Honest Book Reviews are hard to find

A recent article in the New York Times reveals the fallacy behind some of the book reviews online, how some authors create buzz by paying for favorable book reviews. The book review service described in the article, www.GettingBookReviews.com, commissioned 4,531 reviews, sometimes without reading the books.

Ms. Walters-Bearden, one of the prolific reviewers employed by this service explained her process.

 “A lot of the books were trying to prove creationism”, she said. “I was like, I don’t know where I stand, but they make a solid case.”

For a 50-word review, she said she could find “enough information on the Internet so that I didn’t need to read anything, really.” For a 300-word review, she said, “I spent about 15 minutes reading the book.” She wrote three of each every week as well as press releases. In a few months, she earned $12,500.

“There were books I wished I could have gone back and actually read,” she said. “But I had to produce 70 pieces of content a week to pay my bills.”

While it seems that some of the book reviews are created by the writer, her friends, her publicist and services like gettingBookReviews.com, there are a lot of bloggers out there that write book reviews with no other motive than to share their thoughts about the books they read. How can you tell the difference?

  1. Beware of reviewers that produce book reviews too frequently –  Reading takes time.
    in LiteraryAdventire.com we read the books we review cover to cover

    A good Review comes after a cover to cover reading

    Writing a thoughtful review takes time.  Most adult books are over 300 pages. Some are 500-700 pages. There’s no way anyone can read 9 books a week, let alone read and produce 9 reviews.

  2. Quotes – legitimate reviewers often include a quote or two and always refer to the content of the book. As an example, in the review of the Language of Flowerswww.literaryadventure.com included two quotes from the book. Even if no quotes are included, the review should give you enough “taste” of the book for you to decide whether to bother with it.
  3. Favorable reviews don’t mean dishonest reviews – www.literaryAdventire.com is not paid to read and review books. If I don’t enjoy a book, I will not bother reading to the end, let alone spend the time reviewing it. As a result you will only find highly recommended or recommended books on this site. I would recommend the reader to follow my example and abandon books they don’t like. Life is too short to waste on bad books.

I cannot guarantee the frequency of publishing new reviews, but I can guarantee that any books reviewed on this site would have been read cover to cover, that the review would be honest and truthful, and that it would give you a taste of the book – enough for you to decide whether it’s worth your while.
 

Jewish Humor – What the Best Jewish Jokes Say About the Jews by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

Jewish Humor- What the Best Jewish Jokes Say About the Jews

A Jewish mother is walking down the street with her two young sons. A passerby asks her how old the boys are. The doctor is three, the woman answers. And the lawyer is two.

***

 A medieval Jewish astrologer prophesied to a king that his favorite mistress will die soon. Sure enough, the woman died a short time later, the king was outraged at the astrologer, certain that his prophecy had brought about the woman’s death. He summoned the astrologer and commanded him: prophesy to me when you will die. The astrologer realized that the king was planning to kill him immediately, no matter what answer he gave. I do not know when I will die, he answered finally. I only know that whenever I will die, the king will die three days later.

***

 Two Jews are dragged by anti-Semites before a firing squad. The first one cries out: Stop!  Stop! You’re murdering an innocent man. Sh… Sh…, says the second. Don’t make trouble.

***

 When president Eisenhower met with the first Israeli prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, the American president said at one point: it is very hard to be the president of 170,000,000 people. Ben-Gurion responded: it’s harder to be the prime minister of 2,000,000 prime ministers.

***

 In the late 1930s, a Jew is traveling on the subway reading a Yiddish newspaper, the forward. Suddenly, to his shock, he spots a friend of his sitting just opposite him, reading the local New York Nazi newspaper. He glares at his friend in anger, How can you read that Nazi rag? Unabashed the friend looks up at him. So what are you reading? He asks. The forward? And what do you read there? In America there is a depression going on and the Jews are assimilating. In Palestine, the Arabs are rioting and killing Jews. In Germany, they’ve taken away all our rights. You sit there, and read all about it, and get more and more depressed. I read the Nazi newspaper. We own all the banks. We control all the governments.

***

Jewish Humor - what the best Jewish Books Say aout the Jews

 Jewish Humor, What the Best Jewish Jokes Say about the Jews, by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, is not a joke collection but rather a serious discussion about the cornerstones of Jewish culture. Jokes, humorous stories, and quotes of Jewish comedians are used to drive serious discussion. Rabbi Telushkin covers topics such as the place of family in Jewish life, education, the drive for success and business ethics, self deprecation and self worth, anti-Semitism, assimilation, the religious establishment, and Israel.

 The joke about the 3-year-old doctor and the 2-year-old lawyer is brought as an example of both Jewish self-deprecation and self-worth. Rabbi Telushkin attributes the Jewish sense of self-worth to Judaism’s view that  each person has infinite value. As the Talmud teaches, He who saves one life, it is as if he saved an entire world (Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5).

 The second joke, about the Jewish astrologer, demonstrates that Jews view smarts as an important tool to survival. Of course Jewish intellectual achievements are also tied to Jewish love of learning. In a particularly amusing story, rabbi Telushkin demonstrates the way Talmudic reasoning works and why knowledge of philosophy may not suffice for Talmudic learning.

The joke about the American Jew reading the Nazi newspaper is used to spark discussion about anti-Semitism. Of all the anti-Semitism warped notions, rabbi Telushkin says, the most ludicrous is their belief that Jews control the world. If that was the case, how come Jews couldn’t stop the holocaust and failed to convince the Allies to bomb Auschwitz?

In the introduction, rabbi Telushkin explains there were several important topics he chose not to cover in the book for lack of good jokes about them. Nevertheless the book is a comprehensive study of the Jewish culture and while it is educational and insightful, it is also humorous and entertaining.

 Highly recommended.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

 

When I checked out The Language of Flowers from the library, a few months ago, there were several copies on the shelf. Now there is a long waiting list for each copy. I guess it takes some time for word of mouth to do its job.

The Language of Flowers tells the story of Victoria, an eighteen year old, with no family, no ambitions, and now that she is emancipated from the foster care system, no place to go. But Victoria has a gift with flowers. When she was ten years old she lived for a short while with Elisabeth, the only woman who wanted to mother her, the only person who loved her, the only person she has ever loved. Elisabeth taught her to care for flowers and to understand what they symbolize: 

മലയാളം: Red rose

Red Roses mean love

Red roses mean love; yellow roses infidelity…There’s rosemary; that’s for remembrance… And there’s columbine; desertion; holly , foresight; lavender, mistrust.

Victoria finds a job with a florist and brings joy to people’s life through her gift. She meets a mysterious vendor at a flower market, Grant, and starts a tentative relationship with him.  The story of Victoria’s new life is told in parallel to the story of her life at age ten as Elisabeth’s foster daughter.  Victoria cannot forgive herself for what she did to Elisabeth.  Renata, the florist, asks Victoria:

Do you really think you’re the only human being alive who is unforgivably flawed? Who’s been hurt almost to the point of breaking? 

She looked at me deeply. When she looked away, I knew she understood that yes, I did believe I was the only one.

Victoria needs to learn to forgive herself and become Elisabeth’s daughter before she can become a wife and a mother.

Victoria’s loneliness, hurt, and self-destruction tendencies are extreme. They’re also believable and heart wrenching. For the first time, I understood and sympathized with drifters who sleep in public parks. I highly recommend getting a dedicated box of tissues along with the book.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank: Stories by Nathan Englander

Reading ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank’

I’m not a big fan of short story collections. Short stories, in my humble opinion, are best suited to magazines. When I pick up a book, I expect a full length story, one that would tempt me to forgo food, drink, and sleep for the privilege of turning the pages. I make an exception for very few short story collections. Nathan Englander’s, ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank’, is one of those exceptions. I have read both Englander’s previous books: ‘For the Relief of Unbearable Urges’ and ‘The Ministry of Special Cases’, and had high expectations of his latest book. I was not disappointed.

 ‘What We Talk About When We talk About Anne Frank’ contains eight very different stories. ‘The Reader’ tells about the relationship between a declining author and his audience. All other stories revolve around Jewish protagonists and Jewish themes.

 Englander’s writing is edgy. He places his protagonists in extreme, sometimes improbable, sometimes unrealistic, situations. Yet, his attention to details, the multi-dimensional characters, and the psychological insight he provides, engage the reader and keep her mesmerized.   Continue reading