Tuesday, December 1, 2009

VOTE!

Okay, so here are some issues that have been raised that I thought we could take a democratic approach to (now that we all know the difference between a democracy and a republic).
1. Catch-up month. Some people are still finishing the 5000 Year Leap and therefore have not yet started on November's book yet. It has been suggested that we then move mom's choice to January and use December as a catch-up month giving everyone time to participate in discussion. How do y'all feel about that?
2. Next issue, dad would like to have the month after mom (since mom is the last one, the cycle will start again with Hillary then Cami then Cali....). The constitution I so geniusly drafted does not allow that, however by vote we can overrule the rules.
Alrighty? Thanks a bunch and have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The 5000 Year Discussion

"The happy union of these states is a wonder; their Constitution is a miracle; their example of the hope and liberty throughout the world. Woe to the ambition that would meditate the destruction of either." - James Madison
What a great quote to start a book! I thought of National Treasure when Nicolas Cage says, "People don't talk like that anymore." I loved reading this book! It was interesting, fun, and relatively easy and quick (it would have been much quicker if I weren't in school). I think there was a plethora of good quotes and historical insights that every good American should know. I can't say anything better than how the scholars have said it so I thought I'd just go through and list my favorite quotes and the feelings I got. The only principle I did not agree with was the 23rd. My feelings on education are...complicated. So we'll just skip it for now.
Part 1: The Founder's Monumental Task
Great Thomas Jefferson quote: "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." That's why everyone should read this book and other classics.
Part 2: The Founder's Basic Principles
1 - The Genius of Natural Law: I liked this line by the author in reference to natural law by God, "It cannot be abandoned by legislators or the people themselves, even though they may pretend to do so." Sometimes I feel enslaved by the acts of legislators and found this quote inspiring.
3 - Virtuous and Moral Leaders: That almost seems a laughable phrase. I thought of the Kennedy's when the author mentioned getting where you are on your own merit and not the wealth and reputation of your family. Above all I loved this Samuel Adams statement. "But neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt." Congress anyone?
4 - The Role of Religion: "And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion... Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail to the exclusion of religious principle." - George Washington. "America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great." - Alexis de Tocqueville.
6 - All Men Are Created Equal: Nothing sums up the definition of "equity before the law" more than this quote from Clarence Carson, "This means every man's case is tried by the same law governing any particular case...The definition of premeditated murder is the same for the millionaire as for the tramp."
7 - Equal Rights, Not Equal Things: So many great quotes in this chapter I wish I could write them all! I liked that the author pointed out that we cannot give the state power to do anything we cannot ourselves do. Just as I cannot take Jesse's Tahoe and give it to Cali since her car died, so the government cannot either.
8 - Man's Unalienable Rights: "Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws..." - Frederic Bastiat.
12 - Advantages of a Republic: A must read for every citizen. The author clearly, and effectively, spells out a democracy vs. a republic.
13 - Protection Against Human Failty: Anyone else think of what's going on today on Capital Hill when they read this, "I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpations..." - James Madison.
14 - Property Rights Essential to Liberty: "To give him his liberty but take from him the property which is the fruit and badge of his liberty, is to still leave him a slave." - George Sutherland. Read the Abraham Lincoln quote on that same page!
15 - Free Market Economics: FREEDOM TO FAIL! That's important. I also enjoyed Jefferson's use of the word "fictitious" when describing money and capital.
17 - Checks and Balances: "The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny." - James Madison.
22 - Government by Law, Not by Man: "Even the best of men in authority are liable to be corrupted by passion. We may conclude then that the law is reason without passion, and it is therefore preferable to any individual." - Aristotle.
24 - Peace Through Strength: "To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace." - George Washington. AMEN. Washington's warning against being "lured" into complacency reminded me of the college campuses I've been on. They scream complacency.
25 - Avoid Entangling Alliances: I appreciated this chapter very much because even at BYU-I my professor taught that the founding fathers were "isolationists", here the author tells in specific detail why they were "separatists" and not "isolationists".
27 -Avoiding the Burden of Debt: I could write an entire book just on this principle so I'll just let it go.



Friday, November 20, 2009

THE ARTHURIAN OMEN - A review


(If I had stars on my computer, I would give this 3 1/2 out of 5)
Having met G.G. Vandagriff had a greater influence on me wanting to read her book than the actual title of the book. I guess I am not "that into" suspense novels. But I will admit, the synopsis did grab my attention: Here it is:

"A Celtic Scholar is brutally murdered when she discovers a clue to a priceless fifth-century manuscript that could prove the identity of King Arthur. Determined to find the ancient relic and avenge her sister's death, Maren Southcott begins a quest that immediately puts her own life in danger.
"In the modern tradition of Mary Higgins Clark, The Arthurian Omen weaves a tale of mystery and suspense as pursuit of the manuscript winds through the medieval castles and monasteries of Wales. Stalked by a psychopath with delusions of a Welsh revolution, Maren is shaken to the core when a new crisis threatens to destroy the one person she loves most.
"Can she find the manuscript before the murderer strikes again? Or is the manuscript-and the legend-better left in the past?"
I will do a very simple "Mom Review".
Q. Was it worth reading.
A. Yes, especially if you like a good mystery with lots of red-herrings. Granted, she is no Agatha Christie, but then who is. And since I have never read a Mary Higgins Clark, I can't make a comparison. But your dad and I agree she is trying to write in the style of Agatha Christie and was pretty successful. It was an enjoyable read.
Q. Was it worth the price you paid for the book? ($16.95)
A. Maybe for some of you, but for me, a person who is not "that into" suspense or fantasy type of fiction, it was not worth the price. But then, Hillary would probably say it was. Of course Hillary would not want to fork over $18.95 to pay for a book by Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter or Thomas Sowell and I would. If you really want to read this book, pick it up used at Amazon.com or at a used book store, borrow mine or check it out at your Library.
Q. What did you like best about the characters?
A. There were a lot of interesting characters, most of them suspicious, of course, and she gave several of them all the attributes they needed to be considered guilty of 'evil' things, which of course fooled me as I was always picking the wrong bad guy. Except for 1. I had him pegged about half-way through the book. The leading man (the Real one I should say) completely threw me for a loop. WOW!!! The heroine should get a "Hey Stupid" award for a couple of things she does, but I believe all heroines in modern liturature have that same tendancy. (It's midnight, she's alone and unarmed, she hears a noise and thinks she should investigate without letting anyone know where she is going or even asking someone to assist her type of thing.)
Q. Was it realistic?
A. Almost. There was one loose end that I wish would have been wrapped up better, it made the revelation at the end a little hard to believe, but the descriptions of the Welsh Countryside were so real I could almost smell and feel the lush green! It makes me want to visit the British Isles.

G.G. has some great insites and very interesing experiences about her writing this novel on the official website www.arthurianomen.com/Arthur/Hello.html check it out and let me know when you want my book.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Meet the Author: G. G. Vandagriff

Back in August, mom and I went to Deseret Book to get some last minutes essentials for Elder Cunningham and it just happened to be the same day as an author signing. Mom and I had a nice chat with G.G. Vandagriff and each ended up purchasing a novel. I have not yet read mine (The Last Waltz), but I believe mom has read hers (The Arthurian Omen), perhaps she can write a review (hint). One thing that really impressed me was that she has actually been to all of the places she writes about. Some authors I have read (unfortunately mostly LDS authors) write about exotic places in such a way that you get the feeling that they have either never been there, or it was not a memorable time. For example, I read a novel when I was in high school in which the main characters are in Hawaii. The only Hawaiian word used was 'Aloha' and the only specific place mentioned was Honolulu. All it described was beaches and palm trees, beaches and palm trees. I had never been to Hawaii at that time and even I could have described it better than that. At least googled something to make it sound like I'd been there. Anyway...
G.G. Vandagriff is an LDS author and has written several novels and some nonfiction. The Last Waltz was inspired by the time she speant in the Alps studying Austrian music, art, politics, and history from Austrian professors. Returning to Stanford to finish her BA, she majored in an interdepartmental study of Central Europe's politics, history, and economics. Upon graduation, she worked for the Hoover Institution at Stanford as a researcher and editor for the Yearbook of International Communist Affairs.
Following a two year stint in the world of finance, she attended graduate school at George Washington University, where she received her Master's Degree from distinguished émigrés of Central Europe. Once again, she studied politics, history, and economics of the region. Her master's thesis, Comecon: Asset or Liability, foretold the disintegration of the Soviet Bloc nearly two decades before the Wall fell.
Eventually, she became the author of a book on genealogy, Voices in Your Blood, and an off-beat genealogical mystery series: Cankered Roost, Of Deadly Descent, Tangled Roots, Poisoned Pedigree, and The Hidden Branch (coming in Fall, 09). She also indulged her love of King Arthur and Wales in a novel of suspense, The Arthurian Omen. She has recently co-authored a book on depression, which she suffered from for many years.

For more information and to see pictures of locations mentioned in the books, visit G. G. Vandagriff's website at last-waltz.com

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Still Standing


For those of you who are interested, Carrie Prajean has released her first book called "Still Standing" in which she defends herself against the personal attacks made against her by such garbage as Perez Hilton, Michael Musto, Keith Olbermann, and the rabid left.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

November Selection

By Jesse:

Our book for November is The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. I know that it sounds boring, and not very much fun, but trust me. This book will totally change your outlook on money. It is not just a book about money but it is also a motivational book about being happy with what you have and trying to be a better person. A little bit about the author, he was a millionare by 26 and then went completely bankrupt. He had no concept of how to handle his money, so he went on quest to figure it out. This book is about what he has figured out over the last couple of decades. He is a financial counsler, has a very succesful radio talk show and has written 3 books. I know some of you are thinking that you have already read books like this before, but trust me you haven't. It is not about getting rich fast or buying as much realestate as possible and trying to flip it. It is about learning how to manage the money that you do have. It doesn't matter if it is $500 or $500,000. That way you can have money for a rainy day or you can save for vacations instead of constantly feeling like you are out of money. It reads more like a novel, it's not just a bunch of statistics thrown together, you actually want to keep reading. You all know that I am not a big reader, I have read this book twice. There are alot of testimonials, especially towards the end, so if you get behind you can skip them and finish the book. Just promise you will go back and read them. I have actually highlighted my book, some of the quotes and statistics that I like. When I am feeling discouraged I will go back and read some of the things I highlighted. Anyway enough about the book, just read it I know you will love it. For the few of you who have already read it, you can read it again(it never hurts to read something twice), or you can read his book Financial Peace University that is what I will be reading. Love you all, can't wait to hear the feedback.

Monday, November 2, 2009

October Discussion

Skye asked me to relay the following message:

Due to the large number of participants who haven't quite finished October's selection yet, we're going to postpone discussion until the end of this week. At which time Skye will post her review to open the discussion.

In the meantime, Jesse can assign the selection for November as soon as possible so everyone can begin working on that one as well.

Thanks,
Mgmnt.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Going Rogue: An American Life


According to our friends at C4P, the title of Sarah Palin's memoirs has been released. Going Rogue: An American Life, the former governor's first work, has also been rescheduled for publication. Originally set for next spring, the date has now been pushed up to November 17.

PS: Be sure to join the discussion below for Eat Cake.

Skye's Choice for October

The 5000 Year Leap
by W. Cleon Skousen (1913-2006)

I have personally not yet read this book. Dad and Jason have recently read it and both had good things to say about it's content. A new edition of The 5000 Year Leap has just been released with a forward by Glenn Beck and is available at major bookstores along with Deseret Book. And, if for no other reason, I am sure this will be a great book because one of my professors ridiculed it in class. He claimed Cleon Skousen's works were all "gobbledy-gook" and they were only written to "make money". Oh yeah, and he also said President Obama has never proposed strict firearm legislation and that we should clone mastodons (woolly mammoths) and extinct birds.
Like other prominent LDS authors (Hugh Nibley, Bruce R. McConkie, etc.), W. Cleon Skousen is a figure of controversy. Here are some interesting facts about him (taken from the preface of Gospel Diamond Dust):
  1. He was a national authority on child development and wrote one of America's most widely read books on raising boys.
  2. He was an FBI official who specialized in studying subversion and wrote a national best seller on the subject. He also wrote a national best seller on the secret combinations which threaten the Constitution and the survival of freedom in America.
  3. He was a university professor who was a specialist on the Bible and other Christian writings, and who taught a thousand students per week. He penned several college texts which constituted a careful analysis of ancient scriptural literature.
  4. He was the editorial director of a national law and order magazine. He wrote a feature article each month that was read by 15,000 chiefs of police across the throughout.
  5. He was a chief of police of a major city and reorganized a scandalized police department. This effort eventually won the praise of Time Magazine, which called the result a "model department."
  6. He was a world traveler who conducted tours to every continent on the globe, spoke in every state of the Union, and gave lectures in 45 foreign countries.
  7. He was a lawyer and a member of the bar in the District of Columbia and was admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. He specialized in a study of the United States Constitution.
  8. He proposed a bill called HR-23 when he was a chairman of a national committee. This bill would have repealed the Federal income taxes and prohibited the government from competing with private enterprise.
  9. He was the president of a national foundation that conducts conferences and educational programs throughout the country to train Americans in the fundamental genius of the nation's original success formula. He demonstrated that nearly every aggravating problem facing America could be solved by returning to the Founding Fathers' original formula for happiness, peace, and prosperity.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

September Discussion

By Shiloh:

Well, I know I am a couple of days late in getting this out, but the discussion for "Eat Cake" by Jeanne Ray is officially open! I didn't want to give too much away when I assigned it, but now that everyone has read it I'll tell you more of my thoughts.

One of the things I like best about it is that it is believable. You feel that there really could be a family out there like that. I appreciate that the author is able to write believeable characters in an entertaining story that doesn't get too bogged down. Sometimes it seems to me that books that have realisitc characters end up being dramatic and depressing with "real life" situations. Here nobody is a standout, there is no "hero" as we usually think of them, they are all just "normal" people with very believable quirks that normal people have.

My favorite characters are actually the grandparents. Every time one of them enters a scene there is always a reaction. Most of the time they seemed to be the comic relief, but they could pull off the serious moments occasionally, too. Of course coming from the family that we do I totally could not understand Camille and how her parents let her get away with that attitude. I just wanted to yell at her mom and say "Why do you put up with that?!" Sam was the only character that was really hazy for me. He didn't seem to have much of a personality at all after the first day of losing his job, but then I suppose the book was more about Ruth and her midlife crisis and not his.

I will bring up a point that was brought to my attention by more than one sister, Ruth reminds us of Mom. The obvious similarities are that both are middle-aged housewives with some children gone and some still at home though pretty much grown. Both stress out and can't sleep at odd hours of the morning and so work on "projects". Both worry incessantly about their families and I am sure there are more, but I want to leave something for you guys to add.

Truly, the thing I like best about this book is that it is just good entertainment. I am able to sit back and enjoy the story without having to remember ten million characters and subplots or try to analyze every person's moves and motives. Not to say I don't enjoy those stories as well, because I do, but every now and then we all just need an escape. I do love the fact that her escape is baking because, although I don't do homemade cakes very often, I do love to cook and try new recipes when I get stressed. Well, that and read a good book!What did you think?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

TEAM June Review: The Slight Edge

by Skye
Sorry I have been so behind on posting on blogs. The last few weeks have been insanely chaotic.
Anyway, the TEAM book choice for June was The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. First I exhort all of you read this book! It's not just another self help book, but rather a tool to help you process and put into action the knowledge you acquire from self help books.
With easy language, it's very enjoyable to read and you don't have to spend any time rereading and deciphering paragraphs. Olson tells the blunt truth: being successful is easy. So why aren't more people successful? Because while it's easy to be successful, it's also easy not to be. And, unfortunately, we live in a world that's all about taking the easy path. For instance, Olson tells us we can transform our way of thinking by simply substituting 15 minutes of reading our fictional novel for 15 minutes of Jim Rohn, Dale Carnegie, or John C. Maxwell. Easy to do? Of course. Easy not to do? Of course. It's like eating a cheeseburger, it won't kill you to eat one today or tomorrow or the next day. But eating a cheeseburger a day for years will eventually kill you.
Some great quotes I enjoy:
"You won't suffer, or fail or blow it-today. Something is easy not to do when it won't bankrupt you, destroy your career, ruin your relationships or wreck your health-today. What's more, not doing it is usually more comfortable than doing it would be."
When it comes to critics: "...others are going to be yanking on you, sitting on you, naysaying and doomsaying on you, and doing their level best to pull you back down. Why? Because if you succeed, you'll make them look as scared and desperate as they're afraid they really are...They'd rather not hear about the vision you have, because it reminds them of the one they've lost."
The Slight Edge is not just for those who are economically or career savvy. Whether your goal is weight loss, better health (or running a dam marathon), improved relationships, starting a business, or just being more professional in your own, this book is for you! Everyone should read this book!
PS Coming soon the July TEAM selection A Thomas Jefferson Education.

Monday, August 31, 2009

September's Selection

By Shiloh:

So I am going to make two suggestions. First is the "recommended" reading that we will be discussing at the end of the month. The second I just really think y'all will like if you have some extra time and I would love to discuss it with anyone who actually reads or listens to it.

For me this was a really hard choice, but I'll explain about my descision. Many of you know that although I read a great variety of literature mainly I read just to relax and enjoy myself, the way most people veg out with a movie. Although I also enjoy watching movies as much as the next person the fact is that I can normally read an average novel cover to cover in the same time I could watch a movie or two. The book I picked for discussion is called "Eat Cake" by Jeanne Ray. Amazingly enough it is simply a good story. Similar to the way many of us would sit down with ice cream and a chic flick, this is a book version, chic lit., at it's finest. Told through the eyes of a regular woman it is simply a sit, back, relax and listen-while-I-tell-you-my-story kind of book. I hope you all do just that, don't think or over analyze, just read for fun.

If you get the time or inclination the other book I highly recommend is "Born to Run: a hidden tribe, superathletes, and the greatest race the world has never seen" by Christopher MacDougall. It is one of the most entertaining yet informative books I've ever read. Ok so actually I listened to this one which I think actually made it better because whoever was narrating (it may have been the author even) was awesome! The only reason this didn't make the discussion list is because when the writer quotes other athletes (and even professors) he doesn't leave out a word, even the ones not suited for polite society. However with that warning I still encourage anybody to read this book. It is nonfiction but reads more like an adventure novel in a lot of places. I truly found it fascinating. It even kept me awake while driving across Wyoming and Nebraska in the middle of the night and trust me that takes some doing.

Have fun reading, everybody! We'll start discussion Sept. 25th.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Discussion for Peril at End House

I am officially opening discussion for this month's reading selection. If you haven't finished it yet, you may not want to read the rest of this post until you do, lest I spoil anything for you.

I've read enough Agatha Christie that there have been times I have been absolutely convinced I had figured out the mystery before the end. My instincts have been right exactly once. (And that was astonishingly, with the book most people are the most surprised at, "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd." Even so, I still remember reading it thinking, "Oh I hope I'm wrong, I hope I'm wrong. This can't really be so." And despite having correctly figured it out, I've still read it more than once because I do consider it one of her absolute best.)

But I digress. This is not a discussion of Roger Ackroyd, it's a discussion of Nick Buckley. And by this book I was indeed surprised. One of the things I love about Christie is that she crowds the stage with so many characters that it's easy to drop hints and clues (and red herrings) without anyone picking up on it. We know from the beginning that Freddie has a secret, as does Jim Lazarus. We suspect the Crofts aren't exactly what they claim to be, we're unsure what to make of George Challenger and Charles Vyse, cousin Maggie seems a superfluous character (until she gets bumped off, of course) and we instinctively distrust the maid, Ellen, her husband and son. About the only person we do trust in the story is Poirot himself and his ever faithful Hastings.

Christie is a master of misdirection. She hides clues in plain sight as some would say. It is both brilliant and frustrating that she packs enough side story and coincidence into a single mystery that we're so easily led astray. As we read, we're constantly filing away information thinking, "That might be important" only to find out, that it was a useless red herring. And yet when all is revealed in the final scene we think, "Wow, it was right in front of me all along! She basically gave it away in the very beginning and I missed it." That was how I felt upon reading the final chapters of this story. Freddie gave us the answer in Chapter 2! And yet we were so caught up in the "red herring" clues (Jim Lazarus and his offering too much for a painting, the Crofts and their fake Austrailian accents) that we missed it completely.

I won't give away the ending just in case some of you haven't finished it. But I will say that my own instincts were not only wrong, by the time of Nick's near fatal cocaine overdose I had given up on trying to figure it out. I was much too confused by everything. I myself felt like Poirot as he pounded his head envisioning himself a failure.

As for the things I did figure out, I knew fairly early that Freddie had a drug problem. Having read enough history and literature from the time I was well acquainted with the fact that cocaine use was legal and in fact fashionable in many social circles. I did not, however, figure out who the dealer was until they revealed that fact. Freddies estranged husband showing up at the last minute seemed too coincidental and actually completely unnecessary to the story if you ask me. Except that it gave our murderer a very convenient (if momentary) scape goat. And after having heard who posted the will, I figured out that it was the Crofts who had taken it, and although I guessed it was so that they could alter the will, I had no idea how that would have tied into the murder, until of course, their true identities were revealed at the end. (And it turned out to having nothing whatsover to do with the murder anyway.)

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel as I do most Christie stories. I know that it's hard for many people to get used to her particular writing style, but once you do, you realize how carefully constructed the stories are. Poirot's indiscriminant use of French is always a little maddening, as is his huge ego. But in the end, he sorts it all out, so I guess perhaps his narsicism is slightly justified.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Discussion for August

FYI - Official discussion for "Peril at End House" will begin on August 25th. Happy Reading!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Author Spotlight for August's Selection

An Explanation and Introduction to this Month’s Selected Book

My Dearest Mother and Sisters,

I want you to know that I truly agonized over my selection of this month’s reading material. As an avid reader and book lover it was a supremely difficult choice. What is it that Drew Barrymore says to the Prince in “Ever After” when he asks her to choose a favorite book from the Monks’ library, “I could no sooner choose a favorite star in the heavens…” and that is truly how I felt. I was excited and yet overwhelmed at the same time.

Initially, I considered going high brow. Something very classic that would make us all much smarter. Dante perhaps, or John Milton, maybe even Chaucer. Shakespeare’s “Othello” crossed my mind more than once. But then I realized that I wanted you to actually read the book I chose. I’d have hated to be the one behind the book that everyone chose to skip. So staying with the idea of classics I considered Austen (of course), the Bronte sisters, Flaubert, Dumas and even Hawthorne. But another realization came: that I wanted you to actually enjoy my selection.

I flirted for a time with non-fiction. I quickly ruled out history afraid you would all feel I was sending you back to school, but I did consider assigning a biography. How fun it would be if we could all learn together about the life of Marie Antoinette, or Eleanor of Aquataine or even Cary Grant or Grace Kelly. But that’s just history again, isn’t it?

Finally I determined that above all, I just wanted you to enjoy the book that I chose and decided upon Agatha Christie. Mostly because it’s quick and easy reading, which has never failed to leave me a little breathless at the end. Even after all of the dozens of Christie novels I’ve read, she still manages to surprise me.

I discovered Christie in High School. Stuck in the library one day during my level 3 drama class (of which I was the only student) I didn’t have much to do as the fall play had ended, the spring musical hadn’t started, and more importantly, Ms. Gebert was out with one of her sick boys for the day. I wasn’t expected to shelve books or organize periodicals, that was job of the “Media center workers.” The substitute told me just to work on some homework from other classes. Having already completed everything I needed to do, I began to browse the shelves for something fun to read to help me kill time. For some strange reason the name “Dame Agatha Christie” popped into my head. I’d never read any of her works before, but her name intrigued me, so I went up to second floor and pulled down the first “Christie” book I saw. It happened to be “Cards on the Table.” I read for the rest of the hour, and by the end of it, I couldn’t put the book down. I promptly checked it out, took it home and stayed up late in the living room to finish it by the light of a kerosene lamp.

I’m very excited to introduce each of you to the world of Agatha Christie. Don’t be surprised if you become an addict. I certainly did. (Skye has also ready several Christie stories and I know she enjoys them.)

My decision to have our little book club read Agatha Christie, however, presented an entirely new set of problems, especially as Christie is one of the most prolific authors of all time. Which do I choose? A novel? A play? A collection of short stories? Should we start with her very first book (which for a first time author is actually quite excellent.) Should I go for one of her more beloved characters? Poirot, Miss Marple or the Beresfords? Should I choose one that I’ve already read. I could easily name at least a dozen Christie stories that rank not only among what I think are my favorite Christie books, but among my favorite books of all time. What would be the best start for a first time Christie reader?

The only way to arrive at a conclusion was to grab my Bedside Companion to Agatha Christie and do a little research. In the end I decided upon a novel from the 1930’s, which I’d never read before and of which you will each be receiving a copy (if you haven’t already.) I always get a little bit of tingly excitement when I begin a new Christie story. It’s fun for me to try and solve the mystery before the big reveal at the end. But it’s even more fun when I learn that once again, I was wrong all along.

A few items of note about the author before I leave you to begin the book. Agatha Miller came from a well respected, if unexceptional middle-class English family. At the age of 24 in 1914 she married Archie Christie who was one of the first pilots in what was to become the R.A.F. during WWI. Agatha worked in the hospital and read detective stories until her older sister dared her to write one of her own. The result, “The Mysterious Affair at Styles” which was published in 1920, was not only her first novel, but the first time she introduced the quirky, French-Speaking, retired, Belgian detective, “Hercule Poirot.”

Christie continued to write and Poroit became as famous as the immortal Sherlock Holmes, Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade to fans of mystery novels. By the time of her death in 1976 she had written more than 100 novels, plays and short stories, publishing something every single year, including the year of her death.

In 1926 she wrote what many consider to be her most ingenious novel, “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.” It’s one of my personal favorites and the end is nothing short of stunning. Shortly after finishing that work, her mother passed away. Still mourning the loss of her mother, her husband approached her asking for a divorce so that he could marry his younger mistress.
In one of the most bizarre events in history (and one Paul Harvey famously used as a “rest of the story” bit) Agatha drove her car into a ditch and disappeared. For three days the police treated the disappearance as a homicide and were especially focused on Archie’s mistress as evidence of her was found in the car. However, Agatha was so famous by this time that she was recognized at a spa resort in the North of England. Strangely, she was registered under the name of her husband’s mistress. There has been much speculation as to why she did it, but Agatha never confessed, having always claimed amnesia of the entire four day period. Through the rest of her life she continued to claim she had no memory of any of those events, in her two autobiographies, she doesn’t even mention the incident. Given her huge popularity and her mental duress over her mother’s death and her husband’s philandering, the authorities apparently decided to leave the case alone. No motions were ever filed, no one was ever prosecuted.
For the next couple of years she wrote as quickly as ever, but the stories released during that period are considered sub-par by her usual standard. Even so, they still sold well and Christie’s popularity continued to grow. In 1930 she married her second husband, Max Mallowan, an archaeologist who took her with him on digs all over the world. He was 14 years her junior, but still the love of her life. They remained married until her death. It is around the time of her remarriage that her stories begin to return to their former level of genius.
This brings us to the book I’ve chosen for our book club this month. “Peril at End House” was first published in 1932. In the 12 years since “The Mysterious Affair at Styles” Agatha had published 12 novels and two collections of short stories. She had also introduced all of her famous detectives. Miss Jane Marple, Tommy & Tuppence Beresford and the aforementioned Hercule Poirot, of course. “Peril at End House” was her 13th novel and already the 6th featuring Hercule Poirot.
So with that introduction I will close this novel-sized epistle and leave you to get lost in a world I’ve enjoyed since I discovered Christie in the library at Northview High School. I’m excited to hear your opinions and deductions and can’t wait for the discussion to begin.
PS The reason I provided a copy of the book is to sort of make amends for making you all read this very long and boring letter. Love you all!

My Thoughts on Ella Minnow Pea

I hope everyone has finished or is finishing up our book for July, Ella Minnow Pea. I hope you enjoyed this book as much as I did. Here are some of the reasons I picked this book: 1.) I love that it is written in epistles. I think you find out a lot about the characters when you are reading from their point of view. 2.)I also think the author, Mark Dunn, is brilliant!! I mean to be able to write a novel while losing the letters of the alphabet and still have it make sense, that takes talent if you ask me. 3.)I love his choice of words in this book. This is definitely a word lover's book. So many times I read something and thought "Oh that's fun, I'm gonna try to use that word today." (side note: I haven't been very successful at intergrating new words into my vocabulary.) 4.) How many of you noticed the solution to their problem when it was presented in the middle of the book? Not me. When it was "rediscovered" at the end of the book I had to go back and look at it. I realized how unobservant I am, especially when it comes to reading.
So those are some of the reason's I like this book. It's a fun, easy read and is different from most books we read. I hope you all enjoyed it and can't wait to hear your opinions.

Monday, July 20, 2009

What the....?

Okay, since I've been without my computer all weekend I've been a little out of the loop. Indeed the title should imply that anyone can post and anyone should post. There is no "proper authority" and I don't care if every person writes their own dang Harry Potter review. It's not worth whatever went on.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Book vs. Movie


Anyone who knows me, knows my infatuation with the Harry Potter series. They know that I can quote the entire first page of Sorcerer's Stone from memory, and If you open a Harry Potter book to the middle, and read a random sentence I can tell you what is going on and what chapter it is in, (Ask Skye if you don't believe me I made her play that game with me once). I have read the first four books ten times each, the fifth book eight, the sixth book six times, and the seventh book four. I kind of Consider myself a Harry Potter expert, especially when it comes to the books.


The movies on the other hand are a different story. One and Two were good, they followed the story line very closely and most of the book fans were pleased, including myself, but I believe that most fans (myself included) Preferred the books. The third film, Prisoner of Azkaban, was not so pleasing. They left out many important details, and most of the interesting parts of the book, like how Lupin knew that the Marauders map was a map, and they put in stupid things like that annoying talking head. It was an entertaining film but just didn't hold a candle to the book. The fourth film I felt very similar about as well, but I understand that with time constraints and the length of the book, the director and screenplay writer did the best they could, read the book though it is much better. I quite enjoyed Order of the Pheonix, It is my favorite book from the series, and though the movie left a large portion of detail out, I loved the way they did it, because they didn't add in anything that wasn't in the book. And I thought that the Scene where Voldemort posseses Harry was very well done. But still I prefer the book to the movie and would reccommend that those who haven't read the book to read it before seeing the movie or you might get a little confused.


Now for the one you have been waiting for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I never thought that I would say this, but I liked the movie better than the book. You read that right. Maybe I am just saying that because they did it how I would have done it with the time constraints they had. Almost everything in the Film is in the book. But not everything in the book is in the film. They only cut out four things that I noticed, and I thought that they were the useless parts of the book anyway. The differences are that Scrimgeour and Percy never make an appearance, instead the Burrow is graced by different visitors at Christmas time and it is INTENSE. When Dumbledore is showing Harry memories there are a few left out, (I believe that they might have been too time consuming), And the battle at Hogwarts near the end was not so climatic as it is in the book simply because once Snape has done the deed the Death eaters just walk out of the school, and are almost out of the grounds when Harry catches up with them. I really like this change because I always felt that the only point of that battle was so Bill (Ron's older brother) could get his face ripped off, and since Bill has never made an appearance in the films that would have been a waste of precious time. They also left out Dumbledore's funeral, but the important conversation that takes place there is in the film.


There is more comedy in the film than the book and it helps keep the mood lighter and not so serious and it is easier to relax than it was reading the book, Ron's relationship with Lavendar is hilarious, and the character of Cormac McLaggen brings great comic relief. I also really liked the way it was written, and that they managed to stay true to the books storyline, and also keep in the little extra things that some directors would have seen as pointless and time consuming, such as the theme of growing up.
Last but not least I loved the cinematics of it all, you notice certain color schemes around certain people, when some characters enter the room the color drains to be nearly black and white tones, except for reds. This makes for very beautiful filming. I loved the way this was done and as it is I think the best potter film yet.

This posts purpose was about the book vs. the movie, differences and similarities, for a full, detailed and quite exciting movie review visit http://caliandtrav.blogspot.com/2009/07/harry-potter-and-half-blood-prince.html


by Hillary Platt

Friday, July 17, 2009

My Bad...

I just want to apologize for any confusion over the "Harry Potter Movie/Book Review." When Cali called me yesterday really excited over the movie I told her she should write her own review for all of us who haven't seen it yet. I realize this isn't my blog and I probably had no right to decide who should post a review on this site. I was under the impression that this is "where those who have opinions share them." I will check with the proper authority next time before I advise anyone else to post.

Cami

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

TEAM May Review: Twelve Pillars

by Skye
As most of you know, I belong to a leadership development program known as TEAM. Every month I receive tickets to a leadership seminar, instructional and inspirational cd's, and a book of the month. I thought some of you may be interested in these if you're looking to build a business, sharpen leadership skills, or just want a good read.

The book for May was Twelve Pillars by Jim Rohn and Chris Widener. If you're one who gets queasy with more than a couple hundred pages, have no fear because this is easy breezy reading. But just because the volume itself is thin does not mean the content is. Those pages pack a punch with a lasting impact.
The 'novel' (I use that term loosely), follows the story of Michael, a forty something year old watching his dreams and marriage go down the tubes, after he meets Charlie, the groundskeeper of the expansive estate Twelve Pillars. Charlie shares the secrets of the wealthy yet elusive Mr. Davis, the owner of the estate, with Michael, teaching him there are twelve pillars in our life that we need to build on. As he applies these lessons to his own life, Michael notices changes to his situation. Some are small and some are not but all are positive and lasting.
It's a very easy (and fast) read and while it may lack the plots, action, and drama of traditional novels, I would heartily recommend Twelve Pillars to anyone looking to improve upon their lives or relationships. It also just makes a good rainy day read.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Cami's Selection for July

Cami has the selection for July and she promises that when she gets back home to her computer, she will write about why she made this particular selection. In the meantime she has asked me to post that she has chosen "Ella Minnow Pea" by Mark Dunn. (Skye, can you get that on the Shelfari thing? I don't know how to do it.)

It is described as progressively lipogrammatic epistolary fable. What that means is that it's written in letters and it loses some letters as it goes along. I've never read the book but according to Barnes and Noble:

Ella Minnow Pea is an epistolary novel set in the fictional island of Nollop situated off the coast of South Carolina and home to the inventor the pangram The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog. Now deceased, the islanders have erected a monument to honor their hero, but one day a tile with the letter "z" falls from the statue. The leaders interpret the falling tile as a message from beyond the grave and the letter is banned from use. On an island where the residents pride themselves on their love of language, this is seen as a tragedy. They are still reeling from the shock, when another tile falls and then another....Mark Dunn takes us on a journey against time through the eyes of Ella Minnow Pea and her family as they race to find another phrase containing all the letters of the alphabet to save them from being unable to communicate. Eventually, the only letters remaining are LMNOP, when Ella finally discovers the phrase that will save their language.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Discussion for The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Everyone should be finishing up Hillary's choice for June. Be sure to leave comments!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Great Thoughts

Here are some great thoughts found in the June 2009 Ensign:
"As with companions so with books. We may choose those which will make us better, more intelligent, more appreciative of the good and the beautiful in the world, or we may choose the trashy, the vulgar, the obscene, which will make us feel as though we've been 'wallowing in the mire'." - David O. McKay

And to add to that:
"Let us show to the world that we have talent and taste, and prove to the heavens that our minds are set on beauty and true excellence." - Brigham Young

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Guide to Fantastical Reading Featuring the Top Five Picks of a Fantasy Fanatic

by Hillary
Fantasy is my forte, my choice for leisure reading, long trips, and rainy days. Even the occasional television show I watch is more at home on the Sci-Fi channel, than anywhere else.
But before I list my favorites I want you to know that these are my favorite fantasy books in general. If I were to list my favorite series it would be Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia. Though most of the books on my list are from series they can all stand alone and are great reads. Note that most fantasy books are written in series form because their plot lines are more Complex than the believable fiction. Fantasy is a broad genre so I like to divide it up into 4 categories to help understand the feel of the books.
First, Romantic Fantasy, two people in love but one is different somehow, either by magic or some sort of magical creature. Their relationship struggles, they are torn apart, they work it out in the end and live happily ever after. Example - anything written by Stephenie Meyer. The Romantic ones don't always have happy endings though, some times they end up more like Romeo and Juliette. Example - The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray.
Next, you have your Fantasy Adventure or your typical Good Vs. Evil plot line. Just when it looks like Evil is going to win, Good comes back and conquers all. This Category generally has a satisfying ending, even if it's not the happiest. Examples - Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling and Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien.
Then you have your Fairy Tales. Need I say more? Generally romantic, the lowly girl ends up with the prince or the princess marries the farm boy she's in love with. These stories are usually based on traditional European folk tales. Examples - Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale and Ella Enchanted by Gail Levine.
Last but not least you have what I call the Strong Stomach Category. Mainly because you need a strong stomach to get through them without vomiting. These books generally contain at least one, (rarely do they contain all) of the following: a large amount of explicit violence, dismemberment, evil creatures that eat children, graphic images, heavy sensuality, and copious amounts of nudity (generally for magical purposes). But despite all of these drawbacks, this category of books makes for very intense and exciting reading that will give you an adrenaline rush. Examples - The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind.
Now that we've established the different types of fantasy I'll explain my favorites.
1. THE GOOSE GIRL by Shannon Hale - Fairy Tale
Synopsis: When Ani's mother, the queen of Kildenree, found out that her daughter could speak with birds, she forced Ani to live a sheltered life. So after her father's tragic death, Princess Ani is sent to the neighboring country of Bayern to honor the arranged marriage between her and the Bayern prince whom she has never met. During the three month journey to Bayern Ani's lady in waiting, Selia, turns her entourage against her with the plan that if they kill Ani and Selia marries the prince it will be better for them. Ani manages to escape, and through the help of the forest folk she disguises herself as a local and gets a job in Bayern's capitol tending to the king's geese. As she is laboring in the city she learns through others that Selia is living at the palace claiming to be Princess Ani and the wedding date is set. Ani discovers that Selia is planning to start a war and take over Kildenree once she becomes queen. It's up to Ani and her new friends to stop the war before it happens. But the only way she can stop it is by facing her fear, and admitting who she really is, but what will her new friends think? Will they accept her for who she is? Will the prince she never met believe that she is supposed to be his bride, instead of the woman he has spent the last several months with? Is she ready to give up the new happiness she has found? A fun Novel with Romance, Comedy, Drama, and Action, everything you need to relax in a bubble bath on a rainy day. A promising start to a fun series.
2. THE CITY OF EMBER by Jeanne Duprau - Adventure
Synopsis: This book is more Sci-Fi than fantasy, but any fantasy fan will love it. Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow live in a dark world. Though the city they live in has electricity, they have never heard of cars or telephones, movable lights are inconceivable, to picture the sky any color but black is laughable, and they don't even know what animals are. As the generator that powers the great city of Ember begins to fail and the warehouses that have been eternally providing food are nearly empty, Lina and Doon realize that it is only a matter of time before the city will be left in the utter darkness of the world, and the people will starve to death. Yet they are the only ones with hope, the only ones who believe that there is a way out of the city and a safe haven for the people. But where is that place, what can be safe when you can't even see where your going?A thought provoking novel with a cliff hanger ending that somehow leaves you with that warm and fuzzy feeling.
3. THE EYE OF THE WORLD by Robert Jordan - Strong Stomach
Synopsis: This book is an exciting fast paced first installment to an epic 13 book series, The Wheel of Time. Rand, Mat, and Perrin are best friends who have always dreamed of adventure. When their town is attacked by viscous monsters they run away with a witch who says that they are the reason the monsters came. The world revolves around them (literally) and they are supposed to change it. A great book that seems to be loosely based on L.O.T.R. They have a lot of similarities anyway. A book that any Fantasy fan will love with everything from mystical creatures to magical weapons. It will definitely get your blood flowing.
4. ELLA ENCHANTED by Gail Carson Levine - Fairy Tale
Synopsis: A Cinderella story with a twist. This story explains why Ella always did what she was told by those wretched sisters. At birth a fairy gave her the "gift" of obedience so she had to do whatever she was told. But eventually she gets to the age when doing everything she is told gets her, and others, in trouble and pushes away the man she loves. She has to look inside herself and break the curse to find her happily ever after. A quick, easy, light read that will keep you laughing and riveted from cover to cover.
5. THE HORSE AND HIS BOY by C.S. Lewis - Adventure
Synopsis: This is one of my favorite fantasy books. Though it is part of The Chronicles of Narnia, it is a side story and a wonderful stand alone novel. When Shasta overhears his abusive, adopted father selling him to a soldier, he runs away with the soldiers horse, Bree, who is a talking horse from Narnia. On their Journey to Narnia and the North, they meet some unlikely traveling companions. A series of events unfolds that makes for an intriguing, thought provoking book, and will leave you craving an adventure of your own.
Fantasy is a great genre. One that once you start reading it, it is nearly impossible to stop. But I understand that some people have a hard time getting into it; understanding things that aren't real is hard for them to do. So if you would like to ease into fantasy I have two very famous books that I will recommend. The first is TWILIGHT by Stephenie Meyer (romantic fantasy). This book is a very fast paced novel about a girl that drives an old truck, struggles through high school, and faces the same dilemma that every teenage girl does: she falls in love. Doesn't sound like fantasy does it? Not until you find out the boy she falls in love with is a Vampire. More believable than any other fantasy book, but still just as unlikely.The second book is HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE by J.K. Rowling (adventure). This book also mixes the everyday and the impossible. As a bullied boy who lives with relatives he hates, Harry finds out that he is a wizard. Not only is Harry a wizard but he is also very famous in the wizarding world for defeating the most evil wizard in history when he was just a baby. Join Harry as he experiences the culture shock of going from the every day ordinary to the wizarding extraordinary.I hope this has been of some help to those who are looking for something new to read and are interested in broadening their horizon's to the fantasy genre.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Read the Book or Watch the Movie?: Angels & Demons

by Skye
Watch the movie. True there are little facts and tidbits and character quirks that you just can't squeeze into two hours, but taken as a whole, the movie was the better work. We love that Dan Brown knows so much about everything that he can't give the title of a mere sculpture without going into detail abut the history of the artist, the location, and the works written about it, but is all of that truly necessary to the action or plot of the story? Not really. I appreciated also that Ron Howard opted to leave out the anti-climactic death of the Arabic assassin, the biological ties of the Camerlengo and the Pope, and the ridiculous periled flight of Robert Langdon. That makes for a longer book, but also for a laughable scenario. You have to cringe, and giggle, at Robert Langdon using a small fabric scrap to survive a leap of death out of a doomed helicopter floating high above the atmosphere. Although, the sixth and most magnificent brand was disappointingly downplayed in the movie when they replaced it with the papal keys.
The book is still fascinating and those looking for thrills will find them but if you must choose one, go for the movie.

Book of the Month: The Witch of Blackbird Pond

This is Hillary's choice for the month of June. To participate in the discussion forum simply leave a comment under this post. Enjoy!