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

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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: The Origin and Evolution of Earth – From the Big Bang to the Future of Human Existence

The Origin and Evolution of Earth: From the Big Bang to the Future of Human Existence
Written by: Robert M Hazen
Read by: Robert M Hazen

Origin Evolution of Earth

 

(Questions from Audible’s reviews page)

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?
I would definitely recommend this book to a friend. In fact I already have one in mind. A good half of the course was geology and elements and things like that and, while not my cup of tea, I have a friend who will love it.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?
The parts I liked the most were the cosmology and astronomy lectures, which were mostly in the first half. Once he started in on the table of elements and geology, however, he kind of lost me.

What about Professor Robert M Hazen’s performance did you like?
He’s very articulate, with a clear voice. Definitely a great lecturer.

Was The Origin and Evolution of Earth worth the listening time?
The parts that I enjoyed, very much so. I skipped almost half the lectures, though. I guess I should read the descriptions more closely.

Any additional comments?
I’m definitely not giving this course 6.5/10 because it sucked. As I said, Dr Hazen is a great lecturer, and what I enjoyed of the course I really loved. I gave it only 6.5 cause geology and mineralogy aren’t my bag. But for those interested in those subjects, I definitely recommend this course.

M.

Mel’s 5 Second Audiobook Review: A Brief History of Time

A Brief History of Time
Written by: Stephen Hawking
Read by: Michael Jackson

A_Brief_History_of_Time

(Questions from Aubible’s reviews form)

Is there anything you would change about this book?
The narrator for starters. And I’m not really sure what went wrong, but the last 4 or 5 chapters were just… kinda dull. He just went on and on and on… and on about black holes, and I just kinda zoned out. More than once.

What was your reaction to the ending?
By that point, I just wanted it to be over.

What three words best describe Michael Jackson’s performance?
Erratic, dry, dull.
He’d pause between words where there was clearly no comma or period, or then he’d zip through lines like his life depended on his reading as fast as he could. He even did some ahhs and ums, which really now, is a big no-no when recording audiobooks. And his voice just kinda droned on, made it very easy to zone out, or have my mind wander.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?
I’ve seen a lot of Stephen Hawking’s TV specials, like Into the Universe and Grand Design, and I absolutely loved them. If he were to make this book into a show like that, I’d certainly be interested in seeing it.

Any additional comments?
I give it 7/10 because it’s Stephen Hawking after all, and I’m a huge fan. But if his other books are narrated by this same guy, Michael Jackson, I’m afraid I won’t be listening to any more of them on Audible.

M.

Mel’s 5 Second Review: Death by Black Hole, and Other Cosmic Quandaries Audiobook

Death by Black Hole, and Other Cosmic Quandaries
Written by: Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Read by: Dion Graham

tyson

This was an absolutely wonderful listen. I’m not sure why they didn’t get Dr Tyson to do the reading himself, he’s got a great voice. But Dion Graham actually sounds a lot like him, so at least there’s that. He was perfectly able to capture Dr Tyson’s personality and wit, which is one of the reasons I love his work so much. Some science writers are so dry that no matter how interesting the subject is, it’s almost impossible to get through it. He has all the facts, but he writes it with humour, and it’s wonderful. I’d have given it a 10/10, but there was the “obligatory” chapter on god, which I skipped, so it gets 9.5/10 instead. I’m honestly so tired of seeing religion in science stuff, it has no place there.

M.

My Top 10 Documentaries

This will be a list of my favourite documentaries that were one-offs, meaning that they were only made as a one time thing, either as one movie length show, or a single season comprising of 15 episodes or less. I’ll make another post some other time about my favourite documentary series’. I was going to put them all together, but I realized that with the amount of documentary stuff I watched I’d never be able to keep the list relatively short if I did that, so I’m splitting it. I really enjoyed the new format I tried in my Top Horror Films post, so I’ll see if I can integrate it into my longer articles, making them easier to read. At least, that’s what I think. Am I right? Is it a good format? Let me know!

And now, without any further ado, let’s get this show on the road! 😀

NUMBER TEN

10 Gates of Hell

 

10 GoHTitle: Gates of Hell
Made by/for: History channel
Released in: 2010
Subject: Ancient beliefs that hell was a real place that could be reached from the physical world.
Narrated by: George Kourounis
Written by: Stephen Dost
5 Second Synopsis: A lot of ancient cultures believed that not only was Hell real, but it could be reached from certain places on Earth. We follow guides to seven such places to uncover the stories and mythologies each place holds.
Why I love It: I wasn’t sure I’d actually like this one,since I don’t particularly enjoying watching religious stuff, but I love ancient history, and mythology was a huge part of most ancient cultures, so I gave it a try, and I’m glad I did. It was very interesting, providing facts, and not just preaching fire and brimstone, which is what I was afraid of.

 

NUMBER NINE

9 Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue

 

9 NiRWaBTitle: Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue
Made by/for: Lux Digital Pictures
Released in: 2009
Subject: Horror movies
Narrated by: Lance Henriksen
Written by: Joseph Maddrey
5 Second Synopsis: An exploration of the appeal of horror films, with interviews of many legendary directors in the genre.
Why I love It:  I’m pretty sure I don’t have to explain myself here. It’s a documentary about horror films, how could I not love it?? hehe

 

NUMBER EIGHT

8 Ancients Behaving Badly

 

8 ABBTitle: Ancients Behaving Badly
Made by/for: History channel
Released in: 2009
Subject: Ancient rulers
Narrated by: Tom McCamus
Written by: unknown
5 Second Synopsis: Historians discuss the rulers of the ancient world, and a psychologist tries to profile them by examining their deeds.
Why I love It: It’s entertaining as well as informative, as all the good documentaries are. The animations are cool, too.

 

NUMBER SEVEN

7 C

 

NCOS7200Title: Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey
Made by/for: National Geographic channel
Released in: 2014
Subject: The universe, cosmology and physics
Narrated by: Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson
Written by: Ann Druyan, Carl Sagan, and Steven Soter
5 Second Synopsis: Dr Tyson leads us on an engaging guided tour of the various elements and cosmological theories of the universe.
Why I love It: Cosmology and physics really fascinates me. I don’t always understand everything (I dare you to not get confused while listening to the String Theory), but I love it all the same. And when someone brilliant decides to “dumb it down” a little so laymen can get it (without treating us like morons, of course), and then pair that info with a beautiful, visual treat? Well that’s just gravy on the pie.

 

NUMBER SIX

6 Life

 

6 LTitle: Life
Made by/for: BBC Earth
Released in: 2009
Subject: Life on our planet
Narrated by: David Attenborough
Written by: Paul Spillenger
5 Second Synopsis: David Attenborough’s legendary BBC crew explains and shows wildlife all over planet earth in 10 episodes.
Why I love It: I absolutely love David Attenborough and his work, so it was a given that I’d love this one too. I find he’s got the perfect voice for narration. He rivals even Morgan Freeman! The cinematography is breathtaking, as usual, and all the information is interesting, and interestingly presented. If you haven’t seen it, I reccomend it greatly. Just make sure you get the original, and not the one redumbed, err, I mean redone in the States with Oprah narrating.

 

NUMBER FIVE

5 Blue Planet

 

5 BPTitle: The Blue Planet
Made by/for: BBC
Released in: 2001
Subject: Life in the oceans
Narrated by: David Attenborough
Written by: David Attenborough
5 Second Synopsis: This documentary takes a look at the rich tapestry of life in the world’s oceans.
Why I love It: David Attenborough again. Even though it’s already 13 years old, it’s still the best series I’ve ever seen about the oceans. But, again, make sure to get the original. I don’t even understand why the Americans changed the narrator, this time they picked another actor with an accent, Pierce Brosnan. But I digress… as usual :-p

 

NUMBER FOUR

4 Planet Dinosaur

 

4 PDTitle: Planet Dinosaur
Made by/for: BBC
Released in: 2011
Subject: Dinosaurs
Narrated by: John Hurt
Written by: Tom Brass & Nigel Paterson
5 Second Synopsis: An astonishing six-part series that brings to life the most incredible creatures that ever existed, dinosaurs that were more monstrous, more horrific and bizarre than ever before imagined.
Why I love It: Pre-historic life is another thing that fascinates me to no end.What I wouldn’t give to be able to go back in time and see these enormous creatures. But docs like this one are the next best thing. The animation is breath-taking and the narration is clear and interesting. A must for any dino fan.

 

NUMBER THREE

3 Into the Universe

 

3 ItUTitle: Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking
Made by/for: Discovery channel
Released in: 2010
Subject: The universe
Narrated by: Benedict Cumberbatch & Stephen Hawking
Written by: Stephen Hawking
5 Second Synopsis: In this comprehensive cosmology series, Stephen Hawking looks at the entire universe, from the Big Bang to the end of time.
Why I love It: Stephen Hawking’s brain, Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice, and beautiful animations of our universe? I loved this show before I even watched it.

 

NUMBER TWO

2 Planet Earth

 

2 PETitle: Planet Earth
Made by/for: BBC
Released in: 2006
Subject: Planet Earth (duh 😉 )
Narrated by: David Attenborough
Written by: David Attenborough, Vanessa Berlowitz, Alastair Fothergill, and Gary Parker
5 Second Synopsis: Each 50 minute episode features a global overview of a different region or habitat on Earth, polar regions, mountains, caves, deserts, plains, fresh water, seas, the ocean, and forests.
Why I love It: Attenborough again. This might be getting a little redundant, but I couldn’t leave any of them out. There’s a reason his shows are as popular as they are, and that’s because they’re the best. Yes, it’s as good as you’ve heard. Now go watch it. The original.

 

NUMBER ONE

1 Walking with...

 

1 WwDTitle(s): Walking with Monsters; Walking with Dinosaurs; Walking with Beasts
Made by/for: BBC
Released in: 1999; 2001; 2005
Subject: Prehistoric life
Narrated by: Kenneth Branagh
Written by: Tim Haines, Michael Olmert, Kate Bartlett, Jasper James, Nigel Paterson, and Georgann Kane
5 Second Synopsis: These shows document pre-historic life on our planet, from the moment it began, until the time that humans have evolved.
Why I love It: I know I’m technically cheating here by including three shows in one, but I simply couldn’t separate them and place them in order. Being so old, a good deal of the data is out-dated, but I still love to watch these shows. They’re so well done, the narration is fun and informative, the dinosaurs are beautifully portrayed, even going so far as to “connect” with the camera, as if they were real. My son and I love to watch this together. For more up to date information, Planet Dinosaur is the way to go, but for sheer watchability (and rewatchability), these will forever hold the top spot.

 

And that’s it! Hope you enjoyed my list? Do you agree? Disagree? What are your favourite brain-food shows? Let me know! And, as usual, stay tuned for more! 🙂

M.