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Ultra-Mini Reviews: January Through April

Ultra-Mini Reviews: January Through April post image

At the end of 2011, I stole an idea from Lu (Regular Rumination) to write super-short reviews for books that I hadn’t written full reviews about. I liked that idea so much, that I’m going to try to keep it up this year and do some summary posts of short reviews every three months. These are books that, for whatever reason, I didn’t feel like writing full reviews for but still wanted to at least mention.

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Lost Adventures by Brian Konietzko — This book is a collection of short comics set during the time covered during the television series, Avatar: The Last Airbender. I was obsessed with this series last summer, so of course I was excited to pick up this comic to revisit that world. I think anyone who is familiar with Avatar will find something to enjoy with this book (it’s quite funny, and answers lots of little questions that cropped up in the series), but if you’re not an Avatar fan it’s probably not worth picking up.

Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth ReichlGarlic and Sapphires is restaurant critic Ruth Reichl’s memoir about her time as the restaurant critic for The New York Times. To help keep her identity a secret and get a more honest look at how restaurants treat the average customer, Reichl adopted a series of disguises that she wore while eating out for her reviews. As one might expect from a restaurant critic, Reichl writes beautifully and seductively about food, but the book also explores issues of identity and family quite well.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green — I’m not writing a full review of The Fault in Our Stars because, honestly, I’m not sure what to say. There was no way that a book about teenagers with terminal cancer who fall in love wasn’t going to tear my heart out and leave me a blubbering mess, it was just really a matter of how we got there. And The Fault in Our Stars gets there much the way other John Green books get to the emotional climax. Per usual, Green’s writing was beautiful and funny and smart and his characters were quirky and slightly-too-smart. It’s hard to fault a book with paragraphs like this one, anyway:

Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless all lving humans read the book. And then there are books like An Imperial Afflition, which you can’t tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.

One Day by David Nicholls — I actually listened to this one as an audio book and, on the whole, I didn’t love it. I think it took me a couple of months to finish it because I never really felt compelled to listen to it outside the times when I had long drives (not many). I though both of the main characters, Dex and Emma, were rather unpleasant… it was hard to see what they saw in each other, a lot of the time. But, I did like the way Nicholls wrote about growing up and the uncertainty it brings. That felt authentic to me.

Bitter Is the New Black by Jen Lancaster — You may remember that I was not a fan of the first Jen Lancaster book that I read, My Fair Lazy. While I liked Bitter Is the New Black (Lancaster’s first memoir) better than My Fair Lazy, I still found big chunks really, really unfunny. Even when she was supposed to be seeing the light and becoming less of an awful person, I just didn’t get into it. I just don’t think Lancaster and I have a compatible sense of humor. Oh well!

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  • Jeanne April 26, 2012, 6:31 am

    I loved Garlic and Sapphires (and The Fault in Our Stars, of course). I jumped over here when I saw this title because I thought you had some news…it was that word “trimester”!

    • Kim April 26, 2012, 6:34 am

      Oh goodness, I didn’t even think of that! Nope, no news of that sort here. I’ll have to change the title do I don’t trick people!

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) April 26, 2012, 6:51 am

    I liked One Day but didn’t love it. The ending that blew so many people away seemed predictable to me.

    • Kim April 28, 2012, 1:34 pm

      I’m torn on the ending. As soon as the chapter before the big moment started, I had this feeling that something terrible was going to happen… so I wasn’t entirely surprised. But I also don’t know if I liked it either.

  • Melissa @ Coffee, Books and Laundry April 26, 2012, 7:34 am

    I love reading mini reviews and doing them. I love One Day! Seriously, one of my favorite books ever. I totally fell in love with the characters of Dex and Emma. I had Garlic and Sapphires on my shelves but gave it away without reading it, now i’m a little disappointed that I did that.

    • Kim April 28, 2012, 1:39 pm

      I wonder if I’d read the book, rather than listening to it over a very long time, if I’d have felt differently about it. I can see reasons why I’d love it, but parts just didn’t work for me this time. Garlic and Sapphires was a really fun read. I love Reichl’s writing style, it’s so lush.

  • Steph April 26, 2012, 8:03 am

    Sometimes mini reviews are best! I read One Day last year when I was down in Florida thinking it would be a good beach read but found it really underwhelming… like you, I did not care for the two main characters at all, and I found the ending really manipulative.

    I have wanted to read Garlic & Sapphires for a while, so I’m glad to hear it was such a good read! I think it would be such an interesting job to write as a food critic!

    • Kim April 28, 2012, 1:40 pm

      Dex and Emma were so very, very hard to like. I guess all people in their 20s – 30s are a bit terrible, but they were so insufferable at point! It was fascinating to read about the job of a food critic, part of what I loved about Garlic and Sapphires.

  • Meg April 26, 2012, 9:37 am

    Relieved to see I’m not the only one who didn’t love One Day! When it was released, everyone and their non-book-loving brother seemed to be picking it up . . . and I was shocked by how disappointed I was in the characters and plot. I actually watched the movie recently (yum, Jim Sturgess) and actually appreciated it more that way. My sister loved the story, though we agreed we were completely annoyed by the ending.

    Lancaster is one of my favorite authors — I loved Bitter Is The New Black! She definitely doesn’t come across as very likeable in that one, though . . . I really loved and related even more to Such A Pretty Fat.

    • Kim April 28, 2012, 1:43 pm

      So many people were reading it! I’m glad I took some time to listen to it away from the hype. I do really want to see the movie now though, Jim Strugess is adorable. I couldn’t help thinking of him while I read 🙂

      I liked Bitter… better, enough that I’ll give her another read sometime. Thanks for the recommendation for Such a Pretty Fat!

  • Gwen April 26, 2012, 1:20 pm

    Maybe it was our different life experiences or perhaps I was hormonal, but One Day had me crying like a baby when I read it. (Haven’t even dared to see the movie)

    Not touching The Fault with a ten foot pole, not because I don’t think it will be good, but because I can’t take the emotional wallop that it will provide.

    • Kim April 28, 2012, 1:45 pm

      I think in a different context, I’d probably have cried like a baby too. I cried like a baby at TFIOS, but I knew that I was going to 🙂

  • Jenny April 26, 2012, 6:00 pm

    I’m currently engaged in trying to write a review of The Fault in Our Stars — it’s hard! It’s such an intenseish book, and then as well, so many people have written so many things about it, I’m not sure what I have to add.

    • Kim April 28, 2012, 1:46 pm

      That’s part of the reason I didn’t write a full review — I didn’t think I had much to add to the really lovely reviews that have already been written.

  • Vasilly April 26, 2012, 9:04 pm

    I love this idea! I think I’m going to have to steal it! I have a huge backlog from January.

    I rushed out and bought The Fault in Our Stars months ago but never finished it. Maybe soon? 🙁

    • Kim April 28, 2012, 1:48 pm

      Thanks! I do too! It’s nice to get to say something about books I had some thoughts on, but not enough for a full review (or, books I didn’t write anything about at the time and now I can’t remember what I wanted to say!).

  • Erin April 26, 2012, 11:03 pm

    I think it’s time for me to let go of my copy of One Day. At this point, I’ve read too many “meh” reviews to be excited about it! As for John Green, I still haven’t read anything he didn’t write with someone else. Gotta do that.

    • Kim April 28, 2012, 1:50 pm

      After the big push of “Awesome!” reviews, I read a few “Meh” ones too. I liked the concept a lot, but the characters were hard to connect with.

  • Diane@BibliophilebytheSea April 27, 2012, 4:54 am

    Mini reviews are great way to get caught up – well done.

    • Kim April 28, 2012, 1:51 pm

      They are, thanks!

  • Jennygirl April 27, 2012, 9:48 am

    Mini reviews are a great answer to those books that you didn’t like for one reason or another, or for books that are so simple, they do not warrant a full review. Plus it clears up the back log.

    Curious about One Day. I like the premise.

    • Kim April 28, 2012, 1:52 pm

      They are a good tool. I like it for books I liked, but that I didn’t have really strong opinions about. I liked many of these, but I don’t have a lot to say!

  • Cass April 27, 2012, 12:19 pm

    My love for The Fault in Our Stars was kind of overwhelming. I am not a rereader, but I kind of wanted to restart it the moment I finished. (I also have a tender spot for precocious teens, so it fed into that as well.) Love your mini-reviews!

    • Kim April 28, 2012, 1:55 pm

      TFIOS hit me hard, but I knew it would because it’s about quirky kids with cancer and unfair death always kicks me in the heart. I’ll reread it again someday, I think 🙂

  • kay @ Infiniteshelf April 29, 2012, 9:39 am

    The Fault in Our Stars really was beautiful! I still haven’t manage to put my thoughts about it into words yet, though.
    I’ve had One Day on my ereader for a while, and I tried reading it but I couldn’t get into it. I’ll try again, hopefully I might enjoy it more than you did!

    • Kim May 2, 2012, 7:42 pm

      I really didn’t know what to say about TFIOS. It was exactly what I was expecting, but also managed to touch me in unexpected ways too. It was a good read 🙂

  • Lu April 29, 2012, 2:25 pm

    Yay mini reviews! I didn’t really have much to say at all about The Fault in Our Stars either. Your summary is pretty much perfect: smart, funny writing, almost-too-smart characters.

    • Kim May 2, 2012, 7:42 pm

      Gus was so, so close to just being too much. But he was also so charming. I wanted to have my own Gus.