Category Archives: Book Reviews

Giovanni’s Room (book review)

Giovanni's RoomGiovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Type: Audible
Length: 6 hours 49 minutes

Baldwin’s writing is as impactful now as it was 60 years ago.

In 1956 Baldwin had traveled to Paris, believing racism would never end in the USA. He also was a gay man and he felt if that was found out while in America he would never be able to write, a two strikes and you are out situation.

His words are as impactful as his writings in “The Fire Next Time” but instead of dealing with racism in America he was dealing with the emotions and sexual connection between two men in 1950s Paris.

What is unique for me is that it isn’t truly about being homosexual, but about being bisexual. It is the earliest novel I have seen about a man who has relations with both women and men, once again Baldwin is ahead of himself.

The story itself is hard emotionally. Baldwin packs every sentence with details and emotions. The novella is dark, and don’t expect yourself to walk away not feeling the pain of the whole situation. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it, just that it is one of those stories that will haunt you for a while after you read it, and will stick in your head permanently.

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Eastern Expansion (book review)

Eastern Expansion (Wild Wastes, #2)Eastern Expansion by Randi Darren
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book Type: Audible Book
Length: 12h 32m

If you read my review for the first book review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show…, it shouldn’t surprise you that we are on a downward spiral. Not worth the time.

The book continued its decline. There were really no positives in the book. The writing of the women and the “shipping” between characters declined. Mostly in an attempt to distance him from his current women and to add additional women.

The cons from the first big are still there, but even more evident. The relationships are stale, the plot line veers from Vince being all powerful to not being able to stand up to a strong wind. There was no real world building here, just Vince thinking he could threaten everyone and they should follow him.

It is a shame, the world is interesting, even the portals he finds, but just not enough to keep it going. The relationship scenes are very much written by rote, and not worth the time.

Overall, this is where I jump off the series. I am fairly certain I won’t pick up more of his books either. I don’t think he has bad ideas necessarily, just doesn’t go anywhere with them, and gets more and more plot bloat as we go.

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The Addictive Brain (book review)

The Addictive BrainThe Addictive Brain by Thad A. Polk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Type: Audible
Length: 6 hours 19 minutes

A simple but informative book.

This book is a decent, informative book on how the addiction process in your brain works.

The author covers all of the different addictions, not just drugs or alcohol. He delves into junk food, gambling, pornography and gives a small snippet on each. I found some of it very interesting, and the rest was informative.

It wasn’t the most exciting book of its type, but it is a good solid generalist book about the generic categories of addiction and how they effect your life. It wasn’t a bad read at all.

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Andrea Vernon and the Corporation for UltraHuman Protection (book review)

Andrea Vernon and the Corporation for UltraHuman ProtectionAndrea Vernon and the Corporation for UltraHuman Protection by Alexander C. Kane
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book Type: Audible
Length: 8h 49m

I really did want to like this book.

First, I should disclaim that funny, non-serious books like this have never been my thing. The only series I liked close to this was the Xanth series in the 80s. I wanted to branch out though, as I get close to 50 I feel its only fair to try something again.

That being said, some people I knew really liked it. After all it is about superheroes, but not government funded or vigilantes, rather its about corporations who own them. It is funny, but it wasn’t funny to me. The author indicated it was supposed to be funny, I could logically see what they were doing, but nada, zilch, bupkis. Not funny at all.

It was a long slog for me, which is funny because I eat up 30+ hour audio books about history, or fantasy/urban fantasy. This just didn’t do it.

None of the characters were likable, the plot itself didn’t really do anything for me, and this might have even convinced me not to read superhero books overall.

That being said, I think the author themselves are not bad. However the whole genre, theme and characters really didn’t work for me. I suspect though if you like discworld, or other books like that, maybe this would work for you.

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History’s Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach (book review)

History's Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They TeachHistory’s Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach by Gregory S. Aldrete
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Type: Audible
Length: 12h 11m

Hubris, stupidity, or just bad luck. It doesn’t matter when you lose.

Another great class from the Great Courses. This time is an in depth look at 24 different blunders made by different militaries/leaders from ancient history to more recent times.

Whether its mistakes made by Roman commanders, or British Army officers in India it doesn’t matter. Bad leaders get moved up the ranks and cause the result you expect. Often times without permanent injury to their own career (barring people like Custer of course).

Each 30 minute lecture is an excellent overview of a specific event. The details of each blunder is precise, and Dr. Aldrete gives a lot of support and explanation of the surrounding circumstances. There were a few blunders I knew about, and a lot I didn’t.

He presents an intriguing class, with a well worded, well performed voice, without being too distracting. I enjoyed the whole thing. I definitely recommend this great course, and I also am pretty sure I recommend Dr. Gregory Aldrete, at least for historical courses.

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The Goths and Vandals: The History and Legacy of the Barbarians Who Sacked Rome in the 5th (book review)

The Goths and Vandals: The History and Legacy of the Barbarians Who Sacked Rome in the 5th Century CEThe Goths and Vandals: The History and Legacy of the Barbarians Who Sacked Rome in the 5th Century CE by Charles River Editors

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Book Type: Audible
Length: 2h 18m

I should have known better!

Last review I did, about Isis was also by the Charles River Editors. I figured they couldn’t mess that up. After all its a historical book, how can they mess it up again. Oh but they did.

Let’s start that it is dry, monotonous and has no interesting information. The narrator is not my favorite, but I am not familiar with him so maybe he is different in other things.

Let’s continue on to the personalizing facts and just being out of order. It was put together in a way that is not useful to most people. It is a shame because I have to tell you the price was pretty darn good.

I think there will be no more Charles River Editor in my life. I wish them well, but just don’t work for me.

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Isis: The History and Legacy of the Ancient Egyptian God of the Dead (book review)

Isis: The History and Legacy of the Ancient Egyptian God of the DeadIsis: The History and Legacy of the Ancient Egyptian God of the Dead by Charles River Editors
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Book Type: Audible
Length: 1h 50m

Sometimes shorter is not better.

I picked up this book because I wanted to learn more about Isis, the Egyptian Mother Goddess. I thought maybe it would be beneficial that the book was so short, they would cut to the details.

I was wrong…

The book spends more time comparing her to Greek and Roman culture/gods/goddesses that I felt we didn’t get any sort of real information. I felt like it was just reading the Wikipedia page, except Wikipedia has more detail on her than this book.

The narration of the audiobook was horrible as well. The droning monotony was very hard to sit through, fortunately it was less than two hours so it only took me about 3 hours to listen as I listened multiple times to portions after realizing had had daydreamed away from the book.

I suspect Charles River Editors are very basic in all their books. They seem to have a lot of short books based on multiple historical subjects. I might try one more to see if I should avoid them at all costs (I ended up picking up their book about the Vandals and Goths).

Either way though this book is bad. Not even entertaining bad. I recommend you save your money (fortunately I got mine for cheap) and just go read the wikipedia page. Less chance of falling asleep or being frustrated.

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The Things They Carried (book review)

The Things They CarriedThe Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Type: Audible
Length: 7h 47m

A hard book to read, but only because of how impactful it was to me. Now more than a month later I still think about it a lot.

This book is a bit harder to give a review. I have a lot of personal baggage wrapped up in the subject as my father had similar experiences in the war (albeit on a PBR on the Mekong). However I will try and give this its proper due.

I listened to the audio book with Bryan Cranston reading. He is as good at it as you would expect. No “Walter White” images conjured up, he made it sound like Tim O’Brien (the author) himself was speaking. Can’t recommend Mr. Cranston enough.

I don’t doubt for a second the veracity of any of the stories. They have the same “start in the middle” feel that my father and the rest of his Vietnam vet friends had in their stories. Also the tendency to retell parts of one story as it rolls into another, with no visible start/end to it. I suppose for them there was no start or end, so how could the stories have a definitive start or ending.

The quiet time, shattered by moments of terror reaches out from the pages. Has that same unreal, almost dream like quality that the stories I have heard in real life. It is incredibly engrossing, and at the same time makes you cringe at what is coming.

A lot of the retelling of his time over there are almost unbelievable stories. Not in a “it couldn’t happen” type way, but in that way that is so banal and small, with such big impact. The story about the water buffalo, about the soldier who used to get high all the time, the soldier’s girlfriend who came over and was lost to the jungle, all of them conjure images of young men, stuck in hell on earth in a foreign jungle. I don’t doubt for a second that each incident happened, at least from the perspective of Tim O’Brien.

Like I said, I don’t think I can give a totally unbiased point of view. I do think it is an incredibly good book that will leave you thinking about it. I can’t recommend it more.

One other thing, I listened to the audiobook and the last hour of the audiobook had an interview with Tim O’Brien about when he went back to Vietnam 20+ years later with his daughter. I hope that is in the print edition, or that you can maybe find it on youtube because that definitely was impactful as well.

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Marines (book review)

Marines (Crimson Worlds #1)Marines by Jay Allan
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Book Type: Audible
Length: 10h 27m

If you are looking for a snooze-fest, self-pleasuring military hero story, here you go.

I don’t have real problem with the world that Mr. Allan created, it is a bit bland, filled with tropes and seems unexamined. However this is a common thing so that itself doesn’t make me fail it fully.

The character itself is a great example of a male version of a Mary Sue (I believe they are called Gary Stu’s). He comes from a family that were middle class or higher whose fate turns and makes them poor. He becomes a hardcore gangmember criminal who is rescued by the Marines.

All of that would be fine, except then the Marines take him in and within two or three years of his life, and within a single book here, he is promoted from grunt to Battalion Commander. The youngest commander, beloved by his commander who saves the day many times.

Even with that story doesn’t fully bring this rating down. The writing is the problem in the end. The story is boring, the combat scenes do not evoke anything for me except boredom. His relationships are very flimsy, almost cardboard cutout like settings and it just seems he was pushing to get through the story of Cain becoming commander, instead of actually telling his story completely.

In my opinion, the book is not worth it just on that part. It is long and boring with no payoff.

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Ancient Ruins (book review)

Ancient Ruins (Ancient Dreams, #1)Ancient Ruins by Benjamin Medrano
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book Type: Audible Book
Length: 12h 53m

Have you ever wondered what would happen to an intelligent dungeon living in part of ancient elven ruins, while slavers and elves fought on and around her property, then this is your book.

Otherwise it is a remarkably bland version of the new trope of intelligent dungeons (see my review for Morningwood: Everybody Loves Large Chests). It is better than Morningwood, but strangely enough while there is a ton of writing about women being enslaved, and forced into sexual bondage (and a whole ton of rapes) there isn’t anything consenting except between two of the women characters.

That is where it lost me. It is a tired trope to rely on the horror of slaver villains and what they will do (or rapist generals) to make them a bad guy. Meanwhile there really isn’t any positive sexual encounters except one really boring relationship.

I don’t think I will pick up the sequels unless they hit the $3.95 or $5.95 sale, it might be ok for that. There has to be better books out there like this, if you find one let me know.

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