Musings

March Madness, Round 1

So here we are! After a weekend deciding, Round 1 of my FifteenThousandPages Bracket is complete. Without wasting time, let’s see who moves forward to the Sweet 16.

The Fiction Match-ups

1 The Serpent of Venice vs 8 The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Winner: The Serpent of Venice, Christopher Moore
So, honestly. This was an easy winner. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was a disappointing 8 pages long. The Serpent of Venice was a lush, developed story that literally had me laughing out loud. I wanted to enjoy Walter Mitty more than I did – especially since I loved the movie. But I didn’t, it was 8 pages of an older man day dreaming, which while not bad, certainly doesn’t hold a candle to a book that seamlessly meshed two Shakespeare plays and a Poe story. That ingenuity alone propels Serpent in this match-up.

3 The Dog Stars vs 6 Under the Udala Trees
Winner: The Dog Stars, Peter Heller
This match-up was interesting. These are two books unlike anything else I’ve ever read. Both ultimately deal with the concept of human suffering, and what humans can truly overcome. Obviously, they each dealt with this differently – The Dog Stars focused on life after a plague wiped out most of civilization, Under the Udala Trees focuses on the injustices and dangers experienced by LGBT Nigerians. But both ended with optimism, something I didn’t imagine in at least one of them. The Dog Stars triumphs here because of its unique writing style and how it showcases suffering and humanity in such simplistic ways.

4 Lamb vs 5 The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto
Winner: Lamb, Christopher Moore
Two for two in the Round of 32 for Christopher Moore! These books were both phenomenal- both elicited such strong emotions. Frankie Presto really did move like music, while Lamb perfectly made religion humorous without being blasphemous (in my opinion). The funniest thing about why Lamb beats Frankie Pesto is that, despite literally being about Gospels and Jesus, it’s not as preachy. Frankie Presto kept making me feel like it had an agenda, as though it had to prove to me that it was superior to me, less likely to make mistakes. Lamb wasn’t like that; it was a satire that meant to make religion more accessible, if also showcases some of its oddities as well. Ultimately, that was the deciding factor.

2 Orhan’s Inheritance vs 7 The Danish Girl
Winner: Orhan’s Inheritance, Aline Ohanesian
I’m glad these two books ended up competing against each other in this round. They both deal with marginalized minorities, discrimination, and acceptance. Again, in very different ways, but still. They were both on subjects I’d honestly never read about before: transgender women and the Armenian genocide. So how do you compare to subjects like this? Well, you don’t, really. That’s not the point. The point is to compare the overall novel. And that’s where Orhan’s Inheritance pulls ahead. The Danish Girl is a great book – it’s thoughtful, powerful, and humble. But Orhan’s Inheritance really pulls you in and makes you feel as though you’ve experienced the tragedy. The juxtaposition of the beginnings of the First World War with 1990 was really powerful. Orhan wins.

The Young Adult Match-ups

1 Saint Anything vs 8 Atlantia
Winner: Saint Anything, Sarah Dessen
So I want to say this was a difficult choice, because I really did enjoy both of these books very much, but it wasn’t. While Atlantia was enjoyable, Saint Anything was astounding. I’m a huge Dessen fan, as you lovely readers know, but she really seemed to put her soul into this book the way I had never felt before. The nuances in her writing were just so on point. While Atlantia was a good, enjoyable book to read, it (no pun intended) never seemed to get fully below the surface of the story. Saint Anything prevails.

3 The Wrath and the Dawn vs 6 Four: A Divergent Story
Winner: The Wrath and the Dawn, Renee Ahdieh
So, let me start by saying Four was everything I hoped Divergent and its sequels would be, really. I loved it. It was so much better than Insurgent and Allegiant I can’t even begin to describe. But ultimately, it wasn’t enough to beat out the whole world that Ahdieh creates in Wrath/Dawn. Four was ultimately to stunted – in that it randomly plopped us down into parts of Four’s life – to really take the prize here. Wrath/Dawn fleshed out its characters, setting, and back story while still leaving itself IMMENSE room to grow in Book2, The Rose and the Dagger.

 4 The Love that Split the World vs 5 Where She Went
Winner: The Love that Split the World, Emily Henry
So I almost billed this as “two realistic tales of love!” and then I was like LOL TLTSTW is not even close to realistic. But that’s okay. I personally Liked Where She Went more than its predecessor,If I stay. I loved Adam’s narrative voice, and I love where Mia had taken her life since her tragedy. However, while a great book, it ultimately didn’t have enough oomph to put it ahead of TLTSTW, which was engaging, creative, and utilized so many mythological story elements. The Love that Split the World felt like it melded together so many different creation stories into one that it literally invented a new universe.

 2 An Ember in the Ashes vs 7 The Name of the Star
Winner: An Ember in the Ashes, Sabaa Tahir
I wanted to rank The Name of the Star higher on this list, but ultimately didn’t for the same reasons why the book loses to An Ember in the Ashes. While Ember really develops minor characters, I felt that The Name of the Star started developing interesting characters only to abandon them halfway through. To be fair, I don’t know if they come back in any of the other books in the trilogy, but since we’re just talking the one book, it was my major sticking point. The plot of the book is SO interesting – ghosts! Jack the Ripper! ENGLAND<3! – but I couldn’t get past the way certain characters I was growing to enjoy ended up left out. On the other hand, Ember really devoted time to its minor characters and ultimately gave them voices and a reason for being in the story.

The Genre Match-ups

1 The Night Circus vs 8 The Lost Symbol
Winner: The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
Fantasy vs Thriller, who wins? It’s fantasy, especially when that fantasy book is The Night Circus. The Night Circus is such an elegant book, has such lush descriptions and characters, there’s no way it could lose this round. But The Lost Symbol gave a decent fight. The thing about Dan Brown books is that they’re always clever and intelligent. The problem here is that The Lost Symbol is his most muddled one. Yes, it’s got the twists and turns (the most unexpected twist in his Langdon series, really) that you’d expect, but there’s an element that just weighs the book down that we didn’t see in The Davinci Code, Inferno, or Angels and Demons. While still complex, The Night Circus is easier to grasp.

3 A River Runs Through It vs 6 Red Rising
Winner: A River Runs Through It, Norman MacLean
This match-up literally pained me. How could I choose?! Until I wrote the bracket out, I thought there was going to be an upset. Red Rising is an incredible book. It’s a fully developed dystopian universe, its characters are so interesting and there’s (fictional) real costs to the decisions made. There were plot twists I never could have expected. It was fabulous all around. But A River Runs Through It, which I included in the genre as nonfiction-ish, is so much more emotional, which is why it wins. In its simplicity, there’s incredibly deep emotions evoked – it’s impossible not to feel empathy toward the narrator and Paul. While Red Rising may have made my jaw drop to the floor, River literally made it feel as though my heart was being choked through my chest.

4 The Martian vs 5 Graduates in Wonderland
Winner: Graduates in Wonderland, Jessica Pan & Rachael Kapelke-Dale
Memoir vs. Sci-fi? This got interesting. Because really, how do you compare such vastly different genres? I decided to go with how engaging each book was, because I read through each of them really quickly. The Martian was incredible for its ability to make me believe that scenario was possible; Graduates was incredible for its ability to take me back to things I’d already experienced. What propelled Graduates to victory in this round was the empathetic factor; I understood what these two girls were experiencing – even if their experiences were much different than my own. I could sympathize and root for Mark Watney, but when certain scientific elements became involved, I couldn’t put myself in his shoes, or space suit.

2 The Devil in the White City vs 7 Golden Son
Winner:The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson
Ugh! A devastating day for Pierce Brown in losing both of his match-ups. Again, I REALLY wanted to choose Golden Son here. But Devil has the same factor as Graduates: it’s real. Golden Son has one of the best twists of all time in its last couple chapters. Literally one of the best surprises I’ve ever read. But at times, its myriad characters become too much to remember all at once. Devil does a great job of separating its main characters while keeping the stories intertwined. I found myself disgusted, shocked, and engaged all at once while reading this book. I couldn’t believe it wasn’t fiction, because it read like fiction. Larson wins.

The Children’s Match-ups

1 To Kill a Mockingbird vs 8 The Magician’s Nephew
Winner: To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Okay, this one isn’t even fair. Should I have just left this match-up out? The Magician’s Nephew is easily the worst Narnia book that I read, and To Kill a Mockingbird is an American classic. Next.

3 The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe vs 6 The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Winner:The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
Okay, now this is a real battle. These are two of my favorite Narnia books, and each encompasses an incredible adventure. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has Prince Caspian,who’s one of my favorite Narnian characters, but ultimately that’s not enough to overcome the genius that is LWW. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is the first encounter many of us have with Narnia and its story is still the best. Jada the White Witch is an incredible villain in this story, and the dynamic between the four Pevensie siblings is immensely believable. Simply, Dawn Treader doesn’t exist without LWW, and that’s why it can’t prevail.

4 Prince Caspian vs 5 The Sword of Summer
Winner:The Sword of Summer, Rick Riordan
As I mentioned before, Prince Caspian is one of my favorite Narnian characters throughout the entire series. In contrast, Magnus Chase, while interesting, isn’t one of Rick Riordan’s top characters I don’t think. However, it’s the secondary characters that make the difference in this match-up. While I obviously love the Pevensies, the rest of the characters that surround Magnus totally elevate the story in The Sword of Summer. Samira is INCREDIBLE. A young, modern Muslim girl, she’s extremely timely, which I know what no accident by Riordan. But she’s a great character beyond that. She’s witty, sarcastic, and stands on her own two feet no matter what. Blitz and Hearth are also two incredibly creative characters, and I love that Hearth is deaf. Seeing characters with all these different abilities come together is really amazing. Prince Caspian, while a great story, doesn’t have the depth of characters like Riordan gives us.

2 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland vs 7 The Horse and His Boy
Winner: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
And for the last battle of the round, another easy one. While The Horse and His Boy is light-years better than The Magician’s Nephew, it’s just not as good as Lewis Carroll’s insane novel. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a novel with so many moving parts to it that’s also still accessible to children. That’s almost unheard of. Alice is a great character, and the surrounding characters, including the March Hare, Mad Hatter, Red Queen, etc. It really is just superior to C.S. Lewis’ novel, so it wins.

Bracket

Who will prevail in the Sweet Sixteen? Stop by later this week to find out!

 

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