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S Svendsen "Uni" (Canada)
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The Green Child (Capuchin Classics) by Herbert Read, Graham Greene (2010) Paperback
The Green Child (Capuchin Classics) by Herbert Read, Graham Greene (2010) Paperback
by Graham Greene Herbert Read
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Fantasy versus reality, ideals versus actualities, July 21 2014
The Englishman Herbert Read (1893-1968) was an eminent intellectual, world traveller and critic of the arts. He was well known for his written reviews and commentaries on many subjects. `The Green Child’ was his only novel, published in 1935. Being a mixture of fantasy and reality it is an odd duck of a book, especially in how it is structured. It is told in the third person. In the first section (there are three), the hero, Olivero, returns to England in 1861 after a thirty year absence, that time having been spent mainly in the fictional country of Roncador, South America. He returns to his home village by a river, the Druid, and a nearby flower mill. As he wanders along he discovers that at one point the river starts to run uphill. He follows it to the old mill which has been rebuilt and expanded and is humming with activity. He spies a brute of a fellow entering through a window with a lamb. As he continues to observe, he sees the man trying to force a woman to drink fresh blood from the lamb. She is no ordinary woman, having green skin and a translucent appearance, appearing fairylike. Immediately he feels that he must rescue this wondrous creature from her plight. He does and in the remainder of the section they wander along the river and streams to a pool into which they enter and are transported to a different world inhabited by the aqueous green creatures of whom the woman, SiloŰn, is a member.

Then, abruptly, in the second section the narrative shifts to Olivero’s experiences from thirty years prior. He leads a rather shiftless life without goals. Unjustly, on a sojourn in Spain, he becomes identified with the hated French Jacobin Club and is jailed for two years. Then he sets out for South America where he by pure chance becomes involved with a clique of revolutionaries whose aim it is to oust the dictator of Roncador and establish a new republic on Voltarian and French revolutionary principles of freedom, liberty and equality. This is a very long section well written, expounding on the theories and practicalities of founding and running a new government. The country is rugged and sparsely populated by uneducated farmers and sheep herders. It gives the author the opportunity to express his utopian ideals about politics and administration. But eventually Olivero tires of the monotony and he finds no more challenges to conquer or ideals to put into effect. So, he manufactures his own assassination and flees to return to his beloved England.

Chronologically we then return to the end of the first section for the beginning of the third section. Herbert Read was an atheist but in this section he engineers a euphoric realm in a dimension consisting of eternally illuminating lights, life giving pure waters, lofty vaulted grottos, euphonious seven-tone gongs and the worship of crystals. Mysticism and esotericism are combined with fantasy. Olivero arrives to this dimension with his beloved Green Child woman and he is soon accepted by this aqueous race as one of them. He takes on various tasks, graduating from level one to level four—the highest—as he learns the physical and mental skills that determine each individual’s progress and eventual soul survival.

Reading this book was an adventure in two unlikely themes: political idealism and metaphysical fantasy. It was obviously the writer’s examination into his own life’s quest for meanings, answers, resolutions to existential quandaries. A unique book that in 1946 was recommended by the illustrious author Graham Greene who provides the foreword.

The Lone Ranger Volume 6: Native Ground TP
The Lone Ranger Volume 6: Native Ground TP
by Ande Parks
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.12
33 used & new from CDN$ 11.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Conflicts between Natives and whites told with stark honesty, July 19 2014
Like Vol 5 before it, this Vol 6 continues the superb work of writer Ande Parks and artists Esteve Polls and Marcel Pinto. This book is titled “Native Ground” and the main plot deals with the brutal confrontations between the Natives protecting their ancestral lands on one hand and the U.S. Cavalry and Mormon settlers on the other. The time is 1870 and the place Colorado Territory. The portrayal is surprisingly frank, gritty, brutal and bloody, presenting with stark honesty the positions in which everyone finds themselves and how they react in order to survive. Conflicts within each group are manifold. The six chapters are connected by the story of Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s loyal companion, being seriously wounded. The Ranger seeks help for him from a Native healer who turns out to be a white woman who was abducted and taken into the tribe when she was a young girl and was taught her healing skills from an elder healer. Some chapters give accounts panel by panel of Native American folk tales, the illustrations—without dialogue—follow the main plotline; this is an unusual device which succeeds in telling two stories superimposed on one another. This book is not at all suitable for children.

These Things Hidden
These Things Hidden
by Heather Gudenkauf
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 10.36
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2.0 out of 5 stars Somber, grim and grisly patched-together story., July 16 2014
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This review is from: These Things Hidden (Paperback)
Having read ‘The Weight of Silence’ and giving it a passing grade I thought I would pick up ‘These Hidden Things.’ Dramatic fiction requires credibility. Gudenkauf stretches it too thin in this novel. There were too many gaps in credibility. Among them that a young slim teenager could be pregnant to term with twins without her sister, parents and schoolmates having the slightest suspicion. Second that she seems oblivious herself that she is pregnant (she still had her periods?)! The other gaps have to do with the legal and justice system—slipshod doesn't even come close. Other gaps have to do with the unlikelihood of the four main characters completing the puzzle so neatly, and all living in close proximity. It was also most unlikely that the behaviour of the parents of the pregnant girl—churchgoing and well off middle class—would be so crass and cruel. Sorry, but I was not convinced by Gudenkauf’s plotlines. For the most part it is a somber, grim and grisly patched-together story.

Untamed Heart, An
Untamed Heart, An
by Lauraine Snelling
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 16.78
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3.0 out of 5 stars OK but not necessary?, July 16 2014
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This review is from: Untamed Heart, An (Hardcover)
Having read the Red River of the North series, I was looking forward to this prequel. Maybe my anticipation was too high. I found most of this book to be bland and tiresome, perhaps a forced effort, and an unnecessary addition to the series to keep the money rolling in. This book is about mainly two subjects: how to operate a seter and the budding relationship between the character Nils Aarvidson from ‘Oslo’ and Ingeborg from Valdres. The first subject may not catch everyone's fascination; providing details is the author’s strong suit, but here there is too much of it. ‘Who does what and how what is done’ is the formula Snelling uses to fill up lots of pages. As far as Nils and Ingeborg are concerned, loyal readers will already know from when Nils is first introduced that a relationship with him will come to naught because in volume one of the series Ingeborg is married to Roald Bjorklund. But it does put Ingeborg’s perspective on heartfelt love—that she felt so genuinely for Nils—into focus when she compares that to her future relationships, especially the one with Roald. This is a worthwhile read for Snelling and Ingeborg fans but reading it doesn’t really add to the original saga of the Bjorklunds.

The Norwegian word ‘seter’ appears at the beginning of the book. Many readers won’t have a clue what that refers to although they will become fully educated as the story unfolds. Oslo is referred to throughout the book. In a historical fiction book that is a travesty of inaccuracy. The narrative takes place in the 1870s. The name of Norway’s capital at that time was Kristiania. It didn’t change to Oslo (its original ancient name) until 1925. Snelling could have clarified the ‘seter’ and ‘Oslo’ references with a couple of footnotes. The cover of the book misrepresents Valdres totally. Valdres is in mountainous central Norway, far from the sea. The cover depicts a picturesque fjord—probably Sognefjorden—which is located about 250 km/150 miles from Valdres. Yes, it makes for a nice cover but in no way does it represent the geography of Ingeborg’s home.

In my reviews of Snelling’s other books I have complained about the inauthentic naming of some of her characters. That pattern continues in this book and there is no excuse for it; there are numerous resources available that list Norwegian first names and surnames. Aarvidson is a case in point. Double ‘a’s stand for the letter ┼. The Norwegian name Arvid is NOT spelled ┼rvid. The ending ‘son’ is the Swedish patronymic; the Norwegian one is ‘sen’. So Aarvidson should be Arvidsen to be authentic. Snelling consistently provides her Norwegian characters with ‘son’ names. (Admittedly, after arriving in America, some Norwegian immigrants changed the spelling of their surname from ‘sen’ to ‘son’ but that was the exception rather than the rule.) Three of the worst first names used by the author in this series are Thorliff, Hjelmer and Kaaren. Those are non existent Norwegian names. They should be Thorleif, Hjalmar and Karen. Some new candidates in this book are Hamme (should be Hanne), Asti (Astri), Ingra (Inga), Carly (Carla or Karla), Rignor (Rigmor) and Alvald (?). To be fair, most of the new names she introduces ARE authentic. Of course it is true that these ‘mistakes’ won’t detract from most reader’s enjoyment of the book. Serious reviewers—who overlook Christian chick-lit romance—would say that historical authenticity in this genre doesn’t matter, but I disagree.

Friday
Friday
by Robert A[nson] Heinlein
Edition: Hardcover
7 used & new from CDN$ 12.42

3.0 out of 5 stars A test tube for a mother and a knife for a father!, July 16 2014
This review is from: Friday (Hardcover)
I am sure Heinlein had a lot of fun writing this book but it did not meet my expectations. Almost to the end of the book I was searching for a plot—and some conclusion to look forward too. She does a lot of rambling that most of the time leaves the reader searching for coherence. Well, patience does pay off. The last few chapters serve up an almost too perfectly idyllic ending for Friday, the android with superhuman strength, lightning-fast reflexes and enhanced humanoid reasoning, emotions and horniness.

As she often states, Friday had ‘a test tube for a mother and a knife for a father.’ She is an AP (Artificial Person). She was created by “the Boss” to be an interplanetary courier with a secret pouch, accessed through her navel, for transporting biological materials as well as encoded electronic data. Her assignments are fraught with danger but she is geared for lethal combat if so required. Almost the whole book takes place on a future earth that has been fractured into over four hundred nations, mostly governed by dictatorial governments. North America is comprised of numerous national entities. Technology serves up some surprises. Long distance transportation is provided by supersonic vehicles passing through tubes. But vestiges of the past remain: people in the cities get around with horses and bicycles! A chaotic civil war erupts between British Canada and Quebec. There are contending factions sponsored by unknown powers. Assassinations are de rigueur. It is a dangerous environment. Friday seeks friends and finds shelter in New Zealand and in Winnipeg. The underlying theme is her urgent want to find ‘The Boss’ who created her and gives her essential assignments to further his organization’s elusive objectives.

This book is not even faintly to be compared with Heinlein’s classic ‘Stranger in a Strange Land.’ It can be a fun read but I think it merits only a mediocre rating.

Bastard Prince: Volume III of The Heirs of Saint Camber
Bastard Prince: Volume III of The Heirs of Saint Camber
by Katherine Kurtz
Edition: Hardcover
25 used & new from CDN$ 2.52

5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of emotional drama, June 23 2014
This is the third novel of ‘The Heirs of Saint Camber’ trilogy, the twelfth of the fifteen Deryni novels to be published but, confusingly, the sixth if read in chronological order (which is recommended). In the first novel of this trilogy, ‘The Harrowing of Gwynedd,’ the oldest of the late King Cinhil’s young sons, Alroy, had been drugged and manipulated by his self-serving power hungry Regents to do their bidding. He died, mostly from natural causes. In the second novel, ‘Prince Javan’s Year,’ the second son in line, his twin Javan, sympathetic to the Deryni, had temporarily sequestered himself for three years in a monastery, preparing to emerge to become king at the passing of Alroy. Archbishop Hubert, who had sponsored Javan to assume a priestly vocation, had assumed that the youngest, immature and more pliable prince, Rhys Michael, would become king since Javan had chosen a life of religious devotion. But Javan had a surprise for Hubert and his courtly allies; he was determined to become king. Javan also had his allies and, besides, his younger brother had no interest in kingship for himself. These events lay the foundation for that novel. It became a year of incessant games of brinkmanship between King Javan, his allies and the ‘good’ Deryni and Archbishop Hubert, his allies and the ‘bad’ Deryni—games that frequently end in tortures, murders and battles to win and keep power through treasonous and brutal means. By the end of that book Javan has been deceitfully and treacherously murdered (although officially in the heat of battle).

So the third and youngest of King Cinhil’s sons, Rhys Michael, becomes king, and once again the Regents, headed by Archbishop Hubert, dictate his agenda. He is forcefully sequestered and unable to exercise his legal rights to reign. The Regency Council had subtly engineered his marriage to Michaela, Lady Drummond, so that they could conceive heirs. This was a happy and consensual relationship, however, and they soon had a son, Prince Owain. In this third book ‘The Bastard Prince’ Marek, the incestuous son of King Imre and his sister Princess Ariella, schemes to invade Gwynedd and make a claim to depose King Rhys Michael. (Marek’s father King Imre had committed suicide as he was confronted and effectively dethroned by Cinhil; his mother, Ariella, fled to nearby Torenth where he was born.) At he beginning g of the book the Gwynedd hierarchy becomes preoccupied with three priorities: one, to confront the threat from an invasion by Prince Marek and his collaborator Prince Miklos; two, to continue to suppress King Rhys Michael’s ability to have effective rulership; and three, to protect Prince Owain and his mother Queen Michaela who is pregnant with possibly another spare heir to the Haldane line (which, if King Rhys Michael was to die, would allow continued authority and unlimited power by the Regency Council). Receiving word of an invasion, the king decides to join the Gwyneddi forces to meet the threat to his kingdom. The Regency agrees to allow him to do so although he will be under their strict control. What they do not know is that before his departure his latent Deryni powers have been activated!

I found this book more emotionally engaging than the first two of ‘The Heirs of Saint Camber’ trilogy. It was continuously dramatic, not getting distracted by lengthy subsidiary plots or tiresome rituals. I was a little disappointed by the last chapter, akin to an appendix, which summarized what ensued after the book’s climactic concluding chapters. I thought much of its contents could have made the book even better if the events described had been given fuller voice and elaboration. However, overall I gave this book top mark. Chronologically, the next book entitled ‘In the King’s Service’ will jump more than one hundred and fifty years forward. It is the first of the ‘Childe Morgan’ trilogy. The third volume, ‘The King’s Deryni,’ will be published in December, 2014, eight years after the second volume ‘Childe Morgan.’ This new book will most likely be the very last Deryni novel, appearing forty-four years after the first, ‘Deryni Rising.’ But, who knows, Katherine Kurtz will ‘only’ be seventy years of age when ‘The King’s Deryni’ is released…

Lucie
Lucie
by Amalie Skram
Edition: Paperback
14 used & new from CDN$ 3.67

5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping tale of a nineteenth century woman's tribulations, June 22 2014
This review is from: Lucie (Paperback)
Most of the novels of Norwegian authoress Amalie Skram served to expose the plight of women caught in the web of male dominance in the Victorian Age, the latter half of the nineteenth century. She was a contemporary of the dramatist Ibsen, author Bj°rnson and painter and author Krogh who all strove to champion women’s rights. Krogh wrote a novel ‘Albertine’ in 1986 about a poor young seamstress who was driven to prostitution in order to survive. The book was confiscated, he was put to trial and had to pay a fine. Those were times of nascent social, political and religious nonconformity. Skram wrote ‘Lucie’ in 1988, having been inspired by Krogh’s ‘Albertine.’ Although Skram was not a social radical she wrote novels that included liberal and progressive ideals to awaken the establishment to principles of women’s equality. Principally she did this by relating stories about women who were moulded, controlled and subjugated to serve and please the needs and priorities of men in all stations of life.

So this is the story of Lucie, a woman with a “past.” This term was most often used to categorize women who had failed to conform to the standard of being chaste and proper. Although Lucie had not been a prostitute, she had made “mistakes” in being attracted to and being used by men until she no longer served to fulfil their needs. She became a “kept” woman of Gerner, a respectable lawyer. He loves her for her beauty and sensuality and decides to marry her so she won’t stray to other men. He implements strict controls on her behaviour and attempts to reform her attitudes and manners to conform to his straight middle class standards. She tries her best to change but feels trapped in the relationship, not being free to act her normal self in company of his friends. He constantly nags and berates her. It quickly becomes a strife-torn marriage without joy. She escapes to the familiarity of her lower class friends and also visits a bohemian enclave but can not achieve compatibility. She is a lost soul and seeks solace in religion but even that cannot in the end sustain her.

Skram was brave to tackle forbidden territory in this book—especially after what happened to Krogh—and she had great difficulty to find a publisher. It should be read with awareness of social conditions and moral attitudes as they existed in the 1880s. It was acceptable for men to play the field but women were condemned for desiring sexual freedom. This is an emotional and serious study with sociological and psychological underpinnings. This edition published by Norvik Press was recently translated by K Hanson and J Messick who provide a comprehensive Afterword (twenty pages) which helps the reader to put everything in perspective. This tragically gripping short novel should be on the reading list of anyone interested in women’s studies.

Christianity Without Insanity: For Optimal Mental/Emotional/Physical Health
Christianity Without Insanity: For Optimal Mental/Emotional/Physical Health
by Boyd C. Purcell
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.60
12 used & new from CDN$ 13.07

4.0 out of 5 stars The emergence of universalistic salvation, June 8 2014
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This book is great resource for Christians who mentally and emotionally feel torn to believe in a vindictive and unjust God or One that is loving and just. Or, how can the seeming conflict between the stern autocratic God of the Old Testament and the compassionate and forgiving Jesus—God in the flesh—of the New Testament be reconciled? Is there a way? This book could create some turmoil for those who are happy to believe that they are among the elect, saved by the grace of Christ but sadly that the many who do not know Jesus will be condemned to suffer in an everlasting torturous hell. The question which may confront them might be: should the doors and windows be opened to let in the Light of a greater, more magnanimous gospel, or should the Good News be kept limited to only benefit “true believers” like themselves?

Boyd C Purcell is a former retired Christian minister and counsellor who wrote this self-published book to spread the good news of the Gospel as he sees it. It is an adjunct to his previous book “Spiritual Terrorism: Spiritual Abuse from the Womb to the Tomb” (which I have not read). He bases his beliefs on improved translations and interpretations of the Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic scriptures which provide a much more nuanced and sometimes radically different meaning to many biblical words and verses. He concludes that biblical references point to God’s universal and unconditional love for everyone and that no-one will be everlastingly rejected or punished. Hell, fire and brimstone represent a purging, cleansing, healing process that every human soul will experience to a greater or lesser degree before admission to the heavenly realm. This process is neither torturous nor eternal. Even those in “hell” are not deprived of God’s love. Every person can by free will choose to say “yes” to God’s salvation and receive the forgiveness and grace offered by Jesus. Purcell implies that no one will say “no” forever so therefore salvation can be achieved any time by confirmation of faith.

Purcell’s evangelistic crusade is all about lifting Christians and churches out of the morass of conservative biblical literalism. He discredits all doctrines and religionists that employ fear to cement people’s beliefs. I say “more power to him” in that endeavour. However, I do find his presentation of universalistic salvation too narrowly defined although it will appeal to Christians who believe that the Bible is God’s revelatory “truth”—albeit only when translated and interpreted “correctly”. There are different schools of thought and belief about universalism, which use different adjectives to differentiate between them. Most of them do well by liberating people from doctrinal straightjackets taught them by religious traditionalists. I won’t get into expounding on them here.

The adjective I would prefer to use with “universalism” (meaning “the survival and/or salvation of all souls in one interrelated and infinite spiritual existence”) is “universal” (meaning “involving all”). Although the books of the Bible contain much infinite wisdom it is not infallible. The Bible contains contradictions, errors, biases and concepts and instructions reflective of human failing and ignorance. Therefore I find it difficult to completely endorse a universalism that defines itself as “Christian” with proofs anchored in the Bible. True universal universalism cannot rely on scripture or limit its source of truth to so-called Holy Writ of any religion. Everyone is spirit. Our bodies, our race, our religion or culture do not label our spirit, our true essence. When our body “dies” our spirit lives on to envelop our self-conscious soul. The Creator continuously creates a universe (or possibly multiple interrelated universes) and our souls have roles to play in an infinitesimal hierarchical order of entities. We may experience different “lifetimes” in different “environments,” progressing when and as we choose to be beneficially influenced by “the Love of Light” or “the Light of Love.” Yes, the Christ in Jesus, which was/is the Light of Love, can be discerned from inspired biblical writings; but I think it would be better not to concentrate the universality of our spiritual existence too much on one earthly religious tradition.

Here Was a Man
Here Was a Man
by Norah Lofts
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.57
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3.0 out of 5 stars A chronicle from the tumultous Elizabethan age, June 7 2014
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This review is from: Here Was a Man (Paperback)
This novel about Sir Walter Raleigh is presented in thirty-one chapters, from 1568, at his age fourteen, to his death by execution in 1618. Each chapter highlights an event or series of events in his adventurous, heroic and tragic life. Norah Lofts was a prolific successful novelist and I have enjoyed many of her books but the format of this book leaves the reader in search of many answers. It is perhaps too abbreviated, lacking in historical background or political and religious perspectives. Most of Raleigh’s compatriots and adversaries are not given the depth many readers would have liked. The infatuation-incrimination (or love-hate) relationship between the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I, and Raleigh is well presented, as is his clandestine liaison with Lisbeth, the queen’s lady-in-waiting, whom he married. The book is well written, based mostly on historical facts supplemented by fictive dialog and insights. Lofts’ use of the English language could not be better. It is an excellent starting point for anyone who has an interest in Raleigh and the Elizabethan age.

The Virgin In The Garden
The Virgin In The Garden
by A.S. Byatt
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 25.95
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2.0 out of 5 stars 50% unpalatable tedium...., June 4 2014
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A S Byatt is an illustrious and much awarded English author. This is the first of her books that I have read and it will also be my last. Byatt loves to write and she comes across as a genius by how much knowledge she can present from multiple fields: literature and theatre, science, culture, history, art, etc. But, if I can allow an analogy, she is like a master chef who skilfully creates a vast diversity of cookery but spoils their palatability by using too many spices and flavours. Her writing is self-indulgent, lacking restraint or discipline. She writes long strings of words and phrases, some extending ten or more lines in length. Some pages consist of a single paragraph and many more of only two or three (without dialog). When she latches onto a diversionary subject she can ramble on for pages. No doubt she has impressed critics by her stylistic unconventionality, a literary Picasso.

The story takes place in 1952 and 53. The narrative includes about a dozen characters and the plot revolves around the writing, casting, directing and staging of a play about the life and times of Queen Elizabeth I. Two sisters, as different as day and night, their lunatic younger brother, their imperious father and subordinate mother—the Potters—are central to the story, as well as the playwright, Alexander, adored by the sisters. Dysfunctional families and relationships is the recurring theme throughout. Comedy and farce increasingly flavour the menu from the middle of the book to the end, overcoming some of the tedium. This is the first of four books that follow the life of the youngest sister, Frederica. I persisted to finish this book’s almost six hundred pages but I did not enjoy Byatt’s many aimless diversionary distractions. For me, this book could have been half as long and still have managed to tell what needed to be told. No doubt Byatt intended to convey some deep inner subliminal messages about the futility of living a meaningful life but for me they got lost in her display of artistic profundities unique to her labyrinthic mental disposition!

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