A Silver Medallion

Cover - A Silver Medallion

By James Callan

jim-color-formal

https://www.amazon.com/Silver-Medallion-Crystal-Moore-Suspense-ebook/dp/B01DJB7U8G/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1472854782&sr=8-2&keywords=a+silver+medallion#nav-subnav

Plot

Crystal Moore encounters an escaped Mexican slave worker and discovers the girl is only one of a group of workers for a very wealthy man. Hunter Blackwood is holding one woman’s children captive in order to force her to work for him. Crystal travels to Mexico to rescue the children. By doing so, she puts her life and the lives of others in mortal danger.

This probably should go more into the character section, but I like the plot despite my thinking that Crystal just didn’t fit the adventurer type.

Characters

Crystal Moore: drives a maroon LeSabre, black hair, slender, brown eyes, attended Stanford, late 20s

Eula Moore: Crystal’s grandmother, 75, 5/2: 95 lbs.

Rosa Bonita Lopez: Black hair, dark eyes, slender, widow

Dr. Lester Krupe: adviser at Stanford

Hunter Blackwood: is on the Dallas Symphony Board, widower, late 40s, 6”, brown hair, grey eyes

Brandi Brown: Crystal’s roommate

There are other characters throughout. I enjoyed the feisty Eula. There were three Mexicans: Jorge, Jose, and Juan. Three J names did get a bit confusing especially when in close proximity to one another.

Again, I mention Crystal. She just didn’t seem the adventurous type. She seemed naive in the ways of rescuing the children.

Dialogue

Eula’s voice comes through. Jorge is not too bad. Not much else to say about dialogue. Hunter’s at the end was low grade desperation. Eric’s “I’ll cap the bitch.” was ‘B’ movie.

Writing

While there was some tension and danger, it didn’t come until later in the book with the rescue of the children. Hunter sends a killer out to deal with Crystal but his part doesn’t come into play until after she returns from Mexico. I wanted more danger in the scene where she has her first foray with the paraplane. Days go by with her wandering around doing things and waiting and no danger.

Brandi’s faking death after being stabbed was not believable. Body instinct would have her react to being impaled.

There was a lot of repetition. Words and phrases. As an example, in one scene, Crystal thinks that the man was trying to kill her as he had almost killed Brandi. In the next scene that thought is repeated as dialogue. This happens a lot.

The author states at the beginning that some things about Puerto Vallarta are factual and other things are fiction. I’ve been to Puerto Vallarta and I wanted more descriptions of the town. The bit about the green flash at sunset is true. I’ve seen it.

My Rank:

Camouflage Belt

Camo

Scorpion Deception

cover

by Andrew Kaplan

Andrew_kaplan_6-210

http://www.andrewkaplan.com/

Plot

Six weeks out of a mission in the Soviet Union, and having turned freelance, former CIA agent codenamed Scorpion finds himself in Africa on a relief mission that turns deadly. In Switzerland, a hit team raids the American embassy and steals information listing names of government officials from various departments and agents…including Scorpion’s. The blame falls on Iran and as America gears up for possible war, Scorpion is pulled back into the espionage game to discover the truth. One enigmatic name surfaces: the Gardener. As Scorpion battles both time and enemy agents the discoveries he makes may determine not only the fate of himself, but they may have international repercussions.

I’ve read the previous Scorpion book and enjoyed it. This lot reminds me a lot of some of the old Ludlum plots. A big bad guy seeking domination and a lone agent hampered by his own people and the enemy seeking to discover the truth. Back when Ludlum was creating scenarios, it was Russians, Neo-Nazis, or a wealthy mogul seeking world domination a’la James Bond movies. Today, however, Arabs and Muslim terrorist groups are in the bad guy roles. Still the puzzle kept me reading.

Characters

Scorpion: real name is Nick, independent-for-hire agent, speaks multiple languages, gray eyes, scar over one eye, former Army Ranger and Delta Force, former CIA agent, mother died when he was a child

Scale: small stature, thin, over-sized hands

Sandrine Delange: French doctor, slim, attractive, chestnut hair, gold pupils surrounded by emerald green

Bob Harris: Scorpion’s former supervisor in CIA, sometimes wears glasses,

Dialogue

Typical. Each character uses speech and words fit for their background and Scprion fits in well with knowing the phraseology in each scene. Conversations don’t wander because there is so much action that dialogue is limited to giving the reader a slight rest between bullets flying.

Writing

Chapters are headed by location. Some profanity. Foreign words and phrases are translated. Action is quick and intelligent. Scorpion takes time to analyze but this only helps the reader appreciated the danger involved and the thinking doesn’t drag down the action. The time factor is a little difficult to handle other than in this book, time plays a factor because of the impending military action threatened. However, scenes begin with Scorpion already on site, not traveling so sometimes I didn’t know how much time had passed between scenes. Still, a fairly fast read with each chapter revealing a new bread crumb along the path.

My Rank:

Blue Belt

Blue

Legend

cover

By David Lynn Golemon

Golemon

http://www.eventgroupfiles.com/

Plot

A band of Pizarro’s men search for the lost treasure of El Dorado in the vast Amazon jungle. What they end up discovering is far more than they ever imagined. Present day: Scientist Helen Zachary leads a team into the Amazon wilderness in search of suspected heretofore unknown species of animal. When the expedition is lost, Niles Compton and his his Event Group are called into help. Problems arise with every turn because not only is the event Group up against various enemies both foreign and domestic, the truth behind El Dorado may have devastating consequences. From Nevada to Washington, D.C. to Montana to Louisiana, to a secret mine filled with wonder and horror the men and women of the Event Group race against time to uncover a secret thousands of years old.

It’s history mixed with fiction and speculation and I love it. It’s a complicated and complex plot and the above paragraph only scratches the surface. What a story unfolded here. Almost too much to get a handle on in so few words.

Characters

Helen Zachary: Chairperson of Stanford’s zoology department, Ph.d, blonde hair, divorced, ex-fiance of the director of the Event Group

Henri Farbeaux: holds the title of Colonel, international antiquities thief, blond hair, divorced, former employee of the French Antiquities Commission

Carl Everett: Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy, second in command of security for the Event Group, former SEAL

Sarah McIntire: Army Second Lieutenant, geologist, member of the Event Group

Lots of characters, too many to mention but a few here. Master Chief Jenks is a stereotypical character seen and loved in many books (not Jenks himself, but his type of character). With so much going on, it is hard to get any real depth to the characters, but it’s not that type of book. I wasn’t expecting too much philosophizing or deep meaning soliloquies from anybody.

Dialogue

Many of the military men sound the same. Again, Jenks stands out. Conversations don’t drag and the lectures aren’t lengthy.

Writing

Story broken by parts. Each chapter headed by place and time. Some profanity. Very well written with an omnipresent POV. There is a lot of build up and Golemon is pretty detailed in each scene. The action comes quick. There is a lot here and Goleman manages to piece together bits from all over and somehow keep it believable. Technology goes over the top, but is fun. How Goleman kept everything straight is beyond me, but I admire an author who puts as much time to develop a story to its fullest as this one must have. He did his homework. This is fact, fiction, and fantasy all rolled into one and I love the stories where I want to jump into the action along with everybody. This is a lengthy book, but you will not get bored.

My Rank:

Red Belt

Red

No Rest For The Wicked

Dane Cobain - No Rest for the Wicked

By Dan Cobain

Author Photo

https://www.amazon.com/No-Rest-Wicked-Dane-Cobain-ebook/dp/B01GDGJ2GC/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1469844899&sr=8-13&keywords=no+rest+for+the+wicked#navbar

Plot

People are disappearing and a group of supernatural creatures called Angels are responsible. How do they relate to a super-collider in Switzerland? Or to a young girl who’s personality is changing? Or to a priest trying to cope with a secret from long ago? Will the world survive?

This book is all over the map and although I thought at first the plot was intriguing, there are a lot of tenuous connections throughout with little explanation.

Characters

Robert Jones: drives a BMW, smokes, divorced with a son

Father Montgomery: priest, dyed graying hair, fit, 60s

Klaus Boerman: professor/scientist

A few others. The characters were okay. I didn’t feel close to any of them

Dialogue

Fairly okay throughout although the Angels speech is repetitive and hardly scary. There’s some dialogue that I scratched my head at, including a cop who replies something completely out of context to what his partner said.

Writing

Titled chapters headed by location.

One mild profanity (hell) I found.

Let me discuss the tenuous or distant connections and I’ll try not to play spoiler too much.

The super-collider was a big problem for me. Supposedly, the Angels were created when the scientists turned this ting on and conducted their experiments. Okay, but the Angels weren’t shown to be from the machine. In addition, there’s a continuity problem because in another scene it’s mentioned by the Angels that they have been around for centuries judging the wickedness of humanity.

The priest and Jones visit one of the collider scientists but it’s not explained how they knew to do so, how the priest knew the scientist, and nothing really was gained by the meeting.

The possessed girl was interesting (can you say Linda Blair?) but it wasn’t explained why the Angels chose her or why they should possess anybody in the first place. That part didn’t make sense to me.

There is an acronym cleverly related to the Angels, but the spelled out phrase doesn’t take into account all of the letters in the acronym.

This is a short story and that’s also a problem. With a short you have to get in, get the trouble started, get to the action and get a solution. This book spent too much time killing people and not enough time connecting the dots. The subplot with the priest’s secret was fine but it should have played a bigger role in the climax.

Speaking of: the climax was too cerebral, philosophical, not enough action.

Scary thrills were low, action low, tension medium-low.

My rank:

Orange Belt

Orange

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