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, June 20, 2016

SUNBORN RISING: Beneath the Fall

The author sent a copy of his novel to my guest reviewing twelve year old grandson, Kai O:

Everything is okay in the least right now. For Barra and the many species of arboreals, life in the loft of the great trees seems unthreatened. The residents of the tree tops in the great forest have long since abandoned the roots of the trees. Meanwhile, in the abandoned roots, Creepervines are taking over. The deadly vines have already damaged most of the life in the roots and threaten to do the same in the arboreal’s loft. But the Creepervines are soon discovered when Barra finds her desisted father’s hidden journals.

Barra’s father, Gammel, predicted that the Creepervines would block the sun located in the center of Cerulean. The forest floats on a ocean around a star. However, the elder’s didn’t believe him. When Barra’s mother brings up the problem once again, the elders are still not convinced.

The angry Barra and her friends, Tory and Plicks, go to the middens (a place in the loft where Creepervines exist) to catch some bugs called kudmoths. This is because: where there are kudmoths there are Creepervines. They will use the kudmoths to prove that there are Creepervines. But in the process, the killer kudmoths chase them to the bottom of the loft in the fall of the tree (the trunk of the tree). But because they were not near the trunk, the group falls all the way to the roots. What follows is a trip down to the sun and then back up to the loft. What happens next is a journey to save Cerulean or let it die.

The author of this fantastic novel, Aaron Safronoff, wrote an enthralling story. One feature of this novel is the vivid artwork displayed throughout the novel. It really helps you to visualize the story and the many complicated species in the book. In conclusion, this was an amazing book. In some places it was a bit difficult to figure out what was going on, but the incredible artwork really helped to clear everything up. I would recommend this book to YA readers aged 10 to 14 years old because of how easy it is to get into the story.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars.

Comment: Once again, I think my grandson did a boss review. This was not the easiest book to comprehend, but Kai scrutinized the text like the seasoned reviewer he is. I remain in awe of Kai’s ability to interpolate his opinion.

Barra and her friends:

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Salute to Patriotism

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

With all respect to World War II Major General Howard L. Peckham, this somewhat biography written by his daughter, Jean Peckham Kavale, was kind of a yawner. Not for nothing, the story of the Director of the Fuels and Lubricants Division (of the Quartermaster Corps) and later Commander of the American Graves Registration in Paris, France didn’t "rock my boat." I say somewhat biography because the book is really about the general’s travels with his wife, daughter (Jean) and his son, Howie...mainly in the USA. This is probably because the book was written by the general’s daughter, who had to include their family life in the text versus a pure biography. The book had some edit problems coupled with blurry photos throughout the book. I understand that the general’s jobs were important during the war, but it had to be hard to extol his career without any actual combat situations. Don’t get me wrong...the general deserves all the respect due him. It just doesn’t make for exciting reading. It was with heavy eye-lids that I read this book. Okay, enough. What about the general’s career?

We learn that the general’s father was a farmer, who had four greenhouses. Howard worked for his father trucking veggies to locale markets in Connecticut. “After graduating from Norwich Free Academy, a school with high scholastic standards, he received an appointment to West Point. His boyhood daydream about having a career in the U.S. Army was about to become a reality.” As World War I ended, “Howard Peckham was one of those newly commissioned second lieutenants who graduated in November 1918.” Howard later went on to graduated from the U.S. Army’s Corps of Engineers. Howard meets Marion Shaw (his future wife) at Fort Hayes. He marries Hitler rises to power in Germany. In 1939, Howard is chosen to attend the prestigious Command and General Staff school. Howard is promoted to major as Hitler begins to bomb Britain. Howard is transferred to Fort Benning where he meets Colonel George Patton and General Omar Bradley.

On 12/07/1941, Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, HI. President Roosevelt says, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date that will live in infamy…” In 1942, Patton, now a two star general leaves Fort Benning to command the Desert Training Center in California. This is where the book gets a little shallow with the chapters a tad monotonous. Howard is promoted to Colonel at Fort Knox. At Fort Campbell, he is promoted to brigadier general. I’m close to sawing zzz’s. The Peckham family moves to Falls Church, VA (where we meet the cat, Mr. Alice) then they move to Washington D.C. General Peckham becomes the Director Of the Fuels and Lubricants Division, a job he had till the war’s end. "After the war, the law authorized the Secretary of War to implement the return of the World War II dead to their homeland for interment.” Guess who will head that project? Yes, General Peckham. “I’ve been ordered to Paris, France...I’ll be in charge of the American Graves Registration Command.”

I guess that I’ve gotten used to reading nonfiction that reads like fiction; such as, David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers (see my review of 2/17/2016). The General’s jobs during and after World War II were extremely important to our country. It just didn’t make for exciting reading for me. You may have another opinion. I don’t think this book was written with enough vigor or energy. I have to give this book a neutral rating.

RATING: 3 out of 5 stars

Comment: Surprisingly, the most boring biography that I ever read was a New York Times bestseller. The book that put me to sleep many nights was Jon Meacham’s American Lion, the story of our seventh president, Andrew Jackson. Maybe I shouldn’t read biography type books. I also had a hard time staying awake when (many years ago) I read Henry Kissinger’s Years of Upheaval. Well over 1,200 pages of monotonous, monotone prose (just the way he speaks). Lastly, another snoozer was Richard Nixon’s The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, over 1,000 pages of the mythical Sandman putting me to sleep. Oh well!

Friday, June 10, 2016


Whoa, another classic novel situated on the great British moors. This 1911 novel written by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a big time page burner (I love idioms). I recently read Daphne Du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn (see my review of 4/3/2016), which was also based on the moors. Can these ladies write or what? I thought the prose was first rate, showcasing the Yorkshire accent while balancing it with a normal English accent. You want an example of the Yorkshire utters? Okay, early in the novel...the train station-master says to Mrs. Medlock (who is bringing our main character, Mary, to the moors), “I see tha’s got back,” he said. “An’ tha’s browt th’ young ‘un with thee.” Somehow, I was able to fully understand what the characters said whenever they summoned the accent. I loved it. Of course, since the novel was published in 1911, it was very descriptive (a lost art). If you have read my reviews before, you know that descriptive writing is reverent to me. And can the author make the reader adore all the animals in the novel? Does Rose Kennedy own a black dress? (sorry). Frances Hodgson Burnett actually wrote a spin-off short story (42 pages) about the garden’s robin in the novel, titled My Robin (1912). The New York Times commented on 9/24/1911, “If Henry James is the most English of all Americans, Frances Hodgson Burnett is the most American of all the English...Mrs. Burnett was born in England, but she is naturalized as American.” Okay, what about the story?

The story centers around ten year old Mary Lennox’s young life as a spoiled brat in India. She was a plain, sickly and disagreeable child being brought up by an Indian ayah (ayah is the Hindi word for nanny). By six years old, “She (Mary) was as tyrannical and selfish a little pig as ever lived.” (a pigritta?) Mom, who was pretty, only lived for the next party, and dad was always busy as a Captain in the British government. Cholera stuck Mary’s village, and her mom, dad and  ayah perished but not Mary. The military found her and sent her to England to live in her uncle’s 100 room, 600 year old manor called Misselthwaite on the English moors. Her uncle was a somewhat hunchback who didn’t want to see Mary or anybody else for that matter. Mary was assigned a room in the mansion. Mrs. Medlock was the stern housekeeper, and Mary’s Yorkshire talking maid was Martha. Mary soon finds out that in England she can’t boss people around like she did in India. Martha tells Mary that ten years ago, her uncle (Archibald Craven) and his wife had a secret garden that they loved and spent their days in. One day, shortly after giving birth to her son, she sat on a branch of a tree in the garden, it suddenly broke causing her death. Uncle Craven locked up the garden and buried the key. Martha said that Mary was free to roam the other gardens, but not the secret garden. Bored in her room, Mary started going outdoors to  explore the other gardens...and Mary's health seemed to be blooming in the windy, chilly moor air. One day she ran into the head gardener, Ben Weatherstaff, who was none too friendly.

Mary asks Ben about the secret garden. He says the garden has no entrance, but shows her a robin on the wall that appears to be a friend of Ben’s and seems to make friends with Mary. Mary walks around the secret garden but can’t find an entrance. She goes back to her room and seemingly hears a child crying. Her maid, Martha, tells Mary that she is hearing the scullery maid crying with a toothache. (Really?) Mary likes her maid with the strong Yorkshire accent. Martha lives in a small cottage of four rooms with 14 people. Martha tells Mary about her brother, Dickon (12 years old), who loves the moor and has a special relationship with all of its animals. One rainy day, Mary decides to roam the 100 room mansion and hears the crying child again. Mrs. Medlock was furious with her roaming the house and shoves Mary back into her own room. The next day, Mary goes out to walk the gardens again. She sees the robin pecking in a hole that a dog dug up. She finds a rusty ring of keys! Could this ring contain the key to open the secret garden? Meanwhile, Martha comes back to the mansion after a day off and gives Mary a skipping rope. She shows Mary how to use it, and Mary skips around the garden feeling healthier and healthier. She follows the robin, who lands on the thick ivy wall of the secret garden. Behind the ivy, Mary finds a knob! Will the key open the door to the secret garden? She turns the key…”she was standing inside the secret garden.” “It was the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place anyone could imagine.”

She locks the gate and goes to dinner during which she has two helpings. She is so happy and feeling better each day. Martha tells Mary that her twelve year old brother Dickon will buy her garden tools to use in the secret garden (by the way, I’m only on page 65). Dickon meets Mary and they go into the secret garden. He brought seeds and tools and they start planting. Mary finds out that Dickon is the Johnny Appleseed of the moors and actually charms the local animals and seems to talk to them. She likes this boy! That night Mary is finally asked into Uncle Cravens room. He tells her that he is going away for the summer, and she can do what she wants. For the time being, he will not hire a nanny or governess. Later, she hears the crying again, and this time finds the troubled room and enters. She finds her cousin, Colin (also ten years old) lying in bed and crying. He initially thinks she is a ghost. They talk, and he realizes that she is his cousin. The boy is presumed sick (with no hard facts) and will develop a crook in his back like his father. She finds that he is just as spoiled as she is and has his way with everybody in the house via his tantrums. His father’s orders to the help are: give him whatever he wants and obey his commands. Colin also thinks that his doctor (who is his dad’s cousin) would prefer that Colin die so the doctor could inherit the estate. So there you have it...two spoiled brats together in the same house. Can Dickon get these two cousins into the secret garden and cure them of their sickliness and horrible personalities? Read this great classic and find out what happens next.

Even though this novel was originally written for English children, it has become a classic for all ages. It was initially published in serial form as many novels were during the years going back to Charles Dickens (1812/1870). This is a must read for classic readers and I highly recommend this novel to any age group.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: On page 231, we find some interesting information: “The first film of The Secret Garden, a silent, black-and-white version, appeared in 1919, eight years after the novel’s initial publication. Better known is director Fred Wilcox’s 1949 version. The magnificent, stylized sets bring the magic of Burnett’s novel to life, while the actors, including Margaret O’Brien as Mary Lennox, play their roles with tenderness and emotion. The evocative cinematography and lighting capture the scariness of the dark hallways of Misselthwaite Manor, making the large house seem as if it really is haunted. In a dramatic point-counterpoint evocative of 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, the film bursts from drab black and white to blazing technicolor upon the discovery of the secret garden.”

The rest of the cast is: Brian Roper as Dickon; Gladys Cooper as Mrs. Medlock; Dean Stockwell as Colin Craven; Elsa Lanchester as Martha and Herbert Marshall as Archibald Craven. Wow, what a cast!

A typical British moor: