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

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.


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.