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.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


This novel should have passed muster (when originally submitted to the publisher) but it didn’t for whatever reason. I thought Harper Lee’s second novel (actually her first) was an acceptable stand-alone venture. Of course, if that would have happened, we wouldn’t have had the American classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, would we? Many people think that her new novel taints her classic. Gregory Peck’s (he played Atticus Finch in the Mockingbird movie) son, Stephen, believes his dad would have advised Lee against publishing the second novel. Some people don’t even give Harper Lee credit for writing Mockingbird...they think that her childhood friend,Truman Capote (author of 1958’s Breakfast at Tiffany's and 1966’s In Cold Blood) wrote the classic for her. I believe that to be hogwash. After her success with Mockingbird, she spent a lot of time researching for Capote’s bestseller, In Cold Blood. As a matter of fact, Capote was used as Harper Lee’s blueprint for her character Dill in her books. Capote was small, submissive, and bullied as was Dill. Capote, in real life, visited his aunt each summer and was the pal of the tomboy, Harper Lee. Why their friendship dissolved in the later years is unknown. I think that some of the reviews I’ve read are relatively too bearish on Lee’s second published novel (although her first submitted manuscript). What would the reviewers have written if Margaret Mitchell had published a prequel or sequel to her 1937 classic, Gone with the Wind? Anyway, enough said about that...but I will talk about some famous authors that wrote a classic and then stopped writing for various reasons in my comment section. 
The original Mockingbird novel occurred in 1935. Twenty years later (1955), Jean Louise Finch (now 26 years old, but I’ll still call her Scout...her original name) arrives in the fictitious town of Maycomb, Alabama to visit her now 72 year old father, Atticus Finch. He is still a lawyer but has serious arthritic problems in his shoulders and hands. She is picked up at the train station by Henry (Hank) Clinton, who is madly in love with Scout. Atticus has since moved into a different house with his sister, Alexandra (Scout’s aunt), who considers Hank White Trash and well beneath the Finches. Atticus has made Hank his partner in law. When Scout gets home, Atticus finds out that Calpurnia’s (remember her from the first book) grandson just ran over the town drunk and killed him. Now the boy is in serious trouble. Atticus, knowing that Calpurnia brought up Scout after Atticus’s wife died, says that he will defend him. Scout is proud to hear that. They all go to church the following Sunday, and the Preacher Stone says, “My text for today is taken from the twenty-first chapter of Isaiah, verse six, For thus hath the Lord said unto me, go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.” I only brought that up so you know where the title of the novel came from. Later that day, Atticus and Hank go to a meeting at the courthouse. Scout finds a pamphlet in Atticus’ house that’s titled The Black Plague. It states that blacks are inferior and how to keep them in their place. What! Scout has always been color blind...does this mean her father and Hank are now racist? She hurries to the meeting and goes up to the colored balcony (where she was in the Mockingbird trial) and can’t believe what she hears. What’s going on with her father? Don’t think that I'm giving away the story, because I’m early into the novel...I’m just giving you a taste of what is to come.

By the way before I continue, I don’t remember that Scout’s brother, Jem, died. Did he die in Mockingbird? I really don’t remember that happening. It’s casually mentioned in this novel, but not elaborated on...very strange. Anyway getting back to this novel, I think the make it or break it part of the novel occurs in the twenty pages of chapter 14. Those pages were either brilliant or simpleminded, and I’m not sure which. It’s the chapter when Scout visits Uncle Jack (remember him?) to find out if her father is a racist. Uncle Jacks dissertation about the current black/white problem was so convoluted that I couldn’t make up my mind whether Harper Lee didn’t know what she was writing about, or whether it was written purposefully. I’m leaning towards that she knew what she was writing. Because after Uncle Jack momentarily pauses, she says, “What’s this got to do with the price of eggs in China, and you know exactly what I mean.” Then he continues on with his farcical speech, and Scout says, “Stop woolgathering and answer me!” All Scout wanted to know is why Atticus, Aunty, and Hank are now racist. She never gets a clear answer. Later, she says to herself, “Mad, mad, mad as a hatter. Well, that’s the way of all Finches. Difference between Uncle Jack and the rest of ‘em, though, is he knows he’s crazy.”

I did like the novel but struggled with what it’s intention was. Other than the familiar characters, there was little said or reminisced about that tied this novel to Mockingbird for me. And what was the plot? After the first few pages, the boy who ran over the drunk is never heard from again. What? The dialogue didn’t offer the reader enough of clues to understand what the problem was between the blacks and whites in the twenty years after Mockingbird. I’m not saying that I wasn’t entertained, but I expected a lot more than I got out of this novel. Maybe that’s why a lot of famous authors wrote their classic and then retired the pen. If you read To Kill a Mockingbird, you are sort of pushed into reading this novel, but I can only give it a ordinary rating. Not bad, but no cigar.

RATING: 3 out of 5 stars

Comment: So what authors wrote a great novel then never wrote another? I mentioned Margaret Mitchell in the first paragraph. She disliked her lack of privacy after writing Gone With the Wind. Unfortunately, she was hit and killed by a car twelve years after publishing her classic novel. In 1996, a misplaced novella of hers, Lost Laysen, was found and published.

The great Oscar Wilde wrote plenty of plays and poetry, but only one novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (see my review of 8/08/2015) in 1890. His novel was met with so much criticism that he never wrote another.

Although J.D. Salinger later wrote some short stories and a novella, he never wrote another novel after, The Catcher in the Rye (see my review of 12/23/2012) in 1951. He turned into a well known recluse.

Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar was published in 1963. Why didn’t she write another? She committed suicide less that 30 days after publication. Ouch!

In 1847, Emily Bronte wrote the classic Wuthering Heights. Why didn’t she write another? Because she died a year later of tuberculosis after she got a bad cold attending her brother’s funeral. Wow!

Anna Sewell’s classic children’s story Black Beauty was written in 1877 while she was confined to a bed. She died five months after publication. Am I bringing tears to your eyes, or what?

Ross Lockridge, Jr’s 1948, Raintree County is considered one of the “Great American Novels”; however, he committed suicide three months after publication.

Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1958, but mother Russia made him turn it down. He never wrote another.

Okay, and finally we have Ralph Ellison’s classic racial novel Invisible Man published in 1952. A fire in his home destroyed the manuscript for his second novel. Oh well, let’s stop here, I don’t want you to get more depressed.

Truman Capote and Harper Lee in happier times:

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