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.

Monday, November 17, 2014


Dostoevsky’s 1866 novel poses interesting questions. Can an extraordinary person murder an inferior person and avoid punishment? Is this exceptional individual above the law? Didn’t he do humanity a good deed by eliminating a useless being? As Arte Johnson on Laugh-In would say…”Very interesting”. Throughout this psychoanalytically (wow,18 letters) driven novel, I wondered why the main character, Rodion Romanovich, a.k.a Rodia, (characters have many different names in this novel) committed murder in the first place. Was it Czar Alexander ll’s fault? Maybe he created a lot of confusion when he set the serfs free and abolished capital punishment, while on the flip side his infamous Secret Police sent thousands to Siberia. There had to be much perplexity and chaos with all the political changes. Since the Czar was encouraging University studies, I’m confused why Rodia and his friend, Dmitri Prokofich, a.k.a. Razumikhin, dropped out of school. Change in government was still decades away since Lenin was only four years old at the time of this book’s publication. I’m also confused why Rodia, as poor as he was, felt superior to begin with. Sigmund Freud stated in the notes on page 525, “Dostoevsky cannot be understood without psychoanalysis...he illustrates it himself in every character and every sentence.” This novel is about the foolhardy journey of a psychopath in czarist Russia stalked by the cynical Porfiry Petrovich (Russia’s answer to Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot?). What a book!

I say what a book, but sometimes I think that I’m reading a play. I love the sidebar expressions from some of the characters; such as, “he-he-he!” (Porfiry Petrovich and Peter Petrovich), “cough-cough-cough” (Katerina Ivanovna), or “poof-poof-poof!” (Amalia Ivanovna). Is this a acting devise, or what? Did I say that I loved this book? What I love the most is that I can misspell names and no one would be the wiser. But the main question is still what made Rodia axe Aliona Ivanovna (a lot of people in this story with similar names), a sleazy pawnbroker, to death? And subsequently her domineered sister, Lizaveta, who happened to walk into the murder scene. And why did Rodia instantly become sick and feverish throughout the remaining pages. This is truly a case for Freud. This is not the only psychoanalytical question. What’s going through the head of Peter Petrovich Luzhin, who is engaged to Rodia’s dirt poor sister, Dunia, a.k.a. Avdotia Romanovna, when he gets into a argument with Rodia and later tries to frame a poor street walker and semi-friend of Rodia, Sonia, with stealing a hundred ruble note from him? And what about the somewhat lovable drunken father of Sonia’s, Marmeladov, who says to Rodia in a pub on page seventeen (referring to his wife), “Such is my trait! Do you know, sir, do you know, I have sold her very stockings for drink? ...her mohair shawl I sold for drink.” As a government clerk (only God knows what that is), Marmeladov had a responsible job. Yet, what made him leave a pub in a drunken state and seemingly commit suicide by stepping in front a horse drawn coach?

While Rodia is in his feverish state, his doctor, Zossimov and his friend, Razumikhin, notice that Rodia gets interested and excited only when the talk is about the murder and who did it. As he grieves over his guilt, he seems ready to fess up to the murders. Once when he is called to the police station (it’s only about his overdue rent), and once when he runs into a clerk from the police station at a restaurant. He obviously wants to confess, but doesn’t know how to. Then he gets his second wind and says on page 182, “Life is real! Haven’t I lived just now? My life has not died with that old woman! The Kingdom of Heaven to her-and now leave me in peace!” Rodia now wants his pledges (pawned items) back, and since his friend (Razumikhin) is a relative of the lawyer in charge of the murder case, Porfiry Petrovich, he goes to the police station for an interview with the skeptical and cynical Porfiry. It seems that Porfiry suspects Rodia is the murderer. Let the cat and mouse game begin. On page 241, Porfiry says to Rodia, ...“I heard that too (about not being well). I heard, in fact, that you were in great distress about something. You look pale still.” In which Rodia replies, “I am not pale at all...No I am well again.” Really? Then it gets real interesting when Porfiry tells Rodia about an article Rodia wrote while in school, “There is, if you remember, a suggestion that there are certain persons who can...that is, not precisely are able to, but have a perfect right to commit breaches of morality and crimes, and the law is not for them.” Is this good stuff, or what?

There are two other characters that I would like to mention. The first one is Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigailov, who appears early in the book as the employer of Rodia’s sister, Dunia, who is working for him and his wife as a governess for the children. Since Dunia rejected his sexual advances, he has her fired and spreads the rumor that she was after him sexually. It’s later found to be untrue, but severe damage has been done to her reputation. After Arkady’ wife dies, the degenerate reappears in the book looking to cause more problems for Dunia and Rodia. And I loved the conversations from the landlord, Andrei Semionovich Lebeziatnikov, who espouses an early communistic commune life (remember this book was published in 1866) way before Lenin. Dostoevsky’s blockbuster was a prototype of what this reviewer considers a classic novel. Don’t ask me how it ended, because you need to read this book!   

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: The last book Dostoevsky wrote was his famous, The Brothers Karamazov. says, “The Brothers Karamazov, completed in November 1880 just two months before Dostoyevsky's death, displays both his mastery as a storyteller and his significance as a thinker. In this volume, Dr. Leatherbarrow shows that far from being merely a philosophical religious tract, The Brothers Karamazov is an enjoyable and accessible novel. He discusses its major themes, including atheism and belief, the nature of man, socialism and individualism, and the state of European civilization, focusing particulary on those themes of justice, order and disorder, in whose revolutionary treatment he sees the real significance of this literary landmark.”

Here are some quotes about Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment from noted scholars:

"...the only psychologist from whom I have anything to learn." - Nietzsche (1887)

"Dostoevsky gives me more than any scientist, more than Gauss." - Albert Einstein

"So great is the worth of Dostoevsky that to have produced him is by itself sufficient justification for the existence of the Russian people in the world: and he will bear witness for his country-men at the last judgement of the nations." - Nikolay Berdyaev (1923)

"...a prophet of God," and "mystical seer." - Vladimir Solvyov (1883)

  "He lived in literature." - Konstantin Mochulsky

  "Dostoevsky is finished. He will no longer write anything important." - Nekrasov (1859)

  "Russia's evil genius" - Maxim Gorky (1905)

  "...the Shakespeare of the lunatic asylum" - Count Melchoir de Vogue (1848-1910)

  "A sick, cruel talent" - Nikolay Mikhailovsky (1882)

  "Dostoevsky preaches the morality of the pariah, the morality of the slave." - Georg Brandes (1889)

  " author whose Christian sympathy is ordinarily devoted to human misery, sin, vice, the depths of lust and crime, rather than to nobility of body and soul" and described Notes from Underground as " awe- and terror-inspiring example of this sympathy." - Thomas Mann

  "Dostoevsky was human in that 'all too human' sense of Nietzsche. He wrings our withers when he unrolls his scroll of life." and "Dostoevsky had virtually to create God -- and what a Herculean task that was! Dostoevsky rose from the depths and, reaching the summit, retained something of the depths about him still." and "Dostoevsky is chaos and fecundity. Humanity, with him, is but a vortex in the bubbling maelstrom." -Henry Miller

  Joseph Conrad described The Brothers Karamazov as "... an impossible lump of valuable matter. It's terrifically bad and impressive and exasperating. Moreover, I don't know what Dostoevsky stands for or reveals, but I do know that he is too Russian for me. It sounds like some fierce mouthings of prehistoric ages."

  "He who gets nearer the sun is leader, the aristocrat of aristocrats, or he who, like Dostoevsky, gets nearest the moon of our non-being." - D.H. Lawrence

  Kenneth Rexroth once described Dostoevsky as a "man of many messages, a man in whom the flesh was always troubled and sick and whose head was full of dying ideologies--at last the sun in the sky, the hot smell of a woman, the grass on the earth, the human meat on the bone, the farce of death"

Turgenev on Dostoevsky:”...the nastiest Christian I’ve ever met.”

“Dostoevsky wrote of the unconscious as if it were conscious; that is in reality the reason why his characters seem ‘pathological’, while they are only visualized more clearly than any other figures in imaginative literature...He was in the rank in which we set Dante, Shakespeare and Goethe.” - Edwin Muir

Was this writer ahead of his time, or what?

Picture of Fyodor Dostoevsky:

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The City of Ember

This is a guest review from my eleven year old grandson, Kai Ohlarik:

An underground city built for unknown reasons is dying.The storerooms are empty. The generator is breaking down.The only hope is to escape, but according to the city's knowledge, Ember is the only light in a dark world.

Lina and Doon have hope. Lina found instructions from the builder of the city. The only problem is Lina’s sister, Poppy, chewed up the instructions… the instructions now look like this: Unfortunately, the instructions were found years later than they were supposed to be found. Lets go back to Lina’s heritage. The seventh Mayor of Ember was sick and dying. So he took the box home, thinking that something in the box would heal him. Despite his efforts, he could not open the box.

Sadly, the Mayor died before he could pass on the instructions to the next Mayor. The instructions were now hidden in a closet in his home. They would remain there for a very long time, until they were discovered by his family many years later. The person was Lina Mayfleet. The box was set to open in 220 years and that’s why the dying Mayor couldn’t open it. Now it’s up to Lina and Doon (a friend) to lead the people of Ember out of their dying city.

The plot for The City of Ember really makes you care about all the characters. The author, Jeanne DuPrau, has written three other books in this series. In my opinion, they were all great books.

I would recommend this book to third grade students and up. It has a great story and always has you thinking what will happen next. All in all, I would rate this book five stars.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: From the movie:

On, someone submitted this question...Does anyone have the full instructions for egress from The City of Ember? The answer was edited by Taylor Mad Dale:

Instructions for Egress

This official document is to be kept in strict security for a period of 220 years. After that time preparations have been made for all inhabitants to leave the city. Instructions are as follows:

1. Explore path along river within pipeworks.
2. Find stone marked with E by river's edge.
3. Climb ladder down riverbank to ledge approximately eight feet below.
4. With your backs to the water, you will find door of boathouse bunker. Key is behind small steel panel to the right of door. Remove key, open door.
5. Locate boat, carry into light. Boat is stocked with necessary equipment. Back _______________ onto s___________ ___eet.
6. Using ropes, lower boats down into water. Head downstream. Use _______ to avoid rocks and assist over rapids.
7. You will travel approx. 3 hours. Disembark where river ends. Follow the path.