Review: The Voyage of the Sea Wolf by Eve Bunting


Title: Voyage of the Sea Wolf

Author:  Eve Bunting

Publisher:  Sleeping Bear Press

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

At the end of The Pirate Captain’s Daughter, Catherine and cabin boy William are marooned on Pox Island by the murderous crew of the pirate ship Reprisal. The young lovers see no hope of escape.

In Voyage of the Sea Wolf, the continuing saga of Catherine’s sea adventures, she and William are rescued from their island prison by the Sea Wolf, a pirate ship pursuing the Reprisal. Catherine worries that these new pirates will send her back to the island once they discover she’s a girl. But then, she meets the captain of the Sea Wolf. A woman! Surely, Catherine thinks, the bloodshed and brutality she and William experienced aboard the Reprisal can’t happen again, especially under the leadership of a female captain.

But just as things seem to be going their way, the captain takes a liking to William. Catherine is forbidden to see him.

If Catherine and William want to stay together, they must find a way to now escape from the Sea Wolf.


After enjoying The Pirate Captain’s Daughter so much, I was hyped to start reading The Voyage of the Sea Wolf.  Ultimately I was disappointed, as the characters all displayed a shocking lack of common sense, especially Catherine, who was so resourceful in the last book.  I guess watching your father murdered and then being dumped on a deserted island would be cause to completely lose your marbles, but I was really hoping for better from our plucky heroine.  Her near death experience left her incapable of making one commendable decision until the very end of the book.  The ending is another disappointment.  Without giving out too many spoilers, William and Catherine are left in pretty much the same situation as the prior book. Ugh!

When the young lovers are rescued, saved from the brink of death, they have new challenges to face.  They’ve been rescued by another pirate ship, this one captained by a fierce woman who imagines herself to be like her namesake,  Medb, the daughter of the High King of Ireland and a brutally calculating warrior who took what she wanted, when she wanted it.  Like her namesake, Medb is cold and cruel, and when she sees William, she wants him.  I found this storyline wearying.  She is significantly older than William, yet for Medb, it is lust at first sight.  She will have him, because he reminds her of her lost love.  She will possess him, for no other reason than this uncanny resemblance to a man she drove away years before.  This made no sense to me, regardless of how handsome William was.  He was but a boy to her, and the attraction creeped me out.  Considering that Medb is a bloodthirsty, possibly psychotic  pirate, this shouldn’t have turned me off like it did, but I couldn’t get beyond how gross is was to me.

To egg her on, William is disrespectful and defiant.  Medb, her heart lost to William, took all of her anger out on Catherine.  This is another plot point that drove me nuts.  Catherine knew that Medb was just looking for any excuse to get rid of her so she could have William all to herself, yet she purposefully  does stupid things to piss the pirate captain off.  Let’s stop for just one second and think about the pirates in Eve Bunting’s novels.  These are not Disney pirates, with yummy tats and weird things woven into their sleek braids.  These are pirate pirates, the kind who make a living plundering other ships and murdering innocent people.  They steal stuff, they shoot people, and they live by a code that demands obedience and loyalty to their ship and their captain.  Both William and Catherine have close, intimate knowledge about how things work on a pirate ship.  They witnessed murder first hand, and experienced pirate punishment.  They suffered pain and almost died because they pissed off another ship full of pirates and decided to not follow the rules.  Did they learn anything from that experience  Nope!

While these plot elements did bug me, there were aspects of the book that I did enjoy.  The battle scenes were tense and exciting, and the details of daily life on a ship  was fascinating.  While I found the supernatural elements ridiculous at times, Medb’s fear of witches and evil magic made perfect sense given how precarious life on a little ship in the middle of a very large and dangerous ocean could be.  One run of bad luck could spell doom for everyone aboard, and Medb took omens very seriously.  Until the time she didn’t and greed won out over her fear, spelling disaster for everyone.  I didn’t understand that, either.  She was a seasoned leader, in addition to being extremely superstitious.   It was against her character to disregard every single evil portent and to continue with her plans to launch an attack against another ship.

While this book didn’t totally work for me, I am still curious to follow Catherine and William as they try to make their way home.  I just hope that they learned something this time, so that they don’t vex me as much when we meet again.

Grade: C

Review copy provided by publisher

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Picture Book Review–Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian and Tim Bowers



Title: Memoirs of a Goldfish

Author: Devin Scillian

Illustrator: Tim Bowers

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

ISBN: 978-1585365074


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Day One
I swam around my bowl.

Day Two
I swam around my bowl. Twice.

And so it goes in this tell-all tale from a goldfish.

With his bowl to himself and his simple routine, Goldfish loves his life until one day.

When assorted intruders including a hyperactive bubbler, a grime-eating snail, a pair of amorous guppies, and a really crabby crab invade his personal space and bowl, Goldfish is put out, to say the least. He wants none of it, preferring his former peace and quiet and solitude.

But time away from his new companions gives him a chance to rethink the pros and cons of a solitary life. And discover what he’s been missing.


Aw, this is a very cute book!  I loved it!  The art is fantastic, and the narrative had me laughing out loud.  Goldfish goes from being the sole occupant of his bowl, to feeling a bit squeezed in his home when one new addition after another is introduced into his space.  Some of his new neighbors aren’t very friendly, either!  Goldfish is stressed with the overcrowding, and all he wants is some privacy.  But during a moment of quiet reflection, he realizes that being all alone in his bowl isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. 

The story is light and humorous, and the art is a perfect fit.  Facial expressions make the book – poor Goldfish goes from content but bored to unhappy and even angry as his swimming area is reduced with every new arrival.  After he learns the importance of friends, and gets some bigger digs, he is one happy fish again.  The vivid illustrations pop off of the pages, and I can’t imagine anybody being able to resist Goldfish or his memoirs.  I was happy to see that both creators have an extensive backlist, which I will be exploring.  Soon!

Grade: A

Review copy obtained from my local library

Review: The Pirate Captain’s Daughter by Eve Bunting


Title: The Pirate Captain’s Daughter

Author: Eve Bunting

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

ISBN: 978-1585365258


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

At age fifteen, Catherine’s life is about to change. Her mother has just died and Catherine can’t stand the thought of being sent to live with her aunt in Boston. She longs for a life of adventure.

After she discovers her father’s secret life as captain of the pirate ship Reprisal, her only thoughts are to join him on the high seas. Catherine imagines a life of sailing the blue waters of the Caribbean, the wind whipping at her back. She’s heard tales of bloodshed and brutality but her father’s ship would never be like that.

Catherine convinces her father to let her join him, disguised as a boy. But once the  Reprisal sets sail, she finds life aboard a pirate ship is not for the faint of heart. If her secret is uncovered, punishment will be swift and brutal.


Wow.  The Pirate Captain’s Daughter was a surprise.  This book tells it like it is – it doesn’t romanticize pirates, and there is no Jack Sparrow to be found anywhere in these pages.  A pirate’s life was not glamorous, and it certainly wasn’t a bunch of fun and games.  Pillaging other ships was dangerous work, and Catherine has to avoid cannon balls and bullets while her father’s crew was attacking another ship.  Cleanliness is a thing of the past, and the food – let’s just say the less said about the weevil infested bread, the better.  Don’t forget about the giant rats hiding below-decks, and the fleas and the cockroaches.  Yeah, this is not my idea of a fun time.

Catherine convinces her father to let her join his pirate crew after her mother dies.  Her father is reluctant, because the other pirates are superstitious and believe that women bring nothing but bad luck out at sea.  If her identity is discovered, both of their lives will be in danger.  He finally relents, and Catherine is introduced to a world far different than anything she had ever imagined.  There is no privacy, some of her crew-mates are less than friendly, and her father seems like a completely different person.  

A quick but very intense read, The Pirate Captain’s Daughter held me spellbound.  I couldn’t put it down, and stayed up way past my bedtime to finish it.  Though I thought Catherine was foolish for getting herself into such a precarious situation, I liked her and I liked her voice.  She tells it like it is, and she doesn’t hold much back.  There is conflict on the ship, with two pirates in particular, and they both bring disaster to her life.  They terrify her, but she knows that if she shows them how intimidated they make her feel they will bully her mercilessly the entire voyage. 

For a nitty-gritty taste of a pirate’s life, give this book a chance.  It’s a quick read with plenty of danger, action, and suspense.  There is even a tiny touch of romance thrown in for good measure.  I am hoping for a sequel, because I want to see what’s next for Catherine.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Yuki and the One Thousand Carriers by Gloria Whelan


Title: Yuki and the One Thousand Carriers

Author: Gloria Whelan

Illustrator: Yan Nascimbene

Publisher:  Sleeping Bear Press

ISBN: 9781585363520


May Contain Spoilers

Yuki and the One Thousand Carriers is another random find from the library.  I was drawn to the book by the cover illustration, featuring Yuki, dressed in a colorful kimono, and her dog, Kita.  Since it is set in Japan, I thought it would be fun to take it home and give it a once over.  This really is a very clever and charming book, and I am so glad that I checked it out of the library.

Yuki’s father is a governor in Japan, and during the 17th and 18th centuries, they were required to spend half of the year in Kyoto, and the rest of the year in Edo.  When the shogun calls for her father, he has no choice but to heed it and travel the 300 mile journey along the Tokaido Road.  Yuki doesn’t want to go, but she also has no choice.  To argue would be disrespectful, so she dutifully packs up her belongs, gathers up her puppy Kita, and resigns herself to the long trip.  Before she leaves, her tutor instructs her to write a haiku every day during the long journey.

The bold art and engaging prose instantly draw you into Yuki’s journey.  Haiku is tucked seamlessly into the narration, as Yuki obediently records her thoughts along the Tokaido Road.  At first her poems mirror her reluctance to leave home, but as new wonders and sights greet her, she slowly has an attitude change.  As their journey continues, her outlook on it noticeably brightens. 

The trip is quite an endeavor; it takes weeks to travel that far, and her family had to engage the service of one thousand carriers to haul their belongings with them.  Yuki and her mother must travel in a palanquin, so strangers can’t see them on the road.  Nights are spent at inns of varying quality, where they attempt to rest after the long, tedious days spent in what is basically a wooden box.  Making it even more unpleasant for Yuki is the homesickness that accompanies her at the start of the journey.  As her adventure unfolds, however, she begins to find enjoyment in her new surroundings.

Yuki and the One Thousand Carriers is an entertaining and engaging picture book.  Rich in detail and lyrical in language, this is definitely one to add to your wishlist.

Grade: A-

Review copy obtained at my local library