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CONTEST ENTRIES > Best Review Contest (Winter 2015)

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message 1: by Dlmrose (new)

Dlmrose | 17398 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 February 14, 2016. Voting will start the next day and run until the end of the GR day on February 29. The person whose review gets the most votes will get to design a 20 point task for the Spring Challenge.

To be eligible for this task opportunity you must have achieved at least 100 points on the Readerboard by Midnight EST on February 14, 2016.

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 include your Readerboard Name.

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 mstan (last edited Jan 28, 2016 07:17PM) (new)

mstan | 876 comments My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante - ****

This is the first book in a long while I’ve read almost completely on Singapore’s buses and trains (310 out of the 331 pages). The simplicity of the language makes it easy reading even in physically crowded environments, but the suitability of a book as public-transit-reading goes beyond that: the author has to be able to enable you to teleport yourself to another world entirely. Ferrante brought the roar and turmoil of everyday life in Naples to my ears during every 30-minute journey I made on the train.

The story is written as a recount of the protagonist’s life and childhood in working-class Naples. Elena (Lenu/Lenuccia) Greco’s father is a porter, and her best friend Lila’s father is a shoemaker. Surrounding them are the children of grocers, vegetable-sellers, and bakers… the stuff of fairy-tales and children’s stories. There is even an ogre of a Don introduced near the beginning of the novel. Ferrante is not interested, however, in leaving these figurative monsters under the bed: they are brought to light quite literally, hurling expletives out the window regardless of the time of day, casually inflicting blows upon their offspring, embracing one another in violent tension. Amidst these tussles, Elena and Lila grow up straining towards the world of ideas, of clarity, bound every step of the way by expectations, inter- and intra-familial conflicts, and their own complicated love for each other. As they become teenagers, Elena finds herself having to negotiate her jealousy, her alternating feelings of superiority and inferiority, her frustrations with appearance, academic achievement, and romantic entanglements, with Lila as an unwavering point of reference. Life follows its up-and-down script for a while, but the novel ends on an unexpected note that reveals the true complexity of the friends’ social circles.

Once, a long time ago now, I stopped by Naples for a day or two on the way to see Pompeii. I was overwhelmed by the cramped alleys and the chaos, and was perhaps too young to appreciate its charms fully. After my visit, I wrote about my experience briefly in a public forum, and was castigated by a commenter for my narrowness and insensitivity. Yet I feel somewhat vindicated by Ferrante’s writing – while I understand that hers is not the tourist’s Naples, her version of Naples is just further along the same spectrum of alienation. Boundaries are drawn clearly against outsiders, yet life spills out into the streets, pummelling the casual bystander. Even outside of Naples, I found my four months in Italy punctuated by these little shocks of reality: the expressiveness of the Italians lending force to arguments taking place in piazzas not far from the Florentine Duomo; the swagger of teenagers with Invicta backpacks blasting through the calm of train carriages. Even as I loved the generosity of the cities, I was buffeted by the proximity of life – a very different brand of cultural disorientation from what I had experienced in the United States before that.

I am still trying to grapple with the mystery of Ferrante’s writing because – in translation, at least – it is somewhat disjointed, and in some instances even unappealing. When Ferrante writes about Elena’s academic endeavours, the scores of her exams seem to take precedence, and her ventures into ever-more sophisticated intellectual terrain are layered awkwardly atop her musings about her and Lila’s personal lives. Her feelings about her lame mother, and even the men in her life, seem overly simplistic. Perhaps that’s the point though. If I had to rate my reading experience, it’s really 3.5 stars instead of 4, but the curious nature of Ferrante’s writing, the questions it has provoked, and my desire to read the next one in the series as soon as I can push this up to a 4.

message 3: by Cait S (last edited Feb 12, 2016 10:12AM) (new)

Cait S | 779 comments CAIT S

The End Games by T. Michael Martin
The End Games by T. Michael Martin- 3 stars!

So one day I was scrolling through Goodreads, as I do, and I come across this book. This book. A YA, zombie novel for video game nerds. It looked to me as though T. Michael Martin awoke from a very strange and very vivid dream one night and said to himself, "You know what I need to do? Write Caitlyn a book. She's a good person. She deserves this."

You're sweet. You shouldn't have!

I actually put off reading it for a long time, afraid it wouldn't be as good as I was desperately hoping it it would be. Here we are though, the book has been read. Now comes the hard part.

The beginning of this book is nothing short of ridiculously awesome. I'm obsessed with the wide openness, the possibilities and at the same time, the hopelessness from an apocalypse...and here it's magnified tenfold. Michael is a seventeen year old boy. Not necessarily that special, there are plenty of teen heroes out there grinding away, surviving zombieland. Michael though, he's a seventeen year old boy who is protecting and guiding his five year old autistic brother through a world that's getting a little closer to ending each day. You can't do anything but sit back in awe as you watch him navigate this world under pressures that may cause the most put together adult to crack. Well, you can do one more thing, and that's fall pretty quickly in love with Patrick, the little brother. A miniature nerd after my own heart, bless him. An incredible character voice that T. Michael Martin absolutely nailed.

Unfortunately, after the first few opening chapters of this, things start to go downhill. Without giving spoilers, I'll sum it up by saying it just loses it's magic. Michael loses his spark, the world becomes predictable and almost a paint-by-numbers version of what a zombie apocalypse has come to look like in most shows, movies, and books. The things we read in the beginning that have you going "I can't stop reading! I haven't slept in 48 hours! I love coffee!"...just disappear.

The driving force to finish the book becomes the brotherly love. I wanted to see them succeed, I want to know Michael was strong enough to make a new world for Patrick even if I had no idea how he'd do it. It's enough to get through to an ending that you will either love or hate.

Maybe I haven't decided which camp I'm in yet. Don't judge.

T. Michael Martin gave it a damn good try, I will give him that. A for effort, C+ for execution with a smiley face sticker that says "Try again! You're getting there!"

message 4: by Lauren (new)

Lauren (laurenjberman) | 1467 comments Naked in Death (In Death, #1) by J.D. Robb
Naked in Death by J.D. Robb
4 Stars

In New York City of 2058, homicide detective Eve Dallas is called in to investigate the murder of a prostitute only to learn that the victim is also the granddaughter of a prominent United States Senator. With the police chief and the media breathing down her neck, Eve’s case rapidly goes from bad to worse when another woman is killed and Roarke, the wealthiest and most enigmatic man in the universe, becomes a prime suspect.

As a huge fan of Nora Roberts’ books, I’ve heard oodles about this series from friends both here on Goodreads and in RL, but never quite managed to get past the first chapter (perhaps because books set in the future are not really my cup of tea).

Thankfully, the ladies over at the J.D. Robb group are having a series read in 2016 and I decided to bit the bullet and try again. Well, suffice it to say that the third time’s a charm!

Once I managed to get past the futuristic setting to realize that this is basically a police procedural with romantic elements, the pages just flew by.

The serial killer storyline is nothing that hasn’t been done before and the solution is obvious once the details of the case emerge. That said, the characters and the action more than make up for the predictable plot.

Eve’s quick mind, sarcastic wit and obvious passion for seeking justice make her a particularly likable heroine and her prickly facade and intense emotional vulnerability only make her more engaging.

After hearing so much about the incomparable Roarke, it is actually quite difficult to pin him down. Yes, he is absolutely gorgeous and a gazzilionaire to boot, but his stalkerish tendencies and arrogant manipulations can be a lot to take from a non-supernatural being. It might take me more than one book to warm up to him completely.

The development of Eve and Roarke’s romance is the highlight of the story and where Nora Roberts’ skill as a writer shines through. The fact that both Eve and Roarke are overcoming obstacles from their childhoods and are both new to and wary of any real intimacy only heightens their chemistry, which sizzles on the pages. Their encounters both emotional and physical make this book well worth the read.

All in all, I’m glad that I finally got around to beginning this series and look forward to continuing the buddy read.

message 5: by Lola (last edited Feb 20, 2016 12:09PM) (new)

Lola | 287 comments American Housewife Stories by Helen Ellis -4 Stars

The cover alone earns this book a star, and gives you a hint to the always funny, sometimes quirky and just a little weird stories in this delightful collection. Clocking in at just over 200 pages, this book of 12 short stories has something for everyone. Some are firmly grounded in reality (What I Do All Day, How to be a Grown-A$$ Lady, Southern Lady Code), others go just over the line to a place of sublime and hilarious ridiculousness, with just a touch of creepiness (The Wainscoting War, Hello! Welcome to Book Club, Pageant Protection). Others have an undercurrent that will pull at your heartstrings (The Fitter, My Novel is Brought to You By) while making you laugh and some bring in just a touch of the other-worldly (Dead Doormen). This is a book you can happily devour in one sitting or dip in and out of between other reading. Some of these are stories you will want to share with everyone you know, and many of them will have you nodding in agreement or smiling in recognition as you read about yourself or someone you know.

Helen Ellis, a self-described housewife, grew up in Alabama and has lived in New York City for over twenty years. She started a Twitter account after being asked repeatedly what, as a married woman with no children and no 9-5 job, she did all day. The first piece, "What I Do All Day", is pulled from her Twitter, American Housewife @WhatIDoAllDay. Smart, funny, and irreverent, this collection, like its author, is the perfect marriage of Southern lady and snarky sassy New Yorker.

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