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.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


Dan Brown should be named the comeback writer of the year after his mediocre novel, The Lost Symbol, crashed and burned in 2009. Though I enjoyed this novel, it did cross my mind that this Robert Langdon character should be put out to pasture. I’m growing weary and bored with this nonaggressive Indiana Jones look alike. It’s business as usual deciphering symbols with a pretty lady as his companion du jour. It’s one art history lesson after another and descriptive writing about famous cities and their churches. Okay, I get it. Again, I liked this book, but please…will somebody make him disappear so that Dan Brown can write another novel like Deception Point. The author is very talented but needs to move on. Even Clive Cussler moved away from Dirk Pitt long enough for the reader to catch their literary breath. Inferno is the type of novel that causes the reader to guesstimate when the next twist will occur, and the surprises will be especially frequent in the last hundred plus pages.

As the novel opens, we find our Harvard professor lying in a hospital bed in Florence, Italy with a gunshot wound to the head. He has no idea how he got there or why he is there. Welcome to the world of amnesia. Whoever tried to kill him is back and opens gunfire in his room. One doctor is shot, the other doctor, Sienna Brooks, escapes with our Mr. Langdon. As they arrive at the doctor’s apartment, it seems like the whole world is chasing him. Why? He keeps having these visions of Dante Alighieri’s hell (from Inferno, the first part of The Divine Comedy). There is a silver haired veiled woman by a river of blood shouting at him, “seek and ye shall find.“ He finds a tube in his jacket with the code saligia on it. Langdon knows that it’s a Latin mnemonic for the Seven Deadly Sins. It turns out to be a Faraday pointer, and Langdon shakes the tube and projects an image of Botticelli’s painting of the Map of Hell. He discovers more clues, but before he can study the new clues, an aggregate of police and agents dressed in black arrive. Langdon and Sienna are on the run again.

Meanwhile, the reader learns that eminent scientist, Bertrand Zobrist, has hired the nefarious group known as the Consortium to hide his identity and location from Elizabeth Sinskey, head of the World Health Organization (WHO). Zobrist had sought Sinskey’s support for his depopulation plan. Zobrist feels the the world’s population must be thinned-out in order for it to avoid extinction. Obviously, the head of WHO doesn’t agree. The clues left by Zobrist indicate that he is getting ready to unleash a new plague on mankind. Zobrist has left a film in the hands of the “Provost” of the Consortium to be released to the world the next day. In the film, there is a plaque in the water that says, “In this place, on this date, the world was changed forever.” What has he done? Can Langdon decipher all the clues in time to find the hiding place of the virus? And who are all these groups chasing Langdon and Sienna? Are they friend, or foe?

I must stop before I give away the last three hundred pages. Our symbologist and art historian, Robert Langdon, faces mental puzzles comparable to the ones in Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code. This is an exciting novel, but I hope it’s the last for awhile. I want Dan Brown to write a number one bestseller without Robert Langdon. He can do it. Now, I do highly recommend this novel, but issue the following warning: This novel could be as contagious as Dr. Zobrist’s virus. By the way, I didn’t tell you what his plague is supposed to do. Oh well, another reason to buy your own copy.

 RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: I was intrigued by Botticelli’s famous painting of the Map of Hell:
Botticelli’s map of the Inferno
Botticelli’s ‘Abyss of Hell’ – a map of Dante’s inferno
One of a series of illustrations for the Divine Comedy produced by Botticelli.
Pen and brush on vellum (32 × 47 cm) — c. 1485

Dante Alighieri died 692 years ago and is still a literary legend. Sandro Botticelli painted Dante’s nine layered vision of hell about 164 years after Dante’s death. It’s hard to imagine that these two artist would be so influential after all these years. Talk about leaving your mark on earth. Also interesting is how they made a death mask of individuals - no photos in those days. Ha! Ha! On page 169, Langdon explains to Sienna at the Palazzo Vecchio (where Dante’s death mask is housed) how a death mask was made: “Shortly after death the deceased is laid out, and his face is coated with olive oil. Then a layer of wet plaster is caked onto the skin, covering everything-mouth, nose, eyelids-from the hairline down to the neck. Once hardened, the plaster is easily lifted off and used as a mold into which fresh plaster is poured. This plaster hardens into a perfectly detailed replica of the deceased’s face.”

Photo courtesy of
Death mask of Dante Alighieri

Death mask were normally made for the rich and famous. Some noteworthy death masks include: Ludwig Van Beethoven, Alfred Hitchcock, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Paine, Woodrow Wilson, Oliver Cromwell, Richard Wagner, and inventor, Nicola Tesla. Wow! What a cast of characters.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


The premise of this novel was innovative and ingenious for the first hundred pages or so. Then it sputtered and fizzled out like a dud firecracker. Why? Ben Bova is a six-time winner of the Hugo Award. What made this promising story turn into a turkey? Umm, I think it’s a case of a highly capable author resting on his laurels. I’ve seen this happen recently with great sci-fi writers like Larry Niven ( recently flopped with Bowl of Heaven ) and I’m wondering when I’ll read another sci-fi classic like Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama . Maybe sci-fi writers have so many good ideas in their heads that they rush through a novel just to get to the next. The result is a clunker, not a total loss, but a missed opportunity to deliver a classic story. I believe this novel was one of those missed opportunities.

The story starts off strong with the reader finding out that Earth is being inundated by flood waters from the effects of global warming. The world is in chaos with the ice from Greenland and Antarctica melting, causing worldwide evacuations. Eighty years prior to this, the World Council funded a starship called Gaia on an exploratory trip to a recently discovered planet revolving around the star Sirius. From previous unmanned missions, man has learned that this New Earth seems to be a duplicate of our planet. Now the starship with a crew of twelve is in orbit around New Earth. Robots rouse the crew that have been frozen by liquid nitrogen for the past 80 years. Jordan Kell is the team leader on this important mission to study the planet’s biosphere, build housing and study the possibility of man moving here. Messages take eight and a half years to reach Earth. The crew doesn’t know that the World Council has reneged on sending backup missions.

 As the crew orbits to the darkside of the planet, they see a beam of light shining upwards. Can there be intelligent life on the planet? Mitchell Thornberry, a roboticist, sends two of his robots down to investigate the beam.The robots go dormant on the planet. Part of the crew land on the surface and find out that there are human-like sentient beings already there. Where did they come from and who are they? Other than Jordan Kell, who falls in love with a alien beauty ( Aditi ), the other eleven crew members don’t trust the seemingly helpful aliens. Or are we the aliens? The leader of New Earth, Adri, seems friendly answering any question asked of him. Or is he? This part of the novel is when I thought it would move forward with extreme gusto. Not.

I haven’t mentioned most of the rest of Kell’s crew because half of the crew have minor speaking roles in this mediocre novel. Basically the book has four meaningful human characters: Jordan Kell and his brother Brandon, a astronomer; Harmon Meek, a astrobiologist; and Mitchell Thornberry. There are two significant alien characters: Adri and Aditi of the planet with two suns ( one is a pup sun ), no moons, bioengineered animals, and energy domes. It takes New Earth 30 years to fully orbit it’s main sun. Doesn’t this sound like a interesting plot? It could have been, but at this point the author runs out of zip and ideas. I felt no empathy for any character, not a good sign. If you want to find out what happens on New Earth after the crew’s landing, you will have to read your own copy. I must give this novel a indifferent rating since it didn’t live up to the teasers on the book's jacket cover. May I interject a mild...blech!

RATING: 3 out of 5 stars

Comment: Since Ben Bova has written over 100 novels and nonfiction books, not all were recipients of bad reviews. Lets look at some of these book:

Moonwar : Ben Bova's extraordinary Moonbase Saga continues with a breathtaking near-future adventure rich in character and incident. The action begins seven years after the indomitable Stavenger family has realized its cherished dream of establishing a colony on the inhospitable lunar surface. Moonbase is now a thriving community under the leadership of Doug Stavenger, a marvel of scientific achievement created and supported by nanotechnology: virus-size machines that can build, cure, and destroy. But nanotechnology has been declared illegal by the home planet's leaders. And a powerful despot is determined to lay claim to Stavenger's peaceful city...or obliterate it, if necessary. The people of Moonbase--a colony with no arms or military--must now defend themselves from earth-born aggression with the only weapon at their disposal: the astonishing technology that sustains their endangered home. Provided by goodreads.

Voyagers III: Star Brothers : Keith Stoner lay frozen in an alien spacecraft for fifteen long years; during that time he came to be something more than just an astronaut, just a man. Stoner became partly alien himself--merged with an alien intelligence embodied in the nanotechnology that lived inside Stoner's body. The alien whose tomb that spacecraft was, brought humanity both a blessing and a deadly peril. The technology now the control of Vanguard Industries has changed the face of the earth. The technology that lives in Stoner's bloodstream will change mankind forever. Provided by

Empire Builders : Dan Randolph never plays by the rules. A hell-raising maverick with no patience for fools, he is admired by his friends, feared by his enemies, and desired by the world's loveliest women. Acting as a twenty-first privateer, Randolph broke the political strangle-hold on space exploration, and became one of the world's richest men in the bargain.
Now an ecological crisis threatens Earth--and the same politicians that Randolph outwitted the first time want to impose a world dictatorship to deal with it. Dan Randolph knows that the answer lies in more human freedom, not less--and in the boundless resources of space. But can he stay free long enough to give the world that chance? Provided by google.

Voyagers II: The Alien Within : When Keith Stoner awoke, he found himself in a world changed almost beyond recognition. Eighteen years before, Stoner had been the American member of a joint U.S.-Soviet mission to capture an alien ship. The Soviets had to pull out, but Stoner persisted, and while on the strange ship, he fell into suspended animation. Jo Camerata, the ambitious young student who fell in love with Stoner, is now head of Vanguard Industries, which has recovered the alien ship. As a result, her company is now in control of its vast new technology and the fortune it reaps--and in control of Keith Stoner. What Camerata doesn't know, however, is that someone else has been awake, someone who dwells within Stoner's mind. The alien presence that has kept Stoner alive all this time is now free and intends to explore our world, letting nothing stand in its way. Provided by

Farside : Farside, the side of the Moon that never faces Earth, is the ideal location for an astronomical observatory. It is also the setting for a tangled web of politics, personal ambition, love, jealousy, and murder. Telescopes on Earth have detected an Earth-sized planet circling a star some thirty light-years away. Now the race is on to get pictures of that distant world, photographs and spectra that will show whether or not the planet is truly like Earth, and if it bears life. Provided by

This is only a sample of the many books written by Ben Bova. I might have been too harsh in my review, but when you expect a homerun and the writer strikes out...Well, you are disappointed.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Proof of Heaven

If this story is real, it’s great news for every good egg out there. If you are not a straight shooter then I suggest you grab a copy of Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy. You will not like what you read. Amen. However, Dr. Eben Alexander does say in this stunning book that God loves everybody...but why take a chance, just treat everyone the way you would want to be treated and earn your ticket to the pearly gates. Is there really a spiritual afterlife, or did the good doctor experience a brain fart? I don’t know. He did have E.coli bacterial meningitis that basically eats your brain, rendering it kaputs. It’s so rare that less than one person in ten million contract it. Usually after several days, the best you can hope for is a vegetative state. Dr. Alexander had it for seven days and fully recovered enough to write this book. Near-death experiences (NDEs) are not new, but coming from this previously disbelieving neurosurgeon, it’s certainly a significant happening. I think that is what’s important. Scientist and academicians have traditionally avoided taking on these issues, with the exception of P.M.H. Atwater’s 1988 book Coming Back To Life. Dr. Alexander certainly gave this reader a lot to think about. The reader wants to believe.

During Dr. Alexander’s seven day coma, his brain wasn’t working at all. So the dream or hallucination factor doesn’t come into play. The doctor explains, “If you don’t have a working brain, you can’t be conscious. Example-pull the plug, the TV goes dead.” So how did he travel to heaven? He awoke in a very dark place with underground roots and strange background music. He calls this “The realm of the earthworm’s eye view”. He doesn’t have a clue who he is. He sees a bright light above and drifts towards it. Suddenly he is flying with a girl (who is she?) on the wings of a butterfly. He calls this “The gateway”. He reaches a dark area with a shining orb (God, or Om for omniscient). He calls this “The core”. He communicates with God without seeing him, or talking to him, yet he understands what God is saying with utmost clarity. He does this several times. The girl on the butterfly tells him: “You are loved and cherished. You have nothing to fear. There is nothing you can do wrong.” (Who is she?). Is “The realm of the earthworm’s eye view“ a way station between heaven and hell? This part is very interesting as the doctor relates to the reader what he saw and how he interprets the phenomenon.

On the seventh day in a coma, Eben’s sister Phyllis gets a text message from a prayer group in Boston (who are they?) that says, ”Expect a miracle.” She rushes to the hospital as Dr. Ward (the main doctor and Eben’s friend) is telling the family that the plug should be pulled on Eben’s life support system. In the hospital room, Eben suddenly wakes, bothered by the breathing tube, Dr. Wade takes it out, and Eben says, “Thank you.” He looks around the room and says, “All is well.” How did he come back? It took awhile for Eben to recover, but most of the neurosurgeons didn’t believe his story. The rest of the book concerns Eben trying to analyze what happened to him. Some of his conclusions are startling. Did it actually happen to him? Why didn’t he see anybody in the afterlife that he knew? The common NDE includes the person meeting a friend or relative. And why didn’t Doctor Alexander know who he was while in the afterlife? Dr. Alexander says, “Communicating with God is the most extraordinary experience imaginable, yet at the same time it’s the most natural one of all, because God is present in us at all times.” There is no upside to disbelieving what the doctor experienced since we all would like this episode to be genuine. However I’m not completely convinced, and I sense a little hint of disbelief from the author as well, but I embrace this book for it’s honesty.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: You probably are wondering why all these NDEs are heaven bound. Well, there are plenty of documented NDEs where the poor soul went to hell. According to thedailybeast, the following is an example of a hellish NDE:

“In March 1992, Matthew Botsford walked out of a restaurant in Atlanta and found himself in the middle of a gun battle. He was struck in the back of the head with a 9mm bullet. Before he knew it, he had died and gone to hell.

“Mad Margaret” by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, c. 1561, depicts hell as fire and brimstone with nightmarish imagery. (Getty)

"I felt a hot, needlelike pierce, excruciatingly painful, for a brief moment on the top of my head," Botsford wrote in A Day in Hell , an account of what he experienced in the underworld during the 27-day coma that followed the shooting. "Utter darkness enveloped me as if thick, black ink had been poured over my eyes." He later described being "hung over an abyss" as heat blasted up from below. Pairs of demonic eyes crept toward him before a diving entity grabbed him by the waist and said, "It's not your time." writes: “A lot of people have near death experiences and go to hell in them. The thing is, most of them don't want to talk about it. Think about this .. who would admit that they were going to hell? People's egos always want other people to think highly of them. If you google near death experiences and hell .. you'll see a bunch.

I watched a show about a priest in Kansas who had a NDE and went to hell. He was in a car accident and broke his neck. Everyone was shocked when he said that he had been sentenced to Hell by Christ. Everyone thought he was a wonderful person. But after he came back he said that he had been a priest 'for himself' and 'not for Christ'. He had a girlfriend and never said his prayers... etc. etc. What people saw isn't what God saw.

Anyways, after his NDE he got rid of his girlfriend and now prays. He lives 'for Christ' and says that this world is a 'shadow world' and that the next world is the real one. He now lives for Christ and his fellow human beings instead of himself."

If you want to learn more about NDEs to hell read: A Near Death Experience: I Died and Came Back from Hell by Grady Mosby or A Land Unknown: Hell's Dominion by B.W. Melvin. Wait, maybe these are not good to read if you have been naughty.

Monday, August 5, 2013


I like my history written with a little pizzazz, but unfortunately this book had a drowsy effect on me. Many reading sessions ended with my eyes trying to close. The book was informative and well written, but Terry Mort has to learn how to stimulate the reader. If you write a 303 page book about The Bascom Affair, don’t wait till the last 63 pages to tell the reader what actually happened. In between the incident and the ensuing ten years the reader learns more about the Mormons, the stagecoach, the Chiricahua  Apache lifestyle and West Point than the actual skirmish. A lot of the text was repetitive observations. Okay, enough is enough, I know the Chiricahuas don’t plant crops. They raid, steal, and murder...I get it. I think Terry Mort has talent, but he needs to learn how to tell a story with more fluidity. On the other side of the coin, I found the Indian Wars leading into the Civil War to be very illuminating. Did Cochise really think he won the war when the US Army left to fight the Confederacy? The style Mort used to write this book didn’t give this reader that commiserating feeling that I got reading Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee . The Indian tribes mentioned in this book come across to me as vicious murdering aggressors. Even though Mort wrote about the white man’s attacks against the Indians, the real atrocities that Mort relayed to the reader were done by the various Indian tribes. Did Cochise’s Apaches really tie-up people upside down on wagon wheels over a slow burning fire and cook the victim’s brain while still alive? Did he really spreadeagle his victim and start a campfire on his stomach? If the white man did things other than hanging and shooting Indians, he didn’t mention it, save a occasional scalping.

The tale starts off in 1861 with Apaches attacking the John Ward ranch in the Sonoita Valley in Southern Arizona. Ward goes to Fort Buchanan to complain. The Army sends 2nd Lt. George Bascom and a patrol out to find the perpetrators. Ward says that Cochise took cattle and his twelve year old stepson. Cochise’s people live seventy miles away in Apache Pass between Mexico and Arizona. They alternately attack Mexico and Arizona and make off and on treaties with both countries. The patrol sets up camp by the stagecoach station and sends word that they want to talk to Cochise. On the second camp day, Cochise, his brother, one of his wives, nephews, and a few warriors show up at 2nd Lt. Bascom’s camp. Inside the tent, Bascom accuses Cochise of attacking Ward’s ranch and kidnapping the boy. Unbeknownst to Bascom, that accusation is a huge insult to a Apache. Since Cochise is listening to a broken Spanish translation from Ward, he is paying close attention to demeanor, tone of voice, and body language. Then, the shavetail ( a newly commissioned officer with no experience ) Lieutenant tells Cochise that they are prisoners until his Apaches find Ward’s boy and the cattle. Cochise tells him he didn’t do it and slashes his way out of the tent. All of this happens in the first seventeen pages, and doesn't get back to the scene until chapter eleven, page 237. This incident starts a ten year war between the Indians of the Southwest and the US Army, miners, and settlers.

According to Mort: ”Congress had a long standing aversion to the idea of maintaining a professional army of any size.” The US Army only had 31,024 officers and troops, while State volunteers numbered 73,532. Since Congress didn’t take the Indian problem seriously, it was allowed to fester for years. West Point grad, George B. McClellan ( yes, that McClellan ), said of the volunteers: “ They are useless, useless, useless, expensive, wasteful and good for nothing.” Three years before the incident (1858 ), the army only had 16,367 people, and only a small portion protecting our western expansion against savy ambushing Indian tribes. The author covers a lot of ground in this book including the lengthy so-called Mormon Wars. Mark Twain once visited Utah and saw Mormon women and: “He thought they were homely creatures and opined that a man that marries sixty of them has done a deed of open handed generosity.” Twain was known to be against what he called “ the savages “ and the writings of James Fenimore Cooper. I guess he didn’t like The Last of the Mohicans or The Deerslayer . By the way what does all those quotes from The Iliad by Homer have to do with this book. Okay, I get that the Troy and Indian Wars lasted ten years, but that’s it. This was an educational book, but if you have read my previous reviews, I like my non-fiction to read like fiction and this book was far from it. I have to put my neutral face on and say “huh?” I was taking a nap.

RATING: 3 out of 5 stars

Comment: I’m not surprised about Mark Twain’s comments, since he was a known racist. To criticize the great books written by James Fenimore Cooper is sacrilegious poppycock. I know, I know, Twain was a great writer and only reflective of his times, but his thoughts could have been kept to himself, and I’m a big fan of his novels. So who else do I think was a great western writer?

How about the great Zane Grey ( 1/31/1872-10/23/1939 ). Here is a man that went to the University of Pennsylvania on a baseball scholarship. He actually played one game in the major leagues, but ultimately became a dentist. He started to write as he was quickly bored with dentistry. He once said “ The Indian story has never been written. Maybe I am the man to do it.”

Zane’s greatest book is Riders of the Purple Sage ( 1912 ). Wikipedia says: “Riders of the Purple Sage tells the story of Jane Withersteen and her battle to overcome her persecution by members of her polygamous Mormon Church, a leader of which, Elder Tull, wants to marry her. Withersteen is supported by a number of Gentile friends, including Bern Venters and Lassiter, a famous gunman and killer of Mormons. Throughout most of the novel she struggles with her "blindness" in seeing the evil nature of her church and its leaders, trying to keep both Venters and Lassiter from killing her adversaries, who are slowly ruining her. Through the adoption of a child, Fay, she abandons her false beliefs and discovers her true love. A second plot strand tells of Venters and his escape to the wilderness with a girl named Bess, "the rustler's girl," whom he has accidentally shot. While caring for her, Venters falls in love with the girl, and together they escape to the East, while Lassiter, Fay, and Jane, pursued by both Mormons and rustlers, escape into a paradise-like valley by toppling a giant balancing rock, forever closing off the only way in or out.” The Mormon theme seems to be popular.

Another great book by Zane was The Long Star Ranger ( 1915 ). Wikipedia says: “Buck Duane is the son of a famous outlaw. Though an outlaw is not always a criminal, if the Rangers say he is an outlaw, its just as bad – he's a hunted man. After killing a man, Duane is forced to 'go on the dodge'. Duane turns up at an outlaw's hideout, still revolting at the idea of outlawry. Worse still, all the men he kills haunt him, for years. At the outlaw hideout, he meets a kidnapped, beautiful young woman and desires to see her free. In the second part of the book, Duane joins the Rangers, who want him to clear the frontier of outlaws, in return for the governor's pardon of his illegal deeds.” A great novel!

The third novel to talk about is Tonto Basin ( 1921 ).  Wikipedia says: “The story begins with 24 year old Jean Isbel in the last stages of a multi-week trip from Oregon to the frontier in Arizona where his family had moved four years earlier to start a cattle ranch. As he nears his destination he meets a woman in the woods, and falls in love at first sight. As they part they learn that they are mortal enemies. She is Ellen Jorth, and her family is locked in a deadly feud with his.

Jean dreads the part his father, Gaston, wants him to play in the feud. He can’t get Ellen out of his mind. They meet again and his words awake in her doubt and fear that her father, Lee Jorth, is not an honorable man but in fact a horse thief and cattle rustler. As events unfold her fears are proved true. Through thick and thin Jean Isbel defends Ellen’s honor and believes the best of her.

The feud erupts into fatal gun battles, first at the Isbel ranch house, and then at the general store in the nearby town. Most of the Isbel and Jorth clans are killed, with several of their allies. The remnant of the Jorths flee with Ellen in tow to a hide-out hidden in a deep box caƱon.

Jean and his allies track them and there is a deadly gun battle in the woods nearby. Ellen is forced by one of the three remaining Jorth allies to flee once again. During their flight their horse is shot out from under them. Ellen now on foot meets one of the dying Isbels and finally learns the certain truth that her father, family, and their allies were horse thieves and cattle rustlers as she feared.

When she finally makes her way back to the hide-out, she arrives just after Jean has been forced to take refuge in the loft, unknown to her. One of the two remaining rustlers attacks her with rape in mind but is interrupted by the arrival of the other rustler. Ellen discovers Jean during this interruption. When the rustler returns a few minutes later, Ellen is forced to kill him to protect herself and Jean. A minute later Jean kills the last rustler.

The story ends with Jean and Ellen declaring their love for each other.”