Review of Red Dot: Contact by Eugene Linn

Red Dot: Contact. Will the Gravest Threat Come from Closer to Home than We Expect? by Eugene Linn
First Contact: Hope or Fear?


The front cover of Red Dot: ContactThis well-written novel documents how people and societies might react to the knowledge that we are not alone in the universe. More specifically, it tells the story of how humanity reacts to the discovery of a fast-approaching alien spaceship and the unexplained appearance of thousands of mysterious red dots that appear overnight. (Note that for this reason, I would have named the book Red Dots, not Red Dot.) Much of the book seems to mirror current news, especially in light of presidential politics. The writing, characterization, and dialog seemed fine.

On the other hand, I found apparent problems with the alien’s spaceship and communications technology difficult to believe. While somewhat plausible, I found the ending of the book frustrating, and I suspect that other lovers of science fiction might feel the same way. Without revealing any spoilers, I wouldn’t be surprised if many readers would also prefer a different outcome.
November 3, 2016

Review of The Only Pirate at the Party by Lindsey Stirling (5 Stars)


Let me start by saying I’m biased. I’ve been a fan of Lindsey’s for quite a few years, ever since she started to develop a YouTube following. I also met her several years ago at a VIP meet-and-greet before one of her early concerts here in Pittsburgh.

That said, I found her autobiography (co-authored with her sister, Brooke) enthralling and very informative. It’s hard to write anything specific about it as I don’t want to give any spoilers, and I want you all to enjoy it with the same freshness as I did. If you are a fan, this is a must-read book. Given its surprisingly high Kindle price, I splurged for the hardback and wasn’t disappointed.
October 29, 2016

Review of Now: The Physics of Time by Dr. Richard Muller (5 Stars)

Now: The Physics of Time by Dr. Richard Muller
Very Interesting Popular Book on Time


Time is a fascinating subject, and while physics (both relativity and quantum) has a lot to say on the subject, the current consensus view has several huge flaws. First, the laws of physics do not address the concept of now, and many physicists have even reached the conclusion from this fact and the Minkowski diagram views of space-time that the passage of time is an illusion. The laws of physics are also largely time-symmetrical, and rely on the global increase in entropy as the cause of the arrow of time from past into future.

Dr. Muller posits a, to me, obvious solution. That the expansion of the universe (and similar aspects of black holes) involve the creation of new space-time. More specifically, they involve not just the creation of new space, but also the creation of new time. The moving 3-D surface marking the boundary of new time thus marks the moving now that separates the existing past (space-time) from the not yet existing future (space-time). So far, so good.

On the other hand, Dr. Muller soon moves to the time implications of free will, the mind-body problem, and the implications of the unprovability of all true statements in mathematics. Here, he appears to move from physics into philosophy, somewhat guided by wishful thinking. While interesting issues, they lack the persuasiveness of the first part of the book, and I can imagine other explanations than the ones he has based his theory on. For example, I believe that subjective awareness (the hard problem of consciousness) will eventually be added to physics, and neuroscience has much to say about free will; I believe that Dr. Muller’s reliance on mentally collapsing the quantum probability wave is magical thinking that smacks far too much of Maxwell’s demon.

I therefore give Dr. Muller 4 stars for his book: the average of 5 stars for the first part of his book and 3 stars for the second part of his book.
October 29, 2016

Review of Unspeakable Acts by Janet Leigh Green (2 Stars)

Unspeakable Acts (McQueen Investigation Series Book 1) by Janet Leigh Green
Paranormal Horror Romance for Adults


First of all, I want to make it clear that this paranormal horror romance novel should be rated X/NR-17 (at least), not so much for the graphic sex, but rather for the sick psychopathic behavior including rape, torture, and murder. I definitely do not recommend this book for teenagers or anyone offended by such subject matter.

The book tells the story of a young woman who lives in a very old house haunted by four ghosts, three of whom are as sickeningly evil in death as they were in life. After being repeatedly raped by one of the ghosts while sleeping, she seeks the help of a three paranormal detectives, who eventually succeed in freeing her and the house from its evil inhabitants.

The basic premise and plot are interesting, and I very much liked the backstory. In the hands of a more talented writer, this book could have been an excellent chilling tale of horror for the more mature audience. Unfortunately, the author was not up to the challenge. There was far too much telling and not enough showing. There was a lot of unnecessary repetition, and the action dragged in spots. But the worst aspect of the book (and the reason I gave it 2 stars rather than 3) was simply the writing. Too often, the author employed simple declarative sentences at a reading level more appropriate for a younger audience than the subject matter demanded. In addition to a more sophisticated writing style, the book could greatly benefit from a good copy editing; grammar errors (especially missing commas) are numerous and the number of typos often jarred me out of the story.

Bottom Line: While the book holds a lot of promise (if for a somewhat niche market) and is worthy of a rewrite, I reluctantly recommend passing on this edition and waiting for the next.

Excellent Online Book Club Review of Hell Holes 2 (4 out of 4 Stars)

The Online Book Club uses its own four star rating scale: “Books are rated on a 1 to 4 scale (1 = bad, 2 = fair, 3 = good, 4 = excellent).” They just gave Hell Holes 2: What Lurks Below an official review of 4 stars (Excellent). The book is featured today (number 2 on the list) on their book reviews webpage. You can read the entire review here.

Review of Dragonfly by Frederic Durbin (5 Stars)

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Fred at a local library and traded books with him. I have just finished reading his book, Dragonfly, and it turned out to be an excellent book to read in the weeks leading up to Halloween. It tells the adventures of Dragonfly, a young girl who discovers a phantasmagorical underground realm beneath the basement of her Uncle’s funeral home. Sam Hain (as in Samhain, the Celtic Halloween), its evil leader, sends monsters up to steal children and poison the dreams of humanity. It is one of the most original tales I have read in ages, and it stands out from the other fantasy books I have read during the past decade in terms of the author’s descriptions of this subterranean world. While the author’s vision is highly creative and fascinating, it is his descriptions that stand out. He is as much an artist as he is an author; he paints with words, and I find myself somewhat grateful that I read the book in paperback rather than on my usual tablet because I would otherwise have found myself constantly highlighting beautifully crafted phrases, sentences, and paragraphs for future contemplation and enjoyment rather than simply enjoying being immersed in such a wonderful world. Although the heroine of the book is an adolescent girl, readers of all ages should find this a wonderfully fantastic, if frighteningly evil, world in which to while away one’s autumn evenings. This book is a rare Halloween treat best savored wrapped in a warm blanket when the moon is full, the naked branches of trees tap upon the windows, and the crackle of the fire competes with the creaks of aging joists and settling staircases. Grab a mug of hot chocolate, settle back in your chair, and enjoy your trip to the dark world of Harvest Moon.

Review of Lucifer’s Odyssey by Rex Jameson (5 Stars)

by Rex Jameson (book 1 in the Primal Patterns series) is definitely not your typical epic paranormal fantasy science fiction novel. It is also not likely to be appreciated by fundamentalist Christian Evangelicals lacking an open mind when it comes to such biblical characters as Lucifer, Jehovah, and Michael. Covering three parallel universes and hundreds of millions of years, this book combines supernatural creatures (demons, angels, and goblins/elves), a mixture of magic and advanced science, political intrigue, war, and cosmology to create an epic, action/adventure romp that will make you think while keeping you turning the pages. It’s not every day you read a novel written from the demon Lucifer’s point of view. I thoroughly enjoyed this well-written book and look forward to reading book two. So if you are interested in reading something more than the typical science fiction space opera, then you could do far worse than this first book in the primal patterns series.

Review of Shadow Stalker Part 1 by Renee Scattergood (4 Stars)

The debut novel by Australian Renee Scattergood, Shadow Stalker Part I (Episodes 1-6) is also the first book in the Shadow Stalker young adult paranormal fantasy series. It tells the story of teenager Auren, who is raised by her somewhat mysterious uncle Kado and who discovers that she is not only a shadow stalker (people with uncommon paranormal abilities) but also marked for death by an evil foreign emperor.
While the book shares several characteristics with similar tales of children who learn that they have unknown special abilities, what makes this series special are (1) the author has created an interesting world with its own geography and cultures and (2) the concept of shadow stalkers is both interesting and innovative (no spoilers so I won’t tell you how). This book is thus much more than your typical high school heroine with her standard group of friends. The main characters are interesting and well-developed, the pacing keeps the action going, and the prose descriptions bring the setting vividly to life. I also very much liked the idea of the self-fulfilling prophesy and the risk it poses to the characters and their world. Now that I have finished the first book, I definitely look forward to reading the second book and will be following this author as the series progresses. Recommended.
P.S. As of the writing of this review, the ebook is a free download. Enjoy!

A Demon Bound (Imp Series – Book 1) by Debra Dunbar – 5 Stars

This is an interesting twist on the Angel/Demon dynamic. I really liked the idea of having a demon as the lead character and heroine. And the author did a great job of putting the reader into the head of the demon. And having the an uptight angel (who ordinarily would kill demons on sight) develop feelings for the demon was an interesting twist. (By the way, that definitely does not make this a romance novel). I look forward to reading many more books in this series.