1. Lady Midnight, by Cassandra Clare:
I did enjoy this, and it did manage to get me out of the worst reading slump I've ever been in, which you can read about in my previous post. Lady Midnight confirms what I always knew to be true: Cassandra Clare is a good writer. A lot of people think otherwise and believe other YA fantasy authors like Sarah J. Maas to be better, but I have to disagree. Clare is in fact very good at what she does. If anything, Lady Midnight also confirms that she is exquisitely skilled at creating her characters and her world, so much so that I think she got lost in it a bit in this one. What I'm trying to say here is: this book did NOT need to be 700 pages. I know I said I don't like long books and that might make me a little biased here, but I'm sorry, Lady Midnight was way too damn long. It seems the actual plot of the story encompassed no more than 250 pages and the rest was Clare creating people and having fun with that. Don't get me wrong; like I said, she's good at that and it's nice to read. But it also got to the point where it was like, "Okay... PLEASE GET ON WITH IT." I did enjoy Lady Midnight and I think it ended on a nice cliffhanger that does make me want to pick up the sequel at some point, but Jesus Christ. Unnecessarily long. I'm a little surprised her editors didn't make her cut some of the fluff. Some of it is important and it's just me, but there's other stuff that really play no part in the actual plot of the story and just aren't needed, at least in my opinion. That does worry me for the fact that the sequel is just as long if not longer, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Other than finding it too long, I did enjoy it, though. I really wanted more of Julian and Emma, because there a lot of unanswered questions concerning them, but I'll just keep my mouth shut and read Lord of Shadows. 4/5 stars.
2. The Serpent King, by Jeff Zentner:
On my Goodreads profile and in the book ratings section of this blog, I explain my rationale for rating a book out of 5 stars. For 4 stars, I explain it as "enjoyed it except for a few things here and there," which is exactly how I can describe how I enjoyed The Serpent King. I very much enjoyed it except for a few things that made me either raise an eyebrow or do a tiny eye roll. But, as a whole, I did enjoy it and if you enjoy most YA books, I do recommend it. I do think I'm unfortunately starting to outgrow these kind of YA books, though. Even if a part of me likes it, another part of me is looking for something that is missing; something I just can't put my finger on, and I've decided it's just a sign that some (not all, at least not yet) YA books are getting a little too young for me. Sigh. Anyway.
The Serpent King is about three friends who are all outcasts in their extremely backwoods Tennessee town. The author did a good job at creating environment and atmosphere; Zentner does paint quite the picture of what it's like to live in a (excuse my potentially offensive slang) hick/white trash, southern, religious-extremist small town. Dill has been essentially shunned by everyone in town ever since his pastor father was sent to prison for possession of child pornography. His extremely religious mother, who would prefer to stick her head in the sand and relate literally everything to God and Jesus, quietly blames Dill for his father being sent to prison. Travis is a fantasy book nerd which makes him an eccentric stuck in a dead-end family with an abusive father who will never understand him and a mother who wants to, but is ultimately unable to. And then there's Lydia, who's father is a dentist and as a result their family is viewed as more upper-class than anyone in town, but she's an outcast because she runs a fashion blog and dreams of college and life in New York City, away from Jesus freaks and people stuck in mud that is their small town, going nowhere. Zentner was good at painting a picture of their reality, but some things were still left up to the imagination. I've read other books and seen movies that are set in small southern towns that are inescapably conservative and religious so I could paint a bit of my own picture, but Zentner's setting of the scene wasn't as good as, say, Shine by Lauren Myracle. So it was good, but not amazing or breathtaking, y'know? Also, Lydia was kind of an asshole. Dill and Travis are doubtful that they will ever attend college, just because it's not ever presented as an attainable goal to them; Dill lives in a house where his mother promotes leaving high school because he already has a job at the grocery store and Jesus will apparently take care of the rest, and Travis is in a similar dead-end situation. Dill is worried about Lydia leaving them and never looking back and then Lydia gets mad at him for saying that because he could "easily" attend college, which he couldn't. If he was really dedicated to getting to college, he could, but it wasn't as easy as Lydia was making it out to be. Anyway, she bothered me. But like I said, all in all, a good read. Some parts bothered me. Others were good. 4/5 stars.