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Wrap-Up: Book Fight!

So in case you haven’t been following me on Twitter or Tumblr, I’ve been hosting my first ever Book Battle at my library. The original dates were March 1 – April 5, but I miscalculated a bit and redid my posters so that the battle ended with the end of the month:

I made brackets, and every week I made new ballots. I pulled all the books, movies, and Playaways related to the books and put them on display. Weekly prizes were books I culled from donations, and the grand prize is the victorious book (or books, depending- if it was a 2-3 book series, I could swing that from my programming money, but if it was a huge series, not so much)….

I wasn’t sure what kind of reaction I was going to get- my teens can be hit or miss sometimes. Self-directed things relating to FOOD, absolute hit. Anything else has been iffy….. So imagine my surprise when I kept getting more and MORE and MORE entries.

Starting Display

 First week, I had 10. Not really bad, considering. Second week, which was our Spring Break week, I had 21. And it was going along relatively predictable lines- Hunger Games vs Divergent, Vampire Academy vs Boy Nobody, Wicked Lovely vs Prophecy, and The Testing vs City of Bones.

Week Three

 Then Week three hit, and I got 36 entries. THIRTY-SIX. I didn’t miscount. The teens weren’t messing with me, or with the contest. They had gotten into it, and I was hearing debates about the books- why this one was better than that one, and why Tris and Four should beat out Nobody, and how Kira would kick Cia’s ass. (They don’t censor around me when we’re alone- when in mixed company, yes.)

Final Week

The final week, after counting the votes from week three, we were down to two books: Divergent by Veronica Roth and Prophecy by Ellen Oh. Now, everyone on my staff were placing bets on Divergent- movie coming out, we can’t keep the series on the shelf, etc.
So I counted the votes on the 31st. THIRTY-NINE votes. From FIFTEEN different teens (I never said they couldn’t vote more than once- in fact, I encouraged them to vote daily), and the vote was a rout.
If you do not have this series in your collection, add it.
 Ellen Oh’s Prophecy was the overwhelming winner!!! Against huge series like Mortal Instruments, Divergent, The Hunger Games, and others, Ellen Oh’s beautifully written story about Kira and her quest won out.
I contacted Ellen Oh via Twitter, on the off chance that she’s maybe possibly send signed bookplates so that I can put them in the books my grand prize winner will get, and she’s being so gracious she’s sending us signed copies of Prophecy. I could not have asked for better, and my teen winner will be over the moon- he’s like me, authors are his idols.
So if you have any doubt about whether or not a book fight/battle is worth it, it definitely is. It wasn’t an incredible investment considering the outcome:
  • 3-4 hours to get things queued up (books selected, brackets set up, book covers located and printed out, brackets created, donations located from Main Library, and first ballots printed)
  • Notifying staff about contest and asking them to push it to teens
  • An hour per week during the battle to get ballots collected and counted, new ballots printed, and wall updated
  • Another hour to get winning series from local bookstore (I could order these online but I like local shops)
  • Possibly an hour online Twitter/email with Ellen Oh back and forth about the awesomeness that she won
  • Investment total: 10 hours, in-house printing and donations, $25.00 budget for winning books
  • Outcome: 106 entries, over 20 different teens involved

Mini Reviews: Warrior by Ellen Oh and The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

More mini-reviews to whet your appetite! This time, historical action fiction with Warrior by Ellen Oh and The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson.

First up, Warrior by Ellen Oh.

Book Synopsis: Kira, demon slayer and outcast for her yellow eyes, is just barely home from protecting her cousin, the Crown Prince, and assisting her uncle and the Iron Army defeat the invaders and protect the throne. Trying to unite the kingdoms, all seems to be going well- until a surprise attack fronted by the Demon Lord kills the King Uncle and throws the Seven Kingdoms into chaos. With the Crown Prince’s right to the throne challenged, Kira must again quest to find the sacred relics of the Dragon Warrior in order to save her homeland- and her family.

My thoughts: I fell in love with Prophecy, the lyrical approach to the story and the immersion to detail Oh gives to her characters. Warrior does not stray from that style- the details of Korean life, the twists and fast pacing make this an engaging read for those who want an adventure story. Kira is still searching for herself, and trying to figure out whether she can be girl and warrior, and that stays very true in the book- her relationships are awkward and she really doesn’t know how to be anything but the fighter and demon slayer, although she is starting to come out of her shell. Other characters are built as well, and back-stories are filled in that tug at heartstrings. I am definitely excited for the next book to come out.

Next, The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson
Book Synopsis:  The third and final book in the Girl of Fire and Thorns series, Elisa has braved her powers, sorcery, and winning over a kingdom. Now she must move into the territory of the enemy itself to save her love and her kingdom. Journeying to the lands of Invierne, Elisa hopes to destroy the source of their magic and make a pact for peace while rescuing Hector, her true love. Then off to the Basajuan desert to stop the war effort between kingdoms, and finally to her own Kingdom in order to destroy a traitor and take back her throne. All the while, Elisa must learn the full power of her Godstone, as well as her own power within if they are all to survive.

My thoughts: I have been a huge fan of this series since the beginning- finally a heroine who was less than perfect, smart, cunning, and an actual, normal size! Carson takes her time weaving through all the elements of the story, from rescuing Hector, to meeting up with Elisa’s sister and best friend (both Queens in their own rights), and finally sneaking into Elisa’s kingdom in order to set things to right. I adore the fact that Elisa must save everyone with “her only lasting power- her smarts”- that is something that every reader needs to take to heart. I was more than happy with the Hector/Elisa storyline, even though some readers might get a little antsy at the sexy bits (not a lot of sexy but still there is more than the previous books). There were two things I could have wished for that would have been explained in more detail: the relationship between Elisa and her sister (it’s briefly touched upon when they meet up to fight the war, but with the sister having been a big part of the first book, I wish there was more resolution) and the discussion of how close Elisa’s people and the Invierne are genetically, and how they came to be on that world (again, briefly touched upon, but I want more). I can hope that there will be additional books in this world.

Christie’s To Drool For: November/ December 2013 Releases


Oh, so many good books coming! And with the holidays and everything, I don’t know how I will have time to read them all!

November Drools:

6th in the Iron Fey series, Ethan slips back on the world of fairy in order to try and save both worlds, and the girl that he loves.

The finale of Marie Lu’s trilogy, June and Day have sacrificed everything in order to stop war, yet a new plague threatens to destroy everything they’ve worked for. 

A new series from the writer of The Godess Test series, Kitty Doe knows that she’s stuck in the life she’s born with, and the only way to get anything is to score well on the Test. When she scores a III, her life might as well be over, so when she can become a VII she jumps at the chance. Yet, drawn as a pawn into the ruling class’s power games, can she take control?

December Drools:

Conclusion to the Under the Never Sky triology, Perry and Asia are trying untie the survivors of the Aether storms and tribal infighting in order to make it to the one place that might still be safe.

Elizabeth can’t wait to begin coordinating EVERYTHING with her freshman year roomie, and starts sending letters in order to coordinate bedding and mini-fridges; much to Lauren’s surprise, as she asked for a single room. Soon they’re sharing letters, secrets, and learning that sometimes the only people you can count is someone you’ve never met.

The sequel to Prophecy, only days have passed since Kira has safely returned her cousin the  prince back to their uncle the King. Yet the Demon Lord has not been defeated, and in order to defend her cousin’s claim to the throne, she must set out to gather the remaining the two dragon treasures before the country is destroyed by war.

Book Review: Prophecy by Ellen Oh

Fire shot up from the ground like geysers, and all around them fiendish figures danced about in wild abandon. Kira screamed again, over and over, but her screams excited the demons further, sending them into a rampage as they clawed her clothes and raked sharp talons against her flesh. Ahead, a figure grew to immense proportions in the midst of the dancing creatures. She knew immediately what it was: the Demon Lord.

Grayish-black skin gleamed as it filled her vision entirely, until all she saw before her was a face. Black eyes with red pupils stared at her while the great slash of a mouth turned into a large, gaping hole that pulled itself into a bizarre semblance of a smile. This creature looked nothing like she’d imagined. It was far worse.

Kira looked into the black eyes and found horror and death staring back at her. She tore her gaze away and saw the cavern had changed into a battlefield. Kwas and Jaewon fought Yamato soldiers of incredible speed and strength. One soldier looked directly at her, his skin melting away to reveal the demon underneath. Grinning, the demon stabbed Jaewon through his abdomen, while other creatures dragged Kwan from view.

The battlefield went up in a blaze of fire and then burned out to reveal Taejo alone, surrounded and outnumbered, but fighting bravely. A horde of half-breed soldiers rushed him all at once, engulfing Taejo until he disappeared.
“Taejo!” Kira screamed. “Taejo!”

She turned to the Demon Lord. “What do you want?”

The monster laughed. Smoke billowed from its mouth. 

“The end of you all!” it replied, the voice bellowing as the enormous mouth grew larger and closer, until it surrounded her in darkness.

The only female fighter in the King’s army, Kira was born with a curse- yellow eyes that can see the demons that are trying to overrun the country and destroy the Kingdom. Demonslayer and outcast, Kira goes on the run with the young prince when the Kingdom is betrayed and the King is murdered. With only the guidance of a cryptic prophecy, Kira and the prince may be the saviors of the world, but first they must battle demon soldiers, an evil shaman, and the Demon Lord in order to survive.

Ellen Oh writes a wonderful beginning of a trilogy blending Korean folklore with a full fantasy adventure. Kira, daughter of the weaponsmaster, was born with the ability to see demons- called a kumiho by her clansmen, she is outcast yet is sworn to protect her young prince from the demons that seem to be invading with alarming frequency. When the Kingdom is betrayed and the King killed, Kira takes Taejo and hides within the countryside and runs to an uncle’s Kingdom for protection. Meanwhile, the monks believe that Taejo, or possibly Kira, is the Dragon Warrior, the one destined to defeat the Demon Lord and unite the Kingdoms in peace. Yet how can a teenage girl and a young boy unite the fractured kingdoms with all the evil against them?  Highly intertwined with Korean tradition, Kira is extremely believable and has her own doubts about her own abilities that make her very reachable to teens. The challenges she faces, and the story that Oh weaves, leave readers tearing through to the end, and desperately waiting for the next book to see what will happen next. A good paring with Alison Goodman’s Eon and Eona series, or Cashore’s Graceling.  4 out of 5 stars. As of March 22, 2013, Goodreads has Prophecy listed at 3.51 stars.  

NOTE: There is a LOT of sword fighting in this book, and mass suicide. It is not extremely graphic, but it is there, and I have some impressionable teens who, while they would love the world Oh builds, would not be comfortable with the fighting or the images of the suicides.

I loved this book. The world is so beautiful, the writing is so lush, and I didn’t want it to end. I think teens will really relate to Kira and her outcast status, and her abilities to see demons where no one else can see just adds to her “awesomeness” factor. I can see Kira taking her place with Eona or Katniss- she’s that dedicated to her family and her mission, as much as they are, and her story is just as heartbreaking as theirs are.

The prejudice against Kira is more than her yellow eyes, it is her roughness as well. She’s a woman fulfilling a man’s role, and that is completely unacceptable in the realm; it’s driven home early on when the Queen (Kira’s aunt) arranges for her marriage even though she is the sworn protector to the young prince. The duality of her roles, and the challenge of fulfilling both her duties and her desires, will be interesting in the coming books.