16 September 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of Mary's Song by Susan Count

Ruth Sanderson (Illustrator)


Mary's Song: Volume 1 (Dream Horse Adventures)

"The story is about determination and friendship, and horses. "

AMAZON UK

AMAZON US 
AMAZON CA
(Dream Horse Adventures Book 1)

family drama/ Young Adult

1950s
USA

"Twelve-year-old Mary falls in love with a foal that is lame, just like her. The expensive surgery the foal needs has little chance to correct the problem. Still, Mary plots and conspires to raise money to save the horse, even as time runs out. She sacrifices what she holds dear - the trust of her papa, to gain her heart's desire. But she could lose everything in her struggle to save the foal."



A charming little story which will grab any pony-loving young teenage girl by the heart (and a few horse-loving adults as well.) 

Mary is a lonely girl of twelve and wheelchair-bound, presumably, because of polio. Like any young girl, she wishes she had a pony, in particular, one of the Morgan foals bred at the neighbour's ranch. The foal, named Illusion, is like her, disabled; he was born with a club foot. Mary is determined to get him the treatment he needs and to save him, and aided by Laura, her best friend, she sets out to do just that in traditional pony-story fashion.


The story is about determination and friendship, and horses. Whether there was the veterinary know-how to even contemplate putting this foal right in the 1950s is debatable (to be honest, probably not, and such a circumstance would have seen the foal put down soon after birth) but that is not the point. I do not think that when I was younger I read one single 'pony story' that could have been true to life; I did not read them for the realism, but for the pleasure of fictional adventure and to feed the dream of owning my own pony. (I never did, but such is life!)


At 124 pages this is a quick, easy read, ideal for the pony-mad youngster in your life.


© Mary Chapple



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15 September 2019

The Sunday Browse

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13 September 2019

Nexus by Alison Morton

shortlisted for Book of the Month

NEXUS: The second Aurelia Mitela Roma Nova adventure (Novella) by [Morton, Alison]

"Rome, the Rome of the past did not survive much beyond the fifth century AD, but Ms Morton has turned that fact totally on its head by creating an alternative present-day world with its people, politics and events."

Amazon UK

alternative / thriller / novella
post-Roman / 1970s
England and various locations

"Ex-Praetorian Aurelia Mitela is serving as Roma Nova’s interim ambassador in London. Asked by a British colleague to find his missing son, Aurelia thinks it will only be a case of a young man temporarily rebelling. He’s bound to turn up only a little worse for wear. But a spate of high-level killings pulls Aurelia away into a dangerous pan-European investigation. Badly beaten in Rome as a warning, she discovers the killers have kidnapped her life companion, Miklós, and sent an ultimatum: Back off or he’ll die. But Aurelia is a Roma Novan and they never give up…"

I rarely get time to become so engrossed in a novel that I read it from start to finish in one go. I made the time for Nexus; even if it had been a full-length novel, not a quick-read novella I would have done so. I confess I know Alison Morton, she is a friend, but that has no significance when it comes to reading a very good, very absorbing and very interesting story.

Set between the novels Aurelia and Insurrectio in the Aurelia Mitela section of Ms Morton's series of thriller adventures, Nexus is an entirely stand-alone read and is as superb, gripping and thoroughly believable as is the rest of the series. 

'Believable' is the key word here. The whole background concept for the series is entirely imaginative fiction: there is no such place as Roma Nova, its construction, its history, its people its politics - it's trials and tribulations do not exist. Apart from 'What did Rome do for us?' (roads, sewers, baths, etc.) Rome, the Rome of the past did not survive much beyond the fifth century AD, but Ms Morton has turned that fact totally on its head by creating an alternative present-day world with its people, politics and events. Roma Nova, is a small patch of ancient Rome snugly fitted into today's modern world, complete with its traditional language and customs. A world that is so utterly believable and convincing, I defy anyone to not go looking on a modern map to see where Roma Nova is located. 

It is the preciseness of detail that puts the icing on the cake for these novels, and Nexus in particular. From the very first sentence, with her immaculate research and knowledge of army intelligence and tactics, the author brings every scene, every character, every word of dialogue to very real and very vivid life. From the way they dress and speak to the way they fight, every scene is immersed in believability: the training of a young horse, self-defence in a sticky situation, the lurch in the stomach as a helicopter takes off... beautifully written.

Add in the thriller element of the bad guys, the menace of dark shadows, murder and mystery and you get a page-turner of the very highest exceptional quality. 

© Helen Hollick



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11 September 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of Sir Humphrey's Last Stand by Jonathan Forth

Sir Humphrey's Last Stand

"It is the minor characters who have all the best lines... quite a few chuckles along the way. Just don't take it seriously!"


AMAZON UK

AMAZON US 
AMAZON CA

prior to the Norman Conquest

France
Humour

Actual history goes out of the window in this amusing tale by Jonathan Forth. King Harold the Donkey wants the lands he believes are his by right and King Louis (unnumbered) has other ideas. Incompetence reigns in the English ranks as they consistently lose battles and are forced to retreat back to England. Unfortunately, nobody has thought to tell Sir Humphrey, who holds the last stronghold of Mont St Bernard. Or rather, he has been told, but in a mix up in communications, he has been told to hold the small township instead of abandoning it.


As in other novels by Mr Forth, it is the minor characters (with names like Clive and Pondscum) who have all the best lines. Throw in some pirates – er, privateers – French spies and the obligatory revolting peasants and you have an enjoyable – well, I am trying to avoid the word but I will have to use it -  romp. Maybe no belly laughs, but quite a few chuckles along the way. Just don't take it seriously!



 Richard Tearle




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9 September 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of None So Blind by Xenon

None So Blind

"
I quite took to Dio; I felt the conflict in him regarding his best friend's wife"


AMAZON UK

AMAZON US 
AMAZON CA


Fictional Drama
499 BC
Gea – a mythical part of the Trojan Empire

Diomedes (Dio) is the Swordmaster in the area of Gea in the first of this ambitious series based on Trojan life. His best friend Miltiades, governor of the area, has begun acting strangely; giving up wine and taking less interest in his wife, Kalliste, among other things. A religious cult is causing problems, Miltiades has announced that he is divorcing Kalliste and the emperor has just been assassinated – quite a lot for Dio to take in. But worse will follow as a plot is uncovered to overthrow the new emperor, Kalliste's life is threatened and Dio has to flee for his life. And in the meantime, he has to examine his feelings for Kalliste. Indeed, he has to examine her apparent feelings for him too!


I quite took to Dio; I felt the conflict in him regarding his best friend's wife, now 'available'. He had been a loner all his life and he finds intimacy, no matter how mild, uncomfortable. There are some good minor characters, too.


All in all, not a bad read, quite a bit of action, a romance and well-paced throughout.



Richard Tearle




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8 September 2019

Sunday Browsing

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The Twisted Tree
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* * *



6 September 2019

The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge

The Twisted Tree

"Many an adult will enjoy Rachel Burge’s debut novel. It's a dark, creepy and at times frightening story that cleverly winds Norse mythology into present-day life"

AMAZON UK
AMAZON US 
AMAZON CA n/a

Norse Mythology/ghost/mystery
Young Adult
Norway

Maybe not a historical novel, but readers interested in Norse mythology and ghost stories may well enjoy this gripping tale of fantasy and mystery.


Martha travels from England to Norway where her grandmother lives on a remote island. An accident blinded Martha in one eye and since then she has been able to sense people’s feelings by touching their clothes. Feeling that only her grandmother will be able to give her the answers she needs, she is horrified to find a stranger in residence and that her grandmother has been dead for over a week.


The story begins with Martha and Stig sizing each other up. He cannot leave the island immediately due to lack of ferries and cars. Gradually a friendship develops between the two teenagers, each with their own difficulties, and Stig stays on. Then the spinning wheel starts creaking when no one is touching it, and shadows flit around the room until Martha doubts her senses. When a message from her mother arrives, telling her she is in danger and must leave the cabin immediately, fear tightens its grip. Then howls are heard in the woods and two people are found dead.


Many an adult will enjoy Rachel Burge’s debut novel. It's a dark, creepy and at times frightening story that cleverly winds Norse mythology into present-day life; Martha is lucky that her unwanted house guest is Norwegian and can interpret the language and the mythology for her. A couple of times I stopped reading in bed in the dark and took the story up again in the light of day! The friendship between the young people progresses in leaps and bounds and both it and the winter landscape are beautifully described. If you enjoy a tale of horror and fantasy, I recommend this book for your enjoyment.


@ Jen Black



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4 September 2019

Blood's Game by Angus Donald

shortlisted for Book of the Month


Blood's Game: In the court of Charles II fortune favours the bold . . . But one false step could prove fatal (Holcroft Blood 1)


" Donald includes some charming scenes which make the book all the more delightful in the fact that they are said to have truly happened."


AMAZON UK

AMAZON US 
AMAZON CA
 (Audio version reviewed)

family drama 

1670
London

Holcroft Blood has entered the employ of the Duke of Buckingham, one of the most powerful men in the kingdom after the king. It is here that his education really begins. With a gift for numbers and decoding ciphers, Holcroft soon proves invaluable to the duke, but when he's pushed into a betrayal, he risks everything for revenge. His father, Colonel Thomas Blood, has fallen on hard times. A man used to fighting, he lives by his wits and survives by whatever means necessary. When he's asked to commit treason by stealing the crown jewels, he puts himself and his family in a dangerous situation - one that may end at the gallows. As the machinations of powerful men plot to secure the country's future, both father and son must learn what it is to survive in a more dangerous battlefield than war - the court of Charles II.


The opening chapter introduces us to the boy Holcroft with whom I was enchanted in moments of meeting him. His naïve and unsophisticated view of life is intertwined with the complexities of his idiosyncratic personality and I found myself inadvertently spellbound - a likeable lad right from the start.

There are many layers to this book: the descriptive scenery, the development of the main characters, the supporting actors and the twist and turns of the plot.  Donald makes the most of every opportunity to use humour and through clever intelligent writing creates a vivid picture of the action. I found myself chuckling and sometimes laughing out loud.


For this, the audio version, the dialogue is delivered with aplomb, the accents well-formed and not annoying like some audible narrators who attempt accents they are inept at.

Alongside Holcroft, whom his poor hard-done-by mother calls ‘Holly’, is his father, the charming, enigmatic but utterly inept Colonel Blood, whose fortunes have taken a downward spiral over the last few years, which means he is always on the run with a pack of other utterly useless cronies, neglecting his wife and family of several children. Hers is a tragic story, and probably the more poignant scenes are with her and Holcroft. 


After the restoration of Charles II, Colonel Blood emerges landless for choosing the wrong side during the Civil Wars, and acquires a grudge 
and a desire for revenge against the man who now owns his lands. When the Duke of Buckingham wants him to carry out a mission Blood sees this as a way of exacting that revenge, but manages to bungle the assignment, leading to another mission and yet another bungled mission. He does, however, wangle a place in the duke’s household for Holcroft. Fortunately there is some success for his son whose talents at playing poker and deciphering codes are discovered by his new master. Blood Senior, his life now in danger, has to rely on his younger son’s talents to save him from the hangman’s noose and whilst he languishes in prison, Holcroft is having an adventure of his own.

Along the way, Holcroft meets such real-life characters such as Jack Churchill, Barbara Villiers, and Offra Benn. Donald includes some charming scenes which make the book all the more delightful in the fact that they are said to have truly happened... Holcroft, his father and brother Will are true-life characters whom Donald discovered when he delved into his family history. In combining historical fact and fiction, Blood’s Game makes for a rollicking seventeenth-century adventure, with humorous scenes and a great character-driven plot. The audio is brilliantly performed by Damien Lynch who is a joy to listen to. 


I highly recommend this book which is truly a discovered diamond.


© Paula Lofting


   






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2 September 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of Friday's Child by Rosemary Morris

Friday's Child (Heroines Born on Different Days of the Week Book 6)

AMAZON UK

AMAZON US 
AMAZON CA
(Heroines Born on Different Days of the Week Book 6) 

"As with any Rosemary Morris book, the culture and dialogue of the time is so accurate I wonder how she manages it."


Romance / Family Drama

Regency
England

"Since the day her oldest sister entered society, Lady Elizabeth, the Earl of Saunton’s sister, imagined the pleasures of her first London Season, during which she expected to meet her future husband. Unfortunately, when she is old enough to make her debut, no member of her immediate family is available to chaperone her in London, so she accepts her Great-Aunt Augusta’s offer to bring her out in Cheltenham. Elizabeth looks forward to living at Augusta’s grand house near the lively, popular town where people drink mineral water at pump houses and enjoy the social life. Determined to be the perfect debutante, she cannot imagine creating a scandal, so it is fortunate that she cannot foresee the future. Modest, loving and giving Elizabeth is blessed with beauty and a fortune, which attracts suitors. It would not be surprising if her ‘head is turned’ by admirers but she is not a flirt.  From the moment she sees Mr Yates she sets her heart on him. At the same time, she is not attracted to her brother’s friend with an exotic background, and amber eyes like a tiger’s which unnerve her. Both gentlemen made their fortunes when they served in the East India Company, but will they lead her into trouble, be right for Elizabeth and will one of them be the perfect match for her?"


Lady Elizabeth, sister to the Earl of Saunton, looks forward to the pleasures of her first London Season, but no member of her immediate family is available to chaperone her. Rather than miss the entire year, she agrees to Great-Aunt Augusta’s offer to chaperone her coming out in Cheltenham. Elizabeth has both beauty and a fortune, which attracts suitors. The man who sets her heart aflutter is Mr Yates; though there is another man in the background, but she is a little afraid of him. Both gentlemen made their fortunes when they served in the East India Company, and there is a possibility that Elizabeth will marry and sail to India.


As with any Rosemary Morris book, the culture and dialogue of the time is so accurate I wonder how she manages it. I have read many of her stories, and they have taught me a good deal about life, manners, dress code and how a young lady should behave in Regency England. The snippets about life in India wound into this tale were interesting and I for one would be happy to read more in the future. Something of India, perhaps?


@ Jen Black

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