Monthly Archives: May 2015

Defying Death In Hagerstown


By John Paul Carinci



Down-and-out reporter Louis Gerhani has one last shot at keeping his job: Write a story about 110 year old Lolita Croome from Hagerstown, Maryland. Even before he meets Ms. Croome, Gerhani discovers a series of unsolved murders from the early 1920s. His once boring story now has some meat…if he can stay alive long enough to write it. Once he starts asking questions, he runs up against forces determined to keep those questions unanswered.

Good plot. There’s enough of a story here to make a story, if you know what I mean. Unfortunately, the author doesn’t use it to the best advantage. I wasn’t sure what to make of this as I worked my way through it. A little mystery with an attempt at metaphysical with dreams providing clues and romantic forecasts. Some philosophical/theological/Christian themes. Themes here and there that didn’t coalesce.


Louis Gerhani: 31, Washington Gazette reporter, drinks a lot of alcohol, drives a ’10 Chevy Malibu, father dead, has a sister, brown eyes

Lolita Croome: 110 years old, worked as a teacher’s assistant, wears glasses, slightly overweight

Jennifer Croome: 83, Lolita’s daughter, married, grey hair, slim

Harold Glavin: Gazette editor, been in the newspaper biz for almost fifty years, deep voice, smokes cigars, thrice divorced

Carl: bartender, 55, 6’4”, 250 lbs, father-dead-was an alcoholic, has siblings, married with five children

Fred: barber, almost fifty, has cancer and COPD

Joel S. Krolm: police Captain, 6’3”, 280 lbs, middle 40s, long hair, round face

Josephine Cleary: 80, uses a cane, slim, widow, works at a nursing home

Some interesting and unique last names for many characters.

Gerhani was all over the map, though. At first he comes across as a noir type guy: his woman left him, his boss wants to fire him, he drinks. He’s cynical. Then he gets inspiration from a bartender and a barber. At one point he waxes philosophical and is shown heartbroken over the murders. I just couldn’t get a grasp on him.

Other characters just don’t seem believable. A doctor would not call his patient by his first name upon first meeting him. The cops are very brash with Gerhani for no apparent reason and no plausible explanation. In fact, they seem more concerned with Gerhani leaving town than the fact someone is after him. Glavin is over the top and very insulting.

Other characters are minor but have too much description. I expected them to stick around longer but within a page or two, they’re gone. No need to repeat a description of a character once given.


An egregious error in dialogue: She stood up and headed quickly back to the kitchen, calling loudly over her shoulder, “Neither of the two men was ever charged,” she yelled a little loudly as she was running back to the kitchen.

No, no, no. Two tag lines are wrong and the use of the word loudly twice is definitely wrong. And this double tag line is seen more than once.

Repetition in action on dialogue. One person ‘said with a big smile’ twice in one conversation.

Problems with repetitious words within dialogue. “Body bag” & “Hammerhead” used by multiple characters.

Some of the dialogue very weak, B-movie. Too many adverbs in tag lines. ‘Loudly’ was overused.


First person from Gerhani’s POV.

The writing could have been a lot tighter. Some extra words here and there that could have been dropped. There is a lot of repetition of words or series of words. Sometimes authors will repeat a word in the same paragraph or succeeding paragraphs. Here there is repetition that is spread out but still too close and too often noted. ‘110 year old woman’, ‘historic murders’. Many others. In one instance the main character said something ‘not caring that he disliked me’ but the author used that phrase twice in the same dialogue. One word I always catch because I monitor in my own writing is the vague sounding ‘few’. The constant repetition was enough to be irritating when I was trying to have a smooth read.

I understand how cities can feel small-townish, but when you have a population of almost 40,000 that’s not small anymore. Maybe it’s just me but I kept thinking about a town near where I was raised, Burlington, Iowa. Nobody could claim minimal crime and a homey Mayberry feel to it as Hagerstown is presented. It may be a minor point but it did strike a chord with me.

Long set up before some action starts, almost a fifth of the book and Gerhani doesn’t meet Lolita (supposedly the second main character) until about 35% of the way in. Then she doesn’t seem to add anything substantive to the mystery other than dreams. Gerhani spends too long lamenting his failed relationship at the beginning. Plus he often reminds the reader how precarious his job is. (As do other characters.) However, attacks against Gerhani are too quickly connected, without a good explanation, to the 1923 murders. Gerhani hadn’t even narrowed down the focus of the investigation when a bad guy appears and boom! it’s supposed to be related to the murders? How? Why so fast? Plus, there is a lot of extraneous material and that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere. Questions that aren’t answered: How did a character know something was wrong with Gerhani when she couldn’t see him? When did Gerhani find time to do all of his research on the town and Lolita? Why does Glavin and his secretary want an obsessive update of Gerhani and his movements when they obviously don’t care about him? Where does the bad guy obtain the poison he uses?

This was a struggle to read because I kept running into problems that ruined the enjoyment. This story stumbles and doesn’t really take off. The only redemption is that that I didn’t find misspelling, grammar, or capitalization errors. However, I think with the problems I still have to drop this from my original thought of yellow to:

Orange Belt



A Leafy Green World


By Sean Dow



His wife and daughter killed by a drunk driver and no justice to be had, bills piling up, his second employment as a doctor gone, Brent Holcomb moves to Portland, Oregon to try to find a new start on his life. Soon, however, he starts feeling a sense of being followed. He then becomes involved with a group of activists, but he realizes that these people could be very dangerous. However, he might have a few ideas.

It’s a little bit drama, a little bit thriller, with some humor laced throughout. I kept wondering if I should take this as a serious story or stick my tongue in my cheek.


Brent Holcomb: 6’2, around 220 pounds, doctor, wife and daughter killed by a drunk driver, came from a wealthy family, fluent in several languages, knows fencing, know martial arts, has a sister and brother, father a criminal, attended Tulane University where he played volleyball, sometimes smokes cigars

Robyn: black hair with a hint of red

Tony Rossi: FBI agent, a bit of 5’6”, divorced with children

Bill: barber, smoker, flat top hair, owns a Labrador, parents dead, father owned the barber sop before Bill, divorced with children

Spike: professorial looks, animal rights activist, Robyn’s former boyfriend

Some of the activist people sound like 60s and 70s beatnik/revolutionary types. With names like Che and Parkeur it harkens back to that time.

However, I never felt close to any character. There is a lot of surface material, a few descriptions, but not enough for me to have a clear image of anybody. Things and scenes happened so fast that any poignant moments slide away. As an example-and I won’t play spoiler-Bill suffers a loss. The scene moves along and although the author doesn’t gloss over the impact he doesn’t really show the effect of the death other than a moment in time.

Part of this surface material lends to the disbelieving of Brent accepting Robyn into not only his life, but his house after the first night. Yes, he’s smitten, but the swiftness of them being together was too much. Doesn’t show her moving in or where she lived before. Just too fast that everything happened.


Some of the authority voices come through and there is some cynicism from Brent.

The problem I had with the conversations was most were usually were over in a short amount of time. A little talk here and bam! move to the next scene. So there was no time for me to assess any action going on other than eating and drinking at times. There were no beats during conversations (or so few as to not matter), nobody picking up a coffee cup or puffing on a cigar. Plus, some of the dialogue was ‘told’ by the narrator, and as I mention below, telling is not a good thing to have if there is too much of it.

There is one bit of emotion seen when Brent tells off his old boss but that’s about it. However, in another scene, I’m told of Robyn’s anger instead of shown it. By doing it this way, it lessens the impact for the sake of a bit of humor.

The exception to the short conversation: Brent does do some lecturing when he’s speaking to the activists and the bad guys but these conversations run too long with no breaks.


First person from Brent’s POV for most of the book. Third person POV from other characters in a few chapters. Profanity. Relatively short chapters.

A spelling mistake or incorrect word placement here and there but not bad.

Continuity problem: Brent was driven, blindfolded, to a warehouse. However, Brent-the narrator told the reader that he was at a warehouse before Brent-the character had removed the blindfold.

This problems stems from the fact there is a lot of ‘telling’ in this book. And not just telling, but telling as from a long time in the future looking way back in the past. The old adage ‘show, don’t tell’ could have been used here. By not showing, I missed extensive reactions from characters. Sure Robyn paled at one point. Okay, but then there was more telling of how the situation was resolved.

By telling, I missed the sensory descriptions of people and places.

Ditto with any action happening. Not enough reaction, of slowing down time to bring me into the moment.

I realize that most of this plot is improbable, but went with it anyhow. However, some realism has to occur. For instance, when a character gets shot, Brent makes up a story about how it happened. However, there would be NO circumstance involving a shooting where the police would NOT be called in.

Some interesting use of words and similes and phrasing. The author exhibits some humorous wit: “There’s a place for all God’s creatures, right next to the potatoes and gravy.”

However, because I sailed through this book with no true reader involvement or excitement, and disappointed with no real climactic danger filled scene, I think I’m going to have to give this a ranking of:

Camouflage Belt


Murder At Cirey

Murder at Cirey_Cheryl Sawyer_Cover and text

By Cheryl Sawyer

Cheryl Sawyer_authpic

NOTE: Before I proceed with the review I wish to compliment Ms. Hingley on her email request. It was one of the main reasons I chose to accept this book for review. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, I hesitate when it comes to historical mysteries even if they include real people. However, the email that introduced Ms. Sawyer and her book to me was a fine example of how, I think, request letters should be written. It made a fine attempt at connecting with the reviewer and gave a bit of her writing history, then gave an extended back cover blurb about the book. It also gave me a link to her website. So often I see a short one or two sentence email with the casualness of, “Hey, would you want to read and review my book?” No intro, no blurb, and the author makes me do research into what the book looks like and what it’s about. Most emails will have a link but no more. I appreciate the thoroughness put into Ms. Hingley’s request.



1735. The Champagne area of France. Where Victor Constant, military policeman, has been stationed. Where one day, the writer, Voltaire, finds the corpse of a murdered man. Who was a secretary of a nobleman and general. Constant begins his investigation and immediately runs into questions. How did the man arrive in the Cirey woods only to be murdered? Why was he there in the first place? And of course, the biggest question – who killed him? Constant’s investigations lead him to discover more to the murdered man’s life than at first suspected.

Of course it’s your standard murder mystery but authors must find a freshness to the old standards and this time it’s in the form of 18th Century France. And not just the time and place but to bring in actual people is a plus.


Victor Constant: military policeman with the title Cavalier, large frame, deep voice, grew up in Paris, cobalt eyes, has a sister, father committed suicide, mother dead

Francois-Marie Arouet De Voltaire: 41, writer, formerly in prison, brown eyes, short dark hair, wealthy

Albert Poirier; average height, solid frame, gamekeeper

Louis Tranchet de Sandre: magistrate, light eyes, fifties, lean, married with two sons

Gabrielle-Emilie Du Chatalet: late 20s, Voltaire’s lover, married, has children, plays the harpsichord, husband a soldier

Christine Verrat: fair hair, slender, father is a draper, plays the harp

Beauregard: ranked a Lieutenant, thin, pointy head, small ears

Olivier Frenot de Caradoc: A Prevot-General

Not too much physical descriptions of some of the character, but some of them I could imagine just by their title and bearing. A nice mixture of characters both military and civilian, even religious.


Voices come through really well, especially Voltaire’s. A little high brow mixed with intelligence and his wonderful use of words. Again, sometimes characters can be rounded out by their dialogue so I’ll let it pass without too much of a black mark on the lack of physical descriptions because of the conversations and voices. At least for me, I could picture every character.


Each chapter is a day. Some unnecessary profanity.

One misspelling of a name.

One of the things that does make historical mysteries enjoyable is the science of the times and how it can be used to solve a crime. In this book, there is an early form of a ballistics test.

The author presented 18th Century France pretty well. The action was what I expected. Constant did a lot of running around from town to town but I don’t think the story dragged.

I was a bit disappointed that Voltaire didn’t play a larger role. At one point he was almost upstaged by his lover in the detecting. I thought maybe Voltaire might play a Watson role to Constant or at least a pesky sidekick.

On the whole, a very well written book and a good murder mystery.

My Rank:

Purple Belt


35 Dog Training Mistakes


By James Goodman


Once again I take a rare occasion to review a book outside my usually preferred genres. Please don’t get the idea that I’m going to always take these types of books, but I don’t think it hurts to venture outside the box, as it were. I only take those outside my preferences if they intrigue me or strike my fancy. This one happened to do so. (Hint: Books with animals always get a second look even if they may not get reviewed.)


This is a list of 35 mistakes people make when training their dogs. Some of these include: giving in to bad behavior, repeating a command, inconsistent training by different family members, underestimating exercise needs, incorrect punishment, feeding certain human food to dogs. Then the author gives alternatives to the mistakes.

Some of these are common sense, but some I hadn’t realized. For instance, I never thought that bacon might be bad for your dog. Another is the ‘alpha roll’ to show dominance. I hadn’t realized doing this might not be beneficial of a healthy relationship with the dog.


No characters, per se, unless the general ‘you’ is counted. You as in the reader and dog owner/trainer. Of course ‘you’ aren’t described other than the above mistakes ‘you’ might make. However, the author doesn’t demean ‘you’, but explains in a no-nonsense way about dog training.


Again, no dialogue other than commands that might be said to the dog. One amusing bit was in the section on consistent training among family members where one person might say “Sit.” and another person might say, “Please have a seat.” The dog might be confused with this.


Author offers a free gift for purchasing the book – games you can play with your dog.

Short read. Titled short chapters. Each chapter is ended by a summary.

In the epub version I read there were constant spelling problems with words with double l’s. ‘Will’, ‘allow’, ‘eventually’. The second ‘l’ was missing in almost all instances. I didn’t see it in the pdf file, so I’m going to assume the mistake was only in the epub.

One incorrect word – ‘loose’ should have been ‘lose’.

With a book as short as this, pictures would add to the enjoyment rather than just having a ‘lecture’ type book.

This is a good book for first time dog owners or those who want to be serious about training dogs.

My Rank:

Green Belt