Review: Riders

Review: Riders

Now that I am more connected with the book community online, I’ve actually been reading up to date and popular books as they come out. It’s such a strange phenomenon.

Riders by Veronica Rossi is a young adult novel, the first of a duology, that received plenty of hype up to and following its release this February. I read it. Now I’m going to tell you about it.

Context: I was really concerned about this book. I was raised in a military family and am an equestrian, and am therefore generally really snobbish and picky about both of those elements in books. Also, I’ve been disappointed by several new releases in the young adult target genre recently, so I went into this story mentally braced for impact.

Positive: Both the narrative and voice of Riders were highly enjoyable. The plot structure was interesting, and served well to keep me engaged, despite the somewhat bizarre concept. Certainly it wasn’t the strangest thing I’ve read, but it was  abrupt and did take some getting used to. The dialogue was enjoyable, and overall the book was well paced and gripping. There was little attempt at realistic horsemanship (phew), which helped integrate the equine elements smoothly into the story. However, Rossi did manage to describe the bond between horse and rider so well, it made my heart ache with the truth of it. The military half was thorough, accurate, and respectful – more of a plot tool than a character element, but could continue to grow in the sequel.

Negative: Consider me jaded, but I am so sick of novels – especially in the young adult realm – beginning with the appearance of a mysterious and attractive individual. Maybe you could argue that Riders didn’t begin with Daryn’s appearance, but I feel that the forward moving plot really did. Which, to me, makes the romance aspect of the story seemed contrived and ridiculous. I’m tired of teenagers falling in love with other teenagers they don’t know. I’m tired of “instinct” driving their every action. Which leads me to the fact that the characters in Riders, besides Gideon’sall seemed very generalized. It was almost as if they were concepts of characters, rather than multi-dimensional, concrete characters. It’s possible that this was an intentional choice on Rossi’s part, as the characters- and their corresponding horsemen of the apocalypse – do represent concepts, but it prevented me from caring about them or their quest.

Summary: If you’re a fan of young adult fantasy/adventure, I guarantee you will enjoy this book. I had a great experience reading Riders. But, it was trapped in the unfortunate cycle of falling short of its own potential. In a way, it seemed incomplete. Like perhaps another editing pass could have added the depth of character and thematic material that the book – and the young adult “genre” as a whole – are currently missing.

XX. Shelby Jo

P.S. This is going to be my last categorized review. I enjoyed the process of my  Batman vs. Superman review immensely, and it’s time I stepped it up.


Six Months

It’s been six months since I returned to blogging! Well, six months as of April 8, but why not prolong the celebration?

So much has happened in my life in the past six months, and even tiniest growth seems like it’s been an enormous change. And there’s been plenty of enormous changes, too.

I decided to wax sentimental this week and post a quick photo gallery of some of the highlights of keeping up Thoughts of a Word Nerd over the past six months.

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And I wrote more than I ever have before. Thanks for being a part of it.

And for bearing with this weird post. We’ll be back next week with your regularly scheduled programming.

XX. Shelby Jo

March Book Review

March Book Review

I thought I would read a bunch of books this month, because of spring break, but I just hit the usual number. Grrr.

#1). Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – I have wanted to watch this movie forever because it looked so gorgeous, but I was afraid that it would be amazing and I would regret not reading the book first. So I read the book. And it was honestly underwhelming. It was well written, but the voice was so detached and the narrative was so straightforward, that I had a hard time getting attached to either the characters or the story.

#2). Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut – I’ve been obsessed with Vonnegut since I read “Harrison Bergeron” in ninth grade. I adore his prose, because it cuts so deeply, but that wasn’t enough to save this book for me. I thought it was confusing, and I couldn’t work out a singular intention. Interesting, but confusing.

#3). Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – The concept of this book is definitely original, and I think it has potential as a series. That being said, I thought the characters and plot in the individual book were cliche and boring.

Pass 2

#4). Passenger by Alexandra Bracken – THE HYPE FOR THIS BOOK HAS BEEN INSANE! So I threw my pretentious loose principles (of not reading/doing popular things) to the wind and picked it up. I enjoyed it, but I was mislead, and was pulled out of the narrative by the fact that it was not actually about time-travelling pirates (I need that to be a thing, now, though) and was not a stand alone novel. The moral of the story is that I need to do more research.

I’m already well in to my TBR for April, which mostly involves continuing/finishing series and reading something else by Alexandra Bracken to make up for The Passenger Incident 2k16. AND THE RAVEN KING. AHH. SO PUMPED.

XX. Shelby Jo

Word Count is back, baby!

Weekly Goal: 3,000

Weekly Count: 780

Total Count: 13,772

P.S. So much is happening this month!! The Force Awakens finally comes out on DVD, Game of Thrones Season 6 airs, and The Raven King is released!! Also my birthday. JS.

Friday Favorites 4/1/16

Friday Favorites 4/1/16

Happy April Fools Day, punks! I hope your friends pulled some hideous prank on you and that you didn’t have to read many obviously fake Facebook posts! (That last bit is a lot to ask, but I’m going for it.)

#1). This week is a little bit of fan art for The Raven Cycle, because it is April and the The Raven King  comes out in T-MINUS 25 DAYS, so I can’t possibly get through a Friday Favorites without mentioning it. This piece is by Mansi from CherryandSisters on Tumblr. I saw a Percy Jackson post she did a while ago, but now I am officially obsessed with her. Her work is amazing!!


#2) Is partially shameless self promotion, but also partially the fact that I am really glad it’s Spring. So look! Book photography! Like that isn’t already all over Tumblr!

Spring (pass)

#3). MORE BOOK PHOTOGRAPY. But this time by someone with actual skills and talent and all that stuff. I adored this Tolkien-themed post by The Bookish Misfit on Tumblr!


Thanks for enduring the book overload, and have a great weekend!

XX. Shelby Jo

February Book Review

February Book Review

I read five books this February, which is pretty exciting, considering it is the shortest month of the year. That means I am well on my way to my goal, and so far is hasn’t even cost me too much in time, sleep, or overdue fees!

  1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – I honestly thought this book was somewhat underwhelming. For starters, I am not a fan of spontaneous romances so it had that going against it from the beginning. But all in all, the plot was surprisingly straight forward and predictable considering the creative premise. It had interesting characters but I thought, overall, it lacked depth and an engaging voice.

The Night Circus 62. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry – Gabrielle Zevin – I adored this book. (You can read my full review here) It’s been ages since I read a book cover to cover, and there was no way I could put this one down. It pulled at my heart strings from the very beginning. It was definitely cliche, but it was the good, homey cliche that I love. I highly recommend it to book lovers everywhere.

3. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens – This was actually a re read for me, but I am counting towards my goal because it took a significant investment. I used to hate this book. I didn’t understand how Dickens (one of my favorite authors) could have written something so…disconnected. This time, I was completely drawn in for the majority of the story and couldn’t figure out why I used to hate it. But, towards the end it came back to me. The conclusion is incredibly strung out (unusual for Dickens) and just really bad. Events happen for no reason, and everything works out in this weird, convenient, random way.

4. The Gray Wolf Throne – Cinda Williams Chima – The saga of Raisa making out with everyone and then wondering why she is romantically confused continues!!! But obviously I am enjoying it!! Also some character motivation and plot was finally established in this book, but I just got the final book and it’s massive so I feel like that all might be about to go down the drain.

5. I am the Messenger – Markus Zusak – I picked this book up because of The Book Thief‘s tenth anniversary coming up, but it didn’t end up being a good choice. The narrative voice was incredibly strong, but i don’t know if I “got” it. The book as a whole lacked a lot of the subtleties that make The Book Thief great, and in the end, everything came down to sex? Audrey’s love wasn’t good enough, so the universe mysteriously helped Ed become a better person so she would finally have sex with him? And, of course, she realized she had been stingy and wrong the whole time, and everyone was magically whole. That isn’t character development. Sorry.

My queue for March includes a lot of newer releases and starting a few series. Also a Raven Cycle reread is on the horizon. I was planning on waiting until April, but I don’t know how much longer I can hold off.

XX. Shelby Jo

I don’t think I wrote any this week. It’s a problem, I know.

Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

I know I’m a week behind, get off my back already!!! Sheesh.

*Ahem* Happy Friday, kids! I hope you have fantastic weekends planned so you can dance through the rest of your days today.

Context: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin is a brief literary fiction work, that was recommended to me through the Tumblr #Favorite Book Swap (organized by Youth Book Review and Books Beyond Imagining [aka BAES]). I read A.J. Fikry cover to cover in one sitting. I can’t recall the last time I enjoyed a new book enough to read it straight through. A.J. Fikry belongs in my mind to a specific category of books that I like to call my “heart books.” Any story where the characters end up being all inter-connected through secret (or not so secret) backstory and the plot warms your heart with cliches and then shatters it with cliches fits in this category. Basically, Sharon Creech was my favorite author in my formative years, and a love for her style (and babies without fantastic destinies but still dropped off at doorsteps) has never left me. Expect a lot of unprofessional gushing to follow.


Positives: Like I said, the plot was cliche, but it was the perfect, heart-string tugging kind of cliche and moved well throughout the novel. The foreshadowing and layering of themes was fantastic (mostly, see below), even if it was slightly overt. The dialogue was incredibly enjoyable, especially to a literary snob like me and there were so many references that made me squee internally (Is ‘squee’ still a thing? Gosh, right after I called myself a literary snob, too).

Negatives: The characters were a little flat, which may have been intentional, I am going to need a re-read before I decide. There was also a theme of water and swimming that seemed to be every where, but without cohesive meaning.

Summary: I would recommend this book to almost anyone, it’s universal in so many ways, and does not require a significant time or energy investment. Basically I can’t wait until I get my own copy because I am going to annotate the crap out of it and give it to my mom as soon as possible (HI MOM) (who am I kidding? She doesn’t read these).

Can you tell I’ve been reading a lot of Nick Hornby lately? The parenthesis are taking over!

XX. Shelby Jo

The Savannah Book Festival!

The Savannah Book Festival!

The 2016 Savannah Book Festival was last weekend in downtown Savannah! Several notable authors attended, including Erik Larson, Rita Mae Brown, and William Paul Young.

Book fest5

Though the works represented were not the style or genre I am normally interested in, it was fun to walk around and explore, and see all the people who are interested. It’s nice to know the industry is alive and solid. The event was well organized, and I was honestly surprised to see how packed the booths were. I know the opening and keynote addresses were both sold out.

Book Fest3

Rita Mae Brown came and gave a speech for the SCAD Writing Department and had an author signing. She is a brilliant woman and writer, and quite the badass.

Rita Mae Brown 2

My favorite thing she told us was, “You have to write what is true. You’re writing a novel, not propaganda.”

XX. Shelby Jo

I don’t have a word count this week, and I feel like a failure because I didn’t post on Friday, but there was a lot going on. Things should be back to normal now.