Thursday, 28 February 2019

Cover and Book of the Month - February

designer Cathy Helms of
with fellow designer Tamian Wood of
will select the Cover of the Month
with all winners going forward for Cover of the Year in December 2019
(and honourable mentions going forward for Honourable Mention Runner-up)
Note: where UK and US covers differ only one version will be selected
February Cover of the Month
Designer unknown 
Read our review
Honourable Mention Runners Up 

Read our review

This cover is Tamian Wood's design and cannot, therefore be considered.

Book of the Month 
Helen Hollick's personal choice selection
read our review

Chosen because it was an absorbing read about an era that is not often tackled by writers. Thoroughly enjoyable. HH.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of Fire Aloft or Revenge of the Aero-Pyrates Rev Dicerto & Duncan Eagleson

"...a rousing steampunk adventure filled with intrigue, romance, and treachery. "



In the midst of a battle between Union and Confederate airships in 1869, Billy Leary knows he’s about to die. After leaving Ireland, neither he nor his brother Jimmy thought to become entangled in this bloody war. But the Union hadn’t offered them a choice. No sooner had they stepped ashore than they were conscripted into the air corps, and now, the Rebel commander, Garrett Prescott, has fired on the Union airships after they surrender. In spite of being an engineer there is nothing Billy can do to prevent his vessel’s explosion. At least Jimmy yet lives.

But Billy’s demise doesn’t occur. When he regains consciousness, he finds himself in a Rebel field hospital where Prescott offers him a choice: serve in the Confederate Aerial Navy or be confined in Andersonville. Since the latter is more a death trap than prison camp, Billy opts for the former. To prevent the possibility of being called a traitor for switching sides, he changes his name to Billy Reilly...

Fire Aloft is a rousing steampunk adventure filled with intrigue, romance, and treachery. While much of the story is set in 1880, numerous flash backs covering a time span of twelve years are interspersed throughout the story until the death-defying, heart-pumping, spectacular show-down. Doc Holiday is among the host of unique characters populating the story, and there is a re-staging of the gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone. 

Exciting stuff

© Cindy Vallar

<previous   next >

click here to return to home page 'Bookshelf' then scroll down for more items of interest

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Hazel Gaynor

"The writing is skilful, the flow of the narrative between the two eras very well done, and the detail of nineteenth-century life well-researched. "

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA

Family Drama
1838 Nineteenth century
Northumberland / Rhode Island

"1838: when a terrible storm blows up off the Northumberland coast, Grace Darling, the lighthouse keeper's daughter, knows there is little chance of survival for the passengers on the small ship battling the waves. But her actions set in motion an incredible feat of bravery that echoes down the century.

1938: when nineteen-year-old Matilda Emmerson sails across the Atlantic to New England, she faces an uncertain future. Staying with her reclusive relative, Harriet Flaherty, a lighthouse keeper on Rhode Island, Matilda discovers a discarded portrait that opens a window on to a secret that will change her life forever."

Ever since I was a little girl I have been fascinated by, and an admirer of, Grace Darling. I think we must have had a lesson about her in school for I have no idea how else, as a nine-year-old, I would have 'discovered' her. I therefore pounced on this novel with enthusiasm, and I was not wholly disappointed, although I admit that I was... a little.

Grace Darling, a lighthouse keeper's daughter from Northumberland. She is dedicated to the daily - and nightly - work of maintaining the lighthouse for it's guiding light is essential for the safety of all sailors and shipping off this rugged northern coast. In the morning of September 7th, 1838 she and her father battle against a storm rowing out to a nearby island to rescue survivors of a shipwreck. It is an act of bravery that causes Grace to remembered for her bravery and determination even as far forward in time as today.

For this particular novel, one-hundred years later, Matilda Emmerson, nineteen years old and pregnant, travels from Ireland to Rhode Island to stay with Harriet, a distant relative, who happens to be a lighthouse keeper. There, connected by an old portrait, the stories of Matilda, Harriet and Grace combine unfolding into their lives, their relationships, hopes and fears commitments and disappointments. 

The writing is skilful, the flow of the narrative between the two eras very well done, and the detail of nineteenth-century life well-researched. So why my slight disappointment? A personal thing, I think, many readers will thoroughly enjoy this novel (I did enjoy it!) but I was expecting a novel about Grace ... for all its enjoyability I would have been happily content with just Grace's fascinating story, without the additional present-day tale.

Personal preference aside, it's a good read. 

© Helen Hollick

click here to return to home page 'Bookshelf' then scroll down for more items of interest

Monday, 25 February 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of Under the Almond Trees Linda Ulleseit

The three women are interesting because they were real people doing real things that were to, eventually, go towards changing the course of women's rights."

Biographical Fiction

"Under the Almond Trees is the story of my family – three ordinary women in California who lived extraordinary lives. It started with a falling tree branch that killed Ellen VanValkenburgh’s husband in 1862, forcing her to assume leadership of his paper mill, something women weren’t allowed to do. Women weren’t allowed to vote yet, either. Ellen decided that had to change, and became a suffragette.  In 1901, Emily Williams, Ellen’s daughter-in-law, became an architect – very much against her family’s wishes. No one would hire a woman, but Emily would not be deterred. She and her life partner Lillian set out to build homes themselves. By the 1930s women enjoyed more freedom, including the vote. Even so, Ellen’s granddaughter Eva VanValkenburgh chose a traditional life of marriage and children, even closing her photography business at her husband’s insistence. When he later refused to pay for their daughter’s college education, Eva followed the example of her Aunt Emily and reopened her photography business.  I am proud to call these women family and honored to share their story."

Under the Almond Trees is set in California towards the end of the nineteenth century and is the story of three women who believed very strongly for the rights of women, and of their struggles to achieve those rights. I have always been interested in the emancipation of women in the UK - the role of the suffragettes - and was therefore keen to read about the equivalent struggle on the 'other side of the pond'. 

The three women, Ellen Van Valkenburg and her granddaughter, Eva and Emily Williams,  are interesting because they were real people, the author's predecessors, doing real things that were to, eventually, go towards changing the course of women's rights. I knew nothing of the American 'fight' or of any of the women involved, so from this perspective the book was most interesting. I did not get on very well with the first person narrative, however, and the flow was somewhat slow in places (maybe third-person narrative would have solved this?) The price for the Kindle edition, I think, is perhaps a little high?

Having said all that, the book's fascination is the courage of women such as these three, who were determined to make the world, for women, a better place. Being a little cynical, whether gaining the vote actually achieved this, is another matter entirely - but without it we would be in a sorry state indeed.

Recommended for readers interested in the history of women's rights, in the US in particular,  or the lives of real people who did their best for those of us who were to follow.

© Anne Holt

click here to return to home page 'Bookshelf' then scroll down for more items of interest

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Browsing The Blogs : February

Twitter: #DDRevsBrowsingBlogs
interested in having your blog post listed?
Click HERE for submission details
Have you received an unsolicited email/Tweet re errors in your book and an offer to provide a list of them? You ignored it, of course, then a 1 or 2-star derogatory review appears on Amazon? 
YOU ARE NOT ALONE!  Click Here...

* * *

Catherine Kullmann: The first of a series of monthly blogs about the Regency decade.  Let us start with a snapshot of the UK on 31 December 1810. All was not well in the island kingdom. Having lapsed in and out of insanity for over two decades, King George III, sober paterfamilias, was finally deemed incapable of undertaking any affairs of state. Preparations were set in train to appoint as Regent his eldest son and heir, the affable, extravagant and adulterous Prince of Wales.


The Murmur of Masks: Love and Heartbreak in Regency England

Alex Marchant: Author visit to Grange Technology College - I was delighted to have been asked to visit a local senior school in Bradford, West Yorkshire, this week to discuss and read from The Order of the White Boar.

Read More >

Order Of The White Boar_3d-book
Deborah Swift: 7 things you (probably) didn’t know about Samuel Pepys  - The diary of Samuel Pepys (1633–1703) gives us a fly-on-the-wall account of life during the 17th century – from the devastation of war and plague, to the triumphant return of Charles II. But did you know that Pepys ‘rescued’ a cheese during the Great Fire of London and once kept a lion as a pet? Deborah Swift, author of novel Pleasing Mr Pepys, reveals seven fascinating facts about the diarist…

Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) English diarist and naval administrator. Became Secretary to the Admiralty. Portrait by Godfrey Kneller.
Read More >

A Plague on Mr Pepys

Alison Morton: Mercury (or Hermes in the Greek pantheon of gods) is said to be the inventor of the written alphabet, god of writing/literature, speech, travellers, treaties and dreams amongst other things but is best know as the gods’ messenger. He’s also is the one invoked by thieves and tricksters… I invoke him on the subject of themes in a book as it’s difficult to talk about the theme in your own book without sounding pretentious. He’s the messenger with a tricky mission. His dual nature brings me back to earth.

Read More >


"I have been enjoying the series Victoria on PBS. (It was so exciting that series 3 premiered in the U.S. BEFORE showing in the UK!) One character I particularly like is Mr. Francatelli, the chef in the palace. While it is true that Queen Victoria’s household did include a cook named Francatelli, there is a big difference between the way he is depicted in the television series and the known facts about him."

Alice Poon : On this day (January 27) in 1688, a pivotal historical figure from the Qing Dynasty passed away....

"On this day (January 27) in 1688, a pivotal historical figure from the Qing Dynasty passed away. This person was a Mongolian princess named Borjigit Bumbutai, better known as Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang, who was the progenitor of all subsequent Qing Emperors. She is the protagonist of my novel The Green Phoenix.

The life and deeds of this Mongolian princess were critical to Chinese history in that she was directly responsible for preventing disintegration of the fledgling Qing Empire in its early days......"

John F. Millar: Small State Big History (Rhode Island blog) The founding of a pirate republic in Madagascar pirates William Mayes and Thomas Tew . Contrary to the popular image of Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow character as an amiable buffoon, pirates in their day were usually cruel thugs, petty criminals, and international terrorists. Pirates had an easy relationship with colonial Rhode Island because the colony’s elected governor would frequently grant privateering commissions in exchange for large fees paid personally to the governor, with few questions asked.

Newport House is just outside Colonial Williamsburg, 
(highly recommended!)

made in 1938 blogathon banner

"The year 1938 was an interesting one in America. The nation started to ease out of the Great Depression around the time President Franklin D. Roosevelt began implementing his New Deal initiatives in 1933 and by the end of the decade, financially, things were looking up for many Americans. At the same time as American were starting to get their feet back on the ground, tensions were mounting in Europe with the rise of the Nazi party that would explode into World War II in 1939." 

Gnarled Bones And Other Stories

"Every movie lately seems to come out with “The Making of ...” clips. Well, here is a little insight into The Making of my historical novel of Ancient Egypt (3080 BC).

How much research should (or must) a writer do on his or her chosen era? My answer: A lot. Next, how much “real history” should be incorporated into a novel. I say, a lot less than the writer gleaned through research. After all, it’s fiction. But when citing historical facts, they do need to be, well, factual. And that's when it gets tricky ...

Sheila Williams  : The Lost Town...

Today’s tale, an extract from my book 'Close to the Edge - Tales from the Holderness Coast'  is of the 13th/14th century lost town of Ravenser Odd, now lying under the North Sea, off the Humber estuary in East Yorkshire.

By and large they were a bad lot in Ravenser Odd:
The town of Ravenser Odd was an extremely famous borough, devoted to merchandise with many fisheries and the most abundantly provided with ships and burgesses of all the boroughs of that coast. But yet, by all its wicked deeds and especially wrong-doings on the sea, and by its evil actions and predations, it provoked the vengeance of God upon itself beyond measure.”

Susan Grossey : Sam's On The Shortlist!

What a day!  I have received notification that “Faith, Hope and Trickery” has been shortlisted for the inaugural Selfies Award, which I entered back in December.  It’s one of eight books in the running and the winner will be announced at the London Book Fair on 12 March 2019.  I had already booked my ticket for that day, as I’ve never been to the LBF before (I want to walk around with “Author” on my ID badge), and I wanted to support the Selfies even if I was not personally involved.  But now I will be – great excitement!


* * *

Alison Morton: Where DID those Roma Nova titles come from?

Choosing book titles is like being prodded by Pluto in the underworld with a red hot trident for eternity.  One commenter on social media said: “They sound great, but I can’t help but cringe at the titles. Not quite Latin. I suppose that’s probably the point, but ouch. Intriguing, though.“

I admit, I thought ‘ouch’ back, but also smiled to myself. Perhaps she hadn’t looked them up on one of the excellent online dictionaries such as Perseus (Tufts University), LatDict, Notre Dame University or a good paper Latin dictionary (OLD or Collins).

So I’m taking the opportunity of changing the covers to spiffy new ones to go into the gory detail. You have been warned…  READ MORE >  

Anna Belfrage : The ultimate sacrifice – of a man, his honour and his son

Remember my recent post about Fernando IV? I began by describing just how tumultuous the reign of his father was, Sancho IV being plagued by one rebellion after the other. Why? Because very many felt Sancho had usurped the throne, thereby setting aside the rights of his little nephew, Alfonso de la Cerda. I bet quite a few of those rebelling against Sancho also thought life would be much easier in a country nominally controlled by an untried youth than it was under Sancho’s capable, if somewhat hard-handed, rule.  READ MORE >

Annie Whitehead : 1066 - The Mercian Angle

In 1066, when Edward the Confessor died, Harold Godwineson was declared king. Yet he felt the need to ride north to secure the pledges of the northern nobles, and thought it prudent to forsake his long-term partner and marry the sister of two powerful northern earls. Why?

Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark –
Brandy for the Parson, ’Baccy for the Clerk.
Laces for a lady; letters for a spy,
Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by!

‘Gentlemen’? Were smugglers really gentlemen? 
Smuggling. The very word conjures an image of a quiet moonlit night, a tall ship rocking gently at anchor out in a slightly wind-ruffled bay and men wearing three-cornered hats making their swift, but silent, way along remote West Country lanes that zigzag between high banks and thick, foxglove and cow-parsley-strewn hedgerows. The men are leading a string of pack ponies tied nose-to-tail, their hooves muffled by rough sacking. On the ponies’ backs are casks of brandy or kegs of tobacco… But is that how smuggling really happened?