Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fourth Quarter Outside Reading Book Review

Marley and Me by John Grogan, HarperCollins Books, 2005 Genre: Nonfiction

Marley and Me is a heart-warming, touching novel about John Grogan’s life with his new wife, Jenny, and the world’s worst dog, Marley. The novel takes place in Palm beach, Florida, where a young couple decides to begin their lives together. There was just one thing missing, the world’s worst dog. In preparation to having a baby some day, the new couple decided to adopt a precious puppy. Little did they know their precious puppy would end up being expelled from obedience school, closing a local dog beach, and having some wild moments in between. John Grogan invites us readers into a moment in his life and shares it to us with humor, life dramas, and overall happiness.

“A very funny valentine….Marley and Me tenderly follows its subject from sunrise to sunset…with hilarity and affection.”- New York Times

Marley and Me starts off with a young couple, John and Jenny, who have good jobs and live in a nice town. They were trying to have kids but instead of going full throttle, they decided to adopt a puppy instead. This puppy would give them the experience they would need for their future babies. The puppy was kind of like practice. However, this puppy was not an ordinary puppy at all. He was the wild, energetic, free-spirited pup that all owners would fear. He would grow into a 97-pound lab that was bred for destruction. Well not really, but it kind of seemed like it in the book. John Grogan describes his troubles with the misbehaving dog with humor. Even though he was the world’s worst dog, John Grogan loved him anyways. Some habits Marley had gotten into were eating everything in site. He even ate through a wall. From that very day he was expelled from obedience school, John and Jenny knew there was no hope. Through the years, their houses change, their jobs change, and their family even changed when they welcomed their first child out of three, after many miscarriages. But throughout time Marley’s spark never left. Even though his body couldn’t quite keep up with his energy, their memories still live on even after his death. John Grogan writes as if someone was there actually telling these tales. His plain and simple writing style creates an honest atmosphere throughout the book. He writes the reality of his life from the heart and makes this book personal and sometimes emotional which makes it easy for readers to relate to.

“‘You know all the stuff we’ve always said about you?’ I whispered. ‘What a total pain you are? Don’t believe it. Don’t believe it for one minute, Marley.’ He needed to know that, and something more, too. There was something I had never told him, that no one ever had. I wanted him to hear it before he went.
‘Marley,’ I said. ‘You are a great dog.’” (271)

I absolutely loved Marley and Me. I think I’m especially susceptible to it because I own a dog, myself, and I know exactly what he means by having the world’s worst dog. I could relate to his frustration and anger towards his dog and yet, his ever loving attitude never faded towards Marley and that is like with my dog too. I liked how Grogan overall described his life to us with a sarcastic, funny tone, even through the sad parts. This is a well-rounded book that takes you to the highs and to the lows but yet, he still has one companion that helps him get through it all, Marley.

Monday, May 4, 2009

ode to Rocco

You have a lean phsique and a compact body
That makes you run as fast a a Maserati
You have shiny hair that is so soft and fine
It creates the perfect appearance for any canine

You have two bejewled, brown eyes
They sparkle like gems when you are surprised
When you crook your head to the side
You look so cute and innocent, I can not lie

You have super keen eyes, and a nose for tracking
You jump so high there is no trait you are lacking
You are just a ball of energy that can never be surpressed
You are my first dog, and by far the best

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Struggles of life

Since the beginning of time, humans have struggled. We struggle day to day to make the right decisions or to face a relentless obstacle in the way. We struggle to persevere through bodily unwillingness or to physically defend ourselves against adversary forces. We are constantly in a battle with ourselves to strive for companionship so we are not lonely. These are some of the types of struggles Santiago is forced to combat with in the Old man in the Sea novella.

In this novella, Santiago endures the affects of fishing on his own body. Ernest Hemingway portrays Santiago as an old, beaten-down man. He is in a constant fight with his body to not give up. He knows that his body can only take so much and that’s why he has some techniques to help him. “Eat it now and it will strengthen the hand. It is not the hand’s fault and you have been many hours with the fish.” (58). Santiago soothes his cramped hand by eating the tuna. Santiago knows he can not move on and expect to catch a fish without taking care of his body first. His predicament makes him stronger. His encouraging thoughts keep him optimistic and help him endure the pain. Even though a cramped hand will create a problem for him, he still keeps a clear head and doesn’t let the pestering problem keep him down. His will keeps him going to catch the fish.

Santiago is unwillingly faced with strong adversaries that interrupt his fishing. Just when Santiago was about to catch the Marlin, he encountered a pod of sharks. The sharks started to attack the godly marlin that Santiago had spent days to catch. He is then left with the last resort which is to fight. “The shark came to a rush and the old man hit him as he shut his jaws. He hit him solidly and from as high up as he could raise the club. This time he felt the bone at the base of the brain and he hit him again in the same place while the shark tore the meat loose sluggishly and slid down from the fish.” (114). Santiago uses any type of weapon to fend off the sharks. His brave personality and strength allow Santiago to take the shark. Also Santiago’s common sense, to beat the shark in the brain and stop him in his tracks, proves how fishing oriented Santiago is. He knows how to handle himself in tough situations and knows how to face them with courage.

One heart-wrenching struggle that Santiago tries to overcome is a companion. He wants someone to be there with him to accompany him on his fishing trips. He wants someone there to help him catch fish as another set of hands to take some of the strain off from him. He wants someone to be there for him to mend his cramped hand. He wants someone there to just share his life with and to talk to. “Then he said aloud, ‘I wish I had the boy. To help me and to see this.’”(48). Santiago still yearns for a friend, like the boy. The compassion for the boy to be there for him never goes away and we only see this weakness in him every so often. The dismal mood that surrounds him never seems to fade. Santiago only wishes for the boy to fill the void in his heart to lighten up his life.

Since the time Ernest Hemingway wrote the novella, one can peek at Santiago’s life and get a glimpse of his struggles. However, his will to do better and courageous actions lead readers to believe that his optimistic attitude will never get him down. There is always another day to come. Santiago’s life exemplifies of just how humans might struggle through life and that leaves one to believe that struggles do not destroy humans, but make them stronger.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

3rd Quarter Outside Reading Book

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, HarperCollins Books, 1997 Genre: Fiction

Rebecca is about the narrator who is a young twenty-one year old woman who falls in love with and older man. The olderman is Mr. de Winter, Maxim, who is the master of Manderly. Manderly is this extrodinary mansion in England. Everyone has heard of Manderly and it had a reputation to be where the rich and elegant people have dinner parties and celebrate their glorious lives. It is also Mr. de Winter's house that he grew up in. When the narrator moves in to Manderly she is not welcomed with open arms from the cleaning staff, especially one person in particluar, Mrs. Danvers. Mrs. Danvers is the head of staff of maids and every other worker at Manderly. As the narrator discovers more and more about Manderly she finds out about Rebecca. Rebecca was the former Mrs. de Winters but mysteriously died about a year ago. She is constantly comparing herself to Rebecca because she is constantly told how wonderful she was by Mrs. Danvers and evryone else.The narrator believes that she could never live up to Rebecca's legacy because she was the one who planned every dinner party and every ocassion. She thought that she was perfect. But through the book she unfolds the truth about Rebecca and how she really died. The narrator discovers the real evil, conceited Rebecca that no one knew about and becomes more secure about her new role as a wife. As everything is supposedly wrapped up, Dapne Du Maurier ends the book abruptly with a surprised twist, Maderly burns down.

"Du Maurier is in a class by herself."-New York Times
"Excellent...perfect...mastery from surprise to surprise."-Christian Science Monitor

In Rebecca we see the life of a young woman who is telling the story of her experiences at Manderly. Daphne Du Maurier writes in very descrptive means, describing every little detail in a specific manner. She uses a lot of figurative writing to let the author imagine how something is done or looks like or feels like.

I haven't previously read anything by Du Maurier because I have never heard of her before. Now she is deceased but her books are amazing. If I had to compare one thing about her book to another I would say that she uses a lot of detail like in Twilight. She sometimes gives too much detail and uses too many extravegant words that then the words loose their meaning and then it is dragged on a little. But overall I thought it was an interesting book. I liked how she wrote a mystery novel and I liked how she developed her characters. An example would be Mrs. Danvers. At first I thought she would've been a nice old maid and that she only acted weird around the narrator because she was slowly adapting to the new wife. But in the middle of the book we find out that Mrs. Danvers hates the narrator so much that she tried to talk her into killing herself which was really shocking. I also thought the plot was intriging. It was a shocker that Rebecaa turned out to have an ugly personality and bad intentions. I liked how the author created it all.

"This drive twisted and turned like a serpent, scarce wider in places than a path, and above our heads was a great colonade of trees, whose branches nodded and intermingled with one another, making an archway for us, like the roof of a church." PG 65

I actually got this book because someone reccommended it to me. They said that they really enjoyed it so I decided to read it. It turns out it wasn't a bad book, I liked it a lot. Some places though were really hard to keep going because it dragged alittle in the begining. Though once I got into the mystery of Rebecca and start uncovering the secret, it became impossible to put down. It was very suspenseful in the middle and at the end because I didn't know what was going to happen next. After the author twisted the plot, it made me on the edge of my seat. I was really surprised how the book ended. I wished though we knew more about who burned Manderly and why, but I guess the author wanted to leave us still guessing about it all. Overall I give it two thumbs up.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The old house

When I first moved to this house my nightmares began. The house was old and fragile but had a presence on the street. It was tucked behind several trees and had a meandering road that lead to it. It had a lot of character to it that drew me in right from the begining. The front of the house had a great bay window that had intricate designs painted on the colonial glass panels. There were two great double doors leading into the immense house. The one thing that set the incredible house apart from others was the balcony off the master bedroom. The balcony opened up to the endless garden of geranimums below it. The garden featured a trellis that enhanced the fairy-tale like setting. I was stunned when I heard this house hadn't been sold yet. The previous owner had a hard time selling it. There were rumors that it had been haunted by a derranged ghost. Others had been reluctant to buy it, but I was not scared of ghost stories anymore. Besides, I thought, What's the worst that could happen...Right?

I heard the first of the rumors from the owner himself.
" Well there was this lady, young lady, not too older than you miss, who was soon to be the wife of a very affluent man in the town . See the boy stumbled upon this load of money gambling in the city and refused to share it with his family. Well on the day her their wedding was a tragic one of that. Her husband and her got married underneath the trellis amongst the geranimums and blooming flowers in the garden. After the reception the young man was no where to be found. When they finally found him, he was prostrate on the wooden floor, lifeless. Some say that his wife poisoned him to have the money all to herself. But the funny thing is she died a couple months later. Some believe she hid the money on this property. Hey good luck finding it. I swear, I've searched up and down this estate and I couldn't find even a cent of it. But just stay clear of the woman. Sometimes, late at night, you can even hear the lamenting of the young woman...."

The first time I had nightmare, of this strange woman, was about a week after I bought the house. The vision was so clear and vivid, it was almost real. I was in my room and I heard a woman’s voice. She had an ethereal voice. I followed it through the back door out onto the terrace. I was spirit-like in movement. I floated pass the trees and over the small trellis in the backyard. I was always brought to that same place. I would almost flash back and flash forward to a lively wedding jubilee with the woman and then back to reality. In the visions she was always with this young man. They were both beautiful and supliant. She wore a long gown that had intricate embroidered patterns and was embellished with beads. It nipped in at the waist then flowed away from her body. He wore a traditional suit that fit him like a glove. They looked so happy. I don't know why a woman with such a happy life would end up killing her husband and then end up haunting the very house I lived in. All of a sudden I was standing in the attic. She was there too. She was no longer She looked solemnly at an old jewelry box. She opened it and inside was a letter written by her. I woke up gasping for air.

I felt like in every dream I got a message. With every new dream I became more leery of how her husband died. I was told that his wife murdered him, but from what I saw was not the case at all. I was going to get to the bottom of this.

That day I poked around the house a little. I discovered an old dusty attic. Amongst the dust and other critters i stumbled upon a box of letters. It was the box in my dream. I read one dated in June, two months after the wedding. It was written by the woman it said that she hid the money on the propety and that her mother-in-law would never find it. She said that her evil mind and underminig actions would never sufice and no matter how hard she tried she would never get the money. It was located in her favorite place in the whole in tire world and her mother-in-law would never find it. I felt compunction while reading the note.

I woke up that morning in a chilling air from another nightmare. I walked over to the double dutch doors that led to the balcony and searched out into the yard. I pondered my dreams and searched for answers. All of a sudden I had an epiphany. She didn't do it, I thought, She's innocent. After everything that I had discovered and saw I knew who did it. I knew where the treasure was and who killed the young man. I knew the secrets of this unsettling mystery. The only thing left to do was to punish the person that was responsible for it.

I figured the mystery out. The mother-in -law killed her son. She was avaricious and wanted her son's money but he refused to give it to her. She murdered him in the attic to make it look like his wife killed him for the money. The wife knew the tacit schemes of her malignant mother-in-law and hid the money in a safe place, her favorite place, the geranimum garden. With fear of being caught and snet to prison by her son's wife, the mother-in-law capriciously murdered her benign daughter-in-law.

She was still alive today, the mother-in-law. It was difficult to locate her, for she had an alias name. We found her in a small hamlet, two towns over. When the police showed up at her door, she was dumfounded. Her countanance was grave and shocked. She denied the alligations but once I gave the letter to the police chief, she was incarcerated for murder. Later, when i told the chief about the fortune, a surveying crew came over and dug up the garden. There in a tiny, wooden box was a check for one million dollars. The chief told me since it was found on my property that I was the rightful owner to it. That evening I noticed something had changed. It felt like a weight had been lifted off my chest. For once I was placid. That night I didn't have any nightmares. She was gone. She finally was at rest and so was I. I guess the money was a reward for punishing the mother-in-law and releasing her spirit. The next morning was the start of a brand new life.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

2nd Quarter Outside Reading Book Review

The Truth about Forever, Sarah Dessen. Penquin Group, 2004. Genre: Fiction

In The Truth about Forever, Macy is a seventeen-year-old girl who recently lost her father. Throughout the story, Macy endures this internal conflict as to how about she deals with life after her father. First she trys to live a safe, organized, scheduled, boring life. Then through the story she changes. After making new, exciting friends from her unstructured catering job, she becomes concious of something. She realizes that stuff happens in life and you just have to move on because life keeps going and nothing lasts forever.

"Grief, fear, and love set the pace and Macy's cresendo from time-bomb perfection to fallible, emotional humnaity is, for the right readers, as gripping as any action adventure."-SLJ, starred review

This book is written from Macy's perspective. She tells the reader about the summer after her dad died. This can be a very heavy topic for Sarah Dessen to write about but I'm glad she did. After reading this book, I can imagine that anyone who lost someone in their life can relate to this book. It also sends a good message of advice saying that moving on with your life, after a tragety, can be hard but building up your feelings inside and hiding emotions, can be worst than letting it all out. I haven't read any other of Sarah Dessen's books, but I would like to read more.

Sarah Dessen writes in a way that's easy to follow. She doesn't exactly give all the details about the setting or characteristics, but she informs the reader of only the details needed. Also her dialogues, I thought, were very realistic. I could picture everyone's faces by just the way she punctuated the dislougue, then reassured the reader by one or two simple, precise word choices. I also liked how she used a lot of voice that sounded like a teenager's voice. I felt like I knew some of the charcters in the book because they reminded me of some of the people in our school. They were sort of like stereotypes.

"And what did you say?"
"I said it was," I told her.
"Macy!" kristy smakced her hand to her forehead. "God! What were you thinking?"
"I didn't know," I told her. Then, more softly, to myself, I said, "It's so unfair."
Kristy shook her head. "It's tragical." PG 359

I liked this book because i could relate to it. Not all about losing someone but just about like teenage years. This is relatable to all teenagers, I think, because it is written about a teenage girl who is going through life. I liked how Sarah Dessen writes about these topics that's why I think most teenage girls love her books so much. I think I'm going to continue to read some of her books in the near future.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

1st Quarter outside Reading Book Review

A Song for Summer by Eva Ibbotson. Penguin Group, 1997. Genre: Historical Fiction

This book is about a girl named Ellen who goes and becomes a matron at a school for kids at Hallendorf. She discovers that all the teachers and kids are free-spirited. She befriends the kids and also is friends with the groundskeeper of the school, Marek. Marek is undercover at the school and goes on mission to save his colleague Meierwitz to help him escape a concentration camp. Ellen helps him out and ends up falling in love with him. Although Marek feels the same way, the conflicts of the war make him push her away because he doesn’t want her to get hurt. In the end they overcome these problems and right before Marek leaves for Canada, Ellen leaves her husband to go with him.

“Ibbotson, who grew up in Austria and fled the Nazis herself, provides rich details of prewar life in Vienna and the alpine countryside. A lively read.”

-Library Journal

The author writes about life in Austria before the war. It is written in the third person omniscient because you can see and hear the thoughts from each of the character’s point of view. It describes what life is like in the time of war. It is different from the book “Briar Rose” that I read previously this year. They were both about the Nazis and times during World War Two but in “A Song for Summer” the story is about the present tense whereas in “Briar Rose”, Becca is trying to unfold her Grandmother’s past.
Ibbotson’s writing style is unique because she leaps forward into the book and then explains after to the reader how the characters got there.

“Built by Habsburg count for his mistress, its towers housed bedrooms and boudoirs, not emplacements for guns; pale blue shutters lay folded against pink walls roses climbed toward the fir-floor windows,” (17)

I’m sorry to say that this book was not one of my favorites. I didn’t enjoy it because I felt that the author didn’t describe the character’s appearance or setting as thoroughly as could. I felt so confused in the middle of the book because the points of views were changed so much. I also felt like there was so much happening in the book that it was rushed and didn’t flow as nicely as I would’ve liked. Although this isn’t one of my favorite books I do give the author pros for writing basically about the experiences during the war over in Austria and putting it out there for the world to see and get the war from a perspective of a matron.