Good early morning my book-mateys of all sorts! I hope all of who celebrate had an enjoyable Easter this past month. I kind of just slept it off and bit the heads off of chocolate bunny rabbits for entertainment, as well as sustenance! After diving into my sugar coma, I went ahead and started a list of all the books that I read (and would read) in March, along with little snippets of what I thought of them and if I recommend those titles. I finally managed to deter procrastination enough to sit down and write this so I could share those titles with you fine folks. I’ll break the list down by genre, which should be bold and italicized so if you just want to skip to a particular section, you can do so easily. Buckle-up babes, this may get a tiny bit lengthy. If you would rather watch it than read it, you can do so here.
The first book I read is Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, which is book three in The Caster Chronicles series. The basic premise for the book revolves around a sacrifice of someone, or something, that must take place in order to tame the chaos that is unfolding in Gatlin due to the events that occurred in the second installment. I was really looking forward to this title as I thoroughly enjoyed the first two, but it fell very short of fun for me on many levels. Breaking it down to the most prominent point of why I didn’t like Beautiful Chaos, would consist of this: the blatant foreshadowing leaves a trail of predictability, the follows you like a shadow from page one to page finale. It was exhausting and dull, which greatly detracted from the quality of the writing. Three rips outta five.
The second book is Beautiful Redemption, also by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl; the fourth and final segment in The Caster Chronicles. Following the tellings of Chaos, the costs of the sacrifice play out in a dark and depressing manner. Yet, when it’s revealed that there is a way to rectify these horrible consequences, the Gatlin crew set out to make things right again. There is so much to love about this book! First of all, the horrid anticipated nature that was the fog of book three, ceased to exist in book four. I could not even come close to predicting what would occur next, which made me feel excited and engaged. There is an amazing mature growth spurt for Ethan Wate’s character that makes him come full circle and complete as an individual. It gave the story more depth. My only qualm? Lena’s perspective. There is very little in the way that she thinks or speaks that could differentiate her from Ethan, making it seem rather useless in nature. Overall, it’s four crows outta five.
In Strange Sweet Song we have our female leading lady named Sing, who’s the daughter of a celebrity Italian composer and an equally famous opera singer. Her mum passes away during the performance of her favorite opera, Angelique, which causes a bit of a stigma for her and her father. Sing attends a prestigious school for young aspiring musicians where the pressures of her influential familial background weigh heavily upon her shoulders. Upon arrival, she learns of a legend that ties the school to the opera (which involves big kitties), and paves a small road of fantasy in this title about self-identity. I wanted to love this book between the classical music and the cats, but I couldn’t. I did damn well try though. Shallow, unoriginal characters coupled with repetitive, foreseeable, and poorly executed storytelling about a rich girl who can’t decide to abide by obligation or break free and do her own thing made for a bad reading experience. It was excruciatingly clichéd, but the classical music tickled my nose enough to give it three arias out of five, instead of two (which it really deserves).
I found these books while cleaning not too long and became determined to read all of them. Nostalgia can be quite a powerful tool, let me tell you guys. I’m referring to the Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine. It was the series that got me into reading and I wanted to experience that child-like glee all over again. This month I made it to book #2, Stay Out of the Basement! It’s about a daddy who’s a mad scientist tinkering in the basement with a bunch of planty experiments. Naturally, the kiddoes aren’t allowed down there, but when daddy’s away the kiddies shall play! They end up finding creepy stuff and an equally creepy tale untangles before you. I liked it. While it is cheesy, I think Goosebumps still makes for an awesome introduction into the horror and suspense genre for children. It’s easy to read and has enough of a spook factor to keep the wee ones on their toes. When I read this as a child, I avoided all house plants and refused to eat green plant-like stuff for a month, haha. Three leafies out of five.
The Inferno of Dante: New Verse Translation is my next March indulgence. This particular edition has the original Italian text alongside an English translation (by Robert Pinksy) that I found to be superbly written. I read it in Italian because I wanted to experience the poem in its original state, and it was the by far one of the best reading experiences I have ever had. The story revolves around a dude who gets lost. He looks around and says, “Yo, I’m lost. Someone please help me out.” Then another guy appears and answers him, “I’ll help you out, bro. But we’re going to take this long-ass route that’s going to take us through all the circles of hell where you’re going to some shtick you haven’t seen before.” Thus, ladies and gents, The Inferno by Dante. It’s detailed, lyrical, disturbing, and overall a fantastic piece of literature. I liked this book very much! I was especially enthralled with experiencing it in Italian; I felt it made the whole thing that much more elegant. Four demons outta five, easy.
Next we have Shanghai Girls by Lisa See. I try to read at least one Asian literature novel every month to satiate my culturally curious hunger. This one I picked up due to a recommendation by my cute and lovely cousin. It’s about two young ladies, Pearl and May, who are at the peak of their youth in Shanghai in 1937. Then Japan attacks and war becomes their reality. The tale takes you along for the ride as they go through one traumatizing experience after another until they reach America, where they believe things will finally get better. But due to America’s fear of communism, their treatment of Chinese immigrants was less than hospitable. So, essentially Shanghai Girls is a story about two sisters who go through hell and back, but still hold together through it all. There is so much to devour in regards to this title, but in summation the biggest points are these: it’s written so poignantly that you are exquisitely enraptured from beginning to end; there are an array of multi-dimensional themes such as the American immigrant experience, self-identity in a time of war, and the bonds of sisterhood. Pearl’s and May’s bond of sisterhood gives Shanghai Girls an extraordinarily awe-inspiring depth of emotional tenacity, that is equal parts frustrating and gratifying. This title gets a full five outta five pearls.
Manga & Comics
From the brilliant mind behind Preacher (Garth Ennis), comes The Punisher: The Complete Collection Volume 1 from Marvel MAX. Within the pages of this collection we get to read about the origins of Punisher. It starts with Frank Castle’s time in the war and later takes us through the Kitchen Irish arc of the collection. We get a fabulously illustrated story about a war veteran who loses everything to become a terrifying killer of evil. Not only was I swept up by the sheer heaviness of doom that comes with The Punisher, I found myself completely enthralled by the artwork that is a wonderful compliment to the twisted storytelling that is going on. Punisher is not your typical superhero. He doesn’t have a self-righteous attitude about right and wrong, or sees the world in black and white. I loved how thought-provoking these comics were, even if I did find myself cringing more often than not simply from the blatant unhindered nature of its vulgarity (which is NOT a bad thing at all for this specific series). This is quite a collection and an absolute must read for all fans of the genre; four and a half-ass kickings outta five!
For my manga of the month, I read all thirteen volumes of Shinobi Life by Shoko Conami, which is a shōjo series with a shit ton of time traveling. So, we have an adolescent boy who falls through a “time tear,” where he’s transported from historical Japan to modern-day Japan. Upon arrival he meets a girl who has a striking resemblance to a princess that he was charged with protecting from his era. Plot stuff happens and we discover this girl is a descendent of the princess. As the story unfolds, we get to watch these two go around in a cat-and-mouse situation where they keep on time traveling over and over and over. The tedious nature of these “time jumps” began to get boring quickly. The characters themselves are inherently lackluster. There is a ninja backdrop, as that is the era from which the boy stems from, that I found to be the most fascinating aspect of the whole series. The art was immensely disappointing. It felt very sloppy and rushed. There was a gradual improvement as the story continued, but it still wasn’t great by far. I will give the series as a whole three stars, which is an entire star more than it deserves. Art improvement and a semi- interesting premise are worth more than nothing, I believe.
Well, well, well… By jolly we have finally reached the finale of my wrap-up! Woot. So, those were all of the titles that I read this month. I sincerely hope that April will NOT be a month of predictable stories because I’m so ready to be swept away by the unexpected and bizarre! Thank you for reading this, and I’ll be back again soon. Happy reading, bookworms! ♥