Sealed With A Death by James Silvester @JamesSilvester1 @UrbaneBooks #LoveBooksTours #politicalthriller #thriller #espionage #newreview #newbook

Sealed With A Death
By James Silvester
Rated: *****

 

I am pleased to be starting off the blog tour for Sealed With A Death by James Silvester.

Sealed with a Death poster

About the Author

James Silvester’s debut novel and sequel, Escape to Perdition and The Prague Ultimatum, reflected his love both of central Europe and the espionage genre and was met with widespread acclaim. His new series features strong female protagonist Lucie Musilova, a character fully reflective of Europe’s changing cultural and political landscape. James lives in Manchester.

Blurb

Still new to the top-secret Overlappers intelligence team, and on her first `hit’ alone, Lucie Musilova has an attack of conscience and nearly botches the operation, taking a bullet wound before finishing off her target. Though her injuries are minor, she is chastised for her carelessness and assigned desk duties. Here she investigates a number of disappearances of European women from Britain – the women all missing without trace until the body of one is discovered, raped and murdered. Lucie learns that tens of women have disappeared, all with little investigation. As she digs deeper she begins to uncover a terrifying international conspiracy that potentially threatens not just her life, but to topple Governments….  
Sealed with a Death Book Cover.jpg

Review

I firstly should mention that cover. It is strong and very well designed and is very effective for what is inside the pages.

This book has got to be placed up there in one of the most current book in fiction there currently is. All fiction has elements of the non-fiction, it grounds everything and keeps it realistic. This book certainly does all of that very well. We just need to turn on the news and still, almost everyday, a large proportion of it is not just politics, but Brexit within Britain. James Silvester writes very well and at excellent pace, in conveying what is happening and mixing it with his fictional, strong female character Lucie Musolova, who works within the world of espionage and assassination, and yet has to also reconcile this with the fact she has a faith.

What sets this book apart from some political thrillers, except the sheer current political profile it builds up, is the pace, kept up by the conciseness of the writing and the range of topics, which is enough to keep readers interested and adds to the intrigue as to what could happen next. From the opening paragraph, the atmosphere has been set as the scene then builds, which all pulled me in and I am certain would pull in other readers fast. For a political thriller, this is no mean feat. Politics can be and is often interesting, I think so anyway, after all, it affects everyone’s lives, either positively or negatively, but for a fictional book to immediately draw attention takes skill.

Lucie Musilova is an assassin and I have to say, a likeable one. She is part of the Overlappers Intelligent Team and within the book readers enter the world of trafficking and exploitation and politics. She is a strong woman, but certainly human and seems to have a heart to an extent, which I like. She makes mistakes, some big ones however, such as nearly putting an operation into jeopardy by making a misjudgment. The story then ups the thriller element again when women across many countries in Europe start to disappear, Kasper Algers, an Independent MP disappears and there’s still the case as to what happened to Ines Aubel. Readers are also taken into the world of brothels and further into the world of espionage and fake passports.

I have to say, I was impressed by not just how current this book is, but also the calibre of writing, considering the time it takes to write a book, especially well and how politics moves along at the moment.

The book takes us to the far right of British politics and also to France where there’s the Gilet Jaune movement and the author takes this element into Britain. There’s also a focus on the everyday prejudices, pay as well as the cuts to police resources.

A clever thing happens within the telling of this story in that Lucie decides she has to work with Brexit hardliner: Labour’s Amber Robyn because she sits on the Home Affairs Select Committee and opposed brothels, even though Lucie doesn’t necessarily agree with her stance on Brexit. I like how there is a professionalism portrayed between these two characters. Again, I couldn’t help but still be swept up into this well conceived story.

The language and tone of all the characters is believable, there’s no holding back!

Whether you’re a Remainer or Leaver, this is a very good read with the ingredients for a thriller, set upon a current political backdrop, working very well together. This is the second book within this series. The first being Blood, White and Blue. This book can be read as part of the series or stand-alone, which is good from beginning to end.

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The Hangry Hamster by Grace McCluskey A short, action-packed book to engage and excite. #GraceMcCluskey #seansteele #damagedproductions #hamsters #education #kidslit #libraries #bookshops

The Hangry Hamster
By Grace McCluskey
Rated: ****

About the Author

The author Grace McCluskey is not your average author by any means. She wrote The Hangry Hamster, aged 8 years old. She is now a little older than this, but still somewhere between that childhood and young-adult stage in life. The story was originally written for the 500 word competition ran by Radio 2. She did not win and naturally became disappointed. She, however did not give-up entirely and with going through all the usual editing processes etc, illustrator Sean Steele got on board and the book was published this summer and is already doing well.

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Review

Today on my blog, I am delighted to present a review of The Hangry Hamster. I had the privilege of reading the Hangry Hamster pre-publication and knew as soon as I saw it, there was something really good and exciting  about it. I am happy to say I have been proven right and it has now been published with success.

The story introduces readers to Billy who wants a hamster and the fun the two of them have to of them have as they go everywhere together. That is until the hamster can’t go on a plane when Billy is going on a holiday abroad with his family. The hamster then goes on the run through London like no hamster has ever before and it turns out to be quite an adventure and readers will really see what happens when a hamster becomes hangry.

The front cover is brilliantly executed of a huge hamster towering over some famous London landmarks. It’s bright, fun and eye-catching. As an adult who works with every age, this is a book that excites me for children. The story is packed full of action, humour and the relationship between human and pet. The illustrations are brilliantly conceived and go along with the story incredibly well and the story really becomes alive.

I also really like this concept of bonding with a pet and becoming inseparable. The shift in pace works really well when the hamster becomes “hangry”. 
The illustrations are brilliantly conceived and go along with the story incredibly well and the story really becomes alive.

It’s great for a range of children, such as those who like to be read to, readers who are competent readers and enjoy reading alone, readers who are perhaps a bit reluctant. It’s short at 24 pages and there are illustrations on each page as well as a well constructed story.

This is a new story to really become excited about for children and would be an excellent addition to any library, and on your own shelves and is already in bookshops and selling fast. So, give new authors a chance and give this book a try. I reckon your child(ren) won’t be left disappointed. Even if you find it to be sold-out, I would still recommend you put in your request so you have a copy when it is back in stock.

The Influence of Music within books, writing and more

A Short Essay of The Influence of Music within Books, Writing and More

music notes    book clipart

I, these days find rooms can sometimes be too quiet, so I was listening to some music on Spotify that got me suddenly thinking of music, film and books. Not least because as I was randomly looking, up came an option called “Reading Soundtrack”. It is theme tunes and incidental music to listen to whilst reading. I have found it fills the room with nice music, but with no words, all just instrumental, which means writing and reading can still be concentrated on, and yet there’s now no complete silence. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I like complete and utter, blissful silence or I need it to concentrate at a different level on something. Other times, it is just good to have a music filled room and get on with things so the mind doesn’t wander onto a million other thoughts. I like music in general, we all have particular songs that generate different memories and emotions or can conjure something quite exquisite up in the imagination. Music is a powerful medium, whether it is instrumental or is in song. We all have favourite pieces and those pieces that just get on our nerves. Music can conjure up memories for some; sometimes bad, sometimes sad, sometimes deep joy, sometimes a brightness. We also have pieces that we know so well, that it can drift into the room and into our subconscious that we can work and have a music-filled room without it being a distraction.

So, the Spotify Reading Soundtrack has 54 (at time of writing) relaxing tunes on it. To name a few books that became films and have music on this soundtrack – it begins with The Boy Who Flew Away, there’s also Mocking Jay, Jane Eyre, Christopher Robin, Spiderman, A Testament of Youth, Lord of the Rings, The Maze Runner, Game of Thrones, Schindler’s List, Band of Brothers, Geisha, Cinderella, The Imitation Game, Cloud Atlas and many others. All are peaceful enough to use whilst reading or writing. It really is worth a listen to. I cannot claim to reading all the books, nor to have seen all the films that are mentioned in this soundtrack, but they are all peaceful and have an air of calm about them. There’s no need to concentrate on the music, instead concentrate on the work you do and the music does the rest as it penetrates through the mind, but without piercing into it and envelopes you in a peaceful embrace of music notes without you having to think of it. All you have to do is think about the real task in hand. I have written short stories (3 got published), all with music on at various points in the process, I have written a few blogs with music on and done the more mundane things such as ironing with it on. You just find what is right for you and the tunes and songs that you most enjoy.

music notes

In September 2018 I wrote a blog about Music within Books and Music to Die For off the back of a panel I had watched at the Morecambe and Vice Festival. It shown that musical influences are being used more in books. More than what I had really thought about. 

Alan Parks uses 70s music such as Small Faces and David Bowie for the cultural scene in 1970’s Glasgow.

Joe Thomas has music references that are used to categorise different parts of his book in some ways, for themes of political, joy and melancholy that are infused into his first novel, “Paradise City”, which is set in Sao Paolo.

Hugh Fraser has music in Stealth that is set in the 1960’s that create the right atmosphere for the time period of the club, especially, that features within his book.

Joanne Harris has music in BlueEyedBoy, which gets mentioned at the beginnings of each chapter, which sets a certain tone.
book clipart
The above list just names a few. There is music mentioned in children’s books, young adult books, adult books. There are numerous non-fiction books about music as a genre or about its creators, whether it is the artist, the composer, singer etc.

Music can play a vital part within some books, in setting the scene and/or atmosphere. There are many films that are written from books. Within many of the films there is music throughout, it creates a sense of time and place sometimes. Take a period piece, say, any of Jane Austen’s books for example, there are many dances within the season. Music gets mentioned and watching the tv dramatisation or film versions and there it is as it would have been. So, sometimes music can be very deliberate, would be a bit odd to read about a dance or watch one without hearing the music (since this was before the era of silent disco of course). Other music can be used as incidental music or to create a certain mood or to build up tension. Done well in film/tv or written well in books, it can have a good desired effect and can fill the imagination even more as the mind’s eye for the written word creates the scene or when watching, can tense up the body and have you on the edge of your seat or make you think how lovely a scene is. This can also be true of the stage. Of course in a musical, there’s music and song to convey the story, it’s obvious, but take plays for example too, okay there’s not often song, but sometimes there can be music, to create the atmosphere and/or a scene or give even more of the sense of a time era, whether it is past or present. Often, but not always, music is used in the form of characters listening to a radio, so it can also be used as an activity within that character’s day. The music however always appears to be carefully selected, so it fits and that’s the same for film and tv.

In both the written and the spoken word, music can create different emotions, when done well. When it isn’t done well, however, it can become too much or so grinding that the viewer no longer feels the flow of the music and acting working in harmony, or reader can either become too bogged down in the music that the atmosphere is lost.

The thing is however, that music spans into everything. Music is a universal language. For decades there have been music festivals showcasing all sorts of genres, from pop to rock and classical to folk and can be read about and listened to on so many platforms. Whatever the genre, the art form, it has this innate ability to partnership with it all to enhance a story or be a medium inwhich the story itself is told in. It has become such an important part of global culture within everything we watch or read or do. Music is many things to many people and has so many topics within it, that it can present itself on the stage and within books as part of the story that is being told. Music itself is a story being told. Music itself is subjective, but then, so are the books you read, the tv and films you watch and the stage musicals and plays you see, which also assists its ability to be within every other art form too.

I will digress slightly for a moment, take a painting or a photograph of an orchestra or just a solo piano or a guitar. We may not actually be able to hear the music being played – it’s a painting after all, but the majority of us know what these instruments sound like, so can imagine it, so even in something like a painting, music can sometimes still be part of the story being told.

When I think about it, all music tells a story within itself too, no matter the genre. Some time in the not too distant future I am going to return to music and tales and have an interview published with a particular musician and songwriter who’s style of music definitely tells a story, owing especially to the genre she composes within. I am not intending, not at the moment anyway, in branching out into music reviews, but it is a medium that crosses all art forms, including those I concentrate on within this blog.

 

Summer at the Kindness Cafe by Victoria Walters – This Summer Be Encapsulated in Warmth, Kindness and Life. @Vicky_Walters @TeamBATC #SummerAtTheKindnessCafe #RandomThingsTours @annecater #RandomActofKindness #bookreviews #blogtour #SummerReads

Summer at the Kindness Cafe
By Victoria Walters
Rating *****

Today I am pleased to have been invited on The Random Things Blog Tour for the book – Summer at the Kindness Cafe. A book which readers can be encapsulated in the warmth of kindness and friendship as well as cafe culture and life changing events.

 

Summer at the Kindness Cafe BT Poster

 

About the Author


Victoria Walters Author Pic

Victoria Walters was discovered in a short story competition run by Simon & Schuster’s The Hot Bed. Her first novel, The Second Love of my Life was published by Headline, and she returns to the fold with Summer at the Kindness Cafe, her second novel.

 

Blurb

Summer at Kindess Cover (1)Welcome to Brew, a cafe where kindness is almost as important as coffee… almost!

Abbie has fled London and the humiliation of not being able to make rent after being made redundant. Her sister, Louise, unlucky in love, has thrown herself into her career at the local hospital. And Eszter, who has travelled from Hungary with her daughter Zoe, is hoping to fulfil her husband’s dying wish: to reunite his family.


This summer, three very different women are inspired by the random acts of kindness written up on the Kindness Board at Brew, and decide to make a pact to be kinder to others and to themselves.

Can a little bit of kindness really change your life? Eszter, Abbie and Louise are about to find out!

Review

Enter Brew – Kindness Cafe this summer and you won’t be disappointed. Enter Brew and be inspired to do your own random acts of kindness this summer, like the three women within this story.
I love that there is a book like this, which actively becomes part of spreading the word about being kind to each other and yourself. It makes me think of a talk by another author/comedian/presenter (Susan Calman) at the Edinburgh Fringe who had an act with the by-line to join the “Kindness Revolution”. This is what this book does, it’s almost like it is part of it.

Abbie Morgan is the main protagonist and is forced to leave London after being made redundant. This reflects just how expensive London is. It’s a good way for the author to begin her story. It also means readers are already on the journey of Abbie as she seeks a new life and within a couple of pages, brings about feelings of care for this character.

Then there’s Louise, her very kind sister, who Abbie finally travels to be with in Littlewood. This is the situation of the cafe – Brew. The cafe has a board where people write-up random acts of kindnesses they’ve experienced from others. I love this idea. I’ve no idea if there are any boards like that, but perhaps there ought to be. There’s something heart-warming and quite beautiful about it. Within the book there are sections called “Notes from the Brew Kindness Board”. This may inspire some people to follow-suit and do random acts of kindness.

The contrast shows through well, between Abbie and Louise. Abbie has hardened a little and can’t really imagine being kind to a stranger and Louise who appears naturally kind, too kind, according to Abbie (not that there’s such a thing as too kind), but she sees Louise as slightly neglecting herself and she ought to be kinder to herself.

This is far from a cloyingly sickly sweet read however, so don’t be fooled. There’s heartbreak and bitter sweetness in this book. Louise, for all that she seems completely together and has life sorted, has had her heart-broken and the author ensures readers know it’s been badly broken.

Abbie, initially doesn’t know where to start on her first ever random act of kindness, it’s not really her thing, to be kind to a complete stranger. Eszter however gives some good advice and before long, Abbie has seen someone who she can be kind to. It’s all very down-to-earth and seems to unfold naturally. There’s nothing outlandish in this book.

I feel readers can really get into the characters lives and get to know their personalities and what’s happened to them as well as see their lives progress. Are their lives transformed through kindness? It is worth reading to find out.

This is a heart-warming book of kindness, friendship, finding new paths in life, which makes for a great summer read. It’s one I hope does make an impact and inspires more people to be kind to themselves, each other and to strangers.

Once the story has ended, turn the page for a lovely note by the author.

Praise for the author

Your favourite authors LOVE Summer at the Kindness Cafe:
‘A heart-warming read – cosy and comforting. I loved it!’ HEIDI
SWAIN
‘Utterly gorgeous, a totally heart-warming, beautiful story. I loved
every single page!’ HOLLY MARTIN
‘A really lovely story – heart-warming and life affirming’ JO THOMAS
‘Warmth and kindness on every page’ SHEILA O’FLANAGAN
‘I adored Summer at The Kindness Café – it’s such a cosy,
heart-warming read’ JENNIFER JOYCE

 

The Repenting Serpent by Wes Markin @MarkinWes @CarolineBookBit #BitsaboutBooksBlogTour #crime #thriller #fiction #newreview #newbook

The Repenting Serpent by Wes Markin

Rating ****

 

About the Author

Wes Markin

Wes Markin is a hyperactive English teacher, who loves writing crime fiction with a twist of the macabre. Having finished ‘The Repenting Serpent,’ sequel to ‘One Last Prayer for the Rays,’ he is now working on the third instalment of DCI Michael Yorke’s wild ride. He is also the author of ‘A Lesson in Crime,’ a prequel to his DCI Yorke novels, which takes the reader back to his blood-soaked university days. Born in 1978, Wes grew up in Manchester, UK. After graduating from Leeds University, he spent fifteen years as a teacher of English, and has taught in Thailand, Malaysia and China. Now as a teacher, writer, husband and father, he is currently living in Harrogate, UK.

Blurb

A vicious serial killer slithers from the darkness, determined to resurrect the ways of a long-dead civilisation.

When the ex-wife of one of DCI Michael Yorke’s closest allies is left mutilated and murdered, Yorke and his team embark on their greatest test yet. A  deeply personal case that will push them to their very limits. 

And as Yorke’s team are pulled further into the dark, the killer circles, preparing to strike again. 

The Repenting

 

Review

Today is just a couple of days after publication day for The Repenting Serpent, which has a great opener. It’s the second DCI Yorke thriller in the series, which gives you plenty of crime as well as being psychological. Within the first few pages an emotional scene is set.

Imagine the scene and the feelings, you’ve divorced your wife, you’ve got family and then you discover your ex-wife has not just simply died, but is murdered in a most horrific way. This is what happened to DS. Brookes who heard Jessica – his ex-wife was murdered.

This is more than just a police procedural book. It’s about relationships, broken or otherwise and about the emotions of dealing with a murder that is so personal because it is so close to home. The author also then throws in something else, Jessica’s mother is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s.

There is much emotion in this book, but all entirely plausible and so well written. On the backdrop of the horrific murder and the awful Alzheimer’s that’s taken so much grip, there is a sensitivity, especially in the portrayal of the emotions.

This isn’t a book for the fainthearted. It does go into quite some detail, but is all well-done.

It’s an intriguing read as the investigation moves on and Yorke is suddenly doing research and gaining knowledge of the Aztecs. It seems random at first, but stick with it, it’s interesting and there is a point to it.

Is the murderer who Yorke reckons it to be quite early on, or is it someone else and is there any danger to this character? Borrow or buy your copy of the book to find out.

This was part of a Bits about Books Blog Tour I was pleased to be invited to join.