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KRL is a California Magazine with Local Focus and Global Appeal.
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Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Pyramid Deception: A Hannibal Jones Thriller By Austin S. Camacho

by Cynthia Chow

Professional troubleshooter and private investigator Hannibal Jones has never seen his girlfriend in such a state. The normally confident attorney Cindy Santiago is spiraling into despair and is nearly suicidal. It seems the skilled lawyer gambled all her savings on an investment opportunity offered by her best friend Jason Moore, and now everything is gone.


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Cindy initially doubts that even Hannibal could recover the money that cost Cindy her new home and all of her life’s earnings, but a lead has him meeting the woman who initially led Jason to the plan. Irene is shot and killed before he can get much information out of her, and when he sprints off the chase the shooter her body is quickly whisked away. From then on, Hannibal is quickly drawn into an extraordinarily complex labyrinth of deceit and murder.



Image source: Intrigue Publishing

Hannibal Jones is the epitome of the macho investigator who remains calm amidst chaos and violence. Here, Hannibal is also faced with seeing the intelligent woman he loves at her most vulnerable and needy. The near complete obliteration of everything important in her life has her understandably irrational and overwrought at times, but thankfully she always has Hannibal by her side. Tracing those who harmed the most important woman in his life kicks Hannibal into high gear, taking readers along for his mission to unravel the threads that lead back to more than one crime of financial thievery and revenge. Full of action and led by its sardonic hero, the Hannibal Jones series entertains in this fast tale reminiscent of traditional noir crime fiction.


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 18, 2015

Paint the Town Dead: An Aurora Anderson Mystery By Sybil Johnson

by Cynthia Chow

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

Freelance computer programmer and website designer Aurora “Rory” Anderson never expected that her latest project for Vista Beach’s newest hotel would lead to a rock being thrown through her window.

The Akaw hotel has riled more than a few in the Los Angeles coastal region, as the construction of the underground parking structure damaged nearby homes and has guests taking up slots on the streets and blocking driveways. Rory had no idea that her designs, along with the website she constructed to promote the decorative painting convention being held at the Akaw, would make her a target of vandalism by angry protestors.


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The Ocean Painting Society’s inaugural convention was a reunion of “The Four Musketeers,” friends from high school who include Rory, Brandy Whitaker, Jasmine Halliday, and Jasmine’s husband Peter. Their first meeting begins rather dramatically when Jasmine suffers an attack of cataplexy related to her narcolepsy, but her initial quick recovery to consciousness is soon followed by a far more final nap during a false fire alarm.

Although Rory is shocked to learn that Jasmine had previously attempted suicide, Rory is unable to accept that Jasmine would have intentionally overdosed on her medication again during their reunion. Rory is reassured to know that Detective Martin Green is on the case, but this time he is unwilling to investigate what he believes to be a suicide.

Unable to accept his conclusion, Rory pursues her own investigation that has her breaking into rooms, tossed into a dumpster, and blackmailed by a rogue private investigator. For a new hotel hosting an artistic conference, there is an alarming abundance of red herrings, criminal acts, and shameful secrets.



Image source: Henery Press

This second in the series continues the introduction of an engaging and likable protagonist. Rory is a mature character who continues to grow, and it is compelling to see her adjust to the unexpected, but completely understandable, changes in her life.

Rory’s hesitation with Martin Green may have caused her to miss a window of opportunity for a relationship, but what is refreshing is that the author avoids taking the expected path when introducing his new girlfriend. The artistic theme takes a sideline to the characters and their complicated personal lives, but there are enough details about painting and its instruction to please any cozy reader. It is the devotion to uncovering the truth about her friend that drives Rory, and this is what ensures that readers will follow this sympathetic and relatable heroine.

To enter to win a copy of Paint the Town Dead, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “paint,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 26, 2015. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

This book is published by Henery Press, if you would like to know more about their books you can visit their website: henerypress.com

Use this link to purchase the book:



Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).



Monday, December 14, 2015

The 5 Star Wars Spin-Offs You Have to Check Out Before The Force Awakens

by Maria Ramos

It has been nearly 20 years since the last time a Star Wars trilogy was kicked off and on December 17, we will be treated to The Force Awakens. Despite general disappointment with the prequel trilogy, the hype for Episode VII is at a fever pitch, not least because it promises a blending of what worked about the original series and some incredible new ideas and characters—many of which (like BB-8) are already beloved.

While the old Expanded Universe is no longer considered canon, that hasn't prevented a load of creative people from building a new universe based on JJ Abrams' vision. Here are some incredible spin-offs to help you get through until The Force Awakens comes out.


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Lando by Charles Soule

Legendary comic writer Charles Soule brings his talent to this miniseries prequel following one of Lando's adventures before becoming Baron Ambassador to Cloud City. Soule's dynamic writing does a fantastic job of capturing the rogue with a heart of gold that is Lando Calrissian, as well as the titular character’s friendship with Lobot. Additionally, Alex Maleev's art makes every smirk and close escape exciting as well as perfectly in line with one of the coolest characters in the Star Wars franchise.

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher

What do you get for the Star Wars fan/English major in your life? How about this retelling of the Star Wars saga in beautiful iambic pentameter? Doescher carefully goes through the famous story in the style of the most famous playwright in the Western world, which is both funny and engaging. A big plus is the gorgeous artwork adorning each cover that includes famous Star Wars characters clad in Shakespearean wardrobes.



Image source: Disney

Star Wars Rebels

Taking place just before the events of A New Hope, Rebels follows the crew of the Ghost as they fight against the Empire in this spectacular adventure series, whose previous seasons can still be found on cable (more info here). Having learned from The Clone Wars, the show runners on Rebels made a series that was more cohesive from the get-go, focusing on many of the themes of Star Wars in an accessible, fun way. Success of the show also led to the spin-off comic Kanan: The Last Padawan and incorporated voice talent from many of the original series actors playing their characters, including Billy Dee Williams as Lando, Anthony Daniels as C3PO, Frank Oz as Yoda, and even James Earl Jones as the terrifying Darth Vader.

Chewbacca by Gerry Duggan

As good a warrior as he is, Chewie is known also for having a lot of heart and a habit of helping those in need. That's what happens in this great comic miniseries written by Gerry Duggan. Our favorite Wookie crashes on a planet where a young girl enlists his help to fight an evil gangster working the locals to death in the mines in order to support the remnants of the Galactic Empire. Even though we weren’t meant to understand Chewbacca’s language, Phil Noto’s soft and expressive art perfectly captures Chewie’s reactions and emotions perfectly.

The Dark Lord Trilogy by James Luceno, Matthew Woodring Stover

Starting toward the end of the Galactic Republic, this astounding book series follows Anakin Skywalker as he takes those final fateful steps toward embracing the Dark Side and becoming Darth Vader. This series not only covers the end of Revenge of the Sith, but also goes further to see why Vader became feared throughout the galaxy as the right hand of the Emperor.

These are only some of the fantastic tie-ins and spin-offs published in anticipation of the return of Star Wars to the big screen. While there is trepidation among fans, the quality of the spin-offs and tie-ins has given many hope that this installment will bring the series back to greatness.


Maria Ramos is a writer interested in comic books, cycling, and horror films. Her hobbies include cooking, doodling, and finding local shops around the city. She currently lives in Chicago with her two pet turtles, Franklin and Roy. You can follow her on Twitter @MariaRamos1889.



Friday, December 11, 2015

The Vulture: An Ike Schwartz Mystery By Frederick Ramsay

by Cynthia Chow

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

Were it not for a manufacturing fluke that created matching keys for identical cars, Sheriff Ike Schwartz would be a pile of ashes. Instead, it’s an undercover officer who exploded in his car after meeting the Picketsville, Virginia, sheriff, but only a few are in on the mix-up. The atomization of the law enforcement officer is more of a declaration of war than a simple hit, and to that end Ike will use his CIA background and connections to discover who attempted to wipe him off of the planet. Ike is a man of principles who always believes in doing the right thing, and this has garnered him no shortage of enemies. Now, though, they have endangered the life of his wife, Ruth Harris, and that infuriates him into a ruthlessly homicidal rage that is all the more terrifying for his calmness.


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While Ike and Ruth take on new identities to maintain the pretense of his death and chase those who are chasing them, back in Picketsville the sheriff’s department is instigating its own investigation into the attack on their beloved leader. Accustomed to being underestimated by state and federal agencies, acting sheriff Frank Sutherlin more than capably utilizes the department to uncover a threat that endangers the nation. A man who believes in capitalism as Darwinism is intent on ruthlessly taking over the country financially, and he has the resources and magnetism to achieve his goals.



Image source: Poisoned Pen Press

An actual coincidence that occurred with the author’s own vehicle inspired the start of this novel, and from there it ratchets into high gear with suspense, action-packed scenes, and Ike and his allies’ fun antics. Ike’s relationship with his wife Ruth, the very liberal president of the local college, continues to be a highlight, with banter that is as quick-witted as it is funny. Neither has yet to be swayed to the other’s political viewpoints, but somehow they completely match as a couple. Ike’s CIA nemesis/friend Charlie continues to lend support even as he draws Ike back into black ops, and with Ruth as a surrogate for the reader we are introduced to a shady world of complex technological spying and covert warfare.

This tenth in the series continues to maintain is high standard of writing with compelling intrigue, sardonic humor, and a stoic hero for the ages.

To enter to win a copy of The Vulture, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “vulture,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 19, 2015. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase the book:




Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).



Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Plaid Tidings On Stage at the Reedley Opera House

by Lorie Lewis Ham

If you are looking for something different and fun to do to celebrate the holidays this year, consider going to see Plaid Tidings, currently on stage at the Reedley Opera House, presented by the Reedley River City Theatre Co.

The story of the "Plaids" started with the musical Forever Plaid. In Forever Plaid four young men, who make up a quartet called Forever Plaid, are given the chance to come back to earth from heaven to perform that last big show they never got to do.


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In Plaid Tidings, they are back again and this time they aren't certain why until further in the show. The Plaids share with their audience bits of some of the songs they performed in the first show, and also throw in some new songs, such as "Stranger In Paradise," which is a favorite of mine, as they try to find their purpose for being back. I won't give the rest of the story away, but you will also be entertained by their versions of many holiday favorites. This is a sweet, fun, and funny show.

The Plaids in this production are Matt Milton (Jinx), Joseph Ham (Frankie), Erik Valencia (Sparky), and Jeff Lusk (Smudge). These guys entertain you with some beautiful four part harmony, along with some awesome solos, and a LOT of laughter. There's a lot of talent on that stage!



Image source: RCTC



If you love the music of the '50s, good clean comedy, and four guys singing four part harmony (and who doesn't), you won't want to miss this show! It will be a memorable and fun part of your holidays.

Plaid Tidings will be on stage at the Reedley Opera House until December 20, and keep in mind they will have a couple of Wednesday night performances with this show as well. You can learn more, and purchase tickets, on their website.



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


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Buffalo Herd by Godfrey Coppinger

by Terrance McArhtur

You remember that old lullaby, “The Mockingbird Song,” the one James Taylor and Carly Simon rocked up while they were married? “Hush little baby, don’t say a word, Papa’s going to buy you a mockingbird?” You remember that sweet, gentle folk song, don’t you? The problem is, today’s children aren’t that sweet and gentle. Godfrey Coppinger recognizes that, and has livened things up in her children’s book, Buffalo Herd.


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Instead of the traditional gifts offered the child for being quiet, Godfrey promises watermelon seeds, a jungle gym, a marigold, a thingamajig, and a rainbow trout. The words are fun, the words are silly, and they will make preschoolers and young students laugh…and the grown-ups will have trouble keeping a straight face.

The illustrations in this handmade book are laughmakers, too, boldly cut from black paper, just as the letters of the text are. See: the plight of a jackrabbit running with the bison. Contemplate: a thingamajig of interlocking gears, doors, screws, and a curious mouse. Marvel at: a not-so-high-fashion ensemble of wedge heels, high-water bell-bottom trousers, a fringed vest—and an Afro wig of cotton-candy dimensions.



Image source: Godfrey Coppinger

Godfrey is a beloved storyteller/musician in the San Joaquin Valley, known to transform into Mrs. Santa in December; she has worked with preschoolers for many years. Her debut book reflects the joy and imagination she puts into every facet of her life. Every letter and picture is hand-cut and glued in place. The illustrations suggest Native American pictographs, Peter Max, and the paper cuttings of Hans Christian Anderson and Henri Matisse, infused with an outsider art sensibility.

The story-song is only 168 words long, and the explanatory material, song page, and author’s biography make a total word count of less than 250 words. It’s short enough for a just-before-bedtime treat (but be prepared to hear the word “Again!”). It’s long enough to enchant a child or set an adult to giggling. It can be a gateway book to paper-cutting creations, and a trigger to making up new lyrics to old songs.

Godfrey Coppinger is a mischievous little girl disguised as a delightful lady. Buffalo Herd is a delightful book disguised as a delightful book.


Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Community Librarian for the WoW! (WithOut Walls) Division of the Fresno County Public Library, roaming the Valley to meet the public's information needs.


Friday, December 4, 2015

From Bad to Wurst: A Passport to Peril Mystery By Maddy Hunter

by Cynthia Chow

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

Germany may have withstood bomb attacks, uprisings, and a World War or two, but it could never have prepared for the geriatric invasion of Iowa’s Destinations Travel adventurers. Owned by Emily Andrew Miceli and her husband Etienne, Destinations Travels caters to the fiscally conscious retirees of Windsor City, Iowa. Also along for the tour are several local brass bands planning to sound off in Bavaria during Oktoberfest celebrations. Before one horn can be tooted, though, an unexploded bomb that changes its status sends Emily to the hospital and one of their touring accordion players in the morgue. A traveling psychic soon joins her, and when the investigating Kriminaloberkommissar refuses to allow them to leave the country, Emily finds herself questioning Oompah bands while attempting to corral her wandering explorers and preventing an international incident.


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In this tenth of the series, the many side-plots are just as entertaining as the murder mystery—if not more so. Emily had thought that her biggest problem would be negotiating the hostage release of her grandmother from her mother’s toddler tether, but a freak medical occurrence ensures that it will be Nana who keeps her daughter in line. An exotic skin balm results in an astounding transformation of one of their most abrasive and anti-social Iowans, but even a horde of male followers won’t be able to tone down Bernice Zwerg’s aggressive non-tolerance of fool’s policies.



Image source: Midnight Ink

The author takes readers on a gloriously descriptive tour of Munich, Bavaria, and the most ancient sites of Germany. Unfortunately, the Destination Travelers will be hard-tested to remember their visit due to their affection for taking Kardashian-worthy selfies. These Iowa senior citizens are the first to embrace new technology and social media; the snafus occur in their use of it. While these tendencies may have Emily pulling out her hair, readers will delight in the antics of these entertaining and very likable characters. Despite the chaos that continually surrounds Emily and her irrepressible explorers, she remains a constant beacon of intelligence, practicality, and amiability. The humor is always spot-on and will surprise readers with its deft wit, originality, and satire.

To enter to win a signed copy of From Bad to Wurst, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “secret,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 12, 2015. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase the book:



Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).



Monday, November 30, 2015

Unsold Television Pilots by Lee Goldberg

by Lorie Lewis Ham

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

If you are a TV fanatic like me, you will love Unsold Television Pilots by Lee Goldberg. Ever wonder what shows never made it to the light of day? Well here is your answer to a bunch of them!


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This is an exhaustively researched book that reveals the details behind thousands of TV series ideas that were developed but rejected by the networks. Lee Goldberg states that he began writing this book when he was nine and by the time he finished he was in his early twenties and one of the entries that he had by then was an unsold pilot of his own, a potential spin-off of Spenser: For Hire.

Originally written and published before you could Google pretty much anything, unsold pilots at that time were a mystery and this was the first resource to them of its kind. To Lee's surprise it became a huge sensation, even turning into two TV specials and being mentioned on The Tonight Show.



Image source: Lee Goldberg

Since that first edition, readers have informed Lee of some mistakes which are corrected in this edition. The book covers unsold pilots from 1955 to 1989.

If you love TV, this book is a must have, filled with hours of fun. Get it and find out all of the TV that you missed because the networks said no. You may be surprised what you find! I know we now have Google, but it's a lot nicer to have all that fun info at your finger tips.

To enter to win a copy of Unsold Pilots, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “pilots,” or comment on this article and please include your email address. A winner will be chosen December 2, 2015. If entering via email please include your mailing address.


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


Friday, November 27, 2015

The Secret Life of Anna Blanc By Jennifer Kincheloe

by Cynthia Chow

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

Despite her best efforts, wealthy young Anna Blanc has garnered a tarnished reputation without ever having enjoyed the deserving fun. It’s 1907 and her desperate attempt to elope and escape her father’s gilded cage was interrupted before any ravishing. Instead, Anna only received an even more rigid chaperone monitoring her every movement. As part of the wealthiest families in Los Angeles, Anna knows that everyone seems to have a price, and she is able to buy off her guardian just long enough to pursue her seemingly unachievable goal of becoming a police detective.


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Hiding her beloved detective and crime novels behind cutout romance covers, Anna believes that she has the intelligence and skills required in a detective. From a chance encounter, she learns about the available position of a female police matron, and through an assumed identity—and some accidental female wiles—succeeds in becoming the Los Angeles Police Department’s newest matron. What will be more challenging is learning how to balance her new secret with her engagement to handsome Edgar Wright, whose wealth will help save the banking crisis facing her father’s business.

Through a combination of naïveté and deductive intelligence, Anna discovers the serial killing of prostitutes that’s being ignored by the police. Using the implicit payoff of a piano, Anna manages to draw in the aid of Detective Joe Singer, who also happens to be the police chief’s son. If only he weren’t as infuriating as he was attractive…



Image source: 7th Street Books

In this debut novel Kincheloe captivatingly depicts the life of a young debutante struggling to break out of the lifestyle that is as confining as it is advantageous. Anna is at times infuriatingly entitled, charmingly naïve, and deceptively witty. The author’s skill is being able to combine these elements into an entirely believable and likable heroine. She also explore the dichotomy of a society that distains and hides its shadier elements while taking complete advantage of them. This is a compelling and entertaining depiction of a naïve debutante evolving into an engaging if somewhat disillusioned innovative detective.

To enter to win a signed copy of The Secret Life of Anna Blanc
By Jennifer Kincheloe, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “secret,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 5, 2015. If entering via email please include your mailing address.



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 20, 2015

The Charlie Chronicles Part 3

by Terrance McArhtur

On With the Show, This Is It!

The play is afoot!

The Music Man opened November 7 at the Selma Arts Center, and I’ll be onstage November 20 and 21, as the town constable on Friday, and as Charlie Cowell, Anvil Salesman, antagonist to the con-artist hero, Harold Hill, on Saturday. In the meantime, I pop in from time to time, helping out and hanging around.

I’ve put make-up on faces, taken tickets, handed out programs, watched parts of the show, and mouthed the lines of the actors playing the parts I’m understudying. I spend some of my time with the cast in the basement of the building, surrounded by old props and costumes. There’s a lot of space, and a lot to see.


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Under the Backstage

A large-cast musical comedy usually has a small group of major characters that carry most of the story, and a large group, known as the chorus, who show up when the songwriters have a big song that needs lots of voices, or when a bunch of people are supposed to see something happen. The rest of the time, they hide in some place where they can’t be seen or heard, and where they won’t be in the way. At the SAC, that place is the basement.

Under the stage, there are areas for the costumes (things that people wear on the stage), for putting on make-up (close-up, actors look weird because they put on a lot of stuff on their skin to compensate for the washed-out look their bare faces would have when the bright stage lights shine on them), for curtained-off dressing areas (where the actors can change into those costumes they are supposed to wear), and for props (the things they carry around onstage).

Because I’ll be playing different characters on different nights, I will have to worry about two hats, one police helmet left over from Mary Poppins, legal-looking papers, a suitcase big enough to carry an anvil, a pocket watch, and a pair of handcuffs.
Somewhere around and between the props, costumes, make-up, dressing areas, and a zone where the Queen of Costumes performs magic with pins and sewing machines, the chorus dwells. What do they do in this underground lair? It depends on the person, but a lot of it falls into the categories of Eat, Drink, and Be Merry.



Image source: Terrance McArthur

Food, Glorious Food

I love to eat, and my body shows it. In the theatre basement, I find myself in Munch Heaven. Over here is a cheese/pepperoni/cracker platter. Over there is a container of dried mangos and dried pineapple. On another table is a bin of M&M mix that is mostly raisins and peanuts, because the colorful candies have been eaten. If you hear someone say “Donuts,” get out of the way, because a stampede is about to start, and you don’t want to be crushed and trampled.

Cool, Clear Water

Some of the things you eat while waiting for your cues need to be washed down, but you don’t want to get the costume cola-stained. What do you drink? Water. Of course, some cast members will bring in soft drinks, but they risk the wrath of the Costume Goddess. I don’t think the carbonated rush is worth the possible public shaming.

...And We’ll Have Fun, Fun, Fun

Besides eating and drinking, there has to be some way to while away an actor’s off-time. Some people watch the video feed of the show that’s going on over their heads. Others read books. A cluster of young boys usually indicates a cell phone with a video game, I’ve seen knitting, needlepoint, and crochet, while I sit in a quiet spot and stitch up coiled pine needle baskets.

Now, I don’t know if this is a fad in other areas, but the teens and tweens in the Selma-Kingsburg area are into Kindama (or something close to that spelling). When I was a child and we went to Olvera Street in Los Angeles, I would buy a Mexican toy with a wooden ball with a hole in it, attached by a string to a stick with a handle. I would swing the ball up and try to catch it on the stick, Kindama is like that, but with rounded cups sticking out of the sides. These kids catch the ball on the tip, in the cups, and do tricks I couldn’t do with a Duncan Yo-Yo in my prime (if I ever had a prime).

And Now, The End Is Near


I’ll be onstage, this weekend, to do my parts. I’ll be easy to recognize—the short, bald-headed guy looking slightly puzzled as he tries to remember his lines.

You can check out part 1 and part 2 of the Charlie Chronicles, and a review of The Music Man, over on kingsriverlife.com.


Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Community Librarian for the WoW! (WithOut Walls) Division of the Fresno County Public Library, roaming the Valley to meet the public's information needs.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sweetheart Deal: A Mrs. Frugalicious Shopping Mystery By Linda Joffe Hull

by Cynthia Chow

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

It was probably inevitable that after attracting a growing following for her Mrs. Frugalicious blog, being featured on a Black Friday television news special, and then solving a murder or two, Maddie Michaels finds herself starring in her own reality television show. The Family Frugalicious was to be a glimpse into the life of a fiscally responsible family always on the search for the best bargain and value for their dollar.

The problem, though, is that since bankrupting their family through a Ponzi scheme and then betraying their marriage vows, Maddie and her husband Frank are married in name only. So as Maddie’s family vacations in Mexico for their producer’s destination wedding, she will be delivering her greatest acting performance as they all pretend to be a happy Frugalicious Family.


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Once they arrive at the Hacienda de la Fortuna, suave Alejandro Espinoza begins to push both romantic attentions and vacation timeshares on Maddie in a definite hard sell. Maddie may be new to reality television, but she certainly isn’t stupid, and she resists what she believes may be a blatant play by the Reality Channel to liven up the show. Her suspicions are fulfilled when Alejandro is found drowned in the hotel pool. Despite the rapid declarations by the police that it was an accidental death, Maddie fears far more. What Maddie is even more suspicious of, though, are the ratings her show would receive if she were involved in yet another murder investigation. Just how far would the Reality Channel go in order to ensure a hit show?



Image source: Midnight Ink

This is an absolutely delightful novel that delves into the unreality of reality television show production, bargain vacations, and destination weddings. Footnoted tips on how to make the most of a budgeted holiday and wedding are as informative as they are entertaining, and the author makes the most of the exotic setting.

Even more riveting are the manipulations and accepted pretenses instrumental in creating a successful reality television show. The Michaels family dynamics have become equally compelling, as Frank has managed to redeem himself, even though Maddie wisely refrains from trusting him completely. Relatable family interactions, exposé of reality television, and truly helpful vacation and wedding information ensure that this is a unique mystery with more than its share of humor, suspense, and emotional drama. I can’t wait for the next in this series, which looks to have Mrs. Frugalicious exploring a world that may be far more perilous than any she has experienced before.

To enter to win a signed copy of Sweetheart Deal, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Sweetheart,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 28, 2015. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL & it supports an indie bookstore:



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 13, 2015

Smart But Dead by Nancy G. West

by Diana Hockley

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

Aggie Mundeen is almost 40 and determined not to grow old. She’s Nancy G. West’s main character, a bright, funny woman whose curiosity knows no bounds. The columnist for Stay Young with Aggie has to remain young herself in order to be taken seriously, so it’s important for her to investigate all avenues for a successful outcome. The Human Genome Project, a fifteen-year study to determine the location and function of every human gene, would appear to have found genetic links to aging. When Dr. Carmody (the professor running the Science of Aging course) drops dead in front of the class, Aggie immediately thinks he has been murdered. In fact, if he hadn’t, she would be extremely disappointed, because Aggie is a sleuth!


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Aggie’s friend Meredith, who is accompanying her on the course, is sceptical; but Aggie plods on, questioning everyone she thinks might have a clue as to who might have murdered Carmody. She’s hit over the head but hides it from Sam (the detective and close friend she wishes might become closer, but from whom she’s hiding a devastating secret), which is par for the course for Our Girl. Asking questions that upset Dr Carmody in the lecture did her no favors, either: after he died, some people blamed Aggie.



Image source: Henery Press

The book hits its stride with Aggie’s investigations. While the scientific information slows the action a little, it’s necessary to the plot, and of course comes to a satisfying conclusion. No, I didn’t pick the murderer, so that made the book all the more enjoyable.

Five stars!

To enter to win a copy of Smart But Dead, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Smart,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 21, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL & it supports an indie bookstore:



Diana Hockley is an Australian mystery author who lives in a southeast Queensland country town. She is the devoted slave of five ratties & usually finds an excuse to mention them in her writing, including her recent novel, The Naked Room. Since retiring from running a traveling mouse circus for 10 years, she is now the mouse judge for the Queensland Rat & Mouse Club shows. To learn more, check out her website.





Friday, November 6, 2015

Greenfellas by Rob Lopresti

by Sandra Murphy

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

Sal Caetano is a mobster in one of the New Jersey crime families. He’s not just any mobster, but consigliere to Vince Napolito. That puts him in the number three spot, right behind Richie, who anybody can tell you, doesn’t see the big picture.

Sal’s life changes, hard to say for better or worse, when two things happen—his granddaughter, Veronica, is born and he hears dire warnings about global warming on the news. He makes his decision—for the sake of his granddaughter (and other people on the planet), Sal’s going green.


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A green mobster is not a popular mobster, unless he can show ways for the family to make money off the deal, so Sal has to improvise to see how the others feel about his ideas. And who’s in charge of making things right anyway?

Sal’s son-in-law is a smart guy (as opposed to a wise guy) so Sal starts there. He’s introduced to a professor who teaches him (and the reader) about what’s green, where to start to change things and why. One of the things is to go to the legislator in charge of environmental hearings. Well, nobody gets into the hearings without an invitation and they don’t hand those out like candy.

Sal, unlike Richie, has always been about the big picture and planning ahead. He comes up with a way to meet the lawmaker and figures that should fix things. To his surprise, he finds elected officials are as bad, if not worse than, his own people—show me the money.

Of course, there are the nut jobs to consider. Some of them think the only way to change things is to blow up what you have and start fresh. Saving the planet with explosions doesn’t make sense to Sal.



Image source: Oak Tree Press

In the end, it always comes down to this—if you want something done right, you just have to do it yourself. Sal’s just the guy to do it.

The story includes much more than just Sal’s journey to greenness of course. Vince, may he rest in peace, dies and there’s a power struggle to see who takes over the family, Richie or Sal. Richie’s a loose cannon, Sal’s been on this save the planet kick, so whatya gonna do? The Jersey police have a mole in the organization, RayRay. He’s the dimmest of the bunch but can follow directions, kind of.

There are a lot of characters to follow since everybody has a second in command, the FBI is there, the cops, the folks supposedly in charge of greening the planet, the nut jobs, the other crime families, the computer geek, assorted girlfriends and family (real family, not crime family) too.

Lopresti provides information about going green and the reader is educated along with Sal. There’s never so much at a time to constitute the dreaded information dump. Sal is a delight as he figures out ways around what most would consider insurmountable objects. The dialogue and action are fast paced. There is bad language—they are mobsters after all—and some killings (well, a few but nothing gruesome).

One person can change the course of the world and in this case, it’s Baby Veronica. I’m just jealous I didn’t think of the idea for this book first—“green” with jealousy.

To enter to win a copy of Greenfellas, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Greenfellas,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 14, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL & it supports an indie bookstore:


Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble. You can also find several of Sandra’s short stories on UnTreed Reads including her newest, "Arthur", included in the anthology titled, Flash and Bang, available now.




Friday, October 30, 2015

Crossways by Jacey Bedford

by Terrance McArhtur

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

Suppose the most powerful galactic corporations gave you mental implants that increased your psychic powers, helped you communicate across light years, or let you navigate through subjective space. Also suppose that these corporations would wipe out a planet’s worth of colonists if valuable elements like platinum were found there. Keep supposing that a group of the psi-techs fought back to protect the colonists (who despise them for being hi-tech). Wouldn’t it make sense for the augmented ones to take refuge in a space station that is home to the highest percentage of thieves, criminals, and assassins in the whole universe?


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That’s Jacey Bedford’s Crossways, sequel to Empire of Dust. Cara is a telepath, Benjamin is a navigator, and they are both on the run from their corporations after executing an executive in self-defense. They have a crew of psy-techs and the Solar Wind, a jump-drive ship. What they don’t have is a cryoship that went missing with 30,000 frozen settlers, and they have promised to find it.

Crossways is a criminal-run space station that slipped from corporate hands a long time ago, and the renegades are welcomed there…because of the mining rights they hold on the colony planet. They find some powerful allies…and assassins, spies, and trouble.

To find the missing ship, Ben and Cara have to take Solar Wind into the space between space, where physical rules don’t apply…and frightening creatures are their only hope, when the megacorps unite to take back what they think is theirs: the planet, the platinum, Crossways station, the psy-techs, their implants, and their minds.



Image source: DAW

Crossways is less battle fiction than Empire was, yet the tactics and solutions are more complex and tension-filled. From a technology-avoiding colony leader, to old friends now on opposite sides, to a little old lady who builds miniature jump drives and tries to feed the inhabitants of her low-class slum, the psy-techs deal with helpers and hindrances, along with their own neuroses of abuse and near-death.

You wouldn’t normally think of a 500-pages-plus novel as crisp, but Bedford packs a high-interest punch into each paragraph. Characters, plot and technology, plus way-out-there stuff: Crossways has it all.

To enter to win a copy of Crossways, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Crossways,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 7, 2015. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL & it supports an indie bookstore:




Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Community Librarian for the WoW! (WithOut Walls) Division of the Fresno County Public Library, roaming the Valley to meet the public's information needs.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Wish Bound, A Grimm Agency Novel By J C Nelson

by Terrance McArhtur

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

As a child, Marissa Locks was sold to Grimm, the Fairy Godfather in Kingdom, and is now a partner in his Wish Agency. The Black Queen, who was dead and/or confined in a thorn tree for several centuries, is back, and has claimed Marissa as her handmaiden. The not-so-normal realms are getting interesting in J. C. Nelson’s Wish Bound.


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Marissa’s worlds are rather unusual, what with her boyfriend with the dragon curse (They have scorched a number of sheets; luckily, she has protection from fire), a BFF princess who is now a yellow-eyed witch (and has a royal wimp for a boyfriend), an office intern who becomes an eight-foot-tall werewolf when he’s excited (and was supposed to kill Marissa), the office manager who insults Marissa constantly (because she knows things the readers don’t), the gnomes who have practiced Marissa-worship (and have gone native/tribal and taken over the post office), and the missing kazoo-whisperer of homicidal toy poodles……Oh, and there’s a malevolent wheel of cheese in the staffroom refrigerator.

Not only does Nelson create situations that are so off-the-wall that there is no ceiling left, his heroine may be snarkier and more smart-mouthed than the urban fantasy characters of Amber Benson (Tara on Buffy and author of the Calliope Reaper-Jones novels) and Seanan McGuire (October Daye books).



Image source: Ace

The Black Queen is determined to take over and destroy worlds over some daddy issues, so Marissa finally learns to not go it alone. She calls in all the chips that have fallen her way during the earlier books of the series to assemble a Magnificent Seven to the seventh power to do battle with giants who are made of giants.

The joy of this series is its willingness—nay, its determination—to take fantasy conventions and twist them until they cry Uncle, Aunt, and several Cousins two times removed. This is the end of the series, with a lot of loose ends finally woven back into the tapestry, unless legions of fans demand that the publishers give us more of Marissa Locks and the wild-and-crazy exploits of the Grimm Agency.

To enter to win a copy of Wish Bound, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Wish,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 31, 2015. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL & it supports an indie bookstore:



Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Community Librarian for the WoW! (WithOut Walls) Division of the Fresno County Public Library, roaming the Valley to meet the public's information needs.


Friday, October 16, 2015

The Corpse with the Diamond Hand: A Cait Morgan Mystery By Cathy Ace

by Cynthia Chow

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

What could be more romantic than a two-week honeymoon cruise through the Hawaiian Islands and to Vancouver, British Columbia? For criminal psychology professor Cait Morgan and her retired homicide detective husband Bud Anderson, it will be using both their professional expertise to help solve a murder while they are between the American and Canadian authorities. When the Stellar Sol's onboard card-game tutor drops dead in the middle of a game, the ship's head of security enlists both Cait and Bud's assistance in discovering who among the passengers may have prematurely ushered in the shady gambler's final destination.


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Gifted with an eidetic memory that allows her to remember everything she senses and then interpret it to her experiences, Cait is also a skilled criminal profiler with a track record of assisting Canadian authorities with their investigations. Her equally intelligent and willing new husband continues to stand by her side, and the couple assists security staff by uncovering the clues and secrets of both the guests and the crew. This still allows Cait and Bud time to enjoy the many amenities that can be found on board—formal dinners, exquisite cuisine, and visits to extravagant staterooms.



Image source: Torchwood Editions

The author uses her considerable travel experience to realistically welcome readers into this world, with the result that they will revel vicariously in exotic locales. Scenes of their honeymoon on the islands before setting sail for Vancouver additionally enhance the setting and share a very authentic Hawaiian vacation.

This sixth in the Cait Morgan mystery series intriguingly incorporates how Cait’s unique eidetic memory contributes to her criminal profiles, but she still has time to enjoy her satisfyingly romantic status as a newlywed. The love between these onboard couples become the focus of this creatively plotted mystery, and that thoughtfulness, when combined with the exotic setting, will have readers ready to book their next cruise long before the last page is turned.

To enter to win a signed copy of The Corpse with the Diamond Hand, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Diamond,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 24, 2015. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL & it supports an indie bookstore:




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 9, 2015

Set-Up By Maxine O'Callaghan

by Lorie Lewis Ham

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

Set-Up is the latest Delilah West mystery by Maxine O' Callahan to be republished by Brash Books. I am very glad that Brash has chosen to give new life to this series, as they were a favorite of mine and it's fun to rediscover them. Delilah West was one of the early female PI's who paved the way for those of today.


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Delilah's life is finally turning around. After struggling at first to keep her PI business going after the death of her husband, and to even keep her own life going, Delilah is now pulling her life truly together. She has a condo, a new van, an assistant, and possibly a love life in the works.

In Set-Up, Delilah has just wrapped up a case of embezzlement and the accused, Sandy Renkowski, is taken away by the police. Soon afterward, Delilah is hired by political activist Bobbi Calder for another case, but that quickly takes a bad turn when Calder is accused of murdering none other than Sandy Renkowski, whom it turns out is a young protégée of Calder's. As Delilah investigates, things get sticky as it seems that the two cases are connected, and she begins to wonder what is really going on here. One of the suspects is a corrupt politician who Delilah learns Sandy was actually investigating for Bobbie. Things heat up even more when Delilah is nearly killed and all of her files on the case are destroyed.



Image source: Brash Books

This is a well written mystery filled with twists, turns, and surprises. The characters are interesting and well developed, and you will find yourself just as curious as to where Delilah's romantic life will head, as to find out who the killer is.

I highly recommend this book, and this series, and hope there are still more to come.

To enter to win a copy of Set-Up, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Set Up,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 17, 2015. If entering via email please include your mailing address.


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


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Shepherd's Crook: An Animals in Focus Mystery By Sheila Webster Boneham

by Cynthia Chow

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

Who knew that sheep rustling was still a thing? While professional photographer Janet MacPhail is at the Northeast Indiana Herding Club's Dogs of Spring event working toward a herding certificate for Jay, her Australian Shepherd. Over a dozen ewes and wethers go missing when Summer Winslow provides her animals to be herded by aspiring canines. Although the angelic side of Janet knows that she should mind her own business, her discovery of the body of a stock handler makes it inevitable that Janet’s more devilish inclinations will take over and have her meddling in sheep theft, identify confusion, and murder.


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This is but the starting point of a very funny mystery devoted to animals and their people. Janet is an intelligent and talented photographer, but she is struggling to define her relationship with Tom Saunders. “Boyfriend” is too juvenile for this fifty-something couple, and “lover” is far too icky. As much as Janet loves the sexy Indiana University anthropology professor, giving up her independence and autonomy is proving to be difficult and not entirely desirable.



Image source: Midnight Ink

There will be a wedding in Janet's near future; just not the one readers might expect. Somehow these otherwise-rational characters continue to get themselves into farcical situations, yet the comedy never overshadows some very serious topics. The author doesn’t shy away from shining a light on both sides of animal and pet advocacy. While animal rights' extremists who "liberate" pets are naively endangering their lives, a proposed bill could oppressively restrict the number of pets in every household. The latter could threaten Janet's home life, as her family includes Jay as well as the two felines Pixel and Leo.

Still, it might give her an excuse from taking a step forward with Tom and his similarly pet-filled household. This fourth in the series brings back familiar characters and continues to focus as much on humor as on the beloved animals. Solid writing and unexpected plot twists help make this series a delightfully fun and rewarding read.

To enter to win a copy of Shepherd's Crook, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Shepherd,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 10, 2015. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL & it supports an indie bookstore:



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 25, 2015

Two Women Against the Wind: A Tierra del Fuego Cycling Adventure

by Réanne Hemingway-Douglass

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

The first time I laid eyes on Tierra del Fuego was after surviving a sailing catastrophe that almost sent my husband and me to the bottom of the Great Southern Ocean. At that time, February 1975, we were attempting to circumnavigate the globe. A week before we were due to reach Cape Horn, we entered the southerly latitudes known as the Furious Fifties when we encountered a monstrous wave that “pitch-poled” [upended 360°] our forty-two foot sailboat, causing major damage. Six long and arduous weeks later, we finally reached the safety of Punta Arenas, the most southerly city in Chile. Punta Arenas lies across the Strait of Magellan from Tierra del Fuego, and while we were awaiting boat repairs, I had the opportunity to explore parts of this remote and beautiful region.



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I decided then that I would return someday, and when I did so in 1984, it was not as a sailor sharing my husband's dream, but as a cyclist challenging myself to accomplish what no woman had done before: cycling the tortuous road from Porvenir, Chile, in the north of Tierra del Fuego, to Ushuaia, Argentina, three hundred miles to the south. My friend Katherine Wells joined me on this adventure. We were both middle-aged women by that time. I was even a grandmother!

Thirty years later, as I began writing this memoir, I reflected on what I'd learned from my numerous adventures sailing the world's oceans and cycling one of its most remote regions. The mishaps and dangers I experienced taught me that my strongest instinct is the will to survive – that with my life depending on it, I could push myself far beyond what I believed possible. Although I hadn't planned to spend the rest of my life pottering around in a garden, I decided life was too precious not to undertake challenges of my own choosing, from which I derive the satisfaction of pushing myself to my own self-defined limits.



Image source: Cave Art Press

I wrote Two Women against the Wind: a Tierra del Fuego Cycling Adventure not just to tell my story, but to inspire other women to achieve their dreams and aspirations, even if it means leaving their comfort zone. Not everyone may choose to cycle Tierra del Fuego, but for me it was a personal triumph that will always remain part of who I am.


To enter to win a copy of Two Women against the Wind: a Tierra del Fuego Cycling Adventure, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Women,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 3, 2015. If entering via email please include your mailing address.




Réanne Hemingway-Douglass holds a BA degree in French from Pomona College. She attended Claremont Graduate University and the University of Grenoble in France. Sailor, writer, cyclist and language teacher, Réanne's articles have appeared in numerous outdoor magazines. Her best-selling book, Cape Horn: One Man's Dream, One Woman's Nightmare, has been published in French and Italian and is being translated into Spanish. Her newly published memoir, Two Women Against the Wind: A Tierra del Fuego Cycling Adventure, tells the story of this adventurous expedition.



Friday, September 18, 2015

Tipping the Valet: A Workplace Mystery By K.K. Beck

by Cynthia Chow

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

All Tyler Benson wanted was time to study and complete his engineering education at the University of Washington. Unfortunately, the extremely ill-advised financial decisions of his father force Tyler to work for Elite Valet, parking cars and hustling for tips. A new assignment at the hot new Ristorante Alba should be a primo opportunity to earn some much-needed extra cash, but instead it becomes a black comedy of errors and unfortunate timing. A drive-by shooting, and then a body traced back to Alba, lead police back to Alba and Tyler’s inadvertent fingerprints.


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While Tyler quickly attempts to explain away his involvement, his fellow valets are enmeshed in their own schemes with even more dangerous accomplices. The Russian mafia may be borderline incompetent, but they are quite adept at murder. Their trail of bodies leads right back to Alba, and, more specifically, to Tyler. He finds an unlikely ally in Flavia Torcelli, a young woman who only wants to study marine biology but has been drafted by her family into helping her brother manage Alba. This young couple must now outmaneuver the family’s expectations, suspicious detectives, and lethal European mobsters.



Image source: Perseverance Press

I’ve been a fan of K.K. Beck since the early 90s, when I discovered her Iris Cooper and Jane da Silva mystery series. Fans of her other suspenseful mystery novels will be delighted to know that the author is still continuing to create entertaining characters who spout very sharp and witty dialogue. Tyler’s family has become very accustomed to their wealthy lifestyle, and they never developed his grandfather’s work ethic. As a result, they continue a delusional lifestyle of consumerism and get-rich-quick schemes. Watching the beleaguered but very admirable Tyler attempt to follow a moral path while the rest of the world seems intent on sabotaging him is hilarious fun. A part of the Workplace Mystery series that highlights different occupations and characters, this new entry only enforces Beck’s record as an author of stellar mystery fiction.

To enter to win a copy of Tipping the Valet, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Tipping,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 26, 2015. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL & it supports an indie bookstore:




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 11, 2015

Off and Running By Philip Reed

by Terrance Mc Arthur

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

“We’re off and running!”

In Philip Reed’s rollicking mystery thriller, Off and Running, that was the catchphrase of Walt Stuckey, a Gleasonesque TV star whose variety show left the air in 1973 for unknown reasons. In 1999, struggling writer Jack Dillon, desperate to prove to his wife that he isn’t a loser, is hired to write Walt’s “autobiography.” The two Jersey-born men bond and the work goes well, until a stroke takes Walt from garrulous raconteur to near-catatonia. As Walt’s son raises more and more roadblocks to the book’s publication and Walt’s recovery, Jack—and Walt’s favorite nurse—come up with a plan: kidnap Walt, cure him, and finish writing the book. It seems like a good idea at the time, but it gets complicated by a convenient ransom note, a curious lawman, a seriously-crazy-ex-con-tracker/hitman, and possibilities of romance.


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It’s hopelessly complex, but delightfully crazy, as it veers from Southern California, up the coast, then across the Sierras (with a pit stop in Fresno), to Owens Valley, and down to Death Valley. People follow people who are following people; Walt’s speech bounces from nothing but “No” to wisecracks; the son lives in dreams of fame and control that are unrealistic; and every plan Jack makes gets several layers of “it’s not going to be that easy” slapped on it by a universe that doesn’t believe in the easy way. Over it all hangs the one mystery question that Jack is trying to pull out of Walt’s stroke-blocked brain: Why was a wildly-popular TV show taken off the air with no explanation?



Image source: Brash Books

The characters have their charms that keep the reader turning pages. Jack may be luckless, but he never gives up, even when his big break could kill him. Walt would be fun to talk to, and great to listen to as he spins his show-biz anecdotes. The nurse has done all she can to make Walt’s final years happy. The hitman has his own flawed code. The lawmen sense a flim when they are flammed. The son’s conviction that the world owes him more drives every psychotic action he takes.

Off and Running isn’t a political thriller, although politics comes into play. It isn’t a techno-thriller, although there is a lot of Y2K fear. It isn’t a police procedural, although the police and FBI do follow their procedures. What it is, is fun.

To enter to win a copy of Off and Running, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Running,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 19, 2015. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL & it supports an indie bookstore:



Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Community Librarian for the WoW! (WithOut Walls) Division of the Fresno County Public Library, roaming the Valley to meet the public's information needs.



Friday, September 4, 2015

Nightfall: A Chase Dagger Mystery By Lee Driver

by Cynthia Chow

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

When a man is murdered in an apparent hit-and-run, the fact that he carried no identification is the least unusual aspect about the death. Not only was he wielding a weapon ideal for assassination, but hidden in his shoe was the business card of private detective Chase Dagger. In the past few years, Dagger has had his number of extraordinary experiences, so even when the body of this John Doe is stolen from the morgue, he barely raises an eyebrow.


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Much more alarming are recent murder cases across the nation that have Cedar Point Police sergeant Jerry “Padre” Martinez concerned. Seven women have been murdered, all named Sara, and all bearing a distinct resemblance to Dagger’s assistant, Sara Morningsky. She and Dagger have only recently become more than co-workers, and he is protective of the young woman. A shapeshifter who can transform into a wolf as well as a hawk, Sara is far from the shy, eighteen-year-old woman he first met when she was an injured wolf. Now the couple, along with a paranoid schizophrenic conspiracy theorist, must once again battle a lethal curse they had thought was defeated.

When the author first began this series in 1999, she was at the forefront of novelists blending mysteries with fantasy. In the latest installments, Driver has added an element of science fiction, as drones, cloning, and nanotechnology all come into play to explain Dagger’s mysterious origin. His ex-fiancée Sheila Monroe continues to plague his existence, but now her attentions elsewhere may attract an even greater threat.



Image source: Full Moon Publishing

New readers may be challenged by the considerable mythology of this series, but the author does an admirable job at smoothly reintroducing her characters and summarizing previous events, showcasing a fascinating blend of mystery, myth, and science fiction. Perhaps the real highlight, though, is how the author also manages to balance humor with a pervading threat of menace, ensuring a read that is as fun as it is suspenseful.

To enter to win a copy of Nightfall: A Chase Dagger Mystery in your choice of hardcover, trade paperback, or ebook, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Nightfall,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 12, 2015. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL & it supports an indie bookstore:



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 28, 2015

Death of a Bride and Groom: A Honeymoon Falls Mystery By Allan J. Emerson

by Cynthia Chow

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

The closure of Winslow’s shingle mill would have doomed the tiny Canadian town—were it not for the ingenious inspiration to rebrand itself as Honeymoon Falls. The self-declared “Romantic Capital of the World” hosts a series of themed events that begins with Parade Day and over-the-top floats. When one of these makes an ill-advised detour onto the freeway, damaged semis and rear-ended police car are the least of the problems: strapped to the float like morbid cake toppers are the bodies of Iris Morland and Connor Tarlech, posed ironically in wedding attire.


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The list of those who didn’t have reasons for wanting the couple dead is shorter than the suspect list: Iris Morland was much-despised for her affairs with other women’s husbands, while Connor’s bankruptcy was the reason for the mill’s closure.

The end of his own marriage was the reason police chief William Halsey retreated from Vancouver to the town of his youth—though attempting to mediate between his two battling deputies is probably not giving him the peace he’d imagined. Neither is this new murder investigation that has him questioning powerful and wealthy residents, dodging headline-hungry news reporters, and corralling two rookie officers who lack experience—but not attitude. Alternating chapters reveal the viewpoints of various characters, and it is through these all-too-brief moments that readers can glimpse their complicated and fascinating personalities.



Image source: Five Star Gale

Although the concept of a series based in a town devoted to weddings would seem to relegate it to cozy status, this feels far more like a small-town police procedural. Fans of Craig Johnson and Bill Crider will find themselves at home with this debut series that has the police chief attempting to guide his own staff while navigating the politics of an affluent, tourist-driven town. As Halsey confronts both wealthy visitors and working-class residents, he learns one thing; they are all liars. This is an immensely fun novel inundated with witty dialogue, and by its conclusion readers will be ready to book their next visit to Honeymoon Falls.

To enter to win a copy of Death of a Bride and Groom (reader’s choice of Hardcover or Kindle version in the U.S. or Canada. Kindle version only in other countries), simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[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 5, 2015. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL & it supports an indie bookstore:



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 21, 2015

The Black Band By Albert vande Steeg

by Marilyn Meredith

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

The black band of the title refers to the black strip of velvet placed over the peace officer’s badge to symbolize the grief suffered because of the death of a fallen officer.
The book begins with the tribute of the funeral from the procession of the many public safety vehicles to the sound of bagpipes, but reflects much more than how the death of a fellow police officer is mourned. The reader is given the opportunity to experience many aspects of a cop’s life, from what happens on the job, sharing stories in a bar and the anxiety felt by officers’ wives and children.

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The author writes from experience and in an appealing and compelling manner. Each vignette is realistic, some with a touch of humor, others will make you wonder, but the reader will receive insight into what it’s like day-to-day – or on the night shift – for those unsung heroes who are protecting our lives and property.



Image source: Oak Tree

This is an excellently written book, and one that should be read by everyone who wants to know what it’s like to be a peace officer.

Highly recommended.

To enter to win a copy of The Black Band, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Band,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 29, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.


Marilyn Meredith is a Springville, CA mystery author of the Tempe Crabtree series and writing as F. M. Meredith, the Rocky Bluff P.D. series. Be sure to visit her website; fictionforyou.com