Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Girl's Guide to Starting Your Own Business

I remember buying Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio's The Girl's Guide to Starting Your Own Business years ago, when I had dreams of starting my own Etsy shop (which I never actually did).  That was probably around the same time that I bought The Anti 9 to 5 Guide.

The Girl's Guide to Starting Your Own Business is in many ways similar to The Anti 9 to 5 Guide.  Both deal with forging your own path (although The Girl's Guide to Starting Your Own Business does more, while The Anti 9 to 5 Guide explores different options including flex time and telecommuting), and both books are rather dated (The Girl's Guide to Starting Your Own Business actually reminded me of Will Write for Food in this regard - websites are treated as a new thing, no mention of social media or blogs, and lists of websites that are most likely out of date now).

But unlike The Anti 9 to 5 Guide, I honestly enjoyed reading The Girl's Guide to Starting Your Own Business.  Sure, some chapters were a slog (like the one on technology).  But the majority of the book was full of very helpful advice and interesting stories from (mostly) women entrepreneurs (that's another reason this book reminds me of Will Write for Food I guess). Friedman and Yorio provide an excellent overview of all the different aspects of running your own business, including the people you should have on your small business team (a lawyer and an accountant for sure) complete with the questions to ask them, dealing with tough stuff like hiring and firing employees, why you need a business plan (even if it isn't a formal plan), and common business writing you will need.  The key word here is overview though: if you're looking for an in-depth discussion on these topics, you might want to look at a more focused book.

The one issue I had with the earlier part of the book is that it is American; Friedman and Yorio talk about things like taxes and retirement plans, which were not at all applicable for people from other countries (plus there's a good chance that a lot of that information may be out of date even for Americans since the book is thirteen years old).  But other than that, I thought this was an excellent overview on how to go about starting your own business, particularly for women.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Tyke & Dusty: An Authorized Biography of Two House Cats

A few friends of mine keep giving me hilarious and random cat books for my birthday and other special occasions (that's how I ended up with Rhubarb).  That's how I ended up with Bill MacDonald's Tyke & Dusty: An Authorized Biography of Two House Cats.  Hilariously, Tyke & Dusty is not the first book I read by MacDonald; I picked up Vive Zigoto! Travels Through the South of France with a Lady Journalist and Her Cat many years ago (before I started this blog!) MacDonald was a local author who was very prolific; I believe the local library has around thirty of his books!

Tyke & Dusty goes through the lives of MacDonald's male cats Tyke and Dusty.  He and his wife, Cathy, got Dusty first; they talked MacDonald's aunt into taking the kitten on a trial basis, but after that didn't work out Dusty went to live with MacDonald.  A few months later (MacDonald and Cathy thought he might be lonely and unhappy at the time, though in hindsight they realize this probably wasn't the case), they adopted Tyke.  Where Dusty was a laid back, mellow, and friendly boy, Tyke was a tom cat through and through who was very athletic and liked to pick fights with other cats.

Tyke & Dusty details the lives of these two cats, from living in an apartment, moving to a bungalow, and spending their summers out at Silver Islet.  Their adventures are wildly entertaining and unique to each cat because of their wildly different personalities (and athletic abilities).  Despite running free out at Silver Islet every summer, both boys lived to very respectable ages: Tyke passed away at 16, while Dusty lived to be 20!

MacDonald gives the cats dialogue through the book (he mentions it in his foreword; it is what he believed the cats might have said under the circumstances).  I found most of this was completely unnecessary because MacDonald's writing while describing whatever situation the cats were in made it pretty clear what the cats might be thinking (particularly to anyone who lives with a house cat, who I think is the main audience for this book).  Sure, some of the dialogue he wrote for them was clever, but overall it was rather unnecessary. 

I also found it interesting that MacDonald also notes that he read The Cat Who Came for Christmas by Cleveland Amory.  Within the book, Amory says that he doesn't like how most animal books end with the animal dying, so he ends the book before the animal dies.  Unfortunately MacDonald does not do the same within Tyke & Dusty; he goes right to the end of both their lives (and I cried a lot during the last few chapters).

I wouldn't be opposed to reading more of MacDonald's writing.  From reading Tyke & Dusty (I don't really remember Vive Zigoto!) I quite liked his writing.  :)

As a side note, for some reason I keep pronouncing Tyke as "Ty-kee," even though I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be just "Tyke" (rhyming with "trike" or "bike").

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Will Write for Food

I wanted to write a recipe for an upcoming blog post on another blog.  I realized I had no idea how to write a I read an entire book on food writing!!! lol

I've had Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Restaurant Reciews, Articles, Memoir, Fiction and More... by Dianne Jacob for years now.  I believe I bought it back in university, when I used to wander into the bookstore to see what interesting writing books they were selling (I'm guessing that was around ten years ago or so...).  I'd never really thought about specifically writing about food, so this sounded like an interesting read.  Then it sat on my shelf for years because I don't really write specifically about food all that often.

Will Write for Food goes through quite a few topics in such a short book.  As the subtitle suggests, Jacob looks at restaurant reviewing, writing cookbooks and recipes, food memoirs, other nonfiction books, and fiction. She also has some chapters for getting started, freelancing, and getting your book published.  The book focuses on food writing, so in terms of these more general topics she includes advice and a starting point, then gives suggestions of other books you should read to learn more.  Will Write for Food is also packed full of discussions and advice from other food writers, chefs, and even editors and agents.  I should note that I have the 2005 edition of the book; there's an updated 2015 edition that will be less dated than this one was (I think the 2015 edition includes writing for blogs, which would have been handy for me).

If you want to write about food, this is definitely the book for you.  Jacobs is a teacher who wanted a reference book available for people trying to break into the industry, and her knowledge and passion for the subject clearly shows.  I also really liked how she brought in other expert's perspectives to all of her topics. 

Even if you're not planning on writing about food, learning about how it is done is rather fascinating.  The chapter on restaurant reviewing was particularly eye-opening in explaining how often reviewers must eat out (some even have to schedule their meals into their calendar just to keep track of where they're going!) and the lengths some of them have gone to try to remain anonymous.  I admit I have no interest in such a thing after reading this chapter!!!

I did find the initial chapters to be a bit of a slog though.  I didn't pick this book up to learn about becoming a writer; I was more interested in the nitty-gritty details about actual food writing (and Jacobs discussion of passion made me wonder why I was even reading this book because I'm not particularly passionate about food). But once I got through these chapters I thoroughly enjoyed reading Will Write for Food.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Make Your Own Rules Diet

I saw Tara Stiles' Make Your Own Rules Diet at work as part of a used book sale.  I was intrigued by the title and the little bit of the book that I skimmed through so I decided to get it.  I mean, how does a diet work if you make your own rules? 

According to Stiles, when people diet they are following someone else's rules. She advocates for you getting in touch with your own body and doing what feels right to you.  She does have a caveat though: she wants you to meditate and do yoga so you are active and more in touch with your body.  Stiles is a yoga teacher, so I kind of feel like that might be a big part of her push towards yoga - in a book called Make Your Own Rules Diet, I feel like you should decide on the activity that makes you happy, right?

So anyway, the book is split into a couple of sections.  The first one introduces you to the ideas of making your own rules.  I felt like this was the core of the book but it kind of got the least attention unfortunately.  Stiles shows you what her current rules are and gives you an exercise to look at your day and get ideas from that.  But then that's it, she moves onto other sections and never revisits building your own rules in detail again.

The second section is an introduction to doing yoga, doing meditation, and cooking for yourself in your kitchen.  I thought the introductions for everything were pretty solid.  Part three goes into more detail: Stiles gives you several yoga routines to follow along with, she explains different ways of meditating, then she provides a whole bunch of her favourite vegetarian recipes. The final part gives you a seven day plan to follow and a thirty day plan, in case you aren't quite ready to start making your own rules.

I will say that I enjoyed reading the book.  Stiles was fun and inspiring; she always has your best interests in heart (which is to reconnect with yourself and do what you need to do).  But for a book titles Make Your Own Rules Diet, it kind of felt like a misnomer because there were a fair amount of rules, both spoken and unspoken, in the book (meditate, do yoga, and eat vegetarian - all the recipes were vegetarian).  That being said, I thought it was overall an inspiring book to read (and I will give some of her recipes a try, even though I'm not a fan of spice the way she is)!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

I, Death

My brother gave me his copy of Mark Leslie's I, Death.  It sounded interesting enough, so I decided to give it a read after finishing Rhubarb.

I, Death is the story of Peter O'Mallick.  O'Mallick is a teen who has been surrounded by death his entire life.  His guidance counselor suggested Peter write about his experiences as a way to get through them all, so Peter starts a blog (which is the majority of the book).  Peter documents his daily life and his attempts to get over his girlfriend Sarah cutting him out of her life.  And slowly the bodies pile up around him.  Peter becomes increasingly convinced that there's a death curse around him.  And what's more, he's right.

The first part of the book is written in blog posts, complete with people commenting.  People on the internet find Peter's story (pretty much right away too, which is rather impressive for a blog) and try to cheer Peter on and give him advice.  Unfortunately Peter scorns a lot of the advice, especially when people disapprove of his stalking of Sarah (he literally sits in his uncle's car down the street from her house at one point). When one of those commenters, who Peter takes exception to, winds up dead, Peter starts believing more and more that he is killing the people in his life that he gets angry with. The first part of the book ends with him realizing that people die when they look into his eyes (which doesn't explain how the internet guy dies, but I digress) and, after accidentally killing his aunt and uncle, Peter attempts to kill himself by staring into a mirror.

Parts two and three are written as a traditional narrative, rather than a series of blog posts.  Part two details the life of a gang leader who discovered Peter and plots to use Peter's powers to his own advantage.  He just needs to figure out a way to use Peter without getting killed by Peter's powers.  Then part three has Peter under his control, killing people while thinking that his mentor is benevolent.  But it all falls apart when he discovers Sarah is still alive.

I found part three really, really abrupt in its telling.  This was especially true when it came to Sarah: I wanted to get more of Sarah's side of the story, but that was pretty much all told in the epilogue.  But even besides that, Peter's adventures with his new mentor still felt like they were being narrated through the blog posts, rather than actually being shown.  This part of the book was rather disappointing.

I also had a really hard time caring about Peter.  For the first half of the book, I did kind of feel for him: he was hurting because the love of his life broke up with him.  But then he became a stalker (and was getting mad at anyone who tried to talk him out of his stalking behaviour) and I really started to dislike him.  What's more, the fact that he ended up with Sarah after all that really didn't sit well with me.

I also wasn't at all prepared for the tone shift in parts two and three.  Where part one was an angsty teenager talking about his life, parts two and three suddenly dealt with gangs and a whole lot of rather graphic violence.  Needless to say, I, Death really wasn't my kind of book.

Friday, November 2, 2018


A friend of mine found H. Allen Smith's Rhubarb and gave it to me (I have a few friends who give me hilarious looking and sounding cat books).  I wasn't really sure what to make of Rhubarb, but it sounded hilarious (especially when it had an endorsement by Prof. Elmer Roessner from the first review that stated "This book betokens the death of the novel form in America").

Rhubarb is the story of a cat named Rhubarb that inherits a fortune and a baseball team.  Just before his owner passed away, the man decided to bequeath everything to the cat rather than his daughter; he also named Eric Yaeger as Rhubarb's guardian.  So his daughter challenges the will.  Yaeger has his hands full trying to protect the cat while also bringing him out into society because of course once the press gets wind of what happened Rhubarb becomes an instant celebrity.  On his side, Yaeger has Doom, an ex-bookie who has dreams of being a detective, Miss Polly Pinckley, the strong, beautiful, and wealthy neighbour to Rhubarb, Miss Clarissa Wood, a self-proclaimed expert on cats, Willy Bodfish, the cook, and Len Sickles, the manager of the baseball team.  Along with defending the will, the team also has to convince Rhubarb's baseball team that it's okay to be working for a cat!

The premise is quite funny (I loved how everyone got so excited about Rhubarb being so wealthy - like hotels would try to turn Eric and crew away because he had a cat with them until he told them it was Rhubarb, then suddenly everything was fine!) but the book gets bogged down in quite a few places by things that really don't matter.  For example, there was a whole chapter talking about Lester's wife, who has no actual bearing on the book.  At times like these, I found it really hard to keep reading the book because I was bored and wanted to get back to the actual plot (but I've never read a book by Smith before so I wasn't sure if I could get away with skipping chapters). 

I was also a bit annoyed with what happened with Miss Polly Pinckley.  She was a really interesting character - she was absurdly strong and was very conscious of her health.  But then she invited Eric Yaeger over to wrestle....and suddenly "he was being the masterful male" and her character toned down.  She became obsessed with sex with him (and he later had to ration sex out to her because she was wanting it too often).  He also had to find something to do with her (but why?  Surely she was getting along just fine before he showed up into her life?) so made her basically a secretary.  Now I know this is most likely thanks to Rhubarb being a product of its time (it was originally published in 1946), but I didn't really like reading this sort of thing.

So all in all, I think Rhubarb had some potential, but the execution of the book as a whole just didn't really work.  If some of the extraneous stuff had been cut in favour of strengthening the actual plot, it would have been a much better book.  Of course, you may think differently than me: looking at all the reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, I appear to be in the minority; most people who have read it think quite highly of it.  So you'll have to read it and judge for yourself.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Cocktail Time

I was complaining to my mom about all the depressing books I've been reading lately, so she recommended I borrow some P.G. Wodehouse from my brother.  So that's how I ended up reading Cocktail Time.

Cocktail Time is about the adventures of Lord Ickenham and all the chaos he spreads around him.  It starts with him knocking Sir Raymond Bastable's top hat off with a Brazil nut.  Sir Raymond thinks it is some young hooligans who did the deed; Lord Ickenham does nothing to correct his assumptions and makes a remark that Sir Raymond should write a book about it except that he is not a writer.  Sir Raymond is never one to fail a challenge, and so he writes a fiction novel called Cocktail Time.  He publishes it under a pseudonym because he doesn't want such a book marring his political aspirations.  But the book becomes famous and Sir Raymond becomes worried that reporters will find him out.  So at Lord Ickenham's suggestion, he gets his nephew, Cosmo, to claim he wrote the book.

All should have been finished there, but Cosmo owes some money to Mr. and Mrs. Carlisle.  The Carlisles talk Cosmo into writing a letter to extort more money out of his uncle.  Lord Ickenham gets a hold of the letter just as the movie rights to the book are coming up for sale.  And this leads to a ridiculous comedy of errors helped along by Lord Ickenham.

I will admit, I had a bit of a hard time getting into the story at first.  But after the first few chapters, things get moving and Cocktail Time ends up quite the hilarious read!  I'll definitely have to keep Wodehouse in mind the next time I need a break from all the serious and rather depressing reading I seem to be doing lately.