Monthly Archives: July 2012

Ally

Ally’s #32: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

 

A Sunday afternoon just isn’t a Sunday afternoon without a fun book to curl up with. A girlfriend brought this to me at church and assured me that if I loved the Narnia series, I would be delighted with L’Engle’s science-fiction/fantasy stories. I’m so grateful for friends who enjoy reading!

This book started out commonly enough, with the author introducing us to the children and (temporarily) single parent of the Murray household. The family was known for its intelligence, but the eldest daughter (Margaret) and youngest boy (Charles Wallace) were thought to be apples fallen very far from the tree of genius possessed by both their parents. Mr. and Mrs. Murray are scientists…scientists of such caliber that Mr. Murray heads up Top Secret government missions exploring such scientific theory as time-bending. One such mission has kept him away from home for more than a year without so much as a letter to comfort his family in his absence.

Even still, the family hopes beyond hope, and little Charles, Margaret, and a new friend, Calvin, have the opportunity to aid in Mr. Murray’s rescue. Guided by the mysterious instruction of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which (former stars and angelic beings), the children are shown tangibly that which their mother and father had studied for so long–the tesseract. It is the fifth dimension that allows one to bend time and travel faster than the speed of light, to galaxies far beyond the Milky Way.

To help the children understand the enemy that holds their father and their world in its shadow, the three Misses take them to a planet where they can see and asses the darkness that lingers between worlds. The children recognize it as pure evil, and become even more determined to save their father from it. Little Charles has a gift of understanding unlike his sister, and Calvin has the gift of communication that sets him apart from the Murray children. Calvin also has a special interest in Margaret, lovingly protecting her every step of the way. Margaret, sadly, has the “gift” of her faults to rely on. Her stubbornness, her impatience, and her quick temper are predicted to bring her through the journey alive.

Without giving away the whole story, I’ll say that what the children encounter is frightening. It’s not violence, it’s not death, and it’s not a big, scary monster waiting for them…it’s an insidious, penetrating wall of lies that threatens to consume them, heart, mind, and body. It beckons to them with promises of freedom from all responsibility. Indeed, the decision to enter into this evil is the “last difficult decision” they ever need to make, because once they’ve been consumed, the darkness thinks for them and dictates their every thought, move, and breath. They would become less than a shadow of their former selves.

This book was an easy read, and falls into the category of books that I’d love to read to my children some day. While the Narnia books symbolically offer theological truths, A Wrinkle In Time has direct quotations from the Bible that offer God’s truth to young readers. I’m very curious to see where the author takes this series, and where the Murray family goes from here.

mark

Mark’s #24 – A Mind For God by James Emery White (2006)

In August, we’ll be discussing this book during our monthly Apologia discussion group at The Harbor.  In preparation, I read this short book ahead of time, and was greatly encouraged in doing so.  A couple of years ago, Ron read and reviewed this book on this website (his review is better and more in-depth)

Like other books we’ve read and discussed for Apologia, this book raises an alarm at the lack of critical thinking in our culture in general and in the church specifically.  The author puts forth a short, but effective treatise for the Christian to recapture the life of the mind and live out a Christian worldview for the glory of God.  In addition, he encourages believers to engage their minds as they engage the culture at large in meaningful ways as Christians point the culture to Christ the King.  To do this, we are encouraged to enter the great conversation of the ages through consistent and critical reading.  He challenges the reader to be intentional about what they read and when they read.

If you’re in Okinawa, we have some copies available at The Harbor ($10) if you would like to join us for our discussion of this book on August 29th.

Drew

Drew’s #13 — Stolen Souls by Stuart Neville

Stolen Souls is the third installment following GoB and focuses entierely on Jack Lennon.  The style is the same and GoB and it’s sequal, Collusion, and many of the same charicters reappear or are mentioned.  However, while you had to read GoB to understand the sequal, S. Souls can be read independantly, but there will be references to the 1st two throughout that won’t sink in if this is where you jump into the series.  But beware, if the 1st two were violent and dark, this one is… let’s say a little more disturbing.

 

The 3rd installment finds Jack Lennon (from the 2nd book) trying to ballance his dangerous job with raising his daughter.  Meanwhile, when a Lithuanian sex-trafficer is killed by a kidnapped girl in her escape, his “ill-tempered” brother vows to stop at nothing to find her.  But, while fleeing her persuers the girl winds up in the hands of a very disturbed serial killer.  In between all this, Jack must find the girl and rescue her before her original captors due AND work to keep his own daughter safe in the ballance.

 

The third installment runs off some of the same themes of corruption and mob violence, but deals directly with human trafficing.  And the author spares no details; all the felt emotion and intensity of the others is as strong as ever in this installment, but beware–parts of this story are hard to read.  I’ve read stories detailing cruel and horrible scenes (Kiss the Girls, the Hannible Lector series…) but there are scenes in this book, felt all the more in the way the author tells the story, that are the stuff of horror movies.  And I do mean double checking the locks, leave and extra light on, grown men sleeping with 9 iron type horror movies.   As with the 2nd book, there are no “loose ends” so look for many of the same characters and if you thought something needed to be cleared up in the last one you’ll get an eyefull here.  Note this takes an honest look at the sex-trade world and while it deals with the topic well, it is definately not for everyone.  Fair warning, like I said of the others, if you read the 2nd, it will be hard not to read the 3rd and if you read the 3rd you will find yourself, like me, waiting for the 4th.

Drew

Drew’s #12 — Collusion by Stuart Neville

 

In the sequal to The Ghosts of Belfast (GoB), Stuart Neville brings in as a main charachter a man only mentioned in the 1st book–Jack Lennon, a Belfast cop and father of the little girl featured in GoB.  This time Jerry Fagan, former IRA hitman must come out of hiding and team up with Lennon to protect Jack’s daughter and her mother from the fall-out left behind from Fagen’s actions in GoB.  Most notably, the wrath of a big mab boss seeking revenge.  The story introduces Jack Lennon and several others and shows us, very, um, vividly how the author deals with loose ends.  There really are no 1 time characters in this series and if they don’t get theirs in whichever book in the series your on, just wait.

 

Now, this books unfolds with the writers same style and flair for detail and mystery, but (as I said in the GoB reivew) it is not the same story.  Here the author really shows the desperate, almost helpless situation, created when mob influence becomes “just the way it is”.  And do note, it is a more violent story in many ways.

 

You can stop at GoB but note, if you go on with this book, it will be hard not to read the third.

Drew

Drew’s #11 — The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville

The best way I can explain this book is to have one  imagine a picture of a hard, sad, desperate scene that is beautiful.  It’s worth noting that while this book is the first in a series of 3 so far, the afore mentioned quality is unique to this story.  The other 2 (reviews to come) are written in the same style, contain the same detailed imagry, and are tell violent and sometimes tragic stories, but this one stands out.  That said, I spoke too early in a prior review about my number 1 book this year; if you only read one (aside from the Bible or a text book–I strongly encourage either of those before one loses himself in fiction), I strongly reccommend The Ghosts of Belfast.

 

The story follows an ex-IRA hitman who is tormented by the ghosts of the people he killed in service to the northern Irish Republicans in the 1970′s and 80′s.  His guilt drives him to “atone” for each of his ghosts and, in doing so, catches the attention of his old associates who are now trying to reinvent themselves as politicians and more dignified representatives of their “noble” cause.  When these factions take steps to keep the protagonist “in-line”, they find that the situation escalates beyond their control.  It should be noted that that the hero is a very good ex-hitman.  The turmoil draws the attention of the police (both good and dirty agents), high level politicians and a young woman with her daughter–who find themselves under the protection of tormented g-man.

 

But this is not simply an shoot-em-up tale of vengence and gangsters, its a very pointed shot at the nature of so-called freedom-fighters and pokes (very overtly, at times) at the caustic role that spin and biased media can play in blateant terrorism.  This theme is more centered in the second book in the series, but they are clear and disturbing themes.

 

But what makes this book so unforgetable is the way the author weaves all these elements together.  Most notable is the way he uses the betails to paint the bigger picture.  For instance, it’s not neccessary to tell you simeply that someone is sad if I detail the look in their eyes, the turn of their mouth, the tracks of their tears…  You FEEL the weight of the emotion or circumstance in the way the author weaves the plot.  What’s also intriguing is the way the author plays out the finer threads of the story as the plot progresses.  A man early on may seem like only a background figure, but as the story progresses he may be tied in seamlessly to a bigget piece of the puzzle.  Here, sometimes almost casually, the auther may widen a sidenote into a gaping hole crucial to the story and then fill it seamlessly with what was once an inconsequential detail that’s been teased and developed just enough to make you wonder how you didn’t see it the whole time.

 

An absolute must read!  Though maybe not for everyone.  It is a dark story.

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