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Friday, December 30, 2016

“American Nights” A Moriah Dru/Richard Lake Mystery By Gerrie Ferris Finger

by Cynthia Chow

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

As the head of Child Trace, Inc., private investigator Moriah Dru has seen her share of cases involving fathers snatching their children to cross over the border into their home countries. The Honorable Portia Devon brings a difference case to Moriah, though, that of an American woman disappearing with the child she had with her Middle Eastern husband. Portia’s former law school classmate is Saudi Arabian prince Husam bin Sayed al-Saliba, one of his country’s most handsome eligible bachelors. This is despite his being married to the Reeve Cresley, an American who has disappeared with their daughter Shara; the prince’s Shahrazad. ‘Sammy’s story’ of defying his father and King to marry an infidel sounds sketchy to Moriah, and this doesn’t even take into account his talent at unfurling a long tale that rivals anything within his beloved Arabian Nights.


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After enlisting the aid of her computer guru, ‘Webdog,’ Moriah questions Reeve’s socially prominent parents. There’s no love lost between the Cresleys and Sammy, so when they are both murdered Moriah can’t help be suspect the prince’s involvement. As Moriah investigates Reeve’s life, she uncovers possible affairs, mysterious lovers, and NASA secrets. Sammy weaves in and out of the case with his own elaborate stories that cast him in an idealized light, while other accounts have him disregardful towards his wife and engaged to an Arabian princess. Sammy’s shallow sister both distains and embraces the American lifestyle, while the senior Cresleys may have had their own marital woes. Moriah’s husband, an Atlanta police detective, provides moments of domestic relief and serves as a stellar sounding board for Moriah’s pursuit of the elusive woman at the end of a slowly unraveling tale.



Image source: Five Starr

This latest mystery featuring Moriah Dru and Richard Lake succeeds in being an unpredictable and suspenseful novel that proves very timely with world events. The author never takes the simple path towards what becomes a complex issue, and she examines it through depictions of the classic enrapturing Arabian tales. The exchanges between Moriah and Richard are as instrumental to the investigation as they are revealing of the love and trust between the two detectives. Well-written and deftly plotted, this is an exciting and thrilling novel of culture clashes, politics, and how marriages can be caught in the middle.

To enter to win an ebook copy of American Knights, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “knights,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 7, 2017. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please included your mailing address.

You can use these links to purchase the book. If you have adblocker on you may not be able to see the Amazon link:




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).

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.




Friday, December 23, 2016

“Once Broken Faith” October Daye series By Seanan McGuire

by Terrance McArthur

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

In Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series of urban fantasies, elfshot is a powerful weapon of the faerie world, sending its victims into a hundred-year slumber for which there was no cure…until now. The noble Fae, kings and queens from far and near, have been called to the Kingdom of Mists (what we mortals in the Valley would call the Bay Area) to decide if the cure should be released or suppressed. October “Toby” Daye is at the conclave because of her part in the cure’s discovery and use, and because she is a designated hero of the realm. But the first day of proceedings ends badly with a dead king, and Toby is off on another murder investigation in “Once Broken Faith.”


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A number of the usual suspects in Toby’s neverworld are there, not always as actual suspects. The Luidag, the sea-hag related to the Firsts of the Fae, is there to give advice and make fun of the self-important leaders. Tybalt, Toby’s fiancée who happens to be King of the Cats, is there to carry her through a feline rapid-transit-system of shadows, provide some polite ‘hubba-hubbaness,’ and make fun of the self-important leaders. Quentin, Toby’s squire, who is actually the son of the High King and Queen of North America, tags along and tries to keep Toby out of trouble, which is a fruitless task, because trouble looks for Toby, and she often winds up dead…for a while.



Image source: DAW

McGuire often sends Toby on wild forays through the streets of San Francisco. This tenth installment is mostly centered on the parallel Castle in the Mists, with its ever-changing rooms and redwood groves, where murder and mayhem forces a lockdown of Fae, merfolk, stagfolk, and changelings like Toby, but cats will go where they will. Toby’s snarky style is at its height. An added feature is a novella after the conclusion of this adventure, where Arden, the reluctant Queen of the Mists, deals with the issue of waking her brother, who is elfshot.

With all the Celtic creatures, the pronouncing guide comes in handy. However, a glossary of paranormal characters and their powers would be even more helpful. Once Broken Faith combines urban paranormal hijinks with gumshoe detectiving, seasoned with slacker attitude. It’s fun, and a major contribution to the October Daye canon.

To enter to win a copy of Once Broken Faith, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “once,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 31, 2016. If entering via email please include your mailing address.




Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Librarian with the Fresno County Public Library, and a published short story author.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.

Friday, December 16, 2016

"Four Furlongs" By Carol Wright Crigger

by Sandra Murphy

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

China Bohannon works for her Uncle Monk and Grat, his investigator, at the Doyle and Howe Detective Agency. The men are good detectives but bad at record keeping. How is she supposed to bill clients for the jobs done when neither Monk or Grat can keep track of their hours or expenses? Still, revenues are up and China enjoys the work, especially when she gets to go out into the field herself.

The Derby Day fair is under way and that means pickpockets and scam artists will be all over the fairgrounds. The police are of no help since many of them are on the take and as likely to split the money with the thieves as arrest them. Monk and Grat are working long days to keep the peace for fairgoers.


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China meets Neva Sue who believes her brother, a jockey, was murdered, not killed when his horse fell at the turn and kicked him in the head. China is inclined to believe the girl, but without proof, who will believe either of them? Neva says she heard her mother and grandfather talking about the race, and it seems the horse was to start strong but fail to finish to build the odds for Derby Day.

China decides this is a job she can do herself, without a conflict of interest for the job Monk and Grat are doing at the fair. She and her dog, Nimble, a Bedlington terrier who looks more like a lamb than a dog, are eager to find out the truth. When the horse disappears and men accost China and one breaks into the office, she knows they aren’t looking for the horse there. Neva disappears too, in spite of China’s efforts to keep her safe. Monk and Grat aren’t happy about her involvement but do believe there’s a case for the jockey’s murder to solve.



Image source: Five Star

This is set in a time where Nimble gets to ride on the streetcar with China, all for a nickel. Long skirts sometimes hamper her efforts to escape the mayhem that seems to follow the case, and she longs for a bicycle of her own, so she’s not limited to going where the streetcar can take her.

China is a delightful character and Nimble a fierce protector unless she’s hiding under the desk. There’s a bit of flirting between China and a policeman, but her heart is set on Grat, not that he seems to notice all that much. Monk is a crusty old guy, gruff on the outside and a softie where China is concerned. Readers can only hope Neva shows up in future books, she’s too good a character to lose. This is a good mystery, set in a slower time, one to savor with a favorite afghan and beverage as China solves the case.

To enter to win a copy of Four Furlongs (either a print ARC or ebook), simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “furlongs,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 24, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please included your mailing address.

You can use this link to purchase the book:


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.



Tuesday, December 13, 2016

“Moana” Movie Review

by Sheryl Wall

Special coupon for Dinuba Platinum Theatre at the end of this review.

Moana is the newest Disney movie about a daughter of the chief of a Polynesian tribe and is in training to take over as Chief. Ever since she was a young girl she felt called to the water, but her father says to stay away from the ocean for it is too dangerous and their people are not meant to travel the seas. However, later she learns from her Grandmother this was not always the case. Her Grandmother encourages her to follow her calling and save their Island.

Their island is dying and the fisherman can no longer find any fish to catch. Determined to help her people Moana finds herself on an adventure to save the Island. Long ago Demigod Maui had stolen the heart of the goddess, Te Fiti, which has caused the dying of her Island. She finds herself on an adventure to save her people as she searches for Maui to try to talk him in returning with her to return the goddesses heart. It took some persuading, but soon they are on an adventure together to restore the heart along with a stowaway from home, her chicken.


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Moana is not your typical Princess movie where she is in need of rescuing or falls in love with the prince. Instead Moana is a determined leader who will do whatever it takes to save her people. The story is based on Polynesian Mythology.



Image source: Disney

I always enjoy seeing movies about Hawaiian culture for it’s my favorite place to visit and their culture is so unique and interesting. I enjoyed the Hawaiian songs they played in the background, and Moana (Auli'i Cravalho) has a beautiful voice; I especially enjoyed her songs.

It is a fun and adventurous story that can be enjoyed by the whole family. However, there are a couple scenes that could be scary for the younger child. Overall it’s a movie you won't want to miss…young or old.

Moana is currently playing at Dinuba Platinum Theatres 6. Showtimes can be found on their website. Platinum Theaters Dinuba 6 now proudly presents digital quality films in 2-D and 3-D with 5.1 Dolby digital surround sound to maximize your movie experience.

Print this coupon and enjoy a special discount for Kings River Life readers only!


Sheryl Wall is an ongoing contributor to our
Pet Perspective section, providing pet care advice from years of personal experience.




Thursday, December 8, 2016

“Murder She Wrote: Hook, Line and Murder” by Jessica Fletcher, Donald Bain, and Renee Paley-Bain

by Sandra Murphy

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

You’d think a fishing tournament would be a safe, fun week of solitude and the enjoyment of a Maine fall. On the other hand, when it’s Jessica Fletcher who is the fisherwoman, all bets are off.

First of all, Seth doesn’t think it’s safe for Jessica to be out of cell phone range for a week. What if she’s injured and can’t call for help? He maneuvers Jessica in a can’t-say-no position to take Maureen, the Sheriff’s wife, along. Of course, Maureen is chatty, brings enough outfits for a couple of weeks instead of a weekend, and has never gone fishing before—but she’s watched it on television.

Jessica agrees, figuring she’ll have Maureen’s company for three days and a week to enjoy the quiet after Maureen goes home. Unfortunately, there’s also the complication of an escaped convict. No one has actually seen him, but homeowners in Cabot Cove are almost afraid to go out for milk and bread, worried about the threat. Others swear he’s trying to escape into Canada.


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Brian, Jessica’s guide for the tournament, is a former friend of the escapee. In fact, he was convicted of abetting the same murder when the grocer was killed during a robbery just because they were friends. Years later, a group that proves the innocence of those wrongly jailed, gets him set free. Still, Maine memories are long, so being a guide for tourists is about the only job he can get.

Being a redhead, Maureen is prone to sunburn. In spite of Jessica’s continuous warnings, she only has SPF-15 lotion, manages to miss a lot of spots, and end up with a whopper of a sunburn. It forces her to bow out of the next morning’s fishing to cool off before she gets sick.

Upon returning to the cabin, there’s no sign of Maureen. Jessica’s worst fears have become reality. Maureen is the convict’s hostage. Mort was his arresting officer, so it puts Maureen in even more danger.



Image source: Penguin

Since Jessica can’t be much help in searching the woods or lake, she is able to work behind the scenes to research the relationship between four boys with bad situations at home, clues left by Maureen, and to find out about a not-so-accidental drowning of the town’s drunken lawyer.

Get your waders ready. Readers will foresee an annual fishing trip for Maureen and Jessica, at least until Maureen can get Mort interested in sharing the sport. This is book 45 in the Murder She Wrote series! Start at the beginning or jump right in with the fishing tournament in a book so rich in description, readers will hear the drip of the paddle as the boat moves through the lake water. Since the tournament is a catch, photo, and throw back type, no fish recipes in the book—you know Maureen’s the cook, not Jessica!

To enter to win a copy of Murder She Wrote: Hook, Line and Murder, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “hook,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 17, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please included your mailing address.

You can use this link to purchase the book:


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, December 2, 2016

“A Damsel for Santa” A McKenna Mystery By Terry Ambrose

by Cynthia Chow

Details on how to win an ebook copy of this novella at the end of the review.

All Wilson McKenna was hoping for was to spend a Hawaiian Christmas together for the first time with his girlfriend Benni. Before she can fly in from the Big Island, McKenna is talked into doing a favor that he simply cannot refuse. The Honolulu Community Theater is giving charity benefit performance of “A Damsel for Santa,” and their Santa has just come down with a case of malaria. McKenna’s tenant, aspiring private investigator Chance Logan, has talked him into doing far more outlandish deeds before, so convincing McKenna into filling in as Santa proves to be a breeze. It’s a charitable act McKenna soon regrets, as he’s immediately faced with a hot-flashing Mrs. Claus, weed-smoking crew, and a child star whose mother suffers from PTSD.


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Rehearsals haven’t even begun before the owner of a homeless shelter is murdered, a fast-approaching hurricane knocks out the power and phones, and the entire cast is locked in the theater with a killer. It’s up to McKenna, in an alarmingly uncomfortable Santa suit, to preserve the crime scene, question the suspects, and hopefully keep everyone alive until the police can arrive. With a cast of actors who are off the eccentric scale and not receptive to his interrogations, McKenna finds himself reluctantly relying on a nine year-old Temporary Assistant Elf Investigator to solve the mystery and save Christmas.



Image source: Terry Ambrose

This Christmas novella arrives just in time for the holidays and serves up a generous portion of laughs and escapist reading. The classic locked-room scenario gets twisted with the inclusion of a zany collection of characters who unpredictably fall in and out of their roles. The very put-upon McKenna continues to be entertaining as he wades through the suspects, ensuring his success as Santa no matter how much he attempts to resist. Often a beacon of sanity is an ocean of chaos, McKenna is at his best when surrounded by chaos.

To enter to win an ebook copy of A Damsel for Santa, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “damsel,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 12, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please included your mailing address.

You can use this link to purchase the book:


amzn.to/2gAm3xd


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).

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.




Friday, November 25, 2016

“A Killer Location” A Home Sweet Home Mystery By Sarah T. Hobart

by Cynthia Chow

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

Despite her initial optimism, Home Sweet Home Realty’s newest licensed realtor Samantha “Sam” Turner could not call her first open home a success. Sam’s hopes for showing a promising but outdated home in the upscale Campus Heights, California, neighborhood are dashed first by a cranky neighbor, and then by an escalating series of disasters. Fast-moving thieves, a flea-laden dog, backed up toilet, and dissolving carpet pale in comparison first to a severed finger in the freezer, and then a corpse in the garden. Not even the scent of baking cookies could distract prospective buyers from all of that bad karma.


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The future of her career in real estate worsens when she realizes that the buried body had a connection to Sam’s boss Everett Sweet, and his arrest causes her own real estate agent license to be suspended. Although Sam is dating Arlinda’s Chief of Police, it is cranky new officer Mike Decker who is charge of the investigation and doesn’t appreciate Sam’s advice. Everett may have had a lamentable record of ex-wives, but Sam refuses to believe that he would engage in real estate violations, much less commit murder. Getting involved in yet another murder is far preferable to finally telling her sister Stacy that Sam is dating Stacy’s ex-husband. Time is ticking on that, considering that having broken both a relationship and an ankle, Stacey has temporary moved into Sam’s converted garage. A real estate guppy swimming with sharks, Sam never developed the competitive spirit that would help her both professionally and personally.



Image source: Alibi

This second in the Home Sweet Home Mystery series lives up to the promise of the debut, continually delivering laughs along with fascinating real estate lore. Sam’s resilience and sense of humor get her through her absurdly inept first showing, while her observational skills and intelligence make her a more than competent investigator. While Sam may be inexperienced and a little naïve, her judgment has matured enough to allow her to deal with the sudden reappearance of her son’s father in their lives.

Readers will be challenged to keep up with Sam’s investigation as the bodies pile up, with the final reveal logical and still a complete surprise. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this novel is Sam’s increasing confidence that prevents her from becoming a doormat or sacrificing her ethics. Sizzling hints of sexual tension between Sam and her police chief heighten the fun and promise more enjoyable adventures for this detecting real estate agent.

To enter to win an ebook copy of A Killer Location, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “location,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 3, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please included your mailing address.

You can 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).

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.




Friday, November 18, 2016

“Sunshine Noir” Edited by Annamaria Alfieri & Michael Stanley

by Kathleen Costa

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

“The Darkest Shadows are Where the Sun is Brightest.”

The editors and contributors, Annamarie Alfieri and Michael Stanley, take exception to the premise that crime fiction is best illustrated in the ‘Nordic Noir’ style where the northern settings and severe environments best magnify the dark themes and complexity of the characters. Their idea contradicts the proponents knowing that the “shadows are the darkest where the sun is brightest.” They believe that the sunny ‘climes’ can be just as “grim, more varied in plot and character, and richer in entertainment.”

I agree. With environments ranging from deep in Africa to bordering the Mediterranean from Asia to the West Indies, these seventeen authors take us deep into the heat to shine on the underbelly of crime and misfortune. The stories are short in length, but not in substance. Some of the stories are straight forward, some leave closure up to your imagination and some twist about leaving you with an “Oh, my!” on your lips. Beware of some adult themes and tone of several of the short stories, but do not shy away from this reading adventure. The writing is superb and engaging, wetting one’s appetite to explore more from each author. Check out the back of the book where each contributor is introduced including their social media sites to join in as a ‘fan.’

Sunshine Noir earns 5/5 SPF 50 Sunscreen Tubes and a Pitcher of Ice-cold Lemonade!


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These short synopses provide an overview of what awaits the adventurous reader.

“Extreme Heat” by Robert Wilson, engulfs our senses as Jonny Sparks is looking for a different challenge in his life. He says no to New York, goodbye to his family and starts his hitchhiking adventure from London to Cape Town. He got a late start; the big tourist march south has wound down leaving very few opportunities. What could possibly go wrong?

“Blue Nile” by Paul Hardisty, follows a young engineer working to repair pipes on a large dam project to maintain the flow of electricity. However, violent rebels are preparing to cross the Blue Nile. Will he be caught in the middle of a civil war?

“The Assassination” by Leye Adenle, details Otunba’s refusal to forego a run for office or step down from his position unless he is reimbursed his expenses. He shows some concern for the possibility the opposition may take drastic measures and peripheral conversations lead one to believe a plan is being hatched. Will he be able to outsmart the opposition…?

“Chronos and Kairos” by Jason Goodwin, refers to Chronos, depicted as Father Time, and Kairos, the Greek word for the right or opportune moment. In Istanbul, Yashim holds dear his new watch, an object he is mesmerized by since his culture often just ‘feels’ the time. However, he

discovers ‘the opportune time,’ measured more accurately by his new ‘chronoscopic’ friend, is the key to solving a murder.

“The Woman of His Heart” by Nick Sweet, travels to Seville where Inspector Jefe Velázquez is in turmoil over the kidnapping of his girlfriend. The ransom is not money, but a DVD that implicates a government official in a horrific assault. Can he save her life as he is pitted between rival criminal gangs?

“Snake Skin” by Ovidia Yu, takes us to Singapore with breaking news of a destructive house fire and unfortunate casualties. What continues is the flashback of Marie who has been summoned to her father’s side. Meeting her father’s new, young Thai wife and learning of their plans to move from her mother’s house, the family dynamic is explored. Was the fire deliberate? Is this the closure someone needed?




Image source: White Sun Books

“Corpus Crispy” by Tamar Myers, heats up in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona with Assistant Professor Delbert Finkter objecting to the Catch-22 of the publishing industry. Stuck teaching students with whom he holds a measurable contempt, he sets to critique the short story of a septuagenarian auditing his creative writing class. He questions her skill, her knowledge and her right to be in his class. Will she be able to move past his abuse?

“The Sultan Rules Mombasa” by Annamaria Alfieri, turns the clock back to 1912 Kenya. Lady Vera Tolliver, wife of a second-born aristocrat turned policeman, laments the stifling mores of the British and constraints placed on young British women. She becomes alarmed when a close friend appears frantic that her younger sister has tried to break the reins of society in favor of her heart. Will their search uncover the young girl’s whereabouts? Or will the African heat disguise a dark secret?

“Pale Yellow Sun” by Richie Narvaez, spins a tale of a robbery in the heat of a Puerto Rican afternoon. Señora Olga Lopez is desperate to locate the crystal golf trophy that could help sway a new investor and spark economic growth. How far would she go to see it returned?

“The Logistics of Revenge” by Susan Froetschel, puts us in the Middle East traveling with a convoy of aide workers on their way to help refugees awaiting transfer to Zaatari. But, as many fear, the convoy is attacked and the aide workers are kidnapped, separated from each other and one struggles for her life. Can she survive the heat, the sand, the uncertainty?

“Housecleaning” by Greg Herren, sweeps us away to New Orleans drenched in the heat and humidity. A young man reminisces about his mother and his somewhat nomadic life, never staying put too long in any one place. What connections do mothers have with their sons? What connections do sons have with their mothers? The complications sometimes are resolved.

“Someone’s Moved the Sun” by Jeffrey Siger, is amidst the whitewashed buildings of a Greek Island steaming with heat and crowded with tourists. Toni, known for being able to find misappropriated things from hotel rooms and vacation homes, takes on a questionable case. Missing a backpack with money and jewelry, but he has a feeling there’s more to it than that. Will the new
Balkan gang prove difficult…physically difficult? Or will the missing items turn out to be more trouble than they’re worth?

“The Freemason Friends” by Timothy Williams, moves from an Ontario, Canada, winter to the heat and humidity of the Caribbean with Anne-Marie seeking to leave the disappointments with her daughter to visit a dear friend. The friend? Hiding. Why? Suspected of murder.

“Spirits” by Michael Stanley, heats up in New Xade with not even the slightest breeze coming across the Kalahari. Constable Ixau is called to help. Q’ema’s father is ill, possessed. He rants that he walks with the spirits and Yuseb is in grave danger. When Yuseb ends up dead, the investigation takes on an eerie tone.

“The Man in Prampram” by Kwei Quartey, moves to Ghana, hot, incessantly hot Ghana. Due to serious health issues, Patrik Blom, a native of Sweden, moves to warmer climates. In a tourist-filled beach community he is hiding, wanted by the police, suspected of fraud, identity theft and murder. The police get a break in their search, the family back home have an urgent need and the possibility of revenge may bring closure. Where can he hide now?

“The Cigarette Dandy” by Barbara Nadel, burns almost with an unbearable heat for Inspector Cetin Ikmen of the Istanbul Police. He is called to investigate the death of a man known to many as the Cigarette Dandy. Viciously mutilated, the victim’s connection to the Sulukule gypsies becomes a key line of inquiry, but they would have to talk to Papatya hanim, a witch. Will this be the answer Ikmen needs? What secrets can be told?

“When You Wish Upon a Star” by Colin Cotterill, has Mr. Grabong making a wish on a shooting star in the Lang Suan night sky. Muggy, thick with lights and exhaust, he has carried this wish in his mind knowing he had to make it quick; four-seconds was all he had. Not every wish blooms, but Mr. Grabong was lucky…or was he? A young reporter is sent to investigate an ‘accident,’ and sees that things just don’t add up for her. What connections can she find?

To enter to win a copy of Sunshine Noir, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “sunshine,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 26, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Kathleen Costa is a long-time resident of the Central Valley, and although born in Idaho, she considers herself a “California Girl.” Graduating from CSU-Sacramento, she is 35+ year veteran teacher having taught in grades 1-8 in schools from Sacramento to Los Angeles to Stockton to Lodi. Currently Kathleen is enjoying year 2 of retirement revitalizing hobbies along with exploring writing, reading for pleasure, and spending 24/7 with her husband of 26+ years.


KRL receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.



Monday, November 14, 2016

Dr. Strange: Movie Review

by Lorie Lewis Ham

Special coupon for Dinuba Platinum Theatre at the end of this review.

This week we have another video review from Jessica Ham, this one for the new Marvel movie Dr. Strange starring Benedict Cumberbatch.


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Image source: Marvel Studios




Dr. Strange is currently playing at Dinuba Platinum Theatres 6. Showtimes can be found on their website. Platinum Theaters Dinuba 6 now proudly presents digital quality films in 2-D and 3-D with 5.1 Dolby digital surround sound to maximize your movie experience.

Print this coupon and enjoy a special discount for Kings River Life readers only!


Jessica Ham is 23 years old and an ongoing contributor; with dreams of being on Broadway, she's right at home covering Entertainment. You can learn more about her on your YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/user/JessTheGoodWitch.


Friday, November 4, 2016

“Deadly Dog Days” A Dog Days Mystery By Jamie Blair

by Cynthia Chow

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

Closing in fast on forty, Cameron Cripps-Hayman never expected to be unemployed, separated from her husband, or living in historic but isolated Metamora, Indiana. She certainly never intended to discover the body of a young woman, floating in a canal next to the town’s duck mascot. That shock pales upon the realization that Cameron was perhaps the only one in Metamora unaware of the rumors circulating that the late Jenn Berg had been dating Metamora’s only police officer, Ben Hayman, Cameron’s estranged husband. When news surfaces that Jenn had been pregnant, the town sees the two with the biggest motives to do in the local waitress as Cameron and the possible baby-daddy, Ben.


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Her mother-in-law may be slowly absconding with Ellsworth House antiques out from under Cameron, but Irene Hayman’s dedication as the President of The Daughters of Historical Metamora does have the benefit of providing Cameron with a ragtag team of investigators. Cameron’s two overachieving high school volunteers and court-mandated community service workers enthusiastically transition into the Metamora Action Agency, whose entire purpose is to investigate the murder and clear both Cameron and Ben.

Cameron will need their assistance considering that she somehow managed to also find herself the guardian of Jenn Berg’s ill-trained Newfoundland, cranky German Shepherd, terrifying Rottweiler-Doberman, and two twin canine tanks. Cameron’s teenaged stepdaughter arrives to further strain the household, as Mia shows a mastery of teen eye-rolling and manipulation of her father. It will take more than Cameron’s black hole of a purse to contain the chaos descending on her historical, and colorful, new home.



Image source: Midnight Ink

This debut series balances the light-hearted antics of Cameron’s Scooby Gang and canine crew with the heart-wrenching dilemma of a woman facing the end of her marriage. Cameron’s Agency, which includes an ex-con, a kleptomaniac, and a charming alcoholic are undeniably effective when utilizing their specific skill sets, but Cameron herself is the one having a difficult time finding her place in Metamora. Having moved to Indiana for her husband’s career, Cameron was herself without a job, alienated by her mother-in-law, and neglected by an always-working Ben. So it shouldn’t have been surprising that Cameron found herself miserable and isolated. It takes a murder to spark a sense of purpose in Cameron, and awakens her to just how much she has grown to love Metamora, her new canine roommates, and perhaps even the man she married. A possible new career could help save the future of Metamora along with Cameron’s marriage, while her visiting sister’s new passion provides tasty doggy treats.

This is a delightful novel that introduces a relatable and very engaging heroine who is led by her heart, sense of humor, and newfound affection for Metamora.

To enter to win a copy of Deadly Dog Days, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “doggy,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 12, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please included your mailing address.

You can 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).

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.




Monday, October 31, 2016

Jack Reacher, Never Go Back: Movie Review

by Lorie Lewis Ham

Special coupon for Dinuba Platinum Theatre at the end of this review.

Tom Cruise is back as Jack Reacher in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. This is the sequel to the movie Jack Reacher, and both are based on best selling books written by author Lee Child.


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This time Reacher, a former soldier, is out to prove the innocence of a friend, Army major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), who has been framed for treason. Along the way, Reacher also finds out he might have a daughter that he never knew about, a girl named Samantha (Danika Yorosh). This possible daughter is used against him as he tries to sort out this complicated conspiracy.



Image source: Paramount Pictures

There is a lot of great action in this movie, and it's nice to see Cobie Smulders character be every bit as kick ass as Reacher. Reacher has always been a loner, so it's also a nice twist to see him trying to figure out how to be a father. There are some funny moments where both Turner and Reacher are trying to parent this girl, while obviously having no clue. Sam has been in her fair share of trouble and does a pretty good job of taking care of herself.

If you are looking for a fun action movie head out to see Never Go Back.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is currently playing at Dinuba Platinum Theatres 6. Showtimes can be found on their website. Platinum Theaters Dinuba 6 now proudly presents digital quality films in 2-D and 3-D with 5.1 Dolby digital surround sound to maximize your movie experience.

Print this coupon and enjoy a special discount for Kings River Life readers only!


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, October 21, 2016

The Boo Factor

by Maggie Toussaint

Details on how to win a Kindle format version or an Advance Reading Copy paperback of the book Doggone It at the end of the post.

Something leaps out at you in the dark. Your heartbeat pounds in your ears. Your lungs burn for air. Your palms sweat buckets. Butterflies whirl in your stomach.

Scared silly, scared to death, scared stiff, scared out of your wits – those are a few of the phrases often associated with act of being terrified. What I find interesting is the polarized responses to the experience.

Some people hate that fear-paralysis mode. It produces a nauseating certainty that this is the end of the world. The intensity of that terror often puts those folks off all activities designed to provoke that response.

On the flip side, other people love getting the bejeebers scared out of them. But positive individual reactions to that adrenaline-rush sensation vary. Some folks revel in the intensity of the experience. Some feel lifted from the ordinariness of their lives. Others experience gratification from surviving experiences like sky-diving, rollercoaster riding, haunted house visiting, or scary movie watching.


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Paranormal movies, TV shows, and books have a deep-seated appeal to those who enjoy a scare or two. Interestingly, entertainment options like these that explain the fright and make the “bad guys” pay, offer value for scare lovers and scare haters alike. In the universe of a book or movie, a story may play out with characters who find ways to cope with their fears, and ultimately triumph.

Throughout time, humankind has sought to explain the unexplainable through myths, legends, and religion. In addition to these time-honored stories, modern authors continue to use story vehicles to explore different perspectives of unusual, difficult, or life changing events.

As a person who spent a lifetime avoiding being scared, I now have an intellectual interest in things that can’t be proven or explained logically. For instance, we believe in the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe, though we can’t prove it. Many believe in the afterlife, though we take that on faith from either religious or secular sources.

My current series, the Dreamwalker Mystery Series, features amateur sleuth Baxley Powell, a woman who can, among other talents, access the spirits of those who have died. She’s a police consultant who uses her unusual ability to help solve crimes.

The newest release in this paranormal mystery series, Doggone It, delves into a double homicide at a haunted house. The story opens with Baxley and Charlotte, her reporter friend, visiting the location for a newspaper story and getting waylaid by an earthbound spirit.



Image source: Five Star

Charlotte feels so faint she can’t stand up. She panics as stomach butterflies, tight lungs, and racing heartbeat further debilitate her. She fights back with her secret weapon – by demanding her psychic friend make this problem go away.

Baxley knows it’s a risk for her to lower her guard at the haunted house. During her teens, she had a terrible experience here, but she’s older and wiser now. She knows what she’s about as a dreamwalker, whereas she blocked her abilities previously. Since becoming a dreamwalker, she’s traversed the veil of life dozens of times. Freeing Charlotte from this thrall should be easy-peasy to someone as seasoned as she is.

Plus, her BFF is begging for her help. Baxley’s heart says yes. Her head says she should have no problem. She’s a dreamwalker. She knows all about the spirit world.

But when she lowers her guard, she gets swamped with numbing fear, too. Something terrible has hold of her, and she can’t get away. She hears clanking chains and feels the gut-wrenching cold of nothingness.

Unlike her typical dreamwalks where she is unaware of what’s going on around her body, this experience is like a lucid dream. She knows she’s paralyzed, but she can hear and virtually see Charlotte freaking out.

Baxley’s body, mind, and soul are swamped with the fight or flight urge. Only she can’t defend herself or run. She can’t do anything.

Her options for lifelines boil down to a single bad choice. She can’t use that choice, because it comes at a harrowing cost, but she’s stuck in a nowhere place and afraid. Her father, who rescued her years ago, can’t manage regular dreamwalks anymore, and this is no ordinary anything.

The lifeline choice? A powerful spirit who helps when it suits her, for a horrifying fee. The charge for a favor is an hour of Baxley’s life. Dire circumstances forced Baxley to use the spirit’s help twice before, and in doing so, saved two lives.
If she doesn’t escape soon, she will die. Her life is on the line. The only choice is the bad one. What’s another hour of her life gone compared to no hours left at all?

I hope you enjoyed this reprise of the opening scene of Doggone It. For a chance to win a Kindle format version or an Advance Reading Copy paperback of the book, chime in with something that scares you, or simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “doggone,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 29, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address. Please state whether you prefer the ebook or paperback ARC.

Southern author Maggie Toussaint writes mystery, suspense, and dystopian fiction. Her work has won the Silver Falchion Award for best mystery, the Readers’ Choice Award, and the EPIC Award. She’s published fifteen novels, as well as several short stories and novellas. The next book in her paranormal mystery series, Doggone It, releases October 2016. Maggie serves on the board for Southeast Mystery Writers of America and Low Country Sisters In Crime. Visit her at www.maggietoussaint.com.

Friday, October 14, 2016

“Midsummer Night’s Mischief” A Wiccan Wheel Mystery By Jennifer David Hesse

by Sandra Murphy

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

Keli Milanni is an attorney by day and Wiccan always, not that many people know that about her. It’s Summer Solstice time and things should be running smoothly with a literary convention and the Renaissance Faire in town.

A favorite client comes to the office to update her will. It seems there were rumors about an old family treasure thought to have been burned years ago. Now Eleanor has found it in the attic. It’s a Shakespearian book, “Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies, Published according to the True Original Copies.” In other words, it’s worth millions. With her will updated, Keli urges Eleanor to take the book to the bank for safe deposit.


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Eleanor tells the family she’s got the book but keeps mum otherwise. Unfortunately, that same night, Eleanor dies in her sleep. Now the family is ready to sell or preserve the book, but it’s nowhere to be found. Eleanor had failed to take it to the bank and to insure it. Eleanor’s daughter blames Keli for not taking better care of her client’s needs, but other family members—that would be Wes—are willing to help her track it down.

Wes is pretty hot to look at, not that Keli gets a lot of chances to see him. Every time they get together to look for the book, one of them gets called away. Wes doesn’t seem to have a place of his own or a job. Keli can’t find out anything more which makes her suspicious—would he have taken the book to sell? The book disappeared while the family was at the funeral home, but it was hard to keep track of who was where all the time.



Image source: Kensington

At the office, Keli’s getting a hard time, once the lawsuit papers arrive from Eleanor’s daughter. She’s suing Keli and the firm for the millions the book would have brought. Jeremy, another lawyer, seems to be hanging around more often, probably hoping to take over Keli’s clients while seemingly interested in her. Threatened with termination, Keli talks the boss into a two week suspension to give herself enough time to find the missing book. Knowing who to trust is another matter.

The first book of A Wiccan Wheel mystery is full of twists and turns which brings about a satisfying ending and a good read. Keli is someone you’d like to know. The Wiccan aspect of the book is there, but doesn’t overtake the storyline although she relies on casting spells to help her find the right path. There’s a spark of romance between Keli and Wes, so readers will hope he returns in the next episode, “Bell, Book and Candlemas,” due out in December. Just in time for holiday giving or for your reading wish list.

To enter to win a copy of Midsummer Night’s Mischief, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “mischief,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 22, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please included your mailing address.

You can use this link to purchase the book:


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, September 23, 2016

“Whispers Beyond the Veil” A Change of Fortune Mystery By Jessica Estevao

by Sandra Murphy

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

Ruby Proulx has gone by many names during her life but never her real name. She travels with her father, a con man who works the circuit selling his miracle potion that cures all ailments. Ruby reads Tarot cards and tells people what they most want to hear. After all, her father is prone to spending all their money on one foolish plan or another. He can’t tell the truth when a lie will do just as well, and he can’t turn down a chance to make a killing, even when the seller is another con man.

That’s what got Ruby in so much trouble. He bought a new gadget, called the Invigorizer. He tests the machine on Johnny, who is part of the con, and tells Ruby to flip the switch. The inner voice she sometimes hears says don’t, but it was too late. The switch is flipped and instead of being invigorated, Johnny is electrocuted. Not one to take the blame for anything, Ruby’s father says she’s at fault and she’d better skip town before the police find Johnny’s body. He’ll throw her under the proverbial bus to save himself.


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With little money, Ruby can only think of one place to go—to visit the aunt she’s never met. Honoria is thrilled to see her. It seems each of the women in their family has a special skill—like Ruby’s voice in her head. Honoria is building her hotel’s reputation on the mediums, card readers, and the like she’s invited to do demonstrations.

One of the hotel’s guest though is a debunker. He’s there to prove there is no seeing into the future. When his body is found, the suspect list is long. It seems he had a habit of proving a medium faked a reading and then gave her the choice of going to jail for fraud or sleeping with him to buy his silence.



Image source: Penguin

One of Ruby’s worst fears has come to pass. Someone recognized her and is blackmailing her. The hotel is in jeopardy since her aunt put a mortgage on it so she could compete with larger hotels. Ruby feels like anything and everything that could go wrong, has, including her attraction to the policeman in town.

Set in 1898, the people and their motives are much the same as today—greed, lust, power, and money. There’s an old murder to solve too. Ruby is someone you’d like to have as a friend or to read the Tarot cards for you, whether you believed or not. Her main clients, the sisters, are a treat. This was an enjoyable mystery with great promise for the next in the Change of Fortune Mystery series.

To enter to win a copy of Whispers Beyond the Veil, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “whispers,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 1, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please included your mailing address.

You can use this link to purchase the book:


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, September 16, 2016

“The Dead Hand” A Rachel Gold Mystery By Michael A. Kahn

by Cynthia Chow

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

The Dead Hand. Taught to law students in their Property Law class, it’s a situation so confusing that thankfully it rarely occurs. As the Rule of Perpetuities, it was established to prevent someone long dead from controlling property transfer in the future. The Dead Hand was supposed to shut down a tax loophole, but instead it has become a massive headache for St. Louis attorney Rachel Gold.


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Rachel has somehow found herself representing two different Dead Hands, one a case for the first wife and the other on the side of the trophy widow. In the matter of Danielle A. Knight v. Marsha V. Knight, Rachel’s client is Marsha Knight, whose right to her late ex-husband’s property is being disputed by the most recent wife. Concerning the Estate of Bertram R. Mulligan, the very resentful son is suing Cyndi Mulligan on grounds that her child is not Bert Mulligan’s true child. While it’s inarguable that Cyndi did give birth 11 months after her husband’s death, the truth cannot be explained so simply.



Image source: Poisoned Pen Press

As a huge fan of the Rachel Gold novels since the beginning in the early 1990s, I am always thrilled to see her next baffling legal case. The absurdities and complexities of the law are never more fascinating or entertaining, especially when Rachel is joined by her best friend, the lewd and loyal Washington University School of Law Professor Benny Goldberg. Rachel’s former legal assistant, Jackie Brand, having finally transitioned into both a woman and a full partner in Gold & Brand, Attorneys at Law, stands by with equal amounts of femininity and intimidation. Going up against one of the most unethical, ruthless lawyers of the family practice bar, Rachel can always use her friends’ support, but she’s more than capable than matching wits with the best. Rachel Gold has matured into an ingenious and savvy attorney, easily manipulating her lesser through cleverness, research, and adherence to the law.

As compelling as it is genuinely funny, a dash of romance may enter the field when Rachel’s mother delivers the dream of every matchmaking yenta. A practicing trial attorney, Michael A. Kahn is one of the few authors who continues to make courtroom scenes absolutely delightful.

To enter to win a copy of The Dead Hand, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “hand,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 24, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please included your mailing address.

You can 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).



Friday, September 2, 2016

The Rosebush Murders: A Helen Mirkin Novel By Ruth Shidlo

by Kathleen Costa

Details on how to win an e-book copy of another book in this series at the end of the review. The Rosebush Murders is currently free on Kindle on Amazon.

Detective Inspector Helen Mirkin misses out on her morning Turkish coffee because of a phone call alerting her to a body in the park. She speeds through the streets of Jerusalem toward Wohl’s Rose Park to find a young woman shot at point blank range. In her pocket they find a letter that may hold a clue to her identity and searching the area DI Mirkin finds an appointment book floating in the pond, a scrap of material snagged on a bush, and a green pillbox. Minimal clues to start the investigation, she finds she needs to proceed on her own, as her partner, Ohad, is otherwise engaged.

The letter leads Helen to uncover the identity of the victim, Dr. Danielle Hall, and during her subsequent interviews she discovers the victim worked at City Hospital as a clinical psychologist and undergoing treatments for cancer. Soon the cancer treatments become suspicious, and the search for a mysterious Dr. Atab becomes problematic. When a second body is found in the same general area, the investigation is complicated even further. The City Hospital becomes a serious ‘place of interest.’


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As Helen continues her investigation into the hospital and several of its employees, difficult memories are brought to the surface about the death of her father. Incompetence, administrative cost-effective measures, and maybe even some medical arrogance leaves Helen with strong feelings against the medical community. Fathers crop up again in the two Floating Prologues that hint to someone whose mission it is to “…atone for his sins.” Can Helen put her feelings aside as her investigation delves deeper into the Oncology and IVF departments? Can atoning for one’s family cause dedication to turn deadly?

The Rosebush Murders is a marvelous look into a police investigation with a fascinating twist of being set in Israel—I enriched my enjoyment by googling sites mentioned to get a visual of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Ruth Shidlo weaves her character through interviews, crime scene searches, discussions with her colleagues, and while mulling over various suspects, she tries to arrive at a motive worthy of an arrest and conviction. But, it is far from mundane. Ruth adds thoughtful questioning and plausible scenarios for the reader to consider and explain the crime. I felt I was the partner she was having trouble getting Captain Tamir, the police chief, to replace.



Image source: Ruth Shidlo

Along with the police work, we get a peek into Helen’s life. She loves music, plays the piano, sings, and prepares for a choir performance, she often breaks out into her favorite aria—the author herself sang with the Ramat Gan Chamber Music Choir, part of the choir, for many years, and I enjoyed veering off to Google to explore the music myself. We also learn about Helen’s troubled relationship that makes her question if the incongruities between her demands as a detective and her desire for companionship and love are too hard to overcome. Slowly she puts herself out there again inviting Adrienne into her life, relaxed and relieved at how she enjoys having someone there to share, to love.

The Helen Mirkin series started with The Rosebush Murders (2012), continues with Murder in the Choir (2016), and currently Ruth is penning Preventable Tragedies (working title). The writing is engaging, characters real, events plausible, and the “Oh, no…” at the end left me wanting to pick up the next installment immediately.

The Rosebush Murders by Ruth Shidlo has earned 5/5 Detective Shields!

Be a Fan!
Facebook: www.facebook.com/Ruth-Shidlo-Writer-163755987066565

To enter to win an e-book copy of Murder in the Choir, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “choir,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 10, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Kathleen Costa is a long-time resident of the Central Valley, and although born in Idaho, she considers herself a “California Girl.” Graduating from CSU-Sacramento, she is 35+ year veteran teacher having taught in grades 1-8 in schools from Sacramento to Los Angeles to Stockton to Lodi. Currently Kathleen is enjoying year 2 of retirement revitalizing hobbies along with exploring writing, reading for pleasure, and spending 24/7 with her husband of 26+ years.




Friday, August 26, 2016

1920s Daily Life In Kansas

by Anne Louise Bannon

Details on how to win a copy of Bring Into Bondage at the end of the post.

One of the most fun things about writing stories set in an era other than my own is the way you end up drilling down into the minutiae of everyday living. Okay, maybe not so far down that you bore your audience (Who me? Over research?). But without a good grip on people’s daily lives, it becomes awfully hard to set a believable scene.

In the case of my latest novel, Bring Into Bondage, most of the action takes place on a farm on the outskirts of a small town in the state of Kansas. The Briscow family and their farm are fictional, as are all of the people I describe as living in the small town. But the town of Hays, itself, is quite real. Well, maybe not a town. It’s a small city, to be sure, and even in 1925, its population was about 5,000 people. Not huge, mind you, but bigger than a lot of other places in Kansas.

So how do we find out what life on a farm in Kansas was like in the 1920s? Truth be told, there’s a certain amount of extrapolation going on. Why? Because people don’t tend to write about that which is ordinary. You read novels from a given period and while certain aspects of a character’s personal life do come up, the references usually assume that the reader already knows what the author is writing about.


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Take, for example, the novel Little Men by Louise May Alcott, published in 1871. She makes a reference to a refrigerator in the novel. At first, you go right past it because we all know what a refrigerator is, right? Uh, wait. This is 1871. There’s no electricity. No Freon readily available. So what the heck did Alcott write about?

I do know that there were iceboxes—units that were in kitchens that were chilled by blocks of ice and that they were around in abundance in the 1920s. I also know that while electricity was common, not everyone had it. By 1925, most places were wired, but many, especially in rural areas, were not. I suspect since there was the cost of the wiring, then paying for the utility every month, the issue may have been frugality as much as poverty. So as a sign of Pa Briscow’s frugality, I decided that the farm would not be electrified. Indoor plumbing is also a recent development in the house, even though almost everyone else had it by then.

The other interesting thing is how much of daily life in Kansas in the 1920s we might recognize. One of the most common businesses in Hays at the time was auto repair shops. There were, like, five or six of them in town—more than there were banks. Ready-made clothing was becoming more and more available, although most women made their own clothes. There were schools and a library, hotels, churches.



Image source: Anne Louise Bannon

Agriculture was the main occupation in Hays, as it is now, although even then, more and more people were abandoning farming for more lucrative work in cities. Farming was and still is an extremely tough way to make a living. Even with the new machines that were becoming available, the work was grueling. Kids were expected to pitch in and help. There was time to play, but not much. You were expected to help with the housework, the milking, feeding the livestock, repairing fences and machinery, basic upkeep on the buildings, planting, weeding, and especially harvest.

Most farmers were pretty poor. They may have had decent homes and certainly, they had an easier time eating than most because they could and did grow their own food. But there was not much money for extras and sometimes not even for essentials. Particularly in the 1920s, farmers were having an even worse time than normal. Yes, we think of the great dust storms of the drought and Dust Bowl events of the 1930s, but farmers were already in a bad place when all of that happened.

They were basically in a nasty downward spiral, economically. The new machinery enabled farmers to produce way more corn, wheat, and other crops than they had been able to produce before. The only problem was that the increased supply of corn, wheat, and other crops drove the prices down so that farmers had to try to produce even more to make a profit, which in turn, drove prices down even more. What made the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl so devastating was that many of the farmers had mortgaged their land to buy the new machines.

Which leads to another one of my favorite parts of writing historical mysteries. I know what’s coming and I can (and did) make Pa Briscow out to be even smarter than might be. Not that he knows what’s coming. But it’s a behavior that, at the time, would have been regarded as overly cautious. Now, we recognize it as freaking genius.

Ultimately, that’s why it is so much fun to drill down and look at our collective past. We can see what did and did not make sense, and hopefully, avoid making the same mistakes, either fictionally or in real life.

To enter to win a copy of Bring Into Bondage, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “bondage,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 3, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Anne Louise Bannon is an author and journalist who wrote her first novel at age 15. Her journalistic work has appeared in Ladies' Home Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Wines and Vines, and in newspapers across the country. She was a TV critic for over 10 years, founded the YourFamilyViewer blog, and created the OddBallGrape.com wine education blog with her husband, Michael Holland. She also writes the romantic fiction serial WhiteHouseRhapsody.com. She is the co-author of Howdunit: Book of Poisons, with Serita Stevens, as well as mysteries Fascinating Rhythm, Bring Into Bondage and Tyger, Tyger. She and her husband live in Southern California with an assortment of critters.




Saturday, August 20, 2016

Nine Lifelines: A Psycho Cat and the Landlady Mystery By Joyce Ann Brown

by Sandra Murphy

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

Beth and Arnie used to own a lot of rental property. Now they’re down to one condo rental. When a tenth floor apartment in the same building becomes available, they buy it and move in, ready to downsize from a house.

Coming home is always an adventure, guessing where the elevator will stop. They press 10 and the doors might open on 5 or 8. Press 10 again, and it goes right to their floor. Another puzzle is theft in the building. The thief takes one or two items, nothing of value—a box of Band-Aids or a chipped plate destined for the trash. They have one neighbor but never see anyone come or go, although Beth caught a glimpse of the man watering balcony plants one day when she returned from her walk.


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Other than that, Beth likes the new place. Their grandkids are coming to visit, so she’ll get to cook a lot. The pool is handy to burn off the kid’s excess energy, and shops are within walking distance, too. She walks her cat every day and has a stroller for him when he gets tired and refuses to take another step. His name is Sylvester, but he’s also known as the Psycho Cat due to his antics as a kitten.

When the man from the other tenth floor unit falls from his balcony, it seems a tragic accident, but the police think otherwise. The man’s wife says she heard her husband talking to a man with a Russian accent. Unfortunately, there’s one such man living in the building, and he lives in Beth’s rental condo. He’s soon taken to jail as a prime suspect.

Beth is friends with his wife, Helene, and toddler daughter Fabienne. She offers to babysit and help any way she can. She also visits the dead man’s widow with some food and discovers twin grandchildren living there with her but rarely seen around the building.



Image source: Joyce Ann Brown

When leaving for their walks, Sylvester insists on investigating the doors of the robbed apartments. Sometimes that leaves Beth in an awkward situation when the door opens suddenly. On the other hand, she’s getting to meet the neighbors and can blame it on the cat.

Beth is a woman you’d want for a friend, always willing to help, a good cook, and fun to be around. Arnie, he likes his golf. That’s what retirement is for. They make a good couple, obviously fond of each other. Beth doesn’t put herself in dangerous situations while asking about the murdered man. Sylvester, of course, steals every scene he’s in, as it should be.

The only thing I didn’t like about the book is Beth’s clumsiness. She trips, stumbles and falls way too often. It distracts from the story.

This is the third book in the Psycho Cat and the Landlady Mystery series which can be read out of order, but more fun is to be had to own all three.

To enter to win a copy of Nine Lifelines, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “nine,” or comment on this article and please be sure to note whether you want e-book or print. A winner will be chosen August 27, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.



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, August 12, 2016

The Blood Spangled Banner: First Ladies Mystery By Barbara Schlichting

by Sandra Murphy

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

Liv Anderson owns a unique business. She makes doll houses, complete with furnishings and dolls dressed in period costumes, all based on Presidents and First Ladies. Her favorite is Dolley Madison as she’s distantly related.

When she arrives at the store, the front looks as usual, but in the workroom, it’s chaos and the creator of the mess is still there! Liv’s able to stab him with a box cutter and make her escape. Luckily, her boyfriend is a cop so they’re on the scene quickly but not in time to catch the man.

Of all days for that to happen—she’s got a celebrity coming to the shop. Jackie Newell. She’s the owner behind the Jackie of New York department stores. An order from her could mean huge success for the shop.


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Jackie arrives with Wanda, her assistant, and a bodyguard. She seems fascinated by the Dolley Madison house, especially the dolls. In fact, she puts the First Lady and the President in her purse, she says to look at more closely later. Liv is smart enough to get a credit card number, but why take the dolls? Jackie claims to be a distant relative, too, and alludes to a family secret Liv’s never heard about.

Things get even worse when Liv discovers Jackie’s body in the shop. It appears she’d gotten in after hours and was examining the Madison White House when someone bashed her head in. Did she have an accomplice or did two people break in?



Image source: Darkhouse Books

There’s also the mystery of the embroidered sampler. Grandma has it hanging on the wall, and Liv is sure the symbols mean something special. When another sampler, almost identical, is discovered, she’s sure. And it can’t be a coincidence that jewels that had belonged to Dolley were stolen from a museum, and Jackie was nearby at the time.

Liv delivers information about the different White Houses, how the décor changed, the building was enlarged, and history preserved over the years to the current administration without interrupting the tale of the murder. Aaron is a good boyfriend, now going to be husband as they plan their wedding over the Christmas holidays. Grandma and Grandpa are an understanding pair although worried about what’s happening at the shop. There’s Dorrie and Max too, both work for Liv. Pay close attention when reading—you don’t want to miss a clue.

Look for the next book in the series titled. Words Can Kill—A First Lady Mystery, Mary Lincoln, coming soon.

To enter to win either an e-book or print copy of The Blood Spangled Banner, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “banner,” or comment on this article and please be sure to note whether you want e-book or print. A winner will be chosen August 20, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.



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.