The Mysterious Benedict Society

mbsThe Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Mysterious Benedict Society #1
Publisher: Little, Brown
Number of pages: 456
My copy: paperback, bought from Powerbooks

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.

I’ve had The Mysterious Benedict Society in my TBR pile for years, after I bought it when I read reviews about how “smart” this book was. Back then I was still a series completist, so I had to start with the first book and planned to get the rest of the books later on because it was just right, right? But anyway, that didn’t happen, and the book remained in my TBR pile until one day, I decided to pick it up because I wanted something else to read. And I figured it’s about time to get this off there.

An ad in the newspaper appears, looking for smart kids who were willing to go through a series of tests. Out of all who took it, only four children passed: Reynie Muldoon, Sticky Washington, Kate Wetherall, and Constance Contraire. The kids were brought to Mr. Benedict, who tells them of an evil plan that they need to stop and sent them as spies to the Learning Institute of the Very Enlightened, the school where all this evil seems to be coming from. Adventure follows, as well as danger, but there was too much at stake for them to just give up.

They were right. This book was fun and smart, and a lot of it made me think of just how they’d get out of the scrapes they get into. The kids were easy to like, even Constance, who started out so annoying and stubborn but later became endearing just because of those qualities. There was mystery, yes, and as a reader I had to keep on thinking, too, about  just what was happening and how they would ever get out of the messes they got into.

I just think the book was just a tad long. I know all scenes worked out to the ending, but I remember being a bit impatient with this at some point that I was almost skimming. It could just be a case of reader ADD, though, but I can’t deny the relief I felt when I was finally done. To be fair, the ending was pretty heartwarming, and it felt like a reward after reading the length of the book.

The Mysterious Benedict Society is a smart and fun book, and while I was a bit lukewarm about it (Maybe that means I won’t be one of those kids who will take that exam. Or pass it. Heh), I think I’d really like to keep this copy around once my nephew is old enough to read. :)


Favorite dog-eared quotes:

You must remember, family is often born of blood, but it doesn’t depend on blood. Nor is it exclusive of friendship. Family members can be your best friends, you know. And best friends, whether or not they are related to you, can be your family.

Other reviews:
Good Books and Good Wine
The Book Gaga

Minis: 2015 reads, so far

So in an effort to revive this blog out of silence, here’s another post! I thought I’d write about the books I read in the first months of 2015, just so I could catch up. Consider this a Minis post, although mini-er, because I’m going to try to sum  up my thoughts for each book I’ve read in 5 sentences, or less. :)

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins
St. Martin’s Griffin | 320 pages | Ebook

Cute collection of holiday love stories, and it was a very good companion for the Christmas season. Not a super fan of all stories, though,  but I didn’t expect I’ll love all anyway. Favorite stories: Midnights by Rainbow Rowell, Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me by Jenny Han, Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White (loved the small town setting), and Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter. :) Best paired with a mug of hot chocolate (as long as the weather is cool enough). :)

I sang because that is what I do when I am happy and when I’m sad. I sang because it is who I am when I am being the best possible version of me. I sang because I wasn’t alone as I held Aunt Mary’s hand. I sang because it was Christmas. (Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter)


* * *

Navigating EarlyNavigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
Delacorte Books for Young Readers | 306 pages | Ebook

TFG’s F2F book for the month for January. Lots of suspension of disbelief in this one, with their adventures. It’s a good read about family and grief and friendship, but

“I got lost.”
“I know, but you found your way back. Finding your way back doesn’t mean you always know where you’re going. It’s knowing how to find your way back home that’s important.”


* * *

Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
Dutton | 307 pages | Hardbound

A reread of one of my favorites for TFG’s February discussion. I still loved this as much as I did before, even if I knew what was going to happen. The other opinions of my book club friends did remind me of how some things happened conveniently for Cornelia’s sake. But even so, I loved the writing, and I still have a huge crush on Teo Sandoval. I think the sequel, Belong to Me, is still better than this. :)

Watching Teo ahead of her carrying the bag and turning around to smile, she understood what the difference was, such a simple change: She’d been alone for a long time; she wasn’t alone anymore.


* * *

Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg 
Point | 276 pages | Paperback, borrowed

Read this as a reference for a writing project, borrowed from my friend Kai. This was cute, in so many ways. Slow in some parts, but still rewarding in the end. :)


* * *

painteddesertsThrough Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road by Donald Miller
Thomas Nelson | 272 pages | Ebook/Audio

I’ve had this on hold for a year, and finally read it again this  year because of some life changes that happened to me. In signature Don Miller style, he talked about a road trip and all the little things that he learned from this, and somehow made it relevant to everyone. I really liked this, and while it didn’t make me want to sell everything and pack up to go to a road trip, it made me more excited to set off on little adventures, figuratively and literally. :)

I think we are supposed to stand in deserts and marvel at how the sun rises. I think we are supposed to sleep in meadows and watch stars dart across space and time. I think we are supposed to love our friends and introduce people to the story, to the peaceful, calming why of life. I think life is spirituality.


* * *

Shine by Candy Gourlay
Anvil | 232 pages | Paperback

This was magical and a bit dark, almost like a Tall Story  grew older and tackled a few more issues. I liked how Candy wrote it all, though, and I was truly invested in Rosa and her family, and I wanted to them to get their happy ending. I really liked the setting, too – always raining? That’s us during July to September. ;)


* * *

tgostThe God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Random House | 333 pages | Paperback

This is one of those books that I have on my “I-should-read-this-sometime-in-my-lifetime” list, and I’m glad I finally had the chance to read it. This is a story about a family, and Love Laws, and India. Beautifully written, it examines what happens to families who try not to fall apart but still do. It’s a little bit sad, though, but still beautiful, and it helped that we had a really great discussion about this after in the book club. :)

…the secret of Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen….In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again.


* * *

Aaand there! Whew. All of them are 4-star books, huh. Interesting. I hope I can write a full review on my next post.  :)

Required Reading: December 2013

I thought I missed writing a Required Reading post for November, but it turned out I just put it together with another post. Oops. :)

Anyway, November has come and gone and the blog is silent again. I’m sorry about that. It was a busy month, a month where I actually kind of hardly read books, too. Sometimes all I want to do when I go home is lie down and sleep, especially when my weekends are filled with all-nighters and sleeping at five in the morning when you woke up at six the previous day. I am really getting too old for this.

But here, a report for November! I managed to finish both books I set out to read so it wasn’t really so bad. Reviewing them is another matter, though. :D

  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (3/5) – I enjoyed this book for the lush setting and the writing and the entire idea of the killer horses and Sean Kendrick. :3 I enjoyed it, but I’m not really much of a horse fan for this to be a 4. But I realize how relaxing it is to read a Maggie Stiefvater novel. Good thing I have two more on my TBR. :)
  • The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster (4/5) – Okay this one just…befuddled me. It’s a good book, but also quite confusing and a lot mind-bending. Haha! I finished it hours before our book discussion, and even after the discussion there were still some parts of the book that aren’t clear. But perhaps it was meant that way.

And now we go to December. But wait — can you believe it’s already the last month of the year? Wasn’t it just January yesterday???


Just two books again this month, even if I am 9 books behind on my reading challenge. December is going to be really busy again, with the new ReaderCon date and the parties and all that. I will still try to reach the 75 books after all the festivities have ended, though.

Anyway, for December, I’m reading something philosophical and something about a philosopher’s stone:


  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling – a reread! For our book club’s discussion this month and for the Christmas party! :D We’ve got a lively start to the online discussion — care to join us? :)
  2. History in English Words by Owen Barfield – Back in June, we gave one of our good friends, JL, favors that he can claim from us for the entire year as a birthday gift. One of the favors I gave him was that I’d read anything he lends me, write notes (and now a review) and we’d discuss it (over coffee and lemon squares, I think). He has come to claim this favor and lent me this book. This isn’t something I would normally read, really, but since it is a favor. I’ve finished Chapter 1 today and it’s interesting, so far. Must not forget to write notes.

Wait. 9 books before this year ends. HUH. Crazy…but maybe doable. Maybe. I can do that. Time to bring out those short books and comics. :P

Have a happy December everyone!

Required Reading: December

Well November was quite a dismal reading month. Not because I was having a slump, but because I was just so, so, so busy. :/ Ugh. Most of the time, I just wanted to go home and sleep, instead of stay up and read. And did you see how many times I blogged last month? Even more sad.

I only finished one book for my November reading list, and it was a spillover from October. (Speaking of, can you believe I still have a spillover from my October reading list? I’m so sorry Will Henry!)

  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (3/5) – I liked it, but perhaps not enough. I will write a review. Someday.

But it’s a new month, and while I can’t guarantee that I would not be busy, I will promise to catch up with stuff before 2012 ends. I will find a way to get rid of all the review backlogs even if it’s been months since I read them. Good luck to me.

On to December! Can you believe it’s the last month of the 2012?!

Required Reading: December

I will take it easy for December, because I don’t want anything too heavy, and because I did say I was going to catch up on my backlog, right? I don’t want to pressure myself with all the reading, so I will just stick to these two light ones. :)

Required Reading: December 2012

  1. Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle – I’ve been wanting to get this book for ages, but I never got around to it because it doesn’t feel right if I get it when it’s not December. Plus I always seem to run out. Thank goodness they came out with this pretty copy, so now is the time to read it! :)
  2. The Complete Adventures of Charlie and Mr. Willy Wonka by Roald Dahl – This is a spillover from last month, and I’m really just supposed to read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but I got the book with the two stories anyway. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is our book club’s December book, and we’re discussing it on the day of our Christmas party too. I’m so excited! Our moderator asked us to choose a name for our discussion, and I am Tinaweena Peanutbutterina, the girl who makes magic with peanut butter. :)

There you go. If I don’t get to read these books, I don’t know what’s up with me. o_o If only it’s possible to go on vacation and read while I bundle up patagonia downtown loft somewhere cold this month…but alas. I cannot. I might squeeze The Hobbit in since the movie is showing soon, but I really hope I find the time. Hee. Or maybe I should just watch the movie without reading the book first, since I did do it for the three LotR books, anyway. :)

And that’s it! Again, can you believe that it’s the last month of 2012? Wow. Happy December, everyone! :)

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel PitcherMy Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher
Audiobook, read by David Tennant

My sister Rose lives on the mantelpiece.
Well, some of her does.
A collarbone, two ribs, a bit of skull, and a little toe.

To ten-year-old Jamie, his family has fallen apart because of the loss of someone he barely remembers: his sister Rose, who died five years ago in a terrorist bombing. To his father, life is impossible to make sense of when he lives in a world that could so cruelly take away a ten-year-old girl. To Rose’s surviving fifteen year old twin, Jas, everyday she lives in Rose’s ever present shadow, forever feeling the loss like a limb, but unable to be seen for herself alone.

Told with warmth and humor, this powerful novel is a sophisticated take on one family’s struggle to make sense of the loss that’s torn them apart… and their discovery of what it means to stay together.

* * *

I listened to this book months ago, but you know how I have that backlog in reviewing books? Yeah, this is one of them.

I was on the search for an audiobook to listen to after I realized I wanted to listen to more audiobooks because it helps me multitask. I know audiobooks are dependent on the narrator, too, so I didn’t want just any audiobook, but something that I would enjoy. And then Aaron told me about My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher, narrated by David Tennant. Oh, I am so in. :)

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece is the story of ten-year-old Jamie as he tries to live in the aftermath of his older sister, Rose, dying in a terrorist attack. It has been five years since Rose died and Jamie could hardly remember her, but he could see the effect that this had on his family. This novel deals about loss, grief, hate, family and religion, all told in the eyes of a ten-year-old boy.

It was a pleasure listening to this book, not only because it was narrated by David Tennant, but because it was actually quite charming despite the serious topics it dealt with. The main character, Jamie, reminded me a bit of Auggie from Wonder, and I was immediately drawn to his story. Somehow, this gave the book a more honest point of view, and it gives us a different insight on grieving, especially for someone who you barely know but you should still grieve for.

I really liked Sunya, Jamie’s Muslim friend, too. I liked how smart and resilient and friendly she was, and how she changed Jamie’s perception of something that his father really hated and blamed for the loss of Rose. Jamie and Sunya’s friendship was cute and funny and heartwarming, and that little hint of a young romance was done quite well. But more than this friendship, I really liked Jamie’s relationship with his older sister, Jasmine. In a way, Jas lost more than anyone did, because Rose is her twin sister. Their sibling relationship made my heart hurt several times, and I liked how protective Jas was of Jamie even to the point of keeping something from him so he won’t get hurt.

This book made me laugh and tear up several times, and when it left me with a nice and hopeful feeling in the end. It’s not an easy novel to read, I think, but the author handled all the difficult issues very well. :) I liked My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece a lot, and I also need to say that I think I liked it more because David Tennant narrated it to me. <3

P.S. I can’t help but smile every time David Tennant says “Rose” in the audiobook. He turns into the the Doctor for a few seconds in my head before turning back into just the audiobook’s narrator again. :D


Other reviews:
Young Adult Anonymous