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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Book of the Week | Between Sisters by Cathy Kelly

cover87906-mediumTITLE: Between Sisters

AUTHOR: Cathy Kelly

PUBLISHER: Grand Central Publishing

RELEASE DATE: August 9, 2016

GENRE: Women’s Fiction

BUY LINKS: AMAZON | B&N

#1 International bestselling author, Cathy Kelly, returns with a heartwarming new novel
Meet the women of Delaney Gardens, a bustling suburban village in the outer reaches of Dublin. There’s Cassie, who’s spent her married life doing everything right for her children, husband, and mother-in-law, yet feels so exhausted that “wine o’clock” comes a littler earlier each afternoon. There’s her sister Coco, who runs a vintage dress shop, but has avoided the complications of romantic commitment. Watching over them is their grandmother Pearl, who, despite caring deeply for her family, is contending with a long-buried secret. And then there’s Elsa, the polished face of daytime TV, who’s triumphed over demons before, but is now facing her toughest battle yet. At every crossroad these women face, readers are taken deeper into the heart of what it means to be a family. (Description from NetGalley.com) 

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Book Review | The Book of Dreams by Nina George

BOOK REVIEW | THE BOOK OF DREAMS

AUTHOR: Nina George

PUBLISHER: Crown Publishing

RELEASE DATE: April 9, 2019

GENRE: General Fiction, Adult Fiction

BUY LINKS: AMAZON | B&N | INDIEBOUND

Warm, wise, and magical—the latest novel by the bestselling author of THE LITTLE PARIS BOOKSHOP and THE LITTLE FRENCH BISTRO is an astonishing exploration of the thresholds between life and death

Henri Skinner is a hardened ex-war reporter on the run from his past. On his way to see his son, Sam, for the first time in years, Henri steps into the road without looking and collides with oncoming traffic. He is rushed to a nearby hospital where he floats, comatose, between dreams, reliving the fairytales of his childhood and the secrets that made him run away in the first place.
 
After the accident, Sam—a thirteen-year old synesthete with an IQ of 144 and an appetite for science fiction—waits by his father’s bedside every day. There he meets Eddie Tomlin, a woman forced to confront her love for Henri after all these years, and twelve-year old Madelyn Zeidler, a coma patient like Henri and the sole survivor of a traffic accident that killed her family. As these four very different individuals fight—for hope, for patience, for life—they are bound together inextricably, facing the ravages of loss and first love side by side.
 
A revelatory, urgently human story that examines what we consider serious and painful alongside light and whimsy, THE BOOK OF DREAMS is a tender meditation on memory, liminality, and empathy, asking with grace and gravitas what we will truly find meaningful in our lives once we are gone. (Description from NetGalley)

MY THOUGHTS

****Warning May Contain Spoilers****

Thank you to Crown Publishing for providing a copy of this book for an honest review. Copy provided on NetGalley.com 

This book is told from the perspective of three people: Sam, Eddie, and Henri. As the book’s description mentions, Henri is Sam’s father and they have never met before. Eddie is someone who loves Henri dearly and Henri loves her too, but never told her and instead broke her heart years ago.

When Henri goes to meet his son for the first time an accident happens and Henri ends up in a coma. We bounce between what’s going on in Henri’s head to what’s going on in reality from Eddie and Sam’s perspective.

I believe Nina George does a great job giving the reader a sense of what it’s like for family members of coma patients, but also what could possibly be going through the minds of those in a coma. Nobody really knows what goes on in someone’s head while in a coma or where their minds could possibly be, but the way Nina George described what’s going on in Henri’s head made me believe that it could be what truly happens.

I did get a little confused in the middle when it would be from Henri’s perspective and then eventually it was revealed that his mind was going over events in his life in several different ways. It was to show all the possible scenarios that could have happened and only one of them was what really happened. So there were times I thought I was reading the same page over and over again, but really it was the same story with slightly different choices that led to different end results. Eventually I liked the idea, but in the moment I seriously thought I was going crazy (haha).

Another element of the book is Madelyn, another coma patient, who turns out to be the love interest of Sam. He sees this girl in the hospital and instantly has a connection with her. He’s determined to help her and his father come out of their comas. With this aspect of the book, Nina George creates an even deeper idea of a coma patient’s mind and that potentially it’s a place where all coma patients are. I don’t want to reveal too much, but Henri does encounter Madelyn in the world his mind is in.

Overall, I thought it was a good book. I really wanted to know what would happen so continued to read even during the confusing middle part of the book. I’m glad I kept reading because it got me thinking about how precious life is and how you should tell the people you love how much you love them…tell them all the time because you never know when you won’t be able to.

OVERALL RATING

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