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For The Love of George

Irene Kappes is a natural storyteller and draws us into the life of a family in the midst of a crisis of terrible proportions. A story of the love and anguish felt for a precious son/step-son ('Dad' and 'Mum's') and his terrible disease. The tragedy is of course that this is not a fictitious story but an articulate and deeply poignant account of one family's very real journey into an unrelenting battle with cancer.

The scene is set with a description of the family and how it came to be. From the start we know that Dad's first wife died of cancer and not long after her passing came the news that George, a toddler at the time, had also developed this wretched disease. Enter Irene into the family - something the reader ultimately feels impelled to give thanks for. Together they provide a blanket of love and support for each other, for George, his sister and later a new brother.

Irene writes with almost unbearable honesty, giving the reader an insight into each person's pain, without ever getting bogged down in sentimentality as George's disease progresses with indecent haste. She doesn't court our sympathy but has it unquestionably by exposing us to the family's rising anxiety, pain and searching, as they struggle to find a cure.

Throughout, George's own voice and character shine through as we read his emails, written in the third person, as if the first person is a step too far in acknowledging the disease. His big heart and capacity to grab life is wondrous and one can only stand in awe of this young man, on the brink of adulthood with all the excitement of a teenager's hopes and dreams ahead of him. [Continued]

About Face!

The basic premise of this book is that on a number of key issues society is heading in the wrong direction. Not just moving slightly off course, but heading in the diametrically opposite direction to the course of travel we need to be if we are to solve some fundamental development problems in the world. Which problems? Lack of economic development and the continued existence of poverty in large parts of the developing world; a refusal to adopt the measures necessary to fight the scourge of malaria; and the continued and sustained attempt to de-industrialise the successful economies of the West. And what links these disparate themes, according to the authors, is a set of policies driven by the anti-scientific dogmas of environmentalism, particularly with regards to climate change and the war on carbon dioxide (CO2).

How did things get to this state? The opening chapter asks that question and suggests, like Christopher Booker's and Richard North's 'Scared To Death', that there is a familiar pattern at work. First there is the creation of a scare story - a dooms-day scenario of imminent disaster - and then there is a clamour for politicians to 'do something' and then the policies are put into place to avert the threatened disaster. Examples cited in the text include Paul Ehrlich's predictions of mass starvation and ecological Armageddon due to over-population; Rachel Carson's 'Silent Spring' and the rush to ban DDT, a safe and effective chemical to control malaria; and of course the biggest and most successful scare story ever, the threat of catastrophic man-made global warming, which remains the dominant and defining feature of much of our public policy in the West.

authors also address in some detail. They authors describe the origins of the scare about DDT, particularly with Carson's monumentally popular 'Silent Spring'. Not only did this kick start the nascent 'green movement', it also created a blue-print that has been successfully copied again and again. Without 'Silent Spring' would there have been 'An Inconvenient Truth'? [Continued]

Abuse, Cocaine and Soft Furnishings

Abuse, Cocaine and Soft Furnishings is both a thriller and a love story set in Lincoln and Istanbul. This is a first novel from Andrew Sparke and is certainly impressive as such; I was hooked from the first page. He has a great writing style - short sentences that move the story along, while also managing to somehow to be pretty evocative, giving substance to the settings, particularly of Lincoln. I like writing that makes me feel I know where I am and this does - not through lengthy description, but by making each word count. There is definitely a sense that the author has an intimacy with the characters and places, which gives them a ring of truth.

Written from the viewpoint of the main character (and I've only just realised that we never learn his name, which I guess is one of the reasons we really feel we're in his head), the story moves backwards and forwards from past to present enabling the reader to gradually make sense of present events in relation to the past, as the story continues to unfold. It's a neat hook that keeps the reader gripped, wanting to find out why certain things happened at the same time as wanting to know what the outcome will be. One criticism I have is that there are a couple of times when this to-ing and fro-ing becomes confusing.

The love story begins in the past, in the second chapter of the book and adds another perspective as it intertwines with the twists and turns of the thriller aspect of the book. [Continued]
The Great Persuasion

Even now, in an atmosphere where politicians routinely earn plaudits for attacking bankers, business and free markets, there seems to be no big public appetite central planning or more big government. Indeed, despite the various economic crises we have endured since 2008, the intellectual case for free markets and ideological capitalism still seems very strong. Free market think tanks abound, still making the case for smaller government and the superiority of market solutions over centrally managed state solutions. However, this was not always the case, indeed, there was a time early in the twentieth century when the voice of free marketeers was drowned out by the greater clamour of the intellectually ascendant case for central planning - whether in the form of Soviet style communism, Western European social democracy or, latter, Keynesian central management of the economy.

This change in intellectual atmosphere was due, in no small part, to the activities of the Mont Pelerin Society (MPS), a small group of academics and business leaders organised in support of 'classical liberalism' (not to be confused with modern liberalism, which is in many respects diametrically opposed to classical liberalism). In 'The Great Persuasion', Angus Burgin charts the rise of the MPS and the activities of its founders and leading lights, including FA Hayek and Milton Friedman, in rehabilitating belief in the efficacy of market solutions following the Great Depression and the consequent dominance of the anti-market position. While this is not the only focus in the book, Burgin affords it a central place in the historical narrative.

While for some on the Left, the MPS and the plethora of think tanks and lobby groups which have emerged since the 1950s as champions of free market ideas might seem to be dogmatic and triumphalist, the beginnings were far more tentative. While critical of statism and central planning, many of those involved in the renaissance of 'classic liberalism' were also critical to some degree with existing liberal ideas. Far from being a dogmatic or propagandist group, in the founding decade the organisation was home to a broad range of individuals with differing views on politics, the role of the state, economic organisation and so on. United as they were by a distrust of the state, this was by no means a group that we would now characterise as libertarian. [Continued]
Interview With Donna Laframboise
Donna Laframboise, author of The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World's Top Climate Expert, responds to questions on the controversies surrounding her book, the responses to it and the politics of climate change. [Continued]
Interview With Denis Gingras
Denis Gingras, co-author of Foods to Fight Cancer, responds to questions on the food, life-style and the role of diet in preventing and treating cancer [Continued]
Interview With Christopher Booker
Christopher Booker, co-author of Scared To Death, responds to questions on global warming, health scares, the mass media and responses to his book in this interview with LondonBookReview.com [Continued]
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