Book Reviews

Unwinding the Serpent

Unwinding the Serpent is a story that spans generations and stretches way into a speculative future. It all begins in Johnnycake, Virginia, in 1793 when a village genius named Delmar Witcher Hannamyer has the perspicacity to see through the true intentions of the visiting aliens, called Cacatoids, and tell it to their faces. But an alien race intent on subjugation has no plans to cut their visit short. In 1973, a geneticist conducts a study dedicated to cataloging the particles of life to determine what the future of humanity holds, and this doesn’t sit well with the Cacatoids that intend to stop him. In the year 3197, man has been able to make time travel a reality to return to the past to solve the future’s infertility problems, which has something to do with the gene therapy that the geneticist developed in 1973. This is the setup of Unwinding the Serpent by Robert Paul Blumenstein.

Unwinding the Serpent is an impressive novel in the sci-fi genre that shows a strong motivation in the characters, as each of their personalities sharply emerges in facing the alien threat, and figuring out a way to save humanity from its impending extinction. Then there are the aliens. The Cacatoids are physiologically described from the start because it matters what they look like. Readers like to put faces on creatures presented in works of science fiction to help them evoke a strong sense of perception of things that they could only imagine in narratives. Robert Paul Blumenstein gives us more than just Cacatoids: he also gives us the humanlike Aphasians, who are said to help Earthlings develop time travel, and the Pachamacs, who are incapable of higher reasoning. Stories like this can easily find their way into the mainstream, and when they do, there is a high chance that they become a classic. I feel secure in recommending Unwinding the Serpent to your list of must-reads. The writing has a distinct sensibility that makes it powerful.


"The Mass halted momentarily and hovered directly above the town."

This intricate and extraterrestrial tale begins for readers in 1793 in the small town of Johnnycake, Virginia. Strange lights in the skies alert the townspeople, and when a few men discover an even stranger disc-like object on a far ridge, an unworldly truth propels the townspeople into events they could never have imagined. Then, in 1973, a man named Richard submits to hypnosis, which leads him into various events related to those that happened in 1793. By the book's conclusion, readers have been transported to the year 3197, where a millennia-old secret the universe has been holding is unlocked.

In this book, readers find elements of science fiction that will likely shock and engage them from the novel's beginning to its end. Unique in its structure and plot, the narrative examines multiple elements of the human psyche, including communication, the power of dreams, and the unexplained. It also closely looks at faith and beliefs and the difference between the modern and the primitive in both: "'This is an impression from a woodcut showing villagers driving a devil from their town. Others, as you see, have been staked and set afire to burn. Very cruel, especially when, later in history, man routed out his own kind falsely and accused them of being witches, warlocks and devils and put them to death.'" Readers with a flare for tales of UFOs and extraterrestrial-themed science fiction works will find this book a page-turner. Perfect for young adult and adult readers, this book contains elements of a series like Animorphs for young readers and films like Fire in the Sky for adults

Reviewed By Susan Sewell for Readers’ Favorite

The attack of extraterrestrial creatures on an eighteen-century town sets the stage for intrigue and conspiracy that spans millennia in the science-fiction novel, Unwinding the Serpent by Robert Paul Blumenstein. In 1793, Delmar Witcher Hannamyer and the town of Johnnycake, Virginia are visited by alien creatures that are wiping out their community. A stranger appears from out of nowhere and helps Hannamyer and the residents of Johnnycake battle the aliens. In 1973, Richard Stubens, a scientist, experiences dreams that result in him sleepwalking. Seeking help from his friend Mac, a psychologist, Richard undergoes past-life regression hypnosis to determine the cause of his dreams. Transported back to 1793 Johnnycake, Richard meets Hannamyer, the man in his dreams, and helps him fight the aliens. As Mac and Richard delve into the strange aspects of Richard's hypnosis, a woman inserts herself into Richard's life with devastating results on his career and his life. Reincarnated in 3197, Henoch and his soul mate, Angelika, must solve the puzzling connection between Hannamyer and Richard and how they relate to the present in order to save Earth.

Incorporating the elements of intergalactic beings, quantum physics, time travel, and reincarnation, Unwinding the Serpent by Robert Paul Blumenstein is a brilliant science-fiction novel. The story has a fascinating plot that takes the reader on a thrilling adventure through time. The storyline is mesmerizing, and the author has done a marvelous job of blending unique sciences and spiritual elements to form a remarkable tale. I loved the historical setting of Johnnycake and was impressed by the smooth transition between the three sections of the book. It is a sensational novel that will entertain everyone who enjoys science-fiction stories based on science with a spiritual undertone.


Jun 14, 2021Jade O'Hara rated it it was amazing

A very good sci fi. The plot is moving at a good pace and the characters are very well developed. I enjoyed it. 5 stars from me.

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Jun 13, 2021Karen rated it it was amazing

I recommend Unwinding the Serpent because I've enjoyed the story. I recommend to the sci fi lovers. (less)

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Jun 15, 2021Chris Harris rated it it was amazing

Unwinding the Serpent by Robert Paul Blumenstein is a very compelling novel. I was hooked from the beginning and the end surprised me. I recommend


Journey to the Clear Light

Robert Paul Blumensteins' new book of poetry is a slim volume of heartfelt goodness like the smile of an old friend. You'll want to keep it within arms' reach. Open it up. Follow the stories into your memories. Let the words tumble in your unconscious mind. Feel less alone. Honor our common experiences of love, loss, and even the quiet joys of the precious last moments with loved ones.
Treasure the printed word again. — Nancy W Miller


A beautiful collection of poems that vibrate with the hum of the universe. — J. T. Brown


Blood in the Ground

I’m very pleased to announce that the October 2012 issue of our online book review magazine “Small Press Bookwatch” features “Blood in the Ground.” This review has been posted with the Cengage Learning, Gale interactive CD-ROM series “Book Review Index,” which is published four times yearly for academic, corporate, and public library systems. A copy of the review is enclosed for your files:

The world of spirits lurks to overwhelm the world of humanity. “Blood in the Ground” is a modern fantasy and third book in Robert Paul Blumenstein’s Ascension Trilogy following the success of Peyton Costello apprehending Opossum. But Opossum does not take a loss gracefully, and his plots will continue to lurk, as Peyton must act fast or face his wrath. “Blood in the Ground” is a riveting read that should prove hard to put down.

Blood in the Ground the third installment in the Ascension Trilogy by author Robert Paul Blumenstein and, like his two predecessors, Flirtin' with Jesus and Snapping the String, doesn’t disappoint.

Peyton Costello's journey continues in Blood in the Ground to battle evil in the name of Opossum. Peyton is also reacquainted with a nemesis from his past and calls on an old friend for help when the unthinkable happens.

Blood in the Ground is intriguing with the author's vivid imagination and storytelling; captivates your attention, daring you to ask questions and provoking you to find answers.

Although at times Blood in the Ground can be bone-chilling graphic and very dark, nevertheless, you simply can’t put it down, anticipating what is going to happen next.

In the end, the battle of good versus evil comes full circle, leaving you wondering what this author has up his sleeve for his next book.

This book is not for the faint at heart.

The story starts out with Peyton being woken from his sleep by a dream, which to him, can only mean one thing. So, without a doubt in his mind, he rings Mahoney, an aging cop who had dealt with the case, which saw the killer of Peyton’s parents, called Opossum, put onto death row: A case which perhaps would not have been successful without the special spiritual gifts, which Peyton happens to command.

But now Peyton asks the old detective a strange question: Is Opossum still in prison? Mahoney squanders his way down to the prison where Opossum is spending his last few hours before his death sentence is carried out, but the impossible happens, Opossum escapes. Whilst suspicion hangs over the heads of a couple of bystanders, a priest and Opossum’s female psychiatrist, Mahoney only cares about catching Opossum and jumps straight onto the trail...

Robert Paul Blumenstein has written a very well-put-together piece of literature; it has been very well researched and flows very smoothly throughout. The story itself visits many locations, such as Frankfurt, San Francisco, and Jerusalem; it moves quite intensively from one drama to the next, which keeps the story fresh, fast-moving, and very interesting. The book also delves deep into spiritual topics of good versus evil and how much can evil tempt or corrupt the good of mankind, and even to the topic of how sexuality can be corrupted.

Fantastic Next Chapter in the Peyton Costello/Opossum Series! Loved It!

I received a copy of Blood in the Ground from the author for review purposes. Having not read the first two books in the series, I was a bit unsure what to expect. From the very beginning, I was drawn into the story and was very impressed with the storyline.

Opossum has managed to escape from Virginia’s death row, and Captain Mahoney is fast on his trail. He meets up with Peyton Costello near Frankfurt, Germany, and together they travel across many different countries trying to bring Opossum down. Peyton comes face to face with Dr. Kirkpatrick, who according to the book, was one of the main people who tortured Peyton during his time in the mental hospital [Snapping the String].

Considering that I haven’t read any of the other books in the trilogy, I did not feel TOO behind in the story and found it thoroughly enjoyable. Anyone who has already begun the journey with Peyton will love this installment of the story, and for those that have not yet met any of the characters in this book, it is a fantastic book that will keep you reading well into the night, because you just will not want to put it down! Five stars on this effort from Mr. Blumenstein.


Snapping the String

There is a string, I believe, we hold onto in our lives, and there are times when that string becomes frayed near the point of breaking. In the second book of the Ascension Trilogy from author Robert Paul Blumenstein, Snapping the String introduces us to Peyton Costello, a young man accused of a heinous crime.

It’s a heart-wrenching tale of a young man’s plight against the criminal system. His fight for freedom at times seems impossible after being maltreated and manipulated by immorally self-indulgent doctors. Getting caught up in an imperfect system where his voice is virtually silenced, Peyton finds a way to cope with his ordeal.

Holding onto that fragile string, fortifying it with his faith, helps Peyton to fight back. The mind is a complex organ with many dimensions. Peyton opens up to these new dimensions, which enables him to escape from the torment he’s going through. Peyton Costello finds his way and discovers answers about himself and his family. Out of tragedy, he finds true love as his spiritual insight grows.

Snapping the String is intense and volatile, and a book you’ll be discussing for a long time to come.

The thought of one’s parents both dying is enough to put some people in the crazy house— but being accused of their murders is just too much. "Snapping the String" is the story of Peyton Costello being committed after his accusation of his parents’ murder— the string of horrific events leaves his sanity dangling by a thread. He tries to use that thread to pull himself back into reality, lest his mind breaks and stays broken forever. "Snapping the String" is a deftly written psychological thriller leaving readers glued to the page, wondering what will happen next— highly recommended for community library collections dedicated to them.

Robert Paul Blumenstein has, during the 1970s, worked with Virginia's deinstitutionalization program freeing inmates from a regional mental hospital. Robert is said to have once commented: “I've traveled halfway around the world, yet never have I traveled so far as into the depths of the mind.” These words are so fitting to his second book of The Ascension Trilogy. He now lives in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia.

Snapping The String, a book which has more twists and turns than a helter-skelter…It is compelling, entertaining, and yet quite dark too. It is based on the 70s drug scene featuring a teenager who is always up for experimenting.

The beginning of this was really interesting and makes you think. Peyton Costello has just been taken into a secure forensic unit of a mental institution after being accused of murdering his parents. There follows a horrible chain of events, some very gruesome indeed!

Peyton has to really consider what he wants and clear his mind of the horrible thoughts that consume him. Was he really the one responsible for the murder of his mum and dad?

Because drugs are very much involved, it leads me to believe that this poor man was quite innocent. A victim of himself, if anything.

Imagine being trapped in such a place and knowing what he does? I really found myself enjoying this. There is a rather sad part later on toward the end of this book where Peyton visits the graves of Mr. and Mrs. Costello, Robert describes how he sits there and even the noise from passing cars are diminished in his moment. He is visited by the ghost of his mother, who embraces him in a hug and whispers that she loves him.

Riveting…WOW! I could not lay this book down. There are twists and turns that kept me turning the pages. This book is an action-packed thriller. I had to keep reminding myself that Snapping the String is fiction. This is the second book in the Ascension Trilogy. I have not read the first. Snapping the String stands well alone, but I do want to read the other two. This book stays with you long after you have read the last word.

Peyton was accused of murdering his parents. Then, he was admitted to a state mental hospital. The treatments resembled torture. Without the benefit of a trial, he spent over 20 years in a living hell. The only thing keeping him sane was the hope of freedom.

Highly Recommended

Robert Paul Blumenstein lived in both Carolinas before finding his way to Virginia where he completed his graduate studies in theater and now resides. He worked in the mental health-care system, assisting the state in deinstitutionalizing long-term mental health patients. Therefore, his experience served as an inspiration for writing “Snapping the String,” which is the second book in “The Ascension Trilogy.” Some of his other works include “Flirtin’ with Jesus” and “Storied Crossings."

“Snapping the String” is about Peyton Costello, an eighteen-year-old teenager whose father is a research chemist and works for a pharmaceutical company. Peyton, after experimenting with drugs, returns home just to find his parents brutally murdered. The police discover him blood-soaked and hidden in the fireplace and from then on he is considered the prime suspect.

Due to his mental condition, he is wrongly diagnosed as mentally ill and therefore he is admitted to Mid-Virginia Mental Hospital where he has to face various kinds of treatment, such as electroconvulsive shocks, hypnosis, and tranquilizers. However, he has to be declared mentally competent to stand trial! His only hope appears to be Sonja Day an advocate, who, in cooperation with a criminal defense lawyer, tries to give Peyton a chance to establish his innocence of his parents’ deaths. Will they achieve their goal?

After almost two decades in the Mental Hospital, how will Peyton cope with freedom and with the truth behind his parents’ murders? Is he able to face reality? Will he ever find peace or will the medical and legal system work against him?

Flirtin' with Jesus

Often surreal, often sexy, and always full of surprises, Flirtin' with Jesus takes a reader on a rocky and revealing journey of discovery.  Nobody's perfect, and Lord knows, Conrad LaGrone makes his share of mistakes.  But it's precisely his choices and the ensuing havoc that makes this read a page-turner.  With a full deck of plot twists and seedy characters living under a curse of Old Testament revenge, Flirtin' with Jesus grabs a reader's attention with its intensity.— Ames Arnold

 Ames Arnold is a freelance writer from Richmond, Virginia. His more notable writing credits include The Tampa Tribune, Style Magazine, Richmond News-Leader, and Virginia Living


Flirtin' with Jesus traces one man's journey to self-knowledge through the often seamy underside of Richmond and environs.  It's not for the faint-hearted.  Loaded with graphic and colorful scenes, chock-full of bizarre characters with strange, and possibly dangerous obsessions, this novel is a roller-coaster ride of the imagination.  Think David Lynch crossed with P.T. Barnum-- it's wild!

John Williamson, Throttle Magazine.  He is author of the critically acclaimed book of verse entitled Night.