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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Darkness Devours by Keri Arthur: Book Review/Interview/Giveaway



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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.

Keri Arthur’s Darkness Devours is her third Dark Angels novel (Darkness Unbound, Darkness Rising), and the urban fantasy series is an offshoot of the Riley Jenson Guardian series, so it is easy for somebody wandering into this book to be confused and mystified without some background reading. Nevertheless, intrepid readers will find themselves in for a lively ride between the realms of the living and the dead.

Risa Jones doesn’t fear the Reaper—she can see the beings who gather the souls of the dead, and she has feelings for one of them. She can even travel the grey lands between this world and the next, and talk to the dead. She’s part-werewolf and part Aedh (winged, spiritual entities, sort-of like angels), her mother was cloned in a lab…and you thought your ancestors were unusual!

Risa has two problems to solve. Her ongoing quest is to find the hidden keys to the gates of Heaven and Hell. One group wants them to open the depths and let loose demons and other nasty things. Another faction wants to lock them all, but no souls could be reborn and children would be soulless clumps of flesh…a lot like teenagers.



Image source: Penguin

Because she had formed an alliance with a powerful vampire leader, Risa is called in to solve a series of murders: vampires who have been torn apart. The clues lead through a club where humans who get off on being bitten feed vampires who get off on feeding from humans who get off on being bitten. She gets help from a werewolf newspaperman/former lover who once betrayed her, a de-winged Aedh who may be playing the other side of the key-finding, and a Reaper who is shadowing her closely…very closely.

There is violence and sex…and sexual violence. Keri Arthur’s Australian background gives her a confidence in describing Melbourne, her home town, but most of it sounds like any major city; of course, that's the way the world has become, hasn't it?

Darkness Devours has quite an appetite. It will gobble up your sleep time until you finish it. Then you can wait until November and the next installment of Risa’s saga, Darkness Hunts. I’ll be waiting.

Interview With Keri Arthur:


Terrance: When you started writing at the age of 12, you would re-write the books you read, changing the endings. What would you like to re-write today?

Keri: Actually, these days I'm more likely to want to rewrite the end of movies than books. I mean, take one of the biggest grossing movies out there in recent times—Titanic. Surely I couldn't have been the only one more than a little annoyed that Rose just let Jack freeze to death? Did you see the size of that door she was floating on—they both could have gotten on there! Totally spoiled the movie for me, that did—and I would totally have rewritten it, given half a chance. But then, I'm a romantic, and I wanted them to beat the odds and be together in life, not death.

Terrance: Your hero-women are not rescue-me types. They are more likely to strike first and inflict as much damage as possible, instead of cowering in a corner...even if cowering would be a good idea. Are there people you have modeled them on, or do they reflect the you that you would like to be?

Keri:
It's actually a reflection of all the fantasy I used to read as a teenager—fantasy in which the female characters always needed rescuing. You have no idea how much that annoyed me! When I was a teenager, we had a fire in the garage, and I was the one grabbing the hose to help douse the flames, so I wasn't exactly a stand back and watch sort, even then. Although I'd like to think I'm a whole lot more sensible than many of my characters!



Keri Arthur


Terrance:
You are a Melbourne native, and your website includes a clever glossary of Australian slang, yet I didn't have any problem with reading your work. Are language changes made for US editions, or are the cultural differences not as great as we imagine?

Keri: Although I don't think the cultural differences are all that great, there's actually quite of bit of the Aussie slang taken out of the novels. I try to keep some things 'Americanized' when I'm writing, because America is my largest market, but little things that are everyday terminology here—like milk bar (sort of like a seven-eleven), chemist (drug store), bench (counter), rubbish (trash)--slip through. Of course, there are certain terms I fight to keep, because we just don't use the U.S version here and it is supposed to be set in Australia (although I can't think of any examples off-hand).


Terrance:
You have worked as a cook for a number of years. What carry-over from that field is there into your writing?

Keri: In the Dark Angels series, the heroine, Risa, co-owns a restaurant with two of her friends, and much of that is based on personal experience. It's actually a horrible field to work in, thanks to the long hours, the heat in the kitchens, and the generally low pay rates, so I'm totally glad my writing enabled me to get out!


Terrance:
What process led you to creations of the characteristics and abilities of the Reapers and the Aedh?

Keri: Some characteristics and abilities came from myth, and some from story necessity. There are many stories around of people being rescued by strangers who suddenly appear and just as mysteriously disappear, so to me it made sense that these 'angels' would be an energy based life form that could temporarily take on human appearance. The grim reaper appears in many myths as a guide for the deceased into the next world, but my hero was going to be one of them, so I wasn't about to make him the black-cloaked, scythe bearing, skeletal version often found in myths.

Of course, there's a heck of lot of myths about angels not only being soul guides, but guardians, as well, so I decided to throw those elements into my story, and mix them up a little. The Aedh became my traditional angels in look, but they were the keepers of the gates to heaven and hell, not the guides themselves. The reapers where the ones who not only guided souls to the gates, but who could temporarily take on human form to rescue chosen people.

Terrance: Tell us a little about your main characters and how they came to be?

Keri: Risa, the heroine in the Dark Angels series, first popped up in the Riley Jenson series. She was a baby Riley had to rescue and, to be honest, she wasn't supposed to make another appearance in the series. But you can never keep a good character down, and as Risa grew and developed in the Riley Jenson series, so too did my ideas for creating her own.

Azriel came about when I was driving to gym one day. I live in the foothills of the mountains, and I'm often driving through heavy mist. On this one particular morning, there was a light breeze eddying the fog, and really looked like there were ghostly people moving through it. And the phrase—I've always seen the reapers—just popped into my head. Azriel developed rather rapidly from there, and the phrase is, of course, the start of Darkness Unbound, the first of the Dark Angels series


Terrance:
What is up next for this series?

Keri: Darkness Hunts is the next release, and let's just say things go from bad to worse for our heroes!

Terrance: What is one thing your readers would be surprised to learn about you?

Keri: I'm a Lifestyle Channel tragic, and will watch any and all property or home makeover shows—even if I've seen them all a hundred times before.

You can learn more about Keri on her website and follow her on Twitter @kezarthur.

To enter to win a copy of Darkness Devours, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Darkness”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 8, 2012. U.S. residents only.

Click here to purchase Darkness Devours 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, August 24, 2012

Red Velvet Revenge by Jenn McKinlay



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Sandra Murphy


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

Mel and Angie from Fairy Tale Cupcakes are back again. In this newest adventure, business is at a crawl due to the hot weather—nobody can drag themselves out into the heat, even for cupcakes. As they consider closing for a couple of weeks to enjoy a vacation of their own, Oz, the youngest employee, has a surprise. He’s inherited a van of sorts and wants to turn it into a cupcake delivery truck.

Unfortunately, on their first test drive, it dies a terrible death right in the middle of traffic. Angie’s brother Sal comes to the rescue of the truck and Slim and Tammy Hazard, of Juniper Pass rodeo fame, rescue Mel, Angie, Oz and Marty. Slim’s looking for a way to bring new folks to the rodeo and to appeal to a wider audience. Marty convinces him cupcakes are just the thing to go with barbeque.

Tate, the silent but wealthy business partner, pays for extensive renovations to the van and Sal turns it into a real food truck. Two weeks and thousands of cupcakes later, the bakery is on the road to the rodeo.



Image source: Berkley

Sales are a little slow at first but some creative marketing on Mel’s part draws the crowds (see the recipe for French Toast Cupcakes with bacon). A side bet with the barbeque boys in the next booth adds some humor.

During the opening parade, Slim is shot while riding in an open convertible with Tammy by his side. Luckily, he’d leaned back to look at the crowd as the shot was fired and suffered only a shoulder wound. Was it a wild shot or is somebody out to kill the town’s benefactor?

One of Slim’s daughters is a barrel racer; the other is staging (staging being the keyword) an anti-cruelty protest at the gates. Is Tate really attracted to Lily the rider? She did teach him to lasso and two-step. And will Shelby, the wannabe actress/activist, carry Oz away? Even Marty gets a love interest in the form of Ms. Delia, proprietor of the hotel next door to the Last Chance Saloon.

Mel has a run-in, literally, with the rodeo’s star, Ty Stokes. He demands a dozen cupcakes as an apology. Too bad that Mel finds his bloody body when she tries to deliver the cupcakes.

In addition to a good mystery, the characters are likeable, believable and people you’d like to know, especially since they bake wonderful treats. Sub-plots include a run away, misunderstood bull who loves sweets, Angie’s angst about her rock star boyfriend Roach, the mystery of who unplugged the freezers and thawed all the frozen cupcakes and a nice visit to the local diner which results in Mel trading cupcake recipes for secrets for a great pie.

This is the fourth book in the series. The characters and relationships are developing nicely. Add this to your summer reading list. And when the weather cools, try out some of the recipes.

Previous books in the series are Sprinkle with Murder, Buttercream Bump Off, and Death by the DozenGoing, Going, Ganache.

To enter to win a copy of Red Velvet Revenge, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Velvet”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 1, 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.


Friday, August 17, 2012

A Bloody Storm by Richard Castle



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Cynthia Chow


In the third and final installment (of this storyline, anyway) of the serialized novellas featuring Derrick Storm and “authored” by the television show’s Castle character Richard Castle, A Bloody Storm picks up seconds after A Raging Storm, which had Storm crashing the car he was in to escape a beautiful but homicidal double agent, Antonija Nad. Meanwhile, FBI Agent and Storm’s latest partner and love interest April Showers has been in a deadly shootout of her own against two Russians in another car. While the two agents may have survived, the hunt for nearly sixty billion dollars’ worth of Russian gold is still on, sending Storm off to Uzbekistan with a ragtag group of “Dead or Disappeared” agents who are as untrustworthy as they are deadly. Meanwhile, April Showers is immersed in her own problems as she is easily whisked away deadly rivals in the race for the gold, with her fate and Storm’s all colliding inside hidden caves that may be as full of gold as they are bloodthirsty assassins.



Image source: Hyperion

The majority of readers who have come to these novellas are in all probability fans of the television show Castle, and as a result they may be expecting the witty dialogue and humor that is so vital and inherent in the character Richard Castle, played by actor Nathan Fillion. As a result, they may be disappointed that the humor is much less present in the Derrick Storm series than it is in the Nikki Heat mysteries, another real series “written” by Richard Castle. The Derrick Storm novellas are more the traditional espionage thrillers akin to James Bond, full of technical gizmos and weapons, improbable action scenes, and deadly traitors. However, there is a definite wink to the clichés and tropes of the spy genre:

Jones removed a man‘s wristwatch from his desk drawer and tossed it to Storm. “A present.”
“Let me guess,” Storm said. “It‘s a gold detector.”
“No.”
“A laser beam that can cut through locks on the containers when we find the gold.”
“No.”
“A secret gun that-”
“It‘s a wristwatch,” said Jones.
Storm raised an eyebrow.
“Okay,” said Jones. “It‘s also a worldwide tracker. I can find you no matter where you are.”

Every time the dialogue seems over the top or the plot becomes a little too cliché, a twist is thrown in that somehow compels the reader to continue reading just to see if the author is going to throw in another surprise. At a little over a hundred pages, these fast-moving, action-packed novellas can be read in a few hours and probably last in the reader’s memory for a few more. However, the writing is crisp and the plots intriguing enough to entertain readers who are fans of this genre and perhaps lure in those who enjoy more traditional mysteries. The Derrick Storm series is perfect for a summer afternoon or a quick trip to any American-friendly country.

Check out the first two parts of this story: A Brewing Storm and A Raging Storm.


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, August 10, 2012

Threaded For Trouble by Janet Bolin


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Sandra Murphy


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

In Dire Threads, readers were introduced to Willow Vanderling, her BFF, Haylee, Haylee’s three moms (yes, three), and the town of Threadville, Pennsylvania, aka Elderberry Bay. Now they’re back with more machine embroidery, yarn to knit or crochet, fabric to sew, and classes to hold.

Felicity Ranquels is in town to present a new Chandler Champion embroidery machine to Darlene Coddlefield, winner of Chandler’s national contest. It’s a mystery why Chandler hired Felicity—she can’t sew, micromanages and has no people skills.

When Darlene is found dead, murdered by the Chandler machine (with human help of course), suspects abound. Darlene has tirelessly worked for various charities that feed and clothe children. She just forgot to mention they’re her children. Although the bereaved each grieve in their own way, seeing Darlene’s husband, Elderberry’s fire chief, Plug, find consolation in the arms of the kid’s au pair shocks Willow. After all, he’s been a widower for less than twenty-four hours.


Image source: Berkley

To change the settings on the sewing machine would take some knowledge of sewing, computer and electrical skills but that doesn’t shorten the list of suspects. Darlene’s list of enemies is long.

Plug doesn’t have many fans either. He’s a lazy fire chief, declaring nightly fires set in open fields “accidental” while Isaac, his Deputy Chief thinks arson. Arson comes closer to home when the Coddlefield house is ablaze with Tiffany the au pair and Felicity found inside, hands tied to the bed in the hope they wouldn’t escape the smoke and flames.

Everything comes to a satisfactory conclusion at the Harvest Festival as Willow, Haylee, and Haylee’s three moms all go undercover, although not incognito, to find a killer. Watch the romantic spark between Willow and Clay, Smallwood and Gartener and enjoy the talk of crafts. Avoid the slimy Mr. Chandler at all costs. Come to think of it, avoid Felicity too.

To enter to win a copy of Threaded For Trouble, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Threaded”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 18, 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.


Friday, August 3, 2012

Murder On The Half Shell By Lorna Barrett



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Cynthia Chow


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

Normally, a free night at Stoneham, New Hampshire's new bed & breakfast would have been a tempting opportunity for romance for bookstore owner Tricia Miles. Unfortunately, the evening is being provided through a raffled drawing won by Trica's sister Angelica, who is on the outs with her boyfriend, so Tricia finds herself dragged along as a substitute bag handler and dog smuggler/sitter.

Tricia is already quite conscious of her reputation of being the town's jinx and body-finder, so she's more than a little disturbed when Angelica's Bichon pulls her over to discover the body of Pippa Comfort, the B & B's new owner. What's even more shocking to Tricia, though, is the realization that Pippa's husband is actually the man Tricia once loved and believed was dead.



Image source: Penguin

Tricia's involvement in the murder puts a halt on her budding relationship with the chief of police Grant Baker, which is frustrating but perhaps for the best as she sorts out her feelings for Pippa's husband and now number one suspect.

While the charming town consisting of themed bookstores buzzes with gossip concerning the recent murder Tricia is distracted by her need to also hire a new assistant for her store, act as a marriage go-between for her other assistant, and watch her sister's televised cooking demonstration literally go up in flames.

Tricia Miles is an extremely likable and engaging heroine, which makes it all the more frustrating to watch her be manipulated and bullied by her narcissistic and self-centered sister. While Angelica is somewhat more redeemable compared to the earlier entries in this Booktown Mystery series, her moments of sisterly concerns are often overshadowed by her thoughtlessness. Thankfully, in this very character-driven mystery Barrett surrounds Tricia with other enjoyable residents of the tourist-reliant town. One does wish, though, that more was revealed about the extraordinarily fascinating past of Pippa as a former Playboy bunny.

Stoneham is a town that every book lover would love to believe could exist yet would probably never survive in this economic climate of e-readers and Amazon. With an ending that reveals a culprit and motive that does seem to come out of nowhere, readers may feel slighted that they have been virtually guaranteed to have been unable to predict the resolution. For many readers, this is a more desirable option than the alternative of the obvious villain being identified early by the reader. The ride will have been worth the somewhat rushed ending, though, as Barrett continues to write highly entertaining mysteries with delightfully quirky and yet very real characters.

This is a very fun, cozy, read for book lovers who enjoy delightful characters with a touch of mystery. Whether writing under the name Lorna Barrett, Lorraine Bartlett, or L.L. Bartlett, the author continues to create unique and engaging characters.


To enter to win a copy of Murder On The Half Shell, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Shell”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 11, 2012. U.S. residents only.


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).