#818 The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas Preston and Lincoln ChildThe Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Before there were very many museums, individuals would collect strange specimens from real life–two-headed goats, strange human skeletons, strange artifacts, and so forth; these individuals would then display these items and charge an admission. These facilities were often called cabinets of curiosities. The rise of the public museum, which was often free, led to the decline of the cabinets, and ultimately, their demise.

Nora is an archaeologist who works at a museum in New York City. One day, a strange man shows up. He tells Nora that she has to come along and he needs her help. The man’s name is Pendergast; he claims to be a FBI agent. He takes her to a construction site. What she sees there is something she would not have expected in a million years. Down below, there are old coal tunnels. Inside these coal tunnels are bodies, old bodies. They’re mostly bodies of young adults and teenagers. Each of the bodies has been mutilated in a specific way, part of their spinal column has been removed. She gathers what information she can and leaves.

What follows is a strange story that Nora just couldn’t have expected. It involves a man who had a cabinet of curiosity and a doctor who rented rooms from him. There are tales about a man who wanted to prolong his life. Maybe he figured out how to do it. Maybe he’s still alive. When a rash of similar killings starts up in the city, Pendergast and Nora have to do something about it. They have to figure out if it’s a copycat or if the real mad scientist himself is still alive, over a hundred years later.

What I liked

This book was highly interesting. I liked the mystery. I liked all the science in it. I liked the history in it. I liked the “woo” in it. Woo has its time and its place, but there was just the right amount of woo in this book.

All the explanations about the cabinets of curiosities was educating. I knew of their existence, but I didn’t know the exact nomenclature used. Yes, I also knew that there was quite a bit of those exhibits that were faked. The cabinets sort of held the same status as the freak shows that used to tour around.

Archaeology is an interest of mine; I seriously thought about becoming an archaeologist at one point. It’s a mystery. You find something in the ground and you have to figure out what it was for, why it existed, and who used it. Don’t you just want to know?

The idea of prolonging life is a question we probably should have solved by now. Who knows–maybe someone has. We have managed to live longer, but we haven’t managed to get a great quality of life by doing so. We could all argue that to live a long time, let’s say a hundred and seventy years, that we would want to be young enough, or rather in our prime, to be able to enjoy those extra years. Who wants to live to be a hundred and seventy years old if you’re old, wrinkly, and have to stay in a wheelchair all the time? The most we can expect these days, out of our life span, is about a hundred years, and they’re usually not good years after about eighty. Heck, they may not be good years after seventy. If I had the choice of living to be a hundred and seventy years old, but most of it would suck past ninety, or dying at ninety, I would choose to die at ninety. There’s too much crap in life to add decades on to it that aren’t going to be that great.

What I didn’t like

Despite how interesting this prolonging life debate is, it’s cliche. How many stories have you read that involve some scientist trying to prolong his life for nefarious purposes or even just debauchery? It’s so darn common. Maybe someone does it and shares his discovery with the rest of the world and it’s freely given. It always tends to be someone hoarding this secret for themselves, or offering it to only the very elite. Doesn’t that say something about humanity? Never is something like this given to everyone. This just proves how inherently selfish we can be as humans.

Overall

What’s in that strange hole we dug up? You don’t want to know.

Weigh in

If someone found a way to prolong life, do you think they would share their secret?

If you had the choice of living multiple decades more than usual, but it was awful, or dying at a normal age, which would you choose?

#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?

#808 Making Waves by Cassandra King

Making Waves by Cassandra KingMaking Waves by Cassandra King

Donnette’s aunt up and died and left her not only her beauty parlor, but her house. She now lives there with her husband Tim. It’s a sad situation really. Tim was the star of the football team, who everyone loved, but a terrible car accident has left him disabled. He works part-time at a saw mill. Donnette does the hair.

She has to fix up Miss Maudy for her funeral, the only problem with this is that Miss Maudy is dead. She always liked to have her hair in waves though. So Donnette does it right. She decides that she needs to name her shop and she aptly names it Making Waves, which is certainly something that starts to happen around the area.

Taylor, the man who caused Tim’s car accident, and former best friend, comes back to town to help out the woman who raised him. It’s his aunt, but he just can’t let his aunt be pushed around by her brother. There’s a scandal going on with one of the young women in town. She’s going with an older man, who is divorced. People are talking. People also start talking about how Taylor is hanging around an older woman, who was friends with his mother growing up.

Then there’s the whole deal between Tim and Taylor. Was it really that bad? Why is the whole thing so weird? Meanwhile, Tim’s artistic talent is rediscovered and he gets an opportunity to go to college to teach art. Donnette isn’t so sure about the whole thing.

What I liked

I tend to like Southern sagas. This certainly fits that bill. It’s a small town. There are southern accents. Everybody knows everybody. If you’re related to someone, everyone places you by who you’re related to. Oh, you’re related to the so-and-sos out by the creek. Well, that’s how it worked where I grew up. Everyone measured everything in creeks– White Creek, Bean Creek, Town Creek, Dick’s Creek and so forth.

The house I used to have used to have a home beauty parlor in it. For a time, it was my art studio, which got flooded, and I got upset, and my ex-husband then tore apart, because that makes perfect sense. Home beauty parlors do hold a small place in my heart. It’s also like the cliché Southern woman thing. If you didn’t go to regular college, maybe you went to cosmetology school and you cut hair in a room in your house.

What I didn’t like

I’m not impressed. Everyone in this book seems like a terrible person, except maybe Tim. Everyone else sucks. Some Southern people have the tendency to put on airs, meaning they act better than they actually are, or, if you need a more down-to-Earth description–they act like their s*** doesn’t stink. They’re just about the worst kind of people sometimes. They’ll bless your heart and go to the Baptist or Methodist church on Sundays, but then treat you like utter dirt and look down their noses at you if you’re not the same religion, the same color, or your family isn’t from the town. If you’re a transplant you better forget about having these people approve of you. I feel like everyone, everyone, in this book was that kind of person.

They look down on a person for being divorced–check.

They don’t trust someone with non-local origins–check.

They don’t trust someone who doesn’t act like the other boys/girls/men/women in town–check.

Really, I could go on.

At one point, Donnette actively seeks to go against her husband. I don’t mean she wants to disagree with him or argue with him, or whatever, I mean she actively tries to inhibit his life when he gets an opportunity to go to art school, for her own darn selfish reasons. There may have also been a little something more between Taylor and Tim, big deal, whatever, but Donnette gets really awful about it. Look, if you have a spouse, loved one, or whatever you like to call your partner, it’s not a good move, on your part, to sabotage their opportunities. A happier other half probably means a happier life for you. If they want to go back to school–who are you to stand in their way? I can see saying no if this person habitually goes back to school and racks up debt and never works, but otherwise, you kind of have to allow this person to better themselves, if you love them.

Donnette also seeks to end Tim’s friendship with Taylor. Look, I don’t care if they’re secretly gay, or bi-curious, or whatever. Who freaking cares if they used to go out, or do it, or whatever? That’s the past. You can’t go around thinking about all the people your current loved one used to go out with. Obviously, there is a reason your spouse, or whoever, is not with those people anymore. They’re with you. Honestly, if it came down to it and your significant other really did want to be with someone else, you’re not doing anyone any favors by trying to keep them away. They’re going to be miserable. You’re going to be miserable. The other person is going to be miserable. Any kids involved will be miserable. It’s just one big bucket of miserable.

Donnette may initially strike readers as a sweetheart, and I’m sure she has her sweet moments, but she plays just as dirty as the dirty people and she does some not very nice things. There’s not really a hero. Tim is the best person, like I said, but I think he’s too stupid to realize how awful everyone around him is.

Overall

Come get your hair did at Making Waves Salon. The entire town will be talking about you for two weeks afterwards and it’s not because of that new perm.

Weigh In

Do you feel that Donnette is a good person?

Is it ok to act like you’re something you’re not?

#802 The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers by Any Hollingsworth

The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers by Any HollingsworthThe Simple Faith of Mister Rogers by Any Hollingsworth

Mister Rogers didn’t generally do interviews, but he decided to grant Any one. Maybe Amy expected a personality that differed from Mister Rogers’ television personality, but what she got was the same Mister Rogers everyone grew up with. A friendship continued after the interview and Amy learned how great Mister Rogers really was.

Letters followed and so did stories. Mister Rogers never wrote a memoir himself, so Amy hopes that this book will serve as something of a biography for him.

Mister Rogers was always a spiritual and sensitive man. He wanted children to know it was ok to feel emotions. He wanted kids to know they were worth something. He took the time to take each child’s request seriously. When a blind girl asked if he fed the fish everyday, because he didn’t always say he fed the fish, he started saying he was going to feed the fish.

He created a world of himself inside The Land of Make-believe. Each puppet seemed to be a different facet of himself.

He taught the author that it was ok to be sad and that it was ok to be quiet. Some of the best things can come from silence.

Ultimately, Mister Rogers had to quit his show and he did for, but several decades of children grew up to his even-toned voice. They learned about emotions and they learned to be better people.

What I liked

I, like seemingly everyone else who got PBS on their bunny ears, admire Mister Rogers. He was a great man. He made an impact on the world in a way that so many people can’t. There are preachers and ministers galore, but it was Mister Rogers, who spoke with a gentle voice, that made an impression on children. Children learned that their feelings mattered. It was ok to be sad. It was ok to be angry. This might be a lesson some people could take to heart these days. We are not ever-cheerful automatons.

This man brought a voice of reason and sanity to more than one generation of children. When crazy was all they knew otherwise, Mister Rogers was a constant. He always put on those shoes and that sweater. He always fed those fish.

What I didn’t like

I really would have liked if this book had been more strictly a biography. I like Any, but it would have been nice to know even more about his life.

Overall

Won’t you be my neighbor?

Weigh in

What impact, if any, has Mister Rogers had in your life?

Is Mister Rogers an example of how television can impact our lives positively, in your opinion?

#799 Unplanned by Abby Johnson

Unplanned by Abby JohnsonUnplanned by Abby Johnson

Abby Johnson used to manage a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas. She helped with abortions. She helped women into the clinic. She kept protesters away from her patients. She tried to provide the best support she actually could. Abby’s journey at Planned Parenthood started out after she had an abortion herself. She later volunteered at Planned Parenthood and was then hired on full-time. Abby, later went on to have a second abortion.

It wasn’t until after years of working at Planned Parenthood that Abby started to have problems. She had been on speaking terms with all the protesters, actually, not protesters, they were the Coalition for Life that stood outside of Planned Parenthood to offer alternatives to abortion. They could connect pregnant women with adoption services, baby supplies, and all manner of support.

One day, Abby was called in to help with an ultrasound guided abortion. She saw the baby on the ultrasound screen, then she saw as the baby was sucked up by the vacuum. She watched the baby crumple into the tube. This was when Abby had a change of heart. She ultimately quit her job at Planned Parenthood. Quitting a job should be no big deal, but for some reason Planned Parenthood tried to sue Abby for quitting. She was second-handedly accused of distributing patient information, doctor information, and employee information from Planned Parenthood, none of which was true.

Abby now volunteers at the Coalition for Life. She tells women how she used to run the Planned Parenthood clinic and now she stands on the other side of the fence, helping women find ways to keep their babies.

What I liked

I liked having Abby’s perspective from both sides of the argument. She’s a little too “Jesus” for my tastes, but I understand that this is her faith and she’s excited about it. Abortion is one of those grey areas and it’s nice to have a perspective that will recognize that to an extent.

I do feel how Abby feels about this subject. For me, most of the time, you probably shouldn’t get an abortion. I’m glad it’s legal because I don’t want to hear about women dying, in some back alley because they couldn’t get an abortion and had to go to some guy who said he knew how to do an abortion. I’m glad it’s legal, but I’m on the baby side of the fence. It’s a baby and it’s especially a baby after the first trimester. Late-term abortions should not be a thing at all.

What I didn’t like

Abby’s descriptions of abortions are awful, horrifying. I cannot imagine watching an ultrasound of a baby getting sucked into a vacuum. Abby’s description of the process hurt my heart. Abby also told this story about a woman going in for a late-term abortion, at something like thirty-six weeks. That is insanity. That is a baby people. That baby could be born and live a happy life.

I really like the idea of something like Planned Parenthood existing for care and birth control. There should be a place where you can go to get cheap birth control if you cannot afford to go to a regular doctor to get it prescribed. There should be a place where you can receive cheap prenatal care. There should be a place where you can go to get STD testing. All of this should exist. What should not exist is an organization that pushes abortions as their main item. It’s fine if they offer abortions, but too many Planned Parenthood organizations have stated that they don’t really offer other care. Someone needs to fix that. The entire idea of Planned Parenthood was to make planning being a parent, or not being a parent, easier–that means birth control, checkups, condoms, and testing, not abortion after abortion.

The idea of late-term abortion is horrific. I’m sorry, but if a baby can survive outside the womb, which is twenty-two weeks on, then an abortion should not be allowed, unless, there are medical problems which would prevent that baby from surviving or the mother surviving.

I really get abortion, if it’s early on, and you were raped, or it was incest, or it would be medically dangerous, or mentally hazardous, but I don’t get it just because you don’t want to be pregnant. I also get it from the money stand point to an extent. You can’t afford to have a child. I really wish adoption services were a larger part of Planned Parenthood. Why not set people up with services where they can get their healthcare provided for and then find that baby a home? Honestly, I even get the idea of an abortion simply because a woman doesn’t want to be pregnant, but that doesn’t mean I agree with abortion under those circumstances.

There was a time in my life, a very short time, that if I had gotten pregnant during that period, that I would have seriously considered having an abortion. I don’t know that I could have ever gone through with it, if it had happened, but it was a serious backup plan, not because I didn’t want children, or because I couldn’t afford it, which I couldn’t, or because I was scared of being pregnant, or because I had medical concerns–it was because of who the father would have been at the time and there was absolutely no way I could have ever stayed tied to him in any way; I knew I couldn’t mentally handle it. I’m glad circumstances never led me to have to make that decision. These days, I wouldn’t consider getting an abortion if I were to get pregnant.

This book just makes me sad.

Overall

I don’t know how I feel about Abby’s Coalition or Planned Parenthood entirely, but I’m glad both are there to provide women with what they need, no matter what they choose.

Weigh In

What do you think about Abby’s flip on the matter?