The Blog's Mission

Wikipedia defines a book review as: “a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review can be a primary source opinion piece, summary review or scholarly review”. My mission is to provide the reader with my thoughts on the author’s work whether it’s good, bad, or ugly. I read all genres of books, so some of the reviews may be on hard to find books, or currently out of print. All of my reviews will also be available on I will write a comment section at the end of each review to provide the reader with some little known facts about the author, or the subject of the book. Every now and then, I’ve had an author email me concerning the reading and reviewing of their work. If an author wants to contact me, you can email me at I would be glad to read, review and comment on any nascent, or experienced writer’s books. If warranted, I like to add a little comedy to accent my reviews, so enjoy!
Thanks, Rick O.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


If I'm going to read a vampire novel, I prefer it to involve Vlad the Impaler, rather than your modern day Count Dracula type vampire. Dan Simmons has created a historical fiction novel that occurs around the time of the 1989 Romania Revolution that deposed the communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. The story moves back and forth from Colorado to Romania and Hungary. It is so well written that you'll say to yourself: Wow! If this were a movie, the Colorado parts would be in color, and the Eastern European parts would be in black and white. That is how depressing Simmons makes you feel when the action shifts to Budapest, Hungary or Transylvania, Romania.

The idea that a blood serum could be used in lieu of a satisfying neck bite is not new, but to find a physical reason vampires need fresh blood probably is. The hero, Dr. Kate Neuman, is an hematologist bent on finding out that answer after her adopted baby from Romania, Joshua, turns out to be a vampire. As the good doctor zeroes in on the answer to cure her baby and possibly the AID's virus and cancer, chaos strikes her household in Colorado. The dark advisers, the feared Strigoi, appear and kidnap her baby back to Romania. With her friend, the priest Mike O'Rourke (a recurring Simmons character), Dr. Neuman returns to Romania to find her baby and determine the real reason for the kidnapping.

While on their quest, Dan Simmons is at his best. The super-heroic efforts of Neuman and O'Rourke are death defying to say the least. The people in Romania are supposedly helping them, but are constantly under suspicion of being traitors. Who is a human, and who is a vampire? There are many chapters in this book where all the words are written in italic. This is the scary part because that means that the five hundred year old Vlad the Impaler is speaking. The infamous Prince of Wallachia, Vlad Tepes is alive and here for his final act. The last chapters are spellbinding with a very late and unexpected twist.

The use of italicized chapters in a novel is not new, but when used correctly it can make a book enchanting and attention grabbing. I had that same feeling in 2005 when reading Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian. In that book, the italicized chapters are letters written to a daughter from her father involving Vlad the Impaler. I have read many Dan Simmons books, and as usual, I loved it.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Dan Simmons is a Hugo and Locus Awards winner for Hyperion in 1989. I plan on reading the four Hyperion books this fall. You should also read his classic two book set: Ilium and Olympos. They are truly amazing. Don't forget his recent hits: Black Hills and Drood. Do I sound like a fan of Simmons? Yes I am.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


What if in 1942 Eleanor Roosevelt could flap her arms and fly like a bird? Could she lead American bomber raids into Germany? Welcome to the alternate history or what I call the "what if" genre. I actually saw this skit on SNL many years ago. I believe Harry Turtledove is still number one in this genre, but the distinguished Philip Roth did a yeoman's job on this novel.

Sometimes I start a alternate history novel, and then I wonder why I started it! I'm not a reader that starts a novel and then stops. I must finish a book, even if its torturous. Thank God, this was not the case with this plausible story. Mr. Roth not only made this scenario seem possible, but I bought it lock, stock and barrel.

The book examines the politics and pressures of American life if Charles A. Lindbergh defeated Franklin Delano Roosevelt for the Presidency in 1940. To make matters worse, Lindbergh picks Henry Ford for a major role in his cabinet. For people that are unaware, Lindbergh and Ford were friends of Germany and foes of the Jewish people. Later in the book, Walter Winchell, the gossip columnist for the New York Daily Mirror, runs against Mr. Lindbergh with catastrophic consequences. The setting for this novel is Newark, NJ with Mr. Roth posing as the Narrator for his Jewish family.

What makes this book believable is the fact that Philip Roth would have been the same age, seven to nine years old, as the Philip Roth in the story during this struggle. As a Newark resident, Mr.Roth personally experienced the strain of being persecuted with antisemitic hostilities in the Weequahic section of Newark in the early 1940's.

The frightening thought that I had after finishing the book was : It could have happened! Based on my research, Mr. Lindbergh was actually considered as a Presidential candidate. He definitely wanted America neutral during World War II, and who knows what would have happened if Henry Ford had been elected to political office, or chosen for a Cabinet position. Before you read this classic novel, do yourself a favor and read the bio's of Charles A. Lindbergh and Henry Ford in advance.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: Philip Roth is a many time award winner, including the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral. Four of his books have been made into movies, including Goodbye, Columbus and Portnoy's Complaint. If you are a student of classic writers, you must read at least one Roth novel.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Susanna Clarke's first novel is an instant classic in the prodigious historical fantasy genre. While reading this novel, I thought I had missed my history lesson on early 19th century England. I didn't know that the British Army used magicians to defeat Napoleon at Waterloo. Did you? This wonderful book documents the return of British magic from 1806 through 1817. Like magic, the book at over 782 pages actually seemed much shorter than it was.

I was reminded of Dickens while reading this book. The first reason is the use of archaic spelling, such as "surprize" for "surprise", "shew" for "show," and "chuse" for "choose". The second reason is the evocative character names, such as Mr. Honeyfoot, Lord Sidmouth, Mr. Segundus, and Miss Wintertowne. The third reason is the constant return of theoretical magician Vinculus to the story when I thought the author was finished with him. That reminded me of Orlick from Dickens's Great Expectations.

I enjoyed Clarke's use of 100s of footnotes which gave the story the air of a real history. The pell-mell manner that some authors use footnotes is avoided using crisp and verified direction. The only downside was that their small type often made my eyes strain and water.

The story itself begins with Mr. Norrel, England's self-proclaimed and only practical magician, deciding to bring magic back to England. This makes the theoretical magicians, who believe that actual magic died out years ago, resign, except for Mr. Segundus and the rogue Vinculus. Mr. Norrell moves to London with his servant, John Childermass (see what I mean about the names). From there, Mr. Norrell becomes popular with the Lords and Gentlemen of London. The wife of one of his benefactors, Sir Walter Pole, dies unexpectedly, and Sir Walter asks Mr. Norrell to resurrect her. To assist him, Mr. Norrell conjures up a fairy - the pernicious gentleman with thistle-down hair in the bright green jacket. They succeed; but, the evil fairy refuses to go back to Faerie land and puts an enchantment on Mrs. Pole and Sir Walter's servant, Stephen Black.

Eventually, Mr. Norrell takes on a pupil, Jonathan Strange, but he holds back information from his vast library, not wanting his pupil to better him. Mr. Strange becomes very successful and helps the war effort against France with his powerful magic. He comes back from the war a hero, which leads to a nasty break-up with Mr. Norrell. The gentleman with the thistle-down hair then enchants Mrs. Strange, and Jonathan Strange now thinks she is dead.

Not wanting to divulge the ending, I'll stop here. The last two hundred or so pages are full of magical conflicts between Mr. Norrell, Strange, the enchantees (I made that word up), and the odious gentleman with thistle-down hair. Wow, what a book. This is the best novel that I have read this year! There is no follow up yet, but one is in the works.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: This is Susanna Clarke's first novel, and it won the 2005 Hugo Award for best novel. The wonderful illustrations (and there are many ) were done by Portia Rosenberg. My son bought this novel at a used book store for $6.99, and when I looked at it, I realized that not only was it a first edition, but it was also signed by Susanna Clarke!

Sunday, June 5, 2011


This is a guest review from my eldest son, Deron:

In this techno-thriller by Daniel Suarez, game programmer par exellance Matthew Sobol reaches back from the grave to change the world. This is the first book of two in a series. The second is Freedom.

The story begins with a news item announcing the death of Sobol from brain cancer. Sobol was the billionarie CTO and co-founder of the computer game company CyberStorm Entertainment. Soon after Sobol's death, a programmer with the company is murdered. Then, another. Detective Peter Sebeck is called to investigate. Their murderer isn't a mystery for long, because Det. Sebeck receives an email from the killer - Matthew Sobol.

Before dying, Sobol created a daemon, "A computer program that runs continuously in the background and performs specified operations at predefined times or in response to certain events." This daemon was distributed throughout the world, like a computer virus; it was designed to search the internet for news of Sobol's death and, once found, initiate Sobol's plan. The programmers were murdered because they knew too much about the inner workings of the daemon that they had assisted Sobol in writing.

The daemon then recruits people and businesses worldwide, both legitimate and criminal, through wile and blackmail to carry out Sobol's plan. In response, Det. Sebeck and every conceivable government authority begin their battle against a computer program threatening to change the world order. What is the daemon's ultimate goal? How can one stop a program that is both nowhere and everywhere?

I have a mixed feelings about this book. Its a page turner, has a great hook, and is very enjoyable. However, the writing is uneven and could have be tighter. This is Suarez's first book. Perhaps if this had been his tenth, the writing would have been better. He could have used a better editor.

This book's plot is very dependent on technology and so is packed with technical jargon. That in itself is not bad. Jon Ross, a computer programmer with a shady past, explains many of these terms to Det. Sebeck for the reader. But sometimes, the terms go undefined, and I often feel that the author is technical word name dropping to impress the reader. This is a case where a better writer, like Michael Crichton, would have eliminated the terms to keep the plot flowing.

I recommend this book and will be sure to read the second. However, if you don't think you'd be into a tech-heavy book, you might become confused and bored.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comments: The film rights for this book have been purchased. Unless they are able to reduce the technical jargon to only the essentials, I don't see the movie having a wide appeal beyond the technical crowd.