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message 1: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia (pandoraphoebesmom) | 1378 comments This is thread where you can submit reviews for the Best Review contest. I will open the thread for submissions on March 1, 2010 and it will close at Midnight EST on May 22, 2010 - voting will start the next day and run until the end of the day on the 29th. The person whose review gets the most votes will get to design a 20 point task for the Summer 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.

message 2: by Deirdre (last edited May 20, 2010 01:20PM) (new)

Deirdre Skaggs (deirdre04) | 102 comments Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler
Review of Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang
Deirdre's rating = ★★

I'm not much for most comedians. It's not that I don't get the comedy, but I think I just prefer that it be a bit cleaner. I have a comedy threshold, apparently, where if it gets too dirty, too raunchy, I just don't think it's funny anymore. Most of Chelsea Handler's brand of humor falls into the "too dirty" category for me.

This book begins with a chapter about "the feeling." She makes no bones about jumping right in and talking about orgasms and dry-humping everything in sight and masturbating and her "coslopus." Eek! It was a bit much for me. And, of course, all of this when she was but 8 years old (right).

I did find the last chapter fairly funny (probably that last chapter earned her the second star I gave her). In it, Handler details some open-ended pranks she has played on friends. That is, they are mostly jokes/pranks that had no resolution, so the person likely never knew that he or she was duped. I had to wonder about those poor gullible souls who, probably, now know the truth...

I just have quite a bit of trouble imagining how anyone could want to be around Handler for any period of time. I have enough trouble with my husband, who uses humor as a defense mechanism. It sounds like Handler uses humor as an everything mechanism, and her sense of humor is so biting, so positively would drive me mad in minutes.

I have to say that I much prefer a more down-to-earth approach to humor. Still a little bit out there, sure--what comedian doesn't exaggerate a bit? But I'm thinking of Bill Engvall, who has me rolling on the floor clutching my stomach every time. Or ventriloquist Jeff Dunham, who interacts his puppets with each other in a hilarious way. Yeah, it's out there, but it's not Chelsea Handler out there.

Nonetheless, I've been told by more than one devoted Handler fan that this book wasn't her best, by far. That said, I will most likely give Handler another shot by reading the book that was recommended to me the most: Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea . We'll see how that one goes...

message 3: by Petra (new)

Petra Review of: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco

Interesting. Reviewing a book like this is hard as it is an interesting story and parts are very well told and draws the reader in. Then there are the over-descriptive sections that go on and on and on and on.
Yambo awakes after a stroke without his memories. He goes to his family/childhood home to try to reawaken his memories and submerses himself into the books, records, newspapers of the past. (It's amazing how much of a fire hazard this house is with it's tons of old newspapers and magazines)
There are some very interesting looks into facist Italy during the war. The stories of the people as they lived through these times were quite heroic. Good people caught in hard times.
All in all, this book asks the questions: How much is one's self/personality tied up into one's memories? Without memory, does one have a self? What if one has memory but no connections to the World? What if one's universe/existence lies only in one's self?
The ending is abrupt and leaves some loose ends but the reality of the situation makes it plausible, believable and okay to leave the reader with something to think about and to come to some of his/her own conclusions.
This aspect of the book deserves 4 or more stars. It's really an interesting concept and is well delivered.
Eco rambles a little bit as he studies the aspects of memory loss on a person in lots and lots ....and lots....of detail. There are times when he could move onwards quicker than he does.
This aspect of the book deserves 2 stars (and some editing).
Hence I gave it 3* as a compromise.
All in all, this is a blend of very interesting stories amid a lot of detailed descriptions of books & their contents, history through newspapers & magazines, school curriculum through childhood essays and notebooks.

message 4: by Kiri (last edited May 24, 2010 11:44AM) (new)

Kiri | 122 comments Review for: One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus

A well written and lively "alter-verse" (if you will) Historical Fiction re-telling of the proposed "Brides for Indians" pact of September 1874, when the heads of the Cheyenne tribes, including Chief Little Wolf (the Sweet Medicine Chief) and others, journeyed to Washington D.C. with a proposal for President Ulysses S. Grant. They presented their plan to give the government one thousand horses in exchange for one thousand white women. Hoping to end the fighting between the white man and Indians on the American plains, the Cheyenne felt that if white women could merge with their tribe and bear children of mixed blood, the new children might bond the two races. (The Cheyenne are matrilineal) Indians and whites would then begin to truly assimilate and learn to live together peacefully.

While a distinctly fictional account that is not truly representative of the original time-period this will take the reader into a facsimile of the period that may well lead them to want to know more - which is never a bad thing! Jim Fergus does a decent job of writing in the voice of his main character - May Dodd, providing his reader with a viewpoint of the time and personages involved with an interestingly deft hand. I enjoyed the portrayals of native living and the contrasts shown between the cultures.

An enjoyable read. =)

message 5: by Bridgit (new)

Bridgit | 515 comments The Count of Monte Cristo
Alexander Dumas

Where do you start reviewing one of the best books you have ever read?

I LOVED it. LOVE LOVE LOVED it. The pacing, the emotion, the build up, the action. Everything. Never have I read nearly 1500 pages in so short of a time period and not felt almost claustriphobic with a need to 'do something else' and 'get out of my reading zone'.

I found myself racing home to read this. Ignoring my husband. I think the TV remote was lost for 4 days before anyone noticed. I was entranced.

Things I didnt like: I wish the vengence happened earlier. And was bigger. More explosive. I know he ruined these people's lives (deservingly so) but I wanted it to be so much more spectacular. I wanted them to be on their knees and begging Dantes to leave them even a tiny shred of their lives. Begging for his forgiveness and his leniency. But really, I think that says more about me than about Dumas or Dantes.

My favorite characters were Abbe Faris and Valentine. I loved the relationship between Valentine and her grandfather and the way they communicated with each other by blinking.

I am torn by Mercedes. On the one hand, she waited 18 months and was ignorant of who set up her fiance. On the other, she ONLY waited 18 months!! and married the man who ruined Dantes life!! She clearly didnt like/respect her husband by the time Dantes meets up with her again, and yet she did not drop everything to speak with Dantes. I know its the romantic in me, because it is unlikely that a married woman, in that time period, with a child to consider would ever drop everything and run to her hold lover, but BOY did I want her to...

I could probably go on forever. Or at least for another page or two. But I'll cut it off here.

Rating: A HUGE 5/5 Stars.

message 6: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lbhick) | 750 comments The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

I'm normally not a science fiction fan, but this was a marvelous philosophical and futuristic story. I started my reading slowly, thinking I might digest the book better in little bites, but soon became caught up in the tale and wanted to devour it in one sitting.

The premise of a Jesuit mission discovering the evidence of extraterrestrial life and their journey to find these aliens was fantastic. The characters who carried out the mission were well developed. I loved how Russell teased us with their experiences by having Father Emilio Sandoz, the missions lone survivor, reveal a little bit of their story at a time in flashbacks.

Sandoz has returned to Earth 40 years after the initial contact. He is no longer the man he once was, now wracked with pain and unbearable suffering, both physical and psychological. As he is interrogated by his Jesuit superiors, he is forced to examine what happened, and how good intentions set in motion devastating consequences.

The story also tested the age old question of God's existence and how if God truly existed we can have bad in the world. For if we credit God with the good, why can't we in turn blame him for the bad? And, what does it mean to be human?

This was a thought provoking book, which surprisingly has changed this skeptical sci-fi reader's opinion about the genre, and I look forward to reading The Sparrow's sequel.

My Rating: ★★★★

message 7: by Sera (new)

Sera Here's my review of:

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford by Jamie Ford

Four Stars

Henry, the central character in the story, is a Chinese boy, growing up in Seattle during WWII. Although the book starts out in present day, most of the story is told during 1942, and in particular, when the American government placed thousands and thousands of Japanese citizens in internment camps.

What I enjoyed most about this book was that I was able to get a glimpse into a small community where Chinese, Japanese and black Americans lived together. I think that sometimes we tend to think that that the only stories that really exist are those that mirror our own experiences, which is why I am often pleasantly surprised when I can learn about a different point of view and experience with which I would customarily be unfamiliar.

What I also enjoyed about this book was that the author, Ford, took an objective approach to presenting the internment issue. In the back of the book, he stated that he wanted people to make up their own minds about whether what America did to the Japanese during that time was right. I believe that Ford did a nice job of letting things unfold so that readers could think for themselves. For example, the entire evacuation process was horrific, but during internment, Ford sprinkles in anecdotes that show the humanity of Americans during this difficult time.

However, although the historical aspects of the times provides the backdrop of the story, the actual story is a very familiar one. People from different sides of the tracks who meet and fall in love.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good yarn. Ford's writing style is pretty but easy to read, and the pacing of the book is very good so it moves quickly.

message 8: by April (last edited May 20, 2010 09:30AM) (new)

April (booksandwine) | 65 comments Review of The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan --- Review orignially posted on my blog Good Books & Good Wine

The Dead Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan is a companion novel to her debut, The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Let me put this out there right now, I think it was a spectacular follow-up. Plot in a nutshell, Mary from FoHT has a daughter named Gabry in the coastal town. Gabry is kind of a chicken. However, hot boy named Catcher convinces her to jump the barrier and go to the abandoned amusement park with him. Zombie mayhem ensues.

Honestly, at first I thought I would hate Gabry because she's not as courageous as Mary. Rather, she spends much of her time being scared. She's sort of like Chuckie Finster, in that everyone wants to go do something fun and she's all GUYZ this isn't a good idea! However, the at first should signify to you that I changed my mind. Gabry, I think has a normal reaction. Sorry ya'll I don't want to tangle with zombies, I've seen Dawn of The Dead (until I got too scared and had to turn it off) and 28 Days Later. I know zombies are scary mother-f-ers and you are best off just staying where it's safe, so it's completely unfair of me to judge her for being a weakling, cuz guess what, I am one too! The cool thing about Gabry is that she is given room to grow, she's not an immediate bad ass, but she becomes one and exhibits some extreme courage.

Aside from Gabry, there are BOYS. There is a love triangle, of course. Unlike a lot of triangles I sometimes see in books, there's actually chemistry between Gabry and both boys, neither was haphazardly inserted just to move the plot forward. Also, I couldn't decide which team I wanted to bat for, Team Elias or Team Catcher. Team Elias because Catcher is a weird name, or Team Catcher because he's a good kisser. Choices, choices. Usually, it's very easy for me to pick a team, i.e. yes I am team boy with the bread. So kudos Ms. Ryan for making a love triangle palpable.

As for pacing, I thought this book was fast-moving. I recall flipping ahead just a little bit because I was so on edge to find out what would happen to the characters I felt attached to. Although, there were some parts when I was like just get on with it, little bits were thrown like teaser-bones and I just wanted to know more, like with the Souler cult. If you are like me, you will gobble that stuff right up, because cults are super interesting.

I had one quote that I really loved from the ARC:

"I realize that life is risks. It's acknowledging the past but looking forward. It's taking a chance that we will make mistakes but believing that we all deserve to be forgiven." pg. 324

I suppose that really resonates with me, as broad, sweeping statements about life tend to. It rings true to me, and I like when a book about zombies makes poignant remarks on life.

message 9: by Manday (new)

Manday | 311 comments Review of Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

It took me quite a while to decide to like this book. I can identify three reasons why it was not an instant success for me. First, I struggled to appreciate the writing itself. The language is simplistic, as if it has been translated or written by someone who does not know English well. This is of course done on purpose and language has a prominent place in the book, where nearly all of the characters are at least bilingual and many different languages are spoken and referenced. Second, I struggled with the overtly political sections that made me feel like I was back in graduate school for political science. I felt, and still feel, like some passages in this book move it from literature to political anlaysis or perhaps even propoganda. However, these portions are short and only obtrusive towards the beginning. As the book continues they are woven in more and more with the plot. Finally, the plot seemed predictable at the beginning. I thought I knew where it was going. However, by the end I had been proven wrong. While there were no cliff hangers or big moments of suspense, the plot is not nearly so bleak as one might expect from someone of this country, this time period, and this generation of writers.

Overall, this is an impactful book that teaches many specifics about the history of South Africa and colonialism, while more subtly departing some messages about the nature of humankind. I think many people would benefit from reading it, and I think most people would enjoy the read. Four Stars.

message 10: by Terri (new)

Terri (terrisa-uk) | 233 comments A Town Like Alice (Vintage International) by Nevil Shute
A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

This is the story of Jean Paget and Joe Harman, Japanese prisoners of war, told through the eyes of Jean's trustee, Noel Strachan. Crossing the three continents of Asia, Britain and Australia, we follow the characters through some tough times and harsh climates during and in the aftermath of the Second World War, where love endures.

It is an engrossing read, covering many fascinating facts and touching on several interesting themes that affected the people of this time. Most interesting to me was the contrast between the treatment of male prisoners and their children and female counterparts by the Japanese. I found the respect, care and attention (within their capabilities), shown to the women and children quite touching, and, I feel, still a true reflection of the Japanese culture of respect today. This also contrasted with the way in which the Australian cattle farmers treated the local "boongs" or Aborigines. Although they seemed to be well cared for within the story, they still had to be served in different shops and were not allowed to mix with the whites.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. The characters were, for the most part, likeable and believable, although I did have one or two little niggles about Jean. I found her to be far too sensible for my liking and was willing her to some small frivolous thing with her new-found wealth. I also found the way she ended almost every sentence with "Joe" a little irritating! A small point, I know, but I am very tricky to please! These two small chinks stopped me from rating this a full 5/5.

I read this for the Spring Challenge on Goodreads - the task was to read a book written under a pseudonym. Nevil Shute's real name is Nevil Shute Norway.

My Rating: 4 stars

message 11: by Louvaine (new)

Louvaine | 104 comments Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier
Rating: 4 stars
Beautiful language reveals two mens' psyche. One, a professor from Switzerland, through a series of somewhat orchestrated coincidences, discovers a book by the second- a Portuguese "secular priest" and amateur philosopher. Their lives become entwined though one has been dead for a number of years. I found the language moving, revealing, and provocative. Not in an impure sense, but rather self-revelatory. You discover things about yourself while reading this book. Things you probably wouldn't consider or unearth otherwise. Highly recommended.

message 12: by Cicek (new)

Cicek | 18 comments The Reef by Nora Roberts
The Reef by Nora Roberts

She is young, feisty, and rich. He is reckless, ambitious, and, um, not rich. One thing unites them: the hunger for treasure. Together, they dive into the deep waters of the Caribbean, looking for gold and a legendary amulet. Will it be long before her waters start churning? Will he knock the wind out of her sails? Will she be swept overboard by waves of passion?

Every once in a while, I will pick up a romance novel. They are entertaining, easy reads. I bought this romantic adventure for one reason only: it advertised an underwater archaeologist as the heroine. As an archaeologist who started out with an interest in marine archaeology and scuba diving, I thought I could perhaps –dare I say it?--- relate. It turns out that this book is more about “treasure hunters” than archaeologists, and although the heroine actually gets a graduate degree along the way and blurts out “It belongs in a museum” in Indy-like fashion every once in a while, she graciously accepts a fat check in the form of “finder’s fee.” And, yes, she catalogs and draws their finds, and I sincerely thank Ms. Roberts for the inclusion of this painstaking task in the book- even though it seemed like a convenient solution to get the girl to stay up all night so that the boy can sneak into the room and, ehm, offer his assistance in the matter. I would also like to ask Ms. Roberts how many real archaeologists she interviewed before she wrote the scenes where the heroine is cataloging RUBIES! I must have made a terrible mistake when I shifted from marine archaeology to land archaeology. Think of all the rubies I might have cataloged!

Another matter of confusion was the manifestation of supernatural beings towards the end of the book. It seemed like an unnecessary addition to the story, but I suppose it is understandable if Ms. Roberts didn’t trust the attention span of her readers to sustain an interest in purely archaeological matters. Maybe an “evil curse” was just what was needed to anchor this plot line that already contained gold, murder, sex, mayhem, sharks, villains, and explosions. Pirates, UFOs, giant lizards, and time travel were apparently reserved for the sequel Return to the Reef.

All in all, the main characters were interesting enough, and the villain is villainous enough, but the book is full of romance novel clichés that made my eyes roll heavenwards. I expected more from a seasoned writer like Nora Roberts. Two stars.

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