Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult -- A Book Review

Here's what we had to say about Jodi Picoult's novel My Sister's Keeper!
All is a go so lots of spoilers!! We await your comments!! We can't wait!! ;0)
Note: See earlier post for our answers to the Book Club questions!!

Janet: I enjoyed this novel's ups and downs. I love Picoult's trademark twists. I could not connect to Sara on any level in this story, no matter how hard I tried. Besides the main issue of her conceiving Anna just to save Kate and all the following medical procedures, I also felt that a good mother would never give up on a child (Jesse). I think this even spoke to me louder than the rest. How could you let that happen? How could you love child so much as to let another (or two, in this case) go? I enjoyed Anna's character and was very sad that she was the one who ended up dying. Overall, I really liked this novel.

Lisa: I really enjoyed this story. It is one of those situations where you don’t know what you would do or how you would feel if it were you. Although I think I agree with the father more. I think I know myself well enough that if I love any of my other kids as much as I love my daughter I could not use one of them to save the other. She didn’t want to send Anna to hockey camp because of what might happen to Kate if she were gone. WTF? So, she gave Anna life, but not to actually live. I didn’t really like the ending. I was hoping that Anna got to live her life and that Kate had some sort of miracle lived for another couple of years then passed away peacefully. I don’t know? But after all that and Anna dies anyway?

Stacy: As a whole I really enjoyed reading this book. It kept me interested, the characters were interesting, I agreed with Brian's role as Anna's father over Sara's role. I didn't like Sara much, no matter how many times she said she loved Anna and Jodi tried to show us through back stories and such, I still never believed it. I believed she loved Anna to some degree but I just felt her heart was with Kate and Kate only. We can say all we want that we would never do to our kids what Sara did to Anna, but do we really know that?Campbell and Julia's characters and story was a nice side story that I think helped make the book a little less intense. I have to say I really thought that Anna dying was the wrong choice, a powerful one, but not the one I wanted. I wanted her to give Kate her kidney by choice and have Kate go into an 8 year remission. Maybe I'm a sucker for happy endings.

My SIster's Keeper Q&A

1. Reread the prologue to My Sister's Keeper. Who is the speaker? Is it the same person you thought it was the first time you read it?

Janet- I don't have the book anymore!

Lisa- After finishing the story you have to assume it was Kate who is speaking in the Prologue; because she’s not dead, but you assume that starting the book that the sister with cancer must die.

2. What is the metaphorical relevance of Brian's profession as a fire chief?

J- As a fire chief, Brian has to put out the fire before it hurts someone. At home, he puts out fires one by one, hopefully before it hurts someone.

L- He saves lives everyday, but he is powerless to save his daughter.

Stacy- Brian puts out fires for a living, but with the fire burning in his own home it's not as easy. One might think that maybe the life of his daughter is the fire and we're just waiting for it to go out.

3. Why is Jesse's behavior so aberrant, while until now, Anna has been so compliant?

J- Jesse is the one who has to mourn the loss of his childhood. He knows his parents have to focus on Kate. Anna knows that too and responds in a different way because she has grown up this way and knows no difference.

L- I think Jesse probably felt useless not being able to help his sister like Anna does. Yet he probably also feels glad he’s not going through the same stuff as Anna. Which then makes him feel guilty all over again. Anna and Kate are best friends there is nothing that Anna wouldn’t do for her. At the age of 13 she’s thinking of her future and looking forward to growing up so until now she didn’t even question if she would help save her sister or not. Plus what she did before is nothing on the scale of donating an organ.

S- I think that Jesse's character is very interesting, he's this rebel kid, but when it comes down to it he's a great brother. He's there for Anna when she needs him to give her rides and to get in to see Kate, he supports her in her choices and he's there with Kate when no one else is. Anna is clearly compliant until now because she loves her sister, and she didn't know she had a choice to say no. How would she have known that she could say no?

4. What might be a possible reason for Brian's fascination with astronomy?

J- It seems to me to be another way to escape. With astronomy, there are maps and directions. With Brian's life there are no maps or directions, it probably would be comforting.

L- It’s the unknown. It reminds him of his life.

5. On page 98, Kate is being admitted to the hospital in very serious condition. She mouths to Jesse, "tell Anna," but is unable to finish. What do you think she was trying to say?

J- She probably wanted Anna to start to carry on the plan.

L- I think she wanted Anna to know that it’s starting and this is when she needs to be the strongest because seeing her sick will be hard and maybe make her back out of her decision.

S- Probably, "Tell Anna not to give up" or something to that nature.

6. On page 122, Julia says, "Even if the law says that no one is responsible for anyone else, helping someone who needs it is the right thing to do." Who understood better how to "help" Kate, Sara or Anna?

J- Anna for sure.

L- Anna. The mother was only in survival mode and was blinded by love and wouldn’t even consider thinking that maybe her daughter was ready to go.

7. Did Anna do the right thing, honoring Kate's wishes?

J- I believe so.

L- Yes, I think so. I hope that my wishes are honored when my time comes.

S- I don't think that anyone can really answer this question. All around yes she did the right thing in my opinion, for Kate and for herself. She needed that and Kate needed her to do it, I think, so she could feel less guilty about all the things Anna has given her when she can give nothing in return.

8. Do you feel it was unfair of Kate to ask Anna to refuse to donate a kidney, even though this seemed to be the only way for her to avoid the lifesaving transplant?

J- Nope, I have a feeling that I would feel like Kate does, and want it to be over. I also know that the only way Kate could get this accomplished is to use the closeness that her and Anna share to get it done.

L- Yes. It’s unfair because it’s a huge thing to ask someone. She was basically asking her sister to kill her. I don’t think I could do that.

9. On page 142, Brian says that when rescuing someone from a fire, that "the safety of the rescuer is of a higher priority than the safety of the victim. Always." How does this apply to his role in his own family?

J- Obviously, this is why he sides with Anna without asking a ton of questions, he takes her decision for face value.

L- Kate is the “victim” and Anna is the “rescuer” which is why I believe he sides with Anna.

10. On page 144, Brian says, "Like anything that's been confined, fire has a natural instinct to escape." How does this truth apply to Kate? to Brian himself?

J- Kate has been restricted for her whole life and death is considered an escape for her. Brian escapes through his work and astronomy. And even poor Anna would like to escape, despite her desire to help her sister.

L- Kate has been confined to a life of hospital visits. She wants to be let go. I think Brian feels the same way, he lives his life hospital visit to hospital visit and I think part of him is ready to let go.

11. On page 149, Brian is talking to Julia about astronomy and says, "Dark matter has a gravitational effect on other objects. You can't see it, you can't feel it, but you can watch something being pulled in its direction." How is this symbolic of Kate's illness?

Dark matter could be her illness and at times you could see it taking its toll on her.

L- Kate is the gravity and she is affecting the whole family and they can’t escape.

S- He is seeing Kate's disease pulling her in the direction of death. Maybe his fascination with stars has to do with the fact that we all need something bigger than ourselves to love. Something beautiful to get our mind off whatever it needs too. Maybe there isn't this big analytical answer.

12. For what reason(s) did Brian offer Anna a place to stay at the firehouse while the legal proceedings were underway?

J- I didn't read into this anymore that what was explained in the novel.

L- Read Question 9.

13. How does Anna's decision to pursue medical emancipation parallel Campbell's decision to end his relationship with Julia after his accident?

J- Each of them wants to do what they think is best for the one they love.

L- I would compare Campbell with Kate; he doesn’t want anyone to feel responsible for him anymore so to save anyone from a life of being a “carer” he makes the decision to break away. Kate doesn’t want her sister to feel responsible for her anymore. Julia is Anna but wasn’t asked.

14. Do you agree with Brian's decision not to turn Jesse in to the authorities for setting the fires?

J- Yes. I think after he had the heart to heart, it would never happen again.

L- Yes and No. No because as a firefighter he as a responsibility to protect people and his co-workers have been endangering themselves to stop these fires. On the other hand I don’t think I could turn in my own kid if I could honestly say he/she would never do it again.

S- Yes

15. Do you feel that it's ethical to conceive a child that meets specific genetic requirements? If not, do you believe that there should be specific exceptions, such as the purpose of saving another person's life, or is this just a "slippery slope?"

J- It is just a slippery slope. I do not believe it to be ethical to do what this family did.

L- No. It is a slippery slope, but if I was faced with a decision so save my unborn children from something deadly (not cosmetic or to save another child) I would. If there were some harmful gene that could be eliminated … but the problem is where does it stop?

S- No, a chance, never.

Fearless Fourteen (Stephanie Plum, No. 14) by Janet Evanovich -- Recommended by Mary

Personal vendettas, hidden treasure, and a monkey named Carl will send bounty hunter Stephanie Plum on her most explosive adventure yet.

The Crime: Armed robbery to the tune of nine million dollars. Dom Rizzi robbed a bank, stashed the money and did the time. His family couldn't be more proud. He always was the smart one.

The Cousin: Joe Morelli, Dom Rizzi and Dom's sister Loretta are cousins. Morelli is a cop, Rizzi robs banks, and Loretta is a single mother waiting tables at the firehouse. The all American family.

The Complications: Murder, kidnapping, destruction of personal property, and acid reflux. Less than a week after Dom's release from prison, Joe Morelli has shadowy figures breaking into his house and dying in his basement. He's getting threatening messages, Loretta is kidnapped, and Dom is missing.

The Catastrophe: Morelli hires Walter "Mooner" Dunphy, stoner and "inventor" turned crime-fighter to protect his house. Morelli can't afford a lot on a cop's salary, and Mooner will work for potatoes.

The Cupcake: Stephanie and Morelli have a long-standing relationship that involves sex, affection and driving each other nuts. She's a bond enforcement agent with more luck than talent, and she's involved in this bank-robbery-gone-bad disaster from day one.

The Crisis: Security expert Carlos Manoso, street name Ranger, has a job for Stephanie that will involve night-work. Morelli has his own ideas regarding Stephanie's evening activities.

The Conclusion: Only the fearless should read fourteen. Thrills, chills and possible incontinence may result.
Originally published in hardcover June 2008.St.Martin's Press

Mary Says: Very entertaining and funny story!! A must read!!

Monday, April 27, 2009

She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb--A Recommendation by Alicia

She's Come Undone is a deeply affecting, often hilarious novel that centers around one of the most extraordinary characters in recent American fiction: wisecracking, ever-vulnerable Dolores Price, whose life we follow through her fortieth year. When we first meet Dolores in 1956, she is four years old, innocently unaware that the delivery of a television set will launch her tumultuous personal odyssey.Through one thousand and one television nights, Dolores feeds herself the fantasies of melodramas and sitcoms and tries to understand the many faces of love and betrayal: her father, driven by lust and longing to leave his family; her mother, an emotionally fragile woman who battles mental illness; Grandma Holland, lace-curtain decent, peppery and proud, aching with unspoken feelings; and Jack Speight, the handsome upstairs neighbor whose ultimate betrayal will throw Dolores' life severely, nearly permanently, off-course.What follows — obesity, sexual ambiguity, self-delusion, and madness — is the precursor to a radiant rebirth. It is not without labor pains, this new awakening. A surrogate family that includes an ancient Polka Queen disc jockey suffering from Parkinson's disease, the 6' 10" proprietor of Existential Drywall (motto: Responsible Work for Authentic Individuals") and her former high school guidance counselor Mr. Pucci, helps Dolores find happiness in small moments.As endearingly familiar as Chiquita Banana jingles, Hula-Hoops and I Love Lucy, as mysterious and haunting as the cries of whales, She's Come Undone makes us laugh and wince with recognition and reminds us that despite the pain we endure and cause, we must find the courage to love again.

Coal Run by Tawni O’Dell--A Recommendation by Alicia

Tawni O'Dell's astonishing debut novel, Back Roads, received widespread critical acclaim for its visceral portrayal of a family torn apart by violence. In her much anticipated second novel, Coal Run, O'Dell returns to the ravaged mining towns of western Pennsylvania, this time to the homecoming of a former small-town football hero, Ivan Zoschenko.
The Great Ivan Z was a rising star when an accident left his knee shattered and his future uncertain. After decamping to Florida, where he spent sixteen liquor-filled years hiding from his past, Ivan is reluctantly drawn back to his hometown of Coal Run by the news of a former teammate's release from prison.
A once prosperous mining town, Coal Run—like Ivan—is a shadow of its former self and haunted by tragic memories. When Ivan was just six years old, Gertie, the town's largest mine, exploded, burying in its tunnels nearly every man in town, including his own father, grandfather, and uncle. Though Gertie has long since ceased to function, the town is still very much defined by its former presence: each family descends from miners, most of them killed in the blast.
Despite Ivan's bad knee, he is given the job of local deputy, a nod to his former glory. He perfunctorily fulfills his duty, though often making exceptions to the law and sobriety. But in the days leading up to Reese's return from prison, Ivan can no longer repress the secret history of violence and irresponsibility that binds him to Reese—and to Reese's wife, who remains comatose after the beating that led to his incarceration.
When Ivan attends the funeral of Zo, a family friend and elderly town figure, he encounters Val—a scarred Vietnam veteran, former neighbor, and childhood hero of Ivan's—who is making his own belated homecoming. Reflecting on the boy he once was and the man he should have become, Ivan is tortured by memories of his Ukrainian immigrant father, his own youthful arrogance, and the still lingering consequences of his actions.
Ivan realizes that he must first reconcile his past in order to forge a path toward a better future, ultimately struggling with whether a man's worth is intrinsic to his person or is instead the sum of his actions—whether through the acceptance of duty and responsibility, however belatedly, he might atone for his past. Rich in heart and the casual, indiscriminate brutality of both man and land, Coal Run is above all a story of redemption and healing, the acceptance of one's shortcomings, and the infinite hopefulness of a new future.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Jodi Picoult -- Recommended by Amy

Plain Truth:
YA-Philadelphia defense lawyer Ellie Hathaway retreats to her great Aunt Leda's home in Paradise, PA, to get a break from her high-pressure job. Almost at the same time that she arrives, a dead baby is discovered in the barn of an Amish farmer. A police investigation reveals that the mother is an 18-year-old unmarried Amish girl, Katie Fisher, and that the infant apparently did not die of natural causes. Even in the face of medical proof that she recently gave birth, Katie denies the murder charge. Ellie reluctantly agrees to defend her, even though she does not want to be defended. To better understand her client, Ellie moves into the farmhouse with the Fisher family where she begins to see firsthand the pressures and sacrifices of those who live "plain." As she searches for evidence in this case, she calls upon a friend from her past, Dr. John Cooper, a psychiatrist. As Coop and Ellie work together to unravel fact and fiction, they also work to resolve issues in their relationship. Readers will experience a psychological drama as well as a suspenseful courtroom trial. The contrast between the Amish culture and the "English" provides an interesting tension. This study of opposites details much information about a way of life based on faith, humility, duty, and hon-esty.Carol Clark, formerly at Fairfax County Public Schools, VA Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The Tenth Circle:
Bestselling author Jodi Picoult's The Tenth Circle is a metaphorical journey through Dante's Inferno, told through the eyes of a small Maine family whose hidden demons haunt every aspect of their seemingly peaceful existence. Woven throughout the novel are a series of dramatic illustrations that pay homage to the family's patriarch (comic book artist Daniel Stone), and add a unique twist to this gripping, yet somewhat rhetorical tale.
Trixie Stone is an imaginative, perceptive 14 year old whose life begins to unravel when Jason Underhill, Bethel High's star hockey player, breaks up with her, leaving a void that can only be filled by the blood spilled during shameful self-mutilations in the girls' bathroom. While Trixie's dad Daniel notices his daughter's recent change in demeanor, he turns a blind eye, just as he does to the obvious affair his wife Laura, a college professor, is barely trying to conceal. When Trixie gets raped at a friend's party, Daniel and Laura are forced to deal not only with the consequences of their daughter's physical and emotional trauma, but with their own transgressions as well. For Daniel, that means reflecting on a childhood spent as the only white kid in a native Alaskan village, where isolation and loneliness turned him into a recluse, only to be born again after falling in love with his wife. Laura, who blames her family's unraveling on her selfish affair, must decide how to reconcile her personal desires with her loved ones' needs.
The Tenth Circle is chock full of symbolism and allegory that at times can seem oppresive. Still, Picoult's fans will welcome this skillfully told story of betrayal and its many negative, and positive consequences. --Gisele Toueg
Amy Says:
In anticipation of the book club, book of the month, I have been reading more books by Jodi Picoult, because I am a fast reader and finished the book way to fast and didn't know of another book to pick up.
I have read The Tenth Circle and Plain Truth along with our book of the month, and I still cannot get enough. I cannot even go into details of the book(s) because it will give away valuable and shocking plot twists! All I can say though is Jodi does not disappoint the reader. The characters are well thought out with depth. They each have a past, a present, and a future that they are all unsure of. Just when you think you got things figured out, Jodi always throws in another twists, which makes your jaw drop. Just like our book of the month, you think the book is all wrapped up nice and neat, then the "bombshell" hits and makes you say out loud.... no way!! I am going to continue to read Jodi Picoult's pieces because they are amazing peices of literature and you should check them out too!!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn -- A Recommendation -- by Melanie

Lil Binewski, born a Boston aristocrat, was in her time the most stylish of geeks. That is to say she made her living by biting the heads off live chickens in front of a Carnival audience. This she gave up for doting motherhood, because she had her fairground- owning husband had a money spinning idea. Throughout each pregnancy Lil gobbles pesticides, experiments with drugs and douses herself with radiation to ensure that she prodcues infants grotesque enough to keep the turnstiles clicking. She does. Arturo the Aqua Boy is a limbless megalomaniac, Electra and Iphigenia are musically gifted Siamese twins with a penchant for prostitution and Fortunato is possessed of stange telekinetic powers. Their story- by turns shocking, tender, touching and cruel- is narrated by their sister Olympia. She is a bald, hunchbacked, albino dwarf.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dear John by Nicholas Sparks -- A Recommendation

An angry rebel, John dropped out of school and enlisted in the Army, not knowing what else to do with his life--until he meets the girl of his dreams, Savannah. Their mutual attraction quickly grows into the kind of love that leaves Savannah waiting for John to finish his tour of duty, and John wanting to settle down with the woman who has captured his heart. But 9/11 changes everything. John feels it is his duty to re-enlist. And sadly, the long separation finds Savannah falling in love with someone else. "Dear John," the letter read...and with those two words, a heart was broken and two lives were changed forever. Returning home, John must come to grips with the fact that Savannah, now married, is still his true love—and face the hardest decision of his life.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

My Sister's Keeper

In the comment area I have posted the discussion questions from Jodi Picoult's official website. For those who have finished reading have a look for those who haven't you still have time!! ;0)


Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire -- A Book Review

Back in the land of Oz, the adolescent boy Liir was last seen hiding in the shadows of the castle after Dorothy did in the Witch. Bruised, comatose, and left for dead, Liir is tended to at the Cloister of Saint Glinda by a silent novice called Candle, who wills him back to life with her musical gifts. What dark force left Liir in this condition? Is he really Elphaba's son? He has her broom and her cape - but what of her powers? In an Oz that, since the Wizard's departure, is under new and dangerous management, can Liir keep his head down long enought to grow up?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card -- A Recommendation -- by Melanie

Another outing for the classic legend of the boy who journeys to the stars to defeat an alien horde and save the human race. Ender Wiggin is Battle School's latest recruit. His teachers reckon he could become a great leader. And they need one. A vast alien force is headed for Earth: its mission, the annihilation of all human life. Ender could be our only hope. But first he must survive the most brutal military training programme in the galaxy... With its explosive storyline, pump-action excitement and hugely engaging central characters, Ender's Game is a sure-fire winner. Orson Scott Card is the multi-award winning and bestselling author of a host of groundbreaking SF novels, and his storytelling acumen is well to the fore here.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Lipstick Jungle by Candace Bushnell -- A Book Review -- by Amy

In a way, Candace Bushnell's Lipstick Jungle picks up where her career-defining book Sex and the City left off, in the money-soaked, power-hungry, beauty-obsessed jungle that is New York City. This time around, the ladies are a bit older, a lot richer, but not particularly wiser nor more endearing than Bushnell's earlier heroines.This racy tale of women behaving badly manages to shrewdly flip the tables to show us how gender roles are essentially interchangeable, given the right circumstances. Whether that was Bushnell's intent when crafting this wicked tale is another story. --Gisele Toueg

Back Roads by Tawni O'Dell -- A Recommendation -- by Alicia

Meet Harley Altmyer. His mother's in prison for his father's murder. At nineteen, he's raising his three younger sisters-and he's just developed an obsessive crush on the sexy, melancholic mother of two, living just down the road...

THe TIme Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger --A Recommendation-- by Alicia

The love story of Henry and Claire whose lives are punctuated by Henry's disappearance to different points in time--sometimes even back to visit Claire as a young woman. When Henry meets Claire, he is twenty-eight, and she is twenty. He's a hip, handsome librarian; she is an art student with Botticelli hair. Henry has never met Claire before; Claire has known Henry since she was six...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Life Of Pi by Yann Martel -- A Recommendation -- by Melanie

Some books defy categorisation: Life of Pi, the second novel from Canadian writer Yann Martel, is a case in point: just about the only thing you can say for certain about it is that it is fiercely and admirably unique. The plot, if that’s the right word, concerns the oceanic wanderings of a lost boy, the young and eager Piscine Patel of the title (Pi). After a colourful and loving upbringing in gorgeously-hued India, the Muslim-Christian-animistic Pi sets off for a fresh start in Canada. His blissful voyage is rudely interrupted when his boat is scuppered halfway across the Pacific, and he is forced to rough it in a lifeboat with a hyena, a monkey, a whingeing zebra and a tiger called Richard. That would be bad enough, but from here on things get weirder: the animals start slaughtering each other in a veritable frenzy of allegorical bloodlust, until Richard the tiger and Pi are left alone to wander the wastes of ocean, with plenty of time to ponder their fate, the cruelty of the gods, the best way to handle storms and the various different recipes for oothappam, scrapple and coconut yam kootu. The denouement is pleasantly neat. According to the blurb, thirtysomething Yann Martel spent long years in Alaska, India, Mexico, France, Costa Rica, Turkey and Iran, before settling in Canada. All those cultures and more have been poured into this spicy, vivacious, kinetic and very entertaining fiction.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon -- A Recommendation -- by Melanie

Critically acclaimed author Mark Haddon, a two-time BAFTA winner, crafts a stunning masterpiece that is funny and incredibly moving. Fifteen-year-old Christopher has a condition similar to autism. He doesn’t like to be touched, meet new people, or make small talk. But when his neighbor’s dog is killed, Christopher begins a quest that shakes the very foundation of his perfectly ordered life.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April's Book Selection

Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate - a life and a role that she has never questioned… until now. Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister - and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable… a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves. My Sister's Keeper examines what it means to be a good parent, a good sister, a good person. Is it morally correct to do whatever it takes to save a child's life… even if that means infringing upon the rights of another? Is it worth trying to discover who you really are, if that quest makes you like yourself less?

Cupcakes at Carrington’s by Alexandra Brown {book review}

Every month a blog I follow hosts a book club, but the books chosen all have to do with food. Particularly baking. It’s very similar to ...