Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby • Magan Reviews

Book Review for Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby

 

Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby [twitter • website]
Publication Date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 304
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: death of a boyfriend, transplant donor recipients, moving forward
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)

Summary: Quinn feels unable to move on until she has closure about Trent’s last donor recipient, Colton, who received a heart transplant. When their two worlds collide, Quinn knows she should tell Colton who she is, but it’s easier said then done when she starts developing feelings for him.

• • •

Quinn’s boyfriend is killed in a freak accident while he’s out for a run early one morning. Quinn wasn’t with him, but any other day she would have been. When Things We Know by Heart opens, it’s been 400 days since Trent’s death. 400 days of Quinn’s life being on hold — removing herself from her activities, failing to apply for college, sleepwalking through graduation, and distancing herself from her friends. The one thing she’s successfully managed to do is meet four out of the five donor recipients.

But the fifth one puzzles her; why hasn’t he responded to her letters? Consumed with finding him, she pinpoints where he is by the magic of the Internet and stumbling upon his sister’s blog. Colton received Trent’s heart and Quinn feels if she could just see him, maybe she could finally feel some closure. She goes to his home town to catch a glimpse of him, but her startled clumsiness causes them to do more than bypass one another and begins a sweet friendship.

As the days tick by and Quinn’s silence becomes deafening, she knows she’s gotten in too deep with Colton. She knows she should have been upfront about who she was, especially once she can’t seem to think of him as just a friend. Though their relationship isn’t an honest one, she just can’t seem to back away. Kirby did a phenomenal job creating a complex storyline — How does Quinn reveal herself and not risk heartbreak (again)? — but she peppered Things We Know by Heart with great adventures, an awesome connection between Colton and Quinn that just made me smile, and really, really strong family dynamics. (The bond between Quinn and her sister Ryan is so authentic; when Quinn least wanted to get out of bed, Ryan was there to shove her out of it and to speak truth when it was the hardest thing to say.)

Things We Know by Heart is ultimately a simple story of moving on when you’re not sure you should or are able. Plus a sweet romance. The strength is in all the small details that are layered with beautiful moments and pacing that feels so effortless. I love that Jessi honed in on heartbreak and moving on and did it so, so well.

(My really, really minor complaint would be that I would have liked to have seen some of those friends Quinn neglected for the last year filter back into her life, but really — such a teeny tiny thing to have hoped for in a darn near perfect book.)

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Befriended: Discussing Sibling Friendships with Kasie West

When a book is infused with a strong helping of sibling relationships and parental involvement, I’m sold. Those are two strong bonuses for me because they add a layer of realism to the story. But Kasie West took my love a step further by making the four siblings in On the Fence the closest, most tight-knit group I’ve read about in a long, long time. I immediately reached out to Kasie to ask her if she would discuss big families and close siblings with us for our Befriended feature. Kasie has four children which equates lots of personal experience to draw from. Please allow me to introduce Kasie West, author of On the Fence, in bookstores as of July 1st.  — M.

♥

kasie west on the fence

I grew up in a large, very close-knit family. I have two brothers and two sisters. Even though a lot of times we fought and screamed and tattled on each other, we always laughed and played and loved each other more. We were loud and rowdy. We ate dinner around the table every night. Because there were seven of us, and money was tight, we actually had a picnic table as our dinner table. So often times we could pile twelve people on those benches, between us and our cousins or friends. Elbowroom was nonexistent but conversation was abundant. I know I am truly blessed to have a family as close as ours and brothers and sisters who I consider friends.

So writing Charlie and her three brothers in ON THE FENCE came really naturally to me. It was probably the easiest family relationship I’ve written in any of my books. I’ve been so happy to see that readers have enjoyed this dynamic between Charlie and her brothers. I think siblings are the first friends we have. Through them we learn about fighting and making up, about being selfish and selfless, about not always seeing things the same way as someone else but loving that person regardless. They’re the first people we whisper late into the night with. My sister and I had bunk beds for a lot of our childhood and I still remember staring at the slats above me and talking to her way past our bedtime. Siblings can truly be the first best friends we ever have and that friendship can last a lifetime. I love mine dearly.

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♥

Book Recommendations from Kasie With Strong Sibling Relationships:

Books-With-Strong-Sibling-Relationships

♥

Thank you so much for stopping by Rather Be Reading, Kasie!

Friends, I cannot encourage you enough to buy On the Fence. You won’t regret it!

Magan: Wildflower by Alecia Whitaker

book cover of wildflower by alecia whitaker

Wildflower by Alecia Whitaker (twitter | website)
Publication Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Poppy
Pages: 320
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: strong sibling relationships, female country singer, singer-songwriter
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)

Summary: Discovered in a small honky-tonk bar on the evening her father cannot lead their family band, Bird is quickly pulled into the singer/songwriter world. Her brothers, Dylan and Jacob, work through feelings of jealousy and abandonment, while her parents try to keep Bird grounded and safe. Bird works through all her feelings as she jots down ideas for songs about the boy, Adam, she’s been pining for over many miles on the road with the Barrett Family Band.

In the midst of a family crisis, Bird’s family manages to survive by clinging to music; they each choose an instrument, and eventually the Barrett Family Band is formed because they become so passionate about playing. They ditch the traditional brick and mortar lifestyle and travel around the country living in an RV — mom, dad, Jacob, Dylan, and Bird. In addition to the covers they play, Bird is a writer and occasionally they incorporate her songs into their set list. One fateful evening, Bird’s dad, Judd, is too ill to sing and lead the band so he asks Bird to step up and do so. Despite her initial nerves, she delivers a brilliant performance that attracts the attention of a big-name label, thus beginning the whirlwind experience of being signed and finding peace after feeling she’s abandoned her family band.

Bird is a typical sixteen-year-old-girl with a unique name and affinity for playing the fiddle. She’s close to her parents and siblings thanks to living in such close proximity to them in the RV; they’re her supporters and best friends. But that doesn’t mean they easily accept the big things that start to happen for Bird and they feel like their lives are set aside. And that doesn’t mean that when she starts to feel like she’s got a career she’s always accepting of the decisions her parents make on her behalf (because she feels she should be given some say-so). It does mean, however, that she’s got a pretty serious crush on a boy, Adam, who is a solo act they frequently see on the road (and oh, one of her brother’s best friends).

That she just so happens to have written a song about.

Bird is linked to a big songwriter, Shannon, who helps her learn how to better craft her songs into hits; Shannon’s daughter, Stella, quickly becomes one of Bird’s closest friends and was one of my favorite aspects of Wildflower. While Bird’s home life seemed very strong, I enjoyed the development of these friendships that were separate of her family. They demonstrated how Bird was a bright girl with a blossoming career, but showed how she was a young girl who needed her best friend’s help responding back to text messages from Adam or someone to complain to when her new career became overwhelming. (Because God forbid she complain at home and her family think she didn’t want the success or opportunity.)

Whitaker nailed the flow and pacing. My only complaint: I just wanted more. (Estelle even helped me search for news about a follow-up book.) The ending felt a little abrupt; there were a few situations with her record label and Adam that I felt were left hanging in limbo. Bird seemed to be working through a lot of emotions and trying to find her footing right before the book ended. Open-ended stories don’t bother me, but Bird seemed almost able to grasp where her career could take her and I wanted to experience that with her, as well as a bit of resolution. Wildflower cured my Nashville hangover (I’m addicted to the show — anyone else?) with every Bluebird, record label, honky-tonk reference. I flew through the pages and thoroughly enjoyed every bit of Bird’s whirlwind rise to fame.

But my one request: Alecia, I need more!

♥

Update: BEST NEWS EVER:

alecia whitaker confirms wildflower seriesrather be reading worth it iconAdd Wildflower to Goodreads | Buy from Barnes & Noble | Buy on Amazon

Magan: On the Fence by Kasie West

Book Cover On the Fence by Kasie West

On the Fence by Kasie West (twitter | website)
Previously Reviewed: The Distance Between Us
Publication Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 320
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: strong sibling relationships, athletic female, single-parents
Format Read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss (Thank you!)

Summary: Super athlete Charlie finds herself having middle-of-the-night conversations with her next door neighbor, Braden, whom she’s always considered to be like a brother. Neither of them can sleep and find solace in discussing things (such as who knows who better) between the fence posts when no one else is around.

 

First impressions and crazy thoughts that went through my head about On the Fence:

  • Holy crap this is so so so so so so so good.
  • I love the relationship between the siblings. There are four of them. Hmm. Would Dustyn want four kids? I want my children to grow up close and protective of one another like them. (Truth: I did talk to Dustyn about this possibility after finishing On the Fence. Second truth: I’ve never considered having four kids before. I’ve always had a “we’ll see what happens” mentality.)
  • Whyyyyyyy did it have to end? I just wanted to keep reading forever and ever.
  • Must. Preorder. Finished. Copy.

Cohesive thoughts to justify my fangirling:

Sitting on a bookshelf in my bedroom is a copy of The Distance Between Us. Estelle loved it last year; she recommended we all buy it. So I did. And I’ve had nothing but the best intentions for wanting to read it since then. Yada yada yada — I was pregnant and a foster mom and blah blah blah — fast forward to now. As we were discussing the review books we had to read, Estelle suggested I be the one to read On the Fence. (I think she knew I needed something REALLY good to pull me out of full-time-mommy-mode so I could enjoy some much needed reading time.)

And crap. Now I’m 100% irritated with myself that I haven’t read TDBU because I feel like I have sincerely missed out on greatness. Kasie’s writing in On the Fence is undeniably fantastic. Within a few paragraphs, I was hooked and completely ignoring all life responsibilities. (Don’t worry; Everett was already in bed for the night.) Charlie is the youngest sister to three older brothers (four brothers if you count their neighbor, Braden, who practically lives at their house); she’s tough and fast and very un-girly. She’s eager to hop into a football or soccer game. She doesn’t expect the boys to take it easy on her because she’s a girl. Charlie’s never had a boyfriend, but her brothers would give any guy she brought around the third degree. Her brothers are her best friends.

When Charlie finds herself with another speeding ticket (oops?), her father forces her to get a job to pay him back for it (and the others). The place she finds unemployment is very un-Charlie-like with clothes she’d never be caught dead wearing in front of her brothers and makeup she doesn’t know how to use. Despite her anxiousness to do her time and pay her dad back, she finds herself becoming friends with girls she never would have expected to and creating outfits she didn’t know she was capable of.

But Charlie also has this other thing: she doesn’t sleep well at night. She stays as active as possible so she is completely worn out when she goes to bed in hopes that she’ll have a good night of sleep. More often than not, she finds herself awake in the wee hours of the morning. Oddly enough, she soon realizes that Braden is up at strange hours too. They find themselves outside on either side of a fence, having candid conversations about things they’d be too shy to discuss in the daylight. (Swoon.)

On the Fence has every element I desire in my books: family background, strong friendships, a believable relationship, a great sense of time and fantastic pacing, and a strong setting. I became so wrapped up in Charlie’s life that I felt they were real. I wanted to know these people. I wished I could visit them and watch Charlie kick ass in a football game. I greatly admired Charlie’s dad and how protective he was of his baby girl, but also how hard he tried to be the parent he needed to be for her, especially with the absence of her mother. Every aspect feels so perfectly authentic and real; I laughed out loud and I really never wanted On the Fence to end. I think it’ll be topping the charts as a 2014 favorite for me.

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book review for Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt

Magan: Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt

book review for Going Vintage by Lindsey LeavittGoing Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt [ tweet | web ]
Publication Date: March 26, 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 320
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: technology, 1962, internet relationships, strong family and sibling relationships
Format read: ARC received via NetGalley (Thank you!)

Summary: Mallory feels betrayed after she finds out her boyfriend, Jeremy, has been cheating on her with an online girlfriend named BubbleYum. This deception and a list she finds written by her grandmother in 1962 inspires her to abandon all things technological to simplify her life and live like they did fifty years ago.

Going Vintage is one of those books that’s right up my alley. Take a hypothetical situation — throwback to the 1960s and remove everything technological — and see how it plays out in a character’s life. Unfortunately for Mallory, she decides to make this monumental change after she discovers her boyfriend of over a year, Jeremy, has been cheating on her with a girl online. (That he’s never met in person, and oh, her online name is BubbleYum.) Mallory’s upset and distressed because Jeremy connects with BubbleYum in this deep and emotional way she was never able to with him. Mallory got the physical side of Jeremy and a little bit of notoriety at school for being his girlfriend, but … she wanted more.

Because of a douchey move Jeremy makes online, their break-up turns into a scandalous affair. When Mallory takes off to her help her dad pack-up her grandmother’s house (because she’s moving into a fancy, high-class nursing home), she turns off her phone to have a weekend in peace. Tucked in an old journal of her grandmother’s, she finds a list Grandma Vivien wrote when she was a junior in high school. Upon consulting with her younger sister and best friend, Ginnie, Mallory decides to accomplish the things on the list by pretending it’s 1962 all over again.

This means big changes for Mallory. And a lot of growth as a character. Mallory realizes after the break-up that much of her identity was wrapped up in Jeremy — who she hung out with, what she did on the weekends, who she sat with at lunch, etc. At some point, she mentions that in a 24/7 time period, when she was dating Jeremy, 20/6 of that time was spent with him. By saying adios to her phone and computers, she’s got a lot of time to fill. The List challenges her to do things like “run for pep club secretary” or “sew a dress for homecoming.” Mallory’s school doesn’t even have a pep club so she has to plead for her student council to approve the new club. One unsuspecting person who takes an interest in pep club is Jeremy’s cousin, Oliver.

Mallory has all of these preconceived ideas about what a “hipster” Oliver is (based on Jeremy’s very strong opinions of him). Oliver is a guy who is very comfortable in his own skin and doesn’t care what other people think. He doesn’t feel the need to “belong” and he speaks his mind. With little time to get the pep club on its feet, Mallory and Oliver spend time talking, shopping, and planning their float for the homecoming parade. Mallory realizes that she’s more herself than she ever was with Jeremy — Oliver understands her jokes, thinks she’s funny, and appreciates her quirkiness. He’s kind, a great listener, and makes a few simple moves that made my heart pitter patter. (Did I mention Oliver was my favorite character?) But Mallory’s afraid to fall too fast. And um, for Jeremy’s cousin? That could stir up some drama.

Going Vintage definitely has a cute and catchy plot with all the twists and turns along the way as Mallory sorts things out, but there’s a lot more that really makes things come alive. Mallory is super close to her family, especially Ginnie, who holds Mallory accountable to The List and strips her room of anything that wasn’t invented in 1962. Her parents run a business together that causes them to bicker and worry a lot (…and then to have some very public displays of affection that embarrass Ginnie and Mallory when they make up). Her mom seems to be hiding a big secret and Ginnie has suspicions about what it might be so she takes on this role to “save the family.” Grandma Vivien is feisty and I loved seeing her as a central character to the story because so rarely are grandparents even mentioned.

Despite some moments when Mallory said some things that didn’t sit well with me (she was a bit judgmental and overly opinionated in the beginning), I  enjoyed Going Vintage. I want to put copies of this book in the hands of some of my friends who place entirely too much emphasis on their online lives and forget to go out and live and experience and do things. Maybe, like Mallory, if we minimized our lives, we’d grow and be challenged, too.

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