Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Winter Sister by Megan Collins

The Winter Sister
By: Megan Collins
Narrated by: Rebekkah Ross

Book Cover

Published: February 2019
Published by: Simon & Schuster Audio
Format Read: Audiobook, Audible
Genre: Mystery

Rating: 3.5/5

Note: I was sent a copy of Megan Collins The Winter Garden, from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. This is my review of the audio book.

Synopsis

In this spellbinding and suspenseful debut, a young woman haunted by the past returns home to care for her ailing mother and begins to dig deeper into her sister’s unsolved murder.

Sixteen years ago, Sylvie’s sister Persephone never came home. Out too late with the boyfriend she was forbidden to see, Persephone was missing for three days before her body was found—and years later, her murder remains unsolved.

In the present day, Sylvie returns home to care for her estranged mother, Annie, as she undergoes treatment for cancer. Prone to unexplained “Dark Days” even before Persephone’s death, Annie’s once-close bond with Sylvie dissolved in the weeks after their loss, making for an uncomfortable reunion all these years later. Worse, Persephone’s former boyfriend, Ben, is now a nurse at the cancer center where Annie is being treated. Sylvie’s always believed Ben was responsible for the murder—but she carries her own guilt about that night, guilt that traps her in the past while the world goes on around her.

As she navigates the complicated relationship with her mother, Sylvie begins to uncover the secrets that fill their house—and what really happened the night Persephone died. As it turns out, the truth really will set you free, once you can bear to look at it.

The Winter Sister is a mesmerizing portrayal of the complex bond between sisters, between mothers and daughters alike, and forces us to ask ourselves—how well do we really know the people we love most?

My Thoughts

Megan Collins debut novel follows a woman who reluctantly returns to her hometown to care for her ailing mother, meanwhile the death of her older sister, years before still haunts and riddles her with grief. Can she get to the bottom of what really happened on that winter night?

The relationships in this book were as cold as its title. The way the characters spoke to each other was terrible and set an uncomfortable tone to all their interactions. The narrator especially did a great job of portraying the mother as a miserable and unfeeling person.

I enjoyed the pacing of this novel and while I did like the mystery, I didn’t find it as thrilling or suspenseful as I anticipated.

Although I was able to predict the outcome, it was a good read that I would recommend to fans of the genre.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Lieutenant’s Nurse by Sara Ackerman

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

Book Cover

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.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

For the Love of Friends by Sara Goodman Confino

For the Love of Friends
By: Sara Goodman Confino

Book Cover

Published: August 2021
Published by: Lake Union Publishing
Format Read: ebook, Net Galley, Kindle
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Rating: 3/5

Note: I was sent a copy of For the Love of Friends by Sara Goodman Confino, from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

A sharp and hilariously relatable novel about the business of weddings, the toll they can take, and the lengths one exasperated bridesmaid will go to for the love of friends.

Lily Weiss is her mother’s worst nightmare: thirty-two and single—the horror! She’s also a talented writer but hides behind a boring job at a science foundation. To her friends, she’s reliable and selfless, which is how she winds up a bridesmaid in five weddings in six weeks. Anything for her three best friends and two (younger) siblings, right? Even if her own love life is…well, she’d rather not talk about it. To keep her sanity, Lily needs a safe place to vent.

And so her anonymous blog, Bridesmania, is born. The posts start pouring out of her: all the feels about mom-zillas, her vanishing bank balance, the wicked bridesmaids of the west, high-strung brides-to-be, body-shaming dress clerks, bachelorette parties, and Spanx for days, not to mention being deemed guardian of eighty-eight-year-old Granny (who enjoys morning mimosas in the nude) for her brother’s destination wedding.

So far the blog has stayed anonymous. But as everyone knows, few things online remain secret forever…

When all is said and done, can Lily help all five couples make it to happily ever after? And will her own happy ending be close behind?

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

32 years old, single and stuck in a job beneath her talent; that describes Lily, the main character in Sara Goodman Confino’s debut novel. Life was pretty uneventful until she agrees to be in, not one, but five different weddings! That’s five weddings in the span of only 6 weeks! Piece of cake, right? Wrong! Especially when you throw in numerous celebrations, commitments, bridesmaids from hell and a nearly non-existent budget.

Anyone who has ever planned or been in a wedding party can relate to the chaos that occurs in For the Love of Friends. I’ve had the pleasure of standing in two weddings to date and while it was an honor, they were anxiety inducing experiences for sure. I couldn’t imagine juggling five at once, like Lily. This was a character I was able to easily relate to.

The author did a great job of conveying the emotions Lily experienced including; feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Although the blogging of the mania would get her into hot water, I enjoyed reading about this aspect. Although this is a lighthearted contemporary, I appreciate and was able to relate to the inclusion of body shaming in the wedding industry. Sure, it sounds nice for all the bridesmaids to wear the same dress, but not every women has the same body type. Some of the demands the brides made in this story were way over the top. The hectic pace of this book reminded me of The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger.

I would recommend For the Love of Friends by Sara Goodman Confino to fans of humorous contemporaries with a dash of romance.

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.

Challenges · Currently Reading · Recommendations · Wrap-ups

Monthly Wrap-up: January 2021

Total Books Read in January: 4
Total Books Read in 2021: 4

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We Came Here to Shine
By: Susie Orman Schnall

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.

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The Cheerleaders
By: Kara Thomas

Genre: YA Lit, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
Rating: 4/5

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Double-Dare O’Toole
By: Constance C. Greene

Genre: Middle Grade
Rating: 2/5

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64th Man
By: Bryan Tucker

Genre: Audiobook, Audible Original, Humor, Sports fiction
Rating: 3/5

The Stats

Total Number of Books Read: 4
Total Number of Fiction: 4
Total Number of Non-Fiction: 0
Total Books Sent for Review: 1
Total Books Read from My Shelves: 3
Total Library Books Read: 0

Formats Read

Physical Books: 2
eBooks:
 1
Audio Books: 
1

Currently Reading

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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.

Book Reviews · Charlie's Corner · Recommendations

Charlie’s Corner: A Scandal in Bohemia (The Sherlock Holmes Children’s Collection 11)

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

NOTE: I was sent a copy of A Scandal in Bohemia by Stephanie Baudet, from the publisher via Net Galley, in exchange for an honest review.

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A Scandal in Bohemia
(The Sherlock Holmes Children’s Collection, 11)

By: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Adapted by: Stephanie Baudet
Illustrated by: Adrianna Bellucci

Published: March 2020
Published by: Sweet Cherry Publishing
Format Read: eBook, ARC, Net Galley
Genre: Historical Fiction, Adaptation, Middle Grade, Young Adult, Mystery, Series

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis

About Sweet Cherry Easy Classics: From Shakespeare to Austen, Sweet Cherry Easy Classics adapts classic literature into stories for children, introducing these timeless tales to a new generation. All titles in the series are leveled for classroom use, including GRLs. The books target early readers ages 6-8, including early school-age children looking for exciting stories, as well as reluctant readers. Popular books in the series include Pride and Prejudice, A Christmas Carol and Othello.

At quarter to eight o’clock tonight a gentleman will call. He would like to ask you about a very important matter. Do not think it odd if your visitor wears a mask.

When Sherlock Holmes is asked for help by a powerful yet dim king, it seems that he cannot refuse. But the detective has no idea that this case will bring him up against a woman just as clever, cunning and quick as he is. Has Holmes finally met his match?

My Thoughts

A Scandal in Bohemia is a mystery where our favourite fictional detective may have met his match. This is the second book I have read and reviewed in this collection. I found this installment had less of the pictures and historical definitions geared toward the target audience than the first book did. However I did feel that the premise of a Scandal in Bohemia was more simple than that of a Study in Scarlet. Still I feel that the reveal was quite clever. I recommend the Sherlock Holmes Children’s Collection to younger readers who are interested in a lighter introduction to classic literature. I look forward to going back to the previous 10 books in the series that I have yet to read.

Additional Notes:

  1. A Study in Scarlet (Book 1)
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.