Hours into challenge: 39
Hours spent reading/blogging: 16 hours, 5 minutes
# books read: 5 full, 1 partial
# pages read: 1284
Ok, man, I haven't been reading nearly as much as I thought, after 2 nights sleep, 1 group meeting, and 1 bbq with friends... but, I have gotten a lot read, I think...
S. A. S. S. (Students Across the Seven Seas)
This is a great series! Each book is by a different author about a different girl studying abroad in a different country. These books are actually... a lot better than I thought they would be. They're pretty fluffy but there's still a lot going on. They each contain:
1. Some interpersonal problem at home they're working through from abroad
2. Romantic fun in-country
3. Someone mean in-country
4. Lots of information and learning about the country and language
What I really like is that you do learn a lot about the country and city these girls are studying in, but each book finds a way to present the information in a way that's not obtrusive or disruptive to the story flow.
Also, each story isn't just the same semester abroad. Swede Dreams and Spain are Shine feature straight-up semesters at a foreign schools, but Heart and Salsa is a summer service project with field trips, but no actual classrooms. Now and Zen has a summer program on global outreach.
One thing I do wish is that there were some author's notes in the back with more information or further reading or something. There are maps in the beginning though-- of the country where they're studying and of the city itself.
Swede Dreams Eva Apelqvist
PLEASE NOTE: I did NOT read this this weekend, but I'm blogging about it now because I read the other SASS books this weekend.
Callie's twin sister is perfect and is amazingly busy preparing her Julliard audition. Last semester, Callie was dating Jonas, the Swedish exchange student at school so she decides to go to Stockholm for the semester. Can she survive her classes in Swedish? Why does the girl next door hate her so much? And why hasn't Jonas emailed her back yet?
I really liked the conflict between Callie and her twin-- Apelqvist has captured the relationship perfectly. AND! Lots of fun Swedish holidays I didn't know about!
Heart and Salsa Suzanne Nelson (214 pages)
Cal's parents are divorced. While she's still reeling from that change in her life, her mother marries Ted, a college professor she's only been dating for 3 months. As if that weren't enough, Ted then moves the family from Cal's home in Scottsdale, Arizona out to Boston. She's having a really hard time adjusting, so when her best friend from AZ, Sabrina, suggests that they both do a service project in Oaxaca over the summer, Cal jumps at it. But when she gets off the plane, she finds Sabrina has also brought along her boyfriend. And Cal's host sister automatically assumes she's a princess and won't even give her a chance...
Now and Zen Linda Gerber (214 pages)
This one was a little disappointing because I feel I didn't learn as much about Japanese culture as I learned from the other books. I think a big part of this is because Nori stayed in a dorm with other Americans (and some Japanese students) rather than living with a host family, which is how the other books work.
Basically, Nori's parents are growing apart and Nori's off to Tokyo for the summer for a Global Outreach Program. I think this is another part about why we don't get as much about Japanese culture-- the program has very little to do specifically with Japan...
Nori is Japanese-American and that does lead to complications as everyone she's studying with assumes she's Japanese. Also, the program draws students from all over the world so there are Germans and Brits. Erik's the hott German Orlando Bloom look-alike Nori's drooling over. He wants an authentic Japanese prospective on some things so Nori pretends, using nice-guy and genuinely Japanese-guy Atsushi in the process...
This book was better at the relationships and internal struggle, but not as good on culture, which has always been the high point of this series...
Spain or Shine Michelle Jellen (214 pages)
Elena is a dreamer in a family of focused achievers. Sick of teachers always comparing her to her siblings, she relishes the chance to study in San Sebastian, Spain. There, in addition to Spanish and Basque culture classes, her main class is in theater. Elena wants to write and direct movies and this is a chance to finally work towards that goal. For her class she has to write a full length play with a partner. The 2 best plays in the class are going to be produced at the end of the semester. Elena really wants to win...
Also, Elena's really, really shy, so how will she win the heart of her super-hott Spanish classmate, Miguel?
This is a fun one. It features a home stay so you learn a lot about Spanish culture. Despite some mentions of Basque culture, we didn't really learn about who the Basque people are or how their culture is different than Spanish culture or anything, which is too bad.
Hmmmm.... and I just now noticed that all of the titles are exactly 214 pages long. Weird. So far, Swede Dreams is still my favorite of the series, but I'm looking forward to reading the rest of them!