Profile for Len > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Len
Top Reviewer Ranking: 59
Helpful Votes: 435

Guidelines: Learn more about the ins and outs of Amazon Communities.

Reviews Written by
Len (Slave Lake, Alberta, Canada)
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
In the Light of What We Know: A Novel
In the Light of What We Know: A Novel
by Zia Haider Rahman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 19.53
11 used & new from CDN$ 11.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some good editing would have turned this from a good book to a great one., June 12 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The narrator, a young Pakistani born British citizen welcomes into his home, his Zarfar, his long lost Bangladeshi friend. Both attended Oxford at the same time and both maintain roots with their home country, and both are making adjustments to life as an immigrant. The writing is terrific however the story is convoluted and often unfocused. It starts with the narrator coping with the downfall of the stock market in 2008. Derivatives were considered a major contribution to its destruction and our narrator was in charge of the derivative’s market at his bank. We learn at the beginning of the novel that he’s supposed to be taking the fall in the courts for his bank’s participation in their sale. Unfortunately, we learn the outcome of this possible litigation. Also at the beginning of the novel, Zafar is telling our narrator about his recent experiences in Kabul where he's been involved in a delicate situation with a non-profit organization and his girlfriend. We must wait for the end of the novel to learn the outcome. That's a lot of pages. In between, Zafar tells of life in Britain and then Bangladesh and then back in Britain. Unfortunately, it’s not always interesting and a lot of reading for some very nice bits of writing. Take this as an example, “relationship counselors advise that time to work hard at a relationship is when the going is good? The time to work on the roof is the summer.” Or, “Indian literature written in English is astonishing because nowhere in history has an literature been produced that is written by one people about the same people but for another people to read.” Some good editing would have turned this from a good book to a great one.

The Flamethrowers: A Novel
The Flamethrowers: A Novel
Offered by Simon & Schuster Canada, Inc.
Price: CDN$ 11.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good writing that lacks focus., May 28 2014
I thought this book was supposed to be about the art world of the seventies and it started that way. Reno, the protagonist of our tale, comes to New York from her namesake to find herself seated in a bar with a couple of friendly strangers who refuse to share any personal information about themselves. Later, Sandro joins them and Reno follows to his apartment and bed without knowing his name. True to the 70s, the group lives an alternative lifestyle where occupation has little meaning and money even less. And that’s where I thought our story would take us, an examination of North American lifestyle that has changed dramatically in the 40 years since this story took place. Instead, we follow Reno to the salt flats where she’s in a serious motorcycle accident, the outcome of which we don’t learn for an unnecessary number of pages, a trick used by less accomplished storytellers. Lack of focus would be my major complaint about this book. Except at the beginning, the characters weren’t particularly interesting nor the times weren't captured particularly nor was the plot engaging. I’m not sure what the story was supposed to be about, the art scene of New York or the class structure of Italy.

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories
One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories
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 Amusing stories that will make you smile., May 21 2014
There are truly funny stories in this anthology and some not so much. Take for example the story “Rithmetic” about a principal who tells his school at an assembly that he’s going to get rid of arithmetic because that would make his students and staff much happier. Or, “The Rematch” between the tortoise and the hare. Or, “The Something by John Grisham” where the Mr. Grisham sends his book to the editor with the title yet to be determined. Mistakenly thinking the book’s title is to be “The Something” the editor sends it for printing in the kind of quantity reserved only for authors of Mr. Grisham’s caliber. Those were very funny. Then, there’s others like “The Market is Down” that goes on for far too long and with little or no point at the end. Nevertheless the funny and amusing far outnumber the opposite. Overall, “One More Thing” provides amusing stories that will make you smile.

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$ 22.76

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
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
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
52 used & new from CDN$ 12.05

6 of 7 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
8 used & new from CDN$ 59.10

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$ 9.99

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.

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20