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The Mysterious Benedict Society is Worth Your Time

5 Nov

When I gave Emma A the chance to be the first girl to recommend a book for me to read during silent reading, I was pretty convinced she was going to pick a book about love or horses, and that had me petrified because there’s nothing—outside of Rick Riordan books—-that a guy like me hates more than books about love and horses.

In fact, my general rule of thumb is that if something doesn’t blow up in the first fifteen pages, a book just isn’t worth reading.

Which is why I was so surprised by Emma’s recommendation:  The Mysterious Benedict Society.

You see, nothing blew up in the first fifteen pages, but I still wanted to keep reading.

What made TMBS such an interesting read for me wasn’t explosions.  Instead, it was really interesting characters—a group of four orphans with unique skills who are found by a quirky scientist trying to prevent the world from being taken over by his evil twin brother.

Reynie Muldoon—who is the most practical member of the group—joins together with Sticky (who has a photographic memory and a wicked case of the willies), Kate the Great (a former circus performer who carries a red bucket full of gizmos and gadgets tied to her belt), and Constance (an incredibly bright—and incredibly stubborn—two year old who made me laugh time and again because she was so downright uncooperative) in a partnership that they name The Mysterious Benedict Society.

Then, they travel to a remote island to uncover clues about the plotting of a madman.

They quickly discover that he’s developed a tool called The Whisperer that is designed to take over the minds of people all over the world, and after avoiding a ton of near disasters—including a trip to a horrific underground prison for Sticky that nearly pushes him over the edge—-they work together to stymie his wicked plan.

Now, TMBS wasn’t a perfect read.  It was really long and there were times that I found myself just wanting it to end.  I think there were events that could have been left out without affecting the story in a negative way.

But overall, the quirkiness of the characters combined with the suspense of the tasks that they were trying to complete together really caught my attention—which I didn’t expect, simply because TMBS wasn’t the kind of book that ever catches my attention.

 

The Mysterious Benedict Society Rating:  Way 65

 

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Ranger’s Apprentice: Ruins of Gorlan

27 Sep

I started a new experiment a few weeks back:  I decided to let my students choose the books that I’m reading!  First pick went to a boy named Chris who I was SURE was going to make me read The Red Pyramid.

That had me pretty nervous, considering I’d already burned like 473 pages of my copy lighting my grill this summer.  I didn’t want to spend any more money on a Rick Riordan book!

To my surprise, though, Chris chose The Ruins of Gorlan, which is the first book in a series titled The Ranger’s Apprentice.  “It’s my favorite book of all time,” Chris said.

That’s high-cotton!

The Ruins caught my attention from page one, introducing a villain named Morgorath who was training a group of bear-dog-freak type creatures called Wargals to take over the Kingdom of Aurlean.  Who DOESN’T like stories about evil villains training bear-dog-freak creatures to take over Kingdoms?!

While I love action books—and really love books about the Middle Ages—what really caught my attention as the story developed was the relationships between two of the main characters:  Will and Horace.  Both are orphans who were raised by the Kingdom and both are growing up.  Horace is chosen—at the age of 15—to go to Battle School, where he proves to be a super soldier.  Will—despite really WANTING to go to Battle School—-ends up apprenticed to the fief’s Ranger, who is essentially like a spy.

What I like about Will and Horace is that they’re both struggling with life.  Horace is being bullied in Battle School, but doesn’t want to show it.  Will wants to be brave and courageous—-traits that he thinks his father, who he’s never met, would be proud of.  Those kinds of themes resonate with me—-and I think they probably resonate with all boys.

We all want to be courageous.

We all want to be brave.

We all want to be strong—even in the face of bullies.

But that’s not always possible.

As the story goes on, both Will and Horace grow into their roles. Horace becomes one of the best young warriors in the Kingdom and Will ends up saving his Baron and his master from a freak creature called the Karakara—-lights him on fire with an arrow from 100 yards, to be specific.  And I liked that, too…seeing boys grow up into men is kind of a neat thing, especially because I liked both boys by the end of the book.

The only hitch is there isn’t quite enough fighting for me. While both Will and Horace become talented apprentices, they spend most of the book practicing their skills.  Horace is a master—-with a wooden sword when he’s hitting a dummy.  Will is a master—when he’s throwing his knives at stationary targets.  I kept finding myself wanting to see them take on real enemies in real battles—-instead of just the wild boar that they kill together in like the 18th chapter.

Overall, though, The Ruins of Gorlan was interesting enough that I bought the second book in the series:  The Burning Bridge.  It’s even better than book one.

Ruins of Gorlan Rating:  Way65