Tuesday, May 21, 2013


A story of life, sex, love and death in the kitchen

Thank goodness Sheehan acknowledged his writing is very similar to Anthony Bourdain (whom I've read a lot of), because at first it comes off like he is just riding the coattails of Bourdain and doing a little copy cat plagiarism type stuff. But, as you read through this book Sheehan's narrative and writing style soon become strikingly different. I can't help but compare this book to Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. They are both brash, cuss filled, memoirs of kitchen life that highlight the worst possible things that happen behind the scenes of a restaurant. Similar topics include disgusting food handling, drug/alcohol addiction, workplace violence, harsh work conditions, injuries, and just the terrible lifestyle choices that seem to be common place in every kitchen. Even though the topics are almost identical Sheehan's writing is much more personal. He gives us a glimpse into his soul; raw emotions, motivations, passions, and vivid descriptions of his deepest thoughts. He clearly articulated his highest ups and his lowest lows, which I found extremely interesting. His lifestyle, and it appears the lifestyle of almost all cooks, is so far removed from my 9-5 suburban family man life that it is hard to imagine, yet, intriguing to read about. Sheehan explains it all in such a fun and insightful way. Sometimes he is sarcastic and pokes fun at the crazy life he lived, and sometimes he is serious and lays out some heavy stuff. Both styles made me want to keep reading.
Sheehan takes us from the beginning where he stumbled into a dishwasher job, worked his way through the ranks, failed time and time again, then finally burnt out and moved onto food writing. He lets us in the backdoor the restaurant and shows us the strange world that few know about. He writes about the pirate mentality of the kitchen, the comparisons to war and the battlegrounds, the machoism, and the insular world of restaurant workers. He brings up the paradox of how when he was cooking he was so passionate and alive, yet at the same time despised the toll it was taking on his life. Once you get caught up in the work there is no other life outside the kitchen. I found it a bit surprising, and sad, that for a decade or more Sheehan seemed to have only dysfunctional relationships with everything and everyone (his job, his girlfriends, his family) due to the demands and lifestyle of a cook.
Finishing up this book I'm left with a greater insight (and respect) for those who work the grills and fryers of every restaurant. How it does take a different sort of character to work the odd hours and every holiday that most of us take for granted. It also leaves me with a guilty feeling that I do not want my children going into the 'food services' industry and be caught up in the strange (and very unhealthy) lifestyle that seems to go along with it. However, I would encourage them to read about it and would even buy them this book.


*Must read non-fiction book and Read before you die rating as well. In other words, I really really liked this book and you should too!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


(Discworld #14)

As per the author's note - this book builds off of a previous Discworld 'witches' book (Witches Abroad). I believe if you can pick up on the small carry over of Magrat being tentatively engaged to King Verence you have no worries about being lost, other than the usual feelings of being lost when you immerse yourself in Pratchett's Discworld.
The whole love and marriage theme continued through this novel, extending its claws into all of the witches. Nanny Ogg, no surprise (as evidenced by her four or five previous husbands). BUT, even Granny fell prey to love, even if it was just for a few brief moments. And, although it may sound like a cuddly, soft, lovey-dovey tale, it was in fact one of the crudest books to date - b/c along with marriage comes the wedding night! 
I swear, if I read another variant of the naive bride and groom's wedding night...I'll...most likely laugh. However, on top of that (forgive the pun) there are jokes about the unicorn (and the size of his horn), the long man hill, books on marital...er, martial arts, and the culturally insignificant stick and bucket dance (not to be performed in the company of the fairer sex).
Pratchett managed to tie these varied subjects (along with string theory) in with the plot of grinning elves attempting to take over the world. After reading this book you will never look at elves the same again. What's behind that constant grin anyway?
Granny and the girls, along with help from some Wizards (and the Librarian) do end up wiping the smirk off the face of the elves in a very exciting finish. Every then lives happily ever after, or so it seems.
I was actually a bit surprised by the depth of character development in this book. There was the usual one liners and non-sequitur conversations that are light and funny, but, there was also a lot of background brought up about the witches younger life. I especially found Granny's love life history, her decision to become a witch, and her true feeling about Magrat, very revealing and interesting. To me, it really gave her character a lot more depth that was missing from previous books. This character building does mean that every line is not a funny, not some cute play on words, or a pun filled paradox, like most of the other Discworld books have been. However, it did seem a bit more rewarding to read this, number 14, than many of the others before it.
My one complain is not about the writing, but, about technology. I read an ebook format which removed the footnotes from the bottom of the page and filed them away in the back. I guess the idea is that you can push on the footnote number and hyperlink your way back to the footnote. Great idea. Who wants to read the footnotes in a book anyway? Well, I do! Especially in these books! They add an extra layer of humour and sometimes it is the funniest thing on a page! The problem - the hyperlinking doodad did not work on my reader, therefore, I couldn't conveniently read any of the footnotes (until I was finished the book if you want to be technical). On top of that, the battery ran out, it froze, the screen had a layer of jam on it from my kid's sticky fingers playing with 'Daddy's Toy' which they know not to touch, and the formatting of the breaks made reading conversations hard...and this is the future of books? I love technology.


Saturday, May 11, 2013



I had been meaning to read Scalzi for awhile now. From all of the praise I had heard about him I thought his writing style would be an ideal match for my reading, er, style. And, it turned out to be about 5/8 on. I did enjoy some of the tounge-in-cheek comments sprinkled throughout the book. I liked the satirical takes on politics. I liked the futuristic ideas he made up. I ended up liking the serious action scenes.
Oh so many things on the 'like' side.
Any check marks on the 'dislike' side. Yes. The actual story.

I ended up filing this one away under my 'did not meet expectations' folder. I found the story a bit too confusing, mostly b/c there were a lot of similar characters. We had some FBI, we had some Dept of Defense, we had some White House folk...essentially they all played the same role (face of Earth's government) and they all had generic names like Phillip or Robert. I could not keep them straight.

I do have to say that Scalzi did a pretty good job at 'world building', creating a whole universe of alien creatures and a new kind of planetary UN system. That was the highlight of the book for me.
The humour was there but, for me, was lacking. When it did come up it was a lot of tongue-in-cheek type stuff that was...subtle...weak...not all that funny. For eg. the plot revolves around a race of aliens that can communicate by scent. They become offended by one character who has a fart machine installed into his body which lets out gas that conveys insulting messages to these aliens. Haha, a smart body function joke. Then we have a scene in a mall where bodies are smashing through windows with, wait for it, signs that super Nike shoes are 33% off. Again, funny and subtle.

However, for most of the book I just felt lost. I could not follow the characters, I wasn't laughing (that much or that hard), and the overall plot did not interest me. I would say, it is a smart sci-fi book with a dive into DNA and artificial intelligence, but, was overall a lackluster novel for me.

Perhaps, if I try Scalzi again, I will go with his much hyped (and award winning) Old Man's War, instead of just randomly grabbing any of his titles off the library rack.