Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Operation Hail Storm by Brett Arquette

Review by The Mole

"Marshall Hail was a husband, a father, a Physics Nobel prize winner and industrial billionaire. But when Hail's family was killed in a terrorist attack, he became a predator and redirected his vast industrial assets toward one goal"

As an industrialist he opts to build drones and a team to operate them, in order to direct his energies towards his revenge.

I found this to be very much a book of two parts. The first part felt like a game they were playing and it reminded me hugely of a comic book hero from about a thousand years ago. General Jumbo! In those days they weren't 'drones' but 'radio controlled toys'. General Jumbo would set the world to rights each week with the aid of his toys that were operated from a single controller work on one arm. How DID that work?

In the second part of the book the tone, tempo and voice changed and it became far more focused and less like a game. I started to feel more involved and less like a spectator as Hail and his team took on a far more volatile mission.

I would stress that I did enjoy both parts of the story although the change in the second part was very welcome.

This was book one and sets up a scenario where there could be any number of books to follow based on Hail and his crew.

If you are into high-tech thrillers then this is an ideal choice that I'm sure could make excellent TV one day when the series is more mature.

I was donated a Kindle review copy of this book which is self published on lulu.com

Genre - YA action thriller

Friday, 9 March 2018

The Queen of Bloody Everything by Joanna Nadin

review by Maryom

Edie is artistic, bohemian, slapdash. She doesn't care about her daughter's bedtimes, or homework being done, or about eating up your greens. You'd think she'd be the mother that children dreamed of having, but children always want what they don't have, and her daughter Dido longs for a 'normal' family - the perfect mum, dad, 2.4 children set up of glossy lifestyle magazines, but above all a mother who understands the importance of rules and routine in a child's life. Investigating the gate in the back fence of their new garden, Dido thinks she's stumbled into this paradise  - a ready-made family, the Trevelyans; Tom, his sister Harry, and their parents, Angela and David. It's love at first sight for a six year old. As the years pass, Dido's infatuation with the Trevelyans grows stronger, but even Eden had its problems, and Dido's little paradise has its share too.

The Queen of Bloody Everything is Joanna Nadin's first for a adult readership, beautifully written in a first person style which entices the reader in, and a moving look at a tumultuous mother/daughter relationship. With no father figure on the scene to share her love or anger, Dido's relationship with her mother is perhaps closer and more all-consuming than another child's might be, but at the same time she longs for what she sees as 'normal', imagining it to be better than what she has. Fundamentally though, Edie and Dido approach life and family in opposing ways; Edie has spent her life trying to escape the shackles of respectability and parental guidance; Dido craves them.

It's a story filled with nostalgia, particularly for the 70s and 80s, which seen through Dido's child-eyes are simpler, filled with love and the promise of a bright future. Dido's perfect world is based on wishful thinking and the Trevelyans aren't the perfect people she imagines, yet as she grows up and their flaws become apparent, Edie is the person who bears the brunt of Dido's disappointment, anger, and teenage tantrums.

I absolutely loved this book - its intimate, perceptive look at mother/daughter relationships, from the intensity of childhood to a more equal adult friendship, and its believable, attractive yet flawed characters. I'm hoping Joanna Nadin will be writing more adult novels!

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - 
Mantle (Panmacmillan)

Genre - adu
lt fiction, mother/daughter relationships, 

Monday, 5 March 2018

Kaya's Heart Song by Diwa Tharan Sanders - author contribution

illustrated by Nerina Canzi

review by Maryom

As Kaya's mama sits meditating, she hums a little song - her heart song. Kaya wants to join in, have her own song to sing, but, as most children are, is too impatient to sit quietly, so she goes off to play in the jungle.There, she finds a broken-down carousel, and, in bringing it back to life, finds her own heart song too.

Most children are noisy, rushing around playing, not wanting to sit quietly. In Kaya's Heart Song, author Diwa Tharan Sanders encourages them to seek out quiet time, to observe the world around them, and to get in touch with their emotions, while Nerina Canzi's jewel-bright illustrations bring Kaya's world magically to life.

Here today as part of the Kaya's Heart Song blog tour, we have author Diwa Tharan Sanders to tell us more.

"I feel honoured to be able to share my take on mindfulness and children but as I am by no means an expert on the topic, everything offered here has come from personal experience and through conversations with friends. Mindfulness has certainly become a popular topic with children and I hear more and more about schools integrating mindfulness into their curriculum, which sounds absolutely fantastic to me, how I wish I had had those lessons too.

So what is mindfulness? To me, it is being aware of the present moment and tuning inwards with a calm, quiet mind to a state of be-ing and releasing all thoughts of anything else but the now. One of the beautiful things about mindfulness is that in can happen anytime or anywhere, if we allow it to. You could be waiting for the bus, walking through a garden observing the flowers or engrossed doing something you love such as art, cooking, running or you could even be sitting in a busy restaurant waiting for a meal for a state of mindfulness to happen.

When it comes to children, the same mindfulness ‘principles’ apply. Give them the space to pause as it were and allow them to come into a place of quietness and calm. This can create a ripple of positivity for their well-being. I hear the term ‘instant gratification’ being passed around amongst my friends with children and it basically means children (and many adults too, to be fair) today don’t know how to wait. In this current technologically-laden world of instant messaging, ‘instant-gramming’, watching videos on demand and being able to communicate instantly at the touch of a button, we have forgotten the art of waiting. Of noticing and of just being. I personally think that extending time and space to children to simply be with themselves will cultivate more awareness, patience and other sorts of ‘magic’ such as creativity, self-expression and self-discovery. A very real example of this is the process in which I wrote Kaya’s Heart Song.

My inspiration for the story was to write about a little girl who wanted to be happy, because I felt (and still do) that we sometimes forget the importance of following our hearts by unconsciously drowning-out the voice of our hearts living our day-to-day lives the way we’re ‘supposed to’. Thinking about happy hearts, led to the idea of a heart song and it was in discovering my own heart song as I wrote the book, that the theme of mindfulness revealed itself. And so yes, Mama is right in saying, “If you have a heart song, anything is possible. Even magic!”

And it’s finding this magic that I think is the best thing about practising mindfulness. Give your child (and yourself!) space to take the time to feel and listen for the magic that’s in us all. It is found in many different forms: in new ideas, finding new emotions, expressing these emotions, in having the courage to speak up for what you want or love, in being creative and even in simply being happy and content in the moment. Whatever makes your heart sing is mindfulness working its magic.

Here are a couple suggestions of mindfulness practices to do with your child (thank you to my friends who willingly brainstormed some of these ideas with me):

1. The next time your child does something you badly want to discipline them for, be mindful about it. Calm yourself with 10 – 15 deep breaths before explaining to your child why they should take some time alone to be with themselves and think about what they did. Ask them how they feel after.

2. The next time your child asks for your smartphone or gadget to play with, offer them something else like a piece of paper, an empty box or nothing at all and watch what happens. Regardless of how they react, you’re creating a space for them to be with their emotions and essentially express themselves. This also opens their mind to thinking out-of-the-(electronic) box and stimulates their creativity.

3. Set aside joint ‘mindfulness time’, it could be a walk in the park to observe the trees, a colouring activity, sitting down to breathe together in meditation or silence or anything that feels like it would stimulate you and your child.

4. Listen to your heart song. Our hearts are often the truest barometers of how we’re feeling at any particular time. Make a conscious effort to tune in; ‘zoning-in’ instead of zoning-out and take the time to notice what’s going on inside. Sing, hum, whistle, speak, move, tap or drum whatever it is you hear. Self-expression has been for me one of the best ways to connect deeper to my own heart and to feel more mindful.

There are many advantages of practising mindfulness. For me, the most precious one is the love, honour and magic that we give to ourselves when we do so, because this is what then flows out into the world. Mindfulness starts inside, with us all and can be an amazing gift to unravel when we find the time to journey inward. Imagine how incredible it would feel to live amongst those who are creating and sharing magic every single day!"

Diwa is a yoga teacher, Breath of Bliss breathwork facilitator, and owns Tulamala, a brand that makes intuitively-designed mala necklaces and bracelets for healing, happiness and inspiration. Kaya's Heart Song is her first picture book

You can find Kaya's Heart Song here on Lantana Publishing's website

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Dark Space Universe by Jasper T Scott

Review by The Mole

Set in the future (Or is it the past? Or is it just a completely different universe?) this story is, for me, how science fiction used to be. I grew up on science fiction - beyond just Marvel and DC - and just loved the possibilities it creates in the mind. True escapism.

Lucien Ortane is a Paragon, a policeman, of the Etherian Empire. The empire is ruled by Etherus - an immortal who established the empire many generations ago. But what are generations when the citizens of the empire enjoy the same immortality? The empire is boundaried by a red line, beyond which Etherus says it is unsafe to go. But the clerics do not accept everything that Etherus says, and believe he is holding back important information. The clerics are actually scientists who, in turn, have been holding information back from Etherus.

They gain permission to go beyond the red line and Lucien tags along to witness the fact that it can't be done but becomes surprised and starts to wonder if the red line isn't actually a prison wall?

This book sets up the universe very nicely for what could be a very long series of stories with spin offs as well. I kept picturing this as a TV series - one for Netflix perhaps?

If you love SciFi then do give this one a go.

Publisher: Amazon 
Genre: YA/Adult SciFi

Friday, 16 February 2018

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

review by Maryom

Sylvie and Dan seem to be a perfect couple - they've been together ten years, have a happy marriage, twin daughters, and a lovely home. They've grown so close, they can tell what the other is thinking, can finish their sentences, predict their every move. They're looking forward to a long life together  ... till someone mentions that could be sixty-eight years! Sixty-eight years! How can any relationship survive that long, especially when they know each other so well? Suddenly the future is stretching out before - filled with boredom! What they should do, they decide, is surprise each other more often - with unexpected gifts, sexy lingerie, brunch dates, even a new pet - but soon Sylvie begins to think Dan is not so much trying to surprise her, as keep secrets from her.
Sylvie's professional life is also under scrutiny, as the niche museum she works for finds itself being roughly dragged into the twenty-first century.

Surprise Me is the latest stand-alone novel from Shopaholic series author Sophie Kinsella - and a little bit different to her other books. It starts out pretty much as you would expect from a romcom  - light-hearted, with misunderstandings and pratfalls, as the couple try to outdo each other in their attempts to liven up their marriage, but the last third of the book moves into murkier territory as the secrets Dan's been keeping are gradually brought to light. Even so, I really enjoyed it. It's perhaps on the whole, not as laugh out loud funny as other of Sophie Kinsella's work, but that's balanced by a deeper insight into long-term relationships, and the secrets families hide beneath a happy exterior.

Maryom's review - 4 stars 
Publisher - 
Bantam Press
Genre - 
adult, romcom

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Curious Arts Festival 2018 - literary events

The line up for the literary side is headlined by Kate Mosse who, over the last few years has become a best selling author and household name. Clearly, she will be a hard act to follow but Curious Arts is a festival that is up for the challenge. As of today the full author line up is still to be finalised but looking at who has been announced so far I can genuinely admit to getting excited about it.

Adam Kay trained as a doctor but left to start an alternative career in musical comedy, stand-up and script writing. That is some career jump and one that many people would like to emulate. As you can imagine his book, "This Is Going To Hurt" brings his medical experiences into the into the comedy part of his career. He will be talking about this book and I'm sure laughs will be plenty.

Little Grape Jelly have their performance described as "Little Grape Jelly is a poetry collective formed of Lily Ashley, Grace Pilkington and James Massiah. In their project Hell-p Me, three distinct voices come together to explore the benefits and limitations of communicating online. This is their interaction via email and social media, in free verse and other poetry forms. Each performance offers something new as the conversation continues between shows, detailing the ups and downs of life and love in the digital age. Immediate, honest and fleeting, here is what happens when three different worlds collide on one page."
We've all written emails or texts that have had their meaning misconstrued so we can guess how this can progress and I'm sure it will be entertaining. Well worth following this one across the weekend.

Dolly Alderton and her memoir "Everything I know About Love". On Amazon you can do a little "look inside". I did and frankly I believe this is one I must get along to. Humorous yet naive and hugely entertaining. Well worth going along to this event.

Lou Hamilton is an award winning artist and her latest book "Fear Less" is about great innovators - a fascinating topic about people who have shaped our world. Technology rarely evolves along a logical course but moves in leaps out bounds by people who can dream and are prepared to think in different ways - what's not to love about innovators who help to show us a new way to look at ourselves?

Miriam Darlington is a nature writer who will be talking about "Owl Sense", her latest book. I caught some of this on Radio 4 and was, frankly, very intrigued. Owls catch our imaginations in ways other raptors don't - silent night time hunters. But are they really? And owls that burrow in the ground? What's that about? Come along and find out.

Sam McKechnie will talk about "Miss Violet’s Doll House", a gorgeous craft book on the pleasures and methods of dollhouse making. Many years ago I made a doll's house for our youngest. Anyone who has done this will know how it becomes obsessive and you want to do a little bit more and more. This is going to be facinating.

...and these few are a selection only of who have been announced so far with more being announced regularly - both fiction and non-fiction. There will, inevitably, be clashes of timetable with so many things going off at the same time around the site but I hope that my choices won't be part of those clashes.

Monday, 12 February 2018

The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths

review by Maryom

Life hasn't been going well for Ruth Galloway - her mother died not long ago, and, while  everyone around her seems to be embarking on a life of 'happily ever after', her on/off lover Harry Nelson has gone back to his wife. So when Angelo Morrelli, an old acquaintance, asks her to check out some curious finds at his archaeological dig in Italy, and make it a bit of a holiday, she's all too willing to go. In the hilltop village of Castello degli Angeli she finds remains dating back to Roman times but a mystery surrounding events of Italy's more recent past.
Meanwhile, back in Norfolk, DCI Nelson is facing a more pressing danger - the possibility that a newly released offender is out to take revenge.

The Dark Angel is the tenth book featuring forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway, and this time Ruth is taken away from her beloved Norfolk salt marshes to the heat of Italy. I've always loved the descriptions of Norfolk with its seemingly limitless vistas stretching away to the horizon but that's an area I know fairly well and wondered how much I was adding in my own memories of the area. This time, the setting is totally unknown to me but the heat, the narrow streets, village square with cafes and church, and distant views of vineyards were totally brought to life. It isn't all picturesque scenery and holiday fun for Ruth, though. There are threatening messages left at the house she's staying in, Morrelli claims to have received death threats, and the land itself seems unwelcoming, shaking the village with an earthquake!
Ruth's sometimes lover, and father of her daughter Kate, DCI Harry Nelson again plays a large part in the story. He's finding himself torn between his desire to be with Ruth, and the obligations he feels towards his pregnant wife, even if there's sneaking suspicion at the back of his mind that he might not be the child's father.

I haven't read all ten books, and those I've read haven't been in chronological order (!), but I love this series - particularly its blend of personal story and crime. This book is no exception, though there might be a slight more emphasis on the personal side of Ruth's life this time, as she and Nelson try to resolve their feelings for each other. The characters as always are well drawn and believable, even the minor supporting ones, and when the villain is unveiled, there's a satisfying feeling that, if we'd read the hints properly, the reader should have guessed who it was.
And, of course, though each story is complete, the crime solved, and the villain brought to justice, the ongoing Ruth/Nelson relationship continues drawing you into the nest book, and the next...

Maryom's review - 5 stars 
Publisher -
Genre - adult crime