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, October 26, 2012


In 1851 Herman Melville published Moby Dick, and in 2012 China Mieville published the remake. Well, sort of. Actually, the only thing in common is the closeness of the authors' surnames. Let's see...We have Melville's whale ship, the Pequod and Mieville's mole train, the Medes. Not quite the same. Then we have Melville's Ishmael and Queequeg, and Mieville's Sham and Benightly. Still no match. What about the captains? The Pequod has Captain Ahab, the Medes has Captain Naphi, but no match because Naphi is a female and has a prosthetic arm, not a leg. Well, kind of. The "weird fiction" writer has written his best book to date. I truthfully understood his entire novel! Not that Mieville didn't use neologisms or seldom used diction, but after reading three of his previous novels, I finally got my mojo in sync with his style. The fourth book was the charm.

We have at least three concurrent plots. Captain Naphi has a philosophy going against the great giant ivory mole, Mocker-Jack. She chases him from rail to rail as he burst out of the ground from time to time and avoids her harpoons. Sham, aka Shamus Yes ap Soorap, is an apprentice doctor aboard her moler train. Oh, I forgot to tell you that this all happens in good old dirt, not water. Anyway during his first voyage, Sham meets the Shroake siblings, Dero and Caldera, who have lost their parents and have a philosophy of their own...they want to find out what their parents saw in the railsea before they were killed. In the meantime, Sham is kidnapped by train pirates that are following the Shroake siblings, thinking there is treasure to be found and surely Sham must know where since he is a friend of the Shroakes. Also involved in the chase are the Manihiki City Naval trains and the god That Apt Ohm's terrible angel trains. Harassing all the trains are giant burrowing ferrets, owls, earthworms, bees, rabbits and beetles to name a few! The only good creature in the novel is Sham's befriended daybat known as Daybe. I was actually rooting for the daybat through out the novel. Well done Mr. Mieville. I had empathy for one of your creations.

As the novel progresses, all the trains converge in the far reaches of the railsea for a final conflict. The last hundred pages or so are super exciting. This is by far Mieville's best effort. How he came up with all the eruchthonous (his word, not mine) animals is amazing. Can you imagine a world (he doesn't tell us where) where the population depends on moles for their meat, furs, and oils for their daily sustenance? I found this novel to be imaginative and enjoyable. Mr. Mieville still uses words that are archaic or made-up, but the reader gets used to them the same way we got used to listening to debates by William F. Buckley, Jr. I mean when is the last time you heard: offterran, ferronaval, or taxonomise? That's pure China Mieville. In my opinion this book could become a fantasy classic. It's that good.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Moby Dick and Railsea both have captains with destructive obsession traits. Both novels also feature a final confrontation between man and beast. The 1850s are considered golden years in American literature since the following works were also published: Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, Henry David Thoreau's Walden, and Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


A hodgepodge group of people board a flight from Paris to Croydon, and before they land, one turns up dead! Luckily, one of the passengers is the great detective Hercule Poirot. Thus starts another mystery by Agatha Christie, the most read author of all times. Published in 1935, this novel was originally titled Death in the Air. The victim turns out to be a very rich French moneylender, Madame Giselle, aka Marie Morisot. She is found dead in her seat with a red mark on her neck and a poisoned dart in her lap. Did one of the eleven passengers murder her using a blowpipe dart dipped in snake venom, or did a lone wasp sting her in the neck? Who wanted her dead? That is the dilemma facing our mustachioed Belgian detective, who prefers to speak French and lives in England and sometimes in France. When the plane lands in the aerodrome (I love the flavor of 1935 English language) in England, our stout gumshoe is met by Inspector Japp of Scotland Yard.

At the ensuing inquest, Hercule is nearly indicted because the blowpipe is found behind his seat on the aeroplane. Level heads prevail, and Hercule, Inspector Japp, and Monsieur Fournier of the Surete in France combine their efforts to solve this case. Of course the reader knows that Hercule Poirot will solve the mystery using his "little grey cells" without the aide of his fellow detectives. Mais oui! I have to admit that I had no idea who killed Marie Morisot; only our squat Poirot, who depends on logic alone, would have a chance to solve this murder. He eventually whittles down the other ten suspects to four and zeroes in on the murderer, or murderess. It's always so much fun trying to figure out who the killer is in Agatha's novels, but this time I didn't have any luck!

One of the amazing traits of an Agatha novel is how she can develop the characterization of so many suspects while also leaving the reader with a sense of sympathy for most of them. All that in under 300 pages! She was truly a great writer. I also get a sense of what is happening in the world at the time of publication. In this case it's 1935, and World War II is right around the corner. How about the words and expressions she uses, such as; saltcellar (a salt shaker), or Continental Bradshaw (a guide for railway and steamship navigation) or kerb (curb). This is what I love about an Agatha Christie novel - you get a great mystery and the cognizance of the times. Grab a copy of this Hercule novel and try to figure out which suspect is the killer, then move on to the next novel, The A. B. C. Murders.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: Serious readers are all familiar with Agatha's Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries, but not necessarily with the Tommy & Tuppence Mysteries. The couple was portrayed by James Warwick and Francesca Annis in a ten episode series made for T.V. in 1983. There were four full length movies made about this couple along with quite a few novels. Unlike Agatha's other detectives, this couple actually aged in each novel.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


This is the seventh non-fiction book that I've read concerning U.S. presidents in the last year, and it ranks right up there with books about Presidents' Garfield, Cleveland, Mckinley, T. Roosevelt and FDR. Author Charles Bracelen Flood penned equally as well as his fellow historians Candice Millard, Scott Miller, and James Bradley did. In fact, this book was so well written that I felt like I was part of General Grant's inner circle. It's an attention grabber that doesn't let you go and fills the reader with sympathy and admiration for the General and his family during his last year of life.

I'm sure that most Americans don't know that General Grant was a victim of a early Ponzi scheme shortly after serving his second term as President of the United States and just before he was stricken with throat and mouth cancer. (Did he really smoke twenty five cigars a day?) Grant's son Buck had worked on Wall Street in finance with Misters' Ward and Fish. These people formed a investment banking firm with the General even though Grant knew nothing about the business. But Ward and Fish knew they could draw in many investors using the General's name. They did, but they bankrupted the company and left the General broke just as he found out that he had cancer. Suddenly he was destitute and dying! How would his family survive? He didn't even have a military pension since he had waived his right to it when he became President of the United States, and there wasn't a pension for that job at the time. Can you believe that?

Grant started writing articles about his Civil War campaigns for the Century Magazine to earn some money for his family. It was later suggested by the magazine that he write his Personal Memoirs , but it became apparent that Grant's stipend wasn't fair. To his rescue comes the great writer Mark Twain! He has his own publishing firm, Webster and company, that publishes his own novels. He offers Grant a generous deal that will make his family well-to-do after Grant passes. The race is on...can Grant finish this two volume memoir before he dies? He hunkers down at his house on 3 East 66th street in Manhattan and starts the task. One thing I learned reading this book is that Grant was a very loyal and trusting man, which is why he had so many scandals when he was President (how about eleven?). He was such a fair man that he insisted General Lee and his officers not be tried for treason after they surrendered at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. I wonder what Grant would have thought about Mark Twain had he found out that Twain was a deserter from the Confederate States of America? We will never know.

As an symbolic progenitor for a young America, Grant refused financial help from people like William H. Vanderbilt, the richest man in America, and P.T. Barnum because his pride deemed that he earn every dollar on his own. Grant was truly an honorable and dependable man. As a ex-Marine I say "Semper Fi, General". I enjoyed the anecdotes pertaining to his Civil War soldier friends on both sides. The recollections of Grant's granddaughter Julia was both informative and enjoyable. As the final chapters close on Grant, he moves to Mt. McGregor in Saratoga, NY to finish his memoirs relying heavily on his doctors and his son Fred to finish the books. This book is a must for any Civil War historian or strategist. If you want to read a top-notch book that is both somber and intense, then this is it!

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: After reading this book, I had the feeling that Grant was a military savant, his other abilities too trusting and naive to be an competent President. The President had the mistaken idea that his staff had the same moral obligations as he. This outright acceptance of their conduct led to many problems for Grant while he was President. I think the historian Eric Foner said it foremost when he said, "Grant was a decent guy who tried his best". Typical of Grant, his last words were "I hope that nobody will be distressed on my account." He is interred along with his beloved wife Julia in N.Y.City's Riverside Park.