Brief Review of “Lowering Higher Education” by James E. Côté & Anton L. Allahar

Lowering Higher Education: The Rise of Corporate Universities and the Fall of Liberal EducationLowering Higher Education: The Rise of Corporate Universities and the Fall of Liberal Education by James E. Côté

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you are at all interested or involved in Higher Education I recommend you read this book. If the government and schools were to implement even some of their recommendations I think that it would drastically improve the preparation of students for University.

One of the best points is that we need to remember that it’s OK for our students to be “average”. And average is the C range, not the B range. Too many schools have their grades clustered in the top third of the spectrum which doesn’t actually give students a good idea of how skillful they are at different subjects.

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Review of The Gnostic Mystery by Randy Davila

The Gnostic MysteryThe Gnostic Mystery by Randy Davila
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I actually chose not to review this book originally because I felt that it was such a poor attempt at disguising a string of logical fallacies as a novel that I couldn’t imagine putting any more thought into it.

The book starts out as a mildly interesting mystery, but it ends up being so heavy handed that any interest you might have in the novel is killed. The character who is introduced as being a logical and intelligent person soon forgets the basic concepts of logic and automatically agrees with whatever logical fallacy his guide/author stand in says.

If you are looking for a good mystery novel delving into the history of Gnosticism don’t pick this one.

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Book Shops and Vampires

I like Vampires. I enjoyed reading Dracula, I enjoyed The Vampyre more. I loved the Vampire Lestat. I have watched more bad vampire movies than I care to admit (here’s a hint, look up Shadow of the Vampire). I have read the Twilight books, all three of them; and even the fanfiction that was book four.

And yet. Yes there must be a yet.

I walked into a book store the other day. I was half way through Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks, which was loaned to me by a friend, and I wanted to buy my own copy, and maybe the sequels.

So I go up to the Fantasy section, my favourite haunt, and low and behold there is only one kind of fantasy left: Vampire Fiction. But it’s worse than that, most of them aren’t of the classic gothic style, or even in the Anne Rice style. No, most of these are chiclit with fangs. Vampire bodice rippers which are aimed at and written for primarily women. But are they in the romance section? No, they’re in the Fantasy section, pushing out authors like Weeks. There was only one Robert Jordan, they weren’t carrying any Tolkien, and they had a few lonely paperbacks left of Modesitt. Everything else had been pushed out by vampire novels. Vampire novels by the tonne. At least when Harry Potter was popular other forms of Fantasy still thrived. What is it about Twilight that has encouraged people to read while at the same time limiting the types of books that they will read?

Fantasy is a wide genre. Vampire novels are a proud part of that, but so are quest adventures like Tolkien, militant-political examinations like Jordan, and sociological adventures like Modesitt.

A reader of fantasy isn’t just one kind of reader, they are a reader of everything. Though it is true that fantasy tends to focus on things from the past and on fantastic worlds, this is simply a vehicle for the story, be it escapism, social commentary, or coming of age. To see all of this subsumed by one subset of the genre is depressing.

Please, read a Vampire novel. Then pick up Way of Shadows. Trust me. You’ll like it. Once you’re done that, why don’t you try some leGuin, she will knock your socks off.

Review of “Arthurian Omen” by G. G. Vandagriff

Arthurian OmenArthurian Omen by G.G. Vandagriff

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Arthurian Omen, by G.G. Vandagriff deals with the intense passion that arises when the location of a long lost manuscript is uncovered. The story is starts out being riveting and it makes you want to find out more, and then when you do, it disappoints.

The first thing that will strike you about this novel is the stupidity of the characters. They seem to make more bad decisions in the first three chapters than most of us make in a year. Their stupidity, though, doesn’t stop there. They continue to make poor decisions, and leaps of logic that can only be author inspired.

From beginning to end the characters come across as flat caricatures who exist merely for the convenience of the plot. The “bad guy” in the novel is constantly ascribed greater malevolence than befits his actions, while the lurking secret behind the story, a Colombian drug cartel, disappears into the mist several chapters before the lackluster climax.

The suspense is held by keeping the identity of most of the characters a secret from the reader, while showing us tantalizing hints of which of the hunters on the grand quest might have an alter-ego under one of the pseudonyms we know is used by one of the bad guys. This suspense is held until about two thirds through the book when, for no apparent reason, Vandagriff breaks the suspense and tells us who is who, leaving just one villain unmasked. The unmasking of the final villain at the climax of the book, left me with only one word: meh. I didn’t care about who it was. The reasons behind the nefarious deeds then come out to be some sort of poor family relationship that the character had as a child, and a nanny who brainwashed them. Of course none of this is mentioned until after the unmasking, which means that the reader is not invested in the investigation, and so has no “aha” moment at the unmasking.

I was once told that directors and writers are like the Wizard of Oz, the character, not the book. If they’re very good you’ll never notice the man behind the curtain. Every author’s motto should be “take no notice of the man behind the curtain”. Vandagriff, instead, writes more like she is standing in the middle of a three ring circus, rather than behind the curtain. The author’s hand is visible on the strings of every character, forcing them into decisions that no reasonable person would make, and manipulating them into actions that seem out of place given their past history.

This is not to say that the novel is not enjoyable. I quite enjoyed the quest through the Welsh countryside. I enjoyed her descriptions of the landscape as they moved through it. I did, though, have some concerns about the amount of detail that went into describing the outfits of the main character, not seeing the reason behind telling us exactly what she is wearing down to the last stitch and hue.

Though the novel had some bright points, this is not an author I will be seeking out in the future. She is too visible in the actions of her characters, and does not allow them to behave as they desire. The story, while interesting, can not make up for the lack of depth in her characters.

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