Book Review: Artemis Fowl

I’ve been wanting to read the Artemis Fowl series since I was in middle school. Now as a 24-year-old, I’m finally getting around to reading it. All I can say is that I wish I had discovered these books sooner.

Photo courtesy of Goodreads.com
Photo courtesy of Goodreads.com

Artemis Fowl is a 12-year-old self-proclaimed evil genius. He definitely has the genius part down, but as you read the book, you start to doubt how evil he actually is. His goal in life is to somehow restore the Fowl fortune and their criminal empire, and he turns to the elusive fairy world to get it.

The interesting thing about the fairies in this book is that they aren’t the typical Tinker Bell fairies. From the way I understood it, “fairies” is kind of a catch-all term for a number of mystical creatures (elves, dwarves, goblins, etc.) who lived underground and didn’t trust the Mud Men (humans.) Artemis’ plan is to use the fairies’ sacred book in order to make his millions.

People who know me know that I rarely use a phrase like this, but Artemis Fowl is an absolute delight to read! I’m not kidding. I read it in less than a week, and I enjoyed it so much!

As you read, you grieve with Artemis as he watches his mother suffer from some sort of mental illness. You are genuinely impressed at how calm and calculating he is, even though he’s just a kid. You mourn whenever Artemis’ bodyguard and faithful friend, Butler, or Butler’s little sister Juliet get into danger. And you look forward to the moments when his seemingly tough personality is cracked to remind you that he’s only 12.

I was definitely rooting for him to succeed because who doesn’t love an evil boy genius??, But it’s impossible to hate his adversaries, the fairies. Julius Root is hilarious as a typical police chief type character, and Holly Short is so spunky and determined that I hope she returns for the sequels. And the centaur Foaly’s constant snide remarks are especially funny when Root overhears them.

Eoin Colfer’s writing style for this book was great. You feel like he’s in the room with you, telling you the story out loud. There are so many clever little jokes in the book that I just don’t think I would have appreciated as a middle school student. I’m reading another book right now, but after that, I’m definitely going to start book 2, The Arctic Incident.

Book Review: The Gunslinger

Have you ever read a book that you knew was good and yet you had no idea what it was about? That’s kind of what reading the The Gunslinger (Book 1 of the Dark Tower series) was like for me.

Photo credit: Goodreads.com
Photo credit: Goodreads.com

I don’t like it when my authors “abandon” their genres. It’s the reason I won’t read anything by J.K. Rowling that doesn’t have to do with magic. I’m weird like that. So, when I saw that horror-writing legend Stephen King was writing fantasy, I figured this book was not for me. I’m surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did.

The book follows the mysterious  Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger, and his pursuit of the even more mysterious man in black. The man in black has answers about the (I’m gonna use this word again) mysterious Dark Tower that holds…something. I think the Dark Tower links the worlds together, but that’s just my theory at this point. I’m not sure what Roland is looking for exactly, answers, power, love, revenge?

Anyway, he chases the man in black through a world that’s kind of like the Wild West. There are a lot of real-world religious references, specifically Christianity.  He even meets a young boy who died in a world that’s pretty much exactly like ours (he watched TV and got hit by a car), Except at the same time, there’s magic, specifically when it comes to the man in black. And there are these weird mutant things that are kind of like aliens. There’s a lot going on.

Roland is a classic cowboy character. He’s gruff, determined, and death follows him everywhere, but he had a soft spot for certain characters that he meets. He also has a sort of knightly air around him, mainly because his home world Gilead is pretty medieval, except they use guns instead of swords.

Basically, this book combines a bunch of different genres, which makes it like no other book I’ve ever read. It’s not a very long book, so I finished it in less than two days. It’s really intriguing, but as I said before, it’s also really confusing.

I think the mark of a good writer is that you can write a book where you don’t explain everything and still keep people interested. I think the Dark Tower series is going to be one of those where the more books you read, the more things start making sense.

Roland is a compelling enough character, and the (sorry to use this word again) mystery surrounding the Dark Tower is enough to keep me reading.

Also, if you want to explain the book to me…I’d appreciate it…

From the Page to the Screen

Two days ago, Warner Bros. posted the second trailer to The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. As a Tolkien fanatic and a Peter Jackson fan, I have been hooked on every single one of the movies, starting with The Fellowship of the Ring. 

But this new trailer for The Hobbit irritates me:

I’ve always wrestled with book-to-movie adaptations because I’m what I would call a book loyalist. I basically want the movie to be exactly like the book, no extras, no new characters, no new dialogue.

Of course, I am aware that this is impossible. Movies/TV are a completely different genre requiring different storytelling methods. Sometimes that means the plot needs to deviate away from the original manuscript. Movies like The Hunger Games series or TV shows like Game of Thrones and Outlander have for the most part stayed true to the books, and most changes to the original plot were either necessary or an improvement.

I’ll say that I expected big changes because the book is not that long and frankly not nearly as exciting as The Lord of the Rings series. The first movie followed the book pretty closely, which is why it’s my favorite…it’s also why a lot of people said it was really boring. The second movie started to bug me with an added dwarf-elf romance and the reappearance of Legolas for reasons that are beyond my comprehension.

This movie just seems like the second coming of The Return of the King. Yes, there was a battle. Yes, it was pretty big. Yes, Sauron is back. However, I feel like this movie has lost the essence of the book. It’s no longer about a quirky little hobbit who gets dragged along on a big adventure. Frankly, I’m not sure what it’s about anymore.

From a writer’s perspective, I would love to see a novel I’ve written turn into a TV show or a movie someday. However, I just don’t see how I could accept major changes to the plot that I had slaved over. I think that’s why I have a harder time accepting major plot changes in other books that I love. I wonder what Tolkien would think of these movies. I’m not sure he would be pleased.

Is This Book Good?

I’m certainly not the best judge in the world of whether a book is good or not, but I know what my criteria is for if something is worth reading. I judge all books against this list, and I try to make sure that my writing fits all of these standards as well.

1. Is it interesting?

Obviously I’m not going to waste time on a book that bores me. If I’m taking my free time to read something, it better keep me interested.

2. Is it a cliché?

I can’t stand clichés, especially romantic ones. It’s the reason I don’t watch chick flicks. If I think a book is going to be about an ordinary girl who falls for a handsome, extraordinary man, I will put it down (or throw it out the window). It is possible to take an overused idea and make it your own, but that has to be made obvious very early on in the book.

3. Do I care about the characters?

This one is also pretty obvious. I don’t want to read about characters that I don’t care about. To take it a step further, I stop caring about characters if they aren’t well-rounded. I like characters who surprise me and who challenge my interpretation of who they are.

4. Is it descriptive?

I’m a sucker for long paragraphs of descriptive prose. It’s one of the reasons I love The Lord of the Rings so much. Maybe that’s not your cup of tea, but I like the type of description that yanks you out of reality and places you right in the middle of the events in the book.

5. Does it inspire me to write?

This is the last and most important item on my checklist. My favorite books are the ones that make me want to write something just as good. When I really love a book, I always find myself coming up with stories that have similar elements, whether that is ideas, writing style, or characters.

What makes you want to keep reading something?

My Favorite Book: Swan Song

Good writers have to be well-read. I love reading authors with different styles who can help me with my own writing style. So, periodically, I’ll be highlighting a book that has really influenced how I write.

Of course, I have to start out by writing about my favorite book of all time! That prestigious honor goes to Swan Song by Robert McCammon. Lemme tell ya, that man can write! I have read it four times so far, and I think it’s going to be one of those books that I have to read every couple years.

Best. Book. Ever. (Photo courtesy of Goodreads.com)
Best. Book. Ever. (Photo courtesy of Goodreads.com)

The summary in a nutshell is this: There’s a nuclear disaster that basically wipes out the entire world. The survivors face the dangers of radiation poisoning, starvation, and dehydration. Oh, and the very incarnation of evil is walking around trying to f— things up! The story focuses on Swan, a little girl with restorative powers, whose mission is to heal the war-ravaged world.

That summary doesn’t do the book justice at all, but I can at least explain why I love it so much. Robert McCammon is the BEST as making you experience what he’s writing. When someone is in pain, you feel that pain. When someone is scared, you feel that fear. When someone is turning into a werewolf (The Wolf’s Hour, another one of his awesome books), you feel every change in that person’s body.

Check out this excerpt from Swan Song:

“This was a dank, sinister chill: the chill of shadows where poison toadstools grown, their ruddy colors beckoning a child to come, come take a taste of candy.”

I don’t know about you, but that gives me chills! Robert McCammon is my inspiration for writing good descriptions. He’s a master at creating moods with details alone, and that’s something that I want people to say about my writing one day.