Category Archives: Reviews

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 Predator (2018) (movie review)

DETAILS:

Director: Shane Black
Stars: Boyd HolbrookTrevante RhodesJacob Tremblay, Olivia Munn
Runtime: 90 minutes
Categories: sci-fi, action, franchise
Runtime: 
1 hour 47 minutes

Release Date: September 14, 2018

OVERALL: A not horrible, not great sci-fi update of the Predator franchise. It wasn’t something I regret seeing in the theater, but unless you have a close personal relationship with the series, it can wait until netflix/redbox.

STORYLINE

From the outer reaches of space to the small-town streets of suburbia, the hunt comes home. The universe’s most lethal hunters are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from other species. When a boy accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and an evolutionary biologist can prevent the end of the human race.

REVIEW

First and foremost, Shane Black really messed up by hiring on a convicted sex offender and having them work with the crew. Unacceptable and not at all forgivable. That being said, the movie itself is better than most reviews show, but doesn’t hold a candle to the original, or the 2010 Predators with Adrienne Brody and Walton Goggin.

The story suffers from trying to do too much. Too many storylines, too much detail of the universe, and honestly Shane Black (and the actors/actresses involved) wouldn’t be up to updating the franchise with so much in so little.

I wonder how much of the problems though were Shane Black and how much the studio. I have read that they reshot a ton of film, edited, etc after the studio saw the movie. Maybe the original version would have been worth it.

I do like that it isn’t a reboot, but a continuation. I think the franchise definitely has more life in it, but that is because I love that kind of sci-fi. Unfortunately I don’t think Shane Black should do the next movie.

It was worth the matinee price I paid, and yes I will go see the next Predator movie that comes out. Although that is partially because it is just something I do. I go see all the Aliens, Predators and Friday the 13ths that come out. Blame it on my horrible 80s childhood.

TRAILER

 

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan (tv show)

TOM CLANCY’S JACK RYAN

DETAILS:

Created By: Carlton CuseGraham Roland
Stars:  John KrasinskiWendell PierceJohn Hoogenakker, Ali Suliman
Based on: “Jack Ryan Universe”, by Tom Clancy
Original Network: Amazon
First episode date: August 31, 2018
Number of Episodes: 8
Number of Seasons: 1

OVERALL: A little rocky on some parts, but overall an enjoyable show.

STORYLINE

An up-and-coming CIA analyst, Jack Ryan, is thrust into a dangerous field assignment as he uncovers a pattern in terrorist communication that launches him into the center of a dangerous gambit.

BREAKDOWN BY SEASON

Currently we have only watched season 1. Additional seasons will be added as they come out.

SEASON 1

First let me get this out there, as I grow older the less patience I have with flag waving bravado that has no merit and doesn’t give at least a cursory exam on the other side. Not really interested in propaganda. I was pretty sure this was going to be exactly like that.

Now, that being said, Jack Ryan was a pretty even handed, although a bit rah rah in its outlook. They managed to give the “bad guy” a backstory that gives him some sympathy. They made him smart and three dimensional. I honestly think they did great with the character and his arc across the season.

I enjoyed that they seemed to wrap up that story completely by the end of the season. This gives me a hope that this is more of an anthology series, with different stories of different missions for Jack Ryan. I really like how a lot of series have started this (thank you American Horror Story for trailblazing). I especially like they limited to 8 episodes. I would rather have less episodes that are better story wise overall, then too much fluff in the middle.

I did enjoy the first half of the season exploring Jack Ryan (John Krasinski). He suprised me, as an actor from the show “The Office” I really didn’t expect him to do well with the role. In the end he did pretty well.

The character Jack Ryan did have some problematic issues for me. They couldn’t decide if he was a hardcore badass, who survived possible death and was a combat genius, yet was so shocked that his boss would make deals with “bad guys” to get information. The naïveté combined with the warrior theme really didn’t jive with me. I especially hated when he lost his temper while on a mission. It broke any “realism” cred that he had before that.

The fact that they made torture seemed like it was efficient and effective is a joke, and having Ryan stand up to interrupt anyone and speak to the president directly without getting fired (no matter what he said) really annoyed me (coming from someone who worked for the DoD in a civilian position for over four years, no way that happens).

The direction, story writing (other than what I talked about above) and acting by everyone was on point and definitely worth it. I didn’t really like the relationship between Greer and Ryan, I know they are trying to shoehorn that relationship to end up like the movies, but it isn’t working for me.

TRAILER

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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