Tag Archives: Christian Review

The Mitford Series…

The Mitford Series of books by Jan Karon has been out for a while, but I know that some people still haven’t read any of them, so I thought I’d put in a good word.  This set of books centers around a fictional town called “Mitford,” Father Tim (the local Episcopalian priest) , and the town’s various characters.

This is a good little Christian fiction series that draws you into the life of the town.  Karon does an excellent job creating a fictional place that you actually “look forward” to visiting.  She sets up the storylines in such a way that you care about the characters; their lives, their struggles, their pets, what they are having for supper…

The first of the series, At Home in Mitford, sets the stage and the original players, with characters added throughout the stories.  I find that her style of writing is rather pleasant to read; it doesn’t bash the reader over the head with The Bible; no heavy preaching, no pressure, just good storytelling.  This is not to say that there is no theology present, or that the gospel isn’t present, because it is.  It is done in such a way that it is “organic” to the story, and it fits with the characters, it is not forced either on them, or on the reader.

I’m trying to recall if there is any theology presented that I disagree with, and I can’t really think of any…there is good interplay between the various Christian denominations in the town which is heartwarming, and amusing at the same time.

Here is a list of the books in this particular series in order: 1) At Home in Mitford, 2) A Light in the Window, 3) These High, Green Hills, 4) Out to Canaan, 5) A New Song, 6) A Common Life, 7) In This Mountain, 8 ) Sheperds Abiding, and 9) A Light from Heaven.  I would consider A Common Life and Shepherds Abiding as kind of “mini-novels;” they go along with the series but are not as long as her regular novels.  Shepherds Abiding, which I have not read yet, is also a collection of some shorter stories that still take place in Mitford with the same characters.

Karon also has companion books out that are connected to Mitford; like a quote book, a cook book, etc…  Other reasons why I like this series; they are relaxing reading, non-stressful, they are what I consider to be “quick” reads…and you can usually find most of the series at used book stores if you ask for them, or most libraries carry them, or can get them.

Karon has started another series; The Father Tim Series, to continue on with some of the characters that you’ll get to know in the Mitford series.  I do indeed recommend these books…I have also heard that even guys who read them like them, but they are, to me, geared toward the female reader.  I would also welcome any comments by any of my readers who have checked them out and would like to add their reviews here.

Edit to update: The Father Tim Series order so far: 1) Home to Holly Springs 2) In the Company of Others

Second Edit to update: Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good is Jan’s next book in the series and is taking us back to Mitford! It’s set to be published on Sept. 2, 2014.

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Doctor Who; Journey’s End Review…

Here we have the season ender, also written by Russell T. Davies.  There is no way I can cover everything that happened, so I’ll have to stick to the high points, and even then, this is a long review because it was an extra long episode.  You need to watch the episode anyway; it was a really interesting one packed with a lot of information, and leaves viewers asking many questions.  (Tennant did really well in this eppy too.)

If you’ll recall last time in The Stolen Earth, we left off with a universal-level catastrophe; the Daleks with Davros in tow had stolen 27 planets including Earth to function as a giant engine.  Also, we saw the Doctor zapped by a Dalek; Jack, Rose, and Donna managed to get him back inside the TARDIS and the golden glow of regeneration had taken over.

The Doctor manages to redirect the energy into his hand that had been cut off after his regeneration from Nine to Ten.  This does two things; puts all the energy onto the severed hand in its case; in its little bubbling preservative fluid, and lets the Doctor keep Ten’s visage, memories, voice, etc… Essentially he bypassed regenerating (though the debate rages as to whether or not this counts as one of the Doctor’s twelve regens…I vote it does, any thoughts? ).

So, The TARDIS gets caught up by the Daleks’ temporal hoolahoop…I mean temporal prison, and whisked off to the Crucible, which is the Dalek ship at the center of the 27 planet formation.  Think the Death star with spikes coming off of it.

Everyone exists the TARDIS to face the Daleks, everyone but Donna that is; something is holding her back and it sounds suspiciously like a heartbeat.  So, she hangs back and the TARDIS door swings shut and locks.  Who precisely shut the door?  Dunno, and we never really find out, though we know it wasn’t Donna, the Doctor, or any of the crew.  We do find out that the Daleks consider the TARDIS a weapon, not just a ship, and they want it destroyed.  Of course whilst being destroyed in the core of the Crucible, what should happen but the Doctor’s hand grows a whole new Doctor.  Donna, seeing what is happening touches the new Doctor and “hilarity” ensues.

The new Doctor is naked, and seemingly quite proud of that fact…he has also picked up some of Donna’s mannerisms and has but one heart being part human because of the regeneration situation.  He jumps to the helm and whisks the TARDIS out of danger.  After he dons a blue suit, I will now call him BlueDoctor.  (BrownDoctor is the proper Doctor; “full” Timelord, and is in a brown suit.)

Donna and Blue have a short but significant discussion about Destiny.  Donna displays doubt that there is any such thing, while BlueDoctor seems to come down on the side of there being a Destiny of some sort since he mutters about all the pieces not being in place, that the “pattern” is not yet complete.

Anywho, back on the Crucible, BrownDoctor and crew are being twitted by the Daleks.  Captain Jack, in a planned fit, pulls a gun and shoots at one of them, of course he is struck down and presumed dead.  Any good fan, and the BrownDoctor, knows that Jack can’t be killed, so it is a Jack-scheme in action.  The Daleks haul him off and throw him in, of all things, a fiery furnace…later Jack emerges and his greatcoat isn’t even singed…hmmm…I’ve read this story before.  Oh, yeah;

Daniel 3:26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire. 27 And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.

Long story short, Jack meets up with Mickey and Jackie (they both wound up jumping to our dimension the same as Rose did), and Sarah Jane.  The whole crew (minus BlueDoctor and Donna), are captive in the vault talking with Davros; so that’s BrownDoctor, Rose, Sarah Jane, Mickey, Jackie, and Captain Jack all there; with Martha being zapped in later. BTW, there is talk from Davros about the fact that all the helplessness, and death will make the Doctor reveal his soul; which turns out to be a sad state of affairs, as the Doctor seems to suffer from guilt, loneliness, and sorrow.

This is brought about by the revelation that the Crucible is actually a giant Death Star…I mean weapon.  It has a “reality bomb” which is capable of dissolving every form of matter to dust, into atoms, and then into nothing.  (At this point I have to ask; what’s there really to get upset over?  Shouldn’t evolution just be able to reverse it in a matter of billions of years?  You know, from nothing to atoms to dust to human and Timelord, which are, from an atheistic standpoint mere matter? Heh.)

Then the BlueDoctor and Donna arrive, and who winds up saving the day?  Donna…who, through a Human-Timelord Metacrisis (don’t ask) is now part Timelord herself.  Donna + the Doctor’s mind = major Dalek butt-kicking. Longer story short; BlueDoctor winds up committing Dalek-genocide.  This is a huge contention point amongst fans; was BlueDoctor justified?  BrownDoctor is shocked appalled at Blue’s action…which doesn’t really make much sense, unless Brown sees himself reflected in Blue and just doesn’t like what he sees.

Everyone piles on board the TARDIS, and with a final invitation to Davros to come with them, which is turned down, BrownDoctor closes the door.  Daleks dead (how long do you think that will last?), whole crew safe and sound on board the TARDIS.  The Earth still needs to be returned home so, in the best scene this whole season, both Doctors, and the whole crew pilot and fly the TARDIS back “home.”  You see, the TARDIS was built for a crew of at least six, so now we get to see how it should really be flown.  Give me a sci-fi scene where everyone is pitching in, joking around, and enjoying themselves while doing something meaningful, with a great music score, and you’ve got me.  Loved the scene; how it was written, acted, and shot.

You then have the parting of the ways for this episode; Sarah Jane goes back to her son Luke, Martha, Captain Jack, and Mickey head off together.  BrownDoctor drops Rose, BlueDoctor, and Jackie back in the alternate dimension…and then BrownDoctor and Donna have a reckoning; Donna’s mind cannot handle having the mind of a Timelord within it; it will kill her.  So, the Doctor wipes all memory from her about him, the TARDIS, the planets they visited…everything.  Then drops her back at her house to resume her normal everyday life…with her old personality in place.  We are left with a very alone, very forlorn Doctor…and several ethical questions.  I will explore these more in depth in my next post; hopefully it will be up by tomorrow, and I will link it here (the post is now up, which you can find here: Ethics and Morality in Doctor Who; Journey’s End).

1) Did BrownDoctor treat Rose and BlueDoctor right/in a morally correct way?

2) Did Brown violate Donna’s free will and essentially wipe her memory against her will?  Did he have the right to do so?

3) Was BlueDoctor right for killing the Daleks?  Was BrownDoctor hypocritical, and hence illogical for scolding Blue for doing the killing?

There is a ton of apocalyptic language used in this episode; “At the end of everything,” the “End of Days,” etc… that of course has a whiff of the book of Revelation on it.  There is also a lot of fire imagery present.

At one point in the show, Davros accuses the Doctor of forming his companions into weapons, and also lays upon him the guilt of them “dying in his name.”  I felt that this was a slap in the face to all the people that gave their lives for the Doctor, and the universe…how is sacrificing oneself for another mere mortal “dying in his name” as though the Doctor was God to his acquaintances…what bothered me most was that BrownDoctor stood there mute, not trying to correct Davros in the least…perhaps he has deluded himself as well, does he have a god-complex?  Either that or the guilt was just too overwhelming…

Overall, I thought it was a lovely wrap up to the season, and leaves fans chatting away; Will we see Rose and Blue again? (I bet we do.)  Will Martha and Mickey join Torchwood?  Who will join up with the Doctor now, and will his character and personality be changed?  Will Donna regain her memory?  If so, how will she survive?  Are there a few stray Daleks floating around space? (I bet there are.)  And, why didn’t Eccleston come back to play the Doctor that formed from the hand; the part was made for him!

I’m sad the season is over for us in the US, but I look forward to the specials in 2009, and I do believe that this episode was worthy of being a season ender.

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Book Review; Do Hard Things…

Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations is a non-fiction book by Alex and Brett Harris (yes, they are twins).  First, this is a book written from a decidedly Christian viewpoint, although, if someone is willing to read it through regardless of religious beliefs, anyone can get the main message of the book and glean something from it; especially teenagers.

The twins start out the book showing us all what teenagers in the past have accomplished at very young ages.  To me, this set the tone of the book up perfectly and draws the reader in.  Instantly one can see that it is indeed possible for teens to do hard things, and that not so very long ago, they managed it regularly.

Coming from teens itself, the book has a much greater impact than if someone in their 20’s or 30’s had penned it.  I have worked with young men in their teenage years as a counselor doing a group therapy rotation on a military base.  The group was comprised of fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen year-old’s who either dropped out, or were kicked out of high school.  It was an anger management group.  It was also a perfect example of what low expectations can lead to.

Most of the guys had bought the idea that they were worthless.  Everyone around them, outside of camp, believed that these guys would fail.  One of the insights that my counseling partner and I tried to get them to see was that they did not have to live down to the world’s expectations of them.  I wish I had had Do Hard Things available at the time to give each one of them a copy.

One of my favourite points brought up in the book was the absolute lack of meaning the phrases, “I did my best,” or “just do your best,” now have.  They are completely meaningless and are a pat answer, and command.  If eveyone that claims to have did their best really had done their best, the world would look a lot different.

Now, the only thing that made me slightly anxious while reading the book was an underlying feel of “could-be legalism.”  I have to give it to the twins, they walked a fine but distinct line between suggestion, simply sharing information, and legalism.  To me, it felt as though they consciously knew that there could be a tone of legalism, and deliberately kept reframing their points as to avoid it, which is a good thing.

For example, they have a discussion about a modesty survey that they helped to set up.  The survey asked males for their opinions on various articles of clothing that women would wear and that women themselves actually asked about (for example ankle length skirts; modest or not; are spaghetti strap tops by themselves; are they a stumbling block to guys, etc…).  Of course if one is not really careful, it could turn legalistic…and I react to legalism pretty much like Paul does in Galatians.  They are quick to point out that they are not offering a list of rules…but, is a list of rules implied?  Is it subtlety communicated (I don’t believe intentionally) that if you, as a female, were to wear certain articles of clothing that you may just be  contributing to another person’s sin, and hence responsible not only for your own slip, but theirs as well…

Anywho, the twins themselves avoid making their ideas in the book a legalistic issue which I thought was great, and a smart move.  I do believe that this book would be helpful, and is a must read for teens, tweens, parents, pastors, counselors, psychologists, teachers, etc…  It is definitely a reminder to society at large that teens are quite capable of handling a lot of responsibility, esp. when that responsibility is chosen or embraced by the teen themselves (and especially when it is blessed by God).

You can find the twins main page here: The Rebelution.  It has book information, a link to their blog, tour info, etc…  My husband, The Country Shrink, a Clinical Psychologist, also wrote up a review, which you can read here: Doing hard things.

This book is definitely worth the money and time to read.

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X-Files; Movie Review

I Want to Believe is the subtitle of the new X-files movie, and has several meanings within the story.  The first part of my review will be spoiler free, the second half will contain some spoilers, but I’ll let everyone know where the transition happens.

If you’ve never seen the X-files, I think you’ll be lost.  The movie was billed as a stand-alone story, but it doesn’t really work out that way.  I have a feeling that you won’t be as connected to the characters, and as emotionally invested if you haven’t followed the series.  I have read several reviews from non-fans who did like the movie, however.

If you are an X-files fan, I’ll tell you exactly what the movie is like; an extra long TV episode.  Admittedly it is a good storyline, it fits right in with the X-files universe as far as sub-plot episodes go.  And, unlike some recent movies, this one managed to really keep my interest, and made me want to stay with the movie to find out what happens next (unlike, say, Hellboy II).

This is a movie you can wait for until the DVD comes out if you wish, but I think fans of the show will enjoy it, as long as you don’t go in with really high expectations (again, it isn’t an X-Files main plot storyline).   If you’ve got the gas money, and money for tickets, and the time, it is a good mystery/suspense movie to go see.  For my Christian readers, and those that care about such things, the movie is rated PG-13; it had violence, “distrubing images,” sexual innuendo, and mild language.  I will say that some of the themes and plot devices may offend some Roman catholic believers.  The acting was well done, esp. by Billy Connolly.

Now, onto the part of the review that contains some SPOILERS.  The relationship between Mulder and Scully takes center stage in this movie; it shows us the depth of their relationship, and lets us see a turning point for both of them.  The themes covered in this movie are perfect for The Christian Scribbler; Can someone that has done something truly heinous make up for it in any way?  Can they be forgiven?  Does God hear their prayers?  What role should our faith play in our pursuits and relationships with others?  Are modern medical advancements morally acceptable, if so, where do we draw the line in testing and implimentation?  And it manages to contain just about every sin known to man; pedophilia, murder, fornication, pride, etc…

The movie quickly shows us what has become of Scully; she’s a doctor at a Catholic hospital, and yes, she still sports her ever present cross necklace.  As the story draws in our leads, Mulder and Scully, we find out that a kidnapping has occurred and someone has gotten visions of the brutal act; a former priest by the name of Father Joe…did I mention he is a pedophile?  Admittedly, he is a convicted pedophile, meaning he was caught and charged, and apparently released.  He knows it was wrong, and is seeking forgiveness, as well as joining a community of sex offenders who monitor each other; in the plot we are lead to believe this is so they will not slip since they hate each other as much as they hate themselves.  I have to say that some of the humor in the movie would make me mad, and ill, if I were a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a priest…

Anywho, “I want to believe” is a mantra taken up by several characters either directly or indirectly: Mulder wants “mystery” and intrigue back in his life, Scully wants to know if she can rely on God and stay connected with Mulder, as well as believe in the visions Father Joe is having; and Father Joe himself hopes and prays he can be forgiven, and that God still hears his prayers.  These themes are all connected by the main plot: it is an FBI agent that has gone missing, and no one can find her.  Due to some of the odd aspects of the case, mainly the fact that the former priest is helping to find clues through psychic visions, the FBI sends an agent to cajole Scully into cajoling Mulder to come back as a consultant on the case.

I have to say that I was surprised at some of the questions Chris Carter (the director) raises in the movie, and leaves the audience to ponder over.  As I said, for me, the one that really jumped out is God’s power of forgiveness and if everyone has access to that forgiveness through Christ.  I do believe everyone can be forgiven through Christ, and I think the movie, while not answering the question directly, hints at this while still showing that we still suffer the effects of our sins here on Earth.  Our sins will also change how others perceive us, which is completely understandable.

“Big” SPOILER: My favorite moment in the film is when Agent Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) makes an appearance, and sums up my feelings in the film by pulling a gun and taking names…at that point, it is a relief to see that someone has enough brains to go into creepy places with a loaded weapon (why exactly did Scully and Mulder not have their guns as I believe West Virginia is a Conceal and Carry state?).

I believe I’ve managed to give a review without revealing the biggest plot line of “who did it.”  If you would like to leave a comment or ask a question, would you kindly indicate if it contains spoilers.

If I was to grade the movie…I think a B+ fits pretty well.  It was a solid Mulder/Scully story well acted.  If you don’t go into the movie with high expectations you should enjoy it well enough, but as I said earlier, you can easily wait until the DVD comes out.

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