Archive for YA

Yes, I’m Still Here

Whew! Life gets busy! But am I still here? Yes. And am I still doing my “Reading Through my Bookcases” project? Well…technically, yes. Remember that I did say I was going to allow myself to be distracted from time to time, if something interesting came up. And something did. Fourteen somethings, as it happened.

Boxed set of Seven, the Series

I heard an interview with two authors who were among seven authors who wrote a series of YA books aimed particularly at boys: Seven, the Series. All seven books were released simultaneously in 2012 and could be bought as a set or read individually (in any order), with each book capable of standing alone. The series was about the seven grandsons (from four families) of a man (David McLean) who left each grandson a particular task in his will. Each of the seven authors (six men and one woman) wrote the story of one grandson, with the stories taking us to such places as France, Spain, Iceland, Mount Kilimanjaro, Canada’s far north, and downtown Toronto. The stories aimed to encourage more boys to read, but from the reviews I read, girls are just as likely to enjoy the books too.

Seven - book cover pic 2I loved them, myself. I loved the idea, first of all. But the books had so many exciting and even moving moments. Between Heaven and Earth, where the oldest grandson, DJ, tries to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, just had my heart soaring by the end. In Lost Cause, where DJ’s younger twin brother, Steve, goes to Spain, we learn a lot about the fight against Franco and the fascists. Jump Cut, about Spencer, the rather bored cousin who is only interested in films, is very, very funny. His story links to that of Bunny, his younger brother, whose very simple view of the world gets him involved with some very unexpected and unsavory friends, in Ink Me. And so the books go, as you learn a great deal not just about each of the boys, but about their grandfather David and his amazing life as well.

But just wait. I did say “fourteen” distractions, not “seven.” That’s because the reason I heard the two authors interviewed, that Sunday morning in October, was not so they could talk about the series that had been released two years earlier. No–they were talking about Seven, the Sequels, which had just been released in 2014, simultaneously, like the first ones had been. The first series did so well and was such fun that the lot of them (and Orca Books, the publisher) agreed that there should be another set of books, about the same grandsons, just a few months after their adventures in the first series.

Needless to say, I ran out and ordered them all up at the library. This time, most of the boys are up at their grandfather David’s cabin at Christmas, and behind a panel in the wall, they discover some documents, passports, and other items (including a gun!) that suggests there is much more to learn about David McLean’s early life. So off the boys go again, trying to find out what all of these secret papers mean.

Cover of the book, "Tin Soldier"Steve ends up back in Spain, in Broken Arrow, hunting for an old nuclear weapon lost after World War II. Adam, the only American grandson, finds himself jetting around the Caribbean in Double You, tracking down his grandfather’s apparent double life. In From the Dead, Rennie, the grandson nobody knew about, who helped solve a murder in Iceland in the first series, gets heavily involved in fallout from World War II in, of all places, Detroit. And Webb, possibly my favourite of the grandsons, takes a trip to the southern United States in Tin Soldier, trying to find out why the US military doesn’t want people to know about his grandfather’s role in the Vietnam War. (I think that might be my favourite book of the fourteen, although Jump Cut gives it serious competition.)

On the whole, I loved the books, and I highly recommend them both as reading for boys and for some fairly light, quick reading even for adults who want to take a breather. There are strengths and weaknesses from book to book, of course; for example, I didn’t think the plot of From the Dead held together that well at the end, so I much preferred Rennie’s first story, Close to the Heel, in Iceland. And the plots in the second series, dealing more in the spy world, are somewhat more exciting than those in the first. But on the whole, these are both excellent series, and all of the books are well worth reading.

So…back to my bookcase now? Soon. Probably. 🙂

sevensequels

 

Reading Through the Bookcase: Artemis Fowl

My five Artemis Fowl books

I saved this till I had read all five of my Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer. (Even though I detoured twice before I finished the lot.)

When the Harry Potter books were well underway, a few other books began to appear that seemed to be taking advantage of the YA desire for fantasy novels along similar lines: stories that involved older kids or younger teens from our own world who suddenly discovered that there was a magical dimension to the world that remained hidden from everyone else (especially adults). One of the main series that started in the midst of Pottermania was the Artemis Fowl series.

It’s about a wealthy, pre-teen genius boy who discovers that the denizens of the old Faerie world of the legends (primarily Irish) had really existed but had just moved underground to create a whole new society there, when they came into conflict with humans. Artemis, being a self-proclaimed criminal mastermind, calculates how to find this fairy world, reasoning that he should be able to trick that society into handing over the legendary “pot of gold” that has been talked about in so many tales and myths. He manages to capture Holly Short, an elf who is the first female captain of the Lower Elements Police Recon squad (LEP Recon. Leprecon. Get it?), and  demands a large amount of fairy gold as a ransom.

And so it all begins! In the five books I have (naturally I don’t have all eight; when do I ever have a complete set??), we watch Artemis get more and more human and, more importantly, humane. Even while he retains his deviousness, he comes to appreciate and even love the citizens of Haven City, below ground (including such characters as Foaly the technowizard centaur and Mulch Diggums, a member of the dwarf race who burrow underground in a most…interesting way). And most of all, Artemis appreciates that the existence of Haven City and all the fairy races must remain a secret from humanity, lest other humans try to exploit the magical races and end up destroying them. So the fairies and Artemis do a great deal for each other over several years, and Holly Short develops a lasting friendship with Artemis and his brilliant and worldly-wise bodyguard, Butler, with all his underworld connections and martial arts skills.

Eoin Colfer at the Toronto Public Library, September 2011

Eoin Colfer at the Toronto Public Library, September 2011

I have friends who think that the Artemis Fowl books were just a “ripoff,” of sorts, of the Harry Potter books. The first Fowl book was published flush in the middle of the Potter popularity. And the series, as my friends are swift to point out, isn’t nearly as unified and deep in its ideas. Nor, they say, is it written all that well.

Frankly, I don’t agree, and I don’t care anyway.If this series were a clear copy of the storyline from the Potter books, that would be a different matter. (She says, shuddering at the horrible memory of The Sword of Shannara and the plot of The Lord of the Rings.) It’s true that this series takes up figures from legend and folklore and brings them into this world. So did the Narnia books. So do a lot of other books. And yes, the main character starts out about the same age as Harry Potter. (Artemis, too, was eleven years old at the beginning, and given that there are three more books after the ones I have, he’s likely to end up about the same age as Harry did.) It is said that there are only, really, about seven or eight basic storylines in the world, and that every story ever told is a variation of one of them. It doesn’t bother me that there are some similarities between stories. A pre-teen discovers a secret magical world connected to this one–how different could you make it, really?

And as to this series’ “not being written very well”…well, that has been a big complaint from people who don’t like the Harry Potter books too. (“She’s really not a very good writer.” How often I’ve heard that from people! The adults, that is, who weren’t sitting eagerly waiting for the next book or the next movie.) Neither of these series is grand, High Literature. But who cares? Eoin Colfer tells a really good story for the people who enjoy this sort of tale, and he adds some good laughs into the mix as well.

So I had a really nice trip through this part of the top shelf of my SF&F bookcase.

If you’re an Artemis Fowl fan yourself, it might interest you to know that Disney is supposedly developing a movie. If so, I can’t wait to see it!

And check out my own description, three years ago today, of an evening with Eoin Colfer at the Toronto Public Library.

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