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 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

Book 2: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I originally choose Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird for my first prompt because it had been planned to be my first read of the year prior to deciding to participate in the 52 Book Club challenge. Because of the kids going to school, I could easily fit this into the 1st prompt, which was “set in a school” but the Facebook crowd ruled that not a lot took place at the school, but I set this book aside and went with Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets.

Prompt #2 is “featuring the legal profession” which this book fit perfectly, more so than the first. The kids dad is a lawyer and he is appointed to defend a black man on trail for allegedly raping a white woman in the south during the 30s.

My wife bought me the book for Christmas because I really wanted to focus and dedicate a year to just relaxing and expanding my reading lists. This is her all-time favorite book, so she thought I would like it. Ultimately, I did. Maybe not as much as she did. You also have to remember that we read this book – She read it when she was in grade school and I read it for the first time this year. We have very different views.

Originally for the this prompt, I wanted to read an early John Grisham like The Firm, but it was not available at the library for rental. No John Grisham book was. I wanted to rent as much as possible, but it was too difficult for me to plan my reads (IN ORDER) and not be able to find what I want. This led me to succumb to purchasing all my books. Plus, I finally get the library I’ve always wanted.

At the end of this book, I am ahead of the game in reading. It only needs to be a book a week, but we are at day 6 and I have finished 2 books. Better to stay ahead because as work and life get in the way, I may take longer to read.

STARTED: January 3
FINISHED: January 6

Book 1: Harry Potter and The Chamber Of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Let the challenge begin… I had already started reading “To Kill A Mockingbird” just before challenge officially started and I was going to use that book as the first prompt: SET IN A SCHOOL.

Both Scout and Jem were in school and quite a bit of the story takes place in school… but a few people in the Facebook group denied this book because “not enough” took place in a school. While the challenge is not to be LITERAL by any means, and can be interpreted in many ways, I agreed that the book would fit better on another prompt. So, I stopped reading that and took up “Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets”

 

I read book 1 many years ago and said to myself that eventually, I would finish them all. In due time. Guess what? Book 2 of Harry Potter really does take place in the school. So why not give that a go.

There is not much to say about the Harry Potter books that hasn’t been said before. I liked that the book could stand alone without reading the first book. It does help, but in the first chapter and throughout, the author refers back with retrospect on the events of the first book, so you lose nothing by starting here.

START DATE: January 1
END DATE: January 3