Book catch-up

It’s been awhile since I discussed books I’ve been reading for several reasons. With school, I had less time to read. I was in the middle of a series that was meh. And I just haven’t been getting over to this here blog. Which leads to me now having seven, count ’em, SEVEN books to review! (Don’t worry, three are in a series…) So here we go!

Lord of Snow & Shadows
Prisoner of the Iron Tower
Children of the Serpent Gate
Sarah Ash

This series opens with Gavril, a painter living in sunny Smarna with his mother, whose innocence is shattered when strange men appear at his door to inform him that he is the heir and new ruler of the kingdom of Azkendir. As they take him to assume the role of Drakhoul he notices the physical changes that are beginning to overtake him, and he realizes this role of ruling is not something he can just shrug off. Through his travails we meet many other characters, and watch what happens to the continent during this time of upheaval.

This series was just…meh. It was good enough to keep me reading, and I didn’t hate it, but there was very little positive about it. I kept waiting for it to become good, to become interesting, for the characters to develop, for the focus to shift to the human element, and it just..never..happened.  By the third book I was thinking about the characters some when I wasn’t reading it (which usually I do with books but just wasn’t with this series), but when I’d pick it up I had virtually no draw to keep reading it. Most books I’m meh about I get into once I have them in my hands, but this book couldn’t even shine there. The plot is interesting, the characters are interesting, the whole thing just isn’t well done. The characters are interesting in theory, but are never given any depth. Things happen to them, and you grab onto the occurences to try to figure out who these characters are, but with nothing developed it’s hard to really care. As one reviewer said on Amazon, “Somewhere inside this book is a better book dying to get out.” I think that sums it up perfectly. Overall this series is fine. I wouldn’t not recommend it. If the plot appeals to you, you may enjoy it. But I just can’t bring myself to give it any kind of positive endorsement.

Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children
Todd R. Risley & Betty Hart

As you can see from the cover design, this is a little bit older book. It discusses the research the authors did in the language development of young American children. They followed 42 families for about 2 1/2 years, recording one full hour of every month and transcribing every single thing uttered in that time period. They then used this to look at the differences in the experience of language children have, and how those differences affected the children’s future language development. Their results were astounding, showing that families from poorer socio-economic groups speak to their children less on average and with lower “quality” speech for learning language than families from higher economic groups. This leads to vastly higher rates of vocabulary and language acquisition, and these differences continue to have an effect throughout the school years. It really highlights the importance of speaking to and interacting with children while they are young, as their experiences at this young age can set the path of their language development for the rest of their lives. Very interesting and informative, easy to read for the scholarly level of information being presented, and important information. Not a “fun” book, but a good one.

Language Development
Erika Hoff

I have to start by saying I am so freaking proud of having read this whole book cover to cover. It is DENSE. There is a LOT of information in here. But it is amazing. This book describes how children go from not being intentionally communicative at birth to speaking with largely adult-like language by age four, often with no direct instruction. It is a giant topic to tackle in one book, which means this is not a light read! But the information is fascinating, and it is presented in an organized format. And what I most appreciate is that there are a plethora of examples. Basically every topic has a description of some experiment, observation or research done on young children to illustrate what is being discussed. This makes the subject very real and tangible.

I don’t suspect many people will be picking this book up for fun. It will most often be read for  a class, simply because people don’t read into a topic like this in such depth on their own. But it is a good book, and I am glad I read it. I will be keeping it in my library!

One Child
Torey Hayden

This book is, in a word, fantastic. It is the story of Torey Hayden, a psychologist and special education teacher, working in the 1970s. In this book she describes her time in a special education classroom for the severely disturbed, children who do not fit in any other place. This book is mainly about her relationship with Shelia, a little girl who was sent to Torey’s classroom after she, at age 6, lured a 3 year old into the woods and set him on fire. Torey discusses her work with the girl and the amazing transformation that takes place in her classroom. There is so much emotion in this book, and so much heart, and you cannot help but be sucked in and feel for the characters passionately. I have read this book repeatedly and still get fully absorbed in it. My only word of caution is that this is a book from another time. Psychological knowledge was different. Approaches were different. Teacher boundaries were different. So if her stating things which might now be out of date is going to bother you, this isn’t the book for you. However, if you can get past that, you will find a truly phenomenal book waits.

Ghost Girl
Torey Hayden

Again, a fantastic book by Torey Hayden. This one is even more disturbing than One Child, and the story that comes to life is truly horrifying. Masterfully told, as always, at the beginning of the book we meet 8 year old Jadie of Torey’s newest class, an elective mute who walks completely doubled-over with her arms wrapped around her stomach. Over approximately one year Hayden breaks Jadie’s silence and gains her trust, discovering that Jadie’s world is not for the faint-hearted. Fair warning – this book is extremely disturbing. If you have experienced sexual abuse this may be too triggering for you. Also, this is a non-fiction story. Which means, unlike in fiction, we don’t get a nice, pat ending all tied up in a bow. This, however, is one of the few books that I find so amazing that a non-satisfying ending doesn’t ruin the book at all. I highly recommend it.

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