Book Review: The Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer

The Last Guardian.jpgTitle: The Last Guardian
Author: Eoin Colfer
Series: Artemis Fowl, Book 8
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Hardcover: 328 pages
Source: Chicago Public Library
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

It’s Armageddon Time for Artemis Fowl

Opal Koboi, power-crazed pixie, is plotting to exterminate mankind and become fairy queen.

If she succeeds, the spirits of long-dead fairy warriors will rise from the earth, inhabit the nearest available bodies and wreak mass destruction. But what happens if those nearest bodies include crows, or deer, or badgers – or two curious little boys by the names of Myles and Beckett Fowl?

Yes, it’s true. Criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl’s four-year-old brothers could be involved in destroying the human race. Can Artemis and Captain Holly Short of the Lower Elements Police stop Opal and prevent the end of the world?

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

It finally happened — I have finally read the last book of the Artemis Fowl series. It was bittersweet in a way, because this is a series that my friend got me hooked on when I was about 13, so it’s been a rather continuous presence in my life. Every few years or so, I think, yeah, I’ll read the Artemis Fowl sequel, so it’s weird to think that in a few years, I won’t be reading another one. (Though I just might pick up another Colfer book, because let’s face it, all his stuff is great.)

I was surprised by how well these books hold up. I have to give Colfer credit, for something I read at 13, I still thoroughly enjoy these characters and their story. They’ve gotten a bit older and the stories have grown and become more complex, but let me tell you, there are quite a few novels “for grown-ups” that I read at 13 and don’t hold up nearly as well — Artemis Fowl books for sure do. This book continues the tradition of being about very serious, life-or-death issues while still retaining humor and lightness. There wasn’t one part of The Last Guardian that I felt was drawn out or melodramatic. It’s perfectly balanced in terms of tone, and like I said, retains some humor.

One of my favorite parts of this book is the fact that while there is a main villain (Opal, just go away and die, seriously!), there are also secondary villains who are complicated in terms of their motives, which I love in a story. I don’t want my villains to be unsympathetic psychos — I want to be able to see where they’re coming from and understand their story too. I was glad that I was able to do that when reading this story — I think it added quite a bit of realism and complexity to the story.

In terms of the ending, it was perfect. I get so nervous when a longer series ends, because who knows what’s going to happen? I’m not even sure what I want to happen. I love Artemis, but does he deserve a happily ever after? Is that even a thing that’s possible, given the circumstances of his life and the story this novel presents? What about the resolution itself? Do I want a tight resolution with a pretty bow on top, or do I want it more natural, just sort of let’s end things, but leave them open? I DON’T KNOW!!! Luckily, Colfer seems to know what I wanted, because the ending is perfect. It ties the story together nicely while still leaving a little bit of wiggle room for the reader to imagine what might happen next. Perfect, right?

If you’re an Artemis Fowl lover, don’t worry about this being the last one. It sucks a little that the series is ending, but I think it’s incredibly well done and a perfect last book if there ever was one. I thoroughly enjoyed it and couldn’t find anything disappointing about it, and trust me, I was terrified of being disappointed. If you’ve yet to read the Artemis Fowl books, get started! They’re so good and I think enjoyable for all ages, especially if you love reading about fairies.

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Book Review: Ithaca by Patrick Dillon

Ithaca by Patrick Dillon.jpg
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Title: Ithaca: A Novel of Homer’s Odyssey
Author: Patrick Dillon
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Hardcover: 352 pages
Source: NetGalley
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Telemachus’s father, Odysseus, went off to war before he was born … and never came back. Aged sixteen, Telemachus finds himself abandoned, his father’s house overrun with men pursuing his beautiful mother, Penelope, and devouring the family’s wealth. He determines to leave Ithaca, his island home, and find the truth. What really happened to his father? Was Odysseus killed on his journey home from the war? Or might he, one day, return to take his revenge?

Telemachus’s journey takes him across the landscape of bronze-age Greece in the aftermath of the great Trojan war. Veterans hide out in the hills. Chieftains, scarred by war, hoard their treasure in luxurious palaces. Ithaca re-tells Homer’s famous poem, The Odyssey, from the point of view of Odysseus’ resourceful and troubled son, describing Odysseus’s extraordinary voyage from Troy to the gates of hell, and Telemachus’s own journey from boyhood to the desperate struggle that wins back his home … and his father.

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

I have very mixed feelings about this book.  On the one hand, the idea of telling a classic Greek tale through the perspective of another character in the story really intrigued me.  I love The Odyssey and was super excited to sink my teeth into a story from Telemachus’s perspective.  And I have to say, on that count I think this book was super interesting and successful.  Part one of this novel sucked me in, and I could not wait to keep pushing my way through the story.  I thought Telemachus was a completely fleshed out character and a lot of thought had gone into the effect not knowing his father would have on him.  I also thought that his exploration with Polycaste was one of the strongest parts of the novel.  Partly because she was another super interesting character and partly because this is a part of the story that has not been told to death and was rather innovative.

The rest of the book began to fall flat for me, though.  Odysseus being discovered and recounting his tale is when I started to drift out of my engagement.  I do not know how else the author could handle this (if someone has not read The Odyssey then they need to know what happened), but having Homer’s epic condensed to a chapter in plain English felt more like I was reading sparknotes than anything else which kind of bummed me out.  It also has the problem that the reader knows how the story is going to end and the final few scenes playing out are kind of a let down for that reason.

So again, I am torn.  I think that this book is really amazing at its best parts.  The characters are well developed and the take on various characters’ psyches is super interesting.  The idea that many of the heroes in these epics are brutes that are romanticized was a super interesting thread throughout, however, in the end it just feels like a lesser telling of a story we already know.  I do not know how this could be worked around, since changing the source material would obviously also be a problem, however, if this book were completely from Telemachus’s perspective and followed the format of the first part throughout, I think I would have enjoyed it much more.

That said, I have several students who either really love The Odyssey or think it is interesting but can’t get past the language.  I think this is the perfect book for either of those kinds of students since it is more accessible but also adds new ideas and viewpoints to the story.  I would happily have a copy of this book in my classroom to recommend to those students and think it could lead to some interesting discussions about the values of various societies.

Book Review: Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse

sevendaysofyouTitle: Seven Days of You
Author: Cecilia Vinesse
Publisher: Little, Brown
Hardcover: 336 pages
Source: BEA 2016
Anticipated Publishing Date: 7 March 2017
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Sophia has seven days left in Tokyo before she moves back to the States. Seven days to say good-bye to the electric city, her wild best friend, and the boy she’s harbored a semi-secret crush on for years. Seven perfect days…until Jamie Foster-Collins moves back to Japan and ruins everything.

Jamie and Sophia have a history of heartbreak, and the last thing Sophia wants is for him to steal her leaving thunder with his stupid arriving thunder. Yet as the week counts down, the relationships she thought were stable begin to explode around her. And Jamie is the one who helps her pick up the pieces. Sophia is forced to admit she may have misjudged Jamie, but can their seven short days of Tokyo adventures end in anything but good-bye?

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher from BEA 2016. All opinions are my own.*

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

First, I have to say, that I was a little wary going into this, as I’m not a huge fan of young adult romances that are only romances — I think they either become vapid or too melodramatic, and I was hoping that wouldn’t be the case with this one. Luckily, it very much wasn’t, and I give Vinesse all the credit in the world for writing an incredibly grounded, realistic portrayal of a relationship that might happen at that stage of someone’s life.

The balance between Sophia dealing with her departure from Tokyo and also exploring her new relationship is beautiful. It’s nice to see that both of these situations are fully dealt with within the book — Sophia’s anger at leaving, confusion, and fear for what is to come next, and then her happiness for finding this new connection with Jamie, and the fear of what’s to come if she falls too far in. I think, in a way, most relationships start out with that fear, even without the imminent threat of what would very much be a long-distance relationship, so I think that feeling is incredibly relatable. Where is this going? Can we be feeling this so quickly? What if I really love this person, but it doesn’t work out? Even within the span of seven days, Jamie and Sophia don’t seem to fall for each other too quickly, although it helps that they knew each other before that week.

Mostly, though, this book is about self-discovery and self-awareness. In departing from the country she’s lived in most of her life, Sophia is able to take a closer look at her relationships and how she’s being treated by her friends and family. It’s a lovely coming-of-age sort of thing where she realizes that some people she’s been fighting hard to have relationships with are really not being good people to her, so she has to re-evaluate what’s really important spending effort on. Again, while Sophia’s situation is at an extreme, I think we can all relate to being put in a situation where we need to re-think what’s going on in our lives, so reading about Sophia’s journey of self-discovery is satisfying and rewarding in that we can self-reflect and compare her decisions to ones that we are currently making, or once made.

I very much appreciated this book for what it was — a second chance for two people to reconnect and forgive each other for past miscommunications and to explore their feelings for each other. The tension is kept strong through the short timeline of the seven days that Sophia has left in Tokyo, and it makes it a fast read, because everything is so condensed and there’s no time for anything to be drawn out. At the same time, nothing is rushed because of that, and I give Vinesse a lot of credit for not feeling the need to rush Sophia and Jamie’s relationships. It’s taken at a reasonable, moderate pace, and ends on a hopeful note, which I very much enjoyed. I can’t recommend this book enough for being everything you want in a young adult romance and containing none of the common cringe-worthy or exasperating tropes. Pick it up when you get a chance.