Heavenly intervention led to this…

Heroes: Mortals and Monsters, Quests and Adventures (Stephen Fry’s Great Mythology, #2)
by Stephen Fry (author and narrator)

Stephen Fry‘s second offering in his Greek Mythology series. We are looking at all of the Greek heroes, some more well-known than others. Lots of names and someone begetting someone else, etc. But as Stephen points out himself early on, don‘t get hung up on trying to memorize them all. I certainly didn‘t. Those that kept getting repeated eventually stuck.

Herakles (Hercules), Jason and Theseus are covered quite extensively and I knew their stories at least in broad strokes. I was foggier on the details of Perseus. But I had never heard of Bellerophon or Atalanta. Orpheus and Oedipus were nice refreshers. The ending dragged. I blame Theseus, he must have been quite a tosser.

Stephen‘s sometimes amusing narration made me think of Monty Python at times. Pity that they never picked up on the Greek heroes. Parts of this could have qualified.

This is quite long, so I listened to Stephen with longish breaks in between heroes. And yes, I recommend the audio, as half of the fun is listening to Fry‘s narration.

I will definitely proceed to the next book. I want to see what he makes of Troy! Should be entertaining.

The story of Troy speaks to all of us – the kidnapping of Helen, a queen celebrated for her beauty, sees the Greeks launch a thousand ships against the city of Troy, to which they will lay siege for 10 whole and very bloody years. 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53443339-troy

Further reading for the only female hero in this book: I came across a retelling that looks interesting, Atalanta by Jennifer Saint.

From the beloved, bestselling author of Elektra and Ariadne, a reimagining of the myth of Atalanta, a fierce huntress raised by bears and the only woman in the world’s most famous band of heroes, the Argonauts

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/61884838.Atalanta

Oh, and Ariadne makes an appearance as well in Fry‘s stories about Theseus….

Goodreads Choice Award — Nominee for Best Fantasy (2021)

Ariadne, Princess of Crete, grows up greeting the dawn from her beautiful dancing floor and listening to her nursemaid’s stories of gods and heroes. But beneath her golden palace echo the ever-present hoofbeats of her brother, the Minotaur, a monster who demands blood sacrifice.

When Theseus, the Prince of Athens, arrives to vanquish the beast, Ariadne sees in his green eyes not a threat but an escape. Defying the gods, betraying her family and country, and risking everything for love, Ariadne helps Theseus kill the Minotaur. But will Ariadne’s decision ensure her happy ending?

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54860614-ariadne

And these three ladies will probably make an appearance in Fry‘s Troy as well:

Goodreads Choice Award — Nominee for Best Fantasy (2022)

The House of Atreus is cursed. A bloodline tainted by a generational cycle of violence and vengeance. This is the story of three women, their fates inextricably tied to this curse, and the fickle nature of men and gods. 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58725016-elektra

Next time I feel like reading about women in Ancient Greece / mythology, I should probably give this author a try, what do you think?

Not my style…

The Art of Cursive Penmanship: A Personal Handwriting Program for Adults
by Michael R. Sull

A practice guide to improve one‘s handwriting. We start with a discourse on the history and technicalities of handwriting. There is instructions on the correct sitting posture, how to place the paper, how to use your writing implement, on fountain pens and so on.

Chapter 5 is the beginning of the practical part. I confess to skimming the theoretical part of the book (chapters 1-4, the first 100 pages). Too much information for my reason of getting this — to practice my handwriting.

To the practice part and the physical set-up of this book: I don‘t get why this book is spiralbound. Ok, I can open the pages wider and hence write more easily on the practice pages. But the only way this would have made sense to me: being able to open the binding and take out the practice pages. Or have them come as a separate practice journal. The way this is now I have to either deface this book by writing in it and make it unusable for others or I have to make copies of the practice sheets, if I want to keep this book pristine. I probably shouldn‘t be this fussy about it. I could write directly into the book… or am I supposed to rip out the practice sheets, so I can write on a flat surface, aka that‘s the reason for the spiral-binding? You are supposed to shift the paper when writing, so that would really be the only way… In that case it would have been nice for the blank practice sheets to be one-sided, aka no having been printed on both sides of the sheet.

Anyway, I never touched the practice part. After having skimmed and re-skimmed the theoretical part, this has sat on my shelf since March 2022. Besides my comments about not liking the set-up, I also came to the conclusion that it makes no sense for me to practice with a book aimed at US Americans. The writing style is too different to what I learned at school.

DNF! I will put this aside permanently and look for something else more suited to my writing style.

November 2022 Wrap-up

My November 2022:
– The Stand-In ★★★☆☆ audio, romance, slightly more diverse than the usual fare.
Wolfsong by T.J. Klune ★★★★★ ebook, gorgeous! What a great take on werewolves and found family.
– A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers ★★★★★ ebook, novella, roadtrip in the pursuit of meaning and comfort.
Explorer (Foreigner #6) by C.J. Cherryh ★★★★★ audio, conclusion to the second trilogy. Fun!
– How the Earth Works ★★¾☆☆ audio, non-fiction, The Great Courses, exhaustive lectures on everything from the Big Bang to plate tectonics, volcanoes and more. DNF after 10.5 hours and 13 more hours to go.
– The Nox ★★½☆☆ full-cast audio, horror in the arctic circle. Meh.
– The Drowned World ★★★☆☆ paper, StoryGraph #1, anachronistic climate fic, post-apocalypse. Dated, but with some good imagery.
– Neanderthal Seeks Human ★★★☆☆ audio, romance, nothing special.

Currently reading:
–  Ship of Destiny, ebook, moving really slowly… for a while now. I like it, I just have Liveship overload.
Thistlefoot, ebook, sweet and a little creepy…
Children of Memory, audio, odd, but good. The zoo is growing.

Pages and minutes in November 2022
1,142 pages, 49.05 hours

Geological pace…

How the earth works
by Michael E. Wysession

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Very elementary. If you are new to the topic or need a basic refresher about geology, Earth‘s history, physics, plate tectonics, volcanoes, etc., this is a good primer.

From the book blurb:

“How the Earth Works takes you on an astonishing journey through time and space. In 48 lectures, you will look at what went into making our planet – from the big bang, to the formation of the solar system, to the subsequent evolution of Earth.“
… charting the geologic forces that churn beneath our feet to push the continents and seafloor around… Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis are byproducts of our planet’s ceaseless activity, and you will focus on specific examples of each… how humans have transformed watersheds, leveled mountains, changed the balance of gases in the atmosphere, and caused the extinction of enough species to hasten the end of the 65-million-year-old Cenozoic era…“

The lectures start off with „Geology’s Impact on History“, „Geologic History—Dating the Earth“, „Earth’s Structure—Journey to Earth’s Center“. The we start to delve into some basic principles. 

Lectures 6 & 7 „Making Matter—The Big Bang and Big Bangs“ and „Creating Earth—Recipe for a Planet“ were pretty fun chapters. I think this is something I want to explore more in the future, aka how do planets and solar systems form? 

Recommended reading by Wysession:
– Hawking, A Brief History of Time. — I tried this when it was published and didn’t get far. Got a hardback version, now I just have to find the time.
– Tyson, Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries. — Tyson has a style I like, at least from watching him on screen. Tempted.
– Calvino, Cosmicomics
– Ferris, The Whole Shebang: A State-of-the-Universe Report

„The Rock Cycle—Matter in Motion“, „Minerals—The Building Blocks of Rocks“ and „Crystallization—The Rock Cycle Starts“ were pretty dry, but probably a necessary foundation for another fun lecture: Lecture 12 „Volcanoes—Lava and Ash“.

Lecture 15 „Plate Tectonics—Why Continents Move“ — this was probably the best explanation about the mechanics of plate tectonics that I have ever heard. Wysession is good a breaking it down with practical examples on any topic. Here one probably needs a video to watch him with his metal sheets, ice cubes in water etc., instead of just listening to the explanations.

Lecture 16 to 19 told me more about plate tectonics though than I ever wanted to know and I almost DNFd several times. I listened to most of lecture 20, „Continents Collide and Mountains are Made“, and started on lecture 21, „Intraplate Volcanoes“, before finally deciding to call it a day. 10.5 hours done, another 13-odd hours to go… the lecture format made this pretty dull and boring a lot of the time, although there were the above mentioned highlights as well. Maybe I will pick this up again at some point and make it to some more fun chapters, but for now I am done.

July 2022 Wrap-up

My July 2022:

Severance by Ling Ma ★★★½☆ audio, a millennial‘s coming of age, literary fiction with a touch of zombies.

Black Tide ★★★★¼ audiobook, horror. End of the world, alien invasion meets creature feature. I had fun, couldn‘t put it down. Looking forward to everybody else‘s comments.

The Empress of Salt and Fortune ★★★☆☆ ebook, novella, magical China, the life of an empress in very broad strokes, didn‘t do much for me.

– The Iron Duke ★★★★★ paper, StoryGraph #1 August, officially marketed as PNR, but much more steampunk-pirates-zombie-swashbuckling fun.

– Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection, narrated by Stephen Fry:

#1) A Study in Scarlet, Watson meets Holmes. And Mormons. ★★★½☆ 

#2) The Sign of Four, Watson meets Mary. And we take a trip to the Andaman Islands. ★★★★☆

#3) The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, A Scandal in Bohemia, Holmes & Watson meet The Woman / The Adventure of the Re-Headed League / A Case of Identity / The Boscombe Valley Mystery / The Five Orange Pips / The Man with the Twisted Lip / The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle / The Adventure of the Speckled Band ★★★★☆


Short story anthology The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six: (ongoing)

– YELLOW AND THE PERCEPTION OF REALITY by Maureen F. McHugh ★★★★★ how do we perceive reality? For free here: https://www.tor.com/2020/07/22/yellow…

– EXILE’S END by Carolyn Ives Gilman ★★★★☆ The painful process of repatriation of stolen art. For free here: https://www.tor.com/2020/08/12/exiles…

– INVISIBLE PEOPLE by Nancy Kress — parents find out that their adopted daughter has been genetically altered as an embryo. Besides the ethical questions this throws up, it‘s a well-written thriller. Great character development for a short story, I was with them every step of the way. ★★★★★

– RED_BATI by Dilman Dila — a conscious pet robot fighting for its life and meaning on a mining ship. Read this before in Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora and found it a bit blander this time around. ★★★☆☆


Comics:

– Copra: Round One, DNF at 42 pages, eComic, StoryGraph #1 July, rip-off/homage of Suicide Squad, messy art, no plot.

– We Stand On Guard ★★★★★ eComic, StoryGraph #1 September, Canada is invaded by the US in a war for water.

– Saga #60 ★★★★★ eComic, the end of this arc. I cried.

– They’re Not Like Us, Vol. 1: Black Holes for the Young, DNF at 47 pages, eComic, StoryGraph #2 September, teens with psychic powers, took too long to get going, didn‘t like the artwork.


Currently reading:

Ship of Magic, paper, I am about halfway and like it. Doorstopper of almost 900 pages, very dense, so this will take a few more weeks.

– How the Earth Works, audio, Great courses lectures.

– Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection, narrated by Stephen Fry: #3) The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, all the other stories…


Specfic Movies & TV watched:

– Dune, new movie ★★★★★ re-watch. Part II end of 2023, why???

– Obi-Wan Kenobi, S1, Ep 6, season completed ★★★★☆ hard to come to a satisfying ending, when you know that they all live to fight another day.

– Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ★★★★☆ Entertaining, a little silly, a little absurd. I think I like my entertainment to be a little less wacky. Pretty forgettable, actually.

– A Discovery of Witches, S1 completed ★★★½☆ Meh. Read the blurb of books 2 + 3, most likely a pass.

– Resident Evil, S1 completed, Netflix series ★★★★☆

(- Night Sky, S1, Eps 3… not sure if I am all that interested in continuing….

– For All Mankind, S3, Eps. 1-3 ★★★★★ OMG, I wish this was real. So cool.


And last, but not least — I finally finished my Lego tree house…

Some statistics:

Just noticed—the format page only seems to be counting the finished books. Oh well…

Think of something cold….

Antarctica: Life on the Frozen Continent
by Conor Kilgallon

Rating: 4 out of 5.

East Antarctica, West Antarctica, Islands, Wildlife—each part of this book shows a different part on Antarctica, prefaced by a short text describing the specifics of that geographic region or chapter.

There are photographs of icebergs, sea ice, mountain ranges, ice shelves, quite a few penguins, seals and various signs of human exploration and habitation. Climate change makes a brief appearance as well, obviously. If the Ross ice shelf melts (the largest ice shelf in Antarctica), sea levels worldwide would rise by 15 meters. Scary thought. Generally this book focuses on the (still) beautiful aspects of our southernmost continent though.


My favourites were the photos showing wildlife, but there were a lot of stunning photos of icebergs, too.


A nice tabletop book for lovers of Antarctica and stark sceneries of ice, sea and sky.


I received an advanced copy of this book from Amber Books Ltd. through NetGalley. All opinions are my own and I was not required to give a positive review. I read a pdf for review purposes, only physical books will be sold.

Magic, mayhem, monsters and maniacal gods 

Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold by Stephen Fry

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The incomparable Stephen Fry takes us through the Greek Pantheon and all its intricacies.

The narration is very well done and it was an excellent refresher. It‘s always amazing to realize how many other god stories and other mythologies have borrowed from Greek mythology!

Every now and then I spaced out a bit, when Fry listed names after names of gods, heroes and various humans, however the retelling of it all was entertaining and very educational.

Further books in the series:
Heroes: Mortals and Monsters, Quests and Adventures — not sure about this one
Troy — very tempted!
The Odyssey — probably time for a refresher about this as well…

My April 2022 Wrap-up

My April 2022 came with an unexpectedly high page count.

– Tangled Destinies ★★★★¾, fanfic, SF, online, one of my favourite Star Trek AOS fanfics. Re-read. I rarely read fanfic anymore, but sometimes it‘s a nice palate cleanser.
Taken ★★★★★ ebook, UF, Alex Verus #3, best so far.
– Enchanted Living, Summer 2019: #47 The Art Nouveau Issue ★★★☆☆ StoryGraph #2, eMag, some nice photos, too much fairyland, not enough Art Nouveau — I skimmed.
The Vampire Lestat ★★★★☆ paper, fantasy/horror, the exhaustive story of Lestat. Still good, but sometimes a bit verbose.
Amongst Our Weapons ★★★★☆ audio, UF, Peter Grant #9
– Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction ★★★☆☆ StoryGraph #1, paper, non-fiction, for aspiring writers of specfic — I skimmed.
– The Renegades Of Pern ★★★★☆ ebook, something old, something other, something new. Good fun.

Buddy Read — short story anthology: (ongoing)
The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six:
– AIRBODY by Sameem Siddiqui, Clarkesworld Magazine #163, April 2020 — renting the body of someone else via shared consiousness, nice idea with lots of possibilities. ★★★☆☆
– THE BAHRAIN UNDERGROUND BAZAAR by Nadia Afifi — the MC connects into the recording of another person‘s death. A trip of self-discovery. ★★★☆☆
– LONE PUPPETEER OF A SLEEPING CITY by Arula Ratnakar — probably not bad, but I couldn‘t work up any interest for the story. ★★☆☆☆

Comics:
Qinaya ★★★★★ hardcover, contemporary, Issue #1, French family adopts 4 year old Peruvian girl. Too cute for words. Surprising ending.
The Adoption: CE ★★★★½ eComic, with Dennis & Nataliya, full English version of the above.
– Unnatural #1 ★★¾☆☆ eComics, TBR pile, pig girl looking for love in a restrictive society.
– Seven To Eternity #1 ★★★☆☆ eComics, TBR pile, high fantasy meets the Wild West. Good artwork, meh story.
Slaughter-House Five ★★★★☆ eComics, TBR, graphic adaptation of Vonnegut‘s classic.
– Saga #58 ★★★★☆ eComics, Alana tries to keep her family afloat and takes on dubious jobs.

Specfic Movies & TV watched:
– Picard, S2, Eps 1-9 🚀🚀🚀🚀🚀 — Very good, enjoying this more than S1. Could have done without the psychoanalysis and flashbacks of the last two episodes.
– Life 🚀🚀🚀🚀🚀 — great alien creature feature on the ISS with Ryan Reynolds, re-re-watch
– Raised by Wolves, S1 🐺🐺🐺🐺.75 — great start, very weird ending
– Wolfwalkers 🐺🐺🐺🐺.5 — beautifully done animation
– Interstellar 🚀🚀🚀🚀 — very imaginative
– The Adam Project ⏰⏰⏰⏰ — time travel with Ryan Reynolds
– A Monster Calls 👿 👿 👿 — animated YA monster story

Make sure to have plenty of water, food, and at least some mountaineering equipment…

Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer (Author), Jeremy Zerfoss (Illustrator), John Coulthart (Illustrations)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I am not sure anymore why I got this book, but I suspect that I saw some of the illustrations somewhere and liked them. I do not plan to write imaginative fiction any time soon. But this has the potential to improve understanding for what I read and it would probably be a great resource for those who do want to improve their writing.

“This all-new definitive guide to writing imaginative fiction takes a completely novel approach and fully exploits the visual nature of fantasy through original drawings, maps, renderings, and exercises to create a spectacularly beautiful and inspiring object.“

from the blurb

What I am up to right now…

I am currently reading a rather long book, hence my lack of updates…


The Vampire Lestat (The Vampire Chronicles, #2) by Anne Rice — my paperback has 599 pages. The beginning was slow-going, but I am on my Easter break right now and already made good progress yesterday. But by golly, reading printed books as opposed to ebooks is hard work. The print is so small, I had to whip out my reading glasses and I need frequent breaks to rest my eyes.

The book is a re-read. I read the first few books of the series about 30 years ago and loved them back then. Somehow we talked ourselves into re-reading them in my favourite book reading group and here I am. Re-reading old favourites is always a daunting undertaking. What if you hate that once beloved book? Luckily I really liked my re-read of Interview with the Vampire. I discovered so many things I had missed as a late teen/early tween. And I am now realizing that I almost completely forgot the plot of Vampire Lestat. I am not quite halfway and expect quite a few discoveries ahead.

I am also slowly making my way through Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer. I am not sure why I got this book, but I suspect that I saw some of the illustrations somewhere and liked them. I do not plan to write imaginative fiction any time soon. But maybe this will teach me to develop a better understanding for what I read.

And I am listening to the audio of Amongst Our Weapons (Rivers of London, #9) by Ben Aaronovitch. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith does a stellar job again, as expected. I am still so glad that we are done with that tedious story arch, spanning so many of these books and are back to more of a standalone storyverse. Connected losely by Bev‘s pregnancy, etc., but still… Love the puns and and pop culture references. Not listening much to audio whilst on vacation, so I‘ll see when I get to the second half of this…