Book Review

Book Review: The Songbook of Benny Lament by Amy Harmon

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ ☆
Audience: Historical Fiction + Romance
Length: 444 pages
Author: Amy Harmon
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: March 16th, 2021
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

From the bestselling author of What the Wind Knows and From Sand and Ash comes a powerful love story about a musical duo who put everything on the line to be together.

New York, 1960: For Benny Lament, music is his entire life. With his father’s deep ties to the mob, the Bronx piano man has learned that love and family can get you in trouble. So he keeps to himself, writing songs for other musicians, avoiding the spotlight…until the night his father brings him to see Esther Mine sing.

Esther is a petite powerhouse with a gorgeous voice. And when Benny writes a hit song and performs it with her, their collaboration thrusts the duo onto the national stage…and stirs up old issues and new scrutiny that the mob—and Benny—would rather avoid.

It would be easier to walk away. But the music and the woman are too hard for the piano man to resist. Benny’s songs and Esther’s vocals are an explosive combination, a sound that fans can’t get enough of. But though America might love the music they make together, some people aren’t ready for Benny Lament and Esther Mine on—or off—the stage.

A BEAUTIFUL STORY.

Seriously. Here I am again singing the praises of Amy Harmon’s writing. It’s beautiful and captivating. Emotional and always hopeful. Wow did I love this book (like I love all of her books, favorite author alert).

I can’t say enough about the audio version of this too. The narrator brings Benny TO LIFE. It was so smooth and enriching. If you get a chance to listen to this (available on KU) highly recommend!

The storytelling here left me speechless. I felt so many emotions reading this. And the way that music played such a deep role for both Benny and Esther made me wish that this was a movie. Esther and Benny had immediate chemistry and the BEST banter. It all felt so natural and Benny’s passion for Esther had me swooning.

Add in a fantastic side cast and this book soared even higher. I loved Pop and Esther’s brothers. I found in them a well rounded story. Filling all angles and opinions needed to fit this book. I just love what this LOVE story showcased and how it all enfused a sense of hope for a better tomorrow.

Overall audience notes:

  • Historical fiction + romance
  • Language: some
  • Romance: kisses & a mostly closed door scene
  • Violence: gun violence, physical altercations, murder, poisoning
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: racism, micro-aggressions, segregation, murder of loved ones

Instagram || Goodreads

Book Review

Book Review: Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (Outlander #8) by Diana Gabaldon

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: Historical Fiction
Length: 825 pages
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Publisher: Bantam
Release Date: June 10th, 2014
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

It is June 1778, and the world seems to be turning upside-down. The British Army is withdrawing from Philadelphia, with George Washington in pursuit, and for the first time, it looks as if the rebels might actually win. But for Claire Fraser and her family, there are even more tumultuous revolutions that have to be accommodated.Her former husband, Jamie, has returned from the dead, demanding to know why in his absence she married his best friend, Lord John Grey. Lord John’s son, the ninth Earl of Ellesmere, is no less shocked to discover that his real father is actually the newly resurrected Jamie Fraser, and Jamie’s nephew Ian Murray discovers that his new-found cousin has an eye for the woman who has just agreed to marry him.

And while Claire is terrified that one of her husbands may be about to murder the other, in the 20th century her descendants face even more desperate turns of events. Her daughter Brianna is trying to protect her son from a vicious criminal with murder on his mind, while her husband Roger has disappeared into the past.

BEST OF THE SERIES.

Yup. I said it.

Best of the series.

I loved this book so much. It was a combination of being with these characters for so long, getting some storylines I was hopeful for and it ending on a note I could definitely live with. All of these things made for such a perfect novel.

I really recommend this series on audio! It’s the same narrator for all 8 books and she does a fantastic job. The characters feel alive and I think that’s what has helped me love them all the more.

Wowww do I love Jaime and Claire. One of my all time OTPs. These two do NOT give up on each other and I am always here for them. I love their unfailing faith in one another. Their stubborness to remain together in the direst of circumstances and the way they cling together when everything else has fallen apart. A couple I will love always.

All of these other characters, Bri and Roger (+their kids), Fergus and Marsali, William, Ian and Rachel, John Grey and others, have my heart. I love how well adapted everyone is. There’s so much to even just the side characters that the books themselves feel incredibly tangible. Like these people really were there. I love the clear effort and research that goes into each of these novels.

I’m so excited to hear that there’s another book coming eventually. I will be allllll over that one too! One of my favorite historical series ever!

Overall audience notes:

  • Historical fiction / romance
  • Language: strong throughout
  • Romance: multiple open door scenes
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: loss of loved ones (child, pet, and adults), war, PTSD, slavery, attempted rape, sexual assault, sex with a minor, suicide, murder, abortion [these books contain many triggers and intense content, I know I may have missed some of them, please research before choosing to read this series!]

Instagram || Goodreads

Book Review

Book Review: The War That Saved My Life (The War That Saved My Life #1) by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: MG Historical Fiction
Length: 316 pages
Author: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Publisher: Dial Books
Release Date: January 8th, 2015
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

An exceptionally moving story of triumph against all odds set during World War 2, from the acclaimed author of Jefferson’s Sons and for fans of Number the Stars.
 
Ten-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.
 
So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?
 
This masterful work of historical fiction is equal parts adventure and a moving tale of family and identity—a classic in the making.

TEAR INDUCING.

This book hits hard. Personally as a Mom, this hit even harder. I was wrapped up in many many emotions by that ending and found this book utterly captivating in its poignancy.

I love how many things were handled. Ada is clearly suffering from the abuse she dealt with living with her Mom. When she and her brother end up with Susan things start to slowly turn around. This wasn’t some flip of a switch and everything was sunny. It was hard work and Susan showed so much compassion and patience that it made my heart burst.

This is a middle-grade book that is without a doubt appropriate for all ages. The depth of the writing and characters made everything feel so real. I felt like this gave another angle to World War 2 and what was happening with a lot of the children at that time. Ada had incredibly growth throughout the novel and wow did I want to hug her so many times. I love that she found a passion she could enjoy and a friend or two to lean on.

Watching Susan, Ada and Jamie find a way to heal together through grief and depression brought my soul hope. This is really a story for all and I am definitely reading the next book. I need more of this story and these characters.

Overall audience notes:

  • Middle grade historical fiction
  • Language: none
  • Violence: war themes
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: physical and emotional child abuse, ableism, depictions of grief and depression, PTSD (from abuse), depiction of anxiety and panic attacks

Instagram || Goodreads

Book Review

Book Review: When the Men Were Gone by Marjorie Herrera Lewis

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Historical Fiction
Length: 240 pages
Author: Marjorie Herrera Lewis
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: October 2nd, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

It’s a man’s game, until now…
Football is the heartbeat of Brownwood, Texas. Every Friday night for as long as assistant principal Tylene Wilson can remember, the entire town has gathered in the stands, cheering their boys on. Each September brings with it the hope of a good season and a sense of unity and optimism.

Now, the war has changed everything.  Most of the Brownwood men over 18 and under 45 are off fighting, and in a small town the possibilities are limited. Could this mean a season without football? But no one counted on Tylene, who learned the game at her daddy’s knee. She knows more about it than most men, so she does the unthinkable, convincing the school to let her take on the job of coach.

Faced with extreme opposition—by the press, the community, rival coaches, and referees and even the players themselves—Tylene remains resolute. And when her boys rally around her, she leads the team—and the town—to a Friday night and a subsequent season they will never forget.           

Based on a true story, When the Men Were Gone is a powerful and vibrant novel of perseverance and personal courage.

FOOTBALL FOREVER.

I feel like this got an extra star purely for the fact that I love football. And I loved that there was a female coach who refused to let her team down when everyone else in town wanted nothing to do with her.

It’s a very quick read. Which was a pro and a con. I was hoping for a bit more depth in characters and general story. What I did get was fine, but rushed. There were thrown in tidbits of Tylene’s past and why she’s fighting so hard to have her football season. It did help me grasp the fierce nature of wanting these boys to not have to go to war just yet. Letting them be young just a little longer. Those sentiments really hit home in the midst of World War 2.

I wish there was more back story at the end. I wanted to know how the rest of the season went as this book only covers the 2 weeks leading up to their first game of Tylene’s season. Tylene was a strong woman who clearly understood the game. I love how she made jaws drop and men shut their mouths as she proved over and over that she would be the best person for this job.

If you’re a football fan + historical fiction lover, I would try this one out! It was a good combination. And I really felt the rush and remembrance of the fall football atmosphere.

Overall audience notes:

  • Historical fiction
  • Language: none
  • Romance: kisses
  • Violence: bullying, misogyny, mentions of losing men in WW2, loss of a baby, PTSD (a side character)

Instagram || Goodreads