Wednesday, December 27, 2017

1Up by Holly Black - Short Story Reviw

Oh!  This was terrific fun.

A trio of gammer friends, who have never met in real life, travel together to the funeral of another internet friend.

Proving that friendships can and do form online, the trio go on an adventure to unravel a mystery.  There are clues in the dead boy's room that lead them to a computer game that leads them out into the real world.

This could easily be made into a movie.  It reminded me very much of Ready Player One.

Holly Black's website -

Holly Black

Monday, December 25, 2017

More Fool Me by Stephen Fry - Book Report #213

I love Stephen Fry.  He is such an unusual person and a towering intellect with a complete gift of language.

The book was self-deprecating and read like a conversation with the man.  He played nicely with structure and kept my interest throughout.

But there was so much name-dropping that I was lost on many occasions.  But that is the nature of the business that he is in.  Success and longevity rely on contacts; meeting and knowing lots of people.  Where the book lost my interest was the Dear Diary portion - 143 pages of parties, openings, dinners, cocaine, late nights, writing, voice overs, drinking and plays.  It got to be a bit much.

But, the last few pages brought it all together and made me think, "This is why I love you so much Stephen!"

Sometimes I like an actor instinctively and just don't know why.  I have found that it is because their real character has a way of seeping through, colouring their work and it is that that I connect with.

I came away from reading the book a bigger fan.  No, I don't like that word, let's go with admirer.  He is much more than his acting, which is how he came to my attention in the first place.

Renaissance Man - that is what Stephen Fry is.  What a joy it is to be able to spend some time getting to know such a person, in his own words.

Yes, I admire Fry even more.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Nevertheless by Alec Baldwin - Book Report #212

I have a soft spot for Alec Baldwin.

He seems he could be a gruff person but there is something about him that I find interesting.

I loved that he started the book by stating that he did it for the money.

He then goes on to explain why that is.

Sure I was into the book because I am a fan and I wanted to hear about The Hunt for Red October.  But I also wanted to know what the business of being an actor is about.

What I got was a complex story about the man himself, what motivated him early on and what moves him now.  His struggles with drugs and his marriage to Kim Basinger played enormous roles in who he is today.

I came away from the book feeling that I had a pretty good measure of the man before I started it.  Say what you will about movie stars, their lives are not easy and a regular person can still learn a lot from those willing to lay themselves out there.

I was lucky enough to enjoy the audiobook, which was read by Baldwin himself.  That voice.  Honey and gravel. 

Loved it.

Alec Baldwin - like you needed me to tell you.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Penguin History of Canada by Robert Bothwell - Book Report #211

The history of Canada?


All of it?

Yes.  A book like this needs to be looked at as a table of content.  By reading through it you can be pointed to further exploration.

There are periods in our history that capture my imagination more than others.  Through reading this book I have a better understanding of how events fit into our current time.  It also gives me a better insight into what to look for when I am trying to find other books that explore specific events in more detail.

I took a long time to get through the book.  I put it down for months at time but once I got into the last 150 years, my interest solidified and I gave the book the attention it needed.

To think that a nearly 600 page book as a good start, an index, a table of content can be a bit daunting.  But now I feel that I have done the hard part and I can dive into the subjects that stand out to me.

Great fun awaits.


Robert Bothwell -

Robert Bothwell

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Skull by Philip K Dick - Short Story Review

This was a cool time travel story.  One that plays with the grandfather paradox.

A prisoner, his name being Conger, with skills in hunting, tracking and killing is dispatched to the past to prevent the rise of a religion that upsets the status quo.

I liked how so many of the aspects of the story are now hardwired into storytelling today.  Messing with the timeline can have unexpected consequences.

It was well done and terrific to know that Dick helped to lay the foundation in this type of story.

You can read the story online here -

Philip K Dick

Monday, December 4, 2017

Dust to Dust by Chris Roberson & Robert Adler - Book Report #210

In anticipation of the new Blade Runner movie I dug into my old comic collection and read this two-volume story.

It is a prequel to the original movie, however the esthetics are the same.  The art was wonderful, it was dark, dirty, dusty, mouldy and just as wet as Ridley Scott's creation of 1982.

The main story is the same - six rogue androids are on a list to be retired.  Charlie Victor, a replicant himself with a terrific backstory, engages the help of  a "special" human, Malcolm Reed, who can discern humans from replicants.  This talent is a burden all it's own.

Together they navigate an intricate world of violence, morality and "human" rights.

I found the story to be a nice addition to the world of the original Blade Runner movie.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Dilithium is a Girl’s Best Friend by Neil Bryant - Short Story Review

Oh!  What fun.

Harry Mudd, ladies and gentlemen, gets his hands on the Genesis Device.

This idea will perk up life-long fans of Star Trek.

The thing I like best about the written universe of Star Trek is the ability to play around with characters and ideas.

Not only did the author pick a popular character but he made the focus of the story be a less known one, that of Eve McHuron, one of "Mudd's Women" from the original TV series.

The plot was terrific, Bryant took the MacGuffin from the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn and put it in the hands of Eve.  This is precisely when Mudd shows up to make a deal for the device.

The story was fast-paced and there was some welcomed humour throughout.  It's the humour that makes Star Trek work because it brings the characters to life.  The author had a nice light touch with it and never made it come across as campy.

In any case, I liked the story and it was a terrific opening to the whole collection.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The End of Dieting by Joel Fuhrman, M.D. - Book Report #209

To be honest there is not much new here that wasn't covered in Eat for Health.

What I did like about this version is how the book was laid out and presented in simpler way to understand.

Dr. Fuhrman also expanded the nutritional information that had to be taken on faith in Eat for Health.  In this book he goes into greater depth to explain what each nutrient does for the body. He also explains why it is better to cook some foods while raw is best for others.

One of the most convincing parts of the book is how he breaks down some of the most popular diets and explains the limitations and dangers of each one.

Dr. Fuhrman promotes eating a balanced diet, one rich in plant-based nutrients.  He never comes out against eating animal products but you can certainly see how a vegetarian, near-vegan or vegan diet fits snugly into his research.

If you haven't quite bought into his eating plan this book may help to convince you.

I do like that Dr. Fuhrman never comes out to say that you should follow his plan to the letter.  He asks only that you try to incorporate the parts that interest you the most.  By dipping in your toe you can still benefit simply by introducing more nutrients into your body.

Good nutrition comes by replacing the processed foods with fresh fruits, nuts, vegetables, beans and legumes.

I have already benefited from the plan.  I know this because, when I indulge in processed foods, I can feel the difference.  Sometimes I even get a low-grade hangover the next day.  It is surprising.


Joel Fuhrman, M.D. website -

Dr. Joel Fuhrman

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Food Revolution by John Robbins - Book Report #208

Originally published in 2001 this was the updated 10th anniversary edition.

I won't lie about the book - I did not finish reading it.  I didn't have to. I couldn't read on.

I am already convinced about the health benefits of a vegan diet.  I was intrigued by the profound impact of a meat-based diet on the environment.  But once the book got into the animal welfare and cruelty of modern factory farming I couldn't take it anymore.

I stopped reading right there.  Not only did I find the treatment of the animals deplorable but it made me sick just to be human.  Our ability to be cruel is profoundly depressing to me.

Don't get me wrong, I believe that it is important to get the word out about our farming methods.  It's just that I could not stomach the knowledge.

That said this was the book that committed me to leading a better life by choosing to eat things that give me the best nutrition and the least impact on the environment.

The first question people ask is, where do you get your protein?  Well, it turns out we are getting far too much as it is and that there is plenty of it in plants and in the right proportions that you need not worry.

I've been on an nearly vegan diet for almost a year and I have seen the benefits already.  My blood pressure is down, cholesterol too.  And I've dropped 20 pounds.

I liked that the book looked into the complete impact of eating.

Even if you are not moved to make a change after reading it, you will come away from it with a deeper understanding of our food.

The Food Revolution Network -

John Robbins website -

John Robbins

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

What Happened to the Girl? By Wade Bell - Short Story Review

I liked this one.

It was a one-sided transcript of a police interrogation.  I enjoyed the back and forth between the suspect and the investigator 

The only thing that made this SF was the points system.  Which gave the setting a darkness that could have been right at home in the Blade Runner movie. 

Well crafted and fun. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Eat for Health by Joel Fuhrman, M.D. - Book Report #207

I went back to my old way of eating and gained the weight back that I had lost in 2016.

I had my yearly physical looming in September so I decided to get back to healthy eating.  This was back in the spring of this year.  I dusted off my old copy of Eat for Health and decided to re-read it.  This time I was ruthless with the book; I dog-eared and highlighted everything that was important to know and I dug into the recipes at the back of the book.

In the same way that I discovered Dr. Fuhrman's book I pursued my interest in health using this book as my launch pad.  I took what I learned the first time I read the book and applied it with more determination than the previous time.  In '16 I was really just trying to lose some weight and not really trying to change my life permanently.

Now that I was back where I started and feeling ill, I decided the change would be permanent.  This is when I realised that Eat for Health is really just the first step.  Through the spring and summer I began to lose the weight again and started to feel better.

By researching the Standard North American diet I discovered just how much stress eating meat can put on the body and how many conditions, that are associated with being middle-aged, are actually caused by the food we eat.  It was surprising.

From there I found my way into the world of industrial farming, which was hinted at by the book Real Food, Fake Food.  When I discovered how farming has changed in the past 50 years and how it has affected the quality of the meat and the lives of the cattle, well, I was repulsed.

By the end of the summer I was at a weight that I was confident to see my doctor in.  But I wanted to do more to change my diet and I decided that, while I was on vacation I would switch to a vegetarian diet.

When I returned to work I had actually lost a little bit of weight.  The doctor's appointment came and I had improved on all the metrics; blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and of course weight.

I owe all this to Eat for Health and the doors it has opened for me.

Not only highly recommended but it has become a reference book in my home.  I go to many of the recipes regularly.  It is always in sight.

Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Frosty by Jason Kapalka - Short Story Review

A fun twist on an “origin” story of Frosty the Snowman.

Dark and funny. 

It would make an interesting story to tell around Christmas. 

On-Spec Magazine is still around:

Monday, October 30, 2017

Just Getting Started by Todd Babiak - Book Report #206

I am an active member (user?) of the Edmonton Public Library.  Whenever I go down a literary rabbit hole, the library has been there to provide me with books to satisfy my curiosity.

Lately, I've been interested in history: Canadian and local history in particular.

And what could be a better read than the history of the Edmonton Public Library itself?

Babiak did a terrific job of blending local history to that of EPL.

In the early days of Edmonton, we were punching above our weight in the pursuit of a library but since Calgary had built a Carnegie funded branch, Edmonton felt it needed one too.  But, interestingly, the Carnegie group had many strings attached to any money gifted to build a library.  This did not make the "founders" happy so they went it alone to build the Strathcona branch.

This was in the times when Edmonton and Strathcona were two separate towns.  How can Strathcona have one and not Edmonton, the capital city?  Edmonton's own library was rushed into being in a space above a liquor store and meat shop.

You see?  This is actually quite interesting.

I was captivated by the book.  The writing was crisp and never lacked a sense of humour.

It was a terrific read that coloured in part of Edmonton's past for me.  I enjoyed learning about the library that I love so much.

Todd Babiak -

Edmonton Public Library -

Todd Babiak

Edmonton's own Carnegie Library - Demolished in 1968

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Gun by Philip K Dick - Short Story Review

September 1952
A team of scientists are in orbit around an unexplored world.

What they find is devastation.  An atomic war has taken place destroying the entire surface of the planet.

Suddenly they are attacked and shot down.

After safely crash landing, a party is sent to investigate the gun that attacked them.

It was a well crafted story that played on the assumptions most readers bring to a story.


By the way, isn't this one of the greatest things about the written word?  Dick himself died 35 years ago (1982) and the story was published 65 years ago (1952) and here I am, today, enjoying it for the first time.


Philip K Dick

Monday, October 23, 2017

Real Food, Fake Food by Larry Olmsted - Book Report #205

I have been on a mission to change my health through food.  I've improved the quality of what I eat and I pay attention to how it is produced.  I've also lost over 20 lbs.

What I found interesting are some of the seemingly innocuous ingredients listed on the packages.  The loose thread for me, was "cellulose powder," found in Kraft parmesan cheese.  Why would a product made of wood be in my cheese?

In Real Food, Fake Food Larry Olmsted uncovers the fakery and shenanigans that happen daily in the food industry.

What I liked about the book is that it wasn't a one-sided affair that leaves the reader in despair.  Instead, after exposing the fakery he gives us the tools to find the better quality foods but he does not stop there.  Being a foodie himself he then describes the sublime experience of finding the products in their traditional and whole forms.

I can't wait to experience real extra virgin olive oil and to taste Parmigiano-Reggiano from Italy.  Instead of making me feel that there is no hope left and I should just give up, Olmstead has whispered in my ear about treasures to be found around the world and in my own city, if I just make the effort to seek it out.

I only wish other exposés would be so balanced.  It's one thing to expose the truth but it serves the world better to offer solutions and to show alternatives.  Olmstead has done this in a way that just makes me feel better informed.  One negative impact the book has had is to make me so skeptical of labels that I often don't know what to believe.

In any case this is a terrific book and I highly recommend it.

The official website to the book -

Larry Olmsted

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Beyond Lies the Wub by Philip K Dick - Short Story Review

July 1952
Here's an interesting story, Philip K Dick's first published work, was about a ship's captain who is obsessed with eating an animal that one of his crew has brought on board.

But the creature is intelligent and would rather talk the matter over.

That's about all I can say without revealing too much.

It certainly provided me with a smile at the end.

From The Variable Man and Other Stories collection edited by Gregg Rickman.

Philip K Dick

Monday, October 16, 2017

Where I Belong by Alan Doyle - Book Report #204

I was given this book as a gift.

It was an interesting choice since I am not a huge fan of Great Big Sea, I like them but, you know, I'm not mad about them.  I think Gill was tapping into my recent love of all things Canada and so - Alan Doyle.

What struck me was how quickly I was captured by his childhood, the love of his home, his parents and his understanding of where he lived.  The simple joys of boyhood were everywhere and I laughed out loud quite a few times.

I probably stopped my wife a dozen times to read a passage from the book.  This is a very good sign that the man can write.

I knew nothing about Alan Doyle and now I have tickets to see him in March.

It was a terrific read and I am so glad to have had the experience.

Alan Doyle

Monday, October 9, 2017

Sailing Alone Around the World by Captain Joshua Slocum - Book Report #203

I really did not know what to expect from this century-old story.

Sometimes I go on binges at the library, exploring titles and adding them to my "for later" list, I've got over 700 on it.

I decided to go back to the first entry, in audio books, to see what was there.

What a lovely story!  Captain Slocum was a terrific writer with a knack for wit and observation.  I was taken first by the audacity of the trip - around the world in a sailboat, alone!  I was also very taken by the generosity of the community of sailors, folks of power at port, the helpfulness he found along the way and his undying optimism.

I was completely taken in by this story.  His trip around Cape Horn was one of the most thrilling of adventures, and that was only a part of the journey in total.  But Cape Horn stands out in this trip.

I highly recommend this book.

Since I enjoyed it as an audiobook I will be seeking out a paper copy to add to my shelves.

If you enjoy travel or books of adventure, this is a must read.

Captain J Slocum onboard the Spray

Monday, October 2, 2017

Canadians by Roy MacGregor - Book Report #202

This is not an easy book to describe, it is part Canadian history, part sociology and part personal reflection.

The thrust of the book is to try and define the elusive Canadian Identity.  We are trying to find a way to identify ourselves without using the pat answer of; "Well, we are not American."

This was a perfect book to read in this 150th year of Canadian Confederation.  Although we are still struggling to include our First Nations in meaningful and respectful ways, it is still well worth taking the time to look back and try to make sense of this country.

This became a touchstone book for me personally.  It awoke a desire to learn more about my country.  I feel that I've been a rather lousy Canadian by not taking the time to learn about our history.

From MacGregor's work I was lead to many authors and events, both recent and in the distant past that I wish to learn about.

In the intervening eight years since the book was published and with the massive effort of the Canada 150 department I think we've been able to at least find images that spark an answer to the question: "What is a Canadian?"

I've already purchased his more recent book Canoe Country which is another exploration of Canada this time through the history of the canoe and the great rivers of our country.  I am looking forward to settling back into this one.  I am sure it will lead me to other discoveries.

Roy MacGregor -

Roy MacGregor

Monday, September 25, 2017

Return To Mars by Ben Bova - Book Report #201

As a sequel this worked very well indeed.

We are back on Mars ready to explore new regions and to go back to a tantalizing feature that was only glimpsed on the last mission.

I felt that Bova did a much better job at characterization than in his previous effort.  Some of the emotional sides of the story were still a bit clunky but much less so than before.

This time, instead of being threatened by some disease the treat comes from within the program.  There will come a time when decisions will have to be made on how much of Mars will need to be preserved and how much will be exploited.

The needs of science versus the need to make money (to fund missions for science) come to a head and I was quite pleased with the twist from one of the antagonists.

The ultimate resolution to the conflict was, once again, solved in an interesting and surprising way.

I liked this one even better than the last.

Ben Bova's website -

Ben Bova

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hello, Hello by Seanan McGuire

This was a charming and warm story about a mother of young children who is a computer scientist specializing in language translation AI programming.

She has a sister who is deaf and uses an AI that is programmed to translate American sign language.

Communication is done primarily over Skype and the use of avatars is commonplace.  One day she gets a call, from her sister's number, but instead of her sister's avatar there is an image of a default face which is having trouble communicating.

The kids are taken by this stranger, finding he or she funny, and they enjoy trying to talk with it.  This makes the mother very nervous.

With a bit of digging the truth is discovered which, in turn, may create a new market for translation AIs.

Like I said, charming, even though the twist was easy to figure out, I did like how the story moved beyond the telling of the mystery.

Seanan McGuire's website -

Seanan McGuire

Monday, September 18, 2017

Becoming Canada by Ken Dryden - Book Report #200!

My goodness this was an illuminating book.

Ken Dryden, one of this country's towering members, wrote a book to explain Canada to Canadians.  And I thank him for it.

In it he tells a bit about our history, our collective personality and our relationship to America.

The bulk of the book explains the Harper years.  Which was fascinating, not being a politically engaged person, I always "felt" that something was off about his terms as Prime Minister, now I understand why.

The last few chapters explores how our collective sense of self is evolving and becoming something quite unique.

Having been published in 2010 I think a new edition would be a welcomed thing.  Many of his observations have proven true and have evolved since then.

This was the first book of Dryden's that I've read and I was very impressed by it.

Ken Dryden

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Watcher from the Man Descending collection by Guy Vanderhaeghe

I came across Vanderhaeghe's name from reading Roy MacGregor's book.

My awakening of all things Canadian has begun to spin into the fiction I'm reading.  Up until now I have always read some kind of genre story.  My chief frustration with science fiction is the amount of exposition most stories require. There always has to be an explanation of the situation we are in and the rules of this new universe.

With literary fiction there is none of that.  We just need to know when and where the story takes place, we already know the rules of planet Earth.

But I have never read literary fiction.  I have always assumed there is a fundamental lack of plot and why would I want to read about nothing really happening?

But, I decided, if I am going to read Canadian stories, I will have to read literature.

In this first story, Charlie, a boy of eleven years, is sent to spend the summer of 1959 at his grandmother's farm.

Charlie's family is a bit of a mess.  One day his aunt Evelyn arrives with her slick and unlikable boyfriend.  What transpires is a battle of wills between the grandmother and the boyfriend.

I was rather surprised by how raw the story was.  I found myself completely immersed in it with five pages.

This is a rather good start to something new for me.

Guy Vanderhaeghe

Monday, September 11, 2017

Star Trek: The Kobayashi Maru by Julia Ecklar - Book Report #199

I loved this book.

It was one of those "stuck in an elevator" kind of stories, where the crew, Kirk, Bones, Scotty, Sulu and Chekov are in a shuttle craft, adrift in space, trying to get themselves rescued.

While they are waiting for Spock to find them they each tell their own story of how they coped with the Kobayashi Maru test.

This simulation is legendary in the worlds of Star Trek and I found the author played each story very well to the character's personality.

It read like a collection of short sorties making it a perfect book for my commute to and from work.

The best of the books expand our knowledge and understanding of the characters while delivering us a good adventure.

Julia Ecklar -

Julia Ecklar

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Destination: Prince George by David Webb in British Columbia Magazine

I've decided that magazine articles should be included.  I am on a bit of a non-fiction kick these days and want to include periodicals.

Prince George is a city that I only have a fleeting knowledge of.  I usually pass the distance marker for it at the junction of highways Trans Canada 16 and BC 5, at Tête Jaune Cache, about 275 kms east of there.  That is the extent of my experience with the place.  It is, sadly, only a name on a highway street sign to me.

After reading the article I find myself intrigued.  Thinking it was only a mill town I had no interest in it all.  But now I see there is much, much more going on.  There is a fresh food and craft beer scene emerging along with well-established back country adventures opportunities.

I tried to find a link to the article but it is only available in the current print edition of British Columbia Magazine.  Get out in the world and find a copy of the physical copy.  The magazine is a beautiful read, from cover to cover, and is well worth the effort to find.

David Webb -

British Columbia magazine -

David Webb

Monday, September 4, 2017

Mission to Mars by Buzz Aldrin - Book Report #198

Buzz Aldrin, of Apollo 11, has been an advocate for continued and ambitious exploration of space ever since he returned to Earth.

Here he makes the case for Mars and describes a method to accomplish the permanent settlement of the planet.

I have always been a fan of space exploration.  My greatest disappointment was how it was put on the back burner and the American capability has atrophied to the point that they no longer have a domestic ability to put humans in orbit.

There are many mission plans to take humans to the red planet but this one has an elegant transportation system of continual cycling to and from Mars that I find compelling.

Part of the genius of the Aldrin cycler is how it puts hardware into space that offers free return trips back and forth between Earth and Mars in perpetuity.

Political will is necessary to make any push into space, the battle is to find that will and leverage it.

I found the book well written and inspiring.

Buzz Aldrin -

Buzz Aldrin