17 August 2009

BOOK CLUB - AUG - A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd

From Random House publishers:

Setting: Ireland,1984. After Shell’s mother dies, her father gives up on work and his children and escapes reality by drinking. The unexpected challenge of caring for a home and her two siblings leaves Shell little opportunity to enjoy her youth. She frequently skips school just to spend time with her only friends, Birdie and Declan. But when Birdie leaves town to live with her aunt, Declan and Shell’s friendship evolves into intimacy until he flees to America, leaving Shell pregnant. Months later, scandal erupts in the community; a baby boy is found dead in a cave, and Shell admits to giving birth to a stillborn daughter. Two babies dead, and no one knows the father of both is Declan, and no one knows the baby boy’s mother is Birdie—no one, that is, except Shell.
  • When Birdie sees Shell and Declan kissing, why does she only blame Shell? What role does Shell play in Declan’s betrayal of Birdie? Why does Birdie refuse to speak to Shell? How does Birdie’s betrayal of Shell affect each of them?
  • As Shell’s father grows more distant and turns increasingly to alcohol, Shell begins to assume more responsibility for Trix and Jimmy. From what is her father trying to escape?
  • Young Shell must cope with a secret pregnancy, the care of her two siblings, her father’s neglect, and her mother’s death. What character traits does Shell possess that enable her to handle all that life has thrown at her?
  • Shell does not think she has anyone to support her when she discovers she is pregnant. Why is she so fearful of asking anyone for help? Who could have helped her?
  • When Rose is born, Shell either does not realize or is unwilling to accept the fact that Rose is dead. How does Jimmy help Shell understand that Rose is dead? Why does Shell assume the responsibility for Rose’s death? Could Rose have been saved?
  • Why does Shell’s father confess to a crime he did not commit? Why does he think he is guilty? How does his admission of a crime he didn’t commit help Shell communicate with him? How does it alter their relationship?
  • What impact does Father Rose have on Shell? How does he help her through a difficult time? How does he fail her? What factors influence Father Rose to leave the priesthood?
  • The people in the community are devastated to learn that two babies in their community have been found dead. How could the police have better handled the cases? What role do the gossips play in Shell’s arrest? Besides Shell, who knew the identity of the parents of the baby boy? Was his death intentional?
  • Shell receives a letter from Declan telling of his adventures and life in America, but Shell burns the letter and does not respond to it. Why?
  • Do you think this is an apt title for the story told? Why or why not?

10 August 2009

Beach Reads

As I was on the beach this weekend (my one beach weekend of the year!), I realized that I am obsessed with seeing what everyone else is reading as they lounge in their beach chairs. Jodi Picoult (My Sister's Keeper) definitely won out, and I didn't see a single Harry Potter this year. There have been reports for years that people are reading less and less (unless maybe you factor in newspaper and Internet reading, which you certainly could), so it intrigues me to find so many people reading on the beach year-in and year-out. The same people who say that they "don't read" are very often the ones saving that perfect book for when they are on the beach. When they finally have some extended time to relax and do anything they want . . . they choose to read. I guess reading can't be that boring. ;)

I brought three books (Seventeenth Summer, The Au Pairs : Skinny-Dipping, and Uncle Tom's Cabin) to Sea Isle City this year (to read in less than 48 hours), but I only finished two (Seventeenth Summer and Skinny-Dipping). The Au Pairs series, about three girls who all score a high-paying job as an au pair for a high-class family for a summer in the Hamptons, is definitely one of my favorite beach reads of all time. The adventures of Jacqui, Mara, and Eliza -- and their many boyfriends, or boys who are friends -- are at times thrilling, at times embarrassing, and always hilarious. There's four in the series and I'm halfway through; can't wait to read Sun-Kissed next summer! Anyway, here's a list of some more great beach reads for the summer . . . or any time!

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith.
Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway.
Forever by Judy Blume.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (series) by Ann Brashares.
How to Deal (this is a paperback publication of two books: Someone Like You and That Summer) by Sarah Dessen. I love anything by Sarah Dessen for a lazy day.
Stormbreaker (series) by Anthony Horowitz.
Guyaholic by Carolyn Mackler.
Maximum Ride (series) by James Patterson.
How to Build a House by Dana Reinhardt.
The Uglies (series) by Scott Westerfeld.

Maybe I'll get around to my old stand-bys, Uncle Tom's Cabin and Gone with the Wind, next year, too!

04 August 2009

CD Clocks

We wrapped up Crafternoons by making clocks using CDs as part of the "decoration." We ordered the pieces from Oriental Trading, but I think I could have figured out a way to make it even cooler by just buying the clock hardware (the hour/minutes/seconds hands and the workings to make them keep time!) and allowing the kids to be creative with a clean slate. Still, all-in-all, what matters is that I think we had a pretty wonderful summer of creative expression! Looking forward to tonight's End of the Summer Celebration with Didgerdoo Down Under!