Monday, March 19, 2018

2017 Book of the Year: Final Four

Well...the good news is that I'm ahead of the bracket status for March Madness. Don't worry. I promise we'll get through the remaining brackets before the end of the month.

We've whittled the field down to eight books...and they are all really good reads. But now, it's time to get that down to four.

Admittedly, the pairings at this point get far more difficult. However, there are substantially fewer to deal that works out well.


I really enjoyed both of these books. The YA fantasy genre just seemed to be right up my alley last year. I felt like I just sped through anything I picked up from that section. Always a good thing to have happen when you've had a recent reading slump.

Deciding between these two was a little bit challenging, but I really knew in my gut right off which one was going to move forward. The Paper Magician was a very good read that led to a really good series, but it just didn't wow me as much as The Weight of Feathers. McLemore's novel just feel a bit more warm and fuzzy.

Welcome to the Final Four, The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore.


Every pairing that Slade House has ended up in thus far has been odd. I guess that was inevitable given the fact that it's the only book of it's genre that made the reading list at all in 2017. This time, it got paired up against the one book from the group that could be considered "Chick Lit". So yes...the oddness continues.

Again, both books were good reads. They both went quickly and smoothly for me. But I was just more substantially wowed by Slade House. I really didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did. And sure...the fact that it did surprise me probably gives it a bit of an unfair advantage, but The Bookshop on the Corner, while good, just felt a bit more...and I somewhat cringe to use this word, but I suppose it explains it...common. Slade House stuck out more. It stayed with me longer. such...I have to give the win to Slade House by David Mitchell. And I have to admit that I am still surprised that it has made it this far. Onward to the Final Four it is!


This was a good pairing. Both challengers are very good books. Both books kept me up, obsessed with continuing to read. And I will admit that choosing this one hit me a bit in the gut. John Green has historically produced novels that I have adored...or at least very much enjoyed. Turtles All the Way Down was no exception. In fact, it was right up there amongst his best. So, it should have been a slam dunk, right? Ah...not so quick.

Library of Souls is the finale in the Miss Peregrine trilogy. And it was powerful and gripping through to the end. It's definitely a worthy foe. Interestingly enough, Green and Riggs are also actually friends in real life. Both have been writers for Mental Floss. It's unfortunate that they have to face off in this way. But such is the nature of the bracket.

This should have taken me more deliberation, but it didn't. Two really great books and yet one was just so clearly the winner. I knew which one wowed me more. Riggs takes down the formidable Green and Riggs's Library of Souls moves to the next round.


It's now inevitable that Ransom Riggs will have two books competing in the final four. Not only that, but two of his books will face off against each other for two rounds in a row. Now it's just a matter of deciding which of these two will take on Library of Souls.

Both of these books read extremely well. Hollow City was very impressive as a second novel in the trilogy. In most cases, the second book winds up being less impressive than the initial read. Indeed, a lot of the time, it simply holds the ground and lays a bit of detail to hold out for the third book. That was not the case with Hollow City. It could have stood mostly on its own. And it kept the interest throughout...cover to cover.

And then there's Miss Peregrine. The book that started it all. I had been wanting to read this book for quite a long time, but somehow never got myself around to it. And then, I picked it up and I was sucked in. I flew through the entire series in a matter of days.

Much like when the books in The Paper Magician series faced off against one another, I had to give credit for the instigation of interest in the series. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children moves forward to face the remaining competition.

And there it is. We're down to four. The Weight of Feathers, Slade House, Library of Souls, and Hollow City are the best of the best and they continue to compete to see who will be the ultimate champion.

Which of these four would you choose as the winner? Who should be the 2017 Book of the Year?

Friday, March 9, 2018

2017 Book of the Year: Elite Eight

Trooping right along in the eliminations, today we're moving the field from the Sweet Sixteen to the Elite Eight. This is the part in the eliminations where competitions start to get difficult and books that I really enjoyed start getting turned away.

This is where this round starts...

Let's see who survives the head-to-head match-ups this time.

Left Side Bracket:


The Weight of Feathers is a YA fantasy novel that is something of a retelling of Romeo and Juliet. The Master Magician is a YA fantasy novel that is the culmination of The Paper Magician series. Both books were entertaining and stood on their own merits. This was a decent match.

However, the winner was pretty clear for me right from the beginning. While I did enjoy The Master Magician, it fell a little flat in some of the romantic style dialogue. This made pieces of the narrative feel a bit childish and underdeveloped. There was some eye rolling. Never a good sign.

While The Weight of Feathers is aimed at the same age group, it just felt more maturely written. Don't get me wrong, it still feels like a young adult novel, but it has a bit more solidity. I enjoyed the story. Retellings can sometimes be risky reads, but this one held its own just fine.

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore moves on to the next round.


Historical fiction versus Young Adult fiction. This was another clear winner. Again, both decent reads, but one just came out ahead of the other. Orphan Train had pieces of beautiful writing, but struggled with a narrative split into two timelines. The Paper Magician was creative and highly imaginative, but did have some distracting similarities to the Harry Potter series. 

The ultimate winner won based on readability. quickly did I read through it because I was enjoying it. Both of these did read fairly smoothly, but The Paper Magician held my attention much more consistently. So...Charlie N. Holmberg takes this section of the bracket.


Another of those weird pairings where comparison is seriously just awkward. Horror versus comedy memoir. I was seriously impressed with Slade House, especially given the fact that I typically don't enjoy horror reads. I was underwhelmed by Dad is Fat, most likely because I expected more given how much I enjoy his standup routines. So...obviously, Slade House is going to take the win on this one.


These were both good reads. A Gentleman in Moscow was a bit slow to start and took a bit for me to get into, but it's got some amazingly smart writing and I really enjoyed the characters. For taking place primarily in one location, the narrative is incredibly rich and colorful. The Bookshop on the Corner was just a good, fun, and light read. It's a book to cuddle up with on a rainy day.

I actually had to consider this one for a while. Really, it could have gone either way depending on my mood. There's two very different feels here. But, I just had more enjoyment from The Bookshop on the Corner. It was what I needed at the time I read it, so it gave me more happiness. And so, I'm giving it the win.

Right Side Bracket:


Again, two good books. But...this one wasn't really a challenge. Turtles All the Way Down is one of John Green's finest novels. It's real and raw. I didn't really appreciate the character of Russell Pickett...he was the one thing that felt false in the narrative, but overall...I really enjoyed this book. It's not a super happy novel, but the realism just makes it right.

The Summer I Turned Pretty is the first in Han's Summer trilogy. It's a bit of a more immature YA read, but it's still decent. It reads quick and it's probably an ideal beach read for a teen. Obviously, I'm a bit older than that age range, but I still enjoyed a nice easy read.

Turtles All the Way Down was an easy winner in this match. It really was that simple. 


The Lauras continued Taylor's trend of beautiful writing. She really is a talented author. But the story felt overly full to me...not something that happens often. I'm honestly not sure whether that should be something that gives the book more praise or should detract from it. For me, it just resulted in leaving me wanting more. 

Library of Souls is the final book in the Miss Peregrine series. It is packed with action and had me nervously on the edge of my seat for the majority of its pages. I stayed up super late reading it and didn't want to put it down. That made this an easy decision. Library of Souls had to be the winner for this pair.


Gilbert's book surprised me. I honestly didn't expect to appreciate it as much as I did. I found it incredibly applicable and somewhat inspiring. I don't read much in this particular honestly usually just stimulates a large amount of eye rolling, but I found Big Magic to be well worth the reading time.

Ransom Riggs is up for the second of his three pairings in this round. Hollow City is the second Miss Peregrine novel and holds up wonderfully. It did not fall victim to the typical sophomore novel stigma, but instead continued to wow me. I very much enjoyed it.

This was a decent match, but I knew from the second I saw the pairing which one would come out ahead. Riggs takes his second bracket in a row and Hollow City moves into the Elite Eight.


This is a great match-up. A Man Called Ove was a beautiful book that made me have all the feels. Seriously. I laughed, I cried, and I wanted to get to know Ove. He's a fantastically written character and so full and rich that it makes the book seem as if it could easily be non-fiction. So good.

Miss Peregrine is the book that started it all for Ransom Riggs. It's a creepy little plot with an interesting premise and I found myself captivated pretty early on. It read smoothly and really didn't give me any reason to feel unsatisfied.

This was a tough decision. Both books were really good and I hated to have to say goodbye to either one. Like I said in the beginning of this post, this round is typically where things start to get ugly. And they did. I had to let one of these good reads fall by the wayside. Even after finishing the graphic for this round I continued to question which book should be the winner. This easily could have swung either direction. But the band-aid had to be pulled off. And is as it had to be... Ransom Riggs officially pulls off the hat trick and Miss Peregrine moves into the next round.

And there you have it. Our field of competitors is now down to eight. The challenges now start to get really tough as we move closer to the ultimate winner. All eight of these books are ones I would highly recommend. But...we can only have one on we go...

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Book Quotes

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event originated in 2010 by The Broke and the Bookish and operated as of January 2018 by That Artsy Reader Girl. It was born out of a love for lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bloggers together. Each week a new Top Ten topic is posted. After that, it's bloggers UNITE! Participate with your own Top Ten post, have fun, and get to know your fellow bloggers.
This Week's Topic:

Top Ten Favorite Book Quotes

Let's be honest...this could easily have grown to a list of fifteen...or twenty...or fifty. For me, as for many others, books are some of the best educators--the best sources of inspiration for the soul. But...I have whittled it down to ten of my favorites.

I love this one not because of what it means in a worldly sense, but because of what it means for the story. Jane Eyre is one of my absolutely favorite books...certainly my favorite classic. I've read it at least five times. The protagonist is strong and inspiring and I love...well, just about everything about this narrative. Just reading this sentence makes me do a little swoon.

Books are some of my favorite things. They mean so much to who I am and how I became who I am. I believe this quote wholeheartedly. And though they can leave you with so much heartache, the pink candy floss ones really are just the best.

This is the only quote on my list from a book I haven't read. I've read other Dillard works, but not The Living. Apparently I need to, because this is the epitome of explaining what books mean to me.

From here forward is where the quotes sometimes just make your soul ache. Picoult undeniably has a way with words, but this sentence ranks up there among her finest. It rings so terribly true and it's one of those lessons in life that is sometimes hard to learn.

I feel like this quote from Harper Lee could really help a lot of people be better in today's age, specifically today's political environment. People have their own beliefs. That's a given. But a lot of times those beliefs, those strong central passions, are the result of individual experience. It would do all of us a bit of good to remember that not everyone has lived life like we have. And because of that, others may have unique insights into the world that we should hear before we lash out or judge.

Alice in Wonderland is the only book--Lewis Carroll the only author--appearing on this list more than once. There are so many wonderful quotes in that book. Such a simple, silly story and yet it really is so much more than what it seems. This just makes me smile.

I love this one. We tend, as adults, to forget the simpler things...we tend to lose faith, to become skeptical and doubtful. It could do the world some good if we all just had a little more whimsical love for life...a little more ability to see the good and the potential around us.

This one is so applicable to me as an adult. As with the ones that follow it in this list, it teaches a lesson that took me far too long to learn. Embrace life. Don't be afraid. Just take it for what it is and take pleasure in the things around you. Come what may...

L'Engle was one of my favorite authors as a tween/early teenager. She's a brilliant author. I didn't grasp all of the lessons that her books presented to me during that period of time, but ones like this should be highlighted...shouted from the rooftops. This one is a big life lesson. 

A simple lesson so eloquently stated. I have chosen this as the inspirational quote for my bullet journal this year.'s another lesson that it took me oh so long to learn. It's okay to indulge yourself once in a while, but recognize when a dream is of the pipe variety. Having dreams is good, but don't just have them...pursue them. Live life to it's fullest. Participate in reality. 

Have you historically found inspiration in any of the quotes I have listed here? Would any of them have made your Top Ten? Have I egregiously overlooked any? What favorites of yours should I know about? 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

2017 Book of the Year: Sweet Sixteen

The bittersweet fun of the Book of the Year Bracket Challenge is removing competitors one by one. Today, it's the big cuts. We'll be whittling down the competition from 26 books to the Sweet Sixteen. Some books will find themselves automatically moving forward while 10 unlucky souls will be left behind. 

Here is where we start...

Buckle up...this is a long one...

You'll notice that some brackets have only one competitor. Due to the number of books competing and the inability to fully fill the bracket, six lucky contestants move on automatically through the first round. And so...


have all earned the right to continue.

That was the easy part. Now...let's get to the meat of this round...

Left Side Bracket


Ah...the magic of having the randomized bracket. It's totally unfair to Holmberg that two of her novels face off against each other right off the bat, but hey...she also managed one of the freebie slots, so I'm calling it even.

I debated over this one for a bit. Both of these books are good--the initial and second reads in The Paper Magician trilogy. I initially struggled to get into the series, finding a lot of parallels and fearing that the trilogy was just a ripoff of Harry Potter. But...Holmberg has her own way with things and I quickly found myself more intrigued by the world she created and wondering about certain details as I read. This distracted me from the previous apprehension, and I mowed right through the series.

Each of the two books has its merit. The Paper Magician was responsible for getting me interested in the series in the first place, but The Glass Magician was impressive as a sequel in a trilogy. It wasn't dull or serving as just a tie between the stories presented in the first and third books, as so often happens.

Ultimately, I had to give credit where credit is due. And so... The Paper Magician takes the win and moves on to the next round.


The Bean Trees was given to me in a book exchange and Orphan Train has been sitting on my bookshelf for what seems like forever.

The Bean Trees was a decent read, but the plot was a bit choppy in pieces. It was honest and raw writing without a feeling of melodramatics...well, not ones that drew away too much from the narrative. I wasn't wowed by it, but it wasn't a worthless read either.

Orphan Train had pieces of absolutely beautiful writing and heartbreaking action. I loved half of this book...the half that was written in the past. There were two sets of narration in the book and that, for me, was the biggest downfall. The historical pieces were amazing and read swiftly. The modern sections felt like they were written by an entirely different author and just seemed forced.

Both books were moderate reads that I wanted...expected...more from. But one book just left me feeling more satisfaction in the read. So even though these books were, honestly, quite evenly matched, only Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline survives this round for further competition.


This is a shocking match up for more than one reason. Number one...I don't read horror. Seriously. I haven't read a horror novel since...oh...somewhere around 1994. My apologies to Stephen King. I was pleasantly surprised at Slade House, which I read as part of RIPXII. It was witty and catchy. I read it pretty quickly since it gripped me quite well. I was slightly disappointed in the ending (this happens all too frequently), but overall I really quite enjoyed it.

The other reason it's shocking? Well...Slade House managed to get paired up against John Green. Oy. Seriously. Based on my reading and rating history, An Abundance of Katherines should have been a shoe-in for progressing to at least the Final Four. And yet...I enjoyed the book, but I wasn't wowed. It was a good read, but didn't seem to be as deep and hard hitting as some of his other books.

And that...well, that is the short version of why Slade House manages to edge out An Abundance of Katherines to move forward in the BOTY competition.


This was a pretty odd pairing to consider. The downside of a randomized bracket, I suppose. 

The Girl Without a Name is a mystery and suspense novel. I don't typically read that genre, but the synopsis drew me in. The story itself was quite interesting and the writing shows some definite talent. However, there were a few glitches that caused me pause. One major glitch, in fact. The author has a medical background (she's a neurologist) and yet her protagonist repeatedly disregards the principles of HIPAA, one of the most important and basic parts of being a medical provider. Anyone in real life who acted in the way her character does would immediately be at very least suspended and more likely fired with the possibility of having a licensure review. This nagged at me so almost resulted in my ditching the book altogether. However, I soldiered on due to the good writing and the promise of a solid story. Ultimately, the plot held and I didn't hate it, but some of the characters seemed underdeveloped and that glitch just rubbed me the wrong way.

Similarly, I found that Dad is Fat was a bit disappointing. You must think at this point I'm just a negative reviewer, but I blame this on seeing Gaffigan's stand up routine too often. I find him highly entertaining and enjoy his anecdotes. The book just fell short of whatever bar I had set for him. Damn you, preconceived notions. Don't get me wrong, the book is still funny and I did find myself giggling on occasion. I think I just expected to be wowed a bit more. Rats.

So...two books that I had high hopes for that wound up being mediocre. Ugh. This is a depressing match up. Let's just rip the band-aid off and be done, shall we? Dad is Fat moves on to the next bracket, out of the sheer merit of not ticking me off. 


It's Not Summer Without You was my one reread of the year. And here's where I sound like an idiot... I didn't realize it was a reread until I was about fifty pages in. I just kept reading, thinking "Geez this sounds familiar. Have I read a book with a similar character before? Dang it...I know I've heard this name." And hey, guess what? I'd read it before. Embarrassing. And yet, I still enjoyed it. It could be a good beach read. It's nice and light and quick. Not hard hitting or enigmatic, but still entertaining.

I read A Gentleman in Moscow as part of a short-lived book club. It took me a bit to get into...something of a slow starter, but I really enjoyed the character development. Alexander Rostov is an interesting character with a mesmerizing background. The narrative plows through several historical events with clever detail. Russian history is not my forte, so I think I did lose a little bit through my ignorance. Additionally, the author is incredibly bright and the writing is highly intellectual. The vocabulary is complex, which occasionally detracted from the story for me. It's definitely worth the read, but I would have gotten a bit more out of it had my understanding of some of the historical references and the language been more comprehensive.

In this case, I decided to judge the winner based upon which one I would be more apt to grab up again or refer to a friend. Granted, the recommendation choice would likely be dependent on which friend was in question. But...I'm going by the most likely. So...A Gentleman in Moscow moves into the Sweet Sixteen.

Right Side Bracket


Ah...the easiest pairing you shall ever find. least in this list. 

I received the The Lauras from the publisher as a review copy. I had read Sara Taylor's The Shore a couple of years ago and thought she held great promise as an author. I wasn't wrong in that. The Lauras is a contemporary fiction novel that could easily fall into a young adult category. The writing is very honest. Taylor does fantastically with description and creates a very vivid narrative. There were detractors that kept this away from a 5-star review, but they aren't important for this particular match-up. So...we'll address them later.

We Love You, Charlie Freeman...oh boy. This book...I really am almost at a loss for words. Almost. But let's cut to the quick...I did not like this book. Nope. Not at all. I should have thrown it straight into the DNF pile. There was a gigantic eww factor that developed for me and the narrative just fell seriously flat. Nope. Big, fat pile of nope.

Obviously, The Lauras takes this pairing.


Library of Souls is the final book in the Miss Peregrine series. It totally holds up the series. I stayed up super late to finish it because I just couldn't put it down. That is the sign of a delightful book. Riggs is a talented author and I very much enjoyed this conclusion to the series.

I read Ceremony as an assigned book for an American literature course. It's a fantastically honest Native American historical fiction novel. It's painful and raw, but beautifully written. It's a political and social commentary, but still maintains an individualized feel. It's a great journey book.

This was a good pairing, but there was an obvious winner from the start. For me, a book that keeps me from sleep is always a good one and a difficult one to beat in these circumstances. Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs takes the slot and heads on into further competition.


I read A Secret Kept because I had so loved de Rosnay's Sarah's Key. I think it suffered from the fact that I had read her prior work. A Secret Kept just felt okay. There wasn't a wow factor in any capacity. It read fine and had a decent plot, but the characters didn't feel fully fleshed out and the narrative was nowhere near as hard hitting as I expected. Again, having read Sarah's Key first, I really had a bar set that just wasn't reached.

Big Magic was given to me by my sister-in-law. It's technically a self-help book, which had me leery at first, but don't let that label tarnish this one for you at all. The book stresses the individualism of creativity and the need to embrace the talent that may come from it. I found its message freeing and inspiring. That sounds completely lame to say, but it's totally true. This honestly is likely a book that could demand a reread every once in a while to refresh my belief in myself. 

Big Magic is going to take this bracket and push forward as a member of the Sweet Sixteen.


If you're someone who picks a book based on the cover, don't tell me you wouldn't stop and seriously consider Hollow City. The good news is that the book is just as fabulous as its cover. Hollow City is the second novel in the Miss Peregrine trilogy. It breaks the mold of the sad sequel, those books lacking in originality and spice, existing only to further the narrative and extend it to a third book. Nope. This one holds its own, baby. The world Riggs created in Miss Peregrine just continues to be marvelous in its strangeness. It's fabulously fun.

Snow Flower & the Secret Fan is a historical fiction novel and it's heart wrenching. I was suuuuuper close to putting it in the DNF pile after struggling to get into it for a few months. But, it turns out that the issue wasn't the was me. I just wasn't in the right place to appreciate it at the time. The second attempt was the winner. It's beautiful and real and the characters are just fantastic. I definitely anticipate that I will be reading more of Lisa See's work in the future.

It was a close one in this case. Either of these two books could have easily taken the win and moved into the next section of eliminations. But...we all know the rules. Only one can win. And so, Riggs takes it again and Hollow City moves into the next round. 


We'll Always Have Summer is the concluding novel in Jenny Han's Summer trilogy. While it does have a decent ending (which is a small miracle), I did find that this one was a bit too predictable. I don't know if it's a matter of having stretched the series out for too long rather than reading the books back to back, but I just wasn't as enthralled as I had hoped to be. On the plus side, it was a quick and light read. Fitting for a summer based series, this one (as with its companions) would be a good beach read.

A Man Called Ove was an adorable read. Seriously heartwarming, but also highly entertaining in Ove's quirkiness. Ove is a curmudgeon. He's grouchy with his neighbors and stuck in his ways. But he's also the cutest old man ever. He's a sweet widower in his own right, he just doesn't show that beyond his own private moments. This one would be a good book to revive someone out of a reading slump.

Another easy choice. I loved Ove so, so much. He was just so incredibly well-written. Backman did a great job at developing a plot that served well to Ove's tedious nature without allowing the narrative to succumb to the same tendencies. A Man Called Ove will be moving on.

WHEW! That was a long post and took me just about forever to write. But...we're through the hardest round in terms of volume. We now have sixteen books remaining in the running for my 2017 Book of the Year.

Did your favorites make the cut? Inspired to add any new reads to your TBR? Think you know who will take the ultimate prize?

Next up...the Elite Eight!

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