Monday, August 27, 2012

Final Book Review: The Last Guardian(Artemis Fowl #8)





@kangjason on Deviantart

This is part of a series where I review final books in series. Part of this post was published on The Lakehouse Forums earlier this month.

Earlier this month, I read one of my most- and least-anticipated books of the year. Artemis Fowl and The Last Guardian. Most anticipated, because Artemis Fowl is my favorite series ever. The books are hysterical, poignant, suspenseful, engaging, and just enjoyable to read. I really didn't want this series to end, but after reading The Last Guardian,  I'm a bit glad that it did.

My deepest regret is to say that it was not, in fact, a slam dunk for this series. The general fan response has been favorable, but I was a bit disappointed. The book is a notable departure from the rest of the series.

The characters are mostly spot on, as usual. And it doesn't fail to make you laugh! Eoin Colfer is still the funniest and best writer(although perhaps not plotter) ever! The narration is amazing as usual.


The main thing I disliked(same problem with the book before, Atlantis Complex) was lack of plot complexity. It's still a relatively good plot compared to the field of children/YA fiction, but compared to the first six books in the series, with layers upon layers of intrigue and pwningness and defeating different antagonists/conflicts consecutively as well as simultaneously(there has been a lot of comparison with Opal Deception, where reading was like watching an intricate chess game between the two geniuses), it's just not as stunningly woven.

They went a little far with Artemis's redemptive spirit..he turns out sorta like a pansy. It's great that he's redeemed and all, but if you're like me, you kind of miss the days when he was just a deliciously-awesome ruthless evil genius. Now, he's just like SAVE ALL THE LIVES.

There are some GLARINGLY MAJORLY OBVIOUS continuity errors. They aren't really vital to the plot, but they do make you wince a bit.

My favorite part of these books was always the part when Artemis's "ace in the hole" big plan climax, was revealed. This book had one, but it wasn't as climactic as it could have been.

The ENDING. If you've read this book, you'll know what I'm talking about. The-the ending..it's just...ajfd;lsjfl;asdfjsdl;ajkfklasd. it's very.....different. Not really that "ahh, wipe away a tear" feeling I like at the end of books...it was more like "....?!!! huh? what the heck did I just read" At first when I finished reading it I was ready to flip a table at how darn weird and unnatural the ending seemed. I was convinced that someone had kidnapped Eoin Colfer and wrote the ending under his name, not to mention upset that the amazingly beautiful series that was Artemis Fowl had to endure that kind of ending.  I read it several times over and I guess I sort of warmed up to it...  the ending's not terrible...it's either very predictable or totally not predictable, depending on who you are.  It is predictable, I guess...but it still catches you by surprise in the "I-can't-believe-they-are-really-gonna-do-that-wait-did-that-seriously-just-happen???" way.  Of course Artemis Fowl was gonna end in a way that wasn't the usual book ending, but...it was just woah.

So how did it rank on my series ending scoresheet?

Break from tradition: 5/10 
The beginning and middle of the book was a bit like watching a replay of scenes from all the previous books stitched together, except with a different setting. They didn't really do anything special-someone important escapes, makes big plan to end civilization, Arty&co go to stop that plan, chaos ensues, Mulch saves the day, etc.

The end of the book was really......something. It certainly broke from tradition.

Climax of the series: 6/10
The world was certainly in more chaos than it had been in previous AF novels. The disaster/destruction did feel a little rushed.

As for "Artemis's biggest challenge yet", my frustration is that we never really got the chance to find out whether this Opal(alright, you know it's Opal if you've read the back cover) is Artemis's biggest intellectual match, or if she's just sheer numbers and luck. We only get a couple limited scenes with Opal's power, and no scenes with Opal's intellect versus Artemis's, unlike say, the Temple of Artemis scenes in The Opal Deception.

If I had to pick Artemis's greatest challenge, I guess it would have to technically be this one. If someone explained his situation to you, you would agree that he was pretty screwed. The book has a desperate feeling to it, which was nice although a bit depressing.
 
Suspense: 8/10
The suspense was mostly waiting to see what Artemis's plan would be. It didn't seem as urgent and I didn't read as hurriedly as I read the other books, although it is properly suspenseful and driven as a series as high-quality as AF should be. Artemis's plot and the subsequent reveal felt supremely rushed.

Deaths: 3/10
I say nothing. Besides the fact that I was disappointed with the deaths in the novel, how they were resolved, and the emotion they left behind. Deaths should make me feel angry/sad/moved, and I didn't.

"Ahhh" feeling. 7/10
I think the proper term is catharsis or closure. I wish there were more closure. I can't say anything about the ending without spoiling it for you. Nevertheless, most fans that have read it, I believe, either find it horrible or find it perfect.

One thing I really loved was that for each character, there were very short passages sprinkled throughout the book providing a perspective on them over the whole series. It's like each character is sort of closed off individually throughout the book, and the result is very unique and touching.

Overall: 7/10


 I agree with those who said that the series should have ended at The Time Paradox, as Atlantis Complex and this book just weren't up to par with the brilliance that was the beginning of the series. Nothing could make me love the series any less or tarnish that brilliance. The series is still a head above any other series in the field, but it wasn't quite the explosive ending we fans had hoped for.

Stay tuned for Kane Chronicles #3 The Serpent's Shadow review coming after this!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

XD XD


oh my gosh


funny facebook fails - VENGEANCE


Monday, August 20, 2012

three amazing--and relatively little known--psalms

So I'm reading Psalms in the Bible right now.

Well, Psalms is one of the three places I read from. I'm reading the Bible all the way through and read two chapters from three places--the Old Testament, the middle of the Old Testament, and the New Testament--every day. I'm in Deuteronomy and Romans in the other sections, but in the middle I'm still right where I started from-Psalms. Cause Psalms is really really long.

I was getting kind of tired of Psalms(which isn't really the right attitude to be reading the Bible in). But I realized there are some really breathtaking passages in Psalms, and I'm glad I read them. These are my three favorites:

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/11/89973075_ada64e5772.jpg
*Buck Forester on Flikr

Psalm 65
This one is about God's spectacular creation.

What mighty praise, O God,
    belongs to you in Zion.
We will fulfill our vows to you,
    for you answer our prayers.
    All of us must come to you.
Though we are overwhelmed by our sins,
    you forgive them all.
What joy for those you choose to bring near,
    those who live in your holy courts.
What festivities await us
    inside your holy Temple.
You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds,
    O God our savior.
You are the hope of everyone on earth,
    even those who sail on distant seas.
You formed the mountains by your power
    and armed yourself with mighty strength.
You quieted the raging oceans
    with their pounding waves
    and silenced the shouting of the nations.
Those who live at the ends of the earth
    stand in awe of your wonders.
From where the sun rises to where it sets,
    you inspire shouts of joy.
You take care of the earth and water it,
    making it rich and fertile.
The river of God has plenty of water;
    it provides a bountiful harvest of grain,
    for you have ordered it so.
10 You drench the plowed ground with rain,
    melting the clods and leveling the ridges.
You soften the earth with showers
    and bless its abundant crops.
11 You crown the year with a bountiful harvest;
    even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.
12 The grasslands of the wilderness become a lush pasture,
    and the hillsides blossom with joy.
13 The meadows are clothed with flocks of sheep,
    and the valleys are carpeted with grain.
    They all shout and sing for joy!
 http://www.crystalinks.com/lightningsunset.jpg
This one is one my mom was trying to memorize. It is incredibly powerful.

Psalm 91
 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
    and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
    He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies in the day.

Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
    nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though a thousand fall at your side,
    though ten thousand are dying around you,
    these evils will not touch you.
Just open your eyes,
    and see how the wicked are punished.
If you make the Lord your refuge,
    if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you;
    no plague will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels
    to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
    you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!
14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
    and give them my salvation.”

http://www.edwebproject.org/oman-dubai/pics/muscat.beach.jpg 
*Andy Carvin at Muscat Project
This last one I read this morning. I'm memorizing it.

Psalm 139
O Lord, you have examined my heart
    and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
    You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
    and when I rest at home.
    You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
    even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!
I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave,[a] you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
    and the light around me to become night—
12     but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you.
13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.
17 How precious are your thoughts about me,[b] O God.
    They cannot be numbered!
18 I can’t even count them;
    they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
    you are still with me!
19 O God, if only you would destroy the wicked!
    Get out of my life, you murderers!
20 They blaspheme you;
    your enemies misuse your name.
21 O Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you?
    Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you?
22 Yes, I hate them with total hatred,
    for your enemies are my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

I hope you guys enjoy reading these Psalms!
  


Thursday, August 9, 2012

CVI!

http://furiousfanboys.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Celebration-VI-Tease.jpg



Star Wars Celebration VI is only a couple weeks away! I'm very excited, although I'm not attending.

I have always wanted badly to go to a Star Wars convention and cosplay, buy things, and see celebrities. I didn't know many SW fans back then, and I wanted to go somewhere where I could meet them all! I still think it's going to be a bit like heaven, surrounded by anything and everything Star-Warsy.

However, the Celebration people continue insist on having it in the farthest possible state from me. D:<

This year is going to be extra special, because this is the first year The Lakehouse Forums is going to hit CVI as an organized group. We have about 15 members going. We're getting T shirts and wristbands, and the girls are hoping for a group photo with Ashley Eckstein, as well as some other special events. In a way, even though I'm SUPER disappointed I don't get to go and hang out with them, I feel like a part of me will be there with them.

I'm just as excited as if I were going! I love hearing about Autumn and Savanna's costuming endeavors, making plans, and looking at schedules! JC set up a twitter account she will (hopefully) be able to post from at the con, and hopefully we'll be able to set up a Skype meeting between me and all the girls( *COUGH* JC, are you reading this?)

Club Jade has some good CVI tips (including a REALLY helpful post about autograph lines) so be sure to check them out!
http://clubjade.net/?tag=convention-tips

It's gonna be epic :D

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Series endings

Earlier this year, I finished two series. The Clique and Fate of the Jedi. I also finished a complete manga series, Fruits Basket.

I read all the Clique books when I was bored this year, and they're all cheesy and junk food-y, but I have to admit I teared up a bit at the end. It wasn't because the ending was particularly sad, it was just...the end, you know?

The last FOTJ (Apocalypse) was a different story. I've been reading this series ever since the second book came out in 2008. When the second book, Omen, was released, I discovered my love for Star Wars novels. The FOTJ series has been the one that's walked me through my Star Wars journey.

The last book was rather anticlimactic though. It was alright, but it didn't leave me with that "ahhh (tear wipe)" feeling I like to get at the end of books, and definitely at the end of series. Not much out of the usual FOTJ ordinary happens- Abeloth drama, force weird-ness drama, Imperial drama, Jedi vs. GA drama, Sith drama, etc. If you just handed the book to someone, they wouldn't be able to tell it was the end of the series.

I've been thinking a lot about series endings. The last books for a lot of my favorite series are coming out this year(or have already come out, but I haven't obtained them yet): The last Maximum Ride book is coming out. The last Artemis Fowl book came out last month. The last Kane Chronicles came out two months ago. I'm still waiting for all three of those books, with bittersweetness. I want to see what happens in the series, but I don't want them to end.

These are the ways I judge the effectiveness of the last books in series:

*Breaks from tradition. In Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and The Hunger Games, all series with effective(although sometimes unhappy) endings, the last book contained a break from the usual plot or structure of the book. In Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, the usual structure involved going to their respective camps/schools, going on quest/adventures, and making progress toward defeating a big scary enemy. In their final books, they contained a break from tradition and instead involved big huge fancy battles.

 *The climax of the series. A lack of this usually reveals a weakness in the series itself rather than the final book. The series should have built up to the last book from this point. The last book should be the final reveal, the big battle or conflict where everything from the entire series comes to a head. I'm predicting The Kane Chronicles will do the best at this. Artemis Fowl and Maximum Ride's books aren't really connected. And Maximum Ride mostly derps around near the end.

*Secrets/suspense revealed. The last book should reveal a bunch of secrets and plot twists that have been building suspense throughout the whole series. There should be mysteries revealed, whether it's a character's allegiances or something else. I think Maximum Ride will do the best with this, simply because so many plot twists are left dangling and there are the most secrets to be revealed.

*Deaths. I know readers don't like this, but there should be at least one major character death in the last series. Otherwise there isn't really any suspense or heartbreak to it, and it kinda sucks. Hey, the death can be the antagonist! I know readers curse authors whenever favorite characters die off(I do too!) But the series has no suspense or any sort of grabbing hook, when the readers know that the characters are never at risk of dying. Star Wars in particular has problems like this, because the authors are verbally stomped into the ground every time any major character is killed. Death needs to happen for risk and excitement to happen. Or else they'll just be like "Dum-dee-dum, Katniss is in danger again, what else is new?"  Think of the dead characters as sacrifices on the altar of Good Writing.

*"Ahhh" feeling. Readers should tear up a little bit at the end of the series, even if the end isn't particularly sad. It's not hard to make me tear up at the ends of series, but good writing should have everyone nodding their heads after they close the book, and thinking about the series afterward.

I have to say, I don't like series endings. I wish series could go on and on forever. But book series often decrease in quality when they're too long and the author runs out of ideas/suspense(hellooo, Maximum Ride). And all good things come to an end, right?

I'll be reviewing each final installment in the series as they come out! I hope to get them soon.