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Review – Beside a Burning Sea by John Shors


Beside a Burning Sea
by John Shors
Published September 2008
419 pages

Beside a Burning Sea by John Shors takes place in 1942 near the Solomon Islands. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor less than one year ago, and the United States is embroiled in war. On a U.S. hospital ship are 9 men and women who will survive the bombing of the ship and swim to a nearby island to wait for their rescue. One of the survivors is the person who sabotaged the ship, and the other people don’t find out until it’s almost too late.

Here’s your cast of characters:

  • Joshua and Isabelle – married, but separated for all intents and purposes. Joshua was the captain of the ship and Isabelle is a nurse.
  • Annie – Isabelle’s single sister who is a nurse.
  • Roger – the trucculent American who can’t get along with anyone and has definite anger issues.
  • Akira – the Japanese soldier who’d been injured and was being cared for on the American hospital ship. He used to be a professor but was forced to join the Army.
  • Ratu – a young Fijian boy who ends up bonding with Jake.
  • Jake – nicknamed Big Jake, is an engineer who previously was a farmer. He takes Ratu under his wing.
  • Scarlet – a nurse.
  • Nathan – an officer in the war.

The friendships and love that are forged during the 18 days they spend waiting to be rescued are heartwarming and moving. But what’s even better is that there’s the traitor in their midst, so while you watch Jake and Ratu forge a beautiful relationship, your heart is pounding as you wonder if they’ll even make it off the island alive, since the traitor intends to kill everyone when the Japanese arrive.

This was an almost-perfect book for me. I loved the character development and watching the group do their best to survive on the island. I loved the suspense of wondering when the group would figure out who the traitor was and how far the traitor’s plans would progress until he was thwarted.

Unfortunately for you, dear reader, I don’t really have any criticisms of Beside a Burning Sea! I hate to give you all good and no bad, because I think a mention of what *didn’t* work in a book is necessary, but I have no complaints!

I’m hesitant to tell you this book reminded me of Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, which I personally thought was fabulous, but I know many didn’t like Bel Canto and I would hate for you not to read Beside a Burning Sea just because you didn’t like Bel Canto (I’m looking at you, Lisa!).

Bottom line: this will be one of my favorite books of the year. After reading Beside a Burning Sea, I’m chomping at the bit to read Beneath a Marble Sky and the author’s newest book, Dragon House, which will be released on September 1, 2009.

Buy the book today! Buy the book from Powell’s | Buy the book from Amazon

Rating: 96 out of 100

| Tags: , , , , , 25 comments »

25 Responses to “Review – Beside a Burning Sea by John Shors”

  1. Marg

    I have seen such mixed reports of this authors writing. Glad you enjoyed it though.


  2. Meghan

    I really enjoyed Beneath a Marble Sky (although it had some faults) but haven’t managed to acquire this book yet. I’m glad to hear it was like Bel Canto because I loved that one!


  3. Diane

    I have this book too, and have read wonderful reviews; he has a new book out soon. glad u enjoyed this one.


  4. Jenny

    Great review! Definitely adding it to the list. (Of course, I will read the end immediately to find out who the traitor is…)


  5. Beth F

    Super review. I’ll have to add this one to my list.


  6. Kathy

    All I can say is Wow! That book sounds fantastic!


  7. jennsbookshelf

    This book sounds amazing. I have to admit I hadn’t heard of it until your review. I’m adding it to my wish list!


  8. Ti

    I’ve not heard of this one (or the author) prior to your review. I like the “traitor” aspect of the story. Sort of ramps it up a bit. As I was reading your review it reminded me of this movie:,_Mr._Allison

    I love the movie BTW.


  9. claire

    This sounds like my kind of book. Have never heard of it before but definitely adding to my wishlist. Bel Canto is on my wishlist as well, for a long time now, will maybe read that first before this. Thanks for the glowing review!


  10. Kiki

    Oh, yes, this is a good one–I definitely enjoyed it. And I have Marble Sky on the pile, as well.

    I loved Bel Canto–what an incredibly perfect book.


  11. zibilee

    I like John Shors and will be checking out this book due to your really positive review, thanks!


  12. Alyce

    I’m glad to hear that you like this one so much. I own Beneath a Marble Sky, but it is one of the many books on my shelf waiting to be read.


  13. Carrie K.

    I was tempted to add this one to my wish list on cover art alone – and then I read your review. Definitely going on the list!


  14. softdrink

    Lisa is not alone in her dislike of Bel Canto. Although, to be honest, I never finished the book. But I tried twice!


  15. Darlene

    I’m glad to hear you liked this one so much. It’s on my shelf along with Beneath a Marble Sky. Great review by the way!


  16. Melissa - Shhh I'm Reading

    I’ve heard great things about Beneath a Marble Sky and have Dragon House to get to soon. I’m not crazy about the comparison to Bel Canto, though. That was one book I almost didn’t finish…


  17. chartroose

    I haven’t read Bel Canto yet, so I’ll try this first!


  18. J. Kaye

    Your blog was mentioned as A Book Blogger’s New Discovery by Debbie’s World of Books.

    I’m already a fan and can see why your blog is considered a special discovery!


  19. Anna

    I’ve had my eye on this one, so I’m glad you loved it. Would it be okay to link to your review on War Through the Generations?


  20. Teddy

    Great review! I LOVED Beneath a Marble Sky and have this one on my TBR.


  21. jennygirl

    first off that cover is gorgeous.
    A very different kind of story. I’ll have to add it to my TBR. Thanks 🙂


  22. The Sunday Salon « Regular Rumination

    […] think I even read the back.  I liked the title and I thought the cover was gorgeous.  Thankfully, Trish from Hey Lady!  has posted a positive review.  I’m looking forward to reading this one now […]

  23. Kirsten

    I picked this up the other day without knowing anything about it and the first page sold me; I’m so glad to see such a high rating on your review!
    When I’ve finished it, I’ll schedule a discussion on my blog; probably late this summer or in early fall I’ll search for other bloggers who have read it and invite you all to participate. I hope you’ll consider joining in!


  24. 3m

    Glad you liked this. I really enjoyed Beneath a Marble Sky, so I’ve been wondering about this one.


  25. b*babbler

    Was peeking through your list of books read this year, and saw you enjoyed this one. I thought this was a terrific book – even better than Bel Canto, and felt it didn’t get nearly enough recognition. It’s so nice to see someone else who thought it was the gem that I did.

    Now I feel like going back and reading it again!


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