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Sverre Svendsen "Uni" (Canada)
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New Glory: A Novel
New Glory: A Novel
by Günter de Bruyn
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 23.70
11 used & new from CDN$ 11.89

3.0 out of 5 stars A psychological novel about the contrasts and quirks of personalities, May 17 2015
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This review is from: New Glory: A Novel (Paperback)
For me this novel written by an author who resided in communist East Germany (GDR) all his life is more noteworthy for its qualities of remoteness or alienation than for closeness and intimacy. Viktor, the main character is a dispirited young man impaired by an innate case of the blahs. New Glory is the name of the isolated rest home where Viktor spends a winter to complete his research and thesis for graduation. Academically he sets goals for himself but lacks conviction to pursue them. He dawdles and procrastinates, being more intent on socializing with the operators and guests of the establishment. He does pursue a love interest, Thilde—the only girl in his sequestered environment that could possibly be a sexual attraction. But she is fixated on taking care of her eccentric and senile grandmother and lacks emotion commitment to form anything even approaching a passionate liaison with Viktor. Their relationship, overshadowed by Thilde’s deteriorating health, endures more by lingering insufficiencies, inadequacies and failures than by heartfelt engagement. Viktor’s father is a blowhard functionary, highly placed and admired in the GDR’s bureaucratic maze. As his son Viktor rides on his father’s coattails, receiving attention and deference from the common folk because of it. But his father disapproves of Thilde who lacks education and breeding as well as having a swarthy, Gypsy-like, complexion.

This is a psychological novel, a study in behavior contrasts and quirks between the inhabitants of New Glory. It lacks any kind of emotional intensity or any suspenseful anticipation, Like, Viktor, it has a case of the blahs. It offers some irony and humor. It does not give much insight about the political environment of the GDR or the domineering Soviet influence. The book was first published in West Germany but the book’s appearance in East Germany was repeatedly delayed due to de Bruyn’s failure to highlight GDR’s achievements and the merits of Marxism. New Glory received popularity and praise in the West which resulted in the East being shamed into releasing it there, with some ‘revisions’ to correct some of its failings.

I was interested in learning about conditions in the GDR in the 70s and 80s. This book provided little information. Not only that but in terms of historical fiction it does not offer much to maintain reader interest other than learning about the characters’ humdrum habituated existences. But overall this tale is about Viktor’s failure to confront his wimpish approach to life.

The Bishop's Heir
The Bishop's Heir
by Katherine Kurtz
Edition: Hardcover
19 used & new from CDN$ 0.04

5.0 out of 5 stars High tension with dramatic uncertainty, May 8 2015
This review is from: The Bishop's Heir (Hardcover)
“The Bishop’s Heir” is the first volume of “The Histories of King Kelson” trilogy. Out of the sixteen Deryni novels, this comes 13th chronologically, following “High Deryni”, but it was the 7th to be published in 1984, following “Camber the Heretic” in 1981. I read this book twenty-five years ago and read it again with equal pleasure.

This book exemplifies what makes Katherine Kurtz a grand author of medieval regal fantasy. She weaves a tapestry of likable Deryni characters and their loyal supporters who are confronted by self-righteous adversaries whose cruelties know no bounds in order to denigrate the Deryni to achieve power and influence. Here we once more meet the previously deposed Deryni-hating Bishop Edmund Loris who has been confined for two years to an imposed exile in a remote monastery. But he has managed to form a liaison with the elderly Princess Caitrin, pretender to the throne of Meara. Meara was an independent realm two hundred years ago but has since been a principality held by Gwynedd. Bishop Loris has devised a scheme whereby he will regain his former position, looking to become Archbishop, through the restoration of a sovereign Meara under the rule of Caitrin and her heirs. By the aid of his accomplices Loris escapes his confinement, joining forces with Caitrin and a group of Mearan rebels, who defeat defending forces loyal to the Haldane (and Deryni) King Kelson. Lord Dhugal MacArdry, Master of Transha, an estate in Meara, who is the foster brother of King Kelson, is captured and taken in hostage. The King recruits an army to rescue Lord Dhugal and to confront the forces of Caitrin and Loris. This tale revolves mainly around King Kelson and Lord Dhugal. They are supported by Duke Alaric Morgan, the King’s constant defender since his childhood, and Duncan McLain, Deryni priest, Morgan’s cousin, and also a close friend of the King since they were boys. The significance of the book’s title does not become apparent until near the end.

Kurtz has created a very enjoyable story characterized by high tension with dramatic uncertainty. As the book concludes there are prominent ongoing conflicts and hostilities yet to be resolved. Volume two of the trilogy, entitled “The King’s Justice” will pick up where “The Bishop’s Heir” comes to a climactic and heartrending conclusion.

The Seth Material
The Seth Material
by Jane Roberts
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.24
28 used & new from CDN$ 9.16

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, fascinating and perplexing, April 24 2015
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This review is from: The Seth Material (Paperback)
I am tempted to pursue an analysis of some propositions made by Seth. But which one to choose? There are so many interdimensional layer upon layer in his universe of realities and multidimensional personalities. Readers are offered a Pandora’s Box of revelatory treasures about our material and psychic existence to ponder. Many of them ring true but others cave in on themselves, like black holes of incomprehensibility.

But this is a fascinating and interesting account by Jane Roberts about her encounter with Seth, an “energy personality essence no longer focused in physical matter". For a long time Roberts was concerned that the Seth Material originated from her subconscious self. However, it becomes convincingly obvious to her that the material originates from another discarnate consciousness that with her consent uses her body and faculties to channel itself audibly to her husband Robert Butts who records the energy personality’s expositions.

How to rate this book? Readers should have a strong interest in the channeling phenomenon whether they believe it has worth and value or it is a ruse to gain fame, fortune and followers. Personally I am convinced that Roberts was not in it for personal gain. And she was careful not to allow any religious cult-like following. Readers should also be prepared to compare their own authentic rationality vis-à-vis Seth’s assertive claims to metaphysical legitimacy. I admit that scenario had me feeling like a first-grader taking on PhD with the highest credentials. I accept much of what “he” says as serious food for thought and that ‘seeds’ are offered to plant and cultivate for the commonweal. But I could not avoid feeling that if the material was meant to have profound revelatory significance for mankind’s future it fails to provide a focused and structured learning opportunity. It is all over the map and frequently ‘off the map’ altogether. This book deserves a second or third reading to absorb its physical sense versus Inner Sense implications and its cosmic energy synthesis.

The Hero
The Hero
by Paul Almond
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.40
3 used & new from CDN$ 11.97

4.0 out of 5 stars A traumatized soldier tries to make a life for himself, April 20 2015
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This review is from: The Hero (Paperback)
This is the seventh and penultimate volume of the semi-biographical series of novels about the author’s ancestors who settled on Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula in the eighteen hundreds. This volume is a seamless continuation from the sixth novel, ‘The Gunner’, about Eric Alford, as he tries to settle back into a ‘normal’ life following his heroic but horrendous WWI experiences. He is caught in a cycle of recurring nightmares and delusions mirroring the gut-wrenching events from the front line: cannonades, explosions, poison attacks, and maimed and dead bodies scattered everywhere. He is in fact afflicted by ‘shell shock’ or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

While he had been on leave in England, Eric fell in love with an English artist, Rene, a dancer. After the war they maintained contact which lead to their marriage and Eric settling in Australia where Rene had successfully established a dance studio. Eventually they make an excursion to Eric’s home turf in the Gaspé of Canada. Eric becomes convinced that he should become ordained. His uncle is already a bishop, which gives him an inside track to be placed in a parish both he and Rene will like. But when stressed or reminded of his past traumas, Eric succumbs to recurring panics and disabling episodes of PTSD.

Eric and Rene are pseudonyms for the author’s parents, Eric and Rene Almond, following their actual travels and experiences. It is also supplemented by fictitious conversations/dialogue and some characters impersonating real people. The author has thoroughly researched the 20s and 30s. Accurate historical references are plentiful. Aside from Eric’s PTSD episodes and his union with Rene I thought this novel was rather tame. But that impression proved to be wrong. I had progressively learned to feel love and concern for Eric and Rene and the challenges they faced and overcame—she being a sophisticated big city girl and he being a rustic farm-boy, and a veteran soldier tormented with PTSD. Upon completing the book I felt haunted by its conclusion.

Masaryk Station
Masaryk Station
by David Downing
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.51
32 used & new from CDN$ 6.45

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$ 3.64

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: Moving Through and Beyond the Jehovah's Witness Community
Escaping the Smoke and Rain: Moving Through and Beyond the Jehovah's Witness Community
by Shauna May
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.54
3 used & new from CDN$ 11.54

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
3 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

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.

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