2020 Reading List – so far!

This is my first post in a very long time – so thank you to Steve and Jessie for letting me sneak back into the show! This year for the first time I decided to actually keep track of how many (and what) books I read. I consider myself a fairly prolific reader, but have no quantification of what that means. I am hoping to read about 20 books this year. We are almost halfway through 2020 (yikes) and so this seemed like a good time to check in with my list and see where it is at. This list only includes books that I finished. I admit, I abandon quite a few books partway through: those don’t get to be on “the list.”

Continue reading “2020 Reading List – so far!”

Book Review: Diving into H.P. Lovecraft

Back in December I started a 23-hour collection of H.P. Lovecraft’s prose work on Audible. This seemed like a not-crazy idea at the time because I had a forty-minute commute home from work every day.

I’ve been working from home for over two months, which means far less designated audiobook listening time. Anyway, I finally finished this collection last week. This review is not about the work of Lovecraft himself, but more about how this collection was put together and narrated, and what I’ve taken from it as my first true introduction to Lovecraft’s work. Continue reading “Book Review: Diving into H.P. Lovecraft”

Mini Movie Reviews #2: Deceit, Discovery, and Disney

Another week in quarantine, another crop of movies to talk about. Like last week, none of these movies are particularly new, but they once again show a weird range of genres.

Vice, 2018, streamed on Hulu

Christian Bale in Vice (2018)This movie, featuring Christian Bale as Vice President Dick Cheney both before and during his time in the White House, had intrigued me when it first came out, so it didn’t take long for Hulu to convince me to watch it.

Spoiler-free review

This film was really well done. Bale and Steve Carell (as Donald Rumsfeld) were incredible. I also found it funny in an incredibly cynical, laugh-as-the-world-burns kinda way. I always had the feeling that Cheney was the NeoCon mastermind behind the W. Bush administration. If Vice is even partially true, he was more of a shadow-president than I realized.

The Planets, 2019, streamed on Amazon Prime

The Planets (2019)This was a documentary series we found originally produced by the BBC. The US version was narrated by Zachary Quinto, of Star Trek fame, who was fantastic. It took us less than one episode to get hooked.

Spoiler-free review…?

There’s nothing really to spoil here. If you have even a passing interest in science, the universe, or why Pluto is not technically a planet, go watch this series.

Through six episodes, it tells the story of how the worlds in our solar system were formed. Simultaneously, it tells the story of all of the probes and rovers we have used over the decades to get this information. Cassini, Galileo, Voyager; the engineers, scientists, and others who participated in these exploration projects are interviewed throughout the series to discuss what they learned about each planet their spacecraft explored, and what new questions it rose.

Not only do they provide visually stunning computer-generated renderings of what each planet looks like, but they also provide actual footage of each mission, where available. I really can’t rave about this series enough. I want to watch it again.

Frozen II, 2019, rented on Amazon Prime

Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, and Jonathan Groff in Frozen II (2019)We had my son at home for the last two weeks in self-isolation, since there was a chance we had been exposed to COVID-19. All is well, but after working from home with a toddler for two-plus weeks, I cannot count the number of times I have heard the soundtracks of FrozenMoana, and The Lion King, in their entirety over that span.

Don’t get me wrong, all of that music is great, but it was a lot.

We decided to rent both Frozen movies on Amazon Prime last weekend, because I hadn’t seen either, and I felt like I already knew the gist of the stories from the music anyway.

Spoiler-free review

I genuinely enjoy Disney movies, so it’s not hard to convince me to watch one. The first Frozen was good. I can see why it was so popular with kids, and it definitely has some great messages, but nothing about it really jumped out aside from Kristen Bell’s and Idina Menzel’s vocals.

But guys… Frozen II is a great film. The story of how Elsa got her powers and what it means for her and the kingdom of Arendelle is compelling, the story is not quite so predictable as its predecessor, and the artwork is unbelievable. Every scene with rushing water or waves in this film is gorgeous.

Anna still gets her heroic moments while Elsa gets to show off some of her powers, and the other characters are interesting without bogging the movie down. I really enjoyed this, and I wish I had watched it again before our rental expired.

More Recommendations!

I’m really enjoying how many movies and series I’ve had the chance to watch recently. It’s one of my favorite things to do and just haven’t had much chance to do it in recent months. I’m looking forward to a new batch of movies over the coming weeks.

What have you been watching?

Steve D

Mini Movie Reviews #1: Medieval Action and Modern Music Dramedy

I’ve managed to watch a number of movies/documentaries over the last few weeks that I hadn’t seen before. None of them blew me away, but I have some thoughts, so I thought I’d touch on each one.

None of these are particularly new, so many of you may have seen them already, but they were new to me. I’ll share two today and two in the near future. And maybe I’ll have watched even more movies by then, too. Continue reading “Mini Movie Reviews #1: Medieval Action and Modern Music Dramedy”

#Review: THE BURNOUT GENERATION is Insightful but Short

I just finished listening to Anne Helen Petersen’s “The Burnout Generation” on Audible yesterday, and I’m having so many feelings!!!

Okay, that’s overly dramatic, but this was definitely a thought-provoking listen. Continue reading “#Review: THE BURNOUT GENERATION is Insightful but Short”

#Review: THE ENCIRCLING SEA Continues to Intrigue in Roman Britannia

36350564. sy475 The Encircling Sea is the second book in Adrian Goldsworthy’s historical fiction epic about the Roman presence in Northern Britannia.

I listened to the first book in the seriesVindolanda, on Audible last month, and it was not a difficult decision for me to jump right into the second.

The Encircling Sea is an excellent sequel that establishes its own narrative while clearly connecting its characters and its plot lines to the first story. Continue reading “#Review: THE ENCIRCLING SEA Continues to Intrigue in Roman Britannia”

#Review: VINDOLANDA Hit All the Hallmarks of Historical Fiction

I love finding great things in unexpected places.

Vindolanda is the first in a series of historical fiction novels about the Roman Empire in Britain circa 98 CE.

I found this novel when searching for books about the Celtic goddess Brigantia. Not exactly related, but what I found was a compelling fictional story that had the detailed approach of a history book. Continue reading “#Review: VINDOLANDA Hit All the Hallmarks of Historical Fiction”

#Review: THE SISTERS, by Dervla McTiernan – Quick Detective Listen with Great Characters

If you’ve been paying attention to my Goodreads recently, you know I’ve polished off a couple of Audible’s Originals — short stories published exclusively on that platform.

I’m rather impressed with what Audible has put out on that front, including “The Sisters,” by Dervla McTiernan

Having read very little in the crime-detective genre, I was intrigued by “The Sisters,” mostly as a gateway story to the larger Cormac Reilly series by McTiernan. This story is somehow a prequel or a prelude to the larger series, so I was interested to dip my toe in. What I found was an interesting story with great characters, and I sort of just want to read more about them.

Airfric and Carrie are sisters, a barrister and a garda respectively, and both are eager to make names for themselves in their careers. Carrie becomes entangled in a suspicious murder case that Airfric is defending, and ends up helping to solve it against the wishes of the detectives in her squad.

Honestly, by the time the real detective aspect of this story got under way, it was halfway over. I really enjoyed both Carrie and Airfric as POV characters, but I wanted this story to have more meat to it.

A few weeks removed from listening to this, it feels like the first third of this two-hour listen was just Airfric going about one particularly bad day as a junior barrister, until she stumbles into this case.

Again, I loved Airfric as a POV character. McTiernan’s style is easy to grasp but not lacking in emotional depth. I think she excels in brevity that somehow carries added layers to it. I just wish I either had more time to spend in this story, or that the real story had begun sooner.

Just as you get used to Airfric’s voice and get into her part, the POV switches to her sister, Carrie. Carrie, the garda, was also a great character. Aside from their slightly different accents (both achieved by the narrator and noted in the story by other characters), it’s easy to glimpse of bit of Carrie and Airfric’s relationship, and hear the lifelong bond. Still, both have distinct narrative voices that play off each other well.

Once Carrie really digs into this case she’s not supposed to be involved with — because obviously — the story moves even more quickly and then ends, rather abruptly.

I think this could have been a novella, or even more, with the care that is given to these characters’ personalities and background. That’s really my only gripe with this story: it’s too damn short.

Aiofe McMahon was also a fantastic narrator. Who doesn’t love a melodious Irish accent? But for real, I’m finding that I will actively search out books narrated by specific people, simply because their voices are so pleasant to listen to, and they are talented vocal actors. I will definitely be listening to more of her McMahon’s work in audiobooks.

Steve D

#Review: THE ISLAND by S. Usher Evans – A Light Survival Adventure

I used my time at the beach last week fairly well, if I do say so. I managed to read about 85% of a book in about six days, which is a much faster clip than I usually make.

The Island by S. Usher Evans is the first in her Madion War Trilogy, which I picked up at Awesome Con in April. After talking with the author for a few minutes, I decided to buy all three books at a discount.

After finishing book one, that seems like a pretty good decision. The Island is a solid adventure story that was easy to digest on a lazy vacation. Continue reading “#Review: THE ISLAND by S. Usher Evans – A Light Survival Adventure”

#Review: CLICK. by Luther M. Siler – Quick, Fun, Inter-Dimensional Action

I got Click. directly from the author after I won a contest on his site. I was the first to comment a random word from a video he posted, proving I actually watched it.

Click. is an exciting and action-packed story that’s easy to digest and hard to put down. As is typical with Siler’s stories, the dialogue is snappy and sarcastic, with one-liners and pop culture references peppered throughout.

Continue reading “#Review: CLICK. by Luther M. Siler – Quick, Fun, Inter-Dimensional Action”