February 28, 2012

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Title:  Artemis Fowl
Author:  Eoin Colfer
Format: PB
Pages: 278
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Miramax, 2002
ISBN-13: 978-0786817078
Series: Artemis Fowl, Book 1

Favorite Quotes:  Carry me always, carry me well.  I am thy teacher of herb and spell.  I am thy link to power arcane.  Forget me and thy magick shall wane.

If the Mud People knew that the word "leprechaun" actually originated from LEPrecon, an elite branch of the Lower Elements Police, they'd probably take steps to stamp them out.  Better to stay inconspicuous and let the humans have their stereotypes.

"D'Arvit!" growled Root.  (There is no point translating that word, as it would have to be censored.)

Synopsis (PBS):  Artemis Fowl is a one of the greatest criminal minds the world has ever seen. He is heir to the Fowl family empire -- a centuries old clan of international underworld figures and con artists. He is arguably the most cunning Fowl of all. He is also twelve years old. — Artemis' interest in mythology and an obsession with the Internet leads him to discover proof of the existence of "The People" -- otherwise known as fairies, sprites, leprechauns and trolls. He learns every fairy has a magical Book. If he can find the Book, it will lead him to "The People's" vast treasure of gold.

With his brutish sidekick, Butler, he sets his plans in motion. Artemis tricks a drunken old fairy woman into loaning him her Book, a tiny golden volume, for thirty minutes. He scans it with a digital camera and emails it to his Mac G6 computer. Back in his mansion in Ireland, he is the first human to decode the secrets of the fairies.

Artemis needs a leprechaun to help him with this plan. He and Butler hunt down Holly Short, a tough, female LEPrecon, part of a gung-ho Fairy commando unit, who is on a reconnaissance mission.

He kidnaps her, and a major battle begins. It's satyr against gnome, man against elf, and for the first time in his life, Artemis must decide what he values most.

Review:  What a great book!  I've been wishing I could find another good youth / YA fantasy series and it looks like I have.  The book is laugh-out-loud funny in places and touching in others.  It is full of action and excitement.  The characters are great, especially Artemis, although I really did adore the dwarf, Mulch. 

I love any book about the Fae and this one is especially fun, since it has high tech mixed with old lore.  I'm not sure what age range this is meant for, but it's certainly entertaining enough for an adult.  I simply couldn't pick just one favorite quote and actually could have chosen more.  One of my favorite books I've read this year.  I will absolutely be continuing this series.

Rating:  10 / 10

February 27, 2012

The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan

Title:  The Ruins of Gorlan
Author:  John Flanagan
Format: PB
Pages: 249
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Scholastic 2006
ISBN-13: 978-0439903769
 Ranger's Apprentice, Book 1

Favorite Quote:  For, standing aside from the crowd, wrapped in his gray and green mottled cloak, his eyes shadowed by the cowl, was Halt.  And he was smiling.

Synopsis (PBS):  He had always wanted to be a warrior. The Rangers, with their dark cloaks and shadowy ways, made him nervous. The villagers believe the Rangers practice magic that makes them invisible to ordinary people. And now fifteen year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger's apprentice. What he doesn't realize yet is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing. The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom. This time, he will not be denied.... 

Review:  I have one word for this book.  Disappointment.  I collected the entire series, thinking I would love them.  And I just didn't.  It wasn't terrible, but it certainly isn't great.  

The characters were likable enough and the story was interesting but somehow this series just doesn't appeal to me.  It's geared towards too young of an audience, I think.  It was too clean.  I never thought I'd say that, but it's true.  If you've got children of the right age, this book is completely safe.  Take my word for it.

I won't be reading the rest of the series. Thankfully, there are other people who do seem to love this series so at least I'll be getting some credits on PBS.

Rating:  4.5 / 10

February 22, 2012

The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer

Title:  The Inner Circle
Author:  Brad Meltzer
Format: HC
Pages: 448
Genre: Thriller
Publisher: Grand Central, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0446577892
Series: Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  "You may be right.  But then I keep thinking...the whole purpose of the Plumbers was to take people you trust and use them to build a wall around you.  That wall protected you and insulated you.  And now that wall is gone," I say.  "So what're you gonna do now, sir?"  Standing from my seat and heading for the door, I add, "You have a good night, Mr. President."

Synopsis (PBS):  #1 New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer returns with a pulse-pounding new novel of lies and deception at the highest levels of government. There are stories no one knows. Hidden stories. I love those stories. And since I work in the National Archives, I find those stories for a living.So says Benjamin January, a young archivist who spends his days working with the most important documents of the U.S. government. When Clementine Kaye, his first childhood crush, shows up at the Archives asking for his help tracking down her long-lost father, Benjy tries to impress her by showing her the secret vault where the President of the United States privately reviews classified documents. It is also where Benjy and Clementine accidentally happen upon a priceless artifact-a 200-year-old dictionary that once belonged to George Washington-hidden inside a desk chair. Eager to discover why the President is hiding this important national treasure, the two soon find themselves entangled in a web of deception, conspiracy, and murder that will reveal the most well kept secret of the U.S. Presidency.

Review:  I discovered this author not that long ago, sometime last year I believe, and I really do like his books.  He reminds me of Tom Clancy.  Perhaps his books aren't quite as good as Mr. Clancy's, but they are a good substitute. 

I liked the main characters, but I especially enjoyed Tot, the older archivist who is Benjamin's mentor.  I even liked the psychopath, Nico, and ended up feeling pretty sorry for him in the end. 

There was plenty of action.  Several people died.  There were shootouts and car chases.  In other words, pretty much what you expect from a Thriller.

I didn't see the ending coming until it came.  I wasn't sure who were the bad guys and who were the good guys until the last few pages.  I love when a book keeps me guessing and surprises me. 

Rating:  8 / 10

February 17, 2012

Feather Stroke by Sydney Van Scyoc

Title:  Feather Stroke
Author:  Sydney Van Scyoc
Format: PB
Pages: 264
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Avon, 1989
ISBN-13:  978-0380754380 
Series: Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  "And perhaps one day your great-grandchild will come to explore the inland, and he will hear stories of a fugitive priest who grew very wise and full of years and never regretted being alone because he didn't feel alone at all, not so long as he could hear the birds sing."

Synopsis (PBS):  The girl Dara was as plain as the buildings of the simple folk, as gray as the land they called their own. Yet there was a fire behind her eyes. Unbidden, her thoughts took flight to the world her grandmother knew, when water and wind had names, and the people had souls that sang. Frightened, she pushed this world away... — Then one day, the world came to her. Danger, in the form of a rider, splendid in gold and red. Wisdom, in the vision of the Ilijhari, the mountain folk who could see through the eyes of their birds.

And Destiny, for those with the wings to ride the air.

Review:  I really, really, really enjoyed this story.  So many Fantasy books rehash old tales.  This one seemed to me to be almost fully original.  Dara is a good main character.  I loved all the characters, in fact, even the 'bad' ones.  

I thought the Ilijhari had an obvious relationship to the American Indian culture, only with a new twist.  The bonding between them and their birds is a great addition to the story.

The book was impossible to put down and a really fast, easy read.  This could be almost listed as a Science Fiction / Fantasy because it is set after a terrible amount of damage was done by past people, which sounded like it could have been nuclear war.  But, the story felt like a Fantasy, so there is where I put it.  Ms. Van Scyoc has yet to disappoint me and she didn't this time either.  Highly recommended. 

Rating:  10 / 10

February 12, 2012

Escape by Carolyn Jessop

Title:  Escape
Author:  Carolyn Jessop
Format: HC
Pages: 413
Genre: Biography
Publisher: Broadway, 2007
ISBN-13:  978-0767927567
Series: Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  Nine lives were at stake:  those of my eight children and my own.

Synopsis (PBS):  The dramatic first-person account of life inside an ultra-fundamentalist American religious sect, and one woman’s courageous flight to freedom with her eight children. — When she was eighteen years old, Carolyn Jessop was coerced into an arranged marriage with a total stranger: a man thirty-two years her senior. Merril Jessop already had three wives. But arranged plural marriages were an integral part of Carolyn’s heritage: She was born into and raised in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), the radical offshoot of the Mormon Church that had settled in small communities along the Arizona-Utah border. Over the next fifteen years, Carolyn had eight children and withstood her husband’s psychological abuse and the watchful eyes of his other wives who were locked in a constant battle for supremacy.

Carolyn’s every move was dictated by her husband’s whims. He decided where she lived and how her children would be treated. He controlled the money she earned as a school teacher. He chose when they had sex; Carolyn could only refuse—at her peril. For in the FLDS, a wife’s compliance with her husband determined how much status both she and her children held in the family. Carolyn was miserable for years and wanted out, but she knew that if she tried to leave and got caught, her children would be taken away from her. No woman in the country had ever escaped from the FLDS and managed to get her children out, too. But in 2003, Carolyn chose freedom over fear and fled her home with her eight children. She had $20 to her name.

Escape exposes a world tantamount to a prison camp, created by religious fanatics who, in the name of God, deprive their followers the right to make choices, force women to be totally subservient to men, and brainwash children in church-run schools. Against this background, Carolyn Jessop’s flight takes on an extraordinary, inspiring power. Not only did she manage a daring escape from a brutal environment, she became the first woman ever granted full custody of her children in a contested suit involving the FLDS. And in 2006, her reports to the Utah attorney general on church abuses formed a crucial part of the case that led to the arrest of their notorious leader, Warren Jeffs.

Review:  This was an incredibly eye-opening book.  It was very hard to read in places.  I really had no idea there were people living in this manner.  The entire lifestyle of the members of the FLDS is strange and unbelievable and, really, horrifying to me.  Ms. Jessop's bravery inspired me and her story is unlike any other I've read.

This was a fast read and almost impossible to put down.  It wasn't the best book I've ever read, but it was well worth the time to read.

Rating:  7 / 10

February 6, 2012

Damiano by R.A. MacAvoy

Title:  Damiano
Author:  R.A. MacAvoy
Format: PB
Pages: 211
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Spectra, 1988
ISBN-13: 978-0553274806
Series: Damiano, Book 1

Favorite Quote: She was a small dog, knee-high, very heavy in the head and shoulders, and bandy-legged.  Ugly.  Her color was white, except for a saddle mark over her shoulders, and so she was called Macchiata, which is to say, Spot.

Synopsis (Back Cover):  One of the most highly praised fantasy epics of the decade, R.A. MacAvoy's A Trio for Lute is a masterful blend of history, magic and adventure.  Set against the turbulent backdrop of fourteenth-century Europe, this magnificent saga tells of the extraordinary quest of Damiano Delstrego, a young wizard's son.

Review:  I started the omnibus edition of this trilogy.  Unfortunately, I didn't really care all that much for the first book, so I'm stopping here.  It wasn't a horrible tale, by any means, it just wasn't as great as I expected.  My favorite character, Macchiata the dog, dies in the story which really did not add to the entire experience for me.  Granted, she comes back as a ghost, but that just isn't the same. 

I didn't actually like any of the other characters that much, including the main character, Damiano.  Even the angel Raphael didn't do anything for me.  There were some really good parts and some not so great ones.  All in all, I won't be finishing this trilogy.

Rating:  4.5 / 10

February 1, 2012

January 2012

I sure wish I was reading like I used to. On June 18, 2011, my 15-year marriage ended through no decision of mine.  I've lost a home, a life, a husband, and a life-style that I had grown used to throughout most of my adult life.  I really can't blame myself for the side effects it has had, but it's funny how life changes create ripples in even areas that seem unrelated.  I'm doing pretty well, all things considered, but my life-time love affair with reading has suffered immeasurably.

 I only read 5 books, for a total of 1789 pages this month. That is really awful, and it's been going on for months! Maybe I need to stop taking on challenges if I can't do better than this!!

1.  The Veil by Diane Noble  (6.5/10)
2.  House Rules by Jodi Picoult  (8.5/10)
3.  The Mocking Program by Alan Dean Foster (7.5/10)
4.  Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (8/10)
5.  The X-Files: Ruins by Kevin J. Anderson (8/10)

I read one Historical Fiction, one Fiction, two Science Fiction, and one Thriller.  Hands down, my favorite book is obvious.

Favorite book of the month:  House Rules by Jodi Picoult
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