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CONTEST ENTRIES > Best Review Contest (Fall 2013)

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message 1: by Dlmrose (new)

Dlmrose | 17500 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 November 16, 2013. Voting will start the next day and run until the end of the GR day on November 30th. The person whose review gets the most votes will get to design a 20 point task for the Winter 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 Wanda (new)

Wanda (oma1229) | 1672 comments Oma1229

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

4 Stars

Set in Seattle, Washington, with the backdrop of Starbucks coffee shops,the Microsoft complex and a private school campus, this novel is the story of Bernadette Fox, her husband Elgie Branch and their daughter Bee. Elgie is an important computer geek at Microsoft where most of his time is spent. Bernadette is a former architect wonder who is hiding from a previous occupational trama and their daughter Bee, a very gifted 8th grade student. At the beginning of the novel, life seems fine for this family even with the eccentric Bernadette. They live in a large house that was a former Girls' Reform School that is literally falling down around them. Bernadette never cooks and orders in every day and hates to interact with other people and most especially the other mothers at her daughter's school.

The book takes place during a time period of several months and is centered around a proposed family trip to Antarctica. Through the use of letters and emails from family members to other characters, we learn of past events that shape the family dynamics. For instance, Bee's birth and health issues and Bernadette's rise as a talented and award-winning architect to her total withdrawal from this profession. The voice of the narration is shared by all three family members but mostly Bernadette and Bee. It is a fast paced novel with twists that are surprising, exhilarating, and so entertaining.

This book was reminiscent of my days of working with the Girl Scouts. At camp-outs a favorite meal was 'hamburger stew.' The leaders would provide ground beef and each scout would bring a can of vegetables which was added to the ground beef and tomatoes---now this may sound horrible but it was always tasty. This book is similar. At various points a narrative (much like the ground beef) holds together all the emails, notes, and letters exchanged between all the characters (just like the cans of vegetables). Taking the narration and different communications and mixing them together produces a tasty and entertaining novel. Usually, I do not like reading something that is composed of so many short and longer bits of information but it works for this one. It is a wonderfully, quirky and delightful read.


message 3: by Jayme VA (last edited Nov 12, 2013 05:54AM) (new)

Jayme VA | 789 comments Jayme VA

If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin

“This book is a treasure; I did not suspect it would be so good when I picked it up, but now I can feel the printed words seeping through my skin and into my veins, rushing to my heart and marking it forever.

I want to savor this wonder, this happening of loving a book and reading it for the first time, because the first time is always the best, and I will never read this book for the first time ever again.”


I finished late last night and when I woke up this morning, I couldn't remember why I was sad when I fell asleep and then it hit me again. I don't often cry real tears when I read (I can count the number of books that have made me cry on one hand- actually, I can only remember one other) and I finished this one with tears rolling down my cheeks.

Autumn Rose is just that, something that doesn't make sense, is unexpected, and doesn't really belong, but is beautiful. She was the popular girl who decides not to try out for cheerleading and joins a new group of friends when she starts high school. Finny is a good looking soccer player who dates a cheerleader. Finny and Autumn were best friends, practically brother and sister, raised next door to each other by The Mothers, best friends themselves. High school starts and they "drift apart" as sometimes happens with childhood friends. Oh, but these two know each other better than anyone in the world and that friendship is not something so easily thrown away.

The book spans three years and has many flashbacks to early childhood, middle school and different times throughout high school. Because of the first chapter of the book, we know how it ends and know how their relationship will change throughout the course of the book. There were times when I wanted to yell at the book, "Tell him, Autumn!" or "Kiss her already, Finny!" but alas, knew there was no traditional happy ending for these two.

Autumn is with Jamie and says she loves him. She needs him to say he'll always be there for her, terrified herself as her parents go through a divorce. This is the teenage "love" that isn't really love. Its need, desire, want, and confusion. When Autumn finally opens her eyes to her love for Finny, she realizes how deep love can be.

“I've loved him my whole life, and somewhere along the way, that love didn't change but grew. It grew to fill the parts of me that I did not have when I was a child. It grew with every new longing of my body and desire until there was not a piece of me that did not love him. And when I look at him, there is no other feeling in me.”

There is nothing I wish more for these two to have a happy ending. They missed so much time they should have spent together and it just seems so unfair. But then I reconsider; they loved each other, truly and passionately, and Autumn will really have Finny in her heart for the rest of her life.

Laura Nowlin tackles so much with this little book: first love, true love, friendship, divorce, single parents, adult friendship, college decisions. I had no idea what I was getting into and I'm so glad I spent some time with this novel. It took me right back to the uncertainty of high school, growing up, and finding my way in the world. I cannot recommend this more highly and plan to read it again soon- this time, not on my nook, but in paperback so I can write in it, underline quotes and hold it close to my heart.


message 4: by Athira (new)

Athira (Reading on a Rainy Day) (readingonarainyday) Athira

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.

Where's that "I finally did it" cap? I probably need to celebrate reading this book by wearing that cap for a week. I know this book was required reading for many of you (in high school? college?) but back in India, very few students had heard of Fitzgerald. So I never heard of this book until a few years ago, after I first came to the US. But it wasn't until Leonardo DiCaprio was cast as Gatsby that I really gave this book my attention. The short length and fast pacing of the book were bonus points, in my opinion.

But the Jazz age isn't a period I like reading about. I prefer to stay away from books about riches and lavish lifestyles - they disgust me, irrespective of what the author's intent is. I recently started another Jazz age book, only to give up on it, about 100 pages short of the end. I could have finished it, but I was bored of it and wasn't even interested in the characters.

During the first 30 pages of The Great Gatsby, I came close to putting the book down, but the idea of not having this book on the wish-I-had-read-it-by-now list was enticing. Good for me, because after the initial boredom, The Great Gatsby began to get more intense and almost suspenseful. I had no idea what would happen and wanted to turn the last page to find that out. Nick Carraway moves to the Long Island to try to make a living in bonds after the World War II. He meets and comes to know Jay Gatsby, who is his neighbor. Gatsby isn't at all like he seems to be - he is quite restless and behind his cool, rich and I-love-my-party-guests demeanor, there seems to be something urgent stirring him. We come to know what that is midway through the story and that secret sets the theme for the rest of the book.

I can't say I liked any of the characters in this book. Except for Nick, and occasionally Gatsby, none of the characters grew on me. I wish we had less Daisy and more Jordan in the book - Jordan seemed mature, Daisy very impetuous. But I liked that the characters carved their roles well, even though the book is pretty short. By the end of the book, it wasn't hard to describe each character with a few adjectives - they definitely made their mark.

What bugs me about books like these is the lack of personal feeling evoked by the writing. The characters almost feel like cardboard props because their language doesn't quite express themselves, instead everything they say feels forced. Daisy's frequent exultation was quite annoying but her friend Jordan helped provide the balance whenever the duo were together. The narration also, while mostly giving the impression of being fast-paced, occasionally made me feel that I missed something crucial. I had to reread parts to understand what happened. At one point, I totally got the wrong dead guy, and it was a few pages before I realized my mistake and had to go back. I can see why this book is on the school reading lists. I could get a kick out of asking my students to paraphrase some passages.

Ultimately, I'm glad I read this book but I don't think I ever got the whole appeal of it. I can see that it is a good study of that time period and symbolically, there are a lot of things to talk about (if you read the book slow enough). I do want to watch the movie though - I can see this book being something I could enjoy on screen.


message 5: by [deleted user] (last edited Nov 12, 2013 12:20PM) (new)

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald



I am always fascinated by how two people can read the same book, for different reasons and have such a different take on the characters and the story. This is why I love reading others reviews and why even though a book has been around for a long time, it is always interesting to see a book from another’s perspective even if you do not agree. I read “The Great Gatsby” for fun, even though the story is anything but fun! I have always been enthralled by the Jazz era, the 20s and 30s, the music, the flapper girls, the lawlessness and the debauchery of the times. This is the first time I have ever read anything by F. Scott Fitzgerald, I was hooked by the first page. The subtle nuance of decadence and at the same time loneliness, plagues the story throughout. The characters flawed and broken, yet no one wanting to see themselves for what they are, full of advantages and always looking to see if the grass is greener on the other side.

“You can’t repeat the past” – Nick Carraway

Those words are strong and resounding, foreshadow that there is no happy ending in the horizon. We are introduced to Nick Carraway who guides us into his first encounter with Jay Gatsby. The seemingly reclusive playboy who throws the lavish parties and is always surrounded with "friends". However, as we read on we start to realise the falsity of this impression. We realise that Gatsby throws the parties in a juvenile attempt at getting a particular girl to show up, a girl he once loved but lost. Daisy is your usual spoiled rich girl, married to Tom a lousy excuse for a husband who cheats on her with whomever he can, just because he can. At first, you are hoping and rooting for Gatsby to get the girl back and at first he does, it seems like all will work itself as it should but then we slowly start to realise that it will not. The girl that Gatsby is so in love with, the young girl he once knew, does not exist anymore, she used to but she has changed. Gatsby is so engulfed in this idea of Daisy, in this fantasy of a happy ending that he sacrifices himself for her, even though we know in the end, Daisy will choose herself and her money and her lifestyle than choose love.

I loved this book so much, from the writing to the sequence of events, you get a sense of the characters, of who they are, not by an exhaustive description of them, but from their actions. Actions are everything and mean more than parentage and where you come from. This is why Gatsby was always going to end how he ends up, because he tried to live among wretched creatures, who use and toss people aside. One thing is clear, especially by the time, we get to the end, and we see that from all the lavish parties, of all the people who surrounded Gatsby, he was ultimately alone. The linking structures all these characters have, is that they were all holding on to fantasies, of themselves, their lives and that holding on to the fantasy was more important. I just adored this book and recommend it to anyone, if only just to find out their impression of it.


message 6: by Dlmrose (new)

Dlmrose | 17500 comments Mod
This thread is closed for submissions


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