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.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

In One Person

I don't know what caused John Irving to choose this subject matter, but coming from him you know it's not drivel. Does this novel have latent content that the reader is not aware of? This novel digresses from his usual course, though some of his normal settings and themes are intact. No, it doesn't occur in New Hampshire, but very close - it's Vermont. There aren't any actual bears, but the word is used in the book to describe some men. Wrestling plays a big part in this novel (Irving is a Hall of Famer), and many loved ones pass away. While not completely atypical, this novel is very enjoyable and comical. In some chapters, I actually found myself laughing out loud even though this is not a lighthearted book. You know what? Meh, it doesn't matter! It's a wordsmith's look at fifty years of a bisexual's journey through life.

The narrator and main sexual deviant is Billy Abbott, nee William Francis Dean, Jr, son of an homosexual father who departs his family early on for a relationship with a fellow sailor and sodomite. I might be too harsh on these two gentlemen, but they didn't offer much guidance to young Billy. Billy grows up with his divorced mother in the small town of First Sister in Vermont where he eventually attends the all boys school Favorite River Academy and meets many remarkable people. One of the characters is the public librarian, Miss Frost. What he learns from her (or him) is an education to say the least! The wrestler Kittredge and his mom pose a unique challenge to Billy's maturity during his four years at the academy. Only his friendship with Elaine Hadley and Grandpa Harry keep Billy on a compos mentis path. He experiences "wrong" crushes on other males during his school years while trying to find the ripened way to adulthood. His talks with his stepfather, Richard Abbott are familiar and comical at times. John Irving's character development is so good that I felt sympathy for every person in this tale.

The real melancholy part of the novel is Billy life during the 1980s when he meets that lethal disease AIDS! Obviously, many of his homosexual friends are infected. Since this novel takes Billy's life from boyhood through his late sixties, the reader kind of figures out who is going to be affected by this disease, although there are some surprises in this phase of the novel. Who else did I like in this story? How about Aunt Muriel, Uncle Bob, and Billy's European tour companion, Tom Atkins. This novel might not be Irving's best, but it's the most desolate that I have read by him. I think the theme of the book is summed up when Miss Frost says to Billy: "My dear boy, please don't put a label on me - don't make me a category before you get to know me."

One small criticism I have for this novel is the monotonous fact that the main character always becomes a successful writer. It's the reason I don't read John Grisham anymore; how many of The Summons  or The Brethren can you read before your mind spazzes out! John, this was a palatable read, but next time drop the wrestling, the New England setting, the writers, and  Da Bears, as Mike Ditka would say. Overall, I liked the book, but it was not your very best. Lets try a sci-fi or fantasy book next. Can you write one? Of course, I'm jesting. I know you will not write a book of that kind. That's okay because I'll read your next tale of New England anyway. John Irving is still the number one artsy writer of our time as far as I'm concerned.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: Irving's leanings towards sex, wrestling, and writers probably started with his famous The World According to Garp . In this book, if I remember correctly, a nurse takes care of a brain damaged Technical Sergeant Garp dying from combat. She becomes pregnant and delivers to the world: T.S. Garp! What an imagination and story! Mr. Irving is currently working on his fourteenth novel due out in 2015.  

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Stephen King touched on horror with It, tickled us with fantasy in Lisey's Story , emotionally stirred us with the apocalyptic The Stand, dealt with science fiction in Under the Dome, and now he challenges the great Harry Turtledove with this alternate history epic novel! Wow, is there any author more versatile than Stephen King? Maybe his next project is a Broadway play or musical! This man can write, and I'm a big fan. I could have read this 849 page novel in two or three days, but I wanted to savor it like a fine wine. Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that this novel also contains a little of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine .

Everybody my age remembers where they were when JFK was assassinated. I recall being in the back of a pickup as a young Marine in Camp Lejeune returning from some minor detail when a sergeant came out of headquarters and to paraphrase said, "The President has been shot, and we are all on alert". If you had the opportunity to go back in time to save JFK's life, would you? What would you have to sacrifice to accomplish this paradoxical feat? If you achieved your goal and returned to the present time, what would have changed? Did he win reelection, and because of it, change politics as we know it? Is the world safer or in chaos? This is the premise of the story: what would happen if you stopped or killed Lee Harvey Oswald before he had the chance to assassinate JFK? This time travel theory is better known as the Butterfly effect, where a minor change in the past can cause major changes in the future.

The narrator of this novel is Jake Epping, a teacher from Lisbon Falls, Maine. How strange is it for a Stephen King book to be set in Maine? Just Kidding. Anyway, he is called to Al Templeton's Diner, Jake's favorite eatery. Having recently seen Al, Jake is stunned to find the cook older and sick with lung cancer. He learns that Al has a mysterious time travel portal in his pantry! The year is 2011, but he discovers that Al has been in the past as long as four years although only two minutes have gone by in current time. Al tells Jake that when you go through the time portal, you come out in 9/9/1958! Al had the idea to stay there till 11/22/63 and stop Lee Harvey Oswald from killing JFK, but he got cancer and had to return to the present time. Now Al wants Jake to take his mission and go back in time and find out if Oswald acted alone and if he did, eliminate him.

As you would assume, Jake does go back to 9/9/1958 and starts a new life in the past. Jake finds new friends and surly enemies in his quest to track Oswald and his family. The characters he meets for the most part are lovable and memorable, such as, Deke Simmons, Ellen Dockerty, and the love of his life, Sadie Dunhill. Since he makes most of his money betting on sporting events that he already knows the results of, he meets menacing bookies and perilous New Orleans mobsters. The main problem he faces is the past itself. The past opposes Jake in his effort to stop Oswald because it is unfavorable for the future: the Butterfly effect in action. What happens as 11/22/63 approaches is stunning and sorrowful. Well done, Stephen King. I didn't see this ending coming! This was a highly delectable novel with a felicitous conclusion. I highly recommend this alternate history epic.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Stephen King states that the author of   Invasion of the Body Snatchers , Jack Finney, wrote the best time travel novel, Time and Again . Stephen King has written 49 novels and has sold over 350 million copies. While walking on the shoulder of Route five in Maine, King was struck from behind by a minivan on 6/19/99. During the frustration of recovering from his severe injuries, he almost gave up writing. Luckily for his many fans, he reconsidered.