Monday, November 24, 2014

The War Nurse: A WWII Historical Family Saga by R.V. Doon

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Read: November 23, 2014

The War Nurse is a historical family saga and epic military romance set during WWII. This historical thriller begins on the eve of WWII in the Philippines. Katarina Stahl an American Red Cross nurse, is the happiest she’s ever been in her life. She’s making love and playing music with Jack Gallagher in an idyllic paradise. Their medical mission is over, the boat tickets to home are purchased, and all that remains is to fly a sick child to the hospital at Clark Air Field. She never expected to witness bombs falling out of planes. In those terrifying first minutes, she frees a German doctor accused of spying and saves his life. She turns to nursing the injured, unaware she’s unleashed an obsession more dangerous to her and those she loves, than the war she’s trapped in. Doctor von Wettin, the man she freed, finds Katarina pregnant and starving in a POW camp after the surrender. He begs her to nurse his bed-ridden wife. She knows other Americans will despise her, but wants her baby to live after surviving Bataan. Their uneasy alliance is destroyed when she discovers he exploited Red Cross diplomatic channels and contacts at the German embassy to wire money to her parents. His benevolent mask slips when he informs her that her brothers and parents are interned on Ellis Island. When the Stahl family is swept up in the FBI’s dragnet, Josep Stahl believes it’s all a misunderstanding. He’s interrogated like a criminal at the city jail, a military camp, Ellis Island, and then the civilian internment camps in Texas. His anger and pride blind him. One by one in this painful family drama, his wife and sons join him behind barbed wire in. There they face ostracism, segregation, and, most frightening, repatriation. Katarina begins an even more terrifying journey into depraved darkness as Manila descends into occupation and chaos. The doctor threatens everyone she loves: infant son, POW husband, and Filipino friends. She’ll do anything to protect them; she lies, steals, and smuggles. As the war turns against the Japanese, they withhold the doctor’s wife’s life-saving medications until he finds a hidden radio inside the civilian internment camp. If Katarina refuses to help him, her son pays the price. Survival has corrupted Katarina; but she’s not about to become his camp rat. After years of hell, she’s earned her nickname, war nurse. Doctor von Wettin is about to find out what that means.

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My nose for WWII literature has led me to a number of interesting titles. The Bone Church, Fires of London and The Wherewithal jump immediately to mind, but R.V. Doon's The War Nurse was different. Since reading Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides in 2009, I've been fascinated with the experiences of those caught behind enemy lines when Japan invaded the Philippines and hoped Doon's fiction would do justice to the history on which it was based.

Did she succeed? I'm hesitant to say. Her effort certainly sheds light on the political situation and how quickly things went from bad to worse, but I felt the material was often lost in the complex intrigue that envelops the Stahl family over the course of the novel. Doon touches on a lot of compelling material and highlights an interesting parallel between the Japanese POW and US internment camps, but in retrospect, I can't help feeling the fictional drama, sizable cast and sheer magnitude of the novel's scope overwhelming and somewhat awkward. 

The story itself is quite intricate, but personally I'd have liked to see more character development and atmospheric detail incorporated into the telling. Doon has the right idea, but plot points hit with the speed and rapidity of .30 caliber Browning, the weight and import of each never being allowed to settle between one impact and the next. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel the themes she wished to express and emotions she sought to elicit would have been more powerful and persuasive if tackled with a more delicate hand.

At the end of the day, I admire The War Nurse for its entertainment value. It leans towards the theatrical, but that's common fair in war era fiction. The story kept me engaged beginning to end and that’s more than I can say of many titles and while I feel it could have been stronger, I think the right reader will find its imaginative complexities and feisty heroine quite enjoyable. 

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"You're addicted to taking risks," Evie said, and then she took a deep breath. "From the moment you hit the Philippines, you're ignored the rules. I admire you... I do, but you're incarcerated now. Get used to it."
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Check Out All the Stops on R.V. Doon's The War Nurse Blog Tour Schedule


Monday, November 24
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, November 25
Review at Unshelfish
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Wednesday, November 26
Guest Post at What Is That Book About
Thursday, November 27
Spotlight at Book Babe
Friday, November 28
Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection
Saturday, November 29
Spotlight at Passages to the Past
Sunday, November 30
Review at Carole’s Ramblings
Monday, December 1
Review at Luxury Reading
Tuesday, December 2
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Wednesday, December 3
Review at Book Nerd
Thursday, December 4
Spotlight at Boom Baby Reviews
Review at Svetlana Reads and Views
Friday, December 5
Spotlight at Caroline Wilson Writes

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Spotlight: Die I Will Not by S.K. Rizzolo

Flashlight Commentary and Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours are pleased to celebrate Die I Will Not by S.K. Rizzolo!

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Unhappy wife and young mother Penelope Wolfe fears scandal for her family and worse. A Tory newspaper editor has been stabbed while writing a reply to the latest round of letters penned by a firebrand calling himself Collatinus. Twenty years before, her father, the radical Eustace Sandford, wrote as Collatinus before he fled London just ahead of accusations of treason and murder. A mysterious beauty closely connected to Sandford and known only as N.D. had been brutally slain, her killer never punished. The seditious new Collatinus letters that attack the Prince Regent in the press also seek to avenge N.D.’s death and unmask her murderer. What did the journalist know that provoked his death? Her artist husband Jeremy is no reliable ally, so Penelope turns anew to lawyer Edward Buckler and Bow Street Runner John Chase. As she battles public notoriety, Buckler and Chase put their careers at risk to stand behind her while pursuing various lines of inquiry aimed at N.D.’s murderer, a missing memoir, Royal scandal, and the dead editor’s missing wife. As they navigate the dark underbelly of Regency London among a cast driven by dirty politics and dark passions, as well as by decency and a desire for justice, past secrets and present criminals are exposed, upending Penelope’s life and the lives of others.


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PRAISE FOR S.K. RIZZOLO

"Rizzolo's sequel to 'The Rose in the Wheel' takes readers back to London in 1812. Lord Byron is thrilling people with his poems and defending the Luddites in the House of Lords. Penelope Wolfe, now a lady's companion, is living in a mansion on St. James'; Square with her daughter, Sarah. When a servant turns up dead in the garden, she contacts Bow Street Runner John Chase and barrister Edward Buckler. Their investigation has them chasing a mysterious woman who was caught staring at the corpse through a window. Like the best historical mystery authors, Rizzolo is scrupulously accurate and uses her setting as much more than window dressing. The class-conscious society of Regency London acts almost as a foil to the sleuthing efforts of Chase and Wolfe, who uncover a web of family secrets and political conspiracies that extends from sophisticated St. James' Square to the wilds of Dorset, where Druid rituals may reveal the truth. A natural for fans of Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen series." -- Booklist

"S.K. Rizzolo's Regency London recalls the late Kate Ross's work in its depth of period detail. Vivid characterization, compelling narrative, and surprising plot twists--immensely satisfying." -- Stephanie Barron, author of the Jane Austen mysteries

"Estranged from her father, who lives in Sicily and her husband, residing in Ireland, Penelope Wolfe takes a job as companion to Lady Julia Ashe in order to feed herself and her daughter. Living with the Ashes is Julia's father and other eccentric individuals. There are dark undercurrents surrounding Julia and her husband whose marriage was a business arrangement that turned into a battlefield. One night Penelope is awakened by a strange cry. She goes out to the garden only to find the murdered body of Dick, an Ashe's footman. She has the family procure the services of Bow Street Runner John Chase who actively pursues the case until a government informant warns him off. They believe Dick was a Jacobin, who wanted to topple the monarchy, the aristocracy and the government. The government wants to round up all his co-conspirators but John, with the help of barrister Edward Buckler, makes certain they can help the fair Penelope if she needs it. In 1812, the gulf between the rich and the poor was wider than ever and some radical elements of the population, including the Luddites, advocated violence to level the playing field. Penelope senses something is wrong in the Ashe household but she doesn't know the family history or how it relates to a pregnant prophetess who is supposed to give birth to the Messiah. By the time she discovers the truth another murder is committed and Penelope can only seek justice for the dead. Her need turns BLOOD FOR BLOOD into a fascinating historic mystery that shows the dark side of Regency England." -- Midwest Book Review

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S.K. Rizzolo is a longtime Anglophile and history enthusiast. Set in Regency England, The Rose in the Wheel and Blood for Blood are the first two novels in her series about a Bow Street Runner, an unconventional lady, and a melancholic barrister. An English teacher, Rizzolo has earned an M.A. in literature and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.



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ALSO BY S.K, RIZZOLO



This well imagined, carefully detailed, and cleverly plotted debut draws on actual historical events of 1811 London. Regency London knows Constance Tyrone as the conspicuously celibate founder of the St. Catherine Society, dedicated to helping poor women. One wet November evening a carriage mows down Constance outside her office. Curiously, while her corpse's one foot is bare, the other is shod in a clean satin slipper despite the muddy road. Why was a gentlewoman abroad in the night? And if she died under the wheel, whose hands bruised her neck and stole her monogrammed crucifix? Dismissing the idea of an accident, Bow Street Runner John Chase forms an unlikely alliance with Penelope Wolfe, wife of the chief suspect. A young mother paying the price for an imprudent marriage, Penelope is eager to clear her husband Jeremy, a feckless portrait painter whose salacious drawings of the victim suggest an erotic interest. Chase's first task is to learn the identity of the mysterious benefactor who goes bail for Wolfe while Penelope traces the victim's last movements. Barrister Edward Buckler, intrigued, shakes off his habitual lethargy and joins their investigation. As horrifying murders on the Ratcliffe Highway claim all London's attention, the trio discovers that it won't be easy to unravel the enigma of Constance Tyrone, a woman who revives the legend of martyred St. Catherine.




In the spring of 1812, the Luddites are on the march, Lord Byron is taking London drawing rooms by storm, and Penelope Wolfe has become a lady's companion. When one of the footmen turns up dead with a knife to the heart, Penelope and Bow Street Runner John Chase are entangled in a web of family secrets and political conspiracy that stretches far beyond luxurious St. James's Square.
With the help of barrister Edward Buckler, Chase follows the trail of a mysterious mad woman caught peeping in the window at the corpse. Penelope struggles to fit into the fashionable world, encountering people who hide resentment and deceit under smooth smiles. Set against a backdrop of millennial fervor with thousands awaiting the end of the world, BLOOD FOR BLOOD explores the simple truth that every drop of blood spilled will be avenged. 


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Format: Print & eBook
Publication Date: November 4, 2014
Released by: Poisoned Pen Press
ISBN-13: 978-1464203220
Length: 290 pages
Genre: Historical Mystery/Regency
Series: John Chase Mystery Series

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Check Out All the Stops on S.K. Rizzolo's Die I Will Not Blog Tour Schedule


Monday, November 17
Review at Back Porchervations
Tuesday, November 18
Spotlight at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, November 19
Interview at Back Porchervations
Spotlight at Flashlight Commentary
Thursday, November 20
Interview with Curling Up With a Good Book
Friday, November 21
Review at Book Nerd
Monday, November 24
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Tuesday, November 25
Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Wednesday, November 26
Review at Buried Under Books
Review at Book Babe (The Rose in the Wheel)
Spotlight at Layered Pages
Friday, November 28
Spotlight at Just One More Chapter
Monday, December 1
Review at WTF Are You Reading?
Tuesday, December 2
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection
Wednesday, December 3
Interview at Caroline Wilson Writes
Thursday, December 4
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Spotlight at What Is That Book About
Friday, December 5
Review at The True Book Addict
Monday, December 8
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Tuesday, December 9
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Spotlight at Book Babe
Wednesday, December 10
Review at The Lit Bitch
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Thursday, December 11
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Friday, December 12
Interview at Jorie Loves a Story

Monday, November 17, 2014

Past Encounters by Davina Blake

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Read: November 16, 2014

From the moment Rhoda Middleton opens one of her husband’s letters and finds it is from another woman, she is convinced he is having an affair. But when Rhoda tracks her down, she discovers the mysterious woman is not his lover after all, but the wife of his best friend, Archie Foster. There is only one problem - Rhoda has never even heard of Archie Foster. Devastated by this betrayal of trust, Rhoda tries to find out how and why her husband, Peter, has kept this friendship hidden for so long. Her search leads her back to 1945, but as she gradually uncovers Peter’s wartime secrets she must wrestle with painful memories of her own. For if they are ever to understand each other, Rhoda too must escape the ghosts of the past. Taking us on a journey from the atmospheric filming of Brief Encounter, to the extraordinary Great March of prisoners of war through snow-bound Germany, this is a novel of friendship, hope, and how in the end, it is the small things that enable love to survive.

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I knew I'd be reading Davina Blake's Past Encounters the moment I stumbled over the artwork. I didn't need to read description, I was hooked by the period alone and while I don't recommend selecting books this way, I'm happy to report the odds were in my favor this go round.

For those who aren't aware, Davina Blake also writes as Deborah Swift. It's not something I'd usually bring up in a review 
except that I think Past Encounters is favorite of her novels and that statement wouldn't make sense if you couldn't make the comparison. The subject matter spoke to me, but I also loved how layered this piece felt and while I don't dislike her earlier work, I don't remember appreciating the construction of A Divided Inheritance or Shadow on the Highway the same way.

Blake's manipulation of the timeline was truly inspired and I liked how the format allowed her to reveal buried secrets and historic details in a nontraditional manner. Her characters are fairly straightforward, but the way they interact with one another and the complexity of their relationships made them incredibly interesting and lent a degree of intrigue that I hadn't anticipated. Where the novel shines, however, is in it's underlying themes. The questions it poses about patriotism and duty, love and honor. 

Historically speaking, I knew of the Great March, but I'd not studied it. Being American I'm much more familiar with the Bataan Death March so I often found myself researching the facts behind Blake's story and isn't that in and of itself a sign of good historic fiction? I also took time off the book to watch Brief Encounter which proved a delightful and thought-provoking old movie. While not required, I think the picture added something to Rhoda's story and really emphasized her side of things which was great because I was naturally drawn to Peter and his experiences while reading the book.

Emotional, but highly recommended. Reminiscent of The Railway Man, Past Encounters is a brilliant exploration of the psychological effects of war and their lasting impact.


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I was jealous, I realised, jealous of Helen and worse, jealous of Archie, a dead man, who’d had a relationship with Peter that Peter didn’t want to share with me. My marriage was failing . I’d known it for years , but hadn’t truly grasped that unless I did something, this would be it. My life would be this. This empty shell. But now there was a chance . If I could only be a friend to him like Archie, I reasoned, then maybe the old Peter would come back, and cease to be just a memory, a memory that was slowly fading away like that old brown photograph.
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Check Out All the Stops on Davina Blake's Past Encounters Blog Tour Schedule


Saturday, November 15
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Sunday, November 16
Review at Library Educated
Monday, November 17
Review at Dianne Ascroft Blog
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, November 18
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book!
Wednesday, November 19
Review at Just One More Chapter
Thursday, November 20
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Friday, November 21
Review & Interview at Bookish
Saturday, November 22
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Monday, November 24
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, November 25
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, November 26
Review at Book Nerd
Thursday, November 27
Interview at The Maiden’s Court
Saturday, November 29
Spotlight at What Is That Book About
Monday, December 1
Review at Layered Pages
Review & Interview at Casual Readers
Tuesday, December 2
Review at My Reader’s Block
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Wednesday, December 3
Review at The Worm Hole
Review at Diary of an Eccentric
Thursday, December 4
Review at Beth’s Book Reviews
Guest Post at Historical Tapestry
Friday, December 5
Review at Bibliophilia, Please
Saturday, December 6
Review at Unshelfish
Review at Historical Tapestry

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Perdita by Hilary Scharper

Rating: ★  ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: November 6, 2014

Will love let her go? After a love affair that ends in tragedy, Garth Hellyer throws himself into his work for the Longevity Project, interviewing the oldest living people on the planet. But nothing has prepared him for Marged Brice, who claims to be a stunningly youthful 134. Marged says she wants to die, but can’t, held back by the presence of someone she calls Perdita. Garth, despite his skepticism, is intrigued by Marged’s story, and agrees to read “her” journals of life in the late 1890s. Soon he’s enthralled by Marged’s story of love, loss, and myth in the tempestuous wilderness of the Bruce Peninsula. He enlists the help of his childhood friend Clare to help him make sense of the mystery. As Garth and Clare unravel the truth of Marged and Perdita, they discover together just what love can mean when it never dies.

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Before I get too far ahead of myself, I'd like to give a shout out to Amanda Kain. Hilary Scharper's Perdita didn't work for me, but the cover art is just gorgeous. The ethereal design really captures what the author was going for and even though I wasn't a fan of the book, I concede a certain appreciation for the mysterious and provocative imagery of its jacket.

To get straight to the point, Perdita is one of those pieces I wanted to like more than I did. Earlier reviews cited allusions to Greek mythology which I usually enjoy so I was fairly optimistic going in, but the execution didn't speak to my tastes and I soon found myself trudging through a dull and lifeless tangle of emotional drama. I can respect this type of storytelling works for a lot of people, but I am not among them and can honestly say I struggled to complete this novel.

Garth and Marged had potential, but neither sparked my interest. I liked the descriptions of the Georgian Bay area well enough, but found myself overwhelmingly indifferent to the mystery at the heart of Scharper's story and ultimately finished the book feeling both impassive and unimpressed. 

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“No, they’re not at all like an old woman’s eyes,” I repeated awkwardly, even admiringly. What was it I could see in them? Their vividness fascinated me, but I could also discern a lively intelligence in their expression. And an innocence, too. Yes, there was an open vulnerability in her eyes, despite Marged Brice’s apparent reserve.
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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Spotlight: The Clever Mill Horse by Jodi Lew-Smith

Flashlight Commentary and Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours are pleased to celebrate The Clever Mill Horse by Jodi Lew-Smith!

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A young woman’s gift could weave together the fabric of a nation... 1810, upstate New York. 21-year-old Ella Kenyon is happiest gliding through the thick woods around her small frontier town, knife in hand, her sharp eyes tracking game. A gift for engineering is in her blood, but she would gladly trade it for more time in the forest. If only her grandfather’s dying wish hadn’t trapped her into a fight she never wanted. Six years ago, Ella’s grandfather made her vow to finish his life’s work: a flax-milling machine that has the potential to rescue her mother, brother, and sister from the brutality of life with her drunkard father. The copious linen it yields could save her struggling town, subjugate the growing grip of southern cotton. Or it could be Ella’s downfall. If she’s not quick enough, not clever enough to succeed, more than her own life rests in the balance…


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PRAISE FOR THE CLEVER MILL HORSE

“Jodi Lew-Smith’s The Clever Mill Horse is that rarest of all contemporary novels: an authentically old-fashioned adventure story, in all the best senses. Full of drama, humor, plot surprises, and, best of all, memorable characters, The Clever Mill Horse had me hooked from page one. Best of all, there’s a sequel coming. I can’t wait.” – Howard Frank Mosher, author of Where the Rivers Flow North

“In this delightful debut novel set in the early 19th century, a young woman fights to patent her flax-milling machine. . .An assured, cleverly plotted piece of historical fiction with an irrepressible female protagonist.” – Kirkus Reviews

“. . .intricately plotted and exceedingly well paced. . . filled with danger, science, and suspense, the story rings true with historical and natural detail. . . a complete and finely polished first novel.” – Foreword Reviews

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Jodi Lew-Smith lives on a farm in northern Vermont with her patient husband, three wonderfully impatient children, a bevy of pets and farm animals, and 250 exceedingly patient apple trees which, if they could talk, would suggest that she stop writing and start pruning. Luckily they’re pretty quiet.

With a doctorate in plant genetics, she also lives a double life as a vegetable breeder at High Mowing Seeds. She is grateful for the chance to do so many things in one lifetime, and only wishes she could do them all better. Maybe in the next life she’ll be able to make up her mind.

Website ❧  Blog ❧  Facebook ❧  Goodreads


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Format: Print & eBook
Publication Date: August 15, 2014
Released by: Caspian Press
ISBN-13: 978-0991341207
Length: 424 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

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Check Out All The Stops On The Clever Mill Horse Blog Tour Schedule


Wednesday, November 12
Spotlight at Flashlight Commentary
Thursday, November 13
Guest Post & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Friday, November 14
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews and More
Monday, November 17
Review at 100 Pages a Day – Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Tuesday, November 18
Guest Post at Just One More Chapter
Friday, November 21
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Monday, November 24
Spotlight at Mel’s Shelves
Tuesday, November 25
Spotlight at Book Nerd
Interview at Boom Baby Reviews
Friday, November 28
Review at Readers’ Oasis
Monday, December 1
Review at Book Babe
Spotlight & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Wednesday, December 3
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Spotlight at Layered Pages
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