January Book Review

January Book Review

January was wild y’all. But, I spent half the month on trains, planes, and buses, so I got a lot of reading in!

1). Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books, so you can understand why I waited to read the sequel. All in all, I didn’t get the point of this book. The voice was interesting, but the plot was aimless and didn’t add anything to the first book.

2). Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris – This is the first Sedaris work I have ever read, and it was underwhelming. The connections in the essays were insightful, but the tone was not always engaging.

3). A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab – Okay, I didn’t love A Darker Shade of Magic, but I loved A Gathering of Shadows. It’s one of the best “middle books” I have ever read; it was gripping and unique, but still successfully set up the final installment in the series.

4). Going Bovine by Libba Bray – I despise books about teenagers dying, but this was a fantastic. Complete with less than thrilling sex and the world being saved by pop music, I could not ask for a better teenage odyssey.

5). Atlantia by Allie Condie – I honestly don’t know what this was. It was like three books combined into one, with terrible pacing and confusing characters.

XX. Shelby Jo

 

December Book Review

December Book Review

Congratulations, you survived 2016! (Unless you are an infant who learned to read and use the internet in the past 10 days, but I guess that’s an achievement, too.)

I read a total of 42 new books this year, which is close enough to my goal to satisfy me, because I re-read some and read plenty of comics, too. I’m not going to do a year in review this year, but in general, 2016 was good to me. It seems like it was rough for a lot of people, but, even though I can’t brag about a super fun year or anything, 2016 was full of massive change and achievements for me, and I will celebrate that over stagnation any day.

BUT, to put a cap on 2016, here is my December book review!

1). How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon – This book was some how interesting and boring at the same time. I understand that it’s very relevant and necessary, but at the same time the actual writing and plot felt somewhat aimless. I probably wouldn’t have finished it if I wasn’t reading an audiobook version.

2). Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – Just know that the characters in this book fall right into my favorite category of character in the world, so I was bound to be picky. But, I didn’t love Six of Crows like the rest of the YA world. It was incredibly fun and a great team-up episode, but it lacked a “something more,” a consequence or meaning, that could have made it great.

3). The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh – OK. O-K-A-Y. We all know how I feel about The Wrath and the Dawn, right? WELL. I didn’t realize that The Rose and The Dagger was the final book in the series (I have a history or not doing research on things I read, see The Passenger Incident), so I was broken by the amazing and unexpected conclusion. The plot took a few detours on the way there, but it was a strong conclusion to the characters and world. ALSO: Dance party for the championship of Young People Knowing What They Want! ALSO ALSO: Title game on point, here. Seriously.

4). Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo – Wowza, Crooked Kingdom completely delivered in the area – shall we call it righteous comeuppance? –  that Six of Crows lacked! I loved this book way more because the stakes were higher, but the plot was very erratic and didn’t make a lot of sense. Thankfully, that was passable because the characters remained true.

5). Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton – This was just a really fun read. Fantastic world-building, adventure, and a truly badass heroine. I hope the depth of this series continues to develop because it has a lot of potential.

XX. Shelby Jo

’20th Century Women’ Review

“Told through a history of Polaroid photos and punk rock, “20th Century Women” follows the story of single mother Dorothea and her quest to help her teenage son Jamie grow into a man by surrounding him with women.

The movie is filled with characters so specifically weird that, on one hand, you can hardly believe their quirks and, on the other, you’d swear they were people you knew. The characters pile up as Dorothea continues to invite strangers to her weekly Sunday night dinners, a microcosm of the lively and moving dialogue that fills the entire film…”

’20th Century Women’ was one of my favorite movies of 2016. It’s clever, wry, and heartbreaking in so many ways and I highly recommend it.

Check out my full review for more gushing.

XX. Shelby Jo

To the Kids Who Try Too Hard

(OR:  Please Agree with Me on the Internet so I Feel Like Less of a Freak of Nature, Thanks.)

In highschool, there was a light at the end of the over-achiever tunnel. I thought I would work like crazy for four years, get into the perfect college – rolling in well-deserved scholarship money – and be set for life.

I did everything right. I took five AP tests in one year. I stayed up all night reading the Communist Manifesto when I could have easily made up the answers in my workbook. I agonized over every essay and every assignment.

I didn’t get into that college. Right now, I’m working two jobs while taking 15 credit hours. My first summer during college I had two internships, worked part-time, and took classes online. I pulled my first all-nighter in 9th grade, and now I do it almost once a week. The light is gone and the tunnel has turned so many times, I don’t know if I’m heading in the right direction any more.

People like me try so hard because we want a lot. We want crazy intangible things (like making an impact on society), and maybe frivolous things too (like a collection of Tolkien swords, pleasepleaseplease). We have high standards for everything, mostly ourselves, and that’s okay.

But never forget to be kind to yourself. When you’re only getting three hours of sleep a night, there isn’t anything else you can do.

You do the absolute best you can and – at the end of your day, week, year, and life – you have to be satisfied with the results of your efforts, regardless of the reward. You tried everything possible and, yeah, you probably did deserve better on that stupid gen-ed essay, but you have to disassociate yourself with whatever comes out in the end. You are your art, your effort, and your lovely, over-achieving heart, not the results.

It’s a hard thing to remember. I cried the first time I got a ‘B’ in a class, and it still stresses me out (plenty of ‘B’s’ later). You will never stop working towards your goals. You can’t. But you are whole without them; you have always been whole.

Work hard, kid, but never think less of yourself because you’re still working.

XX. Shelby Jo

November Book Review

November Book Review

November is over! The world officially has my sanction to begin listening to Christmas carols, congrats.

This past month turned out to be a fairly productive reading month, despite the crushing weight of finals and wintertime despair. Yay!

1). Seraphina by Rachel Hartman – I snagged a used copy of this book and, though I’ve heard of it, had very few expectations; all I knew was DRAGONS and that was plenty. In the end, I really enjoyed it, even thought the voice wasn’t my typical fare. The characters were well developed and the mythos – especially the political elements – was engaging.

2). Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith – I’m at such a loss with this book, because the voice and the narrative were literally spellbinding. The way motifs wove in and out, through the main character’s very intentional narration, was fascinating. But everything in between was so sexualized that I couldn’t enjoy it.

3). A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – Look at me, finally getting caught up on popular books! The world building here was so well developed and interesting that it completely out weighed the cliche characters. The pacing was slow for most of the book, but seemed deliberately so. The book’s ending is so conclusive, that I’m somewhat hesitant to read the sequel, but I don’t know if it’s enough to stop me.

4). Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland – I assumed this book would be ridden with cliches and – though it was, somewhat – it grew on me quickly. It was a lovely expression of the power of language.

5). Uprooted by Naomi Novik – This was possibly my favorite book I’ve read this year! The magic was interesting, the plot was well paced, the characters were engaging and surprisingly sexy, and just – ugh. I loved it. Obviously.

XX. Shelby Jo

October Book Review

Alright, I’m all caught up! …Now I have to come up with new content, yikes…

#1). Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo – I don’t know if I can deal with this series anymore. I can’t deal with another love story, or love triangle. Damn the interesting world-building that keeps bringing me back! *shakes fist*

#2). The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima – This was a solid ending to the series. The characters finally clarified their motives, but the book was way too long.

#3). Wink Poppy Midnight by April Geneviere Tucholke – I really wanted to like this book, because it was so close to brilliant, but it was still slightly lacking. I’m not sure what it needed, but I think the lack of punctuation made the voices too similar and “surface level,” and really distanced me from the story.

#4). The Wrath and the Dawn  by Renée Ahdieh – I read this so. fast. omg. It was incredibly engaging; finally a book that lives up to the hype! The writing was a little too wordy for me; I think Ahdieh failed somewhat with the “show-don’t-tell” rule, but amazing all in all. (ALSO: A feasible love triangle! Finally! If Shazi messes this up, I’m going to be very upset.)

November is also shaping up to be a great reading month, hence me feeling good enough about my life to return to blogging. Stay tuned, plenty of things coming your way!

XX. Shelby Jo

‘American Pastoral’ Review

I got the opportunity to see a screening of Ewan McGregor’s new film – and directorial debut – “American Pastoral” during the Savannah Film Festival last month. I had mixed feelings, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to review a Ewan McGregor movie, especially not one based on such a famous novel.

Click below to read my review on SCAD District!

‘American Pastoral’ lacks purpose