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.