1 April 2017

THE UNINTENDED RUNAWAYS by Sally Barlow-Perez


Amazon UK £2.80
Amazon US $3.49

Adventure / YA / coming of age
1860
England

Set amidst the rural countryside of Northern England, Sally Barlow-Perez’s The Unintended Runaways nestles itself quickly into the hearts of readers. Told from the perspective of its teen heroine, an orphaned gypsy, readers can’t help but be captivated by Lia’s independent free spirit, righteous indignation, and firm sense of justice as she breaks free of the tyranny of an orphanage cook and a seemingly ominous parson to gather the only friends left to her: Samson the shaggy dog, Pegasus the Shire horse, and Artemis the Siamese cat, and make a run for freedom.
Along the way, Lia hooks up with a rag tag crew of runaway brothers, Ro, Tim, and Cal. The group forge a makeshift familial bond like none other in their despair and heartache, weaving strength, courage, and determination to succeed into their quest to deliver Lia home and find for themselves a new life free from their volatile and abusive uncle.
The unlikely band of runaways venture into farms and across counties hiding themselves from the threat of capture to make their way to Teignmouth, a small seaside village and the only place Lia has ever called home. In search of an absent father to fill the sudden void her beloved grandfather’s death caused, Lia unwittingly, and perhaps a bit grudgingly, finds her heart open to a new clan and hope unimagined.
Barlow-Perez rebirths a child’s deep connection to those special pets, a passion for adventure quest, the spirit of togetherness forged by action, the collective tragedy of loss, and the sheer joy at being alive. This author brings to the page an intertwining of the modern female archetype with a very traditional old world England through the use of a younger gypsy heroine whose ethnicity places her outside the bounds of societal norms of that period and cleverly entices the reader into that glorious suspension of disbelief. Or perhaps, the call is to believe.
Tasked with nothing short of rekindling the child and resettling gender roles in the reader, this novel delivers!
© Kathryn Voigt


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31 March 2017

TRIUMPH OF THE RED DRAGON by N.S. Rose


Amazon UK £4.64
Amazon US $5.70
Amazon CA $16.79

Family Saga / Coming of Age 
15th Century / Wars of the Roses

Bearnshaw Series #2

In the sequel to Bearnshaw: Legend of the Whyte Doe, author Natalie Rose departs from the story of Sibyl Bearnshaw to create a new character, her son, Edmund. Edmund never knew his mother, but he knows his father – Edward Plantagenet, now King Edward IV of England. In recognition of his son, Edward assigns Edmund to serve as a page to his brother, Richard of Gloucester, who is also to oversee his education.

Even though only nine years old at the start of the book, we watch as Edmund grows to be a man – we see his first loves, his loyalty to his family, his growing importance and his new-found determination to establish the truth behind the rumours about his mother and, slowly, he learns from people who knew her, and is presented with one of her prized possessions.

The beauty of this tale is its ability to detach itself from the main events of  the turbulent times following Edward's death in order to pursue the changes in Edmund's life, whilst not losing the momentum as events accelerate threatening Richard III, the country and, as he soon realises, his own safety. For he is a Plantagenet and, following a failed assassination attempt, he is high on Henry Tudor's list of those who must be eliminated.

Ms Rose does not offer us her version of the fate of the Princes in the Tower, merely a hint or two, and she skillfully presents Richard's reasoning behind his decisions.

I enjoyed this book immensely.

© Richard Tearle


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30 March 2017

A Discovered Diamond review of DEFENDER of JERUSALEM by Helena P. Schrader

Amazon UK £7.18 £18.99
Amazon US $8.95 $26.95
Amazon CA $35.17


Biographical Fiction /  military
12th Century Crusades
Book#2 of a trilogy

This is the second volume of a series set during the Crusades, depicting the life of Balian d’Ibelin who was, in book one, an impoverished knight but good friend to the leper king of Jerusalem, Baldwin IV.

He is now a baron, married to the dowager queen, and deeply involved with court politics while dealing with the trials of family life. Crisis follows crisis in Christian-held Jerusalem. Baldwin is dying – a successor must be chosen, and Jerusalem is under siege by Saladin. Events occur almost as if watching a fast-paced movie as the political events unravel. 

Mentioning a movie: because of the in-depth historical detail I did find myself wondering (at those times when I wanted more story and less author's knowledge) whether the idea behind this series was as a counterblast to Kingdom of Heaven's somewhat poor historical portrayal of a character who Ms Schrader clearly loves, and knows a lot about. The author concentrates more on the historical detail - in a little too much depth in places - rather than the story, which I felt caused the character development to suffer a little. So large on history for those who know and love this period, lacking in fiction for readers seeking a straightforward adventure story. I do wonder if the covers could also be slightly better designed  for this series, a little more sophisticated rather than a somewhat obvious spin-off from Scott's movie? Also, maybe a little pricey for a kindle version?


Having said that, for lovers of historical detail about the Crusades this is probably a must - it can be read as a stand-alone, but I recommend starting at the beginning with Knight of Jerusalem.

© Anne Holt
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29 March 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of: The EYE of the FALCON by Joan Fallon


AmazonUK £3.99 £11.99
AmazonUS £4.94 $13.99
AmazonCA $18.30

Family Saga
10th Century
Spain

The al-Andalus series Book# 2

Set in Muslim Spain The Eye of the Falcon is the second in a series, but can be read as a stand-alone (although I suggest starting at the beginning with The Shining City because the series is very much worth following in sequence for maximum enjoyment.)

Eleven-year-old Khalifa’s father is dead and he is to rule the domain of al-Andalus, but all is not well, for ruling as regent is a ruthless, scheming, malicious mother who wants control for herself, in the young Caliph’s name. The trouble she creates is to lead to the downfall of the dynasty.

This is a story as rich and as vast as the land itself, the writing is as evocative as the scenery, while the characters are written with believable empathy. I did feel the ending could have been a little more of a ‘cliff-hanger’ to lead the reader into the next in the series, but that really is a minor nit-pick on my part.

© Anne Holt




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28 March 2017

CIRCLING the SUN by Paula McLain


Amazon UK £3.99 £13.48
Amazon US $4.97 $9.52
Amazon CA $26.98

Adventure /Biographical Fiction
20th Cent (pre WWII)
Africa
In 1936, aged thirty-four, Beryl Markham set out to be the first woman to fly single-handed across the Atlantic. This is where the book begins and ends, but in between it tells of what went into the making of a remarkable woman.
The voice is Beryl’s, as Paula McLain imagines it. Everything is therefore immediate; we see Kenya and the people who adopt it as their home only as they impact upon her. We have to decide if we can trust the narrator; and from the beginning, when her mother abandons her and she turns to Lady Delamere for female guidance, she seems almost incapable of being dishonest.
Her chaotic upbringing by her father teaches her everything about horses, and not much about anything else. She runs free with the tribal children, learning how to hunt with them, until, as a female, she is no longer permitted to do so - an exclusion that is hard for her to accept.
She is a child who does not fit comfortably into either the colonial or the native world, but she knows where she wants to be. At 16, when the First World War causes her father to fall into financial difficulties which force him to leave the farm, she marries a neighbour rather than give up the land where she feels most at home.
She embarks upon a series of affairs amongst a set of people to whom morals only apply if one is caught out. As an expert horse trainer, her skills are much in demand, but even that will not save her from ostracism if she goes too far.
Beryl learns not to try to fit in, but to make her own way in the ex-pat world of the Happy Valley set. She is who she is, and her mistakes are her own. She finds love, but that is also a betrayal. A mould-breaker but still a product of her time, perhaps she could only have existed at that point in history, in that country. Kenya made her, and broke her, and made her again.
The novelisation of a life is a balancing act; there are no photographs of the real characters – Beryl, Karen Blixen of Out of Africa fame, Denys Finch-Hatton, Prince Harry, the Delameres – perhaps because, however accurate the facts, this is not an biography, but a sketch of a snapshot of a moment in time. 
Beautifully and at times lyrically written, the book left me wanting to know more, and to go in search of those photographs, as though to see them would help me to better understand how it could all have happened. They didn’t. Photographs are posed, and distancing, and therefore less honest than Beryl appears through the words ascribed to her.
Paula McLain used Beryl’s own writings as a first-hand resource for what is a well-researched, engaging read, sympathetic to a subject who never courted sympathy. I recommend it.
© Lorraine Swoboda

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27 March 2017

BLESSOP'S WIFE by Barbara Gaskell Denvil

(Published in Australia as The King's Shadow)

Amazon UK £3.59 £11.99
Amazon US $3.48 $17.99
Amazon CA $23.51

 Mystery / Romance /Adventure
15th Century
England

It is 15th century England and King Edward IV wears the crown, but no king rules unchallenged. Often it is those closest to him who are the unexpected danger. When the king dies suddenly without clear cause, rumour replaces fact – and Andrew Cobham is working behind the scenes.

Tyballis was forced into marriage with her abusive neighbour. When she escapes, she meets Andrew and an uneasy alliance forms with a motley gathering of thieves, informers, prostitutes and children eventually joining the game.

And as the country is brought to the brink of war, Andrew and Tyballis discover something neither thought was possible. Their friendship takes them in unusual directions as Tyballis becomes embroiled in Andrew’s work and the danger which surrounds him.’

From line one, page one, of this entertaining novel, we are treated to action, romance and a story-line that I found exceptionally convincing in this tale of conflict between York and Lancaster.  The sights, the smells, the tastes, the sounds – the descriptive writing brings the period vividly alive. There is violence and squalor, poverty and hardship, but also loyalty, steadfastness, a will to survive and, eventually, respect and love. 

Richard III is only a background character here, which is refreshing as it makes a nice change to not read about him but concentrate on ordinary 15th century people instead.

The main 'goodie' characters are very three-dimensional, highly believable and likeable. Mind you, our heroine goes through the wringer with assaults, attempted rapes imprisonments and such, but is that not what makes a heroine into a heroine? Her ability to survive whatever horrors are thrown at her?  The hero is equally as fascinating, a man of many surprises.

London, the setting for this tale, is as much a character as are the people who populate the city and the story. We see it as it was back in the 1400s: squalid, smelly, dirty, depressing and poverty-riddled. I am (was) a Londoner and I thought I knew a lot about its history – I know even more now, although the narrative here is so well written you don’t realise that you are picking up information as you go along.

I was satisfied at enjoying a good story when I reached the last page, but sorry, too, to have to say farewell to such a motley crew of interesting characters. I'll certainly be reading more of Barbara Gaskell Denvil's novels.

© Helen Hollick




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26 March 2017

It is the last Sunday of March 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 4pennyworth of views



Click HERE to be redirected 
C overs? Are they important? Yes or No?
by Anna Belfrage

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  



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