Saturday, March 23, 2013

Completed: The Little Stranger


I'll be honest with you, I found Sarah Waters' novel The Little Stranger to be a bit of a disappointment.  This book was recommended by a colleague, and although it wasn't awful or anything, it just wasn't what I expected. (I should have thought more about this. The guy who told me about it loves Jane Eyre and all that Victorian crap.)

The back of the book and cover blurbs describe the book as a spooky ghost story. I'm not one for really scary books, but I do like a good tension-filled yarn. Stephen King said it would guarantee me several sleepless nights! Although I do suffer from sleeplessness, I can safely say it was not the result of this book.

This is the story of Doctor Faraday, a doctor in his early 40s living in a small village in England in the late 1940s. He's slowly drawn into the lives of the Ayers family. This is the family of landed gentry that own a huge, crumbling mansion called Hundreds Hall. Roderick is a man in his early 20s who was dreadfully wounded in World War II. His older sister Caroline is a spinster in her later 20s. Their mother, Mrs. Ayers, is probably only in her mid-50s, but she plays the elderly, matronly role in the story.

As the Doctor gets to know them, an accident with a young neighborhood girl sets into motion a series of tragic events that one by one effects each member of the Ayers family. Is Hundreds Hall haunted? Or, as Doctor Faraday insists, are they strictly imagining things? But the as the events at Hundreds Hall become more and more frightening, the Ayers family is convinced that they are being haunted.

Here's the deal. I was sort of in it for the ghost story, but it just wasn't that tension filled. The book was 500 pages and the spooky ghost parts happen hundreds of pages apart.  However, the biggest problem, I think, is that the narrative structure of the story is revealed through the perspective of the Doctor. He's not a first person narrator, but it's a tight third person focus on him. But he doesn't live at Hundreds, he just visits and becomes close to the family. So all the good, scary stuff is always told to him later, after it happens. It's just sort of bloodless because the immediacy is gone for every single one of the frightening events. And the Doctor never, not for a second, really believes in the ghost, so there's always a distance between the reader and the events in the mansion. I just wanted all the omg-ghosts-are-they-real-maybe-maybe-not to be a far bigger part of the book. It's interesting how suspicion shifts from character to character, but it's just a bit plodding. There's a lot of ambiance and an overall tone of dread, but it was, for me, ultimately unsatisfying.

As it is, the book is really about the changing class structures that affected the British aristocracy in the 20th century. The Ayers family are just in a different realm than the local country doctor. The crumbling house and their attempt to keep it in the family while slowly selling it off piece by piece was the real story in the book. They struggle to get on with their one servant, but even that stretches their budget to the limit. The doctor is seen as uppity for associating with the family, while at the same time, the family never truly accepts him because he's of a different class. I mean, I guess if you're in to that sort of thing, this would be a good story. I find that stuff to be pretty boring, and so I found myself feeling unmoved by the characters and their difficulties with the class issues.

Meanwhile, I read it pretty fast because it was the only book I had with me on vacation. I made my way through it pretty quickly. It doesn't drag, and it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. The writing was strong. I bet it would probably make a good audiobook! It's a good story. I feel bad that I'm not more enthusiastic about it, because there was certainly nothing wrong with it. I think if I hadn't have been more interested in by the ghost story, I wouldn't have felt as disappointed. In the end, it just wasn't my cup of tea. Heh.


Monday, March 18, 2013

The Plane! The Plane!


I'm writing this from the plane! Wifi on the plane! I might never read another book. Hah. Just kidding. Actually, the page is loading strangely, so I have no idea if this post even has a title.

TOB in progress...
I'm pretty pleased with the TOB so far. I've read some books I really enjoyed,  read some head-scratchers that just didn't work for me, and saw the book I hated most go down in the first round. Yes! In the end, I read far more of the titles than I thought I would. I still have to finish May We Be Forgiven and How Should A Person Be?. I decided not to bring MWBF with me to Florida because it's hardback. And that's just crazy. I will definitely finish it.

HSaPB? is just a wacky read. I wouldn't say that I liked it, but my expectations were so low, I'm finding myself pleasantly surprised. The weirdest part is there's an entire chapter called "Interlude for Fucking" and it's don't even know how to describe it. Lots of uncomfortable and very vivid descriptions of sex, made even more uncomfortable by the fact that the guy's name is Israel. I mean, really? It's hard not to read it as a political statement of some kind. What kind, I don't know.  I'd say more, but my child is sitting right next to me, and a sweet old man is on my other side. (Yes, motherhood means sitting in the middle seat. Blech.)

I'll be curious to see what happens in the Round 2 match-ups. I guess my predictions are for Orphan Master to win over Fault; May We Be Forgiven over Building Stories; Gone Girl over Beautiful Ruins; Bring Up the Bodies over How Should a Person Be?.

I don't know if I think Building Stories is better, but someone, sooner or later, is going to say, "It's not a novel!" I predict it in this round because the Judge's bio says that she likes to read on the train. Building Stories definitely defies train-reading! The one I'm most on the fence about is Gone Girl vs. Beautiful Ruins. I liked them both a lot, they're both strong contenders. I feel like I'd be happy either way, but we'll see how I feel after the decision.

In all liklihood, I'm just not going to get to Bring Up the Bodies before it's over. I read Wolf Hall in the summer when I was less busy. I have a feeling the same thing might have to happen with Roll Out the Barrel---just kidding!---Bring Up the Bodies. But we'll see. Maybe I will be inspired to tackle it when I get back from Florida.

As for March, I have two books with me here that could be a go. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. It was recommended to me by a teacher friend, and it just sounds like a good read. Sort of creepy and gothic. I actually read the first 75 pages of 500 on the plane. I'm going to be honest that it's feeling like a slow starter. According to the jacket and blurbs, it's some rip-roaring ghost story. You'd think there'd be a little more action so far. But it's engagingly written and I certainly understand the creepy house so far. I'm sure I'll keep reading it just because I'm already so far into it.

I also downloaded The Making of the Atomic Bomb to my Kindle in the airport. That sucker is 800 pages. I'm not dragging it around anywhere. Totally worth the purchase. I bought this because of my strange fascination with nuclear power. I think I originally bought a copy when the tsunami hit the Fukushima Nuclear power plant in Japan. I guess it's dumb to buy it twice, but I think I'll be much more likely to read it when I can have it with me all the time. I was inspired to put it on my list this year after reading a review from the Year in Reading series over at The Millions.

What about you? Have you started a March title yet?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Kelly's TBP 1.13: Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

Dear Jenny,

No, I have not forgotten my TBP list! I've just gotten behind on write-ups, due to unpacking the house. Have I mentioned the unpacking? The soul-sucking, seemingly-never-ending, unpacking? Ugh. My goal is to be done by the end of March. Wish me luck!

Now, onto my first TBP book of 2013... Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty. A stunning book about a fantastic exhibit featuring an amazing designer. Really, so beautiful. (And I'm not afraid to use all of those adjectives to describe it!)

I went to see this exhibit with a friend in a whirlwind overnight trip in 2011. We took the red-eye from SF to NYC and went straight to the Met (okay -- I think we showered at the hotel first. But then headed straight out). It was over 100 degrees that day which, in New York City is just... horrendous. Especially for CA wusses like us (I still can't handle the heat yet -- maybe a few more years?) But oh, it was still amazing. It's New York!

Here's a shot I took as we waited on the front steps of the Met:

There was an absolutely enormous crowd -- it was a weekday and the entire city was melting, but so many people wanted to see this exhibit there was a crowd gathering before the doors even opened!

The exhibit itself was spectacular, but definitely crammed body to body. Despite that, I was able to get close to most of the garments and accessories so I could really see them, which was... truly amazing. To see the stitching of these garments up close? WOW. Such a huge inspiration. Just... really powerful.

In the gift shop, we saw this book. We knew we had to have it because it was awesome photos of the pieces we had just seen... without the crushing press of bodies! But it weighed a royal ton and all we had were overnight bags. It's a gigantic hardcover book.

So I used technology to my advantage and ordered us each a copy on Amazon while standing right there in the gift shop. They were delivered the day after we returned and we didn't have to lug them back. Score!  [Side note: Sorry, Met, for screwing you on the sale -- maybe you need a kiosk in the store where people can buy from you and ship stuff straight home to themselves? Just an idea. I would have paid full price. It really was the weight that did me in.]

But... onto to the book! It's very well done -- a bit of expository information on the life of Alexander McQueen (such a tragedy -- the world lost an amazing talent when that guy decided to go) and then 200 pages of gorgeous photos, interspersed with quotes from the artist himself. I'm glad I waited to look at this book until now -- it brought it the entire exhibit back to me as I perused it. And without any the elbows to the kidney!

Sooo.... would you like to see some of it? Of course you would!

First of all, the photo on the front is like those wacky stickers we had as kids -- angle it one way, you see the skull, and the other, it's McQueen's face. I don't know what that's called... Oh, thanks, Internet! You're the best! It's called lenticular printing. (Now we've all learned something!)

Kind of gimmicky, but it's pretty danged cool:

(That photo of it is not great, but it gives you the idea.)

Now let's get to the pictures! This first dress was fucking amazing in person. Those red pieces on the bodice are all glass slides. Like, microscope slides? I mean... seriously.

(I wish there was a photo of the front of this dress in the book -- again, all glass microscope slides. Crazy.) (Oh, look! There's a better photo of it here. A-maz-ing!)

This next dress is made from real flowers. Quote from McQueen: "Remember Sam Taylor-Wood's dying fruit? Things rot… I used flowers because they die. My mood was darkly romantic at the time." [183]

At the exhibit, there were dead flowers that had fallen off of the dress scattered on the ground all around it. While we were standing there looking at it, some of the petals actually fell off. Right then and there. Whoa! We saw it decomposing As. We. Stood. There! Mind-blowing. (You can see some dead flowers on the ground around it in the photo... not sure how much longer this one's got.)

(Oh, and I didn't know who Sam Taylor-Wood was, so I looked it up and vaguely do remember this video now -- 3+ min of film of a bowl of fruit as it rots.)

Moving on... this was just one of my very favorite dresses -- the swirls on the sleeves are sparkly. I love that so much.

Here's another dress that I loved. It's just... the perfect princess dress:

About that particular collection, McQueen said:

When I design, I try to sell an image of a woman that I have in [my] mind, a concept that changes dramatically each season. 
[In this collection] she was a feral creature living in the tree. When she decided to descend to earth, she transformed into a princess. 
I don’t really get inspired [by specific women]. . . . It’s more in the minds of the women in the past, like Catherine the Great, or Marie Antoinette. People who were doomed. Joan of Arc or Colette. Iconic women. [115]
And here is one that shows off his meticulous attention to detail (which was even more evident in person)... look at the cut of this jacket and dress! Just mind blowing:

(Yeah. I realize that the print is basically a magnifier for her hoo-hoo, which is barely covered, but I'm just looking at the technical aspects of it. Impeccable construction.)

One of the most mesmerizing pieces in the exhibit was a set of carved wooden prosthetic legs that a model wore at one of McQueen's shows. People think they are boots, but, no -- they are motherfucking legs, ya'll.

I am glad to have this photo, but this was even more jaw-dropping in person:

Aaaand... here's a cray-cray shoe:

This final image is a lovely double-page spread and was used for the exhibit's poster. Seeing this now, I would have liked it if they had shot more of these pieces as "action shots," thereby differentiating the images in the book from what we saw at the exhibit.

(That photo is crap -- for a better version of it, plus all kinds of cool other things to see about McQueen and the exhibit, go here and check it all out.)

Soo... I guess that final comment is my only real problem with this book -- maybe more action shots, so you could really get the idea of how the pieces looked with movement (and many, like the glass slide dress, only showed the back or the front -- both sides, please!)

But, overall, an incredible complement to an amazing exhibit that also stands alone as a catalog of a beautiful body of work. (This post was brought to you by a surfeit of adjectives -- I just can't help myself when faced with the greatness of Alexander McQueen!)


Tournament of Books: Jenny's Reads


It's the most wonderful time of the year! Seriously. I live for this. I don't know what that says about me, but combining competition and book reading?! What's not to love?

Like you I'll do a quick recap and make some predictions. I love hearing about the audiobooks (aBooks?)!

The Play-In Round
I'm in process on Billy Lynn, but I'm no fan. It's well written and sly in a way that's generally appealing to me, so I have to figure out why this one is annoying me so much instead. I'm going to finish it this weekend. That being said, it was better than both The Yellow Birds and Fobbit. I actually sort of liked The Yellow Birds, but it had all the earmarks of a first novel: the overwrought language and the plot that never quite comes together. Fobbit seemed to be going for more of a Catch-22 vibe (a book I loved in high school and should reread) by capturing the folly of war. It just didn't work for me. There were some funny parts, but it seemed strained. I wouldn't have finished it if it wasn't in the TOB.

Round House vs Fault in our Stars
I think Round House should win this one. I loved them both, I did, but The Round House has a certain kind of gravitas on its side, I think. They're well matched in terms of plot: teenage protagonist(s) dealing with tragedy. But I do honestly this one could go either way and I would be fine with it. I should scan the last few pages of the Round House and send them to you. I just let a friend borrow it, but I bet we have a copy in the library. As for Fault, I didn't love the trip, but I didn't hate it either. Overall, I thought the conversations about life and death were beautifully done. I haven't read many adult books that have dealt so honestly or heartbreakingly with death. I don't want to spoil it here, but next time we talk, let's make time for this one.

Orphan Master vs. Bernadette
Sometimes I feel like I can figure out why things were paired together, but this is a mystery. Maybe unconventional narrative structure? Bernadette's correspondence, Orphan Master's broadcasts? I loved Bernadette, but I don't see it beating Orphan Master here. It's such a great book. It really was the whole package: interesting location, fascinating and fully formed characters, interesting and complex plot, good ending. I think it could to all the way.

Dear Life vs. Building Stories
I actually liked Dear Life more than I thought I would. I tried reading Alice Munroe in college and just didn't get it. But she writes about grown ups, I don't know how else to say it, and I probably just didn't have the life experience or the patience for her 20 years ago. I do feel it was a real accomplishment for me that I read that, because I had always felt intimidated by Munro. I'd still like to see Building Stories win here, though. It is certainly a more interesting non-novel than Dear Life...if that makes sense. It was so sad and melancholy! I loved it. Except for the Bee. I still regret ending on the Bee book.

May We Be Forgiven vs. Billy Lynn
I'm halfway through both and have a week to finish them. But there's nothing standing in my way now!

Gone Girl vs. Ivyland
I'm sorry, but you'd have to be brain dead to pick Ivyland over Gone Girl. I read pages and pages of Ivyland and it literally made no sense to me. I'd read entire chapters having no idea what was going on. I wonder how it got in the TOB, sure. But I also wonder how it even got published in the first place. I might be missing something, but I don't care. Life's too short for crap like that.

Beautiful Ruins vs. Song of Achilles
You've read one and I've read the other. Song of Achilles just wasn't my speed. I'm quite familiar with the story of the Trojan War, so right from the beginning, I was wondering how the author was going to carry it off. Carry what off? you may be wondering. Well, Patroclus is the narrator. And I know damn well that he dies at Troy. His death drives Achilles mad and causes him to not only kill Hector, but also to desecrate his body. The book is a rather touching love story between Patroclus and Achilles: in this version they meet as boys and become lovers. But I found the lush narrative style to be a bit cloying. At one point, Patroclus describes finding mushrooms "as delicate as the ear of a baby." Oh, hell no. Not to mention the fact that you've really painted yourself into a corner with a dead narrator. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either. Honestly, it was a romance novel. I like romance novels. And I've certainly read better romance novels.

Bring Up the Bodies vs. HHhH
Am I the only one who thinks its weird having a sequel in the TOB? I can't imagine you could read it cold. But this also seems like an obvious pairing of historical books up against each other. You'd think Bring up the Bodies would be a lock here, but they are very different. HHhH is meta fiction, and if you like that sort of thing, it could be the winner. I don't know why I can't make myself read Bring up the Bodies---I think because I know how difficult it was to read Wolf Hall. Unlike most people, I tend to do my heavy reading in the summer. I just have so much more time and energy to devote to my reading then. Maybe I can get to it on my upcoming Spring Break.

Arcadia vs How Should a Person Be?
I liked the story of Arcadia. I hated that it didn't have quotation marks. I have yet to meet someone who has liked HSAPB?, but you never know. Arcadia is beautifully written. I don't really have a dog in this fight. I didn't like Arcadia enough to root for it.

I did fill out some brackets. I guess I'd say that The Orphan Master's Son has the best chance to win it. It's a great book. But I'd be okay if Gone Girl or The Round House took the Rooster.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Kelly's Book 3.13: Why I'm Like This

Dear Jenny,

For the life of me, I cannot remember how this book came into my hands. Maybe a long-ago bookstore browsing session? Well, it's been on my shelf for awhile and it is now time to read it.

I had big plans to star 1Q84 with my extra time in February, but I ended up getting distracted by a few other books, plus unpacking our house (which makes for great aBook time!) so now I'm going the opposite way and choosing a book that looks short n' easy, since I am still working on HHhH and would like to finish it in time for the ToB matchup on March 15.

Just flipped to the Author's Note and have already laughed out loud...

Author's Note: I have changed the names of some people and some places because my editor made me.



Tournament of Books: Kelly's Reads

Dear Jenny,

Well, today is the day! I know you're excited about the Tournament of Books! BUT... I also know that you are in the midst of grade reports, so come back here when you are done with those to read my long-winded chitter chatter. :)

This year has, by far, been my biggest participation in reading the ToB books. Most years, I sit back and wait to see what rises to the top and then add those books to my own TBR pile, but this year I have read almost half of the books! It started with the fact that I had happened to listen to two of the books, and then some of the others started coming to light as great audiobooks. I'm always looking for a good aBook, so I ended up jumping on quite a few.

So I thought I'd jot down my thoughts on 'em. (And maybe a little ToB prediction talk... I'm a wild woman!)

Unless otherwise noted, I listened to the audiobook of all of these, so my comments are about both the books and the performances...


The Round House by Louise Erdrich
I know you hated the lack of quotation marks, so I avoided that problem entirely by listening to it! However, there were a few times in the book where things *did* get confusing without a clear deliniation of who said what and I think even the narrator got confused (since he didn't really change up the voices in those parts). Those scenes were usually ones where young Joe was eavesdropping on adults' conversations and I wonder if the intent of the no quotation marks was to illustrate the fact that he didn't fully understand what was going on? (So, you know, neither should the reader? Ugh.) Sorry -- don't mean to beat this dead horse... move along.

Overall: I really loved this book, except for... well, I already sent you the question I had at the end and I have now listened to it *four* times and still cannot really put my finger on my confusion -- there is a lot of descriptive language in this book, and it is mostly well-delivered by the narrator, but that final scene falls apart for me. Maybe next time I see the pBook version of this book, I'll flip to the end and read through it and see if it's more clear to me what happens there [this was intentionally cryptic... I generally don't care about giving stuff away, but since you're so active on the ToB site, we may get some traffic this way and they may not know: We're spoiler-y!]

I guess that's one drawback of the aBook: It can be difficult to "re-read" passages -- especially when there is any confusion.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I was reluctant to read this book because everyone kept saying how despicable these characters were and I wasn't sure if I could deal with characters I hated for a prolonged period of time. However, the narrators had such great voices... I think I might have liked the characters better than they were written, because I liked the narrators so much.

Of course, that's also due to the writing... as much as I hear about how terrible these two are, I also have heard them described many times as "sympathetic." So I guess it's a combo of writing + performing. And it's a winning combo at that -- this was a great aBook. I actually said "Holy shit!" out loud when the twist happened. So... a) good twist and b) good job for me of remaining spoiler-free. Heh. I didn't want to put this one down.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Well, sure... of course I loved this book. And, for this one, I'm glad I was 100% spoiled so that I could brace myself. I'm curious what you and others think of the trip -- it's really the only unrealistic part of the book, but I liked it anyway... and the description of the petals on the water really moved me.

One nice thing about this aBook was an interview with the author at the end, discussing the performance and how great he thought it was. I really enjoyed hearing his thoughts on the book, the characters, and the narrator.

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
How were the loudspeaker moments shown in the book?! In the aBook, there was a separate narrator with a BIG BOOMING VOICE doing the loudspeaker announcements, which made me wonder how it was done in writing. Overall, this book had stellar narration (different actors for the two main characters) and a totally engrossing story, so a grand slam. And it made me *super* curious about what the heck is going on in North Korea!

Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
As soon as I started listening to this little Hate Letter to Seattle, I said, "Jenny has got to read this." I thought it was a fun read -- the narrator for this book did a great job with Bernadette's voice, as well as her daughter's.  I'm a little surprised it's in the ToB because it's kind of "fluff" to me, compared to most of the others, but it's nice to have variety.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
This book was slow to get going -- I thought I might even have to bail on it. But I stuck with it, and it got so much better. I loved the interweaving of these stories and I really cared so much about how everything turned out for each of the characters.

Building Stories by Chris Ware (pBook)
LOVED this. Great story, great drawings (except... the cats' tails seem weird -- they look more like dog tails. It's a minor nit, but a little distracting.) I've read a lot of graphic novels and one thing that this format made me do is really slooow down. It's often a little too easy to eat graphic novels up like ice cream, but this one really made the reader dig in, and I loved it for that.

In progress:

May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes
So far, I like this book SO MUCH MORE than I thought I would! Of course, it may, like any other book, turn to shit before I'm done and I could end up hating it, but so far, I am really engaged. Part of it, I suspect, is that same thing that made the Gone Girl characters more appealing -- the narrator is really good. If I had read this book myself, I'm not sure I could have stood this main character. But I like this actor -- he makes an unsympathetic character sympathetic (which, as I said with GG, can also be attributed to good writing... but reading other people's reviews of this book, I'm not so sure...)

HHhH by Laurent Binet (eBook)
I know you loved this one, but I am really struggling to get through it. Every time I start reading, my mind wanders and I suddenly realize I have not been paying attention for the past few pages. The parts that engage me the most are when the author/narrator is speaking directly to the reader, but when it's a straight-up (or not -- we'll never know!) history lesson, my mind wanders. I know that you know a lot about this topic already, so maybe it's easier for you to skim those parts? I don't know a ton about history, so a lot of this information is new to me and the delivery of the historical facts kind of bores me (at least, I guess I'm bored... my mind wanders...) (OMG! How can you be BFFs with such a troglodyte? ;) But I'll stick with it. I had a pretty good run yesterday night.

On the Maybe pile:

Arcadia by Lauren Groff
I keep going back to this book -- the premise looks so great, but then I've read a lot of disappointment about it. Maybe I'll see how it fares in the ToB and decide then.

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Well, I haven't read Wolf Hall and I'd like to, so I won't read this until/unless I've read that one first. So... maybe someday.

Not at all interested:

How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti
From the reviews, this book sounds unbearable and, from the description, it reminds me of pretentious a-holes I knew in college, so... pass.

Ivyland by Miles Klee
I have yet to read one good review of this book by anyone whose opinion I respect.

Dear Life by Alice Munro
Eh. Some people really like this author, but I haven't read any of her work and people who *do* like her keep saying, "This isn't her best." So, unless I suddenly decide to get hooked on Munro and have to read every one of her works, I don't see this hitting my bookshelf.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
This seems like a re-hash. Do we need another re-telling of this story? (Correct me if I'm wrong here... I may be!)

Aaand... the war books that were vying for the final slot:
Fobbit by David Abrams
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

Well, I don't really do war books. Billy Lynn has made it to the final 16 and... yeah. Not that interesting to me. I've read your comments about it on GoodReads, so unless you finish it and tell me it got better, this one is also off the radar.

Random thoughts on ToB matchups :

(Really only speaking to books I've read...)

I would hate to have to choose between The Fault in our Stars and The Round House!

Where's You Go Bernadette seems like too much fluff to stand against The Orphan Master's Son in the first round. I think they missed a great opportunity in not matching up Bernadette with Gone Girl -- I mean... "Where'd You Go, Amy?" Am I right? just seems like Gone Girl will smoke Ivyland -- the matchup seems unfair. One of the biggest books of 2012 vs. this totally unheard-of (when the ToB was first announced, it had 2 reviews on Amazon. It now has 3.) book? I mean, I guess maybe it will be the "Big! Upset!" of the tourney, but... hrm.

Beautiful Ruins is another book I think of as somewhat "fluffy" and it's up against the Song of Achilles, which is not. But I feel like BR is original and SoA is a re-hash, so it could go either way.

I hope, hope, hope Building Stories will move on to the second round, just because I love it so much, but I can't really speak to its chances, since I did not read Dear Life.

And now... I will go tune into the ToB and see what folks there are saying... see ya there!