Beside a Burning Sea


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On the face of it, this one is a pretty predictable story of a small group of survivors from a bombed WW2 US hospital ship, who find their way to an island and await rescue by the American military, or discovery by the Japanese. However, it's the richness with which the author draws his characters, and their relationships with one another, that ultimately makes this novel a real shining star! I really felt like I knew - and was invested in the wellbeing of - each character, and how and why they related to each other in the way they did.

The group also includes an American playing both sides of the war as a spy for the Japanese , a young Fijian stowaway, and an American officer who bonds with him. As you can probably tell, things get complicated very quickly.. Along the way, the reader is treated to a luscious, sumptuous escape on a South Pacific island! One thing I did not like was the attention paid to the spy 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. Jul 05, Sally rated it really liked it Shelves: historical-fiction. Interesting book. I couldn't help reading this book because of the concept of a Hospital ship carrying war supplies.

The book is a fun, light, summer read. View all 3 comments. Oct 10, Reddwhine rated it it was ok Shelves: for-my-book-club. In the end I found myself wishing the Japanese would storm the beach, kill everybody and put me out of my misery. The plot could have been so interesting had it been written by somebody that can actually write. It was much too wordy with inane dialogue between all of these cast-aways. The characters weren't particularly likable, and there were too many stereotypes, coincidences and contrivances. I found myself skipping big chunks of it just to get the story to move along.

The captain, Joshua dro In the end I found myself wishing the Japanese would storm the beach, kill everybody and put me out of my misery. The captain, Joshua drove me crazy with his angsty second guessing of everything he did. We read this for our book club and for once I wasn't the only one who couldn't wait to be finished with this book.

Jul 20, Kari Gritzan rated it it was amazing. This is such a beatifully told story. The characters are all so fully realized, I can't believe the book is not longer. You really come to care about the folks stuck on this island. It's a great read for history buffs, but also for anyone who likes a good adventure tale. Very suspensful, but so poetically done. I'm sorry I'm not better at writing reviews I really enjoyed Shors' previous book about the Taj mahal, and this one confirmed that he's an author to keep reading.

I can't wait for his n This is such a beatifully told story. I can't wait for his next book! Hope I win one here, but I've pre-ordered it anyway. Sep 20, Deborah rated it it was amazing. John Shors has done it again! His novel, Beneath a Marble Sky was a wonderful, historical read. Beneath a Burning Sea is much the same. Once I began reading, I don't want to put it down. The characters are well developed and the story is intriguing! Oct 19, Liz rated it did not like it. I loved Beneath a Marble Sky, so I was really looking forward to reading this and was sorely disappointed.

Repetition and head-hopping jerked me out of the story at far too many points. It seems as if this is a second or third draft of what would have been an excellent tale, had it been edited properly. Jun 11, Joan rated it it was amazing Shelves: a-z , all-time-favs.

Beside a Burning Sea

Thought provoking. Beautifully written, the right amount of everything make this book a must read. It was a pleasure to read and enjoy. Just a wonderful story and characters-except Roger. Aug 16, Victoria rated it it was amazing. Excellent storyline and beautifully written! Definitely wanna have tissues handy.

Jun 24, Sara rated it did not like it Shelves: audio-book , historical-fiction , wwii , Jan 29, Louise rated it it was amazing Shelves: historical-fiction. The ship held five-hundred beds which were full of soldiers who suffered injuries and psychiatric disorders. The smell was unbearable from the unclean bodies, disinfectants, bleach and burnt flesh. In total, there were five-hund The novel opens in September of in the Solomon Islands where the ship Benevolence, a U.

In total, there were five-hundred and sixteen people on board. Luckily both Annie and Isabelle made it, thanks to a soldier named Akira, who was a Japanese soldier and their prisoner who swam with Annie on his back when she became too tired and weak to continue on. She was still recovering from a bout with malaria. Akira was severely injured and his stitches had come loose during the arduous swim and the amount of blood he lost almost killed him. The Captain then began distributing orders to rescue items that may of use that dotted the shoreline of the island and quickly began to make shelters.

Throughout the rest of the story they learn to catch fish to cook for meals along with the many mangos and bananas that the jungle behind the shore held. As the days pass by they are ever vigilant in looking out to sea with binoculars looking for Japanese war-ships or Americans to save them. If they were to see Japanese war ships it would make their current environment very dangerous which led the Captain to begin scouting the island for an alternate shelter. In the pages I was literally bawling my eyes out.

This story goes from excellent to outstanding to brilliant!! John Shors has once again penned an incredible novel whose characters will stay with you for a long time to come. I know for me, Ratu and Big Jake will forever remain in my memory and everything Japanese will remind me of Haiku. Jan 21, Zeek rated it liked it Shelves: hist-fiction , fiction , wwii. A historical, set during the most strategic time of WW2 in the pacific theater, BABS is a gripping story of a group of mostly strangers stranded on an obscure island in the pacific after the hospital ship Benevolence is attacked and sunk to the bottom of the ocean.

In the heat of battle, two sisters stationed as nurses on the Benevolence are l I loved Shors's debut novel Beneath a Marble Sky and though I can't say I fell for his second endeavor, Beside a Burning Sea, quite as hard, I did enjoy it. In the heat of battle, two sisters stationed as nurses on the Benevolence are led to safety by a Japanese soldier who had been under their care during the time of the attack.

Stalwart Isabelle is sure her husband, the captain of the Benevolence, is lost with all the hundreds of others who didn't make it off the ship in time, but she has her sister to think of and it's that which drives her through the cruel sea. Annie never had the strength of her sister and almost doesn't survive the arduous swim to safety, but the mysterious man who some would call their enemy aids her even though weak and wounded himself. When they reach the island, they are relieved to find they are not the only survivors of the wreckage and Isabelle's husband is among them.

The captain knows he must keep the survivors safe even though he's sure they've landed on a key island to both the Japanese and American fronts, but his guilt over the fate of his ship gnaws at his soul. Suddenly, in the midst of all the turmoil, bittersweet hope arises when Isabelle reveals she's pregnant and Annie and the noble Akira, the man who saved her, fall in love against all odds. But unbeknowst to all, there is a betrayer among them and his treacherous ways takes on a psychotic edge as he menaces the rag tag group throughout their time on the island.

Will they survive the harrowing days til rescuers arrive or will the evil of one man overtake them all? The theme of this story is as old as The Tempest by William Shakespeare, which it bears a resemblance too, and feels a bit done before. But Shors does a fine job of adding perilous tension and poignant moments of humanity to keep the pages turning.

Although I don't consider it a stellar second outing by John Shors, it is a good enough read to get a 3. Mar 06, Claire rated it really liked it. The survivors wash up on one of the deserted Soloman Islands and each chapter represents one of the eighteen days on the island.

Audio Editions

The novel opens aboard the ship, where nurses and sisters Isabelle and Annie are dressing the wounds of Japanese soldier Akira. They are discussing Isabelles husband Joshua, the ships captain, when the explosion occurs. Unbeknownst to the nurses, Akira can speak English and acts quicky to save the womens lives. We also meet Roger, a key character and the catalyst of the story.

Some of the best moments of the book come when we gain an insight into his difficult past and his motivation for his devastating actions. There is romance courtesy of Annie and Akira embarking on their seemingly doomed love affair, and Isabelle and Joshua rekindling their dwindling romance. But by far the most touching and affecting relationship in my opinion was between Jake, a kind and gentle man, and Ratu, a young stowaway who boarded the ship when it docked in his homeland Fiji.

Jake is Ratu's protector and feels as strongly for him as he would for his own boy, taking on him on an emotional journey he never expected to experience. The impending sense of doom hanging over the characters seems to compel them to open up and face their true feelings and desires in light of their possible untimely death.

Akira, in my opinion, is the most interesting and well written character. The writer gives us an insight into his past, which still haunts him and causes him to reconsider his loyalties and values. So much so that he resigns himself to having to lay down his life to protect Annie. It is clear the writer isn't concerned with the politics of war, but rather the effect of those caught up in it. The book could have been set on any island and during any conflict and the message would remain.


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The human spirit remains. Jul 11, MaryPat rated it really liked it. This is a very good read. I like stories centered around WWII but this story didn't feel like a war story. I also liked the South Pacific setting bc so many stories about the war are set in Europe. Most people don't even realize or they forget that a war was going on in Asia. Shors has a great talent for being a gifted storyteller. He is able to describe places so beautifully you really can s While I liked this book very much, I am glad I did not read it right after reading Beneath a Marble Sky.

He is able to describe places so beautifully you really can see them. It was like watching a movie in my mind. There was suspense, love, revenge. How convenient! But this didn't stop me from enjoying the story. The ending was a bit of a stretch for me too. I've read enough non fiction to know there are survivors of war through the most unlikely circumstances Unbroken for one but Annie jumping out of the lifeboat to go back for Akira was corny.

And then the remaining survivors going back to get Annie May 16, Nancygoodman rated it really liked it. I enjoyed reading this historical novel, Beside a Burning Sea. I learned a bit more about WWII history but I really enjoyed the interaction and love development between the survivors of the medical hospital ship, the Benevolence, which was attacked and sunk by the Japanese. There were three relationships well-deveoped by the author, One was between Ratu, a young Philipino stow-away who was in search of his father who was away at war aiding the Americans and an black American soldier who took R I enjoyed reading this historical novel, Beside a Burning Sea.

There were three relationships well-deveoped by the author, One was between Ratu, a young Philipino stow-away who was in search of his father who was away at war aiding the Americans and an black American soldier who took Ratu under his wing. The second was a budding love affair between an insecure American nurse named Annie and a captured Japanese soldier, Akira, who had been in the care of the hospital ship.

The third was between the captain of the ship, who was burdened with guilt that so many of his men died in the sinking of his ship and hsi wife who was a nurse consumed with her duties in caring for the American and Japanese patients. My husband has always enjoyed Haiku so I was intrigued by the Haiku that Akira taught Annie and which started each new chapter of the book This book also reminded me that the men fighting any war are not so different from their enemies.

Some have families that they have been torn from. Some have no desire to be fighting a war. Some are angry and happy to strikeout at most anyone. But most are soldiers doing their jobs. Dec 09, JQ rated it did not like it Recommends it for: nobody. I wish there were negative stars to rate the books, that's how much I disliked this book.

Truly awful writing. I do not understand the heaps of praise given to this book on the cover, etc. Do they not use editors anymore? This book could have used one, or two. The dialogue was atrocious to the point of being unintentionally hilarious. I also think that an author should know the difference between "affect" and "effect"; apparently this one does not. I only finished this book because I wanted to I wish there were negative stars to rate the books, that's how much I disliked this book.

Beside a Burning Sea

I only finished this book because I wanted to make my goal for ; otherwise, I would have abandoned it after the 2nd chapter. He had a good idea, and in the hands of a more skilled author this book could have been so much better aside from the utterly implausible love story. This is the second book of John Shors that I've read. If there is one thing that I can say about them, it is that they were written with the intention to show that goodness abounds.

Nothing fanciful, nothing extreme, but endearing, and heartwarming, and emotional, and suspenseful all the same. It's a fictional account of people during a very important historic event, and so the familiarity, This is the second book of John Shors that I've read. It's a fictional account of people during a very important historic event, and so the familiarity, the almost natural tendency to get attached to the story.

For its simplicity, and even more for its message, this book is in my list of good reads.

Beside a Burning Sea by John Shors

Oct 14, Pamela Pickering rated it it was ok Shelves: war , abandoned. Incredibly average. For me no surprises or anything to make me really think. The dialogue did not seem realistic and apparently the author has never watched an episode of Survivor since his castaways were faring extremely well. Not bad enough to give it one star though, I made it through pages or so before I just lost interest and skipped ahead to read the last 15 pages or so something I NEVER do anymore.

Aug 28, Susie rated it really liked it Shelves: books-in-my-personal-library. I really liked this book. I enjoyed the charactors. The villian was villiany in all the right spots and the lovers were lovey in all the right spots if not a little too sugary sweet. This story of the castaways in WWII was a good easy read. I do have to say that this authors first book, Beneath a Marble Sky, captivated me more though. Sep 15, Tonya rated it it was amazing Shelves: reads.

This book isn't my normal kind of read. However, it sounded intriguing so I thought what the heck. It got my attention in the first 5 pages and didn't let go. Of course there are such different ranges of characters. And sometimes it takes a great deal of willpower to try and focus on rereading my novel for, say, the twentieth time.

Poetry plays a prominent role in Beside a Burning Sea. Why did you decide to add this element to your novel? I hope readers enjoy these musings. Additionally, I felt that poetry—or a love of such inward exploration—was a thread that could be used to connect Annie and Akira. How much of your success do you attribute to the book club program that you launched with your first novel? Publishing is an extremely competitive industry.

The fact that Beneath a Marble Sky is available in fifteen languages and is selling briskly throughout much of the world is due in large part to all of the wonderful book clubs that I spoke with. These clubs as well as individual readers, of course have been tremendously supportive of me, and have really championed my novel. Discuss the significance of the title Beside a Burning Sea.

Additionally, the original title was The Poet Makers. Which title do you prefer? Is this a novel that would lend itself well to the silver screen? If so, who would you imagine playing the various characters? Of the three main relationships in the novel Annie and Akira, Isabelle and Joshua, Ratu and Jake , which did you most enjoy? For what reasons? Set in modern-day Vietnam, In the Footsteps of Dragons tells the tale of two Americans who, as a way of healing their own painful pasts, open a center to support and educate Vietnamese street children.

Learning from the poorest of the poor, the most silent of the unheard, the Americans find themselves reborn in an exotic land filled with corruption and chaos, sacrifice and beauty. Resounding with powerful themes of suffering, love, and redemption, In the Footsteps of Dragons brings together East and West, war and peace, and celebrates the resilience of the human spirit.

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