I am so thrilled today to review You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon. I received an ARC a few weeks back, and I am so glad I did!
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The summary from Goodreads:
Eighteen-year-old twins Adina and Tovah have little in common besides their ambitious nature. Viola prodigy Adina yearns to become a soloist—and to convince her music teacher he wants her the way she wants him. Overachiever Tovah awaits her acceptance to Johns Hopkins, the first step on her path toward med school and a career as a surgeon.
But one thing could wreck their carefully planned futures: a genetic test for Huntington’s, a rare degenerative disease that slowly steals control of the body and mind. It’s turned their Israeli mother into a near stranger and fractured the sisters’ own bond in ways they’ll never admit. While Tovah finds comfort in their Jewish religion, Adina rebels against its rules.
When the results come in, one twin tests negative for Huntington’s. The other tests positive.
These opposite outcomes push them farther apart as they wrestle with guilt, betrayal, and the unexpected thrill of first love. How can they repair their relationship, and is it even worth saving?
I really loved this book. I loved the complicated sister relationship. I loved reading about a practicing Jewish family. But the story really hit home for me as someone who has been through the difficult choice of having genetic testing done related to my own mother’s illness. The situation is one that can’t be resolved simply or with a completely happy ending, so I was fascinated to see how the story would unfold.
Solomon gives both sisters distinct and intriguing voices and paths, and I really enjoyed the contrast of their development. Adina’s relationship with her tutor was was handled so well, both realistically and with depth. My favorite part about Tovah’s story was seeing how her faith related to her thoughts and choices. This is such a rich, layered story of family and what motivates us to do the things we do, and it was such a pleasure to read.
5 out of 5 stars.
Music for today: Unsteady by X Ambassadors
Sometimes I have trouble keeping my book budget under control. Social media in the writing community doesn’t help matters; I see so many books that interest me, and before I know it, my nightstand and my Nook overflow.
I recently found a bookish alternative that keeps me reading for free and helps other writers: Swoon Reads! Writers can submit manuscripts, readers get to read and comment for free, and Swoon chooses the top performers to publish! It really is a win-win. My first Swoon Read was Dangerous Play by Alison Miller.
The brief summary:
Best friends and soccer all-stars Jesse, Ashton, and JD are on opposite sides of a prank text that leaves Jesse girlfriend-less and spirals into a vicious social war. When a common rival pits them against each other, threatening to destroy their friendship and futures, they must take him down—together.
I love YA from a boy’s point of view, so I was really excited to see the sides of all three main characters. The close friendships, complicated family situations, and careful reveals of misunderstandings keep the tension high as the story unfolds. I highly recommend reading and rating Dangerous Play, and I’m looking forward to finding more new voices at Swoon Reads!
The summary (adapted from Goodreads):
After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy must have been a rare jellyfish sting. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory–even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy’s journey explores life, death, the astonishing wonder of the universe…and the potential for love and hope right next door.
The Thing About Jellyfish is exceptionally well-written. Informative without being preachy and realistic but also timeless, Jellyfish covers quite a bit of ground in what it means to journey from childhood to adolescence. That aching realism, and the interesting facts, were my favorite parts of the novel. It’s the kind of book with a cross-over appeal that adults will love. The question I kept asking, though, was how will the target audience feel? Even with the first person narration, I felt a distance from Suzy, as if the reader is seeing an adult tell the story instead of a twelve-year-old. Even with that distance, I still appreciate the layered nuance of Benjamin’s writing.
4 out of 5 stars.
Music for today: Take It All Back by Judah & the Lion
I am thrilled to be back with a new book review. I just finished Jennifer Park’s The Shadows We Know by Heart, and I can’t wait to write about it.
Get your copy through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Indiebound.
The summary (adapted from Goodreads):
Leah Roberts’s has a secret she’s told no one: Sasquatch are real, and she’s been watching a trio of them in the woods behind her house for years. Leah discovers that among the Sasquatch lives a teenager. This alluring, enigmatic boy has no memory of his past and can barely speak, but Leah can’t shake his magnetic pull. Gradually, Leah’s life entwines with his, providing her the escape from reality she never knew she needed. When Leah’s two worlds suddenly collide in a deadly showdown, she uncovers a shocking truth as big and extraordinary as the legends themselves, one that could change her life forever.
I’ve read many, many books in the past year. But it took this one to get me back online to write a review. I immediately related to Leah and her struggles, even in this fantastical world of Bigfoot. The family dynamic was incredibly well-drawn, examining what it means to be the child of a pastor in the South, and how faith can be tested in devastating circumstances. The contemporary elements of the novel work so well that I never found myself questioning the fantasy elements. Park also manages to create a believable, dynamic love triangle. She kept me guessing as to how this situation could possibly be resolved in a satisfying way, keeping me turning the pages until late at night, and she managed to pull it all off perfectly in the end.
Rating: Five out of five stars!
Music for today: On Hold by The XX
Buy it here
Today I’m reviewing How We Fall
by Kate Brauning
. This book has been on my TBR list since its release, and I was lucky enough to win a copy at the SCBWI mid-year workshops in Orlando this month.
Ever since Jackie moved to her uncle’s sleepy farming town, she’s been flirting way too much–and with her own cousin, Marcus. Their friendship has turned into something she can’t control, and he’s the reason Jackie lost track of her best friend, Ellie. Ellie has been missing for months, and the police, fearing the worst, are searching for her body. Swamped with guilt and the knowledge that acting on her love for Marcus would tear their families apart, Jackie pushes her cousin away.
The plan is to fall out of love, and, just as she hoped he would, Marcus falls for the new girl in town. But something isn’t right about this stranger, and Jackie’s suspicions about the new girl’s secrets drive the wedge deeper between Jackie and Marcus. Then Marcus pays the price for someone else’s lies as the mystery around Ellie’s disappearance becomes horribly clear. Can Jackie leave her first love behind, and can she go on living with the fact that she failed her best friend?
I really enjoyed How We Fall. The relationship between two cousins, Jackie and Marcus, is steamy, intriguing, and uncomfortable in a way that amps up the tension from the opening chapter. The family dynamics, including both sets of parents and many siblings, also give the story depth and authenticity. I was skeptical at first to see how the mystery of Ellie’s disappearance would play out with the complexity of the love story, and while I would’ve liked a bit more of that plot line developed in the first half of the book, Brauning did pull it all together in the end. My favorite secondary character was Will, a fantastic alternative love interest. I would recommend this book to fans of YA contemporary romance and suspense.
5 out of 5 stars.
Music for today: 15 Step by Radiohead
I’ve read plenty of books since my last book review. But none of them struck me with enough force to put fingers to keyboard to sing praises. I haven’t really fallen in love with a book for a while. I want to thank Jacqueline Woodson for reminding me what that feels like.
In Brown Girl Dreaming, Woodson gives an autobiography of her childhood in captivating verse. She explores issues of geographical identity, race, religion, and personal dreams in a way that keeps the pages turning and leaves the reader hungry for more.
You may notice the seals on the picture above; Brown Girl Dreaming has won the National Book Award, a Newbery Medal, an NAACP Image Award, and the Coretta Scott King Author Book Award. I’m sure even more will follow. When reading this book, you know in just a few pages that you’ve discovered a modern day classic, timeless and stunning, that children and adults alike will be reading for generations to come.
If you haven’t already, stop what you’re doing and go read this book!
5 out of 5 stars.
Twelve-year-old Scott is still reeling from his mother’s death. Why is his father dragging the family from their home in California to the small French town of Chateau Moines? With his dad keeping secrets and his sister fitting in right away, Scott struggles to adjust to his new life. Enter Sylvie, a music-loving classmate who won’t admit how fascinated she is by this American boy. If she can overcome her resistance, and her best friend’s crush, Sylvie may be the perfect friend to help Scott find his place in France. Set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War protest era, Chronicles from Chateau Moines is about loss and friendship, music and peace, and overcoming family secrets.
As a girl, I dreamed of visiting France one day. As an adult, my visit there holds special memories. Not only did I spend an anniversary with my husband in Paris, but I also started writing seriously when I came home. I may be a little biased, but I absolutely loved the setting of Chateau Moines. From the opening chapters, the author whisked me away to this small town in France. Set in 1970, the characters’ varying stances on the Vietnam War also give a unique international view of the time period.
Sylvie and Scott’s distinct voices were also a high point. I related quickly to Scott as a main character—I sympathized with his grief over his mother’s death, and I rooted for him as he stood firm in his beliefs while leading a war protest. Although the characters are younger, I think both the theme and the voice would appeal to upper middle grades readers who enjoy character-driven historical fiction and anyone who loves all things French.
5 out of 5 stars.
2015! I am so ready for the flying cars, house cleaning robots, and the slimming, monochromatic body suits we were promised. As we all sky rocket into the future, I have a few bookish goals for the year ahead.
1. Review more books.
I really skimped on my book reviewing last year. I hate writing bad reviews. I know they’re helpful to other readers, but as a writer, I really struggle with tearing down someone else’s work. I enjoy critiquing and beta reading, but at that point the work is still in flux. If the writer shares it with me, she is still willing to make changes. That knowledge gives me the freedom to share what doesn’t work for me. But a published work is complete. Just because I didn’t love it doesn’t mean someone else will. And unfortunately, I only read a few books that I really loved last year. Here’s hoping goal #2 changes that in 2015.
2. Read more debuts.
Last year I mostly read big name, highly publicized books, partially because I’m entrenched in so many series. I enjoyed the fresh voices in the debuts I did read, and I plan to push myself in that direction this year.
3. Really enjoy the fun parts of writing.
Drafting is my favorite part of the writing process. It’s messy and free and private. Things may really take shape in the revising stage, but that part is as much work as it is fun. This year I just want to soak in the joy of creative process, instead of always focusing on the success or failure of the end product.
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and are off to a great new year!
Music for today: There is a Light that Never Goes Out by The Smiths