Books to Love: All Hands On Deck

 
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The time has come, and I must say that I’m pretty excited about this. The winner of Whiskers on Kittens September Giveaway of The Glass Ocean is:

Kara S.

Congratulations!!! If you’ll just send your address to me at [email protected], I’ll get your autographed book in the mail pronto. Thank you to all who participated in this giveaway. Stay tuned as there will be an October Giveaway. I think I’m more excited about the October one than the September one, and that’s saying quite a lot!

Now, if all this nautical talk has whetted your appetite for more seafaring adventures, I have a few suggestions for you.

If the Lusitania is your preferred mode of transportation to historical seas, then I can heartily recommend Nora Roberts’ Three Fates.

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Three Fates was the first Nora Roberts book that I ever read and it is spectacular. Like The Glass Ocean, she constructs a story in the modern age which revolves around the unraveling of a mystery from the past. In this case, the mystery is what happened to the third statue in a triumvirate of statues known as the Fates. (If you remember your mythology, there are three fates: Clotho, who spun the thread of human fate, Lachesis, who dispensed the thread, and Atropos, who cut it.) As it has been many years since I read this novel, I cannot recall which fate was thought to have been aboard the Lusitania on her fated voyage, but I seem to think it was Clotho. Regardless, until present, that third statue was thought to be lost at sea. Now, however, there have been odd rumblings about how the statue has been recovered.

A nefarious buyer is seeking to unite the three fates once more, but that involves procuring the two others that are out there. Cue our plot line! Starting in Cobh, Ireland with the Sullivan siblings, who once possessed one of the Fates, the story unwinds to encompass such exotic locales as Helsinki, Prague, and New York City. Malachi, Gideon, and Rebecca Sullivan each end up bringing a piece to this pie. Those pieces also happen to be people who are interested in finding out who has the statues and whether that third one has been recovered from the sea. Obviously, within the eighteen minutes before the ship slipped beneath the waves, someone, and we don’t really know who, salvaged one of these statues. Or maybe not. There are rumors rumbling and romances flaring all over the globe in this novel. It’s engrossing and great fun. I highly recommend it.

If you’re still interested in the Lusitania, I have another recommendation, but there’s a caveat. I haven’t actually read this one. However, it is in my queue. I purchased it and have heard a great many positive things about it, so I’ll pass it on. Perhaps we can read it together.

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Touted as a novel for those of us who love Beatriz Williams and Jennifer Robson (both authors whom I do so enjoy), Kim Izzo’s Seven Days in May unfolds during the sea crossing of the Lusitania. Like The Glass Ocean, the story revolves around three women- two sisters, Brooke and Sydney Sinclair, who are making the crossing with Lord Northbrook, Edward Thorpe-Tracey. Brooke is engaged to the impoverished aristocrat, much to her sister’s dismay. Sydney is a suffragette and can’t be bothered with society weddings, regardless of whether it’s her sister’s or not. They depart from New York, bound for England, even though the German Embassy has issued a statement than any ships sailing to England are game for sinking.

In London, Isabel Nelson has just been hired as a secretary at the British Admiralty. However, her quick mind and keen analytic skills quickly thrush her up the ranks and into a position where she’s deciphering code. She seems like she’d be just the sort of woman who would have thrived in Bletchley Circle. As the Lusitania sails closer to her fate, these three women’s stories intertwine and unfold. I don’t know what will happen, but I’m very excited to read this offering. Doesn’t it sound just the thing?

Now for a bit of a departure from our ordinary reading recommendations. Clive Cussler. I’m the wife of a maritime engineer. That being said, I have grown to appreciate Cussler for his attention to technical details of maritime machinery in equal proportion to his complex plot lines.

What makes Clive Cussler all the more fascinating is that he started writing books in order to fund his underwater explorations. He is the man credited with locating the German U-boat that is responsible for sinking the Lusitania. So, while the books I’m about to recommend don’t necessarily deal with the Lusitania specifically, they are written by a man who has first hand knowledge of her demise. And the demise of the U-boat that brought about her demise.

Each one of Cussler’s books involves NUMA, the National Underwater and Marine Agency. His most famous character, Dirk Pitt, works for NUMA as does his best friend, Al Giordino- my personal favorite. These two men sail around the world in search of ships wrecks and other nautical mysteries while simultaneously getting into all sorts of antics. Cool fact: NUMA is real. And Cussler heads it up. There’s even a book devoted entirely to the real life aquatic explorations that have been funded and conducted by NUMA with Cussler’s involvement. Google Clive Cussler and the U.S.S. Leopoldville. There’s a story that will simultaneously make your blood boil and you heart strings wrench.

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These books are entirely non-fiction, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not stranger than fiction. The Sea Hunter chronicles the true underwater adventures Cussler encountered as he searched out famous historical sea wrecks. Starting with the Bonhomme Richard- or as John Paul Jones’ her captain preferred it the Bon Homme Richard- that American 42-gun ship which sunk off the coast of Flamborough Head in the North Sea during the American Revolution, Cussler tells of how his passion for the sea and her naval history spurred him to start NUMA- the National Underwater and Marine Agency- a non-profit organization dedicated to the location, exploration, and when possible, preservation of historic wrecks. NUMA is not exclusively ships, though. There are Civil Way ironclad, dirigibles, airplanes, and other aquatic disasters they seek out.

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The Sea Hunter II was published nearly a decade later and continues with more exotic or little known mysteries encountered by NUMA. Both books are fascinating reads, particularly if you are a lover of history. I mean, I sometimes still wonder what happened to the crew of the Mary Celeste. Over a century later, the mystery still exists. Theories always surrounded her. What happened to the ten crew members who were aboard her? Why was she discovered fully intact yet completely abandoned? We know that sea monsters are probably not to blame. Or pirates. But we still can’t determine why an experienced and revered captain would order an abandon ship when there was nothing wrong with the ship. Cussler talks about this mystery and many, many more. If you’re new to his work, I would recommend starting here as it will wet your whistle for more.

There’s also a mini-series- Sea Hunters: The Series- that’s available on Prime to watch free. If you don’t feel like reading the books, you can get a taste of the adventure that way.

And you must explore his famous adventure hero Dirk Pitt. I’ve read a handful of Dirk’s novels. There has only been one which put a bad taste in my mouth- The Mediterranean Caper. While I believe I understand what Cussler was attempting to do, I could not warm up to the manner in which Dirk Pitt treated the woman in the novel. He was heavy handed (quite literally) and down right misogynistic. (I know he was dealing with his own grief at the loss of the love of his life to that point, but his manner in speaking was deplorable; a simple apology was not enough, and since that’s all that she- and I- got, I did not like it.)

Oddly enough, Clive Cussler follows a similar model to The Glass Ocean and Three Fates. He starts his books off with one or two separate incidents from the past, leaving the reader wondering what happened. Ordinarily those events revolve around something nautical or aeronautical. The meat of the book is Dirk Pitt and his best friend, Al Giordino, unraveling the mystery. I find that I enjoy this literary trope.

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I’ll start with the first Dirk Pitt novel. While not the first novel that I read by Cussler, Pacific Vortex is the first time Dirk Pitt met his readers. I recall the plot line being simpler than Cussler’s subsequent offerings. Okay, I’ll be honest. I don’t fully remember the story of this novel. I do, however, recall a sequence of events which start with Dirk Pitt asleep in his hotel room. One of the villain’s agents sneaks into his suite, rousing Dirk, who escapes to his balcony and scales the side of the building. The tension of that scene was intense until I remembered that Dirk Pitt sleeps naked. Then all I could picture was a fiercely handsome man scaling the exterior of a posh hotel in a state of nature. I laughed, which I’m certain was not Mr. Cussler’s intentions. Regardless, the read was enjoyable. I think when Mr. Cussler writes Dirk, he’s taking a page out of his own life. Sure, he’s embellishing, but that’s what writers do. It’s like Chaucer said in A Knight’s Tale, he’s a writer; he gives the truth scope. With Dirk Pitt, think Indiana Jones, only slightly more salty with a dash of the debonair haberdasher about him. Dirk does so love a well tailored suit, just not when he’s sleeping.

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This is my favorite Clive Cussler. Valhalla Rising wasn’t a hard sell for me. The title alone got me. I love Vikings, whether it’s the show on the History Channel or a certain F1 racer in my first novel named Horatio (who really considers himself a Viking, I think, what with conquering the F1 Circuit and plunder the hearts of women everywhere, but I digress…). Vikings feature prominently in the plot of this novel. As does Jules Verne. Really, it’s as if Cussler tapped a vein and asked my blood what sort of maritime adventure it wanted to live next. This is another Dirk Pitt novel, though this one takes place later in his life. You do meet his children here. Children? Yep. Finding out he has children surprised him as much as it did me. He’s such a salty sea dog.

While there are more titles I could add to this list, I think I will leave it at that for now. I will, no doubt, be delving into nautical themes again in the futures because - did I mention- I’m married to a man of the sea.

Now, dear readers, you’ve read about my favorite seafaring jaunts. Do you have any? Or perhaps, you also enjoy that past mingling with the present motif that I seem to gravitate toward. Are there any books that follow that trope that you would recommend? I’m always on the look out for good suggestions.