Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas Jars

Although the comments have said it was a quick read, it still took me longer to read than I care to admit! I have been so busy trying to get Christmas ready and doing the day to day mom stuff that by the time I had a spare moment to read it was late and I would read about 10 pages and fall asleep! But I so enjoyed it! I finished it on Christmas Adam (you know Adam came before Eve so it is the day before :)) And I, like Sarah, cried! I love a good read that I am not expecting the end and it makes me tear up. I loved that for Hope it came full circle, starting with an abandonded baby that was found and taken in, loved and then found herself alone again on Christmas Eve only to have her Mom find her and the cycle repeats. (Oh and here is a plug for family traditions that don't die, then people KNOW where to find you!) I felt inspired after reading this and wanted to start my own Christmas Jar, but plastic money doesn't work to put into a jar....and we are also living the poor student life and so this year opted to give a toy to Toys4Tots. I know that it wasn't much, but my 2 year old picked out a toy that she would want and then we took it to a drop off spot, I tried to explain to her what it meant, but I am sure she didn't really understnad, but after reading this book I felt that children take in more than we give them credit for. They know when someone is in need, even if they cannot see it, they sense it. So thanks for chosing this book, it truly helped me to get into the Christmas spirit. And I thought it was amazing that the author commented on the blog--woohoo!!! :)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Thought I'd take a minute and share a thought or two about Christmas Jars. I've read it a couple of times; it's such a quick read and always enjoyable and inspiring, like Sarah noted.

I love the progression of the story. How it starts with an abandoned baby and ends with a reunion, with Hope (both as the girl and otherwise) centering the story. I love how the Maxwell family started the tradition of the jar as a way to save money for Christmas gifts for their own family and how the jar evolved into a way to help others in need, be it financial, emotional, or however. And I love how it comes full circle. The Maxwell's didn't give their jars away with any desire for recognition or something in return, and they never imagined that it would be a tradition adopted by those they helped. But they did receive something in return, long before the jars found their way back. The true spirit of Christmas, a joy of giving, a focus on something other than themselves.

I think my favorite part of the book is that the jars helped people think about Christmas every single day throughout the year. So often the entire reason for Christmas is lost with the commercialization, the rush, the spending frenzy. It's easy to forget the reason. A perfect baby, born in unfavorable circumstances and laid in a manger, who brought Hope, Light, and Life with his birth.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Jars

I finished the book Christmas Jars. Seriously, I think it only took me a few hours. Cory went outside to shovel us out of the mounds of snow, and I had finished a little more than half the book by the time he was done shoveling. Of course, he loves to shovel and spends more time that the average person ... but still ... it's definitely a quick read.

Anyways, I digress. What an awesome book to read right before Christmas! It was so uplifting! Of course, I cried through the last 1/3 of the book, but it was so good. And so inspiring.

I was thinking maybe Cory & I could adopt the tradition of doing our own Christmas jar. Then, practical me, I realized we never have cash - so I would never have any change. In a world of plastic, I never carry cash. So doing a 'Christmas Jar' isn't really feasible for us.

Then I got to thinking ... we could do something else, similar to a Christmas jar. I remember years ago, my dad had just been laid off his job (right before Christmas, too). Things were tough - we went to the Bishop's storehouse to get some food and Christmas presents weren't happening that year. Anyways, long story made short - some boxes filled with food and presents appeared on our doorstep one night. There was a couple of presents for all us kids (I got the most beautiful little necklace) and lots of food. It was the most wonderful thing! I was young at the time, but that feeling has stuck with me ever since that night. I remember standing there, looking at all the food and wearing my necklace, and I was so grateful.

And so, my point is, that while Cory & I aren't going to be able to do a 'Christmas jar' like was done in the book, it reminded me that we can bless others' lives in different ways. There's always a million different ways to 'give back' this holiday season - from Sub-for-Santas, to the Salvation Army kettle, to leaving a box of food on your neighbor's doorstep. While Cory & I are definitely living the 'poor college kids' lifestyle, we have much to be thankful for. This book reminded me of that, and I'm definitely recommending it to everyone I know.

Merry Christmas everyone!!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Kid-Safe Books...

Hi, I'm Sarah's friend Brett, from NJ. This is my first time posting on here, and usually I'll stay more on topic, but I found something that I thought everyone here would be interested in, and while it's about media in general, it's definitely applicable to books. Sorry for the length, when I start typing, sometimes I can't stop. (P.S. I hope Sarah doesn't block me from posting any more as a result of this). ;-)

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Movie ratings drive me bonkers... as my wife Erin and I discuss movies and what is/will be appropriate for our children, we've got a hard and fast limit; no rated-R movies in our home, period. After that, things get a little hazy. The ratings system is just too vague.

How great of a movie is The Incredibles!?! It's PG because it's got some violence, but I personally wouldn't be concerned about a five or six year old watching it; on the other hand, have you ever seen Antz? Antz is also rated PG, but there are dozens of swear words in the movie. I certainly wouldn't want the same child who's just old enough to watch The Incredibles to also be watching Antz.

As for PG-13 movies, there are some that I would be fine with having an 11 or 12 year old watch with me, and then there are others that in my opinion deserved an R-rating and shouldn't be watched at all (while the kids are under my roof at least).

Having lived with this frustration for quite a while, and having discussed with Erin what we could possibly do, I think I may finally have an answer. I found a website today that is much more clear than the (lame) MPAA rating system, and certainly more specific. Please keep in mind that everything from here on is based solely on my brief review of the site as of finding it earlier today... by no means have I looked at every aspect of the site.

Common Sense Media

Pros for the site:

- The site has a solid list of movies with very specific age ratings (year by year). The Incredibles - deemed appropriate for kids 5+; Antz - deemed appropriate for kids 8+. And on top of the movie ratings, there are also ratings for TV Shows, books, websites, games, and music.

A search on J. K. Rowling books shows the following:

Books 1-3: Ages 9+
Books 4-5: Ages 10+
Book 6: Ages 11+
Book 7: Ages 12+
Tales of Beedle the Bard: Ages 10+
Fantastic Beasts/Quidditch Through the Ages: Ages 9+

I don't know if I'd put exactly those ages on each book (I haven't put quite that much thought into it), but that's pretty dang close and follows appropriately the increased intensity as the series progresses.

What about Twilight? Books 1-2 are a clear Age 13+, books 3-4 are an iffy Age 13+.

- The site also links in what it considers to be relevant news articles and includes advice for parents when dealing with kids and media. Each review also includes potential discussion points for parents and their kids based on messages the media seems to be sending.

- One of the other things I like about the site is that it's ultimately answerable to the public. The site has an investment in constant improvement, if they begin to let users down, users will go somewhere else. I believe that the monopolistic MPAA ratings system has outlived it's usefulness and it will be something like this site that will replace it.

- Each review has some detail, outlining language or violence or sexuality. I used to use Screenit.com for this, but the 'outlines' were just too descriptive. The outlines on this site are straightforward, but don't include enough detail to be offensive if you're looking at a questionable movie. In other words, I wouldn't have wanted my kids browsing Screenit.com, but I don't think I'd have a problem with them browsing this site.

- Finally, I think this site could potentially create excellent avenues of discussion between you and your child. If the child is coming to see you about each book they're reading and each movie they're seeing, you're much more in the loop, making it more likely that your kids won't accidentally see inappropriate material and more likely that if they do they'll be able to come talk to you about it. It may be tedious at times for them and for you, but to me it's a small price to pay to make sure I'm a solid component in my child's media consumption.


Cons for the site:

- The selection of reviews is relatively small. They've got all 4 Twilight books, but not Meyer's The Host (which by the way was also excellent). I'm sure you'll have more luck with more popular media while more obscure selections will probably prove less likely to be included (though hopefully that will become less and less of a problem as the site grows, and I noticed that you can request a specific review).

The media count based on my quick look today is as follows:

Movies: 3067
TV Shows: 1923
Books: 1486
Websites: 502
Games: 981
Music: 1035

- Also, obviously each child develops at different speeds and each child can appropriately cope with different subjects at different ages. That being said, the age ratings for the media on the site will have to be adjusted based on the child in question. It would be really awesome if the site gave an option to auto-adjust ratings; say I wanted to be more strict with my kids, I could theoretically enter my desired adjustment, 'add 2 years to each rating', and thus see the new age appropriateness for that specific child... just an idea, not something I've seen on the site (though I emailed them, making the suggestion).

- Finally, I can't seem to find the criteria used to select ratings (seems like it's only available for registered educators, a complaint I included in my email); this is one of my big complaints for the MPAA; the MPAA has vague explanations available, but to me it's not nearly enough. Hopefully user demand will push the site to publish its criteria for assigning age ratings. It may be that the only thing holding them back is legal issues; maybe they don't want someone else stealing their ratings formula and then starting up a competing site? Maybe they can copyright their method? Not sure.


Overall, I'm glad that I've found the site. I've added it to my personal links, and I hope that they continue to grow and improve so that I can start to rely on the ratings as Aeriana (my daughter - almost 1 year old) gets older. One final comment that probably goes without saying is that no ratings system will ever be able to replace an attentive parent. I would hope that no one would ever use this site as an end-all source of what's appropriate for their child. Nothing beats one-on-one discussions and attention for good parenting, but I'm all for getting a little help.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Book for December

Well, as of right now, there are no comments on The Secret Life of Bees (including no comment from yours truly, though I did finish the book). I know that the holiday season gets really busy for everyone, but we're still going to do a book for the month of December, albeit a short and easy read. The book is:
Christmas Jars by Jason F Wright

If you read The Secret Life of Bees (either this time around, or sometime in the past) go and make a comment. The post isn't going anywhere, so we've got lots of time for some discussion.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Discussion on The Secret Life of Bees

Here's some discussion questions for The Secret Life of Bees (questions found here):
  1. How would you describe Lily's feelings about her mother? Did they change throughout the novel? How did hearing that her mother left her affect her perception of her mother?

  2. Do you believe T-Ray's account of what happened when Lily's mother died?

  3. Did your opinion of T-Ray change when August told Lily about how much he used to love her mother? Does Deborah's abandonment explain or excuse T-Ray?

  4. Do you agree with Lily that people would rather die than forgive? Does she forgive her mother? T-Ray? Herself?

  5. What do the bees mean to the story? What is "the secret life of bees?"

  6. Do you think race was portrayed realistically in The Secret Life of Bees? What do you think Sue Monk Kidd was saying about race in this novel?

  7. Why did Rosaleen spit on the men's shoes? What are the ways the characters in the novel confront injustice? How do you think we should deal with injustice? Do these kinds of prejudices still exist today?

  8. What was your reaction to Lily's relationship with Zach? What do you think happened to them in the future?

  9. Talk about the sisters. Who was your favorite? Do we all need a wailing wall, like May? Why do you think June was cold toward Lily? How would you describe August?

  10. What role did the Black Madonna play in their community? What do you think about the legend of the Black Madonna?

  11. Rate The Secret Life of Bees on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being low and 5 being high).
Obviously, you don't need to answer all of these questions, but leave a comment on as many as you would like. Or just leave a general comment - anything to spark some discussion. I thought the book made for a very interesting read.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Interview with Meyer

Here's an interview with Stephenie Meyer. It gives me hope that Midnight Sun is not dead ... just shelved for a while! I love love love Stephenie and can't wait to read whatever she comes out with next!

http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20234559_20234567_20238527,00.html

Monday, October 27, 2008

Book for November

Our book for November is:
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.

I read this book a long time ago and I remember basically nothing. I do remember it was good ... and it had bees in it ... other than that, I'm drawing a blank. I think it will be a good one to discuss amongst ourselves. Happy reading!!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Thoughts Exactly

This is an article written by Shannon Hale (most of you know how much I love her) and it pretty much sums up my feelings exactly.

http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/index.asp?layout=talkBackCommentsFull&articleid=CA6600686&talk_back_header_id=6558881

It's not that I don't like the classics (I do, promise) but this explains why I love books like Shannon's or the Twilight Series. I love the stories and characters. I can devour Twilight a million times (and I am getting close to that :) because of the story in the book. That's the whole reason I fell in love with reading in the first place. (And yeah, I read Nancy Drew under the covers, too)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

the curious incident of the dog in the night-time

Well, once again, I agree with everything Carly said in her book review. I also loved the description of "special needs." I also cheered when Christopher overcame some of his fears and managed to find his mother. Well said, Carly.

A few more things to add - it did feel like the book was actually written by someone with autism. I don't personally know anyone with autism and I confess to not knowing that much about the disease. It was very interesting to read all about how his mind worked. When something happened in the book that would elicit feelings, Christopher followed it up with a chapter on something factual - like the constellations or a math problem.

And yes, I did like the math problems in the book. That comes from being a "math geek." I thought all the information in the book was really interesting.

It must be so hard for families who have autistic children. Bravo to them! While I didn't appreciate some of the language Christopher's father used, you could tell that he loved his son very much and would do anything for him. I was glad to see that by the end of the book, Christopher and his father were getting along better. I thought it was clever of him to suggest rebuilding their trust as a "project" to do together. Very clever, since it's so rational - which is exactly the way Christopher's mind works.

A very interesting book - cleverly written and pretty inspiring. I'm glad we could read this one together.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

I finished this book a couple of days ago and I've been trying to think of something intelligent to say about it. I hadn't heard about it at all before, so I enjoyed reading something completely new to me. While reading I discovered that it is on the list of the National Endowment for the Art's top 100 books. I don't agree with all of their choices (I hate Catcher In The Rye - anyone else?) but figured it was worth checking out.

The first thing I noticed in this book was that the chapters were prime numbers. The main character and narrator, Christopher, has some version of autism and is very good with numbers. I am not. (I was pleased to recognize the prime numbers before he explained them!) I did my best to follow his explanations of mathematical and logical problems, but I admit to skipping over some of the paragraphs involving formulas, quadratic equations, or similar. I don't know the value of N, I never will, and it makes my brain hurt to think about it. (Sarah admits to being a "math geek" - her words not mine. I wonder if she could figure them out?)

I found Christopher's narrative to be very interesting and quite funny at times. His description of "special needs" was great; by Christopher's definition we all have special needs. I liked the way he justified his actions, explaining why he did something or didn't like a certain situation but did so without apologizing for his choices. And I inwardly cheered for him when he managed to temporarily overcome his very real fears of new places, strangers, and stimulation to get where he wanted to go. He is definitely an unlikely hero but I found it reassuring that, with perseverance, he could accomplish what for him is a major task. And if he can do it, so can I.

The author did a wonderful job of creating his narrator. We see what Christopher sees, and we understand more because his mind does not process all of the information in the same way. The way the book is written, complete with run-on sentences and descriptions that are literal facts from Christopher's perspective, gives the impression that what you are reading is a novel written by someone with autism. I liked the way he used different fonts and elements important to his narrator (math, lists, diagrams) to tell Christopher's story.

So, in short, very cleverly written and unexpectedly inspiring.

Brisingr

I finished Brisingr (twice) and I liked it. I was initially disappointed when Paolini announced he intended to write a book 4, instead of his originally planned trilogy. I was anxious to find out what happens with the characters and the storyline. This book satisfied some of my curiosity, but it does leave me wanting book 4. I hope he finishes it soon! (though I think it’s still going to be a couple of years …)

Some general observations, free of specific spoilers:
• Paolini’s writing has improved. Obviously, he’s no longer 15 years old, as he was when he wrote Eragon. Thus, he’s matured, and consequently, so has his writing. Though he is still very descriptive – lots and lots of details.
• The characters in the book also mature. Eragon matures quite a bit, as does Roran, Arya, and Saphira.
• The book is bloodier than the first 2. There’s more fighting and more bloodshed as the armies of the Varden and Galbatorix collide. Innocent men, forced into serving Galbatorix, are hewn down. The whole of Alagaesia is thrown into an all-out war.
• Paolini is finding his own style – he still borrows from other well-known fantasy novels, but I feel like this one is more his own. He comes up with a couple of things that are quite unique to this book (can’t say more, it would spoil the book).

All in all, The Inheritance Series is one I would recommend to other people, for their reading pleasure … esp if they like fantasy, but even if they don’t like fantasy (like me).


Now for some specific spoilers, so stop reading if you haven’t read the book (or its predecessors):






• Agh! Oromis and Glaedr die! So sad! When the 4 of them departed Ellesmera together, I expected that Oromis and Glaedr would die eventually … but I was not expecting it to be so soon! I figured they would be killed in book 4 … not so soon after they all parted! And to be killed in such an underhanded, sneaky way upset me. I mean, I know it was in battle … but ugh, I’m still upset. Aaah, it made me very sad to see them die! And they didn’t even finish off Murtagh and Thorn. Grrr!
• Ergaon & Arya’s relationship. Arya has started to open up to Eragon; she's becoming open to the idea that she could potentially love him. I think she is uncertain of her feelings for him, or perhaps unsure of the depth of her feelings for him. She is definitely fond of him and has some affection for him. I don't think she actually loves (let's have children together and all) him yet, but she is developing a rather deep affection … an affection that will be love in book 4?? I think so.
• And what about Sloan? Was Eragon right not to kill him? I felt so bad for him; I almost think Eragon should have killed him … but it wasn’t his place to meet out a punishment.
• I thought it was a little slow in the middle. Sending Eragon to Farthen Dur (sp??) to sway the dwarves’ vote (though YEA for King Orik!) … the long and detailed description of how Eragon’s new blade was made (though it turned out to be kick-butt … I just didn’t want all the forging details) …

Predictions for book 4:
• Well, Eragon and Saphira are going to kill Galbatorix. Duh! It’s not going to be easy, somehow they will have to separate him from all his dragon hearts … but it’s going to happen. I have a feeling Elva will somehow play a role …
• The last dragon egg will hatch, mature, and will eventually become Saphira’s mate.
• The last dragon egg will hatch for Arya, making her the last Rider.
• I’m undecided on this one – but I think that possibly the Dragon Riders will be no more. Eragon, Saphira, Saphira’s mate/Arya’s dragon will all leave Alagaesia. You know, it will be the classic "humans have risen above the need for supernatural heroes, now the average man will have to become a hero …" with the average man represented by Roran.
• Arya and Eragon will wed … or maybe not wed, but fall in love and sail off together, leaving Alagaesia forever. This fulfills the last part of Angela’s prophesy about Eragon’s future.
• Roran and Katrina can finally go home and settle without fear of the empire. It would be extremely heartless if Paolini killed them off in book 4. Man, I would be so upset … although, maybe Roran will die (or Katrina?) and “when all seems lost” Eragon will go to the Vault of Souls and retrieve Roran’s soul? Somehow that last part of Solembum’s prediction is going to have to come true. Or … maybe Arya will die and Eragon will go retrieve her soul??

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Twilight Poster & Trailer

*Edited 10/10/08*

I had to add the link to the newest movie trailer ... seriously, I swooned. People don't ever swoon anymore, but man, I did. It's brilliant!! It looks amazing!
http://www.twilightthemovie.com/ecard_widget/

GAH! Sorry people, but I couldn't resist. LOOK at this poster! OH MY!!!!! I'm not going to make it, waiting 44 more days. The wait just might kill me ... (click on it to make it bigger ... yum!)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Book for October

For the month of October, we are going to be reading:
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

I've been wanting to read it for a while, and I know it's been read by other book clubs. Does anyone have a problem with this book?

Oh and in case no one noticed, I've added the "labels" function to our book blog. I've gone back and edited most of the posts to include labels, but I haven't done all of them ... so if I missed one one of your posts (don't take it personally) then feel free to go back and add a label to a past post. This will make it much easier to search back through the posts on similar topics. Labels are pretty self explanatory, but if you have questions, let me know. Keep in mind that if I use "Stephenie Meyer" as my label and you use "Stephenie" it will be under different sections. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but keep it in mind. Happy reading!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Eragon & Eldest

I’ve finished re-reading Eragon and Eldest in my preparation for the release of Brisingr. I am going to post my thoughts on Eragon and Eldest, and then hopefully, I will post some thoughts when I am done reading Brisingr. The following thoughts contain mild spoilers, but mostly just generalizations of the books.

Let me start by saying that I like these books. I do. And now you’re all thinking that by beginning my thoughts in this manner, that there must be some “but” coming. Like “I really like these books … but … ” and that’s not really the case. These books are enjoyable to read, and I find that I do get sucked into the story, wanting to know what’s going to happen with the characters.

It’s just that I find Paolini’s writing to be … well, a little immature. He’s got a vivid imagination, that’s for sure. And he’s obviously drawing his knowledge from his idol (J.R.R. Tolkien). I know that I shouldn’t compare Paolini’s Inheritance Series to Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings series, but I can’t help myself. They have so many elements in common, that I find myself saying “that’s the same thing that happened in LOTR.”

Besides the obvious similarities, like having dwarves and elves and other mystical creatures, the 2 series have many of the same themes. Man (who is mortal, though lives an extended life) falling in love with an immortal Elven princess? Check. Elves hiding in their lands, preparing to launch one last stand after being defeated years ago? Check. Strange names that are impossible to pronounce? Check. (I mean, Galbatorix? How do you say that exactly?) The existence of the one true language? Check. You get my point … lots of similarities. Paolini’s writings don’t feel as mature to me as Tolkien’s, though they revolve around the same themes (loyalty to one’s family, love for others, a sense of justice and rightness, etc).

One thing that does impress me is Paolini’s use of other languages. I didn't spend much time reading through the language guide so I don't know if Paolini made up the languages and their accompanying rules, or if he followed established rules (from other fantasy novels) and made some modifications to fit his own books. Either way, it’s impressive. Even though I have no idea what any of the words mean … and I get annoyed having to flip back and forth between the index with the language translation and the storyline. Still … I’m pretty sure that if I tried to make up a language, I would fail dismally.

So there you go – that’s my take on the books. I like them and I am looking forward to reading Brisingr. They do capture my attention and make me want to keep reading so I can find out what happens. Will Eragon and Roran rescue Katrina? Will Galbatorix be overthrown? Will Arya finally fall in love with Eragon? Or will Eragon get over her and find someone else to love (Nasuada?) Most of all, what happens that necessitated Paolini’s announcement that there will be 4 books in the series, instead of the planned 3? Is there really so much stuff that's it's impossible to wrap it up in Brisingr? I guess I’ll find out when I get my copy (sometime next week, I hope).

And please make a comment in the post below for a book idea for October ... I've got one idea, so if no one suggests anything, I guess we're going with that.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ideas for October?

Anybody got any ideas for a book(s) we can read for the month of October? If you have posted an idea in the past, please just post it again - I'm too lazy to go back and look through all the comments :) I definitely need some new book ideas (now that I have finished the entire Twilight Saga, yet again) so please post a comment. Thanks all!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Stephenie Meyer

The news that Midnight Sun had been leaked on the internet makes me very sad. I feel betrayed on behalf of Stephenie and appalled that some "anti-Twilighters" would do this. Ugh! If people don't like Breaking Dawn, any of Stephenie's books, or even Stephenie herself, it's still appalling that people would betray her like this.

Right on Kaleb, I totally agree. Enough Stephenie bashing!
http://kalebnation.com/blog/2008/09/06/in-defense-of-stephenie-meyer/

A fellow author (and personal friend to Stephenie) has this to say: (scroll down so you start reading part 1, then move up to part 2 and part 3)
http://oinks.squeetus.com/
I agree 100%. I agree more than 100%. And I wish I could put it as eloquently as does Shannon.

I support Stephenie Meyer. And I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that one day she will finish Midnight Sun - and I'll be first in line to buy it!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Just a little more

There isn't too much left to discuss about Breaking Dawn. Sarah pretty much covered everything. :) I'm glad she was able to put her thoughts into words so well; she and I are pretty much on the same wavelength when it comes to things Twilight related. Saved me a lot of work. Here are just a few other thoughts rattling around in my head.


*I liked how so many of the characters matured in this book. Jacob and Bella were forced to change the most, but I really felt they came into their own. Bella became a wife, mother, and vampire – things that she really was meant to be. Jacob became the Alpha, what he was born to be, and imprinted. The centers of their worlds changed to be something more important.

*I loved that the wolves, Seth and Jacob in particular, and the Cullens began to look beyond what their “enemies” were and learned to see who they were. They let go of the hatred that had been taught them – not a hatred born from experience or certain events but one simply from tradition. Jacob began to see that Carlisle, and the rest of the Cullens as well, is truly good. Yes, there are bad vampires and the wolves need to protect the people, but being a vampire does not make them bad. It is their choices that determine whether they are good or bad. I was happy when Jacob could see that Carlisle and Esme were good, courteous, loyal, loving…And when he and Edward were able to put aside their previous dislike in order to protect their common loves, Bella and Renesmee, I inwardly cheered. (Thank goodness Renesmee took care of that messy love triangle!) Similarly, I was happy when Edward accepted Jacob as part of his family. When Edward called him “my son,” I burst into tears. (Not the first time the book made me cry, mind you. I’m an emotional reader.)

*I have to admit that at first I was among those who felt the end was slightly anti-climactic. Like Sarah, I was geared up for a physical fight but it never came. After I was able to think about, though, I realized that I really couldn’t have handled a physical fight. It would have meant so much loss. So even though I would have loved for Edward or Emmett to get a swipe at Demetri (don’t you think he deserved to get taken down a notch? Jane and Alec too?), I was happy that there the “hearing” did not escalate to physical violence. Luckily Bella was able to protect everyone when Jane and Alec were trying to play dirty by starting to fight early.

*Randomly, I loved that Charlie and Sue began seeing each other. Charlie deserves some happiness and companionship after loving Renee all these years, and Sue now has someone to lean on after Harry and help her with her kids. That leaves Billy out though; hopefully he and Charlie can patch up their relationship soon.

*Oh, Sarah and I discussed this, but for the rest of you who might have been confused like me - I wondered how Bella was able to drink the human blood for her baby. I mean, I know that mothers will do just about anything for their children, but I had trouble wrapping my head around Bella drinking blood, especially since before just the smell alone would make her so physically ill. Sarah reminded me that many women have changes in appetites and what they like or dislike to eat during pregnancy. We pretty much decided that this was why Bella went from getting sick at the smell of blood to liking the taste of it. (I've had three kids but the change in appetite thing didn't occur to me at all. I guess because I never had cravings for food or anything like that. I was just hungry and ate a lot. Of anything.)

All in all, I absolutely loved the book. Now I need to find a new obsession.

- Carly

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Book for August

Well, since no one but Carly responded when I asked what book we wanted to be reading for August (see here) ... besides Breaking Dawn, of course ... and I figured it's going to be a very busy month for pretty much everyone ... I've decided we are going to do Eragon. I'm reading it anyways and I'd love to have some people to discuss it with. So if you want to join in, then get your hands on Eragon ... if not, then take the month off and we'll find something else to read for next month, when everything might be a little calmer for everyone (here's to hoping, anyways). If anyone is reading this and thinking to yourself "hey, I don't want to read Eragon, but I really do want to read ____" then say something. I'm game for another book, if someone has something in mind. Cory & I are driving down to Boston and up to Maine in a few weeks, and I'm lucky enough that I can read in the car and not get sick ... so I'll be needing some reading material. Again, just leave a comment if you have a suggestion. Happy August!! :)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Breaking Dawn - I'm in love!! Part 2

Yep lots of *spoilers* are found below:


I’ve finished the book a second time, giving me lots of time to “digest” everything. And I have spent lots of time on the fansites, reading what other people thought. There’s some people who didn’t like it, which baffles me. I thought it was perfect. The more I think about it, the more I love the book. So bare with me as I have some more thoughts on the book …

I felt the characters all progressed naturally. I loved how the characters grew - Bella became so much more mature in this book (her character developed from an infatuated teen to a loving mother and mature adult). Edward grew and embraced fatherhood – something he never dreamed possible. Even Jacob grew (more on him later …)

I also loved the few Edward and Bella bits in this. I was so happy they were finally married. I didn't think there was too much "honeymoon-y" parts in the book, or that there was too must “lust”. I thought it was perfect. Honestly, they just got married; of course they are going to "be together" a lot. They’ve never had that before, and that's part of being married. Those of us who follow the law of chastity should understand this more than anyone else. Sex is a really beautiful part of being married. That doesn’t make the book all about lust or un-romantic. I thought the book was still incredibly romantic. And I appreciated that all the sex stuff was very tastefully written. And I also loved that Bella realized that it was right for them to bind themselves together in every possible way before they had sex.

The love between Bella and Edward is beyond wonderful, but there's so much more to life than that. This may be difficult for some younger fans to comprehend right now. True, some of the focus was taken away from Bella and Edward. There were fewer moments between just the two of them; but their love was stronger than ever. Their little addition brought more happiness than they could have ever comprehended. Their relationship became more refined and mature, making it just that much stronger.

I’ve seen a lot of people talking about a lack of plot, but really these books are character driven; they don't really revolve around a certain plot, and that's one of the things I like about them.

People are saying that Breaking Dawn didn’t jive with the other 3 in the series. Her transformation was much too easy, etc. etc. From the very beginning it's been obvious that Bella is far from a normal human. Most humans are naturally avoidant of vampires; but rather than being repelled by a world beyond her own, she's drawn to it. It fascinates her. The only people she can seem to connect with on any deep level just aren't human. I think Bella was born to be a vampire. She says at one point that she feels that way. She never fit in anywhere because she hadn't found where she belonged. Everything falls into place when she takes on the form destiny intended for her. To put it simply, she really was always on a different wavelength than most people.

I was 99% sure she was going to transform into a vampire before I started Breaking Dawn … and I’m very glad she did. I didn't want to see her as a newborn because that would have to go on for at least a year, more time for Edward to spend protecting her and her being helpless (and I think we’ve all had enough of that). The fact that she was able to control herself was a good idea. Didn't Edward and the Cullens always find it odd that Bella was able to face their lifestyle, the Volturi and the supernatural world, without her brain exploding from stress? She was always able to survive the best considering the circumstances, and her new life would be no different.

There are people who actually loathe Nessie because she “takes away from Bella and Edward’s romance”. If anything, she adds to it. She's the most amazing kind of symbol of the love they have for each other.

Bella has always been selfless to an insane degree. This is apparent from the beginning when she sacrifices her own happiness for the sake of her mother's by moving to Forks. Is it so difficult so believe she would risk her life for her child's? Her seemingly sudden protective nature over the baby required little explanation. It's Bella's instinct to put another's life before her own. I also feel this protectiveness is natural given the circumstances. Nessie isn't just a stranger. A normal amount of time for her to form a connection isn't necessary. Nessie's her baby, her little nudger. She's already a part of her and a part of Edward. How could she not instantly love Edward's child?

Nessie's role actually made sense to me. Anyone remember Bella's lucid dreams? She always had them ... you know, it was hard to miss in all the previous books. Her love for Jacob, those dreams even, were all being channeled from Nessie. I loved how Bella had mentioned (in Eclipse, I think) that she felt a need to be a part of Jacob's life for some reason. And to think, she would be the reason for Jacob's eternal happiness all along ... just in a different way than he was thinking. So cool.

Speaking of Jacob – well, I said I always liked him, but he annoyed me, and I felt that he was in the way, blah, blah, blah. However, in this book I actually grew to love his character. The transition from Bella's point of view to his was flawless in my opinion, and I'm glad to have read through Bella's pregnancy from his POV rather than hers (she was suffering, no one understood her choice, she was going to fight for it, repeat for several chapters, you get the idea …) plus seeing the pregnancy through Jacob’s eyes was … well, icky. And perfect. I wanted a happy resolution for Jacob's pain (that didn’t involve him getting in the way of Bella and Edward). And we got that. Only we got so much more. We got ten whole chapters of Jacob's mind. With every snip, snip, snip of the imprinting Jacob finally became free. Free from his pain, his sorrow, his loneliness and now he has a purpose and a future. Call me a hopeless romantic – I don’t care! :)

Lots of people thought the ending was “anti-climactic.” Well, I won’t lie to you – I was definitely bracing for a fight, and freaking out the whole time (you can ask Cory if you don’t believe me). BUT when one didn’t happen, I wasn’t disappointed. Pat & I discussed (at length) what we thought the cover would mean (before the book was released). We thought it would all be about strategy. It’s a chess board with chess pieces … and when I think of chess, I think of a mental game. The point of chess is to play a mental game, designed to outthink and outmaneuver your opponent. I had all this in the back of my head when reading Breaking Dawn. I found the ending to be very climactic – because, in our opinion, there was a fight. It just wasn’t a physical fight – but man, there was a lot of mental fighting going on! And let’s face it … the books have always been about a mental fight – yes, there’s always been a physical component to the fight, but it’s always thought out meticulously first. So it makes perfect sense to me that the “big fight” we were all bracing for at the end of Breaking Dawn was a mental one. It was about strategy – Bella, Edward, Carlisle, Garrett, Alice – all outthinking their opponents, and leveling the physical playing field with Bella’s amazing shield. No wonder the Volturi ran off with their tales between their legs – they’d never had a fair fight and they weren’t about to start– they had been mentally outmaneuvered. Loved it!

I loved the last 2 pages. Loved them! It made me cry when Edward finally got to read Bella’s mind. No matter how many times I read it, it never fails to make me feel so good inside. Edward finally got what he wanted (almost more than anything else in the whole world) - a look into what Bella was thinking. Plus, I thought it was very fitting that Bella saved her best memories for that moment. Very special. He finally could see just how much he means to her … after squabbling over it for 4 books :) He always thought he loved her more than she loved him … and he could finally see that they were equal in their love for each other.

Oh and the humor! I LOVED the chapter titles and the sarcastic dialog. From Leah and Jake talking about Seth being dropped on his and chewing on a crib with lead paint, to blonde jokes and dog bowl with FIDO scratched in … I laughed, a lot! Out loud!

I just think it took amazing imagination to weave all these loose ends together. Everyone got their happily ever after ... YEA! That's why I loved this series in the first place. I enjoyed the way she wrapped things up - I never read this story as a lesson in reality. People are upset because all the characters get to live “happily ever after” and that’s not what happens in real life. Is all of this happiness unrealistic? I don't think so. The whole series has been full of struggle. Edward and Bella have been through the ringer time and time again. When they're finally rewarded for their dedication, people complain. I, personally, don't think there's anything wrong with the fact that after surviving so much hardship, they've become confident in their love. This isn't to say they'll never have another trial in their eternal lives, but the confidence they have provides a certain level of happiness that will always be there. I don't think that's too far fetched. Besides, the only kind of real ending there can be is a happy one. This isn't the end of their lives. It's simply the ending of this part of their lives. This journey is finally over because a resolution has been reached. Everyone can live happily ever after if they want to! (Besides, who actually reads these books as reality? They are fantasy.) I loved the ending. I love fairy-tale endings and happily-ever-afters. Like I said before – Breaking Dawn was perfect.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

"Chat" with Stephenie

Don't read this if you haven't finished Breaking Dawn, 'cause it definitely gives some stuff away. It's a fun read - Stephenie answering questions, so the readers can "get inside" her head.
Interview with Stephenie on Twilight Lexixcon

Oh and some reviews for the book, in case anyone else wants to read them:
http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/Books/article/471979
http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080804/LIFE/80804040/1005

Monday, August 4, 2008

Breaking Dawn

Hi, I'm Pat. I work with Sarah and I am as obessed with the Twilight series as Sarah. I loved Breaking Dawn, WOW!

I was wondering what others thought about the book cover and what it represented. So here are my thoughts....SPOILER!













The white queen is Bella transformed, assuming her full and rightful power. The red pawn is the old Bella, weak and easily captured. I loved in the book how everyone feels that Bella is a natural at being a vampire, kind of destiny. Anyway these are my thoughts. I really looking forward to discussing this book.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Breaking Dawn - I'm in love!!

I’m finished. And wow, what a ride! The book was fantastic. Perfect, perfect, perfect! I began reading Breaking Dawn around 9 am on Saturday morning, and I finished around 11:30 pm (with some breaks for lunch, dinner and a walk with Cory, since I was starting to lose feeling in my legs). I tried going to bed as soon as I finished, but I had so many thoughts swirling around in my head that I had to get up and write some of them down – then I could finally get some sleep. Still, I had some weird dreams (which you can probably guess at, if you’ve finished the book).

Sheesh, where to start? Ü So many of my theories came true, which made me very happy. So here are my thoughts, in no real order.

Warning: if you haven’t read the book, then you are about to read some spoilers. Major spoilers!! You should stop reading now, and come back when you are done with the book.








Seriously – did I mention some MAJOR spoilers? You’ve been warned …












I originally had the idea that Bella would somehow get pregnant. I loved how this would tie the immortal and mortal world together – and bind Bella & Edward together in one more way. I dismissed my theory because I thought vampires didn’t have any, um, fluids. So it would be impossible for Edward to father a child. Guess I was wrong Ü. I actually loved the twist of Bella getting pregnant. She was born to be a mother – she had all the instinctual qualities that made her a perfect mother. Plus, it was something she didn’t have to give up so she could become a vampire. She got the best of both worlds.

I’ve always liked Jacob. Yeah I thought he was a moronic teenager sometimes (hello, why did he invite Charlie to the house when Bella had just barely turned vampire? Such a moron!! Ü) I loved the twist of him imprinting on Nessie (and I did see it coming, just a little bit). Of course, it makes perfect sense that he would imprint on Bella’s daughter. Did he ever even stand a chance? It’s Bella’s daughter. He could forever be a part of Bella’s family, without the weird love triangle thing going on.

I loved how almost effortless it was for Bella to skip the bloodthirsty part of being a “newborn” vampire. Of course, I’m sure her aversion to blood as a human helped the transition, but I think it was her excellent sense of self control and discipline that made the transition easier. Incredible. She has a spotless record when it comes to drinking human blood (that she hunted and killed for - I don't think bought blood counts). I also loved how Bella’s personality traits came with her when she became a vampire – she didn’t lose any of her innate Bella-ness.

The one thing I was happiest about getting right was Bella's cool new vampire power. This is what I wrote in one of my emails to Carly, discussing our theories for Breaking Dawn: “Bella will be more immune to human blood than what is "normal" for a newborn vampire. Her "power" is her private mind - she will be able to exert that influence over others, when they are with her, making their minds also private. Like if Bella is with Edward, Jane would not be able to use her power on Edward or Bella - her mind will protect his.” And … I was RIGHT!! (very small moment of gloating for me!) Bella’s power was in being a shield. When I read that word for the first time, I thought it was perfect. A shield. Bella’s power was a defensive one, which was also fitting. Her love for her family, and friends, overtook everything and she shielded them all from danger. So perfect. Bella was always the “weak link” in the previous 3 books. It was absolutely proper to see her standing side by side with Edward, defending her family. In the end, she saved everyone, making her truly an equal. She was born to be a vampire, since she did it with ease, and saved the day.

Other things I loved in, in random order:
· Bella beating Emmett at arm wrestling (so sweet!)
· Seth Clearwater – need I say more?
· The reference to Florida football, when Charlie comes to the Cullen house for the first time – Go Gators!
· Alice coming through at the very end (I never doubted her, ever).
· The cottage Esme decorated for Bella & Edward – perfect for the 2 of them. I love Esme!
· That Bella continued to see Charlie, on a “need to know” basis. Charlie’s got guts, that’s for sure.
· Bella attacking Jake, after learning he nicknamed her daughter after the Loch Ness Monster Ü. Too bad Edward got in the way … I would have liked to see her get in one good swipe at Jake … you know, even things up from the other books.
· Jane’s inability to hurt Bella – or those she loved – and how Bella was so smug about it, and she smiled smugly right at Jane. Take that, you sadistic *****
· Bella & Rosalie’s improved relationship, and giving Rosalie a kind of surrogate of what she always wanted.
· Renee’s reaction to the news that Bella was getting married
· And last, but not least, I loved that Bella was able to remove the shield from her own mind, so she could let Edward see her thoughts, just for a minute. I found that incredibly touching (and romantic, too).

In my opinion, it was the perfect ending. I was so anxious about how it was all going to turn out that I found myself reading ahead of myself all the time. My accelerated heartbeat could be heard (by Cory) in the silence of our bedroom. I thought my poor heart was going to beat right out of my chest. Luckily, it didn’t, and I’m doing much better Ü. I’m definitely reading it again, since I’m sure I missed some minor details in my haste to get to the end. Brilliant book – thanks Stephenie, for creating such an excellent read. I'm in love!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Everybody is welcome!

For any of you guys that have friends who would like to be a part of our online book club blog (or just need a place to discuss Twilight) - everybody is welcome. If they have a gmail address, send it to: bookclubfriends@gmail.com and then I can issue them an invite to become an author on the blog (or leave your email address in the comments section, if you are comfortable doing that). The more, the merrier, so invite your friends!

Books for August

I can't believe it's already August! Seriously, where did July go?!?! Or June, for that matter. It's time again to pick a new book for the month of August, and I want some feedback. Of course, we are going to be reading Breaking Dawn (the 4th installment of the Twilight series). That really goes almost without saying. Ü Personally, I am hoping for lots and lots of discussion. I want in-depth discussion of all the details, plot-by-plot analysis ... then hopefully it will salve my thirst for all things Twilight and I can go back to being a somewhat normal person. Ü

In the meantime, do you guys want to read any other book for the month of August? Just Breaking Dawn? Another one also? I have a couple of ideas for other books, but I'd love some input. Me, I am going to be reading the Eragon series over again, and I'd love to have some company, if anyone else has time for another big book (well, 2 and soon to be 3 big books). Thoughts? Suggestions?

Harry Potter 6

This has nothing really to do with any books, except that the movie is based on the book. I'm posting it 'cause it's simply stunning and I'm so excited that I had to share.
http://moviesblog.mtv.com/2008/07/29/harry-potter-and-the-half-blood-prince-the-trailer-has-arrived/

It's the trailer for the sixth Harry Potter book, and it looks sweet!!!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sugar Queen review

Well, it seems I was the only one who read The Sugar Queen, so I’ll make this review short. I liked it. It had a few words that I didn’t like reading (see warning here) but overall, I enjoyed reading it. Allen’s books (I’ve read both) tend to be very light, fluffy and whimsical. It was one of those books that you take to the beach (or something) for a bit of light reading – or to escape into another world.

The thing I enjoyed most about the book was that it encouraged Josey to find her own way; to be her own person. It was good to see her evolve into her own person. I enjoyed all the character interactions. I cringed when reading the parts about Josey’s mother, and was quietly thankful for a family who has always encouraged me to “be myself.” I know it sounds corny, but it’s true.

I also enjoyed the relationship that Chloe had with books – how they were always finding her at the time when she needed them most. And I loved how persistent they were; even crawling into the bathroom, though they were supposed to be afraid of water. I loved how Chloe would talk to the books – because I do the same thing. I talk to books, and to the characters in them. I’ve always been a bookworm and I relate to the characters in the books – and I often relate to them by talking out loud. Cory thinks me very funny :)

So, in short, this is a fun and fluffy book. It's not-challenging and a quick read - and everyone ends up happy. My kind of book!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sugar Queen

Did anyone else read The Sugar Queen?

The Screwtape Letters

Whew! Finally finished. I have never had to renew a library book so often that wasn't research paper-related! I was determined to finish it this month!

I thought The Screwtape Letters was very cleverly written. Reading from the perspective of a senior demon is an interesting experience! I have to admit that some of the book was baffling and that, for me, it was occasionally like reading Isaiah in the scriptures. "Huh?" I just had to plow my way through some of it. And after reading a page or two, I wondered what it was that I had just read because none of it sank in! But other parts were clearer to understand and I found those parts fascinating.

It was amazing to me how contemporary the text seemed. In discussing the problems a person faces spiritually, this could have been written yesterday and not in 1942. Some things never change, and truth is one of them. I found Lewis's discussions on prayer, joy, silence, courage, and the historical Jesus to be particularly interesting, among others, as they were so easily relatable. There were times when I felt that I was Wormwood's "patient" and Screwtape was giving him directions on how to tempt me!

My favorite letter was 26, where Screwtape teaches Wormwood about Unselfishness. I thought that discussion was hilarious, especially when Screwtape described having "tea in the garden." I have seen that scenario played out many times (although not usually over "tea"), especially at family functions. I thought his description was right on and very funny. I also really enjoyed the various titles of people and places that were throughout the book: the Enemy, Our Father Below, the Infernal Police, the Lowerarchy, and the House of Correction for Incompetent Tempters.

I also thought it appropriate that Screwtape almost never praises Wormwood for whatever work he has been doing - we never know if what he has tried has been successful in turning his patient away from the Enemy. Nearly all of the letters chastise Wormwood for what he has done wrong. Considering the source, that the letters are coming from a senior demon who works for Our Father Below, I thought the negativity was very telling. Praise tends to make a person feel good; what experienced demon would want to produce such feelings? Not Screwtape, that's for sure.

Did anyone else read it?


-Carly

Friday, July 18, 2008

Sugar Queen warning

I just finished the book Sugar Queen. I'll write my thoughts later, but I wanted those of you who haven't yet read it to have some warning. It's a little more risque than I was expecting (a little sex, though it's definitely not graphic) and it says the F-word a couple of times (all within the same paragraph). Sorry! When I picked the book, I really wasn't expecting that. The author's first book was cleaner. Anyways, if content like that is offensive to you, then don't read the book (or skip a couple of the paragraphs). I just wanted everyone to have a heads up. I loved what the book was saying about finding your own way ... but you have to look past a bit of adult content.
Sarah

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Breaking Dawn teasers

For those who don't already know, Stephenie is posting one quote a day from Breaking Dawn (the 4th book in the Twilight series). I'm having a BLAST reading them and trying to decipher what they mean. Stephenie says she has a twisted sense of humor and not to go too crazy over the quotes ... ha ha, yeah right. It's waaaay too late for me :) Let the speculation begin!!!

http://www.stepheniemeyer.com/bd_quotes.html

Monday, June 30, 2008

July's books

I know the month of July is going to be crazy-busy for the Bingham household, and I am guessing it’s going to be similarly busy for most of you guys. Nevertheless, we are going to add 1 more book for the month of July. The “deadline” for Screwtape Letters was supposed to be the end of June … but no biggie. I’m not done with it either, since it does take some time to digest (and I can’t wait for the discussion, since there are so many things in there to think about!) Anyways … I digress. Since it’s going to be a busy month, we will extend the deadline for Screwtape Letters into July.

For the month of July, we will be reading:
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

The Sugar Queen
by Sarah Addison Allen (her website is here)

If we get through both of these books in the month of July, then we can add another one into the mix. But for now, we’ll do these two.

For those of you who think they want another series: for the months of July & August, I am going to be re-reading the Inheritance Series. It’s a series of books written by a kid named Christopher Paolini (http://alagaesia.com/index.php). He was home-schooled and wrote the first book in the series at age 15. The first book is named Eragon, the second book is Eldest, and the third book is due out September 20th (named Brisinger). I read them all a while ago and I have forgotten pretty much most of what happens in the books – thus I am re-reading the first 2 so I will be ready for Brisinger. If anyone is looking for a bigger book to read this summer, I invite you to read Eragon with me. I’m not going to make any of them official book club books, since I think they’re too big, there’s going to be 3 books soon, and summer is just too busy for so many people. However, if I am wrong and you are interested in reading them, then I would love to have discussion about these books. I liked them the first time around, and I would love to discuss them with anyone who has read them, or is interested in reading them.

Happy reading and happy July!

p.s. if anyone knows of any other people who would be interested in joining our book club, let me know and I can send them an invite. The more the merrier!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

How we doing?

How's everybody doing on June's books? There have been no posts about Screwtape Letters, so that means people haven't had time to post, or haven't had time to read the book. Which one is it? For me, I haven't had the time yet to read the book, but I did start it and I plan to finish it. So ... should we pick another book for July? 2 books? Extend the "deadline" for Screwtape Letters? Extend the deadline and pick 1 more book for July? If you have an opinion, leave it in the comments section. Thanks friends! I'm loving this book club and I'm so glad everybody is participating!
~Sarah

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My Two Cents

I really enjoyed reading Stargirl. Next time I'm at the library I'll pick up the sequel. Like Sarah, I thought the theme of originality was great. Now to touch on a few other things, mostly random.

Besides Stargirl, Archie was my next favorite character. Every time he talked to Leo you had to pay a little bit more attention because he seemed to talk in riddles, but if you were really listening and thought about it, what he said would make sense. There was also sort of a foreshadowing aspect in what he said, especially when he talked about losing the game (page 75). Even though he was specifically talking about the animal becoming extinct, there was no doubt that he was also referring to Stargirl disappearing.

I loved the comparison of the students with the mud frogs - dormant and waiting, waiting for the rain to come and make their lives complete. Because Stargirl was not afraid to be different, to be herself, the other students were able to feel more comfortable in showing their individuality. Stargirl was the rain.

There were so many descriptions of Stargirl that I thought were great, so many enviable characteristics she had. She thought only of others. "[H]er bad things did not stick to her. Our bad things stuck very much to her. If we were hurt, if we were unhappy...she seemed to know about it, and to care, as soon as we did." Even when she transformed herself into Susan, it was because Leo wanted her to. She also made an impact for good on those around her, even if they were reluctant to the changes, and that impact had a lasting effect. I liked how she taught Leo how to "see" and how she not only saw things but felt them as well.

I liked how the author helped the reader have different perspectives. It was easy to be upset with Leo for wanting Stargirl to change, but it was also easy to see why, even though he really liked her - and I think he truly liked her for who she really was - he wanted her to be like everybody else. It's hard, especially as a teenager, to go against the grain. We probably all know someone like Stargirl in some ways, someone who was a little (or a lot) different and was ridiculed for it. Conformity is safer. Not necessarily better, but certainly safer in the world of high school. I think most of us are like Leo. We seem to need the attention of others to confirm our own presence. So we try to fit in until we can figure out who we really are and be comfortable with that.

And last, I enjoyed the typo. Typos always amuse me.

Now, off to read The Screwtape Letters.


- Carly

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Thoughts on "Stargirl"

I really liked Stargirl. It was definitely a very easy read, which was something that I needed. It’s been extremely hectic at our house (even more than usual) and so it was nice not to read something really heavy.

I liked how the book was all about originality – and Stargirl being herself. I was sad when she transformed into Susan, since I also thought she was betraying herself. But then the ending made me sad, when Leo didn’t take her to the dance and she went all alone – then disappeared when it was over. Her entrance to the dance did make me laugh though – I had this awesome mental picture of what she must have looked like arriving in a sidecar to a bike, with a bright yellow gown on. I thought I read somewhere that they are making Stargirl into a movie … that could be very interesting.

One thing really grabbed me – I guess you could say it’s one of the themes for the book. We humans form groups. This is so true! In high school, everyone has their own “group” of friends. Same with college. Same with church. Same with every place we go. We can’t seem to help ourselves – we as humans congregate into groups so we feel more comfortable. Often times, I think we value “fitting in” more than we should. For me, my parents are great example of bucking this natural instinct. They will talk to anyone – anytime. It used to drive me crazy when I was younger, but now I really admire that characteristic. They are always making friends wherever they go. You can count on mom taking too long at the grocery store, since she finds someone she doesn’t know and talks forever :) Nevertheless, it’s such a good trait to develop – being inclusive and welcoming to everyone. Getting ourselves out of our comfort zone and meeting new (and different) people. I try to do this – but I’m not nearly as good as my parents. Or Stargirl. She had guts in the book, that’s for sure. I guess I will keep working at it …

And I thought the part where she kisses Hillari on the cheek was so sweet. It’s a literal example of the commandment to “turn the other cheek.” I wish I had more compassion like this. What tremendous love one must have in order to kiss someone who has ridiculed you all year and has just slapped you!!

This was a great, quick, fun and insightful book that I enjoyed reading. I think when things calm down a bit at our house, I am going to go and get the sequel (Love, Stargirl) from the library.

Friday, May 30, 2008

June's books

We're going to do 2 books for the month of June. Like last time, you can read one, both or none (but if you read none then you are a slacker ;)

The books are:
Star Girl by Jerry Spinelli
Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Even if you have read them before, you are welcome to read them again. Or if you don't want to read them again, you are welcome to add your thoughts to the posts once other people finish the books - that way you can be a part of the discussions that take place.

Star Girl is a very light-hearted read (not to mention a small book). The Screwtape Letters are Christian satire, and are not hard reading - but do provoke lots of interesting thoughts. I think we will enjoy both books. Happy reading!

Attention "Twlight" fans

This post is for those of you who are eagerly anticipating the 4th book in the Twilight series (Like ME!!) From the EW.com website: below you will find a link that has an exclusive sneak peak of the first chapter of Breaking Dawn. The entire first chapter is available in the Eclipse Special Edition, out tomorrow (May 31), which will also reveal the cover of Breaking Dawn and have Team Edward and Team Jacob iron-on decals.

For the record, I am going to Barnes and Noble tomorrow (which is like a 35 mile drive one way) and I am going to read the entire first chapter of Breaking Dawn while I am there. I am also going to see if I can snag a Team Edward decal!! Yes, I do know that I am obsessed.

Warning though - I read the chapter excerpt and got so excited I nearly fell out of my chair (I'm really not exaggerating!) So read this with caution and enjoy :)

http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20203238,00.html

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Ideas??

The month of June is quickly approaching ... which means that we need new ideas for a book (or books) of the month. Anyone have any ideas? Feel free to email them to me or leave them in the comments. If I don't hear from anyone, I will think of something ... but I would love some suggestions (hint, hint). May was a great month for our little book club! Good job everyone!
Cheers!
Sarah

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My Views on The Host and Stephenie Meyer

I was originally going to comment on the other posts, but it ended up being too long. So I am creating my own post.

I think one of Stephenie Meyer's strongest writing characteristics is her character development. The characters in her novels become real. We go through the emotional ups and downs of her character and that is why we all become so attached to her books. She said in one of her interviews or blog posts that the Twilight characters were real to her and she would find herself talking to them. She's able to translate that into her writing. I love getting to know her characters.

I really liked The Host because of how it delved into the complexities of the human emotions and bodily cravings. There are very much some celestial undertones in there if you look at it. A soul inhabiting a body that the soul must learn to control! Wanda says several times in the book that she has never experienced a host that had such strong emotions.

Andrea talked about how she understand the love triangle and how Wanda could love Jared the way she did, especially after the way he treated her. I think the point Stephenie was trying to make is how strongly we are influenced by our emotions and our bodies. We have spirits that are independent of our bodies but yet our bodies have these cravings and urges that are overpowering and it takes an immense amount of control to master them. I think Wanda loved Jared the way she did because she felt the love Melanie had for him and he had for Melanie. That kind of "true love" is a powerful connection. One that reaches beyond death. Wanda had never felt that powerful of an emotion before, so of course she loved Jared. I liked that Stephenie created the love triangle because she shows the true complexity of an eternal emotion called love.

I also thought the book was long and a bit tedious in parts, but I really can't complain because I literally took the book to work and read it while I was at work. CRAZY! I thought it was interesting that the title of the book was The Host when in actuality it was not about the host but the invader. I liked how Stephenie took something inherently evil (an alien invader) and made them so good. You fell in love with the souls and yet you grieved for the humans. Would there be a way for them to coexist?

I would have liked to have Melanie more vocal while they were in the caves and seen more of her after Wanda took on her new body. She was too vital of character that I think we missed out on.

Overall I think Stephenie did a great job and I loved it! Definitely a keeper. Even though I was very skeptical about the book at first.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Wanda, Mel, and The Host


This is my first post- I've been in this forever, but I haven't had the chance to read any of the books yet until now.


I'm Andrea- Sarah's friend from New York. No, I'm not actually from there- I live in Utah, but I think I still hold the title of Sarah's favorite missionary. I just got married and life is good so onto the book.


Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I l felt like the characters were real, that the alien invasion could have possibly happened. I love how Stephenie makes fantasy seem like reality. That is what made me love the Twilight series. I felt like Edward was really running around out there. I also felt like Wanda was out there running around. And the caves weren't far out- they had a water source and farmed. A little out there, but believable.


I felt like two themes ran through the book: violence and love. I thought Stephenie clearly stated that love could overcome violence- and it did in every instance. She didn't however say that love could overcome a grudge just like with Sharon and Maggie. I didn't think they were developed enough, but I think she was showing that antagonism can develop and last if you allow it to.


I thought the book was freakishly like Eclipse. Why the love triangles? I didn't like how Wanda/Mel laid there with Ian and Jared. How she would kiss one and then the other. I didn't see how Wanda's love for Jared could possibly grow after the way he treated her. I also thought she should've been able to differentiate between her emotions and Mel's. Her attachment to Jamie was understandable- he showed her love right from the beginning. I just didn't buy how much she loved Jared. It dented the Ian/Wanda relationship.


I wasn't happy with how long it was. I understand that gaining trust takes a long time, but she was in that little cave prison forever. Stephenie could have sent the boys on a raid just days after she was there. The story had a little drag in the middle and at the end when Wanda thought she was going to die and was thinking through everything. I admit I skipped over a few parts just to get there.


I also wanted to see Melanie's and Jared's reunion. If she does another book after this, I think it should be from the eyes of Melanie and that way we could see it.


A great and fast read- I would recommend this book to anyone.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Host, The Host

I finally finished The Host last night-What a ride!

I loved it, of course. Don’t shoot me Sarah, but I liked it better than the Twilight Series.
The characters are so real and so amazing. Wanda, Ian, Jeb, and Jamie, who was the only one that really was able to separate Wanda and Mel. He didn’t treat Wanda any different in her new body than when she was in Mel’s body.

This book was all about being human and it made me appreciate what I can experience as a human being on this beautiful planet we call Earth. The feel of the wind on my face, the sense of touch, seeing light and color, the bonds between ourselves and others…After wandering around 9 different planets, Wanda has finally found a place she waits to stay. And she was right when she thought perhaps because of the violence human have, the love they have is stronger than anywhere else: “Perhaps there could be no joy on this planet without an equal weight of pain to balance it out on some unknown scale” As we know, there must be opposition in all things. The only way we can experience real joy is to know pain and sorrow.

And love-being with the group in the cave, Wanda feels love towards those who should be her enemies. Wanda is the most caring, unselfish being…She was willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice so that Mel and Jared could be back together. She gave up her secret in order to save other souls, as well as humans. Doc’s words made me cry: "You are the noblest, purest creature I’ve ever met. The universe will be a darker place without you." Oh, to live such a life that that is said of us when we die!

Jeb was one of my favorite characters. He’s so rational and insightful. He’s willing to befriend an alien and the things he does for Wanda moved me. He protected her, guided her in her new life in the cave, he didn’t treat her as an outsider. And he brought humor into a dark situation. That is truly a gift!

And Ian. Ian, Ian, Ian. What can I say…I love him. He had the most amazing ability to look past what Wanda was and see who she was! Again, I think that’s something we should all do in life. We can’t judge others just because they’re different from us… Ian can see things from Wanda’s perspective, where as Jared never could. And the love Wanda and Ian have for each other is amazing-She loves him with her whole soul. I think the kiss they shared said it all: "This was easy and right, no division, no confusion, no objection, just Ian and me, the molten rock moving through this new body, melding it into the pact." Or being in Ian’s arms: "Like I’d been in agony without realizing it and his touch had taken all the hurt away." He loves her, not her body. He loves the beautiful silver soul that he held in the palm of his hand.

Lonnie :-)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Princess Academy review

I finished Princess Academy. I really liked it, as I knew I would. I like how Shannon Hale wrapped things up so nicely (she does this with all of her books). I guess I am a sucker, but I love a happy ending. I do. I love things to work out in a way so that everyone gets what they truly want and everyone lives happily ever after. I’m hopeless … I know.


I like Shannon’s whimsical style of writing. It definitely was not a hard book to read – it was rather enjoyable. It’s nice to get wrapped in a story like this. I loved Miri, as a character. I agree with what Lonnie said (in an earlier post). Everyone feels lonely sometimes – but we all naively think that we are the only ones feeling that way. As Miri finds something she is good at, and something that brings her joy, she grows and becomes more confident. I truly believe that each and every person has been given some sort of a “talent” – and some talents are not quite as obvious. But everyone is given something and it’s up to each person to discover what it is – and use it to share and bless others’ lives. By doing this, we grow and develop into a more radiant person – just like Miri did.


And I loved the idea of quarry-speak. I love that Miri figured out that it works through shared memories. What a neat idea! She used the quarry-speak to save the academy girls from the bandits. She used it to help the girls on their test given by Olana. I love how she even gave the answer to Katar – even though Katar was never nice to her. And in the end, she selflessly told Britta to choose Katar as the ambassador. What a good person!


If you guys liked this book, I definitely recommend Shannon’s other books. She’s got the Bayern Series – Goose Girl, Enna Burning, and River Secrets (read them in that order). She also wrote one called Book of a Thousand Days. Then there’s Austenland – a must read for anyone who loves Pride & Prejudice and/or harbors a secret crush on Mr. Darcy. It’s quite good – and hilarious.


I love Shannon – can’t wait for her next book!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My review for "The Host"

Well, I finished The Host – Stephenie Meyer’s latest book to come out. It’s not a part of the Twilight series – but it is every bit as good. The Twilight books are (supposedly) targeted for young adults – though I know MANY adults who love them – but The Host was her first book targeted to an adult audience. I thought it had a slightly different feel than the Twilight books – but brilliant. I struggled to find the words to express my feelings toward the book. It was just so GOOD.

http://scifichick.com/2008/04/28/the-host/
http://shootingstarsmag.blogspot.com/2008/04/book-review-host-stephenie-meyer.html


I posted a couple of the links of other people who have reviewed the book. I agree whole-heartedly with these reviews. One of the reviews says this: “This book has an unique story line that involves a complex love triangle and lets you feel the emotions of the characters like you are apart of the book. It will bring you on a rollercoaster of emotions involving love, betrayal, fear, and loyalty. The Host ends on a note of hope that will make everyone smile.”


Agreed! I felt all the emotions of the characters like I was a part of the book! Stephenie’s writing is very emotional. She spills out words, feelings and detailed descriptions all onto the same page at the same time. She writes in long sentences and gives lots of details – making it easy to see the dessert, the mountains and the caves she so vividly describes. Emotion pours out of the pages and seeps right into you. If you can read this book and not be touched by all the varying emotions, then you might be an alien - one of the “souls” that has invaded earth ;)


One of my favorite things about this book is it made me think about what it means to be human. The premise of the book is that humans have squandered this world in violence and so the “souls” come down to earth and inhabit the humans … and they honestly believe they are doing the humans a favor in taking over … since humans have made such a mess of things. But as Wanda (loved the nickname, by–the-way) soon discovers, humans feel varying emotions – not just violence – and they feel everything strongly.


**Okay, if you haven’t read the book, now would be a good time to stop - spoilers are ahead** Skip to the last paragraph to avoid spoilers. You have been warned.


Wanda says she has never been in any other host bodies that feel emotions so strongly – love being one of those emotions. The love Melanie feels for Jaime brought tears to my eyes and had me scrambling madly for some tissues so I could get rid of the tears that made it hard to see straight. The love that she feels for Jared – a different love – was no less powerful. I guess you could say that love is a theme that runs through the book. Melanie loves Jaime with the love a parent has for a child. She loves Jared romantically – and is put into a frenzy with just a touch. She belongs to him – and he to her. She loves the humans she is staying with in the caves – but more of a camaraderie love, instinctive just because they are all still human. In the end, she tells Wanda that she loves her (again, more tears for me) and that love is the love of a sister. So many forms of love – all because we are human and it’s in our nature to love so compassionately. We’ve been given this gift to love – and it comes so easily to us.


Wanda feels all these feelings of love that Melanie feels – and in the end she reciprocates all those loves to the humans who are around her. She chooses to end her own life so that Mel can have her body back. She shows the ultimate form of love – to give one’s life so selflessly so that others can be happy. She also recognizes her love for Ian – and that after living on 9 different planets, she has finally found someone she loves as a partner – someone she would want to stay and be with. Ultimately, it works out beautifully – with everyone finding happiness and love. I LOVED the ending. The book shares a message of hope – hope for humanity, in the sense that maybe they are not as alone as they think, and in the sense that there is hope that humanity isn’t as violent as was thought by the invading souls.


I certainly hope that Stephenie goes on with her plan to write 2 sequels to this book. It really did touch my heart – all that it means to be human came into such stronger focus for me. We are capable of awful things as humans … and yet we are capable of beautiful things, too. We have a great capacity for love – in all its forms – and great capacity for good in this world. We also have this beautiful planet to live on – with such great vistas and colors to enjoy. We also have our 5 senses – something not many species enjoy like we do. We have been given much.


Okay, I am getting a bit sappy :) This book has a beautiful story to tell – and it has romance, yes, but lots of action and suspense to keep you hooked. I thought my heart might just beat out of my chest in certain parts. The characters that Stephenie has created are striking. I whole-heartedly recommend this book. This book is fantastic.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Host

I finished The Host! Man, it was seriously fantastic. I LOVED it. I am going to write a review ... I am trying to find the right words to express just how awesome I thought it was and how much I enjoyed it. More coming soon! Has anyone else finished it?

And I started to read Princess Academy - and I can already tell that it's going to be good, too. Shannon Hale never disappoints.