The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey (The Mysterious Benedict Society #2)

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The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart

“The fabulous foursome readers embraced as The Mysterious Benedict Society is back with a new mission, significantly closer to home. After reuniting for a celebratory scavenger hunt, Reynie, Kate, Sticky, and Constance are forced to go on an unexpected search–a search to find Mr. Benedict. It seems that while he was preparing the kids’ adventure, he stepped right into a trap orchestrated by his evil twin Mr. Curtain.

With only one week to find a captured Mr. Benedict, the gifted foursome faces their greatest challenge of all–a challenge that will reinforce the reasons they were brought together in the first place and will require them to fight for the very namesake that united them.”

More exciting adventures for Reynie, Sticky, Kate and Constance. This book was just as good as the first in the series, maybe even better as I read it in only one day. Again, the author writes with a great sense of humor and I love the pace of the story. It makes me want to read it without putting it down.

440 pages
Published May 1st 2008 by Little, Brown Young Readers
ISBN13: 9780316057806

3 stars


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Stardust by Neil Gaiman

“One fateful night, Tristran promises his beloved that he will retrieve a fallen star for her from beyond the Wall that stands between their rural English town (called, appropriately, Wall) and the Faerie realm. No one ever ventures beyond the Wall except to attend an enchanted flea market that is held every nine years (and during which, unbeknownst to him, Tristran was conceived). But Tristran bravely sets out to fetch the fallen star and thus win the hand of his love. His adventures in the magical land will keep you turning pages as fast as you can–he and the star escape evil old witches, deadly clutching trees, goblin press-gangs, and the scheming sons of the dead Lord of Stormhold.

The story is by turns thrillingly scary and very funny. You’ll love goofy, earnest Tristran and the talking animals, gnomes, magic trees, and other irresistible denizens of Faerie that he encounters in his travels. Stardust is a perfect read-aloud book, a brand-new fairy tale you’ll want to share with a kid, or maybe hoard for yourself.”

I read the book after I saw the movie. I love them both despite their differences. It you’ve seen the film and you’re expecting the story line to follow the script, you’ll be disappointed. As always, much more happens in the book than happens in the movie. There are many more characters as well. I loved it and read it over again every year or so. I would say that this is a good book for young adults as well, however, there are a few spicy sex bits and one epithet so adults be warned before you pass it to your kid to read.

250 pages
Published September 1st 2006 by Harper Perennial (first published October 1998)
ISBN13: 9780061142024
Locus Award Nominee for Best Fantasy Novel (1999), Geffen Award (2000), Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature (1999), ALA Alex Award (2000)

5 stars

The Help

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The Help by Kathryn Stockett

“Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women—mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends—view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.”

Okay. I love this book. Seriously. It was so good. Beyond un-put-down-able. I laughed out loud, I cried, I cringed, I loved every single syllable of every single word typed on every single page. I’m both looking forward to and dreading the release of the film this August. So, read it. Get it from your library, pick it up at the bookstore (it’s now out in paperback), listen to it on audio; doesn’t matter, just read it.

451 pages
Published February 10th 2009 by Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam
ISBN13: 9780399155345
Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction (2009), Indies Choice Book Award for Adult Debut (2010), Puddly Award for Fiction (2011)

5 stars

The Mysterious Benedict Society (The Mysterious Benedict Society #1)

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The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

“Young readers who have worked their way through Lemony Snicket may well find their next obsession in The Mysterious Benedict Society, a dandy YA debut by novelist Trenton Lee Stewart. This engaging tale has all the elements tweens find intriguing: gifted kids, a dangerous mission, and a secret society where nothing is as it seems. Stewart throws plenty of challenges — physical, mental, and moral — in the path of his young protagonists, and readers will have fun solving the riddles and unraveling the clues in this smart, unconventional mystery. Complex, unpredictable, and deeply respectful of children’s innate intelligence, The Mysterious Benedict Society is highly recommended for thoughtful preteens. P.S. We loved it, too!”

Once again, this is another book that I picked up at the bookstore on whim because first, I liked the cover art, and second, the premise sounded good. I found out later that the illustrator is Carson Ellis, who illustrates the album cover art for The Decemberists, a band that I love.

Anyway, I loved the book. I knew I was going to be hooked on the entire series less than halfway into the first chapter. One of the reasons that I bought the book was that it was so long (I love to buy thick books that will *hopefully* take longer to read) but it was still a pretty fast read simply because it was such a fun read. The characters are great too and the author writes with a wonderful sense of humor. I read the whole series within days. Definitely a YA recommendation.

485 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Little Brown and Company (first published March 7th 2007)
ISBN13: 9780316003957
E.B. White Read Aloud Award for Older Readers (2008), Massachusetts Children’s Book Award (2009), Iowa Children’s Choice Award Nominee (2011)

3 stars

Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse/A Southern Vampire Mystery #1) – Audiobook


Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse/A Southern Vampire Mystery #1) by Charlaine Harris

“Sookie Stackhouse is just a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. Until the vampire of her dreams walks into her life-and one of her coworkers checks out….

Maybe having a vampire for a boyfriend isn’t such a bright idea.”

I originally started reading this series several years ago because the wait for Anita Blake books was so long. A friend (Super Suz!)and I were at a bookstore and the clerk suggested it to us. She said we’d probably love it and she was right. This is the book and series that the HBO show True Blood is based on. I haven’t watched the show personally. Once I saw who was cast as Sookie I just couldn’t do it. Nothing against Anna Paquin, but she’s Rogue, not Sookie. Anyway, it’s a great series, and it’s another series that has gotten to have so many books in it that I’m listening to it on audiobook while traveling.

Published 2007 by Recorded Books, LLC (first published May 1st 2001)
ISBN13: 9781428160859
Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original (2002)

4 stars

Circus of the Damned (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #3) – Audiobook

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Circus of the Damned (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #3) by Laurell K Hamilton

“In Circus of the Damned, a rogue master vampire hits town, and Anita gets caught in the middle of an undead turf war.”

The third book in the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K Hamilton, read by Kimberly Alexis. This book introduces one of my least favorite characters. *sigh But it’s still an excellent story!

Audio CD
Published October 6th 2009 by Penguin Audio USA (first published 1995)
ISBN13: 9780143145141

4 stars

Jane Eyre

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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

“Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman’s passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed. With a heroine full of yearning, the dangerous secrets she encounters, and the choices she finally makes, Charlotte Bronte’s innovative and enduring romantic novel continues to engage and provoke readers.”

I’ve always felt like I should read more “classics” but I’ve always found some excuse not to read them. So, I decided this year I’d read some. Plus, it’ll help me check off more of the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list.

I really enjoyed this book. Bronte tells a wonderful story. I particularly like the way the author has Jane acknowledge us, the readers, as she narrates the tale. I will definitely be picking up some other classics over the next year and I’ll probably be adding Jane Eyre into my rotation of books that I read annually. I finally decided to read it after I saw the preview for the 2011 movie starring Mia Wasikowska and then my bff told me that it was one of her favorite books ever. I recommend a lot of books to her so I figured if she loved Jane I’d give it a shot and I’m glad I did.

659 pages
Published February 1st 2011 by HarperTeen (first published 1847)
ISBN13: 9780062015624

5 stars

Secret Lives of Great Artists

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Secret Lives of Great Artists by Elizabeth Lunday

“In the tradition of our best-selling Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents (120 000 copies in print) here are outrageous and uncensored profiles of the world’s greatest artists complete with hundreds of little-known politically incorrect and downright bizarre facts. Consider:

* Michelangelo had such repellant body odor that his assistants couldn’t stand working for him.
* Pablo Picasso did jail time for ripping off several statues from the Louvre.
* Gabriel Dante Rossetti’s favorite pet was a wombat that slept on his dining room table.
* Vincent van Gogh sometimes ate paint directly from the tube.
* Georgia O’Keeffe liked to paint in the nude.
* Salvador DalÌ concocted a perfume from dung to attract the attention of his future wife.

With outrageous anecdotes about everyone from Leonardo (accused sodomist) to Caravaggio (convicted murderer) to Edward Hopper (alleged wife beater) Secret Lives of Great Artists is an art history lesson you’ll never forget!”

I read Secret Lives of Great Authors a few years ago and loved it. Secret Lives of Great Artists did not disappoint. Reading it made me get online and look up all of the paintings and sculptures that the author was telling me about. I like the trivial details and the fact that it increased my interest in the subject matter. It was also a very fast read because I found it so interesting.

288 pages
Published October 15th 2008 by Quirk Books
ISBN13: 9781594742576

4 stars

Emily’s Runaway Imagination

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Emily’s Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary

“Can imaginative Emily make her biggest dream come true?

Spunky Emily Bartlett lives in an old farmhouse in Pitchfork, Oregon, at a time when automobiles are brand-new inventions and libraries are a luxury few small towns can afford. Her runaway imagination leads her to bleach a horse, hold a very scary sleepover, and feed the hogs an unusual treat. But can she use her lively mind to help bring a library to Pitchfork?

Adventure is pretty scarce in Pitchfork, Oregon. So why shouldn’t Emily bleach Dad’s old plow horse or try some of her other ideas?”

I first read this book in the second grade. I’ve read it many, many, many times since then. I discovered years later, that a lot of the things that happen to Emily in this book were taken straight from Cleary’s own childhood. (Hint: read Cleary’s autobiography!) I love every book Beverly Cleary has written so it should come as no surprise when I say this is one of my favorite childhood books.

221 pages
Published May 1980 by Dell Publishing (first published 1961)
ISBN 0440422159

4 stars

Where the Wild Things Are – Audiobook

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Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

“Max is sent to bed without supper and imagines sailing away to the land of Wild Things,where he is made king.”

One of my favorite childhood books, I found iTunes offering the audiobook for free a few months ago. It took about two seconds to download and listening only takes about five minutes. But for those five minutes I went back to the world I imagined years and years ago.

Audio CD
Published June 1st 2007 by HarperChildrensAudio (first published 1963)
ISBN13: 9780061227400
Caldecott Medal (1964), American Library Association (ALA) Notable Book, Indies Choice Book Award for Picture Book Hall of Fame (2009)

4 stars