Review: The Centaur by John Updike

I just finished reading The Centaur and I am both enamored and confused. The interwoven tale of Chiron, the Centaur, and Caldwell, the human teacher, is fascinating – especially from Caldwell’s son’s perspective; however, I found much of the story to be disjointed and confusing. This did, in all honesty, add to the overall appeal of the novel for me. I do plan on re-reading the book at some time, to determine whether or not I can understand it better on the second try, knowing what to expect. The characters were brilliant. The moments of Greek Mythological confusion were stunning, beautiful, and terrifying. All in all, quite fantastic.

Review: Screwed up Life of Charlie the Second by Drew Ferguson

Cute, witty, and honest to a fault. Ferguson’s epistolary novel about the (rather graphic) goings-on of a seventeen-year-old gay boy is fun, fast-paced, entertaining, sad, and smart. I will agree with some other reviewers who mentioned that one of the novel’s downfalls is its abrupt ending. Not much seemed to be resolved – friendships were made and unmade quite quickly, and a so-called “love” was replaced in the course of one short train ride from the western suburbs into Chicago; however, when one recalls the superficial yet “every moment is THE most important moment of my life” high school days, it becomes easier to accept Charlie’s emotions and escapades as sincere, if not a bit over-the-top (even for a gay teen!). I read this book in one day, but it’s certainly something I would recommend to friends, especially those open to the idea of exploring the inner-thoughts (and the inner-bedroom, classroom, bathroom, etc. activities) of a gay teen. If you’re a reader who is easily embarrassed by sexual exploration or honesty, this one is probably not for you. If you’re a gay man or teen who’d be interested in a novel which exposes openly and honestly all the truths you may have had to keep hidden – pick it up and pass it on. I quite enjoyed it.

Review: East of Eden by John Steinbeck

With East of Eden, I have gained a new appreciation for Steinbeck. This novel was masterfully written; it demonstrates Steinbeck’s command of language, history, and socioeconomic/political events. As one who came into this novel familiar with, but relatively inexperienced in Steinbeck’s work, I must say that East of Eden does one thing every author must hope for: it leaves me craving more. I must admit that I had my doubts about Steinbeck’s ability to tell such a lengthy story. I had only experienced shorter works (Of Mice and Men, The Pearl) up to this point and, while I knew Steinbeck to be a brilliant and beautiful writer, particularly adept social commentary and the didactic, I couldn’t see either of those short works being successful as a longer novel. The reason for this, of course, is obvious – the novellas are perfect as they are. Steinbeck chooses every word carefully, so that none of his work is longer or shorter than it needs to be. East of Eden proves it, in that it holds ones attention just as raptly as a shorter work, and it’s proves continues to move the reader from page to page, right until the very last words. The characters are well-developed, the plot and sub-plots interweave seamlessly, the setting is beautifully displayed and expresses its importance to the work as a whole (imagining this novel to take place anywhere else is almost impossible). I can’t say enough about East of Eden. I can say that it is more than just a beautiful, entertaining read. It is powerfully thought-provoking as well. Timshel will forever be something for which I strive to understand and to achieve.

Review: Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski

Sad and comic autobiography of an outcast’s youth during America’s Great Depression. Vivid descriptions and honesty to the past are two of the “pros” for this novel. The “cons” include a lack of any real plot or character development (static, everyone) and humor that was too often infused with violence or sex. Overall, though, it is an enjoyable work for any fan of Bukowski, particularly those interested in Bukowski’s youth and home-life.

 

Reviews: The Earlies Part 16

Goat: A Memoir by Brad Land

Interesting.. twisted at times.

The Order of the Poison Oak by Brent Hartinger

Not that great.

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

Wonderful young adult book about a boy growing up during the Revolutionary War. Fun fiction story which includes meetings with the likes of Ben Franklin, John Adams, etc.

A Son Called Gabriel by Damian McNicholl

Such a great find! I don’t remember where I came across this book, but I’m glad I did. Story about a boy growing up in Ireland during the war.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

Kind of sappy, but good. Makes you think about the important thigns in life.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Very cute. Worth the read – it’s quick.

Reviews: The Earlies Part 15

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

Wonderful, wonderful book. Highly recommended.

The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Probably one of my favorite Hawthorne novels. I think I like it even better than The Scarlet Letter.

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Beautiful ‘writing back to empire’ book. Rushdie is pretty amazing.

Geography Club by Brent Hartinger

Simple. Kinda boring.

Jack Maggs by Peter Carey

This is another ‘colony strikes back at imperialism’ boko – like Wide Sargasso Sea. Jack Maggs takes on the story of the character Magwitch from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. Beautiful and intelligent telling of the characters – cunningly writes a Dickens-esque character into the book.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

This is a brilliant prequel to Bronte’s Jane Eyre. If you read Jane Eyre and liked it – read this book! Actually, read it anyway. I read it before reading Jane Eyre and still loved it.. but it’s definitely better to get the back-story first – makes you appreciate the symbolism and storyline even more. A wonderful ‘colonial’ book.

Reviews, The Earlies Part 14

The Coming Storm by Paul Russell

Another book about the blurred lines between teacher/student and adult/teen and lover/lover relationship. A boarding school boy falls for and seduces a new young teacher… and all the mayhem follows close behind. Actually a very good read.


The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Wildly intelligent and fun. Almost as good as Angels and Demons.

Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice

Very interesting fictionalization of the story of Jesus Christ’s childhood. Very much enjoyed this book.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Great, great book. Don’t know what else to say except ‘read it.’

Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

Amazing! Incredibly funny and intelligent. One of my favorite books.

England, England by Julian Barnes

Hilarious irony. Brilliant.

Totally Joe by James Howe

So cute and funny. An easy, enjoyable read. Something for a lazy summer day.

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