Saturday, January 17, 2015

2014 Book of the Year Bracket Challenge: Finals

The big day has arrived! Today is the day I reveal my Book of the Year for 2014. Yay!

A lot of great books have been eliminated along the way. I said goodbye to some books that made me sad to have to let go.

It has all been leading to this. Two challengers remain. Only one will get the title. 

Here's where the bracket currently stands:

And the challengers are:

Representing the left side of the bracket:

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour
Morgan Matson

I swooned over this book relatively early in the year. I built myself a Spotify playlist based on the songs listed in Roger's playlist as they made their way. I even posted this glowing review on the blog. In the review, I stated that "I was hooked right from the beginning and I was sad when it was done. This was one of those books that I just wanted to go on forever." I also said that it would be a strong contender for 2014 BOTY. I wasn't wrong in that early assessment.

Representing the right side of the bracket:

Just One Day
Gayle Forman

Gayle Forman had a rough go of it in this year's bracket. She originally had three books in the running. Just One Year, the sequel to Just One Day, lost out in round two to Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. An even harder loss came later on when Just One Day managed to take out Gayle's other book, Where She Went. Nothing like having to go up against yourself!

Just One Day was lovely. It was romantic and sad at the same time. I loved the Shakespearean theme. I fell in love with the characters. In my Goodreads review, I said "my heart was in my throat most of the time and it very nearly made me cry, but the potential pain was totally worth it. This is one of those books that goes to the top of the list to read over and over again."

Obviously we have a very good match up.

The Faceoff:

I will admit that when I first started working on the bracket, I kind of had an idea how things would all play out. However, there were a few surprises as the randomized bracket knocked out some pretty strong challengers early on. My final four were not the same books I expected. However, I will say that the final two were the ones I did have in the back of my mind.

Since I somewhat envisioned who would be pairing off in this round, I had a little time to think it over as we went through the other eliminations. No matter how I spun it, I always came out with the same winner. My heart just belongs to this book. I couldn't let it go, no matter how good the book going up against it managed to be. This book was nearly perfect. The characters were gorgeous and written appropriately for their age. The narrative was easy and flowing.

What set this book above the rest for me were the little extra touches: the ephemera used in the chapter heading pages and...yes...the playlists.

So...if you've been paying attention, it should come as no surprise that 2014's Book of the Year is:

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour
Morgan Matson

I recommended this book for my sister-in-law when my brother asked what to get her for her birthday. She texted me the other day to ask if I thought she should read Amy & Roger or Fallen by Lauren Kate first (one of my other recommendations). Obviously, I recommended Amy & Roger. Of course, I may have now ruined all other books for her. This one will remain not only my favorite of the reads from 2014, but one of my favorite books ever read.

Congratulations to Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson, the Erratic Project Junkie 2014 Book of the Year!

Want to look at how other past winners claimed their crowns?

How did your books stack up? Did you get the winner you were expecting?

To all of you who participated, THANK YOU! I have enjoyed watching your brackets develop and I will be poaching from your winners to add to my TBR list. I will be doing a bracket for myself again this year and hosting the challenge again next January. I hope you'll all be able to join me again.

Link up to your 2014 Book of the Year Winner in the comments below!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

2014 Book of the Year Bracket Challenge: Semifinals

First of all, I am SO sorry to have taken so long to reply to all of your comments this week. Thank you so much for participating! It's been a crazy week (I could really stand for tomorrow to be Saturday) and I haven't had much time to sit down at a computer unless I was working on something for school.

Today is a pretty big day. We're narrowing it down to the final two today. Two really great books are going to go by the wayside.

Here's where we start:

Two very difficult choices. One was easier than the other, but still all great books.

1. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor vs. Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

The left side of the bracket was the tough one this time. These two books were both excellent reads.

I really liked the world created by Laini Taylor. I'm not usually super into the fantasy type books, but this one was great. I'm really looking forward to the sequel.

Amy & Roger...what to say. I loved the plot, loved the method of building the chapters by segments of the trip, loved the playlists and the ephemera. It was just fun and cute. It's a good read for when you're feeling somewhat sappy.

Even though this was a tough pairing, I really knew from the start how this was going to go down. It just had to be that way.

Left side bracket finalist...

2. Divergent by Veronica Roth vs. Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Now the right side of the bracket. This one was a little easier. Those of you who have been following my comments in earlier BOTY posts probably already know the answer here.

Divergent was a good book. Really good. I loved it and loved the sequel. But the last book in the trilogy took something away from it for me. It's hard now to be okay with that. It somewhat ruined the first book for me. I still like it (and got over my Allegiant issues a little by watching the movie version of Divergent), but I still struggled.

Just One Day was beautiful. I loved the Shakespeare aspect and I really just loved the characters. Gayle Forman writes a seriously great book. The ending was a little upsetting for some readers, but I was totally fine with it because I knew there was a sequel. 

So again, probably super obvious now...

Winner of the right side of the bracket and second finalist for 2014's Book of the Year...

Only one more round to go! Will you make it without caving to the temptation to call it a tie?

Link up to your Semifinal Bracket in the comments below!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

2014 Book of the Year Bracket Challenge: Final Four (Jan 13)

It's going really fast! We're already to the finding of the Final Four. Are you finding that your decisions are getting harder to make? I am. There have been a few books that I've found it hard to part with. 

Here's where I start this time with my Elite Eight...

The only easy bracket for me this time was Amy & Roger's Epic Detour vs. What Alice Forgot. Somehow, even with only 4 stars, Alice managed to make it all the way to the Elite Eight. Not bad. However, there wasn't even a question. Amy & Roger make it to the Final Four without a struggle.

The other three brackets weren't so simple...

1. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor vs. How to Love by Katie Cotugno

This pairing gave me quite the headache. Two very different books from very different genres. I loved them both, but only one could move on.

I struggled hard making this decision. I changed the bracket back and forth a few times. I don't know how I made the final decision really. Catch me on a different day and maybe I would have reversed my decision. Really I guess it came down to the fact that I am totally psyched to read the sequel for Daughter of Smoke and Bone whereas I don't as strongly want to reread How to Love. Not the most fair of circumstances, but it is what it is.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor takes the second slot in the final four and rounds out the right side of the bracket.

2. Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson vs. Divergent by Veronica Roth

Once again, two very strong competitors. Tiger Lily is probably the best retold fairy tale I've read. It was amazing and I loved it. Divergent was riveting and powerful; it held my heart in my throat for a good portion of the book. 

Honestly, the fact that Allegiant exists probably resulted in some damage to Divergent's chances here. I'm still just irked by that whole thing. I get it, but still... Argh.

I nearly swayed myself the other way for my decision while writing this post...even after the final decision had already been made. That's how tough this was.

Eventually, I had to evaluate each book by it's own merit (only fair). Pitted directly against each other (and ignoring the fact that Allegiant makes me angry), Divergent takes the win for this section of the bracket.

3. Landline by Rainbow Rowell vs. Just One Day by Gayle Forman

And here it is. The toughest match up of the round. What is it with these two authors? They have been my biggest struggles during this challenge. I love them both so much. And yet they just keep facing off with the books I seem to love the most. Landline particularly enjoyed knocking nearly all of E. Lockhart's books out of the running. Merciless. Gayle Forman's novels just seem to have it out for one another.

Getting rid of either one of these just breaks my heart. But, it had to be done. I started to waffle on this one as well. I wanted to use the Fangirl standard to help me make my decision (I liked Fangirl more than Landline), but that really wouldn't be fair. The whole point of this bracket system is to only pit each book up against the book that lands in the opposing bracket slot. No cheating.

Ultimately, I let my emotions decide. The more swoon-worthy book would have to win. The book I would choose to read again first. So... Just One Day takes the win.

And there you have it...only 4 challengers remain.



Next time, only TWO will survive.

How's your favorite fairing in my bracket?

Link up to your Final Four Bracket in the comments below! Don't forget to go visit the brackets of other just might find some new books to love!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Bout of Books 12: Wrap Up Post

Bout of Books 12 has come and gone. It was my worst participation showing yet. I really just wasn't feeling it. I think that my preoccupation with the starting of my first semester back at school just took over. 

Based on how this read-a-thon went though, I do think that I'll be changing the way I do read-a-thon posts in the future. I don't think I'll set goals in the same way. I've decided that the pressure to measure each minute and page does cause a little bit of the fun to be lost. Reading just to read and sharing what I'm reading or what I'm feeling will be a better way to go.

I didn't participate in any of the social aspects other than reading blogs this time around due to a crazy schedule and I think that took away a lot of the fun. From now on, I think I'll be more focused on the mini-challenges and chats. Interacting with other bloggers will be more important than stacking up numbers.

But...since we tracked them this time, here's where Darian and I ended up for Bout of Books 12:

Elle's Final Stats 

Currently Reading (still...) :

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

I will eventually finish this book. It's not bad, I just can't get into reading for some reason right now.

Minutes Read Saturday/Sunday: 71 minutes

Total Time Read:  248 minutes

Goal: 840 minutes

Pages Read Saturday/Sunday:  48 pages

Total Pages Read: 155 pages

Goal: 800 pages

Books Finished Today: 0

Total Books Finished: 0

Goal: 3 books

Darian's Current Stats 

Currently Reading: 

Minutes Read Saturday/Sunday:  ~30 minutes (didn't keep track)

Total Time Read: ~ 918 minutes

Goal: 1200 minutes

Pages Read Saturday/Sunday: Unknown (guessing ~15)

Total Pages Read: ~689 pages

Goal: 900 pages

Books Finished Saturday/Sunday: 0

Total Books Finished: 4

Goal: 3 books.

You can tell by the way Darian didn't keep track of his reading over the weekend that we both kind of fell off the wagon this time. Perhaps it's just a natural evolution for us in how we approach read-a-thons. What do you think? Goals or no goals? What works for you?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Bout of Books 12: Friday Update

If you look up above, you'll notice that this is titled as the "Friday Update". That's because this was supposed to get posted last night, but I decided to go on a date with my husband instead. Choice well made. We had a great dinner, drank a wonderful bottle of wine, and watched my favorite movie together. It was fantastic. After the long week at work, I definitely needed it.

And now I'm enjoying the start of a few days off of work and getting back down to business. Darian has gone to his mom's for the weekend, but he'll be back tomorrow night to finish up the read-a-thon. He left me with his current stats so I could complete his side of the update.

In addition to not doing yesterday's post, I also didn't do any reading yesterday. Still worth it. I'll be doing a bit of reading today that will catch me up some, but I've resigned myself to the fact that goals just weren't meant to happen for me this time around. The only one I'm disappointed about is not finishing any books yet, but that's just because I have some that will need to be returned to the library in a few weeks and I'd really like to read them first.

Now...let's get down to brass tacks...

Elle's Current Stats 

Currently Reading :
Minutes Read Thursday/Friday: 26 minutes

Total Time Read:  177 minutes

Goal: 840 minutes

Pages Read Thursday/Friday: 13 pages

Total Pages Read: 107 pages

Goal: 800 pages

Books Finished Thursday/Friday: 0

Total Books Finished: 0

Goal: 3 books

Darian's Current Stats 

Currently Reading: 

Minutes Read Thursday/Friday:  169 minutes 

Total Time Read: 888 minutes

Goal: 1200 minutes

Pages Read Thursday/Friday: 150 pages

Total Pages Read: 674 pages

Goal: 900 pages

Books Finished Thursday/Friday: 1
Total Books Finished: 4

Goal: 3 books.

As usual, Darian is doing really well. I'm glad that he continues to be such a voracious reader. We're very lucky in that regard.

As for me, I'm going to do a little blog reading and then get back to my book. At very least, I'll finish one book this time around.

Happy reading!

2014 Book of the Year Bracket Challenge: Elite Eight

Everyone still hanging in there? The pain of giving up good books is real. And now you get to thrash away another eight. Whee!

Found any fun surprises yet? I'm finding some interesting ones this round. I actually dismantled this section of the bracket three different times before I made up my mind on these ones. There are some toughies. Ready?

This is where I started. Just call it the bracket of young adult fiction...

Four really rough decisions this time. Seriously. I'm such a waffler. Gah.

1. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell vs. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor this one was a little different from the rest. You see, Fangirl was rated at 4 stars while Daughter of Smoke and Bone was rated at 5. Should've been an easy decision, right? Well, wrong.

If you look back at the Sweet Sixteen reduction, when I decided between The Boyfriend List and Landline, I said of Landline, "I loved the imagination of this one. I loved it more than Eleanor and Park, but less than Fangirl (with the exception of the ending that cost it the 5th star)." So obviously, I liked Fangirl a lot. It should have been a 5 star. But that darned ending...just...blerg.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone? Whoa. Awesome. I loved it. I will be moving into reading the second in the series sometime in the next few months. Great description and imagery and a crazy, imaginative story. I'm a big fan of this one.

So...I had a bit of a struggle with myself. I went back and forth between these two THREE times. Ridiculous. But now, I've decided. Winner, winner, chicken dinner? Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Final answer.

2. Insurgent by Veronica Roth vs. How to Love by Katie Cotugno

Oh Veronica Roth, you just keep showing up. And making me struggle. Insurgent was a solid sequel. I enjoyed it just about as much as the initial novel, Divergent. (Don't get me started on Allegiant, there's a reason it didn't make it out of the 32. Karsyn knows what I'm talking about.) Another great world with good, strong characters. A very good female lead. A contender.

How to Love. I already told you how I could just rock this book to sleep. I nearly tear up just thinking about it again. It's kind of like how I feel about 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, but less depressing.

This one was a little easier than the Fangirl dilemma. My gut just steered me in the direction I needed to go. Once again, an emotional decision. How to Love by Katie Cotugno takes the win.

3. Finding Alice by Melody Carlson vs. Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Ah, my obsessive love of all things Alice makes it to the Sweet Sixteen and then manages to get pitted against a book I gushed over. Rats.

Finding Alice was like reading a book from inside the rabbit hole, if you know what I mean. It was so incredibly, crazily well written. The point of view choice is really powerful and smart. Crazy, crazy, crazy, but in a good way. Not a downer, but still a great view of mental illness. An Alice winner.

One of the first books I swooned over in 2014 was Amy & Roger's Epic Detour. I obsessed about this book for a little while. I even have a playlist on my Spotify of the songs listed in the book. Yep, a little overboard, but what are you going to do. 

To those of you who have been reading my posts for the past year, though it was a difficult decision and I was sad to bid Alice adieu, it should be no surprise that Amy & Roger will be moving on into the next round.

4. Real, Live Boyfriends by E. Lockhart vs. Landline by Rainbow Rowell

I think E. Lockhart and Rainbow Rowell have it out for each other. Last round, Landline went up against The Boyfriend List. In the first round, it took out The Boy Book.

I hurt a little inside for E. Lockhart on this one. It's nothing personal I swear. I just really liked Landline. As much as I am a super fan of Ruby Oliver, she just can't beat this book out, no matter how hard she tries.

Landline, once again, smacks down a Ruby Oliver novel to take the win. So mean...

And now, with only seven more difficult decisions left ahead of me, here is where we're at. Ladies and gentlemen...the Elite Eight for 2014.

Link up to your Elite Eight Bracket in the comments below!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

2014 Book of the Year Bracket Challenge: Sweet Sixteen

Are you enjoying the BOTY Bracket Challenge so far? I am. This is always one of the high points of the year for me. Not only do I get to reflect on all of the great books I read, I also get to see what I really think of them when I have to compare them to one another. Added bonus this year? Getting able to see what other people think about their 2014 reads!

Today's task is to find the Sweet Sixteen. This is where I'm starting...

Getting to that point wasn't easy. If you remember, I was quite broken up at having to eliminate Now I See You by Nicole C. Kear. This round isn't going to be different. From here forward, it only gets tougher.

There were four match ups that caused hesitation this time around. The majority of the rest of the seeds were determined by star ratings.

1. How to Love by Katie Cotugno vs. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Oh, Katie. I loved this book. Seriously. Like hug it and rock it kind of love. Sawyer is a complete mess, but real. All of the characters are wonderfully written. The back and forth in time periods is well mastered...sometimes the use of this past/future oscillation can wreck a book. Not the case with this one. How to Love is an emotional book, but just. so. good.

And then there's Frankie. Such a smart girl. She knows who she is, but those around here are just stifling her. She's an intensely powerful character and the book is incredibly well done. It was a really enjoyable and easy read.

It was a really tough decision on this one, but I had to follow my heart. I'm such a sucker. How to Love by Katie Cotugno moves on to the next round.

2. Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson vs. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

I love a good fairy tale retold. Tiger Lily fits the bill. It was a fantastically realistic retelling of the Peter Pan tale. It's smart, imaginative, and just plain amazing.

Eleanor & Park. A book that has been discussed in a pile of literary circles for the past year and change. With good reason. It haunted me. Eleanor made my heart hurt. I worried for Eleanor, hoped for her, cheered her on.

Both of these linger near the top of my list for 2014. This one was one of the toughest face offs in the bracket. Gah. I bounced back and forth a few times before I finally decided. Ultimately, I had to bite the bullet though. Surprisingly for all you fans of Rainbow Rowell, I had to let her go in this match...Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson moves on to the Sweet Sixteen.

3. The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart vs. Landline by Rainbow Rowell

A match up of two contenders already hurting from one loss in this round. Brutal. 

E. Lockhart tries to make a comeback with The Boyfriend List, the first in her Ruby Oliver series. Ruby is just plain awesome. She's a neurotic mess, but I love her just the same. E. Lockhart does a good job at writing a teenage girl. The drama...oh, the drama. This one made me giddy happy and I loved it. 

And Rainbow Rowell. Her second entry this round was Landline. I loved the imagination of this one. I loved it more than Eleanor and Park, but less than Fangirl (with the exception of the ending that cost it the 5th star). That's saying something. 

But once again, someone had to go. Bummer. This time, Rowell fans can rejoice. Landline takes the win.

4. Where She Went by Gayle Forman vs. Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Now that we've had two brilliant authors square off, only to see one fall away, let's up the ante. Gayle Forman versus herself. Ugh. Whose brilliant idea was this randomized bracket? This woman just has a hold on me. Everything she writes is golden.

Both of these books were amazing. Where She Went is the second in the If I Stay series. Just One Day is the first in its own series.

I adored Where She Went. I loved it more than If I Stay, and that one was just plain amazing. I loved Adam's voice and the book is written so strongly that it could easily be a standalone. Oh...and I loved Adam, just for being Adam. I'd keep him.

Just One Day is just poetic beauty. It's so tragically romantic. The pain is worth it. I loved it. I can't even explain how much. It's a keeper.

So...Ms. Forman...what to do with you. You're breaking my heart all over again. But, I'll have to let you go...just a little. I'm going to have to say goodbye to Where She Went (and hot, hot Adam) so I can keep Just One Day (and equally sexy Willem).

And just to rub a little salt into the wound...also very hard to say goodbye to this round: Just One Year by Gayle Forman, beaten out by Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor (4 stars vs. 5 stars). 

After all the pain, here is where I sit. The Sweet Sixteen!

Have you been checking out the other participants? Go on over and take a peek :

I've given up the defunct linky for this year's challenge...Link up to your Sweet Sixteen Bracket in the comments below and I'll see you back Saturday for the Elite Eight!

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