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The Sword and the Dragon (The Wardstone Trilogy One)

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The beginning of this book is very nice--lots of action, decent characters, even interesting POV character shifts, which are hard for me to get involved in. However, the author doesn't keep it up; once you get past the first 100 pages in this 500+-page book, the action shifts to a lot of summaries of action--instead of getting to see what the characters see and feel what the characters feel, we get a summary of all but a few things, which isn't nearly as satisfying. I felt like the author should have written more, shorter books with unrelenting action rather than trying to stuff everything into three books. If he had had the same excellent pacing and action from the beginning, I would have been able to overlook a lot of other nitnoids, but as it was, I just got annoyed.For example, I didn't care for the villains; they didn't seem to be fully developed and I couldn't find them terribly threatening, but that may have been because they didn't really get much action in the book until after the author had started summing things up. They get a few scenes here and there, but the main villain comes across as mostly a lite, overly melodramatic version of Flagg from Stephen King's books. Another thing--there are a couple of token women and other races, but really, this book is about seeing things from the perspective of the male, human characters. If the character is female or non-human, expect an early death, a supporting role for the male, human chosen ones, or a lot of sobbing over a lover. But like I said--if the whole book had been as immediate and fun as the beginning, I probably wouldn't have noticed or cared.
The Dreables, A Merryweathers Mystery

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Ten-year-old Sam Jones has about had it with getting shuffled off to Gran's house whenever his parents go on hiking vacations: she's superstitious, has tons of nonsensical rules (no whistling after dark), and never has any interest in letting him do anything fun. But one day while they're on "vacation" together, her car breaks down, and a girl appears in the mist from their radiator, asking for Mother Merryweather's help. The Dreables have returned...This book, a very enjoyable read, walks a fine line on the lesson of being polite. There are some real stinkers of kids' books out there that all they do is preach, preach, preach. This isn't that kind of book. While it looks like, in the beginning of the book, that it's going to be about the value of being nice and polite, it's not. If there's any real lesson here, it's that sometimes old people are more interesting than your parents, and have awesome things to teach...as long as you can get them to open up. Despite going off about the value of politeness, Gran isn't the nicest, most perfect, most trusting soul out there. She's a glutton for sweets, thinks Sam is nothing but a brat, doesn't want to get dragged into saving other people...and doesn't listen to the animals around her, after making a big stinking deal about how they just "know" the truth about people. Gran has to learn as much, if not more, than Sam does, and it's interesting (as an adult) to watch her have to grow and adapt.
Curses!

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Disclaimer: I begged Julie for an advance copy, which she sent to me. It's pumpkin orange.Okay, think of the books that you quote. Not books of literature, but the ones where you grab nearby passers-by and say, "Wait, wait, listen to this!" and then read something sly and witty and look at them expectantly. Now, because these people are most likely thinking about a) getting away from you or b) sex, they're usually not impressed. However, once in a rare while, you run into someone who CAN QUOTE THE NEXT LINE. It's like heaven. This is that kind of book. "Peeling the cookie open, I licked my lips in anticipation of its sugary goodness and informative, if not valuable summation of my future. The cookie read:THE DELIVERY KID LICKED YOUR EGG ROLL.HAVE A NICE DAY!Damn! Foiled again by a teen with more metal in his head than Snow White had sugar midgets.Hi Ho, Hi Ho...Off to scrub delivery kid spit out of my mouth I go."I'll do up to "Have a Nice Day," and you'll do the rest. Heaven.Urban fantasy murder mystery written by a chick with a degree in forensic psychology and who has worked as a private investigator, and who possesses a wicked eye that tends to favor a bit of villainy now and then. How could you go wrong?
The Elements of Graphic Design

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Okay. Book on graphic design. You expect it to be well-designed.I'm not sure if this one was or not: maybe that was the purpose. It was incredibly informative (especially on typesetting, for some reason), but the layouts and graphics seemed to break a lot of the rules that he was trying to get across. You'd look at a page and have no idea where to start reading, there were so many text boxes on it. And yet it wasn't hard to read, or boring, or confusing--you just had to dance around a lot.Recommended?
Trapped on Draconica

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This really needs to be a 3.5-star book. Or three for most people and four for the exact target audience.Right. If you don't like manga, don't read this book. There are things that will drive you up the wall, absolutely nuts...because they will seem like madness to someone who thinks along the lines of Western books and comic books.Also, if you're an adult reading in adult mode? This will also drive you up the wall.That being said, if you know manga and are a teen, this is a decent to good read. Trapped on Draconica throws off the mindset of adulthood and wallows in teenagerness. Everything teens like to do when thrown into a situation they don't understand is here. But everything that annoys adults about teenagers is here, too, from the attitude to the goofy decisions that make perfect sense at the time. It's almost scary.The only thing I really wanted was more polish to the language, to make it easier for my adult brain to read. It wasn't a problem with grammar or spelling or anything, just the style...it sounded a lot like a teenager, through and through. I loved the style when it started out, but I spent a lot of time rolling my eyes later on...just as if I were listening to a teenager go on and on...the author was so far into the mindset that I had trouble with it after a while.
G'Day USA

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One of the great things about reading indie books right now is that you get dragged out of your usual reading habits. On my own, I tend to read Serious Books of Speculative Intent, and I would have totally missed something like this: a beach read.(Literally, I suppose; it's on Venice Beach, in L.A.)Australian actress Ellie Bourke has just attended opening night of her breakout performance, and everyone knows she's a star...until she's framed for the murder of her old landlord, who murdered her roommate and got away with it (from previous book, G'Day L.A.). Suddenly, she's on the run from the cops on Venice Beach--the same cops who let her down last time. She know she's going to have to solve the murder herself if she wants to find justice.So. Fun read, a feet-up, where-has-the-time-gone read. Pacing quick, dialogue snappy, characters fun. It's not a mystery--I called it really early on--but that doesn't stop the fun.One thing that annoyed me--accents. A couple of places where the Americans use distinctly un-American terms. And I wish there were more concrete details; we spent all this time on Venice Beach, and I saw more of a black lab one of the character had than I ever did of palm trees.
Zombies Ate My Mom

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This is much more of an adventure story than a horror story - the hero runs from situation to situation at a breakneck speed, and despite the tragedies, there are relatively happy endings for most.This is a feature rather than a bug :)Quick, fast-paced, with comic moments, this is a great YA-and-up adventure story with zombies. I would hand this off in a second to a boy who didn't like to read. Swearing in it - yes. Poop jokes in it - yes. Tell me these aren't benefits rather than drawbacks for this crowd.A couple of slow spots of pure description, but they don't last longer than a paragraph or two each. Otherwise, pure action.
Radical Equations

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In short: Math teacher Bonnie Pinkwater gets caught in a murder mystery centered around a tornado and a dead vice-principal. Despite being the fourth book in a series, new readers shouldn't have problems jumping in. Four stars.This is a good, solid mystery. I hesitate to call it a cozy, but I suppose it is: an older woman/amateur sleuth solves mysteries in a small town. To me, Bonnie's character always carries out a satisfying rebellion against the educational bureaucracy as embodied by Principal Divine, sometimes getting her licks in, sometimes having to grovel in order to keep her job and to defend her students. I have a soft spot for characters who defend kids without belittling them, and Bonnie hits the spot. Fast-paced, realistic, and a little goofy, a good put-your-feet-up and enjoy-the-small-victories kind of book.
The Hands of God

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An unexpected, an unexpect-able book.It starts with a fourteen-year-old girl, Pamela, who lost her mother as well as her hands in an accident, who lives with her grandparents--a cruel grandfather who keeps her locked away from the world, and a grandmother who's lost her ability to protest. Pamela should be helpless, and in fact the author gives us a lot of detail into just how hard it is for her to deal with everyday tasks, and how that difficulty means that she's treated as less than human.But Pamela is her own person, with a talent for finding patterns in things--from horseracing to deloping new tools to help her gain more function with her arms. The details are fascinating as the author works out, step by step, how Pamela lives, thinks, and changes, blossoming from a girl with no sense of the world, to a worldly young woman (in the best sense) who can look out for herself, and even make difficult choices about not only how she wants to live her life, but how she wants to affect the world around her.
A Princess of Mars

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I wasn't expecting to like this as much as I did. Fantastic; I read it through in a sitting and enjoyed it from one end to the other. It was like he had some brilliant insight into how to push my happy buttons. Not something I'd read to increase my enlightenment or insight into life, but a good "lay down your troubles and be refreshed" kind of book.
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