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.

Saturday, June 30, 2012


This well written history was quite a roller coaster ride! First I was totally bored, then heavyhearted and somber, and finally was left tediously wearisome. Don't get me wrong. I liked the book. It's just that the first part of the book informs the reader endlessly about the origin of submarines and the reasons the British figured the Germans would not use them in World War I. Diana Preston, who is a Londoner, seems to be dedicated to detail in the extreme. The reader has to understand that this is a pure history book, not like the newly written non-fiction books that read like fiction. This is the story of the sinking of the Cunard ship Lusitania about three years after the accidental sinking of the TITANIC.

The Lusitania's final voyage and the passenger movements aboard was very interesting. The ship had many famous Americans on board: millionaire Alfred Vanderbilt, whose body was never recovered; theatrical bigwigs; Oliver Bernard, who sketched the disaster; and Charles Frohman, who perished. The relationship between twelve year old Avis Dolphin and traveling Professor Holbourn was gratifying (both survived). The bewildering fact is that the travellers were warned in a 4/22/1915 newspaper ad that war existed between Germany and England. The American passengers were cautioned that they were traveling at their own risk. The question was whether or not the Germans would actually torpedo a luxury liner. Nobody believed a ocean liner would be attacked without a warning shot over her bow and a boarding to inspect for any contraband. One wonders why the British and Cunard luxury liners would take that kind of chance. Were the Germans right in their opinion that Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty at the time, wanted Kaiser Wilhelm II to sink the Lusitania, thus drawing the Americans into the war? If so, it worked two years later!

The disaster happened on 5/7/1915 just eleven miles off shore of Ireland. The Lusitania's Captain Turner made many mistakes, such as traveling too slowly and closely to shore. The German Commander of sub U20, Walther Schwieger, had a unexpectedly easy target and had the unconscionable baroque to murder 1,201 people, including 94 children. Where was the British Navy? They were supposed to escort the ship home. There are many other questions. Why was the luxury liner carrying nearly all contraband in her cargo hold, including 4,200 cases of rifle bullets and 1,250 cases of 3.3" shrapnel shells? If the U.S.A. was a neutral country, why were we supplying arms to Great Britain and not to the Germans? Diana Preston excellently sums up the epic tragedy by saying on page 393, "The truth was that no government, British, German, or American, was entirely free of blame for the situation leading up to the attack. Nor, in its wake, was any government hesitant to twist the facts, or use the disaster, to its own political ends."

The reason that I said this book was wearisome is that I'm not used to being bombarded with fact after fact and going over political motives for 532 pages. I know it was necessary to tell the entire story, but the fact is nobody to this date knows the full truth of the catastrophe. I highly recommend this book to any pure history buff out there. I also applaud Diana Preston's effort to painstakingly document this tragedy.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: The Lusitania could convert to a auxiliary cruiser for the British Navy if needed, but it never happened due to her high cost of fuel. The luxury liner only took 18 minutes to sink after being torpedoed by the U20. She listed heavily to the left after the hit, making it very difficult for the life boats to be lowered. Diana Preston's current book is The Dark Defile and is the author of The Boxer Rebellion.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

OMG: Obscene Mind Games

The author sent me a copy of this short story to review:

C.I. Masuda writes a palatable short story of what could happen if you choose the the wrong partner in marriage. He gives the reader advice on what to look for in a possible failed matrimony along with tips for the nascent couples thinking about taking the big step. My first question to Mr. Masuda is: What were you thinking? Even I know that Japanese and Chinese cognate like The Hatfields and the McCoys of 1863. Did you forget about all the defeats the Japanese Army gave the Chinese? Anyway, I know that love camouflages future problems, but being engaged for six years should have been a red flag. Based on all the bellicosity you received from your former bride, I understand your desire to write this wonderful short story.

I think the most important lesson learned from this story is to stay away from any possible partner that displays extreme hatred. Being that she hated her family and yours is tantamount to an admission of future failure. The fact that she constantly under dressed you and over dressed herself during your social engagements and then pretended to be the loving wife is an obvious faux pas! I like the part where you state that she had the habit of saying, "Uh, it's alright". Was she really saying that she was in a constant state of agita? The fact that the hoi polloi didn't show any enthusiasm at your wedding was also not a good omen for future relations with family and friends. I think her shocking behavior at your initial  attack of acid reflux was a bellwether of  a coming depression for you. Does she really sleep with her eyes open?

Overall, I enjoyed this short story and would recommend it to any couple of compos mentis contemplating taking the big step. Chapter 17 in this book gives 60 tips on what to avoid and what to do if you are getting ready to ask your love to get hitched. Don't be obdurate and think your arrogance is enough to overcome any difficulty, take the sage advise of Mr. Masuda and rethink your options before taking the knee. This story is not just flapdoodle, Mr. Masuda is just trying to keep you from having a dreadful experience!

RATING: 2 out of 5 stars

Comment: Mr. Masuda is permanently disabled from a head-on collision near his home and is residing in New Jersey while contemplating another marriage(?). He is currently writing the sequel to this short story. Lets hope this next story is more euphoric.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A SECRET LIFE: the lies and scandals of President Grover Cleveland

This is the fifth non-fiction book pertaining to presidents from the late 1800s that I've read recently, and it is a good one! It's not quite of the thriller ilk, but it's close. This book stays with the facts gathered by Charles Lachman's extensive research, but still leaves the reader feeling like he is reading fiction. That's the main criterion I look for in this genre I call non-fiction thrillers. The main authors in this category are two of my favorites: Candice Millard and Erik Larson. This book does leave the reader with some doubt as to who is lying about the alleged rape of Maria Halpin by Grover Cleveland, thus qualifying as an exemplar work of labyrinthine narrative storytelling. Well done Charles Lachman!

The main theme of the book is about the sexual encounter between (at the time) private citizen Grover Cleveland and store clerk Maria Halpin. The liaison results in a child born nine months later named Oscar Folsom Cleveland, later changed to James E. King, Jr. The child is bounced around between Maria, an orphanage, back to Maria, and finally to Dr. James E. King, a friend of Grover Cleveland. All of these actions are orchestrated by Buffalo New York's foremost lawyer Grover Cleveland, while being opposed vehemently by Maria.

The secondary theme is how this sexual abuse or consensual sex affected Grover Cleveland's bid for: Mayor of Buffalo, Governor of New York, and President of the United States. Grover, a democrat, was trying to break years of republican rule dating back to Abraham Lincoln. Newspapers backed either Grover or his counterpart with many lies and innuendos provided by both sides. I found this part of the book very interesting since this was the start of what we now know as "dirty politics". The mud slinging in the 1884 presidential race between Grover and James G. Blaine set the acrimonious standard we see currently.

The third salient motif I got out of this book was the love affair between the 48 year old President Cleveland and the 21 year old daughter of his deceased best friend, Oscar Folsom. Frances Folsom and Grover became the only President and First Lady to be married in the White House. Frances stayed loyal to Grover during their marriage even with all the muckraking from the Republican Party. This is a must read for any historians out there who are interested in presidential lore. I still haven't fully made up my mind on the the alleged rape because Grover Cleveland was noted as the most honest and forthright president of all previous incumbents.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th President of the United States, the only President to serve two non-consecutive terms. As the Erie County District Attorney in 1863, Grover paid Polish immigrant George Beniski $150 to serve in his place during the Civil War. If you are interested in Cleveland read An Honest President by H. Paul Jeffers and Grover Cleveland: A Study in Character by Alyn Brodsky.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


Yes, I know Richard Ford is a Pulitzer Prize winner; but to me, this novel was just adequate at best. This is the first novel I have read of his, and I expected more based on the favorable reviews of his The Bascombe Novels . A John Irving he's not. The story was okay, but I don't know if the matter was relevant. And, why does Ford tell the reader what's going to happen many chapters before the event actually happens? I like to fall into these unexpected predicaments and marvels without the author providing his own "spoilers". I'm not complaining because I did enjoy the story somewhat. I just think there could have been a whole lot more nail-biting. Two positive points relating to the author's style are the disambiguation and resolution of the novel.

The narrator and protagonist is Dell Parson, the fifteen year old son of bank robber parents. (I'm not giving anything away, since Dell tells the reader on the first page!) This is the story of a Montana child and his escapades for the next fifty years of his life up to the present year of 2012. Dell has a twin sister that leaves home shortly after the bank heist and is hardly heard from again. Most of the tale takes place in the Saskatchewan area of Canada where Dell winds up after also leaving home. He is taken in by a nefarious gentleman named Arthur Remlinger, a former trouble maker from the U.S.A., and is supervised by the brackish Charley Quarters. This part of the novel is the most interesting section of his humdrum story.

I don't want to give away any of the remainder of the story as the author will do so himself as you read the book. I don't hold this book as an important work, but would recommend it anyway because of the writer's stature. I know Mr. Ford lives in Maine. Does he have three way conference calls with John Irving and Stephen King? Can you imagine? Wouldn't you want to be a fly on the wall? I opine that many reviewers have to realize that Richard Ford is a former sportswriter and not Charles Dickens.

RATING: 3 out of 5 stars

Comment: Richard Ford's first novel, A Piece of My Heart was written in 1976. He is currently a professor of writing at the Columbia School of the Arts. For some reason his literary movement is called "Dirty Realism". Who else is in that group?