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Reviews Written by
Ian Gordon Malcomson (Victoria, BC)

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American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History
American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers CA
Price: CDN$ 11.99

4.0 out of 5 stars An Inside Look at the Life of One Tough Dude, June 30 2015
I am glad I read this story, if only to gain a better ground-level understanding of how the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 unfolded. If Navy Seal Chris Kyle is anything to go by, the drive to take Baghdad was anything but a smooth operation. The fight to claim Fallujah and Basra from jihadists became the bloody job of special assault units like the Seals. Kyle takes us inside these intense battles as he played the role of a sniper assigned to protect his 'brothers' when under fire. Accompanying this main narrative of blood and guts are a lot of back stories intended to help the reader get a better picture of this brutal conflict. We learn what went into making Kyle the fighting machine he ultimately became; we also get to see the candid comments of his wife as she describes the stress her husband's war service has visited on her and the children. This is not a book dedicated to the valor of war per se. The goal of triumphing over one's enemies through mortal combat gives way very quickly to those more intangible values like the strength and courage of belonging to a band of brothers under fire. This willingness to be there when needed is what both potentially makes and breaks a Seal. It is a sad tale with its brief moments of glory. Whether you like Kyle or not, his personal life makes for a compelling read in terms of what factors shape his character under fire: weapons, training, stress, fear and pride.

V-Slicer plus Mandoline 7 Piece Set by Flamen
V-Slicer plus Mandoline 7 Piece Set by Flamen
Offered by Deals Republic
Price: CDN$ 47.42
2 used & new from CDN$ 47.42

5.0 out of 5 stars A good acquisition for the modern kitchen, June 29 2015
So far it seems to be living up to our expectations: sturdy, sharp blades, multiple uses, great storage, smooth operating slider, and washes well. This technology has been around for several decades and, with the introduction of stainless steel cutting parts, appears to be more durable. A great tool for doing lots of raw fruit and veg. preparation for salads and appies.

Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys Into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East
Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys Into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East
by Gerard Russell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.27
36 used & new from CDN$ 13.84

5.0 out of 5 stars Great insight into the Middle-East, June 29 2015
Russell, by writing of this book, has done yeoman service in bringing to the attention of the West the plight of many obscure religious groups living within the very large pale of what is known as the modern Middle-East. To get at that critical information as to who these groups and tribes are culturally, historically, and politically, Russell, the ever-resourceful scholar, set off on a series of protracted journeys into the backwaters of war-torn nations like Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Israel, and Syria to visit people that the world has long forgotten about. Many of these minority groups, such as the Kalasha, Druze, Samaritans and Zoroastrians, are struggling to survive as their numbers dwindle and economic prospects disappear. What I found remarkable about each of these historical enclaves is the way Russell accurately traces their journey through time over thousands of years. These are the people who have managed to combine a subtle blend of Christian, Muslim, and pagan values in pursuit of retaining the right to be themselves. Russell does an excellent job in showing how these kingdoms have maintained their internal discipline and governance to stay alive in a world changing before their very eyes. It helps that their location is often inaccessible and their numbers small enough to fall under the radar of warring factions in this region. I also found it interesting that on a local level all these groups, while impoverished, are usually well tolerated by the majority Muslims, which suggests that any persecution generally comes from the national governments in question.

The Rough Guide to England
The Rough Guide to England
by Rough Guides
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 25.99
37 used & new from CDN$ 18.12

4.0 out of 5 stars Good for the beginner!, June 28 2015
On balance, this is a decent guide for travelling across the width and breath of the British Isles. It offers a very comprehensive view of all that is available to first-time tourists looking for places to visit, things to do, and people to see. With this guide, a typical traveler has options on how to travel, where to eat and sleep, and must-see historical and cultural sights. Lots of easy-to-read maps, colorful photos, and timely information packed into this publication. Where it probably comes up short is in the detail that a seasoned tourist like myself who is looking to plan a camping trip to the Peaks and the Lakes District. I know how to get to these places and the likely spots for pitching my tent but I need more information on what I can do in terms of the outdoors. Unfortunately, this book doesn't do it. While it introduces the reader to the big, small and unique features of this wonderful island, it doesn't take one inside them because that is not its objective.

Why Are Orangutans Orange?: Science Questions in Pictures - With Fascinating Answers
Why Are Orangutans Orange?: Science Questions in Pictures - With Fascinating Answers
by Mick O'Hare
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 20.00
26 used & new from CDN$ 1.22

5.0 out of 5 stars An Important Entry Point into the Natural World, June 28 2015
For anyone who wants to know what makes the natural world tick, it often takes considerable time and effort, with the help of science and the Internet, to unlock its many baffling secrets but, rest assured, there is a reasonable explanation as to why things are the way they are. The New Scientist group of Great Britain has published a handy little collection of some of the best natural enigmas that can be explained simply by turning it over to its readership for their intelligent take on things. Proof, once again, that popular science does not always require a PhD type answer in order to make sense. The phenomena that caught my attention were the ones dealing with cloud formations such as the layering effect, fogbows, and weird cloud shapes. But that is only a small part of the rich menu that awaits the avid inquirer: peculiar insectia, optical illusions, strange frost and icicle patterns, double eggs and no-yolk eggs, weird leaf formations, and twinned trees. An added attraction with this book is the great collection of pictures that accompany each puzzle. I recommend this inspiring little guide to anyone, especially children, who still possess an ability to wonder about the profundities of nature.

Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice
Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice
by Bill Browder
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 22.61
37 used & new from CDN$ 16.10

5.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary journey into the crazy world of financial Russia, June 25 2015
Anyone who likes a good fast-paced story containing plenty of intrigue, hijinks, revenge and justice, this is the book for you. While "Red Notice" is mainly about Bill Browder's high-powered efforts to establish the Hermitage Fund in Russia at the turn of this century, it offers so much more for the reader chew over. I found I was being introduced to a course in high-stakes financing that gave me a front-row seat to all that is corrupt about the system. Obviously, the learning curve for Browder - the grandson of the founder of the American Communist Party - was daunting, trying to succeed in an economy that was virtually falling apart after the Cold War. What he wasn't prepared for in setting up the Hermitage Fund in the late 1990s was contending with a viciously corrupt political order consisting of the Oligarchs and President Putin, intent on using every means at their disposal to steal, fleece and destroy any foreign business that would not yield to its control. In the space of a decade, Browder would have to use every tactic in the book to avoid being permanently victimized by thugs looking for a piece of the action. As the story suggests, he became the empiric who learned to outsmart his adversaries by forming critical alliances and anticipating their next move. Little he learned as a Stanford MBA grad would help him stand up to those who do not respect the rule of law when it comes to international money markets. The part of the tale that brought the greatest satisfaction for me was when Browder decided to hit back big time against Putin after the torture and murder of Sergi Maginsky, a Russian friend, who refused to betray him to the authorities. What evolves from that courageous decision is what makes this book a memorable testament to what can happen if people put their lives on the line in the fight against tyranny. While many of us may understand the Russian sense of imperial nationalism, it doesn't mean that we have to accept its evil manifestations as par for the course.

Dallas Buyers Club [Blu-ray + DVD] (Bilingual)
Dallas Buyers Club [Blu-ray + DVD] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Matthew McConaughey
Price: CDN$ 14.96
8 used & new from CDN$ 7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Best picture I've seen in a long time, June 24 2015
Easily one of the most dramatic movies I have ever watched on the subject of HIV and its early impact on American society. The time is the early eighties and a loose-living, self-indulgent Texas electrician suddenly discovers that he has just tested positive for AIDS. Talk about a defining moment in an otherwise wild and dissolute life. Ron will, from now on, be dedicating his life to living beyond the thirty-day maximum on a toxic drug called AZT but fighting both the American Food and Drug Administration and the pharmeceutical establishments over their reluctance to fund and provide alternative therapies that worked. His courage, creativity, and gritty determination, in seeking out new sources of drugs to prolong the lives of his fellow sufferers, makes this movie an important testament to all that is good in a society that has sadly gone off the tracks. Yes, the acting was outstanding but only because the story was so compelling.

To the Lighthouse: An Explorer's Guide to the Island Lighthouses of Southwestern BC
To the Lighthouse: An Explorer's Guide to the Island Lighthouses of Southwestern BC
by John Walls
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.56
4 used & new from CDN$ 14.56

5.0 out of 5 stars Sights Worth Seeing, June 22 2015
I finally have an effective guide for visiting old and defunct lighthouses around Vancouver Island. Why is that important you may ask! Well, for starters, many of these landmarks come from a era when their formidable technology represented a welcome presence of safety for mariners travelling the open waters. This well-appointed, intelligent little book is well worth the price for all it contains: a slew of excellent photos, maps, historical and geographical descriptions, directions, recommendations, and glossaries. Though I have seen three of the ten sites covered here, it will be unlikely I will see the remainder because of their wilderness location. However, thanks to Johnson and Walls' efforts I can still enjoy them, albeit from the the comfort of my easy chair. By the way, my wife and I plan to visit one at Sheringham Pt. Later this week, just up the coast, to capture the beauty of the Pacific Ocean and enjoy a good read, regardless of the weather. Nothing mysterious or troubling about this version of "To the Lighthouse", just an incredible invitation to come and enjoy.

Spam Nation: The Inside Story of Organized Cybercrime-from Global Epidemic to Your Front Door
Spam Nation: The Inside Story of Organized Cybercrime-from Global Epidemic to Your Front Door
by Brian Krebs
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.41
41 used & new from CDN$ 17.15

4.0 out of 5 stars The Intriguing Story Behind The Other Spam, June 21 2015
Here are some reasons why I find this book very informative, interesting, and useful on a subject I definitely need to know more about if I am not to fall victim to the growing cyber attacks being made on the digital world :
1. The subject of cybercrime, i.e. spamming, phishing, malware, identity theft and hacking, is becoming more relevant with each new day as major data systems are being breached and high-level information compromised;
2. Krebs has a solid record of closely following the inner workings of this murky world in faraway places like Russia and China;
3. Krebs focuses on how good technology was developed to counter and shutdown key spammers operating freely in the USA through an extensive chain of botnets or offshore nodes connected to the Russian Mafia and Oligarchs;
4. Krebs describes how the illegal pharmaceutical and pornographic trades drive spamming or illegal advertising through the infiltration of individual e-mail servers;
5. Krebs explains how difficult it has been to break this system because nations like Russia and the Ukraine do not effectively control their cyber systems;
6. Krebs shows how costly current forms of spamming can be to legitimate businesses as they are forced to pay dearly for upgrading their security settings;
7. Krebs maintains a very credible blog on the subject titled
8.There are a number of narratives going on in this book that describe how these actual spam operations connect from within Russia to the rest of the world. Initially, all very unassuming and deceivingly legitimate until it is discovered that security walls are being breached, data stolen and websites shut down with increasing regularity;
9. Krebs looks at the origins of commercial spam as a phenomenon that is really only a Trojan Horse for a lot worse forms of cybercrime that are attacking companies such as banks that aren't up to or prepared to fight it;
10. Krebs explain how the unofficial anti-spam activists (Antis) are leading the way in exposing spam sites and shutting them down by banning together in federations to both surveil and bottle up their distribution of the illegal e-mails;
If there is a weakness in this book, it is the considerable jargon to wade through, what with acronyms, company names and technical terms freely bandied about without effective explanations. While I still believe that what Krebs says is meant for the benefit of all, one could easily believe that many of his remarks are addressed more to the technonerd in society than the everyday PC or Apple user. Nevertheless, a timely book that has opened my eyes to a problem that continues to re-invent itself as cyberperps try to gain the upper hand in the battle for control of the web.

The Boatmaker
The Boatmaker
by John Benditt
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 20.87
33 used & new from CDN$ 10.50

5.0 out of 5 stars A Search for Oneself, June 17 2015
This review is from: The Boatmaker (Paperback)
This is a wonderful story of a man's quest for freedom from all that is bad in this world. What starts out as a journey, from the innermost realms of the human soul (Small Island), to the outermost limits of sophistication, power, and influence (the Mainland), quickly becomes a struggle to stay alive as our hero attempts to find his true identity. His ability to work wonders with wood, his lust for money, his weakness for alcohol, and his unquenchable thirst for knowledge are all part of an allegorical search for meaning in a world transitioning between the traditional and the modern. The understanding he gains as he sails between three points of meaning in life almost destroys him. Friends will rob him blind; the church will attempt to turn him into a raving fanatic and anti-Semite, and the nobility will attempt to exploit his artistic talent. It is a society that is hopelessly lost in trying to establish who it is. Our boatmaker, in his desire to seek a better world, has unwittingly fallen among thieves, murderers, prostitutes and hypocrites. Like the Jew who makes a historical pact with the devil in order to avoid persecution, our man must either adapt or take a stand for what is right.That will entail returning home to a simpler, less complicated life to those who truly love him for who he is: a simple man of virtue, generosity and natural ability.The prose in this tale is so beautifully transparent that the reader should have no problem understanding what drives him to become what he is not. Put simply,our boatmaker is on a mission to learn what makes himself tick.Joy will gradually come for him out of the pleasure of releasing beauty from nature,regardless of what happens to it afterwards.

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