#867 Mystery Behind the Wall by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Mystery Behind the Wall by Gertrude Chandler WarnerMystery Behind the Wall by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Aldens have a Canadian friend coming to stay awhile. There’s a room that hasn’t been used in a while that he can stay in. The kids help clean it up. When the kid gets there, they decide to make a communication device, a tin can telephone. They figure they can pass a string through the closet, but there’s something strange about the closet. It kind of sounds hollow behind it. They soon find a note and some clues.

It turns out grandfather bought the house from someone else and a little girl used to live in the room. She didn’t play with dolls, like a lot of other young girls; she liked to collect coins. She wanted to leave a scavenger hunt. The Aldens start following her clues. Their progress is hindered by the fact that Grandfather added rooms onto the house at one point, so some of the original parts of the house are covered up. The Aldens figure it out, like usual, but they have a great time.

What I liked

Sometimes I really like the idea of having a really old house. There’s no telling what mementos of the past you may find in crawl spaces and attics. The Aldens finding something from a girl who used to live in their house is actually pretty neat. All I found when I moved into my last house, that I used to have, were some x-rays. Part of me doesn’t like the idea of having an old house because it’s probably haunted. I’ve recently read a whole lot of true ghost stories in an online article, and let me tell you, I wouldn’t want a lot of those experiences happening to me. Some of them I would be fine with, but the rest of it–no way. So I imagine that if, for some reason ,I bought an old Victorian houseĀ  it would probably be haunted and not like fun haunted, like awful, nightmare-inducing haunted. I’d have to call a priest and a bishop, one of them could exorcise the ghost and the other could fight it, hopefully, I’d end up ghost free in the end.

What I didn’t like

The little girl’s story seems a little sad.

Oh, and there the Aldens go, being spoiled again. Oh, we just happen to have this extra bedroom lying around. There are five people in the house and they have an extra bedroom. Unheard of, seriously. There were six people in my house growing up and we only had four bedrooms and one bathroom. The Aldens probably have like six bathrooms.

Overall

Maybe there’s a cool scavenger hunt in your house, but as luck might have it, it’s probably just a scavenger hunt to the previous tenant’s toenail collection.

Weigh In

If you found a scavenger hunt in your house, would you do it?

Do you think the Aldens are spoiled?

#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.

Overall

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?

#865 Bicycle Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Bicycle Mystery by Gertrude Chandler WarnerBicycle Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Aldens decide they’re going to go a bicycle trip by themselves. They camp out along the way. They also pick up a strange dog. The dog is grey and looks fancy, but the Aldens have no idea where the dog came from. He obeys very well. People start asking about the dog. They eventually get to a town with a dog show to find out that the dog is some type of show dog, but they still don’t know where he came from. They found him in an abandoned house.

They keep asking around and eventually hear about someone who lost their dog, but it seems really far away. Could these people really be the dog’s owners?

What I liked

Dogs are fun. I don’t know so much about dog shows, as it does seem somewhat pretentious, but dogs themselves are pretty nice. I’ve had my share of dogs over the years and my current dog is a pug. They’re noisy little dogs.

What I didn’t like

Who would let kids go off on a long bike ride like this alone? I get it if you’re an adult and you want to go cross-country biking, but children going cross-country biking seems dangerous. First of all, people driving are crazy and there are some places bikes just don’t belong on the road. Twisty and turny roads with no shoulder are no place for bikers. Do the kids know this? Do the kids know what to do if someone forces them off of a road? What about if they crash? What if someone steals their bikes? There are a whole lot of questions involved in this cross-country biking thing that are difficult to answer even if there are adults doing the biking.

Overall

Let’s go ride bikes, but not on the road.

Weigh In

Would you let your kids go on a cross-country bike ride?

Would you have been responsible enough as a teenager to handle a bike trip like the Aldens’ bike trip?

#864 Cole I love you to the Moon and Back by Aaron Dean Ruotsala

Cole I love you to the Moon and Back by Aaron Dean RuotsalaCole I love you to the Moon and Back by Aaron Dean Ruotsala

Aaron and his wife had been on a fishing trip with their two children. That night, Cole, the oldest, complained of a stomach ache. The parents deliberated on whether or not to take him to the doctor, but when Cole asked, they took him to the hospital. What they found out would change their lives forever. Cole had a tumor in his abdomen and it was very large. There were tests and more tests before the diagnosis came back. Cole had cancer, a fast-growing cancer. Every measure was taken to save his life.

During this, Aaron started a webpage about Cole and his progress. People began to read it and offer prayers and hope to the family. Cole’s story inspired many others to be prayerful and think about what their mortality meant. Ultimately, Cole lost his battle with cancer, changing the family forever, but he did inspire many people.

What I liked

I liked that Cole’s situation gave people the desire to be more spiritual, whatever that means to them. I think sometimes, if we are spiritual people, we need to be reminded about why we are spiritual.

What I didn’t like

It’s awful that Cole got cancer. From the sound of it, there was nothing that could have been done to prevent this. It just happened and the family had to deal with it.

I don’t think Cole was particularly special. Sure, his parents think he’s great, but is he more special than any other kid? No, he’s not. It’s unfortunate that he had cancer and died from that cancer, but I don’t believe it was determined by God that Cole should get cancer and die just so other people could be a little more spiritual. I think this was an unfortunate circumstance, but if people were able to find comfort in Cole’s attitude, that’s great.

Overall

I hope Cole’s family is doing well.

Weigh In

Do you believe God makes bad things happen to innocent people so other people can learn lessons?

If you found yourself in this situation, do you think you would have enough mental clarity to write a book about it?

#863 The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret AtwoodThe Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Charmaine and Stan live in their car. Stan used to have a job, but he lost it. Charmaine works in a bar. Lots of people don’t have jobs. People live in their cars. Gangs roam the streets rampant and intent on victimizing anybody to make their lives just a little easier.

There’s something going on, an experiment. It’s an experimental community. The community provides jobs and a place to live, the only catch is that every other month you have to go to prison. Husbands and wives are separated. Another couple lives in the house when the first couple is in prison. They’re called alternates.

Life goes ok for a while. Stan works with chickens and Charmaine does something in medication administration. Things start to get a little weird though. A friend had told the couple not to go into the community because it was dangerous. Everything is bugged. People are expected to behave a certain way. Charmaine soon meets the alternate man who lives in her house when she’s not there. The two start an affair, always meeting in abandoned houses, without bugs, or so Charmaine thinks.

This is just the beginning though. It turns out the alternates in Stan and Charmaine’s house are activists and Charmaine and Stan are getting dragged right along with them. Soon the couple is learning about strange sex robots and bran surgery that makes a person imprint on another person. There are sex robots that look like Elvis and they’re a big hit. There’s something even more nefarious going on in the community that involves human beings. Charmaine and Stan are going to play a part in putting a stop to it.

What I liked

I do tend to like most things that Margaret writes and this was no exception, although it’s a little strange. There was definitely humor in this book. Who would think that sex robots that looked like Elvis would be a huge hit? It certainly doesn’t float my boat.

Margaret is looking at a financially depressed society in this book. It’s not now and it may not be ever, but it could be. It’s actually quite plausible. If we had a more significant economic collapse where would people live? It’s very possible that many people would end up out in their cars and on the streets. Is there the potential for humanity to be taken advantage of during this time period? Could humans be placed in facilities to live and work? Yes and yes. If you listen to conspiracy theorists out there, the government has something called FEMA camps, which is where we’re supposedly going to go after we’re rounded up by the government for whatever reason. Is it true? I have no clue.

In this book’s case, the community is run by a private organization, no doubt with backing from various politicians. It’s for profit. There’s nothing magnanimous about this. It’s too good to be true and everyone there should be worried about it.

What I didn’t like

It’s a bit of an awful thing when one part of humanity thinks it can take advantage of another part of humanity for whatever flimsy reasons it gives. In this case, some people were so poor they couldn’t make it on their own, so it’s ok to prey upon them and essentially herd them up like cattle. Not cool.

The thing is, I think there would be some people who would take advantage of others in these situations. Would it be on the nightly news? Maybe not, but I think it would happen.

Overall

If they say they’re going to give you a job and pay your rent, there’s probably a catch so big it could fill Rhode Island.

Weigh In

If you were broke, would you take your chances in a community like the one in this book?

Do you think some people just wait for unfortunate societal circumstances to take advantage of others?