Sleuth on Safari

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author A.R. Kennedy and her cozy mystery novel, Sleuth on Safari.

Author’s description:

Naomi and her estranged sister are off on a trip of a lifetime—an African safari, a bucket list trip for Naomi on which she got a last-minute deal. Naomi thinks traveling with her sister will be the worst part of her African safari until she finds one of their fellow travelers, the unlikable Dr. Higgins, dead. She gets more adventure than she bargained for when she starts investigating what she thinks is murder but the luxury lodge says was a tragic accident. She only has a few vacation days, and a few game drives, to find the killer.

My Review:

In, Sleuth on Safari A.R. Kennedy has written a fun and easy-to-read amateur sleuth novel that will have you turning the pages to cheer on its rookie crime solver, all while enjoying the excitement of a safari.

I’ve been lucky enough to go on a trip similar to the one in the book* (without the murder, of course) and I can assure you Kennedy does a fine job of capturing the wild beauty of nature in sub-Sahara Africa as well as some of the less story-book aspects of such a trip.

She does it while presenting a likable sleuth, an adequately complex cast of suspects, and a satisfying ending.

My most significant complaints all occurred early on, when the two sisters in questions seemed more like they were squabbling preteens, not young women in their twenties. As other characters were introduced they came across as stereotypes. However, Kennedy was just getting started. Most of the safari guests became more complex as the trip went on, and the protagonist Naomi and her sister began to act their age after the first few chapters.

One the things I enjoyed most was the ongoing humor regarding the lack of internet access. Her description of other little things like the ubiquitous safari-themed decor, lavish meals and five a.m. game rides were all right on the mark, too. And anyone who has ever spent a night alone in the wilderness (yes, I have) will love reading about Naomi’s night alone in the tree house.

I recommend this book to those who like cozy mysteries, and to all who enjoy travel, whether they’ve been to Africa or not. This novel is a fine way to take a memorable armchair trip.

About the Author:

A R Kennedy lives in Long Beach, New York, with her two pups. She works hard to put food on the floor for them. As her favorite T-shirt says, ‘I work so my dog can have a better life’. She’s an avid traveler. But don’t worry. While she’s away, her parents dote on their grand-puppies even more than she does. Her writing is a combination of her love of travel, animals, and the journey we all take to find ourselves.

Find her on Goodreads, Facebook, Instagram, Bookbub or on Twitter. 

Buy Sleuth on Safari on Amazon.

Yes, there is a giveaway.

A. R. Kennedy will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN gift certificate to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt:

I returned my attention to our current view. The lush green landscape in front of us. For over a mile, the varying shades of green spanned in front of us. Nothing man-made in sight. Even if you looked to your right or left, you couldn’t see the other lodgings. All you saw was nature.

Some of the greens started to sway. Initially, I thought it was the wind, but the movement was just in a small area. I pulled my binoculars out of my backpack for a closer look and gaped at what I saw.

Our phone rang and Charlotte ran to get it.

Now in full view, I watched a herd of elephants appear in the field. The twenty-plus elephants varied in age and sizes. The wrinkled gray bodies, with white curved tusks, marched along the land, spread out from each other. Their tails gently swung back and forth. Some stopped to graze. Their elongated trunks reached into the trees for leaves.

“It was Geri, from next door,” Charlotte told me as she returned. I pointed to the field. “Wow,” she gasped.

In silence, we watched the herd traverse the field. I snapped a few photos but spent most of the time just watching them. They walked slowly across the land. I smiled as a calf—that’s what Sonny told me a baby elephant was—trotted to keep up with his mother after he had fallen behind. The elephants’ trunks swung slowly back and forth as they plodded along. Occasionally, they stopped to graze a few leaves from the trees before resuming their journey together.

The herd now gone, I asked, “Why’d Geri call?”

“Wanted to let us know about the herd of elephants.”

I rested my head on the lounge chair. “That’s nice.”

“Ulterior motive, I’m sure.”

* A Personal Note:

I do love cozy mysteries but I picked this book primarily for its connection to travel in Africa. It did not disappoint. You can read about and see photos from my own safari at Happy Peace Day, Chinese Person in Tent Number 59 and Smiling my way across Kenya.

 

I Know When You’re Going To Die

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Michael J Bowler and his Mystery/Thriller novel, I Know When You’re Going To Die.

Author’s description:

Leonardo Cantrell is a painfully shy sixteen-year-old who cannot look people in the eye. One night while he’s volunteering at a homeless shelter, an old man forces eye contact and gives Leo the power to see Death.

 

His best, and only, friend—J.C. Rivera—thinks this new power is cool until Leo accidentally looks into J.C.’s eyes and “sees” his murder, a murder that will occur in less than two weeks. Stunned and shaken, the two boys sift through clues in Leo’s “vision” in a desperate effort to find the killer and stop him before he can strike.

 

Aided by feisty new-girl-at-school, Laura, the boys uncover evidence suggesting the identity of the murderer. However, their plan to trap the would-be killer goes horribly awry and reveals a truth that could kill them all.

My Review:

In the cleverly titled I know When You’re Going to Die, Michael J Bowler begins with a fascinating premise and delivers a taut and unpredictable tale. I raced through it.

What I liked best:

  1. The concept of needing to solve a murder before it happens is an interesting one. I’ve seen it elsewhere in science fiction, but the idea of having a “superpower” to know when others will die is unique, as far as I know, and the whole idea of solving a crime to prevent it is well executed here.
  2. The pacing is perfect. The suspense builds throughout the story and Bowler keeps the reader turning the pages without overloading or exhausting them.
  3. Leo, Bowler’s clinically shy good-guy protagonist, is a hero for all. Seriously, if you can’t cheer this guy on, consider seeking professional help.
  4. It’s a genre crime novel, so the reader knows the mystery will be solved just in time, but the ending is sufficiently convoluted and unexpected. It feels worth the wait.
  5. The underlying messages of friendship, tolerance and kindness are a refreshing bonus.

What I liked least:

I enjoyed this book a lot, and I think my minor issues with it stem from it being a young adult novel, one in which all of the protagonists are high school students. So, my recommendation comes with the caveat that the reader should not expect the story to go outside the scope of a young adult novel.

  1. I felt too many of the adult characters were not well-fleshed out. For example, the story included not one, but three moms who cared little about their teenage children. Hard for me to believe, but maybe not so hard for a teen-aged reader.
  2. The complicated relationship between close same-gender friends during the teen years and early sexual attraction and exploration is central to the story, and yet the author shies away from resolving issues. Again, I suspect the young age of the intended audience is the reason, so I gave him a pass on this one.
  3. The premise behind the plot brings up major philosophical questions about predetermination, death and even cause and effect. I’d have loved to see some of this stuff tackled … but again…..

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good crime story, or a good superhero story. You absolutely have to read it if you enjoy both.

About the Author:

Michael J. Bowler is an award-winning author who grew up in Northern California. He majored in English/Theatre at Santa Clara University, earned a master’s in film production from Loyola Marymount University, a teaching credential in English from LMU, and a master’s in Special Education from Cal State University Dominguez Hills. Michael taught high school in Hawthorne, California, both in general education and to students with learning disabilities.

When Michael is not writing, you can find him volunteering as a youth mentor with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and raising his newly adopted son. He is a passionate advocate for the fair treatment of children and teens in California, and hopes his books can show young people they are not alone in their struggles.

Find Michael J Bowler on Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram or on Twitter. 

Visit Michael J Bowler on his website.

 Buy I Know When You’re Going To Die on Amazon

Yes, there is a giveaway.

Michael J Bowler will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN gift certificate to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt:

I’m not sure how long I lay curled up on that beach before I hear someone huffing and puffing above me.

J.C.

I crack open my eyes. He’s doubled over, clutching at his sides and fighting for breath. Sweat streams from his wavy black hair down onto his face. “What…” he wheezes, struggling to breathe, “did… you… see?”

I unravel myself and sit up, pulling my knees in and clutching my legs tightly. I don’t look at him, instead scanning the surrounding beach. It’s a weekday and there’s nobody around except the lifeguard in his station, and he isn’t very close.

“Leo!”

I look up as he collapses to the sand and gazes at me with wide, terrified eyes.

Still, I can’t bring myself to say it.

He grabs me by both shoulders. His grip feels like iron. His panting has lessened, but not the fear on his face. “Tell me. Please.”

I lower my eyes again. “You’re…” I force myself to breathe. “You’re going to be…” I can’t say it.

“What?”

“Murdered!” I blurt, glancing at the stunned look on his face.

His mouth opens, but nothing comes out for a long moment. “When?” His voice is a choked whisper.

I don’t want to say it, but I have to. “A week from Friday.”

He gags, like he’s gonna throw up all over me. I’ve never seen him so vulnerable, so small and afraid, and that scares me more than what I saw in his eyes. He collapses onto the sand and cries.

 

Why do people review books?

Damned if I know.

For most of my life, the only time I’ve reviewed anything is when I really didn’t like it. In fact, I had to not like it so much that I felt it was my duty to steer people away. This didn’t happen often.

When I thought something was great, I was never motivated to suggest others buy, use or visit whatever it was. Not unless I was asked. Then, sometimes I wrote a positive review just to be nice.

Basically, this means I don’t understand reviews. Or reviewers.

Yet, here I am, a self-published author who now depends on them.

So ….I’ve been doing some serious thinking about why someone would review one of my books.

To begin with, I’m going throw out the two categories I do understand. One is people with book blogs who I’ve asked for reviews, directly or indirectly. This makes up for a fair number of the reviews I’ve gotten. Reviewing books is what they do, and their reasons for having the blog in the first place don’t so much matter to me. Most of them seem to enjoy what they do, and they try to be positive yet honest.  I appreciate both.

The other group is people I know, directly or indirectly and usually not well. They’ve read one or more of my books and liked it, and written a review at least in part to do something nice for me. I appreciate them too. This group is more honest than you may think. I’ve yet to have an acquaintance like this shout out unreasonable praise.

Most of my reviews come unsolicited from complete strangers and these are the ones that puzzle me. They range from the embarrassingly positive to the hurtfully snide. Some are well thought out, well written, and quite lengthy. It takes a while to do something like that. Others make little sense, have multiple spelling and grammar errors, or even sound like the person writing them never read the book.

Why did you write that? It’s a question I ask, but haven’t made much of an effort to answer it. Until now.

You see, lately, I’ve started writing more book reviews myself. Why?

Well, I’m trying to stay more current with new releases in my genres. I like to read books and I’ve found that committing to write a review forces me to make more time to read.

I’m also trying to get more people to my blogs, and to get more people to recognize my name. Reviewing books seems like a good way to do all this without continually begging people in public forums to buy my books. It is something of a means to an end.

Aha!

I write book reviews to achieve my goals. I’m not doing a favor for the author, although I’m glad helping other authors is a result.

I’m not doing a favor for the reader of my review either, or for the reading world at large. I’m not even particularly trying to help people find good books or avoid bad ones, though it’s nice if that happens.

If I’m being totally honest, more than anything, I’m trying to further my own agenda.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this. My time is precious. I write reviews because I hope doing so will help me get the things I want.

Why not assume others are doing the same?

I tried this idea on recently, and it put the reviews I’ve received in a whole new light. Those snide remarks are meant to impress someone else out there, not hurt me. Those paragraphs of articulate praise are helping someone get recognition for their abilities at analysis and verbal expression. And that two sentence review with the spelling errors has added to someone’s review count, and therefore upped their status as a reviewer. And on it goes.

Not only do I have no problem with any of this, it is helping me keep those reviews in perspective.

Sure, the review says something about how much a single person enjoyed what I wrote, and sure, in aggregate, a body of reviews says something about how much average readers are likely to enjoy my books.

But, the reviewer has their own agenda, too.

Why did you say such a thing? I don’t have to ask any more. I’m sure you had your reasons. They had nothing to do with me and maybe not all that much to do with my book.

 

Nice to be understood

I don’t usually blog about my reviews, and with good reason. When you ask someone to take hours out of their own life to read something you’ve written, it’s best to let them have their opinion and leave it be.

I know I’ve loved books others don’t like, and missed the charm many found in popular books. Reading is an interaction between the author and the writer, and the two don’t always match up well, even when an intelligent reader comes across a well done story.  We’re all different, right?

Kit 'N KabookleNone-the-less, it made me smile this morning when two reviewers of Shape of Secrets happened to get my style and like what I am trying to do. Mary DeSantis has a blog called Kit ‘N Kabookle, spotlighting books and authors of fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller/suspense, romance, and ya. She liked my “thought-provoking and expertly woven tale of the human condition.”

The Reading AddictThe Reading Addict, featuring “some of the books that I have read” loved “the way seemingly unconnected elements are introduced and elaborated on until things start to weave together into a fun and complex set of mysteries”

It wasn’t so much that the reviews were basically positive (though they were and I’m glad they were), it’s that these two reviewers happened to like what I’m trying to do. It’s no given in life, but it sure is nice when it happens.

 

Still caring about those reviews

Hope 1y1 has been out for a while now, and it has several dozen reviews under its belt, here and there. None-the-less it makes my day when I find a new one, especially when the reader enjoyed the book. Let’s face it. I’ve poured my heart and soul into this story, and yes I do crave feedback. Sales only provide me with a cold, dry number.

A writer wants to know what total strangers, ones who like the kinds of books she writes, think about her book. So yes, reviews matter to a writer, whether they should or not.  I imagine they must mean as much to an actor, or a musician or anyone who puts themselves out there to entertain and amuse the world, and there is no way around that. Once a books has hundreds of reviews, I suppose that individual ones matter less. I hope some day to find out.

Imagine my joy the other day when I was doing a search for something else and found the wonderful blog The Printed Word which features reviews by Melissa. There it was, a review of y1 posted January 10,  2014. Her review begins with “I give this book a 5 out of 5. Once again, Sherrie Cronin shows off her amazing research skills! Like the first novel in the series, x0, she weaves real facts and controversial, sensitive topics in with the fictional Zeitman family. This time we follow Lola’s son, Zane, as he learns at a young age that he can adjust his appearance to better blend in, much like a chameleon.”

What a wonderful surprise. I’m going to kick up my heels and dance for joy.

(Thanks to Zen2Zany on Facebook for the image that appears above.)

and the energy inside you goes round and round ….

swirlAccording to the kids’ song, it’s the wheels on the bus ….  but some days it’s the thoughts in the head, the feelings in the heart, and excitement in your soul that you can hardly contain as it all twirls and spins with the very force that powers the universe itself.

Joy. I wrote y1 to celebrate the joy I feel deep in my own soul and to encourage others to experience joy in their life as well. It was a surprise for me when I discovered that the writing itself would bring me so much happiness too. Today I got a series of reviews for y1 on Goodreads and I got a compliment that made me want to sing.

“I have never read a book like this and probably never will. It had the innocence of Harry Potter that crossed paths with Star Trek. Absolutely fantastic read.”

fireworkDon’t get me wrong, I’m delighted with the Harry Potter and Star Trek references (both of which I love) and I will never be anything but ecstatic when someone calls something I wrote “a fantastic read”. But it’s the first eight words that has me dancing for joy. y1 is a book about being ones own unique self and … well … at least one person out there thinks it is a really unique book. How cool is that?

For more thoughts on the forces of life twirling and spinning, check out my z2 blog here as I speculate on seeing the future and check out my x0 blog here for thoughts on particle physics and world peace.