Tuesday 26 December 2023

Books Received in December 2023

Many thanks to Kensington Books for an eARC of Escape Velocity.

Escape Velocity by Victor Manibo - I love murder mysteries in space, and this one adds in the class disparity that makes it topical. Out May 21st, 2024.

A decades-old murder looms over the glamorous clientele of a high-end space hotel . . . while an unforeseen threat percolates in the service corridors. The guests are about to experience the hospitality they deserve.

Space Habitat Altaire is the premier luxury resort in low Earth orbit, playground of the privileged and the perfect location to host reunions for the Rochford Institute. Rochford boasts only the best: the wealthiest, most promising students with the most impressive pedigrees. Complete with space walks, these lavish reunions are a prime opportunity for alumni to jockey for power with old friends and rivals—and crucially, to advance their applications to live in an exclusive Mars settlement. Earth is dying, and only the best deserve to save themselves.

Aboard the Altaire for their 25th reunion, finance magnate Ava pursues the truth about her brother’s murder during their senior year, which cast a dark shadow over their time at Rochford. Laz, ambassador and political scion, hopes to finally win Ava’s heart. Sloane, collecting secrets to conceal his family’s decline, angles for a key client. And Henry, heir to a healthcare empire, creates an unorthodox opportunity to get to Mars in a last-ditch effort to outrun a childhood secret.

While these erstwhile friends settle scores and rack up points, they fail to notice that other agendas are afoot at the Space Habitat Altaire, and their own futures aren’t the only ones at stake—“the best” will soon regret underestimating those they would leave behind on Earth.


Thursday 21 December 2023

Happy Holidays!

Wishing a very merry Christmas to those who celebrate it!

Tuesday 12 December 2023

Movie Review: Soldier

Directed by: Paul W. S. Anderson, 1998
IMDb listing

Todd 3456 is a soldier, trained from birth. When a squad of upgraded solders come of age, the older generation are retired. After a test between the squads ends badly, Todd is presumed dead and dumped on a waste planet. There he finds survivors from a crashed colony ship and discovers what a family is.

This was a surprisingly good film. The story of Todd trying to fit into regular society while he clearly has massive PTSD was unexpectedly sad and touching.

The special effects looked rather cheesy and their grasp of space travel is pure science fiction but those are very minor elements of the film and easily overlooked.

The last third of the film is one massive fight scene with lots of death and explosions.

I really enjoyed this film.

Tuesday 5 December 2023

Movie Review: Oxygen

Directed by: Alexandre Aja, 2021
IMDb listing

A woman wakes up in a medical cryogenic unit with no memory of how she got there and her oxygen supply quickly running out.

This is a pretty good French science fiction movie centered around a single actor. Watching the woman try various ways to get out of the medical unit, get help, and regain her memories, alternates between horrifying and inspiring. She’s clever and comes up with numerous ideas. The actress, Melanie Laurent, does an amazing job in a challenging role.

As an outside observer, there is a twist that’s easy for us to guess but understandably hard for her to consider. She did annoy/frustrate me a few times, but given the circumstances, her panic was deserved.

The special effects were decent. The main set had lots of detail and really felt claustrophobic and highly scientific.

There are a few gory bits and one very successful jump scare but on the whole the horror is more due to being trapped in a box with a timer counting down.

If you like psychological horror and don't mind subtitles, this is a good film.

Tuesday 28 November 2023

Italy trip photos

My recent trip to Italy was done to research as many medieval (and older) sites as I could hit. I saw a number of baptistries, cathedrals, churches, museums, and old cities. It was amazing.

I've made an album with some of the more interesting photos from my trip to Italy. If you want information on the photos, check out the album at Flickr

Italy Research Trip

Sunday 19 November 2023

The Escapist video team starts Second Wind

I'm not sure what my audience here is interested in, so I'm basically posting the kinds of things that interest me. I've been watching the video game youtube channel The Escapist for years. I remember when Yahtzee Croshaw and Jim Sterling did poetry jams. The last few years the channel grew and added a lot of new shows and personnel. One of my favourite shows there is the D&D campaign Adventure is Nigh (season 1).

A few weeks ago, The Escapist's parent company fired the editor-in-chief, and the entire video team quit in protest. They've created a new company: Second Wind. So far their youtube channel's uploaded a few videos either wholesale from The Escapist (if the creator was an independent) or a modified version (if the creator was a full employee, whose IP videos belong to The Escapist). 

So, Yahtzee's Zero Punctuation, a sarcastic video game review show, has been reborn as Fully Ramblomatic. It's a fun show so long as you're ok with adult content and swearing. I also enjoy Design Delve (if you're interested in what makes video games work behind the scenes), and Cold Take (if you like to consider the philosophical side of games). I'm hoping they start a new D&D campaign too.

The Second Wind crew's great and it's really impressive how quickly they've bounced back with this channel and content. I'm looking forward to see what new shows they come up with and watching them for years to come.

Tuesday 14 November 2023

I'm back from Vacation

I spent a month in Italy on a research trip, taking photos of lots of churches, baptistries, hill towns and more. Jetlag's been hard to kick, so it's taking me longer to get back up to speed than I'd like.

Last year I promised to post some photos of France and apparently I forgot to do so. One reason is that I had a lot of blurry shots and got a photo sharpening ai program. Fixing those photos took up a lot of time. But I will try to get some photos of both France and Italy up on my blog on the sooner side. I got an account on flickr so I can share photos here more easily (I hope).

I didn't get any reading done on the trip. The stress of going from place to place, plus the amount of time it took for me to back-up my photos every night in case something went wrong/was lost/stolen meant I didn't have much free time. I saw a lot of great stuff and took a LOT of photos.

I have another research trip I'm planning for so I'm not sure how much fiction I'll be reading in the next few months. Probably not much. I have a long list of history and religion books I want to get through as well as general city research for each place on my itinerary. I prepare detailed floor plans for churches, with diagrams or layouts of the more interesting sculptural programs (generally on portals and the west facade). All of this takes a lot of time.

So while I'm hoping to keep up posting here, it may be bi-weekly for the next few months. I'll have to see.

Thursday 2 November 2023

Books Received in October 2023

I'm back from vacation and have requested 2 books that come out next year for review. Many thanks to the publishers who approved my requests.

Mislaid in Parts Half-Known by Seanan McGuire - The next book in the Wayward Children series. It takes place after Lost in the Moment and Found, so isn't a good starting point if you've not read the other books.

Antsy is the latest student to pass through the doors at Eleanor West's School for Wayward Children.

When the school’s (literally irresistible) mean girl realizes that Antsy's talent for finding absolutely anything may extend to doors, Antsy is forced to flee in the company of a small group of friends, looking for a way back to the Shop Where the Lost Things Go to be sure that Vineta and Hudson are keeping their promise.

Along the way, they will travel from a world which hides painful memories that cut as sharply as its beauty, to a land that time wasn’t yet old enough to forget—and more than one student's life will change forever.

Mislaid in Parts Half-Known is a story that reminds us that getting what you want doesn't always mean finding what you need.

Strange Religion by Nijay K. Gupta - I've been looking for a book that explains how ancient Romans practiced their religion and how that differed from early Christian practice. I'm hoping this is that book.

The first Christians were weird. Just how weird is often lost on today's believers.

Within Roman society, the earliest Christians stood out for the oddness of their beliefs and practices. They believed unusual things, worshiped God in strange ways, and lived a unique lifestyle. They practiced a whole new way of thinking about and doing religion that would have been seen as bizarre and dangerous when compared to Roman religion and most other religions of the ancient world.

Award-winning author, blogger, speaker, and New Testament teacher Nijay Gupta traces the emerging Christian faith in its Roman context in this accessible and engaging book. Christianity would have been seen as radical in the Roman world, but some found this new religion attractive and compelling. The first Christians dared to be different, pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable, transformed how people thought about religion, and started a movement that grew like wildfire.

Brought to life with numerous images, this book shows how the example of the earliest Christians can offer today's believers encouragement and hope.

Tuesday 10 October 2023

Blog Vacation

As I'm taking a research trip to Italy, I'll be away from my home computer and therefore won't be blogging for a month or so. 

It's a fairly comprehensive trip, with a lot of stops and a lot of medieval and ancient sites to visit. I've done a year's worth of research to prepare for this - and that still didn't feel like enough. Italy has such a deep and complicated history.

I've made information pages for the various churches and monuments I plan to visit. I hope to put some of those up online at the Internet Archive. I need to rework them for public use first (my current ones are designed to fit on as few pages as possible & so can be hard to read). I also need to fill in gaps where I was unable to find out the information/subject, and make corrections since some of the information I found will turn out to be out of date or wrong. Given the other research trips I still want to take (which need new information pages), reworking older pages isn't a high priority. In other words, it may be a few years before I post some of these. We'll see.

When I return I'll share some of my trip photos. 

Tuesday 3 October 2023

Shout-Out: Charming by Jade Linwood

Brave, Resourceful, Deceitful, Double-Crossing... Charming.

Prince Jean-Marc Charming Arundel, known to friends and enemies alike as "Prince Charming," is handsome, well-mannered, brave, a peerless swordsman, a cunning tactician – and a liar, a con man and a fraud. For years he has been travelling from one kingdom to the next, rescuing endangered princesses and maidens, securing their troths and his place in their fathers' palaces, then looting their treasuries and having it away before dawn.

Until a chance meeting of three of his victims – raven-haired Marie Blanche de Neige, the sorceress Doctor Emilia Rapunzel and the long-slumbering Bella Lucia dei’ Sogni – suggests a course of revenge...

Tuesday 26 September 2023

History Book Review: Magic in the Roman World: Pagans, Jews and Christians by Naomi Janowitz

The book focuses on how magic was viewed in the first Christian centuries. It has 6 chapters in addition to an introduction and conclusion. They are: 1) Greco-Roman, Christian and Jewish concepts of “magic”, w) Daimons and angels and the world of exorcism, 3) Ancient rites for gaining livers, 4) Using natural forces for divine goals: Maria the Jewess and early alchemy, 5) Divine power, human hands: becoming gods in the first century, 6) “Even the decent women practice witchcraft”: magic and gender in late antiquity.

It’s a relatively short book that gives a good introduction to the topic. The author emphasizes several times how modern definitions of the word ‘magic’ don’t match those of the past, and that we therefore have to be careful both with how we approach the topic and - if reading works in translation - how the translators may have taken innocuous words and forced a negative view on them (for example some Greek words in themselves have no magical connotations, but some translators have added the word ‘magic’ to them). Similarly, sometimes later writers objected to earlier forms of practicing their own religion, as with some people who edited the Hebrew Bible, and wrote in condemnations of what had been normal Jewish religious practices.

There are some interesting ideas here. The religious rituals of those who practiced differently were often termed magic. This could have political and therefore propagandistic purposes. The term magic comes from the Persian word ‘magos’, meaning priest. The Persians were the military enemies of the Greeks. Magic was considered bad because it worked, and worked via evil spirits rather than through the correct ‘god’ (that is, the deity the author of each specific source text followed). Thus, Romans and Greeks called Moses and Jesus “magicians” [this isn’t in the book but there are some fabulous Christian sarcophagi in the archaeological museum in Arles that show Jesus performing miracles using a magic wand, so it seems early Christians weren’t as horrified by that idea as modern Christians would be].

The book covers a decent range of topics including alchemy and deification of humans. It was interesting seeing some of the rationale behind the belief that Roman Emperors became gods after death and how some religious practitioners of other faiths tried to ascend and become like gods themselves.

The author does a good job of exploring the subject of each chapter from the Greco-Roman, Jewish and Christian viewpoints. Sometimes spending more time on one group than the others, but showing how complex the notions of magic and religion were in the ancient world.

There are no photos in the book which seems a shame.

If you’re interested in ancient religions and magic, this is a quick but useful jumping off point for more in depth studies.

Tuesday 19 September 2023

Video: The Warp Zone's A.I. Written sketch

The Warp Zone have done a great sketch, partially written by A.I. (Chat GPT) that really gets to the heart of our fears about artificial intelligence.

Tuesday 12 September 2023

Shout-Out: How to Be Remembered by Michael Thompson

A man who can never be remembered.

A journey he'll never forget.

On an ordinary night in an ordinary year, Tommy Llewellyn's doting parents wake in a home without toys and diapers, without photos of their baby scattered about, and without any idea that the small child asleep in his crib is theirs.

That's because Tommy is a boy destined to never be remembered.

On the same day every year, everyone around him forgets he exists, and he grows up enduring his own universal Reset. That is until something extraordinary happens: Tommy Llewellyn falls in love.

Determined to finally carve out a life for himself and land the girl of his dreams, Tommy sets out on a mission to finally trick the Reset and be remembered. But legacies aren't so easily won, and Tommy must figure out what's more important—the things we leave behind or the people we bring along with us.

Tuesday 5 September 2023

Medieval History Research Websites

My apologies for the lack of posts recently. I’ve been neck deep in putting together my next research trip and it’s taking all of my time. I’ve been reading (or skimming depending on time & interest) a bunch of history books. I’ve also been combing through all sorts of websites to find detailed information about the tourist sites I’ll be visiting.

Towards that end, it strikes me that some of the sites I’ve found might be of interest to others researching the middle ages or art history.

So, here are some of the sites I’ve used for putting together the information pages I make for my trips.

General information / Sites of a Singular Interest:

Internet Medieval Sourcebook by Fordham University
This site has a lot of internet based translations for primary sources. There's a remarkable amount of information here on a vast array of topics.

A free account gets you access too 100 free academic articles a month. I’ve found some really interesting articles on specific churches/chapels/architectural features (like Romanesque facades for specific churches). I've found that historical/religious sites are a lot more interesting when you have a deeper understanding of what you’re seeing.

The Dance of Death
I find dance of death murals fascinating, so this website was an interesting find. It has information and photographs of major dance of death murals in Europe.

National Geographic: Trajan’s Column
The site allows for an interactive, scrolling, examination of Trajan’s Column, a pillar that details the victory of the Romans over the Dacians (from the area now known as Romania).

Art History in France

The Rose Window
The amount of stained glass photos on this site is incredible. It’s got a lot of French and English churches, then a scattering of other European sites. The site provides location charts to locate the stained glass (not my favourite style, to be honest, I’d have preferred they use actual floor plans. I sometimes had trouble figuring out where a particular window was supposed to be, once compared with the floor plan). It generally has photos of full windows, and individual panes. Not all the churches have the full spectrum (it depends on whether the website owner’s been there & able to do the detailed photos). It’s still an incredible resource. They also explain what stories the glass represents, when it was made, what order to read the glass in (usually bottom to top but there are some exceptions), and whether the glass has been moved from a prior location.

This site has a lot of good, detailed information on French churches. It goes over some history, major works of art, architectural features, etc.

This was a nice starting page for researching French churches. It has floor plans, west facade images, and dimensions for a decent number of buildings.


The ORB: On-line Reference Book for Medieval Studies
One thing my university experience lacked, was practical experience in medieval liturgy. A lot of things became clear when I attended Mass for the first time (even though it wasn’t how mass was celebrated in the middle ages). Coming from a Protestant background, Catholic liturgy has been hard for me to figure out. Sites like this one have helped a lot with that.

Christian Iconography
This “guide to Christian iconography: images, symbols, and texts” is quite useful when trying to learn who various saints are and what their artistic attributes are. The imagery in specific churches is more understandable when you know the saint whose life is depicted and what the stories surrounding them are.

The Churches of Rome Wiki
The site has an astonishing amount of detailed information about churches in the city. Not just medieval ones. The opening hour info at the bottom is dated (several of the pages I used were last updated in 2017), so definitely get more current information if you want to visit. You can even look the churches up chronologically.

Tuesday 22 August 2023

Popin' Cook'n Tea Party Cakes

This is probably the last Kracie Popin' Cook'n kit I'm going to do. While they can be fun to put together, they're pretty expensive, and some of them - like this kit - don't end up tasting that great.

In this kit you get several fruit and cake moulds, the cut off measuring cup, a mixing spoon, and all of the gelatin packets. It also comes with 2 small cookies to decorate.

I liked making the little moulded fruit. They looked good and tasted alright. The mix sets fast so you can only do one set of fruit even though there's enough gelatin for 2.

There was enough cake batter for me to make 2 of one style and one of the second. Which was nice, as otherwise the kit doesn't make that many cakes. They give a lot of suggestions for how to decorate the mini cakes, but there aren't that many, so you can only try a few designs. The mini icing bag was fun but the icing itself wasn't very good.

The cakes are cute, but weren't ones I'd want to eat again.

Of the kits I did, the Japanese food kit (with Ramune & mini bento/lunch foods) tasted the best.

Tuesday 8 August 2023

Book Review: Provenance by Ann Leckie

Pros: tons of politics!, several interesting alien species, excellent world-building

Cons: heavily character driven, so if you don’t like Ingray the book may be a slog

Ingray Aughskold has hatched a cunning plan to beat her foster brother and gain their mother’s notice - and perhaps be named her heir. Unfortunately for Ingray, that plan starts to unravel immediately as she discovers she’s broken the wrong man out of prison and it turns out her transport ship was stolen from aliens. Her life is about to change in many unexpected ways.

This is a heavily character driven story. I found Ingray intriguing, and wanted to know why she was making so many bad decisions. Seeing her owning up to her mistakes and try to make things right was satisfying. The side characters are also fascinating, with goals that often conflict with hers.

The world-building is excellent. Tyr Siilas station, the planet Hwae, the very alien Geck, and more recognizable but still alien Omkem. Each group has their own very different culture and language. One of my favourite parts of the book was towards the end where Ingray needs to use a translation software to help with a language she doesn’t know and it translates profanity as ‘fiddlesticks’ and complex phrases as near gibberish. Very realistic.

There’s a lot of politics in the book, which I loved. I find it fascinating seeing why people make certain decisions and how those decisions affect their world. It was especially interesting here as the politics crossed so many boundaries. Deeper purposes were constantly being revealed as Ingray learned more about what was happening and how the plans of others intersected with her own.

There are 3 (at least 3) genders, so be prepared for e/eir pronouns.

The book did feel a bit slow at times, I often have trouble maintaining interest in character driven books, wanting more plot to pick up the slack, but it was very enjoyable.

Tuesday 25 July 2023

Video: Hieronymus Bosch Butt Music

 In a segment on hell in Hieronymus Bosch's painting of THE GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS, there's a man with music notation on his butt. This has been transcribed and played by various artists. The version by James Spalink, played on lute, harp, and hurdy-gurdy, is creepy & cool.

Tuesday 11 July 2023

History Book Review: Ritual, Gender and Narrative in Late Medieval Italy: Fina Buzzacarini and the Baptistery of Padua by Anne Derbes

This is a deep dive into the pictorial program at the Baptistery of Padua, redone in the 1370s, and the woman who commissioned it, Fina Buzzacarini.

The book has 6 chapters plus an introduction and conclusion. The chapters are: 1. Fina Buzzacarini in Carrara Padua, 2. Baptistery as Mausoleum: Ambitions and Motivations, 3. Narrative, Ritual, Exegesis: The Genesis Cycle, 4. Narrative, Ritual, Exegesis: The New Testament Cycle. 5. Narrative, Ritual, Exegesis: The Apocalyptic Cycle, 6. Gender Matters: Maternity, Sexuality, and Visual Rhetoric.

The author provides a good amount of background information about baptisteries as they were used in medieval Italy, the city of Padua and its ruling family (of whom Fina was an important member), and how her struggle to birth a male heir, and its eventual accomplishment, are immortalized in the frescoes.

I learned so much from this book about how baptism was performed in the medieval Catholic church (including gestures & some phrases) and about how medieval artists and theologians interpreted scripture to relate to the current day (Biblical exegesis). I’d always assumed Biblical stories were appropriate to church institutions due to their holiness. It never occurred to me that each individual story could be applied to the sacrament of Baptism. The author pointed out so many interesting nuances, not only with the exegesis in general, but its application to this particular baptistery: Eve being pulled from Adam’s side, people putting their hands on heads the way the priest would to the catechumen, the importance of the white robes of purity, etc.

The book is richly and gorgeously illustrated. There are abundant photographs of the baptistery in question with a good number of supplementary images comparing certain stories with those in other baptisteries or churches.

Even if you’re not interested in the baptistery of Padua, this book contains of wealth of information on medieval thought. The amount of input Fina apparently had when deciding the program is also fascinating. So many of the stories and poses pertain to her specifically. She’s even included in several frescoes.

I highly recommend this book if you’re interested in medieval art, Italian art, or Christian history.

Tuesday 20 June 2023

Book Review: A Master of Djinn by P. Djeli Clark

Pros: great characters, detailed worldbuilding, twisty plot


After the members of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Al-Jahiz are murdered in a mysterious manner, Agent Fatma and her new partner Agent Hadia, of the Egyptian Ministery of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities, to solve the case.

This is a fun murder mystery that takes place in an alternate Egypt of 1912, where a portal to another world allowed djinn, ‘angels’ and other supernatural beings to come to earth. The worldbuilding is fantastic and extrapolates the politics of the time to fit these entities in.

This is the first novel, but there are a couple of short stories that preceed this story, introducing some of the characters (like how Agent Fatma and Siti meet), that while not necessary to understand the events of this book, are a lot of fun and give some more depth to the characters.

Agent Fatma is delightful and I loved her relationship with Siti. While I’m not generally a fan of the’ agent who doesn’t want a partner gets a new partner’ trope, it was handled well and I enjoyed seeing them learn to work together.

The murder mystery was interesting, with some fun twists. The ending was properly apocalyptic.

If you’re unfamiliar with Egyptian (and Nubian) food and clothing, there will be some new vocabulary to look up. I looked up some but not all of the terms, learning some interesting cultural facts along with my fiction.

I found this an enjoyable romp in a country I’d love to visit someday.

Tuesday 13 June 2023


When a derelict ship arrives at a space station orbiting Earth, one that has a nuclear engine, a soldier and a technician are sent to investigate.

This is a sci-fi Lovecraftian horror short film written and directed by Anthony Ferraro of Create Sci-Fi (website,  youtube channel). The sets are fantastic and the special effects remarkably good for a short indy film. The actors do a great job. It's worth the watch. 

Tuesday 30 May 2023

Book Review: A History of Magic, Witchcraft, and the Occult by DK

Pros: lots of information easily digested, plentiful photographs, varied topics

Cons: I feel like there was more magic from the African continent that deserved mention

The book has 5 sections, each broken down into numerous subchapters going into more detail. The sections are: Ancient roots (prehistory to 400 CE), Curse or Cure (400-1500), Scholars and Sabbats (1500-1700), Secrecy and Ceremony (1700-1900), and Modern Magic (1900 onward). There is also a glossary at the back of the book. I was impressed by the number of subsections there were and how thorough the coverage is both in terms of history and geography.

Most topics got a 2 page spread, with a few getting 4 pages. Occasionally side information would get its own spread, like images of fetishes or amulets from different cultures or the meanings of rune stones and how to use them for divination.

I would have liked to learn more about indigenous African beliefs. The authors did a good job of trying to differentiate between magical practices, superstition, and religions still being practiced (which only showed up as they intersected with magical practices, like the Christian persecution of witches). I was impressed by the sheer breadth of information covered. Much of it I was familiar with, but there were sections, like Finnish native beliefs that I had never heard about.

There are a lot of excellent photographs and good use is made of box text diving into specific practices and practitioners that needed a bit more coverage.

I didn’t expect the modern sections to interest me as much as the ancient and medieval sections, but it was fascinating to see some practices return and others morph over time.

If you’re looking for a broad overview of magical practices, this is an excellent book.

Tuesday 23 May 2023

Book Review: The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal

Pros: fast paced, fun characters

Cons: ending felt a bit underwhelming

Roboticist Tesla Crane and her new husband, Shalmaneser Steward, are enjoying their honeymoon on a cruise ship from the moon to Mars When Shal is accused of murder, Tesla must use her fame and money, and Shal’s experience as a detective, to try to clear his name.

The book is very fast paced, introducing just enough character and setting to get you going before the first murder takes place. Then it’s a whirlwind of the couple investigating and trying to figure out what’s really going on while not becoming victims themselves.

The characters are a lot of fun. Shal and Tesla are a sweet couple who flirt a lot and really want some alone time. Tesla had an accident that’s left her with chronic pain and PTSD. The book does an excellent job of showing how trauma works as well as a brilliant future device that allows her to ‘dial down’ her pain, though there’s real danger in her injuring herself more by doing so. Their dog is absolutely adorable.

While I liked Tesla’s determination, towards the end of the book her bullheadedness started to grate a little. She comments at times about how she’s using her money to push for things regular people wouldn’t be able to, and to an extent she uses this for ‘good’, but it does seem to go too far at times. From a novel standpoint, there isn’t much getting around this if you want to stay with a singular point of view character, as you need your reader to learn things too, but it did feel like she was getting too much access, especially at the end. I wouldn’t have wanted to be any of the service people she dealt with.

The secondary characters - and potential suspects - are all eccentric in different ways, that makes them fun to learn about.

The resolution left me feeling a bit underwhelmed. I’m not entirely sure why as there was a good actiony sequence involved.

Ultimately it was a fun mystery in space.

Tuesday 9 May 2023

Book Review: The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean

Pros: brilliant world-building, interesting characters, fast paced


Raised as a princess in one of the 6 remaining book eater houses in England, Devon Fairweather learns at her first marriage, that being pampered is not the same as being free. Now, she’s trying to escape the families along with her mind eater son.

The book alternates between scenes in the present with Devon on the run and scenes from the past that explain how she got to this point. The pacing is great and there is a mix of highly tense moments an downtime where you really get to know the main characters.

The world-building here is great. The book eaters are unique, and the mind eaters terrifying. The author does a great job of blending their curious and often antiquated style of living, with the modern day world. I also loved how she worked in knights and dragons.

Devon is a complicated woman. She loves her son, enough to get him humans to feed on, while also being scared of that need to feed. In some ways she’s suffered greatly, in others she’s still weirdly naive. I didn’t quite agree with some of her principles, but despite her crimes she still comes off as sympathetic and you still want to see her succeed.

It’s a strange book, telling about a strange people, and is wildly entertaining if you like darker urban fantasy.

Tuesday 2 May 2023

Book Review: Dragonfall by L. R. Lam

Pros: interesting characters, great worldbuilding, non-binary protagonist


Arcady Eremia wants to clear their family’s name, so they need money and a new last name. Their spell was only supposed to change their name seal, not pull someone into their world. Certainly not someone magically bonded to them.

Everen Emberclaw’s been given a chance to fulfill a prophecy to save dragonkind from their dying world. But to do it he must properly bond with Arcady and then kill them.

This is a story about trust between two broken people that involves a fun heist towards the end of the book.

The worldbuilding was excellent. The human world has a fair amount of variety, with several kingdoms that have different customs, and a religion centered on the worship of dragons.

Arcady is non-binary and the world has a nifty way of dealing with pronouns, using honourifics until you learn the correct forms of address.

There are light romance elements with a fun will they/won’t they aspect.

Arcady’s gruff and a bit unlikeable at first, but really grows on you as time goes on. I loved Everen completely, especially watching him learn about the human world and trying to fit in.

Giving dragons feathers was kind of unique, and I loved that they have a smaller -preterit- forms.

This is the first of a series so while it ties up some loose ends it’s only part of a larger story.

Tuesday 25 April 2023

Movie Review: The Blob (1988)

Directed by: Chuck Russell
IMDb listing

Pros: some genuine scares, suspenseful music, decent special effects

Cons: attempted date rape, some gore

A crashed meteorite unleashes a blob that begins amalgamating people from a small town. Some teenagers trying to find out what’s happening while a government agency arrives to get the situation under control.

This was a surprisingly good 80s horror film. While it starts off following the ‘plot’ of the 1950s film, it quickly veers off into its own thing, with a different explanation of where the blob comes from.

The movie makes great use of suspense, with a lot of foggy night scenes and some mood music. After the second death I realized I didn’t know where the film was going and that ramped up the horror factor.

The creature is genuinely terrifying at times, reaching out with fleshy arms to grab people. There were a few green screen moments that looked terrible, but on the whole the special effects were pretty good. I was legitimately surprised by how many people died and who some of those people were. Some of the deaths are pretty gruesome, so if you’re squeamish this won’t be for you.

A few character building scenes from the beginning come back at the end as being important plot points, which was kind of fun.

One of the football players gets frisky with his passed out date, in a scene I could have done without. The rape never happens and the scene manages to avoid nudity, making it feel less from a ‘male gaze’ than similar horror film scenes of its age. It’s played for horror, not titillation.

The ending was a rather exciting action scene, where the main girl and guy play important roles. If you’ve never seen it and like 80s horror, I highly recommend it.

Tuesday 18 April 2023

Video: Monk's Modern Medieval Cuisine

I recently stumbled across a new youtube channel: Monk's Modern Medieval Cuisine. The idea is to offer 'easy' medieval recipes. I watched several of his videos and would love to try some of these myself. I love how Dr. Monk tastes the food at the end, giving some idea of what it tastes like, and thoroughly enjoying himself.

Tuesday 11 April 2023

Book Review: The Faithless by C. L. Clark

Pros: lots of political intrigue and hard choices


A year has passed since the events of The Unbroken, and Touraine has discovered that helping to rule a nation is a difficult as freeing it from colonizers. She and Aranen are sent as Qazali’s ambassadors to Balladaire to maintain Luca’s friendship and support. But the Balladairan capital is not safe from its own rebels, nor is Luca’s uncle, acting regent, ready to give Luca the throne.

This is a great follow-up to The Unbroken. The setting is different, allowing the reader to learn more of the Balladairan empire and its territories. But the tension between Luca and Touraine, and Luca and her power, remains just as complicated.

I loved how Luca’s disability causes challenges for her, but doesn’t define her.

Luca’s quest to learn more about Balladairan magic bears fruit, but the answers she finds aren’t ones she likes. Touraine’s attempts to use Qazali magic show that while the theory of using it is easy, the practice is not.

Touraine really comes into her own, learning new things and slowly gaining confidence outside of her military prowess.

I loved Fili, the apprentice woodcarver, and am curious what will happen with her in the next book.

The book has so much political intrigue. I loved it. Luca and her uncle playing against each other for the crown was alternatively thrilling and horrifying. Though there are a few fight scenes, this book has more duels and smaller scale action than battles.

The Unbroken was a great book, and I enjoyed The Faithless even more. If you’ve not read these, you’re missing out.

Tuesday 4 April 2023

Book Review: Camp Zero by Michelle Min Sterling

Pros: compelling read, interesting personalities

Cons: bittersweet ending

Camp Zero is the beginning of a utopian community in northern Canada, away from the heat and disasters of the rest of the world, where man and nature can finally coexist.

Rose will have enough money to support herself and her mother if she works in the camp’s brothel, spying on its architect for her former boss. Grant took a teaching job there to get away from his ultra rich family and their control over his life. But the diggers have no interest in literature or poetry.

Further north still is White Alice, a station manned by a crew of female Americans who have created their own community.

As life in the camp progresses, it’s clear that this isn’t the escape the workers were promised. Are they willing to take the risks required to create the future they want?

I found the book a very compelling read and hard to put down. The characters are vibrant and their situation challenging. It was interesting learning about Rose and Grant’s pasts and how the rich created a new city that could more easily weather the new climate while watching the rest of the US fail. Not as much happens in the present, though seeing Rose try to figure out what she wants in life and take a chance on love was nice.

The White Alice crew was fun, though I was surprised by the extent to which they wanted their community to continue on into the future. Especially given their energy concerns as the production of fossil fuels came to a halt.

There’s limited descriptions of the sex work involved. The profession is treated with dignity by all but one or two of the clients. It’s not a titillating story. Be aware that there is a non-graphic attempted rape later on in the book.

The ending is bittersweet, with a lot left open.

If you’re interested in slow apocalypses and highly personal stories of surviving in challenging circumstances you’ll like this.

Saturday 1 April 2023

Book Review: Put Your Anxiety Here: A Creative Guided Journal to Relieve Stress and Find Calm by Lisa M. Schab

This is a journal with prompts for activities to help you reduce feelings of anxiety and increase feelings of peace in your life. The prompts vary in style with some asking for limited physical activity (stand and shake out your stress until your body feels relaxed), while most ask you to write or draw something. Many of them ask you to write down or think about what’s creating anxiety and then either distract you from those thoughts or have you work through the thoughts until they change into more peaceful ones.

Everyone approaches self-help differently and the style that works for me may not work for you. I liked that the book starts with some tips for how to use the journal, emphasizing that the purpose is to help relieve your anxiety. There’s no wrong way to use it. You can follow the prompts, or not, as long as you end up feeling more peaceful after your time with it.

I found myself alternating between following the prompts as written and adjusting them to fit my mood/way of thinking. For example, one prompt asks you to write something that makes you smile for each letter of the alphabet. As I was going through the letters I found myself writing in a lot of activities I enjoyed instead. And the more I thought about each activity - and the joy doing them brings me - the less anxious I felt.

I was surprised that there wasn’t a page at the beginning for writing a general list of things that make you feel anxious. I found a few prompts later on that asked you to write some down, but wanted something right at the start to help me focus on what I was working towards eliminating. So I took one of the mostly blank introduction pages and made my own list there. I found that writing down information for one activity allowed me to see my anxiety in more helpful ways. That by looking at one aspect of the problem I was able to look at the bigger picture and it didn’t seem so insurmountable anymore. I made a few breakthroughs in terms of how I think about anxiety and how I can deal with it in the future. Not every prompt worked for me. I skipped a few, though I may return to them in future sessions.

The journal ends by asking you to rate they type of prompts that helped you the most, so you recognize the style that worked best for you for follow-up guidance.

I would recommend looking at the book first and trying one or two activities to see if this style of journal/self-help book works for you. Personally, I found it a very helpful journal and really appreciated a lot of the prompts and the things I learned about myself by following them. I can see myself using some of these techniques - and even the same prompts - in the future when anxiety hits.

Tuesday 28 March 2023

Book Review: Medieval Plants and Their Uses by Michael Brown

Pros: lots of great information, good amount of coloured photographs

Cons: hard to source quotes

The book has 15 chapters including the introduction: Medieval Vegetables; Medieval Fruits & Nuts; Grains; Plants & Medicine; Symbolism and superstition; Magical & Mysterious; Love, Seduction & Beauty; Childbirth, Babies & Nursemaids; Clothing, Laundry & other Household Tips; Dyes, Inks & Paints; Animal Health Care; Harvesting & Preserving Plant Material; Fun things to do; Plant Lists. It would be impossible to give a full accounting of the uses of plants in the middle ages in such a short book. The author does an admirable job of giving a lot of information in such a condensed format. I was impressed with how many plants he dealt with in even the shorter chapters, with lots of tidbits of folklore added in. Medicine gets the longest chapter as it goes over specific ailments and what plants were used to treat them.

The book has a lot of half page and full page colour photographs of plants and some manuscript illuminations. These are used to good advantage when explaining how certain plants were used based on their looks (like a photo of henbane next to its use in curing toothache as the seed cases resemble teeth on a jawbone). The rose sepal photo really helps explain a poem used in the symbolism and superstition chapter.

There are a number of recipes included, though the author does advise against using some, especially in the medical section.

The chapter on fun things to do shows several ways to make flower crowns and a few simple reed instruments.

I loved learning about plants I’ve never heard of, including several vegetables that are no longer widely cultivated as the easier to grow and cook potatoes have taken their place. It was also interesting learning how medieval people may have dealt with things like chapped lips or dying hair. Another fun tip was to chew licorice for a clear voice, the way Roman orators did.

There’s a bibliography at the end of the book but no citations or notes in the text explaining what source specific information is from.

This is an easy to read guide on medieval plants including a lot of great information.

(Out March 30)

Tuesday 21 March 2023

Book Review: The Unbroken by C. L. Clark

Pros: great characters, excellent world-building, thought-provoking

Cons: several near-death encounters

The day they arrive in the country she was kidnapped from as a child, Touraine, lieutenant of the Balladairan Colonial Brigade, saves the life of Princess Luca. The princess is there to quell rebellion and prove her fitness for the throne. She’d also like to learn more about the healing magic the locals used to wield. Touraine just wants her fellow conscripts to survive the coming unrest. As they work together, their feelings for each other, as well as their private goals, clash in unexpected ways.

The world-building is top notch. The level of second guessing motivations was perfect given how the colonial troops were raised. Seeing Touraine torn between wanting to help the princess, the rebels and her conscripts was heart-wrenching, especially when she kept making bad decisions. I also liked seeing how torn Luca was about wanting to do well by her people even when she had to chose what was best for the crown.

Touraine manages to recover from extreme injuries - via healing - quite a few times. It seemed unfair by the end how often she survived when other characters die. Especially given how much of the damage done in the colony was due to her own poor choices.

I loved how easy - and hard - using magic is.

It’s a good, thought-provoking read about colonization and loyalty.

Tuesday 14 March 2023

Book Review: Antimatter Blues by Edward Ashton

Pros: fast paced, good world-building, romance elements


Due to a power decrease that means the colony won’t last through the next winter, Mickey7 is tasked with retrieving the anti-matter bomb he supposedly left with the creepers two years ago. But when he goes to get it, it’s not in the rock pile where he left it.

This is a fast paced continuation of Mickey7. I loved learning more about the new world and seeing a few more alien species. Mickey has to make a lot of difficult decisions and it’s fascinating seeing what he’ll do.

I loved Mickey’s relationship with Nasha. It was nice seeing a committed couple work together to save their colony.

There’s a fair amount of action as well as some attempts at diplomacy. I thought the author did a good job of showing that different species think in different ways and that communication isn’t always straightforward.

If you like light-hearted science fiction these books are fantastic.

Sunday 12 March 2023

Graphic Novel Review: The Sea in You, Written and Illustrated by Jessi Sheron

Pros: lesbian mermaid love story!, gorgeous artwork, deaf/mute characters

Cons: some sad scenes, emotional abuse

Fifteen year old Corinth’s boyfriend Seth is emotionally abusive. When she meets a mermaid at the beach she discovers that friendship doesn’t have to be painful. But Skylla wants to stay with Corinth, and bad things happen when mermaids transform into humans.

The artwork is gorgeous. Vibrant colours, lots of curvy women. While you don’t see much of the underwater kingdom, I loved how this author represented the mother mermaid and the fathers (they’re so CUTE!). The mermaid design is all fish, with sharp teeth, webbed fingers, and various coloured skin.

Corinth’s a great character who’s lack of self-esteem is being exploited by her emotionally abusive boyfriend. There’s nothing over the top in the story, just constant little episodes of negging and gaslighting. Seeing her regain confidence is a real treat.

Corinth’s mother is deaf so she knows sign language. After meeting, she starts teaching Skylla all sorts of new language based things, including sign language. It’s great to see.

The relationship between Skylla and Corinth is built on mutual admiration and affection, and it’s is a real pleasure watching it blossom into love.

This is a fun, beautiful graphic novel that I hope a lot of people read.

Tuesday 7 March 2023

Book Review: Dead Country by Max Gladstone

Pros: interesting characters, some good fight scenes, great magic system


Tara Abernathy never intended to return to the town that ran her out as a teenager. But she can’t miss her father’s funeral. Nor can she turn away the young, untrained woman with craft abilities. Nor can she leave her old hometown at the mercy of Raiders and the curse that drives them.

This is the first book of the Craft Wars series. While it comes after the 6 books of the Craft Sequence, and focuses on Tara Abernathy (who features in several of the Sequence books), it’s designed as a new entry point and gives you all the background you need in order to enjoy this book.

It’s a much smaller book in scope than the Sequence books, dealing with a small cast as it takes place in a small town in the middle of a desert. Tara’s forced to revisit her past, not just the town and its antagonism towards her, but also her time at school to know how to teach and what information to give.

The craft is always a delight, with its mix of occultism and the arguments of law. There are some good fight scenes.

This is a book about coming to terms with your past and deciding who you want to be going forward. If you haven’t read Max Gladstone, this is a good place to start.

Wednesday 1 March 2023

Books Received in February 2023

Many thanks as always to the publishers who sent me review copies. 

Meru by S. B. Divya - A challenging, but ultimately compelling read of 2 entities determined to make life better for humanity, and find love along the way. Reviewed here.

One woman and her pilot are about to change the future of the species in an epic space opera about aspiration, compassion, and redemption by Hugo and Nebula Award finalist S. B. Divya.

For five centuries, human life has been restricted to Earth, while posthuman descendants called alloys freely explore the galaxy. But when the Earthlike planet of Meru is discovered, two unlikely companions venture forth to test the habitability of this unoccupied new world and the future of human-alloy relations.

For Jayanthi, the adopted human child of alloy parents, it’s an opportunity to rectify the ancient reputation of her species as avaricious and destructive, and to give humanity a new place in the universe. For Vaha, Jayanthi’s alloy pilot, it’s a daunting yet irresistible adventure to find success as an individual.

As the journey challenges their resolve in unexpected ways, the two form a bond that only deepens with their time alone on Meru. But how can Jayanthi succeed at freeing humanity from its past when she and Vaha have been set up to fail?

Against all odds, hope is human, too.

The Sea in You by Jessi Sheron - A gorgeous, if sometimes sad, lesbian retelling of "The Little Mermaid". Out March 14.

15-year-old Corinth was just trying to clean up the beach; she never expected to meet a mermaid, let alone be nearly drowned by one. It was the start of a very strange friendship!

After Skylla, the deadly fanged mermaid, mysteriously lets Corinth live, they grow closer through a cautious exchange of stories, gifts, jokes, and sign language. Mermaids, it turns out, eat people, but however terrifying Skylla may look, she’s a little younger, a little smaller, and perhaps a little too soft for all that. Bewitched by Corinth and their growing bond, she learns about all the best things in life on land: books, burgers, donuts, and this strange chattering human sound called laughter. But a storm is brewing – both at sea and in Corinth’s increasingly dangerous relationship with her obsessively jealous boyfriend – and a magical bargain may be the only thing that can save her, at a tremendous cost.

A whimsical dark fantasy retelling of “The Little Mermaid,” The Sea in You upends everything you thought you knew about magical creatures of the deep, on a whirlwind journey to a whole new world you’ve only dreamed of before!

Dead Country by Max Gladstone - While I own all of the Craft Sequence novels I haven't found time to read them all and can't remember everything anymore, so this looked like a great place to remind myself of what's been happening without feeling like I have to reread the entire series. It's a more personal story with 'low stakes' but a lot of heart. Out March 7. 

Since her village chased her out with pitchforks, Tara Abernathy has resurrected gods, pulled down monsters, averted wars, and saved a city, twice. She thought she'd left her dusty little hometown forever. But that was before her father died.

As she makes her way home to bury him, she finds a girl, as powerful and vulnerable and lost as she once was. Saving her from raiders twisted by the God Wars, Tara changes the course of the world.

Dead Country is the first book in the Craft Wars Series, a tight sequence of novels that will bring the sprawling saga of the Craft to its end, and the perfect entry point to this incomparable world.

The Faithless by C. L. Clark - I've heard amazing things about the first book in this series, so really looking forward to this. Out March 7.
In the second installment of C.L. Clark's Magic of the Lost trilogy, soldier Touraine and princess Luca must return to Balladaire to reclaim Luca's throne and to face the consequences of dismantling an empire.

The rebels have won, and the empire is withdrawing from Qazal. But undoing the tangled web that binds the two nations will not be easy, and Touraine and Luca will face their greatest challenge yet.

Luca needs to oust her uncle from the Balladairan throne once and for all and take her rightful place as Queen. But he won't let go of power so easily. When he calls for a "Trial of Competence" and Luca's allies start disappearing from her side, she will need to find a way to prove her might. And she knows someone who can help...

Touraine has found a home in the newly free country of Qazal. But she soon realizes that leading a country and leading a revolution are two very different tasks. And, even more importantly, if Luca's uncle doesn't ratify the treaty, the Qazali could end up right back where they started.

Together, the two women will have to come overcome their enemies, their history, and their heartbreak in order to find a way to secure Luca's power and Touraine's freedom.

Paradise-1 by David Wellington - I've developed a soft spot for space horror, and the cover and synopsis for this are very compelling.  Out April 4.

An electrifying novel perfect for fans of science fiction and horror, Paradise-1 follows two agents from the United Earth Government as they investigate the complete disappearance of humanity’s first deep space colony. When Special Agent Petrov and Dr. Lei Zhang are woken up from cryogenic sleep, dragged freezing and dripping wet out of their pods with the ships's alarms blaring in the background, they know something is very wrong. Warned by the Captain that they're under attack, they have no choice but to investigate.

It doesn't take much time to learn that they've been met by another vessel—a vessel from Paradis-One, Earth's first deep-space colony, and their final destination.

Worse still, the vessel is empty. And it carries with it the message that all communications from the 150,000 souls inhabiting the Paradis-One has completely ceased.

Petrov and Zhang must board the empty ship and delve further into deep space to discover the truth of the colony's disappearance—but the further they go, the more dangers loom.

Tuesday 28 February 2023

Book Review: Mary Magdalene: A Visual History by Diane Apostolos-Cappadona

Pros: lots of photos, highly informative

Cons: a bit repetitious

Mary Magdalene is a fascinating saint. From simple origins, a few mentions in the New Testament, to becoming amalgamated with other New Testament Marys, to having a variety of stories about where she spent her later years (Ephesus or France), being a sinner, a penitent, a preacher, a feminist icon, her story is constantly evolving.

The book starts with an introduction before separating into two parts. Part One: Towards a Visual History, consists of 7 chapters (Scripture Sources, Patristic Sources, Eastern Christian Narratives & Traditions, Western Christian Narratives & Traditions, Symbols & Devotions, Mary Magdalene through Christian Art, and Coda). This part examines what the scriptures say about the various Marys that were amalgamated into the story of Mary Magdalene and how ‘her’ story was depicted in art through the years. The second part, Motifs, consists of 10 chapters that analyzed specific aspects of Mary Magdalene, and how those were depicted in art (Sinner/Seductress, Penitent, Anointer, Weeper, Witness, Preacher, Contemplative, Reader, Patron, and Feminist Icon). These are short chapters, of 3 to 5 pages each, with 1 to 2 photographs highlighting their subject. The book concludes with an afterward that mentions exhibitions focused on Mary Magdalene and a select bibliography for further reading.

I found the introduction fairly repetitive and a bit harder to parse than the rest of the text. Part one had some great foundation information about how Mary’s story began and developed. It was really interesting seeing how parts of her legend came about. The chapters were thorough and easy to read. While each chapter in part 2 was short, the author packed a lot of great information into them, including mentions of her in early Christian and apocryphal writings. There’s some repetition here as well, though I suspect it’s so each chapter stands on its own. There were occasional page notes with sources for other articles and books to read for more information and a few explanatory notes.

The book has a lot of excellent colour photographs that demonstrate the points the author is making. They cover the variety of motifs Mary Magdalene was used to represent, as well as the various periods during which she has been worshipped.

If you’re interested in Christian saints in general or Mary Magdalene in particular, it’s a fantastic book.

Thursday 23 February 2023

Shout-Out: Seven Faceless Saints - M. K. Lobb

Discover what’s lurking in the shadows in this dark fantasy debut with a murder-mystery twist, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Kerri Maniscalco.

In the city of Ombrazia, saints and their disciples rule with terrifying and unjust power, playing favorites while the unfavored struggle to survive.

After her father’s murder at the hands of the Ombrazian military, Rossana Lacertosa is willing to do whatever it takes to dismantle the corrupt system—tapping into her powers as a disciple of Patience, joining the rebellion, and facing the boy who broke her heart. As the youngest captain in the history of Palazzo security, Damian Venturi is expected to be ruthless and strong, and to serve the saints with unquestioning devotion. But three years spent fighting in a never-ending war have left him with deeper scars than he wants to admit…and a fear of confronting the girl he left behind.

Now a murderer stalks Ombrazia’s citizens. As the body count climbs, the Palazzo is all too happy to look the other way—that is, until a disciple becomes the newest victim. With every lead turning into a dead end, Damian and Roz must team up to find the killer, even if it means digging up buried emotions. As they dive into the underbelly of Ombrazia, the pair will discover something more sinister—and far less holy. With darkness closing in and time running out, will they be able to save the city from an evil so powerful that it threatens to destroy everything in its path?

Tuesday 21 February 2023

Book Review: Meru by S. B. Divya

Pros: interesting characters, compelling drama

Cons: takes several chapters to learn necessary vocabulary

Centuries ago humanity nearly destroyed earth and made a hash of terraforming Mars. Since then, they’ve been confined to earth while their distant offspring, alloys, exploring the universe. When a human habitable planet is discovered, a vote to decide whether humans should be allowed to expand into the universe again is proposed. Jayanthi wants to be more than a human raised by alloys, confined to earth. When she discovers that her sickle cell disease makes her suitable to live in the higher oxygenated air of Meru, she petitions to be allowed to live there for a year as an experiment. Only a newly graduated alloy pilot agrees to bring her there. But some alloys remember what humans did the last time they were allowed to expand past Earth. And they’ve got plans to make sure this experiment fails and the vote goes their way.

There’s quite a learning curve as the book throws a lot of new vocabulary and concepts at you with no info dumps. It takes a few chapters to get a real grip on this future world and how humans and alloys co-exist. It can feel overwhelming, but once you understand the background and have been introduced to the characters, the plot kicks in and the story moves on to the titular planet. The world-building is astonishing.

The plot centres around the personalities of Jayanthi and Vaha and their developing relationship. It’s a forbidden romance that faces a lot of complications. Though young and full of self-doubt, they’re both delightful and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing them try to solve various problems.

According to the acknowledgements, the story is based on the Indian epic, the Mahabharata. I’ve never read it and so cannot comment on how the author handled the source material, but I did appreciate all of the Indian inspired names, scents and foods used throughout the book. Each chapter is named after a Sanskrit word.

There are variously gendered entities, which can take some getting used to and adds to the alienness of the alloys.

After the first few chapters, I found this a quick, compelling read.

Tuesday 14 February 2023

Movie Review: The Blob (1958)

Directed by Irvin Yeaworth, Jr. (and Russell Doughten Jr.)
IMDb listing

Pros: good acting

Cons: kind of boring, cheesy monster

A crashed meteorite unleashes a blob that begins amalgamating people from a small town, while a group of teenagers try to warn them.

Steve McQueen stars in his first role, as a teenager who witnesses a death by the blob but no one believes him. It’s a strange movie with very little plot. The teenagers are all played by actors who are clearly in their late 20s and early 30s. Similarly, the actor who plays Jane’s younger brother was 6 but seems to be playing a much younger child, which just feels bizarre.

When Steve finally does convince a couple more teens that there is danger, I was left unsure whey they believed him. There’s one scene where a guy has to call the cops because they won’t listen to Steve anymore, and he complains he doesn’t know what to say. Because he hasn’t seen a monster or any trace of a monster.

The monster looks comical rather than scary, not helped by the fact that all the deaths are off screen. A character comments towards the end that the monster must have killed 40 or 50 people, but only 4 or 5 people are shown vanished and presumed eaten. I guess we’re supposed to assume a lot of people got eaten at the movie theatre.

The ending is rather exciting, with some tense moments. Spoiler warning: We’re left with the creature - unable to handle cold - sent to the arctic with the message that so long as it stays frozen humanity is safe. The film ends with a question mark on the screen. Makes you wonder if the director, or someone involved in the project, was already aware of the effects of global warming.

If you’re interested in 1950 SF/horror films there are much better ones out there (Invasion of the Body Snatchers is brilliant). If you want a good Blob movie, check the one from the 80s, which is surprisingly well done.