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The Songbook of Benny Lament

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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for The Songbook of Benny Lament

  1. 5 out of 5

    jessica

    ‘if you want to see change, you have to show them what it looks like.’ this is the perfect book to fill that constantly present ‘daisy jones and the six’ void. but this story is much more than two musicians and their palpable connection, on stage and off. this is a story of courage, family connections, both violent and nonviolent disobedience, progression, and the music of love. its very difficult to consider this historical fiction because so many of the issues prompting the civil rights mov ‘if you want to see change, you have to show them what it looks like.’ this is the perfect book to fill that constantly present ‘daisy jones and the six’ void. but this story is much more than two musicians and their palpable connection, on stage and off. this is a story of courage, family connections, both violent and nonviolent disobedience, progression, and the music of love. its very difficult to consider this historical fiction because so many of the issues prompting the civil rights movement are still so present today. its such a sensitive, but important topic. and i completely agree with AHs note at the end - how can we love others if we dont know their stories? once again, AH has told a story i cant help but fall head over heels in love with. a massive thanks to lake union publishing for the ARC!! ↠ 4.5 stars

  2. 5 out of 5

    Christy

    5 stars Amy Harmon slayed me with Benny and Esther’s story. I couldn’t have loved The Songbook of Benny Lament more. This story was stunning and the writing was phenomenal. Benny and Esther meet in the early 60’s when Benny’s Pops takes him to hear her sing. Her voice is completely unforgettable. Benny is a songwriter and decides he’s going to write a song for Esther Mine. One song turns into many, but there is so much more going on here aside from the music. Esther’s story was so interesting 5 stars Amy Harmon slayed me with Benny and Esther’s story. I couldn’t have loved The Songbook of Benny Lament more. This story was stunning and the writing was phenomenal. Benny and Esther meet in the early 60’s when Benny’s Pops takes him to hear her sing. Her voice is completely unforgettable. Benny is a songwriter and decides he’s going to write a song for Esther Mine. One song turns into many, but there is so much more going on here aside from the music. Esther’s story was so interesting and I loved how it tied into Bennys in unexpected ways. Benny’s family is part of the mob but he stays out of that. Until he’s not sure if he can anymore. Someone is out to get Benny and Esther and he’s not sure why. Is it because she’s black and he’s white? Or does it have something to do with her parentage? Or maybe Benny’s mob ties? Only time will tell. I loved the way this story was told. A part in interview form and the bulk of it in the past watching Benny and Esther fall in love against all odds. I loved seeing these two fall for one another. Their banter was fantastic, but it wasn’t all fun and games. They had to fight for their love. And they did. Not only did I love Benny and Esther so much, but there were some secondary characters that stole the show for me from time to time. My favorite was Benny’s Pops, but I also completely adored Esther’s brother, Alvin. Amy Harmon is one of those authors that has a way with words. Not only that, but she has a way of writing profound stories that need to be told. This is a story that needs to be read by all. Truly a must read book. “There’s always gotta be someone who shows the world how it’s done.” This is one of the best books I’ve read this year and I have no doubt that it will be high up on my top favorites of 2021. It’s poignant, important, emotional, beautiful, and the romance will sweep you off your feet. I can’t recommend this one enough and I can’t wait until the audiobook is released next month because I’ll be doing a reread and listening to it straight away!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Shabby -BookBistroBlog

    A panoramic spectacular story set against the backdrop of motown music, mafia & segregation. There is no single passage in this profoundly researched book that one could actually fault. Even though I haven't lived in that Era in this country, yet every scene had me awestruck in its weighty philosophy. Every chapter, every situation dug deep in my soul and pulled all The chords of my feelings. “Chords are like families. The notes go together, and there’s a million combinations.” It definitely w A panoramic spectacular story set against the backdrop of motown music, mafia & segregation. There is no single passage in this profoundly researched book that one could actually fault. Even though I haven't lived in that Era in this country, yet every scene had me awestruck in its weighty philosophy. Every chapter, every situation dug deep in my soul and pulled all The chords of my feelings. “Chords are like families. The notes go together, and there’s a million combinations.” It definitely will become a classic Love story. It is beautifully written and meticulously researched. The information, the insights, the humanity it portrays of history's most important events are impeccable. And then Amy Contemporizes the key underlying social proclivities and the ugly truth is there for all to see. I could've been reading about 1940s, 1970s or 2020!! The comparison brought goosebumps and chills down my spine. “It’s a story in Lee Otis’s book. The girl, Pandora, is told not to open the box. All manner of trouble and trials are in the box. But she’s curious. She can’t resist. So she tries to just take a peek. But once the box is opened, it’s too late. She can’t put the trouble back in the box.” So many wonderful characters, factual and fictitious alike, are introduced to provide colour and authenticity. Majorly, Benny Lament and Esther Mine's controversial (at that time)love story are at the forefront but at no moment are they left alone. Their band of Brothers- Minefield is always with them and it's a stroke of genius storytelling that all these characters experience the same scene from multiple vantage points, lending it different Perspectives. "They were always on edge in a new place. It was almost as if they expected mistreatment. Like they braced themselves for it. Even if most of the time it didn’t come. Even if the majority of people were fine, courteous, kind even. It had clearly happened enough, for long enough, that they never relaxed." Benny is steadfast, moralistic, unwavering songwriter who gets enamored by Little Bitty Lady, great big voice Esther . Their Verbal Wrestling kept the music, their connection, their chemistry alive. It was a refreshing novelty for them to be seen together, singing together. Esther particularly stands out with her erect spine, straightening her shoulders and lifting her chin, that refuses to bend under pressure, refusing to let go of her mic in the segregated music world, she's literally singing for her life. Power walking into the scene on her high heels, it's her supremely talented and confidant gait that grabs the attention but her powerfull voice sustains and maintains that in the readers and listeners alike. “He's cajoling, she’s cutting, she’s hot, you’re cold. Or maybe you’re hot, and she’s cold.” He shrugged. “Physically you look great together, but it’s more than that. It’s the sizzle and the slap.” When did their language break off from music and translated into love, is hard to pinpoint at the exact location. But the very talent Esther possessed and Benny bolstered - Singing. Which started As a revolution soon becomes a noose around their neck, painting a target on their backs. Somebody wants to stop them, permanently!! "Politics is an ugly business. I’d cross a gangster before I’d cross a politician. Any day." The ensuing plot-knots of deadly secrets untangle and unravel, leaving you agape and agog. The ruthless political scene is unrelenting & uncompromising, its tentacles reaching far and deep in all walks of life, art and literature. Countered only by the flawless narration with sufficient gravitas to be compelling, it's easily the most readable book of the year . . . it is a measure of the accomplishment, that knowing the end of the story as all of us do, we are still so immersed that the mounting action is as powerful as it must have been to the participants. “If you want people to change, you have to show them what it looks like.” We are directly aware of the tension, suspense, and irony of the experience. You will be moved by the descriptions and want to read The Songbook of Benny Lament to witness what history allowed to survive. As always Ms Harmon makes me feel enriched, blessed and fortunate enough to live in the same Era where she pens these topical, historic books and I feel privileged enough to read them. All her books are momentous and thought provoking, but this timely tale will make us all think hard at where our priorities lie and the road to achieve a tolerant society. 5 Major Chords And Acapella Stars Follow me on: Email🌻 Bookbub 🌻 Twitter🌻 Instagram🌻 Blog🌻 Facebook🌻 Amazon 🌻

  4. 4 out of 5

    Drey

    5 Stars! ... Tell me your stories, Benny and Esther. A new hit by Amy Harmon! Right now guys, I am struggling putting into words how the story made me feel. If I say, "I really loved it," I feel like it isn't enough to convince y'all to read this. The one thing that I know for sure, and that is, as fellow musicians, though I'm only a part-timer, Benny and Esther touched me. I felt him. I felt her. I felt them. I felt their music, collaboration, dynamics, and voices. And for me, it was beyond e 5 Stars! ... Tell me your stories, Benny and Esther. A new hit by Amy Harmon! Right now guys, I am struggling putting into words how the story made me feel. If I say, "I really loved it," I feel like it isn't enough to convince y'all to read this. The one thing that I know for sure, and that is, as fellow musicians, though I'm only a part-timer, Benny and Esther touched me. I felt him. I felt her. I felt them. I felt their music, collaboration, dynamics, and voices. And for me, it was beyond enough. Note: This is an interracial, historical romance. "Chords are like families. The notes go together. Like you and your father and your aunts and uncles and all your cousins. There. Hear that? Isn’t that beautiful? That’s an F chord. F for famiglia. But listen . . . let’s add a stranger. See? It doesn’t sound so good. That note doesn’t belong in the F chord." The story was told in Benny's point of view, and was set in 1960's. Actually, I am not a fan of historical romances. But when I saw that it's Amy Harmon's, my tbr could go to hell! I loved how the story showed America's ugly and beautiful period. It was really vivid. I wasn't even born then, but I was brought there, by words, by the power of this story. Benny Lament was a songwriter and a musician. He first saw Esther when his father brought him to watch her perform. Their talent drew them together. They created songs together. They faced challenges together. They fell in love together. But, interracial couple to be together? Love begets change. Benny and Esther both fought for it! "How do you make the world care, Benny?" "You tell them your story.” This book dealt with sensitive matters, and I loved the way Amy Harmon treated these topics with respect, and providing accurate, and thorough informations. What can I say, her writing was excellent. Every character was well-developed and had significantly contributed to the flow of the story. In all honesty, I could finish this book in a day, if it wasn't because of our examinations. This was a page-turner. A riveting story about love, family, commitment, and the choices a man makes that can create "change." "For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, in black and in white, we managed to build our famiglia with all the shards and pieces we brought with us." Overall, I absolutely loved the book. I laughed with Benny and Esther's banter. I was soothed by their music. I shed tears of joy because despite of people treating them with such hatred and unfairness, they continued to show the world with love and determination what change looked like. I extremely recommend this to those who likes: Amy Harmon, historical romance, interracial romance, slow burn, enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, romantic comedy, emotional read, and a happily ever after. “Before we go, I want to tell you a story,” she began." Trigger Warnings: Vivid depiction of murder and racism.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    Oh. my. goodness. Only a brilliant author who can honestly pour out her feelings into pages, playing with our feelings like strings of guitar and create an unforgettable composition like this! Ms. Harmon, you’re the magician! I think telling you that my emotions are all over the space is not enough how this book made me felt! It’s sincere. It’s outstanding. It’s extremely sentimental. It’s .... definition of pure beauty! If I could 10 stars, I would ! I think it deserves more and more and more! Oh. my. goodness. Only a brilliant author who can honestly pour out her feelings into pages, playing with our feelings like strings of guitar and create an unforgettable composition like this! Ms. Harmon, you’re the magician! I think telling you that my emotions are all over the space is not enough how this book made me felt! It’s sincere. It’s outstanding. It’s extremely sentimental. It’s .... definition of pure beauty! If I could 10 stars, I would ! I think it deserves more and more and more! Benny and Ester against the world, playing soul crushing music, composing amazing songs, pouring out their fears, their anger, their rejection, their obstacles, their fight but mostly their love into those songs! Because they’re ready to fight against any struggles life throw at them! They are bold, they are resilient, they are perfect together! This forbidden love story breaks your heart, shakes you to the core, makes you feel everything! Joy, fear, hatred, sadness at the same time! 60’s interracial true love story set against segregation, mafia and heart pumping Motown music. A love between Italian American man and African American woman which would be struggling issue at their era! Benny just wanted to write a song for Esther because he wanted to hear heart brushing voice in his hears. He loves to hear her singing. He was devoted, focused, compassionate from the beginning. He doesn’t have any intention to let her go without a fight. And Esther raised in a household of brothers with her parents. Her passion for music connects her with Ben. They were like magnets pushing against each other to create their music! That’s the way of their breathing! That’s the way of losing themselves and finding again in each other’s arms! Their story is pure, realistic, genuine! The characters are so natural, deeply layered and described. You can resonate with them and understand their inner turmoils completely! Oh boy... this is not one of the best romance reads I’ve had lately, I think this is the best Amy Harmon! And I read nearly all of them! But this book is special. This book is precious. This book is a real gem! For god sake! Just read it! I think I’ll but it for my entire family and bookish friends and force them give me reports to make sure they’re really reading it! So many thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for sharing this amazing digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest opinions. blog instagram facebook twitter

  6. 4 out of 5

    Korrie’s Korner

    6+ stars ⭐️ When I think over the journey, and the humbling experience this was just to be able to be a part of such a monumental story, such as this one, I am in complete awe over it. I will NEVER forget it. Amy Harmon is more than a friend to me, but a piece of my soul. She just gets it. Period! She’s been writing diversely since her very first book. To be honest it is what drew me to her words over four years ago. She’s quiet, she keeps her head down, and writes her very life blood onto the p 6+ stars ⭐️ When I think over the journey, and the humbling experience this was just to be able to be a part of such a monumental story, such as this one, I am in complete awe over it. I will NEVER forget it. Amy Harmon is more than a friend to me, but a piece of my soul. She just gets it. Period! She’s been writing diversely since her very first book. To be honest it is what drew me to her words over four years ago. She’s quiet, she keeps her head down, and writes her very life blood onto the pages of her heart, and then gives them to us, holding nothing back. This is exactly what she did with The Songbook of Benny Lament. She blocked out all the noise and whisperings of “stay in your lane”, and gave us Esther Mine, one of my VERY favorite heroines EVER! I can’t describe how it feels being able to see myself in one of Amy’s characters. From the shape of her eyes, lips and color of her skin—Esther Mine is ...me. I am so honored to have gotten the privilege of being a sensitivity reader for her. This love story is not sunshine and rainbows. Set in the 1960’s, it definitely wasn’t a favorable time for black people, and especially interracial love. Amy brought us a love so pure, fierce and brutally honest. I am so in love with Benny Lament, that I really can’t fault Esther for falling in love with my man (lol). He was so protective over her, and loved her with his whole self. Benny didn’t care what anyone thought, and just knew that he had to “write a song for her”, and that’s just what he did. Amy didn’t shy away from the hard areas in this book. She writes with such realness and transparency that is refreshing. It’s gritty and painful, but oh the silver lining of hope that she paints with broad strokes in Benny & Esther’s love. It’s truly incredible! I love Benny’s voice, and this story being in his pov. He’s so real and honest in his fears, and also his intense love for Esther. He is definitely in my top 5 book husbands list. I love the Motown feel of the music, and the nod Amy gives to some of the greats that paved the way in the soul music genre. I loved the mobster feel to this story, and that we got to experience Benny’s Italian heritage from the Bronx. This love story “strummed my pain with its fingers”, but if I had one take away it would be this: It’s a quote Esther said that will stay with me forever. “If you want people to change, you have to show them what it looks like.” Benny and Esther do this and more. Thank you Amy for continuing to give us the treasure of your words. They are truly a balm to the aching soul.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Amy Harmon

    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. Release date: March 16, 2021 KINDLE | PAPERBACK | AUDIO 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, and avoiding the spotlight. . . . until the 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. Release date: March 16, 2021 KINDLE | PAPERBACK | AUDIO 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, and 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. KINDLE | PAPERBACK | AUDIO Copyright © Amy Harmon WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM | AMAZON | BOOKBUB | NEWSLETTER

  8. 4 out of 5

    EmBibliophile

    4.5 stars “You wanna change the world, you gotta show ’em what it looks like,” What an ugly beautiful book! This book was so good. It had many elements that made it such a phenomenal and unforgettable story. It takes place in the sixties and you could just feel it, like you’re right there with them in that time period. I just love reading about people in the past and their struggles and how they overcome them. This is such a beautiful emotional book about family, civil rights, race, the mafia 4.5 stars “You wanna change the world, you gotta show ’em what it looks like,” What an ugly beautiful book! This book was so good. It had many elements that made it such a phenomenal and unforgettable story. It takes place in the sixties and you could just feel it, like you’re right there with them in that time period. I just love reading about people in the past and their struggles and how they overcome them. This is such a beautiful emotional book about family, civil rights, race, the mafia presence and influence in that time period, about songs and songwriters, and interracial relationship. ”Don’t let me down, Benny Lament.” I loved Benny and Esther and loved how they kept teasing each other. It was just so entertaining. Their bickering is just so natural and it flows so easy. I loved watching them make songs together. I also really loved how devoted Benny was and how strong and determined Esther was. I really like all the side characters as well and how they all played a part in the story. I guess my favorite was Benny’s pops. I just really liked him. Overall this was such a beautiful important story. Amy Harmon’s storytelling ability is exceptional.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Corina

    YES YES YES - don't even need to know what it's about - love me a new Amy Harmon book ♥︎ I’m going in.... 😍 ALMOST FIVE STARS BOOM!!!! What a book!! Powerful and fascinating!! Anyone who loved Daisy Jones and The Six will LOVE this book!!!! ___________________________________ Full review: Wow, this book was powerful and fascinating!!! And if you loved Daisy Jones and The Six you’ll love The Songbook of Benny Lament too. As expected the novel was beautifully written, and covers an era that was tumultuous YES YES YES - don't even need to know what it's about - love me a new Amy Harmon book ♥︎ I’m going in.... 😍 ALMOST FIVE STARS BOOM!!!! What a book!! Powerful and fascinating!! Anyone who loved Daisy Jones and The Six will LOVE this book!!!! ___________________________________ Full review: Wow, this book was powerful and fascinating!!! And if you loved Daisy Jones and The Six you’ll love The Songbook of Benny Lament too. As expected the novel was beautifully written, and covers an era that was tumultuous but also fascinating. I wish I knew more about the 60s, but I recognized enough songs and names to know what kind of music and artists were making the news during that time. As always the research the author put into her books is astonishing, and palpable. The story flows, engages, and is utterly spellbinding. And the way the Italian mob and the music of the 60s intertwined in this book was nothing short of masterful. Benny and Esther’s story was epic, enthralling, and one of a kind. An interracial romance that was brimming with chemistry. I mean, the banter between them was just fabulous! And the way they made up lyrics – my most favorite part of the book – was just admirable. They effortlessly bounced ideas off each other, one moment they were squabbling, two minutes later the start of a new song was born. Just like that! Each chapter was introduced by a segment of a radio interview, between Benny and the radio host on New Year’s Day of 1969. It was so well done!!! And I can only imagine how well the audiobook will sound. The book was unputdownable – PERIOD! Thanks to a fascinating background and characters that were based on facts, the book delivered a punch. One that was felt deeply. Especially in a year like 2020. Also the Romeo and Juliet kind of vibe, the forbidden attraction between Benny and Esther pulled my heartstrings in more way than one. The love story, the era, the music – it was all exceptionally well done! I can’t wait for you all to read it!!! ___________________________________ I received a copy of this book from the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author. Find more reviews and book recommendations on my blog Follow me on Bookstagram

  10. 4 out of 5

    ❥ KAT ❥ Kitty Kats Crazy About Books

    'THE SONGBOOK OF BENNY LAMENT' Is a full length historical romance novel by Amy Harmon. As soon as I saw this one doing the rounds last year it became one I was highly anticipating as I saw how it affected a reader in Amy's group. Any book this author writes she pours her heart and soul into, no book is ever the same, and no one does unique like this author. This book was so powerful in its execution, phenomenal and utterly captivating the storyline just blew me away that I'm left speechl 'THE SONGBOOK OF BENNY LAMENT' Is a full length historical romance novel by Amy Harmon. As soon as I saw this one doing the rounds last year it became one I was highly anticipating as I saw how it affected a reader in Amy's group. Any book this author writes she pours her heart and soul into, no book is ever the same, and no one does unique like this author. This book was so powerful in its execution, phenomenal and utterly captivating the storyline just blew me away that I'm left speechless, this was such a heartfelt beautiful story, beyond unique, I can honestly say that I've never read anything like it. We're transported way back in time in the 60's when music is topping the charts and throwing up so much discord in the political world especially when it came to Benny and Esther, the world just wasn't ready for them. You couldn't mix black and white without repercussions coming your way and that's exactly what occurred with Benny and Esther. They blurred the lines of what people perceived as right and wrong. When ignorance was bliss and their love had no colour. It wasn't normal in their time to mix black and whites. When music had certain stipulations and these two took it by the horns and created magic. Benny was a brilliant talented songwriter and Esther was a black singer with a powerful soulful voice. When Benny's old man takes him to listen to a singer, right away he's captivated, with some convincing he decides to write her band a song. These two had such a unusual relationship, their banter feeding off the other which became magic when delivering their music, much later a relationship blossomed with so many road blocks and hurdles thrown at them left, right and center.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Malene

    Wow! Just wow! This book took me on a journey. Thanks to the author and the amount of research she did. It paid off. In every way. I felt it all. I was on the sidelines with Benny Lament and experiencing his story. It had all it especially what occurred in the sixties. The politics, racism and the amazing music. I was deeply invested in Benny and Esther’s journey because it’s real. It happened. That’s why this book struck a chord with me and like I mentioned before because of Amy Harmon. Her att Wow! Just wow! This book took me on a journey. Thanks to the author and the amount of research she did. It paid off. In every way. I felt it all. I was on the sidelines with Benny Lament and experiencing his story. It had all it especially what occurred in the sixties. The politics, racism and the amazing music. I was deeply invested in Benny and Esther’s journey because it’s real. It happened. That’s why this book struck a chord with me and like I mentioned before because of Amy Harmon. Her attention to detail and research is awe inspiring. I loved how she’s constructed the book. The radio interviews and the flashbacks made the story flow effortlessly. Benny was taking/telling me, the reader, through his life and what a life it was. What a fantastic and important book. Thank you. 5 Change is the Answer Stars

  12. 4 out of 5

    RoshReviews

    #InANutshell: This enters my top five reads of 2021. If you are asked to provide a pair of five-letter nouns beginning with 'm' but that don't go well together , 'mafia' and 'music' would be a very good answer. So imagine a beautifully woven tale that unifies these two discrete elements into a delectable story. What you get is "The Songbook of Benny Lament". Our eponymous lead, Benny Lament -- or to be more accurate, Benito Lomento -- belongs to an Italian mafia family bossing over the Bronx area #InANutshell: This enters my top five reads of 2021. If you are asked to provide a pair of five-letter nouns beginning with 'm' but that don't go well together , 'mafia' and 'music' would be a very good answer. So imagine a beautifully woven tale that unifies these two discrete elements into a delectable story. What you get is "The Songbook of Benny Lament". Our eponymous lead, Benny Lament -- or to be more accurate, Benito Lomento -- belongs to an Italian mafia family bossing over the Bronx area in NYC. Benny is the black sheep of the family as he's a singer, songwriter and pianist with no time or interest in his mobster relatives nor in romance. Fairly successful in his career, he gets bowled over by the voice of Esther Mine when he hears her at a night club. Circumstances and choices bring them together in a musical and friendly partnership that is difficult for the external world to digest. After all, this is the America of the 1960s, and a white Sicilian-American man singing alongside a half-black woman on stage doesn't sit well with the segregationists. What follows is Benny's and Esther's deadly yet exciting adventure dealing with music, mobs and mayhem. The entire story is told in flashback through a radio interview with Benny in 1969. This structure works very well to create curiosity about what event in the past led to Benny Lament''s responses in the interview. Sometimes, a book progresses slowly and the story takes its time to unveil itself. But the writing is so beautiful and the character development so fantastic that you feel a compulsion to keep turning the pages. I found it very difficult to keep this book aside, it is that gripping. There are so many themes beautifully layered and completely in harmony with each other: music, family, the civil rights movement, interracial relationships, mafia connections,... At its heart, you may call this book a love story. But to simply look at it as a love story is to trivialise its scope. Within the realm of fiction, it offers a factual glimpse into the struggles of the past, some of which are still extant. Benny Lament and Esther Mine are two of the best written characters I've seen in contemporary literature. Their chemistry, their repartee, their music, their humanness, their strength,... Oh my! Everything was so well-sketched that I felt like I was watching them rather than reading them. Actually, every character in the book barring a couple of secondary ones is intriguingly developed. But the two leads are simply outstanding. (A side thought: how is it that female authors can write male characters so beautifully but most male authors cannot do the same with female characters?) The story is a nice intermingling of fact and fiction. Most of the musical, political and gangster names thrown about in the book are real historical figures. To take actual people and events from the past, adding in some fictional characters, and ending up with a believable story not dealing with any catastrophic historical event is a heck of a writing task. Amy Harmon deserves accolades for doing complete justice to her attempt. What made the book even more special to me was that I'm a music lover. (Note that understanding music will help you better enjoy the book, but it's not mandatory.) If you've ever riffed to music or banged your head along with the beats, you'll know the high music generates. So to see Esther and Benny creating magic with their words and tunes is an awesome experience. How I wish I could hear their songs! This might remind you of "Daisy Jones and the Six", another fabulous book related to the music of the past. But music is the only linking factor; there's nothing else in common between the two books. Where this book skids a little is in the last couple of chapters. After a splendid build-up of suspense and fear, the ending feels quite tame and hurried in comparison. But don't let this take you away from the book. The whole reading experience is mesmerising, regardless of this little flaw. If you still haven't gauged my feelings about the book, here's the recommendation: Go for it if you - love music. - love well-developed plots and characters. - enjoy a mixture of genres within the same story. - want to try historical fiction beyond stories of wars or natural disasters or plain old romance. - simply want a good book. Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for this ARC in exchange for an honest review. I leave you with some of my favourite lines from 'The Songbook of Benny Lament'. ✔️ If you want to know what’s happening in a nation, look at the music. ✔️ He was good at keeping people’s secrets. Maybe that was the reason he was so big. The weight of people’s confidence is a heavy burden. ✔️ A movement might unite behind a face, but it needs every voice. ✔️ When you are born into something— a culture, a religion, a place— how do you separate it from who you are? ✔️ People see what they see. They’ll think what they think. And I can’t do a damn thing about it. ✔️ You gotta have dissonance to appreciate the resolution. ✔️ If we knew how bad the world really is, how ugly, how unfair, and how dark, we wouldn’t be able to go on. ✔️ None of us can help who we are. We are born into the world we are born into. The family. The skin. Nobody gets to choose those things. You can’t be mad at a man for who he is. Only what he is . . . and the choices he makes. ✔️ May we seek to learn each other’s stories so that we might love each other a little better. - from the author's note at the end. ❤️❤️ *********************** Join me on the Facebook group, Readers Forever! , for more reviews, book-related discussions and fun. Follow me on Instagram: RoshReviews

  13. 4 out of 5

    Emma Scott

    I want to be Amy Harmon when I grow up. <---When I first finished the book. Actual review--> There's not a whole lot I can say that other reviewers haven't said already. I don't do plot-recap reviews; I'm always more interested in craft. I will say, however, that the plot was a mix of deep characterizations, world-building (this takes place in 1960 and so requires time and care to "build" a world of the past, including its language, attitudes, ideals and mores), action, love, and music. Above all I want to be Amy Harmon when I grow up. <---When I first finished the book. Actual review--> There's not a whole lot I can say that other reviewers haven't said already. I don't do plot-recap reviews; I'm always more interested in craft. I will say, however, that the plot was a mix of deep characterizations, world-building (this takes place in 1960 and so requires time and care to "build" a world of the past, including its language, attitudes, ideals and mores), action, love, and music. Above all, music. Amy Harmon uses music, winding and wrapping it around every word to convey the harmonies (Benny and Esther) and discord (mob violence, racism), and in the middle is the beautiful love between a quiet piano man and a powerhouse voice. The two belong together in all ways, illustrated by their musical compatibility that then seeped deeper despite (or because of) their opposite natures. Like two melodies that sound different--him methodical and cool, her bold and fiery--but when played together, harmonize beautifully. I’ll be a blessing. That line really smacked me in the chest, even stuffed as it was in the middle of a speech trying to convince Benny to take her on. It felt like such an authentic thing to say for so many reasons. Firstly, it's easy to mimic dialect from a different era. It's a whole other ballgame to incorporate that vocabulary into the very soul of the character and have it come out in a sentence like that so it sounds perfectly organic and true. I loved Esther's fire so much but there is a heartbreaking quality to her ambition given what she's up against. That one line also encapsulated the uphill battle--to be pleasant, not be a bother, but make it worth his while when she's the one with an equal, if not greater, talent. A desperation not born of her lack of ability or talent, (she has an abundance of both ) but because neither of those in is the sole determinant of her success in the year 1960. That Benny recognized this in her right away is a testament to his kind soul and big heart. The book is filled with moments like that--perfect notes that make up a whole symphony, typical of Harmon's style: fluid, elegant (even in the uglier moments), and filled with grace. The characters are three-dimensional--I was ready to chalk up Benny's dad to a mere mobster villain when that was far from the truth, and given this author, I should have known better.. This isn't a great review; I waited too long to write it, my own endeavors in the forefront, but The Song Book of Benny Lament is an experience more than a book, and I highly recommend taking the trip back in time for this love story set more than fifty years ago and yet still resonates in 2021, full of light, love, music, and hope. If you want people to change, you have to show them what it looks like.

  14. 4 out of 5

    FMABookReviews

    "Most people aren’t ugly right to your face. They just make life difficult when your back is turned." Reading Amy Harmon's books are like reuniting with an old friend. They comfort me, bring me happiness, and give me faith in humanity, and after a year like 2020, this book was a welcome distraction. “She said if you want people to change, you have to show them what it looks like.” Common among her books is her ability to question your moral compass without coming right out a "Most people aren’t ugly right to your face. They just make life difficult when your back is turned." Reading Amy Harmon's books are like reuniting with an old friend. They comfort me, bring me happiness, and give me faith in humanity, and after a year like 2020, this book was a welcome distraction. “She said if you want people to change, you have to show them what it looks like.” Common among her books is her ability to question your moral compass without coming right out and doing so. The Songbook of Benny Lament, touches on the struggles for African American's during the 1960's. She does this through the lens of a romantic relationship between an Italian American male and an African American female. Benny Lament and Esther Mine could not be more dissimilar and yet, similar at the same time. He is an only child and was raised by his father. Benny's dad works for the head of the mob (who happens to be his late mother's brother). Esther Mine was raised in a household full of brothers by a mother and father. The two connected through their mutual love of music. Both used music to escape and both had dreams of 'getting out', leaving their struggles and life behind while pursing a music career. During the 1960's in America, theirs wasn't a condoned relationship. But love is love and these two were meant to be and weathered many painful struggles and dangerous hurdles to be together. “The thing is . . . when you’re close to me, everything inside me goes still. My heart stops. My breath slows. And my mind opens up, like I’m pushing open the windows and breathing in spring. Everything is so quiet that it’s . . . loud. So loud that it drowns out everything else. That’s what you do to me. And I like it.” The way she pulls emotions from my heart is both painful and exciting. Harmon draws her readers in one word at a time until she has snared them, and then she slowly and meticulously unravels their emotions until they are no longer in control. We are puppets to her master hands. Beautiful, emotional, heart-wrenching, and engrossing with a slow progression that sucks you in, Amy Harmon chronicles race relation struggles of the sixties through a poignant romance. I was provided a review copy by Amy Harmon; this did not influence my opinion of the book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sophie "Beware Of The Reader"

    FULL REVIEW PUBLISHED 6 stars WARNING: LONG REVIEW AHEAD (as it’s usual for Amy’s books. #sorrynotsorry). And you’ll get lots of quotes because Amy ahs one of the most outstanding writings. “But if storytellers wrote only about things they had personally experienced, it would be like musicians playing only music they had personally written. I don’t want to just sing my own songs; I want to sing the songs of many voices, even if the songs are painful and scary.”- Author’s note. Amy Harmon is one of my FULL REVIEW PUBLISHED 6 stars WARNING: LONG REVIEW AHEAD (as it’s usual for Amy’s books. #sorrynotsorry). And you’ll get lots of quotes because Amy ahs one of the most outstanding writings. “But if storytellers wrote only about things they had personally experienced, it would be like musicians playing only music they had personally written. I don’t want to just sing my own songs; I want to sing the songs of many voices, even if the songs are painful and scary.”- Author’s note. Amy Harmon is one of my top three authors and what I love about her books, beautiful writing aside, is that she never goes for the same story twice. She always pushes herself and goes outside of her comfort zone, like she did here. I would never have expected her to write a story with mobsters intertwined with race problems and politics! Yet she did and she did it brilliantly. This is an outstanding love story rooted in the background of mafia, segregation and Motown’s birth. This story is told on December 30th 1969 on the Barry Grey’s show. Barry is interviewing his guest, Benny Lament, songwriter, musician, singer and manager of Minefield, Esther’s band. They will reminisce about the past decade, talking about politics and about Benny’s career and how he became Minefield’s manager. “So how did you end up singing with her? You’d been a songwriter up to that point. A very successful one. But nobody outside industry circles knew your name. You were a behind-the-scenes guy.” I loved that the interview was used to stir her story. Every time Barry Grey talks about a topic, from one to two pages in the book, we’ll then shift to the past. It gave me a “telltale feel” when we dove back in Benny and Esther's story. Benny is the nephew of the New York Italian mob’s boss: Salvatore Vitale. His dad, Jack Lomento, known later as Jack Lament, is an ex-box champion who became Sal’s bodyguard after he married Benny’s mom, Sal’s sister. All his life, Benny has been a genius with music and at writing songs. “I wrote my first song when I was eight years old, a chocolate ice-cream cone in my hand, while my father roughed up a shop owner.” He has witnessed some very bad things while young and swore to never pledge to the family and to never have a family or responsibilities. He has a great career as a songwriter, happy to stay in the shadow, doing what he likes: music. “I didn’t want to be a star. Maybe that was what won people over. I didn’t have dreams of Hollywood or Broadway. I wasn’t in love with my own voice or my reflection in the mirror. My dreams were of a humbler variety. I wanted to make music, not mayhem.” But one day, his dad brings him to see Minefield, group made of black brothers and sister, play music in a club. Benny gets enraptured by their singer’s voice: Esther. That scene was …so intense I had thrills. I was in that club at night listening to Esther’s voice. “But as I listened, my chest grew tight and my eyes pricked with tears. I was seven years old again, listening to a voice that covered my arms in gooseflesh. She reminds me of your mother.” Esther has a voice like none other but she has had no luck so far and she will hunt Benny to convince him to become Minefield’s manager. It was fascinating to see Esther so determined while Benny was so reluctant. “I won’t cause you a minute’s trouble. I’ll be a blessing. I’ll sing, and I’ll dance, and I’ll do whatever you say. I’ll be the best investment you ever made,” she said, her voice firm, eyes clinging to mine. “I don’t want to sleep with you. Or anyone else, actually. But I’ll even do that.” They will bicker often Esther never sugarcoating things and Benny replying, giving as good as he got! That was captivating witnessing what felt like a long foreplay. These two met toe to toe and gave people an amazing show! Benny was “Ugly beautiful. I knew exactly what she meant, and I was pleased. I knew I wasn’t pretty, but I’d take ugly beautiful any day. Ugly beautiful was a hell of a lot more intriguing.” If Benny was very tall and white, Esther was pocket size and black but she had “pipes” like Benny loved to say. Esther may have been raised poor and ostracized because of the color of her skin, she had poise, determination and sass! “Esther’s eyes were ringed with fatigue and her white dress was wrinkled and streaked, but before we stepped outside she applied her lipstick, pulled on her coat, and squared her shoulders, readying herself for whatever audience might await us.” From reluctant to manage Minefield, Benny will become committed when he’ll witness how unfair Minefield’s treatment was. There are adverse forces at play. Esther and her brothers are black. Benny is white. And more than the color of their skins Esther’s past will create danger at every turn That book pulled at all my heartstrings. My dad was a huge fan of The Platters, Ray Charles, The King, and all the singers and bands from that period. I have been raised listening to these singers and reading about them felt like connecting with my father. It was a fabulous gift as he left us two years ago. I also think that Amy did a brilliant job at recreating the atmosphere of that period in time. I was in these clubs listening to the bands and watching through a haze of smoke while mobsters talked business. I witnessed the birth of Motown and wanted to know more about that success story. I raged at the unfair treatment people of colors got and couldn’t help but think that if things evolved, USA still had a long way to go. “I thought people segregated themselves because they wanted to. Chinatown, Little Italy, Harlem—it didn’t occur to me that many people didn’t have an option.” To conclude this very long review, I’d say that Amy made me fall head over heels in love with Benny and Esther’s story right from the first sentences. I would recommend that outstanding book a thousand times.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Betül

    **ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review** - 4.5 stars - I am not going to lie, this book is very intricate and difficult for me to review. It has many layers that added together make a beautiful and raw (love) story. My expectations for Amy's books are high, she sets the bar very high with each amazing book she writes. She is very versatile and isn't afraid to write about difficult subject and social issues. She handles every (sub)genre/subject with grace and utmost care. You **ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review** - 4.5 stars - I am not going to lie, this book is very intricate and difficult for me to review. It has many layers that added together make a beautiful and raw (love) story. My expectations for Amy's books are high, she sets the bar very high with each amazing book she writes. She is very versatile and isn't afraid to write about difficult subject and social issues. She handles every (sub)genre/subject with grace and utmost care. You can feel that she spent hours and hours making sure to represent all the different characters with respect. Her passion just flows through the words and pages of her book. The Songbook of Benny Lament isn't an easy book to write, so I thank the author for giving us this beautiful and emotional story. I very rarely read books told completely from a male POV, but I think it was the right thing to do and it worked perfectly for this book. Benny is a very complicated character and I fell slowly in love with him. Esther is amazing and I was just in awe of her. The author created such phenomenal and real characters and I really did my best to read as slowly as possible, because I didn't want the story to end. The pace and flow of the story was great, and I could really feel each character grow throughout the book. The suspense, romance, humor, and heartbreak were perfectly balanced and it resulted in this beautiful and thought provoking love story.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Laura Elizabeth

    This book gets all the ✨ stars. One million of them. This is the most beautifully written story. Benny and Esther were an amazing couple. The author grasped this era in time with an amazingly real story about family and love and what it all takes to make those two things work and stay together. It read like it was a non fiction book. I have to thank my friend Stacie for pushing this book on us in the TPAM group. I owe her on this one. I don’t normally like music theme stories and would have auto This book gets all the ✨ stars. One million of them. This is the most beautifully written story. Benny and Esther were an amazing couple. The author grasped this era in time with an amazingly real story about family and love and what it all takes to make those two things work and stay together. It read like it was a non fiction book. I have to thank my friend Stacie for pushing this book on us in the TPAM group. I owe her on this one. I don’t normally like music theme stories and would have automatically passed this up. This book would be one helluva movie 🎥.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kalie Phillips

    I wish I could give this book all the stars in the sky. I put off writing this review for so long because I don’t think any words I write will do the story justice. Seriously how does one review perfection? Well I’m going to do my best. The Songbook of Benny Lament is absolute perfection. I have read every single book Amy Harmon has released and with every book she amazes me more snd more. Benny and Ester’s story is so beautiful. Their struggles, their love in the face of hatred and danger moved I wish I could give this book all the stars in the sky. I put off writing this review for so long because I don’t think any words I write will do the story justice. Seriously how does one review perfection? Well I’m going to do my best. The Songbook of Benny Lament is absolute perfection. I have read every single book Amy Harmon has released and with every book she amazes me more snd more. Benny and Ester’s story is so beautiful. Their struggles, their love in the face of hatred and danger moved me to tears so many times and Ester Mine is hands down my favorite heroine of all time. I loved every aspect of this story, and I learned so much. I loved the music, the banter between Ester snd Benny, the skepticism of Money Mine, the mystery behind Bo “the Bomb” Johnson. There wasn’t a single thing in this book that I didn’t love. And when I closed the book after finishing, I just sat and held it in my hands and cried because of how beautiful this story was. Its not enough to simply say that this is now one of my favorite books, It is one of the best books I have ever read and a book I know I will reread many many times and it will always have a very special place in my heart. yourself a favor and read this book when it releases, and see for yourself what absolute perfection it is.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brandie

    Well, I knew I would love this book (because I love everything Amy writes), but this is one of her best books. I couldn’t put it down and I never wanted it to end. Loved!!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jessica | JustReadingJess

    The Song Book of Benny Lament by Amy Harmon is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. The Song Book of Benny Lament is a story of love, race, and music. The story alternates between a radio interview of Benny Lament on The Barry Gray Show and the past explaining the full story behind the songs and stories. I love music and am always trying to imagine the stories behind songs, so this book was a dream come true. The book takes place during the 1960s and race is a huge part of the story. The Song Book of Benny Lament by Amy Harmon is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. The Song Book of Benny Lament is a story of love, race, and music. The story alternates between a radio interview of Benny Lament on The Barry Gray Show and the past explaining the full story behind the songs and stories. I love music and am always trying to imagine the stories behind songs, so this book was a dream come true. The book takes place during the 1960s and race is a huge part of the story. Benny is white while Esther and the rest of their band is black. Their songs were controversial and brought up events from the past that people wanted to stay hidden. They kept fighting for what they believe in and are making a stand with their music. Some of the race problems in the book still exist today. This story was told so beautifully and was very impactful. The characters are all great. Esther and Benny are opposites that bring out the best of each other. I enjoyed their interactions and how they changed over time. They have to decide if they want to be together or listen to all their fears. Benny is a songwriter and pianist while Esther is a singer. Benny starts singing and Esther starts writing songs. The rest of the band members have different personalities. Benny’s family is made of mobsters. My review doesn’t do this book justice but I highly recommend The Song Book of Benny Lament. Thank you Lake Union Publishing and Amazon Publishing for The Song Book of Benny Lament. Full Review: https://justreadingjess.wordpress.com...

  21. 4 out of 5

    Stacie

    5++ "Ugly Beautiful" Stars! I absolutely 100% loved this book and there was not one thing I would have changed. Entertaining, mysterious heartfelt, heartbreaking, beautiful. There was the unforgettable music of the Motown era, the mob, politics, racial issues, family issues!! And at the center of it all was a sweet, sweet slow burn romance between two characters that you will fall head over hills for. Benny was like a quiet storm and Esther was like a firecracker with a lit fuse. Between a storm 5++ "Ugly Beautiful" Stars! I absolutely 100% loved this book and there was not one thing I would have changed. Entertaining, mysterious heartfelt, heartbreaking, beautiful. There was the unforgettable music of the Motown era, the mob, politics, racial issues, family issues!! And at the center of it all was a sweet, sweet slow burn romance between two characters that you will fall head over hills for. Benny was like a quiet storm and Esther was like a firecracker with a lit fuse. Between a storm and a firecracker, you're guaranteed to get a BOOM! Told in a look back interview style, and set in the remarkably revolutionary and volatile decade of the 1960s, this book was ironically parallel to current history. But also wholly its own and so entertaining I was reluctant to put it down. Simply put, I loved it. Every single page. Every single sentence. Every single word. This quote grabbed me from page 1. "Chords are like families. The notes go together. Like you and your father and your aunts and uncles and all your cousins. There. Hear that? Isn't that beautiful? That's an F chord. F for famiglia. But listen... let's add a stranger. See? It doesn't sound so good. That note doesn't belong in the F chord." Amy HarmonShe had me with this passage from the very first page. It only gets better from there. Happy reading!! I was so beyond grateful to have had the privilege of reading this book early. I was gifted a copy from the truly lovely author- Ms Amy Harmon Mark your calenders- March 16, 2021

  22. 4 out of 5

    Antonella

    GENRE: historical fiction TROPES/THEMES: interracial relationship, civil rights, music, family drama, grief, murder, infidelity, race, mafia RATING: 4 ⭐ RELEASE DATE: March 16th On December 30th, 1969 Benito Lament gives a radio interview. The questions from the host take him back to his early childhood but also to 1960 when he met the love of his life, Esther Mine. Both Benito and Esther are singers, with Benito being a songwriter. We are immersed in a world of family drama, mafia connection, and b GENRE: historical fiction TROPES/THEMES: interracial relationship, civil rights, music, family drama, grief, murder, infidelity, race, mafia RATING: 4 ⭐ RELEASE DATE: March 16th On December 30th, 1969 Benito Lament gives a radio interview. The questions from the host take him back to his early childhood but also to 1960 when he met the love of his life, Esther Mine. Both Benito and Esther are singers, with Benito being a songwriter. We are immersed in a world of family drama, mafia connection, and biracial love blossoming in a time when segregation was still happening and long before the Loving v. Virginia ruling. There are many secrets to be uncovered for these two as well as hurdles they had to overcome and through it all there is music. This book has a lot going on. I needed more time to get into it. But once I took a hold of the story I was at the edge of my seat with Benito and Esther, praying that this book doesn't break my heart. This would be a perfect read as an audiobook. I think as such I would enjoy it more. An ode to Motown and soulmate kind of love. * Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the copy of the book in exchange for an honest review

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michele

    5 Huge "Ugly Beautiful" Stars!! Let me start by saying I have read and enjoyed many of Amy Harmon's books. A few of them even occupy a spot on my "all-time favorite reads" shelf. However, nothing prepared me for The Songbook of Benny Lament and how much it would touch my heart.. This is a special book set during a volatile and painful time in our country's history - - the 1960's. "You can't be mad at a man for who he is. Only what he is....and the choices he makes." This book focuses on a young 5 Huge "Ugly Beautiful" Stars!! Let me start by saying I have read and enjoyed many of Amy Harmon's books. A few of them even occupy a spot on my "all-time favorite reads" shelf. However, nothing prepared me for The Songbook of Benny Lament and how much it would touch my heart.. This is a special book set during a volatile and painful time in our country's history - - the 1960's. "You can't be mad at a man for who he is. Only what he is....and the choices he makes." This book focuses on a young man, Benny, who is the son of a boxer turned mafia enforcer. He's also the son of a man who loved his family unconditionally and never stopped demonstrating that love - - even when his wife died and even when his son wasn't watching. Benny never wanted to be anything like his family or his father. He wanted to distance himself as far from the mafia as he could. His passion was music and he was crazy talented. He could write a song from one word and it would be amazing. Through Benny's father, he is introduced to Esther and the group, Minefield. He initially wants nothing to do with them, but then he can't turn his back on Esther's talent. Later, he won't be able to ignore anything about Esther. "There's always gotta be someone who shows the world how it's done." Not only is this a beautiful love story. It's a story about finding your way in the music industry at a time where nothing came easy. It is also the story of a young man learning who he really is, what's important in life and how to stand up for what you believe instead of walking away. It's a story about a biracial relationship and all the complications present in the 1960's. "Some things are worth saving. Some things aren't." Ms. Harmon wrote these characters in a such a way that they could have stepped off the page. They felt real and authentic. The time period during which this story took place felt like a character in itself because the events of that time were critical to the storyline.. The way everything worked together made its feel as if these characters really lived during that time and were living, breathing people who lived, loved and created a legacy. Ms. Harmon's words often feel magical to me. The ones that flowed through The Songbook of Benny Lament were no exception. The storyline was incredible. In addition, Ms. Harmon basically wrote several songs within this book. Lyrics that would be fabulous if put to music. Lyrics I could hear in my head. I could imagine Benny and Esther bantering back and forth on stage while singing these songs. All of this blends together to make this so much more than just a book. . Lastly, I have to say I wasn't ready for this book to end, so I read into Ms. Harmon's Author's Note section. I confess I don't always do that. It was in this section that I found my favorite quote from the entire book - - "May we seek to learn each other's stories so that we might love each other a little better." To me, that says it all..... Thank you to NetGalley, Lake Union Publishing and Ms. Harmon for this ARC. I appreciated the opportunity to read this book early and voluntarily chose to review it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lisazj1

    4.5 stars. I didn't forget this. I have been dragging my feet for daysssss on this review, because I honestly don't know what to say. I'm a bit bewildered. It's no secret to anybody who listens to my blather that Amy Harmon is one of my very favorite auto-buy authors and has been from the very first book of hers that I read. Not only auto-buy but physical-copy-buy, which is now only for the best of the best, as my space has run out. *long ago, but I keep buying, LOL* I've 5-starred almost every s 4.5 stars. I didn't forget this. I have been dragging my feet for daysssss on this review, because I honestly don't know what to say. I'm a bit bewildered. It's no secret to anybody who listens to my blather that Amy Harmon is one of my very favorite auto-buy authors and has been from the very first book of hers that I read. Not only auto-buy but physical-copy-buy, which is now only for the best of the best, as my space has run out. *long ago, but I keep buying, LOL* I've 5-starred almost every single one of her books. So why not this one? I don't get it myself so I've been puzzling on it. I honestly feel guilty for the 4 stars, which is ridiculous, but here we are. I loved every single facet of this story. I loved the characters, all of them, from Benny's dad & Fat Tony and Sticks, all the way to Berry Gordy and his sister and Money Mine. I mean, Money was kind of an asshole, but I got him. I heard what he was saying and I understood him. Ok, so maybe not Sal & Theresa, but reasons there. 😒 I sincerely loved Benny and Esther. They were fabulous book-people, and I loved them. More than that, I believed them. The story was lovely and tumultuous through a terrible time with race in the country's history, and timely as well considering the issues that, shamefully, exist still today. I loved both the families, one Italian mob and one black, both from Harlem, and I loved that Benny and Esther didn't listen to either side who told them no way. The music and performing was phenomenal and I could hear them as they sang. As always, Amy Harmon's writing and world was lush and living and the story flowed. But for me, most crucial, is the connection to the characters. And it was missing. This could totally be just me, and most likely is/was. I did have a hard time focusing and staying in the story while I was reading, and I definitely can't really blame it on the story itself. Individually, I loved all the pieces. I enjoyed *except for the things that were awful* what was happening while I read it. But I didn't feel it, as I usually do. Again, I really feel that's on me. Despite that, this was a beautiful, timeless story with wonderful characters and music that speaks to the heart. Don't miss out.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Pavlina Read more sleep less blog

    Yay super excited and anxious about this one <3      Yay super excited and anxious about this one <3     

  26. 4 out of 5

    VB Book Reviews

    4.5 Stars!! “If you want people to change, you have to show them what it looks like.” So this is my second Historical Fiction read from Amy Harmon, and let me just say, I hope this author continues to write in this genre. My first was From Sand and Ash and it was easily my top read of 2020. It is hugely apparent that the author took meticulous care in researching the era, the backdrop of New York City in the 1960's, and the dawn of Motown meets mafia. The imagery in the words was so vi 4.5 Stars!! “If you want people to change, you have to show them what it looks like.” So this is my second Historical Fiction read from Amy Harmon, and let me just say, I hope this author continues to write in this genre. My first was From Sand and Ash and it was easily my top read of 2020. It is hugely apparent that the author took meticulous care in researching the era, the backdrop of New York City in the 1960's, and the dawn of Motown meets mafia. The imagery in the words was so vivid that I felt like I had been whisked away and was living inside the story. I could SEE each scene unfolding like a movie in my mind. Truth be told though, up front, it took me a couple of days actually to get into this book. I felt like the first 20% was quite info "dumpy," and many of the scenes failed to actually move the story forward. In the first 19% or so of the book, there is only one scene with our two main characters were on the page together. I feared that I wasn't going to love the story as much as I wanted to, but I kept reading. And sure enough, once the story took off, I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN!! Esther was a fierce and strong female character with a gorgeous voice. Benny was steadfast, reliable, and such a huge talent with his songwriting skills and musical talent. Their chemistry together was insane, and OMG the banter. I loved the push and pull of their controversial love story and the delicacy with which the author executed it. “I love you too, Benny Lament. And I just want to slap you for it. You made me love you. Why did you do that?” “I didn’t try.” “I know. And that made me love you more. I don’t want to love you.” “I don’t want to love you either,” I confessed. “Then we won’t,” she said, adamant. “But I do,” I said quietly. There's also a huge suspense component to this story that kept me turning the pages with fear quite frankly! We know that Benny's family has huge mafia ties that Benny has fought long and hard to stay away from, but are inevitably catching up to him. This is an important story, especially in today's society, a thought provoking one, and a beautiful one. I highly recommend it and cannot wait until the audio comes out so I can experience it all over again. “The thing is . . . when you’re close to me, everything inside me goes still. My heart stops. My breath slows. And my mind opens up, like I’m pushing open the windows and breathing in spring. Everything is so quiet that it’s . . . loud. So loud that it drowns out everything else. That’s what you do to me. And I like it.” Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for my ARC which I received in exchange for an honest review.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sher❤ The Fabulous BookLover

    Amy just sent me a copy of this book! I’m so excited! I don’t even know what it’s about but of course I’m going to drop everything and read it!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    Gold. Pure gold. The perfect note to end the year on.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    4.5 / 5 stars The Songbook of Benny Lament is a story set in the 1960s. I would classify it as either General Fiction, Women's Fiction or Historical Fiction (if you consider the 60s historical). This book is from Benny's 1st POV. His chapters from 1960 alternate with an interview he did on the Barry Gray Show (from December 30, 1969). Benny is a songwriter, producer and entertainer. The book focuses a lot on music. And race relations. There is also a major mobster element. And there is romance. Th 4.5 / 5 stars The Songbook of Benny Lament is a story set in the 1960s. I would classify it as either General Fiction, Women's Fiction or Historical Fiction (if you consider the 60s historical). This book is from Benny's 1st POV. His chapters from 1960 alternate with an interview he did on the Barry Gray Show (from December 30, 1969). Benny is a songwriter, producer and entertainer. The book focuses a lot on music. And race relations. There is also a major mobster element. And there is romance. The author seamlessly weaves all of these components together. And it makes for a very compelling read. My preference is reading contemporary. However, I will read anything that this author writes. And I was not disappointed with this book. The main female character is 21 year old songstress Esther Mine. Esther is biracial (she is pictured on the cover). And Benny is white. I was fascinated by this aspect of this book. And I loved everything to do with them singing together/collaborating. I wouldn't normally love the Barry Gray show interview elements. But I actually loved this part of the story. I think that the key was that these chapters were quite short and concise. Overall this was an emotional and powerful book. I think that fans of music and the time period will love it. And I think that fans of the author will be amazed. Thanks to netgalley and Lake Union publishing for allowing me to read this book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    sophia

    ~ 3.0 stars ~ Music can change the world, proven through this beautiful story. The Songbook of Benny Lament by Amy Harmon is a good book that pleased me, but unfortunately, fell short of my expectations. I first saw this novel through Goodreads recommendations (everyone loves these, right?) and discovered it was a new release in 2021. The synopsis actually did not appeal to me as much as it could have, but all the top reviews (and I do mean all of them) rated this book five stars, so I decided why ~ 3.0 stars ~ Music can change the world, proven through this beautiful story. The Songbook of Benny Lament by Amy Harmon is a good book that pleased me, but unfortunately, fell short of my expectations. I first saw this novel through Goodreads recommendations (everyone loves these, right?) and discovered it was a new release in 2021. The synopsis actually did not appeal to me as much as it could have, but all the top reviews (and I do mean all of them) rated this book five stars, so I decided why not go for it? Everyone seemed to like it. But... I just do not understand the hype. I really wish I did, but I don't. Sure, I enjoyed this novel to some extent, but it just wasn't for me, I guess. This novel is actually pretty long, and I actually am not sure that it is worth all that time it takes to read. “You wanna change the world, you gotta show ’em what it looks like.” I actually felt some emotion through my experience reading this novel, and I was surprised. I know I shouldn't because books should make you feel things, but the novels I have been reading recently just have not been making me feel anything, so I was pleasantly surprised on this one. (*if you know any books that are heavy with emotions, feel free to comment on this review or recommend them to me!*) "In a few lines, Alvin had given me more family than I’d ever had in my life." This sentence had me almost tearing up. It touched my heart in so many ways, and it truly resonated with my soul. Sometimes, you just really need that love and comfort of somebody else, and the passage this quote originated from really encapsulates this idea. "Did they hurt you?" "Just my pride. Just my faith in humanity." Sometimes, scars and bruises are not physical and cannot be seen. They are buried deep inside of you and are more painful than any pain a physical injury could inflict. I absolutely loved this quote for this reason. The book was really slow to start off. I would say for the first 30%, I was a little confused and just not feeling the vibe. After, everything started to happen, and I started to ease into the story, liking it more and more with each page. Right about the 70% mark, I started to lose interest and felt a little bored. The plot was a little repetitive, which is why I think I dozed off for the last 30%. I really did like the way the story ended off, as the ending was phenomenal and displayed so much emotion. An aspect of this novel that I thought was unique and captivating was the way the story was told. Every other chapter, there would be a glimpse into the future. It would be an interview on the radio, and it would give the readers a preview of what would be coming next, which I really enjoyed. The pacing was a little slow for my liking, but I put up with it, and still pushed through the story, so it was not as bad as it could have been. I absolutely adored the characters. They each had their own concerns and problems. They were solely themselves and were so unique. Personalities differed drastically from each person to the next. They were what your would call morally grey characters. My favorite part was the music. I love music, and I could definitely see the author's understanding of notes, rhythm, harmonies, etc. I could really image the songs that Benny and Esther created, and I actually constantly wished I could hear the songs sung. The author is so creative and elegant with her words in the lyrics of the songs. I could never. Books about music not only need writing talent, but also musical talent, and Harmon clearly had both of these. I love books that encompass a passion for an art, such as ballet, dancing, music, etc., and this novel had that singing and creative energy that I love. I would have liked more, however. I know what you're probably wondering (you actually most likely aren't wondering this, but I'm just going to say it anyways), you've said mostly great things about this book so far, so why only three stars? The answer is: I just don't think this book resonated with me as much as it did to countless other readers. I think there could have been more energy, more page-turner aspects, more everything in general. I would recommend this to anyone who thinks an interracial historical fiction romance novel interlaced with music would appeal to them. ⪼ 3.0 stars ★★★☆☆ author’s reviewer’s note i do understand that racial injustice important and devastating. this topic needs to be addressed and discussed so everyone understands. i am not writing this review to say that racial injustice is unimportant, irrelevant, nonexistent, or harmless. i am writing this review to discuss purely the storytelling, and the storytelling for this novel did not click with me as much as it could have. 2021 on goodreads link to my reading goals and all my reviews for books i read in 2021 Review written on 4/10/2021

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