Thursday, December 9, 2010

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by: Jeff Lindsay

At first glance, Dexter Morgan seems to be as average as anyone could possibly be. He has a job as a blood spatter pattern analyst for the Miami Police, a good relationship with his girlfriend and her two kids, and a wonderful bond with his sister, Deborah. Though Dexter appears to be a normal gentlemanly guy, he has a dark secret: he leads a double life as a serial killer.
The book begins with Dexter on one of his killing sprees, after the "Dark Passenger", which is what drives him to kill people, takes over his body and mind. However, Dexter is unlike most serial killers in the fact that he only kills people who have committed horrible crimes and not been caught or punished for them. For this reason, in the beginning of the novel, Dexter is killing Father Donovan, a priest who has murdered seven children. Once Dexter has killed someone, the Dark Passenger leaves his body and he returns to his normal life.
Dexter is completely aware of the monster that he is, and goes to great lengths to cover up his murders and be a seemingly normal guy. In the novel, Dexter talks about how he lacks normal human emotions and has covered up for any peculiarities towards him with acting through meetings with people by faking charm and feelings. Dexter's sister, who is not his real sister and is the closest person to him, has no idea of Dexter's other life either. The only person to ever learn of what Dexter was, was his adoptive father Harry. When Dexter was a kid, Harry found out about his murdering of animals, and knew that people would soon be next. Harry told Dexter that he can control the Dark Passenger, and could choose who he wanted to kill. Ever since, Dexter adopted Harry's philosophy and thus only kills those who deserve it.
The Miami Police start finding a bunch of women murdered throughout the following weeks, and they all point to one person committing this horrible crime, they just do not know who the killer is. Specifically, when the police finds a body, it is cut into pieces and no blood is found anywhere. For some reason, Dexter becomes intrigued by the killer's murdering style and goes to all the crime scenes even though he isn't permitted to be at crime scenes without blood. Dexter soon is wanting to find the serial killer himself, since the police has no leads and are taking all the wrong steps to get there. Dexter starts going out at night following the Dark Passenger and where it tells him to go. However, the killer is smarter than he seems and now he's dropping Dexter clues as to where he can find him. Dexter decides not to tell the police about the killer's clues and find him himself, but it isn't easy for Dexter to cover up his trail towards the killer when his fellow coworkers become suspicious of his behavior.

1.) In the novel, Dexter learns that there are many other people like him with Dark Passengers that drive them to kill. He even finds one in the form of a nurse, and suspects that his coworker may be one too. How would you feel if someone you thought was able to be trusted was committing murders due to a force inside them?

2.) The serial killer in this novel, leaves Dexter plenty of clues that tell on how to find him. Dexter decides to take matters into his own hands and go to the killer alone without informing the police. Do you think that Dexter should have dropped his interest in the serial killer and told the police? Or do you think he was not doing anything wrong since the killer was giving Dexter the clues and not the police?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Siddhartha, a young man, lives with his father, friend (Govinda) and other Brahmin (scolars/priests) somewhere in ancient India. Though Siddhartha performs all the rituals and follows everything his religion says for attaining happiness and peace, he feels dissatisfied.
Not much later, a group of acetic monks called Samanas comes to town and Siddhartha feels that he would learn more from them than from the Brahmin. So he coaxes his father to let him and Govinda travel with the Samanas and his . The Samanas teach him that to achieve happiness he must reject physical desire and lose your “Self.” By fasting and meditating he no longer resembles the boy he used to be.
Siddhartha quickly realizes that all the fasting and meditation is only a temporary means to losing one’s self, so he and Govinda leave to find Gotama, the Illustrious One. Siddhartha speaks with Gotama and figures that there is no way to teach enlightenment; that it must be experienced, so he must find his own way to enlightenment and not follow a teacher.
Siddhartha finds a friendly ferryman, content with a simple life. The ferryman takes him across a river, and Siddhartha finds his way to a city where he is infatuated by a beautiful courtesan named Kamala. He convinces her to teach him the ways of love, but only if he proves that he can fit in with the material world, so she sets him up with a job with a merchant, Kamaswami. Years pass as Siddhartha leads a life of debauchery with gambling, sex and drinking.
When Siddhartha is around his mid-life, he realizes that the material life he is leading is slowly killing him, so he leaves Kamaswami, Kamala and his empty life without warning. Siddhartha wanders to a river and considers suicide, but instead falls asleep. Govinda passes by with his fellow Buddhist monks and does not realize the sleeping man is Siddhartha but still watches over him to protect him from snakes. Siddhartha wakes up and greets his old friend, but both of them must be on their way.
Siddhartha seeks out the ferryman that took him across the river earlier and finds him. His name is Vasuveda and he tells Siddhartha that he attained inner peace by studying the river. He allows Siddhartha to live and work beside him. Siddhartha studies the river and is able to contemplate the unity of the world and hears the river speak the word Om, a Brahmin word of peace.
Years later, Kamala and the son she had with Siddhartha are making a voyage to Gotama, who is now dying. Kamala gets bitten by a snake and although Vasuveda and Siddhartha tried to save her, she dies. At her deathbed she confesses that her son is Siddhartha’s.
Siddhartha tries to console his son, but the son is disrespectful and eventually runs away to the city. Siddhartha goes after him, but realizes that his son must do this to find his own enlightenment.
Siddhartha meditates by the river for many years and has a revelation on how everything is a cycle in life. Vasuveda realizes that he has nothing left to teach Siddhartha and retires to the forest, leaving Siddhartha to be the ferryman.
Many years pass, and Govinda finds Siddhartha’s river while in search of a wise man that someone had told him about. Govinda realizes that he is talking to Siddhartha and that Siddhartha has attained enlightenment. Govinda asks Siddhartha to tell him everything he knows, but Siddhartha explains how enlightenment cannot be explained verbally because words do not do enlightenment justice. Instead Siddhartha tells Govinda to kiss him on the forehead, and when Govinda does, Siddhartha’s wisdom and experience of unity is communicated to Govinda.

Discussion Questions:
1) Do you think Siddhartha's lived his life to the fullest (carpe diem, anyone)?

2) Do you think what happened between Siddhartha and his son was karma for what Siddhartha did to his father?

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner By Stephenie Meyer

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner is a novella from The Twilight Saga: Eclipse by Stephenie Myer. The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner is about a newborn vampire girl that was recently bitten by Victoria. Victoria bit Bree because Victoria is creating an army of vampires to attack the Cullen family. Victoria has a vendetta against Edward Cullen, because he killed Victoria's mate. So Victoria creates an army to get revenge.

Bree has been a vampire for 3 months and she makes friends with Diego. They go hunting together and become friends. Diego is an older vampire. There are many vampires in Victoria's army. They all live in one house. But they keep moving so people don't find them and because the "gangs" in the house keep burning the houses down. Bree is not in these "gangs". She keeps to herself as much as possible, but does start to trust Diego. The vampires move to a log cabin which is different from their typical homes. It is futher away from the city. When the "gangs" are fighting, Bree sits by a man named Fred. He doesn't talk much. He has special skills. He can repulse everyone. That keeps them out of his way (and Bree's since she stays near him). When "gangs" begin to fight he repulses them and makes everyone leave so the fighting stops.

The story is mostly about what Bree is observing and experiencing. The only person she talks to is Diego and towards the end of the book Fred. When Bree and Diego go hunting they follow Riley, the leader of the army. Riley goes to Victoria's house. Diego and Bree overhear Riley and Victoria's conversation. They are talking about the fight that they are going to start with the Cullens. Then the Volturi come and tell Victoria if she doesn't start the fight soon they are going to kill her. When Riley leaves, Diego goes and talks to him and Bree goes back to the house. Riley comes back but Diego never does. Bree is very sad, but she thinks he is still out there. Riley begins to train the "troops". Riley leads the vampires to attack, but Riley and Victoria flee once at the battle grounds. Fred tells Bree to go a different way so she doesn't have to fight. She listens to Fred. Fred goes to Vancourver, he says she could come with him, but she wants to find Diego.

When Bree reaches the fighting grounds she sees wolves and the Cullens killing all of her "team". Bree hides in the forest. She is attacked by Carlisle, so she surrenders to the Cullens. Carlisle talks to Bree and then the Volturi come. The Volturi talk to Bree but she doesn't talk. They ask her questions about Victoria and Riley, but she doesn't say anything. The Volturi gets mad. " "Don't watch," the redheaded mindreader(Edward) whispered. I closed my eyes"(179).

1. Riley and Victoria lie to the "newborns" about many aspects of being a vampire (for example, they scare them into believing they will burn in daylight. In the book, we learn this is a myth.) They instill fear in them so that they can keep them and build an army to destroy the Cullens. Do you think fear or trust is the best way to rally people together for a cause?

2. Bree, Diego, and Fred were a few of the "smarter" newborns. They distrusted Riley at times. They began to question some of his teachings and think for themselves. Fred was able to escape. Diego and Bree were not as fortunate. Is it better to think and fight for yourself or to blindly follow "authority" and fight for what you are told?

The Street Lawyer

The Street Lawyer by John Grisham tells the story of a big time lawyer turned defender of the homeless. Michael Brock is on the fast track in life and on his way to being a partner at one of the biggest firms in the country, Drake & Sweeney. On his way to the office one morning a homeless man gets the elevator with him and follows him to work. Soon after while Mike is in a conference with eight other lawyers the homeless man returns and takes them all hostage. The man identified only as Mister has a loaded gun and what appears to be dynamite around his waist. He keeps all of the men bound together by rope and against the wall for hours. Mike is his messanger and when he has Mike leave the room the police have a sniper outside the door ready to kill Mister. As Mike bends down to pick something up the sniper takes out Mister. While in the room before his death he asks all of the lawyers how much they make a year and how do they donated to the homeless directly. All reveal their earnings and say they donated hardly anything of they donated anything at all. This brings new thoughts into Mike's mind about helping the homeless. A few days after the shooting Mike finds the 14th Street Legal Clinic and goes in to find out what they do and looks for some advice. He meets with Mordecai Greens at this meeting and he tells him all that he wants to hear. A few days after this meeting Mordecai calls on Mike to come and help at homeless shelter. He accepts and meets a family that he will never forget. This family is a single mother with four children who Mike becomes attached to. He gives them food and plans to give them other things the next day but will not get the chance to because they die that night in their car from carbon monoxide while trying to stay warm. This is the tiping point for Mike and he decides to leave the firm and go work at the 14th Street Legal Clinic but not before he does something that could change his life. He takes a file from his old firm describing an illegal eviction at a warehouse bought by the TAG group that was being sold to the postal service. These evictions forced Mister, the family and 15 other people back onto the streets. Mordecai and Mike sue Drake & Sweeney for $10 million for the wrongful eviction and the deaths of the mother and four children. While they are doing this Mike's old firm and the D.C. police make numerous attempts to find the missing file. Because of the theft of this file two people have been fired and Mike's law license is at stake if he does not turn over the file. The debate about the file and what would happen to Mike go on for a long time and the file is a crucial part of reaching a settlement with Drake & Sweeney who are terrified of trail. Will Mike turn the file over to help preserve his reputation and save his career? Will Drake & Sweeney do what it takes to avoid an embarresing trail and save their reputation?
1. If you were in Mike's position would you turn over the file to preserve your career or would you hold onto it and help do what you think is right?
2. If you were in Mike's situation would you make a career change because of one freak incident?

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins is the second story in the Hunger Games series. It is about a girl named Katniss and takes place in North America some time in the future. Katniss has won the Hunger Games along with her on and off lover Peeta which angers the President of North America who sees this as a rebellion against his dictatorship. He gives Katniss an ultimatum she must convince him that her bold defiant move was really because they were in love and not just so they could survive and thus begins the story. Katniss must journey to North America's districts on the winners tour with Peeta to try and convince the President of their innocence. However, this plan fails and they are thrust back into the Hunger Games and must once again fight for there lives in the arena. Katniss and Peeta are able to survive long enough to put their rescue plan into effect and they are airlifted to District 13 which was thought to be destroyed but really was now a secret rebbelion center. The story ends here with Katniss about to be debriefed on how to overthrow the President's dictatorship and restore democracy to the world.

Do you think Katniss will succeed?

Will district 13 be able to overthrow the entire country?