Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Subtle Grace by Ellen Gable

Award-winning author Ellen Gable has produced a stunning stand-alone sequel to In Name Only (Full Quiver Publishing, 2009).  A Subtle Grace is a historical romance, set at the turn of the 20th century.  Gable spins a compelling story of the O’Donovan Family, a wealthy and morally upright, yet down-to-earth Catholic family.  The novel is engaging, with a moving plot, while also exploring sensitive issues of courtship, chastity, family secrets, healing, and forgiveness.

The O’Donovans encourage their 19-year-old daughter Kathleen to pursue a nursing career, while carefully guiding her through her first experience with courtship.  Kathleen feels drawn to Karl, the charming son of the local police chief, while also developing a working friendship with Luke, the new family physician.   Her older brother William feels called to become a priest, while her younger brother John struggles with maintaining his chastity.

Gable makes wonderful use of symbolism, through the artwork carefully selected for her cover, descriptive scenery, and mentions of classic literary works that give subtle hints at where the plot may be going.  Yet she escapes predictability, and the story kept me wanting to read more.  The end is both surprising and satisfying.

This book is appropriate for reading by older teens.  Content includes non-graphic descriptions of mild violence, birth, death, prostitution, and attempted rape, and vague hints at self-gratification.  These issues are explored honestly but gently, and open the doors for fruitful parent-child conversations on the Theology of the Body.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Movie Review: Heaven is for Real - PG

Coming to Theaters April 16, 2014 

Colton Burpo is the 4 year-old son of preacher Todd Burpo and his wife Sonya.  When Colton gets sick, his appendix bursts and although he doesn't die, he is given a vision of heaven.  Although people are skeptical, including Todd and Sonya, Colton describes seeing himself on the operating table and then meeting people such as his great-grandfather (as a child), and his miscarried unborn sister (who he was never told about), and these things cannot be explained away.   Todd must decide if, and how, to address Colton's experience to his congregation at Church.

I liked how  the story is told;  it is straight-forward and realistic with the appropriate moments of humor.  Greg Kinnear is particularly good as Todd Burpo, and  Connor Corum is amazing as Colton, especially being so young.

It is a simple yet important message that Colton conveys to everyone, a bit at a time:  everyone is young in heaven, no one wears glasses in heaven, and no one will hurt you in heaven.  The messages add up to this: that Heaven IS for real, Jesus loves us, and He is coming again.

I highly recommend Heaven is for Real....bring the whole family!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Movie Review: Draft Day - PG13

Sonny Weaver (Kevin Costner) is the General Manager of the Cleveland Browns, and today is Draft Day, when he has the opportunity to determine the future of football in Cleveland.   

The ups and downs of the deal-making activity behind the Draft were fascinating to watch. 
 There was also a lot of human interaction as Weaver had several people indicating which deals he should make, as well as the relationship between Weaver and his girlfriend, and with his mother.

Although I have my teams I root for,  I am not a huge sports enthusiast and to be honest, I enjoyed Draft Day a lot more than I expected to.

The acting was pretty good, especially Kevin Costner as Sonny Weaver and Frank Langella as Anthony Molina, the team owner.   Denis Leary was good and realistic as the Head Coach and Jennifer Garner was good as Sonny's co-worker and girlfriend, as was Ellen Burstyn as his mother.

An intriguing look at the behind-the-scenes deals that are part of the NFL draft process.
A  very entertaining movie.

The only content warning is some cursing, but it is pretty tame compared to that contained in most movies today.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Book Review: The Last Days of Jesus by Bill O'Reilly

Bill O'Reilly tells the story of Jesus' last days by providing important historical context surrounding  the Passion story we are all familiar with.   He also provides information on the political and social  environment of the time, which leads to a more complete understanding of those events.

I was particularly impressed with the illustrations and photos included....they really bring the reader closer to the story.

Although we've all read or seen the story of Jesus' passion, Bill's  description of the events of the original Holy Week really convey the intensity of Jesus' passion.  I am glad I a got a chance to read it during Lent.   I recommend that everyone read it, especially during Lent.

A very well-written and composed book.