Esquire published “My Favorite Teacher,” his first magazine story, which became a finalist for a National Magazine Award. He moved from the Sun-Times to Chicago magazine, then to Esquire, where he won a National Magazine Award and was a contributing editor for years. His stories have appeared in Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine, and other publications. He lives in Chicago.

Visit the author:

09 July 2015

Misery, by Stephen King (Audio Review)

Cockadoodie, dirty bird!

As per usual, my dirty bird self is so bad at challenges over the past couple of years, so while this readalong was for June only, I finished Stephen King's Misery almost two weeks later. But, no matter, I had a blast listening to Lindsay Crouse rock Paul Sheldon's voice, but most especially, Annie's smooth, yet gruff voice. Crouse's narration was *breath* SO VIVID *breath* 

Paul Sheldon, famous novelist of the Misery Chastain historical romance series is on his way to deliver his final novel in the series to his publisher. With his only copy by his side, he gets into a car accident on the snow-covered roads of Colorado, and wakes up to a brute of a woman who seems to be taking care of him, but he can't quite understand why he's not in a hospital. From there, it is a psychotic display of Annie's roller-coaster of emotions and goals, and Paul is the object of her madness. Whether she has filled him with drugs, or forced him to drink dirty water, the most important objective she has is to make sure he rewrites that Misery Chastain novel - and torture is a method she most certainly will employ to protect her favorite character.

Stephen King at one of his finest and best. No doubt about it. Annie Wilkes is truly disturbed and twisted, and as Paul Sheldon's number one fan, she is devoted beyond measure, but not without conditions to suit her. And while Paul may have his own writing demons to contend with, nothing can equal the wrath of Annie when she's angry, and it is frightening. More frightening than the opening pages of The Stand at times, and more horrifying and gore-filled than scenes from Pet Sematary, Stephen King delivers once again. In every sense of the word it is scarier than anything else he's ever written because this story doesn't deal with ghosts or the dead coming back to life - this is scarier because it's one person, a real person, gone completely mad.

One of my favorite Stephen King stories by far. And the narrator? Perfection. She made this story come to life. *breath* SO VIVID *breath*

FTC Disclosure: I purchased this audiobook through my Audible.com membership. Click here to listen to the sample.

Publisher: Penguin Audio
Release Date: 01/29/09
Audio Time: 12 hours, 11 minutes
Narrator: Lindsay Crouse

And thanks to Care's Online Book Club for hosting! Click here to see the review roundup from other participants! 

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty novels, including The StandThe Dark TowerItThe Shining, oh...what more can be written that one doesn't already know? So here you go, click here to visit this cool author's official website. Crouse

17 June 2015

The Troop, by Nick Cutter (Audio Review)

I just finished Nick Cutter's The Troop and... and... I...

Without a doubt, this is probably the most stomach-churning, disturbing, and yet totally fascinating story I've read in a while. Even more so because each tough scene was spoken by the very creepy and capable Corey Brill, who was a new-to-me narrator.

Scoutmaster Tim takes five boys every year to a Canadian island to practice survival and wilderness skills, and each time Max, Newt, Shelley, Ephraim and Kent continue their friendship and build memories to last a lifetime. They didn't realize that on this very boat ride to the island, it would be the last one they would all take. Someone, or maybe something, else will be on the island that will change all of their lives.

Told in alternating time periods when the boys first arrived on the island with interviews and articles taken and written after the events on Falstaff Island, The Troop is a horror-filled tale of total and systemic destruction of life, sanity and friendships. When a skinny yet terrifyingly hungry man arrives on the secluded island, Scoutmaster Tim does his best to help the stranger, using his medical skills to treat his unusual patient. He doesn't realize that he's unleashed a disease, a contagious sickness so debilitating that it quickly reduces a person to one very simple, primal urge. Unbeknownst to them, this quiet and thin newcomer carried a man-made weapon that could destroy them all.

This is Lord of the Flies on crack, the even more disturbing and disgusting version. Even Stephen King blurbed, "The Troop scared the hell out of me, and I couldn't put it down. This is old-school horror at its best. Not for the faint-hearted, but for the rest of us sick puppies, it's a perfect gift for a winter night." And he's right. This was horror, through and through, and like the cliched "can't look away from the accident" feeling, I could not stop hitting the play button on my iPhone every chance I got, even though the majority of the story made me cringe and cock my head to try to half-hear some of the truly tough scenes of simplistic annihilation of this sickness. In a lot of ways, this also reminded me of The Ruins, by Scott Smith, particularly one scene that I still remember and which also immediately jumped into my mind when Ephraim was left alone with Shelley, the psychopathic of the group. My heart hurt for them all. (Well, all of them except Shelley.)

This was my first time listening to Corey Brill and it won't be my last. While it took me about twenty minutes or so to get used to the staccato like rhythm of his cadenced narration in some parts, I got used to it and thoroughly enjoyed the story told in his voice. I'll likely pick up The Deep in audio soon to carry on with the horror.

FTC Disclosure: I purchased this audiobook through my Audible.com membership. Click here to listen to the sample.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Release Date: 02/25/14
Audio Time: 11 hours, 2 minutes
Narrator: Corey Brill

About the Author
Nick Cutter is the pseudonym of an acclaimed Canadian novelist who has been compared to Stephen King and Chuck Palahniuk.

Visit the author:
About the Narrator
Corey Brill is a theatre, television and film actor living in Los Angeles. He's got so much to his background that I'd suggest you visit him:

27 May 2015

Recap of Day One at BEA

(Please forgive any font changes, formatting, and alignment inconsistencies and/or errors as I am posting from my phone.)

My dogs are barkin'.

As per usual, BEA and NYC are conspiring to beat up my feet. It probably doesn't help that every time I think I brought comfortable shoes with me, it ends up being a poor choice. Might be because I've never tested them in an extreme volume of continuous steps over an eight hour time period. I can't imagine the total number of steps I took today. Which, when I think about it, now makes me feel less guilty for making that "quick stop" at some place called The Donut Pub tonight. #noregrets
(Me on the left, Entomology of a Bookworm on the right)

Anywho, the highlight of the day (which started at 3:30 am to catch a flight), was finally meeting bloggers I've followed for years, Entomology of a Bookworm and S. Krishna's Books. Finally! And they are just as wonderful in person as they are in social media land. Meeting new-to-me blogger Books, the Universe, and Everything was also an absolute treat!

(Entomology of a Bookworm on the left, Books, the Universe, and Everything on the right)

I attended a few sessions at the Book Blogger Conference which were extremely informative, and while I might not have been the desired audience for the topics discussed, a new blogger starting to navigate the sometimes scary blogosphere world and safely dealing with social media more than likely walked away with pages of notes.
Moderator: Brittany Kaback
Panelists: Sarah Moon (ClearEyesFullShelves.com), Kat O'Keefe (Katytastic.com), Sarah Pitre (ForeverYoungAdult.com)

Moderator: Nina Amir
Panelists: Maura Sweeney (Podcaster, New Vision Entertainment), Kate Rados (Crown Publishing at Penguin Random House), Kate Tilton (Kate Tilton's Author Services)

Note to self for next year: Bring a blanket/snuggie/parka to deal with the freezing cold temperature in the Javits Center and bring an oil can to quiet the squeaky door hinges. I felt bad for the panelists who had to deal with the loud grinding of metal on metal every time someone came in or out of the rooms.

After the sessions and a walk-through of the main floor (Rachel from Europa Editions was a blast), I had to call it a day. Took a cab to the hotel and checked in and let me tell you, the Chelsea Pines Inn is adorable. The entire hotel is an homage to Old Hollywood and all the posters and ads are vintage and authentic. Check out one of the movie posters in my room:

The staff was extremely helpful and I took them up on their dinner recommendation for Cuban food at Copellia's, followed by an hour walk around Chelsea Market. 

All right. That's all I can give after four hours of sleep last night. See you tomorrow.

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