Wednesday, March 26, 2014

March 2014 Book Review: Artemis Fowl


By Eoin Colfer
~Book Review~

Minor Spoilers!

To wrap up our Ireland-set fantasy book month:

WOW I read this book a long time ago. And personally, I like the old cover :D I remember thinking it made the book seem all mysterious. The back cover bore the cryptic phrase, which went something like: STAY BACK, HUMAN. YOU DON'T KNOW WHO YOU'RE DEALING WITH, and I remember thinking: You're right. I really have no clue.

Then in walked Artemis Fowl, a pale, arrogant kid genius who always gets everything he wants--except for a family. He won me over by the first chapter. With his mother's mental health teetering, his father dead, and the Fowl Manor coffers in trouble, Artemis Fowl decides like any normal twelve-year-old boy that the best solution is to rob a bunch of powerful, underground dwelling fairy folk who have tons of riches. The ever-suffering Butler (his loveable bodyguard) reluctantly agrees to his scheme, and they catch a break when they track down an alcoholic sprite banished to live among the Mud People (that's us), whom Artemis tricks in order to study her Book. All fairies have Books that issue strict protocol to follow, and guidelines about when to replenish their magic. Such a magic-drained fairy should be popping up in Ireland any day now to renew her magic under the light of the full moon. Artemis and Butler hurry to trap her so they can hold her for ransom.

Unfortunately for them, they've captured LEPrecon (Lower Elements Police) captain Holly Short, who although initially surprised by this devious Mud Person's intelligence, soon unhatches several schemes of her own. The Underground fairy folk aren't delicate or romanticized; they're formidable, blaster-wielding, and ultra-technologically advanced. Now that Artemis has a scientific genius centaur, a crude dwarf with a secret weapon, and the whole of LEP coming after him, he'll have to re-evaluate what he really wants. This book aimed for teen and younger readers is a whole lot of hilarity, twists, and inventiveness, with a thought-provoking eco-message and a Code written in the Fairy language that you can crack if you're really a  hardcore fan. You might not be sure how the story ends, but you do know that Artemis has finally found a true opponent in the Fairy Folk.

Recommended for fans of: J.K. Rowling, Rick Riordan, T. A. Barron
Upcoming Book Review: Sanctum by Sarah Fine (I said I'd do this one a while back, sorries! :)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Abroad in Ireland: Dublin

A tale of one girl’s study abroad trip to Galway, Ireland. The university was just one part of it...

Happy St. Patty's Day! You can bet we were listening to this song a lot while in Galway:

And we might have enjoyed the movie P.S. I Love You a bit too much. Anyway.

GALWAY IS A  gorgeous, atmospheric city on the northwest coast of Ireland. The Docks teamed with fishing and sailboats against a backdrop of red, blue, and yellow buildings. Cobblestone paths interweaved past Lynch’s Castle, the colorful Eyre Square, and Galway Cathedral; old bridges overlooked rowing team practices on the River Corrib. Few cars roamed the streets, especially at night when foot traffic was heavy on route to a vibrant night life complete with famous pubs such as The King’s Head, the Quays, and Monroe’s Tavern—and smaller niches (The Cottage Bar in Salthill, Crane Bar on Sea Road) where aspiring musicians are welcome to join onstage bands. Both The Saw Doctors and Dolores and Sean Keane (De Dannan) hail from Galway, and the town hosts a variety of music festivals as well as a famous Arts Festival in July.


It had always been a dream of mine to study abroad during undergrad. National University of Galway (NUI Galway) caught my eye as set in a unique and smaller city than Dublin, so I figured I could get to know the area better. The university was certainly an English Major’s dream—seminars included in-depth looks at Jane Austen, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Y.B. Yeats, and John Milton. It felt different to be studying these authors closer or within their homeland for some of them, like a seminar I ended up taking and really enjoyed about Irish writer/playwright Tom Murphy. There was also a family connection to Ireland—my uncle, who first traveled there on a bike trip in the 70s, slept in old churchyards overgrown with ivy, formed fast friendships, and kept finding a reason to return ever since. The land was a stunning inventor of the word “green” and was written with dark, fascinating histories and the wry attitudes of the people who lived them. I applied to NUI Galway through Arcadia University here in the US, determined to make the financial situation work, and when I was accepted, I boarded a plane in August study for a semester in Galway.

I really should have picked the spring. I hear it rains slightly less then.


Galway has an airport, but the university program set up the orientation for its international students in Dublin. I arrived with giant roller suitcases in hand, and walked up and down the main riverside street several times before I found the group meeting hostel near the Temple Bar area/Trinity College (I remember the discouraging feeling of being lost, before I figured this was a pretty cool place to be lost in). Our Arcadia student body had been broken into groups of six who would each share rooms, get to know one another, and so have a familiar face to look forward to when we arrived at NUI Galway’s version of dorms—awesome, two-or-three story small houses with full kitchens and baths, all lined neatly up next to one another with the University a 15-20 minute walk down the street, and a Tesco supermarket nearby. Most of the students in the Arcadia group were from East Coast USA, but there were a few from California. So I was the sole Washington student representing—hell yes.


For breakfast, we enjoyed a marvelous spread of bacon, toast, fried egg and tomato, sautéed mushrooms—and the infamous white/black pudding (that might have remained untouched). The day was spent exploring the city. A tour bus dutifully shipped us around the various Dublin hotspots—we snapped pictures of the lovely Botanic Gardens, traipsed through the courtyards of Trinity College, locked ourselves up in Kilmainham Gaol, and peeked in on the Book of Kells. Later that evening we visited my first pub—somewhere in the Temple Bar district—where I discovered for the first time what all the fuss about Guinness was about, and then found another brew that more fuss should be about in the US—Bulmer’s Hard Cider. Crisp, refreshing, amazing. The pint glasses, too, all artfully engraved with Smithwicks or Murphy’s, added something extra—hell, even Bud Light tasted better when served in a stylish pint glass.

The cool thing about having can host events like this: Secret Castle of Magic celebrating Bram Stoker. Photo accredited to Trip Advisor (2014).
  The following morning on our third day in Ireland, all of us still pumped up with adrenaline, we boarded the bus for a three hour drive to the opposite coast (Citylink and Bus Éireann are major bus lines), where the ivy-clad stone courtyards of NUI Galway, like some unearthed Emerald City, were waiting.

To be continued…read Part II here.

Disclaimer: the above is presented as fiction, not fact.

Monday, March 10, 2014

March 2014 Book Review: Iced


By Karen Marie Moning

~Book Review~

Iced (Dani O'Malley, #1; Fever, #6)

*Minor Spoilers*

IN ICED, Karen Marie Moning returns to ground zero for the paranormal war brewing between fae and humans in none-other-than downtown Dublin, in Darkfever #6, or the Dani O'Malley Trilogy #1. Now, in Year 1 of AWC (After the Wall Crash), in which the fae are freely hunting humans--but industries and nightclubs continue to run as usual--the point of view switches from Mackayla Lane to her 14-year-old sidekick Dani O'Malley, who is hired to figure out the identity of a deadly hoarfrost phenomena freezing nightclubs and leaving both humans and fae dead.

Moning definitely knows how to write characters who will evoke a strong, emotional response. The author claims Dani is still 14 at the time of Iced. I picture her as older and will continue to do so, despite Dani's fretting over her body and the number of sexual innuendos that shoot straight over her head. It might have something to do with her two hinted love interests being immortals who have anything but Dani's best interests at heart. Ryodan and Christian continually feast their eyes on her and make awful comments like, "You're going to make a hell of a woman one day, Dani," while licking their lips in anticipation. It made me cringe a number of times and I was pretty unable to get on board with either guy--particularly Christian. What happened to him? The author can make excuses for his creeper behavior all she wants, but that's all they are: excuses that try to distract from what the reader can clearly see: a super creep! Moning also claimed justification for keeping Dani at age 14 by way of "fourteen-year-olds think about sex, too." Hmmm, let's look at how Dani thinks about sex: she's off fantasizing a schoolgirl-type crush on Barrons and imagining her first kiss, while Ryodan and Christian are picturing something quite...different. Thank Heavens for Dancer, a male character around her age who treats her like a friend and with respect--who would've thought a teenage boy would be the most mature of all the romantic interests! Loved Dancer.

I really liked Dani taking over as the protagonist as well. I was never a fan of Saint Mac (see current Book Review of the Month) . Dani is impulsive, flawed, and has a lot of guilt she wrestles with--all while trying bravely to be a hero. Much more endearing, and I'd love more of her and Dancer teaming up to kick Fae a**. 

You might have noticed that most of this review focuses on characters, with little attention to the plot. That's because the book seems to forget the plot, too, in favor of witty banter and trips down memory lane of previous Darkfever books. Moning writes these scenes extraordinarily well and at no instance did my interest wane--but on a number of occasions, I did want to shake Dani and shout, "Okay! Enough chitchat! Get back to the investigation!" After all, a mysterious frost overtaking Dublin was a very intriguing idea, and the sinister new Fae that Moning introduces are gold--especially the villainous Crimson Hag! Loved her, she was superbly freaky! 

I'd definitely classify this book as "adult" despite the main character's age being younger than most characters in YA novels. However, I do love the world-building that goes into the Darkfever books, and it was a pleasure to return to the dark atmosphere of Dublin where one turn down a wrong alley could be your last. Suspenseful, entertaining, and an "oh, snap!" type cliffhanger at the end leaves me excited to see what happens next in Book #2.

Recommended for fans of: Ilona Andrews, Nalini Singh, Kim Harrison
Upcoming Book Review: Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

March 2014 Book Review: Eden Forest

It's March! Since we're heading to Ireland for our travel posts, and a certain St. Patrick's Day is coming up, this month will feature fantasy books connected to Ireland. Enjoy, & check out the Book Review page for a re-look back at my review of Karen Marie Moning's popular Darkfever book, set in Dublin.



By Aoife Marie Sheridan

~Book Review~

*Minor Spoilers Alert*

I received a copy of Eden Forest in exchange for an honest review

to our own called Saskia, where the people share affinities with the elements fire, air, water, earth, and spirit in correspondence to the fallen angels who founded their planet, an expecting mother flees her lover—the king—and an evil queen to Earth. In present-day Ireland, young Sarajane grows up unaware of her heritage, but agents of the warring king and evil queen draw her to Saskia.

The cover is fantastic and mysterious, so you go into this story not quite knowing what to expect. The story rotates around at least three points of view—all women, which was nice—and I love that Sarajane develops a deep relationship with her mother instead of the mother being MIA, or dead, ect. The idea of affinities for different elements was awesome, as many of my favorite fantasy series like Avatar (TV) and Vampire Academy (Richelle Mead) incorporate this, and I’m looking forward to Sarajane’s exploration of her powers.

The points-of-view, one of which is Bellona, the aforementioned “evil queen” type character, adds some uniqueness to the fantasy. The ending wraps up in an excellent spot to continue the series, and once Sarajane learns to fight, there’s no stopping her. I also liked her relationship with her lady-in-waiting, whom at first is introduced as the beautiful perfect girl but is later developed to have deeper motivations than what Sarajane sees.

However, I did remain a little unconvinced as to how Eden Forest is different from other books in the genre. Even with three viewpoints, I found the actions on all of the characters’ parts to be predictable, and longtime fantasy readers may find Sarajane to be a little Mary Sue-ish (destined to save the world, hinted to be the most powerful of all elemental users, ect). A lot of the magic and fantasy world-building is introduced at the beginning of the story, so when it shifts to Sarajane going about her normal life in Ireland, I was pretty impatient for Tristan to show up!

I’m looking forward to the rest of the series, to see what exactly convinced Bellona to take the actions she has today, and to see more of these fallen angels, because those are always fun. Nice, creative start to the series with strong female characters.

Recommended for fans of: Christopher Paolini, Tamora Pierce, Terry Brooks

Upcoming March Book Review: Iced by Karen Marie Moning (both authors have Marie as a middle name, funny!)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Changeling Sisters Series Participates in Smashwords 2014 "Read an Ebook Week" March 2-8! is launching a huge celebration of ebooks all this week, March 2-8, 2014, which consists of great deals and discounts on your favorites and new series. Both Changeling Sisters Series books, Year of the Wolf and Year of the Tiger, will be featured in the catalog. Visit their pages and type in the following coupon codes to receive 100% off of Year of the Wolf (Book I) and 25% off Year of the Tiger (Book II). Hooray for ebooks!

 YEAR OF THE WOLF (100% off)
Code: RW100

Code: REW25

Ends March 8th. Happy Reading, Everyone!