Mini-Reviews: The Scent of Pine, Fiddlehead, and What Nora Knew

Between the holidays and being sick and traveling, I’ve read more books than I can possibly review. Or that I want to review. So I’m introducing a new format that will appear occasionally: mini reviews (stolen, with credit, from River City Reading). Hopefully this will allow me to catch up without disappointing anyone (including myself). The books that will be featured will generally be outside my normal reading genre, but ones that I enjoyed nonetheless.

Scent of Pine_Fiddlehead_What Nora Knew

The Scent of Pine by Lara Vapnyar
One line synopsis: Two unhappy people, one experiencing an early midlife crisis and the other a failed artist, are drawn together at a conference where they embark on a revealing weekend getaway.
Thoughts: The Scent of Pine is a slow-paced book that hints at a tantalizing secret. If you read the book waiting for a shocking revelation, you will be disappointed. I know I was. Regardless, the book is well-written, engaging, and bittersweet. It’s about letting go of the past and understanding yourself. 2.5/5.

Fiddlehead by Cherie Priest
One line synopsis: Gideon Bardsley is a brilliant inventor and his newest creation is attracting more attention than he’d like, he teams up with (mostly) retired agent Belle Boyd (under the orders of Abraham Lincoln) to find out where the threat is coming from.
Thoughts: Fiddlehead is the fifth entry into the Clockwork Century series. It tells the story of a very alternative Civil War with a steampunk twist. Although the plot is a little thin, the brilliance of the books lies in the world Priest creates. It fun, it’s fascinating, but you must read the four previous novels and one novella to get the most out of this book. If you happen to be a fan of the steampunk genre, Priest is one of the best – just don’t read it for the history, the Civil War nerd in me got a bit nitpicky… 4/5.

What Nora Knew by Linda Yellin
One line synopsis: Molly is a practical, unromantic, ambitious woman who finds that romance has been relegated to the back burner in her life – until she meets the one man she can’t get out of her head.
Thoughts: I’ll begin by saying I liked What Nora Knew. It was sweet, engaging, and everything I expected to be. It’s romantic and plays –as it should – into everything Nora Ephron. That being said, it is very much the story of wealthy white people with wealthy white people problems and solutions (i.e. struggling columnist with nice New York apartment meets handsome bestselling author with even nicer New York apartment, they fight, fall in love, and the columnist gets a fabulous book deal with the hottest literary agent in town). It’s cute, funny, and the banter is spot on (in an Ephronesque way). Read it if you’re in the right mood, if you’re not you’ll hate it. 4/5, because I read it when I was having a good day.

Do you ever get overwhelmed with review copies? How do you handle it?

*I received a copy of these three books in exchange for my honest opinion.

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  • booksaremyfavouriteandbest

    Glad you read ‘What Nora Knew’ on a good day. Agree, if you’re in the right frame of mind, it’s good fun.

    • Rory

      I really did enjoy it. I wasn’t in a petulant mood, though I did think it took quite a long time for her to wake up. I don’t know if I could stand a guy that spoke in cliches though either, so I understood.

    • Rory

      Plus I couldn’t do a full review, you already stole the recommended food 😉

  • Faraziyya

    so, it’s better to read What Nora Knew when we’re in a good mood? and we’ll hate it if it’s the opposite, why? Whaa, i’m getting curious about What Nora Knew.

    • Rory

      I liked it, but if I wan’t in the mood to read a cliched romantic comedy that pulls every plot line from a Nora Ephron movie, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it. It’s good, just with reservations.

      For what it’s worth, I did enjoy reading it and I laughed more than a few times.

      • Faraziyya

        aaahh, i see it now 🙂

  • Shannon @ River City Reading

    I’ve been a little curious about how What Nora Knew would come off, since I tend to feel similarly with “white people problems” books at times.
    Thanks for the credit, but I’m sure it goes to someone else 😉 Sometimes my reading just gets way ahead of the time I have to keep up with reviews – like this week, with extra time off, I squeezed in six books…which I know I’ll never have time to do full reviews for.

    • Rory

      I liked it. If you’re in the mood for a good, bookish romantic comedy I’d recommend it. I’m typically not one for stuff like that (on any given day I’d rather gag), but I do appreciate Nora Ephron. Even a anti-romantic like me likes Sleepless in Seattle.

  • Care

    Great reviews! Especially for books that may not have been as impressive or to your style as you might like. You are a skilled writer.

    • Rory

      Thanks. I must say it took far less time too. Bonus.

  • Acid Free Pulp

    good call with the mini-reviews. I sometimes feel stumped with books I’m not totally involved with and the idea of reviewing them makes me finish them in an even slower fashion, elongating the whole process. Although, I wouldn’t be able to get away with it when reviewing for a publication; yet, I used to find books I disliked easier to write about for full-length publication reviews.

    • Rory

      Thanks. These books were decent, just not something I could write for any suitable length about. I would’ve been hard pressed to come up with more than 150 words about The Scent of Pine. That is the good thing about blogs, you can get away with a little bit more. I don’t feel as much of an obligation for unsolicited review copies (and these all were), but I still feel compelled to at least try.

      As a rule, I don’t post negative reviews (I don’t need to add any criticism to the world), but I agree, they are easier and generally far more fun.

      • Acid Free Pulp

        I prefer to stay away from exclusively negative reviews. There was only one that I ever wrote and it was nixed by my editor (probably for the best). Usually, I can find something. I look at it as a critique instead of as a criticism (touching on pos/neg) and with blogs, I’m generally compelled to read blogger reviews about something they like and why–although, not always.

  • Charleen

    I try not to get overwhelmed. I never get unsolicited review copies so it’s just a matter of controlling myself when it comes to requesting.

    • Rory

      I get about three unsolicited books a week, some in my genre and some…not. I don’t know whether I should feel guilty when I don’t review them or not. I usually do feel guilty, because that’s my default setting.

      • Charleen

        Wow, that’s a lot. I can understand the guilt – after all, they sent a copy to you when they could have sent it to something else (though less of an issue with ebooks) – but at the same time, you never asked for them. Not sure how I’ll handle it if I ever find myself in this situation.

  • Carolyn O

    I love mini-reviews — nice job! I did a post with them in November, I think, when the books I’d read outnumbered the Thursdays I had left to post reviews. Assuaged my guilt and let me feel as if I’d really *read* the books, which I don’t anymore unless I review them.

    • Rory

      I’ve suffered from the same thing as of late. If I read it and don’t review it, it doesn’t count. But it should, especially considering how my I read that doesn’t make it on the blog. Now if I could only convince myself of that…

      Plus the mini-reviews still make it possible for me to email a link to the publisher. Guilt assuaged indeed.

  • Words for Worms

    Mini reviews are fabulous!

    • Rory

      As usual, I won’t argue with you.

  • Leah

    I’ve never quite let myself get in over my head with review copies, but there have been a few stressful times. I like doing mini reviews when I realize there are four or five books that I never got around to writing about; usually they’re the “meh” books, which I don’t have much to say about. Mini reviews are perfect for that!

    • Rory

      Yep, that is sort of the case for all of these. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t great either. I am in over my head with review copies already and it’s only January. This is bad (yet good).

  • Sarah Says Read

    Waiiiit, you’ve read those Cherie Priest books?? I’ve been eyeing them for AGES. Now that I know a blogger I trust rec-wise likes them, I’m going to have to get my hands on the first one.

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