Book 12: Deenie by Judy Blume

Another one day read; or more like a half a day. I picked up this hardcover at the local library today about 12:30 and was home by 1pm to start reading. Finished this by 5:30pm. Judy Blume’s Deenie is a book that is recommended reading for the MasterClass I am taking. I didn’t even know it was a banned book when I checked it out at the library.

Ultimately, I was not a big fan of the story as a whole but I understand it it. Again, we lower ourselves to the level of the children and feel what they are feeling and can believe we are this child who is told she pretty over and over again. Just to find out that she has a scoliosis and has to wear a brace. I don’t know one child that would say this is cool or feel alright about it at first.

During the MasterClass, Judy doesn’t got into this book about the scoliosis aspect but from the aspect of the character and sex. Apparently the book was banned because the tween masturbates many times throughout the book like it was a natural part of growing up. Judy tells us to look at our own lives quite often in the MasterClass. In my world, curiosity about sex was rampant so maybe it is/was normal or maybe not. Deenie never really finds out if she is normal or even if she was the only one of her friends to do it.

What I learn from Stephen King is that if it doesn’t move the story or enhance it, it should be left out. I do believe that those scenes were unnecessary in the bigger picture of the book. Overall, the book was okay… I liked Blubber and Tiger Eyes much more than Deenie.

Book 11: Blubber by Judy Blume

Next up on my reading challenger and my homework for Judy Blume’s MasterClass is the book Blubber. Originally written in 1974, not much has changed in the world of kids. Bullying is just as problematic now than it was in the 70’s. Elisabeth told me that I would probably enjoy this book because of how I grew up.

I don’t know a kid growing up that wasn’t bullied in some way, or was the bully themselves. I don’t think it really hit me until junior high. I remember wearing the same neon green sweatshirt as a pretty girl in my class. Someone said to her, look you guys are twins. She replied something to the effect that the difference was that mine was the size of a tent.

Sometimes, I think bullying is caused by the things you do. Maybe if I had not stood up in front of the entire junior high and dance a one-man Menudo concert (not once, but twice), I might not have been that easy of a target.

The book Blubber talks completely about bullying and how even the one’s who stand up get the tables turned on them. It’s easy to see why kids don’t want to stand up for others and how easy it is to fall into peer pressure. Don’t know if this is recommended reading in schools today, but it should be.

Blume tells the tale without preaching and that was her main goal with writing this book. She let the tables turn even though it was wrong just so that kids realize that everything you do has consequences. The consequence of teasing Linda was the teasing turned to her.

Book 10: The Mouse and The Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary

Next up in my 52 Book Challenge, I had to read a book by Beverly Cleary from my MasterClass homework. I didn’t even know who Beverly Cleary was until I looked her up on the library’s digital books to see what I could read. She’s the author of the Ramona series (kid’s books). This will be book #10 for the year.

The reading prompt for a Beverly Cleary book was to read her style and how she captures the young reader and puts that reader in the role of the character. The character is a little mouse that longs for adventure when he finds a toy motorcycle that belongs to a young boy. Through the love of motorcycles, the boy and mouse could communicate with each other. They found a friendship with each other that was based on respect for who they are; human and mouse.

This is my first book by Cleary and while I understand how she took the character and made you look at the world through mouse eyes, I was not all that found of her style. It might be because it was written back in the sixties the words didn’t flow all that well with me. And oddly for a children’s book, I had to look up the definition of a few words.

It was an okay story but it did its job. I felt like a mouse on an adventure.

Book 9: Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume

Book #9 for the year coincides with the Judy Blume MasterClass that I am taking and part of my first assignment. Judy talks about drawing inspiration from personal experiences. The recommended reading for the MasterClass are two books, Tiger Eyes and Deenie. Tiger Eyes was available digitally from the library so I read that first. Tomorrow, Deenie will be ready to pick up from the library in physical format.

Today’s book took just a few hours to read. Started yesterday afternoon when I took some Zyrtec and dosed off and on while reading and then this morning. Pretty fast read. Blume states that she didn’t subconsciously write this about her past but it was pointed out to her about the similarities between her loss of her father and the character’s loss too. 

Part of the MasterClass homework is to see how those experiences close to you can help form your characters and stories along the way. I think I already tend to do that quite a bit but I know I can reach deeper into my childhood self to find stories within myself.

Judy Blume’s Tiger Eyes is sad but honest look at a teenager dealing with the loss of her father and being moved across country, just so they can heal emotionally from the loss. I didn’t find it all that sad though I did think I would probably cry at the end. I did not. I went into the book with a different set of eyes today. I went it to it as a writer; looking for techniques, writing styles, and looking for ways to incorporate what I know into characters that can be relatable. 

With that, I thought it was very good and enjoyed the easy read. Glad to check off another book on my 52 Book challenge.

Book 8: Confederates In The Attic by Tony Horwitz

My pick for my 8th book of the year would need to be something found in the library system in the 900s. When researching this, I saw many books that were biographies so I originally decided on Jim Henson’s memoir. I switched it when I got my book on The Brady Bunch. Then I found out that technically they fell in the 700s. 900s were more historical. I found a new book that had just been released 1774, which was about the Boston Tea Party. When I went to purchase it, it was way too many pages and wasn’t discounted enough at my second-hand store. To the historical section I went and I immediately found myself drawn to the Civil War era.

Without looking at the book’s description, the cover art grabbed my attention. I checked the Dewey Decimal number and it was in the 900s so I purchased it.

Confederates In The Attic takes you on a journey with the author Tony Horwitz, as he tours the south and tries to understand the modern day’s obsession with this war. Visit battlegrounds, museums, and other locations along the way, Tony talks to Neo-Confederates, Klansmen, locals, and even more recent Civil rights locations such as Selma, where Rosa Parks took a stand. Each location and person he visits has a different opinion about the war and what it stood for.

While it takes a bit to keep me interested, I was. I have my own fascination with the Civil War and history but it isn’t about north or south, Union or Rebel. I think it is more because of how close it was to our society. In my own ancestry, my grandfather’s grandpa was a civilian killed during the war. It seems close when you can place your own family members in the midst of it. Unlike the Boston Tea Party, which I don’t know connect the dots that far back.

While it took a long time to read, getting caught in Valentine’s rush of work, I finally got finished and I glad I did. The end of the book was far more entertaining than the beginning, but it’s all educational.

Book 7: My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Finished in a seriously quick amount of time, My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell is the first book of the year that I gave 5-stars to. Seriously good reads. The book was purchased directly for this prompt and I don’t regret it at all.

The story is told at two different times, from the same character, flipping from her struggles to adapted to real life as a 32 year old woman, to the 15-year-old girl, who begins a life-long relationship with her English Teacher. Each chapter telling a different part to the story until they both collide at the end of the book.

Its a very controversial story and it has gotten mixed reviews, mostly loved. The people who criticize it are the probably the ones who also ban Harry Potter for witchcraft. A story about a minor girl and an older man has been told many, many times. The book references Lolita quite often. What I liked about this book, was not just about the affair and what happened as if the author glorified the relationship. The story focuses on the after effects and the PTSD that the victim, who doesn’t feel like a victim deals with every day of her life.

One of the lines at the end of the story where she states “It has to be a love story.” is one of the saddest moments in the book. I friggin’ balled my eyes out.  Definitely worth the read if you can get past your morals.

STARTED: January 24, 2021
FINISHED: January 25, 2021

Book 6: The Way We All Became The Brady Bunch by Kimberly Potts

The next prompt for my 52 Book challenge was a hard one for me. A character with the same name as a male family member. It is hard because how do you know if a character has the same name as a family member until you read it? Ultimately, I asked my book club for a recommendation using: Wallace, Wally, Bill, Billy, William, Allen, Charles, Chuck, or Guillermo. I come from a family women. I was given Catch-22 with a character by the name of Chuck. When I sat down last weekend to start the book, I skimmed it and did not see the name Chuck at all. I decided against that book and hunted through my collection for another book I could move around.

The Way We All Became The Brady Bunch by Kimberly Potts was purchased before I decided on attempting this challenge and it has jumped around into many different spots on my list without really finding a true home for this book. It wasn’t the book I first pulled out, but the second one.

  • Greg / Barry – NO
  • Chris / Peter – NO
  • Mike / Bobby – NO
  • Sherwood – NO
  • Mike / Robert – Hmmmm… Robert? I have an Uncle Bob. Robert. Oh wait… Bobby too. Whoa. This will work.

Robert Reed played a huge part in the Brady Bunch and in all discussions of the 60s-70s sitcom, his consistent complaining has always been a source for topic, especially here where he gets an entire chapter dedicated to his hatred and love for the show.

Potts didn’t come off in this book as an expert in the behind-the-scenes hijinks and shenanigans for the cast members. That was left to Barry Williams’ memoir Growing Up Brady.  Instead, she explores the fandom of Brady and how fans have embraced the show and cast members, as well as the impact that the show had on pop culture and television through the years.

As a fan of the show and being part of the fandom, this book is a lot of fun. It has also got me thinking about the concept of documenting as part of becoming a historian of some sorts; something I seriously want to do with any one of my loves. I guess this is sorta by blog at the moment. Documenting music, movies, books, etc… Or at least what I think about them.

STARTED: January 17, 2021
FINISHED: January 23, 2021

Book 5: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

For the 5th book of the year, my goal was to read a book that was published by Penguin publishing. Many of the other readers took the liberty to say that it could also be a Random House book, because the company is now called Penguin Random House since the two companies merged. It’s like saying anything released by Fox is now a Disney property.

I went in the true sense of the prompt and found a book on the GoodReads message group that helps with prompts. Secret Life of Bees was published by Penguin in 2001. When I found the book on the GoodReads board, I took to this immediately because I already knew about this from the movie. While I may not remember the movie, I could totally tell you the cover art of the video release.

I had a little bit of a rough start with it, not really feeling it. Maybe that was because I did not have a connection to the story or the author; it was just a book filling a prompt. A short book at 300 pages, it took me 3 days to finish it. 2 evenings and a full day off (Sunday).

In the end, I enjoyed the book and cried at the end. It did help that I pictured Queen Latifah and Dakota Fanning during this entire read. Good job!

STARTED: January 15, 2021
FINISHED: January 17, 2021

Book 4: Disclosure by Michael Crichton

Another book down for 2021. Originally, I had moved To Kill A Mockingbird to the prompt “Author that is deceased” because of Harper Lee being deceased when I changed my 1st book to Harry Potter. On my kindle, I had Michael Crichton’s Scratch One that moved into this spot but after finding this book on the discount rack, I exchanged books. Disclosure became book #4.

Many people, like myself, think of Disclosure as the movie about sexual harassment starring Michael Douglas and Demi Moore. I sure did. The entire time I pictured the two of them as I read. This is probably the 5th or 6th book of Crichton that I have read and honestly, there has been a bad one in the bunch.

I think a few years ago, I had this book in my “to-read pile” and had even started it, but maybe it was about right place, right time, in order to enjoy such a book. Crichton has always been the technical guy for me as he talks in detail about scientific stats and figures but with this book, everything is very straight forward. It takes place in a internet-tech firm during the early start-up periods. Maybe because we all know about CD-ROMs and the internet, it did not feel overwhelming, but it didn’t focus on this.

This story is a people story. It is about two people who are out to get each other in the world of business. Simple as that.

STARTED: January 11, 2021
FINISHED: January 14, 2021

Book 3: Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

On to my 3rd book of the year. A Dual Timeline is the prompt and originally, I wanted to use Stephen King’s 11/22/63 but that fit better as a prompt later down the line. Kate Morton’s Clockmaker’s Daughter entered my want to read list sometime last year when it was recommended to me by a friend on Facebook. She loves Kate Morton.

A dual timeline means that the story does not follow a start to finish pattern, but it is not necessarily flashbacks either. This book is like a puzzle of sorts, jumping from the present time to another era with another narrator. Each jump in time was another piece of a big puzzle that various different characters held pieces.

Ultimately, I liked the story but did not love it. It was way too long and many times the pieces are being told over again just by different characters and dates. Would I give Kate Morton another shot? Probably not. This is the one story that looked promising to the type of book I would enjoy, but it failed to keep me wanting to turn the page. I turned it out of necessity to finish the book.

STARTED: 1/6/21
FINISHED: 1/11/21