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Beside a Burning Sea by John Shors
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Beside a Burning Sea (2008)

by John Shors

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This was my first john Shors book and I found it quite good. I was a little predictable, but the story was well written and enjoyable. ( )
  zmagic69 | Jun 4, 2013 |
Absolutely loved this book! I really like Shors' writing. Am anxious to read Beneath a Marble Sky. ( )
  GrannyNanny | Mar 20, 2012 |
Another beautifully written book by John Shors about redemption, realization and unlikely love. Set on an Island in the Pacific, survivors of a torpedoed ship must band together to survive against the one who betrayed them. ( )
  winecat | Mar 11, 2011 |
If I were to describe the perfect story for me, [Beside A Burning Sea] by John Shors would be a very close fit. Set in 1942 the hospital ship Benevolence is torpedoed and nine survivors make their way to a deserted South Pacific island.

A story of survival and redemption. These people struggle against the elements, their fear of discovery by the Japanese and even against each other. Unbeknownst to them, one of them is a traitor, he betrayed their ship and now is about to reveal their location to the Japanese. More than this, he is a true psychopath eagerly anticipating the damage he will do, the terror he will inflict. The survivors are a mixed crowd, three nurses, the ship’s captain, two naval officers, an ship’s mechanic, a young stowaway and a Japanese prisoner of war. Many of these people have conflicts within themselves and how they bond together and help each other survive makes for a wonderful story.

Each chapter is the equivalent of a day and as we are drawn deeper into the story the suspense rises. I literally couldn’t put the book down, I had to know how it would end. Not a perfect book but I found myself willing to overlook some minor flaws and simply savour the story. This was so much more than a simple action story, the characters are well developed, the writing extremely lyrical and the story telling rich and varied. Like the haiku that start each chapter, this book is a small gem. ( )
9 vote DeltaQueen50 | Mar 5, 2011 |
From Hilary Hatton at Booklist:
It’s the fall of 1942, and the U.S. hospital ship Benevolence is cruising the waters of the South Pacific when it is torpedoed by the Japanese. Only nine people survive, and they eventually wash up on an island: the captain Joshua, and his wife, Isabelle, a nurse; Isabelle’s sister Annie and a woman named Scarlet, both nurses; Ratu, a teenage Fijian stowaway; Jake, a black engineer; Nathan and Roger, two officers; and Akira, a wounded Japanese soldier.

Okay, first of all, let’s look at the survivors of this accident. One: the captain of the ship. The captain. Don’t they go down with their ships anymore? Two: three nurses. One just happens to be the captain’s wife. The captain’s wife, even though they were not together on the ship at the time of the torpedoing. What are the odds?

The next nurse just happens to be Annie, the captain’s wife’s sister. The captain’s wife’s s….you get the idea. )The third nurse is a “throwaway”: the character that can be killed off by the danger that stalks them all.)

While it is only a matter of time before Japanese naval forces reach the island, the more immediate danger is Roger, who is a ship’s officer, but also a spy for the Japanese. It’s Roger who tipped the Japanese that, unbeknownst to the captain, the hospital ship was carrying ammunition and other supplies of war.

Roger is drawn as a mentally unstable, sadistic, misogynistic, and overly proud man. No explanation is needed: after all, he’s the traitor.

The captain Joshua, the engineer Jake (the token black, who just happens to be the one who had befriended the ship’s stowaway – who also survived) and the other officer Nathan are, of course, kind, helpful, chivalrous, co-operative and generally nice guys. No explanation is needed: after all, they’re Americans.

Then there’s Akira, a wounded Japanese soldier who was on the ship because the rules of war were that hospitals treat all wounded, regardless of nationality. Because Akira’s Japanese, the author spends the entire book explaining and justifying how it is possible that he might be human; a decent and kind human who is in love with Annie. (And how Annie could possibly love him.)

The Japanese who land on the island are all wicked, wicked. The Americans who come and bomb and kill the Japanese are heroes. Are we twelve years old?

Beside a Burning Sea is a romance and, really, I shouldn’t have been venturing into this territory. I have no patience with such juvenile characterization and plot coincidences. The roster of survivors reminded me of a (quite bad) story that I wrote for a seventh grade English composition.

If that’s romance literature and you enjoy it, then have yourself a read. But this is nowhere near being literature. I know I sound like a book snob when I say that, but I find that as I get older and realize that my time to read is running out, I want to read solid fiction (and my snackies of cozy murder mysteries). If I’m going to read romance, at least let it be disguised in a half-decently written story (such as The Diplomat’s Wife.) ( )
  ParadisePorch | Jan 11, 2011 |
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Epigraph
Through the misery of war, love is loss and love is found. Like all things of green and flesh, Love dies when republics collide. Yet amid the wreckage of minds and memories, Love can quickly emerge, As if a fresh rain that tries to wipe clean a field of battle. - Anonymous
Dedication
For my family - Allison, thank you for the gift of always believing. I love you. Sophie and Jack, nothing else compares.
First words
Ten minutes before a torpedo sliced through the sea and slammed into steel, most everything was normal aboard the U.S. hospital ship, Benevolence.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451224922, Paperback)

From the author of Beneath a Marble Sky comes an inspiring new novel of a man and a woman from different worlds whose love is put to the ultimate test as they struggle to survive an extraordinary set of circumstances.

View our feature on John Shors' Beside a Burning Sea.

One moment, the World War II hospital ship Benevolence is patrolling the South Pacific on a mission of mercy—to save wounded American soldiers. The next, Benevolence is split in two by a torpedo, killing almost everyone on board. A small band of survivors, including an injured Japanese soldier and a young American nurse whom he saves from drowning, makes it to the deserted shore of a nearby island.

Akira has suffered five years of bloodshed and horror fighting for the Japanese empire. Now, surrounded by enemies he is supposed to hate, he instead finds solace in their company—and rediscovers his love of poetry. While sharing the mystery and beauty of this passion with Annie, the captivating but tormented woman he rescued, Akira grapples with the pain of his past while helping Annie uncover the promise of her future. Meanwhile, the remaining castaways endure a world not of their making—a world as barbaric as it is beautiful, as hateful as it is loving.

With the blend of epic storytelling and emotional intensity that distinguishes him as a unique talent, John Shors reveals a powerful story of redemption focusing on unlikely lovers, heroes and villains, and war-torn countries—all, in their own ways, fighting to survive.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:51:34 -0400)

One moment, the World War II hospital ship Benevolence was cruising through the Pacific. In the next, she was engulfed in chaos, split in two by a torpedo. A small group of survivors makes it to the deserted shore of a nearby island, including a wounded Japanese soldier who saved a young nurse from death. Akira has spent five years engulfed in blood and horror. Now, surrounded by those he is supposed to hate, he instead finds solace in their company. Sharing the mystery and beauty of his favorite poems with the beautiful American woman he has rescued, he watches as the others confront their own passions and demons. Meanwhile, a secret held by one of the castaways may determine whether any of them will ever see their homelands again.… (more)

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