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D Glover (northern bc, canada)

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The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún
The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún
by J. R. R. Tolkien
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.19
48 used & new from CDN$ 3.71

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tolkien's genius proven yet again, Feb. 24 2011
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There is a fair bit of dry commentary in this volume. Some of it is interesting and all of it is genuinely informative, though no doubt it will be much more appreciated by someone who is at least somewhat familiar with the progression of Norse Mythology scholarship. However, the reason for purchasing this volume is first of all to read some excellent stories. The tales of Ancient Norse heroes and villains, gods and monsters, treasures and battles, is not only engaging on its own merits but it is fascinating to pick up themes and events that have been borrowed by more modern myth-makers such as C.S. Lewis and Tolkien himself. These are just really good stories. But the other reason to read this book is to witness Tolkien's genius and skill in crafting these poems (the stories are told in poetic form). Tolkien has recreated these stories in poem form in English in a meter that matches the pattern of the old Norse. It goes without saying that this must have been some feat. The version is high English, and can take a bit of getting used to. It's a bit like listening to Yoda tell you a story..."Tragic, it is. Backwards, it seems." Well, its not really like that but I think you get the idea. Anyway, these are great epics or sagas (can't recall from the book what Tolkien's version ought to be called) and the format not only suits these tales but serves to showcase Tolkien's genius yet again. If at first you find them difficult to get into, persevere and the stories will reward you. And don't be intimidated by all the notes on Tolkien and his lectures and commentary compiled and edited by his son, Christopher. I read them and they are interesting in their way even for a layman, but you certainly don't need to read them. You can skip straight to the good stuff. If I could I'd give this 3.5 stars (4 for the poems and 3 for the notes).

100 Cupboards (100 Cupboards Book 1)
100 Cupboards (100 Cupboards Book 1)
by N. D. Wilson
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 7.12
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Channeling C.S. Lewis, Feb. 17 2011
N.D. Wilson is channelling the spirit of C.S. Lewis in this instant classic. Not to worry, he is not copying him but rather writing a very original, engaging and enthralling yarn complete with real, flawed and likeable characters as well as fantastic worlds and devious villains. Other reviewers have discussed the story line so I will content myself to say that this is one that can safely be recommended to those who have so long wished for more of the kind of books that not only whisk us out of this world to places thick with magic and adventure, but that reawaken us to the magic just beneath the surface of the world all around us.

While the pace of the book is uneven, to keep the reader engaged in the slower portions (which are typically the character development parts) Wilson's writing is considerably more poetic and fluid. One critique might be that when the action is fast and heavy, the prose can get a bit choppy, a bit like the camera moving around too much in a modern action flick. Sure, you feel right there, but you also find yourself asking, "what just happened?"

In spite of this, this story is highly recommended for children and those who still have a child-like sense of magic and story.

What I Learned in Narnia
What I Learned in Narnia
by Douglas Wilson
Edition: Audio CD

4.0 out of 5 stars Conversations with a friend who loves Narnia, Feb. 17 2011
(This review is for the book version)

"What I Learned in Narnia" is not a book that seeks to uncover the "real meaning" behind the stories that millions have read and loved. Wilson would want the reader to understand that the story is the point and to this end, he cautions not to read his book until one has read and absorbed the Chronicles of Narnia themselves. This book is a short and simple treatment of some of the major spiritual lessons that can be gleaned from a loving reading and re-reading (hopefully several times over) of these great stories. As Wilson himself points out, these stories are not truly allegory, nor is their primary purpose to be pedagogical, and he admits that many good stories have been ruined by over examination and moralizing. But one of Lewis's friends, Owen Barfield, once said that what Lewis thought about everything was present in what he said about anything. Lewis just wanted to write really good stories and the Christian themes came into the stories naturally because Lewis himself was a devout Christian and, like many authors, there is much of himself and the way he thought in the stories.

To some extent, this almost didn't feel like Doug Wilson wrote this book. The content was consistent with his thinking but the delivery was less humorous and there was much less biting criticism of the wayward aspects of the church or sarcastic critique of the foolishness of current culture. I believe this is largely because the book is primarily geared toward a junior high aged readership (though older lovers of Narnia will be edified as well). One can sense that these were originally talks Wilson delivered, though they have made a successful transition to the printed page.

In seven chapters (one for each book, though they are not tied to particular books but each chapter takes its content from across the stories), Wilson examines seven themes woven throughout the Narnia stories. He deals with: 1) Authority; 2) Confession of Sin; 3) Nobility; 4) the Spiritual Disciplines; 5) the Love of Story; 6) Thorough Grace (as Wilson puts it, for the believer, all of life is grace from front to back and from top to bottom); and 7) Love for Aslan, Love for God. With each of these themes, the reader will find themselves saying, oh yes, I noticed that too, but an honest reader will probably also find themselves surprised as well at times as I did with the theme of spiritual disciplines.

I did find myself wishing that Wilson had included some of Lewis's interaction with children about the Narnia stories. One famous example is the letter Lewis received from a mother who was concerned that her young son was coming to love Aslan so much that his love for Jesus was waning. Lewis responds with sensitivity and gently points out that what the boy loves about Aslan are precisely the aspects that most resemble Christ and that in loving Aslan, the boy is in fact, whether he knows it or not, loving Jesus more as he comes to understand him more. But this is a minor critique and probably largely based on the fact that these were originally talks.

Wilson begins this book by describing it as "rather more like a conversation between good friends about some other good friends, talking about what a good time we all had and why." For a lover of Narnia, this is one of the best kinds of conversations to have and Wilson's deep love for Narnia (and admiration for Lewis) is evident. But Wilson goes on to caution that "in order to have that conversation, we have to have the good time first." And readers should take these words to heart. If you haven't yet read the Chronicles of Narnia, read them first. And if you are a parent who wants to read through Narnia with your children and use them as a tool to teach spiritual lessons, please don't, at least don't yet. Read through them 3 or 4 times with your kids first. Then introduce some of the observations in Wilson's book. If you saturate your children in the stories first, you will likely find they have discovered most of Wilson's observations for themselves through assimilation rather than exposition (which is the best way to learn, after all). The joy of a good story can change us so much more than a bare presentation of morality can.

Once my children are of junior high age, I plan to work through this book with them. But not until then, by which time we should have read through the Narnia canon at least ten times.

For adult lovers of Narnia, here are two excellent works, the authors of which have positively blurbed this book by Wilson: The Narnian: The Life And Imagination Of C. S. Lewis and Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis.

Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics
Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics
by Henry Hazlitt
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.84
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Your Government Has No Idea How Bad A Mess It's Making, Feb. 16 2011
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Henry Hazlitt has done the layman a huge favour in writing this book. Unfortunately, it is not only the layman who desperately needs this book. It is the world's politicians, the presidents of central banks, and those who control monetary policy who have severed their moorings with common sense and are now afloat on a raging sea of market fall-out and who don't understand how they got there who need to read this book, like, yesterday.

A proponent of Austrian Economics (the free market, self-governed through the law of supply and demand, with minimal gov't intervention), Hazlitt puts forth an irrefutable case against the foggy-headed reigning economic model of the day - Keynesianism. He does this by effectively exposing and refuting the many fallacies which Keynesians embrace as orthodoxy. Where Keynes is complex and convoluted, Hazlitt is simple and straightforward. And unlike Keynes, whose work wreaks of ivory-tower arrogance and elitist snobbery, Hazlitt writes with everyday wisdom and appeals to the common sense of the average person who knows instinctively that you can't improve your financial standing by plunging into debt in order to spend your way to affluence. If only our governments understood this.

At the heart of Hazlitt's book is the principle that true economics must consider the general effect over the long term of any policy it enacts. It is from the solid foundation of this principle that Hazlitt attacks all modern economic fallacies which, he argues, all have at their heart the problem of looking only at the effects of a policy on one special group in the short term. And Hazlitt reminds us that what would be foolish for household finances is all the more foolish for a nation since it the same foolishness magnified a million times over. Along with his use of common sense and plain logic, Hazlitt effectively uses statistics to prove his points (mercifully he limits his use of statistics, unlike many modern writers who use almost nothing but).

If Keynes is the alchemist wizard who has masterfully entranced his economist minions through a combination of academic sophistry and elitist intimidation, Hazlitt is the plain speaking sage who breaks the spell by speaking words that ring true with every person's experience of the real world and the economic forces at work within. This is not only a great place to begin one's study of economics but it is something that politicians and voters alike should have to re-read every election year before they cast their ballots. If we had been doing that up until now, we would not be in the economic disaster we currently are.

Why We Love The Church
Why We Love The Church
by Kevin Deyoung
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 21.25
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why you should read this book, Feb. 16 2011
This review is from: Why We Love The Church (Paperback)
People leaving the church is nothing new. However, there is a relatively new trend towards leaving the church which is has one major difference from those who have walked out in the past: those walking out on the organized, institutional church in the current trend addressed in this book would consider themselves Christians, even highly committed ones, and would say it is their faithfulness to Jesus that demands they walk out on the church. This movement claims that church as an organized institution is out-dated and out-moded and therefore irrelevant. The alternative being presented is not uniform but what all proponents of leaving church agree on is that the traditional model of church is no longer effectively reaching our culture, nor is it meeting the needs of those who are already believers.

The authors have done a reasonably good job of showing why this new church-leaving trend is unbiblical and disobedient, as well as why the charge of the church-leavers toward the organized and traditional church as being irrelevant is not the case. They expose that, far from not meeting the needs of people, the faithful plodding churches are meeting the real needs but the church-leavers are unsatisfied with that. DeYoung and Kluck point out that God defines our real needs in Scripture (chief among them, repentance, the grace of forgiveness, and the peace that comes from submitting to the Lordship of Christ and the wisdom of Scripture) and that most of the church-leavers would rather substitute these for their own felt needs.

Among the church-leavers is a desire to redefine the church in an effort to justify their break from it. Thus, this new trend would tend to see two Christian friends talking over coffee at Starbucks or chatting on the 7th tee box on a Sunday morning (or a Christian and a non-Christian doing these things) as the church. While it is true that a Christian is part of the church no matter where they are or what they are doing, it is not true that these alternatives to the gathered Lord's Day worship of the saints constitutes "doing church" and is a legitimate replacement of it.

It is important that the church deal with this subject and I am grateful that these two have tackled it (as they took on the Emergent movement with their book on the Emergent Church - "Why We Are Not Emergent, By Two Guys Who Should Be"). However, this book was not as strong as their first effort together. They state early on that this book is not meant merely to be a negative rant against the wrong direction of the church-leavers, but a negative critique is what constitutes most of the book, though it doesn't deteriorate into a rant. I found the critiques to be factually true as well as appropriate in spirit taken in light of what it is the leaders of the church leaving movement are doing - trying to promote Christians to forsake the assembling of themselves together and advocating for loving the groom but despising his bride. However, I found them to be considerably weaker on presenting the positive case for the institutional and organised church. This time out, I found Kluck's contributions to be light on substance and droopy in tone; perhaps too much negativity coming in the form of "honest admission".

Aside from having a different and more positive eschatology than the writers, and having a higher view of the covenantal nature of the church (failings which I am not particularly critiquing here), even based on their own views, I found this to be weaker than I expected or than it ought to have been. Yet, I would recommend this to anyone who has found Frank Viola or George Barna's (or other proponents of leaving the church) recent books convincing. There is enough good, strong critique from Scripture, history and logic here to destroy the false and flabby thinking of those who think you can be faithful to Christ, the husband, while walking out on his chosen bride, the church.

Fahrenheit 451
Fahrenheit 451
by Ray Bradbury
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Prophetic Post-apocalyptic Sci-fi, Nov. 30 2010
Ray Bradbury stands in the company of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley with this book. In many ways, this is an even more plausible trajectory of the not-too-distant future than either 1984 or Brave New World. In Bradbury's vision, reading books has gone out of fashion and then become illegal and been replaced by constant commercial and "reality" TV and other electronic media, firemen burn books and the houses they are found in, perpetual "fun" is the standard of life everyone strives for, quiet contemplative independent thought is unheard of and those who do it ostracised, most people are on some form of mood-altering drug to keep them in a state of hazy happiness, and the state is under threat of perpetual war. Everything is loud, bright, fast, instant. In so many ways the future is now.

This book combines the social commentary of Postman's "Amusing Ourselves to Death", with the prophetic voice of Huxley. Yet this work is often more poetic and the protagonist more introspective than in Huxley or Orwell. This alternates between being a strength and a weakness throughout the book, in places making it a bit tough to tell what is going on in reality and what is happening in Montag's head. However, this book has aged well and is even truer to today's culture than it was to the culture that first received it.

Joy at the End of the Tether
Joy at the End of the Tether
by Douglas Wilson
Edition: Paperback
26 used & new from CDN$ 0.13

5.0 out of 5 stars Trading meaningless vanity for strong joy, Nov. 29 2010
This is a little book but it is full of practical wisdom. Doug Wilson works through the neglected book of Ecclesiastes and explains Solomon's argument, applying it to the present day reader and seeker after meaning. Wilson explains that the world and our life in it truly is meaningless vanity, apart from a proper orientation toward and relationship with God, the one who made both the world and its inhabitants. But within the context of a right relationship with the Creator, our otherwise pointless existence takes on deep meaning as we are able to truly enjoy and glory in the day to day mundane things of life, seeing them in their proper context, as ways we can glorify God and enjoy him, and his creation, forever.

Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada's Oil Sands
Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada's Oil Sands
by Ezra Levant
Edition: Hardcover
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8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oil Sands: The Fair Trade Fuel, Nov. 23 2010
It's practically a given that if the Canadian oil sands are mentioned by the mainstream media, they are cast in a negative light. The oil sands seem to have been voted by the unofficial climate change cartel to the position of official environmental whipping boy and designated carbon demon. And why not? They're Canadian. They won't fight back, unlike American or Chinese coal generation or Californian heavy oil (which is more carbon intensive than Alberta heavy oil), or any number of other global energy sources who are conveniently avoided by the international environmental lobby groups. When you pick on the Canadian oil sands you get a pretty easy time of it. You get governments who care what the people think and who care about their international image, you get companies who care what the market and public thinks and who are working at constant improvement, and you get to pick on a target who won't strike back in a way that might cause real personal harm to its detractors (unlike what often happens when you challenge Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, or Nigeria, or the Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Burma, or China).

What Ezra Levant has done with his new book is to stand up and champion the case for the Canadian oil sands as a responsible and ethical global source of energy which is being developed through world-leading standards. Where national and provincial leaders have been slow or embarrassed to stand up and defend the oil sands against its detractors, Levant has come through with facts, courage and more than a little wit. By not accepting the terms that the radical environmental lobby seeks to frame the debate with, Levant shows that the common picture of the oil sands painted by those who oppose them is the equivalent of a portrait which ignores the nose, eyes, mouth and ears of the subject and renders only a chin-wart, some stray nose hairs and a chipped tooth. Levant compares Canada's oil sands with all other major sources of world oil production and export and shows how the oil sands not only hold their own but by nearly any standard of fair and ethical judgment, they outperform their competitors by ethical gallons per mile.

Levant frames the oil sands debate in proper terms, comparing it with other big-scale oil producing nations, rather than to future carbon-neutral magic pixy-dust power as the environmental lobby would have us do. He is not disparaging alternative energy but pointing out the obvious fact that it will be a long time before all non-petroleum based energy sources combined can come close to producing a tenth of the energy by consumer volume that oil does, much less replacing it, in an ever-growing global energy market. Until that time, Levant argues that the oil sands are a far more ethical source of oil than nearly all the other major producers/exporters in the world. Not only does the oil sands carbon footprint measure up to the other world sources of oil on a wells-to-wheels comparison, in most cases they outperform. For example, enviros tout the oil in the middle east claiming it's as simple to produce as sticking a straw in the sand and letting the oil flow forth. They talk about how such oil is so much cheaper to produce, both from an economic and an environmental standpoint. Levant delivers a much needed accounting audit when he factors in the cost the U.S. Navy spending $50 billion per year patrolling the Persian Gulf to keep it safe for American-bound tanker traffic, a measure which adds a US$54/barrel tax-payer subsidy to middle east oil, not to mention the carbon foot print of the tankers and the US naval fleet and all the natural gas the OPEC nations flare instead of using (as the oil sands does). And Levant compares a few dead ducks in oil sands tailing ponds to hundreds of thousands of people killed by their own governments in oil exporting nations like the Sudan, where the oil produced during the Darfur atrocities was costing 6.5 ml of murdered human blood per barrel and the same money the Sudanese government brought in through oil sales it used to arm itself and fund its program of genocide.

Countering such organizations as Greenpeace (which in so many ways is neither green, nor amongst yourselves), Levant also effectively argues that the oil sands do indeed measure up to or out perform other major oil exporting nations of the world by environmental stewardship standards, but unlike anti-oil sanders, he is not satisfied to leave the debate there. Along with sustainability - what is the environmental impact of the oil sands compared with other jurisdictions and what is being done to improve their respective environmental performance? - Levant broadens the terms of the debate by comparing the oil sands with other oil exporters' performance in other areas of ethical measure such as: justice - is there access by the people of the producing nation to affordable energy (not just available to the very rich or powerful)?; peace - do the oil sands either directly or indirectly promote peace or violence and how do they compare to other petroleum producing jurisdictions?; and commitment to democracy - to what degree are the citizens of the nation and the regions most impacted involved in making decisions about their energy future and the future of development? When these other common sense ethical gauges are brought into the debate, the oil sands rise head and shoulders above its true global market oil exporting competitors.

Levant also effectively debunks some of the "silver bullet" arguments frequently used against the oil sands. By doing a little bit of journalism (something few media detractors seem capable of anymore), Levant tackles such urban myths as the high rates of cancer among aboriginal peoples living down stream of the oil sands, the mutant fish that grew a second jaw, or the ever popular image of the oil sands mines being the size of the state of Florida or the country of England, all of which are blatantly and demonstrably false. Levant merely happens to be willing to dig further than most to get to the bottom of these accusations and then when they prove false, he doesn't just mention it in passing during polite cocktail conversation but he climbs on top of the bar, kicks the drinks out of peoples hands and yells to the room that somebody has been telling some lies and its time to fess up.

Levant's polemics get ranty in a few places but no one can really blame him when he's doing the print equivalent of paddling up a waterfall of negative media and enviroganda, while people are lobbing large rocks at him from the banks. But even when his voice is the edgiest (like when he is exposing the shameless hypocrisy of so-called ethical investment funds who pronounce publicly their opposition to the oil sands all the while investing heavily in them because they make healthy returns), he is not shrill and he never abandons fact and simply resorts to name calling and sloganeering which is a common practice of the anti-oil sands lobby, whose strategy often seems to be "argument weak, yell here". Levant has single-handedly tarred and feathered those who vilify the oil sands while convenently ignoring or even defending nations whose oil production is infinitely worse by any standard of measure.

Levant isn't happy to simply rebuff the attacks on the oil sands. He proposes a positive step to make our petroleum purchasing more ethical. Why don't we implement a system whereby all the fuel and petroleum products sold in North America are labelled by their country of origin so that consumers can know at the pumps which dictatorship, which genocide-inciting country or which extremist Islamic regime they are supporting. Levant believes if this were the case, a vast majority of American consumers would be buying oil sands oil from their biggest trade partner and closest ally, the progressive democracy and global boy scout that is Canada.

This book does not seek to paint the oil sands as perfection incarnate but rather as the best large-scale oil energy option for energy consumers who are honestly concerned about supporting ethical operators and nations in their energy choices. It avoids highly technical language, making it accessible to a broad readership, and it is punchy enough that it will keep those readers entertained. There is a lot of common sense and old fashioned reason in this book which, in my opinion, deserves a large audience.

[If you have not read this book but have read this or another positive review, or watched a "documentary" which "exposes" the oil sands, and are posting a "this-book-is-a-big-lie" review to try to save some ducks and skewer some capitalist, industrialist pigs, why don't you try reading this book and thinking for yourself for a change before you attack that which you do not know. Go on, read it, find where Levant's facts are wrong. I dare you.]

How Fiction Works
How Fiction Works
by James Wood
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.93
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How fiction works, Nov. 14 2010
This review is from: How Fiction Works (Paperback)
This was a very interesting and insightful book about exactly what the title says: how fiction works. I was a little worried more than once that this book would spoil some of the pure joy of reading good fiction for me, making me think, as it most certainly will, about the way fiction is crafted and about its technicalities and mechanics. But I believe that good fiction, I mean really good fiction, will still be a delight and I will now be better equipped to understand why mediocre and bad fiction is just that. I found the author's discussion of the voice of the narrator, character, consciousness, and truth/convention/realism to be particularly enlightening. Also intriguing was the discussion of detail as well as that on dialogue. One of the greatest strengths of this work is that it is well written, not merely useful in content, but really well-crafted prose. Usually technical books like this are laborious and workman-like but this the voice of this author is easy to listen to as he uses well composed phrases to teach the reader about well composed phrases. As one who aspires some day to attempt some fiction writing, I think this is one study I will be coming back to as a resource.

God's Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible
God's Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible
by Vaughan Roberts
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.90
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What in the world is God doing?, Oct. 12 2010
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This is a good, solid introduction to a redemptive-historical reading of the whole Bible. Often, liberals tend to dismiss Scripture as irrelevant for our modern day except maybe for a few of Jesus' moral teachings. In reaction, conservatives tend to mine the Bible for quotes and boil it down to distill doctrines to shoot down the liberal's misuse and abuse of Scripture. While there is a way to do this properly, in such pursuits it can often be forgotten that the Bible is not a systematic theology or philosophy book or even a moral guide, though, as I said, rightly understood, it does all these things too. If the Bible is taken on its own terms, we see it is, above all, the story of what God is doing in history first to create and then, after humanity's rebellion, to redeem and renew the world and bring it back into submission to him and harmony within. This book is an accessible introduction to understanding the Bible as one coherent story. In writing this book, Robert's has done a masterful job of distilling Goldsworthy's lengthier writings that can intimidate many would-be readers. While I don't agree with all of his eschatology ("end-times" or last things), this is still valuable for the discerning reader who is as yet unfamiliar with viewing the Bible as a single story of redemptive history.

If you want something that goes into more depth but is still fairly accessible, try Goldsworthy Trilogy: Gospel and Kingdom, Gospel and Wisdom, The Gospel in Revelations or The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament.

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