Book of the Week | The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton

TITLE: The Last Train to London

AUTHOR: Meg Waite Clayton

PUBLISHER: Harper Collins

RELEASE DATE: September 10, 2019

GENRE: Historical Fiction

BUY LINKS: INDIEBOUND | B&N

The New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Exiles conjures her best novel yet, a pre-World War II-era story with the emotional resonance of Orphan Train and All the Light We Cannot See, centering on the Kindertransports that carried thousands of children out of Nazi-occupied Europe—and one brave woman who helped them escape to safety.

In 1936, the Nazi are little more than loud, brutish bores to fifteen-year old Stephan Neuman, the son of a wealthy and influential Jewish family and budding playwright whose playground extends from Vienna’s streets to its intricate underground tunnels. Stephan’s best friend and companion is the brilliant Žofie-Helene, a Christian girl whose mother edits a progressive, anti-Nazi newspaper. But the two adolescents’ carefree innocence is shattered when the Nazis’ take control.

There is hope in the darkness, though. Truus Wijsmuller, a member of the Dutch resistance, risks her life smuggling Jewish children out of Nazi Germany to the nations that will take them. It is a mission that becomes even more dangerous after the Anschluss—Hitler’s annexation of Austria—as, across Europe, countries close their borders to the growing number of refugees desperate to escape.

Tante Truus, as she is known, is determined to save as many children as she can. After Britain passes a measure to take in at-risk child refugees from the German Reich, she dares to approach Adolf Eichmann, the man who would later help devise the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question,” in a race against time to bring children like Stephan, his young brother Walter, and Žofie-Helene on a perilous journey to an uncertain future abroad. (Description from NetGalley.com) 

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Book of the Week | Home: A Memoir of My Early Years by Julie Andrews

TITLE: Home: A Memoir of My Early Years

AUTHOR: Julie Andrews

PUBLISHER: Hachette Books

RELEASE DATE: January 1, 2008

GENRE: Nonfiction, Memoir

BUY LINKS: AMAZON | B&N

–People “Painfully shrewd, and written with real delicacy and pathos.”


–The New York Times Book Review “Home reflects the very qualities that first made the working-class English singer a star 45 years ago: intelligence, gentle humor, and a clear, sweet, surprisingly powerful voice . . . In warmly nostalgic later chapters, the book begins to glow.”


–Entertainment Weekly “A delightful remembrance of her own childhood, and an engrossing prelude to her cinematic career . . . Andrews is an accomplished writer who holds back nothing while adding a patina of poetry to the antics and anecdotes throughout this memoir of bittersweet backstage encounters and theatrical triumphs.”


–Publishers Weekly (starred review) “Frank and fascinating . . . Andrews comes across as plainspoken, guilelessly charming and resoundingly tough.”


–Time In Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, Julie Andrews takes her readers on a warm, moving, and often humorous journey from a difficult upbringing in war-torn Britain to the brink of international stardom in America. (Description from Goodreads) 

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Book of the Week | In Love and War by Chris McClelland

TITLE: In Love and War

AUTHOR: Chris McClelland

PUBLISHER: BooksGoSocial

RELEASE DATE: September 10, 2016

GENRE: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

BUY LINKS: AMAZON

A debut drama, set before and during World War II, which explores the distinction between friend and foe.

Mack McInnis meets Inga Kaufener in Florida in 1933, when they’re both 10 years old, and their friendship blossoms into romance in their senior year of high school. Inga’s German family had moved to America to escape the consequences of Hitler’s rise to power, but as the possibility of war between Germany and the United States becomes increasingly likely, she encounters scorn and distrust from her peers.

In 1941, when American involvement in the war seems inevitable, Inga’s father, Juergen, discovers that he’s suspected of being a German spy. He decides to move his family back to their homeland in order to ensure their safety. In Inga’s absence, heartsick Mack listlessly sleepwalks through his college experience, finally dropping out to retreat to a cabin in the woods and suffer in solitude.

When he’s drafted, he insists on not fighting Germans, but because he has experience piloting crop dusters, he’s assigned to a B-17 that’s tasked with bombing German sites—including Weimar, where he knows that Inga currently lives. Meanwhile, Inga realizes that she’s pregnant with Mack’s child and marries a local boy in order to save her family from dishonor. Even though her brother was conscripted to fight in the German military, she secretly works for the resistance movement opposing Adolf Hitler.

Author McClelland deftly follows several characters whose lives are involuntarily turned upside down by war and who are compelled to fight. He provocatively raises profound questions about how one defines and compartmentalizes allies and enemies and the ways in which duty forces one to make difficult decisions. For such a short novel, however, there are too many parallel subplots; for example, Mack’s father’s battle with lung cancer is a needless digression that doesn’t do anything to illuminate the story’s main themes. Still, McClelland’s unembellished prose is confident and self-assured throughout, and the subject matter is as philosophically challenging as it is emotionally poignant.

A sharp, moving reflection on how love can survive even the greatest trials.

(Description from NetGalley.com) 

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Book of the Week | War Baby by Beryl Kingston

TITLE: War Baby

AUTHOR: Beryl Kingston

PUBLISHER: Agora Books

RELEASE DATE: May 23, 2019

GENRE: Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction

BUY LINKS: AMAZON

Returning to England after four years in Geneva, Bobbie Chadwick has no idea who she is. Back in London for the dawn of a new decade, the seventies bring more independence: she can be whomever she chooses. But, haunted by an unknown past, Bobbie finds herself listless, jobless, and falling out of love.

Things only get more confusing when her adoptive father dies leaving a wake of secrets behind him. But when she finds her birth certificate and a few old diaries, Bobbie starts a search thirty years in the making. Looking for a sense of belonging, Bobbie delves into her childhood memories of WWII and uncovers a wartime secret that will change her life forever. War Baby was first published in 1991. (Description from NetGalley.com) 

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Book of the Week | The Occupation Secret by Mario Reading

TITLE: The Occupation Secret

AUTHOR: Mario Reading

PUBLISHER: Canelo

RELEASE DATE: August 12, 2019

GENRE: Fiction, Historical Fiction

PRE-ORDER LINKS: AMAZON

Relegated to an isolated provincial town in France after years spent fighting on the Eastern Front, German commander Maximilian von Aschau finds unexpected distraction in the form of beautiful and reserved Lucie Léré.

He’s seen every horror of the human experience. She’s never left her village. Opposites in every way, Max and Lucie manage to find common ground. But love is the most dangerous element of war. It makes you vulnerable… and careless.

With the Allied invasion imminent and tensions high, Max and Lucie will have to turn their backs on everything they’ve known and anyone they once trusted in order to protect their secret – and their lives. (Description from NetGalley.com) 

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Book of the Week | Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

TITLE: Dumplin’

AUTHOR: Julie Murphy

PUBLISHER: Balzer + Bray

RELEASE DATE: September 15, 2015

GENRE: Young Adult, Contemporary

BUY LINKS: AMAZON | B&N

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart. (Description from Goodreads) 

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Book Review | See Me by Nicholas Sparks

BOOK REVIEW | SEE ME

201510-see-meTITLE: See Me

AUTHOR: Nicholas Sparks

PUBLISHER: Grand Central Publishing

RELEASE DATE: October 12, 2015

GENRE: Romance, Fiction, Women’s Fiction

BUY LINKS: AMAZON | B&N | BAM! | INDIEBOUND | WALMART |  iBOOKS

Colin Hancock is giving his second chance his best shot. With a history of violence and bad decisions behind him and the threat of prison dogging his every step, he’s determined to walk a straight line. To Colin, that means applying himself single-mindedly toward his teaching degree and avoiding everything that proved destructive in his earlier life. Reminding himself daily of his hard-earned lessons, the last thing he is looking for is a serious relationship.

Maria Sanchez, the hardworking daughter of Mexican immigrants, is the picture of conventional success: with a degree from Duke Law School and a job at a prestigious firm in Wilmington, she is a dark-haired beauty with a seemingly flawless professional track record. And yet Maria has a traumatic history of her own, one that compelled her to return to her home town and left her questioning so much of what she once believed.

A chance encounter on a rainswept road will alter the course of both Colin and Maria’s lives, challenging deeply held assumptions about each other and ultimately, themselves. As love unexpectedly takes hold between them, they dare to envision what a future together could possibly look like . . . until menacing reminders of events in Maria’s past begin to surface.

As a series of threatening incidents wreaks chaos in Maria’s life, Maria and Colin will be tested in increasingly terrifying ways. Will demons from their past destroy the tenuous relationship they’ve begun to build, or will their love protect them, even in the darkest hour?

Rich in emotion and fueled with suspense, See Me reminds us that love is sometimes forged in the crises that threaten to shatter us . . . and that those who see us for who we truly are may not always be the ones easiest to recognize. (Description from Nicholas Sparks website)

MY THOUGHTS

14055173_10154457944313624_2126584136223489598_nA while back, I was “hanging” out in the Denver International Airport with a couple of hours to kill when I decided to walk around and check out the shops. That’s when I finally came across the paperback edition of See Me by Nicholas Sparks (Yes…I’m that person that waits for the paperback edition of a book). I had been waiting a while (almost a full year) to read his new book and it literally took me less than a second to decide that I was going to buy it and start reading it in the airport. Then I decided what better way to enjoy a Nicholas Sparks book then with a wine flight. As soon as I started reading the book, with a glass of wine in my hand, I could not put it down.

As always, Nicholas Sparks knows how to create a story that sucks you in until you’re left wanting more. See Me is the story about two people who grow to love each other regardless of the pasts that haunt them and, in a way, their pasts have brought them closer. It also portrays the concept that timing is everything in a relationship.

I would say that there’s a lot about Maria Sanchez that I relate to. She’s a hard worker, smart, career focused, and family oriented. You can tell that she wants to let loose, but the goals she has set for herself and a traumatic experience at her previous firm have tamed her adventurous side.

Colin Hancock is a man with quite the colorful (violent) past. If Maria had known Colin during his violent days there’s no way she would have even gone on a date with him. There’s a lot to Colin and his violent tendencies stemmed from difficulties during his childhood. Unfortunately, his difficulties continued to adulthood until he was given an ultimatum…he had to straighten up or he can spend years of his life in prison.

Overall, I enjoyed the suspense aspect that isn’t typical of Nicholas Sparks books, but it still had that love story that I want out of his books too. I shed some tears and was at the edge of my seat throughout the book, so I’d say it was an emotional roller coaster. I may be biased because he’s my all time favorite author, but I would highly recommend this book and add it your Nicholas Sparks collection.

OVERALL RATING

ABOUT NICHOLAS SPARKS

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM

nicholas-sparksNicholas Sparks is one of the world’s most beloved storytellers. All of his books have been New York Times bestsellers, with over 105 million copies sold worldwide, in more than 50 languages, including over 75 million copies in the United States alone.

Sparks wrote one of his best-known stories, The Notebook, over a period of six months at age 28. It was published in 1996 and he followed with the novels Message in a Bottle (1998), A Walk to Remember (1999), The Rescue (2000), A Bend in the Road (2001), Nights in Rodanthe (2002), The Guardian (2003), The Wedding (2003), True Believer (2005) and its sequel, At First Sight (2005), Dear John (2006), The Choice (2007), The Lucky One (2008), The Last Song (2009), Safe Haven (2010), The Best of Me (2011), and The Longest Ride (2013) as well as the 2004 non-fiction memoir Three Weeks With My Brother, co-written with his brother Micah. His eighteenth novel, See Me, published on October 12, 2015. His newest book, Two by Two, will be published on October 4, 2016.

Film adaptations of Nicholas Sparks novels, including The Choice, The Longest Ride, The Best of Me, Safe Haven (on all of which he served as a producer), The Lucky One, Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, The Notebook, Nights in Rodanthe, Dear John and The Last Song, have had a cumulative worldwide gross of over three-quarters of a billion dollars.

In 2012, Sparks and his publishing agent and creative partner Theresa Park, launched Nicholas Sparks Productions, with Park as President of Production. A film version of The Guardian is currently in development, as is a film based on Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers’s friendship with Chicago Bears teammate Brian Piccolo.

Sparks lives in North Carolina. He contributes to a variety of local and national charities, and is a major contributor to the Creative Writing Program (MFA) at the University of Notre Dame, where he provides scholarships, internships, and a fellowship annually. He co-founded The Epiphany School in New Bern, North Carolina in 2006. As a former full scholarship athlete (he still holds a track and field record at the University of Notre Dame) he also spent four years coaching track and field athletes at the local public high school. In 2009, the team he coached at New Bern High School set a World Junior Indoor Record in the 4 x400 meter, in New York. The record still stands.

The Nicholas Sparks Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit committed to improving cultural and international understanding through global education experiences for students of all ages was launched in 2011. Between the foundation, and the personal gifts of the Sparks family, more than $15 million dollars have been distributed to deserving charities, scholarship programs, and projects. Because the Sparks family covers all operational expenses of the foundation, 100% of donations are devoted to programs. (Bio found on NicholasSparks.com)

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