25 February 2017

THE MAYA PAPYRUS by Richard Coady

AMAZON UK £1.99 / £18.99
AMAZON US N/A

Epic
Ancient Egypt

Thuya is not a wife to wish for; even her husband dare not go against her ambitions. Manipulating a marriage between her daughter, Tiye, and the Pharaoh Amenhotep is not enough for the woman, however, as she is determined to ensure her dynasty survives. Her sons, Aye and Nakhtmin, become close to the Pharaoh and Maya, the son of Aye, narrates the story of a mad Pharaoh, of wars, incest, power struggles and, inevitably, murder. We are also to meet Tutankhamen and his renowned mother, Nefertiti.

Richard Coady has created wonderful characters in matriarch Thuya and villain Aye, while also weaving a wonderful study of the godlike, mad Pharaoh Amunophis. He deftly explores absolute power and how it can so easily corrupt. The writing style is easy to read even with this being a very big book at 668 pages. Even if you have little interest in Ancient Egypt, I recommend reading this incredible book.

© Anne Holt
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24 February 2017

CAMILLE: AND THE LOST DIARIES OF SAMUEL PEPYS by Bob Marshall-Andrews

AMAZON UK £ £6.99 £14.99
AMAZON US $ 8.52
AMAZON CA N/A

Adventure / Mystery 
Restoration/ Charles II / 17th Century
France / England

Actress Camille Lefebre has to perform disguised as her twin brother, Robert, because of the French laws regarding women appearing on stage. But in this guise she is attacked by a nobleman’s son whom she kills. Fleeing from Paris she heads for sanctuary with an aunt who lives in London. Travelling from Dover as herself, Camille, she meets two gentleman, who, thinking that she does not speak English, discuss her attractiveness and state secrets. One gentlemen is Samuel Pepys, who takes her on as his personal secretary. Camille then finds herself entangled in treason and a vendetta against her by the brother of the man she killed.

Camille is a delightful creation: she changes with ease from female to male, is intelligent, thoughtful, witty and pretty - and can handle a rapier with skill.

I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure of espionage and adventure set during the time of Charles II, and delighted in meeting Mr Pepys in a slightly different setting to normal. A well-paced worthy read.

© Anne Holt
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23 February 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of: IMPACT by Rosalind Minett.


Amazon UK  £9.99 Paperback
Amazon US $4.37 (e-book only)
Amazon CA  n/a

Family Saga / Coming of Age
1940s / WWII
England

[Discovering Diamonds was provided with e-book review copies of this title in the format of two separate published books, Impact Part One and Part Two, This was slightly disconcerting for our reviewer who felt that breaking the e-book up in this manner spoilt the flow from part one to part two. However, having communicated with the author she made the decision to withdraw the two-part version and republish as one complete book. In my opinion this was a wise and sensible move. Helen]

Impact is the third book in a trilogy about a family torn apart by World War II.
The obvious first question is: should the reader have read the first two books in the trilogy (Intrusion and Infiltration) in order to fully appreciate Impact? My answer would have to be that it is not necessary, but advisable. My enjoyment of Impact was not significantly impaired by not having read the earlier volumes, but I did feel it would have helped to have had a better understanding of what lies behind the hostility between Bill and his cousin Kenneth which is the source of the central conflict in the novel, particularly as this is a good story.

At the start of Impact, Bill and his mother arrive back at their London home as Victory in Europe has been declared. The war in the Far East is still continuing. The women and children have been evacuated to the countryside in order to escape the bombing of England's capital city (the period covered in the earlier books). The men are serving in the forces.

The book follows Bill's adolescence in post-war London with its bomb sites and shortages of food and clothing, as he matures from a twelve-year-old boy helping his mother and grandparents, into a teenager about to embark on National Service. But it is his relationship with his older but weaker cousin, Kenneth, that gives unwanted shape to his life, a constant source of simmering resentment.

The style of writing changes subtly as the boys age, the early chapters using language appropriate for a twelve-year-old, such as might be found in one of Enid Blyton's juvenile mysteries featuring the Famous Five or the Secret Seven. By the time we reach part two, with both boys now in their mid-teens, the language is more mature, though still using expressions in dialogue which, whilst commonplace in that time and place, seem archaic today.

In some ways the relationship between Bill and Kenneth is reminiscent of that between Tom Brown and Flashman in Thomas Hughes's nineteenth century classic, Tom Brown's Schooldays. Bill is the quiet, hard-working, kind and athletic, rather than intellectual, character, whilst Kenneth is the academically gifted bully. The characters are so well drawn that, as with Hughes's novel, it is not impossible to feel some sympathy for both.

There are other parallels: Hughes's novel is deeply revealing of Victorian attitudes to society and class; Ms Minett's, similarly, exposes the snobbery and contempt for the labouring classes that existed among the suburban middle classes in 1940s Britain. The well drawn period details provide a believably realistic context for the development of both plot and character. Although I did spot one error regarding the radio show Round the Horn, which was in fact, first broadcast later than this novel depicts.

The story progresses steadily towards the shocking climax of Part One which drives the reader to  continue reading into Part Two in order to discover the consequence for both boys.

Impact provides a reminder for my generation (I was born in 1941) of how different life was in those distant, mid-twentieth century, days. For younger readers it offers valuable insights into the hardships and sacrifices their grandparents made in order to create the many social and educational advantages they enjoy.

© Frank Parker
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22 February 2017

BLOOD ROSE ANGEL by Liza Perrat

Amazon UK £2.99 £8.63
Amazon US $3.60 $2.99
Amazon CA $17.12

Family Saga
14th Century 
France

The Bone Angel series 

Mid 14th century. Lucie-sur-Vionne, a small French town. From her late mother, Heloise inherited the skill of midwifery. She has a husband, Raoul and a daughter, Morgane. But Heloise was base-born and has no knowledge of who her father was; all she has is a strange pendant. She has many friends, but as many enemies and then there are those who believe her to be a witch.

When plague strikes, as a healer she needs to do her duty to help where she can, but her husband forbids her to become involved. Defying him, she finds herself imprisoned – and her real troubles are about to start.

The third in the Bone Angel series,  Blood Rose Angel can easily be read as a 'stand alone', and is a powerful novel, well written, engrossing, and a superbly sensitive study of life, birth and terrible and devastating death in the 1300s. My only criticism is that the end lost a little bit of steam, but as the rest of this thoroughly enjoyable novel forged ahead at full tilt, I think that minor quibble can be overlooked.

Perhaps a novel for women more than men, but nonetheless a gripping read.
© Richard Tearle
Note: this novel may appear to be incorrectly formatted on some e-reader devices 
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21 February 2017

GANG TERRITORY by Peter St John

The Gang Series: Book One

Amazon UK £2.23 / £9.99
Amazon US $2.74
Amazon CA  Kindle $? / $27.86

Young Adult / Adventure / Series
WWII
England
Gang Series #1

A wartime evacuee's tale of village gangs and first love: When a boy from London finds himself homeless after the orphanage where he lived is bombed during World War II, he is bundled off to the countryside to live with his only relative, a pious spinster aunt he barely knows. Her village of Widdlington would be a peaceful place to live; or so he imagined.
The evacuee desperately seeks to understand his place in a bewildering, strife-filled world. He falls helplessly in love, but it's a passion that seems doomed, because the boy's aunt and the girl's parents are in bitterly opposing religious camps.
He does, however, possess one treasure he's prepared to guard with his life; his go-cart, Lightning. He'd rather burn it than let it fall into the hands of the Nazis, should they invade, and he dares to wrest it back from a rival gang which has stolen it. Humorous yet thought-provoking, the Gang series explores the difficulties and rewards of forging relationships in violent times.’

Gang Territory is the first of a series, and it is captivating from the very first page. The characters are so full of life and have a realism about them that bring the entire book, and their adventures, alive. The innocence of childhood during WWII is well portrayed, it is a time when children – despite air raids and the threat of Nazi invasion – played happily outdoors from dawn until dusk, when gangs were social groups not terrorist organisations (even if the gangs did have rivalries and were always attempting to outwit each other.) These were also the days pre- health and safety, pre-fussing and over-protection. Grazed knees didn’t result in a trip to A & E , conkers were not thought of as dangerous weapons – and go-carts were made from old bits of wood and abandoned pram wheels. Ah, nostalgia isn’t what it used to be!

Cleverly, the author, Peter St John, manages to write an entire story without once mentioning the main character’s name: our ‘hero’ narrates his adventures as if you are there, listening to him and joining in. (I did privately call the lad ‘Peter’ as it seems to me that Mr St John very probably is adapting some of his own wartime evacuee experiences.) The Village too, Widdlington, not far from Ipswich, in Suffolk, becomes as much a character as do the children (and a few adults). I felt I knew every street and alleyway by the time I had finished the book.

Gang Territory is, technically, a Young Adult novel, ideal for boys and girls from about ten years old – particularly for children studying WWII at school it will give a wonderful insight to life as an evacuee, but the story is just as good for us ‘grown-ups’ – Highly Recommended. I look forward to reading the other books in the series.

© Mary Chapple 

Note : this novel may appear to be incorrectly formatted on some e-reader devices 

20 February 2017

HERONFIELD by Dorinda Balchin



Amazon UK £0.99 £10.99
Amazon US $1.22 $19.01
Amazon CA Kindle $? / $30.65

Family Drama  / Adenture 
WWII
England / France

Heronfield, the family home of the Kemshall family, is temporarily a convalescent hospital during World War II, and it forms the backdrop to an amazing read.

David is the family hero, an RAF pilot who took part in the Battle of Britain. His brother, Tony, is a Dunkirk survivor, but Tony has other battles than that of the war to contend with. His father believes him a coward, he has to fight for the love of a woman, and all the while to keep a very secret secret, well, secret. Tony is, in reality, a British spy working in occupied France.

The novel is a big book, it spans six years, with the paperback version making a hefty 400 pages. That can be a lot of story to plough through – from Dunkirk to Liberation, via concentration camps and the horrors and deprivations of war. But when the story is engrossing, and the reader wants to know what happens next to intriguing family members, who notices length?

I particularly liked the way some of the chapters opened with News Slots, relating what was happening beyond Heronfield. Cleverly done, Ms Balchin.

@ Helen Hollick



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19 February 2017

It is the THIRD SUNDAY in February: which means...

No reviews on a Sunday 
but today is our Guest Spot


Click HERE to be redirected (to a page on THIS blog) 

ALSO 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