Dec. 3rd, 2011

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I was debating going to barcampabq today, but my head decided it had other ideas, so I've been trying to relax and not aggravate the headache today. So I went to fill in my LibraryThing list, and discovered that it's been so long since I looked at my "recently returned" list from the Ottawa Library that my old stuff has expired. Or maybe it's just that they changed the interface. At any rate, I think I've lost a bunch of books I should have recorded. On the bright side, though, that means I had a perfectly manageable list of books left so here's some reviews from the past month or so.

If you only read one of these, make it the first one. If you read a few more, I recommend The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld (even though I wasn't as impressed with the 3rd book the 4th made up for it) and Level Up by Gene Luen Yang, which is something special.

Cover for Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Gatto
Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
by John Gatto

A scathing description of the problems of our current educational system. A good read for any parent, and also for many students, to better understand why some illogical educational decisions only make sense in the context of building compliant workers rather than free thinkers. My only complaint is that Gatto offers homeschooling as a panacea without much deeper discussion into how difficult it can be to produce a great homeschooling environment.

I spent a *lot* of time in school bored out of my tree, a fact which I relayed repeatedly to my poor parents. But I've also had some not-so-great experiences with other people's homeschooling, and lots of experience teaching now... all very interesting put into the perspective of this book. I immediately lent it to my mother and we had some great conversations about it, and what we thought a better solution might look like.


Animal Academy, Vol. 1-2


Cute but not too memorable story of a girl who accidentally winds up enrolled in a school... for animals.


White Cat (Curse Workers) by Holly Black

An interesting world, where some people possess the ability to curse others by touching them, an ability they have been banned from using by the government. Cassel isn't a curse worker, but the rest of his family is, and to fit in he's become an adept con-man. But slowly, he's realizing that the biggest con in his life isn't one he's running...


Red Glove (Curse Workers, Book 2)

Continuing on from where White Cat left off, this book actually focuses some on the politics of being a curse worker. Basically, it comes off as a metaphor for racism, much like mutant abilities are viewed within the x-men. Within the backdrop of political change, Cassel is finding that knowing he is a curse worker has opened a lot of doors for him... opportunities he's not sure he wants and doesn't know how to refuse.



Goblin War by Jim C. Hines

The third (and probably final?) instalment in Jim Hines' books about Jig the Goblin. If you enjoyed the others, you'll enjoy this one, so I won't risk spoiling anything by saying more!


Specials (The Uglies) by Scott Westerfeld

I've been really enjoying the series, but Specials felt at times a bit like it was repeating the other books: how many times is Tally going to have to recreate herself in nearly the same ways? It felt a little less creative than the previous books, but they set the bar high enough that it's still well worth reading!


Skim by Mariko Tamaki

A bittersweet story of a young girl trying to find out who she is, set with a backdrop of a school coping with suicide, the friends learning about wicca, and a budding romance... weightier issues than you see in many teen novels, but treated in a heartfelt way that lets the light shine through and doesn't let it get depressing even when sad.



Extras (The Uglies) by Scott Westerfeld

Extras starts off in a different city from those we saw in previous books, and correspondingly shows a very different societal structure (and totally avoids the problem of the last book, Specials, which felt a little too familiar). This foreign city is strangely familiar to anyone who's used Facebook or other modern social media: a city based on the economy of how many people are tuning in to your feeds. So why are a group of girls with low rankings so darned fascinating?


Level Up by Gene Luen Yang


An excellent story of parental expectations, medical school, and video games. Not to mention some pesky little angels... I highly recommend this one and don't want to say too much lest I spoil anything!



Someday's Dreamers Volume 1 by Norie Yamada

Cute and bittersweet stories of a witch whose job it is to help people with their dreams.


Princess in Love (The Princess Diaries, Vol. 3) by Meg Cabot

Fun and fluffy, and Anne Hathaway's reading does add something to the audiobook. Sure, it's horrifically stereotypical teen problems and longing set to the backdrop of being a princess in new york, but... if you didn't want that, why are you reading volume 3 of the princess diaries?



Rules of the Red Rubber Ball: Find and Sustain Your Life's Work by Kevin Carroll

I find after a while that all these "do what you love!" inspirational books blur into one meaningless message of "go get it! don't let anyone stop you!" but this one stands out because it manages to convey the same message concisely, and the graphic design and layout of the book make it match the playful message of the red rubber ball. If you want a cute little bit of inspiration that you can tuck into your pocket and will smile at over and over, this is exactly the book you need.


Ultimate X-Men Vol. 4: Hellfire & Brimstone

More of what I'd expect from the series. I didn't like the art as much in this one, though.


Stitch 'N Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker by Debbie Stoller

Great, clear instructions for a variety of stitches, pattern reading, and techniques, combined with a set of fun patterns to use them. A good beginner guide or reference manual for the more advanced who want to try some new techniques.

I actually liked this enough that I'll consider buying a copy for my own reference (as usual, this was the library copy)... It's very easy to look up stitches on the internet, but I prefer diagrams to video a lot of the time, and knowing I have a book would be nice.


How to Wash a Cat

Perhaps because I read this while sick, I found it a little overly descriptive and sometimes hard to follow as things bounce from recollections of her uncle to present day. I felt early on that it was clearly meant for people who love cats a lot more than I do. That said, even in my illness I pressed on and enjoyed the sometimes ridiculous characters and gold rush mystery in spite of my confusion with the prose.


Ultimate X-Men Vol. 5: Ultimate War by Mark Millar

I read x-men primarily for the character-driven stories, which made this volume, heavy on the action, a bit of a disappointment.

Also... this marks the last of the volumes that my library has, aside from, inexplicably, vol 10. So now I'm torn: do I buy the other ones and either keep or donate them to my library, or do I find some other way to get my x-men fix? Still looking for a good digital buy/borrow mechanism for this.

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