Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Cover Cliché: Long Kiss Goodbye

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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A novel of love, loss, and honour amidst the horrors of war and its aftermath.

It’s 1916, and the last thing Nova Scotian soldier Danny Baker expects to find in war-torn France is the love of his life. Audrey Poulin is alone in the world, and struggling to survive the war in the French countryside. When Audrey and Danny meet and fall in love, it seems like the best version of fate.

But love is only the beginning, as Danny loses a leg in the Battle of the Somme, and returns home to Halifax with Audrey, only to discover that he’s unable to leave the war behind. Danny and Audrey struggle with their new life together, and must face not only their own internal demons, but a catastrophe that will soon rip apart everything they think they know about themselves and each other.

Genevieve Graham, author of Under the Same Sky and Sound of the Heart, brings her passion for weaving history and fiction together in a seamless tale that will capture and enthrall the reader.




From USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Robson—author of Moonlight Over Paris and Somewhere in France—comes a lush historical novel that tells the fascinating story of Ruby Sutton, an ambitious American journalist who moves to London in 1940 to report on the Second World War, and to start a new life an ocean away from her past.

In the summer of 1940, ambitious young American journalist Ruby Sutton gets her big break: the chance to report on the European war as a staff writer for Picture Weekly newsmagazine in London. She jumps at the chance, for it's an opportunity not only to prove herself, but also to start fresh in a city and country that know nothing of her humble origins. But life in besieged Britain tests Ruby in ways she never imagined.

Although most of Ruby's new colleagues welcome her, a few resent her presence, not only as an American but also as a woman. She is just beginning to find her feet, to feel at home in a country that is so familiar yet so foreign, when the bombs begin to fall.

As the nightly horror of the Blitz stretches unbroken into weeks and months, Ruby must set aside her determination to remain an objective observer. When she loses everything but her life, and must depend upon the kindness of strangers, she learns for the first time the depth and measure of true friendship—and what it is to love a man who is burdened by secrets that aren’t his to share.

Goodnight from London, inspired in part by the wartime experiences of the author’s own grandmother, is a captivating, heartfelt, and historically immersive story that readers are sure to embrace.




In January 1917, five wounded French soldiers, their hands bound behind them, are brought to the front at Picardy by their own troops, forced into the no-man's land between the French and German armies, and left to die in the cross fire. Their brutal punishment has been hushed up for more than two years when Mathilde Donnay, unable to walk since childhood, begins a relentless quest to find out whether her fiancé, officially "killed in the line of duty," might still be alive. Tipped off by a letter from a dying soldier, the shrewd, sardonic, and wonderfully imaginative Mathilde scours the country for information about the men. As she carries her search to its end, an elaborate web of deception and coincidence emerges, and Mathilde comes to an understanding of the horrors, and the acts of kindness, brought about by war.

A runaway bestseller in France and the winner of the 1991 Prix Interallié, this astonishing novel is many things at once: an absorbing mystery, a playful study of the different ways one story can be told, a moving and incisive portrait of life in France during and after the First World War, and a love story of transforming power and beauty.




January, 1920. Young Englishwoman Margaret Dalton is full of excitement as she arrives in Sydney to begin a new life in the warm, golden land of Australia. She leaves behind the horrors of WWI and can't wait to see her husband, Frank, after two years of separation.

But when Margaret's ship docks, Frank isn't there to greet her and Margaret is informed that he already has a wife . . .

Devastated, Margaret must make a new life for herself in this strange city, but she soon falls in love with its vibrant harbour, sweeping ocean and clean sea breezes. A growing friendship with army sergeant Tom McBride gives her a steady person to rely on. But just as Margaret and Tom begin to grow closer, news arrives that Frank may not have abandoned her. Will Margaret's life be thrown upside down once again? And where should her loyalties lie: with the old life or with the new?


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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, April 17, 2017

Murder on Location by Cathy Pegau

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: January 26, 2017

In the Alaska Territory, suffragette Charlotte Brody is a newspaper reporter in the frontier town of Cordova. She’s a woman ahead of her time living on the rugged edge of civilization—but right now the most dangerous element she faces may come from sunny California... An expedition has arrived in the frigid wilderness to shoot North to Fortune—an epic motion picture featuring authentic footage of majestic peaks, vast glaciers, homesteaders, and Alaska Natives. But the film’s fortunes begin to go south as a local Native group grows angry at how they’re portrayed in the movie, fights break out, and cast and crew are beset by accidents and assaults. Finally, production is halted when the inebriated director falls into a crevasse—and dies of exposure. Soon Michael Brody—the town coroner and Charlotte’s brother—starts to suspect that Mother Nature was not responsible for Stanley Welsh’s death. Charlotte, who’s been writing about all the Hollywood glamor, is suddenly covering a cold-blooded crime story—and as springtime storms keep the suspects snowed in, she has to make sure the truth doesn’t get buried...

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I gushed over Cathy Pegau’s Murder on the Last Frontier in 2015. The fresh plot, unique setting, and strong characters came together in the best possible way and left me eager for the second installment. Book two, Borrowing Death, came out in 2016 and while I enjoyed the mystery well-enough, I had difficulty appreciating what Pegau was trying to do with the series as a whole. I was hesitant about book three, but nostalgia for the original story won out which is how I found myself with ARC of Murder on Location.

Unfortunately, my experience with book three is very likely my last with the Charlotte Brody mysteries. I mean no offense to Pegau or the readers who enjoyed the book, but the magic I felt with book one is well and truly gone. The glitz and glamour of the latest installment failed to enchant my imagination or enchant my interest. The whole thing actually struck me as rather hokey and I was disappointed that I was able to correctly peg the perpetrator before Stanley Welsh breathed his last. The romance between Charlotte and James has grown stale in my eyes and while I liked learning more about Charlotte’s background, I can’t say the details made my effort to read the novel worthwhile.

I seem to be the exception as most readers found the narrative charming, but when push comes to shove I consider Murder on Location a light read and that’s just not where I am as a reader. I need something with more meat and depth to it and at this point feel I’d do better to satisfy those desires elsewhere.

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There was no absolute proof of foul play, and to insinuate as much would do two things she knew James would want to avoid: upsetting folks further and letting the possible murderer know he was on to him or her. She especially didn’t want to cause Cicely any more anguish. Having her father die was bad enough, but suggesting his death was intentional would be a whole new horror.
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Friday, April 14, 2017

Alan Lloyd: The Lost Generation by Isobel Charman

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

As a boy, Alan Lloyd could never have imagined the harsh realities of the war he would one day fight in. In this retelling of his story, using extracts from diaries and correspondence, including Alan’s letters to his wife from the front line, Isobel Charman has woven together the tale of a journey from privileged young man to officer fighting for his life and country in World War One. Descended from the Lloyds banking family, Alan grew up wanting for nothing. He studied at Cambridge, where his life revolved around rowing, cricket and planning his future. After university, he fell in love with Dorothy and set about forging a career in farming, but then, just as the couple were ready to settle down, war broke out. Against the wishes of his devout Quaker family, Alan joined the army. In July 1915 he left for France, where his life became one of guns, trenches, death and survival in the Great War. 

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I owe my interest in Isobel Charman's Alan Lloyd: The Lost Generation to Matthew McNulty, the actor who played Alan in ITV’s The Great War: The People's Story. The World War I docudrama covers the lives of several ordinary individuals as seen through their own diaries and letters, but something about the way McNulty played Alan stuck in my head and ultimately led to my discovery and purchase of Charman's biography.

Beginning with Alan's family background, the book chronicles the whole of Alan's life, but the heart of the story is his relationship with Dorothy and how it grew, changed, and was eventually defined by World War I. Lloyd's letters offer unique insight to the lifestyle of the well-to-do and his personalty draws the reader into both the emotional and physical experience of fighting in the trenches and while I'd have loved to see more of Dorothy's own letters to Alan, I couldn't help falling for the story of this young couple caught up in the turmoil of war.

At only one hundred twenty-nine pages, the narrative is not a long or drawn out affair and historically, I can't recommend Alan Lloyd: The Lost Generation as a particularly noteworthy, but there's something to be said for firsthand accounts and Alan's view of the world makes an engaging read beginning to end.

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We’re an old veteran crew, and we got a bad start and Leander got a bad start, but in the end they won and we’ll win and that’s all there is to it.
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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Cover Cliché: Unspoken Attraction

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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From the moment Rhoda Middleton opens one of her husband’s letters and finds it is from another woman, she is convinced he is having an affair. But when Rhoda tracks her down, she discovers the mysterious woman is not his lover after all, but the wife of his best friend, Archie Foster.

There is only one problem - Rhoda has never even heard of Archie Foster.

Devastated by this betrayal of trust, Rhoda tries to find out how and why her husband, Peter, has kept this friendship hidden for so long. Her search leads her back to 1945, but as she gradually uncovers Peter’s wartime secrets she must wrestle with painful memories of her own. For if they are ever to understand each other, Rhoda too must escape the ghosts of the past. Taking us on a journey from the atmospheric filming of Brief Encounter, to the extraordinary Great March of prisoners of war through snow-bound Germany, this is a novel of friendship, hope, and how in the end, it is the small things that enable love to survive.




A family's entire heritage is threatened by one woman's lies...

Pious and convent-bred, Lily Bruisson takes Twenties Paris by storm. Courted by two suitors, a Russian prince in exile, and a handsome American reporter, Lily chooses the prince. When disaster strikes Prince Mikhail Brasilov in the Thirties, he abandons his pretty wife and children for America.

As the threat from Germany grows, Lily’s world narrows to a fight for her life. A life that changes dramatically after her mother confesses a secret so deadly, it could ruin them all. Lily vows to hide the truth of her mother's past.

But secrets aren't meant to be kept, especially in a world of betrayal, when surviving the Occupation, and freedom from the Nazi Regime is as essential as the air they breathe.

Lily turns to America reporter Mark MacDonald to save herself and her family when everything points to their eminent demise... all due to her mother's past.







Set in 1931, Edith Horton is a former VAD who finds herself not only struggling with her inner demons, but with the presence of evil in her village in the Yorkshire Dales. Her brother is suspected of murdering an elderly wealthy widow, and sins of the past have echoes in her life and the lives of those close to her.







Gerda Nielsen is on her way from Brooklyn to Liverpool aboard the ill-fated Lusitania in 1915.

Jack Walsh is returning to England, ready to take up a post developing new types of portable field telephones to help the war effort. Unmarried, he’s keen to settle and as he and Gerda spend more and more time onboard together they realise that each has found someone very special.

But it’s the afternoon before they dock in Liverpool, and tragedy strikes. As the torpedoed ship lists to one side Jack and Gerda must make frightening decisions that become a matter of life or death …

A beautiful, romantic and moving tale based on a true story.


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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, April 10, 2017

No Man's Land by Simon Tolkien

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: September 2, 2016

From the slums of London to the riches of an Edwardian country house; from the hot, dark seams of a Yorkshire coalmine to the exposed terrors of the trenches, Adam Raine’s journey from boy to man is set against the backdrop of a society violently entering the modern world. Adam Raine is a boy cursed by misfortune. His impoverished childhood in the slums of Islington is brought to an end by a tragedy that sends him north to Scarsdale, a hard-living coalmining town where his father finds work as a union organizer. But it isn’t long before the escalating tensions between the miners and their employer, Sir John Scarsdale, explode with terrible consequences. In the aftermath, Adam meets Miriam, the Rector’s beautiful daughter, and moves into Scarsdale Hall, an opulent paradise compared with the life he has been used to before. But he makes an enemy of Sir John’s son, Brice, who subjects him to endless petty cruelties for daring to step above his station. When love and an Oxford education beckon, Adam feels that his life is finally starting to come together – until the outbreak of war threatens to tear everything apart.

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“Inspired by the real-life experiences of his grandfather, J.R.R. Tolkien, during World War I, Simon Tolkien delivers a perfectly rendered novel rife with class tension, period detail, and stirring action, ranging from the sharply divided society of northern England to the trenches of the Somme.”

I must have read that line three times before glancing at the rest of the description on Simon Tolkien’s No Man’s Land. I’m a World War junkie anyway, but Tolkien’s life is a brilliant story and I couldn’t resist the idea of seeing it brought to life by the iconic author’s own grandson. I’ll grant I was a little wary of the fact that Simon’s protagonist required a name change, but I was otherwise optimistic so I tracked down a copy and jumped in.

Unfortunately, the reality of what I discovered didn’t rise to the level of my admittedly inflated expectations. I mean no offense to either the author or the many readers who’ve praised his work, but No Man’s Land simply didn’t work for me. I’m in the minority here so feel free to throw my opinions to the wind, but I found both the pacing and prose insufferably dull and struggled with the harsh perspective afforded through inadvertent comparison to Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants.

I read the books only months apart and despite obvious differences in size and scope, there is a noticeable degree of overlapping plot between the two. I tried to disassociate and judge on individual merit, but when push comes to shove I have to admit that Follett is the stronger writer and that Tolkien’s approach to the same material left me wanting.

Is it fair to judge a book this way? Probably not. Will my admission ruffle feathers? There’s a chance. Do I care? Not a whit. I’ve great respect for the author’s ideas and intention, but I can’t see myself recommending No Man’s Land to fellow enthusiasts of either Tolkien’s subject or genre.

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“You can't win because of the guns," said Adam with a sigh. "Machine guns, mortars, field guns, howitzers: it doesn't matter how much courage soldiers have, how much will; flesh and blood can't pass through bullets and shells, or at least not in sufficient numbers to have any effect. The guns win in the end and they always will. Not us, not the Germans - the guns.” 
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Friday, March 24, 2017

The Opium-Eater by David Morrell

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: October 21, 2016

Thomas De Quincey--the central character of Morrell's acclaimed Victorian mysteries, Murder as a Fine Art and Inspector of the Dead--was one of the most notorious and brilliant literary personalities of the 1800s. His infamous Confessions of an English Opium-Eater made history as the first book about drug dependency. He invented the word "subconscious" and anticipated Freud's psychoanalytic theories by more than a half century. His blood-soaked essays and stories influenced Edgar Allan Poe, who in turn inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to create Sherlock Holmes. But at the core of his literary success lies a terrible tragedy. In this special-edition novella, based on real-life events, Morrell shares De Quincey's story of a horrific snowstorm in which a mother and father died and their six children were trapped in the mountains of England's Lake District. Even more gripping is what happened after. This is the true tale of how Thomas De Quincey became the Opium-Eater, brought to life by award-winning storyteller David Morrell.

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David Morrell's Thomas De Quincey series is one of my favorites. Murder as a Fine Art and Inspector of the Dead blew me away, but I didn't realize the series included a novella until I went looking for book three, Ruler of the Night. I'm not sure how I missed the publication of The Opium-Eater, but I couldn't resist snagging a copy for my personal library.

At only sixty-seven pages, the piece is hardly intimidating, but the content itself is nothing short of brilliant. Those new to the series get a taste of the style and tone of the larger volumes, while established fans get to satisfy their curiosity by learning what makes Thomas De Quincey tick. 

Dark and emotional, The Opium-Eater packs a powerful punch and fleshes out Morrell's enigmatic antihero. Complete with photos, the volume also gives singular insight to the world De Quincey knew and memories he couldn't escape. 

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“There’s no such thing as forgetting, but perhaps I can force wretched memories into submission if I confront them.”
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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Boy of My Heart by Marie Leighton

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Open Library
Read: August 10, 2016

A mother's remembrances of the son she lost in WWI. Published anonymously, Boy of My Heart was penned by prolific romance novelist Marie Connor Leighton after the death of her son Roland Leighton, the British poet and soldier portrayed in Vera Brittan's best seller Testament of Youth.

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Roland Leighton
My taste in movies mirrors my taste in literature so it should come as no surprise that when I manage to catch a film, it's inevitably a period piece. In this case, the film was Testament of Youth and since I couldn't get my hands on a copy of Vera Brittain's memoir, I settled for Boy of My Heart by Marie Leighton.

Written after the death of Leighton's beloved son, the book is an intensely sentimental tribute that can only be described as over-the-top. The style and tone are in keeping with the trends of the day, but to modern eyes the verbiage is excessively flowery and overdone. I understand the emotion behind it, but I personally had trouble staying engaged in the text.

I wouldn't say the book much genuine detail about Roland, but it does offer interesting insight to his mother and the grief experienced by a generation of parents who watched the war take their children before their time.

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"But is he wholly mine? Is there there somebody else who wants him even though he is hardly more than a boy? There floats before my eyes the vision of a girl: a small, delicate-faced creature with amethystine eyes, who is dreaming dreams that have got him for their centre. What a forcing power for sex this war has been, and is!"
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