Artemis Fowl Series by Eoin Colfer

artemisfowl_eoincolferArtemis Fowl is the pinnacle series of the author Eoin Colfer. The books detail the adventures of Artemis Fowl, a genius child who already runs his late father’s criminal empire. He spends his days inventing new technologies and running illegal enterprises around the world with his trusty bodyguard, Butler. Until one day, he discovers the world of faeries hidden beneath them. Being the person he is, Artemis soon goes head to head with the Faeries’ elite LEPrecon police force as his money-making scheme involves kidnapping the Faerie officer Holly Short. Eventually, they join forces to stop a multitude of other evil forces out in both worlds.

This series is one of my favorites to read because it’s filled with action from beginning to end. Whenever there’s expositional dialogue, we can always expect it to be filled with witticisms and funny personality clashes. Also, the scenes are always fresh with new ideas, rather than repetitively showing the same fight scenes like other books. Artemis always finds solutions with ingenuity, while his friends employ bravery and combat training. The friendship and camaraderie between Artemis and Holly creates a lifetime team, which involves both life-threatening situations and everyday banter.

Over the course of the series, Artemis Fowl develops a lot as a character. Although he is introduced as a cold and ruthless genius, we learn he isn’t without some good inside. He learns to respect his closest friends, and is even willing to give his life for them. The main reason for this is that he never had any friends before that have earned his respect.
The setting for this book is also very notable. While most books are either sci-fi or fantasy, Artemis Fowl includes both. While the Faerie Folk have ancient magic, they have also developed extremely advanced technologies over the thousands of years. Their inventors have created flight suits, contact lenses with built in cameras, and other creations from our wildest imaginations. It was very creative and daring for Colfer to mesh these two genres together, and the result is a literary masterpiece.

When you have a chance, you should definitely give this series a read. Although Eoin Colfer has written many notable books, the Artemis Fowl series will always be one of his best. The fun storylines will have you burning through the books.

-Phillip X., 10th grade

The Artemis Fowl series is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library and Overdrive. 

Grammar Girl by Mignon Fogarty

grammargirl_mignonfogartyAre you a grammar fanatic? Are you annoyed when people, including adults, mix up their grammar? Well, Grammar Girl by Mignon Fogarty, a book exploring the surfaces and depths of grammar and writing, is much more than a grammar book.  And more than likely, it is right for you.  It offers easy-to-understand rules of conduct to live by as a writer, or in your case, a blogger.  Throughout this book, easy lessons are explained through quick and dirty tips.  I learned everything from gerunds to objective versus subjective pronouns to complicated conjugations.

The basic definition of a gerund is a noun made from an action verb plus an ‘ing’ at the end.  Every gerund, without exception, ends in ‘ing’.  Gerunds are not, however, that easy to locate.  For example, a name of a profession counts.  Like, ‘Acting isn’t as easy as it looks.’  In this case acting is the gerund and is functioning like a noun, yet it sounds like a verb.  Here’s another one: ‘Her singing almost deafened me.’  Singing is the gerund because it is referring to the act of her singing as an object or an idea.  But, we’re not done yet. In most cases, gerunds need a possessive or objective pronoun much like some words need linking verbs. It can be pretty easy to make the mistake of saying ‘We didn’t know that was his singing.’ This sentence could mean we couldn’t tell if what he was doing was singing or if he was making some other noise.  That was a possessive pronoun, but to clarify the true meaning of these types of sentences, sometimes you need to use a possessive pronoun.  This is the correct sentence: ‘We didn’t know this was him singing.’

In sixth grade, your English teacher probably taught you about basic conjugation.  In addition to these, there are progressive and perfect progressive. Learning these are essential to speaking correctly and formally.  Progressive means that the action is ongoing, progressing, or will be progressing.  (You can see chart below for the progressive and the perfect progressive.)  Then, perfect progressive is when the action has progressed for a while before it ended or it will end.  Perfect progressive uses the words like ‘has been’ or ‘had been’.

I would definitely rate this book a 10/10 for its complete guide on grammar and tips to keep your writing in shape.  In addition to Grammar Girl, I also would recommend checking out some of Mignon Fogarty’s online resources as well.  She has a podcast, a website (http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-girl), and several books for you to explore and love just as I did with this one.

– Maya S., 7th grade

Grammar Girl is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library

PROGRESSIVE(also called incomplete and continuous) EXAMPLE MEANING OF SENTENCE
Past progressive Jack was walking. At some point in the past, Jack was in the middle of a walk, but we don’t know when he stopped or if he did.
Present progressive Jack is walking. Jack is in the middle of a walk.
Future progressive Jack will be walking. Jack will walk in the future– and walk and walk.  Who knows when it will end?
PERFECT PROGRESSIVE (also called perfect continuous) EXAMPLE MEANING OF SENTENCE
Past perfect progressive Jack had been walking. At some point in the past, Jack started walking and did so for a while, but now it’s over.
Present perfect progressive Jack has been walking. Jack started walking sometime in the past, and he is still walking.
Future perfect progressive Jack will have been walking. Jack will walk until a specific point in the future, and then he will stop.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

allquiet_erichremarqueSet deep in World War I, All Quiet on the Western Front follows young German recruit Paul Baumer as he details his wartime experiences from signing up for the war with his graduating class to fighting in the trenches of the unforgiving Western Front. The war novel was written by German war veteran Erich Maria Remarque, and was published in 1929 to the dismay of the Nazi regime. It tackles ideas of loss, hope, adolescence and growth, and provides an in-depth look in the human condition.

One thing I noticed right away was Remarque’s uncanny ability to describe the setting at which the book was taking place, whether at a training camp, the Western Front, or Paul’s hometown in Germany. The author detailed descriptions of the hardships in the trenches, from the gnawing rats to the constant pounding of shells above, is so well written that you can’t help but get immersed into the setting.

The characterization is also very well done in this novel. You get a good feel for the camaraderie between the characters in war, and how important that is to survive in such a harsh setting. Remarque also introduces the various characters very distinctly so confusion wouldn’t be an issue. He lists certain traits they have at first, then elaborates and expands on those traits as the story goes on and different events take place. A few examples include:

  • Katczinsky- the oldest of the group, a crafty man who is a master at finding food and supplies
  • Tjaden- a defiant young man who loves to eat yet is somehow incredibly skinny
  • Detering- a peat digger who misses his life at home, works well with animals

The characters all interact with each other in a realistic, believable manner for the time and dialogue is heavy with dialect and references. The character development is great, and is one of the major themes of the story. The impact of the war on the soldiers is apparent and is shown subtly through differences in actions and speech.

I felt that the pacing of the story was excellent for the most part as well. The story starts o ff near the battlefield, then switches between the trenches, training camps, or in other locations far from war. This keeps the setting fresh and doesn’t drag on in one specific location for too long, except the hospital chapter where I felt it was dragged on for a little too long.

The effect of the war on the soldier is a huge theme. Men in war lose all identity and the futures of the young recruits are ruined. PTSD plays a role along with various coping strategies and defense mechanisms soldiers use to compensate for the horrors of war.

Because of these, the story has a lot of dark and mature themes, coupled with explicit violence that makes this a story that none under the age of 13 should be allowed to read.  For anyone else though, this is a phenomenal war novel that analyzes human race as a whole, I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for an insightful, historical novel.

-Ahmed Hussaini, 11th grade

All Quiet on the Western Front is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library and Axis360

Paper Towns by John Green

papertowns_johngreenMargo Roth Spiegelman is an independent young woman who makes her own rules in the game of life. She goes with her own ideas and does not take orders from anybody, including her parents. She always plays games with people, running away whenever she pleases and leaving clues for people to find her. It is all a part of this little game she plays with everyone she cares about, making them scared as she has fun. She is so determined to live by herself, the way she wants, so when she runs away again, it doesn’t scare her parents. It just annoys them to the point where they don’t care if she comes back. It’s when she goes missing for more than a few days that everyone starts to think she is not coming back. Her old friend from when they were kids, Quentin, tries to get into the life of Margo. He tries to think like she would in order to find her and get her back, before it is too late.

When I first found out about this book, I couldn’t wait to read it. The storyline seemed so interesting to me, that a girl who runs away leaves clues for people to find her. But when I actually started reading it, my high hopes for the book weren’t met. All of the clues Q had to follow to find Margo were very confusing. As the reader, I was very confused and couldn’t figure out how the clues added up to finding her. It was all very complex, and sometimes that’s good when you’re reading a book, to have it be a little confusing to make you think. But this book was so confusing and difficult to read. I wanted to put the book down because it was too hard to think about everything while still trying to enjoy the story. I have heard of other readers loving this book, hanging onto every detail. In the end, it’s just a matter of opinion. Mine may not be the popular opinion, but this is what I thought of it. If you like mystery and adventure, you should definitely try to read this book. While some parts were confusing, some were also pretty funny and meaningful. One of my favorite quotes I will always remember is “she loved mysteries so much she became one”. John Green is a mysterious writer himself, so I do still look forward to reading more of his books in the future.

-Sabrina C., 10th Grade

Paper Towns is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library, Overdrive, and Axis360