Apr 26, 2015

April book reviews


April's Reading List

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
C.S. Lewis
I have been well-acquanted with this first step into the  much-loved Narnia world. I saw a play in elementary school, watched the Disney version, and read an abridged children's picture book years ago. But none of these come close to the original! And since I started the Narnia journey last month with the audiobook version of The Magician's Nephew, I wanted to follow suit with the rest of the series in chronological order. The HarperCollins Narnia audiobooks (or atleast the three I've listened to thus far) are expertly narrated by actors who are creative in the various characters presented in these books. I've thoroughly enjoyed listening on my commutes to work, gym time, and  cooking in my apartment.

For those who do not know the plot, here is a quick synopsis: Four siblings are sent to live with a professor in the English countryside during WWII. Out of sheer boredom, they go exploring in the house and eventually, the youngest, Lucy, discovers a magical wardrobe that leads her to the world of Narnia. Eventually, all four end up in Narnia and embark on a dangerous adventure to combat the White Witch. Along the way, they meet Narnia's true king, Aslan, who gives them a glimpse of sacrificial love that is an echo of Jesus. 

There are a lot of Biblical parallels that Lewis interweaves into the story in a way only Lewis can! This is definitely not an exhaustive study, but my favorite parallels were the following:
1. Aslan's humiliation and death on the Stone Table to cover Edmund's (a "son of Adam") treason to the White Witch and Aslan's subsequent resurrection as a picture of Jesus' substitutionary atonement. There are a few other smaller, but beautiful allusions to Jesus' death and resurrection as well, including Aslan's discovery on the Stone Table by Lucy and Susan (similar to the women that came to the grave to see Jesus after He died), Aslan breathing life into his warriors (the Holy Spirit being descending on the disciples), and the snowy wasteland turning into a lusch woodland full of life (new heavens and earth). 
2. Upon hearing of Aslan, Lucy asks the Beaver if Aslan is safe. The Beaver replies, "Safe? Of course he isn't safe! But he's good. He's the king, I tell you!" Following God does not guarantee us an easy, safe life. But God is a good and sovereign God, and that is better than 'safe' and 'easy'.
3. When Lucy's siblings chat with the professor about Lucy's idea of Narnia (before they discover Narnia themselves), the professor uses C.S. Lewis' well-quoted trilemma, explaining that Lucy is either lying, insane, or telling the truth --- similar to Lewis writing in Mere Christianity that Jesus' claims that He is God is either showing Him to be a liar, lunatic or Lord.
Feel free to comment on more of the parallels that I did not mention! 
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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Horse and His Boy
C.S. Lewis
I'll be more vague with this review than the latter, since it's possible others have not read it yet. The third book to the series, The Horse and His Boy, is an adventurous tale of a boy named Shasta and  a talking war-horse named Bree who escape slavery in the land of Colormen on a trek towards the free land of Narnia. The road gets dangerous as they encounter other travelers along the way as well as treacherous plans of an evil prince who wants one of the Narnian queens as his wife. Three of the four siblings (Susan, Edmund, and Lucy) make cameo appearances in this tale, which was definitely fun since I had just finished The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe!

I was constantly amazed at the brilliant creativity of C.S. Lewis that he has created other lands that are in communication with Narnia. The diverse characters and plot twists were as engaging as ever! 
Biblical references were pretty easy to catch. I do not want to explain too much as it will give away some of the best parts, but the doctrine of God's sovereignty was illustrated (it caught me by surprise and I got teary-eyed at that part. It was incredibly beautiful!) as well as the folly of the prideful (exhibited in several characters of varying degrees). 

If you haven't read this installment of the Narnia series, it is a sure winner and gives a glimpse into the "Golden Age" of the four siblings' reign in Narnia. 
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The Great Divorce
C.S. Lewis
My third Lewis book this month, and it did not disappoint! Lewis' remarkable allegorical storytelling is at its peak in this  journey through Hell and Heaven. A variety of characters travel on a bus from the outskirts of Hell to the edge of Heaven and they are confronted with old friends, family members, and acquaintances in Heaven who are telling them of the beauty in store for them if they let go of their other loves and grab on to the greatest Love. These lesser, distorted loves include (but are not limited to) self-pity, fame and recognition, vanity, and self-righteousness.

I cannot say it enough: Lewis is a genius, I tell ya! The Great Divorce has hints of Dante's Divine Comedy, Lewis Caroll's  Alice in Wonderland, and Milton's Paradise Lost.  Lewis also includes one of his greatest influences in both his imaginative allegorical writing and his Christian theological writing, George MacDonald. It is said that Lewis has not written a book that does not have some quote or whisper of MacDonald. Unspoken Sermons, one of MacDonald's less-known books, paved a way to Lewis' decision to become a Christian and MacDonald's imaginative writing style was pivotal to Lewis development into the genius that he became, especially with the Narnia series. Together with his "guide" through Heaven (though the real Lewis and MacDonald never met since MacDonald was long gone by the time Lewis was born) they discuss weighty topics such as purgatory, predestination, and free-will.

I had the privilege of watching a theatrical production of The Great Divorce (check it out!) in March and it helped to better picture some of the book's imaginative scenes. And, truth be told, without my smart boyfriend (who loves Lewis himself and understands him a lot more than I do) as well as this resource I found on youtube (a series of videos that goes through every single chapter of the book), there were a few chapters where I felt pretty lost. But that does not deter me from definitely recommending it to anyone looking for a challenging but enlightening read!
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Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire
Jim Cymbala
Pastor Jim Cymbala of The Brooklyn Tabernacle is a humble man of prayer. He saw a small, broken-down church of eight members in the early 1970s blossom to thousands of souls that are freed from bondages of addictions, fears, and sin. In this book, he interweaves the story of the church's growth when they began to make prayer a priority, awe-inspiring testimonies of specific people who were deemed lost and hopeless for others, and a challenge for the reader to make the Holy Spirit and prayer a priority in the church and individual.

Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire is an inspiring book that helped me examine if I was truly inviting the Holy Spirit to be active in every area of my life. I was encouraged by the street-hardened men and women portrayed in the book and how, through the prayers of many, God brought redemption and healing.

I visited The Brooklyn Tabernacle several years ago during a trip to NYC and I was in (happy) tears most of the service. Pastor Jim's humility was clearly evident even after countless books were written by him as well as albums of choral music composed and directed by his wife. Speaking of, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir was a blessing to see as well. Their music was anointed and Spirit-filled, but what really moved me was how every single choir member came down from their seats during the altar call and prayed for those who came to the front for prayer. Not only are they gifted singers, but they are prayer warriors as well. It helped cement for me that what the church preaches about prayer is walked out daily within the church.

Click here for a video from the Bible Study video that accompanies the book (I read it alone this time around but read it with a girls Bible study group many years ago). It gives more background to the church's early days and how prayer changed everything.
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The Magic of Ordinary Days
Ann Howard Creel
This story is set in the backdrop of World War II from the perspective of a Denver native, Olivia Dunne.  She is an independent, smart, and adventure-seeking twenty-something year old who is the daughter of a stern minister. She dreams of becoming an archaeologist and is set to start her master's program when a set of circumstances occur that change everything. She quickly finds herself married to a quiet and simple farmer in a rural Colorado town, miles away from any neighbors or city life. Her days are filled with quietness that is a new and uncomfortable change for Olivia as she lives in a house with a man she hardly knows.

Olivia soon befriends two Japanese American sisters who live at a nearby internment camp. She learns more about the heart-breaking experiences these girls and other Japanese American families endured and begins to learn more about trust and love as the story unfolds.

I really enjoyed this book. I had first learned about the Japanese American internment camps that were in America during World War II while reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet last year. It helped me better understand some of the sad history of America during a time of much fear and war. The story of Olivia stuck in a farm life she never imagined was also captivating as different layers fell off of her and she began to trust others.

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Currently Reading:
Mama Maggie by Marty McKary and Ellen Vaughn

Savor by Shauna Niequist 

I Tried Until I Almost Died by Sandra McCollom


4 comments:

  1. We recently got an audiobook version of the narnia series and it is WONDERFUL! I need to put it onto my iPod so that I can listen any time! You've got to look up The Hobbit as read by Nicol Williamson. I LOVE that man's voice! I got it free several years ago, but the audio file might be available somewhere online still!

    I JUST put together my summer reading list and I'm so glad to hear a great review for The Magic of Ordinary Days! I marked it down for August and now I'm looking forward to it even more! :)

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    1. Awesome! I am getting each one at a time from the library! And thank you! I will have to look into The Hobbit with Nicol Williamson! And yes, I think you'll enjoy The Magic of Ordinary Days, Victoria! I watched the Hallmark movie after I finished it and highly preferred the book over the movie (they changed too many things!).

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  2. Love these reviews, friend. I, too, love the Narnia series and all of the parallels to the Bible. So good.

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    1. Thanks, Gennean! I can't believe it's taken me this long to dive into the world of Narnia… but better late than never!

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Elle Alice