Friday, February 22, 2013

Sticks, Stones and Dragon Bones by Evelyn Ink revolves around the five Darlington sisters and their adventures in Enil. After finding a chest in their attic, Paige and Bean discover a map, books, coins, a sword engraved with their mother's name, an old iron doorknob and a key. The girls work out that the doorknob could belong to one of the many doors in their old house that go to nowhere. However, with the doorknob and the key in place on an old basement door, a portal opens from our world to Enil. Where or what is Enil? The sisters soon get swept into this strange world before they can question their mother.

I liked the story right away. It at first brought to mind Peter Pan. It doesn't have much of the absurdity of Peter Pan, but has all of the adventure. The Darlington sisters are uniquely crafted characters. Paige and Bean are consistent throughout and have an enjoyable bantering sense of humor similar to what I share with my sisters. The twins Hayde and Dorrit are especially cute as 6-year-old would-be cutthroat pirates.

I'm just beginning to get a feel for the setting. As this is a "quest" story, we only get glimpses of the places the Darlingtons travel through. But they are described enough to be interesting. The telling of the background story seemed odd in places because I had a mindset about Enil that didn't include "tabloids." But once I accepted it, I was able to continue. Some parts of the background did seem a bit familiar. I have read too often about heroes not knowing their full "significance-to-the-world"  background and suddenly coming face-to-face with it. But I won't reveal too much. I have just seen that aspect already in other works. I suppose that detail is in the formula for many of the adventure stories out there.

The story details, however, are original in many other ways. The tension and excitement is well done. I've read Ill-fated as well, and Evelyn Ink knows how to write suspense and adventure. I look forward to the next book in the Sticks, Stones and Dragon Bones series. However, I didn't realize it was a series until page 189 of the 199 page book. I was ready for more adventure.

I was a bit concerned about pregnancy aspects in the story. My oldest is 7 so I'm not sure I would be discussing those subjects with her if she asked specific details. Yet, as far as this being for target age 8-11, I think it's appropriate. A little bit to scare, a little to exhilarate and a little to keep you guessing.

I was provided with a copy for an honest review.

Rating 4/5

Read more reviews by Cherese Vines at

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Stars of Mount2000, 2013

Obviously many more people were involved in the creation of this celebration, such as the seminarians and the priests and the archbishop of Baltimore himself, Archbishop William Lori, but here are some informations about the faces of Mount 2000 for this past weekend, 2013.

Information from the Mount2000 Website.

Fr. Mike Schmitz

Father Michael Schmitz, the director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Duluth as well as the Chaplain for the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, inspires and educates through his priesthood and preaching. His Newman Center focuses on being fed through the Sacraments as well as study and knowledge of the Church and has thrived under his humble and Spirit-filled guidance. He has preached to youth and young adults across the country about the love of God and the call of Jesus Christ for saints to be raised up in the Church. Father Mike's hope is that these saints will redeem the entire world for Christ.

Mark Hart

Mark Hart serves as Executive Vice President for Life Teen International. A graduate from the University of Notre Dame, Mark is a best-selling and award-winning author (or co-author) of over a dozen books. His newest book, “Embracing God’s Plan for Marriage: A Scripture Study for Couples” is already gaining attention and will be released on May 1st.
Mark has traveled the globe speaking to millions of souls and is a regular guest on several Catholic radio programs, including a weekly spot on Sirius/XM. His wildly popular DVD Bible Study Series, “T3”, is revolutionizing Catholic youth/young adult Scripture Study. Additionally, Mark’s weekly Life Teen podcast and other original resources are utilized in youth groups, homes and classrooms in over two dozen countries. Mark’s humor and his passion for Scripture are helping hundreds of thousands of Catholics, young and old, begin to read and study the Bible in engaging and relevant ways.
Mark and his wife, Melanie, have three daughters: Hope, Trinity and Faith and they live in Arizona.

Jackie Francois

Jackie is a full-time speaker, singer/songwriter, and worship leader from Orange County, CA. In 2006, she became an artist with and in 2008 released her debut album titled “Your Kingdom is Glorious.” She has been involved in youth ministry since she graduated high school, and she now travels the globe speaking to young people about God’s love and leading worship for various events and ministries. She is friends with people who are passionate about God, food, and coffee. And perhaps saints, spiritual books, volleyball, quoting stupid things, the beach, accents, and bowling.

Josh Blakesley

Josh’s Christian music journey began in 1992 while he was involved with a high school peer ministry team. During that time he saw the power of God at work in the lives of teens as they were transformed into believers and lovers of Jesus Christ.
He vowed to be “sold out” for Christ and to use his gift of writing music to glorify God. In a world where well-produced secular music is dominant, he has dedicated himself to making quality contemporary Catholic music.
In 2003, Josh released his first solo album, Immersed , which includes original songs written mostly from his experiences in youth and music ministry. Immersed was followed by his sophomore album Waiting, and by his 3rd album, Free. His newest CD, You Are the Light was released to iTunes in March of 2012 debuting at #16 on the Christian and Gospel charts. You Are the Light is an answer to Pope Benedict XVI’s call to “search for the true, the good and the beautiful”. His music focuses on a true communion with the living God while stressing that blessings really do come to those who wait on the Lord. He does so through an innovative blend of pop and rock tracks that are truly inspired.
In addition to composing and recording music, Josh has participated in several World Youth Day celebrations including the 1993 Denver event and the 2011 Madrid event. He has led music for over 15 years at various Steubenville Youth Conferences throughout the U.S and has worked extensively as a musician with Life Teen International and Catholic Heart Work Camps.
Currently, Josh serves as assistant music director at Our Lady of Prompt Succor Catholic Church in Alexandria, Louisiana where he, his wife Heather and their two children, Sophie and Sutton live. Josh travels many weekends to other parishes throughout the U.S. doing concerts, conducting workshops for musicians, speaking at youth rallies and conferences, and leading praise and worship.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


2013 Mount2000 theme

Picture from the Mount2000 facebook page

Last year was my first time going to Mount2000; this year I went again. Mount2000 is a weekend Catholic retreat for high schoolers. Well over 1,600 Catholics from throughout the nation gather at Mount St. Mary's University, in Emmitsburg, Maryland, to grow in their faith and their love of God. This year, out of those 1600+ people, over 1000 of them went to Confession. Reconciliation was not the only thing going on, though. Speakers such as Mark Hart and Jackie Francois, gave inspirational speeches and Father Mike Schmitz gave homilies that made everyone want to go to church everyday, just to hear! The Josh Blakesley Band made it fun with their music, and everyone had a good time. The dean of Mount St. Mary's even gave a speech and granted a minimum 6,000 dollar ($24,000 total for 4 years) scholarships to everyone attending Mount2000, if they choose to go to Mount St. Mary's University. Each group had their own Seminarian leader and a good time was had by all. 

Some of the comments from people who attended this year's Mount 2000 (from their facebook page):
"This year was my first time at Mount 2000. I came as a chaperone with my parish's Youth Group and I absolutely LOVED it! Since I got home, I've been telling all the people I know that they should go! You had such wonderful speakers, such a great environment with all of the priests, seminarians, and religious walking around and helping out, and the events were fun and faith-filled! My teens loved the Eucharistic procession the best, and I have to say, that was my favorite part as well. It was SO moving! I hope I can come back as a chaperone year after year! (At least, until I pay off my student loans from college and join the convent I've been accepted to!) :) Thank you SO MUCH for having this event! God bless all of you that put this together!" -Jessica C.
"I left the retreat feeling so loved because of all that you did for us!!" -Jacqueline S.
"Been attending for 11 years and always walk away with a better understanding of my faith and promise in our youth today." - Carol R.
"Mount2000 is the most awesome retreat I've ever been on! I look forward to going every year, I've been coming since 2000 and have only missed two retreats since then. It's like Jiffy Lube for my soul!" -Jeanne G.
"An extraordinary faith experience for all" -Diane K.

Visit the Mount2000 Website here for more info!Next year's will be held on February 7-9, 2014 at Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg!

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Sword of Light: Shayia's Adventures Book Review

The Sword of Light: Shayia's Adventures Book One by Kimberli Renee Campbell

I won this book in a giveaway. The Sword of Light: Shayia's Adventures Book One by Kimberli Renee Campbell follows 15-year-old Shayia through the realization of the value of the sacred book to his family and his community. Shayia lives with his grandfather, Ennis, and they have a close relationship since he was raised by Ennis after his parents' deaths. It has only been about 10 years since the Great War, but Ennis senses another great battle approaching. Now Shayia must decide to put away childish notions of war and become a leader.

The Sword of Light is an easy, quick read. I wanted to get to know the characters better; however, the story and plot went far too quickly. The scenes are too quick with very little setup. The book needs a lot more fleshing out. The plot, characters, setting, everything is there to make a good book. Yet the details that would draw the reader in to truly feel for the quest and fight of the hero and his friends is missing. I didn't feel emotionally attached at all.

I think the author needs to go back in and put some meat on those bones. The readers want to get to know the characters so they can root for them. Also some foreshadowing of Shayia's final quest should have been included. It just seemed to be a last minute addition to create a mission for the hero.

Overall a good premise, but reads more like an extended summary.

Rating 3/5

Read more reviews by Cherese Vines at

Friday, February 1, 2013

Movie Review: Django Unchained

Django Unchained is a film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino and starring Jamie Foxx (Django), Christoph Waltz (Dr. Shutlz), Kerry Washington (Broomhilda), Leonardo DiCaprio (Candie), and Samuel L. Jackson (Stephen). It follows Django's transformation beginning as a slave in 1858 USA and later his search for his wife.

This is classic Tarantino with blood and gore galore, a musical score that is both unusual and haunting, unexpected situations, and snappy dialog with comedic elements. I am a fan of Tarantino but I have to admit that I haven't seen one of his movies since Kill Bill Volume 1 and 2. His movies are extra violent and I have shied away from that in recent years. However, the dialog is witty and engaging, which is what really draws me to his films.

Django is themed in the westerns/gunslinger genre with an underlying feeling of the epics of mythology. Django journey in his search for his wife parallels a German myth of Broomhilda told by Dr. Shultz. It is a hero's story and so is Django's. We see the hero's transformation as he prepares for his greatest feat. I liked this element most about the plot. I enjoyed the characters. They are quirky and realistic with a bit of the fantastic. That fantasy element is why we go to the movies. We're thinking: "This couldn't happen in real life, but if it did...this is how it would play out."

The actors did a pretty good job with the sensitive subject of slavery and brutality of early America. Tarantino did not pull back from the atrocities of the time, but he did not linger on or glorify them. The setting and costumes were fitting and often beautiful. Although at times it did seem like I could detect the green screen images. The editing is not always as tight as it could be. There is a part in the climax that I thought the pacing was a little off. However, I suppose the director wanted to make sure the audience saw all the elements of that moment.

Overall, I liked the movie. There are many shocking moments, a lot of violence, realistic and comedic banter, and romantic moments. This film is not for the faint of heart or those who cringe at the N-word. I counted around 75 but of course I lost count as the plot tension increased. I've always found that either you like Tarantino films or you don't. There's no in between. So if you're a fan of Tarantino's work, you will not be disappointed.

Rating 4/5