In February, I read eight books for The Hub’s challenge (to the detriment of the Read Harder Challenge). Of the eight, one was a reread (Cinder) and one was already on my TBR list (Dumplin’). I wouldn’t have read any of the other six if not for this challenge.
I did start a ninth book, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, but I absolutely could not force myself to read it past the first 20ish pages. I didn’t like how she as drawn or how she behaved. She felt like the kind of person who is latently annoying until she opens her mouth, and then she moves into the territory of nails on chalkboards. I could see what the humor was trying to do, but it fell flat, which is a shame because I like oddball humor. It has been a long time since I’ve had such a strong negative reaction to a book.
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
A fairly quick read in both writing style and plot movement. I liked Will’s mix of self-confidence and self-consciousness. Some of the character dynamics bothered me, such as between Will and her best friend, Ellen, but how they behave and react is not out of the norm for what girls can be like in high school. The ending also felt underdeveloped.
Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee
This was a good book that could have been great. Lee did a wonderful job with world building. I liked the central focus on martial arts/boxing. The fight scenes were written well, and I wish there were more of them. I also liked Carr’s overall attitude and sportsmanship. What kept the book from being great was the lack of a cohesive overarching plot. The potential for it was there in the political antagonism between Terra and Mars, and the ethics (or lack thereof) of genetic manipulation. If there had been better development with either of those, the culminating fight scene would have been phenomenal. More time should have been spent on that and less on the tepid, forced-feeling romance between Carr and Risha.
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown
I’ll start off with the fact that this book made me cry – page 25 specifically. I cannot imagine how horrific it was to be in that kind of situation with your children. Thinking about it now makes me want to cry, and I read it over a month ago. The harsh lines, angular figures, and coloring of Brown’s illustrations beautifully capture the impact of Katrina, the helplessness and confusion caused by such a massive natural disaster and the deplorable government response to it. The only negative is that the ending felt too abrupt. It would have been nice to end on a more developed note of rebuilding.
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 2: Generation Why & Ms. Marvel, Vol. 3: Crushed by Willow G. Wilson
I read the first volume of Ms. Marvel when it came out and didn’t particularly care for it. I’m not a superhero kind of girl, and while I applaud what they’ve done, it’s just not my cup of tea. I would never have read any other volumes if not for this challenge, and can’t see myself reading future volumes either. That being said, one of the funniest things I’ve read so far this year was Kamala fan girling on Wolverine in volume two. It was absolutely hilarious.
Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan, read by Mark Bramhill, David De Vries, Macleod Andrews, and Rebecca Soler
If I had to choose one favorite Hub read for February, Echo would win hands down. It was absolutely beautiful, and is well suited to the audio format. The incorporation of music enhanced the storytelling and tied the separate characters together. Several genres were blended together – fairy tale, magical realism, and historical fiction – and all of them fit nicely. The ending closed the circle the harmonica created, though it was bittersweet.
Trollhunters by Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus, read by Kirby Heyborne
This book is a bit on the grotesque side at times. I liked the concept, and how the character dynamic and tensions change part way through when the bigger picture starts to appear. I also liked how Jim Jr. and Tub grew as characters.
Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova
This reminded me of Roller Girl in the sense of a tween girl trying to figure out who she is and how she fits in. I liked the character dynamics and the challenges they dealt with. It did a good job capturing middle school angst. The artwork was solid, and the cast diverse. I’ve put it on the graphic novel shortlist for my daughter’s birthday. She is the audience Awkward is geared towards, and she would easily relate to the messiness of the social dynamics.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
I’m a sucker for fairy tale retellings, and Cinder does a good job using the original as a springboard into a well developed world and political system. I wasn’t as absorbed with it the second time around (I first read it in 2013), but I still enjoyed it. The series as a whole uses the various fairy tales as a foundation to explore politics and imperialism.