17 November 2017

The Butcher's Block by Lucienne Boyce

Shortlisted for Book of the Month

Amazon UK £3.99
Amazon US $5.17

Crime 
1790s
England

Dan Foster Mystery Series #2

Murder most foul, treason and spies are the main ingredients of this, the third in Lucienne Boyce's series featuring Bow Street Runner, Dan Foster.

The grisly murder of a colleague leads Foster into the murky world of The Resurrection Men – grave robbers – secret societies, respectable businessmen not being quite so respectable, street urchins and much, much more.

I liked Dan Foster. He is a dedicated and dogged Runner, but he is flawed; his marriage is not a happy one. He knows some 'dodgy' characters and, because of his own past, is what we would call today 'streetwise.' He also is willing to exercise the spirit of the law rather than the letter.

Ms Boyce makes her characters three dimensional, even those who will have appeared in previous volumes, the plot is tight and there are no loose ends left at the end. Although part of a series, the novel can easily be read as a stand-alone. It will appeal to those who love this period when 'policing' was done mostly on observation and contacts. It is also a mild social comment about 'fat magistrates' and young children who face the rope for stealing in order to stay alive.

I cannot recommend this highly enough, a superb read.

© Richard Tearle

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16 November 2017

A Discovered Diamond review of: Duty and Dishonor by Shaun Ivory



Amazon UK £2.39 £6.99
Amazon US $3.09 $11.99
Amazon CA $15.99

Military / Espionage / Fictional Saga

US Civil War 1800s

Born on the voyage to America from Ireland, Conor O’Farrell is the protagonist in this first part of a series entitled America Made Me. At the age of sixteen - not being truthful about his age - Conor volunteers for the Union army and after some rudimentary training, soon finds himself seeing action. He becomes a hero, but wounded, he is to recuperate at a hospital where he meets President Abraham Lincoln. Things initially go well for Conor, but he is accused of spying by the sadistic Allan Pinkerton. Conor, now in his late teens, finds himself a fugitive…

This is a well told tale, with excellent characters and precise dialogue, I had one minor problem, however: usually, when one reads what are effectively memoirs of a totally fictional character, we are aware that the character will probably die eventually (although not necessarily, as this is pure fiction) but we do not normally know if, how or when. The author gives us these details in his prologue at the very start of Conor's adventures and I personally found this to be a  'spoiler'. I would much rather follow his adventures in this volume and the, quote, “several”, to follow without this prior knowledge, but apart from that small, personal niggle, a good novel and a thoroughly enjoyable read.

© Richard Tearle


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15 November 2017

The Mid-Month Extra: Covers Uncovered by Tamian Wood


COVERS UNCOVERED
By Tamian Wood
(co-judge of our Cover of the Month slot)

You glance across a crowded room and lock eyes. You are inspired, beguiled. Suddenly, “love-at-first-sight,” makes sense and you feel the spark of a love affair blossoming with …
...the BOOK of your dreams?

Ok, that might be taking the metaphor a bit too far, but work with me on this. The ultimate goal of your book's cover is to grab your reader’s attention and tell them in an instant, “Take me HOME, I’m just what you need! Pay no attention to all those other books, I’m the one!”

Think of it like your favourite little black dress that shows off your curves, and accentuates your …assets. :-)

Let’s face it, there are really only two reasons to write a book. 
1. To say you did, and 
2. To sell it.

Unless you only wrote your book so your grandmother could read it, and your target audience is your crazy cousin Emma, Auntie Eileen and Uncle George, the cover does matter. Let me say that again, in case you missed it in all the humor:

If you want to sell your book, 
your cover DOES matter. 
A LOT.

So, let’s assume you wrote your book to actually sell a few copies. The key then is that you must treat your writing as a business, your book as a product and the cover as its packaging. The cover is your most important marketing tool, and as such, must be properly packaged to be visually appealing to your target market.

A successfully designed book cover, like that little black dress, will convey the tone of your book, give hints about its content, and entice readers into actually picking up your product to read your meticulously written and diligently edited words. Metaphorically, you’ve just been asked out for a first date. Only then can your inner beauty be discovered.

Let’s have a look at some examples and see what they tell you about what’s under the covers…  (Ok, I’ll stop.)

Ponder on this cover package for a moment. What does the colour story tell you about what’s inside? It’s fresh, clean, green grass, blue sky. How does it make you feel? Cheerful, hopeful?



What’s under the cover, you ask? A letter from Pope Francis about caring for our common home, Earth.

The cover I created for the Pope’s Encyclical Letter is designed to make you think about our environment, ecology, and our children’s future. The fresh greens, calming blues and flesh tones are used intentionally to evoke a feeling of newness, and concepts of youth, growth, and springtime rebirth. (And for anyone curious, much to my darling husband's disappointment, no, we did not get to ride in the PopeMobile.)

What about these next two. How do they make you feel?



The colour red in both of these images tells us they might be about ​something sinister, but the fonts also tell us a story too. Notice that the bold modern font on The End Of Snow tells us that the story is based in modern day. If you zoom in close, you’ll also notice the texture of the font feels like a blizzard.

With Rebel Nation, we can surmise from the font that it has something to do with history. The rebel flag also gives a historical clue… but why is there a modern day-rifle site? Hmmm, intriguing.

​How about this cover, designed by my good friend and fellow designer Cathy Helms from Avalon Graphics?


Of course, the word "Dead" is a bit of a "dead" giveaway, but again, the use of the colour red drives it home. Nicely creepy Cathy!

In the case of these next two​,​ the softer font tells us this is a more feminine story. But what else can we discover about these two? Do they belong together? What clues tell you this?



With a sequel, it’s important to have consistency in the overall look and feel from one book to the next so your readers (or searchers) will know these stories belong together. This is known as “branding.” Typically, the colour story will likely match and text treatment is usually similar.


Notice the repeating elements. The spherical object at the top of the design space, the light source just below, the city-scape in the foreground, and the similar text treatment. All these elements let us know that these are part of a sequel.




​Here's another great example of repeating elements from Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics. The fonts are the same and in the same positions, the colour story is complimentary, there is a ship in each. (and except for Pirate Code, the same ship is used.) Nice work Cathy!




Another important thing to note is that there should be a strong contrast between the text and the image behind so that your words are legible.



​Here is another example of strong contrast from Avalon Graphics.​​ Notice how the title stands out against the background.


You should​ also​ always keep in mind that the cover will be displayed on digital browsers at a thumbnail size, so it is important the elements are minimal. Including every detail from your story only serves to make your cover busy and confusing, and gives away too much, too soon. Remember our little black dress ​analogy ​and keep it simple and classic.​ If you go back over each of the sample covers, there are really only 1-3 visual elements in each.​ (excluding text of course.)

One final little tid-bit of advice I always give new authors is​,​ if you are beginning to write a book, start saving your pennies from day one, so that when it’s complete, you’ll have a tidy little nest egg to invest in what it takes to make your product look professional.

Because it matters. 
A lot.

Are you a DIY cover designer? 
I am offering a cover critique on my blog. Show me what you have and I promise an honest, kind and constructive insight into how you might make your cover better before
you display it to the world.

Take a peek at what other authors have shared…
Tamian Wood

Graphic Designer

Beyond Design International



Video Trailer: http://bit.ly/1k4NppT





So what do you think about the covers shown above? Share your views and ideas  by leaving a comment below.

14 November 2017

A Discovering Diamonds review of: A Limited Engagement by Saralee Etter


Amazon UK  £2.45
Amazon US  $3.23
Amazon CA £7.72

Regency Romance
1800s
England

When Miranda Luce’s father dies and leaves her penniless, the spirited young miss decides to become an actress. She joins the theater troupe belonging to her sister Mary and her husband Edward. But then Edward is unjustly thrown into debtor’s prison. Miranda and her sister must raise the money to save them all from ruin. Lord Justin Devereux needs a fiancée—in a hurry! Justin doesn’t want to get married, he just wants to take control of his inheritance and escape the upper-class London social scene. His solution: Hire an actress who can play the role of his fiancée at one important family dinner.
But Lord Justin’s trustee isn’t satisfied and Miranda’s role must be extended. The longer the masquerade lasts, the more complicated it becomes. Will the deception be unmasked before each gets what they want?”

The plot reminded me of a typical jape that Bertie Wooster and his ever-faithful Jeeves would try to pull off – although P.G. Wodehouse’s hilarious tales are pure comedy, and this delightful tale is typical Regency Romance.

It is predictable – of course you know that Miranda and Justin are going to fall in love, you know it will have a happy ending – but this is the stuff of the romance genre, so so what?
The pleasure is in the journey, not the destination, and I found Saralee Etter’s A Limited Engagement to be a thoroughly enjoyable escapism read. Just right for a cold winter night curled in front of the fire, or for an entertaining holiday read.

© Mary Chapple






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13 November 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of: On Different Shores by Rebecca Bryn



Amazon.UK £8.99
Amazon.US $2.71  $14.99
Amazon.ca $3.30


Romance
19th century

The story begins in tried and true fashion: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, in this case to another man. Young Jem, a common labourer, does the honourable thing by standing aside so that Ella will marry the man chosen for her, the son of a prosperous farmer, who can give her a better life. Unfortunately, the husband turns out to be a coarse brute. The story really gets interesting when Jem, along with his two cousins, commits a murder and is sentenced to be transported to a penal colony. Never mind that she is married and has borne Jem’s son, Ella determines that somehow she will follow her love to the other side of the world.

Two things illuminate this book for me. First is the little nuggets of 19th century farming life Ms. Bryn describes without in any way intruding on the story. Second is Ella’s awakening, as she learns little by little how few rights she has over herself and her child. As one of the men in her life says in all sincerity: ‘Why would you need rights? You’re a woman. Your pretty little brain isn’t equipped to deal with important decisions. You need the protection and support of a man, a husband.’ These words encapsulate the views of the time perfectly, especially as they are spoken by a good man.

Jem pays a terrible price for an atrocious act committed in a moment of madness, and Ella’s determination to join him leads her to adopt drastic measures. Yet it is not difficult to sympathise with the two.

I do have a couple of little gripes. The author uses pronouns instead of proper names far too often, leading to some confusion. Also, in the early chapters I found the motivations of the two central characters difficult to believe. But these things in no way reduced my enjoyment of the book. Once the story got going it gained momentum with each page until, at the last, I was left wanting more. As it happens, books 2 and 3 are available.

© Susan Appleyard






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