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Kings River Lite:

KRL is a California Magazine with Local Focus and Global Appeal.
Kings River Lite regularly offers a "bonus" review or article, beyond the full issues that go up weekly over at KingsRiverLife.com.

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Friday, October 31, 2014

Black Karma: A White Ginger Novel By Thatcher Robinson

by Cynthia Chow

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

For a souxun, whose job is to find people, Bai Jiang questions how it is that she is so often alone. Her partner Lee does not share her wonderment, as he declares that Bai is surly, impatient, and sarcastic. The friend that she doesn't need is San Francisco City Police Department Inspector Kelly. He’s an obnoxious, burnt out drunkard intent on hiring Bai to find David Chen. Kelly claims Chen was involved in an undercover police operation that left three dead and a million dollars’ worth of heroin missing. Only the promise of locating Chen before vengeful and possibly lethal police officers has Bai agreeing—a previous case forced her to take two lives, causing her karma to become distinctly unbalanced.

Bai smells something fishy about Kelly's story. Her godfather as the head of a triad so there is no better source for information about China White. Godfather’s unexpected absence means she has to deal with his second in command—her ex, Jason, father of her child, the man she can't get over.


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Jason declares, curiosity is both Bai's strength and her weakness. She learns the seemingly simple assignment to locate Chen is far more complicated than she expected, leading her to the Berkeley University Campus, a fight gym, and a mercenary information broker. Bai has more than enough to distract her—she is raising her teenaged daughter and young girl she rescued on a previous assignment. In one of the few aspects that has Bai bending to traditional Chinese expectations, she finds herself forced to endure blind dates set up by her governess and mother figure.

This action thriller has a surprising amount of humor. Occasionally dark, frequently inappropriate, but always very funny, many laughs come from both Bai and Lee's acerbic commentaries. It’s a wit that that doesn't distract from their lethal fighting skills, strategic planning abilities, or their dedication. Bai's more-than-complicated relationship with Jason delights with their flirtatious banter as it forces her to examine her life and the violent path he has chosen of her. Far more unexpected is the blind date with a billionaire, as it soon transforms from horrifically awkward to tempting, compromising, and truly just horrific.



Image source: Seventh St. Books

The tone shifts dramatically as the violence becomes brutal, the body count rises, and Bai is shown just how truly vulnerable she can be. As connections are made and double crosses and identities revealed, the threads are pulled together in ways few readers could ever predict. As someone with Chinese ancestry, I was immensely pleased to encounter characters that defy the stereotypical depiction of Asians and reveled in Bai's complexity, likability, and extraordinary wit. Bai has a compelling need to rescue and protect the unconventional family she has created, even when she is forced to acknowledge that she is not indestructible. Bai is willing to sacrifice everything for those she loves.

To enter to win a copy of Black Karma simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Karma,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 8, 2014. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.


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, October 24, 2014

The Corpse with the Platinum Hair: A Cait Morgan Mystery By Cathy Ace

by Cynthia Chow

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

It’s Miss Shirley in the casino dining room with a skewer, in this locked-room mystery that has the suspects locked in with a murderer who seems to be systematically reducing their numbers before they can either identify the culprit or manage their release.

Psychologist and University of Vancouver Professor Cait Morgan had hoped to celebrate the birthday of her boyfriend Bud Anderson, a retired Vancouver Police Department homicide detective and RCMP officer, with an elaborate dinner at the Las Vegas Tsar! Casino and Hotel. A sudden security system alarm abruptly ends that though, knocking out the lights and securing all of the doors. When the emergency lights are restored, the diners are shocked to discover the body of the casino owner and Marilyn Monroe-esque Miss Shirley, stabbed through her seat with a saber just minutes after a deadline that had her inheriting her late husband’s Tsar! majority ownership.


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When the legal counsel Julie Pool fails to enter the proper security codes, all of the diners are locked into the dining room for twelve hours until the automatic reset, a time during which they could spend either hiding out from one another in anxiety or conducting a covert investigation into which of the thirteen – well, now twelve – was motivated to commit such a brazen act of murder. Without an outside phone line or Wi-Fi, tensions mount among the increasingly tense prisoners, whose number includes the overridden business partner, Miss Shirley’s stepson and probable heir, an operatic Diva, several attorneys, and a promising chef whose connection to Bud was the reason for his and Cait’s presence. The suspects are many, but their is growing alarmingly fewer fast as the mortality rate increases and the twelve hour deadline becomes entirely too literal.



Image source: Cathy Ace

In this fourth mystery of the series featuring victim profiler Cait Morgan, she continues to use her unique skills that connect a victim’s life to his or her eventual death. It’s an intriguing premise, especially considering how the criminologist turned victimologist was herself once profiled as a murderer and so implicated by British tabloids that she fled for British Columbia. In the classic tradition of locked-room mysteries, Cait and Bud question each of the guests and slowly everyone’s secrets are revealed. The author plays entirely fair with the clues and readers will enjoy unraveling the mysteries alongside this mature and savvy couple. Although they are locked in without power or resources, having a chef on hand along with the leftover meals means that foodie Cait will have ample opportunity to revel in and provide detailed descriptions. Traditionalists will enjoy this mystery that plays with classic mystery conventions while also celebrating everything that makes Las Vegas so unique.

To enter to win a copy of The Corpse with the Platinum Hair, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Hair,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 1, 2014. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.


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, October 17, 2014

Finding Sky By Susan O’Brien

by Cynthia Chow

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

When a pregnant 18 year-old with a history of running away goes missing, not even her parents are concerned enough to involve the police. Although Beth agreed to give her baby up for adoption, her parents were strongly against it. No one seems surprised the girl may have changed her mind and fled.

Kenna hoped to adopt Beth’s child and is frantic to find the girl. She calls best friend Nicki Valentine for help. A stay-at-home mother of two wouldn’t seem to be the best choice, but considering Nicki’s fascination with crime, her degree in forensic psychology and enrollment in a private investigation class, Nicki has the enthusiasm, if not the experience, of any professional. Fortunately, she has the supervision and advice of her instructor, Dean.


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Nicki learns that Marcus, Beth’s ex-boyfriend and likely father of her child, has gang ties. She’s in the middle of a gang shooting, has her car shot at and becomes embroiled in a battle over drugs and gang territory. One might question why she would continue to endanger herself and her family, but Kenna’s desperation to find Beth and the baby, keeps her going. With her mother as a reliable babysitter, Nicki uses her son’s Scholastic Scooby-doo binoculars to follow suspects as she sucks down juice boxes and animal cookies on stakeouts, and even squeezes in a preschool pizza party.

While a thirty-six year-old woman’s ability to blend in with a crowd of teens does strain the limits of believability, Nicki gets a pass with sunglasses and a questionable wardrobe, given the intoxication level of the partygoers. Her lack of judgment is more of a concern, as she risks breaking-and-entering into a home and takes her children on investigate outings.



Image source: Henery Press

It would be oversimplification to call this “Mom Lit,” yet this novel has one of the more realistic portrayals of juggling work with home life. Finding a reliable babysitter is just as important as researching the background of a gangbanger, although Nicki does find that carting around children works as camouflage when interrogating neighbors. Nicki’s support system provides assistance when experience fails. The too-perfect Dean (he rides a motorcycle and drives an Aston Martin, for heaven’s sake) offers his considerable skills as he distracts with his charm.

This debut mystery offers menace without violence, intrigue and a realistic depiction of a single parent struggling to find an identity outside of motherhood. The hint of romance and element of humor further ensures that this novel will attract a following of cozy-reading fans for the upcoming sequel, Sky High.

To enter to win a copy of Finding Sky, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Sky,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 25, 2014. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.


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, October 10, 2014

Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek: A Samuel Craddock Mystery By Terry Shames

by Cynthia Chow

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

The economy has not just hit Jarrett Creek, Texas hard, it has completely decimated it. A bad water park investment bankrupted the county, with no funds to support even its tiny sheriff’s department. Deputies are resigning but the new mayor has a plan to reappoint Samuel Craddock Sheriff’s even though he retired and recovering from knee surgery. The mayor’s meeting doesn’t go as smoothly as expected. The murder of the loudest opponent of the reappointment pretty much assures Craddock will be back on the job. With a dollar-a-year salary Craddock’s priority will be to investigate Gary Dellmore’s death. He was a less than successful executive at the bank owned by his father. Dellmore’s good looks and Lothario tendencies toward female employees point suspicion to jilted girlfriends, a wife, and numerous angry husbands. His involvement in the shady investment that destroyed the town reveals an even wider circle of those with murderous motivations.


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Craddock feels the separation from his neighbors the moment he resumes office. Everybody has something to hide or feel guilty about. Poking sleeping dogs is part of his job so Craddock questions the very man who hired him; the mayor’s daughter may have been a little too friendly with her boss. Money and love are the usual motivations behind murder. There are a plethora of suspects as Craddock must investigate a wealthy land owner and his country-singing wife, the owner of Jarrett Creek’s bank, a seemingly cheerful widow, and more than one mistress.

Author Terry Shames captures the voice of the stoic, compassionate and canny Craddock. While he respects the power of gossip, he refrains from gossip himself in spite of nosy inquiries by friends and neighbors. Craddock finds this case hits him to the core. He resents men who take their wives for granted and cheat on them, as he mourns his late wife.



Image source: Seventh St.

This novel emphasizes love, marriage and the compromises people make in order to retain one, if not both. Craddock is feeling his age. Although his knee surgery was successful, he can’t help but be aware of fragility of his health.

This third in the series will appeal to fans of both Craig Johnson and C.J. Box. Readers will find themselves unable to put down this well-crafted mystery, full of sly dialogue and smart characters. This is one of my favorite new mystery series. I continue to look forward to novels that highlight the both the goodwill and darkness that inhabits a small Texas town.

To enter to win a copy of Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Broke,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 18, 2014. 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).

Friday, October 3, 2014

Emerald By Garner Scott Odell

by Terrance Mc Arthur

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review, along with a video interview with Garner.

What do you need in a suspense thriller?
• A man you can root for…or a woman…or a man and a woman (but if you have a man and a woman, you know that will cause complications).
• A man you can hate (well, it could be a woman) who has some force driving him to do things that are considered evil.
• A goal (world domination, a priceless treasure) that is so desired that people would die or kill for it. Alfred Hitchcock referred to it as the McGuffin, based on an old joke (the McGuffin was used to hunt lions in the Sahara Desert. Wait; there aren’t any lions in the Sahara. That’s the McGuffin!).


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In Emerald by Garner Scott Odell, David and Miriam are agents of Israel’s secretive Mossad. He can’t stand her, even though he knows she’s a better marksman than he is. She finds him cocky and undisciplined and he snores. When two characters grate on each other that much, you know what’s going to happen, right? Uh-huh.

David and Miriam are chasing Hans Huber, son of the bodyguard of Adolf Eichmann, the notorious Nazi who was captured by Israeli agents. Hans’ father was killed (and Hans was injured) during the abduction, so he hates the Jews and loves everything his father, Eichmann, and Hitler stood for. He kills, and enjoys killing, marking his victims with the sign of the Nazi SS. He’s not a nice guy, but he is fascinating.



Image source: Garner Scott Odell

The goal Huber chases is a fabulous, hen’s- egg-sized emerald, a jewel that goes back to the time of the conquistadors. Huber’s family owned it for a while, and Hans believes it belongs to him by right, and he will do anything to make it his, even if…especially if it means murder. The inspiration for the book’s jewel was a real emerald that vanished from history around the 1930s.

Odell’s world travels as a cruise-ship chaplain are reflected in his sense of history and his careful use of details create a crystalline vision of the times and settings. The characters are colorful, from a tongue-less African to a half-Chinese mob employee, to a passel of international law enforcement officials who try to aid the Israelis in their work. The pace and tension keep growing higher. Who ever thought a high-class auction house would be a setting for a high-stakes thriller?

There are some proofreading problems, but this Emerald is a gem.

Video Interview with Garner Scott Odell:


To enter to win a copy of Emerald, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Emerald,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 11, 2014. U.S. residents only.


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.