Having just missed one hundred books in the first year of The Book Challenge, in 2010, I made the full tonne. Still reading, but without the challenge, take a look at the reviews for the books that I have read this year.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Book 43 - Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident

Book - Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident
Author - Eoin Colfer
Year - 2001
Genre - Fantasy
Pages - 288
Series - Artemis Fowl

The last of the books in this little flurry of reviews that I have put up today is the follow up to the previous book.  I usually try not to read two books in the same series one after another - I like to mix things up a little - but I was pretty excited to get a start on the second one here, and decided that as I have failed on this front several times in the past, it couldn't hurt to do so once more.

The same characters are there - Fowl, Holly, Root and Fowl's butler, Butler (this seemingly unimaginative coincidence is explained nicely in the book, but you can read it to find out), but this time they are working together in a compound plot that involves the rescue of Artemis' presumed dead father from the Arctic, and a goblin rebellion below the ground.  I have read somewhere that Colfer describes his Artemis Fowl series as "Die Hard with fairies" and this is a concept that I can get behind entirely.  There is a sense of action that is interspersed with both fantasy and humour that makes this series incredibly readable.  I mentioned in the last review about how there will always be parallels between any fantasy book with a young male protagonist, and Harry Potter.  I probably should have mentioned however, just how different these books are, whilst simultaneously being exactly the right kind of thing for each other's markets.

The best thing is that this is a series of eight books, so I still have another six to look forward to. Shall start gathering together my Christmas pennies...


Book 42 - Artemis Fowl

Book - Artemis Fowl
Author - Eoin Colfer
Year - 2001
Genre - Fantasy
Pages - 277
Series - Artemis Fowl

I remember my Mum suggesting this book to me years and years ago when I was pining for a new Harry Potter book.  As a fantasy series based around a young boy, there would always be comparisons made, but this series has a twist - instead of being a young hero, the eponymous Artemis is a young criminal.

Artemis is a great character.  He is immensely intelligent, incredibly wealthy and manages to combine enough bad qualities to make him look a criminal, but enough good qualities to keep him squarely as the main character of the book. This first outing sees him attempt to infiltrate the world of fairies to make himself more money, and introduces the fairy characters of Holly Short and Commander Root - also brilliantly written characters.  You would think from my description that it is a purely character led book, but the plot is brilliant as well.  I won't claim that it has the twists and turns of a literary classic, but it is engrossing throughout, and not just to the children's/young adult's audience that it is nominally aimed at, but even to me as a (slightly) older reader.

I always like starting a new fantasy series, and this is a great one to have gotten going on.  I only wish that I had made the plunge many years ago when my Mum suggested it to me.


Book 41 - Cirque du Freak

Book - Cirque du Freak
Author - Darren Shan
Year - 2000
Genre - Children's Fantasy
Pages - 192

Another book that came about due to it being covered at school (prepare yourself for plenty of these over the next, I don't know, forty years).  This is the first in a series about the young Darren who visits a freak show with his friend Steve.  Darren is a huge fan of spiders and is drawn to the strange spider act in the show.  I don't want to spoil the plot for anyone - I try pretty hard not to in these blogs - and it is pretty tough, as this entire book is pretty much a set up for the series of nine books, but a cursory look at the titles of them should tell you that this is a vampire series.

Vampires are not really my thing.  I am not a fan of gothic fiction particularly, and even when looking at modern books about vampires, there is a tendency to stray towards that kind of a feel.  It is difficult to explain why I have difficulty summoning up much enthusiasm about such a specific branch - I have no problem with most other fantastical creature types - but it simply remains a fact that they are not my cup of tea.  I tend to be able to appreciate them however, and books like Fevre Dream I have found very good (not Twilight though.  Never Twilight.)

So I feel happy enough to say that this is a good book.  It is accessible to younger readers, but the subject is mature enough for teens as well.  I have a feeling that the story will build very nicely, and the characters are set well in this first book.  However, I didn't particularly enjoy it myself.  As it is well written, I didn't hate it, but I just cannot summon up that love for this kind of thing to enjoy myself enough.


Book 40 - Holes

Book - Holes
Author - Louis Sachar
Year - 1998
Genre - Children's
Pages - 241

For those of you who don't know, this September I started a new job.  I am now training to become an English teacher.  All these years of reading plenty of books has paid off.  There is a certain irony to the fact that I now have such little time to read for pleasure nowadays when it is something that I try and persuade teenagers to do, but the one thing I do need to do is read the books that I will be teaching to students.  Whilst this means that I may have a little less choice in the matter of what I am reading at the moment, there is no reason to not include any of these books that I read here on the Book Challenge, is there?  Oh yes, I make the rules up don't I?  Well, review them I shall then.

I actually read Holes during the first Book Challenge in 2009 (the one that I failed at so miserably) and quite liked it.  It is a story about Stanley Yelnats (see if you can find the literary trick in the name... sorry, teacher mode there) who is sent to a camp for young offenders for stealing a pair of sneakers.  It transpires that this is not a normal camp, but instead the campers are forced to dig a five foot hole each day.  Stanley suspects that something is up - and of course for the sake of plot, there is.

It's a cracking book for kids with some great characters, a lovely series of chapters that intersperse the current day with the same place a hundred or so years before, and is also a great book to teach - I managed to put together some great lessons for my Year Sevens based on this one, and imagine I will probably teach it again in the future.


Book 39 - Freedom

Book - Freedom
Author - Jonathan Franzen
Year - 2011
Genre - Fiction
Pages - 570
Lent to me by Angharad Rees

After a bit of a reading block, I was lent Freedom by Angharad this summer with the highest recommendation.  I was feeling pretty frazzled from a lot of reading, so was a little reluctant at the time, but with a full free day ahead of me, I decided to give it a shot.

It is the kind of book that I find tough to categorise in terms of genre.  Set in a roughly contemporary time, and following the lives of a family as they branch out in different directions, the best overall theme I can give it is 'Fiction'.  To give you a little more, we find out in the opening that Walter Berglund has been involved in some kind of a scandal.  We don't know what, but it has made the front page of the New York Times.  What follows is the lives of Walter and his family, with all of the mistakes that they make, and the relationships that follow.  The book is written in several different forms, including a self help autobiography from Walter's wife Patty, alongside traditional narrative, and looks at not just this pair, but also their young Republican son, a washed up rocker, and revelations throughout.

There is nothing startlingly new or different about any of it, but it really doesn't matter when the book is as engaging and entertaining as this one is.  I think I managed to make my way through the whole 570 pages in a little over twenty four hours, which says something about how absorbing it is.  Most of my reading tends toward more specific genres - be it fantasy, autobiography, language etc - so this is not the kind of thing I would often read, but I am glad I did as it is an incredibly good read, and worth picking up if you have a spare day to read (or week if you don't read as fast as a freak like me).