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D Glover (northern bc, canada)
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Puffin Classics Tales Of Ancient Egypt
Puffin Classics Tales Of Ancient Egypt
by Roger Lancelyn Green
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 5.69
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ancient Egyptian myths for parents and kids, Feb. 14 2012
This is a collection of stories about the gods, goddesses, Pharaohs and heroes of ancient Egypt (and sometimes of the surrounding nations). It is a rare writer who can faithfully retell traditional myths or historic tales in such a way as to capture and hold the imagination of both children and parents but Roger Lancelyn Green has done it and done it well. Each story moves along at a quick enough pace and with just the right amount of detail to hold our children's attention (ages 3, 5 & 7). At the same time they include the twists, intrigues, unpredictability and historical tidbits that draw parents in to the world of ancient Egypt. The combination will make these stories familiar favourites but keep them perennially fresh. This is a road-trip-went-by-so-fast-we-didn't-notice and a bedtime-came-too-early kind of book. More than once my wife and I were tempted to pick this little volume back up and read "just one more chapter" once we were sure the children were asleep.

The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World
The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World
by Stephen Mansfield
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.80
43 used & new from CDN$ 6.70

4.0 out of 5 stars Guinness is Good for You, Nov. 9 2011
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This is the biography of a beer. I've never read the life story of a beer before. I have, however, read several biographies of great people and have always come away with an even greater appreciation of and respect for them, having learned more about them and how they impacted the times in which they lived. Like any good biography, the story of Guinness has bolstered and deepened my admiration for the tall, dark and handsome stout. I appreciate and respect it more now knowing its humble beginnings and the times, often harsh, in which both the beer and the family who brewed it lived and worked.

Mansfield tells the story in a straightforward and sympathetic manner. There is little flourish and, truthfully, not a lot of literary artistry here. But this seems fitting somehow in light of the plain, direct and sympathetic people the Guinnesses were. Mansfield's telling has enough detail to satisfy a popular audience about the family that founded this global institution as well as about the dark nectar itself, all without getting bogged down in brewing minutiae or the generations old gossip and conjecture which often finds its way into books on the Guinness family, much to their (and sometimes their lawyer's) annoyance. The reader is familiarized with the three "streams" of the Guinness family, those who brewed, those who banked, and those who preached, all of whom, in their day, were known as much for their humanitarian and charity work as they were for their vocations.

I appreciated the description of the author's own "beer pilgrimage," coming from a background that had largely viewed beer as a negative force in society to the realization that beer has played a very important and in some cases very central role in shaping many societies for the better, whether improving general health and nutrition, combating addiction to hard liquor or just being a central feature in social and celebratory gatherings, like good food, jolly music and a bright and toasty hearth. And I must say a hearty "amen" to one of the author's conclusions - we need to recover a generational approach to vocation and craftsmanship. Our culture suffers from a strong bias toward the instant and the cheap. Mansfield brings out the multi-generational nature of the Guinness brewing philosophy (and indeed worldview), where a craftsman would apprentice his sons in the family arts and secrets and those sons would grow up into the trade to one day raise up their own sons in the business and pass along the family craft with confidence and pride.

There are some things in life, like eating fast food meat products, where knowing more about the back story won't necessarily improve the experience. I can honestly say that the pints of Guinness I've raised after reading this book have tasted just a little bit richer for having consumed this literary appetizer. I'd give the beer 7 stars and the book 4.5. Cheers.

Notes from the Underground
Notes from the Underground
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 3.57
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Study on human nature, Nov. 1 2011
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"I AM A SICK MAN...I am a spiteful (some translations - wicked) man." The first sentence of this book summarizes well the truth about human nature that Dostoyevsky wants to teach us, namely that humans are sick and wickedness is the disease. This is not primarily a story about a man struggling with alienation and isolation, as many critics have interpreted, but rather about a man struggling with that oldest of all ailments - sin (recall, Dostoyevsky self-identified as a Christian). Isolation and alienation are only symptoms of the disease which the underground man sometimes fights against, sometimes wallows in, alternatively desiring the society of others and then wanting to dominate or spurn them. Underground man wants to be his own master and wants to elevate himself over others, making them either respect him or cower before him, yet he ends up rendering these very things to others and then hates himself for it. Ultimately it is underground man's perceptions of God he is railing against as he attempts to exercise his will randomly and illogically just to prove his free will, as if shaking his fist at the heavens. This is an excellent study of the human heart and the human condition and I believe Dostoyevsky never intended his character to be some kind of unique and anomalous social misfit nor a helpless victim of overwhelming societal forces and philosophical trends but rather for us all to see part of ourselves in underground man and to recognize that this part of us will rise to the surface (or that we will raise it to the surface) if not consciously and intentionally kept at bay by our conscience and what we know to be right, something which no one can do apart from the power of grace.

Very well crafted. I recommend reading part 1, then part 2, and then part 1 again. Reading "Notes" this way will add to your initial impression as a reader the historical order and point of view of underground man himself and part 1 the second time around will have whole new layers of pertinence.

After America: Get Ready for Armageddon
After America: Get Ready for Armageddon
by Mark Steyn
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.06
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's the end of the world as we know it, Part 2, Oct. 21 2011
To summarize my appreciation for this book, I echo the sentiment of Ann Coulter in that only Mark Steyn could make you laugh this hard while reading a book on the death of America. However, unlike Coulter, my praise for Steyn's astute observation and critique of the ills must be counter-weighted by my disappointment and downright puzzlement at what Steyn proposes in place of the status quo. With a problem this bad, the solution must be far more radical than Steyn proposes. For these reasons, I give him 4 stars for this critique and elucidation of the problems but only 3 for his answers to them (more on this later).

In his previous book, America Alone (see my review), Steyn argued from a demographics perspective that the Islamic world was taking over the west and that the U.S. was the only nation in the west with a birthrate that didn't portend a hopeless national death spiral. In After America, Steyn looks at the world through the lens of economics and he determines that the U.S. has joined the rest of the west in a self-destroying debt spiral, one which will result in a short shift of power to countries like China and Russia, but which will ultimately end in the balance of power going to the new world order that radical, determined and forward-planning Islam is working hard to establish.

Since Steyn published America Alone, a lot has happened. Obama was voted in by a star-struck, celebrity worshipping, fiscally suicidal U.S. majority who believes that Obama's personal charisma can underwrite an eternal and bottomless credit line with China and other (often hostile) foreign creditors. But unlike most party-line republicans, Steyn recognizes that, while Obama has done much to worsen and hasten the U.S. fiscal death spiral, he is not the real problem. In fact, the best America could hope for from a majority of republican politicians and presidential candidates would be to slow the car from 90 to 70 miles per hour as it speeds toward the cliff. What the U.S. (and every other western nation) needs is not token cuts to spending but systemic and wholesale change to how the whole nation thinks and functions. The umbilical cord that runs from the over-weaning nanny state to citizens everywhere needs to be cut and tied until it withers and drops off. People need to come to value personal liberty and the resultant responsibility for their own well being once again instead of looking to the state for everything from unemployment income to health care to education to old age security to grants for the arts to...well, pretty much everything. We need to ditch the mindset that sees the left-leaning media's latest panic-crusade and responds with the knee-jerk reaction of "there oughta be a program for that" or "the gummint should do sumpin `bout that".

The problem as Steyn sees it is that, while the U.S. may have a 2 party system, any difference in worldview between the two are rendered ineffectual since both parties are beholden to a centralized, heavily regulated, over-taxing, gross deficit spending mega-state bureaucracy and it's attendant maverick justice system bent on reinterpreting the constitution to mean the opposite of what the founding fathers intended. Sure, the president or congress or senate might change, but the bureaucracy never does. The system is broken and continues to be so. The way Americans (and citizens of other western nations) view the state needs to change. The federal government is the most powerful institution in the U.S. today, with oversight and regulations that touch every aspect of daily life, like telling a local hardware store it can't provide free coffee and donuts for its patrons as it has for 30+ years since it does not have a licensed kitchen. This was not what the founding fathers envisioned for the republic. They believed the sphere of family should have the most authority, then church and other voluntary associations of citizens, then local communities, then individual states and then, last and least of all, the federal government. When the state becomes so very big, as it has, it creates small citizens. The more powerful and larger the state, the weaker and smaller its citizens.

As we have come to expect from Steyn, the book is full of sharp verbal barbs, snappy shots and devastating blows and his scathing critique of the ethos of present-day America and the west is nearly spot-on. He ably examines the deterioration of family, community and the can-do spirit of an America gone-by. But his strength lies in pointing out the heights from which they/we have fallen and in describing the problems, not as much in proposing solutions. Not that Steyn has no good advice to avoid what is surely certain ruin if there is no radical and immediate change of direction. In the last chapter, he does propose some crucial and necessary sea changes to western society. And yet, even he is not radical enough. There are some glaring inconsistencies with his approach. For example, you can't both radically scale back government and sever the over inflated borrow-spend Keynesian mentality of both bureaucracy and the general public at the same time as carrying on a global "war on terror" which, as it turns out, is primarily an excuse to secure cheap oil for the average American consumer who believes that the constitution somewhere protects their right to cheap foreign oil. Radically cutting government spending while continuing to be the world's beat cop through a massive military spend (more than the next several highest military spending countries put together) isn't possible. The U.S. needs to get their own house in order, not provide unwanted maid service to half the third world, the middle east and legacy Cold War bases across the west. Steyn talks about this as well, but his solution seems to be that the US demand compensation from the rest of the UN countries which benefit from their security services. This is about as intelligent a solution as it is likely that the DND will start receiving multi-billion dollar free will donations from the EU. Get real. Along with the domestic big gov't nannyism and bloated, hippopotamic bureaucracy, it was foreign military-industrial imperialism that got the US into their massive economic woes in the first place and the only reason many nations went along with it was that the nation instigating it was the financial powerhouse of the globe. The phrase, "not any more" applies here in multiple ways.

The logical conclusion of Steyn's observations and the most clear and decisive thing the average American citizen could do to begin to transform and reform the US back into the constitutional republic it was intended by the founders to be is to vote for Ron Paul as the next president. I kept waiting for Steyn to draw this conclusion himself but Paul doesn't even get a passing mention in this book - a glaring oversight as Steyn spends some time talking about the Tea Party, the very grass roots movement which wouldn't exist without Ron Paul. Could Steyn himself be a little too mainstream republican/neo-con to really take the radical steps necessary to see the U.S. return to its true, constitutional republican roots? That's the conclusion I'm left with in light of Steyn's disparaging remarks about Paul in the media. Steyn needs to pick between US domestic fiscal and social survival OR extension of the "global war on terror" and an expansion of US global policing against radical Islam and every other interest which threatens to compete with US interests around the world because he can't have both. The former would mean getting one's own house in order, in part, by bringing home the military presence from the four corners of the globe. The latter would mean continuing and expanding it and continuing to bear both the cost and the backlash from it, thereby worsening the fiscal heart rate of the US (which is already nearly flat-lining). Steyn is better than most at critiquing the ills of the US but he isn't very astute at proposing a radical or real enough solution to fix them and perhaps his biggest fault is that he doesn't get Ron Paul. Like Steyn, I am no friend of radical islamofacism, but his desire to "take the fight to them" will not only perpetuate the very problems his book was written to expose but will serve to make them far worse.

I wish someone would introduce Steyn to Ron Paul at a Tea Party rally and Steyn could get to work campaigning for Ron Paul for the next President of the United States and the only one in the running who understands the dire situation in the US, which Steyn so rightly worries about, far better than Steyn himself does. Next to Ron Paul, Steyn is still a bloated, big government, big military, neo-con status quo preserver. Big problems require big solutions and Steyn's proposals ain't nearly big enough to do enough fast enough.

On the Incarnation: The Treatise de Incarnatione Verbi Dei
On the Incarnation: The Treatise de Incarnatione Verbi Dei
by St Athanasius
Edition: Paperback
15 used & new from CDN$ 3.91

5.0 out of 5 stars A Solid Defense of the Deity of Christ, Sept. 20 2011
C.S. Lewis's introductory essay on the reading of old books is excellent and worth the price of this little book several times over. Lewis discusses how the reading of books from bygone eras serve to awaken us to the false assumptions and errors of our own age in the same way that we can often see clearly the errors of a different age when those comtemporary to the errors would be blinded to them. I have read this essay several times over the years and it just keeps getting truer.

As for De Incarnatione, it was very good and one is glad of the gift God gave the church in St. Athanasius at just the right time to defend the deity of Christ and thereby a robust view of the Trinity. It is repetitive, however, but this is fitting for someone who repeatedly had to make his stand against heresy and who was attempting to train others in a ready and reliable defense of the Word and Son of God, himself fully God, made flesh.

The Chestnut King: Book 3 of the 100 Cupboards
The Chestnut King: Book 3 of the 100 Cupboards
by N. D. Wilson
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.54
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great conclusion to a fantastic series, Sept. 2 2011
N.D. Wilson has concluded his great trilogy in fantastic form. This was the best written of the three books but saying that does not mean the series was unbalanced. Henry York Maccabee's adventures lead him on a inter-world chase with the witch-queen of Endor, sometimes pursuing, sometimes being pursued. There is the classic final confrontation of good and evil in a climactic battle and duel but this one has much to make it fresh and it doesn't seem stock.

In an era of broken families (both in the real world and the literary one), one of the most refreshing aspects of this series is how central family is to the story. It might be said that, if good vs. evil is the central conflict, family is the pervading context within which the characters on both sides play out the drama. Henry's immediate and extended (and growing) family pulls together more and more throughout, each working for the same end and each using the gifts, abilities and resources they have toward this same end. No one of them could defeat the witch and her minions alone, but together they are a united force for good. The witch's false family (her evil captains, the fingerlings, call her 'blood mother' and refer to each other as 'blood brothers'), united by the witch's manipulation and lust for dominion, is a shadow and abortion of a true family. In a powerful conclusion to a running inner struggle with the evil chief fingerling, the power of true family wins out over the brute force and lies of the false. In an age of young people's literature, where families are shrinking and breaking apart, it was a genuine breath of fresh air to not only see a family stick together but to see it growing (in strength and number).

Some readers have expressed that the book ends a little too perfectly, with everything working out for Henry and his family. If tragedy and struggle is the proof of realism and believability, there is enough death and destruction in this story caused by the conflict between good and evil for it to ring true. However, Wilson is just being true to his own world-view when every character on the side of good (by birth or by re-birth) experiences an happy ending. Ultimately, while it has its tragic moments across the warp and woof of the story, this is a comedy (in the classic sense) so it is fitting that it all "works out in the end." And each character (especially clear with Henry, Henrietta, Fat Frank, but the rest as well) who makes it to the happy end has had to pass through their own death-struggle and come out on the other side. None are the same in the end as they were in the beginning. And this is the way I feel after reading a truly great book or series: that I am not the same person as I was when I began. While not as strong as with LOTR or the Chronicles of Narnia, I do have a hint of that sensation with this series. My imagination has been baptized into a new realm which will forever now be part of my literary memory. And now it remains for me to welcome my children into this world as well...

Classical Education and the Homeschool
Classical Education and the Homeschool
by Douglas Wilson
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 7.45
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good start..., Sept. 2 2011
This is a good introduction to the concept of Classical Christian Education. The authors discuss the trivium and give brief but satisfactory explanations about what each stage is (Grammar, Dialectic/Logic, and Rhetoric). For an introduction this brief, it does tend to go into too much detail in some areas (Latin grammar, logical argumentation, etc.) where footnotes and recommendations for further reading would have served better. Also, the Homeschool part of the title is a tad misleading as there is very little discussion about the practical application or functioning of this type of education in the home setting. This was noticably lacking and again, it would have served the purpose well to recommend some reasources that are focussed specifically toward that end. It should be noted however, that at the time the booklet was first written, there was very little material on classical christian education in the homeschool setting to recommend. All the more reason why the authors could have done a very valuable service in creating just that sort of book. However, misleading title notwithstanding, this is a helpful introduction to the concept of classical and Christian education for those who are curious, and it also serves as a helpful reminder to parents that in order to be doing a good job of teaching, they themselves must be reading and learning. [In the years since it's publication, Leigh Bortins has started a very helpful organization called Classical Conversations, specifically to provide support, resources and material for classical Christian homeschoolers. A helpful and encouraging book is The Core The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education.]

The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education
The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education
by Leigh A. Bortins
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.36
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classical Education "why" & "how-to", Aug. 16 2011
This is one of many recent books about the popular and growing movement to classical education in North America. While the various books available each have their own particular focus, they are may be broadly divided into the "why" books and the "how-to" books. The why books usually are part indictment of the modern public education system and part case for the benefits and advantages of the classical education model (Douglas Wilson's books are particularly strong on this, see my reviews). The how-to books typically are just that - how to educate your children by the classical method. The Core is, if not the very best of both worlds, a very capable introduction to both the why and the how-to of classical education.

Bortins is the founder and lead of Classical Conversations which puts her in the forefront of the classical education movement in the US. In this book, she speaks to the failings and the systemic errors inherent in the modern state-run education system and she ably puts forth the classical model, particularly in the home school setting, as a far better alternative. Bortins writes from a Christian perspective but her arguments and methodologies are applicable to those who do not share her religious convictions and her faith, while present throughout the book as it no doubt is in her home, is a relatively small portion of the actual written material.

Bortins' approach to home based classical education differs somewhat from other writers in the field (such as Susan Wise Bauer). For example, Bortins is much more willing to use video and internet as aids in educating than is Bauer. However, it needs to be said that there is far more that all classical educators agree on than they differ on and Bortins herself advocates a very limited use of electronic media (much of which she considers merely "edutainment").

Bortins does the best job I've ever read of explaining and emphasizing the importance of "over learning" when training your children in the classical way. Over learning is essentially having students re-drill, re-read, re-copy, etc., in order to build up "mental muscle memory" in the grammar stage skills so that in the logic and rhetoric stages they don't have to expend much energy on the basic processes and skills (those will be second nature by then) and their mental efforts may be focused on the broader work of tying it all together.

Bortins has a number of recommendations for material or methods for various subjects at each level of the trivium. However, this is not the only resource to consult if you are trying to pick out curriculum (Wise Bauer is better for this). As classical home educators, my wife and I benefitted from reading this encouraging book. If you want a decent introduction to classical home education or if you have tried it and are feeling overwhelmed and under qualified, this is a great place to find guidance and encouragement. I wouldn't let it be your only tool, but it should certainly be one you consult frequently.

Rediscovering Catechism: The Art of Equipping Covenant Children
Rediscovering Catechism: The Art of Equipping Covenant Children
by Donald Van Dyken
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.35
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Your kids can't live on bread alone, April 29 2011
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This relatively short book is excellent for a number of reasons. Passtor van Dyken talks about the importance of systematically educating Christian children in the tenets of the faith, not because parents want them to someday become Christians but because they are already part of God's covenant people and as such, should grow in grace and knowledge of their Lord and Saviour and of his truth. Also, this book puts forth a strong case both from Scripture and from church history for why the most effective form of educating and training children in the doctrines of the faith is catechism (a question and response format). But I believe the most important thing this book teaches is the importance of catechising children in the narratives and over-arching narrative of Scripture before moving on to a formal, systematic and doctrinal catechism (like the Westminster Shorter Catechism or the Heidelberg Catechism).

Aside from stories being more naturally interesting and engaging to young children than systematic doctrinal concepts, immersing young children in the Scriptures before using a theological catechism will have two big benefits (probably more). First, as you later move on to systematic doctrinal concepts, you can refer back to the manifold stories of Scripture as the "proofs", examples or illustrations of where God demonstrates the very characteristic or where the Bible speaks of the doctrine you are currently learning. But perhaps even more important is what children learn implicitly from first being catechised in the story of Scripture before moving on to a formal doctrinal catechism. They learn that the Scriptures come first and are of supreme authority. When we teach them the narrative of the Bible first, it forms the foundation upon which we can lay a systematic instruction in the doctrines of the faith later. This establishes a pattern for life - Scripture first - which will serve our children well as they grow and this pattern conforms to and confirms the great catechisms as well, which teach that men, even theologians, can err but the Word of God is infallible, inerrant, complete and authoritative and our ultimate rule for faith and life.

I have met too many folks whose children were catechised in systematic theology till they could rattle off the answers like a sub-machine gun but those same kids lacked a vibrant personal faith that made any sort of difference in their lives because they missed out on the relational nature of God's direct revelation of himself to his people through his words and deeds as recorded in Scripture. I am not trying to lower the importance of a good catechism (Westminster, Heidelberg, etc.) but rather trying to elevate the Bible to its rightfully place. Only when the story of Scripture becomes ingrained first will a good catechism achieve all it was meant to. I highly recommend this book.

The Mating Season
The Mating Season
by P.G. Wodehouse
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.56
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5.0 out of 5 stars Bertie is Gussie, Gussie is Bertie, Catsmeat is Meadows, but only Jeeves can be Jeeves, April 12 2011
This review is from: The Mating Season (Paperback)
Bertie Wooster seeks to help Gussie Fink-Nottle's engagement to "the Basset", a dreamy-eyed girl who thinks "the stars are God's daisy chain", survive Gussie's recent arrest for cavorting in the fountain in Trafalgar Square, searching for newts that weren't there, at the urging of Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright. To keep things steady, Bertie pretends to be Gussie in order to keep Gussie's commitment to a stay at Madeline Basset's aunt's country manor. But then Gussie shows up. Catsmeat poses as Bertie-as-Gussie's man Meadows to get close to his love, Gertrude, whilst Jeeves must pose as, well, himself, in the service of the Gussie-as-Bertie, who, part way through his visit to the den of aunts, decides he'd rather end things with Madeline and take up with Catsmeat's sister, a Hollywood beauty, who is staying with her country vicar uncle and planning a county talent show, a situation which leaves Bertie as the Basset's next likely love-target, which is for Bertie a fate worse than death by dismemberment. Meanwhile, Catsmeat finds himself inadvertently engaged to the parlour maid, Jeeves' cousin, with a steaming Gertrude feeling used and mislead. Only the brain of Jeeves with a copious helping of fish can sort out such a mess, and save Sam Goldwyn, the dog, from the justice he faces for biting the local atheist rozzer, unless cousin Thomas and his rubber bludgeon coshes the constable first, in which case no amount of orange juice will sooth the nerves...pant, pant, pant. Up there with Right Ho, Jeeves, and The Code of the Woosters, this really is one of the best.

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