Wednesday, April 19, 2017

FLINT - LOUIS L'AMOUR

FLINT



- Louis L'Amour -

A man with nothing to lose...yet, ends up becoming involved in a range war.
This book has the classic 'recipe for action'. A man thinking he is going to die, a conflict involving some hard working farm owners (one being a beautiful and single lady), and some mean men who like to shoot first and not ask questions later.
There were numerous gun battles, a stalk and prey situation, a knuckle to knuckle boxing match, even some dynamite thrown in there!
Not much to say, it was similar to many other L'Amour books. In other words, another great read by our fav western story teller Louis L'Amour. 
Order your copy - FLINT         

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

THE GRUMPY CAT GUIDE TO LIFE

THE GRUMPY GUIDE TO LIFE




In the tradition of Garfield, we have a modern cat who makes cynical comments on the world. There are a few really insightful observations that Grumpy cat makes such as, "when you see a rainbow you can enjoy the fact that someone is getting rained on somewhere
(or possibly even being struck by lightning)."

I read this book while waiting for my prescription refill. It is short and punchy - a good book to read while waiting in any long line, on a bus, even while driving. It would be a great book to read to children too. Kids like cats. Kids like rainbows. Makes sense to me.


I took this book out of the library, but, if you are like Grumpy cat you don't like library-cooties, you have the option of ordering it on Amazon - THE GRUMPY GUIDE TO LIFE

 


 




Wednesday, April 5, 2017

DR. NO - JAMES BOND NOVEL

DOCTOR NO

James Bond #6


- Ian Fleming -

If you only read one Bond novel, make it this one! Dr. No is that great mix of action/adventure, an out of this world eccentric villain, and of course a happy ending with a 'Bond Girl'. As an added bonus, any Austin Powers fans will get a real kick out of Dr. No, who is no doubt the inspiration for the movie's Dr. Evil.
This bond adventure is even more unbelievable than his other assignments. In this book he discovers a madman (Dr. No) has been building a secret hideout on an island in the Caribbean. The twist is that the island is made of bird excrement (no joke).
Turns out the crazy doctor likes to do experiments on people. His forte is testing pain thresholds and things of that nature (ie he has a huge torture fetish).
Yet, as in classic spy novel style, Dr. No is a highly civilized man who treats his captives kindly, providing a nice meal and luxurious accommodations before he does his experiments. He has a very impressive parlour where he entertains Bond, a room that has a window into the sea, a window that cost "1 million dollars!" (again, no joke!).
There are many strange and eccentric henchman, impossible sounding vehicles, unbelievable Dr. No pain experiments, and action packed misadventures that make you want to keep turning the pages of this book.
I was overjoyed with this book and to make things even better I had picked it up at a yard sale for fifty cents! It was that classic cover in the pic above too. You don't have to wait for a yard sale, you can order it on Amazon right now - Doctor No

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

FREAKONOMICS - STEVEN LEVITT

FREAKONOMICS 

 
 
Being a business major in university I really like economics. It was just one of those things that made sense to me. As I took more and more economics classes I got past the basics and into the really interesting questions - I recall a class about tax rates and how they affected the quality of life. I remember using real data. The conclusion was that there were better and fairer ways of taxing to make life better for everyone - increase tax rates to the super rich for eg. So, why were we not doing this? It brought up other question that could not be explained by economics...it was an awesome moment for a bright, young, budding mind that wanted to change the world.

And, that is kind of scenario was what I thought Freakanomics would delve into. And, the book started that way with a look at the crime wave of the 90s and the connection with abortion laws. Wild and wacky questions for an economics book.

Then there was the economics of drug dealers - a look of the distribution of wealth and the motivations and economic realities behind drug dealing. Again, fascinating.

The numbers and data used in those examples used sounded legitimate.

But, then it got murky for me.

The next few topics such as standardized testing in the Chicago school board and proving that teachers were cheating. Boring.

And, the parenting topic. Do parents matter? No answer to that, just a look at the names parents choose. How names change over time and are statistically associated with a different class / income level of people. This struck me as common sense. I guess the point was to prove names matter more than parenting. But, I didn't feel the data was conclusive...it seemed like a picking and choosing kind of data set.

I guess in the end I was dissappointed by the book. It started out ok, but, it quickly lost its appeal to me. And, it was wordy and repetitive. Overly wordy and repetitive. I mean really, really, wordy..and repetitive.

Unless you are stuck at an airport on the way to an economics convention I'd stay clear of this book.

If you doubt me, go ahead and pick up this book on Amazon -
FREAKONOMICS
 
 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

ODD MAN RUSH - BILL KEENAN

ODD MAN RUSH


- BILL KEENAN -

I've read a lot of hockey biographies/autobiographies and I have to say that Odd Man Rush is one of the best of the lot. Typically hockey books are full of dry prose and pace slowing stats. Keenan's writing is the opposite - lively, humourous, and almost devoid of the rundown of numbers that are like speed bumps when reading.
His take on hockey is just as passionate as any NHL star, but, Keenan is not afraid to dig into the corners of self deprecation. Layman's terms - he makes fun of himself and some of the situations he gets himself in. That is what makes this books so fresh and different. Most other hockey books are serious and keep up the "man's-man"/winner attitude - which is sometimes inspiring, but, can get kind of dull after reading six books where no jokes or even slightly funny stories are told. Luckily, in Odd Man Rush there is very little heavy-talk about leadership, grit, taking a puck in the face for the team...or really even winning. Instead there is focus on the funny characters one meets in the locker room. The strange superstitions goalies have. Bad crowd behaviour. Childhood dreams mocked. Even a sacrilegious criticism of the being-a-man / tough guy attitude.
I love how the hilarity starts right from the beginning. First coach's first prep talk, 'have fun and don't care about winning b/c none of you are going to make the NHL anyway'. Keenan moves teams and takes on new personalities to fit in. It starts with faking a 'Canadian' accent. Then he changes the way he dresses (turns out a preppy private school kid doesn't wear the same clothes as the ragtag bunch from Jersey). He even relishes the day he was given a nickname...rhymes with Billy. Not Silly, not Philly, not Killy, but, Dilly (one of the many slang words for male body part). He was finally accepted as part of the team! Light hearted, fish out of water stories, fill the start of this book - those easy to relate to childhood memories one looks back on and thinks, "wtf was I thinking?"
As Keenan moves up in hockey, and in life, the stories change slightly. Still light hearted, but, are more about his teammates...mostly the wacky ones, the D-bags (as he refers to them), and the influential people he plays with. The 'fish out of water' stories are still there, but, are more literal as Keenan moves to Europe to play hockey and runs into language problems and cultural differences.
Overall, a fun trip through the hockey community and all the weird and wacky characters that make it what it is.

This book is available on Amazon - ODD MAN RUSH


Monday, January 25, 2016

PASSIN THROUGH

PASSIN THROUGH



- Louis L'Amour -

A no-named drifter was just "passin' through" your typical Western town. Sat down for a drink at the local saloon. Ended up shooting a prominent local gunslinger.
Passin' Through was the name he was given, but, passing through was not what he ended up doing. There was a big stinkin' pile of trouble that he stepped in while passin' through, and as a good hearted western man he cleaned it up - with his fists and his guns.
This novel was a quick and exciting read. It was slightly different than many other L'Amour novels in that the hero - Passin' Through - does not win every battle. He does win the war, but, he takes a few bullets, loses half of his blood, and needs a few weeks to heal some broken ribs.
Deep down I think this book was a lesson about karma. Just my thoughts.
This book is available on Amazon - PASSIN THROUGH

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

THE SPECIALIST

THE SPECIALIST - A Talent For Revenge



I picked up this exciting looking book at the Bibles for Mission Thrift store for only 50 cents! Well, let me tell you this book is worth at least double that, at least!
If you want to escape reality and enter a world of fiction this is the book for you. It is so fictitious that there is no way it could be confused with any sort of reality.
This is the first book in 'The Specialist' series. First one I have read too. This 'Specialist' is a real action hero. He fights for the good guys by killing scores of bad guys. And, he seems almost indestructible. He is also smooth with the ladies, wink wink. A James Bond type guy...but, a bit more on the psychotic side.
The story could easily have been made into an 80's action movie starring Steven Seagull with a lot of over the top karate moves and bulls-eye shooting. This 'Specialist' manages to show off all his skills starting with a parking lot brawl, moving onto a racy encounter with his lady friend, then onto his snorkeling prowess and his underwater explosives knowledge, followed by his tree fort building skills, and of course his sniping skills. He even manages to single handedly storm a castle style compound surrounded by electric fencing, filled with dimwitted henchmen, and one evil madman.
Not to give away the ending, but, his mission to save the girl was thwarted as the girl ended up saving herself! So, this is a good book for the feminists out there too.
The writing was basic and right to the point, none of that literary mumbo jumbo to take away from the action, and there were even a few phrases I have never seen used before. Eg. He drove his boat towards the chateaux like it was a hard-on. Not sure exactly how to interpret that, but, it sounds like The Specialist means business! Doesn't it?
Would I read another one of these books? Probably. I'm a closet paperback action novel junky!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

REDWALL

REDWALL




Redwall is a classic story of good vs evil. In this case the fight is between a collection of woodland creatures - mice, rats, snakes, badgers, ferrets, sparrows, and even moles.
On the 'good' side we have a monastery full of mice in monk wear who are dedicated to helping and healing.
On the 'evil' side we have the nastiest rat ever (one eyed, pegged leg, scar covered, temperamental..."loony" as Jacques implies) and his gang of rats.
It was the 'bad guys' who really made the book for me. First, I was fascinated by this evil rat leader - Cluny the Scourge - and how terrible he was. Just the most repulsive, mean, nastiest character ever imagined. We was constantly swatting, bad mouthing, and threatening his followers. He must have killed half a dozen members of his horde (all ranks, no discrimination there) without a second though. He was obsessed with remaining in power and using his power to take over the world. I bet he was fun character to write.


I also got a bit of a chuckle from the names of some of the evil rats - Cheesethief, Scumnose, Wormtail, Ragear.

The actual plot was pretty simple - Cluny and his gang, who have been laying waste to most of the world, show up at the walls of Redwall Abbey. Surprisingly, they are repulsed when they try to attack the Abbey. They lay siege to Redwall, making additional and more creative attempts at getting inside.
During this time the occupants of the Abbey realize their full potential and in some cases their destiny - like say, being a world class warrior.
What make the book a page turner is the pace and the characters. There are very few slow moments with lots of battles, adventures through the woods, and a mystery made of riddles to solve. It keeps your attention. Also, you really have no idea what is going to happen. The action goes from very tame to pretty gruesome and violent. Will the next battle be waged with rotten radishes or will an oversized arrow go straight through a row of ferrets? You have to read to find out.

On that note, I think there might have been a mistake - a mistake labelling this book. Everywhere I look it is filed as a 'kids' book. But, to me, it should be shelved in the 'must read by everyone before they die' category. It reminded me of Harry Potter, which is also a 'kids' book that appeals to every age. Don't let the animal characters discourage you, it is a great read.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

AMISH COOKBOOK

THE AMISH COOK




Food is so interesting to me. Not just eating food, but, reading about food. I think you can learn much more about a culture, a country, a people, all by the food they eat, how they prepare it, and rituals around how they eat it.
The Amish Cookbook gives much more than than recipes, it gives you a glimpse into the ways of the Amish. The recipes and ingredients seem to be a reflection of their lifestyle - simple and nourishing. Although this book is labelled a cookbook there is so much more inside. Each recipe is accompanied by an article, written by Elizabeth, usually about the recipe. Actually, the articles would usually take off on different tangents, such as when she would typically make the dish, a bit of history on it, her memories around the dish, maybe the last time she made it and who was at her house. She often throws in tidbits about her personal life too. News about a grandchild being born, how an early frost froze her garden, about how she helped out a neighbour can some peaches. All written very blunt, simple, right to the point, without any complaints. Actually a refreshing change from the wordy, figurative, language of novels. Makes you think about how much time and effort is taken up by the frills in our modern lifestyle.
In addition to these personal pieces, there are small notes about Amish life and the events we might associate with them. There are notes about barn raising, rumspringa, the 'rules' around using modern technology like phones and cars, even a bit about the 'Dutch English' language many speak.
The recipes. Most are simple with only a few ingredients. Some, however, sound pretty odd to me. Coffee Soup anyone? It is pretty much a bowl of coffee with bread in it. There are a couple I might photocopy, especially the bread ones. It's tough finding an easy, great tasting bread recipe.
I don't know a whole lot about the Amish, but, after reading this book I feel much more informed. Knowing what people eat, how they feel about food, and some intimate stories about their personal lives is much easier to read and leaves me feeling like I know more about these people than I would if I had read a bland textbook on the subject.

RATING : READ




Thursday, July 2, 2015

TWITTER FOR DUMMIES

TWITTER FOR DUMMIES


Twitter for Dummies - the quick summary. Sign up, try to make friends, and hashtags are a way of organizing things. I found actually going on Twitter and fiddling around with it was much more useful than reading the about the basics (from this outdated book). So, instead of a book review I'm going to give you a few tips I have learned while 'fiddling around on the Twitter'.

Ways to get a few quick hits.


I started using Twitter as a way to promote my blog. I thought, bah, another social media platform where I can haphazardly shout out blog links to the world and the masses will come running. That strategy did not go so well. As with any other social media site to really get the most out of it you need to form relationships.
However, my flailings on Twitter have shown me a few ways to get some quick hits. Nothing substantial or sustained, but, I have seen my blog hit count bleep up a few notches when I did some of the following things:

Hashtags (#)
First thing I found is that no matter how creative you are at making timely, detailed, unique hashtags...nobody will discover them. You need to do a little research and find popular or common hashtags in order for anyone to ever find them. Use some established hashtags that fit with your tweet. If you are hoping to get some hits back to your food blog use #food or #burgers...think of a common term that might you might use if you were searching yourself.
You can find these popular hash tags by using the search box. Type a few words or the beginnings of words and let the auto suggestion thingy give you some ideas.
Word of warning: make sure you look into these hashtags before using them. I once found a popular hashtag I thought would go great with a food post I was tweeting about. #TastyTuesday. Turns out there are many tasty things on Tuesday that are not food...as in mostly porn! Whoops. #hashtagfail
I didn't see that coming! You see the thing is, I was already overusing the hashtag #foodporn and no actual porn came up!? Ah, the naive young tweeter I was.

Using celebs
Throw a celebrity's handle ie @celeb in any tweet. You might get lucky. The celeb (or more likely their PR person) may like what you say, or maybe even like your link, and you'll win the jackpot - A Retweet...but, more often than not, only a handful of dedicated fans will notice your tweet. These are the fans who have a constant search out for any mention of @celeb . I was always surprised at how much attention my shout outs that contained an author's twitter handle would receive. Those tweets would get retweeted, favourited, and even replied too!

You can also try commenting/replying to the tweets by celebs. Again, for the most part only the hardcore fans will see you, but, if the tweet is something relevant you may get some good responses. I once commented on a tweet by the great Canadian William Shatner on the topic of his books. I pasted a link to one of my Shatner book reviews...yes, I will admit to reading William Shatner Star Trek adventures...no shame...and instantly the hits on my blog skyrocketed. I must have gotten at least fifteen! Not bad for one small comment, from a 'nobody' like me, to nobody in particular.

What's Trending
You can attempt to gain some attention by jumping on the latest trend. Twitter will even help you. Follow the topics and hashtags that are listed in that big box beside your feed labelled "TRENDING". Just by throwing in a trending word or hashtag your tweet will have a better chance of being seen. You'll get some random traffic/retweets/favourites...but, I have to tell you, it is not worth it. Keeping up with all of the trends is time consuming and quickly fades, as in here one minute and gone the next - literally. Usually the topics and hashtags are not relevant to whatever link you are trying to push anyway.

On a similar note - trending hashtag games are good traffic getters...but again, tricky to get the right blog post that relates the latest game. However, if you happen to be reviewing a movie and there is a hashtag game going on such as #changeonewordinamovietitle, you may hit the jackpot?

In the end these will not bring long term success, but, they may give you a small victory (as in a hit or two on your blog). You never know, you might strike it big like I did once (yes, I achieved the pot of gold - a celeb retweet), or find some other method of gaining attention.
If you are concerned about your brand image these kind of tweets are easy to delete. If you don't have a huge following nobody will notice. But, if you are getting some loyal groupies, these techniques might make you look a little desperate. Use these techniques at your own risk.