Musings

The Sweet Sixteeeeen!

Well, lovely readers! I took a hiatus from posting the March Madness FifteenThousandPages Bracket for the Easter weekend (and because work was very busy), but now I’m back! And we are one round down.

We’ve seen The Serpent of Venice vanquish the Secret Life of Walter Mitty and we watched Red Rising come so close to pulling the upset over A River Runs Through It.

Now, it’s time for the next battles. Who will defeat whom?

The Fiction Match-ups

1 The Serpent of Venice vs 3 The Dog Stars
Winner: The Serpent of Venice, Christopher Moore
This match-up was super easy but still difficult all at once. The Serpent of Venice is a clear winner because it’s a more creative book – it melds multiple stories together seamlessly into one. However, The Dog Stars puts up a fight because of its incredibly interesting voice. And it in and of itself is a great story, but it simply doesn’t put up enough of a fight. The Serpent of Venice is superior not because The Dog Stars isn’t great, but because Serpent is literally THAT good. It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s got a great voice for so many characters. I cared about Hig, the protagonist in The Dog Stars, but not many others.

4 Lamb vs 2 Orhan’s Inheritance
Winner: Orhan’s Inheritance, Aline Ohanesian
These two books are interesting to compare because they both are so inherently about religion, without preaching as to why one must love religion, the way other books do (you’ll see more about that further down). Lamb uses (amazing) humor to discuss the foundation of Christianity (literally the book is about Jesus Christ), while Orhan’s Inheritance reminds us about the ways that religion can so often tear us apart. While Lamb was fantastic, Orhan’s Inheritance continues its journey in the bracket because of its soft power – I didn’t realize how much I’d been affected by the book until I was really through reading it. It made me ache and yearn to understand more about what had happened during that time. Lamb, on the other hand, was a wonderful read that I enjoyed, but didn’t make me want to think more about religion, etc.

The Young Adult Match-ups

1 Saint Anything vs 3 The Wrath and the Dawn
Winner: Saint Anything, Sarah Dessen
So, this is a match-up where it’s a gut feeling, really. The lead-up to Saint Anything inspired me to write this blog post for the Times Union about the importance of YA literature. And after reading the book, I had to sit with it for a few days because it just really mattered to me on a deep level. Wrath/Dawn is another book that helps highlight the importance of this genre. We see protagonist Shazi consistently make tough decisions based on her own intuition and thought process. That’s important! Girls need to see girls making decisions for themselves – and so do boys. We need characters who, whether in simple ways or in fantastical settings, risk their own comfort and safety to do what they believe is the right thing. With Saint Anything, it’s the incredibly subtlety that pushes Sydney’s decisions above Shazi’s grand gestures.

4 The Love that Split the World vs 2 An Ember in the Ashes
Winner: An Ember in the Ashes, Sabaa Tahir
First, I must say: these two books have two of my favorite covers over the past year. Just look at them. But this is not a contest of covers – although, I guess it could be… but it’s not. Moving on. The hard part about these two books is that their protagonists are both incredibly strong voices. Laia and Natalie are so fantastic; I genuinely enjoyed reading in their voices. Where Ember rises above is that there’s not only Laia’s voice – there’s also Elias’. While Natalie’s story is incredible -there’s love, betrayal, and an intriguing supernatural element – Ember is a deeper world because of the two vastly different stories Elias and Laia are telling to the audience. And neither of those two voices suffer due to the other one. They are both so strong, so resolute, that there was no way they’d lose this match-up to an also strong opponent.

The Genres Match-ups

1 The Night Circus vs 3 A River Runs Through It
Winner: The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
Oh, this one makes me a little sad. But not totally, because I love love love The Night Circus. It makes me sad because River has one of the most emotional, deep passages I’ve ever read in a book – and it was about fly fishing. No joke! It was a whole page about a character fly fishing, and it was beautiful, strong, and memorable. But what pushes The Night Circus ahead is that there are so many beautiful and strong passages in the book. While River’s passage ends up feeling more personal to me, the sheer number of passages in The Night Circus that made me stop and reread them, just to saw ‘wow,’ is the reason for victory.

5 Graduates in Wonderland vs 2 The Devil in the White City
Winner: The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson
My non-fictions! (Well, 2 out of the 3). Let me tell you, wouldn’t have imagined THAT outcome! Going into this I figured I’d choose fiction all the way no matter what. Clearly, I proved myself wrong. And I’m glad I did. Both of these books really impacted me. But it’s easy to love a book that’s written via emails (GiW). What’s so much more difficult is that Erik Larson managed to make me think I was reading fiction in DWC. He uses dense language, often quoting from newspapers or police reports, while still ensuring the readability of his book. It’s fantastic. And it’s that skill that pushes his book ahead in this battle.

The Children’s Match-ups

1 To Kill a Mockingbird vs 3 The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Winner:To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
So, again, like all of the decisions made on this blog, this is an entirely personal, subjective decision. But I feel like I need to make that comment with this one because of why I made the decision to move TKAM on over LWW. I love both books. But TKAM wins because of its encouragement for people to be good humans, whereas LWW encourages people to be good Christians. There’s a difference, to me. And while I think that those two things should dovetail, to be a good Christian you should be a good human, LWW also very much perpetuates the idea that to be a good human you must be a Christian. And that’s where I struggle. That idea is more overtly seen in Prince Caspian, but it’s still very evident in LWW. The more wild White Witch (aka paganism) must be vanquished by the Great Lion (hellooooo Jesus!). So, with that said, I choose you, TKAM.

5 The Sword of Summer vs 2 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Winner: The Sword of Summer, Rick Riordan
This battle feels like old vs. new. And it’s hard to choose a super new book over a justifiable star of children’s lit. HOWEVER, Riordan still pulls off the upset here. And that’s because, despite being a TOTAL classic, deservedly, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland gets super complicated to get through – don’t even get me started on Through the Looking Glass, which I literally couldn’t get through in my 20s – to the point that it’s not always enjoyable. It’s immensely creative and brilliant. And it’s fun when you’re in it. But there are times where I just labored trying to finish a chapter. The Sword of Summer is  such a fun storyline that’s easy to get through as well. I like the way the book started, I loved how it finished. And the middle? Well, it was pretty great too. Victory.

 

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