Review: Seaworthy, by Linda Greenlaw

Linda Greenlaw
Viking, 256 pages
June, 2010
Read the first chapter for free >> or Buy this book from >>

Product Description (from Publishers Weekly):
After a 10-year hiatus from blue-water fishing, Greenlaw (Hungry Ocean) went cautiously to sea, seeking a payday and perspective on her life. Thanks to The Perfect Storm phenomenon (both book and film), she was celebrated as America’s only female swordfish boat captain. She was now also a mother and an author who relished a new challenge, traveling 1,000 miles from her Maine home with an eager crew of four guys—three of them experienced sailing buddies—looking for swordfish on the 63-foot, six-and-a-half–knot steel boat Seahawk on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. It was a 52-day trip—and a sensational misadventure. Nearly everything that could go wrong, did, including her arrest for illegally fishing in Canadian waters. Greenlaw chronicles it all—a busted engine, a malfunctioning ice machine, squirrelly technology—with an absorbing mix of nautical expertise and self-deprecation. After inspecting the Seahawk, Greenlaw calls it rough, but stable and capable. Then she writes, “Although I was referring to the boat, I couldn’t help thinking the same could be said of her captain.” From mishaps to fish tales, Greenlaw keeps her narrative suspenseful. Between bad luck and self-doubt, she moves from experience to wisdom, guiding both crew and readers on a voyage of self-affirmation.

The thing about Linda Greenlaw’s books is that even if you have no real interest in commercial fishing, her storytelling style is so engaging, that for a moment at some point, you’ll wish you were on the boat with her. Well, you will if you’re not me. I love scented bubble baths, mochas, and mani-pedis too much to ever live the rough life of a fisherman, though I’ll admit that it must be nice to spend weeks at a time without all those ads exhorting you to “watch this” or “click here.”

Like many people, my first introduction to Greenlaw was through the book and the movie The Perfect Storm, but my first introduction to her writing was one of her books about lobstering and living on an island – I still haven’t managed to read The Hungry Ocean (I really want to, though). So this book, Seaworthy was my first experience with Greenlaw writing about her first passion, sword fishing, and for a moment, even I did want to be there.

Greenlaw’s writing, though, is so vivid that you almost are there with her in the wheelhouse of her boat, listening as she leads her crew into a battle against the sorry shape of their boat, the fish, the sea, the weather, and the calendar. It’s her first time back on a sword boat in ten years, and she admits to feeling rusty, but capable. Her crew, made mostly of people who have spent their lives fishing, clearly has deep respect for her, and if their interactions seem casual to the reader, then it’s best to remember that this is not a ship at war, but a commercial fishing boat.

It was only a line item at the end of the acknowledgments that made me realize Seaworthy was somehow connected to the Discovery Channel’s series Swords: Life on the Line which I vaguely remembered seeing ads for (I’m so talented, I missed both season one AND season two, however, despite the fact that they follow Shark Week, and you all KNOW I LOVE Shark Week.). Netflix had season one streaming, however, so while I was in bed with a nasty cold over the weekend, I watched all eight episodes.

The events relayed in Seaworthy roughly coincide with season one of Swords but the book includes events not shown in the series, and also goes into more detail. I’m looking forward to the second season, when it’s available on DVD or in streaming format.

As for this book, I read it in Kindle format, so I’ll probably have to archive it to save space at some point, but it’s definitely something I plan to re-read. It was a wonderful memoir, full of jeopardy and laced with humor. That Greenlaw went back out on a sword boat the next year, explains much about both the author, and the book.

Goes well with grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.

Review: STTNG: Enterprises of Great Pitch and Moment

ST:TNG Enterprises of Great Pitch and Moment
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Enterprises of Great Pitch and Moment
Keith R. A. DeCandido
Simon and Schuster, 320 pages
March, 2008
Buy this book from >>

Product Description (from Amazon):
A new Federation President has been elected, and his first order of business is to attempt to restore the alliance with the Klingon Empire. To that end, he sends Captain Picard to Deep Space 9, in the hopes that Picard’s relationship with Chancellor Gowron might lead to a normalization of relations.

At first, things go well, as Gowron agrees to meet with Picard and Captain Sisko of DS9 on a neutral planet — but when their runabout is shot down, it’s up to Commanders Worf and Data to find out the truth before their captains are killed!

I hadn’t read a new Star Trek book in a while but I always enjoy Keith DeCandido’s additions to the franchise, and I’d been wanting something that took place post-series but pre-Nemesis, that all my favorite characters. I wasn’t disappointed at all – even though some of those characters were off-screen, their presence was still felt, and while this was essentially a DS9 crossover, it was a legitimate one. Picard and Sisko must team up to fix the Federation-Klingon Empire alliance (I maintain that the best way to lose weight fast is to try and out-fox the Klingons) and of course Data and Worf, working from the Enterprise and the Defiant have to help.

The thing about Star Trek novels is that they’re best when they expand the Trekiverse, giving us glimpses of parts of future life that the shows don’t. This novel was a bit short on that, but still a satisfying read.

Goes well with tea, Earl Grey, hot.

Publish this Book: Lethal Inheritance by Tahlia Newland

Lethal Inheritance
Tahlia Newland
Seeking a publisher.
Read the first chapter >>

Product Description (from the author’s Website):
If last night was real then Ariel should be dead, but her mother has disappeared, there are bruise marks on her neck and that hideous beast in the photo looks frighteningly familiar.

When demons kidnap her mother, Ariel undertakes a rescue mission in a mysterious and unpredictable world in a hidden layer of reality. Demons who feed on fear are hunting her, and they’re aiming to kill. She needs help fast, but can she trust the quirky old guide who says he can teach her how to fine tune her mind into a powerful weapon? And what should she do about Nick, whose power is more than he or she can handle?

Ariel’s journey challenges her perception, tests her awareness and takes her deep into her heart and mind to confront, and ultimately transcend, her fear and anger.

It was a while ago that Australian YA author Tahlia Newland introduced herself to me and her book Lethal Inheritance, but I’m glad she did, because not only is she a delightful person to have as a blog buddy, she’s also a talented author.

Frequent visitors to this blog know that I’m a strong proponent of YA novels. I think the female characters we meet in YA (young adult) fiction are some of the best female characters in contemporary literature, and because the target audience is a little younger, a little fresher, authors have a lot more room to play with reality. Not that their writing can come from any place other than Truth – even the most preposterous stories (ahem – Christopher Moore’s work – ahem – still have some kind of basis in Truth) and teens are especially adept in finding the places where things do NOT ring true. But they can bend physics a little, and adjust life, the way writers who work in adult contemporary fiction (and I mean small-a adult not ADULT XXX adult) cannot. Well, Christopher Moore and the whole magical realism genre aside.

But I digress. The sample chapter of Lethal Inheritance is gripping and compelling. There’s character, there’s action, there’s suspense, and there’s risk…it grabs you, shakes you up, and leaves you dangling over a cliff.

Someone needs to publish this work.
Someone needs to publish it now!

Goes well with: a warm blanket, hot cocoa, and comfort food – mac-n-cheese or s’mores.

The Sunday Salon: Venus Among the Fishes

Wild Sea

Photo by Krysta | Source: | Click to embiggen

They say the sea is cold, but the sea contains
the hottest blood of all, and the wildest, the most urgent.

All the whales in the wider deeps, hot are they, as they urge
on and on, and dive beneath the icebergs.
The right whales, the sperm-whales, the hammer-heads, the killers
there they blow, there they blow, hot wild white breath out of
the sea!

This week has found me reading sea stories almost exclusively, and while they have not been about whales, mostly, it’s whales and sharks that populate my dreams, gentle dreams where I’m floating on the waves, and the big mammals and big fish are my guardians.

It began with Susan Casey’s The Wave which I reviewed the other day. Wanting to stay in the world she painted so vividly with her words (though with the jarring intrusion of a guy on a jet ski looking at his iPhone for Surfline details at one point, and then never being shown to put it away before they were IN a wave – I had to wonder: does insurance for ipads or iphones cover replacement if you lose your device in 70-foot seas?), I went looking for similar tales.

I’d hoped that one of my favorite sea stories, Maiden Voyage by Tania Aebi, who, when she was just eighteen, sailed around the world in a wooden sailboat, was available for Kindle. Alas, it’s too old – it was published in 1985, when I was just fifteen, and I read it three or four years after that.

And they rock, and they rock, through the sensual ageless ages
on the depths of the seven seas,
and through the salt they reel with drunk delight
and in the tropics tremble they with love
and roll with massive, strong desire, like gods.
Then the great bull lies up against his bride
in the blue deep bed of the sea,
as mountain pressing on mountain, in the zest of life:
and out of the inward roaring of the inner red ocean of whale-blood
the long tip reaches strong, intense, like the maelstrom-tip, and
comes to rest
in the clasp and the soft, wild clutch of a she-whale’s
fathomless body.

Instead, however, I was reintroduced to Linda Greenlaw, whose name you may know from either the movie The Perfect Storm (She was Captain of the Hannah Boden then, sister ship to the lost Andrea Gail.) or as the female captain in last year’s first season of Swords on the Discovery Channel. I’d read some of her work before, and enjoyed it – the stuff about giving up long-line fishing for lobstering off the tiny Maine island where she lives – but the book I downloaded was Seaworthy about her return to long-line fishing. It’s a more detailed account of the same trip highlighted in the Discovery Channel show, with a lot of details that the show never, well showed.

I downloaded that book on Friday, and finished it just before I went to bed that night. Some people say I read too quickly, but, I don’t mean to. Really.

Anyway, I was spurred on to download two of Greenlaw’s mystery novels about a Florida police detective who quits her job and moves to Maine to be a marine consultant (and solve mysteries). I’ve only read the first few pages, but I think I’m going to love these books.

And over the bridge of the whale’s strong phallus, linking the
wonder of whales
the burning archangels under the sea keep passing, back and
keep passing, archangels of bliss
from him to her, from her to him, great Cherubim
that wait on whales in mid-ocean, suspended in the waves of the
great heaven of whales in the waters, old hierarchies.

And enormous mother whales lie dreaming suckling their whale-
tender young
and dreaming with strange whale eyes wide open in the waters of
the beginning and the end.

I also read the sample chapters of a book, a memoir, called The Cure for Anything is Salt Water which I really enjoyed. I’ve wishlisted the book, because I can’t afford another book for a couple of weeks, but if no one buys it for me, I have no issue with buying it for myself.

I’ve always had an affinity for the ocean. I was born so close to it, and lived within easy access to it most of my life, so I suppose I read these books to help me miss it less. Sometimes it works, sometimes it makes me miss the ocean, and the way the surf chases my bare toes as I dance back and forth on the sand. I miss the way my hair would feel sandy and salty after a day at the beach, and the way my skin would feel slightly tingly. I miss the ship-y tar-y smells of docks and harbors, and the sight of fishermen, commercial or recreational, coming home with their day’s catch.

And bull-whales gather their women and whale-calves in a ring
when danger threatens, on the surface of the ceaseless flood
and range themselves like great fierce Seraphim facing the threat
encircling their huddled monsters of love.
And all this happens in the sea, in the salt
where God is also love, but without words:
and Aphrodite is the wife of whales
most happy, happy she!

Last year, my mother had the pleasure of spending a day with Jacques Cousteau’s widow, taking her around places in La Paz (BCS, Mexico) and chatting with her, and she told me how very connected to the sea she felt, and how Madam Cousteau was the same.

That connectedness is stretched for me right now, but it’s an elastic stretch, not a fine filament that could break. Some day, the sea and I will be close friends again.

In the meantime, I have books.

and Venus among the fishes skips and is a she-dolphin
she is the gay, delighted porpoise sporting with love and the sea
she is the female tunny-fish, round and happy among the males
and dense with happy blood, dark rainbow bliss in the sea.

** The quoted passages in this post are from “Whales Weep Not!” by D. H. Lawrence.

Review: The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey

The Wave
The Wave
Susan Casey
Doubleday, 352 pages
September, 2010
Read the first chapter for free >> OR Buy the book from >>

Description (from Publisher’s Weekly):
Casey, O magazine editor-in-chief, travels across the world and into the past to confront the largest waves the oceans have to offer. This dangerous water includes rogue waves south of Africa, storm-born giants near Hawaii, and the biggest wave ever recorded, a 1,740 foot-high wall of wave (taller than one and a third Empire State Buildings) that blasted the Alaska coastline in 1958. Casey follows big-wave surfers in their often suicidal attempts to tackle monsters made of H2O, and also interviews scientists exploring the danger that global warning will bring us more and larger waves. Casey writes compellingly of the threat and beauty of the ocean at its most dangerous. We get vivid historical reconstructions and her firsthand account of being on a jet-ski watching surfers risk their lives. Casey also smoothly translates the science of her subject into engaging prose. This book will fascinate anyone who has even the slightest interest in the oceans that surround us.

I was browsing books on the Kindle when I came across the latest from Susan Casey, who wrote one of my favorite books, The Devil’s Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America’s Great White Sharks about the white sharks near the Farallon Islands, and the scientists who observed them. I love ocean stories, have been reading a lot of memoirs lately, and knew the author’s work, so I tried the sample chapters and was instantly hooked.

What I love about Casey’s work is that she blends science with interviews and personal observation, and The Wave combined all three to perfection. While the chapters didn’t always alternate between scientists and surfers, most of them did, and looking at waves from these two, radically different perspectives really worked. As I was reading, I could almost feel a surfboard beneath my feet (and I don’t even surf!) and taste the salty tang of ocean air.

If you love the ocean, are fascinated by climate change, or are just seeking a glimpse into the life of big-wave surfers, this book is for you.

Goes well with clam chowder and a cup of brisk, black tea.

Booking Through Thursday: Thankful

Sailboat Race

Sailboat Race | Source: | Click to embiggen


On Thursday, November 25th, Booking through Thursday asked:

It’s Thanksgiving here in the U.S. of A. so …
What authors and books are you most thankful for?

I was born within the sound of the ocean if not the sight, and one of the first sounds I remember is that of foghorns. Now, living hundreds of miles from the sea, I’m thankful for authors like Susan Casey who write about some of my favorite things (sharks, rogue waves) and make me feel like I’m tucked into a tiny bunk on a rocking sailboat, and not in a suburban home, where I’m more likely to hear karaoke songs than the songs of humpback whales.

I’m thankful for other tellers of sea stories from Hemingway to Tania Aebi, whose memoir of circumnavigating the world in a wooden sailboat when she was just eighteen is a longtime favorite of mine, and has been since I first read it, when I was not much older than eighteen.

I’m thankful for Cleo Coyle in all her guises, because no one does cozy so well, and I’m thankful for all the authors who have asked me to review their work.

Mostly, I’m thankful that my brain is wired the right way to let me find joy in the printed word, and to let me completely immerse myself in a good book.

Teaser Tuesdays: The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean

The Wave

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

– Grab your current read
– Open to a random page
– Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
– BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
– Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

When I confessed that my favorite birthday present this year was the Kindle my aunt bought for me, a friend of mine asked me “Why do you hate books, Melissa?” but the reality is that I’m spending MORE money on reading material since having the Kindle than I did when I bought only paper books. I mean, we all have either iPhones or ipods, as well, and no one asks, “Why do you hate CDs?” In truth, I still buy paper books, so I can read them in the bathtub.

In any case, my teaser this week comes from the very beginning of my current read, The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean, by Susan Casey. As it’s a Kindle book, I can’t tell you the page number, but it’s from location 45-50.

The clock read midnight when the hundred-foot wave hit the ship, rising from the North Atlantic out of the darkness. Among the ocean’s terrors a wave this size was the most feared and the least understood, more myth than reality – or so people had thought. This giant was certainly real. As the RRS Discovery plunged down into the wave’s deep trough, it heeled twenty-eight degrees to port, rolled thirty degrees back to starboard, then recovered to face the incoming seas.

The 12 Books of Christmas?

Santa Reading by a Fire

Santa Claus Gets Lost in a Good Book | Vintage Coca-Cola Ad

I realize that we’re still a full week away from Cyber Monday, but just in case you have a voracious reader on your list, I wanted to share twelve books I’ve read during the past year, that I think everyone should consider reading, too.

These are not ranked, merely listed with the most recently-read titles at the top.

  1. The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean, by Susan Casey – It’s about surfing, storm-chasing and giant waves, and even the science-y parts are really interesting.
  2. The Naked Gardener, by L. B. Gschwandtner – Delightfully funny and insightful, and full of feminine energy and woman-power.
  3. Body Work, by Sara Paretsky – the first V.I. Warshawski novel in several years, does not disappoint. Great plot, great dialogue.
  4. Under Orders, by Dick Francis – Dick Francis never disappoints, and this book is no exception. It’s not terribly recent, but it’s still a great read, especially if you follow horse-racing at all.
  5. Roast Mortem, by Cleo Coyle – coffee, romance, and murder – what else does one need?
  6. A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style, by Tim Gunn – probably the most gracious style guide ever written – and Tim Gunn can be hilarious.
  7. Lunch in Paris: a Love Story with Recipes, by Elizabeth Bard – part memoir, part cookbook, all delicious.
  8. Confessions of a Prairie Bitch, by Alison Arngrim – the funniest, most candid, celebrity biography EVER.
  9. Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin – gives you hope for the future, and provides a much-needed perspective on world events, as well.
  10. The House on First Street, by Julia Reed – a post-Katrina memoir with architectural details. Brilliant.
  11. The God of the Hive, by Laurie R. King – the most recent in her Mary Russell / Sherlock Holmes series. Intriguing. Interesting. Inspiring.
  12. Population: 485 by Michael Perry – Actually either of his other two memoirs, Truck: a Love Story or Coop would be acceptable. This man’s writing is just…brilliant.

I should note: Not all of these books were WRITTEN this year – in fact, hardly any of them were – but most are fairly recent.

Recommendation: No Impact Man, by Colin Beavan

No Impact Man

I first heard about No Impact Man through a friend who mentioned his blog at least a year ago. Now, I can’t speak with any authority on what the best fat burner might be, but I’m thinking giving up elevators, meat, cabs and cappuccinos while living in New York City is probably a pretty good alternative, and that (and more) is what No Impact Man (aka Colin Beavan) and his wife and daughter chose to do (in stages) for a year.

They began with small changes – giving up buying any new clothing or other items, eliminating the use of plastic water bottles, disposable diapers, or foods from further away than 250 miles, and even, for the last half of their year of experimentation, turning off the electricity in their apartment.

While I haven’t read the actual book, I’ve read the original blog the book is based upon, and I’ve seen the documentary (which, btw, is playing this month on the Planet Green (GRN) cable channel, and available from Netflix in DVD or streaming formats).

So, I’ve added it to my list of books to buy the next time I buy books. I’ll be getting the Kindle edition, but never fear, the paper versions are printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper.

RetroReading: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

In preparation for seeing the movie tonight, I re-read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows earlier this week. Yes, I know the movie is only half the story. Yes, I know the movies never have everything the books do, but even so, I felt it important to refresh my memory of the story.

I noticed a few details in this reading that I don’t remember reading when I first read the book the day it was released, and it was nice to re-visit the original version of the characters, but I’m also left wondering if Harry stayed small-ish in the books because Dan Radcliffe is not particularly tall.

As the daughter of a fashion designer, one thing I’m intrigued by is what Hermione’s beaded bag will look like. I mean, I know there are custom drawstring bags that have beadwork, but I also know that most beaded bags are tiny little clutch purses. I think my mother has one, I know my grandmother had a couple that I used to play with.

Mostly though, I’m looking forward to the experience of seeing a fun movie in an opening night crowd.