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 Amazon.com. 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 rohlarik@gmail.com. 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.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

THE BOOK OF THREE (THE CHRONICLES OF PRYDAIN ONE)

This is a guest review from my twelve year old grandson, Kai O:
The Book of Three is an ever changing story. It starts out with a young boy, Taran, who lives in Caer Dallben. The book picks up after Taran finishes an argument with Coll (Taran’s master) about if Taran should learn more about smithing or swordfighting. Then a giant swarm of bees starts terrorizing all the animals in Caer Dallben. One of those animals is Hen Wen, an oracular pig. Hen Wen is important, especially right now.  This is because a dangerous warlord, the Horned King, was recently recruited by Arawn, a powerful and evil ruler of Prydain.

Hen Wen knows a lot about the Horned King because she (the pig) is an oracle. Because of the bees, Hen Wen is terrified and runs into the woods with Taran chasing after her. After losing Hen Wen deep into the woods, Taran encounters the Horned King and his war band. Taran is nearly caught, but escapes running blindly through the woods.

Soon...Taran meets the good and powerful ruler, Prince Gwydion. Taran finds out that Gwydion is also looking for Hen Wen (for her knowledge) and tells the Prince that Hen Wen is hopelessly lost. This forces Prince Gwydion to take Taran with him on his quest because Taran is also hopelessly lost. This is where you will have to read (for yourself) the rest of the book because the story starts to pick up from here.
 
I thought that Lloyd Alexander is a very talented author because he constantly changes the main points of his story, while not losing my interest. Over the course of the story, the author introduced many new characters, but even with all the new characters, he makes the story work. I would recommend this novel to YA readers eleven and up.
 
RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: I thought Kai’s last paragraph was very perceptive for a twelve year old. Good job! How will Kai write his reviews after he learns the unique rules of of Cormac McCarthy? I can’t wait!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

YEAGER'S LAW

The author sent me his novel to review:

For some reason Scott Bell’s Yeager’s Law reminded me of the days long ago when I bought my thrillers and mysteries at the local drugstore. Do you remember the nice selection those stores had? (if you are old enough to remember). You didn’t buy your paperbacks at a bookstore...you went to the drugstore. Even the prose Scott Bell uses reminds me 1950/1960 era. Tough talk, short, and to the point, kinda like Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer character. Scott’s character, Abel Yeager, even has Hammer’s I, the Jury (see my review of 9/18/2013) attitude when when it comes meting out justice. I generally liked the novel, but it had a few stumbling blocks. I thought that the action moved way too fast for me to develop any rapport with the good guys or, for that matter, hate for the bad guys. It seems to me that a lot of authors think the reader is going to get bored quickly and put the book down. That’s not true. Give the reader something to hang their hat on before barreling down the tracks. I initially thought that the prose was too crude, but as I read the novel, I realized that it was effective for this story. Prose is always a big deal with me since I’m a fan of the seemingly extinct descriptive writers. Anyway, I thought Scott Bell did a yeoman’s job on this novel, but the plot was a tad too busy for my taste.

Abel Yeager is an almost broke, recently divorced ex-Marine, who is now a long hauling truck owner/driver. He is also mentally troubled about a accident he had with his rig on black ice. A pregnant woman slid in front of his rig one night and he killed them both. Not his fault, but he was sued and now his trucking insurance premiums have skyrocketed. The story starts off with our protagonist, Abel Yeager, driving down Highway 67 in NE Arkansas when he notices a black Lexus possibly following him. Abel pulls off the highway into a rest area for a visit to the john. When he comes out of the john, he sees the black Lexus parked with three Hispanics trying to steal his rig. Abel easily disables the three, but a fourth man (we find out later that he is Humberto Cruz, father of the girl who died in Abel’s black ice accident) pulls a pistol on him. Before Cruz can shoot Abel, a woman bursts out of the restroom area and points a gun at Cruz and yells “freeze”. I told you that this novel was busy, I’m only on page ten! The beautiful redhead says to Cruz, “Drop the gun!” So far, two classic police orders from a lady (who is not a cop) to the surprised Mr. Cruz. Cruz backs down and drives his beaten up crew down the highway and out of danger. But Yeager thinks to himself, “That means the hijackers were ahead of him, somewhere on the road. And they were pissed."

Abel thanks the lady and finds out that she is Charlotte (Charlie) Buchanan, a book dealer from Austin, Texas. Meanwhile, “An eighteen-wheeler with a PetSmart trailer rolled into the rest area and came to a stop at the far end of the parking lot.” Did the driver of that truck plant a tracking devise on Abel’s truck? Charlie tells Abel that she owns a bookstore and is on her way to St.Louis to to buy a bulk load of mass market remainder books. As she leaves, they exchange business cards. The State troopers arrive and tell Abel, “Well, maybe we can pull something from the video.” “What video?” “The state installed security systems at these rest stops a couple of years ago.” Maybe Abel will find out who this hijacker is. When Charlie gets to St. Louis (by the way, her ex-husband, Dr. Steven Buchanan recommended that she go there...why?) “Charlie Buchanan had known Dareas Thompson for less than twenty minutes, and she already loathed him. He was fat enough to use a freight scale to weigh himself, and his body odor reminded her of rancid cheese.” Big time...Yuck! She buys some pallets of books, but doesn’t like his shipping fees, so since she exchanged business cards with Abel...she calls him and he eagerly agrees to pick the pallets up and deliver them to her store in Texas.

I’ve only reported the action from the first 26 pages and have to stop here... before I reveal the rest of the story that’s racing down the tracks of this novel. SLOW DOWN. That’s the advice that I want to leave with the author. It was an astounding trip, but heed my advice. You have an obvious flair for writing, but I think your talent is still in the nippy stage. However, I do recommend this novel to all the readers that love non-stop action. The novel just wasn't my cup of tea. How many metaphors and idioms did I use in this review?

RATING: 3 out of 5 stars

Comment: My favorite recurring protagonist is Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt. Here is a man of adventure who loves the sea, cars and cockamamie exploits. I haven’t read a Dirk Pitt novel in quite awhile, but here are a few of my favorites that I’ve read:

Raise the Titanic (1976): Wikipedia says, “It tells the story of efforts to bring the remains of the ill-fated ocean liner RMS Titanic to the surface of the Atlantic Ocean in order to recover a stockpile of an exotic mineral that was being carried aboard.”

Deep Six (1984): Wikipedia says, "When a mysterious and extremely deadly poison spreads through the waters off the coast of Alaska killing everything it comes in contact with...Dirk Pitt and his NUMA team are dispatched in an attempt to find the source of the poison.”

Cyclops (1986): Wikipedia says, “A wealthy American financier disappears on a treasure hunt in an antique blimp-from Cuban waters, the blimp drifts toward Florida with a crew of dead men-Soviet cosmonauts.”

If you haven’t read a Dirk Pitt novel, you are missing out on a fun experience.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

BEYOND CLOUD NINE

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

Greg Spry’s maiden attempt at a space opera went better than I expected. I thought the first 75-100 pages were a tad slow, but as the story developed, those pages were needed to somewhat blossom the characters. Too often authors have the urge to jump into the action without augmenting the dramatis personae of the novel. This results in zero empathy for anyone in the novel. I’m not saying that the author didn’t jump right into the action, but somehow he did it while still maturing the main characters, if that makes any sense to you. Good job, Greg! I also liked the fact that the space jargon did not put the reader to sleep. The reader is given enough understanding of the technology of the year 2247 without blowing out the circuits of his/her brain. Does he need to improve his prose? Of course. But this being his debut novel leaves the author plenty of time to improve on his descriptive writing, which was a little weak in this novel. Another minor problem with the novel was the racial discrimination that our heroine, Brooke Davis, was supposed to have experienced in school because she was half Japanese and half Caucasian. I’m sure that 231 years from now all discrimination problems would be solved by interracial marriage. By then, I think the average human being will be tan in color with a hint of Asian eyes. Say goodbye to discrimination except for the aliens that eventually appear in this novel (Area 51 look-a-likes). Okay, what’s this novel about?

It’s the year 2247 and we meet our heroine, Brooke Davis, a U.N. aerospace defense pilot. She is assigned to the Jovian system and lives on one of Jupiter’s moons, Callisto. It’s a world of robots (bots) that do numerous chores for the human race, including flipping pancakes. Lt. Brooke, while on a U.N. spacecraft carrier, gets a call to action. Someone (most likely the pesky Separatists) are attacking a water distillation plant on the moon Europa. The Separatist have grievances with the U.N. government and are causing trouble throughout the universe. Do they want to secede from the U.N.? Because they are not included in the U.N.’s advanced communications system among many other reasons? Anyway, Lt. Davis and another pilot take off from the carrier in their Starthroat jets to help the people of Europa. When Lt. Davis and her partner land on the moon, she is stunned, because parked by the water plant are two U.N. Starthroats and one Separatist Tri-fighter. What’s going on? When she gains entrance into the plant, she finds all 214 workers are killed. She gets into a gun battle with the three intruders and remembers two of them as U.N. turncoats, who have been missing for some time. The third is tall and unfamiliar. Is he an alien? The three have set a bomb to go off and Lt. Davis barely escapes before it blows. The result...50,000 dead on Europa. The Chinese Separatist claim responsibility, but who was that tall (man?) dressed in white?

Meanwhile in Chicago, an explosion goes off at the Revitalization Center and kills mostly children in an assassination attempt on the U.N. Secretary-General Danuwa Ajunwa, who was giving a speech. Lt. Davis’s twin sister, Marie, was covering the event as a local reporter. Her report on the assassination attempt is met with merit in the local area. She wants to be assigned to the Advanced Propulsion Research Center where the FTL (faster than light) experiments are going on. Simultaneously, Lt. Davis (temporarily relieved of active duty) is sent home by General Douglas after her conflict on Europa. Lt. Davis, who hasn’t seen her sister in six years, visits her twin sister and her daughter, Maya, in Chicago. Marie gets her way and acquires the assignment to the Dryden Propulsion Center for The FTL conference (and she has a ticket for Lt. Davis). Marie interviews Prof. Kevin Sommerfield, the main man in the project, but he seems to be infatuated with her sister in the background. The U.N. Security Council President, Ed Collins, notices Lt. Davis in the background and decides to interview her. She tells him that she wants to fly the maiden voyage of the FTL ship. She is accepted into the program. Marie gets a bigger job for The Tribune. Things are looking good for the twins. While Lt. Davis was in training, a four-star general suspends training and says, “It is with great regret that I announce the U.N.’s decision to suspend this candidacy program indefinitely.” “This may be hard to believe,” the general said, “but a more pressing matter has come up, one that requires every able pilot to return to active duty.” What happened now?

Brooke Davis, now a captain, heads to Saturn. The moon Titan is under attack. The attack was on the colony’s hydrocarbon refinery. What’s going on? Captain Davis finds some surviving children and asks what happened, “Tall, skinny creatures in white space suits...They fired these powerful beams that dissolved people. The adults got us into suits. They told us to hide and tried to fight, but none of them survived.” After many ensuing inexplicable events happen, Captain Davis is confused as to what is occurring. She asks Ed Collins of the U.N., “In the Artemis reactor hold, I met a supposed exobeing who looked more or less human. He - I think it was a he - spoke to me in English. He was with two Defense pilots who I served with before they transferred out to Base HOPE, and when I confronted them, they tried to kill me.” “Sir, how can our people be working with the same extrasolar invaders who are attacking us? And why did the U.N. blow up the water plant and frame the separatists for the death of fifty thousand people?” Wow, what a question. What is going on...is the U.N. working with the aliens? Is Captain Davis correct? The second half of this avant-garde novel is exceptional. The last 200 pages are hard to foresee. Super exciting ending. Other than the flaws that I mentioned in the first paragraph, this was a excellent maiden novel by Greg Spry. Do I recommend this novel? Does Dolly Parton sleep on her back?

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: Space operas are defined by being played-out mainly in outer space. So what are my favorites? I’m glad you asked. I checked out best-sci-fi-books.com for their favorite space operas and I picked out a few favorites of mine:

Dune (1965) by Frank Herbert, “Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Muad ‘ Dib.”

Ender’s Game (1985) by Orson Scott Card, “Criticized for its violence (and possibly popular because of it), Ender’s Game show children on a military space station, training for the war against the evil alien Buggers.”

Rendezvous with Rama (1973) by Arthur C. Clarke, “An uncontested sci-fi-classic, Rendezvous with Rama is also one of Clarke’s best novels, winning the Campbell, Hugo, Jupiter and Nebula Awards.”

Wow, I read all three...As Tony the Tiger would say, “They’re Gr-eatt!”

Sunday, April 3, 2016

JAMAICA INN

Sometimes I wonder why I'm wasting my time reading contemporary novelists when I can read classic authors such as Daphne Du Maurier (1907-1989) who wrote this 1936 romantic suspense novel. This novel oozes with rich descriptive and apprehensive writing. If you are not familiar with Daphne then you haven’t read or seen the movie Rebecca. What about the movie The Birds? All three were directed by Alfred Hitchcock. This novel sets the tone on page one, “It was a cold grey day in late November. The weather had changed overnight, when a backing wind brought a granite sky and a mizzling rain with it, and although it was now only a little after two o’clock in the afternoon the pallour of a winter evening seemed to have closed upon the hills, cloaking them to mist. It would be dark by four. The air was clammy cold, and for all the tightly closed windows it penetrated the interior of the coach.” Now tell me...if you were riding inside that coach in Cornwall, England circa 1820, wouldn’t you feel chilled? That’s what I’m talking about; this lady can write. I know that I’ve said this many times, but once again...why can’t we produce novels of this enormity? Okay, so what is this mysterious, well written novel about?

Mary Yellan (23 years old) has lost her mother. She promised her mother that she would sell the farm and go to live with her Aunt Patience in Bodmin. Nobody has seen Patience since she married ten years ago. The last time they saw her she was pretty and giddy. As Mary took a coach to the Jamaica Inn where her aunt and Uncle Joss Merlyn lived, the coach driver warned her that no one stopped there anymore. He said, “they’re afraid.” She arrives on a damp and rainy night, only to find her aunt a poor tattered creature afraid of her husband. Her Uncle Joss is almost seven feet tall built on a gorilla frame. He tells her that he is the landlord of the Jamaica Inn and she is now his barmaid. Obviously, her aunt is terrified of him. Apparently, Joss bought the Inn from Squire Bassat under false pretenses. The inn has no guests and has a locked room down the upstairs passageway. What’s in that room? Uncle Joss leaves for a week and Mary walks among the moors and tors. Suddenly, Joss returns and declares the inn’s bar is open. The scum of the moors arrived. “They were dirty for the most part, ragged, ill kept, with matted hair and broken nails; tramps, vagrants, poachers, thieves, cattle stealers, and gypsies."

Mary is disgusted with what she sees. Uncle Joss tells her, “Keep your mouth shut and I’ll treat you like a lamb.” After she goes to her room, five wagons roll in and things are unloaded and dragged into the locked room down the passageway. Mary realizes that it’s probably smuggling or robbery on a grand scale. Mary heard a noise upstairs...was there a stranger listening the whole night? Was it Joss’s boss? Or was it Joss’s brother Jem? Mary heard one of the men in the bar protest, and it seemed to her that he was being hanged in the rafters. What kind of place is this? During time away from Joss, Mary takes long walks into the moors. She meets Joss’s brother, Jem, who says that he is a horse thief. What? Meanwhile the wagons come to the inn again, this time to pick up the cargo. After they leave, Squire Bassat arrives at the inn trying to catch them in the act. With Joss absent, the Squire breaks down the locked door and finds nothing. He asks Mary if she knows anything. She says no fearing retribution to her aunt from Joss. Joss comes back and is furious with the squire’s actions. He leaves on foot, Mary follows, but can’t keep up with his gait and gets lost in the rainy night. 

A stranger in a coach finds her. He is the albino vicar from Altarnun, Francis Davey. Mary tells him her story and he takes her to his home in Altarnum to feed her and dry her off. The vicar takes her back to the inn. Uncle Joss stays drunk for five days. Mary takes another long walk and runs into Jem again. He wants to take her to Launceston on Christmas Eve. She agrees. Is Mary falling in love with Jem? In town, they kiss, but Mary will not stay in town with him. He says that he will get the buggy and take her home. He doesn’t come back. Now she is trapped in town in the pouring rain eleven miles from the Jamaica Inn. She tries to find Jem to no avail. Maybe he was arrested trying to sell the pony he stole from the Squire back to Mrs. Bassat. Are you having fun yet? As Mary attempts the eleven mile walk in the rain to the inn, the vicar’s coach comes by and he gives her a lift. Mary puts on the vicar’s heavy rug and takes off her clothes to dry. He questions her on the journey, but gets off in his town and instructs his driver to take her to the Jamaica Inn. When the coach is three miles from the inn, all hell breaks loose. Joss’s gang shoot the driver of the coach and pull it over. They are drunk and on a Christmas Eve gallop to the coast to wreck a ship. They take a terrified Mary with them.

The next two hundred pages, or so, are brilliantly written in a descriptive manner that makes the reader think he/she is there. There are many twists and turns as you progress through this book, but I got lucky and figured out who was really the boss of the gang of ship wreckers. Maybe you will too. This is a must read if you are into reading serious British mystery writers, such as, Daphne Du Maurier. I highly recommend this novel and as a matter of fact recommend all of Du Maurier’s novels.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Wikipedia says, “wrecking is the practice of taking valuables from a shipwreck, which has foundered close to shore.” But Joss Merlyn’s gang took that practice one step further, “The term is also used to describe the practice of decoying ships onto coasts using tricks (e.g., false lights), so that they run ashore and can be plundered.” In the novel, not only did they plunder the ships, but they also drowned anyone still alive. They rode back to the Jamaica Inn knowing that there were not any witnesses left to alert the law.

Daphne Du Maurier actually got the idea for this novel after a stay at the Jamaica Inn (yes, it really exists). As a matter fact, The Jamaica Inn is still doing a robust business and is known as Cornwall’s Most Famous Smuggling Inn.