The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

mysterious-benedict-society

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I just finished The Mysterious Benedict Society.  Thanks for the recommendation, smile rac!

Premise:

A group of children who are without families are tasked with saving the world from the nefarious Mr. Curtain.  Does this group of kids have what it takes to foil the evil plans of a super-smart adult with seemingly unlimited resources?  Follow them to the Institute where they will have to work together–using their cunning, skill and physical prowess to prevent Mr. Curtain’s domination of the entire world!

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this story, though it’s a bit hard to categorize.  It reminds me of Harry Potter a little bit–with the kids going off to a special school.  Though it’s classified as science fiction, I’d say that element doesn’t stand out very much.  Sure, there’s Mr. Curtain’s invention which definitely falls into the science fiction category, but the remainder of the book seems as though it could happen in a very normal world.

The children whom the story revolves around are each interesting and unique in their own way.  And I enjoyed following them on their adventures and seeing how their group grew closer over time.  However, there seemed to be something missing from their characters.  Maybe it was that they were missing the playfulness and humor that you normally see in children.  There also wasn’t a lot of vulnerability.  They were a little too much like adults for my taste.  The supporting characters were interesting too, but their development seemed a bit stunted, as well.

The story line itself was interesting and inventive.  I would like to have learned more about Mr. Curtain’s plan–specifically why he was going to such great lengths to gain control.  If his back story had been more developed, it would have helped me understand his motivation.  As it was, it came across as Mr. Curtain is evil because he’s evil.  I see that there are additional books in this series, so maybe they will expand on the characters and back story at a more satisfying level.

I recommend The Mysterious Benedict Society to elementary-age kids and preteens.  It would also be a fun read-aloud for families.  I think it’s possibly a bit juvenile to appeal to high schoolers.

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Empyrion: The Search for Fierra by Stephen R. Lawhead

empyrion-fierra

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Empyrion: The Search for Fierra is a book which my husband recommended.  It’s an older book, but one he enjoyed as a young man.  Now it’s my turn to enjoy it!

Premise:

Orion Treet is hired to take part in a mission to check on the status of a space colony which has been established by a private company.  Three others are a part of the team and they successfully locate the colony on a far distant planet, but something has gone horribly wrong.  Not only have they arrived in the wrong time period, but they’ve also stumbled into a dystopia.  Their reception is less than ideal, and they must find a way to escape and find the Fieri, the other group of human descendants.  Can they find the answers to what went wrong and make things right again?

My thoughts:

I liked this book a lot more than I expected to.  It’s a unique story about how a human society develops, removed from the influences of Earth.  The setting is interesting and the supporting characters are unique, if a bit odd at times.  Yarden, Treet’s love interest, is definitely an enigma.  The end of the book segues into the next, when Treet continues his mission to keep Fierra safe.  I left out a lot of details, but I didn’t want to totally ruin the story for you.  It’s more fun to discover Empyrion for yourself.  🙂

I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, but it will probably have to wait a little while.  We’re scheduled to move in a few days and I don’t want to tote library books along with us!

I recommend this book to teen and adult fans of science fiction.  It’s a unique and entertaining adventure story, which I think you’ll really enjoy.

Favorite quotes:

“Treet had to admit that he did indeed like living; it was, after all, one of the things that made life so worthwhile.” (p.2)

“To be alive and know you were dying and know too there was nothing you could do about it, thought Treet in one of his lucid moments, was surely the worst trick of a whole universe full of lousy tricks.” (p.343)

Possible Objections:

  • A little violence
  • A bit of bad language
  • Religious commentary (There is a distinct good vs. evil undertone to the book, which can easily be ascribed a Christian influence.)

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Giver by Lois Lowry

 

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The Giver is a story about a boy who is chosen to carry the burden of an entire society’s memories and feelings.  People in his community value sameness and following rules.  Jonas (the main character) is chosen as the next in line to carry the heavy burden for the rest of society, so that others don’t have to feel pain, confusion, fear, etc.  As Jonas progresses in his training, he decides that it is not right that the people in his community should not have to help carry the burden.  In the end he leaves to find an alternate type of society, not only to force the people to feel again, but to save somebody who is in danger.  It’s the Newbery Medal winner for 1994.

I read The Giver as a kid, and I remember that it had a great impact on my thinking.  It helped shape my understanding of feelings, the role that we should play in our society, right and wrong, what is important in life.  For that reason, I wanted to share it with my boys.  There were parts of the story where I changed the wording as I was reading.  There were also sections/topics that caused my boys a bit of discomfort or which they didn’t quite understand.  This led to many interesting conversations and some deep thinking.

I would recommend this book for older school-age children or teens.  It depends partly on the child’s maturity level.  There are some parts of the story that would be shocking and/or confusing to some children.  I would also recommend that parents read the book first, to judge whether or not it’s appropriate for their child.

Possible Objections:

  1. Something called “the stirrings”–basically when the main character starts to be sexually attracted to the opposite sex.  It’s in chapter 5, if you want to check it out.  I changed the wording while reading aloud to my boys.
  2. Children are allowed to bathe older people, while fulfilling their volunteer hours.  It is only talked about as a caregiving action.
  3. An infant who happens to be a twin is injected with a lethal drug and dies.  For us, this brought up a discussion about abortion.

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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