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, September 19, 2017

THE LYING GAME


I struggled with the first half of this story and I shouldn’t have because it was a worthy third novel by Ruth Ware, best selling author of The Woman in Cabin 10 (see my review of 9/7/2016)...but struggle I did. And I know why. The author was very stingy in giving the reader any idea of what was going on. Every chapter gave me the pipe dream of putting two and two together, but it didn’t occur until page 177 when I finally had a good idea of what was happening. I mean if a person texts a message to her three former schoolmates saying, “I need you” on the first page, wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume that she will tell them why she needs them before 175 pages have elapsed? And why did it take so long for the reader to find out why the four girls (they were 15 years old at the time) were kicked out of school seventeen years ago? I got the first clue on page 165 when our protagonist, Isa Wilde, was attending a class reunion (alumnae ball) and bumped into Miss Weatherby, her former Housemistress. I did notice this style of writing in Ruth Ware’s second novel, but it wasn’t as flagrant. In a good whodunit or mystery, I like having little clues dropped all throughout the novel...it challenges me to solve the puzzle. I don’t want to wait until half the novel goes by before I have a lightbulb moment. Okay, did I think Ruth Ware had a quality third novel? Absolutely, but I wish she would adopt a style similar to Agatha Christie’s. Agatha would drop hints and clues leading up to the conclusion so the readers could attempt to solve the mystery for themselves. So what did Ruth Ware do in the second half of the novel? She took the opposite approach of the first half and bombarded the reader with leads, clues, tips and information that almost made my head spin. With my pet peeve aired, I still recognize the author as a superior storyteller.

Isa and Fatima became best friends with Thea and Kate en route to a second rate boarding school in Salten, England. Thea and Kate have been playing a game they call The Lying Game. Isa and Fatima quickly made it a foursome of liars. Seventeen years pass since they were forced out of the school (see my comment in the first paragraph) and suddenly Isa, Thea and Fatima get a text message of three words from Kate (who still lives in Salten)...I need You. The three text back to kate...I’m coming, I’m coming, I’m coming. All three now have responsible jobs. Isa has a newborn baby that she is breastfeeding, but decides to take the baby with her on the train ride to Salten. On the way to Salten, Isa reminisces The Lying Game, “It comes back to me now as sharp and vivid as the smell of the sea, and the scream of gulls over the Reach, and I can’t believe that I almost forgotten it-forgotten the tally sheet Kate kept above her bed, covered with cryptic marks for her elaborate scoring system. This much for a new victim. That much for complete belief. The extras awarded for elaborate detail, or managing to rehook someone who almost called your bluff. I haven’t thought of it for so many years, but in a way, I’ve been playing it all this time.” Isa and baby Freya are picked up at the Salten train station by Kate in Rick’s Taxi (not mine). Kate owns and lives in the Tide Mill on the Reach. “It’s not a building so much as a collection of driftwood thrown together by the winds.” Kate tells Isa, “The whole place is sinking. I had a surveyor come and look at it, he said there’s no proper foundations, and that if I were applying for a mortgage today I’d never get one.” Kate will not tell Isa why she needed them until the others get there.

Fatima and Thea arrive. Fatima is now a doctor and a practicing Muslim wearing a hijab. Thea arrives...still the wild rebel. When they are all together, they go to the Reach to swim, smoke and drink...til two am. When they get back in the mill, Kate says, “I...then she stops. She drops her eyes. Oh, God, almost to herself. I didn’t know it would be this difficult.” “Spit it out”, Thea says, her voice hard. “Say it Kate. We’ve skirted round it long enough; it’s time to tell us why.” “Why what? Kate could retort. But she doesn’t need to ask. We all know. Why are we here? What did that text mean, those three little words: I need you?” As I told you in paragraph one, you will not put two and two together until you reach page 177, but on page 66 (this is as far as I will go with my recap), “Kate draws a long breath, and she looks up, her face shadowed in the lamplight. But to my surprise, she doesn’t speak. Instead, she gets up and goes to the pile of newspapers in the scuttle by the stove, left there for lighting the logs. There is one on the top, the Salten Observer, and she holds it out, wordless, her face showing all the fear she has been hiding this long. It is dated yesterday, and the headline on the front page is very simple: Human Bone Found in Reach.” Instantly, the girls know who that bone belongs to and what that discovery means to them, but the reader will not know until (you guessed it)...page 177. Did I whet your whistle? I thought so. Now get your own copy and try to solve this mystery (it will not be easy).

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: Even though I gave this novel a excellent rating, there was one other issue that somewhat irked me besides the lack of clues in the first half of the novel. What was it? Breastfeeding. That’s right, breastfeeding. Throughout this tense story, the author made sure the baby was being fed and fed and fed (why would you even bring this baby into constant danger?). I don’t think a chapter went by without Isa offering her breast to baby Freya. Even during a tense moment when Isa is discussing Kate’s father’s supposed suicide note on page 332...out comes the tit:

“I’ve read the note again and again, more times than Fatima has, more times than I could count, watching the way the words trail away into illegibility, following the progress of the drug in Ambrose’s straggling letters. I read it on the train up from Salten, and during the long wait at Hampton’s Lee. I read it while my own daughter lolled against my breast, her rosebud mouth open, her halting breath cobweb-soft against my skin, and I can only see it one way.”

The lack of first half clues and the constant prattling about breastfeeding led to my giving this novel four stars instead of five.

Monday, September 4, 2017

the Labyrinth Wall


The author and her public relations representative sent my fourteen year old grandson, Kai O, an autographed copy of her novel to read and review:

Emilyann Girdner has been awarded numerous honors for her fiction and deserves them all. The Labyrinth Wall is set in a near inhospitable world. In this setting, the Mahk (people made by the Creator) have to choose between searching through acid rivers for Obsidian to pay for food or be left to die. The protagonist, Araina, is one of the Mahk.

The story starts to become interesting after Araina finds a hidden underwater passageway to a lush enclave, a sharp contrast to the barren wastelands she calls home. All of this is surprising and new to Araina...but this is only the beginning. Soon after, Darith, another Mahk, emerges into the enclave. Araina knows Darith as someone who isn’t afraid to attack other Mahks in order to steal a meal. Darith followed Araina to do just that. After fighting for a bit, Darith manages to cut Araina’s leg. But just as it seems Araina may lose, a hole opens up in the wall  and a mysterious Man in White comes through being pursued by two Creator guards.

The Man in White runs over to Araina and puts his hand on her wound and somehow the wound begins to heal. Soon after he closes the wound, the Creator guards catch up to him and drag him back to the hole where they came through...and it closes behind them. Who is the Man in White? Why were the Creator guards chasing him? How did the Man in White heal Araina’s wounds?

Emilyann Girdner’s novel is a unique story compared to other novels that I’ve read. The story was interesting; the characters felt like they could be real and everything that happened seemed important. However, some parts of the novel’s beginning were a bit confusing. I would definitely recommend this novel to readers between 12 to 18 years old.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: My grandson, Kai O, continues to be my main YA novel reviewer. This week he starts his freshman year in high school with a better understanding of English Literature because of the work he has done on Book Reviews and Comments by Rick O.