Monday, January 30, 2012

The Vanilla Lawyer in the Mayhem Blues

By J.P. Hansen

Simon Caldwell, Twin Cities lawyer, meets an old blues musician and his granddaughter in a local bar. After talking, Caldwell decides to litigate on behalf of the musician in order to collect copyright money for the aged singer’s music. Almost immediately after getting advice from friends, trouble begins. He is warned off the case, his briefcase is stolen, and someone takes shots at him. Even after he thinks the case is complete, his residence is ransacked. The suspects are numerous: another lawyer, an aged construction worker, a major record company, a magazine writer, maybe even the granddaughter herself. The motives include racism, drugs…and a strange decades’ old death. For an attorney who just wants to keep under the radar and tend to his probates, Caldwell finds himself struggling to solve the case and to survive.

I like the story. It isn’t just a ‘normal’ case because you know it can’t be so easy. There is something behind the copyright case and you can’t wait to find out what. I wondered something, however. When Caldwell gets involved with the case he takes a leave of absence. This leave seems pretty extensive and I wondered that his firm’s coworkers didn’t balk more of the amount of time off he took.

Simon Caldwell: White, 6’2”, blue eyes, lawyer, has a collection of country blues, divorced, usually handles wills and probate, ‘vanilla’ type law, has an estranged older adopted brother, parents dead, originally wanted to be an English professor

Dot Fuller: Black, interior designer, attractive, divorced. Has a married brother. She’s wary of Caldwell’s motives

Curtis ‘Lionheart Wilson’ Fuller: Dot’s grandfather, old blues musician, has a sleeping disorder, was a grade school janitor

Frank McGhee: 50, single, lawyer, inherited firm from father, big man, six foot tall, wears a trench coat year round, deals in patent and copyright law, democrat, always wants to take Caldwell golfing

Jocelyn: Stripper, Dot’s friend, blonde, has a degree in nursing, speaks Spanish, carries a Glock

These and a few others are pretty well defined characters with appropriate background information. Except for a little philosophizing from Curtis, there is not too much in depth. I would have enjoyed seeing more involvement of a few characters other than just conversations, but maybe Hansen will use them more in the next book. I also wanted to see more emotion from Caldwell since he’s the main character. I wanted to get into his head more, to get a better feel for him.

Lots of conversations, some of which reminded me of television shows where one sentence quickly follows the next. A little bit of information about characters or the case is included with each conversation and it doesn’t drift off topic.

Hansen did his homework regarding blues musicians. He lays out the plot very well, keeping you moving through the story, throwing in enough teasers and tidbits to keep you interested.

First person narrative from Simon’s POV. A few editing errors (misspellings, capitalizations missed, name flubs, etc.) and slightly rough and/or simple sentence structure in places, but nothing egregious. Relatively short chapters. A quick read at only 187 pages in my pdf file, with not too much detail or description. No profanity and even the sex scene is PG13. This story is good, but I wanted more. More detail, more character development, more action, maybe more legal intricacies. Even though I must give it a lower ranking, I want to read more of Hansen’s work because I think Caldwell is a character worth following.

My ranking:

Camouflage Belt

Monday, January 23, 2012

Vampire Huntress Legend 3 - The Hunted

by L. A. Banks

Damali Richards and her team are recovering from their fight in Hell. Damali is now a full-fledged Huntress and has taken measures to eradicate Nuit’s former empire. While the team reflects on their chosen life as vampire and demon hunters, their powers diminished and gone askew, a new threat makes itself known.

Meanwhile, Carlos Rivera, potential guardian and now Master Vampire, is brought back from near death by the remaining members of the Covenant. Reluctantly, they recruit him into their ranks to help Damali and her team heal, and to atone for the sins of his past.

As everybody is mystically drawn to Brazil, they discover a secret connecting all them with the Huntresses of the past and the answer may hold serious changes for both Carlos and Damali.

After the two-book opening story, I like this new adventure, because first, it comes directly on the heels of the last story, time-wise. There isn’t a long time lag needing explanation. Plus, it continues bringing up Huntress legend facts and combined with actual history, makes it a fun and intriguing plot.

Same team on Damali’s side.

The Covenant warriors, down a few members, pick up a new naïve Father.

The character of Carlos comes under heavy fire in this story. You see deep emotion tearing at him from all sides. Not only does he have to deal with his love for Damali, he fights against the growing vampire nature slowly creeping up to claim him.

Damali is also given more depth in this book. With her love for Carlos finally out in the open, running wild and deep, she has to stay focused to do her job as a Huntress.

I like the dichotomy between the two. It strikes a faint note of familiarity with the Buffy/Angel characters with each battling their own natures and responsibilities.

A new team of native were-humans enter the picture, and once again, similar to the vamps and the Covenant warriors and the Damali’s team in the first book, character definition is lacking, especially when they fall into street familiar actions like bumping fists. It just doesn’t ring true.

Same as usual. At least the Covenant warriors don’t slip into street. However, as the characters develop you notice slight differences in characters. Rider, for instance still stands out because he’s vocal and doesn’t hold back his feelings even when he should. The speaking mode of the attorney on the Vampire Council is a little more defined because of his objection to the situation with Carlos. Marlene is more motherly and overseer guardian even though she still slips at times into a more ‘amiga’ tone.

This time the scenes, the actions and the descriptions are drawn out. This story is over twice as long as each of the last two. There is a lot more detail, especially during the sex scene. I didn’t think that scene needed to be so lengthy because of the usage of repetitious words and phrasing, but that’s a personal opinion. However, again, you have the detail and the descriptions of many similar stories of vampire sex with humans, the bite and the pleasure.

The story seemed to fill in more gaps and didn’t hurry through important scenes. I also liked the teasing bits from the new baddie.

Because this is a more rounded story, with more explanation, more detail, and a little historical context mixed in with fiction, Banks gets advanced in rank.

My ranking:

Purple Belt

Monday, January 16, 2012

Vampire Huntress Legend 2 - The Awakening

By L.A. Banks

Carlos Rivera, now a master vampire, strikes a deal with the Vampire Council to bring his friend and desired companion, Damali Richards, a vampire huntress, to the sixth level of Hell. There, the council will use her to gain more power. He also has a deal to bring Damali to Nuit for his own egomaniacal schemes. However, Rivera’s status in ‘life’ or ‘un-death’ is unique, and his actions could forever damn him or save him.

Meanwhile, Damali Richards and her team deal with a new member in their ranks, try to locate the master vampire who is on a rampage, prepare for an upcoming concert that could harm untold thousands of innocents, and try to hold themselves together in the face of Damali’s upcoming birthday which will transform her into a full huntress.

Same characters as in Minion with an additional cast of:

The Convenant – A group of multi-ethnic warriors who desire a meeting with Damali. Again, as with the vampire council, nobody is really defined or unique.

Rivera is shown to possess much more emotion now that he’s in a quandary with his new ‘arrangement.’ It’s deeper, more personal, bringing up images of his past life.

Same as with book one in that everybody sounds similar when speaking.

Pretty similar to the first with quick, precise action scenes. A few more connections to characters are made and/or dealt with including the death of one baddie I thought would last longer since she was a unique and interesting character. One thing I noticed, and this relates to Character and Dialogue, is many characters use the same terminology, such as ‘cool,’ ‘It’s on,’ ‘For real, for real,’ and calling Damali ‘D.’ One character maybe works, but several, including a bunch of vampires, using the same phrasing gets distracting and doesn’t sound true.

More explanations to the Huntress legend and history are given, which are interesting even when they slide into philosophical areas. Actually, some deep issues are discussed, such as intentions, words, and deeds all originating in the mind and the spirit. I like this part because it causes one to sit back for just a moment and think. It’s doesn’t come at you like a minister preaching from the pulpit, but just enough to make you consider a few things.

The action scenes at the end are exciting, but end quickly with little detail and I could have used a bit more, just to aide my imagination. The fight at the end, in my opinion, was too short, the big baddie not lasting long enough for the power he was portrayed as having.

My ranking

Green Belt

Monday, January 9, 2012

Vampire Huntress Legend 1 - Minion

In the next few weeks I will be presenting reviews of books from years past. I had originally written these reviews in order to have them in case of I ran short of current books. However, I decided I might as well put them into the mix. I want to mention that the author recently died, but in no way was the timing of these reviews planned. I already had them scheduled months ago.

By L.A. Banks

A group of musicians tours America’s nightclub scene. Led by Damali Richards, they are also a team of elite vampire and demon hunters with extra sensory powers. After a gig one night in Philadelphia, they find themselves battling a new type of vampire threat, one targeting artists and nightclub personnel. When a personal connection to one of the members is discovered, and Damali’s powers start to rapidly mature, the team races against time to stop the force behind the killings. Meanwhile, other forces, including one close to Damali, are at work on their own evil schemes.

As I read this and explanations were revealed, I thought of a very slight parallel to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer legend. This story, however, is more serious with very subtle humor and none of the laugh out loud kind. The histories of the Huntress and of the vampires are complex, but not too confusing. This is the first of a continuing series. It was an appropriate introduction.

Damali Richards – almost 21, vampire hunter. In a band with three other members. Has all the powers of her band members

Marelene Stone– 50, Band manager, seer-guardian, has visions, able to read thoughts.

Jose aka Wizard– 30, Band member, tracker. With Jake can ‘smell’ danger in the air

Jake Rider – 45, sharpshooter

Shabazz – band member, martial arts instructor, sensor with Joe, could feel things coming and detect a location by touch

Joe Leung – 30, lighting/keyboard, sensor

Big Mike Roberts – audio sensor, demolitions

Fallon Nuit – Master vampire out of New Orleans, seeking to control the world

Carlos Rivera – Nightclub and drug king in LA. Fighting against vicious attacks against his employees. Helped Damali through her teen years on the streets. Almost a lover.

A few of the characters (band members) were a little difficult to distinguish at first, and Banks doesn’t delve too deeply into their back stories or their inner emotions. This was an introductory story, so more depth of character may follow in subsequent books.

Interesting combination of street patois and serious vampire hunting. Rider is most distinguishable in his speaking. Some of the older characters speaking as street youths was a little hard to fathom. I thought Fallon, as a master vampire, would adapt to each location and time period. For instance, I expected him to have a New Orleans accent in an early scene although he does use a bit of French later although it wasn’t necessary. In the scene with the vampire council, most of the members sounded similar and I found it difficult defining each character.

An introductory story as I’ve said. You have the obligatory action scenes to establish the kind of huntress Damali is and you get to see a little of what is coming. Banks has set up some intrigue between the ‘bad guys’ that leaves you wondering how things will sort themselves out. Not too much detail and description, just enough to get you started, although I would have liked to have a bit more on each character. Sentences flow smoothly and action scenes are well played.

My rank:

Green belt

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Craigslist Murders

by Brenda Cullerton


Charlotte Wolfe: New York interior decorator dealing with the demands of the very wealthy while searching for her 'victims' through the popular Craigslist. She contacts young trophy wives who are selling items owned by previous wives. Then she kills them. However, Wolfe's life is in turmoil and about to get much worse. She suffers the psychosomatic pains of childhood neglect from a mother who only wanted to rise to the top of wealth and society. She endures the indignity of her mother's constant presence and nitpicking in her adult life. The friendship with her college chum is eroding quickly. Bills are piling up. Her clients are driving her mad with their insane ideas. Plus, the cops may be closing in on the killer of young wealthy wives in the New York area.

The premise is very interesting. I really liked the concept when I first picked up the book. There is a lot here to contemplate and enjoy.


Really only one needs to be mentioned. Charlotte Wolfe: 37. Neglected as a child. Suffering humiliation from her mother as an adult. Although she enjoys, somewhat, her profession, she doesn't enjoy the clients.

Yes, there are other people in the book, supporting characters. A friend of Charlotte's who spouts philosophy. A college girlfriend who is turning into the type of rich twits Charlotte despises. A homeless man who provides a nice irony to the wealthy. A Russian client Charlotte falls for. However, Charlotte is the only one you really need to be concerned about.


Very good. Cullerton has got the rich wives’ voices down. Charlotte's conversations are very on edge because SHE is on edge most of the time.


Okay, here's where I have problems. Most of the book deals with flashbacks or memories. I also was disappointed because I thought the first chapter portended a humorous nutty killer and her frustrations with the rich.

However, it quickly turned dark and depressing as it delved into Wolfe's back story. It's a short book, only 219 pages. Cullerton is very knowledgeable about interior design and some of the wealthy 'sicknesses'.

She provides very good insight to the haughtiness and selfishness and conceit of the wealthy. However I just got distracted by too many flashbacks. I mention this because recently I've had discussions concerning the proper place and need for flashbacks and memories. Also, the story needed better editing as many sentences were difficult to read because of missing or added words.

My ranking:

Purple Belt