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, September 25, 2014

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Ray Bradbury ask this question...Can love combined with happiness, laughing, and dancing conquer evil? It will take 290 terrifying pages to get the definitive answer. This is a classic evil versus good novel published by the great fantasy/horror writer in 1962. This novel is part of Bradbury’s Green Town trilogy, which included Dandelion Wine (1957) and Farewell Summer (2006). As a sidebar, I remember my neighbor’s father back in the ‘50s making dandelion wine, not that it has anything to do with this review. Anyway, this book is so dark that the evil ringmaster/owner of the carnival is, believe it or not, Mr. Dark, aka the Illustrated Man. Stephen King’s It (1986) and The Stand (1990) are worthy challengers to Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes in the dark novel category, but there is something special about this ‘carnival comes to a small town’ thriller. And, and... it’s done without a single clown in the story. Freak show...yes, but no clown. Before I get to the guts of the novel, I think that it’s interesting that Bradbury got the book’s title from a line in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, “By the pricking of my thumbs/something wicked this way comes.” Also as a boy, Ray Bradbury met a carnival magician named Mr. Electrico (a character in this novel).  

Two thirteen year old boys (born two minutes apart) are lying on the grass by their homes when Tom Fury, a lightning rod salesman approaches the boys. The boys are Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway (I love those names) and Fury tells them a storm is approaching. He says,...”One of those houses will be struck by lightning!” Is he talking about a real storm, or the impending carnival train? We will re-unite with Tom Fury later in the story. Subsequently that night, the boys see posters being put up in town saying, “Coming October Twenty-Fourth...Cooger and Dark’s Carnival! See the Dust Witch...the Skeleton... the Most Beautiful Woman in the World...Mr. Electrico...The Illustrated Man.” Wow, but it’s October and everybody knows that  all carnivals stop after Labor Day, right? Maybe, but this is a special carnival. At three in the morning, the boys are awakened in their homes by calliope music in the distance. The carnival train is coming! Looking out the high windows of their homes, they could see the train approaching. They dress, climb down from the windows (they both built steps to the ground so they could tiptoe out of the houses) and run for the train. They see a tall dark man, heavily tattooed, gesture and the train begins to unloaded in silence. How’s that possible? Very strange.

The next day the boys run into their teacher, Miss Foley, who is confused and lost in the mirror maze. They get her out and she tells them she is with her visiting nephew, Robert. But is it really her nephew? And why is he missing? Later, Jim and Will find a mysterious carousel (merry-go-round). They spot one of the owners, Mr. Cooger, riding the carousel in reverse. He went on the ride looking about forty and when he got off, he looked like a twelve year old! The boys run. Mr. Dark knows that they saw what happened. Trouble is coming. What is this carnival all about? Why are so many people missing? The boys run to Charles Halloway (Will’s father and janitor of the town’s library). Charles researches the carnival at the library and finds that the same Mr. Dark and Mr. Cooger have had the carnival at least since 1846. How is that possible? How old are Dark and Cooger? This all happens early in the novel, the rest of the story deals with Charles, Will and Jim trying to unravel the mystery before it’s too late for the town. This was an intoxicating and hair-raising tale... to say the least (I got my idiom in).

I liked the fact that Bradbury kept the main characters down to four people: Will, Jim, Charles and Mr. Dark (Cormac McCarthy style). The side characters were great; Miss Foley wanting to get younger, Mr. Fury wanting to see the most beautiful woman in the world, Mr. Electrico, the frightening Dust Witch and the Skeleton Man. When the reader can concentrate on limited characters, the reading experience is easier and more enjoyable. This was a great read...grab a copy and enjoy!

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: It seems to me that I’m a fan of dark novels and I’m not sure why. I know that Cormac McCarthy is one of my favorites, but who else do I like besides Stephen King and Ray Bradbury? Well, I did like the J.K. Rowling Harry Potter series (1997-2007), but by book #7, I soured on the series. Smart move on her part to say goodbye. How many books and movies can you read and watch about ‘Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry’ before you vomit?

I do like J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings novels (1937-1949), but the numerous movies have put a damper on my gusto for the books. After awhile, I didn’t care if Frodo Baggins and his servant, Sam, could destroy the ring before Sauron got to them. Sometimes I think that a novel should stay a novel.

William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (1954) is a dystopian novel about children marooned on a small island. I know it’s a cult favorite (sometimes I wonder what that is), but isn’t it predictable that they would turn into caveman-like people eventually? Doesn’t it stand to reason that anybody who has previously played cricket would turn into a primitive without  The Laws of Cricket rules to go by?

Now, one of my favorites is Stephen King’s Under the Dome (2009). The story was great...I mean an invisible dome drops from the sky on a Maine town (where else?), but didn’t I see the same alien kids playing games on the half hour show called The Twilight Zone back in the 1960s?

Okay, what about Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965)? What is my wiseguy retort on this novel? Well, I never did understand what the ‘spice’ was about. I know it was controlled by the Atreides family on Arrakis, but what do you do with it...shove it up your ass?

Okay, enough funny stuff. I really liked Charles Dickens Oliver Twist (1838). says this about the novel, “The story of the orphan Oliver, who runs away from the workhouse only to be taken in by a den of thieves, shocked readers when it was first published. Dickens's tale of childhood innocence beset by evil depicts the dark criminal underworld of a London peopled by vivid and memorable characters — the arch-villain Fagin, the artful Dodger, the menacing Bill Sikes and the prostitute Nancy. Combining elements of Gothic Romance, the Newgate Novel and popular melodrama, in Oliver Twist Dickens created an entirely new kind of fiction, scathing in its indictment of a cruel society, and pervaded by an unforgettable sense of threat and mystery.” This is one of my favorite dark novels.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Nadia's Tears

The author sent me an autographed copy of her novel to review:

Julie C. Gilbert’s second YA novel concerning Dr. Devya’s Children is a bit confusing and intricate versus Ashlynn's Dreams. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, albeit I enjoyed the first novel a little more. The same eight gifted children and babysitter are back in this sequel. Maybe that’s the problem. Either I expected fresh foes or this group forming some kind of Marvel Comics superhero group. Maybe this is where the author is headed, I don’t know. Ms. Gilbert does come up with some fresh characters: Christy Roman, Dario and Koresh (Dr. Lanier’s Children?), Carlos, Renee and Jillian/ Ashlynn’s first dad. That might sound strange, but Jillian has a lot of dads. This reviewer suggest reading the first novel in order to understand this sequel better. Julie C. Gilbert does help the reader understand how these children were formed when Jillian says on page 135, “Best I can figure so far is that it’s like making a new book by cutting and pasting parts of other books.” This explains, in layman’s terms, how these children acquired different gifts from the genes of many dissimilar scientists. The novel continues to be an epistolary work filled with emails, letters and journal entries.

In this latest episode, Varick seems to be on his own, while Michio (age three) is living with Jillian and her family. Jillian can’t reach her gifted sister, Nadia, who is nearing her 14th birthday. Varick tries to help find out what happened to Nadia, only to get trapped in Dr. Devya’s new lab. Jillian learns through her dreams that Nadia is in a coma. Then in another dream, Varick says that he is coming for Jillian so she can help Nadia out of her coma. Jillian and Danielle (the babysitter in book one) devise a plan where Jillian can go on a skiing vacation with Danielle’s family. Hopefully, Varick can get Jillian out without too much commotion. Well, there is a brouhaha when Jillian’s first father breaks into the ski lodge and tries to thwart the kidnapping. He fails and Jillian is whisked away to Dr. Devya’s lab. Jillian takes two days to break into Nadia’s dreams, only to find herself in a throne room with Queen Elena. Jillian learns that she has been summoned to fight the representatives of evil. Who are they? In later dream contacts, Jillian confronts many Nadias with numbers 15, 16, 17 and 18 emblazoned on their shirts. What does this mean? I don’t know because this is where I got a little confused.

To make matters more puzzling, Nadia (still in a coma) decides to contact Danielle at her home as a projection (first time that happens), and says, “I apologize for this intrusion, Danielle. Your friend will need you soon. I have come to enlist your help on her behalf. My avatar will speak with you, if you are willing to hear her. I will release your voice in a moment. Please do not scream. I am not an angel or a vision or a hallucination, but I do carry a message.” What’s going on? Why does Jillian need help? Whereas the first book was crisp and easy to understand, I thought that this novel was unnecessarily muddled. If I could advise Ms. Gilbert, I would say: Keep the story unsubstantiated (we don’t care about the science behind test tube babies) and leave the text unambiguous. Next, move on to a venture that the gifted children led by Dr Devya (your Professor X of X-Men) can fight together as a team. Dr. Devya comes across as an arrogant tough guy, but could develop into the team captain. He is the perfect leader for this new group of mensches. So did I enjoy this second effort from Julie C. Gilbert? Yes I did and recommend it to YA readers. I have a lot of faith in Gilbert’s future as a novelist.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: The last time I did a Julie C. Gilbert (5/31/2014) review, I talked about epistolary novels. But she writes YA books, not the adult books that I talked about. Okay, what are the good epistolary YA books? Based on what my YA contributor, Kai O, has read, it’s a no brainer:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2007) by Jeff Kinney. says, “It’s a new school year, and Greg Heffley finds himself thrust into middle school, where undersized weaklings share the hallways with kids who are taller, meaner, and already shaving. The hazards of growing up before you’re ready are uniquely revealed through words and drawings as Greg records them in his diary. In book one of this debut series, Greg is happy to have Rowley, his sidekick, along for the ride. But when Rowley’s star starts to rise, Greg tries to use his best friend’s newfound popularity to his own advantage, kicking off a chain of events that will test their friendship in hilarious fashion. Author/illustrator Jeff Kinney recalls the growing pains of school life and introduces a new kind of hero who epitomizes the challenges of being a kid. As Greg says in his diary, “Just don’t expect me to be all ‘Dear Diary’ this and ‘Dear Diary’ that.” Luckily for us, what Greg Heffley says he won’t do and what he actually does are two very different things.Since its launch in May 2004 on, the Web version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid has been viewed by 20 million unique online readers. This year, it is averaging 70,000 readers a day.”

The second book was also a hit: Rodrick Rules (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 2) by Jeff Kinney. says of this 2008 novel, “The highly anticipated sequel to the #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling book! Secrets have a way of getting out, especially when a diary is involved. Whatever you do, don’t ask Greg Heffley how he spent his summer vacation, because he definitely doesn’t want to talk about it. As Greg enters the new school year, he’s eager to put the past three months behind him . . . and one event in particular.Unfortunately for Greg, his older brother, Rodrick, knows all about the incident Greg wants to keep under wraps. But secrets have a way of getting out . . . especially when a diary is involved. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules chronicles Greg’s attempts to navigate the hazards of middle school, impress the girls, steer clear of the school talent show, and most important, keep his secret safe.”

Lastly, there is Kate Klise’s Trial by Journal (2001). says, “Get ready for a trial unlike any Tyle County has ever seen. Sixth-grader Perry Keet is missing, and Bob White, his co-worker at Tyle Park Zoo, will stand trial for the alleged murder. But Keet's disappearance is only the beginning of this legal thriller.The "real" story is told by twelve-year-old Lily Watson, a classmate of Keet's. Watson was selected to White's jury because of a new law requiring a juvenile juror to serve if the case involves a child victim. Part of Watson's duty will be to listen objectively to the testimony of Tyleville's wealthiest citizen, Rhett Tyle. His testimony is expected to be the key to White's conviction. White's fate now rests in the hands of Watson and fellow jurors Fawn Papillon, Anna Conda, and other Tyleville locals, as they try to uncover the truth before it's too late.”


Tuesday, September 2, 2014


This novel kept me alert and interested in the beginning, kept me dozing off in the middle, and then kept me nonplussed at the end. What is this book? Is James Scott trying to challenge the ultimate dark meister, Cormac McCarthy? If he is, it’s a nolo contendere win for McCarthy. There is no question that Scott can write excellent prose but can he tell a story from start to finish and hold the reader’s interest? That’s the million dollar question. There were some parts in the middle of the novel where I couldn’t remember how the two main characters (Elspeth Howell and her twelve year old son, Caleb?) got beat up. Was I asleep when it happened? I didn’t even care to go back to refresh my memory. Yet, the novel kept me reading because of its potential. A good beginning, middle, and end seems to be troublesome for many of today’s writers. If you want to read a dark novel that possesses all of these traits, read Cormac’s Outer Dark. I’m not shit canning this novel, but as a seasoned reviewer, I feel it’s my duty to point out its weaknesses. Um, well then, what are the novel’s strengths? It’s only 354 pages...just kidding. His character development is strong, although the reader doesn’t feel any empathy for them. His prose is excellent, but I already said that. Look, it’s his first novel, and I’m sure his next will be better. My advise to Mr. Scott is: get another great idea like this one, but this time, annihilate the middle and ending. Okay, what’s this novel about?

It’s the winter of 1897 in upstate New York, Elspeth Howell is trudging through heavy snow (it’s always snowing in these kind of novels) towards her humble cabin after another elongated midwife journey. She has much needed money in her sock and gifts for her five children and husband in her pack. As she gets to the top of the knoll and looks down at her house, she is immediately alarmed. There is no light in the windows and no smoke coming out of the chimney. She runs down the hill and finds her children Emma, Mary, Amos, Jesse and her husband, Jorah shot to death. What happened and where is her last child, Caleb? She thinks that she hears a mouse noise in the pantry and opens the door, only to be blasted by a shotgun. The mouse turns out to be her son, Caleb. He shot her full of pellets thinking that the three killers with red scarfs came back. He is scared. He does his best trying to clean out her wounds. While she is recovering in a semi-coma, he decides to cremate his siblings in the snow outside the cabin (dad is too heavy to move out of his bed). The blaze is wind swept towards the house. Now his cabin is ablaze with mom in it. Caleb drags his mom out and they take refuge in the barn. I told you that the beginning was interesting, didn’t I? After Elspeth somewhat recovers, Caleb and mom hike through the snow towards Watersbridge in pursuit of the three murderers.

Once in Watersbridge, Elspeth decides to dress as a man. Why? They get a room in The Brick and Feather Hotel where we meet a interesting character, Frank the deskman. Elspeth now goes by her dead husband's name, Jorah. She meets Charles Heather (another good sidebar character), who gets her/him a dangerous job at the ice factory. Meanwhile, Caleb visits a very rough and tumble saloon and whorehouse called The Elm Inn, owned by London White. This saloon reminded me of the T.V. series, Deadwood. London White and Al Swearengen of The Gem Saloon could be twins. Anyway, London hires twelve year old Caleb as his general maintenance man/boy. Caleb figures that if he is to find the three killers, this is the kind of place that they would hang out in. Caleb starts to wonder why none of his siblings look alike, and why would anybody want to kill them? At this point the story bogs down for quite awhile. I mean there was action, but for some unknown reason, it didn’t arouse me. And then the last part of the novel left me discontented. Maybe it’s me, but I know when a ending lights my fire. There are a lot of unfinished themes in this novel besides the ending. For instance, several times in the story, Caleb mentions seeing his father shoot a man dead in the field near his house. But we never find out who the man was and why he was killed. It never develops further. And why did Elspeth do what she did? Does that make any sense? I have to give this novel one of my rare neutral ratings. Sorry, Mr. Scott.

RATING:  3 out of 5 stars

Comment: Lets talk about dark novels, such as the one I just reviewed. I’m not going to talk about Cormac McCarthy’s books, since everybody knows he is my favorite dark writer. But what three novels are considered classically ungodly and evil? Wow, there are a lot out there, so what are my choices? Well here goes; wait, lets make it five:

Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley, says: “Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature's hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.”

Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker, says: “During a business visit to Count Dracula's castle in Transylvania, a young English solicitor finds himself at the center of a series of horrifying incidents. Jonathan Harker is attacked by three phantom women, observes the Count's transformation from human to bat form, and discovers puncture wounds on his own neck that seem to have been made by teeth. Harker returns home upon his escape from Dracula's grim fortress, but a friend's strange malady — involving sleepwalking, inexplicable blood loss, and mysterious throat wounds — initiates a frantic vampire hunt. The popularity of Bram Stoker's 1897 horror romance is as deathless as any vampire.  Its supernatural appeal has spawned a host of film and stage adaptations, and more than a century after its initial publication, it continues to hold readers spellbound.”

Rebecca (1938) by Daphne du Maurier, says: “Working as a lady's companion, the heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Her future looks bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Max de Winter, a handsome widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her by surprise. She accepts, but whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to the ominous and brooding Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding housekeeper, Mrs Danvers…”

Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962) by Ray Bradbury, says: “A masterpiece of modern Gothic literature, Something Wicked This Way Comes is the memorable story of two boys, James Nightshade and William Halloway, and the evil that grips their small Midwestern town with the arrival of a “dark carnival” one Autumn midnight. How these two innocents, both age 13, save the souls of the town (as well as their own), makes for compelling reading on timeless themes. What would you do if your secret wishes could be granted by the mysterious ringmaster Mr. Dark? Bradbury excels in revealing the dark side that exists in us all, teaching us ultimately to celebrate the shadows rather than fear them. In many ways, this is a companion piece to his joyful, nostalgia-drenched Dandelion Wine, in which Bradbury presented us with one perfect summer as seen through the eyes of a 12-year-old. In Something Wicked This Way Comes, he deftly explores the fearsome delights of one perfectly terrifying, unforgettable autumn.”

The Shining (1977) by Stephen King, says: “Danny was only five years old but in the words of old Mr Halloran he was a 'shiner', aglow with psychic voltage. When his father became caretaker of the Overlook Hotel his visions grew frighteningly out of control. As winter closed in and blizzards cut them off, the hotel seemed to develop a life of its own. It was meant to be empty, but who was the lady in Room 217, and who were the masked guests going up and down in the elevator? And why did the hedges shaped like animals seem so alive?Somewhere, somehow there was an evil force in the hotel - and that too had begun to shine…”

There are literally hundreds of dark novels available to read from this genre. These are some of my favorites, what are yours?

Picture of actor Jack Nicholson (from the 1980 movie, The Shining) as Jack Torrance uttering his famous line…”Here’s Johnny!”