Some Really Weird Ideas

False Steps: The Space Race as It Might Have BeenFalse Steps: The Space Race as It Might Have Been by Paul Drye

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Nazis had a plan to put a huge mirror in orbit that could focus sunlight on military targets and boil ocean water to generate electricity in peaceful times. During the war, the Nazis also had plans for a space plane that they intended to use to bomb New York. In the fifties, the British had a space program that they abandoned. The US Army planned to build a base on the moon and keep a permanent detachment of soldiers there. Their launch site was to be on Christmas Island. The Soviets’ premier rocket designers worked from a forced labor camp. The Japanese had a space program. There was an American proposal to create a spacesuit that would allow stricken astronauts to parachute from orbit. As a precautionary measure for the Apollo moon landing, a design was proposed for stranded astronauts to blast off the moon’s surface in a rocket-powered chair.

Paul Drye recounts over fifty space flight schemes that worked, failed, or were laughed off the drawing board. All of the spacefaring nations and some that you never expected to fall into that category are represented here. False Steps is an intriguing collection of space trivia that will fascinate space enthusiasts, engineers, and nerds in general. The remarkable depth of research the author has done is nothing less than astounding. I was delighted to learn that on a proposed long-term mission to Venus, astronauts were to be allowed to take two kilograms of movies and one and a half kilograms of recorded music. Using kilos as a unit of measure for music and movies had not previously occurred to me; although, in retrospect, I can think of plenty of music that ought to be judged in kilograms. Mr. Drye’s writing style is crisp and clear if necessarily burdened by acronyms and initials—he is, after all, recounting military and governmental jargon. False Steps captivated me from start to finish. Anyone interested in space and technology will love it.

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Decisions; and They’re All Bad

Decisions (Family Forever Book 5)Decisions by Tamara Miller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Franny’s husband, Harry, died a slow, miserable death from cancer. Then her mother, Isla, sank into the sad morass of dementia and had to be put into an assisted living center. It was not a happy task. At the same time, the lives of Franny’s twin daughters, Emma and Jani, are upset by a flurry of troubling pregnancies. Jani is expecting her third child and fears complications. Jenny, a distant acquaintance, arrives at Emma’s house and announces that she and her husband of two days need a place to stay. He splits before she knows that she is expecting. Alice, Jani’s nanny, realizes that she is pregnant and doesn’t know where the father is. While all these stressful events are unfolding, Fanny is being courted, maybe seduced is a better word, by her boss, Bryan. Emma and Jani are aghast, but none of them know that Bryan is damaged goods. Could it possibly end well?

Tamara Miller is the queen of family drama. She brilliantly draws the reader into the landscape and time period of her stories, and, of course, into the joy and heartaches of her characters’ lives—Decisions having more heartaches than joys. Ms. Miller’s prose is clean and flowing. She illustrates her scenes with slices of real-life—kids squealing around the Christmas tree, the thrill of an illicit kiss, or the terror of contemplating an illegal abortion. Decisions is the fifth volume in her Family Forever series. She says it’s the last. We can hope that’s not true.

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