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Len (Slave Lake, Alberta, Canada)
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Miss Bala
Miss Bala
DVD ~ Stephanie Sigman
Price: CDN$ 16.99
5 used & new from CDN$ 12.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An artistic tour-de-force that’s also a compelling thriller, May 10 2014
This review is from: Miss Bala (DVD)
The drug war has cost Mexico 36,000 lives from 2006 to 2011 while generating 25 to 40 billion dollars in revenue. “Miss Bala” is attempt to provide a face to that violence through the story of a beauty queen contestant from the city of Tijuana. Based on a true story, the heroine in this story is innocent of the drug lords who will take control of her life over a period of 36 hours. The story is a first-person perspective so that the viewer is often unaware of the larger action taken place around Laura as she is forced from one location to another acting as money mule, gun smuggler and assassin. In one scene the car she is driving is confronted by gun fire. The camera focuses on Laura as she drops to the floor below the driver’s seat while her car gets punched with holes by heavy machine gun fire. Only when she is pulled from the car by do we realize that the cartel she is working for is in a shoot-out with the police. The violence is brutal, real and compelling. We see how the life of an innocent girl can be turned upside down by the violence that surrounds the existence of her and all other Mexicans who live along the U.S. border. “Miss Bala” is an artistic tour-de-force that’s also a compelling thriller that makes it hard to take one's eyes off the screen.

Michelangelo: His Epic Life
Michelangelo: His Epic Life
Price: CDN$ 21.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very personal investigation into the life of one of the greats, May 9 2014
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Mr. Gayford provides a very personal and complete biography of the life of Michelangelo. Upon completion, I felt I knew the man as well as his accomplishments. He could neither accepted gifts gracefully nor accepted the positives and negatives of an individual’s personality. Michelangelo cut off his acquaintances and friends with a regularity of a decidedly curmudgeonly personality too dedicated to his art to pay attention to the needs of other people. The book surveys his life from birth just outside of Florence among the stonecutters who would obviously have a huge impact on his life and his perception of art and his preferred expression, which was sculpture. From there, he moved in to live with Lorenzo Medici who gave him his first exposure to sculpture and the means to pursue it. His connection with the Medici’s would continue throughout his career as many members of that family became Popes. Under their sponsorship, he would produce such great works of art as the Medici Chapel, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. Mr. Gayford has written a terrific person about a man who previous to this reading had seem more like a god to me.

Flash Boys
Flash Boys
by Michael Lewis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.65
39 used & new from CDN$ 12.56

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction to the evil of high frequency trading, April 28 2014
This review is from: Flash Boys (Hardcover)
Without information the stock market is a crapshoot. It might be anyway. When one person knows in advance what you want to do, then obviously they’re going to have a huge advantage. For example, if I know that you want 100,000 shares of General Motors, then I’m liable to purchase then ahead of you and then sell them back at a profit. The profit doesn’t have to be much; a few cents will reap huge income with high frequency trades because we’re talking about millions of trades a day. The key is speed and with computers that speed is measured in milliseconds. HFTs locate their offices as close to the exchanges as possible. Millions are spent for a dedicated line from Chicago to New York to gain a few milliseconds advantage for those trading in the futures. Send out a bunch of feelers. Find out who’s buying what. A hedge fund might be looking at purchasing million shares of Pfizer. By purchasing all of them on one exchange (yes there are many) they are liable to influence the price of that stock. So, what it will do is break up that purchase into a number of separate blocks, say 100,000 each. What traders were finding back in 2007 was that when exchanges were offering a stock of Pfizer say $32.04, that after purchasing the stock on one exchange for that amount, the offers disappeared on the other exchanges. They would then return at a higher amount, say for $32.14. Somebody at the other end of the line knew what was happening and was taking advantage of that knowledge to make a little profit. The advantage to the HFT is measured in milliseconds. Computer algorithms do the work and at the end of the year, they’ve made billions. Mr. Lewis wrote an excellent article for the New York Times about Brad Katsuyama, a Canadian trader for the Royal Bank, who was so upset with the system he set up a new exchange that would eliminate the advantage of the few milliseconds the HFTs have on everyone else. If you don’t feel like reading an entire book on the topic, this is an excellent alternative. Otherwise, “Flash Boys” is an excellent introduction to the phenomenon of high frequency trading and its deleterious impact on the stock exchange and society in general.

India Unveiled
India Unveiled
by Robert A. Arnett
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 61.09
13 used & new from CDN$ 28.88

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A spiritual quest in guise of a travel book., April 26 2014
This review is from: India Unveiled (Hardcover)
“India Unveiled” is a terrific not only because of the beautiful photography but Mr. Arnett’s stories. He is a seeker of spiritual enlightenment that takes him to temples and religious sites throughout India from the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar to the Hindu Kali Temple in Kolkata to Buddhist monasteries in Darjeeling to the holy city of Varanasi to a Jain temple in Rajasthan, the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in Goa, the Jama Masjid Mosque in New Delhi and of course, the Taj Mahal. In many of these places, Mr. Arnett meets the people and experiences the inevitable "spiritual tingling." If I was to have any complaints about his book, there’s almost no description or photography of life for the regular Indian. That said, for anyone interested in visiting the country or getting a feel for its spiritual and historical past and present, this book is a must read.

Detroit: An American Autopsy
Detroit: An American Autopsy
Offered by Penguin Group USA
Price: CDN$ 10.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A case study of life experienced by the dislocated and disoriented throughout the U.S.A, April 19 2014
Mr. Le Duff takes an impressionist’s brush to the present city of Detroit. Police and fire fighters work with outdated and broken equipment in conditions more hectic and dangerous than their cohorts in cities that have not declared bankruptcy. Detroit continues rank in the top ten of murder rates in the U.S. and on some lists #1. The average police response time is 58 minutes, ambulance, officially 12, probably more, fire fighters, about 20. The fact that there are 73,000 vacant homes in Detroit may be one of their problems because, as says Mr. Le Duff, watching a house burn is cheaper than going to a movie. Whether occupied or not, fire fighters must search these houses for inhabitants and endanger their lives as a consequence. One fire fighter that Mr. Le Duff followed and got to know died after one of these houses collapsed. The people voted to cope with the systemic problems experienced by a city that has gone bankrupt are either corrupt or incompetent with millions of dollars that are supposed to go into emergency services disappearing and unaccounted for. Kwame Kilpatrick, mayor of Detroit from 2002 to 2008 was convicted of 24 counts of extortion, racketeering and bribery and sentenced to 28 years in prison.
Curiously, the death of the middle class in the U.S. has been so little documented in books such as this one or in film, or television (with the exception of “The Wire”.) The loss of good paying jobs in Detroit and around the country has left huge pockets of population without meaningful employment. Statistics would support this book as documenting a case study of life experienced by the dislocated and disoriented throughout the U.S.A. and not just a series of problems unique to the history and environs of Detroit. Too bad there aren't more.

Before the Fall-Out: From Marie Curie To Hiroshima
Before the Fall-Out: From Marie Curie To Hiroshima
Price: CDN$ 12.12

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating tale of discovery, innovation and horror., April 12 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Ms. Preston begins with the discovery of radiation and the chase to identify and understand subatomic particles. It moves through Alexander Rutherford who identified the different parts of the molecule, Albert Einstein with his theory of relativity, Heisenberg with his uncertainty principle, Niels Bohr and quantum physics, James Chadwick who discovered the neutron, Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner who discovered nuclear fission, and Enrico Fermi who built the first nuclear reactor. All these men and women were contemporaries who went from knowing very little about the atom and its parts to breaking it apart and building the first nuclear bomb. Easily the most exciting part of the book for me was this process of discovery. The second half of the book describes the building of Little Boy and Fat Man at Los Almos by Robert Oppenheimer and his team of scientists. Ms. Preston also describes the attempts by Germany and the Soviet Union to build their own bombs. Without having read “Before the Fall-Out” I would never have learned what an exciting period of discovery the beginning of the 20th Century was for nuclear physics and its horrific result.

Purple Hibiscus
Purple Hibiscus
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 13.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Despite a backdrop of social unrest, “Purple Hibiscus” is a story where family trumps politics., April 10 2014
This review is from: Purple Hibiscus (Kindle Edition)
The 1990s were turbulent times in Nigeria with one political coup following another; when the government executed writer and journalist, Ken Saro-Wiwa who spoke out about the environmental degradation of the Niger Delta. In "Purple Hibiscus," Eugene Achike is a wealthy factory owner who publishes “The Standard,” a newspaper that speaks out about the anti-democratic practices of the government. That being said, “Purple Hibiscus” examines the dynamics of the Achike family and not the political events of the time. Eugene’s 15-year-old daughter, Kambili, narrates a life so sheltered that she perceives nothing unusual about her devoutly Catholic father rages when her brother Jaja leaves the dinner table without permission. Nor does she question the slaps he gives her when she scores second in the class on her report card; or the regular beatings he inflicts on her mother. Her perception of her father is more like that of the community that sees him as a generous benefactor to the church, kind to the needy and willing the stand up for the rights of the disenfranchised.
Kambili’s life is changed when are her Aunt Ifeoma invites her and her brother to visit her home during a semester break. There, she experiences freedom for the first time after having her every minute of her life timetabled by her father. With the cousins she hardly knows, she listens to contemporary music for the first time, develops a crush for the local priest and lives with her grandfather who her father has allowed her only 15 minutes to visit his heathen premises.
Despite a backdrop of social unrest, “Purple Hibiscus” is a story where family trumps politics in the life of its characters.

The Orenda
The Orenda
Offered by Penguin Group Canada
Price: CDN$ 14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical insight, adventure, romance, and heartache all between one set of covers, March 25 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Orenda (Kindle Edition)
It’s sixteenth, early seventeenth century. Colonization has begun in New France and Samuel de Champlain has made a treaty with the Huron. He will support them against their archenemies, the Iroquois or Haudenosaunee if they will in turn support his side against the English. The tragedy of the alliance was that the English would supply their allies with guns while French would not do the same. The novel is told as a first person narrative by three different characters: Bird, a Huron leader, who’s lost his wife and daughter to the hated Haudenosaunee; Snow Falls, an Iroquois girl he captures and then adopts to replace his lost daughter; and Christopher, a Jesuit priest Bird has agreed to have live in his village in return for a favoured trading status with the French. Snow Fall is the daughter of a husband and wife Bird has killed in front of her and at first, her hatred for him seems so intense that it will last the full 448 pages. However, Bird’s unconditional love for his new daughter eventually wins her over. The priest's naive approach maintained through the entire length of the novel was not entirely believable to me and might have been intolerable if not for the strength of Mr. Boyden's writing. The Huron people have little use for his teachings because, unlike Jesus of Nazareth, they have no institutions to fight or foreign rulers to obey (except of course for the French government that has brought these Jesuit priests to the New World.) Their lives are more accurately reflected in the Orenda or spirits that surround them in the Canadian wilderness.
Through these narrators, we are provided with uniquely different perspectives of life at the time. Bird’s concerns are with the survival of the tribe against the ravages of disease introduced by the French and attacks from the Iroquois. Snow Fall matures in a changing world, much like our own, caught between the demands of her aboriginal life and a curiosity for what the Jesuits bring. Christopher, Crow as he is known by Snow Fall and Bird, provides perspective on the ignorance of those who first came to this country intent on changing those whose lifestyles are more ideally adapter to their environment. Impending tragedy looms over the novel with such intensity that upon my first attempt, I quit about a third of the way into the novel. Fortunately, I returned to the narrative a few weeks later and was rewarded handsomely for the effort. "The Orenda" provides historical insight, adventure, romance, and heartache all between one set of covers.

Shovel Ready: A Spademan Novel
Shovel Ready: A Spademan Novel
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 10.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bleak, convaluted and just a little bit dumb, March 20 2014
Manhattan in the near future has emptied after a dirty bomb detonated in the subway. The wealthy have retreated to the burrows. Spademan, our hero, was a garbage man who quit his job after his wife was killed by that same bomb. Through a series of coincidences, he becomes a contract killer and then gets hired by T.K. Harrow, a wealthy preacher to assassinate his daughter Persephone. New technology has allowed the wealthy to wire their brains to a virtual reality where they live their dreams without the barriers and consequences of real life. Harrow offers this heaven on earth for his less wealthy congregation with the promise of a period of time spent evangelizing for future church members.. Unfortunately, for Harrow, Spademan has certain rules that don’t include killing a pregnant woman, which his Persephone happens to be. And so, our story begins. Harrow is a powerful foe that Spademan must disappoint and then defeat. It’s very bleak, complicated and just a little bit dumb.

Half of a Yellow Sun
Half of a Yellow Sun
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 13.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A riveting tale of love, politics, war and depravity, March 17 2014
Ms. Chimamanda tells her story using three different narrators, Ugwa, a houseboy who moves from a tiny village to work for Odenigbo, a professor at a university in the Nigerian town of Nsukka. Odenigbo treats Ugwa as more than a houseboy teaching him English and sending him to school so that he can become educated and perhaps, not always a houseboy. Olanna, Odenigbo’s romantic interest is the second narrator and daughter of a wealthy chief from the capital of Lagos. The final narrator is Richard Churchill, a Brit, who’s arrived in Nigeria to pursue his writing and follow an interest in Igbo artifacts that date back hundreds of years. Coincidentally, he falls in love with Olanna’s twin sister Kanene. It’s the early sixties and intellectuals such as Odenigbo are planning the separation of Bithe southern portion of Nigeria into the new nation of Biafra with a planned flag that features half of a yellow sun. Biafra would be home to the Igbo who mainly follow Christian and animistic faiths. In the north, live the Moslem Hausa and Falani peoples. An amicable separation might have been possible if the future location of Biafra did not possess most of the oil reserves in the country. After Biafra declares independence in 1966, as many as 30,000 Igbo people caught in the mainly Hausa populated north were slaughtered before they could reach the safety of their new country. War broke out and the Biafran people were cut off from supplies of food and medicine. The hardships of war and starvation are well documented by Ms. Chimamanda’s and provide my first in depth understanding of what went on there at the time. With her three narrators she is able provide multiple perspectives of the war that provide a riveting tale of love, politics, war and depravity that will stay with me long after I finished the novel.

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