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?