Book Review

Monthly Reading Wrap-Up: December 2021

Hellooooo the end of the year. Wow did I end the year with a lot of reads. All of those short Christmas novellas added up! Even if only a few were okay.

Favorite Reads: All My Rage, The Mistletoe Motive, Project Hail Mary, ACOTAR [reread], Faking Under the Mistletoe [reread], Tokyo Ever After, The Bird and the Sword [reread], Our Violent Ends, Lore Olympus [reread]

Least Favorite: Falling Under the Mistletoe, Kiss the Girl

  • Falling Under the Mistletoe by Evelyn Mae
  • [ARC] Hunt the Stars (Starlight’s Shadow) by Jessie Mihalik
  • [Novella] (Not so) Alone for Christmas by Jenny Proctor
  • [Novella] The Mistletoe Motive by Chloe Liese
  • Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (Outlander #9) by Diana Gabaldon
  • A Shadow in the Ember (Flesh and Fire #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout
  • A Loyal Heart (An Uncertain Choice #4) by Jody Hedlund
  • Christmas As We Know It by Sarah Sutton
  • Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown
  • [ARC] Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead (Finlay Donovan #2) by Elle Cosimano
  • Year of the Reaper by Makiia Lucier
  • Lake Mistletoe by Amber Kelly
  • [ARC] Mr. Wrong Number by Lynn Painter
  • Dreams Lie Beneath by Rebecca Ross
  • [ARC] All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir
  • Kiss the Girl (Creekville Kisses #2) by Melanie Jacobson
  • Hail Mary by Andy Weir
  • Charting Stars (The Nine Realms Tales #1) by Micheline Ryckman
  • Eight Perfect Hours by Lia Louis
  • Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon
  • [Reread] A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACOTAR #1) by Sarah J. Maas
  • Come Back to Me (Come Back to Me #1) by Mila Gray
  • [Reread] Faking Under the Mistletoe by Ashley Shepherd
  • Tokyo Ever After (Tokyo Ever After #1) by Emiko Jean
  • [ARC] Always Jane by Jenn Bennett
  • If the Shoe Fits (Meant to Be #1) by Julie Murphy
  • On These Black Sands (Aisling Sea #1) by Vanessa Rasanen
  • [Reread] The Bird and the Sword (The Bird and the Sword Chronicles #1) by Amy Harmon
  • The Twelve Dogs of Christmas (Pine Hollow #1) by Lizzie Shane
  • The Holiday Switch by Tif Marcelo
  • You’ll Be the Death of Me by Karen M. McManus
  • Our Violent Ends (These Violent Delights #2) by Chloe Gong
  • [Novella] Silver Bells and Secrets (Twelfth Night Novellas #1) by Laura Rollins
  • [Novella] Stranded Ranch by Cindy Steel
  • [Novella] Believe Me (Shatter Me #6.5) by Tahereh Mafi
  • [Graphic Novel] Lore Olympus: Volume One by Rachel Smythe
  • This Shattered World (Starbound #2) by Amie Kaufman
  • A Trial of Sorcerers (A Trial of Sorcerers #1) by Elise Kova

How did reading go for you in December?

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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

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Book Review

Book Review: A Kingdom of Exiles (Outcasts #1) by S.B. Nova

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult fantasy
Length: 600 pages
Author: S.B. Nova
Publisher: Night Owl Publishing
Release Date: December 17th, 2017
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

The brightest of stars are always born on the darkest of nights.

Serena Smith is unusual.

Growing up in a backwoods village, her life is lonely and dull. Then, on her eighteenth birthday, she’s gifted a magical heirloom only to be snatched by fae and condemned to a lifetime in chains.

Dragged to Aldar, a fae kingdom ruled by a tyrant witch, Serena discovers a forbidden love, and meets fellow outcasts, each with their own dark secrets.

As the lives of warriors, rebels, and witches clash, they find a shared destiny. For only together, and with Serena’s unique gifts, can they survive long enough to build the flames of a revolution. Only together can they go to war …

DID SOMEONE SAY FAE?

Yes, I come running to a book when I hear that. And this was no different, and was a great read!

Oooo boy, finally finished this one. I read it through Amazon Prime so I didn’t pay attention to the page count, did you know this book is 600 pages? NEITHER DID I. Yet, somehow, I consistently found myself wanting to come back and read this. I would put it down to read a few chapters from another book and wouldn’t feel as invested because I wanted to dive into this story more. Yes it’s long, but it somehow feels like everything was a necessary piece of the puzzle.

I would desperately like to know who Serena’s mate is though y’all. WHO WHO WHO…who. There was kind of a roulette situation happening with multiple fae where I was convinced each time, oh this is her endgame, and then was thrown off that to someone else! I still have no inkling. The romance in this book is a bit all over the place. Her relationship (that’s supposed to be family based) seems way more than that. The one that was more romantic, didn’t have me really shipping them, AND I’m JUST LOST. If you can’t tell by my rambling sentences.

Serena is definitely a work in progress. Since this is only the first book, I am totally cool with not LOVING her character, but seeing where she can go. I wish she could do a little more for herself, yet I see that she needed to form all of the bonds because she was dealt a crappy hand in the human world. This allowed her to have friendships and people truly close to her.

I love the bit of squad goals we had with Serena’s pack. Frazer (LOVE HIM) needs to be my best friend. I would love him so! I love the team dynamics and the protectiveness that forms through the trials they go through at the military training camp.

The setting and world-building is a bit confusing at times. I really wasn’t grasping the view of the world until way deeper into the book (and a thorough read through of the map). I love maps, but feel like when I’m reading the book itself I shouldn’t have to keep checking back to confirm where I am. The story should be able to narrate that.

Some of the twists near the end had me stunned. I genuinely didn’t see them coming. I thought the lead up was great and can’t wait to get the villain on screen.

I also spent some time looking up information on the next book and stumbled upon the fact that this is supposed to be a four book series. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO WAIT THAT LONG.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: strong language throughout
  • Romance: some kisses, one detailed love scene
  • Violence: magical, physical, skirmishes, arrows, poison, murder
  • Trigger warnings: sexual assault (unwanted touching, Ch. 2)

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Book Review

Book Review: The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆  
Audience: Fiction + Contemporary Romance
Length: 291 pages
Author: Tracey Garvis Graves
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: April 2nd, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Annika (rhymes with Monica) Rose is an English major at the University of Illinois. Anxious in social situations where she finds most people’s behavior confusing, she’d rather be surrounded by the order and discipline of books or the quiet solitude of playing chess.

Jonathan Hoffman joined the chess club and lost his first game–and his heart–to the shy and awkward, yet brilliant and beautiful Annika. He admires her ability to be true to herself, quirks and all, and accepts the challenges involved in pursuing a relationship with her. Jonathan and Annika bring out the best in each other, finding the confidence and courage within themselves to plan a future together. What follows is a tumultuous yet tender love affair that withstands everything except the unforeseen tragedy that forces them apart, shattering their connection and leaving them to navigate their lives alone.

Now, a decade later, fate reunites Annika and Jonathan in Chicago. She’s living the life she wanted as a librarian. He’s a Wall Street whiz, recovering from a divorce and seeking a fresh start. The attraction and strong feelings they once shared are instantly rekindled, but until they confront the fears and anxieties that drove them apart, their second chance will end before it truly begins.

A QUICK READ WITH ALL THE FEELS.

This is one of those books that came in hard and fast and left me reeling.

Annika is a brave, strong, caring and loyal woman. She is on the autism spectrum and while I can’t speak to whether this was a good depiction or not, I love how quirky, unfiltered, and sweet she was.

This was a second chance love story with Annika’s first everything love, Jonathan. I ADORED HIM. He was someone who may not have always understood Annika, but never tried to force her into something she wasn’t comfortable with or treat her poorly otherwise. I think we all want to feel that kind of respect and love in our lives. Their relationship flowed beautifully and I appreciated that this second-chance wasn’t because of some over dramatic break-up. Both Annika and Jonathan may not have handled the break-up in the best way (which they both acknowledged), they were at least finally able to discuss what needed to be said.

JANICE. What a friend y’all. I also think everyone needs a friend like her. She was absolutely wonderful and I thought her and Annika’s friendship was amazing. Their friendship grew and changed over time as well, and I love that they continually reached out to one another even when states apart.

I thought this was a great use of the back and forth timeline trope. Sometimes it can get bogged down in one area or another, but this one flipped back and forth at the perfect times. The chapters are shorter and easily flow. I literally finished this book in one day because I could NOT PUT IT DOWN.

The twist towards the end did blindside me a bit. There were definitely a few hints I am now looking back and realizing. Was it necessary to add that craziness? Maybe not, but I still panicked and flipped out nonetheless. I didn’t love how quickly it ended, but since I got my tender and sweet love story I’m okay with it. I could have definitely used an epilogue though.

Overall audience notes:

  • Fiction + Contemporary romance
  • Language: a little throughout
  • Romance: kisses, make-outs, a few explicit love scenes (but not vulgar if that makes sense)
  • Trigger warnings: bullying, miscarriage, depression, suicide ideation, plane crashes

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