Reading Fanatic Reviews

Travel

Ireland the Best by John and Sally McKenna

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Available at Amazon in paperback only

Ireland the Best*

Travel Guide to the Old Sod

I went to Ireland the first time 30 years ago–goodness, has it been that long?– and I haven’t been back for a long while. So I was delighted to see this book show up at one of my favorite book review sites. I found myself wondering how much Ireland had changed, as I hadn’t seen it since before the European Union. I was certainly surprised as I looked at some of the entries of this guidebook. The Ireland I remember was much more rustic, and well, Irish. I was surprised at the number of ethnicities listed for the restaurants in Dublin as well as some of the swanky hotels and restaurants. I spent a fair time in Dublin, as I took a summer course at Trinity College, and was right in the heart of that city; that doesn’t sound like the Dublin I remember. This book has gotten me intrigued about the new Ireland, and I find myself wishing I was able to go back and see what it is like now.

But about the book. I must say I am disappointed that the ARC copy I received had no photos of any kind. I don’t know if this is true of the published book or not. Introductory material seems to suggest that there is at least a map that goes with this book, but as I received a digital copy, I’m not sure.

The book has an easy organization. There is an introductory section about the must-visit places all over Ireland as well as annual festivals. The first several sections are all about what’s going on in the big cities like Dublin, Belfast, Galway, and Cork. The next sections look at the country by dividing it into geographical areas. Next, historical places and outdoor activities are looked out all over Ireland. The book rounds out with a look at the islands. I thought that the actual descriptions of each item were a little confusing. There appears to be a lot of shorthand used in them. I found myself searching for the places that I knew of 30 years ago, but I didn’t see them. I hope they are still in business as I have many fond memories; perhaps they didn’t make the cut. I was certainly surprised at the range of businesses, attractions, and types of lodging. It’s been a while, but I don’t remember that level of variety. I remember staying in may 10-pounds-a-night B&Bs!

While the book definitely had some drawbacks, it probably served its purpose in making me want to plan another trip to the Emerald Isle.

Conversational German Dialogues by Lingo Mastery

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Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, Scribd, Mondadori, and Angus & Robertson

Conversational German Diaglogues*

Translations Lack, Format Poor

I have already reviewed the books of a similar title by this company for French, Italian, and Spanish. Unfortunately, this book had the same types of errors and issues that the other books have. First, the English sections have so many mistakes that I would be leery of using the German sections for fear that they would be filled with the same. Here are a few examples of some very awkward English that no native speaker would say. “You find the best pieces in the beginning when nobody snagged them yet” and “Then I would rather prefer, you keep on watching TV.”

Some topics are ones you would expect from a book aimed mostly at travelers and language students, like how to order food or ask directions. But other topics actually seem quite bizarre for a casual visitor to Germany, like a clothing exchange party and discussing animals of Australia. Neither would be an everyday or even common occurrence.

The book uses some unusual and incorrect capitalization in the German sections. The format of the eBook makes it not suitable for beginners or near beginners to learn from (even if the German translations are okay) as it is tricky to flip between the English and German versions of the dialogue for every line. I think it would be better to have the translated lines right next to each other, perhaps one bolded and one italicized, for easier assimilation and comparison. I took German in college, but I have forgotten most of it, so I found it frustrating to flip between the English and German sections for each dialogue sentence. I certainly do not remember enough of the language to say if the German translations are truly good or bad. It would be helpful to have at least an intermediate understanding of German to know if these are accurate dialogues and phrases that would actually be used in conversation with native German speakers.

Conversational Italian Dialogues by Lingo Mastery

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Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Scribd, 24 Symbols, Mondadori, and Angus & Robertson

Conversational Italian Dialogues*

Poor English Translations Make Italian Ones Suspect

I have already reviewed the books by this company for French and Spanish. Unfortunately, this book had the same types of errors and issues that the other books have. First, the English sections have so many errors that I would be leery of using the Italian sections for fear that they would be as rife with them as the English ones. Here are a few examples of some very awkward English that no native speaker would say; these are actually from just one of the dialogues about ordering pizza. “Can you recommend me a light one?” and “Your pizzas will be there for half-past eight.” By the way, the dialogue for the Italian pizza ordering was almost the same as the one in the French book!

The English translations in this particular book are so bad that I actually wonder if they just use something like Google Translate or some other online automatic translation to make these. However the translations were arrived at, the book is poorly done, and that’s unfortunate as a book like this has great potential for both students of the language and people who might be traveling to Italy.

Some topics are ones you would expect from a book aimed mostly at travelers and language students, like how to order food or ask for directions. But some of the topics actually seemed quite bizarre for a casual visitor to Italy, like “renewing your wardrobe” and “the printer doesn’t work.” Neither would be an everyday or even common occurrence.

The format of the eBook makes it not suitable for beginners or near beginners to learn from (even if the Italian translations are fine) as it is tricky to flip between the English and Italian versions of the dialogue for every line. I think it would be better to have the translated lines right next to each other, perhaps one bolded and one italicized, for easier assimilation and comparison. I have only a very basic understanding of Italian, so aside from a few food terms and other common words, most of this just looks like gibberish and it does get frustrating to flip between the English and Italian sections for each dialogue. I certainly do not know enough of the language to say if the Italian parts are truly good or bad. It would be helpful to have at least an intermediate understanding of Italian to know if these are accurate dialogues and phrases that would actually be used in conversation with Italians. The book does have an audiobook version that you could purchase separately, but the book proper has no pronunciation guide.

Conversational Spanish Dialogues by Lingo Mastery

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Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Google Play, Scribd, 24 Symbols, Mondadori, and Angus & Robertson

Conversational Spanish Dialogues*

Rife with Errors in Both English and Spanish

I have previously reviewed the book on Conversational French Dialogues, so I was expecting more of the same from this book. Unfortunately, that was true, but this book has even more issues than the French book did.

Again, I find that the English sections within the book to be written in a way that no English speaker would talk. As with the other book, this makes me question whether the Spanish itself is actually a good reflection of the way Spanish speakers talk. There definitely are some issues with spelling and grammar on the Spanish side. While I have never taken any Spanish classes, I did grow up in California and so did assimilate some concepts of Spanish spelling and grammar. I know, for instance, that Spanish speakers don’t typically use many personal pronouns while speaking; the Spanish sections had a lot of this usage. The word “sí” is often spelled without the accent over the “i,” which actually changes the meaning of the word. Clearly, the word with the accent meaning yes most often appeared to be the correct word in context, but it was spelled without the accent, which makes it the word “if.”

A lot of the dialogues are on topics that would help a traveler or exchange student to a Spanish-speaking country, like how to order in a restaurant or find your classroom. I did think, though, that some choices for dialogues were a little bizarre; for instance, there were dialogues about getting the wrong job application in the airline industry or asking for help with your computer’s operating system (including licensing it). Neither of these topics would be needed for someone who was just casually visiting a Spanish-speaking country. And there definitely seemed to be a bias towards Spain rather than Spanish-speaking countries in Central and South America, as there were topics about moving around Europe and North Africa—like flying to London or returning from Amsterdam—compared to similar about Central and South America.

I think the formatting of the eBook makes it hard to truly assimilate and compare Spanish and English because the sentences aren’t right next to each other; it isn’t so easy to flip around in an eBook to compare back and forth. This book, too, would certainly not be suitable for anyone who is a beginner or near beginner learning Spanish. I would think that someone should be at least an intermediate level to be able to use this book so that you would know some of the phrases and concepts and could better correlate between the Spanish and English sides of the dialogue (as well as have a better sense of the errors. Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend this book. There are undoubtedly better books on conversational Spanish.

Conversational French Dialogues by Lingo Mastery

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Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Scribd, 24 Symbols, Mondadori, and Angus & Robertson

Conversational French Dialogues*

Not Sure If You’ll Learn…

This is the first time I have been introduced to this way of language learning done by Lingo Mastery. I was put off from the start by the English mastery of the writer. I found that the English in the introductory section as well as the English translation of the French conversations to be odd and somewhat stilted. Occasionally, wrong words were used. Does anyone in an English-speaking country refer to teeth cleaning as descaling or plaque as calculus? The poor English made me question how good the conversational French part would be. If there are so many issues in the English sections, would there be such issues in the French parts that I wouldn’t really have enough knowledge to know? I did take French in high school and college, but I still can’t say whether the French is correct. I would definitely be leery of trusting the French to be accurate, though, given what the English is like. I thought some choices for the conversational topics were odd. Some make complete sense, like ordering food and drinks or asking for directions. But how often would an English speaker going to France need to ask about pet grooming or pest control?

This book definitely is not for a beginner learning French. You certainly have to have a background in French to appreciate some of the nuances. I can’t imagine this being someone’s first (or even second) introduction to the French language; it would be akin to reading gibberish. And, of course, you would have no idea how to pronounce these French words unless you bought the audiobook version as well—or had previous knowledge of French. There is no pronunciation guide given. I wonder, too, if the book would have been better organized if it had each sentence in the conversation in both French and English one right below the other, so you can more quickly assimilate new words as well as associate phrases between the languages. It can be a pain to flip back and forth between Kindle pages. All in all, I found myself disappointed in this book, though I would probably refer to it if I was planning to go to a French-speaking country. Although, I would not be reading about dog grooming!

Where Can I Find Wi-Fi? by Kayla Kurin

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Available at Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Mondadori, and Angus & Robertson

Where Can I Find Wi-Fi?*

Want to Be a World-Traveling Nomad?

If you have ever considered traveling the world or living in a foreign country (not just as a tourist), this book gives not only one woman’s personal story, but her personal hints, tips, and tricks learned from a life living and working on the road. The book is well organized. The first section is about being just a regular nomad, either volunteering or find work in other countries. The bulk of the book is about being a digital nomad, whether as a freelancer, an entrepreneur, or working remotely for a company. The author has set up several businesses that have allowed her to add to her bank account while still enjoying travel around the world. I like how she interweaves her personal experiences with the tips, techniques, and the knowledge you need if you are going to consider this kind of lifestyle. Before you book your first plane ticket for the new nomad life you envision for yourself, I recommend reading this book to get a sense of what it is really like as well as some ideas that will help you make the transition more smoothly.

The Boston Freedom Trail in Words and Pictures by Robert Wheeler

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Available at Amazon in paperback only

The Boston Freedom Trail in Words and Pictures*

Find Your Inner Bostonian on the Freedom Trail

Every American–by birth or by choice–is by some measure a Bostonian. The tides of history that shaped that city flow through us as our American birthright, whether deep in our hearts as that understood but unspoken patriotic bedrock of our country or through a more conscious choice to make the ideals of freedom that brought about revolution our own (whether or not you espouse the freedoms of the right or the left politically).

If you’re expecting a glossy, touristy book about the Boston Freedom Trail, you will be surprised. While it does have some pictures of each site along the Trail, as well as occasional watercolors, the photos recall to mind mostly small moments at these places. Some sites have the traditional, done-from-a-distance views, but most are surprisingly small and intimate looks at these famous places, perhaps just the head of a statue or the top of a church steeple or an unobtrusive corner of a building. Along with these photos, the author has given a couple-paragraph synopsis of the historical significance or description of the place.

While I am not a Bostonian, I did visit the city nearly 30 years ago and spent some time visiting the historic Trail. I was amazed at how this book transported me back. Before we even left home, I had done a significant amount of research about the history of what we would be seeing on each leg of our journey. But nothing prepared me for the emotional impact that actually walking the streets of American history would have on me. I wish I could remember the particular place on the Trail where I actually had to sit down and catch my breath because I was so overwhelmed with what Boston means American history and every American. As I looked at each picture and read the commentary in this book, I was struck not only by the history reflected by the sites on the Freedom Trail but also how it continues to grow, showing the impact of other non-Revolutionary war historical events and what they mean to the people of Boston. I would like to see the memorials to the Holocaust and the Irish famine; they were not there when I went.

If you enjoy American history, you will find this book’s narrowly focused look at a small part of Boston to be a treasure. Perhaps you, too, will find the beating heart of your inner Bostonian.

Spring Gourmet Mag, Palermo Issue by Claudia Rinaldi

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Available at Amazon only
NOT with Kindle Unlimited

Spring 2019 Gourmet Mag, Palermo Issue*

A Historic and Gastronomic Tour of Palermo

I wasn’t sure what to expect about this “book” that is named after the now-defunct magazine. What I found is a curious combination of travelogue, history, and recipes, with plenty of pictures of both the recipes and Palermo. This is an intensely personal book. In the early parts of it, she takes you on little day trips around the vicinity, seeing both places of historic interest as well as foodie places. There aren’t many recipes in the first part of the book, but as the book goes on, more and more recipes show up. I absolutely loved the photographs as well as her descriptions of Palermo and the recipes. I felt like I was walking the streets with her, which is certainly fun for an armchair traveler. The recipes themselves are written in both metric and Imperial measure, though I am always leery of Imperial measures that have been derived from a metric source. The collection of recipes I would call quirky, some that are specific to Palermo or Sicily and others that are more pan Italian in nature. There are lots of fun ideas in here, from main dishes to snacks and even offbeat things like digestivos. If you like a little bit of food with your armchair traveling, you may very well enjoy this book.

By the way, I think this ebook is best enjoyed on a tablet or computer, not a standard Kindle. You’ll lose the effect of all the lovely photographs on a black-and-white Kindle.

U. S. Taxes for Worldly Americans by Olivier Wagner

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Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Scribd, 24 Symbols, Thalia, Angus & Robertson, and Bol.de

U.S. Taxes for Worldly Americans*

A Great Guide to Taxes for Americans Living Abroad

If you are an American, whether by birth or by choice, and you spend a lot of time out of the country either as a full expatriate, a perpetual traveler, or an “accidental American” (someone born in the U. S. but has spent most of their life abroad), this is the book you need to figure out what precisely your tax burden is to the United States government and what to do about it. It is written by a man who is French by birth but became an American citizen before becoming a global traveler on a large scale. He does have some background in finance, and he offers this book to help you understand the processes of taxation for the global American. He gets very detailed about specific forms, exemptions, and other tax information. Truly, if you are an American who spends much of the year outside of the U. S., whether making money or not, this is a book that will help you get and stay tax compliant. The author has done a wonderful service for traveling Americans, and Americans who dream of travel, by writing a book with such solid information.

Greater than a Tourist: Lake Tahoe by Katarina Elliot

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Available at Amazon only
Free with Kindle Unlimited

Greater than a Tourist: Lake Tahoe*

Poorly Organized Set of Travel Tips

I enjoy traveling, and I am familiar with the Lake Tahoe area because we went there quite often when I was a child. I will admit it has been some time since I have been there. While I did like the tips themselves given by someone who knows the area, I thought the book lacked organization, was too short to be genuinely of much help, and was flawed in its basic design.

In terms of organization, there truly is none. This is a pamphlet of 50 random tips. Some are on similar ideas, so it would make sense to group them together. For instance, there are several tips about skiing or what to do in the snow. These would have been great to group together. Instead, there are some at the beginning, and one sneaks it at the end. This book could have been organized in so many different ways: by season, by activity, indoor versus outdoor, things to do in Tahoe itself versus things to do in other cities and towns, etc. To me, too, it felt like there was a bit of cheating to inflate the numbers. For instance, the “castle” of Tahoe is actually given two tips out of the 50, the hidden castle and learning about the castle; those certainly could have been combined into one tip! I also thought that some tips should be grouped together into one recommendation, like all the breweries in a particular town or area. This would have given more space for other tips, of which I know there has to be many because there is so much to do in and around the Tahoe area

The book is shorter than you might think from its number of pages. The text of the tips starts around the 15% mark in my Kindle for PC app and actually stops at the 63% point; the rest is a “bonus book” that purports to be about traveling light, but it is more about packing in general and some trip prep. So, only about half of the book is tips about Tahoe.

To me, there is an inherent flaw in the design of this book. Namely, it really revolves just around these 50 poorly organized tips. There’s a very brief opening paragraph, but that is the extent of the “orientation” you get to the area. So I found it lacking a true orientation to the area, which I think is really necessary for a book like this. Luckily, I know the area because I have visited it so many times, but I can imagine that a tourist from another state or country might find themselves scratching their heads while trying to read this book. If the tips had been organized, they could have had header sections that described more generalities about the combined topics before diving into the details. Orienting, overarching information grounds the reader so he or she can better take in the information.

The ARC copy I received didn’t have any maps, diagrams, or photos in it. In looking at the 10% availabe at Amazon, I see that it does have a general high-level map of the area and a diagram of sorts but no photos. I think photos are an essential part of any travel book. Armchair travelers like to imagine the places they read about, perhaps envisioning themselves there; photographs scratch that itch.

The book, or at least the ARC version of the book I received, is full of issues with grammar, punctuation, usage, and formatting. In one of the first tips, Tahoe itself was not capitalized! There were other issues with capitalization and spelling, even of some business names. I’m hoping this has been cleared up for publication. The most crucial mistakes were made after the 10% mark, so I cannot check on Amazon to see if these have been corrected.

I wanted to like this book because I am fascinated by the idea of the series, learning more about a place from a local. (And arguably, the author of this book may not be considered a local as she is not a permanent resident.) I am mostly an armchair traveler who does travel on occasion. I was hoping to find a series that I could count on for cool information about other places I might travel. But I do not think that these books, if this is a fair sample, would serve that function. Unless you have other books or information about the areas covered in this series, you would most likely find yourself more confused than enlightened by reading this book.

Disclosure

The asterisks (*) by the book title denote the source of the book copy.

One star = I received it as a free advance/review copy or directly from the author.

Two stars = I borrowed it through my Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Three stars = I purchased the book outright (sometimes for free).

The Amazon book links on this site are affiliate links, which means I make a tiny percentage if you choose to buy a book linked from this site.

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