#866 Witch and Wizard by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet

Witch and Wizard by James Patterson and Gabrielle CharbonnetWitch and Wizard by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet

Whit and Wisty, siblings, are snatched in the middle of the night and thrown into a strange prison. They’re accused of being witches. This is all very confusing. Somehow the girl Whit loves is dead, but still around. There’s some weird guy who calls himself The One who is the One. There’s also the One Who Judges and the One who Orders the Pizza. The last one is fake. It also turns out that there is some truth to the witch claim. Whit and Wisty can do some magical things. They’re going to help all the other children who were thrown into prison and try to get their parents back.

What I liked

Of course I love the whimsy in this book. I love stories where woo or supernatural sit right alongside what we’re familiar with.

What I didn’t like

I feel like I missed a who bunch of stuff. I don’t know if I was zoning out or the book is written in such a way that a person can miss a bunch of stuff. I feel like I was out of the loop on so much of this book.

It reminded me of The Land of Stories series, which is for younger children. This seems like a more grown-up version of that series. There are other books in this series, which is good. I don’t know if I’ll read them. I think I’d have to read this one again to pick up on some things I missed before I read anymore books in the series.

It’s kind of a dick move to go around picking up people an imprisoning them because they’re “special” in some way. Just because they’re different, doesn’t mean you can lock them up and throw away the key.


Wouldn’t it be nice if we had special powers?

Weigh In

If you found out that you were a wizard, what’s the first thing you would do?

If someone imprisoned you because you were different, how would you feel?

#857 The Boxcar Children Beginning by Patricia MacLachlan

The Boxcar Children Beginning by Patricia MacLachlanThe Boxcar Children Beginning by Patricia MacLachlan

The Alden children didn’t always live with their grandfather. They used to have parents. The children lived with their parents on a farm. They didn’t know their grandfather at that point and thought their grandfather didn’t like them. Their mother tried to assure them that he would love them. They just hadn’t been around him.

A small family breaks down near the Aldens farm. The Alden family decides to take them in until they can get their car fixed. A lot of people don’t have jobs and are losing their homes. The Aldens keep hearing about hard times, but they don’t want to see them. The family gets their car fixed and the Aldens say they’ll visit, but it’s a long way away.

Mother and Father go out one day, but they don’t come back. The Alden children don’t want to be put into foster care and their grandfather doesn’t sound very nice. They make up their own plans.

What I liked

This is a prequel to all those other Boxcar books. It’s not written by Gertrude, but, of course, a lot of the Boxcar Children books weren’t written by Gertrude. It’s written by Patricia MacLachlan who you may know as the author of Sarah Plain and Tall. I think she did a good job of telling this pre-story of the Aldens. I did like having more insight into the children’s past.

What I didn’t like

This is awfully sad. It’s unfortunate when any child loses a parent, let alone two parents. When you’re a kid, your parents are part of your identity. You can’t really be you without your parents. If you grew up without one or more of your parents, you will know that the absence made you a different person than you would have been had you had two parents. The Aldens aren’t the same kids they were before their parents died. Are they better kids? Is their life better? Is it worse? These questions are really a matter of opinion, but most people would say it would have been better for them had their parents lived.


This is the beginning of many adventures.

Weigh In

If you grew up without one of your parents, for whatever reason, do you feel your life would have been better with two parents?

If you grew up without one of your parents, did you feel like something was missing from your life as a child?

#845 A Place Called Hope by Philip Gulley

 A Place Called Hope by Philip Gulley A Place Called Hope by Philip Gulley

One day Sam Gardner, a Quaker pastor, is called upon by his friend, a Unitarian minister, to perform a wedding in his absence. Sam did not know that this one wedding would cause his life to turn upside down. The wedding was for two women, while not legal, at the time, the two women wanted something to solidify their relationship. They posed to Sam that since he wasn’t actually marrying them, he was just saying a prayer for them and Sam could find nothing wrong with that. So Sam performed the prayer and went home.

All heck soon broke loose. People wanted to know why Sam had performed a gay marriage, while Sam didn’t initially know the couple was same-sex, he performed it anyway because they had just as much right as anyone else to be happy. The council of his particular meeting soon wanted him out. Sam resigned, but there were no jobs to go to. He couldn’t work at the car dealership. His wife had just started working again and funds were tight. His sons were in college and the army respectively. College was not cheap.

Sam looked to a place called Hope. They had a Quaker meeting there, but there were only twelve members. They took their time deciding if they wanted to hire Sam, months in fact, but finally they did. Sam and his wife moved to Hope, after selling their house. The new meeting was a strange one, at least to Sam. The members would take turns getting up and lecturing about almost any subject and how it related to them spiritually. Sam thought this was weird, but the people of the Hope meeting were quite set in their ways. Sam soon found that Hope wasn’t a bad place to be.

What I liked

I can’t say that I’ve ever read a book about a Quaker pastor. I have read books mentioning Quakers, specifically some early adopters of women’s lib, but not a book specifically about a Quaker pastor. It’s an interesting world and I learned a lot of Quaker terminology, which will serve me well at some point.

I do like that Sam became a bit more open-minded and humbled by this experience as the book went on. Good for him.

What I didn’t like

I don’t know how to exactly describe it, but Sam seems a bit holier than thou. Sure, he’s more open-minded that some, but it still seems he’s on a high-horse in regards to religion. You are supposed to let people worship how, where, or what they may; it’s in the scriptures. This means, if someone finds a way of worship that’s good for them, you leave them the heck alone and let them do it. Why does it matter how they’re worshiping God or whomever, as long as they’re doing it? I feel like Sam would say a lot of, “This isn’t how Quakers do X.” Who freaking cares?

While Sam and his wife are interesting, Sam reminds me very much of a white, older man who thinks he knows how everyone else should do everything. While he does progress in this story, he’s got a long way to go as far as our current day standards as far as how men should not seek to mansplain to everyone, in Sam’s case, Quaker mansplain to everyone.


Quaker Oats–they’re Quaker because they go to church every Sunday…not really; it’s just a name.

Weigh In

What do you think about people like Sam?

Do you find that some people you know seek to tell everyone how to do something rather than doing that something themselves?

#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.


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.


Keep it in your pants.

Weigh In

Whose side do you fall on?

Is either side more to blame in this scenario?