Just Sing by René Gilley
“Follow you dreams, follow your heart, love your family and Just Sing."
Publisher: The Writer's Coffee Shop Publishing House
Publication Date: June 5th 2014
Sixteen-year-old Lily O’Brien has one goal in life—to sing. Her dream is to get into a topnotch college vocal program, but the summer before her junior year, her high school cuts their awarding-winning vocal ensemble. She might as well kiss her dreams goodbye.When the snobby new neighbors move into their mansion up the hill, Lily is positive summer can’t get any worse, and she’s determined to hate and ignore them—until she meets Aiden.
He’s broken and beautiful, and they become reluctant friends. Through her newfound friendship, she finds the strength to step outside the comfort of her plan and follow her dream.
But when Lily’s family is about to lose their home, she puts her wishes aside and finds the answer to save their generations-old ranch in the last place she expected.
Just Sing evolves mostly around Lily’s struggle with her family, the reality of her dreams, and her first relationship issues with the neighbors’ son Aiden. Honestly Lily is a truly amazing... She is strong-willed and her loyalty and love for her family is admirable. - Between Dreams and Reality Blog
I didn't know what I expected from Just Sing. This is René Gilley's debut novel and it's got it's flaws but it's also full of little quirks and plot points that make this a really enjoyable read.
The story follows Lily O'Brien, a young woman who's life is about to be flipped upside down - again - when the music program at her school is canceled. The program was one of the only distractions Lily had from her crumbling social life and the troubled family dynamic back home. But when her teacher suggests Lily applies to music school things look like a way out of Seven Oaks and all the damaged pieces of her life. That is, until Lily's new neighbours move onto the ranch. Her new neighbours and their son. Aiden.
Lily's life leads little to be desired, I mean it's not the worst I've read but she sure doesn't have it easy. Her mother's a flake who left her and her brother after their father started drinking. Said father is still drinking, and has the tendency to be one mean drunk. She's plagued by bullies and now there are two new families moving into what used to be her home. That was, until her Grams had to sell the majority of her land to pay of back taxes.
It's not all bad though. Lily's always got her brother and gay best friend to keep her grounded. She has this strength in her and a wildly protective tendency towards her family - even if they don't always earn it - that I think deserves a medal. Seriously, I'm not sure I could have stuck it out the way she does.
Oh and then there's Aiden. I don't think I've ever wanted to climb into a book just so I could throw said book at a character's head before, but I honestly believe that would be the only thing that would make this boy stop acting like a complete tool. He's beyond frustrating - in a totally sexy way! You don't know if he's coming or going, if he's swoon worthy or just a massive dochenozzle! Although I am hopeful that he'll make a full recovery of from dochenozzle ways somewhere along the way in future books. PS. How amazing is the word dochenozzle? René threw this little gem into the text and it put one hell of a smile of my face!
Just Sing is well written and I have some serious respect for Lily, which surprised me. Lily says at one point that her life sounds like a soap opera and that's exactly how it felt. I think I could have done with another 50 pages or so though. I felt that the musical aspect of the book could have been must stronger so that the twist towards the end of the book didn't seem quite as random. But saying all that it doesn't take away from the vivid characters and intriguing story line that will leave you wanting more.
It leaves a lot of things up in the air and I'm definitely ready for Seven Oaks #2! This is a lovely little book and an all round enjoyable debut from an author I'm excited to read more from. Happy reading lovelies.
I received this book as an ARC from Netgalley to read & review. This is a 100% honest review.
Interview with René
Author of Just Sing
1. What inspired you to write Just Sing? I had written a short story that was nothing like JUST SING, but it had these two great characters--Aiden & Lily. I liked them so much and I knew I needed to share them with the world. A few years ago, driving home from Vegas, my family asleep in the car, I came up with a world that these two characters could thrive in. In those few hours, I plotted out the rough idea for the series and when I got home I stayed up all night and mapped it out in more detail.
2. When you were in high school did you have a teacher that pushed you like Mr. L. does Lily? Yes, I had two actually, my history teacher and my counselor. I grew up in a small town and just assumed I would go to the local community college, but both of these wonderful people pushed me and with their help, I ended up being accepted to several California State Universities and one UC. They made me believe I was good enough and I could fly as high as I wanted.
3. Who was your favorite character to write and why? That’s a hard one, I love them all, but it has to be Lily. She really is an amazing character and so driven. I felt like she never wanted to give up. When I had a hard time writing, she actually inspired me, and is what made me want to keep going. I wanted to write her to inspire every young person out there who has had a dream and has been told to give up on it or that they couldn’t achieve it. You can achieve your dreams, never let anyone tell you differently.
4. Other than writing, do you have a passion like Lily does for singing? I don’t sing, but I do have a great passion for cooking. Creating meals not only is my therapy, but when I feel like I can’t do anything right, the words aren’t flowing, or I have a bad day at work I bake or cook. It calms me down and having that success makes me feel like I accomplished something. My mom and my three sisters love food and reading along with me and it’s nice to have these passions to share with my family. I always joke if I didn’t want to be an author when I grow up, I’d go to culinary school and be a chef.
5. Where did your love for writing come from? I was never a good writer. My college creative writing teacher basically told me I sucked and pretty much convinced me I shouldn’t be writing. But, I’ve always loved stories, reading, thinking them up, and watching them. I love a good story. I’m pretty sensitive and I get so invested in character. I was a big fan fiction reader before and I had one writer I followed that convinced me to write my own stories. So after 7 months of reading fan fiction I started writing. I wrote my first story in 6 weeks and it wasn’t bad. I starting taking some workshops and putting these stories in my head on paper and it became a real labor of love. Now I’m publishing my own book and it’s surreal, but is truly a dream come true.
6. What are you working on at the moment? Is there going to be a Seven Oaks #2? I’m working on two items. Yes, there will be a Seven Oaks book II and III, it’s a trilogy. The second book is the longest in the series and even though I love them all, it’s kind of my favorite. I’m also working on a new adult book that I love and I think the idea is pretty unique, it’s also a contemporary like JUST SING.
7. And lastly, being as there’s such a strong musical influence in Just Sing… What’s you favorite song at the moment? Well my favorite song of all time Is Jessie’s Girl by Rick Springfield (an oldie, but I love it), but right now I’m loving Hunter Hayes, and I love his song Wanted, it’s on my play list for JUST SING.
By day, René Gilley works as a portfolio manager for a Fortune 50 company, but her nights and weekends are spent writing young adult and new adult romance books. Her brain never shuts off—always dreaming up new situations her characters can get into.
Her California home is often the backdrop for her books. Her debut novel, Just Sing of the SEVEN OAKS SERIES, was years in the making. Like her character, René seeing Just Sing being published is a dream come true.
She’s a wife, mother to two beautiful daughters, and four dogs. She’s proud to be a triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) survivor and believes in giving back through book profits to charities that support breast cancer.