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Tag Archives: YA

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict

Title: The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict
Author: Trenton Lee Stewart
Genre: Children/YA (Ages 9 on up)
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 480

The Gist: Before there was a Mysterious Benedict Society, there was simply a boy named Nicholas Benedict. Meet the boy who started it all….

Nine-year-old Nicholas Benedict has more problems than most children his age. Not only is he an orphan with an unfortunate nose, but he also has narcolepsy, a condition that gives him terrible nightmares and makes him fall asleep at the worst possible moments. Now he’s being sent to a new orphanage, where he will encounter vicious bullies, selfish adults, strange circumstances — and a mystery that could change his life forever. Luckily, he has one important thing in his favor: He’s a genius.

The Review:  I’ve never read any of Trenton Lee Stewart’s books, so I haven’t read any of the books in his Nicholas Benedict series.  I don’t remember how I discovered The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, but I’m glad I did.  The cover attracted my attention: I love the color scheme and the drawing style.  If I could get this cover poster-size, I would frame it and hang it I think it’s that cool.

I had fun reading The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict.  The book deals with bullying so some of the plot is predictable, but Stewart creates distinct characters who creatively deal with their problems in the orphanage.

What I love best about The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict is that Nicholas loves to read.  His mind constantly runs and he does not let his narcolepsy stop him from accomplishing his goals.  Instead, he incorporates it into his adventures setting up fail safes in case he falls asleep.  But it’s not just narcolepsy that Nicholas deals with.  The loneliness and trust issues help drive his natural love of reading.  The library becomes his refuge and books become his best friends before he really makes any friends at the orphanage.  And he puts his knowledge to good use in many ways.

While I am not nearly as smart as Nicholas, nor do I have narcolepsy, and I was never an orphan as a child, I can relate to the loneliness and bullying issues.  Like Nicholas, I escaped to books to find solace, to escape, and to acquire knowledge.  As an adult, I enjoyed reading a story whose main character (as a child) falls completely in love with books.  Any adult bookworm who reads The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, will relate in some way to this dynamic: childhood trials feed the inborn desire to read thus creating a life-long love affair with books, words, and learning.

Anyway, that’s how The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict hit me.  Readers of any age will enjoy the danger, the mystery, the secrecy, and the adventures that Trenton Lee Stewart includes in The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict.

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Born At Midnight

Title: Born At Midnight (Book 1 in the series Shadow Falls)
Author: C.C. Hunter
Genre: Fantasy (YA)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Pages: 416

The Gist: One night Kylie Galen finds herself at the wrong party, with the wrong people, and it changes her life forever.  Her mother ships her off to Shadow Falls—a camp for troubled teens, and within hours of arriving, it becomes painfully clear that her fellow campers aren’t just “troubled.”  Here at Shadow Falls, vampires, werewolves, shapshifters, witches and fairies train side by side—learning to harness their powers, control their magic and live in the normal world.

Kylie’s never felt normal, but surely she doesn’t belong here with a bunch of paranormal freaks either.  Or does she?  They insist Kylie is one of them, and that she was brought here for a reason.

The Review: Born At Midnight by C.C. Hunter, the first in the series, has everything a young adult could want: teenage angst, racing hormones, the search for identity, teenage romance, and supernatural entities. I read this book as an electronic book and got it on sale.  The sample chapters seemed interesting enough, and I hadn’t or reviewed a YA book in a long time so I gave Born At Midnight a shot.

At first I wasn’t sure if I could get used to or past the teenage angst or slang (pretty clean slang).  At first I thought “Okay, a YA book with the tried and true (and over done?) plot of troubled teen with parents who don’t “get” their kid,” but I hung in there.  Around chapter 3 I really got into Born At Midnight and I enjoyed the read.  Born At Midnight contains a real plot that includes universal issues every teen addresses at some point–fiction world or real world.  For example, how does a person handle his or her racing hormones?  How do I fit in to a group of people I don’t know?  How do I fit in to a group of people I do know?  My parents are driving me crazy! What do I do?  Of course, Born At Midnight develops around the issue of having a supernatural identity (thankfully found only in the fiction world), and C.C. Hunter develops all of these themes well and with humor.  Hunter has the teenage voice and attitude down pat.  As I read Born At Midnight, the characters Kylie, Melissa, Della, and the others rang true as teenagers trying to find their way from childhood into the confusing world of adulthood.

There were several funny situations that struck me as authentic.  For example, Hunter hits the perfect social/friendship dynamic among Kylie, Melissa, and Della.  One minute they’re arguing, the next minute they’re laughing themselves silly and those struck me as very, very true.  And the puzzle of her identity that Hunter gives Kylie was interesting to me even though I’m an adult, which means that I didn’t get bored.  It was enough of a puzzle that I tried to figure out the answer, and while I figured out the puzzle before finishing it, I still enjoyed the story and read to the end.  In actuality, Born At Midnight has more than one puzzle and some of the answers are not discovered at the end.  This means I’ll end up reading the next book soon.

As an electronic copy, St. Martin’s Griffin formatted Born At Midnight properly.  The only errors I found in the book were a couple of typos that a proofreader had missed.

Final Thoughts: As an adult, I enjoyed reading C.C. Hunter’s Born At Midnight, and I think this book would appeal to almost any teenager.  The slang is clean and the romance is clean and not overly graphic.  If I were a parent considering this book for my teenager, I’d give Born At Midnight a green light.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2012 in Book Reviews, C.C. Hunter

 

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