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.

 

Heroes in Love

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author David C. Dawson and his novel Heroes in Love.

Author’s description of the book:

NOT EVERY HERO WEARS A UNIFORM

Can love last a lifetime? Billy Walsh and Daniel Richards never intended to be matchmakers. After all, they’re only at the start of their own love story. When Billy uncovers a failed love affair, he learns it lasted more than fifty years until it fell apart. He and Daniel see their own fledgling relationship through the lens of the now estranged couple, and they vow to reunite the elderly lovers. But as they set about their task, the pressure of modern life threatens to tear them apart.

About the Author:

David C Dawson writes contemporary thrillers featuring gay men in love. He’s an award winning author, journalist and documentary maker. His debut novel won Bronze for Best Mystery and Suspense in the FAPA awards, and he has published two books since.

David lives in London with his boyfriend and two cats. In his spare time, he tours Europe and sings with the London Gay Men’s Chorus.

Find David at his website or on his blog. You can also find him on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn or on Twitter.

Purchase his book here at the U.S. Amazon link for Heroes in Love.

You can also find the book at these international Amazon links: U.K., Australia.

You can also purchase the book at:

http://www.boroughspublishinggroup.com/books/heroes-love

https://books2read.com/u/3G28pL

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/999639

Yes there is a giveaway!

David C. Dawson will be awarding $10 Boroughs Bucks to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win

My favorite excerpt:

Billy was nearly an hour late when he finally rushed down Fulham Road and into the entrance of the Royal Marsden hospital where he ran into a black haired, brown-eyed vision of masculinity. Literally ran into. Publicly crashed into a stunning man wearing a white fitted t-shirt, a linen suit, tan loafers, and stood tall like a catwalk model. Too late Billy skidded to a halt, and into the arms of the handsome stranger.

“I’m so sorry,” Billy blurted out.

The vision of masculinity reached forward and grabbed his shoulders to stop him from falling.

“No problem.” The man looked directly at Billy and held on to his shoulders for a moment or so longer than was probably necessary.

Billy wanted to crawl away and hide in a corner. He had never considered himself a cool guy. The roles he played in soap operas as a sensitive-looking young man with an apologetic, hesitant manner were in truth no more than an extension of his own personality. He was uncomfortable in large social gatherings, and preferred his own company.

But this man with wavy black hair, deep brown eyes, and strong arms was someone he would dearly like to spend more time with. Billy struggled to find a witty phrase, a bright piece of banter to rescue the moment.

“Sure.”

Sure? Billy shook his head at the crassness of his response. The man smiled, dropped his arms, and strode off.

Shit.

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.

y1: new synopsis and my 3 favorite excerpts

I’m talking a close look at my older blogs, making sure that they are up to date and that they represent my earlier novels well. I’ve added my latest book synopsis and placed a few of my favorite excerpts on a page for permanent reference, and thought I would post these improvements as a blog post as well. Enjoy!

y1 is the second novel in the loosely interrelated collection known as 46. Ascending. Each novel tells the tale of an otherwise normal person coming to terms with having unusual abilities. This page contains a short description of the book y1 followed by three of my favorite excerpts from the first part of the novel. To read more, please purchase y1 at at smashwords.com, at amazon.com, or at Barnes and Noble

Zane swore as a child to protect all the odd people of the world, studying chameleons and muscle groups to teach himself to alter his own appearance. No longer a young boy too smart and too different to fit in, Zane starts his first job at a pharmaceutical company where he uncovers layers of corporate secrets that hide surprisingly vile plans. Once he is sent on a sales trip to the South Pacific, it becomes clear that there are those who would kill to protect the mysteries that the company has worked so hard to keep hidden.

Charged with murder and hunted by an unsavory boot camp manager, he finds himself sailing to remote islands with a shadowy group known as y1. As a young gay man sometimes forced to hide his true nature at home, Zane discovers love with a young man of the Pacific whose past and whose talents are every bit as unusual.

Fantasy, reality and speculative science come together as Zane must find a way to use all of his unique abilities to resist turning from a murder suspect into a murder victim. He still plans to keep his childhood promise, if he can only live long enough to do so.

Excerpt 1:

At the end of February, the television kept talking about a bomb which had gone off in the parking garage of some giant building in New York, killing five people. The man on the TV said the bomb had ended the belief that Americans were safe from attack.

His mom had taken him and Ariel to see Aladdin for a second time at the dollar theater because they had both liked it so much. The movie’s hit song, “A Whole New World,” had just made its way into the number one spot on the charts. Zane sang the title to himself. “A whole new world …” He didn’t sing very well, but Zane had liked the movie. He liked all stories about creatures with special powers, and he thought that the genie was really funny.

Zane was glad that no one else was upstairs with him that day as he sang because after Balthazar gave Zane one of his one-eyed knowing looks, his reptilian skin made its first transition from subtle greens and browns to a spectacular bright orange. Zane grinned. He didn’t know what orange meant with other chameleons, but Zane felt sure that it meant that Balthazar was very happy.

Then Zane took a deep breath. Forcing back his fear, he made himself remember that time last summer. That time he had been so scared. Every so often Zane’s dad made him go outside and play with whoever was around, and he had been playing hide and seek with neighbor boys he didn’t really like because they did more mean things than most. On this day, Zane had taken great pains to conceal himself particularly well because he especially did not like to be “it” with these guys.

As the one boy came close to the bushes in which Zane was so carefully hidden, Zane had noticed his bare foot was still sticking out onto the orange-brown soil. He dare not move it now. So he had thought hard about his foot muscles and did his best to flatten the foot tight against the ground, and to hold it very still. While he did this thing, the skin on his foot had started to burn and itch too. Zane looked at it, alarmed at first, and saw that his foot was blushing. At least, it had turned a shade of red orange brown that mimicked the dirt. And that had been his first inkling that he could do more than make his body’s shape twist and warp a little more than most people could. Zane had watched his orange brown foot in fascination while the neighbor boy ran on by.

Afterwards, Zane worried that he had imagined it. But then every so often after that, Zane’s skin would surprise him, just like his muscles had already sometimes surprised him with what they could do. After awhile, he could feel a color change coming, this kind of burning feeling, and he knew what to expect. So he finally figured that he needed a teacher. A wise teacher. Like Balthazar.

Zane watched the chameleon’s orange skin with fascination.

“Can I learn to do that when I want to, wise one?” he asked.

He tried hard to make the feeling inside that he felt when his skin did this all by itself. He concentrated hard on his arm. At first nothing happened. Then, yes. He felt the feeling. He made the feeling. His skin on his arm went from its normal light tan to a tan orange.

“You and I are going to be great friends,” Zane told the chameleon quietly. “You are going to help teach me ways to fight the bullies in this world. And you are the only one who is going to get to know just how really strange I am.”

Zane could have sworn that Balthazar turned even brighter in delight.

Excerpt 2:

Toby was considering whether he should buy more pineapples. Samoan pineapples were consistently tasty and he loved them, but he didn’t want to buy more than he could eat before they spoiled. He was also concerned he had bought more fish than he could eat, but it was too late to remedy that.

He looked behind him and saw a young man with unusually straight jet-black hair and a Polynesian’s round face that held East Asian eyes. A genetic blend of the Pacific Rim, the young man was wandering along the dock near the back of his boat. He was thin and wiry for a local, and looked harmless as he took off his shirt and shoes as though he were thinking of jumping into the water. Toby glanced away, giving himself one last minute to enjoy the sight of the pretty harbor with the older wooden houses and shops framed by the fast-rising hills and dense trees.

He smiled at Aggie Grey’s famous hotel, where yesterday he had been pleased to enjoy essentially the same hamburger as those that the legendary lady had served to America’s servicemen in World War II. You had to appreciate a tourist place that served such good food and had such a fine story to tell. And you had to appreciate a harbor town that in today’s world had maintained a feeling of existing somewhere between the 1800s and the 1950s.

As he nodded to the stately twin spires of the Roman Catholic Cathedral that had guided him in safely between Apia Harbor’s two reefs at least a dozen times over the last few years, he heard a splash that he assumed had been made by the young man going for his swim. He turned and focused on getting the rest of his gear aboard and heading out.

He was just starting his engine, always preferring to use it to get easily in and out of a harbor, when he noticed three stout Samoan men wearing the traditional wrap around lava-lavas marching out towards his boat as though they had just made a decision.

The oldest of the three waved at him and shouted. “Stop your engines. We need to check your boat for a missing boy. We saw him heading out onto this dock.”

“Oh, sure, I saw him,” Toby yelled back as he waved a hand agreeably, pointing towards a shirt lying on the wooden pier. “He jumped in the water here. A little odd, but no harm done. He didn’t bother me.”

“We’d like to make sure he’s not on your boat,” the Samoan persisted as the three men approached the craft. Toby shrugged. “Look for yourself.”

Toby thought, I wonder what happened to the boy’s shoes?

There wasn’t that much looking to do on his vessel. There was seating for up to six above deck, and a cabin with a head and separate shower, a compact galley area and sleeping arrangements for up to five, depending on what was raised or lowered and how. The men boarded without further courtesy, which irked Toby a little. He was sensitive to people walking into his home. One man methodically began opening each of his storage areas above deck, while another descended below and opened the door to the head to reveal a small toilet seat with no one on it.

“I’ve been right here. I promise you he is not onboard,” Toby added with growing irritation, not so anxious to have this bunch of strangers pawing through all his possessions, legal though they were. “Please gentleman, I would like to be on my way.”

The man who had opened the door to the head ignored him, opening the larger storage areas located below deck, starting with those beneath his sleeping and sitting areas. One was filled with kitchen supplies, another held clothes and toiletries, yet another lifejackets. He shrugged to his cohorts.

“We guess he jumped in the water then. Let us know if you see him. He could be dangerous.”

Toby’s dark brown eyes widened. “What’s he done?”

“We don’t know details. He’s one of the young men being kept at one of those special schools for troubled teens here on the island. We have a few of them. These kids are lavished with good care and opportunities to grow into decent adults, but sometimes they don’t realize what they’ve been given, and they try to escape so that they can return to their old and troubled ways. We help the school by returning the misguided ones. He’s better off at this school, believe me. So if he does turn up, do him a favor and let us know.”

“I will. Thanks for telling me.”

Well that was a new one, Toby thought. Maybe these men had a point. He didn’t even realize that there were schools for, what, misguided youth on Samoa? Go figure.

He had just gotten safely past both reefs and was tacking slightly under a nice slow breeze, heading northwest on a course for Funafuti, when he decided to go below and grab some water. A movement caught his eye. The lid to one of the smaller storage areas tucked around in the back of the cabin was opening slowly. Surely a person could not have fit into that space? Toby felt a surge of fear, and looked around for something that might do as a weapon.

He grabbed a knife as the stowaway tumbled to the floor in a mess of ropes. The small young man in the briefest of underwear rose slowly, shook himself as he stood, then turned around, with apology in his eyes, to face Toby.

“I am so sorry about this. And I am so sorry about no clothes. Please do not hurt me. Please.”

Toby took a deep breath and decided to hear the other side to the story.

Excerpt 3:

It was hard not to like Peter Hulson when one actually talked to him in person. In spite of his age he had a liveliness about him, and his still sharp, bright blue eyes were probing but not unfriendly. He shook Zane’s hand warmly, gestured him onto a soft green velvet-covered settee and offered Zane water or coffee. Zane passed, although he wasn’t sure if it was more rude to accept or to decline. He allowed himself an appreciative peek at the surprisingly unobstructed view of Lake Michigan that the top floor provided.

“I’ll get right to the point, young man,” Peter began, drawing his attention back. “It’s well known that I am always seeking bright new young people here, and that I like to mentor them myself. I get a fair amount of grief from my VPs about it being beneath my pay grade, but the fact is that I want my company to not just exist but to thrive for a very long time. The way I see it, that only happens if I can hand the reins over to not one but at least two more generations of focused, brilliant, committed successors.”

A swirl of sorrow came and went from his face so quickly that Zane thought that he might have imagined it. The older man kept talking.

“I’m finding that these brilliant, committed successors are a bit in short supply. But, you’ve landed on our doorstep with excellent grades from an excellent school—did you know that Penthes sponsors a neuroscience scholarship at your alma mater?—and managed to get yourself in a position reporting directly to my director of sales and marketing. Word is that she thinks that you have excellent potential.”

Zane tried to smile appreciatively.

“Excellent potential.” Peter repeated the words for emphasis. “I don’t think there are two finer words in the English language, young man, than ‘excellent potential.’ So I’d like to personally do what I can to, well, encourage you.”

Zane tried to make the smile even more appreciative because he just didn’t know what to say.

“Would you consider a trip to Fiji to be encouragement?”

Okay, he could answer this one.

“Yes. I think most people would.”

The older man chuckled. “Good, good. Brenda and Gil are in the process of putting together a very important conference for us. I have told them to spare no expense. Raju has assured me that we are near approval for our latest R&D endeavor, a specific cocktail of some of our older drugs, designed in such a way as to particularly target the problems of anger and rebellion sometimes found in older children and younger teenagers. We believe that we could save untold numbers of families huge amounts of grief if instead of hostility and even illegal behavior in this age group we could provide a treatment which would result in more mature and acceptable choices being made by these young people. Mind you, the drugs aren’t new, but the combination and the approach are. And this conference in Fiji is designed to introduce our new product in the most favorable light possible. The success of this conference is important to the future of this company.

“So, I’ve okayed sending Brenda to Fiji late this month to do a recon. In spite of you being new, I want you to go with her. Help her with travel and logistics, but also keep your eyes open and your brain on and to help us to find ways to make this little symposium a huge success. Have ideas for us, Zane. Think for us. Will you do that?”

Of course Zane said yes. He said it sincerely and shook the man’s hand and thanked him. Because Zane wasn’t an idiot.

But on the ride back down on the elevator, Zane kept seeing his fourteen-year-old sister Teddie’s face. She had anger. She had issues. More than he had at that age, for sure. But she also had a huge heart and a creative streak a mile wide and Zane really wondered if both Teddie and the world would be better off if some doctor was totally convinced that she should be medicated.