Reviews: The Earlies, Part 8

Tracks by Louise Erdrich

Very interesting story.. sort of a metaphysical native-American type thing. It’s been a while since I read it, but I remember liking it.

Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides

To me, this book had an extremely slow start. I was disinterested through the first 400 pages, but I persisted. And thank goodness. The last 150 pages, I believe, made the book the “Pulitzer Prize” winner that it is. It was impressive writing and information throughout, but the extended climax and conclusion are what really made this book worth reading. I wouldn’t have recommended the book three days ago, but today I think it’s a must-read.

Rain God by Arturo Islas

Enjoyable and real. An honest, heart-breaking look at homosexuality and Mexican-American culture. Humor, family, terminal illness, magical realism, terror, brutality, and peace. Wonderful, powerful read.

King Dork by Frank Portman

Very funny. Very good. Read it.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Not just an incredible science-fiction novel, but an incredible novel, period. Masterful story-telling, incredible characterization and plot development. Overwhelming in it’s perfect execution and follow-through.

Demian by Hermann Hesse

Very good book.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I read this book for the first time as an adult (after having seen the Disney movie many times when a child) and find that it is incredibly more complex and important than one could ever imagine. The story is genius, as is Carroll’s creativity with language, prose, and imagination. He is witty, sarcastic, and pleasantly parodic. This has become one of my top-five novels of all time, and not in the “juvenile” category.

Reviews: The Earlies, Part 7

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Intelligent, witty, wry.. very enjoyable – though I think I still prefer one of her earlier novels, Northanger Abbey. While Pride and Prejudice is constructed and delivered, it lacks the brazen satire and social commentary (or condemnation) from Northanger Abbey. Still, very enjoyable.

The History Boys by Alan Bennet

Very clever and fun, yet sad play about education, coming-of-age, and growing old. A commentary on the dissolution of the classic ideas of “mentor-apprentice” relationship. Painful as well as heart-warming. Oh, and the movie was very well done, also. Give this play a read – it might just open you up a bit.

Ruth Hall: A Domestic Tale of the Present Time by Fanny Fern

Absolutely brilliant and hilarious. It’s a shame that this novel is not better known – especially to those interested in 19th centrury American literature (think Hawthorne, Thoreau, Fuller, etc.) Definitely recommended.

Little Chicago by Adam Rapp

Interesting and disturbing novel – typically Adam Rapp. The main character, Blacky, and his little brother are cleverly and engagingly developed. Three stars.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

One of Jane Austen’s earlierst works, Northanger Abbey is absolutely hilarious. She satirizes almost every politcal, social, and literary convention of the time. There are quite a few grammatical/textual errors and/or inconsistencies, but that’s what makes reading a great author’s early work so much fun – and the Norton edition provides excellent corrections and explanatory notes. In Northanger Abbey, you’re literally watching Austen test her limits and assert her prowess. In fact, on page 116 I wrote in the margin: “She’s flexing!” Loved it.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

This book seemed, to me, better classified as a philosophical novel than as literature. However, I can see how it would fall into the literature field, due to its profound impact on not just academia, but general readers. Conrad examines the nature of the soul.. and leave us with the bitter conclusion that goodness is not necessarily natural, but taught – and, without our social structures and guilt-driven propriety… would we not, in isolation, all become monsters? Savages? Very intriguing.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

I never attempted this book because, in high school, I was told by friends that it was a bit of a tough read. Maybe dry or uninteresting. But I just picked it up the other day and roared through it in two nights. This book is beautiful. It will probably become one of my favorites. I suppose it’s especially good for lovers of literature. Go read it.

Reviews: The Earlies, Part 6

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

My first Woolf novel, and I’m a bit disappointed. The language is too flower, the characters undeveloped. It seems Woolf attempts to evoke feelings from her readers without providing the necessary information – she glazes over deaths and wars as if they’re quite inconsequential. The prose is confusingly liquid – dialogue and narration are often indistinguishable. I’m not sorry I read it, but I think it will be quite a long time before I pick up another Woolf novel, especially if this is the one which was supposed to have “defined Woolf as a major novelist.”

The World According to Garp by John Irving

Absolutely wonderful as far as meta-fiction goes. Brilliant in the structure and style. I was personally put off by the seemingly overly-sexual interest the father has with his youngest son, and by the rape and adultery scenes. Also, the rapid succession of deaths are a little hard to believe but maybe that’s the point? All in all, I would recommend it to those who like creative story-telling and who may have fantasies of writing their own novel one day.

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

Beautiful book. Reminded me why I love Salinger. This will probably be one of few books which I read multiple times.

Songmaster by Orson Scott Card

Not my favorite of Card’s works, but that’s not exactly dismissive, considering Orson Scott Card is a Fantastic writer. I did enjoy this book, and it was a quick read… very creative and different (in a good way). It was also nice to see some homosexuality in a sci-fi book, though it wasn’t really portrayed in the best light. Overall, though.. I’m glad I read it.

The Confidence-Man by Herman Melville

This is probably Melville’s best work – and one of the best to come out of the American “renaissance” era, though it was dismissed at first, and for a long while, most likely due to the fact that no one understood what was going on (a problem which seems to still inhibit readings of this book). The novel is incredible – rife with Biblical, classical, historical, political, and social allusions. The story is, indeed, quite complicated and difficult to follow or figure out, but the message is worth the effort. The devil is in the details.

Equus by Peter Shaffer

Fascinating. Wild. Intriguing. Disturbing. Just wonderful.

Reviews: The Earlies, Part 5

Gentelmen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos

Very funny but also very serious. A lot of social commentary.

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

This Pulitzer Prize winning book by Edith Wharton is, well, prize-winning. Wharton asserts herself as America’s Jane Austen – witty, intelligent, moving, and principled. The ending, especially, is so personal and touching, it’s difficult to get through. 4 Stars.

The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West

Very interesting early-Hollywood read. Seems to anticipate “The Beat” generation.

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This book is breathtaking. I’m not a Fitzgerald fan – I hated The Great Gatsby, but Tender is the Night is quite an achievement. Fitzgerald does an incredible job of demonstrating how a life is touched, changed, and destroyed by involvement with a schizophrenic. Perhaps it is my own personal experience which connected me so well with this novel and with Fitzgerald’s emotion – but, regardless, the imagery is vivid, the scenarios and plot credible, and the entire story absolutely moving and painful, as well as vindicating. I had to put the book down at many points, due to its ability to evoke sad and painful memories, but upon completion, I felt whole again.

A Lost Lady by Willa Cather

Wonderful story. Surprisingly anti-feminist.. but that shouldn’t be shocking, coming from Cather. She loves to push the envelope! This book reminded me why I love Willa Cather. Great read.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

What a great fantasy book! Based in Greek mythological “fact” – and the author obviously did his homework. The characters and the story work well with the mythology and Riordan even adds to it with a modern twist. I can’t say enough about this book and I can’t wait to read the second in the series. I think the book was much more fun to me now than it would have been if I had read it as a kid because having a background in the gods and myths made the story flow more easily and made it genuinely more interesting. However, I’m sure any young fantasy-fan can pick it up and have a great time.

Reviews: The Earlies Part 4

So Hard to Say by Alex Sanchez

Meh. Sanchez’s novels are okay for pre-teen/teen readers, I guess. They’re simple and generally truthful. But, if you or someone you know is interested in really good, moving young adult fiction involving gay characters or themes, check out Boy Meets Boy by Levithan or The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Chbosky.

Woman in the Nineteenth Century by Margaret Fuller

A critical work about the “feminist” movement, though Fuller’s idea of feminism leaves much to be desired. She is, I suppose, a voice for change in her time, but she seems to have been locked in that need to balance even the feminist movement with the needs of males. Perhaps this was a necessary concession for publication in such a patriarchal time and profession – but she (and Wollstonecraft, to be honest), while heralded as a liberating mother-figure, seems more of a moderate than a liberal.

Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

Heartbreaking.

The World of Normal Boys by K.M. Soehnlein

It’s forgettable but it’s god for what it is… an easy read on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

A quick but worthwhile read. I think what most interests me, though, is Hurstons own story – and the study which Alice Walker did into Hurstons life, the revival.. the reclaiming of Hurston into literary prominence, etc. A discussion of this is included in this edition of the novel.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

For some reason, I thought I didn’t like Hemingway much. I enjoyed Old Man and the Sea.. plus some of Hemingway’s short stoires. But I still dreaded reading a full-length novel. I’m not sure why. After reading A Farewell to Arms, I know how ridiculous I was being. Absolutely lovely – and easy to get through.

Sarah: A Novel by J.T. Leroy

Hm. Interesting – lacking in lucid detail, but that’s probably a good thing, considering the subject matter.

Reviews: The Earlies Part 3

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Really fun. And interesting. One of the best young-adult fantasy novels, I think.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Not my favorite of Steinbecks work, but considering Steinbeck is an incredible Americcan author, that’s not saying much to the negative. It is a great story and very well written. Certainly interesting commentary on early prejudices toward the mentally handicapped.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Nearly flawless.  Beautiful “young adult” about the dangers of oppressive conformity and thought control. Be yourself!

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

This is one of the first truly literary giants I completed, and one which helped me to define myself as a literature student. Getting through this novel and, more importantly, enjoying it ..well, yay for Hardy. Thanks for turning me into a literature student.

The Lost Boy by Dave Pelzer

Wow. Tragic and heartbreaking. Beautiful, honest prose. Disturbing and haunting true story.

The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle

Very moving story but Boyle seems wrapped up in his own style. That is to say, he comes across as quite pretentious. It distracts the reader from what should be a powerful and painfully truthful story.

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Reviews: The Earlies Part 3

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Great. Book.

The Stolen Child by Keith Donahue

This book took me forever to read. It was just… a lot more boring than it should have been, considering the very interesting subject matter and plot. I think it would make a wild movie, but the book lacks something.

Hobomok by Lydia Maria Francis Child

Pretty interesting and fairly realistic (as opposed to The Last of the Mohicans, say?) depiction of the interaction between puritans and native americans.

Wrong by Dennis Cooper

Wow. Dennis Cooper.

Dream Boy: A Novel by Jim Grimsley

One of the first gay novels I ever read – probably picked it up in 8th or 9th grade. It’s well written, fun, sad, cute, tragic, sexy, and beautiful. I’ve read it 3 or 4 times over the years.

The Brothers Bishop by Bart Yates

Very interesting gay fiction.. two brothers, both gay. One responsible, one not. One a high school english teacher, fallen for a student but able to keep his distance. The other, well, doesn’t keep his distance. And all the fun, drama, and consequence to follow.

Haunted: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk

Twisted and Bizzare and absolutely wonderful.

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

Pretty good read. I think I actually enjoyed the movie more, though.

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