Saturday, September 25, 2010

Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex

By Eoin Colfer

Artemis has committed his entire fortune to a project he believes will save the planet and its inhabitants, both human and fairy. Can it be true? Has goodness taken hold of the world's greatest teenage criminal mastermind? Captain Holly Short is unconvinced, and discovers that Artemis is suffering from Atlantis Complex, a psychosis common in guild-ridden fairies, not humans, and most likely triggered in Artemis by his dabbling in fairy magic. Symptoms include obsessive-compulsive behavior, paranoia, multiple personality disorder and, in extreme cases, embarrassing profession of love to a certain feisty LEPrecon fairy. Unfortunately, Atlantis Complex has truck at the worst possible time. A deadly foe from Holly's past is intent on destroying the actual city of Atlantis. Can Artemis escape the confines of his mind-and the grips of a giant squid-in time to save the underwater metropolis and its fairy inhabitants?

This is the seventh book in the Artemis Fowl series, for which I was quite excited because I thought Eoin Colfer had given up Artemis for other stories. I was hugely amused by Artemis's symptoms of the Atlantis Complex, which incompass awkward to full on embarassment. It was quite different, and I'm sad to say that this book and the last book have been my least favorites, but I'm sufficiently enjoying them that if number 8 comes out, I'll be right there in line to buy it. The Atlantis Complex is a fun read, but if you want great stuff, go back to number one and up through to number 5. Those are the best ones. They happen to be the bee's knees. :)


By Suzanne Collins

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.
It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans -- except Katniss.
The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay -- no matter what the personal cost.

So I got to sneak into my public library and skip over the wait list because I convinced (rather easily) the librarian I could read the book in a day. I knew that if I didn’t, I wouldn’t get a chance to finish the series for a few months at least. So, in a fashion that probably wasn’t the best course of action while in school and with homework to finish, I devoured the last book in the Hunger Games trilogy. Now, it’s hard to talk about this book without giving things away, but it was a chilling and poetic tragedy to the end of Katniss Everdeen’s story. It was interesting to take stock of how I felt about the book as a whole. Unlike the first two books in the trilogy, this book is not about the Hunger Games. It’s about war. Cold, hard, and horrific war. To be kind, it was disturbing to read. There are tortures, murders, and scenes of outright bloodshed that left me feeling nauseous. But, with all of the terrible things that happen, I can say this: This book is written better than well. I have a profound respect for Suzanne Collins’s skill as a writer. She makes the events real. There isn’t an ending where the bad get their just desserts, and the good live happy warm lives. People are scarred from their experiences, people die that don’t deserve death. Good people are never the same. It felt like an echo of a thing I had never experienced first hand, and it went down like a cold slimy worm that just wiggled in my stomach for days. I can’t say that I can recommend this book to people simply because it was so terrible in it’s depiction of the worst in human nature. But it made me think. I won’t ever have to read them again though, they left that deep an impression on my mind…whether that’s a good or bad thing is yet to be seen.

The Golden Spiral (#2 in Hourglass Door series)

By Lisa Mangum

The hourglass door has closed behind Dante, sending him back in time to hunt down Zo, Tony, and V. Although giving him up was the hardest test she ever faced, Abby knows that Dante is the only one who can stop the others from destroying time itself. But almost immediately, things start to change, and Abby’s worst fears are realized when Zo begins targeting her past specifically. With each change that ripples into her present, Abby’s life continues to spiral out of control. Her relationships with Jason, Natalie, and ever her family are threatened to the breaking point. Zo’s power is greater than Abby ever imagined. Will her love for Dante be enough to turn the tide?

This book is a page turner. It’s fun to read, and the story is intriguing. Trying to wrap your head around the time stream is a little dizzying, but Mangum does a pretty good job in simplifying it for the average Joe. Dante seemed a little more human to me in this one. And, I don’t know if it’s just that I’m getting used to the love story or not, but I was able to handle the many little romantic scenes between Abby and Dante with a little less snide thoughts. A little. There are still some instances when Dante will say things like, “Abby! My Angel! You’re here!” and I can’t help but think of a soap opera. Really? I’ve yet to meet a real live man who talks like that, and if I ever do, I will eat my words and voice a profound apology to Lisa Mangum for my incredulity. Aside from all that thought, this was fun and I look forward to the conclusion next year in the final book- The Forgotten Locket.

The Hourglass Door

By Lisa Mangum

Abby's senior year of high school is textbook perfect: She has a handsome and attentive boyfriend, good friends, good grades, and plans to attend college next year. But when she meets Dante Alexander, a foreign-exchange student from Italy, her life suddenly takes a different turn. He's mysterious, and interesting, and unlike anyone she's ever met before. Abby can't deny the growing attraction she feels for him. Nor can she deny the unusual things that seem to happen when Dante is around. Time behaves differently when they are together - traveling too fast or too slow or sometimes seeming to stop altogether. As the mystery unfolds Abby discovers a dangerous secret about Dante and his companions from Italy, a secret that could unravel the very fabric of time. Abby must make a choice and more than one life is at stake and her choice could change everything. Her present. His Past. Can love bring them together in time?

This book is the first in a trilogy. Abby is the heroine of the story, with her love interest as all-too-perfect Italian time-traveler Dante di Alexandro Casella. The story is certainly captivating. Who doesn’t like a little bit of time travel to spice up their life? Throw a handsome Italian poet and lots of ladies are reveling in this series. I myself, like the true romantic skeptic, was amused at the drama of relationships in this book. Rolling my eyes seemed to become second nature while I read. I guess that’s the style now since Twilight made its way into the limelight. The story, however is more than just the love interest between Abby and Dante. It’s about an unconventional time machine made my da Vinci himself; made to throw the most despicable criminals into a prison they can’t escape and where they won’t have to worry about them: the future. Cool huh? For that reason, and that alone, I think this book is worth a peak. If you enjoy high school dating drama and the sudden across-the-room meeting of a handsome stranger, you’ll doubly like this book. And I’m not too petty to admit, there were a few things that left me smiling and tingly. A very few. :)

The Vampire's Assistant (#2)

By Darren Shan

Darren Shan was just an ordinary schoolboy - until his visit to the Cirque Du Freak. Now, as he struggles with his new life as a Vampire's Assistant, he tries desperately to resist the one temptation that sickens him, the one thing that can keep him alive. Blood. But destiny is calling... the Wolf Man is waiting.

Okay, so, this book clinched it for me. Read Cirque du Freak? NO! Holy gross, horrific and simply wrong. At the risk of a little spoiler: a kid gets his guts eaten while he is still alive. I was sickened. It was described fully and grotesquely. I guess I asked for it by deciding to read these books. Lots of people like them, but that was just way too much gore and I don’t think that is healthy for kids to be reading. It was just sick pure and simple. It didn’t scare me, it just made me wrinkle my nose is abject disgust. I wouldn’t let a kid within a hundred miles of this book just because it is so violent and nasty. Sheesh, what is the world coming to people?

Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare

By Darren Shan

Darren's best friend, Steve, finds a flier for an illegal freak show, which they sneak out one night to attend. Among acts such as a wolf-man (who bites off the hand of a woman in the audience) and a snake-boy, they see the vampire Mr. Crepsley and his trained poisonous spider. Darren is smitten with the spider and returns to steal her. When Steve is bitten by her, only Mr. Crepsley has an antidote to her poison. But there's a price, and Darren becomes a half vampire, learning the vampire ways, sometimes following the Cirque, and other times joining Mr. Crepsley on secret errands.

I had heard of this series in high school, but was never inclined to read a book about circus freaks. It sounded rather sinister to me. I picked up this book for one reason only, that being, I saw the movie that was released a while back called The Vampire’s Assistant and loved it. It was so fun and interesting, so I thought, why not? I read this first book with the thought of, how strange that this author is writing to a younger audience but seeking to creep-out, gross-out and pretty much scare them to death. I’ve never gotten why people seek ways to scare themselves. I always thought it was rather self-destructive. I hate scary movies. The most scary movie I’ve seen is The Sixth Sense. Well, this first books follows Darren Shan as he goes to a freak show with his best friend, only to steal a poisonous spider from an infamous vampire. The spider ends up biting his friend and the only way the vampire will save him is if Darren becomes his assistant. It was interesting, but a little weird. It ended on a strange shifting ledge. You pretty much have to read the second one if you read the first. But…as I continue to review the second one, you will see why I don’t recommend these books to just anyone.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Tale of Two Cities

By Charles Dickens

Where "Great Expectations" lacks realism, "A Tale of Two Cities" follows a record of historical events. Being so well crafted, it is remarkable the novel was written under than duress of constant deadlines. Following the deadlines of a serial, it would seem easy to digress into fluff. Protagonist Charles Darnay is caught between the parallels of England and France, nobility and peasantry. Though the wording is very plotting at times, readers will expect some twists and be surprised by others. Taking an unlikely bride, Darney would seem to have reached an equilibrium. But two trials for treason lead to revelations threaten to tear all that is sacred from him. Known as the villain, Madame Defarge may hold a reputation with some before reading the book. Yet plot details are able to reveal her as a sympathetic character. Yet the vile nature of her plotting ultimately corrupts this glimmer. With themes of social justice and the French Revolution in the background, historians have come to appreciate this work. Those who read the book with less appreciative eyes may overlook the biting humor in the novel. Omitting this aspect is allowing one's self to miss a highlight of the book. It is a novel that has greatness hidden in many places."

I will never forget Sydney Carton. How his character struck me! This book has been looked at with apprehension by many (including me) probably since it was first published. Everyone knows the immortal first line, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Most people don’t get past the first page. Dickens tends to do that to people. But boy is it worth it to keep plowing through! I myself love Dickens, so I’m a little biased. I will however, tell you that there is a lot in this novel that seemed unnecessary and-dare I say it? Too wordy. That kills me to say, but I think that the point could have been gotten to a bit quicker and consisely. It’s hard to follow what character is talking because Dickens refers to them by at least 3 different names each. So, while the middle parts are a bit muddy to me, the basic point of the novel was very well learned. The French Revolution was more than awful. This novel is poetic and beautiful in its terrible setting. It gave me chills reading those last few pages, and sent great thrills in my heart as I read those last lines, “Tis a far better thing that I do now than I’ve ever done before.”

A Study in Scarlet

By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This is the first of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. An introduction to the world's most famous and greatest detective. Come on an intelectual journey of mystery as Holmes solves a mystery dating back decades on the American continent...

Bleh. That is what I say. I have a major complaint and hatred towards this story. Okay…maybe hatred was a bit strong, but it really ticked me off. So this book had its roots within the story of the Mormons. Being Mormon myself, I was intrigued at first, and then horrified, then genuinely fiercely angry. The information is blatantly wrong and puts Mormons up there with murderers and cult-like beliefs with plural wives that are forced into matrimony to satisfy the men’s desires. I was appalled at not only the story, but the false depictions of actual men in history whom I hold a deep love and respect for. I balked at the fact that people probably read this and thought the worst about Mormons and held that belief their entire lives. Yuck. I would recommend never reading this particular Sherlock Holmes mystery from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt and hope that if he had more resources at hand, he would never have falsified Mormons like he did. His other stories, by the way, are wonderful fun to read and I highly recommend them!


By Catherine Fisher

Finn is a 17-year old prisoner of Incarceron. His memories begin and end there. He knows nothing about his heritage except for vague memories that tease at his mind. The teen is determined to escape the prison fashioned centuries ago as a solution to the chaos created by man. Now Incarceron is self-sustaining and self-perpetuating—prisoners are born there and they die there. Legend claims only one man has ever escaped, Sapphique, and Finn is determined to follow in his steps. Claudia, the warden's daughter, lives sequestered in a castle surrounded by servants. But she, too, longs for escape—from a father who frightens her and from betrothal to an insipid prince. Finn and Claudia each discover a crystal key and are amazed to find that they can communicate with each other. As their trust in one another builds, each pledges to help the other. The two stories emerge, intertwine and, by the end, unwind in startling twists that will astonish.

This was such a different story I was intrigued to pick it up; a story about a prison and prisoners who have never seen the outside? Cool. Horrific, but cool. It was a lot of fun to read about the prisoners and their not-so-awesome lives in Incarceron (which is a living, breathing thing). It was different because, while it was still a prison, there were good people in there too trying to survive in a world full of murderers and the scum of society. The quest to find a way out of Incarceron was the basis of the story, switching point of view from Finn to the feisty Claudia who wanted to find the prince, spite her father, and escape from an awful arranged marriage. Full of mysteries and spectacular places, this book was quite the read. I was horrified by the ending because it was so abrupt, but I just found out once again that there is a second book. I don’t know how many times this has happened to me…series are just the ‘in’ thing right now.


By Scott Westerfeld

In this highly anticipated sequel to the hit Uglies 2005), Tally Youngblood struggles to retain her mental acuity after undergoing the operation that transformed her into a Pretty. While in the renegade Ugly community, Tally learned that along with cosmetic enhancements, new Pretties are given brain lesions that leave them in a perpetual state of lazy vanity. Tally volunteered to take a drug developed to cure the lesions, but now that she is a Pretty, she has forgotten her promise. A coded message leads her to some pills and a letter that she wrote to herself before her transformation, and after swallowing the cure, she is catapulted into a dangerous new adventure, in which she discovers that the peace and happiness of Pretty society come with a terrible price.

This second book in the Uglies series was fun and fast paced. I admit I was a little ornery at having had a new love interest introduced and getting the oh-so-familiar love triangle going on. Good thing Tally didn’t really remember David, it made it easier for me to see her falling for someone new. This book is pretty packed with teen drama. But it still makes a ton of excellent points about what being pretty really means. Interesting second books anyhow.

Far From You

By Lisa Schroeder

Lost and alone down the rabbit hole.
Alice thought she knew
what solitude was:
Her mother—gone
Her father—remarried with a newborn
in the icy embrace
of a deadly snowstorm
Alice faces the true meaning of loneliness.
But hope
may not be as far away
as she thinks....

This book was interesting. I didn’t open it up until I got home from the library, only to discover that it was written in a poetry form. I read it fairly fast, but the story was a tender one about a girl who was coming to terms with her father’s new wife and baby. In a freak accident driving with her stepmother, she learns what’s important and how angels are always watching out for us. Caution: There is some strong language.


By Jerry Spinelli

"She was homeschooling gone amok." "She was an alien." "Her parents were circus acrobats." These are only a few of the theories concocted to explain Stargirl Caraway, a new 10th grader at Arizona's Mica Area High School who wears pioneer dresses and kimonos to school, strums a ukulele in the cafeteria, laughs when there are no jokes, and dances when there is no music. The whole school, not exactly a "hotbed of nonconformity," is stunned by her, including our 16-year-old narrator Leo Borlock: "She was elusive. She was today. She was tomorrow. She was the faintest scent of a cactus flower, the flitting shadow of an elf owl."

Stargirl is one of those rare novels that speaks to the individual in all of us. The person who notices strange things and revels in it, the person who acts without fear, the person who doesn’t let the ‘crowd’ tell you who you are. Stargirl was one of the best reads I’ve had in a long time. I really wish I’d read it in high school. It’s told from the point of view of Leo, a boy who sees the spectacular in a girl who isn’t afraid to be herself. Leo represents so many people who conform to society’s expectations only to let the truly special slip through his fingers. It’s a coming of age novel that will warm your heart and help you be a little braver about being yourself with no limits.