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, March 31, 2014

A Young Man in the Wild Blue Yonder

The publisher sent me a copy to read and review:

David K. Hayward writes a epistolary non-fiction work that reads like a scrapbook your neighbor would show to you. It is sprinkled with photos, sketches, cartoons and diary entries. World War II never seemed so pleasant. I mean that as a compliment. The war was there, but the blood and guts were not...great job Mr. Hayward. I recently read Adam Makos’s  A Higher Call , which was a more violent look at the war in the skies, albeit equally entertaining. In the introduction, Mr. Hayward explains why a 91-year old veteran of World War II would write a book. “The answer? Most of the writing has been done. It was a matter of putting the pieces together, like a jigsaw puzzle.” He is a man of his word, the book follows his three and a half years and fifty three missions in the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations during World War II. Also patched throughout the book are his exploits during his down time and the details of his many reunions with the 22nd Bomb Squadron.

Mr. Hayward explains on page 121 what his job entailed…”I must emphasize that the mission of the B-25 medium bomber in the China-Burma-India Theater was not to attack population centers but rather non-civilian targets such as bridges, airfields, and ships used by the enemy to move it’s supplies.” Those missions are peppered throughout the book along with his stateside training with the many different bombers and fighters of the times. Surprising to me was the amount of young pilots that were killed during these non-combat training exercises. After Hayward’s 53 missions, he was assigned to Bolling Field in the District of Columbia. Until the war’s end, Lt. Hayward test flew aircraft recently repaired, flew mail to General George C. Marshall, flew ‘missing man’ formations during ceremonies, and co-piloted for the Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, on internal missions. While this book was far from exciting, it does give the reader an ‘eyewitness account’ of how it was to be a participant of the war.

Hayward touches on the famous Doolittle bombing of Tokyo and Yokohama that began about four months after Japan’s December 1941 Pearl Harbor attack. Sixteen B25 Mitchells were launched from the USS Hornet in a mostly propaganda attack of Japan. On their return most of the U.S. bombers crashed or ditched before they reached the airfields in China. The prose and the book's tendencies seemed to me like ‘the man on the street’ was telling the story, which I think makes Hayward’s story somewhat charming. I know Mr. Hayward isn’t a noteworthy writer, but he kept me entertained. I think eyewitness accounts are invaluable to historians. I’m amazed that a man of 91 put his first book together... what took you so long? What’s next Lt. Hayward? I do recommend this “yeoman’s work”, by the way, no pun intended, Hayward’s brother served in the U.S. Navy during the war.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: My all time favorite Army Air Force movie is Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo , which I  alluded to in the Doolittle paragraph. Wikipedia states: “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo is a 1944 American war film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It is based on the true story of the Doolittle Raid, America's first retaliatory air strike against Japan four months after the December 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Mervyn LeRoy directed Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo and Sam Zimbalist produced the film. The screenplay by Dalton Trumbo was based on the 1943 book of the same name, written by Captain Ted W. Lawson, a pilot who participated in the raid. In both the book and the film, Lawson gives an eyewitness account of the training, the mission, and the aftermath as experienced by his crew and others who flew the mission on April 18, 1942. Lawson piloted "The Ruptured Duck", the seventh of 16 B-25s to take off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo stars Van Johnson as Lawson, Phyllis Thaxter as his wife Ellen, Robert Walker as Corporal David Thatcher, Robert Mitchum as Lieutenant Bob Gray and Spencer Tracy as Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, the man who planned and led the raid. The film is noted for its accurate depiction of the historical details of the raid, as well as its use of actual wartime footage of the bombers in some flying scenes."


Friday, March 21, 2014


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

If Melanie Lamaga wrote these ten short stories to show off her creative writing skills, then it was a immense success. If she wrote these stories to display her storytelling skills, then it’s a horse of a different color. It’s been awhile since I’ve read a maiden novel where the writer had such a firm grip on descriptive and creative writing. Now that the author has a handle on those skills, maybe her next effort as a storyteller will be exceptional, because I thought most of these stories were shaky at best with a few exceptions. Lets focus on those few exceptions. 

I liked four of the stories: Waking the dreamer, What the Dalai Lama said, The seduction of forgotten things, and Black crater, white snow. Yet, these four stories had oblique and unsatisfyingly deficient endings, which also marred the six stories that I didn’t like. It’s almost like Melanie gets a great idea and then quits on it as soon as it gets interesting. Black crater, white snow is the story of a young girl named Jade gone mute after a unknown crater explosion, or earthquake while living with her mother, Anna, in Iowa. It really got my attention. I thought that Melanie could have easily made this story into a 300 page novel. Instead, 32 pages later the ‘show is over.’ In Waking the dreamer, Melanie’s opening line is, “I have a story you won’t believe. No one does. And I planned it this way.” I’m thinking, wow, this is going to be good. A mysterious naked lady found in the woods protected by “...a huge, white dog.” The ending was better than most of the stories, but it was still unfulfilling.

As for What the Dalai Lama said, Justine and Max’s interest in Buddhism causes Justine to write a letter to The Dalai Lama for advice. Months later, Dalai Lama writes back! (or does he). Once again, a great start to a story.Yet sixteen pages later it abruptly ends. The seduction of forgotten things was the longest story at 60 pages. This was my favorite story. A rebellious seventeen year old named Isabelle is unsatisfied with her boring life. She lives in a home called the White Rose House in the Old South. “Wandering the alleys, Isabelle observed the men and women who spent their days combing through trash.” Then she meets a homeless man in dirty fatigues that flits around like alley cat. He is seen yowling at the ringing of the church bells at Saint Francis church every Sunday. Isabelle and ‘the traveler’ become a happy wandering couple until the worm turns. Melanie, this story shows me that you have the potential to become a serious writer.

Although I think Melanie Lamaga has a world of upside, I have to give this novel a neutral rating because of the mostly weak storytelling. I would like to see her next effort a full novel. She seems to have plenty of good ideas that only need to be brought to fruition. She has to think like a closer. I remain a big fan of her writing skills.

RATING: 3 out of 5 stars

Comment: In the last year, I have reviewed many first-time writers. As I’ve said in the past...How does a new author get published by a big publishing house? Does everybody have to self publish? Well I recently read an article from and it seems this rejection attitude is not new. Publishing Houses have been doing faux pas with writers for a long time. The following are some major blunders:

Louis L’Amour received 200 rejections before Bantam took a chance on him. He is their best selling author with 330 million sales.
“You have no business being a writer and should give up.” Zane Grey ignores the advice. There are believed to be over 250 million copies of his books in print.
“It is so badly written.” The author tries Doubleday instead and his little book makes an impression. The Da Vinci Code sells 80 million. 
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times she decided to self-publish 250 copies. It has now sold 45 million.
Margaret Mitchell gets 38 rejections from publishers before finding one to publish her novel, Gone with the Wind . It sells 30 million copies.
“A long, dull novel about an artist.” Publisher rejects Lust for Life by Irving Stone. 25 million sales.
“Too radical of a departure from traditional juvenile literature.” L. Frank Baum persists and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz sells 15 million.
“Unsaleable and unpublishable.” Publisher on Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead . Random House takes a chance on it. It sells 7 million copies in the US alone.
Five London publishers turn it down.The little book finally finds a home: Life of Pi by Yann Martel winning The Man Booker Prize in 2002.
 “An endless nightmare. I think the verdict would be “Oh don’t read that horrid book.” Publisher rejects The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. It is soon published in 1898, and has been in print ever since.
The Alfred A Knopf publishing House turned down: Jack Kerouac, George Orwell, Sylvia Plath, and Mario Puzo’s The Godfather .
“He hasn’t got any future.” Yet, publication of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold leads to it’s author, John Le Carre, having one of the most distinguished careers in literary history.
With 23 rejections, Frank Herbert finally lands a publisher, and Dune becomes the best-selling science fiction novel of all time.
 “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” Stephen King’s Carrie sells 1 million in the first year alone.
 “Stick to teaching.” Louisa May Alcott refuses to give up on her dream. Little Women sells millions, and is still in print 140 years later, unlike the name of the publisher who told her to give up.

Okay you writers yet to be published...Buckle up and stop whining! You are not alone.  

Saturday, March 15, 2014


Nancy Horan writes an historical novel charged with the emotional ups and downs of the love affair between Robert Louis Stevenson (for the rest of the review, I’ll use his initials, R.L.S) and Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne. In the book’s afterword, Horan states that the novel is inspired by actual events in their lives. The fact that R.L.S. was a prolific letter writer adds validity to this second novel by Horan. The book follows their lives from 1875 till 1894 when R.L.S. dies in Samoa at the age of forty four. I found myself rooting for their success throughout their nineteen year journey and saddened when the story ended. I wanted more...that’s how good this novel is. With today’s medicines, one forgets how deadly and common consumption (the archaic term for tuberculosis) was in the 1800s. Yet, dedicated nursing by Fanny kept him alive long enough to write three of the world’s classic novels: Treasure Island, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Kidnapped. Sadly in 1894, while on his Samoan farm, opening a bottle of wine and talking to Fanny, he suddenly said, “What’s that?” and then, “Does my face look strange?” The great author was dead from a cerebral hemorrhage.

In 1875, Fanny Osbourne, fed up with her prostitute happy husband, leaves California with her sons, Sammy (7), Hervey (4), and her daughter, Belle (16) for Antwerp, Belgium. Once there, Fanny hoped to get into a famous art school but didn’t realize that they don’t admit females. Hervey gets sick (consumption?), and she is advised to go to Paris and see an American doctor. As Fanny and Belle go to art school in Paris, Hervey seems to recover. Then Hervey suddenly dies. Fanny is filled with guilt, as her husband, Sam implies that Hervey wouldn’t have gotten sick if they stayed in California. Fanny and the children move to the Hotel Chevillon in Grez-sur-Loing, France. At the time, this was the heart of a commune of artist, musicians, and writers. She meets Bob Stevenson (R.L.S.’s cousin), who is there in early May to rid the area of Americans, so his artsy friends can arrive in the summer. But, Bob likes Fanny, and she stays at the hotel as an artist in training.

Meanwhile, we learn that R.L.S. of Edinburgh, Scotland has been sickly all his life. His father, Thomas, is a famous engineer of Lighthouses in Scotland. He expected his son to be an engineer, then a Lawyer. R.L.S. only wanted to be a writer. The on again and off again relationship with Thomas and his agnostic writer-to be son is done magnificently by Horan. When R.L.S. arrives by canoe at the Hotel Chevillon to meet his cousin Bob and friends Charles Baxter and William Henley, it only takes him a few days to fall in love with the cigarette smoking, sharp tongued, Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne. This is the start of their love affair. R.L.S. gets sick; Fanny nurses him back to health. This will happen throughout the novel. Fanny’s husband, Sam, comes to Paris to try to convince Fanny to return to California. Fanny wants a divorce, Sam refuses. In the meantime, Fanny’s friend from England, Margaret Wright, writes a story about the Grez crowd in Scribner’s Magazine and paints Fanny behaving as a cigarette smoking seductress so soon after the death of her son. She writes that Fanny is “barbaric.” Fanny is devastated by the article. Her husband reiterates that Hervey would be alive today if she didn’t drag her children to Europe. Fanny decides to give Sam another chance and goes back to California with him. R.L.S. is devastated!

As you can imagine, the reconvened marriage of Sam and Fanny didn’t work as Sam continued his affairs with prostitutes. On page 149, R.L.S. gets a telegram from Fanny: “Louis, I’m lost  and sick. Need you.” Before departing for New York on the Devonia, R.L.S. wrote a will and an epitaph in case he died in route to California. He wrote a poem to be used on his gravestone that began ”Under the wide and starry sky, Dig the grave and let me lie.” The next 300 pages or so follow the now married Stevensons as the pastoral couple they become. I thought Nancy Horan’s portrayal of Fanny’s emotions was the strength of the story. Imagine being a talented painter and writer in your own right, as she was, and be looked upon as just Robert’s wife. Called a seductress by a supposed friend, called a peasant by R.L.S. (which he regretted), and totally ignored or disliked by Robert’s circle of friends. It’s no wonder that she finally had that mental breakdown near the end of R.L.S’s life in Somoa. Folks, this is a wonderful novel, rich in history and subject matter. If you are going to read only one book this year, then read this one.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: I have three other parts of the book that I would like to talk about. I would have mentioned them in the review, but I would rather have the reader discover these by him/herself, besides the review was starting to get too long.

The first one was when R.L.S. was giving a young writer named Adelaide a writing lesson. R.L.S. wanted Adelaide to describe a place for her evening's homework assignment.The next day Adelaide described her mother's garden. R.L.S.'s reaction? "This is absolutely appalling. You say 'green lawn' in this paragraph, everyone knows a lawn is green. Never use green to describe a lawn. In fact, never use the word! Get rid of all these adjectives. Better to use active verbs. Don't say, 'Climbing red roses are everywhere,' as you do here. Make them do something. Say 'the roses clamber up the trunk of the elm, and redden an arbor that creaks under their weight.' Do you get my meaning?" Is that great, or what? I loved this book.

The second one was the friendship that R.L.S. had with American writer, Henry James, who lived in Britain. Henry is the author of: The Turn of the Screw, Daisy Miller, The Wings of the Dove, and The Ambassadors. When R.L.S. lived in Bournemouth, England, the two great writers had many literary discussions in front of the fireplace. They had great respect for each other’s books.

The third part is when John Singer Sargent, the leading portrait painter of his time, comes to paint R.L.S.’s portrait. Sargent did include Fanny in the painting, but made her wear a white sari, sit in a chair against the wall barefooted, and with a fabric over her head so it partly concealed her face. After it was finished and hung in the sitting room, Fanny said on page 277, “I can’t stand it"..."The painting annoyed Fanny whenever it caught her eye. No one else would notice, but never had it been so obvious that she was being set out on the periphery.”

I know that I said three parts, but I forgot to tell you that since Treasure Island  was originally published in a child’s magazine, Young Folks, R.L.S. had to come up with pirate curses that were not offensive to children, thus we have, “Shiver my timbers!”

The painting in question, courtesy of
Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife Fanny Osbourne by John Singer Sargent

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Fellowship of the Ring

This review is from my most wonderful ten year old grandson, Kai Ohlarik.

Kai sat down with me on 3/8/2014 and told me in his own words what he thought of J.R.R. Tolkien’s first book in the famous The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He previously reviewed The Hobbit on this site on 6/20/2013. Kai was very enthusiastic when he said:

Here’s to J.R.R. Tolkien for a wonderful book! I loved the author’s style because he was so detailed. You are really able to picture every scene. He put a lot of time into his characters and their names, so you can really imagine what they look like.

Bilbo Baggins has his eleventy-first birthday party. Gandalf, a powerful wizard, talks Bilbo into leaving his Ring with Frodo. At the end of Bilbo’s birthday speech, Gandalf uses his staff to emit a puff of smoke in front of Bilbo, so Bilbo could slip on his secret Ring and become invisible. Bilbo later gives the Ring to Frodo as he disappears to see the world before he dies. Gandalf says dark times are coming, and Sauron is looking for the Ring to return the world into darkness. After that happens, Frodo leaves the Shire to go to Mt. Doom to destroy the Ring.

The main characters I liked are Frodo, Sam, Pippin, Merry, Gimli, and Aragorn in general. I liked Sam the best because he sticks with Frodo and keeps him safe. He never wants to leave Frodo. I didn’t like Boromir because at the end of the book, he attacks Frodo and tries to get the Ring.

I think the book was great. I loved it. There were no flaws in the book. It was wonderful. I would recommend this book to people who like adventure. I also think that I would recommend it because it’s a story with a lot of imagination. It is amazing!

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars supplied the following movie photo of Gandalf, the grey: