Blog Challenge

First of all, a big shout out to all the challenge participants. 🙂 Thank you so much for actively participating. I had a great time reading your entries, exploring new authors and finding more about new genres.

There were 5 participants with a perfect score [200 points], so I did have to apply the tie-breaker timestamp rule. For those who just missed the e-card prize, please know that I hate that I had to choose. I feel for the ones who just missed, and understand that timezones and sheer luck might have been the cause. Still, rules are rules!

With that aside, here are the winners:

First Prize Winner:

Finitha Jose – http://finithajose.blogspot.com/ . Perfect score and first to post on most prompt days.
Prize = $50 e-card prize & digital certificate

Second Prize Winner:

Miss Camilla – https://misscamilasblog.com/. Perfect score and a few points behind on account to the time stamps.
Prize = $20 e-card prize & digital certificate

Honorary Mentions:

All of you had a perfect score, too but missed out due to time stamp rules. Still, it is my privilege to send you the “Honorary Mention Winner” digital certificate! You are all winners in your own right.

Delia – https://wolfmajick.blogspot.com/
Isabella – https://isabellareviewsonline.wordpress.com/
Niru – https://nirupamaprv.wordpress.com/

Other Mentions:

There were 2 other participants I do want to call out for special reasons:
Unidragonfraghttps://unidragonfrag.blogspot.com/
She missed Day07 post, else she was a leading contender.

Sveta Lihttp://sveta-randomblog.blogspot.com/
She started late but picked up quickly, even ratcheting the early bird points for the last 3 prompts.

Claiming the Prize:

To claim your prize, please send me an email at ann_venkat@greatnewreads.com with the following information before May 28th 10 pm EST.

  • Name & Website link (to be used on the digital certificate)
  • Amazon site (US/India/UK/other) – the correct region for the giftcard.
  • Email – preferred if you use the email associated with your amazon account, but not mandatory.

Once again, thank you so much for your active participation. Until next time, Adieu and Happy Reading!

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Welcome to Day 08 of the #BookReviewBlogChallenge, and the LAST challenge prompt!

Big shout out to all the participants – I had an amazing time reading all your entries and found some brilliant authors to add to my TBR pile. My eyes are shining up like stars just thinking about the new books I plan to read! Irrespective of who wins, you are all “STARS”.

And this brings me nicely to today’s theme – “STAR”.

Blog Challenge Day 08 entry

My entry is a YA book titled “Next door to a Star”. This is not my normal genre, at least not since my teen years. However, I decided to give it a try since the cover and blurb looked intriguing, and a friend recommended it. I was hoping this would be a good author/book to gift to my nieces and young cousins, but the jury is still out on it!

  • Title – Next Door to a Star
  • Author – Krysten Lindsay Hager.

The story is about a young girl (Hadley) staying with her grandparents for a vacation, where she meets and befriends a teen TV mega-star. Later, Hadley gets to move in with her grandparents and go to the same school where the star attends. Hadley gets caught up in the dramas that follow a shy teenager at a new school, compounded by the glitzy world of being in cahoots with a teen heartthrob. Will Hadley remain calm and sensible, will she get disillusioned or worse mesmerized by superficial lives ephemeral fame?

REVIEW SCORE = 4.0/5

Thoughts on the Book:

First, I must admit the author writes extremely well from a teenager’s perspective. Puberty and teenage can be hard, especially on young girls as they try to balance school, hormones, cliques, and a keen desire to be perceived as “cool” and “popular”. Everything is a “drama” and blown out of proportion! The author fleshes all those emotions quite realistically, and readers will remember their own school years. Or recognize classmates, kids, and nieces/nephews in some or all the characters.

Second, the book is written from an age-appropriate standpoint, no steamy scenes or violence or foul language. If you are a parent or (aunt like me) who wants to vet a book before kids read it, then I do not see any major red flags for this book. The book feels akin to the movie “Mean girls” – you want to roll your eyes at times, but the story is relatable to teens and tweens.

However, as an adult I do have some concerns that the book might send the wrong signal to some kids. Trying to fit in is normal, but how far do you want your kids to take it? Being introverted is not a gate pass to be deferential or act a doormat! I just want to shake Hadley at times, but all parents feel that way, so perhaps the author is correct at portraying things as they truly occur in real life! I did feel I was over-analyzing the book at times. Plus, some of the girls are too silly for words.

For these reasons, I did not go with a rating higher than 4.0. However, if your teen just wants a quick read. If your child or YA relative normally reads classic books, or will not be overly influenced by fictional characters, then you might consider giving this as a change in tastes!

Similar Works

  • Books – “Nancy Drew”, Babysitters club books (series), Sweet Valley High School books (series)
  • Movies – Mean Girls, Bring it On, Ice Princess.
  • TV Series – That’s so Raven (Nickelodeon), Never Have I ever (Netflix).
  • Genres – Teen & Young Adult, Young Adult Contemporary Romance, YA.

Hope you all found this blog challenge as engaging as me!

Until next time, Adieu and happy reading! 🙂

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Welcome to Day 07 of the #BookReviewBlogChallenge. It is amazing how fast time flew and we are almost at the end of the competition! So, the theme “Time” for today’s challenge ties in quite nicely! 😊

Last week’s prompt was any book with 400+ pages and Unidragonfrag won it hands down with her entry of “Worm” – an ebook serial spanning ~7000 pages! Whew! That is longer than the Harry Potter series combined!

365 Days of FB

My entry for today’s theme is “365 Days of F(i)B-Bing” by Nirupama PRV. It is the story of a young techie, Avantika, who dreams of being perceived as cool and successful. To achieve this, she decides to post every day on Facebook, hoping to boost her popularity and create an illusion of fame and acclaim. What happens next is a series of hilarious and interesting twists.

As the fine line between real and virtual blur, her past fabrications close in on Avantika. Can she keep up or lose it all? Do her Facebook frolics triumph or backfire? That is the crux of the story.

  • Title – 365 Days of Fibbing.
  • Author – Nirupama PRV

REVIEW SCORE = 5/5 *****

Challenge Theme

Time = Days! That is the connection I am using to tie between the theme and this book. Often individual days are slow and boring, but time (years and even a lifetime) often just speeds past!

Some of the individual entries in the book, written as a sort of hybrid diary, may not feel catchy, but the overall book is brilliant! By the time you finish this book, you will be motivated to start writing everyday or posting selfies on Instagram just to test out the theory! 😉

What I Loved about the Book:

First, the author is a phenomenal storyteller! I could see parts of me in Avantika. The way she reacts is exactly how any 22-year-old would! Isn’t that the goal of every fictional book – to make the reader immerse so deep in the book, they forget it is a mythical world?

Even if you have never worked for the software industry, you will still relate to many scenes in the book, like the interactions between Avantika and her friends, the confusions and aspirations every one has from their first job. If you come from a large family and especially if you are of Asian or Mediterranean origin, the scenes between Avantika and her cousins/family/wedding scenes will feel 100% real.

Also, love the cover!

If you like witty writing or standup comedy, you will love this book. The book is funny without being a comedy or satire. An excellent read if you just want something to perk yourself up. In many ways, this book reminded me bestselling author Nick Spalding, who wrote hits like “Logging off” and “Dumped Actually”. Or a classier, more confident version of “Bridget Jones Diary”!

One special note, this book is not necessarily from the YA (young adults) genre but can be read by teens as well, since the book does not have any censored topics or steamy scenes. It will probably make an excellent Graduation Day gift. Lord knows, with the chaos of the Covid19 pandemic, the class of 2020 could use something to lift their spirits and take their mind off all the mental stress!

Similar Works

  • Books – “Dumped Actually” by Nick Spalding, “Bridget Jones Diary” by Helen Fielding, “Just a Name” by Becky Monson, “Stylist Takes Manhattan” by Rosie Nixon.
  • Movies – Confessions of a Shopaholic,  
  • TV Series – Never Have I ever.
  • Genres – Women’s Humorous Fiction, Urban, Contemporary Women’s Fiction, Coming of Age Fiction, Women & Relationships Humor, Literary Satire, YA Books

Until next time, Adieu and Happy Reading!

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Welcome to Day 06 of #BookReviewBlogChallenge. Today’s challenge is to review any book with 400+ pages.

Shoutout to Miss Camilla and her blog . All the entries were brilliant. But Camilla’s style of “rebelling” was both unexpected and unique. The bonus of getting to read 4 reviews for the price for one? Awesome!  Hat tip, Rebel Camilla!

Prompt Choice

For today’s challenge I went with another masterpiece by Tim Ferris – “Tribe of Mentors”. At 627 pages, the book is fatter than most dictionaries! This book is basically a compilation of success tactics used by the world’s most brilliant performers. This is literally “Mentor in a Book”.

  • Title – Rebel Talent: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World
  • Author – Tim Ferris

REVIEW SCORE = 4/5

Book Review

The book asks a set of 11 poignant questions to experts in different domains, styled after his podcast interviews. The answers are mind-blowing and immensely practical. Each chapter in the book contains answers and thoughts from one influencer who is considered the leader in his/her field. Industries and names include authors (Neil Gaiman), graphic designers, chefs, actresses (Aisha Tyler), athletes, swim coaches (Terry Laughlin), filmmakers (Darren Aronfsky), CEOs and many more.

Word of warning – If you have already read “Tools of the Titans” (which I reviewed earlier) by the same author, like me, then some parts might seem repetitive. For example, tech genius and venture capitalist Naval Ravikant features in both books. However, his advice is incredibly spot-on, so I did not mind reading it all over again! Consider it “reinforcement learning”.

For those who have not heard of Naval – he is the founder of AngelList, a recruiting platform for startups. He also invested in 100+ companies including Uber, Twitter, Clearview AI and multiple others, making him a billionaire considered to have the “Midas touch”.

The Qs Tim asks are designed to extract pearls of wisdom that these luminaries use – imagine how amazing your life can be, if you followed 3 or 4 religiously! Some example Qs from the book:

  • What do you do when you feel unfocused or overwhelmed?
  • What is the book you have given the most as a gift and why? Books that influenced your life. Special note to readers – this single point alone proves an important fact – all successful RICH people read books! 😊 If that does not motivate you to read more, I wash my hands off you!
  • Your best investment of $100 or less.

Quotes from the book:

Some of the advice from the book that resonated the most with me are listed below:

  • Wealth is having assets that earn while you sleep.
  • It is easier to ask forgiveness than to ask Permission.
  • Play iterated games. All returns in life, whether in wealth, relationships or knowledge come from compound interest.

Similar Works

  • Books – “Tools of the Titans” also by Tim Ferris. “Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success” by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness. “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World” by David Epstein. “Think Like a Rocket Scientist: Simple Strategies You Can Use to Make Giant Leaps in Work and Life” by Ozan Varol.
  • Movies – Rocky, Theory of Everything, Slumdog Millionaire, The Intern, Joy (starring Jennifer Lawrence).
  • Genres – Self-Help, Productivity, Popular Development Psychology

Until next time, Adieu and Happy Reading!

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Welcome to Day 05 of #BookReviewBlogChallenge. Today’s prompt is “Rebel”.

Shoutout to Niru from “Opinions of a Catty, BookLoving Couch Potato” for her witty review of “The Duke and I”. The book was a perfect fit for the theme, the review notes were heartfelt and Julia Quinn book covers themselves are so quirky and attractive!

For today’s challenge I went with a relatively safe choice – “Rebel Talent” by Harvard Business school Professor, Francesca Gino. This book explains why creative rebellion is essential to find joy at work and in life, using diverse examples like a Michelin star chef, the Head of animation studio Pixar and many more!

  • Title – Rebel Talent
  • Author – Francesca Gino

REVIEW SCORE = 4/5

The book uses the term “Rebel” to mean outlier and someone who shatters conventions, not necessarily mean or evil or aggressive. The author argues that rebel employees are critical to companies and help to raise the bar on innovation, thus contributing to profits and branding and shareholder value.

We all can agree that mindlessly following rules and policies and repeating mundane tasks does suck the satisfaction out of work and life! However, not many of us can gather courage to break the norm, or risk failure. The special few who do are the ones who reach spectacular success!

Note that the author is not suggesting that every employee start breaking rules. Rather the book shows how to balance social conventions and be rebellious for useful purposes. The book also has tips for managers to reign in rebellious employees just enough to maintain a healthy equilibrium between hellion and star performer.  

The book reminds me of a quote from Iris Apfel’s book “Fit in before you Step Out”.

The “Pygmalion effect” in the book and the anecdotes in the book were quite interesting. What I would have liked to see more steps to cultivate this mindset, especially for employees who have been conforming for too long. This was a bit lacking in the book.

Similar Works

  • Books – “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, “What You Do is Who You Are” by Ben Horowitz. “Innovation and Entrepreneurship” by Peter Drucker. “It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work” by Jason Fried and David Hansson. “The Remix: How to Lead and Succeed in a Multigenerational Workplace” by Lindsey Pollak.
  • Movies – Legally Blonde, Braveheart, Brave.
  • Genres – Organizational Culture, Workplace Behavior.

Until next time, Adieu and Happy Reading!

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