Dying to Live by Michael Stanley

Dying to Live by Michael Stanley

A Bushman is discovered dead near the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Although the man looks old enough to have died of natural causes, the police suspect foul play, and the body is sent to Gaborone for an autopsy. Pathologist Ian MacGregor confirms the cause of death as a broken neck, but is greatly puzzled by the man’s physiology. Although he’s obviously very old, his internal organs look remarkably young. He calls in Assistant Superintendent David “Kubu” Bengu. When the Bushman’s corpse is stolen from the morgue, suddenly the case takes on a new dimension.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Today I have the pleasure of hosting a stop on the blog tour for Dying to Live. This is the sixth book in a series featuring leading man Assistant Superintendent David Bengu in the Botswana police force. I’ll confess I was a little mixed going into this book for a couple of reasons: first, with the entire book being set in such a different country, I was worried it may be heavy on references that might be missed or difficult to follow if you aren’t aware of the cultures. Secondly, the book is part of a series, and I was worried I would miss things with this being the first book in the series that I have read.
35098371I needn’t have worried thought. The cultural references were used sparingly, and to good effect, but not so much so that the book was difficult to follow. And equally, it didn’t matter that it is part of a series – Dying to Live worked perfectly well as a stand alone read. I felt the lead characters were introduced in such a way that the reader gets to know them even though the series is established by this point.

This is a well-crafted mystery novel, with a number of threads to the the story. This sometimes can be a negative, when a book has too many mysteries to be unravelled – that can lead to a contrived story. Dying to Live, however, ties all the threads together as the book develops leading to the finale, which is not obvious.
A number of possible protagonists are put forward for a range of crimes – the murder of a famous witch doctor, the murder of a bushman and subsequent theft of his corpse and the mystery of the Chinese girl whose body was transported from Botswana, who didn’t exist. But any and all could very easily be the guilty party. This is something I love in a mystery book – the ability to read the book without entirely being certain as to “whodunit” until towards the end.

Dying to Live is a brilliantly written mystery, with an exotic location that I felt I got to know things to the descriptive writing. The characters are colourful and described well enough that the book works as a stand alone even though it is part way into the series. The mystery is well-assembled with just enough twists and turns to keep the story entertaining, all adding together to make an enjoyable read.

My rating:
goodread

Friday Face-Off – 2nd June 2017

Friday Face-Off – 2nd June 2017

Friday Face-Off is an idea originally thought up by Books By Proxy which I stole from the fantastic The Tattooed Book Geek. The idea originally was to compare UK and US covers based on an assigned theme each week and choose the winning cover. I will be twisting it slightly: not specifically US and UK covers, just different editions.

This week’s theme is a cover featuring a moon: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars”.

This week I have gone for Jim Butcher’s Fool Moon.

Cover A:

moon1

Cover B:

moon2

Cover C:

moon3

Cover D:

moon4

Cover E:

moon5

Cover F:

moon6

Cover G:

moon7

And the winner is… COVER A!

I love the atmosphere in this one. It feels moody, and the moon is prominent adding a sense of darkness to the book. Cover G is a close second this week.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my winner, or does one of the others work better for you? Let me know in the comments!

Next week I will be looking for a cover featuring a cat: “In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this”.

Friday Face-Off – 26th May 2017

Friday Face-Off – 26th May 2017

Friday Face-Off is an idea originally thought up by Books By Proxy which I stole from the fantastic The Tattooed Book Geek. The idea originally was to compare UK and US covers based on an assigned theme each week and choose the winning cover. I will be twisting it slightly: not specifically US and UK covers, just different editions.

This week’s theme is a cover featuring a mouse: “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, ‘it might have been’…”.

I’ve taken a stroll down Memory Lane this week. I always remember having a box set of the Beatrix Potter books, so I picked The Tailor of Gloucester for my Friday Face-Off.

Cover A:

mice1

Cover B:

mice2

Cover C:

mice3

Cover D:

mice4

Cover E:

mice5

And the winner is… COVER A!

This cover easily wins it for me. It reminds me of the set of books I had as a child.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my winner, or does one of the others work better for you? Let me know in the comments!

Next week I will be looking for a cover featuring a moon: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars”.

Friday Face-Off – 19th May 2017

Friday Face-Off – 19th May 2017

Friday Face-Off is an idea originally thought up by Books By Proxy which I stole from the fantastic The Tattooed Book Geek. The idea originally was to compare UK and US covers based on an assigned theme each week and choose the winning cover. I will be twisting it slightly: not specifically US and UK covers, just different editions.

This week’s theme is a cover featuring a plane: “When everything seem to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it ….”.

This week I have cheated a little bit. I found a book I liked the sound of, Storming by K.M. Weiland. The author ran a poll on their website for fans to vote for their favourite cover. These are the options posted.

Cover A:

plane1

Cover B:

plane2

Cover C:

plane3

Cover D:

plane4

Cover E:

plane5

Cover F:

plane6

And the winner is… COVER C!

Storming is described as being a dieselpunk novel, which is a branch of steampunk. I felt cover C really brings this vibe across, especially with all the little cogs and gears surrounding the main image.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my winner, or does one of the others work better for you? Let me know in the comments!

Next week I will be looking for a cover featuring a mouse: “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, ‘it might have been’…”

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold by Iain Reading

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold by Iain Reading

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold is the thrilling first installment in a new series of adventure mystery stories that are one part travel, one part history and five parts adventure. This first book of the Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency Series introduces Kitty Hawk, an intrepid teenage pilot with her own De Havilland Beaver seaplane and a nose for mystery and intrigue. A cross between Amelia Earhart, Nancy Drew and Pippi Longstocking, Kitty is a quirky young heroine with boundless curiosity and a knack for getting herself into all kinds of precarious situations.

After leaving her home in the western Canadian fishing village of Tofino to spend the summer in Alaska studying humpback whales Kitty finds herself caught up in an unforgettable adventure involving stolen gold, devious criminals, ghostly shipwrecks, and bone-chilling curses. Kitty’s adventure begins with the lingering mystery of a sunken ship called the Clara Nevada and as the plot continues to unfold this spirited story will have armchair explorers and amateur detectives alike anxiously following every twist and turn as they are swept along through the history of the Klondike Gold Rush to a suspenseful final climactic chase across the rugged terrain of Canada’s Yukon, the harsh land made famous in the stories and poems of such writers as Jack London, Robert Service and Pierre Berton. It is a riveting tale that brings to glorious life the landscape and history of Alaska’s inside passage and Canada’s Yukon, as Kitty is caught up in an epic mystery set against the backdrop of the scenery of the Klondike Gold Rush.

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold is a perfect book to fire the imagination of readers of all ages. Filled with fascinating and highly Google-able locations and history this book will inspire anyone to learn and experience more for themselves as Kitty prepares for her next adventure – flying around the world!

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold is the first part in a globe-trotting action and adventure series from author Iain Reading. The story follows teenage seaplane pilot Kitty Hawk on her summer adventure to document the humpback whales in the waters of Alaska. The intrepid young pilot takes her de Haviland Beaver from a small Canadian town and heads north where she spends her summer days flying over the coastal waters filming and photographing the movements of the sea mammals, and working with local fishing and sightseeing boats to mutual benefit. She learns a lot about the area through her time here, especially about the Klondike gold rush of the late 1800s.
KittyHawkNewCoverDuring the summer Kitty spots the whales on a number of flights, but also spots something amiss. A small boat puttering in and out of the area sitting far lower in the water than any other boat of its size should or would. This coupled with stories of a gold heist from a local resident fuel Kitty’s imagination and curiosity leading to her tracking down the boat.

What ensues is a failed recon attempt on the occupants of the boat in their makeshift campsite, clearly in possession of the gold, and her ultimate kidnap. This leads to a trek into the Alaskan wilderness through forests, up slopes and through the mountains to the border with Canada. The story runs the full range of emotions; fear, anger, hatred, frustration all feature in the young pilot, until she slowly begins to get to know her captors. Are they truly evil, or merely misunderstood?

Over the remainder of the book, Iain Reading takes us on the real adventure. A tale of deception, double crossing and family lies and histories entwining to up the ante and ratchet the excitement to a new level. In the early stages of the book I found myself mildly irritated by the character of Kitty thanks to her teenage exuberance that felt a little to sickly-sweet, but as the story progressed I found her sense of adventure infectious and found myself rooting for her throughout. Wider characters, including the kidnappers are well developed and believable. The other element that worked so well is the sense of adventure Reading creates, and the well-described locales make for fun reading. As book one in a series, this really sets up what is to come very well, if this is anything to go by, the rest of the series looks set to be brilliant!

My rating
goodread

Friday Face-Off – 12th May 2017

Friday Face-Off – 12th May 2017

Friday Face-Off is an idea originally thought up by Books By Proxy which I stole from the fantastic The Tattooed Book Geek. The idea originally was to compare UK and US covers based on an assigned theme each week and choose the winning cover. I will be twisting it slightly: not specifically US and UK covers, just different editions.

This week’s theme is a cover featuring a phone: “Don’t use the phone. People are never ready to answer it”.

I have gone with Stephen King’s Cell.

Cover A:

phone1

Cover B:

phone2

Cover C:

phone3

Cover D:

phone4

Cover E:

phone5

Cover F:

phone6

Cover G:

phone7

Cover H:

phone8

Cover I:

phone9

And the winner is… IT’S A DRAW!

For me covers D and I win it for me. The copy of this book that I own is cover D and I always loved the look of this one-the metaphorical burning of the world and the phone that caused it. Cover I is simple, but at the same time very ominous, a fantastic cover.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my winner, or does one of the others work better for you? Let me know in the comments!

Next week I will be looking for a cover featuring a plane: “When everything seem to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it ….”

Guest Post – F J Curlew

Guest Post – F J Curlew

Author of To Retribution, F J Curlew has kindly agreed to write a Guest Post for Books and Beyond Reviews today. You can find my review for To Retribution here. In the mean time, please be upstanding and welcome to my blog F J Curlew!
FJCurlew
I’m tearing my hair out. Second book syndrome. Can’t get it right. Or so I think. I become
totally engrossed in the story, write, write, write. Several thousand words later re-read it and think rubbish, rubbish, rubbish. Cut it, maybe save it for later…And so the circle continues.

It’s just that something isn’t quite working this time. My first book, ‘To Retribution’, was easier, wasn’t it? The words flowed. The plot revealed itself to me. The characters spoke through me. Maybe this time the story isn’t right? Maybe I should give up on it, start something else? But I’ve written so much, 60 000 words for goodness sake! Spent so many hours on it. I can’t do that…I decide I’m too self critical. Too caught up in being a writer, too intense.

I’ve become very methodical in my writing, sticking to a routine. Writing time is writing time and I love it. I do. But it isn’t just when you write is it? Your whole life becomes the story, the characters, their journey. Now I’m used to that. It’s been a part of my life since I became a primary school teacher. You seldom switch off. It’s always, ‘Oh, I could do that with them,’ as you’re out at the shops, or ‘Maybe if I tried that with wee Johnny?’ as you’re washing the dishes, or ‘I could try and show it that way,’ or…you get the picture.

But writing? Well, it sneaks in to your breakfast, your favourite television programme, movies, music, casual conversations with fellow dog walkers, everything becomes your story, or the next one. Always switched on.

I try to put it away. Let it settle but I can’t. I have to work. I have to finish it. I have to, I have to, I have to. Now what does all of this have to do with football? Well. I’m a massive fan. Love the game. Shout and scream etcetera. The only time my neighbours hear ascending ecstatic cries of, yes, yes, yes coming from my apartment it’s because of some fabulous sequence of skill on the football pitch, not the bedroom! I get so caught up in it. So excited. It’s EURO 2016 time and I have hours, days, weeks of fabulous football to watch. That’ll do it, won’t it? Switch me off. Give me down time. And so it begins. Yes. My attention has been grabbed, snatched, taken for a wee wander. Great! Just what I need. Intent on the football, the art of the game, the skill of the players, the passion of the fans. GOAL! Brilliant.

But the scorer isn’t celebrating. He looks despondent, sad and I can’t understand it. No run at his team-mates, no little dance for the fans. Nothing. Just turns away, walks off the pitch and up to the trainer, gives him a kiss. Turns back and carries on as if nothing has happened. Then the commentator explains that both of them, the player and the trainer, lost their fathers that week. I gasp, hold my hand to my mouth. It makes me cry. The sadness. The awful contrast of feelings. And I think, That could make a great premise for a story.

Bangkok Belle by Ron McMillan

Bangkok Belle by Ron McMillan

Bangkok private eye duo Mason & Dixie are hired to provide protection to Australian soap opera star Belle Cooper, who came under vicious attack from the moment she announced her participation in a Bangkok pageant.

British Army veteran Mason and his transgender business partner Dixie already have their hands full with the disappearance of their colleague. Aom went missing while keeping watch on a night club owner called Chocolate, who is suspected of murdering her British husband, Robert Collingwood.

Mason & Dixie have to keep Belle safe while juggling threats posed by the corrupt police colonel who swept the Collingwood investigation under the carpet, the ex-IRA hit man who is Chocolate’s new boyfriend, and an ageing New Jersey mobster working for the Macau mafia.

Showdowns at an exclusive inner city resort and an abandoned fruit farm on the outskirts of the Thai capital take this fast-moving thriller to an explosive conclusion.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

Bangkok Belle was something a little different for me. It ticked all of the boxes for a crime thriller; mystery, murder, suspense – all were found in good measure. An intriguing mystery wove itself throughout the story. But thanks to clever writing, it also brings transgender issues to the fore, without overplaying them.
bangkokbelleIn the early phases of the book there are two mysteries running simultaneously – the first, a ploy to terrorise Australian soap star Belle Cooper to keep her from joining the pageant in Thailand. The second mystery sees Dixie and Mason trying to workout what happened to Aom, a budding investigator looking into the disappearance of a British man who seems to have gone missing.

This pair of mysteries are fast paced and free flowing, but at times become a little complicated with the country-hopping. The book jumps to and fro, which seems necessary to allow for real time action, but with two involved mysteries with their own fast paced action does become a little difficult.

As Bangkok Belle progresses the two stories converge, their mysteries beginning to entwine and the bigger picture becoming slowly clearer. The action is intense, and sustained without becoming too exhausting, and the conclusion is interesting in the way it ties threads together. All in all, Bangkok Belle is a fun, action-packed story with interesting characters.

My rating:
goodread

Friday Face-Off – 3rd March 2017

Friday Face-Off – 3rd March 2017

Friday Face-Off is an idea originally thought up by Books By Proxy which I stole from the fantastic The Tattooed Book Geek. The idea originally was to compare UK and US covers based on an assigned theme each week and choose the winning cover. I will be twisting it slightly: not specifically US and UK covers, just different editions.

This week’s theme is a cover featuring playing cards: “Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well”

Agatha Christie makes a return for this week’s Face-Off, or more pointedly her iconic detective Hercule Poirot returns with the tale Cards on the Table.

 

Cover A:

cards1

 

Cover B:

cards2

 

Cover C:

cards3

 

Cover D:

cards4

 

Cover E:

cards5

 

Cover F:

cards6

 

Cover G:

cards7

 

And the winner is… cover G!

A nice, simple and above all effective cover. It is dark and foreboding, hinting at the dark deeds afoot within the covers.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my winner, or does one of the others work better for you? Let me know in the comments!

Next week I will be looking for a cover featuring a school: “I never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

Eye of the Storm by Frank Cavallo

Eye of the Storm by Frank Cavallo

On a research mission in one of the most remote regions of the world, former Navy SEAL Eric Slade and Dr. Anna Fayne are caught in a mysterious storm. Catapulted through a rift in space-time, they are marooned on a lost world.

Struggling to survive and desperate to find a way home, they must confront the dangers of this savage land—a dark wizard and his army of undead—a warrior queen and her horde of fierce Neanderthals that stands against him—and a legendary treasure with the power to open the gateway between worlds, or to destroy them all: the Eye of the Storm.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Eye of the Storm is a sci-fi fantasy novel that spans times and alternate universes. A scientific research team lead by an ex-Navy SEAL and current TV personality. As their expedition heads out, they encounter what appear to be pterosaurs – long extinct flying dinosaurs. In their helicopters the team gives chase, flying head on into a storm. This storm acts as a portal transporting them into an alternate time and universe, populated by neanderthal tribes.
9781535327077
When I was first contacted about Eye of the Storm, I was really attracted to it, a book billed as a mix of science fiction and fantasy. These are two of my favourite genre of books so I went in with high hopes. And things looked really good for this book. The sudden arrival in a prehistoric version of the world set things off in the right direction. Factions of neanderthal people roam the plains, alongside ancient winged beasts and mammoths. As with all fantastic fantasy tales, there is a counterbalancing force of evil, too.

A dark wizard, laying in wait, seemingly hell-bent on taking power for himself makes for a pretty good nemesis. Cue some double crossing during times of upheaval such as the death of the king and the ascension of the new queen, and the story looks set. When a seemingly-dead member of the scientific research party turns up at the side of wizard during battle, the line between good and evil becomes blurred. Ultimately both sides need to come together in a common aim against a new evil.

But it also has its issues. The new evil didn’t seem to carry much weight for me. The dark wizard Tarquin had been developed and built throughout the course of the story, giving a mystical and almost fanatical aura to him. A further revelation about Tarquin, which I won’t reveal in its entirety, leads to the author referring to him as a techno-wizard. This dampened my view Tarquin somewhat, made all the more aggravating with the insistence of the author to refer to Tarquin in the same way constantly from the point of revelation onwards. It almost sought to diminish the power and menace this key character held, making it hard for me to stay fully engaged and invested in the story.

These draw backs don’t fully undo the story here, but they do leave a slight bad taste for me. Overall the concept is fantastic, and a setting in the time of the neanderthals is really interesting making for an entertaining read.

My rating:
okaybook