Monday, October 31, 2016

Ancient Egypt this week: Early Egyptologists, video, and games

Margaret Murray: Varied career of expert in 'witch-cult' folklore

She was an Egyptologist and folklorist born in Calcutta in 1863.

She would go on to become a successful academic, but during her childhood she did not receive a formal education. In fact, she never had to sit an exam before entering university.

U. of C. Frat Guts Home Of America's First Egyptologist

Phi Gamma Delta is investing $2 million to renovate the former home of America's first Egyptologist, James Henry Breasted.

Phi Gamma Delta is working on a $2 million renovation of the former home of James Henry Breasted, the archeologist and explorer who collected many of the artifacts in the Oriental Institute and helped identify the tomb of King Tut.

Tutankhamun ITV miniseries set to give Birmingham Museum a 'mummy mania' tourism boost

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is expecting a surge in visitors over October half-term because of renewed interest in Ancient Egypt sparked by ITV's new miniseries Tutankhamun.

For more on this miniseries, see Tutankhamun: how ITV's follow up to Victoria has already courted controversy.

Antiquities ministry trying to stop sale of Egyptian artefacts at New York auction

The Egyptian antiquities ministry is trying to prevent the sale of Egyptian artefacts by Toledo Museum of Art at Christies in New York next week.

To benefit its acquisitions fund, the Ohio-based museum has put up for auction a collection of 64 works.

Queens of the Nile

Queens of the Nile will tell the unique story of the ancient Egyptians pharaohs' wives during the New Kingdom period (1500 to 1000 BC). Visitors can admire 350 top archaeological pieces, including rare sculptures, magnificent jewelry and luxurious artefacts used by women at the Egyptian court, plus the sarcophagus cover and grave goods entombed with one of Egypt’s most celebrated queens, Nefertari. The Museo Egizio in Turin is loaning 245 of its finest objects for the exhibition. This is the second largest ancient Egyptian Museum in the world.

Unknown Dynasty: The Mysterious Pharaoh Tombs Found In Egypt

Amid other tombs of Egyptian kings found the burial place of the unknown pharaoh, which archaeologists suggests the idea that similar discoveries may be expected soon.

Pharaoh’s name, Senebkej, was found written on the wall of his tomb, which is part of the archaeological site of Abydos, near the city of Sohag in southern Egypt.

Egyptian God Medjed Stars in New TV Anime Series Starting November

Fuji TV announced on Tuesday that it will air a new television anime based on the Egyptian god Medjed titled Kamigami no Ki (Chronicles of the Gods). The first episode will premiere on the late-night variety program #Hi_Poul on November 24. Sōtsū is animating the series, and illustrator Konatsu is designing the characters. Toshiyuki Morikawa is performing the theme song "Kamigami o Tataeru Uta" (The Song for Praising the Gods).

For more on this series, see Egyptian Pantheon Runs Wild in "Kamigami no Ki" TV Anime


Better polish your sarcophagus: the irreverent Trending Pharaoh launches today on Smartphones and Tablets

Barcelona - October 28, 2016 - Videogame developer Undercoders today announced that the hilarious incremental game Trending Pharaoh is now available on Smartphones and Tablets, via Apple’s AppStore and Google Play, for free

X-Rays Are Revealing the Mysterious Writings in Mummy Coffins

A space-age solution to an ancient problem. For more than a century, archaeologists have dismantled mummy coffins, also known as cartonnage, in a hunt for literary treasure. In ancient Egypt, undertakers entombed the departed middle-class in sheets of papyrus thrown out by local scribes, hiding the recycled wrapping with a layer of paint and plaster, or gesso. To uncover the text—everything from bills of sale to the rare castoff of Greek literature—collectors use invasive methods, including massaging intact coverings in a sink full of Palmolive suds.

Pre-Civilization Egypt simulates the birth of history

There is a little kid in everybody that gets excited when the topic of ancient Egypt is brought up. We have all been introduced at an early age to the enduring legacy of the pyramids and the mystery shrouding Egypt’s ancient civilization. To a history nerd like myself, ancient Egypt is also significant because it was one of the earliest known civilizations to develop an ability to write, and therefore, create history. Pre-Civilization Egypt looks to portray an informative and educational gameplay experience of this mysterious past.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Video Friday: The Afterlife in Ancient Egypt

Judgement in the Presence of Osiris, Hunefer's Book of the Dead

Hunefer's Judgement in the presence of Osiris, Book of the Dead, 19th Dynasty, New Kingdom, c. 1275 B.C.E., papyrus, Thebes, Egypt (British Museum). Erratum: near the end of the video,it says that Nephthys and Anubis are siblings, this is not correct.

Trial by Feather

What awaits the Old Man and Pharaoh in the Afterlife? Before they find out, they must go through the feather ceremony, a test given by the Egyptian gods. This is their journey and the fate of their afterlife falls on a feather.

Book of Dead - utterances of emergence during daytime

This is a song James Oliver wrote based on the ancient Egyptian text often called the Book of the Dead. It is a funeral text, which helps one pass safely to the afterlife.

The video takes some artistic liberty with the actual process, so if your interested in what the book actually does research it .

Introduction to the Book of the Dead

by the Groovy Historian

Tom Hiddleston reads from The Book of the Dead

Monday, October 24, 2016

Ancient Egypt this week: Inside the Great Pyramid

Chambers Hidden in Great Pyramid? Scientists Cast Doubt

A group of scientists has just claimed to have discovered two unknown voids or cavities within the Great Pyramid of Giza, the largest pyramid ever constructed in Egypt.

Such cavities can be signs of hidden burials or rooms and as such, media outlets across the world immediately ran headlines touting this "discovery." One outlet even went so far as to proclaim that "secret rooms" had been found in the Great Pyramid.

For more on this story, see The Surprise Inside Secret Chambers.  Archaeologists got the news media in a frenzy this week over the discovery of a possible secret chamber in the Great Pyramid of Giza. But what exactly did they find?

Meet the cast of ITV's Tutankhamun

Max Irons and Sam Neill lead the cast of ITV’s drama unearthing the story of the Egyptian King’s tomb. Discover the characters and actors set appearing in the historical drama.

ITV’s new four-part drama Tutankhamun, about Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of one of Ancient Egypt’s long lost pharaohs, comes with a fair few familiar faces attached.
Max Irons (Jeremy Irons' son) plays Carter, while Sam Neill (Peaky Blinders, Jurassic Park) plays the eccentric Lord Carnarvon, the man who funds Carter’s expeditions into the desert.

Orionid Meteor Shower and the Season of the Dead: this week on the Storyteller's Night Sky

The meteor shower season continues this week with the peak of the Orionid overnight Friday to Saturday, and since Autumn is also the season for celebrating the dead, here’s an ancient myth to keep you entertained while you’re out wishing on the falling stars.

Book review: 'Pharaoh: A Novel of Ancient Egypt' by Wilbur Smith

Stephen King describes Wilbur Smith as the "best historical novelist" in a blurb on the cover of Smith's sixth and latest novel in the Egyptian series.

Unfortunately, King apparently is not describing "Pharaoh: A Novel of Ancient Egypt."

Giza 3D: Harvard's Journey to Ancient Egypt

Harvard University brings the Giza Plateau to life. Watch to learn more about their Giza 3D project, the Harvard Semitics Museum, and virtual reality technology of the future.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Video Friday: Ramses the Great

Secrets of Ancient Egypt

The Battle of Kadesh

The Battle of Kadesh: A Debate between the Egyptian and Hittite Perspectives

The Oriental Institute Lecture Series organized by the University of Chicago brings notable scholars from around the country and abroad as they present on new breakthroughs, unique perspectives, and innovative research applications related to the Ancient Middle East.

The Battle of Kadesh, ca. 1285 BC, is the earliest military encounter that can be analyzed in detail. This conflict between the Egyptian forces of Ramses II and the Hittite army of Muwatalli was celebrated as a personal victory by Ramses, but is often treated by modern scholars as an Egyptian defeat or as a stalemate. In any case, the battle had profound impact on international politics of the age, with unexpected results. Join us for a lively debate presented from the two sides of the ancient conflict, provided by noted Oriental Institute scholars Robert Ritner, for the Egyptian side, and Theo van den Hout, for the Hittites.

Iconic: Yul Brynner as Ramses in the Ten Commandments

The less iconic Exodus: Gods and Kings

The decisive battles "Qadesh Egypt against Hittites"

In 1274BC, a young Egyptian Pharaoh, Ramesses II led an army of 20,000 men against 40,000 soldiers from the Hittite empire. Both sides would fight one of the earliest recorded battles in History, at Kadesh. At stake? The security and prosperity of Egypt.

The Battle of Kadesh (also Qadesh) took place between the forces of the Egyptian Empire under Ramesses II and the Hittite Empire under Muwatalli II at the city of Kadesh on the Orontes River, in what is now Syria.
The battle is generally dated to 1274 BC, and is the earliest battle in recorded history for which details of tactics and formations are known. It was probably the largest chariot battle ever fought, involving perhaps 5,000–6,000 chariots.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Ancient Egypt this week:Pyramids and Wooly Mammoths


Photo: © Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology. Archive number PMAN2418

But who is responsible for the "Alabaster Sphinx" of Memphis?

The July 22, 1912 edition of the San Francisco Call newspaper excitedly reported on the discovery of the Memphis Alabaster Sphinx: "The monster measures some 14 feet in height and 26 feet in length."

At that stage, no-one knew who the sphinx represented. Today, over 100 years later, the "monster" is still missing a name.

Tutankhamun: The story of the men who solved one of Egypt's biggest mysteries

One was a flamboyant aristocrat with a passion for fast cars, erotic photography, gambling and racehorses. The other was a dour and prickly archaeologist who it was said had “a chip on his shoulder” and could pick a fight in an empty room.

The Fifth Earl of Carnarvon George Herbert and Howard Carter were the most unlikely of associates yet the two men, who on the face of it had so little in common, collaborated successfully to make the most famous archaeological find of all time.

The Louvre Crowdfunds a Relic’s Restoration

The Louvre is once again giving the power to the people, launching a new crowdfunding campaign this week to raise the €500,000 ($555,000) it needs to restore and reconstruct an “exceptional” 50-ton ancient Egyptian mausoleum in its collection.

Tuthmosis II shrine in Karnak temple ready to open after restoration

The Centre Franco-Egyptien d'Etude des Temples de Karnak (CFEETK) (French- Egyptian Centre for Karnak Temples Studies) has finally completed the restoration work on the barque shrine of King Tuthmosis III, which was reconstructed in 2010 at the Open Air Museum of Karnak Temple.


Once upon a time, Egypt was a world leader in the film industry. Fast forward to present days, and movies about Egypt are now being made in Morocco, leaving Egypt without much-needed jobs, American dollars, and tourists.

The world is absolutely fascinated with Ancient Egypt, and capitalising on this passion are the international TV and film industries. The almost constant adaptation of Egyptian mythology in film and TV should create a source of revenue for Egypt, but embarrassingly doesn’t. Instead of shooting on location in Egypt, studios opt to film a lot of their films in Morocco and a few other countries. With news that yet another TV series surrounding Tutankhamen is set to premiere on ITV next week,which was once again not filmed in Egypt, we decided to look into why projects set in Egypt are filmed outside of it time and time again.

The Wonders of the Ancient World: The Great Pyramid of Giza

The wonders of the world are given their status as a wonder of the world for many reasons. One of which is because of their historical, cultural and social value to their respective cities and countries. Each wonder, classic or modem, is unique in it’s own way, whether it be because of it’s unique architecture, it’s purpose or it’s significance in both past and present history. Every single one of these buildings, monuments or locations has it’s own individual story to tell. They are situated all across the globe and represent the marvellous things humanity and nature can produce. Tourism is a key word when it comes to the wonders of the world, because as you may have imagined millions of people visit these destinations every year, to see the sights bestowed with the great title. This means that, while the historical value of each is significant, the remaining wonders all benefit the economy of their countries, meaning their illustrious past is importing the present. Today we are going to take a look at one of the classic wonders of the world, the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Pyramids of Egypt reveal new secrets after extensive scanning mission

Dr Khaled El-Enany, Egypt's minister of antiquities, met with the archaeological committee working on the ScanPyramids project on 13 October. They reviewed the latest findings from the mission, which began in 2015. Its aim is to study the great pyramid of Khufu and the pyramid of Khafre on the Giza plateau, as well as two pyramids on the site of Dahshur known as Bent and Red.

Say What? Wooly Mammoths Coexisted with building the Great Pyramid

I found this fact a bit hard to believe, but the dates confirm it. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Video Friday: Isis and Osiris

Isis and Osiris

I really wish this one had gone into full production.

The grief of isis - a drawing in sixteen parts

This is a story of love, death, revenge, incest, murder and retribution.The ancient tale of the gods Isis, Osiris, and Set, with some timely appearances by Thoth, Sebek and Horus.

Osiris, Horus, and Isis - Legend of the Pharaoh

Though one of the most important legends of ancient Egypt, the myth of Osiris isn't 100% known. There are numerous references in Egyptian sources to individual events of the legend, but no narrative of the full tale has been found. The chronological order of the events is uncertain and some details are difficult to determine. As a popular legend, there are also many different versions of the myth. This video presentation is a possible construction of the events using a blend of different accounts, primarily Egyptian.

Hymn to Osiris

Ancient Egyptian Music - Hymn to Osiris 

Composed in 1978 by Alo Jihad Racy for the King Tutankhamun exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum

Monday, October 10, 2016

Ancient Egypt this week: Cats, Museums, and Masks

Egyptian Archaeologists Dig Up Mounds of Ancient Treasures

Egyptian Archeologists Dr. Mostafa Waziri and Salah Elmasekh will visit Southern California this month to reveal the latest important archaeological discoveries in a public forum to be held at the Bowers Museum on October 23, 2016. Included in the topics will be the recently-unearthed ancient Roman winery and baths, a new prayer Temple, the Avenue of Sphinxes, and current news about the search for Queen Nefertiti behind King Tut's tomb

Work on multi-million pound gallery to showcase Egyptian treasures to begin at Bolton Museum

THE transformation of Bolton Museum to showcase its Ancient Egyptian treasures in a new multi-million pound gallery will start in December.

Exhibitions and collections will be moved downstairs for visitors to enjoy while the upstairs is closed during the work.

The new gallery Eternal Egypt will be built in the museum's current art gallery, history centre and temporary exhibition gallery.

Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt' Exhibition at Dallas Museum of Art

Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt showcases the diverse representations of felines from the world-famous Egyptian holdings of the Brooklyn Museum. From domesticated cats to mythic symbols of divinities, felines played an important role in ancient Egyptian imagery for thousands of years. The exhibition, which explores the roles of cats, lions, and other feline creatures in Egyptian mythology, kingship, and everyday life, will be on view October 9, 2016, through January 8, 2017, at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Unlocking the spell of the pharaohs
Three recent books explore the abiding allure of Ancient Egypt — that has entranced millions, from Alexander the Great onwards.

Antiquities ministry receives golden mummy mask from French-Egyptian citizen

Due to his "sense of belonging and loyalty to his home country, Egypt," Shehab Al-Farouh Omar, a French-Egyptian citizen, handed over to the Ministry of Antiquities a golden mummy mask that was gifted to him by a friend on the birthday of his son.

Review: Fit for a Queen

Fit for a Queen is inspired by the life of Hatshepsut, the only woman who ruled as a pharaoh in ancient Egypt. The most dangerous opponent to Hatshepsut’s kingship turns out to be her own daughter. Full of intrigue, farce, and sexual politics, Fit for a Queen illuminates the largely unknown history of a compelling African woman who took power over the most advanced civilization the ancient world had yet known.

Picture of the week
Photo of Winston Churchill, Gertrude Bell, T. E. Lawrence 1921

Friday, October 7, 2016

September Reads

Exhume (Dr. Schwartzman Series Book 1)  by Danielle Girard

Synopsis: Dr. Annabelle Schwartzman has finally found a place to belong. As the medical examiner for the San Francisco Police Department, working alongside homicide detective Hal Harris, she uncovers the tales the dead can’t tell about their final moments. It is a job that gives her purpose—and a safe haven from her former life at the hands of an abusive husband. Although it’s been seven years since she escaped that ordeal, she still checks over her shoulder to make sure no one is behind her.

My take:  This is an advanced preview novel. I receive one for free every month because I have a Kindle (or something like that).

Overall, Exhume is a serviceable mystery/suspense novel. It's not great, but it's not awful either. In the spirit of honesty, I probably won't be down for Book II.

The action and plot pull you along with a few hitches, but none that cause the plot to come to a screeching halt. Annabelle, the protagonist, is nicely conflicted. Her creepy ex-husband is annoyingly stereotyped. A LOT of plot questions remained unanswered, but not  knowing the answers isn't keeping me awake at night. There also came a point when Annabelle's actions seemed more about keeping the plot chugging along than how a scared woman might respond. Many reviewers took issue with the generic stalked wife story line, although I apparently didn't find it as heinous as they did.

If you read this novel with few expectations, you won't be disappointed.

Apprentice in Death by J.D. Robb

Synopsis: Nature versus nurture...

The shots came quickly, silently, and with deadly accuracy. Within seconds, three people were dead at Central Park’s ice-skating rink. The victims: a talented young skater, a doctor, and a teacher. As random as random can be.

Eve Dallas has seen a lot of killers during her time with the NYPSD but never one like this. A review of the security videos reveals that the victims were killed with a tactical laser rifle fired by a sniper, who could have been miles away when the trigger was pulled. And though the list of locations where the shooter could have set up seems endless, the number of people with that particular skill set is finite: police, military, professional killer.

Eve’s husband, Roarke, has unlimited resources—and genius—at his disposal. And when his computer program leads Eve to the location of the sniper, she learns a shocking fact: There were two—one older, one younger. Someone is being trained by an expert in the science of killing, and they have an agenda. Central Park was just a warm-up. And as another sniper attack shakes the city to its core, Eve realizes that though we’re all shaped by the people around us, there are those who are just born evil.

My take:  I am a J.D. Robb junkie. I'm not rational. I like the books in spite of myself, and I have no words to speak in my own defense.

The Forgotten: Aten's Last Queen by J. Lynn Else

Synopsis: "I am King Tut’s wife, but my name is barely a whisper in history’s memory. I was the last of my family to survive the Aten revolution. I had a child at age 12 and was forced to marry three times. But that didn’t mean my story ended badly. My name is Ankhesenamun, my loved ones called me An, and I will stop at nothing to save my family."

Despite the vast treasure found in Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb, there is little left over regarding his bride. From the turbulence of her father’s reign, Akhenaten, who forced monotheism on the country to the mending of these wounds by the now-famous Tutankhamun, her life saw more change than most ancient Egyptians dared even dream about. Evidence left to us about her is this: She was forced to marry her father, her brother, and her grandfather. She gave birth to one healthy baby girl and two stillborn girls. She was widowed at age 12 and 23. She saw four pharaohs crowned within 23 years. After her grandfather took the throne, she disappeared from history.

My take:  I tend to avoid books about the Armana period. One, because I'm just not that interested in that time period. Two, they're often mawkishly sentimental  or just flat out wrong historically. I rarely make it past the first paragraph, much less the first chapter. Some notable exceptions are Nick Drake's excellent Rhotep series (the English do Ancient Egypt well) and Michelle Moran's Nefertiti.

The hook for Aten's Last Queen was good enough, so I gave it a try.  It went downhill from there.

The author certainly did some research about ancient Egypt and the Armana period. However, she screws up a lot of stuff, which indicates she did just enough research to get by.  For example, a Royal Nurse in ancient Egypt is not the same as a downtrodden poor woman that you might find in medieval England. Another example of close but no cigar: Akhenaten is described as naming his city Akhenaten after himself. The city's name was Akhetaten meaning "City of the Horizon." Yep, those Egyptian names are tricky.

But what about the novel itself? The writing is prosaic, verging on banal; and grammar errors abound. Her and her sister do something or they came to Pharaoh and I are typical examples. I'm also pretty sure Egyptian children, even non-royals,  were never called kids.

An's voice, as a prepubescent princess, was unbelievable. Yes, children grew up faster in those days, but I can't suspend enough disbelief to accept a 9 year old  religious philosopher.  I have a particular peeve about childish voices that sound too adult, so this quirk alone could have ruined the book for me. . . if there weren't so many others.

In short, I gave up. If you want novels about the Armana period, read Nick Drake and Michelle Moran.

The Kingmaker's Daughter (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels) by Philippa Gregory

Synopsis: In this New York Times bestseller that inspired the critically acclaimed Starz miniseries The White Queen, Philippa Gregory tells the tale of Anne Neville, a beautiful young woman who must navigate the treachery of the English court as her father, known as the Kingmaker, uses her and her sister as pawns in his political game.

The Kingmaker’s Daughter—Philippa Gregory’s first sister story since The Other Boleyn Girl—is the gripping tale of the daughters of the man known as the Kingmaker, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick: the most powerful magnate in fifteenth-century England. Without a son and heir, he uses his daughters, Anne and Isabel, as pawns in his political games, and they grow up to be influential players in their own right.

My take:  The  White Queen was the first book I ever read  that made sense of the War of the Roses.  I loved the Starz mini-series, and the Neville sisters were some of the most interesting characters. However, I thoroughly disliked The Other Boleyn Girl for its rampant historical inaccuracies. So, I approached The Kingmaker's Daughter ready to either love or hate it.

Given my dislike of The Other Boleyn Girl inaccuracy, I did a bit of research. It appears that Gregory stays true the storyline of Anne, although there are gaping holes in the historical record.

Gregory's Anne is a wonderfully complex and conflicted character. Some reviewers complained she came across as spoiled. Well, maybe. I mean why wouldn't she be? She grew up in a world where her family was at the very top of the social pyramid. . . until they weren't. People expected great things of Anne and her sister, and sometimes they delivered and sometimes they didn't. And let's face it, Anne was a woman at a time when women were valued mostly for their ability to bear children, pass along their great fortunes to their husbands, and pray.

Anne's admiration/hatred of Elizabeth Woodville is the crux of the story in some ways, and it's a story most of us know. There's always this woman who seems to get everything we want without trying too hard. In some ways, Anne's story in this novel is more about her relationship with Elizabeth than with any of the men in her life with the possible exception of her father in whose shadow every other man in the novel must stand.

I enjoyed this book greatly, but a word of caution: If the logistics of the War of the Roses makes your head spin, I don't recommend it.

The Body Reader by Anne Frasier

Synopsis: For three years, Detective Jude Fontaine was kept from the outside world. Held in an underground cell, her only contact was with her sadistic captor, and reading his face was her entire existence. Learning his every line, every movement, and every flicker of thought is what kept her alive.

After her experience with isolation and torture, she is left with a fierce desire for justice—and a heightened ability to interpret the body language of both the living and the dead. Despite colleagues’ doubts about her mental state, she resumes her role at Homicide. Her new partner, Detective Uriah Ashby, doesn’t trust her sanity, and he has a story of his own he’d rather keep hidden. But a killer is on the loose, murdering young women, so the detectives have no choice: they must work together to catch the madman before he strikes again. And no one knows madmen like Jude Fontaine.

My take: This was a taut, well-written thriller told from the point-of-view of a damaged woman whose reliability is shaky at best. Being inside Jude Fontaine's head reminded me of lines from Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone:
When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You’re invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal
Then, we find out there's always something more to lose. As Jude puts the pieces of her life and the clues about the murder of young women together, every stop is logical and deadly. The denouement, therefore, is logical, but it was not predictable.

The best compliment I can give a novel like this is that it dragged me through the pages, and I never once wanted to put the book down. I started it Sunday morning and finished Monday afternoon.

The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee

Synopsis: New York City as you’ve never seen it before. A thousand-story tower stretching into the sky. A glittering vision of the future, where anything is possible—if you want it enough.

Welcome to Manhattan, 2118.

A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. But people never change: everyone here wants something…and everyone has something to lose.

Leda Cole’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched.

Eris Dodd-Radson’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.

Rylin Myers’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will her new life cost Rylin her old one?

Watt Bakradi is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy by an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.

And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is Avery Fuller, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

Debut author Katharine McGee has created a breathtakingly original series filled with high-tech luxury and futuristic glamour, where the impossible feels just within reach. But in this world, the higher you go, the farther there is to fall.

My take:  A very readable book. It's a little predictable, and the characters are certainly not unique. In spite of that, I wanted to keep reading, and I did. Yes, the novel is set in the future, but the NYC we all know and love is very recognizable with the floors of the building becoming the various neighborhoods and social enclaves we've all experienced or read about. It is not strictly speaking dystopian, but it sometimes has a dystopian mood.  As the synopsis suggests, it's a novel about how the more things change, the more they stay the same.

In many ways, this novel reminded me of The Summer Prince, described as a heart-stopping story of love, death, technology, and art set amid the tropics of a futuristic Brazil. To be honest, The Summer Prince was a much richer novel, and it's one I find myself thinking about at odd times. . . long after I've forgotten most novels.

If you want future, not-so-dystopian YA, both of these books are good choices.

Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses by Sarah Gristwood

Synopsis: To contemporaries, the Wars of the Roses were known collectively as a “cousins’ war.” The series of dynastic conflicts that tore apart the ruling Plantagenet family in fifteenth-century England was truly a domestic drama, as fraught and intimate as any family feud before or since.

As acclaimed historian Sarah Gristwood reveals in Blood Sisters, while the events of this turbulent time are usually described in terms of the male leads who fought and died seeking the throne, a handful of powerful women would prove just as decisive as their kinfolks’ clashing armies. These mothers, wives, and daughters were locked in a web of loyalty and betrayal that would ultimately change the course of English history. In a captivating, multigenerational narrative, Gristwood traces the rise and rule of the seven most critical women in the wars: from Marguerite of Anjou, wife of the Lancastrian Henry VI, who steered the kingdom in her insane husband’s stead; to Cecily Neville, matriarch of the rival Yorkist clan, whose son Edward IV murdered his own brother to maintain power; to Margaret Beaufort, who gave up her own claim to the throne in favor of her son, a man who would become the first of a new line of Tudor kings.

My take:  This is a nerd book. I've lately developed an interest in the "Cousin's War;" see The Kingmaker's DaughterBlood Sisters delves into the sketchy historical record of the women caught in the middle of the conflict. Unless you have some understanding of this period and its various shifts of power, Blood Sisters won't make any sense. If you do, it's invaluable.

In an odd way, it reminded me of a far more contemporary work, The President's Club. Women who are politically on opposing teams often reach out and help each other because they understand what it's like to be in a position that few people on this earth are ever in. Which doesn't mean there isn't betrayal and backbiting.

Blood Sisters has inspired me to read more about Margaret Beaufort.

We are unprepared by Meg Little Reilly

Synopsis: Meg Little Reilly places a young couple in harm’s way—both literally and emotionally—as they face a cataclysmic storm that threatens to decimate their Vermont town, and the Eastern Seaboard in her penetrating debut novel, WE ARE UNPREPARED.

Ash and Pia move from hipster Brooklyn to rustic Vermont in search of a more authentic life. But just months after settling in, the forecast of a superstorm disrupts their dream. Fear of an impending disaster splits their tight-knit community and exposes the cracks in their marriage. Where Isole was once a place of old farm families, rednecks and transplants, it now divides into paranoid preppers, religious fanatics and government tools, each at odds about what course to take.

My take:  So, I've done some time in the prepper community, and I lived in Austin where hipster is the flavor du jour. This book does a pedestrian job of capturing those world views, although that world view is only an inch deep. WE ARE UNPREPARED offers a keyhole into what might happen during one of the increasingly common weather events that are the result of climate change. It makes all the important points and manages to work in compassion for children and a love interest. It's a laudable attempt.

In spite of all the aforementioned, however, the book is not particularly compelling and lacks passion. The characters are rather stereotypical, and no one seems very committed. . .  either to the status quo or to changing it. When the apocryphal storm arrives, it's more of a whimper than a bang and implies all is recoverable if we change a little bit. 

The Line (Witching Savannah Book 1) by J.D. Horn

Synopsis: Savannah is considered a Southern treasure, a city of beauty with a rich, colorful past. Some might even call it magical…

To the uninitiated, Savannah shows only her bright face and genteel manner. Those who know her well, though, can see beyond her colonial trappings and small-city charm to a world where witchcraft is respected, Hoodoo is feared, and spirits linger. Mercy Taylor is all too familiar with the supernatural side of Savannah, being a member of the most powerful family of witches in the South.

Despite being powerless herself, of course.

My take:  This book was fun in the way that the early Sookie Stackhouse books were fun. The characters were diverse and believable. (Yes, even fantasy series need believable characters...believable within the created world.) Like the Sookie novels, it explores the ever fascinating relationship between family members who just happen to belong to a magical system.

The magical system built by Horn works well and logically. It also had a nice plot twist.

 I bought the second book in the series. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Ancient Egypt this week: Fit for a king


This is the golden mummy mask of the 21st Dynasty King Amenemopet.

The mummy mask of King Amenemopet reveals an Egypt that was fast running out of gold.

The diary of Minnie C. Burton

The woman behind the man behind the camera: re-discovering the tomb of Tutankhamu

The diary presented here belonged to Minnie C. Burton, wife of the British archaeologist and photographer Harry Burton, who worked with Howard Carter during the excavation of the tomb of Tutankhamun. It is one of only a few surviving items from the couple’s personal belongings and papers, as the extract reproduced above helps explain.

The Griffith Institute acquired it at auction on 14th July 2015 thanks to two generous grants from the Friends of the National Libraries and the Heritage Lottery Fund.n

A cruise fit for a king

Was Khufu’s second solar boat intended for a Nile cruise rather than to transport the pharaoh through all eternity, asks Nevine El-Aref.

The newly revealed wooden beam with pieces of metal on it that has been taken from the pit of the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu’s second solar boat on the Giza Plateau has raised controversy over the original use of the boat.

Egyptian Museum's 'piece of the month' contest looks to military history for October

To mark the anniversary of the 6 October victory in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, the Egyptian Museum has selected nine artefacts from its collection that highlight the Egyptian army in ancient times to be put to the vote on Facebook for its “October piece of the month.”

New discovery in Matariya points to a King Ramses II temple

The Egyptian-German Archaeological Mission at Matariya archaeological site discovered new evidence that may lead to a temple of King Ramses II.
Dr Mahmoud Afifi, the head of the Ancient Egyptian Sector at the Ministry of Antiquities, stated that this evidence was found about 450 metres to the west of the obelisk of King Senusret I in Matariya. It was discovered when the mission stumbled upon a number of blocks from the temple courtyards and fragments of the temple statuary.

Grave of Victorian author who was buried alongside her female partner is given listed status in new campaign to recognise gay history 

Adventurer Amelia Edwards was a prominent women's rights campaigner
She wrote eight novels while travelling with her partner Ellen Braysher
The adventurous pair threw Victorian convention aside and went abroad
Four other landmarks have been upgraded to record their LGBTQ histories.

'Revealer of Secrets': Zahi Hawass's new TV show on archaeology to launch in October

Beginning October 20, Egyptian audiences will be treated to a new programme on Egyptian archaeology hosted by former minister of antiquities Zahi Hawass, titled "Kashef Al-Asrar" (Revealer of Secrets). In collaboration with renowned Egyptologists, the programme will launch on Egyptian satellite channel Al-Ghad.