Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Book Review: "Dead of Night" by Brandilyn Collins

As a serial killer has her town in fear, sketch artist Annie Kingston draws the faces of the victims and tries to help solve the case. Annie not only wants to help stop a killer, she is also afraid that it may involve the trouble her son Steven has recently gotten himself into, particularly when the killer strikes close to home.  The whole town is praying that the killer will be caught.

A very  suspenseful story of good vs. evil that personifies the power of prayer and faith.

If you enjoy a good murder mystery without the sordid and offensive content that is so prevalent in today's media, I urge you to try Ms. Collins' novels.  She manages to provide Christian-themed murder mysteries you won't be able to put down.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Review of “Stealing Jenny”: A Novel by Ellen Gable

I have reviewed Ellen Gable’s first two novels “Emily’s Hope” and “In Name Only” on this blog, and have eagerly awaited her third novel. Ellen is a pro-life writer who writes in an engaging manner, with keen personal insight and always a hopeful and pro-life message.

After enduring three miscarriages, Jenny is expecting her sixth child. Denise is her neighbor, who secretly envies Jenny her ability to pro-create and watches her and her children from across the street. She is plotting to kidnap Jenny and steal her baby.

Unknown to Denise, Jenny has a complication that requires a caesarian section. Although the title gives away the main event of the novel, the reader is kept in suspense, as the well-being of Jenny and her baby are held in the balance.

At home, Tom takes care of his five children, praying and hoping that Jenny will be found and returned before she goes into labor. Kathy is the police detective who follows the scanty clues to try to find her whereabouts.

“Stealing Jenny” departs from the Ellen’s previous novels in style in that it is modern, without historic elements, and more of a thriller in its genre, with out-of- the ordinary events happening to the heroine. However, the undercurrents of faith, hope, and marital love present in the first two novels are the same here.

The self-analysis that the characters go through in her first two novels is also a big part of the book. Ellen writes in the omniscient third person, bringing the reader into the thoughts of each of her main characters. At times, the characters reminisce, letting us know what has happened in the past to cause them to act or think the way they do in the present. Ellen does this skillfully and seamlessly.

Why anyone would be so ignorant and blatantly disregarding of human life to try such a scheme, Ellen explains by giving Denise’s history. Ellen’s attitude toward the protagonist is a Christian one, hating the action but showing sympathy toward the sinner.

Any woman who has ever really wanted to conceive; any woman who has been through a miscarriage; and any woman who has been through a difficult pregnancy, will sympathize with Jenny, even before she gets kidnapped. Her condition adds a heightened dimension to the plot of a kidnapping.

I would recommend this to anyone who likes suspenseful novels. If you are going to give this to a teenager, you should read it first. The book deals with such topics as premarital sex, abortion, and labor in an unusual situation. The moral viewpoint is Catholic and pro-life.

“Stealing Jenny” will be available from Full Quiver Publishing and on September 15, 2011.

Look for my review of “Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship”, edited by Ellen Gable, in the coming weeks.

For more information about the author Ellen Gable and her books:
Editor, Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship
Author, "Emily's Hope" (Honorable Mention 2006 IPPY Awards)
Author, "In Name Only" (Gold Medal winner 2010 IPPY Awards)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Movie Review: One Day - PG13

Warning:  Potential Spoilers

At their graduation, Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew begin a friendship that will last a lifetime.  Over the next 20 years, they go their separate ways:   He becomes a TV host, she is a teacher aspiring to be a writer.   They have different partners, but they remain part of each others' lives.  Neither of them seems to achieve true happiness.  

I found "One Day"  disappointing on several levels:

The story really seems to drag on.
It was disappointing how cavalier their attitude toward sex is.
There is a tremendous amount of drinking, especially by Dex. 
The ending is not only anti-climactic, but falls far short of what is anticipated.
To be honest, I left the theater very depressed.
One word:  a Downer


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Movie Review: Conan the Barbarian - R

I saw Conan on Sunday, and have been debating whether to post a review.  (I didn't want to provide any sort of publicity)
I have decided to post instead a warning. 
I expected some violence,  but the level of gore was excessive and unnecessary (literally blood and guts).
There was also a sex scene including nudity, which was completely unnecessary to the story.

I strongly advise anyone considering seeing it to NOT see it.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Book Review: "A Little Way of Homeschooling"

A Little Way of Homeschooling
by Suzie Andres
Hillside Education, 2011

Sometimes the perfect book comes along right when you need it. This was the case with me and "A Little Way of Homeschooling" by Suzie Andres. Andres, a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College with a Master's Degree in Philosophy from Notre Dame, became known as an expert in Catholic Unschooling after writing "Homeschooling with Gentleness" (I recently read that book as well and will be reviewing it shortly). That book chronicled her own journey towards unschooling and explored whether a Catholic could unschool and still be in keeping with Church teaching. Her answer was a resounding "yes."

In "A Little Way of Homeschooling," she asked other Catholic families to share their experience of unschooling. All of their stories are informative and informational. The first nine families profiled are true unschoolers. The remaining four "integrate elements of unschooling with more formal approaches to learning." I personally like Karen Edmisten's description of herself as "The Unschooler with a Plan."

Andres is honest about the doubt that comes hand-in-hand with all homeschooling, but especially unschooling. "We may write long books and thoughtful internet posts proclaiming the goodness and freedom of unschooling; at the end of the day we still lie in bed exhausted and wonder if our children are learning what they should." She advises us to "Trust God and be gentle with ourselves."

In her epilogue, Andres relies on the wisdom of St. Therese and St. John Bosco, who many consider the unofficial patron saint of unschooling. He stated "without confidence and love, there can be no true education." There are also four appendixes filled with useful information including recommended books, internet sites, and prayers.

Andres and the contributors to this book offer much wisdom to all homeschoolers, not just unschoolers. I highly recommend this book, especially if the burden of homeschooling is becoming increasingly heavy. It is important to always remember that we are not the ones ultimately in charge. As Andres writes, "What is learned and achieved is extremely individual to the child - and directed by God. Parents and teachers can assist, but they are not the ones primarily in charge."

Sunday, August 14, 2011

movie Review: Cowboys and Aliens - PG13

Set in Arizona in 1873.  A stranger (Daniel Craig) arrives in the town of Absolution with no memory of who he is or how he got there.   The only hint he has to his past is a mysterious shackle on his wrist.   About the same time, Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) and his gang arrive in town looking for Dolarhyde's son, who was arrested by the sheriff. When the town is invaded by aliens and several townspeople are abducted by them, the townspeople must team together with Dolarhyde's crew, a band of outlaws, and a group of Indians to battle the aliens and try to rescue their abducted loved ones.

The unique scenario of combining the old west with aliens certainly creates an interesting story.  I wouldn't use the word 'entertaining', because at times the story seems to really drag on.

Overall, character development is weak:  aside from Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, there are no strong standout characters.  The exception to this is Ella Swenson, played by Olivia Wilde, a woman from Craig's past who helps them in the battle against the aliens.

Content warnings are for lots of violence, and some gore.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Book Review: "Now You See Her" by James Patterson

Nina Bloom is a successful lawyer and loving mother. Her past contains a dark secret which she has successfully kept from her daughter, her friends and her firm.  

But now an innocent man is about to be executed for a crime that Nina knows he didn't commit.  Since she is literally the only one who can save him, will she risk everything she has achieved to save him?  

A very suspenseful story that will keep you never know what's coming next.  The characters are very well integrated into the story.  Nina is a pretty sympathetic character.  It is admirable how she sacrifices for others.

One of Patterson's better stories.  Main conent warning is there are a couple of violent scenes.

My review of "Finding Fatima"

Is up at Catholic Online. Check out this new type of docu-drama on Fatima.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Movie Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes - PG13

Warning: Potential Spoilers

As a result of research into a cure for alzheimer's, an ape named Caesar is born in a lab and is 'adopted' by Will Rodman, the scientist who was trying to cure his own father.  Caesar has greater intelligence & cognitive abilities than other apes.   As Caesar grows, so does his desire to be free.  The main plot involves Caesar's ability to lead his fellow apes, and how far he will lead them. 

There was more emotion infused into the story than you'd expect, particularly a sympathetic aspect to Caesar's character.  Also, there is some resentment toward Rodman's character for creating the dilema they all find themselves in.

 The story was both entertaining and captivating, mainly because the writers gave an implausible concept an air of plausibility. 

The only content warnings are for some violence.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Movie Review: The Mighty Macs - G

In Theaters October 21.  Based on a true story.

Cathy Rush becomes the head women's basketball coach at Immaculata College, a small all-girls college run by nuns.  Actually,  the team has no place to practice, hardly any equipment to speak of, and minimal support from the administration.  She gets plenty of support from the nuns....Sister Sunday becomes her assistant coach, and the rest of the nuns become a sort of booster club for the team.  

Cathy eventually pulls it all together and leads the girls' team to three straight national championships.  Since this time, Immaculata has gone coed and become Immaculata University.  (check out the real team's site below  :)

A real family movie that is both entertaining and inspirational!