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.