Friday, October 30, 2015

My Wife Wants You to Know I'm Happily Married, by Joey Franklin

BYU English professor Joey Franklin wants you to know he's happily married.  Actually, he wants you to know a lot about him, as he tells his stories in My Wife Wants You to Know I'm Happily Married, his new collection of essays.  Like most of his students, who "know they've lived relatively ordinary lives," Franklin's life has been pretty ordinary.  Yet he is "happy excavating" his life "to share a bit of rough-polished humanity with someone else," namely, you and me.  These explorations in what he calls creative nonfiction convey his experiences in such a way that the reader might reflect more deeply on his own ordinary life.

Franklin covers a wide range of his experiences as a son, student, missionary, college instructor, father, husband, airline passenger, dancer, new homeowner, and as one losing his hair prematurely.  I particularly enjoyed his reflections on his name, Joey, as an essential part of his identity.  Franklin's primary source material is, of course, his own memory, but he also draws from a wide array of literary and, on occasion, even scientific and academic sources, taking his personal stories to a much higher and more universal level.

In the titular essay, which is really what prompted me to pick up the book, Franklin celebrates the ordinariness of marriage.  He says his wife "threatened to make me a shirt that read, 'My wife wants you to know that I am happily married.'"  He came to believe that this was not so much to ward off admirers, but to "remind me, the wearer, of a particular version of our story, . . . a series of well-spun yarns that remind us why we're together, that help us reaffirm we've made the right choice--that the person we wake up to each morning is really the person we want to wake up to."  Franklin wants to "remember moments of beauty when the truth is anything but."  That, married friends, is well worth remembering.

Franklin's essays are just deep enough not to be trivial, just light-hearted enough not to be heavy, and readable enough not to be dull.  Highly recommended!

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Oxygen, by John B. Olson and Randy Ingermanson

How about a mission to Mars?  According to John B. Olson and Randy Ingermanson, it should have already happened.  When they first published Oxygen, which they describe as a science fiction romantic suspense space adventure, getting a manned mission to Mars off the ground in a decade seemed reasonable.  It probably is still reasonable, if NASA or someone else can come up with the money and will to make it happen.

In Oxygen NASA does make it happen, with a little help from TV ad money.  Imaging the ratings for a Mars landing on the Fourth of July!  So two men and two women take off for the red planet, aiming to land on Mars on July 4, 2014.  After a rough launch, they encounter a number of mechanical and logistical problems, including an explosion that takes out most of their solar power.

They are faced with a number of questions.  Was it a bomb?  Who planted it?  The list of suspects is very short, including the four astronauts and a couple of crew members back on earth.  The crew of four must decide whether they will depend on each other or continue the journey constantly suspecting and second-guessing their crew mates and ground crew.  To make matters worse, due to the loss of power, they are going to run out of oxygen before they get to Mars. . . .

Oxygen is a Christian novel published by a Christian publisher, but the story and the science set the tone.  It is more properly described as a sci-fi novel in which one of the main characters is a Christian.  The main character, Valkerie, a Christian who struggles with her faith, chooses to put her life in God's hands and trust him to carry them through.  Olson and Ingermanson report her faith journey in a way that will sound familiar to Christians who find themselves in crisis situations of the more pedestrian earthly variety.

One complaint I have is that Valkerie, who holds an M.D. and a Ph.D., acts a bit emotional and flaky.  She's a brilliant scientist, hand-picked for the first manned mission to Mars, yet she sometimes seems to be more suited for a Nicholas Sparks novel.  There is a romance storyline in Oxygen that sometimes seemed out of place.  That said, Olson and Ingermanson humanize the astronauts in a way that reminds us that even though the men and women in the space program are much smarter and more physically fit that the rest of us (by a long shot), they are still humans, with emotions, families, and dreams and wishes.

Oxygen is an edge-of-your-seat near-future sci-fi adventure.  The theme of astronauts facing crises is not new; the authors refer to the Apollo 13 mission extensively.  I was also reminded of the recent novel The Martian which a solo astronaut on Mars is forced to adapt and adjust his mission to survive.  Oxygen is definitely worth reading for fans of realistic, near-future sci-fi.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Strong and Kind, by Korie Robertson

I'm not sure how many books have been published by and about the Robertson family, the stars of the popular reality TV show Duck Dynasty.  A quick search at shows at least several dozen.  They have cornered the market, it seems, on duck calls through their Duck Commander company, and are working on taking a big chunk of the market of celebrity biography/cookbook/self-help/inspirational books, too.

Korie Robertson, with help from her husband Willie and her mother, Chrys Howard (side note: Mrs. Howard, a former teacher and publishing executive, co-authored a couple of books with Willie's mom.) has published a parenting book.  Strong and Kind: and Other Important Character Traits Your Child Needs to Succeed focusses on building character in your children.  Rather than focussing on some of the traditional topics of parenting books, Korie writes that after 20 years of parenting her 5 kids, she believes "the most important thing for parents to decide . . . is what values are important to your family and how you will go about instilling those values in your children."

Korie and Willie have chosen to focus on two: strength and kindness.  (I couldn't help thinking of Cinderella's mother's dying admonition to her daughter: "Have courage and be kind.")  They challenge their readers to select these or any other pair of virtues to teach their children.  Different parent and child personalities will lend some values to be more fitting than others.  Besides strength and kindness they discuss self-control, honesty, compassion, patience, joy, loyalty, and humility.  They write that this list is not exhaustive, and that there is much overlap among some of these, but that by choosing to emphasize two, many of the others naturally develop.

The best way to instill these values is to let your children see you living them out.  "Leading by example is the number one way to teach children any behavior you want them to have."  And it has to be deliberate and intentional.  "If we want our kids to behave a certain way, then we have to make that decision and do the things necessary to make that happen."  The role of the parent is to set the tone, and to make the home a place where these values are modeled, lived, and encouraged.

I have yet to see an episode of Duck Dynasty (I know, I know, I should).  This is the fifth book I've read by Robertson family members, and I must say that based on what I've read, I am been impressed with this extended family, the values they embrace and the way they live and display their values.  They're not perfect, nor do they claim to be.  They have recognized that due to the popularity of their TV show, they have a unique position from which they can write about their lives and inspire many.

Korie and Willie may not have degrees in child psychology, but they have plenty to share from their family's wisdom and experience.  Willie sums up their parenting philosophy like this: "Our goal is to be in heaven with our children and for them to live on earth as strong and kind people."  That's as good a summary of parenting goals as I've read.  If you share those goals, Strong and Kind is good inspiration to get you there.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

When Santa Was a Baby, by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Genevieve Godbout

Wal-Mart started putting Christmas trees on display weeks ago, so I guess it's not too early for a Christmas book!  Linda Bailey has added a new title to the every-growing list of Christmas books, When Santa Was a Baby.  Along with illustrator Genevieve Godbout, Bailey takes us back to Santa's childhood.  He was an exceptional baby, with merry dimples and a nose like a cherry.  He enjoyed giving his birthday presents away to children in the neighborhood.  He showed an interest in fireplaces, extreme cold, flying reindeer, and always insisted on wearing the color red.

Godbout's illustrations look great, giving an "instant classic" feel to the book.  Bailey's text is full of references to traditional Santa lore.  I was, however, left unsatisfied with the transition from "Santa as a child" to "Santa as we all know and love him."  One moment, Santa's in high school, wearing his red jacket, with a sack slung over his shoulder.  The next moment, "he followed his childhood dreams," setting up shop at the North Pole.  I know it's a children's book, but that still seemed like a huge jump with no explanation.

Maybe I'm quibbling.  I do like When Santa Was a Baby.  I'm just not sure it will work its way into a list of Christmas favorites to be read again and again.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Agent 6, by Tom Rob Smith

For Agent 6, the third book in the Child 44 trilogy, Tom Rob Smith goes darker, more international, and more epic.  Leo Demidov is back, but for the first part of the book he takes a back seat to his wife and daughters, who visit the U.S. with their choir for a goodwill tour.  Unfortunately, forces much bigger than they know are at work, and Raisa ends up murdered and accused of killing a famous American communist singer.

Leo's life spirals downward.  Attempting to soften the blow of his loss and to cope with his helplessness in his inability to seek redemption for Raisa, he turns to drugs and escapes to serve the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.  When he finally does get to New York to investigate Raisa's murder, answers don't come easily.  Was Raisa murdered by the FBI?  The KGB?  What exactly was going on?

The tone of Agent 6 is bleak.  The action is spread out over a long period of time and bounces from continent to continent.  Agent 6 seemed more cumbersome and plodding than the first two books in the trilogy.  It's less focused, and Demidov, in his despair, becomes a character with whom I was much less sympathetic.  I do enjoy the way Smith blends history and fiction.  There is no sense in which Demidov is portrayed as a historical character, but in the course of Demidov's story, Smith weaves in life in Soviet Russia, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and early hints of the U.S. role aiding the Afghans, and the state of Soviet/U.S. relations.

If I were to rank the 3 novels in this trilogy, the order of release would correspond to their rank: 1. Child 44, 2. The Secret Speech, and 3. Agent 6.  Further, this is less a trilogy than three books with the same main character.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Comeback, by Louie Giglio

Louie Giglio is a gifted communicator.  Like gifted communicators do, he can take one great idea and stretch it into a sermon, and stretch that into a sermon series, and stretch that into a book.  The Comeback: It's Not Too Late and You're Never Too Far is just such a book.  Drawing on abundant Bible stories and stories of people Giglio has met, he encourages the reader to look to God for a comeback.

Here's how Giglio describes a comeback: "What looked to have been destroyed wasn't destroyed after all.  Our plans were changed to God's plans, and God's plans were always good."  Everyone experiences setbacks in one form or another.  This points to another gift of great communicators, and to Giglio's gift: he writes in such a way that I can believe he's writing just for me.  He touches the universal experience of failure, frustration, loss, or pain, and points us toward God.  He writes, "the entire story of humanity is a story of people who have stumbled and fallen, yet somehow in this ocean of God's grace and mercy he provides a comeback for anyone who puts his or her faith and hope in Jesus."

Giglio's writing is honest and transparent.  Lest the reader think Giglio is exempt from failure, he writes about his own comeback stories and offers hope to those who have hit their zero moment.  He offers this encouragement: "God is still at work.  God has not forgotten you. . . . Wait and believe.  God is the God of the comeback, and God is creating a comeback especially for you."

The Comeback is positive and encouraging.  Just to be clear, Giglio's book is not a self-help book.  If anything, it's a self-helpless book.  When we hit zero, it's not about making our own comeback, but relying on God, trusting in the Lord, trusting his promises, and letting him lead us into his comeback for us.  That's a message I can believe in, if only I am patient and faithful to wait on him.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Monday, October 19, 2015

My Day to Die, by Daniel Byrum

There is no end to the drama of World War 2.  As an American, I have always viewed WW2 as a clearly just war, where the Good Allies put down the Evil Axis Powers, who were bent on destroying an entire race and a biblical religion while imposing their will on a huge part of the world.  The defeat of Hitler was necessary and urgent.

Missionary and author Dan Byrum's new novel, My Day to Die adds depth the this WW2 narrative by telling the story of a German soldier who struggles with his faith and the justice of this war he's caught up in.  When Klaus Sankt, a student at the University of London in the 1930s, gets a letter from his home country of Germany notifying of his conscription into the German army, he dutifully wraps up his studies and returns home.  When he takes an oath to follow the commands of the Führer, Hitler, he sincerely does so.  As he gradually becomes aware of the true evil agenda behind the German war machine, he struggles with doing what is right.

Byrum chooses to tell the story as a series of flashbacks.  A team of researchers from The Jewish Holocaust Justice Fund has turned up Sankt's name, and want to gather evidence to try him as a Nazi war criminal.  He agreeably grants them an interview, which turns into a series of lengthy sessions during which he tells his story.  They thought they had evidence that Sankt was a war criminal, who killed Jews and others at an infamous concentration camp.  While that did turn out to be at least partially true, as they gathered Sankt's full story, they saw that the truth was much more complex.

Byrum presents Sankt's story not to excuse the evils of the Nazi terror, but to personalize the struggles of Germans living under Nazi rule.  Sankt's combat experience would be familiar to any soldier: the flag you're fighting under means less to a soldier than the men he's fighting next to.  He took action in the battlefield and as a concentration camp guard that put his life and family at risk while defending innocent lives.

As Sankt's story progresses, his paths cross again with his buddy from college days, and Englishman named Darby Oakley.  Darby falls in love with one of Sankt's German friends.  Their marriage provides additional complexity to the question of war and allegiance.  When the enemy is your in-laws or your old college roommate, the fight takes on another dimension.

In the course of the interviews, Sankt reflects on the choices he made as a soldier, a citizen, and, at times, a vigilante.  "Where there is no law some men become lawless.  Where there is lawlessness there is no restraint and when there is no restraint there is no way to stop a lawless man except by killing him so he can't hurt another."  War time wreaks havoc on ethics.  Powerful, insane dictators force innocent, moral people to face horrible dilemmas.  Sankt's story is fictional, but it surely reflects the experiences of a large number of Germans during WW2 who were forced to find a way to live ethically under an unethical regime.

(As a final note, I must point out that Dan has self-published My Day to Die.  Readers will agree that he could have used a proofreader and editor.  Even with the resulting "rough draft" feel of the text, the merits of the story outweigh other factors.  It's definitely worth a read.  Dan has a gift for a great story.)

Thanks to the author for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

There's a Little Black Spot on the Sun Today, by Sting and Sven Volker

Way back in the early 80s, after he and his wife split up, Sting, lead singer of The Police, wrote a song called "King of Pain."  His poetic expression of grief, pain, and loneliness became one of his band's biggest hits.

When his son was struggling with a serious illness, illustrator Sven Volker heard "King of Pain" and thought it captured the struggles he and his son were experiencing.  Thus was born his book There's a Little Black Spot on the Sun Today, which brings to life Sting's lyrics with minimalistic pictures, using simple arrangements of geometric shapes, perhaps inspired by the cover of the single.
There's Little Black Spot is simple and cute, while at the same time emphasizing the poetic power of Sting's lyrics.  It's worth a look for a general audience, and could be a helpful tool for children dealing with grief or pain.  How is your pain like a black spot on the sun?  How is your grief like a hat caught in a treetop?  More than just a cool song and neat graphics, there's an opportunity for reflection and healing in the lyrics and pictures.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Secret Speech, by Tom Rob Smith

Following his successful first novel Child 44, Tom Rob Smith continues the story of Leo Demidov in The Secret Speech.  Since his vindication as an investigator in Child 44, Demidov is back in Moscow, heading his own office.  But a criminal group has begun targeting officers of the secret police who abducted and abused their victims.  Demidov is a prime target.  The wife of a priest he arrested now heads up a criminal gang.  They kidnap Demidov's daughter, and he must free the priest in order to get his daughter back.

The Secret Speech is wide ranging and less coherent than Child 44.  In The Secret Speech, Demidov becomes more of an action hero.  He is Jason Bourne, Liam Neeson in Taken, or Jack Ryan.  And just as those fictional counterparts leave a trail of destruction in their wake, so does Demidov.

I enjoyed Smith's weaving of Russian history into the story.  Krushchev's speech, the labor camps, the revolution in Hungary, and Demidov being tossed around by these historical waves all worked together to personalize this period of history, even in done in rather implausible ways.  I enjoyed The Secret Speech, although not as much as Child 44.  This one is less crime fiction, more political suspense thriller.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Yes or No, by Jeff Shinabarger

I'll just start this review with my bias: I didn't particularly enjoy Jeff Shinabarger' book Yes or No.  It has more to do with my expectations rather than the book itself, but my expectations were shaped by the title and promotional material.  First of all, look at the full title: Yes or No: How Your Everyday Decisions Will Forever Shape Your Life.  This isn't a book about everyday decisions.  The book description says it will help you "develop your personal philosophy of choice" and show a "practical process for making good choices."

None of the above, in my view, really fits the content of Yes or No.  Shinabarger writes a lot about his own life, and the development of his organization, Cardboard People.  I am interested in this organization, which helps "social entrepreneurs" get started.  They are the real target of this book: people who are starting an organization and need help with their vision and focus.  If this is you, great.  You are probably the type-A, motivated individual that Shinabarger is writing for.

For the rest of us, the non-entrepreneurial, low-profile types who would like some guidance in seeking God and making wise and productive decisions as we look for jobs, serve in our churches and communities, and lead our families, Yes or No misses the mark.  It simply didn't deliver as advertised.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Poorly Drawn Lines, by Reza Farazmand

Silly.  Simple.  Off-beat.  Existential.  Random.  Hilarious.  Questionable.  Profane.  Absurd.  Poorly Drawn Lines calls all of the above to mind.  Reza Faramand has compiled some of his comics from, plus some short essays, into this book.

If you have an appreciation for off-beat, random humor, you will enjoy his take on dating, life in space,  being a writer, soap, drinking and other essentials of life.  (By the way, Poorly Drawn Lines is not for children.  Rated-R language.)

Here's a selection that I could really relate to:
I know you see me . . . I see that little glance and I know you're watching me reach for the cantaloupe again.
Seven.  I've had seven pieces of cantaloupe. . . . Look at the chewed-out rinds glazing over in a haphazard stack on my paper plate.  Count them.  Count them and judge me as you look toward the cantaloupe bowl and then down at your napkin, which you're using as a plate because you've had only two slices . . . .
I'm the wolf of cantaloupe and I will eat it all and feel nothing of this shame you try to project at me . . .
Oh, yeah.  I'm going out to buy some cantaloupe now.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith

At the height of the Cold War, a serial killer is on the loose in Soviet Russia.  An unlikely hero, Leo Demidov, has to use stealth and misdirection to solve the heinous crimes.  The problem is, investigating crime in the Soviet regime means admitting that there is crime.  In the workers' paradise, crime, of course, should not exist.  Child 44, Tom Rob Smith's first novel, traces Leo's pursuit of truth in spite of state dogma, while describing a political and social system that we can be thankful no longer exists (at least in that form).

Leo, a war hero and patriot, serves in the secret police, whose primary objective is to uphold the State.  Suspects are guilty until proven innocent, but they are never proven innocent because only the guilty are arrested.  To release someone who had been arrested would be to admit that the State made a mistake, and the State never makes mistakes.

Leo convinces the family of a murdered child to accept the murder as a mere accident, but when he learns of murders that resemble that child's murder, he doggedly pursues the truth about the killer.  Of course he must do so covertly and at the risk of his life because of the treasonous thought that there is a murderer on the lose and that the State had not "solved" the crimes correctly.

On one level, Leo's chase is good crime drama.  Putting the pieces together, while constantly looking over his shoulder, he never imagines where the path is taking him.  (The reader, however, has a pretty good idea before Leo does. . . .)  Leo's crisis of integrity and determination to do what he knows is right makes the story interesting, as does the setting of Soviet Russia and the bureaucratic, oppressive, hypocritical, deadly, unjust, and downright evil mess that it was.

If parts of the story, especially the climactic reveal, seem a bit stilted or contrived, that's OK.  It's crime fiction, not academic history.  Child 44 is a fun read.  I look forward to Tom Rob Smith's next book.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Uncensored, by Brian Cosby

This year I have been reading the Bible in chronological order.  I admit, it's been a while since I have read through the Old Testament.  As I read the history of the Patriarchs, and especially the history of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, I get so frustrated with the stories.  There are times when the people of the Bible make ISIS look reasonable and the God of the Old Testament seems far distant from the character of Jesus.  I have to come to grips with the fact that I would rather cut some of those passages right out of the Bible instead of dealing with them as a part of my heritage of faith.

Brian Cosby, a pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America denomination, addresses this very struggle in his new book, Uncensored: Daring to Embrace the Entire Bible.  He writes that "many self-professing Christians cherry pick the Scriptures for a feel-good faith."  We like the scriptures that make a good bumper sticker or t-shirt slogan, but spend a little time reading the Bible and you'll find plenty that you don't want to see on your next youth retreat t-shirt.

Cosby leaves no doubt that he holds a high view of scripture.  He affirms that "God's Word is inspired, inerrant, and authoritative."  When there's something troubling in the Bible, "it beckons my trust in a God who is using His Word to take me to His intended destination."  Cosby shares R.C. Sproul's view: "When there's something in the Word of God that I don't like, the problem is not with the Word of God, it's with me."

After affirming the reliability and authority of scripture, Cosby addresses some specific areas in which Christians tend to be selective in their reading and use of scripture.  He discusses creation, God's justice, God's role in restraining evil while not being the source of evil, his intolerance for sin, and the reality of hell.  Cosby also delves into some expressions of cherry-picking faith: churches that emphasize entertainment as worship, and parents who outsource the development and teaching of their children to third parties.

Uncensored has helped me to reflect on ways in which I tend to gloss over or ignore passages that I don't like as I read.  It's a great reminder that "all scripture is God-breathed and is useful . . ."  His advice is perfect: "When we come to a Scripture passage that is offensive, we should pray and ask, 'God, why have You inspired this text?  What are You trying to teach Your church?  How does this humble me and glorify Christ?'"

Cosby addresses some of the "hard passages" that may come to your mind as you read, although not to an extent that will satisfy everyone.  He gives some good examples, but the strength of Uncensored lies in the encouragement to embrace all of the Bible with the attitude that God included even the embarrassing, unsettling, and downright offensive portions of scripture for a good reason.  That reason may not be evident to me, but, like Sproul said, my presumption must be that the problem lies with me, not with God.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Deep Dark Fears, by Fran Krause

Fran Krause sees peril all around her, real, potential, or purely fantastical.  Based on some of her own fears, as well as some solicited from readers of her blog, she has created a collection of comics encouraging just a little bit more fear.  Deep Dark Fears will ring true with many readers.  Reactions will range from, "I am scared of the same thing!" to "That's ridiculous!" to "I never thought of that--but now I will!"

I don't worry so much about ghosts or a parallel world in the mirror or my loved ones being reincarnated as pets, who then see me going to the bathroom.  But I can see how some might!  More compelling are the fears that pretty much all of us can relate to, like being caught publicly doing something on social media, like "Facebook stalking" your old girlfriend.  And who can't relate to being afraid of becoming "an old person who makes kids afraid of getting old"?

Krause's humor is on the dark side, funny and thoughtful.  Her drawings are the sort that makes you feel like anyone could draw them.  I mean that in the best sense--the art conveys a sense of shared experience.  Deep Dark Fears reminds me of my friend who always seemed to imagine the worst that could happen.  Maybe you've never been afraid of being cut in half by the elevator.  But pick up Deep Dark Fears and you're sure to find some familiar fears--and maybe some new ones, too.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Behind the Ivy Curtain, by Aayush Upadhyay

As the father of a high school junior, I have a front-row seat for the pursuit of the college dream.  Like many kids near the top of their high school class, my son is a shoo-in for acceptance to the vast majority of colleges in the U.S.  But when it comes to competitive scholarships and acceptance to that small percentage of elite schools, the odds are not in his favor.  Truth be told, the odds are against anyone getting into some of the elite colleges, with acceptance rates in the single digits.

Into that fray enters Aayush Upadhyay, a recent Yale grad who has crunched some numbers and has valuable insights for high school students whose sights are set on the Ivy League. In Behind the Ivy Curtain: A Data-Driven Guide to College Admissions, Upadhyay breaks down admissions data culled from to give applicants some insight into what matters for those seeking to join the ranks of the Ivy League.

None of Upadhyay's conclusions will shock the reader.  The higher the rank, the higher the test scores, the better the chances for admission.  He sheds some light on some of the more subjective elements, like extracurriculars (multiple years in one activity tends to beat short tenures in multiple activities), but, again, nothing too surprising.

Upadhyay's analysis and conclusions are worth reading for applicants to Ivy League schools.  I was left with the feeling that unless GPA, class rank, and test scores aren't top-notch, the rest of the application will never matter.  Behind the Ivy Curtain feeds into the growing perception of ambitious high school students that admission to an Ivy League school is the only route to success in academics and life.  I hope my son and others like him will realize that while Ivy League schools may provide a great academic experience, there are plenty of other schools around the country where excellent academics, excellent professional development and networking, excellent character building, and excellent life experiences can be found.

Thanks to the author for the complimentary electronic review copy!