Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Artemis Fowl

Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, #1)Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bravo to Eoin Colfer for writing a book that is fun, engaging, exciting, and yet still reads like a sophisticated piece of literature. Colfer manages to retain the integrity of good writing while creating a world young people will truly enjoy reading about.

Organized crime, kidnapping, mysterious disappearances, robbery, high-tech weaponry, and...fairies! This is not some rainbow-hugging, frilly, dancing unicorn book. This is a suspenseful adventure novel that appeals to all gender identities while including soldiers and creatures of fantasy.

Artemis Fowl comes from a long line of high-class criminals. He lives the posh life in Fowl Manor in Ireland, which has been in his family for generations. His housemates include his bodyguard (Butler), Butler's sister (Juliette), and Artemis' delusional mother (Angeline). His father has been missing ever since the Russian Mafia sunk his boat filled with Coca-Cola merchandise somewhere off the Kola peninsula.

Artemis is a 12 year old genius with an IQ to rival Einstein. He is also a master criminal. He also has proof that fairies exist!

The Fowl Family fortune has been depleted as of late and Artemis is determined to replenish it by any means possible. He needs more money to try and look for his missing father, whom Artemis refuses to believe is dead. He plans to use his unique knowledge of The People (fairies) to garner a large sum of gold ingots. His plan is to force The People (fairies) into giving up their gold by kidnapping one of their best officers, Holly Short. However...Holly is not your average elf!

Artemis may have met his match.

This is the first of 8 books in the Artemis Fowl series. I highly recommend this series to avid readers who love fantasy and adventure.

Ages 12+

The Sword of Summer

The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, #1)The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Okay, so let me begin by saying that I get why kids love Rick Riordan books. He mixes mythology with relatable characters and a lot of humor. The vocabulary is basic, easy to read, and the books are full of action. I get it- they're fun.


I am not a Rick Riordan fan.

I have tried. I read the first 3 Percy Jackson books and now have read the first Magnus Chase book. I gave it a shot. I just don't like them.

I feel as if Riordan's content is developmentally at a 7th grade level, while the reading level sits somewhere around a 4th grade level. The humor is very juvenile but there is violence and content that is not really suited for elementary school.

I also feel as if the humor detracts from the story- making the characters seem silly and lacking in depth.

My son enjoys these books and, since we listen to them together, I will probably read a few more. I get it- kids like them. I am just personally not a fan. I will continue to recommend Riordan books because I see their value...but I don't have to like it.

The Sword of Summer gets 3 stars from me. Kids will learn a lot about Norse mythology and find Magnus Chase to be someone they can completely relate to. There are other endearing characters throughout the book as well, such as a deaf elf named Hearthstone and a fashion designing dwarf named Blitzen.

Magnus has been living on the streets ever since strange wolves murdered his mother in their Boston apartment. He has learned to survive as a homeless teen. On his 16th birthday, Magnus is reunited with an estranged Uncle who warns Magnus that he is in danger and must find the "Sword of Summer." Events go awry, and Magnus winds up dead- but reincarnated as a soldier of Valhalla. He goes on an adventure to reclaim the Sword of Summer and defeat the fire-giant named Surt and the Wolf, Fenris. Hilarity occurs throughout.

Maze Runner

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)The Maze Runner by James Dashner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is actually a review of books 1-3: Maze Runner, Scorch Trials, and Death Cure. So, be advised there may be spoilers.

The series is a well-written, engaging, Dystopian story with a far-fetched premise.

Sun flares have scorched the world killing millions of people. Those who remain have been exposed to a biological weapon that seems to have accidentally been released from a government facility. Anyone infected becomes an insane, cannibal.

The existing government has selected teenagers to be a part of a psychological experiment which is meant to map out brain patterns to reveal why some people are immune to the disease (called "The Flare"). The experiment requires the teens to have their memories wipes and then be abandoned to an artificial environment called "The Glade" in which they have to avoid murderous monsters and solve a maze to survive.

How this experiment could map out a cure for a disease escapes my understanding. The scientists claim the situations they force the kids in to reveal brain patterns of those who are immune and this will help them to create a cure. To me, this seems quite a stretch.

In the Scorch Trials they have left the glade and are forced into a desert filled with infected people. They have to survive this as part of the experiment.

In the Death Cure, they are fighting against the very organization that put them into this experiment.

There are two prequel books, Fever Code and Kill Order, which I have not read. They may help to clear up how the experiment could actually lead to a cure. However, after completing the series, I lost interest.

Again, they are engaging and well-written. I just could not get past what I considered a weak plot thread.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Scrivener's Moon

Scrivener's Moon (Fever Crumb, #3)Scrivener's Moon by Philip Reeve

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This third installment of the Fever Crumb series deconstructs all preconceived ideas the reader may have had for the direction of Fever's life and builds new hopes in a more favorable path for Fever to follow. Fever redefines her concepts of love, lust, loyalty, and morality. She learns that each person has to determine what is right for them and that our parents can be as lost on their path as anyone. She also learns the secret of her biology and the history of the Scriven Race.

This story takes Fever and Wavey Godshawk into the far North in search of knowledge about the Scriven Race that may lie hidden in an ancient pyramid. Unfortunately, they are met with battle instead. The Nomadic Tribes of the North are bent on war with the London Machine and Wavey and Fever become caught in the crossfires.

All bets are off in Scrivener's Moon. Forget any concepts of "Good Guys" and "Bad Guys" because they are all challenged. Power, greed and ignorance lead the people of the world into war, and Fever no longer knows or accepts where she is supposed to fit in among all the warring factions.

Her very identity is questioned and redefined.

Fever matures greatly in this story. She sheds the juvenile need to compartmentalize people, and ideologies. She develops the courage to define her world in a way that suits her principles.

A fourth book is definitely due and, I believe, it will have a revolutionary role for our young Heroine.

Recommended for ages 13+.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Raven King

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle, #4)The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Raven King is the 4th and final installation of Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Cycle.

Rarely do I read a book that pulls me in so completely. If you told me I could pack my things and move in to 300 Fox Way, I wouldn't hesitate. If only such a world could be: Psychics that actually have ability; land that actually thrums with magickal energy; everyday people who can Scry, manifest dream objects, or command magickal entities with intentional thought! I am smitten with the world of the Raven Cycle.

The characters of this series are intoxicating.  Blue Sargent is one of my favorite female protagonists. She is strong, relatively secure, and layered. She loves without sacrificing her identity. She is loyal and just. All of the Raven Boys have my heart: Gansey for honoring his truth, Adam for his willingness to evolve, Ronan for his bravery to love in the face of so much loss, and Noah for holding on to life with all that is left in him. Even Henry, a recent addition to the crew, has charmed me with his honest search for friendship. What I love best about the characters is that they can ebb and flow between good and evil- sometimes landing firmly on one side or the other- but usually choosing which side of the spectrum to be closest to through their choices. Even those who have done unspeakable things can find redemption.

What is this series about? You could say it is about the quest to find an ancient Welsh King. You could say it is about magic and curses and destiny. You could say it is about romance and friendship, betrayal and forgiveness, growth and maturity. But ultimately, it is about
manifesting your dreams.

The Raven Cycle is about being true to your core whether that means to defy expectations and chase your survive abuse with the strength to strive for allow yourself to love despite the cruelty of the world...or to face what you are given in life and not be afraid to demand more.

Keep dreaming, Maggie Stiefvater, your work is enchanting!

Recommended for ages 13+.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Web of Air

A Web of Air (Fever Crumb, #2)A Web of Air by Philip Reeve

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fever Crumb ends her first adventure knowing the secret of her parentage but, with London in upheaval, she decides to leave in order to contemplate all she's learned.

Two years later, in A Web of Air,we find Fever, Ruin and Fern living aboard Persimmon's Electric Lyceum, a barge theatre newly wired electrically by Fever's own hand.

Fever tries to console her Engineer Soul by telling herself that she is furthering science by bringing technology to the barge, but she isn't content.

The crater, called Mayda, where they have recently stopped to perform, seems a boring and backwards place to Fever. That is, until the day a small, scientifically designed, paper aircraft comes sailing her way. The plane lands at her feet as an Angel, one of the semi-intelligent birds that live in Mayda, says to her "Thursday, Try to fly."

What or who is Thursday? Did Thursday design this craft? If so, is another Rational person in this place trying to seek Fever out? The problem is, whenever she mentions the name Thursday to anyone in Mayda, she is told a tale of madness, hubris, and a Sea Goddesses' revenge. It is all quite Irrational.

This is a story of mystery, murder, and questionable morality. Fever learns that trust can become a liability, there may be more to people than first perceived, and that evil can wear many faces. Most poignantly, she learns that Good is a relative term.

I have a vision for how I'd like to see this series play out. I hope Fever becomes the Revolutionary I see developing within her. I hope she learns not to take NO for an answer. I especially hope she negates the legacy of her parentage to become something better.

Ages 11+

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Fever Crumb

Fever Crumb (Fever Crumb, #1)Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fever Crumb was my first introduction to the writing of Philip Reeve. What a pleasant surprise to discover a new world, sans magic, but with a type of mysticism that borders on the Fantastic.

The story takes place in London a few thousand years after the collapse of the world as we know it.

The disastrous series of ecological and man-made events that destroyed our "ancient" human society is called the "Downsizing." Most of humanity perished, with entire countries being swallowed up by the sea.

This new world has a Victorian, Steam-Punk feel to it, with most people being illiterate and knowledge being kept in the hands of the few. Technology is almost completely lost. What is left of it is closely controlled and even feared, as it is assumed that it was technological progress which destroyed the ancient world.

The map of the Earth has been permanently altered. America is thought to be a completely dead continent. There no longer are countries like England or Italy but, instead, there are a series of cities in one of the surviving land masses called Europa. London is one such city.

In London, a mutant race of humans, called the Scriveners, has recently been overthrown after generations of claiming their supremacy over Homo Sapiens. They had ruled with cruelty and violence and the city is still raw from their influence.

This is the world into which Fever Crumb is born.

Supposedly left on the doorstep of the Order of Engineers when she was only months old, Fever is the only female to be taught the scientific ways of the Order. She has been raised by Dr. Crumb to be rational, unemotional, and methodically scientific. She has never lived anywhere or with anyone other than with the Engineers.

When a Doctor named Kit Solent comes to the order to request Fever's assistance on a Scientific endeavor, Fever has her first trip outside the safety of the Order's walls. A lovely girl with an unusual set of eyes- one brown, one gray- Fever sparks suspicion in the minds of the uneducated Londoners who see her on the streets. Anyone different could be a Mutation, like the Scriven scum who relentlessly ruled them for so long. It isn't long before the suspicion of the London Commoners turns to violence and Fever is forced into a most irrational adventure.

Fever Crumb is an excellent first installment in this series by Philip Reeve. Recommended to readers who like Science Fantasy, Dystopian Fiction, and Adventure. Ages 11+.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There (Fairyland, #2)The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I fell in love with the Fairyland created by Catherynne M. Valente after reading the first book in this series. I was very much looking forward to another adventure! When I realized that this installment would be taking place in Fairyland Below (the Shadow version of Fairyland) I was initially disappointed. However, this proved to be another wonderful tale!

When September lost her Shadow in the first book, she never dreamed that her Shadow would become a nefarious force of its own. Self-named Halloween the Hollow Queen, September's Shadow is ruling Fairyland Below and is abducting the Shadows from everyone in Fairyland Above! The loss of shadows is draining the magic from Fairyland above, transforming it into an ordinary world!

September knows that she must restore balance to Fairyland but The Shadows want to retain their freedom. The only clue September can find that might help to restore order is an old legend of a Sleeping Prince. September travels to find this Prince, with the Shadows of her friends A through L and Saturday, but it just isn't the same as being with her actual friends. Friends and Enemies just aren't what September expects down in Fairyland below.

September is an excellent role model for young adults, especially young women. She isn't afraid to question what she finds unjust and challenge the norm. She is compassionate, brave and self-respecting. She is much more than just an ordinary girl from Nebraska. September is a fierce heroine whose adventures are unique and exciting. I highly recommend this series.

Ages 12+.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland, #1)The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let me begin by saying that Catherynne M. Valente understands Tweens.

Many middle grade authors underestimate the fortitude and depth of older children and choose to write adventures for them that are relatively safe, bloodless, superficial, and irritatingly wholesome. Tweens are none of these things. Tweens are the most vulnerable, primal, and honestly human people on Earth. They are wounded so very easily and yet, they can be just as cruel as they can be kind. These older children understand so much more about the world than most adults give them credit for. So, why do many authors overly sugar coat their stories with near-misses, and the suffocating veil of puritanism in an unnecessary attempt to protect the psyches of 10 to 14 year old readers?

Tweens can handle a meatier story. They can bear a little blood.

Catherynne M. Valente's novel, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is a tween novel with backbone. Have your dictionary handy kids, because Valente doesn't shy away from using high-level vocabulary words that even grown-ups may need to look up. She also doesn't shy away from writing a story that realistically shows the cruelty and violence of conflict while granting her readers the joy and magical fantasy of a true fairy-tale. There is blood. There is violence. There is even a tiny bit of chaste nudity. However, even though this novel is not in anyway a fluffy, safe, and predictable tale- it is still completely suitable for tweens (as well as teens and adults who still possess their imaginations.)

Remember Alice and her plummet down a Rabbit Hole? Dorothy and her enchanted twister-ride over a rainbow? Lucy and her stumble through a wardrobe? Those girls have nothing on September, the Heroine in Valente's tale.

September, a regular 12 year old girl from Omaha, Nebraska, is offered a chance to visit Fairyland by a handsome Green Wind and his flying Leopard. Of her own accord, she accepts and is "Ravished" away. When she arrives, Fairyland is in peril because a terrible Marquess has murdered their queen and seized control. This Marquess has denied Fairyland its true nature and forces the fairy world to behave in a mundane, unfairylike manner.

September finds herself on a quest in which she meets wonderful friends, perilous dangers, and has to collect enchanted objects in order to set things right. While that sounds like the usual way of a quest- there is a difference. September chooses her quest. From the very beginning, September chooses the difficult path over the easy one. She doesn't complain or incessantly whine about wanting to return home. She isn't helpless. She is a fierce, flawed, and forthright tween who doesn't flinch in the face of adventure and adversity. With the company of a Wyvern, a Marid, and a Tsukumogami (and yes, I had to look up two of those words when I read the book), she makes her way through Fairyland until she ultimately has to face the Marquess.

The glorious thing about this novel is that it is part of a series! I add this tome to my list of favorite books, an honor I do not readily offer. It sits in excellent company amongst titles like Gaiman's The Graveyard Book and Pullman's His Dark Materials series. Do yourself the grandest of favors and check this book out from your library, or buy it from your local bookstore. You will thank me for the recommendation.

5 Stars
Ages 10 (if a strong reader) and up.

Visit this link to read the prequel to the story:
The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland for a Little While

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Library of Souls

Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #3)Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This final installment of the Peculiar Children series doesn't disappoint. Jacob Portman begins the story battling with a Hollowgast and discovers that there is more to his gift that being able to see them. In a moment of desperation, he learns that he can not only speak to the Hollow- but he can control it as well. This new power becomes his weapon as he and Emma embark on a journey to recover their kidnapped friends from the evil Caul. Their search for their Peculiar friends leads them to a slum called Devil's Acre, where all the nefarious Peculiars live. Devil's Acre is also the stronghold of the Wights. Jacob and Emma learn that there are plans in place for the Wights to find and conquer the mythical Library of Souls which would mean the end of balance and any chance of peace in Peculiardom. With new friends, new powers, and a newly discovered confidence, Jacob begins his most dangerous adventure yet. If the Wights cannot be stopped, every Peculiar soul is in danger of being stolen.

A thrilling conclusion to a uniquely imagined series. Ages 12+.

The Eleventh Plague

The Eleventh PlagueThe Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an impressive debut novel. What begins as a post apocalyptic account of survival becomes a snapshot of humanity in all its beauty and hideousness.

Stephen Quinn and his family survived an influenza pandemic which decimated humankind. They make a living by Salvaging things to trade. Stephen's abusive grandfather dies, leaving Stephen and his father to fend for themselves for the first time ever in their lives. It doesn't take long before Stephen's father is hurt and Stephen has to find sanctuary.

Through serendipitous circumstances, Stephen winds up in an actual town called "Settler's Landing." A town is a rarity in this post pandemic society and this town seems Utopic in its ability to work together and offer its residents a life very similar to how things were before the plague. Stephen wonders if he has finally found a place where he can belong and have a future. However, there are troubles in this town. There is greed and a struggle for power. There is danger from the outside world. There is selfishness. The peace that "Settler's Landing" has known is at risk and Stephen has a central role to play.

An engaging read for fans of dystopian fiction. Recommended for ages 12+.