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Content by Len
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Reviews Written by
Len (Slave Lake, Alberta, Canada)
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   

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Most Secret (Vintage Classics)
Most Secret (Vintage Classics)
Price: CDN$ 9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars As usual, Mr. Shute combines his tales of adventure and excitement with an element of heart-warming humanity, April 14 2015
It’s World War II and the Germans have occupied France. Anger seethes in the French people who can do little against their well-armed rulers. Fortunately, Charles Simon, a British ex-pat has lived in the country for years, can mix the people without notice and wants to serve his country in whatever capacity he can. He’s enlisted as a spy by the British and then returns to his homeland to serve as an officer in her navy. His put in charge of a small fishing vessel equipped with a flame thrower. Under his command is a young aristocrat who recently lost his pregnant wife in a German bombing raid on London, another young man who lost his dog and best friend also in a bombing raid and to captain their ship, an older American with extensive experience smuggling liquor by boat during years of U.S. during prohibition. Together, they make a formidable team that causes much damage and chaos for the Germans along the French coastline. The story is told by their commanding officer stationed on shore whose focus is not only on his team accomplishing their missions but also surviving them. As usual, Mr. Shute combines his tales of adventure and excitement with an element of heart-warming humanity.

A Man and A Motorcycle: How Hamid Karzai came to Power
A Man and A Motorcycle: How Hamid Karzai came to Power
Price: CDN$ 10.29

4.0 out of 5 stars At just the right length, it is both entertaining and informative., March 16 2015
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Ms. Dam made over 150 interviews in order to chronicle Hamid Karzai’s rise to power from relative unknown to become president of Afghanistan. Basically, Mr. Karzai, a Pashtun, was able to garner support from the other major tribal groups that make up Afghanistan by promising favours to the leaders of these various tribes in the form of government positions. Francis Fukuyama would refer to this as clientelism and is not a promising starting point for true democracy to take place. The title of the book is derived from the fact that Mr. Karzai rode a motorcycle into Afghanistan after the introduction of UN troops into the conflict following 9/11. His objective was to spearhead the capture of the city of Tarin Kowt in his home province of Uruzgan. There he endeavours to seek the support of the members from other Pashtun clans plus the pragmatic leaders of the Taliban seeking a place in the new regime predicting the old will fall. Mr. Karzai is under the protection of an elite combat troop called American A Team plus all the ferocious airpower they have at their command. That airpower would decimate attacking Taliban troops as well as nearly kill Hamid Karzai in friendly fire. This helps potential followers to believe that, by following Karzai, they following a winner, someone likely to lead the future government. Ms. Dam leaves her editorializing until the epilogue where she questions American tactics in the region based on an ignorance of tribal politics in the region. “A Man and a Motorcycle” is part story-telling, part political analysis and part editorializing. At just the right length, it is both entertaining and informative.

The Swimmer
The Swimmer
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers CA
Price: CDN$ 13.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The plot unfolds at a searing pace that makes the book very difficult to put down., March 16 2015
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This review is from: The Swimmer (Kindle Edition)
The book begins in Damascus, Syria, circa 1980, with the death of a narrator’s wife and child and continues apace for the rest of the novel. Each chapter features the perspective of a different character. There’s Mahmoud Shammosh, a university professor in Stockholm writing a book on the privatization of war, Klara, a pretty but innocuous government bureaucrat working in Belgium’s European parliament, George Loow, an up and coming commercial consultant, and Gabriella, lawyer and childhood friend of Klara. They are all observers and participants in a series of events that begin with an attempt by a past military companion of Mahmoud’s to pass on top secret information he would like to see publicized for the enlightenment of the masses and to the detriment of extremely powerful, well placed private and government officials. The reputation and livelihood of those who exist above and beyond the reach of the normal practices of the rule of law are threatened and events quickly move beyond the control of the participants. Through a series of narrators the plot unfolds at a searing pace that makes the book very difficult to put down.

The Whites: A Novel
The Whites: A Novel
Offered by Macmillan CA
Price: CDN$ 15.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars “Whites” has all the components for a great thriller, character, plot and suspense enmeshed in the glutinous mass of moral uncer, March 2 2015
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Is the state the sole arbiter of justice? Are there any circumstances when this shouldn’t necessarily be the case? What about the men and women in positions of power, like the police? Should they be able to right wrongs? Billy, our protagonist must make a decision. Which is more important, allegiance to his fellow officers or the state? All five had begun their detective careers together and grown a deep attachment to one another naming themselves the “Wild Geese.” Each had let a murderer get away, their unfinished business entitled their “white.” Billy chooses the state but his indignation must be questioned when loved ones become the target of righteous revenge. What if forgiveness trumps action? The first half of the novel introduces characters that are far more rounded than is normally found in a genre novel (if this is what Mr. Price is trying to achieve with his nom de plume.) The plot unfolds in the second half like the best of Elmore Leonard. Mr. Price has a terrific turn of phrase with passages like “that Eeyore world of low expectation,” “geriatric twin elevators,” “the bakery warmth of her body,” “the canyoned street,” among others that use language too colourful for a "PG" book review. “Whites” has all the components for a great thriller, character, plot and suspense enmeshed in the glutinous mass of moral uncertainty.

Chasing Mavericks (Bilingual)
Chasing Mavericks (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Gerard Butler
5 used & new from CDN$ 3.90

4.0 out of 5 stars Both uplifting and tragic. Terrific., Feb. 23 2015
Mavericks are rogue waves that exceed the height and intensity of most others. Frosty played by Gerard Butler has been chasing them for years and they become the obsession of high school student, Ray Moriarity. At first, I thought this to be have an entirely predictable plot with a young man finding his mentor, at first rejecting by his mentor and then, through a series of trials, being accepted and even exceeding all expectations of the mentor. Sure, it was that but so much more. This is a story about not only chasing mavericks but chasing your limits. Putting yourself on the line and finding out what you can really do. It's a terrific story both uplifting and tragic, a boy finding the father he never had, the man finding a son and the development of a bond that only can be realized when boundaries are tested. Plus, the surfing scenes are amazing. Well worth your two hours.

Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice
Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice
Offered by Simon & Schuster Canada, Inc.
Price: CDN$ 11.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reads like a real life spy thriller that will leave you with lump in your throat and a tear in your eye. A terrific book., Feb. 22 2015
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Mr. Browder was the first investor to venture into the untried financial markets of post-Soviet Union Russia. His hedge fund became one of the most profitable in the world until the Asian financial crises of 1997. The value added to his stocks almost disappeared overnight. But that’s not the point of the story. It’s background to the injustice and tragedy to come. We learn that Mr. Browder’s grandfather was a communist in the 1930s living in the United States who garnered enough notoriety and reputation as to appear on the cover of “Time” magazine. His father was a world famous physicist, his mother a renowned mathematician and his brother a world famous particle physicist. Money is not what this guy was/is all about. His rebellious nature pushed him into the world of business and finance but his humanitarianism pushed him to confront tthe world of institutionalized corruption and extortion sanctioned by the government of Vladimir Putin. Bill Browder and his fellow investors owned a part of Russia that its famous oligarchs and corrupt bureaucrats wanted as their own and because they controlled the system, they could make it their own. Preemptive action by Mr. Browder and his group prevented this from happening. Unfortunately, there were casualties. Browder was one when he had his visa was revoked which made it impossible to continue running the hedge fund he’d based his livelihood. However, the more serious casualties were his lawyers, two who were able to flee the country, and one who stayed convinced that his beloved country would not unjustly incarcerate an innocent man. This book reads like a real life spy thriller that will leave you with lump in your throat and a tear in your eye. A terrific book.

Birdman (Bilingual) [Blu-ray]
Birdman (Bilingual) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Michael Keaton
Price: CDN$ 9.99
14 used & new from CDN$ 7.95

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very dramatic interpretation of a ludicrous series of events., Feb. 21 2015
Great directing, great acting, pretty good dialogue but really, what was it all about. I feel that Mr. Iñárritu went one step too far. I get the bird that speaks to him and follows him around is his alter-ego. But, what about the flying? What about the window that opens in a hospital ward where a man should have been put on suicide watch? (I'm really not giving anything away.) This would have been just another weird movie I kind of enjoyed if it wasn't one of two favourites to win the academy award for best picture. Michael succeeds in being serious. Fortunately, Zach Galifianakis does not, a nice reprieve from a very dramatic interpretation of a ludicrous series of events.

Nightcrawler [Blu-ray + DVD +UltraViolet] (Bilingual)
Nightcrawler [Blu-ray + DVD +UltraViolet] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Jake Gyllenhaal
Price: CDN$ 19.96
12 used & new from CDN$ 13.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The desperate existence of the freelance news videographer., Feb. 16 2015
Dan Gilroy who wrote and directed “Nightcrawler” depicts the ideal video journalist as nothing short of psychopath. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the despicable Lou Bloom with macabre poise. He will do anything, say anything to sell his footage of death and destruction to the aging local news producer Nina Ramona (Rene Russo) desperate to extend to keep her. The movie begins with Lou stealing metal fencing, copper wire, and manhole covers for sale to a local building contractor. After negotiating a price (the contractor's), Lou asks the man for a job with claims of an excellent work ethic and a desperate desire to please as his main qualifications for employment. The contractor responds, “But I don’t hire thieves.” Not so television news and with that, we are left to witness how far Lou will go to make a buck from a local news network guided by the formula, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

Station Eleven
Station Eleven
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers CA
Price: CDN$ 13.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific novel depicting a precarious existence without the tremendous advantages of the present., Feb. 16 2015
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This review is from: Station Eleven (Kindle Edition)
The end of the world has come. Well, almost. The Georgia Flu has wiped out 99% of the world’s human population. The rest have settled in small habitats dotted throughout North America. Formal states no longer exist and these habitations are all ruled through consensus, dictatorship, religion or a combination of the three. Travelling between these communities is The Travelling Symphony performing Shakespeare and playing their music.
The novel begins with a performance of "King Lear." Arthur, who plays the king collapses suddenly during an evening performance. Jeevan, a paramedic in training, realizing the Arthur’s distress jumps from his seat and onto the stage to perform CPR, unfortunately, to no avail. The narrative then moves seamlessly back and forth in time from the past to the present and future telling the stories of Arthur, his celebrated career and his many wives, and Kristen, a child actress who witnesses Arthur's collapse on sate. We learn of Arthur’s past and Kristen’s future, one without any of the technological advantages of the present where people can die of simple infections. The characters are well rounded and believable as is the author's bleak vision of the future. This is a terrific novel depicting a precarious existence without the tremendous advantages of the present.

Gone Baby Gone [Blu-ray]
Gone Baby Gone [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Morgan Freeman
Price: CDN$ 5.00
25 used & new from CDN$ 1.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Great entertainment based on an implausible premise., Feb. 14 2015
This review is from: Gone Baby Gone [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
The script, the direction and the acting are all terrific. Like so many thrillers, the problem with the story comes down to the premise. To keep the story moving, the action pulsing and the audience on edge, it is often necessary to create a plot full of twists and turns very often emanating from a motivation that upon reflection implausible to the point of being absurd. Such would be the case here. Fortunately, the ride up to then is terrific. Great entertainment.

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