The Lesson Plan


By G. J. Prager


Robert Klayman is a Los Angeles substitute teacher by day and a budding private investigator by…well, any day he’s not teaching. He wants so much to be a P.I. First up, tailing a woman. When that ends in near death, he turns back to teaching. Only to meet another sub, who offers him what seems to be a simple case: hand over some items to her son in Arizona. But the case is not so simple and Klayman is fleeing for his life and looking for answers.

So, we have a first-timer P.I. story. Well, every P.I. had to start somewhere. As for the plot, well, it was a little disjointed at times and connections were made that I didn’t catch.


Robert Klayman: Around 40, substitute teacher and amateur P.I., drives an ’83 Honda, owns a dog

Cal: P.I.

Sheila Farelly: Around 40, dirty blonde, divorced with a son, owns a cat, drives a black Mercedes

Maria Castro: 17, attractive

No description of Robert. Robert’s relationship with Maria is downright creepy and a turnoff. Didn’t get too much description of some of the other players, Cal and Zeke.


Okay for voices. Maria’s came through. Some B-movie bad guy lines near the end.


This is where the problems lie. First off there was unnecessary profanity and several racial slurs. Second-and I became aware of this though about halfway through: Robert’s dog was spoken about a lot. Good buddy, I understand, but what breed of dog is Homer (the dog’s name? This was never mentioned. I gather he was large-ish, furry, and built for the Arctic. I thought, a-ha, Husky. But then he is mentioned as being colored orange. Golden Retriever? I don’t know but when I found myself thinking more about the dog than the actual plot, it became a problem.

Part of the reason for this is because the author spends too much time on the teaching part of Klayman’s life and not enough on the detective stuff. I realize that a lot of the crime involves the teaching side, but about 1/3 of the book goes by before he’s given the major case. Yes, he has a case at the beginning (that connects up in time), but the next one doesn’t come along till much later. Then nearly half the book goes by before there’s any real action, meaning danger. Again, there was some at the beginning, but it was done and gone pretty quick.

Again, I must reiterate the relationship between Robert and Maria. A sub-teacher should know better and because of this I found Robert not likeable, especially since he wants so much to be a good detective.

Sheila’s last name is spelled differently in two chapters.

Not believable parts:

– Maria allowed in a Vegas casino and allowed to gamble.

– when Robert meets Sheila, she hands him a business card. In a later meeting, he asks her name. Wouldn’t her card have her name?

– I cannot believe that after Robert flees Arizona, leaving his car, that the police didn’t find the car and discover its owner before Robert retrieves it. I can maybe believe the police didn’t find a weapon he tossed, but the car should have been found, especially since there was a BOLO on him and his car.

– during a scene where Robert is robbed, his dog has been growling low before, but when the action starts, the dog does nothing?

– the last chapter was completely not believable. The cops show up to arrest Robert for attempted murder. They’re not going to wait outside while Robert puts on his pants. They are also not going to act and talk like they did. This is a serious crime and they’re joking around.

Again, I missed the connections Robert apparently caught to put the case together. Maybe it was my thinking about the dog too much or catching some of the mistakes. Whatever the reason, the weakness of the writing brought this, at first down to camo, but after the last chapter went over the line, I had to drop the rank to:

Orange Belt


Pleased To Meet You #0


By Annaluisa Socher

Annaluisa Socher


Sarah Smith thinks she has a happy life now because she’s found a family who hasn’t returned her to the orphanage. However, when two people show up at her doorstep one morning to take her away, Sarah goes on the run. What she discovers in her flight, will bring back memories of a time and place far removed from her life in present day England.

This is a short introductory story that will lead to a longer SF novel. For something like this, I think it’s a good premise, however, there are problems.


Sarah Smith: 12, blonde, green eyes, orphan

Andrew Flanagan: says he’s a lawyer with an orphanage

Anne Miller: says she works for an orphanage

Matt Andersson: bearded

There is a limited number of characters. While I liked Sarah, I found some of the others annoying and inefficient. Too much movie bad guy action/no action. (“We’re going to kill you but we’re going to act all mean and evil before we get around to it.”)


B movie dialogue in many instances. Too many repetitions of a bad guy call Sarah a brat.


Here’s where a lot of the problems show. The main problem was POV. This should have stayed with Sarah throughout but it switched back and forth and while I can understand omnipresent POV, I don’t think it works in this short.

Some punctuation problems. There was one case where a sentence has an aside for further explanation but the author used two different punctuation to separate the aside: This is the beginning of the sentence-while this is the aside, and this is the end of the sentence.

Choose either the dash or the comma for the separation.

Some overwriting and weak writing:

Example: As the seconds pass a noise came closer. It was a train and its sound grew louder and louder, signaling that it was getting near. (No need to repeat that something was nearing.)

Example: By saying these words the man put his right foot between the door jam and the door itself. (‘By saying these words’ is badly written and no need to overwrite where he put his foot.

Example: …realized almost immediately that…she was in danger. (There are some extra words in this sentence which makes it, first, too long, and second, Sarah had been in danger long before this. By this point she’s already been caught by the bad guys. Of course she in danger.)

Example: …was a guy rather than a man. (I don’t know what that means. Is it some British colloquialism?)

There are others.

As mentioned above, I think the story has potential but if these problems are seen in a longer novel, I would have difficulty reading and enjoying it.

No spelling errors so I’m giving this an:

Orange Belt


The Soul Whisperer


By J. M. Harrison

new author shot


When Sara and Alex Bunton decide to get away from their problems, they visit a relative in France. Soon, they’re involved in a mystery spanning back thousands of years. A sacred object to bring enlightenment must be found because if others find it, the end of the world will be near.

Who can categorize this? A nod to Da Vinci Code, some supernatural, some thriller, some adventure.


Sara Bunton: married, has had a miscarriage, blonde, blue eyes

Alex Bunton: Sara’s husband, former military, mom dead, ponytail

Jean Michel: gray hair, owns a dog, knows martial arts, was in French Foreign Legion,

Alina Wickey: black hair, married

Zarco De Vlinder: owns a motorcycle, ponytail, blue eyes, platinum blond, 40s, mercenary, tattoo, smokes

There is a nice cast but I wanted more from the baddies. They do almost nothing in the first half of the book. There are a whole bunch introduced late in the book that reminded me of something out of a Ludlum novel, but they should have been in there sooner to keep the reader intrigued. The baddies didn’t do much in the way of putting the heroes in danger. Here and there, yes, but not much throughout the book until the end. I didn’t understand Alina. She’s been abused by her husband all her life but at the end stands up and helps the heroes when they save her husband.


A lot of storytelling. Long passages. A few distinctive voices.


To follow up on the above Chapters 7 and 8 are ALL storytelling with few breaks. Long lecture type explanations and ‘what-if’ history. These two chapters, really threw me out of the because there is nothing going on in the way of action. It’s all telling. They should have been broken up and pieced throughout the book.

I didn’t feel a connection to the tension. Before the long story he keeps teasing Alex and Sara with something important but when I expect to hear something, they have tea or dinner or told to come back another time.

I also didn’t feel that anybody was in real danger from the baddies. Everybody is still walking around seemingly not caring that bad people might be lurking around the next corner. It’s not until later in the book when the action starts.

No profanity unless you want to count a foreigner saying “fok”.

This story just didn’t get off the ground for me. I keep coming back to 7 and 8 because up until then I held out hope. But having to wade through too much history and stories, I lost interest.

The supernatural/enlightenment parts were interesting but, again, I didn’t feel a connection to the heroes and the plot.

My Rank:

Camouflage Belt


The Scorpion

cover art-10by16-2b-front-digital_version

By John A. Autero

author photo-1


When three friends discover a secret meant to be covered up, they find themselves on the run from government forces determined to keep their knowledge from going public.

Oft seen plot. Nothing new here. Sometimes, though, the familiar can be entertaining. Unfortunately, this falls short of the mark.


Jerry Taylor: engineer for a fuel refinery, attended Michigan University, Masters in Chemical Engineering and Ph.D in Petroleum Engineering from M.I.T.

Bart Richard Thomas: 22, 6’1” brown hair, works for a hazardous recovery company, smokes, drives a Ford F-350, parents divorced

Bruce Jacob Macinson: works for the same company as Bart, 6’3”, 250 lbs

Pete Andrew Johnson: works for the same company as Bart, wiry, black shoulder length hair, nickname ‘Worm’, father owns a funeral home

Russell Ferdomski: nicknamed ‘Beaker’, 100 ls, light brown hair, pale complexion, computer geek, has a brother, dad dead

There are a couple baddies but the three main characters often acted and sounded like the Hardy Boys and Chet Morton or the Three Investigators vs the federal government. I felt very little emotion that these guys were in mortal danger. The federal baddies didn’t impress me.


Again, YA stuff except for a few bits of profanity here and there. The Commissioner and his agent (baddies) didn’t sound professional.


I found only one misspelled word and a missed quote mark. Some chapters are headed by location.

There was too much telling throughout and not enough showing.

As mentioned, I didn’t feel immediate danger. Except for the first chapter, nothing much happened in the first 1/3 of the book.

One of the problems I had with this book is that there was so much more happening beyond the main plot that didn’t quite fit with the story. There were statements made that seemed to put the story in the world of ‘tomorrow’. For instance it was mentioned that Kansas City was destroyed by a nuclear bomb. Okay, but when I read that, I said, Huh? That’s interesting, but did that have anything to do with the rest of the story? Or the fact that the government misled the world about Osama bin Laden. There should have been a bit more explanation and the author should have let the read know a bit more about the state of the union or the world.

Hardly any women show up in the story and what’s a thriller without a bit of romance?

There’s a mind probe used but not much detail about it. This could have been much stronger.

Another problem I had was the title of the story didn’t make sense throughout the entire book and was only mentioned, literally, at the very end.

I felt there was a lot of weak writing to a story that could have been so much stronger. For that reason I have to give this a:

Yellow Belt


Peripheral: Tales Of Horror At A Glance


By Sylvester Pilgrim



1. What is a young woman seeing out of the corner of her eye? 2. A holiday and heinous murder. 3. A businessman plans to kill his wife. 4. Do you dare look into a cursed mirror? 5. A dying man makes a deal with the mob. 6. A theater cast summons the spirit of a murdered actress. 7. The prequel to the first story. 8. Should you beware of you inner demon? 9. Sometimes imagination gets away from you. 10. An idyllic picnic turns gruesome. 11. Roommates can be difficult to live with. 12. The first story continues. 13. Think twice before you get that tattoo. 14. Sometimes being lost is really lost. 15. Sometimes beauty isn’t realized. 16. Sometimes a wrong number can save a life…or not. 17. Working backward through a terrorist bombing. 17. The first story concludes.

Some horror, some suspense. Some good, some predictable, some weak. Here’s a collection of short tales, some of which aren’t too bad.


Faye Morgan: 29

Connor Sandford: married with four children, wealthy, owns a silver Mercedes SLR and a BMW M5

Frank Martinez: has cancer, married

Miyuki Sato: long black hair, fit

Marcia McGill: attends Oxford for her Ph.D in psychology

Malcolm Dean: killer, drug user

Ronald Miller: teen, has brothers

A wide variety of characters, all pretty well pictured. I think for short stories to work, the characters shouldn’t resemble one another through each story.


With short tales, it’s difficult to keep separate voices because there isn’t enough material to develop that dialogue. However, I think, for the most part, no character sounded like another. I think in the ongoing story throughout, the Italian dialogue runs a bit long, especially since it’s not translated.


As mentioned, some of the stories were predictable because of the nature of the plot. Oft seen before, nothing new, and when there’s nothing fresh, the enjoyment factor drops. There is profanity and graphic sex. One story ran too long with sex scenes. I was wanting to get on with the story.

I think the death scene in one story was not believable. When someone kills another by a gun in the mouth, the person would probably die instantly. She would not be twitching for several minutes.

As mentioned, some of the stories are enjoyable with some interesting horror. In the end, though I have to give this:

Camouflage Belt


Hoochy Koochy


By Cliff Yeargin



Jack Eliam. Atlanta P.I. with an assignment to find a long lost one-hit-wonder band member. He also has to try to persuade a neighbor’s ex boyfriend to cough up a couple grand. But neither cases is that simple.

Standard PI fare. Good stuff. Plenty of PI investigation, use of back up assistance when in trouble, all-around what you’d expect in a PI story.


Jack Eliam: Private investigator, bat maker, former pro baseball player, owns a Ford truck, not tech savvy, owns a dog

Catfish Wilson: owns a BBQ joint, drives a red pickup truck, played football at Georgia University

Dexter Truesdale: reverend, 300 pounds, black, white hair, near 80, owns a .38

Slick: manages Catfish’s restaurant, almost 60, just over 5′

Alex: Eliam’s neighbor, early 30s, owns a photography studio

Dillon Bell: frat brother of Catfish’s, former member of a band, sells used cars, 6′, 240 lbs., mostly bald head, wears reading glasses

Teddy Brown: former band member, works for a radio station, graying black hair, reading glasses

A lot of interesting characters. Some unique personalities with interesting nicknames. Each of them add a little extra flavor to the book, especially a guy named Sweet Thang. Eliam does a bit of side notes every now and then, humorous advice in italics on the current situation.


Tag lines that shouldn’t be tags. Incorrect capitalization on a tag. Otherwise, voice are decent. Some missing punctuation, some normal and some that might have been included just to give the extra flavor of the voices and the language used.


First person from Eliam’s POV. Mild profanity.

Easy going style of writing. Light-hearted, casual, not too deep. Some sentences that are part of one sentence could be made into a separate sentence. It’s noticeable, but, somehow it tends to work in this story. Incorrect words used and misspelled words and missing words here and there.

I enjoyed the climactic scene against the bad guys.

So, the dilemma is the judgment of rank. While the plot was good, action tight, I have to take into account the mistakes not caught by editing. If they had been few, I could overlook, but there was a fair amount. Then I look at the style of writing. I think it’s okay, could use a bit more detail here and there, but I think there was enough to capture the essence.

I can’t give the book a Purple Belt, but I debated between Camo and Green. I didn’t want to go so low even with the mistakes but I think back to the Green ranks I’ve given before.

Therefore, to be fair, I will say I enjoyed the book and I would read another mystery by this author if proper editing was done and there was a bit more detail. But, I have to go with:

Camouflage Belt




By Janet Squires


Once again, I caution readers to not send me review requests outside of the boundaries of my guidelines, from genres other than what I prefer. However…I will give guarded permission to those who write animal books similar to the following. I may not accept them all, but if it has a dog or cat or funny animal, then I might consider it. Because, I mean, who doesn’t like animal stories?


An animal rescuer finds Monty, a pit bull mix out in the desert. We follow Monty’s story of recovery, surgeries, and eventual adoption.

This is a very short book that really doesn’t tell a story like many animal books do. This is more of a report with a lot of photos.


Monty: black and white pit bull mix, scarred, broken leg (at beginning of story), had been shot, 37 lbs,

Nicole: animal rescuer

Raviv Balfour: orthopedic surgeon, vet, has a dog

Julie: fosters dogs, dad was an animal rescuer, has other dogs at home

Ginnie: Monty’s eventual owner, has a bulldog

Highlights of those involved with Monty. Not too much description, but there are photos.


One or two sentences only.


Lots of good photos included. Throughout is a tracker of the increased ‘like’ Monty received on Facebook.

Pretty tightly contained. No stories of Monty’s adventures in different situations, just discovery, recovery, adoption. I’m glad Monty went on to be a happy dog with a family, but I expected more adventure and anecdotes. I’m only giving this book the lower rank because of this. Doesn’t mean it’s a bad book, but I wanted more. There were no errors otherwise.

My Rank:

Camouflage Belt


Deadly Desire


By Robert Joseph



Who murdered Willard Weems, former concrete king and, of late, a practicing Buddhist? Was it his son or maybe it was Weems’ spiritual leader, a woman who claims to be a channel for the spirit of a Buddhist Rinpoche? What about the woman’s manager? Inspectors Rafferty and Tafoya are on the case.

A standard murder mystery with a little woo-woo (lol) involved. Typical subplot with Rafferty being divorced with a spiteful ex and a teenage daughter.


Gabriel ‘Raff’ Rafferty: 36, homicide investigator, divorced, has a daughter, auburn hair, green eyes, father was a cop, slender, toned, tall, son dead

Enrique ‘Hank’ Tafoya: homicide investigator, married

Nigel Taylor: British, estate manager

Cassandra Calvet: titled Devachen Rinpoche, Buddhist, smooth golden skin, white/blond hair, green eyes, drives a Jaguar

Jason Lytell: Devachen’s manager, early 40s, curly blond hair, has a tattoo

Mark Howard: ferret features, boyfriend of Raff’s ex, prosecutor

Surface characters. Mark is the butt head prosecutor with no purpose except to show up and insult Raff. He has no redeeming qualities. The ex is spiteful all the time. Hank doesn’t play a big enough role throughout. Gabriel is okay but no cop would act as he does. I didn’t understand some of Cassandra’s associates who show up later. They weren’t really explained well enough and their appearance just added confusion to the story.


Some sentences are double tagged. One doesn’t need to let the reader know that the same person said two sentences in one piece of dialogue. Period where a comma should be on a tag.

Not believable dialogue: “Now just what in God’s name do you think you’re going to do with that thing you got in your hand?” This is said by a woman who discovers a killer in her car’s backseat.



A scattering of misspelled words (i.e.: a dead person is not a corps), missing words and punctuation, punctuation in the wrong place (i.e.: periods, for some reason, at the beginning of sentences and extra periods at the end). Extra words (i.e.: which which).

Problem: In one scene, Raff shoots a potential kidnapper but tells his daughter he won’t tell her mother or her new boyfriend – the prosecutor. Wouldn’t it seem believable that the prosecutor would know the situation eventually when the assailant went to court? Yes, the guy died, but Raff didn’t know that at the time. Wouldn’t Raff have to report the incident and complete paperwork on the shooting?

Along with the above, I didn’t understand the purpose of the attempted kidnapping, how it was important to the story.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but cops don’t fire ‘warning shots’. If someone is in danger, the cop will shoot the assailant if there is a clear shot.

Problem: The cops conduct a search for the killer the morning after a double homicide. Wouldn’t they have conducted the search immediately?

Not believable: That Raff would take his daughter camping with the main suspect in the murder during the investigation. In fact, all of the scenes on the trip and the subsequent relationship are not believable.

Some weak writing, especially with dialogue and the Forbidden Planet comparison didn’t work because it wasn’t hinted at early enough. Well, there were a couple of things but they weren’t strengthened enough to give me the sense of something supernatural. The reference and the direction came too late.

Unfortunately, after a potentially promising start, the story falls apart the longer it goes. With the other problems and errors I have no choice but to give this the rank of:

White Belt


The Combat Zone


By Jed Power



1972. Cambridge, Massachusetts. Drugs are king. War protesters clog the sidewalks. Private eye Michael Malloy has been hired by a father worried about his missing daughter. Seems a straight-forward enough case, the girl might be involved in the drug scene, so he hires Stony Sundown, a dealer and user, to assist. Soon, though, Malloy runs afoul of a biker gang and the police, two groups of people who want Malloy to cease his search. Another is the mob. Of course, Malloy won’t (because that would make for a stupid story. Lol.) since he’s haunted by an old war memory. His job doesn’t become any easier once the case moves to the bad side of Boston and once he, himself, is affected by some white powder.

A good ol’ P.I. story is hard to beat. Set in a period of turmoil and change, this one has all the elements of a decent story.


Michael Malloy: late 20s, private investigator, former soldier in Vietnam, 6’2”, drives a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, owns a .38

Stony Sundown: early 20s, drug dealer, smokes pot, shoulder length, red/blond hair, blue eyes, bearded, thin, tall

Billy Skinner: mid 30s, police investigator, Malloy’s cousin, 140 lbs, 5’6”, thin, receding brown hair, has a daughter

Tank Turner: bearded, biker gang member, tall, large frame

Julie: Malloy’s former girlfriend, thin, dusty blonde

Nice cast. You have the love interest, the baddies in various forms, the bartender (I mean what P.I. story doesn’t have a bartender at some point?), the assistant, and the cops. What else do you need? Everybody is distinct, with individual personalities.


Pretty good voices. Some extraneous conversation, but nothing that flattens or bores. It just fills in around the edges.


First person from Malloy’s POV. Profanity

A lot of sentences start with ‘and’ or ‘but’. This works sometimes, but I think an author ought to be able to rewrite so as not begin sentences with conjunctions.

Good selection of period references.

While waiting for the big bad guy to make contact and from there to the climax, things slowed. Not much, but just enough I noticed.

One problem I have with Malloy and his drug use: I realize everyone reacts to drugs differently. However, with as much as he uses, I don’t see a lot of the effects except for a couple scenes, other than him getting tired a lot. The author might have shown his actions during the ‘high’, shown his emotions a bit more.

Good action scenes. Intellectual, thought out.

This one is definitely worth the read.

My Rank:

Purple Belt


Calhoun: Sacrifice


By Joe Mansour


James Calhoun, former soldier. Members of a strange cult have killed his ex wife’s husband and threatened his daughter. They want to use her in a ritual sacrifice. However, they have made an offer to Calhoun: bring them another girl to replace his own. How far will Calhoun go to save his daughter?

Hmm, very interesting. A little suspense, mystery, thriller, maybe something else in the mix. I think the premise is good, but there’s not much support throughout.


James Calhoun: Black, former soldier, has prosthetic legs and partial prosthetic hand, anger problems, divorced with daughter

Rhonda: James’ ex wife, married, blonde

Graham ‘Mac’ Mackenzie: former soldier, smokes, drives a 4×4 truck, black hair, brown eyes, married, tattoos

Kate Delaware: brown eyes, gray hair, elderly

There are a few more characters. A problem I had with the characters: physical descriptions on some of the supporting characters but not much on the main one other than the injuries suffered. No hair or eye color, weight, height, build. Ditto on the girl chosen for the sacrifice. The other problem I had was the characters didn’t act like they probably should have. For instance: Rhonda just learned her husband was killed and her only child threatened. Yet, she doesn’t sound very frantic over the phone and when Calhoun arrives at the house, takes time to make coffee. Then she spends a long time getting to the point of the situation regarding her daughter. The girl chosen for the sacrifice, Sarah (not Calhoun’s daughter), who is around six or seven, should be absolutely terrified when being kidnapped and locked in a car trunk, but accepts a stranger’s (Mrs. Delaware) friendship pretty quickly after being handed over. Sarah should be crying and screaming for her mother but accepts cocoa without a fuss. Later in the book, the girl is able to sleep with multiple gunshots resounding throughout the house – not believable.


Problems with punctuation. i.e.: “I guess it is.” He said… There should be a comma after the word is and the H should be a small letter. This was done throughout the book.

Actually, except for some explanation of the cult, I found the dialogue irritating, some of the profanity forced.


Other punctuation mistakes. Unnecessary profanity. Run on sentences. Two or three put together and separated by commas when they should have been individual statements

The kidnapping should have been more drawn out with more emotion felt by Calhoun before, during, and after. Other scenes went by too fast, especially the actions scenes.

The suspense was lacking, the danger. I had expected the girl to be in mortal danger when the rescue happens, but there was a strange twist in plot that threw me and the ending fell flat. This book could have been so much better had the author drawn out the scenes, added much more tension and heightened the danger.

As with a previous book, the only thing keeping this out of the lowest rank is no spelling errors.

My Rank:

Orange Belt



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