28 February 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of: THE PAPER CAPER by Tim Topps

AMAZON UK £4.64    / £4.71
AMAZON US $5.70
AMAZON CA N/A

Adventure / Mystery / Espionage / Humour

Post WWII 1940s - 1950s
England

Tim Topps is narrator and the hero of this post WWII / start of the Cold War tongue-in-cheek yarn of an adventure. Unable to avoid National Service, Tim is assigned to sort out the failing readership of a minor Army newspaper as a cover for discovering a ring of sleepers and their leader. The tension mounts as Tim travels the Shropshire and Herefordshire countryside slowly uncovering the truth, aided by his beautiful assistant, some intriguing helpers, more than a few suspects and several red herrings.

Some of the links to clues are tenuous and contrived, as with many thrillers, but that can be forgiven for this is a lovely, whimsical and enjoyable read. The characters are endearing, highly believable, and the whole novel most entertaining.

© Anne Holt
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27 February 2017

KINGDOM OF REBELS by Derek Birks

AMAZON UK £3.49 £10 99
AMAZON US $ 4.31
AMAZON CA N/A

This title was shortlisted for the February Book of the Month

Military / Family Saga
15th Century Wars of the Roses
England

Rebels and Brothers series #3

The Wars of the Roses are in full swing and Ned Elder has found himself exiled for five years. One of his two sisters is enduring, but surviving, her enforced poverty in the family’s Northumbrian castle, shielding a son that Ned is unaware of. But with exile close to its end, Ned intervenes against an assassination plot and so makes some deadly enemies.

Third in the Rebels and Brothers series, Kingdom of Rebels can easily be read as a stand-alone, but I strongly advise starting at the beginning with Feud and A Traitor's Fate. Full of action, and very well written, this magnificent story captures life in the 15th Century life with wonderful skill.

Thoroughly recommended.
© Mary Chapple
Note: this novel may appear to be incorrectly formatted on some e-reader devices 
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26 February 2017

It is the LAST SUNDAY of February: which means...

No reviews on a Sunday 
but today is your day for our
Reader's Voice Page
where you, the reader can have your 3pennyworth of views



Click HERE to be redirected 
Today:
Jane Eyre victim or rebel woman?
by Lucienne Boyce
LOOK OUT FOR!
  • Cover of Month announced on the FIRST Sunday of the month
  • Book of the Month announced on the SECOND Sunday in the month
  • Guest Spot - posted on the THIRD Sunday in the month
  • Reader's Voice - posted on the LAST Sunday in the month  


25 February 2017

THE MAYA PAPYRUS by Richard Coady

AMAZON UK £1.99 / £18.99
AMAZON US N/A

Epic
Ancient Egypt

Thuya is not a wife to wish for; even her husband dare not go against her ambitions. Manipulating a marriage between her daughter, Tiye, and the Pharaoh Amenhotep is not enough for the woman, however, as she is determined to ensure her dynasty survives. Her sons, Aye and Nakhtmin, become close to the Pharaoh and Maya, the son of Aye, narrates the story of a mad Pharaoh, of wars, incest, power struggles and, inevitably, murder. We are also to meet Tutankhamen and his renowned mother, Nefertiti.

Richard Coady has created wonderful characters in matriarch Thuya and villain Aye, while also weaving a wonderful study of the godlike, mad Pharaoh Amunophis. He deftly explores absolute power and how it can so easily corrupt. The writing style is easy to read even with this being a very big book at 668 pages. Even if you have little interest in Ancient Egypt, I recommend reading this incredible book.

© Anne Holt
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24 February 2017

CAMILLE: AND THE LOST DIARIES OF SAMUEL PEPYS by Bob Marshall-Andrews

AMAZON UK £ £6.99 £14.99
AMAZON US $ 8.52
AMAZON CA N/A

Adventure / Mystery 
Restoration/ Charles II / 17th Century
France / England

Actress Camille Lefebre has to perform disguised as her twin brother, Robert, because of the French laws regarding women appearing on stage. But in this guise she is attacked by a nobleman’s son whom she kills. Fleeing from Paris she heads for sanctuary with an aunt who lives in London. Travelling from Dover as herself, Camille, she meets two gentleman, who, thinking that she does not speak English, discuss her attractiveness and state secrets. One gentlemen is Samuel Pepys, who takes her on as his personal secretary. Camille then finds herself entangled in treason and a vendetta against her by the brother of the man she killed.

Camille is a delightful creation: she changes with ease from female to male, is intelligent, thoughtful, witty and pretty - and can handle a rapier with skill.

I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure of espionage and adventure set during the time of Charles II, and delighted in meeting Mr Pepys in a slightly different setting to normal. A well-paced worthy read.

© Anne Holt

Cover selected for Cover of the Month

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23 February 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of: IMPACT by Rosalind Minett.


Amazon UK  £9.99 Paperback
Amazon US $4.37 (e-book only)
Amazon CA  n/a

Family Saga / Coming of Age
1940s / WWII
England

[Discovering Diamonds was provided with e-book review copies of this title in the format of two separate published books, Impact Part One and Part Two, This was slightly disconcerting for our reviewer who felt that breaking the e-book up in this manner spoilt the flow from part one to part two. However, having communicated with the author she made the decision to withdraw the two-part version and republish as one complete book. In my opinion this was a wise and sensible move. Helen]

Impact is the third book in a trilogy about a family torn apart by World War II.
The obvious first question is: should the reader have read the first two books in the trilogy (Intrusion and Infiltration) in order to fully appreciate Impact? My answer would have to be that it is not necessary, but advisable. My enjoyment of Impact was not significantly impaired by not having read the earlier volumes, but I did feel it would have helped to have had a better understanding of what lies behind the hostility between Bill and his cousin Kenneth which is the source of the central conflict in the novel, particularly as this is a good story.

At the start of Impact, Bill and his mother arrive back at their London home as Victory in Europe has been declared. The war in the Far East is still continuing. The women and children have been evacuated to the countryside in order to escape the bombing of England's capital city (the period covered in the earlier books). The men are serving in the forces.

The book follows Bill's adolescence in post-war London with its bomb sites and shortages of food and clothing, as he matures from a twelve-year-old boy helping his mother and grandparents, into a teenager about to embark on National Service. But it is his relationship with his older but weaker cousin, Kenneth, that gives unwanted shape to his life, a constant source of simmering resentment.

The style of writing changes subtly as the boys age, the early chapters using language appropriate for a twelve-year-old, such as might be found in one of Enid Blyton's juvenile mysteries featuring the Famous Five or the Secret Seven. By the time we reach part two, with both boys now in their mid-teens, the language is more mature, though still using expressions in dialogue which, whilst commonplace in that time and place, seem archaic today.

In some ways the relationship between Bill and Kenneth is reminiscent of that between Tom Brown and Flashman in Thomas Hughes's nineteenth century classic, Tom Brown's Schooldays. Bill is the quiet, hard-working, kind and athletic, rather than intellectual, character, whilst Kenneth is the academically gifted bully. The characters are so well drawn that, as with Hughes's novel, it is not impossible to feel some sympathy for both.

There are other parallels: Hughes's novel is deeply revealing of Victorian attitudes to society and class; Ms Minett's, similarly, exposes the snobbery and contempt for the labouring classes that existed among the suburban middle classes in 1940s Britain. The well drawn period details provide a believably realistic context for the development of both plot and character. Although I did spot one error regarding the radio show Round the Horn, which was in fact, first broadcast later than this novel depicts.

The story progresses steadily towards the shocking climax of Part One which drives the reader to  continue reading into Part Two in order to discover the consequence for both boys.

Impact provides a reminder for my generation (I was born in 1941) of how different life was in those distant, mid-twentieth century, days. For younger readers it offers valuable insights into the hardships and sacrifices their grandparents made in order to create the many social and educational advantages they enjoy.

© Frank Parker
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22 February 2017

BLOOD ROSE ANGEL by Liza Perrat

Amazon UK £2.99 £8.63
Amazon US $3.60 $2.99
Amazon CA $17.12

Family Saga
14th Century 
France

The Bone Angel series 

Mid 14th century. Lucie-sur-Vionne, a small French town. From her late mother, Heloise inherited the skill of midwifery. She has a husband, Raoul and a daughter, Morgane. But Heloise was base-born and has no knowledge of who her father was; all she has is a strange pendant. She has many friends, but as many enemies and then there are those who believe her to be a witch.

When plague strikes, as a healer she needs to do her duty to help where she can, but her husband forbids her to become involved. Defying him, she finds herself imprisoned – and her real troubles are about to start.

The third in the Bone Angel series,  Blood Rose Angel can easily be read as a 'stand alone', and is a powerful novel, well written, engrossing, and a superbly sensitive study of life, birth and terrible and devastating death in the 1300s. My only criticism is that the end lost a little bit of steam, but as the rest of this thoroughly enjoyable novel forged ahead at full tilt, I think that minor quibble can be overlooked.

Perhaps a novel for women more than men, but nonetheless a gripping read.
© Richard Tearle
Note: this novel may appear to be incorrectly formatted on some e-reader devices 
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21 February 2017

GANG TERRITORY by Peter St John

The Gang Series: Book One

Amazon UK £2.23 / £9.99
Amazon US $2.74
Amazon CA  Kindle $? / $27.86

Young Adult / Adventure / Series
WWII
England
Gang Series #1

A wartime evacuee's tale of village gangs and first love: When a boy from London finds himself homeless after the orphanage where he lived is bombed during World War II, he is bundled off to the countryside to live with his only relative, a pious spinster aunt he barely knows. Her village of Widdlington would be a peaceful place to live; or so he imagined.
The evacuee desperately seeks to understand his place in a bewildering, strife-filled world. He falls helplessly in love, but it's a passion that seems doomed, because the boy's aunt and the girl's parents are in bitterly opposing religious camps.
He does, however, possess one treasure he's prepared to guard with his life; his go-cart, Lightning. He'd rather burn it than let it fall into the hands of the Nazis, should they invade, and he dares to wrest it back from a rival gang which has stolen it. Humorous yet thought-provoking, the Gang series explores the difficulties and rewards of forging relationships in violent times.’

Gang Territory is the first of a series, and it is captivating from the very first page. The characters are so full of life and have a realism about them that bring the entire book, and their adventures, alive. The innocence of childhood during WWII is well portrayed, it is a time when children – despite air raids and the threat of Nazi invasion – played happily outdoors from dawn until dusk, when gangs were social groups not terrorist organisations (even if the gangs did have rivalries and were always attempting to outwit each other.) These were also the days pre- health and safety, pre-fussing and over-protection. Grazed knees didn’t result in a trip to A & E , conkers were not thought of as dangerous weapons – and go-carts were made from old bits of wood and abandoned pram wheels. Ah, nostalgia isn’t what it used to be!

Cleverly, the author, Peter St John, manages to write an entire story without once mentioning the main character’s name: our ‘hero’ narrates his adventures as if you are there, listening to him and joining in. (I did privately call the lad ‘Peter’ as it seems to me that Mr St John very probably is adapting some of his own wartime evacuee experiences.) The Village too, Widdlington, not far from Ipswich, in Suffolk, becomes as much a character as do the children (and a few adults). I felt I knew every street and alleyway by the time I had finished the book.

Gang Territory is, technically, a Young Adult novel, ideal for boys and girls from about ten years old – particularly for children studying WWII at school it will give a wonderful insight to life as an evacuee, but the story is just as good for us ‘grown-ups’ – Highly Recommended. I look forward to reading the other books in the series.

© Mary Chapple 

Note : this novel may appear to be incorrectly formatted on some e-reader devices 

20 February 2017

HERONFIELD by Dorinda Balchin



Amazon UK £0.99 £10.99
Amazon US $1.22 $19.01
Amazon CA Kindle $? / $30.65

Family Drama  / Adenture 
WWII
England / France

Heronfield, the family home of the Kemshall family, is temporarily a convalescent hospital during World War II, and it forms the backdrop to an amazing read.

David is the family hero, an RAF pilot who took part in the Battle of Britain. His brother, Tony, is a Dunkirk survivor, but Tony has other battles than that of the war to contend with. His father believes him a coward, he has to fight for the love of a woman, and all the while to keep a very secret secret, well, secret. Tony is, in reality, a British spy working in occupied France.

The novel is a big book, it spans six years, with the paperback version making a hefty 400 pages. That can be a lot of story to plough through – from Dunkirk to Liberation, via concentration camps and the horrors and deprivations of war. But when the story is engrossing, and the reader wants to know what happens next to intriguing family members, who notices length?

I particularly liked the way some of the chapters opened with News Slots, relating what was happening beyond Heronfield. Cleverly done, Ms Balchin.

@ Helen Hollick



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19 February 2017

It is the THIRD SUNDAY in February: which means...

No reviews on a Sunday 
but today is our Guest Spot


Click HERE to be redirected (to a page on THIS blog) 

ALSO LOOK OUT FOR!
  • Cover of Month announced on the FIRST Sunday of the month
  • Book of the Month announced on the SECOND Sunday in the month
  • Guest Spot - posted on the THIRD Sunday in the month
  • Reader's Voice - posted on the LAST Sunday in the month  


18 February 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of: THE SULTAN, THE VAMPYR AND THE SOOTHSAYER by Lucille Turner


AMAZON UK £4.99    / £10.99
AMAZON US $6.16   / $15.99
AMAZON CA $6.99 / $17.87


Ottoman Empire
15th Century 
Europe

In 1442, a certain Vlad Dracul is detained by Murad II, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Vlad is the prince of Wallachia, a country stuck between Hungary and the borders of the Ottoman Empire. In the ongoing struggle between the Ottomans and what little remains of the Byzantine Empire, whoever controls Wallachia has something of an upper hand. To ensure Vlad’s loyalty, his two younger sons, Vlad Jr and Radu, are taken as hostages. He will never see his boys again—he cannot betray his first loyalty to the Emperor in Constantinople. Instead, the two Romani princes are educated as Turks, and soon enough the sultan’s heir, Mehmet, begins to take an interest in the two young prisoners – and especially in Radu.

This is an interesting and well-written book, depicting the world of the Ottoman court in technicolour. Glorious descriptions of settings and interiors go hand-in-hand with well-developed characters, revealing just how much research the author must have done prior to putting pen to paper. Murad, Vlad Sr, the Grand Vizier Halil Pascha, all take on shape and form, but it is Vlad Jr who is the protagonist, a complicated person burdened with the affliction of night-walking and seizures. He is also bitter and angry— with his father for abandoning them, with Mehmet for taking advantage, with himself for not being able to protect his brother from Mehmet.

I must admit to having some trouble in fully accepting the portrayal of Mehmet. He is all of ten when Vlad and his brother end up as hostages, and already, as per this novel, he has murdered one brother and spent numerous nights sodomising young boys, plus is now the acting regent. Yes, Mehmet was very young when his father first made him regent, only twelve, but his appointment was initially in name only, with the real power residing with the Grand Vizier. Here, he appears older, and far more ambitious than a boy that young would be. I also find the timeline a tad confusing: in some cases, each chapter follows more or less immediately on the preceding chapter, in others it becomes evident time has lapsed – but is difficult to know how much. Likewise, I don’t fully understand the role of the soothsayer. The central story doesn’t need this addition, rather it distracts from the convoluted political machinations and the growing enmity between Mehmet and Vlad.

However, despite the above, Ms Turner delivers a fascinating read. The prose flows beautifully throughout, and in particular in the chapters featuring the ailing sultan, Murad. These are the chapters in which Ms Turner’s obvious skills in descriptive writing shine through, leaving me with images of shaded courtyards and shuttered walls, of women flitting by in veils while the sultan reclines on his divan and tries to ignore the problems caused by his son and heir. Recommended for all those with an interest in the Ottoman Empire – or with a somewhat “exotic” setting in general.

© Anna Belfrage


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17 February 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of: MASK of DUPLICITY by Julia Brannan



AMAZON UK £0.00    / £7.70
AMAZON US $0.00   / $13.88
AMAZON CA $0.00  / $18.35

Romance
18th Century / 1745
England

Jacobite Chronicles Series

There is a great deal to say about this novel, the first in the Jacobite Chronicles, and most of it good.

Beth lives happily enough in her deceased father's house with the servants as her friends, but the return from the army of her half-brother, Richard, is not a cause for celebration. Coerced into approaching their estranged family, Beth is forced into the role of a society lady who has to follow convention when all she wants to do is run home to Didsbury. However, she makes new acquaintances including the foppish Sir Anthony Peters, but is all as it seems?

Beth Cunningham is a very likeable character who manages to be sweet, strong, and sympathetic without descending into sentimentality, and you have to like her. She is quick-witted and clever. Her brother, and indeed almost every other main character, is the opposite: you do feel for Beth being stranded among them all.

Sir Anthony Peters is, from his first appearance, obviously important, not only to the plot but to London society, however, one of my two criticisms would be that we are never told why this close confidante of the king should ever cultivate the acquaintance of the Cunningham family. They consist of an over-bearing snob, two ageing spinsters and a third sister who was widowed far too young and lives in the past, never seeing a future. They are a thoroughly unlikeable lot but we never discover why Sir Anthony bothers with them. 

On the whole, the novel is written very well. The story flows, the details are addressed for the most part, and the characters are nicely drawn and addictive. Beth is brilliantly done, and she carries the story. The point of view has a habit of slipping, quite alarmingly in the final dénoument of the story, with no fewer than six characters having their say, rather than sticking to the thoughts of just one. 

However,  these points can be completely forgiven. The perfectionists, and those not keen on unsettling 'adult' scenes, will perhaps think otherwise, but that would be their loss as the story and the potential that is set up by the book are otherwise excellent and quite carry you away. It is a longish read, but it still manages to end too soon, and although the reader can see where it is heading, you remain eager to learn how it gets there. I am very much looking forward to the second instalment of The Jacobite Chronicles  - maybe the secret of why Sir Anthony retains connection with those awful Cunninghams will be revealed? 

© Nicky Galliers




Cover selected for Cover of the Month


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16 February 2017

THE ERRANT HOURS by Kate Innes

AMAZON UK £2.99    / £8.99
AMAZON US $3.99   / $13.50
AMAZON CA $ 4.96 / $17.43

This title was shortlisted for the February  Book of the Month

13th Century
England

The French woman is dying during childbirth. She is mistress to an English nobleman. Ursula the local Shropshire midwife is also due to give birth, but attends the hapless mother. One of their babies lives, the other does not.

Skip forward quite a few years: Illesa, Ursula’s daughter, is finding it hard to keep the small family farm going and her elder brother is in trouble again. She must trust to her wits and a book, Saint Margaret, that her mother gave her. Then she finds herself in the company of a man who is kindred to the King’s Chancellor, and who is to organise a celebration for Edward I’s victory over the Welsh, a task he struggles to ensure goes well (anyone who has organised such an important event can wholeheartedly sympathise with him!) Twists and unexpected turns follow, keeping the reader guessing as page after page is swiftly turned.

Running through the plot is the fortune (or misfortune) of St Margaret who was martyred in the 4th century, and a 6th century Welsh tale – both of which are skilfully woven into the narrative, and do have a reason to be there, but to say why here could be a spoiler so I am saying nothing more.

The research for this novel appears to be meticulous, and it was a delight to encounter something different to the norm in the form of an obscure actual incident, which so added to the pleasure of this wonderful story. Kate Innes writing holds the reader throughout – a delightful read, very highly recommended and most definitely a Discovered Diamond!

©Helen Hollick

Note: this novel may appear to be incorrectly justified as an e-book on some devices
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15 February 2017

The Loyalist's Wife & The Loyalist's Luck by Elaine Couglar

The Loyalist’s Wife and The Loyalist’s Luck By Elaine Cougler


THE LOYALIST'S WIFE
Amazon UK £4  £14.19
Amazon US $3.95 $18.00
Amazon CA $29.77

THE LOYALIST’S LUCK
Amazon UK £4.00 £15.53
Amazon US $4.86 $21.83
Amazon CA $29.57

Family Saga
American War of Independence
Colonial America

Loyalist Series # 1 & 2

As a Brit, I usually think of the American War of Independence, the break from Britain, with a British eye, and always from the British side of history. Ms Couglar’s two novels, The Loyalist’s Wife and The Loyalist’s Luck, are a refreshing change because they explore a different angle – that of not all Colonists wanting to throw out British rule.

John and Lucy are a young couple living in the Frontier Territory of New York State. (Even that is different to me, a British reader only familiar with New York as a bustling, over-populated city!) John makes the decision, in the first book, The Loyalist’s Wife, to enlist to fight the rebels, in consequence leaving Lucy on her own to face the threat of Reavers, miscreants loyal to only themselves. For Lucy, this was the fate of many a woman when her husband, sons, brothers went off to fight in whatever war was going on at the time.

In the second book, The Loyalist’s Luck, Lucy and John flee to Canada from the resulting success of the Revolution. As with all refugees they can only take what meagre possessions they can grab in a hurry, and hope that luck brings them the ability to start a new life in a new home, but Lucy, yet again, finds herself having to rely on her own wits in order to survive.

These two novels are, perhaps, more of an exploration of Lucy’s strong character and her determination to win through, than the Revolution itself, or John’s part in it, but as a look at life in the American Colonies during that turbulent period these are two very highly recommended novels.

© Helen Hollick


The Loyalist’s Wife also has a Chill With a Book Award.


14 February 2017

A Discovered Diamond Review of THE GYBFORD AFFAIR by Jen Black

A Regency Romance for St Valentine's Day!

AMAZON UK £ 2.12
AMAZON US $ 2.62
AMAZON CA $ n/a

Regency Romance
18th Century
England

This Regency Romance is set in the north of England, in County Durham but as it also takes place among polite society, location actually makes little difference - this little community offers as much intrigue as London or Longbourne. And it owes something to Jane Austen in presenting us with a charming uniformed young man and a rather reserved, upright Marquess. So you can see the plot unfolding well ahead of you, but that really is of no consequence. As ever, it is the journey that matters, not the obvious destination.

Frances, Lady Rathmere, is a delightful heroine with enough common sense and strength to satisfy the modern reader and yet enough delicacy and sensibility to be acceptable to the time in which the novel is set. A widow when we meet her, she enjoys more freedoms in society and is yet aware of the very strict boundaries of those freedoms. That doesn't mean to say she always remains within them...

Jack, our Marquess hero, is strong enough to be the perfect foil to Frances and yet he is damaged and broken when he bursts into the story, grief-stricken by the death of his wife of only ten months. He has fled London for the peace of a run-down family estate adjoining Gybford, and hence he and Frances meet.

There were a few typos in the version I read, but that apart, this novel is the kind you want to curl up with on a winter evening under a blanket. It is a classic Regency Romance, one of the better written of the genre that I have come across, with characters that are distinct and memorable. They do exactly what you expect of them and in this genre that is what you want. It owes more than a passing nod to Pride and Prejudice and that is no bad thing. If you love Lizzie Bennett and Mr Darcy you will adore Frances and her Jack.


 © Nicky Galliers
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