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