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Ian Gordon Malcomson (Victoria, BC)
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Cold Hard Truth on Family, Kids and Money
Cold Hard Truth on Family, Kids and Money
by Kevin O'Leary
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.57
9 used & new from CDN$ 14.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Start Young, Build on Success, Aug. 27 2014
Yes, I know some of you readers may have some serious reservations about the quality of advice one can possibly get from self-acclaimed financial guru Kevin O'Leary's achievements. As a major participant on "The Dragons' Den" and "Laing and O'Leary Report", O'Leary does come across as magisterial, thin skinned, and very brusque in his pronouncements, all the time trying to create the impression that he made his many millions by hard work and thrift. While that may be partly true, there is a fair dose of luck involved in his climb up the financial ladder. Another way of looking at O'Leary's prominence is to accept that he comes with some native smarts that allows him to take advantage of opportunities that often elude mere mortals like us.. In this book, O'Leary provides some important advice to the younger generation that is starting out in life. Relationships, as to family and business, have always been a critical cornerstone in O'Leary's passion for money. Interspersed with O'Leary's words of wisdom is a lengthy list of fifty mistakes young people and families often make on the road to becoming a financial trainwreck. The stories about effective choices that made him into what he is today serve as a usefulf template for one starting out. Best to follow someone else's success than learn from the misery of one's own mistakes. . Everything he says about being successful comes down to managing money, learning to live within one's means, living a simple lifestyle, marrying or partnering with people who have similar values, respecting the advice of one's elders, figuring out where the money is in the economy, protecting one's investments, and cutting losses. There is a lot homespun truth in this book that we would, as parents, be strongly encouraged to past this information on to our children as an ongoing effort to smooth the way to a happier life. O'Leary is right in saying that financial ignorance and neglect is at the heart of many marital breakups and eventual monetary ruin. Underscoring this reality are the facts that youth unemployment is up, many young people are undertrained in the job market, and the cost of living for aging baby boomers is skyrocketing.

Tabu
Tabu
DVD ~ Teresa Madruga
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 41.10
18 used & new from CDN$ 18.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Letting Others Into Your Past., Aug. 25 2014
This review is from: Tabu (DVD)
I like foreign movies because they have a wonderful way of jolting my cultural values and making me see outside of myself in time and space. "Tabu" is just another example of a movie being able to transport me to places where I have never been - Portuguese Africa - to understand the mindset of colonials who felt betrayed by circumstances outside their control and, finally, find peace in understanding that true love can outlive the unresolved tensions of the past. This film takes the viewer into the dark haunts of a historical time when a young Portuguese woman made the risky choice of having an extramarital affair. Now, years later on her death-bed, she wants her housekeeper and a friend to help her locate this lover - a close friend of her husband's - who fathered her daughter. Faithful to her dying request, these two individuals pursue a journey back in time to uncover the truth of this woman's haunted existence. What they discover in Aurora's years in Africa is a short-lived fling with a friend of her husband's that was born out of a desire for love, trust, and freedom from an oppressive way of life. While the relationship ends tragically, there is a desire to revisit it with the hope that it will bring peace to an uneasy life and close the circle of human relations. While Aurora will not get that satisfaction, she, at least, allows others into her fitful past so that they can convey the truth to others. I found this movie to be especially interesting in what it had to say about modern Portuguese society's efforts to come to grips with the guilt of its colonial past.

In The House / Dans La Maison (Version française)
In The House / Dans La Maison (Version française)
DVD ~ Fabrice Luchini
Price: CDN$ 17.97
14 used & new from CDN$ 11.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Flaubert would have loved it!, Aug. 25 2014
I found this movie to be a very effective test of my moral boundaries, as only French cinema can do: go where angels fear to tread. Without divulging too much about this complex and somewhat ticklish plot, I will recommend it for what it has to say about the vulnerability of the modern family to forces committed to dismantling it. Director Ozon takes some artistic license in making a movie that shows how innocently easy it is for outsiders to breech the inviolability of one of society's oldest institutions by simply walking through the front door of the family house as a friend. Family mores are definitely under attack here, even though it is often done, at times, in a disarmingly humorous fashion. The two related family situations in the movie initially appear to be well secured against infidelity and divisiveness. However, that assumption will be sorely tested in the most subtle of ways: a teacher's desire to encourage his students to write with passion and creativity. That compelling urge to bring out the best in others becomes the trigger for releasing a Pandora's box of suppressed sexual passions that will end up invading, altering and, finally, destroying traditional affections forever. This cautionary tale serves to remind me how modern culture can, through the seeming innocence of youthful exuberance, unleash a whirlwind of emotions beyond human control. In the closing scene, we have the disgraced teacher and his apt pupil sitting out on a park bench in front of an apartment building sharing their fantasies about a domestic dispute taking place on one of its balconies.

The Mustard Seed
The Mustard Seed
by David Tracey
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.35
4 used & new from CDN$ 15.34

5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Political Thriller That Gets It Right, Aug. 23 2014
This review is from: The Mustard Seed (Paperback)
The author sent me a copy of this novel to review over a year ago and, to my shame and disgrace, I took so long to get at it. When I finally got into it, I found it an incredibly exciting read that created a very believable picture of the terrible political repression that was going on in Sri Lanka over the last decade or so. It is a country headed up by a Sinhalese regime that ruthlessly suppresses its opponents: the Tamil Tigers and the JVP (Communists). The story starts off quite innocently with footloose Gordie Talison, an American sports reporter on assignment to cover the very unamerican sport of cricket. One thing will lead to another and, before the reader knows it, Gordie's attention has been drawn away from the staid confines of the cricket pitch to check out a terrorist war that is raging on the southern part of the island with a special focus on Colombo. These are dangerous times with bombs going off in the streets of the capital, hundreds of innocent people being killed, people picked up by security forces in the middle of the night for interrogation and torture, and informants turning their own in for big money. In the midst of all this chaos, Gordie has a choice to make: get that big freelance story that will tell the world what a corrupt and repressive regime this government is and put his life in jeopardy, or leave for home post-haste having completed his coverage of the big international test match. The author has created in Gordie a character who will not shy away from any challenge. Gordie will follow his investigative instincts, exercising a degree of Zen-like determination in his resolve to find the elusive JVP leader who will hopefully, in the end, give him the real scoop on the troubles. Unfortunately, all he'll get from his source is a lot of propaganda. However, the real moment truth in the plot comes when Gordie realizes that he is being used by a police informant to expose the whereabouts of the JVP leadership. To extricate himself from this precarious situation will require nerves of steel, a calm disposition and a quick mind born out of the island's Buddhist tradition. When you know right is on your side, very little can stand in your way to getting at the truth, regardless of how painful it might be.

Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991: A History
Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991: A History
by Orlando Figes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.06
29 used & new from CDN$ 17.25

5.0 out of 5 stars History in the Unmaking and Remaking of an Empire, Aug. 19 2014
Historian Orlando Figes offers us one very candid and comprehensive view of the Russian Revolution from start to finish, covering what he reckons is the real context of the historical narrative: one hundred years of unrest, miscalculation, ineptitude, cruelty, propaganda, and continual failure for all parties to the piece. For Figes, this 'great' experiment in political and social restructuring of a nation cannot be understood by looking at one moment in time, i.e the storming of the Winter Palace in October 1917. Instead, there is a litany of events that come together to weave an intricate pattern of cataclysmic change that even the victorious Bolsheviks had a hard time figuring out as they changed tack numerous times in succeeding years to make their revolution work. When stretched out over a century, the Russian Revolution looks like a shabby human comedy full of errors, distortions and fabrications derived from the actions of people who just didn't get it, all contained within the book-ends of two key moments in history: a tsarist decree denouncing reform and the breakup of the Soviet Empire. First, the reader gets to see the truth behind the fall of the Romanov dynasty. Nicholas II was an autocrat who was so sadly out of touch with his people that, as power slips way, he only alienates himself more by trying to force his will. Figes wants us to understand that this tsar, like Charles 1st of England, grew up with little understanding of what it meant to lead his people. Then there is the person of Lenin who was so consumed with having his people's revolution succeed that he was prepared to manipulate circumstances at any cost to make it happen, even to the point of using the local soviet system to the party's advantage and putting the country on a war footing. Figes then spends considerable time with analyzing how Stalin, the supposed 'Man of Steel', pursued his vision for wholesale collectivism to make the revolution work economically even if it meant destroying millions of Russians into the bargain. While credited with taking the Soviet through a destructive war, Stalin's ruthless statism, after his death, underwent serious but ineffectual reform as the Communist Party attempted to win yet another war against capitalism in the form of the Cold War. Through all these stages, Figes shows us a political leadership that was seriously out of touch with reality as it continually tried all kinds of experiments to make the revolution happen. In the end, the new Russia is much like the old one, with autocratic leadership at the top calling the shots, with that Marxist-Leninist experiment of the past hundred years still hanging around like a bad dream.

Just Send Me Word: A True Story of Love and Survival in the Gulag
Just Send Me Word: A True Story of Love and Survival in the Gulag
Offered by Macmillan CA
Price: CDN$ 10.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Love Overcoming Tyranny, Aug. 17 2014
Lev and Sveta were two modern Russian lovebirds who honed their affection for each other under the most trying and harrowing of circumstances: living apart for ten years while one was serving time for political crimes in the far reaches of the Soviet Gulag. Their story is one of undying love for each other as they found ways to kindle the flames of hope that they would eventually be reunited. Historian Orlando Figes, a very fine historian on eastern European history, does a good job reconstructing this very complex story that has as many twists as Longfellow's "Evangeline". First, the reader is introduced to two highly intelligent individuals studying to be engineers in the midst of the Stalinist era where terror, war, and great privation were the norms. Lev, ever the chivalrous romantic, is portrayed as a man who would not be denied when it came to wooing Sveta, a very mature and attractive young lady with a zest for adventure. Then we quickly learn how this blissful relationship suddenly becomes a terrible struggle to keep things together. The Patriot War of 1941 intervened to put that special relationship on hold as a young Lev went off to fight the invading Germans. Taken as a prisoner in the early part of the conflict, Lev ended up in a German POW camp and munitions factory, only to be repatriated back to Russia to be charged by his country for deserting to the enemy. This got him a ten-year sentence of hard labour in Pechoria, a wood combine nearly 2500 kms. to the east of Moscow in the taiga of the Siberian arctic. Similar challenges destroyed millions of young Russians of post-war Soviet Union but not Lev and Sveta. By committing themselves to writing around 1500 letters to each other and finding creative ways to outsmart the bureaucracy, this couple were able to strengthen the bonds of love. I found this book to be a tremendous read for how it described the life of the common folk of this troubling period, the overwhelming vastness of Russian geography and the passionate love that came from the forge of adversity. The parts of the correspondence we get to read are full of old-world wisdom, lyrical charm and profound hope. Reading this book reminds me of the love letters my wife and I wrote to each other over two years before we were married. They recount, like the ones in Figes' book, a story of two people attempting to overcome the separation of distance with the declaration of love. The power of language takes over as hearts yearn to be reunited in the flesh.

Crossing the Bay of Bengal
Crossing the Bay of Bengal
Price: CDN$ 17.36

5.0 out of 5 stars Good Historical Analysis of a Very Complex Subject, Aug. 13 2014
The power of any good historical analysis is found in the historian's ability first to accurately recreate the past and, second, to subject it to rigorous but reasonable evaluation. On both counts, Amrith has succeeded in showing that the history of prominent regions like the Bay of Bengal is not only just a convenient cultural express that contains a host of different ethnic and geopolitical interests living in proximity to each other. Instead, the Bay of Bengal is more a diverse historical concept consisting of interacting forces that continue to this day to redefine it in ways never imagined back in the eighteenth century. Back then, this massive body of saltwater defining the shoreline of much of western south-east Asia, briefly became the imperial battleground for control of the lucrative trade that had sprung up with the arrival of the Dutch, English, Portuguese and French. As the English-backed East India Company gradually took over and the Industrial Revolution spread throughout the western world, something significant happened in this region. Its British territories became an area of intermigratory transformation. With the switch to rubber, coffee and tea cultivation in Ceylon, Malaysia (Penang), to meet increasing western demand, the Tamil populations of southern India started to move across the bay in search of work on the many new plantations. Amrith's well-written book takes a detailed look at how millions of these 'lower-caste' people moved back and forth across this region, propelled by the lure of economic fortunes, and a new-found freedom. Often what they got was a mixed bag of fortune and adversity but, nevertheless, an all-important chance to live an indelible imprint on the landscape. What I admire most about this study is the incredible amount of evidence Amrith brings to his argument that human geography plays in improving our understanding of history. For one, people like the Tamils moving across the land leave behind an enormously rich reminder of their culture in the form of artifacts, customs, language, and edifices which find their way into this book. Then there was the profound physical and personal impact of change that came with the arrival of new economies, followed by international wars and ethnic uprisings that seriously threatened to destabilize and disrupt everyday existence. Any attempt to see the Bay of Bengal as a megaregion has long been dispelled by the rise of various nationalistic movements - many Tamil inspired - that invariably break down along national boundaries. However, there is an interesting segue to this whole story: world powers like the US still see the area as being defined by this large body of water that still tends to lend its name to the future of all the countries bordering it.

Algerian Chronicles by Camus, Albert, Goldhammer, Arthur, Kaplan, Alice (2013) Hardcover
Algerian Chronicles by Camus, Albert, Goldhammer, Arthur, Kaplan, Alice (2013) Hardcover
by Albert, Goldhammer, Arthur, Kaplan, Alice Camus
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars A Writer with a Profound Conscience, Aug. 11 2014
I have always enjoyed Camus’ ability to capture, in his writings, the human condition of individual despair that comes from not belonging. We are vagabonds, he would argue, who are, like young Comery in "The First Man", forever looking for an illusory place to call home. Since it doesn’t exist except in our minds, our lot is one of continually striving existentially for a perfect world that should not compromise our sense of justice and compassion. Such was the heroic calling of Camus, a famous French writer, who brought a great sense of humanity to his novels and essays. As a journalist for both French and Algerian papers, Camus reported on a number of key issues that affected his homeland and the Fourth French Republic. Focussing on what appears to be the underlying causes of growing dissension within both countries, leading to civil war, Camus pulls no punches. A xenophobia had crept into a society where French, ex-pats (pied-noir), and indigenous people were literally at each others throats in a fight to the death for political control. At the heart of the matter was the horrible plight of the Kabyles - a large group of Algerian Bedouins - caused by the harsh policies of a ruling French colonial administration bent on using terror, starvation and duplicity to subdue them. Many of the articles in this collection address, first-hand, the daily life of the Kabyles as they struggle to survive and the solutions needed to improve their lot. This is a people with no health care, schooling or a reliable food supply, all issues that the French government played a large role in perpetuating. It is this lack of social conscience that is symptomatic of a larger state: the moral and political declension of the nation as it desperately clung to the vestiges of its colonial past. Living in harmony, the desired state of all humanity, would only happen if the French government of the day started to make some serious compromises that exuded compassion and true Republican egalitarianism.

Restless
Restless
by William Boyd
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.16
15 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Finding Peace at the End of the Journey, Aug. 6 2014
This review is from: Restless (Paperback)
British author William Boyd is a master at writing novels that are extensive, intensive, complex and, overall, very satisfying in their conclusion. He does all this by focussing on making a life for the main character while developing a couple of sideshows meant to enrich the main plot over time. This formula plays out once again in this novel in the life of a British wartime spy named Eva who leads a footloose and adventurous existence in an attempt to outwit the enemy in a cat-and-mouse game of dire consequences. It is 1939 and, as an emigre hanging around a doomed Paris, Eva, suddenly becomes an unwitting member of a covert intelligence operated putatively committed to bringing the US into war on the British side. Eva is a single woman vulnerable to many emotions, not least the need to be loved. It will be Lucas Romer, her handler, who will become her lover as they move to America to pursue this mission. As the reader will learn, Romer is a traitor who has his own sinister plan for keeping America out of the war and is prepared to do anything, including throwing Eva under a bus. To reinforce this intriguing tale, Boyd introduces a subsequent narrative that takes place a generation or so later involving her daughter, Ruth, born out of the chaotic and fearful life she led with Romer. The similarities are so uncannily similar as to make the point that we are not alone when we travel through life. What Ruth discovers about her mother, through reading parts of her harrowing story of escape from danger, is that they share a tortuous life of travelling the world in search of love in the shadows of ever-present danger. This revelation allows her to better understand her mother’s similar need for peace. In the end, Eva, Ruth, and her son Jochem, get the satisfaction that justice, though cruel and whimsical, can offer a well-earned sense of vindication to those who patiently pursue the truth.

Empire Of Secrets
Empire Of Secrets
by Calder Walton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.31
33 used & new from CDN$ 12.36

5.0 out of 5 stars Penetrating the Historical Veil of Secrecy, Aug. 3 2014
This review is from: Empire Of Secrets (Hardcover)
This book offers the reader a very detailed and informative look at how those in secret intelligence and counter-terrorist agencies helped to manage the decline of the British Empire in the context of the first part of the 20th century. As the sun finally began to set on this massive colonial expression, government operations like MI5 and SIS come under significant scrutiny as to the role they played in this painfully, long-drawn-out dismantling process. There are many stages and many secrets in this story that still remain classified to this day. The author makes a very good case that the British Empire was always about fostering a culture of secrecy when it came to maintaining law and order and curtailing insurgency. Everything from the use of questionable interrogation tactics to surveillance to gathering intelligence to cooperating with other countries and local groups is covered here. The main focus is on the history of this devolution as it relates to the last of the colonies to gain their independence: Cyprus, Malaysia, various African territories, the Caribbean islands and the southern Arabian peninsula. Walton's research shows that this transition was, at times, messy, awkward, sinister, and inept. Historically, Britain did not go into that goodnight easily. Lots of fighting back and resisting the winds of change that were made increasingly painful by the facts that the country no longer had the firepower, the manpower, or international respect to prevail as a imperial power. While MI5's track record as a spy organization was badly tarnished because of some major Cold War security leaks, it still had a well-earned reputation for sharing intelligence with the new independent states and emerging world powers. The problem, however, was that Britain, by holding on to these colonies for longer than necessary, may have created a veil of secrecy as to many of the atrocities it committed to desperately keep the legend alive. Walton, as any savvy historian interested in establishing the truth, does a fine job in attempting to renew interest in uncovering those deep-dark moments in the last century that many Brits of that era would rather forget about as a time of national humiliation best forgotten.

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