July Book Review

Things were pretty uneventful this month, but I’ve put a lot of effort into revving things up for the fall, so stay tuned for some pretty spicy reviews and campaigns (giveaways !!) coming up!

#1). The Road by Cormac McCarthy – Being a creative writing student feels pretty impossible sometimes, because I have hundreds of years of the literary tradition to catch up on, as well as staying up to date on new releases. I picked this book up on a recommendation from a professor, to start filling in the gaps of more recent fiction history that I’ve been missing out on. I really enjoyed McCarthy’s prose, but overall felt that the plot of The Road was lackluster, especially thanks to the weak ending.

#2). The Tower by Nicole Campbell – This was a self-published YA book that I received in exchange for an honest review. Check out my thoughts here!

#3). The Last Gambit by Om Swami – Another self-published YA, a coming of age story about an Indian boy determined to become a chess master, that I received in exchange for on honest review. You can find the full review at this link.

XX. Shelby Jo

‘The Last Gambit’ Review

‘The Last Gambit’ Review

“The Last Gambit” is a YA coming of age novel by Om Swami, centered around Vasu, a young Indian boy training to be a master chess player.

Vasu meets a mysterious man who becomes his chess master, on two conditions: the master will never accompany his pupil to tournaments and Vasu must never pry into his master’s past. As Vasu grows into an adult and a world-class chess player, he must decide how his relationship with his master will evolve and learn where chess really belongs in his life.

In the simplest terms, “The Last Gambit” is a treasure. It’s heartwarming, full of culture and cheesy life lessons loosely veiled as chess tips. And Vasu leads the whole story with his endearing enthusiasm, growing from a (fairly annoying, I’ll admit) teenager into a passionate young adult.

It’s a classic coming of age story, one that personally struck home with me, when it came to passion and prioritizing your dream. As his master tells him from the start, Vasu must choose over and over again to continue pursuing chess above all else, in order to be successful.

**I love reading manuscripts, ARCs, and self-published books! If you’re interested in feedback or a published review of your book, contact me for more information.**

the last gambit cover.jpg

And though the novel is centered around chess, and contains plenty of technical information about the game and its various gambits, it reads easily and an understanding of the game isn’t actually necessary.

From a technical standpoint, the book suffers from run-of-the-mill ESL issues; there are odd phrasings and formatting problems on every page, but it honestly adds to the authenticity and heart of the culture in the story. The Indian elements are immersive, both in the specifics of Vasu’s home life and in the characters and their relationships with each other.

The characters are all fairly cliche, but in a positive way. They work well together; family, lover, and mentor all representing virtues and institutions between which Vasu must prioritize. They grow and change with the protagonist, too, creating a well-rounded arc for the entire novel.

“The Last Gambit” is now available for purchase on Amazon!

**Tour hosted by Garima Om**

XX. Shelby Jo

‘The Tower’ Review

‘The Tower’ Review

“Rowyn, Reed, and Rosalyn have made it through just about every dramatic storm their sarcasm could weather during their seventeen year friendship, and it would be nice to have a quiet semester. Rowyn hopes that the only thing The Tower foretells is the frightening sight of the school parking lot come the first day- full of more jacked-up trucks and cut off shorts than a Luke Bryan video. True to its nature, however, the universe doesn’t care much for hopes and wishes, and when the promise of The Tower comes crashing down, they might fall right along with it.”

“The Tower” is the newest release by self-published author Nicole Campbell. It tells the story of three young witches and best friends as they deal with prejudice, love, and tragedy in their small town.

It’s a teenage drama masquerading as a rural fantasy. Whether they’re just for the clever taglines (there are many) or to find unique angles to address prejudice, the magic and witchcraft elements of the book honestly seem extraneous once the true plot begins to unfold, about a third of the way into the novel.

On the bright side, the characters would be little changed whether or not they remained witches; they’re completely consistent in that way, which is perhaps why the magic seems like such an after thought to “The Tower.” The characters really are the best part of the novel. They’re bright, funny, oh so sassy, and real. They change and grow with each other throughout the book, and their experiences hit home in many ways.

**I love reading manuscripts, ARCs, and self-published books! If you’re interested in feedback or a published review of your book, contact me for more information.**

The trio’s only weakness is in how similar their narrative voices sound. Campbell writes in alternating first-person perspective, but all of her characters think and speak with essentially the same voice. Sure, they all have their taglines and dominating character traits, but otherwise the multiple perspectives just feel repetitive.

Overall, “The Tower” is an engaging read, to which I bestow 4 / 5 stars. Campbell dives fearlessly into the inner workings and worries of teenage life and tells a worthy and important tale.

The book is now available in print and as an e-book from Amazon.

Upcoming YA Release: ‘I Stop Somewhere’

Upcoming YA Release: ‘I Stop Somewhere’

“He wasn’t exactly attractive. There was something wrong about the way he moved, the way he smiled. Everything about Caleb was off somehow. He was tall, but he walked like he’d woken that morning into his tallness and now he couldn’t figure out how to get his body to work the same way.

There was also the way he smiled. It was cute, but it had this way about it. Like he’d learned about smiling from a textbook. The idea of smiling came through, but it seemed like he just followed the directions rather than actually smiled.

“I… um, nothing really. I have to read.”

We had a test Monday on summer reading, which I’d put off all summer to work on reinvention.

“What’re you reading?” He took my bag from me and rummaged through it. “Great Expectations? They’re still teaching this crap, huh?”

“Aren’t you, like, a junior?”

“Yeah. How’d you guess?”

I hadn’t had to guess. It had been three days, but everyone knew Caleb and his older brother, Noah; you didn’t need friends to know who they were. They walked through the school like the only people who’d ever mattered. It was probably true.”

I Stop Somewhere blitz banner

THE LOVELY BONES meets ALL THE RAGE in a searing, heartbreaking contemporary debut by T.E. Carter.

From Goodreads:

Ellie Frias disappeared long before she vanished.

Tormented throughout middle school, Ellie begins her freshman year with a new look: she doesn’t need to be popular; she just needs to blend in with the wallpaper.

But then the unthinkable happens and Ellie is trapped after a brutal assault. She wasn’t the first victim and now she watches it happen again and again. She tries to hold on to her happier memories in order to get past the cold days, waiting for someone to find her.

The problem is, no one searches for a girl they never noticed in the first place.

TE Carter’s stirring and visceral novel not only discusses and dismantles rape culture but also makes you slow down and think about what it is to be human.

•••••

“I Stop Somewhere” will be released by Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan) on February 27th, 2018. The hype for this book is already incredible; the cover is gorgeous and every preview I have read suggests that the story is just as beautiful and heart wrenching, so I suggest you join me and pre-order a copy now!

XX. Shelby Jo

June Book Review

In the past, I have proven that I am very bad at reading over the summer (because I have less responsibilities to shirk? Who knows.), but things went surprisingly well in June. Well, surprisingly average, I guess.

#1). Black Blade by Alexander Charalambides – This is a self-published book that I read in exchange for an honest review. You can read the full review here and find the book on Amazon.

#2). This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab – It goes without saying that Victoria Schwab is a fantastic world builder. Like sickeningly fantastic. The dystopia that she created in this book was incredible, and kept me turning the pages above any other element of the story.

#3). Ahe’ey by Jamie Le Fay – I received a galley copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. It’s one of the best self-published books I’ve read so far! Check out all of my thoughts here, and find the book on Amazon.

**I love reading manuscripts, ARCs, and self-published books! If you’re interested in feedback or a published review of your book, contact me for more information.**

#4) Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy – I’m so torn over this book. I adored the prose, but the characters were so frustrating and one-dimensional, that I can’t really say I liked it.

 

Summer Update

So things this summer will be a lot different than last summer, it turns out. I’m not interning or officially working in anything publishing related, but if you’re interested in my other dabblings about, here’s what’s up.

  • As you’ve seen the past couple of weeks, I’m still reading and reviewing as many galleys and self-published books as possible. Mostly, I’m working through YA Bound Book Tours and NetGalley, but I’m certainly interested in working independently, too. If you have galley copies, manuscripts, or recently published books and you are interested in feedback or a published review, contact me.
  • I’m taking classes, as always. I’m finally in the last year of my undergrad, which is exciting, but also means that I have to go through the job/college application processes all over again. Yay.
  • I’ve started a sister blog, The Kipling Project. It’s still about books, obviously, that’s pretty much the only thing I know. I recently stumbled upon a host of vintage books, and I’m documenting my research and restoration of them. It’s pretty cool ~if I do say so myself~
  • I’ve done a bit of a redesign on the site, and I’m looking at updating it again at the end of the summer, so if you have any thoughts or suggestions for that, sling them at me!

All in all, I want to really increase my online presence while I have the chance this summer. It’s already been going well the few weeks I’ve been working on it, so thanks for helping me out and sticking around!

XX. Shelby Jo

P.S. I only read one book in May and, yes, I’m ashamed. It was Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It was fantastic and I loved it, but, man, it aged me.

Welcome

Welcome

The Kipling Project

Welcome to The Kipling Project, the digi-journal of my newest hobby project. Who am I? Shelby Loebker, giant nerd, full-time book lover, and occasional wearer of pants. I’m a writer and editor working on the last year of my B.F.A. What am I doing? I’m diving into book restoration, because I was recently lucky enough to stumble upon some old, and hopefully rare or at least somewhat collectible (?), books.

Here’s how it went down:

My family is really involved with the local public library, and were volunteering to help organize a new annex. They went through all of the old books in storage, many of which were thrown away, while others were sold in book sales or simply returned to storage. Basically they got first pick at the cream of the crop, meaning I got first pick at the cream of the crop.

I didn’t plan on…

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