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review 2018-06-20 18:31
Orbit of Discovery: The All-Ohio Space Shuttle Mission
Orbit of Discovery: The All-Ohio Space Shuttle Mission - Don Thomas

From the beginning of the 20th-Century the state of Ohio has seemingly been on the forefront of manned flight from the Wright Brothers to Neil Armstrong to the flight of an “All-Ohio” crew of STS-70 aboard the shuttle Discovery.  Don Thomas in Orbit of Discovery relates the entire history of the mission from his assignment to the crew to the post-mission events as well as the event that is it best known for, the woodpecker attack that delayed the launch.

 

Thomas begins his book with the sudden halt in his pre-flight routine when a love sick woodpecker drilled holes in the foam of the external tank forcing weeks of delays that put him and the other four members of the crew spinning their wheels.  This pause allows Thomas to give an account about how he personally got to this point through his childhood dream of becoming an astronaut to his course of study in school to achieve that dream then his three time failures to join the program until finally succeeding on this fourth try.  He then goes into his time in the program before his flight on the shuttle Columbia and quick turn assignment to Discovery soon after his return.  Thomas then related the year long process of training and preparation for the mission until the sudden halt in the process when a woodpecker used the external tank to attract a mate.  After NASA was able to repair the foam, the mission returns to normal save for the humor inclusions of Woody Woodpecker throughout the flight in space and the numerous post-mission events that Thomas relates in detail.

 

The uniqueness of the mission’s delay as well as the fact that the crew was entirely made up of astronauts from one state—well one was given honorable citizenship—made for a good hook for any general reader who might have an interest in the space program.  Thomas with the assistance of Mike Bartell gives a very reader friendly look into what it was like to be an astronaut and the course of shuttle missions from assignment to post-flight events without becoming bogged down in technobabble.  At the end of the book is included an appendix for profiles for all the astronauts that came from Ohio which is in the spirit of the book and adds a nice bit of history for those interested.

 

Overall, Orbit of Discovery is a well-written and easy to read book that gives a first-hand account of everything that went into a space shuttle flight.  Don Thomas’ own story of his journey to finally getting to the program adds to the account in allowing the read to see how much dedication goes into becoming an astronaut.  For those interested in any way in the space program, this is a highly recommended book.

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review 2018-05-28 23:27
FROM HAPPENSTANCE, LOVE
Miss You - Kate Eberlen

4:57 PM EST. A few minutes ago, I finished reading this novel, my eyes brimming with tears. I am now basking in an afterglow of quasi-orgasmic satisfaction, for this was a story that spoke to my heart and mind, captivating me throughout its 433 pages.

The story begins in Florence (Italy) in August 1997. Two young ladies from the UK - friends from childhood - are nearing the end of a summer holiday before each will embark on different paths. Tess, who had recently received her A-levels, has secured a place at University College in London. Her close friend, "Doll" (her full name is Maria Dolores O'Neill), is set to be a beautician. "Doll" is the lively, engaging, vivacious, ballsy sort of friend who is a nice complement to Tess who is deeply sensitive, quietly resilient, a bit naive about some of the ways of the world, with an abiding passion for art and literature. 

Then there is 'Gus' (short for Angus) who is also in Florence at the same time. He is with his parents. Together they are the picture of the staid, self-contained English family. Gus is the dutiful son. But inwardly, he is uneasy and anxious given that he will soon be going to London to study medicine, to become more independent and learn who he really is. While exploring the city on his own, Gus has a chance meeting with Tess. It was a fleeting, awkward encounter for both of them - as such meetings between 2 people can be, especially if there is a sudden, mutual attraction. 

Sometime later, Tess and Gus meet a third time near the Ponte Vecchio. Gus was standing in line for ice cream when "... I'd felt a tap on my shoulder, and there she was again, smiling as if we'd known each other all our lives and were about to go on some amazing adventure together." Tess then informs him about "this brilliant gelato place just down Via dei Neri where you can get about six for the price of one here!" In response, Gus tells Tess that "I don't think I could manage six!" Ruefully, he then confesses to the reader that "[m]y attempt at wit had come out sounding pompous and dismissive. I wasn't very good at talking to girls." I could totally relate to Gus when you find yourself unexpectedly in the presence of a person who is singularly attractive to you. But you're at a loss for words in a vain attempt to both impress and ingratiate yourself with that person. Opportunity lost. In Gus' case, he "stared at [Tess] like a moron with sentences jostling for position in my head as her smile faded from sparkling to slightly perplexed before she hurried off to catch up with her friend." 

Each succeeding chapter follows the paths made by both Gus and Tess over the next 16 years. Gus tells his developing story in one chapter in a given year that is followed by Tess sharing with the reader the ups and downs in which she found herself in that same year. Most of Gus' life is clouded over by the tragic death of his older brother, who is clearly the apple of his parents' eyes. Tess returns home and is soon engulfed by a family tragedy that will seismically alter the trajectory of her life. And yet, through the passing of years, the reader is witness to how chance or Fate may bring together or keep apart 2 people perhaps destined for each other.   Example: Gus attends in July 2013 a Rolling Stones concert in Hyde Park (London), where "[a]bout six people in front of me, I noticed a tall woman tracking the ephemeral silvery-white image as it floated over her head, her expression as innocently delighted as a child gazing up at a circus trapeze artist, her lips syncing with the words of the song. Almost as if she had sensed me watching her, our eyes met, her mouth stopped moving and time stood still. Then the butterfly flew away and her face merged back into the darkness."

The ecstacy and the agony. Both Gus and Tess became real people to me the more I read this novel. And as I said earlier, once I read the last sentence, I wanted to cry. But felt embarrassed to do so, though I was alone in my apartment. (I wonder if the author of "MISSING YOU" has received any offers to auction off the rights for a movie adaptation. If so, this novel could be made into a really good movie - provided the mistakes are avoided that bedeviled the movie adaptation of David Nicholls' novel, "One Day".)

Suffice it to say, "MISSING YOU" is a winner.

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review 2018-05-18 08:48
Miss Ruffles Inherits Everything
Miss Ruffles Inherits Everything - Nancy Martin

I enjoyed this as much as I did because I really love Nancy Martin's writing, her Blackbird Sisters series was one of my all-time favorites.  Unfortunately, it ended after the last book and even though the title of this one had me raising my eyebrows, I thought, why not?

 

Story wise... meh.  It didn't quite work, mostly because the twist at the end felt like an afterthought, bringing the whole story to an unrealistic conclusion.  The romance aspect didn't quite work either - the chemistry was there, but the manufactured obstacle's resolution lacked emotional sincerity; I was left wondering why it even existed at all.

 

But I did love the setting, the characters and the writing, which made it easy to lose myself for a couple of hours, so no regrets.  Mostly, this book felt like an accomplished writer experimenting; stretching her boundaries.  Not up to snuff, but not a waste of time, either.

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review 2018-05-12 04:31
Danger, secrets, and guilt kept me listening to this one.
The Mysterious Miss Flint - Adele Clee

This was a fun listen, and Liisa Ivary did a wonderful job of keeping me interested with her emotions as she narrated. Nicole has been through a lot but still has the ability to trust the right person. Oliver is full of guilt and does not want closeness with anyone. I enjoyed both characters and their journeys to finding themselves and true love. I recommend this story (book or audio) and look forward to the next in the series.

I received a copy of this audiobook as a gift, and this is my unsolicited review.

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review 2018-05-05 20:58
Four Solid Winners in the Miss Silver Series
Latter End - Patricia Wentworth
Latter End - Patricia Wentworth,Diana Bishop
Poison In The Pen - Patricia Wentworth
Poison In The Pen - Patricia Wentworth,Diana Bishop
Miss Silver Comes to Stay - Patricia Wentworth
Miss Silver Intervenes (Miss Silver Mystery) - Patricia Wentworth
Miss Silver Intervenes - Diana Bishop,Patricia Wentworth

... lined up in order of preference.

 

I admittedly have so far only read two other Miss Silver books besides these four -- Grey Mask and The Chinese Shawl, respectively --, but based on the books listed above, my appreciation of the series is certainly increasing.  Like Georgette Heyer's mysteries (and to a lesser extent, Ngaio Marsh's), all the Miss Silver books seem to come with a side order of romance, which is probably not surprising, given that this is where Patricia Wentworth started out.  But once she had gotten the standard mystery and romance tropes out of her system that bogged down the first book of the series, Grey Mask, and are also still way too prevalent for my liking the fifth book (The Chinese Shawl -- what most annoyed me there was the predominant "youthful damsel in distress" theme), it seems that she found her stride somewhere between that book and the next one (Miss Silver Intervenes).  There are still common elements to all the novels; e.g., in addition to the invariably-included romance, like Marsh and Heyer Wentworth seems to be playing favorites: Once a character has been introduced as genuinely likeable, it is extremely unlikely that (s)he will turn out to be the murderer -- and if a superficially likeable character turns out to be the bad guy (or girl) in the end, there will be subtle hints all along the way that there might be more to them that meets the eye.  And of the four listed above, I think Miss Silver Intervenes is still the weakest.  But it's clear that Wentworth's apprentice phase as a mystery writer was over and done with.

 

In Miss Silver Intervenes, the detective (or "private enquiry agent," as she prefers to style herself) is called in to untangle a web of deceit, blackmail and murder in a London apartment building, against the background of WWII food shortage and other restrictions of daily life (and I confess I can't think of any other Golden Age mystery where one of the "good guys" is ultimately revealed to be

a sausage king.)

(spoiler show)

Though both of the book's main female characters have a whiff of snowflake / damsel in distress (and their beaux are consequently suffering from a mild form of white knight syndrome) -- and there is perhaps a bit too convenient a use of the amnesia trope (which I don't particularly care for, anyway) -- what I really like about this book is the way in which Wentworth brings the effect of WWII to life, chiefly in one particular character, but ultimately in all of them.  The mystery isn't quite on the level of Agatha Christie, nor does it in fact reach the cleverness of that presented in the previous Miss Silver book, The Chinese Shawl, but the characters -- especially some of the supporting characters, as well as the two policemen (CDI Lamb and Sergeant / later DI Abbott) -- here begin to come alive and take on three dimensions once and for all (though I will say that Miss Silver herself had reached that point by book 5 already).

 

I've yet to catch up with the Miss Silver novels between books 6 and 11, but by the time she got to Latter End (book 11), Wentworth had definitely also weaned herself of the need to have "damsel in distress" heroines.  There still are two such ladies as supporting characters, but the heroine is a young woman who can -- and does -- take care of herself extremely well, and is loved because (not in spite) of that by the hero ... and both she and the hero repeatedly refer to the two ladies in need of rescue as "doormats" (albeit in a spirit of genuine worry about these ladies' inability to put up a fight in their own behalf). -- In terms of plot, again this is perhaps not exactly Christie-level clever; also, the setting is, facially, an exponent of the "toxic family relations explode at country manor" Golden Age staple ... but it's all done with such incredible panache that the characters downright burst off the page; and the murder victim of the piece is in the best Golden Age tradition of a thoroughly despicable human being without whose presence and continuous bullying and intrigues everybody is decidedly better off. -- As in Miss Silver Intervenes, the policemen "formally" in charge of the case are DCI Lamb and Sergeant Abbot.

 

Miss Silver Comes to Stay (book 16) is an example of another Golden Age staple setting, the village mystery with sinister goings-on both in the village and at the nearby manor; and here we get to meet the third policeman that Miss Silver more or less routinely associates with, DI Randal Marsh, who is an old pupil of hers (Miss Silver was a teacher / governess and actually looking at a rather drab and modest sort of retirement before, by mere chance, she stumbled into becoming a "private enquiry agent"). --

Randal Marsh, in turn, also meets his future wife in this book.

(spoiler show)

This was the first book by Wentworth that I ever read, and I liked it well enough to continue my exploration.

 

Poison in the Pen (book 29), finally, is one of Wentworth's last Miss Silver Books -- there are 32 in all.  Again we're on Randal Marsh's turf, of which he has become Assistant Commissioner in the interim -- but the driving force behind Miss Silver's involvement in the case is DI Frank Abbot, who thinks "Maudie", as he privately calls her, is the ideal person to gently worm her way into the social circles of a village beset by poison pen letters.  This is, noticeably, also Miss Marple territory of course, and kudos to Wentworth, whose foray into this area I for once even prefer to Christie's ... albeit as always, not on the grounds of plot or intricacy of the mystery but chiefly on the grounds of the characters involved.

 

Based on these four books, I'm definitely going to continue my journey into Miss Silver's world ... and can I just say as a final note that I prefer my editions' covers of Miss Silver Intervenes and Miss Silver Comes to Stay -- both created by Terry Hand -- to those listed on BookLikes for the same ISBNs?

 

 

(Same ISBN as the covers listed on BL, so no legit grounds to change them, and I can't be bothered to create extra entries for the alternative covers.  But the new ones are stock images which -- probably not entirely coincidentally -- are also used for Georgette Heyer's mysteries, e.g., see the cover of Detection Unlimited, to the left ... where, incidentally, it fits decidedly less well than with Wentworth's Latter End; but then, a disjoint between cover image and contents of the book is common ailment of most of the recent editions of Heyer's mysteries.)

 

 

The audio editions of the Miss Silver books are, incidentally, read by Diana Bishop, whose narrations I've thoroughly come to enjoy.

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