Category Archives: YA

Book Review : The FitzOsbornes at War

Title : The FitzOsbornes at War

Author : Michelle CooperThe FitzOsbornes at War (The Montmaray Journals, #3)

Publication Date : October 9th, 2012
Pages : 560
Stand Alone or Series : #3 in the Montmaray Chronicles
Red Flags : Some sexual situations, violence (appropriate for older adolescents)
Three Words : historical, character study, journal

******WARNING! This review contains unavoidable spoilers for the first two books in the series.

Summary : Sophie FitzOsborne and the rest of her family have escaped from Nazis who occupied their beloved island county Montmaray. (Book #1) They have lived in England in exile dealing with the coming war and trying to get their country back (Book #2). Now it is finally war time and Sophie journals about her life during wartime. They are dealing with the non-stop bombing of London, working jobs for the government, and rationing. Sophie dances in nightclubs with soldiers on leave, manages her relatives and waits for news of her brother, who is a fighter pilot in the RAF. When news does come, it isn’t good. Toby’s plane has been shot down in enemy territory and nobody knows where is dead or alive. Will Toby come home? Will Sophie find love? What will happen to Montmaray?

My Take : OMG you guys…..this is one of the best books I’ve read in a LONG time. I actually cried during one pivotal part (I haven’t done that since Bk. 7 of Harry Potter and before that Where the Red Fern Grows – don’t even think about reading that if you love dogs and don’t want to do the “ugly cry” – but I digress). Michelle Cooper does a really masterful job of transporting you to wartime London. She weaves both historical details with a fantastic amount of character development and introspection. The realities of living during this horrendous are brought closer to you because she infuses with realistic touches – what are they eating, dealing with rationing…the mundane details of life that still have to go one even though shit is crazy. I did that thing when I finished this book where I just gave a little sigh because : 1) it was so good and wrapped up everything really well but not in a  too good to be true way and 2) now I’ve finished it  and I’m just a little sad.  This was absolutely my favorite of the three and I can’t recommend this enough. I feel like shouting BRAVA Michelle Cooper….well done indeed. I give this…..wait for it…..10 SHOES!@!!!!!!! It’s happened – I loved it that much. This book is a pair of leopard Loubotin heels – the perfect shoe. Do yourself a favor – read this series!

Trina

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Book Review : Princess Academy

Title : Princess Academy

Author : Shannon Hale

Stand Alone or Series : #1 in the Princess Academy Series
Publication date : April 17, 2007
Pages : 336

Three Words : middle grade, fantasy, fairy tale elements

Red Flags : none (appropriate for younger adolescents)

Summary : So Miri lives in a remote village on the mountainside. The villagers have mined the stone quarries for a special type of rock for generations. Miri, however, is not allowed to mine the quarries but is responsible for all things domestic which she is not too jazzed about. So she is jealous of her sister and thinks that her father doesn’t respect her, plus she has all these feelings for her boyhood friend but she doesn’t feel worthy. It’s a very confusing time for poor Miri.

Then – news from the king! The king’s diviners have pinpointed where the next girl to marry the Crown Prince should come from (apparently this is something they do for each prince) – Miri’s village. Suddenly each teenage girl is forced to attend a school set up in the mountains – a princess academy. There Miri contends with an extremely harsh schoolmistress, the other girls’ intense jealousy and competition, not to mention her own feelings that maybe she doesn’t want to marry that stinking prince!

When bandits decide to invade the academy in order to kidnap the future princess, Miri and her companions must use all their wits to save themselves. Will they succeed? Who will marry the prince?

My Take : Have you ever read a book that you really didn’t want to like but found yourself unable to put down? That was this one for me. It is completely written for a middle grade/young adolescent audience and you knows I loves my sex, violence, bad language and drugs! When I first started the book, I kept thinking “this is cute and all but booorrrringg.” But then I started to notice that Miri was a female character that I really started to like and respect. She doesn’t always do things right and occasionally she even acts like a brat but in the end she is brace, resourceful, intelligent and caring. When I think of things I would like my daughters or myself to be, these rank right up there. Next, I just got sucked into the whole story. As you know I love the learning at school trope, I couldn’t wait to see what Miri would do. As she tries to strike up friendships with the other girls, sometimes succeeding but sometimes not. Miri struggles with whether she even wants to marry the prince – thank you Shannon Hale for making it totally believable. In the end, I really liked this book and I would recommend it. Sometimes it is ok for a story not to include all the violence, sex, etc… in the world – Don’t worry dear readers I won’t make it a habit 😉

Rating : eight and a half shoes – flat knee high boots that you can wear with EVERYTHING (I need some and it has been on my mind)

Trina

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Filed under book review, eight and a half shoes, Hale; Shannon, Princess Academy, YA

Book Review : Throne of Glass

More lady assassins!!

Title : Throne of GlassThrone of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)

Author : Sarah J. Maas

Stand alone or Series : #1 in Throne of Glass series (there are also four prequel novellas)

Three Words : YA, fantasy, assassin intrigue

Red Flags : violence, some sexual situations

Summary : Celaena Sardothien has spent a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier…this is just as hard as it sounds. In fact, most don’t survive a month let alone a year. Calaena has been sentenced for her super bad-assery in the assassin department. She is so good as to be a legend already.

She is suddenly taken and put before the Crown Prince Dorian. He is offering her freedom but on one condition: she must be his champion in the competition that his father is holding to find a new royal assassin. The prince and other peers of the realm are pitting their chosen champions in this competition – a motley crew of thieves, assassins, soldiers, etc… These “champions” will be put through a series of tests; fail and you will be eliminated. Celaena would only have to serve the king for three years and then she would really be free.

She is taken to court where she is trained by the captain of the guard, Captain Westfall. He is gruff and tough, not to mention hard on her but he seems to understand her better than anyone. Meanwhile, she starts to notice that Prince Dorian is more than he seems and things get all complicated. As the competition begins, there is added problems when contestants start being found murdered….in an extremely gruesome manner. Celaena decides to investigate before she becomes the next victim. Will she find the killer? Will she win the competition or does she even want to? Does she have feelings for the prince or for the captain or for either,hmmmm?

My Take : If you look at the Goodreads reviews, there were definitely strong feelings about this one. Some loved it, other really hated it. I fell into the category of loved it! I am really digging on the whole I am woman, hear me roar thing going on in books right now. It’s nice to see female characters, kicking ass, taking numbers, not relying on men to save them but also having the ability to mess up, asking for help when needed and realizing their own fallibility. Something I feel used to be relegated to male characters only. Also, it is about time a character acknowledged that she is pretty and likes getting dressed up. I can’t tell you how tired I am of the whole – I’m plain Jane tomboy girl that somehow attracts a bunch of men to me. I wish there was a little more of Celaena doing some actual killing or some such but I wasn’t hugely bothered by this. Others also really hated the love triangle aspect of it. This was probably not my favorite part of it but I appreciate that she made neither man an obvious “why is she even interested in him?” character – you know when they are too nice or too mean or too something.

I enjoyed the action of this book. The plot was nicely paced and kept me interested in going back to the book again and again. I read this one fairly quickly .  I am really interested in reading the prequel novellas which show how Celaena became legendary assassin because who doesn’t love a good back story? To wrap it up, there are some things that could’ve been done better with this book but overall I really liked it and would recommend picking it up. I give it eight shoes : flat boots that I have been craving so I can go ahead and tuck all my pants in already!

Trina

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Book Review : Grave Mercy

There must have been a directive from publishers to authors : We need strong female leads!! We need to cash in on this whole Hunger Games thing. If possible they should be deadly. This must be the reason why I keep finding lady assassin books everywhere in YA right now. Luckily all of the books I’ve read have been pretty awesome so I’m not complaining. Just sayin’…

Title : Grave MercyGrave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1)

Author : Robin Lafevers

Stand Alone or Series : #1 in His Fair Assassin series (although as far as I can tell each book is about a different person while still being interconnected)

Three Words : historical, romance, YA,

Red Flags : sexual situations, some language, violence (still YA but maybe the older end of that)

Summary : Seventeen-year-old Ismae Rienne is about to be married off to the Pig Farmer Guillo. He is violent, brutish, not to mention extremely rapey. Luckily she is rescued before this can happen and taken to the convent of St. Mortain. There the sisters serve the old gods, specifically Death, under the guise of Christian saints. They are tasked to train the sisters to serve Death, including sending those bearing his marque to their final sleep. Ismae passes their tests and become one of the initiates. She learns how to make poisons, how to swordfight, knife fight and kill with her bare hands. Basically become a super bad ass. Now she has been assigned to the Breton court of the Duchess, where she is to pretend to be Gavriel Duval’s mistress. She is supposed to learn who is plotting against the Duchess and dispatch them. Things get all sorts of complicated when she discovers that Gavriel is not only intelligent but kind-hearted and super hot. Plus she is woefully underprepared to deal with all the court intrigues, etc… Will she follow through with her task? What if Gavriel is the traitor?

My Take : I liked many things about this book and I disliked many things about this book. Dislike : Ismae does not seem all that deep of a character. For being a bad-ass, she has a lot of self-esteem issues. Somehow that didn’t jibe with the whole becoming assassin thing. On the other hand, Ismae going through the whole trying to decide if the convent is on the side of right or not seemed very compelling and true to the character. Dislike #2 : I wasn’t all that excited about Gavriel…just hoping for a little more substance not just hot and kind. Dislike #3 : Some plot points seemed a little too contrived…really? Somebody is thought to be a traitor so instead of taking off, he hides in the secret passageways of the castle. This is making it sound like I hated this book but I actually really liked it and am excited to read the next book in the series. I really liked following Ismae in her initial training at the convent. I loved the court intrigue, the interesting historical context of Breton and the light fantasy elements that were woven seamlessly into the story. I hoped for a little more depth and interest in the characters but the world that Lafevers has created is enough to draw me in. I give it seven and a half shoes :  gladiator shoes – not always practical but with certain outfits – really fun!

Trina

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Book Review : The Diviners

Title : The Diviners

Author : Libba Bray

Stand Alone or Series : 1st in the Diviners Series

Three Words : occult, historical fiction, different perspectives

Summary : This book is dense with characters so it might be hard to keep track. The “main” characters could be considered Evie. So Evie O’Neill is this totally swinging flapper girl who is being completely bored in her small hometown. She drinks, smokes and in general fools around. But Evie also has a secret ability to know what a person’s deepest, darkest secret is just by holding one of their objects. When she reveals a little too much about one of the town scions, she is carted off to New York to live with her Uncle Will who is the curator of the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult (or as she calls it the Museum of the Creepy Crawlies).

Then there is Memphis Campbell, a numbers hustler, who used to have the ability to heal people but couldn’t save his mother. Now he just has creepy prophetic dreams…

Next, we’ve got Sam Lloyd. A con man who hits on Evie. He follows her to the Museum but he has a secret ability of his own.

Then there is Jericho who works for Uncle Will at the museum. He is a giant and somewhat dull and dry. He’s got a secret past though, as well as some strange medicinal issues.

Or there is Theta Knight, real-life Ziegfeld girl. She is running from a bad marriage (and even worse circumstances of her leaving). Although she likes the money, she doesn’t love her life. One night she meets Memphis and he changes her life forever.

These are just a few of the cast in this book. All of this is set against the backdrop of a murder mystery, murders which have occult overtones. Uncle Will, Evie and Jericho think they can solve the murders but at what cost? Will their secrets be learned?

My Take : I really enjoyed this book but I definitely had some reservations. I loved the historical aspects of this novel. I loved all the little Roaring 20’s sayings and vernacular that peppered the book. It made me want to go to a speak-easy! The book was long but things in general moved along at a quick pace. The mystery was an interesting mystery and I was invested in learning if they caught the killer and how. My problem with this book was the intense amount of  characters in the book whose stories didn’t always seem to go somewhere. At times the narrative seemed to wander a bit. I think that maybe much of this book is setting up future books in the series but because of this it felt at times like it didn’t know where it was going at that moment. All in all, I enjoyed the book but I think it could’ve used some direction. I give it seven shoes : cute menswear-inspired mary janes like they would wear in the 20s.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Trina

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Book Review : The False Prince

You know how sometimes you are in a reading slump? The kind where everything you read just seems boring and trite. Nothing is satisfying that itch….the reading itch. THIS is the book that got me out of it.

Title : The False PrinceThe False Prince (The Ascendance Trilogy, #1)

Author : Jennifer Nielsen

Stand alone or series : Book 1 of the planned Ascendance Trilogy

Three Words to describe it : fantasy, plot driven, exciting

Red Flags : Some violence

So, we are in a kingdom in another world somewhere and things are a little uneasy. There is a civil war a-brewing because guess what everybody the ENTIRE royal family is dead. Only, not everyone knows it yet.  Conner, a nobleman, has devised an extremely cunning little plan. He is going to find an easily controllable but intelligent young boy to impersonate the dead prince and install him as his very own puppet prince. Still with me?

Now we are introduced to Sage (stupid name, awesome character) who is one of four boys chosen for their looks to compete to impersonate the prince. They are taken to Conner’s castle to get trained in the princely ways. At the end of their time there, one will be chosen to impersonate the prince and the others will be killed. Will Sage be the chosen one? Does he even want to be? What about the other boys?

This book was delicious. We follow Sage through his training and honestly you just start to fall in love with him as you go along. He’s all super intelligent but also super stubborn and rebellious. Truly, is there anything more swoon-worthy than an intelligent bad boy? There is lots of intrigue and mysteries along the way. I’ve always loved the people being trained trope in books, because it provides such an easy way for the author to teach you as well their main character all about their world. I loved the relationship that Sage developed with the other boys, at times friendly, at times antagonistic. There is a sort of romance in the book but I definitely got the feeling that this was more of a down the road sort of story. When the big ending finally came, it did not disappoint. All in all, I was definitely in love with this book. I cannot wait for the upcoming books! I give it 9 shoes (only because I feel like I can only give my favorite books in the world 10 shoes). This is my cute suede booties that I always get compliments on…

Trina

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A Brief History of Montmaray or Aren’t you missing Downton Abbey? Aren’t YOU??

I am missing the Downton…BIG TIME. Aaah the intrigue, the gossip, the manners, the clothes, the biting sarcasm from delightful Maggie Smith. I love it! If you haven’t watched Downton Abbey, you are sincerely missing out. I know, I know, it sounds all boring and lame and “geez Trina it’s on PBS so that totally means its education or something” but truly it is such a GOOD show. Have I convinced you yet?

What does this have to do with “A Brief History of Montmaray” you may ask? Well this awesome YA trilogy (not dystopian though 😉 ) completely reminds me of it. No, it doesn’t share the same setting or same type of characters but it just has the same delicious feel.  Let me share :

Title : A Brief History of Montmaray (Bk 1 in Montmaray Journals series)

Author : Michelle Cooper

Three Words : epistolary, royal wartime, YA

Red Flags: Some violence

So Sophie FitzOsborne (I know – the name alone got me hooked) is a shy, smart sixteen year old living in a decrepit castle on the tiny island nation of Montmaray. (And before you start to feel like “God I must be so stupid at geography because I have never heard of this place” it is fictional) She receives a journal for her birthday and decides to chronicle her everyday life with the remains of her eccentric royal family. We’ve got the insane (literally) king John who mostly stays in his bedroom except occassionally to throw things at people, his daughter Veronica (Sophie’s cousin who is keeping the family afloat), the housekeeper (who only has eyes for John), Toby (Sophie’s older brother – next in line to the throne, charming with zero responsibility but a wonderful heart) and Henry (Sophie’s little sister – who is opposed to dresses, baths or anything girly) and of course, the housekeeper’s son (whom Sophie has a HUGE crush on but who may or may not be messing around elsewhere ). The year is 1936 so including the day to day craziness of their world, stuff is going down in Europe with that Hitler character. We get to meet her family and suffer along with them while they are struggling to make ends meet and keep everything together but they are still delightfully nice and cheery people. THEN a boat lands on their shores and it is carrying some Germans and things really go to hell then.

I loved this book!! So many things make it awesome but I’ll just tell you a few. One, I could not be sicker of the heroine of every book being all I’m ugly but really she is a stunning beauty with fierce intelligence, a kind heart etc…. People are not really that amazing! Sophie is attractive, but not a great beauty. She is intelligent but prone to overwhelming shyness. She has lots of great qualities but not ALL of them. Two, I love all the little details about Montmaray. I’m a big fan of epistolary novels and I love learning about Sophie’s home and family from her. She brings it to life so that you can picture the crumbling castle, the craggy island and the family she fiercely loves. Three, the war is portrayed in a realistic manner that a teenager would deal with it i.e. some interest, some worry but not always understanding everything that is going on. Also, I love the little asides about Hitler ” Surely Mr. Hitler would not invade other countries…” that sort of thing. Sure, sometimes everybody around her is a little too awesome and nice. And sometimes things work out a little too good but it’s a fictional book and sometimes I want things to go right! In the end, I give this book nine shoes (damn near perfect) – this is my super favorite pair of pink wedges with the orange stripe . Go read this book!

The second book is just as good so if you like this one keep going. The newest book is coming out any day so I am anxiously awaiting it. Anybody else read this series? What did you think?

Enjoy!

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I Am Number Four or We’re Here, We’re Hot, Get Used to It

Thank you to everyone for positive comments on my cute new house. There have been requests for inside photos as well….they will be forthcoming as we actually finish some rooms. For a little while, I was feeling the book ennui…maybe you have felt this as well. It’s that feeling I get when I keep trying new books and nothing seems all that interesting or new to me and I keep not finishing books(which drives me crazy actually). I call this Book Ennui (mostly because I love using ennui in everyday conversation or blog posts 😉  Then two things happened: 1) I read Gone Girl (and if you still haven’t read it then I suggest you finish this blog post quickly and rush out and get it because it is awesome and amazing but I digress) and 2) my parents bought me a Kindle Fire for my birthday (thanks Mom and Dad!). Both of these things have inspired a new love of reading everything which led me to reading some things I had on my to-read list but just never got around to. Obviously, I am insanely late on the whole Lorien Legacies (the series name for I Am Number Four) deal since there was a movie a couple of years ago and all that going on. It seemed like it would be right up my alley thought with the sci-fi and the YA and so on. And it was…….sort of.

Title : I Am Number Four

Author : Pittacus Lore

Red Flags : Violence

So, we open this book with John Smith, a fifteen year old alien from the planet Lorien and he lives with his guardian, Henri. Not just a guardian in the Earth sense of the word  but what they call a Cepan on his planet, somebody to protect and train him in his special powers called “Legacies.” John is one of originally nine aliens sent to Earth to escape the evil Mogadorians who raided and brought down his whole planet. These nine Loriens are supposed to get all their powers and then go back and kick some Mogadorian booty. In order to protect them, they have been magically gifted with a special charm that only allows them to be killed in numerical order if the nine are not physically around each other. Each time one of them gets killed, they get a crazy tattoo around their ankle that burns into their skin. Now John has three tattoos (a.k.a. 1, 2 and 3 are dead) and John is NUMBER FOUR. (Did  you get the title now? Clever Huh? )

So John and Henri are on the run and they move to a little town called Paradise. He goes to school and meets a pretty girl on the first day. She has an obnoxious ex-boyfriend who hates him and he also makes friends with the nerd from the school. Not suprisingly, John and pretty girl get along REALLY well and now he wants to stay in town. Henri, however, is worried that they are going to get killed. Also, John’s legacies have started kicking in finally and he can do some pretty awesome superhero type things. Can he keep it quiet and stay with pretty girl? Or will the Mogadorians finally track him down and kill him?

So I liked the premise of this book and I got all excited when I first started reading it. But here is where I started to get annoyed. Could this be any more predictable? Boy goes to new high school and on the first day he meets a girl, and you get into a fight with the ex-boyfriend who is a jerk. Also, he is one insanely mature fifteen-year old boy. I understand that he is an alien and maybe this accounts for the behavior but seriously, a fifteen-year old boy who falls in love, handles fights with maturity and makes appropriate decisions. I just didn’t buy it. I kept looking back to the beginning to make sure I hadn’t missed a couple years of growth or something. I liked the parts of the book that were about the homeworld and the relationship between John and Henri was nice (maybe a little too understanding a father figure but whatever). My biggest issue with this book was the predicability. It just felt a little cliche.

Rating : Five shoes – I liked the initial premise and the sci-fi bits but it lost me on some of the plot points. A comfy flip flop, not great but good. In other words – Meh.

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Filed under book review, five shoes, I Am Number Four, Lore; Pittacus, YA

The Aviary or Polly Wanna Solve a Murder…

So I’ve obviously been gone for a LONG time. Rather than do the whole long apology/rationalization of why I haven’t written a post in nigh on eight months (HOLY CRAP has it really been eight months???) I’ll just post this :

Image

Isn’t it awesome??? This is our new home! I would never recommend going through the whole selling and buying process because frankly it sucks but I’m so excited to finally be in our new home. So I blame this for my extended abscence.

and Pinterest. (It’s become an obsession.)

On to more important things…namely one book review :

Title :  The Aviary

Author : Kathleen O’Dell

Red Flags : Almost none, some violence

Clara Dooley is a obedient, intelligent, responsible and kind twelve year old girl. She has spent her entire life at Glendoveer Mansion with old Mrs. Glendoveer, the kind, elderly but poor owner of the house. Her mother is the housekeeper and spends most of her time trying to find the money to keep up the house. Due to a heart condition, Clara is not allowed to go to school, to go outside or to have friends. Although lonely at times, Clara is happy and only slightly creeped out by the scary birds in the aviary. One day, when she passes the aviary one of the birds clearly says “Eliott!” to her. She decides to ask Mrs. Glendoveer about the name and learns that she once had six children and the youngest was named Elliott. When Mrs. Glendoveer abruptly dies, Clara begins to learn even more about the tragic happenings at Glendoveer Mansion including the children’s kidnapping and subsequent drownings, the horrible accusations against the Glendoveers and the mystery of the birds in the aviary. Will she solve the long-dead mystery of the children’s kidnapping and murder? What will it reveal about her own strange background?

The Aviary was a strange mix. It really got me hooked in with the whole dark mysterious cover first of all, moving on to dark mysterious house with dark mysterious happenings. Clara is sweet and kind, seemingly intensely naive – a complete innocent. The actual aviary and the birds within definitely give off that Gothic vibe that seems to permeate the book. The characters were enjoyable especially because they were mostly smart girls and women. Clara’s journey throughout the book is fun to follow since it is only when she becomes more bold and brave that her life takes a turn for the better. However, the book takes a sharp turn about three quarters of the way through when it throws in some fantastical elements. I’m not sure if every reader would enjoy that in the middle of their murder mystery. While many parts stretched the limits of imagination I still enjoyed my reading of the book. If you are looking for a fun read, I definitely recommend it. Delightful!

Rating : Six and a half shoes bordering on seven…. a cute flat that occasionally pinches my feet but goes with everything.

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WHAT DO WE WANT? – Dystopian YA novels (preferably trilogies) WHEN DO WE WANT IT? – NOW!

I have a few weirdo obsession in life : pigs, Mormons, eating canned frosting on saltines, Mormon pigs….and of course YA dystopian trilogy novels. My appetite was whetted by the amazing awesome Hunger Games (and if you haven’t read it yet – what are waiting for??), I really liked The Mazerunner, Matched, Divergent and now – Variant. Are they all kind of similar? Do you sorta know what’s gonig to happen? Yes. But they are super fun to read and I love them – so here is another one for you to peruse.

Benson Fisher is a foster kid. He’s been shuttled from home to home, never finding a place that he felt he belonged in. When he gets a scholarship to Maxfield Academy, he figures that this his chance to get out of the foster system and make something of his life. But things get all screwy as soon as Benson is dropped off at the front door. There are no adults – not in charge and not anywhere to be found. The kids are trapped behind barbed wire fences and subjected to strange tests – one day they are left outside for the night, another day they are given no food. Because there are no adults, the teens have organized themselves into three groups – The Society, Havoc and Variant. Guess which one Benson is in?? Our hero is bent on escape from the school and in so doing stumbles on the school’s crazy secret. He is in even more trouble now but will he get out alive?

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