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.

Friday, May 22, 2015

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

The following is a guest review from my eleven year old grandson, Kai O:

What happens when an expedition to kill a giant narwhal is shipwrecked and then saved by the same narwhal? But what if the sea monster is actually a giant submarine? This is what happens to Professor Pierre Aronnax in Jules Verne’s amazing book, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I've never read anything like this great book. But an early warning...don’t read the summary on the back of the book. It gives away too much of the story and nearly ruined it for me.

When Professor Pierre Aronnax is thrown overboard on the Abraham Lincoln, he is thrown into a undersea adventure with mystery and amazement.  The adventure starts when the professor, a whaler named Ned Land, and the professor’s assistant, Conseil, are saved by the submarine named The Nautilus commanded by the mysterious Captain Nemo.  Soon after they climb inside, they find themselves in a dark room. Later, Captain Nemo comes into the room with his lieutenant and attempts to communicate unsuccessfully due to Captain Nemo speaking a wholly unknown language. After being served a meal and now sleeping in a lit room, Captain Nemo comes back now speaking the professor’s language. Captain Nemo explains that the world can not know of his existence; therefore, he can’t let them go. On the flipside, Professor Aronnax and his friends are hurled into awe inspiring adventure, including undersea forests and sea monsters.

I really liked this was like nothing that I ever read before. Conversely, this book does have various chapters centered around boring topics, such as the descriptions of the fish surrounding the Nautilus and their classification. For this reason, I would only recommend this book to the most dedicated readers, but it is still a great book to read.  Finally, I would give the book four stars because of its various boring chapters.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Poster from the movie (1954), starring Kirk Douglas and James Mason:

Saturday, May 16, 2015


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

Heather Voight has written an eye-opening book about America’s cavalier effort regarding the attempted immigration of European Jews to America (Britain as well) during WWII. The book focuses on the apparent anti-semitism of America’s State Department and the general anti-semitic stance of the public. Did we really believe that if we brought victimized Jews from Europe to America that most would be Nazi spies? Obviously, we believed the Japanese-Americans on the west coast were spies because we took their homes and businesses away and sent them to internment camps in the midwest. I guess you had to live in 1940s America to get the full flavor of what was going through the average American citizen’s mind. Lets be real, nobody knew that we were going to win the war in Japan or Germany. My review in no way is making a judgement of any I said, you had to be there. As I read Heather Voight’s book, I kept thinking…"With hindsight, It’s easy to make the right decision.” The Japanese-Americans would have remained on the west coast and the Jews would have been welcomed with open arms in America and Britain (at least one would hope so). As I read her book, I also thought about the scuttlebutt I read in other books about Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh being Hitler sympathizers in the 1930s (both received The Commander Cross of the Order of the German Eagle by Hermann Goring in 1938 on separate dinner parties). Several weeks later the infamous Kristallnacht broke out throughout Germany. Ford and Lindbergh kept their medals.

Everything considered, Heather Voight, a successful freelance writer and history blogger, did her homework with due diligence with the known facts. This is not a novel, this really happened. Normally, pure history books put me to sleep. That’s why I’m a big fan of Erik Larson, who writes nonfiction that reads like fiction. He recently said in AARP Magazine that his way of writing nonfiction changed when he read David McCullough’s, The Johnstown Flood. He now calls his style of nonfiction...narrative nonfiction. I only mention this because Voight’s book, while not a cliffhanger nonfiction work, was not dry or tedious. Maybe because it was short and precise, I’m not sure, it worked. I know that I fell asleep many times reading William L. Shirer’s 1,280 page tome, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Regardless, I learned a lot about our belated attempt to rescue the European Jews. Again, I’m not passing judgement either way.

So how did The War Refugee Board (WRB) get started? Not easily, based on the prejudices I mention in the first (lengthy) paragraph. But the two heroes have to be, first of all, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Secretary of the Treasury, friend and old neighbor of FDR. By the way he was the only Jew on FDR’s cabinet, so he was walking on eggshells. He had to convince FDR that America had to help the Jews overseas. Not easy when, “Although the British stated their position more bluntly, the Foreign Office and the U.S. State Department both saw Jews as garbage that needed to be disposed of elsewhere.” Ouch! The second hero was the head of the WRB, John Pehle. So what were some of their obstacles? Well first of all, “The failure of the Roosevelt administration to fund the WRB showed the world that the United States government was not committed to the Jewish rescue.” Secondly, by the time the WRB was established, four million Jews were already murdered. Thirdly, “Throughout the war, the British resisted Jewish immigration to Palestine and they responded similarly to the Hungarian government’s proposal (to save Jewish lives). Fourthly, “Although there is no way to know how many Jews could have escaped under the various ransom proposals or which offers would have proved successful, the reluctance of the Allies to supply the Nazis with Allied goods should have been overridden by the desire to preserve human lives.” In other words, the Nazis made many offers to exchange Jews for goods that America and England both refused.

So, how did this rescue effort end? It’s a matter of history, but the best way to find out is to buy this factual history book. I must say that I was impressed with Heather Voight’s style and prose, although there were edit problems that were not the fault of the author. Buy it and learn.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: What are the best Holocaust books written by Jews who actually experienced the nightmare? Let’s examine a few. Probably the best know book is Anne Frank’s, The Diary of a Young Girl (1947). states, “Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has since become a world classic-a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit. In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the “Secret Annex” of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death. In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and amusing, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.”

Another profound book is Elie Wiesel’s, Night (1958). states, “Night is a work by Elie Wiesel about his experience with his father in the Nazi German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald in 1944-1945, at the height of the Holocaust and toward the end of the Second World War. In just over 100 pages of sparse and fragmented narrative, Wiesel writes about the death of God and his own increasing disgust with humanity, reflected in the inversion of the father-child relationship as his father declines to a helpless state and Wiesel becomes his resentful teenage caregiver. Penetrating and powerful, Night awakens the shocking memory of evil at its absolute and carries with it the unforgettable message that this horror must never be allowed to happen again.”

A more recent publication is Thomas Buergenthal’s, A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy (2007). states, “Thomas Buergenthal, now a judge in the International Court of Justice in the Hague, tells his astonishing experience as a his memoir, A Lucky Child. He arrived at Auschwitz at age 10 after surviving two ghettos and a labor camp. Separated first from his mother and then his father, Buergenthal managed by his wits and some remarkable strokes of luck to survive on his own. Almost two years after his liberation, Buergenthal was miraculously reunited with his mother and in 1951 arrived in the U.S. to start a new life. Now dedicated to helping those subjected to tyranny throughout the world, Buergenthal writes his story with a simple clarity that highlights the stark details of unimaginable hardship.”

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Could this novel by Zane Grey be the most eminent western ever written? Could be. I haven’t read the two main challengers: Owen Wister’s The Virginian (1902) or Jack Schaefer’s Shane (1946), although I did see and love the movie. Did Cormac McCarthy learn how to limit the main characters to four or five after reading this novel? Could be. Did Zane Grey learn descriptive writing by reading the old masters like Nathaniel Hawthorne or Herman Melville? Could be. But Zane Grey’s descriptive strength is in delineating the backdrop surroundings. You want an example? How about on page 45, “All about him was ridgy roll of wind-smoothed, rain-washed rock. Not a tuft of grass or a bunch of sage colored the dull rust-yellow. He saw where, to the right, this uneven flow of stone ended in a blunt wall. Leftward, from the hollow that lay at his feet, mounted a gradual slow-swelling slope to a great height topped by leaning, cracked, and ruined crags.” Does Zane Grey love to use dashes in between words to emphatically enhance his descriptions? Could be. I have always been in awe of the old descriptive writers (it seems to be a lost art), but Zane Grey is the first author that I have read who actually details and emblazons the scenery for the enjoyment of the reader. Well done. Grey has only four main characters, three antagonist and of course hundreds of cattlemen known as Riders of the Purple Sage.

The story is set in 1871 Utah in a village named Cottonwoods. Jane Withersteen has inherited her father’s huge ranch. Her father was a devout Mormon who wanted Jane to marry fellow rancher and Mormon Elder, Tull. Jane, also a God-fearing Mormon, doesn’t love Tull and will not marry him. Except for Jane, the Mormons have no tolerance for Gentiles (any person who isn’t Mormon). As the novel opens, Elder Tull and his men are preparing to whip Jane’s ranch foreman, Bern Venters, because he is a gentile and Tull wants him off Jane’s ranch. Before that can happen, a rider with two black guns shows up. He turns out to be the infamous (to the Mormons) gunslinger, Lassiter. What’s he doing here? Tull and his gang are scared off. The reader finds that Venters was also a very capable gunman who fell in love with Jane and gave up his guns out of respect for her. Lassiter came to Cottonwoods to visit the grave of Milly Erne (who was a friend of Jane). How does Lassiter know Milly? He will not tell. One thing for sure is that Lassiter hates Mormon men, not the women. On page thirty he says, “Venters, take this from me, these Mormons ain’t just right in their minds. Else could a Mormon marry one woman when he already has a wife, an’ call it duty?” Jane takes Lassiter to see Milly’s grave. He still will not tell Jane how he knows Milly. Jane finds out that the rustler Oldring, along with his mysterious masked rider and his gang have rustled Jane’s red herd (2,500 steer). Venters ask Jane for his guns back with the intention of tracking the stolen herd to Oldring’s secret hideout.

Venters finds the hiding place, but he is attacked by the masked rider and another. He kills both. No, wait the masked rider is still alive. The mask comes off and it is a girl. Who is she? He can’t believe that he shot a woman. Venters finds Surprise Valley, a huge balancing rock and many caves in the cliffs. There he mends the masked girl who’s name is Bess. As she recovers, she tells Venters that she doesn’t want to go back to Oldring. He still doesn’t know who she is. As she recovers, they live in the beautiful secure valley for months. They fall in love. Meanwhile Jane, who secretly helps gentile families, brings a dying Mrs. Larkins and her daughter, Fay, to her ranch. Are the Mormons working with the rustlers to ruin Jane and force her to give up the ranch and marry Tull? Is the gunslinger Lassiter falling in love with Jane? Jane knows that “passionately devoted as she was to her religion, she had refused to marry a Mormon.” This story is ready to explode. Jane's white herd (also 2,500 steer) is also rustled. Will Lassiter give up his guns like Venters did, or will he go into town to kill Mormons? What a story.

Okay, you have met the four main characters: Jane, Lassiter, Venters and Bess. What will happen to them? You have met two of the antagonist: Tull and Oldring, but not the third. The third is Mormon Bishop Dyer. This is not a nice man. What will happen to the bad guys? Do Venters and Bess stay in Surprise Valley or make a break-out for freedom. Can Lassiter give up his gunslinger ways to satisfy Jane’s pious thoughts. What started as a simple western novel became convoluted with a cliff-hanging (I’m using Zane’s dashes) ending. Well, I suggest that you grab a copy of this 1912 western classic to find how this quintessential novel ends.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: I don’t know what took me so long to read a Zane Grey novel. In the last five years I have read many books each year by the classic authors. If you scroll through my blog from the year 2010 to the present, you will see many reviews of books written by the heavy-hitters of literature. Now, I ask myself, “when are you going to read a Louis L’Amour western?” Good question. The man wrote 100 novels, 250 short stories and sold 320 million copies. Surely I can read one.

And what about Hombre (1961) by Elmore Leonard. A classic story of a Apache leading passengers of a attacked stagecoach through a desert. And even though I saw the movie version of Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove (1986 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction), shouldn’t I read the novel? The wonderful adventures of a few retired The Texas Rangers driving cattle from Texas to Montana.

And who could forget Glendon Swarthout’s The Shootist (1975). Yes, I saw the movie featuring John Wayne in his last western movie. It’s the story of a gunslinger dying of cancer trying to find a way to die with dignity. Lastly, I will end this section with a book I did read. It’s Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses (see my review of 4/2/2013). Its the story of 16 year old John Cole and his escapades in 1949 Mexico.

From the movie:

Friday, May 1, 2015


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

I wasn’t entirely entertained by this (sort of) continuation of Peter Gent’s North Dallas Forty (1973) and parody of the The Dallas Cowboys. My main complaint is with the pragmatism of the novel. Certainly the author could have balanced realism with fiction in a more sensible way. Some of my questions are...Would any player stay with the team if bandied about in training camp by the owner, Ruben Weitzman (Jerry Jones) or head coach Marshall Jankowski (Jimmy Johnson)? Obviously the answer is no. Listen, I spent 13 weeks in Parris Island as a U.S. Marine and it wasn’t as tough as this supposed training camp. Would any player be immediately cut if they protested anything? Of course not. Would a football groupie wield the kind of power Charlene had over everybody on the team including the owner and the press? Would any player take the crap dished out by coach Swanson (even if he was 6’ 8” and 385 lbs)? I don’t think so. My guess is that the hundred or so players that the Irving team had at training camp would have left and the players union would have Weitzman and Jankowski up on some serious charges. We all like a football comedy; such as, The Longest Yard (1974), Heaven Can Wait (1978), or Semi-Tough (1977) but make it semi-real. This was a clumsy effort at a parody. I’m sure Mr. Dawson is an aspiring writer and gentleman but do it proper...write something somewhat original. I see flashes of talent throughout the novel, so like Nike says, “Just do it!”

Okay, enough lambasting already. What’s the novel about? It’s 1989 and the Irving Titans (Dallas Cowboys) have lost their luster. The owner Bum Reason (Bum Bright) has gone broke during the Savings & Loan crisis. He sells the team to Ruben Weitzman (Jerry Jones), who hires Marshall Jankowski (Jimmy Johnson) as his head coach after firing Coach Osborn (Tom Landry). A little on the hackneyed side wouldn’t you think? Anyway, the story is told by the semi washed up QB of the Titans, Jimmy Stone (I’m not sure who he is, maybe Danny White) after the Titans suffer a lackluster season in 1988. Jimmy is torn between two beautiful woman: Charlene Rivers, who makes $750,000 a year by framing almost everybody involved in the NFL, and a cocktail waitress named Nicole Anderson (does anybody care who Jimmy winds up with?). Anyway, the team is sent to a desolate and hot training camp to be terrorized by a bunch of cussing blowhard coaches. They have a new draft pick QB named Sammy Holmes (Troy Aikman?) in camp along with a new tight end named Larry Dresden (Jay Novacek?). They go 1-15 in 1989, but management is encouraged. They make a unbelievable trade before the 1990 season starts. They trade their star running back, Drew Krowsky (Herschel Walker) to the Minnesota Vikings for 13 Ist round picks. Yea, right. Do you think that trade was possible after the owner told the world that he wanted to get rid of his running back after the 1989 season ended? NOT!

The real trade was: Dallas sent Walker and four picks (between 1990-1991) to the Vikings for five players, three 1st round picks, three 2nd round picks, one third round pick and one sixth round pick (between 1990-1993). Quite a trade, but not as good as the Irving Titan’s trade. This novel is filled with nonsensical scenarios and that was the main reason that I couldn’t warm up to this novel. You will have to buy your own copy of this novel to find out what happens to the Irving Titans and all it’s characters after the big trade. Was it a bad novel? Not really, but there was little that the reader could hang his hat on. Just one harebrained chapter after another with very little comedy. I don’t want to be a wet blanket (this review is idiom heaven)... but come on. Yes, the author shows some talent, but give me something more veritable to read, not something that seemed simulated to me. I’m trying to be fair in my review of Mr. Dawson’s novel because I think he can do better. He could have written an indigenous novel, but choose to continue a old one. I have to give his work a neutral rating. 

RATING: 2 out of 5 stars

Comment: Sports books and novels have always interested me. I found a site ( that list Sports Illustrated's favorite sports books. Who else can be better to ask…”What sports book should I read?” Two of the novels on the list are already mentioned in my first paragraph (I'm not telling which ones, ha). Anyway here are a few of the books that are high up the list of 100: 

The Sweet Science. By A.J. Liebling (1956). Pound-for-pound the top boxing writer of all time, Liebling is at his bare-knuckled best here, bobbing and weaving between superb reporting and evocative prose. The fistic figures depicted in this timeless collection of New Yorker essays range from champs such as Rocky Marciano and Sugar Ray Robinson to endearing palookas and eccentric cornermen on the fringes of the squared circle. Liebling's writing is efficient yet stylish, acerbic yet soft and sympathetic. ("The sweet science, like an old rap or the memory of love, follows its victims everywhere.") He leavens these flourishes with an eye for detail worthy of Henry James. The one-two combination allows him to convey how boxing can at once be so repugnant and so alluring.

The Boys of Summer. By Roger Kahn (1971). A baseball book the same way Moby Dick is a fishing book, this account of the early-'50s Brooklyn Dodgers is, by turns, a novelistic tale of conflict and change, a tribute, a civic history, a piece of nostalgia and, finally, a tragedy, as the franchise's 1958 move to Los Angeles takes the soul of Brooklyn with it. Kahn writes eloquently about the memorable games and the Dodgers' penchant for choking-"Wait Till Next Year" is their motto-but the most poignant passages revisit the Boys in autumn. An auto accident has rendered catcher Roy Campanella a quadriplegic. Dignified trailblazer Jackie Robinson is mourning the death of his son. Sure-handed third baseman Billy Cox is tending bar. No book is better at showing how sports is not just games. [New York Times bestseller] 

Ball Four. By Jim Bouton (1970). Though a declining knuckleballer, Bouton threw nothing but fastballs in his diary of the 1969 season. Pulling back the curtain on the seriocomic world of the big leagues, he writes honestly and hilariously about baseball's vices and virtues. At a time when the sport was still a secular religion, it was an act of heresy to portray players "pounding the Ol' Budweiser," "chasin' skirts" or "poppin' greenies." (And that was during games.) Bouton's most egregious act of sacrilege-his biting observations about former teammate Mickey Mantle-led to his banishment from the "Yankee family." But beyond the controversy, Ball Four was, finally, a love story. Bouton writes, "You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time." [New York Times bestseller] 

Friday Night Lights . By H. G. Bissinger (1990). Schoolboy football knits together the West Texas town of Odessa in the late 1980s. But as Permian High grows into a dynasty, the locals' sense of proportion blows away like a tumbleweed. A brilliant look at how Friday-night lights can lead a town into darkness. [New York Times bestseller] 

Paper Lion . By George Plimpton (1965). No one today does what the fearless Plimpton once did with regularity. Here, in his first Walter Mitty-esque effort, the author of the equally brilliant Shadow Box and The Bogey Man infiltrates the Detroit training camp as a quarterback with no arm, no legs and no shot. [New York Times bestseller][Made into a movie] 

The Natural . By Bernard Malamud (1952). The movie was a Mawkish Rocky-in-flannels, but the novel is a darker, more subtle tale of phenom Roy Hobbs, who loses his prime years to a youthful indiscretion, then gets a second chance. TIME called the novel (which ends differently from the film) "preposterously readable."[New York Times bestseller][Made into a movie]

Readers, you can’t go wrong reading any of the above books.