A Punctual Paymaster by Dan Groat

A Punctual Paymaster by Dan GroatBlurb

A TOWN DIVIDED BY RACE IS HIDING A MIRACLE AMONG ITS SECRETS

Travel seventy years through the secrets of the white Thanos family and the black Taylor family, twisted like strands of yarn woven together on a loom. The wealthy, powerful Nikkos Thanos owns a woolen mill and almost everything else on the north side of Delphi, Missouri, and is the overseer of a fractured society. The brave, judicious Thaddeus “Cousin” Taylor owns a grocery store and a tavern on the south side and carries a past hauntingly shrouded in tragedy. Each man tries to shepherd his part of town through the turmoil of racism, the depression, and war. With the passage of time, those caretaker roles are filled by Evangelina, Nikkos’ beautiful and strong-willed daughter, and T.J., the grandson who worshipped Cousin. Forty-five years after high school, two friends, Ab and Grady, return for the funeral of their mentor, T.J., and walk into the middle of a mystery. They unweave the black and white threads that are the town’s concealed, troubled past, revealing an extraordinary tapestry of life and death, revenge and triumph.

My Perspective

I downloaded this eBook for free on Amazon awhile back.

The story follows the history of two families, the Thanos family and the Taylor family. The Thanos family are white and live on the north side of town, a town that has basically been built by Nikkos, the father of the Thanos family. The Taylor family are black and live on the south side of town and Cousin, the father of the Taylor family, is basically the unofficial leader of the south side. The story is set from 1939 through to 2010 and spans around three generations of the families. It deeply explores the racial tension between whites and blacks in America through a story filled with mystery, intrigue, sadness and redemption.

I had really high hopes for this book because the premise sounded so interesting however i felt it fell a bit flat. It started out really strong and then got a bit lost on the way.

The characters were really interesting however some of them could have been developed a lot more. Even though some of them had a lot of “air time”, i still felt like i barely knew them.

Most of the book was slow paced with a lot of content, the kind of book that doesn’t have you turning the pages as fast as you can, more the kind of book that you slowly digest and can even put down for awhile to process before picking it back up again. The pace wasn’t very consistent though, with big jumps in time and disconnect between chapters where you weren’t really sure what was going on.

I wasn’t sure whether the mystery of the story was meant to be obvious to the reader or not, because i found it was a bit predictable. If that was the intention of the author then it worked well because you wondered whether the characters would be able to figure it out or not and how the story would end – them living the rest of their lives never knowing or them being fully aware of their history and moving forward from it.

Overall it was a good story with a lot of depth and richness however I think it could have benefited from a lot more editing. I would probably still recommend it, especially if you like historical fiction, in particular novels about the racial tension in the USA.

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Cairo Jim and the Tyrannical Bauble of Tiberius by Geoffrey McSkimming

Cairo Jim and the Tyrannical Bauble of Tiberius by Geoffrey McSkimmingBlurb

Strange happenings are afoot in Rome, where a priceless and mysterious artefact – the imperishable Bauble of the ancient Emperor Tiberius – has gone missing.

Cairo Jim – that well-known archaeologist and little-known poet – and his friends, Doris the macaw and Brenda the Wonder Camel, are sent to Rome to try to get to the bottom of this act of felony. They soon discover that the Bauble has terrifying powers if it is held in the wrong hands…powers that could herald the end of civilisation as we know it!

My Perspective

Cairo Jim and the Tyrannical Bauble of Tiberius follows the trio as they head to Rome to investigate the mysterious time lapses that are occurring in the city every afternoon and to find out who stole the Bauble – two seemingly unrelated incidents that they believe are in fact linked. Will they be able to unlock the mystery before the thief discovers the power of the Bauble?

I quite enjoyed this Cairo Jim novel. I liked the fact that there was a different slant to the story and the dynamic of the usual adventures they have because Bone was in jail and therefore not their usual suspect. It added some more mystery and intrigue. I figured it all out quite early in the piece however for an older child it would probably not be as obvious.

As usual the trio were heartwarming characters and felt like your good friends. I enjoyed Pasqual, who was both charming and silly, and a great addition to the story. The villain was not very likable, especially considering their motives. There is a great “love to hate them” vibe with Bone and Desdemona, the usual villains of the story, however this person did not have that feel at all.

Again like all Cairo Jim novels, the story was funny, silly, mysterious and charming all at the same time.

I would definitely recommend this book to children of all ages however if you haven’t read any Cairo Jim novels then i probably wouldn’t start with this one as it is a later novel and there are a lot of references that would be better understood if earlier novels had been read.

Cairo Jim and the Sunken Sarcophagus of Sekheret by Geoffrey McSkimming

Cairo Jim and the Sunken Sarcophagus of Sekheret by Geoffrey McSkimmingBlurb

When the manicured evil genius, Captain Neptune F. Bone, disappears in the Red Sea while diving for a lost sarcophagus, that well-known archaeologist and little-known poet, Cairo Jim, is called in to try and help find him in the dark and watery depths.

But when Jim, Doris the macaw and Brenda the Wonder Camel take the plunge, little do they know that what they are about to find will become one of the most flabbergasting discoveries in the history of archaeology!

My Perspective

Cairo Jim and the Sunken Sarcophagus of Sekheret follows the trio as they embark on a rescue mission to find Captain Neptune Bone and solve the mystery of the message left in his fez. However what they unearth is far beyond their wildest expectations.

I really liked this story because it was a different setting to the usual – it was set underwater! The inventiveness of the author was really quite good and i loved the different creative ideas he put forward to explain all manner of things.

As usual Cairo Jim, Doris and Brenda are your lovable trio. However there was quite a twist with ol’ Captain Neptune Bone and Desdemona. I think it worked quite well and there were moments where you couldn’t stand Bone (as usual) as well as other moments where you felt quite lovely when they all worked together for their common good.

Like the previous Cairo Jim novel that i reviewed, this one wasn’t as silly per se, however it was really interesting and had a bit of a depth so i quite liked it. It was still very much a funny Cairo Jim novel for children however it was slightly more mature.

Although the main premise of the story might be obvious to the more mature reader, all of the other smaller parts are not at all and keep you guessing.

Overall it was an enjoyable read and definitely one of the more interesting Cairo Jim novels.

Cairo Jim Amidst The Petticoats of Artemis by Geoffrey McSkimming

Cairo Jim Amidst The Petticoats of Artemis by Geoffrey McSkimmingBlurb

A Turkish Tale of Treachery

In the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus, an astonishing relic has been unearthed!

What connection to the bygone goddess Artemis does this relic hold? What astonishing powers could be unleashed if it were to fall into the wrong, evil and manicured hands?

Cairo Jim-that well-known archaeologist and little-known poet-and his friends Doris the Macaw and Brenda the Wonder Camel find themselves faced with the greatest threat to nature itself!

My Perspective

Cairo Jim Amidst The Petticoats of Artemis follows the trio as they hunt down Neptune Bone and Desdemona, who have discovered the Petticoat of Artemis and are searching for the buckle and the belt. Once all three have been found, there is no telling what Bone will do with the power that it will give him.

I didn’t find this story as silly as the other Cairo Jim books that i have read. It was still silly, just not ridiculously so. It would still greatly appeal to children, it was just toned down a bit.

Again Cairo Jim, Doris and Brenda are all lovable, as Neptune Bone and Desdemona are not. There was a new character added to the mix who i wasn’t sure i wanted to become a regular…they were a lovely person, it just created a possible angle that i would rather not have happen.

The story was interesting and funny however not as mysterious or cryptic. The outcome of the story was easily guessed.

Overall it was an enjoyable read however i felt it fell a bit flat compared to the other Cairo Jim novels.

Genesis: The Story Of Apollo 8, The First Manned Flight To Another World by Robert Zimmerman

1110425Blurb

It was NASA’s most dangerous space mission. The chances of success were fifty-fifty. And three men would dare to fly farther and faster than ever before.

The year was 1968. Guided by a computer less powerful than today’s handheld calculators, NASA sent the three astronauts of Apollo 8 on the most ambitious space flight in history. Here is the dramatic account of the mission that forever broke human beings’ bond to earth… of the first time that a manned spacecraft would escape earth’s orbit and travel to the moon… of the engineering triumph that sent the Apollo 8 capsule 240,000 miles from earth. From Washington to Vietnam, Robert Zimmerman captures the political, social, and personal forces that pushed Commander Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders to the forefront of space exploration, and made Apollo 8 a true turning point in the history of planet earth.

My Perspective

Genesis: The Story Of Apollo 8, The First Manned Flight To Another World by Robert Zimmerman is the novelised true story of the first manned mission to the moon. It describes to us both the mission itself as well as the lives of each of the three astronauts who flew: Commander Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders.

A customer gave us this book to read. As Kel was already halfway through another book, I decided to read it first. Having just finished watching “From the Earth to the Moon” series (which was lent to us by the very same customer), I was familiar with the mission however the book gave a lot more insight and background than the TV series ever could.

The topic of space has always intrigued me and Sci-Fi is one of my favourite genres. I grew up watching most of the Star Trek series as well as reading Star Trek novels so this kind of book was right up my alley.

I found it was a little bit slow to start off with and it jumped around a bit, recapping other events that seemed unrelated to the Apollo 8 mission. It wasn’t until about halfway through that it picked up and I couldn’t put it down. Towards the end you can see how everything is tied together and I can see the point of everything that was written however it did seem a little disjointed at the beginning.

I enjoyed getting to know the three astronauts better and their history, and how they came to be on Apollo 8.

There was a lot of political insight in the book and it was quite disheartening to read about some of it and how society, although seeming to be searching for freedom, is in its quest practically doing the opposite.

Overall I enjoyed the book and I learnt more about a topic I enjoy. I would definitely recommend this book to those who like either Sci-Fi or history (or both!).

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by The Countess of Carnarvon

15946109Blurb

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey tells the story behind Highclere Castle, the real-life inspiration and setting for Julian Fellowes’ award-winning drama, and the life of one of its most famous inhabitants, Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon.

Almina expected a life of sumptuous banquets and expensive dresses when she married the Earl of Carnarvon at 19. But when the First World War broke out, life at Highclere changed forever and Almina and her staff were forced to draw on their deepest reserves of courage.

Drawing on a rich store of materials from the archives at Highclere, the current Lady Carnarvon has written a remarkable and transporting tale of a lost time.

My Perspective

This is the seventeenth book I read from my post Credit Where Credit’s Due. I read about  Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by The Countess of Carnarvon from Cely at Running Off The Reese’s. Unfortunately you can’t read her thoughts on the book anymore as her blog was hacked and her posts deleted 😦

The book follows the true story of Almina Carnarvon nee Wombell from when she became the Countess of Carnarvon by marriage to the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, to his death in May 1923. It is written by the current Countess of Carnarvon from diaries and letters held in the archives of Highclere.

The story is basically a biography of the life of Lady Almina while she was Countess of Carnarvon. She was a force of nature and I really admire and respect her drive, especially during the war and the effort she went to with her hospitals.

I found it really interesting and I actually came away with a lot more respect for the upper classes of English society in those days. Not only their hard work during the war however the way that even though they were privileged and spent excessive amounts of money – nothing was wasted! I loved reading about the surrounding village people lining up to collect the drippings from one of the extravagant parties Lady Alimna held.

It was also interesting to read about the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. I had no idea about the story behind it.

Reading about the servants and the way it all worked “downstairs” was super fascinating and gave a lot of insight to the culture of the large houses and estates back then.

Overall I would definitely recommend this book if you like historical novels, both fiction and non fiction.

Cairo Jim And The Secret Sepulchre Of The Sphinx by Geoffrey McSkimming

Cairo Jim And The Secret Sepulchre Of The Sphinx by Geoffrey McSkimmingBlurb

A Tale Of Incalculable Inversion

When that well-known archaeologist and little-known poet, Cairo Jim, and his friends Doris the macaw, and Brenda the Wonder Camel, and Jocelyn Osgood make the ‘find of the century’, a new enemy on the scene sets out to discredit Jim and destroy his hard-won reputation…

My Perspective

Cairo Jim And The Secret Sepulchre Of The Sphinx, follows Cairo Jim, Doris and Brenda once again on the dig for an historical wonder. However they know not what they are looking for. And just when they thought their lives were forever at peace due to the demise of the evil Neptune Bone, Mr Impluvium, an evil and conniving man, turns up on the scene.

The story was again a silly yet well written children’s story. I do find that after awhile some of the silliness gets to me however I have to remember that it’s not written with my age group in mind. I loved these books as a kid and didn’t find the silliness over the top at all back then.

I really liked the storyline and the mystery throughout. Although some of it was obvious, not all of it was and there were some parts that really kept me guessing.

Again, the main characters are extremely likeable – Cairo Jim, Doris and Brenda – and Mr Impluvium the slimy villain everyone loves to hate. What he did in the book was pretty mean and nasty and you really feel for Cairo Jim and his friends.

Overall it was an enjoyable and light read that I would recommend for children and adults who like a silly adventure/mystery with a bit of history thrown in.