29 April 2017

RETALIO by Alison Morton

Amazon UK £2.99
Amazon US $3.75
Amazon CA  $23.92

Alternative / Thriller
1980s
Austria and Roma Nova

Roma Nova Series #6

"Early 1980s Vienna. Recovering from a near fatal shooting, Aurelia Mitela, ex-Praetorian and former foreign minister of Roma Nova, chafes at her enforced exile. She barely escaped from her nemesis, the charming and amoral Caius Tellus who grabbed power in Roma Nova, the only part of the Roman Empire to survive into the twentieth century.
Aurelia’s duty and passion fire her determination to take back her homeland and liberate its people. But Caius’s manipulations have isolated her from her fellow exiles, leaving her proscribed, powerless and vulnerable. But without their trust and support Aurelia knows she will never see Roma Nova again."

So you thought that the Roman Empire gradually dissolved over 1500 years ago? Not according to Alison Morton; her series of Roma Nova thrillers - already highly acclaimed - suggest that Rome remains as a small independent country somewhere in central Europe.

And, boy, is this believable! She has mapped out its history throughout the series and we read about people whose names seem to come straight out of Shakespeare. They even blaspheme in the names of the ‘old’ gods and hold celebrations at Saturnalia.

The question is really about whether the scenario is authentic and the answer is a resounding 'Yes'! The lives of the characters blend seamlessly with those of the traditional world as we know it – although there has been some slight adjustment to 'New' Europe and the United States.

In this, the sixth tale in the series, Aurelia Mitela is recovering in exile in Vienna and plotting with other exiles to overthrow the new and illegal regime in Roma Nova, led by the beautifully evil Caius Tellus. We follow her and her allies as they organise plans and strategies and everything is logical and well thought out. Aurelia’s mission is also not an overnight process, a trap which many authors might fall into.

In most cases, starting so late in a series may mean that the reader can get confused, or feel that they have missed something in previous volumes, but Ms Morton avoids that trap too, giving us enough information as we go along making it very possible to treat this as a stand alone book – although, as ever, it is always useful to have read the previous stories… which I will promptly set out to do because this really is an unmissable ongoing adventure!

A fantastic concept, skilfully written, utterly believable and one of my favourite books of the year.

 © Richard Tearle
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28 April 2017

MOOREND FARM by Gwen Kirkwood



Amazon UK £1.99 £19.99
Amazon US $2.47
Amazon CA $19.07

Fictional Saga
early 20th Century
Yorkshire, England

I come from a farming background, although West Country orientated, but what a delight to read something set in North Yorkshire. I was drawn to the novel for the farming aspect, and was not disappointed by discovering such a wonderful read.

This is the continuing story of William and Emma Sinclair, which started in the story, Moorland Mist. Now, the couple are raising a family and coping with the struggles of a farming life at the turn of the 20th century. The struggles pay off for the farm is starting to become a success, but when her mother falls ill Emma has to return to Scotland where she also hopes to heal the rifts of the past, but Williams mother too, is causing problems and secrets and difficulties soon upset the lives of our characters.

This is a tale of great detail for the reality of life as a farmer where Nature rules, not the events of history, and where relationships can be so easily broken if there is no determination to survive.

© Mary Chapple


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27 April 2017

CLOVER MOON by Jacqueline Wilson

Amazon UK £6.99 £8.99 
Amazon US $11.29
Amazon CA $26.95

Young Adult
Victorian 
London

I had the great pleasure of meeting Jacqueline Wilson several years ago when we were invited to a North London school for deaf children to talk about our writing. What a lovely lady she is!

One of the great difficulties is getting children to read – and personally I think Ms Wilson should receive the highest honour possible for managing to get younger readers engrossed in brilliant stories.

Clover moon (what a delightful name!) is eleven years old. She lives in a Victorian London slum with six siblings, her father and a wicked step-mother, Mildred. Mildred regularly beats poor Clover and refuses to allow her to attend school, but using her love of drawing Clover looks at the happier sides of life. But she must keep this a secret from Mildred. Then one day Clover meets someone who can help her do something more with her life.

Jacqueline Wilson specialises in the difficulties of life, be the problems set in the Victorian era or present day. Life is not a bed of roses, bad things happen to all of us, but good things happen too, and Ms Wilson has a talent for writing ‘real’ stories about ’real’ life and making her characters feel just as real to her readers.

Younger readers – and older ones come to that – will enjoy meeting Clover because she is clever, resourceful, determined and brave. She endures harsh times, brutality and grief. She struggles to cope and to survive and we admire her for all that and more. Her life, at least at first, is relentlessly grim but hers is a very accurate description of life as it was then – I think I would go as far as saying think of Clover Moon as Dickens for children.


© Helen Hollick

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26 April 2017

The MOURNING RING by Sarah Parke


Amazon UK £9.94 /£4.04
Amazon US $12.25 / $4.96
Amazon CA $16.02 / $6.74

Fantasy
Early 19th century

The Mourning Ring, by Sarah Parke, is a work of historical fantasy. Authentic details from the lives of the Brontë sisters, and their brother Branwell, are blended with a magical alternate setting. But this other place is not purely imaginary: rather it is the creation of the Brontës themselves. As children, the four of them had collaborated in the creation of an imaginary world. Rather than being kept secret, we know about this one through diaries and other records. Sarah has mined this store of information to reconstruct a credible and persuasive reality.

At its heart, The Mourning Ring is exploring the peculiar relationship between author and book. Probably most of us know the powerful urge to think of stories as real. One of the mysterious appeals of reading fiction is that situations which once existed only in the mind of the author assume tangible form for other people. So, how would it be to enter into such a created world? To be subject to its vagaries and limitations, but also to know it so well that you can manipulate events in ways that seem magical or serendipitous?

In the case of the Brontës, two complicating factors are stirred in. First, the world was created when they were children. Several years have passed since its beginnings, and in many ways it reflects an immature view of life. At first, as I read this book, I wondered why the characters seemed rather simplistic - almost stereotypes. Then abruptly it came to me: how else could they be, given who had created them? The teenage Brontës are meeting the products of their own childish minds.

The second factor is that of sibling rivalry. While the original creation of this world might have been harmonious and collaborative, each of the children has changed since then. They no longer necessarily see eye to eye, and the conflicts are worked out in this imaginary setting. But the emotional traffic goes both ways, and the fictitious world exposes something of the real difficulties these young people would experience as adults.

I did feel that some very early scenes, supplying one description of the links between this world and the other, didn’t integrate smoothly with later explanations in terms of imagination and creativity. However, this is a minor issue and readers should not let this detract from the whole.

I very much enjoyed The Mourning Ring, and recommend it to anyone who wants something a little different from their historical fiction. Sarah has done a great job of blending history and magic into a single compelling reality.

© Richard Abbott

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25 April 2017

The WHOLE TOWN’S TALKING by Fannie Flagg

Amazon UK £13.63  
Amazon US $16.90
Amazon CA $32.79

Mystery
1880
America

Twenty-eight year old Swedish born Lordor Nordstrom discovers that there is American farmland to be bought cheap, so he goes for it and buys some rich Missouri land and by means of placing adverts in the papers to attract other young farmers to follow his example. After a decade he still has no wife, so once again decides to us the press.

Chicago maid, Katrina Olsen reads ‘Swedish man looking for Swedish lady for marriage. I have a house and cows,’ she also goes for it, despite fears of the wilderness and savage redskins and wildlife. Exchanging photographs and letters, which still do not prove whether she could be entangling herself with a violent man, she receives a train ticket, and the match is settled.

Lordor is proud of Elmwood Springs, Missouri, where residents are now settling along with a preacher and someone to mind the store. It seems a nice, suitable town but Still Meadows cemetery – with land donated by our ’hero’ has something odd about it…


Fannie Flagg produces novels which abound with wonderful characters, although the mystery in this particular story is slow to reveal that there even is a mystery, let alone have it solved, but read on for the tale is an absolute delight.

© Anne Holt

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24 April 2017

The WHITE CAMELIA by Juliet Greenwood


Amazon Uk £8.99 / £3.84
Amazon US $7.29 / $3.54
Amazon CA $5.31 / $6.19

1900s
Cornwall

“The great Tressillion family is ruined. As Bea is forced to leave Tressillion House, self-made businesswoman Sybil moves in. In a world where the old rules are starting to break down, this one choice will change both their lives forever…
Sybil buys the abandoned great house even though she is tempted to tear it down. The village sees only a rich American hotel-owner. Nobody recognises the young girl who left years ago with nothing but a desperate need for revenge. Buying the house is her triumph — but now what? As the house casts its spell over her, as she starts to make friends in the village despite herself, will she be able to build a new life here, or will her old ghosts and hatred always rule her heart?

“Bea finds herself in London, responsible for her mother and sister’s security. Her only hope is to marry Jonathon, the new heir. He seems kind, but is he hiding something? Desperate for options, she stumbles into the White Camellia tearoom, a gathering place for the growing suffrage movement. For Bea it’s life-changing, introducing her to new friends, new ideas, maybe love, maybe even a chance to work and support herself. But it’s dangerous, risking arrest or worse. Can she follow her dreams without bringing yet more scandal on her family?
When those very dangers send the White Camellia friends back to Cornwall, Bea and Sybil must finally confront each other. Will long buried family secrets on both sides now destroy them both?”


This is a beautifully written story set in Cornwall and Wales in the early 1900s, involving family secrets, love and suffragettes.

Merely 100 years on, it is poignant to read how far we have come, witnessing the prejudice and outright stupid arguments against the women's vote.


Greenwood has chosen great characters for her story: a fallen family which is somewhat torn apart; Sybil, who just took over their old house and who has an interesting background, too, and the people who meet at the White Camellia establishment.

The prose is full of wonderful descriptive details, the pace perfect and the setting authentic. Moving, and with an ending worth waiting for, this has held my attention throughout. Very accomplished.





© Christoph Fischer



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23 April 2017

A Fourth Sunday Extra

We usually have something different each Sunday here on Discovering Diamonds...
But April has five Sundays - so as this is an additional bonus Fourth Sunday I thought 
we'd have a round-up of Discovering Diamonds so far!

Since 'going live' we have had 
40,702 page visits (as of 2pm 22nd April 2017)
293 books listed on our database
over 125 of those have already been reviewed
36 are currently being reviewed, a few have been rejected (usually because of incorrect formatting issues) and the rest are waiting to be received.

Which is fabulous!

Did you know that if you scroll down this main 'Bookshelf' page you will come to the Top Ten Most Popular Books Reviewed for all time on this blog, and the Top Ten Most Popular Books of the current month?

Here they are as of today (22nd April):

TOP TEN of ALL TIME

TOP TEN LAST MONTH



Running this review blog is hard work and takes a good deal of time, so my enormous thanks to Nicky who receives the e-books in and sends them out to be reviewed, to Annie who proof-reads the reviews before they are posted, and to our wonderful team of reviewers all of whom are doing a fantastic job because they want to support authors and promote good books to enthusiastic readers.

So what can you do to help?

  • I'd love some more Reader's Voice articles - topics gratefully received.
  • Do you fancy joining our review team? If so email me for details

Or a simple but very big thing - help to promote Discovering Diamonds. 
On Facebook, Twitter (the hashtag is #DDRevs) Goodreads - your own blog - anywhere and everywhere in fact! 

Discovering Diamonds will only become a wider success if we continue to review good books and readers who want to know about them visit these pages - so...