Books I’ve Read Recently

I’ve written lengthy (i.e. more than 20 words) book reviews in the past, but I’ve gotten lazy, with piles of books by the computer as a reminder to write something about them. So fuck it, here are short reviews in the J-Walk style:

  • Marley & Me by John Grogan 8 out of 10 stars (8/10)
    This is a true tale of how John and his family raised a rambunctious Labrador retriever. It’s often laugh-out-loud funny, but I suspect only animals lovers will enjoy the tale. He’s a good writer, making you empathic to his joys and woes.
  • Ex Libris by Ross King 6 out of 10 stars (6/10)
    This is a bit of a mystery that takes place in the 1600s in London, England, during the Thirty Years War. The story provides a lot of history and atmosphere of that era. It’s about a bookseller hunting down stolen volumes – a lost Hermetic text. I recommend it for history and bibliophile buffs more than mystery fans. The author is Canadian.
  • The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed 8 out of 10 stars (8/10)
    This won the 2005 Governor General’s Award for non-fiction. Its core is about Grant Hadwin, an environmentalist who chopped down a 300 year old Sitka golden spruce, but a lot of other history is given: logging in British Columbia; the native Haida‘s culture and the influence European settlers had on them; the settlement of cities on the West coast. The mystery behind Hadwin’s motive and his subsequent disappearance after destroying the sacred tree didn’t interest me as much as the descriptions of the Haidi and the history of lumbering.
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman 7 out of 10 stars (7/10)
    This is a fantasy novel about a world that coexists with our own, a dark, dangerous world where animals talk and magic is normal. A man unwillingly enters that world to help a girl, where good must then triumph over evil… blah, blah blah. It IS imaginative and compelling, but I’ve forgotten the story already.
  • Mindscan by Robert J. Sawyer 6 out of 10 stars (6/10)
    This science-fiction novel is about people who have their consciousness copied and transferred into artificial brains, and then artificial bodies to complete the package, which makes them essentially immortal. There are then two copies of the person: the flesh and blood version, and the artificial one, but both with the same thoughts and consciousness. The story brings up lots of interesting issues: what is consciousness, what makes someone human, when is life defined… the author tackles interesting questions and provides succinct answers to some; however, the story suffers from the heavy issues: this is a quick read, like all of Sawyer’s stories; it’s compelling, making you want to see how it will conclude, but it’s TOO quick. Sawyer tries to give the characters depth, but his attempt falls short due to scientific mumbo-jumbo or cliches. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews of his books, his writing gets annoying with pop culture references and advertisements for Toyota or whatever company he APPEARS to be deliberately promoting. I think he needs a better editor.

I’ve read lots of other books, which I’ll post about soon, too. I read about 1-2 books a week.

CBC’s Street Cents Is Cancelled

street cents original castI learned from Inside the CBC that Street Cents has been canceled:

…research has demonstrated pretty clearly that its demographic (pre-teen and teen) is increasingly and quickly moving to interactive digital platforms for news, info and entertainment. We’re in the process of refocusing our youth strategy to specifically address this trend.

I used to watch it 17 years ago when Jonathon Torrens and that gang hosted it. It was corny at times, but it reported consumer issues youths were interested in, I thought. I watch Market Place now.

Observations Of Newfoundland

I lived in Newfoundland for over 10 years, plus I’ve visited it lots of times, yet on my recent trip there I discovered new things (and some old):

  • U-Haul is getting a lot of business there. Driving from Gander to St. John’s, at least 10 U-Haul vans passed us heading west. Sad.
  • People take offense if you don’t eat what’s been offered.
  • Hot and cold water taps are often switched; the hot is on the right instead of the left.
  • Cod isn’t extinct yet. There’s a recreational fishery policy for about a month, where individuals can catch five fish per day.
  • You won’t see dead animals on the side of the road: Newfoundland doesn’t have raccoons, porcupines, or skunks.
  • The McDonalds there don’t have any vegetarian meals.
  • Sandwiches never include vegetables, just meat and a sauce (usually mayonnaise).
  • Fogo Island is the blueberry capital of Canada, not Oxford, Nova Scotia.
  • St. John’s Harbour still has a geyser of sewage spewing from its bottom and it still stinks.
  • Afterwords used books store is still around and on Duckworth Street. My wife used to work there.
  • Store clerks are terse, making it obvious they hate their work.
  • It’s always a pleasure to talk to a Newfoundlander, just to hear their accent.
  • Near Gambo (at Joey’s Lookout) you can buy purple cabbage and a broccoli-cauliflower hybrid called broccoflower
  • Everyone there seems to watch Canadian Idol, which I’ve never seen (nor any other similar show).
  • St. John’s is MUCH busier than last time I was there (about 7 years ago).
  • Fred Hutton is now News Director at NTV (which is rather unique, offering strange programming; watch it in the early AM sometime: it’ll freak you out).