Book Reviews · Recommendations

A Royal Pain (Her Royal Spyness 2) by Rhys Bowen

A Royal Pain
(Her Royal Spyness, 2)
By: Rhys Bowen
Narrated by: Katherine Kellgren

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Published: July 2008
Published by: Berkley
Format Read: Paperback, Audio Book, Audible
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis

It’s 1930s London, and Lady Georgiana — thirty-fourth in line to the throne — has a lot on her plate, but little in her cupboards, in this national bestseller…

Baked beans and boiled eggs. That’s what my houseguest, the Bavarian princess, will have to eat if I don’t get help posthaste. The Queen of England has requested I entertain said princess, placing her in the playboy prince’s path, in hopes he might finally marry.

But queens never consider money, of which I have little. And which is why I moonlight as a maid-in-disguise. My plans:
1) Clean house in manner of palace.
2) Blackmail brother, Binky, into sending a few quid.
3) Unteach Princess Hanni English from gangster movies — lest she address the queen as “old broad.”
4) Keep eye on princess at parties, where she drinks like a fish.

Then there’s the matter of the body in the bookshop and Hanni’s unwitting involvement with the communist party. It’s enough to drive a girl mad…

My Thoughts

Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness series follows 34th in line to the British throne; the fictional Lady Georgiana. She may be of royal relation, but like the majority of the world during the 1930’s she is struggling to make ends meet and live up to her social standing. In this second installment of the series, Lady Georgiana is tasked by the Queen to host a young Princess from Bavaria, in hope that she will win the heart of the Prince. Tie in a Communist plot, high society and three deaths, then you have A Royal Pain.

I had so much fun reading this novel. The situations Lady Georgiana gets herself in are always entertaining. The addition of an American gangster film loving Princess Hanni was hilarious.

I alternated between reading a paperback and listening to the audiobook. Katherine Kellgren’s narration of Lady Georgiana reminded me of Lady Mary Crowley from Downton Abbey, only less snooty and with a better sense of humor.

I highly recommend A Royal Pain and the Royal Spyness series to fans of humorous historical mysteries.

Books Hauls · TBR

October 2021 Book Haul

Today I would like to share the physical books I added to my collection during the month of October.

The first three books I got a great deal on, at Value Village.

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My Story: Voyage on the Great Titanic: The Diary of Margaret Anne Brady, 1912
By: Ellen Emerson White

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Dear Canada: Orphan at My Door: The Home Child Diary of Victoria Cope
By: Jean Little

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Beartown
By: Fredrik Backman

And finally when visiting my local Newfie store, I found a rare book that has been on my TBR for quite a while.

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Death at the Harbourview Cafe
By: Fred Humber

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Lieutenant’s Nurse by Sara Ackerman

The Lieutenant’s Nurse
By: Sara Ackerman
Narrated by: Lauren Ezzo

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Published: March 2019
Published by: Harlequin Audio
Format Read: Audio book, Audible
Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 3/5

Note: I was sent a copy of Sara Ackerman’s The Lieutenant’s Nurse, from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. However I wasn’t able to read the eBook, so this is my review of the Audiobook.

Synopsis

November, 1941. She’s never even seen the ocean before, but Eva Cassidy has her reasons for making the crossing to Hawaii, and they run a lot deeper than escaping a harsh Michigan winter. Newly enlisted as an Army Corps nurse, Eva is stunned by the splendor she experiences aboard the steamship SS Lurline; even more so by Lt. Clark Spencer, a man she is drawn to but who clearly has secrets of his own. But Eva’s past—and the future she’s trying to create—means that she’s not free to follow her heart. Clark is a navy intelligence officer, and he warns her that the United States won’t be able to hold off joining the war for long, but nothing can prepare them for the surprise attack that will change the world they know.
In the wake of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Eva and her fellow nurses band together for the immense duty of keeping the American wounded alive. And the danger that finds Eva threatens everything she holds dear. Amid the chaos and heartbreak, Eva will have to decide whom to trust and how far she will go to protect those she loves.
Set in the vibrant tropical surroundings of the Pacific, The Lieutenant’s Nurse is an evocative, emotional WWII story of love, friendship and the resilient spirit of the heroic nurses of Pearl Harbor.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Army Corps nurse Eva Cassidy is eager to get away from a difficult situation in her home state of Michigan and embarks on a journey to her assigned station in Hawaii. While aboard the S.S. Lurline, she befriends a Lt. Spencer and becomes accidentally privy to some classified information. However, it isn’t long after they arrive in paradise that the unimaginable happens; Pearl Harbor is attacked by the Japanese.

I have been looking for a historical fiction set in Pearl Harbor for quite some time. When I read the synopsis for The Lieutenants Nurse, I jumped at the change to add it to my TBR list.

Not only was the island setting absolutely beautiful, but I really enjoyed Eva’s trip aboard the steamship as well.

Although I didn’t have any particular issued with the narration of this novel, at times my interest in listening to it waned and I found myself wishing I could turn to a physical copy or eBook version to read.

My final impression of The Lieutenants Nurse was that it was interesting and at times fast paced. I would recommend it to those who enjoy historical fiction with romance.

Challenges · Currently Reading · Recommendations · Wrap-ups

Monthly Wrap-up: September 2021

Total Books Read in September: 6
Total Books Read in 2021: 44

Series September Challenge

For the month of September I challenged myself to read books from series that I have in progress. I was able to get to all of the physical books I mentioned in my TBR post. However I wasn’t able to finish A Royal Pain in time.

Series Books Read:

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Royal Wedding (Princess Diaries 11)
By: Meg Cabot

Genre: Series, Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Rating: 3.5/5

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The Bookshop on the Shore
(Scottish Bookshop 2)
By: Jenny Colgan

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Series
Rating: 3.5/5

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Fly Away
(Firefly Lane 2)
By: Kristin Hannah

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Series
Rating: 5/5

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Sweet Little Lies
(L.A. Candy 2)
By: Lauren Conrad

Preformed by: Jenna Lamia
Genre: YA Lit, Series
Rating: 3/5

Also Completed:

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Of Mice and Men
By: John Steinbeck
Read by: Gary Sinise

Genre: Classics, Audiobook
Rating: 4/5

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Flight from the Fortress
By: Lyn Cook

Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
Rating: 2.5/5

The Stats

Total Number of Books Read: 6
Total Number of Fiction: 6
Total Number of Non-Fiction: 0
Total Books Sent for Review: 0
Total Books Read from My Shelves: 3
Total Library Books Read: 3

Formats Read

Physical Books: 3
eBooks:
 1
Audio Books: 
2

Currently Reading

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Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vanishing Half
By: Brit Bennett

Narrated by: Shayna Small

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Published: June 2020
Published by: Penguin Audio

Format Read: Audiobook, Audible
Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half follows the lives of The Vignes twins and the opposite paths they follow. Their stories present a comparison of a lower class African American women to that of her sister who passes as white and lives a privileged life among with her wealthy husband. Readers follow a timeline that spans the 1950’s to the early 1990’s.

I was drawn to this book as I was very interested in the descriptions of society from these two different situations. If I had to use a word to describe The Vanishing Half, I would say that it is a quite read. The events (especially those that were more traumatic) were told in a way that made them seem less shocking and more mater-of-fact. I think that some readers might be turned off by this style of writing. However I thought that Brit Bennett’s use of metaphors showed her talent as an author, beautifully.

Shayna Small’s narration of the characters felt authentic and did justice to the story. Although I thought the ending was abrupt, I would reccommend Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half to those interested in diverse historical fiction. I would also advise caution to those who may be sensitive to such trigger warnings as domestic abuse.

Challenges · Currently Reading · Recommendations · Wrap-ups

Monthly Wrap-up: July 2021

Total Books Read in July: 4
Total Books Read in 2021: 32

Backlist Catch-up TBR: 4/7

Backlist Catch-up TBR Books Read in July:

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The Lake of Dreams
By: Kim Edwards

Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3/5
NOTE: I won a copy of The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards, from Goodreads and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Lieutenant’s Nurse
By: Sara Ackerman

Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3/5
NOTE: I was sent a copy of Sara Ackerman’s The Lieutenant’s Nurse, from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Additional Books Read:

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
By: Roald Dahl

Genre: Children’s Books, Children’s Fiction, Classics, Chapter Books
Rating: 3/5

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Murder at Blackhead
By: MK Staple

Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 1/5

DNF

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All My Love, Detrick
By: Roberta Kagan

Genre: Historical Fiction

The Stats

Total Number of Books Read: 4
Total Number of Fiction: 4
Total Number of Non-Fiction: 0
Total Books Sent for Review: 2
Total Books Read from My Shelves: 4
Total Library Books Read: 0

Formats Read

Physical Books: 3
eBooks:
 0
Audio Books: 
1

Currently Reading

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Articles · Recommendations · Worth a Watch

My Firefly Lane Playlist

Kristin Hannah’s Firefly Lane has been on my TBR for years, however in light of the release of the Netflix adaptation, I decided to bump it up my list. I finally read this book in April and enjoyed the coming of age story of two best friends.

For those who are not familiar with this book here is the synopsis:

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From the New York Times bestselling author Kristin Hannah comes a powerful novel of love, loss, and the magic of friendship. . . .

In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the “coolest girl in the world” moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all—beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface they are as opposite as two people can be: Kate, doomed to be forever uncool, with a loving family who mortifies her at every turn. Tully, steeped in glamour and mystery, but with a secret that is destroying her. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer’s end they’ve become TullyandKate. Inseparable.

So begins Kristin Hannah’s magnificent new novel. Spanning more than three decades and playing out across the ever-changing face of the Pacific Northwest, Firefly Lane is the poignant, powerful story of two women and the friendship that becomes the bulkhead of their lives.

From the beginning, Tully is desperate to prove her worth to the world. Abandoned by her mother at an early age, she longs to be loved unconditionally. In the glittering, big-hair era of the eighties, she looks to men to fill the void in her soul. But in the buttoned-down nineties, it is television news that captivates her. She will follow her own blind ambition to New York and around the globe, finding fame and success . . . and loneliness.

Kate knows early on that her life will be nothing special. Throughout college, she pretends to be driven by a need for success, but all she really wants is to fall in love and have children and live an ordinary life. In her own quiet way, Kate is as driven as Tully. What she doesn’t know is how being a wife and mother will change her . . . how she’ll lose sight of who she once was, and what she once wanted. And how much she’ll envy her famous best friend. . . .

For thirty years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship—jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they’ve survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart . . . and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test.

Firefly Lane is for anyone who ever drank Boone’s Farm apple wine while listening to Abba or Fleetwood Mac. More than a coming-of-age novel, it’s the story of a generation of women who were both blessed and cursed by choices. It’s about promises and secrets and betrayals. And ultimately, about the one person who really, truly knows you—and knows what has the power to hurt you . . . and heal you. Firefly Lane is a story you’ll never forget . . . one you’ll want to pass on to your best friend.

Source: Goodreads

I loved all the cultural references to the time periods it covers. Kristin Hannah really transports her readers back in time. Another aspect I loved, was how much amazing music was incorporated into this book and how it played such a pivotal role in the different chapters of Tully and Kate’s lives.

Today I would like to share with you some (and I could add tons more ha) of my favourite songs that were mentioned in Kristin Hannah’s Firefly Lane.

For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield

Daydream Believer by The Monkees

Takin’ Care of Business by Bachman Turner Overdrive

Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Firefly Lane
By: Kristin Hannah

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Published: February 2008
Published by: St. Martin’s Griffin
Format Read: Paperback
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance, Contemporary Fiction, Dual Timeline, Historical Fiction

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis

From the New York Times bestselling author Kristin Hannah comes a powerful novel of love, loss, and the magic of friendship. . . .

In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the “coolest girl in the world” moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all—beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface they are as opposite as two people can be: Kate, doomed to be forever uncool, with a loving family who mortifies her at every turn. Tully, steeped in glamour and mystery, but with a secret that is destroying her. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer’s end they’ve become TullyandKate. Inseparable.

So begins Kristin Hannah’s magnificent new novel. Spanning more than three decades and playing out across the ever-changing face of the Pacific Northwest, Firefly Lane is the poignant, powerful story of two women and the friendship that becomes the bulkhead of their lives.

From the beginning, Tully is desperate to prove her worth to the world. Abandoned by her mother at an early age, she longs to be loved unconditionally. In the glittering, big-hair era of the eighties, she looks to men to fill the void in her soul. But in the buttoned-down nineties, it is television news that captivates her. She will follow her own blind ambition to New York and around the globe, finding fame and success . . . and loneliness.

Kate knows early on that her life will be nothing special. Throughout college, she pretends to be driven by a need for success, but all she really wants is to fall in love and have children and live an ordinary life. In her own quiet way, Kate is as driven as Tully. What she doesn’t know is how being a wife and mother will change her . . . how she’ll lose sight of who she once was, and what she once wanted. And how much she’ll envy her famous best friend. . . .

For thirty years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship—jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they’ve survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart . . . and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test.

Firefly Lane is for anyone who ever drank Boone’s Farm apple wine while listening to Abba or Fleetwood Mac. More than a coming-of-age novel, it’s the story of a generation of women who were both blessed and cursed by choices. It’s about promises and secrets and betrayals. And ultimately, about the one person who really, truly knows you—and knows what has the power to hurt you . . . and heal you. Firefly Lane is a story you’ll never forget . . . one you’ll want to pass on to your best friend.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Firefly Lane is a coming of age novel about two friends who meet as teenagers in the 1970s. Readers follow Tully and Kate as they mature and follow their dreams through the 80s, 90s and early 2000’s. I admit that I moved this title up to the top of my book pile at the release of the Netflix show. Although I did find Kristin Hannah’s Winter Garden to be more engrossing, Firefly Lane will definitely be included on my list for the best reads of the year.

I think that both Tully and Kate have characteristics that readers will be able to relate to. Although they are polar opposites, I appreciate how the author explored their flaws as much as their strengths. My favourite aspect of Firefly Lane was how each decade felt authentic in its portrayal. From the world events to the fashion and popular culture references, Kristin Hannah does an excellent job of transporting her readers back in time.

I highly recommend Firefly Lane to fans of this author and those who enjoy stories of lifelong friendships.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Anna’s Crossing (Amish Beginnings, 1) by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Anna’s Crossing
(Amish Beginnings, 1)
By: Suzanne Woods Fisher

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Published: February 2015
Published by: Revell
Format Read: eBook, Kindle
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction

Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis

When Anna König first meets Bairn, the Scottish ship carpenter of the Charming Nancy, their encounter is anything but pleasant. Anna is on the ship only to ensure the safe arrival of her loved ones to the New World. Hardened by years of living at sea, Bairn resents toting these naïve farmers–dubbed “Peculiars” by deckhands–across the ocean. As delays, storms, illness, and diminishing provisions afflict crew and passengers alike, Bairn finds himself drawn to Anna’s serene nature. For her part, Anna can’t seem to stay below deck and far away from the aloof ship’s carpenter, despite warnings.

When an act of sacrifice leaves Anna in a perilous situation, Bairn discovers he may not have left his faith as firmly in the past as he thought. But has the revelation come too late?

Amish fiction favorite Suzanne Woods Fisher brings her fans back to the beginning of Amish life in America with this fascinating glimpse into the first ocean crossing as seen through the eyes of a devout young woman and an irreverent man. Blending the worlds of Amish and historical fiction, Fisher is sure to delight her longtime fans even as she attracts new ones with her superb and always surprise-filled writing.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

In this series, Suzanne Woods Fisher chronicles the journey early Amish settlers took to the New World in the 1730’s. Readers follow a young woman named Anna, who travels with members of her community aboard a ship called “Charming Nancy” bound for Pennsylvania. As the only person in their group who spoke English, Anna acts as translator finding herself often dealing with Bairn, the ships carpenter and third in command.

Suzanne Woods Fisher is one of my favourite Amish fiction writers; a genre I have cherished reading in recent years. While I have read many historical fiction books in the Christian genre, this is the first I’ve read that follows this particular group.

I was interested in learning how the Amish faith differed in this time period, compared to other more commonly practiced religions. Along with their fellow Mennonite passengers they were known as “the peculiars”. The Amish of the 1700’s stood out in appearance, much like they do today sporting different beards and prayer caps. Although the author wrote of their peaceful and giving nature, I didn’t feel that their was much of a comparison told.

I have come to realize that most fiction in this genre centers around faith being tested. Usually one character is a strong believer, while the other struggles with it. Anna’s Crossing is no different, so I did find the story to be predictable, but I am happy to say that I still appreciated the message it tells.

I highly recommend Suzanne Woods Fisher’s Anna’s Crossing. I am looking forward to reading more about the early Amish settlers and how they began to plant their roots in the New World.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
By: Dawnie Walton

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Published: March 2021
Published By: Simon & Schuster
Format Read: eBook, Kindle, ARC, NetGalley
Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 3.5/5

NOTE: I was sent a copy of The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton, from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

A poignant fictional oral history of the beloved rock ‘n’ roll duo who shot to fame in the 1970s New York, and the dark, fraught secret that lies at the peak of their stardom.

Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude, Afro-punk before that term existed. Coming of age in Detroit, she can’t imagine settling for a 9-to-5 job—despite her unusual looks, Opal believes she can be a star. So when the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her at a bar’s amateur night, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together for the fledgling Rivington Records.

In early seventies New York City, just as she’s finding her niche as part of a flamboyant and funky creative scene, a rival band signed to her label brandishes a Confederate flag at a promotional concert. Opal’s bold protest and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves, but also be a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially black women, who dare to speak their truth.

Decades later, as Opal considers a 2016 reunion with Nev, music journalist S. Sunny Shelton seizes the chance to curate an oral history about her idols. Sunny thought she knew most of the stories leading up to the cult duo’s most politicized chapter. But as her interviews dig deeper, a nasty new allegation from an unexpected source threatens to blow up everything.

Provocative and chilling, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev features a backup chorus of unforgettable voices, a heroine the likes of which we’ve not seen in storytelling, and a daring structure, and introduces a bold new voice in contemporary fiction.

My Thoughts

Like many other readers, I was intrigued to read The Final Revival of Opal and Nev, after seeing it being compared to Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Like that book, Dawnie Walton tells this story in an interview format. However where Daisy Jones and the Six focuses on emotional lyrics, Opal and Nev explores more of a social justice point of view.

While I don’t think that the music this unlikely pair would have released would have been my cup of tea, I could definitely appreciate how they would have made an impression with their originality. Opal especially was a strong character, although she wasn’t perfect. I liked how she became a leader for those who were seen as different and not accepted by society.

Author Dawnie Walton did not shy away from tackling difficult topics including; feminism and racial injustices. I would recommend it to readers who are looking for an impactful book that explores those topics.