The Songbook of Benny Lament

Ah! I always love me an Amy Harmon book. And her latest, The Songbook of Benny Lament, touched and changed my heart in all the best ways. If you’ve never read one of her books before, you should. They are ridiculously amazing!

This book transported me into a different place and time. It’s set in the early 60s in a New York neighborhood run by the mob. Benny Lament (Benito Lomento) wants nothing to do with his family. Family means secrets. Family means being owned. Family means murder, corruption, and nothing good in his mind.

His life revolves around his music since he’s made a name for himself writing songs for big name artists. But when his father makes him come listen to a black girl named Esther Mine sing in a ghetto bar in another neighborhood, he is captivated against his will. But what he learns from his dad about Esther Mine’s birth parents makes him want to leave her alone. The woman can only bring trouble into his life. But Benny can’t get her voice out of his head, and though he runs from fate, it’s going to catch up to him.

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Fantasy by KM Shea

A reader recently told me she really enjoyed all of KM Shea’s fantasies, so I gave this author a try…and I have really liked her so far. I haven’t read a ton yet, so I’m no expert on all her books. But the Hall of Blood and Mercy series has been super fun and intriguing. Here’s the blurb for the first book–Magic Forged.

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I’m one scrappy wizard. As someone with barely a flicker of magic, I’ve spent my life being mocked and surviving fights with bullies. But when my parents die in an accident, and I find myself responsible for our whole wizard house and family, I know my usual tactics aren’t going to cut it.

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Fun Fantasy

I have a thrilling fantasy series to spotlight today. Well, I’m only going to spotlight the fourth book in the series, but if you haven’t read a Brandon Sanderson book, I highly recommend you fix that error in your life. Rhythm of War, like the other books in this series, is very long and has complex world building and plot and character growth…but it was such a fulfilling ride! So, here’s my official review of it.

Rhythms of War by Brandon Sanderson

Holy chasmfiend! This book tore my heart out. These books are literal genius at work. Yes, they’re as long and emotionally torturous as the chasms in the Shattered Plains themselves (which you’ll know about if you read them), but if you work your way through them, you grow like the characters do…and my, my, my is there a TON of growing for the characters in this book. This book was brilliant as well because it made me like (or at least respect) one of the main villains by understanding her inside and out. That is the gift of pure genius. This book delved deeply into mental illness (depression, multiple personality disorder) as several characters are suffering from these issues from horrific events that happened earlier to them. I felt the author did a spectacular job showing what mental illness looks like and feels like…and also how to deal with it.

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All’s Fair in Love & Blood

You all know how much I love Jennifer Peel’s book. Her latest is no different. I keep falling in love with each new book she releases and think it will be my new favorite…until her next one. Ha ha. I didn’t know what to think when I saw this title. My first thought was: “Ew. Blood?” I wondered if it would be a vampire book, but nope! All’s Fair in Love & Blood is a solid contemporary romance. Here’s the blurb:

They are both out for blood, but could it end in love?

Scarlett Armstrong and Kane Hudson have a tangled past involving not only their families but their own failed love affair. Now, eight years later, to make things more complicated, they’re both in the running to become the next CEO of Scarlett’s family’s business, Armstrong Labs, a privately held blood plasma company. It all comes down to who presents the best business plan to the board of directors.

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The Accidental Text

The latest release by Becky Monson was a WINNER! I hope you get to read it. Here’s the blurb:

Wrong number. Right guy?

Once upon a time, Maggie Cooper lived for adventure. Jumping out of planes was child’s play. Now she can’t even work up the nerve to ask out her coworker. For a bit of self-therapy, she begins to text her recently deceased mother’s phone—the only problem is that the number has been reassigned and for weeks she’s been unknowingly texting a stranger her deepest thoughts and feelings. There have also been some not-so-deep texts, like the ones about her appreciation for her coworker’s butt.

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Hunger Games (Prequel)

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins blew me away in January when I read it. It was nothing like I expected it to be, and totally shocked me at the end. Bravo to the author. I always love when a plot twist catches me completely off guard.

This newest Hunger Games book takes us back in time, way before Katnis’s time to when President Snow–Cornelius, or Corneo–was a teenage boy in high school. He lives with his cousin, Tigris, and the Grand Mam (his grandma). They’re destitute, having sold off almost all their belongings to keep up the façade of a solid Snow heritage with no worries. He’s been raised with the mantra: Snow always falls on top. But everything seems to be falling on top of him.

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Of Sword and Shadow

Here’s a new release by my friend Amanda Sowards (A.L. Sowards). It’s a medieval romance that’s pretty clean and beyond riveting. I couldn’t put it down when I read the beta-version. It has a beautiful cover as well–always a bonus.

Amanda is one of my favorite historical fiction writers, and she’s become adept over the years at wrapping a sweet romance into her stories as well (if you know me–I LOVE romance. It makes every story so much greater!). Here’s my review and the links below:

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(Not so) Alone for Christmas

Here’s another fun Christmas story. (Not so) Alone for Christmas is a novella. Short and sweet. It’s written by the lovely Jenny Proctor (who also has edited a couple of my books). She’s a great author and an amazing editor. I would be lost without her. 🙂

So, without further ado. Here is the blurb for this book:

Problem number one: Maddy’s family is NOT at home. A surprise Christmas visit to Charleston only works if the family you’re surprising hasn’t decided to spend the holidays in Hawaii.

Problem number two: Maddy is stranded. There is snow on the ground in Charleston, a city that doesn’t even own a snow plow. Flights are grounded, and the power is out. Maddy isn’t going anywhere.

Problem number three: Bo Bradshaw, Maddy’s old high school crush, is stranded with her, and he is hotter than ever.

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The Noel Letters

This Christmas book by Richard Paul Evans was very touching and heart-stirring. The Noel Letters was a beautiful Christmas miracle-type story, but way more depth and wisdom than a Hallmark movie. I underlined quotes like crazy. It was beautifully written and had flawed characters I grew to love. I was mesmerized by the story and loved the cute bookstore setting. The blooming second-chance romance was well done as well. Everything about this read was inspiring. It definitely exceeded all my expectations.

One of my favorite quotes from the book:

As you sail your way through the sea of humanity, you will discover that most people don’t want truth. They want confirmation. Truth has always been frightening to those clinging to shaky ladders of belief. The more indefensible the belief, the tighter their grip. Let them be. Truth does not require confirmation nor consensus to endure. Truth is patient. It can afford to be. In the end it will have its way.”

Here’s to looking to truth, rather than confirmation going forward. Enjoy the holiday season and happy reading.

Before We Were Yours

This book by Lisa Wingate was a historical/contemporary story, switching back and forth between present (with Avery Stafford, a lawyer who’s come home to help her senator dad through cancer treatments), and past (with Rill Foss, a swamp gypsy girl of twelve who is captured with her five siblings by the police and taken to the Tennessee Children’s Home while her dad is at the hospital with her mom who is in labor).

Rill and her siblings are swindled from their parents, who are tricked into signing papers, supposedly to have the state pay for their hospital visit, but instead it gives their kids up to the State’s custody. They live through a hell from Mrs. Tann, the owner of the foundling home, that runs on very corrupt tactics. Tricks, deceits, abuse of all kinds, and murder of orphans.

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