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, August 30, 2015


The authors sent me an autographed copy of their novel to review:

When I first started reading this father/daughter written novel, I was big time gung-ho. I love books involving Native American Indians. However the novel became somewhat mundane for me around page 180. Suddenly I wasn’t eager to know what “gift” Juliet had or what secret her grandfather Sicheii concealed from her. I think the problem is that the story took too long to develop. I’m not saying that this was an inferior novel, but this flaw stopped this tale from receiving my best accolades. The amount of main characters was in the acceptable range, but I felt some degree of apathy for most of them. This is not a good harbinger of things to come. Look, I know that it’s hard to write a popular novel, but one has to look at whether the story is dragging or accelerating before publication. The author obviously has outstanding credentials (just read the bio information on the back cover), but one still has to wonder why this novel had to be a duet. Is dad (Jeff Altabef) trying to get his daughter some literary credits, or did she (Erynn Altabef) contribute meaningful? Okay, enough! What is this story about?  

Sixteen year old Juliet (half Indian) hears voices in her head but can’t grasp their meaning or the actual articulation. She has a small “star” scar on her right foot. Her grandfather, Sicheii, says that he gave her the mark when she was born so she could be blessed by “The Great Wind Spirit”. Really? Grandfather is a art gallery owner and a medicine man. Juliet’s mom pulled her from public school and put her into Bartens, a private school. Juliet is having problems adjusting to her privileged co-students. They seem to object to a half-bred (excuse my dashes, it’s not my normal style) in their school. Anyway she stays in touch with her former classmates, Troy, Ella, and Marlon along with her new friend Katie (at Bartens). Juliet’s mom (a tax lawyer) goes on a business trip and tells Juliet that Sicheii will be coming over to watch over her. Juliet decides to skip school and go to Slippery River Park with her friend Troy, a full blood Indian. On their way back from the park, Troy and Juliet see the police racing down the highway. They follow on Troy’s motorcycle to the Reservation where they see that another medicine man named Roundtree has been brutally murdered. Roundtree has a tattoo of twisted arrows on his chest. Juliet knows that her grandfather has the same tattoo.

Another murder occurs. Juliet learns of a newspaper article written 26 years ago with a photograph “of a group of men around a campfire” (including her grandfather). The writer, John Dent, hints of a possible “Secret Native American Society.” Juliet and her friends go to see Mr. Dent and find out that he died. They go to the graveyard and notice that he died one day after the article was written. And guess what’s carved on his tombstone? You guessed it...the two twisted arrows. What’s going on? Juliet seeks out another of the Indian men in the newspaper picture. He is Joe Hunter, and he is leaving town quickly. Before he leaves, Hunter tells Juliet, ”You’ve been chosen.” What mysteries lie ahead? What is she chosen for? This inaugurates the seeming exciting story into a modus operandi, which it does for awhile. Then it stalls. Why, I don’t know. Maybe it was because there wasn’t enough character development that made me feel less interested in what happened next. The novel just became sluggish. Then the story picked up the necessary steam and ran to the finish line. So basically this YA novel had me on a roller coaster started well, stalled in the middle and then came to a roaring conclusion. It was a little too choppy for me, but I do recommend this novel to all the YA readers out there.

RATING: 3 out of 5 stars

Comment: I think my main problem with the above mentioned novel is that I really don’t like most YA or dystopian novels. I think the Young Adult genre is somewhat foggy. Traditionally, I think the reader age is between 16 years old to 25 years old, however I’ve seen lower ranges and higher ranges from different sources. Of course the novel shouldn’t have profanity, sex or violence. But most YA books have violence, so I’m not sure if violence is an ingredient anymore. If you read some of the “Best YA Novels” lists, there are four books on all the lists that I wouldn’t consider YA.

The first novel is Harper Lee’s, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960). An American classic for sure, but Harper Lee considered her book...A simple love story.
The second novel is Mark Twain’s, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884). Some pundits consider the adventures of a boy in the Mississippi Valley... The great American novel. See my review of 12/17/2012.
The third book is J.D. Salinger’s, The Catcher in the Rye (1951). The classic story of sixteen year old Holden Caulfield’s venturesome few days traveling after being expelled from Prep School. See my review of 12/23/2012.
The fourth novel is J.R.R. Tolkien’s, The Hobbit (1937). The wonderful adventures of Bilbo Baggins in legendary Middle-Earth. See my review of 6/20/2013.

All the above novels are considered classic works, but don’t seem YA to me.  

Thursday, August 27, 2015


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

This is not a serpent eating his tail at all. Well, what is it? It’s Paul Edward eating himself out of the literary world. It’s one of the most nonsensical novels that I've ever read. Period. Is the author trying to ape the rebellious Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (see my review of 12/23/2012)? If he is, he should go back to the drawing board. His character, Paul Edward (is he also the author?), is as shallow as a two-foot grave. What is he so angry about? Almost everything that comes out of Paul's mouth (of the novel) is pure prattle. Supposedly, he has this gorgeous college freshman named Grace to fixate on while he gives “the finger” to the world for no apparent reason. To sum up his opinion of Grace, he tells the reader (to semi paraphrase), “Grace is a incongruous Catholic girl from hackneyed.” By the way, get used to the words, Catholic and hackneyed, because he uses them on every page. He has an alternate female companion named Rose, who is a waitress that likes to smoke marijuana and drink whatever alcohol is available. What makes Paul, a pizza parlor worker, think that the establishment is wrong and he is right? And how many times does the reader have to read about his sexual escapades with Grace? It’s almost like it’s the focus of the novel.

It seems that Paul doesn’t know what normal is; on page 67, he says “I’m slugging down these roads like an escargot. I can do as I please. Why not travel these roads forever? Money? What does it matter if I have no intention of building a picket fence around green grass and a house?” Then on page 71, he says, “It sickens me how those matters have affected me. It has been the older generation forging the hate and disgust within me. They blather commands, casting away comments from the youth instead of shutting Their ( the ‘T’ in ‘Their’ is always capitalized when referring to the establishment) arrogant, egotistical, vainglorious traps to listen, as if Their old words are not only most genius but also pretty to look at drooling from Their insipid tongues.” This is okay to say, but the author offers no alternative other than mutinous rhetoric. And of course the reader continues to read about Grace’s beautiful genitalia (sometimes shaven). I don’t have a good handle on what Paul (I assumed that the character Paul and the writer Paul were the same person as I got deeper into the book) really feels is wrong with the older generation. At the book’s end, Paul says, “Today I have written what I needed to write. I’ve written history. Anything more would be untrue.” Well, Mr. Edward, I for one didn’t get it. But wait! I forgot that I am part of the older generation.  

I guess you can tell that I didn’t like the novel. Correctomundo! But, there were some parts of the novel that displayed future prowess. There were even some parts that made me laugh. If the author cleaned up his act, his prose would be considered normal to good. I don’t know what is bugging the author (even after finishing the novel), but I’m not a big fan of J.D. Salinger’s book either. The biggest thing missing in Mr. Edward’s novel is a plot. His book is a long obscure dissertation (in the form of a diary) seemingly without a reasonable point to be made. My suggestion for the author is to wipe the slate clean and try again. There is some talent there but it is very raw.

RATING: 2 out of 5 stars

Comment: So what don’t I understand about the younger generation? Quite a few things come to mind. As you know, I didn’t “get” the aforementioned novel by Mr. Edward. So what are other things that bemuse a older generation man, such as I, about the younger generation? Well:

Why do you text? The phone is still an effective communication device. And when you are driving a car, you can have bluetooth and talk “hands free” which perhaps will save you from a accident versus texting in your car.

Why do you binge-watch a T.V.series? I have heard many tales of the younger ones binge-watching a particular series for the entire weekend.

Who thought up “casual Friday”? What’s wrong with looking like a businessman on Friday?

And why do some of the youngsters think that America owes them a living? Look at the other countries of the world, especially in the Mid-East. You can lose your head quickly (literally). You should have been around when you had to register for the draft.

But I’m not complaining, I think the younger folks are terrific. Just being around them makes a old man feel younger. I’m just having some fun, but I still don’t understand the motive behind Mr. Edward's novel.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


My bicentennial issue is finally finished. Two hundred reviews and four Rambling Comments (with Rick, of course). I believe that I and my four contributing reviewers have covered every genre of literature known to mankind. I want to acknowledge Deron O, Kai O, Patricia K, and Jennifer O for submitting their wonderful guest reviews. Thanks guys! I would also like to thank the numerous authors who e-mailed me regarding my review of their books. Every time that I was contacted by an author was memorable for me. Writers are truly "the salt of the earth." Followers of my reviews know that I love metaphors and idioms, and by the way, "the salt of the earth" was supposedly first used by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount. He said to the fishermen in attendance, “Ye are the salt of the earth.”
Anyway, I do enjoy writing reviews the protracted way. What I mean is that my reviews will not consist of one liners, such as "The book stinks" or "Great book." So what did these authors tell me about the reviews I wrote? Believe it or not they liked my constructive criticism. They enjoyed the way I compared their book with similar books and authors. And they absolutely loved my in-depth analysis of their story and characters. In other words, I gave them something to chew on (I told you that I like idioms). I also try to make my reviews entertaining besides being unbiased. I would love to leave some of the comments the authors e-mailed to me, but I don’t think it would be fair since I haven’t asked them for permission. I can tell you that one unnamed author said that my review made her “blush”. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Finally, I would like to enumerate the ten best books that I reviewed in order of attachment, or liking, if you will, and of course, with a brief comment:

1) Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (see my review of 12/09/2012), Perhaps America’s most significant novel ever.

2) Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (see my review of 3/12/2012), Hercule Poirot’s classic investigation.

3) The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (see my review of 7/29/2015), One of the first mystery thrillers.

4) Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy (see my review of 1/26/2015), Classic work by a great descriptive writer.

5) The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (see my review of 1/26/2012), Murder and the 1893 World’s Columbian Expo in Chicago.

6) Black Hills by Dan Simmons (see my review of 12/23/2010), Who can forget the merging of Paha Sapa and Gen. George Armstrong Custer via ‘counting coup’.

7) Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (see my review of 6/07/ 2011), The magical novel.

8) Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (see my review of 2/17/2013), This WWII comedy is a riot.

  9) All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy (see my review of 4/02/2013), The first novel in The Border Trilogy.  

10) A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain (see my review of 11/08/2012), A breath of fresh air from America’s greatest author.

I have five honorable mentions in no particular order:

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker; Zealot by Reza Aslan; I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane, Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, and Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey.

The writing of the reviews has been a blast, I hope I have enough of time left in life to publish my tricentenary edition. If not, I will save you a barstool upstairs (hopefully). Front cover picture of Rick O and Shirley O & back cover of Deron O and Jennifer O (lot's of O's) having breakfast along the Arkansas River on the Royal Gorge Train in Colorado.

Rick O

Sunday, August 16, 2015


It seems to me that reviewers either loved Paula Hawkins’s novel or hated it...well I liked it. It was an invigorating way to write a novel while limiting the characters to a "Cormac McCarthy" friendly five. And on top of that, Paula has three narrators telling her story with two being in the same time frame and the third lagging months behind (until the end). Absolutely brilliant. The way the story was written caused this reviewer to want to read more progressively. While I love short chapter books, this is the first one that I can remember that sectioned the short chapters into morning, evening and sometimes afternoons. It doesn’t get any better than that. Although Paula was cautiously descriptive about her five main characters, I had a handle on how I visualized each character. I did read that some readers thought that this novel echoed Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, I would agree but I would merge it with Strangers On A Train (1951). Nonetheless, there are some Hitchcockian (did I just make up a new word?) traits in Paula’s novel. Of course the novel isn’t all ‘peaches and cream’, I did notice some disjointed involvement whenever the red-haired man (near the end we learn that his name is Andy) appeared. I couldn’t figure out why he was in Paula’s novel, it was almost like he was a walk-on from another novel. And it is never defined (well enough for me) why Rachel needed to ride that train every day with no purpose, other than to fool her landlady, Cathy. Why would Cathy care that she was unemployed as long as Rachel was paying the rent? And what did that "little pile of clothes by the edge of the track" have to do with the novel? These are minor complaints, but very few novels escape my fault-finding.

Rachel Watson rides the 8:04 train each morning from Ashbury to London even though she doesn’t have her public relations job anymore. One day she turned up at work “blind drunk after a three-hour lunch with a client.” Rachel insulted the client and lost his business. Rachel was sacked. She also doesn’t have her husband Tom anymore. Since she couldn’t get pregnant, she turned to gin and tonics and forced her husband, Tom, into an affair with Anna Boyd. Rachel was divorced. She nows lives in a rented room in Cathy’s house. And drinking heavily. To make matters worse, the train stops momentarily most mornings by a faulty red signal and from her train seat she can see her old house. Tom still lives there with his new wife Anna and their first baby. But Rachel’s focal point is the house on the same street nearest to the tracks. There she daily observes a seemingly happy couple on their patio or having coffee in their garden. Rachel names them Jason and Jess although she will later learn that they are Scott and Megan. In Rachel’s mind...are they the ideal couple that Tom and her could have been? Is Rachel jealous of this unknown couple's life? She continues to find happiness observing them briefly each morning from her train seat. Then the unthinkable happens one morning. Rachel sees a tall dark stranger kissing Jess (Megan) on Jason (Scott) and Jess’s patio. Rachel thinks to herself, “Why would she do that? Jason loves her, I can see it, they’re happy. I can’t believe she would do that to him, he doesn’t deserve that. I feel a real sense of disappointment, I feel as though I have been cheated on.”     

The Megan narrated chapters are always lagging behind Rachel and Anna’s chapters chronologically. The reader learns that Megan has also lost her job and is somewhat depressed. Scott suggests that she should get some therapy. Megan agrees and makes an appointment to see Dr. Kamal Abdic. Don’t think that I’m giving the story away because I’ve only covered about the first thirty pages. Paula Hawkins’s Hitchcockian mystery is ready to explode as Rachel comes home to her room at Cathy’s on a Saturday night. Rachel is beat up, vomiting, hungover and unable to remember what happened that night. She knows that she was in her old neighborhood because her ex-husband Tom has left messages on her phone. Rachel sees the news on the television and learns that Megan has been reported missing. After some time, Rachel goes to the police and tells them that she saw Megan kissing a stranger on the patio. They don’t consider her a reliable witness. The police show her a picture of Dr. Abdic and Rachel I.D’s him as the mystery kisser of Megan. Later Rachel meets Scott at his house and tells him that Dr. Abdic was having an affair with Megan. For some reason she lies and tells Scott that she knew Megan. Has Megan been murdered? Did the doctor do it? Did her husband do it, or whomever? Maybe she is alive. When will Rachel remember what happened on that Saturday night? This is the point where the novel becomes a page turner and where I stop recapping. I only touched on the beginning, all the juicy parts are still ahead. This was an exciting book with some minor flaws, but I highly recommend this maiden thriller by journalist Paula Hawkins.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: has a list named, Thrillers you must read! Lets talk about a few of the novels on that list:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2005) by Stieg Larsson. says, “Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch—and there's always a catch—is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson's novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don't want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo.”

Angels & Demons (2000) by Dan Brown. says, “When world-renowned Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned to a Swiss research facility to analyze a mysterious symbol—seared into the chest of a murdered physicist—he discovers evidence of the unimaginable: the resurgence of an ancient secret brotherhood known as the Illuminati ... the most powerful underground organization ever to walk the earth. The Illuminati…”

The Silence of the Lambs (1988) by Thomas Harris. says, “There's a killer on the loose who knows that beauty is only skin deep, and a trainee investigator who's trying to save her own hide. The only man that can help is locked in an asylum. But he's willing to put a brave face on - if it will help him escape.”

Saturday, August 8, 2015


Why didn’t this great playwright write more than one novel? The leader of Great Britain’s (he was Irish) Aestheticism movement produced the definitive “giving pleasure through beauty” novel of all time. His character, Dorian Gray, was beautiful and wished to stay that way. Everybody adored him...even the men. Maybe Oscar lost his desire to write after being convicted of ‘gross indecency’ and sentenced with two years of hard labor. He died destitute at the age of 46. Why did writers like Wilde, Poe, and Stevenson have to die so young and so poor? Alive today, they would all be rich sad. Wilde’s prose was fabulous but strangely not as descriptive as the writers of his time. Maybe Oscar Wilde is the missing link that I have been looking for: who started the new way of writing and ended the descriptive writing era? Can it be Oscar? Like all the novels of the era, it was first published by the way of installments in magazine form within Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine in 1890. Many Britains were outraged because they felt his novel violated public morality. He defended his story in a preface when it was published as a novel in 1891. Wouldn’t the Victorians be shocked if they lived in today’s world? So what’s this story about?

Artist Basil Hallward met Dorian Gray at a party in Lady Brandon’s mansion. The novel opens with Basil painting Dorian’s portrait with Lord Henry Wotton in attendance. The three become great friends as the novel progresses, often dining together at various posh clubs and restaurants. They are high society. Does Basil have a crush on Dorian? After the portrait is finished, Lord Henry tells Dorian, “Ah! realize your youth while you have it. Don’t squander the gold of your days, listening to the tedious, trying to improve the hopeless failure, or giving away your life to the ignorant, the common, and the vulgar. These are the sickly aims, the false ideals of our age. Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you!” On page 28 Dorian says, “How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June...If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that-for that-I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!” His wish came true.   

Dorian falls in love with the beautiful but destitute actress Sibyl Vane. He asks her to marry him. Sibyl’s mom and her brother, James Vane, suspect Dorian’s motives. James tells Sibyl that he will kill “Prince Charming” (the only name they know Dorian as) if he hurts his sister in any way. James leaves for Australia the next day in an attempt to better his life. Dorian takes his friends Basil and Lord Henry to the theater to see Sibyl act in Romeo and Juliet . Since she now knows what true love is (with Dorian), her acting is horrible. Dorian is embarrassed and tells Sibyl that he never wants to see her again. Later, Dorian sees that his painting now has a sneer. He decides that he will make up with Sibyl. Too late, she commits suicide. He seems indifferent and goes to the opera with his friends. He decides to hide his painting from everyone and has it brought upstairs to his old playroom and covers it with a purple curtain. “No one could see it. He himself would not see it. Why should he watch the hideous corruption of his soul?” The portrait was getting nasty looking.

The reader never truly learns the time span, but it seems that Dorian was 18 when the novel begins and 38 when it ends. At the end, Dorian still looks 18 until the final page (ouch!). Wow, this novel was exciting, similar to the drama of Robert Louis Stevenson’s, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886). There is so much to ask: Does James Vane come back from Australia and learn what happened to his sister? If so, what does he do? What happens to Dorian’s portrait painter and friend, Basil, when he sees the painting aging? Does Lord Henry remain friends with Dorian? And who is Alan Campbell and why does he commit suicide? Sometimes I wonder why I just don’t read the classics exclusively. I guess it is because I’m looking for the next Oscar Wilde, or whatever. Read this novel at your own risk. I did.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: The 1945 movie directed by Albert Lewin was star-studded. The following were the cast:

George Sanders played Lord Henry
Hurd Hatfield played Dorian Gray
Donna Reed played Gladys Hallward (I don’t remember her in the novel)
Angela Lansbury played Sibyl Vane
Peter Lawford played David Stone (I don’t remember him in the novel)
Lowell Gilmore played Basil Hallward
Richard Fraser played James Vane
The great Cedric Hardwicke was the narrator

The poster from the movie: