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

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

by Cynthia Chow

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

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

Image source: Intrigue Publishing

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

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

Friday, December 18, 2015

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

by Cynthia Chow

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image source: Henery Press

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

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

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

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

Use this link to purchase the book:

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

Monday, December 14, 2015

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

by Maria Ramos

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

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

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Lando by Charles Soule

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

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher

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

Image source: Disney

Star Wars Rebels

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

Chewbacca by Gerry Duggan

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

The Dark Lord Trilogy by James Luceno, Matthew Woodring Stover

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

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

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

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Vulture: An Ike Schwartz Mystery By Frederick Ramsay

by Cynthia Chow

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

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

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

Image source: Poisoned Pen Press

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

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

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

Use this link to purchase the book:

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

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Plaid Tidings On Stage at the Reedley Opera House

by Lorie Lewis Ham

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

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

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

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

Image source: RCTC

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

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

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

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Buffalo Herd by Godfrey Coppinger

by Terrance McArhtur

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

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

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

Image source: Godfrey Coppinger

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 4, 2015

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

by Cynthia Chow

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

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

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

Image source: Midnight Ink

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

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

Use this link to purchase the book:

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