Friday, June 18, 2010

Summertime Means Summer Challenges!

Hi everyone! So, as of yesterday, I am officially finished my exams (although Alex still has at least one to go :D). I started to think about what I wanted to do with my summer, blog-wise and reading-wise, and I decided that instead of reading my way through the teen section of the book store, I'm going to give myself a bit more of a challenge.

So my real inspiration for my Summer Challenges came about a couple weeks ago at work - I work in a bookstore - when I pulled Gone With the Wind off the shelving cart. It is a ginormous book. 1500 pages. But I had an immediate desire to read it, so I looked up some reviews (amazing), and was sold.

Along with reading this monstrous book, my first challenge is going to include watching the entire movie, start to finish. This is something I have failed to do on multiple occasions, and I am super excited to have the whole experience of reading the book first. It's such a classic, timeless movie that is such a part of our culture that I feel like it's about time I just sit myself down and watch the whole thing. Same goes for Casablanca.

So I've got a couple other ideas up my sleeve for the summer, including, of course, a Harry Potter marathon, so I'm definitely back, and hopefully I don't bore all of you to death with these crazy challenges. Just be grateful I gave up on Anna Karenina when I did :) So I'll be putting up a little section in the sidebar where you can follow my progress, if you're into that...

Oh! And look forward to some vlogs in the near future, along with some geocaching, seeing as I'm no longer juggling 10 different activites at once. The lack of stress is amazing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review by Alex- The Mysterious Benedict Society series

For the first, The Mysterious Benedict Society:
Dozens of children respond to this peculiar ad in the newspaper and are then put through a series of mind-bending tests, which readers take along with them. Only four children-two boys and two girls-succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and inventive children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. But what they'll find in the hidden underground tunnels of the school is more than your average school supplies. So, if you're gifted, creative, or happen to know Morse Code, they could probably use your help.

First Impressions: Funny enough, I learned of this book through my brother. And I say funny enough because, well, usually I'm the one to tell him about books. But he learned of The Mysterious Benedict Society through my mom who had read about it through a knitting blog. Go figure. I didn't know much about the novel really, besides that it had a sequel and that my younger brother enjoyed it. The blurbs did say it was like Lemony Snicket and Roald Dalh, so I was intruiged.

The Mysterious Benedict Society and its sequel, in one word, are fun. But they're also quite detailed and well planned - the second in the series more so than the first - with young characters that continue to learn and to grow.

There are our four protagonists: Reynie, a particulary cunning and clever 11 year old (who is 12 in the sequel I suppose) who is extremely adept at riddles and reading people (how I'd love to have his skills!); George "Sticky" Washington, the same age as Reynie, who has an incredibly strong memory and extensive knowledge on everything but who is also a bit of a nervous fellow; Kate, a girl a year older than the two boys and who is extraordinarily talented athletically wise; and Constance, a girl who's extremely contrary (and in fact, her last name is Contraire).

What makes the novels so fun and delightful to read are not just the characters, but the plot, the riddles, and especially the witty humor that often pokes fun at everyday norms and roles of society. The humor is spot on- perfect for children, but also perfect for teens and adults alike.

I thought that in terms of planning, plot, and overall development, the second in the series was much better than the first. But the first was already very good to begin with. There's currently another in the series out, with a fourth to be released, I'm pretty sure.

Final Impressions: The Mysterious Benedict Society is an incredibly fun read that's not only entertaining and humoristic, but is also able to put some reflections and connections to everyday life. Really, a must read. Children's books are no longer for kids, just as YA books are not only for teens.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Review by Alex- Heist Society

Heist Society by Ally Carter
When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her on a trip to the case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own--scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving "the life" for a normal life proves harder than she'd expected.

Soon, Kat's friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring her back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has good reason: a powerful mobster has been robbed of his priceless art collection and wants to retrieve it. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat's father isn't just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat's dad needs her help.

For Kat there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it's a spectacularly impossible job? She's got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in history-or at least her family's (very crooked) history.

First Impressions: Having been interested in Heist Society, and having been finally lent a copy from a friend (who, for once, was not Lauren), I was excited to read it.

And I had good reason to be excited and interested. Heist Society does not disappoint. It's extremely fun and fast paced, with hardly a dull moment. The book opens up with a heist, and it ends with a heist. All in good fun.

I'd been in a bit of a reading slump before Heist Society, but zoomed through Heist Society quickly. It's not a hard read; it's easy, but the writing is smooth and flows nicely. The plot is, hands down, the best part of the novel, with all the tricks and turns, heists and hazards. The characters, if not fully developed, were all interesting and exciting, being crooks and all.

Definitely a must read for fans of Ally Carter's previous series, or anyone interested in themes of stealing, romance, heists, rollicking good fun, or all of the above (and more).

Final Impressions: Extremely entertaining, Heist Society has all the elements needed to entertain and imagine for an afternoon, or however long you read it for. I really enjoyed it, that's for sure.

Note This! I don't know if I'm incredibly blind or what, but for all the times I looked at the cover of Heist Society online, I never noticed the images in the sunglasses. And the cover looks a lot better in person.

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