Niles-Maine District Library


Judge’s Final Votes


Thanks to everyone who participated in our inaugural Tournament of Books. We hope your enjoyed the books that the Adult Services librarians chose for you. Simply click on the book link below to see if it’s available at the Library or to place a hold. If you need any reading recommendations, don’t hesitate to contact us via email at

Who is the winner of our 2013 Tournament of Books?


Judge: Donna B.

Vampires in the Lemon Grove is one of my favorite books of 2013. I love the way Russell blends some degree of the fantastic in to each story, whether it’s a touch of magical realism (“The New Veterans”), dystopic science fiction (“Reeling for the Empire”) or supernatural horror (“The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis”). I enjoyed it from beginning to end, and was reminded often of the writing styles of Ray Bradbury and Shirley Jackson (two of my favorite authors).

The Mourning Hours was certainly readable, but I identified the murderer long before the murder occurred. DeBoard also failed to convince me that a 9-year-old would have narrated the story as she does, and I thought the characters acted unrealistically.

This was an easy choice for me: Vampires in the Lemon Grove


Judge: Cecilia C.

I am not a short stories person so right off the bat, Vampires had a disadvantage. Though I thought some of the stories were good, I was truly compelled by the story, characters and writing of Mourning. It is tense, well-structured, well-paced and captivating. Mourning is one of the best books I have read in a while. I choose The Mourning Hours.


Judge: Mary M.

I find the mean tone disguised as cleverness in the writing of Karen Russell in Vampires in the Lemon Grove disturbing. The fact that the evil envy of one disturbed individual shatters the stability of the Hammerstrom family but does not destroy its loving framework is uplifting. I vote for The Mourning Hours since it engages readers with believable and empathetic characters in a strong setting with the deft touch of beautiful language and fluid writing style.


Judge: Cyndi R.

I chose The Mourning Hours because it will have more general appeal than Vampires in the Lemon Grove. It is a good, fast paced, story that shows being too close to the truth and caught in the situation leads to dangerous conclusions. Kristen does not understanding that the events around her may have nothing to do with her. She is only able to see one side of the story, her own. But then she is only 9-years old.


Judge: Maryellen E.

The Mourning Hours is my choice. I found the narrator’s voice to be filled with all the doubt and second guessing of a young girl. The writing was clean and to the point.


Judge: Dodie F.

I pick The Mourning Hours, the writing was outstanding.


Judge: Greta U.

I also prefer The Mourning Hours to Vampires in Lemon Grove. I like to read short stories but these had a dark tone I didn’t like so much. And I really liked The Mourning Hours – a very well-written thriller.


Judge: Pat A.

The Mourning Hours focuses intensely on a small town farm family dealing with a terrible event that befalls their high school golden boy athlete son, Johnny Hammarstrom, and his beautiful girlfriend, Stacy Lemke. The author, with great sensitivity, subtlety and intuition, spends two thirds of her book revealing the deep doubts, fractures, pain and sacrifice that the Hammarstrom family contends with. Then, all this careful crafting falls apart with a rushed, too contrived and too conveniently predictable ending. The author also takes an extremely cynical point of view towards the townsfolk. They fairly worshiped Johnny as the town hero then abandoned him immediately and brutally with no benefit of any doubt whatsoever as to his guilt. The townsfolk were not accorded the carefully considered evolution that Johnny and his family were in response to the catalytic event of the book. The author is certainly entitled to her cynicism but if it is just a technical choice made to quickly set up a conflict it betrays the carefully considered evolution she bestows on the Hammerstrom family. Then again, one of the joys and pleasures of reading is discovering for oneself what really lives between the covers of a book.

Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell: The velocity, punch and power of a string of short stories tumbling off the pages one after another are wonderfully exemplified in this strange and singular book. These stories about a couple of “married” vampires occupying a lemon grove, a sweat-shop of teenaged girls spinning silk from their metamorphosed stomachs, high school boys bullying a mysterious scarecrow version of the actual classmate they do bully, a tattoo that seems to come to life when the physical therapist massages the back of an Iraq war veteran, among others, are arresting, weird and fantastical.

Ms. Russell, in the worlds she conjures, juxtaposes an admixture of naturalism with the eccentrically and supernaturally bizarre. She deals in the transformational and transmutable: teenage girls into silk worms, seagulls with seeming prescient intelligence and presidents who’ve become horses. In this technological epoch that is leading us to the creation of proto-human robots, transmutability and transformation would seem to be crucial things to think about. Art, with its ability to distance us from the hyper-personal, may be the perfect mode in which to do it.

Ms. Russell’s bold contrasts also jar us into thinking about love, hate, belonging, disconnection, sacrifice, desire, the struggle for clarity, purpose, balance and stability in a constantly evolving and transforming world, in new and fresh ways. Her use of metaphor is precise and striking and she doesn’t end her stories per se she just stops them. She leaves us to catch our breath, startled into wonder and perhaps new insights about our ever evolving and changing lives

My final vote is for Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell


And The Winner Is…

The Winner of the 2013 Niles Tournament of Books is The Mourning Hours by Paula Treick DeBoard! Pick up a copy of any of the the books in the tournament and share your thoughts below.

Click here for the official Tournament of Books webpage!

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