Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Blog Tour & Review: Last Night at the Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert (audio)

Title: Last Night at the Blue Angel   
Author: Rebecca Rotert    
Narrator: Andrus Nichols, Caitlin Davies  
Published: July 2014 Harper Audio / April 2015 William Morrow Paperbacks  
Length: 9 hours 42 minutes / 352 pages
Source: Personal copy via Audible / Publisher 

Set against the turbulence of 1960s Chicago, a city in transformation and its legendary jazz scene, Last Night at the Blue Angel is a lush and immensely heartfelt mother-daughter tale about a talented but troubled singer relationship with her precocious ten-year-old daughter.

It is the early 1960s, and Chicago is teeming with the tensions of the day segregation, sexual experimentation, the Cold War and Vietnam but it is also home to some of the country's most influential jazz. Naomi Hill, a singer at the Blue Angel club, has been poised on the brink of stardom for nearly ten years. But when her big break, the cover of Look magazine finally arrives, it carries with it an enormous personal cost. Sensual and magnetic, Naomi is a fiercely ambitious yet self-destructive woman whose charms tend to hurt those around her, and no one knows this better than her daughter, Sophia.

As the only child of a single mother growing up in an adult world, Sophia is wise beyond her years, a casualty of her mother's desperate struggle for fame and adoration. Unsettled by her home life, she harbors a terrible fear that her world could disappear at any moment, and compulsively maintains a list of everyday objects she might need to reinvent should nuclear catastrophe strike. Her only constant is the colorful and unconventional family that surrounds her and her mother, particularly the photographer, Jim, who is Sophia's best friend, surrogate father and protector but Jim is also deeply in love with Naomi.

Weaving between the perspectives of Sophia and Naomi, Last Night at the Blue Angel is a poignant and unforgettable story about what happens when our passion for the life we want is at sharp odds with the life we have. Part stylish period piece, part heartbreaking family drama, it's a novel rife with revelations, a vivid and propulsive page-turner and the major debut of an extraordinary new writer.

My thoughts: I actually received a copy of this book last Spring at BEA, but never got around to reading it, so I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to be part of the book tour for the paperback release of it. I decided to listen to the audio version of it and am so glad I did - I really enjoyed the book and the audio production was fantastic!

This is an emotionally charged book set in Chicago during the 1960s, a setting and era that I don't read too much about. Right from the start, the characters pulled me in and I found myself totally involved in their story, wanting things to go right for them when it seemed as if anything but that would happen. 

I loved how the book was told from the alternating perspectives of young Sophia and her ambitious mother, Naomi. Poor Sophia just wanted her mother's love and attention and all Naomi wanted was fame and stardom. Sophia has seen things no ten-year-old should see and is wise beyond her years. Lucky for her, she has other adults to give her the love she so desperately wants - Jim, Rita, and Sister Idalia. Naomi, on the other hand, has a past that makes you sympathize with her, while at the same time makes you want to throttle her for always putting her daughter second to her career. She definitely is not always a likeable character, but I did find myself routing for her to find love and success.

I also loved how as the story progresses you get more and more of the story. You find out why Naomi left her hometown and who Rita and Sister Idalia are, how they came to be the only family that Naomi and Sophia have. These other characters really round out the story and provide a support system for both Sophia and Naomi. They may be offbeat and eccentric, but these other characters really do create a family that is all any of them have. 

This is an emotionally charged read. It's a story that will stay with you long after you finish the last page and I know for sure I will be revisiting this in the future. I'm fortunate to have both a print copy and the audio version and I can't wait to dig in again. My only regret about this book is that I waited so long to read it!

Audio Thoughts: This was a great audio production - the two narrators were both new to me and I thought they did a fantastic job!!! Caitlin Davies did great justice to young Sophia - adding that sense of young innocence to her voice. And Andrus Nichols was the perfect choice for Naomi - she oozed the  self-absorbedness (if that's a word) that you would expect from Naomi and seemed to have the voice that you would expect a night club singer to have. They both did great voices for the other characters when they were telling their sections of the story. I will definitely be looking to see what else they have narrated.

About the author: Rebecca Rotert received an M.A. in literature from Hollins College, where she was the recipient of the Academy of American Poets prize. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times and other publications. She's also an experienced singer and songwriter, who has performed with several bands, and a teacher with the Nebraska Writers Collective. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska. This is her first novel.

Authors Links:     
Website |  Twitter

To see who else is participating in Rebecca Rotert's Last Night at the Blue Angel tour, click here.



  1. I've not heard of this one before, but it looks really good! Thanks for sharing.......adding to ever growing tbr list!

  2. Kristin, I'm glad you enjoyed this audio book. It does sound interesting to me as well. :)

  3. I love emotionally charged books that grip you and don't let go.

    lag110 at mchsi dot com

  4. I'm a huge fan of audio books, particularly when the narrators are so skilled. I'll keep an eye out for books featuring these narrators - they are new to me as well!

    I'm glad you finally had a chance to read this book after having picked it up at BEA. Thanks for being a part of the tour!

  5. Nice review.

    I enjoyed this book too.

    I missed this book at the BEA last year. :) I am glad I received a copy.

    Silver's Reviews


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