Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Fever 1793 details the life of a teenage girl who must deal with Yellow Fever enraging her city. Throughout the novel, Matilda changes from a foolish girl into a responsible young adult. Before the outbreak, she lives with her widowed mother and grandfather in a coffeehouse that they run in the city of Philadelphia. Her mother is constantly nagging at her to complete her chores and not lay around all day. As the summer heat drags on, the talk of a new fever is spread around town. Soon the inhabitants are fleeing from the city in fear and the death toll is rising. Matilda is sent by her mother to a farm in the country with relatives. When her and her grandfather reach the border they are not allowed to leave Philadelphia as the officers at the border fear that her grandfather is sick and does not want him to bring the fever to their city. She returns to Philadelphia to find the coffeehouse boarded up and her mother missing. Later on, Matilda takes residence with the family helper, Eliza, who helps those afflicted with Yellow Fever. However, Eliza's nephews come down with the fever and Matilda takes them to live in the abandoned coffee shop. As the sickness continues to ravage the twins, the first frost comes, killing the remnants of the fever. Slowly, the city of Philadelphia recovers and Matilda gets the coffeehouse back in business. Once immature and hiding from chores, she now runs the shop efficiently and takes care of the children. However, she is constantly worrying as to whether or not her mother is alive and will return.

1. Her mother is a stern, demanding woman who is always at work and seems invincible to Matilda. Do you believe that Matilda's mother has survived the fever and will return and why?

2. Matilda is a dynamic character in the book. Where do you see the changes in her maturity throughout the novel?

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is about a man named Nick Carraway who moves to the West Egg district of Long Island. As he gets to know his neighbor Jay Gatsby, he starts to learn about the mistakes of Gatsby's past and tries to help Gatsby put his life back together.

Gatsby fell in love with a girl named Daisy when he was very young, but Daisy found a better life for her self in the West Egg district of Long Island with her husband Tom. Gatsby, unlike Daisy, was never able to get over what could have been. He spends many nights looking across the water at a green light which comes from Daisy's house.

When Nick Carraway meets Gatsby at a party, Gatsby asks him for a a favor. Gatsby asked Nick to set up a meeting with him and Daisy so he could have the chance to talk to her. Gatsby doesn't realize that his fling with Daisy is in the past and she has set up a new life for herself. He can't see that she moved on and that he needs to do the same. He spent so much time thinking about her that he never lived his life like she did.

Gatsby didn't only seem to be in love with Daisy, it got to the point where you could consider it an obsession. He also seemed to be obsessed with the life style that she lived. Every night he thew extravagant parties in the hopes that Daisy would come to one of them. He lives off of money that he inherited and lives his life as high class as he can, but he is lonely because he never allows himself to make real relationships.

1) Is Gatsby really in love with Daisy, or is he in love with the idea of her and the life that she lives?

2) What are some of the consequences of living in the past, only imagining what could have been and regretting your decisions?

The Five People You Meet in Heaven: Mitch Albom


Mitch Albom's, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, tells the story about Eddie, a war veteran, who works at an amusement park that will change his life and his perceptions of the meaning of life and death.

It is on Eddie's 83 birthday that his life changes. He comes to Ruby Pier to begin his daily routine of checking the rides and other park maintenance, when something goes wrong. A tragic accident takes Eddie's life as he tries desperately to save a little girl. He feels her hands and takes his last breath and then his life is taken and he wakes up in an afterlife.

When he wakes up he realizes that heaven is not filled with gold and pearly white gates, but far from it. Heaven is a place where he meets people who have changed his life and will explain his life on earth.

The first person Eddie meets is a stranger to him, but he teach Eddie how all lives are connected. No life is a waste and the only time that is wasted is the time we think we are alone.

The second person that Eddie meets is his captain from World War II. He teaches Eddie about sacrifice, which is an inevitable part of life. Sacrifice is not something to be ashamed of, but to aspire to.

The third person Eddie meets in heaven teaches Eddie that holding back anger is a poison and will eat one inside and out. One thinks that hatred is a weapon that is used against the person who harmed them. However, hatred is a curved blade and the harm one does is to their self. The only way to live life is with forgiveness.

The fourth person Eddie meets teaches Eddie that love never ends even when life does. Love is like rain, it nourishes us deep inside ourselves.

The fifth person Eddie meets teaches him to "do unto others as you want them to do unto you." Eddie was placed on the earth for many reasons, but one of the most important was to keep people safe.


1. What are lives greatest lessons?

2. Does each person have a purpose in this world?

3. Is heaven different for everyone?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fallout: Ellen Hopkins

Written through continuous poetry, Fallout, by Ellen Hopkins, revolves around the lives of three teens; Hunter, Autumn, and Summer. All three of them share the same mother (Kristina), a predisposotion for addiction, different fathers, different guardians, and different lives. Hunter is ninteen years old, a radio personality, and lives with Kristina's mother and step-father. Out of all three, he is the only one with both a mother and father figure. He is a product of date-rape, due to the fact that Kristina is and was addicted to crystal meth. Throughout the book Hopkins depicts the problems he is faced with everyday caused by Kristina. He has spent his entire life not knowing who his father is and by the end creates a new relationship with him. Autumn seems to have her life together the most out of the three, at least in the begining. She maintains good grades and lives with her Aunt and her Grandfather (on her father's side). She grew up without a father, because he was in jail, and without a mother, because she doesnt even know who she is (or that she has a half brother and sister), untill the end when her father is released and takes her to see Kristina. At the end of the book she turns out slightly alcoholic and probably pregnant. Finally, Summer. Summer definately seems to be the worst off and was the only one fully aware of who both of her parents where, not that it helped her any. She has bounced around from foster home, her fathers, to more foster homes. She has suffered many sessions of abuse from her foster-parents to her father's girlfriends. Now that shes older, fifteen, she lives with her father because the last foster home she was in had a sexual offender situation. When her alcoholic father was detained for yet another DUI, she is sent to another foster home. This home she runs away from with her boyfriend, Kyle. In the end, they all somehow end up at Kristina's mother and step-father's house for Christmas dinner. For the most part, everyone is meeting each other for the first time, with the exception of Summer, who is just being reunited. Throughout the book the theme is definately how one person's addiction does not only effect them, but everyone around them faces the consequences.

Discussion Questions:

1. Do you believe that it is right for a child not to know who his or her parents are? Even if their parents are drug addicts and rapists? Does a child deserve to know he or she was a product of crystal meth addiction or date-rape?

2. Have you any examples in your life or in the lives of friends (please exclude names) who are effected daily by the actions of others? An example from this book would be the kids effected by their mother's poor choices and addiction.

The Shack by WM Paul Young

The Shack is a fictional book about the spritiual journey of a father, Mackenzie Allen Phillips. In the book, his six year old daughter, Missy, is abducted on a family camping trip. The family discovers that she was taken to a shack in the Oregon Wilderness and murdered. "At times he could feel The Great Sadness slowly tightening around his chest and heart like the crushing coils of a constrictor, squeezing liquid from his eyes until he thought there no longer remained a reservor," Mackenzie feels (Young 25). They found evidence, but have not found the body. Four years later Mackenzie Phillips receives a mysterious note in his mailbox, signed God, telling him to return to this shack where his daughter was brutally murder. Unsure, he returns to this rugged shack by himself one day. "Other times he would dream that his feet were stuck in cloying mud, as he caught brief glimpses of Missy running down the wooded path ahead of him, her red cotton summer dress gilded with wildflowers flashing among the trees. She was completely oblivious to the dark shadow tracking her from behind. Although he frantically tried to scream warnings to her, no sound emerged and he was always too late and too impotent to save her," Mackenzie dreams (Young 25). Scared out of his mind, he enters the shack on a winter day. The shack completely transforms into a beautiful cabin and Mackenzie finds a surprise waiting for him. He finds God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in the form of human beings. During this amazing encounter, he discovers things about the murder, God, and himself that he did not know before. I do not want to say more because i do not want to give away the ending, but this crazy encounter at the shack changes his life forever.

1) There are many debates on whether the author intended for Mackenzie's encounter with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit was supposed to be a dream or was intended to be real life. What do you think and why?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gone: Michael Grant

Gone by Michael Grant begins with Sam Temple sitting in school and all of the sudden the teacher vanishes. Sam along with the other kids of Perdido Beach soon learn that everyone in their town over the age of fifteen has vanished from their town. Sam's best friend, Quinn, dubs these vanishings as the "Poof." The youths in Perdido Beach soon realize that there is no time for panic and worry about what has happened to their teachers, parents, and older siblings, and now they have to take responsibilities for the town. Sam is seen as a leader due to an act of heroism he instigated when he was younger and many of the kids look up to him. Kids are soon appointed as police officers, fire chiefs, daycare workers, and one girl even takes responsibility as a doctor.

In the midst of all of this, Sam and his group of friends have discovered that Perdido Beach is surrounded by a black indestructible barrier with no means of getting in or out. Along with the strange blockade, things are changing. Animals are doing things never thought possible and even a few kids are somehow evolving into super humans.

For a short time it seems that the youths will get along just fine, but when the kids from Coates Academy drive into their town one day things take a turn. The Coates kids are led by Caine, who appears to be a leader trying to help as best he can. Caine starts by appointing people jobs and making sure that everything is in owner. However, Sam soon finds out that Caine's intentions are not all what he said and that Caine is looking for total domination of Perdido Beach. The conflict soon begins between the bullies and everyone else. Now Sam and his friends have to retaliate and defeat Caine before Caine and his followers takes complete control and much worse, before Sam turns fifteen and vanishes just like the rest of them.

Discussion Questions:

1.) In the novel many older kids take on jobs that would need years of training without needing to be asked to. For example, Mary takes over the daycare an infants while Dahra manages to work at the hospital with only a book as her guide. Why do you think kids like them felt it was necessary to take on such huge responsibilities with almost little to none experience?

2.) Even though he's pressured into it Sam manages to become a leader as well as Caine. Sam and friends form a group to fight against Caine and his bullies for the greater good of everybody. Since Sam has developed powers, he has to do the majority of fighting against Caine and the bullies. When Sam turns fifteen and "poofs" what do you think Sam's followers will do?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Last Song : Nicholas Sparks

This story begins and ends with a stubborn 17 year old girl named Ronnie. She lives with her mother and younger brother and lives a perfectly normal life. One summer, her mother unexpectedly decides to send Ronnie and her brother to visit her dad for the summer. Their father had left the family randomly when Ronnie was still young. She does not want to visit him because she feels abandoned by him. For the first few days at her father's beachhouse, Ronnie rebels. She hardly speaks to her father and doesn't try to make friends with anyone at all. When she finally gives up on that, she meets a new friend who gets her into lots of trouble. Nothing seems to be working out for Ronnie and her summer. One day, something almost magical happened. While walking along a beach she stumbles across a racoon eating some eggs. They were turtle eggs. Animal loving Ronnie made a cage to protect the eggs by using a shopping cart and slept outside guarding them. The next morning some more help finally came along. This help was a young man Ronnie's age. And they instantly had a connection. They then became inseperable. Ronnie was always with her new man, and he was always with her no matter what.

The romance continues throughout the book, only as their summer connection and bond grows stronger. Ronnie begins to talk with her father. Growing closer with him each day, not only through words but especially through music. One day Ronnie, her brother, father, and beloved boyfriend are outside on the beach watching the turtle eggs hatch. Her father randomly collapses and is taken to the hospital. Only then are Ronnie's eyes opened to why she was spending the summer with her father. Could it be his last summer? Could it be their final song together?

Discussion Topics:

1. Why do you think Ronnie worked so hard to rebel against her father?

2. Why do you think Ronnie put so much trust in a guy she just met?

3. Why is Ronnie's brother not upset about him leaving the family like she is?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Stormbreaker- Anthony Horowitz

Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz is about a 14 year old orphan named Alex Rider who lives in Britain, near Chelsea. Alex's uncle, who was also his "adopted" parent, because his own parents are dead, is Alex's only family. When Ian Rider, the uncle, dies in a car crash, Alex is caught off guard. Alex knows his uncle too well to know that he would die in an accident. Ian was always prepared. He always wore his seatbelt and took every other tedious precaution.

Driven by curiosity, he finds his uncle's car in the local junkyard, except for one thing is wrong. The car is smashed in the front, but the front windshield and driver's door is covered with bullet holes. He is then taken to his uncle's work, who supposedly worked in a banking establishment. Little does Alex know that Ian Rider worked for MI6, the famous "James Bond" spy service, which explained his uncle's continual business travels. The head of MI6 recruits Alex to complete his uncle's mission, because as a 14 year old, he would not be as suspected of spying.

Alex is sent to spy on a man named Herod Sayle, an Egyptian millionaire who lives in Britain. Sayle is going to donate thousands of super-computers called "Stormbreakers" to every school in Britain, as a token of gratitude to the country that took him in when he was a poor boy in Egypt. As Alex carries out tasks given by MI6, he begins to see the remnants of the trail his uncle has left for a successor to follow. But, his youth eventually led to his capture by Sayle's men. Sayle's personal assistant, "Mr. Grin", named for the hideous scars on his face due to a knife trick gone horribly wrong, is in charge of interrogating Alex. During the process of him talking to Sayle (not Mr. Grin, who cannot talk), Alex learns the reason for donating the computers. Sayle had been abused as a boy in school for being a poor and out-of-place Egyptian boy. His biggest enemy, or bully, is the current prime minister. He wants to humiliate the prime minister by having him activate all the computers, which would seem to be a wonderful occasion across the country.
Little does he know, each computer, when activated, releases smallpox into the room. So when the prime minister activates every computer at one time, he causes thousands of deaths of the nation's children.

After telling Alex this, he throws Alex into a giant tank with a Portuguese Man O' War, the world's biggest and most dangerous jellyfish. After a daring escape from the tank, he boards a plane taking off for London. It is there, that he makes a daring encounter with Mr. Grin, the pilot. Over the museum where the minister is staged to activate the computers, Alex must make a choice. Save the country, or save himself?

Discussion Questions:
1. Why did the author kill off all of Alex's family? That is kind of cruel, and wasn't necessary.

2. Why is Sayle so determined to humiliating the prime minister to have the minister personally activate everything? He could have just had the prime minister just approve of the activation.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows By: J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows takes the reader through a fast paced story of Harry Potter's battle to save the wizarding world. Lord Voldemort has risen to power and is beginning to take over the wizarding world by striking fear into the hearts of every witch and wizard in Britain. Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived, was destined from birth to clash with the dark Lord because of a prophecy foretold shortly before he was born. Along with his friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, Harry sets off to destroy Voldemort's horcruxes, fragments of Voldemort's soul that attach him to immortality. One by one, the three heroes dispatch of the Horcruxes, all of which are objects that are meaningful, or give a sense of power, to the Dark Lord. However, Harry becomes distracted by the idea of the Deathly Hallows, a tale told to children about three objects that, when united, give the title the master of death to the holder of all three. The quest proves grueling and tests the friendships of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Finally, the final battle approaches upon the grounds of Hogwarts, the only place where both Harry and Voldemort ever found home. Harry and his supporters are driven by love and friendship, while Voldemort and his death Eater's are driven by nothing but greed of power and immortality. Voldemort is fighting for something out of reach, he wants to conquer death. As Albus Dumbledore says, "... the true master of death... accepts that he must die, and understands that there are far, far worse things in the living world than dying"(720-21). Voldemort cannot embrace death, he is afraid of what it holds. Harry was able to vanquish the Dark Lord because he knows there are things in life that tare worse than death and is able to welcome it by walking forward defenseless to Lord Voldemort. Death is a natural process in life, it is the final step one must take to go on; do not be afraid of death, but live enough to be able to welcome it with open arms when the time is right.

1.) Throughout the novel, and series, Voldemort lacks one power that Harry has: love. Voldemort does not have the ability to love, the ability to feel remorse or sadness. Voldemort never wanted a friend, he always chose to operate alone. Do you think if Voldemort had learned to love, he would have been as afraid of death?

2.) Harry does not want to subject Ron or Hermione to the dangers he faces throughout his journey to conquer the Dark Lord and is determined to set out alone. However, Ron and Hermione insist they accompany Harry, saying it has been decided for years they would stick together. Do you think Harry, although a powerful and resourceful wizard, would have had the strength to continue to destroy Horcruxes without the love and irrevocable friendship given to him by Ron and Herminone?

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Clockwork Angel

The Clockwork Angel is a fantasy novel by Cassandra Claire. The story is told primarily from the perspective of a girl named Teresa or Tessa Grey. Tessa travels from New York City to London, England shortly after her aunt and guardian Harriet dies to be with her brother Nathaniel. She meets two women who she calls the dark sisters upon her arrival in London who tell her that they are there to transport her to her brother. They take her to their house and force her to shape-shift or ‘change’. She is held prisoner by the dark sisters until a man named Will Herondale comes to rescue her. He takes her to where he lives with several other orphans at a place called the Institute.
Tessa’s goal throughout the entire book is to find her brother who the dark sisters claimed they were holding prisoner. Will Herondale, who is a superhuman being called a Nephilim (a cross between an angel and a human), is trying to solve a murder of a young girl named Emma Bayliss. Tessa and the other Nephilim that live in the institute all grow very close and help each other through the many conflicts that arise throughout the book.

Questions: Throughout the whole book Tessa forces her friendship on Will. Although they become friends as the book progresses do you think it was beneficial for her to push her friendship on him or do you think that it would have been better if she was less persistant?

Because of her encounter with the dark sisters Tessa becomes very guarded with her emotions and this often pushes people away. Do you think that there should be a limit to how much people guard their emotions?

Rebel Angles: Libba Bray

Rebel Angles is the second book in The Gemma Doyle trilogy. The story takes place in the late 1800s in England. In the first book A Great and Terrible Beauty the main character, Gemma Doyle, learns something that will change her life for ever. She was living in India and it was her sixteenth birthday, and her mother mysteriously died. Her father said it was from cholera however Gemma knew the truth. Gemma is able to see visions thanks to her mother, who was apart of this secret society of women called the Order. These women had control of a place called the Realms which is a world between life and death. After her mother dies Gemma is sent to Spence Academy in England. There she meets three girls and the become friends. At the school one of their teachers tells myths about a place called the Realms and the Order and the girls find out this is true. Gemma finds a way to enter the Realms so all of the girls go there and Gemma finds her mother there. While in the Realms they have a magical power to do anything; turn flowers into butterflies and make knights in shinning armor appear. Gemma's mother tells her that not everything in the Realms is fun and games. Her mother's enemy, Cierce, is the one who killed Gemma's mom. She wants to control all of the magic in the Realms and to get that she needs to break the Temple, which is where the magic is stored. In the end of the book the girls fight one of Cierce's assassins, unfortunately one of the girls die. Gemma breaks the Temple and she is the one to control all of the magic. Also I cannot give every detail because I do not want to ruin the books if some of you want to read them.

In Rebel Angels the girls realize that Gemma herself holds the magic so she can do what ever she wants outside of the Realms. The girls also find that their friend who died in the 1st book is in the Realms so they can see her. The girls thought that they had destroyed Cierce but they did not. They find out that their most trusted teacher at the school is Cierce herself. Gemma has difficulty dealing with her mothers death, but her father is taking the hardest hit for it. He struggles with a drinking and drug problem but she tries to get through it. Her two best friends at the school only seem to like her because she has a magic power that she can share with them and they become upset when she cannot give them magic. As I said earlier I cannot give every detail because it will spoil the ending, so you will have to read it for yourself.

This book has two themes. One is have good judgement when choosing your friends and how women are treated unequally, but with a little magic everything can change. At Spence the girls are taught to walk with books on their heads, music, French, and how to be the perfect lady. All of the girls that go to Spence will be a house wife for the rest of their lives.

1. This book takes place in the 1890's, in which ways have women become more important in society? So they are not just wives and mothers, but actually have a say in society.

2. Do you think that Gemma's friends were true friends and actually like her for herself and not just what she had to offer? Would you be friends with someone who just wanted what you had?

If I Stay

The book If I Stay by Gayle Forman was a very emotional, yet entertaining novel. The story takes place in Oregon during the winter months. It begins when the kids receive a snow day and the parents call off of work. Mia, the main character, Teddy, her little brother and parents decide to go on a family road trip. Not paying attention to the horrible weather conditions, Mia's father looses control of the car and goes flying off the road. Everything was a big blur to Mia. When she woke up she found herself in a ditch and she saw her dead mother and father on the road. Mia was life flighted to the hospital and had many injuries. The doctors even doubted her survival. "Apparently, I have a collapsed lung. A ruptured spleen. Internal bleeding of unknown organs. And most serious, the contusions on my brain. I've also got broken ribs. Abrasions on my legs, which will require skin grafts; and on my face,which will require cosmetic surgery-but, as the doctors note,that is only if I am lucky" (40). Although Mia could not move or even open her eyes, her spirit, or ghost, was able to walk and talk and think except no one could see her. Throughout the novel, Gayle refers back to Mia's life before the accident. One flashback talks about Mia's love for music, and how talented she was in playing the cello. Also it was music that brought Mia and her boyfriend Adam together. In the end, love encourages Mia to fight for her life. "Stay. With that one word, Adam's voice catches, but he swallows the emotion and pushes forward. There's no word for what happened to you. There's no good side of it. But there is something to live for" (230). She must touch Adam one last time before she can make the most difficult decision of her life. Mia must decide to stay, or go to heaven with the rest of her family.

1. Mia is pulled between wanting to die and wanting to live. If you were in Mia's position what would you choose to do and why?

2. The themes of sacrifice and choice occur throughout the story and play out in several relationships. Discuss the meanings of "sacrifice" and "choice." How are they different? How are they similar?

Starclimber (by Kenneth Oppel)

The book Starclimber, by Kenneth Oppel, is a tale about the race to space. It is the third book in the Airborne series. In this time period airplanes have not yet been invented, but instead people rule the skies with zeppelin-like ships. These ships are less flammable than those like the Hindenburg and are held aloft with a gas called hydruim rather than hydrogen.

Matt Cruse is an employee on one of these ships. He aspires to one day be a captain of his own ship rather than working under others. Currently he is too young to be respected, although he has worked on several important missions. Matt wants to go up on the first ship into space because he believes he belongs in the sky and wants to be in the next great frontier. He believes the night sky calls to him. Matt thinks, "The night sky beckoned to me with even greater intensity" (Oppel 4). Cruse is already considered somewhat of a hero because of his previous adventures, which shall not be mentioned here for fear of spoiling the plots of the first two books.

Kate de Vries is Matt Cruse's best friend as well as partner on several scientific missions. She is a zoologist, but cannot gain respect from the scientific community of men because she is a woman. She is from a wealthy family and must keep up appearances or her parents will not allow her to continue her scientific studies. Kate is always on the hunt for new life to discover and will do anything to get into space.

In Starclimber, France and Canada are racing to be the first country in space. France is attempting to build a giant skyscraper, which they want to reach all the way into outer space. Canada has a secret space program, they are sending a cable into space attached to a counterweight, then sending a ship up it. Cruse and Kate, Canadians, are offered to join this space program to be the first people in space. Cruse is invited because of his skill at ship-guiding, while Kate is invited because of her scientific discoveries. They want her to go up in case there is life in space they want an expert to be there. In order for Kate to get into the program, she has to tell her parents that she will get married to Mr. Sanderson when she returns. When Matt sees the engagement ring, Kate says, " my ticket to outer space" (Oppel 169). In order for Matt to get into the program, he must pass a series of excruciating tests to make sure he is fit for the job.

While in space there will be many challenges. No one has ever been in space before, so they do not know what kind of conditions they will face. They also do not know if there is life in space or if they will be alone. If there is life in space, they do not know if it is hostile or even intelligent. They also would be extremely vulnerable since the only way they are connected to earth is by one cable against the never ending depths of space.

Discussion Questions:

1. Do you think Kate was right to lie about getting married in order to get on the ship? If you do not think so, what do you think she should have done instead?

2. What do you think of the idea of attaching the ship to a cable? Do you believe it will be successful?

The Compound: S.A. Bodeen (by Rafiq Oglesby)

The Compound, by S.A. Bodeen, is an amazing, action-packed novel about a boy named Eli and his family. For about six years, Eli Yanakakis has lived three stories underground in a huge metal shelter. Six years ago, on his ninth birthday, his father hurried his family away from what he said was a nuclear attack and into "The Compound", leaving behind his grandmother and twin brother who couldn't make it. The door to the compound is sealed and set to open in fifteen years, which is supposedly enough time for the nuclear radiation and stuff from the attack to become harmless. The only people Eli has communicated with and seen for the six years of confinement are his mother, father, and two sisters . He really misses his twin brother, Eddy, his grandmother, and his dog and even though The Compound seems supplied with everything he could ever want, Eli knows that there are many faults in his father's plan for survival. Their food supply is decreasing and he catches his father lying about the ability to connect to the Internet. As the book continues, Eli realizes that his father's ultimate plan for a food source, what they call The Supplements, is not the result of poor planning but of his father's near-insanity. Eli knows he has to get out of there, but only his father knows the secret code to opening the door. You'll have to read it to find out what fate awaits the Yanakakis...

1.) There is a food source called "The Supplements". Eli is tested both physically and emotionally, forced to make a difficult decision that will determine his fate. If he uses the nutrients from the supplements then they will die, if he doesn't, then he might. What would you do?

2.) Do you think it would be safe/possible to stay underground for fifteen years?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the sixth book in the Harry Potter series written by J.K. Rowling. Throughout the series, Harry goes through a series of events such as finding out his parents were murdered by a powerful wizard named Voldemort, discovering that he himself was a wizard, finding his god-father who had been accused of being part of Voldemort’s force, participating in the Tri-Wizard Tournament, and much more. In this installment of the series, Harry is introduced to a man named Horace Slughorn, a potions professor that had once taught Tom Riddle, alternatively known as Lord Voldemort. Professor Slughorn, also having taught James Potter(Harry’s father) and Lily Evans Potter(Harry’s mother), was wary because of his tight-knit bond with Tom when he was a student. Professor Slughorn also holds a memory of Lord Voldemort in which Professor Dumbledore, the headmaster of Harry’s school, believes would help Harry achieve his ultimate destiny: Ridding the world of Voldemort.

In Harry’s attempt to gain the memory from his potions professor, he joins Slughorn’s class on the first day of school, and due to that, must borrow a potions book. In the book, spells are written, instructions to making potions are written, and also in the back is written ‘The Half-Blood Prince’. Because of the Prince’s added guidance to the potion-making process, Harry excels in Slughorn’s class without trouble. Slughorn grows fond of Harry, and for Harry’s first attempt at retrieving the memory, he approaches his professor as Tom Riddle had, asking “Sir, I wondered what you know about… about Horcruxes?”(370, 379). Upon hearing this question, Slughorn demands to know whether Dumbledore has put Harry up to asking him this, also refused to answer him.

In the mean time, Draco Malfoy, a boy of the Slytherin house that Harry does not get along with, and is believed to be a Death Eater by Harry. Harry tries to follow Draco around, attempting to see what has consumed nearly all of the boy’s free time, and why—or how— he somehow disappears off the Marauder’s Map, a map that shows the location of everyone in or in the proximity of Hogwarts. Draco is really in the Room of Requirement repairing a vanishing cabinet, whose twin cabinet is located at Borgin and Burkes. With this vanishing cabinet, Malfoy can transport anything or anyone placed in one cabinet to the other without charms stopping the transportation.
During one encounter with Draco, Harry uses a spell from the Half-Blood Prince’s book, one labeled ‘For Enemies’. Harry casts this spell ‘sectumsempra’ on Draco during their encounter, harming Draco. Promptly after the spell was cast, Professor Snape, Harry’s Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, arrives to where the duel had occurred and rescues Draco.

Before this, Harry had won a potion in his first potions class called Felix Felicis, better known as ‘liquid luck’. Harry drinks some of this potion thinking it would help him convince Slughorn to surrender the memory to Harry. Harry travels to Hagrid’s hut after drinking the potions, despite the protests from his two best friends who are focused on him finding Slughorn, and during his walk to Hagrid’s Harry has a run in with his professor. Slughorn also follows Harry to Hagrid’s upon hearing that there had been a death of an Acromantula, hoping to get a few vials of venom before it dries up completely. After the three bury the body of the spider, they celebrate in Hagrid’s hut, and at the end of the celebration, Harry once again asks for the memory, and is now successful.

Near the end of Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts, Dumbledore had discovered a Horcrux and invited Harry to join him so he could destroy it. A Horcrux was described in Slughorn’s surrendered memory. Slughorn said, “A Horcrux is the word used for an object in which a person has concealed part of their soul. . . you split your soul . . . and hide part of it in an object outside the body. Then, even if one’s body is attacked or destroyed, one cannot die, for part of the soul remains earthbound and undamaged”(497). Together, Dumbledore and Harry travel to an isolated cave and retrieve the Horcrux, and once they return, they are faced with Draco and many other Death Eaters that have arrived through the vanishing cabinet.

Eventually, all of the Death Eaters make their way up the stairs to the Astronomy tower, where Dumbledore and Harry were located, however they only see Dumbledore as Harry was hiding beneath his invisibility cloak. Draco Malfoy’s task from the Dark Lord, or Voldemort, was to kill Albus Dumbledore. Snape, earlier on, had made an Unbreakable Vow, a promise which if it was broken, would kill whoever had made the promise. The vow was to assist Draco in killing Dumbledore, and to kill the headmaster if Draco could not.

Draco did not kill Dumbledore in the end, and finally, Snape was the one to kill him. After this event, Harry’s hate of his former potions professor and current Dark Art’s professor grew, and he chased him down to Hargrid’s hut, where he and the other Death Eaters were destroying Hagrid’s home. During their encounter, Harry attempted to use the sectumsempra spell on Snape which led to the revelation of Snape being the Half-Blood Prince, the original owner of Harry’s potions book.
At the end of the story, Harry reminisces on his time at Hogwarts with his deceased headmaster, and admits to his friends that he will not return to Hogwarts the upcoming year, instead he will search for the remaining Horcruxes.

1. During Harry’s first attempt to collect the memory from Professor Slughorn he uses the same words that Tom Riddle had used. What do you think the significance was when Harry approached Professor Slughorn the way Tom Riddle once had?
2. Snape had made an unbreakable vow to assist in the killing of Professor Dumbledore, and a promise to be the one to kill him if Draco had not killed him. Had it not been for the Unbreakable Vow, do you believe he would kill Dumbledore? Why or why not?

the perks of being a wallflower

the perks of being a wallflower (lack of capitalization intentional) by Stephen Chbosky is an unusual look at what happens to a person who observes life rather than participates in it. The story is told through a series of letters from the main character to an unnamed person he calls "Friend." "Charlie" (the presumably fake name the protagonist gives himself) does not directly know this person, but states that "I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn't try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could have" (2).
Charlie is writing letters as a way of showing someone his life. He is about to start high school, and his best friend recently killed himself. As a result, he is even more isolated than he usually is because of his often standoffish and awkward personality. However, due to a chance encounter at a football game, he soon becomes friends with two seniors, whom he refers to as Patrick and Sam. As he grows closer to them, Charlie is introduced to a new social scene filled with drugs, sex, and the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Though he dabbles in some drugs, Charlie never develops a problem from this rather counterculture scene, in keeping with his status and observer rather than participant in his life.
His letters often detail the activities and problems of his friends, whom he cares for deeply, even developing a crush on Sam. Patrick, as a gay man living in a largely homophobic community, struggles with the need to keep his relationship with his boyfriend a secret. Sam, purportedly due to low self-esteem, dates an older college student who cheats on her. Charlie shows a deep concern for his friends, but does not often focus on his own goals or desires.
Eventually, Sam attempts to help Charlie change this about himself, inadvertently causing him to uncover a repressed memory that shakes his world and causes him to suffer a mental breakdown. The strong support and love he feels from his family and friends as he tries to recover prompts Charlie to take charge of his own life. He writes in his last letter that “I’m not sure if I will have time to write any more letters because I might be too busy trying to ‘participate’” (213).

One of the most prevalent themes in this story is the necessity of being proactive throughout life. What do you feel are some benefits or consequences of the alternative- being an “observer,” such as Charlie initially is?

Due to its audience of young adults, this epistolary has been considered controversial for its portrayal of homosexuality, drugs, alcohol, suicide, et cetera. Do you believe that books should be censored for the safety of readers, or that the work should remain as realistic as the author intended it?

The Five People You Meet In Heaven By: Mitch Albom

The Five People You Meet In Heaven By: Mitch Albom tells the story of Eddie a worker at Ruby Pier a local amusement park who dies on his 83rd birthday trying to save a little girl from being crushed by one of the rides. Eddie then awakes in heaven where he is to be taught the meaning of his life on earth by five people in heaven whose lives intertwined with his in one way or another.

The first person Eddie meets in heaven is known only as "The Blue Man". Eddie is taken back to the Ruby Pier he grew up in over 75 years ago. While moving around the park he finds "The Blue Man" and proceeds to take Eddie on a flashback to when he was a little kid playing catch with his brother. His brother throws the ball over his head and when he goes to get it is almost hit with a car which we find out to be The Blue Man's car. He then goes on to say that the scare he got from almost hitting Eddie caused his already weak heart (from taking bad medicine which is what caused his skin to turn blue) to have a fatal heart attack. Eddie is devastated when he learns he killed him, however The Blue Man goes onto explain Eddie's first lesson that everything in life is connected and that their are no random acts. Everything has a purpose.

The second person Eddie meets in heaven is his Captain from World War Two. His Captain takes him on a flashback to the night they escaped from a prison camp to show him that when Eddie was shot trying to rescue a girl he thought he saw in a burning hut that it was really his Captain who shot him to save him from burning to death in the fire. Eddie is furious when he learns this and attempts to beat his Captain which causes no harm to his Captain. The Captain then shows his own death which happened later that night trying to get Eddie to the hospital. This is where Eddie learns his second lesson which is "sacrafice" (93). He explains that sacrafice is something to be proud of and not something to regret. Before Eddie leaves he asks his Captain if he saved the girl but his Captain refuses to tell him.

The third person Eddie meets in heaven is Ruby. Ruby Pier was named after Ruby by her rich husband, however one night the pier was engulfed in a huge fire which crippled Ruby's husband leaving her to take care of him for the rest of her life. Ruby then explains how Eddie's father died. Eddie's father walked in on his drunk friend grabbing his wife and chased him to the pier late at night where he had to save his drunk friend from drowning. Ruby explains that you must learn to forgive. Ruby was at the hospital sharing a room with Eddie's dad when he died and she was the only one to hear his dad crying for Eddie and the rest of his family.

The fourth person Eddie meets in heaven is his wife who had died many years before him of a tumor. Eddie had always felt she had been taken away from him prematurely. Eddies and his wife spend what seems like days just talking about everything they can think of and reconncecting after such a long time of being apart. After all this is over she explains the fourth lesson Eddie learns which is that even though she died their love hadn't it had only taken another form.

The fivth and final person Eddie meets in heaven is a little girl named Tala. When Eddie escaped captivity during world war two he burned down the camp he was held in. In one of the burning huts he thought he saw a little girl however, he believed it was only his imagination. Tala points out that it was actually her inside the hut and she had died. Tala is suddenly covered with hideous burns all over her body and as pennance Eddie must wipe away all of her scars and burns using a rock. After he has done this Tala reveals to Eddie the purpose of his life which was to keep children safe at Ruby Pier.

What do you think heaven is like?

DO you think Mitch Albom has left us with a possibility for what heaven might be like?

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut tells a story of Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time. The book follows him through his jumps in time, so it is not in chronological order, but, for ease of explanation, I will tell the story in chronological order.

Billy Pilgrim is born in Illium, New York in 1922. He has a normal life, gets decent grades in high school and takes night classes to become an optometrist (eye doctor) until he is drafted into the Army during World War II. After being thrown behind enemy lines during the Battle of the Bulge as a chaplain's assistant, Billy starts to shift through time. Vonnegut explains, "This was when Billy first came unstuck in time. His attention began to swing grandly through the full arc of his life, passing into death, which was violet light. There wasn't anybody else there, or any thing. There was just violet light—and a hum" (54-55).

Soon after, he gets captured by Germans and sent to a prisoner of war camp. Here, Billy has a breakdown and is given morphine to calm him down. The morphine causes him to shift through time again. When he comes back to the present, he gets moved to another camp in Dresden, a city untouched by the war. Here he works with other P.O.W.s until Allied forces firebomb Dresden. He and other prisoners take refuge in an airtight slaughterhouse, where they're safe from the asphyxiating fire. After the fire dies down, Billy and the other prisoners are forced to look for bodies in the rubble of the town until Russian forces send him home.

Billy finishes optometry school and gets engaged to the daughter of the founder of the optometry school he attended. He suffers a nervous breakdown, but recovers through shock treatments in a veterans' hospital. He gets married and gets started up in the optometry business by his father-in-law. Billy feels he is back to normal until he suffers a breakdown after seeing a barbershop quartet, reminding him of Dresden, at his 18th wedding anniversary party. In 1968 he takes a flight with other optometrists to a convention. The plane crashes in a mountain, killing all but him. His wife dies soon after from carbon monoxide poisoning after crashing her car.

Billy starts talking of the Tralfamadorians, a race of aliens from the planet Tralfamadore that can see all moments of time at once, on a radio talk show in New York and in a series of letters to the Ilium News Leader that get published. He explains how they kidnapped him in 1967 and took him back to Tralfamadore to be displayed in a zoo and forced to make with a former movie star, Montana Wildhack. In his second letter he writes, "When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that particular moment, but the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorian say about dead people, which is 'So it goes'" (34).

Billy, having traveled through time so many times, knows that the public will eventually come to understand his and the Tralfamadorians' view. He also knows how he will die, and when it will happen. Having seen it many times, he knows that he will experience that violet hum again, and shift back to another time.

Discussion Questions:
-Every time Billy shifts through time, he is in a stressful situation. Do you think that Vonnegut meant that Billy is truely shifting through time, or is this "shifting" just a sign of insanity?

-What about the Tralfamadorians? Was Billy actually abducted, or was this story another product of his possible insanity?

Go Ask Alice

Go Ask Alice is the anonymous diary of a young girl that gets involved in drugs. The girl does not say her name in the book. Go Ask Alice was given the title based off of "White Rabbit" written by Grace Slick.

Through her diary "Alice" expresses her feelings about teenage problems. In the beginning her problems are common to many teens, like weight gain, moving to a different city, parents, boys, and friendships. When she is reunited with a old friend and goes to a party, her problems get even more serious. At the party she has her first experience with drugs. Though she has fun after that it is a downward spiral.

"Alice" becomes involved with many of the wrong kind of people and has terrible and illegal episodes. "Alice" runs away to California. Her family worries about her a lot. She meets a girl named Chris and they work at a boutique where they make money to buy marijuana. They get into even more troubling situations. "Alice" knows that doing drugs is wrong and tries to stop many times. She has a strong addiction and cannot stay clean.

The only thing that keeps her going through her many struggles is her diary, her "dearest friend" (184). "Alice" always says she wishes she had a person to talk to, someone to help her with her addiction. "Oh, I would like to talk to Mom or Dad or Joel or Tim about this, but everything I do seems to make things worse" (130). Her only real friend is her diary. Not even health care professionals give her the help she really needs. In the end, the importance of her diary is fully shown.

1. At her worst point, "Alice" finally got professional help. Her family tries to help her too. Still it is not enough to get her out of the vicious cycle with drugs. Many teens in society are involved with drugs like "Alice." They feel they have no one that understands them or can help. What help do you think "Alice" or teens like her need to break their addictions for good? Is such help possible?

2. "Alice" says her diary is her only friend. She can tell her diary everything. "Alice" could communicate to her diary well but not to people. Do you think if "Alice" would have had good communication skills with people that she would have had better life?

The Da Vinci Code- Dan Brown

The Da Vinci Code, written by Dan Brown follows the adventure of two individuals as they try to uncover a secret that has been hidden since the time of Christ. Robert Langdon is a Harvard symbologist. He was on a trip in Paris to give a speech about symbolism. The night he was there, he was supposed to meet a famous curator named Jacques Sauniere at the famous art museum, the Louvre. Langdon never met the curator, because Sauniere had been murdered and he was the prime suspect. Next to his dead body in the museum, Sauniere left a myserious cipher. Sauniere’s granddaughter, Sophie was a cryptologist that got wind of her grandfather’s death. She went to the museum and met Langdon. They soon found out the real meaning of the cipher. Sauniere was killed, because he knew a secret, but he didn’t want it to end with him. In his last minutes of life, Sauniere left clues starting a journey to find the secret. “Suddenly, now, despite all the precautions . . . despite all the fail-safes . . . Jacques Sauniere was the only remaining link, the sole guardian of one of the most powerful secrets ever kept,” (Brown 5). It was now up to Robert and Sophie to figure out Sauniere's clues and figure out the secret that he was trying to get to them.

"The power of the female and her ability to produce life was once very sacred, but it posed a threat to the rise of the predominantly male Church, and so the sacred feminine was demonized and called unclean," (Brown 238). Throughout the story, Langdon explains the strong significance of women. In the religions and secret societies that the reader learns about there is always an emphasis on women. People use to see women as superior because they birthed the new nations. The women were the reason for life. Why do you think the current societies have lost the importance of the female? Why was the male the superior for so long?

The Da Vinci Code became a very controversial book, and upset many people. There was fact and fiction intertwined throughout the entire story. The story depicts one of the major world religions as a lie. The author, Dan Brown goes back to the time of Christ and gives reasons and symbols for all of the things that have happened. He turned around everything that we know about the Church into something completely different. Why were people so upset by a story that described a fictional scenario of our history?


Flashforward is set in what is ment to be present day America. In early April 2009 a science experiment is being performed on the borders of several European countries in an attempt to create the Higgs boson. When an unknown variable affects the experiment the entire world blackouts for a two minutes and seventeen seconds. This is no ordinary blackout as the entire world sees a glimpse of the future for those two plus minutes. The people of the world see twenty-one years into their future. The unexpectedness of the blackouts causes millions of people to die from car crashes and several other unavoidable accidents. Several theories arise as to what caused the blackouts but all signs point to the CERN science campus and scientists Lloyd Simcoe and Theo Procopides. Theo has no flashforward and learns through the Mosaic Project, an online database where people can record there flashforwards and they can be linked to other peoples flashforwards, that he will be murdered just days before the day the flashforwards showed. This in turn engulfs his whole world. After trying to prove they were'nt the only reason for the flashforwards Lloyd and Theo try the experiment again in order find out what may have caused them. The recreation attempt fails but their original goal for the experiment, finding the Higgs boson, is finally discovered. Several days after the failed recreation attempt the cause of the flashforwards is determined. The cause is a burst of neutrinos from a star that had supernovaed that lasted the same amount of time as the flashforward. As the day approaches that everyone saw Lloyd and Theo learn that a burst of neutrinos will arrive on earth and they may be able to recreate the flashforwards. Will the flashforwards be recreated? Will Theo be murdered as he was told?

Discussion Questions
1) The recreation of the flashforwards is a very contriversial topic. Some feel they it should be done and others don't. Should they recreate it or only allow people, even those with no visions, to see the future once?
2) Antother topic of dissucsion was who caused it. Do you think that CERN was responsible for it or was it just a freak and tragic accident?

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

The Pearl by John Seinbeck is a a story about the way that fate shapes our lives, and how human greed can turn good motives into corrupted, materialistic desires that eventually lead to destruction. The story takes place in colonial Mexico, where the well-to-do Spanish colonists oppress and manipulate the native people, whom they view as ignorant and inferior to themselves. The story centers around Kino, one of these natives, who makes a meager living doing what his people have done for centuries, pearl diving. He and his wife Juana, and thier baby Coyotito life in a small brush house in a native village outside the colony of La Paz.
At the beginning of the story Kino is in love with his family, his people, and nature, and he cares deeply for all of these things. Suddenly disaster strikes his world when his infant son Coyotito is stung by a scorpion. Kino and Juana hurry to the local doctor, who refuses to help them because he knows they have no money to pay for treatment. But fate again intervenes in Kino's life, this time for the better when he finds "the Pearl of the World" (Steinbeck 21). Its is a huge, beautiful pearl and all the people of his village gather to see it. Hearing that he has found it, the doctor comes to his house and treats Coyotito for the scorpion sting. There is rejoicing and Kino announces what he will do with the money that he gets from selling it. He and Juana will be married in a church, his family will all have new clothes, he will have a rifle, and, most importantly, Coyotito will go to school.
But the pearl soon brings fear and unease. That nigt someone comes and tries to steal the pearl. Kino fights them off but does not know who it was. The next day Kino goes to town to sell the pearl. But the merchants take advantage of his ignorance and try to get him to sell it for very little money. Outraged, Kino says he will not sell his pearl to them, instead he will go to the capital to sell it there. But Juana is afraid that the pearl brings ill fortune and coruptiion. That night she takes the pearl and tries throw it out back into the sea, but Kino catches her and beats her in rage. At the same time three men come and try to steal the pearl. Kino fights them off, killing one. Afraid that he will be punished for murder, Kino, Juana, and Coyotito flee, with men tracking them right on their heels. They run to the desert, and after hiding in various places trying to elude the trackers, they find a water source, and hide the night in a cave nearby. The trackers soon catch up to them and make camp near the cave. Kino knows that they will be discovered in the morning, and he makes one last desperate attampt to get away and save the pearl, but this ultimately leads to the destruction of what he loves most.

Discussion Questions:
1. The pearl itself can be viewed in different ways. Is it a dark omen of evil or a beautiful stroke of luck corrupted by man's greed?

2.The story is full of chance events that symbolize the role that fate plays in our lives. Do you think that our lives are shaped purely by forces we can not control, or do we have a hand in controling our own lives by the way we respond to these chance events?

"Eragon" - Christopher Paolini

Eragon is a 15 year old farm boy who lives in a village called Carvahall, which is in the land called Alagaesia. Alagaesia was taken from an elite group called the Dragon Riders by an evil Rider by the name Galbatorix. One day as Eragon was hunting in a mountain range called the spine, a strange blue stone stone falls like a meteor from the sky. Eragon picks it up and takes it home in the hopes of being able to sell the strange stone. The local merchants refuse to buy the stone, so Eragon decides to keep it. One night, the stone started to crack, and out came a baby dragon. This comes as a big surprise because dragons were expected to be extinct. Eragon attempts to hide the dragon, but to no avail. Two fierce creatures called the Ra'zac raid Carvahall in search of the egg. Eragon tries to run, and is aided by the village storyteller Brom. They both journey to Teirm, in search of the Ra'zac to get revenge, where they learn that the Ra'zac are hiding in a mountain called Helgrind. They fly on Saphira (the name Eragon chose for his blue dragon) to Helgrind but find out they are trapped by the Ra'zac. Fortunately, a complete stranger named Murtagh saves them at the last possible moment. Although Brom dies in this brief battle, Eragon and Murtagh continue to travel in search of the Varden; a rebel group opposed to the evil king Galbatorix. They reach the Varden, but not before an army of orc-like creatures called Urgals catches up to them. The book ends with an epic battle between the Urgals and the Varden and is continued in book 2 of the series.

Discussion Questions:

1. Eragon wanted revenge on the Ra'zac for his father's death. What does this tell you about his character?
2. Since Eragon is the only Dragon Rider besides Galbatorix, what do you think his future responsibilities will be?