I participated as one of the Round 2 judges in the Best Overlooked Book Battle. While I participated last year in the Best Debut Book Battle. This year’s decision was so much harder!
John Belushi is Dead:
In the end, we all fade to black...Pink-haired Hilda and oddball loner Benji are not your typical teenagers. Instead of going to parties or hanging out at the mall, they comb the city streets and suburban culs-de-sac of Los Angeles for sites of celebrity murder and suicide. Bound by their interest in the macabre, Hilda and Benji neglect their schoolwork and their social lives in favor of prowling the most notorious crime scenes in Hollywood history and collecting odd mementos of celebrity death. Hilda and Benji’s morbid pastime takes an unexpected turn when they meet Hank, the elderly, reclusive tenant of a dilapidated Echo Park apartment where a silent movie star once stabbed himself to death with a pair of scissors. Hilda feels a strange connection with Hank and comes to care deeply for her paranoid new friend as they watch old movies together and chat the sweltering afternoons away. But when Hank’s downstairs neighbor Jake, a handsome screenwriter, inserts himself into the equation and begins to hint at Hank’s terrible secrets.
Hilda must decide what it is she’s come to Echo Park searching for . . . and whether her fascination with death is worth missing out on life.
City of Masks: Lucien is seriously ill but his life is transformed when an old Italian notebook gives him the power to become a stravagante, a time traveller with access to 16th century Italy. He wakes up in Bellezza (Venice) during carnival time and meets Arianna, a girl his own age who is disguised as a boy in the hope of being selected as one of the Duchessa's mandoliers. Arianna gives Lucien her boy's clothing and he is selected as a mandolier himself, becoming a friend of fellow-stravagante Rodolfo, the Duchessa's lover, and saving the Duchessa's life when she is threatened by an assassin hired by the powerful di Chimici family. For state occasions the Duchessa uses her maid Giuliana as a body-double but Guiliana commits the fatal mistake of revealing the secret to her fiance Enrico and a sequence of devastating consequences unravels. Meanwhile Lucien has met the original stravagante, the Elizabethan alchemist William Dethridge, and he begins to understand that he may be called to follow in his footsteps.
I think the thing that made this battle so hard to judge was the fact that they were such completely different books. One was fantasy and the other was realistic contemporary. I liked both of these books for very different reasons.
John Belushi is Dead: I liked this book because it flowed really well, each part of the story contributed to the overall plot, and it asked some really hard questions about life and how it should be lived. Also the characters were all very alive and different, not stereotypical like they sometimes can be in some contemporary books.
City of Masks: I liked this books because of the world building. Bellezza was wonderfully built, I felt like I was there the entire time the book was going on. I also liked the characters, they were all very different and important to the plot.
There were also some small things I didn’t like about these books.
John Belushi: The whole death thing I found very creepy, and the ending was very disturbing (to me) I found that part kind of hard to deal with.
City of Masks: The beginning was kind of slow.
So as you can see this was a really hard decision, and ultimately came down to which book held more surprises throughout it, as well as which book kept me the most captivated.
The Winner is…
City of Masks!!!!!