Wednesday, June 30, 2010

'Twilight' of the West – Films with Demonic Influence?

Wednesday’s release of "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" promises to be a blockbuster success, if last week’s premiere in Los Angeles, where hundreds of fans camped out for days in advance order to get a glimpse, is any indication. The film’s massive popularity comes as no surprise to Canadian novelist and author Michael O’Brien, who analyzes the Twilight series in his latest book. O'Brien argues convincingly that the vampire novel series dangerously twists evil into good and may even be demonically influenced.

Commenting today on the film’s release, O’Brien told LifeSiteNews, “Unprecedented cultural phenomena such as the Twilight series, Harry Potter and Phillip Pullman’s Dark Materials series represent a sliding scale of familiarity with evil. It is time for the people of the West to awaken to the fact that we are in the midst of a cultural revolution that is reshaping our understanding of reality itself in powerful ways. It succeeds in this by rewarding us with copious sensual pleasures stimulating the imagination in all the wrong directions.”

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

When Toys Are Valuable: Toy Story 3 Affirms Pro-Life Message of Value in Life

One theme (of many) running through Toy Story 3, currently the top movie at the box office, is the conflict over "toy nature," so to speak -- the nature, purpose and value of the toy characters.

The toys' owner is all grown up and leaving for college, and they face an existential crisis. Without a child to play with them, what are they supposed to do? Are they unwanted? Will they be thrown out?

Archbishop Fulton Sheen; the Movie Trailer

Monday, June 28, 2010

Movie Review: Knight and Day - PG13

Tom Cruise plays Roy Miller.  it is soon apparent that he is a spy, but what is not as apparent is what his interest in June Havens (Diaz) is. As you see in the previews, he meets her at the airport.  He is carrying a new perpetual source of energy, which the bad guys are after.  The CIA claims he is a rogue agent.. 

Two elements of a good mystery are not knowing who the real bad guy is, and not knowing who you can trust. Both are done very well here.

There is almost non-stop action,  and many comedic moments. 
Both Cruise and Diaz are at their very best.

Content warnings:  Minimal; aside from one single use of the F word, there is no other objectionable language.  There is no nudity and no sex scenes.

I am seeing reports that the opening box office was disappointing, but I disagree.  It is one of the most entertaining movies I've seen this year.

An excellent movie:  SEE IT!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

News Release: Nine Days That Changed the World

Most people know that President Ronald Reagan put an end to the Cold War by bankrupting the Soviet Union. But most people do not know that the spark that led to the collapse of communism ignited 12 years earlier, when Pope John Paul II paid his first visit to his native Poland after ascending to the papacy.

Now a new documentary hosted by Newt and Callista Gingrich, Nine Days that Changed the World, recounts, in stirring detail, that visit and its profound effects.

Sixteen months after the Pope’s visit, Poles formed a union called Solidarity, allowing them to organize free from state control. Ultimately a chain of events unfolded that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and Mikhail Gorbachev’s acquiescence to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Nine Days tells this story. The Gingriches narrate the 94-minute film, but they played a greater role, helping produce the documentary through their company, Gingrich Productions, and providing concepts, introductions, and backing.
Find out all about it in this article about Nine Days that Changed the World, the new documentary hosted by Newt and Callista Gringrich, and their take on the historic lessons from the chain of events that followed Pope John Paul II’s 1979 visit to Poland when the country was under Soviet rule.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Review of “The Templars: Knights of Christ” by Regine Pernoud

The notoriety of the Templars has greatly increased in the current century, due to controversy-stirring portrayals by The History Channel and novelists such as Dan Brown (“The DaVinci Code”). Ignatius Press has done the public a great service by publishing this excellent book by Regine Pernoud, translated by Henry Taylor . An expert in medieval history, Pernoud has set out to set the record straight on the purpose and activities of the Templar Knights.

The order of the Knights of the Temple of Solomon was founded in 1119 by Hugh of Payns, a knight from Champagne in eastern France. A group of monk-knights took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and banded together to protect pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem from Muslim bandits. In 1128 the council at Troyes gave them official recognition and organization under the “Latin Rule”.

Pernoud quotes the Latin Rule in detailing the very strict rules that were followed in the daily life of the Templars, and the way novitiates were received into the order. She goes into their architecture in great detail. The great battles fought by the Templars, and the many men who gave their lives in carrying out their missions, are documented in the chapter ”The Templar Epic”.

The author explains how the Templars acted as the first international bankers, using their treasuries in various locations as credit for Kings and Queens. Their power and control of these great treasuries incited the jealousy of the French crown; Pernoud makes the case that monarchial greed might have been the prime cause of their ultimate downfall.

The Templars were accused of heresy and crimes of indecency; the French inquisitors tortured many into making confessions, and burned at the stake those who maintained their innocence. Most of the Templars were killed and their reputation was sullied for all future generations.

Pernoud makes a powerful argument for the innocence of the Templars, through great detail in documentation and explanations of how mistranslations and misunderstandings were carried through the centuries. The reader is left sharing in the author’s astonishment at the accusations that have been left standing against a group of Christians who gave up everything to defend the faithful.

This book was sent to me as part of the Tiber Review Program by Aquinas and More in exchange for my honest review. For ordering information please click here.

Review of “Sex au Naturel: What it is and Why it’s Good for your Marriage” by Patrick Coffin

Leave it to a well-informed Catholic to be able to write for 134 pages about sex without being “sexy”. Despite the romantic cover, this book is actually a rather technical and philosophical treatise explaining the true meaning and reasoning behind Humanae Vitae and other church documents pertaining to human sexuality and marriage.

“Sex au Naturel: What it is and Why it’s Good for your Marriage” by Patrick Coffin was written primarily for practicing Catholics but all Christians may benefit from it. Whether the reader believes whole-heartedly in the teachings of the Catholic Church regarding sexuality, dissents, or is confused either about what the catechism teaches or how he or she feels about it, this book offers rational clarification. One may disagree at the end, but with a better understanding of many different facets of the issues.

Coffin first explains the basics of the 1968 papal encyclical “Humanae Vitae” (“On the Regulation of Human Life”) and the world’s reaction to it, in the context of the 1960’s, the introduction of the Pill and the Sexual Revolution, and the Second Vatican Council. Other little known encyclicals are referenced.

The author explains the mistaken view of conscience that powers the movement of dissent against the Church’s sexual ethics. Then he delves into the scriptural basis for these teachings and the logic of natural law that coincides with the same. He explains how Protestant churches originally reached the same conclusions and why they diverged from them.

What does the marital act have to do with the Trinity? This section is mind-blowing in its comparisons of pro-creative sex with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The argument for “Sex au Naturel” from here on gets more and more powerful.

Proceed from there to the explanation of how contraception contradicts natural law. Coffin also goes into how exactly contraception is different, both physically and spiritually, from natural family planning, and how couples who have been sterilized can get a “second chance” in following Catholic teaching in their marriage. He also explains how reproductive technologies go against the grain of Christian teaching when marital love is taken out of procreation.

The appendix includes many informational references on Natural Family Planning, Theology of the Body, Catholic Teaching on Sex and Marriage, Educational Organizations, Sexual Addiction, and Marriage Counseling and Support.

This book is excellent reading for anyone who wants to be better informed about Catholic teaching on sex and marriage. It would be a great complement to marriage preparation classes or marriage counseling sessions.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. I was sent the book for free in exchange for my honest review. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Sex au Naturel .

Friday, June 18, 2010

"When Catholics are Attacked All Christians Should React "

Scott Nehring, our token Protestant (his label, not mine, folks!) here at Catholic Media Review, has a clip on his blog, Good News Film Reviews explaining why he believes Christians of all denominations should stand with the Catholic Church when it is unfairly criticized or attacked by those in the entertainment industry.

There is a segment in his book titled “Attack on Catholics: Just Because I Don’t Follow You Doesn’t Mean I Won’t Back You Up” where he delivers the same message. Scott told me, "It ends w/ the line 'When filmmakers throw cinematic eggs at the Vatican, they are intended to splatter on us all.'"

We all remember Scott's book, right? The one I read the galley of and can't wait to get a copy of? You Are What You See: Watching Movies Through a Christian Lens

Luckily, Scott is kindly not going to make me break my book fast experiment* as I will be getting a review copy. As he emailed:
Literally, I am sending one to the Vatican, then one to the Texas Chainsaw.
You read that right. A copy of his book will be residing at the Vatican. So you know you'd better read it, just in case the Pope twitters about it.

And, yes, you read that right. He calls me the Texas Chainsaw. Perhaps because of our frequent sparring over movies, most notably Memento.

*No books bought since the New Year.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Book Review: "Criminal Minds: Finishing School" by Max Allan Collins

"Criminal Minds" is one of my favorite shows;  I enjoy the the uniqueness of the characters, and the diversity, and the sophistication, of the episode plots.   I was eager to see how both the characters and the plots translated to book format.   

The bodies of 3 young women are found in Bemidji, Minnesota.  They had disappeared from Georgia about 10 years ago.   In the course of the investigation,  the bodies of 3 young women are found in Georgia.  They had also been missing about 10 years ago...from Minnesota!

The BAU team must find out who is doing this, because it looks like they are starting again!

The story kept me riveted, even during scenes that may not be as active,  because I know that all the pieces will come together to solve the case.  The BAU profilers are the best at what they do.  The story translated better than the characters did.  It was harder to appreciate the characters' individual qualities and personalities in written form than in the TV show.

I was a bit surprised at the language.  There was quite a bit more cursing than I'm used to in the show.

A good story that could have been told better.

Two days to Narnia

On Thursday, at 3:00 AM EST, I will publish the trailer of the latest Narnia film, "Voyage of the Dawn Treader" here on Catholic Media Review.
This site has been chosen to be one of the first in the world to reveal the trailer, which will be on TV and as a trailer before "Toy Story 3" on Friday June 18.
Don't miss the chance to be the first one to see the magnificent trailer, with an added surprise at the end. . .

Fr Eutenuer's book on Exorcism is out

Last year, I heard Fr Euteneuer describe the Satanic nature of abortion and those involved in it, with power and absolute conviction, and since then, I have been anxiously awaiting this book about how Satan has never been more powerful in all of human history. This is a book which every Catholic should read, it will remove the scales from our eyes and allow us to see who is running the world, who is it that society has allowed to become our master. Satan has dropped his disguises and is running this world openly. If only we would realize this, we could organize our efforts to defeat him.

Satan is normally ‘hidden’ … but nowadays he is walking tall in powerful structures of sin like abortion, pornography, sex slavery, rapacious greed and terrorism,” writes pro-life leader, Catholic priest and exorcist Reverend Thomas J. Euteneuer in his new book, Exorcism and the Church Militant.
Fr Euteneuer has decades of experience with both the abortion industry and exorcism, and draws upon this for this ground-breaking work.
Read the entire article at Life Site News.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Movie Review: The A-Team - PG13

Hannibal. Face, BA and Murdock are back. 

As far as the characters, I think these 4, especially Liam Neeson (Hannibal) and "Rampage" Jackson (BA) did better in their roles than the original cast. They brought the necessary qualities to the characters to make them engaging.

As with the series, The team is set-up and framed for something they didn't do, and are on the run while trying to find and trap the real bad guys.  (I was able to figure out the bad guy this time :)  There wasn't a great deal of dialogue, it was very often one-liners.

As far as the plot and story, it was very comparable to what you would have seen in the series.  The story was told in a very fast-paced style, which I thought made it more enjoyable.  There was lots of action, and some violence.

Although there was violence, there wasn't much gore.  The language wasn't very bad, although there was some cursing.  It is probably fine for teenagers, but you might want to take smaller children to something else.

VERY enjoyable.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Lost Art of True Beauty by Leslie Ludy

The subtitle of the book is The Set-Apart Girl’s Guide to Feminine Grace, which implies the spiritual aspect of beauty. The two meanings in the Bible for “sanctify” are “to set apart” or “to make holy”. Ludy strongly urges her readers to find true beauty as they separate from the values of the world and draw closer to Christ. The thoughts I’ve woven together below are taken from the author’s own words.

She rightly points out that we live in a culture that lifts up a standard of beauty impossible to achieve in real life. “We are constantly assaulted by a world that insists we aren’t alluring enough – we need to change our bodies, our clothes, and our personality in order to be more appealing.”(p. 26)
Read the entire review at Worthwhile Books.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Book Review: "Catherine of Siena: A Passionate Life"

Catherine of Siena: A Passionate Life
By Don Brophy
New York: Bluebridge, 2010

Don Brophy’s new biography of St. Catherine of Siena is subtitled “A Passionate Life.” This is truly an appropriate description of how Catherine lived. The Latin root of “passion” means to suffer or submit. In our modern day English, it implies great intensity of feeling. Catherine lived all these definitions. She submitted her life totally to Christ; she suffered intensely, both through her self-inflicted sacrifices and penances as well as through the disapproval of others; and she always acted with great intensity. She lived only thirty-three years, but in that short period of time, she challenged the expected roles of a woman of her era, changed the course of history, and left a legacy remembered through the ages via her letters, prayers, and book, “The Dialogue” also known as “The Treatise on Divine Providence” (all of which were dictated to scribes). Canonized in 1461, she was named a Doctor of the Church in 1970, one of the first two women to receive this honor.

In his “Author’s Note,” Brophy states that “the main focus of this biography is Catherine’s ‘public’ life rather than her private, interior life that pious biographies have focused on in the past. To accomplish that, it has to describe the political and social world she moved in.” He acknowledges, however, that it is impossible to fully separate her public role from her spiritual core. “Her motivation for engaging in events of her day flowed out of her conviction that she was called to the task by God. There is simply no way to appreciate her life or guage her place in history without exploring that conviction.” Brophy succeeds in his task. While those who are searching for a full discussion of her spirituality would be better served elsewhere, those who are looking for a discussion and exploration of her role in political and Church events of her day will be well served by “Catherine of Siena: A Passionate Life.”

It is evident that Brophy did copious amounts of research in order to compile this biography. He provides very informative notes on the text. He also displays a solid understanding of the Italian world of the time period, as well as a thorough grasp of Catherine’s spirituality. The Catherine presented here is immensely human, a task not always achieved in biographies of saints. She is no less holy, but she is a woman who struggles, and with God’s help, perseveres. “Catherine of Siena: A Passionate Life” is a worthy addition to the body of literature about this remarkable woman.

Reviewed by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

Coming Attraction: The Evangelist

I was intrigued by the trailer for this interesting movie which wasn't what I expected at all. Check it out. Here is the essence of the email I was sent which brought it to my attention.
THE EVANGELIST, a small film by young Christians who have a very fresh and unique worldview. The film chronicles the challenges a young boy faces as he goes on a religious crusade in his town, full of bitter atheists who refuse to give him a chance.

Check out their website. They will be releasing the film on the site for a limited time starting July 6.

Also take a look at their blog to see the filmmaker's great writings about religion and film.

You can see the trailer here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Coming soon. . .Trailer for Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Those of you who are The Chronicles of Narnia fans,  we know that you have been anxioulsy awaiting the release of the next film of the series; "Voyage of the Dawn Treader" which is coming to the big screen next December.

The rest of the world will catch the first glimpse of the film as the trailer is aired before Toy Story III when it is released on June 18.

However, Catholic Media Review has Hollywood contacts who have scored us a copy of the trailer. . 
Stay tuned, and be the first of your friends to see the trailer of the next film inCS Lewis' beloved series.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Movie Review: Prince of Persia - PG13

King Sharaman has two sons, Garsiv and Tus. He adopts Dastan as a boy because he is impressed when Dastan helps another boy in trouble. The real story begins 15 years later, when Dastan leads a successful invasion of a holy city, based on false information. It is at that point he acquires a special dagger that has the ability to turn back time, giving its owner great power.  Soon after, Dastan is framed for killing his father with a poisoned cloak.  His brother Tus becomes King.
Dastan must then flee until he can clear his name.  He is pursued by both of  his brothers and their army.  He is accompanied by Princess Tamina, from who tells him of the powers of the dagger, and how to use it. He is 'aided' by Sheik Amar, who threatens to turn him in for the reward, but actually helps him. Amar is somewhat comical, and one of the most entertaining scenes is the ostrich races he runs.

There was plenty of action, and the special effects were dazzling. As you might expect, the two standout actors were Ben Kingsley as Uncle Nizam and Alfred Molina as Sheik Amar. 

No content warnings.  There were no sex scenes, and no objectional language.

An excellent movie.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Reviewing The "R" Father: "R" We Thinking About What We Pray?

If you love ... you will perceive the divine mystery in things, and once perceived, you will begin to comprehend it ceaselessly.
Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Brothers Karamazov
Mark Hart obviously lives his life and faith according to Dostoevsky's insight above. The "R" Father showcases Hart's musings on the Our Father (Lord's Prayer) broken down into 14 segments, all based around a single word beginning with R such as response, revelation, relationship, and reunion. A young husband and father, Hart shares the way that daily living helps remind and reinforce the lessons of the Our Father, as well as opening a more detailed look into theology as a further extension of those musings.

I truly enjoyed this book. Even when I thought that I knew where Hart was headed, he still managed to pull out a few reminders and observations that would stick with me into my own daily life. For instance, the excerpt below is one that came back to me repeatedly in the weeks after I read it and influenced my actions when interacting with other people.
"Who Art"

... the minute we returned home [from a family vacation], I had to head to the airport for a work trip. My three-year-old daughter entered the room as I was pulling out my bag. "Are you leaving, Daddy?" she asked, with tears welling up in her eyes.

I was puzzled at her question, to the point of being almost indignant. Had I not just spent the better portion of five days discussing the intricate ins and outs of various Disney princess story lines? Had I not just packed up every stuffed animal in a six-foot-square radius of our home, transported them across state lines, and followed detailed instructions for their arrangement each night in the hotel bed? Had I not just stopped at every McDonald's restaurant on a ten-hour trip home, one that should have taken less than seven? How could she give me those eyes? What more could she possibly want from me? Was she so blind not to see that Daddy now had to leave and actually make money to pay for the vacation we had just enjoyed? Was she just blind to life's realities?

No, she wasn't. Like Bartimaeus before me, I was the blind one (Mark 10:46).

She had enjoyed my constant and consistent fatherly presence in the previous five days. With the idea of her daddy leaving now, there was a deep void, a true emptiness. ...

... while "who art" reminds us of God's constant presence, it also reveals his constant response to his children--to our wants, our needs, and our hearts. God is a Father who is always watching, not as a disciplinarian waiting for any misstep, but as the proud father at every sporting event, the front row with video camera in hand, refusing to miss a moment of his child's precious life. In our childishness we often want our Father present only when it suits us. How often we desire a Father to respond to our needs without desiring his response to our daily life. We want the loan when things are bad, but don't make the phone call when things are good. ...

God, our Father, is love (1 John 4:8). We teach it. We proclaim it. Do we believe it? How often do we really stop to ponder all that those three words contain? Nothing on earth proclaims love the way being present to someone does. My vacation experience drove home this fact to me: Love is spelled t-i-m-e.
The reflection continues into deeper issues related to this which were also influential on me during that same time period. Definitely recommended.

You can read another excerpt at The Word Among Us website. The book I read was a review copy from The Word Among Us.

Reviewing Major Pettigrew's Last Stand: A Story of Surprising Depth

"Women always ask," she said. "My aunt Noreen is having migraine attacks from all the scandalized ladies dropping by to ask her about me."

"Nasty things, migraines," said the Major.

"Men never ask, but you can see they've made up a whole story about me and George in their heads." She turned away and placed her fingers where the rain ran sideways along the glass of her window. The Major's first impulse was to claim he never had given it a thought, but she was very observant. He wondered what truthful comment he could make.

"I'm not going to answer for men, or women, in general," he said after a moment. "But in my own case, I believe there is a great deal too much mutual confession going on today, as if sharing one's problems somehow makes them go away. All it really does, of course, is increase the number of people who have to worry about a particular issue." He paused while he negotiated a particularly tricky, right-hand turn across the busy road and into the shortcut of a narrow back lane. "Personally, I have never sought to burden other people with my life history and I have no intention of meddling in theirs," he added.

"But you're making judgments about people all the time--and if you don't know the whole story ..."

"My dear young woman, we are complete strangers, are we not?" he said. "Of course we will make shallow and quite possibly erroneous judgments about each other. I'm sure, for example, that you already have me pegged as an old git too, do you not?" She said nothing and he thought he detected a guilty smirk.

"But we have no right to demand more of each other, do we?" he continued. "I mean, I'm sure your life is very complicated, but I'm equally sure that I have no incentive to give it any thought and you have no right to demand it of me."

"I think everyone has the right to be shown respect," she said.

"Ah well, there you go." He shook his head. "Young people are always demanding respect instead of trying to earn it. In my day, respect was something you strove for. Something to be given, not taken."

"You know, you should be an old git," she said with a faint smile, "but for some reason I like you."
This is one of the relatively few straight forward commentaries about modern behavior found in this delightful book. However, it still managed to surprise me with that last truthful observation about earning respect. Keep in mind that the major here is speaking of the respecting of an individual versus the respecting of people in general. That is an important distinction and one which the major himself must be reminded of during the telling of this wonderful story. Adding another layer of irony is the fact that the Major's policy has failed entirely in his own son, who we love to loathe.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is a wonderful romance late in life by two people. As well it has a wonderful look at the tensions of old-style English village life versus modernization, the older generation versus the newer and generally callower generation, and various other issues of the times in which we live. All of it is handled gently and with humor.
"I wonder if it might be a little spicy for the main course," said Grace, cupping her hand around her mouth as if making a small megaphone. "What do you think major?"

"Anyone who doesn't find this delicious is a fool," said the Major. He nodded his head fiercely at Mrs. Rasool and Mrs. Ali. "However. . . ." He was not sure how to express his firm conviction that the golf club crowd would throw a fit if served a rice-based main course instead of a hearty slab of congealing meat. Mrs. Rasool raised an eyebrow at him.

"However, it is perhaps not foolproof, so to speak?" she asked. The Major could only smile in vague apology.

"I understand perfectly," said Mrs. Rasool. She waved her hand and a waiter hurried into the kitchen. The band stopped abruptly as if the wave included them. They followed the waiter out of the room.

"It's certainly a very interesting flavor," said Grace. "We don't want to be difficult."

"Of course not," said Mrs. Rasool. "I'm sure you will approve of our more popular alternative." The waiter returned at a run with a silver slaver that held a perfectly shaped individual Yorkshire pudding containing a fragrant slice of pinkish beef. It sat on a pool of burgundy gravy and was accompanied by a dollop of cumin-scented yellow potatoes and a lettuce leaf holding slice of tomato, red onion, and star fruit. A wisp of steam rose from the beef as they contemplated it in astonished silence.

"It's quite perfect," breathed Grace. "Are the potatoes spicy?" The elder Mr. Rasool muttered something to his son. Mrs. Rassol gave a sharp laugh that was almost a hiss.

"Not at all. I will give you picture to take back with you," she said. "I think we have agreed on the chicken skewers, samosas, and chicken wings as passed hors d'oeuvres, and then the beef, and I suggest trifle for dessert."

"Trifle?" said the Major. He had been hoping for some samples of dessert.

"One of the more agreeable traditions that you left us," said Mrs. Rasool. "We spice ours with tamarind jam."

"Roast beef and trifle," said Grace in a daze of food and punch. "And all authentically Mughal, you say?"

"Of course," said Mrs. Rasool. "Everyone will be happy to dine like the Emperor Shah Jehan and no one will find it too spicy."
Helen Simenson tells a story of Major Pettigrew's path to true love, sacrifice, and redemption as it can only be told in a small, unspoiled English village. That is to say, she tells it using everyday people and problems, none of which are completely good or bad. In fact, the least fleshed out character in the novel, who commits an act of villainy, is allowed to deliver a few sentences which do not alleviate our dislike of the character or their actions, but likewise lend us understanding of their own history and motive.

For Steven Riddle's comprehensive review, go here.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Book Review: "Innocent" by Scott Turow

Warning: Possible Spoiler

This is the sequel to "Presumed Innocent".
About 20 years after Tommy Molto unsuccessfully prosecuted Rusty Sabitch for the murder of Carolyn Polhemus, they again face off in court.  Now, Rusty is now the chief judge for the 3rd Appellate Court, with an eye on the State Supreme Court.  Tommy is now the acting Prosecuting Attorney. Tommy is married and has a son, and is a better man than before..  He seems to have learned from his mistakes.  Rusty, on the other hand, is having an affair again.

Rusty's wife Barbara is found dead, seemingly of natural causes.  But why did Rusty wait 24 hours to call anyone?    Tommy's assistant, Jim Brand, is particularly determined to nail Sabitch, Most of the case revolves around the fact that Barbara took phenelzine, and ate food that was known to interact with it. 

I really liked the unique style with which Turow told the story.   The first half of the book tells of events both  prior to, and after  Barbara's death, moving easily between the two time frames, and telling the story  from different characters' perspectives.  The second half of the book focuses on the trial and its aftermath.  Throughout the trial, Rusty is supported by his son Nat

Although I very much enjoyed the story, I was disappointed with the ending, which I found to be somewhat anti-climactic.   I also found it highly implausible that they'd make it through the entire trial without Nat finding out who his father had had an affair with.

Content warning: There is some offensive language throughout the story, and sometimes there is more information than necessary regarding Rusty's affair.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Book Review: "Our Jewish Roots"

Our Jewish Roots: A Catholic Woman's Guide to Fulfillment Today by Connecting with her Past

by Cheryl Dickow
BezalelBooks, 2010

Many Catholic women are ignorant of the Jewish roots of our faith and the rich tradition that we share with our Jewish brothers and sisters. Cheryl Dickow seeks to correct that with "Our Jewish Roots: A Catholic Woman's Guide to Fulfillment Today by Connecting with her Past." The book is divided into two parts. The first focuses on "Traditions, Teachings, and Truths Rooted in the Jewish Faith." This section makes for fascinating reading. Topics such as marriage vows, baptismal waters, the role of angels, the importance of good deeds, the power of prayerful intercession, mysticism, and holy feasts are explored from the perspective of their Jewish beginnings. These pages help one realize just how much we do share with our Jewish brethren and how much we Catholics owe to their traditions.

The second portion of the book centers on "Role Models for Today's Catholic Women." This is where Dickow truly shines. She begins by discussing a woman's worth, not our worth as the world often chooses to measure it, but our worth in the eyes of God. "From Eve to Sarah to Deborah to Mary, Scripture assures every woman who has ever lived that her life is both special and valuable. Her life has a purpose and a meaning set by God and necessary to His plan for humankind. Each and every one of us came here with an extraordinary set of gifts and a particular set of circumstances. Our births were the intentional acts of an affectionate, devoted God whose love for us is truly immeasurable. We are as unique and varied as stars in the sky. Our gifts and talents are limitless - even if they sometimes feel non-existent or without value." Dickow defines true feminism as support of a woman's vocation, whatever God may have called that particular woman to be. She then goes on to explore the lives of several women from Scripture to illustrate that there is a role model for each one of us.

These women come to life through Dickow's words and reflections. One will rediscover well-known women such as Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel, and will perhaps become acquainted for the first time with less famous, but no less important, women such as Lot's wife, Zipporah, Shiphrah and Puah. Each of these women that Dickow profiles has something to teach us, if we only take the time to reflect on their stories.

"Our Jewish Roots" has much to offer to modern Catholic women struggling with where they fit in God's big plan. By knowing our history, we can better understand ourselves, our own faith, and the dignity which God has bestowed on women throughout the ages.

Reviewed by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Book Review: Why God Matters

Why God Matters and How to Recognize Him in Daily Life
by Deacon Steven Lumbert & Karina Lumbert Fabian
Tribute Books, 2010

"Why God Matters and How to Recognize Him in Daily Life" is designed for those just beginning to take their faith life more seriously. Deacon Steven Lumbert and his daughter Karina Lumbert Fabian share stories and lessons learned from their own spiritual journeys in the hope of helping others. Deacon Lumbert tells of his own conversion experience. After years of attending Mass with his Catholic wife and children, he was in his 40s when he finally decided to take the big step of becoming Catholic himself. That road would eventually lead him to becoming a deacon. Today, he is the associate director of the Deacon Formation Program for his diocese. Karina speaks from both the perspective of daughter and mother. They both speak of the importance of seeing Christianity as a way of life. They offer this quote from 1 Corinthians 10:31 as words to live by: "So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God."

Perhaps the most important lesson of this small book is that God is always working in people's lives, calling them to a deeper relationship with Him. This holds true in Deacon Lambert's journey. Karina's husband is also a convert. She shares the need to have faith in this when guiding our children's faith lives. Her oldest son doesn't believe. While trusting "that faith comes in its own time," she "respect[s] his right to make his own decision, but insist[s] that he respect the family by accompanying us to Mass and participating in the customs of our faith. In the meantime, I pray for him, especially the Anima Christi, and I make small sacrifices on his behalf. When I feel despair creep in on me, I remember his father and his grandfather, and I trust in God that he will eventually find his way. . . There is a time for apologetics. There is a time for education. Always, however, is the time for example." That is something for all of us to remember.

"Why God Matters" is a perfect dose of encouragement for those seeking a deeper relationship with God. Deacon Lumbert and Karina Fabian offer practical and helpful advice and inspiration.

Reviewed by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur