Book review: “The Warlock” by Michael Scott

Photobucket“The Warlock” is the 5th book in Michael Scott‘s bestselling series “The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel“. The Amazon product description reads:

“In the fifth installment of this bestselling series, the twins of prophesy have been divided, and the end is finally beginning.

With Scatty, Joan of Arc, Saint Germain, Palamedes, and Shakespeare all in Danu Talis, Sophie is on her own with the ever-weakening Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel. She must depend on Niten to help her find an immortal to teach her Earth Magic. The surprise is that she will find her teacher in the most ordinary of places. “

I read the last book (“The Necromancer”) at the start of the year so I started off sketchy on the details of what happened but Mr. Scott includes a lot of “Previously, on the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel” backstory through the opening diary entry and lots of exposition throughout the story. Unfortunately, the exposition is both a boon and a bane as while useful, I found myself bored whenever the information was repeated.

There are quite a few twists in this book, especially where the Newmans are concerned. As to whether the twists are good or just annoying is up in the air – I’ll decide once “The Enchantress” comes out but right now, they’re bordering on annoying.

The book is fast-paced as always, necessary because the in-universe time span between “The Alchemyst” and this one is only one week. While this makes for rapid page-turning, character development suffers as a result. I love Josh so I still find it hard to believe that Josh turned into a wussy, easily brainwashed asshole in the span of what, four to five days? Exposure to Clarent and Virginia Dare are not good enough reasons. At this point, the characters that redeem the book are Scatty, Niten, and Machiavelli. Machiavelli’s shaping up to be my favorite character in the series because of the growth he experiences.

What cannot be faulted is Mr. Scott’s mythology-building. While he didn’t create any of the mythological creatures or immortal personalities, he has this way of weaving them into his narrative that makes their presence work. We get the information needed to understand who they are and their motivations but there are no cheap *hint hint wink wink* in-jokes.

Overall, I’m giving “The Warlock” 3/5 stars. A good page-turner with excellent mythology-building but ultimately somewhat thin and lacking. Hopefully “The Enchantress” will serve as a good closer for the series.

Book Review: “Smart Women Finish Rich” by David Bach

One of my favorite books of all time is “Smart Women Finish Rich” by David Bach. The book that started Mr. Bach’s “Finish Rich” series, “Smart Women Finish Rich” is a guide to personal finance written especially for women. Consider these facts:

1. In general, women live longer than men.

2. Women are more likely to take breaks in their careers in order to care for family members, be they children or elderly parents.

3. Women still make less money than their male counterparts.

Taking all these things into account, women have to take more steps in order to secure their financial future. This is where “Smart Women” comes in.

Prior to reading this book, I thought that I already had a pretty good grasp of my finances. I got my first job, took home my first paycheck, started saving everything I could. I got my first credit card. It was only upon reading “Smart Women” that it finally sank in that the things I did NOT know about money far outweighed the things that I did know. I knew inflation was a bad thing but didn’t know just how badly it could affect money lying stagnant in a savings account. I knew how the stock market worked but not how to go about making money in it. I didn’t know what a mutual fund was. I didn’t realize just how important having health insurance was. Through reading “Smart Women”, I found out all of these and much more. Most importantly, I found out how to make my money work for me.

“Smart Women” is geared towards personal finance newbies, with worksheets to accomplish and easy-to-understand text largely free of jargon. Because it is an introductory text, “Smart Women” doesn’t contain any “earth-shattering” revelations for someone who’s already well-versed in financial planning. Mr. Bach also makes frequent references to United States law, especially when discussing taxes, retirement accounts, and company benefits, but that doesn’t mean that you should skip those sections entirely. In fact, you should read those sections to find out how the US government is helping their citizens save money and prepare for retirement. Makes you wish that the Philippines had similar legislation.

The first thing I did after reading the book was analyze my financial situation and plans for the future. The second thing I did was to consult with a (well-off) friend in the finance sector and pick his brain regarding suitable places to invest in. The third thing I did was to put money away in a mutual fund. Prior to reading “Smart Women Finish Rich”, the future had always seemed to be something off in the distance that wouldn’t arrive for many, many years. The future is still a long way away, but that just means that I best start preparing for it now.

Book Review: “Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox” by Eoin Colfer

The Harry Potter series was both a boon and a bane to children’s books: a boon because it got children reading again, and a bane because Harry Potter overshadowed everything else that came after it. Unfortunately, one of those casualties was the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer. While not as heavy (literally) as the Potter books, Artemis Fowl and his cohorts deserve that shelf space by virtue of being fun, fast-paced, action-packed, intelligent, and yes, magical reads.

The planned cover for Artemis Fowl: The Time P...
Image via Wikipedia

Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox is the 6th book of the series. In this one, Artemis has grown up, mellowed out, and is walking the straight and narrow. Everything is fine until his mother acquires Spelltropy, a degenerative fairy disease whose only cure resides in the brain fluid of the silky sifaka lemur. Unfortunately, the lemur has been extinct for five years because of Artemis himself. To save his mother, Artemis and Holly must travel to the past and save it. In doing so, Artemis faces his deadliest opponent yet: his younger self.

Long story short: I loved this book. It’s typical Artemis Fowl: a crackling adventure with well-crafted characters and unexpected twists that though unexpected, resolve themselves in a logical manner. Artemis has indeed come a long way since his first encounter with the fairies, but his ruthless nature resurfaces in a crucial moment and he must deal with the consequences. What I liked best however, was how deftly Colfer handled time travel. Done sloppily, time travel results in a more convoluted story filled with inconsistencies and more questions than answers (yes Heroes, I’m looking at you). Colfer handled the time paradox brilliantly by choosing one time travel theory (guess which one) and thinking it through. Because of that, he carried to the story to a logical conclusion that ties in with the events in the book.

Each Artemis Fowl novel is designed to stand alone, so new readers can pick up and understand “The Time Paradox” without having read the first five books. Nonetheless, reading Books 1-5 is still highly recommended because Book 6 references previous events and you get to see firsthand Artemis’ transformation from criminal mastermind to the person he is now.