All posts by Kelly

Gabby Garcia’s Ultimate Playbook

Finished Gabby Garcia’s Ultimate Playbook by Iva-Marie Palmer. I received a copy for review. 

Gabby Garcia’s life is going perfectly: she has great grades, good friends and she’s the best baseball pitcher at her school. She’s even in the midst of pitching a no-hitter when everything falls apart: her school has asbestos. Now she has to transfer to a new school and all of a sudden she’s a jinx, the baseball team doesn’t need her (or even like her) and her grades are heading firmly toward Cs. It is not ideal. How to reverse this trend? 

This is adorable and sports fans will love it. Watching Gabby try to reinvent herself is pretty hysterical (let’s just say that all of her new “talents” prove to be harder to master than she expects) but kids will learn to (a) keep trying and (b) attempt new things. There are definitely worse things. ;)

It ends on a bit of a cliffhanger and I would definitely read the sequel. 

Star-Crossed

Finished Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee. I received a copy for review. 

Mattie is in eighth grade and is super psyched that their class play is Romeo & Juliet! She never really thought about acting before but decides to try out. She gets cast as Paris but her two best friends are cast, as well…and her new friend Gemma is playing Juliet! Things get complicated, though, when Mattie realizes that maybe she doesn’t think of Gemma as just a friend…

This book is completely adorable! I love Mattie, Tessa and Lucy. They are great friends and I really want a book from Tessa’s perspective (she collects and uses Shakespearean insults. Who wouldn’t want to be her friend?!). 

The realization that Mattie has a crush on a girl is handled sensitively and it’s a super sweet crush. (And they’re in eighth grade so it does make sense that it would happen now.)

Warning, though: this will make you want to watch the movie. Recommended. 

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground

Finished Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia. I received a copy for review. 

Clayton Byrd loves a lot of things but his two favorites are his grandfather (Cool Papa) and the blues. He plays the blues harp (harmonica) and yearns for the day he’s good enough for a solo. When his grandpa dies, though, his mom forbids him from playing again. Losing Cool Papa is awful enough; he can’t lose the blues, too! So he decides he’ll steal the blues harp back and go on the road with The Bluesmen. 

I really liked this book and its exploration of grief. It’s not a sad book, per se, but it shows the little-discussed side effects (anger, sudden exhaustion). 

I also appreciate the way we see Clayton’s mom. She’s doing mean things but she has her reasons. It’s not something Clayton necessarily gets but careful readers will. 

This is a novel that will steal your heart. Recommended. 

Since We Fell

Finished Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane. I received a copy for review. 

After an on-air breakdown, Rachel withdraws from life. In fairly short order, she loses her job and her husband. And then she meets (or, rather, re-meets) Brian. And he is smart and charming and incredibly sweet. They fall in love and marry and their life together is perfect…until she starts to suspect that he’s not who he says he is. 

Dennis Lehane’s books are amazing, and so it’s no suprise that this one will keep you guessing. If you can figure out every single place this book is going, you’re smarter than I am. 

It starts as a straight bio of Rachel; it’s very hard not to feel for her. Her childhood is not great and then she falls from grace so hard that it’s beyond heartbreaking. Her demons follow her everywhere and then Brian shows up and believes in her and helps her heal. The realization that he can’t necessarily be trusted is wrenching. And yet it gives her her own strength back, now that she can’t borrow his. 

I don’t want to say more but trust me—you need this. Highly recommended. 

Deacon Locke Went to Prom

Finished Deacon Locke Went to Prom by Brian Katcher. I received a copy for review. 

Deacon Locke is not comfortable in a world of promposals. When his crush gets asked to prom before he can do it, he is about to give up on the idea altogether…and then he gets an idea. His grandmother (and best friend) didn’t get to go to her own prom; his grandfather had already been sent to Vietnam and she didn’t feel like going. So why not take her? 

I really enjoyed this sweet story! But you should know going in that, while this really IS a delightful story about a guy who loves his grandmother, there’s also a lot going on, too. 

This book deals with the realities of getting older. Jean (Deacon’s grandma) is initially a little forgetful and it intensifies. 

It also focuses on the nature of fame. A video of Deacon and Jean at prom goes viral and he becomes hometown-famous, then it spreads. He mostly stays level-headed but it does change him a little. 

Meanwhile, he falls for a girl during this time and she happens to be Muslim. You can guess how kind the internet is to her. So this novel has many layers. 

Deacon’s inner voice is fantastic. He’s incredibly sarcastic but it’s mostly aimed at himself, which I find refreshing. He’s a hero you won’t soon forget.

Recommended. 

Ramona Blue

Finished Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy. I received a copy for review. 

Ramona has been out for basically ever, and she is proud of who she is. Except then she meets (or, technically, re-meets) Freddie. They instantly become best friends…and then more. 

This book is incredibly controversial, and for good reason: lesbian meets “the right” boy and falls in love. (Mike Pence would approve, right?) I would have avoided this book at all costs, except for the fact that it was written by Julie Murphy. Read Dumplin’ and tell me that she doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt. 

As someone who is ALSO an out lesbian and who has received plenty of “maybe you just haven’t met the right boy yet” comments, you may expect me to hate this. Nope–I loved it. 

I loved Ramona’s family and the love story was almost the least interesting part. See, Ramona’s family is poor. Like, “she has multiple jobs” poor. And as a result, even when her friends are discussing their post-high school lives, she has no thought for the future beyond more jobs and helping her sister raise her soon-to-be-born baby. And slowly, her plans start to get a little bigger. 

This book could’ve been an insensitive trainwreck. Instead, it’s absolutely amazing and one of the best books I’ve read this year. 

That Thing We Call a Heart

Finished That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim. I received a copy for review. 

Shabnam is maybe not the best person. She and her best friend are fighting, kind of, because Farah started wearing the hijab and Shabnam is hurt that she wasn’t informed beforehand. She’s Muslim, nominally (she doesn’t wear hijab, which is fine; that’s their choice—but she also doesn’t really do much of anything connected to their faith) but she’s also embarrassed by her extremely pious great-uncle when he visits. Anyway, then she meets and falls for Jamie, a very charming guy who gives her a job at his aunt’s pie shop…

I think this is a book that’s very hard to feel neutral about. If you need to love a main character to enjoy a book, this is not for you. I actively disliked her for most of the book (but grudgingly admit she redeemed herself somewhat at the end). I loved her former best friend Farah, though. She’s unapologetically herself and, though she wears a hijab, she also makes it a part of her unique style. I would’ve liked this more from her perspective, I think. 

Even so, this is an interesting story and I would definitely read more from the author. 

Girl Out of Water

Finished Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman. I received a copy for review. 

Anise’s plans for the summer (surf, hang out with friends, become more than friends with Eric) have just changed after her aunt breaks both her legs in a car accident. Now she and her dad are headed to Nebraska to take care of her aunt and three cousins. This would be completely awful except that she meets this guy, Lincoln…

I love this book. It’s so sweet on the one hand (light and full of surfing and skateboarding–which Anise learns to do in Nebraska, thanks to Lincoln) and also surprisingly deep and thought-provoking on another. Anise’s mom is gone (she left when she was two and has mostly been gone, except for some cameo appearances randomly throughout her life); Lincoln is adopted and only has one arm; Anise’s uncle is dead and so she and her cousins are essentially half-orphans. 

This is a story about family and friends and love–not even just relationships but also the fact that Anise really defines herself as a surfer and so she’s kind of shaken without that aspect of herself. I understand it, of course; we’d all feel lost without access to our top hobby, right?

Highly recommended. 

Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Finished Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han. 

This is the third Lara Jean book and it’s supposed to be the last. I hope Jenny Han changes her mind because I need more Lara Jean and Peter and especially more of the Song girls. (Kitty needs her own series, too.)

Everything about this book and series is perfect. This isn’t surprising, because I am a huge Jenny Han fangirl and everything she writes is amazing. But this series feels different and I love it. 

These book made me feel a little nostalgic for the summer before college. It’s a little sad (things will be different and it’s hard leaving your high school friends behind) and a lot exciting (your life is about to start!) and also a little scary. This book completely encapsulates that. 

Highly recommended. 

The Scattering

Finished The Scattering by Kimberly McCreight. 

This is the second book in the Outliers trilogy. I’m going to skip the synopsis this time because you’re probably only reading this if you’ve read the first one. 

This started off fairly slow for me, but it didn’t take long before I was caught up in it (maybe 30 pages?) and once that happened, I couldn’t stop reading. I think that’s one of Kimberly McCreight’s strengths: these amazing books that are so insanely readable that you’ll be late to work or up all night because you need to read one more chapter which, of course, turns into ALL THE CHAPTERS. 

This ends on a major cliffhanger (of course) so be prepared to need book three, like, IMMEDIATELY. 

Highly recommended.