Quick Kick: The Killer

The Killer cover

By Tom Wood

Wood

https://www.amazon.com/Killer-Victor-Assassin-Book-ebook/dp/B003GWX8GC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1504186135&sr=8-1&keywords=the+killer%2C+wood

Plot

Victor is a freelancer, a professional, a killer—the best there is. He’s ice cold, methodical, and deadly. He lives alone. He operates alone. No one knows his background, or even his name. For him, business is a straight transaction. He’s given a job; he takes out the target; he gets paid.

He’s in Paris to perform a standard kill and collect for an anonymous client. The contract is simple, routine, and Victor completes it with trademark efficiency, only to find himself in the middle of an ambush and fighting for his life. Faced with powerful and determined enemies, and caught in the crossfire of an international conspiracy unfolding across four continents, Victor is forced to go on the run across a winter-ravaged Europe. Pursued by the authorities, hired assassins, and intelligence agencies from both sides of the Atlantic, he discovers that no place is safe for him anymore and there is no one he can trust.

But Victor is no easy target, and he’s every bit as ruthless as those hunting him. He will find out who wants him dead and why, one corpse at a time.

My Analysis

I enjoy stories where the author has a in depth knowledge of the character. Where a story begins with a character hardened to his craft with no slip-ups, no mistakes. Then that character is presented with a challenge to that precision, thrown off balance.

This is one of those stories. Victor is a wonderful character who has honed his ability and then is thrown into a circumstance that still utilizes his skills, but adds another factor or two into the equation.

There is plenty of action, good details, nice descriptions, baddies here and there. I thought the narrator might have read it with a bit more excitement or tension in his voice, but I think the way he read it fits the Victor character – methodical, no wasted motion, and good command on himself.

I like the story, though it’s an oft used plot. I wondered about the ending and Victor’s decision, but realized if things went awry, then he’d handle it.

Good read and I would pick up another of this author’s stories.

My Rank:

Blue Belt

Blue

Hater

cover

By David Moody

Moody

https://www.amazon.com/Hater-Novel-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00FO7W2LY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1508346268&sr=8-1&keywords=Hater%2C+moody

Plot

REMAIN CALM DO NOT PANIC TAKE SHELTER WAIT FOR FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS THE SITUATION IS UNDER CONTROL Society is rocked by a sudden increase in the number of violent assaults on individuals. Christened ‘Haters’ by the media, the attackers strike without warning, killing all who cross their path. The assaults are brutal, remorseless and extreme: within seconds, normally rational, self-controlled people become frenzied, vicious killers. There are no apparent links as a hundred random attacks become a thousand, then hundreds of thousands. Everyone, irrespective of gender, age, race or any other difference, has the potential to become a victim – or a Hater. People are afraid to go to work, afraid to leave their homes and, increasingly, afraid that at any moment their friends, even their closest family, could turn on them with ultra violent intent. Waking up each morning, no matter how well defended, everyone must now consider the fact that by the end of the day, they might be dead. Or perhaps worse, become a killer themselves. As the status quo shifts, ATTACK FIRST, ASK QUESTIONS LATER becomes the order of the day… only, the answers might be much different than what you expect….

My Analysis

I’d seen this book years ago and was interested, but only recently have I been able to listen to the audio version. The narrator did a pretty good job of voicing a middle class, harried, married man.

The story itself is something a bit different. Not quite as stark as the world waking up to zombies, but a branch of it.

The story moves along for about a week with the ever increasing problem until…well, won’t play spoiler here, but an educated guess might get you the answer.

This is part of a trilogy so it doesn’t conclude per se, rather it ends but sets up the second book.

Pretty good action as seen by the narrator/main character.

It’s not ‘scary’ scary, but it has tension and builds up to an exciting climax that lets the character get on with adventures in the second book.

It’s a bit graphic, but not overly so.

The story does take a philosophical turn and the question of who actually are the people who hate is discussed a bit. Maybe it will continue in the next one.

My Rank:

Purple Belt

Purple

Thirst Of The Rain God

thirst of the rain god sc

By J.A.. Kalis

https://www.amazon.com/Thirst-Rain-God-Secrets-Maya-ebook/dp/B07ZZFG861/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=thirst+of+the+rain+god&qid=1595174584&sr=8-1#customerReviews

Plot

Travis is a jungle tour guide. Randy is a reporter after a hot story about a Mayan excavation in Guatemala. After finding the excavation/explorer camp deserted, they enter the ruins and are soon, trapped, lost, and on the run from mysterious natives. Discovering one of the team members, they risk danger at every turn to escape.

When I read an adventure story, I want intrigue, mystery, secrets revealed. With the obligatory woman involved, there should be be some romance, a hint of involvement or the potential for one by the end between the main character and the woman.

This story had none of that. This was a constant chase through tunnels, rescue, a bit of murder. No clues to be revealed later, no treasure, no ancient secret to be discovered. And more problems on top of these.

Characters

Travis: jungle tour guide

Randy: Clean shaven, reporter, green eyes, thick dark brown hair, divorced with son

Chiara Carmine: green eyes, dark blonde hair, epigraph er

Okay, there are more than three characters in this, but they were either bad guys or other members of the team who didn’t matter other than be other characters. The first, glaring thing about all of these people is, other than Chiara, nobody has a last name.

When writing books, authors need to be mindful that each character needs his or her own voice, personality, and should act like what they are. Cops need to be cops and if they don’t act like cops, then readers won’t believe the story.

So, here you have a jungle tour guide who seems to have all of his supplies but no support team. Just he and Randy venturing into the jungle. Then you have an excavation/research team who, apparently, like Travis, can’t remember directions. Near the end, when they escape from the ruins, and find their stripped camp, nobody remembers from which direction they arrived from civilization. Instead, they wander off in a random direction…only later for someone to remember, hey there’s a make-shift airstrip near here.

Characters are supposed to develop throughout the story. Randy stays the same whiny pansy throughout, Travis and Chiara and another take turns being the brave hero to fight the bad guys but don’t really develop as characters. Again, I didn’t care about the others because they weren’t described or developed.

Dialogue

I haven’t read so much b-movie, cheesy dialogue in a long time. Too many examples to mention. Too many instances of, ‘We have to get out of here or we’ll all die’ type exchanges. Too many uses of the words thugs, bastards, brutes in dialogue or from the narrator. Too many examples of awkward or weak dialogue that didn’t or shouldn’t have fit the character. Too many instances of irrelevant-to-the-matter-at-hand conversation took place.

Writing

No profanity but this one could have used a bit more.

So, example of weak writing. A lot of telling not showing. Too many instances of making sure the narrator tells how people look/feel rather than show. He didn’t try to hide his disappointment. How? Show me the ways he didn’t.

Unnecessary things: After Chiara, Randy and Travis go deep into the caverns, and are trapped by a sliding door and have to go farther, Chiara makes the statement that she’s never been to that part of the cavern. Duh! That was fairly obvious.

Things needed:

-More booby traps or dangers. There is one booby trap, the door that traps them from retracing their route. Others were hinted at but never shown.

-Chiara was to have translated some ancient writing but she never does. It’s never revealed what the writing was about. This was a big plot hole because the bad guys mentioned they needed the translations, but they went through with a ceremony anyway. Did I miss where her translations were needed for this?

-A better sense of the motivations of the bad guys for conducting the ceremony in the first place. More background of them and their lives.

-A better sense of the cavern system. Some of the characters get really deep into the caverns but somehow find a way to the sacrificial altar, then somehow meet up with some of the team members, then somehow meet up with Randy who had backtracked earlier, then somehow make their way near what appears to be the main entrance, then they have to escape another way. I became lost with no sense that anybody knew anything about their location but somehow, most of them escape.

-No big climax. It was as if the author had to find some way to end the story, so, there’s a quick, unspectacular (at least description-wise) demise of the bad guys and we bring in suspicious characters from earlier and make them pretty decent people.

-No aftermath. Does Randy return to the states with the big story and earn better pay or a promotion? There was no resolution to Travis’s family mysterythat was mentioned early on. No showdown with the bad guy about it or clues to further the story in another book. A few times Travis found Chiara attractive, but after she told him off for leering at her, there was no further mention. No romance? No change of heart from Chiara? A nice history lesson at the end that should have been developed throughout.

I saw one misspelling, no punctuation or grammar, so that barely saves this book from dropping to the lowest rank. Still, the weak writing, bad dialogue, and lack of an intriguing, interest-capturing plot earns no more than:

Orange Belt

Orange

Fire On The Island

cover smaller

by Timothy Jay Smith

Tim on Santorini 

shorturl.at/hkxIM

Plot

A series of fires have ravaged one of the Greek islands. FBI agent Nick Damigos is on hand to investigate. The small village is full of problems and controversy and there are no shortage of suspects. With all that’s going on, can Nick track down the arsonist before it’s too late.

This is the basic plot, and it’s a good one. However, once I was well into the story I realized the story centered around the people of the village more than Nick’s investigation. Some of the issues and history of the locals do tie in but I was expecting more investigation than soap opera.

Characters

Nick Damigos: Greek-American, FBI agent, homosexual, scars on his back

Lydia: Married with daughter. Operates a café, red hair, freckles

Takis Vatis: Bartender, has siblings, homosexual

Dimos Elefteros:mayor

Father Alexis: church priest

Vassoula: bar owner, 30s, black hair and eyes, smokes

A couple other characters that round out the story. It wasn’t difficult keeping them straight. Everybody has a history. But I think the characters were distinctive enough and had enough information to get a feel for.

Dialogue

Pretty good. Not much to say here. Athina, the daughter, sound like a teenager. Ridi, the waiter, sounded like a fresh young kid. I saw nothing wrong with the conversations.

Writing

A bit of profanity.

As mentioned, this was not the usual mystery with the story centered around the investigator picking up clues. There was that, yes, but not as much as I usually enjoy. I kept wanting the story to go back to Nick and the fires. There was a part where he was visiting a couple of the sites of the fires, but that didn’t continue. I was hoping he’d find clues or red herrings to lead him down certain paths.

There are some homosexual love scenes but nothing too graphic. Homosexuality does hold a theme throughout so if one prefers not to read about it, then this is not the book to read.

I was expecting a different climax but the high point where Nick finds the arsonist was pretty good.

My rank:

Green Belt

Green

The Face Of The Unknown

cover

By Christopher L. Bennett

bennett

https://www.amazon.com/Face-Star-Trek-Original-ebook/dp/B01CO347UY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1507681210&sr=8-1&keywords=face+of+the+unknown%2C+bennett

Plot

Investigating a series of violent raids by a mysterious predatory species, Captain James T. Kirk discovers that these events share a startling connection with the First Federation, a friendly but secretive civilization contacted early in the USS Enterprises five-year mission. Traveling to the First Federation in search of answers, the Enterprise suddenly comes under attack from these strange marauders. Seeking refuge, the starship finds its way to the true home of the First Federation, an astonishing collection of worlds hidden from the galaxy beyond. The inhabitants of this isolated realm are wary of outsiders, and some accuse Kirk and his crew for bringing the wrath of their ancient enemy down upon them. When an attempt to stave off disaster goes tragically wrong, Kirk is held fully accountable, and Commander Spock learns there are even deeper forces that threaten this civilization. If Kirk and Spock cannot convince the First Federation’s leaders to overcome their fears, the resulting catastrophe could doom them all!

My Analysis

Sometimes these Star Trek books are pretty interesting when they bring back characters from the television shows. This one has the race of beings from The Corbomite Maneuver and the little guy who drinks tranja. The baddie aliens are a nice touch, too.

The narrator did a great job with voices and the author-who has written many ST novels-shows he knows the characters, even to the point of putting a McCoy “I’m a doctor, not a ___” line.

The plot was well laid out with plenty of action, Kirk-isms, Spock’s logic, Scotty’s grousing about the ship, Sulu’s expertise, Chekov’s innocence, and Uhura’s feminine strength. Everybody is highlighted with some returning characters from the episode.

It was a fine story and one of the more entertaining ones since Trekkies will be familiar with some of the people.

My Rank:

Blue Belt

Blue

Earth Angel

Earth Angel

By Chris Stevenson

CHRIS's Best Photo

https://www.amazon.com/Earth-Angel-Hell-Hath-Fury-ebook/dp/B087NGK3BY/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=earth+angel%2C+stevenson&qid=1592845527&sr=8-1

Plot

After Daryl Victoria and her fiancee, Dean Fowler, are shot by a carjacker, Daryl is given back the gift of full sight by a transplant. However, she soon comes to realize she has an extra gift, the ability to see strange beings following those who are about to die. Meanwhile, Fowler is stressed to the breaking point by a serial killer targeting teen girls. Can each cope with their problems?

Pretty decent plot, however, this story is fraught with problems that weaken the overall plot.

Characters

Daryl Victoria: 23, 115 lbs., 5’9”, red hair, drives a silver Fusion, employed as a teacher at a deaf/mute school, has two brothers

Dean Fowler: homicide detective, 6’6”. 275 lbs., Daryl’s fiance

Abbey Fry: married, drives a Toyota Supra

Jobo Fry: Abbey’s husband, large frame, short story author

These are the basic four characters. There are a few others who show up, but nobody is featured too much.

Okay, part of the Characters category is whether the characters stay true to who or what they are. In this book, I don’t feel they do. Let’s take them in no particular order.

Dean falls into alcohol and cigarettes after being relegated to desk duty after his injuries and because he cannot work on the serial killer case. However, there was no indication from earlier evidence that he was a former smoker or drinker. Sure, people may fall into drinking, but this action seemed all of a sudden. He, as well as his Captain, agrees way too fast without further evidence or foundation to allow Daryl to play undercover operative in the case. The Captain, I think would have been suspicious of Dean’s wanting to get back on the case.

Cops: during a scene where Daryl rescues a bus load of passengers, the cops show up because the passengers think that Daryl is a terrorist with a bomb (more on this later). The author wrote that when the cops arrived everybody except the bus driver was told to get on the ground. The bus driver was not ordered to because of the clothes and name tag worn. Wrong! EVERYBODY would have been on the ground until matters were sorted out. The driver also would not have been allowed to stalk over to Daryl and accuse her.

Passengers: They didn’t act like frightened passengers with screams or pushing to flee the bus. They automatically assumed Daryl was a terrorist with no real reason. The woman shows up pleading that the driver not take the trip and somebody thinks she may have a bomb?

Daryl/Abbey: When they take a trip to Hawaii to get away from it all and Daryl sees one of the strange beings, after the incident, they don’t go back to the hotel to discuss it. In fact, Daryl seems to get over the tragedy witnessed in short order. They don’t discuss it. Abbey doesn’t console her, but makes plans to visit Pearl Harbor. Doesn’t seem right.

Daryl: When she saves a child from drowning she sees one of the beings but doesn’t make too much of an effort to find out who the woman figure was. She isn’t frantic and doesn’t show too much emotion to find out if anybody saw the woman.

Other characters just don’t act normal. One guy spills too much information about his ex wife instead of worrying about his kid. A cabbie makes lewd comments to Abbey and Daryl. Really? I’m sure there are cabbies like that, but we’re talking Hawaii and treating tourists this way? And the women don’t report him? Speaking of this last one, I couldn’t tell if it was the same cabbie who picked them up as dropped them off r if there were two cabbies making lewd remarks.

Dialogue

I mentioned a bit of it with the bus passengers and the way they spoke and assumed Daryl was a terrorist with a bomb for no reason. When Daryl finds Dean wasted on alcohol, her first question isn’t why. Instead, she lays into him about broken trust and screwing up. Again, this would indicate a previous incident involving alcohol but it isn’t given.

Too many instances of lengthy internal dialogue. People do not think in complete sentences, let alone lengthy or multiple paragraphs. The narrator should have told the reader her thoughts interspersed with direct thoughts.

Writing

Profanity.

A capitalization error, missed words in sentences and numerous punctuation errors. Misspelled words (The cane Dean used was not a loner, unless the cane was all by itself.). Wrong words that garbled a sentence.

This may relate to the character issues, but while Daryl is doing her undercover work for days on end, isn’t she neglecting her teaching job?

When Daryl and Abbey are getting ready to admit the possible suspect into the house they have to hide all the evidence Dean is a cop by hiding pictures, badges and…guns? Uh, no cop in his/her right mind leaves ANY weapons out on the table/dresser/counter etc. Those go in a locked safe.

Ultimately, this story was more than a bit of a mess. I didn’t understand the point of the Hawaii trip or how it moved the story along. I didn’t see much emotional trouble with Daryl having her gift. I saw some possible time issues (I think the city they live in is in California and I’m not sure but it shouldn’t take 7 hours to get back there from Hawaii. Another example is that they drove from where they live to an Arizona town by noon which means they either lived really close or managed to get a very early start on the trip. If the former, then I question, again the time to fly to Hawaii.)

I think the most I missed out of this story was the emotion. Yes, there was some anger, but not much showing of it. Not much distress shown when Daryl sees the beings. Not much emotion afterward. She didn’t talk to anyone. Everybody was too quick to believe. The tension, the drama, was lacking.

Anyway, with all of the issues, I have to give this story a rank of:

Orange Belt

Orange

The Devil Wins

The Devil Wins cover

By Reed Farrel Coleman

Coleman

https://www.amazon.com/Robert-Parkers-Devil-Jesse-Novels-ebook/dp/B00SI0B7WE/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Plot

In the wake of a huge storm, three bodies are discovered in the rubble of an abandoned factory building in an industrial part of Paradise known as The Swap. One body, a man’s, wrapped in a blue tarp, is only hours old. But found within feet of that body are the skeletal remains of two teenage girls who had gone missing during a Fourth of July celebration twenty-five years earlier. Not only does that crime predate Jesse Stone’s arrival in Paradise, but the dead girls were close friends of Jesse’s right hand, Officer Molly Crane. And things become even more complicated when one of the dead girls’ mothers returns to Paradise to bury her daughter and is promptly murdered. It’s up to Police Chief Jesse Stone to pull away the veil of the past to see how all the murders are connected.

My Analysis

So, this is another author picking up on the late Parker’s success with his version of Jesse Stone. Does it match Parker’s creation? Well, not quite. There’s a good mystery, a nice cast of characters and the right amount of action, but the style, obviously is missing.

Coleman continues Jesse’s drinking problem and the issues with the ex wife and brings out more of the Molly character not seen in other books. That’s fine.

It’s a good laid out mystery and I would continue to listen to/read more of Coleman’s work. The narrator did a fine job of some voices and keeping things low key, which is the way Parker wrote.

My Rank:

Blue Belt

Blue

Last To Die

Last to Dies cover

By James Grippando

Grippando

https://www.amazon.com/Last-Die-Jack-Swyteck-Novel/dp/0062024558/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1506615405&sr=8-1&keywords=last+to+die%2C+grippando

Plot

Miami criminal attorney Jack Swyteck doesn’t want Tatum Knight as a client. But the allegedly “reformed” contract killer is the brother of Jack’s best friend, and the assassin swears he had nothing to do with the shooting death of Sally Fenning, though he claims the beautiful, depressed multi-millionairess wanted him to do the deed. Even so, Knight has been named in Fenning’s will, along with five others, all vying for a fortune. The catch is that only the last living would-be beneficiary will inherit the $46 million. So begins a twisted game of survival of the greediest and deadliest as, one-by-one, the heirs start to fall. And suddenly Jack’s caught up in a chilling race to ensure that the next to die is not Jack Swyteck.

My Analysis

One of the reasons I enjoy the Swyteck novels is the humor mixed with the serious crime. Theo and even Tatum have some good lines. Jack holds his own.

This one works well with a contest to see who will last to the end. But there are twists, some familiar, others not. The story plays out well in development with the suspense and tension in all the right places. Miami isn’t much of a character but that’s okay because the human characters make the story. Grippando does a fine job of separating everybody with personality and voices and the narrator does an excellent job of reading. I will look forward to the next Grippando story.

My Rank:

Blue Belt

Blue

Quick Kick – Relentless

Relentless cover

By Dean Koontz

Koontz

https://www.amazon.com/Relentless-Novel-Dean-Koontz-ebook/dp/B001NLKS5C/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1504786019&sr=8-1&keywords=relentless%2C+koontz

Plot:

Literary critic Shearman Waxx can kill a good book with just a few acidly worded bon mots. And as one unlucky author is about to discover, that’s not all he’s prepared to kill. . . .

From #1 New York Times bestselling master of suspense Dean Koontz comes a mesmerizing thriller about the battle of wills that ensues when a successful author and likable family man confronts a reclusive sociopath who wields an all-too-deadly poison pen. Respect Shearman Waxx’s opinion and you might escape with your career intact. Cross him and he’ll destroy you, your family, and everything you hold dear. For the title “America’s most feared critic” isn’t one Waxx takes lightly. He takes it literally. And now Cubby Greenwich, his wife, Penny, their brilliant six-year-old Milo, and their uniquely talented non-collie, Lassie, are all about to learn the true meaning of “culture war.”

My Analysis:

So, we have a writer who has a wife who came from a family who likes to blow up things, a genius kid and a dog who can teleport itself up against a book reviewer with an agenda he takes seriously.

Okay, I’ve read enough of Koontz to say that if you’ve read enough of Koontz, you know what to expect. He has fun coming up with crazy names and throws in a bit of sci-fi to keep it interesting.

The details of the crimes are gritty. The action is okay. The ending is pretty abrupt.

Koontz has written for several decades and you either take him or leave him. I enjoy his books. Maybe now that I’m older they don’t impress me as much as they once did, and that’s okay. Tastes change. I’m not saying this is a bad story, but once I was into it, I pretty much knew a lot of the things that were going to happen. There are questions he leaves unanswered and that the way he writes.

I will say this about Milo, the genius son: He was a bit exasperating in that he could have been the son of Annamarie (from the Odd Thomas series, you know, whenever she gets around to having her child) in his way of NOT answering questions.

Relentless is a title that should be reserved for a more action-packed thriller, but this is Koontz.

My Rank:

Purple Belt

Purple

Stealing First

COVERsmall

By Chris Williams

Chris

https://www.amazon.com/Stealing-First-Old-Time-Baseball-Stories/dp/1620063832/ref=sr_1_2?crid=3FWSMDQ21YJ7S&dchild=1&keywords=stealing+first+and+other+old+time+baseball+stories&qid=1590787140&sprefix=stealing+first+base%2Caps%2C246&sr=8-2

Plot

Ah, baseball. Stories of the old players, looking at teams, listing stats and facts and making comparisons.

That’s the plot and it is one that does not match what the title implies. This is not a book of old stories/anecdotes…well, maybe two chapters fit.

Characters

William Herman “Germany” Schaefer: coach and player, 175 lbs., known for his antics on-and off field, pock-marked face, died at 42

Jackie Robinson: player and actor (starred in the movie about himself)

Walter Clement Pipp: daughter, drinking buddy of Ruth’s, 6’1”, 180 lb., attended Catholic University of America, was also a broadcaster, author and machinist

Eddie Grant: Army Captain, died in WWI

Lots of other names listed. Lots. Not much info on them except for stats

Dialogue

A few quotes, but this isn’t a talking book.

Writing

So, if I may revisit the plot point I mentioned earlier and add to it in this section. I agreed to review the book because I thought it was going to be some interesting stories about some of baseball’s greatest, not so greats and maybe anecdotes about players most people are unaware of.

The first chapter about Schaefer and his stealing first and his antics was great and I was looking forward to that type of stuff. However, the book soon devolved into an overload of statistics and names and statistics and what if scenarios and statistics and comparisons of teams and players and, oh yeah, statistics.

Topics also included players who died in the two World Wars and Korea and it was interesting to note no other player deaths have occurred. Another was a comparison of various aspects between 1901 baseball and 2001 baseball. And there was a stat report on how teams, both good and bad fare in walks. Another chapter gave out ‘awards’ to players who played well for lousy teams during the ‘80s.

While the author does give a table of definitions for the stat abbreviations used, there were too many stats in the book. I lost interest in pages and pages of stats. It was too much.

The last chapter told an amusing story about the author attending a game with friends to watch a Phillies team that wasn’t doing well that year.

As for the writing, there was no profanity and I didn’t see any grammar/punctuation/spelling errors. I do give credit to the author for exhaustive—and probably exhausting—research done. When talking about some specific players he did throw in little facts here and there. I also enjoyed the many pictures that accompanied each chapter.

So, as to ranking this book. While no writing errors were found, I have to go with the enjoy-ability factor and, unfortunately due to the too many chapters with an overwhelming plethora of stats that just threw me out (no pun intended), I have to give this a:

Yellow Belt

Yellow