Thursday, June 27, 2013

Battle of the Books!

There comes a time in every book lover's life when you pick a book off a shelf and ask yourself, "Didn't I just read this last week?"  Sometimes the answer is "Yes.  This is just the new cover on the paperback edition, stupidhead," but sometimes the answer is "No, it's just that publishers think that every fantasy fan, young adult, new adult, or historical fictionista want to read the same books."

Is it just me, or do 97.65% of YA books have vampires or werewolves or fairies or something in them now?  Are actual teenage boys are so foreign to our teen sisters that they can only think of them as a different species?
Why do all* historical fiction novels show a woman (or two) in a period-piece dress from the collarbone down?  (My current theory is that women did not have heads before 1919.)
Do all* New Adult covers need to have two white people not-quite-kissing?  ("Not kissing" pretty much sums up my late teens and early twenties, so perhaps this is spot on.)
*not really ALL, but a lot.

It's no wonder my brain gets confused.  Anyone who knows me in real life knows that I have more books than is remotely normal.  I don't always have problems getting them straight in my head.  But there does come a time where I have to sigh, shake my head, and say, "It's been done before and it wasn't good then.  I doubt it will be good now."  I'm certain I have dismissed possibly good books just because they bore an unfortunate resemblance to another lackluster book. How can we bookaholics possibly know which books we should pick up next?

In order to make the confusion its own reward, I have decided to start a semi-regular series of entries:  The Battle of the Books.  These will be single-match, sudden-death fights between two similar books.  Why?  Because I'm far too lazy to create a March Madness-style bracket.  Besides, it's not exactly fair to compare a 2013 steampunk novel to a classic Neil Gaiman, or Lord of the Rings to David Copperfield.  After a while, it would just be a list of "Books Enjoyed by Wandering Meander."

A couple of ground rules in these matches:
1.  The books must have different authors.  Comparing Gaiman's American Gods to Neverwhere might be fun for me to read, but it's not exactly a useful comparison.
2.  The books cannot be from the same series, even if written by different authors.  Eg, "Alex Archer" of the Rogue Angel series is a pen name, not a real person, which allows different authors to write the stories under the same name.
3. The books must be from the same genre or sub-genre.  Steampunk is a sub-genre of SF/F.  So is Alternate History.  However, I wouldn't compare Boneshaker to 1632, but I might consider comparing it to The Iron Duke
4. Whenever possible, the books should have similar plots or backgrounds.  There are a lot of Tudor novels out there, but comparing The Autobiography of Henry VIII to The Irish Princess just doesn't seem fair. 

Now, for the competition.  How can I decide which book walks out of the ring - so to speak - as the champion, and which just walks out of the ring?  I will compare the two books on the following criteria, award 1 point for each victory (or it can be a tie, in which case zero points will be awarded):
1. Main Character
2. Supporting Cast
3. Worldbuilding
4. Pacing
5. Plot Development
6. Plot Resolution
7. Style/Use of Language
8. Cover Art (Tiebreaker only)

Why am I doing this?  Because it's fun to make pointless comparisons.  Because that way I can review two books at once.  Because I feel like it.  Because sometimes you want to know which book to read -and sometimes you find out that two books are equally good in different ways.

The first Battle of the Books will be:

Tarnished by Karina Cooper versus Kiss of Steel by Bec McMaster

Want in on this and want to write your own?  Have a Book Battle you'd like to propose?  Let me know. 

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