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Archive for January, 2024

Non-Fiction Review – Bette & Joan: The Divine Feud

Monday, January 8th, 2024


Bette & Joan: The Divine Feud by Shaun Considine

Review by JJares


Before reading this “tell all” book about these two aging stars, I thought their animus happened during the filming of WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE. Imagine my surprise to hear that they had been competitors throughout their long careers. This is a delicious book that drops names continuously. Some names are surprising:  Marilyn Monroe, Rock Hudson, Clark Gable, and dozens of others.


Joan Crawford was the earlier star. She worked at MGM as a flapper girl in dancing films. However, she realized early on that flappers would disappear with time, and she looked for another shtick. She was soon everyone’s favorite bad girl. However, that came to a screeching halt when she met Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Douglas was Hollywood royalty as the son of movie legends Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. His parents were underwhelmed; Joan set about turning herself into a demure housewife and society matron to please the Fairbanks parents.


One of the most fascinating parts of the story was the differing relationships between the stars and the heads of the companies they worked for. Joan was part of Louis B Mayer’s “family,” a close-knit group of actors that looked to Mayer as “Papa.” On the other hand, Bette Davis was famous for defying Jack Warner, head of Warner Brothers. This book gives insights into the controversies and results.


Both Bette and Joan were insecure individuals. Joan was always looking to replace her missing father(s) with other men. She wanted someone to take care of her. Bette needed someone to keep her in check, but married men who weren’t that strong. They each married four men.


Obviously, the author spent considerable time with this book because he had alternative comments about the stars in every encounter. Either Bette and Joan had poor memories or created new incidents to show themselves off more favorably. Offering a counterpoint via other people balances the story. Some of the quotes (opening chapters) were particularly insightful.


One of the problems I had with listening (instead of reading this book) was the loss of seeing the candids, publicity shots, and movie stills in the text. However, the reader was accomplished, and it often sounded as if Bette or Joan were reading their own quotes. The description of the ladies’ participation in WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? was fascinating. The author also described the two ‘tell-all’ books the stars’ daughters wrote (and the world’s reaction). The author followed the stars to the end of their careers.


This book is entertaining; the pages are full of insider info and rarely discussed peccadillos of the stars. For example, Joan was incredibly promiscuous (the book names names). A priceless part of this book was the incredible barbs the two stars threw at each other throughout their long careers. Delicious reading.


Horror Review – The Hollow Places

Thursday, January 4th, 2024

The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)

Freelance graphic designer Kara and her husband have just split up, and Kara’s faced with moving back in with her parents. But her beloved Uncle Earl offers her a room in his place, which is also his labor of love: The Glory to God Museum of Natural Wonders, Curiosities, and Taxidermy. The Wonder Museum, for short. Kara grew up helping Earl tend to the bizarre exhibits and sell T-shirts to the tourists.  While she doesn’t believe in all Earl’s eccentric theories, she’s got a fondness for the place. He calls her Carrot, very cute. So she moves in, and starts cataloguing all the oddities, and hanging out at the next door coffee shop.

When Uncle Earl has to go for a knee operation,  Kara says she’ll be fine on her own, no problem. But when she discovers someone has knocked a hole in the wall upstairs, she asks Simon the barista to help her fix it. It’s then they discover the hole leads somewhere really, really strange. And Kara, despite warnings from Simon, wants to explore. This is going to be a very bad idea.

Kara and Simon are great characters. I loved them both, even if Kara makes some incredibly dumb decisions.  Simon says a couple times that this is how people in horror movies get killed, but she just sails on, and he follows.  Simon’s eye thing is both creepy and funny, I loved it. Uncle Earl comes alive too and even Kara’s ex, whom we only meet over the phone, is solid. I could easily visualize the eerie willow world and its inhabitants.  And I absolutely loved the finale and what comes about with all the taxidermied critters.

This is a Lovecraftian horror novel, not a slasher kind of thing. Not creepy enough to keep me awake at night, but still plenty of tense moments and icky situations.  Excellent pacing, vivid imagery, and as I mentioned excellent characters.  T. Kingfisher (pen name for Ursula Vernon) is becoming my new favorite author – I’ve yet to read a book of hers I didn’t really like.






Book Review – Ancient Egyptian Conspiracy Theories

Monday, January 1st, 2024

Ancient Egyptian Conspiracy Theories: The History of the Most Popular Conspiracy Theories about Egypt in Antiquity

Charles River Editors

Review by JJares


This book is an explanation of the biggest conspiracy theories about ancient Egypt. Some seem possible, while some seem outlandish. However, they are interesting reading. You may enjoy this book if you are unfamiliar with these ancient theories. I found the most interesting one to be about Moses. These stories are —

–  Akhenaten and Moses
– The Curse of the Pharaohs
– The Secret Chambers in the Great Pyramid and Sphinx
– Ancient Astronauts
– The Lost Army of Cambyses
– Cleopatra’s Death

Amenhotep IV (also known as Akhenaten, the heretic king) is thought to be related to Moses. Jewish-Roman historian Flavius Josephus argued that Moses was the leader of Judaism and closely related to Akhenaten, possibly a son or grandson. Manetho, an Egyptian historian, said that Moses was an Egyptian priest who organized the leper’s rebellion against forced labor pushed on them by Amenhotep III and others. The most interesting fact about this section was the evaluation that Judaism was unlike any other religion but very similar to Akhenaten’s.

When the archeologists started opening the Pharaohs’ tombs, people related to the excavations began to die. There has been wild speculation about these deaths. However, someone finally evaluated the 60 workers closest to the openings and found that ten died during the twelve years most closely associated with the excavations.

The next theory is even wilder. Erich Von Daniken said aliens came and taught the Egyptians how to create the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. His theory said that the Egyptians did not have the technology to create them. Edgar Cayce said there was a secret room in the paw of the Sphinx that would explain an advanced civilization that existed a million years ago.

After extraterrestrials in Egypt, some folks believe that long-ago astronauts influenced development on our Earth by landing and assisting humans in creating things (they could not create alone), such as the Moai statues on Easter Island. They also point (on page 59) to airships (similar to our helicopters) in Australian cave paintings of the Wandjina people.

I was unfamiliar with this conspiracy theory regarding the lost army of Cambyses. It happened during a desert storm in 534 BCE. Persian troops specially trained for desert conditions disappeared without a trace while escaping the Egyptians following them. Two Italian archaeologists think they have unearthed the solution. They came across the remains of an army in the desert. Local Bedouins told them that the wind uncovered the bleached bones briefly, and then the wind covered them again with fifteen feet of sand.

Finally, the authors recounted the Ptolemy family history in Egypt. The story ends with the deaths of Cleopatra and Mark Antony. Stories are told that Egyptian archaeologists found Antony’s death mask and the tomb of Cleopatra and Antony about 30 miles outside of Alexandria. They say they found 20 coins minted during her reign.

I wasn’t overly convinced of the validity of these theories. There wasn’t enough proof. The stories were engagingly told. I’m sure these rumors help sell travel tickets to the country. Interesting reading.