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Ian Gordon Malcomson (Victoria, BC)
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Multiply: Disciple Making for Ordinary PeopleVol 1
Multiply: Disciple Making for Ordinary PeopleVol 1
by Francis Chan
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.45
34 used & new from CDN$ 8.42

5.0 out of 5 stars The Heart of Christianity, April 6 2014
As a Christian writer and church builder, Chan has never held back in declaring that the heart of Christianity is found in a covenantal relationship between God and his creation. This book is primarily meant as a course to help those new disciples who are learning for the first time the implications of being part of this supernatural relationship based on God's promise to those who follow him in this new life. However, I found it a very clear reminder of how God faithfully moves through history, seeking those who want to be part of his heavenly kingdom. Easy to read, "Multiply" outlines what it means to be a follower of Christ and honor the call of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18. As an evangelist and visionary, Chan believes that the New Testament church, as it exists today in innumerable local forms, is the all-critical manifestation of how God and His Son, with the help of the Holy Spirit, are building a universal church of transformed lives given to worship and service. This can only happen if we go out into the world sharing with others what God has done for us, namely giving us a sure hope that God is true to His word. Accompanying this heavenly command is the historical record that Chan reviews in detail. It shows God as always interested in re-establishing an intimate relationship with a fallen creation even though it may not always be responsive to his wooings. The power of evangelism that Chan envisages is as simple as one poor sinner saved by grace and led by the Spirit telling another the good news of salvation. That is how God makes an eternal difference in our present lives.

12 Years A Slave (Bilingual)
12 Years A Slave (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Chiwetel Ejiofor
Price: CDN$ 6.47
8 used & new from CDN$ 3.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Fighting for One's Freedom, April 5 2014
This review is from: 12 Years A Slave (Bilingual) (DVD)
I can well appreciate why this film received top billing at this year’s Academy Awards. While the storyline is not a complex one to follow, its characters all play vital roles in support of a time-honored theme: finding the courage to fight for one’s liberty against incredible odds. From the outset, this tale has a huge wrong that must be righted. Back in the 1840s, before the issue of slavery drove a wedge between the North and the South, it was not uncommon for freed blacks in states like New York to be abducted by criminal gangs intent on selling them as slaves in New Orleans. Based on the personal trials and tribulations of one such victim, Solomon Northup, an accomplished musician, we see a remarkable tale of human misery, matched by incredible courage and tenacity, as he tries to survive in hope of regaining his freedom and all the blessings that go with it. We are not spared the many moments of wanton cruelty and human degradation involved in perpetuating the evils of slavery. This production shows this culture for what it is: corrupt, wretched, disgusting, atrocious, wicked and immoral. But like a lot of bad things in life, this brand of tyranny has to get a whole lot worse before the forces of good come to the rescue. The success of this movie comes in its many poignant moments when evil is confronted and stopped in its tracks by men and women willing to suffer for their convictions. After watching this film, I once again marvel at what the human spirit can endure in order to be free from oppression. To think that such bondage still exists today in various forms around the world makes me think that we still have a long way to go before all humankind is equal under God.

The Kraus Project
The Kraus Project
by Jonathan Franzen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 16.92

3.0 out of 5 stars A Prophet Not Honored In His Own Country, March 31 2014
This review is from: The Kraus Project (Hardcover)
If Franzen's purpose for writing this book is to evoke the long-forgotten genius of one of Austria's more controversial cultural critics, in the person of Karl Kraus, he certainly did not succeed with me. While reading this book, based on an annotated translation and critique of two of Kraus' easier-to-read essays on the works of Heine and Nestroy, we are treated to a grand view of a 19th century literary world being hijacked by political and nationalistic forces intent on destroying individual creativity and freedom to criticize. The lyrical poetry of the German Heine and the satirical barbs of the Austrian playwright Nestroy do not fair well here. For Kraus' money, both men, while admittedly popular in their time, failed to openly challenge what was starting to set in across a greater Germany: a rising jingoism, a growing nationalism, an emergence of statism, and the appearance of pulp novels. This lament of things gone bad is full of hate for all that does not measure up to Kraus' high standards of literary freedom. According to Kraus, no writer should ever be tempted to cater to popular whims when it comes to telling the truth about what is going wrong in society, unpopular as that may be. Heine waxed poetic on things that were false, while Nestroy failed to use his rapier-like wit to expose the rot of a decadent society that refused to reform. For those who follow and endorse these writers, Kraus roundly condemns them as the easily duped, unsuspecting public that look to be entertained rather than intellectually challenged. While I read everything in this book except Kraus in the original, I would be more tempted to seek out the many other works of Heine and Nestroy to see how warranted Kraus' concerns really were. If Franzen, as a very popular novelist of works like "Freedom", has suddenly become uncomfortable with his sudden success, I guess he has found confirmation for his doubt in the grumbling pronouncements of a prophetic voice from the past.

Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris
Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris
by David King
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.72
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Complex Case With a Simple Solution, March 26 2014
Here is one of those ghoulish stories that is meant to give you the shivers any time of the day. It is the account of a Parisian doctor named Petiot who, in the space of three years during the German occupation, murdered an estimated sixty people. King has done considerable research in an effort to uncover as much of this grim tale as possible so that his readers can begin to understand motive, means, and opportunity. Petiot was one of those bluebeards who saw an opportunity to entrap his unwitting victims - mostly Jewish refugees looking to escape - and clinically dispose of them in the most heinous fashion under cover of a very tumultuous time in French history. When the readers fully absorb what King lays out in this book as to the forensic background to these serial killings, they will have to agree that they happened because of a significant breakdown in law and order that allowed evil to go unchecked. The book takes a close look at who Petiot was as a competent doctor and a less-than-honest citizen, how and why he masterminded this crime, and how he managed to cover it up for so long. The book devotes a lot of attention to the often frustrated but dogged detective work to apprehend Petiot. Besides compiling a list of the numerous victims who could only be identified from pieces of clothing, notes and jewelry found at the apartment of Le Sueur Street, the Metro police had to fan out into the countryside to follow a tangle of leads that involved Nazi, Resistance, and Jewish connections. The subsequent trial became, at times, a circus in which Petiot and his lawyers tried to show that what he did was simply eliminate traitors. Mention is made of how, years later, authorities learned how he killed his unwitting victims. There is enough information here to help us determine why Petiot committed such dastardly offenses. What might be missing is any evidence that would point to an underlying psychosis or sexual aberration, because the man, during his trial, definitely came across as deranged. It would seem that France, in the closing months of the war, wants to dispatch with the embarrassment of this monster as quickly possible. I recommend this book as good historical drama that brings a badly divided nation together in a common cause.

Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story
Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story
by Robyn Doolittle
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.77
46 used & new from CDN$ 1.47

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dirt on the Fords, March 23 2014
Talk about turning things upside down in a jiffy. It is 2010 and Torontonians are preparing to elect a new mayor. One moment it looked like four more years of the same staid, middle-of-the-road soft civic leadership from the centre Left, and then it all changed. Councillor Rob Ford from Etobicoke threw his hat in the ring, and life in Canada’s largest city has never been the same. Doolittle has written a candid crackerjack of a book covering a large part of Ford and the family name from the mid-20th century on what helps to explain why a loud-mouth, obnoxious, bombastic individual like Rob Ford can find himself in a place of political prominence in a city known to despise conservative politicians. While her account reads like a cautionary and sensational tale with a wicked twist, it is much better than that. Doolittle actually wants her readers to understand that Ford is as much a creation of the culture he and his brothers grew up in the eighties and nineties as he is a terribly flawed individual. The fact that Ford and his clan have manipulated the counter-culture media into seeing him as a tough, no-nonsense populist of a politician speaks volumes about his abilities as a modern plutocrat. With the libertarian crowd behind him, Ford can basically be anything, say anything, and do anything he wants because he’s the boss, including his regular use of profanity, slandering his opponents, doing drugs, drinking in public, and hanging out with the criminal element. When faced with the evidence that he is committing reprehensible actions, he and the rest of the Fords go into denial mode. Through controversial year after year in public office, both as a councilor and mayor, Ford continues to hold his popularity which has Doolittle musing what next. As an investigative reporter, she has definitely earned the right to be regarded as an authority on all things Ford.

The Nazi and the Psychiatrist: Hermann Göring, Dr. Douglas M. Kelley, and a Fatal Meeting of Minds at the End of WWII
The Nazi and the Psychiatrist: Hermann Göring, Dr. Douglas M. Kelley, and a Fatal Meeting of Minds at the End of WWII
by Jack El-Hai
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 31.00
19 used & new from CDN$ 5.55

5.0 out of 5 stars The Many Faces of Evil, March 17 2014
I found this book to offer a very powerful statement on how deep-seated evil can often be shown to contain everyday normal behaviour. It was 1945, and the International War Crimes Commission needed a reputable psychiatrist to tend to the mental needs of at least thirty top-ranking German prisoners as they prepared to stand trial for their lives. This assignment fell to Douglas Kelley, an upcoming clinical psychiatrist from California, a recognized expert in the use of the Rorschach ink-blot method for detecting psychotic behaviour as it applies to criminal activity. Over a period of months, Kelley got to know the Nazi henchmen in a personal way that allowed him to form a very unique professional and personal opinion about the atrocities they committed on behalf of the Third Reich. According to Kelley's detailed observations,the main caste of rogues was divided into three groups: leaders, enablers, and the insane, with Reich Marshall Herman Goering clearly falling into the first category. Based on papers that were later declassified, the author covers a lot of what Kelley and this Nazi heavy-weight discussed in various interviews leading up to the Nuremberg trials. Everything is on the table as to how Goering saw himself as one of the masterminds of Nazi policies, his persona as a family man, his achievements as a war hero, his drug addiction, his narcissistic tendencies, his sexual proclivities, and his interpersonal relationships with other Nazi figures. The profile that emerged on Goering was not the psychotic monster Kelley initially believed was behind the rise of Nazism. Though Goering, in Kelley's official view, was responsible for his actions and deserved to die for his crimes, he couldn't help but notice that the man had a charming side to him. Goering was always the manipulator right up to the end, and there is a rumor that even Kelley fell prey to his guile on more than one occasion. As a psychiatrist turned criminologist, Kelley made it his personal challenge to explore the minds of Nazi leaders in order to establish the extent of their criminality. His final report on Goering seems to see him as a pathetic figure who is constantly frustrated by political rivals and inferiors in his attempt to gain power. Goering always saw himself as a victim of Germans who didn't appreciate his cultural tastes, panache, and sense of greatness. The fact that Kelley spent an inordinate amount of time with Goering in his cell, while singling him out as somewhat distinguished from the rest of the drab group of defendants, may have compromised his professional judgment by getting to know his client too well. The end of this story takes place in the nineteen fifties when Kelley's life fell apart in his efforts to prove that pyschosis was at the bottom of most serious crime. In his drive to find a perfect way to determine sanity from insanity. Kelly ended up alienating a lot of his colleagues and friends in law enforcement as his mind came unglued. That, in itself, is the great consuming tragedy here.

Dexter's Final Cut: A Novel
Dexter's Final Cut: A Novel
by Jeff Lindsay
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.14
32 used & new from CDN$ 2.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Divided As Always, March 14 2014
Like the TV and literary creation Dexter Morgan - forensic expert by day, vigilante by night and devoted husband and father whenever - his followers must experience moments when they doubt their sanity as to how much longer this routine will hold together. Every time I think it is time to finally lower the curtains on this surreal existence, along comes Lindsay with a new episode or installment to sustain the tenuous legend. "Dexter's Final Cut" is the latest tale of a man who has multiple roles to fill in order to be all things to all people including himself. This novel did not disappoint me because, once again, Lindsay introduces a new facet to Dexter's already complex and troubled life. Saddled with yet another little unforeseen irritation - being forced by his boss to take on two actors in a job shadow in conjunction with a new TV police series - Dexter quickly turns it into an opportunity to explore a world he only dreamt about till now: a career in acting and a chance to break away from the mundanity of domestic life. Life will definitely imitate art for a while as Dexter gets caught up in the glamour of movie-making. Of course, he will still carry on his nine-to-five job and that is where things will get very dicey very fast. While Dexter may be able to hide his truly dark side from public scrutiny, he will quickly learn that the so-called safe world of acting that he now dabbles in is anything but; his new love, diva Jackie and her assistant, have suddenly become the target of a serial killer. Before this story ends and justice has been done, nobody within Dexter's little circle will be safe. By widening the circle of engagement, Lindsay has upped the ante in Dexter's life to the point of taking him to the edge of no return. As Dexter gets caught up in this tanglewood of nasty circumstances, the reader may be forgiven for thinking that the end has come, and our hero or anti-hero has finally succumbed to his one insatiable desire to be true to himself and his feelings.

Hyde Park on Hudson
Hyde Park on Hudson
Offered by moviemars-canada
Price: CDN$ 7.76
24 used & new from CDN$ 2.99

2.0 out of 5 stars A Fun-loving Everyman's President: Light-Hearted Comedy At Best, March 10 2014
This review is from: Hyde Park on Hudson (DVD)
After watching this cinematic portrayal on the private life of FDR leading up to one summer week-end in 1939, I am not surprised it didn’t get higher ratings than it did. While actor Bill Murray seems to be perfectly cast for the role of the ever-jaunty, often whimsical 32nd president of the United States who is destined to eventually lead the country into another world war, this movie seems to be caught in a bit of a time warp. It is still peacetime and our light-hearted president has other things on his mind: a new-found love in the most unlikely of persons and an upcoming visit from the king and queen of England to the pristine family estate, on the banks of the Hudson, next door to the Vanderbilts and the Astors. Daisy, the unassuming member of his household staff, gave this cripple of a man the confidence to be himself and stand up to a domineering mother and a henpecking wife. Their secret jaunts into a lovely countryside are moments in the film that show a passion to reach out and enjoy the freedom of the moment rarely experienced by people in power on the edge of destiny. It is the quiet, background efforts of this woman to fill a void in the life of a popular but very conflicted and lonely man at the top that may have significantly contributed to the success of that crucial royal visit later that summer. FDR’s ability to humor a rather ‘anal-retentive’ royal couple with a number of disarming gestures is seen as helping to forge new Anglo-American ties and, ultimately, leading to changing the course of history: hot dog diplomacy as engineered by a hot-dogging president is what this movie is all about. The viewers are left with that ambivalent notion that FDR is that one-of-a-kind national leader who had the ability to invoke in others a sense of confidence and trust by charming them into letting down their guard.

The Glass Palace
The Glass Palace
by Amitav Ghosh
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.44
10 used & new from CDN$ 1.78

5.0 out of 5 stars The Continuum of Intergenerational Love, March 5 2014
This review is from: The Glass Palace (Paperback)
I like involved stories that move with the ebb and flow of history, all the time attempting to make sense of change as new generations emerge. “The Glass Palace” is one such richly woven, effectively researched epic about two families coming together in the most extraordinary of circumstances - the breakup of the British Empire in the Far East. In a long circuitous process their various members will form both lasting and transient relationships that will contribute to an overall big and more unsettled future. In this well-crafted, complex and riveting tale, the author traces the ups and downs of two unlikely characters: the poor Burmese cabdriver, Rajkumar, and a young royal servant, Dolly, who, for the next seventy years of tumultuous history, will go on an incredible journey together that the reader does not want to miss. Their paths first cross briefly during the violent overthrow of the monarchy in Rangoon, only to meet again later in India where fortunes have changed. Against traditional opposition, they marry and raise a family back in Burma where Rajkumar, by now a wealthy timber merchant, sees a lucrative opportunity to invest in the rubber trade. His plantation at Morningside will prosper from the outset because economic and geopolitical times are right. Little does he realize that he and Dolly are on the cusp of tremendous change happening within and without greater India, the legendary jewel in the imperial crown. Cataclysmic forces around them conspire to destabilize the good life they have struggled to build for themselves : the end of the aristocracy, the rise of a middle-class, the death of colonialism, the unleashing of nationalism and the fight for independence. Soon the good life will be gone as people in their circle of friends will be sucked into the great vortex of war, economic depression, pestilence, genocide, and famine. The glass palace - that majestic edifice of royal Burmese supremacy and security - will be quickly shattered as it is overrun by the barbarians of ruthless change and incivility. This couple’s children and their friends will soon follow their own counsels because they, too, have become susceptible to the forces of social, political and economic change. While much of this intricate story involves people desperately searching to reconnect with others from their past, time offers one consolation: those who survive get to see the next generation rise to meet a fresh set of challenges. For those who love historical fiction this is a must read.

Chasing Goldman Sachs: How the Masters of the Universe Melted Wall Street Down . . . And Why They'll Take Us to the Brink Again
Chasing Goldman Sachs: How the Masters of the Universe Melted Wall Street Down . . . And Why They'll Take Us to the Brink Again
by Suzanne McGee
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.16
23 used & new from CDN$ 4.50

4.0 out of 5 stars The Absurd Limits of Making Money, Feb. 28 2014
I noticed late last year that the grandaddy of Wall Street firms, Goldman Sachs, was slashing its managerial bonuses by 30% because profits were significantly down. It was this news that prompted me to pick up McGee’s monograph on why Wall Street is still up to its old shenanigans of investing in dodgy financial transactions, five years after the latest meltdown. According to her, nothing has changed. The climate or appetite for high-risk deals did not go away after the collapse of Lehman Bros. and the disappearance of Bear Stearns as investment capital brokerage houses. While subprime mortgage is no longer the operative word on the Street these days, something even more intriguing and risky has risen to take its place: extensive leveraged financing of major corporate take-overs. To facilitate this process, the big firms like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan have become all-out investment banks who provide multi-billion dollar financing in return for the purchaser’s debt: a guaranteed credit swap. For example, Company A wants to buy out one of its competitors but to make the take-over bid more attractive it must raise the capital either on the bond market or enter into a deal with a Wall Street investment banking firm. For its efforts, Goldman Sachs gets a decent return on the loan that is covered by what the borrower holds on other companies. The medium of exchange here is the handing off of bundles of financed debt that other deals bring good returns as long as the company in question is turning a profit. As McGee points out, there are thousands of deals being executed every year involving trillions of dollars in recycled asset exchanges, whose true monetary value might be considerably less than commonly assumed. A classic example of companies that are leveraged to the hilt are Amazon and Facebook. They have taken on billions of dollars in paper profits and reinvested them in new acquisitions of ventures such as Instagram to expand their global stature, with no guarantee of profitability. The real problem here is that thousands of other investment firms in America, with a passel of bonus-hungry, rawhide traders are following suit with their own plan to cash in on the latest bonanza. This, according to McGee, could prompt a return to the scary days of 2008 when liquidity suddenly disappeared on Wall Street because credit had been overextended in sketchy transactions.

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