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98% reading reactions, 5% book reviews. (We can math, too.)

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Suzanne Collins
Language in Thought and Action
S.I. Hayakawa, Alan R. Hayakawa, Robert MacNeil
Don't Sleep, There are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle
Daniel L. Everett
Gulliver's Travels (Signet Classics)
Jonathan Swift

The Sorcerer of the North (Ranger's Apprentice, #5)

The Sorcerer of the North (Ranger's Apprentice, #5) - John Flanagan This book has a terrible cliffhanger ending. It's a good thing I had the next one on hand so I could resume the story right away :T

The Girl with the Mermaid Hair

The Girl with the Mermaid Hair - Delia Ephron Sukie's obsession with her looks was entertaining for about 50 solid pages. I even laughed out loud at some of her drama. However, she continues to obsess over trivialities for another 120ish pages, which gets old after a while. In particular, she lingers on Bobo, who turns out not to be worth a second thought. Then Sukie dives down into a spiral of pure misery, both for her and me as the reader. After a surprise plot development, she angsts (albeit not w/o good reason), puts down her classmates publicly, and turns into a hateful, don't-give-a-crap, straight-A-turned-straight-F rebel. The last half of the book ends somewhat predictably and didn't provide any illumination that I wasn't expecting re: human nature.

Despite her obsession with looks and perfectionism (and her bout of poor-me in the middle of the book) I found Sukie to be quite likable. She takes care of her little brother Mikey (shows compassion and responsibility), talks to her dog Señor (has a sense of humor), and admires her Dad (can't help but like him through her eyes). She has a particular way of looking at the world and her loneliness is convincing, even though sometimes the author overtells how Sukie feels.

After reading so many so-so written YA books, it was a sincere relief to read this one. Ephron's dialogue is surprising, vivid, human, and direct. The prose could do with a few cuts here and there (especially when she starts talking about souls and friendship, etc.) but overall it was lean and well edited.

Generally an all right book. The Girl with the Mermaid Hair lacks some depth and could have been better paced, but I didn't feel like I wasted time reading it, and I'm even curious about Frannie in Pieces. On to the next read. . . .


Scarlet - A.C. Gaughen I weren't really sure what to think of this book when I were finished with it. When I started, the *were*s were a little jarring. I decided that this was just part of the dialect and voice (though I didn't have a problem with Scarlet's *fair*s and *right*s, etc.) so I kept pushing. It took a few pages (maybe 70) before I wasn't pausing to jump over every *were* like it was a hurdle. I'm not saying that it was an ineffective authorial decision, it was just something to get used to.

The voice and character of Scarlet is truly impressive. It's rare to find a book that actually digs deep into a female character and makes her more than just a whining female or a feisty twit with a gender inferiority complex. Scarlet was an actual person for me--a character whom I cared about and loved and appreciated by the end of the story. That is what every book should strive for, whether the protagonist is male or female. That was what was so rewarding about this book. And it's not just Scarlet who is 3D--the whole band is. I found John to be irritating, but I had to acknowledge that this was more due to my personal taste than any lack of depth. Although he can come off as an overprotective, womanizing oaf, he has vulnerabilities and imperfections that surprised me. Much is great, even though he gets very little page time; although he seems young an inexperienced, I couldn't help admiring his courage in the face of his disability. He works with what he has, and being perhaps the most level-headed of the group, he was my favorite. Robin was slightly harder to love… he came off as kind of a cold, Byronic hero.

There is this great gushing scene at the end of the book that smacks of Twilight, and it's true that Scarlet does have her Bella Swan moments, developed as she is (i.e., My soul is black as tar; Robin could never love me sort of thing). Sometimes Scarlet's lack of self-esteem was so maddening I wanted to smack her upside the head. "You can throw knives and beat people up and jack stuff up," I wanted to tell her. "More than that, I like you, and others like you. You have really interesting, original thoughts, and I like the way you view the world. BUT YOU CAN BE SO DUMB WHEN IT COMES TO BOYS."

While I would give this book 5/5 for Scarlet's character alone, a book is more than character and voice: it's plot development too. That's where this book flags a little. The pace is rather slow for a short work, and then everything goes spiraling wildly out in the last 50 pages. Tears fall like waterfalls, confessions are wrenched out, people die (not saying who), and by the time it was all over, I just had knitted brows and the question "What did I just read, and was it all part of the same book?"

I'll look forward to more from A.C. Gaughen, although I might not be chomping at the bit to read a sequel to Scarlet.

The Bonemender's Oath

The Bonemender's Oath - Holly Bennett It was kind of difficult to orient myself in the beginning, mainly b/c the sequel hits the ground running exactly where the first book left off. Having read the first book some years ago, I struggled to reestablish connection with plot and characters. Most series will catch the reader up on previous events rather early, but not this one. It's not a fault necessarily; the books may simply have to be read immediately one after the other for the best effect.

The author has a lyrical style which isn't pretentious. It's hard to balance beautiful language with high tension. The author manages to convey much with little, and for someone whose eyes normally glaze over during setting descriptions, I enjoyed her imagery very much.

Things that might have been handled differently were the pacing and the overall plot. The thread with Tristan/Rosalie/LaBarque was the weakest point of the story, even though it takes up half the length. This is why I didn't give the book a higher rating. The whole LaBarque revenge ploy seemed like unrelated, flimsy filler compared to the Derkh/Feolan/Gabrielle arc, which had more continuity and gravity in the context of the first book. I wish the author had spent more time in certain scenes; the book seemed to rocket along, and I'd sometimes feel like I'd missed an important event. I normally think that books can't move fast enough, so for me to think something moves too quickly... well, it was a first.

Anyway, I will proceed on to the last book in the series. I have faith that things will end well for me as a reader and for Gabrielle et al. =]

The Icebound Land

The Icebound Land - John Flanagan I kept holding my breath while reading this, thinking "John Flanagan's going to do it again. He's going to amaze me in the last 100 pages!" … Alas. This is what I ended up thinking:

1) … Wait, the book is over. Nothing happened! D8
2) That was like reading one long transition.

Here's to hoping Book #4 will bring back the WOW factor.

The Burning Bridge

The Burning Bridge - John Flanagan 5/5 for the last 100 pages; I would give the first 155 pages 1/5. I'm really glad I didn't give up on this book like I so desperately wanted to--it came through in the end.

The Ruins of Gorlan

The Ruins of Gorlan - John Flanagan This gets more of a 3.5 stars from me b/c of craft, but I'll round up b/c I enjoyed it so much.

The story moves at a quick clip--sometimes too fast, but considering that a lot of books that I read go too slowly, this pace was refreshing.
Flanagan's prose walks that delicate line between lyrical and purple prosy. He manages to write beautiful, yet straightforward sentences that fit well with the fantasy realm he's created. I enjoyed that I was in another world, but the language--especially the names of people and locations--wasn't too hard to access.

I was confused for a while because I didn't understand why Horace's storyline was alternating with Will's. Then, after Horace's problems are resolved, he drops out of the main plot. That might have been handled differently. Towards the end of the book, when the plot turns more towards the Kalkara hunt, it seemed like Halt started acting out of character, and the prose got a bit sloppier. The epilogue was actually just another chapter and didn't need to be titled "epilogue," but I guess it works anyway.

Overall, the action is good and the character development is simple, but enjoyable. It's a pretty typical fantasy adventure story, but the Rangers and the different apprentice schools make it interesting. I will definitely be reading the second book in the series.

The Lost Hero

The Lost Hero  - Rick Riordan I've heard people say that this series trumped Percy Jackson and the Olympians. I would agree. This book had more complex characters with interesting backgrounds and more in terms of character development. The structure of the story worked well until about the halfway point--then it started to feel like the point of view was switching more rapidly for fewer good reasons. There was such a build-up/delay in revealing everyone's secrets that the eventual disclosure of said secrets lost all tension. The last 1/4 of the book felt like it had been rushed, especially since the story took its time getting to the climax. Overall, worth reading once.

The Last Olympian

The Last Olympian  - Rick Riordan It's hard to wrap up a series well, but I think Riordan does a nice job. There were some last minute surprises in this book and a lot of action, even from the get-go. Can't wait to read the next series =)

How to Break a Dragon's Heart (Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III #8)

How to Break a Dragon's Heart (Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III #8) - Cressida Cowell It took a good 100-120 pages to get going, which is unusual for one of Hiccup's memoirs. That said, it was worth reading until the end.


Bitterblue  - Ian Schoenherr, Kristin Cashore I wanted to like Bitterblue as a character. I tried. She just doesn't make enough of her own decisions, and when she does, they end in disaster. The relationship between her and Saf is most interesting in the first hundred or so pages, and then it suddenly goes off in weird directions. There was a lot of plot in this book, but very little substance. I hit the halfway mark and tried to skim my way through to the end, but I couldn't even accomplish that. I made it to 80%, and I guess that's as far as this reader goes.

The Sea of Monsters

The Sea of Monsters  - Rick Riordan 1. It's not often I get to say that the sequel was better than the first book. This is one of those times.
2. Tyson.


Twilight - Stephenie Meyer I think I'd have to give this 1.5 stars, actually. Bella can be unbelievably dumb sometimes and Edward's overbearing, brooding nature gets old quickly. The quality of the prose improves as the series goes on. I liked certain scenes in the book that didn't make it into either the movie or the graphic novel. The graphic novel is still my favorite rendition of the story. I can at last say that I have read the book, although I don't know if I'll read it again...


Pandemonium - Chris Wooding,  Cassandra Diaz (Illustrator) I bought this book on a whim and expected to get about half an hour's worth of entertainment from it. It's so much better than that though. The dialogue is witty and goes well with the art style, which, by the way, is gorgeous. The plot takes the old "prince and pauper" storyline and gives it an exciting spin. After reading it once, I made my friend read it. And then I bought a copy for my other friend. This book will be a family heirloom starting today.

Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (Issues of Our Time)

Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (Issues of Our Time) - Kwame Anthony Appiah Read this for a college course on global problem solving, and it changed my life. He writes in an accessible way about difficult topics and provides helpful frameworks-for-thinking for the reader. Wouldn't have picked this up on my own, so I'm glad someone made me read it.

How to Cheat a Dragon's Curse (How to Train Your Dragon Series #4)

How to Cheat a Dragon's Curse (How to Train Your Dragon Series #4) - Cressida Cowell Quite a delightful adventure with a feel good ending, plenty of peril, and a different set-up from the previous books.