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KRL is a California Magazine with Local Focus and Global Appeal.
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Friday, May 31, 2013

Bronze Gods by A.A. Aguirre



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Terrance McArthur


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

Long, long ago, in Hy Breasil, land of the Ferisher fey, lost ships appeared from a world of Iron. Before the bearded crews and the native folk could wipe out each other, the groups intermarried. Centuries later, that realm is the setting for a paranormal-steampunk-fantasy-noir mystery, Bronze Gods, an Apparatus Infernum novel by A.A.Aguirre. It’s an amazing journey for the adventurous reader.

Janus Mikani and Celeste Ritsuko are detectives who have a maddeningly platonic work relationship. She had to fight the system for her position, and her detail-oriented style uncovers clues and links. His streak of fey helps him sense things, at the price of nosebleeds and headaches that he drowns in medications, alcohol, and serial romances. When the disappearance of a daughter of one of the Great Houses turns into a grisly series of ritual-seeming murders, the pair’s abilities and relationship are put to the test.



Image source: Penguin

Ann Aguirre created the Sirantha Jax (Aftermath) series and the Corine Solomon/Shannon Cheney stories, but this initial offering of a new venture teams her with her Mexican-born husband Andres; the two of them are the A and the A of A.A. Aguirre. The language is softer, more evocative, with a dream-like shading that is reflected in the misty nights of Hy Breasil. Steam cars powered by elementals, children of the rich taking menial jobs to escape the restrictions of their fathers, a man hiding behind a mask, mirror communication, men who kill others because it’s their job (and they love their work), diabolical machines of death, a mysterious man with a mansion in the hills and the ability to kill an attacking group of thugs, a choreographer who is fifty years older than she looks, and memories of the powers of the past: all have pieces and places in the clockwork pattern of Bronze Gods.

Mikani and Ritsuko are beaten, bullied, attacked, and taken off the case, but they keep closing in on the killer and his purpose. Close in on this book. It’s the beginning of a crackerjack series with a complexity and power that will make you want more, but you’ll have to wait; Silver Mirrors isn’t scheduled for release until May 2014. Save me a seat in line.

To enter to win a copy of Bronze Gods, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Bronze”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen June 8, 2013. U.S. residents only.




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, May 24, 2013

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris



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Terrance McArthur


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

It started in 2001 with Dead Until Dark, a book about Sookie Stackhouse, a mind-reading waitress in Louisiana who meets her first vampire and love. Charlaine Harris, a respected mystery writer, was suddenly riding a juggernaut series. On top of that, HBO came a-calling, and the Southern Vampire Mysteries were brought to cable life as True Blood, with all its vampires, werewolves, and other paranormals appearing on the TV screens of America.

Now, it’s 2013, and Dead Ever After, the final book in the series (although After Dead: What Came Next in the World of Sookie Stackhouse will be released in October), has created havoc in the readerverse. People are furious with the ending, they’re furious with the author, and they’re furious that it’s over. I’m happy that it went on as long and as well as it did, and I hope she’s not so disgusted with the reactions that she never writes again.



Image source: Penguin

Dead Ever After finds Sookie surrounded by her past. There are the old loves like Bill the Vampire and Quinn the weretiger, the always-thought-they-would love Sam (her shape-changing, long-time boss and now business partner), Alceste the Pack leader who was an almost-love, and Eric, the serious love who is suddenly cutting off all contact because he is about to marry the Vampire Queen of Oklahoma. There are the friends like Amelia the witch and her formerly-trapped-in-cat-form boyfriend Bob, and Tara who has a cheap-but-not-cheap consignment shop. There are also former foes like Arlene, ex-co-worker with a thing against people who have powers that are different (like Sookie and vamps and weres), who asks for her old job back, just before things happen to her. There are other enemies that not only want Sookie dead, but they want her to suffer for as long as can be.

I have been reading this series for a long time, and I still love it, and I’m happy with the ending. Sookie ended up with the love I wanted for her. Characters that I liked had a chance to appear and take a curtain call. Some characters that I didn’t like had ba-a-a-ad things happen to them. I’m happy. I’m satisfied. Good night, and drive safely.

To enter to win a copy of Dead Until Dark, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Dark”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen June 1, 2013. U.S. residents only.



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, May 17, 2013

The Mist-Torn Witches by Barb Hendee



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Terrance McArthur


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

It was an easy job. All the herbalist-“seer” had to do was tell a noblewoman that her marriage was a good idea, and she would be well paid. When the pretend fortune-teller suddenly receives a horrifying vision of the young woman’s future, she and her sister find their apothecary shop and gardens burned, their lives in danger, and their safety and fortunes in the hands of rugged strangers.

The Mist-Torn Witches is the first in a new set of books by Barb Hendee, author of the Vampire Memories series (Ghosts of Memories) and co-author of the Noble Dead Saga (The Dog in the Dark).

The never-before psychic Céline and her weapon-wielding, breeches-wearing sister Amelie find themselves whisked from their downtrodden, warlord/Sub-Prince-ruled village to a cheerful castle-village and access to the kind-but-sickly Sub-Prince Anton, where the mysterious deaths of young, lovely women are baffling Anton and Lieutenant Jaromir. As Céline’s true powers begin to manifest themselves, she uses her curiosity to explore, interrogate, and search for clues. Is this all part of a plot to keep Anton from inheriting the princedoms, or is there something more sinister happening?



Image source: Penguin

This is not a hero-and-villain fairy tale. Good characters will lie, steal, sneak around, poison, and kill, if they think they should. Villains operate for the greater good. It is interesting to see Céline’s transition from play-acting mystic to someone with great abilities. There are the beginnings of romance (the traditional I-hate-you-and-fight-with-you-but-am-strangely-drawn-to-you style), a very interesting murder weapon, and a world that Barb and her husband had previously developed for another series.

The penchant for lengthy flashbacks at the drop of a raindrop shown in the Noble Dead books seems to be more controlled, here. Their causes are better explained by the situations, and they give background without looking like information dumps, piles of information that the author is certain you need to know. I really liked the Vampire Memories series, but I think I like this set-up even more.

Even though this is the first installment in a new series, it does not end with a cliffhanger. The mystery is solved, evil is punished, and good is rewarded…for now. There are issues that still need to be resolved, powers yet to be explored, and readers to be enchanted.

To enter to win a copy of The Mist-Torn Witches, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Mist”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 25, 2013. U.S. residents only.




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, May 10, 2013

Generation V by M.L. Brennan



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Terrance McArthur


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

Fortitude Scott is a baby vamp, not grown into his powers. He isn’t sensitive to light, yet. He still drinks blood from his mother. He still cares about people as more than a quick lunch.

In M. L. Brennan’s Generation V, vampires aren’t immortal, just really long-lived (we’re talking centuries, here), and creating new vampires requires surrogates that you wouldn’t want to let out of a cellar. It’s an interesting rethinking of the vampire as the Great White Shark of the land, the apex predator with small numbers and low birthrates. Madeline is an exceptional vampire, with three children (if Fort can survive to full maturity).

Fort may not survive. He works in a nowhere-near-Starbucks-level coffee bar (because his college degree in film theory is useless), his girlfriend has sex with everybody but him (including his roommate, who doesn’t pay his share of the rent), and his vampire siblings refuse to take him seriously. He is the Doormat of the World.

When a European vampire comes to visit and little girls start disappearing, Fort is the only one who seems to be upset. Mom won’t do anything, because the serial bloodsucker is a guest, and the rules of hospitality are rules that must be followed. To keep her “little boy” out of trouble, she assigns a Japanese-American shape-changing fox (She’s not a human who turns into a fox; she’s a fox who can become human) to watch him.



Image source: Penguin

Sometimes his guardian gets him into more trouble than she gets him out of, but will she help him find the inner strength to stand up for himself and what is right?

An interesting subplot is the ex-cop investigator who is still obsessed with the one that got away, still trying to find out who killed Fort’s foster parents, and he may be figuring out things about the kid that may put his life in danger.

On the cover of Generation V, Fort is portrayed as a smoldering, yet casual, hunk. In the book, he comes across more like Woody Allen or a Jack Black with brains, a shmendrick with good intentions. The situations range from silly to revolting, but this could be the first step in a series worth following, if you can imagine a vampire-in-training that will make you laugh.

To enter to win a copy of Generation V, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “V”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 18, 2013. U.S. residents only.




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, May 3, 2013

Safe From Harm: A Sugar Land Mystery By Stephanie Jaye Evans



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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 this absolutely wonderful second mystery, preacher Walker "Bear" Wells is still recovering the from a gunshot he received in Faithful Until Death, but has actually settled back into life with his supportive wife Annie Laurie, his away-at-college daughter Meg, and his ballet-driven, fourteen year-old daughter Jo. However, it is an abrupt and alarming text from Jo that calls Bear and Annie Laurie home from an evening out to encounter a shocking sight: Jo cradling the body of her estranged friend, Phoebe Pickersley on the floor of Jo's bedroom.

After the death of Phoebe's mother by cancer, the eighteen year-old teenager was sent to live with her father and stepmother, Mark and Liz Pickersley-Smythe, to an affluent Texas community far from her mother's trailer park. Phoebe's piercings, Goth-girl makeup, awkwardness, and inclination to stretch the truth make her entrance into the family a rocky one that soon had her spending more time at the Wells household than her new home. It soon became obvious to all, that it was the maternal Annie Laurie who was the true attraction for Phoebe, and after some mean girl antics the girls were no longer on speaking terms. Phoebe retaliated with all of the fury and power a teenaged girl can wield, and it was only Bear's experience and his assistant's savvy that prevented the situation that only a whisper of the words, "inappropriate," "teenage girl," and "minister" could engineer. Unfortunately, the ministry's most promising intern is not so lucky and the loss of his membership ends whatever sympathy Bear may have had left for the very troubled girl.



Image source: Penguin

Phoebe's death by overdose brings in the young, arrogant, but very smart Detective James Wanderley, who both summons Bear's advice but yet is frustrated by his interference. The Wells family is a considerable force when their investigative power is united, and Annie Laurie's rage when Wanderley attempts to intimidate the couple, as he interrogates Jo, is a joyful sight. The abashed detective is soon fearful of putting his cowboy boots anywhere near her tabletop. The aftermath of Phoebe's death has Bear confronting his perceptions of her and how the continual rejection she received forged her into a furious force of rebellion whose path of rage everyone failed to stop.

While the mystery becomes Jo's guilt-ridden determination to prove that Phoebe never would have committed suicide, it utilizes a completely modern and social media-powered method of wielding out justice. The novel also focuses on Phoebe's inevitable downfall and failure of the adults to prevent it. The portrayal of a teenager who becomes alienated with her friends and family is all too real, making the tragedy all the more senseless and wasteful. Despite the very somber theme, though, Bear's wonderful narrative voice of wry humor, sarcasm, and practical sense make this a completely enjoyable and compelling read. With his massive former offensive lineman body (that merits the nickname "Bear"), refreshingly he is never seen as a hapless male in household of women, even as he confronts possible eating disorders, the complexity of women's friendships, and his daughters' first confrontations with failure. Bear's stint at baby-sitting two very precocious and spoiled pugs brings delightful humor that fits seamlessly into the novel without taking away from the serious tone. Bear's own dilemma of what it means when his daughter may be choosing a different faith than his own is fascinating and touching, and adds another layer to his relationship with her.

This is an absolutely delightful read, that mixes domestic fiction with a surprising mystery that completely lives up to the author's previous debut mystery. Bear and his family are a pleasure to know and the wait for the next in this series will truly be "unbearable."

To enter to win a copy of Safe From Harm, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Safe”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 11, 2013. 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).