Dec 31, 2015

December Book Reviews



The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair
C.S. Lewis

Eustace and Jill enter Narnia and are given a crucial task by Aslan: find and free the lost prince of Narnia, Prince Rillian. Many believed there was dark magic behind his disappearance ten years ago, but after many voyages to find him were fruitless, many lost hope. The two children are joined by a pessimistic (though endearing) Marsh-Wiggle (I picture him like a lanky scarecrow) as they enter the wastelands of giants and creatures of the Underland.

This is quite possibly my favorite Narnia book (it's a tie with The Magician's Nephew). I was constantly amazed at C.S. Lewis' storytelling abilities and creativity. I thought I knew the world of Narnia since this was my last Narnia book of the series, but Lewis weaved new lands outside of Narnia that blew me away. I love the ways he developed his characters in all of his Narnia books, but I particularly love Puddlegrum (the Marsh-Wiggle) in The Silver Chair. His hilariously negative view on life was a brilliant addition to the book. I also loved the theological backdrop of all of the Narnia books, and The Silver Chair did not disappoint on this front. There is a great philosophical and apologetic conversation between the the protagonists and the antagonist that reminded me of Mere Christianity.

My rating: 5/5 stars
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You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity
Francis and Lisa Chan 
Greg and I started this book in the summer while we were engaged and have read it on and off, mainly on our three-hour car rides to Houston since we felt the long chapters were best understood all in one sitting rather than reading small clumps at a time.  We loved the discussion questions at the end of each chapter and felt challenged to evaluate our marriage 'in light of eternity', as the Chans' subtitle notes.

You and Me Forever is not your average marriage book, because it doesn't really focus on marriage. A quote on the back cover  says: "The way to have a great marriage is not by focusing on marriage." Well, then, what should we focus on? The Chans believe Christians should focus on God first and foremost, placing Him preeminent above all else, even your spouse and children. Only then, when the greatest Love is in its proper place, can we love our families best. Using Scripture as well as wisdom from their experiences in their own marriage, Francis and Lisa discuss principles to have a marriage that satisfies the deepest part of the soul when God is the main focus. 

My rating: 5/5
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7 Men: And The Secret Of Their Greatness
Eric Metaxas
I knew I wanted to read this book after diving into 7 Women last month (see my review here). Metaxas' biographical style is powerful as he uncovers the true stories behind seven men who showed true heroism in their difficult circumstances. George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Jackie Robinson, Dietrich Bonhieffer, John Paul II, Chuck Colson. Each vastly different from one another: A president, an English abolitionist, an Scottish olympian turned missionary, a major league baseball player, a pastor and spy of Nazis, a pope, and a former Nixon associate who ended up behind bars.  Each of these historical figures experienced struggles and challenges that could have destroyed them, and yet they each showed resilience, boldness, and unwavering faith in God. 

I really liked this book and felt like Metaxas brought life into their stories by sharing not only their victories, but also their mistakes and weaknesses. He made them approachable as well as admirable, both important aspects of a biography. The short snippets of these seven men was enough to give an overall picture of why they were, but also left me wanting to know more. I look forward to watching movies about some of the men, including 42 ( about Jackie Robinson), Chariots of Fire (Eric Liddel), and Amazing Grace (William Wilberforce)

My review: 4.5/5
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The Alchemist: A Magical Fable About Following Your Dream
Paulo Coelho
The fable starts with a Spanish young shepherd boy who has a recurring dream of treasure lying near the Pyramids in Egypt. He meets a stranger who helps him decide to follow his dream to Egypt. Selling all that he has to pursue his dream of unfathomable treasure, he sails away from his homeland and lands in the boisterous markets of Tangiers, Morocco where he meets more people along his journey. Eventually, he travels across the Egyptian desert and meets an alchemist who changes everything. 

Hailed as a modern classic, selling 20 million copies and available in 42 different translations, The Alchemist is a beloved book for many. It came well-recommended by various bloggers, so I decided to give it a try. My verdict is that it is an overall good fable with a lot of twists and turns and definitely kept me captivated. But I was less than impressed with some of the lessons and morals in the book. Religious  and metaphysical ideas are confusingly mixed and I disagreed with the underlying morals of the story, including following your heart (our heart can lead us astray many times), listening to omens, and if we really want something bad enough then the whole universe will help you achieve your goal. I liked the story, filled with imagery of Egypt's deserts, Andalusian pastures, and colorful marketplaces of Tangiers, but was not a fan of the symbolism or lessons presented. 

My rating: 3.5/5
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The Inner Life
Thomas à Kempis
The Inner Life is a shortened version of The Imitation of Christ, with excerpts taken from the book to compile a devotional-like book that Kempis (a monk during the 1400s) used to encourage others towards humility, simplicity,  and obedience to God. I wrote about this book a few days ago for this month's edition of #COLLABOREADS. Read it here.

My rating: 4/5
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Created To Be His Help Meet: Discover How God Can Make Your Marriage Glorious
Debi Pearl
Debi Pearl discusses what she and her husband believe about a woman's role in marriage. She uses Scripture to explain submission, obedience, reverence, and respect of one's husband. She also uses lots of letters she's received and inputs them in corresponding chapters to the topic of the letter. She ends each chapter with discussion questions as well as topics to search the Bible for more clarity. 

Although there were some pretty good tidbits sprinkled throughout the book, overall I felt like it was filled with poor advice and Scripture was misinterpreted. Here are some major flaws I found in the book that bothered me:
  • This is a Christian marriage book, yet there is very little mention of the Holy Spirit, other than Pearl telling women not to correct their husband's misdeeds because they are trying to "be the Holy Spirit".  Instead, there was a lot of do this, don't do that, which seemed very legalistic. 
  • She blamed wives for many (almost all) of marital problems.  She was downright harsh, critical, sarcastic, and sometimes cruel towards wives. She used language to make fun of certain women that I thought was very unprofessional for a book, and even more so, inappropriate for a Christian (slut, wench, ugly hillbilly, dumb-cluck). 
  • I felt that the book was rooted in a lot of fear-based teachings. In essence, a lot of her advice sounded like this: Don't try to correct your husband or make him angry, or he will leave and you'll be a single mom living in a dirty apartment and your children will have to go to public school (the horror!). There was also a lot of shaming in the book. If a wife does not constantly cook homemade meals, homeschool her children, and refuse to work outside of the home, then she is "blaspheming God's Word". There's nothing wrong with doing those things, but she's going too far when she says that a mom is foolish and irresponsible if she works or lets her children go to public school. There is not a one-size-fits all to motherhood and marriage, Mrs. Pearl. Your ridicule, shaming, and sarcasm do not convince me. 
  • Her teachings make husbands like idols. She doesn't outrightly say this, but husbands are revered and to be obeyed even when they are in blatant sin. At one point, she even recommends staying with a verbally and physically abusive husband. There were only a few areas she excused as getting the authorities involved (abusing the children and if he makes the wife do something illegal or immoral). And she is against a woman learning the Bible on her own without her husband allays teaching her. I love learning with my husband. I respect and really admire his wisdom, but he is not my mediator between me and God, and that is how Debi makes it sound.
  • She discourages women meeting with women because it is "unnatural" for women to be discussing emotions with one another and can lead to "intimacy" (in other words, you'll turn into a lesbian". I agree that women shouldn't be getting together to gab about the faults of their husbands, but I believe that it is healthy and beneficial to have women who you can study the Bible, have fellowship, be encouraged by, pray with, and have fun with. 
  • She repeatedly proclaims that a wife's ultimate purpose is to be a help meet for her husband. Yes, I believe God wants wives to respect and honor their husbands and to help them as a "help meet". And I believe that now that I am married, this is part of my purpose.  But my ultimate purpose is not in whether I am a wife; my purpose and identity are rooted in Jesus. This is not mentioned at all, and can gravely confuse wives about their worth if they think their only purpose is how good of a wife they are. Not to mention single gals! What about them, Mrs. Pearl? They have great purpose and they have worth even if they are not married! 
My conclusion is that I cannot recommend this book at all. There are far too many dangerous ideas and teachings in the book that far outweigh the few positive snippets of truth. Instead of this book, I would direct women who want a book on Biblical womanhood (in every season rather than just as a wife), to a book I strongly recommend:  Elisabeth Elliot's Let Me Be A Woman.

My rating: 1.5  out of 5 stars
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This concludes my monthly reviews for 2015 books. I read a total of 48 books this year, more than doubling the amount I read last year! In a few days, I will share my favorite books of 2015.

3 comments:

  1. Love that you reviewed help meet as I started reading it Based on the recommendation of a friend – the friend warned me I would have to sift through a lot of erroneous advice in order to find the pearls she had to offer. I think the biggest thing I'm getting from the book is a perspective that is not often talked about In today's culture. I do agree with some of her points but I agree with you that she seems to blame and shame women and not talk about how you need to set and enforce good boundaries or the fact that your husband needs to respect you (obviously you need to respect him too)

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    1. Hi Rachel!!! Yeah, I was not a fan of a lot of the book, but I cannot deny that there were some pearls in there. Your friend said it well: you gotta sift through a lot of bad advice to get to it, and I don't think it's really worth all the sifting. And I agree with you, there was little or no talk about respect for the woman and accountability for the husband. And I didn't like that she was opposed to a wife approaching a husband about something she disagrees with. I think that a husband and wife should be able to respectfully work through conflict and approach each other when they need to discuss something, or else it is really easy to grow resentful, bitter, and just feel unheard and unknown by a husband who isn't aware of the inner battle going on.

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Elle Alice