Friday, 30 October 2020

Book and Cover of the Month - October

designer Cathy Helms of www.avalongraphics.org
with fellow designer Tamian Wood of www.beyonddesigninternational.com
select their chosen Cover of the Month
with all winners going forward for 
Cover of the Year in December 2020
(honourable mentions for the Runner-up)

WINNER OCTOBER

Read our review
Cover Designed by
Deranged Doctor Design

RUNNER UP COVERS

Read our Review
Cover Designer:
Shasti O'Leary Soudant

Read our review
(US cover) 
Cover Designer Unknown


This is a personal choice made by  me, Helen Hollick,
(founder of Discovering Diamonds)
from books I have shortlisted for my personal reading 

My criteria for a 'winner' is:
* Did I thoroughly enjoy the story?
* Would I read it again?
* Is it a 'keeper'
* * * 
Book of the Month OCTOBER 2020
runner up
one of those stories that should be read because these events 
must not be forgotten

Read our Review

WINNER
A super conclusion to a super series



Book and Cover of the Year
will be announced on 31st December 2020



Wednesday, 28 October 2020

The Norse Queen by Johanna Wittenberg

shortlisted for Book of the Month


Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Goodreads

Fictional Saga
Vikings / 9th Century
Norway
The Norse Women #Book 1

"Ninth century Norway, the dawn of the Viking era, -- a land shattered into thirty warring kingdoms. A woman could seize power, if she was bold enough. Daughter of a Norse king, fifteen-year-old Åsa dreams of becoming a shield-maiden. When she spurns a powerful warlord, he rains hellfire on her family, slaughtering her father and brother and taking her captive. To protect her people, Åsa must wed her father's killer. To take vengeance, she must become his queen." 

This is a Scandinavian saga. Well-written, with a significant number of strange, ancient Norse words, handled with such dexterity by the author that they are easily assimilated and barely affect the flow of the story. 

What I liked most about the book was its pace – firm and steady, never deviating from the central theme. Asa, the daughter of the king of Tromoy, is invited to marry Gudrod, the king of a neighbouring settlement. Her refusal sets off a series of events that changes her life and the lives of everyone in Tromoy. Life in ninth century Norway was tough.

The various settlements carried out frequent murderous raids on each other to seize goods and capture wives and slaves. Their daily lives were heavily influenced by Odin, Freya, and the rest of the ancient Scandinavian gods, the sorceress, or Völva, having the final say in everything they did. Animals were sacrificed to appease the gods in times of stress or conflict. And faced with overwhelming odds in battle, they even resorted to human sacrifice.

The book is historical fiction, but its pages are a solid primer in Norse history of the period. 

Highly recommended. There’s a sequel, too, that I hope to read.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© JJ Toner
 e-version reviewed






You will find several items of interest on the sidebar


30th October 
Book and Cover
of the month
announced

Monday, 26 October 2020

A Discovering Diamonds Review of Raider of The Scottish Coast by Marc Liebman


Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Goodreads

Nautical Saga
1700s
Nova Scotia / Bahamas
Book #1


"Which serves a Navy better? Tradition and hierarchy, or innovation and merit? Two teenagers – Jaco Jacinto from Charleston, South Carolina and Darren Smythe from Gosport, England – become midshipmen in their respective navies. Jacinto wants to help his countrymen win their freedom. Smythe has wanted to be a naval officer since he was a boy. From blockaded harbours and the cold northern waters off Nova Scotia and Scotland, to the islands of the Bahamas and Nassau, they serve with great leaders and bad ones through battles, politics and the school of naval hard knocks. Jacinto and Smythe are mortal enemies, but when they meet they become friends, even though they know they will be called again to battle one another."

The use of two different characters from two different parts of the world, fighting in two very different navies is a pleasant change from the more usual Napoleonic Wars British Navy viewpoint. Marc Liebman brings the Age Of Sail superbly to life, with a believable cast of characters, and action-packed plot and well-researched detail.


We have characters to cheer for, characters to boo at, action-packed fight scenes and all rolled into life aboard a sailing ship of the 1700s.

I also enjoyed reading about the start of the America's Continental Navy  from its small, muddled beginnings. 

A promising start to what looks like a promising, cracking good series of nautical adventures.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 


© Jack Holt

 e-version reviewed




You will find several items of interest on the sidebar

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

Amazon UK

Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Goodreads

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








You will find several items of interest on the sidebar

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

A Discovering Diamonds Review of Artists And Spies by Pamela Stephen


Amazon UK
Amazon US not found
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Goodreads

 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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You will find several items of interest on the sidebar

Monday, 19 October 2020

The Last Blast of the Trumpet by Marie Macpherson

Shortlisted for Book of the Month


Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU
Goodreads

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





You will find several items of interest on the sidebar


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