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Friday, February 26, 2016

Alchemy of Chaos By Marshall Ryan Maresca

by Terrance McArthur

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

Last year, I reviewed The Thorn of Dentonhill and read A Murder of Mages, both by Marshall Ryan Maresca, both set under the two moons of the port city of Maradaine, but from two different series, and I was twice captivated. This year, Maresca kicks off things with a sequel to Thorn. It’s The Alchemy of Chaos: a novel of Maradaine.


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Veranix Calbert is a student of magic, trained acrobat, and popular vigilante, possessed of a magical cape and rope and a hatred of Willem Fenmere, the drug lord responsible for his mother’s wasting away. As the Thorn, Veranix has incensed Fenmere, who hires a group of shapely assassins to kill him or turn the townsfolk against him. Meanwhile, the college is beset by wizardly pranks that get less funny and more deadly. On top of that, a new drug is showing up in the neighborhood. This all takes place in a world that combines the Middle and Victorian Ages, semi-industrial and quasi-feudal.

The Thorn is suffering from Superhero Sidekick Syndrome. More and more people know his secret identity, which means more people are at risk, and there are more people who could make a mistake and reveal his secrets. At first, there was a girl who worked on campus and let people think they were having sex to cover up why he was sneaking out of his dormitory at night. Then there was his cousin (a member of one of the street gangs of the city) and his university roommate. More people now know who the Thorn is, including some of the bad guys.



Image source: DAW

The book is part Caped Crusader crime-fighting adventure (Batman is a frequent comparison in reviews), part urban warfare gang saga (with elements of The Cross and the Switchblade), part wizard-in-training fantasy (Harry Potter, anyone?), part steam-punk science fiction, a shaken‒not‒stirred part James Bond and the Bond Girls,and a very-chaste part romance. Just as Veranix, from a family of entertainers, balances on the rooftops and somersaults through the air, so Maresca juggles all these styles, creating a rollicking, engrossing, thought-provoking experience. You don’t often find magical adventure yarns tackling ethical questions of responsibility.

Maresca is working on a third Maradaine series and I can hardly wait!

To enter to win a copy of Alchemy of Chaos, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “alchemy,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 5, 2016. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL & it supports an indie bookstore:



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.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Fresno State Student Comedy Premiers at Rogue Festival

by Jerry Palladino,
Artistic Director at Curtain 5

The 2016 Rogue Festival is almost here. KRL has been featuring several Festival performer preview articles over the last couple of weeks, and have several more to go between now and opening day! This week we also have an article about the Festival itself. We will also be reviewing many of the shows once the Festival begins in early March, and we may even do some more video interviews. Check out our Rogue Performer event page for more information as it becomes available, and you can also check out the Rogue 2016 website.

Spiritual Healing, an original play by Cyrus Kinzel, a freshman journalism major at California State University Fresno, premieres at Fresno Soap Co. Stage during the 2016 Rogue Festival on Saturday, March 5. His first comedy, Necromancin’ Around, was one of two original works that recently opened the 2016 Curtain 5 Theatre Group Season on January 29 at Fresno Soap Co Stage. Kinzel’s play is one of four original works selected during a 2015 Roosevelt School of the Arts playwriting competition sponsored by Gerald Palladino, Curtain 5 Founder and Artistic Director. Vuelos, an original drama by Roosevelt High School senior, Onyx Beytia, was on the same bill with Necromanci’ Around. Two additional original plays will open at Fresno Soap Co. Stage from the 2015 Roosevelt School of the Arts writing competition on Friday, August 5, 2016, for a two-weekend run.


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Palladino was so impressed with Kinzel’s first play, he asked him to submit an outline of another idea the student had for a new comedy he was writing. The result was Spiritual Healing, which opens during the upcoming Fresno Rogue Festival. The five performances are at Fresno Soap Co Stage, 1470 North Van Ness Avenue in the Tower District, Saturday, March 5 @ 2 p.m., Sunday, March 6 @ 5 p.m., Wednesday, March 9 @ 8 p.m., Thursday, March 10 @ 9:30 p.m., and Saturday, March 12 @ 3:30 p.m. Single tickets are $10 and available at the theater on performance dates.



Image source: Curtain 5

The screwball comedy focuses on Robert, deeply depressed when he should be happy. He recently completed rehabilitation for acute alcoholism and just received a successful liver transplant. Not so! His selfish former girlfriend, Vivian, just walked out on him, taking her belongings and his television. Weighing his options, Robert decides to swallow sleeping pills with Jim Beam bourbon whiskey to end his sorry life. A cold-call from a vacuum cleaner salesman temporarily interrupts him. Just when he tries a second time, just after Vivian leaves, he is shocked back into reality when a stranger suddenly appears out of nowhere. That stranger is Joe. We later learn Joe is the ghost of the man whose liver now resides in Robert’s body. Joe drives Robert mad by constantly following him around. Robert is further victimized when his neighbor, Howard, an old insane Vietnam veteran, breaks through the apartment window and threatens to stab him to death with a Bowie knife. In the madcap chase around Robert’s couch, Joe accidentally kills Howard, when he hits him over the head with a cast iron frying pan. Joe and Robert must now hide Howard in the closet, until they get rid of the body.

Still plagued by Joe’s presence, Robert telephones Kai, a hippie medium to get rid of the spirit. Kai can only provide Robert with a vague solution and then tries to give him a back rub, since he also moonlights as a massage therapist. Before Kai leaves, Robert must borrow $50 from Joe to pay for the visit. What else can go wrong? Who should then barge in but Jingle Balls, a pimp obsessed with the color purple who also wears tons of heavy gold jewelry, looking for Howard, his best paying client. Howard has missed an appointment with Rosita, Jingle’s ditzy streetwalker girlfriend (aka Lilith). Guess who? She’s Joe’s widow!

Spiritual Healing
promises to be another crowd pleaser from this talented young Fresno writer.


Friday, February 19, 2016

The Fine Art of Murder: A Katherine Sullivan Mystery By Emily Barnes

by Cynthia Chow

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

Until her early retirement, Katherine Sullivan was the chief of police in affluent Edina, Minnesota. It was her husband’s death in the line-of-duty that eventually led towards her decision to pursue her dream as an artist in Taos, New Mexico. It’s been six months since she last visited her hometown, but her daughter’s recent divorce has Katherine returning home to support Lizzie and her two children. A former criminal attorney, Lizzie’s recent transition to family law is rewarding but strained by suddenly becoming the single mother of a 13-year old daughter and son with Asperger’s Syndrome.


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Katherine proves to be remarkably adept at transitioning into a strict but supportive grandmother, and she’s just as capable when a local murder lands her in the midst of an investigation. A recent art graduate and employee at the Pierce Gallery has been found murdered on the Pierce estate, and resentful town sentiment towards the wealthy Pierce family quickly lands the last heir in jail. The current police chief still harbors resentment towards his predecessor, but when Randolph Pierce hires Lizzie as his attorney, she in turn enlists her mother as an investigator to prove his innocence.

While Katherine skillfully mentors and counsels her teenaged grandchildren, she finds herself settling in with the new security team of her husband’s former partner and her own best friend. Nathan Walker has gathered his own rogue team of experts with nicknames appropriate for their skills, and with their assistance Katherine will uncover the secrets hidden within the Pierce home.



Image source: Crooked Lane Books

This first in the series introduces such a completely capable and likable heroine that readers will immediately become invested in both her life and her professional pursuits. She is enviably skilled at coping with her understandably troubled grandchildren, and her detective talents are just as brilliant. Katherine does still react like a protective mother with her own daughter, and the romantic lives of both women are prickly territory for the pair. The blend of domestic fiction with a heist caper ensures that this noteworthy debut will entertain readers, while Katherine’s sharp wit and humor will have them looking forward to her future investigations.

To enter to win a copy of The Fine Art of Murder, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “art,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 27, 2016. 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).



Friday, February 12, 2016

The Devil’s Pawn by Marilyn Levinson

by Sandra Murphy

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

Life has gotten more than difficult for Simon Porte after his family is killed in a car accident. His father had insisted on changing his name from Gregory to Simon, his aunt who was to be guardian if anything happened is missing, and an Uncle Raymond showed up to claim Simon—an uncle he never knew he had.

And what a weird guy Raymond is. At first, he was desperately ill, but the improvement to his health is astonishing. Aunt Mary seems nice enough but wanders around in a fog most of the time. Raymond keeps tight control of Simon’s money too.

Simon has good friends in twins Polly and Andy. It’s a relief to get out of the gloomy house and spend time with someone his own age (15).


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There are dire happenings around town, too. A nine-year old girl Simon taught to swim went missing and was found dead, and she wasn’t the only one. Simon begins to suspect Raymond had something to do with the deaths, but is that just his dislike of the man showing or is there something to the idea?

Simon also finds out he has a weird, much older aunt—she’s way nicer than Raymond. She warns Simon to keep his guard up around his uncle. Simon’s always been sensitive to sound and smells, but his aunt explains this is part of the family legacy, among other, worse, things.



Image source: Booktrope Editions

When Raymond lays claim to the land the ball fields are on and wants to build condos there, the kids rally to stop him—but Raymond is determined to take over much more than the land. Who can Simon trust when nothing and no one are what they seem to be?

This book is young adult horror, age twelve and up. The details of the deaths are not gory but are scary. The kids are a believable bunch who want to do the right thing in spite of the odds. In the end, the best person to rely on, is yourself—with a little help from your friends.

To enter to win a copy of The Devil’s Pawn, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Pawn,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 20, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL & it supports an indie bookstore:



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 newest, "Arthur", included in the anthology titled, Flash and Bang, available now.




Monday, February 8, 2016

Kung Fu Panda 3: Movie Review

by Sheryl Wall

Special coupon for Dinuba Platinum Theatre at the end of this review.

Kung Fu Panda 3 continues the story of Po the Panda who became the dragon warrior. However, this movie expands on the personal story of Po's past and where he comes from. His Birth Father, Li, shows up searching for his son Po and the story shares how they meet and what happened to cause his Birth mother to give him up.

His father shares with him that there are more Panda Bears like him in a secret village where they end up going together. Po's adoptive father however worries about Po and tags along.


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Unfortunately, Kai, a supernatural enemy, shows up to defeat all the Kung Fu masters. Po must learn how to master Chi to be able to defeat him. His Birth father promises to teach him but instead only teaches him the way of the Pandas for he fears for his son's safety. But once Kai sets out to destroy all the Pandas in the village, Po must find a way to stop him by teaching the Panda Bears how to fight or all will be lost.

Kung Fu Panda 3 has a deeper meaning to those who are adopted or have adopted. It goes into a bit of the loss that happens and the love of both the Birth parents and the adoptive parents. I find that the adoptive element drew me into the story for I am an adoptive mom.



Image source: 20th Century Fox

I enjoyed Kung Fu Panda 3 with its deeper story line, but I also enjoy the humor that the character Po always brings to the story. I have always enjoyed Panda Bears and find it interesting some of the characteristics they use from real Pandas in the story, such as the constant eating and tiring out climbing the stairs indicating their laziness. This is a fun movie that can be enjoyed by both adults and children. In fact, the theater was nearly full when we went to see it, showing its popularity.

Kung Fu Panda 3 is currently playing at Dinuba Platinum Theatres 6. Showtimes can be found on their website. Platinum Theaters Dinuba 6 now proudly presents digital quality films in 2-D and 3-D with 5.1 Dolby digital surround sound to maximize your movie experience.

Print this coupon and enjoy a special discount for Kings River Life readers only!


Sheryl Wall is an ongoing contributor to our
Pet Perspective section, providing pet care advice from years of personal experience.




Thursday, February 4, 2016

Drawing Blood: A Sketch In Crime Mystery By Deirdre Verne

by Cynthia Chow

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

Although Earth Day may be one of devoted Freegan CeCe Prentice's favorite days of the year, it also marks the first year since the death of her beloved brother, Teddy. A distraction comes in the form of Cold Spring Harbor Detective Frank DeRosa, who needs to consult with a garbage expert, who just happens to be his girlfriend. CeCe's Freegan lifestyle demands that she and her friends subsist solely on what they scavenge, recycle, or grow, making them the undeniable specialists when reports of illegal electronic waste are reported at a local warehouse. The recycle center and town dump owner Big Bob's belief in "garbage as purpose" alone would make him dear to CeCe's heart. His talent as an outsider artist skilled with dioramas, though, further cements his place in portrait artist CeCe's affections. The discovery of his body, crushed in garbage, devastates her.


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CeCe's finesse at creating accurate sketch drawings and reading faces previously has proved instrumental to the police, and naturally she is unable to resist inserting herself in the investigation of her friend's death. So it's baffling when CeCe is completely blocked and unable to recollect the face of a woman she spotted fleeing the scene. It's not surprising that CeCe may be unfocused, considering the traumatic truths she recently discovered about her family, her father's crimes, and a child who may or may not even exist.



Image source: Midnight Ink

Although the exploration of Freeganism makes this a standout on its own, CeCe's obsession with her family's past crimes and future will have readers seeking out the debut of this series, Drawing Conclusions. Freeganism is such a fascinating way of life, as the definition of what is garbage can be a simple extemporaneous expiration date. Many readers may share Frank's disgust at the thought of eating food retrieved from a dumpster, but perhaps they will think twice before buying those individually packaged-in-plastic food items.

CeCe proves to be an impulsive and occasionally self-righteous advocate for her way of living, but her sincerity and need to mend her family redeem her. CeCe's best friend's impending baby due date and her own mother's recovery from a breakdown, add surprising elements of humor. This is a complex and unique mystery that explores a way of life that could save our planet if only we could change the way we think. Socialized medicine, DNA manipulations, and the ethics of both only enhance this continually evolving and compelling mystery series.

To enter to win a copy of Drawing Blood, 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 February 13, 2016. 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).



Monday, February 1, 2016

The Martian: Movie Review

by Kathleen Costa

"Houston, we have a problem!" Not the kind of 911 call you want to make, especially when you're almost 250 million miles away from any emergency response. In The Martian, director Ridley Scott, known for his big productions, and Matt Damon, who seems to epitomize the American hero, team up to set us on the edge of our seats in a very realistic, timely sci-fi drama based on the novel of the same name by Andy Weir.

It’s 2035 and a successful landing on Mars by Ares III has a team of American astronauts exploring and setting up residence. It becomes dire when a dust storm, at first determined not to be life threatening, has been upgraded forcing the team to abandon the comforts of their habitat. Rushing through the vicious storm the team hurries to get to an escape rocket and blast off to the safety of the orbiting vessel Hermes. Breaking loose from an antenna a piece of debris impales Watney (Matt Damon). Life support readings indicate his suit is depressurizing, and his life signs are deteriorating fast. The team leader Lewis (Jessica Chastain) sets to search and save him. However, the storm is so bad that it may tip over the escape rocket and the thought of all being stranded leads them to abandon the search for Watney.


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Devastated by the death of their friend and colleague the remaining crew on the Hermes (including Michael Pena and Kate Mara) settle in for their six-month return trip home, and as Earth mourns the loss of a popular astronaut, NASA officials (Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean, and Kristen Wiig) pay homage and return to their regular routine preparing for the Ares IV mission set in four years. However, unbeknownst to everyone, Watney has survived. The ensuing struggle to stay alive creating a workable environment to grow potatoes, the use of real-life technology to improve communication between Mars and Earth, and the efforts by an eclectic range of experts to rescue Watney take on an inspiring, intriguing and clandestine flair.



Image source: 20th Century Fox

This film runs 141 minutes which might be a concern for some, especially being in a theater with the absence of "pause" control, but the story is enthralling and captivating, so time passed quickly. Ridley Scott once again presents realistic and seamless special effects to create a Mars landscape, zero gravity, and in-space drama. Matt Damon gives an Oscar-worthy performance, solo for the majority of the film, using a video journal and discussions with inanimate objects to inject enjoyable humor. And incorporating 70s disco music is just plain fun!

The Martian
has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture.

Review 5/5 Spaceships


Kathleen Costa is a long-time resident of the Central Valley, and although born in Idaho, she considers herself a “California Girl.” Graduating from CSU-Sacramento, she is 35+ year veteran teacher having taught in grades 1-8 in schools from Sacramento to Los Angeles to Stockton to Lodi. Currently Kathleen is enjoying year 2 of retirement revitalizing hobbies along with exploring writing, reading for pleasure, and spending 24/7 with her husband of 25+ years.