#897 The Creature in Ogopogo Lake created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Creature in Ogopogo Lake created by Gertrude Chandler WarnerThe Creature in Ogopogo Lake created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Grandfather is visiting his friend, Abby, in Canada. Of course the children are going along. Abby owns some cottages along Lake Okanagan, which she rents to cryptid hunters. Those hunters come to the lake in search of Ogopogo, the sea creature, or lake creature, as it may be. Business hasn’t been good though and Abby will probably have to sell her resort.

Some people say a good Ogopogo sighting would help business pick up. The Alden children, who are against people selling their resorts and hotels, volunteer their services to help Abby keep her resort, but strange things start happening. Can the Aldens get to the bottom of all that is strange? Will they see Ogopogo?

What I liked

Ogopogo is real, or, rather, Ogopogo is a real cryptid, which means you cannot confirm or deny that Ogopogo is real. You can Google Ogopogo and will find that he’s basically Canada’s version of the Loch Ness monster. Again, no one can prove or disprove the Loch Ness monster or Ogopogo. You’ll just have to wonder.

There are multiple Native American stories about lake and sea monsters. Ogopogo probably started as just such a thing.

What I didn’t like

I need to make a big list of all the things the Aldens get to do that I didn’t get to do as a child, or that many of us didn’t get to do as children.

Otherwise, I don’t think this one was bad, although, it’s kind of a jerk move to sabotage someone’s business, lake monster or not.

Oh, and, if the Aldens are so anti-ghost, do you think that a lake monster would ever be real in the world of the Aldens? Lake monster are not something people readily believe in.

Overall

Come and see the lake monster; you can stay at my hotel.

Weigh in

Would you ever believe in a lake monster?

If lake monsters were real, do you think it would change your view of reality?

#896 I, Pearl Heart by Jane Candia Coleman

I, Pearl Heart by Jane Candia ColemanI, Pearl Heart by Jane Candia Coleman

Pearl was supposed to go back to her fancy boarding school, but she met Frank first. He promised her dancing. Her mother didn’t like Frank, probably because of his reputation as a gambler. This did not deter Pearl though. She ran off and eloped with Frank, going to New Orleans, where she quickly found out that Frank was an abusive jerk. He found any excuse to hit Pearl.

Pearl had enough after one particularly rough beating and left. She hopped on a train with a hobo and lit out for other parts. She got a job singing, but that bastard Frank showed up again. For a while, she and he tried to make their marriage work. They ended up with two kids. When she parted ways with Frank, again, the kids went to her mother’s, who was thoroughly disgraced by Pearl’s life. Pearl went off and did other things.

She got jobs and then she robbed a stage-coach and got arrested. Having a woman robber was quite the sensation and Pearl got a lot of attention, but life was not easy in prison. She was alone much of the time, until a couple of other women prisoners showed up, having committed their own terrible deeds. Prison wasn’t easy, but Pearl found a way to make terrible things be to her advantage.

What I liked

While this book may be fiction, Pearl was real. Look her up on Wikipedia. She was a real, stage-coach robbing, gun-toting, hard woman. While it’s not exactly the ideal of what a woman should be, it’s pretty neat. She had the guts to dress up like a man, when that was highly frowned upon and then go rob somebody, which isn’t very nice.

The fictionalized story is fun. Pearl is what you would call a “spitfire.” She’s not going to let anybody get her down, although it may seem like life really sucks sometimes.

Despite the fact that she’s not role model material, I do find her admirable. She did things women didn’t do during the time period and made them work.

What I didn’t like

Pearl’s first husband sounded awful. In the book Pearl cites being Catholic for her reason not to divorce her abusive, scumbag husband. Look, I don’t care if you’re Catholic, a gypsy, Mormon, FLDS, a Baptist, or a Pastafarian–if your husband, or wife, is physically abusive, you divorce their butt as fast as you can. If they’re mentally abusive and refuse to see their abuse, you divorce their butt as fast as you can. Abusers tend to stay abusers. There’s no point in prolonging your suffering, and your children’s suffering, if there are any, because of a religious ideology. Sure, yes, marriage can be sacred, but that depends upon each party involved keeping their side of the deal, which happens to include not being abusive to your spouse and/or children.

In real life, Pearl seemed to go back to her husband multiple times, which is sad. He was a loser and here she was this tough woman who assuredly didn’t really need a man, especially an abusive one.

Overall

I admire Pearl’s escapades, but feel bad about her being married to a jerk.

Weigh In

Are female outlaws of the old west fascinating or deplorable?

Do you think Pearl lived her life of crime because of her abuse?

#895 The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian by Elizabeth KostovaThe Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Paul has told his  daughter some strange stories involving Dracula and a book. One day, Paul goes out, again, in search of something. As the story unfolds, we learn that Paul found a strange book. It was old and had no business being in the library. Paul goes to see his professor, a man named Rossi, to seek an explanation for the book. It’s about vampires alright, the Dracula, or Vlad Tepes, is the central figure in this story. Is he really dead? Are vampires real?

This is the last intellectual session Paul has with his professor because he just up and disappears one night, the professor not Paul. Paul plans to go off to Europe in search of his professor, but meets a woman named Helen. She says she is Rossi’s daughter. Yet more of the story comes out. Rossi had been in Europe and had met a beautiful young woman with a green dragon imprinted on her skin. It’s said the family is descended from Vlad. Rossi has to go on to other adventures in his historian life, leaving his lover alone in Europe.

As Helen and Paul find out more, stranger and stranger things keep happening. A scary librarian starts to tail the couple. They dig through documents. They visit other countries. They get chased down. Something develops between Helen and Paul. The mystery of Dracula is not solved with their trip though and the idea of him still lingers over the family, years later.

What I liked

This was my second attempt to read this book. I started, years ago, before I was ever married, when I was still in college, when I still worked at the nursing home. I tried. I tried valiantly to get into this book, but I never finished it. I carried around my copy, from move to move, until I donated several hundred books to a couple selling books to raise money for an adoption back in 2015. The book just didn’t grab my attention then, which is strange seeing as I’ve been all over some Dan Brown, which is quite similar to this book. I was able to finish the book this time, though; listening to it helped.

I do really like the history in this book. Elizabeth did her research, a lot of it. She got all that weird crap about Dracula correct. He was a warlord. He was considered a hero to an extent. He did impale people. His grave really was empty. He really did build churches. Apparently, he thought God would be cool with him impaling people as long as he made churches in return. While he was a savvy man in the political and war arenas, he was not a nice man.

This book did have that Dan Brown feel to it, which makes it intellectually stimulating.

What I didn’t like

I don’t believe in vampires. I don’t believe Dracula is alive somewhere or that he’s amassing a personal library and stealing scholars to tend to it. While the history surrounding Dracula is absorbing, I feel that a book suggesting Dracula is real, presented in a real-world manner, is a bit much. It’s not my cup of tea.  Really, Dracula is out there, as a vampire, sucking blood, and stuff?

Overall

If you find a strange book at the library, you kind of have to read it.

Weigh In

Could someone ever convince you that Dracula is alive and well?

What do you think about historical thrillers? Yeah or nay?

#894 The Vampire Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Vampire Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler WarnerThe Vampire Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Aldens learn about a local author who wrote a vampire book. They get to meet him, but he’s having trouble selling his house. Things keep happening. Someone steals his for sale signs. Plants get pulled up. Strange things keep happening in general. There are whispers that it could be a vampire, as the author based the house in the book on his own home, complete with  a graveyard in the backyard. Can the Aldens get to the bottom of this undead mystery?

What I liked

This is one of The Boxcar Children books where the author tries to mix in a little “woo” to the very realistic world of the Aldens. While I appreciate the effort, because it does spice things up a bit, I don’t think it worked.

What I didn’t like

I am not a huge fan of the idea of vampires. I do not understand the obsession. The United States doesn’t have a huge history of vampires. If you visit places like New Orleans, there’s a bit more local lore about vampires than the rest of the United States. We simply don’t have that local history of vampires like Europe does, or even places besides Europe. Vampires have stories from all over the world.

The author tried to bring some “woo” into this book, but it doesn’t work because we know the Aldens are just going to figure out that it’s something logical. The same thing happens with the other Boxcar Children books that mention ghosts or banshees as possible culprits in weird goings-on. Does the author expect me, or anybody, to actually believe the Aldens are going after a real vampire, or ghost, or banshee? There is a running story element in this book series in which the phrase, “Ghosts aren’t real,” is repeated over and over again; vampires certainly aren’t going to be real if ghosts aren’t.

Unlike Scooby Doo, where there are some actual ghosts and monsters from time to time, the Aldens have regular, old human culprits all the time.

Overall

A vampire did it…oh, wait, it’s just a guy.

Weigh In

What do you think about vampires?

What do you think about series, television or book, that present themselves as logical and real that try to throw in the supernatural as an actual story element?

#893 What the Dickens by Gregory Maguire

What the Dickens by Gregory MaguireWhat the Dickens by Gregory Maguire

What the Dickens finds himself alive and names himself “What the Dickens.” He’s not sure what he is or why he’s here. He meets a white creature, he finds out is a cat named McCavity. He gets befriended by a mama bird who thinks he might as well learn to fly. He falls down a chimney and meets and old woman. At one point, he meets another creature like himself. Her name is Pepper. She explains to him that he is a Skibberee.

The Skibbereen fly around collecting teeth, which they plant in the ground, which become candles, which become wishes. Pepper calls herself an Agent of Change. What the Dickens finds out that life isn’t so easy. There are rules in place and societal expectations. Sometimes, someone else can get in trouble for something you did and it’s not fair. What the Dickens knows he has to help Pepper complete her task. He comes to find out that he has a special ability that the other Skibberee don’t possess. He’s still not sure where he came from, but he does find a place to be.

This story is all told by Gage, a cousin watching over his younger cousins during a terrible storm when people were supposed to have evacuated.

What I liked

This book was really fun. I’ve never really thought about the origins of the tooth fairy before. It is a bit of a strange custom. I’m not even sure it’s practiced outside of the United States. All cultures have their customs surrounding growing-up mile-markers, but I’m not sure how many of them make a big deal out of losing a tooth.

I never believed in the tooth fairy. I knew it was my mom. I was a fairly skeptical kid as far as things like the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and Santa Clause goes, which is awfully weird, considering how much I like stories about similar things. I’m a bit of a skeptic at heart I guess.

I like that Gregory created this entire world and mythology surrounding the tooth fairy. I don’t think I would have thought up the idea to create an entire race of little creatures with societal problems and external enemies that also happen to be tooth fairies. Good job, Gregory.

I love folklore and ghost stories. The Skibberee part of this book feels like folklore.

The main concept of this book is that someone is telling children a long story. I think we’ve fallen away from telling stories, orally, which is sad, because it’s a great thing. There’s nothing quite like sitting around, huddled close, listening to a story that unfolds as the minutes tick by. You can’t find the story anywhere else; you have to get it from the story-teller, so it’s in everyone’s best interest if you sit quietly and listen.

What I didn’t like

I was a bit concerned as to why these children were left in a house during a storm in which everybody evacuated, except them. There was also a bit of religious fanaticism going on, it feels like. If the government calls for an evacuation because of a storm, you should probably go. I also don’t like the idea of religious fanaticism.

Overall

Gather ’round, let’s listen to a story about the tooth fairy.

Weigh In

Did you ever believe in the tooth fairy?

What would you do if you had to hole up for a long storm?

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