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Friday, March 29, 2013

Every Trick in the Book: A Novel Idea Mystery By Lucy Arlington

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Sandra Murphy

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

Life is truly looking good for Lila Watkins. She has a dream job as a new agent for the Novel Idea Literary Agency, she just moved into a new home in Inspiration Valley, North Carolina, and her relationship with police officer Sean Griffiths is progressing quite nicely. Even more exciting is Lila’s supervision over the first Book and Author Festival that is being sponsored by her agency, an event that is sure to help aspiring writers and hopefully enlist the next bestselling author.

Personally, Lila’s life is mostly on the upswing as well, although she continues to have lingering memories of an explosively powerful kiss with her attractive coworker, and her grown son Trey (finally moved out of the home and into a commune) is telling disturbing tales of the not-so-communal aspects of the group’s leader. An additional shadow over Lila’s future is a graphically violent book proposal submitted to her with a somewhat ominous note promising that the author will be presenting the rest of the manuscript in person at the festival.

However, even the chills that prospect creates cannot dampen Lila’s enthusiasm for the event, especially when she encounters several possible positive book proposals and a book editor who eerily bears a striking resemblance to herself. Unfortunately, the life expectancy of the editor is cut short and Lila believes the one responsible is her serial killer author with a penchant for Poe.

Image source: Penguin Publishing

This mystery is a delight for book lovers as it provides a tantalizing glimpse into the behind-the-scenes world of book publishing. The author shares examples of both good and bad book proposals, but it is of course the latter that provide the most joy, from the all-too-probable book of alternative uses for condoms (as a fashion choice) to a twelve year-old’s children’s book of homicidal fairies. Honestly though, a mystery series about a group of stay-at-home dads who solve crimes really does sound like a mystery that I would want to pick up. The business aspect of publishing truly is fascinating, but it’s a statement by the unfortunate editor to Lila that reflects what truly moves authors and will resonate for all who follow a muse:

“The serious writers won’t give up, no matter how many rejections they get…They take classes, join critique groups, and edit their books again and again until someone like you believes they are ready. It might take them ten years to get published, and their first book might tank. But the real writers, the ones whose veins run with ink, who talk to characters in the shower, who’d make the perfect material witness because of their powers of observation, those people never give up. They can’t. Writing is an addiction. If they stop, they dry up and wither away.”

Inspiration Valley is a the kind of place where every venue has a name that is either a literary reference or a pun, such as the Sherlock Holmes Realty, the organic grocery store How Deep Was My Valley, the sandwich deli Catcher in the Rye, and the coffee house Espresso Yourself. Adding to the cozy and congenial tone of this mystery are the absolutely delectable descriptions of the meals Lila and her friends enjoy. An excerpt of the next installment of this mystery indicates that the future third Novel Idea Mystery will be centered around a food festival featuring celebrity chefs and their cookbooks, a premise that will perfectly highlight the strengths and talents of the authors Ellery Adams and Sylvia May who write this series under the name Lucy Arlington.

To enter to win a copy of Every Trick In The Book, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Trick”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 6, 2013. 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.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs

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Terrance McArthur

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

Mercy Thompson fixes cars.

Mercy Thompson is married to Adam, the Alpha wolf of the TriCities werewolf pack.

Mercy Thompson sees ghosts.

Mercy Thompson can turn into a coyote.

In Patricia Briggs’ Frost Burned, the seventh volume of Mercy’s adventures, after she and Jesse, Adam’s daughter, have a Black Friday parking-lot fender-bender in the Rabbit caused by a random comment, she can’t contact anybody. The pack has vanished, kidnapped by people with badges, leaving a silver-wounded Ben to try to explain from between his human and wolf forms. Mercy is trying to protect Jesse, and to find Adam and set him free. Of course, getting revenge on the ones who hurt her husband is pretty high on her to-do list, too. When the pack escapes/is set free (I’m not saying which, because I’m not sure. It’s complicated.), there is a lot of story left to go, including a wild and crazy battle royal.

Image source: Ace

The vampires get plenty of face time in this book, along with Mercy’s ability to see and interact with ghosts. Marsilia, ruling Mistress of the local seethe of vampires, has a fancy Mercedes (with leather upholstery) that sees a lot of action, as does Marsilia herself. Stefan makes some plot-promoting visits, and the spirits of the dead help Mercy uncover some interesting powers that she can use in the book’s final confrontation. It definitely helps to be familiar with this series and the Alpha and Omega stories (Some A&O elements are cross-pollinated here.), but it isn’t crucial. Also, some interesting clues are planted that point toward some major changes for Mercy and Adam.

The werewolves are all virtuous and respectful of others (even when they are ripping into your flesh in a rage), and the government is not to be trusted (especially the Republicans, who seem to have a racist hatred of non-humans), but vampires always seem to have their fang-er-prints on everything that’s happening. Frost Burned is a lively entry in the Mercy Thompson series. Mercy may get help in her fights, but she is usually inflicting a goodly amount of damage before the cavalry arrives. Briggs surrounds Mercy with a diverse set of friends and enemies, a Rainbow Coalition of the paranormal world that includes humans they can respect. It’s an enchanted place, but the body count is formidable. This isn’t Disney World, folks.

To enter to win a copy of Frost Burned, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Frost”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 30, 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, March 15, 2013

Slashback by Rob Thurman

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Jesus Ibarra

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

Rob Thurman’s fantastically entertaining series starring the Leandros brothers, Cal and Niko, returns with another great story that answers some questions you didn’t know you had, and gives us a ton more character development for the brothers.

Picking up some time after the last book, Cal's now increasingly erratic behavior (even for him) is worrying Niko and the rest of their friends. But aside from those problems, a new supernatural killer has hit the big apple and is targeting the brothers for something they did twelve years ago. Known as Spring Heeled Jack, this killer likes to skin his victims and he's looking to take revenge on our favorite monster hunters for an apprentice he lost many years ago.

Image source: Roc

And this means flashbacks! Although I am not the biggest fan of flashbacks in general, they were used really well here. We got to see what a young Niko and Cal were like, and also see how much they have changed from when they were just teens living with their gypsy mother. Although after reading the book, we can see Cal hasn’t really changed much. The plot is so straightforward that we are left with pretty much a ton of character development and some new insight to the brother’s lives.

The relationship between Cal and Niko is once again front and center with each brother fighting to protect each other not just from the monsters, but also from themselves. They really complement each other in every way, and this book finally explains why. I won’t spoil the reveal but it answers something that has been bugging me since the beginning in the series. Why would Robin Goodfellow, who is so old (and stayed that way by being smart) hang around a human and a human hybrid? This is a recurring question I ask myself, especially in any story where the main characters have a powerful ally, and that relationship seems to only benefit the main character. I was impressed by Rob Thurman’s willingness to answer this question with an awesome explanation. Aside from that, we got a little more world building as the origin of one of the more highlighted supernatural species is also revealed.

This was such a great novel and an excellent addition to this series, that I have absolutely no complaints about it--go get it now!

To enter to win a copy of Slashback, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Storm”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 23, 2013. U.S. residents only.

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

Jesus Ibarra is 20 years old and currently attends UCLA; with a love of all media, he's always on the lookout for the best finds.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Cover Of Snow by Jenny Milchman

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Gloria Feit

Details on how to win a copy of All Mortal Flesh at the end of this review.

This debut novel from Jenny Milchman has been getting a lot of buzz in the very short time since its publication, and it is easy to see why. The protagonist, 35-year-old Nora Hamilton, living in the remote town of Wedeskyull in the Adirondack Mountain region of upstate New York, is reeling from her husband Brendan’s suicide. When she discovers that he purchased a prescription bottle of sedatives a week before his death, all her assumptions about how well she knew Brendan are challenged, and she wonders what else is going on around her that she has been too blinded to see clearly.

A relative outsider in the town [inasmuch as she has only lived there for 6 years, and not for three generations, as seems to be required before one stops being considered such], Wedeskyull begins to seem like anything but the safe harbor it had always seemed. When she goes to Brendan’s fellow cops for answers, or her mother-in-law, she comes away with more questions than answers.

Image source: Ballantine Books

The small town and its inhabitants are very well-drawn, the wintry landscape made palpable. My only reservation is that at times it seemed evident that this was a first novelistic effort, with some awkward word choices, but as the plot moved forward and the suspense grew, so did my enjoyment of the book, and I find myself looking forward with great anticipation to the author’s next novel. Recommended.

To enter to win a copy of Cover Of Snow, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Snow”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 16, 2013. U.S. residents only.

Ted & Gloria Feit live in Long Beach, New York, a few miles outside of New York City. For 26 years, Gloria was the manager of a medium-sized litigation firm in lower Manhattan. Her husband, Ted, is an attorney & former stock analyst, publicist & writer/editor for, over the years, several daily, weekly and monthly publications. Having always been avid mystery readers & since they're now retired, they're able to indulge their passion. Their reviews appear online as well as in three print publications in the UK & US.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Black City by Christina Henry

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Jesus Ibarra

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

Christina Henry's book series staring the angel of death and Lucifer's granddaughter Madeline Black has come a long way since book one Black Wings, and it is all for the better. I wasn't really hooked into this series until the third book Black Howl where the overarching plot of the series really took a turn for the better.

Christina Henry is a good writer, but sometimes urban fantasy authors are brought down by over done tropes and themes that seem overdone. Luckily, Christina Henry has built an awesome universe with something that is rare in urban fantasy today: a main character who grows. In this book, continuing the cliffhanger of the last book, Maddy and her friends are horrified to see vampires overrunning Chicago in the daytime. Now Maddy has to save her city, her friends, and herself by making some uncomfortable choices, even making a deal with her grandfather Lucifer.

If you have been reading this series then you know that Maddy has grown very much and the story is better for it. In past books, she was a reluctant hero; in the last book and this one she is insanely proactive. Another great thing is that for the last two books the main character is driving the events, things happen and Maddy has to do things. So basically, we get a ton of character development and the supporting characters get to shine more.

Image source: Ace

This book is my favorite of the series so far because of all the stuff that just goes down. Maddy becomes more powerful, more is revealed about Lucifer and his family with some great mythology building, and we are treated to Maddy becoming more of a badass character who kicks ass and tolerates no grief for what she does. A common complaint is that Maddy is becoming an increasingly unlikeable character, to which I say really? My thing is she is the granddaughter of Lucifer, an angel of death, and the descendant of the first human who loved an angel. How is she supposed to act? At least she has a consistent character and isn't second guessing herself every other page, which is an overdone trope in urban fantasy.

The other great thing about this series is Christina Henry's ability to pack so much into a short book page wise. She has gotten increasingly better at streamlining important things that are happening. The result is a fast, lean, and fantastic read which you shouldn't miss. And to get the full experience pick up the first book so you aren't completely lost.

To enter to win a copy of Black City, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Black”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 9, 2013. U.S. residents only.

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

Jesus Ibarra is 20 years old and currently attends UCLA; with a love of all media, he's always on the lookout for the best finds.