Monthly Archives: September 2014

Aloha Kahuna Soul

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By Rick Pruett


The time is mid1980s. After surviving a shark attack while surfing, Alika Kealoha feels he needs to seek out his destiny. Guided by a Kahuna, he begins his quest for knowledge about his father, who was a Rainbow Warrior, a respected and revered status of the Hawaiian culture. He also starts investigating his father’s suspicious disappearance and assumed death. The deeper he gets, the more the danger grows.

This is a mystery in Hawaii with a bit of a different kick to it. A little spiritual journey, a little murder mystery. Good one to get into.


Alika Kealoha: 28, 6’2”, 200 pounds, surfer, mother-dead-was Cuban and a night club dancer, father-disappeared and assumed dead-from Hawaiian stock and former Merchant Marine, took dance and martial arts, plays bongos, smokes marijuana at times, attended the University of Hawaii, was in track and field in high school

Spicy Mike: musician, smokes marijuana, of mixed race heritage

Robert ‘Baby Rambo’ Lopez: built like Stallone but only 5’6”, mom is Filipino, dad Hawaiian, surfer

Kilani: nurse, attractive, took ballet and jazz dancing, of mixed race heritage

Pilipo: childhood friend of Alika’s father

Johnny Kaleiakini: teacher at U. of H., drummer, specializes in ethnomusicology

A lot of detail about Alika and his family. Just enough about the friends and minor characters to get a decent mental image. I wondered, though, what Alika did for employment. Songwriter and playing gigs are mentioned but while he plays at a nightclub, his employment isn’t featured.


Except for the mystic Kahuna, everybody sounds the same when they talk the local slang. I’m not putting down the culture because if you ever hear it, the speech is wonderful to listen to. But with all of the locals, all of Alika’s friends speaking it, the dialogue runs together and the characters all sound alike. The bad guy who attacked Alika in the bathroom, his dialogue was not tight enough. Too explanatory and not fitting the character.


First person from Alika’s POV. Some capitalization errors at the beginning of dialogue. Some punctuation problems. (I was later told that these and the typos had been corrected for the published version.) Very little profanity. A lot of passive voice that could been rewritten to bring the reader in closer to the character.

This is not a big thing and I don’t necessarily count off but this book has short chapters and I was a bit thrown when many of the chapters ended so abruptly. There wasn’t any end of scene or even a scene change. I didn’t understand the reason why some chapters ended at the point they did. One chapter ended and another picked up where the last left off. As I said, I’m not lowering my rank because of this, it just was a little jolting to be sailing (or surfing, lol) along and bam! the chapter ends.

A lot of very nice details about Hawaiian culture. Street scenes, nightclubs, tourism, etc.

Alika is not your typical detective. He’s a free spirit kind of guy, likes the music and the girls but finding the truth about his father helps him find himself.

My Rank:

Camouflage Belt



Ring Of Conscience

Ring new cover small

By James Stoddah

james bw


When Jason Chadwick, one of the developers of he World Wide Web dies, his assistant doesn’t think it is suicide. When she’s almost killed by an assailant, she connects the attack to Jason and wants the police to re-investigate his death. While she tries to discover who Jason was through his journals, police investigators Thomas Riley and Lucy Bridges tackle the problem from another angle. Along with his lawyer, Chadwick had set up an online treasure hunt and anybody who could figure out the clues might receive his wealth. Of course, with treasure hunts, there is always someone who doesn’t want to play by the rules.

A fun little mystery where the reader can play along. The website listed is real. Follow the clues and see if you can outwit the police and Amy. I’m always up for a puzzle story.


Amy Pearce: works in Internet communications,

Arnold Pearce: 6’7”, 230 pounds, athletic, lawyer

Thomas Riley: Detective Inspector, Lucy’s partner, slim, dark eyes,

Lucy Bridges: Detective Sergeant, caramel colored hair, mole on her cheek,

Frank Duffy: solicitor, father was a lawyer,

Beverley Johnson: former Las Vegas mayor, powerful personality

Not a lot of description for the characters so I didn’t get a mental picture of them. There is some depth but not a lot. This isn’t a character driven story but I would have like to have seen a bit more substance. Plus, the two cops aren’t very cop-ish. They succumb pretty easily to the bad guy without a plan to subdue him and take control. At one point, Lucy sits with the bad guy on the sofa. I would have thought she’d stay away from the baddie with a gun. I expected more from Amy since she was the closest to Jason. I also thought Frank’s role in the story was minimally effectual even though he’s featured as a strong secondary character. I won’t play spoiler but he doesn’t add anything that somebody else on the trail couldn’t have discovered.


Conversations stay on point but no real distinct voices. The baddie with the cops isn’t menacing enough with his words. “I have no patience with either of you now.” As if the cops are recalcitrant children. Uses some cliché lines.


Some profanity. Tense problems in some sentences. This is all about the puzzle so the story stays with that a lot. However, this is not like a treasure hunt where people are traveling around the world discovering clues, or digging up stuff. The puzzle may take some research and some thinking but it remains centered on the Internet and the pages that Jason (and the author) have set up. The problem with this is there is little action because everybody stays in the same place. Readers are encouraged to play along. Once you get to a new page, stop reading and try to figure out the clues to the next page. Now, I don’t want to play spoiler but I will tell you this: it’s more than just looking at the words or the picture. The cops use some Photoshop software to help them, but for the most part, with some clicking and thinking, the puzzle is revealed. If you get stuck, just keep reading and when the cops figure something out, try again. The writing could, in general be tightened, there is a lot of passive voice so any action lacks tension.

My Rank:

Green Belt


Food Run

Food Run Cover Image (Final)

By Cindy Santos

Cindy Santos Professional Picture


An unemployed Latino grocery shops, trying to time her checkout with the store’s closing. She remembers her youth and another grocery store she enjoyed. She worries about feeding her children but at the checkout encounters a situation that makes her rethink her life.

Not much I can add here. It’s a short story and that’s basically it.


Main Character: Latino, no car, unemployed, has two brothers, divorced with children, attended Stanford

No name for the character but there is a lot of information for a short story. The people she meets aren’t very nice but I think there is enough to get a flavor of the attitude of the story.


Nothing special. The man in line speaks the most but his speech, I think, is the most important in the story.


First person from () POV. Present tense. Short story. I was expecting some mystery, drama, some action, but there was nothing like that. A lot of reflection on the old grocery store and life which is contrasted with the current life and present day store. The story makes you think a bit. I thought the listing of food items was a bit distracting. It’s a quick read with a nice message and revelation at the end.

My Rank:

Purple Belt


Cold Hearted

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By Naghilia Desravines


Cael Darcic awakens from a coma to discover she has partial amnesia and she’s pregnant. Soon after, she learns the father of the baby, her boyfriend Michael was killed on the same night that she suffered the injury which lead to her coma. Putting the pieces of her life back in order, she discovers some distressing things about Michael. At the same time, a long time friend expresses his feelings. As more memories fall into place they reveal that she may not be able to trust those who claim to care for her.

You’ve seen it before but amnesia stories are always interesting because you’re pushed along to see when the big surprise will happen, when the final piece clicks into place.


Cael Darcic: 27, black, pregnant, has two sisters and two brothers, at the beginning of the story she suffers from partial amnesia, long curly black hair, before the incident she worked as an airline PR manager and had enrolled at university,

Amanda Erikson: blonde, petite frame, bohemian in nature, has a boyfriend,

Christopher Bush: short, muscular, close-cropped blonde hair, one green and one blue eye, smokes

Shen Chan: Cael’s dead boyfriend’s father, Chinese, Catholic, painter

Li Juan Chan: Shen’s wife

A nice variety of characters but not too much depth. I would have liked to have seen more play from Amanda since she was Cael’s closest friend. Other characters needed some more physical description because I felt as if they were skimmed over and didn’t get close to them.


No real distinct voices. The characters didn’t all sound the same, but other than some obvious female reactions, I didn’t see separate voices.


Some profanity. One POV shift in a chapter. Some ‘ly’ and ‘ing’ problems that could have been tighter. Otherwise, fairly solid writing. No real tension until the end but I was a bit disappointed when the story portended a climax but then fizzled. There’s a set up for a sequel, but it could have been stronger. It’s a quick read and I think it could have had more suspense, more danger throughout.

My Rank:

Green Belt


Bodies-Staged Fright

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By Sameer Ketkar

sameer headshot


A chemistry teacher is found dead inside the wall of an Atlanta hotel. Because of the condition of the body, the CDC is called in. The team, headed by Tigh and Larkin Callahan start investigating the incident. Enter into the picture Homeland Security Agent Corban Banks. The trio with their CDC team discover a link with bio-terrorists. But how much more could explode when the both Callahans discover their mutual attraction for Banks?

Okay, good premise in that we have a mystery with some widespread danger. Then there’s the bisexual angle. Plus, the Callahan children are involved in their own little dramas. This one is a little off the wall, maybe more than a little.


Tigh Callahan: co-head of the CDC’s Crisis Response Team, three children, tall, brown hair, a bit pudgy, owns a dog, drives a Lexus hybrid SUV

Larkin Callahan: Tigh’s wife, co-head of the CDC CRT, blonde, short, pretty, wears glasses, drives a Porsche, came from wealth

Corban Banks: Homeland Security Agent in the Bioterror Task Force, salt and pepper hair, hazel eyes, tall, drives a Dodge Charger, former homicide investigator

Amanda Romanclef: actress, attractive

Eddie B.: Amanda’s agent, short, bald, Jewish

Cornelius ‘Neil’ Callahan: 14, the non-genius of the family, likes to write stories, loves football, attends a school for geniuses

A wide variety of of characters, none of whom, I think, is the protagonist. Tigh, Larkin, Corban, and somewhat Neil, all seem to get a good share of attention. Maybe not so much with Corban. A lot of minor characters all with nice descriptions and personalities.

My problem is with Tigh and Larkin. I just don’t ‘get’ them. They’re serious about their work but their, uh, proclivities are just so off the wall I truly don’t know what to make of them. I’m not against the whole bisexual angle and maybe this is just to give the story a bit of comedy relief but some of the serious overtones are missed. You have two parents and three kids, but Dad’s playing video games with Neil is the only closeness seen. Mother and father don’t seem to care about the other kids’ school work, the son’s gangster attitude or loud music or notice that the daughter is into drugs. And the last scene before the epilogue really blew my mind in their apathy about how their behavior could affect the children. I’m not a moral prude here, but let’s get a little real.


Neil’s brother, in his gangster, laid back mode has the best voice. Sometimes Tigh is a little juvenile. The students seem to have good voices. Short novel so the conversations don’t wander.


Prologue and some scenes done in first person from the Neil Callahan’s POV, the rest in third person (but as narrated by Neil with first person references). Profanity, some of it unnecessary. Incorrect tag lines in places. Several instances of incomplete sentences that refer to and sometimes complete the previous sentence. This is okay but at times it doesn’t work and is jarring. Sexual scenes but not overly graphic.

I mentioned the characters of Neil’s siblings-sister sells weed and brother is into music-and I don’t know how focusing on these moved the story along. I would have liked to have seen more concentration on the mystery. This is the first of a series, so maybe the children’s activities will lead to something. There was a lot of good science and medical knowledge. The technology was skimmed over.

Normally, I have a fair idea on my rankings about stories, but here I had to think awhile. I didn’t see too many mistakes other than those mentioned. I guess, in this instance I fall back to looking at the whole of the book with everything taken into account. This is what I usually do, but here I think it’s plays an especially major part in my decision. I’m going with my gut because I think the series has potential if the author can get by some of the potholes.

My rank:

Green Belt