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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Book of the Week | Losing the Light by Andrea Dunlop

TITLE: Losing the Light

AUTHOR: Andrea Dunlop

PUBLISHER: Washington Square Press

RELEASE DATE: February 23, 2016

GENRE: Fiction, Adult Fiction, Contemporary

BUY LINKS: AMAZON | B&N

A smart, obsessive debut novel about a young woman studying abroad who becomes caught up in a seductive French world—and a complex web of love and lust.

When thirty-year-old Brooke Thompson unexpectedly runs into a man from her past, she’s plunged headlong into memories she’s long tried to forget about the year she spent in France following a disastrous affair with a professor.

As a newly arrived exchange student in the picturesque city of Nantes, young Brooke develops a deep and complicated friendship with Sophie, a fellow American and stunning blonde, whose golden girl façade hides a precarious emotional fragility. Sophie and Brooke soon become inseparable and find themselves intoxicated by their new surroundings—and each other.

But their lives are forever changed when they meet a sly, stylish French student, Veronique, and her impossibly sexy older cousin, Alex. The cousins draw Sophie and Brooke into an irresistible world of art, money, decadence, and ultimately, a disastrous love triangle that consumes them both. And of the two of them, only one will make it home. (Description from Goodreads) 

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Book Review | The Winemaker’s Wife by Kristin Harmel

BOOK REVIEW | THE WINEMAKER’S WIFE

TITLE: The Winemaker’s Wife

AUTHOR: Kristin Harmel

PUBLISHER: Gallery Books

RELEASE DATE: August 13, 2019

GENRE: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction

PRE-ORDER LINKS: AMAZON | INDIEBOUND | B&N

The author of the “engrossing” (People) international bestseller The Room on Rue Amélie returns with a moving story set amid the champagne vineyards of northern France during the darkest days of World War II, perfect for fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale.

Champagne, 1940: Inès has just married Michel, the owner of storied champagne house Maison Chauveau, when the Germans invade. As the danger mounts, Michel turns his back on his marriage to begin hiding munitions for the Résistance. Inès fears they’ll be exposed, but for Céline, half-Jewish wife of Chauveau’s chef de cave, the risk is even greater—rumors abound of Jews being shipped east to an unspeakable fate.

When Céline recklessly follows her heart in one desperate bid for happiness, and Inès makes a dangerous mistake with a Nazi collaborator, they risk the lives of those they love—and the champagne house that ties them together.

New York, 2019: Liv Kent has just lost everything when her eccentric French grandmother shows up unannounced, insisting on a trip to France. But the older woman has an ulterior motive—and a tragic, decades-old story to share. When past and present finally collide, Liv finds herself on a road to salvation that leads right to the caves of the Maison Chauveau. (Description from NetGalley)

MY THOUGHTS

Yes…I finished another historical fiction book revolved around WWII. I’ve read several at this point and each one has a unique story to tell about this tragic war. Kristin Harmel’s, The Winemaker’s Wife focuses on two winemaking couples involved in the French resistance and how their lives impact a woman in present day.

The story is told from the perspective of three characters: Ines, Celine, and Liv

Liv’s story is set in present day. She’s just been divorced, her ex-husband has left her with nothing, and she’s feeling lost. So her grandmother Edith whisks her away to Paris to get her mind off of things, but her grandmother also has something important she needs to tell Liv. It’s something that will change Liv’s life forever.

Ines and Celine’s characters are set during the war. Ines is the wife of the owner of Maison Chauveau and Celine is the wife of the Chauveau’s chef de cave. Both women have many internal struggles with what’s going on with the war and the actions they are taking. Some of these actions are dangerous and hurt the ones they love.

I really enjoyed this book. It captured another facet of the war that I didn’t know much about and with each passing moment you can feel the danger increasing for Ines, Celine, and their husband’s. While there is a lot of danger, there’s still a lot of love within the book too. I don’t want to give anything away, but essentially love can grow in unexpected places even during the worst of times.

Everything comes together in Liv’s present day timeline. While the ending is sad to think about, I believe it was a perfect ending. It was emotional in so many ways. Towards the end I was thinking of all the different ways this book could have gone, but I’m happy with the way it turned out.

Overall, I would highly recommend The Winemaker’s Wife to those who like historical fiction and women’s fiction. A 5 star for me!

OVERALL RATING

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS | TWITTER

Kristin Harmel is an international bestselling novelist whose books have been translated into numerous languages and are sold all over the world. A former reporter for People magazine, Kristin has also freelanced for many other publications, including American Baby, Men’s Health, Glamour, Woman’s Day, Travel + Leisure, and more.

Her latest novels — The Room on Rue Amélie, The Sweetness of Forgetting, The Life Intended, How to Save a Life, and When We Meet Again — are out now from Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster. Her latest, The Winemaker’s Wife, a World War II tale of love, family, and betrayal set in the rolling vineyards of Champagne, France, is due out in August 2019 from Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster.

Kristin grew up in Peabody, Mass.; Worthington, Ohio; and St. Petersburg, Fla., and she graduated with a degree in journalism (with a minor in Spanish) from the University of Florida. After spending time living in Paris, she now lives in Orlando, Fla., with her husband and young son. (Bio from Author Website)

Thank you to Gallery Books for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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Book of the Week | Mercy Road by Ann Howard Creel

TITLE: Mercy Road

AUTHOR: Ann Howard Creel

PUBLISHER: Lake Union Publishing

RELEASE DATE: November 19, 2019

GENRE: Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction

PRE-ORDER LINKS: AMAZON

Inspired by the true story of the World War I American Women’s Hospital, Mercy Road is a novel about love, courage, and a female ambulance driver who risks everything.

In 1917, after Arlene Favier’s home burns to the ground, taking her father with it, she must find a way to support her mother and younger brother. If she doesn’t succeed, they will all be impoverished. Job opportunities are scarce, but then a daring possibility arises: the American Women’s Hospital needs ambulance drivers to join a trailblazing, all-female team of doctors and nurses bound for war-torn France.

On the front lines, Arlene and her fellow ambulance drivers work day and night to aid injured soldiers and civilians. In between dangerous ambulance runs, Arlene reunites with a childhood friend, Jimmy Tucker, now a soldier, who opens her heart like no one before. But she has also caught the attention of Felix Brohammer, a charismatic army captain who harbors a dark, treacherous secret.

To expose Brohammer means risking her family’s future and the promise of love. Arlene must make a choice: stay in the safety of silence or take the greatest chance of her life. (Description from NetGalley.com) 

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