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Reviews Written by
Ian Gordon Malcomson (Victoria, BC)
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Undoing of Love American Style, Oct. 28 2015
If you want to understand how the ideals of love and marriage can dematerialize over time, read anything by Yates. As a literary realist, he builds his plots on everyday happenings which, when strung together, form an inescapable downward path to dashed dreams and sad endings. All this drama is encased in the rising aspirations of the baby-boomer generation as it enters the American mainstream in the late 1940's. Both Michael and Lucy come together in what they truly believe is love for each other. But right from the outset, the seeds of discord and eventual failure have been sown. Michael, formerly a GI, wants to build his own American Dream: financial security, a loving family, a nice house, and lots of friends. Lucy, highly motivated in her own right, wants the same except that she isn't prepared to wait, especially when she possesses the money to do it now. As this couple struggles to build the good life together, based on material success and possessions, forces are conspiring to rip the carpet from under them.The people they meet, the company they keep, the setbacks they endure, and their personal flaws will gradually eat away at all that was originally promising about the relationship. The breakup of marriage doesn't have one defining moment, just an amassing of small events which, when exposed to the light of reality, show how doomed it was from the beginning. Yates writes in the vein of someone who has discovered himself that dreams once shattered are not recoverable. People, as with the characters in this tragedy, either move on in search of new inspirations or wallow in their own regrets. What makes Yates such an effective read is his candid description of how vulnerable the nuclear family really was back then when getting and staying ahead were its main goals. Face it, many of our parents' marriages failed because they had few common interests outside sex, money, and status. If any of these factors come under prolonged siege through infidelity, new ideas, or changing fortunes, marriage and any love and good will that goes with it invariably collapses.

This Boy's Life: A Memoir
This Boy's Life: A Memoir
by Tobias Wolff
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.59
118 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars The Insecurity of Growing up in an Adult World, Oct. 24 2015
While Wolfe is undoubtedly one of America's better short-story writers, he also shows a knack to handle the longer stuff in the form of a memoir, about his growing up in the tempestuous fifties. In this book Wolfe describes how, as a teenager, he negotiated the topsy-turviness of life by going into survival mode. Facing the prospect of living in a typical dysfunctional family where the parents are divorced, the father is shiftless, siblings never around and money hard to fine. Caught up in these troubling times, Tobias must quickly find his own way in life or become just another hapless victim of circumstances beyond his control. There will be many missteps along the way which, in themselves, are presented as humorous moments that reveal how really unable some adults are in guiding children through the minefield called life, stepfathers being the worst. Tobias, like most teens of his generation, wanted to be loved, accepted, and successful. All he lacked in this search was a stable environment where people took the time to be his role model. Everything he does seems to be flawed because it is born out of a desperate need to lay his hands on money, often by dishonest means. By fifteen, he has become a little liar and thief. When his mother finally settles down, with the goal of giving him a father, Tobias finds himself trapped in backwater Concrete under the thumb of a tyrant intent on making his life miserable. What will finally work in his favor will be an improbable set of circumstances arising from a yet another futile effort to break out and get a life. What will happen to transform Tobias' mundane existence is nothing short of a miracle: a case of being in the right place at the right time and having contacts. What makes this such an important literary statement is that Tobias' voice comes through very authentically. What he shares with us here hits home in a very vital way. His personal journey is ours too if we would acknowledge it. He does not try to conceal the fact that he is a screw-up though he is forever looking to escape that fate. It will take a litany of bad moves, awkward moments and critical decisions to give shape to this boy's life. When brought together as an unfolding adventure brimming with realism, excitement, and a few good chuckles, one that easily surpasses "Catcher in the Rye" and "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn". Attitude and good luck often trump the virtues of hard work and natural ability when it comes to getting ahead.

China Rich Girlfriend
China Rich Girlfriend
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The Uneasy Extent of Wealth, Oct. 21 2015
Welcome to the second generation of a Chinese opera bouffe. Everything in this novel expands on the excesses of its wacky predecessor, "Crazy Rich Asians". Wealth is still the exclusive focus here as Kwan draws out his multi-layered tale to include the children of those filthy-rich Chinese tycoons who have become the inheritors of fabulous wealth, lavish lifestyles, and bad attitudes. The problem here is that many of these young bucks have their own idea of how to spend and flaunt their billions, and it rarely conforms to what Mummy and Daddy expect. While there is more of that wild, over-the-top sense of social entitlement in this novel - lots of name dropping and pushing boundaries - its ultimate success can be found in how it deals with the inter-generational conflicts arising over how to sustain the obscene fantasy. Things will definitely get very interesting as the reader discovers the extent to which the holders of old wealth will go to keep their children in line, whenever they tried to escape to start a new life. Spying, manipulation, gossip, shunning, and scorn are some of the weapons of control available to the indomitable materfamilias of these rich Chinese families who will stop at nothing to destroy their competition. Kwan introduces us to the very uneasy side of a culture that has become absurdly obsessed with living a life of infinite self-indulgence. The inescapable irony here is that as wealth grows so does the insecurity and zaniness that comes with trying to hold on to it, because it is all about maintaining social status in uncertain times. While "China Rich Girlfriend" contains more of the wicked satire about the uberwealthy from the first novel, it goes much further in developing the crucial idea that there are some serious downsides to those who sell out to it.

Stephen Harper
Stephen Harper
by John Ibbitson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 24.26
32 used & new from CDN$ 8.57

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something For All The Harper Lovers And Haters, Oct. 17 2015
This review is from: Stephen Harper (Hardcover)
I have high praise for a book that that attempts to objectively come to grips with one of Canada's more mysterious and controversial prime ministers, Stephen Harper.For the last couple of years it has been a largely media-driven campaign that has attempted to portray Harper as a dangerous political operator who has to go.Though fully aware of Harper's flaws, Ibbitson has chosen not to be part of this effort. Instead, he sees a leader who resolutely believes that he knows what is best for Canadian society:the implementation of fiscal conservative policies.Like Thatcher before him, Harper pushes a political agenda that favors lower taxes, less spending, balanced budgets, and a war on the welfare state.The intriguing story behind the unfurling of Harper's grand vision is what makes this book worth reading. The reader gets to see how Harper willed his way to the top with a plan. While Harper is often hard to figure out, what we see here is a man who often relies on his own counsels before listening to the advice of others. Ibbitson does a decent review of the many career moves in Harper's checkered and complex life, such as leaving the Reform Party, leading the National Citizens' Coalition, and returning to rescue the Alliance Party from oblivion by taking it over and merging it with the struggling Progressive Conservative Party.

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Five Nights in Paris: After Dark in the City of Light
Five Nights in Paris: After Dark in the City of Light
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers CA
Price: CDN$ 11.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A City Within A City, Oct. 13 2015
If you want to visit Paris for a short visit to say you've been there, choose a reliable guidebook like Frommer or Lonely Planet. If you want, however, to have an out-of-the-world experience in the City of Light, read Baxter's "Five Nights in Paris". In five days, Baxter and his friends will take you inside a city that is not readily available to the person on the street. This time it is under the cover of dark. Everything gets covered here: Art from the zany world of the surrealist; walled gardens hidden away in the forbidden haunts of long forgotten backstreets; public places reserved for the guillotine to do its bloody work; decadent bordellos and night clubs full of scintillating acts, beautiful women, lusty men and exotic perfumes; restaurants and epiciers brimming with sumptuous foods; and dark caverns and tunnels deep within the bowels of a city that never sleeps. What makes this book so appealing is that it takes you on a tour that comes with a pile of stories about a Paris that goes back to a time when it was nothing more than a dangerous, unhealthy and smelly place to call home, especially for the nobility. Modern Paris became what it is today because of its ability to accommodate throughout its history all kinds of zany and creative cultural expressions that demand the attention of all who love adventure, mystery, and a good time.

GPTOYS F2C Aviax Drone 2.4GHz 6-Axis Gyro Quadcopter Remote Control RC Explorers LED Flashing Lights Helicopter Quad Copter 3D Flip UAV RTF UFO with HD 2.0M Pixels Camera & 4G SD Card
GPTOYS F2C Aviax Drone 2.4GHz 6-Axis Gyro Quadcopter Remote Control RC Explorers LED Flashing Lights Helicopter Quad Copter 3D Flip UAV RTF UFO with HD 2.0M Pixels Camera & 4G SD Card

4.0 out of 5 stars Welcome to another world of flying machines, Oct. 12 2015
Thank you for giving me an opportunity to review this intriguing product.This is truly everything I would hope for in a drone: easy to operate, very durable, loaded with neat little functions, accompanied by an easy-to-follow manual, and supplied with replaceable parts. At this time I am working on putting together a video of its camera at work on the surrounding landscape. Once this is done, I will adjust the rating accordingly.

To Have and Have Not
To Have and Have Not
by Ernest Hemingway
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.23
44 used & new from CDN$ 4.09

5.0 out of 5 stars Dancing with Death, Oct. 11 2015
This review is from: To Have and Have Not (Paperback)
Hemingway meets with my contrarian set of values. Like the hero in this story, many of us try to bluff our way through life, believing that counterintuition and dare are what it will take to survive in a very dangerous world. Henry Morgan is one of those steely, hard-nosed characters who seizes every opportunity to make the best of a bad situation. As a tour boat operator out of Cuba during the fifties, life continues to deal Morgan some pretty bad hands to the point of threatening his very livelihood. As this cautionary tale evolves, the reader sees him emerge, without a qualm, to take on some very dodgy enterprises in order to save his business and feed and clothe his family. While he is not proud of his shady enterprises, he will take all kinds of risks to make it happen because he knows that there is virtually little difference between ultimate success and failure. In this piratical world that Morgan thrives in, there are all kinds of lowlife looking to do him in if the chance ever arises. I love this story for the way it makes the sea that one great battle site where people strive to start anew against incredible existential odds, whether as fishers, gun runners, rum runners, or human smugglers.This is a world of brigands and cutthroats where no rules exist or ideals abound even if revolution is close at hand. One of the author's great skills is his ability to capture a raw sense of purpose and meaning in dialogue. There is no pretense or artifice when his characters speak. Hope, passion, fear, and grit are all there as Henry hopes to win a battle against evil that we all know he can't. But like other Hemingway protagonists, Morgan is a limpid example of the tragic hero who is there right to the bloody end. While a very dark novel, "To Have and Have Not" leaves me with a strong impression that people are often best remembered for trying their best and losing rather than not trying at all and saving their skin.

Vintage Canvas Backpack For School Traveling Hiking Daypack With Leather Strap
Vintage Canvas Backpack For School Traveling Hiking Daypack With Leather Strap
Offered by Dealkiller

4.0 out of 5 stars A Decent Product, Oct. 6 2015
As a former teacher who witnessed a wide range of backpacks in my career, this product appears to be durable, with lots of pockets for holding a packed lunch, cellphone, books, and sundries. It felt comfortable when I carried two large books along with cushions on my daily outing to the park for an afternoon read. Straps easily adjust and the outside material and inside lining appears water-resistant. Zippers are well made. Ideally suited for a student attending high school. I have seen too many students in my days walk the halls of school with oversize backpacks that are bad for posture. This isn't one of them.

The Ends of the Earth: (The Wide World - James Maxted 3)
The Ends of the Earth: (The Wide World - James Maxted 3)
Price: CDN$ 15.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Reads Like Your Average Contrived Thriller, Oct. 6 2015
I am one of those diehard Goddard fans who looks forward to being regaled with one more rollicking good tale of cunningly arranged intrigue and sense of the moment. Things seem to effortlessly come together in a typical Goddard murder mystery plot. Unfortunately, not in this third book of a trilogy. Too many characters to develop and round off; one too many twists and turns worked into an already overburdened plot; and, and most importantly, a lack of even pacing throughout the plot. Yes, I get the story all right but, in doing so, have to admit, for the fist time in living memory, that Goddard may have tried to manipulate me into thinking that I was being entertained by a literary genius when all he was doing was closing the book, formula style, on an overdone trilogy. If this novel has a strength it is its ability to hold so many subplots together until the end. Unfortunately, that skill might simply be more a literary sleight of hand in arranging coincidences than a profound command of events as to their ultimate meaning. While we get answers as to the real why and who behind Sir Henry' s death, we don't get to see how they really help our hero come to grips with both his own sense of insecurity and the future of world peace. Too much time spent here learning who the bad guys are, where they live and, finally, taking them down to allow for moments of self-reflection on other related issues.

Camp X-Ray
Camp X-Ray
DVD ~ Kristen Stewart
Price: CDN$ 22.99
5 used & new from CDN$ 18.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Conflicted Friendship, Oct. 6 2015
This review is from: Camp X-Ray (DVD)
What is it like to be stuck in a world where the freedom to be oneself and explore new things is basically denied you? Sattler, as director of this movie, has created such a space with striking results. The place is the toughest prison known to humanity; the performers are a standard lot of mindless guards keeping watch over half-crazy jihadi inmates; and the atmosphere is one of endless tension, intrigue and manipulation. So where is the original storyline in a cinematic composition that we have seen so many times before portraying the typical inside of a maximum prison? It comes out in the very stellar performance of Private Amy Cole (Kristen Stewart) in her first assignment as a grunt assigned to make sure prisoners don't commit suicide. We follow her around the compound as she seeks to make sense of a very static and existential world full of meaningless routines born out of angst, animus, and anomie. On all three of these points, she is vulnerable to big time manipulation and coercion by the system. If it isn't her superiors making unethical demands of her, then it is the continual lack of empathy from her fellow guards that grates on her. She now lives and works in an environment that attempts to control her life to the point of maintaining only the minimum contact with the other side. Amy will not take these expectations lying down. She may be young and inexperienced in handling tough islamic detainees but that won't stop her from trying to learn the role with one difference: she is, deep down, a people person who has compassion for others in need. Enter a somewhat coherent detainee named Ali Amir who is forever uttering provocative comments from within his cell to attract attention. This way he hopes to draw someone from outside into his private life to establish a relationship. Amy can't help being drawn in by this seemingly innocent and lucid show of bravura. As the film will show, this forbidden contact will form a platonic relationship that she will not be able to shake for the next eight years on the Rock. It is fascinating to watch Amy struggle as she tries to maintain her discipline as a soldier while maintaining an uneasy friendship with someone who is the enemy. I enjoyed this movie for its ability to bring these two cultures together in an uneasy way that shows how far apart they really are. This prison is not only a nasty place for its wanton cruelty, but it is also a metaphor for what plagues the human race - a growing inability to form meaningful and unconditional friendships.

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