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Gordon Ritchie "Woodpusher" (Ottawa, Canada)
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Memoirs of Hadrian
Memoirs of Hadrian
by Marguerite Yourcenar
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.72
31 used & new from CDN$ 7.82

5.0 out of 5 stars Tour de Force, June 8 2015
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This review is from: Memoirs of Hadrian (Paperback)
A truly extraordinary work. This is the English translation from the French of a great life's work by a remarkable writer, sadly too little known today. Yourcenar was the author of many fine books that earned her place as the first women to be admitted to the Academie francaise. But this remarkable ouvre was her greatest achievement.
Based on deep historical research, she brings to life the dying Hadrian, Emperor of the world. His early years, his accession to the throne on the death of Trajan, his wise reign over many peaceful and productive years, his deep infatuation with a young lover, Antonius, whose death took the spark from Hadrian's life, and finally his musings on the end, in his early 60s, sick and tired but alive in spirit.
A real tour de force.
The highest compliment I can give is that, having read it and enjoyed it immensely, I plan to read it again this Summer in the hope that I may see deeper into its mysteries.

The Wright Brothers
The Wright Brothers
by David McCullough
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 22.80
32 used & new from CDN$ 16.68

5.0 out of 5 stars McCullough does it again, June 8 2015
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This review is from: The Wright Brothers (Hardcover)
This fine work confirms McCullough's standing as one of the leading historians of his times. In the same vein as his accounts of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Panama Canal, McCullough combines an intricate understanding of the technicalities with the storytellers ability to weave the many strands together in a magnificent and highly legible tapestry.
He makes a compelling case that this was one of the most important developments of the 20th century, with all the more impact as it came in its first decade. A brilliant account.

Punishment
Punishment
by Linden MacIntyre
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.26
5 used & new from CDN$ 13.76

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Reading, March 26 2015
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This review is from: Punishment (Hardcover)
Macintyre continues to provide an extraordinary blend of ordinary lives, set in his beloved Cape Breton, with undercurrents of tension, mystery and misunderstanding. This may be his best work yet.

America's Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Backroom Deals, and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healthcare System
America's Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Backroom Deals, and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healthcare System
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 17.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Brill is perhaps the best writer on the byzantine world of American health care ..., Feb. 23 2015
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Brill is perhaps the best writer on the byzantine world of American health care today. This is a must-read account for anyone interest in understanding the real stories of Obamacare, stripped bare of much of the partisan hype on both sides. The main thrust, corroborated by multiple other accounts, is that the deeply dysfunctional American political system, awash with money and special interests that control the legislative processes, forced the Obama team to make the fumbling attempt to cobble together a "rube goldberg" mishmash of policy fixes. They were obliged to forego the tried and tested methods of other systems throughout the rest of the developed world---with their state run core provision of universal health care with a single payer---systems which produce consistent better health outcomes at much less cost. Instead, the combined effort of the White House and Administration team plus a congressional team led by Senator Baucus, was focused on obtaining bi-partisan and special interest support for the extension of coverage to at least some of the vast pool of uninsured Americans. The result failed for many reasons: at the end of the day, it was politically impossible for any Republican legislator to sign on to any Democratic proposal; the special interests, led by the pharmaceutical and insurance companies diverted the reforms to ensure their own very considerable profit; and the policy gurus in the Administration acted as though it were beneath their dignity to pay any attention to the little matter of execution, which was monumentally botched. The result, in Brill's judgment, is a terribly complicated overlay which should, indeed, somewhat extend coverage but at a tremendous cost in government subsidies going ultimately to the pharma and insurance sharks. Recommended ready for anyone interested in going beyond the rhetoric.

Dispatches from the Front: The Life of Matthew Halton, Canada's Voice at War
Dispatches from the Front: The Life of Matthew Halton, Canada's Voice at War
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 16.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Biography of a Remarkable Life, Feb. 23 2015
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Matthew Halton was one of a handful of truly remarkable journalists covering the run-up to World War II, its agonies, and its aftermath. He ranks with Edward R. Murrow and a small handful of other luminaries of the time. Unlike Murrow, however, his work has largely been forgotten; no one has made a movie of his life and work; nor, until now, has anyone written of it.
That omission has been repaired with this outstanding biography all the more remarkable for having been crafted, lovingly but with clear eyes and a steady hand, by his son David Halton, a leading broadcast journalist in his own right. David assembled this fine account over many years, drawing on hitherto unexplored documents and research.
Matthew Halton burst into prominence as the European correspondent for the Toronto Star, then as now Canada's largest circulation newspaper. He saw what others refused to see: the darkening storm as Hitler rose to power and set the world on the road to war. At a time when the British and Canadian Prime Ministers were proclaiming Hitler's greatness and reasonableness, and the American President bowed to popular sentiment by trying to ignore the menace entirely, Halton showed great eloquence and prescience in tracing the implications of the Nazis' rise to power in Europe. Once the war began, Halton was in the forefront of the action, reporting in print and on radio to Canadian, British and American audiences the terrible events as they unfolded, from or very near the front lines. To millions, in North America and the U.K., Matthew Halton was very much the voice of that war, telling the stories of the brave Canadian, British and, eventually, American soldiers in combat with a fearsome foe whose bravery often matched their own.
Like Churchill, Halton was made for great events. After the war, his interest and his output waned and he died relatively young after a remarkable life, brilliantly portrayed in this biography. Highly recommended.

Irresponsible Government: The Decline of Parliamentary Democracy in Canada (Point of View)
Irresponsible Government: The Decline of Parliamentary Democracy in Canada (Point of View)
Price: CDN$ 7.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Trained Seal Bites Back, Nov. 9 2014
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This rambling polemic is chiefly interesting for who wrote it, one of the "trained seals" of the current House of Commons who has broken free of the pack. Rathgeber writes with passion that comes from direct experience under the whip of the PMO. His arguments are not new, as they have been made more clearly elsewhere, but they do ring true. Part of the charm is the lack of sophistication of the presentation but the book could have done with a good editor. It is discursive, rambling and often repetitive. These weaknesses should not, however, detract from the importance of the basic message: the Parliament no longer exercises effective control of the Government/Executive. Rathgeber's prescriptions are unconvincing but well intentioned. Worth reading if only for confirmation that the system has gone off the rails.

Think Like a Freak
Think Like a Freak
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers CA
Price: CDN$ 17.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Freak Brand, Nov. 9 2014
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Levitt and Dubner have created a brand out of the application of basic economic reasoning to a number of non-traditional issues. For the economist, it makes an interesting read. For the non-economist it provides an insight into how the dismal science approaches problems.

Winning Power: Canadian Campaigning in the Twenty-First Century
Winning Power: Canadian Campaigning in the Twenty-First Century
Price: CDN$ 14.72

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Practitioner's Guide, Nov. 9 2014
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Tom Flanagan may be the most articulate of the current practitioners of the political arts. His book is both a highly knowledgeable account of recent electioneering in Alberta and Canada and a handbook of the craft. It makes a serious contribution to any non-insider's understanding of how the political system really works, warts and all. Recommended.

After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam
After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 13.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Superficial Account of a Great Schism, Sept. 10 2014
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Unlike her epic account of the life of the Prophet, this potted history of the great schism following his death provides little insight into a critical period in the history of Islam. A great deal of the first part of the book is the rehashing, often word-for-word, of the earlier work which leaves a sour taste in the mouth of anyone who struggles through both.
The story itself is riveting as the disciples of the Prophet prove to be very human indeed with their vicious infighting and internecine warfare. It has become politically correct to say that Islam is a religion that preaches peace among all men and above all condemns the killing of fellow Muslims. This is, of course, absolute bosh. The Prophet himself led armies engaged in the brutal putting down of his religious rivals during his lifetime, killing the men and enslaving the women. His successors continued in this violent tradition---arguably not unlike other religions, including Christianity in whose name terrible atrocities were committed.
As the rest of the world stands almost helplessly by as the bitterly opposed forces of the two great branches of Islam, Sunni and Shia, go after one another with horrific violence it is important to understand the roots of this great divide. Unfortunately, this book does not contribute greatly to this understanding beyond recounting the weary tales of Aisha and Ali and the other early followers of the great Prophet.

Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House
Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 15.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Adds Very Little to our Understanding of the Bush Presidency, Sept. 10 2014
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Peter Baker is an experienced White House correspondent (New York Times) and author of several previous books. In this instance, it would appear that he felt that he could maximize his investment in covering the Bush (43) White House by writing a book summarizing the events of this highly controversial presidency. The subject is already crowded with other works so Baker adopted the device of focusing on the tension between President Bush and Veep Cheney. The book opens and closes with perhaps the most painful difference between these two close collaborators, over a possible pardon for the Veep's disgraced chief of staff, Scooter Libby. (When Bush declined to pardon Libby, Cheney snarled that he had left a good soldier wounded on the battlefield.)
The result is not very satisfying and the literary device simply cannot stand the strain of tying the narrative together. Instead, what we read is a rather disjointed and rambling account of the Bush years adding little if anything to the recounting or interpretation of this momentous period of American history. It is not badly written but nor is it of the quality we would normally expect from a journalist and author of Baker's caliber. He does make the case that while Cheney's influence in the first term was remarkable, Bush remained "The Decider". By the second term, the relationship had cooled as Bush became more confident in his own expertise (one is left to wonder why after the fiascoes of Iraq and Lehmann's) and Cheney became more marginalized, displaced by Condi Rice and Stephen Hadley among others. This is very much "inside the beltway" stuff and adds very little to our understanding of the dynamic.
Left barely touched and then only as an afterthought in the Epilogue is the fascinating relationship to the Obama presidency now half way through its troubled and disappointing second term. Obama, as Baker notes, came to office in no small measure as a reaction to the disastrous Bush administration, as Obama managed to outdo even his Republican rival, John McCain, in castigating Bush for his failures in foreign policy and the management of the economy. As Obama now returns American firepower to Iraq it is looking increasingly like "Bush's fourth term" as some commentators have quipped. From the return to Iraq to the bail-out of the banks to the failure to make any progress on immigration reform, Obama has found that the facts on the ground overwhelmed the election rhetoric and he has come to chart a course very similar to that laid out by his much reviled predecessor.

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