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Darwin8u

Mesa, AZ, United States
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  • The Armies of the Night

  • History as a Novel, the Novel as History
  • By: Norman Mailer
  • Narrated by: Scott Brick
  • Length: 12 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 25
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 24
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 24

The Armies of the Night chronicles the famed October 1967 March on the Pentagon, in which all of the old and new Left - hippies, yuppies, Weathermen, Quakers, Christians, feminists, and intellectuals - came together to protest the Vietnam War. Alongside his contemporaries, Mailer went, witnessed, participated, suffered, and then wrote one of the most stark and intelligent appraisals of the 1960s.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • The last tool left to history

  • By Darwin8u on 02-06-19

The last tool left to history

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-06-19

“Once History inhabits a crazy house, egotism may be the last tool left to History.”
― Norman Mailer, The Armies of the Night: History as a Novel, the Novel as History


It has been a long time since I've read Mailer. I read The Executioner's Song when I was a Mormon missionary (in a Lazyboy while my companion snored in the next room) in Grand Junction, Colorado in 1993. I read Harlot's Ghost my after my sophomore year in college. Mailer is fascinating to me. At the same time he is both an irritating egoist chasing the tail of Twain, Hemingway and Fitzgerald (and never quite grabbing it). But he is also, at his best, a tiger of modern journalism. He (and Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Wolfe, and other New Journalists) showed that print wasn't dead. That in the age of TV, however, it needed to reinvent itself and break some of the static and almost dead boundaries. When Mailer is off, he is horrible. His writing is fat (it almost glistens with a literary lard), but, but when it is on. When Mailer has grabbed the Universe by the balls, there is almost nothing close to the energy of his words.

It is weird to think this book was written over 50 years ago (the action happened over a few days in late October 1967; the book was published in 1968). But Mailer was my exact age when it all happened. I feel both old and young at the same time. I've been meaning to read this book for years, but now seemed right. It was an accident to read it at the same age Mailer wrote it, but it does give me a bit of perspective in his motives, his perspective, his mood. It also seems appropriate now. No other period quite seems as close to the late 60s as the last few years. I feel like something has to break, or a beast is going to be born. I hope Mailer isn't write and that we aren't in the final stages before a freakish totalitarianism emerges. Perhaps it is already too late. Deliver us from our curse - indeed.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Away Off Shore

  • Nantucket Island and Its People, 1602-1890
  • By: Nathaniel Philbrick
  • Narrated by: Scott Brick
  • Length: 8 hrs and 57 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 28
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 26
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 26

In his first book of history, Away Off Shore, New York Times best-selling author Nathaniel Philbrick reveals the people and the stories behind what was once the whaling capital of the world. Beyond its charm, quaint local traditions, and whaling yarns, Philbrick explores the origins of Nantucket in this comprehensive history. From the English settlers who thought they were purchasing a "Native American ghost town" but actually found a fully realized society, the story of Nantucket is a truly unique chapter of American history.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • There once were some (wo)men in Nantucket...

  • By Darwin8u on 02-03-19

There once were some (wo)men in Nantucket...

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-03-19

This book on the island of Nantucket
With chapters all made to half-share it.
Philbrick penned bios real fast,
'bout Pokanokets & the Quaker caste,
"I'll either be Egan's peon, or I'll lay it."

I've been a fan of Nantucket for years. Remotely. The last couple years I've been out a couple times to the Whale Museum, etc., and biking with my family East along Polpis Rd to the Sankaty Head Light and back to the Straight Warf along Milestone Rd. I've not yet bought those funky Nantucket Red shorts, but that is only a temporary limitation. My interest was first kindled by Moby-Dick, and later by Philbrick's book about the Whaleship Essex (that inspired Moby-Dick). I've grown to enjoy Philbrick's style as a popular biographer, so figured I might as well read this early book about an Island I love and a people who are fascinating to me.

This was Philbrick's first book, and as the title basically suggests, it is about the island (and mostly people) of Nantucket. Written as a series of biographical essays of important historical figures, this approach allows Philbrick to explore the character and people of Nantucket through selected examples through time. This approach leaves many gaps, but for a subject like Nantucket, there will always be gaps and myths to contend with.

Some of those Philbrick covers in this book:

1. Mashop, Roqua, Wonoma, Autopscot
2. Thomas Macy
3. Tristram Coffin
4. King Philip, JOhn Gibbs, Peter Folger
5. James Coffin, John Gardner
6. Ichabod Paddock
7. Mary Starbuck
8. Richard Macy
9. Timothy White
10. Peter Folger
11. Kezia Coffin
12. Jethro Coffin & William Rotch
13. William Coffin
14. Obed Starbuck & George Pollard
15. Absalom Boston & Abram Quary
16. Maria Mitchell
17. FC Sanford

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Kreutzer Sonata

  • By: Leo Tolstoy
  • Narrated by: Simon Prebble
  • Length: 3 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 68
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 64
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 60

One of the world’s greatest novelists, Leo Tolstoy was also the author of a number of superb short stories, one of his best known being “The Kreutzer Sonata.” This macabre story involves the murder of a wife by her husband. It is a penetrating study of jealousy as well as a piercing complaint about the way in which society educates men and women in matters of sex - a serious condemnation of the mores and attitudes of the wealthy, educated class.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Love, Marriage, Family:: Wine, Women, Music

  • By Darwin8u on 02-02-19

Love, Marriage, Family:: Wine, Women, Music

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-02-19

"Love, marriage, family,—all lies, lies, lies."
- Leo Tolstoy, The Krutzer Sonata

First, let me start this review by stating I think Anna Karenina might just be a perfect novel. So, I love Tolstoy. War and Peace, also amazes me and easily belongs on the list of Great World Novels. But 'The Kreutzer Sonata' plays like the writings of an over-indulged, philosophically-stretched, cranky, Fundamentalist older man. It is the sad, second wife to Anna Karenina*. That said, I enjoyed the structure. It is basically a man, Pozdnyshev, discussing his feelings on marriage, morality, and family on a train ride with some strangers. During this discussion he admits that in a jealous rage he once killed his wife (and was later aquited).

The story was censored briefly in 1890 (its censorship was later overturned), but that didn't stop Theodore Roosevelt calling Tolstoy a "sexual moral pervert". The novel does allude to wanking, immorality, adultery, abortion, etc. Which is funny, because the whole premise of the book is to rage against our moral failings. In a later piece Tolstoy wrote (Lesson of the"The Kreutzer Sonata") defending the novella, he basically explained his views:

1. Men are basically immoral perverts with the opposite sex when young. Society and families wink at their dissoluteness.
2. The poetic/romantic ideal of "falling in love" has had a detrimental impact on morality.
3. The birth of children has lost its pristine significance and the family has been degraded even in the "modern" view of marriage.
4. Children are being raised NOT to grow into moral adults, but to entertain their parents. They are seen as entertainments of the family.
5. Romatic ideas of music, art, dances, food, etc., has contributed and fanned the sexcual vices and diseases of youth.
6. The best years (youth) of our lives are spent trying to get our "freak on" (my term, not Count Tolstoy's). That period would be better spent not chasing tail, butserving one's country, science, art, or God.
7. Chasity and celibacy are to be admired and marriage and sex should be avoided. If we were really "Christian" we would not "bump uglies" (again, my term not the Count's).

It might seem like I am warping Tolstoy's argument a bit, but really I am not. I think the best response to Tolstoy came in 1908 at a celebration of Tolstoy's 80th* from G.K. Chesterton (not really a big libertine; big yes, libertine no):

"Tolstoy is not content with pitying humanity for its pains: such as poverty and prisons. He also pities humanity for its pleasures, such as music and patriotism. He weeps at the thought of hatred; but in The Kreutzer Sonata he weeps almost as much at the thought of love. He and all the humanitarians pity the joys of men." He went on to address Tolstoy directly: "What you dislike is being a man. You are at least next door to hating humanity, for you pity humanity because it is human”

* There are even a couple lines that seem to borrow scenes from, or allude to, Anna Karenina:
"throw myself under the cars, and thus finish everything."
"I was still unaware that ninety-nine families out of every hundred live in the same hell, and that it cannot be otherwise. I had not learned this fact from others or from myself. The coincidences that are met in regular, and even in irregular life, are surprising."
** Which, if the backward math works, means Kreutzer Sonata was written/published when Tolstoy was in his early 60s.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • What the Qur'an Meant

  • And Why It Matters
  • By: Garry Wills
  • Narrated by: Robertson Dean
  • Length: 6 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 30
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 29
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 28

Garry Wills has spent a lifetime thinking and writing about Christianity. In What the Qur'an Meant, Wills invites listeners to join him as he embarks on a timely and necessary reconsideration of the Qur'an, leading us through perplexing passages with insight and erudition. What does the Qur'an actually say about veiling women? Does it justify religious war? There was a time when ordinary Americans did not have to know much about Islam. That is no longer the case.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great insight.

  • By Rambo on 12-04-17

Encouraging Each Other

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-02-19

"We recognize ourselves in the true image of other believers, in the Qur'an or Torah. We believers encourage each other over the barriers raised by people who do not wish any of us well."
- Garry Wills, What the Qur'an Meant

Garry Wills' What the Qur'an Meant: And Why It Matters follows his format used previously in:
1. What the Gospels Meant
2. What Paul Meant
3. What Jesus Meant

It is one of the first books (I've read) that uses heavily The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary. As other have noted, the title is a bit misleading. Part I of the book actually looks at Why It Matters; Part II looks at What the Qur'an means.

This is not a complete exegesis of the Qur'an and isn't meant to be. It is a look at a book that is viewed as scipture by about 1/4 of the world, by a believer from another faith tradition (Catholic). Wills is trying to be fair and generous. He looks at the Qur'an using the same skills he uses with the Bible. He looks at what others have written, academic resources, and the text. He tries to distill the text from both how the faith is practiced in History and how it is practiced by extremists now and puts into context some of the most tortured verses, showing parallels from the Torah and the New Testament.

I liked his approach, his tone, and his agenda. While I'm skeptical of most faiths (often even of my own) I am drawn often to writers who can talk about religion without condesencion or without being too hot (zealous, biased) or cold (abstract, clinical). Faith and belief are powerful aspects of our humanity. We need to view others (both belivers and nonbelivers) with respect. Often, we need to use care to insure that we aren't spreading rumors and false narratives about other traditions or people. We need to follow the Golden Rule in how we define others. Define them with the same charity we would like to be defined by. I don't want my faith tradition defined by polygamists who marry underage children, and I'm certain 95 percent of Muslims would prefer to no have their traditions defined by their most extreme elements. I'm certain many Christians would prefer that their faith wasn't defined by the Duggers or Westboro baptists either.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Youth

  • By: Leo Tolstoy
  • Narrated by: Billy O'Donovan
  • Length: 6 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars 1

"Youth" is the third in Tolstoy's trilogy of three autobiographical novels, including "Childhood" and "Boyhood", published in a literary journal during the 1850s.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Beauty, happiness, and virtue

  • By Darwin8u on 02-02-19

Beauty, happiness, and virtue

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-02-19

"I learnt then that the mere fact of giving utterance to a good intention often makes it difficult, nay, impossible, to carry that good intention into effect."
- Leo Tolstoy, Youth.

Youth, published in 1856, is Tolstoy's third novel(la) and the third of his autobiographical trilogy (Childhood, Boyhood, Youth). Youth begins with the narrator's friedship with Dmitri (who the narrator meets through his brother Volodya). The arc of the story mostly starts and finishes with his entrance and exit examinations for University. He experiences religious, social, dreams, and education struggles; falls easily in and out of love; and begins to emerge as someone who is both independent of others, but still struggling to objectively rise above his class and social constraints.

The book is also "bookended" by the narrator talking about his “Rules of Life”. Writing down lists of his tasks, summarizing a statement of his life’s aim and the rules by which he intended "unswervingly to be guided", reminded me of my own youth. I still return at 44 to my own goals, lists, inner constraints. Many of these rules I set when I was 16, 21, 23 and looking back, many seem silly, presumptuous, and a bit absurd and sad. They do, however, also remind me of how ambitious I was, how wide-open the world looked, and just how little I understood of my own ignorance. Again, like the previous two books in this series, this one felt both at home and seemed also to reflect other books that later writers would write concerning their own growth. That said, it wasn't my favorite of the trilogy and obviously doesn't hold a candle to Tolstoy's later, great, ambitious novels.

  • Boyhood

  • By: Leo Tolstoy
  • Narrated by: Sean Murphy
  • Length: 2 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 6
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 5
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 5

"Boyhood" is the second in Tolstoy's trilogy of three autobiographical novels, including "Childhood" and "Youth", published in a literary journal during the 1850s.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • In matters of feeling...

  • By Darwin8u on 02-02-19

In matters of feeling...

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-02-19

"Kerr has said that every attachment has two sides: one loves, and the other allows himself to be loved; one kisses, and the other surrenders his cheek."
- Leo Tolstoy, Boyhood

Boyhood, is Tolstoy's second novel(la) and the second of his three autobiographical novels (Childhood, Boyhood, Youth). Like with Childhood, I get big Knausgårdian vibes from reading these early Tolstoy novels. They are "technically" ficiton, but draw heavily on the childhood, boyhood and youth (see what I did?) of Tolstoy. Details may change, relationships might not be exact, but in many ways, these novels capture if not the letter of Tolstoy's early years, at least the spirit of those years. But I also get a bit of a Nabokovian vibe too (yes, I agree, Nabokov's and Knausgård's novles TECHNICALLY have a Tolstoyan vibe...but bear with me.). Some scenes in Boyhood sing with a flavor I haven't felt since certain chapters of Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle or Speak, Memory.

Probably the most poignant part of this novella, for me, was the section where he was talking about the almost Nihilist hatred Tolstoy had for St. Jerome (his French tutor). He captured in a couple short paragraphs that melancholy loneliness of boys from 12 to 14. That awkward incediarism driven by isolation, curiosity, and inevitable growth, that all must pass through and MOST pass through safely, with just a few scars. Tolstoy NAILED it, at least from my perspective. He captures the insecurities, the fears, the myopic stupidities of boyhood. Some things NEVER change.

  • Childhood

  • By: Leo Tolstoy
  • Narrated by: Billy O'Donovan
  • Length: 3 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 3
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars 3
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 3

"Childhood" is the first published novel by Leo Tolstoy, released under the initials L. N. in the November 1852 issue of the popular Russian literary journal The Contemporary. It is the first in a series of three novels and is followed by "Boyhood" and "Youth". Published when Tolstoy was just twenty-three years old, the book was an immediate success, earning notice from other Russian novelists including Ivan Turgenev, who heralded the young Tolstoy as a major up-and-coming figure in Russian literature.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Why grieve and weep over imagined evils?

  • By Darwin8u on 02-02-19

Why grieve and weep over imagined evils?

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-02-19

"However vivid be one’s recollection of the past, any attempt to recall the features of a beloved being shows them to one’s vision as through a mist of tears—dim and blurred. Those tears are the tears of the imagination."
- Leo Tolstoy, Childhood

Childhood, Tolstoy's first novel(la) and the first of his 3 autobiographical novels (Childhood, Boyhood, Youth). Reading Knausgård the last couple years motivated me to want to go back and read these. If the other, later two novellas, are similar to 'Childhood' they are certainly early Tolstoy (a bit rough and experimental), but like reading any great writer's early novels they still tell you something. There is more of Tolstoy exposed, more light shinning on the early stages of one of our great writers.

Some of my favorite passages dealt with death (death of his mother, death of his mother's servant) and love. But I also loved Tolstoy reflecting on memory too: "Somehow I seemed to remember something which had never been." If you haven't read:
1. Anna Karenina
2. War and Peace
3. The Death of Ivan Ilych
4. Resurrection
5. A Confession
6. The Cossacks

I'd probably read/listen to those first. But if you love Tolstoy, you should probably get a copy of the trilogy and start reading. Especially, if you've recently read Knausgård.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Daisy Miller

  • By: Henry James
  • Narrated by: Peter Marinker
  • Length: 2 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 34
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 32
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 31

Published in 1878, portrays the courtship of the beautiful American girl Daisy Miller by Frederick Winterbourne. Winterbourne's pursuit of her is hampered by her own flirtatiousness, which is frowned upon by the other expatriates they meet in Switzerland and Italy. The the novel coments on the contrast between American and European society that is common to James's work.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Innocence and Crudity

  • By Darwin8u on 02-02-19

Innocence and Crudity

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-02-19

"She seemed to him, in all this, an extraordinary mixture of innocence and crudity."
- Henry James, Daisy Miller

Who killed Daisy Miller? Americans? Italians? Americans in Europe? She was certainly killed socially by a combination of all of those, but she was killed also by her own indiffernce to what people thought of her. This novella, written in 1878, seeks to explore the interplay of social norms between Europe and America. Like many "great writers" in the late 19th Century, James' most popular novels are often his shorter one. It was cleanly written and intriguing. I'm am surprised (a bit) by how FIXATED the late 1800s were on social expectations (especially in the upper classes). I mean, I'm not REALLY surprise, but sometimes when you think you've hit the bottom, there are more stips down.

While I would always prefer to have money than not. I'm pretty sure to be an upper-class woman in the late Victorian period certainly must have sucked (that being said, being a lower-class woman in the 1800s wasn't a stroll in a Roman park either). Just look at Tolstoy's novella The Kreutzer Sonata (pub. 1889) and this one (1878). Both James and Tolstoy seem fixated on propriaty and women's place. Tolstoy was more interested in preaching and James was more interested in understanding, but still it was weird to read them so close together. I need to read about Wonder Woman next, or something where a woman isn't being judged by men (and society) beacuse she walks with an Italian or plays piano with a violinist.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Vile Bodies

  • By: Evelyn Waugh
  • Narrated by: Emilia Fox, Tobias Menzies, Nathaniel Parker
  • Length: 4 hrs and 42 mins
  • Abridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 52
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 44
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 45

A unique three-person reading. Vile Bodies is both a celebration of the hedonism of the young and a warning to those who believe that their licence to indulge is infinite and unquestionable.

A whole host of characters are introduced throughout Waugh's thought-provoking and often highly satirical story, which follows protagonist Adam through the perils and pitfalls of securing his marriage to Nina Blount, his fiancée.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • “I can't bare you when you're not amusing.”

  • By Darwin8u on 01-29-19

“I can't bare you when you're not amusing.”

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-29-19

"Fiat experimentum in corpore vili"
***
"Let the experiment be done upon a worthless body"

Set in the 20s and published in 1930, Waugh's sophmore novel (after 1928's Decline and Fall) follows Adam Fenwick-Symes the anti-hero journalist/writer as he lightly persues his fortune, his fiance, and his career among an ever declining group that mirrors London's bohemian "Bright Young Things" of the 20s. According to Waugh himself, "There was between the wars a society, cosmopolitan, sympathetic to the arts, well-mannered, above all ornamental even in rather bizarre ways, which for want of a better description the newspapers called 'High Bohemia.'" Vile Bodies is funny, raw, and still relevant almost 90 years later.

Reading it felt like reading some weird mash-up of T.S. Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hunter S. Thompson, and Bret Easton Ellis (see <0). Its ending is not expected, but not surprising either. It isn't my favorite Waugh, but it is worth a read on a Monday in a month with too few holidays. Just don't forget the gin, and please darling, don't drive.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Valdez is Coming

  • By: Elmore Leonard
  • Narrated by: Keith Carradine
  • Length: 2 hrs and 22 mins
  • Abridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 94
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 72
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 71

They laughed at Roberto Valdez and then ignored him. But when a dark-skinned man was holed up in a shack with a gun, they sent the part-time town constable to deal with the problem, and made sure he had no choice but to gun the fugitive down. Trouble was, Valdez killed an innocent man. And when he asked for justice, and some money for the dead man's woman, they beat Valdez and tied him to a cross. They were still laughing when Valdez came back. And then they began to die.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • No, that was your time.

  • By Darwin8u on 01-20-19

No, that was your time.

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-20-19

"No, that was your time. You get one time, mister, to prove who you are."
- Elmore Leonard, Valdez is Coming

'Valdez is Coming', published in 1970, is the third book in Library of America's Westerns: Last Stand at Saber River / Hombre / Valdez Is Coming / Forty Lashes Less One / Stories. It is also one of my favorites. It is essentially a quest/revenge novel (quest if you think Valdez is coming for the widow, revenge if you think Valdez is coming for payback). The knight in this book is town constable Bob Valdez, who is put into an unfortunate situation where he shoots an innocent man (because of the misdeeds and racism of others). When he tries to put things right with the woman of the dead man, he sets the stage for a confrontation with Frank Tanner (a rich rancher/smuggler) who thinks he owns the town.

It wasn't a perfect novel, but it was great for what it was. You don't ride into a Elmore Leonard western not knowing basically what you WANT and what you are going to get. Leonard delivers both to you with more accuracy than you thought possible and quicker than you were expecting. LIke most of the novels (and some of the stories) in the Library of America collection, this one too was made into a move. I'm not sure I would have cast Burt Lancaster as Bob Valdez, but the movie came out in 1971. Hopefully, if this were remade today, it would star Brad Pitt.

You will notice I only gave this 1-star for performance and 2-stars for overall. That is PERFECTLY correlated to the fact that this was an abridged novel. It wasn't like it was some 40+hour Les Miserables or War and Peace. The original story is less than 200 pages. Why abridge that?

2 of 2 people found this review helpful