One-Minute Book Reviews

May 4, 2007

Does ‘The Secret Work’? Day 3 of 30-Day Test

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Reading,Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:55 am

Day 3
Have just recovered from a flirtation with madness. Went to the UPS store to get my mail and see if the Universe had sent more of the $1,000,000+ requested on Day 1 of 30-Day test of advice in The Secret. (Had to agree with comment on this site by P that $825 check yesterday was hardly encouraging, especially since it covered freelance work I did before starting the test.) Got to the store too late and was locked out.

It didn’t seem fair to blame the Universe for not coming up with the $999,175 it still owes me when, if I’d arrived earlier, it might have paid in full. So I decided to pick up $10 worth of scratch-off lottery tickets on the way home from the UPS store. I don’t usually buy these and realized, when I found a shop that sold them, that I had no idea which to get. There are 24 instant games, all displayed on rolls like shiny toilet paper, with incomprehensible names like “The Duke.” (Why did the New Jersey put John Wayne lottery ticket? Why not Bon Jovi or – for those of us with literary inclinations – Edmund Wilson?) I asked a clerk which game he would suggest. He said that a lot of people seemed to be winning modest amounts — $50 to $100 – on one called Big Money Spectacular. I handed over $10 for five $2 tickets and won $25 instantly.

I wondered if Big Money game was “hot,” so I pocketed a $15 profit and reinvested my original $10. I won $17, $50, $22 before I got a set of cards that had no winner. From five games I won $25 + $17 + $50 + $22 + $0, or $114, minus the initial investment of $50, for a $64 profit. I played once more to make sure my streak had ended, lost $6, then quit with a $58 profit. This doesn’t count the dry cleaner’s bill for getting the blizzard of silvery specks from all the scratch-offs off my clothes. So now the tally is:

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): $999,175 (at a minimum)

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

May 3, 2007

Does ‘The Secret’ Work? Day 2 of 30-Day Test

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,How to,News,Reading,Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:19 am

“You do not have to ask over and over again. Just ask once. It is exactly like placing an order from a catalogue.”
— Rhonda Byrne in The Secret, the No. 1 nonfiction bestseller

Day 2
Just realized I may have made a mistake yesterday in asking the Universe for seven-figure advance for my next book. Forgot to say that I would also accept a) seven-figure movie deal or b) seven-figure paperback deal for one of earlier novels or other writing project. But The Secret says you’re supposed to ask only once for what you want. Should I revise my original request? Or should I assume the Universe knows I would accept a check from DreamWorks or a paperback house? Could not find an answer to this anywhere in The Secret.

But I did get an $825 check for a freelance project that I completed before I read the book. Hooray! Maybe it’s a sign from the Universe that DreamWorks will kick in the other $999,975 during the 30-day test?

Requested from Universe on May 1: $1,000,000
Received so far: $825
Universe owes me: $999,175 (at a minimum)

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

May 2, 2007

Does ‘The Secret’ Work? Day 1 of 30-Day Test

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,How to,Reading,Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:28 am

“We have received thousand of accounts of The Secret being used to bring about large sums of money and checks in the mail.”
— Rhonda Byrne in The Secret, the No. 1 nonfiction bestseller

Day 1
Oh, joy! I’ve just received a seven-figure advance for my next book. I am so happy and grateful that the check arrived. Now I can afford to live in one of those fantastic condos going up down the street instead of a modified garret in building also inhabited by black-and-white psycho ferret owned by downstairs tenant. Can also keep posting on One-Minute Book Reviews because advance has more than replaced all income lost since starting blog. The Delete Key Awards live!

Actually, I don’t have the advance yet. Or even a contract. Or even a finished book. [Note to literary agent: Only kidding, Carol! I don’t owe you a minimum of $150,000.] But The Secret says you create your own reality through your thoughts, a process it calls “the law of attraction.” This includes acting as though you already have what you want. The Secret suggests that you start by writing, “I am so happy and grateful now that … ,” then fill in the blank. This sends “a powerful signal to the Universe” that you’ve received what you want “because you are feeling gratitude for it now.” You’re supposed to turn yourself into a kind of human radio transmitter beaming messages to the Universe.

I wrote this post last night and haven’t heard from the Universe yet. Maybe it was busy, or had to be taken to the emergency room? Would like to ask Universe to stop psycho ferret from going postal again, or at least giving tenants rabies, but this is a “negative thought” not allowed by The Secret.

[Note: Today’s usual post appears directly below this one. Jan]

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

May 1, 2007

Will ‘The Secret’ Make Me Rich? A 30-Day Test Starting Tomorrow

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,How to,News,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:30 pm

“When you think of the things that you want, and you focus on them with all of your intention, then the law of attraction will give you exactly what you want, every time.”
— Lisa Nichols, one of the 24 “teachers” quoted in The Secret, the No. 1 nonfiction bestseller

Will The Secret make me rich? Jerry Adler eviscerated Rhonda Byrne’s bestseller brilliantly in Newsweek (March 3, 2007), partly by quoting experts in history and psychology. But, you may wonder, what do experts know? Didn’t “experts” tell us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that the Red Sox would never lose the Curse of the Bambino? Shouldn’t somebody actually test the ideas in The Secret instead of just accepting Newsweek’s word that they are scientifically “preposterous”? And what blog is bold enough to do that test except for One-Minute Book Reviews, home of innovations such as the Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing, the Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guides and the Books I Didn’t Finish category for books don’t deliver on the promise of their great reviews?

Starting tomorrow, I’ll test one of the ideas in The Secret every day until May 31 and write a post the next day about what happened. I’ll also continue to post book reviews, which will appear in the post directly below the one on The Secret

Remember: Some of the experts in the book said you can see amazing results in just a few days, so you may be reading remarkable things in this space by the end of the week.

To avoid missing these posts, please bookmark this site or subscribe to the RSS feed. To read the Newsweek article on The Secret, Google “Adler + Newsweek + The Secret.”

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Help for People Who Can’t See the Rhyme or Reason of Poetry

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Poetry,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:08 am

Books that make rhyme and meter / In our minds, so much neater

By Janice Harayda

Take a look at the list of top posts on this site on an average day, and you may say see something remarkable: The most popular post is often a review of a little-known book called How to Be Well-Versed in Poetry, a witty guide to understanding the different types of poetry. This post appeared than five months ago (Nov. 20, 2006), and since then it has repeatedly trumped reviews of newer and flashier books, including many bestsellers. And there’s some poetic justice in this: No book makes learning about poetry more fun than this delightful collection, edited by the British critic E.O. Parrott, which illustrates many kinds of rhyme and meter with self-descriptive light-verse examples such as, “A form with very tight parameters, / Heroic couplets use pentameters.”

But Parrott’s book, published by Viking in 1990, can be hard to find. So you may also want to consider John Hollander’s more widely available Rhyme’s Reason: A Guide to English Verse (Yale University Press, $11.95). Like Parrott’s book, Hollander’s uses light verse to describe poetic forms: “A quatrain has four lines / As one can plainly see: / One of its strict designs / Comes rhymed abab.”

One difference between the books is that Parrott includes work by a constellation of poets while Hollander wrote all of his examples. Perhaps for this reason, How to Be Well-Versed in Poetry is wittier than Rhyme’s Reason and covers more poetric forms. But Hollander, a Yale professor, comments on some rhetorical issues that Parrott doesn’t. So many people will want both books. As Hollander says in another context, “Repetition is a powerful and diversified element of formal structures.”

You may also want to read … The Poetry Dictionary: Second Edition: 1) Defines key terms that should be in the vocabulary of every poet. 2) Includes over 250 illustrative poems from Homer to the present day. (Writer’s Digest, $14.99), edited by John Drury with a foreword by Dana Gioia. This reference book in the form of a dictionary has more information than casual poetry readers may need, including definitions of obscure types of poems such as the Fibonacci (which uses the mathematical Fibonacci sequence to determine the number of lines in each stanza). But The Poetry Dictionary may be useful to poets, critics and others. The landmark textbook Understanding Poetry by Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren, first published in 1938, taught generations of college students how read poetry by focusing on the text, not the poet’s politics or other issues that have become fashionable. Understanding Poetry has gone through many editions and remains widely available in libraries. Another warhorse is John Ciardi’s How Does a Poem Mean?, first published in 1959 and widely used in high schools and colleges in its day. This textbook, also available in many libraries, may be most noteworthy today for its six-page analysis of Robert Frost‘s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” which suggests the interpretation that has become standard — that the poem involves a death wish. A memorable third-season episode of The Sopranos in which Meadow explains the poem to A.J. may derive directly or indirectly from this influential book.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.








April 29, 2007

Mysteries and Thrillers Set in Paris, London, Hawaii and Other Places You May Be Dying to Visit

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Fiction,Mysteries and Thrillers,Novels,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:20 pm

When a plot is your passport

Can’t afford that big trip you’d hoped to take this summer? Reading an atmospheric mystery or thriller can help to keep the fantasy aglow until next year. And Bill Peschel has reviewed lots that are set in places I’d love to revisit or revisit. Some of the novels he’s covered and their backdrops include:

Hawaii: Dan Gordon’s Just Play Dead (St. Martin’s, 1999)
Paris in the 1920s: Water Satterthwait’s Masquerade (St. Martin’s, 1999)
London: Simon Shaw’s A Company of Knaves (Minotaur, 1998)
Rural England: Ann Granger’s A Word After Dying (Avon, 1999)
Edinburgh: Ian Rankin’s Dead Souls (Orion, 2005)
The Everglades: Carl Hiaasen’s Nature Girl (Knopf, 2006)

You can read more about these novels at Planet Peschel, where you’ll also find reviews of many other books in those genres.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

April 24, 2007

How Do You Know When a Marriage Is Over? Women Tell Why They Left or Stayed With Their Husbands

Filed under: Book Reviews,Essays and Reviews,Memoirs,Reading,Relationships,Women — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:33 pm

The turning points in a marriage fall under the scrutiny of 24 female writers, including Terry McMillan, Joyce Maynard and a former Mormon who had to wear “temple-issued undergarments”

The Honeymoon’s Over: True Stories of Love, Marriage, and Divorce. Edited by Andrea Chapin and Sally Wofford-Girand. Warner, 350 pp., $24.99.

By Janice Harayda

Some publishers say that “anthologies are the new memoirs,” but The Honeymoon’s Over makes you wonder if the boom is running on empty.

This is third essay collection I’ve reviewed this year that includes work by Joyce Maynard, the prolific journalist, novelist and contributor to NPR’s “All Things Considered.” Maynard is a good essayist whose entries have been among the best in all three books, but she’s been cannibalizing her life for parts for so long that some of her stories are wearing thin. Another writer might have added more freshness to this lightweight book of essays by 24 women on turning points in their marriages.

Nothing in The Honeymoon’s Over has the sophistication of Jane Smiley’s reflections on her first marriage in the recent Mr. Wrong, or of the best work of essayists like Daphne Merkin or Phillip Lopate. And the worst entries are bad enough to put off the poeple who might appreciate this book the most – those who are trying to decide whether to leave a marriage. Terry McMillan’s writing goes further south in a bitter, profane and disorganized screed against her ex-husband. Daniela Kuper makes cloying use of second-person narration in an account of her efforts to get her son back from a guru. And Zelda Lockhart devotes 20 pages to her past without making you understand why she married a lesbian partner with whom she fought regularly and to whom she had “never been physically attracted.”

The best entries in The Honeymoon’s Over describe experiences strong enough to carry them despite any flaws in the writing. Perhaps the most memorable is Elissa Minor Rust’s essay on why she has stayed with her husband since leaving the Mormon faith they once shared, an unusually candid report on Latter Day Saints teachings on sex roles. Did you know that married Mormon women must wear “temple-issued undergarments”? This is the kind of information you rarely get from news shows on Mormonism, which tend to focus instead on the LDS tolerance for polygamy. Rust avoids writing about politics, but her essay indirectly suggests some of the problems Mitt Romney may face in his bid for the presidency. How long will it be before the tabloids – or Sixty Minutes – start asking where his wife gets her underwear?

Best line: Rust describes the Mormon rules that she and her boyfriend, now her husband, had to follow when he moved to New York to begin the two years of missionary work required of young Mormon men: “We weren’t allowed to speak, except on Christmas and Mother’s Day (and even that was stretching the rules; he was allowed to call his family on those two holidays, but he also called me). For two years, our only communication was through letters – and he was only allowed to write one a week. For a person like me who has always fought against rules and power structure, this was torture. I would have had more access to the man I loved were he in prison.”

Worst line (tie): No. 1: Terry McMillan’s rambling and vengeful list of “100 Questions” for her ex-husband. McMillan writes on page 97, “I’ve forgiven you,” and on page 98, “I haven’t exactly forgiven you.” Which is it? No. 2: Andrea Chapin and Sally Wofford-Girand write of the contributors to this book: “Women in their second marriages seemed to choose better mates and by then were better equipped themselves to make a marriage work.” Then why do second marriages have a higher divorce rate than first marriages?

Caveat lector: Some Web sites say, incorrectly, that this book includes an essay by Jane Smiley (making you wonder if she was scheduled to appear in it but bailed out in favor of the more flattering lighting of Mr. Wrong).

Consider reading instead: Mr. Wrong: Real-Life Stories of the Men We Used to Love (Ballantine, $24.95), edited by Harriet Brown.

Editor: Amy Einhorn

Published: February 2007

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

How to Support the National Book Critics Circle Campaign to Save Book Reviews

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,News,Newspapers,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 4:33 pm

Unhappy about cutbacks in book reviews in your Sunday newspaper?

If so, you may want to get involved in the National Book Critics Circle campaign to stop the trend. You can find out how to help at the NBCC blog, Critical Mass, The site is also posting comments by well-known writers and editors on why it’s important to preserve book sections. I’ve posted my thoughts on this after Rick Moody’s comments.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

April 23, 2007

Do Some Parenting Guides Need a Time-Out?

Filed under: Book Reviews,How to,Nonfiction,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 8:35 pm

Two popular books on child-rearing offer different answers to questions like: What can you do when children act up in public or won’t put their shoes away?

“It’s not fair, Jeremy Spencer’s parents let him stay up all night!”: A Guide to the Tougher Parts of Parenting. By Anthony E. Wolf. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 264 pp., $14, paperback.

Parenting for Dummies: 2d Edition. By Sandra Hardin Gookin and Dan Gookin. Mary Jo Shaw and Tim Cavell, contributing editors. Hungry Minds, 408 pp., $21.99, paperback.

By Janice Harayda

Prime-time nanny shows have done American parents a favor: They’ve shown how much more you can often learn from somebody in a burgundy cape than from people who flaunt their Ph.D.s on book covers. Here, for example, is child psychologist Anthony Wolf’s response to a parent who reacts incredulously to his advice that you should “tough it out” when your child acts up at the mall:

Parent: “You mean if my kid acts up when we’re out in public, and if being nice, reasoning, and yelling all don’t work (which of course they rarely do), then there is nothing I can do? I just have to tough it out the whole rest of the time we’re out?”

Wolf: “Yes, not only is that all one should do, but as with temper tantrums, there are many things one should not do.” Among the things you shouldn’t do: go home, scold, offer rewards and threaten punishment.

Can you imagine what one of those burgundy-caped crusaders would say to this? Call Nanny 911! The TV nannies have shown over and over that you can respond effectively to children who act up in public. And the solution may start with setting up reward systems, which Wolf doesn’t like, or just teaching children manners.

“It’s not fair, Jeremy Spencer’s parents let him stay up all night!” looks like a book that might offer a fresh approach to child-rearing. The great title and terrific cover art by New Yorker cartoonist Lee Lorenz suggest that Wolf has a sense of humor. And some reviewers say that his book did help them a lot with problems like backtalk, sibling fights and children who say, “I hate you!”

But Wolf’s sense of humor soon gives way to psychobabble, and he tips his hand when he writes in his second chapter: “Most parents today subscribe to the belief that if children are treated well they will thrive – which is absolutely true.” Flip that idea around, and you’ll see the problem: It means that if your child isn’t thriving, you aren’t treating that child “well.” But we all know good parents whose children – for whatever reason – aren’t flourishing. Wolf finally allows why this may be so in his next-to-last chapter: “As is increasingly being shown by researchers in child development, children are born with varying psychological characteristics. We do not fully shape our children. Much they seem to bring with them.” Why didn’t he say so in the beginning?

Parenting for Dummies is much more practical than the ultra-permissive “It’s not fair …” I resisted the “Dummies” and “Idiot’s” guides for years because of their titles — why buy a book that insults you on the cover? — but recently have had to read a lot of them as a critic. And most that I’ve read give you nuts-and-bolts advice that, if dumbed-down, is often less pretentious than in other books. If the “Dummies” and “Idiot’s” guides patronize you, they’re up front about it in a way that Wolf’s book isn’t. You know just by looking at their titles that their authors assume you’re a moron.

Consider how “It’s not fair …” and Parenting for Dummies deal with discipline. Wolf hits you with “shoulds.” Parenting for Dummies covers the subject a section called “Discipline and torture techniques.” Want to tell a child to put his or her shoes away? The authors suggest that you say, “Your shoes snuck out of your closet. Can you please help them find their way home?” Instead of scolding a child for leaving the milk out, try, “Why don’t you be the milk police? Your job is to make sure everyone follows the milk rules. Arrest whoever breaks this law!” These techniques wouldn’t work in all families, but I’d bet they would be a lot more effective in some than Wolf’s reminder that “there is nothing you can do” to make some situations better.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Pulitzer Prize Reality Check #1: The 2007 Biography Winner, Debby Applegate’s ‘The Most Famous Man in America’

Filed under: Biography,Book Awards,Book Awards Reality Check,Book Reviews,Christianity,History,Pulitzer Prizes,Religion — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:13 am

This is the first in an occasional series of posts on whether the winners of the Pulitzers and other book awards deserved their honors. This site reviewed the 2007 Caldecott Medalist, David Wiesner’s Flotsam, on Jan. 22 and the 2007 Newbery Medalist, Susan Patron’s The Higher Power of Lucky on Feb. 19 (reading group guide posted on Feb. 22).

Title: The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher. By Debby Applegate. Doubleday hardcover, 527 pp., $27.95, and Three Leaves paperback, 560 pp., $16.95.

What it is: The biography of the most famous preacher of the 19th century, who was also an abolitionist and the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Winner of … the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for biography

Was this one of those book awards that make you wonder if the judges were on Class B controlled substances? Or if the editor or publisher had pornographic home videos of all of them? No

Worthy of a major award? Yes

Comments: This is a terrific biography I wouldn’t have picked up if it hadn’t won a Pulitzer. I intended to read only a few chapters and include the book in the “Books I Didn’t Finish” category on this site. But I became swept up quickly in its story of a witty and lovable but flawed preacher and the remarkable Beecher family. Near the end of his life Henry Ward Beecher became entangled in a sex scandal that led to a lurid trial and adds interest at a point when many biographies lose steam. Perhaps the most important thing I took away from this book was an understanding of how the Puritan focus on a wrathful deity gave way to the view of God as a loving presence that exists today. Debby Applegate makes a good case that Beecher was the prime mover in this tectonic shift. She writes in a conversational tone that keeps this book from becoming stuffy but occasionally leads to a phrase that sounds anachronistic in context, such as: “Henry’s first two years as a minister had been a mixed bag.”

Best line: See below.

Worst line: The title of Chapter 12, which comes from a popular rumor: “I Am Reliably Assured That Beecher Preaches to Seven or Eight of His Mistresses Every Sunday Evening.” This might be the best line if it matched the text. But on one page Applegate quotes a man as saying that “Beecher preaches to seven or eight mistresses every Sunday evening.” Two pages later, she quotes another man who says, “I am reliably assured that Beecher preaches to at least twenty of his mistresses every Sunday.” The chapter title seems to be a corruption of the two quotes. I’m inclined to cut Applegate some slack on this one, because she may have found many versions of this rumor, but not the copy editor whose job it was to catch such discrepancies.

Recommended if … you like Civil War–era history and are looking for book with wider scope than Manhunt, which I also liked. Highly recommended to history book clubs.

Editor: Gerald Howard

Published: June 2006 (Doubleday hardcover), April 2007 (Three Leaves paperback).

Links: You can read the first chapter and watch a C-SPAN interview with Applegate at

Furthermore: Debby Applegate has taught at Yale and Wesleyan universities. Her book was also a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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