The Blackout Book Club
By Amy Lynn Green
Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema
When Avis Montgomery’s brother, the local librarian, leaves to serve in Europe in 1942, he asks her to promise to keep the library open. Avis, who doesn’t like to read anything but magazine articles, assures him that she will. But when the library’s owner threatens to shut down the library, Avis impulsively starts a book club for the community that will meet at the library.
Book club members Avis, Louise, Ginny, and Martina face their own inner battles, but when the threat of nearby U-boat attacks intensifies and the war seems ever closer, the four hesitantly but surely begin to share the contours of their past and present lives, and their emotional burdens are lightened as they are carried in community. (Bethany House Publishers)
Sumo Do, Sumo Don’t
Reviewed by Sara Kyoungah White
Based on the award-winning 1992 Japanese film of the same title, this 2022 comedy drama television series follows Ryota Moriyama, a senior at Kyoritsu University who joins the school’s sumo club so he can graduate on time. The formerly well-known club is now on the brink of collapse and has only one member, a female student named Honoka Oba. Over the course of the series, the club grows in membership to include an unlikely but charming cast.
If you don’t mind reading subtitles and seeing men clothed only in mawashi, Sumo Do, Sumo Don’t will stand out as a refreshingly wholesome series that champions the underdog and inspires us toward greater perseverance, devotion, and community. (Disney+)
Poor Bishop Hooper
Reviewed by Sam Gutierrez
Leah and Jessie Roberts searched for a creative and memorable band name that pointed to Jesus in some way. A friend suggested Poor Bishop Hooper, after Bishop John Hooper, an Anglican Bishop who was martyred in 1555.
Over the years, what started out a simple musical duo has developed into a multifaceted performance experience that has included a full band, a multimedia version of the Stations of the Cross (Golgotha Experience), a collection of art and music for Advent (Firstborn), and a three-year pandemic project where they wrote new tunes for all 150 psalms and released them on YouTube.
Through their lives and music, they embody the passion, love, and simplicity of the Anglican bishop from whom they derive their name—Poor Bishop Hooper. (Poorbishophooper.com)
Reviewed by LeMarr Jackson
Black Adam’s people were severely mistreated, and they needed someone to set them free, not unlike the story of Moses and the Israelites.
But superhero Black Adam (Dwayne Johnson) is flawed, and his idea of justice at first is synonymous with revenge. His actions also lack direction—so much so that his people aren’t sure whether to revere Adam or fear him.
However, Adam tries to carry on the legacy of the chosen one who sacrificed his life for him and gave him his power. He begins to find a new direction. Where he once sought revenge, he now commits to using his power to defend the oppressed people of Khandaq. Adam says it best, “Khandaq has always had heroes. And it still does,” Adam says. “What it needs now is a protector.” (Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Hulu)
Growing Up Evangelical: In Testimony, Jon Ward tells the engaging story of his upbringing in and eventual break from an influential evangelical church in the 1980s and ’90s. Ward sheds light on the evangelical movement's troubling political and cultural dimensions, tracing the ways in which the Jesus People movement became politically captive rather than prophetic. (Brazos)
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret: In the big-screen adaptation of Judy Blume’s classic coming-of-age book, 11-year-old Margaret (Abby Ryder Fortson) is uprooted from her life in New York City and moves with her family to the New Jersey suburbs, where she goes through the messy and tumultuous throes of puberty with new friends in a new school. (Lionsgate, in theaters April 28)
Olivia Colman Plays Miss Havisham: In a new Hulu series, Charles Dickens’ 1861 book Great Expectations comes to life in the story of Pip, an orphan who yearns for a greater lot in life. (Hulu, March 26)
A Symphony of Secrets: A gripping page-turner about a professor who uncovers a shocking secret about the most famous American composer of all time—that his music was stolen from a young Black composer named Josephine Reed. By Brendan Slocumb, author of The Violin Conspiracy. (April 18, Anchor Books)