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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Roomies by Sara Zarr, Tara Altebrando review from Brandi Breathes Books

Roomies by Sara Zarr, Tara Altebrando
It's time to meet your new roomie.
When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl's summer -- and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.
As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives . . . and each other. Even though they've never met.
National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr and acclaimed author Tara Altebrando join forces for a novel about growing up, leaving home, and getting that one fateful e-mail that assigns your college roommate.
Publishes in US: December 24th 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 
Genre: YA contemp
Source: library
Series? no

Buy it: Amazon Barnes & Noble IndieBound Book Depository

Author stalk away:
Sara: ~website 

Tara: ~site ~twitter ~facebook

    I adored the premise of Roomies, high school students counting down the days until the end of school, and spending that final summer before college getting to begin to correspond to their roomate for the fall. Personally, I never really had a roomie before college, I was an only child and never went to camp, etc. 

   Elizabeth and Lauren are two different girls from different backgrounds but as they slowly share some of their life to a virtually anonymous girl on the internet, but also one that you will be living with in mere months. They begin to realize that they are more alike than possible. They both feel on the fringes as far as social circles go, they both have two jobs even if from different economic backgrounds, and they both have families that aren't traditional. 

    Although stories told in poems or in letters (especially if that is the whole thing) aren't a great fit for me all of the time, the emails in this one didn't bother me. I think that it is because it is mostly in narrative and the emails are supplemental. Another thing that I liked was how they faux composed snarky or emotional before they figured out what they really wanted to say. 

    Elizabeth and her family dynamics really intrigued me. As I said, I was an only child, so her having so many brothers and sisters opened my eyes to a different reality. She helped her parents a lot and she really loved her brothers and sisters, but at times she felt the weight on her shoulders and longed for a bit more quiet time to herself. I loved how close she was with her parents though, and how for the most part she really cherished their traditions--weekends together as a family. 

    I was worried about the romantic threads because I knew it was going to be a summer book with Lauren moving across the country to pursue her dreams of being a landscaper and Elizabeth moving thirty minutes away. But it ended up working nicely and although the final answer for the relationships wasn't set in stone, they were both defined and had a plan for the future. 

    There was always some drama, things that they told each other that they hadn't really confided in, and that made a strong bond between them. But they weren't in a state that nothing could shake that because some decisions and bad timing and mis-communication and replying when upset and taking anger out on someone else that shouldn't be the target. They weren't unshakable, but they made a good foundation for their future as roomies. 

    I loved the themes of friendship and family that was presented in this one. Although there are some pretty dysfunctional parenting going on, the family that each girl lived with was solid in their own ways. Lauren's mom was dating a bunch of guys, some very inappropriate leaving Lauren to deal with her feelings on that, and she also tries to reach out to her gay father who of course is now separated and has been for most of Lauren's life. Then Elizabeth has both of her parents, but also has five brothers and sisters and she is the oldest, so at times she felt like a third parent instead of having the bonding memories with them, or so she thinks. But we get to see sweet moments with her and Gertie as well as Peej. But as time comes closer and closer for her to move out, there were also some pretty tender moments with EB as she likes to be called and her parents, particularly her dad. 

   The humor that was in this book was good as well. That and some spot on discussions about stuff that teens really go through and think about. It was honest and some of it was the hard issues that most teens don't really talk about, or at least I know that I didn't. 

    The ending was sweet and fit the book perfectly. It sets up that they are finally meeting in person, and though they have this summer of emails to get to know each other, it is still a first, and a huge step in their roomie-ness and friendship. 

Bottom Line: Funny, dramatic story of the emails between two girls who will be college roommates.

My question to you, my lovely readers:
Did you grow up with a sibling roommate or who was your first non-family roomie? Where you close and are you still in touch?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Brandi Breathes Books Review: Torn Away by Jennifer Brown

Torn Away
Torn Away by Jennifer Brown
Jersey Cameron has always loved a good storm. Watching the clouds roll in and the wind pick up. Smelling the electricity in the air. Dancing barefoot in the rain. She lives in the Midwest, after all, where the weather is sure to keep you guessing. Jersey knows what to do when the tornado sirens sound. But she never could have prepared for this.
When her town is devastated by a tornado, Jersey loses everything. As she struggles to overcome her grief, she's sent to live with relatives she hardly knows-family who might as well be strangers. In an unfamiliar place, can Jersey discover that even on the darkest of days, there are some things no tornado can destroy?
In this powerful and poignant novel, acclaimed author Jennifer Brown delivers a story of love, loss, hope, and survival
Publishes in US: May 6th 2014 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: ya contemp
Source: Little Brown via Netgalley
Series? no

Buy it:  Amazon IndieBound Book Depository

Author stalk away:~site Twitter blog


    I wanted to read Torn Away because the aftermath of a devastating tornado sounds like the perfect storm of emotions, powerful grief and sense of loneliness and desperation. I have also read other books by Jennifer Brown and enjoyed so this would appeal to me for that reason even if the synopsis didn't grab me, which it did. 

    We get a little snapshot of Jersey's life before the tornado hit, but it was a powerful one. It is a memory of telling her little sister to go away, and those words as well as how often she ignored her requests to play would haunt her after the storm hit her house and she is afraid of the fate of her sister and that of her mom. We see some exasperation with Jersey and her mom requesting her to do chores, and Jersey's reminiscing how she would feel less burdened by helping when it was just her and her mom, but it is harder on her know that her mom is remarried and the number of people have doubled. We can see that her and her mom had a close relationship even with the current teenage entitlement and bucking against what asked to do. 

   When the tornado hits, there is automatic fear and a great sense of loss. Not only was Jersey worried about her whole family who wasn't at home, but seeing the devastation of the storm on their house and belongings. When the storm passes and she makes her way outside she sees so much of her neighborhood and everything she can see is torn up. Even the roads, so they are cut off from emergency vehicles. 

    The neighbors band together as much as possible at first, searching for survivors in the wreckage and figuring out shelter from the following rain and thunderstorms. That knitting together in tragedy when so much in uncertain kept some lightness even though it was such a harrowing situation to be in. Helping and giving what's left of your possessions when you are dealing with your own sense of loss shows to the goodness that is in so many people. 

    Jersey was a mix of strong and vulnerable. Opening up to her friends and neighbor who helped her too right after the tornado hit was where we could see how much she was struggling. But she just keeps dealing with each challenge and figuring out some way to survive. She has this honesty in her voice, where we know that she is going through a lot, but she somehow manages to keep some optimism. 

    It was a long road for Jersey to even get to a place where she felt wanted and loved, but I was pleased at how the story wrapped up. Maybe a bit more time with her final living arrangements but I did like that it wasn't perfect for her right away and that she learned more of the young side of her mom who made mistakes in her life as well as how she portrayed extended family. 

Bottom Line: Powerful and emotional story about a town and in particular one strong teen devastated by a tornado.

My question to you, my lovely readers:
Have you ever been closely involved with a natural disaster?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Stacking the Shelves, The Sunday Post, Bought Borrowed and Bagged

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews,  check it out and sign up  here
The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer ~ It's a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on your blog, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead.

Bought, Borrowed, & Bagged is a weekly meme, hosted by TalkSupe, where I share with you the books I have bought, borrowed, or bagged. Link up with me here.

What I read:
Torn Away
source: Little brown via netgalley

Last Week on the blog:

My week: Good, I got my fabulous new design with the help of a sweet friend. I've done some work on it thanks to some tips from Kimba and Ashley's blogs.  Sara took the picture for my blogger, and showed me how to use the basics of Pixlr as well as some of the features I wasn't aware of for blogger customization. I wanted something a bit simpler and I'm in love. I made my new social media icons, and rating system.

What are you reading? Any of my books new to you or have you read any of my books? If so, what did you think?
Also, feel free to link up your blog and mailbox post.

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Review: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy, #1)
The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski
Winning what you want may cost you everything you love
As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.
One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.
But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.
Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.
Publishes in US: March 4th 2014 by Farrar Straus Giroux
Genre: YA fantasy
Source: library
Series? The Winner's Trilogy #1 #2 The winner's crime publishes March 3rd 2015

Buy it: Amazon The Book Depository IndieBound Barnes & Noble

Author stalk away:  Author Website The Winner's Curse Website
Author Twitter blog facebook


    I wanted to read The Winner's Curse because I am a big fan of forbidden love when written correctly and what is that more than "master" and a slave. I also appreciate when a female lead is strong and Kestrel certainly fills that role. I've also read so many positive reviews from blogger buddies, that I knew I had to give it a read. 

    The world building is nice and it transports me to a different world where women must marry or be a soldier and the in between required escorts among other restrictions. I could picture Kestrel walking down the street to the market with her friend Jess, sweating it out in the slave auction, and playing furiously on the piano or in the stables or blacksmith forge with Arin. 

    I don't know if I am just getting more used to it but the 3rd pov didn't distract me or take away from how much I enjoyed the read. It also gives us a different access to both Arin and Kestrel.

    The characters of both Arin and Kestrel fascinated me and I really enjoyed their scenes together, working around their chemistry, but also the entire forbiddeness of it all. But neither can resist spending time with the other. Even with the complications of Kestrel officially owning Arin, and then the whole twist of Arin's purpose and how that effects their relationship. 
    Its hard to talk about some of the things that really impacted me, because the twists are serious spoilers and some of it surprised me and others it just hurt to watch all of the heartache and tragedy. The changing dynamics between Arin and Kestrel though was fascinating to watch and how each responded to the changes. I can totally see where both are coming from keeping their secrets and doing things that may seem wrong but just having the other's best interest at heart. 

    Not only is Kestrel dealing with her feelings for her slave, she also has the expectations of her high ranking father. She doesn't want to marry, and she doesn't want to enter the military. But she feels the pressure and wants to please her dad. She has some interest in warfare but not so much sword play and she doesn't want to give up her music. That is one of the things that created the initial combined interests/loves between her and Arin. But she also has no interest in the kind of men courting her. 

    The ending was shocking and full of action and changes, betrayals, secrets that catch up to each other, as well as the feelings for each other that just won't go away and complicates their every decision. I can't wait until the next book and I am so glad that I paid attention to the hype for this book and was finally able to get a chance to read it. 

Bottom Line: Characters steal the show but still lots of action and a seriously forbidden love.

My question to you, my lovely readers:
Have you ever loved someone you shouldn't?
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Giveaway and Guest Post: A Life, Redefined plus a $5.00 amazon gift card

A Life, Redefined Book Cover
A Life, Redefined by Tracy Hewitt Meyer
The first novel
in the Rowan Slone Series
A Young Adult Novel
Seven years ago, an innocent act by Rowan Slone turned her life into a nightmare. Since the age of ten she's lived with the burden of her baby brother's death. Now she is seventeen and all she wants to do is graduate high school, go to college, and escape the loveless family she has endured all these years—the same family that holds her responsible for his death. But no one holds her responsible more than herself.
When long-time crush Mike Anderson invites her to the Prom, suddenly her future looks brighter. Rowan's younger sister, Trina, however, is determined to ruin her new-found happiness, no matter the cost. And when Rowan discovers her mother’s long-held secret, she finds herself teetering on the edge of an abyss. Can Rowan find the strength to move toward the future or is she doomed to dwell in the past?

Connect with Tracy...

Buy Tracy's books...

Tracy Hewitt Meyer is a multi-genre, multi-published author of new adult fiction as well as adult paranormal and contemporary romance. She has a B.A. in English and a Master of Social Work, both of which feed her true passion-a love of writing. Born and raised in the beautiful state of West Virginia, Tracy now lives in the mid-east with her family, a goldendoodle, and a bearded dragon.

A Letter to my Teenage Self:

Dear fifteen-year-old Tracy,
I write this as thirty-something-year-old Tracy and I would like to tell you a few things that I have learned about life so far.
Life is a journey. If you let yourself, you can too easily fall into the scramble for finality-to get the boyfriend, to get to the mall, to graduate high school and move out. But it’s the steps you take along the way to your destination that make life worth living. Pay attention to the small things and relish in them. The big events are often not as amazing as you may want them to be. But a walk in the garden with your mom, sharing an ice cream and a good laugh with your best friend, or feeling summer’s first warmth kiss your face are what make life worth living.
People think of you far less than you think they do. This was a real eye-opener for me as I got older. When I was younger, I was so consumed with what I thought other people thought of me that I rarely felt a moment’s peace. But what I realized-and with great relief-was that people were so caught up in their own lives that they rarely spent time worrying about me and mine. I found this incredibly liberating and freeing. I realized I could be the real me. If someone had a problem, they’d soon forget about it and life would go on.
Kindness really is all that matters (and doesn’t make you a dork). I don’t know if teens use the word ‘dork’ now, but we did back in the old days. Dork, scrub, nerd, whatever word that someone could think of to call someone not cool. I did several things when I was a teenager that I now regret, all because I was trying to be cooler than I felt and wanted people to like me. Well, I was voted most popular in the senior class but I did so many things leading up to that point I’m not proud of that I’m not sure the title was well-earned. Kindness matters. Respect yourself and respect others. Meanness breeds bad karma and you know what they say, right? Karma is a bitch. Be kind-to yourself, to others, to the earth and your life will be richer than you ever dreamed.
These are the three greatest lessons that I learned in the years between your fifteen and my current thirty-something. Life is beautiful and worth living. Get out of your head and get into living your life. Take the good. Take the bad. And enjoy the ride. It’s quite a journey.

Thirty-something-year-old Tracy

 -ebook A Life, Redefined plus a $5.00 amazon gift card
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-Ends on 7/16/2014 11:59 pm EST
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