22 April 2017

A Discovering Diamonds review of 1066: WHAT FATES IMPOSE by G.K. Holloway

Amazon UK £2.48  £9.99
Amazon US $3.09  $16.70
Amazon CA  $29.24


England is in crisis. King Edward has no heir and promises never to produce one. There are no obvious successors available to replace him, but quite a few claimants are eager to take the crown. While power struggles break out between the various factions at court, enemies abroad plot to make England their own.There are raids across the borders with Wales and Scotland.
Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex, is seen by many as the one man who can bring stability to the kingdom. He has powerful friends and two women who love him, but he has enemies who will stop at nothing to gain power. As 1066 begins, England heads for an uncertain future. It seems even the heavens are against Harold.
Intelligent and courageous, can Harold forge his own destiny – or does he have to bow to what fates impose?”

The 1066 period in fiction seems to be gaining in popularity, which is a good thing, as is the most welcome swing towards writing the events of what is probably the most famous date in English history from the English point of view – in other words exploring the truth behind the victor’s, the Norman, propaganda.

There are always two sides to conflict and G.K. Holloway certainly knows his stuff when it comes to research and fact; his detail seems to be faultless, but as a novel maybe the dialogue is a bit chunky in places, and perhaps the facts – as good as they are – occasionally get in the way of the fiction? The characterisation gives way to the research a little as well, which is a shame because 1066: What Fates Impose deserves a place among the other 1066 books because of the writer’s obvious enthusiasm and knowledge.

Having said that, the characters, their actions, their motivations – their obsession almost, fit very well into this novel. For readers who prefer their historical fiction to concentrate on the reality of fact, rather than the imagination of made-up fiction,  and to portray the truth of what might have happened, and to do so with confidence, this is the right book.

© Richard Tearle

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21 April 2017

A Discovered Diamonds review of TUNNEL 6 by Steve Bartholomew

 Amazon UK £1.99    £8.38
Amazon CA  $16.99

 Adventure / Romance
American Frontier

Tunnel 6 is a quirky and entertaining novel about a well-chosen period in American history that I knew nothing about beforehand and found fascinating. It is told in several different strands and, indeed, several different styles, including diary entries and a ‘confession’, and that nicely worked device held my attention well and kept the story moving along.

The novel follows the fortunes of a work camp in America building the Central Pacific railway line through the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the 1860s and specifically those trying to blast the longest tunnel – the eponymous Tunnel 6 - through granite. Centring around an engineer, a female wire operator and a saboteur sent to delay and, if possible, destroy the line, and with a fascinating side cast of Chinese workers, it offers a lively glimpse into a very interesting time.

That said, although I enjoyed Tunnel 6, it never truly grabbed me, perhaps because everything seemed to happen on a slightly superficial level. The core romance was sweet but very steady. It never seemed to hit any rocks or problems and as a result I never felt on the inside of it. That was believable in some ways as these were two very straightforward individuals but it still made it hard for me to truly care about their fate. The setting was clearly well researched and believably presented but there was no real atmosphere which, for a book set in the frozen wastes of Sierra Nevada, was a shame.

Similarly, when it came to the plot, I found it fun piecing together what had happened, but the fact that we knew the perpetrator of the attempted sabotage from the start meant that there was a lack of secrets to really keep me hooked and no one ever felt truly in jeopardy. The pace was sufficient to keep me reading but I felt that I was always waiting for the storyline to get going and found myself slightly surprised to have reached the end.

Overall, I found Tunnel 6 a fluid and fun read, but not one that really got under my skin. It will appeal to readers who are interested in this period of American Frontier history and the building of the railways.

© Joanna Barnden

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20 April 2017

A Discovered Diamond review of And THEN MINE ENEMY by Alison Stuart

A Discovered Diamond review of: AND THEN MINE ENEMY by Alison Stuart

Amazon UK £2.37    £6.31
Amazon US $2.95  $7.99
Amazon CA  $ n/a

 Romance / Adventure
17th Century / English Civil War

And Then Mine Enemy by Alison Stuart is a fast-moving, involving historical romance set in the instantly dramatic period of the English Civil War. It follows the unfolding relationship between Adam Coulter, bastard-born ‘cuckoo in the nest’ of a noble family who chooses to defy his half brothers by taking parliament’s side in the rising war, and Perdita Gray, fianceĆ© to Adam’s stepbrother, Simon. Perdita is an independent-spirited woman who is strong enough to aid the severely wounded and brave enough to ride across war-torn England when the need arises. At first her engagement to the steady and loving Simon precludes her from giving in to her feelings for Adam but in times of war fortunes can turn swiftly, for better and for worse…

This is a very entertaining read, set in a fascinating period that Stuart creates naturally and convincingly. It is lightly written with good pace and flow and is peopled with characters you’ll will to succeed. It ends a little suddenly but as it is the first in a series that isn’t a big problem and I just need to get hold of the next book, Now My Sworn Friend, to read more about both the family and the country’s adventures in hard and interesting times.

© Joanna Barnden

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19 April 2017

A Discovering Diamonds review of LEONIDAS OF SPARTA: A BOY OF THE AGOGE by Helena P Schrader

 Amazon UK £3.65    £12.99
Amazon US $4.56  $15.32
Amazon CA  $11.75

Adventure/ Military / Coming of Age / Family Saga
Late 6th Century BC
Sparta - Greece

Book #1 of a trilogy

The death of Leonidas now stands alongside those of many other heroes of the past, yet the life of this man is not well documented. Helena Schrader attempts to put this right with her Leonidas of Sparta trilogy, of which this is the first volume.

It covers the period from when Leonidas is seven years old and taken to the Agoge (or school) until he eventually graduates to become a citizen fourteen years later. We follow his adventures, trials, successes and failures for each of these years, seeing how he grows up and deals with the harsh – though not so severe as we might imagine – upbringing in the Agoge and the Spartan way of life. Leonidas is the youngest son of the king and rather down-trodden by his brothers and half-brothers – even his slightly older-by-minutes twin, Brotus, looks down on him. But he has friends, the arrogant Prokles and the shy, stuttering weakling Alkander.

Whilst a good story - I cannot fault the research and the detail with which the author describes events - but we start off with a rather long prologue where Leonidas seems to be preparing for Thermopylae and from thereon in, the book is littered with words and phrases either in parentheses or within quotation marks, or both, when more appropriate writing might have removed these distractions. I also felt that so much of the history – and therefore the depth of research – was told in the narrative rather than shown by the characters in dialogue or action and narrative. There were only one or two typographical or spacing errors, but for a British reader I wonder if the 'Americanisms' (i.e ‘Fall’ not ‘Autumn’) and a spattering of anachronisms might jar a little? e.g. I doubt Spartan soldiers would have 'gone AWOL'?

All in all, I enjoyed the story, the subject is a fascinating one and should be told, plus the author knows her subject very well, so for readers who prefer historical detail over imaginative fiction this is ideal.

© Richard Tearle

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18 April 2017

A Discovering Diamonds review of MAN and BEAST by Michael Jensen

Amazon UK £ 4.90
Amazon US $6.15
Amazon CA  $ n/a

LBGT (sexual content)
18th Century
American Frontier

Savage Lands series

“The year is 1797, and 24-year-old John Chapman is lost on the American frontier with winter falling fast. Near death, he stumbles upon a lone cabin, and the owner, a rugged but sexy frontiersman named Daniel McQuay, agrees to let John winter over.
John and Daniel quickly find themselves drawn to each other, the sex between them unlike anything John has ever known. But as the weeks turn into snowbound months, Daniel begins to change into someone brutish, and the line between man and beast disappears.
With the arrival of spring, John flees, eventually finding refuge in the company of a group of frontier outcasts, including a brash young settler named Palmer. But in the wilds of this savage land, love is not so easily tamed, and John soon finds himself calling upon the raging animal within him to save the man he loves.
Man & Beast is the first book in the Savage Lands, a series that celebrates the untold gay history of the American frontier. ((It) was previously published under the title Frontiers. This edition has been extensively revised.)”

The storyline for this novel is basically simple: in the autumn of 1797, John Chapman, a young man seeking a place in the world, is forced to flee a British garrison on the North American frontier when his relationship with an Army officer is discovered. The officer flees as well, but he is mortally injured in the chase. John then survives a trek through virgin forests until he comes upon a cabin occupied by the horrific yet apparently sexy, Daniel McQuay.

Writing in the first person as John, Jensen describes McQuay as having mood swings faster and more often than a two-year-old, but it is an unfortunate comparison because this man is manic, possibly psychopathic, and wholly terrifying. One wonders if John had come upon the cabin in spring-time how the story would have changed, but as it is, winter sets in and he is trapped in more ways than one.

Eventually John does escape, but then finds himself in the nascent town of Franklin, where everyone is running from something, and everyone has a sad tale to tell. Sad tales indeed, they run the gamut of man’s inhumanity to man – and occasionally, woman: prejudice in all forms; sexism (typical of the period but disturbing nonetheless), racism; incest; attempted infanticide . . .

And as the Ancient Greek doctor Asclepius told his disciples, the things that happen to people are like the people they happen to. The ‘good people’ of Franklin in their appalling ignorance and prejudice against native tribes are responsible for the death of a twelve year-old boy, whose head they proudly place on a stake.

Despite feeling out of place and unhappy with his neighbours, John Chapman tries to make something of the small settlement he’s allotted by planting apple trees. In the process he is also trying to come to terms with his sexuality and personality. Throughout the book, there are lengthy, graphic portrayals of M/M sex, and a number of violent scenes – visceral violence. Whether this is to an individual reader’s taste is obviously up to him/her, but take heed of the male torso on the cover as some indication of content. Not seeing the cover before I started the ebook, I began by thinking the beast of the title would be a bear, perhaps a puma: the beast is the character Daniel, also called Zach, who finds John again, just when John has started to find a form of contentment. To say more would be to spoil the story.

Jensen has created a sympathetic character in John Chapman. This reader, who blanched at numerous paragraphs, warmed to him, wanted him to succeed and be happy – and wanted him to get the hell out of each of the cabins to somewhere more civilised in every way. In this, Jensen has also succeeded, for he has re-created the difficulties and dangers facing those frontier settlers convincingly. This is a well-written book, albeit not for the faint-hearted.

© J.G. Harlond
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17 April 2017

BLITZ P.A.M.S. by John Orton

 Amazon UK £7.99 £3.99
Amazon US $4.99
Amazon CA no price

Coming of Age / Fictional Drama
WWII 1941

from the 'Tales from Old South Shields' series

Blitz PAMS is set in 1941 in South Shields, a small town on the estuary of the River Tyne facing Germany across the North Sea. The German Blitzkrieg has begun and as the first bombs hit the town, the Police send out a call for young cyclists, to be known as Police Auxiliary Messengers, (PAMS) to spring into action when phone lines go down.

Mossie Hamed, a sixteen-year-old Arab grocery delivery boy, volunteers. Through his eye view of bombs falling in darkness we learn how this experience changed the lives of him and his ‘marras’ and how these teenage lads – and a girl – fumbled their way through the first sexual encounters of their lives knowing that one more German bomb could end their existence. 

The writing style is vibrant, littered with dialect words and phrases which add flavour and delivers Geordie common sense and humour as plain English never could. The meaning is obvious in spite of the dialect and the action roars along with tales of heroism, tragedy and outright dishonesty.

As much a social history as a work of fiction, it is nevertheless worthy of people’s attention.

© Jen Black

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16 April 2017

The Third Sunday of April, which means:

No reviews on a Sunday 
but today is our Guest Spot

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

  • 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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