31 March 2018

March Cover and Book of the Month Selections



designer Cathy Helms of www.avalongraphics.org
with fellow designer Tamian Wood of www.beyonddesigninternational.com
will select the Cover of the Month
with all winners going forward for Cover of the Year in December 2018
(and honourable mentions going forward for Honourable Mention Runner-up)
Note: where UK and US covers differ only one version will be selected

* * *
Novels Reviewed During MARCH
(selected at the end of the month)


WINNER

HarperCollins publisher/designer


HONOURABLE MENTION RUNNERS UP

read the review HERE 


From our MARCH REVIEWS

I am starting to  wonder why I decided to do this 'Book of the Month' selection because Discovering Diamonds are receiving so many interesting novels now, it is becoming harder and harder to select those few I want to read (and have time to  read.) 


My personal runner-up choice for this month is Joan Druett's The Money Ship. I have the boxed set and enjoyed this nautical series very much for the nautical accuracy in particular.

Read our review HERE
Ruth Downie's latest Medicus Murder Mystery came a very close second because this series is such fun and so absorbing to read.

Read our review HERE
For my Book of the Month, however, I agree with our reviewer, Elizabeth St John ... this probably is one of the best WWI stories I have ever read!

Read our review HERE

For last month's selections see main menu bar



30 March 2018

Misfortune of Vision by Christy Nicholas



 AMAZON UK £4.36
AMAZON US $5.99 
AMAZON CA $7.46

Druid's Brooch #4

Fantasy / folklore
12th century
Ireland

In 12th century Ireland, the old ways of Druidism and prophecy are coming into conflict with the new ways of Christianity. Orlagh has been the Royal Seer to her chieftain for over forty years. Recently, though, the chieftain has been disregarding Orlagh’s visions, to the detriment of the tribe. While Orlagh honors the old ways and the Fey Folk, she walks a fine line and knows that she must balance her gift of prophecy against the teachings of the new church, and tries to give proper credit to the new Christian god for her abilities. She knows, though, that her long life is soon to end, and since she is the only living member of her family left, she must find a worthy heir to whom she can pass on her family brooch, a faerie brooch that gives its owner magical abilities.

In exchange for knowledge needed to fulfill her mission, Orlagh makes a deal with a faerie Lord. At the same time, her long-lost grandson, Declan, turns up, having traveled from town to town after the death of his parents. Declan is plagued by bad luck, mostly brought on by his poor decision-making skills and laziness, but his new sweetheart has given him a reinvigorated outlook on life and he is determined to make himself into a man worthy of her.

When Declan and Orlagh reunite, will he be able to live up to everyone’s expectations, or will he revert to his past tendencies? And what of Orlagh’s agreement with the faerie Lord? For, as everyone knows, one does not lightly enter into a contract with the Fey…

Christy Nicholas has done it again with another vibrant, fast-paced, gripping tale. The tensions between the folk who incorporate the older ways into their daily habits and the priests of the Christian church are strong throughout. The cast of characters is complex and well drawn. I enjoyed Orlagh a great deal. She reminded me in many ways of my grandmother. I also tremendously appreciated reading a story where the protagonist was a woman older than sixty. That’s not something readers get to see a whole lot of and it’s a shame, really. Older characters have a great deal to offer, so it is nice to see such a main character who is honored and respected. I hated Declan, as I think we were supposed to. Maybe he was supposed to instill some sympathy since we probably all know someone who can’t get out of their own way and keep making the same stupid mistakes, but I lack sympathy for people who can’t learn from their mistakes or who bring bad things upon themselves because they’re too lazy to work. I loved Cu-Ulaidh and absolutely adored the way he doted on Orlagh. I feel that Clodagh, Orlagh’s ward,  however, could have been developed more, as well as her back story, but overall, this was a delightful read.



© Kristen McQuinn 




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29 March 2018

The Malice of Angels by Wendy Percival

an Esme Quentin Mystery

The Malice of Angels: Esme Quentin Mystery

Amazon UK £2.99
Amazon US $4.13
Amazon CA $5.27

Thriller/Crime/ Fictional Saga/ Genealogy 
20th century / contemporary
England

"Esme Quentin is reminded of a painful past when Max Rainsford, a journalist colleague of her late husband Tim, turns up unannounced asking about a story Tim reported on thirty-five years ago – the murder of an old soldier. Esme, wary of Max’s motives, declines to get involved.
Meanwhile, Esme’s friend Ruth, prompted by WWII anniversaries, wants to solve the mystery of Vivienne, her mother Bea’s sister, a wartime nurse who never came home. Despite Bea’s disapproval, Ruth is convinced the truth will finally help Bea come to terms with her loss and asks Esme to investigate.
Esme unpicks the threads of Vivienne’s past and stumbles upon a disturbing connection, linking the old soldier’s murder to her own distressing past and her late husband’s fate. As events unravel, Esme realises that to uncover the secrets behind Vivienne’s story, she must also confront the terrifying truth behind her own."

Having moved to Devon, where she has fond memories from childhood, and to be near her friend, Ruth, Esme agrees, albeit somewhat reluctantly, to work with Tim, a journalist and a friend of her late husband's. She also helps Ruth solve a mystery left over from WWII surrounding her aunt - both situations which quickly escalate into more than what they originally seem.

Although a series, there is no need to particularly worry about in which order to read them, although like all good things to start at the beginning is a very good place to start

I am thoroughly enjoying Ms Percival's well-written and enjoyable series. They are not too deep or involved, but are light and relaxing to read, with subtle red-herrings and intriguing plots. All backed up by very believable characters and immaculate research. The added bonus of a connection to genealogy and tracing the mysteries of Family Trees lends another dimension to the series - personally I think Esme would make a superb TV drama character.

Keep writing Ms Percival, I eagerly look forward to Esme's next adventure!

© Anne Holt


Media preview

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28 March 2018

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Audiobook reviewed




AMAZON UK £4.99
AMAZON US $6.98 
AMAZON CA $?

Fantasy / Folklore
Medieval
Russia

In a medieval-ish Russian setting, Vasya is the daughter her mother most wanted, and the one who ultimately killed her. Growing up half wild at the edge of a deep forest, Vasya’s father eventually decides that he should remarry so that Vasya can have a mother. However, her new stepmother is city-bred and zealously religious. She forbids her household or the villagers from practicing the traditional rituals of honoring the spirits of the hearth, forest, and meadows which will protect their homes. Vasya knows this is wrong and is afraid, and she is right to fear. The crops and animals start dying, drought comes, and horrifying creatures straight out of Vasya’s nurse’s fairy tales begin walking the night.

Her stepmother, convinced that Vasya is the cause of all the troubles, is determined that Vasya will either marry or go to a convent by midwinter. Vasya has to rely on her own talents, which she has kept hidden out of fear of being killed as a witch, to save her family and village.

“Vasilisa the Fair” is one of my favorite Russian fairy tales, and “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” is another of my favorites. This novel makes me think of both of these stories, drawing heavily from myth and folklore from a wide range of cultures. The setting is brutal and atmospheric - I got cold listening to parts of this! But I loved imagining the way the houses were set up and was curious about the stoves the family slept on. I had to look it up and learned a lot about the Russian oven! I loved the characters of the home, the house spirits and the men and women and the horses. Such horses! And Vasya is a tremendous character, brave and honest. I can’t wait to see what Arden comes up with for her next novel, which is apparently set in the same world.

My only complaint is that the audio narration was a tad slow at times. But in general, I enjoyed listening to this on audiobook because I am unfamiliar with the Russian language. I would have been unable to pronounce the words correctly, even in my head, which might have spoiled the reading experience. I appreciated hearing the words spoken aloud for me, so the audio version is highly recommended.

© Kristen McQuinn


audiobook reviewed


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27 March 2018

The Muse of Fire by Carol M Cram

shortlisted for Book of the Month


Amazon UK £3.40 £12.49
Amazon US $4.79 $16.95

family drama
1800s / Georgian 
London

'Abandoned at birth, the grandly christened Edward Plantagenet rises from London’s Foundling Hospital to take charge back stage at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, only to be blind-sided when he rescues Grace—a young woman escaping an abusive father.

Grace finds an outlet for her passions as a Shakespearean actress, becoming ensnared by intrigues and setbacks that mar the pathway to stardom she craves.

Set against the tumultuous backdrop of the Old Price Riots of 1809, Grace and Ned find common purpose in a quest that threatens to tear both their worlds apart.'

Grace is living in London after her father moved them there following the tragic death in a carriage accident of Grace's mother. Her father has turned to drink to bury his grief and when he lashes out at Grace, she runs out into the dark streets of London. She meets Ned, a young lad who works in the Theatre Royal backstage and Grace is introduced into a world she has dreamed of since she was a child.

Ms Cram's novel is a wonderful piece of work that conjures Georgian London and recreates a world where the theatre is today's Sky or Virgin Media and when prices go up at the theatre, it is a major crisis and causes riots. I had no idea such things happened and I have learned a great deal through reading this story.

The research is brilliantly done, rarely intrudes on the story and makes it feel authentic. Quotes from Shakespeare that pepper the narrative and head each chapter show that Ms Cram is a fan of the bard, and these little lines act as teasers for each chapter. You have an idea if the action is positive or negative for the characters.

What is also fresh and new about this novel is that you think you can see the love story coming and yet Ms Cram has several surprises up her sleeve. Nothing so obvious! 

This novel could sit alongside any mainstream volume on the shelves of a bookshop and a reader would not notice it is indie. If only Createspace could sort out the substrate and coatings on their covers, there would be nothing to suggest it was not published by a large house. 

This is a miss-my-stop-on-the-train good, and that is the high praise.

© Nicky Galliers



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26 March 2018

Eleanor's Odyssey: Journal of the Captain's Wife on the East Indiaman 'Friendship' by Joan Druett

non-fiction


AMAZON UK £4.61
AMAZON CA $8.38

Nautical History/ journal / non-fiction
1799-1801
Various locations

“1799, and French privateers lurked in the Atlantic and the Bay of Bengal. Yet Eleanor Reid, newly married and just twenty-one years old, made up her mind to sail with her husband, Captain Hugh Reid, to the Pacific, the Spice Islands and India. Danger threatened not just from the barely charted seas they would be sailing, but from the lowest deck of Captain Reid’s East Indiaman Friendship, too—from the cages of Irish rebels he was carrying to the penal colony of New South Wales. Yet, confident in her love and her husband’s seamanship, Eleanor insisted on going along.”

A fascinating read, and a must for anyone interested in Nautical History, particularly of the Far East and the East India Company. Joan Druett’s highly entertaining and expert commentary between Eleanor Reid’s own journal entries give an informative background to the voyage, some detail of which would be a little baffling to today’s ‘landlubber’ readers. Aboard ship, and on land, this wonderful view of a by-gone world and its inhabitants going about their daily lives is intriguing and absorbing. From the insight of a Captain’s wife’s wardrobe, through the difficulties of navigation, the threat of privateers, distasteful events (like dealing with constipation) and enjoyable ones, like sighting new and exotic lands, Eleanor’s journal is a joy to read. She is to meet storms, shipwrecks, cannibals, sharks, tigers and (as we know now) just as dangerous mosquitos.

Eleanor herself is a delight to get to know. Charming, witty, obviously well-educated, fearless and undoubtedly brave

A pleasurable read and highly recommended - especially for Women’s History Month

© Helen Hollick
Non-fiction


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24 March 2018

It's the Weekend


No reviews over the weekend 
but did you miss...





Jane Eyre? Rebel Woman?
by Lucienne Boyce




click here to go to page


* * *
and have you seen our


where you will find all sorts of interesting things
 to amuse, entertain and inform!
















23 March 2018

The Money Ship by Joan Druett

Shortlisted for Book of the Month


BOX SET
AMAZON UK £8.00
AMAZON US $10.85 
AMAZON CA $9.99

Nautical adventure / fictional saga
1800s
Various locations

Money ships were wrecks of treasure-galleons belched up from the bottom of the sea after tremendous storms, yielding doubloons and all kinds of precious treasure ... gold bars and bullion, chests of brilliant gems. Oriental adventurer Captain Rochester spun an entrancing tale to Jerusha, seafaring daughter of Captain Michael Gardiner — a story of a money ship, hidden in the turquoise waters of the South China Sea, which was nothing less than the lost trove of the pirate Hochman. As Jerusha was to find, though, the clues that pointed the way to fabled riches were strange indeed — a haunted islet on an estuary in Borneo, an obelisk with a carving of a rampant dragon, a legend of kings and native priests at war, and of magically triggered tempests that swept warriors upriver. And even if the clues were solved, the route to riches was tortuous, involving treachery, adultery, murder, labyrinthine Malayan politics … and, ultimately, Jerusha’s own arranged marriage.”

Joan Druett is a Master Mariner of her craft – the craft of writing maritime history and fiction, that is. This highly entertaining – and absorbing – nautical tale is one of those novels that keeps you turning the pages anxious to know what happens next. Descriptions, dialogue, aboard and ashore scenes are filled with incredible believability so much so that you feel you are a fly on the wall watching real people perform, not fictional made-up characters. You can feel the ship moving, hear the wind in the rigging, the crash or gurgle of the waves. Feel the spray on your face and smell the smells. Intrigue and adventure takes us with the Captain and crew to different ports and harbours on different voyages  over a period of years and all the while we grow to know the characters well and try to puzzle out the mystery that is deepening about Turtle Island and its lure of treasure.

There are distant lands and their native peoples, shipwrecks, pirates, clement weather and storms. A superb tale of adventure populated with nice, likeable characters and boo-hiss baddies.

Loved the entire series!

© Helen Hollick



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22 March 2018

A Discovered Diamond review of A Corner Of My Heart By Mark Seaman


AMAZON UK £2.99 £9.99
AMAZON US $4.18 $18.36 
AMAZON CA $5.07

Family Drama
1940 – mid/late 1970s.
England /  Germany


Let me say first of all that this a very emotional story and for a number of different reasons. It deals with two women, mother Ruth and daughter Mary who have never met. Mary was adopted at the age of seven weeks and has accepted her kind and loving foster parents as her own. She has never had any interest in finding her birth mother until her own daughter, Jenny, aged five, asks about her.

All her life (Mary is now twenty-eight) she has refused to think about her mother, assuming she had been cruelly and heartlessly given away by a woman who could not  or would not love and care for her. The women tell us their stories in alternate chapters, Ruth's story being the longest. She tells in a matter of fact manner of how, as a young child, she endured and eventually survived, the death camps of Nazi Germany, returned to England and found employment as a nanny, but with unfortunate consequences.

I had a couple of niggles: the 'present day' is not defined and it took me a little time to establish that it most probably took place in the latter part of the 1970s. I felt there was some repetition when Ruth is arguing with her employers and trying to defend her actions. There were also a (very) few typos.

Those issues apart, it is a book about the sheer horrors the Jewish people faced at the hands of the Nazis, the attitudes of post war life towards unmarried mothers, the actions of a refuge for 'girls in trouble'  run by Catholic nuns, a mother who regrets her own actions and a daughter who condemns her mother without knowing anything about her. The ending is simple but none the less emotional.


© Richard Tearle




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21 March 2018

Time and Regret By M.K. Tod

shortlisted for Book of the Month 





AMAZON UK £3.48 £4.99
AMAZON US $4.93 $7.99
AMAZON CA $4.92 $15.71

Family Drama
WW I
New York / France

An unforgettable tale of loss, love and redemption.

Time and Regret is a beautifully written novel that combines two compelling characters, vivid scenery and an intriguing mystery that propels the story at a perfect pace. This is one of my favorite novels of World War I (and there are many to choose from). For readers who really want to understand the haunting brutality of war and the healing powers of redemption, Time and Regret gets it right, over and over again.

The dual narrators, Grace Hansen and her grandfather Martin Devlin, weave two threads of the plot together in an effortless tapestry of love and loss. Taking us on vivid journey between 1990s New York and the bloody Great War battlefields of France, the chapters unfold beautifully between the two settings, at times crossing over, and at others providing insights and clues to the mystery at the heart of the novel. 

As Grace begins to unravel the family secrets and pursue the puzzle she found in her grandfather’s diary, we accompany her to France. Here, another beautiful element of the novel joins the story, as Ms Tod’s evocative descriptions vividly bring to life the French countryside, food, wine and art. But still the land is haunted by the scars of the battlefields, and Time and Regret brings us closer to Martin’s sorrows as the tension builds. A romantic element for the recently divorced Grade adds a touch of flair to the plot, and as she makes the connections and understands Martin’s terrible experience, we share her heartrending discovery.

By the time we reach the climax of the novel, we have a new understanding of the horrors of Ypres and the Somme, and an appreciation of the acts of bravery that must not be forgotten. And, with Grace as a perfect counterweight to her grandfather’s emotional journey, we celebrate her victory over her own personal battles.

I thoroughly enjoyed  this novel, and it is definitely on my keeper shelf, to be relished more than once. Beautifully layered and sensitively written, I would not hesitate to say this is one of the best World War I historical fiction novels.


 © Elizabeth St John





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20 March 2018

A Discovering Diamonds review of Lucia’s Renaissance by C. L. R. Peterson

Lucia's Renaissance: A Novel of 16th-century Italy

AMAZON UK £2.95
AMAZON US $4.13 

Family Drama
1500s
Italy

For most of us, the word Inquisition conjures up Medieval Spain and Portugal. However, during the waning decades of the Italian Renaissance and after the pope had returned to Rome, Catholic zeal to combat the Reformation of Martin Luther struck terror for enlightened Italians. Many of them died under the torture from the Grand Inquisitor and his zealot henchmen.

The author begins the story of young Lucia Locatelli and her family in 1571 in Verona. An extremely bright child, Lucia discovers Martin Luther’s hidden doctrines in her father’s study. Fired up by her thirst for learning and unfettered young idealism, her fervor sends her family on a terror-stricken path. Her physician father is branded a heretic and imprisoned. To atone, he is sent to the pestilence-ridden Venice. Eventually, Lucia follows him there in hopes of a new beginning.

Lucia’s Renaissance is told in first-person from the few main protagonists. A relatively uncomplicated read, the novel’s subject is nevertheless terrifying, and I kept reading in hopes of a better outcome for the Locatellis. Wisely, the author did not romanticize those terrible times when a careless word could spell death.

This is C. L. R. Peterson’s debut novel. Hopefully, she will write a more intricate tapestry of those times to showcase her talent and extensive research. As an aside, I did find the extremely large dropped caps irritating on my Kindle. I was also surprised that the one German sentence was mangled. A quick Google search would have given her the perfect “Wer sind Sie?” Other than that, the book was perfectly edited.


© Inge H. Borg




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