Wednesday, March 6, 2013

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.



  1. Ha! I was commenting on your last comment as you were making this post and we said the same thing about the sequel! I think it's poor form. Even if the book *can* stand alone, I think a lot of serious readers (which, let's be honest, that's who's really in this show) will feel compelled to read the first before the second. But maybe since Wolf Hall won before, they felt like most loyal ToB-ers would have read it? Kind of alienates the new folks, though.

    I agree with your Top 3 picks completely. I don't see a "dark horse" taking this. How have you done on previous years, prediction-wise?

  2. And yes -- aBooks = audiobooks. Like pBooks = paper books... we're coining new phrases here!

  3. I actually use the lingo all the time at school (pBooks and eBooks), so I'm doing my part. I can't believe we didn't think of aBooks until now!

  4. I was like, "Whaa---?" cause I thought I had already used it here before my post yesterday!

    But it was buried in a comment on this post from January:

    I should have had a more elaborate roll-out! :)

  5. Speaking of Jonathan Strange, I actually *saw* that book on someone's book shelf this week. That thing is HUGE! I can see why you went for the pBook.

    I had, in fact, missed your coining of aBook! Now we're all right back on track.