One-Minute Book Reviews

January 29, 2009

Fed Up With the Low Writing Levels in High-Priced Books? The Delete Key Awards Finalists Will Be Announced on Feb. 26, 2009

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News,Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:01 pm
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“Just before the ax fell, lightning struck and my life changed, never to be the same again.”
From Barbara Walters’s Audition

Clichés, bad grammar and psychobabble in self-help books. Inanity in memoirs by athletes, politicians and movie stars. Dumbing-down in bestselling novels written at a third- or fourth-grade reading level.

These are bad enough when the nation is economically healthy. They may sting more painfully when, in a recession, many books are overpriced.

Had enough? You can nominate offenders for a 2009 Delete Key Award for bad writing by leaving a comment on this or any other post related to the awards. One-Minute Book Reviews will announce the finalists on Feb. 26 and the winners on March 15. (Remember that I need time to verify quotes you submit or to check out candidates you suggest.) A list of possible finalists appeared in the Oct. 8, 2008, post, “Which Is Worse, the Stock Market or the Writing in This Year’s Books?” For more on the awards, click on the red tag at the top of this post that says “Delete Key Awards” or on “Delete Key Awards” under “Categories” at right.

Thank you for visiting One-Minute Book Reviews, a site for people who like to read but dislike hype and review inflation.

Editor’s note: I review books for children and teenagers on Saturdays and occasionally at other times (as earlier this week after the American Library Association named the winners of its annual Newbery and Caldecott medals). So a lot of students visit this site. Can you explain to the kids what’s wrong with the Barbara Walters quote above?

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

January 26, 2009

2009 Newbery and Caldecott Awards Live NOW Here

Filed under: Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:23 am

Update: This Twitter feed died in the middle of the awards. It has the Sibert, Batchelder and other awards only.

Live now! The 2009 Newbery and Caldecott and other awards are being announced in real time right now at www.twitter.com/alayma/. I will begin listing the results in a continuously updated post in a few minutes.

December 7, 2008

Good Christmas Poems for Children With All the Words Online

Filed under: Children's Books,Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 7:01 pm
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Christmas has inspired more good poems than any other holiday. But many of the seasonal children’s poems on the Internet are insipid, badly written or otherwise not worth learning. (Do you really want to introduce your child to poem built on the theme of “stupid presents I didn’t like”?) And that doesn’t count all the poems that are plagiarized, misattributed or inaccurately reproduced.

Here are some of the best holiday or Christmas poems for young children and where to find their full texts from trustworthy online or other sources. As always, use caution with Wikipedia, listed here because it provides more background on “The Goose Is Getting Fat” than other sites:

For Toddlers, Preschoolers and Others (Ages 8 and Under)
“A Visit From St. Nicholas” (“’Twas the Night Before Christmas”). No poem has had more influence on children’s fantasies of Christmas than “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” first published in 1823 and generally attributed to Clement Clarke Moore. Even children too young to understand all the words are often captivated by its rousing anapestic meter, its “visions of sugarplums,” and its exciting plot, which ends with St. Nicholas wishing a “Happy Christmas” to all as he departs. Full text online at
www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=171924.

“Christmas Is Coming, The Goose Is Getting Fat.” Few American children today may know the tune that goes with the folk rhyme beginning: “Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat. / Please put a penny in the old man’s hat.” But the words stand on their own and appear in many poetry collections. You can ask toddlers and preschoolers to add gestures, such as dropping a penny into a hat, so this is a great poem for the Webcam. And the nature of folk rhymes is that they change over time, so you can vary the words with a spotless conscience. (“Please put a penny in your mother’s hat.”) If you’d like to charm the grandparents at a holiday gathering, ask your child to go around the room and hold out a hat for a penny after reciting a variation that includes her name: “Please put a penny in Samantha’s [or “your nephew’s” or “your grandchild’s”] hat.” Full text online at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_Is_Coming.

“December.” Young children who are reading on their own may enjoy “December” in John Updike’s A Child’s Calendar (Holiday House, 32 pp., $17.95), a Caldecott Honor book beautifully illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. This quiet, lovely poem has a first-grade reading level and takes a thoughtful view of the season in short, rhyming, iambic lines. Full text in the Holiday House book holidayhouse.com/title_display.php?ISBN=978082341445

Five other short winter, Christmas, or holiday poems appear in The Random House Book of Poetry for Children (Random House, 248 pp., $22.99, ages 9 and under), an excellent collection selected by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Arnold Lobel. The book includes all the words to Langston Hughes’s 3-line “Winter Moon” (“How thin and sharp is the moon tonight!”) and to Aileen Fisher’s 8-line “Merry Christmas” (“I saw on the snow / when I tried on my skis”). It also has a 15-line excerpt from David McCord’s “A Christmas Package” (“My stocking’s where / He’ll see it – there!”) and all the words to “A Visit From St. Nicholas.” The Random House Book of Poetry for Children is available from online and other booksellers, and I found a copy a few days ago in the children’s poetry section of a large Barnes & Noble stores.

A post on good Christmas or holiday poems for older children, teenagers and adults will appear later this week.

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

October 6, 2008

Notes From WordPress’s New York Word Camp 2008 – A Comic Novelist Rates Matt Mullenweg’s Jokes Tonight on ‘Late Night With Jan Harayda’

Filed under: Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:48 am
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I spent most of yesterday at WordPress’s New York Word Camp 2008 and will have a few notes on what I learned tonight on “Late Night With Jan Harayda,” which will appear after 10 p.m. Eastern Time. This post will include an answer (from my perspective as a comic novelist) to, “What was WordPress founding developer Matt Mullenweg’s ma.tt/about/best joke in his keynote address?” Today’s book review will appear by 1 p.m. Monday.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

August 6, 2008

Is It Easier to Get a Novel Published When You’re a Critic? And Other Questions I Haven’t Answered on One-Minute Book Reviews

Filed under: News,Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 5:49 pm
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Amy Munnell interviewed me for her attractive blog 3 Questions and Answers and asked a few questions I don’t deal with on One-Minute Book Review, such as: How did being a critic affect my career as a novelist? Some of the things Amy asked about come up a lot when I speak at writers’ conferences, and if you’re interested, you can find my answers here: 3questionsandanswers.blogspot.com/2008/07/interviewwith-journalistnovelist-janice.html. Thanks, Amy.

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

July 14, 2008

A Review of ‘The Red Leather Diary’ — Coming This Week

Filed under: Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 7:45 pm
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In 2003 the journalist Lily Koppel found a battered red leather diary from the 1930s in a dumpster front of her New York apartment building, which was being renovated. Koppel saw that the journal had belonged to an intelligent and high-spirited woman whom she tracked down with the help of a private investigator and found to be in her 90s and living in Connecticut and Florida. In The Red Leather Diary www.redleatherdiary.com Koppel tells the true story of the life of Florence Wolfson Howitt, who helped her see her own youthful experiences in a fresh context. A review of the book will appear on One-Minute Book Reviews later this week.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reseved.

May 15, 2008

And Today’s Gusher Award for Achievement in Hyperbole Goes to …

I came across the following praise for Junot Díaz’s first book, Drown, while doing research on his The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It appeared in a Newsweek article that named Díaz one of the “New Faces of 1996” www.newsweek.com/id/101264/output/print. The article said that before receiving a six-figure, two-book advance, he was “just another 27-year-old fiction writer with an MFA”:

“Now he’s the latest overnight literary sensation. But luck had nothing to do with Diaz’s success. He earned it with his talent. … Talent this big will always make noise.”

Let’s leave aside that “overnight literary sensation” isn’t just hyperbole but a cliché. If big talent will “always make noise,” why couldn’t Herman Melville get an advance for Moby-Dick? (His publisher claimed he hadn’t earned back the money he received for his last book.) Why have so many other great writers died broke and neglected by readers?

To say that luck has nothing to do with literary success is an example of the American denial of luck, a romantic myth. Díaz has talent, a lot of it. But he was also lucky. He came along when doors were opening to groups – including women, blacks and Dominican-Americans like Díaz – whose voices traditionally had been suppressed. This change is the most important – and welcome – to occur in publishing in my lifetime.

But to say that even today talent “will always make noise” is to imply that publishing is an unfailing meritocracy and injustices no longer exist. This is untrue. The authors who are certain to “make noise” today aren’t those with the most talent – they’re the ones with the best chance of sharing a sofa with Oprah.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

April 25, 2008

Shot-From-Behind Book Covers — Jodi Picoult and Beyond

Filed under: Book Covers,Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:38 pm
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It’s been a few weeks since I’ve seen a dust jacket unusual enough to review in the series on this site that rates book covers. But if you’re interested in the topic, you may to look at a post on GalleyCat, the publishing-industry news site, that deals with the boomlet in shot-from-behind covers such as that of Jodi Picoult’s Change of Heart www.jodipicoult.com. The GalleyCat post deals with the trend as it applies to mainstream women’s fiction. But once you’ve noticed the pattern, you’ll see evidence of it on other kinds of books, including The Blue Star, Tony Earley’s just-published sequel to Jim the Boy. One reason for the popularity of back-view covers: They allow publishers to avoid showing a face that may conflict with a description in the book. Here’s the link to the GalleyCat post: www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/book_jackets/the_new_trend_in_womens_fiction_covers_80993.asp

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

April 23, 2008

A Quarter of a Million Visitors for One-Minute Book Reviews … With Never Any Pictures of Grammatically Challenged Cats

Filed under: News,Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:41 pm
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Need some good news to cheer you up after all those gloomy articles about the economy, negative campaigning and dying book-review sections?

One-Minute Book Reviews recently had its 250,000th visitor … with never any pictures grammatically challenged cats.

There, now don’t you feel better?

[I’d love to know how to translate the number of visitors into hits, which should be much higher. Anybody know how to do this? Jan]

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

April 22, 2008

“I’ve never seen one that … old” – A Second Look at ‘Primary Colors’

Filed under: Novels,Paperbacks,Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:08 am
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In a famous scene in Primary Colors, a middle-aged political strategist whips out his penis at the headquarters of a presidential campaign in an attempt to lure young press aide to his hotel room. She looks at it and says, “I’ve never seen one that … old.” The strategist turns red and runs out of the room. Campaign aides – who have been eavesdropping – cheer. Tomorrow One-Minute Book Reviews will reconsider Primary Colors, the 1996 bestseller by Joe Klein, a Washington journalist who initially used the byline “Anonymous. The novel satirizes the first presidential campaign of a Democratic governor named Jack Stanton, stand-in for Bill Clinton. (c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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