Monday, August 21, 2017

Wishlist Reads: August 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 usually have trouble coming up with themes for my monthly wishlists, so when an idea strikes me out of the blue, I tend to take notice. This one actually materialized last June while I was cruising Amazon looking for covers to crush in July. A book caught my eye and I clicked over, read the description, jumped over to Goodreads, added it to my TBR and wondered when I last read a book set in Wales. I don't know the answer, I'm too lazy to look it up as I am writing this and will very likely forget before I finish formatting the post, but I decided to see what I could find and just like that, a wishlist theme was born!

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In the aftermath of the Great War, Non Davies wakes one morning to find her husband crouching under the kitchen table in a cold sweat and with fear in his eyes, shouldering an imaginary rifle. During the intense heat of that summer she forces herself to sit and watch him, knowing she has to discover what has changed her Davey so completely. A mysterious letter addressed to Davey gives her the clue she needs and takes her to London in search of an answer. When she returns home Non realizes that the dark secrets of his behavior are working their way ever closer to the surface—secrets that will shatter the fragile happiness of their community if they ever become known. This wonderful piece of storytelling is rich in atmosphere and full of characters that leap from the page.




Owen Glendower is John Cowper Powys' brilliant re-imagining of the life and exploits of Wales's national hero.

It is the year 1400, and Wales is on the brink of a bloody revolt. At a market fair on the banks of the River Dee a mad rebel priest and his beautiful companion are condemned to be burned at the stake. To their rescue rides the unlikely figure of Rhisiart, a young Oxford scholar, whose fate will be entangled with that of Owen Glendower, the last true Prince of Wales-a man called, at times against his will, to fulfill the prophesied role of national redeemer. Psychologically complex, sensuous in its language, vivid in its evocation of a period shrouded by myth, Owen Glendower tells a compelling story of war, love, and magic.




1944. After the fall of Russia and the failed D-Day landings, half of Britain is occupied . . . Young farmer's wife Sarah Lewis wakes to find her husband has disappeared, along with all of the men from her remote Welsh village.

A German patrol arrives in the valley, the purpose of their mission a mystery. Sarah begins a faltering acquaintance with the patrol's commanding officer, Albrecht, and it is to her that he reveals the purpose of his mission - to claim an extraordinary medieval art treasure that lies hidden in the valley. But as the pressure of the war beyond presses in on this isolated community, this fragile state of harmony is increasingly threatened. 




1135 AD. Wales is a broken land. Many of its true-born rulers are in hiding, or married into noble English families. But, though low and dim, a flame of vengeance still burns…

In the southern kingdom of Deheubarth, Gerald of Windsor governs. Firm but fair, he commands the respect of those he reigns over, and the love of Nesta, his wife.

But then treachery strikes from the heart of the English ranks and peace and stability are quickly forgotten. Nesta, daughter of a long-dead prince, is more than what she seems. And when her family is threatened, she takes drastic action to protect it…

In the mountainous rebel heartland of Cantref Mawr, the Welsh resistance has found a new figurehead: a fearless warrior, born with a sword in her hand, and with vengeance in her heart.

The Warrior Princess is coming. And the English will know fear.




From the acclaimed writer Peter Ho Davies comes an engrossing wartime love story set in the stunning landscape of North Wales during the final, harrowing months of World War II.

Young Esther Evans has lived her whole life within the confines of her remote mountain village. The daughter of a fiercely nationalistic sheep farmer, Esther yearns for a taste of the wider world that reaches her only through broadcasts on the BBC. Then, in the wake of D-day, the world comes to her in the form of a German POW camp set up on the outskirts of Esther's village.

The arrival of the Germans in the camp is a source of intense curiosity in the local pub, where Esther pulls pints for both her neighbors and the unwelcome British guards. One summer evening she follows a group of schoolboys to the camp boundary. As the boys heckle the prisoners across the barbed wire fence, one soldier seems to stand apart. He is Karsten Simmering, a German corporal, only eighteen, a young man of tormented conscience struggling to maintain his honor and humanity. To Esther's astonishment, Karsten calls out to her.

These two young people from worlds apart will be drawn into a perilous romance that calls into personal question the meaning of love, family, loyalty, and national identity. The consequences of their relationship resonate through the lives of a vividly imagined cast of characters: the drunken BBC comedian who befriends Esther, Esther's stubborn father, and the resentful young British "evacuee" who lives on the farm -- even the German-Jewish interrogator investigating the most notorious German prisoner in Wales, Rudolf Hess.


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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, August 10, 2017

Cover Crush: Between Earth and Sky by Amanda Skenandore

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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Amanda Skenandore's Between Earth and Sky is clean, classy, and timeless. The color scheme is light and the artist didn't rely on complex patterns or embellishments. It's a deceptively simple design, but one stands out just the same. 

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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


Friday, August 4, 2017

Daughter of the Sky by Michelle Diener

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: August 3, 2017

The Victorian Empire has declared war on the Zulus if they don't accede to their outrageous demands. The clock is ticking down to the appointed hour. With no idea why the British are marching three massive columns of men and guns towards them, one Zulu general is prepared to take an impossible risk. But the life he's gambling with isn't his own... The sole survivor of a shipwreck off the Zululand coast, 15 year-old Elizabeth Jones is taken in by the Zulus, the people of the sky. Six years later, her white skin becomes useful to the Zulu army as they try to work out why the Victorian Empire has pointed their war-machine at the Zulu nation. Elizabeth is suddenly Zululand's most important spy. While infiltrating the British camp, Elizabeth's disguise as a young soldier is uncovered almost immediately by Captain Jack Burdell. However, he believes the tale she spins of searching for a missing brother and shields her from discovery, allowing her to bunk in his tent and giving her a job as his batman. Burdell is war-weary and disillusioned - no longer willing to follow regulations at all costs. But as Elizabeth and Jack explore their growing attraction to each other, the two armies move towards their inevitable clash. Elizabeth is torn between the guilt of betrayal and her fierce loyalty to her Zulu family, and when Zulu and British meet on the battlefield, both she and Jack find their hearts and their lives caught in the crossfire.

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Michelle Diener’s Daughter of the Sky was new territory for me. I knew virtually nothing about the Anglo-Zulu War prior to reading the book, but I was intrigued by the prospect and couldn’t help taking interest in the novel. Looking back, however, I have to admit to feeling the novel’s characters and themes outshone the history on which it was based.

I don’t mean to discount Diener’s illustration of the British invasion of Zululand or the Battle of Isandlwana, but politics don’t take centerstage here and I don’t want to mislead readers by implying otherwise. Elizabeth and Jack are caught up in the conflict, but their stories hinge on the morality of their circumstances, how they identify themselves, and the decisions they make when their loyalties are torn.

Daughter of the Sky is not standard fare by any means and while the story was lighter than I’d hoped going in, the narrative proved well-worth my time and I definitely recommend it to fellow readers.

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She’d been a spy for minutes and was already a failure. The only way out now was pleading. Or running.  
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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Cover Crush: The Scent of Death by Andrew Taylor

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 designer behind Andrew Taylor's The Scent of Death is an absolutely genius. Lone figures walking into the backdrop are pretty standard fare as far as thrillers are concerned, but the scroll of the iron fence creates both depth and intrigue. Can't wait to get my hands on this one!

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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, August 1, 2017

Cover Cliché: The Morally Questionable Green Hat

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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Newly engaged, Clive and Henrietta now begin the difficult task of meeting each other's family. Difficult because Clive has neglected to tell Henrietta that he is in fact the heir to the Howard estate and fortune, and Henrietta has just discovered that her mother has been hiding secrets about her past as well. When Clive brings Henrietta to the family estate to meet his parents, they are less than enthused about his impoverished intended. Left alone in this extravagant new world when Clive returns to the city, Henrietta finds herself more at home with the servants than his family, much to the disapproval of Mrs. Howard and soon gets caught up in the disappearance of an elderly servant's ring, not realizing that in doing so she has become part of a bigger, darker plot. As Clive and Henrietta attempt to discover the truth in the two very different worlds unraveling around them, they both begin to wonder: Are they meant for each other after all




Sweeping and panoramic, You Were There Before My Eyes is the epic and intimate story of a young woman who chafes at the stifling routine and tradition of her small, turn-of-the-century Italian village. When an opportunity presents itself for her to emigrate to America, her hunger for escape compels her to leave everything behind for the gleaming promises await her and her young husband in Mr. Ford’s factories.

Determine to survive, and perhaps even thrive, young Jane finds herself navigating not just a new language and country, but a world poised upon the edge of economic and social revolution—and war. As Jane searches for inner fulfillment while building young family, the tide of history ebbs and flows. From the chaos of Ellis Island to the melting pot of industrial Detroit, You Were There Before My Eyes spills over with colorful characters and vivid period details. Maria Riva paints an authentic portrait of immigrant America and poignantly captures the ever evolving nature of the American dream.




In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She's also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie's parents banish her to Europe to have her "little problem" taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she's recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she's trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the "Queen of Spies", who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy's nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn't heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth ...no matter where it leads.




In October 1932, at the tail end of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first presidential campaign, Eleanor Roosevelt took an overnight train from Potsdam to Albany with Lorena “Hick” Hickok, one of the top Associated Press reporters in the country. That train ride marked the beginning of an extraordinary relationship that would last the rest of Hick and Eleanor’s lives.

In Undiscovered Country, Kelly O’Connor McNees adroitly mixes fact and fiction to present an intimate portrait of the love that bloomed between these two women, hidden in plain sight. Using historical records (including the more than three thousand letters the pair exchanged over a span of thirty years), McNees portrays their relationship from their introduction as reporter and subject through their intense first meetings, their burgeoning affair, and the conflicts that arose as journalist Hick’s ethics were hopelessly compromised by her affection for the woman she was supposed to be covering.

A remarkable portrait of Depression-era America (including Hick and Eleanor’s work on the founding of Arthurdale, the federal housing project in West Virginia for homeless ex-miners), Undiscovered Country is thoroughly researched, highly readable, and beautifully subtle—an extraordinary portrayal of one of the greatest unknown love stories in American politics.




Ariel Lawhon, a rising star in historical suspense, unravels the extraordinary twists and turns in Anna Anderson's fifty-year battle to be recognized as Anastasia Romanov. Is she the beloved daughter, revered icon, and Russian grand duchess or is she an imposter, liar, and the thief of another woman's legacy?

Countless others have rendered their verdict. Now it is your turn.

Russia, July 17, 1918: Under direct orders from Vladimir Lenin, Bolshevik secret police force Anastasia Romanov, along with the entire imperial family, into a damp basement in Siberia, where they face a merciless firing squad. None survive. At least that is what the executioners have always claimed.

Germany, February 17, 1920: A young woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Anastasia Romanov is pulled shivering and senseless from a canal. Refusing to explain her presence in the freezing water or even acknowledge her rescuers, she is taken to the hospital where an examination reveals that her body is riddled with countless, horrific scars. When she finally does speak, this frightened, mysterious young woman claims to be the Russian grand duchess.

As rumors begin to circulate through European society that the youngest Romanov daughter has survived the massacre at Ekaterinburg, old enemies and new threats are awakened. With a narrative that is equal parts The Talented Mr. Ripley and Memento, Lawhon wades into the most psychologically complex and emotionally compelling territory: the nature of identity itself.

The question of who Anna Anderson is and what actually happened to Anastasia Romanov creates a saga that spans fifty years and touches three continents. This thrilling saga is every bit as moving and momentous as it is harrowing and twisted.


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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 27, 2017

Cover Crush: No Longer Alone by Melinda Viergever Inman

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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Layered imagery always makes me do a double-take and Melinda Viergever Inman's No Longer Alone is a great example as to why. The kissing couple is the obvious heart of the design, but the house and the twister imply that this novel is a romance was gravitas.  The whole image comes together beautiful and leaves me curious about the narrative and how all these elements come together. 

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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 26, 2017

The Scarlet Coat by Angela K. Couch

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: January 25, 2017

Surrounded by the musket fire of the American Revolution, Rachel Garnet prays for her family to be safe. When the British invade the Mohawk Valley and her father and brother don't return from the battle, she goes in pursuit of them. She finds her brother alive but her father has been killed at the hand of the enemy. Amidst the death, how can she ignore a cry for help? Rachel reluctantly takes in a badly wounded British officer. But how long can her sense of Christian duty repress her hatred for his scarlet coat? Passages of Scripture and fleeting images of society are all Andrew Wyndham recalls after he awakens to the log walls of his gentle prison. Even his name eludes him. Rachel Garnet insists he is a captain in the British army. He mourns the loss of his memory, but how can he hope to remember war when his “enemy” is capturing his heart? Andrew’s injuries are severe, his memory slow to return, and the secret of his existence too perilous to ignore. As Rachel nurses him back to health, his hidden scarlet coat threatens to expose the deeds of her merciful heart, and Andrew is forced to face a harrowing decision—Stay hidden and risk losing the woman he loves or turn himself in and risk losing his life.

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I am well aware that one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and artwork isn’t a factor I consider when rating any story, but what in the dewy decimal system is going on with Angela K. Couch’s The Scarlet Coat? Am I only one crinkling their nose over this poorly contrived composition?

Having thrown that shallow commentary on the table, I’d like to say that I am in the minority in my estimation of the novel’s content. Most readers seemed to have greatly enjoyed the time they spent with The Scarlet Coat and while I truly appreciate those opinions, I can’t say Couch’s narrative suited my particular tastes.

Pardon my blunt assessment, but the characters struck me as one dimensional and I’d difficultly warming to either Rachel or Andrew. The novel was too sweet for my liking and I found the action both predictable and slow. Couch’s faith based themes are hard to miss and while I’ve no issue with the content, I couldn’t help wishing there’d been more subtly exercised in its presentation.

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Rachel glanced at the man on the floor, not sure whether to retreat or go back to her ministrations. Her insides twisted. This man fought for life. He was the enemy—her mind knew it—but lying here so helpless…he was only a man. Could she sit back and do nothing while he died?
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