Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Author Q&A: Pam Jenoff

Pam Jenoff is one of my favorite authors for her historical fiction novels. Her latest book, The Orphan's Tale, is now available. Yesterday I shared a book spotlight along with some early praise for the novel - you can read that here. Today I have a conversation that Pam has prepared that I found to be quite interesting. Do let me know if you'll be picking up this book - it sounds like a very moving and compelling read!
 

A Conversation with Pam Jenoff


What is your new novel, The Orphan's Tale, about?
Noa, a young Dutch girl, has been kicked out by her parents after becoming pregnant by a German soldier. She lives above a rail station, which she cleans to earn her keep. One day she finds the unthinkable: a boxcar full of infants , ripped from their parents arms too young to know their own names. In a moment of fateful impulse, she snatches one of the infants and flees into the snowy night. She finds shelter with a German circus, where she must learn the trapeze act to earn her keep. The woman who teaches her to be an aerialist is herself a Jew in hiding and the two women must see if they can save each other - or if their secrets will destroy them both.

Is the novel based on a true story?
The novel, though fictitious, was inspired by two real events: first, the little-known account of the rescuer's circus, an actual German circus that hid Jews, including rival performers from another circus. Second, the train of unknown infants was drawn from an actual, horrific event during the war. There are also elements of the book that were drawn from real life. For example, the instance of a German military officer being ordered to divorce his Jewish wife was true. Also, a real-life romance between a Jewish woman in hiding and a circus clown provided the idea for Astrid and Peter's relationship in the book. Finally, while researching I was amazed to find a rich history of Jewish circus dynasties in Europe, which also helped me develop the story.

How did you first discover the seeds for the novel - the real-life stories of circus performers during the war and the story of the train car full of infants?
I found these remarkable stories in the Yad Vasham virtual archives which document the Righteous - people, often not Jewish, who saved Jews during the war.

What sort of research did you do before writing the novel?
Some of my research is done before I write the book, other bit contemporaneously with the writing. In any event, armed with the stories from Yad Vashem, I began to dig deeper, I found a book on Jews in popular German entertainment and that book provided more detail about the rescuer's circus and introduced me to Jewish circus dynasties in Europe. From there, I needed all kinds of research about Jewish life and life in general during the war, in both Germany and France, where the circus travels. I needed to understand how they were able (and permitted) to keep performing, if at all during such grim times. I used a variety of sources: books, internet, periodical and photos, from the time period, correspondence and other first-hand accounts. 

Then there was the research about the circus in general. European and American circuses are different and I tried hard to get the details right. Interestingly, there are many websites devoted to historic circus arts. Finally, I had to learn about aerialists arts, such as trapeze. I began with books and videos and then consulted an aerialist, who taught me what was and was not possible. But first I had to understand enough to even know the right questions to ask.

There have probably been more books written about the Second World War - both fiction and nonfiction - than any other subject. How did you keep your story fresh?
There are times when I look at all of the books I and others have written during World War II and think, "that's it, I'm done." But then the stories keep coming, each so original and irresistible, that they demand to be written. In particular, I think the end of Communism and the opening of communications and archives not previously available have provided a lot of people who lived it, and as long as we treat them with the thoughtfulness and respect they deserve, I'm not sure we will ever be done.

Why do you think readers are still so drawn to stories from this period in history, fast fading from memory?
Stories from the war are more popular than ever. In part, I think it is a drive to capture and tell the stories of the survivors in whatever form now and before they are gone. I also think that the war is just such fertile ground for storytelling. The dire circumstances and stark choices are ideal for placing the reader in the shoes of the protagonist and having her ask, "What would I have done?"

Which characters in the novel are based on real people and which did you fabricate?
All of my characters are fictitious. But I was inspired by real life accounts I read of courageous circus owners, Jewish performers in hiding, and others.

The novel has two central characters - Noa and Astrid. Which one would you say is the main protagonist?
I couldn't choose between Noa and Astrid - the story is equally theirs and I worked hard to give each a distinct voice.

There is a lot of detail about circus life and circus acts. Did you spend any time with a real circus?
One question I struggled with in writing this book was whether I had to go see the circus as part of my research. I dislike the circus and think it is cruel to animals and didn't want to go. Ultimately, I concluded that since the modern American circus is very different from the historic European version, going would be more misleading than helpful. But I did consult extensively with an aerialist on the trapeze.

The "orphan" who lends his name to the title is only an infant as the story unfolds. Why did you choose to give the book this title?
I'm not sure that the infant is the orphan. First, it is unclear whether his parents are deceased or out there somewhere. Second, Astrid may be an orphan in that her parents have been taken by the Germans. Finally, Noa is metaphorically an orphan since her parents kicked her out. As for titles in general, developing them is a very interesting process creatively and editorially and I think that is all I will say about that!

You spent time in Europe during your career with the State Department. What did that knowledge of place bring to the writing of the book?
I spent several years in Europe, most of which as a diplomat in Krakow, Poland. The State Department gave me responsibility for handling all of the issues related to the Holocaust that had never been resolved during the Communist era, questions of anti-Semitism, property restitution, and preservation of the concentration camps. I also became very close to many of the Holocaust survivors, who were like grandparents to me. I was profoundly moved and changed by those experiences. My books are tributes to those people and times. I think they reflect an understanding of the era and events that can come only from having spent so much time on the ground in the region grappling with the past.

Why have you called The Orphan's Tale "the book that broke me"?
I call The Orphan's Tale "the book that broke me" to write because of the train of unknown infants, taken from their parents. It is the opening scene and the lynchpin of the book, but as a mother of three children myself, it was also the hardest to write. I avoided it for a long time before doing so.

Are you working on another novel? If so, can you give us a sneak peek into what it is about?
My next book, still untitled, is about twelve young British women who went missing in Europe during World War II while working as spies, and the woman who goes searching for them - and who might or might not have betrayed them.


*** I don't know about you, but I am really excited to start reading The Orphan's Tale...and I will certainly be anxious for Pam's next book as well! Thank you MIRA for sharing this conversation with Pam and Pam, thank you for taking time to answer all these questions - they were so insightful!!!

The Orphan's Tale  by Pam Jenoff
MIRA Books

February 21, 2017
Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-0-7783-1981-8
E-book ISBN: 978-1-460-39642-1


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Review: I See You by Clare Mackintosh

Title: I See You
Author: Clare Mackintosh
Published: February 2017, Berkley
Format: ARC E-copy, 384 pages
Source: Netgalley

The author of the New York Times bestseller I Let You Go propels readers into a dark and claustrophobic thriller, in which a normal, everyday woman becomes trapped in the confines of her normal, everyday world...
 
Every morning and evening, Zoe Walker takes the same route to the train station, waits at a certain place on the platform, finds her favorite spot in the car, never suspecting that someone is watching her...

It all starts with a classified ad. During her commute home one night, while glancing through her local paper, Zoe sees her own face staring back at her; a grainy photo along with a phone number and a listing for a website called FindTheOne.com.

Other women begin appearing in the same ad, a different one every day, and Zoe realizes they’ve become the victims of increasingly violent crimes—including murder. With the help of a determined cop, she uncovers the ad’s twisted purpose...A discovery that turns her paranoia into full-blown panic. Zoe is sure that someone close to her has set her up as the next target.

And now that man on the train—the one smiling at Zoe from across the car—could be more than just a friendly stranger. He could be someone who has deliberately chosen her and is ready to make his next move…

My thoughts: Clare Mackintosh became an immediate fan favorite for me after her debut psychological thriller, I Let You Go, last year. As soon as I saw her new book, I knew I had to read it and once again, she managed to hit it out of the park!

Having just been to London myself, I could really appreciate this story. One of the first things my husband and I noticed is that there are cameras everywhere in London - very different from here in the US. So, I could appreciate the "eyes" on you feeling that Zoe got and that is a major part of this story. It's chilling - how often do we find ourselves doing the same thing everyday - taking the same route to work, park in the same spot in the parking lot, going to the same coffee shop at the same time, etc? Could someone pin point your exact movements based on your daily routine? 

This story grabs you from the start and doesn't let up. There are two strong female leads that narrate the story - Zoe and Kelly - as well as the perpetrator, who we do not find out the identity of until the very end. And let me just tell you, the sections told by this mystery person are quite chilling! I thought I had it figured out a few times as to who was behind everything only to be completely off-base - boy was I completely surprised when I came to the end!

Clare Mackintosh has proven with this book that she is definitely not a one-hit wonder! This book is just as good as her debut and I cannot wait to see what comes never from her...this girl can spin a mean tale!!!

 

Book Spotlight: The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff

Today, The Orphan's Tale, the latest book by Pam Jenoff is being published and to celebrate, I am helping the publisher get the word out. I will be reading this book soon and cannot wait! For now, please enjoy this spotlight and let me know if you plan on reading this book - it sounds like a powerful and compelling read!!!


Title: The Orphan's Tale
Author: Pam Jenoff
Published: February 2017, MIRA
Format: Paperback, 368 pages

A powerful novel of friendship set in a traveling circus during World War II, The Orphan's Tale introduces two extraordinary women and their harrowing stories of sacrifice and survival .

Sixteen-year-old Noa has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier and being forced to give up her baby. She lives above a small rail station, which she cleans in order to earn her keep… When Noa discovers a boxcar containing dozens of Jewish infants bound for a concentration camp, she is reminded of the child that was taken from her. And in a moment that will change the course of her life, she snatches one of the babies and flees into the snowy night.

Noa finds refuge with a German circus, but she must learn the flying trapeze act so she can blend in undetected, spurning the resentment of the lead aerialist, Astrid. At first rivals, Noa and Astrid soon forge a powerful bond. But as the facade that protects them proves increasingly tenuous, Noa and Astrid must decide whether their friendship is enough to save one another—or if the secrets that burn between them will destroy everything.

What readers are saying

"I read this novel in a headlong rush, transported by the relationship between two vastly different women during World War II: a Jewish circus aerialist and a teenage runaway with a baby. Deftly juggling secrets, lies, treachery, and passion, Pam Jenoff vividly brings to life the agonizing choices and life-or-death consequences for a hardy band of travelers under Nazi occupation." --Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train

"The Orphan's Tale is a compelling and beautifully told story about the power of female friendship, with all its complications." --PopSugar

"Readers who enjoyed Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale and Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants will embrace this novel." --Library Journal

"In prose that is beautiful, ethereal, and poignant, The Orphan's Tale is a novel you won't be able to put down." --Bustle

"A gripping story about the power of friendship to save and redeem even in the darkest of circumstances, The Orphan's Tale sheds light on one of the most colorful and inspiring stories of heroism in Nazi Germany. This is a book not to be missed." --Melanie Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue and The Aviator's Wife

"Jenoff expertly performs a pirouetting tale worthy of a standing ovation. A circus of hidden Jews, a powerful friendship, The Orphan's Tale proves that the human spirit defies hate, fear, and gravity with a triumphant ta-da!"  --Sarah McCoy, New York Times bestselling author of The Mapmaker's Children

"The Orphan's Tale is a wonderfully compelling story set in Europe under the Nazis, and with a beautiful, complicated friendship between two women at its heart. The story grips from the very first page, and the characters are utterly believable-flawed, yet capable of great generosity and courage, so the darkness of the setting is pierced by shafts of light. And the atmosphere of the circus is entrancing-so vividly evoked that you can smell the animals and feel all the terror and thrill of the flying trapeze." --Margaret Leroy, author of The Soldier's Wife

"The Orphan's Tale begins with the most riveting first chapter I've ever read. With deftness and emotion, Jenoff sets in motion a compelling story of friendship and courage during the Second World War." --Charles Belfoure, author of The Paris Architect and House of Thieves

"A beautiful and heart wrenching novel that weaves the story of two women's fight for survival against incredible odds, The Orphan's Tale gripped me from the first page. Jenoff mesmerizes with her ability to weave in historical detail with a story that explores love, friendship, and the endurance of the human spirit. A marvelous and satisfying read!" --Alyson Richman, bestselling author of The Lost Wife


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About the Author: Pam Jenoff is the author of The Kommandant's Girl, which was an international bestseller and nominated for a Quill award, as well as seven other novels. She holds a bachelor's degree in international affairs from George Washington University and a master's degree in history from Cambridge, and she received her Juris Doctor from the University of Pennsylvania. 

Jenoff's novels are based on her experiences working at the Pentagon and also as a diplomat for the State Department handling Holocaust issues in Poland. She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and three children where, in addition to writing, she teaches law school.


The Orphan's Tale  by Pam Jenoff
MIRA Books
February 21, 2017 
Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-0-7783-1981-8
E-book ISBN: 978-1-460-39642-1
 

Giveaway: The Mother's Promise by Sally Hepworth

Today, Sally Hepworth's latest book,  The Mother's Promise  is being published and I'm pleased to offer you, my readers, a chance to win a copy here! I've already read this book and really liked it - you can read my review here. You can also see what others have to say and then be sure to enter the giveaway below!!!


Title: The Mother's Promise
Author: Sally Hepworth
Published: February 2017, St. Martin's Press
Format: ARC Paperback, 336 pages
Source: Publisher

A new poignant and breathtaking novel from the author of The Things We Keep and The Secrets of Midwives.

With every book, Sally Hepworth becomes more and more known for her searing emotional portraits of families—and the things that test their bonds. In The Mother’s Promise, she delivers her most powerful novel yet: the story of a single mother who is dying, the troubled teenaged daughter who is battling her own demons, and the two women who come into their lives at the most critical moment.

Alice and her daughter Zoe have been a family of two all their lives. Zoe has always struggled with crippling social anxiety and her mother has been her constant and fierce protector. With no family to speak of, and the identity of Zoe’s father shrouded in mystery, their team of two works—until it doesn’t. Until Alice gets sick and is given a grim prognosis.

Desperate to find stability for Zoe, Alice reaches out to two women who are practically strangers, but who are her only hope: Kate, her oncology nurse, and Sonja, a social worker. As the four of them come together, a chain of events is set into motion and all four of them must confront their sharpest fears and secrets—secrets about abandonment, abuse, estrangement, and the deepest longing for family. Imbued with heart and humor in even the darkest moments, The Mother’s Promise is an unforgettable novel about the power of love and forgiveness.

What readers are saying:

“Part tearjerker, part celebration of mothers, this story tugs at the heartstrings…a beautiful novel of courage and love in the face of sorrow.”Booklist
 

“This bittersweet, emotionally intense novel is recommended for readers who appreciate issue-driven stories by Jodi Picoult and Lisa Genova.”Library Journal
 

“Hepworth intertwines these women’s stories, taking the notion that it takes a village to raise a child another step: it takes a village to raise each woman up over her own tribulations.”—Kirkus Reviews


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GIVEAWAY DETAILS - (US only)  
Thanks to Katie at St. Martin's Press one reader can win a copy of  The Mother's Promise by Sally Hepworth. To enter the giveaway, please fill out the rafflecopter by February 28th.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway is open to US residents only and ends February 28th. 

Good Luck!!!



 
 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Review: The Mother's Promise by Sally Hepworth

Title: The Mother's Promise
Author: Sally Hepworth
Published: February 2017, St. Martin's Press
Format: ARC Paperback, 336 pages
Source: Publisher


A new poignant and breathtaking novel from the author of The Things We Keep and The Secrets of Midwives.

With every book, Sally Hepworth becomes more and more known for her searing emotional portraits of families—and the things that test their bonds. In The Mother’s Promise, she delivers her most powerful novel yet: the story of a single mother who is dying, the troubled teenaged daughter who is battling her own demons, and the two women who come into their lives at the most critical moment.

Alice and her daughter Zoe have been a family of two all their lives. Zoe has always struggled with crippling social anxiety and her mother has been her constant and fierce protector. With no family to speak of, and the identity of Zoe’s father shrouded in mystery, their team of two works—until it doesn’t. Until Alice gets sick and is given a grim prognosis.

Desperate to find stability for Zoe, Alice reaches out to two women who are practically strangers, but who are her only hope: Kate, her oncology nurse, and Sonja, a social worker. As the four of them come together, a chain of events is set into motion and all four of them must confront their sharpest fears and secrets—secrets about abandonment, abuse, estrangement, and the deepest longing for family. Imbued with heart and humor in even the darkest moments, The Mother’s Promise is an unforgettable novel about the power of love and forgiveness.

My thoughts: Once again Sally Hepworth has managed to write a book that has all the feels and then some! This story is both heartwarming and heartbreaking - I had tears streaming down my face as I read the last few chapters - but it was all good. I absolutely loved this story - for the messages it conveyed, especially about love, trust and hope!

I think it's important to note here that I am not a mother, yet I could still identify with and relate to many of the characters in this book. I've been where Kate has been, going through the agony of miscarriage after miscarriage, round after round of failed IVF. I know her pain and felt that Sally Hepworth really portrayed this in an accurate and realistic way. 

I loved that the story is told from the different characters. It really gives you that insider perspective into each character and allows us to have a better appreciation for what they are going through. I don't think it would have had the same effect if it wasn't "Zoe" telling her parts of the story. Her level of maturity comes through at times, but it's just right and I appreciated it all the same. Her quirkiness and adaptability shine through at times and she is perhaps the most endearing fifteen-year-old ever!

This book will definitely tug at your heartstrings. It touches upon a whole host of issues - cancer, domestic abuse, infertility and social anxiety to name just a few. It shows that family doesn't always have to created through blood, that a support system is all about who's there when you need it, who shows up.

This emotional read is one that I have a feeling will be staying with me for some time. Sally Hepworth is definitely an author not to be missed and I cannot wait to see what comes next from her!


****Be sure to stop by tomorrow for a chance to win a copy of this book!!! 

 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

#FitReaders: Weekly Check-in February 17

 
 
My training is winding down for the BIG walk...I only have this week coming up and then I will be heading down first to NC to pick up my mom, who's doing the walk with me and then to Savannah where the walk is. I'm starting to get really excited for the walk...this week will be spent picking up any essentials I need for my walker's first aid kit (bandaids, blister kit, sunblock, lip balm, etc). Having done the walk before, I already have an idea of what I need and don't need, so that's helpful!
 
 
February Goals:

  • 10K steps M-F, at least 7,500 steps on the weekend - 5/5, 0/2
  • 30 minutes of active walking every day, M-F - met
  • Eat mindfully/eat enough (esp. in important while training!) - met
  
My training plan for the Challenge Walk MS I'll be doing in March of 2017:

  • 4 miles, 2 days a week, interval training - met
  • Distance walks (distances will vary, try to do 2 days, back-to-back ) - met!
  • Practice yoga - didn't do any full sessions this week, but got in some specific poses every day.

    
Here's how my last week went:    

Feb 11:  5,689 steps
Feb 12:  3,599 steps

Feb 13:  17,473 steps (5K+ - 5 Charity Miles for MS)
Feb 14:  10,868 steps
(30 min fitness walk)
Feb 15:  18,912 steps
(10K+ -  6.5 Charity Miles for MS)
Feb 16:  18
,158 steps (10K -  6.2 Charity Miles for MS)
Feb 17:  11
,556 steps (30 min fitness walk)

Total Steps: 86,255 steps


 
Audiobooks listened to last week (since I'm not much of a music fan, I listen to books while I walk):
  • Started & Finished The Sister by Louise Jensen, narrated by Natalie Blass

How did your week go? You can find this week's link-up here.



***In March, I'll be doing the CHALLENGE WALK MS in Savannah, GA. It is a three-day, 50-mile walk that tests your strength and your spirit, and makes an extraordinary difference in the lives of people with MS and their families.




To help me reach my fundraising goal, click here :)

 
Virtual 5K /10K Tally:
     January:                               May:                             September:   
           5K  -  4                                  5K  -                                    5K  - 
         10K  -  7                                10K  -                                  10K  - 
     February:                             June:                            October:

           5K  -  2                                  5K  -                                    5K  - 
         10K  -  7                               10K  -                                 10K  -   
     March:                                  July:                             November:
           5K  -                                     5K  -                                    5K  - 
         10K  -                                    10K  -                                  10K  - 
     April:                                    August:                        December:
           5K  -                                     5K  -                                    5K  - 
         10K  -                                    10K  -                                  10K  - 


 
 

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