By M. G. Hardie


(book to be released May 23)


One day, stock broker Devon Heathrow finds a package that contains a pair of glasses. Using the glasses, he is able to see strange beings-Them-from another dimension who subsequently attack him. Rescued and physically altered by another entity, Devon now wanders the world in search of answers, trying to avoid Them, and saving humanity from Them…if he can.

That’s my take on the plot. Had I known how the book was going to present this plot…I would have rejected the review request.


Devon Heathrow: stock broker, married with child, brown eyes.

Yep. One character, and the eye color is all the description I could find.

Okay, yes, there were other characters, but they were so far below minor because most of them showed up for a scene, then were gone.

So, there are the creatures called Them and most were given weird names. He, Him, Me, Ask. Others were given names-I assume-by Devon, which represented what they did: Landslide, Avalanche, Tsunami, etc. There is a guy named Prime who shows up later in the book who is one of Them. The He character is the surgeon who gave Devon the alterations to make Devon more than human.

There is another other-dimension group called the Sway, who influence humans more subtly than major catastrophes. In fact, one of the Sway is named Influence.

Unfortunately, these names made reading more difficult, especially when the He character was around Whenever sentences started with He, I had to read carefully to determine whether the sentence dealt with the Them He or he Devon.

The problem I had with Them and Sway, was because of how the book was written, these characters didn’t develop. They popped in and out. Every time a new character was introduced, I thought, “Okay, now we’ll have more than a passing interaction.” Nope. Gone by the next scene or chapter.


Beyond the problems of the characters, there were massive amounts of dialogue. The scene with He was mostly dialogue and He dumped so much useless, irrelevant information in lengthy passages, I stopped caring. The information dump was an encyclopedia entry listing almost everything about Them. This was done way too early in the book and most of the information was not relevant throughout the rest of the book and the way the story developed. The last 80 pages was mostly dialogue, with looooong passages and explanations, and most of that was repetitious concepts that were given throughout.

Devon has way too many way too long internal monologues. People do not think in multiple page paragraphs.


Where do I start? Titled chapters. Profanity. Punctuation problems. Misspelled words.

ALL of the book was telling, not showing. Action scenes were either too short or too long and none of them showed the pain or emotions of Devon. They were related through telling. Passive verbs, ‘ing’ verbs with lessen the tension.

There is a major problem with tenses. The author jumps from present to past and it doesn’t make sense and doesn’t work.

POV jumps. Narrator jumps from close 3rd to distant 3rd to medium 3rd too abruptly. It was jolting and threw me out of the scene.

Many times there are two sentences as one sentence and those two pieces don’t relate to each other.

Poorly written sentences. Weak writing. In one scene it is written that two Them used their fist, instead of fists. Many times I had to re-read sentences to figure them out.

Continuity problem: At the beginning Devon drives a Camaro. A few pages later the car is an Impala.

Time problem: After the surgery, Devon awakens to find himself in a barn on a farm. Minutes later, the house is destroyed and the family killed by Them. In the same scene, just a little time has passed and Devon hears the incident being reported on a passing car radio.

So, Devon is altered. Some time has passed because when he reaches out to a friend, he discovers he’s wanted for crimes back at the office and his bank accounts were frozen. However, he seems to find money to hop a train and cruise ship. This shift in transportation has problems, too. He was taking a train to California. I assumed he went some distance before the train derailed. Then he was on a cruise ship. How did he get there? How did he pay for the train ride? How did he survive at least a week with no money. None of these questions are answered.

After the cruise ship disaster, he begins wandering the world and for over half the book he travels and explores and examines and philosophizes and fights battles and rescues babies in way too numerous quick scenes and it’s exhausting to read. I kept waiting-in vain-for revelations to be made, for him settle down and do something substantive to the story. This doesn’t happen until he meets Prime and begins the endless conversation.

Jobs he held included lumberjack, construction, vigilante. He’s paid for his work but in one scene he uses an ATM. What? He’s traveling all the time, when did he have time to set up another bank account?

Attempts at lofty concepts and philosophy and the diatribes on human nature and the human species…it was all too much.

All in all, this was a poorly written book with a plot that never got off the ground because everything was told instead of shown and Devon was never grounded long enough to develop and give the reader something worthwhile. The characters were all but irrelevant and never developed. The dialogue was long with too much information.

My rank:

White Belt


Off The Grid


By Robert Kingett



What happens when a blind journalist accepts a challenge to go for a month with no Internet? No email, no Facebook, no Twitter, nothing connected to the World Wide Web? This book shows how he deals with: his job, obtaining a job, receiving information, traversing around Chicago. Will he survive without podcasts? What type of world did he leave behind and now faces.

Actually, I think is a very insightful book and plot. A man’s struggle in the modern world and what he loses…and gains.


Robert Kingett: (yes, the author), almost blind, lives in Chicago, freelance journalist, homosexual

Marcus: black, brown eyes

Crystal: blind, brown hair with gold flecks

Travis Cornell: homosexual, brown eyes, 6’

I realize the book deals with Robert but I was disappointed in a lot of the characters. They weren’t developed enough. He meets Crystal but she’s never mentioned again. Did he connect up with her after the month was over? Robert’s friends show up every now and then, but they don’t seem to have an impact, other than the scene when they were trying to hook up a landline telephone. Which scene seemed a bit unbelievable that nobody would know to plug one the jack into the phone and the other end into the wall. Unless I’m missing something, I can’t believe the setup could be that incomprehensible.


Not much, but Robert has his own voice (if you can get by imagining what he sounds like singing in the shower. Lol.) The conversations do show his frustrations when dealing with people who don’t understand that-for awhile-he doesn’t have access to the Internet.


Profanity. Titled chapters. Short book.

A couple misspelled words, a couple punctuation errors, and a capitalization error.

As mentioned, I think this has wonderful insight into today’s world and how people behave and interact. I found common ground with him when he was looking for a job and the employers wanted email resumes or online applications. If I may relate my own story: I ran into a similar situation years ago when I couldn’t access a certain college’s website to apply for a job. So I spent an hour looking for the campus employment office (which was actually off campus). When I walked in, half the lights were out and one person was manning the desk. I wanted to apply for a position. She told me the college did everything online. “Here’s my resume and I’ll fill out an application.” “No, you have to do it online.” “But I’m right here.”

I couldn’t believe she wouldn’t accept my resume. I was standing right in front of her. I walked out thinking that she really needed to find another job because her position was obsolete.

Anyway, back to Kingett’s book. What I thought interesting was that though he constantly mentioned his blindness, I felt that disability was almost secondary to his troubles having no Internet. They were inter-connected, but his problems were common enough to be relevant for anybody with no access who needs information.

Of course he did mention the vast wasteland the Internet has become but he did mention it has become vital for persons with disability to function ‘up to speed’ with everyone else.

So, for ranking. As mentioned I was a bit disappointed with the lack of other characters’ developments and I was a bit disappointed with the ending. I hope I’m not playing spoiler by saying when Robert goes back online, I found it sad that he acted like a junkie who, after being deprived of his drugs for too long, has now been shown the vault of heroin.

Okay, maybe not that bad and there was humor in some of his actions, but, in a sense, that’s what it reminded me of.

My rank:

Green Belt


A Touch Of Suspense


By Kathryn J. Bain



Three stories, all featuring K.T. Morgan.

In The Visitor a serial killer thinks he has his next victim well in hand.

Small Town Terror brings serial kidnappers/murderers back to a town they visited years before and this time they’re wanting to teach everyone a lesson.

In Reunion, a felon is determined to take back what he thinks is his: his ex wife.

So, these have a wandering woman-K.T.-showing up in the locales of each story, the heroine to save the day. I think the basic plots of each are good, but there are problems. The major one is that I was unfamiliar with the K.T. character. She just shows up with no explanation of why she’s in the towns to begin with. Is she a Jack Reacher type who travels around and ends up in these dramas? It seemed almost too pat to have the bad guys already in action and K.T. pops up. In Reunion, I didn’t understand why K.T. befriended the daughter of the guy the felon’s ex was going to marry. I would have thought the teen would have had better sense than to accept friendship from a stranger so quickly.


Christine Westman: 26, blonde, blue eyes, medical assistant

Kathleen ‘KT’ Morgan: 5’8”, around 30, widow, brown eyes, tattoo on shoulder, drives a Jeep, former Marine

Colt: has a brother, scar on face

Elizabeth Corman: waitress, married, pregnant, mom dead, blonde

Raymond Lindley: divorced

Some good characters and some of them had decent background information even for the short-ness of the stories. I was a bit confused since in the first story, K.T. was introduced as Kathleen Tatiana but used Morgan in the other two stories. No explanation why.


For the most part, I think the characters had separate voices. The teen in Reunion and her dad. K.T.’s tone was pretty straightforward, even when conning the bad guys in Small Town Terror. She didn’t become too excited or emotional in her conversations.


Chapters headed by date/time

3rd person POV except for parts in The Visitor when scenes were 1st person from the killer’s POV.

In Small Town Terror, I thought there were too many repetitions of the phrase “…when Shirley arrived/came.” in reference to the impending birth of the baby.

Because of the short stories a lot of things, as mentioned above weren’t fully developed. K.T.’s character/background/reason for wandering around the country.

The main bad guy in Small Town Terror wants to visit this small town to teach them a lesson before he and his gang head off to Cuba. First: there was no explanation on what happened the last time he was in the town, if he had lived there, etc. Second, I didn’t quite believe that the bad guys thought they could just hop a boat to Cuba and why would think to go there?

Clean writing throughout and I understand K.T. is in a longer novel, so watch for that. Maybe in that book, there will be explanations. For this triple feature I give this a

Green Belt


Near Death / Near Life


By Dennis Maulsby


Once again, I caution everyone to please not send me requests for poetry. I will turn them down. This is one of those very rare instances where I was intrigued by this man’s work and decided to give it a shot.


This book is a collection of poems and haiku. Many deal with war and most of those center on Vietnam. The non-war selections deal with…well, life. Beauty, women, the little idiosyncrasies we can look at and admire, or be amused by. There is a nice mixture of death and life poetry and not all of the death shows in the war poems.

I thought the mixture well presented. Too much of either would be a drag or depressing. Granted, the war poems are not happy go lucky, but it’s understandable. War in the real world isn’t fun.


The only character in this book is the author himself. His ideas. His thoughts. His personality. His daydreams. His memories. His view of certain moments in history, of life.


It’s poetry folks, not conversation. However..

Poetry IS dialogue in a sense and lest you think I dive too deep, just think about it for a moment. Or two. The author speaks to us in his words, his phraseology, his thoughts on paper. He speaks to us and we either listen or put down the book and go to something else.

Sure, there are pieces of quotation. In some of the poems somebody speaks. These times fit with the individual poem.


What can I say? I’m not a huge fan of poetry. I took a poetry class in college only because I liked the professor and understood/enjoyed very few poems that we read.

I don’t ‘get’ poetry, let alone haiku. I think trying to develop a three line piece of writing where there are rules on the number of syllables is too difficult.

I don’t buy poetry books. I don’t read poetry.

Having the above in mind, I can still comment on the author’s writing. He presents his work ‘as is’. What I mean is, he doesn’t spin the material into something that’s it’s not. Most of the poems are one page or less so I didn’t have to keep track of the gestalt throughout pages and pages of lines.

The author uses words very well. While I understood what he was trying to present in all of them, there were a few that I found notable because of his writing style.

– Kill Zone Requiem: very well done imagery.

– Omaha Beach: this presented a different view from an individual, other than what is oft seen in movies.

– Journey Music: a history of music throughout the eons.

– Soldiers’ Dream of Myrtle Beach 1966: gritty and realistic

– They’re Alive, Alive… & Bad Santa: Two poems that show the author’s whimsical, humorous side. Bad Santa was my favorite in the book.

– In the Slow Flow: again imagery and the last two lines really bring it home.

So, the anticipated rank. How do I rank a book of poems when I don’t read poetry? How do I rank a bunch of non-rhyming lines about wars I never knew, about experiences I’ve never had?

Like so many other books, it comes down to the like-ability factor. Did I enjoy the book? Would I read more of this author’s material?

I know the author wouldn’t want anything but honesty from a reviewer so the answer to both questions is: yes.

My Rank:

Brown Belt


How To Catch Your Mate


By Michael Goldenberg


Please don’t send me requests for reviews on how-to books or self-improvement or anything akin to this book. Once again, this is a rare occasion where a book struck my interest. I don’t read these on a normal basis, but I was emailed a list of reviews that were desperately needed and this one caught my eye.


Women, are you looking for a mate? Well, this book gives you tips you can use to up the odds of catching that right man.

This is written by a man to women, based on ideas collected from men. I thought it was going to be more in depth but a lot of the topics covered are skimmed. However, a lot are common sense.


Well, none, really, unless you want to include the author who is married with children.

I thought there might be more anecdotes but there were only a few examples of bad dates.


Well, none, really, except for a few lines thrown out.


Titled chapters. Really, really short chapters. Some illustrations. One instance of mild profanity.

The author takes the first several chapters setting up the rest of the book.

I thought there might be more humor and although it was written in a light-hearted manner, I didn’t find any ha-ha moments.

Some of the topics covered include: Being wary of the ‘C’ word; preparing the man’s attraction through a messenger; preparing for the first date; using compliments; knowing how to cook; cleanliness; and preparing for sex.

As mentioned, this doesn’t go in depth and is a very quick read. Many of the tips are common and common sense. I had a minor disagreement with one of them only because I’m a traditionalist with an open mind.

Still, a pretty well written book…with a guaranteed certificate at the end…

My Rank:

Camouflage Belt


Dream State


By Charles R. Hinckley



Augustus Chase has a unique ability. He is able to dream of future deaths. After he sees first a man and then a women die in his sleep, then read about their actual deaths after he tried to warn the victims, he decides to become a private investigator in order to help people. Chase’s first client, Frank, wants to know about his sister…who died when she was ten. His second client is the sister of the victim Chase saw before. Can Chase use his ability to solve the cases?

I accepted this book because I thought the premise interesting. However, once into it, I discovered this plot had more holes than Swiss cheese and more problems than my math teacher assigned in high school.

1. Chase doesn’t have total control over his ability, but discovers later that he’s akin to a psychic in that if he touches something personal he’ll go into the ‘dream state’.

2. Speaking of, he doesn’t like the word psychic yet that’s what he puts in his newspaper ad.

3. At the beginning of the book, he dreams a man dies. Then he dreams a woman dies. No time element as to when each died, so I’m assuming-as would be natural-that the man dies first. However, the man becomes the suspect in the woman’s death and no explanation to the time element is explained.

4. Chase is constantly unsure whether he wants to be a detective. (Probably should be in the Characters section, but I just wrote them down as I caught them.)

5. The time(s) he wants to be a PI, he resists Frank’s payments but doesn’t charge the sister of the woman who was killed.

6. He buys how-to books on private investigation, but apparently never reads them.

7. He is upset when people don’t believe his ability.

8. There’s an element to the mystery dealing with an experiment with a professor (which is completely unbelievable that the assistant wasn’t suspicious of all the down low attitude of the professor and code words having to be used.)

9. There’s another element that deals with a company and fraud, but I didn’t understand it and it wasn’t a big enough deal to care about because it wasn’t played up as such.


August Chase: 35, museum exhibition technician, attended NYU

Frank Cosh: 300 lbs., owns a cat, thin hair, gray beard, former answering service company owner

Carla Donati: sister is dead, nurse, tall, dark hair

Millar Milford: tin, long straight hair, wears glasses, divorced (or just about to be), computer techie, wealthy, owns a ‘67 Camaro

Allen: bartender

To be honest, I didn’t like anybody. Frank was all over the map going from desperation to philosophical. Allen was okay, but he was grumpy all the time. Carla sends out wrong signals for romance, then backs away when the moment is nigh. Chase gets angry at her a couple times because she won’t believe his abilities yet keeps coming back and doesn’t seem too affected by his attitude. She’s a part time nurse at places, but that isn’t explained properly enough and I thought her bouncing around was part of the mystery. Millar was okay but he has a cousin who is a cop and way over the top in playing the ‘bad cop’.


Millar was the only one who kept it constant. I did like the jibes Chase and he exchanged. Frank was, again, all over the place.


Unnecessary profanity. Titled chapters.

Some punctuation problems and a misspelled word here and there.

Basically, this entire book was a mess. I thought about Yellow Belt for awhile, but decided to go two steps lower.

My Rank:

White Belt


Ghosts And Shadows


By H. Max Hiller



2009. Louisiana Police Investigator Cooter Holland is called to an arson scene in New Orleans where the evidence of a super hot fire makes for a strange case. The incident and others like it soon attracts Homeland Security and a company that specializes in military and domestic spy products. Holland finds himself in the middle of federal authorities, local and Mexican gangs, an election, and if he doesn’t put it all together and stop the coming explosion, he may not live to see the Saints in the Superbowl and Mardis Gras is going to be a deadly celebration.

This plot just keeps growing in intensity and complexity as the pages turn. I expected an interesting murder mystery with an arson thrown in. Who knew the feds and gangs and bombs and a tracker dog and family relationships were also included? This one has a lot and is well presented.


Cooter Holland: Nickname Cadillac, owns two Cadillacs, Louisiana State Police investigator, 42, part owner of a bistro, father dead, former military intelligence, has a sister

Clyde Wheeler: State fire Marshall, thin, 50s, short

Bill Avery: Chief of detectives, overweight

Katie Reilly: state attorney, Holland’s girlfriend, long brown hair, divorced

Bradford Skincare: Deputy Director for Homeland Security

There are a few other characters who pop up from time to time and I like them all. Very different personalities, attitudes, and hints of good guy/bad guy in several. I think the characters were well developed. Family ties for Holland came into play and that was well handled.


Some issues with punctuation in the dialogue going to the tags. Periods instead of commas. The issue that caught my attention with dialogue is the author tended to explain the meaning/relevance of the statement just said. At times it was okay, but I think it was overdone. Let the scene and the dialogue explain rather than the narrator tell the reader what somebody’s words meant.


First person from Holland’s POV.

No profanity, which surprised me because this would have been a book I would have expected some. This doesn’t make it an unrealistic book and I enjoyed how the author kept the reader interested with the plot and the action without profanity.

Some tense problems that didn’t work for me.

Other than that, it’s a longer book than most. Not too bad but it took me awhile to read through it. Still and good mystery, good action, a bit of New Orleans culture thrown in and enough believe-ability to show that the author had done some homework and knew about the material.

My Rank:

Purple Belt




By Alex Chu



When Logan Weidman receives an email to join a secret society known as the Monarchs, he believes it to be spam. However, the group is real and if he joins, he will have years of success and wealth ahead of him. All he has to do is…kill someone. Soon Weidman discovers that there are more things to the Monarchs than just the benefits. Can he escape the influence?

Okay, I was intrigued by this plot, especially since it’s based on a real email received by the author. Unfortunately, this plot is pretty predictable in the way it unfolds.


Logan Weidman: 29, works at a call center for a furniture company, B.A. in Economics from N.Y.U., MBA from Rutgers, parents divorced

Jarod: late 20s, tanned, short dirty blond hair, green eyes, works with Weidman in the call center

Lee: Auburn hair, thin, has a dog, works with Weidman in the call center

Hunter Hummel: olive skinned, sapphire eyes, golden blond

Fernando: Latino, 30s

Kyiwam: black, early 20s, black hair

There are a few more characters who are introduced throughout the book. Not a lot of background info on them and some don’t have last names.


Fairly average voices, no real distinction. Conversations don’t last long.


Book is divided into 2 Parts. Profanity. Some chapters headed by date.

As mentioned, this book is pretty formulaic with no real surprises. I thought it might get into more of the history of the Monarchs, where and how they originated, how their influence worked throughout the centuries, how they influenced world events, etc. But, sadly, none of this was delved into.

Fairly clean writing but it’s a shorter book than most, so it’s a quick read.

This is good story but it could have used more meat. I thought it would have been interesting to learn more of the email the author received, the contents, how she handled it, and how it developed into the story.

My Rank:

Green Belt




By Erick Therme



Andy Crowl is the sole heir to his cousin’s house. Inside, he finds a dead rat…which starts him and his sister on a quest to solve the clues their cousin left for him. In doing so, family secrets are revealed.

An interesting puzzle case. I like those. Solve the clue, which leads to another, and another.


Andy Cowl: 30, smokes, likes puzzles, divorced

Kate Anne Crowl: Andy’s sister

Nate Shawler: shop owner, 300 lbs., scar on arm

Mary Moore: 5’, 200 lbs., aunt of Andy/Kate

Ricky Simms: cemetery groundskeeper, 60s, thick neck, widower

An interesting cast of characters. Mary has the most relevance to the game, but the others add to the plot.


Some good voices. Nate’s easy going, Kate’s whinging, Ricky’s yelling. Some overuse of ‘ly’ adverbs on tag lines.


Book is divided into Days. Relatively short chapters. A couple instances of mild profanity.

I thought the story flowed fairly well with some hiccups. There were several cliffhangers and the next chapter would start with the person already out of danger and an explanation of how. That was a bit of a let down.

Mild action but nothing real intense. The story seemed a bit disjointed in places, but it was pretty easy to follow. One of the clues didn’t make sense and was never explained, but the story wrapped up well and left me feeling a bit for Andy, because he didn’t know the story was over.

Anyway, clean error free writing and a pretty good book.

My Rank:

Purple Belt




By Erik Therme



Kaylee is invited to a friend’s house for a party. The attendees end up in an abandoned retirement home for a scavenger hunt. The hunt doesn’t last too long when Kaylee encounters a deaf boy. From there, danger lurks around every corner, especially when they find themselves locked inside the building

Not quite what I expected. I didn’t expect a ghost story, but this has some suspense.


Kaylee: 15, father and mother having marital problems, blonde

Jamie: 15, blonde, parents dead, owns a cat, has a mole on her lip

Ethan: 15, Jamie’s twin brother, dark hair, freckles

Wren: 15 dark hair, beaky nose

Anna: mud brown hair

Sidney Elizabeth: braided pigtails for hair, parents in prison

I thought the characters were pretty good and they interacted well together. Only a couple had last names. Since the story centered on Kaylee, I didn’t see a lot of development from the others. Jamie was missing in the story for a long time and though the reason is explained, I thought she should have had more play in being Kaylee’s antagonist.


Reasonably good voices and conversations went okay. Not a lot of time for extraneous stuff, but the arguments between the girls played out well.


First person from Kaylee’s POV.

This book doesn’t have any chapters. Except for the epilogue, it’s one long scene. I think writing it this way is fine.

The story is more for the YA or NA crowd. As mentioned, It wasn’t what expected.

Some more descriptions about the building/the halls/rooms at the retirement home would have been good.

Otherwise, a fairly quick and error clean read.

My Rank:

Green Belt