Saturday, June 16, 2012

Excerpt/Review: Soul of the Band: Making The Cut by K.L. Brady

Author K.L. Brady has stopped by today for the Soul Of The Band Blog Tour with an excerpt of the book.  

Blurb:After years of living with her mother’s mental illness, Brandy Jackson gets a new start in a new town where she finds love, frenemies, a spot in an all-white high school marching band…and lots of trouble! Music-loving 16-year-old Brandy Jackson has had it up to here with "they"--the annoying voices inside her mother's head. She isolates herself from the dreaded schizophrenic episodes with Beethoven and her iPod. Her long-suppressed desire to learn music is squelched by the burden of mental illness, at least until she arrives home from school to find her belongings on the DC streets and her mother vanished. Fortunately, Aunt Charlie comes to her rescue and moves her to Mapleton, Ohio, where she begins a new life free of her troubled past—or so she thinks.
Brandy’s plans to fly under the radar at school in order to conceal her family's shame are quashed when Jenny Lee, her new next-door neighbor and a flutist, recognizes Brandy's musical obsession and urges her to join the all-white high school marching band. Brandy obliges and soon realizes she’s traded her old troubles for new ones. Now, she stands out like a chocolate chip floating in a sea of milk; she has less than three months to learn to play her dreaded tuba-—her only ticket to earn a spot on the band; and a near kiss with the Queen B’s boyfriend lands her in triple trouble with the popular chick clique. But when another band member’s failed plot to get rid of his nemesis unexpectedly leaves Brandy in contention for the band’s most coveted position, the ensuing drama will give her the strength rise above her circumstances—or leave her paralyzed in the shame of her past.

I live my life in soundtracks—at least during the most memorable moments. I remember It’s Not Easy Being Green by Kermit the Frog consoled me when I was knee high to a tadpole, headed for the new pond that was kindergarten. My face turned green and knees knocked during the whole bus ride. I wanted to hide, felt so out of place. What a day. Kissed my first boy to Forever by Chris Brown. Thought David and I would last that long. Turned out we barely survived the following week. Sunday as a matter fact. Totally sucked. When we first admitted Mom to the hospital for what Aunt Charlie told me was “exhaustion” (as if I hadn’t been living with her every day and didn’t know better), Mama Knew Love by Anthony Hamilton blared in my headphones. The secret had been blown. Mom wasn’t Superwoman after all. Today, Moonlight Sonata plays on my iPod. A melancholy melody for yet another miserable day. “Brandy? Brandy? Can you hear me?” Mrs. Johnson yelled, trying to raise her voice above Beethoven. “Is there anyone you can call, baby?” She lived in the apartment directly beneath ours. Funny, I’d expected this day would come sooner than later, still I hadn’t prepared, despite the two notices we’d received. Mom didn’t even bother trying to work out an arrangement with the rental office. “No ma’am,” I respond, emotionless. Staring out of her patio door, I focus on the trees bending to the will of the early summer breeze. My only thought at this moment is, thank God tomorrow’s the last day of school. For the past few weeks, I’d walk home praying with every lumbering step that the base of the soaring maple in the open field at the front of our apartment complex would be bare. The tree sees more furniture than Crate and Barrel and remains despised by everyone who lives in our development, especially the ones behind on their rent. Today, my prayers go unanswered. First, I see my rocking chair, then the brand new La-Z-Boy Mom bought with the rent money…or so it appears. Our year-old beige carpet was rolled up and strewn across Mom’s dresser. Clothes were scattered around as if the local vultures had already started to rummage. My life was at the base of a tree exposed for the world to see. The dreaded day had come, and I was powerless to stop it. Tried to play off the embarrassment as if I had no idea the apartment contents belonged to me, but every time someone looked at me sideways, I’d swear they could see the truth written all over my face. A painful stab pierces my stomach and I struggle to tune out the dreary melody and into Mrs. Johnson. “Where’s your father, baby?” “I’m not sure. He hasn’t been around to see me since I turned ten,” I respond. Dad left around the time Mom’s illness went really downhill. He couldn’t handle her, but did he believe I could? I don’t know. “Six years? My goodness child,” she says, her eyes filled with pity. She’s got four kids of her own. Her husband passed away a few months ago, and she’s on public assistance. Past her obvious concern, I sense she fears I’ll be yet another mouth to feed. “Don’t you have any family you can call?” “Mom’s parents died. Never met my father’s parents. I can try Aunt Charlie, but she’s in Ohio. Do you mind?” “Please, I don’t mind at all.” She’s relieved, not only that I have family but that I have someone who may take me off her hands. “You give her a ring. In the meantime, I’m gonna send the boys up to the big tree to find your clothes. These scavengers will be rummaging through your stuff like y’all throwin’ fifty-cent sale at the Salvation Army. Ain’t got no respect for folks’ belongings.” “Have you seen my mom?” I ask tepidly unsure of whether I want to know. “No, not since this morning, baby. She begged the sheriff not to take the furniture out, but they were under court order. Nothing they could do if she don’t pay the rent.” I nod. “Call your Aunt. You can stay here tonight…and as long as you need to. You hear me? I don’t want you worryin’ about nothing.” Don’t worry? I’m homeless, a stranger to most of the family I have left, and Mom’s missing-in-action. Mom’s parents died. Had no way to contact my dad’s parents, hadn’t seen them since the age of five or six. My mother vanished without even checking to ensure I was okay. She might be dead and I’d be clueless unless notified by the proper authorities…if they could find me. The little money I had left wouldn’t get me a cab to the end of the driveway if I did have some place to go. The only person in the world I can call is Aunt Charlie. And if I can’t reach her or she lets the phone go to voicemail as usual, I’ll have no one else to turn to. I dial Auntie’s number and with each button I press, droplets build up behind my eyes like water behind a cracked dam, waiting to break through and sweep across my cheeks. To my surprise, she answers. “Aunt Charlie?” I say, trying to stifle my sobs. “Brandy? Why do you sound so…oh no. Tell me you guys didn’t…” Hard as I try, I can’t contain the rush of tears any longer. “We got evicted today.” “Where are you?” she asks, her voice flustered. “I’m at Mrs. Johnson’s house. She lives downstairs from us.” “I’ll speak to her in a minute. Are you okay? Do you have any idea where your mother is?” “I’m fine, but Mom disappeared. Mrs. Johnson said she hasn’t seen her since this morning.” “Don’t worry, sweetheart. This is the last time for this mess! Thank God I’ve got power of attorney. I’ll call my lawyer and get on the road first thing tomorrow. You’re coming to Ohio to stay with me. Just hold on one more day.” I sniff uncontrollably, can’t catch my breath. “O-Okay.” “All right. Now, put Mrs. Johnson on the phone so I can speak with her.” Aunt Charlie and Mrs. Johnson speak for about thirty minutes. She updates Auntie on all of Mom’s recent antics. Trust me, she had nothing on the tales I could share. “Brandy?” Mrs. Johnson says. “Your Aunt’s on her way to get you. She’s gonna try and find your mother tomorrow.” “Okay,” I respond, somewhat relieved. Later, she tucks me into her old Good Times sofa and wishes me sweet dreams. The cushions sag and I sink down to the springs. Of everything removed from our apartment, I’m sad our comfy couch is outside under a tree. I hope my favorite chair will survive until Auntie arrives and puts the remaining items in storage, but my hope is slim as a slice of bologna.

Source: Received the book from the author in exchange for an honest review. Did not receive any payment for review.

My Review:
Lets start from the beginning. Brandy lives in DC with her mother and things have always been rough. Problem is, Brandy's mother is mentally ill. When she doesn't take her medication, "they" make her do things. "They" being the voices in her head. Brandy's father left them when she was 10 because he couldn't deal with her mothers illness. They are often evicted because her mother does foolish things instead of paying the rent. This time, her mother decides to check herself into a hospital. Brandy believes that this will be like every other time, she'll get better then stop taking her medication. Brandy leaves DC to stay with her Aunt Charlie in Ohio.

Brandy doesn't just love music, she lives music; it's what gets her through the bad times. Moving to Ohio, she meets her new neighbor, Jenny. Jenny convinces her to join the school band. Brandy thinks this may be just what she needs to forget about her life in DC, albeit she doesn't know how to play any instruments. How hard could it be, right? Then there's Jake, the hottie from the percussion section. They start to date and everything is great...until the threatening letters start. Someone isn't happy with their interracial relationship.

Moving on...

Brandy has been learning to play the tuba but is unhappy with the situation the band is in. I won't say what situation, you will have to read it to find that out :-). After an unfortunate mishap, a spot opens up for the field commander.

Will Brandy try out for field commander and help the band?
What will transpire with Brandy's relationship with Jake?

Now for what I thought of the book..

This book is perfect for the Young Adult genre! I can't recall the last time I read a YA novel that was appropriate for all teens. I can't speak for teens because it has been quite a while since I was one, but I enjoyed this book immensely! I love how the character Brandy was written. She was so spunky and I was constantly laughing my butt off. The problems that Brandy faced in the book were so real. It's a shame that this is reality for some people. I was on the very last page and I was very close to screaming my head off. I didn't realize that this book was going to be part of a series. When I read the description on Goodreads, the title doesn't show that its #1 in the series. Well long story short, I was ready to yell at Ms. Brady for ending her book that way. Well, Facebook has proved to be quite a useful tool because I can now rest easy. I need to know what happens!! I'm very happy there will be more of Brandy's story to read. I would definitely recommend this to any teenager that asks for a suggestion. But I think you should read it even if you are an was very entertaining. Thank you, K.L Brady!

Author Links: