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CONTEST ENTRIES > Best Review Contest (Summer 2013)

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message 1: by Dlmrose (new)

Dlmrose | 17405 comments Mod
This is the thread where you can submit reviews for the Best Review contest. The thread is open for submissions and will close at Midnight EST on August 17, 2013. Voting will start the next day and run until the end of the day on August 31st. The person whose review gets the most votes will get to design a 20 point task for the Fall Challenge.

Just a reminder that each person can only submit one review - but you can make edits to your review up until the end. The review does not have to be any particular length and doesn't have to be a positive one (i.e. you can choose to review a book you didn't like).

PLEASE DO NOT comment on people's reviews in this thread - this is for submissions only - you will be able to comment when voting begins.

SPOILER ALERT!- These reviews may include spoilers.

message 2: by Stefu (new)

Stefu Smith | 76 comments STEFU

11/22/63 by Stephen King

This review comes with a warning--11/22/63 may cause tardiness. I read mostly on the train as I commute to work. This book had me so involved in the story that I went two stops past mine before I realized I missed it.

Those of you who have some idea in your head about Stephen King being limited to a certain genre are all wrong--and this book proves it. 11/22/63 dabbles in genres as diverse as science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, horror, and even romance. If Stephen King wrote nothing else in his life, this book should earn him a place among the greatest writers of the century.

King has a way of pulling you in--of making you care so much about the characters that you want to meet them, to tell them how you feel about what they are doing. And somehow, he even turned an IDEA into a character--the Past. The Past cares about what the other characters do, and will react. Pay close attention and you'll be surprised by who the real antagonist is. But who am I kidding--read this book and you'll be surprised at every turn. Surprised at how intrigued you become from the first page; surprised by the humor as well as the horror; surprised by the vast ability of Stephen King; and of course, surprised by the conclusion.

message 3: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 17, 2013 10:51AM) (new)

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gillian Flynn has become one of my favorite mystery authors, her methodical and clear writing is one of her best tools in bringing to life such a disturbing and chaotic story. We are introduced to Amy and Nick Dunne, two very different people who are very much alike, makes sense? no? well, one thing i hate about reviews is spoilers so i will try to make this review as much spoiler free as possible.

Amy and Nick have been married for about seven years, they got together by pretending to be someone that the other will like, they kept up this pretense until both realized that they hated keeping up appearances and being someone they just could not be. Amy, trying to be the cool girl, the girl that is okay, if her man breaks a date to go and hang out with his buddies; who's okay that he forgets important things about their relationship or forgets to do the little things that let her know he loves her. Of course, she's okay with all of that...really Nick? I don't think there is a girl alive who would ever be okay with any of that! Nick did at first try to keep up with Amy, trying to be loveable and exciting for her but it seems to me, he gave up pretty quick once he realized, that he kept disappointing her.Nick is presented to us like a child, always depending on his girl to do all the work and he has all the fun but this is the key to this story, we are not supposed to like Nick. This is where Flynn is excellent at twisting us up. In reading about these characters,you find out all these little stereotypes about men and women that you might think you do not have, and even when you find out about the twist, you are still unsure about who you are supposed to be rooting for.

Flynn is fantastic at bringing about such a toxic couple to life.She is very adept at psychologically disturbing characters. She presents in Amy and Nick a very realistic couple. In real life, most people pretend to be someone else to attract a partner that they want. I always find this funny because eventually you would get tired of pretending, of giving this person what they want and in the meantime you go unfulfilled. This is what happens in the story. Don't get me wrong, this is not a love story. This is a story of punishment and psychological torture of a "loved" one.Flynn does such a great job of disguising a character in a certain veil of goodness that when we are shown unexpectedly that this "good" person is actually not what they seem and that the person we thought was the villain all along is not, it is too late, we are kind of left secretly wanting the real villain to win...or maybe its just me (yes, i sometimes cheer for the villain). What i loved very much about it was the ending, such an unexpected ending, such an unfairytale-like ending. A real ending.

message 4: by Chris (new)

Chris (chrismd) | 905 comments Storm Front by Jim Butcher

I've wanted to read this for a long time, so it's doubly disappointing that I didn't like the story as much as I thought I would. The problem is that Butcher writes himself into corners that he hasn't got the magic to get out of.

The basic idea is a good one. Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is a practicing wizard in the city of Chicago. Along with helping people find lost possessions, he's frequently called in to help the Chicago police department when anything supernatural occurs. Turns out there are lots of supernatural baddies in Chicago (who knew?), vampires and demons and pain-in-the-butt faeries who will accept pizza as payment.

This time the police have called Harry in on a particularly gruesome case. Two people have been killed in a way that could only have involved magic. Lt. Karrin Murphy (petite but feisty) calls in Harry (tall but skinny) for a consult. The dead man worked for the city's main crime boss. The dead woman was a high-paid call girl working for a vampiress madam. Harry begins to look into the case just as he's also asked to help find a missing husband who has become interested in magic. No surprise that these two stories are going to get tangled up in each other. Soon human and supernatural beings are out to kill Harry, and that all makes for an interesting who/what done it. Harry's work in his laboratory, assisted by Bob, a spirit who inhabits an old skull, is a nice touch and offers some comic relief.

Where I found fault is in the framework Butcher builds for this world and then ignores when he needs to. Dresden and Murphy have apparently worked together before, so you'd think they would have some understanding of each other. But she doesn't seem to have a clue how Harry performs his wizardry, and she doesn't much care. She simply wants him to pull the answers out of thin air, a la magic. And Harry refuses to share info with Murphy, even when it's obvious to everyone that it would help them both. Instead Harry is a super-loner who keeps so totally to himself that he sounds more like a super-nerd who can't handle being around other people. He tells us repeatedly how bad he is with women, despite the fact they keep coming on to him.

But the biggest problem is that Harry repeatedly tells us how wizards and electronics don't mix. Wizards send out some sort of force field that causes electronic devices to go haywire. Cars, phones, televisions, stun guns. So Harry lives in the basement of a house lit by kerosene lamps and candles, heated by a fireplace, and with only cold water because he feels having a water heater would be too dangerous. Except Harry also keeps an office in a regular office building, lit by regular lights, heated by regular heat, with a lamp on his desk, an electric fan overhead, and a working phone. His car does not run well, but that seems to be more from ill usage than wizardry, and he doesn't seem to have any problem taking cabs. For some reason these constant inconsistencies really bothered me, enough to take an entire point off my rating.

I like Harry and his gallows sense of humor. It just might be enough for me to try one more in the series; but next time, Butcher needs to keep his hocus-pocus in focus.

message 5: by Jennifer W (last edited Aug 10, 2013 11:01AM) (new)

Jennifer W | 468 comments Light from a Distant Star by Mary McGarry Morris

You know those kids that are too grown up for their age, but also too socially clueless to know it? They're kids that when you have a group together of kids and parents that even the adults go out of their way to avoid them because they're obnoxious, boring, and trying too hard? That's our main character, Nellie. I don't think that's how she was meant to be as a character, but that's how I found her. Maybe it doesn't help that the adults around her are clueless, too. Her father, who's supposed to be her role model, is so far removed from the struggles of his family that I don't know why Nellie's mom stays with him. Several characters point out that he's on his own planet. He has no spine and goes where the current takes him. Nellie's mom on the other hand, is so consumed by worrying about the bills and working to pay them that she's ignorant of her daughters' struggles. Nellie's older sister Ruth was a pretty typical teenage girl, which makes her clueless to the lives of the rest of her family except when it suits her to notice them for the drama factor. Nellie's grandfather was a rude curmudgeon who felt like he was entitled to treat everyone like shit. Max was socially isolated yet quick to fly into rages, making him an easy target. Dolly was worldly yet naive, leading her into histrionics every time she put all of her eggs in one basket, which she did every chance she got. The Cooper family was the wealthy yet completely Dysfunctional family. I have no idea why the Humboldts with the morbidly obese sister and the cross dressing brother, why new kid bad boy Bucky, or the intentionally oddball twins Roy and Rodney were there at all.

OK, got our cast of characters in all their clueless glory?? Because here comes the plot.... wait for it.... wait for it... read about 150 pages of these "zany" characters while you wait for it... OK, murder! Of course, clueless Nellie is as close to a witness as you get, but she's not aware enough to realize that the murder victim was carrying on with another woman's husband. Nor is she smart enough to realize that if you edit your story for ease of telling and change details that seem slight to you that it's going to paint you as a liar covering up for someone. But her parents aren't any better. Rather than letting Nellie tell the truth, even if it's not a slam dunk case of truth, they try to get her to hide it for their own ease and profit. OK, read another 150 pages of that until the last 25 pages when you find out that her father, the great role model that he is, knew Nellie was telling the truth and yet was willing to go with the flow!! He would have let an innocent man, yet convenient target for guilt, go to prison rather than hint that the stand up citizen might not be so worthy of adoration.

Clearly, I have laid out my case for why this book was less than satisfactory, but I have yet one more flaw to point out. Goodreads claims that Light from a Distant Star is a gripping coming-of-age story with a brutal murder at its heart and a heroine as unforgettable as Harper Lee’s "Scout." If Nellie is Scout, than her father (or even some male in the book) is Atticus, which makes me want to vomit. Max is Tom, the oddball neighbors are Boo, Bucky is Dill, Ruth is Jem, etc... I found a lot of similarities between this and To Kill a Mockingbird, but they were all twisted and warped and mangled into some sort of 21st Century distortion of that amazing, beautiful story. Perhaps this is what TKAM would really look like today, but dammit, that's not what I want when I read a book! I want flawed characters who rise above their circumstances. I want people who will do what's right, even when it's not popular. I want supporting cast members to be supportive, not tear each other down. The older sibling is supposed to stand up for the younger, not seek all the attention for herself. The new kid from out of town is supposed to be fun and "plucky" not a bad boy who's being hoisted off on unsuspecting relatives. Good doesn't always win, but bad shouldn't be able to take the coward's way out. Why, WHY Damn You did you do this to the greatest piece of American literature????

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