Saturday, January 27, 2007

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Book 1 - Artemis Fowl

Synopsis: Atremis Fowl is the world's greatest 12 year old crook. When his father goes missing, he decides that it's time for the world's greatest caper - kidnapping a fairy named Holly Short and ransoming her for gold. However, he gets quite a lot more than he bargained for when the LEPrechon tries to get their soldier back using any means necessary including high-tech weapons, a flatulent dwarf, and one very nasty troll.

Book 2 - Atremis Fowl and the Artic Incident

Synopsis: Artemis discovers that not only is his father alive, but he's being held for ransom by the Russian mafia. At the same time, an evil pixie named Opal Koboi is planning to take over Haven City - underground home of the People. Instead of fighting, Artemis and Commander Root and Holly Short must help each other to save Haven City and rescue Artemis' father.

Book 3 - Artemis Fowl and the Eternity Code

Synopsis: Artemis' father has returned and sworn to live a reformed life. Artemis has voiwed to join him - after one more scheme. Using stolen fairy technology, he creates a device to control the world's technology called the C Cube and devises to sell it to a wealthy Chicago businessman. However, the businessman steals the C Cube leaving Artemis no choice but to ask his old friends from LEPrechon to help him retrieve it.

Book 4 - Artemis Fowl and the Opal Deception

Synopsis: Evil Pixie Opal Koboi has pulled off the ultimate caper - escaping her own death. Garnering shadowy supporters, she kills Commander Root and frames Holly Short for it. In order to clear her name and capture Opal, Holly must rely on her old ally Artemis Fowl, whose mind had been completely wiped, to help her.

Book 5 - Artemis Fowl and The Lost Colony
Synopsis: An island inhabited by goblins trapped in time is fading. When one appears in front of Artemis Fowl, he realizes that this spells big trouble for the People. However, when he tries to help the goblins, he discovers that he may have met his match in a twelve year old girl who steals the very goblin he was trying to help. Now Artemis and the gang must rescue the goblin, an imp known as No. 1, and keep the colony from slipping in time and exposing the People to humans.
Assessment: These books are hot and it's no wonder. Very fast paced, exciting, and with a touch of humor, the Artemis Fowl series are terrific. These books will especially appeal to boys, but girls will also enjoy them. Artemis, despite being touted as the world's greatest criminal, hardly ever does anything particularly bad, apart from stealing a painting from a secure Swiss bank vault, but seeing as the painting had already been stolen, it doesn't strike one as particularly villianous. And at the end of each book he learns to be more selfless, even if begrudgingly. The nadir of the series is the third book Artemis Fowl and the Eternity Code. Compared with the first two books, it lagged greatly in plot, pace, and even interest. Fortunately, it picked up with the following book The Opal Deception. The Lost Colony, however, seemed to be an entirely different book itself. There was so much about the new character No. 1 and his culture that I felt it could have been a complete and independent book, except for the fact that the first part of the plot seemed to mirror so closely the first book. I'm a big fan Colfer's style of writing and they wry humor he puts into each story, but after Commander Root died and Holly left LEP, they're just not the same anymore.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Molly Moon Series by Georgia Byng

Molly Moon's Incredible Book of Hypnotism

Synopsis: Molly Moon is an orphan living in a miserable orphanage eating horrible food. Nothing goes right for the poor girl until one day she discovers a book in the library on hypnotism. She discovers that she has a knack for it and suddenly her life changes for the better. After winning a talent contest, she uses the money to fly to New York City, stays at a posh hotel, and then lands the lead role in a Broadway play. However, she soon discovers that her powers can also have a downside when a crook steals her dog and makes her help him rob a bank.

Molly Moon stops the World

Synopsis: Molly's mentor Lucy Logan compels the girl to go to America because she suspects that an evil advertising mogul named Primo Cell is out to take over the presidential election through hypnotism. It's up to Molly and her friend Rocky to discover his dastardly plot and stop him. Along the way, Molly discovers that she has the power to stop time, and that she may not be an orphan as she had always thought.

Molly Moon's Hypnotic Time Travel Adventure

Synopsis: Molly is kidnapped and taken to 19th century India by the evil time traveling hypnotist, the Maharajah of Waqt. However, Molly refuses to go along with his nefarious plans. The Maharajah realizes that she stands in his way, and kidnaps Molly as a baby, a three year old, six year old, and ten year old. Now Molly must rescue all the versions of herself and conquer time travel in order to get everyone home.

Assessment: It's a sad fact that most boys won't read a book where a girl is the main character because they think it is just for girls, even if the main character's best friend and accomplice is a boy. (If your boy doesn't think this, then never mention it). However, girls will love these books. Molly is spunky, bright, and a typical girl who loves her pug Petula, Qube soda, and ketchup sandwiches. The mood of all these books is light, and should not be taken too seriously. The first book is the best. With the exception of a confusing part in the middle where Molly's friend Rocky reveals to her that he also knows hypnotism (I had to read it twice to understand it), the book flows quickly. I love the quirky humor Byng throws in, such as the name of the play Molly lands, Stars on Mars, or the cook who is hypnotised to love Italian cuisine so much that she starts wearing a t-shirt declaring, "You'd better love Italian food or else!" The second loses some of this with a more serious plot that begins to run a little strained when everything is caused by hypnotism, which everyone seems to know very well. The third falls a little more in that it never really made sense to me why the villain was Indian and why he spoke in Spoonerisms (it got a little annoying after a while). Still, these books are fun to read and I look forward to what Byng has in store next.

Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funk

Synopsis: When the dragons learn that man is coming to their hidden valley, they realize that they need to find a new home. One dragon named Firedrake offers to find the mythical Rim of Heaven for them to live. Along the way, he and a brownie discover an orphaned boy named Ben who offers to help them look for the Rim of Heaven, despite the fact that no one really knows the way. To make matters worse, an evil dragon-slaying golden dragon named Nettlebrand is hunting Firedrake to rid the world of all dragons.

Assessment: This book will engage boys and girls with an interesting cast of characters including a homunculus, dwarfs, sand fairies, and a thousand eyed djinni. I found the story engaging and interesting, but not too overly complicated for readers to follow. It is simple and sweet, but I wouldn't recommend it for older readers. I think it is best for younger readers or boys who read Harry Potter, but don't show much interest in any other books.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Warriors by Erin Hunter

Book 1: Into the Wild

Synopsis: Rusty is just an ordinary house cat until one day he meets and cat in the forest and learns about the clans. Although many are not happy to have a "kittypet" enter, Rusty is taken in by the ThunderClan and given the new name Firepaw. Along with meeting new friends and learning the ways of the clans, he must prove to everyone that his heart belongs with them and not with his former "twoleg" masters.
Book 2: Fire and Ice

Synopsis: Firepaw is now Fireheart, a true warrior of ThunderClan with his own apprentice, Cinderpaw. However, after meeting his sister, he begins to wonder where his loyalties lie, particularly after his best friend, Graystripe, falls in love with a cat from another clan. However, after Cinderpaw is nearly killed in a terrible accident, Fireheart begins to suspect that someone in his own clan may be trying to kill the leader of the Clan.
Book 3: Forest of Secrets

Synopsis: Fireheart is given charge of his nephew Cloudpaw while the crippled Cinderpaw learns to become a medicine cat. Graystripe learns that his love is pregnant causing even more friction between him and his friend. Just as tensions run high, floods and a dangerous rogue cat threatens the ThunderClan. And it seems that the cat is getting help from ThunderClan's own deputy.

Book 4: Rising Storm

Synopsis: Clan leader Bluestar is badly shaken by what has happened to the treachery of her own deputy, Tigerclaw. Unable to trust anyone, she makes Fireheart deputy. However, his apprentice Cloudpaw seems to want the comfortable life as a kittypet making the ThunderClan even more uncomfortable with their leader's decision. However, that is the least of their problems when they discover that Tigerclaw is now Tigerstar, leader of the ShadowClan.
Book 5: A Dangerous Path

Synopsis: Bluestar is even more confused. When a dog is believed to be running loose in the forest, she becomes convinced that it is the work of WindClan who wish to steal ThunderClan's prey. Despite evidence to the contrary, she is unmoved. Fireheart must go behind his leader's back in order to prevent an unnecessary war.

Book 6: The Darkest Hour

Synopsis: Fireheart is now Firestar, leader of the Thunderclan. Tigerstar's power has grown even further as he joins the ShadowClan and WindClan together with the aid of city cats. However, when the city cats decide to take over the forest, Firestar must convince all the clans to fight together or the forest will be lost forever.

Assessment: I made the mistake of reading the 6th book first. Whatever you do, do not start in the middle, and especially not the end. While I could follow the story just fine, the characters and back stories were a little confusing. But after I finished the book, I HAD to read the others. I then devoured these books like chocolate. Filled with action, adventure, and even political intrigue, each book is a page turner. Every time I finished one, I was in awe of Hunter's ability to pack so much plot in such neat writing. Although Book 1 doesn't really fully flesh out why Rusty wants to leave his comfortable life so much, by the time he enters ThunderClan, you won't care for you'll be too wrapped up in the thick plot. Readers will be drawn into the complex and well drawn characters that by the end of the series feel that they really know them. Just to give a warning, there is a fair amount of violence in these, either from fighting, natural causes, and occasional murder. However, the deaths are treated with dignity as mournful occasions that should be avoided at all cost. I was actually a little sad to have finished this series. Both boys and girls will love these books.