Sunday, 25 October 2020

Did You Miss...?


We rrecently highlighted some of the authors reviewed 
here on Discovering Diamonds
(see below if you would like to participate)

here are a few of them!

Rosemary Morris


*
Catherine Kullmann



*
Juhi Ray

*
Graham Brack

*
Karen Heenan

* * *

If your novel/s have been reviewed by Discovering Diamonds

(not sure? click here for our list of authors 
we've reviewed)

and you would like to participate in our 
 Guest Spot
here are a few details:
  • You must have at least ONE book reviewed by Discovering  Diamonds 
  • Send me a brief biography of yourself and information about your book/s  (approx 500-700 words)
  • Include all links you want used
  • Send as JPEG an image of yourself and your book cover/s
Please Note
  • I will not check for typos or errors - what you send I will cut and paste.
  • this is a free service to help promote your books. I will post links to your guest spot on Facebook and Twitter, and on this  (permanent) Guest Spot page
  • reciprocation via social media  to advertise your post when it is live AND other author's posts would be appreciated.
  • I will notify you of receipt of your contribution and the date that your post is scheduled but there will be no further reminders so make a note of the date!
  • send to Helen Hollick on: author@helenhollick.net

Friday, 23 October 2020

A Discovering Diamonds Review of Court of Lions by Jane Johnson

Amazon UK cover

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Fictional Drama /Duel Time
1400s / present day
Spain

"Kate Fordham fled to Spain to start a new life. Amid the sunlit streets of Granada and the earthly paradise of the Alhambra's gardens, towers and courtyards, she's left her past far behind. But fate is about to bring her face-to-face with her greatest fear. Five centuries ago, a message was hidden in the Alhambra's walls. There it has lain, undisturbed by the tides of history – the fall of Granada, the expulsion of its last Sultan – until Kate discovers it. Born of love in a time of desperation and danger, Kate's discovery will be the catalyst that changes her life."

Kate is living in Granada and working as a waitress in a restaurant to make ends meet. She is as beguiled as the tourists by the Alhambra palace and on one of her many visits, she finds a small piece of screwed up paper pushed between two bricks. On it are words in a language she doesn't recognise. Intrigued, she keeps it. But what is she doing in Granada in the first place, and why is she using an assumed name?

In 1476, Blessings is companion to Prince Abdul Abdullah Mohammed, known to Blessings as Momo, son of the Sultan of Granada. A slave purchased for the purpose of giving the prince someone to talk to, he becomes a close friend and follows Momo through his troubled childhood, arranged marriage, battles, flights, and the ultimate fall of Granada to the Christians under Isabella and Ferdinand.

This is a novel of two stories, the modern story of Kate and how she came to be living like a student or gap year traveller in her thirties, and that of the fall of Granada to the Christians, seen through the eyes of Blessings, a slave from north Africa, of the Tuareg tribe in modern language. 

Their lives intertwine but briefly, with Kate's assumptions about Blessings' life not quite fitting in comfortably, feeling a little forced, and so at odds with the narrative.


Blessings' story is a straight first person narrative, with few surprises, just an accurate and personal retelling of history, placing the traditional enemy in the spotlight and showing them for what they were - no worse than the Christians in the Iberian peninsula, an old and settled Muslim kingdom that rubbed happily enough alongside its Christian neighbours. It is a very sympathetic view of the kingdom, with the Christian king and queen being portrayed unequivocally as the destructive invader, a very different viewpoint to that in the majority of Spain. Indeed, the restaurant owner in Kate's tale is racist against anyone who looks like they might be from north African heritage. It is a good story, sheds some fascinating light on the Alhambra itself, a palace of unparalleled magnificence, with fountains that were switched off as Momo left it and never to work again as the Christians couldn't understand how they worked - truth maybe but added as an illustration by the author of how stupid, backward and barbaric the Christians were.

Kate's story is where the real excitement exists. Third person narrative separates it well from Blessing's narrative, but written like a detective story, snippets being revealed as you read and learn what led Kate to Spain in the first place. And for that it is more compelling. 

It isn't, to my mind, perfect, and there are some vast plot holes in Kate's story especially. Both narratives end rather abruptly - as many authors do, Ms Johnson has rushed the ending. It is less obvious in Kate's narrative, but Blessing's is slower, so the rapid gallop towards the end with scant detail shows up quite badly. It feels as if she was on her word limit and stripped away all but the necessary information and missed out on how she got there. Had she held back on some information that made no difference to the plot or story and were for sensational and shock purposes only, she may have had more capacity.

As it is, an interesting read, keeps going at a good pace, informative, but it is Kate's story that keeps you turning the pages.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Nicky Galliers







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Wednesday, 21 October 2020

A Discovering Diamonds Review of Artists And Spies by Pamela Stephen


Amazon UK
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 Fictional Drama
1743-1751
London and France

Charlotte Le Juge du Condray is a nun with an artistic talent inherited from her father. When he dies, she flees the nunnery to claim her inheritance and with the help of the son of her father's old retainers and a maid, she transfers to Chiswick in London, changes her name to Charlotte Judge and attempts to start a new life as a painter.

Her butler, Antoine Dupont, not only proves more than capable at his duties, but also has a secret other life – he is an agent for England and involved in trying to expose a plot to assassinate King George II.

This is a nice, easy read with no deep intricacies of plot. Slowly but surely Charlotte integrates into English society and enhances her reputation as a painter. Antoine goes about his secret duties with ruthless efficiency. It is evenly paced for the most part, although I did feel that it dropped once Antoine had completed his mission. Charlotte is totally unaware of Antoine's activities, which does stretch the imagination a little, but then, this is fiction.

The paperback copy I received did have one or two typos and I also felt that when a quote was used at the start of a chapter, the spacing could have been a little more evenly set. I liked the cover, although it was a little 'dull' in terms of colour and finish, however, I did see a different version elsewhere that is brighter and slightly altered. Again, on my copy, the back cover blurb was virtually unreadable – black print on a dark green background, so maybe the alternative edition has now improved this? 

So this was not a perfectly produced book, but the story was solid, enjoyable and engaging.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Richard Tearle




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Monday, 19 October 2020

The Last Blast of the Trumpet by Marie Macpherson

Shortlisted for Book of the Month


Amazon UK
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Fictional Saga
150os / Mary Tudor
Scotland
(John Knox Trilogy Book 3) 


"Scotland 1559: Fiery reformer John Knox returns to a Scotland on the brink of civil war. Victorious, he feels confident of his place leading the reform until the charismatic young widow, Mary Queen of Scots returns to claim her throne. She challenges his position and initiates a ferocious battle of wills as they strive to win the hearts and minds of the Scots. But the treachery and jealousy that surrounds them both as they make critical choices in their public and private lives has dangerous consequence that neither of them can imagine."

I have thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this series - and was so hoping that the final conclusion would not let the side down. I need not have worried; if anything, Book Three even surpasses the other two.

John Knox is a character you either like or loathe, depending on your view of his determination, passion and conviction. Here is a man of a complex nature, living in a complex period with complex motivations. But then, this entire period of Scottish history was complex - the religious reformation, the political situation - all wrapped up in the diversity of support (or lack of it) for Mary, Queen of Scots. 

Ms Macpherson skilfully juggles all these complexities of the political situations with apparent ease. The passionate views and goals of her characters come over as real, flesh-and-blood people, with her writing as passionate as their personal convictions. The author immerses the reader into the upheaval of the period as if we are there, watching on the sidelines as the political and religious battles are set into action by some of the most well known and controversial people who were a part of Scottish history.

A superb ending to an equally as superb trilogy. This is one of those series about history that should be compulsory reading for upper-grade students at school - or anyone interested in Tudor-period history, come to that.

The books are stand alone - but do start at the beginning, it is well worth it!

Very highly recommended

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Anne Holt
 e-version reviewed





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Sunday, 18 October 2020

Did You Miss...?


We rrecently highlighted some of the authors reviewed 
here on Discovering Diamonds
(see below if you would like to participate)

here are a few of them!

* * *

If your novel/s have been reviewed by Discovering Diamonds

(not sure? click here for our list of authors 
we've reviewed)

and you would like to participate in our 
 Guest Spot
here are a few details:
  • You must have at least ONE book reviewed by Discovering  Diamonds 
  • Send me a brief biography of yourself and information about your book/s  (approx 500-700 words)
  • Include all links you want used
  • Send as JPEG an image of yourself and your book cover/s
Please Note
  • I will not check for typos or errors - what you send I will cut and paste.
  • this is a free service to help promote your books. I will post links to your guest spot on Facebook and Twitter, and on this  (permanent) Guest Spot page
  • reciprocation via social media  to advertise your post when it is live AND other author's posts would be appreciated.
  • I will notify you of receipt of your contribution and the date that your post is scheduled but there will be no further reminders so make a note of the date!
  • send to Helen Hollick on: author@helenhollick.net

Friday, 16 October 2020

A Discovering Diamonds Review of The Saxon Spears: The Song Of Ash by James Calbraith


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Fictional Saga
5th century AD
South East England

Book #1 of a series

Six-year-old Ash is a slave in the household of Pascent, a rich nobleman and councillor to Dux Wortigern in London.  But Pascent treats Ash like a son and he and Pascent's real son Fastidius become firm friends. Whilst Fastidius is destined for the Christian Church, Ash shows a greater interest in the arts of war, especially strategy which he learns under Fulco, Pascent's Frankish bodyguard. Ash's other tutor is Father Paulinus who teaches him  many things including the Christian ways. Ash is clearly of Saxon origin although he can recall little before being sold to Lady Adelheid, Pascent's wife.

We follow Ash as he grows to puberty, falling in love with Eadgith, the daughter of the bladesmith. This first romance is doomed to failure, however.

Whilst visiting Fastidius who is now studying in London, Ash encounters Horsa, a chief of the Uites in London. A lot of action follows this meeting – warring tribes, untrustworthy leaders, treachery  and a deadly band of outlaws. And all the while, Ash is wondering just whose side he is really on.

There is a touch of Bernard Cornwell's Uhtred in that Ash finds himself brought up in one culture whilst knowing that he belongs to another. I found the opening chapters rather slow, although the pace certainly picks up after that. There were one or two phrases that sounded a little too modern for me, but other than that, and my initial observation above, this was a book that I enjoyed.

(The novel is written in the present tense)

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Richard Tearle
 e-version reviewed


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Wednesday, 14 October 2020

The Children of Ash and Elm by Neil Price (non-fiction)

Shortlisted for Non-fiction special mention
(US cover)
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Non-Fiction
Viking Age

Perhaps appropriate for review today, 14th October - the anniversary of 1066, the Battle Of Hastings: the Normans were, after all 'North Men' descendants of Vikings... King Harold II was also part Danish...

Readers who studied ‘The Vikings’ at primary or secondary school will have some idea of what these apparently violent men from the North did in the so-called ‘Axe Age’. Reading The Children of Ash and Elm, one realises this basic understanding is not only insufficient it is misleading because it is entirely superficial. In this new study, historian Neil Price not only reveals what the Norse who went a-viking really did, but why. 

The book opens with a rather lengthy introduction aimed at academics, then offers a meaningful example of some of the Norse mythology that under-pinned the Viking belief system. This is extended in later chapters, giving us a glimpse of the gods, spirits and demons that in many respects governed their every-day actions and life-style.

Price moves on to describe and examine a major climate event that devastated old Scandinavia, showing how it affected socio-cultural groups in the sixth century, and why this is important to what happened later. 

We then read about where the various Northern tribes or clans lived and how, and then on to trade – which was much more sophisticated and far-ranging than I believed. Essentially, Price is re-educating his readers about the Viking period, their Scandinavian world and world-view, and what he reveals makes compelling reading. 

Without question this is one of the best written history books I have read. I shall be buying a hard-back copy to re-read and keep.

Definitely a Discovered Diamond.

The book itself is highly recommended. 

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© J. G. Harlond

 e-version reviewed Please note: I was sent an e-book Advanced Review Copy. Unfortunately maps, illustrations and some formatting scrambled on my ageing Kindle. This hopefully will have been rectified. 



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Monday, 12 October 2020

A Discovering Diamonds Review of Yvonne, Lady of Cassio by Rosemary Morris



Goodreads

Fictional Drama / Romance 
1200s / Edward II
England / France

Lovages of Cassio #1


"When Yvonne and Elizabeth, daughters of ruthless Simon Lovage, Earl of Cassio, are born under the same star to different mothers, no one could have foretold their lives would be irrevocably entangled. Against the background of Edward II’s turbulent reign in the thirteenth century, Yvonne, Lady of Cassio, contains imaginary and historical characters. It is said the past is a foreign country in which things were done differently. Nevertheless, although that is true of attitudes, such as those towards women and children, our ancestors were also prompted by ambition, anger, greed, jealousy, humanity, duty, loyalty, unselfishness and love. From early childhood, despite those who love her and want to protect her, Yvonne is forced to face difficult economic, personal and political circumstances, during a long, often bitter struggle."


The Conquest of England by William of Normandy was several generations in the past, yet still conflict and mistrust is rife between the Normans and the Saxons, particularly between the old owners of the Cassio Estate, and the new... the result is a cracking good novel about relationships, two half-sisters Yvonne and Elizabeth, and the vast difference between the classes, those who rule - and those who don't. 

I know little of this particular period, so cannot comment on the accuracy of the research undertaken, but the detail included certainly appears to be well done. Ms Morris adequately reflects the trauma, danger, insecurities and intrigues of the era - a harsh, often cruel and violent time, when women, in particular, had no rights and the preoccupation of noblemen was to have sons and secure good alliances through marriage, either for themselves or for their daughters. 

 A good historical romance, and an entertaining read.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Mary Chapple 
 e-version reviewed




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Sunday, 11 October 2020

Stepping Back Into Saxon England with Annie Whitehead and Helen Hollick

Join Annie and Helen and step back in time 

to the 5th - 11th centuries 

for a variety of interesting and entertaining 

posts and articles 

click here for the full tour and links

Friday, 9 October 2020

A Discovering Diamonds Review of Untrue Till Death by Graham Brack


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Murder Mystery
1600s
Netherlands
#2 Master Mercurius Series

"1674, Leiden, The Netherlands. After successfully solving the case of the missing girls in Delft, Master Mercurius has made a name for himself as a private investigator. With unrest occurring both nationally and internationally, William of Orange is obsessed by plots against his leadership. He calls on Mercurius to help to spy on state officials. But before Mercurius has a chance to investigate, his colleague at the University of Leiden is killed. And when one of William’s men is also murdered, Mercurius suspects there could be a serial killer on the loose… Are the two deaths connected? Is there a plot against the Dutch ruler? And can Mercurius successfully solve another murder case…?"

I enjoyed this! Entertaining, witty, well-researched, and a delightful main character in Master Mercurius. 

What makes our Dutch sleuth so endearing is that he is fallible - he doesn't get everything right, but manages to muddle through until he can make a satisfactory conclusion. Although, meanwhile, he is torn between the need to get up at unearthly hours or the comfort of his bed, and the direction that his double-life as a secret Catholic and the open one of a Protestant - with all the conflicts these raise for his needs and emotions. 

Nor are the supporting characters stereotypical of this type of murder mystery novel. Add to that, the interest of the stories being set in the Netherlands, we have the result of an engrossing read that is entertaining, informative and a little different to many another in this genre. Although this one is quite easily a stand-alone in the series, I would suggest reading Book One  (Death In Delft)  first because they are so good!

I have travelled to the Netherlands several times and know The Hague and Utrecht well, so this was another aspect of why I enjoyed this tale: the description of the cities and travel by barge along the network of canals were particularly absorbing. I especially liked the way that the author wove the historical facts into the story - the storm and its consequences is one of those things that could easily be thought of as far-fetched writer's imagination added in for a convenient plot device, until you realise it did actually happen!

My only very slight niggle was that Mercurius's religious dilemma was perhaps mentioned too often. Once I knew he was secretly a Catholic priest I really didn't need the too-often reminders. 

I did guess 'who-did-it' quite early on, but so what? Good plot, good characters, a good read ... and one of those excellent novels that has you looking up Wikipedia to find out more about the facts behind the fiction. 

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Helen Hollick
 e-version reviewed




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Wednesday, 7 October 2020

The Child on Platform One by Gill Thompson

shortlisted for Book of the Month



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Fictional Drama
WWII
England / Prague

A heart-wrenching and heartwarming novel of World War II, The Child on Platform One weaves together the stories of two families and their devastating experiences during the darkest of times. And yet, because the characters are so beautifully crafted, and because the theme of hope through art illuminates the indomitable spirit of survival, this book is impossible to put down. 

We follow two mothers, Pamela in London and Eva in Prague, as they are forced into making the most difficult decisions of their lives, finding a wellspring of hidden courage within themselves. There are scenes of devastating evil and brutality, and moments of infinite joy--and Ms Thompson writes both with sensitivity and honesty. 

Drawing on real incidents from the appalling eradication of the Jewish population, and supplemental research that supports captivating prose, the novel takes us on an inevitable journey to the horrors of the Nazi death camps, while bringing to light little-known insights into the bonds of humanity formed through music and compassion.


This is a story that has been told many times, and yet the inevitability of the outcome does not detract from the absorbing plot and compelling characters. The Child on Platform One opens a door to a time that must never be repeated nor forgotten, allowing readers to honour the past and keep its lessons alive. 

Highly recommend.


Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Elizabeth St John
 e-version reviewed




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