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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Hooperman By John M. Daniel



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Sandra Murphy


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

Hooperman is not his real name. It comes from a schoolyard taunt since Superman was too hard for a little boy to pronounce. Now he’s got a stammer that won’t quit–unless he’s quoting poetry.

Hooperman has always hung out on the fringes and he likes it there. After a stint as a pizza baker, he decides to try for a job in the bookstore across the street; it seemed like a good idea at the time. Since he can’t really talk to customers or answer the phone, he’s hired to do what he does best–hang out in the store and roam the aisles, but this time not only for pleasure but to find shoplifters.

The store is suffering significant losses and the boss decides it could be an inside job. Employees consider it a perk to take new books home to read and return. There are an awful lot of books sent to the Return Center, some before they hardly hit the shelf. All in all, it’s a weird set up.



Image source: Oak Tree

A firebomb through the window is added cause for alarm. Hooperman’s relationship–if that’s what you can call it, he’s not sure himself–with fellow employee, Lucinda, is complicated by the appearance of a renowned poet, Jane Gillis, for a reading at the store. No one knows it, but Jane is Hooperman’s ex-wife.

Hooperman is interesting enough to carry the book, but adding in the side characters of Lucinda, Martin West who’s in charge of the stockroom, Elmer the liberal bookstore owner and assorted employees, customers and a liberal police officer fills the book with quirks, character and fun. I hope there’s a Hooperman sequel planned.

Daniel’s other mysteries include: Play Melancholy Baby, The Poet’s Funeral, and Vanity Fire, Behind the Redwood Door. He’s also written cat books, short story collections, non-fiction and e-books.


To enter to win a copy of Hooperman, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Hooperman”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 4, 2014. 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 Bananas Foster.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Blaize of Trouble By Louise Crawford



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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.

Blaize McCue not thrilled to be woken up at seven thirty on a Sunday morning by an emergency phone call from her friend Nicole Jackson, especially considering that it was Blaize's fiancée Stephanos Zoloski first day off in three weeks from the Sacramento Homicide Division. However, a request from the FBI agent to babysit her daughter Jenny has Blaize considering it an opportunity to perhaps test out - and hopefully discourage - any paternal instincts residing within her Z-man. The practicing psychologist with a private detective license has managed to mostly overcome her own food addictions and fear of commitment issues, but motherhood is another matter entirely.

Codependent to the end, Blaize cannot resist Nick's plea for help, but concern over Nick’s "routine" bomb threat investigation in Tahoe turns to fear when days pass without contact and Nick is found shot and dumped in the trunk of her car. Clinging to life in the hospital, the few words Nick is able to utter to Blaize are of Jenny's father. While his identity has always been a mystery to Blaize, a path of clues will eventually seem to link him to Nick's former partner and the man who had betrayed both her and the Agency.


Image source: Mundania Press

The shooting puts Blaize in contact with her fiancée’s very attractive partner Agent Bunnie B.C. Brown, who justifiably chooses to go by the initials B.C., but less excusably targets her attentions on the very taken Stephanos. Their investigation has them targeting the man Blaize suspects may be Jenny’s father and whom the FBI believes was involved in the theft of counterfeit money, the murder of another FBI agent, and may even have been responsible for Nick's attack. Compelled both by her therapist and her private detective instincts, Blaize manages to wedge her way into the federal investigation to find the evidence to either punish or clear Jenny's father.

In this third in the series Crawford continues to highlight a very intriguing and original private detective. While Stephanie Plum and Kinsey Milhone seem to plow through fast food and donuts at an alarming rate without concern or gaining an ounce, Blaize must confront and cope with a very realistic eating disorder. Although she has mostly overcome her addiction to food, Blaize still must fight the compulsion to dive into a vat of ice cream when anxious. And with a friend in a coma and a wedding on the horizon, things couldn't get any more stressful. While the ethics may be hazy, Blaize talks her former patient Hackman Pete into providing his skills with the lure of an addict's need for adrenaline, and the Z-man always has her back despite his fears over Blaize's safety.

This is more of a thriller than a mystery but readers will be kept in the dark as to the identity of those responsible and they will definitely enjoy the ride in this blend of police procedural, psychological thriller, and wedding chaos.



To enter to win a PDF copy of Blaize of Trouble, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Season”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 28, 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 13, 2013

The Zyratron Affair by Joe Nowlan



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Sandra Murphy


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

Sci-fi is not my genre to read so I was a little hesitant about this book. It turns out I loved it. The sci-fi aspect is just the backdrop for a darn good mystery.

The main character, Ben Hudson, is a photographer for the Boston Banner and really, it was never his plan to discover a dead body—especially when he’d left his camera at home.

Zyratron was a Japanese horror movie from the early 60s. Badly edited, the mouth movements of the actors who spoke Japanese, didn’t match the English dubbed words. The special effects, well, were not so special. It developed a cult following among college students. College students grow up and make a lot of money which they then spend on collectibles they failed to get as kids.

The Zyratron action figure wasn’t very active or well made. Cheap plastic doesn’t hold up plus they only sold a few. Now, the darn things are worth a lot of money. Linda Hamilton (not the Terminator one, the reporter for the Banner), writes a story about vintage toy store owner, Giuseppe GePetto (so he says), who has three of the original figures, not to be confused with new plastic impersonators. It’s Giuseppe’s body that Ben finds.



Image source: Oak Tree

Soon, anyone who has a Zyratron is targeted—original or new—but they’re not stolen and resold. Shattered pieces of plastic are found at the scene. Another murder, more thefts, who is behind it all and why?

The characters are good, the talk among the reporters is spot on with today’s “read online” push and Ben is a delight.

This is a quick read, only 134 pages but you get an added bonus of fourteen pages of Media Blitz, the first in the series at the end. I must say, the excerpt ends at a point that makes you want to read the rest of the book—right now!

In the Author’s Note, Joe Nowlan quotes Elmore Leonard “When you write, try to leave out all the parts the readers skip.” He did that and this is the result, satisfying in itself but it leaves you craving another.

To enter to win a copy of The Zyratron Affair, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Locked”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 21, 2013. 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 Bananas Foster.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Locked Within By Helen Macie Osterman



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Sandra Murphy


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

Emma Winberry and her significant other, Nate Sandler, are extras for the Midwest Opera Company in Chicago. Delia is a good friend and singer in the opera.

Emma has a sixth sense about things–she calls it her Guardian Angel, an inner voice that tells her when something is wrong and it tells her something is very awry with Delia. When Delia suffers a stroke and is hospitalized, Emma feels compelled to help in any way she can. Delia is paralyzed on her right side and surprisingly, can only speak in Italian, with most of the words coming out backward. Emma is able to act as translator.

Delia’s son just got divorced and is married again already. Delia doesn’t like or trust her new daughter-in-law and things get worse when Delia is forced to live with Mike and June. Mike is a busy veterinarian and Delia’s care falls to his new wife, which was not in June’s game plan at all. Adult Day Care is a respite but June wants Delia gone to a nursing home or something more permanent. Just how far is she really willing to go?



Image source: Oak Tree

There are nice twists and turns, side plots and good characters. Gladys and Cornell are long distance friends in distress, the workers at the day care are kind and caring, and family plays a big role. My favorite is baby Robin, who at eighteen months old, shows signs of having a Guardian Angel of her own. At the veterinary office, there’s Marge, someone you’d like to know and Frances, someone you wouldn’t! Nate is a good man, although he does get a little cranky about Emma’s gift because it gets in the way of their time together. On the other hand, when he’s needed, he immediately helps in any way he can.

Osterman herself was a nurse for forty-five years, so the scenes with Delia during speech and physical therapy ring true. As she says, she has taken a few liberties with privacy rules in letting Emma know all about Delia’s condition, but it doesn’t distract from the story or seem out of line. It’s nice to read about older people who are so actively involved, not only in the community but with their neighbors, friends and family and who still make time to do the right thing.

This isn’t so much a “who-dun-it” as it is about how everyone will get what they deserve, both bad and good, and that’s not a bad thing.

Locked Within
is the sixth in the Emma and Nate series. You’ll want to read them all!

To enter to win a copy of Locked Within, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Locked”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 7, 2013. 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 Bananas Foster.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Peak Season for Murder: A Leigh Girard Mystery By Gail Lukasik



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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.

After surviving breast cancer, Leigh Girard jettisoned both a career as a Chicago college teacher and an unsympathetic husband to begin a new life in Wisconsin as a reporter for the Door County Gazette. Although Leigh has slowly adjusted to life in the isolated small town she can’t resist forays into investigative reporting, especially when it concerns those she cares about. Brownie Lawrence, which she learns was not even his true name, was a homeless–but not address-less–benevolent man who died on the valuable land bequeathed to him and whom the police suspect was murdered by his distrustful and often enraged friend, Ken Albright. Believing that Ken is trouble but not homicidal, and having evidence that he refused to trust to the police, Leigh researches the life of a troubled man whose history leads back to tragic events from the Vietnam War.

The actual article Leigh has been assigned to cover concerns the Bayside Theater, America’s oldest professional residential summer theater, which is celebrating its 65th anniversary with a series of productions that includes The Merchant of Venice. The event’s drawing attraction is Nate Ryan, a famous Hollywood actor whose history of drug abuse and accusations of domestic violence has led to a declining career. As Leigh interviews the cast, she discovers tales of pranks, illicit affairs and jealousy, and witnesses ominously disastrous rehearsals.

Although Leigh is able to resist the considerable charm of Nate Ryan, she can’t say the same of her friend, Lydia Crane, a nurse whose new business as a masseuse places her directly in the path of the promiscuous actor. What is shocking to Leigh is the call she receives from Lydia with a plea for help and the confession that she has Nate, dead, in her studio. Soon the media is circling and Lydia becomes her own worst enemy as she withholds information, lashes out at Leigh and blames herself for not being able to diagnose or revive Nate. Suspicions of an overdose and continued substance abuse begin to circulate around the late actor and Leigh receives the aid of two of her “ex-somethings,” one of whom is her editor, to shield Lydia as much as she will allow.



Image source: Five Star

In the theater world the show must go on and as the Bayside Theater’s Anniversary continues, Leigh uncovers superstitions and the mysterious disappearance of Danielle Moyer, an actress who last performed for their 50th anniversary along with several of the actors who returned for the 75th. As Leigh attempts to investigate both the death of Brownie and Nate Ryan, she must contend with the finalization of her own divorce, her reluctance to trust enough in order to commit to a new relationship and a friend who is spinning out of control. The attentions of the BT groundskeeper/bartender are an unwanted distraction; especially since Leigh is uncertain whether they are threatening or amorous.

The third in the Leigh Girard series continues to display the excellent writing that expands on Leigh’s continual need–pointed out rather unkindly by another character–to take in strays. The descriptions of beautiful Death’s Door combine with extraordinarily complex characters who reveal a multitude of dimensions to make this a very enjoyable and powerful read.

The author creates a fascinating story arc with the character of Lydia, who teeters between states of near-catatonic guilt and manic narcissism, the latter causing her to conduct inadvisable interviews with entertainment tabloids. Despite Lydia’s best attempts to alienate and even attack her friend, Leigh’s protective instincts kick in as her perceptiveness allows her to see through Lydia’s default defensive behavior.

Although I’m not sure what it says of me as a person, I found Lydia’s eventual fate to be somehow satisfying and beneficial to Leigh. Since her first appearance, “Destroying Angels” Leigh has moved on to a point where she is ready to make final decisions and move on with her life. Lukasik has created a mystery that examines many fascinating characters extensively while including the juicy details of the theater world. Leigh brings a mature, witty and very intelligent voice to this very strongly written mystery series.

To enter to win a copy of Peak Season, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Season”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 30, 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, November 8, 2013

Death and the Detective: Eleven Mystery Tales Edited by Jess Faraday



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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.

With eleven mystery authors given the parameters to write a short story about a detective and a death, it’s not surprising that editor Jess Faraday received such a diverse collection of original, and all very well written, tales of death and deception. Sometimes the narrators are heroes and sometimes they are the deceivers, but they always manage to entrap the reader into their stories of justice, redemption, and survival. Broken into categories of Doublecross, Revenge, Something to Prove, They Needed Killin’, and Second Chances, readers are treated to sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, but always compelling tales of death and morality.

In Jess Faraday’s fun “Golden Handcuffs,” an unlikable shoe store employee falls to his death and it’s up to a shopping mall security guard to make a decision between justice and the law. The concept of justice also comes into question in H. Tucker Cobey’s “Happy Valentine’s,” when a femme fatale client asks Chandler Investigations to look into a suspected suicide. Mark Hague’s detective in “Detective for Dummies” somewhat unknowingly solves his case through the subtle hints conveyed to him by his charming life partner, and Lee Mullins’ “Foot in the Trash Can” places a twist on the traditional hard-boiled police detective by having him finding an unexpected surprise when he enlists the aid of a drag queen assistant coroner. “The Cat,” by Gay Toltl Kinman, finds a damaged police detective finding redemption through a cat who may be able to provide the evidence essential to saving the case. And one of the most twisty and enjoyable convoluted tales “White Devil” by Sarah M. Chen, an American-Chinese investigator finds that investigating his own marriage may be more complicated than a case of insurance fraud and smuggling.



Image source: Elm Books

Short story collections are perfect for introducing readers to new authors, and each of these stories and the many others provide entertaining glimpses into the works of these diverse writers. Readers should be on the lookout for past and upcoming mysteries by these talented authors.

To enter to win an ebook copy of Death and the Detective, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Detective”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 16, 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, November 1, 2013

Revenant Eve By Sherwood Smith



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Terrance McArthur


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

Sherwood Smith has developed her fictional nation of Dobrenica over two previous books (Coronets & Steel, Blood Spirits). It’s a tiny, European monarchy where magic works, vampires lurk, and–if the people are living in harmony–the whole country can disappear from this world for decades at a time. Kim Murray was a California educator until her bloodlines caught up with her and she found herself engaged to Dobrenica’s future Crown Prince. And this is where things get weird (Okay, they were already weird, but this is major “Say-What?” time) in the third book in the series, Revenant Eve.

Two weeks before the wedding, the patron saint of Dobrenica sends Kim’s soul two centuries back in time to the Napoleonic era, to act as a spirit guide in the Caribbean (a duppy) to the girl who would become a great-great ancestor to Kim and many Dobrenican nobles, and to make sure the youngster gets to the magical kingdom by way of England and France. Aurelie is the twelve-year-old daughter of a female pirate and an escaped slave, and Kim can only communicate with her through mirrors, where she engages in much pantomime.



Image source: Penguin

As the girl grows, she is sent to very-British relatives who are horrified when they learn the true nature of her heritage, but thrilled with Aurelie’s fortune entrusted to their care, so they do what they can to get rid of her. Adrift in Paris, the young woman catches hold of distant relations and is soon living with Empress Josephine Bonaparte. All through this, Kim is primarily an observer, looking for a way to steer her charge toward Dobrenica and her destiny, but she eventually gets to be an active participant in the story across many planes of existence.

This is a major change from Smith’s previous plots, and some reader/reviewers don’t approve. I enjoyed the opportunity to explore other cultures, other times and other dimensions. There are sections of differing paces, from slow and thoughtful to “Something strange just happened and I only got a glimpse of it” to “Let me hold on to something! We just shifted into warp speed!” It’s great fun, and it will be interesting to see if Kim’s marriage will cause the Blessing that erases Dobrenica from the view of the world. Of course, with some of the divisive forces in the country, that may take a while to happen–the better for us, because we’ll get to read all about their delicious problems!

To enter to win a copy of Revenant Eve, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Eve”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 9, 2013. U.S. residents only.

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 and daughter.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Standing in Another Man’s Grave By Ian Rankin


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Ted Feit


Old soldiers may never die and John Rebus hopefully will never fade away. After a couple of years in retirement, he’s back as a civilian consultant on cold cases (which seems to be becoming a trend in resurrecting protagonists in crime fiction). In the course of this work he is informed by the mother of a girl who disappeared many years before that her daughter may have been the first in a series of disappearances ( and presumably murders) along a northern highway (serial murders apparently are becoming de rigueur among retired detectives as well). And Rebus is off to the wars, albeit with no official standing.



Image source: Back Bay Books

Rebus worms his way into an active investigation with the help of his old sidekick, Siobhan Clarke. And he uses all the old techniques frowned upon by his old nemesis, Malcolm Fox, of the Complaints, including consorting with the likes of gangsters such as Rafferty to gain information. While a massive police force goes about the investigation by the book, of course Rebus goes it alone.

It’s good to have Rebus back, and hopefully more is in store because the rules have been changed and he has applied for reinstatement. All he has to do is pass the physical. Can he do so, despite all that hard liquor and cigarettes? And, of course, if successful, Fox is looking forward to Rebus making a colossal mistake on the job to justify his enmity.

As with all the previous novels in the series, this one is highly recommended.



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


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Styx & Stone: An Ellie Stone Mystery By James Ziskin


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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.
In 1960, Eleonora "Ellie" Stone is a reporter who plays in a man's world. She drinks hard, plays harder, and occasionally invites a "gentleman" over for a nightcap. However, a call informing her that her father was just beaten and left hospitalized in New York, has her rushing to his side and reliving and regretting the massive breach between them and the teenage incident that severed their relationship and made her a disappointment in Abraham Stone's eyes.

Ellie puts all this aside though when she begins to suspect that her father was not a victim of a random burglary gone wrong. A professor in Columbia University's Italian Department, Professor Stone was a powerful and unwavering force who refused to compromise his ethics, whether it involved changing a grade for the son of a potential donor or approving the tenure of a brilliant but relentlessly ambitious candidate.

All of Ellie's instincts refuse to allow her to accept the police’s and the University's declaration that her father was not the target of an attack, especially when she learns that another professor from the Italian Department recently died in a pronounced suicide. A missing manuscript, the disappearance of an unusual collection of items from her father's apartment, and the desecration of her brother's grave, all combine into a puzzle that at first seems baffling but could all tie into one tragic tale. There is no little amount of political infighting within the University, and considering the rather impressive amount of sexual peccadillos going on, this all provides Ellie with an ample number of suspects and shady, over-educated criminals.

In Ellie author Ziskin has found a character who shields herself with a strong and aggressive exterior that hides a vulnerability, as she still winces in pain and shame whenever she thinks of how she disappointed her father. While her shell protects her from condemning judgments of others who frown on her assertion of professional independence and liberal sexuality, Ellie still feels the pain of potential rejection and hurt when she succumbs to an affair with an angelically beautiful professor. Having been born at the end of World War II, the twenty-three year-old still has an acute awareness of the racism that faces other Jews and how that may have bled into the attacks on her father. Luckily, Ellie finds an unusual ally in a diminutive investigating detective who continually seems surprised by her intelligent observations and conclusions.


Image source: Seventh Street Books

While inevitable comparisons to Mad Men will be made, Ziskin has created a labyrinth of plot twists and clues that intriguingly incorporate the author's background in Italian and Romantic Literature. Ziskin perfectly captures the voice of a young woman who wears a masculine exterior that shields a very fragile feminine self.

I also love mysteries that educate a reader and weave knowledge seamlessly into the plot, so I reveled in how Dante and his works are incorporated into the mystery. The humor and complexities of the academia is as well highlighted, never the more so in a free-loving female doctoral candidate who acted out a nude scene in a performance of Our Town. Despite there actually being no nudity in the written text, it did ensure that the entire Department attended the performance. The romance of the Sixties loses much of its shine when it exposed for its sexist and racist attitudes, but the conclusion seems to reveal that people continue to be motivated by needs that never change. The author has created an extremely twisty tale of murder that at its core centers around a very vulnerable but brave heroine making her way through a man's world.

To enter to win a copy of Styx & Stone, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Stone”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 19, 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, October 4, 2013

Death on the Greasy Grass: A Spirit Road Mystery By C.M. Wendelboe



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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.

An Aloha shirt-wearing tourist cheering for Colonel Custer at a reenactment of the Battle Of Little Big Horn may not seem to be an unusual set up for a mystery, but considering that the tourist is Manny Tanno, an FBI agent and member of the Lakota tribe, this does set the unique tone for this very resonant yet entirely humorous third mystery featuring the Native American federal investigator. His large partner, Willie with Horn, would rather have vacationed at Yosemite or actually anywhere else Manny insisted on visiting than the battle site at Crow Agency where the Lakota were once forbidden from entering.

Unfortunately, it's not Custer but a reenactor who falls when gunshots are fired and by the merit of their actually being present, Willie and Manny are taken off their vacations to coordinate with the tribal police to investigate whether the death is a simple accident or murder. When it's discovered that Harlan White Bird was a purveyor of priceless Native American artifacts–some real and others fake–murder looks to be much more probable, especially when they learn of the disappearance of the journal of Levi Star Dancer, a Crow warrior who recorded his life from the shattering events of 1876 until his death in 1887. Considering the pride of tribe members, the explosive secrets hidden within the journal murder, and not an incompetent accident becomes a definite probability.

With the reluctant cooperation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs tribal policeman, Matthew ‘Stumper” LaPierre, Manny and Willie investigate the many resentments and offenses taken against the victim. The arson death of one of their suspects leads them to a congressional candidate as well as Chenoa Star Dancer, a former model for Montana’s State Tourism calendar and who embodies the character of a femme fatale if ever there was one.



Image source: Penguin Books

Manny Tanno is delightfully practical and realistic about his capabilities. He's diabetic, struggles with his cravings for cigarettes and has a fiancée making wedding plans while Manny himself has barely managed to accept that he will soon have to purchase an engagement ring! Reluctant-to-commit does not come close to defining Manny's state of mind. The horrific shooting of someone close to Manny forces him to reevaluate his life as he realizes that he was not made to function alone and realizes how much he needs others to bounce idea off of and share concerns and occasional visions.

Just as interesting as the murder, is the lore and background the author provides readers in a way so entertaining that I found the journals of Levi Star Dancer as compelling as the present narration. Levi never forgot the betrayal of Eagle Bull; anger and unwillingness to forgive colored Levi’s entire life. The secrets his journals reveal could destroy the legacies of two tribes and more than one has enough will to protect their lineage’s pride and honor. The Native American tribes were warring amongst themselves before the whites ever came and their resentment and anger have very long memories. The historical information proves to be invaluable and fascinating and always as engaging as the main mystery of the novel, making this an enjoyable read that sneaks in a thoroughly riveting education.

To enter to win a copy of Death on the Greasy Grass: A Spirit Road Mystery, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Grass”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 15, 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, September 27, 2013

Experiencing Father's Embrace By Jack Frost


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Karen Lewis

The heart warming Christian book called Experiencing Father’s Embrace by Jack Frost is a moving and inspiring testimony of one remarkable family man who was a former sea captain and enjoyed fishing.

He was also an author, Bible teacher and an ordained pastor of evangelism who touched the hearts and minds of people throughout the world. Jack and his wife Trisha were also founders of Shiloh Place Ministries, but sadly he passed away after an uphill struggle with cancer on March 5, 2007, aged 54.

I loved reading this book and found it not only encouraging but easy to understand. It tackled a deep subject but was presented in a well written, simplistic and to the point way; in an area not everyone at first may fully experience in their own life but through having read the book may understand better, and most will likely see that certain issues are raised within their own lives as individual readers. It speaks to the heart!

The testimony helps to bring light to areas from your life that may be holding you back from experiencing the love of our Heavenly Father.

Jack is open and honest about his insecurities and the struggles he has experienced. He shares lessons learned and how important making God the center of your life is. He also talks about the importance of having balance between ministry and family life.


Image source: Destiny Image

I find his story unique and interesting as Jack came from a background of addictions like drugs, alcohol, pornography and reveals how the amazing power of God’s unconditional love and grace set him free. The book speaks about issues connected with fathers and also touches upon mother issues. The desires he once had were exchanged for the desire to help heal a broken world.

I am sure the lessons learned gained Jack profound wisdom and insight, and as this is shared with others it will continue to speak to many hearts, myself included.

I would very much recommend this book to everyone. I would give it a 5 out of 5 rating.

Karen Lewis was born in Scotland and is currently living in Leeds, England with her husband Chris, who is originally from Reedley. They are both serving in Christian ministry. Karen is also involved with a charity called 'New Hope' that helps people find freedom from addictions. She enjoys writing and blogs at Beyond The Horizon. Her story, "The Dead Body," is being published in the book Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just us Girls which is due to be released on November 5, 2013.

Friday, September 20, 2013

High Treason By John Gilstrap


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Sandra Murphy


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

Jonathan Grave is in the business of kidnap recovery also known as covert rescue–pay the ransom and get the victim home again, safe and sound. This time he’s not in the middle of a Mexican jungle, but the urban jungle of Washington D.C. and searching for no less than the First Lady of the United States, code name FOTUS. As First Ladies go, she’s pretty rebellious and likes to take unplanned trips to seedy night clubs, much to the dismay of her Secret Service detail. On one such outing, there are shots fired, explosions and when the dust settles, she’s nowhere to be found.

The pace picks up even more when a reporter gets involved via his buddy, a D.C. cop. Things are not going so well there either and for once, the reporter can’t charm his way out of a situation.

The thing is–when crimes go this high into the government, is the government itself involved or is somebody really stupid enough to take on the President through his wife? The alphabet agencies are too secretive and too intertwined to help. Information is power and leaks, authorized or not, too readily available. The motto has to be “trust no one” which becomes a problem for Jonathan, as he acquires more and more help along the way.

Jonathan has to use every bit of his experience, ingenuity and skill to get himself, the target and his crew out of this mess, because there’s a lot more going on than a missing person, even if she is FOTUS. The American way of life is in jeopardy as well.


Image source: Pinacle Books

Gilstrap once again weaves a tale that doubles back on itself with twist and turns you won’t see coming. The addition of Striker as a last minute hire for the team is a good one. This is no cozy– bodies abound, gunfire and explosions are rampant, while the snappy banter and absolute trust between partners is steadfast.

The side characters are as interesting as Jonathan himself–Boxer, always ready to make things go boom, Venice who’s a whiz on the computer, Striker who comes out of retirement to lend a hand and Irene the government contact with the code name, Wolverine.

Reader Warning: Be prepared for a sleepless night and dark circles under your eyes. Come up with a convincing story of why you’re missing work. Have snacks on hand. It’s 500 pages of fast paced action, camaraderie and intrigue. You won’t be able to put it down once you get started!

At the back of the book, there are two bonuses. One is a short story titled, Discipline. It’s an exclusive that provides a lot of insight into Jonathan’s character and a good read on its own. There’s also an excerpt of Soft Targets, an e-book exclusive coming from Pinnacle in October, 2013.

Previous books featuring Jonathan Grave include: No Mercy, Hostage Zero, Threat Warning, and Damage Control (reviewed by KRL).

To enter to win a copy of High Treason, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Treason”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 28, 2013. 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 Bananas Foster.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Dog In The Manger By Mike Resnick



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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.

Being an honorable cop and attempting to bust powerful politicians may have made Eli Patton a hero, but it also resulted in his being pushed out of the Chicago police department, blacklisted from the Cincinnati force, and finally landing in Cleveland as a private investigator. It is there that he finds himself the last resort for Hubert Lanz, a dog handler for the missing Baroness von Tannelwald, recent Best in Show at the Westminster. The Baroness also just happens to be the Weimaraner owned by Maurice Nettles, who claims that the Baroness never arrived on her flight from Cleveland to Casa Grande, Arizona. Declaring that the Baroness is worth twenty-five thousand dollars, Lanz demands that Eli find the Baroness and the dog assistant entrusted to deliver her to the airport, Alice Kent.

When Alice and her car are pulled out of the Little Miami River, Eli assumes that he has a retainer to return, but with the dog still missing Lanz demands that Eli stay on the case. As Eli follows the path of the missing Weimaraner from Ohio to Arizona and even to Mexico, Eli discovers a trail of bodies of everyone who seems to have last had contact with the pricey pooch. Luckily for Eli, he has the help of an attractive show dog owner and his own considerable perseverance and dedication to getting the job done. Eli will need all the aid he can get as he can't believe that murder, kidnappings, and Mexican thugs are all because of a funny-looking skinny dog.

In the first of a series, Eli is revealed to be a refreshingly rational, practical, and very wry detective who is skilled at his job but never foolhardy or overestimating his bulletproofness or ability to take a beating. Eli follows a dark path that seems to involve far more lethal motives than the insanely competitive and expensive show dog world should incur, but even he will be shocked at the insidious plot he has tumbled into.



Image source: Seventh Street Books

According to an introduction by the extraordinarily prolific and award-winning science fiction and fantasy author, Dog in the Manger was originally published in 1995 as a standalone mystery due to Resnick's daunting prior science fiction commitments. When Prometheus and its Seventh Street Books imprint picked up this reissue and its proposed sequel The Trojan Colt, Resnick was able to continue the series and give it the attention it and Eli Patton deserves. Eli has the humor, humility, and disdain of the rich prevalent amongst old-school detectives, but without their arrogance or seeming invulnerability to getting punched.

As an added bonus, also included is an Eli Patton short story "Even Butterflies Can Sting," in which Eli is hired by an arrogant, obnoxious, demanding, but well-paying client to bodyguard her and her million-dollar earrings at a Cincinnati Opera Society dinner. That the night ends in murder, a twist, and an unreturnable tux is a pleasure for readers even if it’s another example of poor Eli being bested by a four-legged companion.

To enter to win a copy of The Dog In The Manger, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Dog”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 21, 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, September 6, 2013

The Bride Wore Black: A Cinnamon Greene Adventure Mystery By Bonnie J. Cardone


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Cynthia Chow


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

The Bride Wore Black follows the disastrous but hilarious events that occurred in the author’s short story caper “The Last of the Recycled Cycads,” featured in the Sisters in Crime collection Last Exit to Murder.

After witnessing her celebrity photographer husband canoodling with a supermodel on The Tonight Show, Cinnamon Greene finally decides to end her eight-year marriage with the philandering Ted Quiero, packing her few belongings to leave Hollywood and return to her hometown of Cliffview, California. Working for her father at Greene’s One Stop Camera and Photo Shop at the local mall is not the best remedy for her faltering self-esteem, but it does get her out of her best friend’s house and the well of depression Cinnamon has fallen into. Having followed a path in life that seemed laid out, rather than planned, Cinnamon feels as though she has to start her life over and her first assignment, photographing the wedding of the mayor’s unlikable daughter, doesn’t bode well, considering that Cat Callahan left her previous fiancée at the altar.

The only person who is liked less than Cat is her impending groom, Chip Forester, who himself jilted the town hair stylist in favor of the runaway bride. However, it is Cat who drops dead after being fed a piece of her wedding cake laced with peanuts, which induces a fatal allergic reaction in the bride. Police suspicion falls on Cat’s aunt and cousin, owners of The Bakery that created the tiered wedding cake, and Cousin Georgia’s sudden disappearance is definitely not a good indicator of her innocence.


Image source: Sea Scenes

In the small coastal California town of eight-thousand people, everyone knows everyone, gossip flies and it seems that all of the residents had some relationship with or reason to kill Cat. Even Cinnamon’s father’s new and very young girlfriend had her previous relationship destroyed by the predatory Cat. Faced with the challenge of forging a new life in a town that remembers her previous one, Cinnamon is given a boost when she meets Danny Decker, a diving instructor who accompanies her, her father and his new girlfriend on their Wednesday Warriors dives. That Danny’s own marriage was torn apart by his brief affair with Cat is a stumbling block, but hopefully not a fatal one. As Cinnamon begins to question the events at the wedding she places herself and her father at risk, as their studio and even their homes become targets for a relentless killer.

A devoted scuba diver and a former writer and photographer for Skin Diver Magazine, author Bonnie J. Cardone incorporates alluring but never overwhelming details of diving and photography that add fascinating details to the story and make it entirely unique. The attacks upon Cinnamon seem a little extreme, but the emotions behind the violence are entirely too real and human. At this point in her life Cinnamon has regained some of her confidence and it is refreshing to see her take a mature approach to her ex-husband, neither vengeful nor gullible to his charms. Her relationships with her father and Danny are also realistically played out in a manner which makes them all very likable and sympathetic. The charm of this quickly moving story lies with its characters who are never too over-the-top, and scenery that is beautiful and serene.

To enter to win an e-book copy of The Bride Wore Black, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Bride”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 14, 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, August 30, 2013

Dragonflies: Shadows of Drones (Book 1 of the Dragonflies Series) By Andy Straka



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Cynthia Chow


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

When Chief Warrant Officer, Raina Sanchez, is shot out of the sky in Afghanistan while piloting her Kiowa Warrior chopper, she thought that the resulting prosthetic foot would end her career and the adrenalin rush she so loved. However, her undeniable piloting skills soon had her sought out by Major Cameron Williamson for an ostensible private detective business, manning micro air vehicles (MAV) that would allow her to use the miniature and near-invisible flying drones to spy on unsuspecting targets. Raina is recruited, along with the soldier who pulled her out of her wrecked chopper, Tye Palmer. This cements their mutual trust as they attempt to bring down the date-rapist frat-president son of Nathan Kurn, a powerful media mogul more intent on hiring them to cover-up his son’s crimes than he is on protecting the victims. Kurn has the power and connections to make their mission to prosecute Derek Kurn near-impossible, but before Raina and Palmer can utilize his battle skills or her spy drones, Raina is kidnapped by Homeland Security for a project with even more secretive and invasive implications.

In possession of MAVs with unimaginable technology and fully weaponized, the movie-star handsome Homeland Security advisor, Lance Murnell, informs Raina that she has the opportunity to be involved in one of the most advanced and thrilling drone projects in existence. That it is possibly illegal and has the potential to violate privacy while being a virtually unstoppable weapon is a question out of their pay grades, but it does deliver the joy of flying that Raina thought she would never experience again. The secretive plot places both Raina and Tye at risk to unknown forces within the government and soon the two are dodging bullets and on the run, with no clue about who to trust or who is behind the attacks.



Image source: LLW Media

While drones being used in war are nothing new, every day it seems that we are being told more about how they are being used to observe and spy on citizens even while on American soil. The capability of their being ‘weaponized’ and becoming unseen remote devices of domestic policing is terrifying, and author Straka fully explores and reveals their unimaginable powers. I found their being used in Raina’s and Tye’s private detection endeavors to be most entertaining and intriguing, but their investigation is all-too-quickly highjacked by the espionage plot and its bloody battles and high body count. The beginning of the relationship between Raina and the enamored Tye has potential to become a strong plotline through what would appear to be a long series, and readers can hope that this will receive as much attention as the explosions and technological warfare.

Undeniably well-written and completely compelling, the most frustrating aspect of this short novel is that it ends on a note which will literally have the reader whacking the button for the next page, only to be informed that the next installment will be forthcoming. Argh! Visible Means, Book 2 of the Dragonflies Series had better be “Coming Soon,” or many readers will be left hanging for what is already for me far too long to follow the fates of Raina, Tye and the shadowy figures running the insidious drones. The author of several thrillers as well as the falcon mysteries featuring Frank Pavilcek, Andy Straka continues to explore his fascination with flight and our continual need to incorporate it into our daily lives.

To enter to win an e-book copy of Dragonflies: Shadows of Drones, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Dragonflies”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 7, 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, August 23, 2013

Death Takes A Holiday: A F.R.E.A.K.S. Squad Investigation Mystery by Jennifer Harlow


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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.

As the newest member for the Federal Response to Extra-Sensory And Kindred Supernaturals Squad, hacking up a giant snake-like basilisk with her trusty blade, Bette, is the easy part of the job for Beatrice "Trixie" Alexander. Gifted–and cursed–with psychokinesis, that allows her to movie things with her mind and “clairempathy,” that has her sensing other people's emotions.

Trixie was recruited by the federal agency to monitor and enforce the laws of the supernatural community. However, their tragic last assignment has left the team completely divided, with Trixie on one side and their werewolf leader, Will, on the other. Long resentments and a romantic rivalry over Trixie had Will refusing to help their teammate, vampire Oliver Montrose, and as a result she cannot forgive Will, while he is enraged by her disobedience. With the team almost literally at each other's throats, Trixie decided that it was the perfect time for a Christmas vacation/escape back home to San Diego.

It's never simple for a paranormal, though, as Trixie's Nana and her friends all believe the lie that Trixie now works in Kansas as a Director of Childcare Services, and not as a federal agent responsible for helping to save the world. Confronting the policeman ex-boyfriend she broke up with and who still has feelings for her certainly doesn't help matters, and even though she thought she was escaping the supernatural, a Vampire Lord is claiming rights over her and making an offer she definitely cannot refuse. Not and survive.


Image source: Midnight Ink

What is so enjoyable about this novel is that for the first half the author explores Trixie's difficulty at adjusting to her return home and meeting her brother, who still blames her for their mother's death. Anyone who has left home and then returned will definitely relate to Trixie's experiences of feeling lost and unable to relate to those who remained. Relationships are at the heart of this novel and sympathies will fluctuate, as both Oliver and Will are extremely sympathetic and wounded characters who deserve Trixie's love. This is no Twilight-like romance for adults, though, as one never sides with any party for long as each has justifications for their anger, sadness and love–although, off the record, Team Oliver.

Halfway through the novel, the paranormal mythology and protocol kick in and Trixie finds herself balancing a carefully worded tightrope for agreements that inevitably have her wielding her impressive powers without having to rely her paramours for a rescue. Trixie has matured impressively since her first appearance in Mind Over Monsters, and her complex feelings for her two suitors never feels overworked or forced. She has a refreshing and practical sensibilities and a wry sense of humor that makes her an enjoyable heroine.

While the action is elevated at the end of the novel, the pace never slows as the author keeps the reader invested in Trixie's personal growth and struggle to feel accepted. This third F.R.E.A.K.S. Squad Investigation is highly entertaining with a very likable heroine and intriguing plot with a final surprising twist sure to please fans of paranormal mysteries.

To enter to win a copy of Death Takes A Holiday, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Fatal”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 31, 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, August 16, 2013

Poisoned Politics By Maggie Sefton



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Cynthia Chow


If there was ever an arena ripe for deception, back-stabbing and murder, it is the political world of Washington D.C. In the summer of 2007, Molly Malone has returned to Washington to work as a staffer for the up and coming junior Senator from Colorado, John Russell. The daughter of a Virginian U.S. Senator and the widow of a Congressman, Molly retains a considerable network of connections amongst the political elite. This is fortunate when her good friend Samantha Calhoun, who has made a hobby of seducing and guiding promising politicians, finds herself the target of a scandal. Her latest paramour winds up dead in her bed and his widow is riding the wave of sympathy all the way to a position as his replacement.

While Samantha initially glosses over the intrusion by tabloids into her life, accusations by Quentin Wilson’s widow threaten to demolish Samantha’s reputation, even as she stubbornly refuses to reveal her alibi and possibly tarnish another Washington politician. The murky implication of drug use and involvement of sinister characters, who lead back to the death of Molly’s niece, have Molly relying on her Washington roots for support, information and guidance.



Image source: Midnight Ink

In Washington, gossip is as lethal a weapon as steel and Molly has learned through experience how to wield it effectively. After surviving the trauma and pity she garnered from the suicide of her husband and the death of her niece, Molly has built a considerable shield around herself, but this is slowly being chiseled down by the charming, loyal and very protective retired Colonel Daniel DiMateo. Molly’s Sober-and-Righteous conscience battles with her more impulsive Crazy Ass voice, the latter daring her to risk her heart and finally make a commitment to finding true happiness.

In this sequel to “Deadly Politics,” Sefton continues the mystery of the shadowy Epsilon Group that seems to have had a hand in influencing the fate of Molly’s husband, niece and currently, her friend. While having considerable power within numerous Washington offices, the Group members will find Molly and her friends more than a match, even though they are following just a few steps behind. An ominous ending will have readers clamoring for more as they become invested in learning about this insidious plot and need to discover how Molly will undoubtedly summon her forces to combat it.

While this series has a much more serious tone than Maggie Sefton’s knitting series featuring Kelly Flynn, the Molly Malone books are just as enjoyable and provide an extremely fascinating and detailed glimpse into the elaborate maneuverings of Washington politics.

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





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 9, 2013

Brush with Death: A Gray Whale Inn Mystery By Karen MacInerney


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Cynthia Chow


Even though it's the December slow season for Cranberry Island's Gray Whale Inn, innkeeper Natalie Barnes has her hands full as her normally placid niece Gwen prepares for her first real art gallery show, and several visiting artists descend on the island off the coast of Maine in preparation for the mainland production. While her fashion-challenged patron encourages Gwen to paint in the more profitable oils instead of her beloved watercolors, her mentor Fernand LaChaise contends with a rival artist whose competing artists' retreat could cut into his business.

Fernand's welcoming party to honor hot new artist, Nina Torrone, also comes with complications as she was a contemporary of Fernand's, but whose artwork now sells for nearly half a million dollars. So when Natalie and Gwen discover Fernand with his wrists slashed, just after the party, few question that it was the result of a suicide out of despair of his relative lack of success.

Gwen refuses to believe that her mentor would have killed himself while he was still making plans for her success, so she encourages Natalie to look into who might have been able to stage Fernand's suicide. Conveniently, two of the suspects just happen to be guests at the Gray Whale– the boyfriend Fernand just included in his will and the sister who disowned him when he came out of the closet. When a creepy doll lands on Natalie's doorstep, only the ability to cook and care for her guests can distract her from the threat that has come to the place she has come to call home.


Image source: Midnight Ink

Investigating is a way for Natalie to distract herself from the personal crises that could destroy her future. Her attorney has absconded with her mortgage payments placing the inn at risk of foreclosure, while Gwen's now uncertain future may force her to leave the island and the aunt who has grown to love her like a daughter. Newly engaged to woodworking artist and deputy sheriff, John Quinton, Natalie must also decide if she truly is ready to give up her independence, a decision not made easier when John's mother arrives to stay for several weeks, bringing with her a strict diet and even more rigid personality.

It's been almost three years since MacInerney's last Gray Whale Inn Mystery, a long time to wait for the author's delicious descriptions of food and Maine's Cranberry Island. The wait is worthwhile as the author brings back her cast of eccentric islanders who gossip at the speed of light, but support one another through their challenges and tragedies. The lifestyle of artists is also explored, as the pursuit and need to follow their muses often comes with the sacrifice of security and income. Those who are able to succeed can be regarded with jealousy by those who fail, making it a lifestyle unusually rife with hostility and violence.




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 2, 2013

Fatal Descent By Beth Groundwater


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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.

As the R and M of RM Outdoor Adventures, Mandy Tanner and her fiancé Rob Juarez are introducing a five-day, one-hundred mile trip down the Colorado River. Starting off in Moab, Utah, the Colorado-based co-owners will be leading a group of clients with varying degrees of rafting and camping experience through placid waters as well as the whitewater rapids of Cataract Canyon. While Mandy and Rob have experience leading and guiding vacationing rafters, the couple knows that these trips are often akin to leading preschoolers or herding cats, so they are prepared for difficult clients. However, neither of them could know that that their rafters would include a young woman who is essentially "Parent Trapping" her divorced parents into taking the trip together, three women friends ready for a flirtatious escape, or a privileged family of warring siblings with their oblivious but optimistic parents.

Mandy does her best to overlook her doubts concerning a new guide Cool O'Day, who seems overly friendly with the women and too casual with safety. She already has hands full with her other two guides who are now dating, one of whom is a recovering alcoholic. Once their trip begins the acrimonious relationships and verbal sniping of the clients takes a deeper meaning when one of them is killed in what Mandy and Rob recognize as a staged animal attack. When their equipment is destroyed and the off-season October trip means that there are few other rafters on the river, Mandy and Rob must rely on themselves to safely guide their group down the river all the while knowing that one of them is a murderer.


Image source: Midnight Ink

Although the descriptions for the beautiful scenery and power of nature will bring comparisons to the writing for Nevada Barr, the tension and menace of what is essentially a locked-room mystery brings to mind the mysteries of Dana Stabenow. While the wildlife and environment are undeniably deadly, it is ultimately the humans who prove to be the greatest threat.

Mandy is a strong and very likable character more than capable of surviving the roughest of rivers but who shudders at the thought of planning her upcoming wedding. The interactions between the rafters is written realistically and with an underlying menace that hints at the culprit but still keeps the tension high. Groundwater has written yet another exciting and suspense-filled mystery that speeds along with a swift pace to its extremely compelling conclusion.

To enter to win a copy of Fatal Descent, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Fatal”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 10, 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, July 26, 2013

Fiery Edge of Steel by Jill Archer


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Terrance McArthur


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

In Jill Archer’s Fiery Edge of Steel, Armageddon was 2,000 years ago, and Heaven lost. Demon/human-descended Maegesters keep the demon warlords in line and act as judges with waning magic. The women of their lines use waxing magic to heal and make things grow. Noon Onyx, the first woman trained as a Maegester, was born with waning magic in a birth mix-up, and she and her lover Ari are about to go on their first mission: determine if the demon Lord of the Shallows killed fifteen fishermen from the village, and punish the guilty. First, Noon and Ari must choose their Guardian Angels.

Starting with the execution of a demon masquerading as a human, yet the woman he deceived still loves him, there is a theme of the masks we wear and the reality behind appearances. Noon had hidden her waning magic for years, the two Angels who travel with them to the Shallows (a slacker and a perky Scripture-quoter) conceal their own secrets, and they face demons that can disguise themselves. Who knows what will be uncovered when Truth is revealed?


Image source: Penguin

This follow-up to Dark Light of Day (reading it first would explain a lot of “Huh?” moments) is thickly layered. The beginning in the city and universities has a Hogwarts/Harry Potter flavor mixed with The Paper Chase, while the journey to the Shallows evokes elements of The Heart of Darkness and/or Apocalypse Now, The African Queen, and a touch of Jason and the Argonauts. The hunt for the answer to the mystery of the missing villagers is reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes, The Exorcist, and (not exactly, but sort-of) The Crying Game. Somewhere along the way, you might toss in The Wizard of Oz.

The characters casually swear and pray in the name of Luck, referring to Lucifer, using it as we would say “gosh” or “jeez.” It is a strange inversion, but Archer pulls it off with a smooth confidence.

Fiery Edge of Steel is a journey into unfamiliar territory, marked by danger, betrayal, and surprises. Enter carefully, watching for signposts along the way. At your destination, you will see that the markers you ignored pointed the way to the answers you sought.

To enter to win a copy of Fiery Edge of Steel, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Steel”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 3, 2013. U.S. residents only.



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, July 19, 2013

Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews


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Terrance McArthur


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

In the Ilona Andrews penned world of Magic Rises, the world of Kate Daniels and Curran (her Beast Lord husband), magic washes in waves across the world, silencing the machines and awakening the power of magic until a techno-current stifles the paranormal powers and the land becomes mundane…and semi-automatic machine guns work again.

Many adolescent shape-hangers go loup—cannot control their changes—and must be killed. Supplies of the drug that can help the children are controlled by the European packs. When Curran and Kate are offered a year’s supply of the “panacea” for guarding a pregnant shifter, they go across the Atlantic and into the Black Sea, knowing it’s a trap, but they don’t realize who the trap is supposed to ensnare.

Although Kate is the only human in a pack of Shifters, she is not defenseless. Trained by a master in armed and unarmed combat, she has paranormal abilities that she tries to conceal to keep her "I-want-to-rule-the-world-again" father from finding her. Her differentness is frequently brought up and thrown at her, as if it makes her less than the shape-changers. The fact that she is the Consort of a great gray lion, rather than his wife, proves to them that she doesn’t really belong. Another shifter is trying to win Curran’s affections, and Kate feels betrayed.


Image source: Penguin

The pregnant shifter, a woman-wolf, is the pawn in a battle for power with the Carpathians, and feels no self-worth, merely a bargaining chip in her father’s political plans. Kate tries to get her to stand up for herself.

Ilona Andrews is the husband-wife team of Andrew Gordon and Ilona Andrews. Their world building is complex and thorough. Magic Rises has wolf-shifters, jackal-shifters, hyenas, blue creatures, badgers, someone who takes care of books, sea monsters, porpoise-men, magical powers, a were-mongoose, healers, echoes of Babylonian myths, robbers, millennia-old mages, innocent shepherds, and little men. The action is wild and crazy, with white-knuckle battle sequences and some super-friendly sex.

A feature of several Andrews' books is like a print version of the Special Features section of a DVD. They include stories that didn’t make the final draft, but they explain story points from the finished book so they are included as extra novellas after the novel is finished. In this case, “An Ill-Advised Rescue” explains why the bluish Saiman owes a debt to Kate. It’s fun to read as a short subject before the feature presentation of Magic Rises.


To enter to win a copy of Magic Rises, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Magic”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 27, 2013. U.S. residents only.


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, July 12, 2013

Shadows of Falling Night By S.M. Stirling



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


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

Vampires, werewolves, and succubi: legends.

Shadowspawn: the stuff that legends are made of.

In S. M. Stirling’s Shadows of Falling Night, third in the Shadowspawn cycle, the Shadowspawn are shape-shifting, blood-drinking, world-controlling creatures that can live in the darkness after they die.

After a century of scientific breeding, Adrian and Adrienne Brézé are the most powerful of their kind, but she wants to trim mankind down with a plague to a number easy to dominate; he is married to Ellen, a human with no powers and doesn’t want to control humanity…beyond manipulating governments and the Stock Market to his benefit–he’s not totally good, but he’s better! In addition, there are Shadowspawn who want to atmospheric-nuke the world back to the good-old, pre-tech Dark Ages and rule as gods, as well as a rogue Spawn (or is he part of someone else’s plan?) with a plutonium device, out to blow up a Shadowspawn gathering in Georgia (the former Soviet republic, not the Southern state).



Image source: Penguin

Part of the near-future chess match between Adrian and Adrienne is who has custody of their twins–yes, brother and sister had children–euwwww, and that expression is used repeatedly in the book–and this triggers several mega-action sequences as Adrienne tries to get them back. There are aerial attacks, chases through fairy-tale forests with bunches of big and/or bad wolves, and a wizard's-war at sea where the siblings shape-change into creatures that can take out each other’s creatures. There are deadly feedings, betrayals, disguises, and even a Murder of the Orient Express!

Stirling originally made his mark in the military SF arena, co-writing with the likes of James Doohan and Anne McCaffrey (The City Who Fought). His take on the urban-paranormal genre shows the attention to detail, meticulous world-building, clever dialogue, and military precision that are his hallmarks. I love the references to movie sequels that are yet to be made.

The third book in the series, Shadows of Falling Night, makes a grand finale to the story with a rousing climax that could bring about an apocalyptic end of the world…although…there are some major changes of the playing field that beg for further installments.

To enter to win a copy of Shadows of the Falling Night
simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Falling”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 20, 2013. U.S. residents only.





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, July 5, 2013

Darkness Unmasked by Keri Arthur



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


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

Keri Arthur doesn’t want me to sleep. She keeps writing stories in her Dark Angels series that have me reading late at night, when I should be getting the beauty rest I so badly need. I look like I do because of her!

Darkness Unmasked
is the fifth book (after Darkness Unbound, Darkness Rising, Darkness Devours, Darkness Hunts) about Risa Jones: half werewolf, half Aedh (spiritual, angel-like entities). She can travel the grey lands between Heaven and Hell, but she doesn’t fear the Reaper: she’s sleeping with one of the soul gatherers.

Her big job is to find the stolen keys to the afterworld, keys that many groups want for the power they will give. Risa found one already, but it was taken from her while she battled mutant creatures. While she looks, a vampire leader (sort of an Australian Margaret Thatcher with fangs, minus the redeeming qualities) has her looking for the person/spirit/thing who sucked blood, brains, bones, and life out of her lover, leaving a husk of skin wrapped in webbing. Risa is helping the vampire because she claims she will help find out who murdered Risa’s mother. These quests take her to bars, storage lockers, museums, deserted buildings, and between symbol-engraved stones that light up like the coils of a toaster and send her hundreds of miles from Melbourne in a moment. Her language is coarse, and—for someone dealing with soul Reapers and sort-of-angels—she has a lot of sex…and there is rape.



Image source: Penguin

The only problem I have with this book is rape. It’s a major part of the plot, there are multiple victims, it’s brutal, it’s pretty graphic, it’s repulsive, and she says it gave her some pleasure (the cad was using a spell on her to get information from sex in the past), which makes it seem…dirtier. It’s like cutting into a fantastically-appetizing salad to find a disgusting bug.

Risa has always been a take-charge heroine, but all the damage and abuse she has taken has made her tired of the demands on her time and powers, and she wants to give up and die, so she can re-unite with her mother. However, that may no longer be possible, and she feels betrayed…in several ways. Several characters are unmasked along the way: sometimes it’s their purpose, sometimes their nature, and sometimes their disguises. It’s an intense read that will bring up a lot of feelings for the reader…some of them unpleasant.

It helps to start this set of novels from the beginning, because Keri Arthur has created an intricate paranormal reality, and the multi-book story arcs can take a while to decipher. Darkness Splintered comes out in November; I’d better start getting extra sleep, now.

To enter to win a copy of Darkness Unmasked simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Unmasked”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 13, 2013. U.S. residents only.




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.