Debut Battle Bracket 18 Winner!

It’s finally that time! I get to announce who Sherry @ Flipping Pages for all Ages and I have chosen as winner of bracket 18 in the Debut Book Battle being hosted by Alyssa @ The Shady Glade.

Sherry and I were judging the winners of brackets 11 and 12, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver and Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev. We knew we would have our work cut out for us, both books have received immense praise across the blogosphere, and they are both quite different types of stories. We did it, though, and after much deliberation our decision for winner was unanimous!

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

“Before I Fall should move on. I enjoyed everything about it and it was a novel that really made me think, about how I am towards other people, and how the behavior of one person can effect someone else so much.”
– Sherry

“The character growth in the book is amazing. The way Lauren Oliver wrote all the tiny connections between characters really makes you think, too – how one little change, or sentence, or action can set off a ripple effect that alters everything (and yet how some things stay the same no matter what).”
– Me

My reviews of Before I Fall and Eyes Like Stars.
Sherry’s review of Before I Fall.

Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

Eyes Like Stars
by Lisa Mantchev
ISBN-13: 9-780312-608668
Rating: 5 ♥ / 5 ♥

All her world’s a stage.

Enter Stage Right
Beatrice Shakespeare Smith (Bertie): Our heroine.
Nate: A dashing pirate who will do anything to protect Bertie.
Cobweb, Moth, Mustardseed, and Peaseblossom: Four tiny, mischievous fairies, and Bertie’s loyal sidekicks.
Ariel: A seductive air spirit. Disaster follows in his wake, but Bertie simply cannot resist him.

Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata, where the characters of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. The actors are bound to the Théâtre by The Book, an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of the actors, but they are her family. And she is about to lose them all because The Book has been threatened, and along with it the Théâtre. It’s the only home Bertie has ever known, and she has to find a way to save it. But first, there’s the small problem of two handsome men, both vying for her attention. The course of true love never did run smooth…

Eyes Like Stars is an English majors dream. The wonderful mix of traditional fairy tales, Shakespeare and contemporary was all pulled together by one strong-willed, blue-haired, teenage heroine and some pesky Shakespearian fairies.

Bertie has only ever known life in the Théâtre – it’s where she was raised. There, she spends her days amidst the sets, scenery and characters from all plays ever written (though Shakespeare and The Little Mermaid are most heavily featured). The Book holds all actors to the Théâtre – they can never leave. Unfortunately, Ariel, a spirit from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, gets it into his head that Bertie is the one that can help him leave the Théâtre. Through a penchant for eavesdropping, he discovers the way to set the players free from the Théâtre resides with The Book. Bertie, being threatened with banishment herself, suddenly finds herself racing against time to stop Ariel, save The Book (and the Théâtre), and stage a play of her own, while all around her secrets begin to unravel about who she is, and why she’s at the Théâtre.

I really loved that the focus was kept on the main characters by the fact that many of the secondary characters had no names. There was the Stage Manager, the Theatre Manager, the Chorus boys and Girls, etc. Much to do with the Théâtre is kept shrouded in mystery, and we learn it as Bertie learns it. Bertie is quite a strong-willed, independent girl – she’s grown up in the Théâtre with only the department heads and actors to take care of her. She’s also flawed (which I liked. More realistic). Bertie makes mistakes while believing she’s doing the right thing. She always tries to right her wrongs hen she discovers them, and even though she knows Ariel is up to no good she finds herself hard pressed to resist him. The four fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream are just hilarious. They’re full of energy, spunk and crazy shenanigans and they genuinely care for Bertie. Likewise, Nate is an honest, selfless character who makes sure to keep an eye on Bertie (and he likes her, of course!). Ariel, on the other hand, grated on my nerves. He’s a sweet talker who lives in half truths and lies to get what he wants. He may genuinely care for Bertie, but he has a crazy way of showing it. Even at the end of the book I still didn’t trust him, and wondered if he was going to get Bertie in trouble somehow.

The plot moved along great, and the writing was wonderfully descriptive. It conveyed the setting and the emotions of the characters really well; I was completely absorbed in Bertie’s story. There were enough little twists and turns that I was kept guessing and interested, and even though the ending is not completely resolved (first book in a series after all), the main storyline of the book is wrapped up quite nicely. Even though it is the first book in a series, it reads like a stand-alone novel. I never felt like I was waiting for more to be revealed, or that I’d be waiting for the next book to really feel who these characters are. Yes, there are parts left unanswered that will continue on, and there is always more character development to be had, but overall, Eyes Like Stars is a captivating adventure/romance with great characters, a great setting and a storyline you can really get involved in. I’ll definitely be picking up the next book in the series!

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Before I Fall
by Lauren Oliver
ISBN-13: 9-780061-726804
Rating: 5 ♥ / 5 ♥

What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: the world’s most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High – from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.

Instead, it turns out to be her last.

Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death – and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

Before I Fall is a breathtaking, heartbreaking story of loss, love and finding yourself. It’s one of those books that stays with you long after you’ve turned the last page. It draws you in and keeps you reading, keeps you invested in the characters and involved in the plot. It’s just amazing.

That being said, I want to let it be known up front that I probably had a different reaction to reading this book than most. My 16 year-old brother died two years ago in a manner similar to Samantha Kingston, and there was a sentence near the end of the first chapter that had me in tears (sad ones) and wondering if I wanted to keep reading. I did, though, and I’m glad. That sentence? Was transformed by the end of the epilogue, and it had me in tears for an entirely different reason – a more hopeful reason. Despite the subject matter of death, and the entire rollercoaster ride of emotions it put me through, I’m so amazed at this book.

Samantha Kingston dies at the end of the day on February 12, a Friday, while leaving for home from a party. She wakes up the next day – and it’s February 12. She proceeds to live through her last day seven times, and over the course of those days she comes to realize numerous things about herself, her friends and the people she goes to school with, all in the process of trying to change her own ending.

Sam is such a complex character. She’s incredibly realistic in her thought processes and actions. She’s one of the popular kids at school – she can have whatever she wants, whenever she wants, and she thinks nothing of the people she might hurt, tease and belittle on the way. She’s a person I would never have been friends with in high school. Throughout the course of the novel, though, Sam changes. The experience she goes through makes her take a long, hard look at how she and her friends treat others and why they do. All these revelations flow smoothly and believably (Sam takes one of her days to act out and be as scandelous as possible – I probably would have done the same if I knew it would all be reset the next morning) and wind into a plot that is intense and captivating.

The idea of a time-loop isn’t that unique, it’s been done before (Groundhog Day and Stargate: SG1 jump to mind), but Lauren Oliver makes it work and throws her own unique voice into the genre (can time-loop even be considered a genre?). I really enjoyed Lauren’s writing style, and the formating. Her sentences flowed well and kept an even pace throughout the book. Her descriptions and settings were vivid and it really felt like you were seeing everything through a Sam filter. Each day is separated into its own chapter, meaning there’s only seven chapters – plus prologue and epilogue – split into smaller parts by headers. It takes a while to finish a chapter, but the smaller divisions within each leave plenty of places to stop and take a break and not feel like you’re leaving in the middle.

I wasn’t too happy to see the instances of drinking and driving, but it wasn’t glorified and played a part in the overall plot of the book. There are depictions of drugs, suicide (non-graphic) and some sexuality (no actual sex), but it’s nothing anyone over the age of 12 hasn’t read/seen/heard before. Before I Fall is an amazing story and a great debut novel. Despite my early upset, I ended up loving the book.

Before I Fall is part of the 2010 Debut Author Challenge

Book Battle

Just a quick update on the Debut Book Battle being hosted by Alyssa @ The Shady Glade. Results for the first round of brackets (1-12) are slowly being posted. You can find the results of each battle on Alyssa’s blog, along with links to the judges for each bracket. Both of the battles that directly influence mine (bracket 18) have had their results posted and I thought I’d let you know that I have to judge two books that I’ve heard outstanding things about. Each one has recieved a ton of praise from bloggers, and I’m really hopeing they click with me. It’s definitely gonna be tough round, though!

Natalie @ Mindful Musings and Misty @ the Book Rat judged The Iron King by Julie Kagawa and Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver.

The winner was Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver! Check out what the judges have to say about their pick and their reviews for each book on their individual blogs: the Book Rat, Mindful Musings.

For this bracket I had actually read The Iron King, so I was very interested to see how it would hold up against Before I Fall – a book that has a majority loving it so far. I was sad to see it didn’t move on, but that just means Before I Fall is that much more awesome, right? (I’m actually in the middle of reading this one right now. I decided to start with it since it’s the longer novel :P)

Andrea @ The Little Bookworm and Diana @ Stop, Drop & Read judged The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan and Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev.

The winner was Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev! Check out what the judges have to say about their pick and their reviews for each book on their individual blogs: Stop, Drop & Read, The Little Bookworm.

As in the other battle, I’ve read one of these books too. I read The Demon’s Lexicon as soon as it was released and anyone who’s read my blog should know my love for this book by now. Since Eyes Like Stars won, this obviously means I am incredibly excited to read it and see how I like it.

Debut Book Battle

The YA Bloggers Debut Book Battle hosted by Alyssa @ The Shady Glade has started! The list of books has been divided into brackets, the judges have been chosen, and the battle is set to be fierce.

I’m judging in the second round, partnered with Sherry @ Flipping Pages for All Ages. Four judges will read, deliberate and judge four books in order to determine which two books will continue on to round two, and be judged by me and Sherry.

Natalie @ Mindful Musings and Misty @ the Book Rat will be judging The Iron King by Julie Kagawa and Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver.

Andrea @ The Little Bookworm and Diana @ Stop, Drop & Read will be judging The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan and Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev.

Alyssa put together an awesome video listing the titles in the Battle, too.

And, last but not least, check out Alyssa’s blog for more information on how the books are bracketed, and who is judging which books!


YA Bloggers Debut Book Battle

I was going through posts on my Google Reader when I came across one by Kristen @ Bookworming in the 21st Century about the YA Bloggers Debut Book Battle being hosted by Alyssa @ The Shady Glade. It sounded kind of awesome, so I checked it out. It’s such a fun idea, to nominate books into brackets and pit them against each other. It will definitely be a lot of work, so rather than just sit back and watch the posts I figured I should help out – so I signed up to be a judge if needed 😛

Here’s what’s up: (from The Shady Glade)

Well, it started as a crazy idea. An idea that seemed popular (to my surprise) and it kind of took off from there.

The YA Bloggers Debut Book Battle is a bracket-style judging contest to pick the best nominated debut work published in the last year (and a little bit of 2010).

People will have a chance to nominate a book of their choice to take place in the battle. After nominations close, the books will be narrowed down and fit into brackets for our lovely volunteer judges to read. Starting in late April each judge will read two books and choose a winner. One will move on, one will not. It will all come down to two books in a epic book battle to choose the best!

So how can you help? We also need lots of nominations for books, or this will be a short battle! So if you have a book you think deserves to win, nominate it.

We also need people to volunteer. Think you are a good judge of books? Well then, sign up!

The timeline of this battle will depend on how many books get nominated and how many judges sign up. I’ll have a more definite timeline for everyone as it gets closer.

You can also grab the battle button in the left sidebar, or view our Goodreads group.

Now, get ready to battle!

If you want to nominate a book, it has to have been first published between January 1st, 2009 and March 31st, 2010. It also has to be the authors very first publication.

The whole things seems like a ton of fun, I’m excited for it to start!