Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
By: Dawnie Walton

Book Cover

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.

Articles · Memes · TBR

Waiting on Wednesday: Our Woman in Moscow

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine, that shines a spotlight on the books we can’t wait to be released in the near future.

Today I would like to share the synopsis for an author that has several titles I’m interested in reading. Our Woman in Moscow by Beatriz Williams is set to be released June 1, 2021.

Our Woman in Moscow
By: Beatriz Williams

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Synopsis

The New York Times bestselling author of Her Last Flight returns with a gripping and profoundly human story of Cold War espionage and family devotion that proves again why Elin Hilderbrand says Beatriz Williams “is writing the best historical fiction out there.”

In the autumn of 1948, Iris Digby vanishes from her London home with her American diplomat husband and their two children. The world is shocked by the family’s sensational disappearance. Were they eliminated by the Soviet intelligence service? Or have the Digbys defected to Moscow with a trove of the West’s most vital secrets?

Four years later, Ruth Macallister receives a postcard from the twin sister she hasn’t seen since their catastrophic parting in Rome in the summer of 1940, as war engulfed the continent and Iris fell desperately in love with an enigmatic United States Embassy official named Sasha Digby. Within days, Ruth is on her way to Moscow, posing as the wife of counterintelligence agent Sumner Fox in a precarious plot to extract the Digbys from behind the Iron Curtain.

But the complex truth behind Iris’s marriage defies Ruth’s understanding, and as the sisters race toward safety, a dogged Soviet agent forces them to make a heartbreaking choice between two irreconcilable loyalties.

Source: Always With a Book

Book Reviews · Charlie's Corner · Recommendations

Charlie’s Corner: Catla and the Vikings by: Mary Elizabeth Nelson

Welcome to Charlie’s Corner, named after my little boy. Here I will share children’s product and book reviews.

Catla and the Vikings
By: Mary Elizabeth Nelson

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Published: March 2012
Published by: Orca Book Publishers
Format Read: eBook, Libby App
Genre: Historical Fiction, Middle Grade

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis

In the fall of 1066, a thirteen-year-old Anglo-Saxon girl named Catla watches from afar as Viking raiders burn her village and imprison her family and the other villagers. No one sees her as she flees toward Aigber, the closest village, praying the people there will help.

Catla must ignore her terror as she makes her way to the standing stones, a place of refuge, where she meets Sven, an older boy from her village. Together, they continue toward Aigber and are able to alert the village of the coming peril. Catla and Sven rally the villagers of Aigber, and with Catla’s help, a plan is put in place that will save both villages from the Nord-devils.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Catla and the Vikings introduces young readers to a brave girl as she attempts to save her Saxon village from a Viking invasion. Mary Elizabeth Nelson presents an exciting adventure about a time in history I had not yet explored. While I appreciated how women were portrayed as warriors amoung men, I was disappointed by how abruptly the book ended. Another aspect of this book that I found to be well done, was in the way such a violent event as an invasion, was presented, so that it was appropriate for its younger audience.

Although it didn’t conclude to my satisfaction, I would still recommend Catla and the Vikings to fans of middle grade historical fiction.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

We Came Here to Shine by Susie Orman Schnall

We Came Here to Shine
By: Susie Orman Schnall

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Published: June 2020
Published by: St. Martin’s Griffin
Format Read: eBook, ARC, Kindle
Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 3/5

NOTE: I was sent a copy of Susie Orman Schnall’s We Came Here to Shine, from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

At the iconic 1939 New York World’s Fair, two ambitious young women—a down-on-her-luck actress and an aspiring journalist—form an unlikely friendship as they navigate a world of possibility and find out what they are truly made of during a glorious summer of spectacle and potential…
Gorgeous Vivi is about to begin filming her first starring role in a Hollywood picture when the studio head ships her off to New York as a favor to a friend. She’s assigned the leading role in the heralded Aquacade synchronized swimming spectacular at the World’s Fair, a fate she believes will destroy her film career. If she performs well, she’ll have another chance at stardom, but with everything working against her, will her summer lead to opportunity or failure?
Plucky Max dreams of becoming a serious journalist, but when her job at the New York Times doesn’t pan out, she finds herself begrudgingly working for the daily paper of the World’s Fair. As her ideas are continually overlooked by her male counterparts and her career prospects are put in jeopardy, Max must risk everything to change the course of her life.
When Max and Vivi’s worlds collide, they forge an enduring friendship. One that teaches them to go after what matters most during the most meaningful summer of their lives.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

The 1939 World’s Fair was held in New York City and what a spectacle it was! When the grand plans for two young women fall through, they both find themselves reluctantly immersed in the festivities. Max, a N.Y.U, journalism student, lost out on her dream internship and is assigned to work at the fair newspaper. Meanwhile Vivi, a budding Hollywood starlet is passed over for a leading role in a film and is sent to New York City to preform in the Aquacade production. We Came Here to Shine explores sexism in the publication and show businesses. Both women struggle to advance their careers that are being ruled by the iron fists of their male superiors.

The theme for the fair was “The World of Tomorrow”, which is the perfect fit for the theme of the novel, as both Max and Vivi were working towards their future careers and successes.

The descriptions of the exhibits, attractions and concessionaires made me wish I could have experienced the fair myself. And the Aquacade show alone sounded spectacular! The newspaper articles at the end of Max’s chapters helped to assist in the world building and describe the state of the world (America specifically) as it hovers between the Great Depression and World War II.

We Came Here to Shine hooked me immediately and I really enjoyed a behind the scenes look at the two industries. I also cheered our heroines along as they stood up for themselves. However, I found some inconsistencies in the writing tense. The individual chapters felt more strong to me than those that followed both Max and Vivi at the same time. I also felt that too much foreshadowing was used, which in turn slightly dulled those moments for me when they were revealed.

Aside from the minor points I mentioned above, We Came Here to Shine tells an important story of women’s equality and friendship. I would recommend this novel to those who enjoy the historical fiction genre.

Currently Reading · Recommendations · Wrap-ups

Another Late Monthly Wrap-up: October 2020

Total Books Read in October: 2
Total Books Read in 2020: 37

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The Last Bathing Beauty
By: Amy Sue Nathan

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Rating: 2.5/5
NOTE: I was sent a copy of The Last Bathing Beauty by Amy Sue Nathan, from the publisher, via Net Galley, in exchange for an honest review.

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You Can Thank Me Later a Novella
By: Kelly Harms

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Novella, Audiobook
Rating: 4/5

The Stats

Total Number of Books Read: 2
Total Number of Fiction: 2
Total Number of Non-Fiction: 0
Total Books Sent for Review: 1
Total Books Read from My Shelves: 1
Total Library Books Read: 0

Formats Read

Physical Books: 0
eBooks:
 1
Audio Books: 
1

Currently Reading

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Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Last Bathing Beauty by: Amy Sue Nathan

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The Last Bathing Beauty
By: Amy Sue Nathan

Published: April, 2020
Published by: Lake Union Publishing
Format Read: ARC, Kindle, eBook
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

Rating: 2.5/5

NOTE: I was sent a copy of The Last Bathing Beauty y Amy Sue Nathan, from the publisher, via Net Galley, in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

A former beauty queen faces the secrets of her past—for herself and the sake of her family’s future—in a heartfelt novel about fate, choices, and second chances.
Everything seemed possible in the summer of 1951. Back then Betty Stern was an eighteen-year-old knockout working at her grandparents’ lakeside resort. The “Catskills of the Midwest” was the perfect place for Betty to prepare for bigger things. She’d head to college in New York City. Her career as a fashion editor would flourish. But first, she’d enjoy a wondrous last summer at the beach falling deeply in love with an irresistible college boy and competing in the annual Miss South Haven pageant. On the precipice of a well-planned life, Betty’s future was limitless.
Decades later, the choices of that long-ago season still reverberate for Betty, now known as Boop. Especially when her granddaughter comes to her with a dilemma that echoes Boop’s memories of first love, broken hearts, and faraway dreams. It’s time to finally face the past—for the sake of her family and her own happiness. Maybe in reconciling the life she once imagined with the life she’s lived, Boop will discover it’s never too late for a second chance.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Eighteen year old Betty “Boop” Stern wants more than a husband and children. She has dreams of being a fashion editor and having a full career. This is rare for a women in 1950’s America. The Last Bathing Beauty is a dual timeline novel that follows present day senior citizen “Boop” as she reminisces about the life changing events of the summer of 1951.

Fans of the movie Dirty Dancing will appreciate the summer resort setting. Readers will be transported back to a time that is often described as more simple. Although Betty would be faced with some life changing events, this book was chalk full of all things stereotypical of the 1950s. While I enjoyed these aspects, I often found our young main character to be too sugar sweet.

The Last Bathing Beauty showed an interesting comparison between the past and present differences in society, family values and scandal. While I did enjoy the 1950s setting, I liked present day “Boop” more than the naïve beauty queen of her adolescence. I struggled to finish this book as I didn’t feel motivated to read and I felt that too much of the plot was given away too soon.

Although my experience reading Amy Sue Nathan’s The Last Bathing Beauty, garnered a 2.5 rating, I would recommend it to fans of light historical romance.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Quick Thoughts on NYC Historical Fiction

Today I would like to share my quick thoughts on two historical fiction novels that are set in New York City. Both of these novels are set in the 1800’s and compare life in high society with that of the lower classes.

An Awakened Heart
(Orphan Train Novella 0.5)
By: Jody Hedlund

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Published: April 2017
Published by: Bethany House Publishers
Format Read: eBook, Kindle
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction

Rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis

Trying to heal the ache she feels in her empty life, wealthy Christine Pendleton decides to volunteer at Centre Street Chapel. Ministering to one of the most deprived parts of New York City, the chapel aims at making a difference in the lives of the impoverished immigrants flooding the city. After seeing firsthand the hopelessness of the poor women and orphans, Christine is convinced more can be done to help them.

Guy Bedell has been serving at the chapel and pouring his heart out for the people he’s grown to care about. When Christine begins to challenge his methods and offers a new vision for reaching out to the community, can he trust that perhaps God has bigger plans in store for him–plans that may include this feisty socialite?

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

I generally jump at the chance to read books set in New York City, especially those in the historical fiction genre. Unfortunately An Awakened Heart took me some time to get into. I did appreciate how dedicated Christine and Guy were to help the impoverished immigrants in the city. I am curious to continue on to the next book ‘With You Always”.

Murder on Astor Place
(A Gaslight Mystery)
By: Victoria Thompson

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Published: May 1999
Published by: Berkley
Format Read: eBook, Libby App
Genre: Historical fiction, Mystery

Rating: 5/5

Synopsis

After a routine delivery, midwife Sarah Brandt visits her patient in a rooming house and finds that another boarder, a young girl, has been killed. At the request of sergeant Frank Malloy, she searches the girl’s room and discovers that the victim is from one of the most prominent families in New York – and the sister of an old friend. The powerful family, fearful of scandal, refuses to permit an investigation. But with Malloy’s help, Sarah begins a dangerous quest to bring the killer to justice before death claims another victim.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Murder on Astor Place was an engrossing start to the Gaslight Mystery Series. Although I was able to correctly predict the outcome, I enjoyed the journey.

If I could compare it to a television series, I would pick Murdoch Mysteries, which is one of my favourites and follows a detective and female doctor. In Victoria Thompson’s book we follow a detective and a midwife.

I would highly recommend Murder on Astor Place and can’t wait to read the second book.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Land Beneath Us (Sunrise at Normandy, 3) by Sarah Sundin

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The Land Beneath Us
(Sunrise at Normany, 3)
By: Sarah Sundin
Read by: Sarah Zimmerman

Published: February 2020
Published by: Tantor Audio
Format Read: Audiobook, Audible
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction, Trilogy, Series

Rating: 5/5

NOTE: I was sent a copy of Sarah Sundin’s The Land Beneath Us, from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

In 1943, Private Clay Paxton trains hard with the U.S. Army Rangers at Camp Forrest, Tennessee, determined to do his best in the upcoming Allied invasion of France. With his future stolen by his brothers’ betrayal, Clay has only one thing to live for—fulfilling the recurring dream of his death.Leah Jones works as a librarian at Camp Forrest, longing to rise above her orphanage upbringing and belong to the community, even as she uses her spare time to search for her real family—the baby sisters she was separated from so long ago.After Clay saves Leah’s life from a brutal attack, he saves her virtue with a marriage of convenience. When he ships out to train in England for D-Day, their letters bind them together over the distance. But can a love strong enough to overcome death grow between them before Clay’s recurring dream comes true?

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Sarah Sundin’s Sunrise at Normandy series follows three brothers fighting for their country in three different branches of the armed forces. In the first two books, readers follow naval officer Wyatt and pilot Adler. Now in this final installment in the series we follow ranger Clay.

This trilogy was consistently enjoyable and very well researched. I learned so much about the roles each branch played in the Normandy invasion. Not only did it follow the Paxton brothers, but their romantic interests and their individual roles they took on for the war effort.

While it is clear that I enjoyed all the books in this series, it was this one; The Land Beneath Us, that was my favourite. Like the others, a common theme was forgiveness and acceptance. The plot moves along quickly and I flew through the pages.

I appreciated how the author showed that despite all the tragedies that come with war, there are still other important issues within societies that are still relevant. Sarah Sundin told this through her character Leah and her involvement at a local orphanage.

This is the only book in the series that I listened to in audio format and thought that Sarah Zimmerman’s narration did the characters justice.

Although I would advise caution to those sensitive to triggers, I would highly recommend The Land Beneath Us and the entire Sunrise at Normandy series.

Additional Notes

Sunrise at Normandy Series

1. The Sea Before Us

2. The Sky Above Us

Books Hauls · Memes

June 2020 Giant Tiger Book Haul

For those of you outside of Canada, Giant Tiger is a discount chain store. It sells everything from clothing to food and home décor. And its one of my favourite spots to pick up cheap books. I always find some hidden gems hiding in their big bins. Here are the books I came across in June.

The Promise of Palm Grove (Amish Brides of Pinecraft 1)
By: Shelley Shepard Gray

Then. Now. Always
By: Isabelle Broom

For One More Day
By: Mitch Albom

Love on the Waterways (Waterways Girls, 2)
By: Milly Adams

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Engagement Party By: Kimberly Freeman

The Engagement Party
By: Kimberly Freeman

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Published: August 2014
Published by: Hachette Australia
Format Read: Kindle, eBook
Genre: Historical fiction, short story

Rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis

Flora Honeychurch-Black awakens on the day of her engagement party excited yet somehow unsettled. Throughout the day, despite the well-meaning attention of her friend Liberty and the distraction of the household’s many preparations for the night’s celebration, Flora’s unease grows. Her much-loved, erratic brother Sam unwittingly adds to the tension, behaving oddly and drawing mirth from her suave fiance Tony and derision from some of his sophisticated coterie of friends.
As the storm clouds gather outside and the engagement party begins, Flora realises that something is amiss. Where is Sam? What secret is he hiding? The answers may be more than Flora – and her new relationships and loyalties – can bear.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

1920’s Australia: Readers are introduced to Flora, a young woman on the day of her engagement party. However she is uneasy and fights with the thought that she might be making the wrong decision to marry her fiancé Tony. As the party is in progress, Flora realizes that her beloved brother Sam is missing from the festivities.

I thought this short story was a good introduction to Kimberly Freeman’s writing. I’m unsure how necessary this was but I did enjoy it and the characters we were briefly introduced to. However it left me wanting more.

This eBook also included a sample of another book by Kimberly Freeman, called Evergreen Falls. This is a dual time period historical fiction that follows Flora and Tony. So that would make The Engagement Party a prequal to this novel. I’m curious to know why that isn’t mentioned in this book title? To be honest. I found this to be annoying.

Would I recommend Kimberly Freeman’s The Engagement Party? Yes, but only to those who plan to continue on to read Evergreen Falls.

Additional Notes

Evergreen Falls
By: Kimberly Freeman

20806819

Synopsis

A long-forgotten secret, a scandalous attraction and a place where two women’s lives are changed forever – Evergreen Falls is the captivating new novel from Kimberley Freeman.

1926: Violet Armstrong is one of the few remaining members of staff working at the grand Evergreen Spa Hotel as it closes down over winter. Only a handful of guests are left, including the heir to a rich grazing family, his sister and her suave suitor. When a snowstorm moves in, the hotel is cut off and they are all trapped. No one could have predicted what would unfold. When the storm clears they must all keep the devastating secrets hidden.

2014: After years of putting her sick brother’s needs before her own, Lauren Beck leaves her home and takes a job at a Blue Mountains cafe, the first stage of the Evergreen Spa Hotel’s renovations. There she meets Tomas, the Danish architect who is overseeing the project, and an attraction begins to grow. In a wing of the old hotel, Lauren finds a series of passionate love letters dated back to 1926, alluding to an affair – and a shocking secret.

If she can unravel this long-ago mystery, will it make Lauren brave enough to take a risk and change everything in her own life?

Inspired by elements of her grandmother’s life, a rich and satisfying tale of intrigue, heartbreak and love from the author of the bestselling Lighthouse Bay and Wildflower Hill.

Source: Goodreads