Thursday, February 25, 2016

Cover Crush: Whispers in the Reading Room by Shelley Gray

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 am not a fan of Shelley Gray's Chicago World's Fair Mystery series, but I love this jacket. Something about this image, the fact that it features both a man and a woman, the clothes they are wearing and the fact that they're obviously surrounded by books makes me do a double-take every time. Not sure what's going on with the layered patterns, but they aren't bold enough to distract my eye or ruin the intrigue of the other elements in the design.

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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!


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wishlist Reads: February 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. 

This month's list was inspired by my love of cover art and photography. The subject vary, but each incorporates a fictional photographer and I'm interested to see how each author uses the medium in their narratives.  

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As the world battles the greatest evil of the century, once more American lives are jeopardized and Christian ideals put to the test. They who endure will be the Victors.

After three centuries, the Morgan family’s spiritual heritage is waning. Gone are the days when Morgans struggled against religious persecution, carved civilization out of the wilderness, and fought to defeat slavery. Now, as the Nazi menace engulfs Europe and Japanese militarism threatens the Pacific, the four young adult children of Johnny and Laura Morgan show small concern. Preoccupied with big bands, movies, radio, and sports, they care little about spiritual things.

When a family reunion in San Diego is disrupted by news of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, Johnny and Laura’s efforts to rekindle their children’s interest in their roots are seemingly smothered. Within months, Alexandra, Walt, Nat, and Lily are scattered abroad, placed in situations that test their faith and endanger their lives.

On the homefront, Johnny and Laura face rationing and threats of Japanese invasion. Then, like the Old Testament account of Job, come four messages bearing ill tidings about the fate of their children. Shaken by the news, Johnny and Laura are confronted by the possible extinction of an entire generation. With nowhere else to turn but God, they discover that in the blackest night His light shines brightest.




"In the Somme Valley a British soldier teaches his fellows to hide cigarette coals inside their mouths. Half a world away, a war-ruined photographer drinks in a bar beneath a Colorado butchery, blood dripping from the floorboards into ashtrays. Gutierrez writes with a metaphorical gift and fine hand of an age of war and upheaval where anarchists, coal barons, Pinkertons, corrupt police, broken idealists, and broken families fight to claim history's muddied field. . . . The Trench Angel announces a great new talent set to shine for a long time."—Alexander Parsons, Leaving Disneyland

"Breathes new, vivid life into the old wild west."—Mat Johnson, Pym

"Gutierrez's splendid debut bypasses the archives, whisking us straightaway into the seedy saloons, the twisting back alleys, and the trenches. . . . Like Denis Johnson's Train Dreams, this potent, lyrical novel unspools beyond its own time and lands squarely, unforgettably in our own."—Tim Horvath, Understories

Colorado, 1919. Photographer Neal Stephens, home from the War, is blackmailed by the sheriff over his secret marriage to a black woman in France. When the sheriff is murdered, Neal's investigation calls up memories of the trenches and his search for his dead wife, as he untangles the connections among the murder, the coalminers' strike, and his mysterious anarchist father.




Born into Edwardian England, Amory Clay’s first memory is of her father standing on his head. She has memories of him returning on leave during the First World War. But his absences, both actual and emotional, are what she chiefly remembers. It is her photographer uncle Greville who supplies the emotional bond she needs, who, when he gives her a camera and some rudimentary lessons in photography, unleashes a passion that will irrevocably shape her future. A spell at boarding school ends abruptly and Amory begins an apprenticeship with Greville in London, photographing socialites for the magazine Beau Monde. But Amory is hungry for more and her search for life, love and artistic expression will take her to the demi monde of Berlin of the late ’20s, to New York of the ’30s, to the blackshirt riots in London, and to France in the Second World War, where she becomes one of the first women war photographers. Her desire for experience will lead Amory to further wars, to lovers, husbands and children as she continues to pursue her dreams and battle her demons.

In this enthralling story of a life fully lived, illustrated with “found” period photographs, William Boyd has created a sweeping panorama of some of the most defining moments of modern history, told through the camera lens of one unforgettable woman, Amory Clay. It is his greatest achievement to date.




The New York Times bestselling author of The Wednesday Sisters returns with a moving and powerfully dynamic World War II novel about two American journalists and an Englishman, who together race the Allies to Occupied Paris for the scoop of their lives

Normandy, 1944. To cover the fighting in France, Jane, a reporter for the Nashville Banner, and Liv, an Associated Press photographer, have already had to endure enormous danger and frustrating obstacles—including strict military regulations limiting what women correspondents can do. Even so, Liv wants more. 

Encouraged by her husband, the editor of a New York newspaper, she’s determined to be the first photographer to reach Paris with the Allies, and capture its freedom from the Nazis.

However, her Commanding Officer has other ideas about the role of women in the press corps. To fulfill her ambitions, Liv must go AWOL. She persuades Jane to join her, and the two women find a guardian angel in Fletcher, a British military photographer who reluctantly agrees to escort them. As they race for Paris across the perilous French countryside, Liv, Jane, and Fletcher forge an indelible emotional bond that will transform them and reverberate long after the war is over. 

Based on daring, real-life female reporters on the front lines of history like Margaret Bourke-White, Lee Miller, and Martha Gellhorn—and with cameos by other famous faces of the time—The Race for Paris is an absorbing, atmospheric saga full of drama, adventure, and passion. Combining riveting storytelling with expert literary craftsmanship and thorough research, Meg Waite Clayton crafts a compelling, resonant read.




An international bestseller, Kate Lord Brown's debut novel The Perfume Garden has sold especially well in Canada, where it was selected as Walmart's Read of the Month for June 2015 and made it to the Globe & Mail bestseller list. The House of Dreams combines Brown's lovely, lyrical writing and signature interwoven past/present narrative style with an even more commercial time period and a fascinating real-life story.

In 2000, Gabriel Lambert is a celebrated painter who hides a dark secret. Sophie Cass, a journalist struggling to begin her career and with a family connection to Lambert, is determined to find the truth about his past and the little known story of the real Casablanca.

In 1940, an international group of rescue workers, refugee intellectuals, and artists gather in the beautiful old Villa Air Bel just outside Marseilles. American journalist Varian Fry and his remarkable team at the American Relief Center are working to help them escape France, but "the greatest man-trap in history" is closing in on them. Despite their peril, true camaraderie and creativity flourishes - while love affairs spring up and secrets are hidden. At the House of Dreams, young refugee artist Gabriel Lambert changed the course of his life - and now, sixty years later at his home in the Hamptons, the truth is finally catching up with him. 


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INTERESTED IN MORE WISHLISTS?
CHECK OUT WHAT MY FRIENDS HAVE BOOKMARKED:

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



Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Cover Clichés: The Regal Royal Ruffle (Open Collar)

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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On February 8th, 1587, a woman of forty-four, regal, elegant, but no longer beautiful, knelt to lay her head upon a block. At the third stroke of the axe the order signed by Queen Elizabeth I of England was carried out, and the turbulent life of Mary, Queen of Scots was ended. — "Immortal Queen" tells the story of that life, from Mary's childhood days in France to her death at Fotheringay. The narrative is in the highest tradition of historical fiction - vivid, alive, and rich in pageantry. From the first page the reader is lost in a world of nearly four centuries ago, a world of drama and torturous intrigue, of treachery and high courage. Mary, a widow and a queen at the age of eighteen, dies as courageously as she had lived; and Bothwell, that lion of a man who perished a madman in a Danish prison, more that matches her in courage - and is the one man she could trust among many who would betray her and plot her downfall. All spring to life in this enthralling, unforgettable book.




Luke Ballard, Dominus Elemancer and Privy Inquirer into Divers Mischiefs and Grievances, has grown his magical powers since his last encounter with the Sunderers, dark sorcerers who will stop at nothing—including partnering with England's mortal enemies—to destroy the throne. But is he skilled enough to protect his own and prevent tragedy from reaching the royal family? The continuation of Tudor rule and the future of England's true religion rest with King Henry IX's new bride, Queen Madeline of Scotland. Pregnant with a possible heir, she's nearly killed—twice—in incidents that bizarrely mimic the Plagues of Egypt. And she is not alone. All of Hampton Court, it seems, has been surrounded by a dark cloud of otherworldly danger. Fearful for his wife and unborn child, King Henry can only turn to one man.


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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. 


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Cover Crush: Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

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 like bold colors and have no problem admitting the bright tones on Paula McLain's Circling the Sun caught my attention, but it was the model's pose and attire that drew me in. Neither is particularly feminine and I find myself wondering if breaking cultural expectation is a theme explored in the narrative. 

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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!


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Cover Cliché: Girl with the Birdcage

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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Set in Coventry, England, during and immediately after World War II, Lignes De Vie revolves around the early years of Frank Arthur Vine, the illegitimate son of young, free-spirited Cassie and an American GI. Because Cassie is too unreliable and unstable to act as his proper guardian -- and is prone to "blue" periods in which she wanders off without warning or recollection -- Frank is brought up in the care of his strong-willed, stout-drinking grandmother, Martha Vine, who has, among other homemaking talents, the untoward ability to communicate with the dead.

So begins the first decade of Frank's life, one in which ghosts have a place at the table and divine order dictates the outcome of his days. Along the way there are brief stays with each of his six eccentric aunts, visits to the local mortuary, and voices inside of his own head that suggest that he, too, has the gift of supernatural intuition. An affecting tale of family and history, war and peace, love and madness, The Lignes De Vie will leave readers spellbound with its resounding expression of magic realism.






John Crowley's masterful Little, Big is the epic story of Smoky Barnable, an anonymous young man who travels by foot from the City to a place called Edgewood—not found on any map—to marry Daily Alice Drinkwater, as was prophesied. It is the story of four generations of a singular family, living in a house that is many houses on the magical border of an otherworld. It is a story of fantastic love and heartrending loss; of impossible things and unshakable destinies; and of the great Tale that envelops us all. It is a wonder.








In the 1870s two remarkable women meet in a remote country town in Western Australia. Ingrid is hundreds of miles from home, trying to distance herself from a broken heart after her lover was forced to marry. Ellyn is a young woman living in stark isolation and driven close to madness by the death of her baby daughter. Ellyn's husband is away indefinitely, and she's had no word from him. When the two women meet, they forge a bond that grows ever deeper. But can their intimacy find acceptance in their conventional world? 









Elizabeth comes from a long line of midwives, and so was expected to follow suit. Soon she loses faith in her vocation and her heart to a man who will never return his love, even when she moves into his home to raise his child. Elizabeth must also come to terms with the fact that she is barren.







Dublin 1907, a city of whispered rumours. A young actress begins an affair with a damaged older man, the leading playwright at the theatre where she works. Rebellious and flirtatious, Molly Allgood is a girl of the inner city tenements, dreaming of stardom in America. She has dozens of admirers but in the backstage of her life there is a secret.

Her lover, John Synge, is a troubled genius, the son of a once prosperous landowning family, a poet of fiery language and tempestuous passions. Yet his life is hampered by convention and by the austere and God-fearing mother with whom he lives. Scarred by a childhood of loneliness and severity he has long been ill, but he loves to walk the wild places of Ireland. The affair, sternly opposed by friends and family, is turbulent, sometimes cruel, often tender.

Many years later, an old woman makes her way across London on the morning after a hurricane. Christmas is coming. As she wanders past bombsites and through the city's forlorn beauty, a snowdrift of memories and lost desires seems to swirl. She has twice been married: once widowed, once divorced, but an unquenchable passion for life has kept her afloat as her dazzling career has faded.

A story of love's commitment, of partings and reconciliations, of the courage involved in living on nobody else's terms, Ghost Light is a profoundly moving and ultimately uplifting novel.




JUST OUTSIDE LONDON, behind a high stone wall, lies Lake House, a private asylum for genteel women of a delicate nature. In the winter of 1859, Anna Palmer becomes its newest patient. To Anna’s dismay, her new husband has declared her in need of treatment and brought her to this shabby asylum. 

Confused and angry, Anna is determined to prove her sanity, but with her husband and doctors unwilling to listen, her freedom will notbe easily won. As the weeks pass, she finds other allies: a visiting physician who believes the new medium of photography may reveal the state of a patient’s mind; a longtime patient named Talitha Batt, who seems, to Anna’s surprise, to be as sane as she is; and the proprietor’s bookish daughter, who also yearns to escape. 

Yet the longer Anna remains at Lake House, the more she realizes that—like the ethereal bridge over the asylum’s lake—nothing and no one is quite as it appears. Not her fellow patients, her husband, her family—not even herself. Locked alone in her room, driven by the treatments of the time into the recesses of her own mind, she may discover the answers and the freedom she seeks . . . or how thin the line between madness and sanity truly is. 

Wendy Wallace’s taut, elegantly crafted first novel, The Painted Bridge, i s a s tory o f f amily betrayals and illicit power; it is also a compelling portrait of the startling history of the psychiatric field and the treatment of women— in society and in these institutions. Wallace sets these ideas and her characters on the page beautifully, telling a riveting story that is surprising and deeply moving. 







Set against the backdrop of the Boer War, this is the tale of two women, each fighting their own battles; Sarah is the angelically pretty nurse who falls in love with a sick Colonial trooper of humble origin, whilst Louise cannot help but feel jealous of her friend's natural magnetism.







New York, the sweltering summer of 1841: Mary Rogers, a beautiful counter girl at a popular Manhattan tobacco shop, is found brutally murdered in the Hudson River. John Colt, scion of the firearm fortune, beats his publisher to death with a hatchet. And young Irish gang leader Tommy Coleman is accused of killing his daughter, his wife, and his wife's former lover. Charged with solving it all is High Constable Jacob Hays, the city's first detective. Capping a long and distinguished career, Hays's investigation will involve gang wars, grave robbers, and clues hidden in poems by that master of dark tales, Edgar Allan Poe.

With a multilayered plot and rich, terse prose, The Blackest Bird is both a gripping mystery and a convincing portrait of the New York underworld in its early days. At its heart is Hays' unlikely connection with Poe, who like many other men was in love with Mary Rogers. In its deeply textured world, full of bloodshed and duplicity, only a few innocent relationships — such as Hays' tender bond with his daughter — provide any comfort and hope.




From early childhood, Mabel Rowbotham knows that she is different. She is struck by visions and premonitions that disturb her dreams, haunt her waking hours and stay with her long after she emigrates from England to Canada. Although desperate to understand these powerful episodes, Mabel hides her gift behind a facade of normalcy.

But Mabel is not destined to be normal. Her quest for understanding leads her to the Brother, XII—founder of one of Canada’s most infamous Utopian colonies. Here, Mabel fully transforms into the complicated and enigmatic figure of Madame Zee and ultimately finds an explanation for the mysterious knowledge that has shaped her life.

A popular reading group choice, Pearl Luke’s acclaimed and sensitive re-imagining of this enigmatic figure was a Flare and Chatelaine book-club pick. It now includes a fascinating P.S. section with information about the real Madame Zee.


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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. 


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Cover Crush: Cajun Waltz by Robert H. Patton

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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The jacket design for Robert H. Patton's Cajun Waltz gets me every time I see it. I love the red gold combination of colors, but I also like that the subject matter isn't a person. The jacket speaks to a certain era, but it does so without distant dreamy eyes, or a sumptuous gown. The items it features are actually rather masculine and as a reader who is constantly bitching, yes bitching, about the lack of diverse males in historical fiction, I'm rather intrigued to see where this particular story might go. 

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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!


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Cover Clichés: The Regal Royal Ruffle (Closed Collar)

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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Archbishop Franz Schiller Windsor wasn't actually archbishop yet and may never be. His father still held onto that title. He also wasn't German, at least not by birth, probably not by blood either. His mother had had a penchant for foreign names, as Franz's elder brother, Vladmimir, and younger sister, Julieta, evidenced. And, despite the layers of foppish adornment and the amount of authority he held in the house, he was merely sixteen. An age at which most young “men” around him were already getting married, whilst he was still getting over his “zooks, girls are a bother” years. But, like so many other noble fathers of sons his age, he was being found a wife. And, as he had not inherited, as he put it, “my brother's unfortunate countenance”, he was on his way to being the more successful son, possibly upgraded to the heir. This is an adult, graphic erotic romance short story containing explicit content only suitable for adults.




It’s midwinter in 1539, and former nun, Catherine Havens Overton, has just given birth to her second child, a daughter. The convent in which she was raised is now part of her husband's lands, lands that once belonged to Catherine's family. With a son, Robert, and her new daughter, Veronica, her life as the mistress of a great household should be complete. But Henry VIII’s England has not been kind to many of the evicted members of religious houses. And in order to protect her old companions from the hostilities, Catherine has gathered about her a group of former nuns in hopes of providing them a chance to serve in the village of Havenston, her City of Ladies. Catherine’s past haunts her. Her husband begins to suspect that Robert is not his child. Then the women of Overton House begin to disappear and one of them is found brutally murdered nearby. Seizing the moment, under the pretense of ensuring her safety, William forces Catherine to enter service at Hatfield House where the young Elizabeth Tudor lives. Reluctantly, Catherine obeys, only to find herself serving not only the Protestant Elizabeth but also the shamed Catholic Mary Tudor. As the murders in Yorkshire continue to mount and her loyalty to the Tudor sisters grows more complicated, Catherine must uncover the secret of the killer and save her City of Ladies.




She was taught to obey. Now she has learned to rebel. 12 year old Isabella, a French princess marries the King of England - only to discover he has a terrible secret. Ten long years later she is in utter despair - does she submit to a lifetime of solitude and a spiritual death - or seize her destiny and take the throne of England for herself? Isabella is just twelve years old when she marries Edward II of England. For the young princess it is love at first sight - but Edward has a terrible secret that threatens to tear their marriage - and England apart. Who is Piers Gaveston - and why is his presence in the king’s court about to plunge England into civil war? The young queen believes in the love songs of the troubadours and her own exalted destiny - but she finds reality very different. As she grows to a woman in the deadly maelstrom of Edward’s court, she must decide between her husband, her children, even her life - and one breath-taking gamble that will change the course of history. This is the story of Isabella, the only woman ever to invade England - and win. In the tradition of Philippa Gregory and Elizabeth Chadwick, ISABELLA is thoroughly researched and fast paced, the little known story of the one invasion the English never talk about.






The enduring mystery of what happened to the first English colony in the New World... In 1587, a group of would-be colonists set sail from England and later landed on Roanoke Island, now part of North Carolina's Outer Banks. Their ship returned to England and the settlers were never heard from again. This is the story, based on legendary and historical information, of what might have happened to them. Jocelyn White, a newlywed married to Thomas Coleman, is reluctant to leave her home in England for the wild shores of the New World. The journey is fraught with danger, but her dependence on God and God's providence carry her safely through.





Diamonds, doublets and double-crosses; stately dances; religious intrigue; one deflowered maiden and a Virgin Queen--LADY IN WAITING has it all.

Commanded by her grandfather to snare a wealthy husband, Anne Blanchemain enters the lavish court of Queen Elizabeth. But the beautiful, headstrong Anne is a lamb among wolves, easy prey to treachery and an aging queen's jealousy. She never suspects that handsome courtier Chirstopher Hollier has been sent to ruin her.

Christopher Hollier is the only man in Elizabeth's court uninterested in making a rich marriage--for himself. All that matters to Christopher is reclaiming the title Lord Graistan for his brother. If doing that requires him to destroy Anne, so be it... even if her destruction costs him his life.

But a tide of betrayal sweeps Anne and Christopher into a dangerous dance of plots to defy crown and country that could ultimately cost them their lives, and their love.




She was the only surviving daughter of Katherine of Aragon and Henry VIII…

Born to a king desperate for a son, Mary is forced to watch as her father sets his quest for a male heir in motion. Queen after queen will come and go. Paths will collide, lives will be gambled and the great game for the throne played, lost and won.

It was her destiny to rule…

Branded a bastard and plagued by ill health, Mary clings to her Faith until the untimely death of her young brother, Edward VI, propels her to Queenship. But for her, wearing the crown will prove to be the deadliest task of all…

Told from varying perspectives, Tudor Queen, Tudor Crown, is the tale of Mary I, her times and her tribulations. This title is for mature audiences. Contains adult themes and violence.






Marguerite de Valois, the most beautiful woman in the French Court, is the subject of great intrigue. She loves Henri of Guise, but is married off to Henry of Navarre, which – her mother hopes – will bring peace to the realm. But, within days, the streets of Paris are awash with blood, and Marguerite and her new husband are held hostage by her own family. Can they ever hope to escape alive? In a court rife with murder, jealousy and the hunger for power, it will not be an easy task.






Widow Ursula Blanchard is urged to remarry for the sake of Queen and Country in this latest enthralling historical adventure

January, 1576. After three husbands, widow Ursula Blanchard has no desire to marry again. However, she is not in a position to refuse when Sir Francis Walsingham decides she must wed Count Gilbert Renard, the illegitimate son of King Henri II, in order to build a strategic alliance with the French.

When the Count arrives at her country home to pay court, Ursula’s misgivings grow stronger. Then one of her household staff is found dead at the bottom of the stairs. An accident – or something more sinister?

The disturbing chain of events that follows sees Ursula heading on a perilous journey in a race against time to prevent a national catastrophe. En route she will encounter danger, hardship, conspiracy – and murder.





Is Queen Elizabeth I too wily or too afraid to marry? Or is there a spoiler -- Lettice Devereaux -- in the royal romances? The marriage between this beautiful and tempestuous widow and Elizabeth's longtime favorite, the Earl of Leicester, can't have endeared Lettice to the queen.

Some years later, on Leicester's death, another courtier wins the queen's heart -- only to break it by secretly marrying someone else and then by plotting against the Crown. This soldier-poet, the Earl of Essex, is the son of Lettice and her first husband, Walter Devereaux.




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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. 


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Cover Crush: A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams

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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Don't you just love the warmth in this cover? The lighter colors drew my eye and I love how the red pops against the softer tones of the city in the background. Another thing I like about this jacket is that the model's full face is visible. There's something intriguing in her eyes and like how the artist used that to their advantage when designing this cover. 

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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!


In Another Life by Julie Christine Johnson

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: February 3, 2016

Historian Lia Carrer has finally returned to southern France, determined to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. But instead of finding solace in the region's quiet hills and medieval ruins, she falls in love with Raoul, a man whose very existence challenges everything she knows about life--and about her husband's death. As Raoul reveals the story of his past to Lia, she becomes entangled in the echoes of an ancient murder, resulting in a haunting and suspenseful journey that reminds Lia that the dead may not be as far from us as we think. Steeped in the rich history and romantic landscape of rural France, In Another Life is a story of love that conquers time and the lost loves that haunt us all.

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Julie Christine Johnson’s In Another Life was a hard book for me. I liked the idea and found the tone reminiscent of M.J. Rose’s novels, but it took ages for me to get into the story and, taken as a whole, I find that fact impossible to ignore. 

Johnson’s rich prose is impossible to criticize and I loved how atmospheric the novel felt, but I found the structure of the story incredibly fractured. I hate to be blunt, but I struggled with how Johnson approached the dual timeline and felt the manner in which she moved between past and present made the story difficult to follow and absorb. 

The pacing presented another hurdle for as I felt the novel’s momentum was often stalled by historical exposition. The information itself is testament to Johnson’s dedication to research and I adore the author’s enthusiasm, but I felt the sheer volume of fact overwhelmed the fictional elements of the finished narrative. 

Looking back, I find that I have a lot of unanswered questions regarding the mechanics of what exactly transpires. It’s all rather mystifying I think the novel might have been stronger if the author had elaborated on the supernatural natural elements of the story in greater detail. I don’t mean to sound overly critical, but the concepts were too vague for my liking and the gaps left me at a bit of a loss. 

Did I enjoy the time I spent reading In Another Life? Yes. I struggled with elements of its construction, but I enjoyed the story Johnson told and see myself recommending her work as a light and imaginative romance. 

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The bag over Lia’s shoulder contained two letters. Both had been written in that terrible year between December 1207 and December 1208, when Languedoc fell on the blade of a sword and split open into war. One letter warned of evil; the other offered safe passage to a woman and her children. Betrayal and forgiveness. The past not forgotten, the future in the form of new life. 
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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Cover Clichés: The Jawbreaker

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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Lest we forget…
A poignant new tale from the English Maeve Binchy.

It's 2003 and at over 100 years old, Selma Dixon is the last link to the hidden truth behind her village's refusal to honour its war dead.

1914 saw the Yorkshire village of West Sharland send its men off to fight, including Selma's brothers and her sweetheart Guy. But when Guy is badly wounded and returns home on leave, the horrific reality of war is fully realised in the village. By none more so than Guy's mother, who, in a fit of protective madness, secretly sends Angus, Guy's identical twin brother who was medically unfit to enlist, back to fight in his place. Horrified, Guy tries to reveal the truth about his identity.

Back in France, reckless and naïve Angus is bitterly unprepared for war, and when his actions seal not only his fate but that of Selma's brother, whose name becomes tainted in the village, Selma’s life is changed forever.

Forced to start a new life in America, Selma is oblivious to why her family’s name is mud back at home. Until the past comes back to haunt her and the names of the dead must be spoken once more...




Carlos and Nicole met in the streets of Paris. German troops advanced on strong and determined step, but everyone believed that the French capital was safe from Adolf Hitler's madness. They are deceiving themselves. Within weeks, the Nazi troops were at the gates of Paris and thousands of refugees sought to salvation. Nicole found her in Bordeaux at the hands of Ambassador Aristides de Sousa Mendes who handed him a visa to come to Portugal, where they finally fall in the arms of his beloved. Away from the war, away from danger, away from the stigma of being Jewish, would finally be happy. But there are prejudices that are hard to break and once again the two lovers are required to follow different paths. Carlos is in Lisbon, between his father's business, an influential man in society Salazar and her mother's illness. Nicole part to London, a city that lives dramatic days under the threat of being bombed by German aviation. Participates in the war effort as best you know, wearing a nurse's uniform, risking their lives to help others. Hoping to forget Carlos. Yet amid the rubble of World War II there is a love capable of resisting it.




It is the summer of 1936, the early months of the agonising civil war that engulfs Spain and shakes the rest of the world. In a prison in the pilgrim city of Santiago de Compostela, an artist sketches the famous porch of the cathedral, the Portico da Gloria. He uses a carpenter's pencil. But instead of reproducing the sculptured faces of the prophets and elders, he draws the faces of his fellow Republican prisoners.

Many years later in post-Franco Spain, a survivor of that period, Doctor Daniel da Barca, returns from exile to his native Galicia, and the threads of past memories begin to be woven together. This poetic and moving novel conveys the horror and savagery of the tragedy that divided Spain, and the experiences of the men and women who lived through it. Yet in the process, it also relates one of the most beautiful love stories imaginable.




A stunning debut novel of a young American woman who becomes a spy in Paris during World War II.

May 1940. Fleeing a glamorous Manhattan life built on lies, Claire Harris arrives in Paris with a romantic vision of starting anew. But she didn't anticipate the sight of Nazi soldiers marching under the Arc de Triomphe. Her plans smashed by the German occupation, the once- privileged socialite's only option is to take a job in a flower shop under the tutelage of a sophisticated Parisian florist.

In exchange for false identity papers, Claire agrees to aid the French Resistance. Despite the ever-present danger, she comes to love the enduring beauty of the City of Light, exploring it in the company of Thomas Grey, a mysterious Englishman working with the Resistance. Claire's bravery and intelligence make her a valuable operative, and slowly her values shift as she witnesses the courageous spirit of the Parisians.

But deception and betrayal force her to flee once again-this time to fight for the man she loves and what she knows is right-praying she has the heart and determination to survive long enough to one day see Paris again.


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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. 


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