King Maker by Maurice Broaddus


I don’t even remember the last time my feelings were this mixed for a book. It’s been a couple days since I finished, and I can’t really decide where my feelings fall. Here’s the summary from Amazon, which is about all I knew about the book going in:

From the drug gangs of downtown Indianapolis, the one true king will arise. The King Arthur myth gets dramatically retold through the eyes of street hustler King, as he tries to unite the crack dealers, gangbangers and the monsters lurking within them to do the right thing. Broaddus’ debut is a stunning, edgy work, genuinely unlike anything you’ve ever read.

I happened upon this book on Scribd, and it sounded like a great premise and I was in the mood for a fantasy read, so I dived in. It started off strong enough – the prologue is about King’s father, and how he is betrayed. There’s some intriguing drug gang rivalry, and some guys that seem to have some dark powers that aren’t exactly evident yet. Cool. The prose was almost perfect – atmospheric and able to evoke strong images of the setting.

Then, with chapter one, we jump ahead to present day when King is a young adult. As the main character, King really had very little page time. As King is the most distinctive, mostly likable character, that was a bit of a disappointment. There are many, many secondary characters and they were introduced so quickly that I had trouble remembering who worked for who and how everyone tied together. Eventually I came to recognize some of them more easily, but it took over half of the book. And when I was about 60% through the book, I made a note that I still wasn’t really sure what kind of fantasy elements were in play and when it was going to play more of a role in the story. A short time after I made that note, the fantasy bits started to become more obvious, but they were confusing as all hell.

I don’t want it to sound like this book was bad – it wasn’t. I think that the language and style of the writing was good, but the events and characters could have used a bit of editing. And I enjoyed the social commentary – the author makes sure that despite whatever fantastical monsters may be lurking, the real horror is life in these poverty-stricken streets. I’m still considering reading the second book (The Knights of Breton Court is a trilogy), because events might seem more concise and linear in the second book and I am curious about King. I’ve added it to my “library” on Scribd, so we’ll see.

Everyone seemed infected with the same sickness, on edge. King saw the fear, the frustration, the cauldron of terror and rage with life reduced to desperation and survival. So many stood by and did nothing; sick of gangs and violence, yet suffering in silence. 

Sarah Says: 3 stars


A Visit From the Good Squad by Jennifer Egan

Dude, this book sucks.

I know, harsh way to start off a review. But this is why I relish being a book blogger that doesn’t receive books from publishers to review – I don’t feel the need to be nice about a book that I want to complain about all day long.

Soooo… This is basically a book of loosely-connected short stories about a bunch of people who grew up in the age of punk and rock music, so I guess back in the 70’s to 80’s. The general theme of the book is supposed to be “How did I get from where was I was to where I am now?”, which could be an interesting theme in any other book. Unfortunately, the answer for almost all of the characters featured in this book is “Because I’m a self-centered dumbass who did hard drugs and acted like a little asshole for the entirety of my young adulthood.”

The very first chapter was the most interesting – it focuses on Sasha, who’s in therapy to deal with her kleptomania (that’s a compulsive urge to steal stuff). I’ve never really ever seen kleptomania mentioned in a novel before, so I was definitely hooked and wanted to know more – but this is the only chapter that really focuses on Sasha, and she isn’t even a great character – she’s one of those emo young kids who is depressed and unhappy for no real reason. But still, it was a promising start. And then it IMMEDIATELY took a nose-dive in chapter two, where were meet Bennie – an aging man in the music industry in drinks actual flakes of gold in his coffee and for some reason can’t stop reliving every embarassing moment that’s ever happened to him. From there we meet a ton of other random characters who are all screwed up in similar ways and it got really old, really fast.

I read some reviews online that claimed this was such a heart-breakingly beautiful book about growing up and coming-of-age – no it’s not. Books like that are relatable to a wide audience. There is nothing relatable to the general public about watching your best friend blow some guy while he has his arm around you at a concert. That’s something only drug addicts and weirdos can relate to. How the hell did this get a Pulitzer prize?

Oh, and the big “Powerpoint chapter” was 50+ pages of boring slides, and to me definitely seemed like the author was just trying to be edgy. Which she tried to do throughout the whole book. But on the upside, those 50+ pages went really fast and hence I was able to finish this book quicker, thank goodness.

So yeah, I’m sorry to the people who voted for this book as November’s read, but this book is a huge ball of suck. And the fact that it’s so popular makes me think that maybe I’m just not intellectual or thinking deeply enough or something. Or maybe everyone else really likes to read about cocaine and whiny bums more than I do. It was like Holden Caufield in Catcher in the Rye, except like 20 Holdens and way more annoying.

And because I do feel bad about bashing this book so much because I know a lot of you liked it, here’s a far more positive review over at What Red Read. I’m trying to be all fair and balanced. (Barely succeeding there, I know.)

Sarah Says: 0 stars.