Friday, April 29, 2011

Book Review: The Lily Trilogy

Novels can be dangerous; if they are compelling, they threaten to suck up all of a busy mother's time away from her children. For half a week, I have been capitalizing on the distraction of my family or stealing needed sleep from myself, in order to plunge headlong into the world of Lily in Sherry Boas' books The Lily Trilogy. Some novels tempt you to want to live in a fantasy world, to keep the characters you have come to know and love alive.

I wondered, then, why I was becoming so engrossed with a book about an acerbic old lady alone in a nursing home within the iron grip of the final stages of Parkinson's? It was the way author Sherry Boas described her adopted daughter Lily. Lily is a young woman with Down syndrome whom Bev had reluctantly agreed to raise when her sister Jen died of cancer at 39. I had never read a novel with a character with Down syndrome before, and Mrs. Boas write about Lily so vividly and with such appreciation of her childlike joy and limitless love, that I was immediately drawn in.
But the compelling novels of the Lily Trilogy: Until Lily, Wherever Lily Goes, and Life Entwined with Lily had something more attracting me than merely an affinity for those with Down syndrome, something deeper. I immersed myself into the world of a lonely old lady whose life was coming to an end, and then the lives of her adopted niece Terry and grandniece Beth in the subsequent books. I lost myself not because of exotic locations (Washington State) or romantic heroes. I was enthralled by such exquisitely detailed characters made me care deeply about what happened to them, whether Bev would die lonely and bitter, whether Terry would give up on her marriage to her handsome Jake who never picked up a tool around the house, whether Beth could open her broken heart and learn from Lily, that nothing matters in life more than love. I had to know what happened to them, and read these three books at a breathless pace, finding my heart wrapped around the characters. Especially the lovable, stubborn Lily who never gives up on someone she loves.

The characters in the Lily Trilogy are as real as your own family, and as flawed. Yet, there is a theme in these novels, a theme of redemption which starts faintly at first, as a thirty-something Lily walks her frail aunt down the nursing home corridors to patiently feed her meatloaf and mashed potatoes even though she has long ago lost her sense of taste, Lily gives the love Bev meted out to her in tiny pinches, in unmeasured generosity Bev knows she doesn't deserve. But Lily's prodigious love changes Bev, and heals her. Not by taking away from the suffering of losing control of her limbs to the Parkinson's, but helping her to see beyond this life, to an eternal love mirrored in the gentle touch of the soft hands of a young woman whom the world rejects.

The power of selfishness to destroy lives versus the power of self-giving love to restore hope is the theme of this amazing story set in the future. Strange as it was to see dates like 2066 written as dates in the past of the novel's characters, this is no science fiction book. It is a story about real people who resemble people around us, whose flaws hurt and whose love heals us, and the hope that turns despair into love though the power of pure intentions.

The Lily Trilogy are the most Catholic of books in that that glory of the fullness of truth well lived and the devastating consequences of the Culture of Death are juxtaposed in stunning relief. The story tells it all, with profound relationships and moving symbolism, and enough realistic detail to remind the reader of a similar drama in their own lives.

I hugged my nine year old daughter with Down syndrome each time I reluctantly put the books down, and saw heretofore unappreciated qualities in my family. The Lily Trilogy filled my heart with gratitude for my family, and made me determined to be the catalyst of God's healing in my family.

Give it to your mother for Mother's Day and let a little of Lily’s light intertwine in your own life.

These are the novels I want my daughters losing themselves in this summer. I want to sit outside with cups of tea in the summer twilight and talk about Lily, Beth, Pablo and Terry. Then, I want to pick up the books and visit them again. These books, after drawing me into their world, make me reflect on my own with appreciation and want to become the transformed Terry who sees the nobility in her husband she missed in 20 years as he moved across the country to care for her sister Lily. To make my home radiate with the joy of their renewed love. To take my precious nine year old daughter Christina in my arms and thank her for the joy she has brought to us, and not to fear what her adulthood will bring. Whether or not she lives independently, she, like Lily will be a blessing to whoever shares her life.

How many times can it be said that a novel makes you a more grateful, loving person who reenters life from the world of the novel to embrace the challenges which sent you running into the pages of the book in the first place?
Recommended for ages 14 and up, no objective content.

Books may be purchased online at

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Book Review: "Worst Case" by James Patterson

NYPD Detective Mike Bennett teams up with FBI Agent Emily Parker to find out who is kidnapping and killing the children of wealthy New Yorkers.  Mike also

Very suspenseful and captivating; as they say in the ads, 'unputdownable'.  

I like the way that character development is integrated with the story.

As usual. Patterson gives us a unique, quirky villain.

Content warnings include some language, and a couple of violent scenes.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Ten Commandments Winners; new prize

The winners of the Easter giveaway of the two boxed set of DVD's of The Ten Commandments were; Fr Joseph Tito of Connecticut, and Ron Oliver of California. Congratulations to both of them!
For those who love Charlton Heston, and didn't win, here is another opportunity.
 I have three DVD sets of Charlton Heston reading parts of the King James Bible in the Holy Land. The four DVDs include; Genesis, The Story of Moses, Jesus of Nazareth, and The Passion.

Leave a comment below if you want to be one of the three lucky winners.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Book Review: "Run For Your Life" by James Patterson

NYPD Detective Mike Bennett is pursuing a new killer who calls himself the Teacher, because he is supposedly teaching society a lesson on how to treat people by killing those who are on his his list for being offensive in some way.  Although Mike is trying to deal with his 10 kids, who all have the flu at once, he must stay focused on the Teacher, because he only has hours to stop his deadly plan.

Patterson expertly integrates his character development with his story.  I especially enjoy the uniqueness and quirkiness of his villains.

There is plenty of action. suspense, and violence, but Mike's family keeps us grounded through it all.  Unfortunately, the teacher poses a threat to them directly, as well.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Book Review: "Double Cross" by James Patterson

Detective Alex Cross is back, and this time he faces two serial killers: DCAK (DC Audience Killer) and Alex's arch nemesis Kyle Craig, who recently escaped from the maximum security prison Alex had put him in four years ago  Of course, both have targeted Alex.   Alex is a therapist, but now he is back on the force and working with his friend John Sampson and his girlfriend Bree, who is also a  homicide detective,. to stop DCAK's killing spree and find out how/if it is connected to Kyle Craig,   Alex's team becomes both the hunters and the hunted.  And DCAK is closer than Alex realizes.

The plot is pretty engaging, but the best part of James Patterson's stories, whether Alex Cross or Michael Bennett, is the villains.  The overall character development is typically pretty strong, but the villains are so off the wall they make for intriguing and entertaining reading.

Content warnings include language, 1 bed scene, and of course the murders that are committed.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Movie Review: Truth Be Told

 "Truth Be Told"  airs Saturday April 16 on Fox 8:00 p.m. EST.

Marriage counselor Annie Morgan has an opportunity for her own talk show, but she  feels that it would improve her chances if she were married.  She convinces her friend Mark, a widower with two children, to pose as her husband during a weekend with her potential boss.   Their efforts to keep up the charade have some comedic results, but things turn more serious as they determine when/how the truth be told.

The character development is very good, and adds to the story.  We really get to know the characters and how they feel, and why they feel how they do.  The scenery is beautiful also.

This was an entertaining family-oriented movie.  I will definitely be showing it to my nephews. 
KUDO's to Walmart and P&G for sponsoring it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Movie Review: Hanna - PG13

Hanna is a 16 year-old girl raised and trained in isolation by her father, an ex-CIA agent.  Eventually, she chooses to leave their home in the woods and when she does, it doesn't take long for some disreputable agents to start hunting her.  

I found it fascinating to watch the  irony of Hanna learning about things in the modern world (she freaks out a bit when watching TV), yet being so adept at survival.   She does find friends along the way, and she does have a specific mission.  

Naturally, most of the character development focuses on Hanna, her father, and Marissa, the woman hunting her.

There was plenty of action, and I especially admired how it was integrated into the story.  It was not gratuitous.

Content warnings include some language, and violence.  There was some blood in a couple scenes, but not as much gore.

A very captivating and entertaining movie.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Book Review: "A Willing Heart"

A Willing Heart: How to Serve When You Think You Can't
by Marci Alborghetti
Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2011

What does it mean to practice Christian service? Do we really love Jesus if we ignore His frequent exhortation to service? How do we open ourselves to the God-given grace that makes service possible? These are the questions Marci Alborghetti sets out to answer in “A Willing Heart: How to Serve When You Think You Can’t.”

Jesus instructs us to “love our enemies.” How can we possibly love someone we don’t even like? Alborghetti states that “we must think of love as an act of will, an action we take and not a feeling that overwhelms us – a verb and not a noun. . . The best way to actually love is through service.” Alborghetti goes on to explore the many forms that service can take and ways to make it a natural part of life.

Service can (and should) be a family activity. Children who see their parents engaging in service will soon incorporate it into their own lives. Prayer is an important form of service in itself. An easy way to begin incorporating service into one’s life is to choose one person in need to pray for each day. Prayer also “strengthens and prepares us for active service.”

We need to allow God to choose who we serve. While we may have inclinations about where we would like to serve, “we must follow where God leads us when it comes to service, even when we are uncertain about the results or have no expectation.” God will both stretch our comfort zones as well as teach us valuable lessons. “No one is off-limits. We are not allowed to reject anyone.”

Alborghetti also discusses how to cope when we are tired and worn out by service. She acknowledges the need to rest from time to time, but emphasizes that God will provide the grace we need to persevere.

“A Willing Heart” is full of inspiration and practical advice. It will help readers progress in their ability and willingness to serve.

Reviewed by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Movie Review: Magdalena: Through Her Eyes

Magdalena was like other stories I've seen on the life of Jesus.  In fact, Brian Deacon, who starred as Jesus in the Jesus movie, portrays Him here as well.  Magdalena is relating the story of Jesus' life and ministry to a group of children who want to learn about Him.

Of course, this includes some of the more well-known bible stories such as the multiplication of the fish and loaves of bread, raising people from the dead, and healing people, including when He cast demons out of Mary Magdalene.  Aside from the passion scenes, the scene that touched me most was the woman at the well.

For those of you who found the passion scenes in "Passion of the Christ" hard to watch, don't be concerned;  although she tells the story of the passion, the scenes are not nearly as graphic as in that movie.

There are two versions of Magdalena on the DVD: an 82 minute full version and a 60 minute condensed version.  I watched the full version, and I am so glad I got to review it during Lent.
I recommend Magdalena, especially during the Lent and Easter seasons.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Music Review: "I Will Praise You" by Rebecca St. James

"I Will Praise You" is available April 5.

One of the things I liked best about "I Will Praise You" is that some of the songs focused on worshiping God, and  some focused on the graces that God gives us.  It was pretty well balanced in that regard.  Some impressions of specific songs:

The title song "I Will Praise You" begins the album with a great tempo and fast beat.

The best song is "The Kindness of our God".  "You never Let Go"  is based on the 23rd psalm. "You Still Amaze Me" is a remake of "Amazing Grace".  "In a Moment" contains a lot of Allelu...., so you may want to listen to that one after Lent :) .

The two that best showcase Rebecca's beautiful voice are "Almighty God"" and "The Kindness of our God".

An excellent album!