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.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Arsenal Of Democracy: FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm An America at War

This is the first email review done unknowingly by past contributor, Deron O for the The Arsenal of Democracy by A.J. Baime:

I finished the Ford Motor Company book. I would give it 4 stars. I almost think it should be a 5, but...

It was a fast read, and the writing flowed. I kept wanting to read the next chapter. Believe it or not, it ended with two men with guns drawn staring each other down. The only thing it lacked was style, which is why the 4 stars. The writing was very plain. I’m not sure there was one word beyond a 5th grade level. That really didn't bother me and is probably why it read so fast. It just seemed like the author should have some kind of style for it to be 5 stars... maybe I'll give it 4.9 stars.

Of course, the book was incredibly interesting. I've never read a book about the wartime economy. This was an excellent book to start with. It mainly told the story of the beginning of the Ford company until WWII. It focused on the production of the B-24, but touched on all the major players in Detroit and all the things they built for the war. I guess the phrase "The Arsenal of Democracy" applies to the city of Detroit (the phrase also applies to America, and a few other things, but definitely also Detroit).

I forgot to mention, it is definitely non-fiction history that reads like a novel. More than not, each chapter ends on a cliffhanger.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

The Finished Product:

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Is there a name for a short chapter book? I don’t think so, but it makes for elongated reading. By that I mean, it’s easy to say to yourself…”I’ll read one more chapter before retiring for the night”... again and again until you have read 50 to 100 pages. Get the picture? Then to make you read even more, the author alternates every short chapter (one to eight pages) between characters, time frame, or cliffhangers. Brilliant. If I’m reading a book with long chapters, I tend to look ahead to see how long the next chapter will be. If it’s too long, I say “sayonara” and retire for the evening. It doesn’t get any better than this, unless you are reading one of the greatest short chapter novels ever...Animal Farm (1945) by the dystopian writer George Orwell. We will talk about this “writer innovation” later in the comment section.

Anthony Doerr’s novel seems to tell several stories that collide in the waning chapters. We follow blind child Marie-Laure Leblanc and her father out of soon to be German occupied Paris during WWII to a walled French sea town named Saint-Malo in a house occupied by Marie-Laure’s strange great uncle Etienne. (Wow, that was a long sentence!) Anyway, Marie-Laure’s father, Daniel Leblanc, is the principal locksmith for the National Museum of Natural History and is carrying a famous diamond (maybe), the Sea of Flames, which is sought after by the Nazi Party. As the Nazis approach Paris, the museum director sends Daniel and three other people in four different directions, three of them with fake diamonds. Who has the real diamond? What happens to the diamond? Does the novel even answer that question?  

Alternatingly, we follow a German youth, Werner Pfennig, who has a propensity for fixing radios and is ultimately absorbed into the Hitler Youth Academy. The reader gets a good taste of how the Nazis trained and brainwashed the youths into a false bravado and hatred for non-Aryans. A good sidebar story is Werner’s relationship with his bunkmate, Frederick from Berlin. Neither boy believed in the Nazi Party but had to join the Youth Academy (ages 9 to 17) when they got the letter saying, ”You have been called, report to the National Political Institute of Education...” Werner eventually gets called into the war as a radio and transceiver repairman, working with a transceiver he partially invented. He is joined by the “giant” Frank Volkheimer from the Academy. Somehow, the meek Werner and the “giant” become sort of friends. In the ensuing chapters, Werner gets closer and closer to meeting Marie-Laure in the walled city. Will it be beneficial for both?

I thought the story of the terminally ill Nazi Sergeant Major Von Rumpel was pertinent to the story. As a gemologist prior to the military, he verified what this reader already knew from reading Robert M. Edsel’s non fiction book, The Monuments Men (2007) - that Hitler was gathering all of Europe’s treasures. And, Von Rumpel was in hot pursuit of the Sea of Flames. Will he also meet Werner and Marie-Laure in the walled city climax? Anthony Doerr has many more interesting characters in this pleasing novel, such as; Madame Manec, who runs great uncle Etienne’s six story house and the ladies resistance in Saint Malo, and Frau Elena, who runs the orphanage that Werner grew up in. This was a delightful novel with multiple stories that all come together at the book’s end. Great job of writing by Mr. Doerr.

Lastly, I thought that Doerr’s interchanging of the chapters between Werner, Marie-Laure, time periods, and other characters flowed brilliantly. Someone must have had a excellent continuity editor. And Mr. Doerr inadvertently whets the reader’s appetite for Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1869) by constantly having Marie-Laure read chapter parts in braille and on great uncle Etienne’s attic radio. If I hadn’t already read it, I would probably be reading it as soon as I finished this review. Great job on this highly recommended novel.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: I really enjoyed reading this short chapter book, since it just flowed better. No tedious or uneventful moments, and if it did, they would only last up to eight pages. Try reading Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851). Yes, it’s a classic, but you better be well rested while reading it. Anyway, I’ll list five short chapter books that are classics:

Utopia (1516) by Thomas More. says, “First published in 1516, Thomas More's Utopia is one of the most important works of European humanism. Through the voice of the mysterious traveler Raphael Hythloday, More describes a pagan, communist city-state governed by reason. Addressing such issues as religious pluralism, women's rights, state-sponsored education, colonialism, and justified warfare, Utopia seems remarkably contemporary nearly five centuries after it was written, and it remains a foundational text in philosophy and political theory.”

The Little Prince (1940) by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. says, “Moral allegory and spiritual autobiography, The Little Prince is the most translated book in the French language. With a timeless charm it tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behaviour through a series of extraordinary encounters. His personal odyssey culminates in a voyage to Earth and further adventures.”

Cat's Cradle (1963) by Kurt Vonnegut. says, “Told with deadpan humour & bitter irony, Kurt Vonnegut's cult tale of global destruction preys on our deepest fears of witnessing Armageddon &, worse still, surviving it ...
Dr Felix Hoenikker, one of the founding 'fathers' of the atomic bomb, has left a deadly legacy to the world. For he's the inventor of 'ice-nine', a lethal chemical capable of freezing the entire planet. The search for its whereabouts leads to Hoenikker's three ecentric children, to a crazed dictator in the Caribbean, to madness. Felix Hoenikker's Death Wish comes true when his last, fatal gift to humankind brings about the end, that for all of us, is nigh…”

Holy Bible: King James Version (1611) by anonymous. says, “Great for all ages! All the majesty of the Authorized King James Version in a beautiful Black Leatherflex (Imitation Leather) Binding. The words of Christ are printed in red and names are written in a self-pronouncing way. This edition features an easy-to-use illustrated Bible dictionary and concordance, which adds to your understanding of the Scriptures. Full-color endpaper maps illuminate the Bible text. This edition is ideal for gift-giving since the front Presentation Page lets you record the occasion. The durable and practical black leatherflex binding will withstand regular use for years.”

A Clockwork Orange (1962) by Anthony Burgess. says, “A vicious fifteen-year-old "droog" is the central character of this 1963 classic, whose stark terror was captured in Stanley Kubrick's magnificent film of the same title.

In Anthony Burgess's nightmare vision of the future, where criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends' social pathology. A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. When the state undertakes to reform Alex—to "redeem" him—the novel asks, "At what cost?"

Wow, those are heavy reading books, but made easier to read because of the short chapters.

Pigs from Animal Farm courtesy of

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


The author sent me copy of his novel to review:

M. John Lubetkin writes a gripping novel in the style of Harry Turtledove, the guru of alternate history, writer of The Man with the Iron Heart. Lubetkin’s novel is also similar to Dan Simmons’s The Abominable: A Novel, a story (see my review of 1/8/2014), in which a old man (Jacob Perry) narrates the account of his adventures as a young mountain climber. In Custer’s Gold, the story is narrated by a old man (Ned Jordan) chronicling his adventures as a young surveyor. It seems many authors take a shot at writing alternate history, even Stephen King tried with his JFK novel, 11/22/63 (see my review of 5/16/2012). Now I’m not saying that Lubetkin is in the category of the above mentioned authors, but who knows...he just started writing after 32 years as a cable television executive. The story has some dead spots here and there but generally keeps the reader’s attention. Also interposed in Custer’s Gold are some chapters narrated by the bank robber Tom Donovan, aka Thomas Dugan, aka Mack McGillicuddy, to name a few. I enjoyed these "intermission" type breaks...more of these would have added needed profundity, not that the novel was simplistic. Okay, enough...what’s the novel about?

It’s August 1st 1864 in Virginia City, Montana. The Donovan gang bursts into the Allen and Millard Bank and get away with $15,000 and 200 pounds of gold dust. Meanwhile another part of the gang strike it rich by finding 650 pounds of gold dust on a Wells Fargo buckboard. Wow, what a haul! Later in the day they had 30 vigilantes after them. As the gang tries to escape on the Yellowstone River, they are attacked by Sitting Bull warriors. The gold is buried near the river, but many of the gang are killed. Donovan takes an arrow to his left eye and pulls it out. He is taken prisoner over the winter and released in the spring (he doesn’t know why they didn’t torture and kill him). The Indians warn him never to come back. He walks 600 miles to Wyoming with five pounds of gold dust in his gold belt. Now he must find a way to get the buried gold back while under the threat of death from the Sioux Indians. How many of the gang survived the Indian attack? Is Donovan the only survivor? I must say that this novel was toned down regarding the Sioux’s vicious torture customs. If you want to know what the Sioux really did, read Bob Drury’s The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend (see my review of 2/22/2014).

So, it’s 1935 and Ned Jordan is 89 years old and begins his story of the building of the second transcontinental railroad between Duluth, Minnesota and Tacoma, Washington (2,000 miles of track through hostile Sioux territory). The leader of the survey team is ex-Confederate General Tom Rosser. Somehow, Tom Donovan, now known as Mack, gets on the survey team with fellow gang member Red McCloud, aka Callahan. The president of the Northern Pacific, Gregory Smith, wants the young surveyor, Ned Jordan, to keep an eye out for the stolen gold. Smith thinks the stolen gold is on Northern Pacific land. Ned goes home to Portland, Maine to visit his parents before the dangerous survey trip starts. He falls in love with childhood friend Kate Warren, now a beautiful woman. Later, on the journey to survey the route to Tacoma, Ned and the General meet Bobby Pettit, a former Donovan gang member. Bobby tells them about the stolen gold and where it is. Subsequently, Bobby is found mutilated. Did the Sioux do this, or did someone who didn’t appreciate Bobby revealing where the gold is... kill him? Later Captain George Armstrong Custer (He was a Brevet Major General during the Civil War) provides military protection for survey team. After Ned, Rosser, Mack, Eck, Charlie and Phil (the group of six) find the gold, they keep it in two wagons. Custer puts two and two together and wants a cut of the gold. Ned’s group has no choice; they accept him as a partner. Now the fun starts: Can they get out of Indian territory alive? With the gold? Will one of the group steal all of the gold? The rest of the novel gets stimulating.

There were some good sidebar stories, such as, Ned’s infatuation with General Rosser’s wife, Lizzy. Kate Jordan’s secret relationship with her father, Judge Warren, was a big surprise. The sidebar story that I think Mr. Lubetkin messed up on was the one about President Grant’s son, Fred. A relative of President Grant’s family was killed on one of the survey trips. On page 236, Fred Grant goes on the next survey trip as an official observer. That’s the last we read about him. What? Did we forget about him? Did Mr. Lubetkin need a continuity editor? Other than some edit errors, it was an enjoyable novel, and I would highly recommend it.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: There have been quite a few books written about George Armstrong Custer, even though he finished last in his class at West Point and had all his men killed at The Battle of the Little Big Horn. What are some the better books? How about:

My Life On The Plains (1874) by General George A. Custer. says, “In 1874, just two years before General George A. Custer's death at Little Big Horn, a collection of his magazine articles was published as "My Life on the Plains." Custer, General in the U.S. Army’s Seventh Cavalry, wrote personal accounts of his encounters with Native Americans during the western Indian warfare of 1867-1869.   The collection was a document of its time and an important primary source for anyone interested in U.S. military affairs and U.S./Native American relations. Custer’s references to Indians as “bloodthirsty savages” were tempered by his empathetic understanding of their reason for fighting: “If I were an Indian, I often think I would greatly prefer to cast my lot among those of my people who adhered to the free open plains, rather than submit to the confined limits of a reservation…”

Little Bighorn: A Novel by John Hough, Jr. Walmart says, "Hired as an aide for Colonel Custer's 1876 campaign against the Sioux and Cheyenne, Allen Winslow falls in love with a military surgeon's sister who watches with foreboding as her loved ones ride out with Custer's Seventh Cavalry.As a favor to the beautiful actress Mary Deschenes, Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer hires her eighteen-year-old son Allen Winslow as an aide for his 1876 campaign against the Sioux and Cheyenne. Traveling west against his will, Allen finds himself in the company of Addie Grace Lord, sixteen, sister of one of Custer's regimental surgeons. The two fall in love, and it is with foreboding that Addie Grace watches Allen and her brother George ride out with Custer's Seventh Cavalry. Weeks later in Montana, hundreds of miles to the west, the Seventh brings its quarry to bay beside the river called the Little Bighorn.Beautifully written and filled with unforgettable characters, "Little Bighorn" brings to life the American West and its heartbreaking history, brilliantly portraying the flawed and tormented Custer.”

Custer, Black Kettle, and the Fight on the Washita (1938) by Charles J. Brill. Barnes and Noble says, “Using Cheyenne and Arapaho accounts, Charles J. Brill tells the story of General George Armstrong Custer’s winter campaign on the southern plains in 1868-69, including his attack in Black Kettle’s village on the snowy backs of the Washita River. Brill’s searing account details the ruthlessness of the U.S. Army’s efforts to punish southern plains tribes for what they considered incessant raiding and depredation. Brill provides the Indian point of view as he follows Custer into a battle that remains controversial to the present day.

In a new foreword to this edition, Mark L. Gardner discusses the significance of Brill’s history-placing it in context with other Custer and Indian Wars studies-and its Value to scholars and general readers today. Gardner also provides an overview of the career of Oklahoma journalist Charles J. Brill, much of whose life has remained a mystery until now.”

Glorious War (2013) by Thom Hatch. Barnes and Noble says, "Glorious War, the thrilling and definitive biography of George Armstrong Custer's Civil War years, is nothing short of a heart-pounding cavalry charge through the battlefield heroics that thrust the gallant young officer into the national spotlight in the midst of the country's darkest hours. From West Point to the daring actions that propelled him to the rank of general at age twenty-three to his unlikely romance with Libbie Bacon, Custer's exploits are the stuff of legend.

Always leading his men from the front with a personal courage seldom seen before or since, he was a key part of nearly every major engagement in the east. Not only did Custer capture the first battle flag taken by the Union and receive the white flag of surrender at Appomattox, but his field generalship at Gettysburg against Confederate cavalry General Jeb Stuart had historic implications in changing the course of that pivotal battle.

For decades, historians have looked at Custer strictly through the lens of his death on the frontier, casting him as a failure. While some may say that the events that took place at the Little Bighorn are illustrative of America's bloody westward expansion, they have in the process unjustly eclipsed Custer's otherwise extraordinarily life and outstanding career and fall far short of encompassing his incredible service to his country. This biography of thundering cannons, pounding hooves, and stunning successes tells the true story of the origins of one of history's most dynamic and misunderstood figures. Award-winning historian Thom Hatch reexamines Custer's early career to rebalance the scales and show why Custer's epic fall could never have happened without the spectacular rise that made him an American legend.”

The Northern Pacific Railroad being built: