Friday, April 19, 2013

Peaches for Father Francis

Also published as Peaches for Monsieur le Cure

 Yet another book that was not on my planned reading list but that called my name quite insistently when I saw it at the library...sigh. But in my defense, this is the third book in a trilogy (possibly series?) by Joanne Harris that I absolutely adore. The first two, Chocolat and The Girl With No Shadow (also published as The Lollipop Shoes), I didn't blog about on here, but I fell in love with Harris' lyrical style of writing. Until last summer when I read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, I had not seen such beautiful writing, at least not that I can remember. (No, Lord of the Rings doesn't count. That's in a class all its own.)

And before anyone gets upset that I love these books so much, since the main character identifies as a sort of witch, these are magical realism. They aren't real. Yes, set in the real world, alongside Christianity and (in this third book) Islam, but the point in this story isn't the religion. There.


First, a little background on the main character, Vianne Rocher. She is a woman who moves with the wind, never staying in one place for very long. Her mother never had a husband, so Vianne doesn't either. She does, however, have a child. Anouk is a small eight year old girl when she and her mother first blow into the tiny town of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes in the south of France. Her particular magic is making chocolates, and knowing everyone's favourites. Of course, she blows into the tiny conservative town as Lent begins. So, the priest is at odds with her for the entirety of Chocolat. Also in Chocolat Vianne finally allows herself to fall in love, with a river-gypsy with long red hair named Roux (played by Johnny Depp in the movie...mmm.). She does leave the town at the end of the book, with Anouk in tow. In the second book, they find themselves in Paris, with another tiny child, Rosette. The second book has Vianne facing off against a rather wicked foe, a woman who has no shadow, and who is entirely too charming to be true. Turns out she is the stealer of hearts. Roux returns in The Girl With No Shadow as well, which creates another dynamic when he realizes Rosette is his child. (At least if I recall correctly!) Now, as Peaches for Father Francis begins, Vianne has received a letter from Lansquenet, a letter that was written by a dear friend who died when she was there last, eight years ago. The old woman seemed to know that someday, the town would be in trouble and Vianne would be needed again.


This time, the priest, Father Francis Reynaud, is in trouble. And when he sees Vianne, he is surprised, but eventually he accepts her help. The tiny church has been taken over by a hip, new priest, who thinks PowerPoint, guitar, and plastic seating are what the church needs. (UGH.) On the other side of the river, in the area known as Les Marauds, there is yet another problem: a community of Muslims has been growing exponentially, even to the point of building a small mosque. The people were peaceful, and mingled with the townspeople, until a man named Karim Bencharki showed up. Then, the people became hostile and closed up. The women and girls began wearing their headscarves, which they never had before. Father Francis, afraid for his community, and the suspected starter of a fire at Vianne's old chocolaterie that had been turned into a Muslim girls' school, is pretty much at his wits' end. Even the townspeople have mostly turned against him.

So, clearly, much has happened since Vianne Rocher closed up her chocolaterie and left Lansquenet. But, in typical Vianne fashion, she quickly gets to know a few of the people of Les Marauds, though of course she doesn't offer them chocolates right away, since they are in the midst of Ramadan. She does discover that Father Francis is not guilty, and that there is something much deeper going on in the Muslim community that has nothing to do with Lansquenet, but everything to do with their own religion.


My favourite part about these books is that Harris writes about food so well. She can write about something I've never tasted nor even seen and I feel like I can smell it and my mouth waters. Her being French might have something to do with it! These books are also responsible for my new-found obsession with making excellent chocolates (which I haven't gotten around to yet...). And like I said earlier, these books are magical realism, but they really focus more on the people. I know true Islam is not peaceful, and I'm not sure if Harris intended to illustrate that, but she does, in a way, at least in its treatment of women. And though Father Francis is a pretty good example of the Catholic Church's works-centered theology, there's a small bit of truth shining through. And yes, Vianne is a witch, but you know what? She is a helper of the downtrodden, and she exposes things that are best not left in the dark. Does that make sense? Generally, I don't like people, but when you have a tiny community tearing itself apart in the name of religion, well, it makes for an excellent, feel-good story. And if all you take away from the book (or this review) is that small acts of kindness can have a huge impact, then my job is done. :)


Just read the books. Yes, from a Christian point of view, there are many problematic situations, but gosh, it's a book. And quite frankly, these are more decently and modestly written than most other adult novels I've read.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Salt: A World History

You know, it's really frustrating when the internet decides not to work pretty much all week. Especially when I'm knocked out with a terrible cold and don't feel well enough to do much. Oh well. At least I finally got a chance to sit down and finish Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky. It took me a long time to read this 450 page book, though it was fascinating and always held my interest. I guess one can only read so much about salt in one sitting, no matter how engrossing.

I've discovered that my favorite type of nonfiction is about food. I may have said this before, can't remember. But anyway. I had been intending to read this book about salt pretty much since it was published. Actually, that's a lie, because it was published in 2002, which was around the time that I wouldn't even look at a nonfiction book. I think I discovered this book about four years ago, though being in college at the time deterred me from picking up any extra reading. To make a long story short, I came across it earlier this year on the shelf at my library and decided to check it out. I believe I had to return it once, but I checked it out again and finally cracked it open. I'm quite glad I did.

You'd think the history of salt would be pretty mundane. But no. Salt was crucial to preserving food for so long that it became a central part of civilizations and wars. The Chinese were mining/making salt long before the rest of the world. Though, didn't they do almost everything before the rest of the world? The Chinese are a fascinating culture, not least because they've lasted for so long. But I digress.

This book takes you on a journey from sea to underground mine and back again. You see, there are two basic kinds of salt, sea salt and rock salt. Of course, from those two basic kinds you get many types. I sort of wish Kurlansky had included a master list of all types of salt from the various saltmaking regions of the world, but that's just me; I'm a list fanatic. The fact remains that people fought wars over salt, various salted fish, and the best salt-producing locations. You see, as recently as two hundred years ago, salting was one of the foremost methods of preserving food, whether by pickling or by packing in barrels of salt. It was absolutely necessary.


Kurlansky does a wonderful job of telling the history of the world through the eyes of salt. He doesn't have a great organizing system in regards to his writing, though. Yes, each chapter trots through history in a chronological manner, but he repeated himself a lot and jumped from culture to culture rather quickly. But aside from that, this book is fantastic and will give you a brand new appreciation for the only rock we eat. Four stars, and I hope to read his other books, which include Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World and The Basque History of the World.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March Classics Club Meme

The last monthly meme I did for The Classics Club was back in December. I'll try to remember to participate in these each month, because it's fun and it's a way to meet other book bloggers. Especially those who love the classics!


Do you love Jane Austen or want to “dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone”? (Phrase borrowed from Mark Twain).
  1. Why? (for either answer)?
  2. Favorite and/or least favorite Austen novel? 

As cliche as it may sound, Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors. The only novel of hers that I have not read is Mansfield Park. I seriously adore her witty writing; she had a particular way of gazing upon society that even resonates today.

I think my favorite Austen novel is Persuasion, closely followed by Northanger Abbey. I just can't, in good conscience, say that Pride & Prejudice is my favorite, because it isn't. Absolutely wonderful, yes. Absolute favorite, no. I don't have a least favorite, really, though judging from the film adaptations I've seen of Mansfield Park, that could very well be my least favorite. But I cannot judge that in good conscience either, because I have not yet read it.

Top Ten Books I HAD To Buy...But Are Still Sitting On My Shelf Unread

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly list meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. I've been reading others' posts for this meme for awhile, but this is the first time I've joined in. Hopefully I can keep up with it.

This week's list is all about those books that you just had to have but still haven't read them. Perfect for me, because I shouldn't be allowed in any kind of bookstore with any form of money. *evil grin*

Really, though, I think we all do this at one time or another. For me, I'm usually buying classics or kids' books that I've already read, but there are more than enough books on my shelf to write this list, so here goes.

1. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy (I even pick it up once in awhile!)

2. Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackeray (To be fair, I read most of this on my Kindle, but an e-reader is not in any way conducive to reading a super long and rather convoluted book. The two paper copies I own have been gathering dust for over a year now. Oops.)

3. The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett

4. P.S. I Love You, by Cecelia Ahern (Yes, I love the film. I bought the book at a secondhand shop and it's been sitting on my shelf ever since. I just don't read contemporary romantic fiction that much....)

5. The German Genius, by Peter Watson (I include this because though I started it, that was over a year ago and I haven't picked it up since. It's a really long book! And I'm not much of a non-fiction reader, though I'm challenging myself to change that this year.)

6. The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling (Erm, so, this one I'm about halfway through, so maybe it doesn't really count. But it has been sitting on my shelf with a bookmark in it almost since I bought it. Just something about it wasn't working for me...but I still want to read it!)

7. Anthony Adverse, by Hervey Allen (Watched the film on TCM late one night and tracked down an old copy of the novel soon after, but there it sits.)

8. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke (I even carried this one around in my bag for awhile after I bought it three years ago. Hmm.)

9. The Mysteries of Udolpho, by Ann Radcliffe (What Jane Austen fan doesn't want to read this???)

10. The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrun, by J.R.R. Tolkien (Bought when it first came out, which was kind of a long time ago. Oops.)

There you have it; my list. In no particular order, mind you.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian

 Let me just say that finishing a series that I've invested so much in, both emotionally and time-wise, always comes as a shock. Some people call this feeling of being drained after reading a book a book hangover. Well, that book hangover is infinitely worse when it's an entire series.

When I read the final page of Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian yesterday evening, I closed the book and didn't really know what to do with myself. For a little more than a month now, I'd just close one book and begin the next. Granted, this experience is different than reading, oh, Harry Potter, because I was with that series from the beginning, so I had long waits between books. (Agonizing waits....) But even though I didn't have long to wait for any of the Artemis Fowl books, having gotten lucky at the library when almost the entire series was in at one time, I still don't really know what to do.

This series is not on the emotional level of Harry Potter, nor even quite as high as The Hunger Games. But I invested a lot of feeling in the characters. After the shaky start with the first two books, I was thrown headlong into the world of Artemis and the fairy people, and I really didn't think I could look back. Artemis, Holly, Butler, Foaly, and even Mulch became my friends. There are other characters, too, whom I came to know.


I don't even think I should share much of the storyline of The Last Guardian, because almost anything I share would be giving too much away. Suffice it to say that Artemis' arch nemesis, Opal Koboi, is back, and has an elaborate plan to infuse herself with enough dark magic to take over the world. And, of course, ground zero is the Fowl Estate in the countryside of Ireland.

Ten thousand years ago, where the Fowl Estate now stands, fairy warriors were buried at the Berserker Gate, their souls trapped by an immensely powerful enchantment until such time as someone opens the gate and floods the world with the power of Danu to rid the earth of all humans. At least, this is what Opal plans to do. And it's up to Artemis and friends to stop her.

Only this time, it truly may be the end for the small band.


Knowing the end of this book already (thanks to Maggie, which was totally okay) really didn't change how I felt while I was reading it. No, I didn't feel like my heart was ripped out or anything; it wasn't quite that powerful. But it was heart-wrenching all the same. When an author is able to write in a sacrifice correctly, I always applaud them. And in this case, Eoin Colfer did it well.

I do applaud you, Eoin Colfer, I really do. Your series was excellent, poignant, funny, and all too human. Do I think your books will ever reach the modern classic status of a few other children/teen series I've read? No. But that's okay. I think I like it better when the fandom is low key because then not everybody jumps on the bandwagon. So if no films are ever made, I'll be just fine with that. In fact, with the way Hollywood screws up books these days, we're all a lot better off without the adaptations.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex

Nearly done with the Artemis Fowl series. Not sure how I feel about that, actually. It's been a good series, despite how I felt about the choppy writing in the first two books.

The Atlantis Complex is the seventh book in Eoin Colfer's series. It has a rather different tone from the previous books, but I found it just as funny and poignant. I think it is different because Artemis is trapped inside his own head for part of the story, causing an alternate personality to come to the surface. More on that in a moment.


The late Commander Julius Root's twisted and villainous brother, Turnball Root, is planning a break out of The Deeps, the maximum security prison in Atlantis. Of course, no one but his guard knows this, and that's because he's got a rune spell on him. Meanwhile, Artemis is slowly descending into madness, becoming obsessive about numbers (the number five is good and the number four is bad), and trying desperately to leave his criminal past behind. He has this plan to save the ice caps, dubbed The Project. He calls his friends to Iceland so he can show them his plan. Captain Holly Short, Commander Vinyaya, and Foaly all show up. Unfortunately, things go very badly wrong. A Mars probe that Foaly himself designed has come hurtling towards Iceland. As they scramble to save themselves, Artemis' Project, and figure out what is going on, the probe crashes, killing Vinyaya and injuring the other three. Holly has to shoot (well, more like stun) Artemis to knock him out so that he doesn't do anything stupid, but that causes another problem when he awakes.

Artemis Fowl II is gone, replace by Orion Fowl, a very romantic hero-type alter ego that insists on professing his most ardent love to Captain Holly Short. To her credit, Holly takes it rather gracefully. Or at least without punching him too many times. Many reviewers on GoodReads said that this book sucked and Orion was one of the reasons why, but honestly I thought he was hilarious. And when we get to see Artemis trapped in his own mind rolling his eyes over what his alter ego is saying, it's just great.

So, the probe crashed through the ice and it headed deep into the Atlantic Ocean straight for the city of Atlantis. Turnball Root had this all planned out, of course. He even distracted Butler and his sister Juliet. But there, Mulch Diggums saves the day.


A rather convoluted plot, yes, and certainly not the best in the series. But hilarious and enjoyable, nonetheless. I gave it four stars. I'm sad to see the series at its end. I'm in the middle of The Last Guardian right now, which I know I'm going to love and hate since I know what happens. Oh dear.

I don't know what to read next!!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey

 With the unprecedented success of ITV's drama Downton Abbey, the great English country house Highclere Castle was put back on the map. Not that it was ever truly off the map to begin with, as the current Countess of Carnarvon chronicles in her excellent micro history Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey. First of all, the Carnarvons were one of England's foremost families among the landed gentry. They rubbed elbows with the royals quite regularly. And of course they would, being at the level of Earl.

As Lady Fiona Carnarvon writes her tale, one begins to realize that Highclere may well have toppled at the end of the 19th century. What changed is that the 5th Earl, George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, married Miss Almina Victoria Marie Alexandra Wombwell on June 26th, 1895. Lord George had been in debt for a long time, and Miss Almina had quite the fortune to her name, despite her not-so-delightful social standing. (She was the daughter of Alfred de Rothschild and Marie Wombwell; they were never married.)

Lady Almina Carnarvon was now the Countess, and she went to work on Highclere with a passion. Electricity was installed, as well as plumbed hot and cold water. She quickly became used to managing the household, and throwing extravagant parties was her forte. Each year she also accompanied her husband to Egypt, where he and his friend Howard Carter were embroiled in excavations.

When the Great War began, Almina realized that her passion and true forte lay in nursing. She set up Highclere as a small and incredibly competent hospital. With her father's never-ending money, she was able to afford the best nurses, doctors, and everything else she could have desired. Eventually, the hospital moved to London, but the care remained the same. Many, many soldiers who recovered at Almina's hospital wrote to express their thanks. And the families of those who didn't survive also expressed their gratitude. The hospital did close with the close of the war, though Almina was constantly looking for the opportunity to open one again. (She eventually did.)

And of course, the Carnarvons were a part of the greatest archaeological discovery to date: the finding of the sealed and untouched tomb of King Tutankhamen. The drama surrounding that event is severe. First, Lord Carnarvon was going to withdraw from the excavations that he and Carter had been undertaking for years. The reason was money. In 1922, he prepared to have a conversation that he wished he didn't have to have. Howard Carter was desperate (and at this point, who wouldn't be?), so he decided to pay for one last season of excavation with his own money. This would bankrupt him, as both Carnarvon and Carter knew, and Carnarvon finally agreed to finance one more season.

It was to be one of the best decisions ever, in my opinion. On the 6th of November in 1922, Carnarvon received a cable from his friend that said the following: "At last have made most wonderful discovery in the Valley. A magnificent tomb with seals intact. Recovered same for your arrival. Congratulations." Carter even recovered the entrance to the tomb, as stated in the cable, so that both men could experience it together.

The tomb they had been searching for had at last been found. Sadly, Lord Carnarvon didn't live to see the sarcophagus opened, dying of blood poisoning from a mosquito bite. The newspapers made much of this, calling it the "Curse of the Pharaohs" and so on. But the fact remained that he had been a part of such an amazing discovery, and that legacy still lives on.


I've only mentioned a few of the happenings chronicled in this lovely book. I don't want to rewrite everything; you just need to read it. I had to mention the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb, though, because as a child I was obsessed with everything Egyptian, and that was one of my favorite stories. Yet I never remembered the name of Howard Carter's friend and companion who died. I doubt I'll forget it now. It's pretty awesome that he lived in the house that is the setting for one of my favorite television shows of all time. What a fantastic connection.

I hope to visit Highclere someday, and not only because it is the real-life Downton Abbey.
It is a legacy in its own right.

Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox

Not really a fan of this new cover.

Let me just state right now that this was my favorite of the Artemis Fowl books. At least so far. Generally the last book in a series is my absolute favorite, but since this one was all about time travel, it's at the top of the list. Because time travel is one of my favorite things.


So, in the present, Artemis' mother is deathly ill. And somehow, it appears that she has a magical illness, Spelltropy. Artemis fears that he has given it to her in his attempt to heal her with the magic that he appropriated while in the time stream in the last book. Of course, he also completely drains himself of his magic in his attempt.

When Holly and Foaly realize Angeline Fowl has contracted Spelltropy, they think the case is hopeless because the cure is long gone. Artemis thinks all is lost when he realizes that the cure was from a creature that he caused to go extinct when he was just 10 years old. Ouch. Talk about a blow to the ego.

Artemis is not about to just let his mother die. The only option is to go back in time, which generally never turns out well. But Artemis won't back down. He accuses Holly of giving his mother the illness, which is a blatant lie, but Holly believes it. She feels obligated to help. They get the help of the demon warlock N.1 to open the time stream, and back they go.

Once back in time, Holly and Artemis notice a few changes to their appearances -- Holly is an adolescent fairy again, and Artemis is probably around 17 instead of 14. (You can see where this is going, haha.) And, as is typical, nothing goes right from the moment they get moving.


In this particular book, spoilers would be a bad idea, and it's pointless to try and explain some of the events. After all, the entire tale revolves around a time paradox of such huge proportions, there's only one villain in the world of Artemis Fowl who could dream up such a thing. Take a wild guess. But I won't state the name here.


This book was simply excellent. Eoin Colfer gets the paradox right, even if it doesn't seem like it upon first reading. I did have to reread a few sections, just to make sure I knew what was going on. But the beauty of writing about time travel is that you are allowed to miss a few things, because not even the characters themselves would know everything. Five stars.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony

 I finished the fifth Artemis Fowl book a week ago, but of course I didn't write the review immediately. It's been an interesting week. Anyway.

Ten thousand years ago, when the People lost their last battle with the Mud Men (humans), they all retreated underground. All, except for the 8th Family, the demons. The demon warlocks transported their island habitat of Hybras into Limbo, in hopes that they could eventually bring it back to earth. In the process, the demon warlock circle was broken and as a result, Hybras was stuck out of Time.

Fast forward to present day. Young master Artemis has made all the necessary calculations about the demons and has concluded that the time spell is unraveling. This, typically, will be a problem. And who ends up taking care of it?

The dream team of Artemis, Holly Short, Butler, and Foaly, obviously. But things don't exactly as planned(they never do!), since it turns out there is another group of humans who know about the demons. It gets extremely hairy.

Obviously, the world is saved, because that's the way these stories work. But not without a price. Everything that happens on Hybras when it's still in Limbo takes place really fast (relatively speaking, since there wasn't exactly any passage of time, haha), but when they eventually bring the island back, it's been three years on earth. Which wouldn't have been a huge problem except that Artemis didn't age, plus he and Holly swapped one eyeball in the time stream. Talk about a mess.


I enjoyed this book immensely. The whole Limbo, Time, etc. thing was just awesome. Any stories about time travel I generally eat right up. Plus, we got some hilarious new characters, like N*1 (or No.1, not sure), a demon who thinks he might be a warlock.

These books really do just get better and better. Five stars.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception

Well, that was intense.
First of all, despite yesterday's post where I longed to curl up and read War and Peace, I honestly can't stop reading Artemis Fowl.
I guess it's the fact that I managed to grab the first six books from the library at one time and when I begin a series I like, it's nearly impossible for me to put them down.
So yeah.


The adventures of Artemis and his fairy friends are becoming more dangerous and definitely more life-threatening. The Opal Deception is no exception. Opal Koboi, the pixie behind the goblin rebellion in The Arctic Incident, is back, though no body knows how at first because she's supposed to be in a coma under heavy guard at the hospital. Supposed to be. But when it appears that Captain Holly Short has shot and killed her own commander and then taken off for the surface, the LEP (Lower Elements Police -- forgot to cover that) clearly could have looked elsewhere than Holly.

In fact, Opal has killed Commander Julius Root and was after Artemis Fowl and his bodyguard Butler, as well. Holly had only a short time before they were vaporised by a bio-bomb. Of course, they are saved, but Artemis and Butler don't have any memories of the fairies. They were, after all, mind-wiped at the end of the last book. Look how that turned out. Not well.

Holly brings them up to speed, Mulch Diggums joins the crew, Artemis and Butler get their memories back, and the chase is on. Unfortunately, Holly and Artemis are captured before Artemis even has his memories back. They are nearly killed by trolls, which certainly doesn't help anybody.

With the LEP completely hoodwinked into not even considering Opal's deception (see what I did there?), this book is jam-packed with crazy happenings. I don't want to go any further into the storyline because there's a few spoilers already. But it all happens so quickly at the beginning of the book anyway.


If the books get progressively better like this, I can't imagine what the final book in the series will be like. Unfortunately, I do know a few major spoilers for the end, but I can pretend I don't. And I will give this book 4 stars. Not 5, but 4. I was sufficiently shocked and sad and happy by turns with all the events in this book. I was incredibly sad that Commander Root was murdered, to the point that when Maggie called me last night (to talk about Doctor Who mostly, what else?), what I said to her by way of hello was "Is Commander Root really dead????" Yeah.

If you ever tried to get into the Artemis Fowl series and couldn't get past the first couple of books, please, keep going. They get better. I promise. And you just might find yourself attached to more than a few characters.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

bookish thoughts

Keeping up with more than one blog is not easy. I sort of wish I had kept to one and just made multiple sections, etc. Perhaps that will happen in the future, though it's not likely. I have to organize and categorize things. It's the librarian in me.

Seriously, all the books in my house are (loosely) catalogued in Dewey Decimal. I spent about a month last autumn doing that, much to my husband's dismay. Half the books are his, though, so he shouldn't complain. And now it's super easy for me to find a book! (Doesn't mean we have enough bookshelves, of course....) I did have my own system beforehand, but Dewey makes everything simpler. It's too bad Dewey can't really be used with kitchen cabinets.

I'm almost halfway through the Artemis Fowl series, which is excellent. I have the third book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, but I kind of want to finish Artemis Fowl first. But this snow is making me want to curl up with a big ol' classic tome. Like War and Peace or something Russian. The problem with that is the books already mentioned are library books. Oy vey.

I haven't read a classic in a couple of months, and it's starting to wear on me. Classics are my comfort novels, kind of like PG Tips with a jigger of whiskey is my comfort drink, and any version of Alice in Wonderland is my comfort film. (Or old black and white films. LOVE.)

Do you have a comfort novel?

Anyway. It's tempting to put down Artemis Fowl and pick up War and Peace. It really is. But I did make a promise to my youngest sister that I would finish Eoin Colfer's series. I don't really know what the point of this post is. Just a reader's ramblings, I suppose.

Also, do you like my new background?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code.

After all the complaining I did about Eoin Colfer's writing in the first two Artemis Fowl books, I was pleasantly surprised when I realized the third book wasn't nearly as choppy and badly-written. I guess he grew into the story a bit more? Or something?

Anyway, The Eternity Code was excellent. Fairy technology stolen by a tech magnate (at least that's what I consider Spiro), Butler killed and brought back to life, and apparently even the great Artemis Fowl II's plans can go awry sometimes.

What I found interesting about this book is that it actually didn't seem like Artemis was only in it for himself this time. He had his own motivations for showing the fairy technology to Spiro, but after that he was kind of helpless for a (very) short period of time. And though the entire fairy population was in danger, Holly Short and Mulch Diggums genuinely wanted to help Artemis, not only save themselves.

I like Holly. She's feisty, a good soldier, and clearly has a soft spot for Artemis. She also isn't afraid to disobey orders when they aren't going to help. Not that that's something to always condone, but within the frame of the story, it works.


I'm currently reading The Artemis Fowl Files, which has two short stories about Holly and Mulch, the Gnommish alphabet, interviews with various characters and the author, and various other info about the People. I won't review it in a separate post, but I will say that it's a good addition to the series!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

my first love was a novel

Though of course I can't remember which one.
Perhaps I could say it was Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery, because that's the first book I recall reading that I would consider a novel.
I was nine years old, and Mom had been trying to get me to read the Anne books. Just the first one, she coaxed. I refused, because it seemed to me in my headstrong brain that any book my mother recommended wasn't something I would enjoy. Eventually, I ran out of books to read, so I secretly started reading Anne of Green Gables. So secretly in fact, that I was hiding the book in the kitchen cabinet by the phone. Not even kidding. I also don't know why, fifteen years later, I can remember this with such clarity. Actually, maybe I do. It was my entry into the world of classic novels and absolutely beautiful worlds. Plus, Anne Shirley is definitely the first character I came across that made me want to be a redhead.

I never did finish the Anne series; I reread the first three a few times, though. I've read other books by L.M. Montgomery, too. Such an idyllic world, there on Prince Edward Island. I have a feeling it's also Anne Shirley's fault that I'm in love with the Victorian and Edwardian eras. (And the Betsy-Tacy series.)

So, my first love was a novel. (Incidentally, age nine was also when I had my first real crush on a boy...which lasted until we were fifteen.) Since then, there have been many other novels I fell in love with. On this Valentine's Day, let me share with you a list of novels that I love and are, incidentally, kind of about love. And not just the romantic kind. Friendship love is just as important!

  • Persuasion, Jane Austen (and her other novels, but this one is the sweetest, I think.)
  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
  • Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte (this is one of my favorite novels of all time.)
  • Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh (NOT a woman. this book is a great story about intense friendship and love and how they can entangle themselves in ways that aren't good.)
  • Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
  • To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee (more about friendship and acceptance.)
  • Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell (just a powerful tome all around.)
  • A Girl of the Limberlost, Gene Stratton-Porter (more about familial love, and heart-wrenching, too.)
  • I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith (I liken this a bit to Brideshead Revisited in theme.)

There you have a short list. I will add one honorable mention, because it's one of my favorite novels ever and should have "classic" status: The Scottish Chiefs, by Jane Porter. Published in 1809, this is a highly Romanticized version of the Scottish fight for freedom with William Wallace and Robert Bruce (who I might be related to!), but oh, so excellent. I made it an honorable mention because the love story between Wallace and his wife is so incredible, Biblical, and pure.

So, what are you favorite novels (classic or modern) about love? And why?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident

Mmkay, so I read this entire book yesterday.
It was just one of those days.

In Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident, we see the same cast of characters returning, though not for all the same reasons. This time it isn't Artemis attacking the fairies. Well, not attacking, exactly, but at any rate it isn't his fault. Captain Holly Short, with a score to settle, thinks the thirteen year old criminal mastermind is behind the goblin uprising (clearly someone is doing weapons trading), and Commander Root believes her. They kidnap Artemis and his bodyguard, Butler, and bring them belowground, where it is quickly discovered that the kid had nothing to do with the goblins. But he could probably help.

The result is that Root and Holly end up assisting Artemis to rescue his father, who is apparently alive (though not quite well) and being held captive in Murmansk, Russia. Fairies hate the cold, and they don't handle radiation well at all. So this is a big thing.

Naturally, both problems become entangled when the goblins stage a revolution in Haven, the fairy capital city, and attempt to assassinate Root and Holly in northern Russia. Yeah. It isn't pretty. And by the end of the story, everything is resolved (as usual). But this time Artemis and the fairies part on good terms After all, they did help save Artemis Fowl the First. It seems that perhaps Artemis isn't destined to be an enemy to the magic folk for all time....


Again, short and slightly convoluted summary. Colfer's writing wasn't really any better in this book, either. And I think the editors for the edition I read were not doing their job. SO MANY SPELLING MISTAKES AND MISSING LETTERS. Erm. Yeah. It was really incredibly annoying. But it's cool to see the relationship between Artemis and Holly going somewhere. I don't mean romantically; I think they could genuinely have a friendship in the near future. They've seen the best and worst of each other already.

Artemis Fowl

My youngest sister (she's almost 13) has been bugging me to read the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer for oh, at least two years now. I think. Being free of college at last (which was almost two years ago...), I have the freedom to read for leisure. But I kept forgetting about dear little Artemis. Sure, I read the first book about four or five years ago while I was working at the library. But that's as far as I got. So I have now taken it upon myself to read the entire series before winter is over. Not a huge problem, since the books aren't that long.

I reread the first book, to reacquaint myself with the characters. Artemis is likeable in a sad way; you feel sorry for him at the beginning -- a missing father (presumed dead) and a very sick mother because of that. Artemis' bodyguard, Butler, doesn't have too much of a personality in this book, but he's quite impressive. The fairies we meet in the first book are rather hilarious. I love Captain Holly Short for her spunk and willingness to disobey orders when they are dumb. Which, let's face it, many of the orders coming from Commander Julius Root are dumb. Root is absolutely hilarious, and I'm sure Colfer meant him to be. Always about to blow his top, it's a wonder that he's in charge at LEP at all! And there's Foaly, the paranoid centaur who controls all the techie stuff. Oh, and we can't forget Mulch Diggums, kleptomaniac extraordinaire. I'm not kidding. He's quite the convict.


As far as the story goes, it's a decent one. Fairies have hidden underground from humans, which they call Mud Men, for many centuries now. They go aboveground for few things, one being to renew their magic. This is how Holly gets captured by Artemis, who has an uncanny knowledge of the fairies. Commander Root stages an attack on Fowl Manor, they discover that Artemis has a copy of the Book, the fairies' holy writ, as it were, and things don't go so hot after that.

That's a simple summary.

The problem I had with this book is that Eoin Colfer is good with weaving a plot but he's kind of a terrible writer. So much of his grammar was bad. Plus, he doesn't use POV and omniscient narrator very well. There were more than a few pages where I couldn't figure out who was saying and/or thinking what.

I gave the book 3 stars because though it's badly written, it's amusing and a clever story.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Omnivore's Dilemma

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

I like books.
I like food.
So it stands to reason that I would like a book about food.

The thing is, I don't read much nonfiction.
I just have a hard time with it.
At least I used to.
But The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, was one of the most fascinating nonfiction books I have ever read.
Not even kidding.


Journalist Michael Pollan sets out to capture the essence of the food industry in modern America. The book is divided into three sections, Industrial: Corn, Pastoral: Grass, and Personal: The Forest. In these three sections, Pollan travels the United States, examining how food comes to the table. It is an incredible journey, and one I admire greatly.

The first section documents the food industry, mainly corn. It amazes me how much corn is in the processed foods we consume. And not even just the processed, boxed foods on the supermarket shelves; even most of the meat we consume has been eating corn (among other disgusting things...) for most of its short and horrible feedlot life. Pollan concludes this section with a McDonald's meal that he discovers is almost 100% genetically modified processed corn. GROSS.

The second section documents the organic food industry, which basically comes down to food that is mass-produced, but without pesticides and antibiotics, etc. The question that he asks himself is this: Is this really what the organic movement was all about? The answer isn't exactly clear-cut, but I agree with him when he says that it shouldn't really be this way, but that it's better than the food in the first section of the book. But in this same section, Pollan visits Polyface Farm, run by Joel Salatin who is a champion of the "beyond organic" movement. His farm was incredible. I can't even begin to do it justice, so you'll just have to read the book. At any rate, I now wish to only consume grass-fed meats and eggs from pastured hens.

The third section, and probably the most fascinating, documents the food foraging that still goes on today. Pollan learns how to shoot a gun, gets himself a license, and goes with a friend to hunt wild pig in Northern California. He talks about the ethics and how he felt about the whole process. He also goes mushroom hunting, which sounds like a huge lesson in patience. And he explores the whole idea of gathering the food you eat, which culminates in a mouthwatering meal.


This is a book that I couldn't really review in detail without giving away some of the surprises within Pollan's story. But his journey and experiences are inspiring in more ways than one. If you read this book (and I encourage you to do so), I guarantee you'll change your mind about the way you eat. At the very least, you might think a little bit more before stopping at McDonald's or buying that prepackaged TV dinner. And please, for the love of everything truly delicious, stop drinking so much soda!!