Thursday, December 7, 2017

#CoverCrush: Tiffany Blues by M.J. Rose

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 publishing 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. This appreciation for cover art is what inspired Cover Crush, a weekly post dedicated to those images that have captured my attention and/or piqued my interest. Enjoy!

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M.J. Rose, the New York Times bestselling author of The Library of Light and Shadow crafts a dazzling Jazz age jewel, a novel of ambition, betrayal, and passion about a young painter whose traumatic past threatens to derail her career at a prestigious summer artists’ colony run by Louis Comfort Tiffany of Tiffany & Co. fame.

New York, 1924. Against the dazzling aftermath of the Great War, twenty‑four‑year‑old Jenny Bell is one of a dozen burgeoning artists invited to Louis Comfort Tiffany’s prestigious artists’ colony. Gifted and determined, Jenny vows to avoid distractions and romantic entanglements and take full advantage of the many wonders to be found at Laurelton Hall

But Jenny’s past has followed her to Long Island. Images of her beloved mother, her hard-hearted stepfather, waterfalls and murder, and the dank hallways of Canada’s notorious Andrew Mercer Reformatory for Women overwhelm Jenny’s thoughts, even as she is inextricably drawn to Oliver, Tiffany’s charismatic grandson.

As the summer shimmers on, and the competition between the artists grows fierce as they vie for a spot at Tiffany’s New York gallery, a series of suspicious and disturbing occurrences suggest someone knows enough about Jenny’s childhood trauma to expose her.

Supported by her closest friend Minx Deering, a seemingly carefree socialite yet dedicated sculptor, and Oliver, Jenny pushes her demons aside. Between stolen kisses and stolen jewels, the champagne flows and the jazz plays on until one moonless night when Jenny’s past and present are thrown together in a desperate moment, that will threaten her promising future, her love, her friendships, and her very life. 
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Layered images get me every time and M.J. Rose's Tiffany Rose is no exception. I love the vintage feel of this design and how it takes a minute to really see all the design elements. 

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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, December 5, 2017

#AuthorInterview: David Blixt, author of Master of Verona

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author David Blixt to Flashlight Commentary to discuss book one in the Star-Cross'd series, The Master of Verona.

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Welcome to Flashlight Commentary David. It’s a pleasure to have you with us. To start things off, please tell us about The Master of Verona.
Delighted to be here. This novel was recently called “Romeo & Juliet meets Game Of Thrones”. I hope it’s not quite that bleak, though combining characters from Shakespeare’s Italian plays with the real people of Dante’s time, things aren’t always going to end well. Paradise beckons, but first you have to go through Hell.

At risk of sounding impertinent, where did you find this story? Did it strike like lightening out nowhere or was is something that came to you over time? 
Like all great ideas, it came to me in the shower. I was about to direct Romeo & Juliet, and the idea of the feud’s beginning leapt out of my head like Athena, fully-formed and armed. It was only later, diving deep into the research, did I find that Dante mentions the Capulet-Montague feud in the Divine Comedy. Which means that Dante was in Verona during the birth of the feud. So was Giotto. So, a little later, was Petrarch. The feud became a thread in a larger tapestry of the birth of the Renaissance in Italy.

The Master of Verona was originally published ten years ago, but you recently revisited the novel to record the audiobook. How did it feel to immerse yourself in this story after so long?
Surreal, both as author and actor. I can’t count the number of times I paused in the middle of some really long sentence to say, “Who wrote this?” The happy discovery was how much I enjoyed the story, especially the characters. Finding their voices was a real challenge, in a good way. There were also several things I had forgotten were in there, little allusions and nods to plays and poems, historical events and figures. And I was able to cut a little excess verbiage from the previous edition, so that this one flows better. A book is never finished, only published.

The Master of Verona brings together the characters from Shakespeare's Italian plays with the real people from Dante's time. Was it difficult to combine the two? 
Actually, it took several running starts. I kept trying to write from the point of view of Shakespeare’s characters, but that felt trite. The lynchpin ended up being Dante’s son, Pietro. A very real person, with some solid facts about his life, yet with no real timeline for his early years. Through him I was able to link the historical and fictional characters. Right away he becomes friends with young Capulet and Montague, while at the same time he’s brought into the confidence of Dante’s patron, Cangrande della Scala, the titular master of Verona.

Do you have a favorite scene in The Master of Verona? 
Two. I very much like the duel in the middle of the book, where Pietro’s sense of justice gets him in far over his head. And the final scene, which was as surprising to me as it has been to readers. No spoilers, but I’ve had friends show up at my house to curse at me after reading Chapter 40. I really like surprises, but only if they’re earned. Since that scene surprised me when I wrote it, the shock seems very honest.

Is there a character you felt particularly close to while writing The Master of Verona? 
To this day Pietro remains my favorite character to write. I’ve been asked how much of me is in him. The answer is, none. Pietro is a far better man than I am. His sense of honor and need for justice are unfailing and unfaltering – and often unfortunate. Rarely is he rewarded for his dogged perseverance.

The other character that’s always a joy to write is Cangrande himself. Go to Verona and he still permeates the city. Dante dedicated Paradiso to him. Patron of the arts, clever warrior, skilled diplomat, famous lover - he was a figure for fiction because he’s larger than life. All the events in the book are real, he did those things. Creating a complex character out of someone so romantic and dashing was a huge challenge. It’s hard not to fall into hero-worship. Pietro certainly does. But if I’m following Shakespeare’s rules, there has to be a tragic flaw…

Authors are often forced to make sacrifices when composing their stories. Is there a character or concept you wish you could have spent more time on in The Master of Verona?
Oh, there are always rabbit-holes to dive down. The first draft was significantly longer, and my editor gave me one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard: “David, you’ve confused what a writer needs to know to write a book with what a reader needs to know to read it, which is much less.” The research is so fun for the author, but sharing that research often bogs down the story itself. So I cut 100,000 words from the novel – just about a third. Some of the neat facts I held on to for the sequels, but most of it just vanished.

If you could sit down and talk with one of your characters, maybe meet and discuss things over drinks, who would you invite out and why? 
Are we talking the historical people, or the ones I’ve created on the page? I’d love to chat with Dante, no matter what. Cangrande’s wife would be fascinating to talk to. And the fictional Moorish astrologer, Tharwat al-Dhaamin, would be my chosen companion for dinner. He’s a mystery to me, even though I invented him.

If you could pick a fantasy cast to play the leads in a screen adaptation of The Master of Verona, who would you hire? 
Hm. Ten years ago, Hugh Jackman would have been Cangrande, hands down. Today? Chris Hemsworth. And so many of the leads are in their teens, making the cast change over every five years. So here goes:

Cangrande della Scala: Chris Hemsworth
Pietro di Dante: David Mazouz
Katerina della Scala: Cate Blanchett
Dante Alighieri: Michael Gambon
Mariotto Montecchio: Logan Lerman
Antony Capulletto: Leo Howard
Gianozza della Bella: Mackenzie Foy
Antonia Alighieri: Millie Bobbie Brown
Tharwat al-Dhaamin: Morgan Freeman
Vinciguerra da San Bonifacio: Brendan Gleeson
Marsilio da Carrara: Dakota Goyo

What do you hope readers take from their experience of The Master of Verona? 
A sense of awe. A sense of scope. And a deep desire to read both Romeo & Juliet and The Divine Comedy (as well as come back for the next novel in the series, Voice of the Falconer).

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David Blixt‘s work is consistently described as “intricate,” “taut,” and “breathtaking.” A writer of Historical Fiction, his novels span the early Roman Empire (the COLOSSUS series, his play EVE OF IDES) to early Renaissance Italy (the STAR-CROSS’D series) up through the Elizabethan era (his delightful espionage comedy HER MAJESTY’S WILL, starring Will Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe as inept spies). His novels combine a love of the theatre with a deep respect for the quirks and passions of history. 

Living in Chicago with his wife and two children, he describes himself as “actor, author, father, husband. In reverse order.”

Website   |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Goodreads

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#CoverReveal: The Prince's Doom by David Blixt

Flashlight Commentary is proud to reveal the new cover of David Blixt's The Prince's Doom! 

The Prince's Doom is the fourth volume in the Star-Cross'd series. Combining the characters from Shakespeare's Italian plays with the real people from Dante's time, the Star-Cross'd series explores the life of two figures, one historical, the other fiction. Pietro Alaghieri, son of the poet Dante, and Mercutio, Romeo's friend and catalyst for all the tragedy in Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet.

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Shakespeare and Dante collide in this sweeping novel of Renaissance Italy! The feud between the Capulets and Montagues starts here!

Pietro Alaghieri, son of the poet Dante, falls under the sway of Verona’s daring, charismatic, and warlike ruler, Cangrande della Scala. Risking battles, duels, and intrigue to impress his new lord, Pietro uncovers an infernal plot against Cangrande’s infant heir. Emerging from the shadow of his famous father, Pietro must protect the dangerous child while navigating a rivalry that severs a friendship, divides a city, and sparks a feud that will someday produce Shakespeare's famous star-cross’d lovers, Romeo & Juliet.

Based on the plays of William Shakespeare, the poetry of Dante, and the history of Italy, THE MASTER OF VERONA is a novel of brutal warfare, lost friendship, and dire conspiracy. An epic journey into the birth of the Renaissance that recalls the best of Bernard Cornwell, Sharon Kay Penman, and Dorothy Dunnett.
Italy, 1325. Eight years after the tumultuous events of THE MASTER OF VERONA, Pietro Alaghieri is living as an exile in Ravenna, enduring the loss of his famous father while secretly raising the bastard heir to Verona's prince, Cangrande della Scala.

But when word of Cangrande's death reaches him, Pietro must race back to Verona to prevent young Cesco's rivals from usurping his rightful place. With the tentative peace of Italy at stake, not to mention their lives, Pietro must act swiftly to protect them all. But young Cesco is determined not to be anyone's pawn. Willful and brilliant, he defies even the stars. And far behind the scenes is a mastermind pulling the strings, one who stands to lose - or gain - the most.

Born from Shakespeare's Italian plays, in this novel we meet for the first time Romeo, Juliet, Tybalt, the Nurse, as well as revisit Montague and Capulet, Petruchio and Kate, and the money-lending Shylock. From Ravenna to Verona, Mantua to Venice, this novel explores the danger, deceit, and deviltry of early Renaissance Italy, and the terrible choices one must make just to stay alive. 
Italy, 1326. While the brilliant and wily Cesco is schooled in his new duties at the hand of a hard master, Pietro Alaghieri travels to Avignon, current seat of the Papacy, to fight his excommunication and plead for Cesco's legitimacy. He doesn't know an old foe has been waiting to ruin Pietro's life and seize control of Verona for himself.

Back in Verona, separated from everyone he trusts, Cesco must confront his ambitious cousin, a mysterious young killer, and the Holy Roman Emperor himself. A harrowing series of adventures reveal a secret long hidden, one that threatens Cesco's only chance for true happiness.

Inspired by Shakespeare, Dante, and Petrarch, full of Renaissance intrigue and passion, this third novel in Blixt's acclaimed Star-Cross'd series reflects the heights of drama, exploring the capricious whims of lady Fortune, who has her favorites - and her fools.
The explosive fourth novel in the Star-Cross'd series! Verona has won its war with Padua, lost its war with the stars. The young prodigy Cesco now turns his troubled brilliance to darker purposes, embracing a riotous life and challenging not only the lord of Verona, but the stars themselves.

For once Pietro Alaghieri welcomes the many plots and intrigues of the Veronese court, hoping they will shake Cesco out of his torpor. But when the first body falls, it becomes clear that this new game is deadly, and will only to doom them all.


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ABOUT DAVID BLIXT


David Blixt‘s work is consistently described as “intricate,” “taut,” and “breathtaking.” A writer of Historical Fiction, his novels span the early Roman Empire (the COLOSSUS series, his play EVE OF IDES) to early Renaissance Italy (the STAR-CROSS’D series) up through the Elizabethan era (his delightful espionage comedy HER MAJESTY’S WILL, starring Will Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe as inept spies). His novels combine a love of the theatre with a deep respect for the quirks and passions of history. 

Living in Chicago with his wife and two children, he describes himself as “actor, author, father, husband. In reverse order.” 

Website   |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Goodreads


Thursday, November 30, 2017

#CoverCrush: The Hidden Light of Northern Fires by Daren Wang

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 publishing 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. This appreciation for cover art is what inspired Cover Crush, a weekly post dedicated to those images that have captured my attention and/or piqued my interest. Enjoy!

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A novel rooted in the remarkable, but little-known, true history of the only secessionist town north of the Mason Dixon Line.

When escaped slave, Joe Bell, collapses in her father’s barn, Mary Willis must ward off Confederate guerillas and spies, Joe’s vengeful owner, and even her own brother to help the handsome fugitive cross to freedom.

Mary has always been an outcast, an outspoken abolitionist woman in a town of bounty hunters and anti-Union farmers. Helping runaways is the only thing that makes her life in Town Line bearable. As the countryside is riled by the drumbeat of civil war and the promise of an extravagant bounty for the wounded fugitive, Mary finds herself drawn to the stranger in forbidden ways. When rebels cross from nearby Canada intent on killing him, they bring the devastation of the brutal war to the town and the farm, and threaten to destroy all that Mary loves.
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I don't think I need to explain my attraction to The Hidden Light of Northern Fires
by Daren Wang. The texture of the design is simply stunning and I love how lantern light was utilized as a play on the title of the narrative. 

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Did this week's cover catch your eye? Do you have an opinion you'd like to share? Please leave a comment below. I'd love to hear from you!

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, November 28, 2017

#CoverCliche: A Quiet Moment

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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Out of the courts of twelfth-century England strode the legendary figure of Richard of England - leading his knights onto the Saracen battlefields - inspired by a vision of the Holy Land.

Here is the story of the Soldier-King and the Third Crusade - of his strange, ill-fated union with Berengaria, Princess of Navarre - of his mother, the She-Wolf, Eleanor of Aquitaine who loved her son with a frantic, possessive pride. And above all, here is the story of the minstrel whose life was linked with that of the King - the story of Blondel - the lute player...




Sam Thomas takes readers back to Puritan England with midwife Bridget Hodgson, hailed by the Cleveland Plain Dealer as "one of the most fascinating detectives in contemporary mystery fiction."

Winter has come to the city of York, and with it the threat of witchcraft. As women and children sicken and die, midwife Bridget Hodgson is pulled against her will into a full-scale witch-hunt that threatens to devour all in its path, guilty and innocent alike.

Bridget—accompanied once again by her deputy Martha Hawkins and her nephew Will Hodgson—finds herself playing a lethal game of cat and mouse against the most dangerous men in York, as well as her sworn enemy Rebecca Hooke. As the trials begin, and the noose begins to tighten around her neck, Bridget must answer the question: How far will she go to protect the people she loves?




Eleanor is young, high-spirited, supremely intelligent, heiress to the vast Duchy of Aquitaine - at a time when a woman's value was measured in terms of wealth. Her vivid leadership inspired and dazzled those about her. And yet, born to rule, she was continually repressed and threatened by the men who overshadowed her life. This is the story of a brilliant, medieval figure - of a princess who led her own knights to the Crusades, who was bride to two kings and mother of Richard the Lion Heart. It is the rich, incredible story of Eleanor Of Aquitaine.?





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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, November 27, 2017

#WishList: November 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 think it fair to say that November got away from me. It's been a busy month, I lost track of time, and nearly forgot to post my monthly wish list. As luck would have it, however, I managed to stumble over something rather brilliant and can't wait to dig into the following books about the women behind some of the most beloved classics of all time. 

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Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. The Brontë siblings have always been inseparable. After all, nothing can bond four siblings quite like life in an isolated parsonage out on the moors. Their vivid imaginations lend them escape from their strict upbringing, actually transporting them into their created worlds: the glittering Verdopolis and the romantic and melancholy Gondal. But at what price? As Branwell begins to slip into madness and the sisters feel their real lives slipping away, they must weigh the cost of their powerful imaginations, even as their characters—the brooding Rogue and dashing Duke of Zamorna—refuse to let them go.

Gorgeously written and based on the Brontës’ juvenilia, Worlds of Ink & Shadow brings to life one of history’s most celebrated literary families.




Louisa May Alcott can't believe it—her mother is leaving for the summer to earn money for the family and Louisa is to be in charge of the household. How will she find the time to write her stories, much less have any adventures of her own? But before long, Louisa finds herself juggling her temperamental father, a mysterious murder, a fugitive seeking refuge along the Underground Railroad, and blossoming love. Intertwining fact, fiction, and quotes from Little Women, Michaela MacColl has crafted another spunky heroine whose story will keep readers turning pages until the very end.




For the first time ever, a young adult novel about the teen years of L.M. Montgomery, the author who brought us ANNE OF GREEN GABLES.

Fourteen-year-old Lucy Maud Montgomery — Maud to her friends — has a dream: to go to college and become a writer, just like her idol, Louisa May Alcott. But living with her grandparents on Prince Edward Island, she worries that this dream will never come true. Her grandfather has strong opinions about a woman's place in the world, and they do not include spending good money on college. Luckily, she has a teacher to believe in her, and good friends to support her, including Nate, the Baptist minister's stepson and the smartest boy in the class. If only he weren't a Baptist; her Presbyterian grandparents would never approve. Then again, Maud isn't sure she wants to settle down with a boy — her dreams of being a writer are much more important.

But life changes for Maud when she goes out West to live with her father and his new wife and daughter. Her new home offers her another chance at love, as well as attending school, but tensions increase as Maud discovers her stepmother's plans for her, which threaten Maud's future — and her happiness forever.

What if you had to choose between your family and true love?

Jane Austen’s family is eager to secure her future by marrying her off. But Jane is much more interested in writing her novels and finds every suitor lacking in one way or another. That is, until the mysterious Mr. Lefroy arrives on the scene.

Much like the famous character Mr. Darcy, from one of the real-life Jane Austen’s famous novels, Mr. Lefroy initially seems arrogant and distasteful. But the more Jane gets to know him, the more she discovers his kind nature. Can it be that he’s the suitor for her? Before Jane can find out, her cousin is accused of aiding the French, England’s enemy, and Jane finds herself busy proving her family’s innocence, solving a murder, and facing a decision that might mean the sacrifice of her one true love.

When something is most important to me and I do not want to lose it, I gather it into a poem. It is said that women must employ the needle and not the pen. But I will be a Poet! That's who I am!

Before she was an iconic American poet, Emily Dickinson was a spirited girl eager to find her place in the world. Expected by family and friends to mold to the prescribed role for women in mid-1800s New England, Emily was challenged to define herself on her own terms.

Award-winning author Barbara Dana brilliantly imagines the girlhood of this extraordinary young woman, capturing the cadences of her unique voice and bringing her to radiant life.

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INTERESTED IN MORE WISHLISTS?
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
Stephanie at Layered Pages

Thursday, November 16, 2017

#CoverCrush: Plaint for Provence: 1152: Les Baux by Jean Gill

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 publishing 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. This appreciation for cover art is what inspired Cover Crush, a weekly post dedicated to those images that have captured my attention and/or piqued my interest. Enjoy!

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1152:Les Baux de Provence The Troubadours, Estela and her lover, Dragonetz, are embroiled in two rival claims for power as their feuding liege lords gather in Provence. If the peace fails, Dragonetz' sword will decide the winner and friends will die. 

Although Estela is reluctant to leave her idyll with her young child Musca, and her pursuit of Arabic medicine, she welcomes the chance to show her musical skills and to support Dragonetz, who must use his swordsmanship to play peacemaker.

The visit of the Comte du Barcelone to Les Baux sparks bitter memories of the recent civil war and Lady Etiennette des Baux has no intention of ceding to her overlord. Nor does she plan to remain a widow. With good friends on both sides, Dragonetz weaves a precarious path through the rival factions at court where an uneasy truce prevails behind the chivalry of hunt and tournament.

Meanwhile, Estela faces her own demons. Confronted with her childhood abusers, threatened and attacked, she confides in her friends. Unfortunately, one of those friends is Dragonetz' worst enemy and Estela has no idea of what he is capable.

In this third volume of the Troubadours Quartet, Jean Gill, the 'master of historical intrigue', continues to weave the gripping adventures of Dragonetz and Estela seamlessly into real historical events. Medieval France comes alive in all its facets, from healing with leeches to training a goshawk.
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I like cover that make me look twice and Plaint for Provence: 1152: Les Baux by Jean Gill certainly stopped me in my tracks. The embellishments are perhaps a bit much, but I love depth created by the layering behind it. 

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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

Thursday, November 9, 2017

#CoverCrush: Tochter des Flusses by Dana Graham

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 publishing 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. This appreciation for cover art is what inspired Cover Crush, a weekly post dedicated to those images that have captured my attention and/or piqued my interest. Enjoy!

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An incredible gift.
A dangerous love.
A truth, greater than the legend.

Orphaned in a pirate attack, Leana comes under the care of the Landgrave, who raises her like a daughter in her own right. But years later, when he wants to send her to a monastery against her will, Leana flees. In the ruins of a legendary moated castle, she meets a stranger who fascinates her from the first moment: Jargo, a man from the mysterious river people. But the encounter is no coincidence. Old secrets lead Jargo into the moated castle - secrets that are inseparably interwoven with Leana's fate.

On Jargo's side, Leana uncovers her true origins and begins to fight: Not only against dark forces and a web of lies and hatred, but also for her love for Jargo ...
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The cover of Tochter des Flusses by Dana Graham makes me want to learn German. The book, which in English would be called Daughter of the River, is to the best of my knowledge not available in any other language, but that doesn't stop me from appreciating the cover design. Everything about this one works for me. The colors and the layering are absolutely flawless and I adore how the title is framed be the other elements of the composition.

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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, November 7, 2017

#CoverCliche: Eyes on the Sky

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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Ida Mae Jones dreams of flight. Her daddy was a pilot and being black didn't stop him from fulfilling his dreams. But her daddy's gone now, and being a woman, and being black, are two strikes against her.

When America enters the war with Germany and Japan, the Army creates the WASP, the Women Airforce Service Pilots - and Ida suddenly sees a way to fly as well as do something significant to help her brother stationed in the Pacific. But even the WASP won't accept her as a black woman, forcing Ida Mae to make a difficult choice of "passing," of pretending to be white to be accepted into the program. Hiding one's racial heritage, denying one's family, denying one's self is a heavy burden. And while Ida Mae chases her dream, she must also decide who it is she really wants to be.



Former wartime ace James Harrington has his sights set on being the first person to fly from Britain to Australia in a light aircraft.  With so much desert and ocean to cross, he's been told it can't be done.

Sarah Carson can help make his dream a reality, but only if he takes her with him.  So begins the flying adventure of a lifetime, until halfway across the world, the plane disappears.  Where in the world are they?  And what is really going on?

From Australia's master of the historical blockbuster comes this highly entertaining adventure-romance about an ambitious and heroic pair.  Glory Girl is an unforgettable story about the risks and sacrifices made for a chance of glory.


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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. 


Sunday, November 5, 2017

#BookReview: Return to Ithaca by Glyn Iliffe

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The thrilling final instalment of the epic and bestselling Adventures of Odysseus
Odysseus has been to Hell and back. Deserted by the Gods, and now in bitter conflict with his friend Eperitus, times look bleak. He dreams of returning to his home; to Ithaca.

But back on Ithaca things look little better. His son Telemachus and wife Penelope are besieged by a gang of suitors, believing Odysseus to be dead and looking for her hand in marriage.

Odysseus and Eperitus have survived everything. But now they face a last test, perhaps the most difficult of all… Can they reclaim what has been lost?

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆   |   Obtained from: Netegalley   |   Read: July 12, 2017
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I struggled with Glyn Iliffe’s Return to Ithaca, but I want to be very clear in that I believe much of my difficulties stemmed from opting to read the series out of order. The books are six in number, but I picked up the final volume without so much as a glance at the novels that preceded it. I knew The Odyssey well enough to feel comfortable with the material and figured it wouldn’t matter, but the reality proved my assumption grossly misplaced.

Iliffe’s characterizations are firmly established at this point and while I respect the author’s creative choices, the tone and direction of the novel are not easy for readers who haven’t followed the retelling chronologically. I felt myself at a great disadvantage with this piece and caution others from following in my footsteps.

The action was well-written and I think the series boasts a unique degree of creativity, but it should be firmly understood the novels are not stand-alones. 

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"He pondered her words and know they were true. He was no longer the man who had conquered Troy or outwitted the Cyclops. His muscles had gone to waster and his stomach had seen too many easy meals. He lacked the courage to face the sea’s treachery or brave Poseidon’s anger…"
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Thursday, November 2, 2017

#CoverCrush: Beautiful Redemption by Jamie McGuire

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 publishing 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. This appreciation for cover art is what inspired Cover Crush, a weekly post dedicated to those images that have captured my attention and/or piqued my interest. Enjoy!

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If A Maddox boy falls in love, he loves forever. But what if he didn't love you, first? 

No-nonsense Liis Lindy is an agent of the FBI. Deciding she is married only to her job, she breaks off her engagement and transfers from Chicago to the field office in San Diego. She loves her desk. She is committed to her laptop. She dreams of promotions and shaking hands with the director after cracking an impossible case. 

Special Agent in Charge Thomas Maddox is arrogant, unforgiving, and ruthless. He is tasked with putting away some of the world’s toughest criminals, and he is one of the best the Bureau has to offer. Though, as many lives as he’s saved, there is one that is beyond his reach. Younger brother Travis is faced with prison time for his involvement in a basement fire that killed dozens of college students, and the media want a conviction. Travis’s only savior is his unusual tie to the mob. In a deal that will spare his brother, Thomas has agreed to recruit Travis into the FBI. 

Liis is stubborn, defiant, and yet somehow softens Thomas’s rough edges, making her the perfect agent to accompany him to the ceremony. Posing as a couple, they must travel to Travis & Abby’s beach vow renewal and give him the news, but when the pretending ends, she finds herself wondering if they were pretending at all. 
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Contemporary romance is decidedly outside my wheelhouse (if you understood the entirely of my romantic track record you'd know why), but the cover of Beautiful Redemption by Jamie McGuire is enough to tempt even my cold, cracked, and jaded heart. Optical illusions always jump out at me, I love how the feathers and the line of the wing were used to replicate the effect in this particular design. 

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Did this week's cover catch your eye? Do you have an opinion you'd like to share? Please leave a comment below. I'd love to hear from you!

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

Sunday, October 22, 2017

#BookReview: A Sea of Sorrow: A Novel of Odysseus by David Blixt, Amalia Carosella, Libbie Hawker, Scott Oden, Vicky Alvear Shecter & Russell Whitfield

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Odysseus, infamous trickster of Troy, vaunted hero of the Greeks, left behind a wake of chaos and despair during his decade long journey home to Ithaca. Lovers and enemies, witches and monsters—no one who tangled with Odysseus emerged unscathed. Some prayed for his return, others, for his destruction. These are their stories…

A beleaguered queen’s gambit for maintaining power unravels as a son plots vengeance.

A tormented siren battles a goddess’s curse and the forces of nature to survive.

An exiled sorceress defies a lustful captain and his greedy crew.

A blinded shepherd swears revenge on the pirate-king who mutilated him.

A beautiful empress binds a shipwrecked sailor to servitude, only to wonder who is serving whom.

A young suitor dreams of love while a returned king conceives a savage retribution.

Six authors bring to life the epic tale of The Odyssey seen through the eyes of its shattered victims—the monsters, witches, lovers, and warriors whose lives were upended by the antics of the “man of many faces.” You may never look upon this timeless epic—and its iconic ancient hero—in quite the same way again.
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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆   |   Obtained from: Author   |   Read: October 15, 2017
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Homer claimed it tedious to tell again tales already plainly told, but I’d argue his perspective shortsighted as there is nothing tedious about A Sea of Sorrow. Though essentially a retelling of The Odyssey, the collaborative brings fresh perspective to Odysseus’ journey and presents thought-provoking ideas about the ancient world.

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Song of Survival and Epilogue by Vicky Alvear Shecter
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I grinned when I realized Vicky Alvear Shecter wrote the first story in A Sea of Sorrow. Her interpretation of Odysseus in A Song of War blew me away and I was immediately comforted by the knowledge that I was in the hands of an author I trusted with the material.

Having said that, I want to note that neither “Song of Survival” nor the “Epilogue” are relayed from Odysseus’s point of view. Shecter’s stories center on the family he left behind and the impact of his extended absence. Telemachus, as a boy in a matriarchal home, is at great disadvantage and I liked how Shecter’s narrative captured the social and developmental repercussion of his circumstances. I was equally impressed with the substance she gifted Penelope. Odysseus’ queen is often portrayed as a woman with her eyes fixed longingly on the horizon and I appreciated how dynamic and capable she came to be in Shecter’s hands.

* Best Moment in A Sea of Sorrow – Fell out of my chair laughing over the whore on Whore island. *

What great tale will you tell me, husband, when I see you again in lightless Hades? Will you blame a god for what was surely your decision—and probably on a whim—to pursue more glory? Will you spin fantastical accounts that absolve you of the consequences from the choices you made? Of goddesses who seduced? Monsters who attacked? Beasts who betrayed?
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Xenia in the Court of the Winds by Scott Oden
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Scott Oden was a new author for me and I’d honestly no idea what to expect going into “Xenia in the Court of the Winds.” Looking back, however, I want to caution readers from taking this piece for granted. The story is exceptional in both tone and composition and proves one of most thought-provoking submissions in all of The H Team collaborations.

Homer’s Polyphemus is a monster, but the depth Oden gifted his Kyklops turns the original source material on its head while exploring the cultural diversity that characterized ancient Greece. The idea sent chills of excitement down my spine and I thrilled at how Oden used history to authenticate his fiction and challenge his audience with the grim realities of culture clash and intolerance.

* Best Character in A Sea of Sorrow – Writing a hero is easy, reinventing a villain is an art. *

The world upended, dear Eirene. That is the best way to describe it – as though a giant caught up our city and shook it like a jar of oil and vinegar. Odysseus did not try and bluster his way to peace, where he might betray us later. No, his fair-seeming face sloughed away to reveal the bones of hatred and ambition.
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Hekate’s Daughter by Libbie Hawker
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I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Libbie Hawker in person, but I’m familiar with her through social media and I love how “Hekate’s Daughter” illustrates both her personality and artistic strengths. 

The story fearlessly dives into feminist ideology, but Hawker is careful to keep the content appropriate to the historic lens of her narrative. It’s a balance few are able to effectively pull off, but the end result is a story that invites the reader to interact with the narrative and take something very relevant from their experience of the material.

* Best Individual Theme in a Sea of Sorrow – Great ideas make thought-provoking fiction. *

How I longed then for Hekate’s power. I would have called down all manner of curses upon that man, and every fool who followed him. I would have struck him blind, taken his tongue, stolen away his virility. I would have plagued every Ithacan with painful boils and water of the bowels. I would have called up a pack of wolf-shaped shadows, fire-eyed and hungry, to drive them from my shore.
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The Siren’s Song by Amalia Carosella
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According to Greek mythology, a siren is a creature that is half bird and half woman. They’re known for luring sailors to their doom through the seductive tone of their song and though their appearance in The Odyssey is brief, it is without doubt my favorite scene of the epic poem. Needless to say the pressure was on as I began reading Amalia Carosella’s “The Siren’s Song.”

This story, more than any of the others, pays tribute to Greek mythology and its influence on ancient society. The collection intentionally avoids the supernatural, but that doesn’t mean its characters don’t believe in the Gods and I loved how Carosella used that to her advantage in "The Siren's Song." There is a tragic symmetry to the piece, but it plays out beautifully and provides some of the most poignant moments in A Sea of Sorrow.

* Best Ironic Moment in A Sea of Sorrow – True to the source material, yet wholly original *

For Thelxiope’s murder, Aglaope wanted revenge. And it did not matter that Odysseus-Akheloios slept in her bed, ate at her side, smiled and laughed in her hall. She was certain once he knew what she had done to his bride, his daughter, he would not laugh and smile for long.
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Calypso’s Vow by David Blixt
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David Blixt’s “Calypso’s Vow” caught me off guard. Homer paints Calypso as an unconscionable temptress and the idea of jumping into her shoes didn’t strike me as an appealing means of passing the time. I was both hesitant and skeptical which is amusing to admit as it took all of a few paragraphs for the story to knock me clean off my feet.

“Calypso’s Vow” marks a turning point for Odysseus as he comes to acknowledge the wreckage he’s wrought on the world. It’s a story redemption, but it was his lover’s grace and emotional sacrifice that captured my imagination. Blixt effectively redefined Calypso and in so doing, crafted a story that cuts straight to the heart.

* Best Submission in A Sea of Sorrow – Absolute perfection. *

It was a balm to my heart, listening to his devotion to his men. That mention of a wife had murdered me where I sat. Penelope. Had I been a substitute for her, I do not think I could have bourne it. But no. I was a substitute for those he had failed. Those he had broken with. Those he had deserted, or abandoned, or simply been helpless to save. I was his redemption. But not his love.
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The King in Waiting by Russell Whitfield
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Until now, The H Team collaboratives have featured a cast that wander in and out of multiple stories, but the nature of The Odyssey isolated most of the narrators and placed unusual pressure on the author tasked with anchoring the collection. Shecter penned the "Epilogue," but it is Russell Whitfield who gave voice to the phantom who casts his shadow over each of these stories and ultimately brings Odysseus home.

“The King in Waiting” sees Odysseus facing the realities of his legacy, accepting his role in Ithaca’s misfortune, and setting his kingdom to rights. It is an interesting emotional journey and I quite liked how it played out, but I was surprised at how Whitfield used Amphinomus to temper Odysseus’ triumph. Whitfield’s fleshing out of the younger man creates a bittersweet note in the fabric of the narrative, but I couldn’t help appreciating how he used Amph’s fate to bring Odysseus the direction he so desperately lacked.

* Best Surprise in A Sea of Sorrow – It ain’t over till it’s over. *

Now the men of Ithaca were all dead, lost piecemeal these long years. How many other Ithacan sons were growing up without the benefit of an older man? How many wives and mothers grieved because he – Wily Odysseus – hadn’t had the sense to take his fair share and sail back to them?

Friday, October 20, 2017

#WishList: October 2017 - High Contrast Cover Art

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. 

Last month, one of my blog friends created a Wish List based on Ladies in Red. The song was stuck in my head for two days, which I'm sure amuses Magdalena to no end, but the post got me thinking about cover art and I decided I'd follow suit. I looked through my TBR and before long was bookmarking high contrast designs. Five titles later, a Wish List was born!

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A gifted young black man calling himself Victor has struck a bargain with federal law enforcement, working as a bounty hunter for the US Marshall Service. He's got plenty of work. In this version of America, slavery continues in four states called "the Hard Four." On the trail of a runaway known as Jackdaw, Victor arrives in Indianapolis knowing that something isn't right--with the case file, with his work, and with the country itself.

A mystery to himself, Victor suppresses his memories of his childhood on a plantation, and works to infiltrate the local cell of a abolitionist movement called the Underground Airlines. Tracking Jackdaw through the back rooms of churches, empty parking garages, hotels, and medical offices, Victor believes he's hot on the trail. But his strange, increasingly uncanny pursuit is complicated by a boss who won't reveal the extraordinary stakes of Jackdaw's case, as well as by a heartbreaking young woman and her child who may be Victor's salvation. Victor himself may be the biggest obstacle of all--though his true self remains buried, it threatens to surface.

Victor believes himself to be a good man doing bad work, unwilling to give up the freedom he has worked so hard to earn. But in pursuing Jackdaw, Victor discovers secrets at the core of the country's arrangement with the Hard Four, secrets the government will preserve at any cost.

Underground Airlines is a ground-breaking novel, a wickedly imaginative thriller, and a story of an America that is more like our own than we'd like to believe.

In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the mostfascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling.

A dazzling novel that captures all of the romance, glamour, and tragedy of the first flapper, Zelda Fitzgerald.

When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, she is seventeen years old and he is a young army lieutenant stationed in Alabama. Before long, the "ungettable" Zelda has fallen for him despite his unsuitability: Scott isn't wealthy or prominent or even a Southerner, and keeps insisting, absurdly, that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame.

Her father is deeply unimpressed. But after Scott sells his first novel, This Side of Paradise, to Scribner's, Zelda optimistically boards a train north, to marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick's Cathedral and take the rest as it comes.

A girl and the wolves who love her embark on a rescue mission through Russian wilderness in this lyrical tale from the author of the acclaimed Rooftoppers and Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms.

Feo’s life is extraordinary. Her mother trains domesticated wolves to be able to fend for themselves in the snowy wilderness of Russia, and Feo is following in her footsteps to become a wolf wilder. She loves taking care of the wolves, especially the three who stay at the house because they refuse to leave Feo, even though they’ve already been wilded. But not everyone is enamored with the wolves, or with the fact that Feo and her mother are turning them wild. And when her mother is taken captive, Feo must travel through the cold, harsh woods to save her—and learn from her wolves how to survive.

From the author of Rooftoppers, which Booklist called “a glorious adventure,” and Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, which VOYA called “a treasure of a book,” comes an enchanting novel about love and resilience. 

In the summer of 1966, Christina Hardcastle—“Tiny” to her illustrious family—stands on the brink of a breathtaking future. Of the three Schuyler sisters, she’s the one raised to marry a man destined for leadership, and with her elegance and impeccable style, she presents a perfect camera-ready image in the dawning age of television politics. Together she and her husband, Frank, make the ultimate power couple: intelligent, rich, and impossibly attractive. It seems nothing can stop Frank from rising to national office, and he’s got his sights set on a senate seat in November.

But as the season gets underway at the family estate on Cape Cod, three unwelcome visitors appear in Tiny’s perfect life: her volatile sister Pepper, an envelope containing incriminating photograph, and the intimidating figure of Frank’s cousin Vietnam-war hero Caspian, who knows more about Tiny’s rich inner life than anyone else. As she struggles to maintain the glossy façade on which the Hardcastle family’s ambitions are built, Tiny begins to suspect that Frank is hiding a reckless entanglement of his own…one that may unravel both her own ordered life and her husband’s promising career.
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INTERESTED IN MORE WISHLISTS?
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
Stephanie at Layered Pages