One-Minute Book Reviews

March 15, 2008

The Battle of Towton Field, Fought on Palm Sunday in 1461, Takes the Stage in Anne Easter Smith’s Historical Romance, ‘Daughter of York’

Filed under: Historical Novels,Romance Novels — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 7:20 pm
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Yorkists and Lancastrians drowned in their chain mail at England’s Antietam

The bloodiest battle fought on English soil took place on the snowy Palm Sunday of 1461 and claimed more than 30,000 lives. Anne Easter Smith www.anneeastersmith.com recalls Battle of Towton Field and other War of the Roses events in her Daughter of York (Touchstone, $19.95, paperback), a historical romance about the marriage of Margaret of York, sister of Edward IV and Richard III, to Charles the Bold of Burgundy. In the novel a messenger tells Margaret and her mother of the Palm Sunday rout of the Lancastrians, who fled in the pink snow, by the Yorkists: “The pity of it was, the only place to run was down the steep sides of the hill to the Cock Beck stream, full to bursting on its banks. Many drowned in their heavy mail, and I saw others using the dead bodies to form a bridge over which they attempted to flee.” Click on this link to read a review of the novel www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/11/19/.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com


March 14, 2008

And a 2008 Delete Key Awards Honorable Mention to Steve Martin and Roz Chast’s ‘The Alphabet From A to Y: With Bonus Letter Z!”

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:12 pm
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And a 2008 Delete Key Awards honorable mention to …

To Steve Martin for:
“Henrietta the hare wore a habit in heaven, / Her hairdo hid hunchbacks: one hundred and seven.”

And to Roz Chast for a drawing that may leave thousands of children with the idea that the plural of “Inca” is “Incans”

From The Alphabet From At to Y: With Bonus Letter Z! by Steve Martin and Roz Chast (Doubleday)

At their best Steve Martin and Roz Chast are two of the funnier people in America. But the actor and cartoonist bring out the worst in each other in an alphabet book – a category typically aimed at 2-to-4-year-olds — that makes fun of, among others, people with disabilities.

Martin and Chast didn’t win the top prize partly because the Delete Key Awards recognize the year’s worst writing in books. And the couplet quoted here, if tasteless, is better written than the grand prize winner and runners-up. Martin’s jaunty anapestic lines are clear, metrically sound and (unlike Chast’s reference to those “Incans”) grammatically correct. This book would raise fewer objections if billed as a book for teenagers or adults (which it is) instead of for 2-year-olds (which it isn’t).

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda

Grand Prize Winner in the 2008 Delete Key Awards: Eckhart Tolle’s ‘A New Earth’

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:08 am
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And the grand prize winner in the 2008 Delete Key Awards contest is …

“A new species is arising on the planet. It is arising now, and you are it!”

“We are in the midst of a momentous event in the evolution of human consciousness. But they won’t be talking about it in the news tonight. On our planet, and perhaps simultaneously in many parts of our galaxy and beyond, consciousness is awakening from the dream of form. This does not mean all forms (the world) are going to dissolve, although quite a few almost certainly will. It means consciousness can now begin to create form without losing itself in it. It can remain conscious of itself, even while it creates and experiences form.”
— Both from Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (Plume)

What was Oprah thinking when she chose this New Age mumbo-jumbo as her new book club selection? Other writing on the shortlist for the 2008 Delete Key Awards might have been bad, but at least you could figure out what it meant. Does anybody know what Tolle means when he says that consciousness may be “awakening from the dream of form” not just on Earth but “in many parts of our galaxy and beyond”? For sheer incomprehensibility, these passages surpass anything on the shortlist and have earned this self-help book the grand prize in this year’s contest for authors who aren’t using their delete keys enough.

The Secret may try to support its gospel of materialistic acquisition with pages of quotes from self-help gurus, but A New Earth looks to higher authorities to pave its path to to personal fulfillment: Tolle attempts to give credibility to his claim that “consciousness” may be awakening in other parts of “our galaxy and beyond” by drawing repeatedly on the Bible and other sacred texts.

For a while, it looked as though Oprah’s Book Club had made a welcome turn toward classics. But the winning entries from this book are classics of hokum. Goodbye, Love in the Time of Cholera. Hello, Psychobabble in the Time of Ratings Wars.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

First Runner-Up in the 2008 Delete Key Awards: Alice Sebold’s ‘The Almost Moon’

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,Newspapers — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:24 am
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And the first-runner up in the 2008 Delete Key Awards contest is …

“And there it was, the hole that had given birth to me.…This was not the first time I’d been face-to-face with my mother’s genitalia.”
— From Alice Sebold’s The Almost Moon (Little, Brown)

Is it overkill to recognize bad writing in novel that’s already been named one of the five worst books of 2007 by Entertainment Weekly www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20167009_3,00.html and that received a “Stinker of the Year” tag from New York magazine
nymag.com/arts/cultureawards/2007/41801/index2.html?
Not when the book has a lot more like writing like this. (“Face-to-face” isn’t quite the right phrase for those body parts, does it?) And the novel set itself apart from the other finalists with more than what a visitor to this site called “the ‘ick’ factor.”

Last year’s first runner-up, Mitch Albom’s For One More Day, is written at a third-grade reading level (Grade 3.4) according to the readability statistics that come with the spell-checker on Microsoft Word. The Almost Moon barely rises above it with a level of Grade 4.7 and exemplifies the bizarre trend toward writing about adult subjects in prose fit for the Island Princess Barbie set. What’s next: My First Book of the Kama Sutra? Or Let’s Read and Find Out About S&M?

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

Second Runner-Up in the 2008 Delete Key Awards: Rhonda Byrne’s ‘The Secret’

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:14 am
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And the second runner-up in the 2008 Delete Key Awards contest is

“The most common thought that people hold [about fat], and I held it too, is that food was responsible for my weight gain. That is a belief that does not serve you, and in my mind now it is complete balderdash! Food is not responsible for putting on weight. It is your thought that food is responsible for putting on weight that actually has food put on weight.”

Byrne suggests that if you want to lose weight, you should stop looking at fat people:

“If you see people who are overweight, do not observe them, but immediately switch your mind to the picture of you in your perfect body and feel it.”
Both from Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret (Atria)

Rhoda Byrne’s The Secret once looked like the favorite to win the grand prize in this year’s Delete Key Awards contest. Early in 2007, Jerry Adler had a brilliant five-page evisceration of this self-help book in Newsweek that rightly called some of its claims scientifically “preposterous.” Much of the book is just bizarre: Your thinking about food “has food put on weight”? (Does your thinking demagnetize the scale?) But with its fake red-wax seal and parchmentlike paper, The Secret tips you off right away to the possibility that it’s goop. Some of its rivals made weirder claims but were packaged to look like more than than they were.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

March 13, 2008

The Year’s Worst Writing in Books — Delete Key Awards Winners — Tomorrow at 10 a.m.

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:35 pm
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The 2007 Delete Key Award winners were Danielle Steel’s Toxic Bachelors, Mitch Albom’s For One More Day and Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children. Which books will win tomorrow?

The winners of the second annual Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books will be announced on this site tomorrow at 10 a.m. Eastern Time. The complete list will appear by noon.

Questions and answers about the Delete Key Awards appeared on Feb. 24 www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/02/24/. The list of the 10 finalists and samples of their writing were posted on Feb. 29 www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/02/29/.

Today is your last chance to try to save an author from doom by leaving a comment. Are you listening, Steve Martin fans? You need to write fast if you think he should be spared despite that alphabet book … Next week, or maybe sooner, I’ll be reviewing some of the wonderful books I’ve been reading to cheer myself up while judging the contest.

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Democratic ‘Luv Guv’ James McGreevey Couldn’t Win a Delete Key Award in 2007, But Can Republican Newt Gingrich Do It in 2008?

Filed under: Delete Key Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:56 am
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James McGreevey, the former governor of New Jersey, made the shortlist for last year’s Delete Key Awards with a steamy gay-sex passage from his memoir, The Confession. But the Democrat known as the “Luv Guv” lost to Danielle Steel, Mitch Albom and Claire Messud. Can the former Republican Speaker of the House do better when the 2008 winners are announced on Friday?

Newt Gingrich and co-author William Forstchen made the shortlist with this passage from Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8th (St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne):

“James nodded his thanks, opened the wax paper and looked at bit suspiciously at the offering, it looked to be a day or two old and suddenly he had a real longing for the faculty dining room on campus, always a good selection of Western and Asian food to choose from, darn good conversation to be found, and here he now sat with a disheveled captain who, with the added realization, due to the direction of the wind, was in serious need of a good shower.”

Read the full 2008 shortlist here www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/02/29/. You’ll find the shortlisted 2007 passage by former New Jersey “Luv Guv” Jim McGreevey (“He greeted me in his briefs …”) here www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/03/14/. The winners will be announced on Friday, March 14, starting at 10 a.m. Eastern Time, so you need to leave a comment today if you want to try to rig the jury.

The annual Delete Key Awards recognize authors who aren’t using their delete keys enough. They don’t honor the “worst books” but instead call attention to the worst passages in books, such as individual sentences or paragraphs.

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.


March 12, 2008

And the Most Famous American Novel About a Call Girl Is …

Filed under: Classics,Novels — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 4:39 pm
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The answer to this morning’s pop quiz …

Were all of your English teachers squeamish about assigning books about prostitutes? Or were you just distracted by Eliot Spitzer’s resignation?

It took more than 12 hours to get the answer to this morning’s pop quiz, “What’s the most famous American novel about a call girl?” But Impreader nailed it: It’s Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Modern Library, 176 pp., $14.95).

Yes, Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) is a party girl instead of a call girl in Blake Edwards’s 1961 movie. But the Hollywood standards of the pre-Klute era required the sanitizing. Holly’s life has a sadder, if no less interesting, cast in Capote’s short novel. As the filmmaker and short story writer Garth Twa puts it in 101 Books You Must Read Before You Die (Rizzioli/Universe, $34.95):

“Pushing the boundaries and paving the way for the revolution to come, Holly is a gamine — sexually free, hedonistic, a prostitute. She lives for the moment, damns the consequences, and makes up her morality as she goes along. Like her cat without a name, she is unfettered, untameable.”

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Pop Quiz: What’s the Most Famous American Novel About a Call Girl?

Filed under: News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:48 am
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[Update at 12:15 p.m.: What! This post has been up for more than eight hours and nobody has figured out the answer? I'm taking this as a sign that the East Coast people, who log on first, are stumped. West Coast visitors: Can you help? Jan ]

Suppose Eliot Spitzer had done the smart thing and read a great novel about a call girl instead of consorting with one. What book would he have read? Hint: You know the title. I’m not dredging up a neglected masterwork known only to people who have just defended disserations in American Lit. And the book has a call girl as a main character, not a bit player. I’ll post the answer by the end of the day. If you know it and want to show the world what a genius you are, please leave a comment.

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Who Wrote Worse in 2007 – Alice Sebold or Holly Peterson? Should Either Novelist Win a Delete Key Award on Friday?

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:50 am
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Critics have not been kind to Alice Sebold’s The Almost Moon (Little, Brown), which Entertainment Weekly and New York magazine ranked among the worst books of 2007.

But is its prose worse than that of Holly Peterson’s The Manny? Both novels have made the shortlist for the 2008 Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books. Which – if any – of the lines below deserves to become one of the winners?

From Alice Sebold’s The Almost Moon:

“And there it was, the hole that had given birth to me.… This was not the first time I’d been face-to-face with my mother’s genitalia.”

From Holly Peterson’s The Manny:

“We’re in the modern era, baby, you spoiled, Jurassic, archaic, Waspy piece of petrified wood!”

“He was munching furiously on his prey, like an African lion with a freshly caught zebra.”

(Guess which part of the body the “prey” is.)

One-Minute Book Reviews welcomes — and may be influenced by — brilliant arguments for either book. The winners will be announced starting at 10 a.m. Eastern Time on Friday. To avoid missing these posts, please bookmark this site or subscribe to the RSS feed. Thanks for visiting One-Minute Book Reviews, a site for people who like to read but dislike hype and review inflation.

To read the complete list of finalists, click here www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/02/29/.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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