29 May 2012

Artemis Fowl Series - Eoin Colfer

  • Publisher: Miramax (May 7, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786819146
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786819140

Artemis Fowl II, the 13-year-old criminal mastermind, has created a supercomputer which he calls the "C Cube", from stolen fairy technology. It far surpasses any human technology made so far.[1] When Fowl meets Chicago businessman Jon Spiro to show him the Cube, Spiro ambushes Artemis and steals it. In the process, Butler, his bodyguard is killed by one of Spiro's staff. However, Artemis manages to revive him with the aid of cryogenics and fairy healing magic, courtesy of Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon squad.
After Butler is revived, Artemis convinces the LEP to track down the Cube. They agree on one condition: that Artemis' mind is to be wiped later. They head to The Spiro Needle, where Jon Spiro has held the Cube. The Cube is recovered with the aid of Butler's sister and Mulch Diggums, who is later incarcerated. Nearing the end of the book, Mulch discovers that Artemis has cleared him of all charges and tasked him with restoring Artemis' memory, which is wiped at the end. In the epilogue, it is revealed that the LEP questioned him to reveal any plans he had to retain his memory, but he managed to fool them, and his plans remained secret from the LEP..


 I enjoy YA fiction.  There it's been said and can't be undone.  YA fiction is not highbrow...you'll not find anything terribly challenging about it.  No heady undertones, no deep philosophical meanings that keep your mind reeling for years, no life changing messages.  It is not fiction that you will be discussing over espresso at some artsy French cafe.  It won't impress your intellectual friends at cocktail parties and it won't up your image sitting neatly next to you at a board meeting.

YA fiction is pure entertainment.  It is what one might reach for when they just need a break for awhile.  It's where you go in your mind when no one else is looking.  It is ice cream at 2 a.m. with heaps of hot fudge and nuts and whipped cream.  It is comfort and juvenile joy, a favored sweater that is perhaps dated and (gasp!) colorful.  YA fiction whisks the reader away from the cares and trials of daily life on wings of fantasy.  It is or it can be sublime when written with care.  Too much of it is written without thought and with simply an eye toward profit because let's face it young adult readers are not very discerning readers.  Eion Colfer has managed to pen a series of books that are endearing and entertaining and that this reviewer has enjoyed immensely.  I can't thank Mr. Colfer enough for giving me that little break from reality, that special treat at the end of a long day.  That is a gift that is truly priceless.

From Wikipedia:  Artemis Fowl is a series of eight science fantasy novels written by the Irish author Eoin Colfer, starring teenage criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl II. Colfer summed up the series as: "Die Hard with fairies."[2] There are seven novels in the series; the first was published in 2001 and the seventh was released in 2010. The eighth and final book is set to be released 10 July 2012. A graphic novel was released in 2007, and a second in 2009. A third graphic novel and a movie are currently in the writing process.


Eoin Colfer (pronounced Owen) is the New York Times best-selling author of the blockbuster Artemis Fowl series as well as Airman; Half Moon Investigations; The Supernaturalist; Eoin Colfer's Legend of... books; The Wish List; Benny and Omar; and Benny and Babe. He was born in Wexford on the southeast coast of Ireland in 1965, where he and his four brothers were brought up by his father (an elementary school teacher, historian and artist of note) and mother (a drama teacher). He first developed an interest in writing in primary (elementary) school with gripping Viking stories inspired by history that he was learning in school at the time.
Eoin got his degree from Dublin University and qualified as a primary school teacher, returning to work in Wexford. He married in 1991 and he and his wife spent about 4 years between 1992 and 1996 working in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Italy. His first book, Benny and Omar, was published in 1998, based on his experiences in Tunisia; it has since been translated into many languages; a sequel followed in 1999. In 2001, the
first Artemis Fowl book was published worldwide to much success - shortly thereafter he left teaching to concentrate fully on his writing.  To this day, Eoin has written 6 Artemis Fowl books which have sold over 12 million copies worldwide.


Novels in  this series:

  1. Artemis Fowl (2001)
  2. The Arctic Incident (2002)
  3. The Eternity Code (2003)
  4. The Opal Deception (2005)
  5. The Lost Colony (2006)
  6. The Time Paradox (2008)
  7. The Atlantis Complex (2010)
  8. The Last Guardian (2012)

* I received an advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.

09 April 2012

Escape from Camp 14 - Blaine Hardin

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (March 29, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670023329


The shocking story of one of the few people born in a North Korean political prison to have escaped and survived.
North Korea is isolated and hungry, bankrupt and belligerent. It is also armed with nuclear weapons. Between 150,000 and 200,000 people are being held in its political prison camps, which have existed twice as long as Stalin's Soviet gulags and twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps. Very few born and raised in these camps have escaped. But Shin Donghyuk did.
In Escape from Camp 14, acclaimed journalist Blaine Harden tells the story of Shin Dong-hyuk and through the lens of Shin's life unlocks the secrets of the world's most repressive totalitarian state. Shin knew nothing of civilized existence-he saw his mother as a competitor for food, guards raised him to be a snitch, and he witnessed the execution of his own family. Through Harden's harrowing narrative of Shin's life and remarkable escape, he offers an unequaled inside account of one of the world's darkest nations and a riveting tale of endurance, courage, and survival.


I am sitting in my living room on a lovely Saturday, in fact, it is the day before Easter.   There is a warm breeze sifting through the curtains, my child has been hovering around the eggs all morning, eager to dye them.  I can hear the joyful sounds of children playing outside and I know that I have been blessed beyond imagining. 

I once asked a near stranger to tell her personal story to me.  As it turned out, this dear lady, remembers running away from communist soldiers in VietnamShe recalled the iron grip her mother had on her hand, she remembers worrying if her grandparents would keep pace with them, she could still smell the smoke that rose from her ancestral home as it burst into flames.  Most of all she remembers the look in her father's eyes as she turned to see him fall to his knees and raise his arms in surrender.  I have no framework with which to understand such a tale...a story so fantastic, so fictional...and yet, I feel as though it is I that has lived in a fantasy all these years.  It is I, living in a world pampered and coddled, well fed, well dressed and yes, I have been well loved as well. 

What do I know of suffering?  Hardship?  Atrocity?  Very little.  Very, very little.  As I read through Camp 14 I was, no, I am bewildered.  It would seem that there are no bounds to which Humans will stop, no low too low to stoop, no degradation too base for them to reach when it comes to inflicting pain and suffering onto their own.  We are the only species that tortures its own kind.  Probably the only species that actually actively seeks out to cause harm.  What Shin went through, what countless thousands continue to suffer is abhorrent.  There is no excuse, no justification, no reasoning.  There is no explanation that will suffice.  The 'camps' of North Korea are a disgusting and reprehensible blight on humanity.  

Read this book not because it is well written or entertaining.  Not because it is what everyone else will be reading this year.  Please don't buy this book to put up on your bookshelf.  Read this book because you need to know what goes on in our world.  It is our responsibility to our fellow human beings to at least be aware and we owe them that much.  We would want the same if it were us.  We would want the world to at least hear our story.  So, take a moment and simply listen.  Listen to one man tell his story.   


Blaine Harden is an author and journalist who reports for PBS Frontline and contributes to The Economist. He worked for The Washington Post in Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia, as well as in New York and Seattle. He was also a roving national correspondent for The New York Times and writer for the Times Magazine.
His most recent book is Escape From Camp 14. It's the story of Shin Dong-hyuk, the only person to have been born and raised in a North Korean prison camp -- and to have escaped to the West. It will published in late March in the United States by Viking, and in much of Europe in April. In a pre-publication review, Publisher's Weekly said Escape from Camp 14 "reads like a dystopian thriller."
Blaine is also the author of A River Lost. It's about well-intentioned Americans (including the author's father) who dammed and degraded the West's greatest river, the Columbia. The New York Times called it a "hard-nosed, tough-minded, clear-eyed dispatch on the sort of contentious subject that is almost always distorted by ideology or obscured by a fog of sentiment." An updated and revised edition of A River Lost will be published by Norton in the spring of 2012 to coincide with a PBS American Experience program about Grand Coulee Dam and the Columbia River.
Blaine's first book, Africa: Dispatches from a Fragile Continent, was described by The Independent (London) as the "best contemporary book on Africa."
Blaine lives in Seattle with his wife Jessica and their two children, Lucinda and Arno.


Shin Dong-hyuk (born in 1982 as Shin In Geun)[1] is a North Korean defector living in South Korea.[1] He is the only known person to have escaped from a 'total-control zone' grade internment camp in North Korea.[1] He has given testimony on his life in Kwan-li-so No. 14 Kaechon to human rights organizations[2] to raise awareness of the situation in North Korean internment and concentration camps.[3]
Shin Dong-hyuk was born in a prison-labor colony as child of two prisoners in 1982. He has described how, at the age of 14, he was tortured for four days after his mother tried to escape. He was completely stripped, his legs cuffed and hands tied, and suspended from the ceiling of his cell. His torturers then lit up a charcoal fire under his back and forced a hook into his skin so that he could not struggle.[4] Shin still has a number of large scars from the flesh burned and from many other abuses.[5] Later, on 29 November 1996, he was forced to watch the public execution of his mother and brother.[1][6][7] At age 20, part of his middle finger was hacked off after he dropped a sewing machine in the textile factory where he worked.[1]
He was imprisoned for 22 years. During his work at a textile factory, befriended a 40 year old man named Park, who claimed to be from Pyongyang. Park told Shin stories of food he had eaten in Pyongyang and while studying in East Germany and the Soviet Union, such as chicken, pork and beef. He also talked of electronics such as televisions and mobile phones. Shin has described how he became excited and decided he was going to attempt to flee the camp. Shin and Park discussed escaping the camp extensively. One day, when the two were assigned work by the camp's electrified fence on a 1,200 feet (370 m) mountain ridge, Shin noted the long interval between the guard's patrols, so the two waited until the guards had left, and attempted to flee the camp.[1][8] Park tried to fit through a hole in the fence, but was electrocuted. Shin managed to pass through the gap, fleeing the camp.[1]
He walked 18 miles trying to locate a stretch of the Tumen River where he could cross into China.[1] He broke into a shed where he stole a military uniform. He pretended to be a North Korean soldier, and bribed border guards along the way with food and cigarettes.[1] Eventually, he found the river and crawled the rest of the way into China. From China, he travelled to South Korea and later to Southern California in the United States, changing his name from Shin In Geun to Shin Dong-hyuk.*

*From Wikipedia.

* I received an advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.

08 April 2012

15 March 2012

Starters - Lissa Price

  • Reading level: Ages 12 and up
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (March 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385742371
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385742375


Callie lost her parents when the Spore Wars wiped out everyone between the ages of twenty and sixty. She and her little brother, Tyler, go on the run, living as squatters with their friend Michael and fighting off renegades who would kill them for a cookie. Callie’s only hope is Prime Destinations, a disturbing place in Beverly Hills run by a mysterious figure known as the Old Man.

He hires teens to rent their bodies to Enders—seniors who want to be young again. Callie, desperate for the money that will keep her, Tyler, and Michael alive, agrees to be a donor. But the neurochip they place in Callie’s head malfunctions and she wakes up in the life of her renter, living in her mansion, driving her cars, and going out with a senator’s grandson. It feels almost like a fairy tale, until Callie discovers that her renter intends to do more than party—and that Prime Destinations’ plans are more evil than Callie could ever have imagined. . . .



For fans of 'The Hunger Games', 'Starters' should be the next big thing.  I actually read 'Starters' before reading 'The Hunger Games' and it's because of 'Starters' that I even read that other trilogy (yes, this book is that good,  It is sooo good that when I read that other reviewers were comparing it 'The Hunger Games' I finally caved and read the books).   I am a huge fan of YA Fiction and and I should mention that some of the best writing is being done for this genre.  Lissa Price will inevitably prove herself to be an author to watch out for if this debut novel is any indication of her talent and imagination.  Romance, intrigue, mystery...it's all in here and if there is one thing that I love more than a dystopian story it is one that is part of a series.  Look for book two 'Enders' to be released 04 December 2012.  Just in time for my birthday. Yeah!


lissaLissa Price has studied photography and writing, but the world has turned out to be her greatest teacher. She has walked with elephants in Botswana, swum with penguins in the Galápagos, and stood on a field at sunset amid a thousand nomads in Gujarat, India. She has been surrounded by hundreds of snorting Cape buffalo in South Africa and held an almost silent chorus with a hundred wild porpoises off the coast of Oahu. She has danced in mud huts at village weddings in India and had tea with the most famous living socialite in Kyoto. When she sat down to write, she found that the most surprising journeys were still inside her mind. She lives in the foothills of southern California with her husband and the occasional deer. Visit her at LissaPrice.com


* I received an advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.

13 March 2012

Erebos - Ursula Poznanski

Age 12+
Grade 7+
5.5 x 8.5
532 Pages

ISBN 13: 9781554513734


An intelligent computer game with a disturbing agenda.
When 16-year-old Nick receives a package containing the mysterious computer game Erebos, he wonders if it will explain the behavior of his classmates, who have been secretive lately. Players of the game must obey strict rules: always play alone, never talk about the game, and never tell anyone your nickname.

Curious, Nick joins the game and quickly becomes addicted. But Erebos knows a lot about the players and begins to manipulate their lives. When it sends Nick on a deadly assignment, he refuses and is banished from the game.
Now unable to play, Nick turns to a friend for help in finding out who controls the game. The two set off on a dangerous mission in which the border between reality and the virtual world begins to blur. This utterly convincing and suspenseful thriller originated in Germany, where it has become a runaway bestseller.



For young adult/teen fiction this was a surprisingly decent read.  Actually, I enjoy the YA genre quite a bit and there is (surprisingly) a slew of fabulous books and authors writing for this generation.  How fortunate today's youth is...Anyway, Erebos (or at least the version I read) is translated from its original German so you have to imagine that at least some of the flavor of the novel gets lost in translation.  Luckily, Erebos has been deftly translated by Judith Pattinson and she has apparently done a wonderful job.  Erebos clips along at a quick pace drawing the reader in from the beginning and not letting go until the last page.  I didn't put the book down until it was finished...in fact I felt that I couldn't-I just had to know what happened next.  There is enough going on in this book to keep even the most jaded reader happily ensconced in its pages.

Ursula Poznanski

Ursula Poznanski was born in Vienna, Austria, where she still lives today with her partner and daughter. The older of two sisters, she enjoyed reading, music, cycling, and skiing when she was a child. Her favorite books were The Flying Classroom by Erich Kaestner, Mio, My Son by Astrid Lindgren, and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
Ursula started writing when she was no more than seven or eight years old. She was fortunate in that she had teachers who encouraged her a great deal, and loving relatives who would read her essays to everybody who hadn’t managed to escape in time. She found it quite embarrassing, but it did not deter her from writing.
The idea for Erebos (Spring 2012) came from her penchant for stories that include a change of worlds. These usually come in the form of fantasies, but she wanted to tell a story where this actually happens. She loved the idea of a computer game dragging the player so deeply into a virtual world that it would affect his view of reality. She also wanted to write about manipulation and how it works.

What Ursula enjoys most about the creative process are those moments when it seems as if the book is writing itself. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it is pure joy.
Her advice for aspiring authors is to read a lot and write a lot. Don’t believe that success is going to come fast or easy, but carry on nevertheless. Love your story; don’t run after trends. Look for a good writing partner who tells you the truth about what he or she thinks of your work. Appreciate profound criticism.
Ursula’s interests, besides writing, include photography, music (although she doesn’t play an instrument, she has not given up hope that she may still do so one day), talking to interesting people, and traveling.

* I received an advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.

02 March 2012

Heft - Liz Moore

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (January 23, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393081508
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393081503


 Former academic Arthur Opp weighs 550 pounds and hasn’t left his rambling Brooklyn home in a decade. Twenty miles away, in Yonkers, seventeen-year-old Kel Keller navigates life as the poor kid in a rich school and pins his hopes on what seems like a promising baseball career–if he can untangle himself from his family drama. The link between this unlikely pair is Kel’s mother, Charlene, a former student of Arthur’s. After nearly two decades of silence, it is Charlene’s unexpected phone call to Arthur–a plea for help–that jostles them into action. Through Arthur and Kel’s own quirky and lovable voices, Heft tells the winning story of two improbable heroes whose sudden connection transforms both their lives. Like Elizabeth McCracken’s The Giant’s House, Heft is a novel about love and family found in the most unexpected places.


Heft is a haunting portrait of isolation, alienation and hope.  Ms. Moore's deft realization of her characters was perfection....each person had a clear and distinct voice and while Moore places them in difficult circumstances she manages to abstain from melodrama and remain ever truthful-Moore truly shows immense respect for her characters. I immediately became immersed, intrigued and enthralled by this novel...I read it in a scant three days, often staying up late to read just a bit more (thank you Ms. Moore for some very sleepy days!).

Now, normally I hate a cliffhanger ending and Heft definitely leaves the reader hanging.  However, in this particular situation, I actually liked it-dare I say, prefer, this abrupt and slightly dissatisfactory ending to such a well liked novel?  Moore's decision to end this story firmly rooted with a question mark was in my opinion brilliant.  Moore's characters had all progressed personally to such a point that literally the future was wide open to them...possibilities abounded for them. It is left to the reader to imagine their futures and I found it lovely to think of all the wonderful ways their lives could end up...these will be well loved characters by all readers and I can only imagine all the beautiful things that the readers of Heft will dream up for them.



Liz Moore is a writer, musician, and teacher.
She wrote most of her first novel, The Words of Every Song (Broadway Books, 2007), while in college. The book, which centers on a fictional record company in present-day New York City, draws partly on Liz’s own experiences as a musician. It was selected for Borders’ Original Voices program, received 3.5/4 stars in PEOPLE Magazine, and was given a starred review by Kirkus. Roddy Doyle wrote of it, “This is a remarkable novel, elegant, wise, and beautifully constructed. I loved the book.”
After the publication of her debut novel, Liz released an album, Backyards, and obtained her MFA in Fiction from Hunter College, where she studied with Peter Carey, Colum McCann, and Nathan Englander. After being awarded the University of Pennsylvania’s ArtsEdge residency, she moved to Philadelphia in the summer of 2009. She has taught Creative Writing at Hunter College and the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Writing at Holy Family University in Philadelphia, where she lives.
Her second novel, Heft, was published by W.W. Norton in January 2012.

* I received an advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.

20 February 2012

The Book of Lost Fragrances - M.J. Rose

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books (March 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451621302


A sweeping and suspenseful tale of secrets, intrigue, and lovers separated by time, all connected through the mystical qualities of a perfume created in the days of Cleopatra--and lost for 2,000 years. 
Jac L'Etoile has always been haunted by the past, her memories infused with the exotic scents that she grew up surrounded by as the heir to a storied French perfume company. In order to flee the pain of those remembrances--and of her mother's suicide--she moved to America. Now, fourteen years later she and her brother have inherited the company along with it's financial problems. But when Robbie hints at an earth-shattering discovery in the family archives and then suddenly goes missing--leaving a dead body in his wake--Jac is plunged into a world she thought she'd left behind.
Back in Paris to investigate her brother's disappearance, Jac becomes haunted by the legend the House of L'Etoile has been espousing since 1799. Is there a scent that can unlock the mystery of reincarnation - or is it just another dream infused perfume?
The Book of Lost Fragrances fuses history, passion, and suspense, moving from Cleopatra's Egypt and the terrors of revolutionary France to Tibet's battle with China and the glamour of modern-day Paris. Jac's quest for the ancient perfume someone is willing to kill for becomes the key to understanding her own troubled past.


Read an excerpt from The Lost Book of Fragrances.

But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection. —Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past

Chapter 1.
Alexandria, Egypt, 1799

Giles L’Etoile was a master of scent, not a thief. He had never stolen anything but one woman’s heart, and she’d always said she’d given that willingly. But on this chilly Egyptian evening, as he descended the rickety ladder into the ancient tomb, each tentative footstep brought him closer to criminality.

Preceding L’Etoile had been an explorer, an engineer, an architect, an artist, a cartographer and, of course, the general himself—all the savants from Napoleon’s army of intellectuals and scientists now stealing into a sacred burial place that had remained untouched for thousands of years. The crypt had been discovered the day before by the explorer Emile Saurent and his team of Egyptian boys, who had stopped digging when they unearthed the sealed stone door. Now the twenty-nine-year-old Napoleon would have the privilege of being the first man to see what had lain lost and forgotten for millennia. It was no secret that he entertained dreams of conquering Egypt. But his grand ambitions went beyond military conquests. Under his aegis, Egypt’s history was being explored, studied and mapped.


What a truly lovely novel this was to read.  A love story spanning the ages, an intricate mystery set in the recesses of time...all of this set in some of the most beguiling and intriguing locations around the world.  It was, for me, the ideal way to escape the 'real world' for awhile...just kick up my feet and allow myself to be transported into a fictional world that seemed so familiar and yet magical, surreal.  MJ Rose has crafted that rare novel that manages to be believable and fantastical at the same time.  

Oh, and what's not to love about a book that launches with it's very own personalized signature fragrance?  

Discover the perfume inspired by The Book of Lost Fragrances

Pre-order The Book of Lost Fragrances and we'll send you a free sample of Âmes Soeurs, the Scent of Soulmates. This exclusive fragrance, inspired by the novel, was created by Joya Studios and is not yet for sale.

Just use one of the above links to buy the book and then email the receipt, or a scan of it, to LostFragrances@gmail.com. Include 1) your name, and 2) snail mail address so we can send you the fragrance.
(no post office box addresses, please!


M.J. Rose (www.mjrose.com) is the international best selling author of eleven novels and two non-fiction books on marketing. Her next novel THE BOOK OF LOST FRAGRANCES (Atria/S&S) will be published in March 2012.
Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in many magazines and reviews including Oprah Magazine. She has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio.
Rose graduated from Syracuse University, spent the '80s in advertising, has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and since 2005 has run the first marketing company for authors - Authorbuzz.com
The television series PAST LIFE, was based on Rose's novels in the Renincarnationist series. She is one of the founding board members of International Thriller Writers and runs the blog- Buzz, Balls & Hype.
She is also the co-founder of Peroozal.com and BookTrib.com.
Rose lives in CT with her husband the musician and composer, Doug Scofield, and their very spoiled and often photographed dog, Winka.

* I received an advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.