Friday, February 25, 2011

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Susie Salmon was a typical fourteen-year-old girl in December of 1973 when she was raped and murdered by her neighbor, Mr. Harvey, on her way home from school. The novel, narrated by Susie from her heaven, follows her family’s life after the murder and how each of them attempts to deal with losing her. Throughout the book Susie’s father, mother, sister Lindsey and brother Buckley all cope in various ways with Susie’s loss and the fact the her murderer never was found by the police. Though the road is very rocky and long, her death ultimately brings the family closer by the end of the novel. The best description of The Lovely Bones is from the New York Times saying the book is “a keenly observed portrait of familial love and how it endures and changes over time.”

Throughout the book, Susie watches her smart, strong younger sister, Lindsey, grow up. Lindsey constantly faces the looks and whispers about her, and becomes known as “the dead girl’s sister” throughout high school. She makes the boy’s varsity soccer team and graduates as valedictorian of her class. She and her boyfriend Samuel go to college together, and eventually get married and have a child by the end of the novel. Throughout the book, Lindsey also becomes a sort of cornerstone for the family. She is the strong one, and is always watching out for her little brother Buckley and her father. She deals with her loss of her sister and her best friend by taking care of the family, and often shutting her own feelings out.

For Susie’s mother, her death changes the way that she felt about the family and her role in it. She feels responsible for Susie’s death because she feels that it is punishment for never really wanting children. She realizes that all her life she compromised her own dreams for her family and she cannot deal with that. Susie says, “It was my father who grew toward us as the years went by; it was my mother who grew away” (153). She seeks to end her pain by escape. She has an affair with a police officer covering Susie’s murder case, and eventually abandons her family and goes to California for about three years, trying to find herself and rebuild her dreams. Eventually however, her family calls her home when Susie’s father has a narrow escape from death, and she returns home, trying to start over once again.

In many ways, Susie’s father is the hero of the novel. He and Susie had a very special bond, and for a while he sees her everywhere, especially in Lindsey. But he is strong for his family, and basically raises Lindsey and Buckley after his wife leaves. He struggles with himself because he feels that he is the reason she left, and that he could really never make her happy. But when she returns they both find renewed hope that they could rebuild their lives together, and he forgives her for leaving almost immediately.

As Susie watches all of this from her heaven she must deal with the fact that she can never see her family on earth again. She must let go of them, and go on into heaven, instead of being constantly attached to earth. As her family grows stronger throughout the novel and copes with her death, she in turn begins to be able o let go of them as well. Susie finally moves on to a place called “wide heaven” and leaves her family behind to live their lives. Still, at the end of the book, she says, “If I’m to be honest with you, I still sneak away to watch my family sometimes. I can’t help it, and sometimes they still think of me. They can’t help it,” (323).

1) Do you think Susie's mother is justified in abandoning her family and going to California because she had to cope with herself and her loss?

2) In the book Susie constantly watches her family and is very connected to life on earth. Do you personally believe that this life and whatever comes after death are connected, or totally separate? Do you think the dead are connected with life on earth?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Five People You Meet in Heaven

The book is about an old maintenance man named Eddie who works at the Ruby Pier amusement park. He spent his whole childhood playing at the amusement park with his friends and older brother. On one normal routine day, an amusement park ride malfunctions because of a loose wire. He did everything he could to fix the ride but his best was not good enough. The wire was cut off and the ride fell off its tracks. He then died suddenly while trying to save a girl from the falling amusement park ride. After he died, he was sent to Heaven where he meets five people that played some important part in his life. Each person he meets explains to Eddie how they died and the reason for encountering one another again. Each person had some kind of life lesson to teach Eddie. After he died, he realized the point of his life. Eddie did not have a good relationship with his drunken father who beat him. Eddie home from war one day and his father took a drunken swing at him. Eddie resisted by grabbing his father's arm and they never spoke again. A few years later his father died from pneumonia. Eddie's mother could not cope with the death of her husband so her and Eddie moved to the apartment where he grew up. Eddie has always wanted to be an engineer but his father thought differently and wanted Eddie to follow his footsteps and become a maintenance man. Eddie fell in love to a woman named Marguerite and soon after they were hitched. I can not say the five people Eddie met without ruining the story. The theme of The Five People You Meet in Heaven is it is a story of a man's journey to eternal piece after he struggled all his life.

1. If you were in Eddie's position, would you try to save the little girl's life even if you were risking your own?

2. Would you have done what Eddie did when his father took a drunken swing at him even if you knew you may never speak to him again?

The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks

The novel's main character, Logan Thibault is in war on a tour of duty overseas when he comes across a picture of a young woman standing in the middle of pine trees. He suddenly experiences some luck by surviving in combat and winning poker games with buddies. He met his best friend Victor while in combat over seas and once their tour is complete they separate but plan to meet again for a fishing trip.
Victor's only explanation for that sudden stroke of luck is the photograph. It seems like its Logan's lucky charm and he can not seem to get the young lady out of his head. His solution is to embark on a journey to find her. He walked day in and day out across the country. His search is stopped when he meets a young, divorced mother from a small town, Elizabeth.
The picture is kept a secret as their relationship grows. Logan is given a job from Elizabeth's Nana at the kernel and he finds a place to stay. Keith Clayton, Elizabeth's ex-husband threatens to ruin their relationship and he does not want Logan anywhere near their son, Ben. Clayton does not trust Logan at all. He begins sneaking around Logan's home and finding out as much information he can. Clayton becomes aware that Logan is hiding something and his secret now plays an important part in his relationship. Even though they are divorced Clayton does not let other guys into Elizabeth's life. If something becomes to serious, he will run the guys right out of her life and being a police officer makes that fairly simple.
Tension begins to grow, and Ben runs away into a storm... I can't give many more details without ruining the ending.

1) The photograph made a huge impact on Logan's life while overseas in Iraq. Do you think it is possible to have love at first sight from a picture?
2)Do you believe Clayton had a right to be meddling in Elizabeth's life like that. Do you think part of it was jealousy, even though they are divorced?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Late one night an apparition baring a striking resemblance to the recently deceased King Hamelet visits the Elsinore Castle. The watchmen and a scholar named Horatio quickly seek out the dead king's son, Prince Hamlet, and brings him to see the ghost who speaks to him. Prince Hamlet is told that the ghost is indeed his father and that he was murdered by his brother Claudius who later becomes king and marries the widowed queen. Before his father's spirit disappears, Hamlet is ordered to get revenge against Claudius for his injustices.

Hamlet dedicates himself to seeking revenge, but he is often delayed in his plans because of his contemplative and thoughtful behaviors. He becomes so melancholy that he seems to reach a certain level of madness. Claudius and Hamlet's mother worry for him and try to find a cause for his despair, using two of his friends to watch him. Around this time Polonius suggests that Hamlet is simply madly in love with his daughter Ophelia. Wanting to know if that is the truth, Claudius spies on one of their conversations but does not find any indication that Hamlet is in love with her.

Still trying to avenge his father, Hamlet comes up with an idea to test his uncle's guilt. A group of traveling actors come to Elsinore and Hamlet has them act out a play that closely resembles the way Claudius murdered his brother. He believes that if his uncle truly did kill his father, then he would react in some way. When the murder scene comes, Claudius leaves the room. Convinced of his uncle's guilt, Hamlet follows him to finally get revenge. However, he finds Claudius praying, and thinking it would send him to heaven, Hamlet waits to extract his revenge. Claudius, who is scared for his well-being, orders that Hamlet be sent to England.

Before he leaves, Hamlet goes to confront his mother but ends up accidentally killing Polonius. He is immediately sent to England with his two friends. What Hamlet does not know is that Claudius has a secret plot in which he demands that Hamlet be put to death in England. Ophelia, mad with grief over her father, drowns herself in the river.

Afterwards, Polonius' son Laertes comes back to find his family all dead. Claudius then convinces Laertes that Hamlet is to blame for all his misfortune. Hamlet ends up coming back because of pirates that attacked his ship and Claudius uses this opportunity to use Laertes desire for revenge to finally kill Hamlet. Claudius declares that Laertes and Hamlet have a fencing duel and to ensure that Hamlet dies, he poisons Laertes blade. As another precaution he poisons a goblet in case Hamlet wins. Hamlet comes back just as Ophelia's funeral is taking place. Grievous, he attacks Laertes and declares that he had always loved her.

The fight begins and Hamlet wins the first score. When Claudius offers him the goblet, he declines and instead his mother drinks from it, dying immediately. Laertes then wounds Hamlet but he does not die from the poison immediately. Laertes then wounds himself with his own sword and before dying, he tells Hamlet that Claudius is responsible for his mother's death as well. Hamlet soon stabs Claudius with the poisoned sword and forces him to drink all of the poisoned wine. Claudius dies and with his revenge full filled, Hamlet dies immediately after. The kingdom is then taken over by a man named Fortinbras, who after learning of Hamlet's story from Horatio, has the dead prince carried away in the manner of a fallen soldier.


1. Do you think Hamlet's revenge was justified? Should he have forgotten about it and just continued on with his life?

2. If Hamlet had not tried to get revenge, how do you think his life would have changed?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

No Limits by Michael Phelps

No Limits by Michael Phelps with Alan Abrahamson is a nonfictional book that chronicles Michael Phelp's life leading up to his eight Olympic gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. "I think that everything is possible as long as you put your mind to it and you put the work and time into it. I think your mind really controls everything" (117). Phelps went into detail about the sport of swimming and how you have to be mentally strong to be able to swim. People always think of swimming as being an easy sport, but it is actually one of the hardest sports in the world. People aren't just born good at swimming, to be really good you have to have that extra something, mental strength. Phelps then goes on to explain all of his training and the things he had to go through leading up to the Olympics.

1. "So many people along the way, whatever it is you aspire to do, will tell you it can't be done. But all it takes is imagination. You dream. You plan. You reach. There will be obstacles. There will be doubters. There will be mistakes. But with hard work, with belief, with confidence and trust in yourself and those around you, there are no limits." Do you think that anything is achievable in life? If you want something bad enough and are willing to work for it will you get it, or are some things not achievable?

2. "I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgement. I'm twenty-three years old and, despite the successes I've had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and irresponsible way, not in a manner people have come to expect form me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again" (237). Do you think it is right to judge Phelps for the illegal activities he was caught doing? Should people talk poorly about an entire sport because of one person's mistake?

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is a remarkable story about Jeannette’s life. She grew up with stubborn parents who were very poor and the family moved very often. They never had a place to call home. “We moved around like nomads. We lived in dusty little mining towns in Nevada, Arizona, and California. They were usually nothing but a tiny cluster of sad, sunken shacks, a gas station, a dry-goods store, and a bar or two” (19). Her father, Rex Walls was an alcoholic and would waste needed money on unnecessary items. “But Dad drank hard liquor only when we had money, which wasn’t often, so life was mostly good in those days” (23). However, when he was sober, he was a very smart and intelligent man. Her mother, Rose Mary Walls was a creative artist and enjoyed writing more then taking care of her four children. Jeannette lived through a rough life as a child. When money became short, the Walls family moved to West Virginia. Jeannette’s parents were not responsible enough to take care of a family so Jeannette and her siblings were forced to fend for themselves. She even managed to get a job and make her own money. After saving a lot of money in a safe, Jeannette found to her surprise that her father stole the money only to waste it on alcohol. The kids realized that it was not safe for them to live with their parents. Their mother and father could no longer provide good food to eat or clothes to wear. Jeannette’s older sister Lori was the first to escape. Soon, Jeannette and her other siblings moved to New York to join Lori. Jeannette did very well in High School and ended up at Barnard College. Even though the four children lived through a rough childhood that was hard to live through, they all managed to stay strong and pull through.

1. Despite everything, Jeannette Walls refuses to condemn her parents. If you were living in Jeannette’s shoes, how would you feel living with parents who did not take care of you? What actions would you take in order to take care of yourself? Would you still honor your parents?

2. As Jeannette grew older and lived in New York she still kept very close touch with her parents. They too later moved down to New York. If you were Jeannette would you still want to be close with your parents? Why?

Wherever Nina Lies

Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten is about a girl named Ellie Wringley who has a missing sister, Nina. Ellie tries to find Nina many times but fails. One day Ellie goes to her friend Amanda's work, The Attic. While there Ellie finds a book with a picture in it that Nina drew. The picture has a phone number on it. Ellie and Amanda call the number and learn that the guy has parties all the time at a big house called Mothership. Ellie remembers that Nina used to go to these parties all the time. So Ellie and Amanda go to Mothership. At the party Ellie tries to find Nina and asks people if they know her. Nina meets a boy, Sean. While talking to Sean, Ellie sees the guy that she had talked with on the phone. The guy is not helpful and makes Ellie mad. She runs upstairs and takes a sledgehammer; the party is a destruction party. Ellie hits the wall and the next thing she knows is the house is burning to the ground.

The next day Sean finds Ellie at her work. Sean takes Ellie home. Ellie tells Sean about Nina. He tells her that his brother died and he would love to help Ellie find Nina because there is nothing he can do to help his brother. Ellie and Sean find a credit card of Nina's and go online to see what she bought with it. One purchase was a snowboard and the other purchase was a breakfast at a diner, Sweetie's in Nebraska. Ellie and Sean go to Nebraska.

When they get to Sweetie's there is a tour bus in the parking lot. Ellie goes to the bathroom which is covered in Sharpie drawings. Ellie sees a drawing of a boy and a bus with the writting Cakey <3's J and the bus number 257. Cakey was Nina's nickname. Ellie runs out and tells Sean. The bus in the parking lot has the number 257. So Ellie and Sean follow the bus.

The bus takes them to Denver. In Denver Ellie sees a sign that says, "Get a tattoo at Bijoux Ink. 2740 Colfax Avenue" (157). Ellie and Nina had an imaginary dog named, Bijoux. They go to Bijoux Ink and find a picture of Nina and a band. Ellie takes the picture and they go to Bottom Forty, a music store. There they meet Jamie and Jamie. The Jamies tell them that the band is The Monsterhands and they are having a concert in Phoneix in the Spit Pavillion. Ellie, Sean and the Jamies go to Phoneix.

When they get there Ellie goes and talks to the band. To get in she tells the guard she is Nina. The band tells Ellie that the last time they saw Nina was when they dropped her off at a house in Big Sur with a snowboard. Ellie goes to find Sean and tells him.

On their way to Big Sur they stop at a gas station. Sean tells Ellie he hired a privatae investigator and the investigator told him Nina was dead. Ellie doesn't believe him. She screams and cries. Instead of going to Big Sur, they stop at a hotel. Ellie wakes up in the morning and remembers what strange things happened that night. She remembers tracing scars on Sean and him putting a breifcase in the back of a closet. Ellie askes Sean to get her a salad for breakfast. While he is gone she finds the briefcase and the combination is Cakey.

1. Do you think Ellie finds Nina?

2. If your sibling went missing would you try to find him/her to such extremes as Ellie did? (Ellie's mom didn't help her in finding Nina. Everytime she would ask her mom for help her mom would tell her to stop).