Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Winners of the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards

Finally! The winners have been announced for the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards. It has been a slow and somewhat painful couple of weeks waiting for these results to come out, but they are here and the readers have spoken. 

Although I did not vote for it, I am still thrilled to say that The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead has won for Best Historical Fiction. But the one I did vote for, Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly, did end up coming in second, narrowly missing the win by less than 200 votes. For anyone who thinks their vote does not matter, this close race shows how untrue that is.

And it should be a surprise to no one that J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Cursed Child blew away the rest of the competition in the Best Fantasy category, with my personal pick of All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders coming in sixth. 

While I had high hopes for Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter's The Long Cosmos, I am not too surprised it did not end up winning for Best Science Fiction. It did still manage to come in fourth, however, and I think that is a fairly strong showing.

Another close call comes from the Best Horror award, with Joe Hill's The Fireman edging out my choice of The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison. I knew that Hutchison's haunting tale deserved to be in this category, and if there was an underdog that I really believed had a chance, it was this book. But hey, there is no shame in losing to Stephen King's son. 

I had sincerely hoped for a better showing for All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister in the History & Biography category; instead, it ended up coming in fifth, with The Midnight Assassin by Skip Hollandsworth coming in eighth. And the winner? Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man by William Shatner.

And again, Lilac Girls end us coming in second place in its second category, Best Debut Goodreads Author. This time it comes in behind Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, which is the book I actually voted for, came in eighth. 

Aside from Best Historical Fiction, much of this blog post has been me listing off a bunch of near misses and close races for many of the books that have appeared on this blog. But I am beyond thrilled to say that Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys has taken home the award for my absolute favorite category of Best Young Adult Fiction. It feels right that the two categories that a Door Stop Novel would win for are Best Historical Fiction, a category that no Door Stop Novel has ever won before today, and Best Young Adult Fiction, my favorite category. Congratulations to Sepetys.

So now, we once again wait 12 more months until the next Goodreads Choice Awards nominees are announced. I certainly enjoyed discovering the 15 total Door Stop Novels that ended up being nominated this year, and I am sure I will enjoy the process of searching, finding, discovering, and guessing all over again in 2017.

'Till next year. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Door Stop: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

For the life of me, I cannot remember what it was exactly that compelled me to pick up Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. Sure, I had heard of it, and knew of it as one of those incredibly long books that people like to say they have read, even when they haven't. But I don't know what actually made be begin searching the shelves at Half Price Books for it, before finally buying the 20th anniversary edition pictured here off of Amazon. Whatever the case may be, I have read it. It took me forever, but I read it.

The Situation: Hal Incandenza is the youngest son of James and Avril Incandenza. James founded the elite Enfield Tennis Academy (ETA) in Boston, Massachusetts that Hal now attends and trains at in hopes of becoming a world-class tennis player. Though Hal's older brother, Mario, does not technically attend ETA, he does live there, and he and Hal share a room. And while James committed suicide back in the Year of the Trial-Size Dove Bar, Avril continues to assist in running ETA, along with her adoptive brother Charles Tavis. On the other side of the hill, at the Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery, Don Gately does his best to keep the halfway house running safely and smoothly, while also staying clean and sober. The two extremely different worlds are linked in various ways, but mainly through  a woman named Joelle Van Dyne, a former girlfriend of Hal's oldest brother, Orin, who finds herself at Ennet after a suicide attempt.

The Problem: Though Hal is a fantastic tennis player and incredibly smart, he suffers from severe insecurity, and loves few things more than he going down into the tunnels below Enfield to smoke marijuana in private. His insecurity is so bad that he seems to nearly fall apart after he is almost beaten in a tennis match by one of his close friends. Hal's problems could stem from marijuana; or the pressures of ETA and to be a great tennis player; or his father's suicide; or even his mother's strange behavior, as she has become increasingly agoraphobic since her husband's suicide. At Ennet, Don has his hands full trying to maintain order as well as stay clean, especially after one resident decides to supplement his addictive urges by killing small animals and pets belonging to neighborhood residents. Meanwhile, there is a third main story line where a group of radicals are attempting to commit an act of terrorism by finding and distributing a film that is apparently so addictive, that viewers want to do nothing else but watch it once they see it. And because this film was made by James Incandenza before his death, this group begins to seek out those closest to him as they look for the master copy.

Genre, Themes, History: Because this book is nearly 1000 pages of tightly packed prose, and also contains close to 400 endnotes, it has been categorized as an encyclopedic novel, which of course leads me to simply label it as a door stop. It was published in 1996, but is set in the future. In this future that Wallace has imagined, not only has the U.S., Mexico, and Canada merged to become the Organization of North American Nations, but each year is subsidized by a corporate sponsor, hence the aforementioned Year of the Trial-Size Dove Bar. Most of the action seems to take place during the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment, which we can only guess to be around 2009. Even without the crazy state the world is in (or at least North America), Wallace gives us characters that fit that space nicely. At first glance, the Incandenza family is not perfect - given James' suicide and Mario's disabilities - but they are stable. All it takes is a closer look at each member and how they interact with each other to realize that this may be one of the most dysfunctional families ever put on paper. At one point, Joelle remembers a dinner she attended at the Incandenza's when James was still alive. While the meal went off without a hitch and everyone was perfectly nice to her, she could tell that something was not right, and that Avril was just controlling enough for everything to look okay, but too controlling for it to actually be okay. And all of this is without the addicts living at Ennet, and the separatists wanting to commit a terrorist act. The title of Infinite Jest refers to the film the terrorist are looking for, created by James and starring Joelle. The novel deals with family, addiction, recovery, suicide, entertainment, and even tennis, as each character just tries to be 'okay,' and struggling immensely only to not pull it off.

My Verdict: More than once I have mentioned how hard Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is to read despite actually being fairly short. Well for me, Infinite Jest has the exact same problem, only it is incredibly long. As a whole, it was okay, with certain parts of it being amazing, and other parts being meh, and still other parts being quite boring. It is regarded by many as a masterpiece, and I easily understand why. What Wallace has done is no small thing, and it is what many try to do but fail to due to lack of execution, talent, or even patience. Wallace goes for broke, and it pays off. And the way he links the different story lines together does not at all feel cheap or easy or convenient. I recommend this book, but only if you have the time, and the desire to take the time, to read something that cannot be knocked out over a few days by the beach, or at a coffee shop. This book is an investment, and it should be approached as such.

Favorite Moment: As macabre, and somewhat gross, as it may be, I enjoyed Hal's description of the moment when he came home and found that his father had stuck his own head in the microwave and turned it on.

Favorite Character: Sometimes this is hard when pretty much every character is an absolute mess. Hal would be the easiest choice I guess, but instead I will pick Don Gately. After a life of hard drugs and hard living, Don has finally gotten clean through Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, and now works for Ennet house in several different capacities. He still has his demons, and the other residents give him plenty of grief, but overall he is a decent guy trying to get his life together.  

Recommended Reading: If you want another door stop (although I seriously recommend going for something light after this one), I say go for The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. It also focuses on one main character, but has several side stories that connect to the main story line. For something lighter (as in shorter) that also offers an interesting view of the future, I recommend Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Contemporary Fiction: Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Imbolo Mbue's Behold the Dreamers has appeared on Buzzfeed's list of "Incredible New Books You Need to Read This Summer." Exploring the lives of a Cameroonian couple that immigrated to the US, the book looks at the pitfalls of the so-called American dream against a New York City backdrop.

The Situation: It is 2008 and Jende and Neni Jonga live in a tiny apartment in Harlem with their young son Liomi. After leaving Limbe, their hometown in Cameroon, Jende lived in New York City for years, working hard and saving up enough money so that his wife and child could join him. Now they live a decent, if somewhat cramped and tenuous existence as Neni attends school with dreams of becoming a pharmacist, and Jende just landed a job as a driver for an extremely powerful and wealthy Wall Street executive. While working and saving up money is certainly a big part of Jende and Neni's plan for carving out a life in the US, there is also the matter of Jende's expired visa and the possibility that he may be deported. Hard-earned money must be spent on immigration lawyers, applications, and fees. And then there is the long wait that may only result in a denial. But currently, both Jende and Neni have friends in New York and decent jobs. And of course, they have each other.

The Problem: While Jende may have landed a great job as a driver for Clark Edwards and his family, he doesn't anticipate becoming an unwilling observer, and sometimes participant, in the issues surrounding the wealthy man's work and family. As the recession hits, Clark's firm is hit hard, and while the demands of his job were already putting a strain on his marriage, the financial crisis threatens to push everything over the edge, and the formerly financially comfortable Edwards family begins to panic about how their lives will change. Meanwhile, Jende must oscillate between loyalty to his employer, providing for his family, and securing the ultimate dream of American citizenship, all in a time when it looks like he could loose any of those things at almost any moment. The strain of trying to achieve the American dream may prove to be too much for both families.

Genre, Themes, History: This is a fiction novel set in New York City in 2008, just as the US economy is taking its downturn. Jende Jonga is an immigrant from Cameroon who is currently staying in the US beyond the original expiration date of his visa. The job he lands driving for Clark Edwards is by far the best paying job he has ever had, but it makes him privy to certain details about Clark's work and family life. It's two families on extreme opposite ends of the socio-economic scale, and yet they both have struggles in their marriage, their careers, and ultimately want to carve out a nice life for their children. Granted, Jende's worry about having enough money to buy food is incredibly different from Cindy's, Clark's wife, of having to possibly let go of the maids or nanny. And while the Edwards have plenty of money, that does not mean they are immune to marital issues, or problems with their children. Both families must reevaluate what they are willing to do and sacrifice in order to achieve their version of the American dream. And instead of looking at a white family and a black family, the reader gets to look at a white family and a Cameroonian family, which is entirely different, as Cameroonian families have different rules as far as how wives behave towards their husbands, and obligations to family still living back home.

My Verdict: On Goodreads this book was described as "compulsively readable," and I understand exactly what they mean. While there isn't much suspense or action, I had to keep reading just to know how everything was going to turn out. As if Jende and Neni's story wasn't enough, the drama that circles around the Edwards family is also captivating, giving the reader two families of fully developed characters to become invested in. There were moments where I felt the story dragged a little bit, but even then there was dialogue to follow, or careful descriptions to consider or take note of. I am always interested in reading the stories of different immigrant groups as they do their best to make a life for themselves in the US, and Mbue's novel is another example of how tough living in the US can be if you weren't born here, and sometimes even if you were.

Favorite Moment: When Neni marvels at the food that is prepared and served at gatherings at the Edwards summer home.

Favorite Character: Jende's cousin Winston is a Cameroonian success story. He also immigrated to the US, and now has a great job and is able to assist Jende in his current quest for a green card. 

Recommended Reading: I recommend Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Instead of focusing on immigrants from Africa in modern day America, Gyasi's book follows the history of a Ghanaian family from pre-slavery days to present day.     

Friday, November 18, 2016

Young Adult Fiction: Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

If author John Green endorses a book, chances are I am going to pick it up and read it. And with Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer, Green said it is the "smartest and funniest book about spontaneous combustion you will eve read." Yep, you read that right. Spontaneous freakin' combustion.

The Situation: Mara Carlyle is a senior at Covington High School in Covington, New Jersey. She is more or less your average teen trying to make it out of high school with the help of her best friend Tess, and a fair amount of drugs she is able to buy from a pair of twin dealers. Up until her senior year her life has pretty much gone unremarked, but when one of her classmates literally explodes in the middle of third period pre-calculus, Mara knows things are about to get a little crazy, to say the least. And while poor Katelyn was the first victim, she will certainly not end up being the last.

The Problem: It's generally problematic when the kids in your senior class start blowing up without any warning or provocation. Naturally, the normal explanations (as "normal" as an explanation for something like spontaneous combustion can be) are sought, such as terrorism, tainted drugs, something environmental, something genetic, etc. But as more kids continue to blow up, and more explanations are crossed off the list, both the Covington locals and the US Government get desperate as the former wish to escape what appears to be their fate, and the latter wish to at least contain it if they can't stop it. Kids attempting to escape Covington are captured and brought back. While a few manage to cross state lines, it is eventually proven that what has become known as the Covington Curse is not dependent on proximity to the city or high school. As Mara's world falls around her, she makes an attempt to rally her fellow classmates into a life of semi-normalcy. But when one combustion hits close to home, Mara starts to wonder if she is the source of the Covington Curse.

Genre, Themes, History: This is a young adult novel set in the fictional town of Covington, New Jersey. Told in the first-person by local senior Mara Carlyle, the book covers her senior year of high school and the strange events that take place, namely the spontaneous combustion of a lot of her classmates and the reactions that follow. There is plenty of fear, some suspicion, almost complete confusion, and a whole lot of questions. Mara admits from the beginning that she is a less than trustworthy narrator, but she is all we have, so we have to trust her enough to continue with the story. She doesn't hold back on the filthy language or inappropriate jokes and puns about her fellow classmates going out with a bang, and does little to attempt to hide the less favorable aspects of her own personality. But if she isn't willing to hide that stuff about herself, then there is little chance she is hiding anything about the situation. And with this particular situation being as crazy as it is, the students experience everything imaginable, from school being canceled; to extreme boredom because school is canceled; to being quarantined in a makeshift seclusion tent; to being allowed to riot and destroy property after a particularly beloved student becomes another one in the string of combustions; to eventually rebuilding their own school just so they can finish their senior year; and then to once again being allowed to to do what they want when it appears there are no answers and the entire senior class is doomed. It's a case study to what happens to a small community when the unthinkable (and unbelievable) happens with no answers or predictability.

My Verdict: This book is a crazy ride. Granted, with a subject like spontaneous combustion, there is really nowhere to go but down when it comes to the craziness and excitement. Unfortunately, that is eventually where this book goes after the first half. In the beginning, while kids aren't exactly exploding left and right, it happens often enough that you wonder when it will happen next (and to who), but not so often that you get used to it and accept it as a reality. The reader has front row seats to watching the small community unravel as it searches for answers. But somewhere along the way, even while students continue exploding, the novel gets off track and manages to become less and less interesting. While spontaneous combustion is certainly a compelling topic to base a novel, turns out it can't be the only interesting thing about the story, and that's what happens with Spontaneous. If the book isn't talking about the exploding bodies, or looking for answers regarding exploding bodies, then there isn't a whole lot to be interested in. Even the characters aren't compelling enough to be sufficient between combustions. While Mara may be in-your-face and always ready with a ridiculous joke or quip, she isn't endearing enough to be loveable, and neither is her boyfriend, Dylan. There wasn't much that made me want to root for these people, other than the general desire to not see anyone else die. Basically, the book is fun at first, and then becomes less and less fun the longer it goes on.

Favorite Moment: This is going to sound terrible (because it is), but anytime a student exploded were my favorite moments. Not because I'm into gore and blood (I'm not), or because sometimes the characters that disintegrated were less than loveable, but more because of the way Mara talked about it. There's little fanfare, before or after, and she takes you right up to the moment it happens, and then it happens, just as suddenly and unexpectedly as if you were there with her when it did.

Favorite Character: Mara's friend Tess is the kind of friend every high schooler needs. The two girls have their differences, but are truly best friends for life and never disappear entirely from each other's lives.

Recommended Reading: Okay, so Bleak House by Charles Dickens is incredibly long, but oh so worth it. Plus, it has a spontaneous combustion in it, and it's handled very differently from how Starmer described the ones in his book. However, because I know the book is long, and draining, I will say that the spontaneous combustion is (mercifully) near the beginning, and it is glorious.        

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Goodreads Choice Award 2016 Final Round

This is it you guys. This is your last chance to vote in the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards. We have entered the third and final round of voting, so be sure to support your favorite books of the year.

For this round, the number of nominees per category has been cut from 20 to ten, and immediately my heart breaks because Shelter by Jung Yun has failed to make it into the final round for Best Fiction. So what is my guess as to who the winner will be? Honestly, I am not sure, but I have heard good things about both The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, and Commonwealth by Ann Patchett.

All three of my favorites for Best Historical Fiction - Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, and The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead - have made the cut. I will be sticking with my initial vote for Lilac Girls, although I will be thrilled if any of them win.

Even though I had my doubts, All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders has made it into the last round for Best Fantasy. But again, I doubt it could garner more votes than J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, but I will vote for it anyway. 

Things are just as they should be over in the Best Science Fiction category as Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter's The Long Cosmos is holding on. I will admit that I really want it to win, both because it is the last book in the series and also because it is one of the last books Pratchett worked on before his death in 2015. 

Truly, Dot Hutchison's The Butterfly Garden is still in the Best Horror category because it deserves to be. There may not be any ghouls or goblins or demons in the book, but the human villain is also incredibly realistic, as the kidnapping of girls and young women is a reality that occurs way too frequently in our society. 

While I am not surprised that A Thousand Naked Strangers by Kevin Hazzard did not make it into the final round for Best Memoir & Autobiography, I am shocked that The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner also did not make it. But hey, the readers have spoken. Not every favorite can make it to the final round I guess.

However, both The Midnight Assassin by Skip Hollandsworth and All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister are finalists for the Best History & Biography category. I would love it if Traister's extensive look at a fascinating cultural shift in our society were rewarded with a win, but she is up against a biography of Leonard Nimoy by William Shatner.

I was so proud of myself for having read a graphic novel before it was nominated, but sadly, Patience by Daniel Clowes has failed to make it into the final round for Best Graphic Novels & Comics, which is a shame really because it is incredibly good.

At least two out of three of my picks for Best Debut Goodreads Author made it to the finals. While you can still vote for either Lilac Girls, or The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, Imbolo Mbue's Behold the Dreamers has not made it to round three. This is actually a really tough category this year as I have heard good things about many of the books that were presented.

And last but certainly not least, in fact it is my favorite, there is the Best Young Adult Fiction category. Somehow, while Zentner's The Serpent King made it to the final round for the previous category, it did not make it in for this one. So the only dog I still have in  this race is Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. And honestly, I think it has a good chance of taking the ultimate prize. Of course, the one to watch will be Holding Up the Universe, written by last year's winner, Jennifer Niven.

As far as books that have appeared on this blog alone, there are still ten finalists across seven categories to choose from. Voting for this third and final round ends on Sunday, November 27th, with the winners being announced later that week. So, you have two weeks to make your voices heard and support your favorites from 2016.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Contemporary Fiction: Bright Midnight by Chris Formant

After reading the premise I agreed to be sent a copy of Chris Formant's Bright Midnight in exchange for a review. Most music fans, of almost any genre, are familiar with the Myth of the 27 Club. Several artists - including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison - died at the age of 27, at the height of their popularity. Formant's novel surmises that these deaths weren't suicides, but instead carefully planned murders.

The Situation: Gantry Elliot may have what many consider to be a dream job, but he feels ancient and a bit under appreciated when he is around many of his coworkers. As a reporter for Rolling Stone magazine, Elliott has reported some of music histories greatest moments, and subsequently, his knowledge about the industry approaches encyclopedic. But with a focus on classic rock, he doesn't get to write as much as he used to, and the 20-somethings that now surround him at work disregard him as out of touch and a little too old school. When a mysterious package shows up on his desk claiming that a member of the infamous 27 Club was murdered, Elliot initially shrugs it off as a prank. But the packages keep coming, and the clues inside turn out to be artifacts that only someone incredibly close to the artists themselves could possibly have in their possession.

The Problem: These clues that keep landing in Elliot's lap could lead to the biggest story of his career. But if the members of the 27 Club were murdered by what appears to be a serial killer, then why is someone turning over the evidence now? Is the killer still out there? And why does this mystery messenger seem to know where Elliot lives and where he is at all times? It becomes enough to get the FBI involved, and for Elliot to begin looking over his shoulder. Even Elliot's skeptical boss, Alex Jaeger, becomes involved as he sees the potential of what a story like this could do for Rolling Stone. But even with the mystery informant seemingly giving up all of the good information, it soon becomes clear that this story won't be easy to get, and it will take the combined efforts of officials in three different countries to get everything they need.

Genre, Themes, History: This is a fiction novel set in present day, but it looks back in time to when musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Peter Ham, and others, were turning up dead, all at the age of 27. The cases concerning their deaths are eventually opened as cold cases and investigated all over again, when initially they were accepted as suicides, or accidental suicides. To realize such a thing now, with so much time having passed, would mean bringing to light a massive cover up that someone had managed to keep hidden, and most likely wants to keep it that way. Naturally, issues of greed and fame come up, and Elliot begins to wonder just how deep this thing seems to go. Anyone who is a fan of any of the above named artists would recognize some of the details surrounding their life and death. Formant takes classic rock history and manages to play with it just enough to offer a plausible alternate version of history.

My Verdict: While the premise is certainly fun and interesting, and it is fun to somewhat go back in time and look at the lives of some of classic rock's biggest stars, I wish the fun translated through to the more mundane aspects of the actual investigation. It was fun to read about Elliot having mysterious clues dropped off at his job or apartment, but the book becomes much less fun once he officially joins up with the FBI and the actual investigation begins. Essentially, any part that didn't have Eliot in control of the story was almost always guaranteed to be boring, and the further along we get into plot, the more Elliot would disappear. Formant does manage to pull it all together in a very intense and entertaining final 100 pages or so, which is impressive considering just how much he puts out there. All of the pieces seem to fit together nicely with very few loose ends, and a good amount of action.

Favorite Moment: Whenever Elliot's cowboy boots are mentioned. As a native of Texas, he still insists on wearing them even though he now lives in New York City (and I want to be clear here, not everyone who lives in or is from Texas wears or even owns cowboy boots).

Favorite Character: I empathize with Elliot, but my favorite would actually have to be FBI Agent Raphael Melendez. He would end up taking the lead on the case and is actually the one taking the most risk in pursuing it in the first place.

Recommended Reading: I recommend The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore. It isn't quite of the same vein, but Moore does reimagine the stories of King Lear, Othello, and The Merchant of Venice into a hilarious adventure involving murder and romance. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Goodreads Choice Award 2016 Semifinal Round

The first round of voting for the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards closed on Sunday, and now readers can vote in the semifinal round until this coming Sunday, November 13th.

For the semifinal round, the original 15 nominees for each category remain as options, but now they are joined by five write-in votes. So if you were already having a hard time picking between multiple options in certain categories, now that choice has been made even more difficult. Of course, you may have submitted your own write-ins, and now is the time to see if there were other readers who felt the same about a deserving book or author as you did.

You can read about my first round predictions in my post from November 8th. Today I would only mention any new nominees that also happened to be picked for Door Stop Novels

But really, the only thing I have to say is that I am sad my write-in vote of All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister did not make it in for the Best Nonfiction Category. Thankfully, I can still vote for it in the Best History & Biography Category. It looks like I will not have any Door Stop Novels in the Nonfiction category this year. If I had only scheduled my reading of The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward for before December, I am sure I would be voting for it.

Same can be said for The Reader by Traci Chee, though I am already voting for The Serpent King for Best Debut Goodreads Author.  

I suppose this is what happens when so many of your favorites are introduced in the first round; it does not leave much room for new ones to be introduced in the second one.

However, things do begin to get intense in the third and final round, which will begin on Tuesday, November 15th. The semifinal round could be the last time you see some of your favorites, so be sure to vote to keep them in the competition.