Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Pirate Queen

The Pirate Queen
Written by: Alan Gold
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: NAL Trade
Language: English
January 2006, $9.99
Genre: Fiction

“Grace O’Malley commanded more than a dozen ships and the obedience of thousands of men. Feared and loved on land as well as on sea, she ruled an empire that stretched from Connaught on the Irish coast to the cobalt waters off Africa. Through the daring of her piracy, Grace nearly bankrupted the English treasurey, and her outright defiance brought embarrassment to Elizabeth I. yet the lives of these two amazing women were inextricably intertwined, and their eventual meeting, during the most brilliant and romantic era that Europe as ever known, would shock the world…”


I don’t know if you are like me, but sometimes I pick up a book simply by the cover and the title. Also I think when this book entered into the realms of my many to be read piles I was still on a bit of a pirate kick. Let’s face it pirates are cool. Kind of like ninjas and zombies. I had heard of Grace O’Malley and admittedly the fetching maid on the cover had me and my costume ideas in overload for the Renne faire. And yet it sat on my shelf for a while. Probably a reason for it now that I think about it.

There are a few well known pirating ladies: Anne Bonny, Mary Read, and Lai Choi San. Gráinne Ní Mháille aka Grace O’Malley has her own history and I was curious to see how the author was going to view her life. We begin the tale when Grace is just a wee thing up through her life and meetings with Queen Elizabeth. Was it great? Well I will say that it made me want to read more about the woman. In fact I even went to the local library to see if I could find anything else not necessarily just on her but piracy and women in piracy in general.

Things I loved: I was looking for a light read and I will say that it was a breeze. I will say the prose isn’t that exciting. It isn’t horrible as I have read far worse, but it was nothing special. It was just kind of meh to be honest. I did however like the ideas behind what Gold was trying to do. I just wish he had done it just a shade better. Admittedly Gold makes Gráinne’s life far more exciting than what the history books say as he speculates about her life.

*I did like how she was handfasted to her second husband for a year and then took over his castle and divorced him while they remained a couple (which seems to be partially historically accurate). Made me giggle. Would make a great scene in a movie.

Things I didn't love so much: I am not a Tudor expert at all, but I do love Elizabeth and I thought her portrayal was very one dimensional. I didn’t like her. Not that Elizabeth was perfect, but I have read far better portrayals. Gold seems to be trying to show how similar Elizabeth and Grace were; that they were both strong, independent women who did not need men to save and take care of them. But it falls flat. And to be honest most of the characters were that way in this book including Grace herself. There is no real character development and often the secondary characters are very cliché in their portrayals. For example, Grace’s first husband Donal is an ass. Ever the macho, heavy drinking stereotypical jerk he beats and rapes his new bride. However, (methinks in an attempt to make Grace’s life tragic or something…I don’t know really) suddenly he becomes a loving and doting husband like something out of a bad romance novel. Why? Who knows, but it happens and it is forced and odd and completely out of his cardboard character. Then a chapter later he’s back to being an evil jerk and we don’t mourn his eventual death. Why did he revert? Once again no one knows…except for maybe the Shadow.

* Apparently Grace is also a nymphomaniac. Now I am all about sexually liberated women, but when the author tries to hard to make it so, it just ends up being…well boring and makes me like her less.

* The dialogue is bad. I am guessing the musical version of Grace’s life has to be more interesting. Once again it was dull, and extremely cliché.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow. I applaud Gold for trying to bring Grace’s story to life. I just wish he had done it much better. We’ll see how the film version (which is supposedly being filmed) tells her story.

Part of: Stand Alone

Also Recommended: The Pirate Queen by Morgan Llywelyn or Granuaile: Ireland’s Pirate Queen by Anne Chambers.

2.25 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

5 People Who Died During Sex

5 People Who Died During Sex
Written by: Karl Shaw
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Broadway
Language: English
February 2007, $9.99
Genre: Humor/Lists

All in perfectly bad taste. Prepare to be amazed, appalled, disgusted, and hugely entertained by this compendium of indelicate oddities. Nothing is too inane, too insane, too bizarre, or too distasteful for this incredible, seemingly impossible, but absolutely true collection of facts from across the ages and around the world.

Did you know…

…that Pope Benedict XII was such a hardened boozer that he inspired the expression “drunk as a pope”? (From “10 Historic Drunks”)

…that as a special honeymoon treat, Prince Charles read Princess Diana passages from the works of Carl Jung and Laurens van der Post? (From “History’s 10 Least Romantic Honeymoons”)

…that the best-dressed gentlemen in medieval England exposed their genitals below a short-fitting tunic? (From “History’s 10 Greatest Fashion Mistakes”)

…that Alfred Hitchcock suffered from ovophobia—fear of eggs? (From “10 Phobias of the Famous”)

…that King Louis XIV only took three baths in his lifetime, each of them under protest? (From “10 Great Unwashed”)

…that in 1930, Sears customers became enraged when the catalog was first printed on glossy, non-absorbent paper? (From “12 Magical Moments in Toilet Paper History”)


It is what it looks like a compendium of truly tasteless facts, but of course that is what makes it so much fun. There is no plot, no characters to love or hate, just a lot of funny and odd lists. Plus you got to love the cover.

Things I loved: I needed something light and yet fun. This hit the spot in both ways. It is a book you have to take with a grain of salt and while a lot of the information is interesting it isn’t always fact. For example Shaw attributes The Three Musketeers to be a work of Victor Hugo not Alexandre Dumas as it should be. There are other glaring errors like that and yet despite being a little sloppy with his fact checks, you cannot help but like it. However, most people who pick this up wont really notice though hopefully they wont be using it as ‘fact’.

Things I didn't love so much: See above factoid nitpicks.

Buy or Borrow: I would say that it is worth borrowing from your local library. It’s fun and if you like having some humor on your shelves like I do, pick it up. It certainly makes a conversation piece.

Part of: Stand Alone

Also Recommended: Royal Babylon by Karl Shaw.

3 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Exit Wounds

Exit Wounds
Written & Illustrated by: Rutu Modan
Hardcover: 168 pages
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Language: English
June 2007, $19.99
Genre: Comic/Graphic Novel

Set in modern-day Tel Aviv, a young man, Koby Franco, receives an urgent phone call from a female soldier. Learning that his estranged father may have been a victim of a suicide bombing in Hadera, Koby reluctantly joins the soldier in searching for clues. His death would certainly explain his empty apartment and disconnected phone line. As Koby tries to unravel the mystery of his father’s death, he finds himself piecing together not only the last few months of his father’s life but his entire identity. With thin, precise lines and luscious watercolors, Rutu Modan creates a portrait of modern Israel, a place where sudden death mingles with the slow dissolution of family ties.

Exit Wounds is the North American graphic-novel debut from one of Israel’s best-known cartoonists. Modan has received several awards in Israel and abroad, including the Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem four times and Young Artist of the Year by the Israel Ministry of Culture. She is a chosen artist of the Israel Cultural Excellence Foundation.


Every now and again I find a few treasures at the local library as there are some graphic novels out there that you cannot always find at the local bookstore. I had heard of Exit Wounds long ago, but never managed to pick it up. With this last outing to the library I picked it up and I am glad I did.

It is the story of Koby Franco, a young cab driver in Tel Aviv and the mystery surrounding his estranged father Gabriel. It begins when he meets a young soldier named Numi, who had an affair with his father and who believes he may have been killed in a recent bombing. Together they not only try to discover what happened to Koby’s father, but the journey they take together leads them through love, secrets, identity and what the future and the present hold for you.

It takes a bit to get into the story as you feel like you are thrust right into the middle and in a way I like that. Koby’s life changes so unexpectedly and in ways he never imagined. You cannot help but be thrown a bit and immediately feel as confused as the lead character. You want to find out what happened to Gabriel. You want to discover all of the secrets right along with him.

Things I loved: I enjoyed the open ending, the simple life holds so much finale. The story doesn’t end and I love that. Nothing is tidy and while it is a bit frustrating that we don’t really get to know more about the enigma that is called Gabriel, life doesn’t always give you all of the answers.

* I enjoyed the setting as disturbing as it can be. It is unfortunate that Numi had to differentiate between different bombings that had happened. You see the horrors without being thunked over the head with it all.

* I like how normal the characters are. They are relatable despite the extraordinary circumstances. Numi isn’t perfect and yet you like her nor is Koby.

Things I didn't love so much: I am a bit up in the air about the artwork. The art is very simplistic and in a way it leaves the storytelling to be the focus. It is very Tintin like and I don’t know if that is my thing. I wanted more emotion in the faces and such things are indeed possible with simplistic art. It’s very flat. And yet as I said it leaves the story the focus and sometimes there are graphic novels where the artwork outshines the actual story. I guess I am a bit up in the air on it all.

Buy or Borrow: I would say that it is worth borrowing from your local library.

Part of: Stand Alone

Also Recommended: Pride of Baghdad by Brian K Vaughan.

Has some sexual content along with the violence so it is not for the kiddies. Just a friendly warning.

3 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.