The People’s House

cover

By David Pepper

https://www.amazon.com/Peoples-House-David-Pepper-ebook/dp/B01IIK46FI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1469584991&sr=8-1&keywords=the+people%27s+house#navbar

Plot

When a midterm election results in unlikely victors, reporter Jack Sharpe starts investigating. He discovers that certain people had access to certain voting machines. But that’s only the beginning. Who’s behind the conspiracy to rig an election? Who can be trusted? Sharpe won’t stop until he finds the answers.

Pretty good plot and timely since the recent debacle with the Democrat party. There are problems here and there but the premise is a good one.

Characters

Jack Sharpe: reporter, divorced, 6’2”, played football in high school and at Youngstown State, dad was a state senator, sister is dead, dad is dead

Lee Kelly: U.S. Representative, married, brown hair, 50’s

Tom Stanton: U.S. Representative, married with three children

Scott Sharpe: Jack’s son, attended the University of Chicago & Stanford Business School, married

Elizabeth Johnson: U.S. President, red hair, former TV news anchor

Oleg Kazarov: 6’1”, slight frame, pale, oily black hair, round head, smokes, dark eyes

A large cast but personalities come through I like Oleg and Sharpe as the distant enemies. Stanton is a good baddie.

Dialogue

Voices are fine. Conversations don’t wander afar.

Writing

The book is in Parts. Chapters are headed by time or location. A bit of profanity. 1st person from Sharpe’s POV and third person POV in some chapters.

One of the big things I found difficult was the time jumping. This story goes from X-days after the election to X-days before the election. After awhile, I stopped trying to keep the time line straight. Because of this I found it difficult, too, to keep plot points intact.

This book had almost no tension, emotion, or action. This cold have been a great thriller but Jack wandered around with a tail, an almost peaceful kidnapping, and very little ineffective violence. Yes, there were some murders, but they weren’t dramatic, just…there.

I’m not in the business of telling authors how they should plot their books, but this one could have used some attempts to kill Jack throughout, followed by the inevitable kidnapping near the end. Nothing. A lot of investigation and explanations, but that was about it.

The ending was long and drawn out. There was no climax, so to speak, because there was no tension when the good guy and bad guy meet. It was a good plot and took some thinking to write it. It told some truths about politics.

It just didn’t excite me all that much.

My Rank:

Camouflage Belt

Bullet In The Blue Sky

bullet

By Bill Larkin

Bio-Photo-BW-300x225

https://www.amazon.com/Bullet-Blue-Sky-Bill-Larkin/dp/0989400212/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1468721250&sr=8-2&keywords=bullet+in+the+blue+sky

Plot

A massive earthquake devastate Leos Angles. Kevin Schmidt, a deputy with Orange County, is called upon to track down a missing Captain. Together, with hastily thrown together team they navigate the chaotic metropolitan streets. However, there are forces working behind the scenes to take advantage of the destruction…and to cause more.

A very interesting plot. A bit of action, a bit of thriller, a quest, a chase. It builds from a simple seek and find to international intrigue.

Characters

Kari Boyd: Black, drives a BMW 550, works in the Office of Emergency Services

CAP. Mara: LAPS detective, divorced with kids, Irish/Mexican heritage

Kevin ‘Schmidt’ Schmidt: Orange County Sheriff’s detective, father is a LAPS detective, has an older brother, attended US Long Beach

Roger Jenkins: Deputy Chief, black, 50s, small stature, wears glasses, graying hair, 5’8”, graduated Loyola

Karen Anderson: detective, athletic, 40s, short dark hair, freckles

Brett Gallon: tall, Lieutenant, 40s, attended UCLA, former minor league baseball player

Shawna Hogan: rookie cop, 20s, athletic

A nice cast of characters. Well rounded, each with different personalities and quirks and attitudes. More characters show up later in the book

Dialogue

I thought the voices were very well developed. Conversations had impact. Not too much miscellaneous stuff.

Writing

1st person from Schmidt PROV and 3rd person PROV throughout. Relatively short chapters. Profanity.

So, what can I say. I enjoyed the book. The action was good. I thought it depicted the devastation and the people fairly well. As mentioned the plot built and grew and turned into something I didn’t expect.

I think some details could have been expanded upon a bit more but I thought there was good emotion shown by the characters.

So why did I give it a lower then expected rank? I think it goes back to the details. A bit more would have rounded out the story well. Not details on the way the bad guys did what they did. I understand that being glossed over. But there were times when the travels through LA. could have been more detailed. More streets and well known sites described. Just a bit more. But it was still an enjoyable book and bring some of these characters back for a second round, I’m there.

My Rank:

Green Belt

Green

The Brodsky Affair

The Brodsky Affair Kindle Cover

By Ken Fry

Ken Fry

https://www.amazon.com/Brodsky-Affair-Murder-Dying-Art-ebook/dp/B01E012VA6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1468364961&sr=8-1&keywords=the+brodsky+affair

Plot

An at buyer/seller, Jack Manton, is after paintings undiscovered by auction houses that don’t know what they actually have. He comes across a couple of rare paintings by Brodsky, a Russian Jew who died in WWII. He’s not the only one after those paintings. A Russian collector (by any means), sends his man out to obtain the paintings. It’s a race to see who can have the paintings, who can discover the whereabouts of more by Brodsky, and who survives.

A very nice suspense quest/chase thriller with enough background info to keep me moving through it.

Characters

Josef Laventry Verezin: 54, former mafia, dark dyed hair, brown eyes, wears glasses, tattoo on back, affected by palsy, art thief, Chief of IAS

Jack Manton: 44, attended Edinburgh University, Masters in History of Fine Art, former magazine writer, art buyer/seller, fit, teaches fencing

Tamsin Greene: Jack’s girlfriend, 34, slender, 5’8”, dark hair, brown eyes, Spanish/French/Russian ancestry, 2 siblings, parents dead, attended London University, fluent in 4 languages, divorced

Vladimir Novokov: thief/killer, former SVR, parents dead, fit, homosexual

There are a few others that make for a nice cast. Very well presented with separate personalities. I did tire of Tasmin’s constant badgering of Jack. If she didn’t want to stay with him, just leave. Some decent baddies.

Dialogue

Pretty good voices. They came through well. There were a few instances of B-movie threats and dialogue that popped up throughout but nothing overtly ham-ish.

Writing

Chapters are headed by location.

Near the beginning there were several weather references that didn’t seem to go with the scene or the story. It was as if the author finished a scene and thought, “Oh, yeah, I’d better put that snow is falling.”

There were some obvious tense shifts. Past to present.

Good action scenes. Background on Brodsky was laid out pretty well.

All in all, I think a fairly good story. Writing could have been tighter in some places.

My rank:

Green Belt

Green

Self Defense Against Vampires

SDAV Front Cover

By Dr. J. A. Kahn

https://www.amazon.com/Self-Defense-Against-Vampires-Official/dp/190946712X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1466817899&sr=8-1&keywords=self+defense+against+vampires

Plot

Well, like the title says, it’s a book about the defense against vampires. It explain a bit about the physiognomy of vampires, their biological systems, their strengths and weaknesses and how you can properly train yourself to protect yourself and possibly others. There are anecdotes on successes and failures from around the world.

Not sure what to make of it. Kind of what I expected, but kind of not, also. It’s a guide but I think of it like I do martial arts self defense – if you’re properly trained, you have a better chance of success and even self defense will not be successful 100% of the time. I think that’s why the author gives various methods of disposing of the toothy beasts.

Characters

Uh, vampires (kind of a ‘duh’ here, right?): for a pretty fair description of them, read the book.

Kahn: Yes, the author is the character because he’s the narrator. He is well trained in many martial arts but no picture is shown above so as not endanger others and because he doesn’t want to be recognized by a large number of people. If he comes upon a vampire who recognizes him from his reputation…well, too bad for the vampire. He does describe himself, but not in specific terms, for the same reason listed above.

Dialogue

None. Several quotes from various persons.

Writing

Titled chapters and sections. Relatively short chapters

There are some missing words noticeable in some sentences.

Easy, conversational. Some of the authors whimsy phraseology about “If you don’t do this or try to do this then this will be the result” get a bit repetitive.

Some moments of humor.

I did have a problem when it came to the equipment the author purports to carry with him most of the time. I don’t think even Batman carries so much stuff. Plus, the amount and size of the items would make moving difficult, let alone fighting the enemy, so that was a bit over the top…if I can go there with this type of book. (Tongue in cheek, doncha know?)

Long about half done I did start to recognize some shades of life advice. He discusses how a proper diet, resisting temptation, obeying parents, making good choices, proper exercise will help you in your defense against the fangs, but couldn’t you also use the same notions for life in general. Those things will also help you succeed in other areas: business, schooling, friendship, etc. I don’t know if this was intentional, but it exists and is a good thing without being overly ‘preachy’.

So, what about rank? Not usually my choice for reading. I mean vampires and zombies have saturated the market the book has to catch me from the back blurb (and yes, the cover) to be given a second look, let alone a read. Did Kahn catch me on a good day? Maybe. It was a fun read, so I’ll go with:

Green Belt

Green

Fade Out

Fade-Out Cover

By Mike Uva

Mike Uva Photo

https://www.amazon.com/Fade-Out-Nothing-Smoke-Mirrors-ebook/dp/B00W0EEUF0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1464502508&sr=8-1&keywords=fade+out%2C+uva

Plot

A film crew’s latest project and lives in danger when they find themselves trapped in a hostile Middle East country. Can they use their skills to escape?

Interesting plot and I like the premise and the creativity.

Characters

John: assistant director, Australian

Peter Miley: director, white hair in a pony tail, 40s, tanned, South African

Bob: booking agent, Chinese-American

Kim: part of the film crew

Several others, most without last names or descriptions and they were lost in the shuffle. Didn’t quite understand the multitude of different ancestries because they didn’t add to the story and weren’t a factor in the plot. Several of the film crew sounded alike and I found it difficult distinguishing roles.

Dialogue

Ditto the last sentence in the voices. Even the Arabs didn’t sound Arabic. All the conversations were in italics. Why? Tag lines that can’t be tag lines. Jihad nods, “…” Nods is an action, not a verbalization. One tag had a character screak. I don’t know what that means. The tone of voice is mentioned a lot when the scene itself should relate that.

Writing

Titled sections which, for the most part, weren’t needed. Especially when one section is titled Hotel-Evening and the only sentence is: The crew vans pull away from the hotel that evening.

Present tense.

Distant narrator. Mostly telling and no showing. Action and drama abound, but there are no emotions or tension or pain shown.

What country are we in for most of the book? It’s never mentioned, although I assume it borders Israel since their air force comes into play late in the book.

No real descriptions of scene or setting

Weak writing: He speaks with a South African foreign accent. Well, it wouldn’t be foreign to a South African. The word ‘foreign’ isn’t needed.

Weak writing: something ‘can be seen’ as if there was obstruction but no indication that there was.

My Rank:

Yellow Belt

Yellow

E-Jipped

E-Jipped Cover

By Mike Uva

Mike Uva Photo

https://www.amazon.com/Jipped-Mobster-Travels-Encyclopedia-Pyramids-ebook/dp/B00UKL69HM?ie=UTF8&keywords=ejipped%2C%20uva&qid=1464500714&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

Plot

How did ancient Egyptians evolve? How did they build the pyramids? Did they have help? From a modern day mobster?

Okay, for plot that involves time travel, I think this is an amusing little tale. The premise is good, however, problems abound in this book.

Characters

Tony Gilette: owns a strip club, 30s, olive skin, black hair, drives a Cadillac

Albert Taylor: has a Ph.D, mid 30s, brown hair

Jessica Daluisia: 30s, has a Ph.D

There are other characters. Some are okay. Tony is the protagonist. There’s a Pharoah that could have been better described and shown to be the royalty that he was supposed to have been. The Egyptian girl doesn’t seem Egyptian and when angered, sounds like a pissed off American. Albert and Jessica, except for their first short scene together, spend the entire book in meetings. The discussion in those meetings ties in with what Tony is doing, but I lost interest in those meetings and the lengthy dialogue. Speaking of…

Dialogue

All of the conversations are in italics. Why? Missing quotes for most of the dialogue. Individual voices do come through, except in the meetings mentioned above, where all the Egyptians sounded alike.

Writing

Profanity. Titled sections

Major problems here.

The entire story is in present tense which is fine, but not for the flashback scenes or those that happened in the past (and I’m not talking about the time travel scenes). With regards to the former, the author didn’t need to title the flashback scenes Flashback. The reader will understand and these plus other scenes could have been written so much better and stronger without the title telling the reader, “Hey, we’re doing a flashback now.”

Small time continuum problem (and not with the time travel stuff). In the beginning, it is present day. A picture of the three pyramids outside Cairo is mentioned. The next scene is set six years before, but it mentions the picture ‘seen earlier’.

A lot of telling and very little showing. Nothing close and personal with any of the characters. The narrator is very distant.

Things ‘can be seen’, as if there might be an obstruction, but there’s not and no indication that there might be. Some repetition (A light can be seen outside the house coming from the bathroom). This is weak writing.

Lots of misspelled words, missing or incorrect punctuation and capitalization errors. Specify ages. ’30s’ for everybody gets a bit redundant.

The time machine is cool (although there are hints of Stephen King’s 11.23.63 in the process), but never is it explained who built it, where the parts came from, why the guy has it or how he has it in his bathroom, what the innards look like, does anybody see anything at the other end, etc.

Scene problem: Tony flips a towel to another guy and does so with his gun. I’m assuming he caught the towel on the end of the barrel and tossed it to the man. A few sentences later, Tony pulls a gun a presses it to the guy’s forehead. Two guns? He certainly didn’t put the gun already out back in his pants.

As mentioned, the meetings in Egypt were long and included officials who didn’t do anything. Albert and Jessica were wasted characters because they didn’t develop. Nothing was mentioned of what happened to them.

This was a short story but it might have been stretched to include more details. A lot of weak writing, too many errors and the only thing that saved this from the lowest rank was an amusing plot.

My Rank:

Orange Belt

Orange

The Meanderings Of Ruby Stewart

The_Meanderings_Of_R_Cover_for_Kindle

By Monica Handy

Monica 12

https://www.amazon.com/Meanderings-Ruby-Stewart-Monica-Handy-ebook/dp/B01FQ1B89Y?ie=UTF8&keywords=the%20meanderings%20of%20ruby%20stewart&qid=1464395985&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

Plot

Ruby Stewart works her way up through the ranks of an advertising firm, encounters obstacles on her way, and finds romance.

Short story. Basic plot. I thought, however, the author’s creativity to push a perfume ad was pretty good.

Characters

Ruby Stewart: black, 45, secretary

James Claiborne: a senior partner in a Chicago advertising agency, around 6’4”, slender

Isabella Vanderpomb: owns a perfume business, black hair

Madeline: Ruby’s future immediate boss (after the first chapter or so), 60, pug nose

Alondra Ventura: owns a beauty salon, Puerto Rican

I think is a nice cast with, surprisingly, enough information to get a picture of each, and roles each plays. If I were to give a fault, I would have thought Ruby tolerated a racist boyfriend far too long.

Dialogue

Good voices and words and sentences written in those voices. Again, if I were to give fault, Claiborne gets a bit wordy. Not long sentences, but his ‘boss’ nature falters in a few places.

Writing

No profanity. A few punctuation errors, a capitalization error and a misspelling.

First person from Ruby’s POV

Chapters are titled and although some of them are days of the week, there is more time passage.

The only real problem I have with this, other than it being a short story (and here it could have been fleshed out a bit more for some more details), is the internal dialogue from Ruby. Maybe this belongs in the above section but I don’t feel like cutting and pasting so I’ll keep it here.

First off, I will give credit to the author for having Ruby explain that she has these lengthy pieces of dialogue. They are part of her personality. This gives a bit of credence to when these pop up, which is are often. However, I don’t think some of them work to the story’s advantage. I’d say about 60-40 giving the working internals the majority percentage. There was one particular scene where the dialogue ran on and on. This clearly didn’t work. Others could have been told by the ‘Ruby narrator’.

So, a quick read, well thought out plot. Good characters and character development. A story where the good guys, er, gals, win.

I’m giving the rank I am because of the minor errors (with a short story, these need to be caught) and the internal dialogues that don’t work for me, but it is not a bad story and I liked it.

My Rank:

Camouflage Belt

Camo

When Memories Come Calling

Ebook Cover r1

By Tom McDonald

Tom McDonald

https://www.amazon.com/When-Memories-Come-Calling-McDonald-ebook/dp/B00GX2NLF0?ie=UTF8&keywords=when%20memories%20come%20calling%2C%20mcdonald&qid=1464306844&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

As with a few other similar stories, I offer this to future writers seeking reviews. Please do not infer that the inclusion of this book is opening me to regularly reading this genre. It is not. This one happened to catch me on a good day and the exception was it sounded intriguing to me. Just be aware, I have turned down others and will do so again. But, you never know…

Plot

The author shares memories of growing up in the Appalachians in the 50’s and 60’s. Short anecdotes about his family, getting a piano, riding a moped in the mountains, a randy donkey, whistling, sneaking smokes and watermelons, and many more.

If you want easy to read and enjoyable stories, this is the book. Nothing deep or philosophical although it brushes against some issues. Some amusing stories, but I think the majority of them will touch upon your own personal memories of childhood because a lot of these are what many kids experienced.

Characters

Father: drove a Packard, carpenter, small stature, smoked

Tom McDonald: 6 siblings, former Navy, former teacher, attended the university of Alabama, married with 2 children, color blind

Mother: played piano, siblings, used snuff

Grandfather: blue eyes, carpenter, widower, pipe smoker

Mary Ellen Lindsey: Tom’s aunt, 8 siblings, mentally disabled, smoked

Daughter: played basketball and baseball in high school and basketball in college

George: a donkey

Margo: Tom’s wife

A nice cast of amusing and interesting characters and I think the author had just the right amount of information for each. No long diatribes, just the high points.

Dialogue

For a memoir, there isn’t a lot of dialogue, but some the snippets of words do show the personality of the characters. There is an amusing exchange between Tom and his wife in one of my favorite stories about beavers and beepers.

Writing

One misspelled word that I found. Otherwise, good solid writing. Easy read. No ‘high brow’ language. No profanity, although it is referred to. Illustrations and photos.

My two favorite stories are the one mentioned above and George, the donkey, which is why I including George as a character.

Of course, I couldn’t be completely familiar with his youth since I’m younger, but some of it resonated. And it’s not all about his youth. There are stories of his marriage and his children.

A good book, a good read, and a good one for sharing.

So, as to ranking. As with many others, it comes down to the ‘likeability factor’. I had a ranking in mind about half way through, but by the end changed my mind. With many of the low ranked stories, I can’t wait to reach the end. With this one, I was content just to see what the next story was. So, this went from Green to:

Purple Belt

Purple

No God In Tannam

NGIT COVER 1

By Jimmy Macram

http://www.amazon.com/No-God-Tannam-1/dp/1530935164/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1463887250&sr=8-1&keywords=no+god+in+tannam

Plot

Tim Landry is a cop who steps over the line to get the job done. In this story, he’s up against the mob. Who blew up a building? Who murdered a gangster? He’s also contending with his wife who hires the same P.I. he hired to follow her. Trying to hold off dissension in his own ranks, heat from above, and avoiding the tempting attractive bad girl…Landry is in a fight for his job, his life, and his city.

A classic good/bad cop against bad guys. This one is complex with a lot of angles and I had a bit of a problem following all of the connections. Part of the problem was that this was a shorter novel than most and could have been fleshed out to give more ‘story’ to the large cast.

Characters

Tim Landry: detective, married with children, 34, 6’2”, ran track in high school

Stephen Fitzgerald: Assistant District Attorney, 6′, black hair, 32

Donovan McCullough: 6’4”, 29, cop, almost 250 pounds, brown hair, bearded

Shaun Peters: Private detective, blond

Derek Bailey: cop, black, 6’4”, married, large frame

Several other characters, some of them with fewer descriptions than others. I thought the characters were fine. Each had a definite role and didn’t blend into each other. I thought characters worked well together.

The problem with characters was that one was introduced halfway through the story, then worked into the main plot and I didn’t think that worked. I also thought that some back story on more of the characters or more definite involvement in the main plot would have worked. There was back story alright…and that led to more problems.

Dialogue

Not too bad. Some good voices, good interplay, especially between Landry and Bailey. The ‘baddies’ had some good voices.

Writing

Profanity. Titled chapters. Some punctuation errors. Shaun was spelled Shawn at first, then Shaun the rest of the time.

The ending was good, but I don’t think the conflict between Landry and his wife was succinctly handled. She all but dropped out of the story in the last third of the book. Ditto with Peters.

The two major things that brought this book down in rank were:

1. Present tense. It was present throughout the entire book. This book was a lot of THEN and NOW story, which is fine. I have a book the same way. However, I use present tense in the NOW sections and past tense in the THEN sections. I think that would have worked here. With present tense being throughout, I lost a bit of when the scene was taking place. The time passing in the story was difficult to follow, especially when there was a lot of THEN story. Specific dates would have been an immense help in keeping the time line straight.

2. This book took a very distant omnipresent POV. Very distant. A lot of telling what was going on instead of showing. I was very far from the characters. Ditto with setting. Never did we get in close to emotions or pain or fear. It was clinical in the telling and I didn’t feel anything for the characters. I wanted to despise Landry for the heel and cheat he was and root for him to catch the bad guy. But I didn’t because there was no feelings from him. Ditto with his wife. Her emotions never were shown.

I think the author has some good characters to use. He has a good story to tell. He has sequel potential, but unless we see some personality innards from the characters, the stories will be flat and emotionless and these are not characters to waste.

My Rank:

Camouflage Belt

Camo

Resort Isle

resortisle

By Paul Sekulich

Paul 7-20-04 2 - cropped

https://www.amazon.com/Resort-Isle-Detective-Frank-begins-ebook/dp/B013T97YIY?ie=UTF8&keywords=resort%20isle&qid=1463650822&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

Plot

After a detective’s family is killed, he works hard to elect a district attorney to the U.S. Senate, in the hope that a new form of detention for criminals will be introduced. Put these people on an island off the coast of California. No guards, no gates, and the rules are their own. What happens when the detective is sent to the island?

I was intrigued by this book because I was expecting a lot of good adventure and action. I a was somewhat disappointed. Not completely, but a bit.

Characters

Frank Dugan: homicide detective, married with 2 children, former Marine, drives a black Ford Bronco

Marty Dimino: district attorney, drives a gray BMW 340

Charlene Stone: 30s, dark eyes, Phd.

Rico Guzman: drug lord, smokes cigars

A few other characters. Not enough physical description of anybody. Good variety of baddies and good guys.

Dialogue

Not bad. Some voices come through although I could have wanted a bit more distinction between Frank and Marty.

Writing

Profanity.

Very difficult to judge time passage until later in the story. The time passage between the beginning and about the time Frank is on trial was almost impossible to tell. Some reference would have helped.

The writing itself was pretty good. No misspelled words or punctuation or grammar errors.

The story was pretty good. My disappointment was in reference to the title and the blurb. Here you have an island where a lot of the really bad criminals are going to be placed. Then you have the inevitable point where the good guy is trapped on the island. Great! That’s what I wanted. In reality, the action on the island is reserved for the end of the book, within the last 60 or so pages (on my Nook edition). And it was constantly interrupted by other scenes back on the mainland.

I didn’t experience a whole lot of danger or suspense or real action. It never seemed as if the protagonist was ever in mortal danger, either by wildlife or humans. Sure, you knew the good guy wins, but injure him a bit, put some emotion in. Frank’s relationships with sharks was interesting, but could have have been played upon more. There was a pretty good chase scene with the cops and some bad guys, but all through that scene I kept wondering when we’re going to be to the island.

One graphic murder scene.

As mentioned, good book, but I wanted more. This is the first in a series, so there’s time for more in future stories.

My Rank:

Green Belt

Green

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