Saturday, January 19, 2019

Book Review: Set Me Free by Kayla N. Jones | Olivia J

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you know, the more places you will go," -Dr. Seuss

New Year, same indie book reviews!

Thank you, Kayla, for sending me your book in exchange for an honest review! Follow her on Instagram @kaylajones3838

follow me on Instagram @olivia.j.the.wordshaker
Y'all know how it does. Let's get into it. 

The Bad

1. The Dialogue

While the dialogue itself was witty and insightful, there were often large, uninterrupted sections of dialogue that made up most of the story. When there is too much dialogue and not enough narration, the characters and what they're doing can get lost. The reader can too easily lose their mental picture of where the characters are in space. Good dialogue is not just about what the characters are saying, but it's also about the balance of dialogue and narration, dialogue tags, and description that adds to the meaning of the words the characters are saying. 

2. Nuance

Disclaimer: As a white person, I have very limited personal experience with this topic. I live in a predominantly white community, and no one I know personally has any influence in the police system. I'm also not here to invalidate anyone else's experiences or thoughts, especially not the black community's thoughts on this issue. I'm just here to talk about literature. This is purely an outsider's perspective.

On page 96, there's a protest and when the protest reaches the line of police, the police immediately pull their guns on the protestors. Now, I'm sure there's some variance, but police just can't ethically pull their guns on peaceful protestors. That's just not protocol or realistic. Police are only around during protests to keep it from becoming a riot or stampede, not to stop the protest. They would have put up those plastic shields, batons, tasers, and put out tear gas in the worst case scenario, not have just started a gun-led massacre. The protest wasn't a violent riot in the first place. Police rarely actually get violent during regular protests unless the protest itself turns violent. 

Disclaimer: I haven't read The Hate U Give, only seen the movie, so my comparisons are just going to be between Set Me Free book and The Hate U Give movie. 

The Hate U Give movie had beautiful nuance. And what I mean by nuance is that it looked at the issue of police brutality and systematic racism through a realistic and equally balanced lens. It examined the militarization of police and the black community with care. It didn't paint either side in stereotypes and didn't ignore either side's perspective. Nuance is very important when portraying such a pivotal issue in order to reach as many viewers as possible and to not skew the issue incorrectly. 

That being said, I feel like Set Me Free could have used more nuance when tackling the issue of racism and police brutality. Officer 113 was often portrayed as a mustache-twirling villain, and while I do not want to undercut what Officer 113 did, I'd argue that most real people aren't inherently malicious. I'd argue that most police officers don't go out intentionally to terrorize black people. Rather, Officer 113 is most likely a victim of police militarization, fear-mongering, and systematic racism. Which is why the very human reaction of the police officer in THUG was so impactful and important. In that moment, the police officer in THUG realized he had made a grave mistake in the heat of the fear and emotion.While this doesn't excuse his actions, it says something very profound about the police system and humanizes the 'villain' in the situation, which always makes for more interesting fiction and analysis of the issue. However, Set Me Free didn't analyze the issues presented in THUG with the same care and nuance in my rather inexperienced but still valid opinion. 

The Good

1. The Writing

Jones certainly does have her way with words. When she does describe, it's ethereal, creative, and beautiful. And y'all know how trash I am for purple prose. However, this purple prose set the tone and atmosphere of the "ghost" world perfectly. 

2. Brother-Sister Relationship

I really enjoyed the strong relationship that Laura had with Chris, it was very visceral and real. I actually enjoyed seeing Chris being the spearhead of the movement and seeing his complex grieving process. I'm a big sucker for a good brother-sister relationship, and this one was done well, with plenty of angst. 

3. Moving

Overall, this was a very moving book. The emotional moments had weight, the tragedies were crushing, and the writing style added to the lightning pace of the story. The themes were commendable and thought-provoking. I've never read anything quite like it, and I think the story will stick with me for a while. The tagline should be . . . The Hate U Give meets If I Stay

I rated this book 3.5/5 stars, and rounded it up to 4 stars on Amazon and Goodreads!

~The WordShaker

Saturday, January 12, 2019

So, I survived my first week of SCAD. | Olivia J

"Don't edit your soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly," - Franz Kafka

This blog is dead, but it's fine. This is still my space for whoever wants to join with me. 

This past Monday, I started school at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Well, eLearning, but it's still a whole new school to get used to. I was - still kind of am - super nervous. I was talking to one of my friends over dinner a few weeks ago about how nervous I was, and he was like "ugh, I know, we have to go to college so we can follow our dreams and stuff." Called out much? But he was right. This is my dream, dammit. 

In terms of my Color Theory class, it's like trying to unlearn six years of art classes from high school and instruction from my grandma Jo. It's also a little bit frustrating to not have a teacher there looking over you, because then you're not entirely sure if you're doing it right until you've submitted it. 

Onto Computer Art Applications . . . this one's kinda like an Intro to Technology class, but for Adobe Creative Cloud. I was really nervous for this one, but it turned out to not be so bad. It's a mostly project-based class, and I'm getting the hand of Adobe Illustrator. 

Visual Culture is my last class, but it's just a really weird name for Art History. I took an art history class last semester, so I'm pretty sure this is just the same game - read, take notes, write essays. 

Overall, I'm super overwhelmed, and who knows if I'm doing any of this right. I'm also terrified that I just suck at this whole art thing and I'm going to be an art school drop out. So, yeah. I'll update you after March, when the next quarter starts. 

~The WordShaker

Thursday, January 3, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Secret Trust by McCaid Paul | Olivia J

"Read a thousand books, and your words will flow like a river," - Lisa See

If you all are familiar with my reading history, you'll know that I read McCaid's first book, The Forgotten Headline back in October 2018, and wasn't a huge fan. Review here. But if you're lazy, here's the gist: while it was an interesting set up for a series, it had some developmental and 'set-up and payoff' issues. 

However, Secret Trust blew me out of the water!

Let's just get right into it, because there's a lot to discuss!

Disclaimer: I was sent this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, McCaid!

Spoilers, duh. 

The Bad


This was a problem that carried over from The Forgotten Headline. All of the antagonists in this series are mustache-twirling villains. While it makes for a good plot twist, it doesn't make for a deep and nuanced examination of evil and why it arises. 

It's almost humorous at times, how they laugh maniacally, kill without question, and are unflinchingly selfish and cruel. The problem with this is that the villians come off as flat and cartoonish. They can't be truly terrifying because their malice relies on over-exaggerated stereotypes instead of portraying the disjointed nuance and darkness of the human psyche. 

Another problem is that there is very little explanation as to why these people are this way, other than greed, which isn't a strong enough motivator. Despite their cartoonishness, what would have saved the antagonists from becoming stereotypically villainous would have been a way to humanize them, instead of reducing them to seething and violent monsters. This is why the Ms. Claudia plot twist almost worked. 

Story Structure

I'll admit this is a little nitpicky, but I thought there were some story threads that should have been introduced earlier or ones that should have carried through the story arc. 

For example, I would have liked to stay with Clara's narration throughout the entire story, especially with what happened to her after she was shot. This would have added tension and more of a driving force since we would have seen how she got from the graveyard to Ms. Claudia's, instead of just forgetting about her for half the story and then suddenly, there she is. How did she get to the librarian's? Why did Ms. Claudia keep her alive for so long?

The Good

First off, I want to say that literally everything has improved from the previous installment. The development, the action, the pacing, the writing. I love it. I can't possibly go into everything here, but I'll touch on my favorite elements. 


I absolutely devoured Secret Trust. It was like a roller coaster. With each twist and turn, you learn something new, but that information only brings with it new questions. With blink-and-you'll-miss-it action, Paul has crafted a twisty mystery, with perfectly balanced action and character moments. 

Sequel Development

In terms of a sequel, this one was a perfect one. It deepened the mystery, deepened the relationships, and deepened the world. A good mystery sequel will also call into question the events of the first book, while also making them make more sense. 

I especially loved the character development in this book. Mick and Billie still remain strong friends with some really cute romantic development. Paul wrote the impact of the previous books with ease, and their determination in solving the mystery was admirable. They were also given much more 

Even better was some of the plot development. While not perfect on all levels, there were still some aspects that stood out. The ways that the conspiracy unfolded and deepened was mind-blowing at times, and each element strung the reader along. The key to a good mystery is that each answer gives two more questions, and Paul has truly mastered this technique. As always, everything comes together in a startling conclusion. Mad respect for the ways that Paul improved every element of his writing and storytelling.

Overall, this mystery sucked me in with compelling main characters and stellar plot development!

I rated this book 4/5 stars!


Overall, Secret Trust is a stellar sequel and a solid mystery thriller. The first book is short, so I recommend this series just so you can get to this book. 

~The WordShaker

Monday, December 31, 2018

TOP TEN-ish READS OF 2018 | Olivia J

"You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them," - Ray Bradbury

Alright. This isn't going to be your average "Top Ten" list. Heck, there are more than ten books on this list anyway.

Upon looking over the books I had read this year, I had a lot of difficulty in finding a set order to my favorite books. I read so many books I loved for varying reasons, and it felt unfair to put numerical quantities on these works of art. Sure, I like some of these books better than others, but my love for them is too complex and nuanced to be limited to a numbered list. It didn't feel fair to pit these books against each other, because I love them all for different reasons.

So, we're going to break them up into thematic categories! These categories are in no particular order, but the books listed in them are. I have also omitted the "Enjoyment Level" and "Objective Rating" section from these reviews since I'm not measuring them against each other anyways.

Casually Homicidal Inspiration

2nd Place: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

I saw the movie adaptation of this book with my friend, since I had been wanting to read the book and see the movie since it came out. However, this book erased all critiques I had with the movie. I ADORE the prose and the writing style. It was visceral and beautiful, with a perfect dose of existential angst, just how I like it. An improvement from the movie was that Julie was much more developed, and I connected with her a lot more. The themes and development were stellar, and I loved R, as always.

 Like any good science fiction, it examines the state of humanity and explores the relevant 'what-ifs'. Strangely enough, I liked the ending of the movie better. While the book ending wasn't bad, I thought the movie ending had more of an emotional impact and made more sense with the arc of the story and characters in some respects. 

Thankfully, the romance in this book was perfectly balanced. It was one of my favorite romances of the year. And y'all know how much I love stories about character growth. While the movie was funnier, the book had much more heart and depth. Despite a few small nitpicks concerning Perry's role in the story, Warm Bodies had so many things going for it that I am happy to overlook some small critiques. 

1st Place: The Geography of Lost Things by Jessica Brody

I can't exactly articulate why I love this book so much. I originally picked it up because I wanted to read it for Casually Homicidal research, but I was absolutely blown away by this awesome book. 

This was one of those books that hit me at the perfect moment in my life. It's a bit personal as to why, but regardless, the themes, the writing, the pain - it all impacted me on such a deep and intimate level. I cried and laughed and screamed. This book is my hopes and fears wrapped up in paper and cardboard.  I devoured this book in less than three days. Equal parts light-hearted and angsty, I loved every second. 

I can't say enough good things about this book. Just, go read it. 

Science Fiction Faves

2nd Place: Fifty Days by Brittney Kristina

Even though Brittney Kristina is one of my best internet friends, this review is completely unbiased. To prove so, I gave her debut novel, Forsaken 2.5/5 stars. You can read my strongly-worded review here. 

However, I loved Fifty Days. The description if elegant and atmospheric. The tone is stunning and builds the suspense of the novel. There's a good, old-fashioned trashy romance, but it's not instalove, and it makes sense within the context of the novel. It's such a prose- and character-driven novel, which you guys know I'm all about. 

As the story progresses, the details build into a complex and creative mystery filled with subtle but powerful tension. The beauty of it is, when the reveal finally hits you, it made sense all along. My only complaint is that the use of italics for emphasis was overdone at times. However, Fifty Days is incredibly unique, enthralling and mysterious, with a healthy dose of angsty romance. 

1st Place: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

I'm a massive sucker for modern literary classics, and this was a perfect fit. Not only was it masterfully crafted, the prose hit hard and spoke to me on a spiritual level. Both parts hopefully philosophical and abysmally poignant, Fahrenheit 451 had so many levels to it that I was blown away. 

Mental Illness Books

5th Place: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

I had heard nothing but good things about this book, even though I'm a bit late on the hype train. The cover is gorgeous though. 

Truthfully, I don't have too much to say about this book. It was great, but not the greatest. I think my only real critique was that it didn't feel long enough. It could have used much more development, and this would have made the book even more impactful if these story elements were more developed. 

Overall, the atmosphere and writing style was gorgeous. The emotional journey spoke to me, and the slice of life feeling was perfect. 

4th Place: The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody

Albeit not as objectively good in terms of technicality compared to the other books on this list, I still just felt a sheer enjoyment for this book. Just, wow, I loved it. The atmosphere, the laugh-out-loud absurdity, the moving character arcs. Classic Jessica Brody, and I am 100% on the hype train for her. I ADORED Xander. I think I might draw some fan art of him. 

I also related to Ryn's struggle with PTSD/survivor's guilt/anxiety. It hit so close to home honestly, just like with Every Last Word

My only critiques were that I thought it was a bit long-winded, with some sections of dialogue and narration that could have been condensed. Also, sometimes Ryn's internal monologue ventured into cringey, but other times, it was spot on. 

Overall, I will probably stan everything that Jessica Brody writes. 

3rd Place: Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

This is a clutch-book-to-chest-and-sigh kind of book. 

I loved this book. I almost don't know how to put it into words. The character arc was executed beautifully, and the incorporation of swimming only elevated it to the next level. I related so hard to Sam, her anxiety struggles, and the way swimming and writing were interconnected. 

My only complaint is that I wished there was more time spent with the other members of Poet's Corner. Sam spends to more time spent talking about them and telling the reader about them, instead of showing more of their personalities and their social dynamics and struggles. If this element was fleshed out, then this book would have been perfect. 

Every Last Word was a fantastic portrayal of mental illness and the power of words. It resonated with me on a transcendent level, and it may very well find a place on my all-time favorites shelf. 

2nd Place: Wings by Olivia Faye Scott

Read my full review here. 

1st Place: Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

Read my Turtles discussion article here, about plots (or, lack thereof). 

I genuinely don't understand how people didn't love Turtles. I loved basically EVERYTHING about this book. The writing was stylistic and fit the narrative perfectly - but it was also poetic and deep, just how I love it. Turtles gave me an existential crisis in the best way. I felt so terribly understood, and that's really all I can ask for from a book. The whole thing was so startlingly real. It as truly a 'slice-of-life' book, and I'm 100% here for it. 

My only real critique was that I wasn't a massive fan of Aza's relationship with Davis. I felt it happened too fast, but by the end, I was down for it, and it didn't distract from anything that was going on. 

Overall, I ADORE Turtles, and it has found a home on my favorites shelf. 

Miscellaneous Reads

4th Place: The Pigman by Paul Zindel

I read this book in one mesmerized gulp. No, literally. I finished this book in the span of about four hours. And I loved every second of it. 

This is one of those books that just fits right in with my genre - slice of life, character driven, etc. I loved the prose style - very 'Catcher In the Rye' if you ask me, and both John and Lorraine felt real, but also startlingly ordinary. This book almost felt like a movie, which I feel is what it should have been, but it really works either way. 

My only critique was that I wanted to know more about Mr. Pignati, but maybe that's the point - both John and Lorraine were so wrapped up in themselves that they missed it, that they missed him. 

Overall, the narration sucked me in, the characters and themes were amazing. A solid book really. 10/10 would read this to my kids. 

3rd Place: Franny & Zoey by J. D. Salinger

I didn't quite like this one as much as I liked The Catcher In the Rye - let's be real, nothing can top that - but, as always, I love J. D. Salinger's voice as an author. He has such a remarkable way of writing human interactions with subtlety and complexity, where the conflict lies just beneath the surface, often how it does in real life. Just, ah, my life goals is to be able to write people the way J. D. Salinger did. 

2nd Place: The Body by Stephen King

Stand By Me is one of my favorite movies, and so when I heard that it was based on the Stephen King book, I knew I had to read it. And, of course, I was so bloody impressed.

Since it was a novella, it was so close to the movie, which I appreciated. Reading the book gave me the same experience that I had while watching the movie, which I guess means it's a damn good adaptation. 

The dialogue between the boys was hilarious, heartfelt, and unflinchingly accurate. I adored the themes and the characters and the meaning behind the whole piece. Not only was it so well executed, it also resonated with me deeply. I love King's shorter works. He's truly The King. 

1st Place: Beartown by Fredrik Backman

I LOVE BEARTOWN. You know Olivia really loves a book when she types in all capital letters. 

I had always wanted to read some Fredrik Backman, but never got around to it until the lovely@biblio.virgo on Instagram personally recommended Beartown to me. 

I fell in love from page 2. This story - and more importantly, it's characters - are so profoundly human. I adored basically every single character. And even the characters I didn't love were still developed and understandable. I could see snippets of my own life and my own experiences in Beartown. The culture of Beartown, the themes, and the story absolutely ripped my heart out from my chest. 

Beartown is profoundly emotional, and you all know how much I love emotional reads. But the emotion came from the subtlety and the impact of the ordinary moments, in that the quietest moments and the smallest things had the most power, which is how I feel that it works in real life.

Backman is a phenomenal writer. The character development was lightning fast, and the writing was clean, yet creative and profound throughout the book. Beartown is cinematic, thought-provoking, and deeply, profoundly human. The prose just pulls you in, until you're right there with the characters, but also detached. Backman keeps enough distance for the reader to insert their own feelings and interpretations into the text. Beartown is a work of art, and it's so raw. Anyone can find themselves in this book.

Now lets get into my critiques, which are few and far between. With a book this amazing, the critiques are just nitpicks. There were points where things delved into telling and not showing, but I think it was appropriate for the scale of the story. I would have liked to know more about Kevin and David - I feel like they got the short end of the stick most of the time. Exploring Kevin's mental state, and how that contrasted with Maya's and the rest of the town could have been very interesting, but it wasn't that much of a glaring problem. 

Now to my more larger critique. I praise Beartown and Backman for showing all angles of the traumatic situation, and how hard of an issue rape can be on so many levels. However, there was a certain small theme that I wasn't such a fan of: toxic masculinity. Granted, that was appropriate for the story context, and while the phrase 'toxic masculinity' wasn't outright stated, the idea that most of the masculinity in Beartown was toxic. There were a few instances where I just would have liked to see more overt instances of masculinity being portrayed positively - because there were several instances of it (namely: Benji, Bobo and his dad, Peter, Amat). The average reader might not have picked up on that and be left with a message that large amounts of masculinity is toxic and femininity is always good, and that's not true. Someone can be extraordinarily masculine and not be toxic - it depends on whether the intent and whether they're a good person or not. Femininity can be toxic as well, but that's a whole different discussion. I just would have liked there to have been a more clear contrast between toxic masculinity and actual, true masculinity, because that topic is so incredibly relevant, just like the rest of Beartown

I LOVE BEARTOWN. There were moments of intensity and terror, and moments of tenderness and heart-wrenching blows. It emotionally destroyed me in all of the right ways. I can't speak highly enough of Beartown. It is such an important book, and it resonated with me on so many levels. Stunning. 


Thank you for sticking with this strangely unique way of structuring a Top Ten list. Here's to another year of awesome reads!

~The WordShaker

Saturday, December 8, 2018

White People Have Culture. We're Just Bad At Embracing It.

I wish I had more culture. 

It's not like I don't have culture. I'm German, Swedish, and Irish (and probably other white things). Both of my grandma's parents were immigrants. My family has a tradition of watching The Quiet Man and eating shepherd's pie and soda bread on St. Patrick's day. 

I won't lie, at times I get envious of the community aspect of culture, and the heartwarming traditions that they bring. I feel like I've missed out on that by being a white American. 

I could have culture if I wanted to. But I think there are some systematic problems behind as to why most white Americans aren't super cultured. 

The first is that - concerning looks - it was a lot easier for European immigrants to assimilate. If they were able to knock their accent, they could 'pass' as a native American for the most part. 

Another is that many European Americans were more willing to . . . intermingle with each other. First-gen children often married another first or second-gen immigrant, and the two families cultures had to merge, and it got diluted in the process, until, in many cases, it was lost altogether. 

While there are most likely more reasons, but I'm not knowledgeable enough to go into all of them. (I won't even get to touch the topic of quantifying white American culture.) The bottom line is this: white people do have culture. We have just forgotten it. 

The reason I got to thinking about this is because in art history, we covered the Vikings (Scandinavia) and the Hiberno- and Anglo-Saxons (The British Isles), and I thought to myself, Hey! Those are my people! That's where I'm from! And I was in awe of the art because I felt such an emotional connection to it. Not just because it was beautiful, but because there is a part of that inside me. But I also felt ashamed that I hadn't educated myself on my own heritage. 

I wish my German, Irish, and Swedish culture was more a part of my life, and more a part of my family's life. I wish I could go to these countries and meet some of my distant cousins. I wish I had the rich, multicultural experience that so many other Americans - particularly not-white Americans - have. I wish I was more educated about my heritage. I wish I felt more connected to my German, Irish, and Swedish cultural identity just as much as I feel connected to my American cultural identity.

Instead of appropriating other's culture, let's start looking back to our own. 

~The Wordshaker

Saturday, December 1, 2018

I'm going to be featured in a Christmas Anthology! | Olivia J

"Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form,"
 -Jean Luc Godard

Instagram is by far my favorite platform. I've met some amazing writer friends on there who I can lean on in times of (writerly) trouble. 

I have always wanted to write a Christmassy story, so I put something out on my story about it, as well as messaged my wonderful group of writer friends. Miraculously, everyone felt the same! Other people had been toying around with ideas - and so the Young Author Christmas Anthology was born!

Unfortunately, it is still without a title . . .

follow me on Instagram @olivia.j.the.wordshaker

The anthology will contain everything from poems, to mystery flash fiction, to heartfelt contemporary reads, to fantasy short stories. I made a rule that above all else, this story has to be true to the author and reflect their personal tastes and style. It's a grab bag for everyone! If you find yourself loving a certain story or writing style, the author bios will contain information on how to read more of the writer's work.

While each story is vastly different, there is a thread that connects all of them. Each story has Easter eggs or references that tie the stories together. I'm excited to hear about your fan theories when it comes out!

All profits will be donated to an Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome charity, since one of our authors, Kalan Olivia, has been diagnosed with this condition. We all wanted to use this as an opportunity to not only spread our writing and creativity, but to also do something good in this season of giving. 

Here's a list of all our wonderful authors:

Olivia J. Bennett - me!
Mary Conway - @conwaywrites
S. M. Creanza - @s.m.creanza.writes
Emma Dennin - @emmadenninwrites
Kalan Olivia - @kalanoliviaauthor
McCaid Paul - @mccaidpaul
Olivia Faye Scott - @oliviafayebooks
Alyssa Tyson - @alyssa.tyson
Maddyson Wilson - @maddywritesbooks

Our plan is for both the ebook and the print copies to be available by mid-December! Stay posted with updates on my Instagram @olivia.j.the.wordshaker

~The WordShaker

Saturday, November 17, 2018

What "Casually Homicidal" Means to Me | Olivia J

"Every secret of a writer's soul, every experience of their life, every quality of their mind, is written large in their work," - Virginia Woolf

Sometimes, my writing is a bit too personal. 

Exhibit A: A Cactus In the Valley

(Let's be real, no further exhibits needed.)

Casually Homicidal is no exception. Even though the pitch is quite outlandish - a road trip with a wannabe serial killer - the themes and the character arcs speak to me. They are me.

Just like with A Cactus In the Valley, I seem to have divided myself - more aptly, my inner struggles - and incorporated them into my current writing project. 

I've always wanted to write a road trip, but I never really knew why, other than the fact that road trips are fun. However, Arden and Hendrix want and need to get away. They need to break away from their hometown in order to grow. But in doing so, they realize they miss it more than they thought they would. Which, for lack of a more eloquent phrase, is a Big Mood. 

They're both 18 - on the cusp of having to decide what they want to do with their lives. Arden wants to hit pause, and Hendrix is relatively aimless, except for that one thing, of course. Being 18 myself, that whole concept is #relatable. I wish I could stop time like Arden, and, even though I know what I want, I don't know how to get there. Like Hendrix, I have a one-track mind.

As like many young adult novels, it's a lot about finding yourself. Except identities change and grow. Sometimes, we think we know who we are, and then something comes along and that all falls apart. It's about taking control of our identity, and not letting the past define who we are. I've been having this crisis lately, where I think I know who I am, but then something comes along and makes me rethink all of that. That you don't just find who you are and then it's all over, then you've hit your zenith and you can move on. Life is a constant journey of self-discovery.  

While I believe that humans often try to do good, we are also extraordinarily selfish. I also believe that we are all capable of doing awful things under the right conditions. Psychology says so. I wanted to explore how mental illness and environmental factors lead to violence. What if Jeffrey Dahmer had dealt with his repressed sexual desires in a healthy way? What if Aileen Wuornos hadn't been abused and neglected?  Would they still have done the things they did?

Don't fear - I'm not going to do any of those things, and I'm not really drawing from my own experiences here. But I wanted to explore how we all have that darkness inside of us, and what it would take to draw it out. 

But really, Casually Homicidal is my heart and soul. It's a fictionalization of who I am right now, and the struggles that have plagued the past year or so of my life. It is one of a shifting identity, of deciding what kind of person I'm going to be. It is one of nostalgia and childhood. It is one of pain, and how we learn to live after it. It is one of the future, of how bright it is that we almost don't want to look at it, for fear it's not all that it's cracked up to be. 

Casually Homicidal is my heart and soul. The inspiration has come from the people in my life, big and small. The inspiration has come from my love of Americana and all things vintage. It has come from me. I'm giving you another piece of my soul, dear readers. 

I hope you love it. 

~The WordShaker