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.

Sunday, November 20, 2016


The author sent me an autographed copy of his novel to review:

Dave Eisenstark’s novel about a Quaker boy heading west to avoid combat (Quakers have a history of opposing war) during The Civil War isn’t going to challenge the likes of Owen Wister’s 1902 novel, The Virginian (see my review of 5/7/2016), or Zane Grey’s 1912 novel, Riders of the Purple Sage (see my review of 5/13/2015), but his novel was somewhat entertaining. However, based on the author’s credentials, I think he could have done much better. I thought the prose was too simplistic and coupled with non-vernacular language made the milieu seem modern, not 1865ish. I did like the author’s use of real Confederate guerrillas, such as William Quantrill, Jesse and Frank James, and the Cole Younger gang. The novel is of the historical fiction genre since it covers the border war between Kansas and Missouri. It seems Kansas (the Jayhawkers/Redlegs) wanted a free state supported by the Union Army. The Missouri bushwhackers favored a pro-slavery state supported by the Confederate Army. The term Bleeding Kansas was coined by New York Tribune editor, Horace Greeley (yes, the same man that said, “Go west, young man”).
James Deeter, a Quaker farm boy, is now eighteen and is expected to join the Union Army. His father, a Catholic, recently enlisted after getting drunk and dared to join by a saloon patron. James’s mom, a Quaker, taught him the theological beliefs of Quakers. He knows he can’t kill, or he is going to hell. The local recruiter, Lou Hansen, his sons, and his dogs come to take James into the Union Army. James runs west towards Colorado and the gold rush. The Hansens doggedly pursue. James manages to dodge the Hansens and looks up his Uncle Reno in St. Louis. His rotund uncle lets James ride free to Kansas City on his stagecoach line. On the stagecoach, James meets eighteen year old Anna Contreras and instantly falls in love. Anna’s maid, Mrs. Tucker, easily keeps him at bay. Anna says that she is going to visit her Uncle Jim Lane, who is a general in the Union Army. During a stagecoach stop, James goes into the woods in search of water for their canteens. When he comes back, he sees the stagecoach being held up. James recognizes the bandits’s Lou Hansen and his sons. Since the bandits ask Anna and Mrs. Tucker if they have seen James Deeter, they think James is part of the gang. James runs again. I’m only on page 37.

Without wanting to tell you anymore of the story, James Deeter eventually meets William Quantrill and his gang of 200 men. James is sucked into the gang and seemingly not allowed to leave. This is where the story takes off on its way to the ginormous concluding gunfight in Lawrence, Kansas. Does James get Anna? What happens to the Hansens? Does James have to kill a man? Who wins the gunfight in Lawrence? After reading many classic westerns (besides the two mentioned in the first paragraph), this novel just didn’t move me. I need to see the colloquial language of the times used in order for the novel to be believable for me. Just read any of the westerns I mentioned, or any Mark Twain novel, and you will understand what I’m saying. However, I am recommending this novel since I rate it “okay.”

RATING: 3 out of 5 stars

Comment: According to, the following are the top ten westerns ever written (they should know):

1) Lonesome Dove (1985) by Larry McMurtry.
2) All the Pretty Horses (1992) by Cormac McCarthy (see my review of 4/2/2013).
3) Riders of the Purple Sage (1912) by Zane Grey.
4) The Time it Never Rained (1973) by Elmer Kelton.
5) Hondo (1985) by Louis L’Amour.
6) Shane (1949) by Jack Schaeffer.
7) The Shootist (1975) by Glendon Swarthout.
8) The Longhorns (1941) by Frank Dobie.
9) Smoky the Cowhorse (1927) by Will James.
10) The Man who Shot Liberty Valance (1949) Dorothy Johnson.

Sunday, November 13, 2016


The historical fiction genre is defined as a novel in which the story is made up but is based on a true event. And in The German Girl, Armando Lucas Correa has written a doozy. In 1939 Nazi Germany, Captain Gustav Schroder (the actual captain) of the S.S. St. Louis ocean liner departed Hamburg, Germany with 937 refugees (mostly Jewish) seeking asylum from Nazi persecution. Their destination was Havana, Cuba. These people gave up their wealth, houses, art work and cars in order to escape sure death if they stayed in Germany. Even though these people gave up everything and paid handsomely for their Cuban visas (where they were to wait in Cuba a few months to two years until the USA approved their visas)...Cuba changed it’s mind when the ship arrived in the port of Havana. America and Canada also denied the ship entrance. What were they to do? This plus the dangerous time spent in Germany are the beginnings of the story. The ensuing chapters switched back and forth to what happened in Cuba and in modern day NYC among the relatives of the Rosenthal family. While Mr. Correa’s prose and plot were outstanding, there was a flaw in his story that somewhat troubled me. The author failed to create tension in his story, mostly when the Rosenthals were still in Germany. It seemed like our protagonist, twelve year old Hannah Rosenthal, and her best friend, Leo Martin, were always romping around Berlin in a somewhat, “Ha ha, catch me if you can” attitude, even after Kristallnacht (the Night of the Broken Glass). I don’t know if any other reviewer noticed this shortcoming. Anyway, I still enjoyed this novel, although this foible almost cost it a five-star rating.

Inside 1939 Germany bad things were happening to the Jewish population. The Rosenthals owned the apartment building they lived in, yet they were basically hiding in their own apartment. Max was a premier college professor until he was fired for being a Jew. His spouse, Alma, was one of the most envied wives in all of Germany until Jews were declared impure. Their tenants wanted them to leave the building. Their daughter, Hannah, and her friend, Leo, scurried all over Berlin listening for news and avoiding the ogres (Hannah’s name for the Aryan populace). Max and Leo’s dad were conspiring to find a way out of Germany before the s**t hit the fan. Hannah had the looks of a pure Aryan and on one of her romps in Berlin with Leo is spotted by a photographer for Das Deutsche Madel (The German Girl) magazine. Her picture is taken before she can run away. Her parents (as Hannah is) are distraught when they see their daughter’s face on the cover of the Nazi propaganda magazine for German girls. Hannah and Leo overhear the latest news on an ogre’s radio, “We were going to have to list all our possessions. Many of us would have to change our names and sell our properties, our houses, and our businesses at prices they dictated. We were monsters. We stole other people’s money. We made slaves of those who had less than us. We were destroying the country’s heritage. We had bled Germany dry. We stank. We believed in different gods. We were crows. We were impure.” The Rosenthals and the Martins had to find a way out of Germany. Don’t get fidgety, I’m only on page 31.

Meanwhile, the novel switches to NYC 2014 where we meet twelve year old Anna and her mom. Her dad, Louis, went to work on 9/11/2001 and never returned. “The day Dad disappeared, Mom was pregnant with me. By just three months. She had the opportunity to get rid of the baby but didn’t take it. She never lost hope that Dad would return, even after receiving the death certificate.” All Anna has of her dad's is a picture of him that she keeps in her bedroom. One day a package arrives from Canada via Cuba. Mom tells Anna, “It’s from your father’s family.” Anna knew that her dad’s parents died in a plane crash but was unaware of any surviving relatives.The envelope is filled with negatives, a postcard of a ship and a magazine with a smiling German girl in profile on the cover. Anna says, “It’s time to find out who Dad is.” Mom says to Anna, “I think it’s time you knew something. On your father’s side, you’re German as well." Anna goes to her bedroom, “In front of the mirror, I try to discover the German traits I must have inherited from a father who up till now I thought was Cuban. What do I see in the mirror? A German girl. Aren’t I a Rosen?” Anna is excited to go to Cuba and meet the woman from Germany who provided for her dad. They develop the pictures but don’t know who the people in the pictures are. Anna and her mom fly to Cuba to meet Great Aunt Hannah.

From hereon in, the novel switches back and forth to 1939 Germany...NYC 2014...the escape from Germany on the ship... the early years for the Rosenthal family in present day Cuba. Normally I don’t like novels that keep switching from present to past, however the author did such a great job with it that I didn’t even notice my past distaste for that writing style. In order for people not to forget, Holocaust books must remain innovative as this novel was. Was this Holocaust novel written without the usual apprehension on purpose or was I right that the author failed to provide any angst? Either way, I highly recommend this historical novel.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: My all-time favorite historical fiction novel/movie involving the Holocaust is Thomas Keneally’s 1982 novel, Schindler’s List. It was heartwarming, if that could be said about the Holocaust. says, “During the Holocaust at the German concentration camp near Plaszow, thousands of Jews lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis. More than a thousand others would have been counted among the dead if not for a womanizing, heavy drinking, German-Catholic industrialist and Nazi Party member named Oskar Schindler."

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


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

What started out as a somewhat mushy love story slowly turned into a tension filled crime story pitting the FBI against a Mafia Don (Vincent Luca) in an attempted sting operation. How mushy was the love story between our two protagonists: Ives Andrich, head of the New York division of the FBI, and author, Allina Kovar? Do you remember (if you are old enough) the “we can’t keep our hands off each other” schmaltzy TV show, Hart to Hart (1979 to 1984) starring the two lovebirds, Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers? Well, this novel’s romantic duo outdid the TV show’s pair by a landslide, although the Andrich/Kovar love affair got muddled once the sting campaign got underway. Since this novel is 491 pages, can I persevere till the end? Luckily, the author, The Black Rose (that’s her pen name), shifted the story into another gear and came up with a credible and exciting story, but not without some flaws, which I’ll talk about later. I thought the infatuation between Ives and Allina was an important set-up for the novel but lasted a few too many chapters before the attempted sting was in progress. By the way, if you enjoy this novel (I’m sure you will), the series continues with, The Chase and The Lost Days. Okay, let me tell you a little bit about the story...just enough to wet your beak. Do you remember that line from the Mafia Don Fanucci in (I think) the second The Godfather movie?

A man in a library suggest to author Allina Kovar that she should write a book about illegal sports betting. Who is this man? Allina writes a novel, titled The Blood Negotiators. Her normal publisher refuses to publish the book. Why? On a flight to NYC to buy a apartment, she finds herself sitting next to Ives Andrich, a publisher. They both immediately fall in love. She doesn’t know that Ives is FBI. Allina buys an expensive apartment in NYC and Ives publishes her novel. But the FBI bigwigs in Washington, DC believe that she knows the NYC Don Vincent Luca and the contents of her book are real. Ives knows that she knows’s just a novel. The pressure is on to cross-examine her and find out the truth. After a night out on the town, Ives and Allina are pulled over and arrested. Allina is sent downtown to be grilled by FBI agent Fogherty, while Ives, who reluctantly knew this was coming down, is uncuffed. Ives observes Fogherty interrogating Allina via the infamous blacked-out window in the next room. Fogherty goes too far and roughs up Allina and exposes Ives as an FBI agent who is duping her. On page 45, Fogherty tells Allina, “He’s standing right behind that mirror over there. He’s been watching you the entire time, laughin’ his ass off.” Why did he do that? Ives goes wacko and has Fogherty dragged out of the room and arrested. When she leaves the room, Ives has no choice but to show her his FBI badge.

Somehow Ives convinces Allina that he has loved her ever since he saw her picture in the FBI file and that he doesn’t care about his career...he only wants to spend the rest of his life with her. After some powerful talking, she believes him and they are lovey-dovey again. But now she is curious about nailing this NYC Don. On page 74, Allina asks, “So what do they (the FBI) want?” Ives says, “They think you can get close to Luca. They know you created the entire story you wrote, but Luca doesn’t know that. Because of what you wrote, he’ll think you understand him, and he’ll want you around. The bureau knows that, and that’s a problem.” By the way, Ives has already infiltrated Luca’s family as a trusted moneyman, so he knows how dangerous Don Luca is. On page 86, Allina shocks Ives by saying, “It can’t be that bad. I told you I would help, and I will.” Can they nail Luca for his illegal sports betting activities and his many killings? What kind of trouble will Allina get into with Luca? Can she avoid his sexual advances? Can the love she has for Ives survive this test? So there you go, I’ve reviewed the first 86 pages of a 491 page novel. The last 300 plus pages are electric and must be read like you were savoring a fine wine. So why am I only giving this novel four stars? Well, my fine-feathered friend, it’s because of the many minor flaws. Okay, Let’s talk about the flaws.

My main beef is the which the author has to take some blame for since she wrote the novel. It’s customary in the literature world to use italics when someone is thinking something. In this novel they are not used. Instead we have the characters saying everything in quotation marks (or punctuation marks) when really the characters are only thinking, such as, “Oh, lucky me”, She thought. This continues for the entire novel. Is it a big deal? I think so because it’s easier for the reader to know if something is being said or thought if it’s edited properly. Another thing that bothered me was the way Allina continually wise-cracked the Don. What would John Gotti do to her, if she talked to him like that? Also how many times does the author have to write about the breakfast, lunch and dinners Luca and Allina had? The novel would probably be a 100 pages shorter if she only wrote about twenty or more of these repasts. Enough is enough. And finally, every time Luca kisses Allina (which is a lot of times), she has to “fanatically” wipe the kiss off her skin when Luca is not looking. Okay, I know she hates him...stop with the numerous wipes! So as you can see, a lot of things annoyed me, especially the repetitive text...yet I liked the novel. Go figure.
RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: How funny is it that Andrich Publishing produced Allina Kovar’s fictitious novel and this novel, The Killing Game. Very clever Black Rose or whoever you are. What are you afraid of? What’s your name? Are you also undercover FBI? The days of George Eliot and George Sand are over (Just having some fun). This novel seemed to stretch like a slinky toy with all the repeat facets, but the author picked herself up off the mat by her bootstraps and finished the novel with a flurry.