Monthly Archives: May 2016

Semblance Of Guilt


By Claudia Riess



Ellen Davis is a divorced journalist who tries to make a living by running a society column. When she meets the Clarkes they seem like the perfect couple, but trouble brews. Soon, Davis discovers a possible affair had by the husband and later she is accused of being a mistress herself, and of murdering the wife. Meanwhile, she’s also trying out a new romance with a police lieutenant. Will the romance survive or will Davis be convicted?

I thought the premise was pretty good, but when I got into the book, I discovered some disappointments.


Ellen Davis: reporter, divorced, 5’4”, 37, BA, auburn hair, hazel eyes, drives a Honda

Pete Sakura: Japanese descent, police lieutenant, widower with a son

Graham Clarke: lean, 40s, administrator at Columbia, drives a Jaguar, light brown hair, beown eyes, wears glasses, degrees in philosophy and administration

Sophia Clarke: Greek descent, Graham’s wife, 30, black hair, brown eyes

Anna Mangione: married

There are a few other characters that stand out, Ellen’s defense attorney for one. I didn’t feel close to Ellen and I didn’t feel too much emotion emoted…if I’m allowed that phrase. Also, Anna wasn’t as much of a loyal friend as I might have expected.


Conversations were okay. I think a few voices came through, Sophia’s for instance.



The problems I had with the book were:

– It was difficult judging time passage, at least in the first part of the book.

– Sorry to play a bit of a spoiler, but the dead body doesn’t show up until 11 chapters in. Way too long for a murder mystery.

– There was no discovery of the dead body. One scene ended with Ellen running away from the house and the next had the cops on scene investigating the crime. I think this relates to the time issue a bit.

– No real tension throughout. No danger for Ellen. She went to trial and although I enjoy a good courtroom battle, there wasn’t anything for me to get excited about. The defense attorney was a disappointment and didn’t really seem to care about the case, other than keeping Ellen in her place.

The major problem was the climax…because there wasn’t one. The book ended with a 20-30 page, drawn out, lengthy confession and nothing more. I expected tension, danger, not a long explanation that could have been so much more exciting.

My rank:

Camouflage Belt



Kindred Intentions


By Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli



Somebody is killing London lawyers. When Amelia Jennings goes undercover at an attorney’s office, she finds herself in a gun fight in the waiting room. Soon, she’s kidnapped, but rescued by Mike Connor, who also had a hand in the opening battle. Who is he? What’s his story? Can Mike and Amelia survive when they become the hunted? Can Amelia fight her feelings of attraction?

Nice premise and it doesn’t hurt that the action starts on page one. A romantic suspense with action throughout.


Amelia Jennings: cop, brown hair, son is dead, divorced

Mike Connor: wears glasses, blue eyes, former covert operative

Yep, that’s right, two characters. Okay, there are a couple others but who cares? The others aren’t involved long enough to make an impression. Actually, I wasn’t impressed by the main characters because they aren’t described very well. Amelia is attracted to Mike but that was a given. His attractive nature isn’t shown. Neither is Amelia’s. I don’t ‘see’ enough of them in a mental image to get close to them. Part of the reason for that is below.


A lot of non-contractions during dialogue. Enough so that it felt wrong.


Here is where the problems really show up. First off, there is profanity. Now, I don’t mind it in a story if it’s necessary and natural. In this book, however, I don’t think the F word is needed and whenever used, sounds forced.

This is a shorter book (my pub file was only 145 pages) which is fine, but this story could have been longer and drawn out.

There were several ‘ly‘ adverbs.

Way too many sentences started with ‘She’. There are entire paragraphs where ‘She’ starts every sentence.

Which leads me into the next weakness: too much telling and not enough showing. There’s action, but hardly any emotion is shown from Amelia. It’s distant narrator when it should be inside-her-head-narrator showing injuries, fear, exhaustion, lust.

This weak writing of telling is prevalent throughout with such sentences as:

– He pushed her in a rude way.

– He arranged her hair behind her ears with a caring gesture.

– He cleared his throat in a forced way.

Getting back to the length of the book, the explanations were near the end, but with a longer book, they could have been drawn out more, hinted at, foreshadowed. Some of them didn’t make sense. Amelia is kidnapped, questioned by the bad guys, is knocked unconscious, and wakes up in an empty room out in the middle of nowhere. The explanation for this is told, but it doesn’t make sense because of the ‘coincidence’ of Mike showing up soon after. There is a twist to the plot that is interesting, and even though there are no misspelled words, there are some punctuation flubs. I thought of Camouflage, but taken as a whole, I have to drop this to:

Yellow Belt


Beliefs Can Be Murder


Dudley Lynch



In the west Texas town of Flagler, things are heating up. Sheriff Whorter is facing: FBI agents tracking a mysterious container that was shipped to the United States; murders at the three Christian universities; a massive fire; and a break in. What do these all have to do with three Middle Eastern college students and a plan to build a massive new religious community nearby?

What an intricate, multi-faceted story. FBI on page one and it doesn’t let up from there.


Helen Briggs: Sheriff’s aid, prim, 60s, widow

Patrick Kane: FBI agent

Luke Whorter: Sheriff, attended Yale and has a divinity degree, father was a sheriff

Sawyers Tanner: Chief deputy; graying hair, overweight, mustache, late 50s

Malachi Jepp Rawls: professor, 5’4”, bowlegged, injured leg, uses a cane, widower, drives a white Jeep Grand Wagoneer

Luke isn’t described as much as some of the other characters, so I didn’t get a good picture of him. However, he works well with the other cast members. Good personalities although the development between Luke and the female agent could have been a bit more detailed throughout. Also, more details on Luke’s past, failed relationship could have helped.


Conversations do not wander afar and when there is side stuff, those are mostly narrator telling. Good voices.


Right up front, I’m going to say that this was solid writing from page 1. I kept looking for errors or mistakes or weak points, but didn’t find any. Very good use of words to add depth and to not have the reader skim over places. Explanations were concise and didn’t go on for pages. Action had good tension although (okay, a bit of weakness here but minor) some extra drama and emotion might have been inserted.

The book is separated into Days with quotes at the beginning of each day. No profanity, which was surprising for a Texas cop story, despite the religious aspects. These weren’t preachy, but did reference Christianity.

POV is first person from Whorter.

So, as to ranking. I hovered between two ranks and tried to compare what I’ve given past books that have earned higher rankings. Maybe it’s because I enjoyed this one after weeks of reading stuff that left me wanting something substantive, or maybe it’s just good writing and a good story. Probably a combination of all three.

My Rank:

Blue Belt


Smile Of The Rictus


By Julius Talen



For hundreds of years, there has been one person who is rarely named in the world of magicians – the Rictus. Who is he? What does he want? Is he immortal? In modern day London, Chief Inspector Adelaide Shaw takes on a case of a killer who uses magic and illusion to strike at his victims. In response, she accepts the guidance of Oliver Whitaker, a magician on the outs. When two master magicians come face to face, is anybody safe?

I was intrigued by this plot. A little magic (okay, a lot of illusion), a bit of mystery throughout history. An interesting premise.


Adelaide Shaw: Chief Inspector, rides a motorbike, 31, 110 lbs, 5’9”, has six brothers.

Oliver Tobias Morsen Whitaker: 29, magician, mom dead, attended Oxford, 6’2”, 200 lbs.

Mais Lawson: inspector

Rudolph Van Mappen: elderly, magician, nicknamed Mistle

There are a few others but Oliver and Adelaide get most of the story. Other than some basics, there is not much description about the two main protagonists. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the characters. I think the cast was well rounded with some side players who made the reading enjoyable.


Missing commas on tag lines. Missing periods on dialogue where the next sentence is a non-tag line. Otherwise, I felt the characters voices sounded young (well, 29 and 31 are fairly young) but the characters themselves act older.


One minor bit of profanity.

Misspelled words, capitalization errors, incorrect words, missing words. These were the major problems throughout.

Another big thing was the author bringing in history of Adelaide late in the book. This extra aspect of her character should have been shown earlier in the book and revisited at least once or twice. To bring it up at the end doesn’t do it justice and weakened the story and the character. It’s parallel to having the ghost save the day at the end when no ghost was mentioned before. This aspect was not fully developed nor was it dealt with in the aftermath.

Ditto too with maybe foreshadowing who the baddie was. Maybe some hints or clues earlier in the book. Red herrings?

Some good action scenes but I would have liked more description of the magic and more emotion from the characters when it happened. Much of it was: this happened and it was countered, then this happened and so on.

My Rank:

Camouflage Belt


The Alchemy Of Reality


By Andy Echevarria



Taxi: A woman keeps encountering the same taxi driver day after day.

Crystal Ball: What happens to a boy who gazes into its depths?

The Magician: A prestidigitator get a chance to perform for an entirely new audience.

Dead Asleep: Be wary of your dreams.

Do Not Trespass: A man comes upon a strange auto accident after a funeral.

Black Eagle: What message does the bird bring?

Elevator: Who knows what will board along with you.

The Thirteenth Floor: A man remembers his horrible past.

The Bronx Is Burning: A man has an idea who a local arsonist might be.

Wunderkind: A boy enters a chess tournament and discovers more than he imagined.

Some similar themes in a couple of these stories. Most have some supernatural element. The last certainly doesn’t but that’s okay. These are pretty simple stories, fairly predictable. Low scare factor.


Michelle: secretary for an insurance company, owns a cat

Jack Weber: magician, has one arm

Dolan: drives a truck

Ryan Crest: lawyer, 32, smokes

Eugene Carr: 31, divorced w/children, former cab dispatcher, exercises

Pretty basic characters in the stories. Not a lot of physical descriptions. I did enjoy the cast in the final story. Eugene, unfortunately, sounded older. Maybe it was the name? I had a difficult time seeing him as 31.


Most of the dialogue is okay for the short stories.


Short stories are difficult to write. I’ve heard that in a short story, the author has to write about THE most important ‘moment’ in the main character’s life. Which means not a lot of wandering around in side plots or flashbacks, and the back story must be succinct.

I think the author could have expanded a bit on character description and personality.

Some basic writing. No profanity.

I was confused by the name changes in the first story. First it’s Michelle, then it’s another name. Maybe I missed something, but I couldn’t tell if two characters were being discussed. I didn’t understand this story because of the name change. (I later learned the error was caught and hopefully will have been changed by the time you read it.) As mentioned, there is a similar theme in a few stories, which for the first was okay. The second and the third instance (for a ten story anthology) was a bit much.

So, it was an okay book and a quick read.

My Rank:

Camouflage Belt