Category Archives: Website review

Zen Pencils by Gavin Aung Than

We finished up studying the human body this week, which means we didn’t get anything new from the library. So, instead of a weekly wrap-up post, I’m going back to an occasional topic – reviewing a webcomic. This time I’m reviewing Zen Pencils.

Published: Irregularly

Genre: inspirational

Setting: depends on the quote being depicted

Interest: I don’t remember how I found this webcomic in the first place. I enjoy the occasional inspirational poem/quote, though, so I keep reading.

Summary: Basically, Gavin finds a quote he likes and then drafts a comic with a plot and visuals that in some way correspond to the words. He has a few recurring characters, like the Shaolin Monk and the Dragonslayer but usually the characters and plot are unique to the quote. New readers can just jump right in to whatever’s currently showing on the homepage, or check out the New readers page for a list of the most popular/personal favorites.

Final thoughts: Since this isn’t a regularly updated comic, it’s always a pleasant surprise when it shows up in my RSS feed. The art in the comics is well done and I’m always impressed with how the artist tells a story strictly in visuals. Yes, it goes along with the words of the quote, but it adds to the depth of the quote. If you really enjoy the comics, you can even buy them in hard copy format since Than has published his comics in two volumes: Zen Pencils: Cartoon Quotes from Inspirational Folks and Zen Pencils-Volume Two: Dream the Impossible Dream.

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image or title to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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Review of The Hub

The Hub is a new book-related blog I recently picked up on my feed reader. It is associated with the Young Adult Library Services Association, and therefore focuses on teen books. I found it when I was looking for information on the Time top 100 books for kids just published. It is a collective blog, with multiple people contributing to posts, and you’ll get multiple posts a day.

Post topics vary, and include:

  • book reviews (of course)
  • Monday morning polls, usually about interacting with your favorite teen lit character
  • award-winning or -nominated books in teen categories. They’re currently running a series on the Morris Award for nonfiction teen reads.
  • What Would They Read posts that suggest books that your favorite TV characters would be reading. I immediately had to go and read the list suggested for the Firefly cast. Now I have books for my own “To Read” list.

There’s lots of other posts coming across on the site. If you like YA and want to know the good stuff that’s out there, particularly in terms of diverse books (they are participating in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign), check it out. I’m sure you’ll find something to add to your reading list, like I have.

*Links are to the latest example found on the Hub at the time of posting. I’m sure something has been published since then, so why don’t you go check out the site!

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Playing With Math

new_site_logo_4I’m doing something different today (it is Friday after all, the traditional “different” post day for me). I thought I’d share a quick link to an Incited funding campaign to an interesting book I found called Playing With Math. I’ve done a couple of Kickstarter campaigns, but this was the first I’ve supported on Incited. It seems to run on a similar principle as Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, but the project gets your funds whether or not they reach their goal.

body_Book_cover_for_uploadI found the book because I was looking around for some inspiration for our Fun Math Friday topics for this next year. Playing With Math sounded perfect. According to their website, “[w]hether you enjoy math and want materials that will help you share some math-love with your kids, or whether you fear and loathe math and need help getting over that hurdle so you won’t pass it on, Playing With Math will give you inspiration and lots of new ideas.” Sound like just what I was looking for. It looks like the book will be a combination of stories of how people have got others interested in math, puzzles, games, and other activities. I don’t have any more details than you can find if you follow the link. If you’re interested, head over to the website quickly because the campaign ends July 20th.

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Updated review of DIY.org

diyWe’re down to our last few days of homeschooling for the year. The portfolios are done and we just have a few things left for the year. Since we’re winding down, there’s not much to report for a weekly wrap-up. Instead, I thought I’d update my review of DIY.org since that review was written a year-and-a-half ago, and quite a bit has happened since then on the website.

They’ve added many skills – usually one a month or so. In fact, I just counted, and they have over 100 skills! There’s quite a wide variety. For example, the featured skills for this month include actor, jewelry designer, RCer, and philosopher. There’s something for everyone. One of my favorite aspects of the website are when Mr. Curiosity asks to go on the website and look for some inspiration, if he can’t come up with a project offhand. There’s lots of inspiration.

You have the ability to follow other makers, which means you get notifications any time they post a project. Like much social media, you can make comments and favorite posts. There are several moderators to make sure the kids don’t reveal information they shouldn’t or use inappropriate language.

The parental notifications are great. I get an email any time one of my kids puts up a project, and they’ve just added the ability to monitor comments. The parents have an account, so you can see everything the kids see.

20140218-PatchesThey’ve added a market to the site, with embroidered badges, toolkits, and gear (t-shirts, hats, and the like). We’ve actually purchased some of the badges. They’re quite high quality, and bigger than you’d think, with glue on the back. Both kids even made a nine-patch quilt square to display their patches.

The app is the easiest way to get images into DIY. Even so, we’ll sometimes move projects around on the website. If you want to put multiple images into one project, you have to use the website. Sometimes I’ll remind the kids they can put projects up that don’t explicitly fit a skill, but they prefer to upload projects that will help them earn a patch. After three projects within a skill, you earn a patch that will be displayed on your dashboard. If you do six projects within a skill, you master that skill. I’m not sure that gets you anything but bragging rights. Occasionally they’ll have season specific badges (in the past Darkness Engineer at Halloween and Summerologist in the summer), but usually all the skills are available all the time.

Overall, we’re still happy with the community. If you have a budding maker in the house, you should check it out!

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Girls With Slingshots by Danielle Corsetto

 

GWS1823Published: Monday through Friday

Genre: adult realistic fiction

Setting: a city (I seem to think it’s in Canada, but I’m not too sure), present day

Interest: I saw the comic blurbed on The Devil’s Panties and was intrigued enough to check it out. After reading months of archives, and laughing on a good 50%, I added it to my regular reading list.

Summary: We follow the life of Hazel, a just-turned 30-year old who’s got big plans but not a whole lot of ambition to actually implement those plans. There’s a pretty big cast of characters in Hazel’s life, including her best friend, Jamie, who’s in a semi-platonic relationship with a woman, a series of boyfriends, several gay characters, a librarian who’s also a BSDM master, and McPedro, a talking cactus. We see all their lives unfold, with successes and failures that mirror real life.

Final thoughts: I enjoy this comic quite a bit. I love the variety of characters that almost make me wish I lived in a big city where there was a bit more diversity then what I find in my little town. It is definitely an adult comic, with adult situations common. Although there’s no sex shown, dildos are a common thread and there is LOTS of drinking. Hazel is the kind of person you want to know just to hear all her crazy stories, but I certainly wouldn’t want to live her life. Jamie is a great friend who stands by Hazel no matter what, and all the other crazy characters (and not so crazy people) just add to the joy of reading the comic. Check it out at GirlsWithSlingshots.com.

Title comes from: I don’t actually know

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xkcd by Randall Munroe

First Date

Published: every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

Genre: science/math/computers webcomic

Setting: a generic location, present day

Interest: This is a comic that all geeks should be reading. I’m sure StatsGuy showed me several over a series of time, until I decided I just needed to read it on a regular basis.

Summary: xkcd is not a plot-driven comic. Instead, we get a typical three-panel set-up and chuckle in the last panel. There are a couple of characters we see regularly, with comments about their life. Occasionally, Munroe tries something bigger, like:

Minifigs

 

Be sure to hover your mouse over the strip, because that usually provides an extra laugh.

Final thoughts: You don’t read this comic for the lush artwork, since all you’ll see are stick figures and black and white. However, if you have any interest in science, math, or computer, you should be reading this comic. I don’t always understand the joke, particularly if it’s computer-based, but the hits by far outweigh the misses. The graphical posts are interesting as well – check out Frequency or 2014, for example.

Title comes from: According to his about page, xkcd is just a four-letter string that has no phonetic pronunciation. You say all the letters, and don’t capitalize the letters.

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The Devil’s Panties by Jennie Breeden

Published: daily, with weekday strips somewhat story driven, like:

20140205

Saturday is “What not to say in the bedroom” such as:

20140208

and Sunday is a doodle, often a pop culture icon with octopus legs like this latest one:

20140209

Genre: adult semi-biographical

Setting: the author’s life in the U.S.

Interest: I’ve been reading The Devil’s Panties for a long time, and I cannot remember how I started (as per usual).

Summary: We get to see into Jennie Breeden’s life  – everything from her family get-togethers to life as a web-comic (she often breaks the fourth wall) to life in general. Breedon likes the snarky comment and isn’t afraid to put in the occasional adult situation. She also has several alter egos – a devil, a princess, and an angel, that show up from time to time.

Final thoughts: I love this comic. I know I say that about all the webcomics I review, but that’s because if I don’t love it, I drop it. There’s so many good comics out there, I hate to waste time on mediocre. While it’s only occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, the comic is always enjoyable. It’s also a very adult comic, with swearing, drinking, and sexual innuendo common. Be sure to hover over the comics to get another comment on the comic.

Title comes from: According to the FAQ, it was a friend’s hypothetical band name that was borrowed.

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