Thursday, April 15, 2010


Burn that bridge
Send it up in flames
Watch the embers fall
Leaving behind the pain
The wretched memories lost
Far out of reach
No way to go back
And for a moment there is bliss
Until you see
The charred face
Of a forgotten dream
That once resided
In the so-called misery
A dream you aren’t ready to dismiss
But now it is left behind
Nothing left but ashes
To bring you back to save it
So you must put aside your pride
And rebuild the bridge
From scratch

Friday, March 12, 2010

3rd Quarter ORB

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, Penguin Books, 2006. Genre: Nonfiction

Mortenson is a brave man, embarking on the journey of a lifetime. He is a kind, educated man who wants to put his dead sister's necklace on the top of K2. The twist of events and failures lead him to an isolated town in Pakistan called Korphe. He's greeted with hospitality and shares tea with them. This book follows Mortenson on his journey to build a school in Korphe and all of the financial problems that go with it. The constant need for schools and teachers in rural parts of Pakistan make Mortenson want to help even more. He struggles to get donations and accomplish his dreams of helping these poor, innocent people. The book is filled with friendships, love, compassion, and drama.

"Mortenson's mission is admirable, his conviction unassialable, his territory exotic and his timing excellent."- The Washington Post

This story is inspirational and lets the reader know that if you try hard enough, you can accomplish anything. Mortenson's determination and persistence make the reader root for him, cheering him on. The message is sent that if you try hard enough you can accomplish anything, and that one person really can make a difference in the world. The author uses quotes and incorporates Mortenson's thoughts and feelings throughout the book. He interviewed people that Mortenson met on his journey and quoted their opinions and ideas about what he was doing. The quotes are balanced with admiration, new ideas, and some criticism. The input brings the story to life. The author's details create a real atmosphere that takes you into the struggles in Korphe and other places in Pakistan.

"But in the breeze whipping across this fragile shelf where humans survived, somehow, in the high Himalaya, he also heard the musical trill of children's voices, at play in the courtyard of Korphe's school," (260).This book changed my opinion on non-fiction books. Before I would just brush off the thought of enjoying a non-fiction book and groan and complain when I was forced to. This book was an exception; it didn't read like most non-fictions books do. It wasn't filled with facts or go off on tangents, it stuck to a dramatic, inspiring storyline. I would defiantely read this book again and other books like it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Challenges of the Sea

The twists and turns of life are blocked by ominous obstacles. A man climbing a mountain faces the bitter cold, harsh weather, and has to struggle up steep slopes. A student faces the challenges of juggling sports, schoolwork and friends. The obstacles in someone's path can seem to block the light at the end of the tunnel, and it's their choice whether or not to persist.Facing the disparaging challenges in your life shape your character, challenge your demeanor, and shape the way you live your life. The old man was no exception to the fact that lives are full of obstacles. He had to struggle and fight against pain, being old and alone on the journey, the daunting size of the marlin, and the threatening sharks.

Throughout the book the old man stayed strong despite all of the pain he had to endure. He sat in the boat, holding the weight of the fish on his line. “He was comfortable but suffering, although he did not admit the suffering at all” (64). The old man’s determination helped him to ignore the pain of his back and his cramping hand. Many people would succumb to pain and choose to let go of the fish but Santiago did not. “I must hold his pain where it is, he thought. Mine does not matter. I can control mine. But his pain could drive him mad,” (88). He stayed optimistic and convinced himself that he could deal with his pain to catch the fish of a lifetime. Santiago never even thought of giving in, instead he stayed persistent. His determination and willpower paid off, helping him to reel in an enormous fish even with the pain.

Santiago was an old man alone on a skiff, which immediately gave him a disadvantage in catching a fish of that marlin’s stature. “He had seen many that weighed more than a thousand pounds and he had caught two of that size in his life, but never alone,” (63). The lonely, old man had very slim chances of bringing in a fish that big. His body wasn’t as strong as other younger men’s were and he needed all the strength he could get to reel in his catch. The obstacle of old age was inevitable and posed a serious threat. Santiago stayed confident in himself, despite the odds. He accepted his old age and lack of help and used all of the strength that he was capable of to succeed in catching the marlin.

The size of the marlin would be intimidating anyone. Reeling in and taking home a 1500 pound fish is an overwhelming task. He realized "...he was fast to the biggest fish that he had ever seen and bigger than he had even heard of..." (63.)Not only was the marlin huge, but it was even bigger than his skiff. Just imagining catching a fish of that size seems impossible.

The marlin was caught and secure and the hardest part of the journey seemed to be over, but once again another obstacle reared its ugly head in this novella; sharks. The appearance of the sharks broke the happy, accomplished mood the old man must have had and set him in a tense, practically unwinnable situation. “When the old man saw him coming he knew that this was a shark that had no fear at all and would do exactly what he wished,” (101.) The audacious old man still fought against the sharks, cleverly attaching a knife to the oar and trying to kill them. He fought with all his strength, punching the sharks in the head long after he lost all weapons and hopes of prevailing. The aggressive sharks tore away at the marlin, destroying what the old man had worked so hard to achieve. Santiago still faced this challenge no matter how bleak the outcome looked.

Obstacles are everywhere, some unbeatable and some easy to conquer. The old man faced both types of obstacles during his journey out at sea. He prevailed and failed, recognizing both as the way that life works. Facing challenges is an inevitable part of life, the old man being no exception. How people choose to deal with them is a whole other story. It’s not every day that people face the same challenges as the old man. He was challenged by old age, pain, the marlin's size, and sharks, which shaped and led him on the journey of a lifetime. The challenges that we have to deal with shape our lives and the adventures in them, which Hemmingway shows throughout the novella.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Déjà vu

I glady crawled in bed, relieved that the day had finally ended. My alarm clock said it was already 11 and I groaned in disbelief. I had sworn to myself that I would get to bed early that night, but that never worked. The day had been rough, just like every single day in the past few months. When my sophomore year started I had been elated, planning everything with my three best friends: Katie, Grace, and Megan. We had been inseparable, four girls practically joined at the hip. We promised each other that we would stay together forever, a tear ran down my cheek just thinking about that.
My friends and I had been voluble and slightly eccentric together, but now I was taciturn and all alone. I had screwed everything up. The part that bothered me the most was that I could have prevented it all. I had decided to try drugs and ignored my friends when they asked me to stop, I really didn’t think it was a big deal. They constantly told me that I was changing but I didn’t listen to them, even when they started to alienate me. Deep down I had known that I should stop everything but instead I let it get worse. The misery and regret started to wash over me and I had to fight the urge to get up and grab anything to ease the pain. I reminded myself that I was trying to quit and just turned over. When I had first tried to quit the desire for any type of drug felt incorrigible but it got easier with time. The pictures on my walls smiled at me, reminding me of everything I lost. I turned away again, feeling like I couldn’t win. The clock read 11:11 and I thought of all the times my friends and I had made wishes. I laughed at the idea but softly whispered to myself, “I wish I could go back and just redo this, I won’t screw it up this time.” With that I closed my eyes and drifted off into an uneasy sleep as usual.
I woke up to my alarm clock playing an old song. The sad part was that I remembered it perfectly; I had woken up to it so many times a few months ago. I jumped into the shower and did my usual morning routine. I checked the weather on my computer and it was freakishly warm for February. I shrugged, not really caring, and got dressed. I raced out to the bus stop and I was stepping into the school before I knew it.
“Hey Nikki!” said Megan happily, skipping up to me.
“Hi….” I mumbled back, shocked by her sudden friendliness. Out of all of my former friends she hated me the most; I’d cheated with her boyfriend. “Um, what’s up?”
“Nothing really. Just freaking out about our first history test! It’s gonna be killer!” she said emphatically as always. She was my most outgoing and garrulous friend, just being around her used to instantly take me out of a bad mood. “The first history test? What?” I thought to myself. We’d already taken that, I’d gotten a B- (my highest grade in that class for the entire year) and Megan had gotten a C+. Megan’s ex boyfriend walked up and gave her a hug and kissed her right in front of me. I looked away awkwardly, extremely confused and ashamed. I had no clue that they had gotten back together after everything.
I gave them a quick smile and walked away to my first class. I was getting more genial smiles from old friends, not truculent glares, which caught me off guard. I’d become immune to their piercing glares by then and wore a phlegmatic expression every time. None of my old friends made sardonic comments as I walked by either. Throughout the day I noticed that everything was different. Grace had given me a hug and Katie quickly handed me my geometry homework back, which I had done months ago. Are they playing some kind of prank? I asked myself. I kept trying to figure out what could be going on as I sat laconically as always in my vapid geometry class. When I got home I saw my Dad sitting on the couch staring at a piece of paper. I groaned, wondering if it was my new report card.
“Why aren’t you at work?” I asked him as I set down my bag. He had been unemployed for months and had finally gotten a job; I prayed that he hadn’t been laid off already.
“I just got your phone bill missy,” he said ignoring my question, “and you owe me $200. How the heck did you go thousands of minutes over the limit? You better hand me that phone right now. You’re not getting that thing back for months,” he said forcefully.
“How is that even possible?!” I yelled in disbelief. I didn’t even have friends to talk to!
“Take a look yourself!” he replied, thrusting the paper into my hands. I scanned the page and my jaw dropped, not at the numbers but at the date. “It’s October 6th?” I asked.
“Well no, but-” he asked. I didn’t wait for him to finish and threw down the paper. I ran upstairs and threw open my bedroom door. I rummaged through my sock drawer trying to find the depleted stash of pain killers that I had hidden. I started to hyperventilate. Did my Dad find them or something? Of course not; if my Dad had found drugs I would be under house arrest already. I reached for my diary, my only safe haven for the past few months, but the pages were blank. I looked at the calendar on my wall and my jaw dropped. I walked up to it with shaking hands to see that it was only October 12th. My heart was racing as I realized what must have happened.
I went to school and for the next few weeks reality started to sink in. My friends didn’t hate me, I hadn’t started drinking or doing any drugs and my teachers didn’t give me disapproving looks all the time. Somehow I’d been able to start over and I embraced the chance. I walked away when someone asked if I wanted to smoke weed with them and didn’t give it a second thought. Months ago the novelty of weed had been alluring but now it didn’t matter to me. I refused to go down that detrimental path again.
I lay in bed one night and looked at the clock. I had stayed up until 11 o’clock again, but this time it was because I was talking to my friends. I smiled to myself as the clock turned 11:11. For once my wish had worked, I hadn’t screwed up my life, and finally everything was coming together. I turned over to look at the pictures on my wall again, and this time I smiled back knowing that there were more good times to come. I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep.

Friday, December 18, 2009

2nd Quarter ORB

The Lost Boy by David Pelzer. Health Communications Inc., 1997. Genre: Autobiography

The Lost Boy is the sequel to A Child Called It. In this book you follow David through his life from age 12 through 18. David has to face many unfair things in his life. He has to first overcome the fear of betraying his mother and telling the family secret in court. Only then is he able to be freed of the ties he has to his former abuse. This nonfiction story is filled with struggles and triumphs. You watch David become more self-confident in a safe environment. You follow him through the difficult task of making friends when you're automatically not accepted. He searches for the love of the mom that he never had, and is always searching for answers as to why his mother abused him instead of the other sons. David's past led him to his unstable life as a foster child, with many psychological problems. Despite all of that, David's story of overcoming circumstances is inspirational.

"The Lost Boy stands shgining as the premier book on the unique love and dedication that social services and foster families provide for our children in peril. Dave Pelzer is certainly a living testament of resilience, personal responsibility and the triumph of the human spirit."-John Bradshaw

Dave Pelzer grabs your interest from the very beginning of the book and manages to keep it. He conveys how he felt and what he thought at that time in his life using simple vocabulary. He writes about situations that makes you feel sorry for him as well as situations where you just want to yell advice to him. The author doesn't write as if he is looking back on what happened, but like he was reliving it. The ups and downs of David's life and the development of the character remind you that David is a real person. This book is a lot like his previous book, A Child Called It, except it's nowhere near as depressing. In A Child Called It you were wondering if David would even survive and a lot of the descriptions were enough to make your stomach flip. In this book you are filled with hope for David and after the previous book you're dying to find out what happens in Dave's life next. If you liked A Child Called It I highly recommend reading The Lost Boy.

"I could feel that tear reach my lips, tasted the salt and let the tear dry on my skin as the sun baked through the windshield. I wanted to remember that tear not as a tear of fear, anger or sorrow, but as one of joy and freedom" (38). Although I'm usually not a fan of nonfiction books, especially biographies, Dave Pelzer's books are en exception. His writing style and inspirtational story make it very interesting. I would love to read the sequel to The Lost Boy.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Calling in a Storm

We live in a mostly material world. Everywhere we turn there is something new and exciting, tempting us to buy it. Objects cry out to us, promising value. People often fail to realize that just because something is expensive, it's not always valuable. You could go out and buy a diamond dog collar for thousands of dollars, but honestly, is it really worth it? Sure, it's priced expensive for a reason, but that doesn't meant it’s really valuable. I could go out and say that a hat is worth $100,000, and to me it might be, but to others it's nothing but a $5 hat. Value is what we see it as, it's different to everyone. It shouldn't be based on prices, especially when you can't put a price on some of the most valuable things in life. How much would you say waking up to a sunny Saturday morning is worth? Or winning a tough game? Could you ever put a price on those long nights you spend hanging out with your friends? Now put a price on that diamond necklace, or Rolex watch. If you had to choose between time with your friends and wearing one of those, which would you choose? Which really values more? All that shimmers is not gold.

I look out at the ominous gray clouds that are taking over the sky. They cast a shadow over the town, promising rain. I pull myself away from the window and turn on the TV. I immediately turn on the weather channel, looking eagerly at the weather advisories. My spirits leap when I see the bright yellow box around South Hadley. Weather Advisory: Severe Thunderstorms makes its way across the screen. I jump up and look back out at the sky, watching the rain already start to pour down. In no time at all the windows are streaked with rain and it’s hard to see outside, so I eventually head up to my room.

I open the windows a little to let in the sound of the rain, and smell it. The cold air hits me quickly, making me shiver and step back from the window. The clock ticks slowly as I wait for the first sign of the storm, hoping the weatherman didn’t fail again. Suddenly, a clap of thunder catches my attention and I jump a little in surprise. The violent outburst sends my three dogs scurrying up to my room, ears down in terror.

I turn off the light, close the door, and crawl into bed. My blankets are warm and protecting from the outside weather. Lightning illuminates the night sky, followed by another crack of thunder. The sky lashes out in anger, holding nothing back. All of the sounds mix into a lullaby, the pattering of rain, the panting of dogs, the sudden outbursts of the thunder and the howling of the wind. I close my eyes and relax, enjoying the perfect night with one dog at my feet, one at my side and one next to my bed.

I walk into my room and instantly plop down my heavy school bag. I reach through my pockets and pull out my treasure to rush it to its charger. I push the power button, bringing it to life. It buzzes and a red Verizon wireless screen greets me. I rest it on my desk, its scratched screen lighting up to charge. I longingly flip it open after a brutal day of school. I check the texts and scroll through the pictures as always. I have to press a little harder than I did a year ago, but the buttons respond and that’s all that matters.

The deep red phone looks perfectly in place in my hand. My fingers fly over the QWERTY keyboard with ease as I tell a friend that I’m home at last. My phone hums at the response and I am instantly connected to my friend. My worn out Env2 has seen more than its fair share of what I would probably call phone abuse if I ever had to give a name. It has been dropped on the sidewalks repeatedly, thrown against beds, and has gone through a few water rides due to my ignorance.

The initial cost was about $200, but I had an upgrade and got it for only $50. Right out of the store it is a new, promising phone, foreign to my touch and sense of directions. After spending days figuring out everything that my red Env2 could do it instantaneously became a part of my everyday life. With unlimited texting and minutes the phone bill comes in at around $200 a month, a major improvement from when I could go over my limits and have to pay the extra fees. Honestly, it’s worth every penny, and that’s not just because it’s not my responsibility to pay the phone bill. My cell phone is more than just a cell phone. It holds memories, instant contact with any friend now matter how far away, and all those things I couldn’t ever remember on my own. I depend on this old, vibrate-only (water damage destroyed the sound) phone to wake me up every morning for school. It’s reliable, and can never forget, quite unlike me.

Both my thunderstorm nights and my cell phone offer me a kind of comfort. My cell phones bring me close to my friends, and I feel safe knowing that they are only a text or call away. My thunderstorm nights bring me closer to my animals, and also make me feel safe hidden under the blankets surrounded by animals I’ve known since I was a little kid. They are also completely different. My phone is always with me, and I know it like the back of my hand now. Thunderstorms at night aren’t as common, and they are nowhere near as predictable. I value both of these things a lot. Without my phone, I’d probably be lost. My thunderstorm nights bring back memories and calm me down, and I cherish them. I couldn’t put a price on either one.I value them so much, I don't care what other people's opinions are on their value.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Just Listen Review

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen. Penguin Group, 2006. Genre: Fiction

In Just Listen the seemingly perfect girl, Annabel Greene, has to deal with family problems, rumors, and a dark secret. Her life was turned upside-down when her so-called-best-friend Sophie caught Annabel with her boyfriend, Will. From what was seen, it could easily have been mistaken as Annabel trying to steal him, but only Annabel and Will knew the truth. Instead of giving Annabel a chance to defend herself she cast her aside and exiled her at school, leaving her to sit by herself next to a stranger. Feeling alone she’s forced to lie to her mom to protect her from knowing how much her daughter is suffering. She’s also burdened with having a sister with an eating disorder, making home no longer a haven from the troubles at school, but a just as difficult situation. Being a model she seems to be the girl who has everything from the outside, but you learn that there’s always something more to someone. Carrying the secret of what really happened at the party with Will, Annabel somehow manages to find truth, friendship and courage during the book.

“Dessen weaves a sometimes funny, mostly emotional, and very satisfying story.”-VOYA

Annabel’s lies, guilt, and fear lead to many emotional situations. She discovers truth and safety in a unique form, a boy who never lies. Dessen creates a realistic and almost too good to be true friend for Annabel, Owen. She leads you on the journey from Annabel’s guilt to finding truth. The author constantly creates a believable atmosphere, filled with teenage drama. She snags your interest by not telling exactly what had happened that was haunting Annabel, only giving you hints, challenging you to put the pieces together and see if you’re right. Her style never gets boring, always hiding a message behind the quotes and realizations.
This book is a lot like Dessen’s other stories, portraying teenage struggles and giving inspiration. Her method of making deep, thoughtful quotes, is in most of her books. Although Just Listen has the same general idea of her other books: being a teenager, the storyline is unique and original.

“Eyes closed, I saw only the blackness, reminding me of this one thing, the most deep of my secrets; eyes open, there was only the world that didn’t know it, bright, inescapable, and somehow, still there” (274).
Sarah Desson recently became one of m favorite author’s due to her exciting plots and inspiring quotes. Her books leave you with a good feeling, knowing that the main character overcame so much. Her characters are so relatable it really does give you hope. Her insight into the teenage mind is comfortable and extremely accurate. She never leaves you with a dull moment as she constantly builds up to her main lesson. I would love to read all of her books.