Book Review, Charles Dickens, Classics, Dennis Cooper, Fantasy, Gay Lit, Graham Greene, H.P. Lovecraft, Horor, J.K. Rowling, Literature, Religion, Robert Musil, T.A. Barron

Review: Brief Reviews of Earlier Reads

The Fires of Merlin (The Lost Years of Merlin #3) by T.A. Barron

This has been the most disappointing book in the Merlin series, so far. It seemed to lack substance and flair. There are also many repeating themes and events – but not in a subtle way. It’s more like the author has chosen a few stock characters and re-uses them over and over. The story is still interesting and fun, I just hope the final two books will be better.

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

Truly remarkable. To imagine a world in which law is outlaw and in which priests are hunted down and killed, to the very last one… terribly troubling.

The Seven Songs of Merlin (The Lost Years of Merlin #2) by T.A. Barron

Even better than the first – and makes me truly look forward to the third! The many, many similarities to the Lord of the Rings and to the Harry Potter series are a bit unnerving, though. Dissertation topic? Hmmm.

The Lost Years of Merlin by T.A. Barron

This first book in the series of Young Merlin leaves me wanting more – which is why I’m already 100 pages into the second book at the time I’m writing this review for the first! Though classified as “independent reader” books – meaning, for ages 10-14 or so, the book is also mature in nature and prose. Barron is an excellent story-teller and, while it lacks the maturity and complexity of the later books in the Harry Potter series, this first book is quite comparable to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Definitely worth the read – fast paced, fun, interesting, exciting. I’m convinced.

At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft

Meh. I feel like this would make a pretty excellent movie, but the book (short as it was) dragged on and on. There was so much explanation of the fear, without any actual description of it… I suppose I’m a product of the “show, don’t tell” school of writing, because all Lovecraft did was tell, tell, tell. Even the descriptions -of apparently monstrous and terrifying alien beasts- were mundane and boring. Hard to do. I understand Lovecraft is supposed to be the godfather of terror but after this, my first experience, with his writing, I’m left disappointed. I doubt I’ll pick up another.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

We all know the story; we’ve all seen the movie. What we haven’t done, though, is read the book! And we should. The novella is quaint and brilliant and didactic and rough and everything purely and uniquely Dickensian. My only complaint is that this wasn’t one of Dickens’ longer works – it could have easily been a great novel. But it is still a beautiful little novella. Loved it. And what better time to read it than late December? “Merry Christmas, everyone!”

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

Truly wonderful companion to the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. The tales in themselves are clever but the addition of the footnotes by J.K.R. herself and by Hermione Granger as translator, compound with the explanatory commentary by Dumbledore after each story, makes this read like a Norton Critical Edition of any classical literary work. Fantastic. The final tale, “The Three Brothers,” is the one which is directly referenced in the final Harry Potter Book (The Deathly Hallows). Reading that last tale, as well as the whole book, really made me want to dive back into the original series. Also, many magical creatures, historical figures, potions, etc. are referenced in the novel, with a footnote to find more information in Rowling’s other two supplementary books, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages. The attention to detail remains fantastic and the series as a whole is beyond superb and is truly inspiring.

The Sluts by Dennis Cooper

Simultaneously the best and worst of Cooper’s novels. The worst because the story-line was a bit trite and the “internet-style” (is there a term for this yet? Web-lit? Blog-book?) is, at this point, outplayed and cliche. Though, to be fair, the book is probably one of the first to use the format, I’m just slow in picking it up. It’s also probably one of his best because the characters, though they all really turn out to be, well.. I don’t want to give anything away. Anyway, probably the most developed characters in any of his novels. The book took me months to read, though I normally fly through his books in a day. I think this is because I had a long-time relationship with a paranoid schizophrenic sociopath, and this book brought back incredibly vivid and unwelcome memories, so I tended to only read a few pages at a time. In any event, I do prefer the George Miles Cycle but Cooper still continues to prove that he’s a freak genius.

The Confusions of Young Torless by Robert Musil

An interestingly philosophical take on the “darker” side of boarding school life. While only one of the characters in the novel (the abused boy) was remotely believable, the idea has merit. Musil’s prose is quite beautiful and I believe he almost accomplished what he meant to – raising questions about youth and sexuality and morality and consciousness. Whether any of the ideas are sound or answered, well, that’s another debate altogether. Intriguing read, though.

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