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.
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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

Friday Face-Off – 17th February 2017

Friday Face-Off – 17th February 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 car: “Drivin’ along in my automobile.”

For this theme I went for a modern day classic – Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Cover A:

car1

Cover B:

car2

Cover C:

car3

Cover D:

car4

Cover E:

car5

And the winner is… cover B!

This book is absolutely bonkers. A crazy ride through a crazy mind, and I feel the look and style of Cover B really conveys this!

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 an alien: “Aliens-if they exist-are little green men with big eyes and spindly arms…or giant insects or something like a lumpy little creature.”

Friday Face-Off – 10th February 2017

Friday Face-Off – 10th February 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 diamond or diamonds: “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”

This week I thought I would pay a visit to Britain’s, if not the world’s, most famous spy – James Bond and his classic adventure, Diamonds are Forever.

Cover A:
diamonds1

Cover B:
diamonds2

Cover C:
diamonds3

Cover D:
diamonds4

Cover E:
diamonds5

Cover F:
diamonds6

Cover G:
diamonds7

Cover H:
diamonds8

Cover I:
diamonds9

And the winner is… cover B!

It’s such a simple cover, but the repeating diamond motif lends well to the Diamonds are Forever title. The red 007 circular design also ties in to the end of every film’s opening credit sequence with the blood dripping over the gun sight on screen. Cover C was a close second this week-I really liked the simple design, once again with a diamond outline on a very simple 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 car: “Drivin’ along in my automobile.”

Books and Beyond Reviews – An Evolution

2016 has been a busy year here at Books and Beyond Reviews. There have been a lot of changes in many ways, and I look forward to seeing what 2017 has in store for my blog. But let’s take a little look back at where things began.

Early Beginnings – 2015

I started this blog back on the 23rd of April 2015. It wasn’t originally called Books and Beyond Reviews either. It started life as L-Space Books – a reference to the works of Sir Terry Pratchett. I am a huge fan of his Discworld series, and wanted to start a blog to review all of the books within the epic fantasy series as I read my way from the very beginning. That first 8 months or so were a slow start to the blog; I published some 14 posts, and in return saw 719 individual visitors viewing the website some 908 times.

A New Year – 2016

2016 started off in very much the same way, continuing my read through of the Discworld series. But things in my mind were set to change as far as the course this blog would take. I renamed the blog to Books and Beyond Reviews, reflecting my feeling that it shouldn’t just be about the Discworld books. In fact, I only reviewed a further six Discworld books in 2016, the penultimate and final of these split by something different. But these were still all books I owned. I felt that I needed something to really push the blog on, get it noticed, and taken a bit more seriously. I needed to start reviewing books by authors I didn’t know, books I didn’t own. I signed up to NetGalley, and started requesting a range of books, reading my way through them and publishing my reviews.

This added depth to the blog, and, so I hoped, added credibility to it with some reviews being good, some bad. I noticed other blogs featured a Contact Us page, and had a review policy – what genres they reviewed, how they scored, all things I hadn’t until then had. These were added, though I had no expectation to get anything coming through the contact form. I continued to use NetGalley. A chance email with a publisher led to an interview with an author, and a new blog feature was born. A third feature, spotted on another blog was also added – the Friday Face-Off. This was something fun, and took place every week.

As I continued to read and review books, take part in the Friday Face-Off and interview a few authors here and there, I started getting emails through from publishers and authors wanting me to review their books. I was over the moon to be asked! I have now received a respectable number of requests, and in some cases built up strong working relationships with a few publishers, PR and publicists and authors that I hope will continue. 2016 saw the blog receive more than double the number of unique visitors, 1847, and more than treble the views – an impressive 3116!

Looking Ahead – 2017

Things look very good for 2017, and I am truly excited to see where the blog goes from here. I hope to keep growing, and building relationships with authors and publishers to add to my list of books to be reviewed. All three of my regular features, Book Reviews, Author Interviews and Friday-Face Off will be returning for 2017. On that note, they will all feature a slightly new look. All of my posts to date have had a header image, usually a cover image, which sadly sometimes stretches and distorts.

Well I have been lucky enough to have a bespoke header image for each feature created for me by the talented Michael Forrest. All future posts in any of these features will proudly display the new artwork, and I will be working on adding them to all past posts, too. In the meantime, enjoy this first look at them, and let me know what you think! Thanks for all your support, and I hope to keep you around going forward!

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