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, November 19, 2015

The Prince and the Pauper

Once again Mark Twain leaves the comfortable surroundings of the Mississippi River to write another grim tale of Merry Old England. Like Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (see my review of 11/08/2012), the book and the movie are dissimilar. The Prince and the Pauper (1937) movie took on a swashbuckling motif starring Errol Flynn, while A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1949) had a light hearted humorous tone starring Bing Crosby. Both of Twain’s books were written in a dark style, not as grim as a Cormac McCarthy novel, but certainly in a comparable disturbing way. The other aspect that I noticed was how virtuoso Twain’s diction was. (can you end a sentence with "was"?) When writing about Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer, the language was quite salty, and when writing about Merrie Olde England (the archaic way to say it), Middle English prose was used. Was Mark Twain talented or what? He even started his own publishing company in 1885, publishing 80 titles including Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (see my review of 12/17/2012). By the way, Grant was penniless at the time from a unmasked Ponzi scheme and was dying of throat cancer (Grant was a heavy cigar smoker) when his friend Mark Twain published his two volume memoirs, leaving Grant’s widow, Julia, with substantial royalties.

In 1547, two boys are born on the same day and as they grow up... the resemblance between the two is remarkable. But one is a poor boy from Offal Court with the name Tom Canty. Tom is a beggar living with his twin sisters, mother, grandmother, and his father, John Canty, who is a bully and a known thief. They live in a hovel in the slums. It’s a miserable life. On the other hand, Prince Edward Tudor is the Prince of Wales and lives in a luxurious castle with his father, King Henry VIII. He is spoiled with the riches of a noble life and is the future king of England. King Henry is cruel to the hoi polloi and quick to take the head of an enemy. But the king loves his son and is very compassionate to him. King Henry VIII is very sick. Prince Edward Tudor will soon be king.

One day, Tom Canty wanders to the gates of the castle. He spots the Prince in the courtyard. A guard throws him away from the gate. The Prince, seeing this, yells at the guard and lets the boy in. Prince Edward takes Tom into the castle and has him feed. Tom tells the Prince about all the fun he has with the lads of Offal Court in the summer. The Prince, who lives a regimented life, says, “Oh, prithee, say no more, ‘tis glorious! If that I could but clothe me in raiment like to thine, and strip my feet, and revel in the mud once, just once, with none to rebuke me or forbid, meseemeth I could forego the crown!” They switch clothes, and the Prince goes into the courtyard dressed in rags and shakes the bars of the gate. The same guard that was previously hollered at now boxes Edward in the ear and throws him out. Edward, suddenly realizing that he made a mistake switching clothes, says, “I am the Prince of Wales, my person is sacred; and thou shalt hang for laying thy hand upon me!” The crowd jeers Edward and the guard says, “I salute your gracious Highness.” Then angrily, “Be off, thou crazy rubbish!”

Meanwhile in the castle, Tom (as the Prince) doesn’t know how to act. He tries to tell Lady Jane Grey what happened, and she doesn’t believe him. She thinks he has gone crazy. Tom runs into the King and after talking to Tom...the King thinks his son is temporarily mad. The King thinks that the Duke of Norfolk did this to Edward. The King sets an execution date for the Duke, but the King can’t find the Royal Seal and reminds his son that he gave it to him. Of course, Tom, now the Prince, doesn’t even know what the Royal Seal is. Tom has dinner with his father and acts like he doesn’t know the etiquette of royal dining. Nobody dares say anything. Tom also can’t speak all the different languages that he is supposed to know. One person of the noble family, Lord Herford, seems to believe Tom’s story (that he is not the Prince). This was very important in the 1937 movie but not in the novel.

Simultaneously, Edward is roaming the streets and is cuffed by John Canty. Of course Edward doesn’t know him but realizes that this ruffian is Tom’s father. John Canty wants to know why he hasn’t begged his daily penny. Edward rebuffs his father, since he still acts like he is the Prince of Wales. Since John Canty roughed up a clergyman, the family is on the run. Edward escapes and is befriended by a semi-noble outcast named Miles Hendon. Miles has his own sad tales to tell (you will have to buy your own copy of this book to find out what they were) but takes a liking to this young boy and decides that he will go along with his story until he can cure him of his folly. Then, the worst thing that can happen...happens. King Henry VIII dies. Oh my God, the pauper, Tom Canty is going to be coronated in a few days. Can Miles Hendon and Edward, the true Prince of Wales, correct the mistake? What happens next is a series of twist and turns that culminate in a very exciting ending. Well done Mr. Twain...wherever you are! This was a very enjoyable novel and bellies the reason why I love Mark Twain books.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Did you know that Disney made a 1990 feature cartoon starring Mickey Mouse as The Prince and the Pauper? It also starred Mickey mainstays; Pete, Goofy, Donald Duck, Pluto and Clarabelle Cow. I never saw it, but would like to. The story has been told in many movies, but to get the true flavor, you must read Twain’s novel. I’ll bet you that almost no one knows that Mark Twain wrote this wonderful novel.

Okay, here is’s next five greatest books:

16) Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. “Anna Karenina tells of the doomed love affair between the sensuous and rebellious Anna and the dashing officer, Count Vronsky.”
17) Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. “It is a murder story, told from a murderer’s point of view…”
18) Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. “In 1862 Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a shy Oxford mathematician with a stammer, created a story about a little girl tumbling down a rabbit hole.”
19) The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. “The Sound and the Fury is set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County.”
20) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. “The book is narrated in free indirect speech following the main character Elizabeth Bennet…”

So there you go bookies. If you read these twenty books, you win the cigar!

From the 1937 movie:

Friday, November 6, 2015


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

Jack A. Langedijk’s maiden novel was a up and down somewhat dark novel. Not dark like a Cormac McCarthy novel, but dark with mental stress and tension. There were chapters in this novel that I thought were overdone, such as the long superfluous pages spent on enlightening the reader about Troy. Most of the pages about Troy were rather boring and unnecessary (maybe because the chapter was too long). On the other hand, the chapters written about Nancy and Philip seemed like relevant lead-ins for the novel’s conclusion. The author’s use of ellipses was way overdone (this coming from me, who loves the three dots “...”) to a point that it was annoying. Yes, there were some bumps in the road along with some blue-chip writing. I also didn’t have a firm handle on what our main character, Robert(o) Sanchez did permanently for a living at the time of the accident. What does running workshops mean? How do you make money with a study group? Who pays for the trip to Mt. Everest and all the sherpas needed?

On the contrary, Mr. Langedijk’s 28 pages of chapter 39 were moving. The story of the Ugandan doorman, Aaron Aboga, made the novel for me. Whereas I drifted through some parts of the novel, I was totally riveted when the Ugandan told his life’s story to our protagonist, Robert Sanchez. This chapter set the tone for the ensuing pages... all the way to the big windup. Superb writing by the author. These 28 pages turned my bias of the novel completely around, even though I thought some parts of  novel were too sanctimonious. One last minor dislike before I tell you about the story...I’m not a big fan of flashback writing. Did the author avoid the many pitfalls of flashback writing? Yes, he did because Writer’s Digest defines flashback writing by saying, “It can make plausible a character’s motives, by showing what events in his past compel him to act the way he is now.” That is so germane to the author’s story. Well done, Mr. Landedijk.  

Basically,the novel flashbacks from the present to the past in rotating chapters during a six month time frame. Robert/Roberto Sanchez is in therapy at a rehab center. He has lost his legs in an avalanche on Mt. Everest. He is in a rehab center for therapy and interviews with Dr. Seema Pourshadi who is doing an assessment for an insurance company. He was a world-class climber and now feels has no purpose in life. He takes out his aggressions with everybody including his family and Dr. Seema. The trip to Mt. Everest was part of a workshop he runs that tries to put troubled youths back on track. The avalanche occurred at the base camp on Mt. Everest as Robert and the three students (Troy, Nancy and Philip) that he took with him were preparing to leave the mountain. The novel bounces back and forth between Robert’s deteriorating home life with his wife and daughter and exacerbated talks with Dr. Seema. The reader still doesn’t know if the three students survived the accident. Robert continues to have a hostile attitude towards everybody. He feels that he no longer has a reason to live. He buys a gun.

The middle chapters tell the story of the three problematic students who eventually join Robert’s workshop at school. I thought that this was the weak part of Mr. Langedijk’s novel. Why? Because (isn’t that the title of the book?) it wasn’t necessary. Yes, we needed to know about the kids, but not in such depth. The focus of the novel was on Robert Sanchez. Will he come out of his funk or not? Will he kill himself? What will it take for Robert to realize that he still has a life to live and a family that loves him with or without two legs? Meanwhile, the reader learns that Robert agreed to give a teamwork/motivational speech for Greg Wong (CEO of Elevation) at a luncheon meeting for his merger with two other companies. Robert’s wife is a valued employee of Elevation’s management. Caveat! Robert agreed to the talk before he lost his legs. What will happen now? How can Robert give a motivational talk while feeling worthless? He arrives at the hotel for the luncheon meeting carrying a heavy leather bag accompanied by his wife. What’s in it? In the meantime, Robert’s daughter, Jenny, receives Robert’s journal in the mail. It’s significant because her father told her that she couldn’t read his journal until he was dead.

This is where I stop the story and advise the reader to buy his/her own copy of this surprisingly good nascent novel. I know it’s hard to write a many things can go wrong... and I usually find them. However, I also like to tell the reader about the good things the author did. This author, in my mind, wrote a very electric chapter 39. What if the entire novel was similar to that chapter? Wow, who knows? By the way, what happened to the three amigos (Troy, Nancy and Philip)? And what did Robert Sanchez do when it was his turn to talk on stage?  Maybe you noticed that I like to ask a lot questions to perk the reader’s interest. My other favorite tools are: idioms, metaphors, ellipsis and parentheses (you probably noticed). By the way, kudos to Virginia Cam for the awesome cover design. Buy this book.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: Normally I would have compared Mr. Langedijk’s novel to a similar novel, but I couldn’t come up with a book or novel that I read that was comparable. The closest book that I could come up with was Jon Krakauer’s, Into Thin Air, but it really wasn’t a match. Has Mr. Langedijk come up with a new slant on Mt. Everest climbing? My favorite is still Dan Simmons’s (one of my favorite authors) 2014 novel, The Abominable: A Novel (see my review of 1/08/2014)

Anyway, I promised you that I would reveal’s next five greatest books, 11 through 15. Here they are:

11) The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. “Dostoevsky’s last and greatest novel is both a brilliantly told crime story and a passionate philosophical debate.”
12) One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia. “One of the 20th century’s enduring works is a widely beloved and acclaimed novel known throughout the world.
13) Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (see my review of 12/17/2012). “Revered by all of the town’s children and dreaded by all it’s mothers…”  
14)  The Iliad by Homer. “The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer.”
15) Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. “The book is internationally famous for it’s innovative style and infamous for it’s controversial subject…”

Well, there you go. Very interesting books. Do you want to see novels 16 through 20? Okay, I’ll think about it, my little chickadee. What?