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Book Review | The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger

BOOK REVIEW | THE RIDE OF A LIFETIME

TITLE: The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company

AUTHOR: Robert Iger, Jim Frangione (Narrator), Joel Lovell

PUBLISHER: Random House

RELEASE DATE: September 23, 2019

GENRE: Business, Biography, Nonfiction, Leadership

BUY LINKS: AMAZON | B&N | BETTER WORLD | INDIEBOUND

A grand vision defined: The CEO of Disney, one of Time’s most influential people of 2019, shares the ideas and values he embraced to reinvent one of the most beloved companies in the world and inspire the people who bring the magic to life.

Robert Iger became CEO of The Walt Disney Company in 2005, during a difficult time. Competition was more intense than ever and technology was changing faster than at any time in the company’s history. His vision came down to three clear ideas: Recommit to the concept that quality matters, embrace technology instead of fighting it, and think bigger—think global—and turn Disney into a stronger brand in international markets.

Twelve years later, Disney is the largest, most respected media company in the world, counting Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and 21st Century Fox among its properties. Its value is nearly five times what it was when Iger took over, and he is recognized as one of the most innovative and successful CEOs of our era.

In The Ride of a Lifetime, Robert Iger shares the lessons he’s learned while running Disney and leading its 200,000 employees, and he explores the principles that are necessary for true leadership, including:

• Optimism. Even in the face of difficulty, an optimistic leader will find the path toward the best possible outcome and focus on that, rather than give in to pessimism and blaming.
• Courage. Leaders have to be willing to take risks and place big bets. Fear of failure destroys creativity.
• Decisiveness. All decisions, no matter how difficult, can be made on a timely basis. Indecisiveness is both wasteful and destructive to morale.
• Fairness. Treat people decently, with empathy, and be accessible to them.

This book is about the relentless curiosity that has driven Iger for forty-five years, since the day he started as the lowliest studio grunt at ABC. It’s also about thoughtfulness and respect, and a decency-over-dollars approach that has become the bedrock of every project and partnership Iger pursues, from a deep friendship with Steve Jobs in his final years to an abiding love of the Star Wars mythology.

“The ideas in this book strike me as universal” Iger writes. “Not just to the aspiring CEOs of the world, but to anyone wanting to feel less fearful, more confidently themselves, as they navigate their professional and even personal lives.” (Description from Goodreads)

MY THOUGHTS

Everyone who knows me, knows I want to be CEO of an insurance company one day. I’m very careful and thoughtful about my path to achieving this goal one day. I’m invested in learning as much as I can from the leaders I know and those that inspire me. I work extremely hard to make an impact in the company I work for and I’m very passionate about us succeeding. I also know that I need to take professional risks and feel a little out of my element. This will and has helped me grow in so many ways.

With that being said, I have a big career decision coming up that would have a significant impact on my future and my goals. So I started thinking about the CEOs that inspire me and Robert Iger immediately came to mind. I thought this was the perfect time for me to read his book, The Ride of a Lifetime.

This book is part professional leadership lessons, but also part autobiography. He tells the story of his time leading up to becoming CEO and then some of the biggest changes in Disney’s history while he was CEO. He tells us what was happening, what he was feeling, and how he approached each person he needed to work with. Then he sprinkles in his perspective and lessons on leadership during each of these moments.

Here are some of my favorite lessons from Iger. These resonated with me the most while I’ve been working through my thoughts on this potential role.

  • “Innovate or die, and there’s no innovation if you operate out of fear of the new or untested.”
  • “There are moments in our careers, in our lives, that are inflection points, but they’re often not the most obvious or dramatic ones.” 
  • “My instinct throughout my career has always been to say yes to every opportunity. I wanted to move up and learn and do more, and I wasn’t going to forgo any chance to do that, but I also wanted to prove to myself that I was capable of doing things that I was unfamiliar with.”

Overall, I would highly recommend this book if you want to be in a leadership role or even if you want to better yourself professionally. Iger has a lot of valuable advice and I feel confident using it because of the success the Walt Disney Company has seen while he’s been CEO. You’d also enjoy this book as a Disney fan to get an inside look at how decisions are made from the very top and what it takes to keep this enormous entertainment company relevant and growing.

OVERALL RATING

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

WEBSITE | GOODREADS | TWITTER

Robert A. Iger is Executive Chairman of The Walt Disney Company and Chairman of the Board of Directors. He assumed the role of Executive Chairman on February 25, 2020, in conjunction with the announcement of Bob Chapek being named as Chief Executive Officer. As Executive Chairman, Mr. Iger will direct the Company’s creative endeavors, while leading the Board and providing the full benefit of his experience, leadership and guidance to ensure a smooth transition through the end of his contract on Dec. 31, 2021. Mr. Chapek will report to Mr. Iger in his capacity as Executive Chairman, and to the Board. (Description from Walt Disney Company website)

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Book Review | The Traitor by V.S. Alexander

BOOK REVIEW | THE TRAITOR

TITLE: The Traitor

AUTHOR: V.S. Alexander

PUBLISHER: Kensington Publishing Corp

RELEASE DATE: February 25, 2020

GENRE: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance

BUY LINKS: AMAZON | B&N | INDIEBOUND

Drawing on the true story of the White Rose—the resistance movement of young Germans against the Nazi regime—The Traitor tells of one woman who offers her life in the ultimate battle against tyranny, during one of history’s darkest hours.

In the summer of 1942, as war rages across Europe, a series of anonymous leaflets appears around the University of Munich, speaking out against escalating Nazi atrocities. The leaflets are hidden in public places, or mailed to addresses selected at random from the phone book. Natalya Petrovich, a student, knows who is behind the leaflets—a secret group called the White Rose, led by siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl and their friends.

As a volunteer nurse on the Russian front, Natalya witnessed the horrors of war first-hand. She willingly enters the White Rose’s circle, where every hushed conversation, every small act of dissent could mean imprisonment or death at the hands of an infuriated Gestapo. Natalya risks everything alongside her friends, hoping the power of words will encourage others to resist. But even among those she trusts most, there is no guarantee of safety—and when danger strikes, she must take an extraordinary gamble in her own personal struggle to survive. (Description from Goodreads

MY THOUGHTS

(***Please note that this review may contain spoilers***)

Before I jump into my thoughts about The Traitor, I wanted to start with a quote from the author’s notes. “I can safely say that fewer Europeans outside of Germany, and most Americans, particularly young people, know little of the resistance movements like the White Rose and the Red Orchestra. Their only exposure may be a mention in passing during a history class on World War II. This is another reason I wanted to write The Traitor. We should never forget”. (The Traitor, V.S. Alexander)

For almost a year, I’ve been reading various historical fiction books surrounding WWII because I wanted to continue learning about this time in history. Like the author said, “we should never forget” and books like The Traitor and all the others I’ve read are making sure we know about the people that resisted Hitler’s evil and the horrors of that terrible time in history. We should never forget so that we never see this again in our future.

The Traitor is based on a real group called the White Rose who “composed four leaflets, which exposed and denounced Nazi and SS atrocities, including the extermination of Jews and Polish nobility, and called for resistance to the regime” (History).

Rather than focus on the real life founders and participants of this group, V.S. Alexander created fictional characters that could have been really part of the group. I thought this was a great path for the author to go because there’s more that he could do with the characters and there’s less pressure to be historically accurate with real individuals. However, he still included the founders, Hans and Sophie Scholl as well as other prominent members of the group, but made sure to be true to who they were.

This book was different from the books I’ve read recently, as it focused solely on the perspective of one person, Natalya Petrovich. Other books usually include perspectives from several different people. I liked that I was able to follow just one person’s thoughts and experiences throughout the entire war. We follow Natalya through seeing her town (Munich) destroy jewish establishments all the way to the American liberation of the POW prison she was working at.

V.S. Alexander really captured the horrific circumstances, torture, manipulation, blackmail, and deceitfulness that Natalya faced after she was arrested for being a member of the White Rose. She was consider a traitor to the Reich and every day could have been her last. She spent years in prison, was sent to an asylum, and escaped with the help of others who resisted Hitler’s rule. There was a lot of death along the way and Natalya lost a lot of people, but she didn’t lose hope and kept on going despite everything she’d been through. She was a very brave woman and I suspect there were many women like her that actually existed during WWII.

Overall, this book was amazing. I couldn’t put it down and would highly recommend reading it regardless of the genres you do or don’t read. It’s a great story about resilience in the face of death and uncertainty. It’s a look into another piece of history that you may not know enough about. Most importantly, it highlights the evil that plagued its time and how people overcame it and fought against it. I look forward to reading more from this author and happy I discovered him on NetGalley.

OVERALL RATING

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM

V.S. Alexander is an ardent student of history with a strong interest in music and the visual arts. Some of V.S.’s writing influences include Shirley Jackson, Oscar Wilde, Daphne du Maurier, or any work by the exquisite Brontë sisters. V.S. lives in Florida and is at work on a second historical novel for Kensington. (Bio found on Kensington Publishing Corp website)

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

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Book Review | The Orphan Thief by Glynis Peters

BOOK REVIEW | THE ORPHAN THIEF

AUTHOR: Glynis Peters

PUBLISHER: One More Chapter/Harper Collins

RELEASE DATE: November 28, 2019

GENRE: Fiction, Historical Fiction

BUY LINKS: AMAZON | B&N | INDIEBOUND

From the international bestselling author of The Secret Orphan

When all seems lost…

As Hitler’s bombs rain down on a battered and beleaguered Britain, Ruby Shadwell is dealt the most devastating blow – her entire family lost during the Coventry Blitz.

Hope still survives…

Alone and with the city in chaos, Ruby is determined to survive this war and rebuild her life.  And a chance encounter with street urchin Tommy gives Ruby just the chance she needs…

And love will overcome.

Because Tommy brings with him Canadian Sergeant Jean-Paul Clayton.  Jean-Paul is drawn to Ruby and wants to help her, but Ruby cannot bear another loss.  Can love bloom amidst the ruins?  Or will the war take Ruby’s last chance at happiness too? (Description from Goodreads.com)

MY THOUGHTS

(***Please note that this review may contain spoilers***) 

When I first saw the cover and title of The Orphan Thief I thought it would be more about a girl helping orphan’s during the war. But it’s actually centered around a teenage girl named Ruby Shadwell going through her daily life after her city was bombed in the Blitz.

The very beginning of the book was very good. I could feel the intense loss that Ruby was feeling when her entire family was killed by a bomb that hit their home. I could feel the shock she felt as she looked into the crater where her home once stood.

Then the book went into the daily life of Ruby and how she was rebuilding her life literally from the rumble of her home town. She started rebuilding her life by finding, fixing, and selling lost items found throughout the city, but would also try and find its original owners. Ruby was helping the town get on its feet again with her business. I thought this was a very admirable quality for a teenager during a horrific war.

I did feel that the life re-building part of the book was way too long and, in all honesty, I was getting bored until about 50% in when a character named Earl was introduced. Earl was an evil character who was harassing Ruby and was keeping small orphaned children locked away. He forced these children to steal for him. When he was introduced then the title made sense but he wasn’t in the book for very long, only a few chapters.

There was a love interest of Ruby as well. Jean-Paul Clayton, who was a military photographer for the Canadian army. He was occasionally in the book and I felt like he needed to be more prominent based on how “in love” Ruby was with him and the fact that they ended up engaged and had children. I just couldn’t see why they fell in love in the first place.

There were other characters in the book, but it was really just about Ruby and her daily life. Overall, there were parts of the book I really enjoyed, but I felt it needed a lot more about Earl and an orphan named Tommy for the title to make sense. I think it also needed more of Ruby and Jean-Paul if the end goal was for them to be together after the war.

OVERALL RATING

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM

Glynis Peters, lives in Dovercourt, Essex, England. She married her school sweetheart in 1979, and they have three children. They also have three grandchildren, with another due in the spring of 2019, the year of their ruby wedding Anniversary.

In 2014, Glynis was short-listed for the Festival of Romantic Fiction New Talent Award.

In 2018, HarperCollins/HarperImpulse published her novel, The Secret Orphan. The novel rose to several bestseller positions within a few months of release.

When Glynis is not writing she enjoys fishing with her husband, making greetings cards, cross stitch and the company of her granddaughters.

Her grandson lives in Canada, and it is for that reason she  introduced a Canadian pilot into The Secret Orphan. (Description from her website)

Thank you to One More Chapter/Harper Collins and NetGalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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Book Review | The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton

BOOK REVIEW | THE LAST TRAIN TO LONDON

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 Exilesconjures 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 Kindertransportsthat 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)

MY THOUGHTS

There are so many stories to tell of WWII. Those of silent heroes, lives lost, and survivors.  The Last Train to London is part of my WWII historical fiction journey and I’m always astounded by how much I continue to learn about this terrible time in history. But then I’m grateful that there are these stories to tell and that there were brave people trying to do what was right when so much was against them.

Meg Waite Clayton tells a somewhat fictional story about the Kindertransport that saved so many children from the Nazi between 1938-1940. I say somewhat fictional because the book is based on a real effort and woman, Geertruida Wijsmuller-Meijer, who helped bring many children to safety transporting them by train to London. Without her, and the countless others that helped, who knows what would have happened to those children. More than likely they would not have survived.

The author told this story from several perspectives, Geetrudia (aka Tante Truus), Stephan Neuman, Zofie-Helene, and occasionally relatives of Stephan or Zofie. I believe it was a good mixture of perspectives. It enabled details of how it was for Jewish children, non-Jewish families, and those outside of Nazi invasion trying to help save as many lives as they could.

Vienna: Stephen is a teenage boy of a wealthy jewish family whose made their fortunate with their chocolate business. He lives with his family in an affluent home with his younger brother (Walter), father, and very ill mother. Zofie-Helene is a teenage girl whose a brilliant aspiring mathematician. She lives with her grandfather, younger sister, and mother who writes for an anti-Nazi newspaper.

Amsterdam: Truus is unable to have children of her own, but feels that because of this, it is her duty to save as many children she can. So she risks her life countless times for children she doesn’t know. To do this she must face and somewhat manipulate Nazi soldiers along the way.

Truus’s story is new to me and, by reading this book, I feel that I’ve kept her memory alive somehow. I would have liked more of the book to be about her journey and what she had to do to save the amount of children she did. But of what there was, I can tell that she was an extremely brave woman. Someone to be admired.

Stephen and Zofie’s journeys were very tough and I think Meg was able to capture what it would have been like for them. For Stephen to lose everything and Zofie risking her life for those she loved. I do feel that it needed more detail to give it that one last emotional punch it needed. I really only cried at the very end when Walter (Stephan’s younger brother) was being taken away by his adopted family.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book and thought the characters were wonderfully written. I believe Meg did justice to Truus’s story even though I wanted more of it. I would highly recommend this book to those that read historical fiction.

OVERALL RATING

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS | TWITTER

Meg studied history and psychology at the University of Michigan, and is a graduate of its law school. She was  born in Washington D.C., and has since lived in or around Kansas City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Ann Arbor, Baltimore, Nashville, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco. She sets her novels in places she finds fascinating: The Last Train to London is set in Vienna, Amsterdam, and England; The Race for Paris in France; The Wednesday Daughtersin the English Lakes; The Four Ms. Bradwells in Ann Arbor and the Chesapeake; The Wednesday Sisters in her current hometown in the Silicon Valley; and The Language of Light in the Maryland horse country. For Beautiful Exiles the list is long but includes in Key West, Sun Valley, New York, and St. Louis, Cuba, Spain, China, France, England, Czechoslovakia, and Sweden.  She is at work on a new novel, also to be published by HarperCollins. (Bio found on Meg’s website)

Thank you to Harper Collins and NetGalley for a copy to this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review | The Occupation Secret by Mario Reading

BOOK REVIEW | THE OCCUPATION SECRET

TITLE: The Occupation Secret

AUTHOR: Mario Reading

PUBLISHER: Canelo

RELEASE DATE: August 12, 2019

GENRE: Fiction, Historical Fiction

BUY 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) 

MY THOUGHTS

Unfortunately, I was several chapters in and couldn’t really get into the book. I thought it was going to have more romance based on the description and the cover. I was also waiting for the female character to be introduced and stopped reading because she never emerged. Of what I did read it seemed more about the politics and intensity of war than anything else.

Overall, this book may be more for those who want more about the gore and politics of war. Personally, I like to have more emotion and female perspective in historical fictions.

OVERALL RATING

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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 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 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 Review | All the Flowers in Paris by Sarah Jio

BOOK REVIEW | ALL THE FLOWERS IN PARIS

TITLE: All the Flowers in Paris

AUTHOR: Sarah Jio

PUBLISHER: Ballantine Books

RELEASE DATE: August 13, 2019

GENRE: Historical Fiction

PRE-ORDER LINKS: AMAZON | INDIEBOUND

Two women are connected across time by the city of Paris, a mysterious journal, and shocking secrets, sweeping from World War II to the present–for readers of Sarah’s Key.

When Caroline wakes up in a Paris hospital with no memory of her past, she’s confused to learn that she’s lived a sad, reclusive life for years in a sprawling apartment on the Seine. Slowly regaining vague memories of a man and young child, she vows to piece her life back together–though she can’t help but feel she may be in danger. A budding friendship with the chef of a charming nearby restaurant takes her mind off of her foggy past, as does a startling mystery from decades prior…

In Nazi-occupied Paris, young widow Celine lives a quiet life with her father, the local florist, and her daughter, Cosi. When a ruthless German officer discovers the family’s Jewish ancestry, he blackmails Celine, forcing her to become his mistress in exchange for the others’ safety. The trio plans an escape, but their mission goes horribly awry and Celine’s beloved father and daughter are sent away to a cruel fate. Initially distraught, Celine fears the worst. Yet she soon discovers that Cosi has snuck away and followed her into captivity. More motivated than ever, Celine must now fight to hide and protect the person she loves most.

Parallel timelines intersect when Caroline discovers Celine’s diary tucked away in a closet, and it is revealed that the walls of her apartment harbor dark secrets. With the help of a local student from the Sorbonne, she realizes that she may have more in common with Celine than she could ever imagine. (Description from Goodreads)

MY THOUGHTS

I’m happy to say I was not disappointed in All the Flowers in Paris during the historical fiction kick I’m on. Sarah Jio captured a heart breaking story that I’m certain could have truly taken place during the war. I cried several times as I followed the characters Celine and Caroline.

First, we follow the character Celine who is a single mother in occupied Paris and her father is part Jewish, so you can imagine the struggles this family faces. Celine suffered so much and did so while protecting her young daughter.

However, we get another perspective through the character Caroline, who’s story takes place decades later when she discovers letters that Celine had written to the man she loved. It is Celine’s story that helps Caroline through her own personal tragedy.

Overall, I absolutely loved this book. I’d like to know when this is going to become a movie, so I can cry my eyes out all over again!

OVERALL RATING

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS | TWITTER

Sarah Jio is the New York Times bestselling author of ALWAYS, published by Random House (Ballantine), as well as seven other novels from Penguin Books, including, THE VIOLETS OF MARCH, THE BUNGALOW, BLACKBERRY WINTER, THE LAST CAMELLIA, MORNING GLORY, GOODNIGHT JUNE, and THE LOOK OF LOVE. Sarah is also a journalist who has contributed to The New York Times, Glamour, O, The Oprah Magazine, Glamour, SELF, Real Simple, Fitness, Marie Claire, and many others. She has appeared as a commentator on NPR’s Morning Edition. Her novels are translated into more than 25 languages. Sarah lives in Seattle with her three young boys. (Bio from Goodreads)

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

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Book Review | The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney

BOOK REVIEW | THE PERFECT WIFE

AUTHOR: JP Delaney

PUBLISHER: Ballantine Books

RELEASE DATE: August 6th 2019

GENRE: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Fiction

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

A missing woman receives a second chance at life, thanks to her billionaire husband–but the consequences are deadly in this gripping psychological thriller from the New York Timesbestselling author of The Girl Before.

Abbie awakens in a daze with no memory of who she is or how she landed in this unsettling condition. The man by her side claims to be her husband. He’s an icon of the tech world, the founder of a lucrative robotics company. He tells Abbie that she is a gifted artist, an avid surfer, a loving mother to their young son, and the perfect wife. He says she had a terrible accident five years ago, and that, through a huge technological breakthrough, she has been brought back from the abyss. She is a miracle of science.

But as Abbie pieces together memories of her marriage, she begins questioning her husband’s motives–and his version of events. Can she trust him when he says he wants them to be together forever? And what really happened to Abbie half a decade ago? (Description from Goodreads)

MY THOUGHTS

Thank you to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine for providing a copy of this book for an honest review. Copy provided on NetGalley.com 

I’m intentionally going to try to be vague since this book hasn’t been published yet and I don’t want to spoil anything for other readers.

I believe that this book was missing a genre in the description. It’s definitely a suspense/thriller, but there’s also a hint of Sci-Fi. Now, I’m not a huge fan of Sci-Fi and I was drawn to this book because of the cover, the description, and the suspense aspect of it. If I had known ahead of time that this was also Sci-Fi I may not have started reading, but I’m glad I did.

The Sci-Fi part didn’t slap you in the face all the time. It was woven perfectly into the story. It did get a little preachy in the middle, but then it got quickly out of that and I was back to wondering what was going to happen next.

Towards the end I thought I knew how everything was going to play out and I was anxiously waiting to get to that part…then I got there and was completely wrong about my predictions. I do like when a book can surprise me at the end.

Overall, I was a bit skeptical about the Sci-Fi aspect, but I believe this is a very creative original story. I would definitely recommend to those who like Sci-Fi and suspense novels.

***POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN NEXT SECTION***

Just something I’m hoping some readers will get. While I was writing this review I thought about this character that Bill Hader played on SNL called Stefon.

This book has everything…possible murder, child autism, infatuation, and ROBOTS! 

If you are a fan of SNL, here’s a link to the best of Stefon to give you and idea of how that sentence should be read.

OVERALL RATING

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

JP Delaney is a pseudonym for a writer who has previously written bestselling fiction under other names. Delaney is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Girl Before, which is being brought to the screen by Academy Award winners Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment.

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