Feel-Good, Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction, Stine-R.L.

#755 Stay Out of the Basement by R.L. Stine

Stay Out of the Basement by R.L. StineStay Out of the Basement by R.L. Stine

Dad is working on something in the basement and he’s been really strange. He hasn’t said a whole lot. He often grunts instead of using words. He’s even yelled at the kids to stay out of the basement no matter what. The kids just can resist though. They go down into the basement and find some strange-looking plants. They’re the kind of plants no one has ever seen before. Of course, when Dad finds out, he’s incredibly angry. He installs a lock on the basement door this time.

Mom has to go away to her sister’s because the sister is having surgery. The kids are there alone, with Dad, and his strange plants. Things with Dad get stranger. He becomes even more reclusive. He is spied eating plant food in the kitchen instead of human food. His blood is green. He starts wearing a baseball cap all the time, even though it looks stupid. When the baseball cap gets knocked off of Dad’s head, there is something strange there, something that doesn’t seem possible.

There are strange creatures down in the basement that no one could have ever imagined.

What I liked

This book sounds like a warning against Monsanto. Kids, this is what genetic modification of plants can get you. Don’t do it. Just say no. Ok?

These experiments are mostly impossible with our current technology, but who is to say that it Monsanto won’t go too far one day?

What I didn’t like

While I do think this is funny and I’m joking about Monsanto genetically modifying plants, this isn’t possible. It’s not even remotely possible. The best horror tales or science fiction tales are the ones that are just out of reach. Maybe, just maybe, this could happen. That’s what makes the best science fiction or horror.

Overall

Just don’t mess with the plants.

Weigh In

If your dad was doing weird experiments in the basement, what would you do?

Injecting plants with animal DNA, yeah or nay?

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

#753 The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks

‚ÄčThe 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.

Overall

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?

Cabot-Meg, Family dynamics, Feel-Good, Fiction

#746 Moving Day by Meg Cabot

Moving Day by Meg CabotMoving Day by Meg Cabot

Allie Finkle has found out the worst news of her life. She’s moving. Her entire family is actually moving, across town, to an old Victorian house. The worst part of it is that she’ll be going to a new school. None of her friends will be there. It’s also the middle of the school year. When she tells her best friend, Mary Beth, this, Mary Beth tells her not to tell anyone else because it’s her birthday. Allie slips up, of course, and tells someone, and Mary Beth cries and whines all about how Allie ruined her birthday and refuses to be her friend.

Allie Finkle has certain rules for life, which she writes down. They’re things like, “Never eat anything red.” Mary Beth knows about the rules, but not many other people do. Allie goes to see her new house, but she is not impressed at all. There is another girl next door and Allie does find her possible friend material, but she’s still against moving. She tries to sabotage the real estate open house at her current home with her rock collection, but it doesn’t work.

Meanwhile, Allie still has to deal with Mary Beth and the other children at her current school. The worst one is Brittany; she’s a bat thrower. She’s known to throw tantrums and throw anything within reach. When a girl plays with Brittany, they’re supposed to do whatever Brittany says. One day, when Allie is over at Brittany’s house with Mary Beth, and another girl, Brittany dictates all the games and even puts the family cat in a suitcase and drags it around. Allie does not like animals being hurt so she lets the cat out of the suitcase, and outside, this puts her on the friend blacklist even more, but she doesn’t care.

One night, at a family dinner out, she steals a turtle from a Chinese restaurant. Allie doesn’t know that this will change things for a while. In the end Allie finds out that some friends aren’t really good friends.

What I liked

I have to admit, this book wasn’t that bad for a book geared to a much younger audience. Meg Cabot is quite the writer, you’ll know her if you’ve read any of her other books. She writes for an older audience and a younger audience, so usually, anything she writes is catchy enough to keep an adult’s attention.

Allie is spunky and quirky. The fact that Allie does this weird thing, make up rules, isn’t shied away from. Most of us generally have something weird we do.

What I didn’t like

This Brittany kid sounds like an utter brat. How is it even possible for a child to be so bratty? I recently watched the Babadook, and the kid on that movie was a brat too. I might have just let the darn Babadook take him away. It amazes me that there are some kids so bratty, that it’s practically impossible to even think about being around them. Brittany sounds like a spoiled rotten brat, who is going to grow up to be a spoiled rotten teenager, who is going to end up pregnant in high school, but don’t worry, because her mother will take care of the baby while she’s at school, and Brittany will continue to be a brat. Honestly, Brittany will probably be a brat when she’s forty.

Any kid that has a room big enough to jump around in, like Brittany does, has way more than most kids do, if only they got the concept of being grateful for what they have, maybe they wouldn’t be such brats.

Overall

Heck, I’m glad Allie moved away from Brittany.

Weigh In

Would you be friends with Brittany because she has nice things?

Did you ever move mid-school-year as a child?

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.

Overall

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 Europe, Fantasy, Feel-Good, Fiction, Phillips-Marie, what if

#708 Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie PhillipsGods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

Alice is a regular cleaning girl, sneaking her crush named Neil into an empty theater to see a show by a psychic, or a supposed psychic. The whole thing goes great, besides the plotting that Aphrodite is up to. She wants to stick it to Apollo, just because he’s full of himself and also because she’s not very nice. She gets her son to shoot Apollo with an arrow during his fake psychic performance. The first woman he sees is the woman he will fall in love with. The first woman he sees happens to be mousey Alice.

Soon, Alice finds herself out of a job since she snuck someone into the theater. Neil suggests that she start her own cleaning company. One of the first houses she goes to happens to be the house Apollo lives in with all the other Greek gods, who have for some reason all moved to London. There they live, working day jobs, trying to make ends meet. No one believes in the gods anymore. Aphrodite is a phone sex worker, Apollo is an actor of sorts, Artemis walks dogs, and Zeus stays up in the attic.

Alice starts cleaning house, but Apollo soon finds out that she works in his very house. To him, Alice is the woman of his dreams, but the friendship between Neil and Alice has developed into something more than friends. When Apollo makes his move, Alice rejects him and things turn bad. Generally people don’t reject Apollo. Soon a quest of heroic proportions must take place in order for Alice and Neil to be together, but also to save the world.

What I liked

This book was humorous in bringing Greek mythology into modern-day. How would the gods of yesteryear cope with our modern-day lives? It’s difficult to imagine such a thing, but Marie imagined one way that it might happen.

I like the fact that they all had to get jobs to make a living. You would think they would have a bunch of gold stock-piled somewhere or something.

Each of these gods has very human-like traits, which is something that personalizes the idea of religion. If your god can get angry or horny, are you two really that different?

The traditional hero story is in this book, although not as traditional as usual.

What I didn’t like

I’m not particularly fond of any of the characters. None of the gods are that exciting. They’re all stuck on themselves in different ways. Neil and Alice have a “meh” relationship. The story is still interesting though.

Overall

Maybe the guy who washes the windows is really an out-of-work Greek God?

Weigh In

Do you imagine that you could ever accept that a god lived around you, if it actually happened?

Would you go to the underworld to rescue someone who you loved?

Books set in Canada, Christian Fiction, Feel-Good, Fiction, Oke-Janette, Romantic Fiction

#679 They Called her Mrs. Doc by Janette Oke

They Called her Mrs. Doc by Janette OkeThey Called her Mrs. Doc by Janette Oke

Cassie comes from a well-to-do Canadian family living in Montreal. Her father is a doctor, who is constantly having young and upcoming doctors over to the house. Cassie is seventeen and is becoming marriage minded. It’s not easy speaking to the young men, but Cassie does on occasion. Her mother begins to teach her how to cook and how to sew so she will know how to be a wife.

One of the doctors returns multiple times, but it’s not the doctor Cassie expects. This one is rather plain, but not ugly, and has a rather ordinary name, Sam Smith. After Cassie turns eighteen, her father says she can make her own choices about having gentleman callers. When Sam turns up in the parlor, Cassie is a bit surprised, but goes along. She finds that Sam is easy to talk to and she enjoys his company. The two spend more and more time together and ultimately, decide to get married.

Sam goes away on his residency, but writes to Cassie and lets her know his plans. He wants to go back out west, where he grew up. His mother died there because there was no doctor and he vowed to return home and be the doctor his town needed. The news is a bit devastating to Cassie, but she made up her mind to follow Sam wherever he went. They get married in a small ceremony and then head west. The journey was not at all what Cassie expected.

They soon make it to their new home and life starts. It’s difficult for Cassie, but she soon makes a friend of the pharmacist’s wife and is taught that anyone can have a personal relationship with God. This is news to Cassie and it makes her life much easier. Soon Cassie begins having babies, one after the other, until there are five. These years are full of energy and responsibility for Cassie, but that’s not all the responsibilities Cassie has. She learns to do a little doctoring here and there. She even helps Sam out at the clinic when he breaks his arm. She helps Sam out so much that someone dubs her Mrs. Doc.

Time passes on. The children grow up. Cassie continues to doctor neighborhood children and animals. Ultimately, Cassie and Sam grow old, but their love is still as good as ever. Cassie reaches the stage of life where her children want to care for her instead of her caring for them, but Cassie knows all things have their time.

What I liked

I’ve read this book several times and I’ve always enjoyed it. I’ve always found it sweet. Cassie and Sam do not have this glamorous relationship. They’re not Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, or Kanye and Kim; they’re this simple couple, very smart couple, but simple. They don’t have fervent, rapturous infatuation in their relationship. They love one another, a lot, and are each other’s best friends. Those are the kinds of relationships I admire. My grandparents have been married sixty-four years and that’s the kind of relationship they have. They’re not making grand romantic gestures to one another. They have lived life together, both the good and the bad, and they’re friends. Their relationship is deep-seated in each other.

I think we should all strive to have relationships like Cassie’s and Sam’s, or like my grandparents’. There is a lot to be said for someone who treats you like a partner and a person. Sam never looked down on Cassie; he knew she was smart; he knew she was determined. He made her feel respected and loved, and that, matters more than being super handsome/beautiful/hot/thin, or having lots of money, or buying a dozen roses every week; just insert whatever high relationship standard you want in there. Being a good person is important in a relationship. Being a good person in a relationship with another good person is where the apex of a relationship is.

What I didn’t like

There isn’t really anything I didn’t like. The book is a big sad in parts, but overall, it’s a great read.

Overall

So sweet.

Weigh In

Would you leave your family and travel to a far-away land for a relationship?

If your spouse asked you to leave your family and live in the wilderness, would you?

Books set in Europe, Children's, Feel-Good, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Social Commentary, Stoneley-Jack, Young Adult

#672 Scruffy by Jack Stoneley

Scruffy by Jack StoneleyScruffy by Jack Stoneley

A lonely dog waits outside a house tethered to a drain pipe. Her owners, an elderly couple, have left her there. They must leave their home because it’s going to be demolished. Someone is supposed to pick the dog up, but the dog knows that it must get back inside of the house to wait for her owners to come back. She manages to free herself, but in the meantime, she misses the woman who was supposed to pick her up.

The dog soon has three puppies, they die, one by one, until only one is left. The last puppy is black and white. One day the house is boarded up and fire is set to it. The dog knows something is wrong. She has to get her puppy out. She goes upstairs with her puppy, where she has never been allowed and finds that the only way out is the chimney. She climbs out of the chimney with her puppy to be rescued in the nick of time by some construction workers.

She is taken home and cared for, but she decides to escape. These people, although nice, are not her original owners. She must get to the house and wait. She escapes with her puppy one day. They pass a field of sheep where the puppy stops to play, only to be shot at by a farmer. The mother does not make it. The puppy is left to fend on its own. The daughters of the farmer care for her for a while, but she escapes and makes it into town.

In town, she finds a homeless man, who used to be an actor, his name is Joseph Tibbles. He cares for the dog and gives her a name, Scruffy. Scruffy helps Joseph in his act, but eventually this friendship comes to an end as well. Scruffy then has to fend for herself again, but soon finds the companionship of a pack.

Eventually, the entire pack of dogs is picked up and taken into a shelter. She is placed in a Tuesday cell. When it’s one week later, all the dogs in the cell will be euthanized. A man comes in and takes a picture of Scruffy and puts it in the paper, perhaps all hope is not lost.

What I liked

This story is based on a true story. Scruffy was real. I never knew Scruffy was real. I used to have the cartoon that was based on this book. Scruffy was a real dog, who actually lived. Her story was actually in the paper. Jack, the author, put her picture in the paper, writing an article about Tuesday’s dog. The article ran the day Scruffy was supposed to be euthanized. The response was overwhelming. Everyone wanted to adopt Scruffy. Everyone wanted to adopt all the dogs in the shelter, in fact, that’s what happened. That day every single dog was adopted out of that particular shelter and from many more shelters. Scruffy went on to live to be fourteen years old with happy owners. Later on, Jack wrote this book, which was also turned into a cartoon. Jack saved hundreds of dogs with one article.

This story just goes to show you what a little knowledge can do. If people know and people act, good things can happen. Sometimes people just have to know about something so they can act.

I used to have this cartoon as a child. I used to watch it. I remembered the part about the fire. You can watch the whole thing on YouTube apparently.

I am so happy that Scruffy did succeed. I was reading this and thought all was going to be lost as I didn’t remember how the cartoon turned out. I thought Scruffy was going to get it.

What I didn’t like

Get your tissues, people. This book will grab your heart and squeeze it. It’s ends happily, but the journey getting there is rough. It is a sad story. It’s sad how some people treat animals and it’s sad how some people are treated. Some people don’t want to neglect animals, but are sometimes given no choice because they themselves are being treated badly. Sometimes it comes down to a situation of saving one’s own skin or saving the dog, and ultimately, you generally have to save yourself.

My pets provide companionship to me and I just cannot fathom that someone would just throw away an animal, just take it to the pound and leave it there to be euthanized. Any pet I’ve gotten rid of personally has gone to people, actual people.

Last year, I lost a pet, three actually. I got divorced and my ex took one of our outside cats and the dog. I have no idea what happened to the dog, but I know what happened to the cat. I additionally had to give one of my cats to a cousin because she tried to run outside every time the door was open and I couldn’t take her with me to an apartment, but she’s enjoyed herself where she’s at.

As far as the cat that my ex took, he left me this nasty note one day saying that the cat was not mine. It was scrawled in angry writing on a piece of brown paper in pencil and left in my carport. I had no idea why he left me this nasty note, just one more nasty note among many nasty notes, emails, voice mails, and texts. He later emailed me and told me that the cat was given away, implying that he found someone to take the cat. Too late, I found out that my ex had taken the cat to the pound, where he was probably euthanized. My sweet cat, was taken to a pound, right after my ex left me the nasty note, where he was probably killed because my ex is not a nice person. If I had known that the cat was at the pound, I would have gone and gotten him, but I didn’t know until too late. I later had these awful dreams about my cat and the whole situation. I was so upset over it and my whole family was actually upset over it.

Because of this incident, this book hits close to home. While I was reading about these poor dogs waiting in the shelter to die, I thought about my poor cat, just waiting there to die, with no one to come and rescue him, and it just made reading the book all the more difficult.

Overall

If you have to get rid of a pet, find a home for them, not a shelter.

Weigh In

Do you think we could garner the same reaction to Scruffy’s story today?

Do you think Jack is a hero for writing this story?

Part 1 of Scruffy below