Wednesday, April 22, 2020

2019 Book of the Year: The Winner!

I've learned that this quarantine life has sucked some of the creativity out of me. I'm fine to watch and listen and read, but writing myself just hasn't been working well for me. I have still been doing my book reviews on Goodreads, Litsy, Amazon, & Barnes and Noble, but I just haven't been able to motivate myself to write anything more on the blog.

Part of that I think has just been feeling overwhelmed by the amount of writing that comes with the Book of the Year posts. So...I've given myself a bit of leeway here. It's time to finally wrap up this holdover from last year. Instead of continuing to go round by round, I'm simply going to finish up the endeavor in one post and free myself of the pressure so that I can move on to praising books read this year.

Ready? Let's find ourselves a winner!

I last left off with the Sweet Sixteen. Some great books have been eliminated, but there are still some amazing reads left. And some hard choices were made. I spent a lot time discussing the merits of each of the remaining challengers in the last post, so I'm going to speed through the next two rounds a bit. I'll go back to a bit more in-depth analysis of the matchups when it's down to four challengers.

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery vs. Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Winner: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver vs. Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Morris

Winner: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy vs. Aurora Rising by Jay Kristoff & Amie Kauffman

Winner: Aurora Rising by Jay Kristoff & Amie Kauffman

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison vs. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Winner: The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison

100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons vs. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

Winner: Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah vs. Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart

Winner: Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert vs. The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green vs. Becoming by Michelle Obama

Winner: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

Okay...moving on. We're down to eight competitors. Let's get it down one more round and then we'll have some discussion over the final faceoffs.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman vs. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Winner: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff vs. The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison

Winner: The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White vs. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

Winner: Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert vs. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

Winner: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Phew! Can you believe it?! We started with 116 books and now it's down to FOUR! The creme de la creme everyone!!

I have to admit, all of these picks are fabulous. Four 5-star reads and all magnificent. Two dystopian sci-fi reads, one fantasy, and one classic. One adult book, two YA reads, and a middle grade. Not a bad little spread and probably fairly representative of my reading for the year. I took a hard sway to the fantasy and sci-fi genres in 2019 with a few historical fiction and contemporary reads sprinkled in. Middle grades made a huge surge thanks to my participation in November's Believathon, hosted by Gavin over at How to Train Your Gavin. (Side note: I'll be participating in his mini-readathon for middle grades in May.) I expected one of these books to definitely make it to the finals and had high inklings for two others. I will admit that Charlotte's Web was a bit of a surprise. I loved it, but really didn't even think to consider it for a contender.

Shall we proceed? I know who the winner is and I'm itching to share!!

Left Bracket Finalists

Scythe by Neal Shusterman vs. The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison

And so it comes to this...the two dystopians are facing off against one another. Such different books, but both so good in their own way. Both books are written by authors I'd never read before and now both of them have books on my TBR for this year. Both of those books are continuations of the trilogies represented by these two first series books. So coincidental.

Scythe was a book I was exposed to from social media. My reading of it was the direct result of hype. And thank goodness the hype was justified this time! I love dystopian reads, but this one is something of its own spin...a dystopian utopia if you will. Death has been conquered and so the only means of controlling the population is through the use of scythes, workers who are tasked with "gleaning" individuals whose lives have been selected to end. It's creepy and unique and so well-written. I'm told that the sequel, Thunderhead, is even better, so I'm super excited to read it later this year.

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison was one of those books I just stumbled upon. It was one of the Prime Reading offerings through Amazon when I was first beginning to read audiobooks and it. was. magnificent. I loved its creepy darkness and I enjoyed that the narrative took the protagonist through areas where I've lived. There was something extra fascinating about that, though I don't know why...just another way to connect with the story I suppose. The protagonist herself is one of my favorites ever. She's a modern warrior and I honestly feel pieces of Jane Eyre in her (which some may find a weird comparison, but I DON'T CARE). I have purchased the entire trilogy since finishing this book and I am both excited and scared to continue on with the series. It's one of those things where you love the first book so much that you don't want the continuation to detract anything from that. Regardless, I WILL be picking it up and I'm super giddy about how much I loved this book.

It should have been a super difficult decision to pick a winner here, but one of these books just gut punched me super hard in a way that will stick with me for a very long time. It was all partially in the ways I could identify with it.

Winner: The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison

Right Bracket Finalists

Pairing books that are so different from one another is always I think the biggest challenge for selecting a winner in this endeavor. These two come from two very different genres and are primarily intended for very different audiences. They're both fantastic in their own right and stand very solidly as 5-star reads. all know the drill...only one can move on.

Charlotte's Web was technically a reread. This would ordinarily disqualify it for a slot in this challenge, but since the last time I read it was literally decades ago (I'm getting to freaking old), I let it pass. Reading it as an adult is a very different experience than reading it as a youth. It's a whole different perspective. I listened to the audio of this read by the author and that added a whole new level of endearing to the tale. It's also more impactful on me as an adult since we raise pigs for a living here on the farm. I could understand Fern's attachment to little Wilbur as I raised Pippa, a runt piglet of my own. I found the tale to be incredibly heartwarming as well as heartbreaking. I just love it so very much. It will definitely be one of the first chapter books I read with the boys.

Adorable Pippa at 2 days old back in 2016. How cute is she?!?!
The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert also happened to be an audiobook experience. Such an odd thing to have audiobooks make such a big showing in the final stages of the bracket when I just started reading them in that format last year. This one is a bit of a fairy tale fantasy based on a premise starring a book within a book. I love that type of premise and I love fairy tale retellings or fairy tale based stories. Especially the dark ones...which this certainly is. The writing was magical and intriguing the cliche line I hate to read in books...there were several times I let out a breath I hadn't known I was holding while reading it. 😉 When I finished my read, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there was a sequel being released (it was published this January) and I am still chomping at the bit to get my hands on it. I enjoy a good standalone, but there are some worlds where I just HAVE to have more. This is one of those cases.

I don't really know what to say about how I chose a winner here. Both were great reads and both are sticking with me in their own ways. I honestly think that for this choice I had to go with a gut reaction. Sometimes that's just how it is.

Winner: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

And now we've come to the meat, my friends. It is time to crown a champion for my reads of 2019. Though these books were both great ones and I have both of them in my permanent collection, this was not a difficult choice when it came down to it.

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison vs. The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

As already mentioned, both are fabulous reads, both had me gripped, and I found both to be both fantastically written and highly creative. I would happily reread either one of them right now and probably will reread them several times over the up coming years. But, there was a clear winner in my mind as soon as I saw the pairing come up in the bracket.

The question that I think decided this winner was "which book am I more likely to recommend to others?". While both would easily be ones I would offer up to other readers as good choices, there was one that clearly outshone the other in this department. I could talk about this book for a LONG time and I find that other readers who have enjoyed it as much as me tend to be my reading soulmates. That's the sign of a good beacon book.

So...what book would I recommend? Out of 116 reads in 2019, which book would I deem the One to Rule Them All? Which book can I praise over and over again with genuine love in my heart?

Behold...the winner of the 2019 Book of the Year...

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison takes the prize! If you haven't looked into this one yet, please do soon! If you enjoy dystopian reads of any kind, this one will be great for you. It's also highly feminist, very modern, quick paced, has fantastic descriptions, and just hit me hard in the gut. It is a well deserved win. Now...GO READ IT!

It was a looooooong journey to get here and I hope you found a few good books along the way. If you missed out on the whole selection of reads, you can begin the challenge here and see what other books made 5-star ratings, but didn't necessarily make it as far in the competition as they were entitled. Such is the case when you use the devil that is the randomized bracket.

I'm very pleased with the results. The Book Bracket Challenge has yielded another wonderful winner. I'll be repeating this challenge with my 2020 reads in January of next year. I already have some fantastic contenders completed and I'm excited to find more.

Until next time...HAPPY READING EVERYONE!!!

1 comment:

  1. I tried to get this from the Boise Library! but they didn't have it. I might have to Amazon it soon...


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