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.”

Guest Post – J.M. Richardson

Guest Post – J.M. Richardson

So just a few short days after sharing my very first Guest Post from the fantastic A.K. Alliss, I have the great pleasure of bringing you my second post. Today, I would like to welcome back an author of four books, someone who is an old friend here at Books and Beyond having had two of his brilliant books reviewed here and having kindly sat down with me for an interview as well. I present to you author of The Apocalypse Mechanism and The Barataria Key – J.M. Richardson. Today, he presents us with a post on writing. Or more specifically writing a sequel soon after the launch of the prequel, and the work that goes in to a book whose main location is not one familiar to the author.

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So I’m writing a new book. I almost forgot to. My newest novel, The Barataria Key, was released on December 21st, and as you might imagine, I was elated. It was my fourth full novel, and the second in its own series. That feeling never gets old—the excitement over a new release and the anticipation of how it will be received. Still, I hunger every day for new feedback, reviews, and the chance to talk about my stories with readers. Sometimes, however, you get to a point where you’re so caught up in promotion, social media, and in-person events that you have little time to actually write. At some point in the last couple of months, I realised that I’m going to need another instalment in this series. I forgot. That was a terrible feeling because I knew full well that this book was going to take at least a year to write, and once that manuscript is delivered to my publisher, so many other things have to happen. I have to wait for the contract, and then edits begin. That takes quite some time because there are other books in line for their own edits. This takes months. Then we get into the fine tuning. They’re editing, I’m editing, we’re approving each other’s changes, and we haven’t even begun to talk about cover art, cover reveals, proofing, galleys, and typesetting. Imagine my anxiety to realise that from that moment, a new James Beauregard novel would not make it to readers for at least a year and a half. So I set to writing.

I remember when I had only one book. It was easy to say, “Hey, read my book”. It was a fresh story. A reader didn’t need to know anything prior to it. There were new settings and characters, fresh from my imagination. But when I wrote the next book, a frightening thought occurred to me. How do I get people to read the second book if they didn’t read the first? That thought was terrifying. It seemed like my market had just shrunk from literally everyone (potentially) to the relative handful that had read the first story. So I had to look to other storytellers on how to make this work.

It’s pointless to ignore how much influence I take from Indiana Jones. Sometimes I hate to admit it. I know it’s not literature. I wish I could say I was molded in the pages of Hemingway or Tolstoy; something classy. But I loved Indy as a kid. It was fun, and it sparked my imagination. I found myself in another time and in another place. Even when I wasn’t watching, I obsessed about ancient civilizations and faraway lands. That’s when I started writing stories of my own. I always say that reading (and writing for me) allows you to travel for the price of a book. One thing the Indy movies taught me was that you could watch any one by itself and still have fun. You could start with the second or third, and go back to the first. It didn’t matter. It was perfectly clear that there was a common back story, and it surfaced in every new movie. The viewer is reminded of it in common, but subtle ways, and you still get to enjoy the new adventure. They were all loosely connected along the line; stand-alone but part of a chronological story line. That’s what I did with The Barataria Key as a continuance of the story from the original book, The Apocalypse Mechanism.

Each book can stand alone even as I hint at situations from the previous book. There is an underlying narrative that continues with some mainstay characters and background story. An example would be the loss of James Beauregard’s family. It was quite central to his character development in the first book, and so it had to be present in the second. It’s part of who he is. But if you didn’t read the first book, I had to drop that into the story through dialogue, both internal and external. It works, and if you read the first one after, then great. But it doesn’t take away from your experience to read them out of order.

I would say that to some degree, one of those commonalities that give each stand-alone book some voltage from release to release is setting. The city of New Orleans, Beauregard’s home, is a character in itself. The city bursts with trumpeting jazz riffs on some molasses-slow French Quarter street and fragrances of a gumbo roux someone is nurturing around the corner. But just as New Orleans is present in each book, James finds himself exploring the mysteries and forbidding shadows of human history. From ancient cults in The Apocalypse Mechanism to secret societies and Mayan mystique in The Barataria Key, he ends up in locales that lend a different set of flavours to the story.

I have always been a bit of an Anglophile. As a kid interested in history and anthropology, medieval England fascinated me, followed later by other eras of interest. I swoon over thoughts of how people lived in distant times and places. I obsess. I’m the type of person that could spend all day in a single museum or historic town just marveling over artifacts and buildings, trying to imagine life for those people way back then. I don’t know why England interested me so. Maybe it was the common language, despite the sprawling distance. Maybe it’s in my DNA. The ancestors of my namesake can be traced to early fifteenth century Hertfordshire, in the tiny town of Westmill. Nevertheless, I could not wait to visit, and last year I did for the first time.

My time in London was one of the greatest travelling experiences of my life. I made sure to experience all that I could, from visits to the British Museum to enjoying pies and pints at some of the most colourful pubs in the city. I hit the big attractions in Westminster and the Tower. But I was sure to duck into the alleys, and hunt down nearly forgotten sections of the old city wall. I visited the location of William Wallace’s execution. I viewed the historic books and documents in the British Library. I have officially fallen in love with the city. As I sat to begin the next chapter in James Beauregard’s adventures, I needed him to be far from New Orleans, as the last book hit far too close to home. What better place to carry on his story than in London?

It helps me to set a book in a place that I’ve visited. I’m from the New Orleans area, I’ve been to Galveston, Texas many times, and I’ve seen the Mayan World, so these were natural places for me to set The Barataria Key. I do write about places I’ve never visited, but that’s where research comes in. I want the historical references and locations to be factual, at least in foundation. I always imagine that I’ll look like a fool if I get it wrong. There will always be that person who pulls up Google while reading my books, and I want to be prepared for that. But I also research because I personally want to know. I want to know as much as I possibly can about anything and everything that piques my interest. For years, I dreamed of visiting London. I read full histories of the city, how it’s laid out, how it grew, and who influenced it. I wanted to know the neighbourhoods, especially as I was about to travel there. I wanted to know the Bayswater area in which I would stay. I studied the Underground maps and how to get around. I sought out maps and researched little-known churches and museums. I wanted to drink where Dickens did. I wanted to see an altar where Richard II prayed and a chamber once occupied by Edward I. I walked the streets. I conversed with the people. I took in the culture.

This next book will be a testament to my love affair with London, its history, and its people. James will not have as leisurely of a time there as I did. I only hope that I can do it justice. Either way, at the end, I’ll raise a glass and toast this fine city. I’ll clink a pint glass with Beauregard and enjoy the renewed adventure inspired by yet another amazing city. Cheers.

Guest Post – A.K. Alliss

Guest Post – A.K. Alliss

In a new feature to my blog, I am pleased to welcome A.K. Alliss, author of Frame, to Books and Beyond Reviews as my first ever guest post. I had the pleasure of reading Frame, which I reviewed here. In this post, he discusses the period of time running up to the launch of a new book. So without further ado, welcome A.K. Alliss!

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Releasing a book traditionally, in a lot of ways, is a game. It’s a game of patience, of nail-biting worry and sleepless nights. To the new author, the world and characters that they have created are everything, but to everyone else, they are undiscovered, unknown and largely, unimportant. While that might sound pessimistic, the author will reach a point where they’ll have to posses a fairly pragmatic attitude when considering expectations of success.

Transitioning from an independent to traditionally published author is an exciting, yet daunting and lengthy process. It’s quite humbling to be confronted with the staggering amount of effort that actually goes into a title’s release when done the old fashioned way. Instead of relying on your own humble experiences to guide you, you are now being led by the practiced eye of those that have been there and done that, perhaps long before you had ever considered writing a book.

I was fortunate in the fact that I had a very collaborative publisher in Atlas Productions for my first published novel, Frame.  Today’s authors have to be marketing savvy, this was something that I thought I knew about only to receive schooling to the contrary. Genre, demographics and the most effective conduits to promote your work are all things that have to be considered. This is where the value of having a publisher was, I found, invaluable. It is no longer enough for an author to rely on the vagaries of social media to promote their work successfully. That avenue, while sometimes beneficial, does not present a lot of follow through traffic to your product.

That’s right. I said product. Because, while your lovingly crafted story containing plot A and protagonist B might mean the world to you, this is an age of consumerism and your work has now become a part of that. You have to step away from your passion and your creativity and start thinking about the best way to reach customers. The love and celebration of your literary brilliance can come later, but right now, you have to get people fired up about what you’ve written without sounding as if you are.

Ever tried to write a blurb? It’s actually harder than writing the book to be honest. Condensing a solid plot into a paragraph will have you breaking into a cold sweat when you’re used to having no limit to word count. The first couple of attempts ended in what resembled an essay, but slowly and surely (with guidance from my publisher) I was able to do it. Reviewing the blurb, you wonder if you have missed something crucial that will relay what the story is about, but you have to let that go. Hopefully, that one short description of your months of work will have to suffice.

Finally, if you haven’t stressed yourself to an early grave by the time it happens, you hit release day and this is where you really have to brace yourself. Yes, it’s a time filled with a mixture of pride and cautious optimism, of relief that you have made it there. But. Once you’ve had a moment to congratulate yourself, don’t even think about resting on those laurels. Get up soldier, there is still work to be done. If you want your novel, your baby, your love to go the distance you have to keep marching beside it, supporting it in any new and creative ways that you can conjure.

The finish line is not distinct. In my opinion, there is no finish line. For me, release day marked another part of a journey that has no end. I can’t ever forget about my novels. I can’t ever release the memory of everything that I’ve accomplished by creating and displaying my dreams. Even when I start writing something new, I still have to hold onto the feelings surrounding what it meant to write what has gone before. I feel that every part of anything that you have ever written should remain important forever. To you, but more importantly, to your readers. Because that’s where the real value of a book lies.

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.”

The Breakdown by B.A. Paris

The Breakdown by B.A. Paris

If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

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

A dark, frenetic psychological thriller, The Breakdown is an emotional roller coaster. B.A. Paris won critical acclaim from her best selling book Behind Close Doors, and returns with this thriller set in the British countryside. Cass leads a normal life as a teacher, living with her husband Matthew. She cares deeply for her friends and her family. She has given much of her time to care for her late-mother who was struck down with early onset dementia. Before the murder that turns everything upside down, life was on the up. Cass returned to work after the loss of her mother, and married Matthew. But she always worried about the risk of early onset dementia striking her down before her time.
thebreakdown In the run up to the murder, Cass had been forgetting things. Nothing of consequence, nothing worse than the sort of things any of us might forget on a day to day basis. But as the darkness brought on by the murder threatens to envelope her, she begins to forget more and more, each forgotten item or act become slowly more ominous. She begins to worry that dementia is making its presence known. But as events progress, not everything is quite what it seems.

Nothing is obvious as the tension mounts throughout the book, and that’s what makes it such a fantastic read. The fear and confusion worsen as Cass spirals into an ever deepening sense of paranoia and terror at the prospect of dementia while still in her thirties. So sure that her forgetfulness is entirely down to the condition, she cannot begin to conceive of any other possible outcomes. Something is amiss, but the book is so well written that for the majority of the story neither Cass nor the reader can explain the goings on with any real certainty.

B.A. Paris keeps the tension bubbling just beneath the surface the whole way through the story. Twists and turns abound, without feeling silly or over board. All too often the outcome in a whodunnit style story can be seen very early on. I found that The Breakdown kept you guessing along with Cass until she solves the mystery surrounding her deteriorating memory and the murder of an innocent young woman.

My score
4.5

Friday Face-Off -3rd February 2017

Friday Face-Off -3rd 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 hotel: “Welcome to the Hotel California! Such a lovely place. Such a lovely face. Plenty of space at the Hotel California.”

There is only one fictional hotel that really came to mind for me this week. Welcome to The Overlook Hotel, please enjoy your indefinite stay. Our residents have been here for years! Yes that’s right, this week I chose Stephen King’s classic – The Shining.

Cover A:
hotel1

Cover B:
hotel2

Cover C:
hotel3

Cover D:
hotel4

Cover E:
hotel5

Cover F:
hotel6

Cover G:
hotel7

Cover H:
hotel8

Cover I:
hotel9

Cover J:
hotel10

Cover K:
hotel11

Cover L:
hotel12

Cover M:
hotel13

And the winner is… cover I!

I think a lot of people would naturally go for one of the covers featuring the hotel. For me, however, the winner is hands down cover I. It is entirely relevant to the story, if only a seemingly minor part, and beyond this point-this is the cover my copy has.

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 will be looking for a cover featuring a diamond or diamonds: “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend!”

Frame by A.K. Alliss

Frame by A.K. Alliss

How far would you go to save someone who was already dead?

Hidden in the frame of a single photo, a content producer for social media sensation, Mathew Albrecht, discovers his possible ties to a global terrorist organisation. Could her client’s involvement also be linked to the death of her husband years earlier or is it something entirely more sinister in nature?

What is revealed may eclipse everything that she thought she knew, forcing her to confront the ghosts of her past in her pursuit of the truth.

Frame is a genre-bending thriller, set in a world poised on the brink of insanity.

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

When I received a message through this blog from the author, asking if I would be interested in reviewing his new book, as ever I looked straight at the synopsis he included. Often I find myself thinking “that sounds interesting/fun/different, I’ll give that book a try”. This time, I was really hooked by the description. Frame struck me as being a timely and relevant book given the current world climate, so couldn’t wait to get on to reading this book.
frame-front-cover-med-resAnd I can firmly say I was not disappointed. Set in Alliss’ homeland of Australia, the events within Frame could easily happen anywhere in the world. The country, and the world beyond it, sits on the brink of utter turmoil thanks to disease and terrorist threat. Where civilisation lives on, so too does the vanity of the rich and famous. Here, we meet Hannah, a content producer, working on the social media portfolio of internet starlet, Mathew Albrecht.

In the midst of all the typically-vacuous self-centred content she is used to seeing, one image shakes her to her core. In one of the image frames she works on, a logo catches her eye – the logo of a terrorist organisation that her husband gave his life fighting against in the army. With just one image, Hannah’s life turns upside down as this chance encounter sends her on a journey; a journey to uncover the truth about the death of her husband, to uncover Albrecht’s involvement with the shady organisation and what exactly this global terrorist threat has in store for the world.

As per the description, Frame really is a genre-bending story. The book spans crime, thriller, action with elements of sci-fi thrown in for good measure. It may well be set in a version of the future, but a lot of the themes could quite plausibly occur. All around the story builds tension towards the end game. This, however, was my one and only niggle with the story – the ending. It did feel a little abrupt, not entirely ending the main character’s stories. Not that the main storyline needed that, but it might have been nice after getting into their backstories. Alliss has produced a tense, fantastic read in Frame, with a number of nods to the world we live in now and a possible destination that we might be heading towards.

My score
4