#947 The Werewolf of Fever Swamp by R.L. Stine

The Werewolf of Fever Swamp by R.L. StineThe Werewolf of Fever Swamp by R.L. Stine

Grady and his family, including six deer from South America, have moved to Florida, the middle of nowhere Florida, not the beach Florida. There is nothing around but swamp. There are a few other houses and there’s not really much of a town to speak of. The local swamp is called Fever Swamp. Apparently, some time back people who had gone into the swamp had gotten a fever and starting acting strange.

Grady and his sister, Emily, explore the swamp not long after moving in, where they get lost and encounter a hermit who lives in the swamp.

The pair soon meet the other neighborhood children Will and Cassie. Will says Cassie is weird. She’s always talking about werewolves. The family also acquires a dog, a rather large dog. They hear howling in the night and wonder what it is. They soon start finding animals that have been torn to pieces. They’re not sure what that’s about either. One day one of the South American deer is torn to pieces. Everyone thinks the new dog has done it, but Grady soon finds out that this isn’t the case at all. It’s something much more horrible and unexpected.

What I liked

Florida is a strange place sometimes, why wouldn’t there be a werewolf down there? There are supposedly swamp monsters, after all.

Florida isn’t a place I think of as having “backwoods,” but it does. There is a whole interior of Florida that’s full of pine forests, and swamps, depending on where you’re at. I haven’t explored any Florida pine forests or swamps myself. I always went to the coast, or Orlando, when I went to Florida. I’ve lived in the South most of my life and Florida is a place that you don’t really consider “the South.” It’s just too full of people who moved there from somewhere else and so much weird stuff happens there that no one is really sure how to classify it. It doesn’t really fit it with any other region of the United States. It’s just its own thing.

What I didn’t like

Someone’s always got to blame the dog. I get it, sometimes dogs are jerks. They kill chickens or tear up the neighbor’s petunias, but it’s not always the dog. Maybe neighborhood hooligans did that thing. Maybe a bobcat did that thing. Maybe someone did that thing and is trying to blame it on the dog. Dogs aren’t without blame in many situations and they’re certainly a lot of upkeep, but the first response shouldn’t be to blame all the problems on the dog.

Overall

Just don’t go in the swamp; this solves a lot of issues, whether it’s werewolves or swamp creatures.

Weigh In

Would you go live in the swamp?

Would your mosquito bites ever heal if you lived in the swamp?

#796 The Panther Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Panther Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler WarnerThe Panther Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Aldens are going to Florida. Benny wants nothing more than to see a real live alligator. The reason the Aldens are going to Florida is because one of Grandfather’s friend’s kids, a park ranger, is missing, well, he didn’t turn up for work and he hadn’t for several days. The Aldens know him as responsible, even though a fellow park employee paints him in a less than stellar light.

The Aldens meet a girl from the Panther tribe. She says she knows the missing park ranger. They also talk about Florida panthers, which are rare. Many of them are chipped and tracked. It seemed that the missing ranger was rather interested in them. Benny changes his mind. He wants to hear a panther now, because alligators are boring. The Alden family venture into the swamp, on a camping trip, to find a missing ranger.

What I liked

The bit about the panthers was neat. I knew of them, but not a lot. My uncle actually saw one around a place I used to live. They’re fairly rare these days.

What I didn’t like

This wasn’t a huge mystery.

Overall

A Florida mystery–more like–where’d Fluffy go? Oh, he got eaten by an alligator.

Weigh In

What is your opinion on panthers?

Do you like Florida orange juice?

#484 Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles: A Giant Problem by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi

Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles: A Giant Problem by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizziBeyond the Spiderwick Chronicles: A Giant Problem by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi

It turns out there are just giants everywhere in Florida, everywhere. Nick and Laurie last were able to defeat a giant in the previous installment, but it turns out there are a lot more. Jack Noseeum shows up at the door and asks for them one evening. They manage to make it away. The giants are waking up for something, but Jack doesn’t know what, but soon his family wants him to live with them because he’s too old. The kids are on their own for a while.

More and more giants start to appear. The children know they must think of a plan. They end up involving Jules and his girlfriend Cindi after their house is destroyed by a giant. They find out that giants like to listen to mermaids singing. The children bargain with the mermaids for them to sing, but they don’t sing for very long. Luckily, one of them recorded the singing and they are able to draw the giants out into the ocean, where they will not die, but kind of hang out.

In the end the Vargas kids are homeless and the giants are defeated.

What I liked

Holly and Tony do a great job of researching folklore. There is a lot of this I’ve heard before, as far as the folklore, and Holly and Tony are on spot. Some of it is a little odd, but there are multiple stories about each folklore. I like the idea of being able to lure giants away and into the ocean with a recording. Still though, why would giants pick Florida of all places? It seems like there would be better places to be a giant, like the Rocky Mountains for example, where a giant could hide. A giant cannot hide very well on flat land.

What I didn’t like

Yep this series is still set in Florida. Did Holly and Tony move? The first books were set in Maine and now these books are set in Florida. Giants can’t hide in Florida. It all seems very impractical. Also, those mermaids were jerks.

Overall

Bring me a special fish.


#483 Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles: The Nixie’s Song by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi

Beyond the Spiderwick: The Nixie's Song by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizziBeyond the Spiderwick Chronicles: The Nixie’s Song by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi

Time has passed and the field guide has been published using Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi as a front. The only reason Nick knows any of this is because his brand-new step-sister is into all of it. She has a copy of the guide. She stole his room. She likes fairies and unicorns and stuff. The first thing she does upon moving into Nick’s house is to go outside and look for fairies. They don’t find anything, but Nick does find a four-leaf clover. It’s the first he’s ever found.

When he gets home he looks out the window into a storm and sees something strange. He tells Laurie, his sister, that it’s one of her things. It turns out the four-leaf clover gives the person holding it the sight. Laurie is finally able to see for herself after all her time invested into the world of fairies. They help the thing into the lake; it turns out it’s a Nixie.

The next day they promise the Nixie they will find her sisters. They both receive the sight from the Nixie after she dunks their heads in the lake she’s swimming in. They go off in the direction that the Nixie said her sisters were in. All they find is a very charred mess and a large creature. That large creature is a giant, which eats specific types of salamanders in order to breathe fire. The two escape, but decide they need better help.

They go to a book signing of the guide where they meet a clueless Holly and Tony, but someone who isn’t clueless is there. It’s Jared Grace. Jared agrees to help them with the giant. With the help of Simon he finds out that Arthur corresponded with someone in Florida about giants. The three go to this place in order to find out what they can find out. They find out that they can tie a giant’s head to his leg to disable him. The children manage to do this, but soon after a giant hunter shows up. He says they did pretty well.

Florida will not be overridden with giants after all.

What I liked

Giants in Florida! Ha! Florida is not a place that is my cup of tea. Maybe Holly and Tony like it, but I’m not overly fond of the state. I do think it’s funny that giants might be there though. It puts a little whimsy in a place that doesn’t really have whimsy. Oh, sure, Disneyworld is there, but if you took Disneyworld, SeaWorld, Universal, and Busch Gardens out of Florida and there isn’t much left that is whimsical. Florida is a place made whimsical by what people have put there, not necessarily by what was already there(flat land and mosquitoes).

What I didn’t like

I’m not particularly fond of Florida and as such I really don’t get a feel for books set in Florida. I mean those books are alright, but it’s more difficult to connect with the setting of a story if you don’t find the setting at least a little interesting.

Overall

What will happen next?

#398 Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Anansi Boys by Neil GaimonAnansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

It’s been a long time since I’ve heard an Anansi story. Anansi stories have been around for a long time and it might be an area I’m going to have to look into since I’ve been analyzing fairy tales and all. Anansi is a spider, but he’s also not a spider. He’s a god, but he’s a trickster. He’s not your normal run-of-the-mill divinity.

This story is about his son(s).

Fat Charlie hates the nickname Fat Charlie, but his father dubbed him Fat Charlie many years before and he just couldn’t get rid of the name. His father had once dubbed a prize-winning dog “Goofy” and the name stuck. Everyone went around calling this once-esteemed dog Goofy for the rest of its life. Charlie has moved on. His mother sent his father packing many years before. Fat Charlie’s mother died a few years previously, so he’s been alone, but not entirely. He has a fiance. Her name is Rosie. Rosie doesn’t want to have sex with Fat Charlie until they’re married. Fat Charlie works for a job he hates. He’s actually been there longer than anyone else, except the owner, and Fat Charlie has only been there one year and eleven months.

At Rosie’s insistence, Fat Charlie phones a family friend in an endeavor to locate his father to invite him to the wedding. Fat Charlie manages to get the family friend on the line and it turns out his father is dead. He has to go to Florida for the funeral. Fat Charlie says a few words, gets fed by four elderly women, one of which is a hundred and four years old, then goes back to London, but not before hearing something strange from one of the women. Your father is a god she says. You have a brother she says. If you want to get a hold of him, just talk to a spider. Your father is Anansi.

Fat Charlie thinks this woman is crazy, with good reason, but one night, back in London, he drunkenly asks a spider to tell his brother to stop by. Low and behold, it’s not long before Charlie’s brother shows up. He says to call him Spider and he’s everything that Charlie never was. He’s outgoing, he’s good with people, he gets what he wants and this all makes Charlie feel all the more worse for being Fat Charlie. Fat Charlie isn’t fat by the way. Spider takes Charlie out for wine, women and song upon hearing that their father is dead. Charlie is so hung over the next day that Spider pretends to be Charlie at work. Spider finds some discrepancies in some of the funding at Charlie’s work place that sets in forth an interesting chain of events.

Charlie tries to get rid of Spider. He goes back to the four women in Florida. They perform a strange ritual, with kitchen herbs and four types of earth. Charlie goes into a land that is in-between. There he beseeches a bird lady to get rid of his brother. It turns out to be a big mistake. Flamingos and penguins may look cute, but when they’re all after you, it’s not so funny anymore.

Spider finds that he likes pretending to be Charlie. He likes Charlie’s life. He likes Charlie’s girlfriend. Charlie grows and becomes bolder as the story goes on. Anansi, although dead, tells Charlie that he let people make him who he is today. He could have resisted, but he didn’t. Charlie learns to stand up and be the great man everyone knows he can be.

What I liked

Anansi was such a trickster. I loved how Neil incorporated this traditional folklore in with a modern-day story. The tar-baby is even in there. Who doesn’t love the story about the tar baby?

It’s all fantasy, it really is, but Neil makes it sound so real life. Of course, your half-god brother would show up and steal your fiance. That’s stuff we’ve all got to deal with every day. Hey Bro, mind if I pretend to be you and have sex with your fiance? Nah, go right ahead.

Charlie really changes in this story. He goes from being this loser, and he is a loser, to being awesome. It’s like the whole ugly duckling argument. You might start out not so awesome, but as you learn and grow, you can become pretty awesome. Although, I have known a few people who would have something like reverse ugly-ducking syndrome. They start out all cute, but then they turn into meth-heads. It all goes down hill after they’re voted “Most likely to succeed” in high school and they find out the real world is a lot harder than they anticipated.

I really like how Charlie found himself. He found courage. He found that he’s really worth more than the world has told him previously. That’s always an awesome story. That’s always something great to realize.

What I didn’t like

I thought the book was pretty good. I had this conflicting image in my head the entire book. There were times I imagined Charlie as white, but then there were times I imagined him as black. In all honesty, it’s easier to imagine a white guy being a loser than it is to imagine a guy of any other race being a loser. I don’t know what that says about me, especially considering I’m mostly white. I wasn’t that conflicted about the “loser” point of my statement, that’s just some kind of personal truth or prejudice I have for some reason. Anyway, the language that some of the characters used would indicate that they are immigrants from Africa or some island nations, but then you think, “They know Charlie and Charlie really doesn’t seem like the kind of person who has friends of many races.” That’s just kind of how Charlie comes across to me in the beginning. He seems like this very bland, vanilla, sort of person.

Charlie is bland in the beginning, he is. I know it’s terrible that when I think of bland people I think specifically of people who are white; I don’t know why that is, but people would call that being “vanilla.” As the book progresses, I can see Charlie being African. It becomes more believable as the book goes on. It would only make sense that Charlie would be African because Anansi is an African tradition.

If Charlie were of African descent, I think his fiance’s mother’s dislike of him becomes a little more clear. It is sad to say, that there are people who will look at you and pass judgement upon you because of your race, even today, maybe even me since I apparently think white people are boring. I would find it completely understandable, well maybe understandable isn’t the word I want, maybe apt, if Rosie’s mother was a little old-fashioned and didn’t approve of mixed-race relationships. Even though Charlie is quite boring and vanilla in the beginning of the book, there isn’t anything particularly wrong with him. He’s got a job. He has an apartment. He pays his bills. He’s nice. He’s not prone to excess. He’s seems like an alright guy for a girl to be marrying. So the dislike coming from her mother doesn’t seem to have a basis.

It kind of caught me off guard that I thought white people were so boring.

Overall

If you like Neil, you’ve got to read this book.