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: 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.

Mel’s 5 Second Review: Killer Legends

Killer Legends
(2014) Joshua Zeman, Rachel Mills

killer legends

A bit disappointed in this one. Made by the team who brought us Cropsey (which I’ve wanted to watch for forever, but just haven’t gotten around to it), it promised to be good. But the first thing I noticed was that the man, Joshua, seemed to be more interested in having his face on the camera than his guests. If he wasn’t in a particular frame, he’d actually lean forward so that he was. His feigned sadness was also a little grating, because it was very obviously fake. He’d stand at a murder sight, talk in a mournful voice, shuffle his feet, sigh, etc. The girl, Rachel, also did it, but to a much lesser degree. Joshua’s voice-over voice was also grating, much different from his normal talking voice, and slightly ridiculous.

Now that we’ve got all the bad aside, we can focus on the good. The subject matter was very interesting, the premise being that urban legends always come from some truth. They take four famous legends (The Hook Man, Killer Clowns, The Babysitter Killer, and Deadly Halloween Candy) and dig around to find real life cases that might have been the beginning of these legends. They travel to the towns where the murders happened, talk to the locals, and, if there are any left alive, people who were there when the crime happened. It was quite interesting. Despite the fact that I spent the entire film wanting to punch the guy in the face, I still give it a 7/10, because the content was very interesting. But dude, if ever you read this (which I doubt), here’s a little advice: Unless it’s an autobiography, the audience isn’t interested in seeing you. The focus should be on the subject of the documentary.

This film is currently playing on Netflix US and YouTube. Although I should probably warn you, there are crime scene photos. Pretty graphic too. So if real dead bodies scare the crap out of you, stay far, far away.

 

M.

Mel’s 5 Second Review: The Mammoth Book of Bizarre Crimes audiobook

The Mammoth Book of Bizarre Crimes (2010)
Written by: Robin Odell
Narrated by: David Shaw-Parker

Bizarre Crimes

(Questions from Audible’s reviews form)

If you could sum up The Mammoth Book of Bizarre Crimes in three words, what would they be?
Fun, fast-paced, informative.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?
The narrator does a great job telling the gruesome stories in the most light-hearted way that he can. I wasn’t sure I liked him at the start of the book, but I grew quite fond of him quickly. He’s also one of the best I’ve heard at doing accents, he was pretty amazing!

Have you listened to any of David Shaw-Parker’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
Nope, this was the first one. And will probably be the only one, unless he adds more books to his resumé. Of the 14 or so books he’s got on Audible, this is the only one that interested me. Too bad 😦

If you could give The Mammoth Book of Bizarre Crimes a new subtitle, what would it be?
Or, The Depravity of Human Beings

Any additional comments?
This book gets a wonderful 9/10 from me. I’d have given it a full 10 stars, but I skipped the whole section on contract killings, mafia hits and assassins. That kind of stuff has never really interested me. But everything else was a great, albeit sometimes gruesome, read (or should I say listen? hehe). Only about half of the stories (of which there are 300) are what I would call truly bizarre, but maybe that’s just me being slightly blasé on the subject, after having read so many books and watched so many shows about it. I’d definitely reccomend this book to anyone who, like me, has a penchant for the macabre.

M.