The Last Train to London: A Review

March 13, 2020

The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton

The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton (cover)

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, WW11, Jewish, Nazi-Occupied Europe

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


Rescuing children, her life’s work…

The Last Train to London shares the story of real-life hero Truus Wijsmuller, a member of the Dutch resistance who risked her life smuggling Jewish children out of Nazi Germany. (She was honored as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem. )

The mission known as Kindertransport carried thousands of children out of Nazi-occupied Europe. In addition to hearing about Tante Truus as she was known, the author imagines the lives of children such as Stephan (budding playwright), his younger brother. and Zofie-Helene (mathematics protegee).

Auntie Truus (headshot)

Tante Truus: Image Source: Wikipedia


Auntie Truus statue in Amsterdam

Tante Truus statue in Amsterdam: Image Source: Wikipedia

My Thoughts:


Reading Memories and a Review: One-In-A-Million Boy #throwbackthursday

March 12, 2020

One-In-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for #throwbackthursday.

This year as part of Blog Audit Challenge 2020 I’m going back to update older review posts. On Thursdays, I’ll be re-sharing a few of these great reads, and today I’m sharing my short review of One-In-a-Million Boy and personal reading memories. Enjoy!

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

One-In-A-Million Boy by Monica Wood (cover)

Genre/Categories: fiction, family

My Summary:

A unique 11-year-old boy is sent to help 104-year-old Ona every Saturday morning as part of a community service project. As he refills the bird feeders and helps with other odd jobs, he and Ona share cookies and milk and Ona tells him about her long life. He records her responses as part of a school interview project.

One Saturday, the boy doesn’t show up. Ona starts to think he’s not so special after all, but then his father arrives on her doorstep, determined to finish his son’s good deed….

Click here to continue reading my review and I also share a few reading memories….

QOTD: Have you read One-In-a-Million Boy or is it on your TBR?

Hillbilly Elegy #throwbackthursday

March 5, 2020

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for #throwbackthursday.

This year as part of Blog Audit Challenge 2020 I’m going back to update older review posts. On Thursdays, I’ll be re-sharing a few of these great reads, and today I’m starting with my review of Hillbilly Elegy. Enjoy!

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (cover)

Genre/Categories: memoir, nonfiction, biography, sociology, poverty

My Summary:

Hillbilly Elegy is a thought-provoking, powerful, and sincere memoir about growing up in a white working-class family in a poor Rust Belt town in Ohio. A Yale Law School graduate and a former marine, J. D. Vance is originally from Kentucky’s Appalachia region. His grandparents who were “dirt poor and in love” moved the family to Ohio in the hopes of escaping devastating poverty. Throughout the memoir, we learn that despite a geographical move, the family was never able to entirely escape the hillbilly culture of alcoholism, poverty, abuse, and trauma. Even though J. D. Vance beat the odds and graduated from law school, he still struggles to come to terms with his chaotic family history. The memoir is filled with detailed, humorous, dramatic, and colorful examples of what his life was like.

Favorite Quote:

“I want people to understand what happens in the lives of the poor and the psychological impact
that spiritual and material poverty has
on their children.”

Click here to continue reading my review….

QOTD: Have you read Hillbilly Elegy or is it on your TBR?

Big Lies in a Small Town: A Review

January 29, 2020

 Big Lies in a Small Town: by Diane Chamberlain

Big Lies in a Small Town (cover)

Genre/Categories: Light Historical fiction, Light Mystery, Southern Fiction, Art

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


Secrets, prejudice, and making peace with the past ….

Two young women living several decades apart are focused on the same mural….one is creating the mural in 1940 and the other is restoring the same mural in 2018. In alternate viewpoints and dual timelines, we hear both stories, the mystery of what happened to the original artist is uncovered, and connections between the two are revealed.

My Thoughts:


Bookish Themed Hanukkah: Fourth Candle: Foregone Conclusion #eightcandlebooktag

December 25, 2019

 Celebrating a Bookish Hanukkah With Our Jewish Friends: Fourth Candle–Foregone Conclusion


*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

I’m linking up today and for the next few days with Davida at The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog (information on the meme link up here) to celebrate a bookish Hanukkah with our Jewish friends.  #eightcandlebooktag  Join us! (find my first candle here, find my second candle here, third candle here)

Happy Hanukkah to my friends, followers, and book buddies who are celebrating!



1 candle

1 candle

1 candle

1 candle

Fourth Candle: Foregone Conclusion

A book that you read that you knew you’d like or dislike before you began reading.

Are you drawn to certain genres or authors? If you’ve followed my reviews for a while, you know that Fredrik Backman is an auto-buy/auto-read author for me and it’s a foregone conclusion that I will like his work. However, what about other books by lesser-known or debut authors? How can I know I will like it before I’ve read it?

The first time I heard about The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall, I knew I had to read it! The synopsis and early reviews sounded exactly like the type of book I love: an interesting premise, real-life family drama, complicated relationships, thought-provoking themes, and well written.

On the other hand, are there books I know I’ll dislike before I read them? The short answer is “yes” and I usually avoid reading them. I dislike dark, scary, horror, most magical realism and fantasy, paranormal, occult, witchcraft, most romcom (don’t @ me!), science fiction, time travel, unlikable characters behaving badly, and erotica. Because FOMO is real, I will give certain titles a chance (usually because of reviewers with similar tastes). Even though I might read a book from these genres, they are usually not among my favorite reads. One recent example is Recursion by Blake Crouch. I read it because of FOMO but I didn’t like it as much as others who love the science fiction genre. If there were a sequel, I wouldn’t read it, but I’m not unhappy I gave it a chance.

As I deliberately track genres and themes I like or dislike, I significantly raise the chances of my next read being satisfactory or even great.

For today’s prompt, I’m choosing to highlight a book that I knew I would like before I started reading it: The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall. 

The Dearly Beloved

The following is my review of The Dearly Beloved that was published earlier on this blog:


Four very different individuals (two couples) navigate relationships, marriage, children, faith, career, ministry, crisis, joy, friendship, forgiveness, uncertainty, understanding, and heartbreak. The couples meet in the 1960s when the men, Charles and James, accept positions as co-pastors of the Third Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. The relationship between the couples is strained because the wives are polar opposites: Lily is a loner and an atheist and Nan values connection and is a devout Christian. In this tender character-driven story that covers decades of life, we also learn the backstory of each individual.


The Girl With Seven Names: A Review

December 20, 2019

 The Girl With Seven Names: Escape From North Korea by Hyeonseo Lee

the girl with seven names review.jpg

Genre/Categories: Nonfiction, Defection, Political Freedom, North Korea

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


A compelling story of escape…determination…survival…family…kindness…

In The Girl With Seven Names, Hyeonseo Lee shares her experience as a child growing up in a high-class family in North Korea. Her home bordered China and as she became a teenager, she grew more curious about life outside of North Korea. On an impulsive lark, she decides to cross the river and sneak into China to take a peek and to visit some distant relatives. Her plan to come right back to North Korea is derailed when she receives word that it is not safe to return. For the next few years, she lives as an illegal immigrant in China, working and quickly learning the language to survive. After twelve years, she risks everything to seek asylum in South Korea and to rescue her mother and brother from North Korea. To complete her dangerous mission, she receives help from a kind and generous stranger.

Amazon Rating: 4.8 Stars

My Thoughts:


The Beekeeper of Aleppo: A Review

December 5, 2019

 The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

The Beekeeper of Aleppo Review.jpg

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Family, Refugees, Syria

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


A compelling story of love, loss, hope, and compassion…

Nuri, a beekeeper, and his wife Afra, an artist, live happily with their son in beautiful Aleppo. They enjoy a quiet and peaceful life and value the friendship of close friends and extended family. Suddenly, their lives are turned upside down by war and, out of desperation, they make a decision to flee Syria. What Afra has experienced and seen causes her to go blind, complicating their journey through Turkey and Greece to get to Britain. On this risky and uncertain journey, they must learn to survive in unpredictable situations, to deal with their loss, to trust each other, to depend on the kindness and compassion of strangers, and to keep their hope alive.

Syria Conflict: What’s Happening in Aleppo

Amazon Rating: 4.4 Stars

My Thoughts:


Finding Chika: A Review #nonficnov

November 29, 2019

 Finding Chika: A Little Girl, An Earthquake, and the Making of a Family by Mitch Albom

Finding Chika Review.png

Genre/Categories: Nonfiction, Memoir, Found Family, Foster Guardianship, Inspiration

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

“What we carry defines who we are. And the effort we make is our legacy.” ~Mitch Albom


In Finding Chika: A Little Girl, An Earthquake, and the Making of a Family, Mitch Albom, well-known author of Tuesdays With Morrie, shares his life-changing experience of caring for Chika, a young Haitian orphan. She was born a few days before the devastating 2010 earthquake into a poverty-stricken family. When her mother died after giving birth to her baby brother, Dad found placements for all their children. Chika was brought to the Have Faith Haiti Orphanage that Mitch Albom operates in Port Au Prince. After five-year-old Chika was diagnosed with a medical condition that was untreatable in Haiti, the Alboms brought Chika to America to live with them while seeking medical intervention. Instead of returning to Haiti as planned, Chika and the Alboms become found family, and Mitch learns a great deal about caring for a special needs child, the definition of family, unconditional love, loss, and grief.

My Thoughts:


The Stationery Shop: A Review

November 22, 2019

 The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali

The Stationery Shop Review

Genre/Categories: Historical Romantic Fiction, Romance, Family Life, Iran

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Complicated families…..soul mates…..resilience…..


In 1953, two teenagers meet in Mr. Fakhri’s Stationary Shop in Tehran. Roya loves the fountain pens, shiny ink bottles, and the thick, lovely writing paper while Bahman loves Rumi’s poetry and is an activist. They share a love of poetry and continue to meet in the Stationery Shop while their romance grows. Their happy life together is complicated by family tension and political unrest.

My Thoughts:


1st Line/1st Paragraph: Finding Chika #nonficnov

 November 19, 2019

1st Line/1st Paragraphs

I’m linking up this week with Vicki @ I’d Rather Be At The Beach who hosts a meme every Tuesday to share the First Chapter/First Paragraph of the book you are currently reading.

First Paragraph

As part of Nonfiction November, I’m pleased to share the first paragraphs of Finding Chika by well-loved author, Mitch Albom. If you are a Mitch Albom fan, you know this will be a heartfelt and somewhat magical read.

From Amazon:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Tuesdays With Morrie comes Mitch Albom’s most personal story to date: an intimate and heartwarming memoir about what it means to be a family and the young Haitian orphan whose short life would forever change his heart.

Told in hindsight, and through illuminating conversations with Chika herself, this is Albom at his most poignant and vulnerable. Finding Chika is a celebration of a girl, her adoptive guardians, and the incredible bond they formed—a devastatingly beautiful portrait of what it means to be a family, regardless of how it is made.”

Finding Chika: A Little Girl, an Earthquake, and the Making of a Family by Mitch Albom

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links

Finding chika

Genre/Categories: Memoir, Inspirational, Family

1st Line/1st Paragraphs From Chapter One:

“Why aren’t you writing, Mister Mitch?”
Chika is lying on the carpet in my office. She flips onto her back. She plays with her fingers.
She comes here in the early morning, when the light is still thin at the window. Sometimes she has a doll or a set of Magic Markers. Other times, it’s just her. She wears her blue pajamas, with the My Little Pony cartoon on the top and pastel stars on the bottoms. In the past, Chika loved to choose her clothes each morning after brushing her teeth, matching the colors of the socks and the shirts.
She doesn’t do that anymore.
Chika died last spring, when the trees in our yard were beginning to bud, as they are budding now, as it is spring again. Her absence left us without breath, or sleep, or appetite, and my wife and I stared straight ahead for long stretches until someone spoke to snap us out of it.
Then one morning, Chika reappeared.
“Why aren’t you writing?” she says again.
My arms are crossed. I stare at the empty screen.
About what?
“About me.”
I will.

Well….it appears that this might be an emotional read! I trust Mitch Albom completely, and I’m eager to dive in and learn more about love, found family, and grief.


Are you a Mitch Albom fan? What is your favorite Mitch Albom?

Do you enjoy memoirs?

Is Finding Chika on your TBR?
(I noticed that proceeds from this book will go to support the Have Faith Orphanage in Haiti that Mitch Albom operates.)

Here’s my review of another Mitch Albom favorite: The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

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