Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

Arthur Dent is a completely normal, though very unsuccessful, Englishman going through the motions of life as we all do; however, that is all about to change. In just a few hours, the Earth will be destroyed for seemingly no reason at all. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, written by Douglas Adams, follows Arthur as he attempts to fit in in the universe that destroyed his planet for a highway. His long time friend, and secretly Alien, Ford Prefect, saves Arthur and latches on to one of the enormous spaceships that incinerated Earth just seconds before hand. As they travel, Ford constantly refers back to the all holy guide of traveling spacemen, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which gives tips and information on how to survive the cold depths of space. As they travel, they meet up with the President of the Universe, Zaphod Beeblebrox, who with him has an acquaintance of Arthur's Tricia McMillan, and together, they travel the universe in search of the "Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything". Their quest ultimately leads them to a super computer with the answer. The answer is 42. This of course is no help without the original question, which the computer tells them is in another computer disguised as a planet. The computer then reveals that this planetoid was called Earth. In shock, Arthur is then kidnapped by two Earth mice who secretly are the original creators of Earth. Because Earth had finished formulating the question, Arthur's brain contained it. The mice attempt to kill Arthur and dissect his brain, but Ford and the gang escape with Arthur and decide they are hungry and set course for the "Restaurant at the End of the Universe". The mice, too lazy to build another earth and wait 10,000,000 years, make up the question, "How many roads must a man walk down?"

Do you think Adams was making a point when he made Earth a computer?

Blue is for Nightmares by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Blue is for Nightmares by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Stacey Brown, a 16 year old Junior at Hillcrest Boarding School, is a hereditary Wiccan through her grandmother. Stacey wants to have a normal high school experience, but her junior year isn't easy. Not only does she have a crush on her best friend's boyfriend, she has a bigger secret, she has prophetic nightmares. Now she is having nightmares again, but this time they're about the death of her best friend and roommate, Drea. These nightmares cause her to wet the bed and this is extremely embarassing for her, and she tries to hide it from Drea. However, it is not the first time Stacey's had these prophetic nightmares. Three years ago, a girl she used to babysit, Maura, was murdered. Stacey had ignored her nightmares about the young girl's death and then Maura was killed, and now she is having those strange dreams again. One night Stacey, Drea and another friend Amber do a card reading in there dorm. To Stacey's horror Drea gets the card of death. However, she does not tell Drea that's what the card means. Then Drea begins to receive weird e-mails and freaky phone calls. Then to make things worse, someone starts to leave Drea white lilies, the same death lilies that have been showing up in Stacey's dreams. Another girl, Veronica, tells Stacey and Drea that she has been receiving the same emails and phone calls. Everyone just thinks its a game, but then Stacey finds Veronica dead in a classroom in the middle of the night. There are no witnesses, and no one has a perfect alibi. With everyone as a potential suspect, Stacey turns to the folk magic her grandmother taught her. As time is running out will Stacey be able to figure out Drea's stalker? You'll have to find out yourself =].
1). Do you believe in magic? Why do you feel this way?
2). What would you do if you could have stopped someones murder, but didn't?
3). What would you do if you were in Stacey's position?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult

Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult is a novel where each chapter is told in a different point of view. The main character, Delia Hopkins grew up with her father, Andrew Hopkins; her mother was killed in a car accident. Her neighbors, Fitz and Eric, became her best friends, even well into adulthood. Delia, age 32, lives with her father, Eric, who is now her fiance, and their four year old daughter, Sophie. Delia does search and rescue with her dog Greta, Eric is a lawyer and Fitz writes for the Gazette, a local New Hampshire newspaper. As the book progresses, there are multiple flashbacks told by each prominant character about their childhoods. We learn that Fitz is in love with Delia and that Eric grew up with an alcohlic for a mother, among other things. Everything seems normal for Delia until one day, the cops show up at her house, and not for her help in a missing persons case. They arrest her father for kidnapping Bethany Matthews 28 years ago. We come to find out that Bethany Matthews is Delia herself. Her father kidnapped her when she was four years old.
Immediately her world falls apart. All the strange dreams she was having turn out to be her lost childhood memories, she cannot trust the man who raised her to be the woman she is today, although now she is not quite sure who she really is, and most importantly, her mother is alive. Delia asks Eric to be her father's lawyer and they all move to Arizona, where the kidnapping took place. Fitz's editor flys him to Arizona to cover the case, though Delia is not aware of this.
Everyone seems to have their share of problems in this book. Delia, Eric and Sophie move into a pink trailer next to a seemingly odd woman named Ruthann. Sophie becomes very close to Ruthann, and so does Delia. Eventually, Delia and Eric find out about Ruthann's cancer. She secretly refuses chemotherapy and eventually committs suicide. Eric also seems to be having a lot of trouble with Andrew's case as the details unfold. He seems to be losing Delia, too. He is even unware of the fact that Fitz is in love with her and Delia may have feelings for Fitz, as well. Delia searches for her mother and once she finds her, she isn't the mother she dreamt her up to be. Her mother, Elise, was an alcoholic, and that is why Andrew kidnapped Delia soon after their divorce. But Andrew's problems seem to be the heaviest. As he tells his story, we learn that life in prison is a horrible place to be, even for a man in his mid-sixties who wants nothing to do with anyone. He is constantly harassed by gangs and even stoops so low that he helps deal drugs. Andrew is in such bad shape that he changes his mind about wanting to be found guilty. He knows now that if he is found guilty and has to stay in prison, he will be murdered.
Vanishing Acts is a very fast-paced, intriguing novel. It deals with issues of the real world and finding one's true identity. Delia struggles with her identity: does the past really matter, or is it who she is now that counts the most? Will Andrew be found not guilty because he had a reasonable excuse for taking his daughter and running? What will happen with Fitz and Delia; Eric and Delia?

1) Fitz is maddly in love with Delia and he knows she is engaged. To make matters worse, all three of them have been best friends since their childhoods. If you loved someone deeply but you knew they were engaged, would you tell the one you love how you feel? Do you think it'd be the right thing to do, or are these sorts of things better left unsaid?

2) Ever since Delia was little, she believed her mother had passed away, until one day, she finds out this is not true. Would you be upset if your father withheld this information even if he had a reason to do so? How would you feel if you grew up without a mother, or a father, as some of us sadly do?

3) Andrew kidnapped his daughter in order to protect her from her alcoholic mother. If you were in Andrew's position (divorced and only saw your daughter on the weekends) would you do all that you could, even if it meant kidnapping your daughter because he could not go to the police, to save your son or daughter? Do you think he had the right to do something like that?

Hacking Harvard

Hacking Harvard, by Robin Wasserman, is a very unrealistic story about something all of us seniors surely know: the college admissions system. Three extremely intelligent teens (Eric, Max, and Schwarz) have decided to take on what they believe to be the ultimate challenge. This challenge is getting an average, run of the mill guy into Harvard. While this may seem like a long shot, these three teens believe it to be possible and want to prove their point, which is that "there's something wrong with the admissions system" (48) and "to prove it's not perfect" (48).

They choose Clay Porter, a below-average student who has no plans of going to college, as their subject. Though he was at first reluctant, he soon agrees to help them when money is put into the picture. With Clay, they help him with various college admission tasks that they believe should trick Harvard into letting him in.

One admissions procedure they "guide" him with is taking the SAT test. While many students longing to get into Harvard study for days on end to get perfect scores on the test, Clay does not study at all. Instead, Eric and the other two guys help Clay by cheating the system. They install a microscopic camera into Clay's glasses, which transmits the questions Clay is seeing infront of him to a television screen. They then are able to tell him all of the answers through a microphone which is synced to an earpiece Clay is wearing. All goes well, until all of these complex electronics decide to stop working. The teens are then forced to use their brains, and figure out that they can use the light reflected from the pond next to the classroom window to highlight the correct answers onto Clay's test (this part makes no sense to me).

All of their efforts are about to pay off when they start to think about how this will affect other people attempting to get into Harvard. Harvard does not let in many applicants as is, and if Clay, someone who does not deserve to go there, gets in over someone who does want to go there, that would not be right. They are potentially taking the spot of someone who has worked all their high school career to get into Harvard.

In the end, they don't care about the fact that they are taking someone's spot and submit Clay's application to Harvard to be potentially admitted, waitlisted, or denied.

1. The characters in this story believe they played a prank on Harvard. Do you consider what they did a prank, or do you believe what they did broke the law?

2. Clay potential could be taking someone who really wants to go to Harvard spot, though people helped him cheat his way in. In the end, he actually does get in and does go. Do you believe he should ever fess up for cheating his way in?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

A Separate Peace by John Knowles begins with Gene Forrester, the protagonist, going back to his old school, Devon School, after fifteen years. he reflects on his years there and his old friend Finny, who was an outgoing, athletic, talkative and mischievous boy. Unlike Gene, Finny excelled at sports nautrally, beating the school swimming record the in his first attempt. The boys later form their own secret society for people who have jumped off a nearby tree into the river. The first time they jump, Gene is shamed into it by Finny, and the second time Gene hesitates and Finny pushed him, saving his life. Even though Finny and Gene are good friends, Gene resents him throught most of the novel for being a better person and having a sure identity. Since Finny is so good at sports, Gene assumes that Finny is jealous of Gene's academic success and suspects that Finny is out to distract him and ruin his grades. He later realizes that there is no rivalry between them, but this only makes him more envious of Finny because he believes that Finny is a better person than he is. He says “I was not of the same quality as he" (Knowles 51). On their third jump, Gene's knees bend and wiggle the branch and Finny falls off and breaks his leg. Gene feels that he is guilty for the accident and tries to admit it but Finny does not believe him. World War II has started by now and one of their friends, Leper Lepellier, enlists right away. Gene goes to visit him and it turns out Leper has gone slightly mad and paranoid. When Leper and Gene return to school , Finny has another falls down the stairs and breaks his leg. The boys discuss again the first accident while Finny is in the infirmary, and Finny asks Gene if it was "just a blind impulse" (Knowles 162) up in the tree, he wants to believe that it is not part of some deeper hatred. This novel is told by an unreliable narrator Gene, and so not everything is stated plainly. you must read between the lines a lot in the book and that is what makes it one of my favorites. The relationship between Finny and Gene is very complex and only fully understood by someone who has experienced it before.
1. Gene is jealous of Finny most of the novel.Have you ever felt angry at someone out of jealousy, not out of hatred. How does this feeling cause conflicts within you and how does it usually play out in your relationships?
2. Finny becomes angry that he can no longer go to war. Put yourself in his position, as a young boy during the 40s and everyone around you is enlisting. Would you be upset or releived to not be able to go to war?

Tuck Everlasting

Winnie Foster a young girl about the age of ten, comes from a strict well-off family. For her entire life, her family has kept her locked away from the rest of the world by an iron fence that surrounds their house. One day, Winnie decides to venture out past the fence and into her family's woods. There she finds a boy drinking from a fountain named Jesse Tuck. Through Jesse, Winnie finds out that him and his family are immortal because they drank water from the spring over one hundred years ago. The Tuck family decides to take Winnie away to explain their secret immortality and to explain why their secret must be kept. While this is happening, a man in a yellow suit is watching them. This man came to town to try to find the magical well that his grandmother told him about and sell the water from it. He sees the Tucks taking Winnie as a kidnapping and uses this information to get Winnie's family to sell him their woods.
While all of this is going on, the Tucks introduce Winnie to their strange way of life outside of society. The more time she spends with the Tucks, the more she starts to love them like the family that she never really had. Unlike her family, the Tucks aren't strict and live in a modest house far away from town. The Tucks show Winnie that their secret of immortality must be kept, because if everyone else knew about it, they would abuse it. Plus if other people knew about it, it would throw off the balance of nature (the cycle of life and death). After a short while, the man in the yellow suit shows up after following them to their house. He tells them that he knows their secret and plans to expose them to the rest of the world. Filled with outrage, Mae Tuck (the mother) hits the man in the yellow suit over the head with a shot gun. The wound eventually kills him. Through all of this, a sheriff has been watching because he followed the man in the yellow suit. The sheriff takes Mae into custody and she is sentenced to be hanged. This is a problem because since she can't die the Tucks' secret will be exposed. I don't want to ruin the rest of the story so you'll have to read it if you want to know how it ends.

The story explains why immortality may not be as great as it seems, and why the natural flow of life is important to maintain and keep in balance.

1. If it was possible, would you take the chance to live forever?
2. Do you think it would be a bad thing to be immortal?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

The Talented Mr. Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith, is an intriguing story that starts out with Tom Ripley being approached in a bar by Mr. Greenleaf. Mr. Greenleaf’s son, Dickie, moved to Europe, and the Greenleafs’ are desperately trying to get him to come home. Tom had met Dickie a few times, but was not very close to him, but because Tom is so incredibly bored with his own life and everyone that surrounds him, he agrees to help in any way that he can. "'Mrs. Greenleaf,' Tom said gently, 'I want you to know that I'll do everything I can to make Dickie come back"'(20). Tom then ventures to the small town of Mongibello, Italy, the town in which Dickie is staying. Tom discovers that Dickie is close friends with a girl named Marge. At first, Dickie does not seem to like Tom much, but after a little while, they become quite close and Tom begins to live with Dickie. Dickie makes it quite clear that he will not return home, but Tom still tries to provide hope to the Greenleafs’ in his letters, even though he has given up on the idea entirely. They become closer and closer and Marge, who is in love with Dickie, is very jealous of their relationship. Tom feels such a strong bond with Dickie, that one day, while Dickie is at Marge’s house, Tom begins trying on Dickie’s clothes and impersonating him in the mirror. “He chose a dark-blue silk tie and knotted it carefully. The suit fitted him. He re-parted his hair and put the part a little more to one side, the way Dickie wore his”(78). Tom realizes that they look quite similar to each other. Dickie returns home and catches Tom in the act. Dickie feels that it is quite a strange thing for Tom to do, and their relationship is never the same. Dickie separates from Tom and begins to hint that Tom should return to America. They begin to despise each other, but they had made plans to take a trip to San Remo, so they go. On the train ride there, Tom imagines killing Dickie, he forms a plan in which he kills Dickie and then becomes him, and that is exactly what he does. Tom must plan everything perfectly after that in order to avoid suspicion and get away with his lie. All is going well until an old friend of Dickie’s comes to visit him in the house in Rome that Tom is now living in. Tom must kill this man in order to continue his impersonation. This begins police questioning and a long series of events in which Tom must navigate through to be able to get away with all his bad deeds. Will he get caught, or will he be able to lie his way to becoming a free man?
Discussion Question:
Have you ever wanted to become someone else? Obviously not going so far as killing that person to become them, but wanted to be able to live the lifestyle they lived?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Such a Pretty Face by Cathy Lamb

Stevie Barret has had a lap band operation to bring her weight under control. Her obesity was caused by emotional over-eating due to guilt she felt over not being able to save her little sister Sunshine and the emotional abuse she suffered at the hands of the uncle who took her in when she was a child. Sunshine was thrown off a bridge by their schizophrenic mother, Helen, as was Stevie, before their mother jumped off the bridge herself. Throughout the book, Stevie revisits different parts from her childhood, and how it was to grow up with Helen around, and sometimes, when she wasn't around.
Stevie now has to go through the process of forgiving her mother, and herself, for what happened to Sunshine and accept that it wasn't her fault that Sunshine wasn't able to make it out of the river. She has to do this while also trying to accept her new smaller body, throw off her shyness to talk to her very attractive neighbor, and gain self confidence in spite of a very jealous friend who is determined to keep her down.
1) Stevie also has to help her cousins, who have their own emotional baggage from their childhood, to plan her aunt and uncle's fortieth wedding anniversary party, a party that no one really wants to happen because it is obvious that her aunt would be better off without her uncle. What would you do if you knew one of your friends or relatives was in some type of abusive relationship?
2) How would you feel if your mother did not recognize you as her own child due to mental illness? Would you resent her for it? Would you be able to eventually accept her as she is?
3) How would you deal with a jealous friend who was trying to keep you from growing as a person? Would you try to fix the relationship, or would you just stop being friends?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson

The story begins with Jane Margaux, a lonely eight-year-old girl. She receives little attention from her mother, the head of a New York theater company. Her parents are divorced, and she sees little of her father who has recently remarried. The only time during the week that Jane's mother gives her the time of day is on Sundays when she takes her to look at the beautiful jewelry at Tiffany's.

Despite the fact that Jane seems to be rather lonely, a good friend keeps her company. Her friend's name is Michael. Michael is always there for Jane. He walks her to school each morning. He meets her after school. He takes her for ice cream at the St. Regis Hotel on Sundays, right before her mother takes her to look at jewelry. Anytime Jane has a problem or a feeling of insecurity, Michael is there to comfort her. Jane says, "You're a good listener..." (Patterson 33). Michael seems like the perfect companion for any person, however, Jane is the only one that can see him. As Jane's mother comes to get her for jewelry shopping one Sunday afternoon, Jane shouts at Michael, "Here she comes Michael...Look invisible" (Patterson 14). This remark is ironic, because Michael is invisible; he is Jane's imaginary friend.

Jane loves Michael like brother, even though he is only visible to her. He explains to her that this is his job, that his purpose is to help children like herself until they are able to manage on their own. Unfortunately, he explains, a time comes when he must leave her. This happens on her ninth birthday. As a nine-year-old child, she is considered old enough to manage on her own. She is devestated with Michael's departure from her life, but he promises that once he leaves, she will not even remember the time they spent together.

Many years later, as Jane reaches her thirties, she still finds herself rather lonely. She works for her mother, and even though she is a famous playwrite herself, she is not happy. Her mother now seems to pay too much attention to Jane, nearly trying to control every aspect of her life. Jane has a boyfriend who works in the theater industry, but he acts too much like Jane's snobbish and conceited mother that she decides she can no longer handle him. And worst of all, Jane still remembers her best friend Michael that she had as a child. For some reason she cannot forget him, as he said she would. She thinks of him constantly, and she even writes what becomes a famous play about an eight-year-old girl with an imaginary friend named Michael.

As Jane finds her life spiraling downward, she needs something to lift her spirits. One day, as she is having lunch with a friend, a very handsome young man approaches her. Jane recognizes him immediately as being Michael. Even though this is the grown up Michael, she knows it is him. They begin talking, and Jane is estatic when she learns that this truly is the Michael from her childhood. She explains to him how she had never forgotten him as he said she would, which he finds to be strange. He explains to Jane that his immortal life is in a transitional stage right now; he is inbetween assignments, so he has a chance to live a normal life for some time.

Jane and Michael spend more and more time together each day, and they begin to fall in love. Unfortunately, Jane encounters constant problems with her ex-boyfriend, and Jane's mother is unaccepting of Michael since he cannot seem to give her significant background information about his life. Jane and Michael decide to get away for awhile, however, while they are gone, Jane seems to be falling ill. She constantly thinks about what her mother had recently told her, about Jane's grandmother who had died in her thirties from a heart failure. Michael, on the other hand, knows that he did not simply run into Jane coincidentally, that there must be a reason behind their recent reunion. He was there for Jane in her childhood to bring her into life, and he worries that he has found his next assignment, which would be to bring Jane out of life. He cannot even imagine permanently losing her, so he decides to leave her once they return home, feeling that if he is no longer with her, then there would be no chance of her dying.

Shortly after they return home from their vacation, Michael feels this sensation that he must go to the hospital. Is Jane the victim in the hospital bed, or is it someone else that he has come to assist?

Discussion Questions
1. Michael explains that an imaginary friend helps children feel less alone and helps them find a place in the world. Do you feel that children have imaginary friends to help them cope with things in their life? How else do we use our imagination to help us deal with life or hide from it?

2. By the end of the story, Jane becomes rather rebellious towards her controlling mother by running away with Michael. Do you think this was the right thing for her to do? If you had a mother that constantly made you feel as though you were not living up to her expectations, would you have done the same thing?

Pretty Little Liars

Pretty Little Liars is a novel full of deceitful girls, fabulous clothes, and a secret no one can ever talk about. Alison DiLaurentis, Spencer Hastings, Aria Montgomery, Hanna Marin, and Emily Fields are unlikely best friends. Spencer is the only girl with enough gall to stand up to the marvelous “It Girl,” Ali. Aria is just lucky to have friends because she’s known as a weird outsider. Hanna is a pudgy wanna-be, and Emily is completely confused. However, on the last night of seventh grade, the girls have a sleepover in Spencer’s refurbished barn, and get in a huge fight when Spencer refuses to by hypnotized by Ali. That is the night Ali disappears.
Over the next three years the girls all go their separate ways—Hanna gets skinny (by making herself throw up), becomes best friends with Mona, a girl they all used to tease, and the pair becomes the new “It Girls” of Rosewood Day school. Aria moves to Iceland (after her dad cheats on her mother with a student of his) and returns with a new attitude, style, and superiority complex. Spencer throws herself into school-work and is obsessed with beating her older sister Melissa (this includes stealing Melissa’s British fiancĂ©, Wren). Emily gets involved with the swim team at school and her and her boyfriend, Ben, are the sporty couple (though, she shouldn’t be with him because she might be gay. She’s not sure).
When new neighbors move into Ali’s old house and start to tear apart the backyard to build, Ali’s body turns up. It’s now quite clear that this was a murder. Once the body is uncovered, the four girls start getting mysterious messages from someone named “A,” and A knows all of their secrets. Could A be Alison? Or her murderer?

1. How would you feel if you started getting texts from a random person who knew all your deepest, darkest, possibly illegal, secrets? What would you do?

2. In any of the girls predicaments (bulimia, boyfriend-stealing, dad-cheating, or sexuality issues), what would you do? Who might you turn to?

3. If you had a group of friends and one suddenly went missing, would you drift from your friends, as these girls did, or would you stick with them.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Nineteen Eighty-Three (+1)

1984 by George Orwell is a story about a futuristic time in the year 1984. The main character is Winston Smith who is just a low ranking citizen of society. In this society there is a central, unfaced leader called Big Brother. Big Brother is the leader of the Party, who is in charge of this so called Utopian society. The Party controls everything in Oceania, even the people’s history and language. The Party has brain washed everyone in the society convincing them that Big Brother brings true happiness to the people. However Big Brother has made things like free thought, sex, and expression of feeling illegal. Winston, however, dislikes the Party secretly and always writes down his thoughts in a diary. He must hide his secrets from the thought police and the telescreens that always watch over the people. Throughout the duration of the novel, Winston becomes friends with a very powerful party member named O'Brien. O'Brien is thought to be a secret member of the Brotherhood, which is a secret organization that works against the Party. On his "journey" to stop Big Brother, Winston has an affair with a girl named Julia. Towards the end of the novel, Winston gives up on Julia and we discover that O'Brien has been watching Winston the whole time and has just worked to brainwash him like everyone else. I'm sorry to ruin the ending but we all have read this book sooooo........Winston completely gives in and accepts the Party. Learning to love Big Brother after all.

1.Do you think it is possible for a so called Utopia to take place in the world?

2. What do you feel the definition of Utopia actually is? Because Utopias always fail they are never the perfect society they should be..Why? Is perfect an unrealistic term?

3. If you had the chance to stand up to the leader of a nation like Winston decided to do, would you do it?

The Things They Carried- Tim O'Brien

They Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien, is a novel that tells about the horrors of war. It is written in a series of memories over time. A the beginning of novel the protagonist, Tim, is remembering an experience in Vietnam. This memory was about the guilt their captain felt over the loss over one of his subordinates. Ted, a lowly soldier was shot in the head while going to the bathroom. The captain ends up using marijuana and tranquilizers to help control his guilt. Time then explains the events that lead up to him being stationed in Vietnam. He was drafted unwillingly into the army from his happy life in Minnesota. Another memory involved when Curt Lemon dies by playing catch with the medic with a fragmentation grenade. The medic, while accidentalness causing this death still feels extraordinarily guilty. Another two men Jensen and Stump made a pact if either were severely injured the other would make sure he would die quickly. When stump loses his leg to land mine he begs for Jensen to spare him. Jensen is torn between keeping his promise and leaving his friend in pain. Shortly, Stump dies in transit to a medical location, and Jensen feels guily for feeling relieved that his freind is out of pain.
How would you feel if someone you knew was drafting into the army?
How would you feel if you were accidently responsible for another's death?

Look Again by Lisa Scottoline

In the novel Look Again, by Lisa Scottoline, a reporter named Ellen Gleeson, also a single mother, is raising her adopted son named Will. One day she sees a flier saying, "Have you seen this chold?" She noticed somethign very trange about the photo of the boy, he looks exactly like Will. This is very weird to her and being a reporter, she investigates. She looks all over Google and find the family looking for their son. Carol Braverman is the mother of the missing boy who is named Timothy. Now even more skeptical, she checks the adoption records, but everything seems to be normal with them. Not able to get over her suspicions, she calls the attorney who she worked with through the adoption and finds out she has killed herself. Now very frightened, she looks at the adoption forms again to find the birth mother whose name is Amy Martin. Later on, she follows Carol Braverman into a bar and is able to obtain some of her DNA off of a cigarette she had smoked and thrown away. Awhile after that, she is at Amy's home and finds a picture of a man who she starts calling "Beach Boy". Soon after the visit to her house, Amy is found dead. She talks to a friend of Amy's named Melanie, who thinks Amy was killed by someone lacing her drugs with a toxic chemical. Melanie also shares that Amy had been in an abusive relationship with a man named Rob Moore, who looks like Beach Boy. The relationship took place about four years ago, the exact same time as the adoption process. Ellen now believes that Will is actually Carol's son Timothy, and that Rob is now murdering everyone who had anything to do with the adoption. Now Ellen is left to defend herself and her son alone, and does not want to give away the only family she has.

1:) If you had adopted a child and found out it was actually a parents child who had been kidnapped and was looking for it, would you return the child or hide the fact you ever knew about it?

2:) If you were in Ellen's situation and you and your sons lives were in danger, what would you try and do to save the two of you? To what length would you go?

Look Again by Lisa Scottoline

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens


Pip is a young, orphaned boy trapped in a the lifestyle of a poor man. He fears his life is already set and will one day turn out to be exactly like his sister's husband, the only family he has. Although he knows Joe Gargery is a one of the kindest men you could meet, he isn't exactly the brightest. Pip has higher aspirations than becoming an assistant to a blacksmith. He wants to become a gentleman. One night, he is walking through the marsh and sees a man. This man demands food or he would kill Pip. Pip, driven by fear, runs home to bring him food. Later on he finds out this man is a convict who escaped from a jail ship. Pip soon forgets about it and continues living his boring, mundane life. Time passes and soon Pip becomes the interest of an odd, old lady named Mrs. Havinsham. She is looking for a boy to play with her child, Estella. After many visits Pip soon falls in love with Estella, yet she is quite different than him. Estella is very well-off while Pip is nothing more than a blacksmith helper. Pip soon realizes that me much become a gentleman to escape a poor life and win Estella's heart. Oddly enough, Pip is informed by a man named Mr. Jaggers that he now has a benefactor, someone who will help Pip become a gentleman. This benefactor has given him large sums of money to do whatever he pleases. Pip leaves behind his sister and her husband, the only family he has, and his old life to become a gentleman. Over time, Pip becomes unhappy. His unlimited wealth does not seem to fulfil his wants, but most of all, Estella becomes engaged with another man. With a surprising twist at the end, Pip finally finds out the identity of his benefactor. Finally, Pip now must repay his benefactor for everything they've done for him Pip realizes his expectations of become a wealthy gentleman were too great and in the end, were very disappointing.

1. Is family, loyalty, and integrity more important than wealth and social class?

2. If someone offered to pay for you to become a "gentleman," would you leave your old life behind or would you would accept the extremely generous offer? Why?

Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why, a fictional novel by Jay Asher, takes the reader through the tragic journey of Hannah Baker. The novel opens up with Clay Jensen, receiving a package with no return address. When Clay opens it, he finds thirteen cassette tapes labeled one through thirteen in nail polish. The contents of the tapes horrify Clay because the tapes are the voice of Hannah Baker who recently committed suicide. Hannah explained that the tapes were to circulate to thirteen people who helped push her to commit suicide. Clay had found a map in his locker that would help guide him along Hannah's journey.
Clay listened to all thirteen tapes in one night. The further he got in the tapes, the more upset he became. Hannah had decided to commit suicide because she was tired of people taking advantage of her. She was too low to ask for help and she decided to give up. Hannah decided her best means for suicide would be an overdose of pills.
Hannah's tapes left thirteen people changed forever. Hannah let them know exactly what part they played in her decision to end her life. Some of the thirteen really did Hannah wrong but Clay could not understand why he was on the tapes. When Clay got to listening to his tape, Hannah said that Clay really should not be on there but he was part of the process. Clay had a crush on Hannah and Hannah had a crush on Clay so when they were hanging out at a party, they ended up making out. Hannah then freaked out and told Clay to leave. Clay tried to reason with Hannah but she would not have it. Hannah had already decided that she could not reach out to anyone or trust anyone. She had successfully pushed someone away who would have helped her.
Clay is left a different man after the tapes. He knows that he can never be afraid to take risks again. He was too shy to approach Hannah and now it is too late. Clay cannot undo the past but he can live the rest of his life taking risks when the time is right. It is too late for Hannah, but the people she left behind in the tapes will lead their lives differently.

1) If you received tapes that pin-pointed you as the one of the reasons for someone committing suicide, how would you respond? Would it change you as a person?

2)Do you think it was the right thing for Hannah to address the people who caused or contributed to her misery?

3)Why do you think Hannah put Clay on the tapes if he really did not do anything to contribute to her decision to commit suicide?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Gathering Storm

The Gathering storm, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson is the twelfth novel of the long series The Wheel of Time. Robert Jordan intended to finish the series, but was inable to when he unexpectedly died from cardiac amyloidosis. Brandon Sanderson was then asked to step in and complete the bestselling series. The main conflict of the novel centers around the protagonist, Rand. He is living in a world that is dying and is in it's last days. Rand's main goal is to unite all of the countries in order to save the world. He begins by restoring order to cities and kingdoms in order to give them some stability. While doing so, he becomes a harsh tyrant. He turns away all his loved ones, and alienates them on a daily basis. Many of his followers fear him and try to escape; he catches and imprisons those that try. His girlfriend, Min, tries to show him that he cannot continue in this fashion. He is becoming cruel; he thinks with cold logic that is not tempered by emotions like compassion. Min knows that if he does not change, he will fall apart and fail. Desptie these warnings, Rand continues to terrorize his friends and creates many enemies. Throughout the novel, he destroys the lives of many people. Towards the end of the novel, Rand's father steps in to try to help him end his emotional isolation. Rand becomes angry when he discovers that one of his old advisors sent his father to talk to him; he sees it as an attempt to manipulate him. In his intense anger, he almost murders his father. After realizing what he was about to do, Rand is terrified of what he has almost done. He runs away to think for awhile. "What was he?...A symbol? A sacrifice? A sword, meant to destroy? A sheltering hand, meant to protect?" Rand asks himself these questions. At first, he thought if he was hard enough, emotionless enough, he wouldn't feel any pain. He thought he failed because he could not contain his emotions. Rand questions the meaning of all the pain and struggling, and he cannot come up with any reason to keep going. Why should the world be saved? Would that actually be doing anyone any favors? The novel ends with Rand coming to the conclusion that the reason to keep struggling is to have a second chance to make things right, a second chance for love, peace, joy, and hope. He finally smiles after months of emotional isolation.

1. Rand struggles to bring nations together to save the world. Why do people have difficulties putting aside their past wars and cultural differences to work together.?

2. During the novel, Rand stops being human and buries his emotions. He uses cold logic to make decisions about everything from who to trust and the fate of millions of people. Is this a good way to lead one's life and others? Why or why not?

3. One of Rand's main problems is that he holds in his anger so long that it blows up, and he almost kills his father. Have you ever held something in so long that it ended up hurting you or someone else?

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Inferno by Dante Alighieri (Translated by John Ciardi)

The poet Dante set out on a journey, which he does not remember the reason why, but he sees a light that shines atop a hill. Unfortunately, three beasts block his path so he must turn back. On his way back home, his most beloved poet, Virgil, meets Dante from heaven and informs him that he must pass through the depths of Hell in order to reach heaven (the top of the hill). He quest then begins as Muses record this epic poem. Virgil must constantly remind Dante that his cowardice will not be tolerated and must be avoided in order to prevent death during this journey. After Dante faints from the fearsome Charon, the transporter who moves the dead into Hell, he awakens to many famed poets and philosophers, such as Homer and Aristotle, in the first circle of Hell (Limbo). Now travelling into the second circle of Hell (Lust), Minos, the decider of fate, once again causes the living Dante to faint, which forces Virgil to make Minos cooperate and let the two poets pass. They then reach the third circle of Hell (Gluttony), where the mighty Cerberus, a three-headed dog, is located preventing all souls form exiting. The fourth circle is represented by the materialists (Greed). In the fifth (Anger), Dante reaches the city of Dis, the capital of Hell, and comes face to face with Medusa, who changes men into stone by looking into their eyes. Virgil must call upon Divine Aid in order to advance into the sixth circle (Heresy). As a part of the heretics punishment, these sinners can only see distant objects. In the seventh (Violence), Dante finds it divided into violence against others, themselves, and then against God. Before they travel to the next ring, Dante converses with some Sodomites, those who have been violent towards nature and are punished through the eternity of walking through a rain of fire. As he enters the eighth circle (Fraud), he sees souls running wall to wall but cannot escape their fate. Now entering the ninth and final circle of Hell (Treachery), Dante soon reaches the very core, where a shadowed three headed demon awaits in the fog. As Lucifer approaches, Dante explains that his arms alone were bigger than any monster they had previously encountered. In each of his mouths was a sinner, two contained the murderers of Julius Caesar and the middle was filled with Judas, the man who betrayed Jesus Christ. Now their predicament arises, Dante must make it back to heaven alive.

1) Dante Alighieri was a widely famous Italian poet, who wrote this epic as an allegory corresponding to his society. Based on your view of today's society, which three major sins would you place closest to Satan and why?

2) Dante was also a devout Christian, which influenced his journey through Hell into Heaven. If this poem had been regarded as a basis of Hell, would you try to change the ways of your life?

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

When Bella Swan moved from Arizona to Forks, Washington to live with her dad, she expected the change in weather, but she never expected the strange new people that she would meet. Bella is quiet and klutzy and never thought of herself as fitting the mold of someone from Arizona. She is neither tan nor sporty, and she is especially not excited about getting a bunch of attention because she is the new kid in school. Once she arrives in Forks, her dad gives her a used Chevy truck that he bought from a friend that will unfortunately just call more attention to her.

On Bella's first day at Forks High School, she is bombarded with attention, and everyone wants to introduce themselves to her. But while she is sitting at lunch, one group specifically catches her eye. They all have pale white skin and are beautiful, even the guys. They are as close to perfection as people can get. "I stared because their faces, so different, so similar, were all devastatingly, inhumanely beautiful," explains Bella (19). A girl named Jessica informs her that they are the Cullen's and that they were all adopted by Dr. Cullen and his wife Esme.

After Bella leaves lunch and heads to Biology class, she is still amazed and curious about this family, especially the boy named Edward. Ironically when she arrives to class, there is only one seat left, and it is next to Edward. Edward does not speak to her and seems almost repulsed by her. This bothers Bella even more when Edward does not come to school for days after that.

Edward finally returns and is very friendly to Bella, but Bella is very suspicious of Edward. His skin is very cold and his eyes change from black to a beautiful golden brown. Also, he never seems to eat and keeps very much to himself. But the most astonishing thing that Edward does is save Bella from being crushed by a van with his own two hands. Edward is clearly not human.

Therefore, after hearing myths from the local indian tribe and after much research, Bella realizes that Edward is indeed not human but a vampire. Despite this, she still likes him, and they start spending every waking moment together. Eventually, they fall madly in love, but their love is forbidden and dangerous. "Your number was up the first time I met you," Edward tells Bella (175).

Unfortunately, after a number of killings in the area, Edward may be right. The Cullen family will do anything to stop the people, or creatures, that are out to get her. Bella is now on a race for her life. "Surely it was a good way to die, in the place of someone else, someone I loved. Noble, even. That ought to count for something" (1).


1) How would you feel if you had to pack up and move to a new town your junior year of high school? Would you like having a new start or would you miss those that you left behind?

2) Do you think that true love can withstand anything? What would you do if you loved someone but you knew that the relationship was forbidden or dangerous like Bella and Edward's?

3)If you could be one paranormal creature, what would you be and why?

the Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye is a novel about the misadventures of a sixteen-year-old adolescent named Holden Caulfield. He is telling a story to the reader about the events that occurred earlier in the year. Holden does not have a knack for school, and the novel begins with him being notified that he is being expelled for failing four of his classes. This is the fourth school he has failed out of. He is to leave to go to New York to live back with his parents, but this is not for several days. The story is about what happens before he returns to his parents.
He first goes to tell his favorite teacher goodbye; but, after the teacher only talks about how Holden should have done better, Holden storms out. He returns to his room where his neighbor Ackley, who doesn't care much for personal hygiene, annoys him further. He then gets into a fight with his actual roommate Stradlater, and decides to return to New York several days early and not tell his parents. Holden then stays at a hotel, where many misfortunes befall him. Holden loves to point out the bad things in people, and he starts off by criticizing the other people he can see in other rooms. He tries to obtain alcohol from the bar at the bottom of the hotel, and, when denied, he hangs out with several older women in their thirties. They dance and Holden seems to have a good time. They then leave him, however, making him pay their entire tab along with his own. Holden has very sporadic thoughts and is always thinking about abstract things. He thinks about his old friend Jane, but never actually does anything about contacting her. He also asks several cab drivers where the ducks go in the winter, but only ends up annoying them. Holden then pays for a prostitute, but, when confronted, just wants to talk. The person who advertised her then beats him up and takes more money from him. He then meets one of his former girlfriends and goes out with her, but he eventually drives her away too when he insults her. Several other events occur and go wrong, and Holden lastly decides to sneak back home to see his sister. He fails at every social encounter, so it seems he returns to his sister because she does not reject him. He then makes plans to run away, which then fail as his sister tries to follow him. In all, Holden accomplishes nothing, failing at almost everything he tries. However, if you are looking for a story that gives insight to a troubled teen's thoughts and experiences, then this book is for you. I would highly recommend reading this book because it is able to let the reader connect to Holden's thoughts and feelings, making it seem if he was one of your friends who needed help.

Discussion Questions:

1. If you had a friend that was failing out of many schools and seemed to be troubled, would you try to help them? Even if they were socially awkward and constantly pointed out your flaws, yet you could tell they didn't mean it?

2. If you were in Holden's place, mentally and socially disturbed, how would you try to get help? Would it be as difficult for you as it was for Holden, knowing that everyone you tried to talk to was driven away?

Deaf Like Me

Deaf like me is a book written by Thomas and James Spradley. Louise and Thomas Spradley are a normal couple in the year 1964. They have one child, Bruce who becomes ill with German measles, or rubella. Louise discovered that she was pregnant and the doctor tells her that contracting rubella while pregnant could lead to various defects in the newborn. This new gives Louise and Thomas’s nightmares for the next nine months.
When Lynn Spradley is finally born, she appears to be a perfectly normal and healthy child. She has no physical deformities,and she also has no noticeable mental deficiencies. Thomas admits in the book to having still lingering fears for months to come. However Lynn continues to grow and develop in a perfectly healthy manner. Gradually, her parents stop living in fear and they start to relax.
Around the 6 months, Lynn and her parents attend a Fourth of July celebration and of course there are fireworks. A child Lynns age would be startled by the noise but Lynn didn't even wake up from her nap. She didn't have any reaction to the loud sounds. This was the first time Thomas and Louise suspected their daughter might be deaf. After 2 years of testing Lynn was pronounced to have profound hearing loss. She is beat by her teaches when using her hands to sign and is forced to learn how to talk. Her parents however find a new school that appreciates her.This book shows the struggles of deaf children and the difficulty that parents have raising a deaf child. And if you want to know what happened then you have to read the book :)

1) What would you do if you found out your child was deaf, or had any other disability?
2) Living in this time (late 1960's) would you allow your child to go to a deaf school that forces them to talk and not use sign language? Or would you find better alternatives like the Spradleys did for their daughter Lynn.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger

Marcy Lewis absolutely dreads going to school. Her father critisizes everything she and her mother do along with her younger brother Stuart. She freaks about being fat, she's sure she'll never get a date and that a horrible case of acne will break out at any minute. Then, one day, her class gets a new english teacher named Ms. Finney. She dresses different, tries anything in the classroom, doesn't believe in raising your hand because that would help students respect others, and starts a club after school called Smedley where students come and talk about themselves and how to relate with other people. Suddenly, Marcy sees a point in life and going to school, that is until Ms. Finney gets suspended because of how she teaches and her refusal to pledge allegiance to the flag. The whole school is in an uproar and Marcy organizes a protest and gets suspended, too. Her mother is on her side, but unfortunately her father violently opposes her decisions and calls her a failure as a daughter and a disgrace to him because she's such a klutz. Marcy must decide if what she stands for is worth the price she must pay at home and at school.

1. At home, Marcy's father complains about his life, his children, and how much of a failure Marcy is at being his daughter. Her mother does absolutly nothing besides take a tranquilizer and tell Marcy everything will be alright when nothing ever is. Basically, her mother takes drugs and her father wishes she never existed. What would you do if you and a younger sibling lived in the type of environment Marcy lived in?

2. Ms. Finney completely changed Marcy. Marcy used to be shy and quiet but then she began to stand of for herself, be more outgoing, and even runs a protest for Ms. Finney. If a teacher your class absolutely loved and changed them just like Ms. Finney did, would you and others protest to get that teacher back? What do you think, by Ms. Finney being suspended because of her teaching methods, says about teacher independence and student protest?

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

This classic novel starts off with a young boy named Billy, who wanted hunting dogs. Unfortunatly, his father did not have enough money to buy Billy the hounds he dreamed of. Billy took charge, and worked to earn money reach his goal of owning dogs. When Billy earned enough money, he went into town and bought his beloved animals, which he named Old Dan and Little Ann. Billy trained his dogs to capture racoons and to obey him. His proudest moment was when his dogs caught their first racoon. As time went on, Billy began to notice that Little Ann was wiser and had more common sense than Old Dan. Old Dan got into trouble through out their adventures.
Due to the Billy's success with his hounds, Billy's grandfather entered him into a racoon-hunting contest. Although Billy did not have the best dogs in the contest, his presious Little Ann won the beauty contest on the first day. Although there was some mishaps that happened during the comptition, Billy and his dogs proudly walked a way with over one hunderd dollars!!
Billy was very prud of his dogs, and continued to hunt. One night however, changed his life. While the team was hunting at night, a mountain lion attacks Old Dan. Billy tried to save his dog, but in the end they saved him. Although they defeated the mountain lion, Old Dan passed away from injury. Billy was heart broken. This was not the end of his sorrows, however. Little Ann was so upset, she did tot want to love any more, and also passes away with in a few days. Bill's family was greatful for these dogs, because they earned money for them to move into the town. Billy did not want to leave his dogs though. When he went back to visit their grave, a huge red fern grew right where they were burried. This is a plant that only an angel can plant. Billy felt that his dogs were at peace now, and he was ready to move on in his life. He never will forget them though.

1)Do you think it is better to work for something that you want, or have it handed to you? Why?
2) Do you think that a person or animal can die because they miss another animal or person?

Marley & Me by John Grogan

John Grogan and Jenny Vogt are a newlywed couple living in Florida. The two are journalists, however Jenny's career seems to be speeding past John's. The couple aquires a house plant, but under Jenny's care it dies very quickly. This sends Jenny into a panic, because she fears that she has no mothering abilities and she will never be able to raise a family. Therefore, the couple decides that getting a dog would allow her to practice caring for a living being.
As the couple goes to pick out a dog they settle on a yellow lab, whom they name Marley. After they put a down payment on him, they discover that his father is a boisterous beast.
As soon as they bring Marley into their home they discover how much of a challenge it's going to be to train him. They enroll him into obedience classes, but he is quickly dismissed due to poor behavior. The couple soon learns that he is terrified of storms and spend their nights comforting him and missing out on sleep. He constantly tears up the funiture and will not allow Jenney and John a moment of peace.
The addition of three children adds to the tension and it looks as though Jenny has had enough of Marley's antics. However, the family keeps the dog and as the years pass the children bond to the lab. He lives a lengthy life, but eventually passes away from gastric dilation volvulus. The entire family is struck with grief at his passing.
1) This novel is one about the bond between a family and their pet. Do you think that Josh Grogan exaggerated the bond between his family and his dog to make the story more dramatic?
2) Do you think that you would have been able to deal with the stress of a dog like Marley?
3) With the addition of children to the family do you think it was a wise desicion for them to keep such a reckless animal?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien, is the first book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It takes place after The Hobbit was written. In that particular book, a hobbit called Bilbo Baggins has stolen a dark and mysterious ring from a hideous creature named Gollum. Eventually, Bilbo is basically forced to pass down the dark and powerful ring to his nephew, Frodo Baggins. This is where The Fellowship of the Rings begins. The novel begins in a small village called "The Shire," unharmed by evil forces and full of rolling, lush green hills and tiny humans called "Hobbits" (Bilbo and Frodo are both hobbits). Since Frodo is unaware of the powers the ring possesses, his old friend Gandalf, who is a great and knowledgeable wizard, comes to warn him of it's evil. He tells Frodo to leave his safe and comfortable home in The Shire to avoid the wrath of the malicious forces that are after his ring. This ring holds more power than Frodo is aware of, like invisibility, the power to corrupt others, and the ability to understand other languages, which is why it is so desired. It also causes the possessor of the ring to become corrupted and evil when they possess it for too long. Frodo must travel a long and treacherous journey to Mordor to destroy the ring so it does not get into the hands of Sauron, the Dark Lord who is looming over Middle Earth, the world in which Tolkein has focused his trilogy around. If Frodo does not destroy this ring, the world will be ruled by the Dark Lord Sauron. Throughout the novel, Frodo and his other companions (which include 3 of his hobbit friends, Gandalf the wizard, an elf, a dwarf, and regular men) trek through Middle Earth to destroy the ring. But throughout their journey they come across many horrible and life-threatening dangers, like the nine Black Riders (the most terrible servants of the Dark Lord), which make their journey more dangerous and slow. The Fellowship of the Ring ends in sorrow, but it picks right back up in the next book, The Two Towers.

Discussion Questions:

1). If you were in Frodo's position, would you risk your life to travel to an evil, far away land to destroy a ring and save the Earth? Why or why not.

2). Since Gandalf knew of the evil the ring possessed, do you think it was wrong of him to make young, innocent and inexperienced Frodo trek across Middle Earth to destroy it when he could have done it himself?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling

The Harry Potter series is a multi-million dollar franchise with its seven books. Even more millions come in as people see the movie of each of the books starting from the beginning of this decade. Over the years now it has becomes on of the most popular book series of our time and the final book delivers all the thrills and excitement the series has been leading up to. It all starts after the sixth book, with Harry on the run from Voldemort. As the remnants of The Order try to protect him he manages to escape Voldemorts and deaths grasp once again. After the chase though he arrives at the Weasley's and is greeted by many of his friends, however with the bad news of casualties and losses. As the book continues many things change all around Harry as Voldemort and his Death Eaters kill and slaughter their way to their control of the Ministry of Magic. With the Ministry under his control things take a darker side for the wizardry world as fear, terror, and death stalk all corners as the Death Eaters as Voldermorts own police. "The petrified Muggle-borns brought in for all questioning sat huddled and shivering on hard wooden benches"(Rowling 257). All Wizards of Mudblood and non-magic descent come into questioning and imprisonment as Voldemort executes his evil hatred towards them. It all comes down to Harry then to defeat Voldemort by some way for he in every ones mind is the "Chosen One". Along Harry's task he will come across great losses and sorrow but also revelation and truth to all the secrets and puzzles of the past and the people around him. But with visions of Voldemorts ongoing crimes disrupt his focus. Hermione says,"Harry, he's taking over the Ministry and the newspapers and half of the Wizarding world! Don't let him inside your head too!"(Rowling 85). But with the help of his friends he gets back on track. With Harry and his friends, Ron and Hermione, it is up to them to find out a way to end Voldemort's reign of terror for good.

1. Do any of the characters in this book relate to people in history? What are the comparisons?

Shadow Prowler By Alexey Pehov

Let me preface this by saying with fantasy it can be difficult to follow characters, locations, and the what the world is like in general if you have not read the book but bear with me. Shadow Prowler by Alexey Pehov is the first in a trilogy of fantasy epics that follow master thief Shadow Harold in his journey to Hrad Spein, a centuries old tomb for humans, elves, dwarves, and ogres encased in a mountain that has been sealed for centuries, and all recent expeditions to it have not returned. Shadow Harold has made his living stealing valuable goods for other people for many years. The book begins with Shadow Harold taking a job from his friend, an owner of a bar for people outside the law, that seems easy enough. However, after Harold is captured by the city guard he realizes that the job was much more then it seemed. It turns out the the King set Harold up in order to recruit him to go to Hrad Spein to find an artifact that is the key to saving the kingdom from destruction by the hand of the book's villain, The Nameless One, who has begun stirring again in the northern wastes after centuries of inactivity. The rest of the book follows Harold as he prepares for his treacherous journey, and Harold realizing the gravity of the situation as assasains and members of a previously unknown cult are suddenly after his life. From the Forbidden Territory in the center of the capital city, an area desecrated by misuse of magic where the dead walk and spirits run free. To gaining the company of an Elfin princess and ten Wild Hearts, the most experienced and dangerous fighters in the world, and of his traditional nemesis in the castle guard for his journey. Harold also faces a demon who will suck out his bone marrow if Harold does not get something for the demon. On his journey Harold battles with fatigue, exhaustion, unknown magic, horrible monsters, and his lingering mental reservations about the journey that he considers to be basically a suicide mission. Shadow Prowler by Alexey Pehov is everything you want from a fantasy epic, great characters, magic, a classic theme, monsters, and a teeming, vibrant world. If you are a fan of high fantasy I greatly recommend this book. This book is the only fantasy book that has held my attention as well as The Wheel of Time series, in my opinion the best fantasy series ever created (yes better than Lord of the Rings).


1) In the book the captain of the city guard is forced to work with Shadow Harold by the order of the king. The captain is apprehensive and has trouble trusting Harold as Harold is a known thief, lier, and killer. Do you think you could work effectively and fight alongside someone who you knew has committed several serious offenses, such as the ones described above? Why or why not?

2) Harold could have run away from the King and his request and lived a comfortable life in the country, but he didn’t even though he regards the quest as madness, and has never thought of himself as a hero. What makes people do things like this? A sense of duty? Money? Have you ever done something like this?

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Man Named Dave

A Man Named Dave, by Dave Pelzer, is a conclusion to the novels A Child Called "It" and The Lost Boy. The novel starts off with a flashback to David's childhood. One of Dave's encounters with his mother is expressed by "a jolting thud strikes the side of my neck. My knees buckle as I turn inside the doorway..." (Pelzer 8). It reviews how he was beaten by his mother and how other children treated him. The novel then proceeds to talk about his life with his foster family. When he was in foster care, he worked because he knew he would need money later in his life. He was different than most kids who played on the playground and had friends. Then, David turns eighteen and wants to start his own life. He ends up quitting high school, but he obtains his GED by himself and enlisting into the Air Force. While in boot camp, David has many nightmares about his mothers abuse, which makes him stay up all night to prevent him from waking up in a screaming fit. His dream is to become a firefighter just like his father. "The only thing that mattered was Father's badge," states Dave (Pelzer 66). The main thing he cherished and looked up to his father for was him being a firefighter. David did not have the skills and education to become a firefighter; therefore, he went to college. Once college was completed for him, his papers became lost and he was not able to obtain his dream. Soon after, David finds out that his father has become ill with cancer and is going to pass away soon. He goes home to see his father before he passes. Dave's real mother acts like she is devastated by Dave's father's illness; however, she will not visit him. Since Dave's father is no longer alive, he does not have a reason to earn his money. He wanted to earn money, so he could buy his father a house since he was homeless. Finally, he feels like he has something to live for when he enters a team of cooks within the Air Force. When he returns to the Air Force, he meets a woman who becomes his wife. David ends up asking her to marry him once he finds out she is pregnant. No one really supports their marriage. Since David's job was very time consuming, he had little time to spend with his wife and children. This caused tension between them two and lead to their divorce. Both his wife and Dave found new people to live their lives with and Dave was able to still see his child at any free time he had. Dave always had a fear that he would turn into an abusive father, like his mother was and he did not like that thought. Throughout the novel, Dave goes back home many time to visit his abusive mother and his grandmother, which both give him an uneasy feeling. All of the actions that occurred in Dave's life added up and taught him to leave his past behind him and to trust and love others in the present. The novel teaches that forgiveness is key, because if people do not forgive, then their other relationships may be affected. David had a hard time forgiving his mother, which lead to distrust in his marriage which led to their divorce too.

1)David had a hard time moving on with his life, because he still had not forgave his mother. His distrust in his mother, led to him having distrust in others too. Until he forgave his mother, he had altered the way he treated his wife due to his emotions still rattled by his mothers actions. Do you think that peoples past affect their future greatly? Why is it hard for many people to let go of their past?

2)David’s father was a role model to him and when David saw his father struggling, he wanted to do everything to help him. Do you have someone in your life who you would give up anything for? If so, who and why?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fast Track by Suzy Favor-Hamilton

Suzy Favor-Hamilton is a female Olympic runner and motivational speaker; she is arguably the best middle-distance runner in the entire United States. However, one of her most defining moments as a person in my opinion occurred during one of her Olympic races. She was expected to win the race with little difficulty; but unfortunately, she dropped out with only a very short distance left to go. After she had finished, she attributed her inability to finish to the fact that she simply was not ready. However, she later confessed that the actual reason behind her collapsing and dropping out of the race was that as soon as she slipped from first place to second to third to not even medaling, she simply could not handle the defeat and the fact that she was expected to win and had failed to do so. She told people that the reason that possessed her to do such a thing was due to all of the stress that was building up in her personal life, and the expectation to win only added to that stress. I think this is truly remarkable for her to come clean like this; not many people would be willing to tell the truth in this situation, so it says a lot about her character. Her motive for writing this book was that she wanted to share training and nutrition secrets of her own that have allowed her to become so successful in her career in order to help young female runners improve in their own careers, regardless of their level or ability. This book is targeted to female runners, but I think it has many valuable lessons that can be applied to both men and woman in various sports. Suzy won eleven state titles in high school and was named one of the top 100 high school athletes of the century. Additionally, she became the most decorated female collegiate athlete at the University of Wisconsin which is where she attended college. Here she won nine NCAA championships and four Big Ten Athlete of the Year Awards which are now referred to as the Suzy Favor awards in her honor. Furthermore, she is a three-time Olympian and holds seven U.S. National Championships. She still runs today in Wisconsin where she lives with her family. She wrote this book as she was preparing herself for the 2004 Summer Olympics; she worked with a man named Jose Antonio, Ph.D., an exercise and sports nutrition scientist, who helped Suzy write this book. The book is divided into various sections, all of which target a specific aspect of the sport ranging from nutrition to advice for the actual race day. She talks about varying the severity of work outs and when it is important to rest so as to prevent overtraining which she accredits to being a common source of injuries. Suzy also talks about the positives of cross training which she is a firm believer in; cross training is training an athlete does that it is outside of the norm of their sport in order to target other muscles that are not used as frequently in his or her primary sport. For instance, two great examples of cross training for runners is swimming and bicycling; both relieve stress on the joints of a runner that are often overworked. Also, she talks about the positives and negatives in relation to strength training, stretching and various other non-running related exercises. She talks about her own life experiences both on and off the track in order to persuade young runners from making the same mistakes she made, mistakes that are typical of young runners. Suzy goes on to talk about the benefits of her specialized diet plan and the reasons why a good diet is so crucial for runners. Suzy’s experiences of competing at the highest, most prestigious level of sports in addition to Jose Antonio’s immense amount of knowledge regarding exercise and nutrition science allow for this book to truly reach out to both the highly competitive and leisurely runner while providing valuable lessons that can virtually be applied to any sport.

Discussion questions:
1) If you were in Suzy’s position during the Olympic race where she dropped out, what do you think you would have done? If virtually everyone in the world was expecting you to win, how would you have handled that pressure when you knew you were not going to win? Would you have confessed as she did?

2) Suzy is obviously a very successful runner, yet she is possibly one of the nicest, most down to earth people you will ever meet (I had the chance to meet with her). Why do you think this is? Most exceptionally successful athletes are often very cocky and full of themselves. Why is she so willing to share all of her secrets regarding nutrition and running?

3)Do you think this book would help you at all? Do you think it’s important that even for those who are not runners or not involved in sports to be familiar with this type of lifestyle and the hardships that come with being so passionate about something like a sport? Is there a universal message relating to work ethic, etc?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Who Loves You Best by Tess Stimson

Who Loves You Best by Tess Stimson is an exceptional novel filled with unforgettable characters and an indefinite amount of suspense. The novel revolves around the complex choices that women must make for their relationships and motherhood, in addition to the countless unexpected events which open our eyes to what really matters in life. Clare Elias is a profound entrepreneur who owns seven flower shops around her town. She has everything she needs: a luxurious house in the upper skirts of town, a handsome husband, and enough money to last any family three centuries. She has already mastered the business world, so how hard can motherhood possibly be? Clare soon learns, however, that motherhood is not about being able to control every event and predetermine the outcome of each decision that she makes. Clare gives birth to two twin babies in the middle of inner-city England, beginning a stream of unfortunate events that throw Clare’s life into a hole of chaos and confusion. She has sworn that she will never hand over her children to a nanny the way that her insensitive and inattentive mother did. Before long, however, Clare returns to her work and invests in a beautiful young nanny named Jenna. Clare has no idea that bringing a stranger into her house will change everything as she knows it. Clare is forced to realize that letting another woman raise her children involves flexibility and patience. She is not prepared, however, for the day that her daughter calls Jenna “mom.” Soon after, Clare’s husband becomes distant and secretive, having smuggled 1.8 million dollars from Clare’s business to cover a debt made by excessive gambling at his work. Worst of all, Clare’s baby girl Poppy gets sick. Clare is accused of trying to poison her children and is placed under arrest. Clare grows close with Jenna as they begin to share in both friendship and love for the children. It is only because of this strong bond that Clare is able to survive through her husband running away with her children and also adapt to life as a single mother after the separation with her spouse. By the end of the novel, Clare is finally able to accept the beauty in unpredictability as well as learn the importance of love and putting her family and friends before her career. Most importantly, Clare is able to be satisfied with her imperfections and settle her past by letting go of painful memories as well as forgiving herself for her mistakes. She is able to learn the importance of independence but also understand the human need for partnerships and stable relationships.
1. At the end of the novel, Clare realizes that not being present during the majority of the first few months of the twins’ life has had an impact on her children. The babies both recognize Jenna as their prime caretaker and develop a deep connection with the nanny over their mother. Clare, however, still feels completely obligated to continue her overbearing involvement in the business world. The choice between building relationships or following her passion becomes excruciatingly difficult. If you were forced to chose between what you are passionate about or the relationships in your life, what would you chose and why?
2. Although Jenna never gets emotionally involved with Clare’s husband, Clare continuously wonders if Jenna and Marc are hiding an affair as Marc becomes more and more distant. As Marc becomes secretive, Clare and Jenna also become closer. Clare sometimes wonders if Jenna’s supposed trustworthiness is an attempt to cover the truth. Would you ever allow someone, such as a nanny, to become so intimately involved in your family relationships? Would you be willing to trust that your spouse is remaining faithful despite the incessant temptation present in your household?

Izzy, willy-nilly by Cynthia Voigt

Izzy, or Isobel, is only fifteen when a car accident changes her life. She finds herself waking up in a hospital with the Doctor voice saying "Isobel? I'm afraid we're going to have to take it off" (1). It is her leg. Fifteen is too young to become a cripple. Too young for Izzy, who won't be known for her talent as a cheerleader or her pretty looks any longer. Dealing with this tragedy is a long difficult road of depression and hard work and it becomes even harder when her three best friends no longer want anything to do with her, slowly they quit visiting her in the hospital and never return her calls. She only finds comfort in her countdown of days until she can return home. Surprisingly, one of her classmates whom she had only known from Latin club, Rosamunde, comes to visit Izzy in the hospital. Now Rosamunde isn't exactly the type of girl Izzy would be found hanging out with, Izzy's mother comments after seeing her and not knowing who she is, "There was a girl, probably a couple of years older than you and -- Oh, not at all pretty, and not well dressed..." (106). Rosamunde is difficult for Izzy to be around, but she may be the only person Izzy can confide in about how she truly feels. Is Rosamunde the only person that Izzy can truly be herself around? She may just be the reason Izzy begins to see things in a new light and change the way she feels about a lot of things in her life.

1. If, like Izzy, you had to go through something like this and lose a limb, how do you think you would you deal with it? Would you even be able to?

2. Sometimes people find friends in the most unusual places and those new friends aren't always the type of people they would normally want to be around. Have you ever become friends with someone who didn't really fit the description of someone you would normally be friends with? If not, would you ever consider befriending someone who seems "weird" to you?

Message in a Bottle by Nicholas Sparks

Message in a Bottle by Nicholas Sparks is a love story filled with anger, confusion, hope, and fear. The book begins when a Boston newspaper columnist and single mother, Theresa Osborne, finds a bottle that has washed up on shore. While looking at it more closely she realizes that there is a letter inside. It opens with, "My Dearest Catherine, I miss you my darling, as I always do, but today is particularly hard because the ocean has been singing to me, the song is that of our life together..." according to the character who signed the letter, Garrett, in Nicholas Sparks' book, Message in a Bottle. She shows her outgoing friend at the newspaper, Deanna, and they decide that a letter this beautiful should be published for everyone to read. Theresa recieves some calls and tips and eventually finds two more letters addressed to Catherine and signed by Garrett. She begins to wonder who these people are and wants to meet Garrett, the author of the letters. Theresa eventually tracks down someone named Garrett who fits the description based on the letters. He owns a scuba shop and is an avid salior, in a small town off the coast of North Carolina. As soon as she spots Garrett there is an instant spark between them. They go on a series of dates and have a whirlwind romance in the five days they spend together before she has to return to Boston. Before Theresa leaves, the couple decides they will try to continue to see each other. A few weeks later Theresa brings her tweleve-year-old son, Kevin, to meet Garrett. A few weeks after Theresa and Kevin leave North Carolina, Garrett comes to visit them and realizes he can't live without Theresa but he is still in love with his dead wife, Catherine. He could never live in a busy, loud town, but he doesn't feel right asking her to leave her job and uproot her son especially if he will always be in love with Catherine. The couple has an arguement about who should move and they end up breaking up. Later Garrett takes his dad's advice and decides he needs to get over Catherine because she would want him to be with someone else he loves. He goes out to sea to send her a final message and he is killed in a storm. Theresa recieves a message in a bottle he sent her before his trip out to sea. In this letter he explains a dream about Catherine in which he tells her how he is in love with Theresa but feels guilty about having to let Catherine go. In the dream Catherine tells Garrett, "Who do you think it was that brought the bottle to her?" (Sparks 362) As Thersa reads the letter she realizes that it was destiny for her and Garrett to be together but now it is too late. Overall the story deals with new love and making choices that could change someone's life forever.

1. Having a long-distance relationship is a problem for Theresa and Garrett as it is for many couples. How do you think couples should resolve the issue? How do you think Theresa and Garrett should have dealt with it?

2. There are a lot of dreams described in this book that lead the characters so realize something important. Have you ever had dreams that seem to mean something important in your own life?

3. At first Garrett doesn't think you can find true love more than once. Do you think this is true? Then he and Theresa are brought together by a message in a bottle. Do you think this is fate or coincidence?

Eclipse (The Twilight Saga) by Stepenie Meyer

In Eclipse, the love story between Bella (Isabella Swan, a human), Edward (a vampire who is a part of the Cullen family), and Jacob (Jacob Black, a werewolf) continues. The story opens with the news that multiple murders have occured in Seattle, Washington. The humans around believe the murders are committed by a serial killer, but the Cullen family comes to the conclusion that the murders are being committed by a herd/ army of new vampires in the area. Throughout the novel they discover that the new vampire clan is being created by Victoria, a vampire seeking vengance on Edward for killing her love. Victoria is creating the vampire army because she knows that she cannot defeat the Cullen family by herself.
While this is going on in the story, Bella tells Edward that she misses her best friend Jacob, the werewolf and she would like to see him. Even though Edward does not like the idea of Bella being around Jacob, he permits it. Jacob however kisses Bella and tells her that he loves her and wants her to leave Edward for him. Bella responds by punching Jacob in the face, and breaking her hand.
With the battle coming soon, the Cullens ask the werewolfs for help defending the girl both sides love, Bella. The two opposing sides join forces and go over battle tactics weeks before the war. The night before, Bella is taken up into the mountains with nboth Edward and Jacob. The two men are at opposing sides all night and even right before the battle. Jacob, the next morning threatens to join the battle and die if Bella does not kiss him willingly; while kissing him, Bella realizes she is in love with him as well. Victoria soon tracks Bella's scent in while the battle is raging and fights Edward to the death. Victoria ends up dead and the rest you will have to read the book to know.
Hint: There is a special surprise of an engagemnet between Bella and one of the boys she loves.

Questions: 1) Do you believe that it is possible to love two people at once?
2) Do you think it was fair for Bella to allow both clans/families risk
their lives for her?
3) Would you be willing to die for someone you thought you loved?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

The novel If I Stay by Gayle Forman tells the story of a 17 year old girl named Mia and her decision to live or die. It all begins when one morning Mia and her brother Teddy wake up for school only to find that school has been cancelled due to the arrival of snow. Since Mia's father is a teacher, he also has the day off and their mother has called of work so she can stay home with everybody else. The family decides to go on an "adventure" to visit their grandparents. While on their journey, their car is suddenly hit by a pickup truck going 60 mph down the road. The car is instantly destroyed. Mia then all of a sudden 'wakes up' and feels completely fine. She is still at the site of the horrendous accident. Her clothes are perfectly clean and she deels just as she did before the accident, and she' not exactly sure what happened. She explores the spot of the accident and sees her father and mother laying lifeless on part of the road. She then sees her body, mangled and soaked in blood, under some snow on the side of the road. This makes her begin to wonder if she herself is dead and that she is in a state between death and the arrival to Heaven. The fire department and ambulance arrive next at the scene and this is when Mia realizes that nobody see her or notices her. She hears the EMT's cover her parents in body bags and she sees her body life flighted to a nearby hospital. She has broken ribs, brain damage, internal bleeding, and other life-threatening issues. This makes her think that she isn't dead because the doctor's are flying her to a hospital. As her unconsciousbody is in the hospital, Mia in her spirit form begins to worry that her boyfriend, Adam, will have no way of knowing that she's in critical condition in the hospital. She wants to be able to see him, but since nobody notices her in her spirit form, this is impossible at the moment. When her grandparents come to visit, they ask the nurse if she is going to be ok and one of the nurses tells them that "she [Mia] is running the show. (73)" The nurse is implying that Mia will make the decision to live or die. Mia then wonders how she makes the decision and she weighs the goods and bads to living or dying. If she chooses to die, then she can be with her parents in Heaven, but if she lives then she can live out her life with her best friend Kim and her boyfriend Adam. As the novel progresses, Mia flashes back to times in her life that she spent with either Adam or Kim and she wonders how life for them would be if she left. This decision becomes very hard for her to make, taking into account her love for her family in Heaven, but also for her love for her bestfriend and boyfriend living on Earth. In the end, Mia makes the decision that she believes is right for her.
Discussion Question:
1) What would you do if you were in Mia's position? Would you choose to stay with your family if it meant you had to die and leave the ones you loved? Or would you choose to live and stay with your boyfriend/girlfriend, friends, and other loved ones on Earth?