Wednesday, September 26, 2012



If even a drop of the claims Michael makes in this book are true, then my farthest flung cynical thoughts on the US are also true. Furthest flung thoughts I will stress. These are the unbelievable conspiracy theories you hear about every once in a blue moon from distant left field that sound too awful to be true. The best one: that George W. started the war in Iraq and Afghanistan to make some money on an oil pipeline or two. Imagine, one guy having that power and motivation to start a war or two for a few all mighty bucks? From the way Moore tells it, that is more or less what happened. He backs up his claim with fact after fact, and by bringing forth all of the questionable relationships Bush and his companies had with say, the Osamas? He is a master at highlighting all the hypocracy that comes up with Bush or the US government. I have to say, I would not want to be the opponent of Moore on any level of a debate. He makes a case, and he makes it sound so convincing.
This book is more or less a critical look at how George W. Bush and his government reacted after the September 11th attacks. For me, it was an eye opener. From my vantage point, being a Canadian University student, I was from another country and at a point in my life where I was so self consumed I barely recognized the scale of the events that took place. All I really remember was thinking, 'oh crud, this tighter security means I'm going to have to get a passport to get into the US to do some shopping'. This book quickly gave me a rundown of the patriot act and how the laws and rights of people were dramatically changed from a free open democracy to a secretive big brother type deal.
From there the conspiracy theories start racking up. They range from Bush starting a war for his oil pipeline deal, the news media being highjacked by right wing money, international bribery and coersion, big corporations continuing to feed citizens fear to keep the money rolling in...and on and on.
Michael brings outstanding arguments to prove his theories and after hearing them all I wholeheartedly believed him. But, then, realizing if I did believe him, the entire world would be so f*&4 up that there would really no point in believing in anything anymore; from any politician and any mainstream news company. This book is scarier than anything in the horror section.
Then to top it off, he continued for a few more chapters, drilling home how terrible the 'right' / repulican's ideas are for the country and how they get away with it all.
By the time he was through I was thinking, 'Dude, where is your country?' From Moore's perspective the US has been hijacked by a small minority of fear mongering fat cats who are brainwashing the proles into following their every word...there was an eerie moment when he quoted 1984 and every word sounded like a fact. Scary.
Luckily, I'm a border away, with universal health care, a decent minimum wage, and...a similar right leaning leader (uh, oh).
I have to say the writing style was grade A. Very easy to read and get into. It was set up nicely, asking question after question to really bring home the hypocracey points. I could feel my blood pressure spiking with each question posed, as I'm sure Moore intended. I also loved the humour he laced throughout the book - that sarcastic witty, sometimes absurd comedy, that I personally think is hilarious.
I want him to look into our country next. See what he can dig up on Harper?


I listed to this on audiobook. I kind of wished Michael had voiced this one himself. I think it would have made the book a bit more enjoyable if you could hear Michael getting worked up.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012



I made the mistake of starting this series with this book - book 11 as it turns out. I didn't realize this at the time of purchase. All I saw was this book in the bargain bin at the bookstore with an attractive $2 sticker on it! Even though it was book 11, I did not get too lost in the story, even with the 101 references to previous books in the series. Butcher does a great job of explaining all the unique little things that make this 'world' different, like the supernatural beings, the magic spells, the White Council, etc. I'm sure I would have had a much better understanding of the nuances if I'd read the previous 11 books, but, I did not feel I was out to lunch.

This was a book that was easy to get into. What I really liked was the fantasy aspect, with the magic fights and the strange magical community. The 'urban fantasy' twist was interesting too - a wizard doing magical things in modern day Chicago - even though these things always strike me as being too unrealistic. The story was one of those old style sleuth mysteries, I was waiting for gangsters in Dick Tracy style fedoras to pop into a scene. However, that kind of story combined with the relaxed writing style blended perfectly. I got the feeling the protagonist Dresden even realized his life sounded ridiculous. He jokes that his half brother is a Vampire, his friends are Werewolves, and he has Wizards knocking on his door in the middle of the night! 

In this story, Dresden's arch enemy / rival wizard comes knocking on his door looking for a safe place to hide out. This wizard claims that he is being framed for the murder of some other well know important senior committee type wizard...and he only has 48 hours before his super powerful hiding protective spell wears off and he will be found! Even though helping out a suspected criminal wizard like this could mean death Dresden is on the case, trying to solve this mystery before he runs out of time.

For my first taste of Butcher, I found his writing entertaining and quirky. He has created a bunch of interesting characters who I feel would fit well into a series like this. I think you would come to love them after reading the previous 11 books.
The story felt well constructed and moved along at a good pace, I think the deadline helped give it that sense of urgency that made you want to keep reading. The magical world Butcher created, alongside modern day Chicago, was done very well. It was interesting, creative, and actually did seem like it could exist (which I find is sometimes a problem with urban fantasy).

I have to admit, I did not finish this book. Oh, the shame! But, aren't you really thinking, finally, one of those...secrets nobody talks about, like reading Fifty Shades. I would say this fits into a distinct club. There are not many books I pick up, read one hundred twelve pages, then decide to pass on to other unsuspecting friends or a charity shops. But, this is one of those lucky two or three in a year.

After about halfway through the novel I just lost interest. It was not just one thing, but, a variety of things. The story kind of felt drawn out and repetitive, but, it was probably just that mid novel flatlands you sometimes have to suffer through to get to a fantastic ending. Also, I had no connection to this series, which if you are a series reader will know, leads one to read bad or mediocre books just because they are part of your favourite series. And, lastly, because I have a stack of other books that have that appeal of mystery - not mystery genre, but, the potential to be better than this current book.

Rating: READ *

*Would recommend you read the other Dresden Files books first.

Monday, September 24, 2012



Bits. That is what this book is made of - Bits. Not entrails or chicken toes. Not those kind of bits. Just bits of writing. A short account of eating a seal. A page or two on where Chefs and other kitchen staff drink after hours. A few paragraphs about other books by cooks. A rather short travel log about cooking on a cruise ship. Just bits like that.
I did not find this collection much different than Kitchen Confidential or Medium Raw. Yes, Kitchen Confidential had a storyline, but, it was mostly made up of bits like this. No argument that the stories were longer and much deeper, but, in the end they were seperate stories thrown together in one book to give you a glimpse into the world of cooking. Nasty Bits is similar, it is just missing a destination.
Overall, it had that same cuss filled opinionated writing about food and food culture that I was expecting from Bourdain...and secretly craving. I'm still looking for a author who can outdo Anthony in this little niche of the literary scene. The niche I'm referring to is the attitude filled, overly profane, insult ridden, darkly humorous, yet easily readable food and/or food related (including Cookbooks) books. As of yet, I have not found anyone that can best him. But, if you know of someone please instant message me asap.

A lot of reviewers of this book seem to get a really worked up over the structure. I read complaint after complaint about how this book is hard to get into because it's choppy, disjointed...blah blah. Hello?! It implies right on the front that this book is made up of scraps, bits, etc. The preface has Bourdain explaining that he has assembled a collection of articles he wrote for magazines, bits (again with the bits) that did not make it into his other books, and a small work of fiction. Did these reviewers just forget to read the preface. First rule in book reading - Read the Preface! Skip the table of contents, but, don't ever skip the Preface.

My only complain, the same one I had with Medium Raw, is Bourdain's preoccupation with insulting the 'celebrity chef'. Come on, the Bobby Flay or Jaime Oliver bashing gets really old after a dozen go-rounds.


*First read the Preface!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012



Bill takes a trip down under and decides to share it with us. 

Guess I'd better write back.


So, you finally made it 'down under', to the place where the toilets swirl the 'wrong' way? 
I really enjoyed your picturesque descriptions of the landscape, the water, the parks, and all of the cities and towns you visited in Australia. I thought your attempts at humour were pretty good, for the most part. I didn't actually laugh out loud, but, I would smile sometimes. I was getting worried near the end, it sounded like you were getting a bit worn out and grumpy. If fact, you sounded pretty rude - bordering on jackass - on that day in Darwin! Usually, you are pretty upbeat and positive. Did something happen, something you are not telling us about? Did you just long for the good ol' USA?
I noticed many of your comparisons were American references. Luckily, I knew who Lewis & Clark were. Sorry, you didn't understand the whole parliamentary political system. Or, the whole colonial thing. But, I really don't think there is anything wrong with Australians still wanting to be connected to Great Britain. You don't have to berate them for not wanting to be a 'real' country. Us Canadian's are like that. We like having a Queen. It's just for traditional sake anyway.
Along with that, just wondering why you commented on the Australians being 'self consumed' just for having a section in the used bookstore called Australiana. Oh Bill, I've been to your country, and let me tell you, if one country is self consumed it's you guys.
I'm sure you were just having a bad day. Or were you lonely? It didn't sound like you made any new friends, or even talked to more than half a dozen people. Before you left, I thought you said you were going to get a real feel for the country and the people...what happened to the people part? I told you, you've gotta take me next time. I'll talk to people and get the real scoop on the country. I bet your head was probably just stuck in one your books again. All that reading sure paid off eh? I know more about Australian history and geography than one needs to know in a lifetime thanks to you. You do a good job of explaining it too. Perhaps you'd consider a teaching job at the local college instead of this writing thing. You'd be great at it! Trust me.
Oh, I heard you baseball team is doing good this year. Didn't take up cricket yet (haha)? I'm going to have to have a debate with you next time we get together about that; you really think baseball is more exciting than cricket? They are almost the same pace when compared to hockey!
Hey, what was up with your lack of writing on the Aborigines? You snuck in a few teasers about how they have a long long long and rich history, and how there were tons of modern day problems. Now, I'm no editor but, those sounded like they'd make for some great reading.
Um, not meaning to sound too frank (or rude in any way), and I'm hoping this comes across as constructive criticism for your next international travel book. The whole tone of this book made you sound like the stereotypical 'American' tourist. You know what I mean? Where anything not like America is somehow inferior. You just made way too many comments about Australia being backwards or outdated 'like 1950's America'. I found the only genuine sounding comment you made about the people was when you said something along the lines of how they walk in a casual, yet confident way, like Americans. Anyway, you know being Canadian I have an inferiority complex with you guys, so I'm probably blowing this thing out of proportion. Sorry.
I would enjoy hearing more of your travels. I understand you have another account of your trip through the Appalachian mountains. Sounds like a blast.
Well, the wife and kids are good. Planning a trip to Disney next winter, I'll send you my review of it, let you criticize the heck out of it ;)

Sincerely, Bookworm Smith

**I listened to this audiobook. It was read by Bill Bryson himself.

Monday, September 17, 2012



Ok, I didn't actually 'read' this book. I listened to it. Yep, my first audiobook experience, and I'm am still amazed at the guy who read me the book. He rambled on for 11 hours without once making a mistake, taking a sip of water, coughing, clearing his throat, falling asleep, sneezing...nothing. I barely make it through a chapter of Easy Read Level 1 while reading to my daughter at night without a couple of mistakes, a dry cough or two, and on some nights a thirty second nap.

Back to my audio experience: I've been listening to 'talk' radio for years now. I've flipped and flopped between bbcworldservice (for international news with a British twist) and cbcradio (for that Canadian experience). I'm accustomed to listening to informative documentaries while I type away doing 'work'. Listening to WikiLeaks was similar, just on a much bigger scale. Typical radio documentaries are only ten minutes, maybe fifteen at the most. WikiLeaks, by comparison, was 11 hours long! And, it was so good I was disappointed when it ended. Not only because it was interesting, but, because I was not expecting the end to come on disc 8. There are 10 discs in the container. The last two are readings of the appendix! Some appendix eh?!

The story was part Assange biography, part hacker handbook, and part open source manifesto.
If you have not paid any attention to international media in the past few years you may not have heard about all the drama surrounding WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. Quick summary: Assange was a computer hacker who wanted to bring more openness to the world. His heroic idea would bring about public information actually being public. No more hidden government memos showing corruptions scandals. No more covered up human rights violations..stuff like that. He ended up creating the 'whistleblowing' website WikiLeaks. Some notable highlights include a trove of reports and videos from both the (second) Iraq war and the Afghanistan war, confirming torture and civilian killings...stuff like that. The peak is when the site gains access to a million US diplomatic memos, letters, reports, etc from all of the US embassies across the world. Most of the reports are just embarrassing stuff, like Diplomats making unflattering remarks about some dictator or some country's president. But, there were also more serious things on security, economies, China...stuff like that.
The book takes a look at everything with a microscope. Right from the beginning we are bombarded with wide ranging fact. Facts about Assange, his childhood, his Mother, his Father, the communities he lived was obvious the writers were very in depth reporters...but, this kind of all encompassing fact gathering mission worked well as the story progressed. Everything about Wikileaks was very complicated. You needed to know a bit about computer hacking culture, how encryption worked, how the US military stored information, a bit about international law, how internet servers worked, the politics of the Iraq war...a huge hodgepodge of things. That is why 11 hours did not seem to be enough time to leave me feeling satisfied that I knew the entire story.
I thought I had a general idea of the Wikileaks scandal from random news reports I'd heard over the past year or two. I knew that Assange was, right now, holed up in the Guatemalan or Ecuadorian embassy in the UK, still fighting extradition charges from the accused rape charges. But, as it turns out, I did not know 1/100th of the story. This book really brought it all together, made the whole Assange and Wikileaks connection make sense. Made the conspiracy theories about the US wanting to extradite Assange and lock him up in Cuba actually believable. After reading this book I feel like an educated world citizen, with a valid opinion on this headlining news story. What a great feeling.

I did really enjoy listening to this book, however, I think it might have been a little easier to follow all the technical explanations and short form codes if I were reading the book. There is a lot of jargon; a lot of explanations on how hackers can use FTP portals and PFP encryption. There were a lot of shortforms used for people, places, file names. It got a bit overwhelming, especially since I was multitasking.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012



The strange, mystic, and ancient powers of the pyramids are examined in this book. Through the lives of a king, an assassin, and a concubine, a tale is built that rises to a peak, as pyramids do, with the help of You Bastard (the camel who spits with pinpoint accuracy at moving targets).
Watch your backs seagulls!
Pratchett even manages to bring in the concept of pi, yet, it has slipped my mind what kind. Blueberry? Bumbleberry?
If concubine and bumbleberry were not big enough hints, this book was another blithesome work of literature by the always funny TP (for short). Another parody of a genuine scientifical myth - this time the pyramids, egypt-ology, and mummies - done up with a bow (oversized and polka dotted, Pratchett style).

However, for me at least, this book had an almost 'grown up' feel to it. The two or three different story lines starting miles apart come together at a peak. Which I found to be a slightly different style of writing than some of the previous discworlds. It felt more, mature? I also found this with the characters. They were not as extreme and memorable, they were almost inching towards middle aged and grounded. No Cohen the barbarian, no Rincewind, no Flowerface (or whatever that tourist's name was).
I'd say read this book if you are going through the Discworld series because the camel is well worth it. But, if you plan on reading just one Discworld book in your life, there are better ones.


Bookclub Questions:

1) Teppic - Strong enough to be the 'main' character?
2) Share a seagull story
3) The assassins claim to be good for society and mankind. Can you think of other comparable occupations that claim to be good for society?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


(Writing tips from a naive writer)


So, don't quote me, but, to be a good writer one must have an extensive vocabulary (or vocab in slang). Knowing obscure words not only makes you sound smart, but, they can be useful in describing...things.

Want to know what I do to expand my vocab? Read the dictionary. Sure, just put one on your bedside stand or near the toilet, depending on where you get most of your reading done, and refer to it often. Even if you just peruse a page every once in a blue moon you will inevitably run across weird words that may at some point be useful. Words like; higgledy-piggledy, higgle, hie, herpes, heroin, hernia...those were all from one page!

If it doesn't help your writing it should at least help your Scrabble and/or Boggle score...remember 'hie' next time (if anyone asks it means 'betake oneself', which needs a definition on its own).