26 July 2010

Reading Mondays: Book Review

I began this summer with the intent to read at least 10 books. Yes, you read correctly, 10. However, between the worlds of work, motherhood and wifedom (the estate or domain of the female head of household), I have only read three in their entirety. The summer isn't over yet, though. :D

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

I highly recommend this brilliant, amazing memoir. Ishmael, at age 12, is enthralled by the hip hop culture of the United States and sets out on a journey to a talent show in a near-by town in Sierra Leone. Unfortunately, he experiences loss of family, youth and innocence. Ishmael is immersed in the horrors of warfare. For three years, he will live the life of a child soldier. Ishmael witnesses and commits unspeakable horrors. But in this tale of so much tragedy, there is still light. Ishmael goes through rehabilitation and ultimately immigrates to the United States.

I began reading this memoir in June with my students and was able to finish it in early July. This story has a complexity in its themes (family, war, loss, genocide) that transcends cultural barriers. It has opened my eyes to the horrors that children can face in war-torn countries. My students were very touched by Ishmael's story and began a cry for help from their school and their community. This tale is not only insightful but quite profound.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

I found this book to be a bit jarring at first since I am not familiar with Swedish culture. However, the mystery and action-packed plot helped to move me along immensely. Mikael Blomkvist, a ruined financial reporter, is given a second chance to resurrect his name by a rich, old Swedish tycoon, Harold Vanger. However, Blomkvist must first investigate the forty-year-old disappearance of Vanger's grandniece, Harriet Vanger. Blomkvist is assisted by Lisbeth Salander, a tattooed superhacking genius.

I am currently reading the continuation of the trilogy, The Girl who Played with Fire. Although I am really enjoying this series, it is clear that Larsson did not complete the editing process of his novels before his death in 2004. I believe that this contributed to the problem I had when reading first reading his works (smoother transitions were needed). However, despite this, Larsson weaves a wonderfully suspenseful tale.

Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer

What else could Artemis Fowl do when his mother is dying and the only cure is in the brain fluid of an endangered species? Go back in time, of course! This fourteen-year-old genius travels back in time to undo a wrong he has committed - selling the last remaining lemur to an Extinctionist group. He manipulates his best friend Captain Holly Short, a pixie in the Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance (LEPrecon), into helping him capture the elusive primate. They are assisted by the ever-flatulent, dirt-eating dwarf, Mulch Diggums. Artemis must outmaneuver his 10-year-old self and discover who is the puppetmaster pulling the strings of the Extinctionists before he runs out of time.

This is a hilarious, action-packed fiction novel that will not disappoint. I very much look forward to reading the next installment of the series, Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex, in August.

I found these books to be great reads. Interested in any of the books above? If so, which one(s)? If not, what books do you recommend?

15 comments:

Cruella Collett said...

Maybe I should check out this Artemis Fowl? I read the first books years ago, and really enjoyed them, but for some reason I didn't keep up with the series.

As for Larsson I too found the beginning jarring (so much, in fact, that I put it down and didn't pick it up again), and I am familiar with Swedish culture. I too think the lack of edits might be a major reason these books only *almost* are as good as what everyone claims. (If he had lived, though, they would have had to go with a radically different marketing strategy. I think that the author's story has contributed to a lot of the media attention, at least here.)

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

My son loved the Artemis Fowl books!

I found "Dragon Tattoo" jarring, too. I'd heard the payoff was worth some of the narrative problems and disturbing passages, so I stuck with it...I was ultimately glad I did, but I won't read the book again.

Mary said...

I'll be checking out "A Long Way Gone" for myself and the Artemis books for both my grandson and I.
Tried Larsson but didn't care to finish--just not for me.

Jemi Fraser said...

I've got a ton of the Artemis Fowl books in my class, but I actually haven't read any yet. Gotta fix that :)

Amy said...

I've read all of the Artemis Fowl series up to The Lost Colony, which is before The Time Paradox. I didn't realize the series was still going strong! I'll have to hit up the used book store at some point to get the ones I missed.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

I am normally suspicious of any book called 'the Phenomenon' but rather liked the Larsson book. It was far from perfect, and could have done with a lot of editing, but I did like it.
Never read Artemis Fowl- guess I will start with my sons sometime soon.

H.B.Markor said...

OOh, I love the Artemis Fowl books, but I didn't know there was another one coming! Awesome!

I have seen the Stieg Larsson books in the store, but never bothered picking them up to see what they were all about since the title is a bit off putting and reminds me of the Steven King book, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, and that book just creeped me out. I know, I know, don't judge a book by it's cover, but I guess I am a bit shallow that way.

Hart Johnson said...

The Boy Soldier one looks great! Do you think my 11 year old (strong reader) would be ready for it? Or is it too much until high school?

I also loved Time Paradox (I've loved all the Fowl ones). And I completely agree with Dragon Tattoo being under-edited--I still loved it, but the first 3rd and end had a fair amount of 'tell' instead of 'show'.

Chary Johnson said...

@ Mari- I think you will love the Artemis Fowl once you pick it up again. It has that little bit of edge, mystery and fantasy wrapped up in a nice little package.

@ Elizabeth- I just started reading The Girl who Played with Fire and find it just as abrupt as its predecessor. Unfortunately, I have the habit of once starting a book, I finish it.

@ Mary- My only advice is be prepared to cry when you read the horrors that children experience in war-torn countries. If your grandson likes action, mystery and fantasy, then he will love the books. Thanks.

@Jemi- Excellent. I think you'll like them.

Chary Johnson said...

@Amy- Yes and the next book will be out in August. I can't wait to download it to my Kindle.

@Rayna- I think if they like Harry Potter, they will certainly enjoy Artemis and the fairy world. Let me know if they like it or not.

@H.B.- I can understand your skepticism due to similar book titles. However, Larsson is more mysterious and not too gory. It reminded me of the typical "Whodunnit?" books.

@ Hart- I think an 11 year old may be a little young for the content. It goes into detail of Ishmael's immersion into killing and the slow rehabilitation back into society. The book is for grades 9-12. I would probably wait a couple of years before suggesting it to him.

ViolaNut said...

I do love Artemis Fowl... anti-heroes are lots of fun. :-) If you like those, you might want to try Mark Walden's H.I.V.E. series next (though who knows when they'll finally get around to publishing the rest in the US... :-P ). I really love Colfer's Airman as well.

I enjoyed the Larsson trilogy quite a bit, though yeah, okay, maybe they're a bit under-edited but I don't mind that usually (as long as the copy-editing is good). I find the drastic title changes in translation to be a little odd, though - I may be misremembering, but I believe the first one is literally "Men Who Hate Women" and the third, something about kicking air castles, not hornets' nests (and here's a random bit of trivia for you - the UK edition says "Hornets'", while the US says "Hornet's". I'm going with the UK version - after all, a single hornet would have a hell of a time building the whole nest himself. ;-)

I'll take a pass on the memoir, at least for now - too much in soooo many ways. It sells really well though; maybe I'll be ready for it when my life lands in a happy place.

Medeia Sharif said...

I will read Stieg Larsson some day. I just need my wish list to decrease so that I can get to him.

Cold As Heaven said...

I haven't read any of the Larsson-books (I don't read much crime), but I saw the movies and thought they were cool. Noomi Norén was excellent in the main role as Lisbeth Salander. Some time ago I read that the movies got very bad critics in US newspapers. It's not typical Hollywood style movies (fortunately). Maybe the characters and the environment are somewhat odd for the American audience?

Cold As Heaven

Chary Johnson said...

@ViolaNut- Thanks for the suggestions. I will definitely look into those titles. I had no idea that the Larsson book titles had a different translation than the one's on the US covers. Interesting.

@Medeia- I hear you. My list is long also.

Chary Johnson said...

@Cold as Heaven- I had no idea that they made them into movies. I will check them out once I finish the books.

Perhaps because it deviates from the typical Hollywood format, we haven't embraced the films. It could also be poor marketing too. Also, the movies may have done poorly if they are a foreign films with subtitles. I enjoy these but I know that most of my family and friends do not.