Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Cover Clichés: Mourning Lace

Sometimes, while browsing the virtual shelves on Amazon and Goodreads, I see an image that gives me an oddly disconcerting sense of deja vu. I could swear I've never read the book, but I know I've seen the jacket image somewhere before.

This phenomenon is what inspired Cover Clichés. Images are often recycled because cover artists are often forced to work from a limited pool of stock images and copyright free material. That said, I find comparing their finished designs quite interesting.  

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Artist Alison Schuyler spends her time working in her family’s renowned art gallery, determined to avoid the curse that has followed the Schuyler clan from the Netherlands to America and back again. She’s certain that true love will only lead to tragedy—that is, until a chance meeting at Waterloo station brings Ian Devlin into her life. Drawn to the bold and compassionate British Army captain, Alison begins to question her fear of love as World War II breaks out, separating the two and drawing each into their own battles. While Ian fights for freedom on the battlefield, Alison works with the Dutch Underground to find a safe haven for Jewish children and priceless pieces of art alike. But safety is a luxury war does not allow. As time, war, and human will struggle to keep them apart, will Alison and Ian have the faith to fight for their love, or is it their fate to be separated forever?

Amidst the strange, silent aftermath of World War II, a widow, a poet, and a doctor search for lasting peace and fresh beginnings in this internationally acclaimed, award-winning novel.

When Anikka Lachlan’s husband, Mac, is killed in a railway accident, she is offered—and accepts—a job at the Railway Institute’s library and searches there for some solace in her unexpectedly new life. But in Thirroul, in 1948, she’s not the only person trying to chase dreams through books. There’s Roy McKinnon, who found poetry in the mess of war, but who has now lost his words and his hope. There’s Frank Draper, trapped by the guilt of those his medical treatment and care failed on their first day of freedom. All three struggle to find their own peace, and their own new story.

But along with the firming of this triangle of friendship and a sense of lives inching towards renewal come other extremities—and misunderstandings. In the end, love and freedom can have unexpected ways of expressing themselves.

The Railwayman’s Wife explores the power of beginnings and endings, and how hard it can sometimes be to tell them apart. Most of all, it celebrates love in all its forms, and the beauty of discovering that loving someone can be as extraordinary as being loved yourself.

Four years on from discovering their true heritage, Sally and Luke have overcome their animosity to forge a trusting brother- sister relationship. So when Luke returns home from his post as a detective in the Hong Kong police force, he asks Sally for help to prove the innocence of his friend Irish, locked up in prison for the murder of his wife. Luke believes Irish was set up and wants Sally's help to prove it. But Sally already has her hands full. As well as tending her flourishing business empire, she must also pick up the pieces when her family - from her feckless sister Josie to her self-centred daughter Margo - runs into trouble. Moreover, she must put her own dreams on hold because the man she loves is not free to be with her. Facing betrayal and humiliation at the hands of her so-called loved ones, can Sally bring herself to forgive those who have wronged her? How can she help Luke? And what can she do when sorry is not enough?

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Which cover strikes your fancy and why? What colors draw your eye? Do you think the image appropriate next to the jacket description? Leave your comments below!

Have you seen this image elsewhere? Shoot me an email or leave a comment and let me know. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Bookish Banter: The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff

I hate book clubs. I've tried quite a few, but I've yet to find one I really fit into and I find that incredibly frustrating as someone who loves talking about books. It's not something I generally think about, but after stumbling over another list of pre-written discussion questions, I found myself wondering why I shouldn't work through them on my own. I'm a book blogger aren't I?Putting my ideas out there is what I do!

For the record, Bookish Banter is not a regular post here at Flashlight Commentary. Not every book has questions and I don't have the time to sort titles that do to the top of my TBR, but as a semi-regular event I thought it'd be fun to post my two cents when the opportunity presents itself. 

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  Try to conceal your shock, but this post contains SPOILERS. Proceed at your own risk.

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The sense of place plays a very important role in The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach. Which setting did you find the most evocative?
This sounds horrible, but the setting didn’t make an impression on me while reading The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach. I was keenly aware of Addie’s longing to find a place to belong emotionally, but her environment didn’t stand out in my mind while reading this narrative. 

Siblings often fall into distinct roles within a family. Did the relationships between the Connolly brothers remind you of your own siblings, or families you’ve known?
I wasn’t raised with siblings, but I did recognize the roles each boy played in the Connolly household and I definitely appreciated the authenticity in the Jenoff’s illustration. Having watched larger families, I felt the concept both familiar and relevant.

Addie’s choices altered her life very drastically. Have you ever lamented a path that you might have taken but didn’t?
I think regret is a common sentiment among adults and while I can certainly empathize, I have to admit that my choices, good and bad, have led to things I couldn’t have been more blessed to have in my life so while I sometimes ask myself ‘what if’ I rarely dwell on the idea or let it overwhelm my emotions in any way.

It seems at some points in the book that Charlie and Addie are fated to be together, but at others they seem star-crossed. Do you believe in destiny and meant-to-be, or is love a matter of free will?
I’m definitely in the free will category. People grow and change and circumstances often dictate our decisions. I think some people are better suited to one another, but I don’t believe there is one perfect mate for any one individual. 

Addie was rather an independent woman without many close female friendships. Why do you think that is? What was it that drew her and Claire Churchill together?
Independent? I hate to be contrary, but I didn’t get an independent vibe from Addie. In my mind Addie was frightened and hurt. She seemed the kind of woman that was always running from situations when life got complicated. Claire is the exact opposite and I think there is truth in the idea that opposites attract. 

Did any details in the story differ from your perception of life on the home front during the Second World War? What surprised you?
Nothing really surprised me, but that’s not unusual considering WWII is my favorite historic era. That said, I really liked how Jenoff captured America’s view of Europe’s conflict prior to the country’s official entry into WWII. 

What do you think it was that Addie really wanted out of life, and did she succeed in getting it? What did she have to sacrifice or compromise?
I think Addie wanted to belong and yes, I think she found a place in the end. I don’t think it brought the satisfaction she imagined, but I think she felt secure in her decision despite compromising the fantasies she’d created in her mind’s eye. 

Which of the men in the book would you have chosen for Addie (or none of them)? What is it about Addie’s upbringing and circumstances that influenced her romantic decisions?
None of them. I think each represented something different for Addie, but I don’t think any one of them made a great partner. In the end I felt she settled for someone who could understand the pain of her personal history, but I’m not convinced the relationship she chose would be particularly satisfying.

How do you feel about who Addie ends up with at the end of the book? How do you think Addie and Liam fare after the end of the book?
I think I answered this a bit in the last question. I am kind of sad that Addie didn’t go for someone who challenged her more. Liam felt like the safest option and while I feel they’d have gotten on, I feel their life together would always be shadowed by their past experiences, Charlie’s affection, and their individual insecurities.  

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Have you read this book? Do you agree? Do you disagree? Do you have an opinion you'd like to share? Please leave a comment below. I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Cover Crush: The Salt Road by Jane Johnson

We all know we shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but in today's increasingly competitive market, a memorable jacket can make or break sales.

I am not a professional, but I am a consumer and much as I loath admitting it, jacket design is one of the first things I notice when browsing the shelves at Goodreads and Amazon. My love of cover art is what inspired Cover Crush, a weekly post dedicated to those prints that have captured my attention and/or piqued my interest. Enjoy!

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I think the cover of Jane Johnson's The Salt Road incredibly striking. Contrasting colors always catch my eye, but I find the pairing of orange and blue especially effective in this design. I appreciate how the artistic distortion of both the model and the camels below her bring depth and texture to the jacket and I like how the corner embellishments subtly frame the two as a single image.  

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Did this week's cover catch your eye? Do you have an opinion you'd like to share? Please leave a comment below. I'd love to hear from you!


Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede
Heather at The Maiden's Court
Colleen at IndieBRAG

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Cover Clichés: Tudor Roses

Sometimes, while browsing the virtual shelves on Amazon and Goodreads, I see an image that gives me an oddly disconcerting sense of deja vu. I could swear I've never read the book, but I know I've seen the jacket image somewhere before.

This phenomenon is what inspired Cover Clichés. Images are often recycled because cover artists are often forced to work from a limited pool of stock images and copyright free material. That said, I find comparing their finished designs quite interesting.  

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‘Better than Philippa Gregory’ - The Bookseller

‘Anne O’Brien has joined the exclusive club of excellent historical novelists.’ - Sunday Express

Forbidden to marry the man of her choice, Lady Beatrice Somerton was forcibly wed to another. Now her husband has met his death on the field of battle—perhaps by the hand of her first and only love. Should she still want such a man?

From the author of The Queen's Mistake comes the untold story of King Henry VIII's first well-known mistress.

As the beautiful daughter of courtiers, Elizabeth "Bessie" Blount is overjoyed when she secures a position as maid of honor to Katherine of Aragon. But when she captures the attention of the king himself, there are whispers that the queen ought to be worried for her throne.

When Bess gives birth to a healthy son the whispers become a roar. But soon the infamous Boleyn girls come to court and Henry's love for her begins to fade. Now, Bess must turn to her trusted friend, the illegitimate son of Cardinal Wolsey, to help her move beyond life as the queen's rival...

"I am Catalina, Princess of Spain, daughter of the two greatest monarchs the world has ever known...and I will be Queen of England." 

Thus, bestselling author Philippa Gregory introduces one of her most unforgettable heroines: Katherine of Aragon. Daughter of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain, Katherine has been fated her whole life to marry Prince Arthur of England. When they meet and are married, the match becomes as passionate as it is politically expedient. The young lovers revel in each other's company and plan the England they will make together. But tragically, aged only fifteen, Arthur falls ill and extracts from his sixteen-year-old bride a deathbed promise to marry his brother, Henry; become Queen; and fulfill their dreams and her destiny. 

"They tell me nothing but lies here and they think they can break my spirit. I believe what I choose and say nothing. I am not as simple as I seem." 

Widowed and alone in the avaricious world of the Tudor court, Katherine has to sidestep her father-in-law's desire for her and convince him, and an incredulous Europe, that her marriage to Arthur was never consummated, that there is no obstacle to marriage with Henry. For seven years, she endures the treachery of spies, the humiliation of poverty, and intense loneliness and despair while she waits for the inevitable moment when she will step into the role she has prepared for all her life. Then, like her warrior mother, Katherine must take to the battlefield and save England when its old enemies the Scots come over the border and there is no one to stand against them but the new Queen. 

"It was my dying husband's hope, my mother's wish, and God's will that I should be Queen of England; and for them and for the country, I will be Queen of England until I die." 

Raised on the battlefield and in the most beautiful Moorish palace in the world, sent to England alone at the age of sixteen to take her place in a court where she couldn't speak the language, and abandoned and forced to endure poverty after the death of her husband, Katherine remained a woman of indomitable spirit, unwavering faith, and extraordinary strength. Philippa Gregory brings to life one of history's most inspiring women and creates one of the most compelling characters in historical fiction. 

English Title: The Constant Princess

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Which cover strikes your fancy and why? What colors draw your eye? Do you think the image appropriate next to the jacket description? Leave your comments below!

Have you seen this image elsewhere? Shoot me an email or leave a comment and let me know. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew by Susan Fletcher

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: May 26, 2016

No one knows the name of 'the painter' who comes to the asylum in St Remy in the south of France, but they see his wild, red hair and news of his savaged ear soon circulates in the village and comes to the notice of the wife of the asylum's doctor. She feels herself drawn to him and learns that his presence is disturbing - and not just to her either. But back she goes - again and again. Until she is banned, but still she makes her way over the wall, through the garden to talk to this apparently mad and passionate man. And the consequences of her indiscretion, of what van Gogh comes to mean to her, of what it will do to her marriage, her life once she has touched danger and passion will have far reaching effects - both surprisingly catastrophic and tender.

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As I write this commentary, only fourteen readers have rated Susan Fletcher’s Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew on Goodreads. Seven have issued the book a flawless five stars, while another six have issued appreciative fours. Only one reader has gone lower and in all honesty, I’m quite comfortable being a lone dissenter. What works for one reader doesn’t always work for another and there’s nothing wrong with that so long as we can respect the subjective nature of reviews and the diverse opinions they represent.

Getting back to the story at hand, I found Fletcher’s prose beautiful and thought her descriptions of the asylum of Saint Paul de Mausole in Provence strikingly original. I was familiar with Van Gogh before reading this piece, but this is the first time I’ve seen any part of his life fictionalized and I found a lot of merit in Fletcher’s characterization of the famed artist. That said, I struggled with the author’s tone and found it incredibly difficult to get lost in her narrative. 

Fletcher’s work is intensely introspective. The approach holds a lot of appeal for some readers, but my tastes are a little different. I liked Jeanne well-enough, but her marital problems and personal trials didn’t interest me. I found the development and pacing ponderous and often caught my mind wandering to more immersive fiction. There’s something to be said Fletcher’s themes, the oppressive loneliness of an empty marriage and the fragility of broken souls, but I favor more energetic fiction with overt movement and dramatic intrigue. 

In sum, Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew was not my kind of book. I liked the story, but wasn’t inspired by it. The characters didn’t take up residence in my mind’s eye or capture my imagination. I appreciate the piece for its historic scope, but don’t think I’ll be recommending it to other readers very often. 

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"More than yellow. Cadmium yellow. It’s in grass and dry earth, in mornings. I did sunflowers in Arles. This colour –" he speaks more softly now, as if confiding – "this is the colour of life to me. This, and the blue; I favour them together because there are some colours that bring out the brightness in another."
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