Tuesday, May 22, 2012



I know Bob Probert, not in the literary sense, but in the hockey world. He was big when I was a pre-teen  and followed hockey religiously, even the fighting side. Bob Probert was the ultimate enforcer of the time. Which is why I was a bit surprised to see his name on this book, as the author. Then I saw the fine print, with help from Kristie McLelland Day. Then I though, what kind of story would Bob have to tell. A few fisticuffs tales? Then I remembered, the off ice antics; the suspensions for drugs, the car accidents...maybe there was a bit more of a story here? And, with all the hype recently about the problems these enforcers face (drugs, suicide, brain damage, etc) I thought I'd give the book a try.
Tough Guy was tough - a tough read. The way the book is written feels like a direct transcript from an interview Bob is giving. I'll remind you, Bob was a high school drop out who made his NHL career by punching people out and getting a few whacks to the head himself (every few days for a decade!), hence, the narrative was a little unfocused at times. However, the overall story made up for it.
The book is a chronological account of Bob's life focusing on his hockey career. It starts out sounding like a typical hockey star's beginning - success in the early years, drafted into a junior club, drafted by an NHL team. There was not much difference with Bob, only he was always bigger than the other kids and used his long arms to his advantage in a fight. That, along with some good hands (he put up some pretty good points) made him catch the scout's eye.
Off ice, he was not as successful in school, and liked to party...a lot. He dropped out of high school, not that he attended much anyway, and spent his time playing hockey and drinking with buddies. That's pretty much how he spends the next twenty years of his life.
The main chunk of the book are stories of incidents Bob has with drugs and drinking. Things like, car accidents while drunk driving, the use of drugs, the suspensions from hockey for drug use, the countless rehab visits, and a few of the sober moments. The hockey stories take a backseat. He recounts the many players he was teammates with (mostly the ones he partied with), the successes he had in the peak years, and a few of the more interesting fights he had.
He ends it with the last part of his life, where he has sobered up and put time and effort into his family.

It was like a journey back to the 'glory years' for both Bob and me. He played at a time where I knew all the players. So, his name dropping was like candy to me - Yzerman, Gilmour, Gretzky, Federov...
The game has changed dramatically since then. Fighting is not as encouraged now as it used to be. Drug use now is almost unheard of and those that do get some major 'help'. Probert comments on the players now, how they are so much faster and bigger. There would be little chance of someone with mediocre talent, even with some big fists, to make it into the league today. It was interesting to get a behind the scenes look into this game...I wonder if they still party as hard now as they used to.

Rating: Read

Monday, May 14, 2012


The Portable Door

- Tom Holt -

I've never read a Tom Holt before, but, I after reading this one I would try another.
This one had an interesting mix of office humour, fantasy, light hearted romance...a mixed bag you might say? The highlights include a door, a stapler, piles of spreadsheets, and sexually aggressive goblins.
I have a feeling I've lost a few of you already.
The overall story is vast. Very vast. It starts out with Paul attempting to get a job as a clerk at some 'business' called Wells & Co. He doesn't really want the job, but, applies anyway. The opening scene of the waiting room and the job interview were hilarious. Being in a corporate job environment myself I could relate easily to the whole process and all of the small office jokes. Against all odds, Paul gets the job. The office jokes continue, but, with decreasing flare. A strong story cocktail of romance and mystery soon take over the book. It is still light and at some points very humorous, but, I found the atmosphere got a bit more serious. Which was fine because the story was interesting. The mystery was trying to figure out what exactly this company does. The romantic plot involved Paul and another new trainee who is hired at the same time. It's ok, and doesn't take over the book, which suits me fine. The two story lines play off one another great, allowing the reading to get deeper into the mystery of this company.
Then all of the sudden the story turns wacky. It goes from 'normal' office life to a fantasy realm full of magic and goblins in a matter of a few pages. The story continues building in the fantasy theme, which explains much of the previous mystery surrounding the business, and gets even deeper. The next few hundred pages open up a fantastic new story with the portable door (as per the novel's title), the sexually aggresive goblin (as I mentioned earlier), and the stapler.
The dramatic change in story, setting, and plot were done without a hitch. I have to say Holt appears to be a wizard at merging reality with fantasy. I've read a few other books that have attempted to do this - take a 'real life' setting and input fantasy, but, try to keep it grounded in reality. It rarely works well. In The Portable Door I did find the characters to be kind of, um, unbelievable in their ignorance. There was clue after clue pointing towards the fantasy side of the story, but, the characters were just not putting it together! They kept ignoring the obvious...past a point where it seemed believable. At least to me. However, overall it was well done.

Rating: Read

*For all those Trekkies, there are Star Trek jokes in there.

Murder On The Orient Express


What a nice mystery.
I've heard this book (and mystery sub-genre...yes, there are many of them) referred to as a 'cozy' mystery. Ah, a nice, gentle, fuzzy, cozy little mystery you read whilsts sipping earl grey tea in an overly stuffed wingbacked chair with a patchwork afghan on your lap. That does not sound manly to me...Although I may have been drinking tea while reading this, it was strong with no sugar or milk, I would never be caught reading a 'cozy' mystery in a plush wingback! No sir!
Therefore, I'm calling this book a 'classic' mystery.
Going through all this effort shows how much I enjoyed this book. Because I would like to chat with others about it and I need a manly way of describing it. I cannot go around saying I like cozy little mysteries...I've had a similar problem talking about my chick-lit secret. We won't go there right now.
What I liked about this book was how simple it was. I've found the modern mysteries I've read in the past few years are full of horrific detailed murders, overly scientific explanations (relying on DNA etc), and hard crude detectives. Murder on the Orient express had a murder, a twelve hole stabbing, but it seemed almost quaint the way it was briefly described. The clues were also simple; a handkerchief, a few matches, part of a burnt letter...isn't that cute? The detective, H. Poirot, was a logical, unemotional, smart guy...not a hard drinking detective with a chip on his shoulder. All these things made for a really easy and enjoyable read. Cozy, if you must.
The story is pretty contrived, a train carriage stuck in the snow in the middle of nowhere so nobody can get away. All of the passengers are potential suspects. This takes away any real 'action', there are no gun fights or chases down dark alleys. Mostly it's Poirot sitting in the dining car questioning everyone. Even though that sounds mindnumbingly boring it's not. There are enough clues given away that it keeps you mind working. You find yourself trying to piece together everything, but, lacking that one thing that ties it all together. Well, in the CLASSIC manner, that one essential clue is given right at the end by Poirot.
I won't give away the exact ending, I will say I was surprised by Poirot's reaction. He solves the case, then let's the criminal (or criminals) get away. It was like he was treating the entire investigation as a game, or an entertaining distraction while stuck in the snow bank?
I did like Poirot as a character. I would read another mystery with him as the detective.

Rating: Read


The Ashes of Eden

Shatner seems to be great at everything eh? A famous actor, apparently a musician, a producer, and (I'll attest to this) a decent writer. Oh, those crazy Canadians.
I took this book out of the library, mostly because I was looking for an easy read and Star Trek books usually meet that requirement. I'd compare them to the Western or the Harlequin Romance of the Sci-Fi section. This book seemed no different from the rest of this niche genre when I started it, you had what looked like a fairly straight forward Star Trek plot. By that, I mean Kirk falls for a breathtakingly beautiful alien being (in a tight jumpsuit), he almost gets killed yet manages to take on a couple of much stronger beings with lasers, then accepts a near impossible mission. Doesn't seem that hard to write eh?
But, there are a few twists which Shatner works into the book to create some wonderful mystery and suspense. You think it's a going to be one of those standard template stories where you know who is the enemy, who is going to die, what the mission is, and therefore, how it's going to end. Well, don't count on those things in this book.
The first deviation in this book is the initial setting. It's placed at a time when the original crew (Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, etc) are getting to retirement age. Kirk is not an active captain, not working on a ship, not doing anything worthwhile which makes him feel useless. He's depressed, even slightly desperate, and looking for an out. Being the famous Capt Kirk, trouble comes looking for him. When offered a chance to live an everlasting life with a hottie alien he jumps on board...the Enterprise.
Yes, I said, Enterprise! It's been recommissioned with the help of the new love of Kirk's life.
On the other side, a thorn in Kirk's side (some rival from the early days) is promoted to Admiral in charge of all Star Fleet. Of course, this rival has been planning on taking out Kirk for about thirty years, so, when his chance comes he goes for Kirk - his reputation, his former crew, and his life.
Loyalties are tested, motivations are questioned, the fate of the Federation is at stake...so, again, your typical Star Trek plot.
I'll leave out the ending, but, you can probably guess Kirk prevails.

I was not a big fan of the original Star Trek, I've only watched a handful of episodes. I was more of a TNG and Voyageur fan. But, the writing of this book was so good I did not feel I was grasping for character recognition. I got the gist of who Bones was or Chenkov, even though I don't know them as well as a Riker or a Worf. Shatner surprised me in how well the story flowed, how well the words flowed. There was no awkward phrasing or anything glaring bad writer.

Rating: Read

*Today on the radio there was a story about a comic book convention. Shatner was to appear and give autographs. The catch - fans had to pay $75 for the privilege of a ten second conversation and a signed photo! The impress factor dipped drastically after hearing that!