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.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


This novel should be titled, The Sleepy-Eyed Man, because that’s what happened to me every time I sat down to read this semi-monotonous work. I liken this novel to watching grass grow. How exciting can this statement be?(to paraphrase): “He packed his monitors back into the equipment case and headed back to Passova (for the seemingly hundredth time).” How intoxicating can a doctor of ecology be looking for possible environmental problems on a planet 73 light years away from his home planet? Yes, there are interesting skytubes in the sky, but with only a few pages left we still don’t know what they are. We do know that our hero, Dr. Paulo Verano, likes a pale lager with dinner. Whoopsy daisy! Even Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon, as a symbolist, has a more stimulating endeavor. When Dr. Verano visits the Outie communities of planet Stittara to check on the environmental conditions, the response he gets is, “You want to monitor the crops first?” Doesn’t that get your blood pulsing? Okay, maybe I’m a little too hard on this veteran author’s latest work. I know that he has written 56 sci-fi and fantasy novels. That’s why I am so disappointed. I expected this stand alone novel to be a near classic, instead 'da book stay cold' (Hawaiian pidgin). I’m trying to be nice.

The exciting part of the novel was thinking about the trip Paulo Verano, a Doctor of Ecology, made from his home planet of Bachman to the planet of Stittara.The novel starts off with Paulo Verano going through a nasty divorce on the planet Bachman. Since he lost most of his monies via the settlement, he jumps at the chance to go to a new planet and examine it’s ecological status. Considering Bachman gets it’s life doubling anagathics from Stittara, it’s in their best interest that everything is okay ecologically. Paulo wins the contract to check out  Stittara’s environmental balance and report his findings to Unity’s Systems Survey Service on the planet Bachman. This is the fun part, Paulo figures that a round trip to Stittara and one month on the job will take about three months, even though the planet is 73 light years away. Some fast spaceship, right? Well, remember Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, E=MC2? The C being the speed of light. Although Paulo will only be gone three months on his round trip (if he stays there a month),146 years would pass by on Bachman by the time he got back. His monies would have recovered, his wife would be dead or very old and most likely she would have lost interest in Paulo. What a plan!

Once he gets to Stittara, the novel really drags. There are way too many characters and I found it hard to remember who they were and what they did. Then the reader meets the 400 or 500 year old, Ilsabet (she is the one on the book’s cover), who only talks in rhymes. Paulo must deal with countless Multis (corporations?) and staff. His investigations bring him to another boring group called the Outies. And does anybody really know what those skytubes are? Why is the sky a purple/gray, the grass a brownish/purple/gray? We never find out. And what distance does a ‘kay’ represent? It can’t be a mile, or a meter since the author uses those terms in the novel. What time measurement is a ‘stan’, a minute, an hour? Who knows since it’s never explained. Okay, I do get ‘duhlar’ as a substitute for a dollar. And do we have to say oneday, twoday, threeday, etcetera; in lieu of, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etcetera. I’m not even going to get into the characters names, there are way too many with odd names and innuendos. There is actually a conclusion to this novel, since it’s a rare stand alone novel by L.E. Modesitt, Jr., who normally writes a series of books. If you want to know how Paulo’s investigation of Stittara ends, you will have to scuffle through your own copy.

Now, what did I like about this book, besides all the shuteye I got? Well, it was nice to read a book where the characters ate. Yea, they had breakfast, lunch and dinner. Paulo even exercised some mornings. No, they didn’t go to the bathroom, or have sexual contact. I also thought that Mr. Modesitt’s writing skills were superb, he just wrote a tediously dull novel. He had what could have been an interesting plot-line, but he left out all the gusto and gingerbread. Oh well.

RATING: 3 out of 5 stars

Comment: L.E. Modesitt, Jr. is a prolific writer of fantasy and sci-fi novels. His most prodigious series has to be the sixteen book (so far) series called The Saga of Recluse . says the following about this series: “L.E. Modesitt, Jr.'s best-selling fantasy novels set in the magical world of Recluce are among the most popular in contemporary fantasy. Each novel tells an independent story that nevertheless reverberates through all the other Recluce novels to deepen and enrich the reading experience. As Publishers Weekly says, "Modesitt creates a complex world based on a plausible system of magic and peopled with engaging and realistic characters." Rich in detail, the Recluce books are a feast of wondrous marvels.”

The first novel in the series is The Magic of Recluce . says the following about the initial novel in the series: “Young Lerris is dissatisfied with his life and trade, and yearns to find a place in the world better suited to his skills and temperament. But in Recluce a change in circumstances means taking one of two options: permanent exile from Recluce or the dangergeld, a complex, rule-laden wanderjahr in the lands beyond Recluce, with the aim of learning how the world works and what his place in it might be. Many do not survive. Lerris chooses dangergeld. When Lerris is sent into intensive training for his quest, it soon becomes clear that he has a natural talent for magic. And he will need magic in the lands beyond, where the power of the Chaos Wizards reigns unchecked. Though it goes against all of his instincts, Lerris must learn to use his powers in an orderly way before his wanderjahr, or fall prey to Chaos.”

The latest novel in the series is Arms-Commander (#16). Says the following about this novel: “Arms-Commander takes place ten years after the end of The Chaos Balance and tells the story of the legendary Saryn. The keep of Westwind, in the cold mountainous heights called the Roof of the World, is facing attack by the adjoining land of Gallos. Arthanos, son and heir to the ailing Prefect of Gallos, wishes to destroy Westwind because the idea of a land where women rule is total anathema to him.

Saryn, Arms-Commander of Westwind, is dispatched to a neighboring land, Lornth, to seek support against the Gallosians. In the background, the trading council of Suthya is secretly and informally allied with Gallos against Westwind and begins to bribe lord-holders in Lornth to foment rebellion and civil war. They hope to create such turmoil in Lornth that the weakened land will fall to Suthya. But Zeldyan, regent of Lornth, has problems in her family. To secure Zeldyan’s aid, Saryn must pledge her personal support—and any Westwind guard forces she can raise—to the defense of Zeldyan and her son. The fate of four lands, including Westwind, rests on Saryn’s actions.”

L.E. Modesitt has many famous quotes, including this one from The Parafaith War : “The only absolute truth is change, and death is the only way to stop change. Life is a series of judgments on changing situations, and no ideal, no belief fits every solution. Yet humans need to believe in something beyond themselves. Perhaps all intelligences do. If we do not act on higher motivations, then we can justify any action, no matter how horrible, as necessary for our survival. We are endlessly caught between the need for high moral absolutes—which will fail enough that any absolute can be demonstrated as false—and our tendency for individual judgments to degenerate into self-gratifying and unethical narcissism. Trying to force absolutes on others results in death and destruction, yet failing to act beyond one's self also leads to death and destruction, generally a lot sooner.”  

And finally a quote so true: “If you do good because you expect to be rewarded, it is greed.”

Friday, October 18, 2013


Hunky-dory, Veronica Roth, your book is a bestseller and soon to be a major motion picture (March-2014)... not bad. However I’m getting a little tired of YA dystopian novels. For this reviewer, the novel was adequate but unremarkable. After reading the 487 pages and all the extras, I don’t have the urge to read the rest of the trilogy. I’m sure that the remaining novels will answer some questions that I have about the story, such as: Why did this society start in the first place and are there similar communities beyond Chicago?  But you know what? I don’t have the hankering to read another 1,000 pages to find out. How many books like The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins), Wool (Hugh Howey), or Delirium (Lauren Oliver) can someone read before they look for a utopian novel instead. I think Veronica did the right thing by keeping the main characters (Tris, Four, Al, Will, Christina, Eric, Caleb and Peter) to an acceptable Cormac McCarthy character level, but why didn't I feel empathy for any of them? That responsibility rest squarely on the shoulders of the author. I like to root for the main characters, but I didn't get that warm and fuzzy feeling for any one of them.

The premise for the book is that Chicago is fenced in from the outer world and the citizens are divided into five social groups: Abnegation (the selfless), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). The year this story takes place is unknown. The community is governed by the Abnegation, since they reject individual goals. However, there seems to be opposition from the Dauntless and Erudite factions brewing. Once a person reaches sixteen years old, they must be tested to find out what group they will join. Our heroine, Beatrice, is a member of the Abnegation faction but chooses the Dauntless at the ceremony, even though she tested positive for Abnegation, Erudite, and Dauntless. She is a Divergent. This is a problem, since divergents are considered rebels. This must be kept a secret. Her brother, Caleb, chooses the Erudite. Beatrice, now known as Tris, finds the initiations at Dauntless arduous. There are fist fights, knife throwing, and frightening mental simulations (they make a person face their fears). Her trainer is Four (Tobias), and her leader is Eric, who is in cahoots with Jeanine, the leader of the Erudite. What are the two leaders scheming? Since Tris and Four are divergents, (none of the leaders know this) they can manipulate the mind blowing simulations to their benefit. What happens during and after the initiations are the crux of the novel. This is where I thought the novel would get exciting, but in my opinion it became somewhat predictable and humdrum. But knowing Hollywood, I’m sure the opposite will occur. This might be one of those rare instances when the movie is better than the book.

The dystopian YA novels are on a good run, and I don’t see that pattern changing in the near future. I prefer the classic human misery novels, such as, H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1895), or George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945). In all fairness to what I said about Veronica Roth’s lack of conveying empathy and caring to the characters, she did a good job with hate. This reviewer did work up a good hate for Tris’s adversaries, Peter, Molly and Drew. All in all, I do recommend that you read this novel in order to keep in touch with the young adult (YA) market.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Comment: As I hinted previously, dystopian novels have been written for a long time. Believe it, or not, the first novel of this ilk was Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver's Travels (1726). Lets talk about three of my favorites:

Brave New World (1932) by Aldous Huxley - The novel takes place in the year 632AF(After Ford, yes Henry Ford). Most of society is unified under the World State. Children are created and reared in hatcheries in a five caste system. The following is a excerpt of the novel, courtesy of Sparknotes, “The novel opens in the Central London Hatching and Conditioning Centre, where the Director of the Hatchery and one of his assistants, Henry Foster, are giving a tour to a group of boys. The boys learn about the Bokanovsky and Podsnap Processes that allow the Hatchery to produce thousands of nearly identical human embryos. During the gestation period the embryos travel in bottles along a conveyor belt through a factory like building, and are conditioned to belong to one of five castes: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, or Epsilon. The Alpha embryos are destined to become the leaders and thinkers of the World State. Each of the succeeding castes is conditioned to be slightly less physically and intellectually impressive. The Epsilons, stunted and stupefied by oxygen deprivation and chemical treatments, are destined to perform menial labor. Lenina Crowne, an employee at the factory, describes to the boys how she vaccinates embryos destined for tropical climates.”

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) by George Orwell - Great Britain is now the Oceanian Province of Airstrip One controlled by Big Brother. Welcome to the world of constant war, mind control, and continual government surveillance. The following is a excerpt of the novel, courtesy of Sparknotes, “Winston Smith is a low-ranking member of the ruling Party in London, in the nation of Oceania. Everywhere Winston goes, even his own home, the Party watches him through telescreens; everywhere he looks he sees the face of the Party’s seemingly omniscient leader, a figure known only as Big Brother. The Party controls everything in Oceania, even the people’s history and language. Currently, the Party is forcing the implementation of an invented language called Newspeak, which attempts to prevent political rebellion by eliminating all words related to it. Even thinking rebellious thoughts is illegal. Such thoughtcrime is, in fact, the worst of all crimes.”

Atlas Shrugged (1957) by Ayn Rand - This is one of my all time favorite novels. John Galt leads the U.S.A.’s wealthiest citizens in a revolt against the government’s high taxes, regulations, and interference of big business by withdrawing the important business men to an unknown location. The title of the novel asks, what would happen if Atlas decided not to hold up the world on his shoulders, but in Greek Mythology, Atlas is holding up the sky. The following is a excerpt of the novel, courtesy of Sparknotes, “In an environment of worsening economic conditions, Dagny Taggart, vice president in charge of operations, works to repair Taggart Transcontinental’s crumbling Rio Norte Line to service Colorado, the last booming industrial area in the country. Her efforts are hampered by the fact that many of the country’s most talented entrepreneurs are retiring and disappearing. The railroad’s crisis worsens when the Mexican government nationalizes Taggart’s San Sebastian Line. The line had been built to service Francisco d’Anconia’s copper mills, but the mills turn out to be worthless. Francisco had been a successful industrialist, and Dagny’s lover, but has become a worthless playboy. To solve the railroad’s financial problems, Dagny’s brother Jim uses political influence to pass legislation that destroys Taggart’s only competition in Colorado. Dagny must fix the Rio Norte Line immediately and plans to use Rearden Metal, a new alloy created by Hank Rearden. When confronted about the San Sebastian mines, Francisco tells Dagny he is deliberately destroying d’Anconia Copper. Later he appears at Rearden’s anniversary party and, meeting him for the first time, urges Rearden to reject the freeloaders who live off of him."

One of Ayn’s famous one liners is : “The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me.”

Thursday, October 3, 2013


The gloom master is darker than normal in this second book of the Border Trilogy. Published in 1994, Cormac McCarthy once again takes the reader across the border into Mexico through the eyes of a young man. Has anybody ever seen Cormac smile? In a rare interview with The New York Times, Cormac stated that he is not an aficionado of authors who don’t “deal with issues of life and death.” This novel deals with those issues. He is also the master of simple declarative sentences without quotation marks. He told Oprah Winfrey, on her show in 2007, that he believes there is no reason to “blot the page up with weird little marks.” Yet, this rebel of proper grammar is consider one of the great writers of our times. Since I seem to be drawn to his novels, I can’t argue that point but many literary critics do. And what does William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White, writers of The Elements of Style, think about his prose? Not too much, I'm sure.

The story starts innocently enough with sixteen year old Billy Parham trying to trap a wolf that traveled from Mexico on to Parham’s ranch in New Mexico. The she-wolf has been destroying the livestock. Billy and his father are unsuccessful trapping the wolf until Billy gets the idea to bury the trap under a old campfire. Bingo! The wolf gets caught; but since Billy can’t pull the trigger, he decides to take the wolf back to Mexico. Billy almost completes the mission up till the time a group of Mexicans take the wolf away from Billy. The Mexicans put the wolf in a pit at a town fair. While chained to a post, the wolf is forced to fight one dog after another. Billy tries fruitlessly to save the wolf with whom he has bonded. With no options available to him, Billy shoots the wolf dead. After burying the wolf, Billy heads back to New Mexico. Cheery story so far, right? During his trek home, he runs into a man at a run-down church that tells Billy the first of three stories told by strangers in this novel. This part of the novel is unique, just as is the alternate Spanish and English lines throughout the tale. Although I don’t know Spanish, it was written so brilliantly that I knew what they were saying.

When Billy arrives at his parents ranch in New Mexico, he finds that his home is deserted. He rides into town to see the Sheriff. He is told that his parents were shot to death by two men and the six horses stolen. His brother, Boyd, got away and is staying a neighbor’s house. Billy finds Boyd, steals money, a shotgun, ammo, and food from the family. The game plan is to head back to Mexico and find the horses. All this happens early in this 426 page novel, so I’m not giving away the story. The novel explodes once the boys cross into Mexico. They will encounter many difficulties, meet a mysterious young girl, meet a strange character named Quijada on two occasions. Oh, the troubles are many. You will read the second and third story told by strangers. The second story is about a rebel who gets his eyes sucked out after being captured by the federals, and the third story is about a gypsy and two airplanes. This novel is quite a trip.

An example of Cormac’s prose are the following lines pertaining to Billy Parham: “It had ceased raining in the night and he walked out on the road and called for the dog. He called and called. Standing in that inexplicable darkness. Where there was no sound anywhere save only the wind. After a while he sat in the road. He took off his hat and placed it on the tarmac before him and he bowed his head and held his face in his hands and wept. He sat there for a long time and after a while the east did gray and after a while the right and god made sun did rise, once again, for all and without distinction.” Notice all the “ands”? This man of ‘no rules’ prose can get his point across to the reader in his own remarkable way. I highly recommend this novel.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Three of Cormac McCarthy’s novels have been made into movies: No Country for Old Men , The Road , and All the Pretty Horses . I’m sure there will be many more.
The first novel that I read by Cormac was The Road, which I hated. Somehow, I’ve read three of his novels since, and have become a fan. Another example of Cormac’s prose that displays his writing skill is the following paragraph about evil in The Crossing: “The wicked know that if the ill they do be of sufficient horror that men will not speak against it. That men have just enough stomach for small evils and only these will they oppose. He said that true evil has power to sober the small doer against his own deeds and in the contemplation of that evil he may even find the path of righteousness which has been foreign to his feet and may have no power but to go upon it. Even this man may be appalled at what is revealed to him and seek some order to stand against it. Yet in all of this there are two things which perhaps he will not know. He will not know that while the order which the righteous seek is never righteousness itself but is only order, the disorder of evil is in fact the thing itself. Nor will he know that while the righteous are hampered at every turn by their ignorance of evil to the evil all is plain, light and dark alike. This man of which we speak will seek to impose order and lineage upon things which rightly have none. He will call upon the world itself to testify as to the truth of what are in fact but his desires. In his final incarnation he may seek to indemnify his words with blood for by now he will have discovered that words pale and lose their savor while pain is always new.” 
Another great line is when the she-wolf’s mate gets caught in a trap in Mexico: “She carried a scabbed over wound on her hip where her mate had bitten her two weeks before somewhere in the mountains of Sonora. He’d bitten her because she would not leave him. Standing with one forefoot in the jaws of a steel trap and snarling at her to drive her off where she lay just beyond the reach of the chain. She’d flattened her ears and whined and she would not leave. In the morning they came on horses. She watched from a slope a hundred yards away as he stood up to meet them.” Wow, this man can write.