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Sverre Svendsen "Uni" (Canada)
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Sackett's Land: A Novel
Sackett's Land: A Novel
by Louis L'Amour
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 6.64
69 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.

The Saga of Gosta Berling
The Saga of Gosta Berling
by Selma Lagerlof
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.24
39 used & new from CDN$ 7.69

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A great work of art, or...., Jan. 6 2015
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This book is a great work of art from many readers’ points of view. Probably it is, but one should probably be somewhat suspicious when a Swedish author received a Nobel Prize, awarded by a Swedish committee consisting of privileged academics. I grew up hearing about this book, and, coincidentally, my grandmother came from Värmland, the setting of the book. For decades I had ignored this work so its time had come—or so I thought. Well, as it turned out, I should have resisted longer.

This is not a novel. I was put off by the chopped-up texture of its presentation. ‘Gösta Berling’ is a work consisting of artful meanderings. Lagerlöf was a literary conjurer. She had great skill with forming phrases and sentences that enchant and charm the reader. And she often goes off-topic to add incidentals. Considerable time is taken to inform the reader about flora and fauna, local customs and the social dynamics of Värmland. Intervals are used to delve into fantasy and mythology. We share in the reminiscences of horses and even the wagons that they have pulled. We follow the fancies of an eagle on an excursion. Miss Lagerlöf was notably enamoured by her character Berling, a shifty defrocked priest, a drunkard and Don Juan. His relationships with women can best be described as whimsical, impulsive and disloyal, even reckless. The author injects a number of other characters—especially headstrong women—to act as accomplices or adversaries (sometimes both) to his egocentric foibles. The women’s’ emotional investments in Gösta are most often absurdly paradoxical from one moment to the next—from slavishly worshipful to heartlessly dismissive.

I very seldom give up on a book. Many books are not exactly gripping or entertaining from page one. Most take a few dozen pages to get the reader interested. My expectations were high for this book but it failed to engage me. With stubborn persistence I plodded through more than half of it before I decided I had had enough. I am sure my dispassionate grandmother, although a contemporary of the author, had no time for such enigmatic literary fare. By today’s standards I think ‘silly’ would be an apt word to describe the plot of this trumped-up literary work which may have fascinated readers by its non-conventionality a century ago.

Brother
Brother
Price: CDN$ 39.67
31 used & new from CDN$ 17.10

5.0 out of 5 stars A tribute to the nuances of love, Dec 31 2014
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This review is from: Brother (Audio CD)
This album of slow-paced ballads soothes the soul, stirs the heart and reflects on all the nuances involved with loving someone. I have been a fan of Harket’s vocals since a-ha’s first album but (a caution to devoted a-ha fans) this production is very different from a-ha. Norwegian Harket recorded this album in Stockholm and most of the musicians are Swedish. The music is tailored to complement the songs, a blend of acoustic, amplified and electronic. I love being able to hear all the lyrics clearly. They were mostly written by Harket, with some contributions by Ole Sverre Olsen and Peter Kvint. (The CD booklet contains all the lyrics.)

The title track “Brother” is a reconciliatory appeal from brother to brother, endued with pathos. It definitely has universal listening appeal but there are other tracks that have even greater creativity. “Heaven Cast” is a love song of reflection and on being thankful. My favourite song is “There is a Place,” which is a masterpiece. It is magical in how it conjures up the emotions of love for one’s partner and feeling secure in the relationship and ‘being different, yet being one’ and ‘drops of life among the stars’—it is optimistic but has a touch of melancholy, enhanced by a slow but a deliberate pulse-beat piano accompaniment. In contrast, “Oh What a Night” is a lush orchestral piece facing the reality of separation after a heavenly involvement: ‘we’re made to fall apart.’ The track “Can’t Answer This” is a slow but sentimental piece relishing the value of ‘the way I am with you’ but forebodes a cessation of bliss by the appeal ‘give it one more chance.’

Most albums have at least one track that gets annoying after repeated listening. That was not the case for me with this album. It is a listening pleasure from beginning to end.

Tarot in the Spirit of Zen
Tarot in the Spirit of Zen
by Osho
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.59
33 used & new from CDN$ 10.64

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Logic and reasoning is out the window, Dec 28 2014
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (1931-90), or Osho as he called himself, was an Indian guru who established a cult-like following in the 60s to 90s. His religious philosophy was all over the map, so to speak: syncretistic but more Buddhist and Hindu than anything else. He advocated a lifestyle of balancing sensuality with spirituality. He had a complex personality and swayed his followers with persuasive arguments and jokes. When he was still alive most of his critics agreed that he was narcissistic, self-indulgent, fanatical, deranged and an accomplished defrauder and charlatan.

Because Osho's teachings--which have since his death been purged of his most outrageous pronouncements--have been gaining in popularity, I bought this book. It has been said that Rajneesh never wrote anything. His books have been compiled by anonymous devotees from his recorded talks and lectures. Many of the statements made in this book are startlingly contradictory. Logic and reasoning is out the window. It can be fun to read for its idiosyncrasy but to try to live by its 'aphorisms' would be impossibly delusional. In places it tries loosely to imitate qabalistic Tree-of-Life principles and traditional Tarot interpretations but these are most likely opportunistically designed to appeal to the New Age crowd. Chapters are based on the Osho tarot deck which is an invention in which Rajneesh had no involvement.

Childe Morgan
Childe Morgan
by Katherine Kurtz
Edition: Hardcover
26 used & new from CDN$ 0.43

4.0 out of 5 stars Bland beginning, stirring conclusion, Dec 27 2014
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This review is from: Childe Morgan (Hardcover)
Katherine Kurtz may not be the most prolific fantasy writer. That distinction may belong to S M Stirling although his works straddle a number of genres. But I think the Deryni books by Kurtz may hold the record for the most fantasy books, at sixteen (as well as three additional ancillary works), that follow a timeline of more than two hundred years (903 to 1128) chronicling the adventures and travails of succeeding Gwynedd monarchs, the Deryni magic-empowered race, adversarial bishops and sinister clergy, and the neighboring Torenthi usurpers and pretenders to the throne.

The first Deryni book was ‘Deryni Rising,’ published in 1970 and the most recent, and likely the last, ‘The King’s Deryni,’ 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 could be republished in chronological order.

If read chronologically, ‘Childe Morgan’ is the eight book in the Deryni series of sixteen, the second volume of the Childe Morgan trilogy. In terms of publishing sequence it is the penultimate volume and one of the shortest. Continuing from the first book of the trilogy, ‘In the King’s Service,’ its central character is Kenneth Kai Morgan, the most trusted aide to King Donal Haldane. His much younger wife Alyce de Corwyn Morgan has birthed a son, Alaric Morgan, who is the ‘childe’ of this trilogy and the third book will tell of his adult experiences in support of the king and defense of the Kingdom of Gwynedd.

This book struck me as a being short of adversarial plots and dramatic encounters except towards its conclusion. Its first half consists mostly of placid dialog and descriptions of events that are inconsequential to the plot. As is Kurtz’s style we are inundated with introductions and references to new characters and their genealogies. These come in lumps and clumps at the beginning of many of her books and challenge readers’ recollective abilities. The ‘Index of Characters’ in the appendix is of some help but lack detail in order not to reveal pending events. However, by its middle this novel gains more substance and I found the book’s ending had made it worth getting through its bland first half. The ending sets the stage very well for the next book ‘The King’s Deryni’ which should be much more substantial at over five hundred pages in length.

The Secret Keeper: A Novel
The Secret Keeper: A Novel
by Kate Morton
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.26
39 used & new from CDN$ 4.89

5.0 out of 5 stars Ferreting out the facts, Dec 17 2014
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I have read all of Kate Morton’s “family secrets” mysteries, this being the fourth. She follows a formula which has been successful for her: A family member becomes intrigued by events from her family’s past. She goes on a search to ferret out the truth. But she is not the only narrator. Invariably other family members or individuals who were involved with the circumstances in the past are also given sections of the book to narrate. The reader is therefore given several points of view which are dated in the past and the present. So, the pendulum of time swings back and forth to reveal facts and provide clues. Some readers may find this systematic arrangement of past-present-past-present by several characters taking their turn to be deviously distracting. Others will enjoy the intrigue and ponder the possibilities that lie ahead, rooted in the past. Morton is a skilled story teller and always manages to tie up all the loose ends to make chronological sense by a novel’s conclusion.

In this novel the author uses a seldom-used fiction device. Close to the beginning of the book she weaves into the narrative a puzzling multipage episode that relates to what happens towards the end of the book. Trying to make sense of it, the reader may get the feeling that something was missed while reading the prior pages. But Morton leaves it hanging there until events are fully revealed when that episode is revisited at the end of the book. A monumental surprise delectably twists the reader’s presumptions. A murder, a dreadful abusive marriage and two emotive love stories as well as the tragedies of WWII bombing raids on London are included in the story. Many readers will no doubt have smiles on their faces when they complete the last page. There is no clichéd happy ending, but a happy ending none the less.

A History of Pagan Europe
A History of Pagan Europe
by Prudence Jones
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 53.68
29 used & new from CDN$ 20.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Lots of information somewhat lacking in accessibility, Dec 5 2014
A book of history can be reviewed from at least two main perspectives: 1. Does it present factual information without author bias, and 2. Does the text have a readable, comprehensible and logical format (i.e. is it accessible). As for the first, I think the authors have put in a lot of effort to provide the reader with well-known as well as obscure facts sifted from five thousand years of historical and archaeological research. It is unfortunate that also much of its contents relies on hearsay, guesswork and extrapolation. I believe that the authors, who reportedly are of the Pagan persuasion, have tried conscientiously to make a balanced and neutral presentation although in a few places I detect some tongue-in-cheek ironical digs.

As for the second perspective, its reader accessibility I would give it a failing mark. It is severely lacking in structure and focus. The text seldom stays on its stated chapter’s topic for more than a paragraph or two. It jumps forward and back in time; it constantly inserts anecdotal information; it flightily tosses around facts, tidbits and asides, lacking scholarly depth. Overall its presentational form is a mishmash. However, its detailed index does redeem its disorganization to a great extent. Is it useful? For the generalist interested in the topic it does offer up a lot of information. As far as any academic worth is concerned many would probably rate it as mediocre.

It is fascinating to comprehend how faith and beliefs have existed since the advent of man/womankind. Some have been localized to a small group, others have gained worldwide acceptance. Over time beliefs have become superimposed on each other. More authoritative creeds have tried to push aside and even obliterate less authoritative ones. Today we are witnessing authoritative forms of Islam attempting to vanquish western civilization which has become secularized and liberalized, favouring cultural pluralism. This book proves that nothing stays the same. Changing loyalties and beliefs are often catalysts for confrontation and suppression. Lasting solutions are found in dialogue, diplomacy and compromise. The imprint of paganism is still an underlying factor in our modern time (e.g. traditional customs, celebrations and rituals). Since neo-pagans will be interested in reading this book about the past I wonder: Based on their naturalistic polymorphous beliefs can neo-pagans contribute to reach convergent solutions in today’s world or is their interest quaintly isolated and insular, searching for the revival of obscure meanings from the past?

Hornblower and the Crisis by Forester, C.S. (2011) Paperback
Hornblower and the Crisis by Forester, C.S. (2011) Paperback
10 used & new from CDN$ 22.53

3.0 out of 5 stars A slim volume of three brief glimpses from Hornblower's life, Nov. 25 2014
This slim book, touted as the eleventh of the vast Hornblower library of naval heroics, is hardly worth its purchase price. But it should be read by completists. It contains the short uncompleted novel Forester was writing just prior to his death, ‘Hornblower and the Crisis,’ as well as two short stories ‘Hornblower and the Widow McCool’ and ‘Last Encounter.’ At its abrupt ending, Forester’s notes about the outcome of the plot have been added. Had the story been competed it would have been worthy of taking its place among the other ten of Horatio Hornblower’s action packed adventures which were mostly based on actual historical events from Great Britain’s Napoleonic wars. The two short stories are excellent collector’s items. All three segments were intended to be inserts between the ten novels and take place at the beginning, middle and end of Hornblower’s career.

The Lute Player
The Lute Player
by Norah Lofts
Edition: Paperback
46 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Masterly crafted historical fiction, Nov. 19 2014
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This review is from: The Lute Player (Paperback)
This was the fifth book I have read which narrative revolved around Richard the First, The Lionheart. The first was Nicholas Chase’s “Locksley” which was about Atheling of Locksley who assumed different personalities and adventurous roles, concluding with being the legendary Robin Hood. It was a very good inventive book and should have attracted more readers. The second to fourth books were of the Alix of Wanthwaite trilogy, starting with “The Shield of three Lions” by Pamela Kaufman. Although this is a drawn out narrative it provides lots of excellent historical perspective and is rich in audacious twists and turns. It is a tale of a young girl, Alix, who out of necessity assumes a false appearance as a boy, Alex, who gains the favour of King Richard’s confidence.

Now, the fifth book, Norah Loft’s “The Lute Player,” which she wrote before the other books were authored. This book’s strength is in its high quality. It is masterly crafted literature. The plot revolves around five characters, three who get their opportunity to narrate parts of the book: Blondel, the King’s Lute Player; Anna, the deformed half-sister of Berengaria, Princess of Navarre; and Richard’s mother, the imperious Eleanor of Aquitaine, called the She-Wolf. The two who do not narrate but play principal roles in the story are Berengaria, who by default becomes betrothed to the King, and Richard himself. Anna’s story has the most poignancy and as the book comes to an unperturbed end readers will wish that happiness will come her way.

The book is probably more about Berengaria’s tragic fate than it is about Richard and the Third Crusade. Historical accounts lend credence to the rumour that her marriage to Richard was never consummated. This book, and Chase’s book make the presumption that he was totally averse to having intimacy with women. In contrast, Kaufman’s books presents the case for his bisexuality which accommodates a more suspenseful and unpredictable plotline. There is lots to learn and enjoy in all of these books. I suspect I will next take on Loft’s book “Eleanor the Queen,” about Richard’s overbearing and scheming mother, to conclude my foray into the interesting life and times of Richard the Lionheart.

Walking in the Garden of Souls
Walking in the Garden of Souls
by George Anderson
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.62
57 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Soul solace for the bereaved, Nov. 19 2014
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This is a book primarily intended to bring solace and comfort to the bereaved about loved ones who have passed on, especially to parents who have lost children. George Anderson is a medium, an intermediary, between the soul of the departed and his/her relatives or friends who seek confirmation of the continuation of life after death. Anderson insists that he be uninformed about the circumstances of each case connected with those who seek his help. He does not want to prejudice his opinion and attitude when souls come forward with messages for those who seek answers to their state in the “Garden of Souls” (as Anderson terms the heavenly dimension).

Astoundingly, Anderson states that in the twenty-seven years since he became a professional medium he has yet to experience no soul coming forward to provide communication. This is contrary to what some other mediums have experienced, in cases where there “was no one at home” to speak from the other side. Anderson hears the “voices” of the souls but these are not audible to others. He also occasionally “sees” apparitions of the departed but similarly these are not visible to others. Although Anderson comes across as a genuine “soul whisperer” – not a charlatan – it does take a heaping helping of faith and trust by his clients who seek his help (and the readers of his books) to believe one hundred percent in his credibility.

I did a lot of skimming and skipping while reading this book. For those who may already have accepted (before picking up this book) that there can be legitimacy in the phenomena of mediumistic communication there is really nothing new, preposterous or startling revealed by Anderson. Although the subject is phenomenally two-dimensional – the here, and the heavenly – the book seems rather one-dimensionally bland in how the material is presented. From other books I have read, all is not non-conflicting accommodation, characterized by sentiments of sweetness and light, for many souls who arrive on the “other side.” Reportedly, some souls can be in states of confusion, amnesia and disconcertion until they become acclimatized and are gradually guided to a placable state, if they so choose; some will choose to linger in a prolonged comatose disoriented state. But not so according to Anderson: as soon as passing over souls become enlightened and are imbued with love and concern for others. Thoroughly comprehending their own fate they are instantly able and willing to assist people on this terrestrial globe to see the Light – mostly with feel-good platitudes and Ann Landers perspicacity. That is what I meant by the book being one dimensional. There seems to be an answer for everything and that answer is, to use a modern cliché, “Don’t worry, be happy!”

Anderson uses the word “God” sparsely and I can understand why. That name has too much bad baggage. For many it has become synonymous with qualities of ignorance, exclusivity, cruelty and injustice. So, he instead uses “Infinite Light” which is the anglicized form of the mystical Hebrew “Ain Soph Aur.” I think that works well but his book only skirts around the complexity a multidimensional divine existence. However, love, peace and comfort is what most people seek – especially after bereavement – and Anderson’s messages from the Garden of Souls provide solace in abundance.

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