Thursday, May 26, 2016

Cover Crush: The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier

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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Anne Fortier's The Lost Sisterhood is a brilliant novel, but I adore its jacket. The design is beautifully layered and I really like how the light blue sky partitions the visual components and contrasts the various shades of orange in the sand, map, braid and shoulders of the model above. Visually, I also recognize both contemporary and classic elements in this composition which is great as it's very indicative of the novel's content. 

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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!


Holly at 2 Kids and Tired
Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wishlist Reads: May 2016

Like many readers, my TBR grows faster than it shrinks. I find a subject that interests me and titles start piling up one right after the other. With so many bookmarked, I thought it'd be fun to sort through and feature five titles a month here at Flashlight Commentary. 

Alternate history is a unique subgenre that blends literary fiction, science fiction, and historical fiction into a single volume. It's not for everyone, but I find it intensely creative and thoroughly enjoy watching authors play with historic concepts without the restrictions and constraints of reality. It is intensely speculative and at times, uncomfortable, but again, I enjoy the inherent intrigue of such works and often revel in the discussions such books inspire.

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'It's America in 1962. Slavery is legal once again. The few Jews who still survive hide under assumed names. In San Francisco, the I Ching is as common as the Yellow Pages. All because some twenty years earlier the United States lost a war—and is now occupied by Nazi Germany and Japan. This harrowing, Hugo Award-winning novel is the work that established Philip K. Dick as an innovator in science fiction while breaking the barrier between science fiction and the serious novel of ideas. In it Dick offers a haunting vision of history as a nightmare from which it may just be possible to wake.

January 1864—General Robert E. Lee faces defeat. The Army of Northern Virginia is ragged and ill-equipped. Gettysburg has broken the back of the Confederacy and decimated its manpower.

Then, Andries Rhoodie, a strange man with an unplaceable accent, approaches Lee with an extraordinary offer. Rhoodie demonstrates an amazing rifle: its rate of fire is incredible, its lethal efficiency breathtaking—and Rhoodie guarantees unlimited quantities to the Confederates.

The name of the weapon is the AK-47…

On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back? Stephen King's heart-stoppingly dramatic new novel is about a man who travels back in time to prevent the JFK assassination, a thousand-page tour de force.

Following his massively successful novel Under the Dome, King sweeps readers back in time to another moment a real life moment when everything went wrong: the JFK assassination. And he introduces readers to a character who has the power to change the course of history.

Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning's father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk.

Not much later, Jake's friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane and insanely possible mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake's new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake's life a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.

In "Lincoln s Bodyguard," an alternative version of American history, President Lincoln is saved from assassination. Though he prophesied his own death the only way he believed the South would truly surrender Lincoln never accounted for the heroics of his bodyguard, Joseph Foster. A biracial mix of white and Miami Indian, Joseph makes an enemy of the South by killing John Wilkes Booth and preventing the death of the president. His wife is murdered and his daughter kidnapped, sending Joseph on a revenge-fueled rampage to recover his daughter. When his search fails, he disappears as the nation falls into a simmering insurgency instead of an end to the War. Years later, Joseph is still running from his past when he receives a letter from Lincoln pleading for help. The President has a secret mission. Pursued from the outset, Joseph turns to the only person who might help, the woman he abandoned years earlier. If he can win Molly over, he might just fulfill the President s urgent request, find his daughter, and maybe even hasten the end of the War.

Can one man save the Titanic?

March 1912. A mysterious man appears aboard the Titanic on its doomed voyage. His mission? To save the ship.

The result? A world where the United States never entered World War I, thus launching the secret history of the 20th Century.

April 2012. Joseph Kennedy - grand-nephew of John F. Kennedy - lives in an America occupied in the East by Greater Germany and on the West Coast by Imperial Japan. He is one of six people who can restore history to its rightful order -- even though it may mean his own death.

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Stephanie at Layered Pages
Magdalena at It's a Mad Mad World
Heather at The Maiden's Court
Colleen at A Literary Vacation (coming the 27th)
Holly at 2 Kids and Tired (coming the 27th)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Cover Clichés: Cloche Contemplation

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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One night. One dance. One love to last a lifetime.

1916. Leaving war-ravaged London, Jenny Doyle sets sail for New York where she is to work for the de Saulles family. Their home, Gatsby-like in elegance, is rife with intrigue and madness. Only Jenny’s friendship with dancer Rodolfo offers escape… until, one tragic day, the household is changed forever. 1926. America booms, prohibition rules and Rodolfo has taken his place on the silver screen as Rudolph Valentino. Will the world’s most desired film star and his lost love have their Hollywood happy ending, or will the tragic echoes from their time with the de Saulles thwart them one last time

New York City, 1924: the height of Prohibition and the whole city swims in bathtub gin.

Rose Baker is an orphaned young woman working for her bread as a typist in a police precinct on the lower East Side. Every day Rose transcribes the confessions of the gangsters and murderers that pass through the precinct. While she may disapprove of the details, she prides herself on typing up the goriest of crimes without batting an eyelid.

But when the captivating Odalie begins work at the precinct Rose finds herself falling under the new typist's spell. As do her bosses, the buttoned up Lieutenant Detective and the fatherly Sergeant. As the two girls' friendship blossoms and they flit between the sparkling underworld of speakeasies by night, and their work at the precinct by day, it is not long before Rose's fascination for her new colleague turns to obsession.

But just who is the real Odalie, and how far will Rose go to find out?

An unforgettable Australian saga of sisterhood, family, love and betrayal.

This is the story of two sets of twins, Edda and Grace, Tufts and Kitty, who struggle against all the restraints, prohibitions, laws and prejudices of 1920s Australia. Only the submissive yet steely Grace burns for marriage; the sleekly sophisticated Edda burns to be a doctor, the down-to-earth but courageous Tufts burns never to marry, and the too-beautiful, internally scarred Kitty burns for a love free from male ownership.

Turbulent times, terrible torments, but the four magnificent Latimer sisters, each so different, love as women do: with tenderness as well as passion, and with hearts roomy enough to hold their men, their children, their careers and their sisters.

Dark Echo is an unlucky boat. Despite this knowledge, Martin Stannard falls under her spell and prepares to sail her across the Atlantic with his wealthy father. But his lover Suzanne begins exploring the yacht's past. What she finds is terrifying.

Because this boat isn't just unlucky, it's evil. It was built for Henry Spalding, a soldier and sorcerer who committed suicide yet still casts his malevolent spell nearly a century after his death. Suzanne must uncover his last, terrible secret before Dark Echo destroys the man she loves. 

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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. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Jack Lark: Recruit by Paul Fraser Collard

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: May 14, 2016

Forced to leave London, young recruit Jack Lark is determined to make his way as a Redcoat. Despite the daily tirades of Sergeant Slater, a sadistic monster of a man who sees his new trainees as the scum of the earth, Jack holds on to his belief that the Army will give him a better life. His comrades are a rough and ready bunch, and Jack falls in with Charlie Evans, a cheerful young clerk who quickly comes to regret joining up. But once you've taken the Queen's Shilling, there is no way out: deserters always pay the highest price. As Charlie schemes to escape, Jack, always a loyal friend, is forced into an impossible situation where the wrong move could leave him taking the long walk to the gallows...

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Jack Lark: Recruit is the second of the three novellas that preface Paul Fraser Collard's Jack Lark series. I don't think it necessary to read the books in order as the stories don't build on one another, but chronologically speaking, the events of the narrative take place between Rogue and Redcoat.

Recruit picks up during Jack’s enlistment and while I thoroughly enjoyed being reunited with Collard’s tenacious protagonist, I was struck by the historic details the author worked into this chapter of Jack's life. Our hero has lofty ambitions, but the reality of achieving those goals isn’t as straightforward as he imagined and I liked watching Jack process and adapt to his new position and circumstances.

Charlie Evans shares the spotlight throughout much of the narrative and in many ways his journey parallels Jack’s, but his experience ultimately follows a very different trajectory. In looking back on the story, I can’t say I liked what happened, but I genuinely appreciate Collard for utilizing Charlie to illustrate some of the bleaker truths of soldering for Queen Victoria.

Thematically, I think it safe to say Recruit is darker than Rogue, but I greatly enjoyed the contrast in the material and admire the range Collard exhibited approaching this piece as he did. I’m not sure what to expect from Redcoat at this point, but I can’t wait to see what will happen to Jack in the next installment.

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"It is up to you to live up to the standards set by your forebears, the men who won the victories of which we are all so rightly proud. Men like you may come and go, but the regiment lives on. You must play your part in our history, for the regiment shall endure when you are so much dust."
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Friday, May 20, 2016

Borrowing Death by Cathy Pegau

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: April 17, 2016

Suffragette and journalist Charlotte Brody is bracing herself for her first winter in the frontier town of Cordova in the Alaska Territory. But the chilling murder of a local store owner is what really makes her blood run cold... After three months in Cordova, Charlotte is getting accustomed to frontier life. She is filing articles for the local paper--including a provocative editorial against Prohibition--and enjoying a reunion with her brother Michael, the town doctor and coroner. Michael's services are soon called upon when a fire claims the life of hardware store owner Lyle Fiske. A frontier firebug is suspected of arson, but when Michael determines Fiske was stabbed before his store was set ablaze, the town of Cordova has another murder to solve. Her journalist's curiosity whetted, Charlotte begins to sort through the smoldering ruins of Lyle Fiske's life, only to discover any number of people who might have wanted him dead. As the days grow shorter, Charlotte's investigation turns increasingly complex. She may be distant from the trappings of civilization, but untangling the motives for murder will require plumbing the very depths of Charlotte's investigative acumen...

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Cathy Pegau’s Murder on the Last Frontier blew me away when I read it last year. The author’s tone and the scope of her story left a lasting impression on my imagination so it should come as no surprise that I jumped a mile high with glee when I received a copy of book two of the Charlotte Brody Mystery series. I shamelessly bumped it to the top of my TBR and jumped in with all the enthusiasm of kid let loose in candy store. 

The first few chapters took me right back to Pegau’s earlier work which was perfect as the sequel picked up where its predecessor left off. Cordova hasn’t changed much and Charlotte’s progressive ideals are still ruffling the feathers of the frontier town’s most esteemed conservatives. I reveled in the delightful atmosphere Pegau creates on the very edge of civilization, but that’s as far as my appreciation went. 

I find a lot of merit in Charlotte’s character, but something I liked about book one is how she happened to find herself in the midst of a murder investigation despite her personal desire to disappear and blend in. This go round she’s actively pursuing the perpetrator in blatant defiance of Deputy Marshal James Eddington and the shift didn’t sit well with me and I found myself frequently annoyed that she seemed to believe her ‘almost’ relationship with the deputy entitles her to special treatment and insider information about his work. 

Speaking of Mr. Eddington, I’m not ashamed to say that I lost all respect for the man. Ignoring the fact that Cordova’s primary law enforcer seem to spend most of his time letting Charlotte do his job, I flat out refuse to condone his pursuing a woman under false presence. His reasoning is absolutely shameful, but the fact that Charlotte spends the novel making excuses for her ‘honest’ and ‘forthright’ suitor sent her tumbling from a paradigm of feminine strength to an emotionally weak and intensely insecure mess.

The fact that Charlotte’s personal life eclipsed the mystery didn’t help matters. I was intensely appreciative of the hesitancy and restraint exhibited in book one of the series, but the emphasis placed on their growing affection in Borrowing Death annoyed me. I liked the mystery and the layers Pegau built into it, but I couldn’t help feeling it played second fiddle to Charlotte’s love life. 

I enjoyed many members of the supporting cast and found a lot of merit in Henry, Adam, Bridget, Caroline, and Rebecca. Camille’s storyline seemed awkward to me, I’m still not sure why Pegau included it as it didn’t seem necessary and served only to reiterate experiences established in Murder on the Last Frontier, but what do I know right? 

Borrowing Death has its moments, but I can’t say it lived up to my expectations and I’m not sure if I’ll be continuing the series when Murder on Location is released next year.

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Every time they chatted, there was another exciting lecture Kit had attended, or some rally or march. It sent a pang of homesickness through Charlotte, but at the same time she was happy to have the opportunity to get her life together in the quiet remoteness of Alaska. Well, relatively quiet, if you didn’t count the dead bodies.
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