1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West (book review)

1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West by Roger Crowley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While I have always been interested in the Roman Empire, my interest waned after the split and definitely never followed the Eastern Roman Empire, that is until I listened to this book.

It is an incredibly detailed book that examines both sides of the siege of Constantinople, the defenders who were the last remnants of the Roman Empire, and the newer force under the auspices of Mehmed II. I knew it was an important battle that changed the course of history in the region and the world, but didn’t realize I would like reading about it so much.

The author gives enough detail of many of the individuals involved, and enough back history to give the feeling of the situation. Lots of little details I had never heard of, like the large cannons commissioned by Mehmed to take down the walls, the various infighting that occurred both inside and outside the walls and the repercussions of the fall of Constantinople.

I highly recommend this book, and it definitely makes me interested in reading other books written by Roger Crowley. Also, I was very impressed in the audio version with Simon Prebble’s reading, he reminded me a lot of Roy Dotrice and I would recommend him as a narrator anytime.

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All Systems Red (book review)

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)All Systems Red by Martha Wells
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read this book as a whim, it was on sale on audible and I figured why not give a try. The good parts were the price, inexpensive, and the length which was under four hours. So it wasn’t a huge commitment.

Shortly after listening to the book I was glad I had picked a short book. “Murderbot” wasn’t really fascinating as a character. The character had a lot of contradictions, and I didn’t like how it interacted with the rest of the crew. Also the character made a lot of decisions out of the blue (especially at the end) that didn’t make sense based on what they were doing before.

For me, the biggest problem is that there wasn’t a lot of human emotion to connect with, and while I get it that was the point, it just wasn’t entertaining.

The weird thing is, by the end of the book I was still interested in the story and really wishing the author had done it differently. The main character was itself still boring, but I was interested in some of the side characters.

It didn’t really do it for me. I wouldn’t call the book good or bad, mostly just filler. I can say that I won’t be following up on the series, and I am not too sure I will follow up on the author.

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Fortitude (season 1)

Fortitude is a fictional location in Artic Norway, with an unusual population consisting of a lot of people not from Norway. It is almost a direct comparison to the way that Alaska was for the USA for a long time, comprised not of locals but of people from different parts of the country/world trying to either start something new, or get away from something old.

The basic concept is about a company trying to build a vacation getaway/go to location in the artic, while there are also a research facility and some sort of mining/oil location. All of this is in danger when a headless body is discovered, a murderer is lose and there is something more then a banal human doing the killing.

The acting is great, and the writing makes it feel like these people do know each other. You can feel them sort of group together when Stanley Tucci comes in as a British investigator for the death, and Tucci’s struggle to find out what actually happened.

The whole storyline is over by the end of the season, they wrap up the killer and supernatural parts of it cleanly, leaving the show with a solid conclusion. I very much enjoy this with British shows, the idea that the season can stand alone.

The one down part is the show does drag a little. It gets slower in the middle then I would like, and that could be my American take on shows, but they could have reduced this from a 12 episode show to a 10 episode show and it would have only been better

I suspect part of this is the show starts to have a lot of relationship drama, where they really shouldn’t be, and slows down the story just for drama’s sake. Never a good thing.

Pros: Excellent acting, writing, location.

Cons: Could have been a little shorter, a little less relationship drama that went nowhere.

Caught my interest enough I will have to see what Season 2 will be about.

Jorgensen Forge

I have a lot of memories of stories my father told me. They range the gamut from Vietnam, to childhood, to stories about things before I was old enough to remember.

One of them was how he worked at Jorgensen Forge for six months in the foundry. This was when we lived in downtown Seattle (on capitol hill) with me and my mother. I was still really sick as an infant and he had to sell the car to help pay the rent.

He ended up with the job at the foundry, but there weren’t any direct buses. The foundry is outside the Boeing plant in Tukwila in a huge industrial area. The buses back then were even worse than now.

He would take the bus (over an hour to get there), then walk miles to work to do 10 hour nights. After 10 hours (maybe it was 12) of working in the place he would walk those miles back to the bus and then come home.

He told me about a guy he met (I can’t remember the name) that he liked. Evidently the guy graduated as a teacher from college but found out he hated children. So he became a worker in the forge as well and enjoyed it a lot more. It is funny how we like jobs we didn’t expect.

I think about my dad’s story now because the place I work auditing is just down the road. It always makes me think about him when I see the building. I figure as I remember the stories I will write down what I remember and at least have that here, I do regret not writing his stories down more, but I have enough to last.

Either way, here is modern day Jorgensen Forge

Important note, I just discovered that it is closing. Seems a shame to me, but that is life


A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo (review)

A Day in the Life of Marlon BundoA Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Show host John Oliver is a national wonder for this helping bring this short book to life. The seven minutes of this audio book are engaging, positive and reassures me that there are good people out there.

The voice cast are awesome as well, with Jim Parsons of Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory playing Marlon Bundo, a boy rabbit who loves another boy rabbit. Meanwhile John Lithgow voices the stink bug, the one creature that hates boy bunnies being in love, and the story just gets awesome from there.

The story of tolerance, love and acceptance blows away so many other, much longer stories. My hat is off to Marlon and the rest of the animals for their acceptance and caring.

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Day Shift (Midnight Texas #2 Book Review)

Day Shift (Midnight, Texas, #2)Day Shift by Charlaine Harris
My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I am truly disappointed with this book. I had a lot of hopes, up through the first 75% of it. Then Ms. Harris decided to just go in a direction that is just too misogynistic, non-consenting and gross. Especially in this day and age.

It bothered me enough that I just stopped right there and said “nope” and tossed the book. Even if what was brought up in the book at that point didn’t actually happen, it was too late for me to even consider it passable. Don’t read any further if you don’t want spoilers, I won’t go too far in depth, but I have to cover a couple of points specifically.

I will talk about the good parts first. The relationships from the first book are developed more, with a bit of drama between Fiji and Bobo, and Quin showing up wanting to date Fiji. It is all typical “Sookie Stackhouse” drama but slower.

The buildup of the demon and the crossroads was slow but still interesting. Meeting Sylvester Ravenwing was actually pretty cool. I didn’t get to know him too well but what I read I liked.

Then we get to the way that they must perform a ritual to stop the demon. I felt I was reading a book written by a teenage boy by the end of this. Evidently a virgin witch must have sex publicly on the crossroads, the blood of her virginity being lost needs to be splashed on the ground to stop the demon from rising at the EXACT moment he is coming through.

Jesus Christ, really? We are going to go with a sexist trope that exalts virginity and on the other hand makes it a commodity? Sex with a virgin woman is a commodity that shouldn’t be used like a spell component. The aspect I disliked even more was the fact that Fiji really isn’t ok with this, meaning this isn’t something she would want to do. The story was reading with all sorts of non-consent and outdated ideas. It was enough to make me just stop there.

It is hard for me to really enumerate how much this kind of trope bothers me. There is no empowerment of Fiji, no choice on her part, and if she decided later that it was ok makes it even worse. It gives into the idea that you can wear someone down and its ok.

There was even less self-direction given to Fiji as it wasn’t even her that discovered she had to do this. A white vampire male decreed it from what he read. I realize this book was written before the #metoo thing, and maybe people don’t think of it as a bad trope, but consent is always required, and there was no consent on her part before it was decided it was done.

There is a lot of great fiction that empowers women and other minorities. This white-washed story doesn’t do any of that, and for that it is shut down.

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Santa Clarita Diet (seasons 1 and 2)

Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant star in this Netflix-original series as married realtors, Sheila and Joel, who are living a quiet life, raising their teenage daughter in Santa Clarita, Calif. Their world unexpectedly changes when Sheila dies and becomes a zombie, a cute hungry and sometimes feral zombie.

The show is a lot better then I would expected. I wouldn’t have thought that either actor would do well in a 30 minute comedy based on keeping the wife fed, looking for a cure (thanks Serbia) and from being discovered. The show can be gory, can be crass but is almost always funny. There are a ton of guest stars as well, all in memorable roles. I am looking at you Nathan Fillion (GARY!).

The show is even good enough that I enjoy the teenager subplots involving their daughter and daughter’s geeky best friend. The show also kept what made it good in the second season and improved it. I am looking forward to season 3 already.

Pros: Great writing, acting and humor.

Cons: Starting to get a lot of secondary characters, I hope they don’t keep up increasing it in Season 3.


Rampage (2018)

Surprisingly far better then I had expected.

I didn’t have high hopes for Rampage, I figured it would be a horrible video game movie with the normal horrible video game tropes. However, it has Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in it so I as sure it would be fun. Maybe those low expectations helped as I was pleasantly surprised though to find it not just fun but a rock solid monster movie.

It won’t win any high drama awards, but it stayed in the lane of being a monster movie and because of that there were no other expectations on it that it could fail. It included the requisite monsters, government ineptitude, great special effects, brutal monster eating people sequences, an evil corporation, and a hermit like scientific primatologist who used to be special forces, what wasn’t there to like.

The even more surprising thing is that the movie did not feel like a video game movie. Maybe that is why I liked it so much. It didn’t have the cheesy video game tropes and instead just took the basis of the video game and made it a decent monster movie (much how I always liked that Resident Evil was unevenly successful at the same thing but as a horror movie).

Nothing negative to say about this, it is a solid action and special effects driven monster movie that has The Rock as an ex-special forces primatologist.

The good: Everything was rock solid as a monster movie. Much better then The Mummy in this respect. Special effects, monsters, the Rock all enjoyable.

The bad: There wasn’t anything bad as long as you come in expecting just a monster movie. I did feel bad for the wolf though, won’t anyone think about the wolf?

Enterprise (entire series)

A very big disappointment, but not for the reasons I had ignored watching it the first time around.

Enterprise has good actors, and the occasional great performance, especially from my favorite, Jeffrey Coombs who played the Andorian Shran with an occasional recurrent role. The sets I thought were great, along with the costuming for everyone except T’Pol (which this comes into the problems I have).

The problem comes down to the writing. It is the laziest, sexist, unimaginative writing that I have seen in the Star Trek universe, overall more so then even the first season of ST:NG. The number of rape/assaults that occurred randomly on the show (mostly using mind-melds as the stand in) were fairly common. They even had T’Pol who seems to be the constant recipient of this do it back to someone else. That bothered me a lot.

Then we get into the sexist treatment of T’Pol in general, constant forcing her into those situations, combined with that stupid body fitting outfit she wore, instead of the normal uniform. The ramrod writing of trying to shoehorn her into scenes such as the decon room where they have her sweating and posing sexually while waiting for the decontamination happens.

I also need to point out that there were very few original ideas in the series as well. Instead of taking this opportunity to maybe do something more gritty (maybe on a Babylon 5 level) they instead reworked a lot of episodes (well sometimes not even reworking) from the original series. They also tended to not tell stories linearly, instead starting from the end and going back which is not their strength (stay in your lane).

In addition there was no actual character progression, any progress in a character that was learned in a story disappeared within two more episodes. Not even counting the fact that the behavior of the characters would sometimes be 180 degrees from what they said in other episodes. I wonder if they even had a plot bible, which is a book or data store that records all the personality traits of each character and things that happen to change them, this way multiple writers have the same base character for each of their stories and it allows them to slowly change a character.

Overall the sad writing is what made this show sink for me. I can’t blame the actors at all, they did what they could. It was a chore to finish Season 4.

Pros: The actors worked hard on this and did make it more watchable (especially Jeffrey Coombs).

Cons: The writing was a mess, no permanent progression, no real original ideas, just rehashing old subjects.

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