Tag Archives: Narnia

2016 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 5

The final 6! I read a lot of amazing books in 2016. 

Mind of the Maker by Dorothy L. Sayers

In this intriguing book, Sayers tackles the “analogy” of God as Creator and takes a deeper look at what it means for humans, who create, to be made in the image of God. This was a good but very challenging read. I didn’t always understand the definitions or logic and often had to re-read passages. However, like with Chesterton, I came away with a greater understanding and desire to know more. Sayers’s approach to the Trinity is intriguing and it offers an interesting glimpse into the creative process. Overall, this book is definitely worth the effort. 

The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico 

At 48 pages, this is another charming children’s book that really stuck out this year. The Snow Goose is the story of a hunchbacked painter and a young girl who bond over a wounded snow goose. This book is surprisingly adult (not in content as much as depth) yet beautiful enough to read to children. Gorgeous art and an emotionally real plot. Though somewhat predictable, it is also sweet and noble.

For the Love of My Brothers: Unforgettable Stories from God’s Ambassador to the Suffering Church by Brother Andrew

For the Love of My Brothers picks up where God’s Smuggler ends and represents the expanded vision of Open Doors Ministry during/after the fall of communism. Though “dated” in some regards (I was age 3 and 5 respectively when this book was written and then updated), the book doesn’t feel obsolete. It was a great reminder of all God accomplished and continues to accomplish in the lives of believers across the world. Though I read a couple Brother Andrew books this year, I particularly appreciated this one because of my 2015 visit to Eastern Europe. 

Letters to Children by C.S. Lewis

Lewis received thousands of letters from children and this volume contains some of his answers. I found it immensely satisfying. Lewis’s letters are encouraging, instructive, and occasionally just about mundane things like the weather. There is a delightful amount about Narnia in this book. I love how often Lewis encourages children to write their own Narnia stories. He also answers lots of questions about the Narnia books (yay! More Narnia! Fangirls rejoice!) Even outside of Narnia, though, I was really surprised and impressed by how intelligently Lewis wrote to children. He peppers his letters with references to other books and texts. Truly worth reading and owning. 

The Revenge of Conscience: Politics and the Fall of Man by J. Budziszewski

An interesting  and challenging analysis of politics and Christianity. Budziszewski has two particularly intriguing chapters critiquing liberal and conservative viewpoints. However, the entire book is worth chewing over. I love his strong, pro-life arguments. Readable and worth the time, even if there are moments it feels “dated” and occasionally dense. One of those books I really enjoyed but I don’t expect most people to. 

Beauvallet by Georgette Heyer

It is very possible that I have lost all perspective and objectivity when it comes to Heyer. Even books I previously gave 3 stars I have been tempted to up to 5. I really, really love her writing and characters. While Beauvallet probably isn’t in my top 5 Heyer Reads, it is still pretty high up there. This is a grand, romantic, swashbuckling adventure set in the Elizabethan era. “Mad Nicholas” Beauvallet is a privateer and favorite of Queen Elizabeth who falls for a Spanish lady and determines to woo her, even if it means traveling through Spain where there is a price on his head. I was charmed to find the stereotypical Heyer characters out of their usual Regency setting and I liked the cameos from Sir Francis Drake, Queen Elizabeth, and Mary Stewart. Not perfect but certainly charming enough to win my heart.

 

 


A Re-rereview of The Blue Sword

Today I finished re-reading The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley…again. Not only have I read this particular book countless times, I have reviewed on this blog before. However, once again I find myself disagreeing with an earlier opinion. I loved the story in high school, found it disappointing in college, and now love it again. I love because in it I see the younger me, but also because I see the current me too. I see the themes, ideas, and characters that fed me. It is like the Inkheart quote:

“Isn’t it odd how much fatter a book gets when you’ve read it several times?…As if something were left between the pages every time you read it. Feelings, thoughts, sounds, smells…and then, when you look at the book again many years later, you find yourself there, too, a slightly younger self, slightly different, as if the book had preserved you like a pressed flower…both strange and familiar.”

The Blue Sword is an old friend. We had a bit of a separation, but now we are good again. In fact, better. Looking at the story now, I realize what an impact it had on me. It wasn’t that I wanted to visit Damar, like I would Narnia. It was rather that I wanted to be Hari, in a way I never felt about Susan or Lucy. I emotionally connected with her. I understood her boredom and I wanted to escape it like she did. I wanted to go on a quest. I wanted to discover secret guardians and magical abilities. I wanted to be a brilliant horsewoman and swordsman and save the day. I loved Hari for her confusion and frustration and emotions. I loved her for her courage. I wanted to face the world with the same determination as Hari; I too wanted to be part of something greater.

In 2011, I raved about the book but claimed it was only a 4 star. In 2013, I semi-criticized my own contentment and basically declared myself too grown up for the story. Now, I find myself a little older and (I hope) a little wiser and I relate more to C.S. Lewis’s words to his goddaughter, “Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” For me in 2016, this is beyond a 5 star read. This is a cherished memory.

I am always drawn to authors who claim Robin McKinley as a favorite author. It is like we share a secret understanding about fantasy and what makes it good. This book is at a level with my other favorite fantasy novels, like Plain Kate, The Silver Bowl Series (the first two, at any rate), The Queen’s Thief Series and The Chronicles of Prydain. However, it tops them because it comes with a special connection from growing up. I treasure The Blue Sword because of that, and I hope I won’t lose thta knowledge again.


The Map (or lack thereof) in My Mind

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. I was so glad they kept this line from the book. It's one of my favorites ever.:

A few weeks ago I left from Delafield to drop my cousin off  in New Berlin. I got on the highway and drove for quite a while without really processing my surroundings. In the back of my mind, I realized there was a lot more construction than when I picked her up in the morning. However, I sort of pushed the idea away and it took a while for the suggestion to become a full-fledged thought. By that point, I had driven past the last exit for Oconomowoc and was stuck on I-94 East almost till Johnson Creek. I was headed in the exact opposite direction. Altogether, my detour took about 40 minutes just to get back to the starting point of Delafield. 

I wish I could say this was an unusual day, but if I am being honest, the unusual day is when I figure out where I am before I miss the last exit. 

Or at least, that was me for most of my driving experience. Lately, I’ve noticed I am getting much better at recognizing where I am and how to get to the location I want to be. It only took over a year of canvassing almost every street in the greater Waukesha area for me to gain a sense of direction! For Waukesha, that is. Don’t ask me to leave!

Street names still elude me. I can follow my nose but I’m always amazed to look up and realize I’ve been on Capital or Sunset. When I try to visualize in my mind how everything fits together, my head hurts. It is like something barely out of reach. I try to grasp it…and give up. My brain does not work in maps!

Thank goodness for the GPS! If you are shaking your head and wondering if your kid should ever ride in the car with me again, I can tell you that if I had been paying attention, I would have realized I was driving past Oconomowoc. I recognized the area. I’m not that bad with direction! Of course, the paying attention thing kind of concerns me. I feel my only excuse is Lucy’s line. There were other things on my mind!


Literary Fernweh

Literary – having to do with books

Fernweh – a longing for distant places

The feeling hits me at least once a year, usually around February. One minute I will be happily going about my daily life, minding my own business, and the next thing I know nothing is right with the world. I have a burning, deep, desperate desire….to go to Narnia. I don’t mean I suddenly want to re-read the Narnia books or that I have the urge to put myself through Fox’s rendition of Voyage of the Dawn Treader again. I mean I seriously, physically want to be in Narnia. I want to touch the cold metal of the lamp-post and see the breathtaking view of Cair Paravel as the sun rises in the East. I want to eat apples as I walk among the ruins of old buildings and I want to converse with chivalrous, talking mice. I want to see the Stone Table and sail on the Dawn Treader.  I want to follow the footsteps of King Peter, Queen Susan, King Edmund, and Queen Lucy…or better yet, join them for dinner at the Beaver’s dam. I want to go to Narnia.

Now, obviously I have never been to Narnia. No one but perhaps Mr. Lewis ever has. Yet I still feel the burning desire to go. That is the mystery and the beauty and the oddity of fernweh.  I can long for a place I have never been. I can yearn to roam the moors in Scotland or walk among the crowds of India having never visited either place. I can wish for the road. However, the essence and emotion of fernweh is not limited to actual, physical places. It is a desire deep inside for someplace. That someplace may manifest in an actual location, but more often fernweh is for a place never seen or known. One of the most powerful yet overlooked aspects of fernweh is the feeling a reader has for places in books. I’m calling it literary fernweh.

Narnia, Hogwarts, Pemberley. There is something about each word that evokes longing in a bookworm’s heart. I want to go to….

The Shire.

I dream of….

221b Baker Street

If only I could be at….

You fill it in.

Books bind us together. They become common ground and unite new friends like old acquaintances. A good story isn’t contained between the covers of a book. It becomes part of the essence and dreams of the reader. And so as readers, we long for those places. With a burning desire for far off places we dream of worlds that will only exist in the imagination. It is those kind of worlds that can be the most powerful. They are what draws us to fairy tales. What leads us to reread favorite stories. They push us to dream and imagine and never let go of that childlike faith that there is meaning in life. Such worlds teach us to believe in wonder. We were not created to be robots. We were designed to respond. We taste that response when we long for worlds that have never been and never physically will be and yet are so real. We visit the childhood homes of favored authors and flock to the movies even though it won’t be as good as the book because  they are tangible parts of that world. And so we form nerdoms and become fangirls and spend hours learning Sarati, Tengwar, and Cirth (the Elvish languages of Tolkien).

And in our hearts we promise, like Peter Pan, to never, ever grow up.

Why is it that “growing up” seems to mean putting such longing behind us? Why is it childish to dream of Narnia? What makes bills more noble than Sherwood Forest? Reality so much greater than Rivendale? Why must maturity mean the disappearance of talking dolls and Winnie the Pooh? It is acceptable to love Jane Austen if you are a middle age woman hunting for Mr. Darcy. It is perhaps appropriate to read a great deal if you work in a library. Otherwise, the world of fairy tales and fantasy must give way to “real life”. We’re to seek the American dream, #MoneySuccessGoodLife. Or, perhaps, take the British outlook and pessimistically declare that you’ve got to make the best of a bad situation and shuffle through it. It being life of course.

Yet somewhere, amidst networking and polished resumes and shaking our heads over how bad the government is getting, there is a tiny voice that says… ‘Forget this bother, I’m going to Narnia!’

That is a small part of literary fernweh.

We recognize there has to be something more.