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Friday, December 28, 2012

Murder On The House by Juliet Blackwell



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Cynthia Chow


Check out details on how to enter to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

Although Melanie "Mel" Turner had recently taken over her father's home renovation business in San Francisco while he recovered from the death of her mother, Mel is becoming much more renowned for her recently discovered talent of communicating with the dead. It was this ghost-busting attribute that got her hired by a couple to renovate a historic Castro District house into a haunted bed-and-breakfast. However, there is a catch; she must first spend the night in the home that has a history of scaring off previous contractors.

Mel also finds that a rival contractor will be spending the night along with her, an evening that ends in tragedy when Mel sees the ghost of the current owner. This is rather unexpected as the last time Mel saw Mrs. Bernini she was still very much alive. Mel's ghost detecting abilities unfortunately prove to be successful, as her next discovery is the body of Mrs. Bernini in a nearby well. It seems that Mrs. Bernini had promised her home to more than one hopeful recipient, an act of questionable generosity that leaves multiple parties disappointed, resentful, and with motives for wanting the woman dead.



Image source: Penguin

While Mel's friends, her father, and the investigating homicide inspector would all prefer that Mel concentrate on renovating homes, she's unable to abandon the ghosts of the children who still inhabit Mrs. Bernini's house. Her investigation leads her to the mysterious death of the entire family who once lived there in the early 1900s and was blamed on a neighbor over water rights with an added element of witchcraft. Mel also must contend with seeing her ex-husband's new wife renovate what was once Mel's dream home, flirt with a Green contractor, and watch her father misinterpret her relationship with her non-gay gay best friend.

In addition to this very enjoyable paranormal mystery series, Juliet Blackwell also authors the charming Witchcraft Mysteries and the Art Lover's Mystery series written with her sister under the name Hailey Lind. Blackwell creates strong female characters who are likable, sympathetic, and very humorous. The magic adds just the right amount of charm and woo-woo to craftily plotted mysteries.

To enter to win a copy of Murder On The House, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “House”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 5, 2013. U.S. residents only.




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).



Friday, December 21, 2012

Viva Jacquelina! Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, Over the Hills and Far Away by L.A. Meyer



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Terrance McArthur


2002’s Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy, by L. A. Meyer, exploded like a man-o’-war’s broadside into the teen book market. Mary Faber was an orphan in 1803 London, but she cut her hair, dressed in pants, called herself Jacky, and was taken on as a ship’s boy on a British warship. Since then, she has fought pirates, been a pirate, spied on Napoleon, gone down the Mississippi, sailed the Far East, been shipped to Australia on trumped-up charges, gone to a Boston school for young ladies, and managed to keep her virtue, despite being lusted after by countless men and being in various compromising situations, because she is faithful to Jamie, her true and first love…although she doesn’t pass up an opportunity for an “innocent” kiss and caress with a handsome acquaintance.

Now, we come to the tenth book, Viva Jacquelina! Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, Over the Hills and Far Away. It’s 1808, and the Napoleonic Wars have brought Jacky to Portugal and Spain, translating for General Arthur Wellesley, working with Spanish freedom fighters, a servant & student (& model) in the studio of the Spanish painter Goya, singing and dancing in taverns, running with the bulls, tormented in the pits of the Spanish Inquisition (and there is a pendulum), and joining a gypsy caravan. Meanwhile, Jamie is half a world away, being taught martial arts and Zen philosophy.



Image source: Harcourt Children's

As the series has wound its way through history and geography, Jacky has acquired a large entourage of friends, associates, and hangers-on. This installment strips them all away from her, forcing Jacky to rely on her own talents (which seem to expand with each day—she takes up flamenco guitar and dance, this time) and her new sets of friends.

I enjoy the series, and recommend starting at the beginning with Bloody Jack. Girls like the female hero, but boys enjoy the swashbuckling action. One of the interesting effects of introducing these books to teens and adults is that people start researching and looking for information on some of the events and historical (and legendary) characters that seem to cross her path with humorous frequency. For instance, General Wellesley turns out to be also known as the Duke of Wellington.

Viva Jacquelina! gets silly, gets exciting, gets dangerous. Get it!




Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a California-born, Valley-raised librarian/entertainer/writer. He lives in Sanger, four blocks from the library, with his wife, his daughter, and a spinster cat.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas in Absaroka County: Walt Longmire Christmas Stories By Craig Johnson



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Cynthia Chow


Check out details on how to purchase this collection of short stories at the end of the review.

Here in Hawaii we know it’s Christmas when Macy’s breaks out the Christmas tree displays and fake snow appears in the windows of stores at the shopping malls. Otherwise, it’s still eighty degrees out, sunny, but with morning isolated showers. So to get that vicarious (and possibly overrated) snowed-in feeling I look to the mysteries written by Craig Johnson, which take place in Absaroka County, the smallest of the twenty-four counties of Wyoming and where the isolation and freezing weather are as vital to the stories as the people themselves.

Just in time to snuggle in for the holidays is the release of a new e-book collection of four short stories that feature the irascible but always endearing Sheriff Walt Longmire. The A&E television series Longmire, an adaptation of Johnson's Walt Longmire mysteries, has exposed more of the public to this delightful character and thankfully the books continue to display the high quality of writing and endearing characters that have earned the author numerous awards for writing in both mystery and western categories.



Image source: Penguin

In "Ministerial Aid" Walt finds himself in the absolutely hilarious and complete absurd position of posing as the Almighty in a bathrobe when he is called to a domestic abuse scene by a confused elderly woman awaiting the second coming. I'm not sure how successful his administrations are, but the imagery Johnson paints with his descriptions of Walt is a treat. "Slick-Tongued Devil", perhaps the most moving of the stories, has Walt confronting the obituary of his wife along with a visitor whose fate depends on the lingering influence of Walt’s beloved spouse.

In "Toys for Tots," Walt is reluctantly dragged by his daughter into doing some last minute Christmas shopping despite his best attempts to be a Grinch. When he encounters another war veteran soliciting for the Salvation Army patriotism, as well as their shared obligation of honor and duty, has Walt granting the man a very unorthodox, but ultimately heartwarming, early Christmas gift.

“Unbalanced” has Walt picking up a hitch-hiking, armed escapee from a psychiatric hospital with the results being completely unpredictable but entirely encompassing the Christmas Spirit Walt claims to disdain.

This very short story collection encompasses everything readers have grown to love about the Walt Longmire series. His sense of justice, the wryness and dry wit of the writing, and the powerfully written characters shine through these brief glimpses of Walt Longmire’s life. This is the perfect Christmas treat that can be enjoyed throughout the year.

You can purchase this collection using this link for only $3.99-a Penguin Special. If you use this purchase link a portion goes to help support KRL as well.


The Longmire TV show returns in 2013. Check out KRL's review of this show.


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).



Saturday, December 8, 2012

Cold Days by Jim Butcher



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Jesus Ibarra


Check out details on how to win a copy of Storm Front, the first book in this series, at the end of this review.

I am somewhat conflicted about Cold Days, the fourteenth novel in the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, because while Ghost Story was really slow paced and all about studying who the man was or had become over the course of the series, Cold Days was very much the opposite.

As a refresher the Dresden Files center around the wizard/PI Harry Dresden who protects his city, Chicago, and loved ones from the things that go bump in the night. Ultimately, events in the series led to his death, and this book picks up with his resurrection from the last book.

A lot of the plotlines that have been building in the series return, and a lot of questions get answered. We learn a lot about how the fae work and why they exist. How and why the island Harry connected himself to came to be. And hints that a certain angel might be coming back, which would be great because she and Harry shared a fascinating relationship. Also, exactly why many of the events of the last books have been happening, and why Harry Dresden is such an important element in these events and the future. Which make sense since if you follow the series, the author Jim Butcher stated in the past that he has ideas about roughly twenty something case file style books, capped off with an apocalyptic trilogy. It’s probably why this book wasn’t as strong as the last book for me anyways, because it was laying the ground work for the end of the series. Because although the book may have been light in a lot of character growth or introspection, a lot of big things happened within the book’s universe.



Image source: Roc

Let me get to what was great about the book. Jim Butcher’s great writing is back. The dialogue, pacing, prose, and his character’s quirks just shine through. The cameos of some the wonderful characters he has written were really great. In addition, his expanding universe continues to get better. Thomas, Harry’s brother, is also back and they share the best relationship in the whole book. And the stakes are raised, and Harry is made to see that he no longer can just make decisions for the few.

Now for some of the things that bothered me. First of all, a lot of the character work and wisdom Harry learned in the last book isn’t really on display here. Whether that was intentional by the author or not it was somewhat disappointing. Harry was back in the world of the living asking some of the same questions he asked of himself when he was dead. And like I said earlier it felt like a lot of this book was just setting up the end game of the Dresden series, because the conclusion at the end didn’t feel like a plot twist or some great revelation. It read a lot like an author setting up pieces for a further storyline. And my problem isn’t that Butcher wanted to set up some later plotlines, god knows he has always done that well. My problem was that it felt and read exactly like that: a set-up. There was no subtlety, and it did some things to certain characters that just felt unnecessary, because ultimately the story ended the same. There wasn’t an immediate fallout or sense of urgency from the major ending like previous entries in the series.

However my critiques aside, I really did like this book. Because even a Dresden book with problems is better than a lot of things out there. It was a definite engrossing read. Even if you haven’t read the Dresden files it is never too late start. Considering Jim Butcher has been making us wait a little longer in between books, not necessarily a complaint as the writing feels much tighter with the extra time to polish and refine the story, anyone has plenty of time to catch up with this amazing series.

To enter to win a copy of Storm Front, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Storm”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 15, 2012. U.S. residents only.

Use this link to purchase Cold Days & a portion goes to help support KRL:


Jesus Ibarra is 20 years old and currently attends UCLA; with a love of all media, he's always on the lookout for the best finds.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Darkness Hunts by Keri Arthur



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Terrance McArthur


Check out details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of this review & interview.

Months ago, I wrote about Darkness Devours: “Darkness Devours has quite an appetite. It will gobble up your sleeptime until you finish it. Then you can wait until November and the next installment of Risa’s saga, Darkness Hunts. I’ll be waiting.”

The wait is over.

Darkness Hunts is the fourth Dark Angels novel by Keri Arthur, author of the paranormal Guardians series. Risa Jones is part werewolf, part Aedh (some angelic powers, but she doesn’t have wings…yet), and she’s looking for the keys to the gates of Heaven and Hell, which were made by her Aedh father, who no longer has them…and wants to rule Heaven, Hell, Earth, and the grey lands between them. There are many groups that want the keys for their own reasons, and they’re pushing and pulling Risa in all directions. The bad-tempered Raziq have put a tracking device in her body, a de-winged Aedh seems to be able to get Risa to have sex with him at will, a soul Reaper stirs passion when they touch but he keeps telling her that they can’t consummate their love…although they already have made passionate love, Dad wants her to reclaim the keys because he can no longer have a physical body, and a she-vamp Council leader has her own reasons for having Risa find the keys, although she keeps dragging her off the case to solve other mysteries.

The latest quandary is a faceless being on the astral planes, branding female vampires and bleeding them while they think it is just fun sex. Azriel, the reaper, can not enter the astral realm, but Risa gets some help from a vampire who has been observing her astrally on orders from Hunter of the Council.



Image source: Penguin

The creepy killer makes a great adversary, but the key-finding that is the purpose of the series doesn’t show a lot of progress. The largest chunk of action is Risa and Azriel getting close together and not doing anything about it because the Reaper says it will take away from his mission, cause him to lose his powers and turn human, or he’ll feel great…and he mustn’t do that. Werewolf, fans, vampire fans, angel fans, conspiracy fans, sorcery fans, and paranormal patrons—there’s something for all of you, and at the end, a teaser excerpt of Darkness Unmasked. Now, I have to wait until June 2013 for that one!

To enter to win a copy of Darkness Hunts, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Hunts”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 8, 2012. U.S. residents only.

Check out our review of Darkness Devours & interview with Keri here at KRL Lite!

Click here to purchase Darkness Hunts from Mysterious Galaxy & you will be helping support an indie bookstore & Kings River Life:


Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a California-born, Valley-raised librarian/entertainer/writer. He lives in Sanger, four blocks from the library, with his wife, his daughter, and a spinster cat.


Friday, November 23, 2012

The Man Who Saved Whooping Cranes



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Kathleen Kaska


After six years of research, a project near and dear to my heart finally came to fruition. The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story was released on September 16 by University Press of Florida. In the past few weeks, I’ve been giving presentations at libraries, Audubon chapters, nature centers, and bookstores. When people ask “why the whooping cranes and why Robert Porter Allen?’ my best answer is, “the book is my effort to make a difference in the world of wildlife conservation.” When I began my search, I realized that not many people, even birders, had heard of Robert Porter Allen. I felt his contribution and hard work was too important to be forgotten.

I first lay eyes on the whooping cranes in the early nineties at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas coast where the cranes spend the winter. These regal, majestic, birds stole my heart on that very first trip to the refuge. I was moved by the story of their recovery and by the ornithologist who spent nine years trying to save them from extinction. At the time, I was teaching science. After that first field trip, I returned to school and wrote an environment/ecology unit, using the whooping cranes as a focal point. I wanted my students to understand that anyone can contribute to a worthy cause and make a difference. It wasn’t long before they were hooked into the whoopers’ saga. I then published a couple of articles on this topic, and during my research I realized that the story was too big to cover in a 1,500-word article. I decided to turn the project into a book. Below is a synopsis of The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story. I recently learned that the book has been nominated for the George Perkins Marsh award for environmental history.



Image source: University Press

Hidden somewhere in northern Saskatchewan, possibly as far north as the Arctic Circle, less than thirty whooping cranes are nesting and raising their young for what may be the last time. The year is 1947, and the Canadian wilderness is changing at an alarming rate. Airplane travel is accelerating development of the wilderness. Soon every corner of virgin forest will be explored for ores, oil, timber, fish resources, and anything man finds useful. Unless the nesting site can be located and protected, all conservation efforts to save the whooping crane will fail.

The Canadian Wildlife Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service joined the National Audubon Society in a three-way stewardship to locate their nesting site. The first two searches in the summers of 1945 and 46 have failed. The number of cranes migrating to their winter home in Austwell, Texas continues to plummet. John Baker, president of Audubon, grows desperate. He calls in his most tenacious ornithologist, Robert Porter Allen, who has just returned from serving his country in World War II.

This is the true story of the whooping crane’s survival and the man who brought them back from the brink of extinction, a feat that changed the course of history and led to the passage of the Endangered Species Act. Robert Porter Allen marched across American firing up the country with never-before-seen enthusiasm for an environmental cause. Before televisions began to appear in American homes, before the Internet provided global information in mere seconds, Allen and his Audubon team triggered a media blitz equal to that of a decade before when Seabiscuit mania had America enthralled with a racehorse.

The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story is timely and will capture the hearts of anyone who appreciates wildlife conservation and enjoys a true adventure story. Robert Porter Allen’s story is best described as Indiana Jones meets John James Audubon.

Kathleen has written several articles for Kings River Life.





Kathleen Kaska is the author the Classic Triviography Mystery Series, which includes The Alfred Hitchcock Triviography and Quiz Book, The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book, and The Agatha Christie Triviography and Quiz Book. All three have just been reissued in by LL-Publications. Kathleen also writes the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mystery series set in the 1950s. Her first two mysteries, Murder at the Arlington and Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus-books for the Pulpwood Queen Book Group, the largest book group in the country. Her third Sydney Lockhart mystery will be out soon. Learn more on her website.

Friday, November 16, 2012

I Have A Secret by Cheryl Bradshaw



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Sandra Murphy


Check out details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of this review.

No one enjoys a high school reunion but Sloane Monroe’s is a real downer as classmates start falling like dominoes. First, on the riverboat cruise, man overboard! Was it an accidental death? It seems so until the second body is found. And then the third. Someone is mightily provoked and it all seems to stem from a night from twenty years ago.

The plot on this book is fairly complicated to keep all the players straight and their motives and alibis—be sure to pay attention. Sloane is able to find out a lot of information, especially with the help of her boyfriend whose job is not exactly spelled out and that’s just as well for all concerned.



Image source: Pixie Publishing

Rosiland Ward runs the town and her son is the first to die. Why isn’t she more upset and involved in finding out just what happened? She’s protecting someone and that might be her oldest granddaughter, at the cost of her daughter-in-law and everyone else.

Stretch the believability factor and sit back and enjoy the ride for this book. You remember all the drama from high school and the angst it caused. Some people just can’t forgive and forget.

All in all, the book reminds us, youthful indiscretion will come back to haunt you—and just maybe…kill you.

Also by Cheryl Bradshaw, Black Diamond Death and Sinnerman.

To enter to win a copy of I Have A Secret, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Secret”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 24, 2012. U.S. residents only.




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 new one Bananas Foster.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Died With A Bow by Grace Carroll



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Cynthia Chow


Check out details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of this review & interview.

"Rita was selfish and self-centered. She couldn't cook to save her life, but she was a wonderful salesman. Clothes were her passion, and she was devoted to her job. Until it was taken away from her. Though accused of a heinous crime, two in fact, Rita wouldn't hurt a fly. She was kind and generous to a fault. Rita had many friends, among them her well-dressed customers, three good-looking men and a self-proclaimed vampire."

That imaginary self-written epitaph excellently sums up the life of Rita Jewel, a recent transplant from Ohio and new resident of the fashionable San Francisco. By the end of the previous novel of this debut series, Shoe Done It, life was definitely on an upswing for Rita Jewel. Not only was she was working in her dream job at Dolce, a trendy clothing boutique in San Francisco, but she also had three very attractive men vying for her attention. Unfortunately, the police detective, the ER doctor, and the former Olympic gymnast have all recently gone AWOL and a new salesgirl at Dolce is racking up commissions in the front of the store while Rita is relegated to sorting through boxes of accessories. Even the opportunity to attend a ritzy fundraiser becomes a downer when the beautiful new salesgirl and rich socialite Vienna Fairchild arrives in a beautiful gown and outbids everyone for a date with the ultimate bachelor Doctor Jonathon Rhodes, who just happened to be Rita's Dr. Jonathan. Oddly enough though, before leaving the event Vienna gives Rita her winning ticket before rushing out with the exclamation that her boyfriend would not approve.



Image source: Penguin

Unfortunately, that ticket and Rita's envy of Vienna serve Rita up as a primary suspect when she discovers Vienna's body on the floor at Dolce. Now, of course, is when the previously elusive Detective Jack Wall makes his reappearance and he's just as interested in arresting Rita as he is in dating her. Infuriated and determined to prove the Detective wrong, Rita begins to unravel the secrets in Vienna's life, which include a twin sister, a crazy uncle, a greedy stepmother, a jealous roommate, and a missing necklace. In between meddling in the investigation Rita now once again juggles dates between her three suitors, one of whom unfortunately has an aunt who claims to be a Romanian vampire.

While Rita believes that she has the skills and intelligence to outwit the police, the author with a tongue-in-cheek makes Rita a very unreliable narrator and has no illusions about her protagonist’s incompetence as a detective. Rita's knowledge of fashion and designers, on the other hand, proves to be extensive and her contemplation over what to wear on dates or to a funeral consumes as much of her thought processes as the murder. The funeral for the victim is as much an opportunity to interrogate suspects as it is a chance to look appropriately stylish. Rita drops fashion brand names at the drop of a hat, and readers should be prepared for more deliberation over accessories than occurs on an episode of Project Runway. While Rita believes fashion can remedy all of the world problems, the novel itself never takes itself too seriously and lets the reader in on the joke that the only way that Rita can solve the mystery will be for her to literally stumble over the solution.

To enter to win a copy of Died With A Bow , simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Bow”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 17, 2012. U.S. residents only.

Click here to purchase Died With A Bow from Mysterious Galaxy & you will be helping support an indie bookstore & Kings River Life:


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).



Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Foreseeable Future



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Sunny Frazier


More of Sunny's articles on writing & short stories can be found on KRL.

Since I’ve taken on the rewarding task of acquisitions editor for Oak Tree Press, people often ask me, “What do you think is the future of publishing?”

I suppose I could look into my crystal ball if I had one handy, or I could get my alter ego Christy Bristol to draw up an astrology chart (what sign would books come under? Probably Libra). But, the fact of the matter is that this industry is in so much flux that there’s no telling where any of us will be in a decade.

Okay, let’s start from the beginning, but not with the Gutenberg Press. Publishing was once the realm of small outfits manned by people with a love and respect for books. Money was not a primary motive. They had wealthy backers and the publishing houses were passed down from one generation to the next.

In the 1920s, referred to as the Golden Age of Publishing, people were getting better education via public schools and books were not just for the wealthy anymore. But, then came the Great Depression and books were again a luxury item. How to get more people to buy more books? Henry Ford’s idea of mass production took hold. An industry of love for the written word was now an industry of love for the almighty buck.



Sunny Frazier

Publishing houses became corporations. The democracy of publishing now was more like a monopoly. Because publishers answered to corporate boards and stockholders, they began pushing out smaller presses.

Two more influences came on the scene. From Britain we inherited the idea of the literary agent. This miffed publishers because agents demanded higher royalties in order to make their own salary. Aggressiveness became part of the battle for publishing contracts. Then there were chain bookstores, not just accepting what booksellers had to sell but actually dictating what they should publish. Because big bookstores controlled sales, Big Publishing danced to their tune. The game was fixed against small publishers and independent bookstores. They never stood a chance.

My personal history started in the late 1990s. I was finishing my first book, excited about the possibility of publishing. The crash came when I went to a conference and heard that of the Big Six publishing houses, five had been sold overseas. Not to China or Japan, but to Germany, England and France. The only American-owned house was Simon & Schuster.

The new owners took mystery imprints and combined them to make one line, keeping the big names and discarding the rest. I watched as many mid-list authors writing terrific series were suddenly left without contracts. I don’t know how other genres weathered the storm, but mystery took a hit. Some authors tried their hand at creating their own publishing houses, even bookstores like Poison Pen stepped up to the plate. Perseverance Press salvaged many careers. PublishAmerica, I Universe and others came on the scene, for better or for worse. Print on Demand technology was developed. Amazon debuted. Kindles and I Pad’s changed how we read.

What do I see in the future? Authors in control of their own futures. Small bookstores making a comeback as large outfits go under. Smaller houses, which now publish 78% of books on the market, getting the respect they deserve. Writers looking for publishers who still love the written word. And readers learning to discover good books on their own, not through the manipulation of the marketplace. That’s a future I’m willing to invest in.


Sunny Frazier worked with an undercover narcotics team in Fresno County for 17 years before turning her energies to writing the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries. Based in the San Joaquin Valley of California, the novels are inspired by real cases and 35 years of casting horoscopes. Sunny is also acquisitions editor for Oak Tree Press.

Friday, October 26, 2012

If Mashed Potatoes Could Dance by Paige Shelton



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Diana Bulls


Check out details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of this review.

Isabelle "Betts" Winston and her grandmother, Missouri "Miz," run a "country" cooking school in Broken Rope, Missouri. This is the second book in the country cooking school series, following If Fried Chicken Could Fly.

Broken Rope prides itself on its history of legendary murders and has developed quite a tourist industry based on this history. To make things more interesting, ghosts from Broken Rope's sordid past tend to appear at the most inconvenient times. Ghosts who can only be seen by Betts and Miz, and who come to them seeking "help."



Image source: Berkley

Miz and Betts are getting ready for their next round of classes based on everything you might want to know about mashed potatoes, when Sally Swarthmore makes her appearance. Sally was accused of hacking up her parents with an ax (loosely based on the story of Lizzie Borden) and is trying to find her diary to prove she was the victim. It's not long before a tourist is murdered and two others are missing, and Betts is trying to solve two mysteries without getting herself "chopped!"

It's a cute story, but predictable and the action moved along a little slow for my taste. I also thought that there wasn't enough background information on Broken Rope or some of the characters. This was probably covered in the first book. I think potential readers should definitely read If Fried Chicken Could Fly first. If they can build a rapport with the characters in that book, then go on and read If Mashed Potatoes Could Dance. This is something I am going to have to do myself.

To enter to win a copy of If Mashed Potatoes Could Dance, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Mashed”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 3, 2012. U.S. residents only.

Click here to order this book & you support KRL & Mysterious Galaxy, an indie bookstore:


Diana Bulls is an ongoing contributor to our
Hometown History section, having collected vintage kitchen utensils for over 40 years; she is also actively involved with the Reedley Historical Society.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Zom-B by Darren Shan



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Roy Runnels


Check out details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of this review. What better than a zombie book to review & giveaway during Halloween month!

Zom-B is something unusual for it’s genre, it’s different. Zombie stories are almost always the same song and dance with little to show for it in the end. It’s one of the many reasons why I stay away from most zombie movies and why I was hesitant to read Zom-B.

The first thing the book does right is not start in survival mode. The story doesn’t start a month into the zombie apocalypse, but instead asks the question what would happen if the world was infected one at a time. It’s something we don’t normally see. After a small town in Ireland gets infected, the news of the outbreak is broadcasted worldwide. Doubt immediately settles in for our main character, B, who doesn’t believe that such could exist. That it’s all a promotional scandal for an upcoming movie.



Image source: Little, Brown Books

The first three-quarters of the book are incredibly strong and brilliant. You struggle to root for B because of the internal struggle B has. You want to believe that B is a good person and can break away from the model left by the father. It’s different and adds something to the genre that is much needed, mystery. I breezed through the book in a night because it hooked me quickly and I needed to know what would happen. The last quarter of the book, however, is where the story falters.

I loved the mystery of the book, the problem I have with it is that it isn’t resolved. The book is meant to be the first in a series, but instead of resolving anything in this book, it just ends. Once the next book releases I’m sure my complaints will be answered, but as of the time of this writing, there are many questions I have that have not been addressed. The one reveal that is in the book felt a little forced and unnecessary. It certainly was shocking, but just not in the way it was intended to be.

Looking past the abrupt end, Zom-B is a great intro to what I’m sure will be a fantastic series. Be sure to check out Zom-B—it was just released on October 16—and stick around for the rest of the series.

To enter to win a copy of Zom-B, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “B”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 27, 2012. U.S. residents only.

Click here to order this book & you support KRL & Mysterious Galaxy, an indie bookstore:


Roy Runnels is a 21 year old aspiring writer currently working on becoming an English teacher. He has a great deal of interest in television as well as video games, when he is not busy writing. Roy was born in Lake Jackson, Texas and moved to Reedley, California in late 2012.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cloaked In Malice by Annette Blair



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Sandra Murphy


Check out details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of this review.

Love vintage clothes? What would you do if every time you picked up a fabulous cape or beautiful dress, your mind was transported to the last time it was worn? Maddie loves the clothes but the visions are getting to be a bit much. When Paisley Skye comes into the shop, she’s vintage all the way. Her 70s outfits are to die for—and if Maddie can’t help Paisley figure out her past, it could be that they will be the ones who die.

Paisley lived on an island with the people who raised her but never felt like her parents. No visitors, odd deliveries, an electrified fence with no explanations leave Paisley looking for answers—but can she face the truth?



Image source: Berkley

During a trip back to the island, Maddie, her FBI agent boyfriend Nick and Paisley find much more than they bargained for. What was thought to be a pet cemetery reveals the bodies of….clowns, still in full makeup, floppy shoes clutched to their chests.

Russians, wartime in Paris, kidnapping and more play big parts in this mystery. The series can be read out of order but for the best reading experience, start with book one. Titles include:
A Veiled Deception
Larceny and Lace
Death by Diamonds
Skirting the Grave


And in another series:
The Kitchen Witch
My Favorite Witch
The Scot, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Sex and the Psychic Witch
Gone with the Witch
Never Been Witched
The Naked Dragon
Redeviled Angel
Vampire Dragon


To enter to win a copy of Cloaked in Malice, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Malice”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 20, 2012. U.S. residents only.

Click here to order this book & you support KRL & Mysterious Galaxy, 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 new one Bananas Foster.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Sinister Sense by Allison Kingsley



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Sandra Murphy


As we continue to celebrate Halloween this month, this week we review A Sinister Sense by Allison Kingsley, featuring an amateur sleuth with visions. Check out details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of this review.

No matter how hard Clara Quinn tries, the visions still keep coming. Except when she really needs them. Now Rick from the hardware store across the street could use some help. A dead body’s been found in the bed of his truck and the man was killed with a tool stolen from the hardware store. The mayor’s pushing for a quick arrest but Clara’s sure Rick is innocent.

Clara’s cousin Stephanie is up for some good undercover work which can only lead to mayhem. Speaking of mayhem, Rick’s inherited Tatters, a very large dog with no manners. Now that he’s spending so much time defending himself against a murder charge, there’s no one to watch Tatters and tame his bull in a china shop ways. Clara knows there’s no way she can take him and besides her mother would have a fit so Clara’s surprised when her mouth opens and says, “Tatters can stay with me.”



Image source: Berkley

The Quinn Sense (intuition or psychic powers) are believable, the characters enjoyable and people you’d want to meet (except Roberta who only loves Roberta—besides, she didn’t like Tatters), and a nice setting make this an enjoyable read.

Second in the series, don’t miss the first, Mind Over Murder.

To enter to win a copy of A Sinister Sense, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Sinister”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 13, 2012. U.S. residents only.

Click here to order this book & you support KRL & Mysterious Galaxy, 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 new one Bananas Foster.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Murder Of The Cat's Meow by Denise Swanson



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Cynthia Chow


Check out details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of this review & interview.

When school psychologist Skye Denison is called by her frantic former student Frannie Ryan to come to an emergency at the bowling alley run by Skye’s ex-boyfriend’s mother, a former Las Vegas dancer and all-around trouble maker, Skye doesn’t know what to expect. Certainly not a violent physical confrontation between a brain injured former doctor and a very judgmental cat judge, the result being Skye not-so-wisely inserting herself between them and receiving a blow to the head for her trouble. It turns out that Bunny Reid, intent on earning money for a singles cruise, managed to create an online dating site that inadvertently attracted cat lovers, so she uniquely decided to create a cat show/speed dating event at the bowling alley owned by her son. One of the judges, Alexis Hightower, manages to mean girl alienate so many at the event that it’s not a surprise that she is soon a victim of murder by cat toy. As the fiancé of the Scrumble River police chief as well as the police psychologist, Skye finds herself interviewing the numerous suspects who all had reasons to hate the very opinionated judge.

Author Denise Swanson has perfected the formula for her fifteen Skye Denison mysteries, blending light murder plots with the chaotic events of Skye’s life. Interspersed throughout each book are Skye’s duties as a school psychologist for Scrumble River’s elementary, junior high, and high schools, usually leading to resolutions that involve retraining parents and teachers as much as the students. The borderline criminal Doozier family can always be counted on to bring chaos to Skye’s life as well complicating the police chief’s attempt to retain control. The over-the-top Bunny Reid is tolerable in limited doses, and her appearance here is surprisingly brief, as is the actual cat show and speed dating event. That the latter events occur mostly off the page is somewhat a shame, as their fascinating uniqueness would have been incredibly entertaining to follow (I really do want to know how and why a cat would wear a toupee).



Image source: Penguin

Instead, readers are given insight into Skye’s life as she plans her upcoming wedding, cares for her favorite cat Bingo, reins in her mother’s expectations of the lauded event, and meets and helps to interview the many suspects of the murder. It is refreshing that Skye displays excellent judgment at not placing herself in danger by running off on her own to investigate and instead keeps her police chief informed of her findings even as she rejects his main suspect as the culprit.

This is a very fun, fast read that reveals Swanson’s skills at creating a series that meets readers’ expectations while still surprising them with original twists. A new element introduced in this mystery is a resident ghost that seems to be intent on keeping Skye and her fiancé chaste until their wedding, exceedingly frustrating to them both. The usual aphorisms are still present (“You may have a heart of gold, but so does a hard-boiled egg. And look how often an egg gets cracked."), but they blend a little more seamlessly in this novel and the humor is unforced and always fun. Overall, fans of this series will continue to be delighted that Swanson has not lost the freshness of these novels and new readers will have the pleasure of being introduced to a strong character who has grown more secure in her body and in the relationships with those she loves.

To enter to win a copy of Murder Of The Cat's Meow , simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Cat's”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 6, 2012. U.S. residents only.

Click here to purchase Murder Of The Cat's Meow from Mysterious Galaxy & you will be helping support an indie bookstore & Kings River Life:


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).



Friday, September 21, 2012

Two Weeks' Notice by Rachel Caine



⇧ switch to KingsRiverLife.com for the full issue ⇧
Terrance McArthur


Check out details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of this review & interview.

It’s strange for Bryn Davis to be running the Davis Funeral Home…because she died there. Revived with the drug Returné, injected with nanites, microbots that repair injuries and hold off the rot and decay of death (and make her close to unkillable), Bryn has to take daily booster shots to keep her alive.

Welcome to Two Weeks’ Notice, the second Revivalist novel by Rachel Caine (Weather Warden, Morganville Vampires, and Outcast Season series).

These re-living bodies are not your shuffling, mumbling, cemetery-variety zombies. They are stronger, often smarter, and determined to continue living, even if it is with bio-mechanical help. They have their doubts and frustrations, but Bryn runs a support group for other Returné addicts.

The drug’s inventor kidnapped her sister and killed—and revived—her, and twisted the military uses of the injections to turn the girl into a time-release assassin. The FBI has taken control of the nanite manufacturer Pharmadene, but some of the agents can’t be trusted. Some of the Returné-revived-and-addicted victims have disappeared, and it may be permanently. Bryn is attacked repeatedly and put in danger, brought in and out of death until her little nanites are ready to give up on the reanimating business. Her bodyguard and her mansion-dwelling boyfriend are merely human; they can only do so much, especially with a sadistic torturer who knows how to bring joy into her work and is eager to reduce Bryn to compost.



Image source: Penguin

In lightning-fast succession, as the remaining words of Two Weeks’ Notice dwindle to a small number, twists are piled upon twists in the flip of a page, and the effect is startling. Not only does the playing field change, but it stops being a game; it is a war for survival, for the living and the formerly-dead, and former enemies become allies, while the good guys may be more dangerous to the health of the robot-carrying.

Caine enjoys putting her heroine into lose-lose situations that she knows will kill Bryn. Moments later, she is screaming back to life…until her author decides to off her again. So often, readers will say "I don’t know how she’ll get out of this one." In this series, don’t worry…she won’t.

This is an amazing chunk of red-hot dead lit. Grab hold of it before it melts away.

To enter to win a copy of Two Weeks' Notice, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Notice”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 29, 2012. U.S. residents only.

Click here to purchase Two Weeks Notice from Mysterious Galaxy & you will be helping support an indie bookstore & Kings River Life:


Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a California-born, Valley-raised librarian/entertainer/writer. He is currently writing a stage adaptation of Jack London’s The Call of the Wild for the Fresno County Public Library’s next The Big Read. He lives in Sanger, four blocks from the library, with his wife, his daughter, and a spinster cat.


Friday, September 14, 2012

The Last Temptation by Gerrie Ferris Finger



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Marilyn Meredith


Check out details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of this review.

In The Last Temptation, the heroine, Moriah Dru, who is called Dru throughout the book, is called upon to find Eileen Cameron and her daughter, Linley Whitney, who have vanished from their home in Palm Springs.

The investigation takes Dru from her home in Atlanta to the places the mother and daughter were last seen in and around Palm Springs. Immediately, Dru realizes nothing and no one is quite what it or they claim to be, from Dartagnan LeRoi, a police officer, hairdresser, the husband, a French chef and an Indian Princess.
Dru’s life is threatened by a snakebite, monsoon and a flash flood and she seems no closer to solving the mystery. She returns to Atlanta to find out more from the girl’s father, only to find out no one there is quite what they seem or appear to be either. All the turmoil takes a toll on her romance with her love, Lieutenant Lake. Lake disappears and Dru puts everything on hold, determined to find him. When the truth about everyone and everything start to come out, Dru and Lake face imminent death.



Image source: Five Star

The author has created a page turning mystery full of unusual characters and a complex plot with so many surprises you can’t stop reading until you’re done.
Breathtaking at times and a compelling mystery throughout.

To enter to win a copy of The Last Temptation, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Temptation”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 22, 2012. U.S. residents only.





Marilyn Meredith is a Springville, CA mystery author and an ongoing contributor to our Mystery section section. Be sure to visit her website; fictionforyou.com



Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Fair To Die For by Radine Trees Nehring



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Sandra Murphy


Check out details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of this review.

Carrie’s surprised to get a phone call asking for Carrie Culpepper. That’s her maiden name after all. But the biggest surprise is the caller’s name—Edith Embler who says she’s Carrie’s cousin. Considering Carrie always thought her Dad’s sister died as a child, to hear of a cousin is a shock.

Edie’s Dad disappeared years ago during a business trip. Did he abandon his family or was he killed? Edie swears he was employed by a top secret government agency and by the way, can Carrie help her find out what really happened after all these years?

Edie comes to visit—and stay—looking forward to the Fall Craft Fair which starts the following weekend. In spite of the time they spend together, Carrie doesn’t know much more about Edie than when she arrived. Things get even more complicated when there’s a murder at the craft fair and Edie seems to be involved. Carrie’s second husband Henry, former policeman, isn’t sure Edie is even a relative at all. For Carrie’s sake, he hopes so.

When Carrie is kidnapped, Henry and friends are to the rescue, not that Carrie needs a lot of help.



Image source: Oak Tree Press

Nice background on the workings of craft fairs and some good recipes included: Tuna salad with celery seed, crockpot beef stew, macaroni beef casserole, and a sort-of recipe for tomato soup.

This series can be read out of order but for a summer of satisfying reads, start from the beginning. A Fair to Die For is the seventh book in the series.

Check out KRL's review of another book in this series, A Journey To Die For, and an interview with Radine over on Kings River Life.

To enter to win a copy of A Fair To Die For, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Fair”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 15, 2012. U.S. residents only.


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 new one Bananas Foster.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Darkness Devours by Keri Arthur: Book Review/Interview/Giveaway



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Terrance McArthur


Check out details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of this review & interview.

Keri Arthur’s Darkness Devours is her third Dark Angels novel (Darkness Unbound, Darkness Rising), and the urban fantasy series is an offshoot of the Riley Jenson Guardian series, so it is easy for somebody wandering into this book to be confused and mystified without some background reading. Nevertheless, intrepid readers will find themselves in for a lively ride between the realms of the living and the dead.

Risa Jones doesn’t fear the Reaper—she can see the beings who gather the souls of the dead, and she has feelings for one of them. She can even travel the grey lands between this world and the next, and talk to the dead. She’s part-werewolf and part Aedh (winged, spiritual entities, sort-of like angels), her mother was cloned in a lab…and you thought your ancestors were unusual!

Risa has two problems to solve. Her ongoing quest is to find the hidden keys to the gates of Heaven and Hell. One group wants them to open the depths and let loose demons and other nasty things. Another faction wants to lock them all, but no souls could be reborn and children would be soulless clumps of flesh…a lot like teenagers.



Image source: Penguin

Because she had formed an alliance with a powerful vampire leader, Risa is called in to solve a series of murders: vampires who have been torn apart. The clues lead through a club where humans who get off on being bitten feed vampires who get off on feeding from humans who get off on being bitten. She gets help from a werewolf newspaperman/former lover who once betrayed her, a de-winged Aedh who may be playing the other side of the key-finding, and a Reaper who is shadowing her closely…very closely.

There is violence and sex…and sexual violence. Keri Arthur’s Australian background gives her a confidence in describing Melbourne, her home town, but most of it sounds like any major city; of course, that's the way the world has become, hasn't it?

Darkness Devours has quite an appetite. It will gobble up your sleep time until you finish it. Then you can wait until November and the next installment of Risa’s saga, Darkness Hunts. I’ll be waiting.

Interview With Keri Arthur:


Terrance: When you started writing at the age of 12, you would re-write the books you read, changing the endings. What would you like to re-write today?

Keri: Actually, these days I'm more likely to want to rewrite the end of movies than books. I mean, take one of the biggest grossing movies out there in recent times—Titanic. Surely I couldn't have been the only one more than a little annoyed that Rose just let Jack freeze to death? Did you see the size of that door she was floating on—they both could have gotten on there! Totally spoiled the movie for me, that did—and I would totally have rewritten it, given half a chance. But then, I'm a romantic, and I wanted them to beat the odds and be together in life, not death.

Terrance: Your hero-women are not rescue-me types. They are more likely to strike first and inflict as much damage as possible, instead of cowering in a corner...even if cowering would be a good idea. Are there people you have modeled them on, or do they reflect the you that you would like to be?

Keri:
It's actually a reflection of all the fantasy I used to read as a teenager—fantasy in which the female characters always needed rescuing. You have no idea how much that annoyed me! When I was a teenager, we had a fire in the garage, and I was the one grabbing the hose to help douse the flames, so I wasn't exactly a stand back and watch sort, even then. Although I'd like to think I'm a whole lot more sensible than many of my characters!



Keri Arthur


Terrance:
You are a Melbourne native, and your website includes a clever glossary of Australian slang, yet I didn't have any problem with reading your work. Are language changes made for US editions, or are the cultural differences not as great as we imagine?

Keri: Although I don't think the cultural differences are all that great, there's actually quite of bit of the Aussie slang taken out of the novels. I try to keep some things 'Americanized' when I'm writing, because America is my largest market, but little things that are everyday terminology here—like milk bar (sort of like a seven-eleven), chemist (drug store), bench (counter), rubbish (trash)--slip through. Of course, there are certain terms I fight to keep, because we just don't use the U.S version here and it is supposed to be set in Australia (although I can't think of any examples off-hand).


Terrance:
You have worked as a cook for a number of years. What carry-over from that field is there into your writing?

Keri: In the Dark Angels series, the heroine, Risa, co-owns a restaurant with two of her friends, and much of that is based on personal experience. It's actually a horrible field to work in, thanks to the long hours, the heat in the kitchens, and the generally low pay rates, so I'm totally glad my writing enabled me to get out!


Terrance:
What process led you to creations of the characteristics and abilities of the Reapers and the Aedh?

Keri: Some characteristics and abilities came from myth, and some from story necessity. There are many stories around of people being rescued by strangers who suddenly appear and just as mysteriously disappear, so to me it made sense that these 'angels' would be an energy based life form that could temporarily take on human appearance. The grim reaper appears in many myths as a guide for the deceased into the next world, but my hero was going to be one of them, so I wasn't about to make him the black-cloaked, scythe bearing, skeletal version often found in myths.

Of course, there's a heck of lot of myths about angels not only being soul guides, but guardians, as well, so I decided to throw those elements into my story, and mix them up a little. The Aedh became my traditional angels in look, but they were the keepers of the gates to heaven and hell, not the guides themselves. The reapers where the ones who not only guided souls to the gates, but who could temporarily take on human form to rescue chosen people.

Terrance: Tell us a little about your main characters and how they came to be?

Keri: Risa, the heroine in the Dark Angels series, first popped up in the Riley Jenson series. She was a baby Riley had to rescue and, to be honest, she wasn't supposed to make another appearance in the series. But you can never keep a good character down, and as Risa grew and developed in the Riley Jenson series, so too did my ideas for creating her own.

Azriel came about when I was driving to gym one day. I live in the foothills of the mountains, and I'm often driving through heavy mist. On this one particular morning, there was a light breeze eddying the fog, and really looked like there were ghostly people moving through it. And the phrase—I've always seen the reapers—just popped into my head. Azriel developed rather rapidly from there, and the phrase is, of course, the start of Darkness Unbound, the first of the Dark Angels series


Terrance:
What is up next for this series?

Keri: Darkness Hunts is the next release, and let's just say things go from bad to worse for our heroes!

Terrance: What is one thing your readers would be surprised to learn about you?

Keri: I'm a Lifestyle Channel tragic, and will watch any and all property or home makeover shows—even if I've seen them all a hundred times before.

You can learn more about Keri on her website and follow her on Twitter @kezarthur.

To enter to win a copy of Darkness Devours, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Darkness”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 8, 2012. U.S. residents only.

Click here to purchase Darkness Devours from Mysterious Galaxy & you will be helping support an indie bookstore & Kings River Life:


Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a California-born, Valley-raised librarian/entertainer/writer. He is currently writing a stage adaptation of Jack London’s The Call of the Wild for the Fresno County Public Library’s next The Big Read. He lives in Sanger, four blocks from the library, with his wife, his daughter, and a spinster cat.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Red Velvet Revenge by Jenn McKinlay



⇧ switch to KingsRiverLife.com for the full issue ⇧
Sandra Murphy


Check out details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of this review.

Mel and Angie from Fairy Tale Cupcakes are back again. In this newest adventure, business is at a crawl due to the hot weather—nobody can drag themselves out into the heat, even for cupcakes. As they consider closing for a couple of weeks to enjoy a vacation of their own, Oz, the youngest employee, has a surprise. He’s inherited a van of sorts and wants to turn it into a cupcake delivery truck.

Unfortunately, on their first test drive, it dies a terrible death right in the middle of traffic. Angie’s brother Sal comes to the rescue of the truck and Slim and Tammy Hazard, of Juniper Pass rodeo fame, rescue Mel, Angie, Oz and Marty. Slim’s looking for a way to bring new folks to the rodeo and to appeal to a wider audience. Marty convinces him cupcakes are just the thing to go with barbeque.

Tate, the silent but wealthy business partner, pays for extensive renovations to the van and Sal turns it into a real food truck. Two weeks and thousands of cupcakes later, the bakery is on the road to the rodeo.



Image source: Berkley

Sales are a little slow at first but some creative marketing on Mel’s part draws the crowds (see the recipe for French Toast Cupcakes with bacon). A side bet with the barbeque boys in the next booth adds some humor.

During the opening parade, Slim is shot while riding in an open convertible with Tammy by his side. Luckily, he’d leaned back to look at the crowd as the shot was fired and suffered only a shoulder wound. Was it a wild shot or is somebody out to kill the town’s benefactor?

One of Slim’s daughters is a barrel racer; the other is staging (staging being the keyword) an anti-cruelty protest at the gates. Is Tate really attracted to Lily the rider? She did teach him to lasso and two-step. And will Shelby, the wannabe actress/activist, carry Oz away? Even Marty gets a love interest in the form of Ms. Delia, proprietor of the hotel next door to the Last Chance Saloon.

Mel has a run-in, literally, with the rodeo’s star, Ty Stokes. He demands a dozen cupcakes as an apology. Too bad that Mel finds his bloody body when she tries to deliver the cupcakes.

In addition to a good mystery, the characters are likeable, believable and people you’d like to know, especially since they bake wonderful treats. Sub-plots include a run away, misunderstood bull who loves sweets, Angie’s angst about her rock star boyfriend Roach, the mystery of who unplugged the freezers and thawed all the frozen cupcakes and a nice visit to the local diner which results in Mel trading cupcake recipes for secrets for a great pie.

This is the fourth book in the series. The characters and relationships are developing nicely. Add this to your summer reading list. And when the weather cools, try out some of the recipes.

Previous books in the series are Sprinkle with Murder, Buttercream Bump Off, and Death by the DozenGoing, Going, Ganache.

To enter to win a copy of Red Velvet Revenge, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Velvet”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 1, 2012. U.S. residents only.


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 new one Bananas Foster.


Friday, August 17, 2012

A Bloody Storm by Richard Castle



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Cynthia Chow


In the third and final installment (of this storyline, anyway) of the serialized novellas featuring Derrick Storm and “authored” by the television show’s Castle character Richard Castle, A Bloody Storm picks up seconds after A Raging Storm, which had Storm crashing the car he was in to escape a beautiful but homicidal double agent, Antonija Nad. Meanwhile, FBI Agent and Storm’s latest partner and love interest April Showers has been in a deadly shootout of her own against two Russians in another car. While the two agents may have survived, the hunt for nearly sixty billion dollars’ worth of Russian gold is still on, sending Storm off to Uzbekistan with a ragtag group of “Dead or Disappeared” agents who are as untrustworthy as they are deadly. Meanwhile, April Showers is immersed in her own problems as she is easily whisked away deadly rivals in the race for the gold, with her fate and Storm’s all colliding inside hidden caves that may be as full of gold as they are bloodthirsty assassins.



Image source: Hyperion

The majority of readers who have come to these novellas are in all probability fans of the television show Castle, and as a result they may be expecting the witty dialogue and humor that is so vital and inherent in the character Richard Castle, played by actor Nathan Fillion. As a result, they may be disappointed that the humor is much less present in the Derrick Storm series than it is in the Nikki Heat mysteries, another real series “written” by Richard Castle. The Derrick Storm novellas are more the traditional espionage thrillers akin to James Bond, full of technical gizmos and weapons, improbable action scenes, and deadly traitors. However, there is a definite wink to the clichés and tropes of the spy genre:

Jones removed a man‘s wristwatch from his desk drawer and tossed it to Storm. “A present.”
“Let me guess,” Storm said. “It‘s a gold detector.”
“No.”
“A laser beam that can cut through locks on the containers when we find the gold.”
“No.”
“A secret gun that-”
“It‘s a wristwatch,” said Jones.
Storm raised an eyebrow.
“Okay,” said Jones. “It‘s also a worldwide tracker. I can find you no matter where you are.”

Every time the dialogue seems over the top or the plot becomes a little too cliché, a twist is thrown in that somehow compels the reader to continue reading just to see if the author is going to throw in another surprise. At a little over a hundred pages, these fast-moving, action-packed novellas can be read in a few hours and probably last in the reader’s memory for a few more. However, the writing is crisp and the plots intriguing enough to entertain readers who are fans of this genre and perhaps lure in those who enjoy more traditional mysteries. The Derrick Storm series is perfect for a summer afternoon or a quick trip to any American-friendly country.

Check out the first two parts of this story: A Brewing Storm and A Raging Storm.


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).



Friday, August 10, 2012

Threaded For Trouble by Janet Bolin


⇧ switch to KingsRiverLife.com for the full issue ⇧
Sandra Murphy


Check out details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of this review.

In Dire Threads, readers were introduced to Willow Vanderling, her BFF, Haylee, Haylee’s three moms (yes, three), and the town of Threadville, Pennsylvania, aka Elderberry Bay. Now they’re back with more machine embroidery, yarn to knit or crochet, fabric to sew, and classes to hold.

Felicity Ranquels is in town to present a new Chandler Champion embroidery machine to Darlene Coddlefield, winner of Chandler’s national contest. It’s a mystery why Chandler hired Felicity—she can’t sew, micromanages and has no people skills.

When Darlene is found dead, murdered by the Chandler machine (with human help of course), suspects abound. Darlene has tirelessly worked for various charities that feed and clothe children. She just forgot to mention they’re her children. Although the bereaved each grieve in their own way, seeing Darlene’s husband, Elderberry’s fire chief, Plug, find consolation in the arms of the kid’s au pair shocks Willow. After all, he’s been a widower for less than twenty-four hours.


Image source: Berkley

To change the settings on the sewing machine would take some knowledge of sewing, computer and electrical skills but that doesn’t shorten the list of suspects. Darlene’s list of enemies is long.

Plug doesn’t have many fans either. He’s a lazy fire chief, declaring nightly fires set in open fields “accidental” while Isaac, his Deputy Chief thinks arson. Arson comes closer to home when the Coddlefield house is ablaze with Tiffany the au pair and Felicity found inside, hands tied to the bed in the hope they wouldn’t escape the smoke and flames.

Everything comes to a satisfactory conclusion at the Harvest Festival as Willow, Haylee, and Haylee’s three moms all go undercover, although not incognito, to find a killer. Watch the romantic spark between Willow and Clay, Smallwood and Gartener and enjoy the talk of crafts. Avoid the slimy Mr. Chandler at all costs. Come to think of it, avoid Felicity too.

To enter to win a copy of Threaded For Trouble, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Threaded”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 18, 2012. U.S. residents only.

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 new one Bananas Foster.