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Kings River Lite:

KRL is a California Magazine with Local Focus and Global Appeal.
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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.