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Reviews Written by
Ian Gordon Malcomson (Victoria, BC)
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Hard Choices
Hard Choices
by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 34.45
101 used & new from CDN$ 3.89

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Laying Claim to the Mantle, Sept. 15 2015
This review is from: Hard Choices (Hardcover)
For those who are critical of Clinton for being superficial in this autobiographical account of life in high places, remember she is writing from the position of America's top diplomat with the daunting task of defending and defining the country's foreign interests and policies. So where does an aspiring public figure start in telling her version of events that could take her all the way to the White House? As both a prominent senator and then Obama's Secretary of State, Hillary presents herself as a caring individual, a loving parent, a savvy politician, a pragmatic thinker, and a devoted humanitarian who both wants what is best for American and the world at large: a better way of life. While some may question the accuracy of her recollection of events - Libya and the death of Ambassador Stevens - one cannot question her drive to be out front on all the big issues of the day such as womanhood, disaster aid, free trade, peace negotiations, immigration, education, healthcare, and foreign aid. This book is full of stories about her being here, there, and everywhere, embracing prominent allies, holding intense discussions with opponents, and posing with celebrities and children. There is no need for her specific views on foreign and domestic policies because she takes care of all that by creating the impression that she enjoys defusing crises, mending fences, reconciling differences, and giving people hope, even though it often entails making tough decisions as a way of standing up to America's enemies.This personal account is worth reading because it covers all the bases necessary to make Clinton a front-runner in name alone.The problem, however, is that presidencies are rarely won on name recognition or globe-trotting alone. She will not only have to remain a leading spokesperson for America abroad but also become a difference maker at home. The jury appears to be still out on that point. That might be harder to achieve because the electorate might want something other than her name on which to base its trust.

House Guests, House Pests: A Natural History of Animals in the Home
House Guests, House Pests: A Natural History of Animals in the Home
by Richard Jones
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 31.04
30 used & new from CDN$ 8.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome to the World of Creepy Crawlers, Sept. 12 2015
I like what Jones endeavors to do in this study of househld insects and vermin: both entertain and instruct us as to why all kinds of disgusting organisms have successfully made their way inside our homes with the greatest of ease to cause no end of inconvenience and hardship. Mites, fleas, flies, rats, mice, spiders, lice, worms, maggots, mosquitos, beetles,, moths, cockroaches, and wasps are part of the cast of pests 'programmed' to attack our food, pets, bodies, and living environments, often with deastating results. Jones has an avid interesting in not only sharing the graphic details of fleas that bite, flies that lay maggots, beetles that spoil food, and rats that spread disease, he goes to great lengths to show we have unwittingly open our doors tonselcome them through the housing of pets, the poor storage of foodstuffs, the ineffective securing of windows and doors, and the questionable disposal of waste. What made this book especially appealing to read is are the excellent collection of dramatic, life-like ink drawings by the author showing how these lifeforms look close up: very sinister and menacing in an enlarged scale. Yes, Jones has creatively introduced us to world thst can only be understood as a warzone where humans and lower forms of life are locked in a never-ending battle to control and ultimately expand their space.

Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Stalina
Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Stalina
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers CA
Price: CDN$ 17.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Candid and Tragic Story, Sept. 8 2015
Finally, we have verifiable proof that Stalin was not only a bloody tyrant of the worst kind - no limits on who he murdered, even his immediate family members - but a social creep and a malignant narcissist to boot. It was this man with all his psychological abnormalities who played the dual role of ruthless dictator of the USSR during a very tumultuous period of history while being the father to three children. Sullivan, in this very well researched study of who Stalin was as a 'papa' paints a very unflattering picture of a parent who, while professing great love for Yakov, Vasili, and Svetlana, was nothing more than a cruel, heartless hypocrite trying to reconcile his private and public lives. While he was able to instill fear into millions of Russians, he never seemed able to keep tight reins on his children by making them like himself: devoid of empathy. Most of this book looks at Stalin through the eyes of Svetlana as she had to contend hard for his uncertain affections. This was a world of terrible uncertainty and deep, dark secrets. It was the time of the Great Terror and even young Svetlana's life was heavily scrutinized and controlled by the NKVD on orders from her father. We see a young girl very determinedly making a life for herself by reading widely, asking awkward questions and refusing to be intimidated. We also are treated to some very interesting insights into life inside Stalin's private dacha. A peasant at heart who had little time for cultural sophistication. As the story unwinds, Svetlana gradually gains a measure of independence that allows her to seek a career, fall in love, marry, and have a child. Unfortunately, what made her less than successful in these ventures could, in large part, be traced to those earlier unhappy times when Stalin emotionally brutalized her mother, brothers and herself. Having read her autobiography back in the seventies, I truly appreciate this update account that fills in the gaps and takes her story right up to her death. Svetlana always struggled with sustaining relationships because of the fear that it would evolve into something that would end up controlling and ultimately destroying her.

His Whole Life
His Whole Life
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 11.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Lot of Deep Faultlines Here, Sept. 4 2015
This review is from: His Whole Life (Kindle Edition)
There was a part of me that wanted to really like this novel. After all, Hay definitely has the ability to bring characters together in the search for the bigger meaning or purpose of life, whether it be in love, loneliness, or lore. Her well crafted prose, in the three novels I have read to date, have a wonderful way of allowing the reader to penetrate the psyche of her characters. In "His Whole Life" we get to see a young boy struggle with the challenges of growing up in a modern dysfunctional family, torn apart in his soul by parents who are at serious odds as to where and how they want to live. While young Jim knows what he wants - the peace to enjoy life in a setting of his own choosing - the adults in his life are forever forcing their own rancorous dispositions on him. He has barely begun to live life and they confront him with the ugly uncertainties and prejudices that come from unresolved sibling rivalries, impending death and national politics. While Hay does a capable job of creating a little world of retreat for Jim and boyish dreams and interests - by a wilderness lake with a dog - I am not so confident that she has made a good case for connecting him to the bigger world around him through the rough-and-tumble antics of a local character named Lulu who really doesn't care what others think of her. I am not sure whether she is the surrogate mother Jim needs to teach him about life or just another quirky individual meant to mess with his head during these unsettling times. Then there is that matter of the 1995 Quebec Referendum that inserts itself into the storyline like a dirty shirt. We know it is Nancy's obsession as to whether Canada, her home and native land, will stay together or not, but how that mirrors the reality of her own private struggles as an effective backdrop, I'm not quite sure. When things eventually come to a monumental head with the resolving of various seething tensions, unhappiness still reigns in he adult world. Perhaps Hay is telling her readers that life is only worth living if we, like Jim, can create that existence that allows us to enjoy the moment and overlook the failings of others.

Governing from the Centre: The Concentration of Power in Canadian Politics
Governing from the Centre: The Concentration of Power in Canadian Politics
by Donald Savoie
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 42.36
22 used & new from CDN$ 17.76

4.0 out of 5 stars Making sense of government that has become too powerful for its own good, Sept. 2 2015
This in-depth study about the mechanics of how the Canadian government really works is informative, instructive and enlightening. Everyone who thinks they know about the inner workings of our national democratic institutions and practices may need to go back to school to learn a thing or two about what is for real and what isn't. For starters, Savoie believes that our federal system, based on the principle of a strong central government, is anything but democratic in nature. As the role of its chief executive grows in power and size, the democratic influence of parliament wanes. Essentially, legislation and, more importantly, policies are formulated from within the inner sanctums of the executive, namely the Prime Minister's office, the Privy Council, and the Treasury Board. These three bureaucracies assist, guide, protect, and help manage the government''s initiatives. In all fairness, the job of being the Prime Minister has reached the point where the job has become so complex and demanding that only the best advice is required from the best minds to bring about the best results. The problem with this rationale as to who gets to make these important decisions - financial, legislative, judicial - is that they are done behind a cloak of secrecy by unelected personnel. Government has increasingly become an intricate exercise in controlling public dissent and publicly burnishing its image as being responsible and representative. While Savoie identifies this troubling trend, of over two decades, he seems to be at a loss as to how to reform it. Just how do we decentralize and democratize a system that reserves the political power of appointment, policy making and enforcement, and spending tax dollars to an inner circle of power brokers.

Wedding Chronicles
Wedding Chronicles
Price: CDN$ 6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed it immensely, Aug. 31 2015
Sorry, Bob, for taking so long to read this terrific novel. It does everything I expect in a novel and more: one, this explosively quixotic and elaborate tale of globe-trotting Bob Bo's strange compulsion to travel the world in search of weddings to attend has my attention; two, while on this global circuit in various capacities, our hero enters into a myriad of conversations about the state of culture, economy, politics, and history; and three, each experience contributes to a clearer understanding of what both brings people together and pulls them apart. Weddings are one of the important social mediums by which ideas are exchanged, issues are hashed over, illusions and fallacies perpetuated, and friendships made and shattered. Might it be said that the convention of a good wedding, with all its rising expectation, glitter, and celebration, imitates life in interesting and cautionary ways: rising hopes, nagging worries, mercurial emotions, intensive views, and creative expressions. I see this book as a clever and fun-loving parody of all that modern weddings have come to mean to the human race. As Bob Bo has discovered in his global jaunt, weddings are all about the individual needs of the guests and not the matrimonial prospects of the happy couple. To make that point, the author quickly sums up the feelings of the bride and groom in a tersely worded e-mail as a convenient prologue to the main story: the re-enactment of life and all its comic wonders for the umpteenth time.

Decent One [Import]
Decent One [Import]
DVD ~ DECENT ONE
Price: CDN$ 37.95
13 used & new from CDN$ 22.06

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Glimpse Into The Life of a Wicked Man, Aug. 29 2015
This review is from: Decent One [Import] (DVD)
Modern history usually has no problem in identifying that which is evil in our midst. Individuals like Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Papa Doc, Stalin and Hitler qualify as the epitomes of what it means to be extremely wicked or demonic in their actions. Israeli filmmaker Vanessa Lapa, in this film, takes an in-depth look at how this kind of characterization - as accurate as it may be - may still serve up a few interesting surprises. Using the personal archives of Heinrich Himmler, the infamous heyad of the Nazi SS, Lapa allows him to tell his own story of public service and private life in the first half of the 20th century. His life as one of Hitler's chief architects of the Final Solution is a study in dramatic human dichotomy where, on one hand, we have Himmler the ruthless ideologue who sees his life calling to eliminate the Jewish race, while, on the other, the loving, doting father who would do anything to guarantee the comfort and happiness of his family. Within this context, Lapa uses the archives to explore and explode the self-proclaimed myth that, even if he was a monster, he at least cared for his loved ones. The many letters show that the former chicken farmer always struggled to impress Hitler that his role was absolutely indispensable to the survival of the Third Reich. Shielding his family from his murderous schemes by presenting himself as a decent chap was not without its challenges. People knew and people talked and, in the end, the truth got out: the man was a chauvinist, hypocrite and a sexist of the nth degree to go along with his moral turpitude. He tried to keep his wife and children in ignorant bliss while maintaining a mistress and siring children out of wedlock. He tried to impress people that he worked for the good of the nation while overseeing the slaughter of millions of its citizens. This two-sided life stands as a reminder that despots of the worst kind always yearn to be seen as decent because that is the only way they can be justified in being evil. After Himmler's suicide, at the end of the war, the real strength and power of this fictional persona started to make itself really felt in his immediate family. Brainwashed to a person, each member clung to that image of a decent father and husband whose memory needed to be honored in perpetuity.

The Intellectual Life of Edmund Burke: From the Sublime and Beautiful to American Independence
The Intellectual Life of Edmund Burke: From the Sublime and Beautiful to American Independence
by David Bromwich
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 39.73
27 used & new from CDN$ 34.22

5.0 out of 5 stars In Praise of Moderation, Aug. 29 2015
Having read Burke's "Reflections on the French Revolution", I was aware of his call for a greater sense of political civility in society based on a need to be sensitive to the needs and interests of others. Public morality is a critical ingredient in society that makes the ruler and the ruled equal in their responsibility to answer to each other's particular needs. Bromwich's study introduced me to many other great writings by Burke that deal with what he believed was the proper temper for avoiding or controlling dissent within or between nations. Britain of the 18th century was Burke's model for showing how this ideal worked as well failed. All that is beautiful, noble and sublime that does not depend exclusively on the sensibilities of the aristocratic, or the passions of the democrat, or the reasonings of the philosopher. A Whiggish sense of balance between class interests allows for power or authority to be exercised cautiously, the rule of law applied evenly, and dissent kept to a manageable level. Everything that happens in the body politic instructs us as to how that moderate position is achieved. Proscribe the freedom of expression and you might be inviting rebellion; unfairly increase the tax burden and you might have a revolution on your hands. Both these outcomes came to pass in Burke's lifetime with the unpopular policies of the Lord North ministry leading to the American Revolution and the downfall of the Bourbon monarchy with the onset of the French Revolution. Having said that, Burke is clearly of the opinion that people must learn to live with the framework of the law that makes it incumbent on all people to act as citizens and barbarians. Keep in mind that this book is more analytical of how Burke handled the issues of the day than descriptive of his personal life. This is political commentary at its best and not biographical disclosure, which other writers do a better job at.

Manual Nose Hair Trimmer by Muzitao© No Batteries Required The Best Portable Nose & Ear Hair Trimmer
Manual Nose Hair Trimmer by Muzitao© No Batteries Required The Best Portable Nose & Ear Hair Trimmer
Offered by Muzitao
Price: CDN$ 24.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally a trimmer that can be used anywhere, Aug. 28 2015
I have tried this trimmer for a week now and am convinced it is ideally suited for dealing with unsightly nose hairs when it is not otherwise practical to do so. A little pricey, maybe, but it sure does the job in a discreet and painless manner. As I was asked to test out this product, I would be remiss if I didn't say it is easy to operate and is a convenient small size. Also includes a small cleaning brush.

Universal Tablet Stand - Portable Waterproof Travel Stand For Your iPad, Tablet, e-reader, Smartphone & iPhone - iPad Stand Fits ANY iPad & ALL Tablets and Devices Under 1/2 Inch Thickness (Baby Blue)
Universal Tablet Stand - Portable Waterproof Travel Stand For Your iPad, Tablet, e-reader, Smartphone & iPhone - iPad Stand Fits ANY iPad & ALL Tablets and Devices Under 1/2 Inch Thickness (Baby Blue)
Offered by Muzitao

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Helpful Device for the Tablet Anywhere, Aug. 28 2015
I am doing this review as part of an opportunity to test out this product. Without any hesitation, it is a great product that allows me to use my tablet in an effective and convenient manner. The glare on the screen is greatly reduced and I am better able to work on e-mails and blogs while consulting other offline sources. This base is snug, compact and secure from tipping over, making it simple to use and store.

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