Posts Tagged ‘Book Reviews



09
Jan
18

Goodreads Review: How to be a Ghost Hunter

How to Be a Ghost HunterHow to Be a Ghost Hunter by Richard Southall

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Claiming to be any fresh ghost hunter’s essential how-to guide, the book itself reads more like a checklist of basic information; that in itself isn’t necessarily a crime, but when it’s information that could be found nearly anywhere with a quick Google search, it seems superfluous. The use of sometimes-confusing language (when discussing EVPs, for example, we refer frequently to “ghost recording,” which does not reference the act of recording the EVPs, but rather to a type of spirit) and occasional errors in the “recommended gear” section (the one that really jumped out at me was stating that the use of “Microsoft Photoshop” could be helpful) didn’t help much.
Overall, there wasn’t much substance here. Certainly nothing that warranted a whole book. A brief pamphlet or a simple web page could have conveyed the same and not felt padded, plus would have given more opportunity to fix errors or update as times change.

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02
Jan
18

Goodreads Review: Holy Blood, Holy Grail

Holy Blood, Holy GrailHoly Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Purportedly a factual account of how we’ve all been deceived these many years, that the Templars and their associates live on and continue to manipulate events so that one day a Merovingian king who is also the descendant of Jesus will take the priest-king throne of the whole world, Holy Blood, Holy Grail was the leaping off point for all number of conspiracy theory novels that ultimately led us to The DaVinci Code.

That would be reason enough to be angry with the book, but the fact that almost the entirety of the piece has been discovered to be based on a very elaborate – and, honestly, not very good – hoax yet somehow continues to thrive and inspire believers is mind-boggling.

Aside from the premise and the usual sort of brain-warping logic such as “Knight A knew Knight B. Knight B was in Country C at the time, so possibly met Baron D. Baron D owed money to Templar E, who had written Gobbledegook F, which implies that King G was Jewish, so Knight A must be part of a secret order devoted to restoring the bloodline of Christ to the throne!” You know; the standard stuff that comes out of conspiracy books. But, anyway, yes. Aside from that, we have a tremendously boring and entirely too theoretical set of circumstances that go in circles and ultimately lead to nothing concrete except the authors’ forced interpretations, which they will drone on about for pages and pages, frequently repeating themselves with only minor variations in the incredibly dry word choices and pacing.

I have a little conspiracy theorist inside, myself, and am very much in the camp that assumes if Jesus was an actual historical personage that he very likely had a family of some sort, but the way this book goes about “proving” that bored me to tears and almost made me want to renounce any of my faith in the concept. For me, that’s a cardinal sin; taking an idea someone enjoys poking at and playing with, then shredding it to tatters due to poor execution and research should lead to Misters Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln being subjected to their own painful excommunication from hidden religious orders.

There’s a lot of venom there, I know. But really, it just isn’t worth the time. You’d be better served by reading The DaVinci Code and just assuming it’s nonfiction. At least it flows and seems to have a point to it.

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12
Nov
17

Goodreads Review: Whoogles

Whoogles: Can a Dog Make a Woman Pregnant - And Hundreds of Other Searches That Make You Ask Whoogles: Can a Dog Make a Woman Pregnant – And Hundreds of Other Searches That Make You Ask “Who Would Google That?” by Kendall Almerico

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not much of value to add, here; the basic premise is a collection of Google’s ever-so-helpful autocompletes with snarky commentary on the author’s favorite choice of the bunch.

That’s all fine and well, and occasionally produces a bark of laughter, but honestly, it sort of made me sad. When you realize that, for an item to appear in the auto-complete, someone has to have actually entered it – and possibly multiple someones, depending on how specific the entry in question is – it’s liable to give you a terrible sense of impending doom as regards the intelligence or well-being of future humans.

Still, a quick read that will make you snicker, chortle or chuckle once or twice.

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12
Nov
17

Good Reads Review: The Black Dahlia

The Black Dahlia (L.A. Quartet, #1)The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the first word to the last, The Black Dahlia grabs you, drags you down into the murky underbelly of police corruption and old money grudges, and won’t let you go until you’re covered in filth and feel at least partially responsible for the death of Elizabeth Short.

In case I wasn’t being clear, that’s a good thing. The Dahlia murder is one of the great mysteries of our time, frequently taking a sideline to Jack the Ripper’s work but just as intriguing; Ellroy’s fictional trip through the investigation and fascinating truth (at least so far as the novel is concerned) brings a loving detail and amazing atmosphere to the mystery, and in a way that very few books have managed to do, makes me feel like an active witness to the events told in the novel.

Among the high points include the detail that most note about Ellroy’s LA Quartet; there are no angels. Even the “good” guys are dirty, and the “bad” guys occasionally have legitimate grievances that were not addressed properly or perform what might be construed as decent acts because their personalities drive them to it and not out of some attempt to maintain cover. Bucky, our narrator, is no exception; he’s almost as disgusting as some of the folks more intimately involved in the chain of events that led to Ms. Short’s demise… though at least he does what he can to make things right.

The second thing to note is the language used. The words Ellroy picks to craft his vision are important, more than you might think, even given the written medium. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the Dahlia case, or are unaware of the timeframe the book occurs in, the words that Ellroy uses, whether they’re coming from the mouths of his characters or just the descriptions provided via Bucky’s viewfinder of the world, set the stage perfectly in a blend of film noir and post-war false optimism, and ground the reader readily into the right mindset and era. They also serve quite admirably in forging a connection between Bucky and the reader, bringing you a sense of triumph or discovery when he does right… and rubbing your nose in the revulsion he feels – most especially towards himself – when he does wrong, or digs up someone else’s dirty laundry. The conflict he feels as regards the book’s leading ladies – at least the living ones – Madeline and Kay is well done, and even without any helpful thought bubbles, going only off the descriptions of the conversations Bucky has with them, you can get a clear picture of them and their opinions of each other… again, merely by the words chosen.

All in all, an excellent read, and one I would recommend to anyone with an interest in crime, noir, or the Dahlia case in general – though the last camp would likely be offended by the way the book “solves” the crime. It is obviously a labor of love that cost Ellroy a great deal personally – and if you have the edition that came out shortly after the film, with his extended Afterword, that is made even more clear. Give it a shot.

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30
Oct
17

Goodreads Review: Cracking More Cases

Cracking More Cases: The Forensic Science of Solving Crimes : the Michael Skakel-Martha Moxley Case, the Jonbenet Ramsey Case and Many More!Cracking More Cases: The Forensic Science of Solving Crimes : the Michael Skakel-Martha Moxley Case, the Jonbenet Ramsey Case and Many More! by Henry C. Lee

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dr. Lee is back again, to wow and amaze us with tales of forensic daring do in a fresh handful of cases.

The problem is, he doesn’t.

While there is some interesting material here, for the most part it felt as though the book was spent talking about all Dr. Lee’s “close and great and professional” friends, with very little in the way of actually discussing the science of the cases, which is what most readers are coming here for. He frequently spends pages upon pages explaining how a given police department screwed up (the chapter on the Ramsey case is particularly laden with this), rather than discussing the evidence that was found and provided useful or interesting.

That being said, the prose is fairly well done, clear and concise. What points he does make are laid out with relative simplicity, not requiring a degree in forensics to understand. It also serves as an interesting springboard if one wishes to delve into the cases via other research; the Martha Moxley case, in particular, proved an interesting study and Dr. Lee has provided an excellent bibliography to run down further information if the reader so desires.

Worth looking at if you’re a fan of the man, or as a starting point for further study. If you’re looking for deep insight into the Ramsey case (which is the most prominent of the cases presented here) you should probably look elsewhere, however.

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08
Oct
17

Goodreads Review: UFOs, JFK and Elvis

UFOs, JFK & Elvis: Conspiracies You Don't Have to Be Crazy to BelieveUFOs, JFK & Elvis: Conspiracies You Don’t Have to Be Crazy to Believe by Richard Belzer

Richard Belzer is well known as a comedian, an actor, and a conspiracy theorist; sometimes all three at once, as is frequently the case with his character Detective Munch across many television series and seasons. If you’ve listened to him talk, you’re aware that he brings a signature blend of dry wit, distinctively Jewish-themed self-deprecating sarcasm, and a fierce intelligence to nearly any party.

This book is no different. Belzer is on point in his attitude from the first to the last page, formulating an immensely enjoyable read. For those who choose to take it as comedy, you certainly can; for those looking for a more intellectual exercise, even if you don’t necessarily see the world through the black lenses of conspiracy everywhere that he does, there’s still plenty of interesting ideas to chew on.

If I had one complaint about the book, it’s that the title is a trifle misleading; while there’s plenty of material about UFOs and related phenomena, and more than half the book is dedicated to assorted JFK tidbits, there is a notable lack of Elvis within the tome, short of a couple of brief comparison remarks made near the beginning. Kidding, really; I can do with less Elvis in my life.

A worthy addition to any conspiracy theorists’ (or those who are interested in them) shelf, perhaps the biggest highlight is the extensive bibliography lurking innocently at the end. Worth running down some of those sources to see how far down the rabbit hole it goes.

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02
Oct
16

Goodreads Review: Roommates

Roommates: A Creepy Little Bedtime StoryRoommates: A Creepy Little Bedtime Story by William F. Aicher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Want a delightfully disturbing look into a madness riddled mind? Look no further. Roommates peels back the skin (and skull, and gray matter…) to deliver a fascinating internal monologue (or is it a dialogue?) on the subject of loneliness and isolation.

Our narrator is at turns angry, confused, enamored and disturbed by his condition and what may – or may not – be causing it, winding down corridors of depression and almost manic glee en route to a finale that leaves the reader wanting more while remaining satisfied… and perhaps a little relieved to leave the swamp of his mind at last.

Very entertaining and well worth a read. Highly recommended.

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