Friday, July 21, 2017

Wishlist Reads: July 2017

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. 

Netgalley is both the reviewers' best friend and vile tormentor. Most of us love looking at the titles and we get super excited when a request is approved, but those declines! Do you know how frustrating it is to be told no?!?! It's gut-wrenching. We're book addicts and to be told no... Okay, it's not that big a deal. I can't even type that level of drama without laughing, but it is a bit of a downer to look at something and have the publisher say no so I've opted to dedicate this month's wishlist to titles I couldn't have. I'm sure the publishers had great reasons for their decisions, but that doesn't mean I've lost interest. Enjoy!

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Connie Carter has lost everyone and everything dear to her. Leaving her home in New York, she moves to a run-down Irish mansion, hoping to heal her shattered heart and in search of answers: how could her husband do the terrible things he did? And why did he plough all their money into the dilapidated Ludlow Hall before he died, without ever telling her?

At first Connie tries to avoid the villagers, until she meets local women Eve and Hetty who introduce her to the Ludlow Ladies’ Society, a crafts group in need of a permanent home. Connie soon discovers Eve is also struggling with pain and the loss of having her beloved Ludlow Hall repossessed by the bank and sold off. Now, seeing the American Connie living there, the hurt of losing everything is renewed. Can these women ever be friends? Can they ever understand or forgive? 

As the Ludlow Ladies create memory quilts to remember those they have loved and lost, the secrets of the past finally begin to surface. But can Connie, Eve and Hetty stitch their lives back together?

The Ludlow Ladies’ Society is a story of friendship, resilience and compassion, and how women support each other through the most difficult times.




Why did Charlotte Brontë go to such great lengths on the publication of her acclaimed, best-selling novel, Jane Eyre, to conceal its authorship from her family, close friends, and the press? In The Secret History of Jane Eyre, John Pfordresher tells the enthralling story of Brontë’s compulsion to write her masterpiece and why she then turned around and vehemently disavowed it.

Few people know how quickly Brontë composed Jane Eyre. Nor do many know that she wrote it during a devastating and anxious period in her life. Thwarted in her passionate, secret, and forbidden love for a married man, she found herself living in a home suddenly imperiled by the fact that her father, a minister, the sole support of the family, was on the brink of blindness. After his hasty operation, as she nursed him in an isolated apartment kept dark to help him heal his eyes, Brontë began writing Jane Eyre, an invigorating romance that, despite her own fears and sorrows, gives voice to a powerfully rebellious and ultimately optimistic woman’s spirit.

The Secret History of Jane Eyre expands our understanding of both Jane Eyre and the inner life of its notoriously private author. Pfordresher connects the people Brontë knew and the events she lived to the characters and story in the novel, and he explores how her fecund imagination used her inner life to shape one of the world’s most popular novels.

By aligning his insights into Brontë’s life with the timeless characters, harrowing plot, and forbidden romance of Jane Eyre, Pfordresher reveals the remarkable parallels between one of literature’s most beloved heroines and her passionate creator, and arrives at a new understanding of Brontë’s brilliant, immersive genius.






Italy, 1945: as British and American troops attempt to bring order to the devastated cities, its population fights each other to survive. Caterina Lombardi is desperate – her mother has abandoned them already and her brother is being drawn into the mafia. Early one morning, among the ruins of the bombed Naples streets, she is forced to go to extreme lengths to protect her family and in doing so forges a future very different to the one she expected. But will the secrets of her family’s past be her downfall?






Summer 1755, Acadia

Young, beautiful Amélie Belliveau lives with her family among the Acadians of Grande Pré, Nova Scotia, content with her life on their idyllic farm. Along with their friends, the neighbouring Mi’kmaq, the community believes they can remain on neutral political ground despite the rising tides of war. But peace can be fragile, and sometimes faith is not enough. When the Acadians refuse to pledge allegiance to the British in their war against the French, the army invades Grande Pré, claims the land, and rips the people from their homes. Amélie’s entire family, alongside the other Acadians, is exiled to ports unknown aboard dilapidated ships.

Fortunately, Amélie has made a powerful ally. Having survived his own harrowing experience at the hands of the English, Corporal Connor MacDonnell is a reluctant participant in the British plan to expel the Acadians from their homeland. His sympathy for Amélie gradually evolves into a profound love, and he resolves to help her and her family in any way he can—even if it means treason. As the last warmth of summer fades, more ships arrive to ferry the Acadians away, and Connor is forced to make a decision that will alter the future forever.

Heart-wrenching and captivating, Promises to Keep is a gloriously romantic tale of a young couple forced to risk everything amidst the uncertainties of war.




Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2008: a stunningly vibrant novel from Amitav Ghosh

At the heart of this epic saga, set just before the Opium Wars, is an old slaving-ship, The Ibis. Its destiny is a tumultuous voyage across the Indian Ocean, its crew a motley array of sailors and stowaways, coolies and convicts.

In a time of colonial upheaval, fate has thrown together a truly diverse cast of Indians and Westerners, from a bankrupt Raja to a widowed villager, from an evangelical English opium trader to a mulatto American freedman. As their old family ties are washed away they, like their historical counterparts, come to view themselves as jahaj-bhais or ship-brothers. An unlikely dynasty is born, which will span continents, races and generations.

The vast sweep of this historical adventure spans the lush poppy fields of the Ganges, the rolling high seas, and the exotic backstreets of China. But it is the panorama of characters, whose diaspora encapsulates the vexed colonial history of the East itself, which makes Sea of Poppies so breathtakingly alive - a masterpiece from one of the world's finest novelists.


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

Stephanie at Layered Pages
Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede
Heather at The Maiden's Court

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Cover Crush: At First Light by Vanessa Lafaye

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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Muted colors and an old photograph. I know I selected a cover with similar design elements a few weeks ago, but it's a great combination. Whoever designed the cover of Vanessa Lafaye's At First Light hit the ball straight out of the park. 

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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!

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

Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede
Colleen at A Literary Vacation
Heather at The Maiden's Court
Holly at 2 Kids and Tired
Meghan at Of Quills & Vellum
Stephanie at Layered Pages


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Cover Cliché: Glassy Eyes

Sometimes, while browsing the virtual shelves on Amazon and Goodreads, I see jacket art that gives me a disconcerting sense of deja vu. I know I've not read the book, but I am equally certain I've seen its image somewhere before.

This phenomenon is what inspired Cover Clichés. Image recycling is fairly common as cover artists are often forced to work from a limited pool of stock images and copyright free material. The details vary cover to cover, but each boasts a certain similarity and I find comparing the finished designs quite interesting.

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Soho 1925 Two young men meet - for one of them this is love at first sight, for the other only lust and guilt... In 1925 Paul Harris returns to England from self-imposed exile in Tangiers for an exhibition of his paintings. He leaves behind Patrick, the man he has loved since they met in the trenches in 1918, needing to discover if he has the strength to live without him and wanting to explore the kind of life he might have lived had it not been for the war. In Bohemian Soho, Paul meets Edmund whose passionate love changes Paul's idea of himself. With Edmund, Paul begins to believe that he may have another life to live, free of the guilt and regrets of the past. But the past is not so easy to escape, and when Patrick follows Paul to London a decision must be made that will affect all their lives.




San Francisco, 1939.

The Golden Gate International Exposition has captured the imagination of the country. The fair is a spectacular blend of mankind's newest innovations and basest urges, and Miranda Corbie is smack in the middle of it, working security at Sally Rand's. A former Spanish Civil War nurse and escort and now a private investigator, she has seen more than her share of the glitter and the grit, not to mention the people looking to make a quick buck off of them.

Virginia MacAvoy's grandmother seems to be one of the unfortunate innocents. Mrs. MacAvoy came to the fair to give her granddaughters the inheritance that she had been saving for them, but it was stolen. It consisted of $500, four gold coins, and a memory book—a scrapbook where she has been saving family memories. While Virginia is convinced that Miranda will be able to track them down, her grandmother isn't and only hires Miranda to convince her granddaughters of how there is nothing to be done. Mrs. MacAvoy makes a good point, but Miranda can't understand why she's so quick to give up, and it isn't long before she's looking for more than a stolen bag but for answers as well.

With Memory Book, Kelli Stanley takes readers to a time and place where the sordid and the sublime come together, making for a stunning prequel story to her to acclaimed historical series.




Edith sleepwalks through a life so normal as to be boring. She lives with her mother, works a mundane job to support them, and makes no waves among the ladies of her sleepy 1920's Canadian town. Secretly, though, she watches the flappers and so-called "loose women" with envy, dreaming of what glamorous lives they must have. And that's before Clark walks into her life.

Clark embodies the world that Edith wishes she could be a part of. He's slick and dangerous and sexy in a way Edith has never experienced. So when Clark offers her a window into his world, she dives through without thinking. On the other side, though, her black and white world explodes into shades of gray, challenging Edith in ways she never imagined.




Annemarie Kendall is overjoyed when the armistice is signed and the Great War comes to an end. Her fiance, Lieutenant Gilbert Ballard, is coming home, and though he is wounded, she is excited to start their life together. But when he arrives, her dreams are dashed when she learns Gilbert is suffering from headaches, depression, and an addiction to pain killers. This is not the man she had planned to marry.

After serving in the trenches, Army Chaplain Samuel Vickary is barely holding onto his faith. Putting up a brave front as he ministers to the injured soldiers at the hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas, he befriends Gilbert and eventually falls for Annemarie. While Annemarie tries to sort out her confused feelings about the two men in her life, she witnesses firsthand the bitterness and hurt they both hold within. Who will she choose? Will she have the courage to follow her heart and become the woman God intended her to be? As the world emerges from the shadow of war, Annemarie clings to her faith as she wonders if her future holds the hope, happiness, and love for which she so desperately longs.




The Irish Flapper, is a novel set in Manhattan during the exciting Roaring Twenties about a young Irish woman’s journey to America to fulfill her contrasting dreams of wealth and artistic expression. Once in America she awakens to the stark difference between her dreams and the disillusioning reality of an immigrant’s life. It is her new friends, flamboyant cousin and her new found love that make life in the big city an unforgettable adventure.

In America she encounters her wildly flamboyant cousin Isabelle who just happens to be the “IT” actress of the moment and the girlfriend of a notorious dangerous gangster. Isabelle introduces her to the enticing, glamorous but ultimately empty and deceptive world of fame and fortune. Annie falls deeply in love with Jack an extremely successful stockbroker haunted by the ghost of his past which threatens their future. In the end it is the knot that ties family and friends together that helps her through great adversity and devastating loss.







News reporting is the main joy in Norma Hill's life. She is hell-bent on being more than a weather reporter, but new tyrant boss, Henry Chapel, doesn't agree. While she is following a news lead, Henry saves her from a handsy heir. His words warn her of danger, but his actions stir deeper emotions. Despite his gruff words, can she find the love forever absent from her life?





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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, July 13, 2017

Cover Crush: City of Crows by Chris Womersley

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 cover of Chris Womersley's City of Crows is absolutely stunning! I hate to gush like that, but I've having trouble finding the words to describe how much I like this design. The layering is incredibly intriguing and I adore the ominously dark vibes it sends prospective readers. 

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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!

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

Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede
Colleen at A Literary Vacation
Heather at The Maiden's Court
Holly at 2 Kids and Tired
Meghan at Of Quills & Vellum
Stephanie at Layered Pages


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Rebel Sisters by Marita Conlon-McKenna

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: July 8, 2017

With the threat of the First World War looming, tension simmers under the surface of Ireland. Growing up in the privileged confines of Dublin’s leafy Rathmines, the bright, beautiful Gifford sisters Grace, Muriel and Nellie kick against the conventions of their wealthy Anglo-Irish background and their mother Isabella’s expectations. Soon, as war erupts across Europe, the spirited sisters find themselves caught up in their country’s struggle for freedom. Muriel falls deeply in love with writer Thomas MacDonagh, artist Grace meets the enigmatic Joe Plunkett – both leaders of 'The Rising' – while Nellie joins the Citizen Army and bravely takes up arms, fighting alongside Countess Constance Markievicz in the rebellion. On Easter Monday, 1916, the biggest uprising in Ireland for two centuries begins. The world of the Gifford sisters and everyone they hold dear will be torn apart in a fight that is destined for tragedy.

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Birth of the Irish Republic
I probably shouldn’t admit this, but my decision to read Marita Conlon-McKenna’s Rebel Sisters was prompted by my frustration with Elizabeth J. Sparrow’s The Irish Tempest. The Easter Rising was the first armed action of the Irish revolutionary period and I didn’t feel the latter novel treated the material with the respect it deserved so I went looking for something that would.

Did Rebel Sisters fill the void? The answer to that depends on your point of view. The book offers a much more detailed account of the Rising and the cast feels far more authentic than Sparrow’s, but I’m not above admitting that the structure and tone of Conlon-McKenna’s narrative made it difficult to get lost in.

Rebel Sisters is told from four alternating perspectives, but the author failed to create appropriate balance between Grace, Muriel, Nellie, and Isabella. The end result left significant disparities between the four narrators and I ultimately found myself questioning the author’s decision to utilize so many voices. Each character is interesting in her own right, but I think the novel would have been stronger if Conlon-McKenna had narrowed her scope to only two of the sisters and regulated their mother to a supporting role.

Conlon-McKenna’s prose is straightforward, but it lacks the fiery passion and patriotism of the men and women who inspired it. The research is sound, but the story is light on theme and doesn't pack the punch one would expect from revolution era fiction. The narrative also doesn't afford adequate closure and while I appreciated what Colon-Mckenna attempted to do with the novel, I can't help feeling she bit off more than she could chew when she committed herself to the project.

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She was afraid for Joe, afraid for all of them. Was Nellie with them? How could they possibly expect to defeat the large numbers of the British army garrisoned in barracks all across the city? They would be wiped out. She stayed watching from the window, frozen with dread at what might happen once the army launched a proper attack on them.
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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Cover Cliché: Boeas

Sometimes, while browsing the virtual shelves on Amazon and Goodreads, I see jacket art that gives me a disconcerting sense of deja vu. I know I've not read the book, but I am equally certain I've seen its image somewhere before.

This phenomenon is what inspired Cover Clichés. Image recycling is fairly common as cover artists are often forced to work from a limited pool of stock images and copyright free material. The details vary cover to cover, but each boasts a certain similarity and I find comparing the finished designs quite interesting.

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He came. She saw. He conquered.

It happened one hot, moonlit midsummer night at a ball in Auckland, New Zealand, 1884. Miss Anna Brown walked out onto the terrace and into arrestingly beautiful Russian artist Sasha Ivanovsky. He is unconventional, unfettered, adventurous, dangerously bohemian—everything she is not, everything she fears. But she is bewitched. His eyes—dark, mysterious, smoulderingly passionate—burn into her mind, into her heart, into her very soul. Unthinkingly, she dances the night away with him.

When dawn breaks, it brings with it the cold light of reality. Ivanovsky is not wealthy, not well-bred, not respectable, not suitable, not safe. Anna’s carefree exhibition on the dance floor has set the tongues of society wagging, and she cannot bear it.

With one glance from his dark eyes, he stole her heart away on that fateful midsummer night. But she is desperately determined that he will not steal away her body and soul too. A resistance must be mounted. Her rebel heart must be subdued, and all thoughts of doomed, dangerous loves locked away. But is forgetting such a man, such a love, impossible? The flame of love he ignited in her heart will not extinguish. Drop by drop she can feel herself melting away. Soon there might be nothing left of her…

But the sea has a gift for Anna. Something dangerous. Something forbidden. Something that threatens to wreck her…




She is a healer, a storyteller, a warrior, and a queen without a throne. In the shadow of King Arthur's Britain, one woman knows the truth that could save a kingdom from the hands of a tyrant...

Ancient grudges, old wounds, and the quest for power rule in the newly widowed Queen Isolde's court. Hardly a generation after the downfall of Camelot, Isolde grieves for her slain husband, King Constantine, a man she secretly knows to have been murdered by the scheming Lord Marche -- the man who has just assumed his title as High King. Though her skills as a healer are renowned throughout the kingdom, in the wake of Con's death, accusations of witchcraft and sorcery threaten her freedom and her ability to bring Marche to justice. Burdened by their suspicion and her own grief, Isolde must conquer the court's distrust and superstition to protect her throne and the future of Britain.

One of her few allies is Trystan, a prisoner with a lonely and troubled past. Neither Saxon nor Briton, he is unmoved by the political scheming, rumors, and accusations swirling around the fair queen. Together they escape, and as their companionship turns from friendship to love, they must find a way to prove what they know to be true -- that Marche's deceptions threaten not only their lives but the sovereignty of the British kingdom.

In Twilight of Avalon, Anna Elliott returns to the roots of the legend of Trystan and Isolde to shape a very different story -- one based in the earliest written versions of the Arthurian tales -- a captivating epic brimming with historic authenticity, sweeping romance, and the powerful magic of legend.




A spellbinding novel, at once sweeping and intimate, from the Booker Prize–winning author of Possession, that spans the Victorian era through the World War I years, and centers around a famous children’s book author and the passions, betrayals, and secrets that tear apart the people she loves.

When Olive Wellwood’s oldest son discovers a runaway named Philip sketching in the basement of the new Victoria and Albert Museum—a talented working-class boy who could be a character out of one of Olive’s magical tales—she takes him into the storybook world of her family and friends.

But the joyful bacchanals Olive hosts at her rambling country house—and the separate, private books she writes for each of her seven children—conceal more treachery and darkness than Philip has ever imagined. As these lives—of adults and children alike—unfold, lies are revealed, hearts are broken, and the damaging truth about the Wellwoods slowly emerges. But their personal struggles, their hidden desires, will soon be eclipsed by far greater forces, as the tides turn across Europe and a golden era comes to an end.

Taking us from the cliff-lined shores of England to Paris, Munich, and the trenches of the Somme, The Children’s Book is a deeply affecting story of a singular family, played out against the great, rippling tides of the day. It is a masterly literary achievement by one of our most essential writers.




Sibeal has always known that she is destined for a spiritual life, and is committed to it with all her heart. The only thing left for her to do before she enters the nemetons is to spend the summer visiting her sisters, Muirrin and Clodagh, on the northern island of Inis Eala.

But Sibeal has barely set foot on the island before a freak storm out at sea sinks a ship before her eyes. In spite of frantic efforts, only three survivors are fished alive from the water, and one of them, a man Sibeal names Ardal, clings to life by the merest thread.

Life continues on the island, as it must, and Sibeal befriends Ardal as he begins to regain his health. But it becomes clear there is something unusual about the three shipwrecked strangers. Why won't the beautiful Svala speak? And what is it that the gravely ill Ardal can't remember – or won't tell? When a visiting warrior is found dead at the bottom of a cliff, and an attempt is made on Ardal's life, Sibeal finds herself a pawn in a deadly game. The truth will be far more astonishing than she could ever have believed – and the consequences for Sibeal unimaginable.


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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, July 10, 2017

The Maharajah's General by Paul Fraser Collard

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: July 6, 2017

The second Jack Lark tale is a riveting tale of battle and adventure in a brutal land, where loyalty and courage are constantly challenged and the enemy is never far away. Jack Lark barely survived the Battle of the Alma. As the brutal fight raged, he discovered the true duty that came with the officer's commission he'd taken. In hospital, wounded, and with his stolen life left lying on the battlefield, he grasps a chance to prove himself a leader once more. Poor Captain Danbury is dead, but Jack will travel to his new regiment in India, under his name. Jack soon finds more enemies, but this time they're on his own side. Exposed as a fraud, he's rescued by the chaplain's beautiful daughter, who has her own reasons to escape. They seek desperate refuge with the Maharajah of Sawadh, the charismatic leader whom the British Army must subdue. He sees Jack as a curiosity, but recognizes a fellow military mind. In return for his safety, Jack must train the very army the British may soon have to fight. 

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The Marquess of Dalhousie, Governor-General of India
The great thing about coming to a series late in the game is that you don’t have to wait to jump into the next installment. I inhaled Paul Fraser Collard’s The Scarlet Thief last week and can’t tell you how great it felt to crack open The Maharajah's General as I was still riding high on my experience of its predecessor.

The novel picks up only a few months after the final chapter of book one and sees Jack returning to an old ruse to pursue his professional ambitions and avoid punishment for his original crime. Now I’m not a fan of rehashing and generally knock stars from series that recycle plot lines, but Jack’s deception plays out very differently in The Maharajah's General and I think it important to give Collard credit for creatively reimagining how Jack’s subterfuge played out. The end result is far from repetitious as it forces Jack into new situations and leads him to grow in ways neither he nor the audience expect.

There is a certain romanticism to the exotic kingdom of Sawadh, but the fictitious setting pays due homage India, its culture, and the final days of the East India Trading Company’s domination of the region. The story explores the nature of commercial interest in India and the rampant exploitation of both the country and its people, but it was the legacy of James Broun-Ramsay, 1st Marquess of Dalhousie and Governor-General of India, that captured my imagination. I was entirely unfamiliar with the Indian Mutiny when I picked up this book, but Collard’s illustration of the bureaucratic policies that led to it fascinated me to no end.

Collard’s inclusion of not one, but two strong females is also worthy of note. Isobel’s strong-will proved an entertaining foil for Jack, but I think there’s just as much to be said for Lakshmi’s subtle charisma and guidance. Strength evidences itself in a myriad of different ways and I liked how Collard’s work acknowledged this truth through the relationships Jack shares with both women.

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For better or worse he was a redcoat. He had done what his conscience dictated, and now he would have to wait and see what penalty he would pay for staying loyal to the country of his birth.
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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Cover Crush: The Blue Mile by Kim Kelly

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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There is something inherently interesting about architecture. The symmetry of it is just fascinating and I love how the artist who designed the cover for Kim Kelly's The Blue Mile capitalized on the effect. I also like how the muted colors compliment the vintage photograph and think they add a lot to the cover as a whole. 

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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!

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

Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede
Colleen at A Literary Vacation
Heather at The Maiden's Court
Holly at 2 Kids and Tired
Meghan at Of Quills & Vellum
Stephanie at Layered Pages
Stephanie at IndieBRAG

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Scarlet Thief by Paul Fraser Collard

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: July 4, 2017

The new Richard Sharpe bursts onto the historical adventure scene in a brilliant, action-packed debut of Redcoat battle and bloodshed. 1854: The banks of the Alma River, Crimean Peninsular. The Redcoats stagger to a bloody halt. The men of the King's Royal Fusiliers are in terrible trouble, ducking and twisting as the storm of shot, shell and bullet tear through their ranks. Officer Jack Lark has to act immediately and decisively. His life and the success of the campaign depend on it. But does he have the mettle, the officer qualities that are the life blood of the British Army? From a poor background Lark has risen through the ranks by stealth and guile and now he faces the ultimate test... The Scarlet Thief introduces us to a formidable and compelling hero - brutally courageous, roguish, ambitious - in a historical novel as robust as it is thrillingly authentic by an author who brings history and battle vividly alive

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The Storming of the Great Redoubt at the Alma
The image of a British Redcoat is indicative of one thing here in the United States and sarcastic as I am, I can’t help wondering how many Americans, on seeing the cover, associate Paul Fraser Collard’s The Scarlet Thief with the American Revolution. Spoiler alert folks, the title has absolutely nothing to do with our fight for independence.

If you read the jacket description, you’ll discover that the narrative actually takes place during the Crimean War which raged from 1853 to 1856 on a major peninsula in Eastern Europe, a fact which leads to one of my favorite aspects of the book. I knew the basics of the conflict when I picked up Collard’s work, but I was otherwise flying blind with only a prayer that I’d be able to follow the battle sequences and make sense of the politics that inspired the narrative. Fortunately for me, the author placed a great deal of emphasis on his illustration of the conflict and I found myself thorough enamored with his descriptions of the Battle of Alma.

I also loved Collard’s diverse depiction of the British army. American fiction lends itself to the superficial vilification of the British solider and I was both impressed with and drawn to the ideas expressed in Collard’s work for its opposing point of view. The Scarlet Thief includes a diverse cast of individuals of various backgrounds, dispositions, and ambition. These aren’t stock characters and I liked how the author’s attention to each afforded a more authentic perspective.

Jack, once again, proved an engaging protagonist, but The Scarlet Thief shed light on a new aspect of his character. Jack's ambition is a key to his character in the novellas and while it is by no means diminished here, The Scarlet Thief puts his struggles center stage. Collard’s hero is ill-prepared and initially lacks many of the skills required to effectively execute the expected duties of a Captain, but I found his determination to succeed endearing and appreciated the emotional depth his growth brought the story.

The Scarlet Thief is a brilliant standalone that I'd confidently recommend, but I’d definitely urge readers to consider picking up Jack Lark: Redcoat beforehand. A handful of key characters are developed in the novella and I think having prior knowledge of Molly, Slater, and Sloames really enhances key moments of The Scarlet Thief.

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He had believed the life of an officer was easy, full of undeserved privilege and comfort. He had not seen the responsibility that the officers carried constantly. Now he understood what it meant to lead men. Yet as heavy as that burden was, he would not surrender it for anything.
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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Cover Cliché: Tender Farewell

Sometimes, while browsing the virtual shelves on Amazon and Goodreads, I see jacket art that gives me a disconcerting sense of deja vu. I know I've not read the book, but I am equally certain I've seen its image somewhere before.

This phenomenon is what inspired Cover Clichés. Image recycling is fairly common as cover artists are often forced to work from a limited pool of stock images and copyright free material. The details vary cover to cover, but each boasts a certain similarity and I find comparing the finished designs quite interesting.

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The Booker Prize-winning author's first novel since The Photograph is a sweeping saga of three generations of women, their lives, and loves

A chance meeting in St. James's Park begins young Lorna and Matt's intense relationship. Wholly in love, they leave London for a cottage in a rural Somerset village. Their intimate life together--Matt's woodcarving, Lorna's self-discovery, their new baby, Molly--is shattered with the arrival of World War II. In 1960s London, Molly happens upon a forgotten newspaper--a seemingly small moment that leads to her first job and, eventually, a pregnancy by a wealthy man who wants to marry her but whom she does not love. Thirty years later, Ruth, who has always considered her existence a peculiar accident, questions her own marriage and begins a journey that takes her back to 1941 and a redefinition of herself and of love.

Told in Lively's incomparable prose, Consequences is a powerful story of growth, death, and rebirth and a study of the previous century--its major and minor events, its shaping of public consciousness, and its changing of lives.





Detrick, a German boy, was born with every quality that the Nazi's considered superior, this would ensure his future as a leader of Adolph Hitler's coveted Aryan race. But on his 7th birthday, an unexpected event changed the course of his destiny forever. As the Nazis rose to power, Detrick was swept into a life filled with secrets, enemies, betrayals, alliances and danger at every turn. However, in spite of the horrors and the terror surrounding him, Detrick would find a single flicker of light. He would discover the greatest gift of all, the gift of everlasting love.





How have I been lucky enough to come here, to be alive, when so many others are not? I should have died.… But I am here.

1945. Surviving the brutality of a Nazi prison camp, Marta Nederman is lucky to have escaped with her life. Recovering from the horror, she meets Paul, an American soldier who gives her hope of a happier future. But their plans to meet in London are dashed when Paul's plane crashes.

Devastated and pregnant, Marta marries Simon, a caring British diplomat, and glimpses the joy that home and family can bring. But her happiness is threatened when she learns of a Communist spy in British intelligence, and that the one person who can expose the traitor is connected to her past.





Shadowed by Grace is the first in a stirring new series of stand-alone historical suspense novels by acclaimed author Cara C. Putman. Desperate to save her dying mother, Rachel accepts her newspaper’s assignment to travel to Italy to captures images dangerously close to the front lines of WWII. Her real motive – to find the father she never knew -- an artist she hopes can offer the comfort and support both she and her mother need to survive. It’s an unlikely situation for love and faith to flourish, but soon Rachel not only finds herself, but also her long-lost earthly father, and ultimately, the man her Heavenly father created to cherish and provide for her.





1944. Paul Brandt, a soldier in the German army, returns wounded and ashamed from the bloody chaos of the Eastern front to find his village home much changed and existing in the dark shadow of an SS rest hut - a luxurious retreat for those who manage the concentration camps, run with the help of a small group of female prisoners who - against all odds - have so far survived the war.

When, by chance, Brandt glimpses one of these prisoners, he realizes that he must find a way to access the hut. For inside is the woman to whom his fate has been tied since their arrest five years before, and now he must do all he can to protect her.

But as the Russian offensive moves ever closer, the days of this rest hut and its SS inhabitants are numbered. And while hope - for Brandt and the female prisoners - grows tantalizingly close, the danger too is now greater than ever.

And, in a forest to the east, a young female Soviet tank driver awaits her orders to advance . . .


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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, July 3, 2017

Jack Lark: Redcoat by Paul Fraser Collard

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: July 2, 2017

The third e-novella featuring young Jack Lark - now a young Redcoat yearning to rise above his lot in life - following Rogue and Recruit. Private Jack Lark wears his red coat with pride. Though life in Queen Victoria's service is tough, he relishes the camaraderie of Aldershot barracks, and four years' harsh discipline hasn't blunted his desire to be more than just a Redcoat. When he learns that Captain Sloames needs a new orderly, Jack is determined to prove his worth both to the officer and to Molly, the laundry girl who has caught his eye. But standing in his way is Colour Sergeant Slater, a cruel and vicious bull of a man who loathes Jack, and is longing for the chance to ruin his ambition...

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I started reading the Jack Lark series by Paul Fraser Collard last year, but had to put the books on hold when life got in the way. Lucky for me, I’ve found an excuse to continue my reading as I’ve recently received an ARC of The True Soldier and aim to review the novel within a week of its July 13th release date which doesn’t leave me a lot of time so I best get going. 

Jack Lark: Redcoat is the third of the three novellas that explore Jack’s early life and at only 100 pages, it’s a fairly quick read. What I like about it though, is how the novella illustrates Jack’s ambition, resilience, and ingenuity while showcasing Collard’s informative and entertaining approach to fiction. 

The novella is filled with authentic detail which speaks to the research behind it, but what struck me was how Collard slipped so much into the story without imposing on his audience. There’s not one a single long-winded info dump to be had which made it that much easier to get lost in the story.

Based on the set-up, I can only assume that Molly, Sloames, and Slater are key characters in The Scarlet Thief, but having said that, I have to say that I love how Collard write them here. Slater was actually introduced in Jack Lark: Recruit, but Redcoat takes his antagonistic association with Jack to a new level. Molly is the only notable female in the piece, but her world view and approach to life prove memorable and fresh. Sloames is flawed, but endearingly so and I think his personality intriguing which leaves me wondering where Collard will take it as the series progresses. 

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Molly had been right. You did make your own luck in this world. Good things did not happen to the meek or the quiet. They came to those who damned the future’s eyes, grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and took it for their own.
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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War I by Heather Webb & Hazel Gaynor

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Edelweiss
Read: May 26, 2017

New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor has joined with Heather Webb to create this unforgettably romantic novel of the Great War. August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris. But as history tells us, it all happened so differently... Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene? Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him...

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English soldiers in France during WWI.
I caught wind of Last Christmas in Paris in March 2017 when the cover started circling social media. I’d read and enjoyed both Heather Webb and Hazel Gaynor, but it was the subject matter that caught my attention. I’m a junkie when it comes to war era literature and couldn’t wait to get a copy of my own.

The story itself is relayed through the correspondence of the novel’s cast and while I know the format doesn’t appeal to everyone, I couldn’t help appreciating the sense of intimacy and depth created by the approach. I felt connected the characters and that made it easy to empathize with their views and experiences.

In many ways, the narrative reminded me of Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth. Webb and Gaynor clearly meant to echo Brittain’s unique perspective and much like the famed memoirist, I feel they succeeded in capturing both the romanticism and realities of the conflict while illustrating its impact on the men and women who came of age in its shadow.

Sweetly romantic and beautifully composed, Last Christmas in Paris proved compelling and heartfelt. A brilliant tribute to the tragedy of war and the endurance of the human heart.

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Now that I have finally found the courage to write these words, I do not know if I have the courage to post them to you.
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Daughter of a Thousand Years by Amalia Carosella

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: October 25, 2016

Greenland, AD 1000: More than her fiery hair marks Freydís as the daughter of Erik the Red; her hot temper and fierce pride are as formidable as her Viking father’s. And so, too, is her devotion to the great god Thor, which puts her at odds with those in power—including her own brother, the zealous Leif Eriksson. Determined to forge her own path, she defies her family’s fury and clings to her dream of sailing away to live on her own terms, with or without the support of her husband. New Hampshire, 2016: Like her Icelandic ancestors, history professor Emma Moretti is a passionate defender of Norse mythology. But in a small town steeped in traditional values, her cultural beliefs could jeopardize both her academic career and her congressman father’s reelection. Torn between public expectation and personal identity, family and faith, she must choose which to honor and which to abandon. In a dramatic, sweeping dual narrative that spans a millennium, two women struggle against communities determined to silence them, but neither Freydís nor Emma intends to give up without a fight. 

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I was hesitant about Amalia Carosella’s Daughter of a Thousand Years. I’d loved the author’s earlier work and as much as I liked the Norse elements of the plot, I wasn’t sure about the dual timelines. Contemporary fiction isn’t really my thing and the last thing I wanted was to be disappointed by an author I’d grown to adore. I wavered, but in the end, couldn’t fathom not reading the book so I bit the bullet and jumped in. 

Looking back, I can honestly say that the decision was one of my better ones, but I think worthy to note that the very thing that nearly scared me off proved my favorite part of the narrative. I don’t mean to downplay Freydís in any way, she’s a brilliant and fiery personality, but there was a spark in Emma that captivated my interest and imagination. She has moments of weakness and vulnerability, but she is a relatable character who felt genuinely authentic in my mind’s eye. 

Much as I appreciated the historic details of the piece, it was the thematic material that kept me turning the pages. Carosella tackles some deeply complex religious and emotional conflict over the course of the narrative as both Freydís and Emma discover what it means to have courage of one's convictions and to act in accordance of those beliefs in spite of both criticism and fear. I might be alone in this, but I think that a powerful message and feel there’s a lot to be said for writers who can effectively convey such ideas through fiction. 

Daughter of a Thousand Years is not as mythologically heavy as Carosella’s earlier books and while I’d have greatly appreciated a story centered on Freydís alone, I can’t help admiring the novel for both the passion of its thesis and the creative artistry of the parallels that linked past to present. 

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Whether I have his support or not, I am what I am. I don’t want to cost him his seat, but you have to understand—it would have meant the world to me to hear someone else say the things I said today. To know I wasn’t alone, that I wasn’t crazy, and someone else understood. But if it’s better for the campaign for him to disown me, or distance himself, or whatever, then just do it.
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