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March Madness Challenge

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CHALLENGE IS OVER! Scores are final

Grand Prize (read for the most points): Annapi
Predictions-only prize: Oliver.
Nominated winning book: Rachel

Congrats to all our winners! You win the following:

Grand prize: Annapi wins – $50 Amazon gift card, a prize pack of 8 prize-winning books, major bragging rights, and should they choose to accept, the opportunity to publish a guest post on our blog (this post can be a way to plug your own blog, discuss an issue of relevance to you, review a book, plug your own book, or share your challenge experience. Winners will be able to select 2 books from the 2016 Pen/Faulkner shortlist, 2 books from the 2016 International Man Booker Prize, 2 books from the 2016 Bailey’s Prize long list, and 2 books from the 2015 National Book Awards finalists.

The Lucky Guess Prize: Oliver wins a $25 Amazon gift card and 2 books of your choice off of our book bracket. Technically Annapi also won this prize but we put in place a rule that if the same person wins two categories, the lesser of the two prizes is awarded to the second place finisher.

Best Coach: Rachel wins –$15 Amazon gift card. This prize will go to the person who nominated the winning book. Several people nominated the same books. The winner will be the person who submitted their nomination first.

Step 3: Scoring. Points will be awarded in the following way:

  • Round 1: 1 point for every win (1/2 point f0r reading a losing book. ROUND 1 ONLY)
  • Round 2: 2 points for every win
  • Round 3: 3 points for every win
  • Round 4: 4 points for every win
  • Round 5: 6 points for every win
  • Round 6 (champion): 10 points for the win

 

Current Scoreboard:
Round 1 results (you will get 1 point if you read a book that won & 1/2 point for a losing book):

Books in Blue have advanced to the next round. Strikethrough books are eliminated. Time stamps for games still to be played (EST).

Between the World & Me vs. The Great Spring…
The Hot Zone vs. The Year of Magical Thinking
H is for Hawk vs. In Other Words
Henrietta Lacks vs. Dark Money
Into Thin Air vs. I See you Made an Effort
Maus: A Survivor’s Story vs. Charles Bukowski
The Warmth of Other Suns vs. The Snow Leopard
Boys in the Boat vs. Archive Fever
The Martian vs. Traitor Baru…
Hild vs. Bazaar of Bad Dreams
Station Eleven vs. New World Fairy Tales
Fifth Season vs. All the Birds
Never Let me Go vs. The Library at Mount Char 
Neverwhere vs. Uprooted
The Dispossessed vs. Ancillary Sword 
Lions of Al-Rassan vs. The Beautiful Bureaucrat 
The Noise of Time vs. What Lies Between Us
The High Mountains of Portugal vs. The Illegal
A God in Ruin vs. Heather Blazing
Room vs. Shylock is my name
Colorless Tsukuru vs. Snow 
Rebecca vs. Bone and Bread
I Capture the Castle vs. Readers of Broken Wheel..
Half of a Yellow Sun vs. Minister without Portfolio 3/18/16 @9:20pm
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena vs. Your Heart is a muscle…
We are Water vs. Did you Ever Have a Family?
All the Light We Cannot See vs. Fates and Furies

City on Fire vs. Infinite Jest
Lonesome Dove vs. Euphoria
Night Film vs. Edge of Lost
Queen of the Night vs. Turner House 
Epitaph vs. The Sellout

Round 2: Teams in Blue move on to the next round. If you predicted that they would win this round and your read the book, you’ll get 1 point from round one plus 2 points from round 2). Strikeout books are eliminated and get 0 points.
Between the World & Me vs The Year of Magical Thinking
H is for Hawk vs. Dark Money
I See you Made an Effort vs. Maus: A Survivor’s Tale
The Warmth of Other Suns vs. Boys in the Boat
The Martian vs. Hild
New World Fairy Tales vs. The Fifth Season
The Library at Mount Char vs. Neverwhere
Ancillary Sword vs. Lions of Al-Rassan
The Noise of Time vs. The Illegal
A God in Ruins vs. Room
Colorless Tsukuru vs. Bone and Bread
I Capture the Castle vs. Half of a Yellow Sun
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena vs. Did you Ever Have a Family?
Fates and Furies vs. City on Fire
Euphoria vs. Night Film
Turner House vs. The Sellout

Sweet 16 Round:
Between the World and Me vs. H is for Hawk
Maus vs. Boys in the Boat
The Martian vs. The Fifth Season
Neverwhere vs. Lions of Al-Rassan
The Noise of Time vs. A God in Ruins
Colorless Tsukuru vs. I Capture the Castle
Constellation of Vital Phenomena vs. City on Fire
Euphoria vs. Turner House

Elite 8 Round
Between the World and Me vs. Boys in the Boat
The Martian vs. Lions of Al-Rassan
The Noise of Time vs. Colorless Tsukuru
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena vs. Turner House

Final 4 Round:
Boys in the Boat vs. Lions of Al-Rassan
The Noise of Time vs. Turner House

Championship game:
Boys in the Boat vs. The Noise of Time

Final Predictions Scoreboard:
75- Annapi
72 – Oliver
71- Jen
63 – Cora
58 -Dan
57- Rachel
53 – Andrew
50  – Kate
47- Morgen
45- Karin
41 – Tracy S
41- Anita
41- Jolene
40 – John M
39 – Gwen
38- Tanya
34 – Jan H
30 – Book Worm
28- Becca
22 – Andrea J
17 – Katrina

Reader board (books must be read and review posted to qualify):
Annapi –  66 points (Boys in the Boat {16}, Constellation {6}, Maus (3), Lions of Al-Rassan (6), Between the World and Me (3), The Martian (6), Colorless Tsukuru (6), Neverwhere (3), The fifth season (3), Noise of Time (10), H is for Hawk (3), I capture the castle (1). Final = 66
Kate – 44.5 points (Rebecca {.5}, Night Film {1}, Neverwhere {1, 2}, Constellation {1, 2, 3}, Boys in the Boat {1, 2, 3}, Turner House {1}, All the Light We Cannot See (0.5), The Year of Magical Thinking {1}, We are Water {.5},  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks {.5}, Between the World and Me {1, 2, 3}, Lions of Al-Rassan (3), Rebecca (.5), Epitaph (.5), Colorless (1), H is for Hawk (3), Station Eleven (.5), The Martian (3), The Fifth Season (3), High Mountains, (.5), God in Ruins (3), Into Thin Air (.5). Final score  = 44.5
Tracy – 25 points (New World Fairy Tales {1}Neverwhere {1,2}, Constellation{1,2, 3}, The Sellout{1}, Maus {1, 2}, Fates and Furies {1}, The Martian {1}, Turner House {1, 2, 3}, Colorless Tsukuri Tazaki {1, 2}). Final score = 25
Jan – 20 points 
(Charles Bukowski {.5}, Archive Fever {.5}, The Martian {1, 2, 3}, Never Let me Go {.5}, Constellation (6), Shylock (.5), Half of a Yellow Sun (1), Did you Ever Have a Family (1), Capture the Castle (1), God in Ruins (3). Final Score = 20
Andrew – 19 points (picked Euphoria {1,2} Between the World and Me {1, 2, 3}). Lions of Al-Rassan (10 )Final Score = 19
Rachel – 9 points (Neverwhere {1, 2}, Colorless (3), Fifth Season (3). Final score = 9

Oliver – 6 points (Between the World and Me {1, 2, 3}, Final Score = 6
JoLene – 5.5 points. H is for Hawk ( 0.5), The Fifth Season (1), I Capture the Castle (3), The Sellout (.5), Boys in the Boat (.5). Final points: 5.5
Andrea – 4 points (Euphoria {1,2}, Room {1}). Final Score = 4
Katrina -4 point 
(The Bazaar of Bad Dreams {1}), Neverwhere (3). Final Score =4
Anita – 3 points (H is for Hawk {1,2}). Final Score = 3
Book Worm – 3 points (The Noise of Time picked only for rounds 1 & 2 {1, 2})
Jen – 1 point (The Library at Mount Char – picked only for round 1 {1})

134 Comments Post a comment
  1. Add your book reviews here on this page

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    March 18, 2016
    • The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown – 4 stars

      Fascinating, very interesting, and holds your attention even if you know nothing of, or have no interest in, rowing – this is all about the rowing team that won gold in the 1936 Olympics. It is centered on Joe Rantz, whose story is the most fleshed out. The book opens with the author interviewing Joe, who tells him to tell the story of all the “boys in the boat”, and not just him. Unhappily, the other boys’ backgrounds get rather short shrift, though this may be due to lack of material on the author’s part. His main source, after all, was Joe himself and his daughter, and by the time this book was started, if I read it right, there were only two of them left alive, Joe and Roger Morris.

      I thoroughly enjoyed this. Though I had no knowledge, experience, or interest in rowing, the story captivated me, and the details of the boys’ history and the long journey to the Olympics, as well as the philosophy of those dedicated to the sport, kept me totally absorbed. The final Olympic race itself was an absolute nail-biter, filled with tension even though the reader already knows the outcome.

      Besides the lack of spotlight on the other members of the team, my only other beef with this book is the overdone dramatic foreshadowing of the war to come that heavily laced the chapters in Berlin. Not so much about the war per se, but the people who were to lose their lives. I understand the desire for drama, as well as the need to pay homage, but I felt it was a lot of extra baggage to include for emotional manipulation, especially as they were people who had no connection whatsoever to the protagonists. If it had been toned down a bit I would not have minded so much.

      But those are very minor flaws in what I feel is a very good book, and one I definitely recommend.

      Liked by 1 person

      April 3, 2016
    • A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
      3.5 stars (round up to 4)

      I know this book is immensely popular and has been given 5 stars by most people here. I’ve been meaning to pick it up for some time but never quite felt in the mood for it, only doing so finally for Jen’s March Madness game.

      Maybe my instincts were right? I just could not get into this book. This is the story of several people in a village in Chechnya in a time of war, and it goes back and forth in points of view as well as time. I found this pretty confusing and disorienting, and was one of the main reasons I struggled with it. Normally I don’t mind this kind of back-and-forthing as it eventually gets tied together in the end, and it does. However, I struggled to like the characters as well. I could not relate to any of them, and only the impetus of the game kept me reading. And though it improved for me as the scattered threads were slowly knitted together, the final tapestry at the end still did not make up for the struggle I went through to get there.

      I could, however, see why this is so popular, and so lauded. The writing was almost lyrical at times, and the bleak view it gives the reader into war in a country most of us are far removed from feel all too real in its desolation. Maybe the depressing atmosphere of it was another reason I could not like it very much despite its literary merits. I’m still unsure whether I would round up or down from my 3.5 rating, but if pressed I will give it the benefit of the awards it has won and round up to 4.

      Like

      April 14, 2016
      • Isn’t it interesting how books can produce different reactions in people? I just finished this last night, staying up far too late so that I could turn the final page. I loved all the characters, even the ones we’re supposed not to, and thought Marra had made them very real. I also thought he managed the bleakness of the immediate situation well, through humour and glimmers of hope for the future. Most of all, I thought he succeeded in getting across the resilience people are capable of.

        Liked by 1 person

        April 24, 2016
    • Can I substitute either River of Stars or Tigana for Lions of Al-Rassan (which I’ve already read)?

      Liked by 1 person

      April 14, 2016
    • Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman – 4 stars

      I actually read books 1 & 2 separately, but I’m going to be lazy and put my review in the compiled edition since I’m reviewing the whole thing.

      I was surprised at the creative idea of this graphic novel – certainly a non-fiction story with such a serious subject (the experiences of the author’s father as a Jew in World War II) is not the first thing one thinks of for the medium, and to have it drawn with anthropomorphic animal characters is very interesting. It does tone down the seriousness without taking away from the horrors of the story, and it’s a good way to show the younger generation the grim realities of Auschwitz without traumatizing them too much.

      I have to say, the father does not come across as the most likeable of men, but then again neither does the author. But I admire their courage, including what it took them to bare their human flaws to the world in such a way. Highly recommended.

      Liked by 1 person

      April 26, 2016
    • Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
      (substituted for The Lions of Al-Rassan by the same author)
      4 stars

      In the battle between two wizards, the land of Tigana has been cursed so that no one can even remember or hear its name except those born to it. But there is a small band of people struggling to free themselves from the yoke of tyranny.

      What an epic tale! Kay has a knack for weaving a convoluted tapestry that slowly unwinds to reveal its design in the most unexpected ways. His endings are never the easy cliche happily-ever-afters of traditional fantasy either. Because of their scope and intricacy, his books are not quick to read, but they grab the reader and keep you absorbed and invested in the story and characters. Excellent fare!

      Liked by 1 person

      May 6, 2016
    • Having a hard time choosing a substitute for The Martian, since Andy Weir has not written anything else. How about Cinder by Marissa Meyer? I was planning to read that for the May monthly tag, so two birds with one stone?

      Like

      May 7, 2016
    • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
      4 stars

      This is a series of essays written as a letter to his son, about racism and the author’s reality of living as a black man. Very thought-provoking but also very bitter and depressing, with very little hopefulness, and it left me disquieted. I’m glad I was pushed to read this for this game, but I’m also glad it was only 163 pages, or I might have passed on it. Reading it, I felt like an outsider looking in through the window at a life I have no knowledge of, although as an Asian I have experienced the odd occasion of being a target of racism. Some of the negative comments on Amazon (many by black people) were on point – about some factual errors on history, for example. But a lot of them were are mean-spirited as they accuse the author of being hateful. What is undeniable is that this spurs discourse and thought, which is sorely needed in this world if we are to progress beyond the divisiveness we currently live in.

      Liked by 1 person

      May 9, 2016
    • Cinder by Marissa Meyer
      (substituted for The Martian by Andy Weir)
      4 stars

      Thanks to whoever on PBT reviewed this last, because that review was what induced me to read this, and I quite enjoyed it! A loose retelling of the Cinderella tale set in future sci-fi world, this story really has nothing to do with the original fairy tale – it is simply a good story with a very clever hook to get readers interested and invested. Oh, the fairy tale elements are all there – Cinder the cyborg, the stepsisters and stepmother, the prince, the “pumpkin” coach, the shoe (prosthetic leg actually), but those are only a loose structure on which this intriguing story is based. It’s YA, meaning there’s nothing intricate here, but if you’re not hung up on elaborate world building details and only want a solid plot, there’s enough here to bite down on. I’m on book 2 now, and it’s holding up so far!

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      May 11, 2016
    • Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
      3.5 stars

      What a strange book. We are introduced to the protagonist in his high school days, where he forms a strong friendship with 4 other classmates. Then we follow the introspective thoughts of Tsukuru Tazaki as he goes through a major upheaval in his life, and his struggle to make sense of everything.

      It’s a strangely compelling story that is barely a story. There is a sense throughout the book of waiting for something to happen, which does and yet at the end doesn’t, and leaves me as the reader unsatisfied, yet the ending felt somehow appropriate. That made it difficult for me to rate, as I gave it 3.5 stars, struggled with whether I would round up or down. Up is my final decision, because the book was easy to read and somehow kept me mesmerized even as I wondered at its strangeness and the almost aimless wandering path it took.

      This is my first Murakami, and if his other stuff is like this, I will have to seriously be in the mood to pick up another one. I did start 1Q84 some time ago but was distracted from it, and this does not make me any more inclined to pick it back up.

      Liked by 1 person

      May 21, 2016
    • I’ve already read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. May I substitute Stardust?

      Liked by 1 person

      May 21, 2016
    • Stardust by Neil Gaiman (substitute for Neverwhere)
      4 stars

      Very traditional fantasy with a Gaiman flair, along the lines of George MacDonald or Lord Dunsany. It was a little slow at first, but once it got going it trotted along quite nicely. I loved the twists and turns and how all the stray threads are woven together in the end.

      We have a boy who is half fae who lives in the town of Wall in England, where there is a literal wall that separates the human world from the world of Faerie. The citizens of Wall guard the gate, preventing anyone from going into Faerie, except when the faerie market comes to town. Tristan Thorn falls in love with Victoria Forester, and promises to bring her back a fallen star. So he sets off into Faerie on his adventure.

      Most of Gaiman’s stuff is not really to my taste, but I enjoyed this one.

      Liked by 1 person

      May 25, 2016
    • The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
      4 stars

      Wow. Jemisin’s books are very difficult to review because they’re hard to summarize. Her fantasy is so imaginative and unlike anything I’ve read before. And this is a dystopian future unlike any other, featuring an earth unrecognizable from all the seismic, volcanic and other cataclysms that have occurred in its long future history.

      The story is told originally from three different points of view, and goes back and forth among them until they finally converge into a single point in a twist that came out of left field, quite unexpectedly. Some humans have developed senses that feel the rhythms of the earth and have the ability to affect and change them. There are also alien beings called stone-eaters that take on the appearance of humans, although so far their mysterious purpose has not yet been revealed in this first book.

      I am eagerly looking forward to book 2, and rather dismayed that I have to wait until its release on Aug 16.

      Liked by 1 person

      June 2, 2016
    • The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes
      3.5 stars

      This is a fictional biography of the composer Shostakovich, told mostly from his point of view. I’m having difficulty rating it because this type of book is just not my cup of tea – it’s morose, depressing (life in Russia in Stalin’s time), yet oddly enough, compelling in its own way. It went smoother and faster than I expected it to. The reader can’t help but wonder how close the author got to the actual emotions and thoughts of Shostakovich himself, and no one will ever really know.

      So I’m giving it 3.5 stars, rounding up to 4. I’m glad I was pressed to read it for this game, as it’s not a book I would ever pick up on my own.

      Liked by 1 person

      June 6, 2016
    • Jen, by my calculations I’ve reached 75 points already with these reviews, yet from my spreadsheet I think there are still 3 books I can read for 3 points each, and 8 books for 1 point each. Now I’m questioning whether I’ve calculated it right… could you let me know? Thanks

      Liked by 1 person

      June 6, 2016
      • Yes. I will post everyone’s updated score tonight. I think you are correct but don’t have my spreadsheet in front of me

        Like

        June 6, 2016
      • I’m working on calculating all the scores. Hopefully will have an answer to your question tomorrow morning. Sorry, taking me a while to tabulate everything

        Like

        June 6, 2016
      • I’m still calculating all the scores but I did yours first since you asked. I currently have you at 60 points for all the books you’ve read. You only get points for however far you picked a book to advance and how far they actually did advance. So you should have the following: Boys in the boat (1, 2, 3, 4, 6). You picked them to win 5 rounds so you get the points for all 5 rounds you picked them to advance. Then you failed to pick them for the final round so even though they won, you don’t get the points for that because you picked Constellation (which was knocked out earlier)
        Constellation of Vital Phenomena (1, 2, 3). You picked them to win the whole thing but it only one the first three rounds so you only get points for those rounds.
        Maus (1, 2)
        Lions of Al-Rassan (1, 2, 3)
        Between the World and Me (1, 2)
        The Martian (1, 2, 3)
        Colorless Tsukuru (1, 2, 3)
        Neverwhere (1, 2)
        The fifth season (1, 2)
        Noise of Time (1, 2, 3, 4)

        Like

        June 6, 2016
    • Ok, based on the numbers you posted here for the 10 books, I think it adds up to 62? At least on my spreadsheet after I changed the numbers to match yours, it does…

      Liked by 1 person

      June 7, 2016
      • Looks like it. I will be imputing it all into a spreadsheet to calculate the scores for everyone correctly. But that sounds correct

        Like

        June 7, 2016
    • H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald
      4 stars

      A fascinating memoir. Stricken by grief after her father’s death, Helen seeks solitude and immerses herself in the task of training one of the fiercest avian predators, the goshawk. Side by side with Helen’s journey she takes us into the same raptor training and self-seeking of the author T.H. White, who also wrote a book on the same subject, called The Goshawk. Helen’s psychoanalysis of White goes hand in hand with that of her own self, and we descend into their mental chaos that teeters on the brink of madness.

      A fascinating read, sometimes it felt a bit long, but I am glad I was pushed to read this for this game as it’s not the kind of thing I would pick up on my own.

      Liked by 1 person

      June 13, 2016
    • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
      4 stars

      This is a lovely story told in journal format from the point of view of a young girl. Their family – Cassandra the narrator, her older sister Rose, their eccentric and reclusive father, their stepmother, and the son of their former housekeeper, Stephen – live in genteel poverty in a run-down castle in England. They are desperately trying to find ways to make money, since their father, a famous author, seems unable to write anymore. When the castle’s owner dies and his distant heirs, Simon and Neil Cotton, come from America to inspect their inheritance, Rose is determined to snare Simon in marriage to escape poverty.

      I was a bit taken aback at first at the absolute uselessness of the girls, who can’t seem to do anything useful. However I found out this novel was written in 1948, so it makes more sense, though I still think a girl of 17 even in the late 1940s should be able to learn how to do a bit of gardening when that is their main source of food.

      The story started out a bit slowly, but once the pace picked up and the characters developed a little, I felt a little more sympathy for Cassandra and became quite invested in her character. Rose was mostly annoying, although understandable, and their father even more so. I loved their pet dog and cat, Heloise and Abelard. The ending, which was obviously meant to be a bit of a twist, was one that I easily saw coming although I wasn’t sure how the author would bring it about. Very delightful story.

      Liked by 1 person

      June 17, 2016
    • I think I am done – by my count I have a total of 66 points with the addition of the last 2 reviews, and the rest of the books I can read will only give me 1 point or half a point.

      Liked by 1 person

      June 25, 2016
      • I will be tallying all the points at the end of June.

        Like

        June 25, 2016
  2. Tracy S #

    New World Fairy Tales by Cassandra Parkin
    3 stars
    These retold, modernized fairy tales were clever and well written. Even though this could be nitpicking, I found it jarring that the author set them in the US, but gave characters voices and used terms from the UK. Otherwise, it was an enjoyable read.

    Liked by 1 person

    March 18, 2016
    • And you’re on the reader board!

      Like

      March 18, 2016
    • Tracy S #

      Since I’ve read (and enjoyed) A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, could I switch that book to The Tsar of Love and Techno?

      Liked by 1 person

      March 18, 2016
    • Tracy S #

      Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
      4.5 stars
      Richard saves a woman’s life, and is drawn into a different level of London, with very real dangers. Every book I’ve read by Neil Gaiman has been a treat, and each is deceptively complex. This was a fun read, that I find myself thinking about several days after I’m done.

      Liked by 1 person

      March 18, 2016
      • Tracy S #

        With the complete inconsistencies this tournament has displayed, I decided to wait until I was sure A&M won before I posted…🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        March 18, 2016
      • my bracket is having a terrible day. Neverwhere is a great book though 🙂

        Like

        March 18, 2016
    • Tracy S #

      The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra
      To replace A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
      5 stars
      This book of related stories was more like a novel, and it was wonderful!

      Liked by 1 person

      March 20, 2016
      • I’m so glad you liked it. I loved it!

        Like

        March 20, 2016
    • Tracy S. #

      The Sellout by Paul Beatty
      5 stars
      The protagonist of this book, last name Me, is introduced at his Supreme Court Hearing. He has introduced segregation in order to reincorporate his hometown of DIckens, which he describes as THE bad part of LA. And he “owns” a slave. Don’t ask.
      The author clearly chose every word very carefully, and while I laughed so hard I cried, there was a very serious point made, and I will be thinking about it for a very long time. I find it very hard to tell much more- not for the spoilers, but because this was so non-PC that Donald Trump would blush. There is a lot of Pulitzer buzz about this book, with good reason. It’s terrific, and should be a must read, as long as it’s taken for the satire that it is.

      Liked by 1 person

      March 24, 2016
      • Great review! I am hoping to read it his month!

        Like

        March 24, 2016
    • Tracy S #

      Maus by Art Spiegelman
      3.5 stars
      The author immortalizes his parents’ experiences in Auschwitz and Birkenau via graphic form.
      The Jews are Mice, Germans are Cats, non-Jewish prisoners are Pigs or Frogs, and Americans are Dogs- all with Animal heads and Human bodies. The story was well done and respectful to those who suffered, and the artwork simple but effective. I think this is an excellent intro to the Holocaust for early to mid-teen readers- as an adult, I felt it was pretty general.

      Liked by 1 person

      March 24, 2016
    • Tracy S. #

      Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
      4 stars
      This is a story of a marriage- Lancelot (Lotto) and Mathilde love each other beyond measure, but they are two very flawed people. Lotto is a narcissistic jerk, and Mathilde is very good at lying through omission. It is told in two parts- his and hers.
      The storytelling has been called pretentious- and it is, almost to the point of nausea, especially in Lotto’s section. But I found it enhances the story- after all, how else can the author convey the smug pretentious characters? And almost all the characters have these qualities. There were tons of Shakespearian and mythological references, which kept me on my toes. I enjoyed this book- the writing was fun and engaged all the emotions. It also made me appreciate my husband all the more- I’m lucky that I don’t have a Lotto!

      Liked by 1 person

      March 31, 2016
    • Tracy S #

      The Martian by Andy Weir
      2.5 stars
      A man is stranded on Mars accidentally, and this is the story of his survival. It was a bit tech-heavy for me- a good story, but not my thing.

      Liked by 2 people

      April 2, 2016
      • As you said below, I’m glad I’m not alone in not getting the fuss about this book! It needed a good old polish to help its transition from serialised blog story to novel, I think. An interesting premise but, despite loads of jeopardy being shovelled in, lacking in real tension.

        Liked by 1 person

        April 16, 2016
    • Tracy S #

      The Turner House by Angela Flourney
      3.5 stars
      Set in Detroit, 2008, this is the story of a family of 13 children who are coping with the economic crisis, their own problems, and caring for their aging mother. The story was very good, well-paced, and had me invested in the characters. There are flashbacks to 1944, tying in the lives of the parents, and the memories of the kids are vivid and compelling. Unfortunately, the ending was too abrupt. I don’t need a neat bow at the end of a book, but this one called for, if nothing else, a little closure, or at least some loose ends addressed. It is on one of the predictions list as a possibility for the Pulitzer- it’s good, but not as good as some of the others I’ve read on that list.

      Liked by 1 person

      April 13, 2016
    • Tracy S #

      Colorless Tsukuri Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
      4.5 stars
      One of my favorite authors, Murakami has one big downfall: it’s hard to give a summary of many of his books without spoilers. Here goes: Tsukuri is one member of an inseparable group of five high school students. His sophomore year of college, he comes home for a visit, and he’s been cut off with no explanation. Sixteen years later, he sets out to find out why. This book is more realistic than the magical books I love so much, but it’s still fantastically written. I could close my eyes and see the scenes, imagine the people, down to their expressions when they listen. There’s so much to love about this book, but, spoilers. It would be a good book for discussion.

      Liked by 1 person

      April 17, 2016
    • Tracy S #

      I have read Half of a Yellow Sun (and loved it). Could I sub in one of Adichie’s other novels- haven’t decided which one yet..?

      Liked by 1 person

      April 17, 2016
      • Yes but try to stick as close to same pie numbers as possible

        Like

        April 17, 2016
  3. Andrew Prazar #

    Euphoria by Lily King
    The story of three anthropologist in Papua New Guinea during the 1930s caught in a (sort of) love triangle. The character of Fen could have used a little more development, but overall a well-crafted story with engaging and intriguing characters. The author deftly touches on themes of love, lust, loneliness, loss (how’s that for alliteration), and Western civilization’s invasion of Eastern cultures. All in all, a very readable and enjoyable book.

    Liked by 1 person

    March 18, 2016
  4. JoLene #

    Hey Jen, I didn’t see my name on the scoreboard, but I sent it in before the deadline.

    Liked by 1 person

    March 19, 2016
    • Oh sorry. Let me check why I don’t have you in the spreadsheet. You are right. I will update later this morning.

      Like

      March 19, 2016
      • JoLene #

        Thanks — question, I just finished Tsar of Love and Techno in February, can I use it for Constellation of Vital Phenomena?

        Like

        March 19, 2016
      • Unfortunately it has to be a book you started after submitting your bracket. If you’ve read both his books, you can pick a book by a comparable author of about the same length. Otherwise it gives you an advantage over others.

        Like

        March 19, 2016
    • Anyone else missing? Let me know

      Like

      March 19, 2016
  5. Anita #

    H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald

    If I were a book critic for the New York Times or some other esteemed journal, I’d be forced to give this book a five star rating. Macdonald’s prose is exquisite and evocative and very poetic. She managed to blend a memoir, a biography, and a tribute to nature all in one book. So, from that standpoint, it has a certain brilliance about it.

    Helen’s father, who she loved dearly, dies, and in the wake of his death, she obtains and trains a goshawk – – a large, more wild breed of hawk not often chosen by falconers. The book tells the story of her mourning, her experiences with the hawk (named Mabel), and oddly a biography of T.H. White, author of The Once and Future King and The Goshawk.

    Because Macdonald’s prose is so blindingly beautiful and descriptive, I feel as though somehow the fact is lost that her memoir really isn’t all that revealing. I feel like she held back. We get glimpses of her love for her father, her feelings of loss. The book references T.H. White’s story very often, and to me, that also felt very arms length. The highlight for me is how she portrays her relationship with Mabel, and I do like that she doesn’t anthropomorphize the hawk in the process. I honestly would have enjoyed the book more if she had hung the entire book on the process of training this hawk, but I can see why she didn’t – – there really isn’t enough there.

    I give the author a lot of credit for her creativity and her truly illustrious writing, and if I were rating the book solely on the prose, it would be five star. But I just wasn’t emotionally engaged by this one and found MacDonald’s mastery of suspense to be a bit lacking. (less)

    Liked by 1 person

    March 19, 2016
    • That does not bode well for me

      Like

      March 19, 2016
    • Hmm, what I remember most about this book was being seriously creeped out by the passages about White. I think she may have ruined The Once and Future King for me. I know what you mean about her not revealing much about herself. I’ve lost both parents, I know about the grief and the depression. Hers seemed extremely sharp and dramatic without her really opening up about the relationship. Unresolved conflicts, a particular role that he provided for her that she can’t cope without, an unusual closeness, just what has her in such a tight tailspin? I’m going to be finding a copy of her Falcon as I backed Maryland in the first two rounds as well.

      Liked by 1 person

      March 22, 2016
  6. Euphoria by Lilly King

    Three anthropoligists met in New Guinea in the 1930’s, Nell and her husband Fen met Andrew while looking for a new tribe to study. Andrew lead them to the female dominated Tam tribe. The story develops between jealousy, a love triangle, dangers, selfishness, etc.; it is based in life events of the anthropologist Margaret Mead.

    I’ve been meaning to read this one for a couple of years, now that I have I regret I haven’t read it before, for I enjoy it very much. I will be looking for more by the same author.

    Liked by 1 person

    March 19, 2016
    • Room by Emma Donaghue
      4 stars

      The story of a woman who was kidnapped seven years ago and gave birth to a child while in captivity. The story is told by the five year old point of view, whose only world is the room he and his Ma live in and the things in it. The mother used a lot of creativity to teach the everyday basics to Jack, to protect him from their kidnapper and to make this four-wall-world the best she could. This story make me think about the little daily things one’s take for granted and how important they are for our routine.

      Liked by 1 person

      April 17, 2016
  7. Kate’s March Madness Books.

    I’m just going to post my reviews as replies to this comment to keep things tidy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    March 22, 2016
    • The Birds by Daphne du Maurier (only 1/2 point, boo!)

      ★★★★

      The novella that inspired Hitchcock’s hit was set in the post World War II English countryside and has more of a cold-war paranoia feel and less sexual undertones. Though the female lead, in this case wife rather than mysterious leggy Hitchcock trademark blonde, is still an outsider in the community we don’t get the feeling that she is somehow to blame for the mayhem. The vibe is similar to the apocalyptic stories where previously polite neighbors will cheerfully murder one another for that last seat in the bomb shelter. I found the ending creepier and far preferable to the movie ending. 

      Liked by 1 person

      March 22, 2016
    • Night Film by Marisha Pessl (1 pt)
      ★★1/2

      This novel started out strongly. I was intrigued by the notion of the underground night films and the network of obsessive fans. If you’d asked me to rate it a quarter of the way through I’d have a given it a strong four stars but unfortunately for me the promise never panned out. The characters never seemed to develop, the prose began to annoy, and I only kept reading because of the challenge and I thought that I really wanted to know how the mystery panned out. When the somewhat ambiguous ending finally rolled around I discovered that I actually didn’t care enough to waste any thought on attempting to interpret the ending.

      Liked by 1 person

      March 22, 2016
    • Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman (points?? fingers crossed)
      ★★★
      I am a fan of Neil Gaiman’s conventional novels. This is my second attempt at his graphic work and I have to say that it is still a struggle. I’m not a devotee of graphic novels in general but you would think that if I’d enjoy any of them I would like an iconic work by a favorite author. Nope. I still feel like I’m decoding a work in a foreign language. I just don’t get it. I love art. I love literature. I just don’t seem to like the combination of the two all that often.

      Liked by 1 person

      March 22, 2016
    • The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra (for Constellation Points = 6 (1,2,3)
      ★★★★★
      Interlocking short stories that actually form a very coherent and powerful novel. I was grabbed from the opening story of a 1930s Soviet artist who survives as an official art censor, airbrushing Stalin’s enemies out of photographs and paintings, until of course he was denounced himself. Marra moves forward in time, mostly with the tales of various members of the decidedly downtrodden proletariat in a toxic Siberian mining community. Sometimes its a little confusing to follow the threads of narrative. I spent most of the book wondering how I missed the murder of Lydia, until it was revealed that he hadn’t told her story yet. The characters are often rather unsympathetic but together they form a beautiful tapestry.

      Liked by 1 person

      April 4, 2016
    • The Indifferent Stars Above by Daniel John Brown for The Boys in the Boat Points = 6 (1,2,3)
      ★★★★
      If Daniel James Brown’s more recent book The Boys in the Boat is an inspiring feel-good tome this earlier effort is in a word, not. When the tale begins young Sarah Graves’s biggest worry is that her fiancé Jay will not want to pull up stakes in Illinois and head to the still foreign land of California as Sarah’s parents and all of her younger siblings are doing. When Jay decides to join that fateful 1846 migration it is the beginning of an unbelievable litany of hardship and loss for Sarah. Brown’s book is carefully researched and he never sensationalizes the horror but it is still liable to give you nightmares. While there were plenty of sympathetic figures in this story they were sadly outnumbered by the scoundrels who seldom seemed to be the ones who paid for their chicanery.

      Liked by 1 person

      April 4, 2016
    • The Turner House by Angela Flournoy Points = 1
      ★★★★
      As the widowed Viola Turner nears the end of her life is becomes apparent that she is no longer capable of living alone in the Detroit home where she raised her thirteen children. She moves in to the home of her eldest son Cha-cha as he and his younger siblings attempt to come to terms with her coming demise and try to figure out what to do with the family house, a $4,000 value burdened with $40,000 in debt. Many of the sibs, including Cha-cha are trying to work through their own individual crises. As one of six kids who went through a similar situation in my own family this one hit a little too close to home to be comfortable.

      Liked by 1 person

      April 4, 2016
    • The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr for All the Light We Cannot See Points = 1/2
      ★★★★
      Nice collection of short stories with settings around the globe. The major recurring activity, with its attendant mood and rhythm, is fly-fishing but a little magical realism creeps in as well. I loved the title story about a blind marine biologist trying to live out his retirement on the Kenya coast despite the intrusions of accidental fame because of Doerr’s beautiful descriptions of the reef life.

      Liked by 1 person

      April 4, 2016
    • The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion Points = 1
      ★★★★1/2
      Didion’s memoir is a wrenching account of the loss of her husband of 40 plus years from a sudden massive coronary while their only child was comatose and near death in a nearby hospital. She recounts how she dealt with the stress and grief through “magical thinking” a syndrome that we all indulge in even if we fail to identify it as such. As she describes it, she doesn’t want to give his last pair of shoes to the Goodwill because he will need shoes when he comes back. Anyone who has ever lost a loved one will find plenty to identify with in this work.

      Liked by 1 person

      April 4, 2016
    • We Are Water by Wally Lamb
      Points = 1/2
      ★★★★
      The wedding of avant-garde artist Annie Oh is fast approaching and almost all of the principals, Annie, her ex and her three children are seething with unresolved issues. By switching narrators and delving into multiple points of views Lamb digs back into the deep past to tell the story of the traumas that lie at the base of a dysfunctional American family. What I admire most in this novel is how Lamb manages to develop complex characters and engage the reader’s empathy. Characters that I despised at one point I was quite fond of by the end. Although he doesn’t quite manage to get you on the side of the pedophile, and I imagine that he wasn’t really trying to, he does give you more understanding of how such perversions could develop.

      Like

      April 15, 2016
    • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
      Points = 1/2
      ★★★★
      Almost as interesting the second time around as the first. Possibly because many of the issues raised in this book such as ownership of medical samples, informed consent, commercialization of tissue cultures are still in as much dispute now as when this was first published in 2009, which is when I think I read it before. The personal tale of Henrietta Lacks and the struggles of the ensuing generations of her family is still heartbreaking.

      Liked by 1 person

      April 15, 2016
    • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
      Points = 6
      ★★★★★
      Powerful extended essay framed as the author’s words of counsel to his teenage son on the perils of growing up and living as a young black man in America.
      “But you are a black boy, and you must be responsible for your body in a way that other boys cannot know. Indeed, you must be responsible for the worst actions of other black bodies, which, somehow will always be assigned to you. And you must be responsible for the bodies of the powerful – the policeman who cracks you with a nightstick will quickly find his excuse in your furtive movements.”
      His conclusion is not exactly what you would call hopeful for society. I’ve never thought about climate change as retribution for the excesses of global capitalism, imperialism etc… but I can’t help but agree that “the Dream” is a corrupt model.

      Liked by 1 person

      April 15, 2016
      • I really have to read this. Will update scores this weekend!

        Like

        April 15, 2016
    • Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell
      Points = 1/2
      ★★★1/2
      Probably a great book if you are a fan of the genre. I bought this cheaply as a Kindle daily deal ages ago because of rave reviews by people I trust but have resisted reading it as the central topic, the notorious shootout in Tombstone, Arizona, is not one that I felt I would enjoy. And I was right. Very well written but exactly as much senseless violence, brutality, and just tragic waste of life as I imagined it would have. I just feel sad for everyone.

      Like

      April 30, 2016
    • Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
      Points = 1 substitute for Colorless…
      ★★★★1/2

      Alternating chapters explore parallel story lines, each with an unnamed male narrator. One set in a magical realism tinted contemporary Tokyo follows the travails of a surgically altered data processor who finds himself pursued by everyone from shady crime syndicates, a mad-scientist and his pretty in pink granddaughter, to stinky subterranean fishlike INKlings who are out to literally devour him. At least half of this narrative takes place in a fanciful network of tunnels and caverns below the city, complete with enormous flash floods and pits full of leeches. Oh, and there is also a mysterious unicorn skull bouncing around. The other story takes place in a wintry other-worldly walled Town, populated by bland mindless people without shadows. Our newly arrived narrator’s shadow has been severed from him but still survives. This Town is also populated by a herd of unicorns that enters the city every day and leaves every night. When the unicorns die their heads are removed and skulls preserved to have their dreams read in the library.

      This is every bit as confusing as it sounds for the first several chapters before it begins to tie together. I didn’t think that I found it very entertaining yet every single time I fell asleep over the course of the days that I read this book I would have Murakami infused dreams. Evidently my subconscious was far more engaged than my conscious mind. Most of the typical Murakami touches are present: lovingly described dinner preparations and restaurant menus, an eclectic “soundtrack” featuring jazz, classical and Dylan, and of course the weirdly awkward sexual banter. I’m still not sure what I think about the ending but maybe I’ll resolve that with tonight’s dreams.

      Like

      April 30, 2016
    • Falcon by Helen MacDonald
      Points = 3 (1, 2 substitute for H is for Hawk)
      ★★★1/2

      This earlier effort from MacDonald is part of the British publishing house Reaktion Books’ Animal series, where each title is an in depth look at the human species’ relationship with an individual animal species. The content is 90% social history and 10% natural history. She begins by examining the long tradition of falconry across many cultures, moves through the complex imagery and identification of the military with birds of prey, the disastrous effects of pesticides and persecution on global populations and finishes up with the phenomena of urban falcons.

      I want to give a shout out to the awesomeness of librarians. This is a pretty obscure title. I saw it listed in my work library’s collection at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. According to the data base it was theoretically sitting on the shelf of a locked satellite library, five floors above the main branch where I was at the moment. “No problem” said the librarian I was talking to, “next time we are up there we’ll find it and pop it in the mail to you.” Fast forward ten days to me returning to my desk after a short vacation to find my co-workers intrigued about a package from Prague on my desk. Puzzled I open it up to find Falcon, property of Smithsonian Institution Libraries. So I guess it wasn’t up on the sixth floor after all!

      Like

      April 30, 2016
    • The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel
      Substitute for Station Eleven
      Points = 0.5
      ★★★1/2

      If you don’t immediately deal with a dripping shower head are you just being a normal procrastinator or is it a sign that you life is spiraling out of control? What starts with sloppy housekeeping progresses to cutting corners at work, causing Gavin Sasaki’s career to implode, leading to eviction, and so it goes… When Gavin flees the ashes of his Manhattan journalism career to crash in his sister’s South Florida bungalow he finds himself delving into the mystery of what became of his teen age girlfriend, who disappeared on the night of the last performance of his high school jazz group, the Lola Quartet.

      ** Spoiler Alert ** This started out fairly promising but I think the author relied a little too heavily on coincidence. I can buy that the estranged sweethearts could spend years near one another in New York and never know it. However, it was a little much that Gavin spent years watching the boy friend perform, never knowing the connection, and further that he was drawn back to Florida to interview the man who happens to be the sponsor of another band mate. If the city in Florida is as overgrown and sprawling as Gavin says it is how come we keep tripping over the same characters over and over again?

      Like

      June 24, 2016
    • The Martian by Andy Weir
      Points = 3 (1, 2)
      ★★★★★
      A quick fun read, especially if you don’t let yourself get bogged down in the details of chemistry and physics. Yada, yada, yada, too much oxygen/nitrogen, spark, BOOM! Even though you could bet the potato farm that he’ll get home safely it’s still a satisfying ride.

      Like

      June 24, 2016
    • Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin
      Points = 3 (1,2)
      ★★★★
      This opening volume of a sweeping fantasy epic begins with a heart-breaking scene. A mother, Essun, returns to her home to find her two-year-old son beaten to death on the floor and that the presumed perpetrator, her husband, has fled with her young daughter. Oh and the civilization may be on the verge of collapse thanks to a massive volcanic/seismic event that has virtually split the most populated region of the world in two. Essun sets out to track down her daughter as the survivors scrabble to secure a tenable position in the post-apocalypse landscape.

      The narrative switches back of forth among Essun and two other narrators, a young child torn from her family because her special powers cause fear and loathing, and an apprentice “orogene” a young woman sent on a perilous mission with a difficult and enigmatic mentor. As Jemisin follows these characters she fills in the backstory of a highly troubled and unjust civilization. AS seems to be the rule in epic fantasy lots of bad stuff happens to nice people but it is an interesting world and I look forward to reading further in the series.

      Like

      June 24, 2016
    • The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel
      Points = 0.5
      ★★1/2
      I enjoyed but did not not love The Life of Pi. I struggled through this one though it had a similar feel with an emphasis on the natural world and a touch of magical realism.
      The first and longest section traces the early 1900s quest of a bereaved young man, Tomas, through the remote mountainous region of Portugal in search of a mysterious piece of religious artwork. This section relied heavily on slapstick comedy based on Tomas’ ineptitude with his uncle’s automobile. That got old fast. There is a very dark occurrence in this section that seems to be given less emphasis than the description of a proper 1900 motoring outfit.
      The second part with the mid-century pathologist performing the world’s weirdest autopsy was just strange. It contained a long digression about how the works of Agatha Christie are the 20th century version of the Gospels??? Maybe I misunderstood that part. No matter I didn’t care enough to figure it out.
      The last section is sort of an extended road trip where a Canadian widower decides to retire to his ancestral village in Portugal with an adult male chimpanzee whom he has just met. I found the narrative in this last part the easiest reading but so utterly implausible from the perspective of animal behavior as to rate the whole section as de facto magical realism as well.
      Martel ties all three stories together in what I suppose are Deep Thoughts about religion or spirituality but as I mentioned before I couldn’t seem to care by the time he got to the “message”.

      Liked by 1 person

      June 24, 2016
    • Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
      Points = 3 (1,2) Substitute for A God in Ruins
      ★★★★
      This is a dark family saga but Atkinson writes so well that I could almost say that I enjoyed the dysfunction. It’s an impressive debut novel and she shows some of the playfulness with the structure of the narrative that she will develop more fully in later novels. I wasn’t the least bit surprised by the big reveal but suspect that maybe I wasn’t supposed to be. I still feel very bad for the Pets.

      Liked by 1 person

      June 24, 2016
    • The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay
      ★★★★★
      Points = 3 (1, 2)
      The followers of three major religions struggle to gain ascendancy or in some cases to simply survive in the fictional land of Al-Rassan. These fantasy religions roughly coincide with Islam, Christianity, and Judaism and Al-Rassan is a stand in for the medieval Iberian peninsula when Christian forces were gathering strength to regain territory from the Islamic caliphate. By fictionalizing these religions Kay allows the reader to put aside their own beliefs to empathize and identify with characters from each of the faiths without having to explicitly root for any one of the religions to the exclusion of the others. With so many wonderful characters to love I was nevertheless dismayed early on to realize that as the holy war for control of Al-Rassan built it was inevitable that one or more of my favorites would die at that hands of another. This was a wonderful epic that had me in tears more than once.

      Liked by 1 person

      June 30, 2016
    • Three Cups of Deceit by Jon Krakauer
      Substitute for Into Thin Air
      ★★★
      Points = 0.5
      I somehow managed to miss Greg Mortenson’s “non-fiction” best seller Three Cups of Tea and now having read this expose of the author’s mendacity and financial sleight of hand I am glad that I did. I remain baffled by people that continue to idolize charismatic con-artists despite ample proof of their falsehoods. Personally I feel angry and betrayed when someone I once admired is exposed as a fraud, it never would occur to me to double down in the face of evidence to the contrary and continue to sing the praises of someone who lied to me.

      Liked by 1 person

      June 30, 2016
      • Nice sneaking those in past minute! I’ll be talking scores tonight and tomorrow

        Like

        June 30, 2016
  8. Let me see if I understand this scoring. If I picked the Lions of Al-Rassan to be upset in the sweet sixteen its value to me remains locked at 3 points no matter how far it advances. If I picked Between the World and Me to go to the final its value continues to rise all of the way to that point. So it’s already worth 6 points to me with the potential to rise to 16, but never 26 because I did not pick them to win. If I want to geek out I could rank all of my picks already eliminated by point value per page number and maximize my efficiency. Hmmm project!

    Liked by 1 person

    March 25, 2016
    • Yup. All about strategy. That would help you maximize your reading points

      Like

      March 25, 2016
    • And yes, you understand the scoring perfectly

      Like

      March 25, 2016
  9. Olivergottfried #

    Between the World and Me.

    I’ve been wanting to read this book since it came out last year and I’m glad that I now finally have. What a haunting and impactful book. Written as a letter from the author to his son, it is both a memoir of glowing up black in inner city Baltimore and a history of blacks and whites in this country. I imagine your experience with this book varies depending on your own personal history, but for me it was fascinating, affecting and heartbreaking.

    Liked by 1 person

    March 27, 2016
    • I can’t wait to read this! Nice review

      Like

      March 27, 2016
  10. Rachel #

    Rachel’s reviews.

    keeping them in one place so it’s easier to track.

    Like

    March 28, 2016
    • Rachel #

      Neverwhere by Niel Gaiman 4 stars

      Richard Mayhew stops one day to help a young woman lying injured on a London street. After getting her aid and dealing with some odd people the next day Richard finds that no one in his daily life recognizes him and he has lost his job and apartment. To figure out what is going on Richard must enter the world of London Below. This book was wonderfully inventive. I got sucked into the world Gaiman created. I didn’t want the book to end and still want to know what happens next.

      Liked by 1 person

      March 28, 2016
    • Rachel #

      The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown 5 stars

      The story of the 1936 US mens olympic rowing team especially that of Joe Rantz, a member of the team. I know next to nothing about rowing, I’ve seen it a few times during the Olympics, but I found this book fascinating. I never realized how grueling of a sport rowing is until reading this. I was totally captivated by every race described in the book. Brown does a great job of creating suspense for races that happened around 80 years ago. I also now have a great appreciation for the art of creating wooden racing sculls. I’m sad that none of the rowers are alive now, I would have loved to meet them. A great book that will suck you in, definitely for everyone not just sports fans.

      Like

      May 12, 2016
    • Rachel #

      Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage bu Haruki Murakami 3 stars

      Tsukuru Tazaki was part of a close group of five friends in high school. Then after he went to college in Tokyo to study rail road station design his friends suddenly cut him out of their lives. Now in his 30s Tsukuru’s girlfriend Sara thinks he should reconnect with his former friends to help heal the wound that are preventing him from living a full life. I have not read Murakami before and I really wasn’t that enthralled by this work at least. It took a long time for anything to happen and that are also lots of long, boring to me, philosophical passages, and several weird dreams that I don’t have a clue what they were supposed to symbolize. I think Murakami might not be for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      May 15, 2016
    • Rachel #

      The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin 4 stars

      This is the beginning of a fantasy series set in the Stillness, a world with a super continent that is frequently rocked with devastating eruptions that cause large population die offs. There is a race of humans, called orogenes, who can control and prevent earthquakes. They are feared yet needed by the main population. The book follows Essun, an adult who was an orogene in hiding now trying to find her kidnapped daughter, Seyenite, an orogene working for the Fulcrum and Damaya, an orogene in training. I was very confused at the beginning on the book but slowly I began understanding some of this land. The book ends with a big cliffhanger and I’m afraid I’ll forget the main parts of this book by the time the next book comes out, that’s my problem with incomplete fantasy series. I was interested in the story and will likely read the rest of the books in the series once they are published.

      Liked by 1 person

      June 6, 2016
  11. Charles Bukowski Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life by Howard Sounes
    3 stars
    Howard Sounes has written an interesting biography of Charles Bukowski. Frank, honest, uncompromising are three words I’d use. There are uncomfortable things about Bukowski, especially his attitude to women, but the interesting thing is how strong the women are who had relationships with him. This biography is worth reading if you’d like some facts to bolster the fictionalised accounts in Post Office, Factotum and Women.

    Liked by 1 person

    April 1, 2016
    • Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression by Jacques Derrida
      3 stars
      Yes, I was the one who nominated this barrel of laughs. It was thought provoking, somewhat relevant to my job, and quite repetitive. I had to put in some work, but I mostly enjoyed it! This extended essay is a transcript of a lecture given by Derrida at an international colloquium at the Freud Museum and doesn’t just consider the nature of archives, but also the nature of memory and the place of both in Freudian theory. I’d sum it up as a slippery treatise on psychoanalysis, Jewishness and the indictment to remember, and the nature of archives.

      Liked by 1 person

      April 3, 2016
    • The Martian by Andy Weir
      2.5 stars
      I had high hopes for this, but I found it too tech heavy. The amount of explanation of each technical action didn’t add anything to the story. It also felt like it needed a damn good edit to move it from serialisation to novel. I didn’t engage with the characters because they were quite sketchy, not fully developed enough to care about. There were some funny moments, but mostly the humour was juvenile and wearing. Millions will disagree with me, but I don’t know what the fuss is about.

      Liked by 1 person

      April 5, 2016
      • Tracy S #

        Glad I’m not the only one! It just didn’t appeal to me.

        Liked by 1 person

        April 14, 2016
    • Completely forgot to post this last week!

      Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
      4 stars
      Never Let Me Go was in the sci-fi grouping for this challenge. Someone tried to have an infinite argument with me on my blog, because I said that I didn’t know that it was sci-fi. The science fiction aspects aren’t to the fore in the plot. I think it’s more about the slowly creeping realisation that life isn’t quite what we would like it to be, or what we think it is, which is a universal experience. It’s also about trying to find meaning in life, and trying to delay the inevitable, to grasp a few more precious moments that might help you to understand what the point of it all was. I enjoyed it as a piece of literary fiction.

      Liked by 1 person

      April 16, 2016
    • A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
      5 stars
      This is a staggering work that reveals the indomitable human spirit. Set across a ten year span that encompasses the First and Second Chechen Wars, Marra explores the meaning of family, love, loss, desire and sacrifice. Despite the harrowing setting of war torn Chechnya, Marra’s delicate touch lifts the book from despair. The characters are warm and real. I wanted to reach through the pages to hug them.

      Like

      April 24, 2016
    • Shylock Is My Name by Howard Jacobson
      3 stars
      Not having read The Merchant of Venice and not having read anything by Howard Jacobson might have been a disadvantage when embarking on Jacobson’s retelling of Shakespeare’s play about antisemitism. It turned out not to matter. Once the book got going and got past its initial clunkiness, it was a thoughtful and entertaining read. Jacobson clearly knows the play inside out and convincingly inhabits the mind of Shylock. His writing style is cheeky but with depth, and I found that the topics under discussion made me think, for all that they were framed in a farcical/satirical situation. I enjoyed the allusions made to modern life and modern celebrity, and thought Jacobson was interesting on what it means to be a British Jew. The non-Jewish characters were vile in their antisemitism, but I assume their exaggeration is a comment on the Christians in The Merchant of Venice. I don’t know the play at all, but as Tudor England was an antisemitic place, I’d hazard a guess that the play was conceived in antisemitic terms. The world moves on, and is still antisemitic, it’s true, but antisemitism is no longer the declared cultural norm in England, and I hope that the play is used today to explore antisemitism and refute it. My feeling about Jacobson’s retelling is that he is exploring the nature of antisemitism and trying to shine a light on how ridiculous it is to hold such mediaeval views. If Jacobson wasn’t Jewish, though, I might think differently about his motivations as an author.

      Like

      April 26, 2016
    • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
      5 stars
      I didn’t know what to expect from this book. It is very sobering. I found it difficult to read at times, the descriptions of what went on during the Biafran War are so honest and un-sensationalised and brutal. I loved it, though. I thought the characters were believable. I appreciated the way Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie knew that most of her readership probably wouldn’t know much about the Biafran War, or the social and political structures in Nigeria, but didn’t patronise us in the way she presented the background that we needed. Olanna and her sister Kainene on the surface are the main characters in the novel, but for me the heart of the story was Ugwu. He was the most interesting, and I loved how he discovered his own voice as the novel progressed.

      Liked by 1 person

      May 13, 2016
      • Yes, it is a wonderful book. She has become a favorite of mine

        Like

        May 13, 2016
      • I’m looking forward to reading more by her. I have Americanah already.

        Liked by 1 person

        May 13, 2016
      • I like Anericanah very much but not quite as much as Half a Yellow Sun.

        Like

        May 13, 2016
      • I get the feeling Half of a Yellow Sun is one of those special books where everything comes together – story, voice, personal connection. I shall try not to have expectations for Americanah!

        Liked by 1 person

        May 13, 2016
      • It’s still good just very different. Very interesting perspective on race and gender in the United States.

        Liked by 1 person

        May 13, 2016
    • Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg
      3 stars
      This is a story of loss and regret. It hooked me in, even though it felt like I was sitting on its edges observing. At first I struggled with some of the voices Clegg gave his characters. Those speaking in the first person felt clichéd initially, until the story was more established, and with it their personalities. Clegg was stronger when writing in the third person. There was something about the first person speakers that made it seem they were being interviewed for an article or news report. Even the observed characters felt remote and incomplete at times. Although I felt more involved in their stories, I still felt like an observer, only seeing what was on the surface, not necessarily the truth. I don’t know whether I liked this book. It gripped me, but not in the best way.

      Liked by 1 person

      May 30, 2016
    • I’ve read I Capture The Castle, so may I substitute The New Moon With The Old for it? It’s only around 30 pages shorter.

      Liked by 1 person

      May 30, 2016
    • The New Moon With The Old by Dodie Smith (substituted for I Capture The Castle)
      4 stars
      This was very entertaining. Escapism of the purest kind. It put me in mind of old fashioned romances, Whitehall farces, and Nancy Mitford’s satirical novels, all at once. There are some rum goings on that pulled me up with a jolt, but Dodie Smith dealt with everything bizarre so matter of factly that it seemed less bizarre. The story is magical and bonkers, and I loved it.

      Liked by 1 person

      June 11, 2016
    • A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
      3 stars
      With Life After Life, I admired the creativity but didn’t enjoy the story much. With A God In Ruins, I enjoyed the story but didn’t admire the creativity much. A God In Ruins is a pleasant read that didn’t ask too much of me as a reader. It was 100 pages too long, there were two characters I didn’t care about and one character I’d like to have known more, but I preferred Teddy’s story to that of Ursula in the previous book.

      Liked by 1 person

      June 19, 2016
      • I think Book Worm gave it 3 stars too. I don’t plan on rushing out to read it.

        Like

        June 19, 2016
  12. Andrew Prazar #

    Between the World and Me

    I’m not sure I can keep my thoughts about this book under any sort of word limit, but I’ll try. An extremely powerful, angry, and at times depressing book. If nothing else, this book reminds me that as a white, upper-middle class kid from NH, I know absolutely, positively nothing about what it’s like to be black in America (and growing up in the inner city). It is a vivid and raw look at the experience of one black man and his attempt to make sense of the world and explain it to his teenage son. At times, Coates seems to paint with the same broad brush he accuses “those who think they are white” of using and his stream of consciousness style can be difficult and at times exhausting. With those caveats, an extremely important book that reminds us that the United States was built (and continues to be today) on the backs of the disenfranchised and powerless who are held in place by a system that wants them to fail. It’s rare that I read a book that immediately alters how I think about both current and past events and forces me to reevaluate my daily actions and interactions with others; this is one of those books.

    Liked by 2 people

    April 6, 2016
    • I already wanted to read this. You’ve made me want to read it more. Good review, thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

      April 16, 2016
  13. The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Stephen King

    4 stars

    There wasn’t one short story that I didn’t enjoy to some degree. But that last story–thanks, Mr. King, for ending your collection with the most depressing story of all time. Seriously, though, very much enjoyed the introductions to each story providing insight. Overall great read.

    Liked by 1 person

    April 13, 2016
  14. JoLene Ramm #

    Jo:ene’s March Madness Reads

    Liked by 1 person

    May 8, 2016
  15. JoLene Ramm #

    JoLene’s March Madness Reads

    Liked by 1 person

    May 8, 2016
    • JoLene Ramm #

      H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald
      Completed: 4/26/16 3.5 stars
      This is a memoir about a woman dealing with the death of her father. She decides to train a goshawk as a way to deal with her grief. I don’t think this book will appeal to everyone, but the writing is really amazing and I listened to the audio read by the author herself. My biggest gripe is that she interspersed her own experiences with those of T.H White, the author of The Once and Future King who also was enamored with the goshawk. These sections were less appealing and disrupted the sorry in my opinion.

      3 points (rounds 1,2)

      PS (You can delete the above post 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      May 9, 2016
    • JoLene Ramm #

      The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin
      Completed: 5/8/16 4.5 stars
      A dystopian fantasy novel with a bit of everything. The prologue starts with a bang, literally, a seismic event is triggered which will result in the end of the world. The world of Stillness is a much harsher place that our present day earth, but there are some similarities. There is a group of people called orogenes who have the ability to help control the seismic activity. They are feared but also provide a valuable service in this world. The treatment of orogenes are examined through three different points of view. The world building and the writing are excellent (it has been nominated for both a Hugo and Nebula this year).

      I did start of listening to the audio; however, as often happens in fantasy, I followed the story better when reading. Also, I found in my Kindle copy that there was glossary in the back. Once I read through that, it was much easier to follow the story.

      3 points (rounds 1,2)

      Liked by 1 person

      May 9, 2016
    • JoLene Ramm #

      I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
      Completed: 4/8/16 3 stars
      I’m pretty sure I read this book a long time ago. This time through, I liked it well enough, but I didn’t love it. This is the story of the Mortmain family as told by Cassandra. The Mortmains’s are poor and live in Suffolk castle, which is falling down around their feet. The father wrote a famous book, but has lost his mojo. Cassandra’s older sister is Rose is very tired of being poor and sets her sights on a rich neighbor, but unfortunately Cassandra also has ‘calf’ love for the same man.

      The side characters were very vivid and Cassandra is quite charming. The narrative is told through Cassandra’s journal entries. Because of this set-up, the book has an episodic feel because the focus would be on a set of events and then things would skip ahead to another incident. In some cases, there was not a lot of closure around the events — which on this read through bothered me a bit. I do think it is a nice charming story for a teen who hasn’t been jaded by all the dystopian, or fantasy YA fare.

      3 points (rounds 1,2)

      Total so far – 9

      Liked by 1 person

      May 9, 2016
    • JoLene R #

      Can I read In the Kingdom of Ice instead of Boys in the Boat (which I just read a couple months ago). It was in the list of recommended books from the Boys in the Boat main page.

      Liked by 1 person

      May 20, 2016
    • JoLene R #

      The Sellout by Paul Beatty
      Completed: June 3, 2016 4 stars
      This is story of a man, nicknamed BonBon, who is going before the Supreme Court accused of bringing back slavery and segregation. The tale that unfolds is an often times hilarious, and often times uncomfortable account of how BonBon is actually just trying to get his town of Dicksons back on the map — apparently it was removed because there were no redeeming qualities for this agrarian community turned ghetto.

      3 points (Rounds 1,2)

      12 points so far

      Liked by 1 person

      June 13, 2016
    • JoLene R #

      In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides
      Completed: June 7, 2016 5 stars
      Replacement for: Boys in the Boat, which I had already read.
      Back in the late 1800’s it seems that one of theories was that there was a tropical ocean at the top of the world (North Pole). George Washington DeLong was hired to commander the boat the USS Jeanette to prove this theory. It was decided that instead of going by the generally accepted route of going around Greenland, that they would travel through the Bering Strait up and over Canada and then come down Greenland. Unfortunately, the theories were wrong and the boat became trapped. It was a harrowing adventure that was brought to life with the excellent writing of Hampton Sides.

      Ok — so I didn’t realize that the points were based on how we picked the book would do in the tournaments as well 😦 I’m not getting many points because the books that I read, I did not pick for winning round 1. I think that means I get zero points.

      So:
      In the Kingom of Ice: 0
      The Sellout: 0
      I captured the Castle (1,2): 3
      Fifth Season (1,2): 3
      H is for Hawk: 0

      So, sadly — I only get 6 points.

      Liked by 1 person

      June 13, 2016
      • You get .5 points for reading any book for first round only so at least that means some points 🙂

        Like

        June 13, 2016
  16. Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman

    4 stars

    Since I was a child, I’ve wanted someone to appear in my life and reveal that the world isn’t exactly how I’ve perceived it to be. This is exactly what happens to Richard, the protagonist of this novel. And I’m only a little jealous (okay, maybe a lot). Really great story. A review I read compared it to Alice in Wonderland, and that’s a fair comparison.

    I was sad to finish this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    May 11, 2016
  17. Andrew Prazar #

    The Lions of Al-Rassan

    Set on a fictional peninsula (based loosely on the Iberian peninsula during the Moorish occupation of Spain), “The Lions of Al-Rassan” chronicles the last days of the Al-Rassan empire. The author deftly weaves multiple story lines and characters, various fictional religions, politics, and love into a challenging novel that asks its readers to think about the importance of honor, religious differences, and the futility of war. This is a long book and the first few chapters contain an overwhelming amount of characters and fictional cities; however all of this is necessary to tell the sprawling tale at the heart of the book. The characters are all well-developed, the action is swift and compelling, and the political intrigue rings true. One of the better books I’ve read recently – although probably more for the good story than the writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 12, 2016
  18. ***Happy Dance*** Thank you so much!! It makes a nice birthday present for me (June 29th). Congratulations to the other winners too!

    Liked by 1 person

    July 1, 2016
    • Congrats! I can send you the links to the book lists for you to choose your books.

      Liked by 1 person

      July 1, 2016
      • That would be great, thanks!

        Like

        July 2, 2016
      • Ok, here are my choices:

        Pen Faulkner: In the Country: Stories and Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles

        International Man Booker: The Story of the Lost Child and A Whole Life

        Bailey’s: Rush Oh! and The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

        National Book Award: Nimona and Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War

        Thank you!!!

        Liked by 1 person

        July 4, 2016
      • Great, thanks!

        Like

        July 4, 2016
  19. Oliver Gottfried #

    I’m several days late, but since I just finished The Boys in the Boat, I thought I would write a quick note here. I really enjoyed the book, as a history buff and someone who wrote his thesis on the 1936 Olympics. What an incredible story of friendship, teamwork, and camaraderie. I wish the actual part of the story about the Olympics had been more than just the last 30 pages, but overall a great read!

    Liked by 1 person

    July 6, 2016
    • Glad to hear you liked it. Also you won one of the prizes. Take a look and then email me with your choices.

      Like

      July 6, 2016

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