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Robert Mak

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Ichiro On Ichiro: Conversations With Narumi Komatsu
Ichiro On Ichiro: Conversations With Narumi Komatsu
by Ichiro Suzuki
Edition: Hardcover

1.0 out of 5 stars Don't bother, 23 April 2008
Sycophantic interviewer; carefully composed and guarded responses from a characteristically diplomatic Ichiro and major grammar/translation problems mean you'd be better off watching a mariners game than reading this rubbish.

Great player but not a good subject for a book.

Hey Nostradamus!
Hey Nostradamus!
by Douglas Coupland
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bit of a curveball from Coupland, 23 April 2008
This review is from: Hey Nostradamus! (Paperback)
Hey Nostradamus was quite different from all of Douglas Coupland's other book that I had previously read. If you're looking for another Generation X, Microserfs, etc then leave this book for the time being but do go back to it when you're in the mood for a more thoughtful and reflective Coupland.

Inspired (perhaps that's not the most appropriate word), by the events at Colombine High and more specifically, the case of one victim who reportedly refused to deny her Faith when asked by the killers to reject God, this is an interesting look at what that young girl's life might have been like leading up to the shootings.

In the aftermath of the shootings, the media, and to a similar extent the US nation, sought to make a martyr out of this girl, perhaps as a need to make sense or salvage some good from the event. The more sceptical questioned the initial accounts of the incident, resulting in considerable doubt on how the conversation between the killers and their victim actually transpired.

Coupland seems to take up this idea and writes the story of an ordinary Vancouver schoolgirl who just happens to be present in the cafeteria when a school shooting unfolds. How the event is interpreted by those in the community questions the real life incidents at Colombine and battles against the alleged media-created martyrdom. My take on it is that Coupland challenges the idea that there is often more value in the idea of how something than how it actually happened. Richard III and Boris Gudunov were probably not the evil prince-killers that Shakespeare and Pushkin portrayed them to be but we have accepted that in their cases, the myth is more valuable than historic truth. Hey Nostradamus suggests that Coupland disagrees.

Good stuff.

by Douglas Coupland
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars who's got a big head then?, 21 Feb. 2008
This review is from: JPod (Paperback)
The book is mildly entertaining and the fast pace helps you sail through it (also helped by the fact about 30-40% of the pages are a complete waste of paper - there really is no excuse for this Coupland) but oh my God, Douglas Coupland just shoves his big fat head in there and makes you wish you hadn't just added to his book sales.

Having briefly lived in Canada, I'm aware of how the country exalts it's writers, singers, hockey players, etc. Sadly this must have played a part in Coupland's ego swelling to dangerous dimensions and this seriously detracts from the book. Inserting yourself as a character is one crap gimmick that should not be repeated. Stay out of your books Coupland and they're decent reads.

NB: CBC's televsision version of JPOD looks just terrible and will only make Coupland worse. Try dramatizing Atwood instead. As far as I'm aware, she's not such a vain ego-maniac.

The President's Last Love
The President's Last Love
by Andrey Kurkov
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as the Penguin novels, 21 Feb. 2008
Kurkov is best at humour, in particular the absurdities of post-Soviet life in the Ukraine - corrupt politicians, incompetent low-level officials, etc. However, in this, his 5th book, he injects much more tragedy and emotional content into proceedings.

The later story (the 2015 era when Bunin is now President) is strong in the humour department but there is a distinct lack of this in the earlier 2 stories. For me, the mix of tragedy with humour didn't work so well on account of the fact that the 3 stories seemed largely unconnected. Instead it felt as if I was reading a tragedy (the 2004 era) and a comedy (the 2015 era) at the same time, rather than one bittersweet tragicomedy. The first story was really rather dull to be honest.

I also disliked jumping from one story to the others. This worked well in 'The Case of the General's Thumb,' but didn't do so here as there was nothing really connecting one era with the other two. All the way through, I expected some vital piece of information that would explain or provide a crucial insight into the events of the later stories. I didn't pick up on this if there was.

Overall, not a bad read - it's very lightweight and reasonably entertaining, but I did feel somewhat let down when I had finished.

The Invasion of Canada: 1812-1813
The Invasion of Canada: 1812-1813
by Pierre Berton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.11

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy ride through history, 21 Feb. 2008
Berton's account of the War of 1812 (at least the 1st part of the war)is a fast-paced, very easy to read, overview of the frontier situation as a young and inexperienced US attempted to assert itself against a colony low on Britain's list of priorities at that time.

On first starting the book, I was somewhat put off by Berton's style - written in the present tense and in a decidely 'novel-esque' way. I thought this was quite inappropriate for what I had assumed was a standard historical text. I was soon converted though and the way Berton had written the book, with a very lively pace and a talent for evoking romantic images of the wild frontier, meant that I was unable to put the book down.

The inclusion of many maps to illustrate sectors of the frontier really helps the reader gain a good understanding of the situation and an appreciation of what faced the various commanders on both sides. Geography was key in the conflict and the importance of the Lakes Ontario and Eerie and the strategic settlements of Detroit, Niagara, Kingston and Montreal must be grasped by the reader to fully appreciate why events unfolded as they did.

If you want a 'pure' reference book on the war, this is probably not for you, but as a good read that gives a decent historical account of events, don't look any further. I ordered the second part, 'Flames across the Border' as soon as I finished.

by Benjamin Kunkel
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars awful, just awful!, 25 Jan. 2008
This review is from: Indecision (Paperback)
I forget why I decided to read this book but what a dreadful decision it was.

At times it seemed as if Kunkel was so desperate to impress that he went straight for the theasaurus so he could throw in a few words that no one would ever use just to appear extremely intelligent. Sorry buddy but that doesn't quite work.

This desire to impress can be seen in the way he writes - reading this book was truly excruciating. He simply could not come out and just say whatever he wanted to say. Instead he had to dress up every idea in a ridiculously pretentious way that meant it just did not work. There were a few good ideas in the book, mainly interesting little observations on modern urban life for generation X, but these were all lost in his awful prose.

As for the story itself - terrible. Is socialism really something so alien to Americans that Kunkel thinks he is the first young American to have encountered this brave new political ideology? And the pains he goes to to point out he favours democratic socialism - is he scared of a McCarthyesque witch hunt or something? Utter garbage.

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