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Commentaires écrits par
Jeffrey Swystun (Toronto & Mont Tremblant)

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Casual Lex
Casual Lex
by Webb Garrison
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 18.25
18 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 étoiles sur 5 A Casual Read, Aug. 31 2015
This review is from: Casual Lex (Paperback)
Garrison had a love of language especially an engaging and involved turn of phrase. His children write the Forward to this book and explain it is the amalgam of two previous books. I was surprised to find it is not a narrative but more a colloquial dictionary. Each word or phrase's history, dubious or otherwise, is provided. The result is it more akin to those bathroom companion books that provide jokes, trivia, or world records.

I made it fun by trying to guess the origin and meaning of each as I read the book. I knew the majority previously and was able to determine most of the others. There are 'goes with the territory', 'scuttlebutt', 'mark time', 'ritzy', and 'stumbling block' amongst others. I was stymied by why an 'x' is now shorthand for a kiss. You will have to read Casual Lex to find out but here is a clue...Saint Andrew.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Classics Volume 1
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Classics Volume 1
by Larry Ivie
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 39.99
29 used & new from CDN$ 29.26

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Nostalgic Outing, Aug. 27 2015
This was a fun find as I had never heard of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents before. I somehow missed them on the comic book racks way back when. They were an arm of the United Nations and first appeared in 1965. The name is an acronym for "The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves" which is clunky fun.

The whole vibe is a mix of SHIELD, James Bond, Sgts Rock and Fury, and The Avengers. The agents of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. get their powers from advanced science. The primary agents are Dynamo or Leonard Brown who wears the Thunder Belt, which makes him super-strong and invulnerable for short periods, Menthor or John Janus who gains mental powers from the Menthor Helmet, and NoMan or scientist Anthony Dunn who transfers his mind into an android body of his own design. With a wide number of these identical bodies, Dunn can transfer his mind to any of them should something happen to the one he is in. The addition of an Invisibility Cloak completes the transformation into NoMan. Then there is Lightning or Virgil "Guy" Gilbert wears the Lightning Suit, which gives him super-speed but also ages him at an accelerated rate. Each is given a vulnerability comparable to kryptonite.

For some reason a T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad was added featured super agents. This 'Howling Commandos' unit is less interesting than the agents. Overall, the stories are tame and innocent but entertaining. There is a nostalgic vibe throughout that will take you back to those rainy days when comic books would pass the time and take you someplace else.

Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books
Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books
by Wendy Lesser
Edition: Hardcover
Prix : CDN$ 27.55
36 used & new from CDN$ 4.14

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Reading is Meant to be a Challenge, Aug. 26 2015
Before consuming Lesser's work I had solid notions of why I read. Of course, to learn and be entertained are given equal weight. From there my motives become more personal. I know that for some people reading is a chore best avoided. To these folks, I can only encourage the effort because I believe it is worth it. Reading is meant to be a challenge. Anything that presents difficulty often returns incredible rewards. And besides, skimming short, simple works impact one’s intellectual growth or so experts say. These social scientists advocate slowing one’s reading down and reading longer works more often.

Thankfully, I love a beautiful turn of phrase. I admire a narrative that places one in that moment. I crave an argument compellingly delivered. I respect the complex being made simple but not so simple as to rob it of intricacy. I appreciate learning new words, turning them over in my head and sounding them out on my tongue.

Lesser does as well. In this effort she tackles aspects of reading and writing. In this exploration she brings forth examples of books that cannot be missed. Without a doubt she goes about it in a serious way that may put off the casual reader. But in so doing she is making a point. Most have forgotten that learning and discovery are meant to be arduous. The journey is the destination. If you are handed the answers what have you possibly learned?

William Henry in his brilliant rant, In Defense of Elitism, wrote, "Today, even critical books about ideas are expected to be prescriptive, to conclude with simple, step-by-step solutions to whatever crisis they discuss. Reading itself is becoming a way out of thinking." I hope that is never the case.

The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition
The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition
Prix : CDN$ 9.99

5.0 étoiles sur 5 "An Act of Communication", Aug. 18 2015
Author Norman popularized the term user-centered design and a proponent of design thinking. I believe these approaches to design make it seem like the product has been designed with you in mind. He uses short illustrative case studies to describe the psychology of good and bad design. The rich theory is brought alive through the examination of light switches, door knobs and other day-to-day items we have common and frequent interaction. Here are some bon mots from the book:

“Design is really an act of communication, which means having a deep understanding of the person with whom the designer is communicating.”

“The design of everyday things is in great danger of becoming the design of superfluous, overloaded, unnecessary things.”

“Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good designs fit our needs so well that the design is invisible.”

This is the most recent edition of a 25 year old book that remains relevant and entertaining. The 2013 edition has been updated (NEST is given its due) and includes two entirely new chapters. I like that Norman does not believe in human error as much as bad design (especially when I push on a door that should be pulled). All of this has been made more impressive given at time of this review the book is #1 in Industrial & Product Design, #1 in Retailing, and #4 in Applied Psychology.

The Wind Chill Factor
The Wind Chill Factor
Prix : CDN$ 7.99

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Old School Thriller Still Thrills, Aug. 18 2015
As a Canadian I could appreciate the book's title and the cold conditions that kick off the action in Minnesota. Yet, what entertained me throughout was the old thriller chestnut of Nazis coming back for another go at world domination. The book was first published in 1975 when plots about surviving Nazis and the Fourth Reich were de rigueur. Remember Frederick Forsyth's "The Odessa File" and Ira Levin's "The Boys from Brazil"?

The plot moves with speed, the action and dialogue are more contemporary than expected, and the characters are believable and interesting. Colonel Steynes, Inspector Peterson, Lise Brendel and Martin St. John are all engaging. Gifford comes from that revered old school where his mates are Robert Ludlum, Alistair MacLean, Len Deighton, Ken Follett, and others.

A Long Time Until Now (Temporal Displacement Series Book 1)
A Long Time Until Now (Temporal Displacement Series Book 1)
Prix : CDN$ 8.86

2.0 étoiles sur 5 A Long Time To Read, Aug. 18 2015
Do you remember the two comic book series called Weird War and The War That Time Forgot? The premise of A Long Time From Now reminded me of these fun outings. So I looked forward to finding out how the author would take ten U.S. soldiers serving in Afghanistan back in time. I was expecting near non-stop action but was delivered something quite different.

First off, this book comes in at nearly seven hundred pages that were extremely slow. The first third of the book is talky and procedural and comes across as a bad training video. This monotone runs throughout the entire book. Segments were repeated incessantly to the point it could have been 450 pages if tightened up by author and editor. I am not sure how many times I learned that one soldier would cover another when using the latrine.

As other reviewers have pointed out, the novel is actually a prepper procedural or manual disguised as a military thriller. You will learn about building a fort and where to place a latrine if that interests you and it better. The characters were one-dimensional, boring and took to their radical change of circumstance surprisingly well.

What was most unbelievable was how intellectually equipped these troopers were for the situation. There ability to converse so quickly with Neolithic tribes is laughable and they soon pull off conversational Latin! With all due respect to any country’s military, your basic patrol of grunts is not comprised of Rhode scholars. Yet somehow this group has an enviable depth of expertise in history, astronomy, ancient social customs, geography, and metallurgy.

The writing is lacks sophistication to properly delineate between the characters and their sexes so it grows confusing and frustrating. It was like there was one large amorphous character. The biggest disappointment is reserved for the plot’s resolution. It simply was not worth sticking around for.

A Man Without Breath: A Bernie Gunther Novel
A Man Without Breath: A Bernie Gunther Novel
Offered by Penguin Group USA
Prix : CDN$ 10.99

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Bernie Investigates a Massacre, Aug. 12 2015
Kerr's reluctant Zelig of National Socialism returns in one of the better outings in the series. The former detective, Bernie Gunther, seems to serve in every hotspot during WW2 and interacts with the more nefarious characters of the era. He always brings his jaded and caustic Berlin humour that is wielded at the expense of the Nazis he is forced to serve. In A Man Without Breath, the Katyn Massacre serves as the backdrop for Gunther's latest mystery.

Two years after invading the Soviet Union, German troops discovered a mass grave that held over 20,000 Polish troops, police officers, and others. It was later confirmed that these men had been killed by the Soviet NKVD. Germany used the find as a public relations weapon as the war turned against them. Gunther is sent to Smolensk and the bodies begin to stack up as does the intrigue. This is the ninth book in the series. It had waned for a time but I thoroughly enjoyed this one and continue to wonder where Bernie will end up next.

The Lost Art of the Great Speech: How to Write One--How to Deliver It
The Lost Art of the Great Speech: How to Write One--How to Deliver It
Prix : CDN$ 8.39

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Entertain, Inform and Inspire, Aug. 6 2015
John F. Kennedy said of Winston Churchill, "He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle." With "The Lost Art of the Great Speech", Author Richard Dowis has written the strategy for the entire war. This book delivers much more content than one can digest at one or even two readings. You can tell that Dowis believes that speech has the power to change the world. This must have been forged in his earlier days when writing for marketing and public relations.

He certainly does not hold back on valuable content. The book is populated with checklists, helpful quotes, copious examples and historic speeches made relevant through the author's analysis. This last feature was a bit draggy for me proving that it is impossible to please everyone in speech or in a book. Nevertheless, there is amazing material here told with passion. Dowis shares long helpful tracts and quick bon mots:

- Self confidence is essential
- A good speech relies on anecdotes and human-interest examples to carry its message
- A strong speech or presentation entertains, informs and inspires

It should be noted that "speech" is synonymous with "presentation" within the book. That is why I recommend it for anyone in business. You will find application for every manner of presentation whether it be at a conference, sales pitch, or employee town hall. I have spoken at over 115 events in more than 20 countries and I always learn something new each time. I expect this book will become a much thumbed reference guide as I strive to entertain, inform and inspire audiences.

Drunken Fireworks
Drunken Fireworks
by Stephen King
Edition: Audio CD
Prix : CDN$ 15.45
22 used & new from CDN$ 8.65

2.0 étoiles sur 5 Short on Sparks, July 27 2015
This review is from: Drunken Fireworks (Audio CD)
In this short outing King channels Garrison Keillor for a safe near boring tale. It revolves around a conflict between full-time residents and summer residents on a small lake. Almost any detail will end up producing spoilers so I apologize if the details remain vague. Suffice it say, I was expecting a great deal more as the story progressed. There were big bangs from the titled fireworks but little in character development, plot or resolution. This could be filler on America's NPR or Canada's CBC radio as it is so light that once read is easily forgotten. We have gotten to the point that hundreds of thousands of readers would buy King's grocery shopping list scratched out on a cocktail napkin. Mr. King and/or his publishers need to be reacquainted with value for money equation.

Introducing Cultural Studies: A Graphic Guide
Introducing Cultural Studies: A Graphic Guide
by Ziauddin Sardar
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 12.83
31 used & new from CDN$ 3.60

2.0 étoiles sur 5 Headache Inducing, July 27 2015
This series from Icon Books is a worthy attempt at freshly emparting knowledge on rich subjects. In addition to Cultural Studies, they tackle Ethics, Consciousness, Media Studies, Evolution, Critical Theory along with Newton, Machiavelli, Descartes and other big thinkers. Unfortunately, the result is a jumbled mess of thought and graphics. The choice of imagery seems to conflict with the heady topics addressed. Unlike the competing Dummies books, a narrative, chronological or process thread does not exist. I received a headache for my troubles and not in a good way.

The subject came across as more confusing than it should and the comics were so simplistic and duplicative to the printed words that it did not respect the intellect of the reader. I wanted to very much like it because introducing such topics to a wider audience is a laudable goal. What I concluded is knowledge is meant to be difficult and valuable in its attainment. Any attempt to oversimplify complexity robs it of relevance and application. Ironically, Icon attempts to make sense of tough subjects but because of nonexistent structure and editing succeeds only in making the topic less decipherable.

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