Baldacci-David, Books Set in the South, Coming of age, Family dynamics, Fiction

#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?

#833 Wish You Well by David Baldacci was originally published on One-elevenbooks

Books Set in the South, Fiction, King-Cassandra, Romantic Fiction, Social Commentary

#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.


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?

#808 Making Waves by Cassandra King was originally published on One-elevenbooks

Books Set in the South, Feel-Good, Fiction, Romantic Fiction, Sparks-Nicholas

#753 The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks

The Longest Ride by Nicholas SparksThe Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks

A man named Ira has crashed his car in the snow. He’s not alone though, his wife, Ruth, is there with him, but not really because she’s been dead for nine years. He starts the recount their life together. He loved her. They got married after the war, but mumps had rendered IRA unable to have children. Both IRA and Ruth belonged to immigrant families that had moved to North Carolina. Ira told Ruth about the mumps, but he married her anyway.

The two started to collect artwork. The collection grew and grew. They visited Lake Eden in Black Mountain every year.

As Ira sits in the freezing car, more than one day, two other people will soon be in the same area. These two are young and named Luke and Sophia. They met at a rodeo. Luke was one of the bull riders. He’s got a secret though.

Sophia and Luke don’t seem to match, but they start a relationship that they both like, all while Luke’s mother might lose the ranch. Luke ends up doing something dangerous to himself, to save the ranch, but an unforseen bright spot and chance meeting come into both Like and Sophia’s life that really brightens things up.

What I liked

This was not bad for my first Nicholas Sparks book. It wasn’t quite as sappy or as dramatic as I expected. I liked Ira and Ruth’s story, although it was quite sad.

I liked that a large part of this story was set around where I live. I live really close to Asheville, Hipster City USA, which is mentioned multiple times in this story. Black Mountain is also a place I’ve been, heck, I almost got a job there, at Montreat College, not Black Mountain College, which was a real place. The lake mentioned in the book is also real. It’s part of some summer camp now.

I liked that art was such a large part of this book. I am an artist and stories about other artists are wonderful.

Surprisingly, Nicholas got a lot of the PBR stuff correct. My mom used to watch the heck out of bull riding on the TV; yes, you can watch it on TV. It can be a very dangerous procession. People get killed and paralyzed doing it.

What I didn’t like

The idea of a couple not being able to have children, when they want them, is very sad to me. I don’t understand why It’s and Ruth didn’t adopt a child. It was certainly something they could have done. I feel like life is too short not to be a parent when you want to be a parent.


At least I didn’t burst into tears when I was reading this book.

Weigh in

Would you ride a bull?

Would you stay with someone if you wanted kids and they couldn’t have them?

Blundell-Judy, Books Set in the South, Family dynamics, Fiction, Mystery, Romantic Fiction, Young Adult

#737 What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy BlundellWhat I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

Evie’s stepfather is back from the war. Everyone made sacrifices then, including Evie and her mother. They moved in with Joe’s, the stepfather’s, mom. It was not a pleasant experience. When Joe comes back, he opens up some appliance stores. He’s marginally successful. He says he wants to take the family in vacation, in Florida, so they go.

They go to Palm Beach, hardly anyone is there. It’s the off-season. The family has fun for a few days, giving everyone else in the hotel nicknames. They soon meet some of the other people. There’s another couple, Evie’s parents soon become friends with them, even to the extent of striking a business deal.

A strange phone call before the family left, seems harmless enough, but Evie learns the phone call will was actually a harbinger of things to come.

Evie sneaks into a school dance at the hotel. She dresses up. She doesn’t want to dance with the bellhop who works there, but someone does dance with her, a man named Peter. He’s twenty-three. He’s staying at the hotel. He was in the war, with her step-father. He charms Evie and Evie thinks she is in love, at not quite sixteen.

The two go out, with Evie’s mother, but what Evie doesn’t realize is that Evie’s mother is closer to Peter, than Evie suspects.

Peter and Evie get to know one another more. There’s this story, about college, about a wealthy family. Peter tells a story about doing something horrible in Europe. There’s money involved. Evie’s stepfather is involved.

One day, Evie’s mother, stepfather, and Peter, the man Evie thinks she loves, go out on a boat, before a hurricane. Evie rides out the hurricane alone with strangers. Her parents do turn back up, but Peter doesn’t. There’s this story Evie is supposed to tell. Things didn’t actually happen the way Evie remembers. Truths come out about Peter that change Evie’s mind about him, but she knows she and her mother have to stick together like glue. She says what she has to.

What I liked

Intrigue upon intrigue–who is really the good guy? Is there a good guy? Is Evie even good? What you think is the mystery really isn’t the mystery. Everyone seems to have secrets.

This book plays on the naiveté of teenagers as a major plot point. Evie thinks she loves Peter and Evie’s mother does nothing to combat that thought. She lets Evie believe in her naiveté that Peter might love her.

There is this ethical dilemma–tell the truth and lose something dear or lie and keep that something dear.

What I didn’t like

I don’t like the idea of people trying to convince other people that their memories are wrong. It’s basically trying to make another person crazy, to doubt themselves. If a person cannot trust themself, who can they trust? How can reality have any purchase in their lives if they can’t trust themself?

It’s infuriating, perhaps because it’s happened to me, that someone would talk to another person, telling them that things didn’t happen the way they remembered, all so someone can win an argument, or get away with something. I can’t label either of Evie’s parents as good because of this fact. Once you cross the line of trying to make someone doubt themself, you’ve taken on some evil qualities.

In the end, nobody in this story is good, but the worst people are the ones who convince others that their memories are wrong.

Teenagers–good Lord, “but I love him,” no, no you don’t. You’ve barely been wiping your own butt for a decade, you can’t understand the complexity of being in a serious relationship.


Your family is your family, and sometimes, you lie for them.

Weigh in

Would you cover for a family member if they broke the law?

Would you cover for a family member if they broke the law and tried to convince you that your memory was wrong?

Books Set in the South, Family dynamics, Feel-Good, Fiction, Flagg-Fannie, humor, what if

#733 The Whole Town’s Talking by Fannie Flagg

 The Whole Town's Talking by Fannie Flagg The Whole Town’s Talking by Fannie Flagg

Elmwood Springs started out as a small town settled by a few immigrants from Sweden. The land was cheap. It all started with Lordor Nordstrom. He had his farm and there were a few other people around, but he also wanted a wife. Some of the people talked him into trying for a mail-order wife and Lordor did just that. He ended up with Katrina. It took a while for the two to get to know each other, but soon they did and they married. Lordor started a dairy farm, that later became a huge business.

The town began to grow. Babies were born. More and more people showed up. The town got electricity. The town started to have cars. Downtown grew. Families grew and branched out.

When Lordor died, he was surprised to find that he was still conscious. He was just up on the hill at the cemetery. He was able to think and talk, although there wasn’t really anyone to talk to, except that one guy. As time passed, more people came to join Lordor at the cemetery. They could all talk to one another and it was almost like being alive except for there were no bodies involved. The strange thing was that every once in a while, someone would just disappear and they didn’t come back.

A newspaper was started in Elmwood Springs and the notorious Ida Jenkins decided that she needed to write a society column for the paper. She called it The Whole Town’s Talking. She would write about what was going on in town, perhaps with a little bias, we all know Ida after all. The paper went on, and Ida eventually went on.

Lordor’s granddaughter now owned the dairy, but her husband was a good-for-nothing. When She died, it was made known that the husband had inherited everything, which was strange because Lordor’s granddaughter had originally intended to leave a lot of money to charities. Lordor also wrote a clause into the dairy stating that it could never be sold to a non-family member. The people up in the cemetery knew there was foul play afoot, but how could they do anything about it as dead people? Eleanor, whom we’ve met before, was quite upset about it, but what could she do?

What I liked

I love Fannie Flagg books. I love how she encompasses an entire town in her books. I’ve read other books about Elmwood Springs, which I highly enjoyed. Eleanor is such an interesting character. I love how she feeds every animal around. It’s just so neat to read all the ins and outs of a whole town. I also love how Fannie follows generations from several families. We don’t just find out about the grandparents; we find out about the grandparents, the children, the grandchildren, and the great-grandchildren…maybe even the pets too. It’s great.

Fannie is also funny. She has a knack for creating real-life scenarios, that are humorous. Fannie is a good people-watcher. Some of these people in this book could be people who I know. Tott Wooten reminds me of more people than I can count.

I also love how Fannie can combine woo-woo and real life and make it sound plausible. I can’t imagine that a bunch of dead people sit around in a cemetery and talk, but maybe it happens.

What I didn’t like

Some of Fannie’s philosophy in this book makes me a little sad. I believe in the idea that you can stay connected to your family members after death and Fannie’s philosophy in this book makes that impossible, at least in Fannie’s philosophy.


The whole town is talking about how great this book is.

Weigh In

Would you want to talk to the people you were buried next to?

If you wrote a society column in a newspaper, what would you highlight?

Books Set in the South, Fiction, Green-John, Mystery, Romantic Fiction, Social Commentary

#721 Looking for Alaska by John Green

Looking for Alaska by John GreenLooking for Alaska by John Green

Miles decides to go to boarding school, the same one that his father attended. Miles was never very popular in his school and he’s very smart. He wants something different.

His roommate at boarding school is a boy who calls himself the Colonel. He is introduced, by the Colonel, to drinking, smoking, and Alaska. That’s really her name; she picked it out. Miles is dubbed with the nickname Pudge and soon launches into coursework and a wild group of friends.

They play pranks and they philosophize about life. The group grows closer together. Pudge has his first sexual experience with another person and generally experiences a lot of life in a short amount of time. They learn a bit more about Alaska before something tragic happens. Nobody knows why it happened.

Miles and Colonel try to piece together what happened and why. In the meantime, they plan an epic prank that would make any Alaska-type person proud.

What I liked

This story was definitely readable and that’s great. The characters are interesting. They’re not squeaky clean, nor are they bad people. Something major happened to them and they’re trying to put some logic into it, which is what we spend most of our lives doing anyway. We try to make sense of what life throws at us. Life doesn’t always give us the answers though and we just have to live despite that lack.

This book is also a little bit autobiographical to John, which is highly interesting.

What I didn’t like

This book had a bit on controversy surrounding it, which is stupid, because nothing in it is even that bad. It’s just another book threatened with school banning, because someone is too stuck in their lack of understanding about the moral state of their teenagers.


Boarding school would have been an interesting experience.

Weigh In

How much of your life do you estimate has been spent trying to make sense of life events?

Would you search for answers if you experienced a life event like Miles?

Books Set in the South, Coming of age, Family dynamics, Fiction, Finding Your Self, Murphy-Julie, Social Commentary, Young Adult

#707 Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Dumplin' by Julie MurphyDumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Willowdean, sometimes called Will by her friends, is a high school student in a small Texas town that is famed for its beauty pageant. Will’s mother once won the pageant and now plays a huge part in putting on the pageant every single year. A person might think that Will entered the pageant as soon as she was able, but Will hasn’t because she is overweight. Will has friends, but she doesn’t have the life that they have, because thinner people just get more.

It’s not until the summer that Will just gets tired of all the things she’s not supposed to do because she’s fat. She starts flirting with a co-worker. She admires her aunt, who died tragically at a rather young age, and when school gets back in session, she enters the beauty pageant, along with several other girls pushed to the margins of high school society because of their physical appearance.

The pageant causes rifts in Will’s friendship with her best friend Ellen, but also with potential suitors. Will is surprised to find that a couple of guys do like her and they both vie for her attention. Meanwhile, the other girls see Will as a rolemodel. Will follow through with her pageant plan while remembering her aunt, listening to Dolly Parton, and getting the help of some Texas Dolly Parton lookalike, drag-queens.

What I liked

I think this story is sweet and I do think it is encouraging. We’re too often told by society, that if we don’t look a certain way then certain things are not in our futures. I think stories like this are helpful to show people who may not fit into society’s ideal beauty standard that you shouldn’t miss out on life just because you’re not Cindy Crawford, or whoever it is that people are idolizing these days. Nicki Minaj?

Willowdean is a likeable character in many ways.

What I didn’t like

While there are things to like about this book, there’s a lot to not like.

First of all, pageants are stupid. It’s a thing where young thin girls and their mothers spend a lot of money on makeup and clothes to see who can out-dress and out-makeup one another. It’s not all flash. I do actually know a Miss United States and she’s a very nice person and not unintelligent, in fact, she has a doctorate. She’s most definitely tall and thin though. Besides this very nice person that I know, I don’t think that pageants hold a lot of merit and I think it takes a certain amount of thinness and money to seriously compete in them, which is not something that is open to everybody. So pageants are a very exclusive thing and I generally tend to be an inclusive person.

Second of all, look here–as much as books try to make inroads for people to quit being dicks about people’s weight, it’s not happening. People still think they’re entitled to discriminate against a person because of their weight, all the while, choosing to ignore the fact that discrimination based on weight is no different from discriminating against someone for their skin color, height, disability, speech impediment, religion, race, and every other defining characteristic that you can think of. It’s not nice, hence my usage of the word dick instead of jerk. Being a dick is worse than being a jerk, so I just wanted to drive home the point how unhumanbeinglike discriminating against a person because of their weight is. People are incredibly mean about this for no good reason and I mean vicious. People get really angry about it as if someone who is sixty pounds overweight has personally offended them and their ancestors by existing.

Will’s story is nice; it’s sweet; it makes us want to champion the underdog, but seriously, when do you see society lightening up and saying, “You know what, I think I will vote for the overweight girl to be homecoming queen”?

I don’t think Will’s scenario is likely to happen. We’re making progress as a society. We have some beautiful women who are not stick thin modeling for all sorts of places, but that honestly hasn’t changed how people act. They’re still dicks. I wish with all my heart that a bunch of overweight girls would get voted prom queen and win beauty pageants, but I think we’re still a long a way off.

This story has a love triangle, which is basically true of any novel geared towards young adult girls, apparently. Look, girls, you’re not going to get into high school and find that you have two men fighting over you. It might happen, but probably not. You’re also not going to grow up and have two men vying for your attention. Usually, it’s just the one man, and sometimes not even the one man.

The hard truth of the matter is that men will overlook you, many times, if you don’t look a certain way. The good thing about that is that usually if you do find a man who genuinely seems to care for you, he actually does care for you and it’s not some superficial bullcrap that would fade away if you gained fifty pounds all of a sudden.

I want to empower young women as much as anyone else, but it still seems that society doesn’t want young women to be empowered, so in reality, you have to empower your young women, but also teach them to fight, because they’re going to have to fight for the right to be empowered in the first place. This story does this to a degree, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s definitely not a be-all end-all book for the empowerment of young women, but it is a step in the right direction.


Girl, don’t worry about being in a pageant, get yourself a degree in rocket science.

Weigh In

If you’re trying to empower a young woman, do you think this book would help?

Do young women need stories like this?