Thursday, April 2, 2015

Book Reports March 2015

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
All the hype surrounding the long lost book by Harper Lee coming out this year (Go Set a Watchman) reminded me that it has been a lot of years since I read one of my favorite books, To Kill a Mockingbird. When I find that I can't remember important plot points of a book, it's time to read it again. Unless I forgot it because it's stupid. Ha! Mean. The last time I read To Kill a Mockingbird I was in college, so it was time. (By the way, one of my reading goals this year is to read a classic every month. I'm already doing that most months, but I made it official. This is my classic for March.)

I'm not sure I noticed the beautiful slow build in To Kill a Mockingbird before this reading. Normal childhood stuff, sibling stuff, small town stuff, then we're in the middle of a court room on the edge of our seats. The whole book is all about perspective - climbing into someone else's skin to see what they're really about. I tend to Olympic Cry for people who do the right thing - especially when it would be easier not to do the right thing. So, Atticus Finch defending a black man accused of raping a white woman, knowing there's no way he can win the case, made me proud to the point of tears. The victory was that the verdict took longer than a few minutes. Baby steps. 

Having read Gone with the Wind not long ago, I feel like I "got" To Kill a Mockingbird on a new level. Reconstruction was so hard for everyone - black and white. It helped me immediately distinguish White Trash from Good Folks. :) 

One of my favorite scenes...okay, I want to write about two of them. First, Calpurnia taking Jim and Scout to her church one Sunday when Atticus wasn't home. None of them could read, so they had a guy say the line of a song, then everyone repeated that line in the tune they all agreed on. I want to go back in time and see/hear that. I bet it's amazing. 

The other favorite is after Atticus had given his closing arguments (so good) and he walks out of the court room. The black folks in the balcony rise, while Jim and Scout (Jean Louise) stay seated. I think it's a reverend or someone else sitting near them that says,

“Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passin'.” 

Oh my goodness. This is a book you have to read if you haven't already. What's wrong with you?

 2. Real Moms: Making it Up as We Go by Lisa Valentine Clark
 I saw a recommendation for this book on Eric D. Snider's blog. I've been reading his blog for about 10 years and I have agreed with 99.5% of his opinions (he's a movie critic), so I thought I'd like Clark's book. You know who would like this book even more than me? Melissa! I'll mail it to you, Melissa. (You're the one who reads this blog.)

Lisa Valentine Clark is about 40 years old, Mormon, and living in Utah County with her five children and her husband. (Me with a couple of different turns.) When she's giving sarcastic advice or ranting about something familiar or telling a story about her kids, the book is at its best. Some of the chapters about being a mother and loving yourself, felt like a good lesson in Relief Society, but not really something I care to read about in a book that is mostly for laughs.

My favorite rant was about her Dodge Caravan with manual doors. She said something about 100% of the kids she carpools standing in front of the van doors waiting for them to open. Oh! That makes me laugh! What have we done? :) And they can't understand her instructions to pull the handle and yank back at the same time. Who? What?! I read two pages to Brian because I was laughing so hard he had to know, about her junior high aged son calling her from school to come pick up his tooth that had fallen out. Because he didn't have a pocket. KIDS! Hilarious.

In conclusion, easy and fun read. It's in the mail tomorrow, Melissa.

3. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
I was in the mood for a fun mystery (not a gross one) and this ended up being just the thing. Eleven year old Flavia de Luce is a chemistry enthusiast with two dreaded sisters, a dead mother, and a remote father living in a fine house just outside a small village in England in 1950. One morning Flavia discovers a dead body in the cucumber patch - almost dead body. The man whispers one word before he expires, "Valet." Flavia is the only one who hears him. 

Since it's 1950, Flavia has to go to the library to find back issues of the newspaper to follow the clues and figure out who killed the stranger in the cucumber patch. There were some fun twists, but I did figure out who the murderer was kind of early. I am the mother of twin boys, though. My mind is a STEEL TRAP for where the shoes could possibly be. (For real. Yesterday the first place I looked was in a suitcase, and there they were. THERE THEY WERE, you guys.) Anyway, the case involves stamp collecting and probably the most interesting story about stamps in the history of stories about stamps.

Flavia is very spunky and a little vindictive - a great combination, it turns out. Next time I'm in the mood for a mystery, I'll go to the second book in this series. (There are a bunch of them.) All the books in this series are available on Audible, which is how I read it. Jayne Entwistle did a fine job - my one nit-picky complaint is that she sounded like she was about to laugh too often. Sure, if she is going to laugh, but then she didn't laugh.

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