The Disappearing Spoon – Sam Kean

9413837This book is much more than a rambling, collection of stories,  facts and quirky science knowledge. It is a history of  adventure, betrayal, and obsession. The book follows every element on the periodic table and their parts in human history, and in the lives of the scientists who discovered them.
It had enough science in it to both keep scientifically minded person interested and not scare off the scientifically illiterate. A great read for a source of trivia and improving your knowledge of elements if you have no clue as to what the difference between copper or bronze is.
Its title comes from the lab prank of molding spoons out of Gallium, which is solid at room temperature, but melts at 28 degrees Celsius ( 84Fahrenheit for those crazy imperials). So when you give a gallium spoon to someone with their tea, it will melt as they stir it, man those scientists are a crazy bunch. It’s a book I think everyone should read (might help raise our poor education standard for STEM)

Odessa Sea – Clive Cussler

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Picking up a book by your favourite author is like sliding into a warm bed in winter or that first sip of beer on a hot Australian summer day, its just fantastic. Speaking of which it is 42 ° C   (or 107 F) to you crazy yanks.

Another solid entry into the Dirk Pitt series (its number 24 by the way) It ha been 2 years since out last adventure with these heroes and after the first few pages it feels like no time has passed at all. With the introduction of his long lost kids a few books back they pretty much are in all the books now and its sticks to the same formula, the kids have one plot and Pitt has another but by the end it turns out they are intertwined. This is normally done well but this time each plot for me just felt forced, like they each could have been their own book since the connection wasn’t that strong at all, each could function without the other.

It was however refreshing to see that the crew on the NUMA vessel’s which normally are treated like red shirts from star trek (ie canon fodder) were actually treated like people for once and not just killed off.

I do like how his books always seem to include some real life event in them kind of ties them down to a specific time frame. For this one we deal with the Russian invasion and take over of the Crimea Peninsula
With his multitude of series running and it is no surprise that sometimes things feel “familiar” but that doesn’t deter you from enjoying the ride. Bring on book #25

The Summer Before The War – Helen Simonson

The Summer Before The War – Helen Simonson

This book was a challenge, a challenge i set myself to be honest because awhile ago a friend posted a picture of a parcel on her doorstep saying her books had arrived and yet when i asked her what did she buy i was told you wouldn’t like it. No title, author or genre just boom you wouldn’t like it, We used to speak many a time about books and offer suggestions but this time i could draw out no further information.

Had my reading preferences become so constrained that she felt it a waste to elaborate on her purchases. Had a comment i may of made previously about a book or genre perhaps offended her? Either way i felt the situation called for me to take a stab at broadening my literary horizons. So i thought, what is the genre that would cause me to throw the book into a fire under normal circumstances. The first genre to mind was Romance, i would rather have a kidney extracted by hand and with no anesthetic than read that rubbish. The second was anything remotely like Downton Abbey – The whole post Edwardian period piece. So perhaps i could find a book that would combine these two.

The End result was this book, in fact it didn’t take long to find since there is such a demand for this style of Downton Abbey style rubbish. Needless to say my negativity of the genre is already showing and i’ll try to reign it in.

The books Blurb is as follows

East Sussex, 1914. It is the end of England’s brief Edwardian summer, and everyone agrees that the weather has never been so beautiful. Hugh Grange, down from his medical studies, is visiting his Aunt Agatha, who lives with her husband in the small, idyllic coastal town of Rye. Agatha’s husband works in the Foreign Office, and she is certain he will ensure that the recent sabre rattling over the Balkans won’t come to anything. And Agatha has more immediate concerns; she has just risked her carefully built reputation by pushing for the appointment of a woman to replace the Latin master.

When Beatrice Nash arrives with one trunk and several large crates of books, it is clear she is significantly more freethinking — and attractive — than anyone believes a Latin teacher should be. For her part, mourning the death of her beloved father, who has left her penniless, Beatrice simply wants to be left alone to pursue her teaching and writing.

But just as Beatrice comes alive to the beauty of the Sussex landscape and the colorful characters who populate Rye, the perfect summer is about to end. For despite Agatha’s reassurances, the unimaginable is coming. Soon the limits of progress, and the old ways, will be tested as this small Sussex town and its inhabitants go to war”

I first see the year 1914, and get excited knowing this is set right at the outbreak of WWI but then I read the whole blurb, in fact i read it twice to try and figure out what the plot was, and even after finishing the book i am still left struggling to understand the plot, was there even a plot? If it wasn’t for the brief mention of war i might of passed over this book for another.

For me i just can’t fathom why people love the whole Downton Abbey theme. People seem to imagine this a rich and wonderful time to pursue ones interests, with slaves, oh i mean servants to cater to your whims and numerous balls and galas held to entertain your social needs. Where young beautiful ladies are swooned by handsome men with fancy titles.  Is everyone who reads this stuff Daft? That’s how the rich and powerful 1% of society lives, a quick look over to the rest of us shows we drag out our meager existence chasing trains to pick up dropped pieces of coal to warm us in winter. This is an area where women have very little choice. They must do as their fathers bid, marry who their fathers bid. Can’t aspire to greatness or to have any job they desire, doors are closed to them for most vocations. Religion holds a powerful influence over people, to highlight this sickening hold, there is a woman in this story who gets raped and falls pregnant, SPOILER ALERT, instead of feeling for this poor woman and trying to help her because of what she went through, they feel they need to remove her from their town and not be seen with her so as to not ruin ones social standing and people call this the time of romance? Everything about this time is focused on social standing as opposed to happiness or chasing ones dreams but enough of a rant about the theme back to this book.

This book was such a struggle to go through, it felt like each chapter dragged on longer than the wait between book releases from George R.R. Martin. Don’t get me wrong the Author writes well and somehow manged to do it for 500 pages but for 400 pages nothing happens, we have balls and galas, numerous teas and dinners but nothing of purpose or meaning. We have stuck up Matrons and ladies of the house and the usual town gossipers. Even the outbreak of WWI barely makes a dent into the social goings of this town, they swarm over refuges hoping to get English speaking ones and to help raise their social standings by this act. It is these very people who should be shot for war crimes, only helping their fellow man for their own personal gain.

The brief highlight of this book was when we finally venture out of some quaint English town to the battlefields of Europe, oh how my hopes were dashed by its mere briefest of appearances. Yet its mere presence renewed in me a desire to finish this book and be done with it. With numerous mentions of the war in those last 100 pages and chapters taking place there, i was able to zip through to the ending which was not surprising and rather long foreseen considering how predicable these 2 dimensional and plain characters are.

If you love stories with no plot that feature words like Matriarch, Lord, Servant, and have themes like Female oppression, Social Elitism, and revolve around the PoV of a woman trying to break the social confinements placed on a young single woman than yes this book is for you.

If you prefer entertainment, excitement, suspense or even just a basic plot then move along friend this is not the book your looking for

 

Templar Series – Raymond Khoury

Templar Series – Raymond Khoury
Picked up the first book in this series along time ago but never read it. Didn’t even know it was part of series back then, i just saw it involved the Templars and thought it might be in a similar vane to Da Vinci code.
The Last Templar
The story in the is broken into 2 plot lines. The first set in the modern day world follows on from a heist at The Metropolitan Museum, where men on horseback dressed as Templars steal an artifact and the second plot line is set in the past first starting in 1291 and follows the Templars as they try and hide the artifact, as the city of Acre falls to invaders. Both lines do not initially discuss the nature of the artifact we find that out later.
What follows is very Da Vinci Code style hunt for treasure with Archaeologist Tess Chaykin(who was in the museum when it was robbed) and FBI Sean Reilly which leads them to a shocking discovery about the artifact. Which then leads us to the most disappointing part of the book. Tess talks about her job as an Archaeologist as uncovering the truth and how it is important to let the people decide etc, but then when she discovers what the artifact was she lets it be destroyed because it could upset some religious people, what a joke, a betrayal of her character. I just couldn’t believe this hogwash ending it just felt so wrong it almost turned me off the whole series luckily i persevered
The Templar Salvation
This book follows a similar vane with the same duo from the first book hunting down another Templar artifact. This time with a crazed Iranian hit man after them and the treasure. I never thought i would hope for a terrorist to win but after the bullshit ending in the first book i wanted the terrorist to find the artifact and reveal it to the world which was his intent.  Fortunately when the duo uncover it they too decide to share it and luckily it includes a copy of the artifact lost in the first book so their idiocy was undone
The Devil’s Elixir
I was disappointed to find that  this book goes on a different path and has nothing to do with the Templars. This one deals with figures from Sean’s past coming back to take him down and also to dispense a knew drug to the world with crazy hallucinations properties. I liked this one a lot, i thought it was going to go a bit too crazy with some of its mumbo jumbo but turned out there was a very logical basis for it. Very creative writing by the author.
Rasputin’s Shadow
My favorite book so far, the first book was the authors debut and now 8 years later with this book you can really feel how much the author has come into his own writing style and groove. This is much more structured and has the characters behaving in logical ways. Far better writing to be honest. The plot follows A Russian who is the son of a man very close to Rasputan, as he discovers a shocking secret behind Rasputan’s powers and builds a weapon following designs left by his dad. Realizing its power could be used by the wrong people he destroys it and flees to the US. Now in his last years of life he has been found and begins a race between the US n Russia to capture him and this deadly weapon before it is used
While originally i thought this was a series about Templar knights, its actually about Tess and Sean, which works since they are very like-able people and aside from some stupidity in the first book are quite fun to read. There are some issues from Seans past that are being slowly pieced together over these 4 books and looks like coming to a forefront in the next book. I’m really looking forward to it as i feel the author has come into his stride the characters make logical choices now and the plots and intrigue are just sucking me in each time. This series is very Da Vinci Code like for the first two books and then delves into a more thriller/adventure story as the themes move away from the Templars and focus more on Sean than Tess’s vocation.

The Terror – Dan Simmons

The Terror – Dan Simmons
Found this book while filling in time at a book store. I recognized the authors name and picked it up to check it out. It’s the authors take on what happened to the lost Franklin Expedition to discover the Northwest Passage. The blurb on the back caught my attention with the whole the crew are pursued across the ice by The Terror.
It got me thinking back to his previous book i had read The Abominable, that books blurb gave the impression the climbers were stalked by a Yeti, but the truth was far from it. So i anticipated a similar deception here. I assumed instead of a monster, “The Terror” that the author described was death. chasing them across the ice as each man succumbed to starvation.  Since all the men died i felt this would probably be the case.
To test this i decided to get the book not from there of course, pfft Dymocks is a rip off. I scanned the book on my app and when i got home bought a copy from Bookdepository.com. $4 cheaper than Dymocks and free shipping.
Once the book arrived i dove straight in. Well unlike his previous book it wasn’t a metaphor, something is actually pursuing the men. This increased my interest ten fold. Man this book was good, the level of suspense, you really feel on edge like the men would be, ever wary of the nearby threat.
Was loving it till about halfway when a local native to the region started displaying some magic spiritual mumbo jumbo crap, when i first read that part i thought i had daydreamed it, it was so out of the blue. I went back and read the preceding pages to check, nope the author did indeed throw in some strange mumbo jumbo. I thought i can deal with it ill just ignore it and revel in the suspense side of things but as it drew to the end that spiritual mumbo jumbo just went down right crazy and for me it ruined a solid book. It was just over the top unbelievable stuff. like seriously a native who kisses polar bears and when the bear kisses her it blows into her mouth and plays her vocal cords like a flute?? what crack was this author on.
Loved the suspense and setting of this book but the ending just killed it for me, With the ridiculous mumbo jumbo. That aside if you read 3/4 of the book and skip the polar bear symphony and then finish there by saying then they all died its brilliant.
 Tongueless people who make music by kissing polar bears and all that other spiritual voodoo stuff, like really?? Try harder and be a little more creative  next time Mr Author

The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz – Denis Avey

The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz – Denis Avey

We live in a different time now, we have become numb to violence and hatred. We fear speaking out because the left wing nanny state fascists will accuse you of being a racist or intolerant.

This story serves to remind us of a time when people risked death to save another and didn’t give it a second thought, a time when people saw something was wrong and knew something had to be done to let others know what occurred. A far cry from today’s generation who only care for themselves (and their votes at the next election). All life is equal and it is only through the fallacies that are religion, Supremacy ideology and elitism that we seem to forget this. This story is a horrible insight into a difficult and appalling time but one that still offers a glimpse at the enduring human spirit.

What Denis did for a stranger is beyond words, but shows us what we were once made of. This story is even more emotional as not only are we given a glimpse into what occurred but we also follow the journey of Denis as years later, he discovers the consequences as a results from his actions.

A brilliant and emotional read….

Genghis Khan – Jack Weatherford

Genghis Khan – Jack Weatherford
Quite an informative read. We are taken for a walk through the life of the famous Genghis khan. From a nobody to the greatest commander ever. The man conquered more lands than any other and his empire was larger than all before him.
Unlike other conquerors he didn’t just bring pain and suffering but religious freedom, ended slavery, built economies,  and developed cultures. Then knowing his end was near he tried to ensure his death wouldn’t cause the end of his empire, tried to ensure his sons honored his wishes, They didn’t
After his death it wasn’t until 40 years later that the empire stabilized under kublai khan and extended to its furthest. The legacy left over wasn’t revered as it should be but tarnished and discredited by so many to the point that they were spoken of like scum, if one had a sick child it was said to be a mongoloid (essentially Mongolian) as a kid i even remember using that term as an insult to my sister, but to find out it was used by Europeans to mask their hatred of the Mongolians because of their conquest, Was like a blow hitting me i had no idea of the terms backstory
This and other revelations is what i found remarkable about this book. It is so true in our biased society that history is written by the Victors but that just makes it even more amazing when the truth comes through.