Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Book of the Month Revealed - October

a personal choice by Helen Hollick

From our OCTOBER Reviews

The choices are getting harder ... I've chosen Kitty's Story because it was thoroughly enjoyable.
Read the Review HERE
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From our SEPTEMBER Reviews

Several fantastic books this month, but I've chosen Cometh The Hour. Annie Whitehead is very probably 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 coming up close behind you!  Fabulous read.
Read the review HERE
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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

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To see my other choices for 2017

* * * 

All books selected will automatically be short-listed for our 

(to be judged independently and revealed at the end of December 2017)

* * *   * * *   * * * 

Monday, 30 October 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of No Safe Anchorage by Liz MacRae Shaw

Amazon UK £12.99
Amazon US $20.95
Amazon CA $26.95

 Family Drama
1854 - 1891
Inner Hebrides and Canada

On a lonely Scottish Isle, a widow lights a lamp to aid sailors every night until Thomas Stephenson (accompanied by his sickly son Robert Lewis Stephenson but known as Louis) arrives to survey the islands with a view to building lighthouses. The captain of the ship is Captain Otter and two of his men are Richard Williams and Tom Masters. Both are insular characters, not mixing well with the crew and as such become good friends. Then Richard commits suicide and Thomas, heartbroken at the loss, and failing to find a young woman who he believes knows something of Richard's suicide, deserts and, afraid of being captured, decides to emigrate to Canada. On the ship, he encounters Iain, a stowaway and eventually adopts him. Tom sets up a photography business when he settles and Iain meets (and marries) a young Indian girl called Spring Thaw. But it is her brother, Silent Owl, who arouses his passions.

In many ways, this is a remarkable book - it weaves lives and loves with deftness, uses some real characters and gives an insight into Tom's personality as he lives in fear of discovery and struggles with his sexuality whilst still holding out hope that he will meet the mysterious woman again. It is also a good study of the life of the native Indians.

I found two things to comment on: an overuse of metaphors – most of a naval nature – and the 'chance meetings' that lead to the truths and eventual explanations. Nevertheless, the feeling of the Hebrides is as strong as the Canadian scenes, while introducing both a young and older Stevenson is a lovely touch and I  can warmly recommend this book.

© Richard Tearle

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Saturday, 28 October 2017

It's the weekend

no new posts at a weekend 
but why not scroll down or browse the menu bar
we have lots of interesting items!

Next week:
 the last of the October reviews,
book choice of the month and cover of the month

and in November, we'll reveal what 
Discovering Diamonds will be doing 
over the Christmas period!

Friday, 27 October 2017

A Discovering Diamonds review of Belerion Odyssey by William H. Russeth

Amazon UK £3.20 £11.97
Amazon US $4.14 $14.95
Amazon CA $20.18

Nautical /adventure
Classical Greece

Belerion Odyssey, by William H. Russeth, is set in the aftermath of the Greek-Persian wars, in the fifth or fourth century BC. That conflict, however, is an incidental background to the story, which focuses on the lives of more ordinary seafarers doing their best to avoid being caught up in fights. Their desire, only ever partly fulfilled, is to acquire enough wealth to settle somewhere quiet, without provoking rulers and chieftains to exact revenge for their actions.

The story begins in rural Greece, in Spartan territory, and then winds westwards across the Mediterranean, brushing with various Greek, Carthaginian and other groups. Finally the trail in pursuit of the tin trade leads out into the Atlantic, to touch base in Cornwall (the Belerion of the title). A brief epilogue reassures you that at least some of the characters found peace in old age.

Each of the encounters in the Med and beyond is fraught with risk, and the assorted band of companions stagger from crisis to crisis. Rather like Odysseus, they lose friends and crewmates along the way, and consider themselves fortunate to survive each episode. Loyalty is important while fellow travellers are alive, but soon forgotten as bodies are left behind in the ship's wake. And so far as strangers go, trickery and double-dealing are necessary and well-used skills. 

Something I felt that William captured particularly well was people's mindset. People are sceptical and practical, but also superstitious, and take as fact things which we call legend. The old heroic tales of mortals and gods are constantly used as reference in strange countries, but not assumed to be literal or unerring. These tales are their equivalent of scientific and historical knowledge, to be followed cautiously in a crisis. It makes for a very persuasive world.

I would have liked more time spent on the section outside the Straights of Gibraltar. Meetings with Iberian, Armorican and British groups seem to be rushed in comparison with the lavish detail given to Mediterranean groups in the first two thirds of the book. The short epilogue, set many years after the main story, highlighted in my mind the abruptness of the conclusion in northern Europe. The remnants of the group are left a long way from any possible home, and with a very difficult journey ahead. Maybe a sequel would be good?

On a technical note, the book was well-presented. The handful of typos or grammatical slips did not in the least spoil the experience. There were a couple of places where names of people or places were casually used without introduction, needing a bit of detective work to track down, but this was no hardship.

All in all, a lively and enjoyable read, threading neatly along the edges of established knowledge of the era.

© Richard Abbott

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Thursday, 26 October 2017

A discovering Diamonds review of The Woman in the Shadows by Carol McGrath

AmazonUK £1.99 £8.99
AmazonUS $2.79 $12.84
AmazonCA $14.60

Family Drama

Carol McGrath’s expertly researched and very aptly named novel, The Woman in the Shadows, lifts the lid on an intriguing and too-long-neglected character from Tudor times. Thanks to several high profile novels in recent years we all know a lot about Thomas Cromwell but, as is so often the way, very little about the women in his life, notably his wife Elizabeth. Until now.

This novel explores Elizabeth’s life and marriage in an engaging and entertaining way. I found the details of the textiles trade fascinating and also very much enjoyed the nuanced and realistic portrayal of Elizabeth’s marriage with a man she loved and who clearly loved her but who was far from perfect. 

There are elements of romance in this read, but it goes further than that by investigating how hard it was to be an intelligent and ambitious woman in such largely repressive times.

© Joanna Courtney

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Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Out Of Mecklenburg by James Remmer

Amazon UK £3.99 £12.99
Amazon US $5.39 $14.67
Amazon CA Hardback $30.64

Spy Thriller
Germany and Argentina

Carl von Menen works for the German Foreign Office but his sympathies are not with the extreme elements of the Nazi party, a stance which could always prove hazardous for him. He finds himself posted to Argentina, but his true role is much more covert, and he soon discovers that he has even more enemies. To complicate matters he meets beautiful doctor Maria Gomez and is introduced by her to Filipe Vidal, ostensibly a supporter of rising Argentinian politician, Colonel Juan Peron. Surrounded by enemies and with few friends, von Menen walks a very dangerous and lonely road, though help sometimes comes from unexpected sources.

This is a very tense and tautly written thriller which smacks of authenticity, moves along at a decent pace and compares the exotic locations of Buenos Aires to the dark and dangerous areas of war-stricken Berlin. An attractive cover rounds off a very well presented package. The ending may well catch you unawares, but fortunately there appears to be a sequel on the way.

I did feel that von Menen was perhaps a little too competent in his new role, but that is probably being picky because I could not fault the story or the characters in any way. Highly recommended.

© Richard Tearle

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Tuesday, 24 October 2017

A Discovering Diamonds review of: An Oxford Scandal by Norman Russell

Amazon UK £8.99
Amazon US $8.86
Amazon CA $8.98

19th Century
Oxford and London

This is the third in Norman Russell's series involving Detective Inspector James Antrobus and his assistant Sergeant Joe Maxwell, but it can easily be read as a stand alone book.

An amazing discovery is made at an Oxford College and Professor Anthony Jardine is excited when he translates a Latin inscription. But his world falls apart when his wife is found murdered and he is arrested for the crime. Released on bail, his life is in tatters and he seeks solace in his mistress, Rachel Noble. Antrobus is about to be discharged from hospital – he has tuberculosis – and is immediately thrust into the investigation, with a little help from his friend Dr Sophia Jex-Blake (a real person, incidentally). And then Rachel is murdered and Antrobus' findings lead him to London and the connection between the two comes to light.

A decent tale, well written with nice descriptions of Oxford the way it must have been back then. I enjoyed the way the two policemen bounced ideas off each other, and, with his illness, Antrobus is not your usual gung-ho, action hero policeman.

As an aside, the cover is eye-catching and easily recognisable to those who know the city.

Recommended for readers who enjoy good detective stories

© Richard Tearle

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Monday, 23 October 2017

The Matfen Affair by Jen Black

Amazon UK £1.20

This title is shortlisted for the October Book of the Month

Regency Romance

My word, where to start?

This novel is concerned with little more than marriage. It takes place over the space of a few days as a family is drawn together for a wedding. And little else is on the minds of the guests. But there is a ghost story that is seamlessly blended into the plot and adds a delightful frisson of mystery and danger.

This is pure Austen. A family who want to marry off their youngsters, and that is pretty much the main theme of this novel yet as simplistic as that sounds, it does it perfectly. Even if the ghost story were taken out completely, this tale would still work perfectly. It would still be as readable, it would still flow as smoothly and with the same surprising pace. 

This is an absolute gem of a novel, a delight, one of the best Regency Romances I have ever read. I could not put this down. I read it in a handful of hours and resented the time I had to leave it alone.

As a classic Regency Romance, this is a must if you like the genre. I can't praise it highly enough.

© Nicky Galliers

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Friday, 20 October 2017

The Confessions of Socrates by R. L. Prendergast

Amazon UK £0.99 £19.95
Amazon US $1.28 $27.95
Amazon CA $27.22

Biographical Fiction
Ancient Greece

While The Confessions of Socrates was categorized under “Biographical,” of course it is fiction; but what brilliant and well-researched Historical Fiction it is.

Socrates languishes in a stinking prison cell awaiting execution: death by drinking hemlock. Having been given a twenty-eight-day reprieve (not by his vile accusers or the Council of Five Hundred, but due to the observation of a festival period), he scribbles an account of his life on scrolls smuggled in by a kind jailer. In it, he reveals himself to his sons (and to the reader) not as the haughty Greek philosopher we have come to believe he was, but as a fallible human being. His humble beginnings as a stonemason surprised me (bringing into focus the book’s cover: even a hard block of stone cannot suppress new life sprouting from it). I never knew he was drafted for several military campaigns – albeit without much enthusiasm on his part. He is an outwardly gruff sort of man, but his long internal struggles with himself and toward his family, friends and foes at last expose him as quite vulnerable and deeply caring; not that he admitted this to anyone until the end of his life.

The author injects conversations and philosophical arguments as they might have taken place during those heady days of Athenian dominance; not an easy read, mind you, but so well executed I never skipped even a paragraph. What a joy to read such brilliant and intelligent use of language. While this novel is a literary gem, it is by no means devoid of action, intrigue, and surprises with plenty human fallacies and insights.

I also appreciated the appended glossary of Greek names, places and gods. It made me realize those times were real, as were most of the people, their beliefs, continual wars and personal struggles. While I am ashamed to say that the little I knew about Ancient Greece I had almost forgotten, I am now inspired to re-acquaint myself with another great ancient civilization, brought to its knees by Man’s forever impetus to wage war.

The Confessions of Socrates is indeed a Discovered Diamond and I am giving it a sparkling and well-deserved place on this Review Site.

© Inge H. Borg

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Thursday, 19 October 2017

The Pirate's Debt by Katherine Bone

Amazon UK £3.04 £10.63
Amazon US $12.99 $3.99
Amazon CA $16.90

Romance / Nautical adventure

Book 2 The Regent’s Revenge

The guise of the Black Regent offers Basil Halford, Earl of Markwick, a chance to right his father’s wrongs and restore the reputations and incomes of the dead marquess’s victims. But prowling the seas around the coast of South West England as the masked smuggler and pirate necessitates that he separate himself from his few remaining friends. One of those men is Pierce Walsingham, a revenue agent who has vowed to hunt down and destroy this so-called “Robin Hood.”

Reality weighs on Markwick like an anchor around his neck. The hangman’s noose awaits him if he’s caught, and even a lifetime spent redressing the destructive deeds of his father may never pay for that man’s sins. Nor is he as adept in this role as his predecessor, the Duke of Blackmoor. But in July 1809, news arrives that Lady Chloe Walsingham has gone missing. He must rescue his friend’s sister before her curiosity ruins her reputation or puts her in harm’s way. Doing so, though, puts him in danger. She could well see through his disguise and, inevitably, he will cross paths with her brother who also searches for her.

Constant reading of her favourite novel convinces Chloe Walsingham that she must find the man she loves, but locating Markwick proves challenging. Only her love can redeem him from the depths of his despair over his father’s scandalous greed. When whispers of Markwick’s whereabouts surface, she and her maid board the Mohegan bound for Penzance. Besides, her brother has taught her how to defend herself, so what trouble can she get into?

The Pirate’s Debt is the second book in The Regent’s Revenge series. Sufficient background information from the first book, a novella, is included within The Pirate’s Debt, that readers new to this series will readily understand the events leading up to Markwick’s assumption of his alter ego. The only flaw in this otherwise gripping historical romance is a tendency to repeat character motivations and feelings, which at times dissolves the tension. The scenes involving the wreckers, Chloe’s rescue, the sea battle, and the confrontation with the black ship’s captain are nail-biting, riveting pages.

Bone is adept at snaring the reader’s attention and not releasing it until the story concludes. Her well-drawn characters easily come to life. Even the villain – Captain Carnage, a man whose mantra is “Dead men tell no tales” – is depraved yet stirs the reader’s sympathy.

Those who dare to venture within the covers of this book won’t be disappointed.

© 2017 Cindy Vallar

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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

The King's Daughter by Stephanie Churchill

Amazon UK £3.89 £11.81
Amazon US $5.01 $14.99
Amazon CA $18.71

shortlisted for the October Book of the Month

Fantasy /Alternate / Fictional Saga

The King's Daughter is one of those novels that is not strictly Historical Fiction but is worthy of the attention of this site. It does contain nods to real history with brushes with a culture and language that is entirely Roman, hinting that this mythical land might actually exist alongside the known Ancient World. That thought is tantalising, even if the make-up of Prille and Corium, places in the novel, is at a different stage of cultural development.

Irisa has always wondered at the education her father gave her, at the words he spoke to her, the stories he told, but nothing fits until she discovers that rather than being the daughter of an impoverished scribe who went missing three years before, she is the daughter of a dispossessed king. She is wanted by opposing factions to serve their needs and the desires for different claimants to replace the ailing monarch on his throne. Irisa has to survive at court, pulled in different directions, following advice from those who only serve themselves, and fighting against falling in love with the man she is to marry.

This second novel is less dramatic than the first but that is not to say there is not tension or danger; there is, but danger does not always come at the point of a sword. Sometimes it is hidden behind words, a look, a withholding of the truth.

Another accomplished novel from Ms Churchill. You might not like fantasy as a genre, but this novel is perfect for lovers of the Wars of the Roses, and if you are feeling the loss of Game of Thrones, this will feed those hunger pangs.

© Nicky Galliers

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Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The Chalky Sea by Clare Flynn

Amazon UK £2.99 £9.99
Amazon US $3.85 $15.87
Amazon CA $20.40

This title is shortlisted for the October Book of the Month

Family drama

When I bought A Greater World by Clare Flynn, I didn’t know what to expect. Within a few pages I was captured not only by the writing and immersion into the historical period, but by the fine development of Flynn’s heroine over the years. When I was offered the opportunity to review The Chalky Sea for Discovering Diamonds, I leapt at the chance.

The Chalky Sea does not disappoint. The author knows Eastbourne, on England’s south coast, and has researched its history in detail, but she uses it deftly to illustrate her story and never allows it to cloy or bore as we see in some historical fiction. The detail is cleverly woven into the essential story of two people from different backgrounds, ages and character. One is intensely proper, emotionally defensive, an outsider in many ways, yet yearning for something undefined; the other, unsophisticated, even innocent, and wounded by betrayal.

War and its circumstances, give release to both; Gwen grows to recognise her emotions, to enjoy herself and express her feelings, Jim hardens up and achieves balance. Both step out of their previous worlds to cope with horror; we are with them not only in the harshness of the barrack room or battlefield, and the body count after a Luftwaffe raid, but also in the new friendships and sense of purpose in a period of violent change.

This is a stylish, unusual and well-written Second World War story which I heartily recommend.

© Jessica Brown

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