Category Archives: Book Reviews

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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Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai (book review)

Hagakure: The Book of the SamuraiHagakure: The Book of the Samurai by Yamamoto Tsunetomo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Book Type: Audible Book
Length: 5h 4m

Definitely overrated for those who desperately want to be a samurai.

I had heard about this book from people who take a big interest in Japanese history, especially in bushido. Of course my friends are all Americans and I truly suspect they don’t have quite the knowledge they think they do.

This is a conglomeration of writings. My understanding is that the original writings contained more than 1300 entries, while this book only has a little over 300, so it is missing a lot of the writings to begin with.

The writings themselves are scattered about various things. Ranging from dates and brief descriptions of people to random sayings and anecdotes. Not at all what I was told to expect. Although I don’t blame the writings, they are what they are. A journal from a samurai that wasn’t published until many years after his death.

It is an interesting book, but nothing you either didn’t already know or couldn’t find out easy without reading it.

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The Left Hand of Darkness (book review)

The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle #6)The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Book Type: Audible Book
Length: 9h 39m

Ms. Le Guin is an excellent author, but I just could not get into the book at all.

I suspect it is partially the same reason as Phillip K Dick, it feels very dated. Maybe I would have really liked it back in the 1970s/80s, but for me the luster has left the building.

Part of my issue is that it is another science fiction/fantasy novel that has to create so many new words, new titles and new ways of saying something that could be said in a more common vernacular. I realize she was going for immersion but it didn’t work for me. None of the wording really introduced a new idea or a new meaning so it felt like she was going overboard.

I was also a bit taken back by the gender situation with the alien races. I won’t go into detail but I am transgender myself and so it probably just hit me wrong. Ms. Le Guin isn’t someone I dislike, but it just wasn’t something that felt good or relatable to me.

The other aspect, very much like most 1970s and earlier sci-fi the pacing is incredibly slow, I had a hard time staying interested and while I don’t regret reading it, I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who has never read her stuff before.

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Norse Mythology (book review)

Norse MythologyNorse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Book Type: Audible Book
Length: 6h 29m

If you have never read the myths and legends of the Norse, this is an excellent way to get into it.

Mr. Gaiman is incredibly entertaining, and informative. Utilizing various Norse myths he tells a set of tales about Odin, Thor, Loki and the rest. He does it in a way that it is almost it’s own story.

The myths don’t distract from each other, his tone is great all the way through and I thoroughly loved it. What I really liked though was learning things I hadn’t before. I had never read about the Apples of Idun, something akin to the Greek Apples of immortality.

I do wish there were more myths that didn’t involve Thor as front and center, but you can only have so many in a single book. What Mr. Gaiman did was fantastic.

I can’t recommend this book enough. Just read it!

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The Great Courses: Spartan Warfare (book review)

The Great Courses: Spartan WarfareThe Great Courses: Spartan Warfare by Gregory S. Aldrete
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Book Type: Audible Book
Length: 32m

This is not a bad book at all, it is a very quick listen and Professor Aldrete covers the basics quickly.

Sadly he covers the basics so quickly that he misses most of the whys and wheres about Spartan Warfare culture. I assume that is because this is a book broken off from his original set of courses about ancient history.

That being said, this review is short, his lecture is short but it is not too bad either.

Side note, I appreciate that he underlined the homosexual relationships that the warriors had, which would really blow the minds of so many “bros” who have SPARTA!!!! gear everywhere and are homophobic.

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Killing the Bismarck: Destroying the Pride of Hitler’s Fleet (book review)

Killing the Bismarck: Destroying the Pride of Hitler's FleetKilling the Bismarck: Destroying the Pride of Hitler’s Fleet by Iain Ballantyne
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Book Type: Audible Book
Length: 11h 30m

I really wanted to like this book. I have always been interested in World War II books, and the Bismarck is not something I am more than generally familiar with. That being said, I can’t really recommend it.

I was very interested on the British side and this was perfect for that. Except it reads less like a historical writing about what happened on the British side, and more some weird personal agenda. I think what threw me off was the forward where the author was really upset that there are die hard supporters of the Bismarck who thought well of the Germans.

I personally don’t have a dog in that fight, but the anger and frustration the author had in the forward came through and made me feel less like this is an unbiased look at the British and more like he was trying to prove a point. I absolutely agree the British Navy, especially WWII and earlier was an incredible thing, but you could read the almost propaganda writing as it was.

That made the book hard. The stories were all over the battle, which I did partially expect considering you want to keep it interesting, but it became more of a historical novel and less of a historical documentary that I was hoping it would be. There was no detail on the command of the British forces and it really felt like it was missing a lot of things.

If you have read everything else about the Bismark, I would recommend it. I did give it three stars because it was written well. It was smooth, but just fluffy… too fluffy for me.

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