Review: Take It as a Compliment

Take It as a Compliment
Take It as a Compliment by Maria Stoian
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An important book very well done. True vignettes of children, men and women who faced sexual and emotional violence from strangers and people they trusted. The illustrations are perfectly evocative of the confusion, shame, and hurt, and also, in later segments, of bravery and strength. A very quick read that I hope many people will pick up.

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Review: Transhuman

Transhuman
Transhuman by Ben Bova
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a road-trip thriller about a researcher who treats his dying granddaughter with an experimental medical procedure against the wishes of her parents and the will of the federal government. The FBI, a hit man, and a super-secret military base are involved. As she gets better, he gets younger (he is using the inverse of her treatment on himself, as he is is 75 and needs a boost to manage on the run). Bova asks readers to believe that medical doctors and PhDs can speak and behave so stupidly, and that a young, beautiful medical professional would willingly start a romantic relationship with an old man with prostate cancer because he can suddenly get aroused (hello, male fantasy). If you love Clive Cussler and similar, maybe this is for you.

I always thought that Bova was a well-known and respected science fiction writer. (I have not read any of his other books.) Though most of the characters in this story are doctors or scientists, there is very little science. That was disappointing.

Speaking of the characters, holy stereotype! The capitalist is baldly unscrupulous and controlling, the mother is helpless and whiny, the father a violent bully, the granddaughter questions nothing and is chipper as a tv commercial, the Native American FBI guy is quiet and stoic, and everyone is described by their physical attractiveness quotient and ethnicity. It really was tiresome.

At the end, Luke makes a grand case about freedom for medical research to proceed unhindered and driven by the best interests of humanity rather than economic interests. That was nice.

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Review: College Planning for Gifted Students: Choosing and Getting Into the Right College

College Planning for Gifted Students: Choosing and Getting Into the Right College
College Planning for Gifted Students: Choosing and Getting Into the Right College by Sandra Berger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not a review. Just points I found useful or interesting.

Author recommends starting college planning in 7th grade. (Yaaaaaaag!)

Keys to choosing the right colleges:
self-awareness
personal values, aptitudes, needs

Teaching and learning are sometimes better at schools you have never heard of.

Parents:
Know your child.
How does she make decisions?
What are her needs and interests?
Help her find what she’s looking for.
Listen.
Do not do the applications for your child.
Do help keep track of deadlines.

From the start of high school, kids should work with their guidance counselors to craft college-bound course schedules that also reflect their interests.

Author advocates taking PSAT for practice prior to junior year.
Advocates SAT subject tests.

Gifted means more than good grades. If there’s something unusual about you, if you have a talent that’s not reflected in your transcript, write about it. If you have a way of learning that has conflicted with school expectations and getting good grades, explain how it can be a strength in other arenas.

There’s a good checklist on p. 57-58 that is worth photocopying and having your college bound kid think about.

Huntington-O’Shea Career Decision Making System revised
Career Occupational Preference System
Self-Directed Search
Barron’s Online College Search Engine
College Board Big Future
Princeton Review Career Quiz
What Can I Do with This Major?

(Some of these charge a fee. Maybe ask if the school already makes these available to students.)

A good section on questions to ask when touring colleges.

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Review: Carry On

Carry On
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This starts out as pure fan fiction – the author has Rowling’s orphaned hero, a wizarding school, the trio of comrades, the schoolboy arch nemesis with the widow’s peak, and a mysterious villain. She also takes on LeGuin’s power of words. The first many chapters led this reader to feel underwhelmed. But then! Rowell’s writing really comes into its own when she finally allows her twist on the theme to come to the fore – the brilliance and sarcasm of powerful spells made from pop songs and jingles, and the beauty of spells made from the most powerful sources: nursery rhymes. For me, the action never quite got up to speed; the wider story of the Mages’ War hardly seemed to matter. The heart of Carry On is its love story, and that was wonderful, beautiful, delirious.

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Review: Newt’s Emerald

Newt's Emerald
Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Totes adorbs, as it can be said . . .

A young and silly story with a snarking undertone that will appeal to teenagers. Inspired by Regency novels, there’s an awful lot of focus on dresses. By page 25, I was impatient for the adventure to being. Them it does! A rousing romp of hidden identities and swashbuckling bravery. There was not as much magic as I expected. Romance plays a larger role. A warning to fans of other Nix novels – This one hardly seems to come from the same writer.

Teen fans of Princess Bride and Jacky Faber may like this.

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Review: Works Well with Others: An Outsider’s Guide to Shaking Hands, Shutting Up, Handling Jerks, and Other Crucial Skills in Business That No One Ever Teaches You

Works Well with Others: An Outsider's Guide to Shaking Hands, Shutting Up, Handling Jerks, and Other Crucial Skills in Business That No One Ever Teaches You
Works Well with Others: An Outsider’s Guide to Shaking Hands, Shutting Up, Handling Jerks, and Other Crucial Skills in Business That No One Ever Teaches You by Ross McCammon
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book starts out well enough, with its focus on business, short chapters, and lighthearted tone. McCammon talks about overcoming impostor syndrome (that feeling that somehow you don’t deserve your success, aren’t up to the tasks at hand, and will be found out), and reminds readers that everyone is weird and nervous; use that energy to serve your ambition.

McCammon’s style is not for me. He uses too many words and is exhaustingly chatty. There’s humor here, and it’s intended to be a humorous book, but I found it more annoying and time waste-y than amusing.

The first several chapters are really about him, supposedly illustrative of the principles to be explored later in the book (be on time, look people in the eye, be authentic, smile). Overall, it fells to this reader like these are just-better-than-lame filler articles for what otherwise would have been empty column inches in Esquire (Did these appear in Esquire?) There are kernels of good advice but the writing style gets in its own way.

In the bits where McCammon did not try so hard to be funny, he was enjoyable. For example, the piece in which he talks about preparing for and interviewing Rhianna was interesting and almost charming.

To be fair, I am not the target audience for this book. If you are young man entering the business world in a major metropolitan area and you tend to love Vince Vaughn movies, you will probably like this book.

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