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Ian Gordon Malcomson (Victoria, BC)
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Tales of the Unexpected
Tales of the Unexpected
by Roald Dahl
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.61
52 used & new from CDN$ 10.33

5.0 out of 5 stars Great shock value, June 7 2015
There are a number of caveats to be aware of when reading this Roald Dahl collection of short studies. On the large scale of life, nothing is taboo here. The reader will encounter any number of strange and improbable situations that could amuse, bemuse, frighten, betray and even offend them at the very thought that their sensibilities have been played with. Using myself as an example of someone who likes involved, loaded and, at times, morbid plots, the reader here becomes an easy mark for the surprising and often disturbing ending. We get so caught up in the thick of a delicious tale that we fail to see that Dahl, the master narrator, is setting us up like his main characters for the big fall or let down. My favourites have to be "Man from the South", "Nunc Dimittis" and "The Way Up To Heaven" because all three represent the author at his best in telling a convincing yarn that achieves a fiendishly twisted end or outrageous outcome that rivals anything Poe wrote in this genre, including "Tales from the Crypt".

Intercessory Prayer: How God Can Use Your Prayers To Move Heaven And Earth
Intercessory Prayer: How God Can Use Your Prayers To Move Heaven And Earth
by Dutch Sheets
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 20.99
24 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Seated in High Places, June 7 2015
Dutch Sheets, pastor of a large American evangelical church, has produced, with this book, a very important statement on the nature of prayer in a Christian's life. Focusing on the subject of intercessory prayer, Sheets makes the point that we have not because we fail to claim and unlock the true power of prayer: the ability to rebuke and overcome the forces of evil by interceding for each other in critical times of need. One, we have to recognize that scripturally we have that empowerment to come against the devil in the mighty and all-powerful name of Jehovah. Two, according to Sheets we must never consider this right to be a one of situation to be used when we are out of other human options. That is what is meant by God calling us to pray in the spirit without ceasing, meaning that it is no simple utterance that will make the difference. After all, we are up against an adversary that is wily and determined to defeat our witness in this world. As we grow in confidence that Satan and his legions have been defeated at the Cross, we still need to be ever vigilant that our battle is fought in the spirit world as well as in the carnal. A defeated spirit is what the mortal enemy of our souls hopes to achieve through adversities like sickness, financial distress, and dysfunctional relationships. What I really find helpful in this book is Sheet's ability to back up everything he has to say on the subject with biblical references and personal anecdotes from his various ministries. Nothing in this study is cheesy, impractical, or weird because, in the end, it lines up with what God wants us to do: to complete His call for greater and deeper prayer in our lives that shows results. Yes, we can pray with faith believing that God will answer, and yet He may only decide to keep us waiting in order to test the sincerity of our faith in His divine ability to answer our petitions. What I have learned, much to my surprise, is God has a time table that is so much more inclusive than my little world of intercessory plaints and appeals. Sheets' book is the best argument for praying in the spirit rather than by rote. It is neither an art or a science but a high-calling that allows us to dwell in the presence of God, confident that we have His favor.

Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark
Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark
by Brian Kellow
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.15
44 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Never One to Mince Words, June 3 2015
Literary critics are often seen as people who genuinely believe in their imperial might to have the last word on a given subject, performance or work in the cultural world. Greats like George Bernard Shaw and James Agee are classical examples of how the power of the pen was truly stronger than the sword. Everything in the realm of public opinion seemed to hang on their magisterial pronouncements on music, books, theatre, and the cinema. Kellow offers us the stellared story of late 20th century version of one such trend-setting film critic in the person of the irrepressible Pauline Kael of New Yorker fame. This book is as much a recounting of her colorful personal life as it is an assessment of her often feisty,waspish, no-holds-barred take on modern movies. By attempting to set critical standards for what made an effective production, Kael performed a key role in reviewing an era that was consumed by self-importance, superficial images, mediocre acting, and lack of originality. Kael was constantly on the lookout for something that could awake the slumbering American conscience into redefining its destiny. Her reviews could be harsh, withering, and nasty if she thought a film was uninspiring, lacked realism, and was too stock-in-trade. Entertainment for entertainment's sake rarely made the grade with Kael. She would sooner tell a director to their face what she didn't like about their work rather than remain their friend. She didn't like films that promoted actors and actresses based on previous Oscar-winning performances. There had to be substance there that spoke to issues, ideas and values that gave us a clearer picture of who we truly are in a rapidly changing world. Nobody, including the likes of Clint Eastwood and Kevin Costner in popular flics, was spared her critical eye when it came to divining the authentic vis a vis the fake. It is probably, in part, her efforts to challenge Hollywood's unearned control of the entertainment industry, during a time when the term 'box-office hit' was coming into vogue, that has set the stage for an infinitely better art form today. For instance, I rarely, if ever, watch Hollywood productions because I have access to so much better viewing material in foreign titles that seem to focus more on the telling of a real-life narrative than show-casing an overrated actor, not to say that good acting isn't important to the overall success of a movie.

Why the West Rules - For Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future
Why the West Rules - For Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future
by Ian Morris
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 19.17
6 used & new from CDN$ 12.67

5.0 out of 5 stars "A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats.", May 31 2015
Stanford historian Ian Morris, in the first of three monumental studies on the meaning of world history, explains how the West came to dominate the East in the context of social, economic and political development. Using a fairly-easy-to-understand index by which to calculate this transformation of civilizations over four millennia, Morris explains why European geopolitical interests were able to achieve a critical global ascendancy when Oriental empires were not. Until the fifteen century CE, the West was basically under siege from the East with a concerted attack by Ottoman forces. The quality of life was not much better than many eastern societies. After Europeans started taking to the oceans of the world in search of trade, new ideas and wealth, the pendulum swung decidedly in their favour. With this westward expansion into the Americas came the establishment of colonies, the introduction of new ideas especially from the East, significant exploitation of natural resources, and the increasing introduction of new technology. All three of these factors were missing in the eastern cultures which made them vulnerable to political instability, prolonged and costly wars, and foreign domination. At no time in Morris' argument do we find any occasion to gloat. His findings, rather, suggest that his calculation can easily show reversals and catch-ups as well as advances. The caveat here is that the historic gap between the two hemispheres is starting to shrink as the quality of life and political stability gain traction in the East with rising economies like China and India leading the way.

Common Ground
Common Ground
by Justin Trudeau
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.20
18 used & new from CDN$ 3.50

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mainly from the Heart, May 28 2015
This review is from: Common Ground (Hardcover)
This book is conveniently released in time to acquaint the Canadian electorate with who Justin really is as a person, as opposed to being just another politician. Canadian Liberals will love this informal autobiography of their national leader because it is brimming with idealism and hope for a better Canada once we get the right government back in place. This Trudeau wants the country to return to the principles of consensus-building, federalism, fairness and compassion that supposedly marked his father's years in office. To achieve that goal, Trudeau is prepared to go out and listen to Canadians to find out what they want: in other words, government defined by the people whoever they are. It won't take the reader long to appreciate that Trudeau and his party are placing a big emphasis on an open government where support for middle-class interests like family benefits, daycare, and pensions come from greater equity in the tax system and more consultation with the provinces. This vague position helps to explain why the Liberals will probably, right up to election time, be forever big on the vision but short on the details. First and foremost, Trudeau wants us to see him as an inspired Canadian who has the determination to offer an alternative to the status quo because he cares, especially for the people of his generation and younger. His story follows that theme to a tee: upbringing, university, career and family, all with little mention of his patrician ties. In this coming out account of his brief foray into politics, Trudeau would want us to believe that he his now one of us - family man and fully-engaged politician - making him eligible to lead us nationally even though his skill set may be thin at best. Perhaps he is the last big hope for Liberals who are looking for a leader to match the other Trudeau and thus save the party from oblivion. Finding that 'common ground' in the middle will be, according to Justin Trudeau, his biggest challenge yet. As an aging country in very uncertain times, Canada obviously has a choice to make come October: stay with the conventional or switch to the new and untried. I leave the reader to consider that outcome.

Happy Valley [Import]
Happy Valley [Import]
Price: CDN$ 36.90
17 used & new from CDN$ 21.63

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Sober Reminder that It is only a Game, May 26 2015
This review is from: Happy Valley [Import] (DVD)
This is a documentary that attempts to give the other side of the Penn State sex abuse scandal in the interests of generating better informed discussion on the real issues at stake here. The filmmaker takes us into the passionately obsessed world of US college football at its best and worst to find out how the diehard fans, coaches and boosters are taking the heavy penalties handed down by the NCAA against PSU for allowing this scandal to happen in the first place. What he found when putting this film together is both fascinating and disturbing. The thousands of loyal supporters see the real victim in this terrible piece to be the potential loss of football as a time-honored athletic program in Happy Valley. Little or no mention is made of those who suffered from Sandusky's predatorial urges. The injustice lies in what many of these people see as a hypocritical effort in overkill as a way of covering up their own incompetence. Sandusky is the problem, punish him but leave the on-campus icons like Paterno alone because that is what legends are made of. After hearing all this whining and lamenting, I came away thinking that the biggest tragedy is that the football fraternity of America may not be prepared to overhaul this sport in the interests of protecting its most vulnerable. The culture of winning and the loyalty to cherished memories make it impossible for many interviewed to see the original problem as anything but an untenable threat to their precious game. Yes, I like tuning into my favorite college team on a fall afternoon but that doesn't make me overlook the grave inconsistencies of the game as it runs roughshod over basic values of decency in an attempt to amass great wealth.

[(The Measure of Civilisation: How Social Development Decides the Fate of Nations)] [Author: Ian Morris] published on (February, 2013)
[(The Measure of Civilisation: How Social Development Decides the Fate of Nations)] [Author: Ian Morris] published on (February, 2013)
by Ian Morris
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars A Big History Perspective Worth Reading, May 25 2015
As a fan of Ian Morris' works on war and historical trends, I found this book to be very challengng and thought-provoking. He believes that western civilisation, over a period of four millennia, has a pronounced edge over its eastern counterparts. To make this more than just another abstract theory based on hunches, Morris has set up an index of data that allows him and his fellow researchers to calculate or estimate the energy captured by various empires and dynasties over time to withstand falling to foreign invaders. Specifically, this measurement reflects the ability to use a combination of natural energy and technology to convey information across wide stretches of territory, build and maintain large cities, raise
and manage huge armies, and pursue trade relations with neighboring states. What Morris found is that while numbers change between 0 and 1 these co-efficients do show definite patterns of development and overall growth. If this study has any application to our understanding of modern history, it comes in what it has to say about patterns. Progress or the betterment of societies over time does not really take off until the industrial era. Up to that time in the 18th century the West, though still ahead of the East, was recovering from a millennium of economic and social decline after the fall of the Roman Empire. I look at a book like this as a valuable tool for determining the relative status of cultures, economies and societies as they move further into the 21st century. Are nations like the US, Morris' definition of the last global cop, about to enter a prolonged period of historical declension while Asian nations finally make a long awaited surge, led by the example of China's recent successes? If so, it will only be because the evidence confirms what is likely underway. Though not solidly arithmetic, Morris' calculations are based on reasonable assumptions that when something is done or not done on a repeated basis over a period time, energy is either harnessed or lost. Reaching maximum capacity doesn't necessarily mean that a political power is immediatley set to fall or falter; rather, what it might suggest is that there is a shift in the works that shows a greater amount of energy captured going to militarily maintaining the status quo instead of expanding.

The Gardens of the British Working Class
The Gardens of the British Working Class
by Margaret Willes
Edition: Hardcover
6 used & new from CDN$ 55.15

5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read for Garden Lovers and Green Thumbs, May 24 2015
As one who lives in a city very devoted to its fine public and private gardens, I find an illustrated book like this on the history of gardening in England a compelling read. Willes is not only an avid fan of all things botanical and horticultural but she has found an effective context in which to study its societal evolution: the emergence of the English working-class garden. This institution, as she presents it, arose from a growing need of cottagers back in the 18th century to grow their own vegetables in order to feed themselves. Land in small parcels became available in small allotments as a result of the generous actions of benevolent societies dedicated to addressing the ills of the Enclosure Acts. Originating around London in the south, where the greatest nutritional need existed, individual small gardens, nurseries, orchards, and market gardens spread throughout the kingdom using the idea of land being utilized to help the poor to be self-sustaining. Over time, these small tracts of land became the very colorful legacy of a typical English worker who expanded his interests in cultivating flowers, fruit trees, exotic plants, herbs and shrubs to the point of making gardening both an honorable profession and a great avocation to distract from the cares of life. This book is full of great pictures that depict how gardening progressed as a practice in design and content. Many of these efforts included places for beehives, flower beds, compost, fencing, statues and a small lawn. As new plants and flowers became all the rage like pinks, chrysanthemums, roses, pansies and tulips, competitions in the form of shows and festivals sprung up. Every important town or community would have its own dedicated society for the promotion and sale of its own special breed of flowers, all raised by working class men and women who usually held down factory jobs during the day. Reading "The Gardens of the British Working Class" has heightened my appreciation for how the cultivated floral beauty of England was so instrumental in calming a nation during very unsettled times when revolutions were igniting on a regular basis across Europe. This phenomenon of taking pride in one's garden
likely parlayed itself into a civic pride that kept people out of trouble when it came to political agitation in the early 19th century. Here in Victoria, I enjoy the outcome of this movement every time I walk by a beautiful floral display of rhododendrons or wander through a community garden surrounded by a thick bank of red clover and purple lavender. The fragrance and the sound of buzzing bees in any garden are heaven to me, which is exactly what Willes captures in this wonderful study.

Home Car Emergency Escape Window Break Hammer Seat Belt Cutter Flashlight
Home Car Emergency Escape Window Break Hammer Seat Belt Cutter Flashlight

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You Never Know, May 22 2015
Yes, this is a device that you will want for your emergency kit. Everything in the lighting end of things works: flashing beacon that attaches to car rooftop; flashlight that effectively illuminates dark corners and spaces; and two handy devices for breaking glass and cutting seat-belts which we haven't, fortunately, had to use. At least we'll have it handy if we drive off the road into the drink one dark stormy night. Seriously, a decent purchase with a number of practical features just in case.

The Dog: A Novel
The Dog: A Novel
by Joseph O'Neill
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 19.38
38 used & new from CDN$ 12.48

5.0 out of 5 stars A Lingering Good-bye to Dubai, May 20 2015
This review is from: The Dog: A Novel (Hardcover)
Dubai, that magical kingdom of grandeur and excess situated in the Persian Gulf, seems to have that irresistable charm to attract all and sundry to its amazing sites of ever-changing modern splendor. To those who come looking to enjoy a brief stopover on the way home to stateside, you might come away slightly amused, or somewhat baffled, or even satisfied that you are now the proud owner of a knock-off Rolex. Cast aside all those tinsely impressions when you pick up O'Neill's novel because you are about to take an existential journey into the heart and soul of this modern Babylon where the acquisition of wealth becomes the morality by which Dubai is truly defined as a living macro-organism. Behind the glitter is a cruelty, baseness, and corruption that allows the privileged insiders, who have, to lord it over the outsiders, who have not, in ways that are both humorous and revealing. The story involves one such person trying to fit himself into this crazy world of double standards and mercurial values by taking on what he believed was a good-paying job with perks in this quixotic kingdom, only to learn, to his chagrin, that he has become prisoner to the most alienating of experiences. Working for a rich Dubain family brings with it a loss of freedom, self-respect, and values. He is now at the behest of those who will use him to pursue their own immoral gains. The distinction of being a high-priced manager of family affairs, in the end, matters little when push comes to shove. You are just as disposable as the low-class factotum from neighboring states who cleans toilets and turns sheets. I found this novel to be a very fascinating journey through a world where every situation is a new challenge to one's sensibilities. Social relationships take on a new hue because everything is now governed by an obligation to serve a new master in a setting that begs the imagination for its surreality. Talk about a controlled environment for the sake of creating the right impression for all the wrong reasons. In this artificially sordid world, where black is white and anything in between, the children of Dubai are left to the oversight of foreigners while their parents pursue their own venal pleasures. For our protagonist, it is an environment wrought with all kinds of perils where personal loyalties last no longer than it takes to gain advantage. O'Neill uses a very dense prose to effectively convey the sense of angst and irony that comes from this volatile and indeterminant relationship of convenience. Yes, the reader will be forever on the edge as he or she moves through this bizarre tale of 'fear and loathing' leading to a dog's life. Hard to shake that impression.

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