After failing to achieve my goal of reading seven books a month in February, I was iron bent on being successful this March. Unfortunately with a vacation the odds weren’t quite in my favor, and I missed the mark by one book. I did manage though to take a few ghosts of my TBR off by finishing some longtime haunts, and in the process mowed that number down to a totally manageable 221 books. On another note my ratings were all over the place, as I handed out three 4 stars, one 3 star, and two 2 stars along the way. If you’re interested though in reading a little run down of my thoughts on each, pursue forward!
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner- 3 stars
The Serpent King has massive potential to be a dark horse contender on many readers end-of-year favorite lists. Unfortunately though, it won’t receive that honor on Megnificent Books. The biggest gripe I have goes hand in hand with my favorite aspect of the whole story; main character Dill. He’s so sweet and a little naive, and it just broke my heart, okay? I loved reading from his perspective, plus the story arc Zentner chose for him was A+ perfection. Buuuuut then, Mr. Zentner decided to spoil everything by quite possibly creating the most cliched narrators in the existence of modern young adult. Lydia is an eclectic rich girl with the emotional depth of a robot, and Travis who? It was obvious straight from the get go that our author didn’t love Travis, and only orchestrated him to bring the other two together (spoiler alert, I know: but we all saw it coming). All quips aside though, know Zentner is an extremely talented writer with a masterful grip on words. The way he spun sentences to deftly represent the situation at hand blew my mind, and is prove he has infinite potential as an emerging writer. So if you don’t check out Zentner’s debut, stick around for his second novel.
For my full thoughts:The Serpent King Review
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby- 4 stars
I was very reluctant to read this one, as I’m historically anti-magical realism, but after seeing the hundreds of stellar ratings Bone Gap has received I thought it was worth a shot. While nothing from this genre will ever be a 5 star pick for me, Laura Ruby’s debut definitely made a valiant effort to sway me on my opinion, and did succeed in a way. For starters; I like how she proved that even in a story where nothing is supposed to make sense, there can still be a heart beating at its center. Such is the case with the interesting message of inner vs. outer beauty, a supporting storyline running between main characters Roza and Petey. Not only did it give the plot some direction and cohesiveness, but strengthened the two girls in a way I’ve never seen done in similar books as Imaginary Girls and The Accident Season. Those two reasons were largely why this quirky fiction worked so well for me; I was intrigued but never alienated by the tales of nonsensical happenings. Obviously I would recommend for tried and true fans of likewise tales, or skeptical readers similar to myself.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander- 4 stars
Here in my home of Illinois we have some of the best state reading lists around for schools. This includes Monarch for Kindergarten-3rd, Bluestem for 4th-5th, Rebecca Caudill for 6th-8th, and Abraham Lincoln aimed towards high schoolers. Like I said; all are amazing and definitely worth checking out for great recommendations. The Rebecca Caudill award has always held a special place in my heart though, and with that I decided this summer I would do a weekly post discussing each of the 20 books in a classroom setting. I got a bit of a head start though in picking up The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, a teacher favorite and a verse novel I readily attest to being a must have for all children’s libraries. Alexander’s debut is a pip squeak, barely 200 pages of poetry, but in that small span he performs magic. His word choice is incredible and the cadence unstoppable, it reads as an ode to rap music just as much as the basketball in its title. Its 13 year old protagonist is an amazing voice, and one many readers will relate to. Boy and girl appeal all the way, for all ages. Definitely a worthy winner of the Coretta Scott King literary award.
Tricks by Ellen Hopkins- 4 stars
Tricks is definitely not an Ellen Hopkins novel that will go down in the history books as reaching the simultaneous beauty and horror of her debut Crank. My biggest problem, and the one shortcoming that held this back from being a five star read, were the FIVE perspectives that Hopkins attempted to tackle in one short book. Two were stellar; realistic and thoroughly engrossing, two more were pragmatic but not compelling in the least, and the final storyline was just plain ridiculous. While I get what Hopkins was going for (i.e. anyone can get trapped in this lifestyle for any reason), it felt a lot like she was grasping at straws to get her message across. As always though she did an excellent job developing said characters, especially in such a short span of time, and I miraculously never had a hard time differentiating their narratives. A very fast paced read (I finished it in a day over an extended flight), and one I would highly suggest to contemporary lovers.
Traffick by Ellen Hopkins- 2 stars
Traffick is a hard book for me to summarize my opinions of, or even concisely rate without second guessing myself. That’s because even though everything is technically right with the storyline (traditionally great Ellen Hopkins writing, successful delivery of the promised plot, etc.) there’s so many gaping holes I can’t give it any more than 2 stars. The most colossal? Nothing ever actually happens. Sure events take place (this is a sequel to Tricks following the same characters recoveries, by the way), but none of them develop the largely unlikable cast into more fleshed out human beings. It really is just 500 really short pages of random words. The whole thing felt so pointless, and a cash grab for Hopkins to satisfy her publisher. If contemporaries had novellas might I suggest this one be the first, as I did enjoy seeing some secondary characters from the first book get more page-time. That’s hardly enough though to warrant an entire story though, and near everything else was a mere waste of space. I got through this one as I was on vacation and out of reading material, but in any other circumstance I have a feeling this one would have a spot on my DNF shelf.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray- 2 stars
I used to be a straight up Libba Bray fanatic, practically inhaling her new releases the second they hit shelves. I haven’t checked out any of Bray’s work in a long time though, only to decide on a whim that I would read one I skipped over a while back. That obviously being the two parts bizarre and absurd Beauty Queens. And it was a nice bit of nostalgia too, at least for a time. The first 100 pages, with their humorous anecdotes and ramblings of beauty queens, reminded me why the ever talented Bray was once an auto-buy author of mine. But then, like a train-screeching halt, I remembered why she isn’t anymore. Because, as I now recall so clearly, Beauty Queens went on a madcap tangent, exactly the same as each of Bray’s previous novels. The story I began reading was gone, replaced with a climax that beared little resemblance and traded in good character development for the sake of a punchline. Not only that, but it was about 150 pages too long, and a royal pain to drag myself from Point A to B. Definitely a good reminder of why I most certainly should not read the behemoth The Diviners series, for fear of similar happenings.
So was your March reading as lackluster as mine? Or did you strike a hidden gem? Let me know in the comments!
-Keep Calm and Read On