blog tour, books, reviews

12 Days of Clink Street: The Achilles Gene – N.E. Miller

My second stop on the 12 Days of Clink Street celebration tour. Check out my first post here and see the tour poster below for more reviews from other bloggers.

The discovery of the Achilles gene by Ahmad Sharif at the Middle East Centre for Cancer and AIDS Research (MECCAR), recently opened in Jordan’s remote Wadi Rum desert, had stunned Western scientists. Each gene having the potential to destroy its own cell should it ever become cancerous, the discovery had promised a universal cure for the disease. But there was a hitch. Although every one of our cells has the gene, only those of a unique Bedouin tribe have the extra piece of DNA needed to turn it on. Dr Stephen Salomon of the US National Cancer Institute claims to have invented such a switch, for which he will soon receive the Nobel Prize. But maverick Oxford don Giles Butterfield suspects his American friend’s invention might be fraudulent. After a sleepless night in his office in Magdalen College, he sets off for Heathrow in search of the truth. When his young assistant Fiona Cameron unexpectedly joins him in Washington, it is the start of a globetrotting adventure the outcome of which exceeds their wildest expectations, presenting Giles with a dilemma of epic proportions.


My thoughts: overall this was an interesting book, I was really intrigued by the Bedouin tribe with the interesting DNA strand, and the whole Achilles gene, secretive lab in the desert stuff as well, proper conspiracy thriller territory but I wasn’t too bothered about the dodgy American scientist scamming the Nobel committee – they’ve been mired in controversy for some time now.

I found Giles a bit pompous and annoying, his obsession with Liverpool, but a Liverpool that doesn’t exist anymore as it’s a modern city, not the fantasy one he romanticises endlessly, Dark & Stormy cocktails (rum, ginger beer, lime – not that amazing tbh), and old fashioned traditional English stodge cooking were all a bit of an affectation too far at times and verged on parody. Especially once his brother has been introduced and it’s so obviously put on. I wanted more of Fiona, whose main problem was being in love with Giles, who walks all over her.

She figures out the thing with the file dates, and he sends her off to teach his students while he goes off to be lauded as a hero by the Nobel people for preventing a fraud winning their top prize.

What started off as quite a tense scientific thriller confused me at first with the non-linear timeline and then lost me a bit with the endless section on the name of a file on a computer that went on a bit too long, but pulled it together in the final act. I got that the fact that the scientist had lied and his computer proved it but it was a bit fiddly and I wanted more on the dead man drowned in a swimming pool, there was definitely something fishy about his death, although that looks like it might be a case for book two.

I hope Fiona gets her own back in the next book and that Giles gets his arrogance brought down to earth, especially if he’s going up against governments this time, one’s who might have murdered an inconvenient scientist who said too much.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Renegade Spy Project – Terri Selting David

Wren is impulsive, curious, and always in trouble. Can her flaws become her greatest asset?

Wren Sterling has a problem. She knows she’s super smart and a good friend, but no matter how hard she tries, she can’t shake her reputation as a troublemaker. It feels like the only people who believe in her are her three best friends in the Renegade Girls Tinkering Club. She’d hoped middle school would be different, but when her inability to control her temper causes an accident, even her beloved STEM Club is no longer a safe haven.

She has to find a way to fix it. When her idea to start a business inventing and selling spy gadgets succeeds, it looks like she’s finally done something right! But then the Club is accused of a crime. Can they use their own gadgets, and a little bit of trouble to solve the mystery? If they can find the real culprit, Wren may just discover she has a bright future after all. If they can’t, she could lose her best friends forever.

“It’s The Babysitter’s Club meets MacGyver!”

Build your own SPY GADGETS! Instructions included in this charming story about friendship, middle school, and the Engineering Design Process for kids ages 8-12.

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Technically it was Wren’s Greenhouse, hidden behind her family's small home in the middle of San Francisco, but all the Renegades felt at home there. In the Greenhouse, they didn't have to worry about other people's rules and opinions. Or try to be boring or be like everyone else. The Greenhouse was their safe space. They could just be themselves. Wren's parents let them use it as their workshop and clubhouse as long as her little sister, Trixie, could be part of the club.
When they'd formed the Renegade Girls Tinkering Club, the Greenhouse had been abandoned and filled with broken pots and spiderwebs. It was small and dirty, but had everything they needed. A door hidden like a secret behind an overgrown wisteria vine. A back wall with shelves from floor to ceiling, and excellent light from a front wall made entirely of glass. A small but sturdy potting table sat against the windows. It was pleasant and warm, with one electrical outlet and a small work sink. They loved it from the first time they saw it.
Amber, Kammie, Ivy, Wren, and even Trixie had worked tirelessly last summer, cleaning and gathering assorted leftovers, recyclables, and a mishmash of bins to put them in. They categorized and labelled, collected cardboard by cutting down shipping boxes, and saved empty toilet paper rolls from the trash. They snuck random scissors from kitchen drawers, ribbons, buttons, anything that looked useful or had an interesting shape. Amber had borrowed a folding card table from her garage, and Kammie brought in some stools her parents were getting rid of. Wren found an old glue gun, and they had even managed to find an unused sewing machine. The first purchase with their club dues had been copies of the side gate key, so everyone could head directly into the backyard when they came over.
Amber rocketed through that side gate, clutching a cardboard box protectively to her chest with her delicate arms. Beneath a spring green sundress her feet, in their pristine white flats, skipped quickly and skillfully over the ground. The September afternoon sun lit up her auburn hair like a fiery halo.

In 1996, Terri left Colorado, where she grew up, and headed even more West until she couldn’t get any West-er. Landing in San Francisco, her career spanned more than a decade in 3D character animation for video games, films, television shows, and even a comic book (but mostly video games.) Her work encompassed character animation, art direction, and story development before she had children and, imagining a better world for them, co-founded the Renegade Girls Tinkering Club with her friend Vicky in 2015. Since then she’s created over a dozen curricula and assisted in creating half a dozen more, encompassing more than 230 individual projects.

She lives in San Francisco with 2 rowdy children and a fabulous, brilliant husband who brings her tea every night.

Spiderdust Studios – Girls Who Make Stuff

International Giveaway: The Renegade Girls Tinkering Club Trilogy (Digital)

My thoughts: I wish the Renegade Girls Tinkering Club had been around when I was a kid, I liked all the science-y stuff they did, building cool gadgets and learning about circuits and things. My dad’s an engineer and I got quite into that side of science at school.

The book is a lot of fun and there are illustrated guides to building your own cool spy gadgets, and templates to download on the website. There’s also a mystery to solve and one very smart little sister too.

I felt sorry for Wren, it can be really hard when your brain works differently from other people and I didn’t like maths lessons either. But she has great friends and I’m glad she and Amber patched things up, those years just before your teens can be tough and good friends are worth hanging onto as you get older.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books

Blog Tour: Inventing the Future – Albert Cory

InventingtheFuture copy

Welcome to the blog tour for the fascinating new release by Albert Cory, Inventing the Future! Read on for more info and a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card!

“Inventing the Future is Based on the True Story of the Xerox Star, the Computer that Changed Everything”

57138737Inventing the Future

Publication Date: August 10th, 2021

Genre: Based on a True Story/ Historical Fiction/ Technologies

Imagine a time before everyone stared at a screen, before fonts, icons, mice, and laser printers, before Apple and Microsoft… But behind the scenes, Xerox engineers were dreaming and inventing the modern personal computer.

Who were these people who changed the world, and why did corporate management just want to sell copiers and printers?

Albert Cory* was one of the engineers, charged with making that dream a reality and unknowingly starting a revolution. Inventing the Future is based on the true story of the Xerox Star, the computer that changed everything.

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It was finally happening. After almost five years of labor by 250-plus people, the Office of the Future was here. Despite the prayers for them, 64K memory chips had not appeared. Michael had gotten corporate approval to increase the manufacturing cost with an extra 64K words of memory. Star now had 256K words, or 512K bytes of main memory. The performance was still poor, but at least it was tolerable now.

Star had been announced and demoed in New York already, and this week was the National Computer Conference in Chicago, starting Monday, May 4, 1981 and lasting until Thursday. Dan had volunteered to man the Xerox booth for all four days. He flew out to Chicago on the Sunday morning before it started, but with the time change, it was past dinner when he finally arrived at McCormick Place.

Dan read the Sunday Chicago Tribune. 

In Business, Compushop was offering an Apple II starter system for $1,595. But then buried deep inside the section, Dan found what he was looking for, a story about the Star. It began:

Xerox terminal has symbols, not codes

Managers and professional workers haven’t been the best customers for automated office equipment like computer terminals.

Maybe it’s because they are more accustomed to pointing and selecting material rather than typing out explicit commands.

Maybe it’s because they can’t type.

The article quoted a Xerox marketing executive, who explained that the Star was aimed at “managers or professionals who produce documents, reports, or charts.” It explained how the mouse worked. The executive went on to explain that the Star system cost $15,595, but “technological advances will allow price reductions in the future.” Star would be demonstrated at the National Computer Conference at McCormick Place this week.

Dan, Janet, Martin, Henry, and the rest of the Xeroids were continuously busy, explaining the Star to curious attendees. Visitors could try a mouse, and lots of them did—almost no one had ever used a mouse before. A technical staffer had brought a box full of spare mice and swapped in a new one every hour since the accumulated dirt and finger oil from all the guests made the rubber balls in the mice sticky.

As each hour approached, people began gathering around the monitors to see the demos. By noon, they were waiting 10 minutes before the hour. Michael stationed himself near the left side monitor, where he kept busy talking to reporters, executives, and random attendees. Michael watched the crowd closely, and he noticed that Steve Jobs, one of the Apple founders, came every hour, surrounded by other guys Michael didn’t know. He knew that Jobs had visited PARC the year before last for a demo of the Alto and Smalltalk, but he hadn’t seen Star before. He had supposedly asked, “Why isn’t Xerox doing anything with this?” Now, he found out they were.

Available on Amazon 

About the Author

*Albert Cory is a pen name for Bob Purvy, a retired software engineer who worked on the Xerox Star. In his career he also worked at Burroughs, 3Com, Oracle, Packeteer, and Google. All characters are fictional and are composites of the scientists, engineers, and executives who lived the story, with the exception of the auto-biographical character, Dan Markunas. The other two main characters, Janet Saunders and Grant Avery, are completely fictional, and are not in any way representative of the real people who had their jobs (note: the author makes clear which events are real and which are composites in the Endnotes).

Albert Cory

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