The Slap by Christos Tsiolka

The Slap by Christos Tsiolka begins at an afternoon barbecue in suburban Australia.  Family, friends of family and their children gather together  with the usual blend of affection and affectation. Everyone gets along until three-year-old Hugo threatens another child with a cricket bat.  The threatened child’s father, Harry, takes the bat away only to be kicked by Hugo whom he then slaps. Once.  The other … Continue reading The Slap by Christos Tsiolka

Mr. Loverman by Bernadine Evaristo

Was it okay for Bernadine Evaristo to write this book? I ask this question in light of the ongoing controversy over cultural appropriation, specifically who has the right to write about whom. If you haven’t been following this issue lately you might want to check out Lionel Shriver’s keynote speech at the Brisbane Writers Festival and Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s essay explaining why she walked out on … Continue reading Mr. Loverman by Bernadine Evaristo

The Beauty of Men by Andrew Holleran

Once every so often, a blogger somewhere asks if it’s possible to recognize how good a book is without liking it.   I think we’d all agree that a book can be good even though it does not fit our own personal taste.  At least in theory.  But when the rubber hits the road, or the fingers turn the pages, could you praise what is … Continue reading The Beauty of Men by Andrew Holleran

We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

What if you like a book in general, but there are some things that bug you about it? Do you always end up with one of those weighing the scales reviews? List the pros? List the cons?  It’s so difficult to do that without being wishy-washy. There is a lot to like in Shaun David Hutchinson’s YA novel We Are the Ants.  The story is about … Continue reading We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

Mary Ann in Autumn by Armistead Maupin

I didn’t feel right at home when I began Mary Ann in Autumn.  I thought I would. I expected to.  I always have before.  Each new addition to the Tales of the City books felt like bumping into a bunch of old friends I hadn’t seen in a while.  All of us grabbing a cup of coffee together so we could have a chance to … Continue reading Mary Ann in Autumn by Armistead Maupin

The Lost Weekend by Charles Jackson

Like the others, the question was rhetorical, abstract, anything but pragmatic; as vain to ask as his own clever question had been vain.  It was far too late to pose such a problem with any reasonable hope for an answer–or, an answer forthcoming, any reasonable hope that it would be worth listening to or prove anything at all.  It had long since ceased to matter … Continue reading The Lost Weekend by Charles Jackson

Raymond Carver vs. Francis Wyndham

My little tournament of short stories came down to the final round this weekend–a match up between Francis Wyndham’s The Ground Hostess and Raymond Carver’s  A Small, Good Thing.   Because, after quite a few rounds of reading, both Mr. Wyndham and Mr. Carver have become two of my favorite authors, I had no idea who was win going into the final round.  I love them both. I … Continue reading Raymond Carver vs. Francis Wyndham

An Experiment in Love by Hilary Mantel

Reading An Experiment in Love by Hilary Mantel I soon began to wonder why the book’s characters spend time together.  They don’t like each other very much.  They are not very nice to each other either. The narrator, Carmel, comes from a working class, Irish Catholic family.  Her mother pushes her to gain a scholarship to the local convent school and then to sit for … Continue reading An Experiment in Love by Hilary Mantel

Earthsea vs. The Apocalypse

The deck really was stacked against Desirina Boskovich.  Though her short stories Heaven is a Place on Planet X and To Wrestle Not Against Flesh and Blood are both terrific fun, there’s really no way she could win against an Earthsea story by Ursula K. LeGuin.  Not while I am the judge. I’ve been pairing sets of short stories against each other in a tournament of books … Continue reading Earthsea vs. The Apocalypse

The Men From the Boys by William J. Mann

The most difficult reviews to write are about books that made you go meh. If you love a book, or if you hate a book, it’s easy to review. The problem then is choose what to write about from the wide range of things you want to say.  There’s the danger that you’ll gush on too long about how wonderful something is or fall into … Continue reading The Men From the Boys by William J. Mann

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

How much do we really know about each other? C.J. and I will celebrate 20 years together late in 2016, but do even long-term couples like us really know each other? Halfway through Lauren Groff’s new novel Fates and Furies a secret is revealed, one so dramatic that it forces one half of a decades long married couple to reconsider everything long thought to be true … Continue reading Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

The First Bad Man by Miranda July

I am one of Miranda July’s biggest fans–6’5″ and built like a line backer, okay, one and a half linebackers. I loved her wonderful strange movie Me, You and Everyone We Know.   I think her website/artsite is terrific and her short story collection No One Belongs Her More Than You is one of my favorites. Anyone who can come up with a story about a swim team … Continue reading The First Bad Man by Miranda July