#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?

#810 Testimony by Anita Shreve

Testimony by Anita ShreveTestimony by Anita Shreve

Silas gets a scholarship to a private school to play basketball. Things are going fine until his senior year. A very inflammatory video surfaces. The video is off a freshman, a fourteen-year old girl, who now goes by the name Sienna, having sex with Silas and two other boys. The dormitory room is littered with beer cans. This behavior might have been expected from the other two boys, but not from Silas. What could have been going on in his life that caused this to happen? The headmaster knows what’s happening though.

The headmaster met Silas and his family through very unfortunate circumstances. There was a patch of black ice, an overturned vehicle that went through a fence and a mailbox. This was how the headmaster came to meet Silas and his family, specifically Silas’s mother. Silas got into the private school, but something more than friendship developed between the headmaster and Silas’s mother.

Then the video came out. Silas feels incredibly guilty for what he did. It’s considered statutory rape. Silas had a girlfriend. Silas was making good grades. Silas was on the basketball team. What went so wrong? Despite all the boys saying the video was the girl’s idea, things still turned out badly for each of the boys, in various ways. They each feel bad for what they did. The only person who doesn’t feel bad about the whole thing is the girl, who ends up in a second=chance school. The guilt weighs too heavily on Silas though and it seems as if he cannot come out from under it.

What I liked

This was an interesting look at rape culture essentially, well, rape-culture turned on its side. This was a look at someone claiming to be a victim, but actually preying upon others instead. A girl used rape-culture to make bad things happen to otherwise good boys, seemingly without any real motive, other than interviews and notoriety. There are certainly two sides to any coin. Just as someone can fault rape-culture for rape, so too can someone claim to be a victim and then be believed.

What I didn’t like

The girl in this book is flat-out awful. Nobody is saying she isn’t. Sure, what happened was technically statutory rape, but if you’re engineering the whole thing, that seems like it should count for something.

Consensual sex is a thing. Consensual sex among teenagers can actually be a thing. Two teenagers can get together and be like, “Hey, you want to have sex?” and then they do and it’s not rape. What we have is an age of consent. Even if you say you want to have sex, because of your age you can’t legally make your own decisions, and therefore you can’t actually say yes to sex, and therefore,  it’s rape. I get that we’re trying to protect teenagers, and no one is saying that statutory rape shouldn’t be a thing. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t some evil teenagers roaming around, tricking guys into having sex with them, and getting some sort of devilish pleasure by accusing them of rape.

On the other hand, why did these guys think it was a good idea to have sex with a fourteen-year old? Couldn’t they have just not had sex? You know, “Just say no,” and all that jazz? Couldn’t they have just kept it in their pants? I mean, really, how hard is it to keep it in your pants? I keep it in my pants all the time, but  then again, I don’t have a penis, maybe penises know how to unzip zippers of their own accord.  Just because there is a half-dressed, or even naked woman standing there, doesn’t mean that you have to sex with her. You could be a responsible adult and say to yourself, “You know what–I think I’ll keep my pants zipped.” Do you realize how many rapes would not have happened if people thought this? A whole darn lot.

This book was really about both sides of this equation. The men involved had sex when they shouldn’t have and the girl involved engineered the whole thing and cried rape after things started to look bad for her. You can’t tell your parents that you willingly had a threesome with guys over the age of eighteen and then it was videotaped, if you’re fourteen, right?

I do feel bad for the boys involved in this story, but they really shouldn’t have been having sex with a fourteen-year old. Whatever consequences came their way, even if their accuser was a liar, they have to deal with, because they did actually do something illegal, although, not quite as bad as what was claimed.

Overall

Keep it in your pants.

Weigh In

Whose side do you fall on?

Is either side more to blame in this scenario?

#791 The Girl Who Cried Monster by R.L. Stine

The Girl Who Cried Monster by R.L. StineThe Girl Who Cried Monster by R.L. Stine

Lucy Dark loves to tell her little brother monster stories. She makes up every kind of monster you can imagine. Some at your toes. Some are under the bed. Her parents get kind of irritated with her for telling so many monster stories.

One day she’s at the library for her Reading Rangers meeting and she sees something strange. The librarian transforms before her eyes, turning into a monster, who will eat flies, and turtles, and snails. Lucy tells her brother, who doesn’t believe her. She tells her friend, who doesn’t believe her, but is willing to do a stakeout in the library, which he skips out of. Lucy tries to take a picture, but it doesn’t turn out.

The librarian finds out that Lucy knows he is a monster though and Lucy narrowly escapes. When her friend sees that the librarian is a monster with his own eyes, he tells Lucy’s parents, who finally believe her. Their course of action is to invite him over for a dinner, which he will never forget.

What I liked

I liked the twist in this book. I like the idea of something existing, that doesn’t. I like the idea of depicting those somethings as normal people, with human qualities. After all, aren’t the most interesting monsters those you can relate to? I also like this idea of being more than human. I like the idea of living with a secret that makes you both powerful and vulnerable. It makes for some very interesting stories.

What I didn’t like

I don’t like that Lucy’s parents didn’t believe her, but, then again, what parents would? Monsters aren’t real. Also, kids tell a lot of tall tales. Kids make up crap all the time. Sometimes, I side with children on these types of arguments. Let a kid be a kid–and all that, but looking at it from the adult point of view, it can be exhausting to listen to irrational stories and fears about things that don’t even exist. The Boogeyman? Monsters? Something under the bed? Just shut up and go to sleep already.

I know being a kid can be frustrating because adults don’t take you seriously…well, that’s because you’re a kid and not meant to be taken seriously most of the time. When you cross the line into teenagerland, then you can get to have more of your thoughts and words taken seriously.

This whole parent not listening to the kid thing is so cliché, probably because it’s true. It’s not the most exciting. While I liked the story, we can all see this from a mile away.

Overall

My librarian was not a monster. If anyone was a monster, it was the gym teacher.

Weigh In

Do you think that kids should be taken seriously more often?

If you were a monster, like Bigfoot, or whatever, but you could hide it, would you want other monsters around?

#780 The Enchantress Returns by Chris Colfer

The Enchantress Returns by Chris ColferThe Enchantress Returns by Chris Colfer

It’s been an entire year, a whole, long year since Conner and Alex have been to the Land of Stories, in fact, they haven’t even seen their grandmother. What in the world is going on? Things are changing in their lives in the regular world. It turns out their mom has a boyfriend, Dr. Bob. The children didn’t expect this at all. They thought Dr. Bob was a friend and now Dr. Bob wants to marry their mom.

The kids come to terms with this and on the night Dr. Bob is set to propose, Mom doesn’t show up back at home. Mom is late and Mom is never late. Who does show up is their grandmother, the Fairy Godmother, and a bunch of soldiers from The Land of Stories. Conner and Alex are put under lock down in the house. Their mom is gone. The story finally comes out though, their mother has been kidnapped by the most bad enchantress of them all. Everyone thought she was dead, but she’s back in full force and she wants to take over not only The Land of Stories, but also the regular world.

Conner and Alex feel that they have to get back to The Land of Stories, but they’re not sure how. They think the best place to look is their grandmother’s cabin. It’s a bit treacherous getting there, but they finally do and find a painting. If the kids from The Chronicles of Narnia can get into Narnia through a painting of Narnia, Alex and Conner decide they can get into The Land of Stories through a painting of The Land of Stories. It works, but not without sinking the house.

The two are back in The Land of Stories, but things are bad. People start getting kidnapped left and right. Awful things are happening. The twins learn that they can create a want to counteract the power of the enchantress, but they must go collect the most prized possessions of so-called villains. The quest will not be easy, nor will it be fun, especially since Red Riding Hood is along for the adventure, and we all know how she is.

What I liked

I’m still liking the series. I like that Alex and Conner go back to The Land of Stories. I was kind of hoping that their Dad would still be alive somewhere in The Land of Stories, but I guess it’s not going to happen.

I like that this series gives a back story  and second-opinion to many of the so-called villains of the fairy tales. Yeah, some of them were truly awful, but if you look at their situations, almost anyone would be awful if they were in their places.

What I didn’t like

I’m not sure about this Dr. Bob guy. What an ordinary name. I think Bi-lo has a knock-off of Dr. Pepper called Dr. Bob. Go get me some Diet Dr. Bob. We’re Dr. Pepper drinkers in this house, because it’s the drink of agnostics…that was South Park, but I do prefer Dr. Pepper. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve drunk/guzzled, a lot of Diet Cokes, but Diet Dr. Pepper  and I have a committed relationship. I’m also not an agnostic.

Getting back to the book–as I said, I’m not sure about Dr. Bob yet, maybe he’s great, or maybe he’s an evil sorcerer disguised as a doctor.

Overall

You know, in some part, if you think about it, fairy tales are very female-centric…well, at least the ones Disney likes to remake. The rest of them are quite male-centric.

Weigh In

Would you go live in a fairy tale world?

What do you think about Dr. Bob?

#777 Night of the Living Dummy by R.L. Stine

Night of the Living Dummy by R.L. StineNight of the Living Dummy by R.L. Stine

Lindy and Kris are identical twins, who compete at everything. They try their hardest to stand out, against the other sister. One day the twins find an old dummy in some trash at a nearby construction site. Lindy takes to the dummy right away, which she calls Slappy. After Lindy starts getting a lot of attention for her ventriloquist act, Kris wants to try her hand at it as well. Her father ends up buying her a dummy as well, but this one is wearing casual clothes. Kris calls her dummy Mr. Wood, versus the more formal looking Slappy, with the less formal name.

Things are fine. The kids get some laughs. They perform at birthday parties. Some strange things start to happen though. Mr. Wood starts to do some things of his own accord. He says some awful things, that get blamed on Kris. He tears up the kitchen. One night Lindy sees Mr. Wood moving, but the girls’ parents won’t have any of it. The girls know they have to deal with the dummy alone. It starts talking to the girls, calling them slaves. They know they have to get rid of it.

Ultimately, a steam roller becomes their last hope, but have they just gotten rid of one evil to make way for another?

What I liked

I like the idea of dueling evils, just hiding out. We tend to have stories with only one villain, why not more than one villain? Maybe your villain isn’t that bad, but he’s not nearly as bad as the one that would replace him if you got rid of him.

What I didn’t like

I don’t like dummies. I don’t like ventriloquism. It’s not that it’s not kind of  cool, because it is, a little, it’s just not that cool. It’s boring. Seriously… it’s a trick. You expect me to be all impressed because you can make it look like a doll is taking? You know what, I can make a doll talk. I could put a voice box in it and put a pull string on its back and make it talk. I’d rather see Muppets, at least they’re entertaining.

I had a Furby that could talk and dance on its own, but a ventriloquist dummy has to have a person to be able to make it do those things. I’m just not that impressed. Ahmed the Dead Terrorist is funny and all, but there are funnier things I would enjoy.

An evil dummy is a bit of a gimme. This creepy wooden doll isn’t going to be possessed? Like, who believes that? If we see some creepy doll out somewhere, we pretty much assume the thing is haunted. How about a haunted tea kettle? I could go for that. It moves around the house on its on. It makes tea, without tea packets. It pours cold water on the cat.

Overall

Leave the dummy alone, if not for the threat of it being haunted, leave it alone because it’s not funny.

Weigh In

Would you buy a dummy?

Do you think dummies are funny?