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KRL is a California Magazine with Local Focus and Global Appeal.
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Friday, January 25, 2013

The Dragon Men by Steven Harper

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Terrance McArthur

The Dragon Men by Steven Harper—with a title like that, you expect knights and dragons and damsels and magic-users. Then, you look at the cover—a guy in goggles, upside-down over a giant squid and a lighter-than-air airship. Oh! It’s steampunk! We’re going to have modern, science-fictionish inventions using Victorian technology: lots of brass and rivets. Captain Nemo’s Nautilus submarine. Post-modern Jules Verne. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Goths playing at Star Trek.

It opens with a quasi-penny-dreadful summary of The Doomsday Vault and The Impossible Cube, the previous books in the series, then throws you into a world where a contagious disease has turned millions into maimed, staggering, zombie-like creatures. A few victims get a genetic topspin that turns them into clockworkers—inventive geniuses who become fascinated by insignificant details and go into coma-like reveries….or ignore the fact that their work might destroy the universe. They go mad and die.

Unfortunately, Gavin, the love of Alice, Lady Michaels, is a clockworker with a month left to live. Alice’s blood contains a cure for the plague zombies, but not for the clockworkers. Her cure has stopped the flow of new plague-spawned inventors. They rush toward China, hoping to find a solution that will avert Gavin’s death among the Dragon Men, the honored plague geniuses of the Empire, but the borders are closed.

MEANWHILE…an honored Chinese concubine (which was a pretty good job in that culture; a high-placed favorite wielded a lot of power) and her son, the Emperor’s only male heir, try to outwit a power-mad general who wants to use China’s new superiority in crazed mechanical creation (Dragon Men are respected, not feared, and are commemorated after they die) to conquer the Western World.

Image source: Roc

The reader will find squid-men, mechanical cats, flying ships, a little bit of Shangri-La, DNA-testing metal birds, steam-powered dragons, drowned puppies, lopped-off limbs, crafty eunuchs, flying suits, young love (not for the eunuchs), Zen philosophy, and mechanical spiders.

At first, all of this stuff struck me as a bit much, over the top, and you-expect-me-to-believe-that…but it started to grow on me, sort of like the ear-burrowing devices that keep the Dragon Men from overpowering the Emperor. Not everybody likes steampunk, but it does have a Gosh-and-Golly quality that can be attractive, with dashing heroes and heroines that see a bright future in their inventions…if they don’t blow up the world.

Hey! It’s more fun than watching the news…and sometimes, more believable.

To enter to win a copy of The Dragon Men, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Dragon”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 2, 2013. U.S. residents only.

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

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a California-born, Valley-raised librarian/entertainer/writer. He lives in Sanger, four blocks from the library, with his wife, his daughter, and a spinster cat.

Friday, January 18, 2013

State Of Emergency by Summer Lane

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Summer Lane

Check out details on how to enter to purchase the book and enter a drawing at the end of this post.

Image Source: Summer Lane

What would you do if the world as you know it ended in an instant?
How far would you go to survive?

That was the premise for State of Emergency when I started writing the book. Most people ask me how I came up with the idea, and what inspired me to write a novel about the collapse of modern society. Honestly, I don’t know how it happened.

State of Emergency
was written in 22 days for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I’d never participated before, so I was just playing around, trying to come up with a story to write for the month of November. State of Emergency came about because of a fascination I’ve always had for survival stories. I thought, “What if the world ended tomorrow? What if all the electricity went out and we went back to riding horses and growing our own food? How would I deal? How would the world deal?” And that was the basis for State of Emergency. I came up with the character of this slightly naïve, sarcastic teenager named Cassidy who gets separated from her father when an electromagnetic pulse kills all the technology in the United States. In an instant, everybody’s back to square one. Everything’s primitive again. Forget iPhones. Food and water is the newest “it” thing. People panic, and that’s where I used popular conspiracy theories as great inspiration for what happens next – the total takeover of the federal government of the United States by a completely surprising enemy.

Summer Lane

State of Emergency is dystopian, which means that it’s a book that’s set in a world that seems perfect from the outside, but on the inside it’s decaying. I took a slightly different approach: The country is quickly turning chaotic, and in the midst of it all, there is a dystopian factor. I also wanted romance in the novel, so I made sure that Cassidy would meet someone who would not only be her perfect match, but somebody with the skill set to help her survive in their situation. Enter Chris, a former Navy Seal with almost ten years of experience in the military. That was perfect. Together, the two of them try to stay alive and find Cassidy’s father at the same time.

Image Source: Summer Lane

The great thing about writing fiction is that I could take the ideas and theories discussed everyday in the news, play around with it, and make it into a story. Truthfully, I didn’t think that story would be about the end of the modern world, but hey, you have to start somewhere.

Book Synopsis:

Cassidy Hart is your typical High School graduate: A little shy, a little sarcastic, and a little naive. But when an electromagnetic pulse takes down the United States, she's forced to kick into full survival mode when she gets separated from her father.

Yeah. Things suck.

But with the help of a handsome soldier named Chris, she just might find her dad without getting into serious trouble.
Emphasis on might.

Oh. And there's the matter of avoiding getting killed in a world that's quickly turned into an active war zone.

It's going to change Cassidy's life.

It's going to be a major pain in the butt.

State of Emergency
is available on Amazon & Barnes and Noble.

Visit Summer at State of Emergency Or Writing Belle

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Summer Lane is the author of the YA/NA Dystopian Romance, State of Emergency. She is a freelance writer, editor and lover of all things feline. Summer is also the author of Snappy Social Networking: How to Dominate the Blogosphere & Everything in Between. In her spare time, Summer is the creator of the online magazine/blog, Writing Belle, in addition to being a frequent contributor at NA Alley, a website dedicated to all things New Adult.

Summer began writing when she was 13 years old, due to the fact that the long afternoons after school were somewhat boring, and writing stories seemed to make the time pass a little quicker. Since then she has written many books about jungle cats, secret agents, princesses and spaceships. She is also a non-fiction writer, but her debut novel, State of Emergency, is her favorite book yet. You can find Summer hopping around on the Internet by following her on Twitter @SummerEllenLane, or on Facebook: Writing Belle.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Stake & Eggs by Laura Childs

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Cynthia Chow

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

In the midst of January the owners of the Cackleberry Club Café are all a flurry with plans for the town's Fire and Ice Festival, a fashion show, and their sponsorship of the Winter Blaze party. What Suzanne, Toni, and Petra didn't plan on was finding their meeting with the bank president Ben Busacker, curtailed by the discovery that he has lost his head. Literally.

A wire strung across stakes behind the Cackleberry Club Café resulted in the snowmobiling death of Ben Busacker, and it turns out that the president's ruthless measures have left Sheriff Roy Doogie no shortage of suspects. When their hapless neighbor becomes implicated by his ownership of wire similar to the lethal weapon, Suzanne feels that she has no choice but to "help" Doogie out whether he wants it or not. Suzanne soon discovers that Busacker had threatened to foreclose on more than one piece of property, his marriage was not based on fidelity, and he was not the only applicant for his position at the bank.

Image source: Penguin

The town of Kindred is full of eccentric and quirky characters, from Toni's on-again-off-again husband who has plans to patent his car cooker, to a loud-mouthed former prison warden in competition for the deceased bank president's job. The ladies still manage to cook up tasty egg treats, brunch, and tea party cuisine while juggling the crazy cast of characters who make up their party of friends and customers. An elusive teen runway pops in to squat in Suzanne's barn, bus tables, and leave hints that he may know more about the murder than he will admit openly.

This is the fourth in the Cackleberry Club Mystery series, which is one of three mystery series written by the author Laura Childs. This latest installment shares their light tone, zippy dialogue, and humor, leaving little doubt that these books will continue to entertain readers with their likable characters and delectable descriptions of food.

To enter to win a copy of Stake & Eggs, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Stake”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 19, 2013. U.S. residents only.

Use this link to purchase Stake & Eggs and you help support an indie bookstore & KRL:

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

Friday, January 4, 2013

Threadbare by Monica Ferris

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Sandra Murphy

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

Betsy, Goddy and the rest of the crew from Crewel World are back in a post-holiday adventure. The bodies of two homeless women have been found outdoors with no apparent signs that lead to cause of death, and don’t appear to have any connection to each other—except each of them have a relative who is a customer of Crewel World.
In searching for motive, “who benefits?” can lead to clues to solve the murder. In the case of the homeless women, the police aren’t positive it is murder. And benefit? Their worldly possessions fit into shopping bags but maybe they saw something they shouldn’t have and are a danger to the killer.

Between inventory, post-holiday sales and displaying spring needlework kits so customers can work ahead of season, Betsy finds the time to make a new friend, Annie, a homeless woman who has offered to help in the investigation. Annie’s ability to fit in at the shelters, knowledge of life on the streets and curiosity, help move Betsy’s investigation further along.

Image source: Penguin Publishing

Annie is a delightful addition to the cast of characters and I hope a permanent one. After all, Betsy always needs more help in the shop, especially when she’s out tracking down clues.

The characters are nice, believable and the new book is like visiting old friends. I wish there had been more about needlework—that seems to have fallen off. There is a brief description and pattern for Hardanger at the back of the book.

Repetitive phrases take me out of the story, as do descriptions of things that don’t matter—the two note bell at the front door that signals a customer’s come in, the bell on the counter at the vet’s office (“one of those dome-shaped bells with a little button on top was on the counter”), Godwin’s referral to Betsy’s investigation as sleuthing (has anybody sleuthed since Nancy Drew?), and a several page description of everyone helping with inventory slowed the story for me. I would have rather seen the word count used to tell more story or more about needlework.

The series is a good one and to date, there are sixteen titles to choose from.

To enter to win a copy of Threadbare, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Threadbare”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 12, 2013. U.S. residents only.

Purchase Threadbare & you help support an indie bookstore & KRL:

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.