Mel’s Books: December

Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphs
Written by: Barbara Mertz
Read by: Lorna Raver
Notes: Super interesting, fun read.
Score: 10/10

The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World
Written by: Robert Garland
Read by: Robert Garland
Notes: I’d always wanted to read a book about this, and I’m glad I finally did. The lives of the normal people back then is just as interesting as the lives of the leaders, and it’s time they got some love. The lecturer talks like Sid the Sloth from Ice Age, but it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it might at the beginning of the class.
Score: 9.5/10

Serial Killers Abridged
Written by: RJ Parker
Read by: Me
Notes: Short snippets on 100 different killers. The writing was very amateurish, but I still enjoyed it.
Score: 8/10

Masters of True Crime: Chilling Stories of Murder and the Macabre
Written by: Various, edited by R Barri Flowers
Read by: Tara Ochs
Notes: The narrator was a little meh, but the stories were very well written and interesting. Many cases I hadn’t heard of in this book.
Score: 8/10

Living History: Experiencing Great Events of the Ancient and Medieval World
Written by: Robert Garland
Read by: Robert Garland
Notes: 24 lectures about 24 different moments in history. Very cool approach to broad history. There were a few of the lectures that were kinda boring, but on the whole, a very interesting course.
Score: 8.5/10

The World’s Most Evil Psychopaths
Written by: John Marlowe
Read by: Eric Meyers
Notes: A good mix of famous killers and obscure ones, this book was well written, well read, and interesting.
Score: 9/10

M.

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Mel’s Readings: August – September

SIGNS OF THE GODS?
Written by: Erich von Däniken
Read by: Peter Berkrot
Notes: A lot of what was in this book they’ve talked about in Ancient Aliens, but it was a fun read nonetheless. Crazy as all hell, but interesting.
Score: 8/10

SERIAL KILLERS: TRUE CRIME ANTHOLOGY 2014
Written by: Various, including Peter Vronsky and RJ Parker
Read by: Me
Notes: Enjoyed this one much more than the 2015 one, but that’s just because I didn’t have to listen to that droning voice reading it.
Score: 8/10

MAYA TO AZTEC: ANCIENT MEZOAMERICA REVEALED
Written by: Edwin Barnhart
Read by: Edwin Barnhart
Notes: Awesome, awesome, awesome! If you have even only a passing interest in the Mayans and/or other Mezoamerican cultures, I highly recommend this set of lectures. It was over 23 hours, but I absolutely inhaled it, and got sad when I had to turn it off.
Score: 10/10

DEAD EVER AFTER
Written by: Charlaine Harris
Read by: Me
Notes: So I finally got around to reading the last of the Sookie Stackhouse books (that’s the books that True Blood was based on… in the beginning, anyways). And it was a fine conclusion to the story, all ends neatly clipped and taken care of. While she didn’t end up with the person I’d hope she’d spend her life with in the end, I can’t dislike it just for that (like I’ve read from other readers).
Score: 8/10

DEAD ICE
Written by: Laurell K Hamilton
Read by: Kimberly Alexis
Notes: Finally, a strong entry from the Anita Blake series. The series, now at 26 books, has been in steady decline, but looks like Hamilton is finally listening to her readers, and took Anita’s head out of her ass, and gave her stuff to do other than complain and have power-gaining orgies. In this book, Anita goes back to her roots, and Hamilton delivers a fine book filled with zombies, magic, and crazy bad guys. It would have had a perfect score, but Hamilton tends to repeat herself… a lot. A good 2 or 3 hours could have been shaved off the 20 hour reading time easily, I’m sure, and we’d have lost none of the current story.
Score: 8/10

GREAT PHARAOHS OF ANCIENT EGYPT
Written by: Bob Brier
Read by: Bob Brier
Notes: A little disappointed with this one, not because it’s uninteresting, but because it’s an almost word for word redux of certain lectures from his The History of Ancient Egypt, which I’d already listened to. Still gets a perfect score, though, because it is still an excellent set of lectures.
Score: 10/10

THE VIKINGS
Written by: Kenneth W Harl
Read by: Kenneth W Harl
Notes: Awesome beginning, meh middle, good end. The middle was meh because they went on and on about the Viking’s conversion to Christianity. The first lecture about it was fine. But then there were more; how Sweden converted, how Finland converted, how Norway converted, how Iceland converted, how… we get it, they converted, move on. And the, um, lecturer, uh, always seemed to, uh, need to, um, search for his, er, words. I got used to it, but it was annoying at first. There were also people occasionally heard in the background, and there was a constant humming sound, like he was right beside an AC or something.
Score: 7/10

THE HISTORY OF ANCIENT ROME
Written by: Garrett G Fagan
Read by: Garrett G Fagan
Notes: I really want to give this one a perfect score, cause it was so very interesting, but I can’t. Not with this lecturer. I did finally manage to get used to his way for speaking, but it took me half the course. He’d pause right in the middle of……. a sentence, for a real long time sometimes, too. But the course was so amazing that I’m only going to knock him half a point for it.
Score: 9.5/10

LOST WORLDS OF SOUTH AMERICA
Written by: Edwin Barnhart
Read by: Edwin Barnhart
Notes: Not quite as good as Maya to Aztec, but still very, very good. You can almost never go wrong with The Great Courses.
Score: 10/10

RED LAND, BLACK LAND
Written by: Barbara Mertz
Read by: Lorna Raver
Notes: Absolutely stunning portrayal of life in Ancient Egypt, told with perspective and humour. Excellent!
Score: 10/10

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
Written by: Stephen Hawking
Read by: Michael York
Notes: Excellent, but rather repetitive if you, like I, have already read A Brief History of Time. Still, the man is brilliant, no denying that!
Score: 9/10

Books I’ve Read: June and July

History of the Ancient World
Written By: Susan Wise Bauer
Read By: John Lee
Notes: First of 3 books, which I absolutely inhaled. Amazingly written and read in such a way that it never got boring, which happens all too often with history books. Years spanning from about 12,000 BC to about 300.
Score: 10/10

History of the Medieval World
Written by: Susan Wise Bauer
Read By: John Lee
Notes: Second of three books, just as good as the first. Years spanning from about 300 to 1100.
Score: 10/10

History of the Renaissance World
Written by: Susan Wise Bauer
Read By: John Lee
Notes: Third of three books, just as good as the others. Years spanning from about 1100 to 1450.
Score: 10/10

Notes on all three: The only thing I’d have to say about the books besides I loved them, is that since it’s a world history, not enough time is spent on individual subjects. But I guess it would have to be the case, otherwise the books would be waay too long. Listening to all three already took about 70 hours. Also, I really hope Susan Wise Bauer writes another for the years spanning 1450 to the present. Or at least to 1900. That would be awesome. And maybe concentrate on more than just wars, cause really, these books left me little hope for the future of the human race. Such a disgusting, violent species we are…

The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favourite Planet
Written By: Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Read By: Mirron Willis
Notes: Fun book, but I really don’t understand why they don’t get Dr T to read his own books. He’s got a great voice!
Score: 8/10

Serial Killers: Up Close and Very Personal
Written By: Victoria Redstall
Read By: Drew Campbell
Notes: Great, if very disturbing, book about serial killers, a lot of it in their own words. Should have actually read this one, though, the narration was simply awful. Second book I’ve listened to by Drew Campbell, and it’ll be my last. I’ve found that a very lot of serial killer books are badly narrated, forcing me to start buying them in book form instead. I like reading, but my hands don’t always want to hold a book for very long, which is why I started audiobooking in the first place!
Score: 8/10 for the book, 3/10 for the reader.

Don’t Know Much About Mythology
Written By: Kenneth C Davis
Read By: John Lee
Notes: Unfortunately, I’d just read a whole book on Egyptian Mythology, and one on Greek, so there wasn’t a whole lot new for me in this book. Still very well written and read though.
Score: 9/10

Chariots of the Gods
Written By: Erich von Däniken
Read By: Me!! hehe
Notes: I didn’t like the sample I listed to, so I went and bought the E-book instead. But what can I say about this book? It’s a whole bucket of crazy! And yet somehow, sometimes, I found myself nodding my head to what was being said. I like all this stuff, and recently got addicted to the show Ancient Aliens. They’re all completely mad, of course, yet I find it super interesting nonetheless. And who knows? Maybe they’re right!! :-p It was well written, too, so maybe I’ll go check out his other stuff as well. Because ALIENS!

Serial Killers True Crime Anthology 2015
Written By: Many, including Peter Vronsky and RJ Parker
Read by: Don Kline
Notes: Another great book with awful narration. I had a ton of books in my to-buy list narrated by this dude, but I’ve taken them all off and bought the E-books instead (thankfully they were on sale at 99 cents. I’ve got a lot of real reading to do! hehe).
Score: 9/10 for the book, 1/10 for the reader.

Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution
Written By: Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Donald Goldsmith
Read By: Kevin Kenerly
Notes: Great book, well written, but nothing really new to me, who’s read so many of these books, on top of all the shows I watch on Discovery Science and History and H2 (oh, and don’t forget Netflix). I’ve watched so much universe stuff (as I call it), that the only way to get new stuff, I think, would be to take Cosmology at school!! :-p
Score: 9/10

M.

Mel’s 5 Second Audiobook Review: Treasury of Egyptian Mythology

Treasury of Egyptian Mythology (2013)
Written by: Donna Jo Napoli
Read by: Christina Moore

Treasury

(Questions from Audible’s reviews form)

What other book might you compare Treasury of Egyptian Mythology to and why?
I’ve actually never read any other book about Egyptian myths, believe it or not, I’ve only watched stuff on tv, so I don’t really have anything to compare it to.

Which scene was your favorite?
I really couldn’t pick just one, I loved the whole book! But if I absolutely had to pick, it would likely be the story of Osiris, Isis and Set. Horrible and wonderful at the same time!

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
Made me laugh a time or two, but nothing really extreme.

Any additional comments?
This book was so good! The only thing bad I’d have to say was that it was nowhere near long enough! It was only 3.5 hours, barely enough to whet my appetite. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of books quite like this one on Audible. What a shame. So even though it’s only 3.5 hours long, I still give it a 10/10. Wonderful!

M.

Mel’s 5 Second Audiobook Review: Big History

Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity (2008)
Written by: David Christian
Read by: David Christian

big history

(Questions from Audible’s reviews form)

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
I’d recommend this course to anyone interested in history as a whole, since it really does cover all (or almost all, see additional comments :-p ) 13 plus billion years of the universe.

Who was your favorite character and why?
Uh… guys… this is a history course. There are no “characters” as such. Someone proofread these questions, hunh? :-p

What about Professor David Christian’s performance did you like?
He’s very clear, talks well, and has a cute accent. What more could we ask for in a lecturer?

If you could give Big History a new subtitle, what would it be?
13 Billion Years in 24 hours

Any additional comments?
I quite enjoyed this course. As with most courses, I did skip lectures here and there of the stuff that I wasn’t really interested in (like the lecture titled What is Agriculture? *yawn*). There was one thing that kinda pissed me off, though, and that was the total omission of dinosaurs. He never even said the word, he just simply skipped them. That’s a half billion years gap. How can you do Big History without even mentioning them? In fact, I almost stopped it at that point, I was so irked. A month went by before I picked it up again. And that’s why it gets 8/10 instead of 10/10. I still do recommend it though, despite the missing dinos.

M.

Mel’s 5 Second Audiobook Review: Classical Mythology

Classical Mythology
Written by: Elizabeth Vandiver
Read by: Elizabeth Vandiver

mythology

(questions from Audible’s reviews form)

What did you love best about Classical Mythology?
I seriously loved everything about this course. I’ve always been interested in the ancients’ myths, but I’ve never really read anything describing them in detail. They were much more bloody (and depressing) than I ever remember seeing on tv…

What was one of the most memorable moments of Classical Mythology?
I particularly loved the lectures that were about the specific gods, their origins and stories, and especially, from those, the stories of Heracles and Aphrodite.

Have you listened to any of Professor Elizabeth Vandiver’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
Nope, this was the first of her courses that I’ve ever listened to. She’s a great lecturer, very clear and easy to listen to. She runs out of breath frequently, and at first I thought it might bother me in the long run, but it thankfully never did.

Any additional comments?
This course is an absoulte gem for anyone interested in classical myths. It mostly covers the Greeks, but Dr V put aside the last few lectures to talk about how the Romans basically took over the Greek’s myths wholesale and made them their own, changing names and not much else (so much for copyright infringement…) I’d definitely recommend this course to anyone interested in ancient myth. It gets a wonderful 9.5/10 from me.

Mel’s 5 Second Audiobook Review: The Martian

The Martian
Written by: Andy Weir
Read by: RC Bray

The-Martian

“If the Oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death. So yeah. I’m fucked.”

(Questions from Audible’s reviews form)

Would you listen to The Martian again? Why?
I probably wouldn’t, but that doesn’t mean anything. It’s very, very rare that I’ll ever re-read a book. It’s happened only a small handful of times in my adult life. I have so much in my to-read list that I don’t spend time re-reading books, no matter how awesome they were (and this one was awesome).

Who was your favorite character and why?
Definitely the main character, Mark Watney. Along with the obvious heroic stuff, he’s got a killer sense of humour that just brings the character to a whole other level. Venket Kapour, a NASA administrator, is also a wonderful character.

What about RC Bray’s performance did you like?
Everything! He’s an awesome reader! Every character has his own unique voice and accent, even the women, without sounding silly. His voice is pretty much perfect. He was born to read audiobooks.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
I laughed out loud a good few times. I never cried, but I did get really tense a few times. Near the end, I actually had trouble sitting still while listening!

Any additional comments?
This is a practically perfect sci-fi story. And it’s not so out there that I couldn’t picture something like this actually happening. It’s futuristic, but not very far into the future. 50, 100 years, tops. The writing was simple, but very good, and all the characters were engaging. I’d recommend it to anyone even remotely interested in sci-fi. It gets a perfect score from me, 10/10.

Mel’s 5 Second Audiobook Review: The World’s Most Bizarre Murders, True Stories That Will Shock and Amaze You

The World’s Most Bizarre Murders: True Stories That Will Shock and Amaze You
Written by: James Marrison
Read by: Drew Campbell

bizarre murders

(Questions from Audible’s reviews page)

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
I’d recommend it to anyone who likes true crime stuff, with a cautionary word about the reader. I was able to get used to his voice, but it is rather strange.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The World’s Most Bizarre Murders?
It wasn’t a fiction book, so it’s really hard to answer this question. Audible should differentiate the questions for fiction and non-fiction, really :-p

Have you listened to any of Drew Campbell’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
This was the first book I bought of his, and it’ll probably be the last (save the one I already bought, I got two at once). It’s not as horrible as some other reviewers have said, but it is weird. His accent is very weird, like it’s not real or something. That’s really all that’s wrong, though. He does a good job with the reading part.

Any additional comments?
All in all, it was a pretty great book. A few cases I already knew, but mostly stuff that I haven’t, which is getting rarer and rarer with all the true crime stuff I read about and watch on TV. It gets a very good 8/10 from me.

M.

Review Club, Anyone?

So I’ve been thinking of starting a small review club. For anything, really, but I imagine it’ll be mostly movies, since that really is the easiest thing to review quickly.

I was thinking something like this: You’ve got saturday to friday to watch and review a film. Send me the draft on or before friday at midnight, and I’ll have the post out by the following wednesday (so it’ll always be the film of last week on wednesday). And then maybe once a month, or 6 weeks we can do a book review? How does that sound?

The only rule I’d have is to not make the reviews too long, so people wouldn’t have a 10,000 word post to read every week. Maybe try for between 3 to 6 hundred words, max? I think that could work. Other than that, everything goes. I’ll take suggestions for our weekly film and monthly book all the time, and I’ll pick one at random. Or maybe I could post a list of ten films or so, then have you all vote? Yeah, I kinda like that one better.

So here are a few personal invitations: Eric, Vinnie, Abbi, Zoë, Samm, Emma, Matthew, Katherine, and Frankish.

But of course, everyone and anyone is free to join. Even if they aren’t following me, you can ask friends to join if you like. The more the merrier 🙂

M.

Mel’s 5 Second Audiobook Review: The Exorcist

The Exorcist (1971)
Written by: William Peter Blatty
Read by: William Peter Blatty

exorcist

(Questions from Audible’s reviews form)

What made the experience of listening to The Exorcist the most enjoyable?
I’d read the book already, years ago, so I already knew the story. What made this so special was the fact that it was an audiobook, so I got treated to demonic voices and stuff right in my ears, and not just as writing. It was scary enough to read, it got cranked all the way to 11 as an audiobook.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Exorcist?
The part that really stays with me is the part when Karras is listening to the tape of Regan’s voice played backwards and realizes that the gibberish she was speaking wasn’t gibberish at all, but english, spoken perfectly backwards. So very, very creepy.

Have you listened to any of William Peter Blatty and Eliana Shaskan ’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
Nope, never have. I was rather impressed with Blatty’s performance, too. He really gave it his all.

If you could rename The Exorcist, what would you call it?
I wouldn’t dream of it. It’s such an iconic title, there’s no way I’d change it, even if I could.

Any additional comments?
There’s really not much else to say. It’s perfect. Just the right amount of thrills and even some gore, but still manages to not go over the top, as is so easy to do with this type of story. 10/10.

M.