The Big F by Maggie Ann Martin

The Big F is the debut novel of Maggie Ann Martin. And for a debut novel, I honestly enjoyed it.

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We all want the perfect life. We all want a reality that seemed to be conjured from our imagination. We all want to please everyone around us. We make plans and we try so, so, so, very hard to stay on path and achieve THE PLAN. But then life happens and it will throw us off balance. This is basically the premise of The Big F. Thus, each one of us will be able to relate to this book. Throw in some romance and isn’t that just perfect? ^^

Story. Danielle is set to go to Ohio State University. That’s where she was groomed to be but an F in her AP English class turned her life upside down. Ohio State retracted her admission and her planned life suddenly is now lost. Then comes in the snap decision to enroll in the Denton Community College (DCC) and try to pass her English class there so she can be in Ohio State by spring. But then here comes Luke, her old neighbor and childhood ultimate crush. Then there’s also Porter! Oh, how complicated life can be?

Characters. I could relate to Danielle so much. Like to the Nth level. On second thought not that high, but high enough. There’s so much expectation from Danielle’s character. Her parent’s expectation. Her expectation on herself. Expectation from her relatives, from people around her. there’s this “perfect”appearance, the “perfect”image that she must continue to show, and this is what’s suffocating. What I love about Danielle is her bright personality and her attitude of not giving up, of just pushing forward, even if at first she is at lost how to face the problem that she failed to get into Ohio. I love her character, however, I have a big question mark in my head about her. She was presented as someone who strives hard to have straight As. But reading thru the novel, I could not really grasp that idea. She was described as having a C in one of her subjects. She doesn’t give off aura that she’s the studious type. So if I were not informed onset that this big F is really, really, a big thing for her, I might not have gotten her. Maybe what I’m missing on the novel is more of a background story of her high school days. A little bit of a throwback here and there might have done the trick.

I love her close relationship with her younger brother. They annoy each other but always have each other’s backs. Reading their interactions is one of the things I enjoy most from this book.

Her relationship with mother is also a beautiful thing. For me, it captures the beauty of having a mother. Her mother’s high expectations of her reflect every mother’s expectation on her children. Failure to achieve this  expectation often results to argument and distance. But I love how they were able to get through the big F. In the end, every mother just wants their kids to be happy and enjoy life.

The snarky remark and feud between Danielle and her cousin also hits the spot. Every family and relatives’ past time when having a gathering always seems to be gossiping who’s doing better and who’s having the upper hand. Sucks.

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And now comes the love triangle. Luke, the first love, and Porter, the One. I’m really a sucker for romance, and maybe for the forbidden ones. Haha. First love never dies but it is seldom that the first one will also be your last love. So I was right in betting on Porter. I love, love, love Porter!!!! I love his character. It’s in between cool and hot with just the right amount of mystery and queerness.

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I can definitely relate to this book, to Danielle. Like since I was a kid, I was expected to do well in school, graduate with Latin honors in college, have a nice job, be promoted, be rich, etc. But it suffocated me and it still is. I was able to fulfill up to the Latin honors but right now all I feel is that I’m dumb and not really ready for the real world (even though I’ve been in the workforce for almost 4 years already. This made me appreciate the book more.

The Big F reminds us that it’s okay not to perfect, that life does not end with one big mishap, even if it seems like it’s the end of the world already. You just need to have the right attitude. You need to accept your failure. You need to accept that you’ve failed. You need to accept reality. It’s hard, I know, who says it’s easy? But this is the starting point. And who knows? Maybe the road that will open up will lead you to where you truly belong? WE ARE MORE THAN OUR FAILURES.

The book also reminds us that the truth sets us free. When her failure came out in the open, it was chaos at first but through that chaos, she was able to survive. This also applies to her relationship with Luke. Girls, it is never advisable to enter a relationship when you’re drunk, okay?  Never! Even if the guy is your ultimate childhood crush! Getting out of a relationship is pretty trick, especially, if both families are already involved. But in the end, it’s the two person in the relationship that must make a choice. And if you’re not happy anymore and your heart is leaning to another, why stay?

Danielle found her passion in the end along with being honest with herself and with the people involve who she really loves. And so can we.

The Big F is a light read but can make you feel various emotions and can connect with you with so many levels. It’s about acceptance, moving forward, family, love. It is not perfect but it still can mean so much more.

Poets, Artists, Lovers: A Novel by Mira Tudor

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One thing, it’s a very complex book for me. I find it hard to digest but at the same time I do find some parts enjoyable. Just like what art is to me.

Poets, Artists, Lovers: A Novel is certainly not a beach read. It is not something that you can pick up and read to pass time by. When Mira first approached me and asked if I could review her book, I was honestly shocked and happy at the same time. I have never professionally reviewed a book (not that this is a professional one) and certainly not one approached to review a published work so I wanted to be honest in my review as this is what I can offer.

I have a thing for art and poetry. I like poetry but I love novels. I have an inclination to art even though I don’t understand it most of the time. That’s why when I read the synopsis of the book, it intrigued me.

First impressions. Let’s talk about first impressions. I think, honestly, that if I was not approached, I might not have discovered this book And even if I saw it in passing, I might not have picked it up. When I read the title, my first impression was like “Who puts novel in a novel title these days?” When I read the synopsis (even though I was curious), it took me a long time to accept the character names (told you I have a thing for character names). Henrietta, Pamfil…. These are definitely not names that you’ll encounter in most contemporary novels. It took me a while to get used to the names but I got over it and continued with the novel.

Characters. Reading the novel, I find it hard to focus on who is or are really the main character’s. There’s a lot of characters in the novel. You thought you’ve been introduced to them all already then suddenly another character comes along then another one. This made it harder for me to grasp everything at first. The POVs often change but more than Henriette and Ela, I think the book really revolves with Pamfil. I don’t know who’re the poets, the artists, the lovers anymore.

Pamfil, for some sort of reason, is a girl/woman magnet and is such a frivolous guy. Like every girl/woman described in the book seemed to fall for him in one way or another. Henriette, Ela, Anca, Marie… Like this Pamfil guy is really a charmer isn’t he? For all these girls, no matter what the age gap and relationship status is, they seem to just for fall for him in an instant. But my main question is, why does Pamfil act this way? Does he really fall in love easily? Is it just lust? Was there anything in his past that made him this way? With all the flashbacks in the story, I was never able to find the reason why.

Themes. Speaking of relationship status, that’s the thing, I also find hard reading in the book. It involves cheating and a lot of it. And in this book, the women are the one having the affair. And all but with one guy, Pamfil. Henriette cheated with Pamfil for years, Anca with Pamfil one summer when she’s clearly with Marcel. Ela fell in love with him while she’s with George and Pamfil is secretly with Henriette who’s having an affair. Can this group of friend’s relationship web get even more complicated? But maybe this is reality and maybe I was uncomfortable, in the sense that, at the back of my mid, I know that this is possible and that this is happening. Just because I don’t have first hand experience at it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Sequence. This is not a linear story. Every so often it will go back to the past. It will bring up new characters. Changing back and forth confused me. There were dates given but I could not keep track of them unless I’ve written them down or go back again.

Ending. When I reached the end, I was like, “That’s it?” Even with all the confusion, I have developed a ship between Pamfil and Henriette. That’s why I would have love to see if the frivolous Pamfil will emerge again when he meets Henriette years after their affair. But nada, there was nothing more. It’s the end.

But more than all this, I appreciate that the book introduced me to a wider concept of the art. It is informative in this regard. I like how various art pieces, artists, creators, poets, poems were included in the novel. It introduced me to places I never thought I’ll encounter much in a novel (since mostly I just read US novels).

I also like that it holds more than the superficial things. Like it is trying to teach you about being an artist, a poet, a lover, and how complicated love and relationship can be. I like that it gives you perspective on how one person can affect and influence so many. I like the growth as well of Ela and Henriette. Of how, in their own pacing and time, cope with the changes.

The novel speaks like how I see art. It’s complicated in it’s own way, sometimes people don’t understand or could not appreciate it. It takes connection, deeper understanding, focus, experience, to see and appreciate what lies underneath.

I think that Poets, Artists, Lovers: A Novel would speak more to the adult. To the ones who have or had experienced a fair share of relationship experience, to the deep thinkers.

Over all, I was not able to be hundred percent in tune with the novel but I enjoyed my time reading. Thank you for the opportunity.

 

Warcross by Marie Lu

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Tokyo. Online Game. Hacking. COUNT ME IN.

I just came across this book when I was searching for a good book to read after a two-week hiatus from the literary world. I was craving for something that will tune reality out for a bit. And my, oh my, did Warcross did the trick. Magnificently, even.

Let me tell you first that I don’t like reading fiction set in a non-realistic world (except for Harry Potter, of course!). I read, most of the time, to get a temporary break from reality. Ironically, i don’t like reading things if it’s not set in the real world. Like I probably just want to have an alternate reality, something that will distract me from mine but will let me still make me believe that things are possible to come true. Even though I don’t like reading them, I love watching them (The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, Divergent series, etc.). Another thing prolly why i don’t read that much dystopian fiction is because i prefer seeing them, watching the movements, action in its glory, rather than them being described in words. But this might change pretty soon.

I am not a gamer but I do have basic understanding about online and computer games, especially MMORPG games since my brother and a couple of my friends are engaged in these. I can only go so far as Super Mario and Crazy Kart (don’t laugh at me). But Warcross makes me want to tap into it!

Warcross is the first book I’ve read by Marie Lu. And I immediately was like, “Am I living under a rock? Where have I been all this time? Why didn’t I know or heard of her?” It is the first book in the Warcross series. Just my luck that the the first book I encountered is just published this year. Huhu. I need to wait for a year or more to read the next one. Oh the agony!

So much for the side comments, Warcross is about Emika Chen, a bounty hunter, who’s life changed in an instant after hacking into the live opening game of the Warcross Championships to take her chance in making some fast cash. Warcross is a popular virtual reality game that uses NeuroLink lenses to activate. Teams battle in a virtual reality world, designed to view and feel like the real thing, to get the artifact of the opposing team to win. However, her identity got exposed and she became an overnight sensation. And instead of punishing her or turning her to the police force, the young elusive billionaire and the brain behind WarcrossHideo Tanaka – offered her a job she can’t refuse instead. Not with a $10,000,000 bounty price. She is to hack into the Warcross game and take down Zero, the hacker that got into Warcross‘ system and Hideo’s biggest threat.

I love love love the setting! It’s kinda reality but at the same time it’s not. It’s like this world can really happen in the near future. Like everything in it is possible. We have come a long way from the dotcom boom. Online gaming, especially MMORPG games, are increasing in popularity among kids and teens and young adults that e-sports is an internationally recognized sport event already. Also, it’s set in Tokyo! My ultimate goal destination.

I especially love the technology that was illustrated in the book. Warcross is a world with no language barriers as everything will be translated for you real time. How cool is that? But at the same time, I also think that this kind of world is dangerous. NeuroLink is another awesome gadget which is not impossible to be created in the near future with all the crazy technologies being produced right now. This book portrays how technology can consume the worlds in the very near future and how one man can control the world. Literally speaking. And how dreadful that can be if placed in the wrong hands.

Let’s go to the characters. Obviously, there are past traumas which serve as the driving force of the characters – Emika and Hideo. The two main characters are well-described in the story. I just don’t get why Hideo will create and dedicate the whole Warcross and NeuroLink to Sasuke. Maybe we’ll more of his reasons in the next two books. Also, since he is a billionaire and a genius inventor at that, I am finding it hard to believe that he doesn’t know the whereabouts of his missing brother, Sasuke. Like if you’re doing all the things you do for someone missing, isn’t it on top of your priority to find that missing person first since you now have the capacity and means to do so? The other characters are just mentioned in passing. I wanna see more kinda background with Tremaine and Roshan though. Hope to see a bit more of their story in the next books.

And I can’t decide if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, I have this feeling that the story should be seen as complex, but while reading Warcross, everything sounds simple. There are plot twists in the story, scenes you didn’t expect coming. It even teaches you that even when you feel you’re given this great opportunity and is able to get inside the personal space of a person, you’ll realize in the end, you’re just a pawn in the big scheme of things. Just like how Emika discovered that Hideo is, technically, just using her for his plan.

The question lingering in Emika’s head in the end is also my question which I’m hoping to be fulfilled and elaborated in the following books. Who should you support? The sincere guy who can create a world without violence in exchange for your freedom and privacy, or the guy trying to stop it but using illegal and violent means?

Over all, I love the book! It introduced me to dystopian books and I think I’ll ready the previously written ones now. Hoping the sequel books be published soon! And i hope to see this series hit the theaters!

 

P.S. One thing I wonder though is in Goodread’s summary, Warcross’ obsession started ten years ago for the players, but if Hideo released it when he was thirteen and he just turned 21. Were is the two missing years? Is it just a mistake or will the future books span for two years. We’ll see.

Girl’s Trip

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I have never laughed out loud in a while but thanks to this movie, my energy was depleted for the rest of the night.

Girl’s Trip is one R-Rated Comedy Film. It’s the first movie I’ve watched with almost a black girl cast. And I so much enjoyed it! This movie is hilarious and entertaining but at the same time, precious lessons are to be learned regarding friendship, relationship, and self-worth. In short, it is golden.

Girl’s Trip is about four college best friends (Flossy Possy) – Sasha (Queen Latifah), Ryan (Regina Hall), Dina (Tiffany Haddish), and Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith). Ryan is a successful author and motivator. Sasha is a struggling celebrity expose columnist. Dina is a loud, boisterous, recently fired, office worker. Lisa is a divorced nurse with two kids. The group decided to reunite in an all expense paid trip to New Orleans by Ryan after five years of not seeing each other. Thus, the Girl’s Trip began.

I have never had a group that I can call best friends and this is what I regret missing out the most on. Sure, I have close friends in high school and college, but we’ve lost in touch through the years. I have work friends but mostly they are only that, work friends. Girl’s Trip showed me how it’s nice to have a set of friends that will have your back no matter what, that will show you that you’re being stupid, and that will grow and be with you through thick and thin, social standing and long distance be damned.

Each character is solid and really shines in the movie. Dina is the loud one who acts before she thinks. Dina is always the mediator, the mature one of the bunch. Sasha and Ryan are kinda similar in a way that they have huge egos. The varying characters make up the fun in this movie. There were a lot of hilarious scenes, like OMG scenes, like when they did the zipline and Lisa got stuck in the middle and burst her bladder, spraying her pee to the lookouts below. And Dina did the same. Or when they got so high after drinking the spike drink Dina gave them and they were all doing these crazy things in a club. Or when the homeless person barged into their motel room looking for paid sex and when he was thrown out, he flashed them thru the huge glass windows. Or the sexual innuendos and clips.

But aside from the funny parts, this movie also has its moments. Moments that will give you lessons and let you introspect. It turns out the famed marriage and perfect life if Ryan is not picture perfect at all. Stuart, her husband is having an affair with an instagram hoe whom he got pregnant. Ryan, who’s pride is so high doesn’t want the public to know and is always defending Stuart in front of her friends with her excuses such as they are working on their marriage, they are doing counseling, blah, blah, blah. That’s stupid. And I really was getting pissed at Ryan’s character because of this. She looks like a strong person on the outside. Even her mantra is “I am strong. I am powerful. I am beautiful.” But in reality she’s weak. She’s being eaten by her pride, not wanting to confront the reality. All those to keep her image. I may have never been in a relationship but I definitely don’t want to be in one if it will just make me lose my ground and forget who I am.

In the end, Rachel came through with the help of the Flossy Possy. She confessed to the public and even made a major breakthrough. We are our own selves before are somebody else’s wife, partner, etc. Don’t forget that.

Girl’s Trip is a laugh trip combined with moving elements rolled into one. Definitely a must watch film!

 

P.S. I love Queen Latifah’s hair styles in the movie! Every. single. one.

 

Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle

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I failed to watch Kingsman: the Secret Service in the theaters and I immediately regretted it because this is the type of movie that you just have watch in the big screen because of all the action and awesome moves. Thus, I decided not to miss watching Kingsman 2 in the theaters when it shows.

Kingsman 2 still provides the same awesome-ness when it comes to the action scenes – the mad editing, great camera works, the slow mos and fast scenes. The story is a simple and linear one, though it runs deeper in society. Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle focuses on the fight of the remaining Kingsman (aka Eggsy and Harry w/ forever loyal Merlin) versus The Golden Circle, a worldwide, underground drug producer and dealer based in Cambodia.

After the Golden Circle eliminated every Kingsman via missile, Eggsy, lucky enough since he’s not at home, along with Merlin went to Kentucky, USA to find Statesman, which turned out is a Secret Service based in the US founded by a Kingsman as well. Eggsy and Merlin also came in contact with Harry who’s experiencing retrograde amnesia after Stateman rescued him from his fatal shot last movie. After gaining back his memory, the Eggsy and Harry, along with Agent Whiskey from Statesman, went on a mission to retrieve the antidote to the deadly Dancing Virus that Poppy (owner of the Golden Circle) injected into her drugs.

The journey to get the millions affected by the virus hit close to home. In the Philippines, the way how the US President reacted to Poppy’s demands before she releases the antidote (1. To legalize drugs 2. To make her and her companions untouchable), is similar to what might have been in our President’s mind based on the actions seen. It all boils down to money. Innocents be damned. I definitely understand how badly drug pushers and users affect the society but doesn’t everyone deserves a chance to get better and treated? Moreover, in the ongoing war against drugs, only the innocents and small time users are the ones affected. Why can’t the root cause of the problem be the target? Why? Because of money, because of ties. The promised change is just an ideal at this point since the ones at the top will stay at the top and the ones at the bottom will be the ones to suffer. We are just pawns in this game. Sadly, we’ re the ones who suffers in the end.

Kingsman 2 is trying to accomplish a larger scene, a larger scale, but even though the great editing and camera work’s still there plus Taron Egerton as Eggsy is definitely a great eye candy on screen, it still kinda fails to deliver it’s potential. And with this I don’t know if there will be a Kingsman 3. It seems that the plot for this franchise is narrowed already.

Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle is a good movie to catch if you’re looking for some bad ass camera works. the locations are wisely picked, and the music is definitely my choice of music (I’m an oldie trapped in a twenty-something body). Plus Elton John is there! Although comparing it to Kingsman: the Secret Service, the Secret Service still holds the crown. Nothings beats the original still.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

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I was supposed to create and post this entry to end September but I wasn’t able to. So let’s start October instead with the final book to the trilogy series of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. (I haven’t read a new book in a week so forgive me if i’ll write this review from memory like the other two).

Always and Forever, Lara Jean is a surprise book by Jenny Han. To All The Boys was supposed to have ended with book two, but this book is definitely such a welcome surprise.

Always and Forever focuses on Lara Jean’s senior year in high school and all the decisions and fears that come with it. She’s still together with Peter and everything is going well but the looming college application and the future are starting to take their toll. Peter is already accepted at the University of Virginia (UVA) in a lacrosse scholarship but despite their hope, Lara Jean was not able to get in. All their future plans, the couple time that they look forward to, their already planned schedule – gone. Isn’t that awful? I could definitely relate to the feeling because I so know it all too well. They say don’t count the eggs before they hatch but I never learn my lesson. I always look forward to things, always claiming that things will go according to the plan, always planning what the possible things and activities in line after the plan, then I will hear the result from the interview or from the exam I was banking my future on, and, you know it, I didn’t pass. Suddenly, life sucks. Even though there is always that doubt that things will not go well, I can’t help but be disappointed in the end.

Thus, I can feel Lara Jean’s sentiments – fear, doubt, worry in everything. What will happen to her and Peter? Will they be able to make it work? Was she not good enough, even with all the high grades she achieved and activities to show? It’s definitely hard to be a senior. But it’s harder being an adult.

Jenny Han successfully portrays the realities of college admissions and the feelings of a senior high that goes with it. It is hard. It is expensive. It is uncertain. Change is inevitable. Future is unknown.

Thankfully, Lara Jean, got accepted to the University of North Carolina, and after having the opportunity to tour the place, a spark of wanting to study in the UNC bloomed. Weighing her choices, she finally decided to study at UNC. That means, she came to accept the fact that she’ll be having a long-distance relationship with Peter, she’ll be far away from home, she’ll be far away from her comfort zone.

This also teaches us that just because we are in a relationship doesn’t mean that every decision we make must be decided by it. Sure, we must take the relationship into consideration but we are our own person first and foremost. We must make decisions for ourselves and not because it what the others wanted.

Always and Forever speaks about the inevitable changes that life throws at us, Lara Jean has hers when she failed to get into UVA and when his dad decided to re-marry. But the book also teaches us to embrace the changes just like how Lara Jean came to terms with all the happenings in her life. Coz if we don’t, we’re just choosing ourselves to suffer.

Always and Forever concludes To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series. I had a great time knowing and growing with Lara Jean and Peter, I will definitely miss them.

 

P.S. I Still Love you by Jenny Han

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P.S. I Still Love You is the second book in the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before series by Jenny Han. I loved the first so I was looking forward reading the second. I have read this a while back as well.

I love Peter Kavinsky and his fake relationship with Lara Jean but for some sort of reason, I was looking forward to reading Lara Jean and John Ambrose McClaren ( I really love the guys’ names on this series!).

P.S. I Still Love You continues the story of Peter and Lara Jean and of how they turn their reel to real. Josh, who was one of the major third party in the first book in their fake relationship, is more or less non-existent in the book except for the occasional mentions. The story continued with the fight that previously ended To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, Peter and Lara Jean kissed and make up and now decided to become a real couple. While they were in a ski trip, somebody took a video and spread it online making it seem that the two of them were having sex in a hot tub, instead of just kissing. Earning bad reputation for Lara Jean. (Oh, the sexism of the world. The guy’s a god, the girl is a slut). Of course, Peter is to her rescue which kinda had the rumors die down a bit. Then here comes John Ambrose McClaren reuniting with her from the next town. He tells her that he just received and read the letter because they moved houses. Then they become pen pals sans John knowing that Lara Jean is already taken.

Peter and Lara Jean’s relationship started having trouble at the reunion party Lara Jean hosted in the treehouse in their backyard where her and her childhood friends decided to dig out their buried time capsule. Peter came with Genevieve (Peter’s ex girlfriend and former BFF of Lara Jean) when he perfectly knows it will piss and make Lara Jean jealous. When Lara Jean confronted Peter, all he says is that he can’t help it. Genevieve is having a problem and that he needs to be there for her. The group of childhood friends played Assassins where the last one standing will be granted any one wish and in which Lara Jean became the winner.

During the time that Peter and Lara Jean is not talking much,Lara Jean and John became closer. But alas, nothing still happened because LAra Jean realizes that the one she loves and still loves is Peter Kavinsky (after she learns what Genevieve’s problem and secret is). They got back together the night before the treehouse is to be cut down and everything is good again.

This series is all about young love – silly mistakes you make, the not being honest with each other part, being jealous, and all those other young love recipe. Lara Jean who is learning the ropes of love and relationship and doing things that might not seem to be appropriate. She enjoys the attention that the boys are giving her because it’s not that often that somebody gives her any. When she is exchanging letters with John, i really hated her while she is with Peter, I really hated her character. She never once in the letter mentioned that she is now with Peter giving hope to John who is clearly falling in love with her and hiding things with Peter about the exchange. Then, she has the nerve to be jealous about Peter meeting with Genevieve in such often and kinda suspicious time and ways.

I truly believe that honesty and trust are the pillars of good relationship. If you cannot be honest with each other, then your relationship is doomed to fail. We saw in the book how not being honest almost cost Lara Jean and Peter’s relationship to the point of no return. Young love can be a bit messy. People with blame immaturity with age but still, at a young age, we should know better.

I still enjoyed the book over all even with al the cringing and “Why are you like that?” shouts at some of the characters’ actions. haha. And I guess, others enjoyed it too.