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Brett H "pentangle" (Brighton)
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Portfolio Architect: 5 Keys to Design, Build, and Manage Your Ultimate Investment Plan
Portfolio Architect: 5 Keys to Design, Build, and Manage Your Ultimate Investment Plan
Price: CDN$ 3.21

4.0 out of 5 stars The Structured Approach, July 25 2014
The author is a financial advisor and I was a little concerned that the main message of this book would be to push his readers towards using a financial advisor or even his particular service. However, although it certainly does recommend using the advice of a professional the message here is much more than that and there is a lot of information packed into 290 pages.

What this book is not, however, is a book to assist you in stock picking. It is much more a discussion of the classes of investment available, efficient ways of investing in these classes and ways to structure your investments so that the result is not unbalanced and hence with an excessively high risk ratio attached. In fact reasons are put forward why individual stock picking is not the way forward, one being that since markets are efficient the current share price will be the `right' price taking into account all known current information. Personally I understand this analysis but I do not altogether agree with it since most individuals in the market are under informed about any particular stock, or in the case of traders, probably totally ignorant. Hence it is perfectly possible to know more than the market about a particular company, and that will particularly apply to small companies that are not greatly researched. Using this weapon, individuals do have the tools to beat the market if they are prepared to do put the effort in.

However, there is a great deal of information and a great deal of common sense here. It is true that it is difficult for individuals to have the emotional set up to stomach large falls in their portfolios and most are too ready to be swept up by euphoria and greed, or being overtaken by fear and despair. This is what leads people to buy at the top and sell at the bottom. A structured approach such as is being outlined here is a great starting point to avoid these pitfalls - you are not going to take all this in in one go and will probably have to keep revisiting this volume to really take it all on board.

Overall, if you read this volume carefully - and that will take some effort as most will not find it the easiest read - you are going to learn a lot. It will certainly be worth the effort whether you are a novice of a seasoned investor. Finally, looking through the other reviews, this book has clearly inspired quite a number of people to write their first review and to give it Five Stars which must be a worthwhile comment by itself!

The Flip
The Flip
Price: CDN$ 1.08

4.0 out of 5 stars Ghostly Happenings at Bedlam, July 25 2014
This review is from: The Flip (Kindle Edition)
Michael Phillip Cash is no stranger to the supernatural genre having written a previous novel, Stillwell: a Haunting on Long Island and the novelette, The Hanging Tree, both of which I have read. He has an instinctive feel for this sort of story and is able to create a fine balance between including enough in the way of ghostly occurrences to keep the story moving along and the reader engaged without overdoing it and losing credibility.

The title refers to the hobby/business of a young married couple, Julie and Brad, who buy run down dwellings, give them a face lift and 'flip' them at a profit if all goes according to plan. However this time round they have taken on a Victorian pile, Bedlam House, mainly at Julie's behest, and have got a lot more than they bargained for! The story bounces between the present day and previous time periods so that we come to understand the reasons for what is happening in the house.

I enjoyed this tale and read through it quickly. Although at nearly 400 pages, one might assume it to be a fairly formidable read, it runs at about 15 well spaced lines a page so probably amounts to only, perhaps, the equivalent of 150 pages in a more usual type face. I look forward the author writing more in this vein, and possibly exploring this sort of subject matter in more depth with a longer novel.

Smiting the Bear: The Last Stand of Comrade Fox (The Life and Times of Archibald Brinsley Fox Book 2)
Smiting the Bear: The Last Stand of Comrade Fox (The Life and Times of Archibald Brinsley Fox Book 2)
Price: CDN$ 3.14

5.0 out of 5 stars The Thinking Man's Flashman?, July 24 2014
Having followed Archie Fox's previous adventures before and during the Russian Revolution, this time round we find him in the chaos that is Russia post Revolution in 1920. Our hero fails to break the habits of a lifetime by backing the wrong horse yet again - this time he has elected to desert the Bolshevik cause and fight with the Whites which, with the benefit of hindsight was perhaps a little ill judged! The country is divided with various factions fighting throughout the country and rape, torture and even cannibalism not uncommon.

However, he remains the unscrupulous, self serving adventurer who we grew to love in the first volume of his memoirs and is quick to pick up on his previous obsessions ie chasing after Inessa, Lenin's girlfriend who sadly seems to view him in rather a motherly way as a wayward boy, and attempting to recover the Faberge egg which he has previously secreted at the Catherine Palace. Both appear hopeless quests. Sara, his lover and mother of his children really comes into her own in this book and it is clear that Archie has met his match here since she is just as ruthless in protecting her own interests as he is his.

As in the previous volume the author demonstrates his considerable knowledge of this period of Russian history, and whilst it reads very well on its own, I found that reading this story in conjunction with the numbered notations did add some historical perspective. This is added to with short articles about the Besprizornye (orphaned and abandoned children), the End of the 1917-23 Civil War and Imperial Incompetence which are included at the end of the book. It is fair to say that I understand the Revolution significantly more after reading these two volumes of Archie's memoirs.

Overall I have greatly enjoyed Fox's adventures which it would not be unfair to describe as a thinking man's Flashman. It is unclear if this is, sadly, the last we are going to hear of Fox or if Stewart Hennessey plans to write more in the same ilk. Certainly I hope it is the latter and the ending here has left open that intriguing possibility.

Rough Men
Rough Men
by Aric Davis
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.62
37 used & new from CDN$ 2.57

5.0 out of 5 stars Quite a Ride!, July 21 2014
This review is from: Rough Men (Paperback)
This is a short read- 187 pages. But don't let that put you off - this novel is jam packed with action.

Will Daniels has not led a good life. He fears he has failed his devoted wife, Alison and their son Alex. When Alex's body turns up burnt beyond recognition, he fears the worst. He's right to: Alex has not died an honourable death. Before he died he was involved in a bloody robbery with some erstwhile friends from his prison days. It seems one or more of them may have engineered his death. Will may not have been a great dad but Alison was a great mum and she and Will want justice for their only boy.

When the Police investigations turn up only blanks, Will turns to his long forgotten bad boy friends to find Alex's murderers. But their form of hardball looks soft as they discover the real movers in this murderous tale. Will, his brother and bad boy Jason come close to losing everything as the worst storm for years hits the State. Is revenge really redemption and will Will ever hold it together to make sure the right thing is done?

This plot has more twists and turns than a barrel full of monkeys and will keep you gripped right to the end. One word of warning - the violence and torture are not for the faint hearted nor is the child abuse - but all are short lived if graphic. Quite a ride and the dedication in the front is a lovely, lovely touch.

Schism: The Battle for Darracia (Book 1)
Schism: The Battle for Darracia (Book 1)
Price: CDN$ 1.05

5.0 out of 5 stars Will Appeal to a Wide Audience, July 21 2014
I have read each three of Michael Phillip Cash's previous volumes. What is particularly noteworthy, in addition to the fact that they have each been very satisfactory reads, is the variation in the subject matter of the stories. Hence it is no surprise that this time round the author has attempted something completely different. Although billed as a science fiction story, this has distinct fantasy overtones and, in my opinion, is his best work so far.

This is quite a short story running to just a couple of hundred well spaced pages. However, a lot of ground is covered. In some ways this could be described as a good old fashioned morality tale. The divide between good and evil is quite clear cut and there is no ambiguity about which of the characters are goodies and which are the baddies! Naturally the bad guys are attempting dastardly deeds which the good people are doing their best to thwart, and, like all tales of this type, the reader is never in any real doubt that good will triumph over evil in the end. However, that is not to take anything away from this story as it a well written and absorbing book and not one which the reader will want to put down. Many will read it in just one sitting.

Clearly there is quite a lot of mileage in Prince V'sair and the planet Darracia should the author choose to go in this direction and if so it will certainly be on my reading list. However, based on his writing career to date he may well attempt something completely different next time around! To summarise, Schism is an enjoyable and well written story which will appeal to a wide audience of young adults and adults.

Collision: The Battle for Darracia - Book 2 (The Darracia Saga)
Collision: The Battle for Darracia - Book 2 (The Darracia Saga)
Price: CDN$ 1.09

5.0 out of 5 stars High Drama at Darracia, July 21 2014
I am not sure how many books the author has in mind for his series, but this is the second and, quite clearly there is to be at least one more. These are not standalone novels,and any reader who comes across this one without having read the first will find it difficult to catch up with the thread of the story.

However, having read the first about three months back I found it very easy to pick up on this tale. Without wishing to do the author any disservice it is clear that this is most suitable for a young adult audience. However, I, who am certainly not a young adult, found the characters such as V'Sair, Tulani, Zayden and Denita interesting and I began to care about what was happening to them. Certainly the cliffhanger end is the perfect introduction to Book 3.

This is a very short book of only about 250 well spaced pages and many will read through it very quickly as I did. Putting Books 1 and 2 together would not have resulted in an over lengthy volume. It's an uncomplicated saga as the divide between good and evil, black and white and right and wrong is very obvious - no grey areas of morality here! However, it is certainly an enjoyable read.

It Happens in the Dark (A Mallory Novel)
It Happens in the Dark (A Mallory Novel)
Offered by Penguin Group USA
Price: CDN$ 13.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Plenty of Tension, July 21 2014
A good title - referring both to the Ghost Writer's rewritten script, which appears out of seemingly nowhere on the blackboard, and to the deaths that occur night after night during the First Act. This is the latest Carol O'Connell novel featuring the ice cold NYPD detective, Kathy Mallory. Many readers will no doubt need no introduction to her and the intuitive way she solves cases.

When the original Playwright is found with his throat cut in the front row, Mallory and her long standing partner are called in. But things do not immediately go well. There are so many people who seem to know so little about what is happening - a famous Hollywood name who plays the title role, a neurotic young Starlet, twins who seem mentally challenged and a Gopher who is so much more than he seems. Then the Ghostwriter begins to write Mallory into the play- but not in a good way!

The plot takes many fine twists and turns with few of the original characters remaining as they appeared before Mallory's justice is visited on toes that are deserving of it but sadly not before more bodies are consigned to the Morgue.

This is a typical rip roaring yarn from the Carol O'Connell catalogue. The story has plenty of tension to keep the reader well gripped right to the end. If you've enjoyed other Mallory tales you will no doubt love this one.

The Supermodel and the Brillo Box: Back Stories and Peculiar Economics from the World of Contemporary Art
The Supermodel and the Brillo Box: Back Stories and Peculiar Economics from the World of Contemporary Art
Offered by Macmillan CA
Price: CDN$ 13.99

4.0 out of 5 stars How Much is a Brillo Box Worth?, July 21 2014
The art market has been described as the one place where the world's mega rich individuals can spend virtually limitless sums of money. However, it has always been something of a mystery as to why one artist's products might change hands for, perhaps, millions of pounds whilst the work of other, apparently talented individuals struggles to command prices of even 0.1% of these lofty sums. This book attempts to take a close look at this enigma, the individuals involved and how the art market works without, perhaps, coming to definite conclusions on this problem.

A lot of ground is covered here. As the title suggests, it is the contemporary art market which is examined as well as some slightly more mature areas such as the work of Frances Bacon which are not generally considered fully contemporary these days, as opposed to art in general. Some of the statistics are eye catching. Half of works bought in auction will never achieve the same realised price again and no work sold for over $30m has ever, and I repeat, not ever even on one occasion, been subsequently sold at a profit!

This book is packed with examples of how, sometimes the most unlikely of artwork becomes fashionable, how the rise of some artists is truly meteoric whilst others flatter to deceive. Influences on the development of the contemporary art market such as the rise of the wealthy and hence high spending Chinese and the museum ambitious Gulf States are discussed together with the workings of the market from the point of view of auctioneers, dealers, collectors and the artists themselves.

I found much in here to fascinate and inform and I certainly consider my knowledge of the contemporary art market significantly augmented. I would say though that parts of this tome are quite dry. For example I was well aware of the shenanigans of the Christies and Sotheby's duopoly before reading this book and felt it was rather over discussed here. However,overall this is a worthwhile read for those interested in the influences behind the higher end of the contemporary art market.

The Toy Taker
The Toy Taker
by Luke Delaney
Edition: Paperback
2 used & new from CDN$ 20.62

5.0 out of 5 stars An Intelligent Police Procedural, July 17 2014
This review is from: The Toy Taker (Paperback)
The Toy Taker is the third in the DI Sean Corrigan series. The author is a former detective with the result that the story has many small touches which give it a very authentic feel which is lacking in many police procedurals. I read the second in the series recently and there were so many references to what had gone before that I felt one should really have read the first in the series to understand the background. However, I would say that this story is much more a standalone book.

Corrigan is a detective with an intuitive approach which enables him to make leaps of imagination to really get into the head of the perpetrator he is after. All his cases seem to involve crazies of one sort or another so it helps that he is just a little bit crazy, or at best highly obsessive himself. However this time round his intuition seems initially to have deserted him and he is forced back on the more methodical, traditional police methods of painstakingly going through the available data and looking for linkages. All the while he is being put under intense time pressure by a superior, which does not help him to analyse the situation in his preferred way.

I do like the approach of this author. His books are interesting and could certainly be described as page turners without the plots being unnecessarily over complicated. It is a pleasure observing as Corrigan gradually teases out the truth, but not without going up a few blind alleys on the way. The next instalment in the series will certainly be on my reading list.

An Affair of Deceit
An Affair of Deceit
Price: CDN$ 4.25

3.0 out of 5 stars A Reasonable Read but Some Flaws, July 12 2014
This is a novel of spies, families torn apart in one way or another, and, as the title would suggest, much deceit. It is also, in a strange way, a love story, though I felt that this did sit a little incongruously on top of the first tale.

Abigail Mason is a Government Attorney, and a very successful one by all accounts. She has little time for relationships, and that includes the one with her Chinese born mother. She remembers little of her Father, except that he left the family in Taiwan and failed to rejoin them when they emigrated to America.

However, her interest is spiked when a CIA agent turns up asking her questions about the Father whom she has not seen since childhood. She can tell him little but when he questions her Mother, Abigail discovers she knows far more than she has ever told her daughter. Abigail's dander is up and she sets off to trail the Agents who are seeking her Father.

Eventually, much against his training, CIA Agent Riley lets her join his investigation. They face danger and betrayal together as Riley finds Abigail is not the only one who has been lied to by her family.

The novel goes through many twists and turns as the truth is finally uncovered and Abigail's Father is at last tracked down. There are happy endings but not necessarily at all of the obvious sort as the novel thunders to its close.

I enjoyed the plot at the heart of this book but felt that some of the people within its pages seemed mere caricatures. The main villain is one such and it is hard to believe in him and his actions at times. I also found parts of the ending a bit twee for my taste. Sometimes it is best to leave a relationship's future development to the reader's imagination.

A reasonable read none the less.

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