Saturday, 30 September 2017

Book of the Month - September

a personal choice by Helen Hollick

From our SEPTEMBER Reviews

Several fantastic books this month, but I've chosen Cometh The Hour. 
Annie Whitehead is going to be the Sharon K. Penman or the Elizabeth Chadwick for the early Saxon period - and watch out Mr Cornwell - there's a lady writer of Saxon era fiction coming up close behind you! 
Fabulous read.

Read the review HERE

* * * 
from my AUGUST reads
(no book reviews posted - but books were still read!)

Thoroughly enjoyable. I receive great pleasure from Ms Gaskell Denver's wonderful tales, and this one, to date is the best I think

Read the review HERE

from our JULY reviews

No difficulty in choosing my favourite this month - I absolutely loved this novel! Apart from the fact that I am Royalist Supporter (despite the utter mess Charles I made of things, I guess I'd be a Royalist as I loathe Cromwell) I liked the major characters (the goodies!) from the instant I met them. The hero is my kind of hero, the heroine my kind of heroine, the baddy a real nasty baddy... thoroughly enjoyed it from cover to cover! Bravo Ms Bazos!
Read the review HERE

from our JUNE reviews

I'm starting to regret opening this page of a 'best choice' because we have so many good books it is getting hard to choose a 'best of', but what swung this one for me was the 'delightful old biddy'! Loved this character and the entire book.

from our MAY reviews

A tough one this month as there were several books I enjoyed but one alone had I to select, so...
...I've chosen Julia Brannan's The Mask Revealed because it was entertaining, enjoyable and blissful romantic escapism. Just right for reading in bed when 'to wind down' is desperately needed. The cover is lovely as well.

* * *
from our APRIL reviews
Medicus by Ruth Downie

Why I chose this book:

There were several novels I thoroughly enjoyed from our April reviews - but most were written by close friends (Alison Morton, Anna Belfrage, Pauline Barclay, Bernard Cornwell...) so it wasn't right for me to select those.
Yes, I do know Ruth, but I know a lot of authors (you tend to meet quite a few when you've been writing for over twenty years!) I reviewed Medicus because I thoroughly enjoyed it, it made me laugh in places, it kept me reading into the small hours, I loved the plot, the characters, the entire concept, and perhaps even more important, I went straight out and bought the next book in the series... and the next... and the next... So an obvious choice for my Book of the Month.

read the review here

* * * 

from our MARCH reviews

Why I chose this book:
I've enjoyed this series from the first book, The Man in the Canary Waistcoat. It takes skill to keep a series going - to keep readers wanting more, to come up with new plots and ideas and to keep the characters interesting. I also like the main characters Sam Plank and his wife, Martha, and Constable Wilson who is naive but 'growing' with the series. The research is detailed, the dialogue natural and the overall 'feel' very realistic.

Read the review here

from our FEBRUARY reviews
The Fragrant Concubine by Melissa Addey

Why I selected this book: 
I chose this book simply because I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was so engrossed in the last quarter of the book I didn't notice, until I'd finished, that it was 3 a.m. 
There were a few 'but why didn't he/she do...?" questions in my mind (sorry no spoilers!) but characters do (or don't do) certain things because that is the format of stories, and this is a very good story!

* * * 
 from our JANUARY reviews

Why I selected this book:
I chose this book because of the slightly different era for a 'police crime' novel, for the engaging characters and that 'lose yourself in the story' feel. 
* * * 

All books selected will automatically be short-listed for our 

(to be revealed at the end of December 2017)

* * *   * * *   * * * 

Friday, 29 September 2017

Perception & Illusion by Catherine Kullman

Amazon UK £2.99 £9.99
Amazon US $3.87 $13.99
Amazon CA $18.01

shortlisted for DDRevs Book of the Month

Regency Romance

Lallie Grey’s father hides from her the fortune she will receive when she turns twenty-five years of age. He continues to divert most of her allowance to himself and arranges a marriage for her so that he and the bridegroom may keep her fortune. Disgusted with his plot and his choice of bridegroom, Lallie escapes with plans to throw herself on the mercy of her grandparents. Luckily for her, she is discovered by Hugo Tamrisk, who has already shown an interest in her.

Most romances end with the wedding but this one is an exploration of Lallie and Hugo’s relationship with all it delights and disasters, and shows how perceptions and illusion can make or break hearts. 

The Regency characters are nicely rounded and easily visualised to the point that I have an image in my head of the actor I’d choose to play Hugo! Intriguing period detail abounds, much of which was new to me, such as Lallie’s presentation at court. The writing style fits the period very well indeed. There are descriptions of gowns and houses which will please many, but not so many that they become tiresome.

All in all, a very pleasant read, with a heroine true to the period.

© Jen Black

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Thursday, 28 September 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of Red Sky Over Dartmoor by Tony Rea

Amazon UK £8.99
Amazon US not found
Amazon CA $8.78

1916-1922 World War I,
Belgium, and Cornwall

Red Sky Over Dartmoor is almost two books in one. Marc Bergeron is a Canadian artillery Captain with a habit of being sent to the heart of the action. Doncha Ryan, an Irish bombardier is his faithful 'sidekick'. Bergeron is wounded and invalided out after the Armistice, but there is something nagging at him regarding the deaths of two officers that he knew and liked. He manages to piece together the evidence and forms his own plan of revenge and retribution.

A gripping story that makes you want to keep reading; well crafted, though I think there were one or two small holes in the plot – it was not until near the end that my question 'where does he get his money from' was answered. Plus a couple of very minor typos. Most of the loose ends are tied up, but one is left open for the reader to decide what happens.

An impressive debut novel from a man who knows his subject and whether there is a continuation of this story or not, I look forward to subsequent stories.

© Richard Tearle

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Wednesday, 27 September 2017

The Ravenmaster's Boy by Mary Hoffman

 Amazon UK £4.00 $8.99
Amazon US $5.15 $9.22
Amazon CA $8.90

"The story of the fall of Anne Boleyn as it has never been told – this time with ravens.
Young Kit finds himself on a plague cart wedged between the bodies of his mother and father. But he is alive and is rescued and taken into the home of the Ravenmaster at the Tower of London. He soon finds he can speak the language of the big black birds, a skill which proves useful when he finds himself caught up in a story of queens and treason, princesses and executioners.
There can be no change in the history of Henry Vlll’s first two wives but without Kit and the ravens another Tudor monarch might never have survived."

This little book is written for children and teenagers but that is not to say it is not pleasing for an adult to read - it is, very.

It is a fictionalisation of the time Anne Boleyn spent as a prisoner in the Tower and how she is befriended by Kit, the adopted son of the Ravenmaster. Kit is thrown into an adult world that he doesn't understand but he has friends who help him, two young girls who also live at the Tower with their parents, and the Tower’s six ravens.

© Nicky Galliers

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Tuesday, 26 September 2017

The Lost King by Devorah Fox

Amazon UK £0.99 £9.99
Amazon US $1.29 $15.85
Amazon CA $20.89


This is one of those novels that steps away from Discovering Diamonds' core genre and dips its toe in the realm of fantasy. But it is enough of a gem to include here, if only for some of the detail and the mindset explored in the story.

Bewilliam finds himself in a field full of cows with no recollection of how he got there. We are as in the dark as he is as the story progresses from there and as his personal story is revealed to him, it is revealed to us. He chooses to call himself Robin to avoid suspicion as he becomes aware that he is in fact a king, but of a kingdom he can't find. What he does then and how to rediscover his past is the content of the novel.

This story is about loss and discovery. It is also about resilience. The character of Robin losses everything and has to find a way to survive before he can start to find out who he is and where he is going in life. Memories tug at him, but he doesn't have the luxury of despondency. He is a fantastic character for his inventiveness and his positivity in the face of adversity. And despite his knowledge that he is a king, he has an endearing humility and vulnerability. You can't help but like him.

However, the true triumph of this novel lies not in the character but in the level of detail added by Ms Fox. If for no other reason, read this novel to learn how to make a sword. Ms Fox weaves into her story the full sword-making process and yet it doesn't feel out of place, clunky or at all like a block to prevent the story from progressing. They say that if you want to know how to put on armour, read Bernard Cornwell. Well, if you want to know about swords, read this.

There is another aspect to this novel that makes it of great use to the writer, or reader, of historical fiction. Robin doesn't know where he is. He doesn't know where the places he visits are in relation to his own kingdom. He struggles to find the first place he visited from the third. He doesn't have a map and he knows little of the world beyond his own realm. This level of realism for anyone who lived before the advent of the railway and accurate cartography, is something of a revelation. He has  not got Google Maps, so he is lost. It makes perfect sense. And yet I don't recall reading in a historical fiction anyone ever getting lost or not knowing how to get to where they want to go. It is so obvious when you think about it –  what did you do before maps or sat navs wers available?

Production-wise, the cover for the edition submitted (cows in a field) is initially less than attractive, once you start to read it sort of makes sense, but a better cover would certainly serve this book well.  There is plenty in the novel to inspire better imagery.

So, not our #DDRevs traditional genre, but Ms Fox deserves to be a Discovered Diamond because of the thought and the skill in which she has created her novel. There is so much in here that is of value to a budding author of historical fiction, and so much to please the reader.
Well done.

© Nicky Galliers

(shortlisted for DDRevs September Book of the Month.)

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Monday, 25 September 2017

Half Sick of Shadows by Richard Abbott

AMAZON UK £1.49 / £5.99
AMAZON US $1.99 / $7.49
AMAZON CA $2.49 / $10.10

This title is shortlisted for the September Book of the Month

Medieval / Arthurian
13th Century

It is no secret, to those who know me well, that I am a sucker for Arthurian legends. I will read them in any form I can get. I requested to review this book based on the title alone, figuring it would be about the Lady of Shalott. I had no idea that it would end up being one of the most utterly unique re-imaginings of the tale that I have ever encountered.

The story begins, as one might expect, in the tower. The Lady, who remains nameless throughout the novel, has awoken to her surroundings, an Eden-like setting filled with beauty and flowers and a mysterious Mirror which seems to direct her days and her education. As she learns, the Mirror adjusts its lessons to suit her needs. She goes through several cycles of hibernation of sorts, during which ages pass in the mortal realm. During these times, her body also changes, sometimes drastically and other times less so, although readers are left to wonder what exactly the Lady looks like as we are never given a detailed picture of her.

In each age, the Lady finds people outside her tower to associate with in some way, to ward off her loneliness, to teach her about the world she inhabits, and who in some way often worship her as some kind of divine being. She learns the precarious nature of her position and the pain of power, real or otherwise. She also discovers cultures and people throughout the ages, bonding with some as best she can from within her tower.

Seeing the people and culture change over the centuries allows for a very interesting twist on the Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot triangle later, once the Lady comes to know them.

For a story that has almost no dialogue and very few characters beyond an inanimate Mirror and a handful of people with whom the Lady can never fully interact, this book was thoroughly engaging. The language was descriptive and lush without becoming overwrought or melodramatic, the imagery is lovely right from the very first paragraph, and the overall story of the Lady of Shalott is entirely original. I loved it, especially the end. It hit on all of my favourite genres in one, and was just a lovely way of revisiting one of my favourite and often overlooked Arthurian legends.

© Kristen McQuinn

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Friday, 22 September 2017

A Discovering Diamonds review of: Echo in the Wind by Regan Walker

 Amazon UK £3.11 £9.83
Amazon US $4.04 $12.68
 Amazon CA $17.08

Romance /Nautical adventure
England / France

Unlike many of women of the ton, Lady Joanna West has vowed to never marry, even though at twenty-five, her brother the earl believes it is high time she wed. She also refuses to stand idly by why the villagers of Chichester starve from lack of work and the inability to pay high taxes. To that end she begins delivering food baskets to the poor, but now oversees the delivery of smuggled tea and brandy and makes sure the goods reach their proper destinations without alerting the revenue agents.

One night in April 1784, her men row her out to meet a new partner, a stranger who could be a free trader or a spy.

Captain Jean Donet silently watches from the shadows as his new partner inspects the merchandise and haggles with his quartermaster. Before the Englishman departs, Jean suspects the stranger is actually a woman in disguise. But that possibility intrigues, rather than discourages him, for he, too, is more than he appears to be. Disowned by his father, he is a French spy, was a privateer for Benjamin Franklin during the American Revolution, and is now a successful smuggler with a fleet of vessels. He is also the comte de Saintonge, a title inherited after the untimely death of his father and older brother. He must finally return to the estate he left years ago, but first he must attend several events leading up to the christening of his new grandson.

Since her brother has yet to marry, Joanna serves as his hostess at a party honouring the new prime minister, who is determined to put an end to the smuggling that plagues England. Two other gentlemen in attendance also catch her attention, but for different reasons. One commands the sloop of war responsible for hunting down vessels engaged in this illegal trade. The other is a forty-year-old Frenchman who seems taken with her younger sister, who has just come of age. Joanna will do whatever is necessary to keep Tillie from becoming a sacrificial lamb… 

Echo in the Wind is the second book in the Donet Trilogy and takes place five years before the storming of the Bastille and the start of the French Revolution. As in the previous title, To Tame the Wind, Walker opens with a list of “Characters of Note” so readers can acquaint themselves with who’s who before the story begins. Aside from Chichester and London, she whisks readers back to eighteenth-century Lorient, Saintonge, and Paris to experience first hand the discontent of the people and the callow disregard of the nobility. Walker also includes an author’s note where she discusses the history behind the novel.
Chapter one places readers in the midst of the action and shows great promise of suspense, but the pace slows thereafter and doesn’t pick up again until after page 100. Those pages focus more on character development, with only minor hints of possible adventure and misadventure. Yet stalwart readers who brave the trials and tribulations that they and the characters experience will be richly rewarded with a wonderful love story.

© 2017 Cindy Vallar

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Thursday, 21 September 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of Acre's Bastard by Wayne Turmel

Part One of the Lucca le Pou Stories

Amazon UK £4.07 / £11.99
Amazon US $5.27 / $14.26
Amazon CA £20.22

Fictional Saga / Young adult
Middle East  

Salah-adin is poised to conquer the Kingdom of Jerusalem. For ten-year-old Lucca "the Louse," it's life as normal. The streets of Acre - the wickedest city in the world - are his playground. But when a violent act of betrayal leaves him homeless and alone, he is drawn into a terrifying web of violence, espionage, and holy war.

Acre’s Bastard is written in the first person from the viewpoint of a streetwise child. Lucca tells the story of how he survives as a defenceless boy on the streets of one of the most dangerous cities of the 12th century. I loved the way Lucca interacts with other characters. His relationships with the adults work really well, and there are some tender moments that remind you that he is a vulnerable child, despite being able to take care of himself. But his vulnerability makes it easy for him to fall prey to wickedness. 

It would have been good to have seen more depth to the other characters, perhaps in their interactions with Lucca, on the other hand, we are seeing events through the eyes of a child and he sees the characters as a child would see them, without really knowing who they are. The people that populate Lucca’s world are superficial.

Acre’s Bastard endeared itself to me in the way that books did in my childhood. 
The author brings a lot of dry humour into the telling of the story. Lucca’s sense of the ridiculous is highlighted in the narrative. And Lucca’s self-deprecation at times had me chuckling to myself. I’m looking forward to finding out what will happen to Lucca and his friends in the next book.

It has been my pleasure to review this book and am grateful for the opportunity and wholly recommend it.

© Paula Wilcox

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Wednesday, 20 September 2017

COMETH THE HOUR by Annie Whitehead

Amazon UK £1.99 £7.99
Amazon US £2.58 $14.95
Amazon CA $18.08

Selected as Book of the Month 

Biographical Fiction /Family Drama / Military
early to mid 7th Century
Settings: England

The story of Penda of Mercia is retold here by a wonderful writer, Annie Whitehead. But it is not just Penda's story, but also of the many kings who vied for supremacy during the turbulent 7th Century.

I don't intend to say much of the plot here, for it is quite well known to those who like this period and details of Penda's life and works are easily found on the internet for those who don't. Ms Whitehead has not only recounted - very well - the true story but she has also captured perfectly the feel of the times, the hatred between brothers, the perfidy of kings and, most impressively, she manages to convey that even the ones you want to hate had their reasons for acting the way they did.

The pace fairly zips along and it is full of strong and thoroughly believable characters – led by Penda himself and closely followed by Edwin, Oswald and Oswii – backed up with good, solid research, atmospheric locations and with battle scenes which, though shorter than in similar books, are on an equal footing with Cornwell and Harffy together, with a love story between Penda and Derwena that put me in mind of Penman's Llewelyn the Great and Joanna. In this volume, too, the women are strong - especially Edwin's daughter, Hild - even when they have to accept their position in life.

It is a good idea to study the map and extremely helpful 'family trees' at the beginning of the book as relationships can get complicated and the cover, simplistic yet still one that stands out, would grace any bookshop and readers' shelves.

Ms Whitehead's previous two books, To Be A Queen and Alvar the Kingmaker are both award winners within the genre and I fully expect that Cometh The Hour will join them.

Very, very highly recommended.

© Richard Tearle

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Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The Pirate's Duchess by Katherine Bone

well - it's Talk Like A Pirate Day - so we must have a pirate novel!

Amazon UK £2.32 £5.72
Amazon US $2.99 $6.99
Amazon CA $9.09

Romance /Nautical adventure

Book 1 The Regent’s Revenge

A suicide in 1806, a vow to his father, and an assassin’s attempt on his own life in 1807 compel Tobias Denzell, the sixth Duke of Blackmoor, to abandon his beloved wife Prudence and assume a false identity. The Black Regent, a notorious smuggler and pirate, allows him to protect his wife, assist those who have suffered devastating losses at the hands of a greedy swindler, and helps out-of-work miners in Exeter, England. His sole aim is to bring about the downfall of the Marquess of Underwood, a curmudgeon obsessed with wealth who will do whatever is necessary to acquire others’ inheritances.

For two years Tobias attacks Underwood’s ships until he is on the verge of bankruptcy. But then his wife decides to marry Underwood’s son and shows her future father-in-law a survey map of the Blackmoor estate. It shows the location of a rich vein of copper – a fact that puts Prudence in grave danger. Once Underwood gets his hands on her dowry, her worth will be nil. The only way to save her life is for Tobias to come back from the dead, but she may never forgive him for betraying their love. Not to mention that his sudden reappearance will endanger his life since Underwood will assuredly attempt to murder him again, and someone may connect him to the Black Regent, which will earn him the hangman’s noose. The lynchpin in his plan to finally bring about his nemesis’s downfall and keep Prudence safe requires the help of Underwood’s son, but Tobias is no longer certain he can trust his longtime friend…

This historical romance novella is the first volume in a new series, Regent’s Revenge. Bone’s imagery is vivid and readily transports readers back to the 19th century, and her characters are memorably drawn. It is a short, fast-paced read with only a small portion of it taking place on a ship, but it adeptly sets the stage for future adventures.

© 2017 Cindy Vallar

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