Friday Face-Off – 26th June 2020

Friday Face-Off – 26th June 2020

The Friday Face-Off is a meme originally created by Books by Proxy and now hosted over at Lynn’s Books. The idea is to compare the different covers of a book with each week being a certain theme.

This week’s Friday Face-Off theme is a cover featuring windows: “A house without books is like a room without windows.” For this week’s theme I’ve chosen A. J. Finn’s The Woman in the Window.

And the winner is… COVER B!

Simple and effective, with a slight hint of mystery. It’s as simple as that 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’s theme is a cover featuring tentacles: “The sea brought you.  The sea shall have you back.”

Flow by Clare Littlemore

Flow by Clare Littlemore

A world in tatters. A society where rebellion is not tolerated. A girl desperate to discover the truth. 

Sixteen year old Quin lives in The Beck, a saviour society. Her community has risen from the ruins of a land shattered by Mother Nature. But Beck law is tough. Quin knows that the rules must be followed in order to sustain life in a place where flood waters constantly threaten existence. A single violation could land her in Clearance. 

But some laws are harder to follow than others. And as Quin discovers the horrifying truth, she knows she cannot stay silent forever.

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

Flow is a dystopian novel set in a world affected seemingly by the climate. The Beck is a settlement with strict rules governing society. Rules are necessary to ensure the safety and security of the citizens. Everything is governed – live stock, food production, even the birth of future citizens. A vast wall surrounds The Beck protecting it from the flood waters that frequently threaten the community.

Flow by Clare Littlemore

Following Quinn, we learn about the difficulties of life in The Beck. Though it might be a sanctuary, life is difficult. Every member of the community must show they are contributing to society or be sent to Clearance. Everybody must follow the rules or risk being sent to Clearance. Everyone that serves no purpose is sent to Clearance and is never heard from again. Once a year citizens take part in a test, psychological evaluation and physical test that could see them promoted or moved to different sectors within the community. Quin finds herself leaving the Agricultural Sector to start a new chapter as part of Patrol – the division of citizens tasked with policing The Beck. But during the few short days she spends training with patrol it becomes clear that not everything in The Beck is quite as it seems.

Overall I enjoyed the dystopian world of The Beck with its draconian rules and dark mysteries. That said I did struggle with the core of the story only really coming to light right at the end of the book. I felt the story was progressing to a big reveal that came very late. That frustration, in large part, was of my own making, not entirely realising the book was the first in a series. With that in mind, I would really like to see now where things go for Quin and her compatriots as I did for the most part enjoy the story. All in all, Flow ticked the boxes for a dystopian novel – bleak world, little hope, rebellious elements – to make an enjoyable read.

My rating:

Friday Face-Off – 19th June 2020

Friday Face-Off – 19th June 2020

The Friday Face-Off is a meme originally created by Books by Proxy and now hosted over at Lynn’s Books. The idea is to compare the different covers of a book with each week being a certain theme.

This week’s Friday Face-Off theme is a cover depicting time: “time waits for no man.” This week I’ve selected the H.G. Wells classic The Time Machine.

And the winner is… COVER J!

There were a couple this week that caught my eye including covers A, B, H and I. But given my love for steampunk, J beath them over the line.

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’s theme is a cover featuring windows: “A house without books is like a room without windows.”

Friday Face-Off – 12th June 2020

Friday Face-Off – 12th June 2020

The Friday Face-Off is a meme originally created by Books by Proxy and now hosted over at Lynn’s Books. The idea is to compare the different covers of a book with each week being a certain theme.

This week’s Friday Face-Off theme is a cover featuring a cage or prison: “It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.” For this theme I’ve picked Curtis Dawkins’ The Graybar Hotel.

And the winner is… IT’S A DRAW!

Covers A and C clinch it for me this week. In both, the prison bars look hand drawn which for some reason really caught my eye. Both covers are really simplistic but at the same time they drew me in. It’s definitely an interesting sounding book, one to add to my list.

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’s theme is a cover depicting time: “time waits for no man.”

The Secret Sign of the Lizard People by Kevin E. Buckley

The Secret Sign of the Lizard People by Kevin E. Buckley

THEY ARE RIGHT HERE AMONG US…HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT

When partners in crime-reduction Jerry “Leafy” Green and Bill “Beefy” Goodness — two of the LAPD’s most skilled homicide detectives — investigate the bizarre killing of a fashion model at the Hollywood Sign it soon becomes clear that this murder is part of a much larger conspiracy that threatens not only the people of America, but the entire population of the planet. As the case progresses, they recruit the help of a Jesus-lookalike ufologist, a streetwise Goth graffiti artist, a world-renowned geneticist, a super-nerd cyber investigator, and a fire-and-brimstone inner city reverend. The detectives and their motley crew of improvised freedom fighters must work quickly to take down the tainted global elite and avert the merciless enslavement of humanity that looms large on the horizon.

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

This book is an incredible romp of Hollywood proportions. It’s ludicrous and laugh out loud funny. At its core The Secret Sign of the Lizard People is a buddy cop style story with plenty of to and fro between the two leading men – Jerry “Leafy” Green and Bill “Beafy” Goodness. They make a formidable team that work well and complement each other. They know how to get a job done, but they equally know how to press one anothers’ buttons.

When a glamour shoot goes wrong atop the Hollywood sign, Leafy and Beefy find themselves wrapped up in a riddle. Model N. Emma Johnson seemingly has no enemies, so who would wan’t to kill her? The investigation points to a case of wrong place wrong time when footage shows a seemingly homeless man on the run.

The buddy cop vibe made this into a fun, easy read with the casual relationship between the pair. They dive into the investigation, working to unravel each thread of the mystery. From a random attempt on the life of a homeless man, the attack becomes an effort to silence an eminant expert in his chosen scientific field. A wild conspiracy theory becomes a reality nobody could ever imagine as the case becomes ever stranger with every turn.

The Secret Sign of the Lizard People has been one of my favourite reads this year to date, if not my absolute favourite. It’s mysterious, it’s well written without the endgame being obvious before Buckley reveals the true plot and it is genuinely funny at times. A well written crime novel littered with puns and groan aloud humour, I’d love to see more of Leafy and Beefy in the future.

My rating:

Friday Face-Off – 5th June 2020

Friday Face-Off – 5th June 2020

The Friday Face-Off is a meme originally created by Books by Proxy and now hosted over at Lynn’s Books. The idea is to compare the different covers of a book with each week being a certain theme.

This week’s Friday Face-Off theme is a cover depicting flight: “The Guide says there is an art to flying”, said Ford, “or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.” This week I’ve gone with Prelude to Space by Arthur C. Clarke.

And the winner is… COVER B!

In the week I sat transfixed to the TV watching the Falcon 9 launch, it felt only fitting to look for a cover with a spaceship. I have always been fascinated by space flight. Cover B just speaks to me, it screams of the era of the space shuttle.

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’s theme is a cover featuring a cage or prison: “It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”

Friday Face-Off – 29th May 2020

Friday Face-Off – 29th May 2020

The Friday Face-Off is a meme originally created by Books by Proxy and now hosted over at Lynn’s Books. The idea is to compare the different covers of a book with each week being a certain theme.

This week’s Friday Face-Off theme is a cover featuring a silhouette: “As we drifted away from the Tower Bridge, I saw a single silhouette standing against the bright lamplight.” This week’s book is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

And the winner is… COVER D!

I love the simplicity of this cover. The monochrome cover. The little flashes of red. The design work all nodding to a circus theme. This is a cover that would catch my eye on a shelf in a bookshop.

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’s theme is a cover depicting flight: “The Guide says there is an art to flying”, said Ford, “or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.”

Sanctuary of Lies by Chad Bishop

Sanctuary of Lies by Chad Bishop

There are 4.7 billion searchable sites make up 10% of the web, the other 90% is dedicated to the “Dark web”. Within that environment there is a thriving economy where everything is for sale: Sex, Armies and Code for hire. Well-known companies buy and sell for governments and NGO’s (non-governmental organizations). They appear as a benign legal boutique companies and consultants, but their true purpose is to be the middlemen/cyber lynchpin for these illicit goods and services.​

ISABELLA NUNEZ owns a computer firm in Brooklyn with her lover JACOB COSTA. Accepting her infertility they have a blue nose pit bull called Justice as their “child” and live simple lives as techy nerds. Isabella’s idyllic life is shattered when several days after her lover’s ex-wife, SIMONE JOHNS, reported death, Simone sends Jacob an email to come save their child, he didn’t know they had.

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

The opening of Sanctuary of Lies had me hooked. An act of terrorism with the potential to shut down the skies of the world. I had high hopes for an action packed cyber thriller from that part onwards. Sadly that’s not what I got. I struggled to keep going as the story limped from one thing to the next. The moments of tension were all too predictable, not nearly as tense as they should have been.

From that explosive opening, we hear little more about that subject. It seems to have been all but forgotten, or at least mentioned in different contexts. I struggled to invest myself in the characters. There was little to like or loathe about any of them – the good guys or the bad. They felt somewhat flat and insipid.

I struggled to engage with the plot. For all the tension ramped up at the beginning of the book, the story didn’t deliver. It seemed to meander all over too much. The tense moments weren’t as tense as they should be. Nothing occurred with the sense of urgency the situations merited. The worst part for me came at the end. The only real reference back to the climactic opening was a castaway one liner. It felt a real shame given the potential the book had in the opening.

My rating:

An Interview with Paul Mathews

An Interview with Paul Mathews

Today’s guest author is a “Quite Funny Guy” and has written not one but two comedy thriller / mystery series. The first, the We Have Lost series takes place in a near future United Kingdom and follows the trials and tribulations of government employee and wannabe secret agent Howie Pond. The second series takes place in the fictional British countryside town of Upper Goosing – European Murder Destination of 2015 – a town with an unsettlingly high murder rate that trades on its gory past. This series follows Detective Clinton Trump, an investigator with delusions of grandeur with ego of unimaginable proportions. You’ll find reviews for all of these books here on Books and Beyond Reviews. Today, please join me in welcoming Paul Mathews to the blog!

Books and Beyond Reviews: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Paul. I’ll start with some ice breaker questions to help us get to know the man behind the comedy. First up, if you could choose any two famous people to have dinner with who would they be?

Paul Mathews: As I write murder mysteries, I’ll choose one living and one dead person, if I may. In terms of the deceased, it would have to be my favourite author, Douglas Adams, because he was a unique talent with such a surreal sense of humour. Douglas also loved food which would mean that if he was throwing the dinner party, I’d be guaranteed an excellent meal, as well as a steady stream of after-dinner anecdotes. Someone who’s still able to eat dinner? Maybe Greta Thunberg, because nobody like her has come along before and made such an impact at a young age. She’s also very tiny, so if I was paying, the bill would be manageable!

BaBR: If you could hang out with any cartoon character, who would you choose and why?

PM: Dangermouse was one of my favourites when I was a kid. Along with his trusty sidekick, Penfold, there were a formidable crime-fighting team. And they were funny, but not always in a predictable ‘Tom and Jerry’ slapstick way. They could probably solve some of my murder-mysteries a lot quicker than Detective Clinton Trump!

BaBR: I was always fond of a bit of Dangermouse. Classic, comedic crime-fighting capers! If you could see one movie again for the first time, what would it be and why?

PM: I saw the original Terminator movie on a VHS recorder when my brother’s friend brought it round during some exam revision (I think that’s what happened – we’re talking more than 30 years ago). Initially, I was only half-watching it – it was during the day and my parents were at work, so it was on in the background. But I started to become fascinated by the Terminator character. There was just so much tension, it was amazing. And it has that whole ‘Can mankind make it?’ thing going on. Very appropriate, given the world’s current predicaments.

BaBR: Would you rather travel back in time to meet your ancestors or to the future to meet your descendants?

PM: As I don’t have any direct descendants (I only have a cat and dog and they’ve both been neutered!), I guess it will have to be time travel to the past. I’d be interested in visiting a brewery that my father’s grandfather and great-grandfather ran in Surrey in the mid-19th-century – purely because I’d get free beer!

BaBR: And now, the final question before I move on to talk about your books. Who is your favourite author?

PM: I’ve already mentioned Douglas Adams so I suppose my next favourite author is me..! As I never tire of saying, I’ve read all my novels at least ten times and thoroughly enjoyed them all. It may sound odd but I still laugh at all my jokes. I do forget some of what I’ve written and they are the best laughs. It’s a bit like going back in time to when you wrote them. Your past self can really surprise your future self

BaBR: When you set out to start writing, did you always know that it would be comedy thriller / mystery novels, or did you eventually arrive at the genre?

PM: I wrote some short murder-mystery plays for amateur groups before I started on novels, as well as two full-length comedy plays, so comedy mystery / thrillers seemed the most natural genre for my books. I’ve always been interested in comedy writing since I was at school. Sadly, back then, there were zero opportunities for people like me. But self-publishing via Amazon opened up the world of novel-writing to me. It was a natural progression from playwriting and that previous experience means snappy dialogue is one of my strong points.

BaBR: Of Clinton Trump and Howie Pond, which do you identify with the most?

PM: The character of Howie Pond is definitely who I identify with the most. He has elements of my personality (I was always fond of popping to the pub at lunchtime for a Guinness!) and I worked as a UK Government press officer for 16 years, so a lot of what Howie Pond has to suffer in the ‘We Have Lost’ series as a presidential spokesman is loosely based on those experiences. I probably share Clinton’s general lack of patience with the world. I think we all think of ourselves as undiscovered geniuses, so maybe that as well!

BaBR: With two series under your belt, will your next book be something different, or do you have plans to carry on the tales of Clinton or Howie?

PM: I’ve decided to write a completely different comedy novel for my next effort. Entitled ‘An Accidental Royal Kidnap’, it will be a mystery of sorts but it’s more of a modern comedy adventure. It will follow a week in the life of recently-dumped London schoolteacher George Nearly after he finds a real-life princess face down on his living-room rug the morning after his 39th birthday party. You will see everything from George’s point of view and won’t know what anyone else is thinking or feeling – other than what George perceives that to be – which adds to the general sense of confusion about what is going on. It will include all the usual pondering on life, the universe and everything that my other novels include but this time it will be firmly based in modern-day reality. Well, not completely – there won’t be a global pandemic for George to contend with but apart from that, it will be the real world.

BaBR: Do you envisage any future books breaking away from the comedy thriller / mystery genre, and if so, what other genre would you be keen to try your hand at?

PM: As a Douglas Adams fan, comedy science-fiction would be the natural choice. I did a lot of planning for one, a couple of years ago, but dropped it eventually because I just couldn’t generate enough enthusiasm to write it. I think, once you’re established as a writer in a particular genre, it’s best not to travel too far from your literary home. And outer space is probably a little too far for me.

BaBR: Have you drawn events in either book series from anything in particular from your life or things you have heard, or have they all been entirely thought up?

 PM: I drew on my experiences of working in government, where there are lots of self-important people who often border on incompetence, while the smarter people tend to pick up the pieces. A small number of characters are also based on people I worked with in that environment. But the storylines are all completely original. ‘We Have Lost The President’ was a good choice of title for a first novel and after the election of Donald Trump as US president I think it’s the kind of scenario – a president going missing – many people would like to see happen in the real world!

BaBR: Thank you for taking the time to answer my weird and wonderful questions and I look forward to whatever your next book may be!

Friday Face-Off – 22nd May 2020

Friday Face-Off – 22nd May 2020

The Friday Face-Off is a meme originally created by Books by Proxy and now hosted over at Lynn’s Books. The idea is to compare the different covers of a book with each week being a certain theme.

Things look a little different today! I am playing around with the new WordPress editor, and trying something different for the layout of the covers. Let me know if you prefer this to the old layout that showed one cover under the previous.

This week’s Friday Face-Off theme is a cover featuring a cabin: “It is good to know that out there, in a forest in the world, there is a cabin where something is possible…”. For this theme I’ve gone with Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

And the winner is… COVER E!

Another classic I’ve not read but am very aware of. Cover E is really quite powerful. It really encapsulates the time period for me, and the life experienced by those in slavery.

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’s theme is a cover featuring a silhouette: “As we drifted away from the Tower Bridge, I saw a single silhouette standing against the bright lamplight.”