Monday, October 29, 2012

Book Review: "The Sparkle Box" by Jill Hardie

"The Sparkle Box"  Written by Jill Hardie Illustrated by Christine Kornacki  

Have you ever thought of the irony of the fact that on Christmas, Jesus' birthday, we all give each other gifts,  but Jesus gets none?  "The Sparkle Box" offers an idea that can change that.   

Like most kids, Sam is looking forward to Christmas, mainly the presents, but also the dinners and parties.  He is particularly intrigued  by a special box his mother puts out with the Christmas decorations.  She tells him they need to fill it, and as the story progresses, he finds out what they will fill it with.  

I was frequently reminded of Jesus' words "Whatever you do for the least of these you do for me".  A really inspiring Christmas story that will not only help get you in the Christmas spirit, but  it presents an idea of what we can do for Jesus on His birthday.  A beautiful story.

And KUDO's on the illustrations! 


Music Review: " Christmas in the Cloister"

"Christmas in the Cloister"  Gregorian Chant and Christmas Carols by the Cistercian Nuns of Mount Saint Mary's Abbey.    

To be honest, when I received this CD, I  wondered how "Christmas-like"  it would be.  It really will put you in the Christmas spirit..  

The chant is more lively than a typical chant CD; not as contemplative as chant usually is, but very enjoyable and every bit as inspirational.  It will also bring you closer to God.  

An excellent blend of Chant and Christmas Music.  

My favorite track is "Welcome, Son of Mary" - "Il est ne' is a close second.  :)

 I highly recommend this CD for the Christmas season!  

I particularly enjoyed the international flavor of the music, such as:  
Susani - German tune, English words.
 In Dulce Jubilo - English and Latin words, German Tune.  
Il est ne' - French words and tune.  
Coventry Carol - from Coventry, England  
While Shepherds in Meadows - German tune, English words  
The Christmas Child - French tune, English words  
Welcome Son of Mary - Dutch tune, English words


Music Review: "Gregorian Chant: Together on the Way"

"Gregorian Chant:  Together on the Way" by the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael's Abbey.

  It was a pleasure to have the chance to review this CD.   Even not understanding most of the words, in Latin, it is very peaceful, contemplative and will bring you closer to God.   

Many nights I listen to Chant when going to bed and it is especially comforting to fall asleep feeling close to God.

  I especially like the way they have songs to honor Christ the King, the Holy Father, the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary.  

I only understand the most commonly-used Latin words, but a few of the tracks indicate that this CD  might be most appropriate in Lent, specifically during Holy Week, but I highly recommend "Gregorian Chant"  all year-round.  

Lætatus sum-Gradual, Fourth Sunday of Lent  
Christus-Gradual, Good Friday  
Dum fabricator-Antiphon, Good Friday  
Cantemus-Tract, Easter Vigil  
Resurrexi-Introit, Easter Sunday  

My favorite track, probably because I am most familiar with it, is "Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus"

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

App Review: CCC Voting Guide for Catholics

The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy has developed a non-partisan Catholic Voting Guide App to assist Catholics in deciding who to vote for in November.  The app identifies the issues (listed below)  that should drive our decision in the voting booth, and explains the Church's position on each. The issues focused on are:
  • Life
  • Freedom of Religion
  • Marriage
  • Private Property (also includes debt)
  • Access to Goods (primarily necessary for the preservation of life, such as food and healthcare)
  • War
I found  the app very easy to navigate, and very informative...almost like a mini catechism  :) Below are a couple of screen shots of the app from Fr. Trigilio's blog.  

You can get the CCC App for iPhone or iPad free on iTunes.  I found it by searching for "Catholic Voting Guide"


Monday, October 22, 2012

Movie Review: Alex Cross - PG13

Detective/psychologist Alex Cross matches wits with a serial killer.  (Actually, he's more of an assassin).  Although Cross is very good at what he does, it would seem he's met his match.  But when things get personal, he is even more determined to catch the killer.  

There is a good balance of action and human interaction; it's not just a bunch of killings and/or chase scenes. If you're a fan of James Patterson's Alex Cross books you'll enjoy it even more.   

To be honest, the killer does do some horrible things to people, but there is not a lot of gore shown. Content warnings would be violence, some gore, some language and one bed seen (no nudity).

 Lots of action, and the characters are easy to relate to.  I enjoyed it.  


Monday, October 15, 2012

Movie Review: Atlas Shrugged Part II - PG13

In the future, gas is now $42/gallon, trains are the main mode of transportation, the economy is on the brink of collapse and  the government is crushing business with the  'fairness' law and confiscating anything at will.  Anyone who is bright enough or creative enough to help things seems to mysteriously disappear.  

Meanwhile, Dagny Taggart is trying to keep her railroad running and she may have also found an energy source that can resolve many of these  problems....if she can find someone to decipher it.   

On one hand, it is somewhat depressing, painting a pretty bleak picture of the future.  On the other hand, it is practically a caricature,  enlarging and expanding many of the issues we face today to greater proportion. Looking at the political perspective, I kept thinking  of it as the world that Obama envisions.  Considering it was published in 1957,  it is quite prolific.

  The primary theme is everyone just trying to survive.  But the part that surprised me a bit is that instead of turning to God in such desperate times, everyone keeps asking "Who is John Galt"?  That question is not quite answered, BTW.

  An  engaging picture that holds your attention.  It is futuristic, and very soap opera-like, weaving several plots together. 

  Not much  content warning except  some violence , but it might be too involved for smaller kids. 

  If you are a news junkie or a political guru, you'll especially enjoy this.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Book Review: "Double Blind" by Brandilyn Collins

29 year-old Lisa Newberry has severe depression. She is widowed, and she subsequently survived an attack.  Desperate to escape the debilitating depression she is afflicted with, she volunteers for a double-blind trial of a tiny brain chip that emits electrical pulses to heal  depression.  

At first, she is pleased with the effects of the chip, but when things go wrong, she finds herself drawn into investigating a  murder mystery.  But there are those who don't want her to find out the truth of what is happening to her.  How far will they go to stop her?  

With all the sorrow she's had in her life, Lisa is certain that God has forgotten her.  But in the course of the investigation, she repeatedly asks Him to help her.  

A real psychological thriller in which you never know what to expect next.  I couldn't wait to turn the page to see what happens next.  And there is an  unexpected twist toward the end that I particularly liked.  

This is the 7th book of Ms. Collins that I've reviewed, and I can easily say it is my favorite of her works to date. Very good book!

Movie Review: Taken 2 - PG13

In 'Taken', Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) rescued his daughter from kidnappers, and killed quite a few bad guys in the process.  Well their family is  back for revenge, and Bryan once again has to rescue his family from kidnappers using his "particular set of skills".  
Liam is again excellent as Bryan.  Not too much of a plot, but lots of action.  His daughter Kim is particularly helpful to him this time.  

Content warning would include violence.  There is plenty of shooting, but not a lot of gore.  PG13 is an appropriate rating.  

As with any sequel, I couldn't help but compare the two, and to be honest, I would give the edge to the first Taken.  But If you liked the first Taken, you'll really like Taken 2.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Music Review: "Hear Me" by Kyle Sherman

One of the most distinctive artists I've had the chance to review.

Kyle's music  sounds like a very unique blend of musical genre's: I detected bits of rock, New Orleans style jazz, and yes, maybe a little country :)   

Of course it varied from song to song.  The important aspect is that the music actually enhanced the lyrics....this is really important because sometimes worship music becomes too secular and it's easy to forget you're even listening to worship music at all.  

The awesome part is that it was actually fun to listen to, and 'fun' is not a word I usually use to describe music I'm reviewing.  

The best song IMHO is "One True Friend", but "Fountains" is pretty cool with it's vision of us being thirsty and then drinking from the spring of living water.  

Below is one of the songs from the CD,  "The Greatest Tear".  

Very good CD!

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Movie Review: Here Comes the Boom - PG

Scott Voss is a high-school teacher who has become apathetic toward his job and his students.   But when school cuts threaten the music program, he decides to raise money by competing in MMA/UFC (he was a wrestler in college).  He is assisted by the music teacher, the school nurse and one of his evening students.  He eventually gains the support of the entire school.  

This story is very much about people helping and supporting each other, and I thought it was striking how being more concerned about others than about yourself can transform a person, and others.  

This movie has lots of humor, and lots of action.  There are a few violent fight scenes, which is to be expected in a UFC-oriented movie, bit they are also far outweighed by the positive human side of the story.

  An excellent, very entertaining movie...don't miss it!


Book Review: "I Michael Bennett" by James Patterson

Michael Bennett arrests a very powerful drug lord who is also responsible for killing Mike's long-time friend and fellow cop Hughie McDonough.    

As the trial approaches and he prepares to testify, Mike decides to take his 10 kids, their nanny and his Grandfather on a vacation to get away from it all. But...Perrine the drug lord has vowed revenge on Mike and his family, so their 'vacation' is anything but restful. Will Mike be able to protect his family?  

One of Patterson's better Bennett stories.  It is attention-grabbing and the suspense builds steadily as the story progresses.   I won't give away the plot, but there are two significant unanswered questions at the end, which is cool, because that most definitely means another Michael Bennett story coming  :)    

There is some violence and even a couple of gory scenes,but what I like about the Michael Bennett stories (he is an NYPD detective, a widower with 10 kids) is that no matter how much of a supercop he is, his family is definitely the priotity in his life.   If you like a good suspenseful cop story and your family is most important to you, you'll definitely appreciate "I Michael Bennett".