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KRL is a California Magazine with Local Focus and Global Appeal.
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Friday, September 28, 2012

Murder Of The Cat's Meow by Denise Swanson

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Cynthia Chow

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

When school psychologist Skye Denison is called by her frantic former student Frannie Ryan to come to an emergency at the bowling alley run by Skye’s ex-boyfriend’s mother, a former Las Vegas dancer and all-around trouble maker, Skye doesn’t know what to expect. Certainly not a violent physical confrontation between a brain injured former doctor and a very judgmental cat judge, the result being Skye not-so-wisely inserting herself between them and receiving a blow to the head for her trouble. It turns out that Bunny Reid, intent on earning money for a singles cruise, managed to create an online dating site that inadvertently attracted cat lovers, so she uniquely decided to create a cat show/speed dating event at the bowling alley owned by her son. One of the judges, Alexis Hightower, manages to mean girl alienate so many at the event that it’s not a surprise that she is soon a victim of murder by cat toy. As the fiancé of the Scrumble River police chief as well as the police psychologist, Skye finds herself interviewing the numerous suspects who all had reasons to hate the very opinionated judge.

Author Denise Swanson has perfected the formula for her fifteen Skye Denison mysteries, blending light murder plots with the chaotic events of Skye’s life. Interspersed throughout each book are Skye’s duties as a school psychologist for Scrumble River’s elementary, junior high, and high schools, usually leading to resolutions that involve retraining parents and teachers as much as the students. The borderline criminal Doozier family can always be counted on to bring chaos to Skye’s life as well complicating the police chief’s attempt to retain control. The over-the-top Bunny Reid is tolerable in limited doses, and her appearance here is surprisingly brief, as is the actual cat show and speed dating event. That the latter events occur mostly off the page is somewhat a shame, as their fascinating uniqueness would have been incredibly entertaining to follow (I really do want to know how and why a cat would wear a toupee).

Image source: Penguin

Instead, readers are given insight into Skye’s life as she plans her upcoming wedding, cares for her favorite cat Bingo, reins in her mother’s expectations of the lauded event, and meets and helps to interview the many suspects of the murder. It is refreshing that Skye displays excellent judgment at not placing herself in danger by running off on her own to investigate and instead keeps her police chief informed of her findings even as she rejects his main suspect as the culprit.

This is a very fun, fast read that reveals Swanson’s skills at creating a series that meets readers’ expectations while still surprising them with original twists. A new element introduced in this mystery is a resident ghost that seems to be intent on keeping Skye and her fiancé chaste until their wedding, exceedingly frustrating to them both. The usual aphorisms are still present (“You may have a heart of gold, but so does a hard-boiled egg. And look how often an egg gets cracked."), but they blend a little more seamlessly in this novel and the humor is unforced and always fun. Overall, fans of this series will continue to be delighted that Swanson has not lost the freshness of these novels and new readers will have the pleasure of being introduced to a strong character who has grown more secure in her body and in the relationships with those she loves.

To enter to win a copy of Murder Of The Cat's Meow , simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Cat's”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 6, 2012. U.S. residents only.

Click here to purchase Murder Of The Cat's Meow from Mysterious Galaxy & you will be helping support an indie bookstore & Kings River Life:

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 21, 2012

Two Weeks' Notice by Rachel Caine

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Terrance McArthur

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

It’s strange for Bryn Davis to be running the Davis Funeral Home…because she died there. Revived with the drug Returné, injected with nanites, microbots that repair injuries and hold off the rot and decay of death (and make her close to unkillable), Bryn has to take daily booster shots to keep her alive.

Welcome to Two Weeks’ Notice, the second Revivalist novel by Rachel Caine (Weather Warden, Morganville Vampires, and Outcast Season series).

These re-living bodies are not your shuffling, mumbling, cemetery-variety zombies. They are stronger, often smarter, and determined to continue living, even if it is with bio-mechanical help. They have their doubts and frustrations, but Bryn runs a support group for other Returné addicts.

The drug’s inventor kidnapped her sister and killed—and revived—her, and twisted the military uses of the injections to turn the girl into a time-release assassin. The FBI has taken control of the nanite manufacturer Pharmadene, but some of the agents can’t be trusted. Some of the Returné-revived-and-addicted victims have disappeared, and it may be permanently. Bryn is attacked repeatedly and put in danger, brought in and out of death until her little nanites are ready to give up on the reanimating business. Her bodyguard and her mansion-dwelling boyfriend are merely human; they can only do so much, especially with a sadistic torturer who knows how to bring joy into her work and is eager to reduce Bryn to compost.

Image source: Penguin

In lightning-fast succession, as the remaining words of Two Weeks’ Notice dwindle to a small number, twists are piled upon twists in the flip of a page, and the effect is startling. Not only does the playing field change, but it stops being a game; it is a war for survival, for the living and the formerly-dead, and former enemies become allies, while the good guys may be more dangerous to the health of the robot-carrying.

Caine enjoys putting her heroine into lose-lose situations that she knows will kill Bryn. Moments later, she is screaming back to life…until her author decides to off her again. So often, readers will say "I don’t know how she’ll get out of this one." In this series, don’t worry…she won’t.

This is an amazing chunk of red-hot dead lit. Grab hold of it before it melts away.

To enter to win a copy of Two Weeks' Notice, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Notice”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 29, 2012. U.S. residents only.

Click here to purchase Two Weeks Notice from Mysterious Galaxy & you will be helping support an indie bookstore & Kings River Life:

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a California-born, Valley-raised librarian/entertainer/writer. He is currently writing a stage adaptation of Jack London’s The Call of the Wild for the Fresno County Public Library’s next The Big Read. He lives in Sanger, four blocks from the library, with his wife, his daughter, and a spinster cat.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Last Temptation by Gerrie Ferris Finger

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Marilyn Meredith

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

In The Last Temptation, the heroine, Moriah Dru, who is called Dru throughout the book, is called upon to find Eileen Cameron and her daughter, Linley Whitney, who have vanished from their home in Palm Springs.

The investigation takes Dru from her home in Atlanta to the places the mother and daughter were last seen in and around Palm Springs. Immediately, Dru realizes nothing and no one is quite what it or they claim to be, from Dartagnan LeRoi, a police officer, hairdresser, the husband, a French chef and an Indian Princess.
Dru’s life is threatened by a snakebite, monsoon and a flash flood and she seems no closer to solving the mystery. She returns to Atlanta to find out more from the girl’s father, only to find out no one there is quite what they seem or appear to be either. All the turmoil takes a toll on her romance with her love, Lieutenant Lake. Lake disappears and Dru puts everything on hold, determined to find him. When the truth about everyone and everything start to come out, Dru and Lake face imminent death.

Image source: Five Star

The author has created a page turning mystery full of unusual characters and a complex plot with so many surprises you can’t stop reading until you’re done.
Breathtaking at times and a compelling mystery throughout.

To enter to win a copy of The Last Temptation, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Temptation”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 22, 2012. U.S. residents only.

Marilyn Meredith is a Springville, CA mystery author and an ongoing contributor to our Mystery section section. Be sure to visit her website; fictionforyou.com

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Fair To Die For by Radine Trees Nehring

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Sandra Murphy

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

Carrie’s surprised to get a phone call asking for Carrie Culpepper. That’s her maiden name after all. But the biggest surprise is the caller’s name—Edith Embler who says she’s Carrie’s cousin. Considering Carrie always thought her Dad’s sister died as a child, to hear of a cousin is a shock.

Edie’s Dad disappeared years ago during a business trip. Did he abandon his family or was he killed? Edie swears he was employed by a top secret government agency and by the way, can Carrie help her find out what really happened after all these years?

Edie comes to visit—and stay—looking forward to the Fall Craft Fair which starts the following weekend. In spite of the time they spend together, Carrie doesn’t know much more about Edie than when she arrived. Things get even more complicated when there’s a murder at the craft fair and Edie seems to be involved. Carrie’s second husband Henry, former policeman, isn’t sure Edie is even a relative at all. For Carrie’s sake, he hopes so.

When Carrie is kidnapped, Henry and friends are to the rescue, not that Carrie needs a lot of help.

Image source: Oak Tree Press

Nice background on the workings of craft fairs and some good recipes included: Tuna salad with celery seed, crockpot beef stew, macaroni beef casserole, and a sort-of recipe for tomato soup.

This series can be read out of order but for a summer of satisfying reads, start from the beginning. A Fair to Die For is the seventh book in the series.

Check out KRL's review of another book in this series, A Journey To Die For, and an interview with Radine over on Kings River Life.

To enter to win a copy of A Fair To Die For, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Fair”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 15, 2012. U.S. residents only.

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble. You can also find several of Sandra's short stories on UnTreed Reads including her new one Bananas Foster.