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Ian Gordon Malcomson (Victoria, BC)
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The Gardens of the British Working Class
The Gardens of the British Working Class
by Margaret Willes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 47.50
12 used & new from CDN$ 39.54

5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read for Garden Lovers and Green Thums, 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 used to help the poor to be self-sustaining. Over time, these small tracts of land became the very colorful legacy of the 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. 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 bee hives, flower beds, compost, fencing, statutes 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 invariably 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 aroma and the sound of buzzing bees 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
Offered by discounttown
Price: CDN$ 11.20

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 work: 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$ 18.81
33 used & new from CDN$ 4.10

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.

War! What Is It Good For?: Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots
War! What Is It Good For?: Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots
by Ian Morris
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.63
35 used & new from CDN$ 6.59

5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Sobering and Challenging Big Idea, May 19 2015
This is truly the best I have read on the history of modern warfare. Morris, like in his works, has a thesis that will take a considerable amount of in-depth analysis to prove. He believes that while humanity has acquired, developed and somewhat perfected the science of war from the dawn of civilzation to now, we have reached a critical point in time. We either acquire more knowledge through new technology that will take us to dangerously new levels of military capacity and efficiency, where our power to kill ultimately destroys us, or we start learning to use it to ramp down the propensity for war in search of peace. Critical to that desired outcome is the leadership America plays as the world's last globocop in insuring that rogue forces throughout the world don't get their way. This study is full of very compelling evidence that shows that, while we have become potentially 'better' at killing each other on an ever larger scale, we still have a better-than-even chance of living in a more secure world if the instruments of war are used to contain evil, not propagate it. Such an effort requires that we say good-bye to the killing fields of the past and embrace the technology of the future in search of a safer world. The problem here, however, is that we may not have long to work on this one because the US is on a noticeable decline as a world power and, when it goes, we could quite easily be returning to the chaos of the Stone Age.

The Man Who Couldn't Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought
The Man Who Couldn't Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought
Offered by Macmillan CA
Price: CDN$ 13.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A Story full of Understanding and Compassion, May 14 2015
In the introduction to this book, Adam sets the scene for what it could be like for those who suffer from extreme obsessive compulsive behaviour by offering several documented cases: a girl eating a whole wall of her house or a woman consuming her own hair. Cases like that, while excessive and rare, still serve to illustrate how serious this mental disorder or neurosis of this kind can become if left untreated. For instance, bolemia and anorexia are disorders that are hard to cure and can ultimately kill. If only one to two percent of the population suffer from OCD, that is enough to put a serious drain on public healthcare resources. As a leading science writer for the Guardian, Adam takes a personal interest in OCD because he has been clinically diagnosed with it and fighting to overcome it for the past twenty years. His experience has been one who has obsessed over the fear that any contact with human blood could result in contracting AIDS. Consequently, he adopted some very peculiar patterns of behaviour that were threatening his mental welfare and relations with others. Anythng related to blood triggered the need to avoid, eliminate, and isolate. This book records his story of how he came to grips with this phobia that virtually prevented him from living a normal life. First, he identifies the outward manifestation of the disorder as the compulsion or involuntary urge to repeatedly act out as a way of offsetting some deep-seated, often imaginary trepidation. Adam does a very capable job of educating his readers about some of the more salient features of the many forms of this spectrum while sharing his own experiences as a way of reinforcing them. But simply describing this behavioural disorder in its many intriguing forms is not the main purpose for the book. Adam wants us to see how his and OCD variants stand up to treatment, be it aversion, drug, exposure, psychoanalysis, lobotomies, et cetera. While most of these therapies have limited success, that is where Adam really shines in being able to make a case for disciplining the mind to take control of the brain and body in an effort to force onself to overcome one's besetting fears. If Adam's experiences are anything to go by, there is some hope that this personality disorder can be at least managed if not overcome with a persistent desire to take back one's life. It is a journey that is often marked by more failures than successes. Science has come a long way in defining the complex nature of this troubling condition that often defies the best minds out there; now it has to find solutions that consistently treat to the point of healing and restoring its countless victims to normalcy.

Kinivo BTH240 Limited Edition Bluetooth Stereo Headphone - Supports Wireless Music Streaming and Hands-Free Calling (Arctic White)
Kinivo BTH240 Limited Edition Bluetooth Stereo Headphone - Supports Wireless Music Streaming and Hands-Free Calling (Arctic White)
Offered by BlueRigger Canada
Price: CDN$ 56.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great Acquisition, May 14 2015
Everything about this bluetooth stereo headphones is great. Clarity of sound, convenience and functonality make for a very enjoyable listening experience. I can move anywhere around the condo and enjoy listening to my favourite Classical New England live stream program without forcing others to listen too. Buttons easy to manuever and instructions for setup excellent.

Huck Finn's America: Mark Twain and the Era That Shaped His Masterpiece
Huck Finn's America: Mark Twain and the Era That Shaped His Masterpiece
Offered by Simon & Schuster Canada, Inc.
Price: CDN$ 14.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Kicking the Cultural Traces in Historical America, May 13 2015
I like authors who take on thorny issues like racism and authority in society and come up with more balanced perspectives, such as Levy's study on Mark Twain's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and its enormous impact on American values during post-Civil War America. His largely scholarly effort sizes up this classic novel as a work that speaks to so many conflicting social values at work in both the Deep South and the rest of the Republic. The much storied life of Twain as a celebrated author, activist and parent becomes the means through which Levy gains that special insight into why this novel written largely for children divides as much inspires public opinion and sentiment. This story of a runaway named Huck can be seen as reflecting a lot of what was going on in Twain's early life: a deep desire to break free from the restraints of what was left over from a southern antebellum society bent parental authority and propriety. No wonder many parents of the time quailed at the notion of their children ever reading such corrupting literature. The reader of all things Huck gets to see an older America comically struggling to maintain the pretenses of domestic authority as the younger generation rebel and head out on their own. This is not a phenomenon that Twain looks at with detached amusement. As he put the book together over a decade, many of the struggles he had as a parent enter into the story. He is continually torn between exercising parental responsibility to raise their children and the right of children to be themselves. This dilemma spills out into other areas of society that Twain continually wrestled with as a writer such as his often controversial views on race. Quite often, the colloquialisms that found their way into this popular novel and other of Twain's works are still used to portray him as a wool-and-dyed racist. Not so fast, Levy argues. In the context of the times, Twain often used the coarse language of the street to expose how people truly saw each other across racial lines. His regular use of the 'n' word in dialogue can be seen more as an acquired cultural habit than a prejudice which, while politically incorrect in many social circles, does not necessarily imply that Twain is an outright bigot and a racist. As Levy points out, with his many examples from Twain's illustrious life, that nothing could be further from the truth. As Twain matured in his writing and his promotion of important social causes, there is strong evidence that he was changing with the times as he shook off the narrowness of his past. What we find in Huck Finn is as much the transformation of America moving away from its blighted past as it is the remaking of Twain through his growing social awareness of others. As a complex individual, Twain created colorful characters who are continually at odds with each other over protecting petty interests in the hope that his readers would ultimately see the silliness of their ways and be drawn, like himself, into a larger public conversation over national values and mores.

Life Itself [Blu-ray] (Sous-titres français)
Life Itself [Blu-ray] (Sous-titres français)
DVD ~ Roger Ebert
Price: CDN$ 24.98
14 used & new from CDN$ 24.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Farewell to an Iconic Figure in the Arts and Entertainment, May 5 2015
One of the finest biographical documentaries I have ever watched. Ebert is in the closing years of his stellared career as America's consummate film critic and things aren't going well. He is suffering the ravages of cancer that has eaten away most of his jaw and is now spreading rapidly through the rest of his body. So why make a film about this terrible physical ordeal and just let the man die in private? The answer is simple: Ebert, always the public figure, speaking out authoritatively and passionately on behalf of good film, doesn't want his voice silenced before he has had a chance to reconnect with the significant people, the seminal moments, and great achievements of his illustrious career. Friends like Scorsese will put together a cinematic tribute that covers his life as it has transpired from his early days as a small town journalist with a real flair for writing to his heady times as film critic for a Chicago Sun Tribune. Ebert obviously found his love for life in film simply by being able to assess a work on the spot and readily share his views with the public. Though I never found his opinions to be too profound, they did do a lot to generate interest and discussion in this important genre. This study looks at how he made television his soap box for popularizing his unique and highly intelligent take on the world of movies. For him, writing and blogging to the very end of his life on a subject dear his heart, people needed to continue to know what was worth watching out there. The part of the film that really caught my attention was his ongoing hot-cold, bitter-sweet relationship with Gene Siskal, as a fellow critic, friend, and alter-ego. In the end, Ebert, when facing the camera, was talking about a life lived to the fullest in the public domain. A ton of great back stories in this production. Two thumbs up will always be known as that ultimate sign of approval when it comes to sizing up the quality of movies on the spot.

Sharp Objects: A Novel
Sharp Objects: A Novel
by Gillian Flynn
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.27
54 used & new from CDN$ 4.57

4.0 out of 5 stars Great Multidimensional Mystery With Significant Shock Factors, May 4 2015
This review is from: Sharp Objects: A Novel (Paperback)
Welcome to the sordid, crazy world of a roving reporter for an obscure local Chicago rag that is always looking for tantalizing stories to attract new readership. It becomes Camille's job to head out to her childhood home in the Ozarks to cover a developing story involving some missing and murdered children. What she will discover with this assignment is that she is being drawn back into a world still full of as much hurt, hatred and harm as the day she left to start a new life in the big city. Camille is not content on just collecting the basic facts and filing a story with her paper. She is keenly motivated to do her own nosing around to find out how the ongoing police investigation is faring. What she finds, in this small hick town full of white trash, is a dysfunctionality that defies imagination. While the town people are consumed with a fear that their children are going to be the next victims of a serial killer in their midst, they are less than cooperative in finding the perp. It will take weeks of wading through mounds of lies and misinformation to finally learn the awful truth. The killings are the responsibility of someone who they would least expect. When the case wraps up, Wind Gap will have lost the last of its rural, backwater innocence. Along the way she will step on the toes of the civic authorities, raise the ire of a her very uncaring, narcissistic mother and siblings, and rattle the false peace and security of many families indirectly related to the victims. Unfortunately, this protracted visit will require her to come to grips with an earlier parental relationship that likely caused her to be committed to a mental institution to deal with issues of self-destruction and low self-esteem. Camille, in her investigation, touches base with old friends and acquaintances who put her straight as to what has or has not happened in Wind Gap during her absence. This novel is as much a psychological thriller that endeavours to establish personal profiles of people as to their mindset as it is a criminal investigation as to motive and opportunity. In the end, we can only conclude that the way many of the citizens - including generations past - of this no-neck place mistreat their children may play a large role in how this story plays out. This is one screwed-up berg where bullies, sluts, and rapists are tolerated from one generation to the next. Break through that culture and the case solves itself.

The Ways of the World: (The Wide World - James Maxted 1)
The Ways of the World: (The Wide World - James Maxted 1)
Price: CDN$ 9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Infiltrating the World of High Danger and Intrigue, May 3 2015
I'll never refuse the opportunity to read a new Goddard release. His latest one shouldn't disappoint those of us who like well written murder mysteries with a fair share of thrills, spills and suspense. Goddard is a master of developing, managing and completing very clever and sinuous plots based on very plausible circumstances. What would he be without a storyline that includes deference to history, a good dollop of intrigue, and a couple of heroic characters to do the heavy lifting when it comes to uncovering the truth. Throw in the fact that Goddard is a master of his prose and you have the ingredients for a rollicking good read. True to the subject of this story - international espionage and diplomacy - the author will take you on an exciting, roller-coast ride between the two main capitals of the known world of 1919 in search of clues to who murdered Sir Henry, a prominent member of the British delegation to the Versailles Conference. Given the strange events surrounding his death, Sir Henry's second son will honorably look for answers in places he has no business being. These are troubling times where the stakes are high as to how the world will settle out after a bloody and costly world war, and Max, the idealist, will quickly learn to sharpen his instincts in his attempt to penetrate that veil of secrecy surrounding the peace initiative. As usual, Goddard is not short on surprises, as apparent enemies turn friends and the investigation suddenly goes in a wildly different direction. What is reassuring here is that Goddard, ever cool and collected in his telling of the story, has things in hand and will, ultimately, deliver the reader safely to the next juncture in the life of the younger Maxted. One possible shortcoming in this novel is that we don't really get to appreciate what really motivates Max to do the phenomenal things he does: is he really the dutiful son who wants to restore the family honor by bringing his father's killers to justice, or is he so driven to find the truth no matter what the consequences are? Fortunately, Goddard has two more books in this trilogy to deal with that issue. Otherwise, a mainly satisfying start to another modern tale of political gamesmanship, brinkmanship, and romantic devilry.

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