3 June 2017

It's the First Weekend in June

No reviews on a weekend but...
Today we Reveal our Selected Cover of the Month



To see the Cover Winner For MAY
click here

Our Head Judge is
Cathy Helms of


LOOK OUT FOR!
  • Cover of Month announced on the FIRST weekend of the month
  • Book of the Month announced on the SECOND weekend in the month
  • Guest Spot - posted on the THIRD weekend in the month
  • Reader's Voice - posted on the LAST weekend in the month  


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2 June 2017

The Butlins Girls by Elaine Everest


Amazon UK £3.32 / £3.49
Amazon US $4.26 / $5.95
Amazon CA $6.99 / $12.33

Family drama
Post WWII
England

Molly Missons has had a lot to face, despite her troubles – or perhaps because of them - she applies for a job at Butlins Holiday Camp, Skegness. She finds new friends, Plum and Bunty, and the awesome star of the Silver Screen, Johnny Johnson, is also there to rock her off her feet.

Molly is a delightful character, typical of how you would think of a Butlins’ Red Coat, warm-hearted, eager to please, kind…

For those readers who remember joyful holidays at Butlins (or similar holiday camps!) this delightful novel will surely bring back floods of happy memories. For the story itself, the characters feel very real and believable, the setting too, feels authentic, - that air of naïve innocence of the late 1940s, when war was over and there was everything to live for. 

This was a lovely, fun, ‘holiday’ type read. I thoroughly enjoyed the nostalgia!

© Mary Chapple
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1 June 2017

Fair Weather by Barbara Gaskell Denvil


Amazon UK £4.08 £12.99
Amazon US $4.96 $17.99
Amazon CA $23.96

Timeslip /Horror
13th Century / Present Day
England

Fair Weather is a book with a wide and exciting scope. It creates a fascinating time-slip universe which at first seems to simply involve Molly, a modern-day woman, dropping back into the body of Tilda, a Medieval street-urchin - but rapidly becomes something altogether more fantastical.

As Tilda, Molly becomes involved with a charismatic man called Vespasian who seems initially to be something of a Fagin character before we learn more about him and his powers as an alchemist, and are drawn deep into his dark world. As the book moves on and the worlds of King John's time and now begin to collide through a series of vicious murders it also becomes apparent that Molly herself is more than even she knew and that she is at the heart of a clash between the powers of darkness that will bring great danger to herself and those all around her.

The novel is very cleverly conceived and pursues its fantastical conceits in a convincing and exciting way, building to a dramatic centrepiece that had me gripped. The characters are involving and I found it fascinating that modern-day Molly was conscious within the body of young Tilda so that we could enjoy the contrasts between past and present in a very active and open way.

I was drawn into the novel throughout but there were times where the pace flagged a little. Some episodes were overly drawn out and the book seemed to end several times. For me this big story seemed always to be heading somewhere momentous but never quite got there, perhaps because of the movement between time zones at crucial points?

That said, the narrative arc contained style and the various characters came together in a most dramatic and satisfying way.

© Joanna Barnden

[note from Helen: Joanna rarely reads fantasy, so did find the style and plot somewhat unfamiliar to her usual reading taste]





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31 May 2017

The Autumn Throne by Elizabeth Chadwick


AmazonUK £8.99 £14.88
Amazon US $11.64 $11.55
Amazon CA $29.69

Biographical Fiction
1176
England

Imprisoned by her husband, King Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of England, refuses to let her powerful husband bully her into submission, even as he forces her away from her children and her birthright. Freed only by Henry's death, Eleanor becomes dowager Queen of England. But the competition for land and power that Henry stirred up among his sons has intensified to a dangerous rivalry.
Eleanor will need every ounce of courage and fortitude as she crosses the Alps in winter to bring Richard his bride, and travels medieval Europe to ransom her beloved son. But even her indomitable spirit will be tested to its limits as she attempts to keep the peace between her warring sons, and find a place in the centres of power for her daughters.”

The third in a trilogy, but easily read as a stand-alone (although I heartily suggest reading the other two, The Summer Queen and The Winter Crown) – who can go wrong with an Elizabeth Chadwick?

Ms Chadwick refers to one of the three most well-known queens (the other two being Elizabeth I and Victoria) Eleanor of Aquitaine as Alienor, which would have been the style of her name during her lifetime. Probably ranked as history’s most formidable and admired queen, this wonderful trilogy follows her fascinating, courageous, and at times tragic and violent, life from the budding of womanhood to old age – via two husbands, the King of France and the King of England, her volatile sons and her used-as-alliance daughters.

The Autumn Throne covers the final thirty years of her long, incredible, life and in this trilogy – this volume included – we have seen these real characters of history who had major roles in her life through a very different perspective. How on earth did this remarkable woman survive all that was thrown at her?

Ms Chadwick’s writing, as always is fluid, entertaining, engrossing and a delight to read. Above all, though, you know that the facts are facts – and given Ms Chadwick’s wonderful skill it is virtually impossible to know what scenes are the facts and what are the imagined fiction, a sure sign of a top-class historical novel.

Definitely a Diamond Read – in my opinion a Koh-i-Noor!

© Anne Holt



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30 May 2017

A Discovering Diamonds review of: Broken Faces by Deborah Carr


Amazon UK £1.99 £9.99
Amazon US £2.15 $15.43
Amazon CA $20.31

Family Drama
WWI
Channel Isles (Jersey)

November 1914 to September 1918: The setting moves between the privileged home of the Baldwyns, the Chevaliers’ farm on Jersey, London, and the Front.

The prologue, dated 1918, tells of the work done by an American sculptress in Paris in helping soldiers to hide their horrific facial injuries by making masks, in copper or tin, to replace the parts blown away.  The soldier with the broken face is, like the artist, not named.
The plot deals with a love tangle set against the backdrop of the First World War. When Meredith Sutton finds her fiancé, Charles Baldwyn, in flagrante with his mistress, she breaks the engagement and refuses to have any contact with him. Some months later, still distraught, she turns up on Jersey, at the home of Charles’s best friend, Freddie Chevalier, in search of comfort and a refuge. While out riding, they share a passionate embrace, but Meri stops it from going any further. She leaves early next day.

In spite of his own betrayal of Meri, when Charles believes that Freddie and she have slept together – even though Freddie denies it – he breaks off the friendship. A letter suggestive of betrayal forms the basis of the plot, but Charles reads into it what he wants to see.

This is a novel about women picking up the mess that men make.  They do this practically – nursing and driving ambulances; medically – the person remodelling the shattered faces of the soldiers is a woman; socially – breaking down the barriers between classes; and, in its early form, politically – women of higher classes asserting their right to work and proving their abilities to be more than the fragile lady at home to be protected from reality. The simple act of cutting their long hair to a more practical bob is symbolic: initially shocking but ultimately accepted as necessary. 

The damage of all kinds is done by men. Charles’ double standards are inherited, and ruin more lives than merely his own, and Hamilton-Browne cashes in on this to destroy a long-held friendship. Lord Baldwyn’s own hypocrisy and the aftermath could destroy his wife, and may shatter other dreams. The scenes of battle, trench and hospital are well written. While many will die from their wounds, it is interesting to discover how much attention was paid to those who survived in order to help them to face the world with their own broken faces. Was this just for officers, as it is shown here? It’s not clear.

Facial reconstruction itself is not at the heart of the story; it’s peripheral, allowing certain movements and character revelations. But it is a metaphor; it’s not just the broken faces of the soldiers which must be seen as mended, but the facade of gentility and the patriarchal society that causes such horror.


The young women are strong and generous, and courageous too, as the excellent cover suggests. Charles is unfortunately not a likeable character, and Freddie could be stronger in the face of his friend’s obduracy. The book would benefit from closer editing to remove several errors and some inconsistencies, but as a novel about women at war, it is eminently readable.

© Lorraine Swoboda 




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29 May 2017

A Discovering Diamond review of: The Domesday Book (No Not That One) by Howard of Warwick




AmazonUK £2.99 £4.36
Amazon US $3.83 $8.88 
Amazon CA $13.88

Alternative / Humour
1066
England

Duke William has conquered England in 1066, but he has a bit of a problem. He cannot prove his claim. The body of his opponent, King Harold II, is missing so the new Norman King sends an extremely pedantic Saxon off to find him, using the ruse of compiling an enormous book listing the dwelling places and possessions of all the people of England. While he is doing that, some Vikings and the village idiot, set out on their own secret mission… Inevitably their paths are to cross…

Comedy is not always easy to write, it has to be humorous (of course) but not over-the-top silly. The characters here are, by necessity exaggerated, as you would find in any pantomime-type comedy: William for instance is portrayed as a wonderful ‘baddy’. To be truthful, the comedy was not always consistent and perhaps in places the ‘jokes’ were a little repetitive, but all the same this was a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining read and it kept me chuckling, so job done!

© Anne Holt


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