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.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Since I didn't read any of Bernard Cornwell's previous Saxon Tales, I was intrigued to find out if I could read this fifth book as a stand alone novel. The answer is yes! It is so fluent that there is no need to look up the four previous Saxon Tales for missing information. Well done, Mr. Cornwell. I've often wondered how the author could juggle this series, the Sharpe novels, the Grail Quest series, three other series, and seven stand alone novels without getting confused! All of these novels occur during different periods in the birth of England. Bernard Cornwell remains the historical fiction genius throughout the literary world.

This tale occurs around the year 892 with the continuing story of Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a pagan warlord under oath to the Christian King of Wessex named Alfred. How many of these facts are true is conjecture. We learn that Uhtred is a brilliant leader during the battle for Fearnhamme against the invading Danes (Vikings) led by the furious Harald Bloodhair. The description of the hand to hand combat is done in pure vintage Cornwell clarity.

After the battle, Uhtred is goaded into killing a priest in front of King Alfred and his many clergy cohorts. He breaks his oath to the King and flees north towards Northumbria with some of his loyal followers. There, he meets up with his foster brother Ragnar, Lord of Durham. Wanting to dispose of his uncle at his rightful castle in Bebbanburg, Uhtred is instead cajoled into joing forces with the Danes to end the Christian rule in Wessex once and for all. The rest of the story is classic Saxon versus Dane or Christian versus Pagan. You will have to read this magnificent story yourself to find out what happens in the exciting climax with many twist and turns in the final battles.

The novel is deep and rich in wonderful characters, such as: Aethelflaed, the daughter of Alfred; Haesten, the Dane pirate; and Skade, the most vicious sorceress ever known. This is the fourth book that I've read by Cornwell, and it doesn't disappoint. Like I've said before - can this man describe medieval combat or what?

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: According to Cornwell, there are at least three more Saxon Tale novels to come. The first five focus on Alfred the Great's reign during the ninth century. Uhtred was an English orphan living in Northumbria and adopted by a Dane. This is why Uhtred was brought up as a follower of Thor instead of Christ. The remains of participants involved in the book's final battle were found underground when a railway line was being built in the middle of the nineteenth century.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


A better title for this 1989 Brian Aldiss book would be "Forgotten Novel". Why is this novel written by the great science fiction author so unappreciated? I have done a lot of searching on the internet and can't find a single review of this book. Did the Hugo Award winner lose his touch by writing a realistic novel in lieu of science fiction? I don't know the answer, but I plunged into it anyway. I have to admit that while well written, the plot seemed thin and boring, and nearly every character was a writer or a wannabe writer.

The main character is Clement Winter, a Analytical Psychologist, who is considering writing a book about his recently deceased brother Joseph, a writer of Far East books. Clement is married to Sheila, a.k.a. Green Mouth, the famed fantasy writer of the planet Kerinth. (I think it is a planet, anyway.) See what I mean about the writers? The bulk of the information Clement collects about his brother Joseph is from, you guessed it, letters and journals written by Joseph.

As Clement delves into his brother's life, he finds psychological problems with Joseph that stem from his relationships with his mater and pater (the names he uses for his parents). He also discovers the interesting life Joseph led during the World War II campaign in Burma as a member of the famed English Forgotten Army. One of the best parts of the book is the wartime romance Joseph had in Sumatra with Mandy, a married Chinese woman. Later in life, he meets Lucy, his last love and nuclear disarmament protester.

There are many subplots mainly focusing on Clement and Sheila's on and off again relationship and the mysterious housekeeper Michelin from France. Clement brings up a interesting theory that a person can have an anima vision and reverse his thoughts about the life he led. Is that what Joseph had at the books ending? I struggled with this novel; sometimes I thought I knew what the plot was and other times didn't. This book is forgotten for unknown reasons, but at least it will have one American review. If you can find the book, I recommend reading it for the sake of the 86 year old English master.

RATING: 3 of 5 stars

Comment: Since Aldiss was in Burma during World War II with the Royal Signals Regiment, the segment about Burma was well documented. Did you know that Brian is also a successful abstract artist? He is a two-time Hugo Award and one time Nebula Award winner. His most famous works are the Helliconia Trilogy and the novel Life In the West.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Millennium People

Like Henry David Thoreau and Civil Disobedience in 1849, authors around the world have penned books about social and political change. Did Thoreau want a better government or individuals doing what they thought was right? J.G. Ballard has confused me in this novel, because I don't fully understand what he wants. He writes a tale of middle class rebellion, but offer no solution to their problem. Instead, he just gives up. I think the book would have been more enjoyable if there was a resolution to ease the burden of the middle class in today's society.

Psychologist David Markham learns that Laura, his ex-wife, was killed by a bomb in Heathrow Airport. He also discovers that it wasn't a terrorist group that killed her, but a Bourgeois cell living in London. Who are these people? What do they want? Markham tracks down clues that leads him to a group of people living in a complex called The Estate of Chelsea Marina. He infiltrates the group and meets its cell leader, a female bomber, a priest, and his girlfriend. These people are tired of being the backbone of society. They revolt by giving up their Volvos, smoke bomb travel agencies, and museums; they refuse to pay their mortgages and leave their responsible jobs.

Eventually, Markham meets the leader of the revolt, Dr. Richard Gould, who persuades Markham to join the group. This part I found hard to believe, since the change from protagonist to antagonist is accomplished in a matter of a few pages. Here is a man looking for his ex-wife's killer, now willing to participate in wanton mayhem! The ensuing disturbances are sometimes lightweight, other times jumbled. The conclusion of this book is somewhat muddled and leaves a taste of incongruity in your mouth.

I know that J.G. Ballard is a well respected author, but I don't think this was one of his better efforts. While I enjoyed reading this novel, it is not the brilliant political satire some reviewers are calling it. Is it worth reading? Of course it is. Any Ballard book is mandatory reading.

RATING: 3.5 stars out of 5

Comments: J.G. Ballard died in London in 2009 at the age of 78. His most famous novels are Crash and Empire of the Sun. He is credited with starting the New Wave genre in science fiction. Ballard also had a influence in music, mostly for British post-punk groups.

Monday, August 1, 2011


Here is the latest cliffhanger du jour from George R.R. Martin, the fifth book of the Song Of Ice and Fire series. Hopefully, I won't have to wait six years till the sixth book, The Winds of Winter; although, I have to say that the wait was worth it for this novel. Many questions and mysteries from previous books are resolved, but a host of new ones crop up. When I read this series, I feel like I'm a kid again watching the Flash Gordon serials at the Saturday matinee.

This book runs parallel with A Feast for Crows in part. It follows the characters from the north and across the narrow sea until about page 593, where the timeframe unites both books. Readers are brought up-to-date with Tyrion, Daenerys, King Stannis, Jon Snow, Bran Stark, Davos Seaworth, and Theon Greyjoy, now called Reek. Arya Stark reenters the novel on page 593, Jaime Lannister on 632, Brienne of Tarth on 646, Cersei on 717, and Victarion Greyjoy on page 741. Surprisingly Sansa Stark and Littlefinger are not in the novel at all, even though they are living in the north.

Since it has been so long between novels, I found myself constantly going to the internet to refresh my memory on certain characters. In retrospect, I think it's a good idea to review the four previous books before attempting to read this one. This book is also filled with new characters, especially from The Free Cities, Valyria, and Beyond the Wall. How Martin can keep up with all the strange names from all the Sellsword companies and the people in Meereen and Yunkai is beyond me. It is a bit annoying trying to remember whoYurkhaz Zo Yunzak is, or Reznak Mo Reznak for example. There are many heroes in this novel and numerous scrofulous villains, new and old.

One thing to remember about Martin is that he plays no favorites when it comes time for a hero or villain to die. My one caveat is that this happens multiple times or does it? The innuendos are astonishing through out the book.

The last thing to mention is that you can tell by the book's title, the dragons are finally involved! I will not tell you what part Drogon, Viserion, and Rhaegal play in this book, but it is a big one. This was a pleasure to read, my only regret is that I have finished it. What do you read after this?

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: When reading this series, the reader's best friend is Wikipedia, which does a great job explaining all the characters. I knew J.R.R. Tolkien was an influence on Martin, but didn't know the medieval writings of Bernard Cornwell are also important to Martin. The first novel in this series was published in 1996, currently Martin plans on seven books, but who knows if this series will ever end.