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Sverre Svendsen "Uni" (Canada)

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Masaryk Station
Masaryk Station
by David Downing
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.51
30 used & new from CDN$ 7.57

4.0 out of 5 stars Journalist and spy waves good-bye, April 8 2015
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This review is from: Masaryk Station (Paperback)
This, the sixth and last book of Downing’s ‘Station’ series, is probably as good as the others. (But I think the first, Zoo Station, is the best of the lot.) It does take a hundred pages before anything suspenseful, thrilling or dramatic occurs but the last two hundred plus pages do not disappoint, ending in a crescendo of lethal conflict resolution.

Events unfold in the post-war European hangover of WW2. The Soviet Union has laid claim to all of Eastern Europe, creating puppet ‘socialist republics.’ But the communist nationalists in many of these countries are reluctant to follow Stalin’s marching orders. Germany, its capital Berlin, and Austria have been split into four zones administered by Great Britain, France, the U.S. of A. and Soviet Russia. Berlin is an island in the middle of the Soviet controlled East Germany. The iconic Yugoslav President Tito had been instrumental in forming a socialist federation of six republics and managed to keep his distance from Moscow dominance.

The setting is 1948. Readers are faced with getting acquainted with a stew of opposing forces and loyalties with ties to diverse ideologies and criminal elements. John Russell, journalist and double-agent (to America and to the Soviets) is the go-to sleuth who adeptly adapts his plans of action to comply with his own ethics and whatever is expedient in each situation. This time his travels bring him away from his Berlin base to Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Italia and Austria. Frequently he gets entangled in the morass of constantly changing power plays between security forces, saboteurs and political tyrants. Effi, his wife, who is an admired actress in her native Germany, and Rosa, their loving but vulnerable eleven year old adopted daughter, provide him with the love and motivation to survive and get the job done. At the end readers can only wonder what happens to the Russells once John has severed ties to both the NKVD and the CIA. The transition to civilian life would not have been an easy one. Smoldering resentments and revenge by some agencies and operatives would have been threatening shadows difficult to shake off. Methinks there could have been another book …

Individual And The Nature Of Mass Events: A Seth Book
Individual And The Nature Of Mass Events: A Seth Book
by Jane Roberts
Edition: Paperback
30 used & new from CDN$ 16.09

5.0 out of 5 stars Profoundly accessible metaphysics, March 28 2015
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Jane Roberts’ Seth phenomenon commenced in 1963. Her Seth books, co-authored with her husband Robert F Butts, first appeared in 1966. Many books followed, containing the transcribed messages from the ‘entity’ Seth. He referred to himself as ‘an energy personality essence no longer focused in physical matter.’ Commentaries and asides by both Roberts and Butts is sandwiched between the Seth text—some of it illuminating but much of it irrelevant and somewhat annoying. Roberts was also a poet and author of several books of her own, including the ‘Oversoul Seven’ trilogy of novels. Roberts was a bona fide trance medium (however one might define it) who had an intimate personal psychic ‘relationship’ with Seth. But her reception of information was not limited to arranged sessions of being in trance with Seth controlling her body and voicing messages, which her husband transcribed. Seth also had extrasensory impromptu ‘communications’ with her ‘on the side,’ at any time of day or night while she was fully aware and active with her daily tasks. Many of those messages became impressed on her memory to be related to her husband or her friends or later included in her books.

The Seth material has been dismissed by many religionists and materialists as New Age drivel. But it has been endorsed by many other high profile authors, psychologists and spiritual progressives. The material has still a strong following. Many books are still being kept in print. Whatever the material’s ‘source’ I find much of it to be profoundly thought-provoking and accessible metaphysical literature. For me it is certainly more coherent and comprehensible than ‘A Course in Miracles’ (produced by automatic writing). Furthermore, it contains a great deal of good practical advice about how to be a positively minded, active, loving and creative individual. Unlike ACIM it does not require a mind-controlling discipline centred on a frustrated theology of humankind’s misdirected and deluded egos.

I could not find anything scary, demonic or fanatical about Seth’s declarations. In fact, ‘he’ champions freedom from restrictive religious, psychoanalytic, political and scientific precepts. The reader may choose to accept or reject what is offered. Next I intend to read ‘The Seth Material’—published eleven years prior to this book—which would no doubt have been a better book to start learning about Seth’s universal, interactive and inter-dimensional view of consciousness.

Escaping the Smoke and Rain
Escaping the Smoke and Rain
by Shauna May
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.11
15 used & new from CDN$ 4.66

5.0 out of 5 stars Breaking free from autocratic conformity, March 20 2015
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Shauna May has a way with words, presenting honestly her inner thoughts and ideas, describing her own life and those of her parents frankly and succinctly, taking us on a journey fraught with mental, emotional and spiritual conflict. A biography of 150 pages is a rarity. Most autobiographers are full of themselves to the extent of hundreds of pages. But in these pages May covers all we need to know without unnecessary elaboration, aimless wandering or descents into self-pity. Her introspections are grounded in rationality. Her sense of humour is palpable. Her conclusions are credible. And, thankfully, she does not get preachy. In conclusion we get the impression that seeing the rainbow provides her with enough joyful redemption without having to pursue a promissory pot of gold at its end.

This book once more confirmed my suspicion that religions are human constructs. Even those who espouse a particular theology or passel of doctrines entertain individualized interpretations, many of which remain self-sequestered to avoid division in the ranks of the believers. Autocratic organizations like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Baha’i Faith, the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and countless others, depend for their survival on their adherents’ obedience and subservience to its own “truth.” Shauna May has had the courage to dispel the spectres of counterfeit “truths.” She has broken free from autocratic conformity. As I see it I think she discovered that, in order to be meaningful, religious/spiritual/contemplative “truth” must be founded on altruistic love and forgiveness blessed by an unconditional gift of divine grace [or, as some would have it, humanistic good will]. A short but excellent book for spiritually receptive truth-seekers.

The Spoils of Poynton
The Spoils of Poynton
by Henry James
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 7.35
2 used & new from CDN$ 7.34

2.0 out of 5 stars Too dry and lacking in depth, March 16 2015
This review is from: The Spoils of Poynton (Paperback)
Despite my considerable reading experience, this was my first attempt at tackling the American icon Henry James. Woe is me! Can I compare this novel to a game of Scrabble with liberated rules which allow back-to-front and down-up spellings? One continuously ponders the possibilities of untangling his prose to make the words fit sensibly in the labyrinthine maze of ponderous pronouncements. There are phrases and references whose meanings are lost in the quaintness of colloquially loquacious warps in time and space. It is sometimes difficult to attach pronouns to their associated objects. During dialogues, it is frequently difficult to identify the speaker because two speakers may be quoted within the same paragraph separated by a narration. A new paragraph can quote someone who just spoke at the end of the previous paragraph with an ending quotation mark. This novella—which started as a short story and became lengthened and elaborated—is from the beginning of James’ “third period,” his most mature. Apparently his earlier works are easier to digest.

There are only five characters on offer in this plot: Mrs Gereth, a middle aged lady of means who psyche is incontrovertibly embedded in her collection of aesthetic whatnots and fine furniture; her son Owen, a banal ineffectual momma’s boy who lacks the courage to stand up to his manipulative fiancée or his overbearing mother; this fiancée, the self-servings Mona Brigstock and her resolute mother Mrs Brigstock; and the imponderable young heroine, Fleda Vetch, whom Mrs Gereth has taken under her wing for a close companion and her designated daughter-in-law-to-be in a scheme which will oust the importunate Mona.

In the beginning of making her acquaintance with the Gereths, Fleda finds her impressions of Owen to be underwhelming, to say the least. However, as time passes, and as Mrs Gereth appoints Fleda to be her collaborator and negotiator, Fleda entertains the idea that perhaps she can provide Owen with the backbone he is lacking. In the process of being a go-between she falls in love with the boy and he responds by declaring his indisputable loyalty to, and eagerness to marry her very self. She, however, is a captive to social form and graces. She cannot find the will to intrude on Owen’s pending obligation to Mona. So she sends him off on a mission to resolve the triangular conflict before she can commit her heart to his custody. The foundation of the plot rests on “The Spoils of Poynton”, that is: how can Mrs Gereth maintain control over her artistic treasures, avoiding them from falling into the clutches of the uncultured duplicitous Brigstocks.

Overall I thought this work was too dry and lacking in depth. How much more interesting it would have been if we could have known what was occurring on the “other side,” with the Brigstocks. We especially deserved to know much more about Mona. How did Owen feel about her—truly? Was his fancy for Fleda a passing whimsy and merely a distraction while caught in the conflict between his mother and Mona? The book has some artistic merit and it held my interest long enough to see its end. Now I intend to read some of James’ earlier works. Obviously he would never have achieved his fame if his other works were this tenuous.

THE DERYNI ARCHIVES: Catalyst; Healer's Song; Vocation; Bethane; The Priesting of Arilan; Legacy; The Knighting of Derry; Trial
THE DERYNI ARCHIVES: Catalyst; Healer's Song; Vocation; Bethane; The Priesting of Arilan; Legacy; The Knighting of Derry; Trial
2 used & new from CDN$ 9.49

3.0 out of 5 stars Incidentals, March 7 2015
This book contains a few good short stories which according to the timeline chronology ends with Alaric Morgan's youth. Two of the stories mesh with accounts in the newly published 'The King's Deryni' providing more details and color to those events. The last third of the book provide historical resumés of up-till-then published books. For anyone who has not read the first published--but chronologically in-the-middle--trilogy 'The Chronicles of the Deryni' I would advise avoiding this part of this book because of the many spoilers. I would say that this 1986 edition is not good value if priced above $5 in terms of buying it after 2014 because it contains stories and historical accounts that are mostly redundant for many readers or that are unwanted by others.

The King's Deryni (The Childe Morgan)
The King's Deryni (The Childe Morgan)
Offered by Penguin Group USA
Price: CDN$ 13.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A long-awaited staging for the Kelson saga, Feb. 25 2015
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Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni annals of sixteen books (as well as three additional ancillary works) follow a timeline of more than two hundred years (903 to 1128) in a fantasy medieval setting. They chronicle the adventures and travails of succeeding monarchs of the Kingdom of Gwynedd, and a magic-empowered race, the Deryni; adversarial bishops and sinister clergy, who despise Derynis; and contending usurpers and pretenders to the Gwynedd throne, residing in the neighbouring Kingdom of Torenth, most of whom are practitioners of the Deryni magic.

The first Deryni book was ‘Deryni Rising,’ published in 1970 and the most recent, and likely the last, is ‘The King’s Deryni,’ released in 2014; that totals forty-four years it has taken to build a medieval fantasy saga, surely a monumental achievement by any measure. Some books are out of print. Perhaps one day the complete saga can be republished in chronological order.

If read chronologically, ‘The King’s Deryni’ is the ninth novel in the Deryni series of sixteen, the third and last volume of the ‘Childe Morgan’ trilogy, appearing eight years after the second. In terms of publishing sequence it is the last volume and one of the longest at over five hundred pages. Continuing from the slim second book of the trilogy, ‘Childe Morgan’, its four central characters are: the Deryni boy and youth Alaric Morgan, son of Kenneth Kai Morgan, who was the most trusted aide to King Donal Haldane; young King Brion Haldane, successor to his deceased father, King Donal; the wise Richard Cinhil Haldane, uncle, advisor and defender to King Brion; and Llion Farquahar, a young knight selected to be Alaric governor and companion. A fifth important but secondary character is the mysterious Knight of the Anvil, Sé Trelawney, a secret Deryni, who promised Alaric’s mother, Alyce de Corwyn Morgan, before her death to protect and train her son in the Deryni arts. A sixth and also important secondary character, and Alaric’s constant nemesis, is Bishop Oliver de Nore.

It would be advisable to read the first two volumes of this trilogy before tackling this, the third. After completion the reader can progress nicely into all the seven ‘Kelson’ books which follow, starting with ‘Deryni Rising’, much heralded by medieval magic and sorcery enthusiasts. To be honest, I found much of this book to be tedious. There was way too much trivial accounting of unimportant conversation and events. And, as usual, readers are bombarded with names, titles and relationships that would require a computer database to keep track of (certainly the author uses such a resource); the index of characters in the back of the book is of some help but few can (or wish to) recall obscure references that reappear only twice or thrice in the span of five hundred pages. I felt that Kurtz guiltily made up for the brevity of the prior novel by stuffing this one needlessly. I had to wonder why so much trivia was included when instead interesting events pertaining to the ‘facts’ listed in the reference work ‘Codex Derynianus’ could have fleshed out the pages with more substance.

I do not want to give the impression that this book is a waste of time. It is a worthwhile bridge to the start of Kelson saga. It includes events important to the subsequent narratives. It also deepens our knowledge of the main characters, especially Alaric (the Childe Morgan) and King Brion. For those who have or are able to obtain the out-of-print ‘The Deryni Archives’—a short story collection of eight tales taking place in the timeline before ‘The Chronicles of the Deryni’ trilogy—this would be the place to read it.

A Boat for England
A Boat for England
by Sigurd Evensmo
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 33.22
4 used & new from CDN$ 33.21

5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of war-time drama and self-reflection, Feb. 6 2015
This review is from: A Boat for England (Paperback)
This is a documentary novel written in Norway in 1944 during the Nazi occupation. It is based on letters and notes written by Harald Silju while incarcerated by the Germans. These had been smuggled out by couriers and civilians connected with the jail. Silju was one of eighteen Norwegians captured while trying to escape to England by a fishing boat. Most of them had worked illegally in the underground resistance and were being pursued by the German occupiers.

The book is a masterpiece of drama and self-reflection about the roles of peoples’ conviction in acting heroically for their beliefs and the importance of recognizing and upholding the empowerment of love and hope in human relations. While being imprisoned in close quarters, without adequate food or care, subjected to torturous interrogation and discipline, the eighteen men, who were very different in temperament, background and ideology, formed bonds of friendship and endearment, tolerating each other’s idiosyncrasies to the very end when they were executed by firing squad. Evensmo delves into the deepest recesses of human consciousness and dissects moral values in this book. It is the only one available in an English translation out of more than twenty that he authored.

Though the Heavens Fall
Though the Heavens Fall
by Mikhail P., Sr. Kulakov
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 21.24
23 used & new from CDN$ 12.51

4.0 out of 5 stars The contest between two ideologies, Jan. 29 2015
For someone who is not a member of the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) church it has been a privilege to get a peek into that church’s past hardships and struggles in the USSR until the collapse of its communist dictatorship in the 90s. The author, Michail P Kulakov, Sr, was instrumental in aiding SDA’s survival during the oppressive Stalin and Khrushchev years and its growth in the successive regimes. Both dictators had vowed to eradicate religions. Most clergy and many believers were imprisoned, or exiled interminably, in the most primitive and brutal circumstances and subjected to relentless inquisitions. They were charged with treasonous activities that were alleged to undermine the state’s authority. The justice system made its decisions based on predetermined dictated bias favoring the regime’s accusations, regardless of the true facts in each case.

Kulakov spent five years in ‘corrective’ labour camps followed by exile to the Siberian subarctic. He did survive incredible hardship, as did his father, but his brother succumbed to illness brought on by inhumane treatment. Remarkably, Kulakov, his wife and their children endured the oppression, the persecution and the poverty to triumph for their God and Savior. After the disintegration of the Eastern block—the Soviet empire—the SDA church, and many other Protestant denominations, experienced phenomenal growth. But this book is mostly about all the years of tyrannical impositions which somehow were endured by Adventists as well as other believers. They had no other choice but to endure, even in the most cruel and fearful situations.

This is very much about the face-to-face contest between two ideologies: One based on the Communist Manifesto which was intended to create a just and civil society based on equality—shared ownership and shared responsibility. The other was based on the infallibility of a book—the Holy Bible—and the good news of Jesus Christ who taught followers to love their fellow man and their God as much as, or more than themselves. The first became a system of government devoid of justice and fair play for the individual; the state and its vast autocratic machine became the ‘god’ everyone had to bow down to. Members of the other ideology survived and endured by faith in a just God and the promise of a Savior’s return to establish an earthly kingdom of righteousness.

As unlikely as it seemed at the outset, this book became at times a fascinating page-turner to follow the Kulakovs through a maze of difficulties as well as occasional (even miraculous) rewards. In the process it became a study in cohesive multi-generational family relationships. In our contemporary disjointed social fabric of serial divorces, uncommitted singles, dislocated children, narcissistic celebrity role models, substance addictions and moral relativism it is heartening to realize that many people can have stable, safe, loving, committed and responsible families because they adhere to sets of beliefs that are ‘grounded’ in ‘heavenly’ principles.

The Murder of Harriet Krohn
The Murder of Harriet Krohn
by Karin Fossum
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 20.89
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4.0 out of 5 stars A murderer's tumultuous existence, Jan. 21 2015
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Three aspects of this murder mystery are unusual: 1. It is not a murder mystery. 2. It is told from the murderer’s point of view. 3. Although this is one of many Inspector Sejer mysteries he does not make an appearance until two thirds through the book. But Fossum’s formula, although unusual, provides the reader with a psychological tour de force. The concluding chapters are somewhat anticlimactic in that we already are privy to all of the facts. But there is tension and curiosity about how the murderer, Charlo, will respond to Sejer’s polite but incisive interrogation.

We follow Charlo from the beginning of the book, his continuous self-incriminatory thought-stream, always revolving around his obsessive gambling and drinking, his guilt about having failed his family as a father and provider, and his hypochondriacal anxieties. His hope for redemption from these mental torments lie in being able to liquidate his huge gambling debts and get back on good terms with his estranged teenage daughter Julie by buying her a horse (she is an accomplished rider). His means to achieve those goals is to rob an elderly woman, Harriet Krohn, whom he suspects has a habit of harbouring cash and valuables in her home. He deviously gains entry to her house. He thinks he can intimidate her into handing over her possessions but she physically resists. Having a trip-wire temper he becomes enraged and—although he had not planned on it—he ends up murdering the woman.

Consequently Charlo becomes paranoid, embroiled in recurring mental conflict. He lives a schizophrenic life, one side of him enmeshed in guilt and fear, the other striving to live a productive life, being employed and re-entering his daughter’s life. He yearns for her companionship (his wife had died some years earlier); gaining her approval, forgiveness and affection becomes his sole raison d’être. He lives on a razor’s edge. Fossum brings readers into Charlo’s tumultuous existence and we are caught between wanting him to succeed with restoring his life to normalcy but all the while realizing that in a just world he eventually must account for his horrendous crime. A good book giving an insightful perspective on a man’s neurotic dilemma.

Sackett's Land: A Novel
Sackett's Land: A Novel
by Louis L'Amour
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 6.99
77 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent straightforward historical fiction, Jan. 11 2015
Louis L’Amour is probably not only the most prolific 20th century writer but also remarkable in that every one of his more than 120 books are all still in print. “Sackett’s Land” was the first in his very popular series of Sackett novels—he wrote seventeen. The first four take place in the timeline 1600-1620, starting with Barnabas Sackett venturing to North America from his native England and conclude with him having established a family and settlement in the New World.

Critics have been known to look down their noses as L’Amour’s books but unjustly so. This book is not a literary masterpiece but is successful in so many ways: It offers good characterizations, vivid descriptions, true historic references, contemporary expressions and dialog, intriguing adventures and exciting action, as well as a pinch of romance. It is a quick read equally accessible to young and old, male or female, lowbrow or highbrow. It whets readers’ appetites to delve further into the risks and rewards experienced by the Sacketts.

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