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Len (Slave Lake, Alberta, Canada)
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The Goldfinch
The Goldfinch
Offered by Hachette Book Group Digital, Inc.
Price: CDN$ 14.99

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The first two-thirds of the novel is great., Nov. 26 2013
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This review is from: The Goldfinch (Kindle Edition)
Young, 13 year old Theo visits the Metropolitan Museum of Art with his mom only to discover that they’ve timed their visit perfectly with that of a terrorist. A bomb explodes, his mother is killed and he wanders out the back entrance of the museum with “The Goldfinch,” under his arm. Prior to the blast, he’s been smitten by a similarly aged red head by the name of Pippa who's accompanied by an elderly gentleman. The man spends his last moments with Theo and leaves him with a ring and a request that it be taken to his old friend Hobie. After escaping the museum with a priceless painting and not wanting to become a ward of the state, Theo seeks the support of Andy Barbour, his childhood friend. Much to his surprise and his relief, Mrs. Barbour accepts him as a temporary part of the family. While staying with the Barbours, Theo fulfills the old man’s request and returns to ring to Hobie. There he meet Pippa again lying in a dark bedroom with severe head and leg injuries. Between his life with the Barbours and his visits to Hobie and Pippa, life for Theo begins to fall into a place of routine and happiness, Unfortunately, Theo’s ne’er do well father shows up and he's relocated to Las Vegas where he meets Boris, a young Ukrainian immigrant who shares Theo's feeling of displacement. The two share many adventures and throughout these chapters, Theo must cope with a life without a mother or a caring father in a place he doesn’t feel he belongs. Coping with life after trauma with strangers who know little about him and he about them provides sufficient content and conflict until it's apparent resolution some 450 pages later. Then, it takes a right hand turn into the world of the Russian mafia and the sale of illegal art. It's like the start of a new book that makes no sense in the context of where it started with a young man ripped from a loving mother, his only emotional support in the world. Ms. Tartt engages her hero in endless pages of navel gazing which concludes with a statement that life isn’t worth living and it would have been better had he never been born. Really? Why would her character bother writing about a life not worth living? To spread the misery or with the belief that others will be comforted finding a like-minded soul. The first two-thirds of the novel are great, the last third are really not worth the effort.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The incredible progress of objective science gets lost when its impact on the individual is forgotten., Nov. 9 2013
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Henrietta died of cervical cancer probably a result of contracting the HPV virus that causes genital warts. Prior to her death, George Gey, the head of tissue culture research at John Hopkins Hospital removed a sample of cancerous cells from her body. With the help of his assistant, Mary Kubicek, he was able to grow the tissue in a culture and keep it growing and growing so that they'd weigh more than 50 million metric tons and circumnavigate the globe at least three times. Her cells used for all kinds of cancer and disease related research done around the world and while scientists and biotech companies and much of the public benefited directly from Henrietta’s cells, the Lacks family has not. Poor and without healthcare, they lived in squalor, many dying at a prematurely young age. Henrietta’s husband was also her first cousin so many of her children suffered from genetically related problems. Her daughter Elsie suffered from epilepsy and mental retardation and at least two of her other children were partially deaf. While the scientists at John Hopkins were willing to recognize the tremendous contribution Henrietta’s cells had made to science, no was willing to provide them with any financial remuneration. As one of the scientists described their predicament, it’s like taking oil from the ground and returning none of the profits back to the owner. This book chronicles two dominant movements of the present era, the tremendous progress being made by science to improve and lengthen our lives and the voracious appetite of greed that pervades our individual lives and the actions of our companies while others suffer a poor and desperate existence. While I was tempted to give up on the narrative at times, I found the result very rewarding.

Rules of Civility: A Novel
Rules of Civility: A Novel
Offered by Penguin Group USA
Price: CDN$ 13.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A nostalgic journey back to simpler and more dangerous times., Oct. 31 2013
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The bohemians, immigrants and struggling artists who once leant so much flavor to New York city have long since left and been replaced by the wealthy, very wealthy and obscenely rich. Much to the satisfaction of his readers, Amor Towles has transported us to a New York of the late 1930s and a world that once was. Katey Kontent rents a room in a house where she shares space with Evelyn Ross. The two frequent jazz bars where they meet Tinker Grey. With his help, vistas are open to them and a life they would never have though possible. Unfortunately, even a life fulfilled beyond expectations can still bring with it disappointments. “Rules of Civility” celebrates a lifestyle long gone and with it a feeling of nostalgia for adventures provided by a city inhabited by the nouveau riche, the blue blood American aristocrat, the fresh off the boat immigrant, the struggling artist, the talented musician, and the idealistic writer. As our characters mature, so must New York and the reader is left with a nostalgia for lost youth and simpler times. If only by following rules such those of civility, everything in life would turn out okay. "Rules of Civility" is a terrific book that provides a nostalgic journey back to simpler and more dangerous times that some would love to relive and others forget.

The Circle
The Circle
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 12.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An all too plausible "1984" scenario. Very disturbing indeed., Oct. 23 2013
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This review is from: The Circle (Kindle Edition)
“The Circle” depicts a nightmare scenario in the near future when all our movements can be monitored and privacy becomes practically non-existent. Mae Holland has recently graduated from university and hates her IT job with an energy company in the same small town occupied by her parents. So desperate is she for a change that she contacts her old dorm roommate who works for The Circle, a company whose brainchild envisioned and created an internet one-stop site instead of a separate one for searching, and purchasing and interacting with friends. Three "Wise Men” envision a company not only able to monitor every form of communication but also movement with the goal of knowing where every person is at any particular moment but also what they're doing. It's sold under the auspices of improving service and safety. If the movement of every criminal can be monitored 24/7, then how can there be crime. Like today, infringements are individual privacy are made incrementally until there is no privacy at all. Mr. Eggers' world is not a huge extension of the one in which we exist now with government agencies such as the U.S.. National Security Agency and Canada’s CSEC capable of gaining access to all correspondence we make over the internet. Very disturbing indeed.

The Collini Case: A Novel
The Collini Case: A Novel
Offered by Penguin Group USA
Price: CDN$ 13.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A thriller with punch, Oct. 12 2013
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Reading a novel where every word in every sentence adds to character and plot development is always a pleasure for me. This slim novel packs the kind of story that can take hundreds more pages in other novels to unravel. It begins with the murder of Hans Meyer, a defenseless elderly gentleman by a large, gruff looking individual with no respect for the body after its been shot. Casper Leinen whose just started his career receives the call from legal aid to defend the ruthless killer. He quickly learns that the victim is his best friend, Phillip’s father with whom he spent much of his youth. He wants to leave the case but is convinced to do otherwise by a renowned veteran of the judicial court circuit. Casper recounts his memories of Phillips and his happy times in the Meyer’s house and roaming their vast grounds just outside of Berlin. What would motivate Collini to kill the man he considered a second father. Then there's Johanna, Meyer's beautiful daughter with whom Leinen harbours a deep affection. It's a terrific story packs a punch strong enough to cause revisions to the German legal system.

The Unknowns: A Novel
The Unknowns: A Novel
Offered by Hachette Book Group Digital, Inc.
Price: CDN$ 12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The compelling pursuit of the unknowable unknown. A terrific read., Oct. 7 2013
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Computer geek turns millionaire and yet, still doesn’t relate well to other people. I wish I could summarize the book so easily however it’s so much more. Unlike the computer, the brain works in ways that can’t be so easily understood. Eric is a guy who can write beautiful code and yet has difficulty understanding the human brain. He wants to understand it all. Yet, the brain has a mysterious element known as the unconscious that harbingers dreams and ideas that may or may not have an anchor in reality. It’s this mysterious element that Eric must confront his first real relationship with a member of the opposite sex. “The Unknowns” is a complex, very readable novel about one of those people who design the code that structures our on-screen environment.

The Good Lord Bird: A Novel
The Good Lord Bird: A Novel
Offered by Penguin Group USA
Price: CDN$ 15.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I’ve rarely enjoyed a book so much, Oct. 6 2013
John Brown was an ardent abolitionist back in the days just prior to the start of the civil war that started in 1861. It told through the eyes of Henry Shackleford who becomes an accidental member or Brown’s gang after his father is killed in a shooting altercation in his barbershop. Rescued by Brown’s slave abolitionists, Henry is mistaken for a girl and through a series of misunderstandings becomes known as Henrietta and later, after eating Brown’s very old “lucky onion” is known as Onion. As a member of the gang, Onion travels with them from his home in Kansas to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, where John Brown famously captures the armory located there back in 1859. A simple Google search will alert the reader to the outcome of the raid however that in no way diminishes the power of the story told through the persona of Henrietta. I’ve rarely enjoyed a book so much.

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us
Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us
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 For anyone who eats, this book will fascinate and disturb, Sept. 29 2013
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Reading "Salt Sugar, Fat" will make you rethink the meaning of food. Companies like Nestle, Kraft, Pepsi and Coke have dedicated their existence to hooking you on their product with as much salt, sugar and fat into their product as government regulations and the public will allow. The U.S. government has even helped the food industry in this pursuit when genetically altered dairy cattle began producing milk in quantities that the American public could not reasonably consume. Rather than allowing the price to drop precipitously and thus, force the farmers to slow production, government policy ensures the sale of all milk, if not by the consumer, then by the federal government. A use for the fat removed during the production of skim milk and its cousins 1% and 2% milk, had to be found. The answer was cheese filled and so, the very institution that was supposed to encourage healthy eating was promoting the consumption of this fat and salt filled food.
The statistics are shocking. Americans, on average, exceed the daily recommended maximum of fat by more than 50%. Nearly one in four American adolescents may be on the verge of developing type 2 diabetes or already have it compared with one in ten in the 1990s. Fat has twice the number of calories as sugar. When Campbell soup attempted to reduce the sodium levels in their product from 700 to 800 milligrams per serving to 480, their stock dropped 5% on Wall Street. A 12 ounce can of Coke contains almost ten teaspoons of sugar. The job of these companies is to sell product at whatever the costs to the people's health. Hypertension caused by high salt content in foods has resulted in increased incidences of heart attacks and strokes. For anyone who eats, this book will fascinate and disturb.

Beat the Reaper: A Novel (Dr. Pietro Brnwa Novels)
Beat the Reaper: A Novel (Dr. Pietro Brnwa Novels)
Offered by Hachette Book Group Digital, Inc.
Price: CDN$ 9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, informative and entertaining., Sept. 8 2013
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Dr. Pietro Brnwa’s, the narrator and protagonist of this novel, celebrates a unique upbringing. Abandoned by his parents, he is raised by grandparents who are tragically killed when Peter's still in his teens. The family of Skinflick, his best friend, adopts Peter and welcomes him into their family however, with certain conditions. David Locano, Skinflick’s father is a lawyer for the mafia and his association extends to the family and from there to their adopted son. Peter’s narration fluctuates between the present where he is a doctor responsible for training medical students and the past where he is a young adolescent growing up with little or no adult supervision except the tutelage of Mr. Locano and his mafia friends. Mr. Bazell has a very funny turn of phrase and a personal and extensive knowledge of the life of a doctor as he’s an active practitioner himself. Combined with a well-crafted plot, “Beat the Reaper” makes a very entertaining read.

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America
The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America
Offered by Macmillan CA
Price: CDN$ 10.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stories about people who've been impacted by the unwinding that will likely leave you sad., Sept. 3 2013
“The Unwinding” is a series of stories depicting the lives of Americans who have been directly affected by the unwinding of America. It is completely without commentary, not even at the end where I excepted with it, only the desperate attempt of Dean Price relentlessly pursuing the American dream and realizing almost none of it. If you were a winner at the beginning of the unwinding starting in about 2005, you were an even bigger winner by 2013. If you were struggling then, you would be struggling still. Each story of the winners from Sam Walton to Oprah Winfrey to Robert Rubin to Jay Z describe the lives of individuals who have been lucky. With dedication and hard work, they've amassed fortunes unknown in the history of humankind. Yet, the plight of the ordinary citizen is invisible to them or they don't care. On the other hand, Tammy Thomas dedicates her life to working in an automotive parts factory only to be told that she is being laid off without a pension at the age 40. Dean Price pursues his dream of building a bio-fuel company only to lose it because he didn't know how to protect his company from the bankruptcies of his other ventures. Yet, he maintains his faith in the writings of Napoleon Hill, a disciple of Andrew Carnegie, who believed that wealth was possible for everyone so long as they pursued it with a single minded determination. Then there are the stories about two individuals involved in the "Occupation Wall Street" movement, a cause born of frustration without any direction. The truths revealed in these stories leaves the reader feeling how sad life has become in America. For most, the dream is gone and they don't even realize it.

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