Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Left in the Wind by Ed Gray

Rating: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: August 21, 2016

In 1587, the 118 men, women, and children of the "Lost Colony" were abandoned by their governor on what is now Roanoke Island, North Carolina, and never heard from again. In this fictional journal, Emme Merrimoth—one of the actual colonists of Roanoke—recounts the harrowing journey that brought the colonists to the New World. During the voyage, Emme becomes involved with Governor John White, who reassigns her to his household and then asks her to marry him. With no better prospects and happy to be free of her bland former employers, Emme agrees. Once on Roanoke, the colonist restore the village abandoned by former English settlers and realize, when faced with hostile natives, that they have been misled by White. White plots to return to England to avoid the hardship of the New World, and he and his supporters drive a hard bargain with the colonists: they will send back much-needed supplies from England if they allow White to flee without interference. Faced with little choice, the colonists agree, and are left to fare on their own. Emme, due to a scandalous past, is accused of witchcraft, shunned by the colonists, and enslaved by a nearby tribe. But throughout these dramatic turn of events, Emme commits herself to putting down on paper her every memory of the Lost Colony.

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I wish I’d read the reviews of Ed Gray’s Left in the Wind: A Novel of the Lost Colony: The Roanoke Journal of Emme Merrimoth before picking it up. Gray's thesis is intriguing, but his presentation isn’t the kind I appreciate and the creative license exercised by the author has forever tainted my interest in the early settlement. I know that sounds dramatic, but it's true. I'll never be able to think of John White or Ananias Dare the same way again.

My biggest issue with the narrative is that I couldn’t stand its heroine. Emme enjoys many deep moments of erotic ecstasy over the course of the story and while I’ve nothing against sexually confident women, I was intensely disappointed, and more than a little offended, by Gray’s failure to develop any other aspect of her personality and character. I recognized no genuine substance in her being and I couldn’t help feeling outraged by the insinuation that a woman has no other desire, form, or function. Emme, unfortunately, is not the only character to suffer from lack of depth and development. The male members of the cast fall into one of two categories: those who want to bed Emme and those who don’t. They've virtually no complexity in their make-up and here again, I was not impressed with the oversight.

I’ll grant that Gray put a great deal of time and research into the novel and I admire that most of the cast are based on real life individuals, but while I found the period details interesting, I was disappointed to realize that much of the meritable material was overshadowed by far-fetched situational drama. I found Emme’s abduction overtly coincidental, her physical and psychological adaptability thoroughly unsubstantiated, and her ability to induce lactation, while plausible, highly improbable under the circumstances of her existence and understanding. I liked the political intrigue well enough, but when push comes to shove the fate of the colonists plays second fiddle to Emme's steady parade of paramours so I don't see that my admiration means very much in the grand scheme of things.

My final criticism is the structure of the story or more appropriately, the lack there of. Gray assumes his readers are familiar with the venture so there is little exposition which didn't bother me as a) I am familiar with the history and b) Emme isn't really involved in too much of the politics anyway. You read that correctly folks, most of the story happens around Emme. She is not an active participant until the end when she is abruptly thrust into the climax of the story as the unlikely voice of truth. She’s largely disassociated from the plight of her fellows so the key moment felt awkward anyway, but things only got worse from that as the novel ended without firm resolution. There is a moment, tacked on years later as a bit of an afterthought, but it doesn't provide a definition sense of closure and left me wondering why I'd bothered reading the book at all.

When all is said and done, Left in the Wind was not my kind of book and is not something I see myself recommending forward.

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Though some in our company had been moved by the speech, I had my doubts. Men's protestations of grand intentions I had heard in some quantity, and long ago I had decided that most were a mask to hide the speaker's real purpose. 
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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Pictures of the Past by Deby Eisenberg

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: August 11, 2016

An Impressionist painting, hanging for decades in the Art Institute of Chicago and donated by the charismatic philanthropist Taylor Woodmere, is challenged by an elderly woman as a Nazi theft. Taylor's gripping and passionate story takes us back to 1937. Sent to Paris on family business, he reluctantly leaves his girlfriend Emily, a spoiled debutante from Newport, Rhode Island. But once in Europe, he immediately falls in love - first with an Henri Lebasque painting, and then with the enchanting Sarah Berger of Berlin. After Taylor returns home, the Berger family becomes trapped in the Nazi web, and any attempts for the new lovers to be reunited are thwarted. Interwoven with this narrative is the story of Rachel Gold, a beautiful and bright Chicago girl caught up in the times of the late 1960's. Pregnant and abandoned by her boyfriend Court Woodmere, Taylor's son, she moves to New York to live with her aunt, a Holocaust survivor. Years later, as the controversy surrounding the provenance of the painting becomes public, Rachel's grown son is disturbed by his inexplicable familiarity with the work of art. And it is only Taylor Woodmere who can unravel the complicated puzzle of their lives. With a heart-grabbing ending, Pictures of the Past is historical fiction at its best, giving a personalized window to the powerful events and intriguing venues of the eras. From a world torn by the horrors of war, a love story emerges that endures through years of separation.

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I liked the idea of Deby Eisenberg’s Pictures of the Past, but nothing about the author’s style or tone worked for me. The flow of the narrative grated my nerves and I ultimately skimmed the bulk of the novel to see how things played out. Fair warning folks, I am in the minority on this one, so take a look at the more favorable commentary before making up your mind on this one. 

The bullet style transitions and Eisenberg’s tendency to show more than she told didn’t appeal to me. I appreciate subtlety, depth, and development, but such gentle handling is not to be found within these pages. Eisenberg rushes from point to point without pause and while I appreciated the movement this created, I couldn’t help wishing the plot twists had been allowed to settle in before the author rushed the next one forward. 

I also struggled with the stereotypic characterizations Eisenberg employed throughout the novel and I found the inconsistent rotation between the large cast confusing. Their voices came together in an odd and unbalance chorus and my inability to differentiate one from the next undermined the emotions they felt and the relationships they engaged in.

My last and final complaint is that the novel didn’t have a lot of atmospheric detail. I couldn't envision the world these characters inhabited. The world building was shallow and I couldn’t envision it in my mind’s eye. Even the painting at the center of the narrative seemed a blank canvas in my imagination and I couldn’t help feeling cheated by the lack of detail.

I’m glad I tried it out, but at the end of the day Pictures of the Past wasn’t my kind of story and I don’t see myself recommending it forward.

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Although the initial scandal of a stolen painting had a short-lived play in the papers, it was only the resolution that caught and kept the national and international media’s attention. even Time magazine saved some pages to retell briefly what they termed “a heartwarming story, spanning generations, finally giving peace to those seeking provenance, giving closure to those clinging to pictures of the past.”
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Cover Cliché: Feathers and Bows

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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London, 1788. The calm order of Queen Charlotte’s court is shattered by screams. Her beloved husband, England’s King, has gone mad.

Left alone with thirteen children and a country at war, Charlotte must fight to hold her husband’s throne in a time of revolutionary fever. But it is not just the guillotine that Charlotte fears: it is the King himself.

Her six daughters are desperate to escape their palace asylum. Their only chance lies in a good marriage, but no Prince wants the daughter of a madman. They are forced to take love wherever they can find it – with devastating consequences.

The moving true story of George III’s madness and the women whose lives it destroyed.

Rose, the Countess Malmstoke, is trapped in a marriage from hell. Escape seems impossible—until her horse groom Will Fenmore offers to help her find a way out.

Will has loved Rose since she was brought to Creed Hall as a new bride, but their relationship has only ever been that of mistress and servant. Born worlds apart, Will knows he could never be her husband, but maybe he can be her salvation.

As they plan her escape to the American colonies, Rose learns to trust Will with her life and her heart, but trusting him with her body is another matter. Can she conquer her fear of the marriage bed? Is the future she dreams of—being Will’s wife—possible?

The ex-duchess of Glenartair had years to plan her escape and her revenge, and at last, she was free. What she needed now was money, and she knew just where to get it.

Filled with guilt and dread, Hannish fully expected his first wife to seek retribution. With only four days to prepare, he put the MacGreagor clansmen on alert and vowed to do everything he could to stop her. Unfortunately, his everything would not be enough.

Marti Talbott's books are suitable for ages 14 and up.

Sophie Sinclair is no stranger to scandal. She's spent the better part of a decade restoring her reputation after jilting a young marquess. But with acceptance comes expectation, and Sophie's return has society and her family pressuring her to choose a husband. Just when she thought matters couldn't get any worse, the marquess returns to London, only now he's a powerful duke with a mind for marriage and a taste for torment.

The Duke of Tolland wants nothing more than an amiable and unassuming bride. He believes he's found his future duchess in pretty newcomer Lady Abigail. There's only one problem: Sophie has returned to London and caught the eye of Lady Abigail's brother. His future threatened by his past, Andrew doles out an ultimatum. When Sophie rises to the challenge, the stakes soar to shocking heights.

With neither willing to concede, there's only one way to tip the scales: Seduction.

Texan rancher Jett Crossman has everything he needs except the most important thing, a family. This Christmas the only wish the lonely handsome cowboy has is for a bride, someone to be his everything. His advertisement in The Matrimony Messenger consists of his photograph and two words. Southern Belle Charlotte Baxter, the overindulged child of a widower, sees his ad. Something in Jett’s eyes makes her believe he is the one for her and compels her to answer his ad. She is after adventure and romance on the wild frontier. He is seeking contentment and true love. Well aware of Charlotte’s habit to be impulsive to the point of recklessness, her father, a newspaper publisher, lets her go west to the frontier town of Dovetail, Texas. Unbeknownst to Charlotte, he sends along Jasper Farnum, his pressman, to keep an eye on her. Charlotte arrives like a locomotive in a Christmas snowstorm to make Jett’s wish for a bride come true. Jasper fears that when Jett discovers what a handful Charlotte is, he will realize he should have been careful what he wished for. However, Jasper does not have time to worry about that for long. Suddenly smitten with a mysterious woman, he jumps headlong into unforeseen trouble. Charlotte may be the only one who can get him out of it. This Christmas in Dovetail, the table turns, the snow falls, and true love, whether wished for or not, prevails. Jasper is called westward and Charlotte is westward wanted.

Time-travel at its spellbinding best. Two women, one a contemporary musician, the other a legendary mistress of King George III, glimpse each other first in astonishment then in affinity across two centuries. Through this strange and magical connection, they discover that no matter how much time passes, a woman's heart remains the same.

Following the death of their father, Beth's brother Richard returns from the army to claim his share of the family estate. However, Beth's hopes of a quiet life are dashed when Richard, dissatisfied with his meagre inheritance and desperate for promotion, decides to force her into a marriage for his military gain. And he will stop at nothing to get his way. Beth is coerced into a reconciliation with her noble cousins in order to marry well and escape her brutal brother. She is then thrown into the glittering social whirl of Georgian high society and struggles to conform. The effeminate but witty socialite Sir Anthony Peters offers to ease her passage into society and she is soon besieged by suitors eager to get their hands on her considerable dowry. Beth, however, wants love and passion for herself, and to break free from the artificial life she is growing to hate. She finds herself plunged into a world where nothing is as it seems and everyone hides behind a mask. Can she trust the people professing to care for her? The first in the series about the fascinating lives of beautiful Beth Cunningham, her family and friends during the tempestuous days leading up to the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, which attempted to overthrow the Hanoverian King George II and restore the Stuarts to the British throne. Join the rebellion of one woman and her fight for survival in... The Jacobite Chronicles.

For the first time ever, popular authors Claire Dawson and Darcy Rose team up to bring you a Heart-Pounding Romance Mega-Collection.

This Boxed Set includes a wide range of variety from Clean Western Romances all the way to Steamy Sci-Fi Romances.

This collection has complete stories with no cliffhangers.

Approximate 410,000+ words or around 3150 pages

Contained Inside this Bundle:

This Bride’s Christmas (Book 1)
The fight has only begun once Charles and Anna are married. The townsfolk are vicious and struggle against accepting her with everything they have. Will Anna be doomed to remain an outcast in this strange little town, or will a Christmas miracle change everyone’s hearts? . . . .

This Bride’s New Year (Book 2)
New Year’s is a time where people are supposed to let go of everything that has happened from the past year and make goals to become a new person for the new year. Jeanetta Henderson decides that she will put her terrible past behind her this year and move away from Philadelphia; a town that holds many bad memories for her. However, it is not proper for a lady to simply up and move away without anything more than a, “farewell.” Getting away means that she will have to marry someone who lives far, far away. . . . .

This Bride’s Valentine (Book 3)
Love is in the air when Emily Brown is shipped off to the Wild West to join the other mail order brides from Philadelphia to marry the third Middleton brother in the town. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and Emily is happy to finally get away from the oppressive cities and exceptionally boring tea parties her Mama would always force her to sit through. . . .


The Alien’s Seed by Darcy Rose
She’s put up for auction and sold to the gold-skinned warlord of the alien invaders. He takes her for his own property and uses her to satisfy his passions. Wendy is named “Princess” by him. He falls in love with her, but Wendy must remain loyal to the other women who have been kidnapped.
Can Wendy get them all free? What hot love takes place in the alien warlord’s chambers? And why doesn’t he want her to know much about where they come from. . . .

You get 30+ Titles for the Price of ONE!

Next in the witty, sexy Winner Takes All Regency series from Emmy winner Kate Noble, author of The Game and the Governess and writer of the wildly popular web series, The Lizzie Bennett Diaries.

Cecilia Goodhue is a schoolteacher with a past, living with her sister and her husband in a tiny English village. Resigned to a quiet life, Cecilia is surprised when she finds out that her young cousin has run off with a man of no means.

Cecilia had once been a teenaged girl who also fell for a young man’s charms—only to be devastated by his betrayal. Determined to not let her cousin meet the same fate, she heads off to London to but is shocked when her investigation leads her right to the front door of the very man who broke her heart: Theo Hudson.

Together, they reluctantly embark on finding her cousin and returning her to her family. During their searching in London, it soon becomes clear that they both remember their short-lived romance differently and perhaps now, years later, they have a fresh chance at love.

On the precipice of her sixteenth birthday, the last thing lone wolf Cat Crawford wants is an extravagant gala thrown by her bubbly stepmother and well-meaning father. So even though Cat knows the family's trip to Florence, Italy, is a peace offering, she embraces the magical city and all it offers. But when her curiosity leads her to an unusual gypsy tent, she exits . . . right into Renaissance Firenze.

Thrust into the sixteenth century armed with only a backpack full of contraband future items, Cat joins up with her ancestors, the sweet Alessandra and protective Cipriano, and soon falls for the gorgeous aspiring artist Lorenzo. But when the much-older Niccolo starts sniffing around, Cat realizes that an unwanted birthday party is nothing compared to an unwanted suitor full of creeptastic amore.

Can she find her way back to modern times before her Italian adventure turns into an Italian forever?

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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, August 29, 2016

The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley/Local Library
Read: August 25, 2016

Alizée Benoit, an American painter working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), vanishes in New York City in 1940 amid personal and political turmoil. No one knows what happened to her. Not her Jewish family living in German-occupied France. Not her artistic patron and political compatriot, Eleanor Roosevelt. Not her close-knit group of friends, including Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner. And, some seventy years later, not her great-niece, Danielle Abrams, who while working at Christie’s auction house uncovers enigmatic paintings hidden behind recently found works by those now famous Abstract Expressionist artists. Do they hold answers to the questions surrounding her missing aunt? Entwining the lives of both historical and fictional characters, and moving between the past and the present, The Muralist plunges readers into the divisiveness of prewar politics and the largely forgotten plight of European refugees refused entrance to the United States. It captures both the inner workings of today’s New York art scene and the beginnings of the vibrant and quintessentially American school of Abstract Expressionism. B.A. Shapiro is a master at telling a gripping story while exploring provocative themes. In Alizée and Danielle she has created two unforgettable women, artists both, who compel us to ask, What happens when luminous talent collides with inexorable historical forces? Does great art have the power to change the world? And to what lengths should a person go to thwart evil?

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B.A. Shapiro’s The Muralist has occupied a spot on my TBR longer than I care to admit. The subject matter intrigued me and I have always been intrigued by the face on the cover, but the book never demanded my immediate attention. It wasn’t until recently, in an effort to clean up my review backlog, that I turned my eye to the narrative and borrowed an audio edition from my local library.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, I want to say that I loved Xe Sands’ narration. I listened to this volume on the heels of Donna Thorland’s The Turncoat and couldn’t believe the contrast. Madeleine Lambert butchered the latter volume while Sands enhanced former. There is passion in Sands’ interpretation and I felt the subtle artistry of her tones complimented the text very nicely.

As far as the story goes, I feel the novel has a lot going for it. Shapiro explores the foundations of abstract expressionism by associating Alizée with Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko and I found the chapters dedicated their art absolutely fascinating. I thought Shapiro’s illustration of the artist community brilliant and I liked the attention she paid both the creativity and neurosis that characterized their company.

I felt the story took a hard turn when Eleanor Roosevelt entered Alizée’s world and I'm not sure it was for the better. The two women seemed to share an unnaturally close bond and the relationship didn’t feel authentic in my eyes. I liked the idea of the Breckinridge Long plot line, but in looking at the novel as a whole I felt there was too much going on. Alizée’s art and her personal troubles were more than enough and I found supplementing it with a political intrigue overwhelming.

I was equally unimpressed with the modern story line. Dani Abrams bored me and the conclusion of her experiences seemed heavy-handed, melodramatic, and overly coincidental. Here again I felt Alizée’s story could have carried itself and I have no problem admitting that I didn’t have much appreciation for her downtrodden and hopelessly clichéd niece.

Historically speaking, I liked how Shapiro described New York and American views of the day, but I can’t say I was particularly moved or impressed with the scenes that played out in France. I don’t know why, but that setting never came alive for me and I couldn’t help feeling those chapters were dominated by fact dumps and long winded exposition.

In sum, I liked the book and enjoyed the ideas and thoughts it inspired. I can’t say it my all-time favorite read, but I would definitely recommend it to fellow readers, especially those with an interest in art history.

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“You know,” Franklin said pointedly, “this is a Protestant country, and the Jews are here under sufferance. It’s my decision who gets visas and who doesn’t, and it’s up to the citizenry to go along with what I want.”
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Friday, August 26, 2016

Among the Living by Jonathan Rabb

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: June 10, 2016

In late summer 1947, thirty-one-year-old Yitzhak Goldah, a camp survivor, arrives in Savannah to live with his only remaining relatives. They are Abe and Pearl Jesler, older, childless, and an integral part of the thriving Jewish community that has been in Georgia since the founding of the colony. There, Yitzhak discovers a fractured world, where Reform and Conservative Jews live separate lives--distinctions, to him, that are meaningless given what he has been through. He further complicates things when, much to the Jeslers' dismay, he falls in love with Eva, a young widow within the Reform community. When a woman from Yitzhak's past suddenly appears--one who is even more shattered than he is--Yitzhak must choose between a dark and tortured familiarity and the promise of a bright new life. Set amid the backdrop of America's postwar south, Among the Living grapples with questions of identity and belonging, and steps beyond the Jewish experience as it situates Yitzhak's story during the last gasp of the Jim Crow era. Yitzhak begins to find echoes of his own experience in the lives of the black family who work for the Jeslers--an affinity he does not share with the Jeslers themselves. This realization both surprises and convinces Yitzhak that his choices are not as clear-cut as he might have thought.

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Jonathan Rabb’s Among the Living is a difficult book to review. The material is poignant, but it is also deeply sobering and I find the combination difficult to describe. I appreciate the perspective the novel affords, but it should be understood that the narrative is a bittersweet and introspective tale that challenges the perceptions of both the characters of the novel and those who read it.

I’d love to say I fell in love with Rabb’s characters, but his themes took center stage as I made my way through Yitzhak’s story. Holocaust lit tends to treat Jews as a single entity and I was captivated by the contrast Rabb created between these pages. His approach felt more authentic and I think he delved into some really interesting concepts in portraying Yitzhak’s post war experiences and emotional recovery.

The book is slow paced and isn’t an easy read. I don’t think it has enough action and movement to appeal to mainstream readers, but I found it quite satisfying and would definitely recommend it to those looking for something a little different.

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He was drifting — he knew it — lungs burning, desperation and hope draining from him with every stroke. He had never called out to God in the past, never once, not even at the edge of his own death — not to beg, not to thank — but now he thought: You must answer. Who are You if this is the moment You choose to remain silent?
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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Girl and the Sunbird: A Beautiful, Epic Story of Love, Loss and Hope by Rebecca Stonehill

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: August 11, 2016

A haunting, heartbreaking and unforgettable novel of a woman married to a man she can never love, and drawn to another who will capture her heart forever... East Africa 1903:When eighteen year old Iris Johnson is forced to choose between marrying the frightful Lord Sidcup or a faceless stranger, Jeremy Lawrence, in a far-off land, she bravely decides on the latter. Accompanied by her chaperone, Miss Logan, Iris soon discovers a kindred spirit who shares her thirst for knowledge. As they journey from Cambridgeshire to East Africa, Iris’s eyes are opened to a world she never knew existed beyond the comforts of her family home. But when Iris meets Jeremy, she realizes in a heartbeat that they will never be compatible. He is cold and cruel, spending long periods of time on hunting expeditions and leaving Iris alone. Determined to make the best of her new life, Iris begins to adjust to her surroundings; the windswept plains of Nairobi, and the delightful sunbirds that visit her window every day. And when she meets Kamau, a school teacher, Iris finds her calling, assisting him to teach the local children English. Kamau is everything Jeremy is not. He is passionate, kind and he occupies Iris’s every thought. She must make a choice, but if she follows her heart, the price she must pay will be devastating. 

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I should have listened when a good friend of mine warned me off Rebecca Stonehill’s The Girl and the Sunbird: A Beautiful, Epic Story of Love, Loss and Hope, but I’m a stubborn mule and forged ahead anyway. Unfortunately for me, my friend was entirely correct in her assessment. The book didn’t suit my tastes and proved rather disappointing in my eyes.

The trouble started early when I noted the author’s tendency to tell more than she showed. It grated my nerves and I was frustrated that Stonehill seemed to expect me to simply accept Iris as she was described by her fellows. To be perfectly blunt, I found little to no evidence to substantiate the claims on Iris’ character. She didn’t seem real and I found it impossible to generate genuine empathy or interest in her or her experiences as the story moved on.

The same concept applies to the romantic and marital relationships Iris engages in. Emotions and feelings she was meant to harbor are firmly stated, but poorly illustrated and I think that went a long way in undermining the authenticity of each affair. I wanted to believe her sentiments sincere, but here again I felt force fed material that was largely unsupported.

I liked the general themes of the story, but the duration of the narrative and large gaps in the timeline made the underlying messages difficult to appreciate. Key plot points were wholly predictable and I couldn’t understand the multitude of narrators. Iris was the central figure of the story and I felt the rotating voices distracting and often irrelevant.

I can’t say The Girl and the Sunbird was a complete wash, there were moments I liked and East Africa proved an interesting setting, but the story wasn’t my cup of tea and I’m not sure I’ll be reading this author again.

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Is this your way of apologising, for trying to make up for the neglect, the rage and the pain you have inflicted upon me? And as the tears silently stream down my face, I think, It is too late for this. It is far, far too late.
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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Cover Cliché: Diamonds and Rouge

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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Fraught with conspiracy and passion, the Sun King's opulent court is brought to vivid life in this captivating tale about a woman whose love was more powerful than magic.

The alignment of the stars at Marie Mancini's birth warned that although she would be gifted at divination, she was destined to disgrace her family. Ignoring the dark warnings of his sister and astrologers, Cardinal Mazarin brings his niece to the French court, where the forbidden occult arts thrive in secret. In France, Marie learns her uncle has become the power behind the throne by using her sister Olympia to hold the Sun King, Louis XIV, in thrall.

Desperate to avoid her mother's dying wish that she spend her life in a convent, Marie burns her grimoire, trading Italian superstitions for polite sophistication. But as her star rises, King Louis becomes enchanted by Marie's charm. Sensing a chance to grasp even greater glory, Cardinal Mazarin pits the sisters against each other, showering Marie with diamonds and silks in exchange for bending King Louis to his will.

Disgusted by Mazarin's ruthlessness, Marie rebels. She sacrifices everything, but exposing Mazarin's deepest secret threatens to tear France apart. When even King Louis's love fails to protect Marie, she must summon her forbidden powers of divination to shield her family, protect France, and help the Sun King fulfill his destiny.

British Occupied Manhattan, 1777. American actress Jennifer Leighton has been packing the John Street Theater with her witty comedies, but she longs to escape the provincial circuit for the glamour of the London stage. When the playwright General John Burgoyne visits the city, fresh from a recent success in the capitol, she seizes the opportunity to court his patronage. But her plan is foiled by British intelligence officer Severin Devere.

Severin’s mission is to keep the pleasure-loving general focused on the war effort…and away from pretty young actresses. But the tables are turned when Severin himself can’t resist Jennifer Leighton…

Months later, Jenny has abandoned her dreams of stage glory and begun writing seditious plays for the Rebels under the pen name “Cornelia,” ridiculing “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne and his army—and undermining the crown’s campaign to take Albany. By the time Severin meets up with Jenny once again, she is on a British hanging list, and Severin is ordered to find her—and deliver her to certain death. Soon, the two are launched on a desperate journey through the wilderness, toward a future shaped by the revolution—and their passion for each other…

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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, August 22, 2016

Nursing Fox by Jim Ditchfield

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: June 4, 2016

At the outbreak of World War I, Lucy Paignton-Fox enlists in the Australian Army Nursing Service and leaves her family's cattle station in the Northern Territory to join the war effort. During the Gallipoli campaign she serves in hospitals in Egypt, but when the Anzacs are posted to France she moves with them. A talented and spirited nurse, with dreams of one day becoming a doctor, Lucy finds more opportunities than she ever imagined: working alongside doctors and surgeons, sharing the soldiers' dangers, helping them through their pain, and making lifelong friends. But with war comes suffering. Lucy sees it all around: sorrow, disease and death. How long can she stay separated from it all? Adam Hayward joins the British Army after a devastating attack on his family. Accepted into the air force, Adam tests his luck in the cockpit fighting for those he loves. But with aircraft technology booming, can Adam continue to stay ahead of the game? John Mitchell's determination leads him slowly up the ranks. With more responsibility than ever, he becomes disillusioned with the horrors of war, but he can't help admiring the brave nurses who do so much to help the wounded men. Nursing Fox details the experiences of Australian nurses during the Great War. It honours their journeys and shows the impact that the nurses had on the soldiers with whom they crossed paths.

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I enjoyed the time I spent with Jim Ditchfield’s Nursing Fox, but I will not deny that I have mixed feelings about the book. To be perfectly honest, I think the narrative suffers an excess of plot and despite my appreciation for the material, I could help feeling frustrated at being pulled so many directions at once.

Don’t misunderstand, Nursing Fox has a lot going for it and reading the novel affords a great deal of insight to the World World I experiences of Australian forces both on and behind the lines. I was fascinated by the wealth of detail Ditchfield managed to weave into the fabric of the narrative and felt the material was exceedingly well-adapted.

That said, the novel alternates between three distinct points of views and while I found Lucy Paignton-Fox, Adam Hayward and John Mitchell quite interesting, I felt the rotation between them distracting and wished Ditchfield had limited himself to Lucy’s point of view. Lucy’s story arc was the most prominent of the three and I think the novel would have read more cleanly and felt more cohesive if the author had limited himself to a single protagonist.

When all is said and done, I can see recommending Nursing Fox to fellow readers, but I think it could have been stronger narrative if there hadn’t been so much going on.

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Lucy sat on an empty bed, her face buried in her hands as tears of relief streamed down her face. She thought back to the CCS. After all these years, all the bombs and all the shells. The fighting might be finished, but the war would never be over for her. She’d never be able to forget the hundreds of operations and the rows of graves that emphasised the failures.
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Friday, August 19, 2016

Interview with M.K. Tod, author of Time and Regret

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author M.K. Tod to Flashlight Commentary to discuss her latest release, Time and Regret.

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Welcome to Flashlight Commentary. It’s great to have you with us. To start things off, please tell us a bit about Time and Regret.
Many thanks for having me on your blog, Erin. It’s a pleasure to be here again chatting with you. The tag line for Time and Regret is: A cryptic letter. A family secret. A search for answers. And I’ve been promoting it as mystery + war + romance – hopefully an intriguing premise that will capture readers’ interest. When Grace Hansen finds a box belonging to her beloved grandfather, she has no idea it holds the key to his past—and to long-buried family secrets. In the box are his World War I diaries and a cryptic note addressed to her. Determined to solve her grandfather’s puzzle, Grace follows his diary entries across towns and battles sites in northern France, where she becomes increasingly drawn to a charming French man—and suddenly aware that someone is following her …

Where did the idea for this story come from? 
I love telling this story. A few years ago, my husband and I took a trip to France. We spent an evening at a café in the small town of Honfleur at the mouth of the Seine river. Shortly after the waiter poured our first glass of red wine, I wrote a few words in a small notebook.
“What are you writing?” Ian said.
“An idea for a story,” I replied.
Refusing to be put off by my cryptic response, Ian persisted. “What’s the idea?”
“Nothing much. Just thought it might make a good story to have a granddaughter follow the path her grandfather took during World War One in order to find out more about him.”
Ian took on a pensive look and no doubt had another sip of wine. “You could include a mystery,” he said.
Now, you should know that mysteries are my husband’s favorite genre. Indeed, I suspect mysteries represent at least eighty percent of his reading. So I played along.
“What kind of mystery?” And that was the beginning of Time and Regret.

Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about Grace Hansen? What kind of woman is she? 
Grace is a recently divorced mother of two in her early forties. She’s had a successful career but has found it easiest to allow her ex-husband to dominate their marriage. Grace was raised by her grandparents – a loving grandfather and a strict grandmother who favored criticism over praise. I picture her as good looking but not glamorous with a slim build and dark brown hair (but readers are free to create their own impression!). Divorce has been difficult. When Grace discovers her grandfather’s diaries and the puzzling note he left for her, she’s captivated by the challenge of solving the puzzle and sees the trip to France as a chance to get away from all the stress. I think of her as stronger than she’s given herself credit for, someone who is awakening to new possibilities, a woman who is willing to fight for her family and ultimately to stand up for herself.

Grace shares a special bond with her grandfather. What can you tell us about Martin? 
We first meet Martin as a young soldier heading off to war in 1915. He’s tall and angular and has readily acquired the skills required to lead men into battle. With him as he heads overseas are three close friends: Bill, Pete and Michel. Initially optimistic and ‘gung ho’, the horrible conditions of war and the casualties involved gradually bring on profound anger and despair. We also meet Martin through the eyes of his granddaughter Grace and see an understanding, caring man who has successfully built an art gallery in New York. And through the eyes of his wife, Cynthia, we appreciate Martin’s loyalty and love.

Cynthia was a difficult character for me to appreciate, but she grew on me and ended up being one of my favorite members of the cast. What inspired her and her arc?
Cynthia is totally fabricated, not based on anyone I know although I might have been subliminally affected by Maggie Smith’s character on Downton Abbey! Cynthia is British born, raised in a family that always struggled to make ends meet despite the fact that her mother had been born into a wealthy family. Childhood poverty has left Cynthia striving for riches; family tragedies have caused her to be caustic and difficult. I think I will leave her character arc for readers to discover.

As a novelist, what drew you to this particular period?
I’ve been obsessed with World War I since researching my own grandfather’s participation in that dreadful conflict. I found it very difficult to imagine the man I knew as being capable of killing people and of enduring what soldiers had to endure. This is my third novel that concerns WWI – I like to think of them as my tribute to the sacrifices made by men and women of those times.

What sort of research went into Time and Regret? What sources did find most valuable? 
I could go on and on about sources! Writing Time and Regret was in some ways easier because I had already written two other novels set during this period. Nonetheless, I had to create believable scenes in the trenches and on the battlefield for Martin and for this I found the Canadian battalion diaries for WWI all carefully preserved on a government website. I read every entry for the 19th battalion of the 4th brigade, 2nd division of the Canadian army and knew exactly where Martin would be at any point in time.

You probably have many, but is there a scene you particularly enjoyed writing? 
Looking back, I think the scenes I really enjoyed writing are those involving Grace and her grandmother. Those episodes allow both characters to be difficult, cantankerous, argumentative and so on. Rather fun to imagine and then create.

What scene posed the greatest challenge for you as an author? Why was it troublesome and how did you work through it? 
You’re asking such great questions, Erin! It’s a truism that opening scenes are always difficult – I probably wrote five or six different ones for Time and Regret. However, the scenes where the mystery culminates were the most difficult for me. I wanted the tension to build and build but also wanted to avoid going ‘over the top’ or being too clichéd in those final scenes. The ending was also a challenge!

Sometimes fiction takes on a life of its own and forces the author to make sacrifices for the sake of the story. Is there a character or concept you wish you could have spent more time on?
I would have enjoyed fleshing out Pierre’s character more. He’s not a simple man and deserves more attention – perhaps a future novel! Also I had originally written more of Cynthia’s story as a young woman but had to edit those bits out.

Historical novelists frequently have to adjust facts to make their stories work. Did you have to invent or change anything while writing Time and Regret and if so, what did you alter? 
I don’t think I altered anything to do with Martin’s battalion except the name of the ship he travelled on to France and the fact that in reality the 19th battalion spent several months doing further training in between arriving in England and embarking for France.

If you could sit down and talk with one of your characters, maybe meet and discuss things over drinks, who would you choose and why? 
I’d love to have dinner in a cozy French bistro with Grace and Pierre. Not only would the food and wine be excellent, I have a feeling the conversation would be very interesting.

Just because I’m curious, if you could pick a fantasy cast to play the leads in a screen adaptation of Time and Regret, who would you hire? 
Judi Dench for Cynthia, the grandmother.  Ryan Gosling for the young Martin Devlin. Hugh Jackman for Pierre (as long as he can do a reasonable French accent). Anne Hathaway would be a wonderful Grace.

Finally, what's next for you? Do you have a new project in the works?
Thank you for asking, Erin. And yes, I do have a new project in the works – based on two women who are nothing alike but develop a strong, enduring friendship. It’s set in 1870s Paris, a time of conflict and great turmoil for France and the two women are Mariele and Camille from Lies Told in Silence. In that novel which is set during WWI, Camille has already died and Mariele is a grandmother. My new novel – as yet untitled – has them as young women on the verge of marriage and, of course, many twists and turns will unfold.

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"As I settled down to read this captivating novel, strains of “As Time Goes By” filled my mind. Throughout this sensitively written and heartrending book about love, loss and redemption, the author takes us on a journey between 1990’s New York and the French battle fields of the Great War. Traveling smoothly between time and place, the writing is evocative and compelling, and with two points of view between recently divorced Grace Hansen and her grandfather, who fought in the war, we are quickly enfolded in a tale of family intrigue and mystery." - Elizabeth St.John, Goodreads Review

"I loved the unraveling of the mystery in this book. It really kept me engaged and I loved seeing the trip that the author took us on. While I enjoyed the mystery, I enjoyed reading Martin's journal entries even more. The author packs a ton of historical detail in so you can feel all of the things that Martin is experiencing throughout the book. I love reading about WWI and you definitely get a good sense of just how much soldiers were expected to deal with during that time period." - Meg, A Bookish Review

"M. K. Tods Time and Regret captivated me right from the beginning. The twin viewpoints the story is told from moves the reader from what Grace reads in her Grandfathers journals, and experiences as she retraces his journey through World War I France; and tells the story as Martin, her Grandfather, experienced it. The writing was superb, flowing easily, keeping the plot interesting and intriguing, while building the ever changing French country side in a way that made it easy to imagine being there." - John, Goodreads Review

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Hi - I'm M.K. Tod, Mary actually, the author of TIME AND REGRET, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED. I have enjoyed a passion for historical novels that began in my early teenage years immersed in the stories of Rosemary Sutcliff, Jean Plaidy and Georgette Heyer. After a 20+ year career in business, in 2004, I moved to Hong Kong with my husband and no job. To keep busy I decided to research my grandfather’s part in the Great War. What began as an effort to understand my grandparents’ lives blossomed into a fulltime occupation as a writer. I live in Toronto and I’m happily married with two adult children.

Website ❧  Goodreads ❧  Facebook ❧  Blog ❧  Twitter

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Good Time Coming: A Sweeping Saga Set During the American Civil War by C.S. Harris

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: August 19, 2016

I killed a man the summer I turned thirteen... Thus begins C. S. Harris’s haunting, lyrically beautiful tale of coming of age in Civil War-torn Louisiana. Eleven-year-old Amrie St. Pierre is catching tadpoles with her friend Finn O’Reilly when the Federal fleet first steams up the Mississippi River in the spring of 1862. With the surrender of New Orleans, Amrie’s sleepy little village of St. Francisville – strategically located between the last river outposts of Vicksburg and Port Hudson – is now frighteningly vulnerable. As the roar of canons inches ever closer and food, shoes, and life-giving medicines become increasingly scarce, Amrie is forced to grow up fast. But it is her own fateful encounter with a tall, golden-haired Union captain named Gabriel that threatens to destroy everything and everyone she holds most dear. Told with rare compassion and insight, this is a gripping, heart-wrenching story of loss and survival; of the bonds that form amongst women and children left alone to face the hardships,depravations, and dangers of war; and of one unforgettable girl’s slow and painful recognition of the good and evil that exists within us all.

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Civil War era tintype of a mother and daughter.
C.S. Harris’ Good Time Coming is an unapologetically graphic novel. It is an intense story that touches a number of controversial and deeply disturbing subjects. It incorporates moments that stopped me dead in my tracks and scenes that made me distinctly uncomfortable. It is also the most intricate, gutsy, and perceptive Civil War narrative I’ve had fortune come across.

Harris isn’t telling the story of the North or the South in these pages and she’s not preaching the evils of American slavery though all are shown to shape twelve-year-old Amrie’s understanding of the world. Harris’ thesis is much more personal and I feel her effort to explore the ways in which the women of the patriarchal South coped when ‘virtually every able-bodied male in their community marched off to war’ both poignant and profound.

Those who believe war crimes of the day were limited to the deprivation at Andersonville are in for an education with this piece. Harris’ work chronicles the realities of life for civilians caught in the crossfire of the war, the horrors they suffered, the questions they struggled to answer, and the skills they acquired to survive their circumstances. Harris’ research delves deeply into rape and sexual violence, but her investigation was obviously comprehensive and the book even includes casual references to incidents that unfolded outside St. Francisville, Louisiana such as Camp Douglas and the sacking of Columbia.

The women depicted in the novel are a diverse collection of individuals. They range in age and social status. Some are mothers, some are alone, some are widows, some are wives, some are white, some are black, some are both, some own slaves, and some do not. They have different interests and different views, but they are bound together by the brutality, chaos, and uncertainty they face. These characters are fictional, but the resolve and fortitude they exhibit is a testament to their real life counterparts and steel those women forged in the blood-soaked years of the war between the states.

I could go on about the admiration I feel for Harris’ characterizations of Amrie, Katherine, and Castile. I could write about how much I enjoyed the context and contrast afforded by characters like Horst, Mahalia, Fiona, Priebus, Leo, Bo. and Adelaide. I could write pages on my appreciation for the political dialogue, but I feel it best to allow the book to speak for itself on those points. Good Time Coming is the first Harris novel I picked up, but it certainly wont be the last and I can confidently say I’ll recommending this title several times over.

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We lived in a vortex of mounting terror, of atrocity followed by atrocity, until a kind of numbness set in. I suppose the only way to cope with a world gone mad is to pretend that madness is normal. The problem is, when that happens, your world tilts, distorts. And I’m not sure you can ever make it right again.
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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Time and Regret by M.K. Tod

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: July 8, 2016

When Grace Hansen finds a box belonging to her beloved grandfather, she has no idea it holds the key to his past—and to long-buried family secrets. In the box are his World War I diaries and a cryptic note addressed to her. Determined to solve her grandfather’s puzzle, Grace follows his diary entries across towns and battle sites in northern France, where she becomes increasingly drawn to a charming French man—and suddenly aware that someone is following her... Through her grandfather’s vivid writing and Grace’s own travels, a picture emerges of a man very unlike the one who raised her: one who watched countless friends and loved ones die horrifically in battle; one who lived a life of regret. But her grandfather wasn’t the only one harboring secrets, and the more Grace learns about her family, the less she thinks she can trust them.

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Time and Regret is M.K. Tod’s third novel. I’ve both of her earlier releases and was eyeing her latest long before it was made available for review. WWII is my usual stomping ground, but I find myself increasingly fascinated with the Great War and, as such, couldn’t help bumping Time and Regret to the top of my TBR when Lake Union Publishing granted my request for an ARC.

The book impressed me on a number of levels, but I was floored by Tod’s illustration of a woman trying to move forward after an unexpected divorce. By coincidence, I intimately understood a lot of Grace’s insecurities and I was both impressed and appreciative of the authenticity Tod managed to convey in her make-up. Trends favor young, confident women, but Tod chose to feature a woman with relatable life experience and I think her novel stronger for it.

Secrets buried in letters and diaries are war lit clichés, but I really liked how Tod used Martin’s service memoir in Time and Regret. The volume contains many surprising revelations about Martin’s experiences at the Front, but I felt the way he repurposed it to convey his final wishes to Grace gave interesting insight into both his character and the relationship he shared with his granddaughter. I am used to relatives discovering the letters and diaries after the fact, but I found Martin’s active role as ‘game master’ refreshingly engaging.

Cynthia was a difficult character for me, but I grew to appreciate her very deeply in the end. I’m not used to seeing grandmothers portrayed as difficult, but here again I found myself applauding Tod’s unconventional approach. She threw stereotypes out the window and created a very unique personality in Cynthia and I like how the revelations into her character led me to believe different things about her character at different points in the narrative.

The climax of the novel was entertaining in its way, but I felt the intensity and emotion faded in the final chapters. I don’t mean to sound critical, but I appreciated those elements more than the mystery surrounding the paintings and while I liked how the story ended, I would have favored a more emotive conclusion. That said I greatly enjoyed the time I spent with this piece and would definitely recommend it to my fellow readers.

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If the newspapers reported the truth, if they wrote about the mud and filth and the body parts littering the ground and how young men look old before their time, would we still be here?
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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Cover Cliché: Cerulean Masquerade

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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Laura Joh Rowland's samurai detective novels have enthralled tens of thousands of readers. Now the author turns her gifts for historical fiction to Victorian England and the famous and fascinating Bront? family with this critically acclaimed new thriller.

Upon learning that she has been falsely accused of plagiarism, the normally mild-mannered Charlotte Bront? sets off for London to clear her name. But when she unintentionally witnesses a murder, Charlotte finds herself embroiled in a dangerous chain of events that forces her to confront demons from her past. With the clandestine aid of the other Bront? sisters, Emily and Anne, and of the suspiciously well-informed but irresistibly attractive brother of the victim, Charlotte works to unravel a deadly web of intrigue that threatens not only her own safety but the very fabric of the British Empire. Will Charlotte be able to stop a devious, invisible villain whose schemes threaten her life, her family, and her country?

English Title: The Secret Adventures of Charlotte Bronte

Ella Cynders is a hired companion with a romantic bent. So when she switches places with her charge--who is determined to find true love and elope--it is Ella who falls head over heals in love with the very eligible Viscount Ashe. In one masked night, the viscount and Ella find passion and romance, and then tragically are whisked apart before the midnight unmasking. Now five years later, Ella has once again found a way to steal inside the coveted ball, but can she rekindle the magic they found together before her deception is unmasked?

This story charts the tragic romance between the dashing but doomed James Scott, Duke of Monmouth and the virtuous Lady Henrietta Wentworth. Monmouth, eldest illegitimate son of King Charles II, is already married and infamous for his womanising ways. Henrietta is engaged to another. Despite the dangers, Henrietta finds she cannot resist him. When his father dies, the malleable Monmouth falls prey to schemes, plots and rebellion that will surely lead to the Tower.

His Last Mistress is a passionate, sometimes explicit, carefully researched and ultimately moving story of love and loss, set against a backdrop of dangerous political unrest, brutal religious tensions, and the looming question of who will be the next King.

- one graduate student who wants to change history;
- one dead -- and now forgotten -- playwright who did change history;
- the colorful and turbulent times of the English Restoration;
- one magic mirror.

Mix thoroughly, and you have a Chameleon in a Mirror.

Billie Armstrong has long wanted to give Aphra Behn, the first professional woman writer in English, the prominence she deserves. But when Billie accidentally activates the magical properties of a baroque mirror, propelling herself into the seventeenth century, she gets more than she bargained for. What develops is an unwilling masquerade, a tale of license, love and literature, as Billie does her best to survive in a strange era and ensure Aphra’s literary survival in the future.

This engaging traditional Regency romance is the sequel to Lord Blackwood’s Valentine Ball. Miss Letitia DeVere decides that revenge is a dish best eaten cold when she returns to London after a two-year absence to find her former admirer Lord Charles Blackwood on the verge of proposing to Miss Patience Cherwell. Lord Blackwood’s Valentine Ball proved to be the turning point in his fledgling romance with Patience. Letitia is not the kind of woman who gives up easily, as Patience and Charles soon find out. She stoops at nothing to achieve her aims. However, Letitia has a dark past, with secrets that threaten to return and destroy her newfound social success. When Charles proves less malleable than in the past, Letitia resorts to subterfuge, seduction, blackmail, and even violence to force him to propose. Will he see through her tricks and remain true to Patience, or will Letitia’s seductive wiles lure him back?

Never kiss and tell... From Ruin to Riches Certain he is close to death, William Hadfield, Lord Dereham needs a wife and Julia Prior is ruined and on the run. Accepting his shocking proposal, Julia finds life as Lady Hadfield a way to put her past sins behind her... Until three years later, when the husband she believes to be dead returns, as handsome and strong as ever and intent on claiming the wedding night they never had! Scandal's Virgin Heartbroken Lady Laura Campion has become infamous, flirtatious and shocking. Until suddenly, she has hope and will even go into battle against powerful Avery Falconer, Earl of Wykeham. Laura has discovered her lost daughter is alive and in Wykeham's care, although he will not release his ward lightly. When an irresistible attraction emerges between the two adversaries, will Avery be able to forgive Laura's scandalous past?

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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, August 15, 2016

Child of the River by Irma Joubert

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: August 13, 2016

Persomi’s dreams are much bigger than the world of poverty and deprivation that surround her in the Bushveld of the 1940s and 1950s in South Africa. Persomi is young, white and poor, born the middle child of illiterate sharecroppers on the prosperous Fourie farm. Persomi’s world is extraordinarily small. She has never been to the local village and spends her days absorbed in the rhythms of the natural world around her. Her older brother, Gerbrand, is her lifeline and her connection to the outside world. When he leaves the farm to seek work in Johannesburg, Persomi’s isolated world is blown wide open. But as her very small world falls apart, bigger dreams become open to her—dreams of an education, a profession, and of love. As Persomi navigates the changing world around her—the tragedies of WWII and the devastating racial strife of her homeland—she finally discovers who she truly is and where she belongs. A compelling coming of age story with an unlikely and utterly memorable heroine, Persomi’s English language publication solidifies Irma Joubert’s important place in the canon of inspirational historical fiction.

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My interest in Irma Joubert's Child of the River was sparked by the WWII reference in its jacket description which is hilarious as, after reading it, I'd never recommend the book as war era fiction. The conflict is little more than a footnote in the grand scheme of Persomi's story and while I was somewhat disappointed by that reality, I am happy to note that I do not consider the time I spent with Child of the River wasted. The book is a slow starter and it wasn't at all what I expected, but once the story got going it proved utterly impossible to put down.

I'm sure there are those who will feel Persomi anachronistic, but I thought her fascinating. She has a unique background and I loved how the disadvantages she experienced as a child authenticated her views and understandings as an adult. Persomi grew up on the social fringe so it wasn't difficult to believe her empathy for the disenfranchised. I liked that. Too often I see characters who defy their era, upbringing, and class and I appreciated Joubert for creating a heroine who was atypical enough to be interesting, but equally appropriate to her era.

Conceptually, I also liked an idea that Joubert played with over the course of the narrative. It's subtle, but the suggestion that it is the children who suffer the indiscretions of the past intrigued me. Persomi doesn't know her own history and her journey to unlock those mysteries impacts her in ways that shape the course of her life and cause her to reinvent herself several times over. Long story short, Joubert used Persomi to explore some very deep emotions and I think brought a lot to the narrative.

Historically, speaking, I greatly enjoyed the world Joubert created within these pages. South Africa is not a locale I see often and I appreciated the crash course I received as the story progressed. Child of the River chronicles a time and place that I knew very little about and I feel that Joubert's illustration of the social and political movements of the day afforded me a great deal of insight.

Child of the River was not what I expected, but it surprised me in the best possible way. It isn't my typical fair, but I'd definitely recommend it to other readers.

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She frowned. “Is it worth it, Boelie? Laying down your life for the freedom of your people?” 
“It’s what soldiers of many countries in Europe and North Africa are doing at this moment . . . thousands, millions of them,” he said. 
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