April Book Review

Hey, hey, hey, I’m back! Life has been insane lately, as it tends to be, so I’m doing my best to keep up my schedule, but I’m also not stressing when I can’t.

#1). Riders by Veronica Rossi – I really enjoyed this book, in the category of somewhat mindless YA. I think I may have burnt myself out on the genre, because none of it has been entertaining me, recently. BUT you can read my full review of the book here!

#2). Dracula by Bram Stoker – People have been recommending Dracula to me for a very long time, and I can’t believe I didn’t read it sooner. It’s so, so good. I also found that it was so interesting to read all these years later, now that the story is popularized and widely known. It was cool to think about the what the book may have been when the story was revolutionary, because the development was fascinating and the conclusion (though somewhat abrupt) was intense.

#3). The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane – Though in general, I thought it was boring, The Red Badge of Courage had beautiful prose, and the characterization and psychology were really interesting.

I also reread The Raven Cycle in April, and i finalllyyyy got my hands on a copy of The Raven King yesterday, and it has already broken my heart like eight times. Stay tunes for a review of that this Friday!

XX. Shelby Jo

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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.

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.

Review: Batman vs. Superman

posterYES THIS MOVIE IS FINALLY REAL. Prepare for fangirling, as I am attempting to do more of a full review for once, because my opinions don’t separate into categories as neatly as they sometimes do.

This is mildly spoiler free. I won’t reveal any major plot points, but I am going to talk about particular events and characters, as well as the look and feel of the film. So if you want to go into the movie blind…why did you open a review?frank miller

From the announcement of the movie, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice promised to be heavily influenced by comics, and when the first teaser was released, fans everywhere raved about how much the batsuit looked like the batsuit from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns three part comic series. That proved to be true, as the Miller’s series clearly played a weighty role in costuming, cinematography, and dialogue.

This is a comic-lover’s review. I’m no connoisseur of either film or comics, but I have to admit that it wasn’t a great movie. As a film it fell short in dialogue and character development and, really, plot. I can see how the movie would be pretty boring if you weren’t a geeking comic book fan; the dialogue did very little besides move the plot forward, and that plot was incredibly straightforward. The little bit of intrigue provided was shelved for later developments in the franchise.

But it was a comic fan’s dream. (Now is probably the best time to admit I know next to nothing about Superman – I haven’t even seen Man of Steel. But, as regular readers know, I can talk about Batman all day long.) The cinematography beautifully mirrored epic comic book angles. There was a 360 shot of Batman on the side of a building with his cape snapping out that made me squeal. The same goes for Bruce busting through a window with his cape spread out like the bat-symbol, in a shot that reminded me very much of Batman: The Animated Series.

A major concern of mine going into the movie was Lex Luthor. When Jesse Eisenberg was cast in the role, I was confused but hopeful: Eisenberg is talented and multi-faceted, but isn’t he young to be playing Luthor? And then the trailer came out and all of that hope fizzled out. Who was this dorky, psycho kid? Sure, the lines all sounded like they came straight from the bald, suit-wearing Luthor we all know so well, but the delivery just felt wrong.

It turns out that Eisenberg is playing Lex Luthor, but not the one we all know and (fewer of us) love. The character is his son. This brought a sigh of relief from me, because I didn’t have to worry about the ruination of an established character, but I’m still disappointed. I think Luthor as a charismatic and powerful political figure is really interesting, and adds another level of depth and interest to plot. The lack of complexity in Batman vs. Superman really showed through, and, obviously, a more interesting villain would have aided that. Also, I’m relatively tired of the tortured-genius-antagonist.

In terms of character development, I loved the movie’s opening scene. That first glimpse of Bruce Wayne-as-a-decent-human-being, before we have to see a hungry-for-justice-Batman (KILLING PEOPLE), is so necessary in opening up the character and creating someone both new and veteran audiences’ can appreciate. When Bruce commented, “We’re criminals, Alfred. We’ve always been criminals.” – a line straight from The Dark Knight Returns – I did another internal happy dance. That line alone makes way for plenty of possibilities for both Batman and Bruce Wayne that are rarely explored, even in comic story lines. All in all, I think Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne has so much potential for character development. We just didn’t see it in this film.

_1449632347There is little to say about the other heroes in the film, Superman was Superman, but the film focused very little on him, in my opinion. (Though the truth is, I tend to have eyes for only Batman.) Wonder Woman was, as the kids say these days, on fleek. There are so many different versions of Diana in comics and television, that as long as her strength and abilities are on par with the other members of the Justice League (as she is one of their strongest, and certainly the most consistent), no one can really complain.

I enjoyed the movie, but I recommend it with disclaimers. It isn’t the breakthrough film I was hoping would jump start DC’s new cinematic universe, and DC still has a long way to go to in terms of live action movies, but it was a strong start.

XX. Shelby Jo

P.S. THERE IS SO MUCH POTENTIAL AND FORESHADOWING FOR A JASON TODD.jay I’m really conflicted, because in the Frank Miller alternate universe, Jason never came back to life. But, the ending of Batman vs. Superman allows for him to return. I want to see him in a live action adaptation so, so badly, but I’m terrified of everything that could go wrong. (Like him being the Joker like everyone is speculating right now. That would completely eliminate Jason’s purpose in the Batman narrative. *QUE RANT*)

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.

favbookswap2

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

January Reading Summary

I read four books in January, which is a little fewer than I would have liked, but is also a good start to the year. If I read four books every month, I’ll meet my goal for the year. Again, I am only counting books I have never read before, so no re-reads or school assignments (though there may be exceptions at some point).

#1 – X by Ilyasah Shabazz – This novel is a fictionalized account of Malcom X’s childhood. I don’t know a lot of the history behind the book, so I can’t vouch for its accuracy, but it was very well written, and the narrative was compelling.

#2 – Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch – This is the second book in the Gentlemen Bastards series, which follows a group of con artists in a gritty fantasy world. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and love Lynch’s characterization, but I have to say it was no where near as enjoyable as the first, The Lies of Locke Lamora. I originally thought that Lies was a standalone book, which heightened the intensity of the plot so much. On the other hand, Red Seas was all about the adventure, and the conclusion of the plot felt very abrupt and forced. It is also fair to say that it’s nearly impossible to compare anything to The Lies of Locke Lamora. Also, a few too many fart jokes? Was that just me?

Sequels 2

#3 – The Demon King – Cinda Williams Chima – This book was entertaining, and had plenty of the fantasy tropes that are near and dear to my heart, but it was practically all set up for the rest of the series, as it had no central conflict of its own. There are also sooo many possibilities for love triangles; the majority of my suspense surrounding the series is fear for all the love triangles that could come to be. But, I specifically wanted to give Ms. Chima credit for being adamant about and pursuing the idea of a queendom. I really like the way she is handling it.

#4 – The Runaway Queen – Cinda Williams Chima – Okay, so I must have liked it enough to read the sequel, right? Well, it was pretty much the same as The Demon King, but the plot is thickening. Again, however, there was little centralized plot to the book, just a lot of events that contribute to the series as a whole. ALSO THE LOVE TRIANGLES HAPPENED. I want to punch Raisa in the face because she makes out with l i t e r a l l y everyone. I don’t know if it’s good because she’s well developed enough for me to hate her or bad because I hate her. (I’m going to finish the series, so I guess it can’t be that bad? I’m so torn.)

I am currently reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and the rest of my February tbr includes the remainder of the Seven Realms Series by Cinda Williams Chima and hopefully starting the Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo!

XX. Shelby Jo

Weekly Goal: 5,000

Weekly Count: 206

Total Count: 12,854