By Rick Pruett
The time is mid1980s. After surviving a shark attack while surfing, Alika Kealoha feels he needs to seek out his destiny. Guided by a Kahuna, he begins his quest for knowledge about his father, who was a Rainbow Warrior, a respected and revered status of the Hawaiian culture. He also starts investigating his father’s suspicious disappearance and assumed death. The deeper he gets, the more the danger grows.
This is a mystery in Hawaii with a bit of a different kick to it. A little spiritual journey, a little murder mystery. Good one to get into.
Alika Kealoha: 28, 6’2”, 200 pounds, surfer, mother-dead-was Cuban and a night club dancer, father-disappeared and assumed dead-from Hawaiian stock and former Merchant Marine, took dance and martial arts, plays bongos, smokes marijuana at times, attended the University of Hawaii, was in track and field in high school
Spicy Mike: musician, smokes marijuana, of mixed race heritage
Robert ‘Baby Rambo’ Lopez: built like Stallone but only 5’6”, mom is Filipino, dad Hawaiian, surfer
Kilani: nurse, attractive, took ballet and jazz dancing, of mixed race heritage
Pilipo: childhood friend of Alika’s father
Johnny Kaleiakini: teacher at U. of H., drummer, specializes in ethnomusicology
A lot of detail about Alika and his family. Just enough about the friends and minor characters to get a decent mental image. I wondered, though, what Alika did for employment. Songwriter and playing gigs are mentioned but while he plays at a nightclub, his employment isn’t featured.
Except for the mystic Kahuna, everybody sounds the same when they talk the local slang. I’m not putting down the culture because if you ever hear it, the speech is wonderful to listen to. But with all of the locals, all of Alika’s friends speaking it, the dialogue runs together and the characters all sound alike. The bad guy who attacked Alika in the bathroom, his dialogue was not tight enough. Too explanatory and not fitting the character.
First person from Alika’s POV. Some capitalization errors at the beginning of dialogue. Some punctuation problems. (I was later told that these and the typos had been corrected for the published version.) Very little profanity. A lot of passive voice that could been rewritten to bring the reader in closer to the character.
This is not a big thing and I don’t necessarily count off but this book has short chapters and I was a bit thrown when many of the chapters ended so abruptly. There wasn’t any end of scene or even a scene change. I didn’t understand the reason why some chapters ended at the point they did. One chapter ended and another picked up where the last left off. As I said, I’m not lowering my rank because of this, it just was a little jolting to be sailing (or surfing, lol) along and bam! the chapter ends.
A lot of very nice details about Hawaiian culture. Street scenes, nightclubs, tourism, etc.
Alika is not your typical detective. He’s a free spirit kind of guy, likes the music and the girls but finding the truth about his father helps him find himself.
By James Stoddah
When Jason Chadwick, one of the developers of he World Wide Web dies, his assistant doesn’t think it is suicide. When she’s almost killed by an assailant, she connects the attack to Jason and wants the police to re-investigate his death. While she tries to discover who Jason was through his journals, police investigators Thomas Riley and Lucy Bridges tackle the problem from another angle. Along with his lawyer, Chadwick had set up an online treasure hunt and anybody who could figure out the clues might receive his wealth. Of course, with treasure hunts, there is always someone who doesn’t want to play by the rules.
A fun little mystery where the reader can play along. The website listed is real. Follow the clues and see if you can outwit the police and Amy. I’m always up for a puzzle story.
Amy Pearce: works in Internet communications,
Arnold Pearce: 6’7”, 230 pounds, athletic, lawyer
Thomas Riley: Detective Inspector, Lucy’s partner, slim, dark eyes,
Lucy Bridges: Detective Sergeant, caramel colored hair, mole on her cheek,
Frank Duffy: solicitor, father was a lawyer,
Beverley Johnson: former Las Vegas mayor, powerful personality
Not a lot of description for the characters so I didn’t get a mental picture of them. There is some depth but not a lot. This isn’t a character driven story but I would have like to have seen a bit more substance. Plus, the two cops aren’t very cop-ish. They succumb pretty easily to the bad guy without a plan to subdue him and take control. At one point, Lucy sits with the bad guy on the sofa. I would have thought she’d stay away from the baddie with a gun. I expected more from Amy since she was the closest to Jason. I also thought Frank’s role in the story was minimally effectual even though he’s featured as a strong secondary character. I won’t play spoiler but he doesn’t add anything that somebody else on the trail couldn’t have discovered.
Conversations stay on point but no real distinct voices. The baddie with the cops isn’t menacing enough with his words. “I have no patience with either of you now.” As if the cops are recalcitrant children. Uses some cliché lines.
Some profanity. Tense problems in some sentences. This is all about the puzzle so the story stays with that a lot. However, this is not like a treasure hunt where people are traveling around the world discovering clues, or digging up stuff. The puzzle may take some research and some thinking but it remains centered on the Internet and the pages that Jason (and the author) have set up. The problem with this is there is little action because everybody stays in the same place. Readers are encouraged to play along. Once you get to a new page, stop reading and try to figure out the clues to the next page. Now, I don’t want to play spoiler but I will tell you this: it’s more than just looking at the words or the picture. The cops use some Photoshop software to help them, but for the most part, with some clicking and thinking, the puzzle is revealed. If you get stuck, just keep reading and when the cops figure something out, try again. The writing could, in general be tightened, there is a lot of passive voice so any action lacks tension.
By Cindy Santos
An unemployed Latino grocery shops, trying to time her checkout with the store’s closing. She remembers her youth and another grocery store she enjoyed. She worries about feeding her children but at the checkout encounters a situation that makes her rethink her life.
Not much I can add here. It’s a short story and that’s basically it.
Main Character: Latino, no car, unemployed, has two brothers, divorced with children, attended Stanford
No name for the character but there is a lot of information for a short story. The people she meets aren’t very nice but I think there is enough to get a flavor of the attitude of the story.
Nothing special. The man in line speaks the most but his speech, I think, is the most important in the story.
First person from () POV. Present tense. Short story. I was expecting some mystery, drama, some action, but there was nothing like that. A lot of reflection on the old grocery store and life which is contrasted with the current life and present day store. The story makes you think a bit. I thought the listing of food items was a bit distracting. It’s a quick read with a nice message and revelation at the end.
By Naghilia Desravines
Cael Darcic awakens from a coma to discover she has partial amnesia and she’s pregnant. Soon after, she learns the father of the baby, her boyfriend Michael was killed on the same night that she suffered the injury which lead to her coma. Putting the pieces of her life back in order, she discovers some distressing things about Michael. At the same time, a long time friend expresses his feelings. As more memories fall into place they reveal that she may not be able to trust those who claim to care for her.
You’ve seen it before but amnesia stories are always interesting because you’re pushed along to see when the big surprise will happen, when the final piece clicks into place.
Cael Darcic: 27, black, pregnant, has two sisters and two brothers, at the beginning of the story she suffers from partial amnesia, long curly black hair, before the incident she worked as an airline PR manager and had enrolled at university,
Amanda Erikson: blonde, petite frame, bohemian in nature, has a boyfriend,
Christopher Bush: short, muscular, close-cropped blonde hair, one green and one blue eye, smokes
Shen Chan: Cael’s dead boyfriend’s father, Chinese, Catholic, painter
Li Juan Chan: Shen’s wife
A nice variety of characters but not too much depth. I would have liked to have seen more play from Amanda since she was Cael’s closest friend. Other characters needed some more physical description because I felt as if they were skimmed over and didn’t get close to them.
No real distinct voices. The characters didn’t all sound the same, but other than some obvious female reactions, I didn’t see separate voices.
Some profanity. One POV shift in a chapter. Some ‘ly’ and ‘ing’ problems that could have been tighter. Otherwise, fairly solid writing. No real tension until the end but I was a bit disappointed when the story portended a climax but then fizzled. There’s a set up for a sequel, but it could have been stronger. It’s a quick read and I think it could have had more suspense, more danger throughout.
By Sameer Ketkar
A chemistry teacher is found dead inside the wall of an Atlanta hotel. Because of the condition of the body, the CDC is called in. The team, headed by Tigh and Larkin Callahan start investigating the incident. Enter into the picture Homeland Security Agent Corban Banks. The trio with their CDC team discover a link with bio-terrorists. But how much more could explode when the both Callahans discover their mutual attraction for Banks?
Okay, good premise in that we have a mystery with some widespread danger. Then there’s the bisexual angle. Plus, the Callahan children are involved in their own little dramas. This one is a little off the wall, maybe more than a little.
Tigh Callahan: co-head of the CDC’s Crisis Response Team, three children, tall, brown hair, a bit pudgy, owns a dog, drives a Lexus hybrid SUV
Larkin Callahan: Tigh’s wife, co-head of the CDC CRT, blonde, short, pretty, wears glasses, drives a Porsche, came from wealth
Corban Banks: Homeland Security Agent in the Bioterror Task Force, salt and pepper hair, hazel eyes, tall, drives a Dodge Charger, former homicide investigator
Amanda Romanclef: actress, attractive
Eddie B.: Amanda’s agent, short, bald, Jewish
Cornelius ‘Neil’ Callahan: 14, the non-genius of the family, likes to write stories, loves football, attends a school for geniuses
A wide variety of of characters, none of whom, I think, is the protagonist. Tigh, Larkin, Corban, and somewhat Neil, all seem to get a good share of attention. Maybe not so much with Corban. A lot of minor characters all with nice descriptions and personalities.
My problem is with Tigh and Larkin. I just don’t ‘get’ them. They’re serious about their work but their, uh, proclivities are just so off the wall I truly don’t know what to make of them. I’m not against the whole bisexual angle and maybe this is just to give the story a bit of comedy relief but some of the serious overtones are missed. You have two parents and three kids, but Dad’s playing video games with Neil is the only closeness seen. Mother and father don’t seem to care about the other kids’ school work, the son’s gangster attitude or loud music or notice that the daughter is into drugs. And the last scene before the epilogue really blew my mind in their apathy about how their behavior could affect the children. I’m not a moral prude here, but let’s get a little real.
Neil’s brother, in his gangster, laid back mode has the best voice. Sometimes Tigh is a little juvenile. The students seem to have good voices. Short novel so the conversations don’t wander.
Prologue and some scenes done in first person from the Neil Callahan’s POV, the rest in third person (but as narrated by Neil with first person references). Profanity, some of it unnecessary. Incorrect tag lines in places. Several instances of incomplete sentences that refer to and sometimes complete the previous sentence. This is okay but at times it doesn’t work and is jarring. Sexual scenes but not overly graphic.
I mentioned the characters of Neil’s siblings-sister sells weed and brother is into music-and I don’t know how focusing on these moved the story along. I would have liked to have seen more concentration on the mystery. This is the first of a series, so maybe the children’s activities will lead to something. There was a lot of good science and medical knowledge. The technology was skimmed over.
Normally, I have a fair idea on my rankings about stories, but here I had to think awhile. I didn’t see too many mistakes other than those mentioned. I guess, in this instance I fall back to looking at the whole of the book with everything taken into account. This is what I usually do, but here I think it’s plays an especially major part in my decision. I’m going with my gut because I think the series has potential if the author can get by some of the potholes.
By John Paul O’Prey
When the Duggan brothers, Terry and Tom, discover an ancient archaelogical site on their neighbor’s land while searching for their dog, the community sinks into controversy and murder. First, there is a member of a Druid sect who is found murdered at the site days later. Then the discovery is made that the woman was pregnant at the time of death. The owner of the land, Joe Beatty, is investigated for several sexual assaults, and several people, including the Duggans are witnesses to unexplained phenomena.
This is a complex soap opera-ish type of story with a bit of the weird thrown in. However, the strange aspects-the prophecy-was hard to follow and understand.
Lucy Feeney: Druid, has two brothers
Dominic Phelan: 51, bishop, has a brother
Terry Duggan: owns a dog, separated from wife
Tom Duggan: married, Terry’s brother, smokes, first wife dead, has a child that is not his own
Joe Beatty: coach, married, has a son
Lorcan Delargy: archaeologist, doctorate, wears glasses
Neasa Lafferty: 60ish, freckled, olive green eyes, graying brunette, psychic, married
Barry McLaughlin: archaeologist
A lot of decent characters but no detailed physical descriptions for most, so it was hard to get a mental image of them.
I think there are some good voices here. Conversations stay on track, but they pretty much had to with the length of the chapters and the quick scene changes and time changes. Some of the dialogue, particularly with the police, seemed a bit forced, a bit unnatural. Not that a cop would say these things, just the manner, the phraseology, was off. Heated conversations are on the verge of being formalized. There’s anger but veiled, held in check.
Short chapters. A bit of profanity. Tense changed from past in one chapter to present in the next chapter for no apparent reason, then back to past in the following chapter. I found it difficult to judge passage of time. For instance, in one chapter, Lucy has been persuaded to stay around for three days to see if she can’t be talk out of her involvement in her religion and two chapters later, it sounds as if she left the religious group. But there is no discernible time element.
Some tense problems in a few sentences including dialogue. Example: “If I confronted her directly I feared she may never tell and just leave me.” This should have read “…I feared she might never have told me.”, since the woman being discussed is dead and the person is saying what might have happened.
The story is a bit difficult to follow and I’m not sure whether it’s the vagueness of the characters, the dialogue or the way it’s written throughout. I found myself going back and re-reading from the beginning of the chapter, then catching up to where a particular character left off from the last time he/she was highlighted.
Tension is very low. I would have thought the discovery of the corpse would have been played up a bit more. Little and subdued action.
By L. Anthony
2008 – Philosophy professor David Trutanich has disappeared and Andrew Powell, former police officer, who only wants to be retired, is persuaded to look into the matter. Rumor has it Trutanich discovered a terrorist plot using student loans. Or maybe Samantha Collier, the professor’s fiance of many years is involved. Not too far into his case, he meets up with an attractive ex U.S. Marshall, Stacie Regent. Meanwhile, Andrew’s son, an undercover officer, is in the middle of an investigation of a student of David’s…and what he discovers hits close to home.
Much of this plot is set in the past. Scenes involving David, Samantha, Andrew, and his son, Jesse, show how events lead up to the present day 2008. I don’t mind the premise, but the more got into it, I discovered I couldn’t quite get into it.
Andrew Powell: widower, former LAPD Captain, former Chief of South Hills PD, former commandant of the South Hills Academy, 6’3”, 200 pounds, former military, has a sister, drives a motorcycle
Jesse James Powell: Andrew’s son, dropped out of West Point, attended South Hills Academy, tattooed,
Stacie Regent: 44, formerly with the U.S. Marshall Service, had breast cancer, tall, brunette, full lips
Samantha Janie Collier: 24, attends Oxford, athletic figure, red hair, attended USC, 5’10 ½”, plays pro volleyball, has a B.A. and a B.S., drives a red 1970 Nova SS, has a brother, dad makes soap
David Alexander Trutanich: 6′, holds a doctorate, curly dark brown hair, wears glasses, attended USC, runner, teaches philosophy, vegetarian, ancestry is German and American Indian, dad is a history professor, mom is a tutor
I’m giving character profiles as listed when I read them, not necessarily how they are in the beginning of the story or how they might have changed throughout the years.
Arthur Stratford: attorney, portly, bald, white beard
Average characters. I didn’t find myself caring about any of them. They weren’t interesting. No depth that I could grasp and empathize with.
The only voice I distinguished was Samantha’s mother. Everybody else sounded similar. Conversations weren’t exciting, didn’t spark anything. One conversation, later in the story between Jesse and his father that revealed a very important discovery had Andrew reacting as if he’d just been told the car wouldn’t be fixed until next Thursday.
Fairly lengthy chapters headed by date, location and a quote. Scene changes are noted by location. A few misspelled words. In one of my books, I do a THEN and NOW type of story, so I’m familiar with going into the past to work up to the future. However, as I mentioned before I just couldn’t keep hold. I didn’t see where a lot of the scenes moved the story along. The past scenes showed the character changes up to 2008, but I just couldn’t quite settle in. Maybe it was the lack of action or real tension. The places where action could have been skipped over the potential danger. Even some of the conflict between Samantha and her mother didn’t have much bite. The story ran slow. Didn’t drag, just didn’t have much momentum.
By Gary Buslik
What do to the leaders of Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba, a liberal professor, his soon-to-be wedded daughter, Gilligan’s Island, a bunch of mutated termites, and, of course matzo balls all have in common? They’re part of a weird plot in Buslik’s latest book. Iranian president Akhmed discovers that matzo balls can be infused with radiation and detonated. So he plans to bring them to south Florida, distribute them, and kill a bunch of people, thereby disrupting the American economy. However, there are problems. The Venezuela president would rather be a vitamin salesman; a Chicago professor is trying to get handle on discovering he has a daughter; said daughter has problems with…just about everybody; and there are a bunch of pork hungry termites on the rampage.
A wild and deviously conceived plot full of possibilities and angles. This is not your typical spy thriller or murder mystery, or political intrigue. This is…different.
Akhmed: Iranian President, used to own a cockatiel
Hazeem: Akhmed’s assistant, interpreter
Leslie Fenwich: thick red hair with gray streaks, wears reading glasses, head of Depewe University’s English Department, speaks with a faux British accent, thin, likes to use big words, atheist, divorced, smokes
Diane Weinberg: 40s, Leslie’s former student and lover, attended Depewe, wide hips, has an M.A.
Karma Weinberg: 27, Diane’s daughter, red hair, has a fiance, used to be a vegan and totally ‘green’, now a conservative, owns a Mercedes SUV
Henri Charbonnay: Haiti’s commerce minister
Alex Gleason: chapter head of the British West Indies Benevolence Club
A nice array of characters, but everybody’s a doofus. Karma, with her constant spew of profanity and insults, is just annoying, while the leaders of the countries involved are sometimes too over-the-top.
Everybody, even the foreigners sounded American and sometimes juvenile Americans. I don’t mind Leslie using large complex words but when the leaders or other nations and/or their assistants start using them, or the narrator attributes these words to their thoughts, it becomes a bit distracting. One section has a letter from Leslie to Cuba’s president that runs for almost three pages. Half way through I wanted to skip to the point of the letter because it ran on and on. Some of the conversations run along the same line. Leslie sometimes can’t get to the crux of the conversation because he’s too busy searching for the correct word nobody ever uses, and I think makes up words as he goes along.
Book separated into Parts. Lengthy chapters. Each scene break is indicated with a black termite. Profanity. The author must have had a dictionary and thesaurus nearby because this is a story with an explosion of words. A plethora of adjectives and large, luxurious words that would not normally be found in 99.99% of conversations, thought patterns, or narration. While I don’t mind a little flair and extravagance, sometimes, it was a bit overwhelming. Humor is fine in books and I enjoy it and use it in my books, but it must be parsed accordingly. Too much and the reader loses focus. A lot of this over the top, which is what I believe is the intent, but sometimes (as in the case of over 90 ‘si’s in a row-Spanish for yes, in this case when a character meets an attractive woman, and yes, I did count them) it’s too much. Sometimes less is more.
I will say the descriptions of things and people are wonderful and unique The creative juices flowed in this area.
I thought a long time before deciding on a rank. The too much in-your-face attempts at humor were too much. There needed to be a straight man character or two to offset the loony-ness or eccentricities of everybody else. However, as I mentioned descriptions and similes and the use of words were very enjoyable. They made me think about my own writing and how I can manipulate words, try something new.
So, with material on both sides of the scale, I decided on:
By Theresa Odom-Surgick
Myra Vandelyn has died. Niece Rachel, nephew Devin, their cousin Delia and a few others are set to inherit. However, family secrets can’t stay hidden. Lurking in the shadows is another with a vendetta against Devin for the crimes he’s committed. Plus, let’s not forget about budding romance.
It’s a good soap opera type story with Christian overtones.
Devin Vandelyn: parents abandoned him and his sister as children, alcoholic, drives a gray Buick Century
Rachel Vandelyn: Devin’s sister, religious
Michael Stern: sister-dead-was affianced to Devin, cigar smoker, owns a restaurant and a limousine
Jovan Wilkins: attorney, father-a former lawyer-suffers Alzheimer’s, runs his own small firm
Trevor Danison: private investigator, 5’10”, blond, handsome, religious
Delia Vandelyn: singer, Devin’s cousin
George Vandelyn: Delia’s great-uncle, mentally challenged, cook
A good variety of characters. They felt soap opera-ish which isn’t necessarily bad, but I didn’t get mental images because there were almost no physical descriptions. ‘Handsome’, ‘attractive’, and ‘beautiful’ are too vague.
Devin talks aloud to himself. It’s okay, but a bit unnatural. Tag line problem: Incorrect to start a piece of dialogue with a tag line, then later within the same piece of dialogue, end with a tag line. Example: Defeated he said, “It’s not here. Where is it? I bet Rachel must have hidden it somewhere. I’ll check her room. That has to be where it is,” he said… Use one tag line, not two. Otherwise, except for one particular character’s, voices weren’t very distinct. Not that they all sounded the same although a few used similar phrasing. A few characters sounded too formal or the conversations just didn’t seem natural to the situation.
Titled chapters. POV shifts within chapters. Shift in tenses in a few sentences. Punctuation problems here and there. Some overuse of ‘ly’ words. No profanity. Religious aspects throughout. No real action, no surprises.
By Catherine Putsche
A surgeon kidnaps teenage girls and performs his own operations on them. When one girl is found alive, the police have hope that they can gather enough evidence to bring the monster to justice.
Okay, there is more to this story which involves too much personal material (Gracie’s recovery after being rescued; a guy and his dog; Victor’s domestic problems with his mother and family), some of which doesn’t seem to have relevance to the story. What police procedure is included is mostly long passages of dialogue. The premise is good but the actual story was disappointing.
Marty Bride: Detective Inspector for the Greater Manchester police department, married with teen daughter
Victor Barnes: 49, 6’4”, short black hair, tall, stocky, surgeon, serial kidnapper/killer, face disfigured as a teen, father-dead-was a neurosurgeon, square jaw, father dead, mother a nag, drives an SUV,
Gracie Peterson: 14, junior equestrian
Veronica Barnes: 39, Victor’s sister, Manhattan lawyer, blonde, pale green eyes
Amanda Belgrade: served 26 years in Homicide
Steven Flynn: worked with the child exploitation department
Harriet Jones: forensic clinical psychologist
I found it ironic that even though Victor once tried to kill his sister when she was a baby, and his mother discovered the act, his mother still gave him most of her affection. Information is given about some minor characters that has no relevance to the story. Otherwise I didn’t connect with any character.
Gracie sounds too much like an adult for her age. Her words and those of her parents after she was rescued aren’t believable. She’s been missing for weeks, mutilated, but the phraseology is too proper, with no expected emotion. Ditto with her parents. They introduce themselves as if they were picking their daughter up after a school function. In fact, many characters sound very formal and proper and the emotional impact from the situation at hand doesn’t exist or else the words used aren’t what those people would say.
A bit of profanity. The problems, though are almost too numerous to list. Severe POV jumps within the same scene or within the same paragraph, even POV shifts to people who aren’t even in the scene. Very distracting.
Scene shifts within a chapter with no signifying symbol (*) or an extra space. Some misspelled words. The dog’s name is spelled different from chapter to chapter.
Many sentences are written incorrectly with the wrong word or words or phrasing used. (Example: He took his role he took extremely seriously as he and his wife Diana teenage daughter, Alana, had gone missing one year prior to the Peterson investigation at the age of sixteen.) From this sentence it sounds as if he-Marty is narrating here-his wife, and teen daughter all went missing at the same time when it is revealed later that the only person missing was his daughter.
Repetitious words or phrases. Punctuation problems. Continuity problem: Victor is shown to be ten years older than her sister in one chapter and eight years older in another.
Mixture of tenses in a few sentences. Unnecessary explanations: She nodded, signifying a yes answer. She shook her head indicating a no answer. This type of thing isn’t needed. The reader understands what a nod means.
Misuse of ‘ing’ words. Example: Victor grabbed Katie’s hand off the floor in a hurry making his way to the door locking it, checking twice it was locked, running to the large chest freezer that was located in the next room, grabbing a bowl of ice and placing the hand on top, once again locking the door.
In the above sentence, besides the missing punctuation, the use of all those action words in the ‘ing’ form implies that Victor was doing all of those things at the same time and that isn’t possible.
Captialized words that shouldn’t be. Run-on sentences, some that don’t read sensibly. Missing words in sentences that would make them sound normal. Grammar problems. Nonsensical use of italics for both flashbacks and dreams.
One note. About a week after I wrote this review (but several weeks before posting), I received an email from the author asking me to take a look at a revised copy of the book. I’m going to assume some of the spelling mistakes were corrected but she mentioned dialogue changes and although I didn’t see too much change in the parents’ there was a change in one of the kidnapped girl’s. Unfortunately, the changes made her dialogue worse to read.
Basically, this entire story was a mess with weak writing, characters I found annoying, and dialogue I would have liked to have skipped.