Gravity’s Truth by A.K. Alliss

Gravity’s Truth by A.K. Alliss

A perfect world, at any price.

Miller Frank’s Utopian ideal is not such a good thing for Jimmy Renfro. Charged with fraud, he now works the tube, an atmosphere breaking conduit for the wealthy to travel to the Ouroboros space station, Imago. Within the mysterious station, their personalities are uploaded to robotic shells known as Zeroes.

When Jimmy comes into possession of a briefcase full of data tabs containing the profiles of several influential personalities, it begins a deadly game that may result in his end. Pursued by government and corporate assassins, with not just his own life at stake, but that of humanity, can Jimmy discover the truth about the tabs before he is caught?

Gravity’s Truth is a fast-paced Cyberpunk thriller by the author of Frame and Future’s Orphans.

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

I have been lucky enough to read through the first draft for the third books set in A.K. Alliss’ Ouroboros world hot off of the press. It follows along from the world created in Frame and Future’s Orphans, following the collapse of social structure around the world. The book starts with Miller Frank, a man with an ideal. That ideal is to create a Utopia from Dystopia.
Gravity Truth prisma
Unfortunately for some, Jimmy Renfro included, Utopia doesn’t look all too different to the hard slog the world is trying to break free of. A chance encounter gives Jimmy an opportunity to turn his fortunes around, returning himself to a position in life that he once held. Things never are quite so easy though, as apparently unknown forces seem to stop at nothing to regain possession of the briefcase Jimmy finds himself carrying. The case that could be a return to fortunes, could also see the end of his life.

Once again, Alliss has cleverly and expertly crafted a vivid world. The characters are also well defined so the reader feels a connection to them. As I read through the book, I found myself flip-flopping the way I felt about characters with each new revelation as to their back stories and future intentions. The story is well paced and at no point feels laboured or dull.

When thinking back about the preceding pair of books, Gravity’s Truth is a very different vibe to it. Firstly, this time around Alliss really goes to town playing with the science-fiction elements. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book. Frame and Future’s Orphans always flirted with science-fiction but it definitely plays a much bigger role this time out. This time around, the book feels different as well. The predecessors had a big feeling of loss. There was nothing to fight for, to strive for and aim at. The world was irrevocably changed for the worse, and there is nothing that can be done. But with Gravity’s Truth there is a sense of hope. Frank has hope to make a better world. Renfro also felt hopeful of turning his fortunes around, and building a better life for himself.

Once again, it is clear A.K. Alliss has pushed his writing on another step. He has taken what he has learned from the first two books and used these as his foundation for Gravity’s Truth. It is a fantastic way to expand on the world created, bringing about a new feel to the series. You can find Gravity’s Truth in paperback on Amazon now, and on Kindle from 6th December 2017.

My rating:
goodread

Advertisements

Pigeon-Blood Red by Ed Duncan

Pigeon-Blood Red by Ed Duncan

For underworld enforcer Richard “Rico” Sanders, it seemed like an ordinary job. Retrieve his gangster boss’s priceless pigeon-blood red ruby necklace and teach the double-dealing cheat who stole it a lesson. A job like a hundred before it. But the chase quickly goes sideways and takes Rico from the mean streets of Chicago to sunny Honolulu, where the hardened hit man finds himself in uncharted territory when a couple of innocent bystanders are accidentally embroiled in the crime.

As Rico pursues his new targets, the hunter and his prey develop an unlikely respect for one another and Rico is faced with a momentous decision: follow his orders to kill the couple whose courage and character have won his admiration, or refuse and endanger the life of the woman he loves?

 

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

Pigeon-Blood Red held my attention from the very beginning. The blurb caught my eye, so I had a hunch the tangled mess described would make for entertaining reading. The way it is written added a nice twist for me as well. Too often, we see things from the view of the innocent that are caught up in the mess, or the hunted party. What Ed Duncan has created here is a tense, fast-paced thriller of sorts and told it from the view of the hunter.
9781943549504
More than that, through the progression of the story, we come to learn a little of the background of the hunter, Richard “Rico” Sanders and how it informs his character. It gave reason to why Rico is such a closed off, independant character that seems to exhibit little or no emotion. Yet Ed Duncan has also developed his characters well. The way he has created relationships between his characters and added back stories adds to the emotional investment I felt I had with the main players throughout the book.

Although it became fairly clear how the deceitful ways of one of our victims was going to impact on the innocent parties in the story. Some level of empathy is felt towards Rico, while a sense of karma settles around the victims. The characters are written in such a way that Ed Duncan has lured the reader into feeling specific emotions towards them. The book is fast paced, and flows well thanks to their only being a handful of key characters, keeping things slick and well driven.

Decisions play an important role in Pigeon-Blood Red. Greed afflicts one victim, along with lustful choices. His choices drag his long-suffering wife into his ever-growing problems. An encounter between Rico and his marks’ wife leads to an important decision, with potentially life changing consequences.

In Pigeon-Blood Red, Ed Duncan has crafted a fantastic story with depth and brilliantly developed characters. The story is well paced, never feeling laboured or unnecessary, and the each individual character feels just that – individual. I look forward to seeing how this book ties in with its sequels, and how the main characters interact as they cross paths again.

My rating:
goodread

Red Sun Over Mexico by H. Paul Doucette

Red Sun Over Mexico by H. Paul Doucette

Spring 1942 Washington, DC. The country is recovering from the shock of Pearl Harbour. Everywhere, everyone is ramping up for the coming conflict. Sergeant Paul Jarvis, newly married and returned from his last assignment in Panama, has been informed that he and the rest of CIC has been assigned to California where they will be working with the Office of Naval Intelligence. Intelligence has reported that the Japanese are settings up radio posts and possibly submarine bases in the Gulf of California. They have also indicated that they are doing this with support from a splinter faction opposed to the government and with strong anti-American leanings. It is rumoured that these operations are being run by a Tokeitei agent. Jarvis believes this might be Haito Toshi who led the attacks in Panama. Jarvis and a young ONI agent are ordered to Mexico with orders to capture Toshi…if possible. Problem is, Jarvis still remembers the dead naked body of a young American woman on a bed.

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

As a fan of history, both ancient and modern, H. Paul Doucette’s Red Sun Over Mexico spoke to me. I have ready plenty of fiction based in and around the Second World War. Most of this has been centred around Europe and the UK, and on occasion the United States. I was interested to read something from the American side of the war, more so with it being set in Central America, rather than the Pacific theatre or Europe.
redsunI will confess to entering into this book with slight trepidation. Too often fiction lives up to a bit of a stereotype when written from the perspective – the idea that the war only began with Pearl Harbour and was almost singlehandedly won by American support and intervention. Would this follow that trope? In a word, no. This story begins in the time following Pearl Harbour about the race for dominance between the American and Japanese in Mexico.

With crucial supply lines, shipping routes and Pacific footholds to be gained in Mexico, the Japanese are seeking to set up shop on the Pacific Coast where they can monitor and attack American shipping and disrupt their operations. Meanwhile, an American intelligence agent is dispatched to help units on the ground to disrupt their plans. Agent Paul Jarvis is also out to catch to catch Japanese agent Haito Toshi, a dangerous man that he has tangled with in a previous encounter out in Panama.

Red Sun Over Mexico offers an enjoyable mix of historic events, action, and investigative frustration. The story moves at a good enough pace to keep the book going, without feeling overburdened with unnecessary action or violence. Overall, this was a fun, wartime tale showing a different side of the action.

My rating:
goodread

Friday Face-Off – 30th June 2017

Friday Face-Off – 30th June 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 boat: “The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea, in a beautiful pea green boat…”

I have headed back to the classics for yet another book I haven’t read: Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome.

Cover A:

boat1

Cover B:

boat2

Cover C:

boat3

Cover D:

boat4

Cover E:

boat5

Cover F:

boat6

Cover G:

boat7

And the winner is… A TRIPLE THREAT!

Wow! This week was a hard one for me to call! I have had a few ties, but this is a first for me – three winning covers. And those covers are A, D and E! In A, I loved the cartoonish style that points to a sense of comedy in the story. Cover D, similarly feels like there may be some japery to be found. Cover E, meanwhile just felt fun and jolly, and all three winners this week are tempting me to try this book!

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 planet: “Any planet is ‘Earth’ to those who live on it”.

Friday Face-Off – 23rd June 2017

Friday Face-Off – 23rd June 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 gold: “All that is gold does not glitter”.

This week, the world’s greatest secret agent James Bond makes a reappearanceI’ve chosen the classic novel, Goldfinger.

Cover A:

gold1

Cover B:

gold2

Cover C:

gold3

Cover D:

gold4

Cover E:

gold5

Cover F:

gold6

Cover G:

gold7

Cover H:

gold8

Cover I:

gold9

Cover J:

gold10

And the winner is… cover A!

This was a pretty easy pick for me this week. Cover A feels the most like the opening credits of a James Bond film.

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 boat: “The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea, in a beautiful pea green boat…”

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.

13975376_1086235261466733_931556592892057057_o
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!

fb_img_1456325114135

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.