Book #546: To Kill a Mockingbird

My students are given the opportunity to blog about the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die for extra credit. The following is an extra credit post received by Kay Dale, who originally read the book during her sophomore year in high school. Kay is now attending Jefferson Community and Technical College to become an RN.  She can be contacted at kdale0008@kctcs.edu.

To Kill A Mockingbird is not a book about mockingbirds.  Although, mockingbirds are to be treasured, preserved, and respected. I believe the author was trying to convey to the reader, we should all as human beings treat one another at the very least as decently as we would a mockingbird, regardless of race, color, religious beliefs, I.Q., or creed. . To Kill a Mockingbird addresses many issues, the discovery of  love and respect for a father, the ideas of preconceived perceptions of people can be wrong, and the horrible fact of evil that lives among the heart of racism. The book deals with honor, dignity, love, compassion, bravery, integrity, truth, betrayal, deceit  and unfortunately injustice.

I was captivated by the narration through the eyes of a rambunctious, mischievous,  nine year old southern tomboy girl.  I loved  the way she spoke and the innocence of her views. The sense of adventure that was within everything she saw and did.

The main characters are; Scout (the narrator), Jem (Scouts older brother). A tree, a character all its own. As you read you wonder what treasures will the tree hold this time.” Boo” Radley ,a strange mysterious neighbor. Mr. Atticus Finch, Scout and Jem’s Father,  who is a well known  respected lawyer in their small town community. Tom Robinson, a soft spoken gentle black handyman. Mayell Violet Ewell (a young white girl), and Bob Ewell (Mayell Violet’s father ).

The story takes place in the 1950′s, prior to the civil rights movement, in a southern community of Maycomb.  Mr.Atticus Finch is a widower, a single father of two, Jem and Scout. They live in the south. Mr. Atticus Finch has a black housekeeper, Calpurnia, who takes care of the children and runs the household (as was customary at that time).  The story begins quite innocently with a mysterious tree where the children discover goodies stored within periodically.  The problem is the tree is on the property of a very dark strange neighbors house , the neighbor is Boo Radley,  who makes it a challenge for the children  to overcome  their fears of the eerie surroundings to acquire the treats. Scout, Jem and Dill, a cousin visiting from out of town, must figure out who, when and why,  the treasures keep appearing. Their curiosity is peaked and a  full blown mystery  investigation ensues. They have heard many rumors about Boo Radley, none of which are good. So the children embark on a way to entice their neighbor, Boo Radley, to come out of his secluded house so they can get a glimpse of him.

A twist in the plot distracts the reader from the childhood wonder and mystery straight into the realism of life when a black man is accused of beating and raping a white woman. Mr. Atticus Finch decides to defend the young black man to the chagrin of his peers and community.  During the trial the segregation and prejudice becomes more apparent. Mr. Finch and the children are treated with ridicule and hatred.  Mr. Finch proves without a shadow of a doubt to the reader, that Mr. Tom Robinson is indeed innocent. Unfortunately, the fate of Mr. Robinson is not that transparent.

Throughout the rest of the story, Scout witnesses the good, the bad, and the ugly, in human beings behavior and treatment of one another. The heartwarming talks that take place between Mr. Finch and his children where he conveys reasons why he must do what he is doing and how Tom Robinson deserves to be represented fairly. The compassion, integrity ,and strength that Mr. Finch shows the children by his example of calm, mature behavior among all the chaos is exactly what endears the reader to him. The children witness the bravery and hardships their father endures with dignity.

Also, there is an incident where an uncontrolled rabid dog is wondering through the town threatening the physical safety of the towns people.  Mr. Atticus Finch is challenged with physical bravery  to react, take up arms and save the well being of his family and the townspeople. Scout and Jem  again see how their father handled crisis and through his example learns  their fathers true character.   There are many other twists and turns that take place within the rich characters created by Mrs. Harper Lee, the author, but I don’t want to tell you everything .You must learn the interesting outcomes when you read the book.

To Kill A Mockingbird is a must read at any age from teenage years to 100 years of age. It exemplifies the hatred and ignorance within prejudices, the goodness in fatherhood ,and the love of family. As a reader we can empathize with all the realms of emotions and strength it takes to endure adversity and conflict.  Even though the book shows the disappointing behavior of human beings it is an overwhelming testimony for the good in people and why the integrity within yourself is what makes you hold your head up high every day.

Thanks, Kay, for introducing us to this wonderful book. Happy Reading!

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Book 100: Wuthering Heights

My students are given the opportunity to blog about the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die for extra credit. The following is an extra credit post received by Brad Mattingly, a sophomore at Jefferson Community & Technical College.

In 1847, Emily Bronte published Wuthering Heights and the world was introduced to the love story of Heathcliff and Catherine. Some people thought the book was inappropriate and depicted too much cruelty and passion.

The book opens with Lockwood writing in his diary describing his first couple of days as a tenant at Thrushcross Grange. He describes a meeting with Heathcliff at his home Wuthering Heights when he is left in a room with mean dogs only to be helped by a housekeeper.

Lockwood goes to meet Heathcliff again at his home but he is not there. While in his home he spots a young woman who is very beautiful but he assumes this must be Heathcliff’s wife but she in turn ends up being his daughter-in-law.  When he leaves the home he lets a man know he is taking a lantern, because it is snowing and dark, but promises to return it when Joseph assumes he has stolen the lantern and releases the dogs on him. He is led back to the home by housekeeper to stay for the night.

While he is in the bedroom he notices the name Catherine etched into some paint with three different names at the end Earnshaw, Linton and Heathcliff. He also discovers a diary belonging to Catherine Earnshaw and reads an entry about her father passing away and how her brother hated her good friend Heathcliff. He then falls into a series of nightmares that cause him to break a window. Heathcliff runs into the room and Lockwood exclaims the the room is haunted.

Lockwood then falls into a pit of loneliness and his housekeeper Nelly tries to clarify things for him on the three different Catherines. She also tells him about Mr Earnshaw growing to love Heathcliff more than his own son Hindley which in turn causes Hindley to resent Heathcliff.

Mr Earnshaw falls ill and becomes more and more weak and frail and eventually becomes disgusted by the fighting between Heathcliff and Hindley and sends Hindley away to college.  Soon after Mr Earnshaw dies, Heathcliff and Catherine turn to their religious beliefs as they await Hindley’s return.

Hindley returns and is the new controller of Wuthering Heights along with his wife Frances, at which time Hindley decides that Heathcliff can not receive an education any more and must do common labor work. One night when Catherine and Heathcliff sneak off, Hindley notices and locks them out forbidding anyone to let them back into the home.

Catherine is attacked by a dog on their night out and spends five weeks recuperating at the Grange.  Once Catherine returns to Wuthering Heights, Hindley insists that Heathcliff treat her like any other servant which leads Catherine to tell Heathcliff he is dirty compared to the Linton kids.

Catherine eventually starts spending more and more time with Edgar and acting like a true lady should, but once she is with Heathcliff again it’s the same behavior as always. Hindley’s wife has a child and Frances later dies.

Heathcliff eventually decides to seek out revenge for the way he has been treated by Hindley and the betrayal of Catherine because as deeply as he loves her it drives him mad that she spends so much time with Edgar.

As Catherine lay dying she exclaims that Edgar and Heathcliff have both broke her heart and that she will not die while Heathcliff remains alive. She begs Heathcliff for his forgiveness but he will not forgive her and lets her know that her behavior caused her to commit murder on herself and he refuses to forgive a murderer.

Catherine gives birth to young Catherine prematurely and later dies. Hindley does not attend his sister’s funeral.  Young Catherine moves into Grange without any knowledge of Heathcliff.

Edgar begins to fall ill and Catherine has to care for him. Young Catherine then starts spending some time around Linton her cousin and Heathcliff’s son and Heathcliffs explains he hopes someday  she and his son will marry.

Edgar eventually dies and in death he is left with the belief that Catherine has married Linton and will be safe.

To show her well meaning, Catherine gives Hareton a book and promises she will teach him to read. After giving Hareton the book Heathcliff and Catherine begin to argue about her relationship with Hareton. As more and more time passes Heathcliff falls ill and refuses to eat and he is eventually found dead by Nelly.

In the book while Heathcliff is a man in love he also becomes a villian who is abusive and hateful. Why would someone want to write such a story? Why wouldn’t Hindley come to Catherine’s funeral? Why didn’t Heathcliff ever get over his anger toward Catherine?

Thanks, Brad, for introducing us to this book. These questions are certainly good ones! Happy Reading!


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Book 250: Ethan Frome

My students are given the opportunity to blog about the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die for extra credit. The following is an extra credit post received by Myra (Katie) White, who is a second year student at BCTC–Leestown Campus and is studying Medical Assisting.

Ethan Frome…love, betrayal, an extramarital affair, a horrible accident!  Scandalous!  I signed up for the rest of the book.  Set in the fictional town of Starkfield, Massachusetts during a long winter.  We are introduced to Ethan by a newcomer and unnamed narrator to the town who seeks to understand the mountain of a man most people in the town never refer to without mentioning “the accident”.  The newcomer soon finds himself intrigued with Ethan and begins a friendship, if it can be called that, with him due to a lack of transportation to his job in a neighboring town.  While plodding along in the high snow the tries to converse with Ethan, but he is a man of few words, so the information must come from others in the town.

Through the gossipmongers, we learn that Ethan was once a young and robust young man who went to further his education out of state, where he wished to learn more about mechanics.  Upon learning of his mother’s illness, and with his father already deceased, he returns home to help care for her. A distant cousin of his mother’s is also sent to help care for her.  Zenobia (Zeena), who is seven years older than Ethan appears to be of good health and decent company, so after his mother’s death, Ethan decides to marry Zeena so as to not be alone.  But soon after their marriage Zeena takes ill, with no obvious notations, we’re to assume she is a hypochondriac.  Though she and Ethan had discussed moving to a big city, Zeena’s illness coupled with their lack of financial backing, Ethan soon learns moving will not be an option.  Instead of moving, they actually need someone to come to help tend to the household chores as Zeena is no longer able to because of her illness.

Mattie Silver, an orphan cousin of Zeena’s is sent to help. Young and full of life, she catches Ethan’s eye as he is so downtrodden with life, she must seem like a ray of sunshine, especially with the red ribbon she often wears in her hair. He thinks of her often and kind of dreams of her and the life they could have. Zeena never says anything about the air of romance between the two, but she simple does small childish things to lead them to wonder if she is aware of their feelings for each other. Like not putting the key to the door under that mat, so when they arrive home after Ethan picked Mattie up from a dance, they are left in the cold until Zeena decides to come unlock the door, claiming she forgot to put the key under the mat.

Around this time Zeena begins to tell Ethan they need to come up with an alternate plan because Mattie’s been there too long and she’s sure she’s going to marry soon and move out.  Ethan is devastated and begins thinking of ways to keep Mattie there.  During Zeena’s trip out of town for medical advice, Ethan and Mattie find themselves alone.  The infamous pickle dish, a wedding gift from a distant cousin that Zeena never used, even for special guest, is broken during the evening meal and Mattie is sure that Zeena will send her packing when she discovers the broken dish. It seems as though the pickle dish is representative of Zeena and her invisible presence, something that Mattie and Ethan feel at all times. A conspiracy is set in place when Ethan sets the dish back in the cupboard and tells Mattie he will get glue and glue it back together so no one will be the wiser.

Most of the next day is Ethan scrambling to figure out a way to keep Mattie but do the right thing by Zeena. He searched through town to find glue for the pickle dish, but upon his return home Mattie tells him that Zeena’s has returned from her overnight trip and the climax of the story begins. She tells Ethan that the Dr. has told her she must get someone to help her and she has even hired someone to come, they will be there the next day and she has set up a plan for Mattie’s trunk to be moved and someone to take her to the train station. Zeena tells Ethan that she lost her health because of caring for his mother, so it will be his responsibility to figure out how to pay for the new “nurse”. Zeena soon discovers the pickle dish, while searching for hidden medicine and wants to know what happened. Mattie finally confesses that she had used the dish and Zeena uses this as more ammunition to show Ethan that she has to leave.

Going to his “study” that night Ethan remembers all the plans he had for his life and thinks of leaving Zeena.  Maybe he could get an advance on the lumber he has delivered to the mill and he and Mattie can go out west and begin a new life!  Zeena could sell the farm and live off the proceeds!  Ethan even begins a letter to Zeena about him leaving and how she can sell the farm, etc. but he crumbles it in his hand as he realizes, this would just be a dream.  That there would be no profit on the farm and Zeena would have no means to survive. A man of good morals, but a passive man, Ethan knows that in staying in Starkfield he is going to lose Mattie.

The plan for Mattie’s trunk to be sent along takes place and Ethan tells Zeena he will take Mattie to the train station. With heavy hearts, Ethan and Mattie start for the train station. They remember they had always planned to go sledding, but never had, so a quick trip down the hill is called for.  Sitting with Mattie in front of him, and Ethan sitting behind her, the two realize they cannot live apart, their love is too strong.  The danger of sledding and hitting the infamous elm tree at the bottom of the hill enters the picture and a suicide pact is discussed.  If they die together they will never have to be apart.  A few stolen kisses later, with Ethan in the front, they soar down the hill.

The following scene shows the newcomer/narrator being forced to spend the night at Ethan’s home as the weather is too bad to travel in. There we find two aging women, Zeena who is fixing a meal and tending to the household duties, while Mattie sits in a chair, paralyzed. It seems as though things have come full circle.  Zeena now has to care for Mattie, as Mattie once did for her. And Ethan is doomed to a life of unhappiness, living with the woman he loves from afar, and the woman he is supposed to love, his wife. It becomes apparent to the visitor why Ethan is viewed the way he is. A victim of circumstances, Ethan, lacked the real emotional strength and the ability to make a decision has forced him to live a life as a disfigured man. Some wonder if Zeena takes a sick pleasure in caring for them, as she knows they were trying for a quick death to escape her. And we wonder if Mattie still feels undying love for Ethan. As the three begin their meal with their guest, we are left to wonder how long the three can live together, how long the can endure the tension that has filled the house for years and the stark, white winters than can only be seen as the background that is Ethan Frome’s life.

Thanks, Katie, for sharing this book with us. Happy Reading!


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Interview with a Vampire: Book 682

My students are given the opportunity to blog about the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die for extra credit. The following is an extra credit post received by Judy Cameron.

In 1976, Anne Rice published Interview with the Vampire, and the world met Lestat for the first time. Ironically, Lestat is not the hero of this tale as he is the other books in this series. This is the story of Louis, how he became a vampire, and how he progressed through time in a vampire world. Lestat is portrayed as the antagonist in this tale. The reader is left hating Lestat and the evil that he shows to Louis.

The book begins when Louis takes a newspaper reporter aside and begins telling him a fascinating story about how he became a vampire. The Reporter is convinced that he is lying but decides to listen to the story anyway.

Louis begins his story in New Orleans, where Louis lives on a large plantation. After the death of his wife and child, Louis falls into a dark depression. He begins to seek death by hanging out in dark places. One night, Lestat finds him and gives him a choice “that he never had”. When Louis chooses life over death, Lestat turns him into a vampire.

Lestat moves his aging father into the plantation house. Lestat and Louis set out to explore the nigh live of New Orleans. Rice continues to cast Lestat in the role of heartless and uncaring villain. Louis is portrayed as the reserved, caring being. Louis is truly the hero of this story.

Lestat leads Louis through the streets of New Orleans, teaching him to hunt and feed on the criminals and the evil of the city. Louis becomes more and more distant and aloof. Lestat fears that Louis will leave. Eventually, Louis finds a small girl crying over the body of  her mother who has died from the plague. Louis is overcome with hunger and drinks form the child. Lestat finds Louis with Claudia, the child, dying in his arms. Lestat gives Claudia his blood, making her a vampire. Now, the two have become a family of three.

The three vampires continue to hunt the streets of New Orleans. Claudia is a viscous killer trapped in the body of a child. She forms an alliance with Louis and the two begin plotting to kill Lestat. They poison Lestat and set the town house that they live in on fire. They leave Lestat for dead and make their escape to Europe in hopes of finding the other vampires.

Claudia and Louis travel through Europe with very little luck at finding other vampires like them. Most of what they find are more animal that human acting. They did not find any other vampires like them. They become sure that they killed the only other vampire like their self and he took all his secrets to the grave with him. Finally, they end up in Paris ,France and stumble upon the Theater des Vampires lead by the vampire Armand.

Armand decides he wants Louis as a companion but Louis is loyal to Claudia. In the end, Lestat returns and the vampires from the theatre kill Claudia for her part in trying to kill Lestat. Louis is devastated by the death of Claudia as revenge he locks all the vampires in the theatre and sets the place on fire. He watches the place burn to the ground then leaves Paris.

Louis continues to travel through Europe and explore the world. He finally ends up in New Orleans again. He stumbles upon a broken, aged Lestat. Lestat begs Louis to come back to him so that they can continue through the world but Louis refuses. Louis still blames Lestat for the death of Claudia and he wants nothing to do with him. He leaves Lestat at the old, falling down house eating rats and vermin. Louis continues on his way.

The entire story is portrayed as if Louis was relating his life story to a newspaper reporter. In the end, the reporter wished to become a vampire. Louis bit the reporter then leaves him lying there to show him that being a vampire was not something that the reporter really wanted.

Why is Lestat so evil? Why didn’t Lestat die in the fire in New Orleans? Who made Lestat? What was his connection with the Paris Vampires? These were just a few of the questions that I had while reading this book. However, this was just the first book in the series of stories featuring Lestat,  Louis , and the other vampires. To fully understand, one has to continue on with the adventure.

Thanks, Judy, for sharing this book with us. In many ways, this book can be considered the beginning of the current popular culture fascination with vampires, and certainly Anne Rice is considered the Queen of the Undead. Happy Reading!


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The Clockwork Orange: Book 565

My students are given the opportunity to blog about the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die for extra credit. The following is an extra credit post received by Angela Judd. Angela can be reached at ajudd@kheslc.com.

The Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess is number 565 on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. This novel is unique in that Mr. Burgess created and implemented his own language which can be difficult to comprehend at first. Whereas it does make it a bit more complex, eventually the reader will catch on to the lingo.

It begins in a future England with Beethoven loving, 15 year old Alex and his set of “droogs” (friends) at their favorite hangout, the milk bar. The droogs consist of Pete, Dim, and Georgie and most of their time together is spent being “ultra-violent” and causing trouble. After hyping themselves up at the bar, they continue to wreak havoc throughout the city by beating up random people they find, eventually stealing a car and going for a joyride. Ultimately, they find themselves at a remote cottage. Alex, using his conniving ways, convinced the owner to let him in. After which, the masked gang severely beat the husband and rape the wife.

The next day, Alex goes to meet his droogs only to find that there is obvious tension within the gang. Georgie begins to demand that they start pulling bigger jobs as opposed to the silly childish games he believed they were currently playing. To appease his minions, he decides to do what the gang wants, and rob the home of an elderly rich woman. Instead of a simple burglary, Alex ends up exacerbating the situation by killing the older woman. During the escape, Dim blocks the exit  and leaves him immobilized, just in time for the police to arrive.

After being found guilty of murder, Alex is sent to prison where he begins to read the Bible. While this sounds like he might be turning a new leaf, in fact, he is reading it only to get his fix of violence. Following his usual “normal” behavior, he kills his cellmate, which launches his acceptance into a new experimental treatment called the “Ludovico Technique”.  The intention was to make him incapable of violence, which was accomplished by giving him drugs to make him feel ill while being forced to watch graphic, sadistic movies. This method proves to be very efficient. He soon becomes physically ill at the mere thought of violent behavior or sex, which for him are one in the same. An unexpected consequence, however, is that the Ninth Symphony by Beethoven also begins to make him sick because that song was played during the movies. After testing his condition, he is released as a free man under the assumption that he was officially cured.

His first stop after being set free is his parent’s house. There, he finds that his room has been rented out and he now has nowhere to go. As he wanders the street trying to formulate a plan, Alex stumbles upon several of his former victims whom, as expected, are eager to exact their revenge. At long last, policemen arrive, only to find out that it is in fact a rival gang member and former droog Dim. They proceed to beat him mercilessly and leave him to die in a remote location. By some miracle, he is able to get up and find his way to a little cottage, which just so happens to be the same cottage where he raped and beat the owners.

The man, not realizing he is helping his former assailant, allows Alex to come in. As they begin to reveal more of each other’s story, it comes to light that the man’s wife indeed died from injuries received from Alex and his gang. He stays, however, because this man has anti-government ideals. Therefore, after informing him of his strange treatment, he rallies behind him hoping to use him as a symbol of the problems within the government. It is not long until the truth is revealed that Alex was, in reality, the violent goon who attacked him.

Rather than physically harming the boy, he decides to torture him by playing Beethoven repeatedly. After a few moments of pure hell, Alex can take no more and decides to commit suicide by jumping out a third story window. Yet, he managed to only hurt himself. He awakes in the hospital surrounded by government officials who are concerned, not for his health but for the public reaction to his treatment. They bribe him to keep quiet about the bad experiences associated with the controversial technique. As he poses with the doctor, he finds himself thinking violent thoughts toward him. But instead of getting ill, nothing happens. He was, in fact, back to the way he was. The treatment had somehow been reversed.

Thanks, Angela, for introducing us to a great book! Happy Reading.

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The Reinvented Miss Bluebeard by Minda Webber

On a recent trip to Preschool Story Time at my local library, my daughter pulled this book off the rack near the “check out” counter as she waited for me to check out my books. I have a fascination with all things paranormal and all things fairy tale (which I love to critique). So, it caught my attention and I added it to check out pile.

The Reinvented Miss Bluebeard (2007) by Minda Webber is described on the back cover with:

Kooks, Spooks & the Infamous Dr. Bluebeard: When your father is not only an infamous pirate but the husband of six vanished wives, respectability’s hard to come by. That’s why Eve invented herself a husband. How else was a nineteenth-century girl to follow her dreams and become one of those newfangled psychiatrists? Certainly she’d never be running The Towers, London’s preeminent asylum for potty paranormals. She wouldn’t be seeing famous patients such as Frederick Frankenstein (he has a screw loose) and treating Jane Van Helsing’s blood phobia. But now, wackier than the werewolves and loonier than the leprechaun she is already treating, something new is taking shape—and he has the name of her never-before-seen husband and a body to drive a girl absolutely batty . . .

The wild mishmash of history, fairytale, and literary characters and plots was tangled enough that several readings would probably be needed to bring them all to light. Webber’s clever literary and psychological references kept me interested and amused. This was great. It was the funniest thing I have read in a very long time. Clearly, Webber is well-read and well-learned. Evidently, Webber writes these kind of books often, and I will be adding her to my “author’s to watch” list.

Happy Reading!

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Updates . . . Coming Soon!

As usual, when I get bogged down grading essays, this is the first thing to get neglected. I have been reading, though–every day. I hope to share some of what I’ve read recently shortly. For instance, I have completed the first two books in Allison Brennan’s Original Sin series (which I did not like and hope to write about why); I’ve read Nora Robert’s latest Chasing Fire.  I’ve read six books for a Romance Writer’s Contest (which I hope I will be allowed to blog about once the contest is complete). I have read An Univited Ghost by E. J. Copperman, Sinister Sprinles by Jessica Beck, Night of the Living Dandelion by Kate Collins, and Eve by Iris Johansen. And, all of these have been read since my last post on April 7!

The first, though, that I will be writing about is one I ran across accidentally at the library: Minda Webber’s The Reinvented Miss Bluebeard. It was the funniest thing I have read in a long time, and I will be blogging about it tomorrow. I also have several student posts for the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die Challenge that should be following that post shortly.

Until then, Happy Reading!

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