Monday, 30 March 2020

"Bad Food Bible: How and Why to Eat Sinfully" by Aaron Carroll MD

Publisher:Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.
ISBN: 9780544952560
Characteristics: xxxiv, 234 pages :,illustrations

The title of this book is something of a misnomer, as there are really no such thing as bad foods. However as everybody pretty much in the world is aware are hundreds of books, websites, articles, and who knows at else that love to give you advice on things that are bad for you. Or at least are supposedly bad for you based on their convoluted idea of what science is.

Dr. Carroll takes a totally different approach in that he examines the science behind nutrition. I say a different approach because a lot of books, websites etc. have nothing to base the claims and recommendations they make to consumers, and Dr. Carroll tells it like it is.

In this book he deals with topics such as butter, meat, eggs, salt, gluten, GMO's, alcohol, coffee, diet soda, MSG, and non-organic foods. He explains these topics very well and anybody who is even slightly concerned about any of these subjects, will I'm sure have their eyes opened wide.

Having seen a few nutritionists in the years previous to this I can definitely understand where he's coming from in the way he presents his material. Pretty much every nutritionist I've seen has given me a different story. I'm not sure if this is because they just simply are not keeping up with literature, but it is extremely frustrating and it makes it seem that they don't know what they're talking about.

In any case--to step down off my soapbox--I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in nutrition and the controversies surrounding it.

Monday, 23 March 2020

"Leviathian Wakes" by James S. A. Corey

Publisher:New York : Orbit, 2011.
Edition:First edition.
Copyright Date:©2011
ISBN: 9780316129084
Characteristics: 582 pages ;,24 cm.

The review this week is one of those rare book & television show combinations. This is something quite rare for me, as readers of this blog typically notice that for the most part I dump on Hollywood a fair bit. Not that I really ever expect someone from Hollywood to ever read this blog, but who knows maybe they will and realise that the public at large  is able to read, and when they buy the rights to a book that they kinda sort of expect that the screen writer is also able to read, and will translate the author's ideas faithfully. Unfortunately this rarely happens, hence my dumping on them.

In this case however, I want to congratulate the screen writers of the SyFy series "The Expanse" for doing an absolutely wonderful job of translating Corey's novel to the screen. For those people who have not had the opportunity to watch "The Expanse" it is a great adaption, and well worth the time. It doesn't really matter if you want to read the book first, or watch the show, as it is that faithful.

This story is the first in the series, and revolves around two characters James Holden the executive officer of a ship that mines the rings of Saturn bringing loads of ice to mining colonies in the Asteroid Belt. Holden and his crew receive a distress call from a ship called "The Scopuli", and when they go to investigate they get more than they bargained for.

The second character is a police officer - Detective Miller who is searching for a missing girl. His assignment is to find the girl, and when his trail leads to "The Scopuli" too, then things get interesting.

The science in this series is well researched, and while there are some things that defy our current understanding of how things work, they are explained well.

Both the book and series are highly recommended. I'll be reviewing the others in the series as I get a chance to read them, but this could take a while as this book was 582 pages.

Monday, 16 March 2020

"Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon" by Daniel C. Dennett

Published: New York: Penguin
Year: 2007, c2006.
Physical Details: xvi, 448 p. ; 23 cm
ISBN: 9780143038337

This books an extremely interesting read that examines the concept of religion essentially from the ground up. Dennett investigates the various controversial subjects of religion, such as why do we believe in a god or gods, how these beliefs frame and control our lives, how our societies are effected by the beliefs, and much more. Many people allow their lives to be controlled by these phenomena, and have for hundreds if not thousands of years. It affects how people see other cultures, how they raise their children, treat their elders, interact with a community, and many more aspects of human life.

The big question in this book is why do we have religion. Why do people from totally different cultures that have never met feel a bond when they meet based on these beliefs? On the other hand why do the beliefs of certain groups cause them to go to war?

The discussion ranges through the fields of anthropology, philosophy, psychology, sociology, and many more ologies.

While I found this book extremely interesting it did read quite slowly at times, but once you began to think about what was said, then you realised that this was essentially the only way that the concept could be explained. This is definitely a book that every humanist, anthropologist, and philosopher should have on their shelf (hopefully after they've read it), as it provides many insights into human culture and belief.

Monday, 9 March 2020

"The House of Silk" by Anthony Horowitz

Publisher:New York : Mulholland Books, 2011.
Edition:First edition.
Characteristics: 294 pages ;,25 cm

"The House of Silk" is a wonderful novel, that brings the world's most loved detective back to life. The author Anthony Horowitz is most famous for his Alex Rider series (which I have not read), but he easily manages to capture the style of writing of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle very well.

The story is set a few years before Holmes dies, and it is explained in the Preface that the story is so sensational that Dr. Watson was obliged to require his heirs not to publish the story until 100 years after his death. This in itself should intrigue any Holmes fan, and does indeed set the stage for a truly monstrous tale.

If found the novel to be very well written, and thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

When I was done I was curious as to whether it was a one-off novel, or whether Mr. Horowitz had written any others about Holmes. I found that he did write another back in 2014 entitle "Moriarty" which I had read a few years ago before I started this blog in its current form. Unfortunately I was not impressed with this book due to the way the character of Moriarty was portrayed which I believed then (and still do today) makes him into a sadistic murdering psychopath rather than the criminal mastermind that he is portrayed as in all the other books.

I do however highly recommend House of Silk, and hope that Mr. Horowitz continues to write further Sherlock Holmes novels.

Monday, 2 March 2020

"The Epic of Gilgamesh" English version with introduction by N. K. Sandars

Publisher:London : Penguin Books, 1972.
Edition:Revised edition, incorporating new material.
Copyright Date:©1972
ISBN: 9780140441000 
Characteristics: 127 pages :,map ;,20 cm.

The Epic of Gilgamesh who was the renowned king of Uruk in Mesopotamia, was discovered in 1839 by Austen Henry Layard when he was travelling in Mesopotamia and was delayed by excavations of the Assyrian mounds. He was there for a number of years and the result was a number of Assyrian sculptures and over twenty-five thousand broken tablets from the Palace at Nineveh being returned to the British Museum. These tablets were all written in cuneiform (wedge shaped characters, on clay tablets). The decipherment of the language took many years and was finally aided by the discovery by Henry Rawlinson of the 'Record of Darius' on the rock of Behistun near Kermanshah in Persia, which was written in cuneiform, Old Persian, Elamite and Babylonian languages. The epic of Gilgamesh is typically considered to be the earliest existing work of literature.

Unlike many heroes told of in mythology Gilgamesh is was considered by most scholars to be a real person, a King who lived and reigned in Uruk sometime during the first half of the third millennium. The introduction to this book explains in great length the history of the region, of the story itself, it's discovery, translation etc. The introduction itself is 58 pages long which maybe somewhat daunting to your average reader, but it is extremely fascinating as well and takes the reader on a journey that helps to explain the story itself.

The first half of the story gives background information on Gilgamesh himself and a wild being called Enkidu who was created by the gods to oppose Gilgamesh and stop him from oppressing the people of Uruk. Enkidu becomes human after having sex intercourse with a prostitute. He then travels to Uruk and challenges Gilgamesh to a contest of strength, which Gilgamesh wins. The two men then become fast friends (some say lovers), and undertake a journey to kill Humbaba the Terrible the guardian of the sacred forest and then cut down the sacred cedar. After succeeding in this the goddess Ishtar attempts to punish Gilgamesh for refusing her sexually by sending the Bull of Heaven. The Bull is killed by the two men, and the gods decide to kill Enkidu as a punishment for Gilgamesh as they are the best of friends.

The second part of the story details Gilgamesh's distress over Enkidu's death and his quest for eternal life. He doesn't succeed in his quest because death is man's burden. During his travels however he does hear the tale of the great flood.

It is interesting to note that there are many similarities between the epic of Gilgamesh and the Hebrew Bible such as the story of the Garden of Eden, and the flood. In the first case Enkidu is created from the soil just like the mythological Adam, he lives in a worry free world alongside all the animals, he is tempted by a female (who is created from one of his bones), accepts food from the female, then needs to cover his nakedness, and then must leave, etc. As for the flood similarities the flood narrative in the Hebrew Bible is so close to that from Gilgamesh that they can be considered the same and scholars have all agreed that Gilgamesh influenced the mythology of the genesis flood. There are many other similarities as well that I won't bother detailing here.

All told this is a very good story, and I would recommend it to all.

Monday, 24 February 2020

"Career of Evil" by Robert Galbraith

Publisher:New York : Mulholland Books, 2015.
Edition:First North American edition.
ISBN: 9780316349932
Characteristics: 497 pages.

Career of evil is the third book in the Cormoran Strike series. These books as I've said before are  reminiscent of the hard-boiled detective novels of the early 1900s, but with a flair for today, as is necessary. The stories take you right into the heat of the action, and lay bare what the life of a struggling private detective might really be like.

In this book Strike faces an unknown assailant who is out to get him and ruin his business by pretty much any means possible. This includes targeting his assistant Robin as one of his future victims. In addition to the main plot line, the author also looks briefly into various psychological phenomenon that are interesting, but could be quite disturbing to some at the same time.

During this whole time Robin and Matthew are planning their wedding which gives an interesting background flavour to the entire story. Their assailant, who could possibly any one of four or five different people continuously eludes them, until the very end.

This is a fantastic third novel, in a four volume series -- so far. I do hope the author plans on writing more in the series as I only have one left to read.

Monday, 17 February 2020

"So You Want to Move to CANADA, Eh?: Stuff to know before you go" by Jennifer McCartney

Publisher:Philadelphia : Running Press, 2019.
Edition:First edition.
ISBN: 9780762495078
Characteristics: viii, 179 pages :,illustrations, map ;,21 cm

For anybody who has ever contemplated moving to Canada, especially any of you Americans out there this book is aimed directly at you. That being said just because Canada is America's friendly neighbour that doesn't mean we are an extension of the United States, which unfortunately is how many people seem to see us.

The first section has numerous fun facts, as well as many explanations on why we do things the way we do. It delves into such things as our geography, the metric system, our flag, the Canadian National Anthem, stuff about our government, and explanations of our holidays.

The second section explores how a person goes about immigrating to Canada, not something I have to worry about as it looks like there really is a lot of paperwork to do.

The third section takes us back to the fun stuff and explains our culture, touching on subjects such as our laws on guns, alcohol, and cannabis; our language, cuisine, etc.

Ms. McCartney then goes on to give lists of things a prospective immigrant should consult, to help them along their journey.

I found this to be a very well written, and at times hilarious review of our culture, the country itself, and much more. Read it even if you aren't planning on coming here, if nothing else it might help explain our quirks.

Monday, 10 February 2020

"The Ballad of Cat Ballou" by Roy Chanslor (1899-1964)

Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Copyright 1956

"The Ballad of Cat Ballou" is a classic western by an author that researched his work. It tells the tale of Catherine 'Cat' Ballou a young girl who grows up amidst in Wyoming amid ongoing between the Cattleman's Association and her father who was sold a parcel of land in order to keep the cattlemen from using the area as a thoroughfare for their cattle.

The book tells the tale beginning with the courting Cat Ballou's mother (Catherine) who runs away with an outlaw whom she becomes smitten with, even though she promised to consider marriage to an important rancher Adam Field. This begins a life long hatred between Field and Frank Ballou (Cat's father). Eventually Cat is born, and everything is fine until she grows up and a lot of men begin to notice her, including Abe Field (Adam's rather useless son).

There are a host of other characters in this novel which round out the tale very well, and show what a good writer Mr. Chanslor was.

This book was made into a movie in 1965 starring Jane Fonda, and Lee Marvin and was well received. As per usual Hollywood made significant changes and turned it from a well-written, serious western into a musical / comedy. The movie is enjoyable, but is nowhere near as good as the book.

"Bad Food Bible: How and Why to Eat Sinfully" by Aaron Carroll MD

Publisher:Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. ISBN: 9780544952560 Characteristics: xxxiv, 234 pages :,illustrations The title...