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, February 21, 2014


The book’s title should also include, not for the faint hearted. Bob Drury and Tom Clavin don’t mince words when describing the horrors of the battlefield, or maybe the mutilation field is a better term. I’m aware of the habits of the Sioux Indians, Sitting Bull, and Crazy Horse because I read the Dan Simmons novel, Black Hills . As a matter of fact, his main character was Paha Sapa, which means Black Hills. But for the life of me, I can’t remember reading about Red Cloud, so this non-fiction work was a real eye opener for me. With all the violence around him and in him, it’s hard to believe that he died a peaceful death at the age of 87 in 1909. The book’s about Red Cloud's War but focuses on the Battle of the Hundred-in-the-Hands on 12/21/1866 in the Great Plains. Somehow Red Cloud was able to unite the Lakota (all seven Sioux tribes), Cheyenne, Arapaho, and others in an attempt  to eradicate the White man from the Great Plains once and for all.

A lot of things contributed to the all out war against the U.S. Army. The dribble of white settlers heading west became a flood of wagons after gold was discovered in California. Also, the wholesale killing of the buffalos and the spreading of diseases that Indians had no immunity for didn’t set well with the Great Plains tribes. During the mid 1860s, the white man would reduce the buffalo population from 30 million to 1,000 over the next forty years. The buffalo meat was important to the Indians but worthless to the white man. Broken treaties and conniving Indian Agents added fuel to the fire. In 1856 all the tribes of Lakota met to form a united front to stop the white threat. It is said that 10,000 Indians attended that meeting. The Lakota Indians are not farmers, nor do they stay in one place long. They are raiders of other Indian tribes, horse stealers, and buffalo hunters. They only tolerated the Cheyenne. The Lakota believe they are warriors and want to stay that way. They take pride in Counting Coup (touching an enemy with a coup stick during battle and leaving unharmed). They heavily attacked white wagons heading west with one wagon out of eleven never making it passed the Rockies. Things got worse for the pioneers in the west when the U.S. Army left the Great Plains to fight the Civil War in 1861.

After the Civil War, many soldiers were released from duty, leaving very few to defend Fort Reno, Fort Phil Kearny, and Fort C.F. Smith, which were there to protect the migration of the Easterners, who were following The Bozeman Trail to Virginia City, Montana and then to The Oregon Trail . The U.S. Army was heavily outnumbered and were slaughtered and mutilated on many occasions. Red Cloud’s battle with Captain Fetterman’s 2nd Battalion of the 18th Infantry Regiment is epic. I thought the savagery of the book was a bit too much, but I guess the authors wanted to tell it like it was. The sidebar characters were strong. I enjoyed the Mountain man, Jim ‘Old Gabe’ Bridger, a friend of the famous, Jedediah Smith. I admired the tactics Crazy Horse used to lure the U.S. Army into ambushes. Most of Red Cloud’s thoughts were conveyed to a French Canadian fur trader named Sam Deon, who did the great chief’s autobiography. Sam Deon was probably the only white man who was befriended and protected by Red Cloud. Some of the incidents in this book inspired other novels, such as Nelson Gile, who drove a herd of 3,000 longhorns and a wagon train from Texas to Montana while fighting thousands of hostile Indians. This episode became Larry McMurtry’s famous novel, Lonesome Dove .

Finally, I thought the authors slightly favored the Lakota (whose favorite meal was boiled dog and buffalo tongue); but in retrospect, I guess the book was fair. The White man might have won the West, but he paid dearly for it in human life. This was a non-fiction history book, but Drury and Clavin put so much excitement in the chapters that I thought I was reading fiction. And that is exactly how I like to read history. This book is a must for the Wild West fans and history buffs. I highly recommend this enlightening narrative.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comments: The sculpting of Mount Rushmore by Gutzon Borglum in South Dakota on sacred  territory obviously irked the Sioux. Henry Standing Bear (a Sioux) wrote sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski (don’t any of these sculptors have American names?) if he would sculpt Crazy Horse. They found a suitable spot 17 miles from Mount Rushmore. The project was started in 1948 and believe it, or not, it is still going on. No federal money has been accepted for the project. All monies are collected as an non-profit organization. Mr. Ziolkowski died in 1982, but  his wife and seven of his children still work at the site. Simply amazing!

Picture courtesy of Crazy Horse Sculpture.

Picture of Red Cloud: courtesy of

Friday, February 14, 2014

Rambling Comments #4

I’m always amazed that my reviews draw so many comments on Amazon if my thoughts are contrary to the consensus of the other reviewers. If I like a book, and they don’t, they kill my review. It doesn’t matter if the review is well written or illuminative with multiple paragraphs explaining my position. They will click "no" on the box that says, “Was this review helpful to you?” They will click "yes" to some moron that wrote one line, “The book stinks”. Go figure. Anyway, I recently did a review on the latest Dan Simmons novel, “The Abominable”, and I loved it. Well, the majority of the reviewers didn’t like it. The following are the comments that I received on Amazon:

Jeffrey Swystun says: “I agree Rick. I felt he created a new genre with The Terror and Black Hills. Drood was of another class. Regardless, he is always ambitious and interesting.”

Booklover59 says: “Rick O: Don't know about anyone else, but my criticism has nothing to do with genre and everything to do with quality. I've gone back and read some of his older novels recently: the HYPERION/ENDYMION novels, which hold up well and which will -- because of reprints and such -- keep him comfortable in his dotage; CARRION COMFORT (a book which I enjoyed so much, I read it once a year for about six or seven years), holds up, but with age and experience (mine) does cry out for a bit more editing; SUMMER OF NIGHT (I would have kept the "Dream" portions, but it holds well as is); THE CROOK FACTORY (his best stab at an "entertainment", also holds up well); LOVEDEATH, his best collection of short fiction (other stand-outs in short fiction include "Looking for Kelly Dahl", and everything in PRAYERS TO BROKEN STONES, except "The Offering", which is a teleplay anyway, but also displays Simmons's inability with the form). After that, the only solid novel he wrote (I don't count the "Hard Case" hard-boiled books, because they border on parody, and are too easy to write) is A WINTER HAUNTING (vastly different from "Summer", but all the better for it). Just before that, he wrote the second-worst novel of his career, DARWIN'S BLADE. Just after "Winter", he began to crash and burn, first publishing ILIUM (I say publishing, because I'm aware that books can be written simultaneously, and I think ILIUM was written before Simmons's brain/creativity took a nose dive), which was a very good start -- the first half of something that looked to equal his "Hyperion/Endymion" books -- but then crashed and burned with OLYMPOS (a mess, prose and plot-wise).

THE TERROR stands as his last-ditch attempt to write something worthwhile, and he almost achieved it. But (once again) the absence of a good, strong editor, shows in the superfluous prose throughout the book (which still doesn't harm it fatally, because the tone of the book is created by stagnation and paranoia), but then he seems to have gotten worried and tacked on the SF-style ending (inspired by "The Thing From Another World"). It's almost as if the original Dan Simmons -- the one that wrote so well for nearly twenty years -- wrote a large portion of this novel, and then sent it forward in time to be finished by his less-talented, strangely political older self.

DROOD was a combination of a VERY interesting idea, a GREAT main character (the Wilkie Collins in HIS novel is, indeed, "fictional"), coupled with little or no plot. That might have worked in a novella, but it was death for a book that runs nearly 1000 pages.

And the less said about the didactic BLACK HILLS (western porn mixed with social diatribes and Crichton-style chapters that over-explain everything) or (his worst novel every) FLASHBACK (A TON of social diatribes and political commentary, didactic drudgery, and really, REALLY bad writing, with part of a good SF idea) the better.

Bringing us to THE ABOMINABLE.
Simmons breaks no new ground, here. Meta-fictional narratives have been around a looooooooooong time, so the pretend manuscript, as well as the "Is it true or not?" angle, isn't only new to ingenues (see what I did there? A bit of a rhyme, to lessen the sting).
And as many, MANY others have pointed out already, his writing is STILL slovenly (Simmons messed up the first sentence, for cryin' out loud!), STILL didactic, STILL focused on minutiae, and STILL lacking any interesting plot (the BIG REVEAL -- as many, MANY others have already pointed out) is laughable. And the whole point of most of these parties being ON a mountain is illogical, what people in the writing biz call reaching -- and I DO mean reaching.

No, the criticism of Simmons's writing "style" or abilities for the past fifteen years has been quite valid. And unless he suddenly does a 180 (something I don't believe he will achieve, even when he writes the Hyperion-related book of novellas), his best days as a writer are well behind him.

He should hang up his "pen" and look into getting a job with Fox "Views", since he's made his conservative views painfully public. He'd make a LOT of money with those yahoos”.   

Rick O. says: “I don't think most of these reviewers have read enough of Simmons to make a fair discernment. Simmons can write”.

Rick O. says: “Wilkie Collins was indeed a good friend of Charles Dickens, in fact, four of Wilkie's novels were turned into movies”.

Booklover59 says: “Rick O: Having read enough of Simmons to make MORE than a fair assessment of his writing -- more so, I dare say, than even yourself -- I can tell you that a majority of the criticisms about over-writing and a propensity to be didactic and (especially in the case of FLASHBACK) a recent tendency to insert political beliefs are all spot on.

As for your comment about Wilkie Collins, I'm not sure what that has to do with my statement that when it comes to the _novel_ (which, if you understand the word, means it is a work of _fiction_) by Dan Simmons is, no matter how one tries to parse it, a _fictional_ character (i.e., a character based on a real person, but, nonetheless, a _fictional_ character. Thus, the _fictional_ Wilkie Collins). I must say, I'm a bit -- only a bit -- surprised at how often I have to explain that to people who actually read -- either novels or nonfiction books or both.”

Rick O. says: “If you have soured on Simmons's writings, stop reading him. As for Wilkie, he is not fictional, nor are Dickens and Thackeray in Drood. They are real people put in a alternate history role. It's already assumed that Simmons doesn't know what they said to each other.”

Booklover59 says: “My eyes have been opened: you really _don't_ understand what I'm saying (writing) when I explain about the "fictional" Wilkie Collins (even after I explain "slowly")! :) That, of course, explains why you so easily overlook the inherent flaws and lower quality in Simmons's later writing. You don't see it.

(By the way: I meant to respond to your statement: Simmons can write. True, he CAN write. Even guys like Rush Limbaugh can write. But...can he write _well_? I say, no: not on the evidence of what he has published in the past six years.)

Because I'm silly, I'll try to explain the "fictional" thing one more time -- as if you were a ten-year-old.

DROOD is a novel. EVERYthing in it is fictional (even if a scene or two, or a character, or two, is _based_ on reality). That's why it's called a novel, and not a book of history, or a biography. Therefore, ipso loco facto obviouso (that's "fictional" Latin, in case you were wondering), the Wilkie Collins who appears in DROOD is, indeed, a fiction, because he is being portrayed in a _fictional_ manner, and doing and thinking and saying things the _real_ Wilkie Collins never did (to further illustrate our point: the guy named Hemingway in THE CROOK FACTORY isn't _really_ Ernest Hemingway -- he's a fictional construct. And if you go to the movies and you see a film called "Saving Mr. Banks", that REALLY ISN'T Walt Disney -- that's an _actor_, someone _pretending_ to be Walt Disney).

On the other hand, if you, like some of the other reviewers of THE ABOMINABLE actually believe that a man named Perry left a manuscript for Simmons to publish, then I've just wasted a bit more of my, and your, time.

Something I promise NOT to do again.
All best wishes for your future enlightenment as you travel the highways and byways of life.”

Rick O. says: “You obviously didn't understand my remarks. Of course I knew Perry wasn't real, "I said the introduction of Jacob Perry's meeting was wasn't hard to believe that Perry was also genuine." ( referring to Simmons's writing skills ). In my last paragraph, I said, "In the afterword, Dan Simmons keeps the ruse alive..." You don't seem to understand the different genres of writing. In your view, a book is either non-fiction, or fiction. Wikipedia list 21 different literary genres. Your ideas of what fictional characters are, or are not, is pure flapdoodle.”

Booklover59 says: “Rick O: A grace note before leaving:
Nope, I didn't misunderstand. That was me being a bit sarcastic because of _your_ inability to understand the concept of fictional characters -- even those based on someone who actually existed -- in a novel versus accounts of, or by, humans in a book meant to accurately portray their lives (autobiographical or biographical books). Guess my sarcasm was too subtle.
And, um, my "view" regarding nonfiction and fiction is shared by just a lot of other humans on the planet. Many of whom, like myself, have taken up pen and paper to earn a living by writing. (For guys like _Stephen Glass_, and yourself, apparently, the difference between the two is confusing).

But I can see -- purely from your referencing "Wikipedia" as a scholarly source -- that I'm pounding my head against the proverbial wall.

Take care, and try not to stuff yourself full of too many wild blueberry muffins.”

Rick O. says: “With humble deference to your opinion, I've never met any literary aficionado who shared your thoughts on this subject. You say that you are a writer... I would like to read something that you have written. I'm not saying this as a smart aleck, I just would like to read something that you wrote, in order to understand where you are coming from.”

William G. McQuaig says: “Does reading all of his published works count? I have. And my review of this novel was fair, and more importantly, accurate. I noted that although you claimed this book got unjust negative reviews, you didn't mention how they were unjust. I encourage you to read them, including mine, and find one bit of inaccuracy in it.

I love Mr. Simmons' work as a whole. I am a huge fan of his. But this book is subpar in too many ways to overlook. I found most of the negative reviews thoughtful - at least the ones where the reviewers took the time to explain why they didn't like it.”

Rick O. says: “The reviews were unfair because of what you (yourself) said, that the story was unbelievable. Simmons writes in three genres, one of which is fantasy...duh. The plot was not stupid, just typical Simmons. The ruse that Jacob Perry was real is a brilliant literary ploy. The addition of the Nazi's motive was a little weak, I agree, but plausible. The man can write in three different genres, which is exemplary.”

William G. McQuaig says: “Rick, as a fan of Dan Simmons, I still have to stick to the major pivot point and plot of this story being unbelievable. But in my review, I was very specific about what was wrong. It has nothing to do with your contention that Mr. Simmons can write in three genres. He can. Maybe more, even. At least a half dozen of his novels are my favorites of all time, including "The Terror", which also, as you know, combines fact and fiction.

But in this case the story takes place on Mt. Everest, which is where I find it completely laughable and unbelievable. And in my review I say why, which I'll repeat here (and my apologies for the hijacking of your review, which I don't think is bad, by the way):

Portion of my review -
"So...why on Earth would the original climbers try to hide the photos and escape the Nazis by going all the way to Mt. Everest, specifically? And by trying to climb it? Wouldn't it have been easier to just take the pictures to say...England? Right away?
No, they go where they will undoubtedly become trapped. Again, for some reason, Everest. Dead end. And they're not expert climbers. They're good, but not expert. So they go to the world's highest peak to run from the Nazis. This sinking in yet? Chased by the best climbers in Germany and Austria. Yeah, that makes sense. What...the...heck? If I had possession of those photos, I doubt I would go where I know I will be trapped, outclassed, outmanned, and out climbed. And which is really, really far away from the place the photos need to end up. England."
- end of review.

It is inconceivable (except to the author) that inexperienced climbers would take secret documents from Germany to Mt. Everest to get away from the Germans who are chasing them. It's as if they went out of their way to trap themselves in a far off land, rather than simply go the distance from Germany to England, give the documents to Churchill, and be done with it. If anything, this novel should have taken place on the Eiger. Now THAT would have been more believable, and would take nothing away from the great detailed mountaineering portion of the story (which I loved, by the way). Plus it would take away any expectations of a "Terror-like" creature that we probably all had. Let's face it, many of us bought this book expecting exactly that, and it was a disappointment.

Had the novel taken place in the Alps, that would have been a moot point.

That's all I'm trying to get to with my review. Ultimately, it's all just personal preference and opinion. I don't like Mr. Simmons any less for it. I do wish he'd get himself a new editor though, someone with fresh eyes who can be of more help to him. I don't think he's out of good stories, nor do I think he was just lucky previously. He's a brilliant writer who did not, this time, write a great book. Like a baseball player in a batting slump, he can still get out of it and bat .400 if he wants to.”

Rick O. says: “Wow! That was an eloquent rebuttal. I do understand and agree that the Nazis chasing the climbers up Mt. Everest was the weakest part of novel, however that shouldn't have induced all those one and two star reviews. That is what I meant in my review's opening statement. It was still a marvelous novel. As you agree, the detailed mountain climbing part was great and as far as I'm concerned a learning experience.

If some of the reviewers thought that the mountain climbing parts were overdone, they should read the American classic Moby-Dick . Herman Melville spends countless pages on whaling to a point where one almost wants to quit reading the novel.

Lastly, if you go to, you will see that he spends a lot of time talking about the techniques of writing. Click on "writing well-installment fourteen" on top of the page. The man knows what he is doing.”

William G. McQuaig says: “Rick, thanks. It's nice discussing this in this way. I always have to pause and sort of laugh at myself when I write any book review because a writer like Dan Simmons on his worst day still makes me look like a third grader when it comes to writing.

A side note, but related is that I usually buy two copies of DS books because I often loan them to people when I make recommendations to read them. Most of the comments I get back are: 1) That's a long book! and 2) The detail is amazing!

Like James Michener, DS puts more detail in than just about anyone since Victor Hugo, but to me, it's all good detail that fleshes out characters, makes them more real, and creates verisimilitude in his works. The Hyperion cantos is a great example. Those worlds became real because of the detail he put in.”

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


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

Yeah, a YA novel that’s not dystopian. Hannibal Adofo writes a novel akin to the Rick Riordan Percy Jackson series. It’s not the same mythology, but close enough. This could be the start of a new series featuring Atlantis , first mentioned by Plato in 360 BC. This novel should be enjoyable to teenagers, although I’m 69 and I liked it. There are some minor weaknesses, but they don’t affect the overall novel. I found the novel a little too rushed. If another hundred pages could have been added, I think the characters could have fermented better. I love the fact that there are only six main characters, a Cormac McCarthy trait, more or less. And with Dee, Olek, and Ha’ru, we have some interesting side characters. Doesn’t Ha’ru and his gang remind you of the movie Jeepers Creepers ? This is a yeoman’s work by the first time storyteller.

Soliloquy Adams is a sixteen year old teenager living in a poor neighborhood in San Francisco. Her mother works double shifts as a nurse to keep Lily (Soliloquy) in Laurel High, a private school. Lily has been transferred there under the impoverished program, but is not accepted by the rich kids at the school. One day she stops at her favorite diner for breakfast and meets a tall gentleman who says, “I know what you are.” From there on, her life changes dramatically. Lily gets into trouble with a ‘I’m better than you’ student, Sophia Pinhurst. The Dean threatens to expel her. She survives and picks up a friend in Tinka, a fellow student. They meet Scott Niles and Antonio Saldana from the school’s water polo team.  They eventually become a foursome. The tall gentleman, or birdman (Ha’ru) attacks Lily and Tinka on a ferry, but they persist when Lily counters with a siren’s scream. Where did that come from?

On her way home, Lily is confronted by Mr. Reddy, a homeless man living in front of her apartment complex. He says, “I know what you are, and I know what they want.”  He says that he is ‘the watcher of the north’, and has been sent for her protection, then he disintegrates. What is going on? She goes back to school and is called into the Deans office again. She meets Kalisse who says her foundation mentors inner city kids looking to better themselves. Kalisse wants to pay her tuition and provide transportation in the form of a Lincoln limo. She later accepts the offer. Kalisse buys Lily a huge wardrobe, but Lily is suspicious when she notices Kalisse’s ‘gold falcon ring’ (it reminds her of the birdlike Ha’ru, who tried to kill her on the ferry). Who is Kalisse? Is she trying to help, or control Lily? Lily also develops ‘the minds eye’, where she can share a dream with another person. Does Lily have X-Woman powers? If so, how and why?

The last third of the novel reveals all the answers. This is a talented author, who still needs improvement, but I believe this novel is a good first step. I’ve read a lot of maiden authors in the last year and I’m impressed with the talent out there. Why is is so hard for these people to get the backing of a big publishing house? It would be good to have big time editing (I saw some typos) and signing tours arranged. Is it just a matter of luck whether a book is blessed by a publisher, or not? I think so. How qualified are the people that select the novels? I trusted Jacquelin Kennedy Onassis of Viking Press, but she passed in 1994. Can anybody pick up the gauntlet? Well, enough said, I highly recommend this novel, especially for the ten to nineteen group.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment:, says “The lost city of Atlantis is believed to have disappeared around 3,500 years ago. It is believed that a volcanic reaction is responsible for this disappearance. Plato, Greek philosopher is the only direct link to the legend of Atlantis. He used to speak of Atlantis as a kind of paradise. Plato placed Atlantis in the Great Ocean, which is known today as the Straits of Gibraltar." Is this what Atlantis looked like:

Picture courtesy of

A popular YA novel is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. says, "It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger , has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time."

The novel was released as a movie in November 2013. The following picture courtesy of