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 26, 2013


The publisher sent me an autographed copy of this novel to review:

Whereas young-adult (YA) fiction might not be my cup of tea, I do recognize a well structured novel when I read one. And I think this novel by Matt Lazar and Amanda Thomas is a good example of that rationalization. It’s a simple story about a young Korean girl coming to Oxford on a scholarship. Her eastern ways are misunderstood by some western people, and inadvertently mistaken as standoffish. However there is one person at Oxford who hates her merely because of a long- standing belligerence between Korea and Japan. This is the setting for a somewhat exciting novel, although fairly predictable. The fact that our heroine, Sun Hi Kim, plays the popular video game, World of Warcraft, to ease her tensions in this new and strange western world results in the book’s title Warrior Girl.  Notwithstanding, I found that title hard to swallow based on how many times Sun Hi faints when faced with adversity. The authors paint Sun Hi as a beautiful fragile vase with a concerned distrust for western men and their motives. The writers did such a commendable job that a learned person ostensibly falls in love with Sun Hi. The reader finds himself endorsing her every move. Great job in the empathy category by the writing duo.

As Sun Hi enters her Freshman year, she encounters Marina, a loudmouth spoiled roommate; Miles, the Oxford rowing captain; Adam, a infatuated rower; and our anti-hero, Kaito Suzuki of the famous family from Japan. As the economics Professor Ellison announces that one student in the class will win a scholarship to Harvard in a student exchange, the drama unfolds. At the same time, Miles and Adam are vying for the attention of the beauty from Korea. In one way or the other, Miles gets Sun Hi to accept the job of cox on the rowing team. This is the second point that’s hard to accept, since I know how important the job of a coxswain is to rowing. Would they take a Korean girl that has just arrived to lead them in the famous race against Cambridge? Oh well, it makes for good story, besides Miles is in love, or is he? I want you to know that I enjoyed this story, but there were some elements that irritated me, such as how many times we read that Sun Hi was “smoothing down her skirt”. Okay, enough said ( for awhile ).

Meanwhile, the vile Kaito, full of animosity for Sun Hi, schemes to win that Harvard scholarship, and to derail any chance Sun Hi has to win the coveted prize. This is another concept that troubles me. The Japanese are known honorable people, and Kato’s perverse hatred for Sun Hi didn’t make any sense to me. Even though it seems like I’m criticising this novel, I'm pointing out changes that would have made this novel stronger. I think that the character of Kaito should have had an alternate reason for hating Sun Hi. Anyway, the drama explodes to a expressive conclusion as the Cambridge race; Miles and Adam’s obsession with Sun Hi; and Kaito’s chicanery meet head on. The impact is worthy of your reading this highly recommended YA novel.

Now, the only problem I have with the rating of this book as young- adult fiction is the attempted rape scene. According to Wikipedia...” The American Library Association defines a young-adult as someone between the ages of twelve and eighteen”. If that’s true, twelve is too young to read and understand that scene. On the other hand, I know that some publishers rate YA literature as low as ten years old and as high as twenty five years old. So the age is unclear, but the scene is real, and the novel should be in the hands of someone eighteen, or older.That being said, I do recommend this captivating novel by Lazar and Thomas.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Author Sherman Alexie on why he writes YA literature: “As a child, I read because books–violent and not, blasphemous and not, terrifying and not–were the most loving and trustworthy things in my life. I read widely, and loved plenty of the classics so, yes, I recognized the domestic terrors faced by Louisa May Alcott’s March sisters. But I became the kid chased by werewolves, vampires, and evil clowns in Stephen King’s books. I read books about monsters and monstrous things, often written with monstrous language, because they taught me how to battle the real monsters in my life.

And now I write books for teenagers because I vividly remember what it felt like to be a teen facing everyday and epic dangers. I don’t write to protect them. It’s far too late for that. I write to give them weapons–in the form of words and ideas-that will help them fight their monsters. I write in blood because I remember what it felt like to bleed.”   

According to complexmedia, some of the top YA novels of all time include:
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry , by Mildred D. Taylor: “This powerful novel, winner of the 1977 Newbery Medal, sheds light on the horrors of racism through the experiences of the Logan family, who are living in Mississippi during the height of the Great Depression.”

Watership Down , by Richard Adams. A personal favorite of this reviewer: “If you get into this book expecting a story about cute bunnies, you're going to have a rough time. Richard Adams' classic rabbit novel is a lot more violent than your last outing with Beatrix Potter.”

Matilda , by Roald Dahl: “Though many of us know Matilda because of the film adaptation, lucky readers first encountered this supernatural tale as a novel by Roald Dahl, one of the most treasured authors of children's literature.”

Hatchet , by Gary Paulsen: “Think back to when you were 13. Now, imagine that you're on a plane headed to your father when the pilot suffers a heart attack. The plane crashes, but you survive. You're stranded with nothing but the gift your mother gave you for your birthday: a hatchet. Because, what else would you give a 13-year-old? Call of Duty? No.”

Dune , by Frank Herbert: “With a massive cult following, Dune is easily one of the most popular science fiction novels ever published. But it's also a great novel for teens, thanks to its teenage protagonist.” 

Outsiders , By S.E. Hinton: “S.E. Hinton began writing this novel when she was just 15; Outsiders was published by the time she was 18. Yes, when she was concerned with writing one of the greatest young adult novels ever, you were worrying about passing your driver's test.”

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian , by Sherman Alexie: “This bestseller covers issues that, unfortunately, don't see enough discussion in pop culture: the racism that Native Americans regularly face; the tenuous relationships between reservations and white communities; and the alcoholism and poverty that too often afflicts the Native American community.”

Thursday, May 23, 2013


The author sent me a copy of this novel to review:

No sophomore jinx for William Rosencrans! When I reviewed Willie's first novel, The Epiphanist, I said it was a cross between fantasy and weird fiction. What do I compare this work to? How about a balance of Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein and Mel Brooks 1974 movie Young Frankenstein? Some of the ten tales are scary; some are funny. The supposed writer is V.V. Swigferd Gloume, but really, it's Willie Rosencrans in his H.P. Lovecraft costume writing these macabre short horror stories. Even the picture on the front cover is a revised Lovecraft. Reshape Lovecraft's head, change the stoic look to a scowl, and what do you get? That's right, Gloume! I'm not surprised that Willie’s tales seem to spoof Lovecraft's style because good ole H.P. is the grandfather of weird fiction and gothic horror. Since most of the tales deal with the psychology of man, or pure mental fear, I am also reminded of Edgar Allan Poe's short story The Fall of the House of Usher. Okay, one last comparison: Both H.P. Lovecraft and the fictional Gloume are known racist. Gloume, talking about the foreigner's invasion of England said, ”For their number, disgorged daily from the same ships Liverpool prospered by, grew even greater.” He hated what he called "the others".

The first tale, Hysteria horrificans, is of the scary variety. How would you like a mons veneris (I’m not going to tell you what that is!) crawling after you in a hot and steamy room filled with thorny roses! The second tale,The Veil Betwixt, is also scary and deals with a man, a pentagram, and nine goblins that come a knocking. Do I have your interest yet? The third tale, Metempsychosis, is very funny and deals with a 37 year old seismologist hit by a horse bus, and later thinks to himself, ”Somehow the process of reincarnation had got bungled.” By the way, all of these tales are written by Gloume under a pseudonym with each publisher going out of business soon after publishing his tainted tale. The fourth tale, The Hundred Doors of Kanhaksha the Mazdakite, deals with the adventures of Knoal Heftmonks looking for a sacred baresman, and frankly, I didn’t connect with this tale. The fifth tale Vile Sickness of This World  Born Not is Gloume at his racist best. He pits Rodgebert Croagmire against the "others". So in my estimation, the first half of the novel produced three excellent tales and two "take it, or leave it" tales.

The sixth tale, A Haunting at the House of Quaddock, is a enjoyable story. A man goes to the House of Quaddock for a haircut. As Mr. Quaddock starts the haircut, ”the door opened, and, accompanied by the jingling of bells, an unremarkable gentleman entered the shop.” The seventh tale, Flesh of My Flesh, features a tall, blind, and powerful woman living with her son in an ancient stone keep. This is one of the scary tales, and my advice to visitors of the keep is to stay away! The eighth tale, And Softly Wailed the Child, is of the horror variety, and it is one of the best tales. It involves a Board of Health inspector named Clockpayne inspecting the uncleanliness of Chinatown in England. Did you ever hear of a breadfruit called a durian? Neither did I, but it exists. The ninth tale, Manuscript (Found beneath a Service Pipe), is a solid five star horror tale! We have the mad Dr. Donjonierre practising vivisection (ouch!) while looking for revenge. The last tale, The Hideous Dereliction of Mrs. Blaughducks, is absolutely hilarious. Did you know that when you die your sphincter muscle opens and lets your soul out. Ha. But if it doesn’t close, other wandering souls can enter. This is the premise of Mr. Gloume’s final tale. The second half of the book produced five tales that I have appraised as winners.

As I typed this review, every other word seemed to be underlined in red, telling me it was misspelled. Charles Dickens couldn’t come up with more colorful or unusual character names. In my opinion, Mr. Rosencrans has written a very clever and imaginative novel. Lets hope that rousing sales of this novel wake up the sleeping giant publishers. Once again, I highly recommend a William Rosencrans novel.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: Since Rosencrans style seems to be similar to H. P. Lovecraft’s, let’s talk about H.P. He was an American horror writer (8/20/1890-3/15/1937), who may be the grandfather of Weird fiction. His writing style was different from most authors of his time. Wikipedia says: “Often in Lovecraft's works the protagonist is not in control of his own actions, or finds it impossible to change course. Many of his characters would be free from danger if they simply managed to run away; however, this possibility either never arises or is somehow curtailed by some outside force...” See what I mean.

The following are some famous quotes by H.P. Lovecraft: “Throw a stick, and the servile dog wheezes and pants and stumbles to bring it to you. Do the same before a cat, and he will eye you with coolly polite and somewhat bored amusement. And just as inferior people prefer the inferior animal which scampers excitedly because someone else wants something, so do superior people respect the superior animal which lives its own life and knows that the puerile stick-throwings of alien bipeds are none of its business and beneath its notice. The dog barks and begs and tumbles to amuse you when you crack the whip. That pleases a meekness-loving peasant who relishes a stimulus to his self importance. The cat, on the other hand, charms you into playing for its benefit when it wishes to be amused; making you rush about the room with a paper on a string when it feels like exercise, but refusing all your attempts to make it play when it is not in the humour. That is personality and individuality and self-respect -- the calm mastery of a being whose life is its own and not yours -- and the superior person recognises and appreciates this because he too is a free soul whose position is assured, and whose only law is his own heritage and aesthetic sense.”

About his youth he said: “I have dwelt ever in realms apart from the visible world; spending my youth and adolescence in ancient and little-known books, and in roaming the fields and groves of the region near my ancestral home. I do not think that what I read in these books or saw in these fields and groves was exactly what other boys read and saw there; but of this I must say little, since detailed speech would but confirm those cruel slanders upon my intellect which I sometimes overhear from the whispers of the stealthy attendants around me.”   

And finally, H.P. on horror: “The appeal of the spectrally macabre is generally narrow because it demands from the reader a certain degree of imagination and a capacity for detachment from everyday life. Relatively few are free enough from the spell of the daily routine to respond to tappings from outside, and tales of ordinary feelings and events, or of common sentimental distortions of such feelings and events, will always take first place in the taste of the majority; rightly, perhaps, since of course these ordinary matters make up the greater part of human experience.” If you have read these quotes, you have to admit that this man was very complicated.  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Rambling Comments #3

Recently, I did a review on The Pecan Man by Cassie Dandridge Selleck, and gave the novel a neutral rating. I was surprised to hear from this very gracious and talented author. The following is our conversation, which can also be seen in the comment section of my review of her novel on Amazon:

C. Selleck says:

All valid points and I do appreciate your taking the time to write such a detailed review. I would never compare myself to Harper Lee or her writing, but readers have made frequent comparisons in reviews, which will always delight me. Little middle name is Lee, too, and many of my name choices are nods to people or places that are special to me. None of it was ever intended to inspire comparison to or borrow from Lee's famous novel. The most common critical review has been my choice to end the novel as I did, and I can't even say that I disagree. I spent a great deal of time in rewrites over a ten year period of raising children and working full-time. But every time I started to add more to the book, it felt awkward. I believed that the protagonist Ora Lee told the story she wanted to tell. She was an old woman who set out to clear a man's name. Once that was done, her story was told. Would this have been a different novel if it had been edited by professionals and published by a big name house? No doubt. But it was a first novel by a self-published writer, and I am happy that it is doing so well in sales. And I cannot help but be pleased that it inspires some emotional and spirited critiques, whether negative, positive OR neutral. Thanks again for putting thought and time into your review...and thank you for reading my "little novel" as I so often call it.
Rick O says:

Thank you for your comments. I never like to write a one, or two line "yea", or "nay" review. I am always appreciative when an author contacts me. Since you read my review, you know that I think you have a budding talent. I guess that I'm a little disappointed that you missed a opportunity to write an epic type story by cutting it so short. However, your reasons for not prolonging the story are more than valid and highly honorable. I find the southern gothic genre interesting and on the rise. Please see my review of your book on my blog:, I talk about three of the greatest southern gothic novels ever written. I'll look forward to reviewing your future works.

C. Selleck says:

It's funny, because I had a discussion with someone who had read your review yesterday. I said, "After the initial 'ouch', I felt encouraged by much of the critique." Just so you will know...I have recently applied to a college program to work on a BFA in Creative Writing. Having been raising my daughters for 37 years (youngest now in college), it is now my turn to get the degree I always wanted. Publishing this work has shown me exactly what you said, and given me the courage to push forward in the writing career several teachers told me I would have. I do appreciate your comments. Going to go read your blog now. And, by the way, sales of The Pecan Man are going well and will actually pay for my degree, if they keep going as they are. That alone is reason to rejoice and to appreciate the opportunity to self-publish, which would not have been possible ten years ago. One last thought...I don't think the "comparison" is meant to hold my writing up to the standard and skill of the authors of TKAM and The Help, but when people ask, "What is your book about?"...the answer from myself and others is "along the lines of..." Of course, I always say it's Southern Fiction, but that doesn't really do the work. When I set out to tell this story, it was exactly that - an exercise in storytelling, both for myself and for the protagonist. And my goal was NOT to make Ora some great White Savior. I wanted her to be flawed and meddling and out of control. I wanted my characters to be real and relatable and struggling to make it in the world. The story unfolded as I wrote and much of the twists and turns I did not foresee myself, which many find hard to believe. This may actually be my downfall, but it is what it is. Hoping the work I do over the next several years hones my craft to a point where I hold my own against the greats. :-)
C. Selleck says:

Another aside...I read Tobacco Road about three months ago. I have always been a fan of Southern Fiction. I guess that comes under the "duh" category. :-) 
Rick O says:

Thanks for visiting my blog! The boy reading 'The Hobbit' is my nine year old grandson, Kai. He has already written a guest review on my blog: The Lightning Thief ' by Rick Riordan. I'm molding him into a reader and reviewer- just kidding. I am so happy that your book proceeds will pay for your degree. I did notice that your sales on Amazon were very high for a self published book ( I bought one ). Well done! By the way in my Southern Gothic comment section, I didn't even mention the great William Faulkner and his ' The Sound and the Fury.' I wish you success in your creative Writing course and in your future novels ( longer than 142 pages & with numbered pages! )
C. Selleck says:

I am in the process of having the novel paginated. That was the one thing that I just couldn't get formatted right using the tools provided by Amazon. I have finally hired a "professional" to tweak it to address this issue. BTW, this was one of the main complaints from one book club's readers. A book club in Roanoke chose to read The Pecan Man alongside To Kill a Mockingbird for their March meeting. Wish I'd been a fly on THAT wall...or maybe not. :-) Best to you and your grandson! Keep 'im reading!
Rick O says:

I honestly thought you left out the page numbers on purpose. The ergodic style of literature goes against the rules of prose. If you go to my blog and type in 'House of Leaves' in the box on the upper left corner- the review and comments will come up. It's fairly interesting. It's really surprising to me that these reviewers and book clubs have gravitated to Harper Lee's novel and yours. I think it would be great if one of these clubs published their views. It really doesn't matter what anybody thinks about your book, because all this publicity is great for your book sales. Also, I didn't mean that you write in the ergodic style, just bringing out a point to a southern gothic writer.
C. Selleck says:

Had to go look up ergodic style. I had never heard of it. So, was just lack of technical aptitude, not by design. I was personally okay without pagination, but it has come up more than once. A Gainesville, FL book club invited me to sit in on their meeting featuring The Pecan Man. It was amazing to listen to a group of highly intelligent people discussing the characters and their motivations. I had to sit silently for the first hour and then answered questions afterwards. It was an amazing experience and largely positive, though some had the same issues as you pointed out in your review. When asked if I would change anything now that I have put the novel out there and had additional feedback, I still said "no". Again, maybe it would have been different if I had the benefit of an editor, agent or publisher. I might not have had much choice in the matter. I write very organically, creating characters first and paying little attention to plot. It has its drawbacks and I think they are obvious in this work. I do hope my next novel is an improvement, even though I have to stick to my guns about telling the story Ora wanted to tell. I was curious, also, how you came to purchase the book? Just in case I didn't say this before, I was encouraged by much of what you said. It took a bit to get past the parts that stung, but Nelle Harper Lee was asked once what she thought was important to know about being a novelist and she said, paraphrased, "you have to develop a thick skin." I agree. Of course I want everyone to love The Pecan Man, but that is simply unrealistic. I absolutely loathe Hemingway, and I am most likely in the minority. There is an audience for everyone and mine has been incredibly encouraging so far. I have to go check out your reference regarding ergodic. Learn something new every day.
Rick O says:

To answer your question on how I heard about your novel, I read another first time author's novel called 'The Snow Child' by Eowyn Ivey and on Amazon your book was listed under the section...Customers who bought this item also bought... And I clicked on your novel and the story sounded interesting, so I bought it. I did a review on her book on my blog- it was a good effort. As far as self publishing goes, you must know that it's been happening to new writers forever. The following best sellers had to be self published: Mark Twain's 'Huckleberry Finn', L. Ron Hubbard's 'Dianetics', and Walt Whitman's 'Leaves of Grass', to name a few. I recently did a review on a wonderful novel called 'The Plum Tree' by Ellen Marie Wiseman, and she told me her novel was rejected 72 times. By the way, that had to be some experience sitting in on a 'book club' review. You had to be proud. I try to do reviews on all genres, but recently I've had so many authors sending me their books for a 'read and review' that I find it hard to read what I want for pleasure.
C. Selleck says:

Sitting in on the book club review was nothing less than exhilarating. And they really didn't pull any punches that I could tell. I had workshopped the novel for a year, so I had pretty much heard everything at one point or another. Being in a writers' group is helpful for accepting critique. You learn to "consider the source." If a writer you respect gives you a note, you pay attention. And you learn that you can't please everyone. You have to remain true to your characters and to your own intent. I think the first time I really believed I might have talent as a writer was when this particular writers' group had an "argument" during critique about what my character would or would not do. They simply NEVER did that. It is orderly and thoughtful and one person speaks at a time. So that was a thrill for me prior to publishing.But when this book club discussed the characters with great insight and passion, it was just a total high for me. Like I said, whether positive, negative or neutral, when your work is discussed with great animation, it is exciting. I think it is important for me to start believing that I can be a writer of significance. As you said, I need to get my act together. :-)
Rick O says:

Absolutely! You do have talent and that's what I said in my review's last paragraph. I meant it when I said you missed an opportunity to write a significant novel. These one, or two liner reviews that you are getting do nothing for you. They say "Oh, it's wonderful, then I check their past history and they did one, or two reviews. I think that's why we are having this talk, because you know that I somewhat understand literature. To have made your novel great, you would have had to write 350-500 pages. Second of all, I would have drawn out the confrontation between Marcus, Skipper, and the Pecan Man into more depth and pages. Marcus died too quickly, he should have been allowed to reach base safely. This way the situation would have been allowed to fester, and boil over to a stunning result. Do you see what I'm trying to tell you? By the way, thanks for reading my review and comments on 'House of Leaves', I try to read as many genres as possible.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Mais oui! Our small man with large moustaches and an egg shaped head is back. Does he live in England, speak French, and come from Belgium? Eh bien. It must be Agatha Christie’s famous flatfoot - Hercule Poirot. This is my fifth Poirot mystery, and as customary, I didn’t solve the murder. (I did solve Death on the Nile, so a twenty percent average isn't bad.) In this investigation, even the great Hercule was stumped for awhile as he thought to himself, “Is it possible that I am growing old?” But he must have been doing his job since one of the suspects, Jane Olivera, said to him, “I loathe the sight of you - you bloody little bourgeois detective!” That’s the Hercule that I know and love. Agatha wrote 37 Hercule Poirot mysteries; the final one was Curtain: Poirot's Last Case. She wrote the novel during World War II but didn’t publish it till 1975, a year before her own death. Agatha was a master at writing main plots, creating subplots, and plot twists. Her books usually had around ten suspects, yet Agatha was able to inject "reader’s sympathy" into most of the characters, so the reader was freely empowered to root for the innocence of their favorite hypothetical felon. She certainly achieved that in this novel.

So it’s time for Hercule’s six month oral checkup, and he has the same fears as you and I. The superior Hercule was not himself. On page nine, ”His morale was down to zero. He was just that ordinary, craven figure, a man afraid of the dentist’s chair.” While in the waiting room, our sleuth observes the other patients. There was a military looking man and a seemingly angry young man flipping pages of magazines. Hercule has his appointment with Doctor Henry Morley and prepares to leave after some minor filling work. Hercule learns that the Doc’s assistant, Gladys Neville, is missing, and an important banker, Alistair Blunt, is on his way for his dental appointment. On Poirot's way out, he observes a fierce looking man in the waiting room and outside, a lady leaving a taxi who has torn her buckle off her shoe as she exited. Later that day, Hercule is informed by Chief Inspector Japp (you remember him from previous novels) of Scotland Yard that Doctor Morley has shot himself. How can that be? The Doc seemed normal and trouble free. Hercule Poirot suspects murder and gathers a list of suspects.

The possible perpetrators are: Doctor Reilly, Morley’s partner; Mr. Amberiotis, the last patient; Miss Sainsbury Seale, the taxi lady; Howard Raikes, the American; Alistair Blunt, the banker; Frank Carter, the angry young man; Gladys Neville, the missing assistant; Jane Olivera, Blunt’s niece; and Alfred Biggs, the murdered Doc’s page boy. Then the unthinkable happens - Mr. Amberiotis turns up dead at his hotel from an overdose of adrenaline and novocaine. Was he poisoned by Doctor Morley before the Doc committed suicide, or was he murdered?

Hercule Poirot is stumped. Later in the novel, he is in church with Alistair Blunt, Jane Olivera, her mom, and Howard Raikes, while listening to the morning sermon, the light bulb goes off: “It was like a kaleidoscope-shoe buckles, 10-inch stockings, a damaged face, the low tastes in literature of Alfred the page boy, the activities of Mr. Amberiotis, and the part played by the late Mr. Morley, all rose up and whirled and settled themselves down into a coherent pattern.” Okay, Mr. Poirot’s noggin is working again. Now is the time that you should grab your own copy of this highly recommended mystery.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: What advice did Agatha give to writers? According to Gypsyscarlett’s Weblog: “When you begin to write, you are usually in the throes of admiration for some writer, and, whether you will or no, you cannot help copying their style. Often it is not a style that suits you, and so you write badly. But as time goes on you are less influenced by admiration. You will admire certain writers, you may even wish you could write like them, but you know quite well that you can’t. If I could write like Elizabeth Bowen, Muriel Sparks, or Grahame Greene, I should jump to high heaven with delight, but I know that I can’t, and it would never occur to me to attempt to copy them. I have learned that I am me, that I can do the things that, as one might put it, me can do, but I cannot do the things that me would like to do.”

Agatha on confidence: “You start into it, inflamed by an idea, full of hope, full indeed of confidence. If you are properly modest, you will never write at all, so there has to be one delicious moment when you have thought of something, know just how you are going to write it, rush for a pencil, and start in exercise book buoyed up with exaltation. You then get into difficulties, don’t see  your way out, and finally manage to  accomplish more or less what you first meant to accomplish, though losing confidence all the time. Having finished it, you know it is absolutely rotten. A couple of months later you wonder if it may not be all right after all.”

And finally, Agatha explains why a writer shouldn’t critique another author’s work: ”An early story of mine was shown to a well-known authoress by a kindly friend. She reported on it sadly but adversely, saying that the author would never make a writer. What she really meant, though she did not know it herself at the time because she was an author and not a critic, was that the person who was writing was still an immature and inadequate writer who could not yet produce anything worth publishing. A critic or an editor might have been more perceptive, because it is their profession to notice the germs of what may be. So I don’t like criticizing and I think it can easily do harm.”  

Friday, May 10, 2013


Cassie Dandridge Selleck writes a 142 page short story that some reviewers are comparing to  Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird . Are you kidding me? The only comparison that I can see is that the narrator of the novel, Ora Lee Beckworth, has Lee in her name. And okay there is a rape and the accused is black, but in this novel the victim is not white. There is no righteous white lawyer trying to right a wrong. Don’t misconstrue me, because I liked the story, but get real! Oh yea, the town in Harper lee’s book is Maycomb, and in this story it’s Mayville. So there you go with all the similarities that this reviewer found. Harper Lee’s novel has reached legend status considering her Pulitzer Prize winning novel was her only novel. Some people don’t even give her credit for that, saying In Cold Blood author Truman Capote really wrote To Kill a Mockingbird ( Harper Lee’s childhood friend ). Anyway enough of that, Selleck’s story does seem to come out of that Southern Gothic genre with the local language adding a lot of flavor to the times and location ( Florida in the 1970s ). The writer did afford the reader with enough reasons to feel empathy for the characters in such a short story. By the way, why aren’t the pages numbered? Wouldn’t that be considered ergodic?

Our narrator, eighty two year old Ora Lee Beckworth, relates a tale of bigotry and wrongful justice that happened in the past when she was fifty seven. It also tells the story of her black lifelong maid Blanche and her five children. No, the story doesn’t compare to Kathryn Stockett’s The Help ! The seven year old daughter of the maid Blanche, Gracie, apparently is raped by the white Chief of Police’s son, Skipper. Will anybody believe her? Would it be better to keep the incident under wraps, and tell the young girl that it was a bad dream? At the same time, Ora has hired a black homeless man, who lives in the woods. His name is Eldred Mims, known as the Pecan Man ( pronounced Pee’-can, according to the author ). Pecan mows lawns, works in gardens and has a mysterious background. As time goes by, Blanche’s soldier son, Marcus, comes home for Thanksgiving at a family gathering at Ora’s house. Marcus finds out what happened to his sister! He leaves in haste to find answers and runs into Pecan and later the infamous Skipper. This is where the story flares up. What follows is a tale of woe, guilt, injustice, and frustration. This type of story is a gut check for every decent human being. This is what can happen when any kind of racism occurs and is allowed to flourish.

Now, did I like the novel? Yes and no. Yes, because it exposes the ugly head of racism. No, because the story was very predictable and could have been written with a much stronger slant. I do think Cassie did a yeoman’s job and will probably be more robust and energetic in her next effort. I thought the story ended way too soon, and by doing that, Cassie lost her chance to write an significant novel. Southern Gothic Literature needs some new blood like the previously mentioned Kathryn Stockett. Come on, Cassie, lets get your act together! As far as recommending this novel, I’m going to put on my poker-face and declare neutrality.

RATING: 3 out of 5 stars

Comment: The Southern Gothic genre needs a comeback of sort, since the major classics were written in the 1930s, not counting the above mentioned Harper Lee 1960 classic. So what does this reviewer rate as his top three? Well, the following three novels have to be on everybody’s top ten: The number one Southern Gothic has to be Margaret Mitchell’s 1937 Pulitzer Prize winning Gone with the Wind . Like Harper Lee, this was Mitchell’s only published work. Set during the Civil War in Georgia, the novel is filled with famous lines. How about Scarlett saying:” As God is my witness, as God is my witness they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, I'll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again.” Wow, is that strong, or what. And of course, Rhett Butler’s: “ "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

Then we have Erskine Caldwell’s 1932 novel Tobacco Road . It’s the story of poor white tenant cotton farmers during the Great Depression. The novel is mainly about the Lester family. Some great quotes? How about Jeeter Lester saying: ”Why, Ada here never...never spoke a word to me for the first ten years we was married. Heh! Them was the happiest ten years of my life.” How about Lov Bensey’s famous line: “I ain’t tradin’ turnips with nobody.” You have to love these novels that have the color of the local language. Not everybody liked this novel, Slate Magazine had this to say: “Tobacco Road, set in a fictionalized version of Caldwell’s home town, lays bare the story of the Lesters, the poorest, whitest, trashiest, horniest family in rural Georgia.”

The third book is also a Erskine Caldwell effort, it’s God's Little Acre . Published in 1933, it is also filled with a obsession for sex and greed. It features Ty Ty Walden ( no mistake- the name is right ) digging for gold on one acre of his farm. In the novel, Uncle Felix says: “Mr. Ty Ty, you oughta' be out raisin' cotton. You're a good farmer - that is, you USED to be. Why, Mr. Ty Ty, you can raise more cotton on this land in one season than you can find gold in a whole lifetime. It's a waste of everything, Mr. Ty Ty, diggin' them holes all over the place.” Bookrags says this about the plot: “There are two major story lines in God's Little Acre. One is focused on Ty Ty Walden's search for gold buried, he thinks, somewhere on his land. The other concerns his son-in-law Will Thompson's efforts to reopen the cotton mill, which has been shut down by the owners due to a workers' strike. Both men are obsessed by their goals and are willing to risk all, their families and even their lives, to achieve these ends. Ty Ty's efforts seem the most foolish. He is not a wealthy man, but he does own his own land, land which could be used for planting and growing. Instead, he has let his acreage lie untended while he and two of his sons waste their time digging huge holes in the fields, turning his farm into a place of devastation.”

Saturday, May 4, 2013


The author sent me a copy of this novel to review:

The confused world of augmented reality resurfaces in this mystery/spy novel set in the year 2052 by Thomas K. Carpenter. I only say that because this theme is my least favorite when I’m reading sci-fi or fantasy novels. I’m reminded of Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End, the 2007 Hugo Award winner for best novel. I disliked that novel! Vernor spoke of a world in which “ ...the virtual and the real are a seamless continuum, layers of reality built on digital views seen by a single person or millions, depending on your choice.” Well, here we go again. The difference is that I didn’t dislike Carpenter’s novel. Don’t get me wrong, I was still perplexed, but so were some of his characters. One of the main "good" characters, Zel Aurora, thinks to herself on page 193, “Damn it. Even with you I don’t always understand what’s going on. It’s like having a play in a foreign country explained to you. I hear the explanation, but I don’t know what it means.” Amen, Zel. I had the same problem reading this avant-garde novel. That being said, I think the author is highly competent. Some of the character’s lines are clever, such as Jartelle, a reporter, reflecting on an affair he had with a girl named Anesha: ”I cannot be so blind to think it is a relationship. Still, what’s the difference, it’s only a title. Journalist. Prostitute. Some say they are no different, and the latter pays better.” There are quite a few of these kinds of snippets throughout the novel. This was a well written and thought through novel that just happened to be about a topic that I don’t like.

The story is about our world in the future where Sagan’s Law has been enacted, a world-wide one child policy. The population is still too high, and there are many devious plans to lower it further. The cost of health care is only available for the rich. Limbs can be regrown. ARNet computers (the Digital Sea) are embedded into the body in order for a person to change their outward appearance and viewed surroundings. But can you now be controlled and monitored by unknown forces? Can some people take this a step further and become invisible at times? These are some of the questions in this new complex world. Mr. Carpenter weaves a unique tale that tries to unravel this complicated and puzzling dilemma that man has enacted on himself. Well done, Mr. Carpenter, you had this reviewer guessing, chapter after chapter.  

Our heroine is Zel Aurora, a reality hacker savant, who has fashioned her own augmented reality system called the Pandora. Her child lies in bed dying from a shaking sickness. She contacts the crime lord Djed, whom she has betrayed in the past, to seek employment in exchange for enough funds to get hemangioblast therapy for her daughter, Liala. The Djed, who speaks to her as a projection, wants to find out who is trying to start a war between India and Pakistan. They are interfering with his business. She agrees to take the job but must take Djed’s Russian assassin, Sasha, with her. Meanwhile, a Japanese politician is beheaded by an invisible assassin and the seasoned reporter Jartelle suspects a bigger situation brewing and starts to follow leads (don’t worry about all the ‘ands’, I’m invoking polysyndeton syntax). Jartelle stays one step ahead of Zel and Sasha as they seek the answer to the plot against humanity, seemingly from a mysterious corporation called Ecoverse. Carpenter writes some of the chases like it’s an episode from the Keystone Cops! For example, Zel and Sasha arrive in a now dead New Orleans to see Quicksilver Spider, then to New York to see TenNinety and the Unseen gang, only to be sent to Siberia to see Fat Tennessee (and he is super fat!), and then sent to Free Africa South. And guess who was there first? Yes, Jartelle! Now the story gets exciting, and this is where I stop. Now that you have tasted a little of the plot, I suggest you grab your own copy of this China Mieville-like weird fiction novel, sans the neologisms.

One flaw I find in books of this type is that the author writes in too many sidebar characters with names. It gets too hard for the reader to remember all the character’s names, only to find out that they were menial at best. I haven’t even mentioned: Mekena Dembo ( he’s not one of the menials ), Kaydar Ayasha, Ava, the Jackal, Cutter, the twins, NURBS, or Ubiq to name a few. The reader will have a lot more empathy for characters when he can concentrate on three or four people. But, this was a enjoyable novel, even though I didn’t like the theme.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: On Mr. Carpenter’s blog, he states: “The Future Digital Life is about, among other things, augmented reality. AR is the evolution of the Internet, a visual medium of data overlain our reality, creating an enhanced living experience with new dilemmas that will require careful exploration. My interest in augmented reality spawned from a science-fiction novel project and has bloomed into this blog. While I regularly talk about AR, on occasion I delve into my experience as a writer and update with progress on the perils of publication.” That being said, I still don’t like reading books that cause me to run to Google or Wikipedia every ten minutes or so.

In 2011, Thomas K. Carpenter published Mirror Shards: Extending the Edges of Augmented Reality . The synopsis is as follows: “EXPLORE the edge of augmented reality in thirteen tales from thirteen fantastic authors. When the digital world collides with our real one, bringing all its problems and benefits, mankind will have to relearn what it means to be human. In this glimpse of possible futures, you will go on the hunt to track down a fugitive on the other side of the known Universe. Learn the price of ubiquitous knowledge, or find peace and understanding in the absence of it. Dive deep into the ocean to avert a kidnapping using only the tools at hand. Experience new realities underwritten by an alien love of entertainment. Find hidden truths contained within our smallest gestures. Hide something so valuable, it would drive a man to crime. Or find that sometimes, what it doesn't hide is what endangers us most.”