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ruthjoec "ruthjoec" RSS Feed (Kenner LA)

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Crux: Film One of the ANIMA Series
Crux: Film One of the ANIMA Series
DVD ~ Donald Hying
Price: $9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Done; More Reflective than Instructive, January 17, 2015
Crux is a well-done reflective movie featuring scenes in and around Milwaukee Wisconsin. The narrator, who is Bishop Hying, encourages us to reflect on the fact that without God, our life is meaningless--what we have here is all there is, and once it is over, there is nothing more. Bishop Hying also points out that without God, we have to be God in our lives, always right, always strong. The main thing that struck me was when Bishop Hying said that most of the time if we are worried or regretful, it is because we are trying to live in the past or the future; most of the time the present is good, and we should appreciate that.

This film is the first in a series. They are all short; this one is about twelve minutes long and I think they would be good to use with an adult or young adult prayer group. The material (at least in Crux) is more reflective than instructional and is followed with the discussion questions listed above in italics.

I'd like to thank Catholic Word for providing a complimentary review copy. Grade: B+


Make Money, Think Rich
Make Money, Think Rich
by Dale Buckner
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.15
11 used & new from $14.72

4.0 out of 5 stars Why We Do What We Do--and What We Should Do, January 10, 2015
This review is from: Make Money, Think Rich (Paperback)
I enjoyed this book. I liked the way Buckner started it by telling us that we are created by God, and don't have design defects. Buckner goes on to look at primitive societies to give us an idea of why we behave the way we do. After that, it is a pretty basic guide to saving money and investing, but Buckner reminds us time and again that just because everyone is doing it (selling, buying, whatever) is no reason for us to do it. Rather, we need to make a plan and stick to it.

While I can't say there was anything earthshaking in this book, it was a good little pep talk on making a plan and sticking to it. While market cycles were discussed, there were no long technical explanations of how to predict them or beat them, just encouragement to stick with the plan.

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley. Grade: B.


He Leadeth Me
He Leadeth Me
by Walter J. Ciszek S.J.
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.71
74 used & new from $7.12

4.0 out of 5 stars Faith Under Fire, December 28, 2014
This review is from: He Leadeth Me (Paperback)
This book is more of a spiritual journal, written after-the-fact, than an autobiography. While Fr. Ciszek includes some details of his daily life as a prisoner of the Soviets, he mostly writes about his spiritual life during that time. He talks about learning to depend on God and God alone, about his love for the Eucharist, about serving the other prisoners by administering the sacraments and counselling them.

While at times the book seemed repetitive, it was an easy read, though one that had a lot of food for thought if you want to use it as spiritual reading. Today in the US it is so easy to take the freedom to practice our faith for granted; Fr. Ciszek tells his story and the story of people for whom practicing the faith could and often did lead to hardship.

I'd like to thank the Blogging for Books program for providing a complimentary review copy. Grade: B+.


Teens Share the Mission
Teens Share the Mission
Price: $9.56

4.0 out of 5 stars Teens Inspire Teens, December 28, 2014
To many teens (and let's be honest, to many adults) being "normal" is important. Standing out as overly holy isn't seen as a good thing. This book of stories/reflections is by "normal" teens -- you don't get the impression reading them that these kids are living some kind of non-social, overly pious life --who tell stories about their service to others both in the foreign mission field and during service projects here at home. Talegria tells the story of painting a room fuschia because the homeowner claimed that all colors were beautiful and given by God. Kymieal helped with Special Olympics and one of the paticipants noticed that Kymieal had trouble sittting still and mistook her for a participant rather than a volunteer. Patrick saw real poverty in Peru and also saw that kids were kids and would play with whatever toy was available (or make what was available into a toy). When Grace worked in Camden, New Jersey, part of the experience was feeding herself on the amount of money available to food stamp recepients--and shopping at the stores they used. Each story is followed by a couple of reflection questions and those questions often ask for action.

If the teens in this book are representative of the kids in my kids generation (and I know some good kids in that generation) we'll be leaving the world in good hands.

I'd like to thank Pauline Media for providing a complimenary review copy. It will be donated to my daughter's Catholic school where it will hopefully inspire the next group of teens. Grade: B+


The Essential Guide For The New Age of Retirement- Why The Rules Have Changed
The Essential Guide For The New Age of Retirement- Why The Rules Have Changed
by L. Overson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.30
15 used & new from $11.14

4.0 out of 5 stars Very Basic Primer, November 27, 2014
This is a short and easy to read book that is part primer on retirement planning and part advertisment for hiring a professional financial planner. The author's main thesis is that the retirement of the baby boomers and their resultant loss of income and slowed spending is going to cause ripple effects throughout the economy and will cause problems with traditional retirment planning strategies. He discusses asset allocation and how human nature makes people sell stocks at the wrong time, locking in losses for life, whereas those who held on eventually would be made whole and then some. Over and over Overson recommends putting your assets in the care of a professional financial planner who has both objectivity and expertise. Evidently he and my financial advisor have been to the same classes because pretty much everything he discussed are things we have discussed with our planner. The only "groundbreaking strategy" that stuck in my mind after reading this book was to hire an advisor--everything else sounded pretty tried and true and discussed in most financial planning books.

I'd like to thank the author for making a review copy available via NetGalley. If you are looking for a reason to hire a financial planner, this book will convince you that you are doing the right thing. If you are looking for a comprehensive book to help you do your own financial planning, there are better ones out there. Grade: B-


Christmas at Seashell Cottage (A Jewell Cove Novel)
Christmas at Seashell Cottage (A Jewell Cove Novel)
Offered by Macmillan
Price: $3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Sweet Christmas Romance, November 27, 2014
Charlie was the child of highly successful adults; one who was pushed to be the best from infancy. She never felt appreciated for who she was. Because of her parents, she went to medical school. Despite her parents, she chose to practice family medicine in a small town. It is now the Christmas season and Charlie is trying to become part of her new hometown. She wants nothing more than to belong and to settle down and have a family. Dave is just back from the Middle East. He has no plans to do anything permanent and thinks he likes being on his own by himself.

I enjoyed this book but to say it was anything other than a typical Christmas romance would be a stretch.


Driftwood Tides
Driftwood Tides
Price: $9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely Book, November 25, 2014
This review is from: Driftwood Tides (Kindle Edition)
This is a book about finding yourself, finding the person God meant you to be, and giving that person to others. However, even though the book is Christian fiction, there was no real hint of religion or faith until about halfway into the book. Libby is a young engaged woman. She loves her fiancee and knows he loves her, but she feels smothered by him. She doesn't think her mother loves her and she knows her father doesn't--he left her when she was small and never came home; instead he started a new life with a new family. When she learns she was adopted she goes in search of her birth mother, someone else who has rejected her. Instead, she finds Holton, her birth mother's husband who has been drinking himself into a stupor since her mother was killed in an accident. Wanting to know him better before telling him about her birth mother, Libby talks her way into an internship in Holton's art studio. As the book progresses both Holton and Libby have to take responsibility for the choices they make and have to learn to accept the love that is in their lives rather than the love they wish was there. Also they learned that when you value yourself and your work, others do too.

While the book has a happily ever after that includes romance, it is not a romance novel and I enjoyed reading a story that, while it had more depth than the average romance, was still an easy feel-good read. Grade: B+.


The Christmas Train
The Christmas Train
Offered by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Price: $1.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Sweet Christmas Story, November 25, 2014
This is a Christmas novella. That usually means a short but heartwarming book and The Christmas Train does not disappoint. Anna's grandmother, with whom she has lived for years, just died. Her mother doesn't want her and puts her on a train to meet the father she has never met, saying it is his turn to take care of her. The railroad won't let Anna travel without an adult, so her mother sits her next to a little old lady and tells Anna to tell the train people that they are together. Anna listens to Ms. Eva tell her stories of WWII Europe and her life in the US thereafter. When they finally arrive, Ms. Eva thinks Anna's father is her long-lost brother.

This is absolutely a happily ever after story in which way too many good things happen and in which there is a total lack of conflict. I cried my eyes out near the end of the story and smiled at the ending so I guess Rexanne Becnel met her goal. Grade: B.

Thanks to the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley. I was not obligated to provide any review, much less a positive one.


Ten Commandments for Kissing Gloria Jean
Ten Commandments for Kissing Gloria Jean
Price: $8.49

3.0 out of 5 stars Catechism Via Novel, November 9, 2014
I won this book on the Holloway Family North blog. It is a Catholic YA novel aimed at the middle school crowd. I have mixed feelings about it.

The book starts with Gloria Jean and her friends (whose parents consider them too young to date) arranging a group party with boys at the movies. Of course the kids pair up--but due to some intestinal distress, Gloria Jean never gets kissed by her "date". She does lie and tell her parents that the girls all sat together.

We continue to follow Gloria Jean and her friends through the first semester of the school year. One new thing this year is that PE includes sex ed once a week--sex ed that is focused on consent and staying safe, not sex ed focused on chastity. Gloria Jean is also getting sex ed in her confirmation classes, where they are taught the Catholic view of sexuality. I thought the contrast between the classes was interesting and instructive.

Another thing Gloria Jean is dealing with is celiac disease. She'd been suffering from increasing intestinal distress and other ailments for over a year and was finally diagnosed with celiac disease and put on a gluten-free diet. Of course she's not happy about it, though she does feel better. She has to learn to deal with a new diet, which includes not taking the host at Mass--and changing Mass times to one where the Cup could be offered (her family attended the Extraordinary Form Mass).

One thing that had me annoyed for much of the book is the fact that Gloria Jean's best friend was Jewish. Her best friend was the one who was encouraging her in her quest to get kissed and it seemed for much of the book like the author was setting up a contrast between how a good Catholic should behave and how the world (as exemplified by Gloria's friend Eden) expects us to behave. It annoys me to no end when a Christian novel uses a Catholic in such a situation and for most of the book I saw no reason Eden should have been cast as Jewish rather than as "we go to different churches every Christmas". At the end of the book, the fact the Eden is Jewish does become important, so I'll give Britt Leigh a pass on that one.

This is clearly a book designed to teach religion and a lot of it. During the course of this 195 page book we learn that Gloria Jean attends a Latin Mass in the Extraordinary Form, that the people dress up for that Mass, and her mom even bought her an expensive veil to wear. We listen to the sex ed talks at Confirmation class, and go with Gloria Jean to Adoration. Gloria Jean ends up doing a project on bread and learns about the use of bread in the Bible. Gloria Jean goes to confession too. At times I think the story got bogged down because there was too much effort to teach religion.

I'd like to thank Britt Leigh and the Daughters of St. Paul (her publishers) for providing a complimentary copy of the book. Grade: B-


Wing Tip
Wing Tip
Price: $9.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A Catholic Priest's Mother's Secret, October 26, 2014
This review is from: Wing Tip (Kindle Edition)
The book begins with an almost deathbed scene. Fr. Dante's mother is elderly and frail and not long for this world. He has heard her confession and now wants to give her Communion. She refuses, and says that she needs to go to confession, there is something she has withheld, but she wants a different priests. Fr. Dante calls another priest who hears her confession, and shortly thereafter, she dies. After the funeral the other priest gives him a letter that his mother dictated, a letter that tells her secrets. Fr. Dante then makes contact with the other person mentioned in the letter. The book is the story of Fr. Dante's life and this man's life along with the lives of Dante's mother and father.

I found the book to be an engaging read that very overtly presented Catholic doctrine and practice. I liked Fr. Dante and would love for him to be assigned to my parish (not that I have any problems with my current pastor). The Catholic church and the sacraments were clearly presented as the means by which Jesus reaches us to save us.

That being said, the book had editing problems. Dante's mother is described in the opening scene (which happens in the present day) as frail and old, but the beginning of the story took place when she was twenty-nine. At that time, she knew a man who had WNBA tickets (the league started in 1996), she listened to Sonny and Cher songs on the car radio including I've Got You Babe ( a 1965 hit--and Sonny and Cher split in 1975) and there is a reference to Farrah Fawcett vs Cheryl Ladd (Charlie's Angels 1975-1981). Ten year old Dante and his mother go to Mass and hear "We proclaim your death, oh Lord and proclaim (sic) your resurrection, until you come again". Also, the window Fr. Dante has on his mother's past is a letter she dictated while on her deathbed. Fr. Dante then uses this letter to tell his mother's story to the other person mentioned in the letter. There was far too much story; far too much detail for such a letter. Had the letter directed him to journals or to other people who would know details, it would have made more sense.

There are times I wanted to give this book an "A" because of the beauty of the writing alone, and other times that I almost rolled my eyes at things that seemed to be put in the story just to give Boas a chance to inform her readers about another aspect of Catholicism. While I enjoyed the story, it is definitely the story of the spiritual life of a priest and as readers we listen to Fr. Dante speaking to penitents in the confessional, counselling unbelievers and encouraging believers.

I'd like to thank Catholic Word for providing a review copy of this book. I was not obligated to provide a positive review. Grade: B-


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