Sunday, 31 July 2022

A SAD (and difficult) ANNOUNCEMENT


Discovering Diamonds opened on January 1st 2017 with the aim of helping good indie and self-published authors of historical fiction to get noticed. Good reviews of good books, however they are published, are always welcomed by readers who do not particularly care how a book is produced as long as the reading experience is rewarding, satisfying and entertaining. Our aim was to showcase well-written historical fiction for readers to enjoy. I think we achieved our goal. 

But it is with sad regret that I am announcing Discovering Diamonds is to no longer continue. I have spent many hours running the site these past years - alas, I am now visually impaired, have muscle damage to my hands and find that I do not have the time I need to write, and market, my own books. Therefore I have made the regrettable decision to call it a day. The site will not be deleted, all reviews, articles etc will remain accessible to readers looking for a good book to read. I am particularly delighted that our last few reviews were 5 star Discovered Diamond Reviewer's choice selections - we have ended on a high note with some 'very good reads' to end on!

We had a total of 1,461 books submitted to us for potential review. Several were, unfortunately, not selected to have a review published, but many received our five-star rating, some of which were selected as Book of The Month. We also received not far off 600,000 visitors. We published 1,496 posts, mostly reviews, but some articles, and for each year during December our much loved December Story Song short stories. 

Sadly, and most regrettably, the closure of Discovering Diamonds has meant the disbandment of our planned Award for 2022. My apologies to the authors.

However, if you are an author seeking a suitable (free and respected) site for your books, please consider contacting Pauline Barclay's Chill With A Book Awards - she'd be delighted to welcome you as authors or potential reviewers. 

Pauline Barclay
Founder of Chill With A Book award

there is also
(although there is a fee for reviews)
IndieBrag does good promotion for books and 
you get gold stickers to place on your books to promote a standard of excellence


yours sincerely,
Founder of #DDRevs  January 2017 - July 2022
Website   Facebook   
Twitter @HelenHollick

* * * 
My enormous, grateful thanks to...

ANNIE WHITEHEAD
Senior Reviewer and admin editor

Twitter  @ALWhitehead63 

and to the authors and reviewers
who regularly supported 
Discovering Diamonds one way or another

THANK YOU

Susan Appleyard
and
Guest Spot

Cryssa Bazos

Anna Belfrage
and Guest spot



and

and 

JANE HARLOND
(author J G Harlond)

Alison Morton

Robyn R. Pearce


Elizabeth St John


and

RICHARD TEARLE (deceased)1948-2021
Senior Reviewer
reviewed from 2012-November 2020


Marian L Thorpe

My thanks also to 
our other non-author reviewers
Anne and Jack Holt
Cathy Smith
Christopher Fischer
Cindy Vallor
Dawn Lee
Ellen Hill
Jeffrey Manton
Jessica Brown
Kristen McQuinn
Louise Adam
Lucy Townshend
Mary Chapple
Nicky Galliers
Richard Abbott
Richard Dee

Cathy Helms and Tamian Wood graphics designers, 
were  our joint Cover of the Month judges

CATHY HELMS
website   

TAMIAN WOOD
website 

And my thanks to you
the readers and visitors of Discovering Diamonds
Thank you

Saturday, 30 July 2022

Blackshirt Masquerade by Jason Monaghan

 An Agents of Room Z Novel

Reviewer's Choice

1930s
London, England

"London, 1935, and the Blackshirts of the British Union of Fascists are on the march. Disgraced army officer Hugh Clifton is recruited by MI5 to infiltrate the Blackshirts, but unwittingly becomes a hero of the movement. Drawn into street battles against communists he uncovers a plot to bring mayhem to Britain and undermine the government. He is being watched by the sinister fascist intelligence unit Department Z and decides the best way to beat them is to join them. Socialite Sissy is searching for a friend who vanished inexplicably and the two investigations become entwined. The mis-matched couple face danger and treachery as they unravel the facts, and Hugh must decide who to trust—and who to betray."

This Yank will confess that as recently as a few years ago, I had only the vaguest familiarity with the history of fascism in England. But the Blackshirts of the British Union of Fascists are having a new notorious moment. Their creepily charismatic leader, Oswald Mosley, had a long character arc in the dark and brooding cable series, "Peaky Blinders." The BUF's lingering malign influence on English society in the 1960s was featured in the recent excellent BBC series, "Ridley Road." Now comes author Jason Monaghan with his contribution to the British fascist canon, Blackshirt Masquerade. And it's a marvelous stemwinder of a novel that's not to be missed by fans of historical mystery or great general fiction.

In this unabashedly character-driven mystery, Monaghan serves up two intricately drawn—and deeply flawed—main characters. Hugh Clifton, scion of new-money minor aristocracy, seems a haplessly misfortunate spoiled rich boy. Too young to have shared in the tragic heroism of the First World War, he's packed off to India as a subaltern, only to be cashiered in disgrace after being conveniently (and falsely) scapegoated for the killing of unarmed civilians. Having received what were thought mortal wounds during this atrocity, he neglected to die and therefore must by necessity be court-martialed. He returns in disgrace to England and embarks upon an indolent life of lassitude until recruited by an acquaintance of his father to penetrate the BUF and gather intelligence on the movement's finances. He soon encounters Sissy Rockwell, daughter of much more noteworthy nobility, who had been attracted into the fascist movement as a fashionably exciting antidote to her disastrous marriage.

What begins as a search for the BUF's financial lifeline inexorably morphs into a murder mystery revolving around a friend of Sissy's who went missing without a trace the previous autumn. And when that thread is pulled, the serpentine course of Hugh and Sissy's investigations lead them into an elaborately woven tapestry of dangerous intrigue wherein nothing and no one is what they seem. This is indeed strange soil in which Hugh and Sissy's deepening relationship blooms, but flourish it does. 

The author develops both his vividly drawn characters and convoluted storylines—of which there are several—with unerring skill, a consistent and distinctive voice, and enviable craftsmanship. The book is impeccably structured and flawlessly edited, with an internal coherence that keeps the pages effortlessly turning. But the apex of Mr Monaghan's artistry is his characters. These are all full-blooded, multidimensional, and utterly believable. 

The book is impeccably researched and set within a malign movement few know much about. In the hands of an author as accomplished as Jason Monaghan, this is the finest of historical fiction. Blackshirt Masquerade is touted as first in a promised series that will give us additional endeavors of the Hugh and Sissy investigative team. I for one anxiously await the next installment, Blackshirt Conspiracy.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Jeffrey Walker
 e-version reviewed

tomorrow, an important announcement

Friday, 29 July 2022

The Admiral's Wife by M. K. Tod

REVIEWER'S CHOICE


Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Goodreads

Dual Timeline
WW1/Modern day
Hong Kong

"In 2016, Patricia Findlay leaves a high-powered career to move to Hong Kong, where she hopes to rekindle the bonds of family and embrace the city of her ancestors. Instead, she is overwhelmed by feelings of displacement and depression. To make matters worse, her father, CEO of the family bank, insists that Patricia’s duty is to produce an heir, even though she has suffered three miscarriages.
In 1912, when Isabel Taylor moves to Hong Kong with her husband, Henry, and their young daughter, she struggles to find her place in such a different world and to meet the demands of being the admiral’s wife. At a reception hosted by the governor of Hong Kong, she meets Li Tao-Kai, an influential member of the Chinese community and a man she met a decade earlier when he was a student at Cambridge.
As the story unfolds, each woman must consider where her loyalties lie and what she is prepared to risk for love."

I confess to not being much of a fan of "parallel timeline" historical novels, but now and again I stumble upon an author who masters this subgenre. M.K. Tod has proven how well this can be done in her newest novel, The Admiral's Wife

In the few years prior to a shabby little man in Sarajevo shooting an Austrian archduke and setting the world ablaze, Isabel Taylor finds herself in Hong Kong as the wife of an admiral newly appointed to command the Royal Navy's China Fleet. With the reader—but not the characters—fully aware of the looming First World War, the story is shadowed with foreboding, with our knowledge that this would be the apogee of the British Empire. 

Alternately, we're invited into the complicated life of Patricia Findlay, a thoroughly modern forty-year-old daughter of a wealthy Chinese-Hong Kong family. Educated and enjoying a successful professional career in the United States, where she's also married a European-American husband, Patricia feels more American than Chinese. She decides it's time to return to Hong Kong to reconnect with her dictatorial banker father and imperious socialite mother. Her husband agrees to take a job at her family's bank.

Two woman, newly arrived in Hong Kong a century apart, both confronting issues of racial intolerance, social hierarchy, and familial obligation. How Ms Tod intertwines their stories is at the heart of this compelling story. Just as Isabel struggles to define her place in the upper reaches of the colonial hierarchy, Patricia struggles finding her space within her family and its business. Isabel isn't quite sure how to be a good British admiral's wife; Patricia has rather forgotten the role of a dutiful Chinese daughter. And both are struggling with issues of motherhood and how this has an impact on their self-identity. 

Ms Tod herself lived for some years as an expatriate in Hong Kong and this shows through in many ways. Her easy facility with the complicated geography of Hong Kong, her understanding of life as an outsider in a foreign place, her sensitivity to Chinese-Hong Kong culture—all these render the setting and characters utterly convincing.

I admit to holding my breath when diving into The Admiral's Wife. At this moment in literary history, accusations of cultural appropriation are flung widely and often. The author, a White European-Canadian, could have been put off by the threat of such accusations. However, she deftly handles her Chinese characters with sensitivity and humility. There is nothing gratuitous and she scrupulously avoids stereotypes while creating deeply textured, three-dimensional characters whom the reader cares about. 

I've read some of Ms Tod's earlier books and her craftsmanship and creativity are undiminished. This volume is flawlessly edited and beautifully formatted, with a fetching cover. She writes with such easy fluency and skill that the pages turn themselves. This novel is prime book club fodder and an excellent read for any historical or general fiction fan who appreciates fine writing. 

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Jeffrey K. Walker
 e-version reviewed


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