Category Archives: Reviews

History of Ancient Egypt (book review)

The History of Ancient EgyptThe History of Ancient Egypt by Bob Brier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The absolute best resource on ancient Egypt I have seen.

Bob Brier is probably the best presenting college professor I have had the pleasure of listening or watching. His absolute knowledge of the subject, the fact he is an Egyptologist himself and the only person to recreate creating a mummy I have heard of just underlines his knowledge.

He reviews 3,000 years of history in 30 hours or so, packing each 30 minute lesson full of interesting details. He clarifies many myths we are told about and underscores how they weren’t quite so primitive as we think.

The breadth of the entire course is massive. He brushes just about everything niche subject you would want to know about Egypt. Do you like medicine, he covers it some. Do you like magical and religious beliefs, there you go. Do you like drama and romance… even some of that is there.

You cannot go wrong listening to Bob if you like Egpyt. He has everything and I just can’t recommend his courses more.

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Dauntless (book review)

Dauntless (The Lost Fleet, #1)Dauntless by Jack Campbell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nothing too new, but enough little things to make it interesting.

I wasn’t expecting to like this book very much. The last several military sci-fi or even just military fiction books have been disappointing. Maybe that makes me more open to this book, I couldn’t tell you.

What I can tell you is that while the character is by default a gary stu, it isn’t like most. They show were he can’t keep up with the expectations of those in the current day against his reputation and he can’t really process, understand or even approve of the tactics that have happened after his disappearance.

The character interaction is a higher level than expected, the tactics and just military writing shows that the author is very familiar with naval strategy and I think he brought his background in it for that pretty well.

I do recommend it, I am going to pick up the next book soon and get into it. Hopefully the first book was just the beginning.

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Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation (book review)

Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to MeditationPracticing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation by Mark W. Muesse
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It adds some detail to mindfulness, but isn’t a breakout.

I have understood the importance of meditation, mindfulness and especially in the Buddhist outlook and this definitely helps underscore that tradition of thought.

I firmly believe this is a good resource to those new with mindfulness and might give explanations in a way that makes more sense and perhaps is more accessible.

That being said, if you are already comfortable with the idea of mindfulness, you probably don’t need this book.

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Great Mythologies of the World (book review)

Great Mythologies of the WorldGreat Mythologies of the World by Grant L. Voth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Type: Audible
Length: 31 hours 36 minutes

An incredibly brief but informative journey around the world!

This was a great series of lectures of mythology from around the world. I wouldn’t say it is the most in depth, but it covers so many cultures that it surprised and entertained me.

As someone who has read a lot of Greek, Roman, some other European and Egyptian mythology there was nothing surprising. I have heard all these before and in more depth, so it was a disappointment. However, this is an overall view so of course they would skim the surface not dig deep.

The beauty of this was in the other Middle Eastern myths, Southeast Asian myths and African myths. I am sure they are much like the Greek and Roman mythology covered. They are probably the very basic myths and not connected well between then. However, they were brand new to me and have inspired me to check them out closer.

The one problematic area were the Native American myths. Most of them were great, I enjoyed listening to them. The problematic myth though involved what seemed to be a tale about a child watching her father be with what seems to be a two-spirit or possibly transgender lover and in the end that lover killed her father.

What bothered me greatly about this was his constant reference of that being/person/creature being a transvestite and how it was wrong. I do admit it felt personal and in full disclosure I am transgender myself, but his CV indicates no professional experience with Native American subject matter (that isn’t anything he is listed as being a specialist in) and it felt like a personal conservative viewpoint with an agenda. The rest of his myths seemed fine, but his personal observations on that one are what bothered me a lot and is why it only gets a four.

Like many of their courses, I definitely recommend this course in mythology. It is well worth the time, money and effort to get through almost 32 hours of courses. Or at least it was for me.

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Alien (movie review)

ALIEN (1979)

DETAILS:

Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Sigourney WeaverTom SkerrittJohn Hurt
Runtime: 1 hour 56 minutes
Categories: horror, sci-fi, space, action, franchise
Runtime: 
1 hour 52 minutes

Release Date: June 22, 1979

OVERALL: Slower then many think it will be due to the sequel Aliens, but an incredibly rich horror story in space.

STORYLINE

In deep space, the crew of the commercial starship Nostromo is awakened from their cryo-sleep capsules halfway through their journey home to investigate a distress call from an alien vessel. The terror begins when the crew encounters a nest of eggs inside the alien ship. An organism from inside an egg leaps out and attaches itself to one of the crew, causing him to fall into a coma.

REVIEW

I love the entire franchise, but to be honest up until rewatching this movie this summer (2018) this was one of my least favorite installments. However, after watching it as an adult (I had only watched it as a teen, or just post-teen, early twenties) I was always bored with it. I was wrong as I look at it now.

The movie doesn’t waste much time at all on backstory. You are given seven characters that fill specific archtypes. Instead of getting sidetracked Ridley Scott, Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, the creative influences, focus on building a slow ratcheting tension. For the first time I was able to fully gain an understanding of why it was so popular. It was the reason so many other movies have copied it.

The action and suspense are excellently directed and acted. Scott picked the best people I could imagine for each of the roles, and while he may have been unorthodox in his filming (he didn’t tell anyone that John Hurt’s chest was going to explode and an alien come out because he wanted a real response) he was very good at catching those emotions, the ambience. The sets while inexpensive were lit in a way that covers most of the issues.

This was the first time that the movie didn’t seem like it lasted 9 hours long, but that it was over almost too quickly. I can’t recommend it more for people that like a slow boiling horrorfest. I liked it enough I now own it.

 

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The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (tv show)

THE CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA

DETAILS:

Created By: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Stars:  Kiernan ShipkaRoss LynchLucy Davis
Based on: Sabrina Comics (1962)
Original Network: Netflix
First episode date: October 26, 2018
Number of Episodes: 10
Number of Seasons: 1

OVERALL: A darker reimagining of the original tv series, and more closely following the original comic follows Sabrina as she approaches her 16th birthday and must choose between the human world of her friends or the witch world of her family.

STORYLINE

This adaptation of the “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” tale is a dark coming-of-age story that traffics in horror and the occult. In the reimagined origin story, Sabrina Spellman wrestles to reconcile her dual nature — half-witch, half-mortal — while standing against the evil forces that threaten her, her family — including aunts Hilda and Zelda — and the daylight world humans inhabit. Kiernan Shipka (“Mad Men”) leads the cast in the titular role of the show that is based on a comic series of the same name.

BREAKDOWN BY SEASON

Currently we have only watched season 1. There will definitely be more seasons coming.

SEASON 1

I absolutely loved this show and its take on the world of Sabrina Spellman. Netflix is using the fact it doesn’t have to script its shows based on advertisers means they can delve into topics that might scare those advertisers off.

One of my favorite parts of the show is the fact it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Set as a show in the same world as Riverdale, I was reluctant to watch it. However, while it does focus on the teenager, there are enough things that even an older person would enjoy watching. I enjoyed the revision of the witch trials and how witches are portrayed.

No longer the “Charming” version of the 1990s, witches worship Satan, but still have regular lives, loves and desires. They have normal family units and to be honest are no worse then most Christian friends I have seen in their mores, the only difference is signing in the Book of the Beast in exchange for their powers.

Kiernan Shipka was great as Sabrina and shows how she herself is coming of age as an actress. Supported by great actors such as Lucy Davis as the awesome Aunt Hilda Spellman, the kooky but nice witch and Miranda Otto as Zelda Spellman the more serious but turns out to be extremely caring leader of the Spellmans. My favorite though was Chance Perdomo, playing Ambrose her cousin and definitely one of the most interesting for me.

The rest of the cast were great, the action scenes were fine and the special effects worked and weren’t too much. I even thought the orgy scene with teenagers (not graphic) was something realistic for that world. After all I knew of similar happenings with normal late teens when I was growing up, so don’t be that surprised parents.

One good aspect was female empowerment. I felt the show did a fairly good job of not only empowering women, but making it seem normal, something that should be taken for granted.

The one glaring problem that to be honest I didn’t see when actually watching the show due to my white privilege was the race card. The show operates as if its in a vacuum for racial problems and that is a mistake. Casting Prudence as the bad witch and who is also black, along with the imagery of hanging people (something commonly done to black people even to this day) seems to strike the wrong tone. I have read that the producers/writers acknowledge this failing and I hope they change it. 

While I think Prudence is a great character, now that I have understood the issues I hope they alter her character’s course (they did accidentally in season one as she didn’t start killing with her cohorts, but that was accidentally). I would go more into this issue but to be honest I am not qualified except to say I recommend reading other sources including https://io9.gizmodo.com/the-chilling-adventures-of-sabrinas-characters-of-color-1830083708 but especially look for people of color writing about it.

I liked the show a lot, but I hope after season 2 they do make the changes on their race questions (they already filmed season 2 so I expect it won’t be much different).

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Marching with Caesar: Birth of the 10th Legion (book review)

Marching with Caesar: Birth of the 10th Legion (Marching With Caesar, #1)Marching with Caesar: Birth of the 10th Legion by R.W. Peake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A great historical fiction novel based around two men entering the 10th Roman Legion!

To be honest I was very surprised. When I first heard of the book I thought it would be a mid-grade pulp novel at best and that was what I was prepared for. Fortunately that wasn’t the case and I was happy with the surprise.

The story keeps itself tight. Starting with an older Roman Commander who relates to his scribe his life on joining the 10th Legion. I was a little worried, I have seen this trope before, but it didn’t feel cliche and it seemed to work. Starting with his childhood and working into the first battles of his career and returning home for the first time.

Overall the characters are well fleshed out and you can see growth in them. The action scenes aren’t overwhelming and it just feels like the author followed historical events about the formation of the 10th close and he does it well enough that it doesn’t annoy people who like history itself.

It was great to finally get a fictional book that I enjoyed, instead of dreading every page turn I gulped through the book like a man starving. I am definitely going to be picking up his further novels in the series and I can’t recommend it enough.

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Venom (movie review)

DETAILS:

Director: Ruben Fleischer
Stars: Tom HardyMichelle Williams,Riz Ahmed
Runtime: 90 minutes
Categories: comicbook, superhero,  action, franchise
Runtime: 
1 hour 52 minutes

Release Date: October 5, 2018

OVERALL: It is a lot better than I expected. It was enjoyable, more so then even some of the Avenger movies. Just don’t have huge expectations.

STORYLINE

Journalist Eddie Brock is trying to take down Carlton Drake, the notorious and brilliant founder of the Life Foundation. While investigating one of Drake’s experiments, Eddie’s body merges with the alien Venom — leaving him with superhuman strength and power. Twisted, dark and fueled by rage, Venom tries to control the new and dangerous abilities that Eddie finds so intoxicating.

REVIEW

We went into the movie expecting it to be horrible. I have seen a couple of reviews that they didn’t like it at all. With that said, from when we sat down, to the moment we got up I enjoyed the whole thing.

I understand overall on Rotten Tomatoes gave it 30%, but the consumer score was 88%. I think that shows the disconnect between reviewers and what the audience wants. To me that means the critics don’t understand what other people like.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t an academy award winner. It isn’t Black Panther, but it is entertaining an action packed the entire way. The reason though I felt it was so good was the bits of humor tossed in, and the interaction between the Venom symbiote and Tom Hardy’s character. That was the best part.

The action and relationship scenes are pretty standard. Good special effects, a tight story and not exceeding two hours all fed into something enjoyable. The best part for me was the internal monologue. I truly wish they had put more in there. The banter between Tom Hardy and Venom was incredibly funny. I would tell you my favorite interaction but since I don’t want to make my website adults only you will have to see it when you watch it, its the one involving an elevator and the roof.

The movie isn’t the best, but it was good enough for me (and better then some of Marvel’s other stuff) that I will go see the sequel if they have one. I recommend you do the same.

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Giovanni’s Room (book review)

Giovanni's RoomGiovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Type: Audible
Length: 6 hours 49 minutes

Baldwin’s writing is as impactful now as it was 60 years ago.

In 1956 Baldwin had traveled to Paris, believing racism would never end in the USA. He also was a gay man and he felt if that was found out while in America he would never be able to write, a two strikes and you are out situation.

His words are as impactful as his writings in “The Fire Next Time” but instead of dealing with racism in America he was dealing with the emotions and sexual connection between two men in 1950s Paris.

What is unique for me is that it isn’t truly about being homosexual, but about being bisexual. It is the earliest novel I have seen about a man who has relations with both women and men, once again Baldwin is ahead of himself.

The story itself is hard emotionally. Baldwin packs every sentence with details and emotions. The novella is dark, and don’t expect yourself to walk away not feeling the pain of the whole situation. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it, just that it is one of those stories that will haunt you for a while after you read it, and will stick in your head permanently.

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Eastern Expansion (book review)

Eastern Expansion (Wild Wastes, #2)Eastern Expansion by Randi Darren
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book Type: Audible Book
Length: 12h 32m

If you read my review for the first book review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show…, it shouldn’t surprise you that we are on a downward spiral. Not worth the time.

The book continued its decline. There were really no positives in the book. The writing of the women and the “shipping” between characters declined. Mostly in an attempt to distance him from his current women and to add additional women.

The cons from the first big are still there, but even more evident. The relationships are stale, the plot line veers from Vince being all powerful to not being able to stand up to a strong wind. There was no real world building here, just Vince thinking he could threaten everyone and they should follow him.

It is a shame, the world is interesting, even the portals he finds, but just not enough to keep it going. The relationship scenes are very much written by rote, and not worth the time.

Overall, this is where I jump off the series. I am fairly certain I won’t pick up more of his books either. I don’t think he has bad ideas necessarily, just doesn’t go anywhere with them, and gets more and more plot bloat as we go.

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