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, October 26, 2015


Wow, what made me take on this 1516 tale? This is the original Utopia that bred many utopian and dystopian novels over the years since (and is still breeding). Sir Thomas More originally wrote this political philosophy book in Latin. My review might be a tad foggy on details because of old words (such as, methought, counseleth, howbeit, resteth and methinketh) used in this novel. The sentences and paragraphs are very lengthy written in a somewhat old/middle English language. The novel opens in Antwerp, Belgium. Three people are having a discussion: Sir Thomas More, Peter Gilles (town clerk), and a peculiar gentleman named Raphael Hythloday who says that he sailed with Amerigo Vespucci (remember him?) to the New World and then traveled further spending five years on an island that he says is called Utopia. Before Raphael tells them about Utopia, he rants and raves about all the injustices in Europe. He doesn’t think too much of Kings, who start wars for no reason and spend the people’s money. He also thinks that a sentence of death for theft is insane. Why should a thief get the same sentence as a murderer? The thief should then murder his victim so there is no witness or accuser. On page 34, Raphael says, “God commandeth us that we shall not kill. And be we then so hasty to kill a man for taking a little money?” On page 35, he continues, “Therefore, whiles we go about with such cruelty to make thieves afraid, we provoke them to kill good men.”

After Raphael is finished with his declaiming of the European style of life, Sir Thomas More says, “Therefore, gentle Master Raphael, I pray you and beseech you describe unto us the island. And study not to be short, but declare largely in order their grounds, their rivers, their cities, their people, their manners, their ordinances, their laws, and to be short, all things that you shall think us desirous to know. And you shall think us desirous to know whatsoever we know not yet.” Raphael agrees to tell them all they want to know, but first he wants to break for dinner. Thomas More says, “Let us go in, therefore to dinner; afterward we will bestow the time at our pleasure.” The end of the first book. I have to say that my desire to continue reading was challenged at this juncture. But I had two good reasons to persist: first of all, this novel is considered a classic and secondly, the foremost section (about Utopia) was still to come. There are many novels that are more difficult to read than Utopia, such as A Tale of a Tub written by Jonathan Swift in 1694 or Finnegans Wake written by James Joyce in 1939. Look these novels up and you will see what I mean when I say they are difficult.

So after dinner, Raphael tells Sir Thomas More and Gilles what he knows about Utopia. Basically, the island was formed when King Utopos had a 15 mile wide channel dug to separate from the mainland. Raphael says there are 54 cities, each city divided into four parts. The capital is Amaurot, located in the middle of the island. Each city has 6,000 households, every 30 households are grouped together. Houses are rotated between citizens every ten years. There isn’t any private property, no locks on doors, and each family has two bondsmen (slaves). Agriculture is the most important job on the island (everyone must participate). On page 63, Raphael says, “No household or farm in the country hath fewer than forty persons, men and women, besides two bondsmen, which under the rule and order of the good man and the good wife of the house, being both very sage, discreet, and ancient persons. And every thirty farms or families have one head ruler, which is called a phylarch, being as it were a head bailiff.” As I read this novel, it seemed to me that the Utopians employed a political system that was part socialism and part communism. On page 70, Raphael says, “Husbandry is a science common to them all in general, both men and women, wherein they all be expert and cunning. Besides husbandry, which (as I said) is common to the all, every one of them learneth one or other several and particular science as his own proper craft.” In other words, every citizen had to have another vocation other than farming.

As I read this novel, I realized that there was no plot to this tale. The entire novel seemed to be a structure or plan for future utopian societies or novels. I guess there has to be a start to everything, but did Sir Thomas More know almost 500 years ago that he just coined a word and theme that would be used so often in the future? Obviously not. So what were some other rules for the citizens of Utopia? I thought you would never ask. Well, the work day was six hours (not bad), everybody wore the same clothes, ate in a community dining room, and had no desire for gold or silver. As a matter of fact, children wore jewelry until adulthood, and bondsmen (slaves) wore gold chains. Any religion seemed acceptable, however Atheist were deplored but not shunned. Women had to confess their transgressions to their spouses every month. Wow, I don’t think that would fly in today’s world. Whereas Utopians would go to war if required (against or supporting other countries), they really didn’t want to kill anyone; capturing was preferred. I will let the other rules and the rest of the tale be discovered by any willing readers. I wondered why Sir Thomas More wrote this book. Probably because he was not happy with the political structure in Europe. Was he using Raphael’s rant in book one to show his displeasure? Was he highlighting a type of socialism that now shapes a lot of Europe in The end of the second book?

This novel was some trip. I did struggle with the old/middle English language at times, but it was worth it. I believe to be a well rounded reviewer, one must read books that test his/hers fortitude. Yes, I recommend this novel. I leave you with Sir Thomas More’s last lines, “Thus endeth the afternoon’s talk of Raphael Hythloday concerning the laws and institutions of the island of Utopia.”

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Sir Thomas More was beheaded on 7/6/1535. What! Yes, he refused the King’s separation from the Catholic church. In 1533 he refused to attend the coronation of Anne Boleyn as Queen of England. He refused to take the Oath of Supremacy and discerned the Protestant religion as heresy. Pope Leo XIII beatified Thomas More on 12/29/1886 and Pope Pius XI canonized Thomas More on 5/19/1935. Sir Thomas More’s head was mounted on a pike for a month on top of the London Bridge. Ouch!

The troubles for Sir Thomas More during 1529-1535 are chronicled in the Academy Award winning movie A Man for All Seasons (1966) starring Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More. The movie won six Academy Awards, including Best Movie, Best Director and Best Actor.

Now in my last review (Rarity from the Hollow), I said that I would reveal’s next five greatest books (#6 through #10). So here they are:

6) War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. Epic in scale, War and Peace delineates in graphic detail events leading up to Napoleon’s invasion of Russia.
7) The Odyssey by Homer. The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer.
8) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The novel chronicles an era that Fitzgerald himself dubbed the “Jazz Age.”
9) The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. Belonging in the immortal company of the great works of literature.
10) Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. For daring to peer into the heart of an adulteress and enumerate its contents with profound dispassion.

Well okay, in the comment section of my next review, I’ll list numbers 11 through 15 (maybe).

The Movie Poster:

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Rarity from the Hollow

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

To say the least, this novel was different. Knowing that Robert Eggleton is a spokesperson for impoverished children that have suffered physical and sexual abuse, I wasn’t sure how to interpret his story. In numerous ways, he exposed child and spousal abuse, yet he seemed to spend a lot of pages on ostensible pedophile innuendos between an eleven (thirteen by the end of the story) year old girl and a mature android, who was becoming more human as the novel progressed. And the kicker is that the novel was funny. Go figure. The author makes it very clear that his novel is not for YA readers, yet how do you keep it out of their hands. He says his work is out of the Social science fiction genre originated by Ursula K. Le Guin in the 1970s (read The Left Hand of Darkness, published in 1969). Eggleton’s novel was an thought-provoking read with some semi-minor flaws, which I will get to in my last paragraph.

Lacy Dawn is a impoverished and abused fifth grader living in West Virginia. Her father suffers from a psychological problem and tends to beat Lacy and her mother, Jenny, with a switch (branch). Lacy Dawn talks to the trees in the forest as well as her dead best friend, Faith. I was never sure if she was having real conversations, or make-believing. Anyway she floats above the ground (again, real or not?) most days to get learned (now I sound like a hick) by an android that she has been visiting since she was six years old. His name is DotCom, a.k.a. Bucky or Buddy, who has had a spaceship hidden in a cave for several thousand years. She apparently has a port (in her back?) that gets attached to a monitor that teaches her more than she can learn in school. DotCom promises to fix her parents and instructs her to have her dog, Brownie, dig a ditch to the house as Lacy Dawn lays a cable. The cable gets attached to her parents and cures them of their unhappy life. Has DotCom been tweaking Lacy Dawn’s genetic history for thousands of years in order to ready her for a mission to save the universe? Yes.

Lacy Dawn’s father, Dwayne, gets a good job from his "pot" growing neighbor Tom. Dwayne and his family start to thrive. DotCom suddenly leaves for a year. He finally comes back only to be discovered by Lacy Dawn’s mom, Jenny. Now two people know about the android. DotCom takes Lacy Dawn and her mom to his home planet, Shptiludrp (shop till you drop), which is a monstrous mall, managed by a Mr. Prump, who is the most powerful being in the universe. Jenny gets her bad teeth fixed and returns to Earth where Dwayne falls back-in love with his wife. Now all three go to Dotcom’s planet to find out what Lacy Dawn’s mission will be. They don’t find out but impress Mr. Prump by setting the record for their shopping skills. They are now celebrities on Shptiludrp and are hounded by autograph seekers. Is this a crazy story, or what? The ensuing chapters tell the rest of this somewhat convoluted tale. You will have to buy your own copy of this novel to find out how it ends (you have no chance guessing the ending).

Now for the flaws. First of all, The reader had to wade through too many chapters of boring shopping sprees before finding out what Lacy Dawn’s “universe saving” mission was. Second of all, there was way too much prose involving DotCom’s erections and Lacy Dawn’s panties. These two foibles stopped me from giving this novel a five star rating. Did I think the novel was intriguing? Yes, I did. But I’m not completely sold on the novel’s genre. However, I do recommend reading this marginally avant-garde novel.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: Obviously, Eggleton’s novel is the first in a series, since at the book’s end he states, “The end of this Adventure.” Doesn’t any new writer pen a singleton anymore? Almost all the books that I receive are...To be continued. There is nothing wrong with that, but the next great American novel will not come out of any serial story. Is there any accomplished reader out there that can rate the top five books of all time? Well there is who think they can. Here are their top five:

  1. In Search of Lost Time, by Marcel Proust. Marcel Proust’s seven-part cycle, was published in 1913.
  2. Ulysses, by James Joyce. Ulysses chronicles the passage of Leopold Bloom through Dublin during an ordinary day, June 16, 1904.
  3. Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes. Alonso Quixano, a retired country gentleman in his fifties, lives in an unnamed section of La Mancha with his niece and a housekeeper. He has become obsessed with books of chivalry.
  4. Moby Dick, by Herman Melville. First published in 1851, Melville’s masterpiece is, in Elizabeth Hardwick’s words, “The greatest novel in American literature.”
  5. Hamlet, by William Shakespeare. The tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by Shakespeare believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601.

That is a powerful top five, debatable of course, but what about numbers six through ten? Ah, they will be listed in the comment section of my next review.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Nightingale

Kristin Hannah has written a significant novel concerning the German occupation of the town of Carriveau, France during WWII. Kristin highlights the lives of Vianne Mauriac (who twice had German officers billeted at her home: one a somewhat gentleman, the other a nightmare) and her rebellious younger sister Isabelle, who eventually joins the French Resistance and acquires the code name...The Nightingale. With Kristin holding the number of main characters to about six people, she created great empathy for all involved. This novel was the most sentimental and tragic story that I’ve read in along time. Of course all books or novels involving the German occupation are sad, but this novel is noteworthy. I recently read Tilar J. Mazzeo’s The Hotel on Place Vendome (see my review of 5/4/2014) and Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See (see my review of 12/30/2014). Although these novels were very engaging, they didn’t leave me with the woebegone feeling that I had when I finished Kristin Hannah’s novel. Great job, Kristin. Okay, enough...what’s the story about?

In 1939 France, war is in the air. Vianne, her husband Antoine, and their daughter Sophie enjoy life in the country until Antoine gets notice from the Vichy government headed by Marshal Phillippe Petain (WWI hero) that he is in the army now. Vianne can’t believe that the Germans will invade France, but they do. Marshall Petain, for some undefined reason, gives in quickly. Meanwhile, Vianne’s sister is expelled from school again. Isabelle became rebellious after her and Vianne’s mother died, and as their father lost interest in them, she began to drink heavily. Isabelle leaves her father and Paris to move in with Vianne. On her way to Carriveau, the Germans drop bombs and Isabelle meets Gaetan, a French Resistor who thinks she is too young to fight. Isabelle arrives at Vianne’s home the same time the Germans arrive in town. They are in the “occupied zone”, while the surrendering Marshall Petain is in the German friendly “free zone”. A German Captain Beck decides to billet at the sister’s home. He tells Vianne that her husband Antoine is a POW and she will never see him again. Isabelle is defiant to Capt. Beck, while Vianne wants no trouble in the house in order to protect her daughter Sophie.

Isabelle meets French Communist Resistor, Henri Navarre, who talks her into secretly distributing “mutinous flyers” from Gen. de Gaulle, who is operating out of London. Vianne, a local teacher, is asked by Capt. Beck to list the names of the teachers at her school who are Jews, Communist, Homosexuals, Freemasons or Jehovah’s Witnesses. Not wanting trouble, Vianne gives him the names including the name of her best friend and neighbor Rachel who is a Jew. She regrets giving Rachel’s name to Captain Beck but realizes that he would have found out anyway, which would have caused her family grief. Isabelle heads to Paris to get involved in the French Resistance and moves in with her father who objects. On page 161, “she had delivered her first secret message for the Free French.” Isabelle is now using the name, Juliette Gervaise and her contact is a weird woman named Anouk. When Isabelle finds a downed RAF pilot, her modus operandi is born. This is where the story ignites all the way to the finish line.

There is so much sadness in the ensuing pages, but also a feeling of satisfaction as the French underground continues to befuddle the Germans. There is so much to tell the readers that I wish this was a book report instead of a book review. But the good thing is that the readers can now go out and get themselves a copy of Kristin Hannah’s scintillating novel to read over and over again. This is the best novel that I’ve read this year, but we still have almost three months left this year. As Vianne might say, “nous verrons.” (we shall see.)

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Probably the most definitive book about the occupation of France is the seldom read, Occupied France: Collaboration And Resistance 1940-1944, written in 1991 by Roderick Kedward. Teaching History said, “A splendid book. It provides an admirably concise narrative of the major events and personalities that shaped the experience of collaboration and resistance in France between 1940 and 1944…” Hmm, why is the book seldom read?

Another book that highlights the courage of the French woman is Caroline Moorehead’s 2012 book, A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France. says, “In January 1943, 230 woman of the French Resistance were sent to the death camps by the Nazis who had invaded and occupied their country. This is their story, told in full for the first time-a searing and unforgettable chronicle of terror, courage, defiance, survival and the power of friendship.”

You can bet your sweet bippy that Kristin Hannah read both of these books before writing her epic novel. Does anybody know what a bippy is? It was used many times on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In TV show. I think it is a euphemism for ass!