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.

Cairo Jim & Doris In Search Of Martenarten: A Tale Of Archaeology, Adventure & Astonishment by Geoffrey McSkimming

Cairo Jim & Doris In Search Of Martenarten: A Tale Of Archaeology, Adventure & Astonishment by Geoffrey McSkimmingBlurb

Far away in Upper Egypt, in a place known as the Valley of the Kings, Cairo Jim (assisted by the hieroglyph-reading macaw Doris and Brenda the Wonder Camel) is searching for the lost tomb of Pharaoh Martenarten, Worshipper of the Moon and King of Ancient Egypt.

It is not an easy search. Plagued by uncertainty, the dauntless trio persevere in a harsh climate made all the more worse by dust, sand and petty skulduggery.

But these are the least of their troubles. Somebody of great deviousness, treachery and manicured evil wants what they are after. And he will stop at nothing to claim it for his own!

My Perspective

I’ve been ripping through the Ranger’s Apprentice series and when I finished Oakleaf Bearers, I had to wait over the weekend before I saw the customer who’s lending them to me to borrow the next two books in the series. I couldn’t wait that long to read a book but I didn’t want something too engrossing that would take me away from the Ranger’s Apprentice. So Cairo Jim it was.

Cairo Jim & Doris In Search Of Martenarten: A Tale Of Archaeology, Adventure & Astonishment is obviously about Cairo Jim, Doris and Brenda searching for the lost tomb of Marenaratan. The only problem is that there is also someone else searching and they will stop at nothing to find the tomb and claim it for themselves.

The story is written in a silly albeit will written style very suited to children. I still greatly enjoyed it however if you don’t like a bit of obvious silliness then you may not enjoy this book.

The characters were brilliant. Cairo Jim is such a soft soul, you can’t help but like him. Doris and Brenda are fantastic “side kicks” with their funny perks and they really add to the story. And the villains were everything children’s villains should be. Gross and slimy with grandiose ideas. I also love that the villain is a recurring villain in the Cairo Jim Chronicles. There is just something about them that makes you love and hate them at the same time.

The actual story was interesting however not as gripping as the Cairo Jim On The Trail To Cha Cha Muchos. I would still recommend it for children and adults who like a silly adventure/mystery with a bit of history thrown in.

The Three Nations Trilogy by Christoph Fischer

Having finished the Three Nations Triology by Christoph Fischer, i thought i would create a post about all three books. If you’re interested in reading them, the last book in the series has just been released. For a quality read, these books are a bargain! I have linked my review of each book so that you can see what i thought.

The Luck of the Weissensteiners by Christoph Fischer

The Luck of the Weissensteiners (Three Nations Trilogy: Book 1)

In the sleepy town of Bratislava in 1933 Greta Weissensteiner falls for Wilhelm Winkelmeier, a bookseller from Berlin. The couple and their families are increasingly challenged by the disintegration of the multi-cultural society of Czechoslovakia. The story unfolds further as war comes to all of Central Europe, with its torment, destruction and unpredictability – even after the fighting has stopped.

On Amazon:  http://bookshow.me/B00AFQC4QC
On Goodreads: http://bit.ly/12Rnup8
On Facebook: http://on.fb.me/1bua395

Click here for my review.

Sebastian (The Three Nations Trilogy) (Volume 2) by Christoph Fischer

Sebastian (Three Nations Trilogy: Book 2)

Sebastian is the story of a young man who, due to an unfortunate accident, has his leg amputated shortly before World War I. When his father is drafted to the war it falls to him to run the family grocery store in Vienna, to grow into his responsibilities, bear loss and uncertainty, and hopefully find love.

Sebastian Schreiber, his extended family, their friends and the store employees experience the ‘golden days’ of pre-war Vienna, the time of war and the end of the Monarchy, while trying to make a living and to preserve what they hold dear.

Fischer convincingly describes life in Vienna during the war, how it affected the people in an otherwise safe and prosperous location, the beginning of the end for the Monarchy, the arrival of modern thoughts and trends, the Viennese class system and the end of an era.

As in the first book of the trilogy, “The Luck of The Weissensteiners” we are confronted again with themes of identity, Nationality and borders. The step back in time made from Book 1 and the change of location from Slovakia to Austria enables the reader to see the parallels and the differences deliberately out of the sequential order. This helps to see one not as the consequence of the other, but to experience them as the momentary reality it must have felt like for the people at the time.

On Amazon: http://bookshow.me/B00CLL1UY6
On Goodreads: http://ow.ly/pthHZ
On Facebook: http://ow.ly/pthNy

Click here for my review.

The Black Eagle Inn by Christoph Fischer

The Black Eagle Inn (Three Nations Trilogy: Book 3)

The Black Eagle Inn is an old established Restaurant and Farm business in the sleepy Bavarian countryside outside of Heimkirchen.  Childless Anna Hinterberger has fought hard to make it her own and keep it running through WWII. Religion and rivalry divide her family as one of her nephews, Markus has got her heart and another nephew, Lukas got her ear. Her husband Herbert is still missing and for the wider family life in post-war Germany also has some unexpected challenges in store.

Once again Fischer tells a family saga with war in the far background and weaves the political and religious into the personal. Being the third in the Three Nations Trilogy this book offers another perspective on war, its impact on people and the themes of nations and identity.

On Amazon: http://bookshow.me/B00FSBW2L6
On Goodreads: http://ow.ly/pAX8G
On Facebook: http://ow.ly/pAX3y

Click here for my review.

Short Biography:
Christoph Fischer was born in Germany, near the Austrian border, as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. Not a full local in the eyes and ears of his peers he developed an ambiguous sense of belonging and home in Bavaria. He moved to Hamburg in pursuit of his studies and to lead a life of literary indulgence. After a few years he moved on to the UK where he is still resident today. ‘The Luck of The Weissensteiners’ was published in November 2012; ‘Sebastian’ in May 2013. He has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalisation.

http://www.facebook.com/WriterChristophFischer?ref=hl
http://www.christophfischerbooks.com/
http://writerchristophfischer.wordpress.com/

The Black Eagle Inn (The Three Nations Triology) (Volume 3) by Christoph Fischer

The Black Eagle Inn by Christoph FischerBlurb

The Black Eagle Inn is an old established Restaurant and Farm business in the sleepy Bavarian countryside outside of Heimkirchen.  Childless Anna Hinterberger has fought hard to make it her own and keep it running through WWII. Religion and rivalry divide her family as one of her nephews, Markus has got her heart and another nephew, Lukas got her ear. Her husband Herbert is still missing and for the wider family life in post-war Germany also has some unexpected challenges in store.

Once again Fischer tells a family saga with war in the far background and weaves the political and religious into the personal. Being the third in the Three Nations Trilogy this book offers another perspective on war, its impact on people and the themes of nations and identity.

***TO BE RELEASED 15 OCTOBER 2013***

My Perspective

This is the third book in The Three Nations Trilogy. The story is about the Hinterberger family who own and run a farm and restaurant, named The Black Eagle Inn. Anna has been running it with an iron fist for most of her life however not having been blessed with children, she is constantly weighing up her nephews and nieces as potential heirs. It soon is clear that the choice lies between two of her nephews, Markus and Lukas. Unfortunately her best laid plans are ruined by the one she loves most.

I actually found this book quite sad. It wasn’t sad in that it made me cry – it didn’t. It was more in that you were sad that so many of the characters were blinded by their greed and that when things fell apart they were too proud to forgive.

The story was well written and there was a lot of development in the characters. My attention was caught from the beginning and the outcome of the story was quite unknown to me until the very end – i didn’t find it predictable at all.

I found the tone to be a little different compared to the first two books, The Luck of the Weissensteiners and Sebastian. They were more historical fiction whereas this was more of a family saga simply set in the past. There was a lot more actual politics in this book as well compared to the other two. The other two were political in the sense that they involved the war and all the politics surrounding that however this book had a lot of politics to do with area of Germany where the story was based. I actually found in a section towards the end of the book that it was a bit too political – i felt like i was being too heavily persuaded in certain views and opinions.

I also just wanted to say that i really appreciated one of Christoph’s notes at the end. The book had a lot of negative religious content and this is what he wrote – “Equally, the book is by no means intended to offend religiously devoted readers. Religion is not at all meant to be criticised, only misuse of it for other purposes.”

I would definitely recommend this book to those who like family saga and also historical fiction although it’s not technically in that genre.

This review is based on a digital ARC provided by the author.

The Shifting Fog/The House At Riverton by Kate Morton

The Shifting Fog by Kate Morton

Blurb

Summer 1924:
On the eve of a glittering society party, by the lake of a grand English country house, a young poet takes his life. The only witnesses, sisters Hannah and Emmeline Hartford, will never speak to each other again.

Winter 1999:
Grace Bradley, 98, one-time housemaid of Riverton Manor, is visited by a young director making a film about the poet’s suicide. Ghosts awaken and memories, long-consigned to the dark reaches of Grace’s mind, begin to sneak back through the cracks. A shocking secret threatens to emerge; something history has forgotten but Grace never could.

 Set as the war-shattered Edwardian summer surrenders to the decadent twenties, The Shifting Fog is a thrilling mystery and a compelling love story.

My Perspective

I read this book under the name ‘The Shifting Fog’ however it was originally published as ‘The House At Riverton’.

A few years ago i was perusing the bookshelves at my local library when i found The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. I was captured by the story, spread over three generations, of the rich history of a family and the secrets they held.

About a year ago whilst browsing at a garage sale with my husband and my mother-in-law, i found another of her books, The Shifting Fog. It was $2 so i bought it. I’ve only gotten around to reading it now.

Have you ever read a story and have been left feeling like all of your emotions have been sucked right out of you and all that is left is a deep, dark void of bleakness, even despair? You constantly relive the moments in the book, all the turning points, trying to find resolution? This is what this book made me feel.

The story is told by Grace, now an old woman reflecting on her time as a housemaid for the family at Riverton Manor, and her involvement in their lives and the secrets they held. A young film producer sparks the long repressed memories by coming to her about a film she is to produce based on the tragedy that the two sisters, Hannah and Emmeline Hartford, were witness to. History has it’s own way of retelling the past, but only Grace knows the truth.

The story was really well written, weaving such intricate webs, continually adding bits and pieces making the puzzle seem so much larger than you originally thought.

I really liked Grace as a young housemaid. The way the author wrote her character was excellent – with the mindset of a servant , which was so realistic for that time, that it was a privilege to serve in one of the manor houses. I have found that this can be easily overlooked by a lot of authors. They give them a 21st century attitude. I can’t say though that i liked her the same as an old woman. I didn’t understand why it could feel so disjointed because they are the same person however i understand now.

The book starts off fairly lighthearted and full of hope however as the story goes on it starts to take on a dark undertone and soon hope is giving way to despair. Even though i feel a bit like an emotional wreck, i think it was really clever how Kate matched and reflected the story with the evolving of her characters.

I enjoyed the premise of this story and the detail to which Kate went into, however i do feel that it dragged a bit – however mostly the bits of Grace as an older woman. I also found that the ‘script’ scenes caused me to come out of the story, which in turn made it a bit disjointed.

One that also niggled me was that towards the end of the book, because of the bleakness of the situation, there is a small snippet of a possible ‘happy ever after’ however i think the book would have been better without it. The book was so rich and colourful, so emotional and raw and this little bit was like the dash of Hollywood that had to get put in. I don’t think it’s a fault of the author, rather a personal opinion that i would have preferred it didn’t have.

I really, really hate spoilers however i need to let it out otherwise i will go crazy. I am actually quite upset about the outcome of the book. How the relationship between Hannah and Grace finished. It’s so heart-wrenching. The whole story was! It was filled with so much tragedy.

I don’t know if i could read this book again. When i read books like these, i don’t read shallowly, i read deeply – meaning that all my emotions are vulnerable to the text, laid bare for the book to touch. It was a great story but it’s too much for me. It’s probably not healthy and i need to stop doing it but it’s like when a truly great actor becomes the characters they play, they open themselves up to be able to be someone else – like Heath Ledger and The Joker (and no, i’m not comparing myself to Heath Ledger, i’m merely trying to make a point). I want to read books like that because i want to experience them however in cases like this, it’s not always worth it.

If you like deep, emotional dramas or family sagas, i would recommend this book to you. This was her debut novel and i think she did a good job however i enjoyed her second book, The Forgotten Garden a lot more.

As for me, tonight dreams will haunt my sleep while my mind works, storing the pages of this book deep into the recesses of my memory. I will wake, emotions in check, as if nothing ever happened, ready for the next story.