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James W. Derry (Courtenay, British Columbia, Canada)
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All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939-1945
All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939-1945
by Max Hastings
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.92
15 used & new from CDN$ 4.58

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE FIRST MEGA WAR, March 8 2013
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This is a vast, vast book. Not just in its global canvas, but in depth of thought, opinion, and detail.
Max Hastings, the British author of many previous war histories, has done the near impossible: summarized World War II in a brilliant, thrilling single volume. He gives not just the overview of major events of titanic proportion, but first hand accounts of individuals who experienced the war from many perspectives and situations. As we read this brilliant book, we begin to have a pretty good idea of what it was like to have your country invaded, or to have engaged in battle, or lay wounded in a field hospital, or have your home bombed out, or witness unspeakable horrors.
Hastings' opinions are forceful and some of the truths he uncovers will not please all readers. Credit is given to Stalin and the former Soviet Union for defeating Hitler and winning the war in Europe. Compared to the massive, brutal sacrifice of Stalin's armies, Britain, her Commonwealth allies, and the USA did little more than splash ashore in France and make their way towards Germany. All nations suffered terrible losses, but Stalin threw his people at his enemy to die in the millions. Only a brutal dictator could do this. No wonder the Russians refer to WWII as the Great Patriotic War.
Hastings reminds us that Russia was Hitler's ally for the first two years of the war, a fact conveniently deleted in Soviet histories. France still has not produced an official history of their role in the war as there are still far too many betrayals, lies, and too much cowardice to face. Japan likewise still will not tell its children what their soldiers did in China. All belligerents had their share of defectors, traitors, and spineless leaders. War does not bring out the best in people.
The remote, steamy, naval war in the Pacific was won by the USA. Once its mighty industrial output came on line, there was no winning situation for Japan to grab on to. But like Germany, Japan continue to fight, even though the generals knew it was over as early as 1943, but the leaders would not accept a negotiated surrender. So millions more continued to perish. Hastings shows us why.
We all know how it ended. Germany's cities and industry were obliterated to rubble, an oppressive Soviet empire was set up in eastern Europe, a new, unthinkable weapon of horror was Japan's fate, and Britain lost its colonial might. But what we do not realize is that this was the first truly global war, a war that "affected and disrupted the lives of hundreds of millions of people, even those far from any battle". And I would add, their descendants.
An important, massive, first class history.

Just My Type: A Book About Fonts
Just My Type: A Book About Fonts
by Simon Garfield
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.72
50 used & new from CDN$ 2.11

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FONTASTIC, Jan. 22 2013
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After reading this book, you will never look at public signs, newspapers, advertising, or even your computer settings the same again.
Just My Type by Simon Garfield is a brilliant little book on a topic you would think boring beyond belief. But you would be wrong, for there is a lot to learn about how fonts and type sets affect the way we read and think.
Thousands of fonts are all around us and we are affected by them in an almost subliminal manner. Why do some ads attract us more than others? Why is the masthead of a newspaper written in a gothic style? Why are highway signs printed in lower case letters? And why did IKEA change its font from Futura to Verdana, and endure the fury of some of its customers? All is answered here, with wit and style.
Some fonts have become almost omnipresent, and once it is pointed out by Garfield, we suddenly see them everywhere. Signs in aeroports are likely to be in Frutiger because it is so highly visible. Johnson Sans was created for the London Underground and one only has to read Cockfosters in that font and know that it is a Tube station. Some are highly readable, such as Cochin, or highly legible, such as Helvetica, or look legal and important like Baskerville, or monumental (Trajan), or just beautiful (Garamond). Then there are the overused or ugly fonts, such as Comic Sans and Times New Roman. You will now see roadside signs and think, what on earth were they thinking of?
Just My Type is a wonderful, useful book and a pleasure to read, and not just because it is printed in Sabon.

Debbie: My Life
Debbie: My Life
by Debbie Reynolds
Edition: Hardcover
10 used & new from CDN$ 3.42

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NOT YOUR AVERAGE CELEBRITY, Dec 8 2012
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Ce commentaire est de: Debbie: My Life (Hardcover)
Although this autobiography is a bit dated (published 1988), it is an interesting look into the old Hollywood star system and one stars process through it. Debbie Reynolds has written a good book, about her life and her career, although this reader began to wonder how much bad luck can one person accumulate.
Debbie's education was on the old MGM lot and she learned plenty. Above all, she was a hard worker with a kind heart. Unfortunately she made a disasterous marriage to Eddie Fisher, who dumped her with infant children for Elizabeth Taylor. Well, Frank Sinatra warned her about singers. This was followed up by an apparent happy marriage to millionaire Harry Karl, who by the end of their relationship had spent or gambled all his money and hers as well. Debbie refused to declare bankruptcy so worked years to pay off huge debts that she did not create.
One note of credit must be given to Ms Reynolds. At a time when it was not thought of any value, she collected Hollywood film costumes and artifacts for decades with the hope of one day creating a Hollywood Film Museum. Incredibly, nobody in the industry was interested in raising funds to buy land or a building. Recently she had to let it go to the auction block, and now Charlie Chaplin's bowler hat, Liz Taylor's Cleopatra headdress, and the rest are scattered to private buyers. You cannot say Debbie Reynolds didn't try.

Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon
Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon
by Gretchen Morgenson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 27.60
139 used & new from CDN$ 0.22

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars JUST PART OF THE STORY, Dec 5 2012
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Although this book is well researched and well written by the co-authors, it really only tells part of the story of the 2008 global economic meltdown. This book really is about Fannie Mae, the US mortgage lender and its rapacious CEO James A Johnson. Events on Wall Street by major banks that led to the the economic crisis that spread around the world are not covered. Perhaps this was not Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner's intention. But it is somewhat disappointing that their focus stubbornly stays on Fannie Mae, and to a lesser degree, Freddie Mac.
It really needs to be noted that since 2008, 386 banks have failed in the USA. The banking system, unhinged with the end of the Glass-Steagal Banking regulation by President Clinton which kept American depositors and investors safe from greedy bankers for decades, has not been fixed. Those responsible for this chaos which destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people have not been brought to court. The authors and this reader find this incomprehensible but at least they have named names.

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey
The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey
by Candice Millard
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.72
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars RIVER TOO LONG, Nov. 23 2012
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Candice Millard has written about an extraordinary adventure taken by Theodore Roosevelt after he left the presidency of the USA. Of the many outstanding things Roosevelt did during his lifetime, this journey into the heart of Brazil with his son Kermit, as the world was plunging into a global war, was possibly the most foolish. The joint expedition he led with Marshall Candido Rondon, did discover a new river that flowed 1000 km through an unexplored region of Brazil that reached the Amazon. However, he nearly died doing so, and the damage done to his health probably led to his early death.
Unfortunately this is not an easy read. The prose is uninspiring and pacing as slow as the progress made by the Expedition through the hot, insect infested jungle. A great opportunity is missed here to tell of an incredible achievement by two incredible men, both famous in their own right. One wishes to learn more about Rondon and his soldiers, and less about Kermit and his socialite fiancee Belle.
For a more satisfactory account of this story, I recommend reading chapters 15 & 16 of Colonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris, the third and final volume of his biography of Theodore Roosevelt. In 42 pages Morris condenses what Millard requires 353 to tell in mind numbing detail. Sometimes less is better.

Julian
Julian
by Gore Vidal
Edition: Hardcover
7 used & new from CDN$ 11.05

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FORGOTTEN AUGUSTUS, SAD EMPIRE, Nov. 21 2012
Ce commentaire est de: Julian (Hardcover)
I found this old novel by Gore Vidal recently at a fund raiser book sale. I paid one dollar for it; the original Signet paperback price was .95 cents, and it had passed through at least three second-hand book sellers during its 50 year life. However, the story and the relevance has not changed a bit. I read it in three days.
Vidal is a great writer with a brilliant mind and obviously a classical education. The world will miss his passing, once it realizes how right he was about everything. How wonderful it was for us that he chose Julian the Apostate, of all the Roman Emperors, to write a novel about. We learn so much in this novel: about the time period before the division of the Roman Empire into two fateful parts, about philosophy, about early Christianity (or that Galilean cult, as Vidal calls it), about absolute power, and how human nature remains eternal, for better, or worse.
Other reviewers have outlined the story, principal characters, and method Vidal chose to write in, that is, a memoir written by Julian, with commentary by two of his Greek contemporaries. I can only add that I felt lucky to have found this novel and finally read it.

Dinosaur Bone War: Cope and Marsh's Fossil Feud
Dinosaur Bone War: Cope and Marsh's Fossil Feud
by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
Edition: Library Binding
8 used & new from CDN$ 24.17

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A SMALL SUMMARY OF COPE & MARSH, Feb. 22 2012
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This is a book for young students and should not be mistaken for anything useful to an adult. It is a brief, good, summary of the Cope/Marsh story. Only 118 pages, in small format, with a lot of photos of the period. It does contain a Bibliography for further reading.

Stanley
Stanley
by Tim Jeal
Edition: Hardcover
13 used & new from CDN$ 0.55

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars AN EXPLORER, CORRECTED, July 13 2011
Ce commentaire est de: Stanley (Hardcover)
Born John Rowlands, Henry Morton Stanley was his own worst enemy. He lied about his name, his Welsh origins, his age, his military career, and details of his explorations in Africa. He married the wrong woman. His greatest achievements were not believed. The King of the Belgians used him but he naively trusted his imperial betters. All to simply be accepted into a society he was far superior to.
Author Tim Jeal has done a great justice to Stanley, who make no mistake, loved Africa and Africans.
Everybody remembers Dr. Livingstone, lost in the heart of Africa, but found by Stanley, an ambitious journalist for the New York Herald. Livingstone, the great hero of east Africa, was an utter failure as an explorer, and a failure as a missionary. His discovery made headlines around the world. But Livingstone chose to not return to England, where the truth would have been learned and died thirteen months later, a saint to his family and his nation.
Stanley's two other expeditions are largely forgotten, but the Trans-Africa Journey and the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition were far greater achievements. What Stanley did was almost impossible to believe: he traveled, for the first time, from one side of Africa to the other. And then back. The continent was "opened up" by him and his African men. And Stanley, in order to boast in his dispatches of how important his Trans-Africa Expedition was, lied about the number of members. He actually had far less men, which makes his accomplishments even more astounding. The white English officers on the Emin Pasha Relief were for the most part wretched leaders who had no respect for their porters and bearers. After massive hardships, they made it back to "civilization", their health ruined, their crimes buried. Half the Africans died en route. Yet Stanley, aside from some diseases, did not suffer a single injury. In fact, the only injury he ever suffered was a silly fall in a hotel in Switzerland.
After King Leopold's betrayal, Stanley remained in England, pushed by his society wife to stand for Parliament, a career he loathed. He missed Africa, and would have made an excellent governor. But the appointment never came and his wife would not have let him go anyway. The only consolation in later life, on his estate, was his adopted son Denzil, who was actually his nephew. Another lie, like his own adoption by a Mr Stanley in America.
Perhaps the greatest irony of the Stanley saga is that in a fit of spite against the British government, Denzil, and his son, Richard turned over all Stanley's papers and artifacts to the Belgians. The monstrous King Leopold, whose atrocities in the Congo were hidden for years, controlled Stanley to the end. For access by historians to these papers, and the truth, was sealed until 2002 in the Stanley Pavilion of the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, where the author was finally able to do his research. One can only hope that previous biographies of Stanley will be forgotten.

Cuisine and Culture: A History of Food and People
Cuisine and Culture: A History of Food and People
by Linda Civitello
Edition: Paperback
14 used & new from CDN$ 27.88

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A SHORT HISTORY OF FOOD, Nov. 24 2009
This is an interesting book about food in history and how it relates to certain cultures. The author describes the march of cuisine from prehistoric times to the present - a big canvas to cover without getting too generalized. Linda Civitello accomplishes much of what she sets out to describe in an entertaining and informative manner.
There is much to learn here about food origins, revolutionary chefs, the first cook books and restaurants, imported plants, and how recipes adapt and change. We learn about Careme, Escoffier, and Ferdinand Point; the great French chefs who changed cuisine. And the non chefs who made good cooking assesable to the home kitchen like Julia Child and Martha Stewart.
The book is a little too slanted towards American culture and connections sometimes between food and politics is often stretched too thin. At times the book reads more like a review of the high points of political change in the USA. What actually does segregation in the South got to do with food? However, this is a good book for readers who cook or enjoy food because it often reveals unique details about ingredients we often take for granted on our shelves, such as salt or sugar. Overall, a book to enjoy and learn from.

Five Quarters Of The Orange: A Novel
Five Quarters Of The Orange: A Novel
by Joanne Harris
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.26
71 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars CULINARY MYSTERY IN OCCUPIED FRANCE, June 25 2009
This is a novel in two parts: a childhood in occupied France and a return to the same village in old age. One part struggles for a story and the other reads like the novel is should be.
Joanne Harris has written a novel about secrets that were buried in the past but come to the surface in the present by a daughter's inheritance of her mother's obscure cook book and journal. It is about the relationship of a single mother, her three children, and a German soldier who befriends Framboise, the heroine. Like all war stories, this relationship with the enemy ends in tragedy.
The present day sections of the novel flow quickly and the character of Framboise is of more interest as she discovers there is more to her mother's treasured cookbook than recipes. The author nicely connects the coded journal notes to the village in the past but I found these sections about fishing in the Loire and buying on the black market rather slow and undramatic, especially when compared to a similar but greater novel like Suite Francaise.
This is a book with much potential and I wished it had been written slightly different, perhaps spending more time on the three siblings relationship after the war. As children they are not that interesting, except for Franboise misunderstanding of her mother. This is captured in the title, the scent of orange that drives the mother to have crippling migraines because the daughter has hidden the peel in the house.
Yet I liked this novel, and as a cook, was intrigued by the culinary references. However, it does not inspire me to read more by the author.

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