Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Narnia Code

by Michael Ward

Tyndale House Publishers

Millions of people have been captivated by C.S. Lewis's classic Chronicles of Narnia - but some questions have never been successfully answered. Why are there seven books? Why are only three of them obvious Biblical allegories? Does the series lack coherence, as Lewis's critics (and even some of his friends) claimed? Many have attempted to discover the organizing key - the "secret code" - of the series, but the structure of Narnia's symbolism has remained a mystery.
Until now.
In The Narnia Code, Michael Ward presents an astonishing literary discovery. Drawing on the whole range of Lewis's writings, Ward reveals the single subject that provides the link between all seven novels. He explains how Lewis structured the series, why he kept the code secret, and what it shows about his understanding of the universe and the Christian faith.

Admittedly, I have never read any of the Chronicles of Narnia. In fact, my only experience with C.S. Lewis' iconic tale has been through Disney's adaptation of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and Prince Caspian. Sadly, I have yet to see the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, though I hope to remedy that situation soon. However, that handicap did not prevent me from fully enjoying Ward's exegeses of Lewis' works.

When I first got this book, I was concerned that this was going to be nothing but a witch hunt. Something akin to finding that Lewis wasn't really modeling Aslan as the Christ figure and that the entire collection of novels was simply a ruse for Lewis' secret astrological machinations. I was delightfully wrong. Ward pulls from various works of C.S. Lewis to build a solid foundation for the uniting factor between all seven books: Lewis' day job. You see, C.S. Lewis was a professor at Oxford University for thirty years, and he spent nearly ten more years at Cambridge University. His principal field of academic interest was the literature of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. I won't give away the crux of the argument, but the uniting factor has to do with pre-Copernican astronomy. Seven planets. Seven novels. Mystery revealed!

Ward moves effortlessly through all seven of the Chronicles of Narnia, exposing certain attributes in each novel as he goes, to build a solid case for his argument. It is an argument that I think is absolutely spot on and it adds a wonderful dimension to Lewis' series. So much so that I actually plan on tackling the entire series as soon as I can and, with Ward's discoveries solidly in mind, I think it will create a deeper experience for me as well.

If you are a fan of the Chronicles of Narnia, I highly recommend you get this book. It will open your eyes to a whole new world within Lewis' work.

I received this book as a free review copy from Tyndale House Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review, therefore the views expressed in this review are obviously my own.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Bride Collector

By Ted DekKer

Center Street Publishers

A virtuoso killer is carving a path of death across the west, intent on killing only the most beautiful women, all in the name of love. He has claimed six victims and slipped through the FBI's fingers, each time leaving behind a handwritten note and a bridal veil.
Special agent Brad Raines has hunted the Bride Collector from crime scene to crime scene, but each time he finds himself one step behind. Desperate for help, Raines turns to the Center for Wellness and Intelligence, a private home for gifted, mentally ill residents. There he finds help in an unlikely group of four who eagerly agree to help him solve the case.
Raines is drawn to a young woman named Paradise who struggles with psychosis. As they grow closer, he begins to see the world through her eyes. Together, they enter the killer's deadly game and begin to close in. But like Paradise, the Bride Collector is supremely gifted and he has a distinct advantage: this is his game.
Now Paradise will be pushed beyond her limits. She will learn what it means to be beautiful and what it means to love, really love.

This is easily one of the best novels Ted DekKer has ever written. From the moment you crack the pages, you are immersed in the crime scene of a killer who has just performed his gruesome work: draining beautiful women of their blood while they are glued naked, all except for underwear and a veil, to a wall. Ted introduces Brad Raines, an FBI agent with a troubled past, as the main investigator in the Bride Collector murders. As the story moves on, we are introduced to a host of characters; Nikki, the leading forensic psychologist; Allison, the director of the Center for Wellness and Intelligence; Roudy, Paradise, Andrea, and Enrique (whom everyone called Casanova) -- all residents at CWI. DekKer weaves the story through intricate plot lines that bring the past to bear on Raines, Paradise, and the Bride Collector himself.

DekKer's innovative writing style is evident throughout this book that is destined to be a favorite of his numerous fans. The signature DekKer twist came a little earlier than I expected, and that was by design as he had a lot more to share with us and keep us guessing. There were some things that surprised me about this particular book, however: I saw some errors that slipped past DekKer. Minor things, things like a bullet count in a magazine and an error in logic as the Bride Collector snatched a victim from her home. They were very minimal, but for such an accomplished writer, they were very unusual to say the least.

DekKer attacks some very interesting themes in this book. Mental illness is something that we, as a society, seem to try and brush under the rug. The less we have to look at it, the better. In fact, DekKer brings this statistic to light: "State-by-state closure of state asylums and hospitals between 1960 and 1990 had flooded the streets with mentally ill patients who had no provider to take up their care or cause. Many, up to half by some estimates, wound up incarcerated." How many of these people just needed to have a little bit of actual care to make a positive rehabilitation effective in their lives? Most of the time, we treated the mentally ill with drugs or shock therapy. How many of them just needed redirection and focus of their feelings? This is the story that we find ourselves in. DekKer creates characters that are truly gifted -- even though society calls them crazy.

Through this book, DekKer creates a foundation for discussion on how we look at each other, and how we should look at ourselves. DekKer plumbs the depths of his character and forces us to take a look at ourselves. What really drives us? What really is the reason for why we do and don't do certain things? Who are we, really?

If you have never read a Ted DekKer book before, this is certainly an excellent book to start out with. If you have loved DekKer's writing for years you will NOT be disappointed with The Bride Collector. It's definitely a book I will be revisiting over and over again!

The Faith Of Ronald Reagan

by Mary Beth Brown

Thomas Nelson Publishing

With warmth and insight, this best-selling book by Mary Beth Brown delves into the spiritual journey of America's 40th President and offers profound stories of the provisions God made in Ronald Reagan's life - from first making it as an actor to eventually changing the face of politics and the world.
Supported by Ronald Reagan's own words and writings plus firsthand interviews with his family, friends, and co-workers, Brown weaves a magnificent story that inspires as it informs. Reagan's strong devotion to God will encourage believers to enter public service, allowing their faith to motivate their actions, and will draw focus to Christ's matchless sacrifice - forever near and dear to President Reagan's heart.

I was excited to receive this book because Reagan has always been somewhat of a hero to me. I grew up in the 1980's and I was able to witness one of the greatest President's in the history of the United States -- although I didn't realize it at the time. For me, growing up in the 80's was a time of invincibility for us as a nation. No one was better than the united States; an impression that was backed up by our victories in the Olympics in 1980 and 1984. I wasn't surprised when the United States Hockey team won against Russia in 1980 because -- well, that's what we did. We were America. We always won. We were the best. When I could understand the politics of the world, I understood that we had the greatest nation because we had the greatest leader in the world. That leader was Ronald Wilson Reagan.

This book is a terrific overview of Reagan's life, influences, and motivations leading him to the White House. Mary Beth Brown did a masterful job of going through the myriad source material to provide a solid foundation on which to prove the faith of Ronald Reagan. From his early years in church with his beloved mother Nelle, to his re-dedication to Christ after the assassination attempt on his life in 1981, Reagan lived a truly humble life that would boggle the minds of the politicians of today.

Although repetitive at times, The Faith Of Ronald Reagan is a must-have book for anyone who loved the man while in office, or anyone who wants to know what it truly takes to be a successful leader: humility, and a desire to serve - not *be* served.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”