10 One Minute (or Less!) Book Reviews

As a librarian, I read many book reviews.  Lots and lots of them.  Oodles and gobs of other people’s opinions.

Some of these reviews are quite good; to the point and spot on.  Others are vague, seeming to not want to hurt anyone’s feelings. For example, the line, “Suitable for most libraries” is a favorite phrase.  There’s a lot of wiggle room in that sentence and it basically says nothing.

Other reviews are LONG.  You get the blow-by-blow of the book, some background info on the author, and then some commentary on the state of whatever the books are about.  It can be just Too Much Information.  Really, I just want to know two things:  Was it well written and is it worth my time?

I received some divine inspiration last week while reading Ladies Home Journal. (Yeah, go ahead and laugh.  SOME of us don’t have time to paw through the New Yorker. No names used.)  They included three 15 second book reviews, three sentences or less.  All of the information, none of the fuss.  Perfect.

So, in the spirit of books and time management, here are 10 one minute (or less) book reviews.  All of the fun, fewer calories.  Enjoy.

Theodora by Stella Duffy:  In the 5th century lived a little girl who danced in the Hippodrome, grew up to become an actress and was rumored to be a whore and a party girl.  At 16,  she fled her hometown of Constantinople, hung out in the desert, became a Christian, and finally caught the eye of the Emperor Justinian, whom she ended up marrying.  And we all think that Kris Kardashian is a marketing genius…

Justinian’s Flea by William Rosen:  Desiring to further my education regarding the Byzantine empire, I thought I’d give Justinian’s Flea a try.  Instead of learning about one of the first outbreaks of bubonic plague, I had to read endless, boring, confusing paragraphs about the making of Byzantine cavalry armies and the development of the plague in a rat’s colonic DNA.  You lost me at Y. Pestis. 

Fiction Ruined My Life by Jeanne Darst:  Author Jeanne Darst delivers her first quote of this book followed by an F-bomb, leaving the reader wondering if it’s all downhill from there.  Which, of course, it is as Darst follows her bizarre (but let’s not forget creative!)  parents into the oblivion of alcohol and dysfunction. And yet, there is indeed fiction and some very funny one-liners, which ultimately saves this book from true ruin.  Kind of like “The Glass Castle” meets Chelsea Handler.

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante:
At first glance, this book appears to be about the decline of a prominent physician due to her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.  That’s sad enough, but it gets worse.  Her best friend is a scary, self-righteous lunatic and her children are dysfunctional.  So is her marriage.  So, when her best friend is found murdered and she becomes a suspect and more confused, the plot thickens.  Totally creepy.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene:
Girl meets boy and both are smitten.  That’s all well and fine except both the girl and the boy are terminally ill with cancer and they meet at a support group.  Does that take away from the smitten part?  Not at all.  Should the fact that they won’t live to adulthood make a difference?  I think it would in most cases, but not in this book.  It’s clever, sad and “Death be not proud” all at the same time.

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly
Oh, hush.  I know you already read this and saw the movie like AGES ago, but I hadn’t so just humor me while I tell you how delighted I was with this book.  Criminal defense attorney Mickey Haller is the ‘Lincoln Lawyer’ because he works out of his car and takes cases that usually, but not always, include defending criminals who are guilty.  When his most recent case looks like he finally has an innocent man to defend, things become more complicated and more interesting.  Right up until the very last page.

The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis
Not all of Denmark is the friendly, postcard perfect country that naive Americans like myself imagine.  In fact, just like Stieg Larsson’s view of Sweden in his Nordic crime novels, it’s got a scary underside that is best left alone.  That is, unless you are a self-satisfied nurse do-gooder named Nina, who, when given a key to a locker in a train station, finds a drugged three-year old in a suitcase.  In that case, you have to delve deep into the scary and find out who wants him and why.  Don’t let the unfortunate title of this book scare you off – it’s a great read.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I don’t know about you, but I find circuses to be slightly creepy in and of themselves.  So, Morgenstern’s novel about illusionists Celia and Marco, who were magically bound to each other as rivals when they were young, and the circus Le Cirque des Rêves, which shows up unannounced and only opens at night, didn’t disappoint.  The most fascinating thing about this truly different novel were the absolutely mesmerizing descriptions, which transported me as the reader to the turn of the 19th century and another world entirely.  I see black and white stripes.

Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore
Is it possible to finish an entire book and still not be certain what you’ve read?  Why, yes!  Yes, that is indeed possible and this novel proves it.  It had something to do with famous artists of the Impressionist era in Paris, the color blue, the evil Color Man, a muse named Bleu and the mystery surrounding Van Gogh’s death.  My suggestion is to drink absinthe while reading and just go with it.  De rien.

Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick
I have to say that this book had one strike against it after the first CD – it reminded me a lot of ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ which has to be #2 on my “10 Books I Absolutely Hated” list.  However, I after putting in the 2nd cd, I changed my mind.  This book had none of the sappy trappings of the former.  In fact, it was filled with sad truths of poverty, longing, lust and infidelity, and, not one covered bridge to be found.   A cautionary tale with a bottle of whiskey thrown in for good measure.


4 thoughts on “10 One Minute (or Less!) Book Reviews

  1. I think I might be the only person I know who was totally underwhelmed by “Heading Out to Wonderful.” I thought it was boring, predictable and worked too hard at being “lyrical”; another totally overused book review phrase. 🙂

    • No, I’m totally with you, Barb. That book just didn’t do it for me either. I found the scene where Sylvan’s father ‘sells’ her to Boaty really sad and poignant and, other than that, meh. I also agree that ‘lyrical’ is another throw-away book term that means zero. Guess we could say that this book is suitable for most libraries.

  2. The Fault in Our Stars reminded me of Teen Love Story. I have liked his other books (Papertowns, An Abundance of Katherines, Looking for Alaska) much better.

    I find the Nordic mysteries too graphic. Too many sex manics.

    Loved the one minute reviews. Can you categorize them – worth reading and not worh your time?

    • Ooo – an excellent idea, Emily!
      Okay, here goes:
      Theodora – worth reading, especially if you like history. She was a bawdy one, that’s for sure. For extra fun, read “The Secret History” by Procopius. He was the Byzantine Kitty Kelley and told all of her nasty secrets.
      Justinian’s Flea – Skip it. Maybe there’s a National Geographic article on this subject out there which would be just as informative.
      Fiction Ruined My Life – worth reading, especially if you like f-bombs and liquor.
      Turn of Mind – Worth reading, just really creepy. If you do pick this one up, let’s discuss.
      The Fault in Our Stars – Meh. If you would like some sappy teen fiction, go for it.
      The Lincoln Lawyer – Definitely worth a read. Haven’t seen the movie but I hear it’s worth watching too.
      The Boy in the Suitcase – Definitely worth a read. Way fewer sex maniacs than Stieg Larsson’s books.
      The Night Circus – Really interesting and different. Yes, worth a read.
      Sacre Bleu – Ummm… well, only if you are an art history major or absolutely love Christopher Moore. Or, you enjoy absinthe. Or all three.
      Heading Out to Wonderful – Not worth your time. Read blogs instead.

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