Saturday, January 23, 2016

2015 Book of the Year Bracket Challenge: Final Four's been a super fun day for me. I had a lumbar puncture earlier today that I figured would go smoothly and leave me just reclining in bed all day, but still getting things accomplished. Ha. So much for that. I got ragingly nauseated and have a headache that is still holding on tight. Instead of the lovely hours of reading and relaxation I had planned, I instead crashed for a 4-hour nap and am struggling to keep down Wheat Thins.

But...the show must go on. Luckily for me, I planned ahead slightly and finished the graphics for all of my bracket eliminations earlier this week. Yes...that means that I currently know the winner. No...I won't tell you yet. It does make writing these posts a lot less time consuming though, so that's a good thing. Otherwise, who knows if this one would make it up on time. Not going to lie...sleep is sounding good again and as of right now, it's not even 10pm.

Yesterday, I thrashed out another great handful of books and whittled things down to eight contenders. Most of them are pretty strong ones, so today is an interesting (and mildly painful) round. This is where we start...

When it gets down to this tight of a race, it's only fair to give everyone a little attention. So I'm going to go through each bracket elimination one by one. Everyone gets a little love today.

I start today's eliminations with what may be the toughest matchup so far. By the time I get to the Final Four, it's more or less a given that the majority of the competitors will be 5-star books. It's never an easy task. This year is no different. 

The Little Paris Bookshop has already been given quite a bit of praise from me through these eliminations. Today will be no different. It's sweet, smart, and beautifully written. The characters are realistic and full. I didn't want the book to end. It's just a gorgeous love story that made me ache.

Everything, Everything swung into this round without having yet faced a difficult competitor. That doesn't make it any less worthy of being in the Final Four, however. It stands very strongly on its own merits. It's a modern day Boy in the Plastic Bubble with far less John Travolta and far more heart. Cute, tragic, beautiful, and highly needing a sequel, Everything, Everything was an amazing read. 

There was a lot of back and forth negotiation with myself on this one. In fact, I had to double check my bracket before typing in the winner today. It was a close race that still could have easily gone either way. Both of these books hooked me hard. Ultimately though, we all know that only one will remain. So...I say a tear-felt goodbye to one and welcome Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon into the Final Four.

Now this is a good pairing. Two supernaturals up against one another. Fantastic luck in that one. The seasoned Ms. Clare against the freshman Hawkins. Oh, it is a good fight.

City of Heavenly Fire is the finale in The Mortal Instruments series and, though it was still great writing, it didn't wow me as much as some of the other books that came prior. Perhaps I just expected too much. There was a lot of set up happening in this novel for what became an obvious preparation for a new series. While I appreciate that she will continue writing something to keep me waiting anxiously, that endeavor seemed to detract from the plot of the series at hand. And so, it only garnered 4 out of 5 stars.

The Library at Mount Char was a complete wow. It seriously knocked my socks off. I was not expecting a book this good when I picked it up and I sincerely struggled to put it down. It handily took a 5-star rating, which makes the competition between these two books a little lackluster. Still...both great novels. Both worth the read. Mr Hawkins takes the prize in this round though. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins takes the second seed in the Final Four.

3. Nothing Like Looking by Chris Van Hakes vs. Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

The second 5-star battle in this round should have been a lot more difficult to decide than it was. Nothing Like Looking has been a strong contender from the start and those who know me well realize the unbounded nature of my love for Alice. But...I have somehow become a less than faithful Alice supporter in this bracket challenge. It's devastating really. Nothing should come between me and my love for Alice. And yet, things have...other books have. Resulting in a much shorter debate than it should have been, Nothing Like Looking by Chris Van Hakes propels forward yet again to enter the Final Four.

4. Looking for Alaska by John Green vs. The Duff by Kody Keplinger

Three 4-star books made it to the Elite Eight this year. I'm not sure that percentage has ever been so high. With Looking for Alaska and The DUFF, two of these underdogs face off against one another for a shot at the Final Four. They also happen to be the only pairing of two modern YA fiction novels in this round. Considering the volume of YA fiction that I have been reading in recent years, this is a bit of a feat. Last year's bracket was teeming with YA fiction. This year, it seems to be a bit of a lighter flow. My reading tastes may be shifting yet again.

But I digress.

Looking for Alaska was not what I was expecting, but it was still a good read. John Green is a talented man and a great writer. If I hadn't read The Fault in Our Stars, I may have rated this book even higher than I did. I found it terribly hard (even though I know better) not to compare the two. 

The DUFF was a quick and easy YA read. I found it a little bit less intelligently written than some of my other YA fiction picks, but it is written appropriately for the age group it targets.

Both of these books focus on issues of teen social structure and the challenges that come with that. They both handle the topic quite well. But I can't have both. And, as in the last matchup, there was a fairly easy decision to be made. Looking for Alaska by John Green is moving on to the next round.

And then there were four! It's getting brutal now. You can't go wrong with any of these reads, but only one will eventually take the crown. Have you placed your bets for a winner of the 2015 Book of the Year Bracket Challenge? Tomorrow we cut it down to two.


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