#833 Wish You Well by David Baldacci

Wish You Well by David BaldacciWish You Well by David Baldacci

Lou and her brother Oz have to move to Virginia, to a farm, in fact, after they were in a terrible car accident. Their parents had been arguing about moving to California, when the accident occurred. Their father didn’t make it and their mother was left as a shell of herself. They were all put on a train to go live with their great-grandmother on her farm. Louisa is a tough woman, but is very caring and eager to give everyone the opportunities they deserve.

The two children soon make friends with a young man named Diamond, well, Jimmy, but everyone calls him Diamond. He has no family. Their great-grandmother looks after him. He’s free to roam the hills. Another man, named Eugene, but most people call him Hell No, lives with Louisa. People make a fuss about it because he’s black, but Louisa doesn’t care.

The local lawyer comes to read to their mother every day. All she does is sit there.

Besides their mother, there are other problems. Natural gas has been bound on their grandmother’s farm and a development company wants to buy it. They try to turn the entire town against her saying they won’t buy any property from anyone else in town, unless Louisa sells hers. There is a tragic accident in a mine, which causes everyone to mourn, but it also brings suspicion on the company trying to buy everyone out. More unfortunate things happen, but can the children avoid the most unfortunate thing of all?

What I liked

This is the first time I’ve read a David Baldacci book and I’m not disappointed. There are other writers who do the South better, but David does a pretty good job depicting Southern life. He’s depicting Southern mountain life, which is different from straight-up Southern life. There’s something different about mountain people from the South. I am technically a mountain person from the South, so you can probably take my word for it.

Grandmothers are pretty great. I liked that Lou and Oz got to know their grandmother for a while and learn from her. Sometimes, your grandmother can teach you the best lessons in life.

What I didn’t like

While I do feel that David did a great job with the whole Southern thing, I kind of feel some of the struggles that the people in this book face are cliché. You know, of course the small Southern town back in the 1940s-1950s is racist. Of course people don’t like that one person is friends with a black person. Of course some evil company does nefarious things trying to get someone’s land. Of course when you start talking about money, the rest of the town turns on you fast. Of course it’s the mom who went crazy.

I’ve read so many books where one, or more, of these issues is in the book. While it may be true that all of these issues could have been, and can be, very real problems, people do have other problems. Why is it never the dad who has the mental breakdown? It always seems like it’s the woman.

Overall

Hide your minerals! The big company is coming to take your land!

Weigh In

If some company offered you a lot of money for your land, would you sell it, knowing they were just going to destroy it?

Are stereotypical problems enjoyable to read about because they’re familiar, or do they get old?

#750 Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris

 Once Upon a Marigold by Jean FerrisOnce Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris

Christian ran away from home and hid in the woods, that’s where Ed found him. Ed was a troll, who lived in a cave of crystals and wanted to get in on the tooth fairy business, but Mab wasn’t handing any of it over. Christian told Ed he would accuse him of kidnapping him if he ended up back at his parents’ house, so Christian stayed with Ed. Ed decided that Christian had to learn how to be a decent person, so he taught him all the manners he could find in his books.

Christian grew up and often watched the royal family across the river through a telescope. There were four daughters, three of them triplets. Christian watched as the older three got married and the youngest was still there. She liked to read on the terrace. 

One day Christian send a message to her with a pigeon he had trained to deliver letters. A correspondence soon started between the two. Her name was Marigold. Christian decided to get a job at the castle. At first, Marigold didn’t know who he was. He learned of a curse upon Marigold, but it didn’t bother him any. As it turns out the queen, Marigold’s mother was up to some nefarious plottings. Christian and his inventions would be central in stopping those plottings, or at least delaying them. 

What I liked

This story was definitely fanciful. It has many fairy tale elements we’re all used to, but a few more modern-day things thrown into the mix. Most of the characters were enjoyable. The story between Christian and Marigold is sweet. 

What I didn’t like

This book ends exactly as you’d expect. It’s not a bad ending; it’s just predictable. 

I find the use of “p-mail” silly. It’s clearly a play on “E-mail” which wouldn’t exist for quite some time after this era. It’s not a real era of history, but it closely parallels real eras of history that don’t have email. I know it’s pigeons, but in reality, they would have just said, “I’m going to send Bob a message by pigeon.” There wouldn’t be all this “p-mail” nonsense, but with this said,”p-mail” was intended to be a bit of a joke to lighten up the story, so pick your battles I suppose. 

I also find it highly unrealistic that Christian would be accepted just like that without any verification of his identity, but maybe that’s a result of growing up through a post-9/11 world. 

Overall

…Fun and cute story.

Weigh in

Would you use messenger pigeons if you had access to them?

Would you run away from home and stay there?


#707 Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Dumplin' by Julie MurphyDumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Willowdean, sometimes called Will by her friends, is a high school student in a small Texas town that is famed for its beauty pageant. Will’s mother once won the pageant and now plays a huge part in putting on the pageant every single year. A person might think that Will entered the pageant as soon as she was able, but Will hasn’t because she is overweight. Will has friends, but she doesn’t have the life that they have, because thinner people just get more.

It’s not until the summer that Will just gets tired of all the things she’s not supposed to do because she’s fat. She starts flirting with a co-worker. She admires her aunt, who died tragically at a rather young age, and when school gets back in session, she enters the beauty pageant, along with several other girls pushed to the margins of high school society because of their physical appearance.

The pageant causes rifts in Will’s friendship with her best friend Ellen, but also with potential suitors. Will is surprised to find that a couple of guys do like her and they both vie for her attention. Meanwhile, the other girls see Will as a rolemodel. Will follow through with her pageant plan while remembering her aunt, listening to Dolly Parton, and getting the help of some Texas Dolly Parton lookalike, drag-queens.

What I liked

I think this story is sweet and I do think it is encouraging. We’re too often told by society, that if we don’t look a certain way then certain things are not in our futures. I think stories like this are helpful to show people who may not fit into society’s ideal beauty standard that you shouldn’t miss out on life just because you’re not Cindy Crawford, or whoever it is that people are idolizing these days. Nicki Minaj?

Willowdean is a likeable character in many ways.

What I didn’t like

While there are things to like about this book, there’s a lot to not like.

First of all, pageants are stupid. It’s a thing where young thin girls and their mothers spend a lot of money on makeup and clothes to see who can out-dress and out-makeup one another. It’s not all flash. I do actually know a Miss United States and she’s a very nice person and not unintelligent, in fact, she has a doctorate. She’s most definitely tall and thin though. Besides this very nice person that I know, I don’t think that pageants hold a lot of merit and I think it takes a certain amount of thinness and money to seriously compete in them, which is not something that is open to everybody. So pageants are a very exclusive thing and I generally tend to be an inclusive person.

Second of all, look here–as much as books try to make inroads for people to quit being dicks about people’s weight, it’s not happening. People still think they’re entitled to discriminate against a person because of their weight, all the while, choosing to ignore the fact that discrimination based on weight is no different from discriminating against someone for their skin color, height, disability, speech impediment, religion, race, and every other defining characteristic that you  can think of. It’s not nice, hence my usage of the word dick instead of jerk. Being a dick is worse than being a jerk, so I just wanted to drive home the point how unhumanbeinglike discriminating against a person because of their weight is. People are incredibly mean about this for no good reason and I mean vicious. People get really angry about it as if someone who is sixty pounds overweight has personally offended them and their ancestors by existing.

Will’s story is nice; it’s sweet; it makes us want to champion the underdog, but seriously, when do you see society lightening up and saying, “You know what, I think I will vote for the overweight girl to be homecoming queen”?

I don’t think Will’s scenario is likely to happen. We’re making progress as a society. We have some beautiful women who are not stick thin modeling for all sorts of places, but that honestly hasn’t changed how people act. They’re still dicks. I wish with all my heart that a bunch of overweight girls would get voted prom queen and win beauty pageants, but I think we’re still a long a way off.

This story has a love triangle, which is basically true of any novel geared towards young adult girls, apparently. Look, girls, you’re not going to get into high school and find that you have two men fighting over you. It might happen, but probably not. You’re also not going to grow up and have two men vying for your attention. Usually, it’s just the one man, and sometimes not even the one man.

The hard truth of the matter is that men will overlook you, many times, if you don’t look a certain way. The good thing about that is that usually if you do find a man who genuinely seems to care for you, he actually does care for you and it’s not some superficial bullcrap that would fade away if you gained fifty pounds all of a sudden.

I want to empower young women as much as anyone else, but it still seems that society doesn’t want young women to be empowered, so in reality, you have to empower your young women, but also teach them to fight, because they’re going to have to fight for the right to be empowered in the first place. This story does this to a degree, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s definitely not a be-all end-all book for the empowerment of young women, but it is a step in the right direction.

Overall

Girl, don’t worry about being in a pageant, get yourself a degree in rocket science.

Weigh In

If you’re trying to empower a young woman, do you think this book would help?

Do young women need stories like this?

#654 Keeper of the Night by Kimberly Willis Holt

Keeper of the Night by Kimberly Willis HoltKeeper of the Night by Kimberly Willis Holt

Isabel lives on Guam and one night her mother dies. Some say it was peaceful, or so it seemed, but there’s a fact no one seems to talk about–Isabel’s mother killed herself. Things change in the family. Isabel takes care of her younger siblings. Tata doesn’t say much. Olivia wets the bed and has nightmares. Olivia’s brother starts carving up things with knives, himself including.

Meanwhile, Isabel still has to do all the normal things that teenagers do. She has to go to school and make friends and do schoolwork. Her aunt, a local healer, is always there to help her. At one point, Isabel cannot remember her mother. It’s not until her brother ends up in the hospital that Isabel begins to remember a bit. Her mother used to sing. Her mother used to dance. Her mother made of silly songs and made really good food, but her mother became sad and no one knew why.

In the end, Isabel learns that she has to remember her mother, but also have something for herself. She has to be Isabel and not a stand-in for her mother to her younger siblings.

What I liked

Books about the Pacific islands are always interesting. Each island has its own culture. I’ve never been to Guam, but would have liked to have gone. Isabel has to come to terms with the death of her mother, but she also has to come to terms with death and her culture. There are certain things death means for her family and her friends that it may not mean elsewhere. People are still relatively lips-sewed-shut about suicide in Isabel’s life, but she has to talk about it, her brother has to talk about, her family has to talk about it so they can move on.

Stories about mental illness are certainly appreciated. It’s not talked about enough and people still treat it with a stigma.

What I didn’t like

It seems like Isabel’s father let a lot of culture get in the way of taking care of his children after his wife’s death. He leaned on culture more than on taking care of his family. Being a man isn’t always about doing what society sees as manly, it’s about being the person you need to be for those who depend on you. If that is breaking society’s norms of what a man is, then do it.

Overall

This was a bittersweet little book about life on a tropical island.

Weigh In

Do you think suicide is stigmatized in some cultures more than others?

How do you think Isabel’s life would have been different had she been from another culture?

#640 T4 by Ann Clare Lezotte

T4 by Ann Clare Lezotte T4 by Ann Clare Lezotte

During WWII it wasn’t only Jews that the Nazis didn’t like, there were also other targets including gypsies and anybody with a disability. The Nazis thought that anybody with any kind of disability would pollute the gene pool and would use euthanasia to remove those people from Germany.

Paula had to hide. She was not Jewish, but she was not wanted. Paula was deaf from a young age. When her family could no longer hide her from the Nazis, she went to other places, anywhere, as long as it wasn’t T4. T4 was what the medical facility was called where disabled people went and where the Nazis decided they could be experimented on or killed.

What I liked

I knew about the Nazis and their desire for eugenics, but I didn’t know the specific name of the facility they used for their evil purposes with disabled people. It’s awfully sad. Just because someone has a disability does not mean that they cannot be a valuable member of society. Look at Stephen Hawking or Helen Keller.

This isn’t a true story, but Ann herself is deaf. I imagine Ann had to put a lot of thought into this. How would she feel if she had lived in Germany during WWII? Would she have escaped the war alive with her disability?

What I didn’t like

The more I learn about the Nazis, the more I realize that they were just one big bag of jerks. Being deaf isn’t even that severe of a disability. Deaf people can function out in the world pretty well with reasonable accommodation.

Overall

With the Nazis hardly anybody is safe.

Weigh In

Do you think you could have survived WWII if you had been deemed undesirable in some manner?

How do you think normal people got talked into believing that euthanasia of disabled people was a good idea?