I’ve not been a very active blogger this month.  With a myriad things that came my way plus being in the midst of preparing for a life presentation for my grandmother who turned 100 years old  yesterday,  my hands were just too full for posting reviews.

But here’s one for a book I just couldn’t resist plucking off the store’s shelf.  I’m a fan of Michael Crichton for his story-telling versatility.   As an author who never seemed to have written about the same thing in his entire career,  his fiction would careen from  corporate politics to dinosaurs, from global warming to aircraft investigations.  After his death, I sadly thought I had read the last of his stories.

But surprise, surprise!  Someone discovered a full manuscript in his hard drive ; hence this new book.  Of course, I just had to have it….

Author :  Michael Crichton

Publication Date :  January 1, 2009  (Hardcover)

Publisher :  Harper Harper Collins Publishers

ISBN-10: 0061929379

ISBN-13: 978-0061929373



The Story :

It’s the mid-seventeenth century, a time of profitable privateering in which a man could make his fortune if he were daring enough to do so.   At the English colony of Port Royal in Jamaica, Captain Jack Hunter sets his sights on the impregnable Spanish dominated  island of Matanceros where a galleon sits at anchor, heavily laden with treasure.

Never mind if the island is infamous  for its unconquerable reputation with a fearsome protector, Callas,  its terrifying canons and 300 men at arms.  Assembling a crew with special skills, Hunter attempts to take the island and its treasure by the very route which has remained impassable to all.  Up unassailable walls, through fetid jungles, and in terror-filled waters, these pirates fight to steal treasure and glory, enough to satisfy all who love excitement in tall tales.

The Review :

This latest written creation,  discovered  among the late author’s  memoirs, is a jolly romp in the high seas for those who get a kick out of shallow entertainment.  The plot is complete with everything a  tall tale of a  pirate story should have :  treasure, kraken, damsel in distress, and risks Indiana Jones would have envied.    If you’re looking for realism, this wouldn’t be up your alley.  Plus, don’t expect any depth or multi-facets in any of the characters either.  There aren’t any.

The story reads like it were Crichton’s first attempt at novel-writing — amateurish, bumbling.   I guess there must have been a good reason why this book remained in the author’s  hard drive.  I don’t think he meant to publish it yet or it wasn’t ready for publishing.  Perhaps, this book is still in its drafting stage because although it has a compete enough outline for a story, it just didn’t feel finished.   It  definitely isn’t up  to the standards of a Crichton novel,  given that his plots are always so much better  thought out than this.

In other words, this book is a big COULD HAVE BEEN , and it’s sad that this is all it can remain to be — a potential.

But a thought just occurred — the book may not be too bad as a YA novel.  Its very shallowness and swashbuckling appeal  would just be grade-A with action-inclined youngsters.  In hindsight, it’s quite good if I had approached it with that genre in mind.  But, I was expecting the same style for the usual Crichton target readers.

Despite what I’ve said though, I admit Pirate Latitudes was still rather mildly entertaining and a breezy read.  I just wish the author were still around to refine  it to  a  marvelous adventure-thriller.

In A Nutshell :

This may be great with teeners.    Read if you must;  you might enjoy it for the moment.   Just don’t purchase a hardbound.

My Mark :  Mediocre — Ok

Author : Douglas Carlton Abrams

Release Date (Paperback) : May 1, 2007

I picked up this book with the intent to read something light, funny, and a little bit naughty. The book hasn’t failed me on these three accounts; in fact, it has delivered a lot more.

The fabled Don Juan writes of his life as a galanteador (courtier) with the natural arrogance of someone who firmly believes he is God’s gift to women. But instead of being offended, I was intrigued and amazed by his ideas and perspectives on the female gender and ultimately on lust and love.

Don Juan is not your average rake. He is a rake, but one that genuinely loves women. He loves everything about them—their scent, their curves, their intellect, their eyelashes—everything! So by virtue of women’s innate beauty, he, Don Juan, takes it as his duty and life’s purpose to give the “ultimate pleasure” which they so deserve. (I wish men would think like this scrumptious guy).

His adventures, though, force him to question what the nature of passsion is. Can it be tied to love or is it a separate drive that has nothing to do with love? Is it possible to actually love and be true to one woman forever? Don Juan’s realizations to these age-old questions are tackled with lots of wit, humor, and surprisingly intelligent philosophy.

I certainly got more than what I paid for.  I got what I wanted : levity, sex, fun…plus artful writing and a good dose of food for thought, which I never thought I’d get from what I deemed as one of those “chick-lit” books. In fact, this particular passage was a little over my head:

“The greatest misstep in the dance of courtship is to believe it is our charm or beauty that is ultimately in question in this ancient fertility rite. Seduction and passion are simply Life longing for Life. It has little to do with our fears and faults. When we discover this Divine Secret, we realise that we are far less than we ever feared and far more than we ever imagined. Life uses us for its own satisfaction, and when we surrender to its will, we become a part of every kiss, whether or not it is made with our lips, and of every caress, and whether or not it is made with our fingertips.”

I only understood half of it. (I guess in crude terms it means: Go with the flow. ?) But hey, Mr Abrams does write prettily. Don’t worry, this is the only esoteric passage to me.

My Mark : Outstanding

Kudos to the author for a wonderful first novel.