#925 Jim the Boy by Tony Earley

Jim the Boy by Tony Earley Jim the Boy by Tony Earley

Jim lives with his mother, his father died before he was born, in rural North Carolina. He’s never met his dad’s father, who lives up on a mountain in a town close by. His uncles live close though. He has three uncles and none of them ever got married. They each have their own houses, but they eat at Jim’s mom’s house. His mother does all the cooking and cleaning for the uncles. There’s a girl that helps too.

It’s Jim’s tenth birthday and he very much wants to go work in the fields with his uncles. They give him a hoe, not the one he wants, and Jim sets off to work. Things don’t turn out so well. He ends up cutting down two corn stalks and he’s not nearly as fast as he thought he was. His uncles get him a new catcher’s mitt and baseball for his birthday.

Time goes on and Jim’s friend comes down with polio. They don’t know if he’s going to live for a while. The uncles tell Jim that he needs to meet his grandfather, he’ll regret it if he doesn’t. Meanwhile his mother debates over whether to let another man in her life. She worries that either way Jim will miss something in his life.

Jim learns that there are things you don’t always want to do, but sometimes it’s good to do those things.

What I liked

This book is somewhat local, which is nice. It’s obviously set a while back. I think the author does a good job of portraying that time period. Some people had electricity and some people didn’t. The land was worked by hand. It wasn’t an easy life.

Jim did seem to grow throughout the book. In the beginning he’s very much a brat, as many little boys are, for some reason. Some of them grow out of it, thank goodness. By the end of the book I can see some the maturity Jim has poking through the little boy exterior.

What I didn’t like

It’s sad not to know your father or your grandfather. I didn’t grow up with my father and my step-father wasn’t exactly grade-a dad material, not by a long shot. I can tell you that it is difficult to grow up minus one parent. There’s only one side of things, that’s the side of the parent you live with. It doesn’t matter if they’re right, or if they’re wrong. You only get their side of things. Grandfathers are also nice to know. The one grandfather of mine that I have been around is pretty great. He’s taught me a lot of great stuff and he’s a good person. My life would be terribly different without him.

This is a round-about way of saying I feel sorry for Jim. I think it’s unfortunate that he’s going without so much in his life, but the good thing is that he still has his uncles.

Overall

Don’t get into a fight with your best friend when Ty Cobb is watching.

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Did you find yourself feeling lacking if you grew up without one parent?

Do you have a good connection with your extended family?

#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?

#890 The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie BuchananThe Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

The three Van Goethem sisters all danced in the ballet, at one point or the other. Antoinette, the oldest, gave up for a variety of reasons, choosing work as a stage extra and washer woman instead of the ballet. Marie wanted nothing more than to succeed. So she tried and tried. Charlotte was cute and wanted to learn.

With their father dead and their mother an alcoholic, sipping absinthe anytime there was a spare breath to take, the girls must all work to pay the rent on their shabby room.

Things go south for Antoinette when she meets a boy who entices her with dinner and drinks. She calls it “being adored.”

Things go north, and south, for Marie when she starts modeling for an artist named Degas. The artist spends hours watching girls practice ballet. He paints the girls. He draws the girls. Marie models for him privately, both clothed and not; her family needs the money. Degas brings her notoriety and admiration, but it does come at a price.

Antoinette’s man gets involved in a murder and she will do anything, anything, to be with him again. Marie has never liked the boyfriend and the murder charge drives a wedge between the two sisters who were once best friends.

What I liked

I like learning about the background events that enabled a certain piece of artwork to be produced. The events that had to come about for that painting, you’re standing in front of at the museum, to be there are fascinating. How was the artwork received by the public? What happened to the artist? What happened to the model? Did the artwork become a detriment to one, or both?

Art is a thing that affects our society. How it came to affect our society is wonderful reading material.

The Van Goethem sisters were real. They aren’t just made up by the author. This account of their lives is fictional, of course. Antoinette really wasn’t connected to a murderer, who was also real and in all the papers.

What I didn’t like

Antoinette is so stupid. Charlotte and the mother are pretty flat character wise.

Let’s get back to Antoinette being stupid. She gave up the ballet for whatever reason, which is stupid decision number one. She got messed up with a loser, which is stupid decision number two. Look, a loser is a loser, is a loser. The point of saying this is to state that losers don’t suddenly become not losers. If a man is good for nothing in the beginning, he’s going to keep being good for nothing. If that’s the case, there is absolutely no point in getting involved with said man. Sure, he may be pretty. Sure, maybe he’s well-endowed. Those are not reasons to put your life in default for a man who isn’t worth a darn.

If a man, or woman, seems like a loser upon your judgement after knowing them for a little while, that’s probably not going to change, so you shouldn’t get involved any more than you already are.

Overall

Paint me like one of your French ballet girls, Monsieur Degas.

Weigh in

What are your opinions about the women in your life who are messed up with losers?

Would you pose naked for a painting?

#889 Perfectly Oblivious by Robin Daniels

Perfectly Oblivious by Robin DanielsPerfectly Oblivious by Robin Daniels

Bianca and Bethany aren’t twins, but a lot of people think they are. The two are less than a year apart. It’s just them and their father. Bianca remembers the day when a cute boy moved in across the street. His name was Cameron, or Cam, as she calls him. With pretenses of practicing basketball, Bianca soon got to know Cam, who called her Bebe.

Bianca is crazy about Cam but has a couple of problems. She doesn’t think he likes her and she also thinks that if she admits someone likes her that it will end badly. She won’t even tell her own sister, Bethany, who is her best friend.

Things are different now, because Cam does like Bianca and wants to tell her, but he doesn’t think she likes him. He thinks he’s been friend-zoned. Bethany soon wriggles the secret out of Cam and they make plans to tell Bianca, big plans, which involve a little dishonesty and some dramatic gestures.

Will it ever be made known that the two actually like each other? Does the universe actually have it out for Bianca and her love life?

What I liked

As teenage romance goes, this was actually one of the better ones I’ve read. Nobody is trying to kill anybody else and nobody is a vampire. It’s about two kids you could have at your school. It’s plausible is what I’m saying.

I identify with Bianca to a degree. I never thought that people liked me. I thought nobody liked me. I thought I was doomed to be alone. There was a large part of this problem which was me. Bianca is in the same boat. There’s nothing wrong with her; she just thinks there is. If you think that nobody likes you and nobody pays attention to you, then you’re not going to pick up on when someone actually likes you. There was more than one boy I kind of dissed or ignored because I thought nobody liked me.

Sometimes, you just have to let people love you despite the many perceived faults that you think you have. I have a boyfriend who loves me even if I’m not super skinny and I do really weird things sometimes, like going around the house saying, “You’ve cat to be kitten me right meow,” or singing, “cat loves food, yeah, yeah, yeah,” when I feed the cats. It’s from a YouTube show called Dragon Ball Z Abridged, look it up.

What I didn’t like

Bianca is identifiable to many young women, but she’s not identifiable to everyone. What about that girl who doesn’t play sports and is on the electric car team? Obviously, you can’t make a character identifiable to everyone. For girls who are in less popular circles in high school, Bianca isn’t going to resonate with them as much.

This book is very sweet and wholesome, for the most part. Despite that fact, I tend to have issues with teenage romance stories, not because of the story itself or the characters in the story, but because of the very idea of teenagers being serious enough to be in a major relationship. Most teenagers are not that serious. They are not that mature. They have no real idea of what loving someone is. Loving someone is respecting that person for who they are, but also being responsible for them to a degree; these two things are very difficult for most teenagers. I do give teenagers who have had to be responsible a little more credit in this area. For example, a teenager who has had to help raise younger siblings or a teenager who has helped take care of a parent or grandparent, will be more responsible and better able to understand the concept of love.

With all that said, I do think Cam respects Bianca, which is certainly a plus because that’s something very difficult for a lot of teenage boys.

Overall

Sweet story to read when you want something a little uplifting.

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Looking back on you as a teenager, do you think you would have had the same capacity to love someone that you possess today?

Were you one of those people who thought nobody liked you?

#882 The Premonition by Chris Bohjalian

The Premonition by Chris BohjalianThe Premonition by Chris Bohjalian

Lianna feels she saw the moment the lightning struck; she saw it before it happened. The lightning killed two horses instead of Lianna’s mother, but her mother has other problems. Her mother sleepwalks at night.

Lianna and her younger sister meet a strange little by obsessed with things in the middle ages. It was his horses who were killed in a strange turn of events. The whole family worries about what might happen to their mother as she sleepwalks and the girls develop a kinship with the strange little boy who talked about jousting and  castles.

What I liked

Chris is one of those authors who puts the “woo” in his books and it doesn’t sound strange. Sure, it’s still strange, but it’s not so strange that it’s out of the realm of believability. The idea of a premonition is just a part of the story. No one is being doubtful about it and eliminating the possibility of it happening without even thinking about it. It’s accepted as part of the story with an open mind.

What I didn’t like

This is awfully short. It’s intended to be a prequel, so it’s more a continuation, or rather, a precontinuation, of a story to follow, which I kind of want to read now.

Overall

I kind of want to know what happens to the weird little boy.

Weigh In

What do you think about premonitions?

What do you think about books with “woo”?