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