27 March 2012

Book Review: The Mysterious Island

Title: The Mysterious Island
Author: Jules Verne

Synopsis: In the United States during the Civil War, five northern men imprisoned in Southern territory seize the chance of escape via a hot air balloon during fowl weather. After drifting over the ocean for multiple days, the balloon is losing air, and the men are eventually landed on an uninhabited island. They must learn to survive, utilizing the ample resources of the island. Many times, trouble comes their way, yet they receive mysterious and unexpected help. But how long will this society in the middle of nowhere last?

Positives: The five men on "the mysterious island," choose to set aside Sunday as a day of rest and spend the time praying and reading scripture. Furthermore, the story promotes teamwork and hard work. The men labor together to create an industrious island, truly caring about each other and concerned for every party member's welfare. There are also many scientific explanations throughout the book, accurate or not, they are present and can be informative.

Negatives: Cyrus Smith/Harding accepts ample praise for every idea and chooses to let his fellow men believe that he is able to make anything they could ever want. While the men confess to believe in God Almighty, they also seem to have a subtle belief in "mother nature," and seem to believe in God more as a "the right thing to do" than a true conviction. Some violence including the killing of pirates (though not descriptive at all).

-With hard work anything is possible
-Nothing good can last forever
-Fellow mankind is a blessing

Conclusion: Very slow for the first part of the book yet finishing with a bang, The Mysterious Island is an interesting read stuffed with scientific facts and varied characters. The end is a satisfying conclusion to such a long book. I would recommend this book for 11+ mostly for boys yet some girls may enjoy it (though there are not any female characters in the book).

Rating: 3 (Decent)

26 March 2012

Book Analysis: PTSD & Healing in The Outcast

Caution! This outlines the story and spoils the ending!

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and healing are relevant in real life, but how often do they permeate the realm of fiction?

In Sutcliff’s The Outcast, main character, Beric, experiences what it is like to live after facing life-changing abuse. Once an ordinary boy in his British tribe, enjoying the pleasures of hunting, learning to throw spears, and making friends, Beric’s life is turned upside down when his clan begins to call him a foreigner, stating that his blood is different and therefore, he doesn’t belong. So begins Beric’s fight for survival. He is not one to easily back down and stands up to the village elder as a nine-year old stating, “What have I to do with the Red Crests, that I should go to them now? You are my people, my own people, by hearth fire and bread and salt, and I will not go . . . I will learn to be a hunter and a warrior with the rest of my kind. . . Oh, elders of my Clan, I have not done anything wrong, that you should cast me out!” Beric’s plea continues throughout the rest of the book: what wrong does he ever do to be an outcast from society?

Nevertheless, at fifteen years of age he is cast out from his clan and left to fend for himself. Meeting his first “friend” from the outside world in a Roman city, he blindly falls into a slave ship. Now, enslaved by his own people for no crime but perhaps that of ignorance, Beric is left thinking he has nowhere to belong. He struggles through the life of a slave, not too discontent until in a moment of rage, he throws wine in his master’s face and is sentenced to the salt mines where he will die a slow, painful death of hard labor. So, in a moment of desperation, Beric runs away and finds shelter the following night in a house in the hills. Sadly, he was uninformed that the house was a thieve’s hideout, and the thieves escape leaving a group of Roman soldiers to find only Beric remaining. Unaware that in the meantime, a kindly gentleman has bought his freedom, Beric is afraid of returning to slavery and the salt mines, and accepts the punishment for thievery: lifelong service on a galley ship.

After two years in the galleys, experiencing abuse at every turn, without enough to eat, wear, or time to sleep or rest, Beric sees his only friend (and his galley partner) die. A cord snaps in Beric, and he attempts to kill the overseer, the one deed that should really result in his outcast from society. He is scourged and dumped overboard as dead, later to be found by the kindly gentleman who had bought his freedom.

The end of the book may be considered by some uneventful and slow, but for Beric it is a time of healing, and for the author, a revelation of an abused person’s return to normal life. He exhibits certain strange behaviors due to his past including: working hard one moment and then sitting staring for the next; taking long walks lost in thought; cringing from everyone he sees; nightmares; a fear that all mankind is evil (so he plots to escape to the woods and live by himself); a belief that he doesn’t belong anywhere in the world. It is at this point that Beric truly feels an outcast. He believes that all men are evil and abusive, and that no one can care for a prior galley slave. He lives in constant fear that he will be returned to the galleys or slavery. But slowly, as he is adopted by this kindly Roman and cared for like a son, Beric’s trust returns. He can see the good in his dreams; he can look back at the galleys without fear and pain; he can find joy in working and doesn’t feel ashamed at who he is; he can work alongside Romans, and in the end, he can look one of the master’s of the galley ship in the face and speak without regret, without fear, and without pain.

Sutcliff is declaring that there is hope and healing for someone who has faced years of abuse and neglect. Beric’s healing occurs, slowly and painfully at times, but his physical and emotional scars do fade, and there is a place for him in the world, a place where he is loved and wanted.

Movie Review: Hugo

And here goes my first movie review!

Title: Hugo
Genre: Drama/Adventure/Family
Rated: PG

Synopsis: A young orphan, Hugo Cabret, lives in a train station in early-mid 1900's France. He has a job winding the clocks but steals food to survive. He has memories of his father, before his father's death in a museum fire. His father was assisting him in the repair of a mechanical man, now Hugo tries to finish the job, hoping to receive a message from his father through the machine. However, a station toy shop owner hinders Hugo in his purpose, leaving Hugo with questions of who this man is, and how his father fits in to everything. Hugo is carried on a mysterious adventure as he finds a friend in the toy shop owner's goddaughter. In the end, Hugo transforms the lives of those around him, simply because he was searching for the past and reaching out, trying to heal "broken machines."

Positives: Hugo is a caring young boy, grieving for his father, but allowing himself to move on from the past. When he meets a man who is broken by his past and can't move on, Hugo seeks to bring him the healing and confrontation he needs. Hugo breaks the idea that "orphans are naturally bad," and encourages investment in others lives. The story also parallels two responses to hardship: a man's response in throwing a fit and living angrily, not allowing any of the past to be remembered, and Hugo's response: to move on and enjoy life and treasure the memories that he had.

Negatives: Hugo steals food and parts from a toy shop (though he is later forced to work for the parts he stole). Hugo's sense of adventure includes breaking into a movie theater, and his friend lies about being related to him. Hugo's prior caretaker (an uncle) gets drunk and is later found dead, drunk in a river.

-It's okay to remember the past and enjoy it for what it is and then move on.
-Children can make a difference.
-Everyone has a purpose in life:
As Hugo states "Maybe that's why a broken machine always makes me a little sad, because it isn't able to do what it was meant to do... Maybe it's the same with people. If you lose your purpose...it's like you're broken" and "I had to be here for some reason."

Conclusion: Hugo was an excellently filmed, clean movie. The cinematography was impressive, the storyline unique, and Hugo was touching. It was based off of a book which was based off true historical events, lending some accuracy to portions of the story. The film touches on the importance of relationships, and the idea that children should be cared about, not forgotten.

"Whoever receives a child in my name receives me." (Matthew 18:5).

I would recommend this movie for ages 8+ due to some of the mystery and adventure, and the more serious tone of this film.

Rating: 4 (liked it!)

25 March 2012

Book Review: Outcast

Title: Outcast
Author: Rosemary Sutcliff

Synopsis: Adopted as a baby by a British tribe during the time of Ancient Rome, Beric grows up knowing nothing else. However, by the time he is nine years old and ready to begin his training as a warrior, the clan is beginning to question whether this Roman lad belongs. He fights for his right to remain (and with a little help) is allowed to train. Then, when he is fifteen, it is time for his initiation as a British warrior, but this time his clan casts him out for real. He is told to leave the village because they believe he is bringing bad luck on the clan. He leaves in hopes of joining the Eagles, his "real" people. Trials abound, and Beric is left wondering if he really belongs in the world, and if there is anyone good in it. Everywhere he goes he is abused and misused until, on death's door, he meets someone else, someone different.

Positives: An excellent depiction of both Roman and British life at the time, with many historical facts, words, and scenarios, Outcast is very informative historical fiction. Furthermore, Beric chooses honesty when dishonesty may have benefited him more and humbly accepts punishments he does not necessarily deserve. He fights for the lives of other societal outcasts, and doesn't hold a grudge against his British family. A Roman chooses to care for Beric (when Beric is only a mere slave), stooping so low as to wash his wounds and adopt him as a son.

Negatives: Beric prays to the gods of the British and Romans. Two adoptions take place, the first with the result that, "if he doesn't share the same blood, he doesn't belong." However, this could be considered redeemed in the end, when he is welcomed in as a son to a man who lost his own son and cares for this Outcast, blood related or not. Cruelty is abundant as Beric faces abuse from multiple people.

-Everyone belongs somewhere
-Love is deeper than bloodline
-Abuse and cruelty can be left behind

Conclusion: A fast paced book, though with some slower, lengthy descriptions, Outcast attaches the reader to the character of Beric, causing pain when he feels pain, and joy and contentedness when he is joyful or content. With each new difficulty, it is sad to see what Beric must go through but he conquers in the end, leaving the story with an uplifting conclusion! Because of the difficult circumstances Beric must face and the reading level, I suggest this book for 12+ for both boys and girls alike.

Rating: 4 (liked it!)

Definitely worth the read!

Book Review: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

Here goes my first book review!

Title: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
Author: Avi

Synopsis: A thirteen year old girl, Charlotte Doyle, is on her way from England to the United States in 1832. With her parents having gone on before her and the families she was supposed to be traveling with last minute dropping out, Charlotte is the only female and non-crew member on a ship with a "ruthless captain and the rage of a mutinous crew" (back cover). Faced with moral decisions and then charges of murder, this first hand account depicts a girl's controversial mindset while stranded in an ocean onboard a terrifying journey.

Positives: Charlotte Doyle matures greatly throughout the book, beginning as a girl who only does what she is told, never thinking for herself. In the end she is able to differentiate the spirit of the law from the letter of the law and understand the principles behind the rules her father gave her. Charlotte also learns not to judge by appearances, a prominent weakness of hers as the book begins.

Negatives: Some violence is present due to the nature of the story rising to a murder towards the end of the book but none too graphic. Charlotte chooses to dress and act like a sailor even indulging in some crude language (the author doesn't write what she says). Charlotte's parents are neglectful though sometimes in subtle ways.

-Don't judge by appearances
-Follow the principles or the spirit of the law rather than the letter
-A question of true justice
-Some things cannot (and should not) be forgotten

Conclusion: An engaging book with definite change in character by Charlotte Doyle, including aspects of mystery, adventure, and intrigue! A very though provoking book, causing the reader to consider things like injustice, abuse, neglect, survival, and the consequences of telling the truth to the wrong person. Written to a more mature audience due to the difficult themes present in the book, and the puzzling decision of Charlotte Doyle at the end of the book, I would recommend this for ages 14+, primarily for girls though some boys may enjoy it.

Rating: 5 (loved it!)

This book is definitely a favorite!


I'm glad you found my blog! I will be using this space to review and analyze various books and movies. I have titled this blog "Prism" because I will be dissecting my entertainment through a Christian, Bible-based worldview.

Please understand that being human, my writing will be biased, but I will being laying the posts out as follows:

Book & Movie Reviews: These will contain a 1-5 rating (1 being the worst and 5 the best), and an outline of the story with the positives and negatives of the particular book or film as well as a suggested age range. I will try to be as unbiased as possible in the review, but will conclude with a biased suggestion.

Book & Movie Analysis: These will be my opinion. I will post these on something that I found interesting in my reading or viewing, and while they will be biased, I hope they are informative.