Friday, October 22, 2010

Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell

Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell
The novel opens up as Dr. Kay Scarpetta, Chief Medical Examiner for the state of Virginia, recieves an early-morning call from Sergeant Pete Marino, a homicide dectective at the Richmond Police Department. She meets him at the scene of a women's gruesome strangling, the latest in a string of unsolved murders in Richmond. The killer leaves behind few clues; among them are a mysterious substance that sparkles under laser light, traces of DNA, and the newest clue, an usual smell. Scarpetta and Marino work with FBI profiler Benton Wesley to attempt to piece together a profile of the killer. Some evidence seems to point to the fourth victims husband, but Scarpetta doens't believe it, despite Marino's insistence. Although they have some DNA, DNA profiling is a relatively new technique so there is no DNA database to compare the DNA to. Meanwhile in her personal life, Scarpetta must deal with the presenfde of her ten year old neice, Lucy, as well as an uncertain romanic relationship with the local Commonewealth's attorney. During the investigation, a series of news leaks about the murders appear to be coming from a source within the medical examiner's office. The leaks threaten Scarpetta's position, especially after she is forced to admit that someone has hacked her office database. The need to finding the killer increases as the killings become closer together, and more violent. The fifth victim, is the sister of the local investigative reporter Abby Turnbull. Believing the killer thrives on media attention and hoping to expose him by making him angry, Scarpetta, Wesley and Turnbull decide to release a news story that suggests that the killer has a distinctive body odor due to a rare metabolic disease and implies that the killer may be mentally disordered. While attempting to find a link between the five murders, Scarpetta discovers that all five victims had recently called 911, and realizes the killer chooses his victims based on their voices. As she looks deeper, she realizes who the killer must be. However, she doesn't know that the news story has angered the killer so much, that she may before the sixth victim.
Discussion Questions:
1). Throughout the novel Scarpetta reveals how difficult it is for her to spend time with Lucy, on top of revealing that she doesn't have time to have a husband or kids of her own because her job is so demanding. Would you ever consider a career that could keep you from creating a family of your own?
2). Scarpetta's frustration for the lack of evidence and the increasing killings is obvious throughout the novel. Have you ever been extremely frustrated with something you can't figure out? What was this situation and how did you eventually figure it out?

The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks

Veronica "Ronnie" Miller is seventeen years old, has a ten year old brother named Jonah, and a terrible relationship with both of her parents (who have recently divorced). She lives with her mom and Jonah in New York City, however her parents feel as though it will be best for her and Jonah to spend the summer in North Carolina with their father. Steve Miller had been a professor at Juilliard and had influenced his daughters love of piano from a young age. Since his departure from New York and his family, Ronnie's resentment towards him has kept her from playing the piano and attending Juilliard in the fall.

After arriving in North Carolina Steve shows Jonah the stained-glass window he is building for the church that burned down, while Ronnie wanders off to explore her home for the summer. As she is walking on the beach, she collides with a volleyball player who spills her shake all over her shirt. He apologizes and Ronnie seems less than impressed. Ronnie heads to the pier to purchase a new shirt when she meets a girl named Blaze who suggests stealing the shirt. Ronnie confesses that she is already on probation from stealing back in New York and can not get caught again. Blaze introduces Ronnie to her boyfriend Marcus and his friends. Marcus and his friends put on a fire juggling show to earn some money. After the show Marcus comes on to Ronnie. Blaze sees this and becomes very jealous and eventually frames Ronnie for shoplifting.

Steve believes Ronnie when she says she didn't steal anything, and this is where their relationship begins to grow. Steve then shows his kids the sea turtle nest that is on the beach in front of his house. Ronnie calls the aquarium so they can protect the eggs from predators. Will arrives at her house a couple of days later and Ronnie is surprised to learn that he volunteers at the aquarium. The two begin to bond and eventually fall in love. It is then revealed that Scott, Will's best friend, was responsible for the fire at the church, not Steve. Ronnie and Will continue to spend time together, but the end of the summer is getting closer, which brings with it Will's departure to Vanderbilt and Ronnie's trial.

Scott and Will are taking part in a volleyball tournament and Marcus sees this large crowd as an opportunity to make money. During one of the fire shows, Blaze misses a catch and catches herself on fire. Marcus takes off running, but Will and Ronnie get Blaze to the hospital. Will decides to seek revenge for Blaze and attacks Marcus, but Ronnie stops him by reminding him that Marcus isn't even worth it. Scott confronts Will about ditching him at the tournament and Will walks away after telling him that he needs to tell the truth about the fire.

On the night that the sea turtles begin to hatch, Steve lapses into a coughing fit and coughs up blood. It is at the hospital that Ronnie and Jonah are informed that their father has been diagnosed with stomach cancer. Will also reveals what actually happened that night at the church. Steve suggests keeping it between them, but Ronnie becomes furious and breaks up with Will. Blaze confesses to framing Ronnie, but is not charged with anything because she reveals that Marcus was actually the one who started the fire that night at the church, not Scott.

As the summer comes to a close the window is finished and installed into the church. Steve becomes too weak to finish his final composition and Ronnie begins to play again, determined to finish his piece for him. Steve passes and Ronnie moves back to New York and auditions for Juilliard. Will visits her in New York with news of his transfer to Columbia. He admits that he hasn't been able to stop thinking about her and the two reconcile.

Discussion Questions:
1) When Ronnie arrives in North Carolina she has her father put up a temporary wall so she doesn't even have to look at his piano. Do you think that Ronnie has any right to do this?

2) Some people prefer to remember someone as they were, instead of who they were when they passed away, but Ronnie decides to stay with her ailing father through his illness. Do you think this was a wise decision?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman

The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman
Jane Hudson, a former student of Heart Lake School for Girls, finds herself returning twenty years after graduation to teach the ancient language of Latin. Going back to her old high school brings back plenty of memories - including some that she wishes she could forget. After a recent separation from her husband, Jane hopes that bringing her young daughter to Heart Lake will be a good, fresh start for both of them. However, Jane finds that instead of starting over, she's picking up right where she left off: in the middle of a tragic mystery. Since the beginning of their freshman year, Jane Hudson and her roommates Lucy Toller and Deirdre Hall were as close as any teenage girls can get; best friends, and absolutely inseparable. They performed Heart Lake traditions together, including midnight swims in the lake and sacrificial offerings of material objects to "the Three Sisters", or the spirits that are said to inhabit the lake. The very last winter that the girls spent together, however, changed everything. In her senior year, Jane lost her best friends to suicides that seemed to happen without cause. Left alone to deal with the pain and confusion, Jane harbors the burden of the mystery left behind from two decades ago. As the first winter of Jane's Latin teaching career at Heart Lake School for Girls approaches, history begins to repeat itself. She begins finding pages from a journal she had lost twenty years ago, not knowing who has it or if the dark secrets written in it will finally expose her knowledge of the tragic deaths of her roommates. Students begin dying again, and Jane starts to realize that the truth that has been anchored to the bottom of Heart Lake for over twenty years is finally beginning to surface.

Discussion questions:

1. Latin is known as a "dead language" (it is no longer used). Do you think that Carol Goodman chose Latin as the language that Jane teaches in the novel for a reason?

2. The past always seems to come back and haunt those who run away from it, as the mystery of the suicides at Heart Lake come back to haunt Jane after twenty years. Do you think that after facing her past, she felt at peace, or remorseful for not dealing with it soon enough to prevent the deaths of her students?

Fortunate Son

Lew Puller was the son of Chesty Puller, the most decorated soldier in the history of the U.S. Marine Corps. His legendary father fought in five wars and rose from private to three star general before health problems cut short his career. With him as a role model, it was perhaps inevitable that when the time came, Lew would enthusiastically head to Vietnam. This Pulitzer Prize winning autobiography tells the story of Lew Puller's relationship with his father, his own service in Vietnam and of his heroic attempt to rebuild his body and spirit after being dismembered by a booby-trapped howitzer round. He lost his legs and his hands were badly mangled, but he managed to hold together his marriage, help raise a son, earn a law degree and run for Congress.

Then, in the wake of losing the election, his always problematic drinking escalated to the point of genuine alcoholism and he attempted suicide. He went through rehab and became involved in things like the Vietnam War Memorial project, which helped him deal with his emotions about the war.

Unfortunately, right before I finished the book my mom informed me that in 1994 Puller committed suicide. This book and many others that I have read about the Vietnam war really got me interested in the war. It made me think more about the emotions and psyche of the U.S. soldiers instead of all of the glory and action of war. It made me wonder why you never heard of so many cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) before the Vietnam war.

One reason I think cases of PTSD have soared up is based on the amount of time soldiers have between war and going home. In Korea and both World Wars soldiers had months to decompress after battles before they got home. In Vietnam and even the war in the Middle East soldiers go from killing people to home within days. Being around an environment of war and one of "normal life" are completely different. It takes years for these soldiers to recover because they have virtually no transition which, I think, increases PTSD and amplifies the symptoms.

Also, I think it might have to do with the soldiers not having a clear objective and just receiving commands to kill for no apparent purpose. In World War 2 it was obvious to every American that the Nazis needed to be taken down. Even the Russians agreed that Nazis were no good. However in the Vietnam war many of the soldiers had no clear understanding of their presence. They didn't know what they were fighting for. I believe seeing your comrades perish knowing that they have family just like you is severely traumatizing.

So now I have some questions for you.

If you didn't believe in the cause of the war you were currently assigned to fight, what would get you through it? What would you be fighting for?

If you were in a similar situation as Puller, do you honestly think that you would have the strength to be as successful as he was before he committed suicide?

Flyboys by James Bradley

This book presents the real life events of flyboys during world war 2. From the earlier beginnings of the war to the event that started the pacific side, Pearl Harbor. After the surprise attack, America went to war with japan utilizing and relying on the U.S. air force fly boys for winning a lot of the battles. However throughout the book and the war, the Japanese commit terrible war crimes on human beings. From war prisoners to the Chinese the Japanese took no prisoners most of the time. Millions of Chinese died and were raped by the Japanese and most women were sent into sex camps where they raped many times a day. Throughout the book James Bradley also interviews many of the Japanese soldiers and relatives of the flyboys that were present during the war. When Bradley interviews Shozo Tominaga, Shozo says," Most of us thought then that murdering, raping, and setting fire to villages were unavoidable acts in war, nothing particularly wrong"(82). Sadly however this happened for many months and it explains it all during the first part of the book.
Soon after it discusses the Japanese aggression The book takes to a different point of view, the flyboy's story. There were eight flyboy's that were mentioned during this book including Jimmy Doolittle, and the future president George H. W. Bush. Many different flyboys's had different roles from bombers, fighters, and communications. Many of them were selected for their sharp intelligence and participated in many dangerous battles of the war but the story of the eight were all linked to one battle; Chi Chi Jima. The book also details each of their early lives and how the war affected the families drastically. One of the pilots for example, Warren Earl, whose mother had him as her only thing that mattered to her. Relative Billye Winder says, "Evi worshipped him, and Warren Earl worshipped his mother"(Bradley 130). But during the war it drove Evi to paranoia always worrying about her son. As these boys enlisted the naval air force they would have no idea for what their future would be but as their fates intertwined on Chi Chi Jima, The outcomes of their lives are first revealed here after being kept secret for 60 years.

Discussion Questions:
1. How would you feel to be a parent and/or relative of someone who went to war?

2. How do u feel about the war crimes the Japanese committed during World War 2?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I have read a lot of books lately so I had trouble picking one that I wanted to blog about, but I finally decided on Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. Of the books I've read it is probably one of my favorites. It's a nice, fun read based along the lines of a fantasy novel, but it also deals with some issues that are applicable to our society.

The book starts out in a bleak world filled with ash and hopelessness. In this world ruled by an emperor called the "Lord Ruler", The skaa, who are slaves, are forced to work under horrible, inhumane conditions in the field. Those who live in secret in the cities form thieving gangs, trying to survive in a society that dictates their entire life. One of these thieves is a girl called Vin who has no family, no home, and no ability to trust. Her sole goal is to survive, simply living under her oppressors. This is until Kelsier saves her from her life on the streets. He is different from the others; he is someone who has the natural ability to lead, someone who will not stand for the inhumane treatment of the skaa. Driven by duty and a troubled past, Kelsier recruits Vin and other gifted individuals into a group designed to overthrow the current government. Kelsier brings something to the skaa that they have never had before: hope. With the help of Vin and the others, Kelsier works toward a goal that seems impossible The beginning but becomes more and more feasible as the novel progresses. Slowly Kelsier's group begins to shake up the government that has existed for hundreds of years, using the royalty as pawns to sew discord and chaos amidst the inter-workings of the government. People are murdered and others framed all for the sake of freedom. The Group faces many challenges and has to learn that not everything is black and white.

So here are some questions that the novel brings up:

1) What decides which group of people/ which person gets to be in control? What determines which groups are persecuted?

2)What does it take for someone who has been oppressed for most of their life (or all of their life) to fight back? Is it something that only certain people are capable of doing or can anyone start a revolution?

3) Does the ends justify the means? Should the oppressed be able to do just about anything in order to gain their freedom?


Stanley Yelnats is a boy who has been sent to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention camp because he is accused of stealing a pair of shoes. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time and he believes his family's curse has something to do with it. Stanley's great-great grandfather, Elya Yelnats, got a pig from Madame Zeroni, a gypsy, in exchange that when the pig grows bigger and he grows stronger he would carry Madame Zeroni, who only has one leg, up a mountain. He forgot to do this so he believes the curse was because he failed to fulfill his committment. At the camp, the boys are forced to dig holes for character, so says the warden but really the warden is looking for specific items from the past. 100 years before Stanley arrived at Camp Green Lake, the school teacher, Katherine Barlow, falls in love with the onion seller, Sam. It is against the law for a black man to kiss a white women, so when the towns people find out that Sam kissed Katherine, they become outraged. Trout Walker is the richest man in town and has been in love with Katherine for sometime, but she doesnt feel the same way. He becomes angry that Sam and Katherine are in love and he burns down her school house and kills Sam. Katherine becomes furious and eventually becomes Kissin' Kate Barlow. She kisses the men she kills leaving a lipstick mark on their face. Kate robs Stanley's great grandfather's money and she buried it and died before anyone knew where it was. The day after Sam was killed, rain stopped falling and the lake became dried up. When Stanley is digging he finds a lipstick tube, with the initials of KB for kissing Kate Barlow. The warden becomes very interested because she was a descendent. Eventually Stanley's friend Zero runs away so Stanley goes off to find him. They both head to the top of the mountain, where they find Sam's old onion patch. They live off of onions for about a week, and decide to go back and dig one more time for the treasure. They eventually dig up the treasure and the warden tries to take it but they realize Stanley's name is on it and its his. At the end of the book is seems as if the curse has been lifted and things work out from there.

1. In the book, Stanley's family believe they have a curse, but by the end of the book the curse is gone. Do you believe there are really curses in the world or do you believe there are just coincidences?

2. While at Camp Green Lake Stanley does a lot of phyical labor, and by the end of the book, he not only becomes stronger but also mentally tough. Do you believe hard work pays off?

Just Like That By Marsha Qualey

Just Like That, by Marsha Qualey, begins after Hanna, the 18 year old protagonist, dumped her boyfriend of almost a year. Upset because her friends are all asking her why she would break up with him, Hanna decides to take a midnight walk. She ends up by a frozen pond, sitting on a bench. A couple on skis approaches and warns her not to go out on the ice because the it gets too thin to support any weight in some spots. A little while later, another couple appears on a snowmobile. They are about Hanna's age and are happy when they arrive, though they quickly begin arguing. They ask Hanna for directions to the 24 hour diner they have heard about and mention it is their one year anniversary. She points them in the direction of the diner, which is across the pond and does not warn them about the ice. The next morning, Hanna is watching the news and it is announced that the couple fell through the ice. The boy got trapped under the ice and drowned. The girl froze to death on the shore, crawling for help. Hanna must now decide if she should tell anyone about how she was the last one to see them alive and that she could have prevented their deaths. She must also decide if she should tell their friends and families that they were not the happy couple the mourners believe they were, in fact, they seemed on the verge of a break up and most likely would not have wanted to be buried side by side as they were. While dealing with all these conflicts, Hanna befriends Will, the boy who discovered the girl's body on his morning jog, though he is keeping this a secret to protect his family. Hanna also becomes tied to the rest of his family, including his politician father and very troubled famous sister.

1. Hanna must decide if she should let out a big secret that is causing her to feel guilty. Have you ever known something no one else did that made you feel guilty? Did you tell anyone?

2. Hanna finds closure for the events that happened by becoming friends with Will. If you were Hanna, would you have done this or would it have served as a constant reminder of the couples' death? What would you have done instead?

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan is a novel focusing on the relationships that mothers and daughters share. It discusses the struggle to keep a strong bond between mother and daughter and how generation gaps and cultural differences effect these relationships. The novel is split into four parts, two of which are narrated by the daughters and two of which that are narrated by the mothers. The novel revolves around Jing-mei and her mother Suyuan, along with Suyuan's weekly gathering The Joy Luck Club. The gathering consists of three other mothers who are also immigrants from China just like Suyuan. The daughters who narrate the other two parts of the novel are the daughters of the members of the Joy Luck Club. Jing-mei keeps this gathering alive even after her mother dies. Before her death, Suyuan was trying to locate her two twin daughters, Chwun Yu and Chwun Hwa, who she abandoned in China just before she was forced out because of World War II. Jing-mei struggles with the stress of having to find her half twin sisters and telling them the entire life that their mother lived. She worries whether or not she can portray her mothers great life and teach the twins the values and morals her mother taught her. By being the narrator of her mother, since her mother is dead, Jing-mei cements the bond that her and Suyuan share. Jing-mei shares her mothers life throughout the book, which she now has to share with the twins. She needs to cement the bond the twins share with their mother as well. When she finally travels to China, urged mostly by the women in the Joy Luck Club, Jing-mei successfully forges the mother-daughter relationship between Suyuan and the twins. Her journey to China is symbolic to bringing closure to a broken family and the forging of two different cultures.

Discussion Questions:

1. Jing-mei was the first to tell her twin sisters about the life their mother lead. How would you feel if you had to tell a sibling the entire life of your mother and attempt to forge their mother-daughter bond with them as well? Would you have stress knowing that the fate of their relationship rested on your shoulders?

2. Like Jing-mei and Suyuan, have you ever felt a struggle keeping a friendship or strong relationship with your mother? Has a generation gap ever kept you from becoming close?

3. Why do you think it is a good idea to have more than one narrator in a novel?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Linger, a novel by Maggie Stiefvater, is the sequel to the novel Shiver. Like Stiefvater’s previous literary piece, this novel again shows how far people are willing to go, in order to stay with their true love. All of the main characters are back in this novel, along with a few new ones. The novel is told through the perspectives of the four main characters: Grace, Sam, Isabel and Cole. Grace Brisbane and Sam Roth are young yet they know that they are soul mates. They have been through so much in their lives, even though they’ve only truly known each other for a year or so, they understand each other better than any other person ever will. All of the characters in this novel have extremely different personalities but all have one thing in common which allows them to create a bond like no other. Sam was once a wolf but was cured from what he thought was a curse. Sam is ecstatic that he can now set goals for his future that he actually gets the opportunity to achieve; he is still having trouble grasping the concept that he no longer has to worry about suddenly transforming into a wolf at the slightest change in temperature. Sam’s doubt in the cure is shown when he thinks to himself, “I was shuddering uncontrollably with the cold, but I was still Sam” (72). Grace, another character, should have turned into a wolf but due to events that occurred during her childhood, she never shifted into her wolf form. Isabel knows the secret of the wolves because her brother died during an attempt in the last novel to cure the wolves. And Cole, the newcomer has recently shifted for the first time. He is still adjusting to his new life in which he transforms into a savage, wild animal throughout the year. Cole states in the very beginning of the book, “I didn’t know how much time I’d spent as a wolf this go-round. Was it minutes? Hours? Days? It was late morning. I didn’t feel human, but I wasn’t wolf, either. I hovered somewhere in between, my mind skating from memory to present and back to memory again, past and present equally lucid” (29). Cole knew the consequences of his actions, yet he struggles like any of the other wolves with this drastic change in his life. Even though not all of the characters always get along in this novel, they are all there for each other in times of need, and are always bonded in attempts to keep their secret from the public.

As the four characters race against time to discover what truly enables humans to shift into their wolf forms, they are forced to conquer even greater obstacles that develop throughout the plot. All the while, fighting against horrible events that took place in their past that continue to preoccupy their thoughts and impact their lives on a daily basis.
Discussion Questions:

1.) In this novel, Sam and Grace continually fight to stay together even though many forces constantly arise to separate the two. Do you think that if two people are truly meant to be together; nothing, no matter how big the obstacle, will be able to keep them apart?

(2) Do you think that there are any obstacles or events in life that even true love can’t overcome?

The Lost Boy by Dave Pelzer

The Lost Boy, by Dave Pelzer, is a sequel of the book A Child Called “It”. Both books tell what Dave Pelzer’s life was like during his younger years. A Child Called “It” is about a young boy who has a mother that physically and mentally abuses him. The boy’s name is David; however, his mother refuses to call him by his name, so she calls him “It”. Throughout the book Dave Pelzer tells all the troubles he has to go through from puking to show his mother he does not take food from school, to sitting in a bathroom for hours that has chemicals all over it. His mother torments him, and blames everything that goes wrong on David. His father sticks up for him most of the times until he gets sick of it and starts conforming to David’s mothers beliefs. A Child Called “It” leads into The Lost Boy.

The Lost Boy starts off when David is nine years old and he runs away from his home in California. He lands himself in a bar where he receives a quarter to buy some food. After a bit, someone at the bar calls the police to pick up the lost boy and take him back to his home. David is still physically abused by his mother and attacked by students at school. David always wonders if his mother loves him because she has never said it to him, yet she treats his other brothers with love and compassion. There is no indication why David is singled out from his other brothers. David states, “I know I’m wrong. And, as always, it’s all my fault”(Pelzer 31). His mother has convinced him that it is all his fault for everything that occurs within their family. In 1973, the police start to take action in the issue and he is taken to a hospital. David states, “My legs and arms were a combination of yellow and brown. Dark circles of purple bruises faded on top of fresh rings of blue bruises-where I was either grabbed, punched or slammed down on the kitchen floor”(Pelzer 39). David never realizes just how badly is treated until someone lays his life out right before his face. David never discovers the real reason for his mothers abusive ways, but he always comes back to her alcoholism. At this point he recognizes that his life is in complete danger if he stays with his mother and is finally given a court trial and sent to foster care. He journeys through many different families and difficult times and has trouble fitting in with the students in his new schools because he is a foster child. He lands in his last home which is owned by a lady named Alice. He is finally able to experience a good life and Alice shows him what true love is all about.

Throughout the book the theme of self discovery shows itself. It begins when he takes the abuse from his mother. He wants to please his mother and father; however, he also wants to become a “good” boy. The whole time he is with his family he searches for a way to make things right, what to change about himself to make his family love him. In the end, when he finds a family that truly loves him he discovers his true identity has always been there and that he does not have to change. Another theme that relates to self discovery is that if you keep trying in life, you will succeed. David keeps searching for a life fit for him and he finally finds it.

Discussion Questions:

1) David goes back and forth trying to decide whether or not he should leave his brothers with his mother. He thinks about what will happen to his brothers when he leaves and whether his mother will turn to abusing them. Later in the book David finds out that his brothers are getting abused since David is gone. Would you sacrifice yourself to the abuse of someone if it would keep your loved ones from being abused?

2)Do you think someone who went through hardships like David did would have a more positive or negative outlook on life after they get through the hard times?

3)David believes that his mothers drinking habits are the reason’s why she abuses him,; however, he does not know this for sure. Do you think people should be allowed to use alcohol as an excuse for their misbehaviors? Do you think people should still have to control themselves if they choose to consume alcohol?

Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

John Tyree, the main character of this story, is from Wilmington, North Carolina. After high school, John had enlisted in the army, not completely sure as to what he wanted to do with is life. He is rather quiet and tends to keep to himself, not showing much intrest in strengthening his shallow relationship with his father.

The story begins as John is on leave in Wilmington from his Army tour in Germany. He spends his summer days on the beach doing what he loves to do, surf. One day, he encounters Savannah Lynn Curtis, a student at The University of North Carolina who is spending her summer working in Wilmington with her mission group. He shyly introduces himself to her after retrieving her bag from being dropped into the ocean. This quick introduction leads to something that John had never expected.

Their relationship progresses quickly, as John's time in North Carolina is limited. Their relationship as friends begins to grow into something stronger. Despite the fact that John remains rather timid and unopen, Savannah reveals herself as being a very outgoing, optimistic, and energetic girl. This shows when she insists that she meets John's father. John is hesitant of this, considering his weak relationship with his father; however, he gives in and takes Savannah to meet his quiet and timid father. Savannah shows a great interest in John's father as well as in his interest in collecting coins, something that he has been doing for quite some time. Savannah does, however, notice something strange with John's father. As a result she suggests to John that his father may be autistic. John feels as though she is intruding, but this anger quickly subsides as he realizes how much of an impact she has already had on him.

Unfortunately, John must return to Germany. As he returns to his work, all he can think about is Savannah and his longing to be with her again. Not long after the conclusion of that summer, John is given another short leave. He returns to Savannah in North Carolina, where the spark of their relationship is rekindled. John meets her family and spends much time with Savannah and her friends. The two fall even deeper in love, and Savannah vows to wait for John as he finishes his last year in the Army.

Several weeks later, however, the infamous events of September 11, 2001 terrorize the nation. Both John and Savannah are put into difficult positions. John feels as though it is his duty to extend his enlistment and serve for his country, despite his longing to finish his year and return to Savannah. John does choose to re-enlist, and Savannah must decide whether she will wait for John or not. He returns to his work with Savannah's promise that she will wait for him.

As John travels from his post in Germany to Kuwait, and eventually into Iraq, he still has hope that his relationship with Savannah will overcome their time apart. Sadly, Savannah sends John one last letter, revealing that she has fallen for another man. Completely heartbroken, John tries to put Savannah behind him and move on with his life as a soldier. It is not until three years later that he eventually returns to North Carolina because of his father's death. It is at this time that John once again encounters Savannah. He learns that she has married Tim, an old friend of hers who has become seriously ill over the years. Her marriage to Tim is based on the idea that Tim needs the support and companionship of Savannah through his illness. Love really has little to do with the marriage. The question is whether Savannah will revisit her past with John, or do what she feels is right by staying by Tim's side throughout the final years of his life.

Dear John deals with issues involving love and doing what is right. John and Savannah fall deeply in love and form a very strong relationship throughout the novel; however, in the end, they must both make difficult choices that focus around the idea of love vs. doing what is right. John must choose whether to return home to Savannah, or do what he feels is right by re-enlisting in the Army. When John returns home, Savannah is faced with a difficult decision; will she run back to John, or will she do what is right and stay with Tim? The overall message that Sparks is trying to portray to the reader is this: following one's heart and doing what one knows is the right thing may not always coincide with each other. It is likely that we may have to give up something we want in order to do the right thing. We as humans must make this choice.

Discussion Questions:

1) Savannah was clearly faced with a difficult choice when she learned that John was returning to the army for several more years. Do you think that Savannah should have waited for John like she said she would, or do you think it was understandable, and ultimately, a good choice for her to move on?

2) Have you ever been faced with this type of situation, where you have had to give up something you have wanted in order to do the "right" thing in a given situation?

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Looking for Alaska, by John Green, is split in two parts, "Before" and "After." "Before" starts the story of a boy named Miles Halter and his search for The Great Perhaps. Miles lives in Florida with his parents and leads a boring life with no real friends, social life, or anything to look forward to. When given the opportunity to go to his father's legacy, Culver Creek Preparatory School in Alabama, he goes to "seek a Great Perhaps," which were François Rabelais's last words. Miles reads biographies to learn about peoples' last words. When he gets to Culver Creek, Miles meets his roommate, Chip "The Colonel" Martin. The Colonel then renames Miles Pudge with irony because Miles is so thin. Shortly after Pudge arrives, his friendship with the Colonel introduces him to Alaska Young, who Pudge almost immediately develops a crush on. That night, Pudge is duct-taped and thrown into a pond on the grounds by the "Weekday Warriors," rich students who live in the area, for no other reason but that the Colonel is Pudge's roommate. This infuriates Alaska and the Colonel and an all-out prank war ensues. The war forges a wonderful friendship between the Colonel, Alaska, Pudge, and their friends Takumi and Lara. Pudge feels like he's getting to the Great Perhaps because his life is full of new danger with his on-campus underage drinking and smoking.
Pudge continues to have a huge crush on Alaska, and while she makes it known she is dating a college student, she often flirts with Pudge and lets him know she thinks he is attractive. After a drinking game, Alaska tells her friends that when she was eight, her mother had a brain aneurysm, and, in a shocked state, she watched her mother die instead of calling 911. Though her father eventually forgave her, she carries that guilt forever.
A few weeks or so later, Pudge, the Colonel, and Alaska are playing Truth or Dare after having way too much to drink, however Pudge is sober. Pudge and Alaska have a moment and they kiss. Alaska falls asleep, but is awakened by the phone ringing. After a few minutes, she comes into the room sobbing and saying that she is sorry and she has to leave. The Colonel and Pudge distract the teachers and allow Alaska to drive off-campus, thinking nothing of it.
"After" begins with Pudge and the Colonel being shuffled into the auditorium to be told that Alaska was in a car crash and passed away that night. The rest of the novel is Pudge and the Colonel trying to find out why Alaska had to leave that night.

1. Alaska constantly flirts with Pudge and the night she disappears they share an intimate moment. Alaska tells him she’s tired and says, “To be continued.” How would you feel if you were falling in love with someone, finally got their attention, only to have them ripped away?

2. One of the themes in this book is the tension between the well-off and the impoverished. Why can’t rich and poor live together in peace?

3. Alaska always talked about life being a “labyrinth of suffering” and how to escape it. What do you think is the best way to escape; go straight through, or go with the twists and turns?

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Lone Survivor

The Lone Survivor, recounts the true story of Navy
Seal Team 10's mission and the greatest loss in Navy Seal history. The story is written by Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell who was a member of this team. The book starts with the early life of Marcus and his twin brother growing up in Texas. Then the book shifts to Luttrell at BUD/s, the notorious Seal training camp. After he is given his trident he is shipped of to Afghanistan were he worked for 6 years. he was then assigned to Operation Redwing, a mission to kill codename: Ben Sharmak. After weeks of not being able to find Sharmak they finally find him and he and 3 other Seals: Micheal Murphy, Matthew Axelson, and Danny Dietz are sent to kill him. Luttrell is an accomplished sniper and he or Axelson will be the ones to take the shot. They are dropped in the mountains and must travel several miles to reach their hiding spot. While they are there three goat herders stumble upon them. The goat herders are unarmed, so the team must decide whether to let them go and jeopardize the mission, or kill them and face jail when they return to the US. In the end they decide to let them go. Not too long after though the team is attacked by Taliban fighters. The Seal team takes heavy fire and is forced to retreat down hill. In the process All of the Seals are horribly injured but each takes down numerous enemies. Micheal Murphy in one last act of heroism steps out of cover to call for support. He is killed shortly after. A grenade knocks Luttrell unconscious. When he awakes his team is dead and the Taliban soldiers are looking for him. Over the course of the next day Luttrell tries to escape the Taliban, he falls down the mountain multiple times, and is shot on top of his already large amount of injuries. The rescue helicopter flies to his rescue but is shot down and all 16 Seals on board were killed. He finally is found by and Afghani mountain tribe who risk there own lives to take him in and help him. He is then rescued by Army Rangers and taken home.

This story shows the true strength of the human spirit, that even though Marcus was bodily broken he still pressed on with the sole thought that "God will give me justice". It also shows a major flaw in the rules of engagement, that even though these goat herders were unharmed they still led to the deaths of 19 Navy Seals. Another point the book makes is that the Afghani, whom most Americans would view as the enemy helped Luttrell even though it put them in grave danger.

1) What would you do if you were faced same problem with the goat herders?

2) Would you take a person from who your country was at war into your home with even if it meant you would be in danger?

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the Rain is a thorougly moving and indefinately powerful novel told from the point of view of a beloved golden retriever, Enzo. Enzo is an observant and loyal canine who observes his master, Denny, as he struggle through his dreams of becoming a professional racer, the death of his wife, and the difficulty of raising his young daughter as a single dad. The story begins with Enzo on his deathbed as he recollects the memories and characters of his short and chaotic life. Enzo refers to Denny's girlfriend and later his wife, Eve, as the "interloper." He eventually, however, learns to love and protect her as well. Enzo's true test of loyalty comes when Eve asks him to protect the family when she gives birth to Zoe. Unexpectedly, Eve dies, leaving Denny devastated. Enzo stands by his master during the three year battle between Denny and Eve's parents for custody of Zoe.
Throughout his life, Enzo is frustrated by his lack of thumbs and the fact that he cannot speak. More often than not, Enzo complains to himself, "Gestures are all I have." An unending silence, however, allows Enzo to understand the need for listening as well as more time to observe the tedious ways of human life. He notes, "They're responders and reactors, not independent thinkers." He often notices that people cling to rituals and an unnecesarily stressful schedule. With their overbearing agenda, people lack the time to notice the small yet powerful beauties in life. For example, Enzo admires the human figure in ways that only artists ever seem to understand. As he observes Denny's movements, he states, "He is so brilliant. He shines. He's beautiful with his hands that grab things and his tongue that says things and the way he stands and chews his food for so long, mashing it into a paste befreo he swallows."
Also, the many hours of watching television with Denny teach Enzo valuable lessons. He knows that life, unlike car racing, is not about finishing first. Rather, it is about taking what has happend and leaving it behind you and taking the lead in what lies in ahead. Enzo learns what it takes to be a kind and compassionate human and cannot wait to be reincarnated as one. He looks forward to one day meeting Denny on the street in his human form.
As he reflects on the recollections of his short life, Enzo ponders the most important of the things he has learned from observing humans. Among Enzo's reflections are "sometimes we simply have to believe" and "that which you manifest is before you." At the end of the novel, Denny has learned as much from Enzo as Enzo has learned from him.

1. The Art of Racing in the Rain is not the typical "dog story" told from the perspective of a master who inevitably loses his pet during a tearful ending. Rather, this novel narrated by the dog himself. If you were to have a dog describe your life after observing your habits and mannerisms for a lifetime, what do you think he would have learned? What would he have to say about your priorities or daily rythums? Your family? Your attitude and outlook on life? Is this what you want your life to be seen as?

2. Enzo is able to learn a lot of valuable lessons from observing the art of racing with Denny. As Enzo ponders Denny's technique on a Florida track, he acknowledges one important part of racing. He states, "When a driver reacts, it's important to remember that a car is only as good as its tires. If the tires lose traction, nothing else matters." This statement can be interpreted many ways, depending on your personal background, memories, and history. What does this observation mean to you? What was one specific experience where you could directly relate to what Enzo says?

A Million Little Pieces

A Million Little Pieces opens with the narrator, James, waking up on an airplane with no recollection of how we got there or where he is going. Badly tattered, he has a hole in his cheek, four broken teeth, and a broken nose. James eventually finds out that the plane is bound for Chicago and that a doctor and two unidentified men brought him on board. James lands to find his parents, who have come all the way from Tokyo to pick him up, waiting for him. We soon find out that James is 23 years old and has been an alcoholic for ten years, a crack addict for three, and is wanted by the police in three different states on several charges. James's parents are saddened by his appearance and drive him to the family cabin. The next day, they check him into a rehabilitation facility in Minnesota where he is forced to quit his substance abuse. As part of this, he must undergo a series of painful root canals, without any Novocaine because of possible negative reactions to the drugs.

Things improve somewhat when James meets a young woman named Lilly at the dispensary and a friendly, middle-aged career criminal named Leonard at a meal. Both become his friends. Throughout his stay, he refuses to buy into the notion of victim hood, and instead chooses to blame his misfortunes solely on himself and as the result of his own decisions. Because of this view he rejects the concept of the Twelve Steps that is recommended to him at the clinic and chooses to proceed with his recovery without complaint or blame on others, and also with the knowledge that he will die if he begins his substance abuse again.

A Million Little Pieces shows the average struggle of an addict pushing through the hardships and obstacles of Rehab. James learns the value of friendship and learns to take responsibility for his actions, while opening his heart to a stranger against the rules of the Rehab. Throughout the book, one will see how James copes with his painful and horrifying with drawls and will see the dangers of James's potential of relapsing. The reader will often find them self wondering if James will fall in love with Lilly, continue his friendship with Leonard, and stay sober after rehab.

Discussion Questions:
1.) If a family member of yours was an addict and admitted into rehab, how would you support them and help them through their experience? Would you forgive them for their mistakes? Would you try to not let them relapse?

2.) If you were in a situation where you met someone who you were attracted to, would you go against the rules just to meet up with them or would you end it there and abide by the rules?

3.)Do you think that because James is not following the Twelve Steps and is taking full responsibility for his actions he will have more difficulties coping with his past addictions?

The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks

The main character of the book, Veronica "Ronnie" Miller, is a troubled 17 year old girl. After suffering a rough divorice between her parents, Ronnie becomes determined to make her parents life as hard as they have made hers. Ronnie's mother, Kim, sends Ronnie and her little brother Jonah down to North Carolina to spend the summer with their father. Ronnie absolutely despises her father, Steve, and makes this clear throughout the summer.

Upon arrival, Ronnie immerses herself into the local carnival. She stops to watch a volley ball tournemant, and becomes entranced. This is where she literally runs into Will Blakelee, her soon to be boyfriend for the summer. Angry, due to Will's ignorance, Ronnie storms away where she meets a new friend, Blaze, who is a bad influence. However, Blaze's boyfriend Marcus takes an inappropriate interest in Ronnie, which upsets Blaze. In order to get back at Ronnie, Blaze frames Ronnie for theft and their friendship ends.

Ronnie goes home and tells her dad that she is going to be charged with theft and he surprises her by saying that he believes her. Ronnie and her father once shared a bond over classical music through playing the piano. Her father Steve was actually her teacher, and their skill level together was so immense that they prefromed at Carnegie Hall together. However, once her dad left Ronnie now refuses to play the piano, cutting off their personal connection. Her father tries to forge a new connection by showing ronnie a nest of sea turtle eggs behind her house.

Ronnie becomes a guardian of the sea turtle eggs, and goes down to the aquarium to demand that a fence be built around the eggs, this is where the new coming relationship between Will, who volunteers at the aquarium, and Ronnie begins. As the two become closer together, Jonah helps his father throughout the summer to rebuild the stain glass window that was broken during the church fire.

During the summer, Will's older sister is to be married. Ronnie attends the wedding only to discover that Will's parents, the wealthy owners of a auto repair business, don't approve of her. At the wedding Blaze and Marcus and his crew show up and a fight breaks out. At the end, the wedding is ruined and Will is forbidden to see Ronnie ever again.

While broken up the sea turtle eggs hatch, and Ronnie runs to tell her dad. She finds him collapsed on the floor, coughing up blood. It turns out that Ronnies father has terminal cancer and chose to spend the last months of his life, the past summer with the family. When he gets out of the hospital Ronnie's father encourages her to persue her love for music for herself and also to rediscover her love for Will.

Jonah returns home with his mother while Ronnie remains at the beach house with her father taking care of him until his death. At the funeral Ronnie plays a piano piece she has written for her father. When she returns home to New York she decides to attend Julliard, a school for musicians. During that week, Will finds Ronnie and he tells her that he plans to attend Columbia the next semester, a school near Ronnie's, so they can be together.


1. If one of your parents had a terminal illness, would you want them to tell you as soon as they found out, or would you want them to wait until a few months before their predicted death? Why?

2. Do you think Ronnie had a right to be upset with her parents for their divorice and act out the way she did? Why or why not?

3. Would you follow your parents dying wishes for your future even if they were not what you wanted for yourself? Why or why not?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Heist Society by Ally Carter

The Heist Society by Ally Carter starts off at a boarding school that a young girl, Katarina Bishop, or Kat, attends. She seems to be just a normal 15 year old girl besides the fact that her whole family are thieves, as well as herself. She decided to pick between two lives: being a thief or a normal teenage girl. She chose to be normal by conning her way into an elite boarding school. Kat is kicked out of her boarding school when she is blamed for a prank involving the theft and public display of the headmaster's car which was actually her old friend Hale. It was his way of getting Kat back into the life of thievery because her Dad is being accused of stealing 5 paintings that a man named Arturo Taccone supposedly "owns". Kat and Hale begin their mission together to find her father and figure out the truth. Her Uncle Eddy, an expert thief, dissapproves of her actions, especially when Kat tells him the paintings that are missing are actually at the Henley, a maximum security art museum. The only name they have to go by is Visily Romani. In order to get her father out of trouble and be proved innocent, Kat, Hale and a few other of her friends along with a pickpocket, Nick, who Kat picked up from the street, these teens must re-steal each of these 5 paintings. That means getting through lasers, massive body guards, cameras and Uncle Eddie. Kat has decided to re-enter her old life, but is this what she really wants? Will stealing from the Henley make her decision final or will she really leave her family for good? What would happen if her father was not innocent and was Visily Romani? As Kat and her friends plan out to steal at the Henley, many more obstacles and surprises await them. What will happen?

1. Kat makes a big decision when she decides to con her way into an elite boarding school and betray the life her and her family have shared since she was born. This decision is not something to make overnight and changes her life forever. Have you ever had to make a tough decision that has, in some way, changed your life?

2. Visily Romani is the only name the teens have to go by as a suspect for the stolen art. It's very likely as well that Kat's father could be Visily Romani. If that happened, no one knows what could happen from there. Her father would either be locked up or be on the run for the rest of his life. What would you do if you found out your father or mother was a thief? Not even just being a thief, but what would you do if you found out a very dark secret about your parents?

Cell by Steven King

It is a normal day like any other. Clay Riddel was just made a comic book deal with a company and life has just started to look up. All of a sudden, people start going crazy. It starts off slow, but later has been renamed to "The Pulse." By listening to your cell phone, a message is transmitted into your brain and turns you into a zombie that does whatever you're told by transmission through radio. Every zombie is able to receive this signal when they are converted. Clay remembers about his son in Maine and tries desperately to connect with him, remembering that he had a cell phone as well. Clay meets a few others on his journey that haven't been transformed. The "Raggedy Man" toys with clay and forces him into what he wants him to do. The Raggedy Man is the spokesperson for the zombies, and they follow his every thought exactly as ordered.

What is Steven King trying to say by writing a book about cell phones and the technology to control people through them?

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley's novel, Brave New World, centers around a Utopian society in a future set London, England. People are bred in laboratories, and there is a strict caste system that all members of society fit into. Children are brainwashed into believing stereotypes relating to the other classes in society. People do not think for themselves and society values pleasure over anything else, as people are encouraged to use the drug soma, and monogamous relationships are outlawed, so women do not bear or mother children. Bernard Marx, the protagonist of the novel, is at the top of the class structure that the new society has created, but he still feels out of place. He has feelings of love that he does not understand toward his peer Lenina Crowne, and has and instinctive feeling that something is wrong with society. Bernard and his friend Helmholtz are the only two that are really aware that something is wrong with society as, "What the two men shared was the knowledge that they were individuals"(67). Lenina and Bernard end up going on a "date" to the Reservation, an area for "savages" who were not created in a lab to live. While there Linda and Bernard encounter John and Linda, and are exposed for the first time to creative works like Shakespeare and Bernard starts to understand that his society lacks any individualism and is therefore meaningless. Bernard and John develop a relationship, and Bernard is allowed to bring John back to his society for science research. Eventually, Bernard, Lenina, John, and Helmholtz confront Mustapha Mond, the World Controller, one who runs the Brave New World society, about why their is no individualism. Mond gives them a paradox, saying that claiming the right to be an individual as "claiming the right to be unhappy"(240). The group is then forced to make a difficult decision, one that will effect them for the rest of their lives.

Discussion Question:
What is Huxley trying to say about society in general? What values should society hold dear?

The Notebook

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks begins in a nursing home with an elderly man reading a story. The story he reads is about two teenagers named Allie Hamilton and Noah Calhoun who meet one summer and fall in love. However, they are torn apart by Allie's parents who do not approve of Noah's poor family when they move Allie away. Allie waits for Noah to write her for years, but she gives up hope of it working out between them and gets engaged to a young man named Lon. Allie's family also falls in love with Lon's charm and the fact that he's from old southern money. After seeing a picture of Noah in the newspaper, Allie wants to clear her mind of him and decides to visit him one last time before she is married. When she stops by Noah's house, it's obvious they both still have feelings for each other. Allie has to make the heartbreaking decision of either choosing her fiance or her first love.

1. Allie's mother hides the letters Noah writes to Allie to prevent them from ever seeing each other again. Is it okay for parents to control who their children are involved with because of the expectations they have for their children to live up to?
2. Allie's parents seem to be more concerned with the financial situation of who she is involved with than she is. Are financial statuses important in keeping a healthy relationship?

J.R. Tolkien’s novel, The Lord of the Rings, is a six part trilogy that takes place in the fictional land of Middle-Earth. Long before the start of the novel, each race of Middle-Earth forged magical rings, each to aid there race. The main antagonist, Sauron, forged the One Ring to gain power over other rings held by the leaders of Men, Elves and Dwarves. The races of Middle-Earth form a coalition to defeat Sauron. Isildur slays Saruon, but foolishly, does not destry the ring in the fires whence it came.. Isildur is later killed by Orcs, and the Ring is lost in the river Anduin. Over two thousand years later, the Ring comes into the hands of the hobbit Sméagol, who hides under the mountains, where the Ring transforms him over the course of hundreds of years into a suspicious, corrupted being called Gollum. Eventually he loses the Ring, and, as recounted in The Hobbit, it is found by Bilbo Baggins. Meanwhile Sauron takes a new physical form and reoccupies Mordor, his old realm. Gollum sets out in search of the Ring, but is captured by Sauron, who learns that Bilbo has the Ring. Gollum is set loose, and Sauron, who needs the Ring to regain his full power, sends forth the Ringwraiths, his dark, fearsome servants, to seize it.

The novel begins in the Shire, a land filled with small humans called hobbits, as Frodo Baggins, Bilbo’s nephew, inherits the Ring from Bilbo. Both are unaware of its origin, but Gandalf the Grey, a wizard who accompanied Bilbo on his journey in The Hobbit, learns of the Ring's history and advises Frodo to take it away from the Shire to the Elven haven of Rivendell. Frodo leaves, taking his gardener and friend, Samwise ("Sam") Gamgee, and two cousins, Meriadoc ("Merry") Brandybuck and Peregrin ("Pippin") Took, as companions. They nearly encounter the Ringwraiths while still in the Shire, but shake off pursuit by cutting through the Old Forest, where they are aided by the odd and mysterious Tom Bombadil. After leaving the Forest, they stop in the town of Bree, where they meet Aragorn, Isildur's heir, who joins them as guide and protector. They leave Bree after narrowly escaping attack, but the Ringwraiths follow them to the look-out hill of Weathertop, and wound Frodo with a magical blade. Aragorn leads the hobbits toward the refuge of Rivendell, while Frodo gradually succumbs to the wound. At a ford that must be crossed to go to Rivendell, the Ringwraiths attack again, but flood waters controlled by Elrond, master of Rivendell, rise up and overwhelm them, saving the company.

Frodo recovers in Rivendell under the care of Elrond. The Council of Elrond reveals much significant history about Sauron and the Ring, as well as the news that Sauron has corrupted the wizard Saruman, a wizard stronger and fiercer than Gandalf. The Council decides that the threat of Sauron is too great and that the best course of action is to destroy the Ring by returning it to Mount Doom in Mordor, where it was forged. Frodo volunteers to take the Ring, and a "Fellowship of the Ring" is chosen to accompany and protect him: Sam, Merry, Pippin, Aragorn, Gandalf, Gimli the Dwarf, Legolas the Elf, and the man Boromir, son of the Ruling Steward Denethor of the realm of Gondor.

The company passes through the long abandoned mines of the dwarves, Moria, where they are attacked by Orcs. Gandalf perishes while fighting the ancient and terrible Balrog, a ferocious fire beast, allowing the others to escape. The remaining company takes refuge in the Elven forest of Lothlórien. With boats and gifts from the Lady Galadriel, the company then travel down the River Anduin to the hill of Amon Hen. There Boromir succumbs to the lure of the Ring and attempts to take it from Frodo, who breaks from the Fellowship to continue the quest to Mordor alone, though Sam insists on coming to assist and protect him. (Here ends Book 1: The Fellowhip of the Ring)

Meanwhile, orcs sent by Sauron and Saruman kill Boromir and kidnap Merry and Pippin. Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas pursue the orcs into the kingdom of Rohan. Merry and Pippin escape when the orcs are slain by the Rohirrim, the calvary of Rohan. The hobbits flee into Fangorn forest, where they are befriended by the tree-like Ents. In Fangorn forest Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas find not the hobbits but Gandalf, resurrected after his battle with the Balrog and now the significantly more powerful "Gandalf the White". Gandalf assures them that Merry and Pippin are safe, and they travel instead to talk to Théoden, King of Rohan, from a stupor of despair inflicted by Saruman, and to aid the Rohirrim in a stand against Saruman's armies. Théoden makes a stand at the fortress of Helm's Deep. Gandalf rides off to gather more soldiers while Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli ride with Théoden to Helm's Deep. They are besieged by orcs, but Gandalf arrives with reinforcements, and the orcs are defeated.

Meanwhile, the Ents attack Isengard, trapping Saruman in the tower of Orthanc. Gandalf, Théoden and the others arrive at Isengard to confront Saruman. Saruman refuses to acknowledge the error of his ways, however, and Gandalf strips him of his rank and most of his powers. Merry and Pippin rejoin the others and Pippin looks into a palantír, a seeing-stone that Sauron had used to communicate with Saruman, unknowingly leading Sauron to think that Saruman has captured the Ring-bearer, so Gandalf takes Pippin to Gondor.

On their way to Mordor, Frodo and Sam capture Gollum, who has been following them from Moria, and force him to guide them to Mordor. Finding Mordor's main gate impassable, they travel toward a pass known to Gollum. Gollum betrays Frodo by leading him to the great spider Shelob in the tunnels of Cirith Ungol. Frodo is left seemingly dead by Shelob's bite, but Sam fights her off. Sam takes the Ring, and forces himself to leave Frodo. Orcs find Frodo's body, and Sam learns that Frodo is not in fact dead, but unconscious. Frodo is carried to the tower of Cirith Ungol, and Sam determines to rescue him.

Sauron begins his military assault upon Gondor. Gandalf arrives at Minas Tirith in Gondor with Pippin, to alert Denethor of the impending attack. Minas Tirith is besieged, and Denethor, under the influence of Sauron through another palantír, loses hope and commits suicide. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli come to Gondor by the Paths of the Dead, where Aragorn raises an undead army of oath-breakers in fulfilment of an old prophecy. The ghostly army help him to defeat the Corsairs of Umbar invading southern Gondor, and the forces freed from the south, along with Rohan's cavalry, help break the siege at Minas Tirith.

Sam rescues Frodo, and they journey through Mordor. Frodo weakens as they near Mount Doom, but is aided by Sam. Meanwhile, in the climactic battle at the Black Gate of Mordor, the vastly-outnumbered alliance of Gondor and Rohan fight desperately against Sauron's armies, with the intent of diverting Sauron's attention from Mount Doom. At the edge of the Cracks of Doom, Frodo is unable to resist the Ring, and claims it for himself. However, Gollum reappears, struggles with Frodo for the Ring, and bites off Frodo's finger, Ring and all, but in so doing falls into the fire, taking the Ring with him. The Ring is thus unmade. In the instant of its destruction, Sauron perishes, his armies retreat, his tower crumbles into dust, the Ringwraiths disintegrate, and the War of the Ring seemingly ends. Aragorn is crowned Elessar, King of Arnor and Gondor, and marries his long-time love, Arwen, the daughter of Elrond.

Meanwhile, however, Saruman has escaped his captivity and enslaved the Shire. The four returning hobbits raise a rebellion and overthrow him. Saruman is killed by his former servant Gríma Wormtongue, who is in turn killed by Hobbit archers. The War of the Ring thus comes to its true end on Frodo's very doorstep. Merry and Pippin are acclaimed heroes. Sam uses his gifts from Galadriel to restore the Shire, and marries Rosie Cotton. Frodo remains wounded in body and spirit, and some years later, accompanied by Bilbo and Gandalf, sails from the Grey Havens west over the Sea to the Undying Lands to find peace. Sam returns home, and eventually becomes Mayor of the Shire. After Rosie's death, Sam gives his daughter the Red Book of Westmarch, containing the story of Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry. He crosses west over the Sea, the last of the Ring-bearers.

This story was published in the 1950's, but Tolkien insisted that the book was not an allegory for the atomic bomb, what in your opinion does the book symbolize? Or what do you think the theme is?