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Beside a Burning Sea by John Shors

Beside a Burning Sea (2008)

by John Shors

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This novel takes place during World War II in the Pacific. When the hospital ship Benevolence is torpedoed by the Japanese near the Solomon Islands, only nine people survive by swimming to a nearby uninhabited island. The captain of the ship, Joshua, is devastated over the loss of so many. Isabelle is married to the captain and she and her sister, Annie, also survive. Annie is recovering from a bout of malaria and is saved and brought to shore by Akira, a Japanese prisoner. Akira is haunted by his failure to prevent a young girl from being raped and killed by Japanese soldiers earlier in the war. Over the next few days, he and Annie are drawn to each other and begin to fall in love. The story takes place over an 18 day period where they are waiting to be rescued.

The book focuses on three main relationships: the changing marital dynamics of Isabelle and Joshua, the growing relationship between Annie and Akira, and the friendship between Big Jake and Ratu, an African American engineer and a young Fijian stowaway. There's secondary drama with the three remaining characters as well. One of the nine will turn out to be a traitor who intends to kill everyone once the Japanese land on the island.

This book seems to get diverse reviews but I really liked it. Many of the conversations were boring and there was a lack of character development but I couldn't wait to find out what as going to happen. One of my favorite parts of the book was that each chapter begins with a beautiful haiku written by Akira. I plan to read John Shors debut novel, Beneath a Marble Sky, very soon. ( )
  Olivermagnus | Dec 14, 2016 |
Anyone who believes that men can't write romance really need to reads John Shors! The relationship between Akira and Annie is simply perfection, romance-wise, for me. They balance each other out, complete each other. They're gentle and sweet with each other and just beautiful in their expression of their love. The obligatory sex scene was even beautiful and sweet rather than out-right passionate. Then there's the added bonus of it being a forbidden love scenario (my favorite kind!) and you've got a fantastic novel, romance-wise.

The writer also never leaves his readers unbalanced when it comes to story-flow. The narrative is equally balanced with fast-paced action and relaxing downtime on a paradise island. There never was a spot where I had to slog through pages and pages of descriptive dialogue with no redeeming factor to save it. Nor was there so much happening action wise that my head was left spinning. Very nicely balanced.

There are a few instances of stereotypical characterization, too little characterization on secondary characters, and a antagonist that I felt was revealed far too soon. I also had to raise my eyebrow at who some of the survivors were (thinking husband and wife here). Seemed a bit too lucky for me... But at the end of the day, these minor irritants were enough for me to mark this book down further than one star off.

This book was a lovely novel of romance and survival in the South Pacific. I enjoyed the story and the relationship between Akira and Annie. A few things made me grit my teeth a bit, but really, not that big of a deal. I would definitely recommend this novel if you're looking for a good WWII story set in the Pacific. ( )
  Sarah_Gruwell | Jan 12, 2016 |
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 |
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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
For my family - Allison, thank you for the gift of always believing. I love you. Sophie and Jack, nothing else compares.
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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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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:50 -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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