Thursday, September 21, 2017

Cover Crush: The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson

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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It's been a minute since I've read much science fiction or fantasy, but the cover of Kara Swanson's The Girl Who Could See turned my head just the same. The various layers grant great depth to the image and the contrast in the color scheme is nothing short of striking. 

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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, September 20, 2017

Wishlist Reads: September 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. 

I'm feeling a little homesick and nostalgic so I decided to dedicate my wishlist to fiction set in my home state. Montana is a popular setting for romance writers, but fiction writers have not been as open to it so it took longer than expected to compile the following. That said, I can't wait to get my hands on these books!

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In the spring of 1898, A. E. (Alexandria) Bartram--a spirited young woman with a love for botany--is invited to join a field study in Yellowstone National Park. The study's leader, a mild-mannered professor from Montana, assumes she is a man, and is less than pleased to discover the truth. Once the scientists overcome the shock of having a woman on their team, they forge ahead on a summer of adventure, forming an enlightening web of relationships as they move from Mammoth Hot Springs to a camp high in the backcountry. But as they make their way collecting amid Yellowstone's beauty the group is splintered by differing views on science, nature, and economics. In the tradition of A. S. Byatt's Angels and Insects and Andrea Barrett's Ship Fever, this delightful novel captures an ever-fascinating era and one woman's attempt to take charge of her life.




In 1886, Gretta Pope wakes one morning to discover that her husband is gone. Ulysses Pope has left his family behind on the far edge of Minnesota’s western prairie with only the briefest of notes and no explanation for why he left or where he’s headed. It doesn’t take long for Gretta’s young sons, Eli and Danny, to set off after him, following the scant clues they can find, jumping trains to get where they need to go, and ending up in the rugged badlands of Montana.

Gretta has no choice but to search for her sons and her husband, leading her to the doorstep of a woman who seems intent on making Ulysses her own. Meanwhile, the boys find that the closer they come to Ulysses’ trail, the greater the perils that confront them, until each is faced with a choice about whom he will defend, and who he will become.

Enger’s breathtaking portrait of the vast plains landscape is matched by the rich expanse of his characters’ emotional terrain, as pivotal historical events--the bloody turmoil of expansionism, the near total demise of the bison herds, and the subjugation of the Plains Indians--blend seamlessly with the intimate story of a family’s sacrifice and devotion.




One morning in 1943, close to eighty men descended into the Smith coal mine in Bearcreek, Montana. Only three came out alive. “Goodbye wifes and daughters . . .” wrote two of the miners as they died. The story of that tragic day and its aftermath unfolds in this book through the eyes of those wives and daughters—women who lost their husbands, fathers, and sons, livelihoods, neighbors, and homes, yet managed to fight back and persevere. Susan Kushner Resnick has uncovered the story behind all those losses. She chronicles the missteps and questionable ethics of the mine’s managers, who blamed their disregard for safety on the exigencies of World War II; the efforts of an earnest federal mine inspector and the mine union’s president (later a notorious murderer), who tried in vain to make the mine safer; the heroism of the men who battled for nine days to rescue the trapped miners; and the effect the disaster had on the entire mining industry. Resnick illuminates a particular historical tragedy with all its human ramifications while also reminding us that such tragedies caused by corporate greed and indifference are with us to this day.




A stirring novel about idealism laid waste and the haunting, redemptive bonds of friendship

Deirdre McNamer has won praise for the intelligence, beauty, precision, and sweep of her fiction. Her first novel in seven years, Red Rover tells the story of three Montana men who get swept up in the machinations of World War II and its fateful aftermath. As boys, Aidan and Neil Tierney ride horseback for miles across unfenced prairie, picturing themselves as gauchos, horsemen of the Argentine pampas. A hundred miles away, Roland Taliaferro wants only to escape the violence and poverty of his family. As war approaches, Aidan and Roland join the FBI. Roland serves Stateside while Aidan—in a gesture as exuberant as a child in a game of Red Rover—requests hazardous duty and is sent as an undercover agent to Nazi-ridden Argentina. Neil becomes a B-29 bomber pilot.

Aidan returns to Montana ill, shaken, and divided from Roland over the FBI’s role in the war. On a cold December day in 1946, he is found fatally shot, an apparent suicide. The FBI stays silent. Only when Neil and Roland are very old men, meeting by chance in a rehabilitation facility, does Aidan’s death become illuminated, atoned for, and fully put to rest. This beautifully crafted, far- ranging novel will catch readers up in the grace and hard truths of the lives it unfolds.




A classic portrait of America's vast frontier that inspired the Western genre in fiction.

Originally published more than fifty years ago, The Big Sky is the first of A. B. Guthrie Jr.'s epic adventure novels set in the American West. Here he introduces Boone Caudill, Jim Deakins, and Dick Summers: traveling the Missouri River from St. Louis to the Rockies, these frontiersmen live as trappers, traders, guides, and explorers. The story centers on Caudill, a young Kentuckian driven by a raging hunger for life and a longing for the blue sky and brown earth of big, wild places. Caught up in the freedom and savagery of the wilderness, Caudill becomes an untamed mountain man, whom only the beautiful daughter of a Blackfoot chief dares to love. 


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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

Monday, September 18, 2017

Cover Cliché: Plunging V

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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For readers of The Paris Wife and Z comes a vivid novel full of drama, passion, tragedy, and beauty that stunningly imagines the life of iconic fashion designer Coco Chanel—the ambitious, gifted laundrywoman’s daughter who revolutionized fashion, built an international empire, and become one of the most influential and controversial figures of the twentieth century

Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her siblings are sent to orphanage after their mother’s death. The sisters nurture Gabrielle’s exceptional sewing skills, a talent that will propel the willful young woman into a life far removed from the drudgery of her childhood.

Transforming herself into Coco—a seamstress and sometime torch singer—the petite brunette burns with ambition, an incandescence that draws a wealthy gentleman who will become the love of her life. She immerses herself in his world of money and luxury, discovering a freedom that sparks her creativity. But it is only when her lover takes her to Paris that Coco discovers her destiny.

Rejecting the frilly, corseted silhouette of the past, her sleek, minimalist styles reflect the youthful ease and confidence of the 1920s modern woman. As Coco’s reputation spreads, her couturier business explodes, taking her into rarefied society circles and bohemian salons. But her fame and fortune cannot save her from heartbreak as the years pass. And when Paris falls to the Nazis, Coco is forced to make choices that will haunt her.

An enthralling novel of an extraordinary woman who created the life she desired, Mademoiselle Chanel explores the inner world of a woman of staggering ambition whose strength, passion and artistic vision would become her trademark.





One summer night in 1930, Judge Joseph Crater steps into a New York City cab and is never heard from again. Behind this great man are three women, each with her own tale to tell: Stella, his fashionable wife, the picture of propriety; Maria, their steadfast maid, indebted to the judge; and Ritzi, his showgirl mistress, willing to seize any chance to break out of the chorus line.

As the twisted truth emerges, Ariel Lawhon’s wickedly entertaining debut mystery transports us into the smoky jazz clubs, the seedy backstage dressing rooms, and the shadowy streets beneath the Art Deco skyline.



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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. 


Friday, September 15, 2017

Kiss of Life by Debbie Viguié

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: September 13, 2017

The Baron has lived for hundreds of years, a vampire who makes the most of his immortal life. Having personally learned the value of freedom, he has lately been using his exceptional fighting skills to assist the Union Army in the American War Between the States. When two ladies are kidnapped by ruthless guerrilla fighters who call themselves the Raiders, he agrees to help not just because he may be the only one who can save them, but because he owes a debt that he has been repaying for centuries. A companion short story to New York Times bestselling author Debbie Viguie's Kiss Trilogy, this e-book exclusive also includes an extended preview of the first novel in the series, Kiss of Night.

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I discovered Debbie Viguié’s Kiss of Life while browsing Amazon’s extensive selection of historic fiction. The author was new to me and I’d no experience with the Kiss trilogy, but felt the premise vaguely interesting. I was curious, but after checking the prices, I felt the short complementary piece the safest investment. No point spending $6 when I could test drive the author for only $1 after all.

There’s a stereotypical joke to be made about cheap Scots here, but I’m not in the mood to poke fun at my heritage. I’ve shared this story to illustrate how I buy books and while I can’t claim to represent any particular demographic, it seems fair to say that at least some portion of the population treat shorts as writing samples. I’m not saying it’s a crime for a short to complement a larger series, but I think it important for writers to remember they’ve no control over how or why a reader picks up their work. They might have written it for their established fanbase, but anyone can download it and at the end of the day new readers shouldn’t feel cheated for taking interest.

Getting back to the story, I’ve no trouble admitting that Kiss of Life disappointed me. The whole of the plot is dependent on Jeanette’s being a lady of Bryas which may or may not be a spoiler in need of marking. The problem, you see, is that Viguié doesn’t bother explaining the concept and I’ve no idea in hell what it means. One could argue that I should read Kiss of Night to learn more, but I’m not actually inclined to spend $6 on a book by an author I know prone to plot holes...

Great cover art, but not recommended to those unfamiliar with the larger canon. Forgettable and without closure.

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"You are an abomination," Erik said. "And I refuse to release you on the world..."
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Caroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Edelweiss
Read: September 13, 2017

In this novel authorized by the Little House estate, Sarah Miller vividly recreates the beauty, hardship, and joys of the frontier in a dazzling work of historical fiction, a captivating story that illuminates one courageous, resilient, and loving pioneer woman as never before—Caroline Ingalls, "Ma" in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved Little House books. In the frigid days of February, 1870, Caroline Ingalls and her family leave the familiar comforts of the Big Woods of Wisconsin and the warm bosom of her family, for a new life in Kansas Indian Territory. Packing what they can carry in their wagon, Caroline, her husband Charles, and their little girls, Mary and Laura, head west to settle in a beautiful, unpredictable land full of promise and peril. The pioneer life is a hard one, especially for a pregnant woman with no friends or kin to turn to for comfort or help. The burden of work must be shouldered alone, sickness tended without the aid of doctors, and babies birthed without the accustomed hands of mothers or sisters. But Caroline’s new world is also full of tender joys. In adapting to this strange new place and transforming a rough log house built by Charles’ hands into a home, Caroline must draw on untapped wells of strength she does not know she possesses. For more than eighty years, generations of readers have been enchanted by the adventures of the American frontier’s most famous child, Laura Ingalls Wilder, in the Little House books. Now, that familiar story is retold in this captivating tale of family, fidelity, hardship, love, and survival that vividly reimagines our past.


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I have vivid memories of my first experience with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. I was
seven, maybe eight, and my cousin and I were taking turns reading aloud from Little House in the Big Woods. I’d come to a line about Pa’s ax, but my tongue wouldn’t cooperate and we’ve made jokes about Pa’s ass ever since. I doubt many readers relate, but the humor of the moment created a treasured family memory and inspired a lingering interest in the story that afforded it.

As a biographic fiction, Sarah Miller’s Caroline played to that interest. Laura created her own legacy and one could make a solid argument for Michael Landon’s iconic portrayal of Charles, but Caroline was regulated to a supporting role in both the books and television series so I was naturally interested in seeing what sort of depth Miller’s novel might bring her character. Could such a story compete with the existing canon and cultural memory? There was only one way to find out.

Looking back, I have to say that I love how Miller chose to approach Caroline. The role of mother is often stereotyped and stale, but Miller gifted the Ingalls matriarch a complexity that is difficult to ignore. She’s a wife and mother, but more than that, she is woman with spirit, conviction, emotion, and dare I say it, a sex drive. Ground-breaking ideas, right? As a thirty-one-year-old mother of two, I could relate to this character and that’s pretty amazing when one considers how much has changed in the century and half that separates me from the world Caroline knew and experienced.

Unfortunately, characterization cannot carry a novel on its own. I adored Miller’s heroine, but I struggled with the pacing of the narrative. Much as I hate admitting it, the novel is slow and I often found it difficult to remain engaged in what was happening. I enjoyed the material, but I knew where this story was going before I picked it up and wish Miller had done more to counter the lack of mystery in the plot.

Recommended for fans of the Little House book, frontier and womens fiction.

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Those she could not bear to leave sat close around her, yet as she looked backward through the keyhole of canvas at the blur of waving hands, Caroline could not help but wonder whether Charles and the girls would be enough.
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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Cover Crush: Wild Whistling Blackbirds by Allen Kent

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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If my cover crush selections have proved anything, it's that I'm a sucker for layered silhouettes. I love detailed images, but blank space does something to the imagination and sparks a curiosity I find impossible to ignore. 

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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, September 12, 2017

Cover Cliché: Echoes of the Past

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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June 1963, Clematis Cottage, Stoke St. Mary, Herefordshire

I am really not sure why I am writing this. A foolish whim by a foolish old lady and it will probably sit in a box unread and decay much like its writer when Death makes his careless decision.

But perhaps someone will find it. Someone will care enough to read and somehow I know that will happen.

April 2000, Clematis Cottage, Stoke St. Mary, Herefordshire

Tired of her life in London, freelance illustrator Rachel buys the beautiful but dilapidated Clematis Cottage and sets about creating the home of her dreams. But tucked away behind the water tank in the attic and left to gather dust for decades is an old biscuit tin containing letters, postcards and a diary. So much more than old scraps of paper, these are precious memories that tell the story of Henrietta Trenchard-Lewis, the love she lost in the Great War and the girl who was left behind.





Torn from her beloved Italy, Teresa is brought to America by her abusive husband, Nico. She finds the new world harsh to immigrants, especially women, but is determined to make a better future for her children and herself. Trapped in a loveless marriage, she devises ways to build a small fund that she hopes will bring eventual independence. However, she underestimates her husband's ruthlessness. Then fate brings her into the lives of a special family, and a special man, who offer both opportunities and new complications. However, Teresa never loses sight of her determination to become independent and to make her future travels first class.





London on 3 September 1939 is in upheaval. War is inevitable. Into this turmoil steps Kate Sheridan newly arrived from Ireland to live with her aunt and uncle and look for work. When she meets Flight Lieutenant Charlie Butler sparks fly, but he is a notorious womaniser. Should she ignore all the warnings and get involved with a ladies man whose life will be in daily danger?

Charlie Butler has no intention of getting involved with a woman. But when he meets Kate his resolve is shattered. Should he allow his heart to rule his head and fall for a nineteen-year-old Irish girl while there is a war to fight?

Private conflicts and personal doubts are soon overshadowed. Will the horrors of total war bring Kate and Charlie together or tear them apart?




After the gloomy memorial, the formerly pampered 1929 characters mourn the loss of Aryl Sullivan. Claire, now a pregnant widow, is too devastated to cope and withdraws from the group, delving into a deep depression. Caleb drowns his own sorrow in a bottle of whiskey, and Jonathan becomes obsessed with finding the true cause for the boat’s explosion. And Ava anxiously awaits the birth of their child.

As the family and friends come to grips with Aryl’s death, the struggle to survive both emotionally and financially strains everyone in different ways.

So it’s up to Maura to see them past the worst of it, but she faces setbacks of her own when complications arise in her pregnancy. The new sheriff, Marvin, is working both sides of the law and takes advantage of Caleb’s state, getting him involved in bootlegging that threatens the business and his family. A concerned Patrick tries to help him, but stubborn as a mule, Caleb won’t listen.

But the gears of life slowly start to move again, and new friends are made and old enemies return. Claire finds refuge in Gordon, a widower, and the two find a common bond, finally allowing her to move on and accept her new life.

Until she’s met with a shocking surprise.


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Which cover strikes your fancy and why? What colors draw your eye? Do you think the image appropriate next to the jacket description? Leave your comments below!

Have you seen this image elsewhere? Shoot me an email or leave a comment and let me know. 


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