Into the Book

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    1. championship-fathering-carey-casey-into-the-book

      Championship Fathering. How to win at being a dad. Carey Casey’s latest book is a light-weight, heavy-hitting book that teaches the values behind excellent fathering, exhorting readers to leave behind a god-honoring legacy. Carey Casey is a practical, no-frills writer and speaker who has a simple mission: revitalize the family in America. He describes his book as a simple conversation between father and son, “Son, here’s what I want you to remember.” Throughout its one hundred and fifty pages, Casey outlines his vision of godly parenting and challenges fathers to step up into championship fathering. Continue reading »

    2. ender-in-exile

      Ender in Exile is a newer book from Orson Scott Card, author of the sci-fi classic Ender’s Game. Ender’s Game is some of the best sci-fi from the past thirty years: its masterful psychology and unexpected action are original and, in my opinion, enduring. I’ve reviewed the book twice before, and it still stands very near the top of my favorite sci-fi. I couldn’t resist a boxed set of Ender’s Game, Ender’s Shadow, and Ender in Exile — a new book. For the most part, though Exile has an interesting story, it lacks the enduring qualities of its older brother. Continue reading »

    3. alltheplacestogo

      Based on the concept of God “setting before us an open door” that is found in Revelation and coupled with a Dr. Seuss-esque style and appeal, John Ortberg’s latest book encourages people not to submit to the lie that we are meant to stay where we are, but that we are called to rise up and walk through God’s open doors. They may be big, they may be small – from a move across the country, to simply talking to a neighbor for the first time – but one thing is for certain: God has called everyone to an open door. And if we choose to walk through it… Oh! The places we’ll go! Continue reading »

    4. frosted windshields,
      and beautiful mercy:
      clear as the light
      as it makes glaciers
      dripping from the eaves
      shine.

      oh, the wonder
      oh, the joy

      midnight ice,
      and a palette of color
      to paint the woodwork with
      green and white
      salt and blue.

      oh, the wonder
      oh, the joy

      postcards.
      thin brown packages
      and loved eyes
      that fill up with
      light.

      green boughs,
      patient and life,
      pine scent, rain and dirt
      soaking. glory.

      out of the woodwork
      oh, the wonder
      oh, the joy

      fading words and rust.
      old notebooks.
      dimmed in quiet
      like candles.
      I want to make you smile
      because laughter
      is a kind of
      beautiful mercy

      a palette to paint with.

      oh, the wonder
      oh, the joy
      for the Painter has come
      and we are undone
      in a splash of color
      brighter than we imagined
      color surely dreamed

      oil paintings
      were gold on black
      shadows before the light
      like that Christmas light
      by Rembrandt.

      maybe,
      after all,
      this is just a winter
      of frozen seas and
      northern lights
      beyond the clouds stretched like
      cotton ground.

      oh, the wonder
      oh, the joy

      the sky is never fully
      black,
      without character;
      blue. and the stars are
      pinned, out-of-reach
      bright fistfuls like
      infant
      hands.

      oh, the wonder
      oh, the joy

      you are enough
      because infant hands
      can catch the stars
      so etch the frost
      in glass

      because the light
      the morning comes
      gold, a running creek
      and turns midnight ice
      –frost on windshields, woodwork–
      all to diamonds of painted glass

      oh, the wonder
      oh, the joy
      oh, the morning

    5. as-i-lay-dying-faulkner-william-itb

      William Faulkner has been on my to-read list for years. He pioneered the stream-of-consciousness technique of writing (along with Virginia Woolfe and James Joyce, also on my to-read lists — it’s a long list), and his books are “classics” with really fantastic-sounding titles. As I lay dying is thought by many to be his best work: he famously wrote it in six weeks and didn’t change a word of it after writing it. I dove in with high hopes and few expectations. Read on for more. Continue reading »

    6. It has long been debated among Christian authors whether one ought to point explicitly to God through one’s writing. Personally, I have trouble keeping a direct connection to God out of my writing. Not to say that The Hobbit is poorly constructed because it does not directly reference the gospel (or use pointed phrases and images that are the allegorical equivalent to an obvious wink, as in The Chronicles of Narnia). I do not claim to make a qualitative judgment of one over the other. I simply cannot produce a story that leaves any uncertainty about who holds the true power over this world, the facts of Heaven and Hell, and what He did to save the lowest and worst of His creatures. I do try, but they feel bland and undimensional until I give the gospel center stage. How can I allow my characters a happily ever after because they are good people, and ignore all of the evil little quirks that the best of us have to offer?

      It has a great deal to do with death in the story. Modern storytelling has so many anti-heros to offer. The friendly thief, the charming cavalier with his charitable moments, the teacher who crushes the souls of his students but has a reasonable excuse for his cruelty, the conflicted villain who turned to darkness because of daddy issues. Which do we allow to be good guys? If they die in a moment of uncharacteristic selflessness (and is it even selflessness if they die to protect the object of an obsession?), does that wipe away the lives they have ended, shattered, exploited, or violated? Do heroes go to literary Heaven because we find them amusing?

      There is a small sample of my thought process as I again turn every fairy tale, high fantasy, and superhero story into an unapologetic Father, Son, and Holy Ghost fanfiction. Still, never saw it as being too preachy. I never have a Captain Virtue battling the dark demon of Selfish. I do not explicitly point out that every character with an unrepentant swearing habit will suffer in the afterlife. I do not even take the classy approach and tell children not to shut themselves up in wardrobes. All is well in my subtle, evangelistic whispers. That is until my deeply complex characters were shown up by talking fish and lions.

      Do heroes go to literary Heaven because we find them amusing?

      I assigned my students a story analysis worksheet in which they would identify the theme of a story through various stages of conflict, the repeating phrases, what characters win and lose, and how the hero finds redemption. Children’s movies are handy examples here, because they are told honestly and not without an excess of shock and awe plot twists. The two that stood out in the process of grading were The Lion King and Finding Nemo.

      The Lion King communicates the dangers of irresponsibility through painted scenery and two arguments about a lack of food. Neither of them ever say that Scar is failing because he is irresponsible or too demanding. They simply say that he is not like Mufasa. When Simba learns the balance of forgiveness, self-worth, and responsibility with the help of some clouds and a mandrill who never states anything plainly, he returns home to protect his people and is immediately mistaken for Mufasa. The family resemblance is the primary reason, but the thematic reason is that he is emulating the same traits that made his father a great king. Only once does Nala use the word “responsibility” and it did not have a dramatic contextual framework to drive home the point. The actions of the film do that for us in such a way that we want to learn the lesson.

      Finding Nemo had moments where it was more obvious. “Just keep swimming” is a metaphor to those of us who are not fish, but it is rather easy to tell what it means. Still, we are not told to judge a book by its cover, but are shown when we meet sharks, an angler fish, a trench, and Squishy. The more carefree fish is one of few who can read, and not all clownfish are funny (but they should let loose a little). “Just keep swimming” becomes more than a cheerful little ditty when it is adopted by a school of fish caught in a net rather than forgetful Dory. The seagulls scream “Mine!” and have nothing to show for it, while sea turtles live to be more than one hundred and fifty because they go with the flow.

      I think nowadays, with so many people expecting a theme, we are more afraid of subtlety than we used to be. Look at how constantly Disney needed to mention that “you can’t marry a man you just met” with Frozen and have the themes explained and stated by the characters. Not that Frozen wasn’t good in its own right, but it did lose some of the charm of previous films because it stated everything so plainly. Think of how much people enjoy books such as Harry Potter because they can read through it again and again to find a new theme or a hidden wink to the dominant one. Think of how annoyingly predictable it was in The Hobbit films every time the shire music started playing and Biblo was obligated to state and restate the important lessons instead of grumbling about missing his tea kettle.

      We all work in words. For me, that often makes me tempted to state myself plainly in dialogue because my themes excite me. Surely you want to find all the subtle intricacies of my work. Oh, here. Let me just show them to you.

      A storyteller is in the unique position of having students who want to be taught if only you will whisper.

      The first draft of my novel if fraught with pitfalls of moral ideals rather than images of contrasting environments. Sometimes my subtlety goes over my readers’ heads, and that can be a difficult thing for a writer to hear. The thing is not to stop weaving a tapestry and turn to painting a billboard. The excitement of being a reader is getting the chance to hug Edmund when he says that Aslan has saved traitors before. It is in feeling the depth of Boromir’s words “Our people”. A great deal of it is in the excitement of being able to share your adventures through a book with others who have tread the same inky paths.

      Readers of fiction want to follow breadcrumbs rather than neon arrows that state the point. Readers of mysteries may prefer a more down-to-earth metaphor, but they still hate to have to culprit’s cover blown before all of the clues are collected. A storyteller is in the unique position of having students who want to be taught if only you will whisper. Both parties feel the loss when the enchanted wood is leveled to make way for a lecture hall. A writer is better served by his craft when he allows his lessons to come not from his own mouth, but desolate scrub lands or eager sea gulls.

      Kitra

      Kitra is a guest poster for ItB. You can find her on the web at her author page. She’s currently writing a fairy tale anthology and a fantasy novel. Good to have you on ItB! If you enjoyed the post, drop us a comment below to let us know:

    7. writing-life-annie-dillard

      I like to consider myself a writer. On the good days, that means I write, but mostly I fiddle around and tinker. I had hoped that Writing Life would be the silver bullet, all of a sudden I’d understand how to write, and the heavens would be opened and I’d sign six-figure book deals (this didn’t happen). Annie Dillard did a phenomenal job with Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and she’s one of my favorite writers, so I figured I could do little better for a book on writing. Continue reading »

    8. 9780679410034_p0_v1_s260x420

      I know from the beginning that nothing I say will do a good job of selling this book. Brothers Karamazov is a giant — seven hundred and fifty pages long, dozens of characters, and the last and greatest of Dostoevsky’s novels. Fyodor Dostoevsky is little-known in the West, and that’s a shame. He may be the best novelist we’ve ever had, and Brothers Karamazov is the culmination of his lifetime of philosophy and writing. Quite an unfounded statement, and you’ll probably expect me to prove it in the rest of the review. Like I said, I won’t be able to; but I’ll do my best. Continue reading »

    9. Foundation and Earth

      Throughout history, liberty has been something important to the human race. This can be easily proved by taking a look at the stories we tell. There are stage plays, such as Oedipus Rex, which state humans are completely at the mercy of fate. There is television, such as Season 4 of Angel, which argues that freedom, even at the cost of perfection, should be sought after. Surely, individual freedoms are not something to give up easily. Yet Golan Trevize readily does so before his story even starts. Why? That’s the very question he would like answered, and he sets off with two friends to find out. Continue reading »

    10. 18096_large

      Desire. How do we define it? Or more importantly, what do we do with it? Many people believe that in order for us to be sanctified, desire should be denied: killed and buried. Others believe if you work hard enough, conjure enough faith and read Psalm 37:4 till it frays at the edges that your desires will come to pass. John Eldredge deviates from both of these popular standpoints to pull apart the true questions of desire – what it is, where it’s from, and how we deal with it in this life as God wills for us.

      We all have heart desires, and they are often a very private and protected part of our souls. So to read a book on this topic where the author made his own heart very vulnerable was quite a personal experience. It opened up old wounds and reawakened the pain of lost hopes and unfulfilled dreams. However, it was a cleansing and healing type of pain. Though it was – in some ways – a heartrending read due to the topic’s intimate nature, it carried a sense of hope. And this is the crux of the entire book. The only way to live with desire, is to carry it with hope for eternity.

      Our only hope for rest from the incessant craving of our desire is in God, and us united to Him.

      The best thing about this book is how well Eldredge takes the ethereal out of eternity. We don’t have an empty hope in heaven, but the assurance that though our yearnings may not be met on this fallen earth, they are guaranteed to be met to the full when we enter that Divine presence of God.

      You see, Scripture tells us that God has ‘set eternity’ in our hearts. Where in our hearts? In our desires.

      We are still left to live out our days in a world where desires are not always met. So what do we do till then? The author goes on to explain just how we are to “live hungry” without killing our dreams, and yet also live free from the burden of trying to arrange our lives. Jesus after all, appealed to everyone’s basic innate desires whilst He was on earth – he promised living water to the thirsty, bread to the hungry, an open door to those who knock, and discovery to those who seek. No matter our desire, the answer is always the same: Jesus.

      I highly recommend this book for many reasons: a better understanding of the reality we live in, and the heaven we’re headed towards, knowing how to hold our dreams and desires in open hands, and a better focus on the One who loves us and truly cares about our hearts desires. Desire is a well formulated and thoughtful read.

      Jasmine

      Enjoyed the review? Pick up a copy yourself and support ItB:
      Desire — John Eldredge, $13.33

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    ABOUT ItB REVIEWS

    Into the Book was born out of a crazy idea of a blog that'd provide book reviews for teens. There aren't very many book review websites out there exposing awesome, high-quality Christian literature, and there are even fewer that target teenagers. Since 2009, we've been providing high-quality book reviews to the world through our blog. Into the Book has grown around reviews since then, but it remains our oldest project.