Monday, December 31, 2018

Judge Dredd: The Complete Brian Bolland

My brother got me Judge Dredd: the Complete Brian Bolland years ago as a gift.  I loved the movie with Karl Urban and was really excited to get this, having never read any Judge Dredd comics before.  I don't know why, but I put off reading it for years, finally deciding to read it as what will probably be my last book of 2018.

Judge Dredd was created as a character for 2000 AD.  I don't think he was expected to be as popular as he became; he ended up becoming the cover character for the comic.  Brian Bolland did the art for a lot of the stories (and some of the covers, too).  What I didn't realize until I started reading this collection was that Bolland didn't always illustrate entire storylines: some multi-part stories had different illustrators, so this collection doesn't contain the entire plot.  Which was a real shame because a lot of the stories were super fun and interesting. 

Other than that, this collection is a lot of fun.  Bolland's art is fantastic, and the crazy world of Mega-City One is a lot of fun to read about.  After reading through this collection, I think I'm definitely going to need to rewatch the movie soon!  ;)

Friday, December 28, 2018

More Harley Quinn

My local library will no longer be subscribing to Hoopla. :(  Hoopla was where I read the majority of the Harley Quinn series last year.  With service ending, I decided to download Rebirth volumes 4-6 and binge through them before the end of the year.  Unfortunately I didn't realize there was one more volume I could have downloaded (they changed the numbering on the series so the newest graphic novel is "Volume 1" but it collects Harley Quinn issues 43-49; I used my last Hoopla download for a random other book before I realized what had happened).

So Volume 4 starts off with a visit from Harley's parents.  Things of course go wrong, but her parents end up really cool people who support her and are proud of her.  Then in Volume 5, Harley decides to finally take on the mayor of New York City by hitting him where it really hurts: she runs for election opposite him!  And what makes it all the more infuriating, pretty much every time she does something the city of New York loves her for it!  Then in Volume 6, Harley is dealing with the aftermath of the election (she lost someone she really cares about) and just wants to be left alone so her friends aren't put into more danger from her being around.  Unfortunately the Penguin takes that opportunity to invite many of the Gotham super villains to Coney Island in an attempt to take over!

I really enjoyed reading Harley's adventures again, and I'm sad that the library hasn't been getting these graphic novels outside of Hoopla.  :( 

Blame Master Edition Volume 1

I'd never heard of Blame until a friend of mine got me the first volume for Christmas. Flipping through it, I noticed there were very few words so I decided to read through it tonight.

Blame follows Kyrii on his journey to find a human with the "Net Terminal Gene." So he goes through a decrepit but futuristic world, battling people both biological and silicon, in an attempt to track down someone with the gene.

The story is extremely sparse, both in how it is told and in the details that the reader knows. I know that the gene will allow a human to communicate with the Administration. I have no idea why Kyrii needs to find someone with this gene or what he's trying to tell the Administration. Heck I don't really know anything about Kyrii. I found I had far more questions than answers as I was reading this book, questions that were never answered.

The artwork is gorgeous (it actually reminds me a bit of Low, which I read a few graphic novels of but didn't actually write about on here), but I had a hard time following a lot of the action (also similar to Low I believe). But the world is very intriguing; I would not be opposed to learning more about Kyrii and what the heck is going on.

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.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City

I wanted to read Seven Fallen Feathers before Tanya Talaga's first Massey Lecture, which was happening in Thunder Bay.  I've heard good things about the book, that it is a must read for people living in Northern Ontario. 

Seven Fallen Feathers is the story of seven Indigenous youth who came to Thunder Bay for school and died there.  Most of them passed away in one of the rivers.  Talaga looks at what happened to each of the Seven, humanizing their stories.  She also looks at the circumstances surrounding when the youth went missing (and the lack of response and courtesy the local police department afforded the families).  

I had a hard time rating it on Goodreads because a 5 star review means "I loved it;" I think Seven Fallen Feathers is an important read, but it is depressing (and in no ways a book I would say that I loved).  So in the end I went with 4 stars on Goodreads, saying that "I really liked it" because I thought that was fair.

I think Seven Fallen Feathers is an important read, both for people living in Thunder Bay and for Canada as a whole.  There are some major problems with the way things are and all Canadians need to work towards a more fair and better future for everyone.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change

Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change by George Marshall is another book from Bustle's list of books that will inspire you to live a more sustainable life that I wanted to read.  My local library didn't have a copy, but they were able to bring it in for me through interlibrary loan, so yay!

Marshall is an expert in climate change communications.  Over the years he has seen scientists struggle to get their message out while climate change skeptics have increasingly banded together.  He also knows that many people agree that climate change is real, but do nothing to stop it.  So he decided to investigate why all of this is.  He met with psychologists, environmental activists, skeptics, people who work for the oil industry, evangelicals, and pretty much everyone else he possibly could to examine the issue.  What he found is that humans look at climate change as a simple problem, even though it is in reality a very complex problem.  Because of its complexity it can be framed in a variety of ways, such as as an environmental issue. Some people will support a particular frame while others will oppose it, and so this divides people on the issue.  He also found that the skeptics are having more success at building their narrative than people who support climate change are.  Humans are hard-wired for stories and narrative, so this means supporters are having a harder time convincing people. 

I found Don't Even Think About It fascinating (full disclosure: I have a background in psychology).  It's rather amazing how climate change happens to work against our brains in a lot of ways.  Most of the book is a bit depressing, but the end is rather hopeful: even though we are wired to ignore climate change, in some ways we're also wired to take action, as long as we can change the narrative from one of competition to one of cooperation.   

I will warn you though: Don't Even Think About It is in many ways a dense read.  I found myself only able to read about 20-40 pages in a sitting before having to take a bit of a break.  Thankfully the book is about half the size of This Changes Everything though, so I was able to get through it a bit faster.

Oh and one really nice touch that Marshall added to the book was a periodic summary of what he has examined thus far.  I don't think I've ever seen that in a book before, but it was great to kind of take a deep breath and have a chance to look at everything a little more in context within the larger narrative of the book.

All in all, I am really glad I read Don't Even Think About It; I'll have to keep an eye out for some of Marshall's other books (Carbon Detox, I'm looking at you!)

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School

The top book recommended by Barry Choi on his list, The Top Personal Finance Books for Canadians, is Andrew Hallam's Millionaire Teacher: the Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School. Choi called it an "almost [. . .] modern day version of The Wealthy Barber," so after reading The Wealthy Barber I was intrigued. So on payday I bought it for myself on Kindle (it's not available at the local library).

Millionaire Teacher is Hallam's explanation of nine rules he believes everyone should have learned in school about personal finances.  Hallam is a teacher who taught personal finance.  He laments that high schools teach advanced geometry but not basic personal finance, so Millionaire Teacher is really his attempt to spread his knowledge.  Most of what he says is pretty similar to what other people have been saying in the personal finance books (spend less than you make, invest as early as you can, invest in low-cost index funds).  But then he really gets into the nitty-gritty, looking at how you can build your own portfolio, or find good help in building your portfolio no matter where you live (he specifically focuses on the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, and Singapore).  He has loads of data that he shares, all backed up by studies.  And the studies overwhelmingly support low-cost index funds.

I learned a lot from reading Millionaire Teacher.  So much so that my head was left spinning during a few chapters and I definitely feel like I need to eventually reread the book to better take everything in (and also once I have a slightly better understanding of some things he talks about).  But don't let my need to reread Millionaire Teacher scare you off: it's a fantastic book on personal finance that I really think every Canadian should read.

Oh wow: as a side note, I have now read Choi's top three personal finance books for Canadians: Millionaire Teacher, Wealthing Like Rabbits, and Stop Over-Thinking Your Money!  I don't think I'll be getting through the other two honourable mentions any time soon though because there are a few other finance books I'm interested in reading first.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Wealthy Barber: The Common Sense Guide to Successful Financial Planning

I've been reading some disappointing fiction lately, so I turned back to nonfiction (and specifically back to personal finance books).  I think it was Preet Banerjee who spoke really highly of David Chilton's The Wealthy Barber: The Common Sense Guide to Successful Financial Planning, so I thought I'd give it a read whenever I got a chance.  Barry Choi noted on his list that it's a bit dated, so I wasn't really sure what I'd be getting.

The Wealthy Barber is told as a conversation between three young adults and the title's wealthy barber. When one of the young adults, Dave, asks his father for financial advice, his dad directs him to his barber friend, Roy; it was Roy who taught Dave's father all he knows.  Dave, his sister, and his best friend end up going to Roy's barber shop every month for seven months; while the two boys get their hair trimmed, Roy imparts his wisdom on them.  The topics include saving 10% of what you earn for future wealth, insurance, saving for retirement, home ownership, general savings, investments, and a few other miscellaneous items like savings for your children's education. 

This being the sixth book on personal finance that I've read, some of Chilton's advice was familiar to me.  But I still got a few new tidbits for which I am quite grateful for.

The major issue I had while reading The Wealthy Barber was that I got really annoyed with Chilton's three younger adults at the beginning of the book.  They kept interrupting Roy as he was explaining things with random questions (yes the questions were generally on topic, but there were a number of times when I thought "shut up and let the man speak!!!")  Once you get through the first few chapters this sort of disappeared though - the three young adults were learning and answering more on point questions (or maybe I was just used to it?) 

While The Wealthy Barber is a bit dated now (there's no talk of TFSAs, and from what I've gathered his talk of mutual funds is out of date), with its unique conversational structure, I think it's still a great book to read if you're new to personal finances and need some help getting started. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Showrunner

I read Kim Moritsugu's The Showrunner over the weekend.  Here's the synopsis from Goodreads:
Rising-star showrunner Stacey McCreedy has one goal: to leave behind her nerd-girl origins and become a power player — like Ann Dalloni, her former mentor and current producing partner. Ann, meanwhile, is feeling her age and losing her mind. But she’ll be damned if she cedes control of their hit primetime TV show to Stacey.

After Ann hires Jenna, a young actress hoping to restart her stalled career, as an assistant, the relationship between Ann and Stacey deteriorates into a blood feud. Soon, Jenna must choose whom to support and whom to betray to achieve her own ends. And Stacey will find out if she possesses the killer instinct needed to stay on top.
I haven't watched it, but The Showrunner has been compared to the film All About Eve.

I honestly didn't really like The Showrunner.  I thought all of the characters were horrible people and I didn't really care what happened to any of them.  Moritsugu managed to even ruin one of the love interest characters who I thought was okay.  I almost didn't finish reading it (but because I was already near the end I decided to just suck it up and finish it).

I know that The Showrunner will appeal to some people, but it just honestly wasn't my kind of book so I don't want to say anything more about it.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Binti: The Night Masquerade

Well the library doesn't have the last book in the Binti trilogy, so I bought it on my Kindle and read it right away after finishing Binti: Home.  Unlike the time lag between the first two books, Binti: The Night Masquerade takes place pretty much right where Binti: Home leaves off.

Binti and Mwinyi return to her home to find the building burnt to the ground (and several nearby homes damaged as well).  She discovers Okwu has hidden in the lake and has called reinforcements.  So she calls on the elders to meet with her and asks them to invoke Himba deep culture over the Khoush and Meduse to make peace once and for all.  The elders agree.  But at the time of the appointed meeting, the elders do not appear.  So Binti is left to invoke the deep culture on her own.  Amazingly, thanks to her Meduse DNA and the alien technology she has recently awakened, she is able to invoke deep culture on her own.  The Meduse chief and Khoush king agree to peace.  But one of the Khoush king's underlings fires on the Meduse, restarting the war anyway.  Binti is hit in the crossfire and dies.

The war heads to space, leaving the Himba behind.  Mwinyi discovers that Binti's family is safe - they were sheltered in the living root of an Undying Tree (a root that was part of their home's foundation).  Mwinyi and Okwu ask if they can take Binti's body to Saturn because that's where she was going to next thanks to a recurring dream she kept having with her mysterious alien artifact good luck charm.  The Himba have a funeral for Binti, then a newly born spaceship fish (the spaceships in this world are animals - this fish is the daughter of the fish Binti has been travelling in up to this point of the story) arrives to take Mwinyi, Okwu, and Binti's body to Saturn.  But when they arrive at Saturn, Binti is miraculously brought back to life.  It seems that the microbes in New Fish were able to do it *somehow* because New Fish was just born.

So they all travel back to Oomza Uni where Binti gets to learn about her crazy genetic makeup (and that she can only go 5 miles on land away from New Fish; New Fish can go 7 miles up).  The end.

I found myself disappointed by the ending of this series, even though I kind of had a feeling that Binti was somehow going to come back to life (her death was around the halfway point of the third book).  Binti's death was written very well.  And while she may not have succeeded in ending the war, she brought together two human tribes who looked like they were going to work together in the future.  When she was brought back to life, it just felt like the narrative was cheapened (especially since it really did feel like "space magic brought her back to life." Oh, and she refused to talk to her family right away to let them know she was still alive - that seemed selfish in the way that her siblings accused her of being all through Binti: Home). 

On the plus side, this book felt much more complete than the previous two (the previous two both felt to me like they should have been expanded into full novels).  But that's probably because this book was largely just the resolution of things that had happened in the previous book. 

All in all, the Binti series is an interesting read.  If you love worldbuilding, you will enjoy a lot of aspects of this book because that is very much its strength.  But if you're looking for a deeper narrative (and a more fleshed out book), you should probably give these books a pass.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Binti: Home

I wasn't completely sure if I wanted to keep reading more of Nnedi Okorafor's Binti series, but the library had book two so why not?  They're novellas, which means they're super fast reads.

Binti: Home takes place about a year after the first book.  Binti and Okwu have settled into life at Oomza Uni.  But Binti has been struggling with post-traumatic stress from her ordeal in the first book.  She's also found herself increasingly prone to bouts of rage.  Fearing that she has become unclean, she decides to return home and go on a pilgrimage.  Okwu decides to accompany her - he will be the first Meduse to step foot on Earth in peace.

Their arrival is difficult.  Binti's family welcomes her home, but the place turns into chaos when Okwu arrives and the Khoush attack him.  Binti manages to stop anyone from dying.  But later at her home, she has an argument with her sister which almost turns violent (Binti spits in her sister's face in anger, something she would never have done before).  Retreating to her room, she sees the Night Masquerade.  I wasn't really sure what the Night Masquerade really was, but it is something that only men and boys see, not women.  Right after that, Binti's paternal grandmother, one of the Desert People, arrives to take Binti to meet their high priestess.  Binti discovers that she has alien technology in her DNA and is given the choice to awaken it. After she makes the choice, she learns that her home has been attacked and Okwu may have been killed.  The book ends with her heading home to see what has happened.

Like the first volume, Binti: Home has some fantastic worldbuilding.  I do still wish these had been lengthened into full novels though; I feel like there was so much more that could have been explored.  I also wish Okwu had been in this volume a little bit more than he was. 

Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time

I came across Bustle's list of books that will inspire you to live a more sustainable life back in July I think.  Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time sounded interesting.  And the library even had a copy!  So I snagged it and finally got around to reading it now.

Walkable City explains the many advantages of making your city walkable, before going into a comprehensive list of ten steps to actually making your city more walkable.  Speck uses examples from the world's most walkable cities to illustrate his points.  Walkable City is aimed mainly at small and mid-sized American cities (emphasis on American).  After decades of suburban sprawl dominating city development, Speck believes that now is the time when redeveloping cities urban cores is going to be increasingly important. Millennials are increasingly attracted to urban life (they are far less likely to own cars than people of older generations).  And Boomers are moving back into urban centres because their big suburban houses are empty and they increasingly don't want to (or are becoming physically unable to) maintain their big suburban yards.  Plus they want to be more social, and where is better than a walkable urban core?

So once that's all established, Speck looks at the various things you need to consider and implement to make your city more walkable.  Many of the steps are designed to slow traffic down, while others are concerned with making walking more interesting and safer.  Speck cautions that you need all of the steps working together to make your city more walkable.  He also cautions that not every area of your city will be walkable (for example, streets in the auto district won't be). 

While a little dense at times (largely because people who aren't architects or city planners may not necessarily care about some of the points), Speck's prose is generally pretty entertaining to read.  I especially liked some of his snarky comments in the notes.  All in all, I think this was a great book to read.  It sure gave me a lot to think about!!!

Sunday, September 2, 2018


I have a pile of nonfiction I want to read.  But it's the long weekend so I decided to take a break and read the novella Binti instead. Binti, written by Nnedi Okorafor, is a Hugo and Nebula award winner.  I've seen it go by at work a few times and was intrigued (although I will freely admit I didn't actually read the synopsis on the back of the book). 

Binti is the first of her people, the Himba, to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution in the galaxy.  But in going she is going against her family and her people's traditions; the Himba are of the land and do not leave it.  Stealing away in the dead of night, she leaves her homeland for the first time ever.  And even before she steps foot in space, she finds herself an alien among the majority Khoush in the spaceport.  But she makes her way relatively free of incident onto her transport, where she meets some of her fellow students.

Now I was enjoying this story as a fish out of water story. I liked Okorafor's world building.  The Himba people were very interesting and I was hoping to learn more about the Khoush as Binti interacted with them on the shuttle.  Unfortunately that was kind of glossed over because pretty much everyone on the shuttle except Binti gets murdered when an alien race, the Meduse, arrive. 

The story actually did lose me a bit around this point. 

The Meduse try to murder Binti too, but she is magically able to protect herself with an ancient artifact she happened to have with her as her good luck charm.  The artifact hurts the Meduse.  But it also allows her to communicate with them.  She discovers that the Meduse are heading to Oomza University to retrieve their chief's stinger, which was stolen from him and somehow ended up in the school.  Binti convinces them to arrive peacefully and let her act as an interpreter for them to get the stinger back.  She does so, and as a gesture of goodwill, the school asks that the Meduse send her new friend, Okwu, to the school as well.

I wasn't quite sure what to make of all this.  I'm glad that it all worked out, but the fact that the Meduse murdered a whole bunch of students didn't seem to matter at all to the university's deliberations and final decision on the whole thing.  I guess the ending just seemed a little too abrupt for my liking; Binti really seemed like it should have been a novel, rather than a novella.

All in all, the world building is fantastic and I would love to know more about all the cultures in this book (the Himba, Khoush, and the Meduse).  But the story itself could have been expanded a fair bit (and in my opinion, would have been the stronger for it).

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Never Cry Wolf

Along with giving me some books, my brother has also lent me a few.  I decided that I should really get to reading them since I've got six right now that he'd like back at some point.  I started with Farley Mowat's Never Cry Wolf because my brother insisted that I read it.

Never Cry Wolf tells of Mowat's first year studying wolves in the Canadian North.  Everyone believes that wolves are killer monsters that need to be exterminated.  Mowat is sent to study them as a scientist and find out the truth, specifically of their connection to caribou (trappers are claiming wolves are destroying the herds). 

Over the course of about six months, he observes one family of wolves with the help of an Inuit friend, Ootek.  Between his observations of George, Angeline, Uncle Albert and their pups, and the insights of Ootek, Mowat quickly discovers that wolves are not remotely the monsters he has been led to believe. 

Whether fact, fiction, or somewhere in between, Never Cry Wolf is a fantastic read. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Show Your Work! 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered

I happened to notice Austin Kleon's Show Your Work! 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered at work a few weeks ago at the last minute.  The book looked interesting enough so I decided to check it out.  I was going to start reading it last weekend, but was too sleepy and couldn't concentrate.  I then considered sending it back and getting it out another time, but since it's so short I powered through it mostly today.

Show Your Work! has a simple enough premise - you need to share what you're working on so people can discover you. This is especially true for people with creative pursuits, such as writing, painting, or photography; if people don't know what you're making (and have no way of discovering it), you probably won't be discovered. Kleon has ten main points to get you started:
  1. You don't have to be a genius (most people spend decades getting good at their art).
  2. Think process, not product.
  3. Share something small every day (very easy now thanks to the internet!)
  4. Open up your cabinet of curiosities (sharing your stuff will help you develop new stuff).
  5. Tell good stories (people like to hear the stories behind how things came to be).
  6. Teach what you know.
  7. Don't turn into human spam (you need to listen to others as well as share your work).
  8. Learn to take a punch (rejection and critique are true of all creative pursuits).
  9. Sell out (we all need somewhere to live and something to eat).
  10. Stick around.
As with any advice, he tells you that it's okay to use what you like and discard the rest - we're all individuals after all and what works for one person may not be useful for someone else.

All in all I enjoyed reading Show Your Work! Kleon gave me some ideas of stuff to try (and the encouragement to keep trying and not abandon projects!) :)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Kay's Lucky Coin Variety

I had the opportunity to interview Ann Y.K. Choi for work, so I decided to give her debut novel, Kay's Lucky Coin Variety, a read.  The book was out from the library though, so I wasn't able to read it until after doing the interview, which is a bit of a shame because there are some questions about Kay's Lucky Coin Variety that I would have loved to ask.

Kay's Lucky Coin Variety is the story of Mary, a Korean immigrant to Canada who is named Yu-Rhee (but was forced to change her first name to attend Canadian school).  Mary's family came to Canada to pursue a better life and Mary now feels trapped beneath the weight of her parents' (particularly her mother's) expectations.  Set in the 1980's in Toronto, Kay's Lucky Coin Variety follows Mary through her teen years and into young adulthood, through first love, tragedy, and through her struggle to be her own Canadian woman when her mother wants her to be a good Korean woman. 

I found Kay's Lucky Coin Variety got off to a rather slow start.  I'd say it wasn't really until about half way through the book that it seemed to pick up steam.  The beginning seems like a bunch of almost unrelated incidents that Mary talks about (which eventually lead to her being sexually assaulted in her family's store).  From there her grandmother in Korea passes away, so she goes with her mother to attend the funeral.  Her mother typically doesn't talk about the past or her feelings, but she ends up opening up a few times while in Korea (the last time more to a stranger from Canada who later becomes her best friend).  I guess as a result, Mary is kind of left in her own world looking at things rather selfishly because she honestly doesn't know what her mom is thinking in most cases (besides that her mom wants to maintain reputation, particularly of her store).

In Korea, Mary meets Joon-Ho, who is asked to show her around.  Joon-Ho was educated in England and so speaks English with an English accent.  He later comes to Canada to attend university, taking a master's degree in engineering.  Mary's family is asked to help him out because he has no family of his own there.  He spends a lot of time with Mary (she ends up asking him to her high school prom because one of her girlfriends, who was supposed to be going dateless, ended up asking her boyfriend along); Joon-Ho is the one she eventually loses her virginity to.  She doesn't realize it at the time, but Joon-Ho intends to marry her one day; Mary hates the idea because he is Korean and she is trying to escape her Korean roots.

Everything is complicated because Mary is also in love with her grade nine English teacher.  She harbours a crush for him through high school.  Once she has graduated, one of her friends gets her his phone number and she ends up calling him.  They meet, and slowly end up secretly involved with each other.

Things start to come to a head when Joon-Ho's parents come to town, which brings their potential marriage front and centre.  Mary walks out on the engagement dinner and tells Joon-Ho to leave her alone.  She finds evidence of him stalking her, and when he goes to confront it, he confides that he is being charged with plagiarizing his papers in school.  He begs for her help, telling her how his dad got him into the school with falsified information.  Mary agrees to help and to keep his secret from her family and the larger Korean community, a decision that she will come to regret.

Kay's Lucky Coin Variety is, all in all, a coming of age story told through the lens of an immigrant family.  While it took a long time to really get into the story, I found that I enjoyed it in the end (and I liked learning about Korean-Canadian culture in the 1980's).  I did find myself wishing there was a glossary of Korean words included in the book - I had a bit of a hard time remembering which word went with which aunt.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Golden Boy: A Doctor's Journey with Addiction

The Golden Boy: A Doctor's Journey with Addiction was a second book I got from my brother a few nights ago along with I've Been Meaning to Tell You. The Golden Boy is the memoir of Dr. Grant Matheson who became addicted to opioids while practicing medicine in Prince Edward Island.  The first part of the book tells Matheson's spiral into addiction. Opioids at first helped him function when he was overwhelmed by his practice and his divorce.  But as time went on, they helped to destroy his life.  Being a doctor, and also feeling like he had no where to turn, Matheson was determined to beat his addiction on his own.  But eventually he was found out by the Physician's College and sent to rehab.

The second part of the book is his journal from when he is in rehab at Homewood in Guelph.  The first part of the book was a bit tough to read, in major part because the writing isn't very good (which is a real shame because I think his story of how his addiction spiraled out of control is well worth reading).  But this second part is much easier to read.  At the beginning of his stay in Homewood, Matheson was given a journal.  He started writing in it because he was told to, but in the end it seemed to help quite a bit with his recovery.  He talks about the people he meets in Homewood and what he is going through.  I liked how very optimistic he always seemed in this section of the book.

After that, he writes a few parts that take place afterwards, detailing his recovery.  Matheson stumbles along the way, ending up addicted to alcohol and back at Homewood again to help his detox.  He was able to practice medicine for awhile after being initially released, but came up against some charges of fraud from when he was deep in the throes of his opioid addiction, so as of the publishing of The Golden Boy, he was no longer practicing. 

While the writing isn't always great, I think this is a very valuable book to read if you've never thought about addictions from the perspective of someone suffering an addiction.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

I've Been Meaning to Tell You

So I was hanging out with my brother last night; we wandered into his office and I started looking at things on his bookshelf.  One of the books that randomly caught my eye was David Chariandy's I've Been Meaning To Tell You: A Letter to My Daughter.  My brother said he was done with the book, so I took it.  And since it's such a short read, I read it in a night (while also taking a few breaks to get dinner and play video games for a few hours).

A decade previously, Chariandy struggled to explain to his then three-year-old daughter a moment of bigotry she witnessed.  He ended up penning her this letter in the aftermath of the 2017 American Presidential election, where Donald Trump was elected in a very divided country.  He strives to explain to his daughter her racial heritage, particularly the heritage of his parents who are South Asian and African migrants from Trinidad (and who overcame much hardship to get themselves to Canada).

I enjoyed reading about the family dynamics between the various generations of Chariandy's family, and even about Chariandy's past growing up in Scarborough as a visible minority.  Unfortunately I've Been Meaning to Tell You never seems to go much beyond just a surface description of the discrimination visible minorities face, which is a real shame; this book could have been much deeper than it is.

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Anti 9 to 5 Guide

Geeze, where to begin? 

I remember seeing Michelle Goodman's The Anti 9 to 5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube at the library many years ago.  I picked up a copy of it (as well as Goodman's My So-Called Freelance Life) because it seemed like the type of book I should read but I wasn't interested in reading it right then and there.  And so it has languished on my bookshelf for YEARS (I would bet around ten at this point). I don't even know why exactly I decided to read it now; I guess I just had a vague sense that I really should just read the thing already.

The Anti 9 to 5 Guide is a book full of career advice for women who want to forge their own path, whether through self-employment, flex time or telecommuting at their current job, or working at a traditionally male job.  Each chapter tackles a different avenue to explore, and ends with a list of actionable items you can do right now and in the future to get you on your way towards making a career change.

As I was reading The Anti 9 to 5 Guide over the last few days, I had this sense that I really should have read the book much sooner.  For one thing, I would guess that it was much more ground breaking when it was first published, but it feels rather dated now (there were a number of references to having a Rolodex. Plus Goodman talks about the internet like it's a new thing, probably because using it for finding jobs WAS a new thing back in 2006 when the book was published).  But not only that, I found that the advice itself just wasn't new to me; it pretty much all seemed like obvious stuff I've read many times before (possibly in Pushback, The Art of Selling Yourself, or even all the way back to Networking for People who Hate Networking). I almost stopped reading the book halfway through because I felt like I was kind of wasting my time; I got stubborn and finished it because I've held onto this book for so long.  I did glean a few interesting tidbits (and enjoyed the discussion on negotiating as well as the chapter on working abroad, even though I'm not really interested in living abroad at this point in my life).  But overall I kind of felt like this was a slog to get through.

But that doesn't mean that it is.  If you're fresh out of college and considering starting a career, or you want to change careers but haven't a clue where to start, The Anti 9 to 5 Guide is full of great advice for you.  It just wasn't the book for me.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Librarian's Guide to Homelessness: An Empathy-Driven Approach to Solving Problems, Preventing Conflict, and Serving Everyone

Alright, I have a confession to make: I've had The Librarian's Guide to Homelessness by Ryan Dowd out from my library for a few months now.  I attended a webinar by Dowd that was very informative and learned that we were also getting his book.  I put my name on the list (I was the only one!) and got it when it came in.  Then it sat on my shelf.  I'd renew it to the maximum.  Bring it back and check it out again.  Repeat.  So a few weeks ago, I finally started reading the darn thing.  Being a text book, even though it is interesting (and at times entertaining), it still took a bit to read through (and I put it aside once or twice to read other things like How to Walk Away).

As the sub-title suggests, The Librarian's Guide to Homelessness looks at how to solve problems and prevent conflict with homeless patrons in a library.  Libraries across North America are finding that they are serving more and more homeless patrons.  Dowd is the executive director of Hesed House, Dowd's local homeless shelter; he has spent his life volunteering and later working at the shelter, so he has a lot of insight into and experience dealing with homeless individuals.  While homeless individuals are similar to people of a middle-class background (we are all human, after all), there are some distinct ways homeless individuals are culturally different from middle class individuals (in a similar way upper class individuals are different from middle class individuals, etc).  Dowd gives a break down of the differences (in brief, homeless individuals tend to have a smaller vocabulary, so they are more attuned to nonverbal cues and also use voice a raising voice volume to show whether they are mildly angry or spitting mad), shows you how to use your head, body, and words to speak with homeless individuals, and later goes into some more advanced problem solving tools.  Dowd also makes it plain the difference between "fire tools" (tools that use punishment as an incentive) and "water tools" (which are tools which use empathy rather than punishment).  In his experience, the water tools generally work best (but there are some instances where you will have to resort to fire tools; Dowd just wants you to exhaust your water tools first before escalating to fire tools).  The beauty of the empathy driven approach is that it will work with pretty much all people, not specifically homeless individuals.

I do need to note: the majority of this book is a list of various tools you can use for dealing with different people and different situations.  For that reason, the book is a bit of a slower read; there were only so many tools I was able to read one after the other before I felt myself nodding off.

A lot of the things Dowd talks about in The Librarian's Guide to Homelessness were actually covered in the webinar I attended (he just goes into a bit more detail here in the book), so that made the book seem oddly familiar (I ended up treating it kind of like a refresher at times).  If you haven't attended one of Dowd's training or webinar sessions though, you won't feel like this while reading the book.

Oh, and I want to say that I loved reading Dowd's anecdotes at the beginning of each chapter.  They were always entertaining (while still informative for the chapter).  Dowd definitely has a natural gift for storytelling. :)

Overall I think this book is a good read for people working in libraries and other industries where they deal with a lot of homeless individuals (although the book is specifically geared for libraries, so keep that in mind if you work in another industry).  It's also a good read for people who are interested in hearing about the differences in culture between middle class individuals and homeless individuals.

Monday, August 6, 2018

How to Walk Away

I honestly don't remember why I put Katherine Center's How to Walk Away on hold at the library.  But when the book came in, I decided I might as well give it a shot (especially since I was heading out to camp and wanted to bring a fiction book out rather than the nonfiction one I'm reading).

How to Walk Away starts out when Margaret, who is terrified of flying, is convinced by her boyfriend, Chip, to come flying with him. Chip proposes to her in the air, but then crash lands the plane.  Chip escapes without a scratch, while Margaret suffers burns and a spinal cord injury.  She wakes up in the hospital with a couple of skin grafts and unable to move her legs below the knee.  Her family is by her side (including her estranged sister Kitty, who hasn't spoken to Margaret in three years), but Chip is nowhere to be found (or as Margaret's father says, he's suffering "a touch of the Irish flu"). 

And so begins Margaret's journey back to health.  With injuries like her's, doctors consider there to be an approximately six week window where the spinal cord can heal; after those six weeks, the damage will not be reversible.  Margaret finds herself working with Ian, a Scottish Physical Therapist (PT) who is not very personable (her nurse even tries to get Margaret moved to a different PT who will be a better fit with Margaret, but no luck). 

Meanwhile, Kitty keeps trying to get Margaret to let her back into Margaret's life.  Kitty left unexpectedly three years ago after a fight with their mother and has only stayed in contact with their father.  Margaret was bewildered by the whole thing; she tried to contact her sister repeatedly, but after receiving no response, she gave up.  So Kitty coming back is hard for Margaret at first; but in the end she forgives her sister and they get closer.

As they get closer, they start conspiring to get Ian to open up.  Ian is dour where the other PTs are friendly and cheering for their clients.  Margaret resents it at first, until making him laugh or smile becomes a game to her.  And while he may not be cheerful, he definitely has her back; when Chip makes an appearance to tell Margaret that he has slept with his ex-girlfriend, it is Ian who hears her screaming at him to leave (and actually gets Chip to leave).  Eventually, Margaret's parents hire Ian as a tutor to give her more physical therapy in the hopes that her spine will recover; they grow closer and closer the more they are working together.

In many ways, How to Walk Away was a bit predictable: yes, Margaret falls in love with Ian.  Ian believes that she has a version of Stockholm Syndrome and rejects her.  But eventually they end up together (with him chasing after and jumping onto the boat she happens to be on).  But in other ways, it wasn't: I was expecting Margaret to walk again, but she does not.  I also wasn't expecting the drama between Margaret's parents to happen (although in some ways I should have seen that coming).

How to Walk Away is ultimately a very light and fast read.  I finished it in one day (I actually couldn't put it down - I chose to keep reading rather than go to sleep for most of the night).  I enjoyed the antics of the characters (Margaret's family in particular were quite fun). Overall, I just really enjoyed reading How to Walk Away - it was exactly the kind of story I needed as a break from all the nonfiction I've been reading lately!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Wealthing Like Rabbits

I've been waiting to read Robert R. Brown's Wealthing Like Rabbits since the middle of June. I put the book on hold at the library, expecting to see it around June 21st when it was due.  It's now almost August and the book STILL hasn't been returned.  So I broke down and bought it on my Kindle instead.  I read most of the book yesterday, and finished it off this evening.

Wealthing Like Rabbits is another Canadian personal finance book.  Much like the other ones I've read, it's aimed mainly at people who are new to building their wealth.  I think it's probably one of the easiest books on the subject to read that I've read to date.  Brown has aimed it at young adults (specifically adults thirty and younger); he says this at the end of the book, but it's kind of obvious from his use of things like zombies and Star Trek to illustrate his points.

Wealthing Like Rabbits has a lot of the same advice that the other books have, which can be boiled down to "get out of debt and save money."  While his message is the same as the other books, he makes some very interesting suggestions.  For one, he recommends that you start an RRSP as opposed to a TFSA (although a TFSA is okay too) because when you are younger you should be more in need of the tax break than when you are older.  A younger person is starting their life out, so they may be dealing with buying a home, getting married, and starting a family.  When you're older, and if you've been saving all your life, you should be able to afford the tax (especially if you're wealthy enough to be in a higher tax bracket).  He recommends that you save 18% of your income in your RRSP (I think that's the maximum you can put into your RRSP), and if you're having trouble doing so, you can fill out a form to have your employer take a corresponding amount of income tax off of your paycheck.  Brown believes getting a tax return is not a good thing, because you are in effect lending the government your money and getting no interest for your troubles.  A friend of mine at work mentioned this idea to me a few months back; I later found out she read Wealthing Like Rabbits, so I'm sure she got the idea from here.  Oh, and Brown says trips are okay to spend your money on (assuming you have saved up for your trip first! You should never go into debt for a trip); I've heard that some financial planning books and advice say trips are not a good investment because unlike buying a camp, the money is gone.  In Brown's view, the trip itself gives you memories that are well worth the money.  So that was a nice sentiment to read.  He feels much the same about weddings - the memories are important, but you don't have to break the bank having one because people don't remember the cost and stuff, they remember the other people who were there.

There was one chapter at the end that was a bit weird to read.  It was full of random musings and advice.  Yes there were some really good tidbits in it, but there were also a couple of really random thoughts that I'm not quite sure what they were doing in the book (or maybe I just didn't get the references?)

Overall, Wealthing Like Rabbits is a very good read.  It's fast and very easy to understand.  But some people may not like (or get) his references to things like zombies and Star Trek, so they may be better off reading something else like Preet Banerjee's Stop Over-Thinking Your Money! The Five Simple Rules of Financial Success or Shannon Lee Simmons' Worry-Free Money: the Guilt-Free Approach to Managing Your Money and Your Life instead.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Emerald Green

*sigh* Time travel. 

I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.  I just finished Emerald Green a little bit ago.  Like Sapphire Blue, Emerald Green picks up right where the story in the last book left off.  Thankfully Gwen has decided to stop moping over Gideon making her fall in love with him, so the plot can actually go somewhere in this book.  Gwen has the help of her best friend, Lesley, and the gargoyle demon Xemerius in the present to help her figure out what's going on, and her grandfather in the past.  Together they discover the hidden location of the missing chronograph (the one that Lucy and Paul stole years ago and hid in the past).  So now Gwen is able to travel back to the past unsupervised by the Guardians. Which she uses as much as she can to try to unravel the mystery of what exactly the Count Saint-Germain is up to!  Unfortunately time is not on their side, since the Count has a strict time table; he keeps sending instructions back to the modern Guardians through Gideon.  And the Guardians are not about to risk anything since they're so close to seeing the Circle of time-travellers closed!

Oh yeah, and in the middle of all this, Gwen and Lesley still need to fit in going to the birthday party that one of their classmates is throwing.

Okay, I'm going to add a spoiler warning here, because from here on out I will be ruining the ending of the book.  If you don't want to know what happens, please stop reading here.

So anyway, Gwen and Gideon complete the circle on the stolen chronograph (because Gideon's blood was all that was needed - Gwen's grandfather made sure her blood was added to it in the past so when they found it in the future she would be instantly able to use it).  They go about meeting with Lucy and Paul (who, surprise surprise, happen to be Gwen's real parents.  That was super obvious from the first book, but whatever) to try to outmaneuver the Count.  Everyone assumed that the Count had a modern day man on the inside of the Guardians Inner-Circle, but they come to the realization that wait, it could be the actual Count!  What if he was immortal in the past, and his immortality disappeared when Gwen was born?  (I don't know how that even makes sense, but whatever).  Gwen and Gideon still go to the preordained meeting with the Count in the past, where he drugs Gwen after Gideon is forced to leave (he was only invited for 15 minutes, while she had to stay 3 hours.  I thought that was stupidly suspicious, but whatever, he says jump and the Guardians ask how high).  She awakens in the present to discover the identity of the Count after he incapacitates the Guardian's doctor somehow (I don't really know or care how).  He is disappointed to realize that Gwen is up (I think he tried to poison her, but she's immortal so that didn't work).  He tells her to kill herself or he will kill Gideon when he shows up.  She doesn't so he shoots Gideon.  The doctor wakes up enough to knock the Count out somehow, then goes back to being incapacitated.  And it turns out Gideon used the stuff they got out of the chronograph when they completed the Circle so he's immortal, too.  Now the two of them (and Xemerius) can live out their days together forever.  The end.

Oh, and the butler at Gwen's house may be her younger brother.  Because time travel.

The end left me with so many questions.  If tons of people knew Gwen's destiny to be a time traveller, why didn't SOMEONE try to prepare her along the way.  I mean her grandfather knew.  And even the freaking Count knew because he was in the present but had met her in the past.  (Not that anyone admittedly cared what the heck she did in the past.  She sang a modern song at the soiree in Sapphire Blue and only Gideon was outraged, not the Count).  But seriously, why didn't her grandfather teach her history or something? 

Also, why did the prophecy say Gwen had to die?  If Gideon became immortal from using the stuff from the chronograph, why couldn't the Count have just used the other one, been immortal, and went to Brazil like he planned?  He could have done that and left everyone else alone in England.

Gwen changed the past in this book kind of heavily, too.  She had a ghost friend who haunted her school, who was alive during the ball the Count wanted her and Gideon to attend so badly (this ill-fated ball was actually where she time travelled to one of the first times and saw herself; she also gets fatally stabbed and realizes she is immortal).  She talks Gideon into going back in time (in the middle of way more important things, by the way.  They only have a few hour quota of time travel for the day before they feel like crap, so this really could have waited for another time), and inoculating her still-living friend (who doesn't know her back then) so he will not die of smallpox.  He goes on to live a happy life and never becomes a ghost.  Wouldn't that change history?  Like his house becomes the school when he is a do we know it still would have?  *sigh*

I should note though that this book really annoyed me because it left out scenes and conversations I wanted to read in favour of stupid other scenes.  Like it cuts off when Gwen admits to Lucy and Paul that she knows they are her parents, and jumps to the stupid party scene which pretty much had no point.  It showed Charlotte (and the whole freaking party) getting drunk, and Gideon talking her into going home, but that was literally it.

So even though I have these complaints, I still enjoyed reading Emerald Green well enough (and I thought it was a whole lot better than Sapphire Blue because Gwen wasn't strictly thinking of Gideon for the whole book - as I already said, Emerald Green actually had some plot going on with Gwen a little more engaged in what was happening). There were some fun scenes with the rest of Gwen's family - her siblings, mom, and great aunt were great and all really loved her (and Mr. Bernard was always there for her as well).   I think this series is the type of thing that you really need to not think too hard about (otherwise it falls apart).  I'd call it fluff or mind candy; it's kind of a guilty pleasure sort of read, where you just go along for the ride.  That being said, the middle book of the trilogy is a real drag, and honestly a lot of people probably won't care for Gwen and/or Gideon.  You'll have to make up your own mind as to whether or not you want to read the Ruby Red Trilogy.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Sapphire Blue

Alright, so I'm continuing to power through the Ruby Red Trilogy.  Book two, Sapphire Blue, picks up right after Ruby Red ends. Gwen and Gideon had escaped from Paul and Lucy and were hiding out in a church when he kissed her.  They travel back to the present, and Gwen sees a gargoyle demon who takes an interest in her because she can see and hear him.  He pesters her and follows her back to the temple, and she finally accepts his presence if he'll agree to some ground rules.  So she ends up with a fun friend who can spy on people for her and help her find information, and he gets to talk to someone other than a ghost.

Gwen keeps getting sent back to elapse in a cellar (it's supposed to be a safe place where she gets to do her homework).  On her first trip back there, she meets her grandfather.  They devise a way to get in contact again in the future (and he agrees to look into something Lucy told her at the end of the last book).  On her next trip back, Gideon accompanies her (so she can't go looking for her grandfather); they end up making out.  Then Gideon becomes very cold and distant to her, which confuses, and ultimately angers Gwen (a lot of this book is waffling back and forth on their relationship because they don't really talk); Gideon later admits that on his last mission he saw a future version of her who may have led him into a trap.  Oh, and he's angry that she may be hiding something from him because he smells cigarette smoke on her when she comes back from elapsing (she met her grandfather).  They kind of forgive each other, then head to the 18th century to attend a soiree with the Count Saint-Germain.  Gwen is terrified of the count because of her first encounter with him (from Ruby Red), but he seems pleasant since they had a chat yesterday (it was a future meeting for Gwen, but in the past for the Count).  The soiree goes well enough (considering Gwen gets drunk and sings a future song for everyone, then later talks to a ghost because she's too drunk to realize he's a ghost), then she meets with the Count the next day.  He tells her women are dumb and easily pliable if they are in love, and that Gideon was instructed to make her love him.  She confronts Gideon about it and makes him admit that this is true.  Gideon tries to explain, but she leaves.  The book ends on a fight Paul got into in the past where he almost died, but got rescued by Gideon.  Paul implores Gideon to read some notes he has on the rest of the prophecy (and to ultimately save Gwen).

Like Ruby Red, Sapphire Blue is a very easy read.  But I did get annoyed at parts of it.  Like how Gwen finally realizes that the fact she can talk to ghosts is the Raven magic she's supposed to have (even though multiple people have told her the rhyme).  And as I mentioned, there's a lot of waffling about Gideon (which I get, that sort of thing totally happens in real life.  I just found myself getting annoyed about it because it kept going on. Plus it's not the most fascinating reading).  The Circle people keep excluding Gwen from things, driving her to discover more and more with her demon friend and best human friend Lesley.  The Circle seems to be misogynistic rather like the Count totally is, which was rather a shame.

Despite those flaws (which are largely plot-related), I still think the characters are fun (specifically a lot of the side characters).  I especially loved Xemerius, the demon gargoyle.  And Madam Rossini of course (she was fantastic in Ruby Red as well; I wish she was in the books a bit more).  I would have liked to see a bit more of James, the ghost at Gwen's school, but he took a backseat in this book (and was largely unnecessary because Xemerius was there). 

So two down and one more to go in this trilogy!