Wednesday, November 4, 2015



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



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.


Thursday, July 2, 2015



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 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 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.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015



The Book - and a tea...not punk rock at all!

Kim Gordon, from Sonic Youth! Remember them? Remember her? She has a book out!

I loved Sonic Youth in my teens. It was the 90's. The heyday of Grunge, Punk, Alternative music. Sonic Youth was one of the bands caught up in the scene...but, they were different. Some people called their sound 'noise'. Others called it 'art'. I just thought it was cool b/c it was different. I felt cool for liking something 'different'. Also, the cassettes (yes, you could still buy cassettes in the mid 90's) were cheap. Every magazine article I read on Sonic Youth made them sound even cooler - they labelled themselves 'independent', they didn't care if their music was 'commercial', a couple of the band members were married (Kim Gordan & Thruston Moore), they experimented on their guitars to make interesting noises (taking a drills to them, or looping back the distortion to create an endless feedback loop - which really just sounds like a dying squirrel). This was all perfect fodder for a rebelling teenage mind like mine.
When I started playing guitar and making my own music I pictured myself as the next Sonic Youth (even insisting on calling our band Sonic Goo). When I listen back on the stuff I recorded it is full of feedback, distortion, and 'noise'...a Sonic Youth copycat if I ever heard one.
So, almost 20 years later when I hear Kim has a memoir out I got excited. I rushed down to the library and put a copy on reserve. I was #2 on the list - they didn't even have the book in yet! That meant I had time to get out the one old Sonic Youth CD I had left and revisit the noise. Ahh, it was awesome.
The much anticipated book was awesome as well. Not for the music reminiscing, but, for all the other stuff I didn't know about! Turns out I was a very ignorant fan of Sonic Youth and Kim Gordon.
Kim starts the book recalling one of her worst days ever. A recent reunion concert of Sonic Youth. Why was it so bad? Turns out she had to perform with Thurston Moore...who is now her ex-husband! I had no idea they were divorced. I had this vision of them being the ideal rock and roll couple. They were in the same band, making music together, they bought a house in the country where they rock out all the time. Well, it turns out their marriage was not so great. It sounds like they were very disconnected and had different life goals and values. It ended when Thurston cheated on Kim. Ouch. How did I miss this story?
As I read through this book I realized I knew absolutely nothing about Kim Gordon. I didn't realize how deep into the art scene she was, or that she was even an artist for that matter. I only knew the music side of her - the punky rock chick who played a mean bass! Turns out she doesn't even consider herself a musician.
I kept turning page after page learning more and more about Kim, completely changing my impression of her. It was an addictive read.
My only criticism of the book is the writing in the middle section. This could actually be considered more of an editing problem. Around the middle of the book Kim talks about the different albums Sonic Youth released - a chapter an album. It felt a bit repetitive, and especially when the phrase, 'at that point...' kept coming up. You'd think an editor would have caught that too?
My small critique shouldn't stop you from rushing out and grabbing a copy though. Gordon's writing is honest, raw, passionate (all those buzzwords) and interesting to read. All you Sonic Youth fans that are now in your 30s and 40s now, come on, relive your youth a bit!


Monday, March 9, 2015



Found this vintage book at the local Bibles for Missions store. I believe it was only $1...which, since it was originally only $.75 means it has increased in value about 30% in the past 30 years. Maybe these old paperback westerns are a good investment opportunity?
Tenderfoot has a blurb on the front cover describing itself - Red Anthony had the lazy look of a tenderfoot and the lighting draw of a devil.
My invented blurb - Red Anthony is a naive newbie on the Western frontier. Although, he may appear to be a no-brained dunce he is in fact a smart, fearless, fast drawin' gunslinger who takes no time at all to unseat a long time bully of a two saloon town.
The story is a take on the classic unlikely-hero-saves-town-from-tough-as-nails-outlaw. Anthony is the unlikely hero, raised in the circus he picks up many useful skills from knife throwing to horse stunt riding. Great things to know if you ever find yourself in a tight spot with some dusty cowboys about to turn you into pigfeed. He follows a girl, who has stolen his naive young heart, out to Dodge city. His first day searching for her he inadvertently makes a few enemies with the local criminals. His good natured kind heart manages to get him into all kinds of trouble with these fellows. In no time flat they are ganging up to find him and 'shoot him dead'. Unfortunately for these outlaws Anthony does not know the customs of the West, or criminals, so he does some surprising things - like casually walks into the Badguy's hideout and tells off the big boss, he breaks his friend out of the well guarded jail, he makes friends with a band of rebel natives...stuff like that.
The story slowly progresses, as I find Max Brand's writing to do, until the last dozen pages of the book when all of the fast paced action happens. It ends on a cliff hanging moment when Anthony meets Diamond Jack in the final showdown - you don't know what unconventional thing Anthony will do. Will he die? Will he kill? Will he strike a deal? I'll let you find out.
Personally, I found the book lacked much action, save the end. It progressed slowly and predictably. No great literary work, but, for a $.75 paperback what do you expect? The ending saved the book. You are left with your blood racing and a slightly shocked feeling running through you...that's worth the $.75 and the couple of hours put into reading the book. If you are a fan of western books, go ahead and give this one a try. If you are not a western fan, or not sure if you are a western fan...there are better books to read first.


Monday, February 23, 2015


Thanks for the Tip - Confessions of a cynical waiter

I judged this book by its cover - it stood out! On a shelf at the library, surrounded by mundane food related books, it caught my eye. I noticed the quote on the cover from Anthony Bourdain. I thought, if this book is anything like Bourdain's books I'll love it.
It was no Kitchen Confidential, but, the Waiter Rant was ok. It gave me the basics of what I expected - a behind the scenes peek into the life of the wait staff. I learned a lot about what holidays are like to waiters, how not to make and break reservations, and what the minimum level of tipping is required before you are called a bad name. The rest of the book was a mix of stories, highlighting the terrible behavior some customers exhibit. The running theme was that some diners thought themselves superior to the lowly serving staff. The way it was written could have come across as whiny, which most reviewers have commented about, however, I did not view it that way. I saw it as a working mans rant about the world he was throw into. 
If you like memoirs on anything foodie, you'll love this. If you cannot stand books with characters who complain, then do not order this book.


Monday, February 2, 2015



A fast paced read that takes us on a treasure hunt across the world. It's overflowing with action and adventure - a book that lives up to the genre Action/Adventure. But, along with that comes some unbelievable moments. You know? The scene were the bad guys empty their guns and miss with every bullet, while the hero takes one shot that kills three of them. You have to take the good with the bad. In this book there was more good than bad.
A treasure hunting couple stumble upon a WWII German sub hidden in a swamp, while a local antique dealer attempts to sell a broken piece of an old wine bottle. These two events start a whirlwind adventure that takes a treasure hunting couple across the world. It also challenges them to become experts on Napoleon Bonaparte's obscure wine collection in order to solve riddles that lead them to the jackpot pile of spartan gold...sadly, there is no Dragon named Smaug sitting on top of the pile of gold.
This book reminds me of the James Bond collection, which I have been making my way through recently. They both give off the same attitude (if a book can do that?), where the main characters are invincible, have unbelievably good luck, and can solve obscure riddles with impossible ease. This could never happen in real life, but, it makes for some pretty good story lines. I don't know how many times the treasure hunters in this book outwitted the mafia type thugs that were hunting them down. Even in the few hand to hand battles, the smaller treasure hunters managed to win with a well placed judo kick or a spot on hundred yard throw of a brick that smashes into the thugs head while narrowly missing the other treasure hunters face that is only millimeters away. If you are reading this kind of book you have to turn off your logic/reality brain and just go with it. Accept that it is fiction and enjoy the fakeness of it all.
This is the first Cussler book I've read. It was a Christmas present from my daughter, who found it at a special event they have at their school where they can pick up free presents for family members. It is all donated stuff that allows the kids to bring home a surprise present for Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother, whoever. She thought this book looked like other books I read. Good pick by her.


Friday, January 16, 2015



- Alan Dean Foster -

I found this retro book at the Bibles For Missions thrift store. A classic Star Trek, mint condition, written by Alan Dean Foster, and the best part - it was only 50 cents! See why I couldn't resist buying it. Unfortunately, I have to say the highlight of this book was the buying process.
I've read a bunch of Star Trek books and what I like about them is the action - the phaser shooting, the tension of an intergalactic warship standoff, the no named Redshirt who dies a dramatic/outrageous death. This book had very little of that. The main story was a war of words around a negotiating table...boring.
Also, the twist of this book was that during a transporter malfunction some of the crew switch bodies, ie Kirk is in Uhulas body, Sulu in Spocks body etc. Ok idea, except I kept getting the characters mixed up. It was hard to keep track or enjoy the 'normal' behaviour of my favourite characters.
The writing was also bad. A lot of awkward sentences. Choppy. One of those books where you find yourself trying to decipher a sentence every once in awhile. Perhaps the book was rushed. It felt rushed.
Overall, not good. Keep the cover, frame it, stick it in a scrapbook...throw away the rest.

RATING: Do Not Read

Wednesday, January 14, 2015



Bourdain pulled it off again! Another 'Must Read' book I'd recommend to anyone.
The concept is pretty basic - he travels the world in search of the perfect meal. From the refined tables of France to the dirty slums of some hideous sounding Asian country, he really does go everywhere. This is the book version of his TV show - No Reservations. Or, at least the first season. But, as any bookworm knows the book is always better than the movie.
Now, I liked No Reservations (the TV show), but, I really, really, really liked A Cook's Tour. Bourdain gives us the backstory, and the truth behind each episode he filmed. What you see on TV is not really how it happened, or at least how Bourdain felt it happened. He may be smiling to the camera, but, he was often homesick, filled with guilt, or wracked with depression.
This book is great because it is so honest. Bourdain is not a chipper chicken the entire time. If he doesn't like something he'll let you know. On the other hand, if he says the sheep testicles are one of the best things he's tasted - then they probably are.
I also liked that he revealed his true feelings about some of the places: That France did not live up to his childhood memories. That some Japanese delicacies almost made him vomit. That he sometimes felt like a stereotypical bumbling American that would never really be able to understand another culture.
He gave it a good try though. As a tour guide he was good. As a food guide he was excellent. His trip around the world was a true adventure. He didn't always stick to the beaten path. He has a good knack for describing things so well, in a somewhat crude way sometimes. It made for a fun read.


Monday, November 24, 2014


A Memoir on the Craft

This book was not scary.
For all the hype about this best selling 'king' of horror...On Writing did not do much to incite any feelings of fear in me. By the time I was done this book I was feeling unscared (if that is even a word?). On the contrary, I was feeling motivated to take on the immense challenge of writing a novel!
King was very, 'ra ra you can do it', telling the readers that there is nothing to fear in the world of writing - it is in fact boundaryless, ruleless, and sets your mind free. That doesn't sound scary at all. Especially if you follow the writing tips he lays out - write for yourself, get a good editor, and practice practice practice. The only thing missing from the chapter on his personal writing process was a rainbow and a unicorn.
Really, the only part of the book that was the least bit scary was the ending when King gets hit by a van. But, it was not like the van was possessed by the devil, it was driven by some hillbilly guy with a bad driving record. I assumed by the novel's title that King would be eaten by a book he was writing, or it would take over his mind and make him kill the neighbours. But, none of that happened. Instead King wrote about typing away on a card table in the laundry room and being addicted to crack cocaine. Imagine that!
If you are looking for a decent book about writing for a living this would be up your alley. If you are looking for a book about a best selling author going insane, or a possessed book coming alive and driving vans over writers taking walks at dusk along the highway - not in the cards.

Rating: READ