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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25 March 2017

The SHINING CITY by Joan Fallon


Amazon UK £4.49 £11.99
Amazon US $5.57 $15.82
Amazon CA $20.94

Family Saga
10th Century
Spain

The Al-Andalus Series Book #1
The Shining City is a wonderful story of tenth-century southern Spain, and of the city of Madinat al Zahra which for such a brief time did indeed, shine, becoming a rival to the capital, Cordoba.
Exploring the rise of the Caliph and Moorish rule, the novel incorporates a wonderful feel of this exotic period of history, skilfully bringing in the culture, history, and religion as well as beautifully written descriptions of every-day life.

The research was obviously undertaken with great affection and 'fact' is seamlessly interwoven into the fictional narrative. The characters are likeable and believable, with their hopes, dreams, fears and ambitions becoming as important to the reader as they are for them. We experience their loves and tragedies with perfect pacing, the story as a whole is most atmospheric – get out your sun-tan lotion for the authenticity feels so real you may need it!
© Mary Chapple
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24 March 2017

PORTRAITS OF PRETENCE by Susan Grossey


Amazon UK £4.83  £8.99
Amazon US $5.98  $12.55
Amazon CA $16.51

Mystery / Crime
1827
London

Sam Plank Mysteries Book #4

Portraits of Pretence is the fourth in a series of novels about Samuel Plank, a Constable in the service of Magistrate Conant. In this adventure, a French artist is found dead in his rooms clutching a miniature portrait of a young girl. As the investigation continues, Sam and his trusty junior Constable, William Wilson, find themselves embroiled in forgery and fraud, smuggling and a secret group that threatens the fabric of Regency Society.

I enjoyed this very much – the writing is good and the characters well defined. The plot moves along nicely and plausibly. I was also impressed that the crime was not solved in a matter of days, as is so often the case,  but over the course of a few months, which is a much more realistic timeline and I applaud the author for that.

Sam Plank is a recognisable character, logical and methodical, encouraging to his protégée and clearly in love with his wife, Martha. He is amiable too – and perhaps if I was to criticise anything it would be that he is perhaps too amiable.

There were a couple of loose ends although the probable outcome was clearly hinted at and the reader must assume that those hints did, indeed come to fruition – though I really would have liked to have known the fate of the former highwayman! (Although as this is a series I wonder if those loose ends will be tied in a future novel?)

A nice cover hinting at the subjects of the miniatures in general and a useful glossary at the end for some of the typical phrases in use at the time. All in all, a nice crime story that has a lot of appeal.

© Richard Tearle
this book may appear incorrectly formatted on some e-reader devices

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