White Ginger


by Thatcher Robinson




Bai Jiang is a people finder. Her current case has her looking for a teenager who was sold by her brother to a gang who would use her as a sex slave. However, Jiang has more problems on her plate than a missing girl. These include: troubles with a powerful lawyer over an incident at her daughter’s school; battling her emotions regarding her ex husband who is a triad enforcement officer; and tracking down the person or persons involved with taking out a contract on her life.

Lots going on here and it all seems to mesh. The original case, finding the missing girl, looked exciting, but turned out to be routine (per se) and the mystery behind the contract killing kept me reading.


Bai Jiang: 30, Chinese, willowy, likes black clothing, short spiky hair, high cheekbones, surly attitude, a people finder, lives in San Francisco, struggles to live under Buddhist philosophy, excellent knife skills, has a twelve year old daughter, parents were murdered when she was young, drives a Mini Cooper Clubman, father and previous generations were triad

Lee Li: gay, Chinese, tall, high cheekbones, aquiline nose, Bai’s partner, drives a vintage 60s red Caddy convertible

Jason Lum: Chinese name is Hu Lum, triad assassin, ex husband of Bai and father of Bai’s daughter, muscular, black hair

I like Bai but she does seem to have a strange dichotomy going on. On one hand, she’s tough and doesn’t mind punching out the bad guys. Or even killing the bad guys. On the other, when she sees death, she’s, almost, overly disturbed by it. The character is presented as tough and hard, and living in Chinatown, San Fran, one would think this would be her nature. But she’s not all the time and instead of humanizing her, bothered me because I wanted her to get over it and move on. She flips from being concerned to okay with death, especially when a couple chapters later, she kills someone with no second thought. Plus, she’s a triad descendant and should know the score.


Because many of the characters are Chinese, some of the sentences are in Chinese but they’re translated afterward. Again, I must bring up Bai’s voice. At times she’s cynical and tough but when she gets emotional I want to dump her. I only bring up Bai because I can’t help but think of my own heroine and how I’ve portrayed her. When I see a tough woman who uses physical skills to defeat her enemies who also expresses emotions, I look closely to see if I’ve done a good job writing from a woman’s point of view. Bai and my Mallory are similar in a few respects and I want to feel for Bai when she has issues. When she speaks, I want to feel her emotions and I had trouble adjusting between the tough, almost light-hearted material (which I liked) and the tear laden parts (which I couldn’t quite involve myself).


Each chapter is titled by a philosophical quote that is repeated at some point within the chapter. Sometimes I felt it a little forced, but I liked the challenged of the author to see how he could incorporate it each time. Profanity that I felt was inserted because the author thought it should be there, not that it actually should be there. It works, but I didn’t like it. I was surprised by the back cover blurb about the book and the actual book and how it played out after the search for the girl was over. I thought the search might last longer. There is an interesting turn of events to the mystery that kept me reading. The action was pretty intense and quick. Writing could have been a little tighter in that the author used ‘she’ to begin a lot of sentences.

My Rank:

Purple Belt



Quick Kick – On Target


By Mark Greaney



Court Gentry, former CIA, now makes his way as an assassin. He’s hired by his Russian boss to kill the leader of Sudan. However, former members of his team want the president kidnapped instead. If Gentry will fall in line, all will be forgiven.

A good adventure story with a mission that goes awry, which proves to show that the title is false. Lol.

My Analysis

I enjoy a good international intrigue, spy, assassin story. This one was pretty good.

A disappointment was that Gentry spend a good portion of the book rescuing a woman. This is fine, but I thought she might show up later in the story with a relevant part. She did show up later, but was summarily dropped from the plot because the person she is supposed to help rescue is killed. I didn’t understand that. Bring her in, then let her go, then bring her in near the end…but don’t do anything else with.

I also thought it a loose string that the situation with his Russian boss was left hanging.

Good believable action with some creative ways thought up by Gentry to escape danger.

I would read Greaney again.

My rank:

Purple Belt


Blood Harvest


by Terrence Dicks



I don’t usually review science fiction and never before reviewed a Doctor Who novel. I am a huge fan of the television series. Many of the books, unfortunately, are either confusing, contain a lot of low points, or just don’t keep my interest. This one, however, was quite different in that it had a private investigator as a major character, adding a bit of mystery. So, I ask for your indulgence on this rare foray into a review of this type of book.


A private investigator in Prohibition Era Chicago is asked by Al Capone to check upon a new player in town. This persona, known as Doc (in reality a Timelord called the Doctor) has opened a new speakeasy. This is not good in a town run by mobsters who have a habit of warring with each other.

Meanwhile, Bernice Summerfield, one of the Doctor’s companions is on an alien planet once ruled by vampire overlords. Tensions are high between the villagers who are content with governmening themselves and the Lords, who seek to have dominance. When Bernice runs afoul of a strange creature in the vampire’s former lair, it appears as if the pestilence has returned from the undead. And who is the enigmatic woman who seeks to aid Bernice?

While war seems inevitable between the mobsters on Earth and between the factions in which Bernice is in the middle of, shadowy figures lurk behind the curtains of both scenes. Individuals whose intent is the destruction of the Doctor.

This is touted as a sequel to the television episode entitled State of Decay where the 4th Doctor and Romana face vampires. Added to the mix is are the scenes in gangster land Chicago. I’musually wary about sequels, but it’s not just a return to the vampire planet and there is the mystery of unnamed individuals. I found it easy to follow and a good plot to satisfy Who fans. And I am one.


The Doctor: the ‘7th’ Doctor, Scottish burr, short, Timelord, uses the moniker John Smith

Dorothy ‘Ace’ Gale McShane: the Doctor’s companion, tough, brunette, tough, likes explosives

Dekker: Private investigator, smokes, drinks

Al Capone: mobster in Chicago

Bernice ‘Benny’ Summerfield: one of the Doctor’s companions, archeologist but was expelled from university before she received credentials

Lady Romanadvoratelundar: former companion of the 4th Doctor, Timelord, long- fair-haired, high forehead

Personally, I want to name my first daughter Romanadvoratrelundar. Awesome name! This story, unlike some other Who novels have characters I like. Even the bad guys, though somewhat typical, are good. They didn’t bore me. Of course with Who books, I see the characters as they were portrayed on television.


Adequate attempt at capturing the gangsters’ voices as well as the natives of the planet. Good use of the local lingo of the time.


Sometimes Doctor Who books become too technical, as if the author wants to show off his/her science or physics knowledge. This one easy to follow, which is what I look for in not just Doctor Who books, but in other sci-fi stories. I’m not a fanatic of sci-fi and one has to really capture my interest for me to read. This one had a good blend of lightheartedness and suspenseful tension. This moved well with nothing dragging and no difficult to understand technological gab. Good use of time-period slang (pineapple for grenade, doll). The PI wears the typical trench coat and fedora. (Of course I’m not complaining because the PI in MY books wears the trench and hat.) First person POV when it’s Dekker’s scenes.

My Rank:

Blue Belt


The Burgas Affair

The Burgas Affair by Ellis Shuman 400x625

By Ellis Shuman




When a terrorist blows up a bus killing innocent people in Bulgaria, Boyko Stanchev and Ayala Navon are thrown together to help investigate the case. However, each of them have personal issues to deal with that may hamper their efforts. The problems they run into are leads that go nowhere and a people from Stanchev’s past who may be out to kill him. Will the two be able to survive long enough to solve the case?

This story is based off of a true event-the bus bombing-that occurred in 2012. Although the plot was laid out well with the important parts all there, I felt the book a tad long, especially when the two main characters are put together to run down a lead or two, then split up, then are back together for another couple leads, then split up, then…yeah, you get the picture. I also felt some of the back story was too lengthy.


Boyko Stanchev: 35, works for the Bulgarian State Agency for National Security, smokes, divorced, dark eyes

Ayala Navon: 28, Israeli Intelligence analyst, thick black hair, dark eyes, brother dead

Ivan Zhekov: commander of the Burgas District Police Directorate, stocky

Kamen Petrov: detective

There’s also a bad guy named Damian, also known as The Hunter who is the antagonist in the story. I think the characters were well developed. A lot of information regarding the two main characters including culture, family, and history. This is where the back story becomes lengthy. Interesting and the relevant points are part of the story.


Sometimes weak, especially by Ayala, but otherwise voices are pretty good.


Some profanity, but not too much.

Clean with no mistakes that I found.

Pretty decent story with some good action. The climax was good, although I didn’t quite understand the part concerning Navon and the danger she faced and why it turned out the way it did. I was a little off on that point.

The twist-a traitor-was not difficult to comprehend and, really, there is only one person it could have been.

I found it interesting that the original case, the bombing, was solve to completion…just as the real event hasn’t yet been completely resolved.

Still, a pretty good smooth story and if you like a lot of back story, this one is it.

I’ll give it the rank I chose because, for me, the extra stuff could have been trimmed, but I still enjoyed the main story.

My Rank

Green Belt


Her Final Watch

Her Final Watch (1)

By Marguerite Ashton

MA_New_photot_7b9 (1)



A stripper/escort is murdered and Lily Blanchette is on the case. With a new partner, a new pregnancy, still dealing with the death of her husband, and an exasperating mother, Lily has her hands full. Add to that an involvement with the local mob, well, Lily will have to use all her skills to survive.

But there’s more to the story. Who has secrets that would be devastating or deadly if revealed? Well, pretty much everybody.

What a complex plot. The more I read, the more complex it seemed to become. Put a mystery in the middle of a soap opera.


Lily Blanchette: police detective, widow, pregnant, black (light skinned), black hair, brown eyes, father dead

Jeremiah Mills: police detective, black, 5’2”, trying to quit smoking

Ibee Walters: Assist D.A., bleached blonde

Evan York: police detective, blue eyes, dark hair

Diamond Reese: 27, strip club manager, long wavy brown hair

Several more including Lily’s mother and the mob guys-father and son.

All pretty well developed although I thought Walters would play a bit more of a role than she did. Each had distinctive character. Jeremiah comes across as a smart aleck at the beginning, which surprised me. Because of his history, I thought he might have been a bit more reserved. He comes around, though.


Not too bad. Good give and take, back and forth. Conversations flowed well. A little heat shown. I could have used a bit more emotion in some of the dialogue at times but everybody had his/her own voice.


One mistake that I caught in passing. Spelling error but otherwise clean.

Chapters headed by date and/or time.

I thought it was a well-developed story that didn’t end quite the way I thought. I won’t play spoiler, but not all ends well and tied up in a bow.

Complexities abound but the author handled them well. A cop and mobster story and the profanity was kept in check and not overused.

I don’t know what else to say. A strong story with good action and character development. A tidy mystery with other background info to keep it interesting and moving.

So, to rank. I thought about previous stories and the enjoyment factor and decided this one rated:

Purple Belt


Beacon Hill


By Colin Campbell




Jim Grant is not having a good day. First, he rescues a kidnapped child and irritates on of Boston elite when investigating a shooting. But he is blamed for being on the scenes in the first place and proceeding in all the wrong manners. However, the shooting turns out to be more involved than Grant imagined. Bucking authority, he steps deeper into danger and discovers a scheme with international implications.

Interesting plot. I enjoyed Grant getting in deeper and in more trouble as the story goes along and him defending himself. The plot opens up more and more and the revelation is pretty astounding.


Jim Grant: British, cop

Daniel Hunt: drives a white Mercedes, wealthy

Terri Avellone: Grant’s girlfriend, pharmaceutical representative

Bill Hoyt: 35, police captain

There are a few more characters but almost none are given any physical description. Maybe one or two here and there. This made it difficult to have a mental picture of them. For the most part, I thought the characters were pretty good, each playing to his/her role.


Grant has a decent voice as does his girlfriend. Hunt is distinguishable and Hoyt does the angry captain bit pretty well. Conversations stay on track


Book is in Parts.

There is a bit of POV switching here and there and the omnipresent POV sort of works. Maybe it’s my preference to have a scene stay with a particular character. Switch on the following if desired.

Other than that, I have no problems with the story. I didn’t see any grammar/punctuation/misspelling errors. The story rolled along pretty well with no drag time. Some good actions scenes.

Some of the writing could have been tighter, but it was nothing to get too distressed over.

Basically, a decent story and the climax was worthy of some of the cool hero-defeats-villain movies.

I thought about the rank and though it’s not quite Purple, I thought it’s a very strong

Green Belt


The Legend Of Dollaretta

The Legend of Dollaretta Vol 1. Cover

By Cherry Gunzenhauser

New canvas



Vampire Demice Chevalier is still having difficulties with her aunt’s recent death. Her mother enrolls her in a convent that instructs teen vamps. In this convent, though, strange things happen. Rumors and secrets abound. Plus, there’s a story that nobody is supposed to tell-but do anyway-about a previous student long ago whose passion was dolls. It is said that death surrounded her and she is said to still be around…

Not long after Demice-call me Demi- arrives, there is a suicide…but was it really suicide. Or an accident…or something more?

So, a convent for vampires. With a tale of a previous student said to maybe still haunting the convent. Interesting.


Mariya Chevalier: married with daughter, sister dead.

Demice Chevalier: Mariya’s daughter, dark hair, plays piano

Gaby: freckles

Angelica: dark hair

Alek: Demice’s cousin, mother dead, dark hair

There are several other students and the Mother Superior type nun. With this type of book, information is scant and background information comes when it’s spoken about.

One concern I had was that at the beginning, there was a short story of the origin of vampires. Then we jump to the convent of vampire students…but after that there’s hardly any mention of their being vampires. A few rules (don’t drink any other student’s blood), but hardly any discussion or characterization of their vampiness. I thought the vampire aspect might be played up more.


Demi’s voice and the head nun’s voice come through. The other female students sound similar but that may be because they’re all teen females (Okay, okay, no emails chiding me on my stereotyping. Work with me here). But many of them are snarky and cynical.

Because of the type of book this is, there is a LOT of dialogue. A lot of explanation, repetition of concerns and issues.


Since this is a graphic novel, I’ll add in art, since that is part of what makes a cool comic book/graphic novel. The story and the artist go hand in hand. I’ve seen great art and crappy story and the other way around. The art in this book was a bit manga-ish with everybody having pointy chins and similar hair. This made it a bit difficult to distinguish some characters. When Dollaretta is featured or between chapters, the art is color, otherwise it’s black/white.


Going back a bit to the repetition of questions/issues, this made me wonder if the story was going to conclude or develop past a certain point. For instance, there a scene where some of the students go to the cemetery to find closure after one of the students dies. I thought there might be more action or some supernatural woo-woo going to happen. But during the long walk, there were questions and partial explanations, but I don’t know that it advanced the story any.

Not much action. A little eerie stuff with Demi during the nights and a brief introduction to Dollaretta.

The book ended on a minor cliffhanger and when it did I wasn’t for it. Not the cliffhanger, the ending. It was like I walked into a sudden brick wall after enjoying the stroll in the park. Whoa! That’s it?

Well, yeah, that’s it…until you pick up the next volume which will continue the story.

That was my main concern. A good intro, a bit of development and a sudden ending that left me wanting more explained/concluded before it ended.

My Rank:

Green Belt


Not Exactly Shakespeare


By Martin Freznell



So, what is this book about? Usually, I will give my take on the plot, but in this case the author does it for me…within the book.

The shortest book you’ll ever be forced to pretend to have read is a work of fiction that engages its reader with a series of seemingly unrelated chapters on a number of subjects.

That’s pretty much it. It’s 29 pages in my epub version and the author consistently tells the reader that he/she should not read it at all.

I found the ‘plot’ all over the map, dealing with politics, kitchen utensils, censorship, sex and others. The author bashes teachers and Trump.

Chapter 1 discusses censorship of words.

Chapter 2 discusses kitchen utensils and the author’s lack of them.

Chapter 3 (although no real number is given) is three sentences of author admitted filler.

Chapter 4 discusses how everything is a lie.

Chapter 4 (yes, the next chapter 4) discusses sex, drugs and touches on book reports.

Chapter 4 (yes, a third chapter 4) gets into how easy it would be to make this book into a book report.


None…except, well the author does include himself in the book so I’ll include him here.

Martin Freznell: the name is an alias, pale, 35, former teacher

Not knowing anything else about the character/author, I can’t comment except he does ramble on about stuff.


None because it’s all narrative.


Loads of profanity.

No grammar/punctuation/misspelling errors I can see.

Okay, so what do I do with a book where the reader advises me in the book to skip parts or just not read it at all? Is this serious? Is this a gimmick to get people to read the book? I don’t know.

I tried to find some humor, which there’s an attempt every so often, but, for me, I couldn’t get past the profanity. Not that I’m against profanity in books, but when it’s used so much, I tend to tune out it and almost anything else, like I do when I hear people use profanity in attempt to make what they’re saying more important.

So, I’m not sure how to judge this book because, for me, it was a bunch of rambling on topics about which he tended to exhibit his anger or frustration.

There was a lack of substance. I don’t mind a debate or cartoons about politicians. But simple Trump bashing turns me off just as it would had the author insulted Obama…without substance or something worthwhile to back up the dislike.

Lack of substance…but, maybe that’s some of the gist of the book.

How do I rank this? I guess in this case it will weigh heavy on the ‘enjoyability’ factor.

My Rank:

Yellow Belt


Costa Brava

CBfront cover

By David Kennedy




Freelance journalist Alex Scott plays house-sitter in Costa Brava for a family friend. Recently, one of the elderly housekeepers suffers a fatal accident. But was it an accident. Scott’s investigation turns up strange things. What is with a Russian buying up property in the area? What is going on in the lighthouse? What does a pretty blonde Ukranian have to do with the entire affair? Scott steps into danger and ends up fighting for his life.

For a premise, I thought it was pretty good. A murder mystery with the standard attractive woman to divert attention, some sneaky Russians, and mystery that could turn out to be one thing, but maybe again, it’s another.


Alex Scott: 30s, tall, parents dead, freelance journalist, blue eyes

Ferran Camps: small frame, works for Camps International

Dolors Ruiz: widow, housekeeper

Juan Finat: married w/children, dark wavy hair, drives a BMW

Maria: dark hair, architect

Natalya: Blonde, green eyes

A nice cast with a few others that play important roles either for the white hats or the dark hats. Most were well represented with Maria showing up near the beginning and then not until the end.


Since we’re in Costa Brava, the main language is Spanish and there’s a fair amount of it, but not overwhelming and nothing that isn’t understood. Capitalization errors on tag lines.

One issue with dialogue was that there were a lot of conversations where statements/questions/information was repeated. I didn’t mind it so much when it happened during interrogations because that’s cop-speak. But it happened a lot and it became overly repetitive. Get on with it, you’ve already given this information or answered the question before.


Punctuation errors and a misspelled word or two. The profanity in this was not heavy and, for me, almost not needed.

The main concern here is the amount of time not spent on the case. This is a murder mystery and much of the book details swimming and scuba diving and the town and the cliffs and the boats and the town and the dinner and the town. I kept wanting to get more of the mystery. In time, near the end of each section of gallivanting and sightseeing, a piece of the mystery came into the picture. This book took awhile to get going and near the middle there was a huge chunk of information dump. This might have been spread throughout or put near the end somewhere near the twist.

Once things started moving and Scott and another journalist started making and executing plans, then the tension heightened and the action was better.

My Rank:

Green Belt


The Deceived

Deceived Typeset

By E. C. Fisher




In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. When he created humans, the angel Lucifer despised what God had done. He rebelled and was tossed out of Heaven. Lucifer revolted, a war ensued, and the devil won. Lucifer wrote the Bible in order to sucker humans into worshiping him. Revelation is upon the Earth and Lucifer is planning on HIS heaven on earth.

God wasn’t completely vanquished. He was reborn into Michael and returns to Earth to put a stop to Lucifer’s plans. With a team of children and young adults, Michael sets out to regain God’s former glory.

Okay, I promise not to delve into theology or Christianity. This is a fictional story, so just go with it on that basis.

I don’t have any major problems with the plot other than how it played out but I’ll get into more problems starting with the next section.


Amendial: angel. In human form he is black, 35, bald, light brown eyes

Lucifer: angel

Michael: angel. In human form he is 23, dark brown hair, dark eyes

Ariel: angel. In human form she has olive skin, dirty blonde hair, blue eyes.

Judith Summersill: fit, dyed blonde, amber eyes, freckles, 21

There are other characters: Drew, Thomas, Bart, Mary…get the general idea? Many of the people Michael finds on his travels are named after the apostles…from a Bible that was filled with a lot of lies according to this story.

My biggest concern here is Michael. I couldn’t get a solid grasp on him. He is reborn with God’s spirit, but is still Michael, but has Jesus tendencies (which is strange because Jesus was a lie created by Lucifer). Plus, he went through character swings acting majestically in one scene and motherly in another and almost juvenile in others. His character didn’t stay consistent.


The kids all sounded alike. Michael and Lucifer had the best voices but Michael ends up speaking like the kids at times.

The dialogue tended to take away from the seriousness of the situation. After a big battle, the kids are joking around.


A LOT of run-on sentences. A lot of run on tag lines: …” Michael said and then he does a whole bunch of action before the period. This became tiresome to read.

Speaking of action there were too many instances of something causing something else. Example: She met Drew’s eyes, causing her own cheeks to turn crimson. Causing was over used and the sentences could have been written stronger.

The biggest problem is weak, overwriting. Extraneous material and detail where it’s not necessary.

Example: He hit her right cheek with his left hand.

Example: …he saw that a young boy was trying to escape from two grown men who were giving chase after him.

Example: …gesturing with his fork in one hand.

This is constant and it made for a difficult read.

Action scenes weren’t dramatic. In fact, after the first couple of battles with demons, the encounters became redundant and not exciting.

Other problems:

– Michael discovers an underground bunker that is one of many around the country where people are living after the world went chaotic after the rapture. People don’t go outside for fear of being attacked by demons. They’ve been living this way for years…yet there doesn’t seem to be a food shortage for so many people. The stockpiles must be enormous and there doesn’t seem to be any rationing. They have eggs and muffins and bacon and stew. Doesn’t seem quite plausible.

– There are rules and the military handles problems…yet when Michael heads out for his quest to find the Antichrist he takes a bunch of kids with him? Including the mayor’s daughter?(okay she’s 21, but still). With something that important I would think some capable adults would be willing and volunteering to go and fight.

– It became a bit juvenile that to defeat a demon they used water. So what better weapon than a Supersoaker?

– One of the premises is that when one dies, the soul goes to the River to be either reborn as something or someone else on Earth or the person can decide to enter Heaven. That’s fine. However, God, the creator of everything is able to…die? And then be reborn? Again, the concept doesn’t seem quite plausible.

– The ending was a bit different than I thought. Very lofty and poetic and glorious but the final battle with Lucifer was not tense enough.

No profanity. No spelling/punctuation/misspelled words. Because of that, I can’t drop it down to White. However, because of the weak writing and some of the issues I have with this I felt this deserved:

Orange Belt