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Friday, December 2, 2016

“A Damsel for Santa” A McKenna Mystery By Terry Ambrose

by Cynthia Chow

Details on how to win an ebook copy of this novella at the end of the review.

All Wilson McKenna was hoping for was to spend a Hawaiian Christmas together for the first time with his girlfriend Benni. Before she can fly in from the Big Island, McKenna is talked into doing a favor that he simply cannot refuse. The Honolulu Community Theater is giving charity benefit performance of “A Damsel for Santa,” and their Santa has just come down with a case of malaria. McKenna’s tenant, aspiring private investigator Chance Logan, has talked him into doing far more outlandish deeds before, so convincing McKenna into filling in as Santa proves to be a breeze. It’s a charitable act McKenna soon regrets, as he’s immediately faced with a hot-flashing Mrs. Claus, weed-smoking crew, and a child star whose mother suffers from PTSD.


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Rehearsals haven’t even begun before the owner of a homeless shelter is murdered, a fast-approaching hurricane knocks out the power and phones, and the entire cast is locked in the theater with a killer. It’s up to McKenna, in an alarmingly uncomfortable Santa suit, to preserve the crime scene, question the suspects, and hopefully keep everyone alive until the police can arrive. With a cast of actors who are off the eccentric scale and not receptive to his interrogations, McKenna finds himself reluctantly relying on a nine year-old Temporary Assistant Elf Investigator to solve the mystery and save Christmas.



Image source: Terry Ambrose

This Christmas novella arrives just in time for the holidays and serves up a generous portion of laughs and escapist reading. The classic locked-room scenario gets twisted with the inclusion of a zany collection of characters who unpredictably fall in and out of their roles. The very put-upon McKenna continues to be entertaining as he wades through the suspects, ensuring his success as Santa no matter how much he attempts to resist. Often a beacon of sanity is an ocean of chaos, McKenna is at his best when surrounded by chaos.

To enter to win an ebook copy of A Damsel for Santa, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “damsel,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 12, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please included your mailing address.

You can use this link to purchase the book:


amzn.to/2gAm3xd


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).

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.




Friday, November 25, 2016

“A Killer Location” A Home Sweet Home Mystery By Sarah T. Hobart

by Cynthia Chow

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

Despite her initial optimism, Home Sweet Home Realty’s newest licensed realtor Samantha “Sam” Turner could not call her first open home a success. Sam’s hopes for showing a promising but outdated home in the upscale Campus Heights, California, neighborhood are dashed first by a cranky neighbor, and then by an escalating series of disasters. Fast-moving thieves, a flea-laden dog, backed up toilet, and dissolving carpet pale in comparison first to a severed finger in the freezer, and then a corpse in the garden. Not even the scent of baking cookies could distract prospective buyers from all of that bad karma.


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The future of her career in real estate worsens when she realizes that the buried body had a connection to Sam’s boss Everett Sweet, and his arrest causes her own real estate agent license to be suspended. Although Sam is dating Arlinda’s Chief of Police, it is cranky new officer Mike Decker who is charge of the investigation and doesn’t appreciate Sam’s advice. Everett may have had a lamentable record of ex-wives, but Sam refuses to believe that he would engage in real estate violations, much less commit murder. Getting involved in yet another murder is far preferable to finally telling her sister Stacy that Sam is dating Stacy’s ex-husband. Time is ticking on that, considering that having broken both a relationship and an ankle, Stacey has temporary moved into Sam’s converted garage. A real estate guppy swimming with sharks, Sam never developed the competitive spirit that would help her both professionally and personally.



Image source: Alibi

This second in the Home Sweet Home Mystery series lives up to the promise of the debut, continually delivering laughs along with fascinating real estate lore. Sam’s resilience and sense of humor get her through her absurdly inept first showing, while her observational skills and intelligence make her a more than competent investigator. While Sam may be inexperienced and a little naïve, her judgment has matured enough to allow her to deal with the sudden reappearance of her son’s father in their lives.

Readers will be challenged to keep up with Sam’s investigation as the bodies pile up, with the final reveal logical and still a complete surprise. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this novel is Sam’s increasing confidence that prevents her from becoming a doormat or sacrificing her ethics. Sizzling hints of sexual tension between Sam and her police chief heighten the fun and promise more enjoyable adventures for this detecting real estate agent.

To enter to win an ebook copy of A Killer Location, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “location,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 3, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please included your mailing address.

You can 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).

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.




Friday, November 18, 2016

“Sunshine Noir” Edited by Annamaria Alfieri & Michael Stanley

by Kathleen Costa

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

“The Darkest Shadows are Where the Sun is Brightest.”

The editors and contributors, Annamarie Alfieri and Michael Stanley, take exception to the premise that crime fiction is best illustrated in the ‘Nordic Noir’ style where the northern settings and severe environments best magnify the dark themes and complexity of the characters. Their idea contradicts the proponents knowing that the “shadows are the darkest where the sun is brightest.” They believe that the sunny ‘climes’ can be just as “grim, more varied in plot and character, and richer in entertainment.”

I agree. With environments ranging from deep in Africa to bordering the Mediterranean from Asia to the West Indies, these seventeen authors take us deep into the heat to shine on the underbelly of crime and misfortune. The stories are short in length, but not in substance. Some of the stories are straight forward, some leave closure up to your imagination and some twist about leaving you with an “Oh, my!” on your lips. Beware of some adult themes and tone of several of the short stories, but do not shy away from this reading adventure. The writing is superb and engaging, wetting one’s appetite to explore more from each author. Check out the back of the book where each contributor is introduced including their social media sites to join in as a ‘fan.’

Sunshine Noir earns 5/5 SPF 50 Sunscreen Tubes and a Pitcher of Ice-cold Lemonade!


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These short synopses provide an overview of what awaits the adventurous reader.

“Extreme Heat” by Robert Wilson, engulfs our senses as Jonny Sparks is looking for a different challenge in his life. He says no to New York, goodbye to his family and starts his hitchhiking adventure from London to Cape Town. He got a late start; the big tourist march south has wound down leaving very few opportunities. What could possibly go wrong?

“Blue Nile” by Paul Hardisty, follows a young engineer working to repair pipes on a large dam project to maintain the flow of electricity. However, violent rebels are preparing to cross the Blue Nile. Will he be caught in the middle of a civil war?

“The Assassination” by Leye Adenle, details Otunba’s refusal to forego a run for office or step down from his position unless he is reimbursed his expenses. He shows some concern for the possibility the opposition may take drastic measures and peripheral conversations lead one to believe a plan is being hatched. Will he be able to outsmart the opposition…?

“Chronos and Kairos” by Jason Goodwin, refers to Chronos, depicted as Father Time, and Kairos, the Greek word for the right or opportune moment. In Istanbul, Yashim holds dear his new watch, an object he is mesmerized by since his culture often just ‘feels’ the time. However, he

discovers ‘the opportune time,’ measured more accurately by his new ‘chronoscopic’ friend, is the key to solving a murder.

“The Woman of His Heart” by Nick Sweet, travels to Seville where Inspector Jefe Velázquez is in turmoil over the kidnapping of his girlfriend. The ransom is not money, but a DVD that implicates a government official in a horrific assault. Can he save her life as he is pitted between rival criminal gangs?

“Snake Skin” by Ovidia Yu, takes us to Singapore with breaking news of a destructive house fire and unfortunate casualties. What continues is the flashback of Marie who has been summoned to her father’s side. Meeting her father’s new, young Thai wife and learning of their plans to move from her mother’s house, the family dynamic is explored. Was the fire deliberate? Is this the closure someone needed?




Image source: White Sun Books

“Corpus Crispy” by Tamar Myers, heats up in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona with Assistant Professor Delbert Finkter objecting to the Catch-22 of the publishing industry. Stuck teaching students with whom he holds a measurable contempt, he sets to critique the short story of a septuagenarian auditing his creative writing class. He questions her skill, her knowledge and her right to be in his class. Will she be able to move past his abuse?

“The Sultan Rules Mombasa” by Annamaria Alfieri, turns the clock back to 1912 Kenya. Lady Vera Tolliver, wife of a second-born aristocrat turned policeman, laments the stifling mores of the British and constraints placed on young British women. She becomes alarmed when a close friend appears frantic that her younger sister has tried to break the reins of society in favor of her heart. Will their search uncover the young girl’s whereabouts? Or will the African heat disguise a dark secret?

“Pale Yellow Sun” by Richie Narvaez, spins a tale of a robbery in the heat of a Puerto Rican afternoon. Señora Olga Lopez is desperate to locate the crystal golf trophy that could help sway a new investor and spark economic growth. How far would she go to see it returned?

“The Logistics of Revenge” by Susan Froetschel, puts us in the Middle East traveling with a convoy of aide workers on their way to help refugees awaiting transfer to Zaatari. But, as many fear, the convoy is attacked and the aide workers are kidnapped, separated from each other and one struggles for her life. Can she survive the heat, the sand, the uncertainty?

“Housecleaning” by Greg Herren, sweeps us away to New Orleans drenched in the heat and humidity. A young man reminisces about his mother and his somewhat nomadic life, never staying put too long in any one place. What connections do mothers have with their sons? What connections do sons have with their mothers? The complications sometimes are resolved.

“Someone’s Moved the Sun” by Jeffrey Siger, is amidst the whitewashed buildings of a Greek Island steaming with heat and crowded with tourists. Toni, known for being able to find misappropriated things from hotel rooms and vacation homes, takes on a questionable case. Missing a backpack with money and jewelry, but he has a feeling there’s more to it than that. Will the new
Balkan gang prove difficult…physically difficult? Or will the missing items turn out to be more trouble than they’re worth?

“The Freemason Friends” by Timothy Williams, moves from an Ontario, Canada, winter to the heat and humidity of the Caribbean with Anne-Marie seeking to leave the disappointments with her daughter to visit a dear friend. The friend? Hiding. Why? Suspected of murder.

“Spirits” by Michael Stanley, heats up in New Xade with not even the slightest breeze coming across the Kalahari. Constable Ixau is called to help. Q’ema’s father is ill, possessed. He rants that he walks with the spirits and Yuseb is in grave danger. When Yuseb ends up dead, the investigation takes on an eerie tone.

“The Man in Prampram” by Kwei Quartey, moves to Ghana, hot, incessantly hot Ghana. Due to serious health issues, Patrik Blom, a native of Sweden, moves to warmer climates. In a tourist-filled beach community he is hiding, wanted by the police, suspected of fraud, identity theft and murder. The police get a break in their search, the family back home have an urgent need and the possibility of revenge may bring closure. Where can he hide now?

“The Cigarette Dandy” by Barbara Nadel, burns almost with an unbearable heat for Inspector Cetin Ikmen of the Istanbul Police. He is called to investigate the death of a man known to many as the Cigarette Dandy. Viciously mutilated, the victim’s connection to the Sulukule gypsies becomes a key line of inquiry, but they would have to talk to Papatya hanim, a witch. Will this be the answer Ikmen needs? What secrets can be told?

“When You Wish Upon a Star” by Colin Cotterill, has Mr. Grabong making a wish on a shooting star in the Lang Suan night sky. Muggy, thick with lights and exhaust, he has carried this wish in his mind knowing he had to make it quick; four-seconds was all he had. Not every wish blooms, but Mr. Grabong was lucky…or was he? A young reporter is sent to investigate an ‘accident,’ and sees that things just don’t add up for her. What connections can she find?

To enter to win a copy of Sunshine Noir, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “sunshine,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 26, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

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 26+ years.


KRL receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.



Monday, November 14, 2016

Dr. Strange: Movie Review

by Lorie Lewis Ham

Special coupon for Dinuba Platinum Theatre at the end of this review.

This week we have another video review from Jessica Ham, this one for the new Marvel movie Dr. Strange starring Benedict Cumberbatch.


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Image source: Marvel Studios




Dr. Strange is currently playing at Dinuba Platinum Theatres 6. Showtimes can be found on their website. Platinum Theaters Dinuba 6 now proudly presents digital quality films in 2-D and 3-D with 5.1 Dolby digital surround sound to maximize your movie experience.

Print this coupon and enjoy a special discount for Kings River Life readers only!


Jessica Ham is 23 years old and an ongoing contributor; with dreams of being on Broadway, she's right at home covering Entertainment. You can learn more about her on your YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/user/JessTheGoodWitch.


Friday, November 4, 2016

“Deadly Dog Days” A Dog Days Mystery By Jamie Blair

by Cynthia Chow

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

Closing in fast on forty, Cameron Cripps-Hayman never expected to be unemployed, separated from her husband, or living in historic but isolated Metamora, Indiana. She certainly never intended to discover the body of a young woman, floating in a canal next to the town’s duck mascot. That shock pales upon the realization that Cameron was perhaps the only one in Metamora unaware of the rumors circulating that the late Jenn Berg had been dating Metamora’s only police officer, Ben Hayman, Cameron’s estranged husband. When news surfaces that Jenn had been pregnant, the town sees the two with the biggest motives to do in the local waitress as Cameron and the possible baby-daddy, Ben.


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Her mother-in-law may be slowly absconding with Ellsworth House antiques out from under Cameron, but Irene Hayman’s dedication as the President of The Daughters of Historical Metamora does have the benefit of providing Cameron with a ragtag team of investigators. Cameron’s two overachieving high school volunteers and court-mandated community service workers enthusiastically transition into the Metamora Action Agency, whose entire purpose is to investigate the murder and clear both Cameron and Ben.

Cameron will need their assistance considering that she somehow managed to also find herself the guardian of Jenn Berg’s ill-trained Newfoundland, cranky German Shepherd, terrifying Rottweiler-Doberman, and two twin canine tanks. Cameron’s teenaged stepdaughter arrives to further strain the household, as Mia shows a mastery of teen eye-rolling and manipulation of her father. It will take more than Cameron’s black hole of a purse to contain the chaos descending on her historical, and colorful, new home.



Image source: Midnight Ink

This debut series balances the light-hearted antics of Cameron’s Scooby Gang and canine crew with the heart-wrenching dilemma of a woman facing the end of her marriage. Cameron’s Agency, which includes an ex-con, a kleptomaniac, and a charming alcoholic are undeniably effective when utilizing their specific skill sets, but Cameron herself is the one having a difficult time finding her place in Metamora. Having moved to Indiana for her husband’s career, Cameron was herself without a job, alienated by her mother-in-law, and neglected by an always-working Ben. So it shouldn’t have been surprising that Cameron found herself miserable and isolated. It takes a murder to spark a sense of purpose in Cameron, and awakens her to just how much she has grown to love Metamora, her new canine roommates, and perhaps even the man she married. A possible new career could help save the future of Metamora along with Cameron’s marriage, while her visiting sister’s new passion provides tasty doggy treats.

This is a delightful novel that introduces a relatable and very engaging heroine who is led by her heart, sense of humor, and newfound affection for Metamora.

To enter to win a copy of Deadly Dog Days, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “doggy,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 12, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please included your mailing address.

You can 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).

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.




Monday, October 31, 2016

Jack Reacher, Never Go Back: Movie Review

by Lorie Lewis Ham

Special coupon for Dinuba Platinum Theatre at the end of this review.

Tom Cruise is back as Jack Reacher in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. This is the sequel to the movie Jack Reacher, and both are based on best selling books written by author Lee Child.


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This time Reacher, a former soldier, is out to prove the innocence of a friend, Army major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), who has been framed for treason. Along the way, Reacher also finds out he might have a daughter that he never knew about, a girl named Samantha (Danika Yorosh). This possible daughter is used against him as he tries to sort out this complicated conspiracy.



Image source: Paramount Pictures

There is a lot of great action in this movie, and it's nice to see Cobie Smulders character be every bit as kick ass as Reacher. Reacher has always been a loner, so it's also a nice twist to see him trying to figure out how to be a father. There are some funny moments where both Turner and Reacher are trying to parent this girl, while obviously having no clue. Sam has been in her fair share of trouble and does a pretty good job of taking care of herself.

If you are looking for a fun action movie head out to see Never Go Back.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is currently playing at Dinuba Platinum Theatres 6. Showtimes can be found on their website. Platinum Theaters Dinuba 6 now proudly presents digital quality films in 2-D and 3-D with 5.1 Dolby digital surround sound to maximize your movie experience.

Print this coupon and enjoy a special discount for Kings River Life readers only!


Lorie Lewis Ham is KRL's editor-in-chief/publisher. She has published in many venues through the years and has 5 published mystery novels. You can learn more about Lorie's writing on her blog Mysteryrat's Closet.




Friday, October 21, 2016

The Boo Factor

by Maggie Toussaint

Details on how to win a Kindle format version or an Advance Reading Copy paperback of the book Doggone It at the end of the post.

Something leaps out at you in the dark. Your heartbeat pounds in your ears. Your lungs burn for air. Your palms sweat buckets. Butterflies whirl in your stomach.

Scared silly, scared to death, scared stiff, scared out of your wits – those are a few of the phrases often associated with act of being terrified. What I find interesting is the polarized responses to the experience.

Some people hate that fear-paralysis mode. It produces a nauseating certainty that this is the end of the world. The intensity of that terror often puts those folks off all activities designed to provoke that response.

On the flip side, other people love getting the bejeebers scared out of them. But positive individual reactions to that adrenaline-rush sensation vary. Some folks revel in the intensity of the experience. Some feel lifted from the ordinariness of their lives. Others experience gratification from surviving experiences like sky-diving, rollercoaster riding, haunted house visiting, or scary movie watching.


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Paranormal movies, TV shows, and books have a deep-seated appeal to those who enjoy a scare or two. Interestingly, entertainment options like these that explain the fright and make the “bad guys” pay, offer value for scare lovers and scare haters alike. In the universe of a book or movie, a story may play out with characters who find ways to cope with their fears, and ultimately triumph.

Throughout time, humankind has sought to explain the unexplainable through myths, legends, and religion. In addition to these time-honored stories, modern authors continue to use story vehicles to explore different perspectives of unusual, difficult, or life changing events.

As a person who spent a lifetime avoiding being scared, I now have an intellectual interest in things that can’t be proven or explained logically. For instance, we believe in the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe, though we can’t prove it. Many believe in the afterlife, though we take that on faith from either religious or secular sources.

My current series, the Dreamwalker Mystery Series, features amateur sleuth Baxley Powell, a woman who can, among other talents, access the spirits of those who have died. She’s a police consultant who uses her unusual ability to help solve crimes.

The newest release in this paranormal mystery series, Doggone It, delves into a double homicide at a haunted house. The story opens with Baxley and Charlotte, her reporter friend, visiting the location for a newspaper story and getting waylaid by an earthbound spirit.



Image source: Five Star

Charlotte feels so faint she can’t stand up. She panics as stomach butterflies, tight lungs, and racing heartbeat further debilitate her. She fights back with her secret weapon – by demanding her psychic friend make this problem go away.

Baxley knows it’s a risk for her to lower her guard at the haunted house. During her teens, she had a terrible experience here, but she’s older and wiser now. She knows what she’s about as a dreamwalker, whereas she blocked her abilities previously. Since becoming a dreamwalker, she’s traversed the veil of life dozens of times. Freeing Charlotte from this thrall should be easy-peasy to someone as seasoned as she is.

Plus, her BFF is begging for her help. Baxley’s heart says yes. Her head says she should have no problem. She’s a dreamwalker. She knows all about the spirit world.

But when she lowers her guard, she gets swamped with numbing fear, too. Something terrible has hold of her, and she can’t get away. She hears clanking chains and feels the gut-wrenching cold of nothingness.

Unlike her typical dreamwalks where she is unaware of what’s going on around her body, this experience is like a lucid dream. She knows she’s paralyzed, but she can hear and virtually see Charlotte freaking out.

Baxley’s body, mind, and soul are swamped with the fight or flight urge. Only she can’t defend herself or run. She can’t do anything.

Her options for lifelines boil down to a single bad choice. She can’t use that choice, because it comes at a harrowing cost, but she’s stuck in a nowhere place and afraid. Her father, who rescued her years ago, can’t manage regular dreamwalks anymore, and this is no ordinary anything.

The lifeline choice? A powerful spirit who helps when it suits her, for a horrifying fee. The charge for a favor is an hour of Baxley’s life. Dire circumstances forced Baxley to use the spirit’s help twice before, and in doing so, saved two lives.
If she doesn’t escape soon, she will die. Her life is on the line. The only choice is the bad one. What’s another hour of her life gone compared to no hours left at all?

I hope you enjoyed this reprise of the opening scene of Doggone It. For a chance to win a Kindle format version or an Advance Reading Copy paperback of the book, chime in with something that scares you, or simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “doggone,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 29, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address. Please state whether you prefer the ebook or paperback ARC.

Southern author Maggie Toussaint writes mystery, suspense, and dystopian fiction. Her work has won the Silver Falchion Award for best mystery, the Readers’ Choice Award, and the EPIC Award. She’s published fifteen novels, as well as several short stories and novellas. The next book in her paranormal mystery series, Doggone It, releases October 2016. Maggie serves on the board for Southeast Mystery Writers of America and Low Country Sisters In Crime. Visit her at www.maggietoussaint.com.