Friday, August 26, 2016

Review: Like I Used to Dance by Barbara Frances

"Our kids, my, my, Gracie, where did we go wrong? One marries God, another a Jew, and the last one, the devil!"
Texas, 1951. The Wolanskys-Grace, Bud and their three grown children-are a close-knit clan, deeply rooted in their rural community and traditional faith. On their orderly farm, life seems good and tomorrow always holds promise. But under the surface, it's a different story. Grace is beset by dark memories and nameless fears that she keeps secret even from Bud. Their son Andy has said no to becoming a farmer like his dad and, worse, fallen in love with a big-city Jewish girl. Youngest child Regina is trapped in a loveless marriage to an abusive, alcoholic husband. Even "perfect" daughter Angela's decision to become a nun takes an unforeseen turn.
And then Ceil Dollard breezes into town. Ceil-wealthy, sophisticated, irrepressible-is like a visitor from Mars. She's a modern woman. She drives a car and wears pants. She blows away tradition and certainty, forcing Grace to face her fears and brave a changing world. Through Ceil, Grace learns about courage and freedom-but at the risk of losing Bud. Barbara Frances' sparkling, richly human novel takes you back to a time when Ike was president and life was slower, but people were the same as now. You'll encounter a cast of characters storm-tossed by change, held together by love.
Written with compassion, humor and suspense, Like I Used to Dance will charm you, warm you and even squeeze a few tears, from it opening number to the last waltz.

Rating: 2.5 Stars

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a free review.

Reading Like I Used to Dance, I thought that the journey these characters took would feel more meaningful, that the people mentioned in the synopsis would be highlighted and I'd feel a real determination to find out what happened to them and where their stories led. Things did not really turn out as I had hoped.

There were quite a lot of side characters that took a lot of attention away from the main characters and were hard to keep track of besides. Bud and Grace each had multiple siblings, all of which had multiple children, then there were the neighbors, friends, etc. The best thing to do was keep track of the main family members and hang on for dear life. I wish there had been a little more focus on some of the primary characters i.e. Andy, who I didn't feel any connection to. It felt as though his scenes were passing mentions rather than passages meant to explain his character and motivation.

The pacing was weird. It felt very similar to the movie Return of the King in that there were many points when I thought the story was done. Maybe there were things that hadn't been answered, but it didn't feel like the story needed to be going anymore. Other times it felt fine and I was alright with it. Around the 34% mark, however, is when I really felt like things were being spread out much farther than they really needed to be. We got so much back story on everyone involved it felt like a water balloon about to burst.

Things finally started to follow a story-line, as it were, but it was not particularly special or engaging. It felt like the plot to a Lifetime movie that might have been interesting, but it had no spark. I felt while reading this that I had read a lot of similar stories before and didn't find anything about this to set it apart from them.

I'd say this was a somewhat decent book but I do wish that a lot of editing had taken place. As I mentioned before, it felt a lot like a Lifetime movie and maybe it would've even been more successful in that medium. As it stands, I wouldn't recommend rushing out anytime soon to pick this up.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Review: The Elite by Kiera Cass (The Selection #2)

The selection began with 35 girls. Now, with the group narrowed down to the Elite, the competition to win Prince Maxon's love is fiercer than ever. The closer America gets to the crown, the more she struggles to figure out where her heart truly lies. Each moment she spends with Maxon is like a fairy tale, filled with breathless, glittering romance. But whenever she sees her first love, Aspen, standing guard, she's swept up in longing for the life they'd planned to share.

America is desperate for more time. But while she's torn between her two futures, the rest of the Elite know exactly what they want--and America's chance to choose is about to slip away.

Rating: 2 Stars

After rating the first book in the series 4 stars, I am sorry to say that I was sorely disappointed when I picked up this volume. Maybe it has something to do with how much time there was between the readings, or perhaps the mood I was in while I was reading each. Either way, this was not a great experience.

That isn't to say it was a terrible experience, either. This wasn't a bad book, really, but I would say that it felt like a lot of filler. It stretched out a lot farther than it needed to, particularly in the early chapters when it felt like a lot of information was being repeated over and over again. I'm wondering if it easily could have been the first half of a concluding book, like if The Elite and The One were one volume. That would have felt a little better, though the beginning would still stand as suffering from ill pacing.

I was also extremely frustrated with America Singer. The main character is supposed to be likable, or at least sympathetic. I'm not supposed to want to tear my hair out or roll my eyes at her several times in one chapter, chapter after chapter.  This goes back to what I said about information being repeated over and over again in the early part of the book. The first few chapters all seemed to be about and end the same way: America waffling back and forth over whether she loved Maxon or Aspen. We know this already and repeating it so bluntly made America comes across as more of a whiner than someone who is actually debating the better option.

That's another thing. America does seem, all along, to know precisely the choice she'll make and all of this going back and forth is just her being petulant. It was annoying and I can't for the life of me figure out why she was acting this way.

Aspen, one of the main love interests, continues to be a selfish ass that stands as a counterpoint to the perfect Prince Maxon. Knowing the ending of the series, I'm trying to read the rest of the books and see whether Aspen was written as such a terrible person simply to show off the other great guy America has, or whether he was just badly written and it was some kind of accident that he ended up being portrayed this way. He has it in his head the way his and America's life should turn out and he doesn't want to truly give her the chance to figure out if that's what she wants. This is illustrated perfectly near the end when he thinks that America will be going home and wants to jump straight back into their relationship. When she asks for some peace for the time being, he acts affronted, like he has a reason to be hurt by her decision. I wanted so badly to hit him at that moment.

Maxon is still verging on the edge of being too perfect for his own good, but he did do a few things during this book that made me like him, even if it ended up being more show-dressing for the princely image i.e. his handling of the Marlee situation, introducing America to certain parts of the royal life she could expect. America better shape up or I'm going to end up cheering for someone else because as of now, she doesn't deserve either of the guys in this series.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Friday, August 19, 2016

#ReadThemAllThon & Review: Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

I've had a bit of a slow start to the #ReadThemAllThon but this weekend has started off great. I finished off my first book, Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, and I've got the review below. My Happiny will be evolving to a Chansey before you know it.

I want to take a moment to thank Aimal from Bookshelves and Paperbacks for making and maintaing the graphic you see above. She made a great way to showcase the info about my Pokemon, her current stats, and what Gym Badges I've earned so far.

With the completion of Aristotle & Dante, I've earned the Rainbow Badge for reading a book featuring diversity.

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

Rating: 3.5 Stars 

As I read this for the #ReadThemAllThon specifically for one challenge regarding diversity, I was glad to have picked a book that turned out so well in showcasing what I was looking for. There was a lot shown here about the duality of being a Mexican-American and the difficulties that lie within. Ari showed us not only his own struggles through his internal monologue, but through his relationship with Dante we learned about Dante's struggle with not feeling one half of his heritage. Through Ari's interactions with his parents we hear about his family still in Mexico versus family members that have left for new lives in the States. The contrast between their lives is interesting to view, especially as Ari seems them and reconciles them to his own experiences.

What I liked about the romantic aspect of the story was that it was introduced slowly and very subtly.  I almost wasn't sure where things were going to end up until the last few chapters in the book when something tragic happens and Ari really starts figuring things out not only about himself, but about the people he surrounds himself with. He starts discovering the answers to questions that have hounded him all of his life: what happened to my brother? Why do we pretend he doesn't exist? Why do I always feel like something is off? Watching him struggle made this book so sad to read at times, but that made it more real than if  there weren't a struggle.

I read this in two different ways, as I had to work during the majority of the time I wanted to read it. The audio book from Audible is narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame and I thought he did a good job. Something I noticed, though, was that listening to the book, I felt like there were parts of the book that dragged more than when I went back and reread them. Now, I'm not sure if this had to do with those portions being a reread section, but the audio was good but not great. Reading it through on my own was a better experience in the long run, though I want to thank Miranda for being an excellent narrator and getting the pronunciations of all the Spanish words correct.

Overall, the experience of reading this book was a good one. I was engaged in finding out why Ari was the way he was, how Dante fit into all of this, and what they meant to each other. While it was good,  I can't say the story blew me away, hence the 3.5 star rating.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sunday Street Team: Review: Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people lose in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The thick glass of a mason jar cuts deep, and the pain washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you.

Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge.

Rating: 5 Stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

When I first read the synopsis for this book, I wanted to read it more than anything. It called out to me in part because I felt that I could relate to Charlotte Davis a.k.a. Charlie, our main character. She has a lot of personal trauma she's working through and her coping method is not what one might call the healthiest choice. I understand where she's coming from and I wanted to find out how Kathleen Glasgow would tackle such a dark subject.

The problem with books tackling mental illness, especially books wherein a character self harms, is that they can sometimes suffer from bad writing, which will turn the characters into parodies of the real people that suffer these diseases, or they can make it seem as though the self-harmer is just doing it for attention, a plot thread that annoys me to no end because that is not how it works!

Kathleen Glasgow, I'm thankful to say, was able to approach Charlie's story masterfully and with full respect for her subject. Not only did we learn about Charlie, but we also learned, in the first part of her story, about the others around her who were dealing with their own issues. This didn't detract from Charlie's story but rather enhanced it. As the reader you were given the opportunity to glimpse other facets of Charlie's world, how the other inhabitants danced around their issues and through Charlie's life, leaving bits of themselves with her as they went.

What I thought was interesting, though I'm not sure if it was intentional, was how the earliest chapters, when Charlie was still quite unsure of herself and in her darker place, were shorter, had only brief sentences to tell us what was going on. As Charlie began to open up and take chances, slight though they might be, the sentences began to flow better, the chapters to become longer. It was as though Charlie were emerging out into the "real" world for longer periods of time. Then, when there were dark periods, the shorter sentences and chapters appeared again. It was an interesting device if done intentionally, an awesome coincidence if not.

Charlie was a great character in the sense that she was well developed. She wasn't perfect, but what she was you could really feel. When she was soaring you could feel all that was good within her. When she was forgetting to put herself first and falling for men again, whether it be Mickey or Riley, you could feel the desperate wanting she had to be loved. It was easy to get under her skin and, while that obviously wasn't a comfortable ride 90% of the time, it was an interesting one.

I think that a lot of people will feel some very deep things while reading this book. Keep in mind the subject matter, because that could be a trigger for some people. However, I think it is an important book too. It humanized Charlie and made her more than her disease. That is something that seems, to me, to be hard to remember sometimes. There are people behind the disease and thank you, Kathleen, for showing us that, if only for 400 pages or so.

About the Author:

Kathleen Glasgow lives in Tucson, Arizona. She writes for the radio show The Writer's Almanac and can probably provide you with some interesting anecdotes about historical literary figures if you asked nicely. You can find out more about Kathleen by following her on Twitter: @kathglasgow, Instagram @misskathleenglasgow (where she posts about sunsets, depression, spirit circles, and books) or her website:

Kathleen has also been gracious enough to run this Rafflecopter for a swag pack celebrating the release of her debut novel.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you or someone you know is struggling and needs help, please consider contacting:

Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741-741
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
To Write Love on Her Arms:
National Runaway Hotline: 1-800-621-4000

Friday, August 12, 2016

Review: Kid Artists:True Tales of Childhood From Creative Legends by David Stabler & Doogie Horner

by David Stabler (author) & Doogie Horner (artist)

The series that began with Kid Presidents and Kid Athletes has a new volume that chronicles the childhoods of 16 celebrated artists—everyone from Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh to Mary Cassat, Frida Kahlo, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and even Dr. Seuss! Readers will learn: 

· Georgia O’Keeffe was so enthralled by nature that she once ate dirt just to see what it tasted like. 
· Jackson Pollock lost the top of his right index finger in a childhood accident (and the severed tip was eaten by a rooster!). 
· Andy Warhol’s favorite childhood lunch was—what else?—a bowl of Campbell’s tomato soup.

Every scribble, sketch, and sticky situation comes to life in these kid-friendly and relatable stories, all with Doogie Horner’s trademark full-color illustrations. Kid Artists is a delight for budding artists and eager readers alike.

Rating: 4 Stars

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is the first book in David Stabler's series of Kid books I've read (Kid Athletes, etc.) and I found it a good introduction into the life of these artists.

I'll admit that more than a few of these names, while familiar to me in the general sense of the word, were unfamiliar to me in terms of what they were really known for as artists. That made certain chapters a bit more difficult to enjoy, as they don't really talk about the artist's future work. A sentence or two is all you receive before going back to the artist's childhood. That's fine and all, but if you aren't familiar with the subject at hand before reading the book, you might find yourself lost.

It was interesting to learn these little stories about the artists as children, those that I knew about. One instance in particular was the story of a shield that Leonardo da Vinci once painted on commission. It sounded terrifying and like just the sort of thing that he would've loved, and clearly did, as he seemed so proud of it when showing it off to his father.

The art accompanying each story was well chosen. The artist, Doogie Horner, went with a children's comic book feel that accentuated each story well and didn't make it too serious.

I'm curious to see what these two have done in their other works regarding athletes and presidents, so I'd say this book was successful not only in interesting me in learning more about the artists themselves, but also in checking out more of this author's work about other historical figures.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday REWIND

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme that is brought to us by The Broke & the Bookish. Check out the topic list here.

Today's Top 10 Tuesday is a throwback for which I am thoroughly thankful. This week we can go back and choose any topic we might have missed in the past and do it this week.

There are a great many to choose from. I think we need this topic more often! In the end, I narrowed it down to Top 10 Books I Wish Were Made Into Movies.

10. The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson

One of the few books to ever actually make me cry, this book needs to be picked up by some indie director ASAP. It has a lot of sadness, sure, but there's actually redemption and a somewhat decent ending, which you usually don't find. It's a one or the other sort of thing, but the author here gave us the whole package for which I am very grateful. Another plus? It's a grand LGBT+ story.

9. Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

These two authors do well with sending a pair of teenagers on wild jaunts around the city. After seeing Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist and what a cool movie that was, I think could be another fun adaptation. I don't think it would be a huge hit, more like a cult classic type of film, but release it around Christmas with a killer soundtrack and the right people cast, you'd do more than well enough to justify a release. Plus, a scavenger hunt through NYC? That just sounds like fun.

8. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Besides the sheer amount of awesome that would be the soundtrack to this film, there's a lot of the typical adolescent romance that serves well in a movie so it would probably do fairly well (aka y'all should be making this NOW). I'm curious to see if they'd get the casting right because a lot rides on the key differences of Eleanor and Park (she her red hair and slightly large frame, he his half white half Korean appearance).

7. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

A proper series of movies would do wonders for The Dresden Files. While the television series was just okay, can you imagine how this would be if it were a proper movie franchise? There's wizards, fairies, a zombie dinosaur, and a ton more of the most insane fantasy creatures you'd ever hope to come across.

6. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This has a lot of the creepiness of Coraline, but I think this really takes it one step further into your psyche and could really be terrifying. Whether it was live action or whether the same company that produced Coraline (Laika, if I'm correct), it would be satisfying to indulge in on a mid-autumn afternoon.

5. The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

I see this as a PBS movie. It's dark, oh boy is it, and it really makes you question perception, how well you really know someone, especially those closest to you, and what you'd do to discover the truth.

4. Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples

I'm not sure whether a live action movie would work for this, but an anime would be just fine with me. A series of OAVs? That'd be amazing. There's a lot of story to tell and it's bloody and graphic at times, but it also has a lot about family and what you'll do for them before it's all over.

3. Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy

I see this as some kind of fun rom-com end of the world picture. I'm not sure who would play who, but they'd have to get the chemistry just right because a lot of the story would depend on it.

2. And I Darken by Kiersten White

This would be an amazing alternative to all of the male led movies with sword fights, huge battles, blood thirsty moments, etc. A girl at the helm of such a flick would be amazing. My only hesitation about it would be the filmmakers making the lead too sexy and oh my god it is so not about that. Sex has nothing to do with Lada's story. It's about her strength, her ferocity, her ability to defeath both warriors and societal expectations.

1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This one would probably need the biggest budget to pull off all the special effects, especially once you get into the circus proper, but it would be magical and amazing and worth it, I think.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Review: Harvey Hippo Invites a New Friend to Lunch by Lisa Sankar-Zhu

A great, fun story about an extremely cute hippo.

Rating: 3 Stars

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is the first Harvey Hippo book I've read, but I don't think it's necessary to read them in any sort of order. I didn't seem to be missing anything.

This is a simple story about a hippo (Harvey) who wants to bring over a new friend to his home for lunch. There's something different about this friend when compared to Harvey and it leads to a good lesson that is subtle enough to teach without being overbearing. That's always important, I find, when dealing with a children's book, as if it's overbearing, if the lesson smacks the kid upside the head, then it isn't likely to be a staying one.

Learning to make new friends and try new things. as Harvey's new friend does when sampling a new dish at the titular lunch, is an important skill for the target reading audience.

The reason I gave this a lower rating is more because of the art style. While it was alright for the most part and quite cute in others, there were several pages where the angles of objects were not in line with the background, making the setting have a wonky feel to it. I'm not sure whether a child would notice this, but I think it might bother the adult reading this to their son or daughter.

I might recommend this book to someone whose child is meeting new friends at school, either at the beginning of a school year or if there's a transfer student. For younger children, it would give them something concrete to look at and realize that there's nothing to be afraid of being open to making new friends and trying new things.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne

The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later.

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Rating: 3 Stars

Going into this, I was very excited. It was a brand new Harry Potter story, one that J.K. Rowling herself had worked on (if not written). As she had at the very least given this story her blessing, I figured that I would be in for a treat, even if it was written by someone other than the genius behind the original Harry stories.

It was certainly a different experience reading a play as opposed to reading a novel. Not many people are prepared for it. Plays are meant to be seen, after all. I don't typically read plays because they tend not to go over as well for me. There are a lot of things you can't "see" in a play format, a lot of emotions that cannot be conveyed because you aren't seeing them onstage as they're meant to be. You really have to work at reading a play rather than sitting back and letting the author take the wheel.

The play/story started out well enough. We were introduced to some new-ish characters, or at least one we hadn't had the chance to get to know in previous books like the Potter/Granger-Weasley/Malfoy children. There was a surprising amount of character development conveyed in the script, even without anyone to act it out for me and I commend Jack Thorne on his writing there.

The adults were a little less well developed. For the most part they felt as though they merely carried on from where they were the last time we saw them. Hermione was smart as ever and had become Minister for Magic, quite prestigious when one considers her background and the attitude of the Wizarding community towards Muggleborns at time. Harry is carrying too much pressure on himself, more because of his personality than because he really has to. Ron was the flattest of all the adults. He seemed there to play the joke, the funny man. It's sad to say that he didn't serve much purpose and I could easily have seen the play being fine without him as written here.

I was surprised to find myself liking the Malfoy family so much this time around. I didn't expect that Scorpius and especially Draco would be such sympathetic characters. Draco has his faults, of course, though most of them can be chalked up to dealing with grief over the loss of his wife and being an overprotective father. He learned a lot in the past 19 years and he learned those lessons well. He is not the same Slytherin boy we left in Deathly Hallows. Scorpius was a brilliant child who knew about his father's past and does his best to live well in spite of it. He isn't ashamed of his father; he loves him just the same and manages to put up with a fair bit of bullying due to some rumors that sprout up because of said past. His innocence and strength of character easily made him my favorite character of the lot.

All of that being said, I do have to address some of the issues that I had with the play and which brought down both the experience and the rating for me. As I will probably mention things that are considered spoilers from here on out, please consider yourself warned.


The plot had a lot of issues for me, but they didn't really manifest until the second half of the play. Until about Act 4 or so I was still able to go out on that limb with the story and be all cool, totally able to believe what was happening. From there on out, though, things rapidly plummeted as storylines attempted to wrap up and the whole thing felt more like fanfiction that had somehow gotten published in place of a truly great Harry Potter work.

My first thought upon closing the book was: how could J.K. Rowling have let the story be told with such a weak plot? Delphi's character in the beginning was suspect, but when it is revealed that she is the daughter of Voldemort and Bellatrix and that the whole point of her existence within the place was to bring Voldemort back to power via Time Turner travel, I just started giving up.

Voldemort has long been established as a character that did not have the ability to love. He was biologically incapable of it because of his mother's use of a love potion to conceive him. Taking this into account, what possible reason could he have to 1) sleep with Bellatrix in the first place? 2) conceive a child with her? There's no plausible explanation for it and that really bothered me. The handling of Delphi was awkward and unnecessary. I cannot believe that. between the three of them (one being the creator of the Wizarding World in the first place), they couldn't come up with something more engaging or nail biting than Voldemort's secret love child tries to bring him back.

There's also a lot of stuff that is alluded to in the course of the play that is never resolved. There are multiple mentions of several Dark Magic creatures on the move; there's the fact that Lucius Malfoy apparently had some wizards making him magical artifacts for purposes never fully discussed (i.e. the Time Turner that causes most of the mischief in The Cursed Child); Hermione have a suspicious number of Dark Magic/Divination books (that might not amount to anything but it seemed off to me, especially the book by Trelawney). Considering that J.K. Rowling was insistent that this is the end of the Potter stories, this seems like a bad way to end the story: loads of loose ends that have no hope of being resolved.

There was a lot of possibility with this story. A lot of people were looking forward to this, as anyone working on it should have known, and I think a lot more care should have been taken with that. The story felt fine through Part One, but Part Two felt rushed and like it was put out to meet a deadline rather than because it was felt to be done. That felt like a big let down, considering how long we as readers and loyal Harry Potter fans waited for this story, and how unlikely it is that we'll ever have anything even close to the magic of the original series.

After reading the play, I have come to the conclusion that while I enjoyed parts of it (characters and their development, certain scenes that sounded like fun), I realized that a lot of the criticisms of the play (being rushed, unnecessary) might have had a thread of truth to them. I am hopeful, however, that as this was the Rehearsal edition of the script that the final performance edition will have cleared some of this up. Until then, I will return to the Harry Potter stories of his, and my, youth and enjoy my time at a Hogwarts of the past.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Review: Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia

I’m your protagonist—Reshma Kapoor—and if you have the free time to read this book, then you’re probably nothing like me.

Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all.

What's a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent's help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford.

But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she's already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success—a character arc librarians and critics alike will enjoy.

Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending. (Note: It’s pretty far.)

Rating: 4 Stars

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

From the start to the end, Reshma (the protagonist) was a character that I just loved to hate. It was odd seeing the story progress because the main character was someone that, while I found them interesting, I didn't like as a person. Is that even possible? It is and you'll see that when you read about how Reshma intends to get herself a spot at Stanford.

I think the portrayal of Reshma as the perfectionist student that has to get what she wants, damned be to anyone or anything in her way, was an interesting counterpoint to others main characters. Most main characters I see nowadays have few flaws and that makes them pretty unbelievable. Reshma, as unlikeable as she is, seems like someone that you'd run into in high school. You really feel like there are people that would pull some of her stunts.

She does have a bit of sarcastic/snarky sense of humor, which I appreciated. If only she let herself feel relaxed enough to joke un-sarcastically more often, then she might have been wound so tightly.

While I had a weird love/hate relationship going on with her during this novel, the book did get me to thinking about something. Not every student is going to do to the lengths that Reshma went to to accomplish her goals (lying, being somewhat caustic as a person, etc.), but a great many of them will feel the same pressure.

It is completely insane and Rahul Kanaki did an amazing job as the author to illustrate just how insane high school is, especially the time when you're trying to get into "the right college". There's so much expected of a student, not only from themselves, but from multiple outlets that it is a wonder that more don't turn out like Reshma. Being reminded of that level of absurdity, while realistic, made me appreciate the novel more because as I get older and further away from that time in my life, I think I tend to forget about it because it was such a stressful, trying time.

There will be some parts of the novel where you might wonder why you're reading it because Reshma is definitely not the nicest person, not even close. I recommend reading to the conclusion, however, because her journey has a lot of emotion to it that will carry you along to the end and while you may not end up happy, you will have a hell of a time while getting there.

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