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CONTEST ENTRIES > Best Review Contest (Summer 2018)

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message 1: by Dlmrose (new)

Dlmrose | 18251 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 18, 2018. Voting will start the next day and run until the end of the GR day on August 31. The person whose review gets the most votes will get to design a 20 point task for the Fall Challenge.

To be eligible for this task opportunity you must have achieved at least 100 points on the Readerboard by midnight Eastern Time on August 17, 2018.

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 Pam (last edited Aug 01, 2018 06:06AM) (new)

Pam (bluegrasspam) Bluegrass Pam's review of Doña Barbara by Rómulo Gallegos

I chose this book because it was one of the few on the PBS Great American Read list that I had never heard of. I am so glad that I did! I thoroughly enjoyed it and felt that I had been transported to the llano (prairie) in Venezuela - roping cattle, riding horses, and hunting alligators! I don't always appreciate a lot of description of the setting, but in this case, it definitely enhanced the reading experience. The language was beautiful!

I was surprised that so much of the book was about Santos Luzardo's experiences, rather than his cousin Doña Bárbara. (Ultimately, it was about her, though!) Luzardo returns to the llano to reclaim his family's land and cattle. In doing so, he has to deal with the cruel and treacherous (but beautiful) Doña Bárbara, the cacique (chief) of the Aracua. Barbara's horrific experience as a young woman shaped her personality and her attitude towards men in a way that turned her into a vengeful and dangerous woman (with supposed magic powers). When Luzardo arrives, he immediately becomes her enemy yet a man that she respects. The events that transpire between the two of them and their peons (workers) make for a great story. Read the book and discover for yourself. It may not be the story you expect! It certainly wasn't for me.

Here are a few quotes that I liked:

"They ran in two contrary currents of reflection and impulse, determination and hesitation."
"Progress will come to the Plain and barbarism will be conquered and retreat."
"Those women succeed with everything they start out to do, because men are all fools."
And, a recurring idea: "All things return whence they came."

Another aspect of the book that I liked was learning a few new Spanish words. Some examples include: balata, guaracha, peon, carpincho, cacica or cacique, and blancaje.

I hope that more non-Spanish speaking readers discover this Spanish classic. It is a real treasure! It's a 5 star rating for me. The only thing that would have been better for me is if I could have read it in Spanish! Tal vez algun dia. (Maybe some day.)

message 3: by Trish (new)

Trish (trishhartuk) | 2696 comments The Garden of Evening Mists, Tan Twan Eng
Reviewed by trishhartuk (five stars)

This is not a book I would normally have read, had it not been a selection for my FTF book club, and I have to thank them for choosing it. The Garden of Evening Mists is beautifully written, evocative, exotic, and poignant, and I found myself utterly drawn into it.

When we first meet the main character, Yun Ling, she is retiring as a Judge from the Bench in Malaya, rather to the surprise of her co-workers, to whom she hasn’t really explained her reasons. We learn these soon enough, though: she’s been diagnosed with an illness that is ultimately going to rob her of the power of communication. She returns to her post-WWII home, Evening Mists in the Malayan mountains, where an old friend who runs the adjacent tea plantation suggests that she write her memoirs while she still can.

The structure of the book takes a bit of getting used to. However, once I realised that it was mimicking her mental deterioration, it made a lot more sense. It jumps around a bit between the “present” (although it isn’t altogether clear when that actually is), and working back through her post-WWII friendships with a South African tea planter and his family, and a Japanese gardener, during the Malayan Emergency (1948-60) – a period of threat and turmoil in that country which I previously knew nothing about - and finally to her formative experiences as a Japanese prisoner of war in WWII.

I especially liked the sections dealing with the Garden of Evening Mists itself, a Japanese garden created in the Malayan mountains by Arimoto, a former gardener to the Emperor of Japan, who agrees to take Yun Ling as an apprentice when she asks him to build a garden as a memorial for her sister, who died in the prison camp.

Her experiences within the camp are always in the background, although it is two-thirds into the book before she finally reveals what happened there – working up the courage to write it down, perhaps. However, the author manages to find a balance in the description of those experiences that indicates how hard life was, without being unnecessarily sensational about it and glorifying the violence. I was also intrigued how the author finally linked what happened to Yun Ling at the camp back to who and what Arimoto probably was.

All in all, I’m really pleased that I read this book, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys well-written, evocative historical fiction.

message 4: by Siobhan (new)

Siobhan Johnson | 357 comments Siobhan's review of Eat Me: A Natural and Unnatural History of Cannibalism by Bill Schutt

Needed more seasoning.

...I'm sorry, I couldn't resist! This is a very informative and comprehensive look at cannibalism, and the history of it in animals and humans. It goes quite a lot into the biology of the act, and is really quite informative about what factors can lead to cannibalism and what benefits it can have in the animal kingdom. It was on the whole very interesting, and very easy to become absorbed in.

My main problems with it are sort of linked to each other. The writing was a bit dry at times, especially near the beginning, and so it ended up being a bit of a slog to get through occasionally. Another thing that's a bit dry is the fact that criminal cannibalism is completely avoided, which seemed a bit of a cheat. The author explains his reasons for not including any examples, and tbf they are fairly good reasons, but... He only explicitly says that he won't be covering criminal cannibalism three quarters into the book, which seems like a bit of a cheat as I'd say most people (including me! Definitely including me) would be buying this book expecting at least one chapter on it.

So, yes. A good book overall, with a thorough grounding in science, but really could've used some fava beans and a nice chianti to liven things up.

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