Monthly Archives: August 2014

The Dargan Prophecy


By John Paul O’Prey



When the Duggan brothers, Terry and Tom, discover an ancient archaelogical site on their neighbor’s land while searching for their dog, the community sinks into controversy and murder. First, there is a member of a Druid sect who is found murdered at the site days later. Then the discovery is made that the woman was pregnant at the time of death. The owner of the land, Joe Beatty, is investigated for several sexual assaults, and several people, including the Duggans are witnesses to unexplained phenomena.

This is a complex soap opera-ish type of story with a bit of the weird thrown in. However, the strange aspects-the prophecy-was hard to follow and understand.


Lucy Feeney: Druid, has two brothers

Dominic Phelan: 51, bishop, has a brother

Terry Duggan: owns a dog, separated from wife

Tom Duggan: married, Terry’s brother, smokes, first wife dead, has a child that is not his own

Joe Beatty: coach, married, has a son

Lorcan Delargy: archaeologist, doctorate, wears glasses

Neasa Lafferty: 60ish, freckled, olive green eyes, graying brunette, psychic, married

Barry McLaughlin: archaeologist

A lot of decent characters but no detailed physical descriptions for most, so it was hard to get a mental image of them.


I think there are some good voices here. Conversations stay on track, but they pretty much had to with the length of the chapters and the quick scene changes and time changes. Some of the dialogue, particularly with the police, seemed a bit forced, a bit unnatural. Not that a cop would say these things, just the manner, the phraseology, was off. Heated conversations are on the verge of being formalized. There’s anger but veiled, held in check.


Short chapters. A bit of profanity. Tense changed from past in one chapter to present in the next chapter for no apparent reason, then back to past in the following chapter. I found it difficult to judge passage of time. For instance, in one chapter, Lucy has been persuaded to stay around for three days to see if she can’t be talk out of her involvement in her religion and two chapters later, it sounds as if she left the religious group. But there is no discernible time element.

Some tense problems in a few sentences including dialogue. Example: “If I confronted her directly I feared she may never tell and just leave me.” This should have read “…I feared she might never have told me.”, since the woman being discussed is dead and the person is saying what might have happened.

The story is a bit difficult to follow and I’m not sure whether it’s the vagueness of the characters, the dialogue or the way it’s written throughout. I found myself going back and re-reading from the beginning of the chapter, then catching up to where a particular character left off from the last time he/she was highlighted.

Tension is very low. I would have thought the discovery of the corpse would have been played up a bit more. Little and subdued action.

My Rank:

Camouflage Belt



The South Hills Conspiracy


By L. Anthony

Lance Web


2008 – Philosophy professor David Trutanich has disappeared and Andrew Powell, former police officer, who only wants to be retired, is persuaded to look into the matter. Rumor has it Trutanich discovered a terrorist plot using student loans. Or maybe Samantha Collier, the professor’s fiance of many years is involved. Not too far into his case, he meets up with an attractive ex U.S. Marshall, Stacie Regent. Meanwhile, Andrew’s son, an undercover officer, is in the middle of an investigation of a student of David’s…and what he discovers hits close to home.

Much of this plot is set in the past. Scenes involving David, Samantha, Andrew, and his son, Jesse, show how events lead up to the present day 2008. I don’t mind the premise, but the more got into it, I discovered I couldn’t quite get into it.


Andrew Powell: widower, former LAPD Captain, former Chief of South Hills PD, former commandant of the South Hills Academy, 6’3”, 200 pounds, former military, has a sister, drives a motorcycle

Jesse James Powell: Andrew’s son, dropped out of West Point, attended South Hills Academy, tattooed,

Stacie Regent: 44, formerly with the U.S. Marshall Service, had breast cancer, tall, brunette, full lips

Samantha Janie Collier: 24, attends Oxford, athletic figure, red hair, attended USC, 5’10 ½”, plays pro volleyball, has a B.A. and a B.S., drives a red 1970 Nova SS, has a brother, dad makes soap

David Alexander Trutanich: 6′, holds a doctorate, curly dark brown hair, wears glasses, attended USC, runner, teaches philosophy, vegetarian, ancestry is German and American Indian, dad is a history professor, mom is a tutor

I’m giving character profiles as listed when I read them, not necessarily how they are in the beginning of the story or how they might have changed throughout the years.

Arthur Stratford: attorney, portly, bald, white beard

Average characters. I didn’t find myself caring about any of them. They weren’t interesting. No depth that I could grasp and empathize with.


The only voice I distinguished was Samantha’s mother. Everybody else sounded similar. Conversations weren’t exciting, didn’t spark anything. One conversation, later in the story between Jesse and his father that revealed a very important discovery had Andrew reacting as if he’d just been told the car wouldn’t be fixed until next Thursday.


Fairly lengthy chapters headed by date, location and a quote. Scene changes are noted by location. A few misspelled words. In one of my books, I do a THEN and NOW type of story, so I’m familiar with going into the past to work up to the future. However, as I mentioned before I just couldn’t keep hold. I didn’t see where a lot of the scenes moved the story along. The past scenes showed the character changes up to 2008, but I just couldn’t quite settle in. Maybe it was the lack of action or real tension. The places where action could have been skipped over the potential danger. Even some of the conflict between Samantha and her mother didn’t have much bite. The story ran slow. Didn’t drag, just didn’t have much momentum.

My rank:

Camouflage belt  


Akhmed And The Atomic Matzo Balls

Akhmed Front Cover Only - High Res


By Gary Buslik

Gary with Cigar


What do to the leaders of Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba, a liberal professor, his soon-to-be wedded daughter, Gilligan’s Island, a bunch of mutated termites, and, of course matzo balls all have in common? They’re part of a weird plot in Buslik’s latest book. Iranian president Akhmed discovers that matzo balls can be infused with radiation and detonated. So he plans to bring them to south Florida, distribute them, and kill a bunch of people, thereby disrupting the American economy. However, there are problems. The Venezuela president would rather be a vitamin salesman; a Chicago professor is trying to get handle on discovering he has a daughter; said daughter has problems with…just about everybody; and there are a bunch of pork hungry termites on the rampage.

A wild and deviously conceived plot full of possibilities and angles. This is not your typical spy thriller or murder mystery, or political intrigue. This is…different.


Akhmed: Iranian President, used to own a cockatiel

Hazeem: Akhmed’s assistant, interpreter

Leslie Fenwich: thick red hair with gray streaks, wears reading glasses, head of Depewe University’s English Department, speaks with a faux British accent, thin, likes to use big words, atheist, divorced, smokes

Diane Weinberg: 40s, Leslie’s former student and lover, attended Depewe, wide hips, has an M.A.

Karma Weinberg: 27, Diane’s daughter, red hair, has a fiance, used to be a vegan and totally ‘green’, now a conservative, owns a Mercedes SUV

Henri Charbonnay: Haiti’s commerce minister

Alex Gleason: chapter head of the British West Indies Benevolence Club

A nice array of characters, but everybody’s a doofus. Karma, with her constant spew of profanity and insults, is just annoying, while the leaders of the countries involved are sometimes too over-the-top.


Everybody, even the foreigners sounded American and sometimes juvenile Americans. I don’t mind Leslie using large complex words but when the leaders or other nations and/or their assistants start using them, or the narrator attributes these words to their thoughts, it becomes a bit distracting. One section has a letter from Leslie to Cuba’s president that runs for almost three pages. Half way through I wanted to skip to the point of the letter because it ran on and on. Some of the conversations run along the same line. Leslie sometimes can’t get to the crux of the conversation because he’s too busy searching for the correct word nobody ever uses, and I think makes up words as he goes along.


Book separated into Parts. Lengthy chapters. Each scene break is indicated with a black termite. Profanity. The author must have had a dictionary and thesaurus nearby because this is a story with an explosion of words. A plethora of adjectives and large, luxurious words that would not normally be found in 99.99% of conversations, thought patterns, or narration. While I don’t mind a little flair and extravagance, sometimes, it was a bit overwhelming. Humor is fine in books and I enjoy it and use it in my books, but it must be parsed accordingly. Too much and the reader loses focus. A lot of this over the top, which is what I believe is the intent, but sometimes (as in the case of over 90 ‘si’s in a row-Spanish for yes, in this case when a character meets an attractive woman, and yes, I did count them) it’s too much. Sometimes less is more.

I will say the descriptions of things and people are wonderful and unique The creative juices flowed in this area.

I thought a long time before deciding on a rank. The too much in-your-face attempts at humor were too much. There needed to be a straight man character or two to offset the loony-ness or eccentricities of everybody else. However, as I mentioned descriptions and similes and the use of words were very enjoyable. They made me think about my own writing and how I can manipulate words, try something new.

So, with material on both sides of the scale, I decided on:

Purple Belt




By Theresa Odom-Surgick



Myra Vandelyn has died. Niece Rachel, nephew Devin, their cousin Delia and a few others are set to inherit. However, family secrets can’t stay hidden. Lurking in the shadows is another with a vendetta against Devin for the crimes he’s committed. Plus, let’s not forget about budding romance.

It’s a good soap opera type story with Christian overtones.


Devin Vandelyn: parents abandoned him and his sister as children, alcoholic, drives a gray Buick Century

Rachel Vandelyn: Devin’s sister, religious

Michael Stern: sister-dead-was affianced to Devin, cigar smoker, owns a restaurant and a limousine

Jovan Wilkins: attorney, father-a former lawyer-suffers Alzheimer’s, runs his own small firm

Trevor Danison: private investigator, 5’10”, blond, handsome, religious

Delia Vandelyn: singer, Devin’s cousin

George Vandelyn: Delia’s great-uncle, mentally challenged, cook

A good variety of characters. They felt soap opera-ish which isn’t necessarily bad, but I didn’t get mental images because there were almost no physical descriptions. ‘Handsome’, ‘attractive’, and ‘beautiful’ are too vague.


Devin talks aloud to himself. It’s okay, but a bit unnatural. Tag line problem: Incorrect to start a piece of dialogue with a tag line, then later within the same piece of dialogue, end with a tag line. Example: Defeated he said, “It’s not here. Where is it? I bet Rachel must have hidden it somewhere. I’ll check her room. That has to be where it is,” he said… Use one tag line, not two. Otherwise, except for one particular character’s, voices weren’t very distinct. Not that they all sounded the same although a few used similar phrasing. A few characters sounded too formal or the conversations just didn’t seem natural to the situation.


Titled chapters. POV shifts within chapters. Shift in tenses in a few sentences. Punctuation problems here and there. Some overuse of ‘ly’ words. No profanity. Religious aspects throughout. No real action, no surprises.

My rank:

Camouflage Belt