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.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

SPARX Incarnation: Mark of the Green Dragon

The author sent an autographed copy of his novel to my thirteen year old grandson, Kai, to review:

The Mark of the Green Dragon is an exciting start to a two part series. It starts out with Nud Leatherleaf and his best friend Gariff walking through the bog lands around the town of Webfoot. Nud has just found a mysterious flashing stone. While not sure what to do with it, Nud decides to keep it a secret from his other friends. After some consideration, Nud chooses to visit his grandpa Papolov’s friend, Fyron. The friend is an Elderkin (a race of ancient and wise beings) who Nud calls Uncle Fyron.

Because of a previous strange incident, it took a bit of thought to decide to visit Uncle Fyron. What happened was that Nud found a strange box in Fyron’s attic containing a mysterious creature. Wanting to discover what the creature was, Nud took the box into the woods. Then with a hatchet, he opened the nailed shut lid, but to his horror inside the box was a vile spider-like creature, whose first thought was to attack Nud.

After fleeing, Nud’s experience got even stranger. A group of trees formed a circle around Nud... trapping him. It’s only after one of the trees whipped him in the wrist (leaving a intricate marking that would persist for the rest of his life) that he finds a way to escape and get back to Uncle Fyron’s house.

But he decides to visit his uncle’s house regardless of his previous experience. Nud and his friends are quickly invited in to eat. But after the meal ends and Fyron and Nud are alone, strange things start to happen. This is where the story truly starts.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The author, K.B. Sprague, did a good job with character development and the plot, but most of all, the author left me wanting to read more. I definitely recommend this book, however you are going to have to read the second book for the conclusion.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Once again, my grandson comes up with a quality review.

Monday, October 17, 2016


As with this 1899 classic novella, sometimes too much descriptive writing can somewhat muddy the waters. Written by Joseph Conrad (pen name for Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski) and originally published in three monthly issues of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, I occasionally lost touch with the story as I got lost in his flowery language. This is not a bad thing, just a slight sidetrack from the story. You probably remember this seaman/author best for his famous 1900 novel, Lord Jim. Even the first paragraph had to be read several times before I understood it. The Nellie, a cruising yawl was a two-masted fore-and-aft-rigged sailboat sailing down The Thames River in London, England. Since Conrad spent his first 36 years mostly at sea, he assumed his sailor’s cant was a language known by all his readers. I’m not complaining because the story was enjoyable, just not the cat’s meow for a speed reader. An example of Conrad’s descriptive writing (he was very good at describing a character) can be found on page 54 when he is describing the company’s chief accountant that he finds in the muggy jungle, “When near the buildings I met a white man, in such an unexpected elegance of get-up that in the first moment I took him for a sort of vision. I saw a high starched collar, white cuffs, a light alpaca jacket, snowy trousers, a clear necktie, and varnished boots. No hat. Hair parted, brushed, oiled, under a green-lined parasol held in a big white hand. He was amazing, and had a penholder behind his ear.” Most of the novel was written with these embellishments.

The story starts out with Our narrator and protagonist, Charlie Marlow, on a cruise ship (the Nellie) anchored on the Thames River telling some of the passengers how he was appointed captain of a steamboat on the Congo River in darkest Africa. Ever since he was a child, he was mesmerized by the blank spaces on maps. The one that intrigued him the most was the Congo and the big snake-like river, The Congo. After many years out to sea, Marlow applies for a riverboat captaincy on a Congo River steamboat with a Brussels, Belgium ivory trading company. He gets the job and heads to the African coast on a French steamer. Most of the story revolves around his difficulties getting to his job, which was more than 200 miles up the river. He gets on a steamer captained by a Swede and gets dropped off 30 miles up river to his company’s first station. It is blazing hot and steamy. He is horrified at the condition of the blacks working on the railroad. They are going to die under these harsh conditions. He takes a caravan of 60 men and travels on foot to the central station where he finds out from the general manager that his steamboat was curiously wrecked. The general manager says they left without him because they were trying to get to a Mr. Kurtz, who was reportedly dying. Is that why they were trying to get to him? Mr. Kurtz ran the trading post in ivory country. Marlow learns that, “Kurtz sends in as much ivory as all the others put together.” By the way, the paragraphs are very long, which was commonplace in that era.

It takes several months to repair the river steamboat before Marlow departs up river to bring back the mysterious Mr. Kurtz from his station. Is Kurtz really sick? Why do the natives adore him? Why does the company want him back? Has Kurtz gotten too big for his britches? The descriptive writing was so good; I felt like I was sweltering on the Congo River in darkest Africa during the entire story. Somehow I missed the crux of Conrad’s novella. Was he chastising Belgium for their imperialistic attitude towards Africa? Or their treatment of the natives? Was he trying to say that (so-called) civilized society should have the right to rule barbarians, or just the opposite? The United States had that attitude in the late 1800s and early 1900s (the Manifest Destiny). Remember Horace Greeley’s famous phrase, “Go west, young man”...and we did, all the way to Japan and China. I know that Joseph Conrad had a reason for writing this novella...I just don’t know what it was. Because of these reasons, I'll give it a weak five star rating (Haha), and I do recommend reading this 117 year old novella.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Conrad’s main character, Charlie Marlow, appears in four of his novels. Besides this novella, Marlow appears in Youth (1898), Lord Jim (1900) and Chance (1914).

In the “Inspired by’ section of Conrad’s novella, we find that, “The adaptation of Heart of Darkness that makes Conrad’s novella particularly relevant to the modern era is Francis Ford Coppola’s film, Apocalypse Now (1979). Apocalypse Now strips away surface and grapples with humanity’s primordial nature, aptly capturing the spirit of Conrad. The film opens with the jungle tree line ablaze with napalm fire and the hypnotic drone of helicopter blades dissolving into a whirring ceiling fan in a hotel room. Captain Benjamin Willard (Sheen) is assigned to track down Colonel Walter Kurtz, a decorated war hero gone missing whom the military has accused of murder. Willard is ordered to terminate Kurtz with extreme prejudice.”

Did Charlie Marlow get orders to terminate Kurtz in Heart of Darkness? Read the novella and you will find out...My Little Chickadee (W.C. Fields, 1940).     

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


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

This is the third novel that I’ve read in the last three years exploring the possibility of heaven. Having read Mitch Albom’s highly entertaining novel The First Phone Call from Heaven (see my review of 1/13/2014) and Neurosurgeon Eben Alexander’s near death experience in Proof of Heaven (see my review of 8/10/2013), I was eager to read what Irene Weinberg had to say in her novel. The novel seems to be on the whimsical side only because it involves several mediums, who were either contacted by Irene’s husband, Saul, or had Saul talk through their vocal cords. Logic tells me that the medium business would be the world’s number one occupation if any recently departed loved one could contact anyone through a medium (or necromancer?). Why did Saul get the opportunity to contact his wife after death and not someone like the great Harry Houdini (who vowed to come back from death) Wouldn’t Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry have a course on mediumology? (just kidding, maybe they do)

Listen, I’m not accusing Irene of anything. I’m somewhat suggesting (based on their lifelong love affair) that she would be likely influenced into believing she is talking to her husband. The other thing that baffles me (a tad) is that Saul implies that even bad people are in heaven. The only penalty is that they cannot be reincarnated until all the people they have harmed are dead, including their descendants (this could take a long time). Saul also tells Irene through a family therapist/medium that they have had many past lives together (some not as husband and wife). That reminds me of the 1970 Barbra Streisand movie On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. Although the story is entertaining, I’m not buying into it as a credible occurrence. There is no mention of Hell in this book by Saul. All he says on this subject is what he said about a delayed reincarnation. And would The Creator and a group of angels sit down with you in Heaven and strategize your next life on earth? Highly doubtful.

Although the story starts out with Saul falling asleep (or did he have a stroke/heart attack?) at the wheel of his car (12/21/1997) with his wife, Irene, in the passenger seat, the meat of the story for me was the supposed previous reincarnated lives they had relayed by Saul to Irene through a medium. Some of them were Irene starting to become a storyteller? Okay, the stories were told to her by Saul, but Irene penned them, so I must give her some credit (don’t think for a minute that I believed they came from heaven, but they were entertaining). I particularly liked the story of Yakov and Devorah, which was very sad. Also absorbing was the time Irene was reincarnated alone as a Jewish violinist in Poland during the start of the holocaust. So what do I think? I think that Irene heard what she wanted to hear or believe in. Again, I’m not saying that Irene is a false witness, but I think that Irene, who was madly in love with Saul, can easily be duped by mediums. I do recommend reading this book/novel...your option at to whether you think it’s a book or novel.

RATING: 3 out of 5 stars

Comment: Everybody hopes that there is an afterlife (if you haven’t been wicked), but Saul’s story doesn’t offer much punishment to sinners. Is there a Hell? If not, I coulda been bad! Also strange is that Saul doesn’t tell Irene what religion God harbors. He is only known as The Source or The Creator. No mention of Jesus Christ. Also if I remember correctly, The Bible rejects reincarnation. There are a lot of unanswered questions which make books like this one at best...intriguing.  

Saturday, October 8, 2016


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

After reading Jonathan Huls previous novel, The Nth Day (see my review of 2/10/2016), I didn’t think he could write anything darker than that. Well, I’m wrong, because his second novel is pitch-black! Next stop...Hell. If you are a bit squeamish, don’t read this novel. Nothing pleasant happens to any of the characters in this grisly novel. Ayahuasca is a mind altering drug used by the Peruvian natives along the Amazon River for many purposes. In a way, the drug plays both a small part and big part in this novel. When the novel begins, the reader is unaware of what the two recent college graduates are up to. They tell their parents (who are unconcerned alcoholic party goers) that they are going to Mexico to celebrate graduating college. That seems normal enough, but is that the real reason for the trip? And why do they keep talking about G-88? What does that mean? Do they have an evil pretentious plan or is this trip a normal graduating blow-out? Okay, enough questions, let me tell you a little bit of the story without revealing the explosive conclusion (pages 142-244).
Paxton and Damien are life long friends. Paxton just got his private pilot’s license, and they are going to fly to Mexico (the author doesn’t tell the reader how the boys acquired the Cessna Turbo Skylane). The trip will take two months and culminate in Iquitos, Peru. We learn that the boys have always been evil...Damien the most malicious. Paxton has been recording all their vicious adventures in his personal journal since childhood (were they evil as kids?...yep). While in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, they have wild drunken sexual escapades. They hear about a secret nightclub that has sexual acts on stage including a performance that uses a donkey. They find the club, but things go sour and they have to shoot their way out of the club. They fly out of Mexico into Peru immediately. Paxton falls in love with a local girl named Cecita. After a night of binge drinking, Paxton, Damien, Cecita and her girlfriend go into a remote jungle area where the boys are introduced to the drug Ayahuasca by a local shaman. The drug is supposed to purify their spirits but instead makes them hallucinate and vomit. Such a pleasant novel.

I’m reluctant to tell you anything more about the story. Instead, I was going to define what G-88 means, but then I would have to issue a “spoiler alert” which I don’t want to do. The crux of the novel is G-88 and what it brings to the table. Is this the darkest novel I’ve ever read? Well, I read Cormac McCarthy’s Outer Dark (see my review of 3/01/2013), which I considered to be the blackest novel that I ever read. But I have to admit that Jonathan Huls has surpassed the great Cormac McCarthy with this tragic and somber novel. Do you see why this novel is so grim? What happens in Peru is mind-boggling. Those last 103 pages are explosive. I only reviewed the first 118 pages to whet your whistle. I recommend this novel to readers that aren’t faint at heart. Since I thought Jonathan Huls first novel was very savvy and structured better than this novel, I must rate Ayahuasca a notch below The Nth Day.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: For some reason this novel reminded me of the 1994 Oliver Stone/ Quentin Tarantino movie Natural Born Killers starring Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis. It was the same theme...senseless mass murder. A 52 person killing spree in New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada, then briefly imprisoned before escaping and continuing with more murders. School is still out with me on these types of novels and movies. Are they written to bring light to the serial killer phenomenon or strictly for the entertainment value? I prefer books on this subject that are nonfiction, such as the social miscreant killers in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, or Vincent Bugliosi’s epic book, Helter Skelter: The True Story of The Manson Murders.