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Ian Gordon Malcomson (Victoria, BC)
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A Treacherous Paradise
A Treacherous Paradise
by Henning Mankell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.77
12 used & new from CDN$ 10.83

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On the Uncertain Edge of a New Existence, Sept. 13 2013
This review is from: A Treacherous Paradise (Hardcover)
I'm coming to the end of this novel and have finally determined, after an earlier reading of Mankell's Kurt Wallender series, where this author's strength really lies. He is an engaging storyteller who enjoys taking his readers across the width and breadth of the land in search of real-life adventure, whether inside Sweden or abroad. Along the way, we get to see the characters grow or shrink in stature as they make decisions that will alter their existence forever. The measure of true heroism for Mankell is the ability to survive especially when the deck is so egregiously stacked against you. That is why he chooses people for his plots who have found themselves in desperate straits and need a chance to escape to safer shores, even though that might prove to be an illusion in the long run. In this story, we have a young Swedish girl, Hannah, who has been orphaned at a young age and left to virtually fend for herself. Given the chance to start a new life in another part of the world, Hannah reluctantly accepts and says good-bye to all she has ever known in her sheltered life. As she moves out into the bigger world, she will encounter high-risk situations that will demand that she expose herself anew to the forces of love, treachery, and violence. Her decisions will involve an ongoing conflict between her northern sense of civility and the southern sense of survival at any cost. This ongoing conflict is what drives this plot to its ultimately unhappy conclusion. She will find that she has landed on her feet with newfound wealth, but she will always face prejudice and cruelty in the bigger world that will not accept her passion for justice and decency. Entering the bigger world in search of freedom and happiness is fraught with all kinds of sinister uncertainties that have the potential to defeat one's ambitious plans.

Last Rites of Joe May
Last Rites of Joe May
Price: CDN$ 25.63
20 used & new from CDN$ 4.28

4.0 out of 5 stars One Last Curtain Call, Sept. 12 2013
This review is from: Last Rites of Joe May (DVD)
I have always had a weakness for watching tough-guy movies. This one is no different. Dennis Farino of Law & Order fame, plays the role of loan-shark gangster Joe May from the north side of Chicago. He does a capable job capturing the dead-end culture that comes with organized crime. The setting, the acting and, above all else, the storyline are this movie's best features. First, we are introduced to the world of Joe May, both past and present, where he has acted as a small-time enforcer and deliveryman for the local syndicate. Joe is portrayed as a very intensive man who has abandoned his familial responsibilities in a desperate search of that one big deal that will gain him respect in the organization. Misfortune overtakes his life and, suddenly, he becomes a pariah on the street. Family, friends, and former associates reject him as a lost cause, so he is forced to live off the street, still trying to make a deal that will change his fallen fortunes. Second, the story takes off when Joe meets a single mother and her young daughter who is now occupying his old apartment. Like him, she is a victim of someone else's efforts to control her future through sexual exploitation. Through a friendship with these two hapless souls, Joe begins to see himself as their protector. It takes a very versatile and talented actor to move in and out of these two roles: the gangster versus the humanitarian. Farino seems to make the transition with ease. Like Samson of old, he will, in the end, step up to the plate and do the right thing by sacrificing his life to protect the defenceless in society by destroying the forces of evil. This proves, once again, that in death one can accomplish more by a selfless act of heroism than in life pursuing selfish and futile goals.

Coaching for Breakthrough Success: Proven Techniques for Making Impossible Dreams Possible
Coaching for Breakthrough Success: Proven Techniques for Making Impossible Dreams Possible
by Jack Canfield
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 15.64
46 used & new from CDN$ 4.48

5.0 out of 5 stars The Heart of Coaching at any Level, Sept. 10 2013
I am finding this little self-help book on the fine art of how to coach or mentor others very helpful. For one, I am presently seeking advice on how to improve my golf and bowling games and, secondly, I need to be able to recognize what a good coach looks like with respect to the advice he or she offers in return for my money and time. This book is full of helpful tips, instructive paradigms, and meaningful anecdotes that should help anyone, be it in sports, business or life in general, achieve measurable self-improvement. Besides having integrity or credibility, in terms of offering reliable advice, any successful coach must be able to establish a strong relationship with his client. This link is built on being able to listen, assess, and respond to the concerns of a client looking to turn things around. A large part of that continuous feedback process gives the recipient a reasonable chance to formulate strategies that will, ultimately, release them to take ownership of the solution and enjoy its fruits of a transformed life. While getting there might be fraught with all kinds of pitfalls, both authors believe that with the proper training and patience, the rewards make it worth it for both parties. A point of affirmation comes when the coach takes his understudy through a review of the plan that has resulted in a better person. Identifying success as a real and summative process rather than just a theory, above all else, is the critical foundation for future improvements. This model for good coaching should help those looking for a hand up in clearing a major obstacle in their career or personal life.

The Guts
The Guts
by Roddy Doyle
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.77
8 used & new from CDN$ 12.13

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Getting Through a Crisis Irish Style, Sept. 7 2013
This review is from: The Guts (Hardcover)
I have always liked a Roddy Doyle novel for the extraordinary characters it builds from ordinary circumstances. His recent work, "The Guts", is no different. Jimmy Rabitte and his family live in the east end of Dublin. As a working-class stiff, Jimmy has reached late middle-age with many regrets and unresolved fears. He doesn't like his job at the factory; he has children who don't seem to connect very well with him; he and his wife have grown apart; and, to crown everything, he has just learned that he has stage two colon cancer. What more calamity would you want to visit on a man as fragile as Jim! Faced with mounting issues, Jimmy has two choices: fight or flight. It will take a while to figure out what it all means but our hero will do it with a little help from his friends, family, community at large and, lest we forget, the cancer card. He is not shy to overplay his hand as to the possible long-term implications of this potentially killer disease. This ploy, while a pitch for sympathy, begins to open doors for him as he tries to remake his life. He will start a business of locating and reselling old solo and big-band recordings from a distant era. The music he is looking to repackage and sell are old tunes from his past. When he can't find the recording of a certain favourite from 1932, he will talk his kids into helping him reproduce it. Jimmy will discover, as his passion for retrofitting old tunes grows, that he is growing more mellow. He will meet people from his past whose straits will make his life look like a cake-walk. His wife and mistress will come on side to get behind Jimmy's rebirth. Though this book is full of the 'f' word, because that's who Jimmy is - a foul-mouthed, blue-collar labourer - it doesn't get in the way of Doyle showing how Jimmy can convey his love for life and feelings for others in such a disarming way. Essentially, he has charmed the pants of us as well. He is emotionally vulnerable but that doesn't prevent him from having a dream and getting others to come on side. It took a little while to get used to the heavy emphasis on dialogue but, when it happened, I felt like I was being treated to some very real conversation between very authentic people who feel for each other through difficult times.

Das Reich: The March of the 2nd SS Panzer Division Through France, June 1944
Das Reich: The March of the 2nd SS Panzer Division Through France, June 1944
32 used & new from CDN$ 12.59

5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Historian at Work, Sept. 5 2013
As usual, Max Hastings has produced yet another brilliant study on the little known aspects of WW II. Wearing his historian hat, Hastings takes us into an obscure theatre of the war where the once crack SS Panzer division, Das Reich, was assigned to help hold Normandy against the D-Day invasion. It was June, 1944, and Hitler and the German High-Command was looking to bolster the Atlantic Wall against what was sure to be a heavy attack from American-led forces. Das Reich was a corps of well-trained, fiercely loyal, and battle-honed soldiers who could be relied on to plug the gaps and keep the enemy at bay. But there was a problem that the German High Command did not fully anticipate: how to get their battle ready on time. As the book describes, the 2nd Panzer Division would have to cross southwestern France, through hostile territory full of villages run by the local Maquis (French resistance) who were prepared to fight to the death for the liberation of the country. With Hastings' attention to detail and objectivity, we get more than one side of the story as this group of German warriors made their way to the battlefront for one more stand on behalf of the Reich in its hour of need. There will be fierce battles, massacres, and snafus during this 500 mile journey to a western battle zone. Encountering them on the way, through the dense forests and hills of Dordogne, will be SOE (British security forces), various partisan cells, and patriotic Frenchmen and women intent on stopping a formidable fighting force dead in its tracks. The question here is how effective were these small forces in changing the course of the war during the D-Day invasion? This author has a thesis that he investigates, with both written and oral evidence, to a satisfactory conclusion.

The Lady (Bilingual)
The Lady (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Michelle Yeoh
Price: CDN$ 14.93
11 used & new from CDN$ 5.05

4.0 out of 5 stars Democracy Burmese Style, Sept. 4 2013
This review is from: The Lady (Bilingual) (DVD)
While I fully understand why some docudramas just don't connect with the viewing public - too slow, too much filler, too analytical, too over the top - I am surprised that the film version of the San Suu Kyi story as Burma's champion of democracy received such faint praise from viewers. After all, it is about a phenomenon that continues to grip the world in an effort to positively change the way much of the developing world is presently being governed. While covering the struggles of the democracy movement in Burma (aka Myanmar), in its fight against a ruthless military, this film highlights the heroic efforts of its popular leader, the daughter of a former national hero and martyr. As the film shows, she is one fearless individual who stops at nothing to promote the right to have other people's voice heard and recognized in popularly-held elections. Though she gained a large following both at home and abroad, resulting in many prestigious awards for her courage, she paid a price for standing up to the Burmese military. Extended house detention, separation from her family, and the agony of having to choose between freedom and her cause are just a few of the privations dogging this lady's life. Successes will be offset by personal tragedy and setbacks but, through this whole venture, Suu Kyi will achieve her ultimate moment of triumph when the military surrenders the field to the democracy movement. While this film is fairly accurate in specifics and very inspiring in message, it doesn't address where her leadership goes now in the new Burma, and her decision not to support the plight of certain ethnic minorities within the country.

Annie Dunne
Annie Dunne
by Sebastian Barry
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.55
53 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Loving Inspite of the Pain, Sept. 1 2013
This review is from: Annie Dunne (Paperback)
One of Sebastian Barry's strengths as a modern author is that his main characters have the ability to express, in a noble fashion, feelings that come straight from the heart. These humble Irish folk have a heroic bent about them that allows them to rise above their obscurity and make an important difference in a rapidly changing world that could easily have marginalized them if they were not true to their core values. Annie Dunne is the heroine in this narrative because she refuses to let her lowly estate - the last of a line of Dunnes with nothing but a small farm in which to make a living - prevent her from caring for and loving others with all her heart as she was once loved herself. That does not mean she doesn't lead a fretful existence. While she and her cousin, Sarah, work hard to keep the farm and preserve the only life they know, there are forces afoot that threaten to snatch it away. She is tired, ageing, and protective of the relationships she has nurtured over the years. There is somebody out there who wants to marry the younger Sarah and take over the farm, which would certainly remove an important anchor in her life. Into their threatened lives one day comes two young children, the son and daughter of a cousin who has left to work in England. These two urban children will bring an extraordinary sense of liveliness and renewed purpose that will lift both women out of their funk. The pleasantries of a former life at Dublin Castle will be rekindled and, suddenly, Annie, in all her hardships, has something to live for. With no children of her own, she quickly takes on the motherly role of raising these boisterous children in the absence of their parents. It won't be easy because, as she knows from her own past, she'll need to be prepared to face the pain of not being loved in return and, eventually, losing them. Her only salvation is to live in the here and now and care for them as a mother hen would her chicks. Barry provides very colorful detail of Irish rural life in the fifties as the country was about to modernize and say good-bye to an era of community closeness where people, like Annie, would sacrifice their own comfort and privacy for the good of others. I enjoyed this novel because it tells a compelling story about an authentic character living in a very real world governed by old-fashioned values that even my Irish wife can remember.

The Book of Illusions
The Book of Illusions
by Paul Auster
Edition: Paperback
13 used & new from CDN$ 10.11

5.0 out of 5 stars The Reality of Illusions, Aug. 31 2013
This review is from: The Book of Illusions (Paperback)
This is one very smooth and engaging novel. It takes the reader through the most complex and improbable tales in an attempt to show how enticingly powerful illusions, or images of reality, are in life. Professor Zimmer, an English literature professor in an eastern university, has just lost his wife and sons in a plane crash. To get through the grieving process, he must find something that occupies his time and replaces the haunting memories of a life once enjoyed. Friends come on board to give him succor, but nothing seems to work except his passion for researching the obscure and enigmatic life of America's avant-garde filmmaker, Hector Mann, who is a man of many aliases. Auster not only writes a fine story that takes the reader on a lifetime adventure but builds character and plot to an ultimate moment of recognition where reality is found in our trust in illusion. Getting caught up in the fascinatingly elusive world of an artist constantly running away from publicity is an existential venture in itself that can certainly spawn its own strange encounters. This book is full of them but, rest assured that, as the hero in the story chases the chimera called Hector to the end in the hope of confirming his genius, the answer will come in the most enlightening of ways. The bizarre and sinister brilliance of the man can only be found in the greater scheme of life that goes beyond a mere collection of silent films that amount to nothing more than personal studies in human erotica. There are the many women in his life, his reputation as an artistic innovator, the personal losses, the running from his past, and hiding out in the New Mexico desert that makes Mann a compelling person to chase after. What has he to tell Zimmer about his own complex existence that will make life more bearable? Everything in this novel comes down to the memory of relationships with others.

Who Owns the Future?
Who Owns the Future?
by Jaron Lanier
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 17.56
27 used & new from CDN$ 4.33

4.0 out of 5 stars The Big Illusion and Deception, Aug. 29 2013
This review is from: Who Owns the Future? (Hardcover)
There was a time when millions of users saw the Internet as a potential goldmine for changing how we do business. According to thinker, innovator and computer guru Jaron Lanier, those days seem to have come and gone. In the Information era that we presently work, most of us middle-class types have to be content with using the Internet as a smart tool for consuming, communicating and being entertained. The big money has gone to those who have made it their business to digitally learn how we think and operate with respect to satisfying our needs and wants. The Internet certainly generates a ton of wealth for those big multi-national corporations like Google, Apple, and Amazon who have developed fail-safe methods intended to, ultimately, control their customers by commercially spying on them through sophisticated wireless technology. What they get are free data that helps them fine-tune their marketing plan, while the customer chooses to be content with small perks and treats for coming on board, such as price discounts and apps. Lanier makes a convincing argument that the Information Age is punching a huge hole in the ranks of the middle class by robbing them of an opportunity to sell their information to the highest bidder. What he envisages is the development of a humanistic economy where people are encouraged to invest in each other's internet ventures without the fear of being manipulated or exploited. Essentially, you only pay for what you use. Government's role in this lower-end exchange of information is to make sure the scammy, sirenic sites don't squeeze out the little guy in his effort to make a living off the net. Much of the information the big operators, such as credit companies, high tech, mass media and banks, collect on us is meant to sell abstract concepts of convenience and security that do not exist in reality. Holiday packages, banking terms, choice of literature, selection of food, and clothing are all areas that individuals have lost the right to control when allowing the world of wireless technology to define what will be futuristically real now. For this to start, there has to be a new generation of start-ups unwilling to be bought out, led by visionaries who have the greater good of society at heart, that will challenge the present monopolization of the Internet by the few and the wealthy. Otherwise, the present order will, eventually, collapse because of the inability of a dwindling middle class to sustain it.

Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City
Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City
by Guy Delisle
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 15.64
39 used & new from CDN$ 14.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A Not So Holy City, Aug. 28 2013
Lots of clever satire packed into this comic strip. This is Canadian graphic artist Delisle's latest version of comic journals and, like previous offerings, is jam full of exciting and delightfully odd moments about life in a dangerous part of the globe. He and his children are in East Jerusalem for a year while he works for a non-government organization and his wife is somewhere in Gaza as a doctor. As an internationally acclaimed cartoonist, Delisle uses his incredible eye for detail to capture those candid moments when the locals forget themselves, let down their guard and unknowingly reveal another side of their lives that is either not so flattering or downright baffling. Delisle artfully inserts himself into the narrative as one who wants to learn about another culture. What he discovers instead is that everyone he meets has a different version of what the holy city means to them. He learns very quickly that everyone in the know has his or her special understanding of the recent and decent past. That wide range of political and social views, under normal western democratic conditions, would amount to a healthy dose of pluralism. Here it comes across as religious intolerance or scorn: Jews at odds with their fellow countrymen; Palestinians distrusting each other; Jews despising Palestinians; Samaritans hating their Jewish cousins; and terrorists having a field day because nobody can agree on how to live with each other in a supposedly holy city. The Jerusalem that emerges from Delisle's daily wanderings and observations is sprawling, chaotic, divided, dingy, and very historical. It becomes Delisle's mission over twelve months to make a life for himself and his family, connect with the locals and learn what it means to live in this city of all cities, the place of deep-seated racial divisions, the ancient site of Christ's crucifixion, resurrection, and future millenial abode.

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