29 July 2017

When characters invade your life

Have Your Say! What Do You, The Reader Think?

An interesting topic to be discussed or pondered over 

* * * 
When Characters Invade Your Life
by Helen Hollick

There are, I have discovered, several authors out there (and I am one of them) who firmly believe that the characters we write about are real. I’m not talking about real people as in those who lived in the past – King Harold II, Queen Elizabeth I and such, I’m talking about imagined, invented characters. Figures who pop into an author’s mind along with the plot and story as a whole.

It is the fault of these characters I’m afraid. They take over our lives, our souls, our very being – and when we’ve finished writing about them, haunt us through day and night, whispering in our subconscious to ‘write something else about me’.

When I wrote my Arthurian Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy (over twenty years ago now!) I fell in love with Arthur; after all, for over ten years I had worked on what was eventually to become The Kingmaking, the first book in the series. I knew that man better than I knew myself! He was a friend, a confidante, an inspiration – almost a virtual lover at times. He was also irritating, annoying and a darn nuisance, especially when I had run out of steam and hadn’t a clue what to write next, or the confidence to do so.

But he would be there nagging away in my right ear. ‘Write. Write more. Keep writing,’ and the image of a scene would come into my mind – almost like watching a movie, then I’d write furiously until I had the scene right.

and maybe leave your own thoughts 
and comments?

Twitter: http://twitter.com/HelenHollick @HelenHollick
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28 July 2017

Fatal Coin by Lucienne Boyce

Amazon UK £0.99
AmazonUS $1.27
AmazonCA  n/a

Novella / Mystery
London / Staffordshire
 e-book only

Missing treasure. Murder. One ruthless criminal. And one Bow Street Runner determined to stop him.
In the winter of 1794 Bow Street Runner and amateur pugilist Dan Foster is assigned to guard a Royal Mail coach. The mission ends in tragedy when a young constable is shot dead by a highwayman calling himself Colonel Pepper. Dan is determined to bring Pepper to justice, but the trail runs cold.
Four months later Dan is sent to Staffordshire to recover a recently excavated hoard of Roman gold which has gone missing. Here he unexpectedly encounters Colonel Pepper again. The hunt is back on, and this time Dan will risk his life to bring down Pepper and his gang.”

Written specifically as a short novella-style prequel to Ms Boyce’s most excellent first Bloodie Bones novel about Dan Foster (and indeed, a planned series) I absolutely thoroughly enjoyed this superb tale.

Lucienne Boyce has a talented gift as a writer, producing stories that hook you straight in and refuse to let you go until you’ve turned the last page, and even then, leave you pondering on the plot and characters – and eager for a next adventure!

She creates believable characters, detailed settings and engrossing plots none of which outshine the other, or read like a history lesson. On the other hand, I have learnt more about Georgian London, the Bow Street Runners and how dismal life for the poor could be in the late 1700s than ever before. Highwaymen have always been romanticised, the anti-establishment bad-boy heroes of their time, Fatal Coin shows them in a different light as extremely dangerous risks to innocent travellers.

In addition to the main story we are treated to a sub-plot glimpse of Dan’s early life, his roots and background. The whole story, indeed the entire series, is like delving into a rich, satisfying and gloriously indulgent box of hand-made luxury chocolates.

Whether Fatal Coin is your first encounter with Dan Foster, or a venture into discovering more about him, this is a most excellent read, highly enjoyable and most highly recommended.

© Mary Chapple
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27 July 2017

A Discovering Diamonds review of: The House on the Beach by Joan Fallon

AmazonUK £2.92 £10.99
AmazonUS $3.64 $12.99

Family Drama

Rocio and Inma meet as children and promise to be life-long friends. Set in Spain, in the years after the Civil War, their unlikely friendship faces many challenges. It is a time when women have few rights and are controlled not only by a dictatorial State but also by an ever-watchful Church.
The girls come from different strata of society, one is poor and the other rich. But they each have their problems. When Inma saves Rocio from disgrace and the inevitable expulsion from the family home, Rocio believes their friendship will hold for ever. But she has overestimated Inma’s loyalty and her subsequent betrayal is hard to accept.”

Joan Fallon has a talent for writing realism about Spain and the events that happened to form the diverse eras of this wonderful country’s rich and varied history. I know little of the Spanish Civil War regrading accuracy and detail, but to my mind this delightful – if somewhat sad in places – novel is well researched.

It is not always easy for a writer to create a believable story where the two lead characters are so very different, in lifestyle, attitude and outlook, but Ms Fallon has pulled this off very well as a light and entertaining read. These two young women catch the imagination and you feel yourself involved with their triumphs and disasters, their happiness and their tears from chapter one and throughout.

Spain itself is as much a character – I would heartily recommend this read for a light, sun-based holiday read: ideal form when you are stretched out on a comfortable lounger beside the pool or on the beach, glass of wine to hand…

© Ellen Hill
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26 July 2017

The Betrothed Sister by Carol McGrath

AmazonUK £2.63 £7.99
AmazonUS $3.35 $11.99
AmazonCA $15.88

Fictional saga
11th Century
Denmark / Kiev (Russia)

Daughters of Hastings series#3

This is the third in the collection of stories about the women of King Harold II's family after he perished at the Battle of Hastings. This concerns Thea, the eldest daughter of Harold.

Thea escapes England to go into exile with her grandmother and the brothers that remain to her. While in the court of the Danish king, she overshadows the Danish princesses and secures for herself a brilliant marriage when she is betrothed, to a prince of Kiev.

As with the previous two novels in this series, The Betrothed Sister is written in a gentle style that still has enough sharpness, and even a touch of cattiness between the ladies, to be engaging and keep the reader engrossed. The world of medieval Central Europe tends to pass by the average student of history. We know of Peter the Great and the Russian involvement with Napoleon, but little more. This novel reveals a rich and vibrant culture that was as sophisticated as any western European kingdom.

Ms McGrath has now revealed the fate of the family of Harold Godwinson, and she is turning her attention to a different age. With her distinctive serene style whatever she turns her hand, and pen, to will be eagerly awaited by her dedicated readers.

© Nicky Galliers

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25 July 2017

A Discovering Diamonds review of: Wrath of the Furies by Steven Saylor

AmazonUK £5.99 £15.90
AmazonUS $7.63 $15.30
AmazonCA $28.00

Fictional saga / military

Series: Roma Sub Rosa Book 15

As often as I say 'I don't like novels about the Ancient World', whenever I do pick one up, I love it. And that is true also of this novel.

This is the next in a series of novels about Gordianus, the son of the The Finder of Rome who is on his own adventures. He is living in Alexandria in 88BC, having found himself there after an adventure in a previous volume. He receives a mysterious message from Ephesus which compels him to sail for that city despite it being probably the least safe place he could go as a Roman. Ephesus has been taken into Greek hands from the Romans by King Mithridates, King of Kings, who wishes to wreak vengeance on Rome and all things, and people, Roman.

Probably because this is book 15 of a series, this novel takes a lot of scene setting and a lot of backstory to get to the point where the story gets interesting, probably more ponderous for me as I did not know the characters and so was trying to get a sense for them as the story unfolded. However, once everything is established, events start to move fast and furiously to its inevitable conclusion. I would, therefore, suggest starting at the beginning of the series with Roman Blood)

Gordianus is realistic, a young man who has grown up around some of the greats of history and become a small part of the story of the Ancient World. He is likeable, down to earth, and just the right side of inconstant to be true-to-life and yet still attractive as a person. 

The cast of characters around him are rather like caricatures, but good ones, larger than life and overly done, similar to well-rendered puppets with excellent actors doing the voices - you know they are a touch O.T.T., but you still love them.

Despite this being very mainstream and generally very well presented, I must comment on the cover design *. The volume I have possesses a cover image that is completely misleading, as if the artist was told 'It's Roman' and did what he or she felt was appropriate without ever being told any more about the content of the book. It isn't about gladiators, so if you do pick this up, ignore the image.

All in all this was a great read, a different read as at the height of Roman power (just before the time of Christ and before the fall of Egypt) the Romans are not in the ascendancy. The all-powerful might of Rome is being challenged and successfully. The question this novel poses is: What can one young Roman do about it?

© Nicky Galliers
*Not applicable to Canada: Cover for Canada is different from UK and US

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24 July 2017

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Amazon UK £5.22 £12.99
Amazon US $6.65 $16.10
Amazon CA $24.28

Family Drama
19th Century

Emma Donoghue's novel is set in a small community in the midlands of Ireland in August 1859. It is claimed that a child has eaten nothing since her eleventh birthday, four months previously. Lib, a nurse who has worked in the Crimea under Florence Nightingale, is one of two appointed to watch the girl night and day for two weeks in order to establish the veracity of the claim.

Lib is sceptical; about the claim, about the motives of everyone involved and especially the beliefs and rituals of Roman Catholic religion as practiced in this part of Ireland. How her opinions mature and evolve over the two weeks forms the substance of this powerful novel. The relationship that develops between Lib and the child is beautifully drawn. Is she being exploited by her parents, by the local priest, or by the doctor who hopes to be able to publish the details of the case as evidence of a medical breakthrough? Perhaps by all three. Perhaps something even more sinister lies behind the child's behaviour.

And what of the journalist who comes in search of a scoop for his London newspaper? Is he just another carpetbagger or might he hold the key to releasing the child from the clutches of those whose motives she questions?

The Wonder is a cleverly constructed novel that explores the human desire to seek solace in the miraculous when faced with suffering. Set just a few years after the famine that accompanied the failure of the potato crop in Ireland for seven consecutive years, it also analyses the impact of starvation on the bodies and minds of those affected as well as on the minds of those who observe.

There is more to ponder, too, about the nature of exploitation. What about those who come to gawp, hoping that witnessing this new “wonder” will somehow enrich their lives, or the many who are encouraged to believe that touching some article that may once have been touched by a saint can cure their ills?

As the tension built I found it difficult to put the book down. I will not spoil the ending for potential readers by giving it away, but I have to admit that I did find the resolution just a bit too pat for an otherwise excellent novel.

© Frank Parker

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