Books

A Book Review of The Journal of Ben Uchida

WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.

The Journal of Ben Uchida Citizen 13559 Mirror Lake Internment Camp by Barry Denenberg

Type: Children’s Series, Diary, Historical Fiction

Basic Plot: Ben Uchida and his family are put into an internment camp after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Quality

Plot: 3/5 Average: The story was interesting, though a little predictable in some ways. It was a little unsatisfying in some ways, as it lacked some of the details it could have had, and there were no real dynamic content. Characters were also lacking in dynamics.

Writing Style and Setup: 2½/5 Below Average: The style was more childish and simple than some other styles of Dear America diaries. It was also more cynical and critical in spirit.

Moral: 1/5 Bad Role Models: Ben Uchida and his friends are all terrible role models. Ben is cynical, angry-spirited, and childish. He looks at adults as morons who don’t ever mean what they say, and he pessimistically looks at everything in his life. I admit that sarcasm and cynicism can be funny to watch when done right and appropriately, but this was just done in an annoying, selfish manner, with little humor. The Bible also has a lot in Proverbs to say about those that are scornful in spirit. On another note, his friends tend to be immoral and foolish, often convincing him to do immoral and foolish things.

Overall: 2/5 Below Average: I was more than a little disappointed with this Dear America book. While the information was accurate and the plot was interesting, the main character is annoying, and the Japanese spirit is lacking. This is perhaps to replace the Japanese spirit with a more American spirit that some of the second and third generation Japanese no doubt had, but I think the characters’ attitudes were to too liberal to be something I could believe the average twelve year old in World War II America would have.

Moral Content

Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 2/5 An Inappropriate Attempt: Ben’s friend convinces him to spy on some girls when he believes they will be changing. The girls turn out to have changed before they came.

Violence: 2/5 Some Violence: Violence, death, and suicide are used a lot in exaggerations and sometimes in descriptions. The bombing of Pearl Harbor is mentioned. Characters wonder and believe several times that the Japanese will be killed systematically by the government. While angry, a woman purposely destroys all of her dishes. It is mentioned that a man hangs himself. Some boys play a knife throwing game, and a knife gets in a boys ankle. Someone throws a brick through a window. A boy elbows a kid, and he gets revenge by charging him in football. A woman gets hit in the head with a baseball. A boy attacks another boy, and though nothing to descriptive happens, it does mention the damage that was done. It is mentioned that a movie has a father that hits his son. It is mentioned that a man is shot to death by some soldiers. Characters fall, though rarely, if ever, get seriously hurt. A man is said to have threatened violence, but whether he truly did or not is never said. Several characters deaths are mentioned in the epilogue from bombing, gunshot, and unnamed causes.

Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: 2/5 Light Swearing and Racial Terms: “Damn” is misused once. The term “Jap” is used at least ten times.

Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 2/5 Some Emotional and Disturbing Content: World War I, the Alamo, and the Civil are briefly mentioned and World War II is the time of the diary. There is mention of characters dying and getting injured in the war. Both white and Japanese people wish to hurt and kill each other throughout the book, at least twice wanting or threatening to burn down the other ones homes. One boy’s house is mentioned to have most likely been purposely burned. It is mentioned that a roof caught on fire from a sparkler. Characters cry and tear up a few times, usually from the way the children are being raised in the internment camps, and though it is not overly depressing, it is usually at least sad to read. A boy screams once when he gets hurt. A man is rumored to have died from soldiers, and it is rumored that the Japanese men are beaten. A boy is hit so hard in a football game that his a boy wonders if he killed him, and the event is described a little descriptively, though not too morbidly. Military men swarm a crowd when the crowd becomes restless, though no one is hurt. A boy makes a joke about tanks while he is being searched for weapons. Two characters in a movie are mentioned to have died. Soldiers point guns at people and guard from towers and streets. Rumors of riots are briefly mentioned a couple of times, as well as that tear gas killed the rioters. A man is greatly traumatized from being interrogated and held by the Americans and, though not completely mentally destroyed, he is obviously and greatly changed from it. Japanese possibly torturing Americans is briefly mentioned. Several characters deaths are mentioned in the epilogue from bombing, gunshot, and unnamed causes. Characters are briefly mentioned to sometimes faint. Characters hope they don’t get hurt. Characters mention feeling light pain from different circumstances. Bleeding is mentioned at least twice, and characters have or get bruises, cuts, scars, scratches, and swollen eyes. A boy is possibly blinded after getting attacked by another boy. Characters are mentioned to be carried on stretchers. A man is mentioned to have gotten a concussion. The historical facts mention the murder and lynching of Chinese immigrants, as well as military duty done by Japanese-American soldiers in World War II, as well as at least one soldier’s death. The author is mentioned to have written many books about war and war heroes.

Religious Issues: 1/5 Brief Mention A man is described as a boy’s “idol.” In the historical facts, a man is mentioned to be the son of a Buddhist monk.

Magic: ½/5 Slight Mention: “Magic” is used for descriptive purposes. A movie with “Ghost” in the title is mentioned.

Others: Characters smoke, illegally gamble, and are strongly hinted to drink, and sake (rice wine) is drunk by adults and children once. A man is said to have been drunk, but whether truly was or not is never said. Girls practice for a dance, and children perform a dance. A man in a movie is mentioned to have had more than one wife over his life. A man tells his son that there may be people on other planets. Santa Claus is briefly mentioned. Women start to wear only pants because of the sand. “Gamble” is used for descriptive purposes. “Ballet and interpretive dance” are mentioned.

Overall: Morally, the worst thing is probably the boys attempting to spy on changing girls. Other than this, morally there is not really anything wrong with it concerning content, but the main moral and attitude of the story causes me to not really recommend it.

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Movies

A Movie Review of McKenna Shoots for the Stars

WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.

McKenna Shoots for the Stars by Vince Marcello (Director)

Type: Contemporary

Basic Plot: McKenna is an average ten year old girl, but soon finds that she has some academic problems. Wanting to drown herself in gymnastics, but prevented from doing so, she has to come to terms with having to get a tutor.

Quality

Plot: 3/5 Average: The plot had several things in it that taught the moral, though the story was not extremely interesting for everybody. Since the movie is about a yen year old girl, girls in that age group will probably be the ones that enjoy it most. The plot was predictable in some ways, but it was not full blown laziness. In a lot of ways, it could be seen as a chick flick for preteens, minus the romance.

Acting: 4/5 Well Done: The acting was good, as well as the script. Body movements, tones, and facial expressions were realistic and believable. Sometimes the script was a little predictable or the voice acting had small traces of fakeness, but overall it was believable and realistic.

Costumes and Scenery: 4/5 Well Done: The scenery and costumes were both done beautifully. Homes looked like real middle to upper class homes, and schools and businesses were also detailed. Costumes and regular clothing were detailed just enough to be neither overdone nor too plain. Though not pure eye candy, the movie was pleasant to watch.

Moral: 4/5 A Very Good Moral: The main moral of the movie was humility, though it was shown in many different ways. One way was in excepting help, as McKenna must learn to accept that she needs tutoring. Another was in not always putting yourself first, as McKenna learns that she needs to set aside time for others needs and wants. Lastly, McKenna learns the importance of apologizing and admitting she was wrong. All three of these are good examples of humility. When McKenna acts in pride early on in the movie, it immediately results in consequences. This movie not only shows humility is good, but that pride is bad.

Another moral aspect I liked was how the adults were portrayed. The adults were shown as intelligent and helpful. McKenna was occasionally overly dramatic and mouthy, though a lot less so than most movies show children.

Overall: 4/5 Well Done: Though the plot is a little cliché, overall, I recommend this movie for preteen girls when it comes to quality. It many ways it is better than the average movie for children.

Moral Content

Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 2/5 Immodest Costumes: The girls wear tight and high gymnastics outfits that reveal the thigh and sometimes even a little more. Some of the outfits are low or short, though only by a few inches, and little cleavage is revealed.

Violence: ½/5 Injuries: A girl breaks her ankle after falling off of a balance beam. Several girls fall during gymnastics routines. It is mentioned that a girl broke her wrist.

Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: 2/5 Light Misuse:“Geez” is said twice. God’s name is taken in vain at least once, though it may have been said twice.

Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 1/5 Slightly Emotional Content: Two girls cry once each, though one more so tears up than cries. A girl mentions that she threw up from stress and that she wishes she would get an injury. Some girls talk about feeling sore from using a wheel chair.

Religious Issues: 0/5 None

Magic: ½/5 Brief Mention A girl reads a story that has a “magic looking glass” in it.

Others: Pop music, country pop, and light rock are played throughout the movie. It includes drums. It sometimes has a rebellious spirit. Girls dance for fun and for rhythmic gymnastics, and a girl mentions that she used to dance. A boy plays the drums against a desk. A man air plays a guitar as his family sings, and later they sing a heavy rock song in the credits. Earlier, they also talk mention his “grunge college rock band.” A rock band can be seen playing light rock in the background of a café. “DJ” is mentioned in a song. Girls wear pants.

Overall: 2/5 Child Appropriate: The biggest issues would probably be the clothing and the worldly music. I wouldn’t really recommend it to boys because of this, and for many families it may not work out at all. If someone did watch, I would say that it would be ok for all ages.

Books

A Book Review of The Confession

WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.

The Confession by Beverly Lewis

Type: Amish, Christian Fiction, Contemporary

Basic Plot: Katie has gone to look for her birth mother while her family grieves at home.

Quality

Plot: 3½/5 Above Average: Second books tend to be little more than bridges between the first and third, but I felt the author was trying to do more than that. The story was still interesting, and characters still developed. Some of the servants were more cliché than the Amish community characters had been, in my opinion. The plot had good things in it that were believable and thought out well, though not extraordinarily. The ending was a little cliché, but other than that it was not obviously or painfully cliché.

Writing Style and Setup: 3/5 Average: The writing style was the same as the first book. The descriptions were not as frequent and detailed, I believe, as the first book.

Moral: 2½/5 A Good, Partially Noticeable Moral: Though the moral is weaker in this book, I believe the moral that can be seen in this book is that God will come through for us. Katie’s mom prays that she will meet her daughter before her death and eventually does. The moral was not as expounded on as the first books moral was, but it could still be seen. There was little thanking of God for bringing about her daughter at the end of the book.

Overall: 3/5 Average: As most seconds books, The Confession was not as good as the first, but it was still enjoyable and did not feel forced. I think it is therefore above the average book, but like still not amazing. I believe that girls and women twelve to adult would enjoy this story.

Moral Content

Sexual and Inappropriate Content: A girl is described as “sensual” and “seductive,” and Katie discovers racy, red undergarments in her suitcases. “Seductively” is used to describe a way a man speaks. It is mentioned that a woman had been embarrassed at any inappropriate “innuendo.” It is mentioned that a man got a vasectomy. A boy is known for being a flirt. A woman flirts with a married man and jokingly tells him to leave so that she can change. A woman confesses to her boyfriend that she is not a virgin, and her boyfriend is mentioned to have asked several times for intimacy before marriage, though he was always refused. A man kisses a woman he is dating, touches her hand, and “put his arm around her.” He later kisses her once after they are married. “Seductive” is used for descriptive purposes.

Violence: There are descriptions that use violence. It is mentioned a man dragged and forced a woman out of his house. It is mentioned that a man punched his pillow. Katie cuts her hand with a knife.

Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: It is mentioned once that a man swears, though it does not say what he said.

Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: There are descriptions with death and amputation, and shunned characters are often looked at as if they were dead. A woman believes her old boyfriend had died by drowning, though he hasn’t. Characters talk about a woman dying. A woman has several instances of spasms from sclerosis, and once or twice they are described in detail. A woman slowly goes insane from sorrow and believes she is hearing a child cry. A woman almost chokes on a drink. A woman slowly dies from sclerosis though the book and gets pneumonia, and Katie watches her mother when she dies. Characters are mentioned to have died in the past, including a brief mention of a stillborn baby. A boys feet hurt from having cut his “toenails too short,” and he exaggerates that he practically cut them off. A girl bleeds from a cut once.

Religious Issues: A girl thinks a man is like the devil for his wicked ways, and wonders if that’s what his middle initial stands for. It is mentioned that a girl recites a prayer from a prayer book, though it does not say what it is, and she is encouraged to pray by her relatives to pray using her own words. Characters are mentioned to wear head coverings. A boy says how he believes certain people will go to hell. “Haunting,” “haunted,” and “ghost” are used for descriptive purposes.

Magic: “Magic” and “spellbound” are used for descriptive purposes.

Others: “Dance” is used for descriptive purposes. A woman is given medical drugs and shots. A woman had once thought about divorcing a man but didn’t. A man smokes a cigar, and he uses an ashtray. The cigar is also used for descriptive purposes.

Overall: Overall I would say it’s appropriate for children twelve and older.

Here is a review to the third book, The Reckoning: https://christianentertainmentreviewsblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/25/a-book-review-of-the-recking/

Movies

A Movie Review of The Shunning

The Shunning by Michael Landon Jr. (Director)

Type: Amish, Drama

Basic Plot: Katie Lapp is an Amish girl about to marry the bishop, but secrets that her family has been hiding from her change her entire perspective on life.

Quality

Plot: 4/5 Well Done: The plot had a different timeline and events than the book, so much so in some ways that I wonder how the next movie will match the book. Some events are the same and the general feel of the movie is the same, but other events and their order and way are completely different. I would like to say it has the spirit and frame of the story but a slightly different telling of it. The only poor scene was the discovery of the dress, in my opinion, as it seemed like Katie just randomly wandered in the attic and found her dress in an almost purposeful manner. Other than that, scenes were pretty natural. I liked that most of the reveal was left near the end of the movie, while the book reveals quite a lot near the beginning and middle. It also ended well, making a sequel very possible without feeling like there was serious unresolved plot content.

Acting: 3/5 Above Average: The acting was about believable and realistic, especially some of the middle aged women. The characters spoke with an accent, which some may find annoying, but others may find perfectly fine. The main characters were able to keep a strong accent, though sometimes in emotional scenes it would waver or tend to disappear. The only actress who kept a pure accent despite emotional scenes (in my opinion) was Katie’s mother.

Costumes and Scenery: 3 /5 Above Average: Since I have had times in my life where I lived near the Amish, I know how they dress. Some of the costumes wear inaccurate in shape, and some even included buttons, something that Amish are not allowed to wear. The head coverings were definitely accurate though. I feel like some of the boys hair made them look like boy band members in Amish clothes, though, and Katie was sometimes noticeably wearing light makeup. The only huge disappointment was that neither Katie nor her mother had red or auburn hair or even a strawberry blond. Later I saw an extra that did have the flaming red hair Katie was supposed to have, while the books said no one else in the town had a red headed child.

Scenery was simple for Amish scenes and not overdone in the English ones. It was believable in the right ways, looking like homes that one could or does live in, or stores one has gone to.

Moral: 2 /5 More Toned Down Moral: The moral was more toned down in the movies, probably because the author could not explain character’s internal battles as much. Though the movie was more trying to tell a story than a moral, I believe the moral that can easily be seen is that lying has terrible consequences. Katie’s mother hides a secret from her daughter for years and even tries to prevent certain things Katie wants because of her insecurities. As a result, Katie leaves the Amish and is shunned.

Overall: 3 /5 Above Average: I think this is a good movie of the book, but I think it could have been better in some of the costumes and more accurate. The movie was good in its own way, though I wonder how the sequel will work with some of the information missing. I believe Christian families, though especially girls, will like it.

Moral Content

Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 1/5 Suggestive: Some of the shirts the characters wear may be considered a little low, though little to no defined cleavage or curvature is shown. A girl gets pregnant outside of marriage. A boy kisses a girl on the cheeks, and a boy and girl kiss on the lips, all unmarried, though not passionately.

Violence: 1/5 One Incidence: A woman cuts her finger.

Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: 2/5 Some Misuse: God’s name is taken in vain three times (though that does depend on perspective, such as “Thank God!” in a more flippant sense than a Christian.)

Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 2/5 Emotional and Slightly Intense Content: There is mention that a horse may soon “give up the ghost.” Descriptions like “will get you shot” and “old graves” are used. A woman is dying of a disease. It is mentioned that she passed out and had surgery. A man is mentioned to have died in a boating accident. A woman gives birth to a child who dies immediately from heart problems, and there is mention of them never having children again and that past children had died. In a rage, a man destroys a guitar. Characters cry or on the brink of crying for various regions, though emotional or sad nothing overly dramatic is done. Blood is briefly seen after a woman cuts her finger, and it is later seen bandaged.

Religious Issues: 1/5 Brief Suggestion: Katie goes to an Amish confession, though doctrinally wrong it is not like the Catholics or creepy and cultish feeling, and characters wear head coverings. A girl talks to a man that is presumed dead, hinting it was a dream, ghost, vision, or even her talking to herself.

Magic: 0/5 None

Others: A woman mentions that her mother drank and did drugs. Women wear pants. A boy pretends to play an air electric guitar. There is some music with a beat and light rock/punk music played a few times for background music or listened to by Katie in secret.

Overall: 1/5 All Ages Appropriate: Besides some of the drama regarding pre-marital birth, I think this movie is recommendable for just about anybody.

Books

A Book Review of The Shunning

WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.

The Shunning by Beverly Lewis

Type: Amish, Christian Fiction, Contemporary

Basic Plot: Katie Lapp has been raised Old Order Amish from infancy, but her seemingly simple and predictable life is changed when she finds some a secret in her attic.

Quality

Plot: 4/5 Well Done: I liked how this Amish plot was not centered on romance, but on family, individualism, and peer pressure. Katie finds out the life that she has been living has been little more than a lie and begins to question the Amish ways more and more. Her growing rebellion results in an Amish tradition of shunning. All interaction is cut off from the shunned one, and Katie has to choose to follow either what the church says is right or what she knows is true. The book deals with a different type of enslavement from Communism or legal slavery. The book deals with slavery to religion, social pressure, and a church.

Characters are much less cliché and more developed than some Christian Fiction I have read. Different perspectives are shown, making sure that the reader isn’t trapped in one way of viewing things. Their feelings and emotions are realistic, and though sometimes the characters are emotional and cry, they are not overflowing with tears at the slightest trouble or behave pathetically.

Writing Style and Setup: 3/5 Average: Despite the amazing plot and characters, the style was more mediocre. Descriptions were plain and predictable at times, though not too forced. The setup was good, leaving the plot twist for the very end, with little to none showing what it would be. Some people may think the story is a little slow, but it did move smoother and faster than some Christian books I have read.

Moral: 3/5 A Good Moral: The moral of the book, I believe, will become more clear in later books, but in this book is opening up to the idea of freedom from religious enslavement. Katie is discontent with her Plain life, wishing she could wear bright clothes or that she could sing non-religious songs. As she thinks on her past and learns more, she realizes that she is merely holding to unreasonable tradition rather than Biblical standards. We should be subject to the Bible, but Katie lives in a society that believes in subjection to manmade laws and traditions. Not all manmade laws and traditions are wrong and unreasonable, but Katie learns that they are not necessarily needed to be righteous, right with God, or to go to heaven, as her friends and family teach. I believe this will be more expounded on in later books. There are small traces of rebellion in action, but I don’t sense a rebellious spirit in Katie, despite her confusion about her religious life.

Overall: 3½/5: Above Average: I honestly think that The Shunning has some of the things that make fine literature, though whether it is a classic or not is debatable. I think girls and women twelve to adults would like to read the story.

Moral Content

Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 1/5 Light, Brief Physical Contact and Some Suggestiveness: Boys hug and kiss a girl on the mouth and cheeks that they are dating and engaged to, and a girl lightly and briefly describes how it feels. A man thinks how a girl’s hair felt when he sprinkled her. A man is eager to “demonstrate his love” for his future wife after there wedding, and one of the reasons of father scolds his daughter for not marrying a man is because he “has no woman to warm his bed.” Katie wonders about the feeling of lying about your purity. It is mentioned that a girl had a child outside of marriage, and she cries over her mistake of having intimacy outside of marriage.

Violence: 1/5 Brief, Light Violence: A boy kicks his sister. It is mentioned that a boy pulled his sister’s hair when they were children. A woman burns her fingers in a dream. Chickens’ heads are mentioned to be cut off as part of the wedding preparations and customs.

Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: ½/5 Possible Misuse: God’s name is possibly taken in vain once.

Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 1/5 Light Emotional Content: A woman gives birth to a stillborn daughter, and it is mentioned that she had two miscarriages. A girl’s boyfriend is mentioned to have died, though his body is never found. She visits his grave about twice and often thinks of him. A woman is dying from a disease unknown by the reader. Two women briefly discuss death. Characters cry of varying situations, such as abandonment or death, but none are overly dramatic. A character is shunned, which includes a complete break off in communication with the shunned one, and greatly saddens the shunned one.

Religious Issues: 2/5 Practices of Other Christian” Groups: Characters are Amish and Mennonite. Baptism is done by sprinkling. Certain Amish religious rituals and methods such as confession, women wearing head coverings, the Holy Kiss, and casting lots to pick bishops are mentioned. It is mentioned that characters recite prayers from prayer books. A few times, salvation by works is mentioned, and a boy says his sister will go to hell if she does not stay with the Amish Church, though salvation by faith is thought about by the main character. A Bible verse is either misquoted or not KJV, and a character is mentioned to have had a “paraphrased version of the New Testament.”

Magic: ½/5 Brief Mention: “Specter” is used for descriptive purposes.

Others: A girl dances once, though it is more like twirling than actually dancing.

Overall: 2½/5 Almost Child Appropriate: Overall I think this book is appropriate for children twelve at the youngest, mainly because of the religious rituals and some of the suggestive content.

Here is a review to the second book, The Confession: https://christianentertainmentreviewsblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/15/a-book-review-of-the-confession/