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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Drawing Blood: A Sketch In Crime Mystery By Deirdre Verne

by Cynthia Chow

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

Although Earth Day may be one of devoted Freegan CeCe Prentice's favorite days of the year, it also marks the first year since the death of her beloved brother, Teddy. A distraction comes in the form of Cold Spring Harbor Detective Frank DeRosa, who needs to consult with a garbage expert, who just happens to be his girlfriend. CeCe's Freegan lifestyle demands that she and her friends subsist solely on what they scavenge, recycle, or grow, making them the undeniable specialists when reports of illegal electronic waste are reported at a local warehouse. The recycle center and town dump owner Big Bob's belief in "garbage as purpose" alone would make him dear to CeCe's heart. His talent as an outsider artist skilled with dioramas, though, further cements his place in portrait artist CeCe's affections. The discovery of his body, crushed in garbage, devastates her.

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CeCe's finesse at creating accurate sketch drawings and reading faces previously has proved instrumental to the police, and naturally she is unable to resist inserting herself in the investigation of her friend's death. So it's baffling when CeCe is completely blocked and unable to recollect the face of a woman she spotted fleeing the scene. It's not surprising that CeCe may be unfocused, considering the traumatic truths she recently discovered about her family, her father's crimes, and a child who may or may not even exist.

Image source: Midnight Ink

Although the exploration of Freeganism makes this a standout on its own, CeCe's obsession with her family's past crimes and future will have readers seeking out the debut of this series, Drawing Conclusions. Freeganism is such a fascinating way of life, as the definition of what is garbage can be a simple extemporaneous expiration date. Many readers may share Frank's disgust at the thought of eating food retrieved from a dumpster, but perhaps they will think twice before buying those individually packaged-in-plastic food items.

CeCe proves to be an impulsive and occasionally self-righteous advocate for her way of living, but her sincerity and need to mend her family redeem her. CeCe's best friend's impending baby due date and her own mother's recovery from a breakdown, add surprising elements of humor. This is a complex and unique mystery that explores a way of life that could save our planet if only we could change the way we think. Socialized medicine, DNA manipulations, and the ethics of both only enhance this continually evolving and compelling mystery series.

To enter to win a copy of Drawing Blood, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “paint,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 13, 2016. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase the book:

Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Martian: Movie Review

by Kathleen Costa

"Houston, we have a problem!" Not the kind of 911 call you want to make, especially when you're almost 250 million miles away from any emergency response. In The Martian, director Ridley Scott, known for his big productions, and Matt Damon, who seems to epitomize the American hero, team up to set us on the edge of our seats in a very realistic, timely sci-fi drama based on the novel of the same name by Andy Weir.

It’s 2035 and a successful landing on Mars by Ares III has a team of American astronauts exploring and setting up residence. It becomes dire when a dust storm, at first determined not to be life threatening, has been upgraded forcing the team to abandon the comforts of their habitat. Rushing through the vicious storm the team hurries to get to an escape rocket and blast off to the safety of the orbiting vessel Hermes. Breaking loose from an antenna a piece of debris impales Watney (Matt Damon). Life support readings indicate his suit is depressurizing, and his life signs are deteriorating fast. The team leader Lewis (Jessica Chastain) sets to search and save him. However, the storm is so bad that it may tip over the escape rocket and the thought of all being stranded leads them to abandon the search for Watney.

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Devastated by the death of their friend and colleague the remaining crew on the Hermes (including Michael Pena and Kate Mara) settle in for their six-month return trip home, and as Earth mourns the loss of a popular astronaut, NASA officials (Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean, and Kristen Wiig) pay homage and return to their regular routine preparing for the Ares IV mission set in four years. However, unbeknownst to everyone, Watney has survived. The ensuing struggle to stay alive creating a workable environment to grow potatoes, the use of real-life technology to improve communication between Mars and Earth, and the efforts by an eclectic range of experts to rescue Watney take on an inspiring, intriguing and clandestine flair.

Image source: 20th Century Fox

This film runs 141 minutes which might be a concern for some, especially being in a theater with the absence of "pause" control, but the story is enthralling and captivating, so time passed quickly. Ridley Scott once again presents realistic and seamless special effects to create a Mars landscape, zero gravity, and in-space drama. Matt Damon gives an Oscar-worthy performance, solo for the majority of the film, using a video journal and discussions with inanimate objects to inject enjoyable humor. And incorporating 70s disco music is just plain fun!

The Martian
has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture.

Review 5/5 Spaceships

Kathleen Costa is a long-time resident of the Central Valley, and although born in Idaho, she considers herself a “California Girl.” Graduating from CSU-Sacramento, she is 35+ year veteran teacher having taught in grades 1-8 in schools from Sacramento to Los Angeles to Stockton to Lodi. Currently Kathleen is enjoying year 2 of retirement revitalizing hobbies along with exploring writing, reading for pleasure, and spending 24/7 with her husband of 25+ years.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Deafening Silence in Heaven By Thomas E. Sniegoski

by Terrance McArthur

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

Private detective Remy Chandler is really Remiel, an angel of the Seraphim who came to live on Earth, disillusioned after the War in Heaven with Lucifer. Now, God has offered to forgive Lucifer, welcome him home, and Unification is near, but not everybody is happy in A Deafening Silence in Heaven by Thomas E. Sniegoski.

Michael, the Archangel, doesn’t want to give up fighting Lucifer and his minions. Simeon, the forever man, still hates a young Messiah for stealing him from the peace of death, and wants revenge on God for letting it happen. Remy is near death, shot by a demon assassin. God, in the form of a kindly old man, sends him into another universe where Unification has gone horribly wrong, where filthy angels try to create a new heaven by punishing everyone they don’t like, and everybody seems to be blaming Remy for it. Remy’s friends and loved ones try to protect his body and retrieve his soul, while the killers send legions through shadows to finish their honor-bound contract to end the angel’s life.

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Events careen from the hidden depths of the Vatican to Boston, from the now-dangerous Garden of Eden to realms that are temporary metaphorical constructs.

It’s a time of chaos and Sniegowski presents it in a chaotic manner, bouncing between the two realities and the viewpoints of multiple characters. There are a lot of things happening to a lot of people (and a dog…and demons…and a golem…and a minotaur), and some sequences need a slowed-down reading speed to keep up with everything. The language is strong and coarse. You expect it from demons, but it’s odd to have f-bombs dropping from the mouths of angels, fallen and otherwise.

Image source: Roc

This is the seventh Remy Chandler book, and the series has transformed from a noir-ish paranormal detective opus to an explosive meshing of mythologies and cosmologies, rethinking religious truths and turning them into a tag-team cage grudge match. Now, the end is near, and who will win: Love or Hate?

A Deafening Silence in Heaven: It’s violent, sometimes revolting, and redemptive. If you don’t believe in God, it’s a comedy. If you do believe in God, it’s sobering. If you believe in ripping good reads, it’s there.

To enter to win a copy of A Deafening Silence in Heaven, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “silence,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 6, 2016. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL & it supports an indie bookstore:

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Community Librarian for the WoW! (WithOut Walls) Division of the Fresno County Public Library, roaming the Valley to meet the public's information needs.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Man Who Wasn’t There By Judy Nedry

by Sandra Murphy

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

Emma used to be involved with the wine industry, even co-owning a winery with her now ex-husband. That was before she got a little too fond of the grape. Now she attends AA meetings and finds other ways not just to entertain herself, but to support herself, too.

Going to the Salmon Bake at the International Pinot Noir Celebration brings back a lot of memories. There are too many people at the event, and drinking water while others drink wine—well—it’s for the best, but still…

James Ryder, a long-time friend, is one of Oregon wine country’s pioneers. His vineyard and winery are not just famous in the area, but across the country. He’s getting older, so his youngest daughter, Stephanie, now makes the wine. His older two daughters showed no interest in learning the business. Five years ago they had a falling out with their parents, and have been seldom seen in the area since.

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Lila, James’ wife, is ill. Cancer has returned and while the treatments are promising, it’s wearing. James is angry about a developer who wants to buy and rezone the property above his for use as a fancy resort. Increased traffic, tourists taking selfies in the vineyard, foreign bacteria invading the grapes, waste from the resort flowing downhill, and the fact that there’s no water source there (meaning they’ll tap James’ well), all add up to a disaster in the making.

James and the developer, Max Weatherman, get into a fist fight at the event, more of an embarrassment than a true fight. Still, it’s enough to break the spell of the celebration.

Emma’s had enough of the crowd, so she decides to head back to her friend’s B&B for the night. Of course, drinking bottles of water during the heat means a pit stop on the way. Hoping to find an unoccupied and still clean Porta Potty, she tries the door on one of them, and a man falls out and pins her to the ground.

Image source: BookBaby

Her screams bring help but she wasn’t attacked. James was stabbed, and is still bleeding; he fell on her when the door opened. Death came quickly.

Emma’s been involved in investigations before and vows to stay out of this one. Unfortunately, Emma’s BFF volunteers her to help Lila, and that leads to a few questions, and then…Emma’s in deep before she realizes it. Lila needs a little help around the house—someone to keep her meds straight and make sure she eats. Mostly, she needs help keeping her daughters in check. The vultures are circling before James is even buried. Max has disappeared, thugs and the FBI are looking for him, and Emma just wants to go home.

This is the third book in the series; An Unholy Alliance and The Difficult Sister came first. Emma is a likable character, flawed but not beyond hope, and she has good friends to support her, even if sometimes they forcibly push her past her comfort zone. Information about Oregon’s wine country will make readers want to book their reservations to stay at the B&B.

This is a first-rate read, one that I had to finish in one sitting, it was just that good. Now I have to get books one and two. Hopefully, by then, book four will be ready!

To enter to win a copy of The Man Who Wasn’t There, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Man,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 30, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL & it supports an indie bookstore:

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble. You can also find several of Sandra’s short stories on UnTreed Reads including her newest, "Arthur", included in the anthology titled, Flash and Bang, available now.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Ash and Silver By Carol Berg

by Sharon Tucker

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

Committing to read an unfamiliar fantasy author always gives me pause at the outset. However, this author has gone to great lengths to create a unique world peopled by mages, not-quite-human creatures, rulers, knights, and ordinaries who use unfamiliar terms and live in lands that resemble what we know, but have enough of an unfamiliar cast that they seem new.

I feel that a contract exists between the reader and writer. As a reader, I will learn your language, and if need be, take notes to keep words and characters straight. As the writer, you must make the journey worth taking, show me something splendid, make me long to be in a place where idealism runs rampant and treachery can finally be overcome, and introduce me to a sensuous world I can almost taste and dream about.

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Ash and Silver, second in the Sanctuary series by Carol Berg, worked for me. This was my first time reading one of her novels, and plunging into the world of Navronne has been most rewarding. My patience for starting ‘in medias res’ was not tried since the action from the previous novel, Dust and Light, is gradually, but briefly recapped.

Her hero, Greenshanks, is a man in the midst of a severe period of training to become a perfect weapon for the military order known as the Equites Cinere. He will become a wielder of magic in the service of his divided and ailing country. His past has been erased from his memory, so he can be without loyalty to family or faction; both of which have all but destroyed Navronne.

Now you may ask yourself, “How interesting can a man without a past be in a fantasy novel because family, associates, and the past, in general, are the accepted underpinnings of creating a fantasy world?" Greenshanks has been in training for two years and does know quite a bit about the order, his comrades, and superiors, as well as, the fact that he can wield magic of a sort. He has retained everything about himself except memory of his origins and events of his personal and family history. The operative question here becomes “Why would anyone submit to such harsh rigor and a selective memory wipe?”

Other readers may have other answers, but I concluded that such a loss removes personal bias and loyalties that would interfere with the altruistic motives of the order.

Image source: Roc

If you think all is perfect within the order, fairly early on that particular misconception is exploded. Another ever-present conflict in Ash and Silver is Navronne is in dire straits. A cataclysmic event, occurring sometime in the fairly recent past, has changed everything. Navronne’s future also doesn't look promising unless Greenshanks can make sense of his purpose by completing his training, eluding those who would use him for other purposes, and fulfilling any promises he made (which he cannot remember) to the people he keeps encountering who know him as he is sent out on training missions.

I enjoyed the time I spent in Navronne and look forward to reading more of her series, duets, and novels of the Collegia Magica. In Ash and Silver I particularly enjoyed the structure and logic of the story, but it is the character Greenshanks that kept me reading. I wanted to go on the journey with him to recapture his lost memories and to see why he was so important to his world. The emotional nexus around him was compelling and the world he inhabited was one I could live in happily. I’m grateful Carol Berg fulfilled her contract.

To enter to win a copy of Ash and Silver, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “ash,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 23, 2016. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase the book & a portion goes to help support KRL:

Sharon Tucker is former faculty at the University of Memphis in Memphis TN, and now enjoys evening supervising in that campus library. Having forsworn TV except for online viewing and her own movies, she reads an average of 3 to 4 books per week and has her first novel---a mystery, of course---well underway.

Friday, January 8, 2016

A Dangerous Place By Jacqueline Winspear

by Theodore Feit

Maisie Dobbs has led an interesting and varied life throughout the eleven prior novels in this popular series, but now in another chapter of her life she is at a crossroads. Having at last married James Compton and gained a title, becoming pregnant, only to then become a widow when her husband crashes to the ground in Canada while flying a developmental fighter and losing the child as a result. She naturally is deeply depressed. So she goes off to Boston and then India to escape and perhaps gain some composure. But pressure from her stepmother forces her to book passage back to England, a home she does not feel able to face.

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As a result of her ambivalence on returning, she gets off the ship in Gibraltar, the last stop before reaching the British Isles. There she begins to regain something of her old self, when she trips over the body of a murdered photographer while walking. Consequently, she becomes embroiled not only in investigating the murder, but learning of the consequences of the Spanish Civil War just across the border, of the intrigues, spies, and intelligence agents operating on the Rock.

Image source: Harper

Working once again, Maisie begins to approach her old self. She even crosses the border into war-torn Spain to cut through the deceptions and artifices surrounding the murder. Each novel in the series has brought us new insights into Maisie’s character, and this latest effort, now making a even dozen novels, brings the reader even deeper into her mind and psyche. The descriptions of the battles in Spain may not be another Sun Also Rises, but they serve the plot well and give rise to another objective for Maisie to accomplish before returning home.

Highly recommended.

Ted & Gloria Feit live in Long Beach, New York, a few miles outside of New York City. For 26 years, Gloria was the manager of a medium-sized litigation firm in lower Manhattan. Her husband, Ted, is an attorney & former stock analyst, publicist & writer/editor for, over the years, several daily, weekly and monthly publications. Having always been avid mystery readers & since they're now retired, they're able to indulge their passion. Their reviews appear online as well as in three print publications in the UK & US.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Pyramid Deception: A Hannibal Jones Thriller By Austin S. Camacho

by Cynthia Chow

Professional troubleshooter and private investigator Hannibal Jones has never seen his girlfriend in such a state. The normally confident attorney Cindy Santiago is spiraling into despair and is nearly suicidal. It seems the skilled lawyer gambled all her savings on an investment opportunity offered by her best friend Jason Moore, and now everything is gone.

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Cindy initially doubts that even Hannibal could recover the money that cost Cindy her new home and all of her life’s earnings, but a lead has him meeting the woman who initially led Jason to the plan. Irene is shot and killed before he can get much information out of her, and when he sprints off the chase the shooter her body is quickly whisked away. From then on, Hannibal is quickly drawn into an extraordinarily complex labyrinth of deceit and murder.

Image source: Intrigue Publishing

Hannibal Jones is the epitome of the macho investigator who remains calm amidst chaos and violence. Here, Hannibal is also faced with seeing the intelligent woman he loves at her most vulnerable and needy. The near complete obliteration of everything important in her life has her understandably irrational and overwrought at times, but thankfully she always has Hannibal by her side. Tracing those who harmed the most important woman in his life kicks Hannibal into high gear, taking readers along for his mission to unravel the threads that lead back to more than one crime of financial thievery and revenge. Full of action and led by its sardonic hero, the Hannibal Jones series entertains in this fast tale reminiscent of traditional noir crime fiction.

Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).