Top Ten Tuesday: Reasons I (Probably) Won’t Read a Book

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is the exact opposite of last week’s topic, bringing us full circle with what we look for in books we’re thinking of reading. I’m pretty open-minded about what I read and will generally give just about anything a chance; however, there are nevertheless a few factors that will make me hesitate to pick up a book. In no particular order, here are ten reasons why I (probably) won’t read a book (disclaimer: there will always be exceptions to this list).

1. An overwhelmingly negative buzz surrounding a book. A negative review here and there is to be expected of all books; however, I start to worry when the majority of people seem to have similar problems with a book. There’s definitely strength in numbers when it comes to reviewing.

2. I didn’t enjoy another book by the same author. There are so many fantastic writers out there whose writing I absolutely adore that it seems silly to spend time on books I likely won’t like.

3. Annoying protagonists. Have you ever just not clicked with the voice or personality of a protagonist? (Personally, Belly from The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han comes to mind.) Usually this is something I realize after I’ve already started reading a book; however, it’s one of the few things that can make me actually abandon a novel part of the way through. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves!

 

4. Animals + sadness. Several people have recommended that I read books like A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron, but the prospect of reading something that could possibly involve an animal being sad, mistreated, neglected, etc. is just not something that appeals to me in the slightest.

5. Extremely graphic violence and/or gore. Whether it be in movies, on TV, or written on a page, I’m not a fan of unsettling violence or gore in any form. A few scenes here or there is fine, but generally I try to avoid reading books that are permeated with disturbing moments.

6. I know it’s going to be generally and overwhelmingly sad. I like to read to learn, to laugh, and to relax– not to cry into the crack of the spine when a character dies or something unbelievably tragic occurs. If I know that a book is going to be super sad, I’ll usually keep my distance.

7. Zombies. There’s no particular reason for this other than the fact that I just really dislike zombies. (They’re so creepy!!!)

8. Biological warfare/contagion/etc. Sensing a theme here? Books about viruses spreading or diseases breaking out all over the world are definitely not my forte. (Hence why I also steer clear of things like The Walking Dead TV show.)

9. Unrealistic or offensive stereotypes. There’s enough negativity in the world without perpetuating horrible generalizations and false representations of people through literature. If I’m aware ahead of time that a book contains such characters or ideas, then you can be sure that I’ll be leaving it on the shelf unread.

10. An unappealing cover. I’m not going to lie: a poorly designed cover can definitely prevent me from picking up a book in a bookstore, especially if I haven’t heard anything about it before. This is particularly true with books that use real people as models on the cover– I’d much rather create my own idea of what the characters look like than have that image decided for me by a publisher.

What things make you hesitant to read a book? What do you think of the factors that I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Beauty and the Beast Book Tag

Ah, the movie that everyone has been talking about for what feels like ages. I have to admit that I was a bit hesitant to watch the new live-action version of Beauty and the Beast; however, I’m happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised. Of course, there were some parts that I definitely could have done without (how about that little time travel scene through the random magical book?!) but as a whole I thought it was pretty well done. Gaston and Lefou stole the show with their humor and chemistry, and I haven’t been able to stop the Beast’s song “Evermore” from playing over and over again in my mind. But don’t worry: the original animated version will always hold a special place in my heart. ❤

Today I’m here to share the Beauty and the Beast Book Tag! Thanks so much to Silanur @ Aloof Books for tagging me!! Without further ado, let’s get on with the questions. (In case you’re wondering, these awesome Beauty and the Beast graphics are from the original creator of the tag, Du Livre.)

A villain you can’t help but love.

I’m not sure if he is technically considered a villain or more of an anti-hero, but regardless I’m going to say Victor from Vicious by V.E. Schwab. I love Schwab shows us the softer, moral side of him, causing us to even question his villain status in the first place. He and Eli also concoct one of the most interesting evil schemes I’ve ever read about. As someone who regularly carries epi-pens around with them for allergy reasons, the thought of them being used to revive people from near death and give them superhuman powers is super fascinating to me.

Your OTP. 

As per usual, I’m going to answer this question by saying Taylor and Jonah from Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. In the realm of fictional romantic relationships, theirs is one that strikes me as nearing the realm of realistic (obviously not entirely, but sort of close). Their relationship takes time to develop and there are plenty of ups and downs, just like in real life. Each time I reread this book (which, at this point, has been more times than I can reliably keep track of) I can’t help but eagerly root for them again and again even though I know how the story will end.

A character that’s destined for bigger things. 

Though there are a plethora of characters that fit this description, I’ve ultimately decided to go with Blue Sargent from The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. Not only is Blue intelligent, determined, and hard-working, but she is also incredibly kindhearted and deserves to achieve her dreams in life. Whether those goals include attending college, exploring the world, starting a family, or all three, I hope she gets there. Fingers crossed that fictional life treats her well!

A book that makes you hungry. 

It might seem strange at first, but I’m going to say The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Even though the majority of this book discusses the many issues plaguing our modern-day food production industry, it nevertheless makes me want to chow down on some local veggies or freshly picked fruit. One thing’s for certain: it definitely doesn’t make me eager to swing into a McDonald’s drive-thru window any time soon!

Opposites attract. 

The first couple that popped into my mind when I read this prompt was Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, which I think is pretty fitting. Though they are both headstrong and have dynamic, bold personalities, they nevertheless come from very different positions in society. Hardly seem to agree on anything.

What books would you have chosen for this tag? What do you think of the books that I’ve mentioned? Most importantly, what did YOU think of the new Beauty and the Beast movie? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

BAYOU FOLK by Kate Chopin | Review

First published in 1894, Bayou Folk is Kate Chopin’s first collection of short stories bundled together in one volume. After reading this collection for one of my classes, I decided to do a bit more research about its initial critical reception. Fortunately, I stumbled upon a review published in the April 1894 edition of the Atlantic Monthly that succinctly and accurately captures several of my thoughts about this collection.

Almost celebratory in tone, this review highlights the great impact Chopin’s writing had on the reader despite her apparent newness as an emerging author in the literary scene. However, the reviewer also takes care to point out that this is not Chopin’s first outbreak into the limelight, as many of her stories had been previously published in periodicals. Where I think this reviewer hits the proverbial nail on the head is when he comments on the moving force behind the entire collection, remarking:

“It sometimes happens, however, that a distinctive power is not fully recognized until scattered illustrations of it are brought into a collective whole” (558). 

Each story on its own is like a snapshot, providing the reader with a glimpse into Chopin’s world but unable to show us the larger picture. Bound together in Bayou Folk, these stories weave themselves on a loom of class, race, gender, and identity. These common themes sharpen with the clarity offered by repetition as they are reflected and refracted in an immense cast of diverse characters. One character that stands out to me is the former slave after whom the story “Old Aunt Peggy” is named. In just over a single page to text, Chopin manages to transform Aunt Peggy from a woman into a representation of the peculiar institution itself, a one hundred and twenty-five year old system of labor whose legacy lingers on long after the war has been fought. Characters like Aunt Peggy breathe life and power into Chopin’s stories, giving them the force to resonate with readers long after the pages have been turned.

Another great point that the reviewer makes is the skillful way she wields the usage of various forms of dialect throughout these stories. Because location and culture are integral components of her writing, it only makes sense that she would endeavor to capture the sounds of local speech as well. This incorporation works to Chopin’s advantage, as the reviewer remarks:

“Her reproduction of their speech is not too elaborate, and the reader who at once shuts up a book in which he discovers broken or otherwise damaged English would do well to open this again” (559). 

Although the variations in language may seem a bit confusing at first, the reader quickly becomes acquainted with the dialects used. Not only do they contribute to creating depth in characters, but they also help build the setting and make it come to life.

The end of the glowing review reads:

It is something that she comes from the South. It is a good deal more that she is not confined to locality. Art makes her free of literature” (559). 

This passage stumped me at first. What could the reviewer mean by that final sentence? Does he mean that literature in general is usually restricted by locality, but in these stories she somehow liberates herself from those boundaries? I can’t be absolutely certain, but I’m choosing to interpret this statement as a celebration of Chopin’s writing ability. Her writing brings a warm feeling of culture and energy and life to literature, one that readers of all backgrounds can surely connect with in some way.

I highly recommend the short stories of Kate Chopin’s Bayou Folk, whether you read them separately or bound together in this fantastic collection. Chopin is a writer that is often forgotten in the midst of the male-dominated Western Canon, but these stories prove that her position in the literary world is undoubtedly well-deserved.

Have you read any of Kate Chopin’s stories or other works? Do you have any favorites? Any other short story collections that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Reasons I’ll Read a Book ASAP

Happy Tuesday!! This week for Top Ten Tuesday I’ll be sharing the Top Ten Reasons I’ll Read a Book ASAP. In other words, these are some aspects of books that I look for when deciding what to read next. There are so many that I could list, but these are the first ones that come to mind.

1. An eye-catching cover design. I’m a sucker for a well-designed book cover, especially ones that are simple and have beautiful typography.

2. It’s written by one of my auto-read authors. There are some authors whose writing I will read no matter what the story or work is about. A few examples are John Green, Michael Crichton, and Joseph J. Ellis.

3. I love the author’s other work (both books and movies/shows/music/etc.). This applies to books written by people who are famous in other fields as well, such as acting, music, art, etc. A few of my personal favorites are Mindy Kaling, Stacy London, and George Watsky.

4. The book is highly recommended by my friends, professors, blogs, online reviews in general, etc. I love when people recommend books to me, especially when they are books that I’ve never heard of before. It’s the best feeling to discuss a book with the person who originally recommended it to you.

5. It has a boarding school setting. Surprise, surprise! I feel like I mention this fact a lot, but I’ve always gravitated towards books that take place at boarding schools or similar settings. I’ve loved Looking for Alaska by John Green, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta– even Harry Potter!!

6. The story takes place during or around the Civil War in the United States. The Civil War in the United States has always fascinated me, likely due to the countless different factors that ultimately culminated in such an unthinkable event. For this reason, novels like Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell always capture my attention immediately.

7. I loved the movie adaptation. Though I prefer to read books before watching their movie adaptations, sometimes its unavoidable that I’ll do it in the reverse order. However, I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy several books after seeing their movie adaptations, including The Shining by Stephen King and The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

8. It’s about hiking. Hiking mountains is one of my favorite things to do, which means that I also love to read about people’s personal experiences walking in the woods. For instance, I had a great time listening to the audio book of Wild by Cheryl Strayed.

9. It’s associated with a holiday. My enthusiasm for celebrating holidays definitely bleeds over into my reading choices. If it’s December and I see a book relating to Christmas, you can bet that I’m going to pick it up! A few recent examples of this are Skipping Christmas by John Grisham and My True Love Gave to Me, edited by Stephanie Perkins.

10. I can personally relate to a character’s experience in the story. If there’s a book about someone struggling with an allergy, trying to make it through college, or traveling abroad, then you can be sure that I’ll be picking it up ASAP!

What things will make you want to pick up a book? What do you think of the reasons I’ve listed? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

How Shakespeare Redefined Beauty (Sort Of) | Discussion

This semester I’m taking a Renaissance Poetry class, which can basically be summed up in two words: Shakespeare’s sonnets. We’ve read much more than solely sonnets by Shakespeare, of course; however, he had such a remarkable influence on this poetic form that many of our class discussions of other poems ultimately circle back to the Bard at some point. It wasn’t until was in the process of writing an essay about his “Sonnet 2” that I realized the magnitude of his role in redefining the traditional Petrarchan idea of beauty. Contrary to popular belief, Shakespeare does not simply praise the idealized beauty of women; rather, he also lauds the physical appearance of one of his close male friends.

“Sonnet 2” explains the toll that age can take on the body over time, particularly in regard to one’s outward beauty. According to Shakespeare, time is the destructive enemy of beauty, causing it to gradually fade and crumble with the passing years. He uses the detrimental effect of time as part of his argument to convince his attractive male friend to have children. The Bard believes that the only way to truly preserve the beauty of one’s physical features is to pass them along through children like a sort of biological inheritance.

Due to the overall argument of “Sonnet 2,” a significant portion of the poem is spent highlighting the attractiveness of Shakespeare’s male friend. Shakespeare directly states the word “beauty” a total of four times throughout the poem; however, the word is not used in the conventional way of the time period. According to the Oxford English Dictionary Online, the earliest definition of beauty is “that quality of a person (esp. a woman) which is highly pleasing to the sight.” This definition places a noticeable emphasis on gender, implying that beauty was a quality strongly associated with femininity rather than masculinity. We see this in the traditional Petrarchan sonnet in which Petrarch praises a seemingly flawless woman for her stunning looks (and virtue, always added like an afterthought).

This gendered notion of beauty was the relatively unchallenged norm– until Shakespeare came along, at least. Shakespeare chose to break away from the conventions of the Petrarchan sonnet and instead created a new tradition of his own. For instance, a great number of his sonnets are addressed to a male friend rather than to a female lover. This difference was clearly an unexpected development in the world of poetry at the time and still comes as a surprise to many modern readers. Simply by speaking about a man’s beauty in a sonnet addressed to a man, Shakespeare twisted the Petrarchan ideal of beauty and demonstrated that the intended audience for sonnets need not only be female. 

Shakespeare also defied that confines of the Petrarchan sonnet by creating the English sonnet. Petrarchan sonnets generally have an abba rhyme scheme and are divided by a volta between the octet and the sestet. On the other hand, English sonnets are divided into three quatrains with an alternating rhyme scheme and a rhyming couplet at the end. There is usually a volta or heavy emphasis in the rhyming couplet, as opposed to the volta that divides the Petrarchan sonnet into two distinct parts.

By rebelling against traditions of gender and poetic form, Shakespeare separates himself from the Petrarchan sonnet, forges a new path for future poets, and redefines the old gendered definition of beauty. No longer must beauty solely be a female characteristic; instead, the appearances of men can be extolled in poetic verse alongside that of women.

Does the traditional, idealized, gendered notion of beauty still exist? Of course it does. (Unfortunately, Shakespeare only managed to slightly alter it, not get rid of it.) I don’t mean to argue that Shakespeare is some sort of flawless feminist sonnet writer because it’s clear that his views of men and women were far from equal. Instead, I hope I have simply highlighted the Bard’s important and influential role in changing how beauty was discussed in poetry as well as the poetic form of sonnets as a whole.

What are your thoughts on Shakespeare’s sonnets? Do you think his sonnets are to be celebrated or criticized (or both) in regard to how they speak of beauty? Do you have a favorite Shakespeare sonnet? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

AS YOU WISH by Cary Elwes | Review

As you could probably tell from my review of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride, I’m a huge fan of both the novel and movie adaptation. Eager for more of this fantastic story, I recently turned to Cary Elwes’ book As You Wish in order to satisfy my fantasy-adventure-romance-comedy cravings. (I really don’t know how else to describe the story of The Princess Bride in general– it’s sort of a mix of every genre ever.) Filled with funny stories of cast members and fun facts about the making of the movie, this memoir is truly a one-of-a-kind reading experience for any Westley and Buttercup fan.

Elwes tells the story of his involvement in making the movie The Princess Bride chronologically from when he was first casted for the role of Westley to the movie’s twenty-fifth anniversary in 2012. He includes quotes from numerous cast members, offering different perspectives and insights on the moments and memories he mentions. It’s interesting to hear everyone’s thoughts on the same experiences as well as their feelings towards Elwes in general. For me, the inclusion of these perspectives encapsulates the close-knit the community of cast members that the production of this movie created.

It was also interesting to learn that they didn’t think the movie would ever be as successful as we know it to be today. According to Elwes, the producers were merely hoping that they could do the popular novel justice, especially since it was William Goldman’s favorite work that he had written. Many of the people involved with the making of the movie were fond of the novel (Elwes had grown up reading and enjoying it as one of his favorite books), meaning that dozens of people were invested in making the film the best it could possibly be. Their dedication to this movie became incredibly apparent to me when reading how much time and effort Elwes and Mandy Patinkin put into training for the famous duel scene. It’s no wonder that it looks so amazing!

My favorite aspect of this book was the nostalgic feeling it filled me with as I was reading it. Elwes writes with a very nostalgic tone in general, which makes it difficult not to invite that warm and fuzzy sensation into your stomach. It’s obvious that acting as Westley in this movie left a lasting positive impression on Elwes and undoubtedly influenced the rest of this life. His enthusiasm and love of The Princess Bride is contagious and reminded me of why I love the movie as well: the community surrounding it. Sure, the movie itself is hilarious, brilliant, and captivating, but the viewing experience brightens considerably when watched with friends.

My only complaint is that this memoir did seem a bit artificial and forced at times. Elwes offered so much praise of the directors, producers, and other cast members that it seemed as though a third of book was him trying to please and thank as many people as possible. While that is certainly an admirable goal, I think there is a different time and place for such an endeavor. If the book is intended for an audience composed mainly of fans, then it should focus on sharing the stories and experiences that the fans really want to read about. An acknowledgments section at the beginning or end of a book is the perfect place to express gratitude and praise those involved with the making of this incredible movie– much more effective than constantly peppering the rest of the book with random rambles of recognition.

Overall,  reading this memoir was such a fun, entertaining, and interesting experience. Not only did I learn a lot about Elwes and everything that went into making this movie, but my eyes were also opened to the entire filmmaking process in general. As You Wish is a must-read for any fan of The Princess Bride. Now all I want to do is rewatch the movie!

Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) 4 out of 5 smileys

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Yes! Especially to those who love the movie The Princess Bride.

What are your thoughts on this book? Do you like The Princess Bride? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Unique Books

Happy Tuesday!! Today’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is certainly an interesting one: I’ll be sharing the top ten unique books that I’ve read. I didn’t really have any criteria in my mind while making this list; rather, I chose the first ten books that popped into my head as being remarkably different for one reason or another. Some of these books are unique for their plots and characters, whereas others stand out due to their writing styles or overarching themes. Get ready for an eclectic list!

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

A supposedly extinct Lazarus woodpecker. A small town in Arkansas obsessed with said species of woodpecker. A young missionary whose story intertwines with that of the main character’s missing younger brother as these young people endeavor to figure out what in the world they’re supposed to be doing with their lives.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

A literal watchdog named Tock. A trip to the Kingdom of Wisdom, which you can only reach via tollbooth. Princesses called Rhyme and Reason. Places with names like the Valley of Sound, Mountains of Ignorance, and the Island of Conclusions. SO. MANY. CLEVER. PUNS.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North & Erica Henderson

A superhero with the power of both girl and squirrel, who also happens to be a college student studying computer science. A talking squirrel named Tippy-Toe that acts as both sidekick and best friend to Squirrel Girl. The inclusion of online chats, hilarious footnotes in the smallest font possible, and references to countless other heroes and villains in the Marvel universe.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Two college roommates turn into morally ambiguous mad scientists with a plot to develop superhuman powers. A main character who is an anti-hero that you can’t help but root for– and who is aided by a young girl he finds on the road. (I know this book sounds strange, but I swear that it’s fantastic!)

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The sprawling narrative of this novel is unlike anything else I have ever read. It is almost as though the chapters are irrelevant; instead, the story barrels straight on through without any pauses or hesitation. Elements of magical realism add an intriguing unpredictability to the narrative that keeps the audience on their toes at all times.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

One of the strangest combinations of childhood nostalgia, fantastical elements, and thrilling suspense… but somehow it ends up creating a short but striking novel characteristic of Neil Gaiman’s remarkably unique imagination.

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

An impressively interwoven blend of historical and science fiction that will both confuse and enlighten the reader (the confusion is definitely worth it!). A thin tightrope between reality and memory, spanning across that gray area that everyone dips their toes into at some point. Also, this novel has the best quirky (and meaningful) repeated mantra: So it goes. 

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

An incredibly confusing (yet surprisingly captivating) narrative structure. Four distinct perspectives. Characters with the same names. A plot like a puzzle that has to be pieced together– though there will always be at least one piece missing.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

An unsettling dystopian world centered around the reproductive roles of women in society. A story that is completely and disturbingly relevant in today’s world, especially regarding recent feminist movements and questions surrounding the relationship between politics, sex, and gender.

More Than This by Patrick Ness

Waking up in a strange place, completely alone and with no idea of what happened to anyone else. A scary figure on a mission to harm you in some way, though you can’t even imagine how so. This book is so unique that I don’t even want to describe it further for fear of spoiling anything!

Have you read any of these books? What are some unique books that you’ve read? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

People IRL Read This Blog?!?! | Discussion

Today I’m here to discuss a dilemma that nearly every blogger must confront at one point or another: the collision between “real life” and the blogging world.

In high school I was very secretive about my book blogging escapades. I never told anyone at school about it and no one ever randomly asked, “Hey, you wouldn’t happen to run a book blog by any chance, would you?” so I never had to actually say, “Why yes, I’ve run a book blog for years that no one knows about except people online and my parents. And my dogs.” I was perfectly content with the fact that no one else knew, happy to keep clacking away at my keyboard with my nerdy little secret tucked safely between the pages of whatever I happened to be reading that day.

And then I went to college.

Here’s the thing about college: it’s a lot more difficult to hide things from people when you basically live with them 24/7. It’s not like blogging is anything that I had to hide in a bad way– I’m proud of my blog and the hard work I put into it– but I’ve always had mixed feelings about telling people about it. Part of my hesitancy is that I don’t feel like many of the people I know personally would necessarily enjoy reading a blog dedicated to overly enthusiastic ramblings about books and bookish things. I’ve come to terms with the fact that this is a relatively niche subject area, or at least it seems to be when the majority of my college-age peers are more concerned with partying and watching Netflix than anything else. (Shout out to my nerdy friends, though– you’re all gems! <3)

I quickly realized that it would be nearly impossible to keep my blog a complete secret from my friends, especially if I wanted to keep updating it and replying to comments throughout the semester. Gradually I plucked up the courage to gradually mention it to more and more of my small circle of friends. I was taken aback by their genuine enthusiasm, interest, and support. People I knew IRL being interested in my quirky little blog about books? This was a feeling I had never felt before– to be honest, it was a huge relief. 

Then I started a bookstagram account last summer.

Here’s the thing about Instagram: it shows you what other people have recently “liked.” So when my close friends from college started “liking” my bookish photos, more and more people from school began to see my account pop up on their screens. Little by little I watched in simultaneous horror and bewilderment as people I had never intended to know about my blog suddenly began to know about my blog. (I had foolishly put a link to my actual book blog in my Instagram bio.) When I got back to campus in the fall and continued to post photos on my bookstagram, I was shocked to find that so many people actually enjoyed scrolling through my carefully posed pictures of books that I had taken in my front yard and stockpiled on my phone like some sort of weird preparation ritual for an illiterate apocalypse. It was strange to talk about my book blog to peers in person. Suddenly it was no longer a platform leading directly into the Internet void; rather, my voice was being heard by people I came into contact with every day. 

I don’t mean to make it sound like my book blog is some popular site visited by the majority of my college campus. In the grand scheme of things, relatively few people even know about my blog to begin with. What I do mean to emphasis is how my attitude towards people know about my blog has changed. In high school I likely would have cowered away from the mere thought of people from school reading Nut Free Nerd; now, I almost welcome it. I still get flutters of nervous butterflies whenever someone mentions it to me in person, but I’m getting there.

To those of you reading this who I actually do know in person: Thank you bunches!!! *hugs*

If you’re a blogger, how do you deal with the crossover between “real life” and the blogging world? Do you actively spread the word about your blog or do you sit back and wait for people to find out about it naturally? Any advice? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

HOW TO RUIN EVERYTHING by George Watsky | Review

My brother has been a fan of Watsky’s music for years, but it wasn’t until recently when I met him at NerdCon that I really started listening to his music. It only took a few rhymes and rhythms to have me completely hooked on his words, listening to his music any chance I could get: while walking to class, doing laundry, getting ready in the morning, and even while (attempting) to do homework. Then one day, my brother said: “He wrote a book, you know.”

He wrote a book. Those four words led me to snag borrow my brother’s beloved copy of George Watsky’s How to Ruin Everything as soon as I got home for spring break. Devouring this collection of essays in just over twenty-four hours filled me with an even greater appreciation for this artist– not only of his work but of his determination, hard work, and positive outlook on life.

Of course, the English major in me was thrilled to discover that Watsky’s spoken word skills carry over into his ability to write prose that is casual, conversational, witty, and thought-provoking. His writing does everything that good writing should: it makes you feel as though you’re right there beside him, reliving his experiences through a kaleidoscope of his and your perspectives. The narration is engaging, funny, and has a strong sense of personality that comes off as undoubtedly genuine. One of my favorite lines of this book appears in his essay titled “What Year Is It?” in which he talks about his experiences with epilepsy. The last line of the essay reads:

“I catch my reflection in the water, pieces of me plagiarized from the past—Dad’s nose, Mom’s chin, her dad’s hair, his sister’s brain—and look up to admire the scenery, while I can.”

Plagiarized from the past. That’s brilliant.

This essay in particular is just one example of the personal stories that Watsky includes in this collection. There’s a juxtaposition between his touching childhood memories and hilarious awkward experiences that somehow just works. From stories of travel and relationships to discussions of being a vegetarian, performing slam poetry at college campuses, and even an entire essay about his old tour vehicle, Watsky incorporates more topics and tales than I thought possible in such a slim volume. All of the personal information he shares contributes to an overwhelming feeling of authenticity in this text, the sense that he is confiding in the reader as though he or she were an old friend. It’s honest and endearing and makes for a book that is impossible to put down. 

Though all of the essays are remarkably different, they’re nevertheless tied together through a common thread: failure. Yes, Watsky has succeeded in writing a hilarious, entertaining, and surprisingly optimistic book about… well, not succeeding. (Ironic, no?) Time and time again he recounts experiences that didn’t go quite as planned or that took a sudden turn for the worse, yet there’s an underlying tone of optimism that runs like a current beneath the surface of his writing. It’s difficult to choose a favorite essay out of the entire collection, but the one that sticks out the most in my mind is the very first one, titled “Tusk.” In this essay, Watsky tells the story of when he and some friends smuggled a narwhal tusk over the Canadian border into the United States as a gift for a one hundred year old woman. If that’s not a conversation starter, then I don’t know what is!

Overall, reading this book felt like having the a random, hilarious, and well-spoken conversation with Watsky. How to Ruin Everything is definitely something I’ll be returning to in the future– for a laugh, for inspiration, and to be reminded that there’s nothing quite like the power of a good story.

Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) :0) 5 out of 5

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Absolutely! I would recommend to any of my friends, regardless of whether or not they have listened to Watsky’s music.

Are you a fan of Watsky’s music or writing? What are your thoughts on this book? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Newest Fandoms

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is a fandom freebie, so I’ve decided to share the top ten fandoms that I’ve most recently become a part of. This semester in particular has been particularly fruitful in the fandom department. In no particular order, here are ten things that I’ve recently become a fan of:

What are your newest fandoms? Are you a fan of any of the things I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY