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S. Cornforth "Steve Cornforth" (Liverpool, UK England)
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The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
by Alexander McCall Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.24
223 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars No1, July 8 2004
What a delightful and unusual book this is.
Precious Ramotswe is the owner of the eponymous Detective Agency which she set up following the sale of her late father's cows. It is the only Ladies Detective Agency in Botswana.
She is ably assisted by Mma Makutsi who acheived 97% in her secretrial examinations and Mr J L B Matekoni of the Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors.
The book takes us through the story of the birth of the agency and a number of her cases written a short stories within the book. It is not really detective novel. Indeed anyone expecting this might be disapppointed.
It is a lovely portrayal of Botswana life. The pace is gentle. The humour is gentle and the characters are beautifully portayed. Especially Mma Ramotswe herself who confidently eats fruit cake as she does not need to worry about such things being a woman of 'Traditional African Build'.
This is one of five novels and they are all are highly recommended.

Catch-22
Catch-22
by Joseph Heller
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.77
23 used & new from CDN$ 12.42

3.0 out of 5 stars Catch 22, Dec 23 2003
This review is from: Catch-22 (Hardcover)
I cannot think why it has taken me nearly forty years to read Heller's masterpiece. It lived up to all I had ever heard. The hero (?) Yossarian is desperate to get away from the insanity of war. The Catch is that he cannot convince the authorities of his madness because anyone wanting to get away from the war must be sane. This is the thread, which runs through the book. In the process we meet a host of bizarre, comic and tragic characters. There is the brilliant Major Major Major who will only allow men to come in and see him when he is out. In fact the higher they go the madder they get - Cargill, Cathcart, Dreedle and the wonderful Scheisskopf whose dream is to put his men in a parade. But for me the genius of the book is in the creation of Milo Minderbinder who manages to turn the war into an unrivalled business opportunity. Throughout the book there is the haunting spectre of Snowden - what really happened to him.
I cannot imagine that there is a more entertaining, more gripping and more powerful account of the insanity of war. Nobody should go through life without reading this.

A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey
A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey
by Brian D. McLaren
Edition: Hardcover
51 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Shaken and Stirred, Dec 13 2003
When a friend loaned me this book I was expecting familiar fare. There have been so many new Christian trends or fads in recent years that my expectations were low. Was this another Toronto event or some new revival that was going to change the world, as we know it? I had followed those trends with great enthusiasm and lingering disillusionment. All of which is why this excellent little book was devoured in a few hours.
It is the semi-fictitious story of a burnt out pastor and his relationship with an intellectual maths teacher. Through their conversations we are led to question all that we have taken for granted about our faith. It is disturbing and challenging to see that much that we take for granted about the bible, evangelism, heaven and hell etc is coloured by our modern worldview and needs to be revisited in a post-modern world.
Our traditional division - conservative v. liberal, is set in a different context - 'wouldn't I rather be a liberal who really cared about God's will than a good conservative evangelical who was smug in my understanding, who had stopped 'hungering and thirsting and thirsting after righteousness.'' I did not agree with everything. But I certainly came away with some fresh thoughts and a desire to reconsider the heart of my faith. And I certainly found myself surprised by what I did agree with. This will not give you the frothy short-lived lift that is a weakness of many Christian books. Neither, on its own, will it change your life. But it raises issues that cannot be ignored. Maybe I should review it again after a re-read in a year or so.

Why Do People Hate America?
Why Do People Hate America?
by Ziauddin Sardar
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 10.77
60 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Where there is hatred, Oct. 27 2003
I expected this be another 'no holds barred' attack on the USA. Nobody really doubts that there are many people who hate America so why do we need another book to tell us. But I was glad to be proved wrong. This is a careful study of the cultural and historical events that have shaped America and in turn shaped the perspective of non Americans. Best of all it tackles why both sides struggle to understand the other. The authors explore the history of the Wild West and claiming of territory with its consequent violence. They look at the influence of TV and film in creating the understanding of American identity and the American way. So films like Rules of Engagement are seen as portraying Arabs as intrinsically violent and Americans as intrinsically good. They also reveal the danger of Americans seeing themselves as the world so that nothing else counts. Hence the re-making of films with American heroes and having a World Series in a sport only played in America.
Although the focus is on the USA it is also a timely challenge to all of us in the West. The aim is not to attack Americans but to try to encourage understanding. It is notable that the final words of the book are from the prayer St Francis of Assisis'. This is an interesting and provoking read which I would recommend.

The Little Prince
The Little Prince
by Antoine Saint-Exupery
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.90
132 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece, July 28 2003
This review is from: The Little Prince (Paperback)
I first read this almost thirty years ago as part of my French A Level course. I have read it every couple of years ever since. It has always been one of my favourite all time books. Is it a childrens' or a grown up's book. Who cares? It speaks to everyone.
It is the simple tale of a pilot who is grounded in the desert and meets the enigmatic Prince who has come from another planet. A tiny planet inhabited by the Prince and his beloved flower - and the constant fear of Baobab trees which could overwhelm everything. It is so small that he once watched 44 sunsets. He watches these when he is sad. How sad he must have been on that day observes the narrator. It is a beautiful story about friendship. We laugh as much as we cry. The author's drawing of the empty landscape after his friend's departure still chokes me.
But there is also the humour. Normally at the expense of our bizarre adult world. The Prince meets a merchant who sells a pill that means there is no need to drink. This could save several minutes each day. The Little Prince observes that if he had that time he would go to a fountain and have a nice cool drink.
St. Exupery is much loved in France. He was even on the money before the Euro arrived. This is much deserved for this little classic alone. Read it in English or French or whatever you like. But read it - now.

Notes from a Small Island
Notes from a Small Island
by Bill Bryson
Edition: Paperback
153 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Notes, June 26 2003
I have just read this for the third time and if anything it gains charm with each reading. Only Bill Bryson could write a classic from touring some dull British Towns on public transport. Mind you the book is as much about his dry wit as the places he visits. Some of the lines are immortal e.g. -'Blackpool illuminations are nothing if not splendid..and they are not splendid,' 'The day I arrived in Liverpool they were having a litter festival'. My own favourite comes when he tells us that Bradford's role in life is to make all other towns seem attractive - '..and it does it rather well.'
I first read this whilst waiting for a horribly delayed flight and regularly laughed out loud to much embarassment. For me this remains his masterpiece.

The Alchemist
The Alchemist
by Paulo Coelho
Edition: Paperback
53 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars A good story, June 23 2003
This review is from: The Alchemist (Paperback)
This is a fascinasting little book which can easily be read in a couple of hours. We follow the journey of a shepherd boy from Andalusia to Egypt and back in search of his dream - which is a dream of hidden treasure at the pyramids.On the way he finds wisdom and help from a King, a chrystal seller, an english intellectual and, of course, an alchemist. He speaks to the wind who listens and answers. He finds love. Finally he finds his treasure.
I must confess that the many references to 'finding your treasure because you want it' reminded me, at first, of Charlie and the Factory. But there is a subtlety in the storyline and characterisation that draws you in.You begin to wonder where you own treasure lies and where you are looking. It is not necessarily life changing but a good read which does make you think.

Stupid White Men: And Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation!
Stupid White Men: And Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation!
by Michael Moore
Edition: Hardcover
90 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Uncomfortable...familiar, May 16 2003
Question - is this a book for British readers? Well I am a man, white and probably stupid! So it is certainly for me. But it is about the USA - that great nation across the sea. Our closest ally...birthplace of childhood heroes - John Wayne, Lucy and Mr. Ed. So yes, it is for us. And it is an essential read; funny and terrifying at the same time. There are also warning signs for Britain. How long before Coca Cola dominate our education system? How long before we know everything about our celebs but forget who Shakespeare is? Or who is President of The USA? - now there's a thought. How long before our main political parties become indistinguishable from each other? Hmmm. As you would expect from Michael Moore it is entertaining, informative and readable. Buy it now.

Dead Famous
Dead Famous
by Ben Elton
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 18.21
167 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Death in the fast lane, April 1 2003
This review is from: Dead Famous (Paperback)
Ben Elton writes as he performs - 100 miles an hour with few stops for breath. Warning - do not start reading this unless you have time to finish it in one sitting. Once you have started you will not stop. The old formula of the whodunnit story bringing together a group of people under one roof is brilliantly translated into a 'Big Brother' house. The whole thing is televised by Peeping Tom Productions, including the murder.
The inmates are repulsive in every way. Only the physically repulsive anarchist Woggle is a likeable character although he also has his dark side. Best of all is the portrayal of the cynicism of reality TV. The ending was a touch predictable but no less entertaining and clever for that. A great read.

Rough Guide Mexico 5e
Rough Guide Mexico 5e
by Rough Guide
Edition: Paperback
15 used & new from CDN$ 0.78

4.0 out of 5 stars The Best - Roughly Speaking, Feb. 12 2003
This review is from: Rough Guide Mexico 5e (Paperback)
Rough guides are ideal for a certain kind of holiday. If you are planning to go to an all inclusive resort in Cancun and only venture out for arranged excursions then this book will never leave the shelf. Rough guides are for those who want to explore the real thing. That is why I won't visit any country without a copy.
This does not disappoint. The factual information is accurate and helpful. The restaurant recommendations were welcome - especially the wonderfully named 'Gory Tacos' in Downtown Cancun!
The information on archeological sites such as Coba and Chitchen Itza was extremely helpful, the travel tips essential.
The only slight reservation is that a bit of snobbery sometimes slips in. For example the resort of Akumel is dismissed as expensive and shallow. In fact it is beautiful and well worth the visit being quiet but accessible.
For all that this is still the best guide book for the thinking traveller!

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