Monthly Archives: April 2016

The Siege


By James Hanna



An Indiana penitentiary is the scene for a riot and hostage taking by a group of prisoners. What is their goal? Tom Hemmings, counselor, must enter the danger zone and negotiate terms before more people are killed.

This is billed as a psychological thriller, but I found the ‘thriller’ part a bit lacking in strength.


Chester Mahoney: portly, child molester, 70s, prisoner, attended Southern Baptist College, Masters in Divinity, bearded, former farmer, pipe smoker, wife dead

Henry Yoakum: prison guard

Tom Hemmings: prison counselor, fine-boned, former army, 52, drives a VW Rabbit

Sarah Baumgardner: works at the prison, blonde, has children

There are a few others in the cast. The author does a good job of relating the lives and thoughts of the characters, Chester, especially. Much of the story is between Chester and Tom. The problem I had was that although the story was from Tom’s POV, I never felt very close to him. Yes, he has emotions, but most of what I see is clinical thinking. I think the story lacked significant character development. Yes, people change, but not so I felt very excited or satisfied about it.


A couple of characters sound very similar and that bothered me, because one is a prisoner and the other is a guard. Shady guard, and maybe that’s why the author made him and the prisoner sound alike. Some voices come through. Conversations, while not long, do tend to go on for a bit.


Profanity. Sex scenes, though not too graphic. Book is composed of Parts, each of which is headed by a quotation. Sections within the parts are headed by date and time.

As mentioned above, I didn’t see much suspenseful thriller, especially in the first major chunk of the book, which is mostly flashbacks. I kept wanting to advance the story but was constantly thrown back in time. I don’t know if this worked for me, at least as to the tension building. As the book moved through the hours of the situation, I wanted to go back to the prison to have some more action, but it settled on a relationship between Tom and Sarah.

There wasn’t much tension. Yes, there was a hostage situation, but right at the beginning it is mentioned how it ended. That blows the suspense part. Yes, there are deaths, but they are not shown with any emotion. There’s hardly any emotion at the climactic scene and it drops off to a lengthy aftermath and most everything goes back to a status quo.

I will say this: the writing is solid. I didn’t see any errors and it is obvious the author put in some time to write a complete story.

My Rank:

Camouflage Belt



Night Things

Night Things Kindle cover

By Terry M. West

Terry M West


Imagine a world where vampires roam the streets. Where zombies can be cops. Where Frankenstein’s monster is a mobster named Johnny Stucke. Where Dracula is gathering an army to wipe out all humans. That’s the premise of Night Things. Where monsters roam and war is about to begin.

This is definitely NOT a Kim Harrison parallel. This is something a bit different. There’s some humor, some graphic gore, a bit of sex, and a weird story all around.


Johnny Stucke: mobster, Frankenstein’s monster, smokes cigars

Gary Hack: drug addict, adult film director, bald, trimmed beard, has a daughter, divorced, overweight

Glass: black, muscular, works for Stucke

Zuzanna: Polish, adult film star, succubus

Dracula: uh, he’s Dracula, what else do you need to know?


Conversations don’t linger on. Scenes are fairly short. Some voices come through.



The author throws in a lot of ‘traditional’ monster stuff. Garlic and silver and spells and burning of zombies. It’s a short book, fast read. There was room to expand a bit more on the lore and the current situation. Basically, Dracula recruits the monster and there are flashbacks to their falling out. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of the present day life. Maybe throw in some other humans unrelated to the main characters or with tenuous connections. Maybe a side plot. There was a lot to take in and though it was easy to follow, I was enjoying the concept. Maybe if the author continues with a series, he can explore the monster life. But for now, I took a chance and wasn’t disappointed.

My rank:

Green Belt


The ISIS Lone Wolf Trigger

isis lone wolf trigger 500 w for posting

By Nik Venture

nik venture


Okay, so there’s a journalist who’s trying to write a feature on a controversial evangelist who in turn is messing around in DNA manipulation. There’s a Muslim terrorist trying to blow up a plane. There’s a bunch of bad guys interested in firing a powerful laser to start a war and blame everything on Iran. A group of CIA good guys trying to figure out everything. And there’s a kidnapped girl and some bits about a liquid natural gas plant.

I think I covered most of it. This started out with some intriguing stuff but after awhile, I lost the connection. It wasn’t until half way through the book that the liquid natural gas plant was introduced and then it wasn’t seen again until the end of the book for a brief scene. The side plot with the kidnapped girl sort of flattened.


Jack Kant: journalist

Angela Bow: documentary researcher, has a sister, attended Rutgers

Ziad Berry: attended MIT

Carolyn James: CIA analyst

John Banger: Married, 6’3”, married with children

David Deacons: married, balding, glasses, overweight

So, Angela’s only role was to play sidekick to Jack and be the one who helps increase the danger. There’s the evangelist, Flint, who shows up, gives Jack and Angela and ride to his house, then disappears only to show up when everybody is kidnapped by the bad guys. Banger was seen but never did anything. There’s a guy named Cranach who is the bad guy. James never leaves her office and really doesn’t do a whole lot. Ziad was a wishy-washy terrorist wannabe whose career ended embarrassingly.

Basically, these were surface characters with barely any physical descriptions.


Here is where my connection to the book was lost. I tired of reading long, long, long speeches and sermon-like dialogues and explanations from these characters.

There is a major problem with internal dialogue that kept switching to present tense. There was a lot of this and I couldn’t understand why there was so much of it. Either have the characters think something in present tense and then let the narrator show us the subsequent thoughts. But these internal sentences in present tense kept going.



Misspelled words and missed quotes. At least one capitalization error.

I think the major problems are with the jumpy abrupt side plots and the dialogue. I’ve discussed the dialogue but let me go a bit deeper into the plot. As mentioned, I didn’t understand the introduction of the LNG plant halfway into the story and then not going back to it until briefly at the end. Especially with the long explanations in that into scene. The girl being kidnapped faltered because Angela should have been more worried. Then at the end, after the girl had been in an accident was never shown rescued and it was two weeks later before Angela and Jack saw the girl. That doesn’t make sense. It was sort of left up in the air what was going on with Flint and the business with DNA manipulation didn’t work for me.

I kept trying to grab onto something solid and was left with grasping clouds that somewhat connected to another cloud. Then I was left with trying to come up with a rank. Green dropped to Camo which dropped another rank. With everything put together, I have to go with:

Orange Belt




By Cody Schlegel



Nick Harmen arrives back in Junction, Iowa, after a narcotics run to find his buddy Joey has been discovered dead. Who killed Joey? What is Nick going to about his narcotics business? What is he going to do about his live-in girlfriend and daughter? Adam Craig is a cop suffering from PTSD. How is he to cope with the future?

This isn’t so much a whodunit, as it is a look into different lives of the cast. It runs a bit like a soap opera.


Nick Harmen: 29, pot dealer, drives a Dodge Ram, father dead

Ryan Harmen: 23, Nick’s cousin, pot dealer

Zack Harmen: 30, Nick’s cousin

Will Craig: married, deputy, 56, black, played football in college

Adam Craig: Will’s son, former military, cop

Bruce Harmen: Nick’s brother, drives a Chevy Silverado

Tori: dirty blonde hair, has daughter

Rick Hensley: county sheriff, 6′, 51, slender, former Marine

A lot of characters and I think a fair amount of detail so you know each one. Most everybody, unfortunately, is a bad guy or is into committing some type of crime. Even some of the bit players aren’t straight.


Pretty surface stuff. No long conversations and just a bit of character development with the dialogue.


Here where I have the problems. There’s some profanity and racial slurs but no big deal on these.

What I had trouble with was following the story because there were abrupt scene changes with no scene breaks. This is where the soap opera feel came about. The story jumped from scene to scene and character to character. The author over used the word ‘meanwhile’ and ‘back in’ as in Back in town or back at this person’s house. After awhile, every time I ran across these words, I couldn’t help but hear that deep voiced guy from the Superfriends cartoons – “Meanwhile…back at headquarters!”

Most of the story was ‘telling’ instead of showing. Rarely did we get very close to emotions or internal thoughts. The narrator stayed distant and omnipresent. I didn’t feel close to any of the characters.

I didn’t understand Adam’s role in the story other than to make an extended book, to have a side story going on. There were tenuous connections to the main plot, but his PTSD problem was never shown to be resolved.

I don’t know whether it was the formatting of the specific file I have or if it’s common amongst others, but in several cases there were XXXXs or ****s to denote years, locations of towns near Junction, and in one case the name of a hospital. If it’s my formatting, then no problem. If it’s seen in others, then there should have been actual numbers or words.

My Rank:

Camouflage Belt