As I pointed out in the review before this one, this reading of the book was an audio book that I'd taken out for our long drive to Philadelphia. And,...moreAs I pointed out in the review before this one, this reading of the book was an audio book that I'd taken out for our long drive to Philadelphia. And, for all that I knew the story really well, this was almost like a first time read for me, because I got to hear it through the ears of my oldest son.
I'm pretty sure everyone out there knows the basic premise of this book. Harry Potter is the only one to ever survive the killing curse performed by the Dark Lord, Voldemort. And he did this at the age of 1. At that young age, with his parents dead, he is brought to live with his only remaining relations, the Dursley's. The Dursley's are a horrid bunch that try to make Harry's life as miserable as possible. It's only as his 11th birthday approaches that he finds out that he is so much more than the orphan child doomed to live the existence of a second class citizen under his family's roof. He finds out he's a wizard.
The Sorcerer's Stone details Harry's first year at Hogwarts, including some very strange happenings that result in a large confrontation at the end of the book. We also meet the people that are to become most important to Harry through out his years at Hogwarts and beyond: Ron Weasley, a boy in cast offs that becomes Harry's best friend; Ron's family, who become a surrogate family for Harry; Hermione Granger, the smartest witch of her generation and Harry's other best friend; Haggrid, the gentle giant of a man that is the gameskeeper at Hogwarts; Draco Malfoy, Harry's enemy at Hogwarts (because every hero should have one); Professor Snape, the potions teacher that also seems to have it out for Harry; Professor Dumbledore, the headmaster at Hogwarts that seems to know all but tell very little... the list could go on for hours.
As we listened to the story this time, Teddy was in the back seat, listening and asking questions as the story went along. He wanted to know why some things happened, what the meaning of some of the words were... he was engaged. And when we mentioned the possibility of getting the second book for our next travels, he was excited by it.
I've loved Harry Potter from the beginning. I bought the first 4 books through a book club and they came at a time when I was laid up because of back trouble. I read through these books like the pages would burn if I didn't get to them fast enough. And once I finished The Goblet of Fire, I picked The Sorcerer's Stone back up again. I can't say exactly what it is that appeals to me about this series. The first book is written to a much younger audience than my own 37 years. But it comes alive within the covers. Many of us have wanted to have that magical thing happen to take us out of our every day life and give us something spectacular. And Harry gets that. We get to go on his journey as he explores that spectacular world. We get to learn along side him about Quidditch and Butter Beer and charms and spells and potions.
Yet, for all that this world is fantastical, there's still a quality to it that kids will relate to. There's bullying. There's teasing. There are friends and enemies. There are teachers that they love and teachers that they hate. It's a wonderful combination of easy to relate to and fantastical enough to take us out of our own world. I think that's part of what's so endearing about the series.
I look forward to letting Teddy read the rest of these as he gets older. Because I really think that he'll enjoy it.
February 8, 2013
It is now almost 2 years later, and Teddy asked us to read this to him. I'd honestly forgotten, until rereading my previous review, just how enthralled Teddy was the first time. So it really shouldn't have surprised me.
Reading aloud to my boys (because Pete, about half the time, pays attention too) is a very different experience than hearing it read by a professional or even reading it myself. Teddy doesn't care for me trying to put on the accents too much, so those usually go by the wayside (much to my regret - doing accents is one of my favorite parts of reading!) And, since this is bedtime reading that we're doing together, there are times I need to go back and reread a section that he'd fallen asleep during the previous night. But, in many ways, it was a far more enriching experience to read the story to my boys or listen to my husband read it to them.
Now at almost 7, Teddy gets a lot more. He's in first grade and has larger class sizes. He's had to deal with bullies and kids he didn't like. He can relate to a few more things than he's been able to before. Through much of the story, he would try to guess what was going to happen next - sometimes he'd be right, sometimes he'd be wrong. But it was a great way to get his imagination running.
And he definitely enjoyed it. Tonight, we're planning on putting in the movie and then, before bed, starting in with the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I may amend this review later with Teddy's thoughts on the book (if I can get him to say more than "It was great - that's usually his level of communication after something, even if it's something he enjoyed). But I'm thinking that this is a series we'll be enjoying for quite some time - though I'm probably going to wait until he's a little older for books 4-7.(less)
The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan is the third book in the Heroes of Olympus series. It takes place in the same world as his Percy Jackson series, wi...moreThe Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan is the third book in the Heroes of Olympus series. It takes place in the same world as his Percy Jackson series, with only a few of the main characters from the last series crossing over. At the end of the Percy Jackson series, the Titans had been defeated, Mount Olympus was restored and all was well. Until, of course, the next crisis.
The Heroes of Olympus series involves not one but two camps having to save the world. The Greeks of Camp Half-Blood and the Romans of Camp Jupiter. Of course, neither knew the other existed until Hera pulled Percy Jackson out of Camp Half-Blood and Jason Grace out of Camp Jupiter and plopped them in the opposite camp without their memory. The first book, The Lost Hero, tells Jason's story. The second book, The Son of Neptune, tells Percy's story. In this, the third book, members of the two camps finally come together to quest and stop the rise of Gaea. I'd been looking forward to this one quite a bit, as I enjoyed the previous series and the previous books in this series quite a bit.
Things don't go smoothly for Annabeth, Jason, Piper and Leo when they land in Camp Jupiter. They aren't trusted by some and, when Leo is taken over by an Idolan and fires on the camp, they need to beat a hasty retreat and start their quest. Percy, Hazel and Frank join the group in their quick retreat to their flying trireme and they head toward Rome to try to stop Gaea.
Annabeth has another task. She's been tasked by her mother, Athena, to follow her mark and find something that was stolen from her when the Romans conquered the Greeks. As much as she'd like the help of her boyfriend, Percy, she's got to go this one alone.
I enjoyed the story itself very much. It was good to see Percy and Annabeth back together, and the dynamic between the five heroes was interesting. I loved that it wasn't an easy journey in any sense of the word. I'm also glad to have the mystery of Hazel and Leo cleared up. Each character got a good amount of screen time (though a little less to Jason and Frank, but not by much) and there was some good character development in the story. And the ending - even if my husband did call it - had my heart in my throat. It really makes me want to pick up the next book as soon as it comes out to see what's going to happen next.
That said, there were a few things that niggled at me as I listened to the story. There was a lot of passive voice in this story. I don't remember as much telling in the previous books as I saw in this one. But that could be my memory. Also, Percy's little, "What do you mean they didn't want to meet me?" scene when Leo and Frank came back from seeing Chiron's brothers struck me as shades of Harry Potter in The Order of the Phoenix Very whiny, very self-absorbed. I'd never really gotten that feeling regarding Percy before. I'm glad that it wasn't something that continued through out the rest of the book.
I listened to the audio book and, like in my review of The Son of Neptune, I had a lot of problems with the pronunciations of some of the names. Having heard some of the God names pronounced differently most of my life, it was very jarring and took me out of the story. Otherwise, his reading was very good. He had fairly distinctive voices for each character and kept the flow of the book moving quite well. I'm probably still going to listen to the audio books for the rest of the series, even though I know the pronunciation issues will be there.
All said, it was a fairly good book. Excellent story, with a few minor quibbles, and some issues with the reader.(less)
I love the 39 Clues series. I have since the first series and I'm finding this second series isn't disappointing. So much so that I made sure I was fi...moreI love the 39 Clues series. I have since the first series and I'm finding this second series isn't disappointing. So much so that I made sure I was first on the waiting list for the digital audio copy of this book.
Trust No One is the fourth book in the second series and continues Amy, Dan, Atticus and Jake's quest to both steal for Vesper One and figure out what he's doing so they can stop him. This time, they've been sent to Yale to steal the Voynich manuscript. But what they need from it isn't with the rest of the manuscript and they follow clues in Atticus and Jake's mom's e-mail to Brazil to find it before Vesper One's deadline and the death of a hostage.
The book was a quick listen that still managed to keep me glued to my headphones. Particularly when Sinead met up with Amy and Dan and it wasn't clear whether they would find out in time that she was the mole, or if she was going to try to frame Ethan for that. I kept remembering the hope I had while reading the previous book, Shatterproof, that the mole wouldn't turn out to be Sinead. Amy deserves a good girl friend.
Here are some quick notes, in bullet format, regarding the book:
I'm enjoying the love triangle between Amy, Jake and Ethan. Both the guys are so wonderful that I'm having a hard time deciding who to root for. Dan's wending his way toward danger with the formula for the serum. I wonder what consequences it's going to have for him in the future. The threat to Atticus also has me curious. My guess is because he's a Guardian, even though he doesn't know much about anything since his mother didn't have a chance to tell him. The identity of Vesper Two didn't surprise me in the least. It also doesn't surprise me that this person is going to double-cross Vesper One. Once again, David Pitu impressed me with his reading, giving very distinctive voices to each of the characters so you could always tell who was talking.
As always, the action was well-paced throughout the book, giving nice moments of lull where you find out a bit more about Jake and his relationship with his mom between the moments when the four of them are desperately trying to save the hostages. There wasn't as much happening with the hostages as there had been in previous books, though we did get to feel a bit more sadness with another loss. (That seems to be a theme throughout each book - someone seems to die.)
The biggest surprise, however, was the big reveal of Vesper One's plans at the end. It was NOT anything I saw coming and it make me want the next book nownownow. Unfortunately, I've got to wait until March for the next one! (But it would make a great birthday gift.)
This book did exactly what it was supposed to do - ratchet the suspense up before the big climax. And it did it in spades. There are still so many unanswered questions that I suspect that the last book will be constant action. (less)
I'm very grateful that my library has most of Lynsay Sands' Argeneau series for digital download. It's generally a quicker way for me to get my hands...moreI'm very grateful that my library has most of Lynsay Sands' Argeneau series for digital download. It's generally a quicker way for me to get my hands on the books and, in the case of the audio books, I can get other work done while I'm listening.
I was at a slight loss when I started listening to Tall, Dark & Hungry. I had listened to the first two books, but I just couldn't get my hands on the third. Usually, I don't let that bother me, so I downloaded the audio book anyway. I don't think not know the details of the previous book prevented me from enjoying this one, but it did take me a little longer to get all the players straight in my mind.
Now on to the book itself. This book was FUN. It started as a comedy of errors, in which Terri's decision to come early in order to help her cousin, Kate, and her future husband, Lucern, plan their wedding happened to coincide with her cousin's need to fly out of town for her publishing job. Rather than stay at Kate's empty apartment, Terri is invited to stay at Bastien' (Lucern's brother) penthouse. But of course, Terri's not the only one staying there. With the wedding coming up, Bastien and Lucern's cousin, Vincent is crashing there. As is Kate's co-worker, Chris. Chris was supposed to be on the trip that Kate was called away on, but he broke his leg and couldn't really take care of himself so...
The attraction is obvious from the start for both Terri and Bastien, but they are both gun-shy. Add in frequent misunderstandings, Bastien's need to keep the fact that she's a vampire from her, and the craziness of the wedding, it's a wonder that the manage to get together at all! And it has one of the funniest sex scenes that I've ever read. It was difficult to keep my chuckles from my kids as I listened and cleaned.
Of all the books, this one was by far the most enjoyable of the series thus far. I loved listening to each chapter, finding out just what could go wrong next. I'd recommending picking up the other three first (A Quick Bite, Love Bites and Single White Vampire) but it will be worth the wait to get to this one.(less)
Lissiana Argeneau is celebrating her 202nd birthday with a party at her mother's house. When she enters her room to get a new pair of stockings, she a...moreLissiana Argeneau is celebrating her 202nd birthday with a party at her mother's house. When she enters her room to get a new pair of stockings, she assumes that the man tied to her bed his her gift from her mother... a little bite to eat after the party.
Well, she has it half right. Her mother has "convinced" (through mental coercion) Dr Gregory Hewitt to come to the house as Lissie's birthday gift. But rather than being her midnight snack, he is there to help cure her of her phobia. And it's a bad one for a vampire - Lissie faints at the site of blood.
There's instant attraction between the two, but before either of them can admit it, they have to work through Greg learning about her family, crazy relatives (on both sides) and someone that wants to put a stake through Lissie's heart for being an evil, blood-sucking fiend. No one ever said the course of true love runs smoothly.
I really enjoy this series and was glad to have finally listened to the one that started it all. I'd seen Lissie and Greg in one of the other books I'd read, but I didn't really know their story. And I, for one, thought it was an intriguing one.
One of the best parts of this series is the inventive take on vampires that Sands has taken. Rather than the mystical/magical search for immortality that vampirism is usually portrayed as, the Argeneau series takes a scientific bent in the form of nanites that keep their bodies in peak condition. While she uses fiction getting it wrong to explain away some of the usual vampire "facts", she has perfectly plausible explanations for the ones that she's kept in. Since the nanites are fueled by blood, anyone with the nanites in their system (naturally born or "made") need to regularly replenish the blood in their system. And since sunlight is always damaging the skin cells, the nanites need to work harder to keep the host healthy, which uses more blood and weakens them until they can replenish.
I also like the fact that, in today's world when blood can be stored a la the Red Cross, the Argeneau clan has switched from "feeding off the hoof" (taking blood directly from an unwitting donor) to using bagged blood. And I like how Lissie being unable to use bagged blood (since she can see it through the bag) is the impetus from bringing a human into this world, which gives the reader a chance to learn about the world that Sands has crafted.
The story wasn't perfect. I don't remember a good explanation for the mental powers that the Argeneaus have (though that could just be my forgetting). And there were some parts of the story that I saw coming from the first. But she still managed to throw me a couple times by crafting the store differently than I had expected. For the most part, though, I knew what was coming. (eg. I knew who was behind the staking). But that doesn't always bother me. Because most of the time, it feels like the logical progression.
The writing was ok - not the best I've ever read but far, far from the worst. It was, however, good enough to keep me engaged in the story. And that, for me, is more important than any of the technical parts of the writing.
A word about the audio book edition - readers can make or break a book for me. I've listened to some books that, if I were to read them, I would thoroughly enjoy. But hearing them read by a particular reader destroys my good feelings about the book. I've also listed to some books in which the reader has made the book come even more alive for me. Victoria McGee is the reader for this book and she falls somewhere in the middle. She kept the story moving, didn't break me from the reality of the world and used a few distinctive voices for different characters. But she didn't make me believe that she was each of these characters, as some of the best do. I was very much aware that I was being read to rather than feeling like I was watching the story unfold before me.
I am looking forward to reading or listening to more books in this series. I love finding an unusual take on something that most people "know". And the Argeneau series does just that for the vampire genre.(less)
11/16/11 - This is going to be a slow reread since I'm reading it to Teddy. It will be interesting to see what he thinks of it while we're going along...more11/16/11 - This is going to be a slow reread since I'm reading it to Teddy. It will be interesting to see what he thinks of it while we're going along.
03/01/11 - We have been listening to The 39 Clues series so we can enjoy it as a family. All the posts regarding these books will be about the audio version, unless otherwise stated.
I mentioned a little of the set up regarding the 39 Clues in my previous post. Brief overview for those who are reading my newer posts before my older posts, a brother and sister have been sent on a quest around the world to find 39 clues that their recently deceased grandmother has left for them and any other groups of the family willing to take on the challenge. At the end of the clues is supposed to be something that will make the winner the most powerful person (or people) in the world.
The Maze of Bones is the first book in this series. It's where we get to meet not only Amy and Dan Cahill, but many of the groups that will be vying for the clues over the next several books. And very few of them are of the kind and gentle persuasion. Through out this book, there are a couple of attempts on Amy and Dan's lives, including a fire that torches their beloved grandmother's mansion.
The first clue that everyone gets (in packets at the reading of the will) points the Cahill siblings toward Philadelphia and Ben Franklin. And from there, to Mozart and Austria. We get to see the ingenuity that the siblings call upon without any need for violence - even when violence heads in their direction.
It's a great start to the series, letting us meet all of the key players in the drama that will take place over the following nine books. While some of them aren't quite as fleshed out as they will be in later books, that's understandable in a book of this type. Of the books that I have read, the rest do have their time to shine.
Again, it's a great introduction to history. As often happens when books tell of places that I know, I listened with rapt attention at as they moved through Philadelphia. I lived there for 3 years with my fiancé turned husband so I was pretty familiar with a lot of the landmarks. And I couldn't have been more pleased that to hear them talk about the Franklin Institute, which is a place Rich and I spent a fair amount of time at. It's going to be a great starting place to for introducing Teddy to Philadelphia when we head up that way this summer.
Regarding the reader for both this book and the previous one that I reviewed, he is WONDERFUL. I love to listen to him because he really gives each character their own individual voice. You don't have to hear the words that someone had said a phrase to know that was who was speaking. He puts a lot of energy and a lot of self into his reading. It's one of the reasons I'm so glad to have the audio book collection checked out of the library for family listening.(less)
Percy Jackson is one of my favorite characters in children's literature. And, while I enjoyed getting to know Jason, Piper and Leo in The Lost Hero, i...morePercy Jackson is one of my favorite characters in children's literature. And, while I enjoyed getting to know Jason, Piper and Leo in The Lost Hero, it was nice to read about Percy again. And meeting Hazel and Frank, along with the rest of Camp Jupiter (the Roman version of Camp Half-Blood) was like old friends introducing me to new friends.
The book was as exciting as the previous ones set in this world, with surprises peppered throughout the book that I never saw coming. Riordan's writing is exciting, keeping the reader anxious to hear more. Some of the lines that he had various characters say alternately cracked me up and made me want to adopt them as mantras. The characters mesh well and seem very realistic - for demi-gods.
There was only one problem I had with the audio book edition, and that was the pronunciation of Gaea. I'd always pronounced it (and heard it pronounced) Geye-ah. The reader pronounced it GE-ah. And each time he said it, I shuddered. Maybe I'd heard it pronounced wrong all this time. But it still bugged me.
I've got the paper copy of the book coming soon as well, and I'm going to reread it then. Because a) it was a good book and 2) I don't know what I may catch on the second read through. If you've loved the Percy Jackson series, you'll enjoy this one as well. If you love reading about mythology, you'll enjoy the series. And once you've read them, you'll want Fall, 2012 to hurry up and get here for the next installment of the series.(less)
I like to have something playing when I sleep. Whether it be a television show, a movie or an audio book, having something that can lull me into dream...moreI like to have something playing when I sleep. Whether it be a television show, a movie or an audio book, having something that can lull me into dreamland is a necessity for me to fall asleep. This week, I've put on the audio book version of this book. David Suchet is one of my favorite readers of Poirot stories, so that was a huge draw for me to have it for my bedtime listening.
Part of why I enjoyed this was because I was pretty familiar with all the stories. I'd watched several of them through the BBC version of Poirot. So it was a combination of new (since the TV version is rarely the same as the story itself) and old (since the basis is still the same). Between waking several times through the night and starting it at different points on different nights, I've been able to listen to them all and I don't think there's one that I haven't enjoyed.
This is a perfect book for quick moments. Times when you want a little mystery, a little Poirot, but don't have a lot of time. While still not my favorite (that still goes to Curtain), it is far and away one of the better ones. (less)
We, as a family, have been continuing to listen to the 39 Clues series. And, as with the previous books, we've really enjoyed the third outing in the...moreWe, as a family, have been continuing to listen to the 39 Clues series. And, as with the previous books, we've really enjoyed the third outing in the series.
With The Sword Thief, Amy and Dan Cahill have made their way to Japan and have made an uneasy alliance with Alastair Oh, the man who had left them inside the burning mansion in the first book, A Maze of Bones. But they seem to need Uncle Alastair's help... just as he needs theirs. As with the other books, they combine history with a fast paced story that has the Cahill children running from one danger to the next.
Of all the books, though, this is the one that's stuck with me the least. I can't seem to remember specifics of it and it was more of an "ok" book than a great one. Still, it was good for getting the reader from One False Note to Beyond the Grave (book 4 in the series). If you're reading the series, you won't want to miss this one. But I wouldn't suggest picking it up as a stand alone.(less)
The fourth book in the 39 Clues series finds the Cahill kids in Egypt, chasing the next clue after the supposed death of Alistair Oh. They start their...moreThe fourth book in the 39 Clues series finds the Cahill kids in Egypt, chasing the next clue after the supposed death of Alistair Oh. They start their journey at an Egyptian hotel that is so much more to the Cahills and are immediately put into danger. It isn't long before they meet Hilary, an old friend of Grace's. Hilary and her grandson, Theo, seem to want to help the kids along on their journey, but things aren't always the way they seem. Nellie, the kids' au pair and adult companion on their journey, has a thing for Theo, which further complicates matters. By the end of the book, the kids have found out more about their family legacy and have the next clue to move them forward.
Like the other 39 Clues books, Beyond the Grave teaches as it entertains. And, in my opinion, this is one of the best things about this series - the fact that kids who read it (and adults, to be honest) learn something about the world around them. Beyond the Grave gives the reader a glimpse into Egypt's history, the interesting facts of the pyramids and, a real draw for most young boys I know, the truth about mummies.
I had a hard time listening to this one, though not because of the book. The kids are starting to get bored with the books, so they made a lot of noise while I was trying to listen to them. But what I did here, I really enjoyed. I waited anxiously to hear how Amy and Dan were going to get out of the newest trap that they'd been lured to. I sighed, hoping that Nellie's crush wouldn't prevent her from helping her charges. I chuckled at the antics of Saladin (Grace's Egyptian Mao) when he knew he was in the place he was worshiped.
This was a nice, strong book in the series. It helped advance the plot, it taught interesting facts and it had me wanting to know what was going to happen next. If you're reading along the series, don't stop at The Sword Thief. Definitely continue on to Beyond the Grave.(less)
One False Note has brought Dan, Amy, Nellie and Saladin to Austria in search of the next clue. Rather than Wolfgang Amadeus Motzart, however, they are...moreOne False Note has brought Dan, Amy, Nellie and Saladin to Austria in search of the next clue. Rather than Wolfgang Amadeus Motzart, however, they are looking for something from his sister, Nannerl. It turns out to be her diary, but when they arrive to take a look at it, they find that it has been stolen. Their search leads them next to Venice, Italy, where not only do they obtain the pages from the diary that they seek, but manage to do so from under the noses of the Janus, one of the branches of the Cahill family. After a furious boat ride through the canals of Venice, they are soon on their way to the next clue.
As with the other books, One False Note gives a great jumping off point for learning some history. This time, the story focuses (from a historical standpoint) on the Motzarts, primarily Nannerl. She is someone that, had I not listened to this book, I wouldn't have known existed. And she seems to be (from the limited reading I've been able to do) just as talented, if not more so, than her famous brother. There's also information on Vienna and Venice, giving tidbits of geography and history as the stories go alone.
The series is keeping my excitement and curiosity as I go through it. We finished listening to this as a family tonight and tomorrow (or Friday, depending on how Rich feels) we'll start the next audio book, The Sword Thief by Peter Lerangis.(less)
I learned about the 39 Clues series around the time I first finished Percy Jackson and the Olympians. It's not really a surprise, since Rick Riordan w...moreI learned about the 39 Clues series around the time I first finished Percy Jackson and the Olympians. It's not really a surprise, since Rick Riordan wrote the first book and the children's librarian at our favorite branch loves to share new series that she thinks we'll enjoy with us.
I'd read the first couple in the series but hadn't gotten around to reading the rest. Then came the unexpected trip to Philadelphia. I knew from past experience that Rich and I would go nuts if we were forced to listen to the same music over and over again for all 14 hours of the drive (split over 2 days, of course). For the sake of our sanity, I made a stop at the local library to find something to listen to along the way. I walked out with two audio books - The 39 Clues, Book 5: The Black Circle by Patrick Carman and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling. We already knew the world of the 39 clues from our reads of the previous books and we were both very familiar with Harry Potter, me having read it multiple times.
While listening to both of these books on the road, something I never expected to happen did. Teddy PAID ATTENTION. Usually if we have a book in, he wants us to change it to listen to his music. But this time, he excitedly asked for the next disc. We're now trying to listen, as a family, to all the 39 Clues books.
Back to my review of this book. First, a little background for those not familiar with the series. Amy Cahill is a 14 year old orphan, and Dan is her 11 year old younger brother. They live "with" their great aunt (read: she lives in an apartment across town and hires an au pair to live with the children and take care of them), but often go to their grandmother's grand estate for visits. They both love their grandmother greatly and are saddened to hear of her death.
At her funeral, which is attended by hundreds of people, mostly family, they find that they have been invited to a special reading of the will. They, along with many other members of the family, are given a choice - either take a substantial sum of money or choose to seek out the 39 clues, which will lead them to the greatest power in the world. If they chose getting the clues, they'd never be able to go back and claim the money. Against their great aunt's demanding to take the money, they decide to go on what will become an adventure of a life time.
In The Black Circle, Dan and Amy start out in Egypt. They are still on the hunt for the 39 Clues, having been close to getting some, having gotten others and had their lives put in danger more than once. They have two companions on their journey. Nellie Gomez is the au pair that their great aunt had hired before they skipped town to track down the clues, and she has become a valuable partner. She speaks several languages, plus she's an adult, which helps keep the authorities away by seeing two kids alone. The other is their grandmother's cat, Saladin. While he doesn't help so much with finding the clues (thus far, anyway), he's important to Amy and Dan because he's a link to their grandmother.
Through most of the book, Nellie and Saladin are still in Egypt, while Amy and Dan head to Russia. While there, following clues given to them by the mysterious NRR. Because of the nature of the clues that they need to follow from this shadowy person, they know that there is no way they can do it alone. They make an alliance with one of the other teams, one they can't be certain won't blow up in their faces. But as they learn through this alliance, sometimes people can surprise you.
What I love the most about this series of books is the fact that it introduces kids (and some adults) to history in a very enjoyable way. In this particular book, we learn about the Romanov's, the Summer Palace, the mystery surrounding Anastasia, Rasputin... so many things in and around the Russian Revolution. Granted, it's not the same as if you were to read a text book on the subject, but it gives kids a great jumping off point if they find something in particular that interests them.(less)