Author Archives: sirsteve

The Bridge

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By Toletha J. Dixon


Riya Jordan and her friends are off to the Brazilian jungle after graduation to join a Save the World group. Soon after arriving, some members of the group are killed and the survivors are forced to flee for their lives. To escape, they have to cross a bridge…but instead are trapped between two hopeless situations.

The short story is a lot of back story mixed with the current situation. Maybe in a longer story this would work, but for me, in this story, it didn’t. Not enough tension for the present situation was shown and the back story only added a lot-not always, but a lot-of irrelevant information.


Carlito: 44, former farmer and former drug producer

Riya Jordan: 18, dad dead

Karen Meyers: 18, drives a blue Malibu

Chase Prince: 16

Luis De Sousa: muscular, married

Larry Maverick: 56, president of Salvor O Mundo, tall, slim

And more characters. Too many for this short story. Too many to adequately have development. Stick with one or two. Heck, there were even two jaguars who had names and scenes and internal thoughts. Again, this didn’t work for me.


Typical older teen stuff. Not much dialogue, but okay nonetheless. Tags on dialogue where it’s: said Riya, asked the man, the said and asked should not be capitalized.


Profanity. Tense problems, a couple punctuation and capitalization errors.

The narration was 3rd person distant but every so often the narrator would say ‘you’. As in: If not careful, you could fall in the river. (Not an actual sentence in the book, just an example of the type that showed up).

Otherwise, what didn’t work for me was that the people are trapped on this bridge and there are different scenes of back story. Not much tension with the danger on the bridge.

Here’s something that just didn’t seem believable. This bridge was too dangerous to cross to the far end to get away from the danger because the ropes were unraveling and some of the boards had fallen away. Apparently, though, it was safe enough to hold the weight of several people for what seemed like hours and then also a large feline. A bit of a stretch of the imagination.

36 pages in my epub version, so a quick read.

My Rank:

Camouflage Belt



Cannibal In The City

cBy Antwan Floyd Sr.

me in hoody


Black Love is thinking about becoming a private investigator. He accepts a case to find a police detective’s missing daughter. Then he discovers a pattern of missing girls. Then an old friend, fresh out of prison, shows up with more trouble. Can Love keep everything straight…and keep his romantic entanglements from knotting up his life?

I enjoyed the relationship angles of this book. However, the title of the book didn’t play into the majority of the plot. A bit at the beginning, but the track down of the missing girls and the cannibals didn’t really start until near the end. This spent too much time on an improbable investigation and a subplot that also didn’t seem quite…believable.


Black Love: former Illinois District Attorney, 5’3”

Charles Tyner: 21, black, curly hair, dad is a senator

Avery: Tyner’s common law wife, drives a grey Acura Nsx, tan, brunette, freckles

Trigger Brown: Black, Love’s girlfriend, amateur MMA fighter, building contractor, 5’5”, curly hair, 145 lbs.

Jon Edwards: police investigator, married with daughter

Parker Harris: 6’5”, 200 lbs, black, receding hair line, ex con, suffered a mild stroke

Varied characters which makes for distinctive personalities. My main question throughout the book was: What is Love’s profession? He wants to be a PI, but somehow has enough money to get through this story without being paid by anybody. This question isn’t answered. Edwards became a bit upset by the questions he was asked…which he himself might have asked other parents. Plus, I think it was out of character for a cop to hire a citizen not yet licensed as a PI to find his daughter.


Nice cultural speaking from the characters. Good inner city, ‘black’ give and take. However, tags were written incorrectly. The punctuation was incorrect a lot and …” He said. is incorrect. Don’t capitalize ‘he’.


Profanity, but not too much. Relatively short chapters.

The problem with this book was a plethora of mistakes. Weak writing, misspelled words, incorrect words, punctuation problems. The last problem resulted in incomplete or run on sentences, some of which lost their way and sense. I had difficulty ferreting out the meaning. Many sentences start with one character, then runs on and then mentions ‘he’ but the ‘he’ is another character. This made for a difficult read, especially in the fight scenes.

Wrong words: weary when I think the word meant was wary.

Wrong words: I was amused by constant use of prescient for precinct. “I left my car at the prescient.”

Continuity problem: Trigger tells Love that Edwards’ daughter is thirteen. Then, when talking to Edwards, the investigator says the daughter is preteen. Then, when found, the daughter is fifteen. I don’t recall any reference to the daughter being gone two or more years.

Tense problems. POV problems.

Once Edwards is named as a Detective, there is no need to keep calling him Detective Edwards every time he’s named.

The opening scene is in the present. Then the story goes back a couple days to lead the reader up to why Love is in the situation. Near the end, the opening scene is repeated almost word for word.

This story could have been longer to include more scenes with the bad guys. As mentioned above, the main mystery, supposedly the cannibals, didn’t really come into play until the end. I thought the resolution of Parker’s problem was a bit non-believable. The missing daughter thing ended with no explanation of why she disappeared in the first place and no mention of aftermath.

My Rank:

Orange Belt


Quick Kick – Double Fudge Brownie Murder


By Joanne Fluke

Joanne Fluke


Life in tiny Lake Eden, Minnesota, is usually pleasantly uneventful. But with the upcoming trial for her involvement in a tragic accident, Hannah Swensen hardly has time to think about her bakery–let alone the town’s most recent murder. . .

Hannah is eager to clear her name once and for all, but her troubles only double when she finds the judge bludgeoned to death with his own gavel–and Hannah is the number one suspect. Now on trial in the court of public opinion, she sets out in search of the culprit and discovers that the judge made more than a few enemies during his career. With time running out, Hannah will have to whip up her most clever recipe yet to find a killer more elusive than the perfect brownie. . .

Cozy murder mystery. Part of a series for the baking crowd.

My Analysis

I have enjoyed other niche cozies but this one got on my nerves.

First, the audio book I listened to was seven CDs long. Hannah didn’t find the body until about the 2-1/2 mark. She spends the first part of the book at her mother’s wedding and I kept thinking they were going to kill off the groom or her old/new love interest but when everybody arrived home, I was thinking, “Get on with it. Kill someone.”

Second, I realize that the gimmick is for the author/Hannah to include food at every opportunity and then to give the recipe. Fine, but that became old, too, especially when I was waiting around for the dead body to show up. Plus, if she said “…with your impeccably clean hands.” one more time…

Third, the solution to the mystery was almost parallel with a newbie author putting a ghost in at the end to save the day when the ghost wasn’t mentioned anywhere else in the book. Hannah interviews all of the suspects, then in one scene mentions she’s cleared everyone. Then a not too much later scene has the real murderer introduced. And this is long into the book. Because of this, the evil-ness during the climactic scene wasn’t strong enough to be exciting because the person wasn’t shown earlier. And-sorry to play a bit of a spoiler here-Hannah didn’t even catch the killer herself.

My Rank:

Camouflage Belt


Steeled For Murder


by KM Rockwood


Just trying to make his life the best he can after being in prison for close to twenty years, Jesse Damon has found a good job at a steel fabrication plant. Unfortunately, he runs afoul of a murder and the cops eye him as the number one suspect. When the detectives in charge of the investigation just won’t seem to let him be, Damon decides he needs to find the real killer. In the process he becomes involved with the dead man’s wife and kids, a co-worker and her children, and various suspicious individuals, some of whom seem to think Damon might want to continue in whatever shady deal the murdered man had going.

A fairly attractive story idea. Goo potential. A lot of room for troubles to follow.


Jesse Damon: 36, dark brown curly hair, was in prison after giving an Alfrod plea for murder, possession of a handgun during a felony, and conspiracy at age 16, on parole, wears an ankle bracelet, works as a machine operator at Quality Steel Fabrications, lives in a basement apartment, scar on right hand, has two brothers, mother died when he was a baby, was in foster care while his dad was in prison, has a juvenile record

Kelly: works in the shipping department at the plant but fills in on the forklift when needed, dark brown hair, her dad has been in out of prison, solid build, divorced with children

Belkins: detective, sour breath, thick fingers, had a daughter who was kidnapped, tortured, and killed by an ex convict, divorced

Sterling Radman: plant manager, slender fingers, thick silver hair

Some characters don’t have last names. A good mix though and Jesse stands out. He’s believable as the ex-con trying to develop a life outside prison. He knows the game, tries to obey the rules and knows with one mistake, the cops can send him back to prison.


Incorrect grammar in a lot of conversations, lazy English, done on purpose and it fits with the characters. Good voices.


First person from Damon’s POV. I felt the time of year, Christmas, with snow and cloudy sky worked well with setting the mood of the story. The scenes and characters all fit under this umbrella of a somber, sober, struggling mood. It’s not dark in the scary way, just veiled. Some profanity but not much. I thought there might be more amateur detective material from Damon. His involvement with the victim’s kids seemed a little long and didn’t really add anything substantive to the mystery other than show the bad guy character of the dead man. His growing relationship with one of his coworkers, I thought was a little rushed. It would have been nice to have it stretch out for more than one book. Still good atmosphere, pretty tight writing, and Rockwood is knowledgable in knowing the steel fabrication business. No action-packed, shoot ’em up scenes and the climax was subdued. I’m giving this a lower rank than I originally intended, but don’t want to seem like it was a bad story. The author has a potentially good series here and maybe the second one can have some more spice to it.

My Rank:

Purple Belt


White Ginger


by Thatcher Robinson



Bai Jiang is a people finder. Her current case has her looking for a teenager who was sold by her brother to a gang who would use her as a sex slave. However, Jiang has more problems on her plate than a missing girl. These include: troubles with a powerful lawyer over an incident at her daughter’s school; battling her emotions regarding her ex husband who is a triad enforcement officer; and tracking down the person or persons involved with taking out a contract on her life.

Lots going on here and it all seems to mesh. The original case, finding the missing girl, looked exciting, but turned out to be routine (per se) and the mystery behind the contract killing kept me reading.


Bai Jiang: 30, Chinese, willowy, likes black clothing, short spiky hair, high cheekbones, surly attitude, a people finder, lives in San Francisco, struggles to live under Buddhist philosophy, excellent knife skills, has a twelve year old daughter, parents were murdered when she was young, drives a Mini Cooper Clubman, father and previous generations were triad

Lee Li: gay, Chinese, tall, high cheekbones, aquiline nose, Bai’s partner, drives a vintage 60s red Caddy convertible

Jason Lum: Chinese name is Hu Lum, triad assassin, ex husband of Bai and father of Bai’s daughter, muscular, black hair

I like Bai but she does seem to have a strange dichotomy going on. On one hand, she’s tough and doesn’t mind punching out the bad guys. Or even killing the bad guys. On the other, when she sees death, she’s, almost, overly disturbed by it. The character is presented as tough and hard, and living in Chinatown, San Fran, one would think this would be her nature. But she’s not all the time and instead of humanizing her, bothered me because I wanted her to get over it and move on. She flips from being concerned to okay with death, especially when a couple chapters later, she kills someone with no second thought. Plus, she’s a triad descendant and should know the score.


Because many of the characters are Chinese, some of the sentences are in Chinese but they’re translated afterward. Again, I must bring up Bai’s voice. At times she’s cynical and tough but when she gets emotional I want to dump her. I only bring up Bai because I can’t help but think of my own heroine and how I’ve portrayed her. When I see a tough woman who uses physical skills to defeat her enemies who also expresses emotions, I look closely to see if I’ve done a good job writing from a woman’s point of view. Bai and my Mallory are similar in a few respects and I want to feel for Bai when she has issues. When she speaks, I want to feel her emotions and I had trouble adjusting between the tough, almost light-hearted material (which I liked) and the tear laden parts (which I couldn’t quite involve myself).


Each chapter is titled by a philosophical quote that is repeated at some point within the chapter. Sometimes I felt it a little forced, but I liked the challenged of the author to see how he could incorporate it each time. Profanity that I felt was inserted because the author thought it should be there, not that it actually should be there. It works, but I didn’t like it. I was surprised by the back cover blurb about the book and the actual book and how it played out after the search for the girl was over. I thought the search might last longer. There is an interesting turn of events to the mystery that kept me reading. The action was pretty intense and quick. Writing could have been a little tighter in that the author used ‘she’ to begin a lot of sentences.

My Rank:

Purple Belt


Quick Kick – On Target


By Mark Greaney



Court Gentry, former CIA, now makes his way as an assassin. He’s hired by his Russian boss to kill the leader of Sudan. However, former members of his team want the president kidnapped instead. If Gentry will fall in line, all will be forgiven.

A good adventure story with a mission that goes awry, which proves to show that the title is false. Lol.

My Analysis

I enjoy a good international intrigue, spy, assassin story. This one was pretty good.

A disappointment was that Gentry spend a good portion of the book rescuing a woman. This is fine, but I thought she might show up later in the story with a relevant part. She did show up later, but was summarily dropped from the plot because the person she is supposed to help rescue is killed. I didn’t understand that. Bring her in, then let her go, then bring her in near the end…but don’t do anything else with.

I also thought it a loose string that the situation with his Russian boss was left hanging.

Good believable action with some creative ways thought up by Gentry to escape danger.

I would read Greaney again.

My rank:

Purple Belt


Blood Harvest


by Terrence Dicks


I don’t usually review science fiction and never before reviewed a Doctor Who novel. I am a huge fan of the television series. Many of the books, unfortunately, are either confusing, contain a lot of low points, or just don’t keep my interest. This one, however, was quite different in that it had a private investigator as a major character, adding a bit of mystery. So, I ask for your indulgence on this rare foray into a review of this type of book.


A private investigator in Prohibition Era Chicago is asked by Al Capone to check upon a new player in town. This persona, known as Doc (in reality a Timelord called the Doctor) has opened a new speakeasy. This is not good in a town run by mobsters who have a habit of warring with each other.

Meanwhile, Bernice Summerfield, one of the Doctor’s companions is on an alien planet once ruled by vampire overlords. Tensions are high between the villagers who are content with governmening themselves and the Lords, who seek to have dominance. When Bernice runs afoul of a strange creature in the vampire’s former lair, it appears as if the pestilence has returned from the undead. And who is the enigmatic woman who seeks to aid Bernice?

While war seems inevitable between the mobsters on Earth and between the factions in which Bernice is in the middle of, shadowy figures lurk behind the curtains of both scenes. Individuals whose intent is the destruction of the Doctor.

This is touted as a sequel to the television episode entitled State of Decay where the 4th Doctor and Romana face vampires. Added to the mix is are the scenes in gangster land Chicago. I’musually wary about sequels, but it’s not just a return to the vampire planet and there is the mystery of unnamed individuals. I found it easy to follow and a good plot to satisfy Who fans. And I am one.


The Doctor: the ‘7th’ Doctor, Scottish burr, short, Timelord, uses the moniker John Smith

Dorothy ‘Ace’ Gale McShane: the Doctor’s companion, tough, brunette, tough, likes explosives

Dekker: Private investigator, smokes, drinks

Al Capone: mobster in Chicago

Bernice ‘Benny’ Summerfield: one of the Doctor’s companions, archeologist but was expelled from university before she received credentials

Lady Romanadvoratelundar: former companion of the 4th Doctor, Timelord, long- fair-haired, high forehead

Personally, I want to name my first daughter Romanadvoratrelundar. Awesome name! This story, unlike some other Who novels have characters I like. Even the bad guys, though somewhat typical, are good. They didn’t bore me. Of course with Who books, I see the characters as they were portrayed on television.


Adequate attempt at capturing the gangsters’ voices as well as the natives of the planet. Good use of the local lingo of the time.


Sometimes Doctor Who books become too technical, as if the author wants to show off his/her science or physics knowledge. This one easy to follow, which is what I look for in not just Doctor Who books, but in other sci-fi stories. I’m not a fanatic of sci-fi and one has to really capture my interest for me to read. This one had a good blend of lightheartedness and suspenseful tension. This moved well with nothing dragging and no difficult to understand technological gab. Good use of time-period slang (pineapple for grenade, doll). The PI wears the typical trench coat and fedora. (Of course I’m not complaining because the PI in MY books wears the trench and hat.) First person POV when it’s Dekker’s scenes.

My Rank:

Blue Belt


The Burgas Affair

The Burgas Affair by Ellis Shuman 400x625

By Ellis Shuman



When a terrorist blows up a bus killing innocent people in Bulgaria, Boyko Stanchev and Ayala Navon are thrown together to help investigate the case. However, each of them have personal issues to deal with that may hamper their efforts. The problems they run into are leads that go nowhere and a people from Stanchev’s past who may be out to kill him. Will the two be able to survive long enough to solve the case?

This story is based off of a true event-the bus bombing-that occurred in 2012. Although the plot was laid out well with the important parts all there, I felt the book a tad long, especially when the two main characters are put together to run down a lead or two, then split up, then are back together for another couple leads, then split up, then…yeah, you get the picture. I also felt some of the back story was too lengthy.


Boyko Stanchev: 35, works for the Bulgarian State Agency for National Security, smokes, divorced, dark eyes

Ayala Navon: 28, Israeli Intelligence analyst, thick black hair, dark eyes, brother dead

Ivan Zhekov: commander of the Burgas District Police Directorate, stocky

Kamen Petrov: detective

There’s also a bad guy named Damian, also known as The Hunter who is the antagonist in the story. I think the characters were well developed. A lot of information regarding the two main characters including culture, family, and history. This is where the back story becomes lengthy. Interesting and the relevant points are part of the story.


Sometimes weak, especially by Ayala, but otherwise voices are pretty good.


Some profanity, but not too much.

Clean with no mistakes that I found.

Pretty decent story with some good action. The climax was good, although I didn’t quite understand the part concerning Navon and the danger she faced and why it turned out the way it did. I was a little off on that point.

The twist-a traitor-was not difficult to comprehend and, really, there is only one person it could have been.

I found it interesting that the original case, the bombing, was solve to completion…just as the real event hasn’t yet been completely resolved.

Still, a pretty good smooth story and if you like a lot of back story, this one is it.

I’ll give it the rank I chose because, for me, the extra stuff could have been trimmed, but I still enjoyed the main story.

My Rank

Green Belt


Her Final Watch

Her Final Watch (1)

By Marguerite Ashton

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A stripper/escort is murdered and Lily Blanchette is on the case. With a new partner, a new pregnancy, still dealing with the death of her husband, and an exasperating mother, Lily has her hands full. Add to that an involvement with the local mob, well, Lily will have to use all her skills to survive.

But there’s more to the story. Who has secrets that would be devastating or deadly if revealed? Well, pretty much everybody.

What a complex plot. The more I read, the more complex it seemed to become. Put a mystery in the middle of a soap opera.


Lily Blanchette: police detective, widow, pregnant, black (light skinned), black hair, brown eyes, father dead

Jeremiah Mills: police detective, black, 5’2”, trying to quit smoking

Ibee Walters: Assist D.A., bleached blonde

Evan York: police detective, blue eyes, dark hair

Diamond Reese: 27, strip club manager, long wavy brown hair

Several more including Lily’s mother and the mob guys-father and son.

All pretty well developed although I thought Walters would play a bit more of a role than she did. Each had distinctive character. Jeremiah comes across as a smart aleck at the beginning, which surprised me. Because of his history, I thought he might have been a bit more reserved. He comes around, though.


Not too bad. Good give and take, back and forth. Conversations flowed well. A little heat shown. I could have used a bit more emotion in some of the dialogue at times but everybody had his/her own voice.


One mistake that I caught in passing. Spelling error but otherwise clean.

Chapters headed by date and/or time.

I thought it was a well-developed story that didn’t end quite the way I thought. I won’t play spoiler, but not all ends well and tied up in a bow.

Complexities abound but the author handled them well. A cop and mobster story and the profanity was kept in check and not overused.

I don’t know what else to say. A strong story with good action and character development. A tidy mystery with other background info to keep it interesting and moving.

So, to rank. I thought about previous stories and the enjoyment factor and decided this one rated:

Purple Belt


Beacon Hill


By Colin Campbell



Jim Grant is not having a good day. First, he rescues a kidnapped child and irritates on of Boston elite when investigating a shooting. But he is blamed for being on the scenes in the first place and proceeding in all the wrong manners. However, the shooting turns out to be more involved than Grant imagined. Bucking authority, he steps deeper into danger and discovers a scheme with international implications.

Interesting plot. I enjoyed Grant getting in deeper and in more trouble as the story goes along and him defending himself. The plot opens up more and more and the revelation is pretty astounding.


Jim Grant: British, cop

Daniel Hunt: drives a white Mercedes, wealthy

Terri Avellone: Grant’s girlfriend, pharmaceutical representative

Bill Hoyt: 35, police captain

There are a few more characters but almost none are given any physical description. Maybe one or two here and there. This made it difficult to have a mental picture of them. For the most part, I thought the characters were pretty good, each playing to his/her role.


Grant has a decent voice as does his girlfriend. Hunt is distinguishable and Hoyt does the angry captain bit pretty well. Conversations stay on track


Book is in Parts.

There is a bit of POV switching here and there and the omnipresent POV sort of works. Maybe it’s my preference to have a scene stay with a particular character. Switch on the following if desired.

Other than that, I have no problems with the story. I didn’t see any grammar/punctuation/misspelling errors. The story rolled along pretty well with no drag time. Some good actions scenes.

Some of the writing could have been tighter, but it was nothing to get too distressed over.

Basically, a decent story and the climax was worthy of some of the cool hero-defeats-villain movies.

I thought about the rank and though it’s not quite Purple, I thought it’s a very strong

Green Belt