Sunday, February 27, 2011

Congratulations to Colin Firth and "The KIng's Speech"

No I haven't seen it but I have been wanting to, and surely will have the opportunity to do so now.
Its good to see classy films with an underlying message beat trendy films, heavy-handed liberal message bearers or those with multiple explosions and no plot.
It was worth staying up late.
Well done, congrats to our friends across the pond, I have loved your films since Merchant Ivory made
"A Room with a View' which fought with my other favorite in the year I lived in London, "The Mission".

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Book Review: "The Power of the Sacraments"

The Power of the Sacraments
by Sr. Briege McKenna, O.S.C.
Cincinnati, OH: Servant Books, 2010

The first thing one notices about "The Power of the Sacraments" by Sr. Briege McKenna is its size. This is a small book - a mere 64 pages. Does it actually have something new and valuable to say about the sacraments? Absolutely.

Sr. McKenna emphasizes how the sacraments bring us "supernatural life, the life of grace." She discusses each of the seven sacraments - their purpose and how they can work in our lives. All of this one can read in other books, however.

It was only after reading through several of the chapters that I began to understand the meaning of the title: "The Power of the Sacraments." "Power" is the word to be emphasized. For each sacrament, Sr. McKenna shares the story of a miracle related to it. These are truly amazing, heart-wrenching stories that illustrate just what Jesus can accomplish when His sacraments pour out their grace.

"The Power of the Sacraments" is a reminder of the great gift we have been given in the sacraments. We should all open ourselves to their power in our lives.

Reviewed by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Review of "Song of Renewal" by Emily Sue Harvey

Emily Sue Harvey published her first novel, Song of Renewal, in 2009. Apparently she thought she could do better, because she went on to add 35,000 words for the paperback version, which will be released in February 2011.

Song of Renewal is the character-driven story of a nuclear family, each member described in great depth with third-person omniscient narration. Liza, a prima ballerina, gives up dancing to be the devoted stay-at-home mother of her little ballerina. Garrison, a gifted painter, puts his artistic dream to the side so he can better support his family through his commercial art business.

At age 16, Angel is struggling with living up to her mother’s dream for her to be a dancer, while she wants to be a doctor. She is in love with the boy next door, and one fateful, rainy night they go off to a show. Troy is killed and Angel is left in a coma.

The couple is left to pick up the pieces of their marriage, once passionate in their early and idealistic years, now in a cold stand-off. Liza struggles with feelings of abandonment, based in childhood trauma; Garrison is unable forgive her for letting the couple drive that night. Angel’s thoughts, as she lies in a coma, reflect the experiences of coma survivors, well-researched by the author.

Later in the novel Liza’s hard-as-nails-on-the-outside sister Charlcy enters the picture, with her own marital issues to resolve. Other secondary characters include Penny, Angel’s best friend from cheerleading, who seems to be ever at Angel’s bedside and a great support to Liza; and a doctor who has herself recovered from paraplegia.

Harvey knows how to choose her words. She uses the language of artists and dancers to describe the passions of her main characters. She is able to speak about marital sex in a dignified way that preserves its holiness. And she is able to explore the depths of each character’s soul in a way that makes the reader feel the character is real and knowable.

She also knows how to carefully construct a story, using preludes, flashbacks, personal thoughts, and dramatic conflict. When you reach the climax chapter, you will know you are there, because the emotional tension is as tight as it can get before it is released, and you cannot remain unaffected by it.

Although never preachy, the values of this book are thoroughly Christian, maintaining the importance of a whole marriage, and demonstrating the healing power of forgiveness. Both Old and New Testaments of The Bible are referenced with the characters’ thoughts. The chapel is an important room within the hospital.

Song of Renewal is a delicious read from cover-to-cover, extremely well-written, with a satisfying ending.

The book was originally released in hardcover in 2009. The new paperbook version, which has 35,000 additional words, was released on Feb.22,2011.

For ordering information please visit the publisher’s website “The Story Plant

Emily Sue Harvey hosts her own website, “Renewal Stories”, which offers some of her own short stories and allows readers to share their own stories of renewal.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Movie Review: Unknown - PG13

Dr. Martin Harris (Neeson) wakes up after a car accident in Berlin, only to find out that someone has assumed his identity, his wife doesn't recognize him, and he is being pursued by assassins.  In order to figure this out,  he enlists help from a couple of people and, in the process, he figures out who he can trust and who he can't. 

I am a big Liam Neeson fan...he has a knack for picking excellent scripts that are taylor-made for him.  

There is plenty of action, the suspense is constant, and the chase scenes are among the best I've ever seen.

Two words:  See it!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Movie Review: I Am Number Four - PG13

John Smith is the new kid in school, but he is really 'Number 4', from another planet.  He lives with his 'protector' Henri, who poses as his father.  John is hiding out from some criminals from his planet who seek to kill him because he is one of a handful of gifted people who have the ability to stop them.  

While blending in, John falls in love and begins to develop his skills and discover his full abilities.  And he utilizes them, because his enemies are formidable.

A very good movie.  Lots of action and an engaging story.  Very entertaining.   I took my nephews, ages 11-13, and they really enjoyed it.

 As you'd expect, there is some violence.   Aside from that, the only content warning is some cursing.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Kresta In The Afternoon: Al Kresta Challenges Former Priest Alberto Cutie

Kresta In The Afternoon: Al Kresta Challenges Former Priest Alberto Cutie: "THIS AFTERNOON on 'Kresta in the Afternoon' Al will be interviewing Alberto Cutie a.k.a. 'Father 'Oprah'' due to his frequent radio and tele..."

Those Zombies Are Nothing That a Little Lysol (and a great big chainsaw) Can't Clean Up

Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator, is a fun romp through the zombie genre that is more akin to Shaun of the Dead than to the more "serious" zombie books I've read (World War Z, The Reapers Are The Angels).

The zombie apocalypse is actually somewhat in balance at the point in which this book takes place. Neeta Lyffe is following in her mother's footsteps as a zombie exterminator. Due to some legal problems she is in need of extra income which is why she agreed to participate in a television reality show in which she trains wanna-be zombie exterminators. The winner will win a million dollars and the others, should they survive, will have been trained in a useful occupation. Naturally, each person has their own reasons for wanting this training and we see a bit below the surface into each person's motivations. Neeta herself loathes the necessity that made her agree to the series but is determined that each person will be properly trained. This puts her into direct opposition with the show's producer who is all about the visual thrills and exploiting every emotion to titillate viewers.

Author Karina Fabian is very imaginative in her creation. For example, the zombies are repelled by common household cleaners. They have some dregs of habit left when they rise from the grave which makes them inclined to "visit" their loved ones or drawn to cultural icons they used to frequent. This is an amusing twist which Fabian exploits for full comic or adventure value as needed.

Fabian is Catholic but repeatedly mentioned that the book is not Catholic. True enough but there is a solid worldview beneath this fantasy which Catholics will appreciate. I know that I did.

I truly enjoyed this light, amusing book. I became invested enough in Neeta to worry that she might be dating the wrong person, to worry about who might die in the ending climax, to become annoyed with the troll that haunts a fan forum for the show. It is a quick read, but one that I anticipate rereading whenever I need a lift in spirits. My review copy was a Kindle file and I'm putting the actual paperback on my wish list so I can have a real hands-on book on my shelf.

Note: As I said, I received a review copy of this book. Guess what? I'd have liked it anyway.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Movie Review: Most

MOST, the Czech word for "The Bridge," is a 33-minute short film directed by Bobby Garabedian.  It is short, but it delivers a strong message.  A man who operates a drawbridge brings his son to work.  When they spot a disaster about to happen, their effort to avert it leads to the ultimate sacrifice,  grief, compassion, forgiveness and redemption.  It is referred to as a "modern day parable" and it does invoke a lot of emotion.

A Simply Terrific Book About The Eucharist

I really loved Jesus and The Jewish Roots of the Eucharist by Brant Pitre. Read my review at the Patheos book club to find out why it made me say, "For I was blind but now I see ..."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Movie Review: The Roommate - PG13

When Sara gets Rebecca for a roommate, She's getting more than she expected. 
Rebecca becomes obsessed with Sara.  Sara becomes aware of  Rebecca's obsession, but the question is how she'll deal with it.

Not much of a plot beyond the obsessive roommate, but plenty of scary moments.    There are no "blood and guts" scenes.  There is no objectionable content beyond some mild curses.

It is very suspenseful and entertaining at the same time. Definitely worth seeing.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Keeping on Track with St. Teresa: reviewing "a little daily wisdom"

St. Teresa of Avila is not a lofty, inaccessible saint; she’s a companion, and has been taking Christians on a journey through their own interior “castles” for hundreds of years. Honest, humorous, and insightful, her devotional and spiritual reflections show readers how to open up themselves to God in new ways.
This little book from Paraclete Press is true treasure. The daily quotes from St. Teresa may be tender or pithy, patient or sharp, but they have so far had something I needed to hear practically every day. Partially this is because of Bernard Bangley's accessible translations which capture Teresa's sparkling, vivid personality in naturally flowing language. Partially, though, it is because St. Teresa herself has a gift for communicating the important things we need to remember in striving to grow in our love for God.

What Teresa knew, and what Bangley has excerpted so well, is that we are easily distracted and must always be brought back to focus on the important things. Those things usually seem extremely simple when we are reading about them but are difficult to remember in the flow of everyday life. That is why it is good to have these brief excerpts to read every day so that we may ponder them and keep ourselves on the right path.

I was so impressed with this book after looking through it that I began using it every morning before prayer. It has proven very helpful and oftentimes I find Teresa's advice comes into my mind throughout the day. I have come across several entries that speak to me particularly and I will share them throughout this week in the daily quotes at Happy Catholic. Highly recommended.