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CONTEST ENTRIES > Best Review Contest (Fall 2017)

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message 1: by SRC Moderator (new)

SRC Moderator | 4932 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 18. Voting will start the next day and run until the end of the GR day on November 30. The person whose review gets the most votes will get to design a 20 point task for the Winter Challenge.

To be eligible for this task opportunity you must have achieved at least 100 points on the Readerboard by midnight Eastern Time on November 17, 2017.

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 Zach (new)

Zach | 190 comments Zach

Review for Death on the Nile

This book represents a series of firsts for me. This is, after all, the first Hercule Poirot story I've read. In fact, it is my first time reading Agatha Christie. Not to mention that it is very likely, as I don't have any clear recollection, that this is my first mystery novel. All that being said I think it also fair to point out that this is my first time writing a book review.

Phew; that was a lot of firsts!

I'd like to start by talking about what I enjoyed the most throughout the novel. Before beginning to read I had imagined that as a mystery novel I would be trying to figure out the whodunnit the whole time and surely that was the case. My fear throughout would be that the resolution to the mystery would be unsatisfactory because the answer was too obvious. There were a couple of false ends that left me feeling disappointed, only for those solutions to be upended in each subsequent chapter. The final reveals seemed in the end quite obvious and yet wholly satisfying because of all the twists and turns. It's a testament to Christie for making the most obvious culprits seem like the least obvious in a way that made me gleeful.

To focus more on Christie I found her writing a pleasure to read. Based on this one novel I read I would surmise that she had a knack for showing rather than telling. The novel itself is mostly dialogue that felt very real. As in, I could picture people talking to each other this way, and also felt timely. Each character felt alive through the way they spoke and it was exciting to have the most exciting parts of the story be the things that the characters said to one another. Applause again for Christie in this regard.

Where I felt the novel was utterly lacking was in the setting. Egypt felt almost like an afterthought. I suppose what I was expecting were scenes to feel like they could only take place in Egypt or here on the Nile. What I got was a great mystery that felt as though it could have been transferred to any river in any part of the world. I was disappointed to find there were no Egyptian characters besides street beggars and some unnamed boatmen. It felt like a disservice to such a rich locale.

I should also point out that I found the actual final chapter a bit hokey. There was a dramatic murder-suicide and what appeared to me like characters rushed into romantic pairings and engagements. Only for it then to end quite abruptly. Despite this, I don't think it detracted from the fulfilling conclusion to the central mystery.

Overall this was a very fun, satisfying read. I give it 4/5 stars and I can see myself returning to the genre again soon!

message 3: by Book Concierge (new)

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 3766 comments Dracula by Bram Stoker
Dracula - Bram Stoker
Digital Audiobook performed by Simon Vance

Does anyone really need a synopsis? If you’ve seen any of the movies, you know the basic plot, but the original novel is so much more!

Stoker wrote the work as a series of journal or diary entries, letters and newspaper clippings. This could easily become disjointed, but in this case, it serves to give a certain immediacy to the writing. It also builds suspense, as we leave one character to jump to another’s perspective, frequently with a disconnect in terms of what each of the characters knows about the full situation. The danger they are in is frequently a result of not having the full picture, of not truly understanding the force against which they are pitted.

But the novel is more than just a horror story. There are several themes which would be great for book group discussion.

To begin there is the typical Victorian theme of strong men coming to the rescue of pure damsel in distress. However, Stoker turns the tables a bit when he gives Mina the intelligence, foresight and courage to fight the evil forces in her own way. Yes, the men do the actual fighting, but it is Mina who first puts together all the individual notes into a coherent chronological story, and ultimately gives the men what they need to go up against Dracula. The woman has steel!

Stoker also includes a fair amount of sexual – or at least sensual – tension. Bosoms heave, blood quickens, breathing is rapid, and people are completely overcome and overwhelmed by desire. They are simply helpless in the face of their base instincts … or are they?

The novel is wonderfully atmospheric; from the delights of a new culture as Harker first experiences the loveliness of Eastern Europe, to the growing sense of doom when surrounded by howling wolves, to the creepy, skin-crawling scene with the hordes of rats (I feel squeamish as I type this), and finally to the “pure-white” snow of the mountain blizzard, time and again Stoker puts the reader smack dab in the middle of the scenes.

There are several different audio versions. For my second listen I managed to get the Blackstone Audio version narrated by Simon Vance. I liked this audio even better than the first one I listened to. But then, I would probably listen to Simon Vance read his grocery list.

message 4: by Ed (last edited Nov 18, 2017 01:49PM) (new)

Ed Lehman | 679 comments ED

Review for Casino Royale (James Bond, #1) by Ian Fleming Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

I was not expecting much from this novel. Of course, I have seen most of the Bond movies and I remember enjoying the satirical version of Casino Royale…but don’t think I had ever seen the serious adaptation. The Bond films are great for the visuals and special effects but I often get confused by the complicated story line…or bored by it…or both. Here, the story is clear… no confusion…although there may be a twist or two. I was surprised to find James Bond depicted as a multi-dimensional character. There are times when he is truly vulnerable, hurt, hesitant, contemplative, (hospitalized!) and at one point he even screams. The love interest, Vesper Lynd, evolves into a complicated relationship…not the mere sexual conquest usually portrayed in the films.
At one point, Bond has a discussion about villains and heroes and good and evil which is very fitting.
And I have to point out that Fleming does a wonderful job of weaving in a description of how to play baccarat without it seeming like a school lesson. I never thought I would be giving five stars to this book ( I chose it because it is on Boxall’s 1001 List which I am working my way through.)…but BOOM! there it is. Five stars.

message 5: by Bridgit (last edited Nov 05, 2017 09:41AM) (new)

Bridgit | 515 comments Review for Dragon Teeth Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton by Michael Crichton

This was an enjoyable read about two competing paleontologists at the dawn of the science - which happens to coincide with the massive Native American genocide, Custers Last Stand and Western expansion.

Crichton sprinkled in a nice dose of contemporary names like Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, all the Robber Barons and Sitting Bull, though the only one that played any major part was Wyatt Earp.

Apparently the two paleontologists in the book were based on real individuals, whom the publishers claim hated each other so much that the animosity was actually “toned down” for the book in order to be more believable.

All that said, it felt like it was a first draft. That Crichton wrote the main story and then, had he lived, he would have gone back and fleshed out the details and scenes. The majority of this was written like Character gets from point A to point B to point C and does X Y and Z when he arrives there. Not so much detailing the how or why or any rich developments along the way.

If you are expecting another Jurassic Park or Congo, you will be disappointed but if you forget that Crichton wrote it, it’s an enjoyable Western tale.

3 ***

message 6: by Chris (last edited Nov 13, 2017 01:00PM) (new)

Chris (chrismd) | 967 comments Chris MD

Review of The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland

Two Stars

Arrrrrggghhhh! How can something so promising wind up being so aggravating?

This book has everything I love: time travel, history, two bright protagonists and a hint of romance, government bureaucrats so ridiculous they make you shake your head, and a Cambridge, Mass. setting.

So here's the good stuff.

The book begins with pages from a journal written by a 21st-century woman trapped by time travel in 1851. That was definitely enough to pique my interest.

Dr. Melisande Stokes is a Harvard-educated expert in ancient languages. She is recruited by U.S. Army Major Tristan Lyons to translate a variety of documents from various time periods in various languages. The one thing the documents have in common is that they are all about magic, and they indicate that magic was a fairly common practice around the world until something happened in 1851 that stopped all magic everywhere. Now the U.S. Army would like to find a way to bring magic back--to further the international interests of the United States, of course. To do that they need two things: a witch and the ability to travel through time.

Meet Frank Oda, a Japanese-American scientist. This character is so obviously written to be played by George Takei in the movie that I don't know why they didn't just have Frank be gay and be done with it. In a totally brilliant send-up, Frank goes to a Halloween party dressed as Lt. Sulu. Come on! But Frank's role in the story is to be the MIT genius with the ability to actually build a machine that can counter whatever has blocked magic, essentially creating a space in which a witch (which witch? I'll get to that in a minute) can actually use her craft and send someone back to the past, where they can tweak various bits of history. In other words, it's a time travel machine.

Enter first witch, bitching: Erzebet Karpathy has been hanging around for 160 years waiting for Melisande and Tristan to find/refind her. And she is NOT happy about it. Erzebet is, um, quite the character.

And so we have the beginnings of D.O.D.O.: the Department of Diachronic Operations. The bigger the organization gets, the bigger the bureaucracy around it grows. Soon there are numerous witches, a lot of military brass, and many, many acronyms. It should be obvious something is going to go seriously wrong.

Interspersed through all of this are the time travel operations, and these are my favorite parts of the book. First there are trips to 1640 Cambridge, Mass. and then 1601 London and 1203/4 Constantinople at the time of the Fourth Crusade. One of the characters even inadvertently becomes a saint of the Roman Catholic church - and he doesn't even have to die to do it!

Everything is told through diary entries, emails, and various reports from most of the central characters. There is also a great deal of humor, which was a pleasant surprise.

So now you're thinking to yourself, Gee, but that sounds like a really awesome book! I should go get a copy.

Hold your horses. Here's what I didn't like.

Anyone familiar with Neal Stephenson's work knows he must be paid by the word. This book could have had 300-400 pages cut out without any loss to the actual story. It probably would have made it better. There were times when I felt like I was just slogging my way through.

I have no problem buying into the premise of the loss of magic, the presence of witches, or the possibility of time travel. But there are just huge and ridiculous plot holes that you can drive a truck through (and in one instance, that actually happens). Mel and Tristan become increasingly clueless. (They also become increasingly boring as the book covers five long years without any movement in their nascent romance - I mean, seriously.) People do really stupid things that are totally out of character. And there are too many other things happening where the reader is simply left in the dark.

Which brings me to the final Arrrrggghhhh, heave-book-across-room moment. After working my way through this tome and staying up into the wee hours because I swore I was just going to get it done . . . . the book doesn't end. As I began to run out of pages, I started to wonder how they were going to wrap up all these threads in so short a time span. And then there it was: the last page and absolutely nothing has been resolved. It ends like the end of a chapter. It has less of an actual book ending then any of the first six Harry Potter books, when we knew there was going to be more to the story. There is zero indication that this is the first in a series (note there's no mention of this in the GoodReads description). It's a good thing I don't have access to one of those capsules for doing magic. I would gladly send all of these people back to 20,000 B.C. and let the saber-tooth tigers get them.

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