Artemis Fowl (Eoin Colfer)


I have some history with this book. (Like how I thought Maximum Ride was about a boy on a roller coaster for no apparent reason until I actually picked it up.) When I was really young, my mom would give me books to read, and I’d usually give her some equivalent of a negative-sounding “Hrmph.” Most of these books I reread at a later date and liked better. I could read them when I was young, but I didn’t like them.

Artemis Fowl is about a genius, the millionaire criminal mastermind of the same name (to quote Charles Dickens, “the item of mortality whose name is prefixed to the head of this [post]”), and potential thief of fairy gold. He has discovered something hidden for ages: the fairies were kicked off their land by humans and have retreated underground, where they can be safe. Artemis Fowl wants to capture one and take its ransom gold. He thinks he’s prepared. But he isn’t quite ready for Holly Short, the first female LEPrecon (fairy police officer) ever. These fairies are real. And it’s possible they’re prepared even for Artemis.

My initial impression was, Great, a really annoying male hero who’s rude and unfriendly, and an underground fairy culture that’s supposed to be years ahead of humanity, yet still hasn’t managed to have a single female police officer. I put it down.

But recently I picked it up again and I was blown away (if I gave credit to Sophie every time she made me read something, you’d get bored of the repetition, but here I must). Yes, there is that little issue of fairies having more sexism than humans, but honestly, it’s an amazing story of one boy with too many brains dealing with being human, and a bunch of hidden fairies dealing with being not (human).

And I loved it.

Writing

OK, I don’t know if it’s something to do with being Irish (I’ve seen multiple books with Irish authors who do this), but the author, Eoin Colfer, writes weirdly (in my opinion). His punctuation is messed up and, because of the font he uses, it looks worse than it is (don’t ask me how THAT works). However, it’s really mostly distracting in retrospect. That’s the technical aspect. In terms of description, etc., he doesn’t go overboard and does not use flowery language. In fact, he often utilizes clichés.

But here’s my rating system’s weakness. See, there’s the technical piece (grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.), and there’s the descriptive piece. These things do matter. It’s important that you’re technically correct, and that you write elegantly. However…some authors don’t, and they still manage to produce a wonder. Mr. Colfer writes for children (I think Artemis Fowl is supposed to be for the 3rd-7th grade level, approximately; but since when should you care?), which I think many people regard as an excuse to allow slack in regard to these types of errors, the thought being that children won’t notice. People tend to ignore the fact that most adults won’t notice, anyway. The point is, Artemis Fowl is written really well. The characters are portrayed well, the scenes are portrayed well, reactions are portrayed well, the plots are portrayed well—what’s the goal of a writer? To make you feel like you’re there. To make you stay up into 3am finishing the book. To make you call “One second!” when you’re summoned while reading—and have that “one second” become half an hour (or until you’re caught out, whichever comes first). Mr. Colfer might not have the technical perfection that makes me comfortable, and he might not go overboard in terms of metaphors or descriptions. Yet I’m inclined to give this a 5/5 anyway.

Plot

The plot is strong and unpredictable. It’s at times touching and at others vaguely confusing, but it always makes sense eventually. There’s more loss than you would expect. Don’t think nobody is going to die. Don’t think somebody will. I’m just putting it out there that magic works in weird ways, and, therefore, the book might end with something that looks unsolvable. You know what? 6/5.

Character Depth/Development

Mm…OK, here’s the problem. I personally, as I read the books, didn’t find any specific issues. But this is why I don’t make much sense: I write reviews, but I really don’t think people should read reviews. I’d write a list of books and say, “READ THESE.” But you wouldn’t, so here we have it (and you could just look at the titles of the posts, anyway). The problem about reviews is that I have to tell you what it’s about. Have you ever read a book without having any idea what happens in it? Try it sometime; it’s much more satisfying. (Yes, then you don’t know whether or not you’ll like it, but it’s still more satisfying, in my opinion.) I also end up, whether I want to or not, influencing your opinions. If I say “THIS IS THE BEST BOOK IN THE WORLD” (…*cough*…), you’ll probably be slightly more inclined to think that it’s amazing, and vice versa. Actually, if you read something I rate badly you’ll probably notice it twice as much, because I’ve pointed it out.

I saw shallowness in the characters at times, and cliché, but before I read these books I read a few reviews, and they said that the characters would have shallowness and cliché, so I found it. It’s entirely possible that it never really existed in the first place.

The characters can get predictable (except for Artemis Fowl, because he’s supposed to be smarter than you are. But even he gets predictable). When they aren’t, it’s occasionally annoying—I mean, sometimes they act totally out of character for no apparent reason. Also, they’re sort of stereotyped in ways. There is huge development, but it leaves you wondering, Is this too much development to be realistic?

See? Evil Magical Dubiousness of Doom. Nuh-uh. This is No Good.

The characters, however, are important, lovable, hatable, real. They’re smart, witty, funny, and sad. They’re creative and quick. They make you ache, laugh, and smile indulgently. They make you nod knowingly and/or sigh. (Sometimes the sighs come from them not acting “right,” i.e. what they would if this were “real,” but honestly, I don’t think that’s too often.)

The important thing is that I wanted to meet these characters. That’s really what matters. So I’ll give 4/5 and don’t look for where that extra point went. You’ll regret it.

Je Ne C’est Quois

I think I messed up the order a little. I’m sorry. I’ve been busy. READING. But I am back! So, we will now continue, as you have so delightfully been doing, to ignore the messed up order (however it messed itself up), and proceed to Je Ne C’est Quois, which I believe I have already established to land on an unfair 6/5.

P.S. I think it’s really popular but it’s still really good, and I think you’ve been under the impression that “Bling” won’t be good, so it landed in Obscure Gems as well. I know that defeats the purpose of the categories. You should know by now that I don’t make sense. 😉

P.P.S. An Explanation of Tags

Child thieving: He’s a criminal mastermind. But he isn’t an orphan grabbing things from street vendors, he’s an international embezzler. Yeah.

Environment: The fairies are partly underground and hiding because humans have messed up the earth’s environment, so there are a lot of semi-subliminal messages about how we shouldn’t mess up the earth.

Magic that’s really science: There’s magic, and there’s science, and there’s magical science. So the magic isn’t really science, but the legendary fairy magic is partially technological achievement.

On the run: …uh…criminal mastermind…someone’s got to be chasing him.

Orphans: His father may or may not be dead, and his mother’s sort of out of the picture in a way that doesn’t totally make sense but sort of does. They both make sporadic appearances as Artemis falls into and out of the time stream, does weird things, and comes back home. He’s not an orphan, but his parents really don’t have anything to do with what he does with his life. Or about much of anything he wants, really.

War: It’s entirely possible that there may be a war between fairies and humans. I mean, we kicked them out of their homes. And Artemis kidnapped one of them. And Artemis is the only human they’ve spoken to in a long time. And he’s a jerk.

Photographic memory & genius: He’s a genius….

I believe that’s that 🙂

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Fonts


OK, I know Sophie’s going to laugh at me when she sees this. That’s because she thinks it’s hilarious.

I’ll just say it. I have this obsession with fonts. I look at letters and I think about the font, not just the word. I have issues with Hoefler Text (the numbers [123, etc.] and question marks ?), although I used to love it because of the quotation marks (“”). I have this thing about Times New Roman when it’s squished by weird formatting so that it’s shorter and more stretched than normal. I also have a thing about Arial, size precisely 10 (as you can see from the “About” page as well). My favorite font of all time, however, is Adobe Caslon Pro (of course, this website won’t show it with code, so you’re just seeing this layout’s default font; but I’m sure you have it on your computer somewhere). I am just in love with Adobe Caslon Pro. I also like the Janson Text family. I remember fonts by their books; Janson Text, if you were wondering, belongs to The Mysterious Benedict Society, while Adobe Caslon Pro is from most of Tamora Pierce’s books, if you get the right copy.

I love Fanwood Text. There are a ton of books written in this font, but of them, a few are Mistborn, and Pathfinder, by Orson Scott Card. To spice it up, I also enjoy IM Fell Double Pica, or, for no apparent reason, IM Fell English. I like Galliard (Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel) because of the “”s and ?s, and occasionally—sparingly—Hoefler Text. I know I said I didn’t like it, but I used it for about 3 years consecutively, so I can’t help but be a little attached. I used to be obsessed with ITC Bookman Light (Liberation of Gabriel King; you’ve probably never heard of it, it was a 5th grade reading book and wasn’t even very good). I’ve gotten over that, though. In fact, I really hate it now. The letters are too round. Perpetua (Artemis Fowl) is pretty good too, as is Goudy Old Style (The Lightning Thief).

That’s why WordPress bugs me—practically the only reason. I can’t customize. It has this weird HTML issue where you need to write the code to change the font before every single paragraph if you want to change it. Unless, of course, you buy the pro version. GAHH. Luckily, I don’t mind this font, so it’s OK 🙂

Is there anyone out there who can help me prove to Sophie that I’m not crazy? (Even though we know I am. It’s for different reasons, though!!) Anyone who thinks they’ve spotted a trend and has a recommendation? (Some trends I’ve noticed: I like large quotation marks, or at least, I hate small ones and flat ones. Some books have “flavors” to me and just belong to certain fonts, even when I don’t like the font in question, so occasionally I’ve used, say, Book Antiqua. I also like distinctive question marks—so not the limp, narrow ones, but the ones with actual depth and perhaps some sharpness. I think I like thin letters.

A word of advice: Never write a book in a sans serif font, unless it’s an email. Emails are OK to write in, say, Arial or Helvetica. I’ve found, however, that most sans serif fonts end up being distracting. Perhaps it’s just me. Blogs are fine. It’s just actual, published books.

Also, I did a science experiment on fonts once (I told you; I’m obsessed!) once. Out of Arial, Times New Roman, Century Gothic, and Courier New—four pretty common fonts—which do you think would be the most easily read? I listed them here in order of my hypothesis.

Results? Century Gothic, #1. Isn’t that weird? Century Gothic is the single font most easily (so, quickly and fluently) read out of those four. I’d suggest staying away from it, then, because I think the brain actually doesn’t process anything if you read that fast.

Further research necessary. Please comment with suggestions 🙂

~Aeysh


CHERUB


(Publish on the 7th)

CHERUB, by Robert Muchamore, is—to start out—pretty graphic. It’s about child spies in England. It centers on James Adams, a troublemaking teenager whose mother has died. He’s taken to CHERUB campus—CHERUB once meant something, but nobody knows what it stands for anymore—from his foster home and trained to become a professional spy. He’s sent on missions, kills people, nearly gets killed, isn’t invincible, and suffers with moral issues of right and wrong, including girlfriends. There aren’t that many, though. Moral issues, not girlfriends (there are far too many girlfriends for my taste). The writing isn’t that deep. That’s because there isn’t much time. It’s one of those boom-boom-boom ones where there’s action on at least every other page. It’s fast and full of violence, mystery, codes, clues, captures, imprisonment, and thrill.

I’m not easily disturbed by most things except being eaten from the inside out. (Whatever you do, do not read the book called Gone by Michael Grant if you agree with me.) If you’re easily disturbed, you might not like this. There is some gore. But if you can skip around it, you’d probably be able to ignore it. It’s a Harry Potter-esque book in the way that it’s plausible. And while you know it isn’t true, at the same time, you wish it is. You can see how maybe, CHERUB—the spy campus and organization—might actually exist. It makes sense.

If you like mysteries, death, justice, adventure, action, martial arts, espionage, etc., these books are for you.

Once you’ve read CHERUB, try Henderson’s Boys, the sequel that takes place during World War II, and a few other series about CHERUB. CHERUB is pretty long, but it’s satisfying. Henderson’s Boys is very in-depth about WWII, so you’ll learn a lot.

Writing

Not deep; but fast-paced, interesting, thorough. It’s written in British (I know “British” isn’t a language; who saw the “Learn To Speak British” thing during the Olympics?), so it has single-quotes, “ou” instead of “o,” and that sort of thing. He has little punctuation irritations. But overall, they aren’t that distracting simply because you can’t remember to be distracted. These are delicious books you don’t want to put down. 5/5

Character Depth/Development

Many of the characters are pretty shallow and none of them develop that much. Well, maybe they develop a little, but if that’s so, it’s told, not shown. Actually, perhaps it’s that you see them change so it’s so gradual you don’t notice, like how it’s sometimes hard to tell how much a child’s changed if you see him every day, and that’s why he needs every single aunt and grandmother to say “Look how tall you are now!” I don’t think so, though. The characters are solid and do have flaws, but they aren’t deep. They’re real, but they aren’t deep. I’ll give 4/5.

Plot

The plot is great. It’s not as huge and weblike as the first two, but it’s a really solid plot. 5/5

Je Ne C’est Quois

It leaves you with an ache and you want it to be real, even while you accept that you’d probably never be in the same condition—mental and physical—that they are and you’d die halfway through their grueling training. Even when it’s terrible and horrifying. You want it. 5/5.


Life Post #1: Vegetarianism


The biggest part of my life probably centers around words. Books, thoughts (I know some people think in pictures, which is awesome—I don’t), writing, school; signs, warnings, labels, subtitles; languages, information, questions, answers—my life is basically a huge pile of words. On top of that, I’m artistic. I love art and I love to draw. One would think that vision would be important to my life. But if you were going to view an artistic representation of my life, you wouldn’t need your eyes (except to see the fonts. I love fonts). I could just read it to you.

In light of that, being a vegetarian isn’t very important to my life as a whole. The point of this post, however, is to convince you of two things. One: words have power. And two: meat, unless you’re careful about it, is essentially the same of bringing a creature into the world with the sole purpose of torturing it and ultimately murdering it.

Pleasant, right?

I suppose I’m not exactly qualified to say this, because I never ate much meat in the first place, just chicken. But think about this: Some drunk guy flipped the “power” switch in a farm somewhere. Within 15 minutes, 70,000 chickens were dead. The article comments on the number, as it comments on the “estimated $22,000 loss.” Oh, poor farmers, lost all that money. Uh…hello?? Chickens?? How did they die? The answer is, the air couldn’t circulate. They asphyxiated because they were packed so tightly together that 15 minutes of no a/c suffocated them all to death.

Picture this (and this’ll get graphic, so skip to the paragraph after next if you’re easily upset). A chicken in the possession of a farmer who cuts corners. Often. This would likely result in a cage, which is almost understandable. Animals are often kept in cages. But, continue. This particular chicken is at the top of a stack of cages barely big enough to fit the chicken. This chicken defecates. Follow the excrement down the line. At the very bottom of the stack, this chicken is practically swimming in collective poop. Then the chicken’s slaughtered. It’s probably never walked ten feet in its life. In fact, its legs have probably dangled out through the bottom of the cage its entire life. It might never have stood up under its own power since it was put in that cage.

Animal treatment is sick and twisted. Animal testing is worse. A two-year-old drinks dishwasher detergent (that is clearly labeled: DON’T DRINK, but the two-year-old can’t read). The parents sue the company. The company decides to prove that the two-year-old was an exception and their product is safe. So, they get two thousand rabbits. They force-feed the rabbits this dishwasher detergent and observe them carefully for 2 months. Most rabbits die right away. The rest writhe in excruciating pain until they die.

Done with graphic-ness. I read a book, Man Vs. Beast, that spoke very strongly about this. This book is a large part of why I’m a vegetarian. It’s a large part of why, at parties, I have to ask all my friends, “Is there meat in this food? Can you taste it to tell me?” and when I go to someone’s house, I have to leave large parts of dinner alone because I don’t want to make the parents do extra work. You all have kids, are kids, know kids, or remember being kids. Restaurants? What are the 2 safe things to eat? Pasta and chicken. What if it’s one of those fancy restaurants where the plain pasta is called something ridiculous and everything else has weird ingredients like pork, or strange vegetables? (Yes, I’m a vegetarian who doesn’t like vegetables.) There’s always something. That’s the lesson here. Save animals these tortured, terrible existences. Do me a favor and, next time you eat meat, try to imagine the chicken. Try to think about the fact that you’re biting into muscles that once propelled this leg forward, once flapped this wing, once connected to something that digested grain. At the very least, spend a few extra dollars on the organic/free range meat. You’ll feel good about yourself forever. It’s worth a little inconvenience. What if the aliens swept in and kept us the way we keep our food?


WORDS


Here are a list of some words you can amuse people (yourself) with! Or, if they don’t amuse you, they’ll certainly teach you something!

Funny or Cool. (Some will overlap, but I’ll just put them in “cool.”)

According to legend, a laugh increases your life by 5 seconds, so unless you’ll get weird looks, feel free to laugh!!

Funny

  • Batrachophagous: one who eats frogs
  • Borborygmus: the rumbling of gas in your intestines
  • Vigesimation: the act of killing every twentieth person.
  • Misodoctakleidist: someone who hates practicing the piano
  • Zenzizenzizenzic: It’s a mathematical term that means “a number to the power of eight.”
  • Abibliophobia: the fear of running out of reading material (I have this)
  • Ultracrepidarianism: used to describe a person who pretends to know all about a subject of which he really knows nothing at all.
  • Spifflicate: 1. (jocular) to destroy; 2. to beat (in a fight etc).
  • Defenestrate: Push something (or someone) out of a window.
  • Formicate: The feeling that ants are crawling all over your body. (Like the Formics in Ender’s Game; “formic” is Latin for “ant.”)
  • Anatidaephobia: The fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you.

Cool

  • The hardest words to translate into English
    • Mamihlapinatapai: a word in Yaghan (a language from Tierra del Fuego) for a look shared by two people, each wishing that the other would initiate something that they both desire but which neither wants to begin.
    • The Japanese “wabi” means “a flawed detail that creates an elegant whole,” or “an imperfection without which there is no true beauty.”
    • Jayus is an Indonesian word that conveys the awkward humor behind a joke delivered so badly that you can’t help but laugh; in English we say sarcastically, “That’s so funny I forgot to laugh.”
    • Tartle is a Scottish word for the hesitation felt when introducing people but having forgotten someone’s name.
    • Cafune is a Brazilian Portuguese verb for running your fingers through someone’s hair tenderly.
  • Some words that aren’t obscure, but are great!
    • Alate = winged
    • Sibilant = characterized by a hissing sound (s, z, etc.)
    • Volant = moving lightly; nimble or engaged in or having the power of flight. “Volant piece” is a piece of armor that reinforces a helmet’s brow.
    • Nubilous = cloudy or foggy
    • Paligic = of or pertaining to the ocean
    • Belletristic = literature considered as a fine art
    • Viridescent = greenish, beginning to turn green
    • Flibbertigibbet = flighty, light-headed person
    • Sardanapalian = excessively luxurious
    • Aliquant = Contained in a number or quantity, but not dividing it evenly: An aliquant part of 16 is 5.
    • Puissant = having great power or influence.
    • Scherzando = playful

That Awkward Moment (Things That Are Funny)


Here are a list of some miscellaneous funny things you can amuse people (yourself) with!

Funny or Cool. (Some will overlap, but I’ll just put them in “cool.”)

According to legend, a laugh increases your life by 5 seconds, so unless you’ll get weird looks, feel free to laugh!!

Funny

  • Things That Aren’t Words: That Awkward Moment. You’ll catch on. www.thatawkwardmoment.net
    • That awkward moment when you spell a common word correctly, but it just looks so wrong that you stare at it forever, questioning its existence.
    • That awkward moment when a sentence doesn’t end the way you think it octopus.
    • That awkward moment when someone says, “Happy birthday,” and you say, “Thanks—you too!”
    • That awkward moment when you open the closet looking for Narnia and find a door to Monsters, Inc., instead.
    • That awkward when you read the word ‘moment’ even though it really wasn’t there.
    • That awkward moment when Waldo and Nemo turn out to be on vacation together.
    • That awkward moment when the police ask Waldo’s mom why she’s never filed a missing persons report
    • That awkward moment when you realize you’re chewing on a borrowed pencil
    • That awkward moment when you look both ways down a one-way street
    • That awkward moment when the chain-mail murderer can’t kill anyone because everyone stopped reading after “Don’t read this!”
    • That awkward moment when you go to watch a fight, and a hockey game breaks out.
    • That awkward moment when you’re typing without looking at the screen, then you look up and find out you haven’t typed a thing
    • That awkward moment when Microsoft Word informs you that your name is spelled wrong
    • That awkward moment when you put your phone on ‘airplane’ mode and throw it into the air but it doesn’t fly
    • That awkward moment when a zombie is looking for brains and it walks right past you
    • That awkward moment when you are singing Happy Birthday but you don’t know the name of the person so you just mumble at the name part
    • That awkward moment when someone asks, “Have you two met?” and you reply “No” while the other person says “Yes.”
    • That awkward moment when you learn something neat in class, and try to share it with a friend later, only to remember afterwards that she was in the class with you
    • That awkward moment when someone yells at you for clicking a pen but you have to click it one more time to use it
    • That awkward moment when you think something is hilarious but nobody else seems to know what you’re talking about
    • That awkward moment when you’ve been saying “human bean” for your entire life instead of “human being”
    • That awkward moment when you’ve already said “what?” three times and still have no idea what the other person said, so you just agree.
    • That awkward moment when you slip while reading a “floor slippery when wet” sign
    • That awkward moment when you turn 11 and don’t get a letter from Hogwarts
    • That fail moment when you trip on the battery cord and do this weird hop to save your laptop from eternal destruction.
    • That fail moment when you name a file “cnkdfln” and your computer says a file named “cnkdfln” already exists
    • That fail moment when Tumblr spell-check considers the word ‘Tumblr’ to be misspelled
    • That fail moment when you can’t fall asleep because you keep thinking about falling asleep
    • That fail moment when you try to slam a revolving door
    • That fail moment when there’s a fly on your computer screen and you try to scare it away with your computer mouse.
    • That fail moment when you realize you’ve been pronouncing “tree” as “chree” your entire life
  • Have you ever wondered…
    • who the first person was who looked at a cow and thought, ‘I’m going to squeeze these dangly things under its stomach and drink whatever comes out’?
    • Have you ever wondered who the first person was who looked at a chicken and thought, ‘I’m going to eat the next thing that comes outta its butt’?

Cool

  • Ampersand. The shape of the character (&) predates the word “ampersand” by more than 1,500 years. In the first century, Roman scribes wrote in cursive, so when they wrote the Latin word et, which means “and,” they linked the e and t. Over time, the combined letters came to signify the word “and” in English as well. Certain versions of the ampersand, like that in the font Caslon, clearly reveal the origin of the shape.The word “ampersand” came many years later when “&” was actually part of the English alphabet. In the early 1800s, school children reciting their ABCs concluded the alphabet with the &. It would have been confusing to say “X, Y, Z, and.” Rather, the students said, “and per se and.” “Per se” means “by itself,” so the students were essentially saying, “X, Y, Z, and by itself and.” Over time, “and per se and” was slurred together into the word we use today: ampersand.(The ampersand is also used in an unusual configuration where it appears as “&c” and means etc. The ampersand does double work as the e and t.)
  • Scientific experiments indicate that sound symbolism is at play in word formation. In determining the Bouba/Kiki Effect, people from cultures around the world were asked to identify a spiked shape and a round shape with the name Bouba or Kiki. 90% of people identified the spiky shape as Kiki and the round, blobby shape as Bouba.
  • Did You Know…
    • There are about ten million bricks in the empire state building.
    • Shakespeare invented the words “assassination” and “bump.” Dr. Seuss coined “nerd.”
    • Mosquitoes are attracted more to blue than any other color.
    • Almonds are in the peach family. The symbol on the “pound” key (#) is called an octothorpe.
    • Los Angeles’s full name is “El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula” and can be abbreviated to 3.63% of its size, “L.A.”
    • 111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321
    • Napoleon constructed his battle plans in a sandbox.
    • When a giraffe’s baby is born it falls from a height of six feet, normally without being hurt.
    • There are more chickens than people in the world.
    • Your stomach has to produce a new layer of mucus every two weeks; otherwise it will digest itself.
    • When we visit toilets, bathrooms, hotel rooms, changing rooms, etc., how many of you know for sure that the seemingly ordinary mirror hanging on the wall is a real mirror, or actually a two-way mirror?? Just conduct this simple test: Place the tip of your fingernail against the reflective surface and if there is a GAP between your fingernail and the image of the nail, then it is a GENUINE mirror. However, if your fingernail DIRECTLY TOUCHES the image of your nail, then BEWARE, for it is a two-way mirror.
    • If you were to spell out numbers (e.g., o-n-e, t-w-o, t-h-r-e-e), you’d have to go to one thousand before you found the letter ‘a’.
    • If a statue in the park of a person on a horse has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle. If the horse has one front leg in the air the person died as a result of wounds received in battle. If the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural cause.
    • The first novel ever written on a typewriter: Tom Sawyer.
    • In Massachusetts, it is illegal to put tomatoes in clam chowder
    • Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king from history: Spades – King David, Hearts – Charlemagne, Clubs – Alexander the Great, Diamonds – Julius Caesar
    • That the average citizen of the world is a Han Chinese 28-year-old man?
    • That peanuts are one of the ingredients to dynamite?
    • What about that Mozart wrote “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” when he was 5 years old?
    • Or that president William Taft got stuck in a bathtub and had to be pried out by 2 assistants?
    • Or that the longest inaugural address by a president was 1 hour 45 mins in a snowstorm and the president died of pneumonia?
  • He was Andrew Wilson. In 2004 he legally became ‘They.’ Now you know who the “they” is they’re always talking about…It’s just that guy Andy from Missouri. (And They talks a lot. Often, They has no idea what he is talking about. Example: “They say that wolves will always attack you.”)
  • http://strangeplaces.net/weirdthings/students.html…just check it out. You wouldn’t believe how stupid typos or confusions of facts can make you. Some examples:
    • “The climate of the Sarah is such that the inhabitants have to live elsewhere.”
    • “A myth is a female moth. One myth says that the mother of Achilles dipped him in the River Stynx until he became intolerable.”
    • “Homer also wrote the ‘Oddity’, in which Penelope was the last hardship that Ulysses endured on his journey. Actually, Homer was not written by Homer but by another man of that name.”
    • Many of the Indian heroes were killed, which proved very fatal to them.”
    • “Franklin died in 1790 and is still dead.”
    • “Gravity was invented by Issac Walton. It is chiefly noticeable in the Autumn, when the apples are flaling off the trees.”
    • Bach was the most famous composer in the world, and so was Handel. Handel was half German, half Italian and half English. He was very large. Bach died from 1750 to the present…. Beethoven expired in 1827 and later died for this.”
    • France was in a very serious state. The French Revolution was accomplished before it happened.
    • “The sun never set on the British Empire because the British Empire is in the East and the sun sets in the West. Queen Victoria was the longest queen. She sat on a thorn for 63 years. He reclining years and finally the end of her life were exemplatory of a great personality. Her death was the final event which ended her reign.”

The Third Book: Maximum Ride


I have some history with this book. It’s weird. Everyone who wrote on “Can you recommend a book to me?” pages (or at least, the ones who originally liked books I’d liked) listed this series somewhere. For some reason, I just decided it was about a boy on a roller coaster. This is probably one of the stupider assumptions I’ve ever made. I’m just saying this to reinforce that even though everyone really does (don’t you?), don’t judge books by their covers. I do. If a book has an awesome cover, it’ll catch my eye; an awesome title will, too. But always remember that authors don’t necessarily choose these things. (Grr.)

To move on.

I’m not exactly positive whether this qualifies as The Third Book (as in, my third favorite). It’s another one of those this-is-the-best-book-I-read-since-the-last-best-book-I-read, so-I’m-mentally-conditioned-to-think-it’s-my-favorite-book-ever. I can’t tell you which books it falls between because while it’s great in some places, it’s really frustrating in others.

Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment, the first book, by James Patterson, is about Maximum Ride herself, a fourteen-year-old girl who lives with her “flock” of 6: Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gazzy, and Angel. She’s the oldest, and so in charge. They live their lives hiding from the government and the semi-insane slavering half-wolf people out to rip them to shreds.

And, oh, yeah. They’ve got wings.

Now, anyone who hasn’t dreamed of flying isn’t human. If not a dream, an idle wish. Who hasn’t wanted wings? Who hasn’t wanted to look down on towns, unencumbered by glass and metal, and pretend to squash people because they’re so small? (Okay, that one might be just me.)

James Patterson brings this dream to life with the sassy, sarcastic Maximum Ride and her flock of forgotten children, 98% human, 2% avian. You soon find out that they grew up in cages in a mysterious, questionably legal laboratory known as “the School.” They learned mostly everything from television. They were rescued by Jeb Batchelder, who hid them for so many years that the School has resorted to sending Erasers—those wolf people—after them, knowing that that might result in their deaths. To the scientists, or “whitecoats,” Max & co. are just laboratory experiments. Then Jeb mysteriously vanishes—they all know he’s dead—and they’re on their own against the world.

The ride is fast-paced and as sassy as its main character. There isn’t much time to think and you don’t want to wrench your mind away to bother. It’s hilarious and quirky and creative, and it’s like dreams come to life in a scarily realistic fashion.

This actually manages to last for approximately seven and a half books: The Angel Experiment, School’s Out—Forever, Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports, The Final Warning, Max (and you can see how the creativity is starting to peter out here), Fang, Angel, and then we have the book Nevermore, but I’ll wait to respond to that until the very, very end.

James Patterson is great. How else could he have achieved status as one of the best-selling authors of all time, with nearly 150 million copies of his books sold? He’s crazy prolific. He’s like what every author dreams of being.

Until you look more closely.

WARNING: THIS DOESN’T CONTAIN SPOILERS, BUT IT DOES CONTAIN DUBIOUSNESS. IF YOU DON’T WANT FOR THE RIDE TO BE SPOILED, SKIP TO THE ~~~~S. If you want the ride to be spoiled, highlight everything from here to the ~~~~s and magical dubiousness will appear to cast its doubt upon your experience.

The books were great. But he appears to have written a bunch of characters’ names and picked 5 adjectives to adhere to them. They don’t deviate at all throughout the entire series, except for Max, who undergoes the same exact changes every single book, and Angel, who becomes increasingly disturbing throughout each book, and is then back at, well, angelic status by the beginning of the next one.

Not to mention, there are many, many questions raised over the course of the series. He manages to answer a decent number in the last installation, but don’t count on the mysteries being solved. 

Now think about the story. Six (more than six) kids are raised in a science laboratory. Let’s for now ignore the fact that the science Mr. Patterson proposes is completely impossible. We can do that; the story lets us do that. He makes us want to. That’s talent, people. But now think about the plot. These six kids are broken out by one man, even though the lab has something tentatively to do with the government. Conceivable; he has codes, right? Even though they’re just six kids. Now, they somehow know to talk, in perfect slang, because they’ve…watched TV. Did the scientists wheel a TV into their dog crates for their entertainment? I sincerely doubt so. So…where did they watch TV? Why don’t they speak the scientists’ technical jargon?

Now, these six kids, the oldest of whom is merely 11, somehow survive for 3 years. Alone. Completely undiscovered. And, somehow, without earning a single shred of money, they manage to consistently have enough food. OK, they could steal. But…they’ve been locked up in cages their whole lives. How do they know how to steal? Maybe they learn. But how many towns are within an appropriate distance of a secluded mountain? And for three years, these very small towns get stolen from consistently—these kids, it’s emphasized many times, eat more than your average teenager; and there are six of them—and they don’t notice? They don’t improve security? Now the Erasers swarm down, hundreds of them, and only 1 of the Flock members get captured? And they conveniently know the exact location of the place they were practically stolen from, likely at the dead of night, three years ago? They know the address? And they can just break in to an extremely high-tech government lab? This just continues throughout the entire series, although I won’t spoil it for you. Although technically I already have……

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The lesson here is, don’t pay attention to reviews. If the author has something negative to say they’ll mess up your experience.

These books are great. They are about characters with form, and the books are interesting and incredibly creative—if nothing else, I’ve got to say that—with weird, unexpected plot twists and an underlying message of save the Earth before it’s too late.

Writing

James Patterson doesn’t write deeply or thoughtfully—at least, not here. If he does, it’s which-awesome-guy-should-I-fall-in-love-with?, what’s-the-best-way-to-get-out-of-here-when-people-come-to-kidnap-us-and-steal-us-away-to-be-tested-horribly-in-science-labs?, or gee-my-childhood-was-awful. Also there’s what-does-this-latest-incredibly-bizarre-psychic prediction/piece of advice-mean?, and why-is-there-a-voice-in-my-head? (OK, everybody just accepts that last one without thinking about it too hard). The writing, though, is good. How else could he attract so many readers? 5/5.

Character Depth/Development

I sort of addressed this in the Evil White Section of Dubiousness That You Shouldn’t Read Unless You’ve Already Read The Books. But as I don’t want to make you think too hard before you read it—which you should, despite whatever I say—I’m going to give it a 5/5. The reason why is complicated. The characters do have depth. They kind of have to—at least one of them—if you’re talking in first person. It’s just sometimes clichéd within the books—overused to the point of exhaustion.

Do everyone a favor and don’t look for it.

Plot

Again, complicated. There is a plot. It’s just full of holes, and implausible at times. It also doesn’t make much sense and never really gets answered. However…you don’t want to care (and the holes only appear towards the end of the series anyway so at least read the first one!). And it’s so completely unpredictable it’s almost annoying (but it isn’t, just fun and surprising; don’t take me wrong). Although you can be pretty safe if you predict they’ll get mauled in the next ten pages. I think the two balance out, so I’ll give it a 4/5.

Je Ne C’est Quois

A strong part of why I keep saying “Gee, I hated it” and “It—was—AMAZING” in the same breath. 6/5.

Now, don’t read the below (the Nevermore review, with more Magical Evil Dubiousness) unless you’re already committed to the series, and, preferably, have already read the last book.

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Nevermore. First off, we (Sophie and I) were relying on this book to provide all the answers. Why was Max told to save the world? How? From what? Who’s the Voice? and a lot more spoiler-y questions. Many of them actually do get answered. But there really wasn’t a way James Patterson could tie everything together.

The question is, why didn’t he try harder?

Let’s start at the beginning. That’s an especially apt place to start, actually. Where do we start? With Angel, in the middle of a ruined world. Nobody’s left (except for…maybe a few people? it’s implied). And Max is dead. I have to admit, although I do love Max as a character, a part of me said yes at this. If someone’s going to survive the end of the world, it can’t be Max. That would be the expected path. James Patterson isn’t expectable. Please. But then, because of the magic, I wanted immediately to take it back. Even if it made too much sense and annoyed me, I didn’t want Max to die. (Especially as…the book’s written in first person. But that’s a separate issue.) 

Fast-forward to the end. SPOILER ALERT!!!! DON’T READ THE FOLLOWING:

(Max is alive and the world isn’t completely destroyed. In fact, they’re in paradise. Hello?End of the world, please? When you start something with a prediction, you’re supposed to fulfill that prediction by the end! Hello??)

End Spoiler!

Sheesh.

The book wasn’t satisfying. It answered many questions, but not the important ones. Everything fell apart at the end and nothing made sense and life appeared to be either a lie or taking place inside Angel’s head. Neither of which was plausible. Moral of the story: Don’t betray the trust. Your stories have to be real. You’ve got to be something special to pull off having your entire story turn out to be a lie. Otherwise, you’ve betrayed the pact between yourself and the reader (remember, the one you don’t remember signing? that one?), and they’ll hate you and scorn your work. Unless you have that irresistible pull. In which case you’ll reel them back in reluctantly, grumbling and groaning. They’ll come, but not willingly.

Spare both of you that sob story and make life truthful. Not that Mr. Patterson didn’t. But he did something worse: he raised the possibility and then wouldn’t tell you!

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I’m done. Read the books. You won’t regret it. They might frustrate you, but what good work didn’t? And you’ll learn something. At the very least, just come along “for the ride. For the incredible, indescribable Maximum Ride.”

(P.S. I tagged this as “magic that’s really science.” If you haven’t noticed, I meant “magic that’s explained so thoroughly it’s plausible as science and treated approximately as such in the world it’s used in.” Here, I literally mean “magic that’s really science.” There’s magic here, but it’s literally science, through DNA and things. It pretends its science fiction without actually using science that makes sense. Just pretend it does, as (most likely) you’re not a …geneticist…someone who studies DNA…let’s just say “someone who actually works in a lab.”)