One Sentence Reviews: My 2nd Quarter 2019 Reads

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

If you want to be a writer, you have to be a reader. Here are the fiction and nonfiction books I’ve read this quarter with my attempt at cogent, one-sentence reviews.

Quiet, by Susain Cain. I didn’t know you could be an introvert and not be shy until I read Cain’s well-researched, nonfiction book about introverts.

Well, now I know what a “close” is.

The Haunting of Henderson Close, by Catherine Cavendish. Time-slips and an eerie, 1891 setting color this novel about a haunted Scottish precinct.

Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, by Roy Peter Clark. Clark’s lesson-and-example book is aimed at journalists, but his strategies apply to fiction writers, too, and I recommend it if you’re trying to improve your writing skills.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, by Frederick Douglass. I was dreading this short book about Douglass’s painful life as a slave in the early 1800s and his subsequent escape, but I wanted to read it for research (for a novel), and found it horrific at times, but also philosophical and engaging.

Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. The author of Eat Pray Love proffers her advice on the writing life, and while it’s a little out there (after all, she personifies and builds relationships with Creativity, Ideas, Failure, and her External Genius), I found hope that my own Creativity and Ideas will eventually dig deep roots and blossom.

Hellish, by Tina Glasneck. Hellish, book one in Glasneck’s The Hell Chronicles series, is a new adult, dark fantasy novella infused with intriguing Norse mythology, dangerous time travel, and magical swords.

Wylding Hall, by Elizabeth Hand. Wylding Hall is a Gothic, haunted mansion story about a folk-rock band who retreats to said haunted mansion to create music, and it’s an awesome, slow-burn, foreboding novel told in interview-style.

Owl Manor, by Zila Harrison. Owl Manor is a fem-lit, Gothic horror novel that gets a little heavy-handed on the feminism, but the ghost story woven throughout is excellent.

Perfect Little Murder, by Yawatta Hosby. In this YA horror novel with an unreliable narrator, a teen girl sees her brother’s ghost and things go downhill from there, a super fun read!

Shirley Jackson the humorist? Who woulda thunk?

Just an Ordinary Day, by Shirley Jackson. For Jackson’s fans, this is a collection of her stories ranging from the humorous, to the pithy, to the spine-chilling.

House of Skin, by Jonathan Janz. House of Skin is a haunted house novel that reads like a well-written crime story.

Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. With humor, Lamott dishes out writing advice, shares her family’s secrets, and even encourages new writers to share their own “family’s horrific secrets and crimes . . . just change their names and give the men tiny [organs] so they’ll never come forward and sue you.”

Bone Manor, by Renee Leigh. Lucifer and Lilith make an appearance in this bloody haunted house novella, narrated in protagonist Sidney’s energetic, youthful voice.

The Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux. My English translation was frustratingly awkward, but the novel features a real-life setting (the Palais Garnier) and has a delicious, love-murder-madness plot.

Ghost Song, by Mark L’Estrange. L’Estrange uses a framing device to write a neo-Gothic, haunted mansion story complete with a family curse and a jinxed song.

Bitter Pill, by Richard Mabry. If you’ve read too many scary Gothic horror stories, this Christian, medical-thriller novella is a good palate cleanser, and a fun read, too!

The Halley Branch, by Trent McDonald. This ghost story in which the main character, Trevor, has to battle multiple generations of his family’s spirits including the insane ghosts of the Halley branch, wasn’t the best paranormal novel ever, but it was spooky enough to give me chills during the mausoleum scenes.

Innocent, by Jo Michaels. In this fun novelette, a single mom witnesses a murder, then another murder, and we start to wonder if she’s as innocent as she claims.

Creep factor = 10.

The Witching House, by Brian Moreland. What if it’s not just a haunted house, but a dilapidated, isolated house that was once inhabited by a family of witches with a vile grandmother at its head? (This novella has a creep factor of 10!)

Deep Work, by Cal Newport. Newport’s nonfiction book drives home the message that shallow “busy work” is addictive and common while deep work, requiring intensive thought processes and challenging learning, is fulfilling but increasingly rare. (This is a damn good book, y’all.)

So Good They Can’t Ignore You, by Cal Newport. Newport makes a convincing argument not to follow your passion but to develop it and then explore the avant-garde periphery of your field.

When Danger Calls, by Terry Odell. In this skillfully-written, military-ops/suspense/romance novel, a single mom falls for a covert operative and finds herself surrounded by gunfire, theft, and explosions.

You’ll never skip another workout again.

Spark, by John Ratey. I listened to this nonfiction book on audio because I thought it might be a tad too science-y and dry (and it was), but I learned fascinating facts about exercise’s beneficial chemical and even structural effects on the brain.

The Death Chute, by Ambrose Stolliker. Jake, a likable protagonist, puts his elderly mother in a nursing home that’s haunted (of course).

A book called Rose about a woman named Rose who turns into a rose.

Rose, by Rami Ungar. This recent release, a scary, fem-lit, dark fantasy novel about a woman who turns into a rose, is freakin’ creative, and OMGosh the plot twist I didn’t see coming . . .

Captivate, by Vanessa Van Edwards. I should have read the blurb more carefully because this is not a book about using words to capture an audience’s attention. (Shrugs.) Well, now I know where to stand if I’m a sales person at a mealtime meet-n-greet! (Near the end of the drink table.)

Waverly Hills Incursion, by Bryce Warren. What starts as a basic, haunted institution story takes a sharp turn into the occult.

The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters. This neo-Gothic, haunted mansion novel is set in England in post WWII . . . literary, character-driven, beautiful!

Happy reading.:-)

67 thoughts on “One Sentence Reviews: My 2nd Quarter 2019 Reads

  1. Excellent job on the one sentence reviews! I have never understood reviews that summarize the book but don’t really say what makes it a good read, or not. I too found The Little Stranger, exceptional.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Priscilla, you have mastered the one sentence book review. I read each one and felt like you have distilled the essence of each book. I have read some of this Annie LaMont book and had heard of (but not read) the Frederick Douglas book. Nice job!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am impressed with the volume of reading that you do! My list for the past six months is about the length of yours for the quarter. Quiet is on my “to read” list. I AM that not-shy introvert. I enjoyed Anne Lamont’s Bird by Bird, her courage is impressive and her language is visceral. Your review of Deep Work by Cal Newport has led me to put it on my list, and maybe I will get around to Big Magic too. Thanks for posting this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Fawn. Cal Newport has a newer book out called Digital Minimalism. I think I’ll read that, too, because his ideas are so interesting and obviously a product of deep work. I’m glad you commented.:-)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Impressive work, Priscilla! I loved Bird By Bird. The only other one on this list that I’ve read is Big Magic. Yes, it’s a bit full on, but I enjoyed it none the less.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Such diverse picks! Hellish is a good intro to Glasneck’s writing without making a big commitment (because it’s shorter). House of skin has a style of writing that would cross many genres (kind of a masculine feel, actually). And The Little Stranger is straight up literary horror. Thank you for commenting, Jina!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, I had to go back to the post and check again to see if I mixed up the names. Nope. Hellish is the kind of fantasy – mythology, time travel and dark fantasy – that I enjoy. And House of skin – crime…. who doesn’t like a good detective story? And the little stranger…. well, if it’s straight up horror, then no, not for me. I thought when you said haunted mansion that it was a ghost story or something.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The Little Stranger isn’t scary. It feels historical in its prose (and the setting, of course). I meant that it’s straight up LITERARY horror, like an artsy ghost story. I liked it so much have two more of Sarah Waters’ books on my to-read list. That kind of slow burn, character-driven story isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I sure enjoyed it.

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  5. I’ve read Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger. I like the sound of Wylding Hall. I’m currently binge-reading all the crime and thriller novels already on my Kindle as I’m attending a Crime Writer’s Retreat in November and only have the vaguest idea for a plot – plenty of characters and victims, but no believable motive yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Shari. I think you might like The Haunting of Henderson Close (or another of Cavendish’s books) because sections of the novel reminded me of your authorial voice. I’m glad you stopped by.:-)

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  6. Quiet has been sitting on bookshelf for more months than I care to admit, and I keep forgetting it’s there. Wylding Hall and House of Skin have me intrigued. The Haunting of Henderson Close sounds pretty awesome, too. I have to visit Amazon. I love your one sentence reviews, and this list had a ton of them!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. What was the publisher of Wylding Hall thinking? The “look inside” feature for that book is all advertisements. Definitely not like browsing in a book store, LOL!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Now that’s a new approach! I rather enjoyed these one-sentence reviews. I rather have one sentence which gives me all the information I need than a full-blown summary of the work, which by the way, is not a review in my opinion. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love how Susan Cain didn’t say introverts are better, just that there are strengths to being an introvert just as there are strengths to being an extrovert. Thanks for stopping by, Lena!

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    1. Glasneck, who wrote Hellish, is a prolific USA Today best selling YA/NA author, so apparently a lot of people like her dark fantasies, and I did enjoy Hellish even though it’s not my typical reading genre.

      Rose is super creative, and Ungar’s imagination is worth experiencing.

      If you read The Witching House, be sure to read the short story that comes with it because it’s like a prequel that enhances the reading “pleasure” of the scary main story.

      Thanks for commenting, Marje!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Your reading list is quite impressive, Priscilla. I love to read historical novels, with real historical events/places and fictional character, but then I like to read kitchen stories, architectural narratives, fashion autobiography, etc. etc. How can some people not read?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think I read THAT many books because my list covers a whole three-month period, and some of them were novellas. I reckon I read about 60 books a year. I agree with you on the summarizing part. I think it’s harder to fit a review into one sentence than it is to write a whole paragraph!

      Thanks for commenting, Courtney.:-)

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  9. Oh look at all the books you’ve read! I’ll have to read Bone Manor because I love anything Lucifer and Lilith. Big Magic was so awesome. I read it in January and found it so inspiring! I’m like person number 1,302,344th on my library’s waiting list for Deep Work! (Sighs)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bone Manor was fun. It has a light, youthful narrator’s voice which makes the blood and mayhem that much more jarring!

      Heehee, you made me laugh: person number 1,302,344th. I’m very blessed to have a smaller library. There aren’t that many patrons to sign up for a wait list, so I rarely have to wait more than a few days.

      Thanks for stopping by, Daniela!

      Liked by 1 person

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