One-Minute Book Reviews

June 29, 2007

What’s Unique About One-Minute Book Reviews?

Filed under: Books,Reading,Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 4:42 pm
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One-Minute Book Reviews recently passed its six-month anniversary, and I celebrated by redoing its FAQ page. Here’s the revised version. If you enjoy the reviews and readers’ guides on this site, I’d be grateful if you’d forward this post to others who might enjoy them.  Thanks for visiting One-Minute Book Reviews.

Jan Harayda, the One-Minute Reviewer

What is One-Minute Book Reviews?
One-Minute Book Reviews is an independent blog devoted to short reviews of new, evergreen, and forthcoming books. The reviews are written by the editor-in-chief of the site, Janice Harayda, who has been the book columnist for Glamour, book editor and critic for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, and vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle www.bookcritics.org. The site is the home of the Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books, published annually on March 15 http://oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/03/15, and the Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guides. You can find all the guides by clicking on “Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guides” in the “Categories” column at right.

Why have a blog just for short book reviews?

The number of Web sites and blogs about publishing news, trends, and gossip recently has surged. There are far fewer independent sites or blogs just for reviews. And publishers pay for the reviews on some sites, so they’re hardly objective. I wanted to help to close the gap with sophisticated and witty reviews, including artful takedowns of overrated books and appreciations of underrated books, that aren’t influenced by all the hype.

Can you really read any review on this site in a minute?
You can read my one-sentence summaries of each book in less than a minute — maybe two or three seconds. You can find the summaries by clicking on the “Books in a Sentence” category. I also try to keep the regular reviews short enough so that you can read them in a minute or so. But I include extra text for people who have more time. At the bottom of each review, you’ll find my choices for the best and worst lines in the book. You can skip these and the other extra material.

What kinds of books do you review?
All kinds. That includes new and older fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and books typically bypassed by the review sections of newspapers, such as self-help manuals. Nothing is off limits.

How often do you post reviews?
As often as possible. On days when I don’t post a review, I often post a quote on a literary topic. Reviews of books for children and teenagers appear on Saturdays.

Why do you post readers’ guides, too?
Publishers haven’t created guides for many books that groups might love. For example, they often don’t publish guides for new hardcover nonfiction or for classic works of fiction. The guides they do post are part of a marketing plan intended to sell books. They may appear to be objective, but they are far from it. Publishers’ guides do not quote unfavorable reviews, encourage you to compare a book to others suggest that you are reading anything other than a flawless work. On that level, they don’t promote the lively debate about the merits of books that most book clubs enjoy.

How can publicists and others submit books to you for review?
They can’t. I don’t accept books or promotional materials from editors, publishers, literary agents or book publicists.

Why don’t you accept free books from publishers?
I agree with that pillar of newsroom ethics that says that journalists shouldn’t just avoid conflicts of interest — they should avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest. If I accepted free books from publishers, how would you know that the reviews on these pages hadn’t been influenced by the freebies?

If you don’t accept books from publishers, where do you get them?
Sometimes from the library. Those of us who live in New Jersey get a fantastic benefit for our tax dollars. You can walk into almost any public library, fill out a card asking the staff to buy a book, and get your wish as long as you want a title that would enhance the collection or appeal to others. If I can’t get a book from the library, I may try to borrow it from a friend or buy it online or elsewhere at half price.

How can people bring books to your attention if they can’t send them directly?
They can’t. Getting reviewed on One-Minute Book Reviews is a little like winning a MacArthur Foundation grant. You can’t apply. You just have to get lucky.

You can find out more about the blog by reading the “About One-Minute Book Reviews” page on the site.

The reviews on One-Minute Book Reviews may not be reproduced in any form without written permission from the author except for brief quotations that do not violate fair-use provisions of copyright laws. Publishers who quote from reviews in ads or elsewhere should credit: Janice Harayda, One-Minute Book Reviews. For permission to reprint longer passages or full reviews, send an e-mail message to the address on the “Contact” page on this site or write to: Janice Harayda, 41 Watchung Plaza, #99, Montclair, NJ 07042, and enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope. If you send e-mail, please mention your request in the subject heading so you don’t get mistaken for a spammer.

If you would like Janice Harayda to speak your book group, please visit http://www.janiceharayda.com and click on the page labeled “For Book Groups.”

Home page photo credit: (c) Michael Stahl

(c)2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

June 22, 2007

Win a Copy of Deborah Garrison’s Poetry Collection, ‘The Second Child’

Filed under: Books,Contests,Poetry,Reading,Women — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:06 pm

Is buying poetry a luxury on your budget? Would you like to win a copy of Deborah Garrison’s The Second Child (Random House, 2007), one of the most talked about poetry collections of the year?

This book deals with the everyday experiences of a working mother of three and is available only in hardcover. Here’s how you can win a copy:

1) Link from your blog to this post or or any other on One-Minute Book Reviews.

2) Send an e-mail message that includes the link to the address on the “Contact” page on this site. Include your mailing address.

3) If you’re the first person to send a link I can verify and you live in the U.S., I’ll send you the book. (I’ll pay the postage.) This is the copy of The Second Child that I used to write the review that was posted on this site on March 12, 2007 http: oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/03/12. It’s also the copy I used to write the reading group guide to The Second Child posted on the same day But it has no marks on (except for a bookstore sticker on the back) and is in very good condition.

Because links can be slow in showing up on Word Press and Technorati, you must send an e-mail message to the address on the contact page to win. I’ll judge the winner by the times on the e-mails.

This is the third in a series of book giveways that I’ll be having on Fridays or Saturdays on this site this summer. There may not be a giveaway every week, and not all giveaways may require a link. Some may involve writing contests that ask you to tell why you want the book.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

June 15, 2007

Win a Free Copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat, Pray, Love’

Filed under: Books,Contests,Reading Group Guides — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 8:33 pm

Want to win a free copy of the new paperback edition of Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller, Eat, Pray, Love? Here’s how you can:

1) Link from your blog to this post or or any other on One-Minute Book Reviews.

2) Send an e-mail message that includes the link to the address on the “Contact” page on this site. Include your mailing address.

3) If you’re the first person to send a link I can verify and you live in the U.S., I’ll send you the book. (I’ll pay the postage.) This a new, straight-from-the-store copy with no markings except for the bookstore sticker on the back. I had to buy a new one because I spilled Tab on the copy I used for the review of Gilbert’s book on this site on April 5, 2007 http://oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/04/05/.

Because links can be slow in showing up on Word Press and Technorati, you must send an e-mail message to the address on the contact page to win. I’ll judge the winner by the times on the e-mails. This contest is open to anyone over 18 who has not won a contest on One-Minute Book Reviews in the past 30 days.

This is the second in a series of book giveways that I’ll be having on Fridays or Saturdays on this site this summer. There may not be a giveaway every week, and not all giveaways may require a link. Some may involve writing contests that ask you to tell why you want the book.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

May 24, 2007

Does ‘The Secret Work’? Update on 30-Day Test

Filed under: Books,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:36 am

Yes, I’m still doing the 30-day test of The Secret begun on May 2 when I asked “the Universe” for a seven-figure advance for my next book or a comparable movie deal for an earlier one. Are you surprised to hear that Steven Spielberg still hasn’t called? No? Check back at the end of the month for the full results. Spielberg’s still got a week.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

May 11, 2007

Does ‘The Secret’ Work? Day 10 of 30-Day Test

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 8:39 pm

Day 10
No closer to getting a seven-figure advance for my next book than I was on Day 1 of this test. So why, you might wonder, didn’t I ask for something more reasonable? Why not one of the Caribbean vacations that my favorite radio station here in New Jersey is giving away when it’s not playing “Little Deuce Coupe” or “Here Comes the Sun?” Or – to make it even easier for the Universe – one of those great Alice Roi purses (only $250) shown on the fashion page of yesterday’s New York Times?

Answer: The Secret says that the mysterious “law of attraction” will “manifest” what you want, regardless of its value if you just “ask, believe, and receive.” Or, as Rhonda Byrne puts it on page 63: “It is as easy to manifest one dollar as it is to manifest one dollar.” So why shouldn’t I give the Universe a chance to show what it can do?

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

A Review of ‘Acceptance,’ Susan Coll’s Satire of the College Admissions Race, Coming Next Week on One-Minute Book Reviews

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Novels,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:52 pm

One of the books I’ll be reviewing next week is Susan Coll’s Acceptance, a send-up of the college admissions race, which I’ve just started. My favorite line so far? A mother named Nina boasts to a neighbor, Grace, that her daughter got straight A’s. Grace flinches: “Didn’t grades fall into the zone of private information, along with age and weight and financial net worth?”

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

May 10, 2007

Does ‘The Secret’ Work? Day 9 of 30-Day Test

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:51 pm

Day 8
A miracle. No e-mails today from Nigerian letter-fraud scammers trying to con me out of my bank account numbers. Did the Hot Mail spam-blockers finally kick in … or was it The Secret?

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

May 9, 2007

Does ‘The Secret’ Work? Day 8 of 30-Day Test

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 6:29 pm

Day 8

Is the Universe mocking me? Two more e-mail messages from peddlers of variations on Nigerian-letter scams. They include another from “Adams Smith” of the “African Development Bank” who offered me a third of $15 million in exchange for my bank account numbers. (Question: Do all these con artists wink at you — while they’re trying to scam you – by using names that play off those of authors of famous books like Wealth of Nations?) I blocked messages from “Adams Smith” yesterday but he seems to have crashed the barrier.

The Secret says that you should envision what you want, not what you don’t. So maybe I made a mistake by blocking Smith’s e-mail and mentally writing outraged letter to appropriate authorities? Today I’m planning instead to visualize opening my e-mail tomorrow and finding only messages from a) friends, b) visitors to One-Minute Book Reviews, or c) movie producers wishing to option novels for sum equal to cost of Gulfstream V. Hope that no producer is named “Adams Smith” (in case e-mail block has taken effect).

Requested from Universe on May 1: $1,000,000
Received so far: $825 (hard labor) + $58 (lottery) = $883
Universe owes me (according to The Secret): $999,117 (at a minimum)

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Enid Shomer’s ‘Tourist Season,’ Short Stories About Women in Unfamiliar Territory

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Fiction,Reading,Short Stories,Women — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:50 am

Female characters explore places that include Tibet, Florida and Las Vegas in a collection by a winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award

Tourist Season: Stories. By Enid Shomer. Random House, 256 pp., $13.95, paperback.

By Janice Harayda

Enid Shomer is a thoughtful and intelligent writer whose Tourist Season is nonetheless hard to love. One problem is that Shomer lacks a strong voice. You might recognize her stories as hers only because she tends to write about current or former residents of Florida. This isn’t enough when so many other writers, like Carl Hiaasen, work the state with voices you’d know anywhere.

Here are the first lines of “Chosen,” the first story in Tourist Season: “It was a Tuesday afternoon in early June. School had been out for a week.” You can begin a story with writing that flat – sometimes – if you move on right away to more promising material. But “Chosen” is about a 59-year-old Jewish speech therapist who gets an unexpected visit from two monks who say that she is a reincarnated Buddhist lama, and who not only invites them into her home while she is alone but follows them from Florida to Tibet. The story is so implausible that it throws the pedestrian beginning into higher relief. And that implausibility has less to do with plot than with Shomer’s lack of a distinctive voice. The plot of “Chosen” is much less bizarre than some that have worked brilliantly in stories by writers with stronger voices, such as Flannery O’Connor and Isaac Bashevis Singer.

A related problem is that Shomer often gives you Cliffs Notes to characters instead of development. She writes of a Florida sheriff in “Sweethearts”: “A star high school quarterback who’d married a cheerleader and gone to Vanderbilt on a football scholarship, he had always been something of a local celebrity.” Change the name of the school (or “cheerleader” to “Homecoming Queen”) and those words could apply to anybody from Archie Manning to the most successful insurance agent in your hometown.

Shomer started out as a poet, turned to short stories and is writing on a historical novel. And there’s nothing wrong with working in several genres. But in Tourist Season, she doesn’t seem to know who she wants to be. She deals in realism in one story, semi-realism in another and magical realism in a third and with characters who range from a high school student to retirees. If the women in her collection resemble tourists in their own lives, Shomer comes across a tourist in literature, carefully mapping out journeys but still casting about for her ideal destination.

Best line: From “The Hottest Spot on Earth,” a story set in Las Vegas: “She regarded the pastel haze of downtown Las Vegas. A pyramid-shaped hotel prodded the sky. Beyond it the suburbs twinkled in a grid, like a busy switchboard.”

Worst line: From the title story, whose characters live in a condo building on Florida’s Gold Coast: “The directors were a bunch of bullies who couldn’t pass for businesspeople if they had ticker tape coming out of their butts.” I can’t quite see this one, can you?

Editor: Anika Streitfeld

Published: March 2007

Caveat lector: This review was based on the advance readers’ edition. Some material in the finished book may differ.

Furthermore: Shomer won the Iowa Short Fiction Award for her first collection or stories Imaginary Men (University of Iowa Press, 1993). Her work has appeared in The New Yorker and other publications.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Janice Harayda is an award-winning critic who has been the book columnist for Glamour, book editor of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland a vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle. At least 50 percent of her reviews deal with books by women. Reviews of books by female authors typically appear on Mondays and Wednesdays and books by male authors on Tuesdays and Thursdays with the sexes up for grabs at other times.

May 8, 2007

Does ‘The Secret’ Work? Day 7 of 30-Day Test

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:49 pm

Day 7
I think my messages to the Universe are being intercepted. Since starting my test of The Secret, I seem to be getting more e-mail from con artists peddling variations on the famous Nigerian letter-fraud scam, though it’s coming from Burkina Faso: Somebody tells you that you can have millions of dollars in unclaimed funds if you provide your own bank account number so the cash can be deposited.

I try not to open these. But my e-mail from One-Minute Book Reviews goes to the address these people use, and sometimes it’s hard to tell the con artists from visitors to the site. Today I got an e-mail message with the heading: FROM THE DESK OF ADAMS SMITH. A fan of my review of For One More Day, noting that Mitch Albom is writing at a third-grade level? No, “Adams Smith” is the “Bill and Exchange Manager” of the “African Development Bank.” He has $15 million in unclaimed funds and will give me a third of it if I send him the number of my checking account so he can deposit the money in my name.

There is a serious chance that if this test of The Secret continues, my bank account will end up in the negative numbers. Is it possible that hackers could break into your messages to the Universe and redirect them to people being investigated by Interpol?

Requested from Universe on May 1: $1,000,000
Received so far: $825 (hard labor) + $58 (lottery) = $883
Universe owes me (according to The Secret): $999,117 (at a minimum)

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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