Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds: “The Boy Who Wanted Wings: Love in the Time of War” by James Conroyd Martin

The Boy Who Wanted Wings by James Conroyd Martin


Amazon UK £2.35 £23.05


Amazon US $2.99 $26.80

Amazon CA $33.52

Review originally published on:

Military – 17th Century – Europe

This is a very well researched and authentic-feeling novel set in 17th century Europe. A unique perspective comes via the hero, Aleksy, being of Tartar descent but having been raised with a Polish family. As the Turks lay siege to Vienna (culminating in the battle of September 11 1683) he finds his military and amorous wings.

The author impressed me with the detailed depiction of warfare, military operations and equipment, class, culture and societal norms. While such details can be distracting in other novels, here they were spot on and served their purpose well. I learned a lot about the era, about Poland, the Tartars and the siege of Vienna.

The characters with their unique situations, individual ambitions and the obstacles they need to overcome provide a solid base for the plot: Love at first sight, lovers against the obstacles, political turmoil and war – it sounds like a stereotype but all feels real and comes together perfectly in a gripping, educational and enjoyable novel.

© Christoph Fischer


Workshop in Carmarthen and Cardiff: Self Publish with Confidence

For those of you in Cardiff or Carmarthen: 

Self Publish with Confidence is a one-day workshop, where you’ll learn:

·         How to plan your book or ebook, whether fiction or non-fiction 

·         How to create an author platform

·         What to use to format your book

·         Tips and techniques for book marketing: social media, website, creative approaches

·         How to make your own personalized Self Publishing Blueprint, which you’ll take home with you

Delivered by two authors, Christoph Fischer and Philippa Davies, who between them have published 22 titles ( both traditionally and indie published). They’ve reached over 150,000 downloads,  with titles serialized by The Times and made into an S4C Film, which won two Welsh BAFTAS.

Christoph is the founder of Llandeilo Litfest and Philippa has over 4000 writing students on her best selling Udemy writing course, online. 

This workshop will be fun and highly participative with guest speakers Helen Reynolds, author of cartoon book ‘Work It Out With A Pencil’ and Karin Mear, co-author of the Brecon Legends colouring book.

So if your inner author is longing to burst out into the world, please let us know and book yourself onto this workshop… and we look forward to working with you here. 

Dates: October 7th in Cardiff and October 14th in Carmarthen

Booking links: Cardiff


Review: “The Yanks are Starving: A Novel of the Bonus Army” by Glen Craney

18730971“The Yanks are Starving: A Novel of the Bonus Army” by Glen Craney is a large and complex novel covering so much more than only the Bonus March from the title – which in itself is a truly inspired and appreciated choice. The protest march by WWI veterans is not widely known about and this fills the gap in my knowledge not only with a sharp focus on the events. Crabey goes back to the beginning of the century and to several locations to show how interconnected worldwide events are and how individual fates and personalities perceive and contribute to the event. The characters may seem unusual choices at times but all makes sense once you reached the end of this loaded novel.
As European it was rather fascinating to see the American perspective, especially since there are various well chosen characters and strands of narrative.
This truly is an outstanding historical novel that works on so many levels. Brilliant.

Glen Craney

Glen Craney is a novelist, screenwriter, and journalist. He holds graduate degrees from Indiana University School of Law and Columbia University School of Journalism. He practiced trial law before joining the Washington, D.C. press corps to cover national politics and the Iran-contra trial for Congressional Quarterly magazine. The Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences awarded him the Nicholl Fellowship prize for best new screenwriting. He is also a three-time indieBRAG Medallion Honoree, a Chaucer Award First-Place Winner, and a three-time Foreword Reviews Book-of-the-Year Award Finalist. His debut novel, The Fire and the Light, was recognized as Best New Fiction by the National Indie Excellence Awards. His books have taken readers to Occitania during the Albigensian Crusade, to the Scotland of Robert Bruce, to Portugal during the Age of Discovery, to the trenches of France during World War I, and to the American Hoovervilles of the Great Depression. He lives in southern California.

During the Great Depression summer of 1932, the United States teeters on the brink of upheaval. A charismatic hobo leads 20,000 desperate World War I veterans into the nation’s capital, sparking the only violent clash ever waged between two American armies under the same flag.

2015 Chaucer Award Finalist 
Foreword Book-of-the-Year Finalist in Historical Fiction 
2015 B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

The remarkable events depicted in this sweeping historical novel are unfolded through the eyes of eight individuals who come together on a tense July day to determine the nation’s fate:
— Herbert Hoover, the beleaguered president.
— Douglas MacArthur, the ambitious West Point general.
— Pelham Glassford, the compassionate District of Columbia police chief.
— Walter Waters, the troubled leader of the Bonus veterans.
— Floyd Gibbons, the war correspondent and famous radio broadcaster.
— Joe Angelo, the banty Italian-American who serves as George Patton’s orderly.
— Ozzie Taylor, the street musician turned Harlem Hellfighter.
— Anna Raber, the Mennonite nurse.

This timely epic leads the reader across a memorable panorama of American history, from the Boxer Rebellion in China to the Plain of West Point, from the persecution of conscientious objectors to the horrors of the Marne, and from the Hoovervilles of the heartland to the pitiful Anacostia encampment in the bowels of the nation’s capital.

Here is the shocking but little-known story of the political intrigue and government betrayal that culminated in the rout of the Bonus Army.

Discovering Diamonds Review: “In a Gilded Cage” by Suzanne Appleyard

“In a Gilded Cage” by Suzanne Appleyard is a skilful attempt at portraying the famous Empress Sisi / Elizabeth of Austria, from the days before she meets her husband in the mid-1800s until his inauguration. Sisi is a figure that has always inspired writers, historians and even film makers; the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I, and thus Empress of Austria, Queen of Hungary and Queen consort of Croatia and Bohemia.
Appleyard’s book is among the more serious and factual of them, less romanticised and more influenced by the consistent rumours and darker sides of Sisi, as well as putting her life in the wider political context as the personal circumstances of her upbringing and life at Vienna’s court.
Having grown up in Bavaria with the Sisi movies as regular fixture in the TV programming, I found much of Appleyard’s portrayal plausible, explaining the parts of Sisi’s life that don’t seem to add up with the public perception in a well-researched and documented fashion.
As a consequence, the style sometimes is closer to a biography than a novel. Use of language and descriptive detail is very pleasing and historically this is of great value. It also managed not to spoil my love for the romantic versions of the story by showing Sisi in a sympathetic light. A great effort.


This book has been honoured as a B.R.A.G. Medallion winner by IndieBrag. Elisabeth (Sisi) enjoyed a carefree lifestyle in the hills of Bavaria until she was chosen by Emperor Franz Josef of Austria to be his wife. At the age of sixteen, she moved into the imperial palaces of Vienna, where a hostile court despised her for her low birth and strict protocol ruled her every act. She had no other purpose than to adorn the emperor’s arm on ceremonial occasions and to make babies who were taken from her at birth to be raised by her domineering mother-in-law. Of too sensitive a spirit, she was often ill and anorexic and had to flee the court to distant places in order to heal. She struggled to find a place for herself in this alien environment until she found a cause into which she could pour her heart and soul: Hungary. Like Sisi herself, Hungary struggled to find a place for itself where it would not be subsumed by a soulless empire. Having found her salvation, she also found a man she could love in the great patriot, Count Andrassy.

The book on Amazon


I was born in England where I learned to love English history. Now I live in Canada in the summer with my three children and three grandchildren. In winter I flee the cold for Mexico where I enjoy the sun and sea, restaurants on the beach and Happy Hours with my friends.
I don’t think I have a particularly unique writing method. I always write in the mornings in a place where I can work relatively undisturbed. I never read over what I’ve written until the manuscript is finished so I can approach it with a fresh eye.

Historical Saturday: New Release: “An American Candidate” by M J Lee

Some of you may remember my blogpost last week about M J Lee’s first  book “Death in Shanghai” 

You can imagine my delight when I found out that his latest book has been released this very week, so I had to tell you about it.

Here is the universal buy link:

“An American Candidate” by M J Lee

In her most dangerous case yet, Jayne Sinclair investigates the family background of a potential candidate to be President of the United States of America.
The American Candidate LARGE EBOOK.jpgWhen the politician who commissioned the genealogical research is shot dead in front of her, Jayne is forced to flee for her life. Why was he killed? And who is trying to stop the American Candidate’s family past from being revealed?

Jayne Sinclair is caught in a deadly race against time to discover the truth, armed only with her own wits and ability to research secrets hidden in the past.

The American Candidate is the third gripping mystery in the Jayne SInclair series, but can be read as a stand-alone novel.

Find out more about the author at the website: 

Martin has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a University researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, tv commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.
He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the North of England. In London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and London Festivals, and the United Nations.
When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, researching his family history, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake and wishing he were George Clooney.
He can be contacted at, on Facebook at writermjlee, on twitter, you guessed it, writermjlee. He’s nothing if not original with his internet domains.

Racing The Sun — New Release!

Looks like an awesome read

Mary Clark, Writer


Racing The Sun Book Cover SmallLeila and her friends are back with more adventures in Racing The Sun, a sequel to Miami Morning: A Leila Payson Novel. Leila must decide whether to continue as a high school teacher, or quit her job to run a new group that brings together people of varying abilities. She meets Doug, a paraplegic and former student, who wants to design and build better wheelchairs. With her help he prepares for a wheelchair race. 

Her relationship with Mark, the attractive “man with a book” evolves, and she discovers her mother and father both have secret lives. Raoul, Leila’s former hearing-impaired student, is back, along with the quixotic Maria Picot, and the combative guidance counselor Mrs. Grisjun. Then there’s lunch with Leila’s oldest friend, Caroline, who always speaks her mind. And what do those mysterious stones in the local park mean?

Told from multiple points of view, Leila’s…

View original post 165 more words

Welsh Wednesdays: “The Keys of Babylon” by Robert Minhinnick

Robert has been suggested to me as possible performer at the Llandeilo Lit Fest. We haven’t progressed on that front, yet, but I managed to pick up one of his books at the Dragon Garden’s Fair Trade Shop in Llandeilo.

“The Keys of Babylon”is a selection of short stories, following a series of characters, from Babylon to London, the US and a few more exotic locations, such as Eastern Europe. The stories aren’t always easily accessible, they have connections but while you’re reading the book they are very loose. Common themes wash up and disappear.

Although a few years old, some stories, for example Mexcan Maria in the US, have a huge relevance to the world as it is today and our shared issues. We all need to see life from other persepctives to understand and to humanise nationalities and ‘otherness’.

This is a fully loaded read that requires sometimes time to digest and reflect. The characters are unique and defined b ytheir location as much as they are by other aspects. It made me think a lot about what defines us.

The prose is beautiful and the voice compelling, the tone moody and thoughtful and I think everyone will be able to find themselves in one or the other of the many characters, who bring together the different experiences of human existence, immigration and how to succeed.

The title is brilliant, reminding us of the multitude of languages, human hybris and ambition, that what unites us and what makes us different from each other. Some of the characters stayed with me for a long time. Minhinnick manages to bring them to life and makes them distinguishable and relatable with sometimes only a few poignant words or situations. He truly is a gifted story teller and wordsmith, albeit I’m sure I missed some of the references and symbolism. I can see why the book has achieved so many accolades, although this strength could be its weakness with other audiences.
A very memorable and accomplished read.

Shortlisted for the Wales Book of the Year Award 2012 and long-listed for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize 2012

A story from this collection ‘El Aziz: some pages from his notebooks’ was shortlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award 2012

People are on the move In Albania, Mexico, China, Iraq, Israel, Wales, the US, London … migration and immigration are key issues of the twentieth and twenty-first century.

The Keys of Babylon is a collection of 15 linked stories by award-wining poet and author Robert Minhinnick, giving voices to migrants around the globe. Both a fictional record of, and an exploration into their lives, the migrants and the people with whom they interact reflect a comprehensive mix of hope, success, failure, fear, indifference and passion. And the stories of each of the main characters are drawn together in a final narrative which surveys their situation on a particular day.

Biography from Wikipedia:

Minhinnick was born in Neath, and now lives in Porthcawl. He studied at University of Wales, Aberystwyth, and University of Wales, Cardiff. An environmental campaigner, he co-founded the charities Friends of the Earth (Cymru) and Sustainable Wales. His work deals with both Welsh and international themes.[1]

He has published seven poetry collections and several volumes of essays. He edited the magazine, Poetry Wales from 1997 until 2008. He has also translated poems from contemporary Welsh poets for an anthology, The Adulterer’s Tongue. His first novel, Sea Holly, was published in autumn 2007.[2]

Minhinnick won the Forward Prize for Best Individual Poem in 1999 for ‘Twenty-five Laments for Iraq’, and again in 2003 for ‘The Fox in the National Museum of Wales’.[3] His poem ‘The Castaway’ was also shortlisted in 2004. He has also won an Eric Gregory Award (1980) and a Cholmondeley Award (1998), both awarded by the Society of Authors to British poets.[4][5]

In 2006, Minhinnick’s book To Babel and Back, describing a journey in the Middle East, won the English-language Wales Book of the Year Award, which he had previously won in 1993 for Watching the Fire Eater.


New Release: “The Curse of Time: Book 1: Bloodstone” by M. J. Mallon


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Today I’m delighted to share a new release with excerpt by the wonderful M.J. Mallon. I’ve been a fan of her blog for sometime and am delighted to announce her debut novel. Scroll down for the excerpt, bio and links.


On Amelina Scott’s thirteenth birthday, her father disappears under mysterious circumstances. Saddened by this traumatic event, she pieces together details of a curse that has stricken the heart and soul of her family.

Amelina longs for someone to confide in. Her once carefree mother has become angry and despondent. One day a strange black cat and a young girl, named Esme appear. Immediately, Esme becomes the sister Amelina never had. The only catch is that Esme must remain a prisoner, living within the mirrors of Amelina’s house.

Dreams and a puzzling invitation convince Amelina the answer to her family’s troubles lies within the walls of the illusive Crystal Cottage. Undaunted by her mother’s warnings, Amelina searches for the cottage on an isolated Cambridgeshire pathway where she encounters a charismatic young man, named Ryder. At the right moment, he steps out of the shadows, rescuing her from the unwanted attention of two male troublemakers.

With the help of an enchanted paint set, Amelina meets the eccentric owner of the cottage, Leanne, who instructs her in the art of crystal magic. In time, she earns the right to use three wizard stones. The first awakens her spirit to discover a time of legends, and later, leads her to the Bloodstone, the supreme cleansing crystal which has the power to restore the balance of time. Will Amelina find the power to set her family free?

A YA/middle grade fantasy set in Cambridge, England exploring various themes/aspects: Light, darkness, time, shadows, a curse, magic, deception, crystals, art, poetry, friendships, teen relationships, eating disorders, self-harm, anxiety, depression, family, puzzles, mystery, a black cat, music, a mix of sadness, counterbalanced by a touch of humour.

A short bio before we get to the excerpt: 

I am a debut author who has been blogging for three years: My interests include writing, photography, poetry, and alternative therapies. I write Fantasy YA, middle grade fiction and micro poetry – haiku and tanka. I love to read and have written over 100 reviews:

My alter ego is MJ – Mary Jane from Spiderman. I love superheros! I was born on the 17th of November in Lion City: Singapore, (a passionate Scorpio, with the Chinese Zodiac sign a lucky rabbit,) second child and only daughter to my proud parents Paula and Ronald. I grew up in a mountainous court in the Peak District in Hong Kong with my elder brother Donald. My parents dragged me away from my exotic childhood and my much loved dog Topsy to the frozen wastelands of Scotland. In bonnie Edinburgh I mastered Scottish country dancing, and a whole new Och Aye lingo.

As a teenager I travelled to many far-flung destinations to visit my abacus wielding wayfarer dad. It’s rumoured that I now live in the Venice of Cambridge, with my six foot hunk of a Rock God husband, and my two enchanted daughters. After such an upbringing my author’s mind has taken total leave of its senses! When I’m not writing, I eat exotic delicacies while belly dancing, or surf to the far reaches of the moon. To chill out, I practise Tai Chi. If the mood takes me I snorkel with mermaids, or sign up for idyllic holidays with the Chinese Unicorn, whose magnificent voice sings like a thousand wind chimes.


My Amazon UK Author Page

My Amazon US Author Page

My Amazon Canada Author Page

My blog – for information about new releases, photos of main characters/character interviews, book reviews and inspiration:

My New Facebook Group #ABRSC: Authors/Bloggers Rainbow Support Club on Facebook:


Twitter: @Marjorie_Mallon and Twitter: @curseof_time

Facebook: Facebook: m j mallon author

Tumblr: Tumblr: mjmallonauthor

I have devoted the past few years to writing over 100 reviews on My Goodreads Review Account, and on my blog to help support traditional and indie writers.


Puzzle Piece 1: The Invitation


An unexpected invite,

Such a mystery,

To explore and discover,

A hidden cottage of light.

I found it to be a mystifying situation. An unnatural stillness seemed to linger after many days of storms. Today, the sky reminded me of a painting. It appeared too perfect, too bright, too still, a picture landscape with no beginning or end. Instead, the vault of heaven spread out toward an endless grey forever, as if seeping around the edges of an untamed watercolour bleeding into the rest of the day. Even so, the sight filled my heart with promise, a ray of hope in an otherwise dull morning.

The quietness of my contemplation came to an abrupt end. I heard the sound of an envelope crashing through the mail box. I jumped at the clatter. The letter landed on the floor as the sound of a thousand crystal chandeliers echoed throughout the house. I rushed to retrieve the envelope and turned it this way and that. I couldn’t find an address label and wondered if the note had been hand-delivered. Who could this message be for?

I stood puzzling over this peculiar circumstance when out of nowhere my name: Amelina Scott appeared in bold writing. I watched wide-eyed as the final character of my surname was spelled out in a delicate font. I tore the dispatch open and inside I discovered a card printed on the finest paper with gilt edges and embossed calligraphy. There were few details, just an instruction to visit:

Crystal Cottage, River Walk, Cambridge, and the following added at the bottom as an afterthought: R.S.V.P – Not required. We promise to be welcoming when you arrive. When you’re ready, you’ll discover us…..

I shook my head in disbelief.  Nothing good ever happens to the Scott’s so this invitation might look magical, but surely it must be nonsense. Weird messages from unknown sources count as dubious junk mail, the way I look at it.

I grabbed the envelope and attempted to rip it into pieces, but it wouldn’t tear. With a mind of its own the envelope curled its edges in protest. I searched in a drawer until I found scissors and tried to cut the invite. That didn’t work either. My hand ached, but the invitation endured intact as if mocking me.

Frustrated, I tried to cut the invitation again. A sputtered cursing sound filled the room even though I was alone. On my third attempt, I tore into the card with success. (I think it let me.) And once again, I perceived a noise, an angry murmur, and then nothing. Quiet descended in the room, so I threw the torn parts into the bin.

Finally satisfied that the annoying issue with the strange invite would no longer plague me, I brushed my hands together, and picked an apple out of the bowl on the kitchen counter, polished it on my jumper and then took a bite. In no time my hunger had abated, and as I chucked the core towards the bin, I registered a chuckle. I stopped, my feet rooted to the ground as a feeling of certainty filled my soul. I knew what to expect. I have no idea how I did, but I could see the image in my mind, the invitation had reformed. The invitation was playing games with me! I peered in the rubbish, and there I saw the envelope, connected in one perfect, unblemished piece. What the heck?


Historical Saturday Review: “Death in Shanghai” by M J Lee

I absolutely loved “Death in Shanghai” . This is a fantastic thriller / murder mystery. Quite dark and definitely atmospheric it brings two odd detective characters together, one of which is Russian. That is particularly interesting as he provides an unusual and very interesting focal point to portray world politics of the times (1928) as well as a unique perspective of the location, Shanghai.

The body of a blonde is washed up on the Beach of Dead Babies, in the heart of the smog-filled city. Seemingly a suicide, a closer inspection reveals a darker motive: the corpse has been weighed down, it’s lower half mutilated…and the Chinese character for ‘justice’ carved into the chest.

The moment Inspector Danilov lays eyes on the dismembered body, he realises that he has an exceptional case on his hands. And when the first body is followed by another, and another, each displaying a new, bloody message, he has no option but face the truth. He is dealing with the worst kind of criminal; someone determined, twisted…and vengeful.

Death in Shanghai is the first novel in M J Lee’s Inspector Danilov series, perfect for fans of Philip Kerr.

Historical details are woven into the plot, adding historical interest. A great plot and smooth writing make for a great reading pleasure. A writer to watch.


Martin has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a University researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, tv commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.
He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the North of England. In London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and London Festivals, and the United Nations.
Whilst working in Shanghai, he loved walking through the old quarter of that amazing city, developing the idea behind a series of crime novels featuring Inspector Pyotr Danilov, set in 1920s and 30s.
When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, practicing downhill ironing, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake and wishing he were George Clooney.