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Roomies – Tara Altebrando & Sara Zarr

Roomies – Tara Altebrando & Sara ZarrTitle: Roomies by Sara Zarr, Tara Altebrando
Publishing Info: December 24, 2013 by Little, Brown
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary, New Adult, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: December 1, 2013

    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.

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ROOMIES was near perfection. This is everything I’ve been looking for in YA and NA and even crossing over into a little of both. My first reaction to the book was really how much I loved that one: it alternates POVs between the two girls and two: that it stays almost strictly in the “in between” time between high school and college. We get to see how both of these girls’ lives changed in that summer before leaving for college which I feel often gets glossed over and overlooked.

I don’t know how ROOMIES would have turned out if we had two POVs written by one author, but I will say that I’m really, really glad that both Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr each got to tell their own story, but together at the same time. I think they brought an original voice to each girl and such authenticity to each voice as well. I really felt like I got to know each girl and really felt invested in each of their stories.
I really liked the emails in every chapter. The two girls communicate almost exclusively through emails so we get their stories together strung throughout their own personal stories at home. I felt like this was a perfect way to bring everything together while still giving each girl their own time and spotlight so the reader could get to know them both together and apart.

Whereas other early reviews have said how much they related to the book because they went through the same thing, I actually didn’t quite have that same connection. Well, I kind of did. For those of you who don’t know me as well, you probably don’t know that I actually went to a community college for two years and then transferred to a university my junior year. I skipped the whole dorm process, having a stranger for a roommate (well, for the most part — that’s an entirely different and longer story), and went straight to living in an apartment so for me, ROOMIES was absolutely still relatable but it wasn’t an “OMG, this was my life” deal. I guess what I’m trying to say with all this long-windedness is that regardless of how closely your experience is/was to EB and Lauren’s, ROOMIES is extremely enjoyable and a very personal experience. Even people who haven’t gone away to college I’m sure can still relate to these girls as well — graduating from high school and other friends moving away, leaving home for the first time, first loves, family issues. ROOMIES really has it all!

Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr totally stuck gold with ROOMIES. I love every character and really felt like each one — from the main characters to their love interests, their parents, even down to Lauren’s younger siblings — really felt like a real person to me. The situations that each girl goes through, the gamut of emotions and first-time experiences — everything was just done just right. I’m really excited for everyone to get their hands on ROOMIES, especially the “new adults” and twenty-somethings like myself because I feel like it will really hit home and root itself as a favorite for many!

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Lauren // Character Obsessions: Spending time with her family, working, taking care of her siblings, finding some quiet alone time.
I loved Lauren. She felt so level-headed and really dedicated to her family which I really, really admired. She’s one of those teenagers who has really given up a lot to help out with her family from day to day and help take care of her younger siblings. She lost a lot of “typical” childhood and teenage experiences because she was acting almost like a parent instead of kid, but through it all, she’s enjoyed the experience and never resented how much she helps out. It’s really interesting to see how different Lauren’s background is from EB’s and my heart totally went out to her when she was denied a single room at college and started off rocky with her new roomie.
Elizabeth (“EB”) // Character Obsessions: Going to the beach, living up her last summer, boys, her cell phone, preparing an awesome dorm room.
I feel like EB was more of a “typical” teenager in the sense that her focus was more on connecting with her friends before leaving for school. Whereas Lauren is totally dedicated to her family, EB’s parents are separated — her dad living all the way on the west coast — and EB’s life in New Jersey with her mom is driving her crazy. She can’t wait to leave home and start her great college adventure. She’s quite the opposite of Lauren in many ways, but there’s still a lot of common ground for the two girls. It was really interesting to see how their different backgrounds really shaped their lives and the way they viewed their future living situation.

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Kept Me Hooked On: College stories. I loved that ROOMIES was actually the summer before college because I feel like that time is usually lumped into the college experience and I would never have thought to form the book like it was. I loved being able to relate to each of these girls and how hard it can be to figure out how to get along with a roommate even before you meet them!
Left Me Wanting More: College stories! I gobbled this book up. It definitely left me with a satisfied feeling and left me wanting more and more “new adult” books about going away to college or college experiences. I’m always looking for more!

Addiction Rating
Buy it!

This is a really special book, folks. I know when it comes out, I’m buying it for my shelves. I want this book in my life and maybe I’ll trust someone enough to loan it out to them. So long as they don’t harm it. Nah, I’ll just buy them their own copy!

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BOOKS LIKE ROOMIES

(Click the cover to see my review!)

          Fangirl   Just One Day

Just One Year (Just One Day #2) – Gayle Forman

Just One Year (Just One Day #2) – Gayle FormanTitle: Just One Year (Just One Day #2) by Gayle Forman
Publishing Info: October 10, 2013 by Penguin
Source: Anderson's Bookshop
Genres: New Adult, Young Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: October 5, 2013
Related Posts: If I Stay (If I Stay #1), Where She Went (If I Stay #2), Just One Day (Just One Day #1), Sisters in Sanity, If I Stay (If I Stay #1), Where She Went (If I Stay #2), Just One Day (Just One Day #1), Just One Night (Just One Day #2.5), I Was Here, Leave Me, I Have Lost My Way

Just One Day. Just One Year. Just One Read. Before you find out how their story ends, remember how it began.... When he opens his eyes, Willem doesn’t know where in the world he is—Prague or Dubrovnik or back in Amsterdam. All he knows is that he is once again alone, and that he needs to find a girl named Lulu. They shared one magical day in Paris, and something about that day—that girl—makes Willem wonder if they aren’t fated to be together. He travels all over the world, from Mexico to India, hoping to reconnect with her. But as months go by and Lulu remains elusive, Willem starts to question if the hand of fate is as strong as he’d thought. . . . The romantic, emotional companion to Just One Day, this is a story of the choices we make and the accidents that happen—and the happiness we can find when the two intersect.

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** Caution: If you have not read JUST ONE DAY yet, there will be spoilers for that story. This review for JUST ONE YEAR is as spoiler-free as I can make it and I reveal no SPECIFIC details but there are some strong feels so if you haven’t read the book yet, just beware! **

JUST ONE YEAR was a very different read for me than JUST ONE DAY and I really contribute that to the fact that it felt much more like a personal journey and much more of a personal struggle for Willem than it had been reading Allyson’s story. I feel like the reason for that was that Allyson was going through so many transitions at once — from high school to college, from Europe to home, from sheltered to wanderer — whereas Willem, although already a constant traveler, felt much more stuck in his life. He seemed much more lost, unsure of where to go and what to do and was already in the thick of it when he met Allyson. Allyson hadn’t realized her life needed a change UNTIL she met Willem so for her, I felt much more of the romantic attachment — especially since her story changes with the encounter with Willem and Willem’s story starts after his meeting with Allyson had already come and gone.

Of course I had been dying to hear Willem’s side of the story ever since JUST ONE DAY, and I found it really fascinating. Willem’s story sort of unfolded much more like a mystery to me. We slowly got to find out the secrets of his past that had shaped his life as well as the way he interacted with Allyson (and the various girls he met in Paris). I really, really appreciated getting to know Willem more and finding out about his family. We knew nothing of his parents except their names in JOD and it was so bittersweet to learn about his relationship with both of them and exactly where that relationship stood at the beginning of JUST ONE YEAR, not to mention how his relationship changed towards the conclusion of the book as well.

JUST ONE YEAR wasn’t as emotionally moving or particularly as life-changing as JUST ONE DAY had been simply because it was an entirely different journey that we were on. Of course I had identified with Allyson as the “good girl”, aiming to please her parents and please others so I just connected more with her journey on a personal level than I had with Willem — But that’s not to say that I didn’t feel for Willem because I really did feel his pain, his loneliness, his sense of just feeling a little lost and I appreciated the changes he went through as well.

The biggest thing that struck me about JUST ONE YEAR were all those “almost”s — all the “missed connections” — and that absolutely killed me. Just to see how close he and Allyson came to crossing paths — the attempts to find each other and the pure chances were incredibly surprising! But as we know from Allyson’s side of the book, they never do end up meeting until her story in JUST ONE DAY concludes, leaving us with Allyson at Willem’s front door. To watch all of Willem’s attempts to find her or run into her, though, just was so heartbreaking. She really had an impact on him and even though I knew they wouldn’t meet up again until that moment, I secretly kept hoping for there to be a chance meeting!

 ** Strong feels ahead about the ending of this book that may be spoilery if you haven’t finished this book yet! Just a kind word of warning 🙂 **

So the ending. We already know that the end of JUST ONE DAY ends with Allyson at Willem’s door step but we don’t know where it goes from there and it takes us a while to get back to that point because obviously we have to find out Willem’s side of what happened after he and Allyson separated in Paris. I won’t say exactly HOW the book ends, but I cannot write this review and omit the fact at how disappointed I was with it. I want to say I can understand Gayle’s choice to end the book like this… But I really can’t. (Spoilers on the specifics of the ending below… Do not click if you haven’t read the book.)

View Spoiler »

After finishing the book and ending the way it did… I was honestly enraged. I felt let down. Abandoned in the middle of this story. And I HATED that I was mad. I really enjoyed the whole book up until that point and I couldn’t believe it ended like that. I legitimately felt a little bit betrayed that I had been so emotionally invested in the ending for these two characters and that was the way we left them. I may have been spoiled by how perfectly WHERE SHE WENT ended because I absolutely loved that whole book, cover to cover, but I didn’t quite understand why JUST ONE YEAR had to end like that.

I wanted this to be a series I could rave about, shove in the hands of friends, jump up and down with, hug!!!! But the ending left me feeling so confused and emotionally raw — I had a serious book hangover, but not quite in a good way. I thought about this for HOURS after I finished reading and my feelings have settled a little bit, but I’m still upset with the way this book ended and I can’t deny that if affected how I feel about this book as a whole. I will still recommend the read but just a word of warning to the readers that you may be in for shock and rage in the last chapter.

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Willem de Ruiter // Character Obsessions: Finding Lulu, traveling, trying to make connections, acting.
Willem was an interesting character to follow throughout JUST ONE YEAR. I actually really liked getting to know him more and seeing all of the secrets — or simply things he didn’t outright say — that Allyson had missed. I appreciated his character so much more and he really came to life more. I think he was flawed, but his run in and day in Paris with Allyson set him on a new course to realize that maybe he had been stuck in a rut and she turned him on to parts of himself he didn’t know were buried so deep in his soul. There really were kind of soul mates — not just romantically — but that they each brought out a new, better side of each other.

I kind of don’t even want to talk about other characters because Willem is such a vagabond and such an transient character that he doesn’t stay in one place — physically or emotionally — long enough for these people to make lasting impressions. Oh, they do make lasting impressions, mentally and emotionally, but their physical presence isn’t as prominent in Willem’s life and he doesn’t always realize the impact these people have, sometimes not until they are long gone from his life.
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Kept Me Hooked On: Fate. There’s a serious question about fate, chances, and intentions in JUST ONE YEAR and how much is really and truly left up to chance. I really enjoyed seeing Willem figure out what he needed to leave up to fate and what was impacted directly by his choices and intentional decisions.
Left Me Wanting More: Of an ending. I think after that review, it goes without saying. Sorry, Gayle.

Addiction Rating
Read it.

I can’t NOT suggest you read this — If you’ve read JUST ONE DAY, you need to see how things happen in JUST ONE YEAR, but just be prepared for a bit of a shock of an ending, I suppose. I know lots of people who totally and completely loved it and weren’t fazed by the ending at all. I know of others who were totally shocked and so disappointed that it ruined the entire experience for them. I think it’s a necessary read to finish out the duo of books and if you’ve got a copy of JUST ONE DAY, you probably need it to finish out your book collection anyway, amirite?

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BOOKS LIKE JUST ONE YEAR

(Click the cover to see my review!)

          The Beginning of Everything     Meant to Be

Re-read: Just One Day (Just One Day #1) – Gayle Forman

Re-read: Just One Day (Just One Day #1) – Gayle FormanTitle: Just One Day (Just One Day #1) by Gayle Forman
Publishing Info: January 8, 2013 by Penguin
Source: Anderson's Bookshop
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary, New Adult, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: October 2, 2013
Related Posts: If I Stay (If I Stay #1), Where She Went (If I Stay #2), Just One Day (Just One Day #1), Sisters in Sanity, If I Stay (If I Stay #1), Where She Went (If I Stay #2), Just One Night (Just One Day #2.5), I Was Here, Leave Me, I Have Lost My Way

Allyson Healey's life is exactly like her suitcase—packed, planned, ordered. Then on the last day of her three-week post-graduation European tour, she meets Willem. A free-spirited, roving actor, Willem is everything she’s not, and when he invites her to abandon her plans and come to Paris with him, Allyson says yes. This uncharacteristic decision leads to a day of risk and romance, liberation and intimacy: 24 hours that will transform Allyson’s life. A book about love, heartbreak, travel, identity, and the “accidents” of fate, Just One Day shows us how sometimes in order to get found, you first have to get lost. . . and how often the people we are seeking are much closer than we know. The first in a sweepingly romantic duet of novels. Willem’s story—Just One Year—is coming soon!

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Pretty much ever since I finished JUST ONE DAY, I had been dying for a re-read. Between this book and IF I STAY/WHERE SHE WENT, it was really the reason I started the Gayle Forman Read Along — I needed a good, solid reason to re-read when I was drowning in books I still haven’t read. Ever since I first finished JUST ONE DAY back in December of last year, I felt like I NEEDED to read it again. I had connected with it so much the first time around but I needed to reach out and make that connection again. I needed to fall in love and get heartbroken all over again. I needed to remember what was so special about this book for me.

I think one of the most interesting things about re-reading this book was that it was RIGHT after I had met Gayle Forman. (I died. I was SO nervous.) I was actually a bit thrown off by her speech at the Anderson’s YA Lit conference because she talked about JUST ONE DAY and JUST ONE YEAR more as Allyson and Willem’s journeys of finding and discovering themselves more than any part of this romance and I was like, “WHAT!? Gayle, you’re crazy! These are hands down love stories.” (Okay, I didn’t actually say that.) Obviously they’re still love stories and hi, I swoon. I melt. But hearing that from Gayle and then re-reading JUST ONE DAY (which I had actually just started before that conference) had totally changed how I viewed this book — in a good way.

I’m just going to come out and say it: I’m a review buffer. I knew I loved Gayle Forman and I knew I did love reading JUST ONE DAY… But… I don’t think I knew exactly WHY I was giving it five stars my first read around except for the fact that I wanted to. I knew I felt a connection, but I didn’t exactly know specifically why other than the fact that I knew I was going to love it. The magic of re-reading JUST ONE DAY opened my eyes to everything that I wasn’t sure of the first time around. I knew that JOD was not only about Allyson & Willem but also about Allyson’s self-discovery and that was just SO much more apparent to me this time around. Allyson didn’t just fall into a depression after her Europe trip because of Willem — she missed that part of herself that was free and independent and fulfilling. I think I passed up a lot of those moments when I first read this book because I was looking for a heart-breaking romance and I missed one of the main points of the book.

I also really got to appreciate all of the Shakespeare references and allusions so much more. Not like I’ve brushed up on my Shakespeare since my last read, but I think that re-reading, I was less anxious to get to the end and see what happens (since I already knew), so I got to really take my time and drink up every single word on the page. I read into the Shakespeare ties and saw exactly how much these plays paralleled what was going on in Allyson’s life as well. There were so many underlying themes that I appreciated so much more the second time around and I was kind of fascinated how closely the book followed these themes in the selected Shakespeare plays!

JUST ONE DAY was exactly what I needed before I started the much-anticipated JUST ONE YEAR. It also rekindled my thirst to write for which I cannot thank Gayle enough. Her writing is truly an inspiration to me and on a personal note, it’s made my WIP feel like a real book for the first time when before it was just random paragraphs that had little cohesiveness. It was such a pleasure to read this book again and create an even deeper connection than I had before!

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Allyson/”Lulu” // Character Obsessions: Time, responsibility… Paris, Lulu.
I absolutely connected with Allyson during my first read but I made such a deeper connection with her this time around. I had totally identified with her in regards to meeting, falling in love with, and then losing Willem, but I got to experience her personal journey of self-transformation so much more in my re-read. I ended up feeling so proud of the changes she made to her own life to finally make herself happy instead of trying to be the “good girl” and please everyone else. It’s something I STILL struggle with in my own life so it was really great to see her character make this sort of full transformation.
Willem De Ruiter // Character Obsessions: Lulu, ladies, traveling, being a free spirit.  
I probably shouldn’t have liked Willem as much as I did the first time around because even though Allyson may have been the tiniest bit paranoid, she really wasn’t that far off. Willem has a lot of ladies. Of course, none of them were the connection he had with Allyson, but even still, he was kind of a ladies’ man and/or player soooo. There’s that. But I think I always knew that Allyson was the catalyst that started his change as well, even though we didn’t really know Willem in JUST ONE DAY since we only had Allyson’s side of the story. I think I just had a lot of hope for him and I could feel that he was changing with her just as she was changing with him.
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Kept Me Hooked On: Shakespeare. I still haven’t read much Shakespeare (okay, I haven’t read ANY since high school), but I loved the way it blended into this book. Allyson’s life sort of parallels those themes from As You Like It and select other plays and it really make Shakespeare more accessible to me. It made me WANT to read these plays. There was a statement somewhere in the book about transcending from the words to the feelings in the plays and when you make that emotional connection, you sort of gloss over the language and it all becomes accessible and I’ve always been so held up by the language and technicality of it that I was afraid to go back and try again. I think I’d really like to try to read As You Like It now that I know more about it from JUST ONE DAY and see if I can make that connection as well.
Left Me Wanting More: Of Willem’s story, obviously. I quickly resolved that by reading JUST ONE YEAR, of course, but honestly, when I first read JUST ONE DAY, I did rate it five stars but still felt the tiniest bit of SOMETHING missing. Re-reading it, I felt like I really connected on all levels and it just made me fall in love with it in so many more ways than I already had.

Addiction Rating
BUY IT!

If you’re already read JUST ONE DAY, I highly suggest re-reading this one. I think going back through it helped me pick up so much more of those underlying themes and “missed connections”, if you will. If you haven’t read it yet, I really suggest it! (Clearly!)

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE JUST ONE DAY

(Click the cover to see my review!)

          The Beginning of Everything            Anna and the French Kiss

Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl – Rainbow RowellTitle: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Publishing Info: September 10, 2013 by Macmillan, St. Martin's Press
Source: BEA 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary, New Adult, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: July 21, 2013
Related Posts: Eleanor & Park Playlist, Eleanor & Park, Landline, Attachments, Kindred Spirits

  Cath is a Simon Snow fan.
    Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan...
    But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.
    Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
    Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
    Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words... And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
    For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?
    Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?
    And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

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FANGIRL was probably THE most anticipated read of 2013. I basically started it, got 25 pages in, and then went to Twitter about how scared I was to read it because I had such HIGH HOPES and EXPECTATIONS for it. It’s so hard when ELEANOR & PARK instantly became a favorite and then the fabulous Rainbow Rowell comes out with another book that sounds like I will simply adore it. I always felt like I loved E&P so much because I really didn’t know what to expect of it so I kind of went it to it with little to no expectations. Twitter reassured me that I had nothing to worry about, so back in I dove!

FANGIRL starts with Cath and her twin sister Wren starting college and moving into the dorms. It’s hard for shy, introverted Cath because Wren has decided that she doesn’t want to room with Cath and instead get the “college experience” that everyone else has and not just hang out with her sister 24/7 anymore. Cath’s struggles not only include that painful distance from her sister for the first time, but she’s also worrying about her dad who is home alone without his girls for the first time, her roommate is extremely blunt and kind of rude, and there’s this BOY who keeps hanging out in their room that she doesn’t know what to do with. Lucky for Cath, she still has her Simon Snow (like Harry Potter) fanfic to keep her mind grounded & occupied. Her fanfic is the one thing she feels truly confident in, having tons of fans and all, so Cath sticks to that as her one true comfort when every other one has been taken away at college.

Okay. So. My thoughts on FANGIRL. This is actually really, really hard for me to review because I think of how many months I obsessed over reading this and I NEED to review this with exactly how I felt about it and not just how I wanted to feel about it. FANGIRL was not a five-star read for me like I hoped. Don’t get me wrong — I still LOVED so many things about it and it’s still somewhere in the higher four-star range, but I had some trouble at times, specifically connecting with Cath.
Oh, Cath, I totally feel your pain starting college, not knowing anyone, and feeling totally vulnerable, but please please at least leave the room? Cath was so sweet and I felt for her in so many ways, but because she was so closed off to the world, I felt like she was closed off to me as the reader. I wanted to just revel in her sadness, her fears, her adorable awkwardness and I never really felt like I got to feel her FEELINGS. Rainbow has this great way of explaining feelings to the reader without having to say them outright and you just pick them up, but because Cath was so hard to read in the first place, I feel like that wonderful way of writing sort of made Cath more closed off to me instead of helping me get in her head more.
I was super unsure in college. I actually went to a community college for two years, then went to Illinois State University and straight to living in a four-person apartment with my friend from high school, her roommate from the previous two years (who I had only met once or twice) and another girl we had NEVER met before, so I get how Cath was nervous about new people, new places… But with Reagan being so bold and Cath thinking that she didn’t even like her, why didn’t she go hole up in the library or a coffeeshop or a bookstore? If I was uncomfortable with my roommate (which believe me — it happened), I would go out into the world and find a place where I could be alone (among strangers). It just bothered me that she felt so uncomfortable in her room at times and she just stayed there. I would have bolted! But I guess that’s the difference between me and Cath.
I guess it comes down to the fact that I know Cath had reasons why she was so nervous and protective of her feelings and herself and I can totally understand that, but it still didn’t help me connect to Cath like I wanted to!

I don’t know much about fanfic so that wasn’t really a big thing for me, but I really liked the whole concept of writing and how it tied into the book. Cath ends up taking an advanced writing class and really having a hard time coming up with her own stories because all she’s ever written is fanfic. I loved the dialogue back and forth between her and her teacher and how her professor tries to guide her in the right direction. It’s great writing advice (thanks, Rainbow!) and there’s some great guidance that was not only good for Cath, but can be helpful to tons of beginning writers anywhere.

The family issues went a lot deeper than I had originally expected, and not just between Cath and her separation from Wren, but also how Cath worries about leaving her dad alone and if he’s taking care of himself without the two of them there to sort of check up on him. I won’t go into detail, but there was a lot more there that first meets the eye so it really added a great layer to the story and made Cath’s story a bit more personal to read. It was also incredibly interesting to see how Cath’s relationship with Wren completely changes from what they once had at home and how the two of them handle each situation so differently.

Okay, NOW we get to Levi. *sigh* Oh, Levi. I loved him so much. He was sooo so adorable and I loved all of the detail that Rainbow Rowell put into his character — from the physical descriptions to the way he moved to the personality quirks and even down to his studying habits. She made him so unique and so loveable. I totally swooned for him oh so much. He actually reminded me of Shane a little bit here and there so of course that added to my level of swoon, but I just loved his character. He, of course, has his flaws — and when it comes to their relationship, Cath does too —  and that’s something that he and Cath really had to work on and figure out. It kind of bothered me exactly how timid Cath was with their relationship… I mean, I get it, but I don’t. She was just SUPER timid about everything and I understand that to an extent but it actually became frustrating as a reader that it took her so long to break out of her shell for even the smallest things.

FANGIRL was a great read for me and I really, really enjoyed it, but just the timidity from Cath really prevented it from shooting to a straight five-star read for me. I really wanted to connect with her so much more. It wasn’t perfect, but of course I’ll still recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of Rainbow’s books and just contemporary fans in general. I LOVED that it took place in college instead of high school. I’m always looking for more books that take place during the college years so I really, truly loved the atmosphere!

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Cather Avery // Character Obsessions: Simon Snow, writing, fan-fiction.
I really wanted to like Cath juuuust a bit more, but she was a fun character to follow throughout the story of FANGIRL. I honestly felt for her a lot with her struggles through freshman year — I’m sure anyone who’s gone away to college can relate in one way or another — but I felt like her growth was actually kind of minimal from beginning to end. I guess a character doesn’t have to grow leaps and bounds in one book, but I really felt like it took her a WHILE to make any small changes, really. I truly felt for her character but I wanted to really FEEL all of those emotions that I think she even closed herself off from. She was afraid of so many things, including her own feelings, I think. It just made it hard for me to be like, “Yeah! Go, Cath!” when I felt like she didn’t even want to change or succeed or try to do anything at all out of her small comfort zone without someone essentially forcing her to.
Levi // Character Obsessions: Agriculture, smiling, making people happy, Cath.
Levi is adorable. I loved everything about his character (well… minus his obvious flaws that you’ll figure out). I loved his little imperfections. I love the way he made people feel about themselves. I loved his zest for life and the fact that he appreciated Cath for who she was. I really swooned over him and I think lots of other people will to! Bravo, Rainbow.
Reagan // Character Obsessions: Telling it like it is, going out, working, Levi.
Reagan was one of my favorite characters. She was pretty much the total and complete opposite of Cath — Said whatever she was thinking, wasn’t afraid of telling it like it is, liked going out, worked all the time, was confident in who she was… She was the person who actually ended up helping Cath by forcing her out of the room and sort of guiding her through her freshman year of college. I loved her humor and that we got to see the opposite of Cath in the same room with her.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Rainbow Rowell. I love her. Writing about the freshman year of college was perfection for me and I loved going through those experiences again (as awkward as some of them were). Rainbow has a unique way of writing certain things and bringing in such touching experiences to make a story so much more personal. FANGIRL kept me a Rainbow fan (of that I had no doubt) and I know I’ll be reading her books for years to come!
Left Me Wanting More: Boldness. Okay, so Cath didn’t have to go over the top in anyway, but I wanted a bit more initiative from her to.. ya know… leave the dorm room. Do anything! Go explore by herself. That’s what I did on my first day. I was afraid of not knowing where things were so I spent the day just walking around campus, finding my classrooms and making sure I knew where things were so I didn’t look like a goon aimlessly walking around. I get Cath being uncomfortable, but for Pete’s sake… Just go find the dining hall and make it look like you’re just casually walking around the dorm!

Addiction Rating
BUY IT!

Yes, I did have a lot to say and a LOT of different feelings about this book, but ultimately, I still really enjoyed it and I’m glad I have two signed copies to keep on my shelf AND I’m buying the hardcover when it comes out (because that’s what I do). I’d still recommend to buy it but just know that Cath may be a tough one to crack!

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE FANGIRL

     The Book of Broken Hearts      Golden

Just One Day (Just One Day #1) – Gayle Forman

Just One Day (Just One Day #1) – Gayle FormanTitle: Just One Day (Just One Day #1) by Gayle Forman
Publishing Info: January 8, 2013 by Penguin
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary, New Adult, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: December 9, 2012
Related Posts: If I Stay (If I Stay #1), Where She Went (If I Stay #2), Sisters in Sanity, If I Stay (If I Stay #1), Where She Went (If I Stay #2), Just One Day (Just One Day #1), Just One Night (Just One Day #2.5), I Was Here, Leave Me, I Have Lost My Way

Allyson Healey's life is exactly like her suitcase—packed, planned, ordered. Then on the last day of her three-week post-graduation European tour, she meets Willem. A free-spirited, roving actor, Willem is everything she’s not, and when he invites her to abandon her plans and come to Paris with him, Allyson says yes. This uncharacteristic decision leads to a day of risk and romance, liberation and intimacy: 24 hours that will transform Allyson’s life. A book about love, heartbreak, travel, identity, and the “accidents” of fate, Just One Day shows us how sometimes in order to get found, you first have to get lost. . . and how often the people we are seeking are much closer than we know. The first in a sweepingly romantic duet of novels. Willem’s story—Just One Year—is coming soon!

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Given it’s Gayle Forman, I don’t think it would have been possible for me to give it any less than five stars regardless, but JUST ONE DAY truly deserves it and earned a special place in my heart, as all Gayle’s books do. It was definitely an emotional roller coaster and even though nothing close to the events that play out in the book have happened to me, then sentiment is just the same: falling in love, doubting how fast those feelings come on, fear of rejection, being rejected, and the quest to find the answers WHY. I can honestly say I’ve been through those exact situations and felt those feelings far too many times in my own teen/college years and I was right there with Allyson as she fell in love and then felt her heart break over and over again. I don’t know what more to say about the book except that I hope whoever reads this feels the same way I did – Totally invested, totally connected with the characters. I think if you’ve ever felt that way in a relationship (or non-relationship in some cases) that I think you’ll easily fall right into step with the characters that Gayle Forman creates.

It’s also further proof that I can actually read books set in foreign countries. Clearly before the select contemporary romances that I had read this year, I was not reading the right books. I’ve never been to Europe, but through the beautiful writing of Gayle Forman and several other contemporary writers, I’ve never felt more at home in Paris, London, Amsterdam, and various other sections of Europe. To me, that really says a lot, and I think the reason why is that I wasn’t just getting descriptions of events that happened here and there – It was an emotional connection to that canal, that house, that park that made it feel like a place I could see myself. I have a tendency to tie places back to feelings and that was something that was expertly written in Just One Day.

Of course I recommend it to anyone and everyone. I’ll recommend Gayle’s books to people until the end of time and there’s something so timeless about not only her writing but the way she writes her characters. I feel like even in 10 years when new generations pick up her books, they won’t feel dated. I’m sure some minute details like the technology of whatever cell phones turn into in 10 years may be outdated, but only slightly so because the focus is almost entirely on the feelings that Allyson experiences and the universal message that she not only learns for herself, but that the readers can pick up about their own lives as well.

And the end – AH! I feel like I’ll definitely read this book a few times before I can get my hands on Willem’s side of the story. I know it may feel like a long way from now, but maybe like the characters, I can wait JUST ONE YEAR.

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Allyson/Lulu: What I loved so much about JUST ONE DAY is that we see Allyson go through this incredible personal transformation and realization that her life isn’t what she wants it to be, all stemming from the adventure and whirlwind romance she had with Willem in Paris. Going one step further, I absolutely, positively loved that she had a perfectly normal life — not affected by an accident, a disease, a death — and it’s like the whole Paris experience with Willem allowed her to see that her perfectly normal life really wasn’t hers at all. It was a ghost of her mother’s life, her friend’s life, all fitted together like perfect pieces of a puzzle so that until she stepped back and looked at the puzzle as a whole, she couldn’t tell how broken and fragmented it really was (wow, maybe I should be writing my own novel here haha). I just loved that we got this amazing story out of what seemed so ordinary and entirely relatable.
Allyson was also extremely relatable to me in the sense that she’s not sure how she really feels about Willem. Did she fall in love with him? Is it even possible to love someone, to miss someone, to care about them that much after one day? I’ve felt that way many times myself with unrequited crushes and after things turn south, I started to question all my feelings. How real could they have been if they didn’t seem to be reciprocated? Was I making a big deal out of nothing? Was I being over-dramatic and romanticizing everything that happened or were my feelings actually justified? These are all the questions that Allyson agonizes over and I was right there with her. Gayle Forman did a fantastic job of allowing the readers to experience all of these emotions with Allyson as she tries to figure out what’s real and what was just an act.
Willem: Willem is definitely an enigma throughout the book and as painful as it was to witness, I loved that I didn’t really get a clear picture of him, as seen through Allyson’s eyes. It’s true of any guy, really. You’d like to think you know what their best intentions are, how they feel about you, but there’s always that lingering doubt. The attraction between Willem and Allyson is obviously real and they had a very real series of moments in Paris, but when that’s gone, the doubt sets back in but the readers are still left with the pull back to Paris, left wanting to believe that it was all real. I wanted to believe that Willem really did have good intentions with Allyson, but situation after situation pops up and the readers are left with a tangled mess of head versus heart. When it comes down to it, his flaws are what make him a truly believable character and really drive the story. 

QUOTES

Please note all quotes are from the ARC of Just One Day. Exact wording and page numbers subject to change. 

p85: “‘I think you’re the sort of person who finds money on the ground and waves it in the air and asks if anyone has lost it. I think you cry in movies that aren’t even sad because you have a soft heart, though you don’t let it show. I think you do things that scare you, and that makes you braver than those adrenaline junkies who bungee-jump off bridges.'”
(EEP!)

p89: “‘Did you just quote Shakespeare to a cop?’ I asked.”

p104-105: “There’s such a delicious surrender in the words, and I feel myself slipping away to him. Some small part of me warns against this. This is just one day. I am just one girl. But the part that can resists, that would resist, I woke up finally liberated of her.”

p125: “He said that earlier, about accidents, about never know which one is just a kink in the road and which one is a fork, about never knowing your life is changing until it’s already happened.”

p130: “Another day. That’s all I’m asking. Just one more day. I can’t think beyond that. Beyond that, things get complicated.”

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Buy it… ASAP!

Wow, I just LOVED this book and totally connected with it. Gayle Forman totally knocked this one out of the park (again)!

book_recommendations1

         

Obviously, if you haven’t read Gayle Forman’s first duet of contemporary novels, IF I STAY and WHERE SHE WENT, PLEASE GO READ THOSE NOW (my SUPER old reviews are linked up to the covers above). They’re what first led me to fall in love with not only Gayle’s works, but contemporary romance in general.

The Elementals – Francesca Lia Block

The Elementals – Francesca Lia BlockTitle: The Elementals by Francesca Lia Block
Publishing Info: October 16, 2012 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Contemporary, Magical Realism, Mystery/Thriller, New Adult, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: October 21, 2012

    From star YA author Francesca Lia Block comes an adult novel about a student haunted by the disappearance of her best friend, desperate to find and withstand the truth.
    The Elementals is on one level a contemporary story about a young woman, Ariel Silverman, facing the challenges of her first years away at college in Berkeley, California, while her mother battles cancer at home in Los Angeles. But the book takes on deeper, stranger meanings when we contend with Ariel's obsession with the disappearance of her best friend, Jeni, who vanished without a trace a few years before. Her emptiness of spirit seems finally to find some healing with three mysterious, beautiful and seductive young people living in a strange old house in the Berkeley hills. But at what price?

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Well this was quite different than what I was expecting so I’m not really sure quite how to review it. It’s a very different kind of book – part mystery, part horror, part magical-realism — and despite how uncharacteristic it is of my usual reads, I really was sucked in until the very end. I will say that Block does a great job of keeping the reader curious regarding what happened to Jeni, what will happen to Ariel and her new band of misfit friends, and also what will happen with her mother.

That being said, as much as I was entranced, it was more like I simply couldn’t tear myself away, but definitely more in a messed-up kind of way. It was actually kind of sad for me to read because here we see Ariel, starting college at 17 (I’m guessing she had a late birthday) and she is so purely innocent. Never even having kissed a boy (although I’ll stay kissing your best girl friend is still weird to me), no drugs, no alcohol — and we just see her entire innocence ruined throughout her stay in college. True, I guess it could be said that she never would have been in that position if Jeni hadn’t gone missing and her mother hadn’t had cancer – but even still, I’d like to say that I wouldn’t have gone through any kind of course of action like that if I had been in the same position.

I think the biggest message I took away from this story is how much more college-age is “coming of age” versus high school and young adult. Once you’re away from your family, your home, every comfort that you once had, I’d say you’re that much more vulnerable to try new things, find new dangers, and seek more excitement. When you’re shaping your life yourself and taking these chances on your own, I think that’s a time where you change so much more than in what I’d say is the more traditionally thought of “coming of age” range in high school.

character_breakdown1Ariel: Poor Ariel. Lost her best friend, barely clinging to her mother, and ripped from all familiarity. I sincerely felt bad for her and it was kind of a heartbreaking story because I just felt like she was getting taken advantage of and everyone in the story was totally abusing her innocence. I can’t say that I liked her or disliked her, really. She was just really hard for me to relate to.
John: John kind of creeped me out in the sense that he kept switching back and forth from feeling strange and dangerous to maybe being a good support for Ariel. Even after the finishing the book I’m still undecided!
Tania: I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near Tania. Right of the bat she seemed like she had hidden motives wrapped in pretty packaging to entice you and reel you in. She was way too involved in her “other world” which was kind of odd and out there. I think she was the most frustrating character of the book!

QUOTES

p8: “But you just can’t run faster than time, not faster than death and, as I’d find out, not faster than love.”

p219: “When I went away to school I had thought I was a grown-up but now I realized that even at twenty I was still a child who was just learning who she was and how to take care of herself.”

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Borrow it.

I was interested but it wasn’t quite a book that really stuck with me. Somehow I couldn’t stop reading but overall, I really didn’t love it or connect with it.

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE THE ELEMENTALS

Degrees of Wrong Blog Tour | Review, Soundtrack, Giveaway

Degrees of Wrong Blog Tour | Review, Soundtrack, GiveawayTitle: Degrees of Wrong by Anna Banks, Anna Scarlett
Publishing Info: August 28, 2012 by Samhain
Genres: New Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: August 18, 2012
Related Posts: Of Poseidon (Syrena Trilogy #1), Of Triton (Syrena Trilogy #2)

    This time, the straight-and-narrow path could be the road to ruin.
Dr. Elyse Morgan’s mission: find the cure to the HTN4 virus. The compensation, courtesy of the United Nations: a lab stocked with hi-tech goodies, limitless resources and enough chocolate to make her rear look like a cellulite farm. Bonus: she gets to live.
Rescued (kidnapped) and secreted (imprisoned) on an undersea warship, Elyse adjusts to her assumed identity as a cadet with the finesse of a toeless ballerina. Her sulfuric temper and blatant insubordination capture the unwanted attention of the ship’s captain, the gorgeous, infuriating, engaged Nicoli Marek.
Elyse would rather perform her own autopsy than become the other woman, but Nicoli—who’s as full of himself as he is of secrets—regards his impending marriage as a mere political transaction. And Elyse as fair game.
As Elyse’s suspicions about the UN’s true agenda mount along with her attraction to the relentless, chronically shirtless captain, she must choose between the murky path to everything she’s ever wanted, or the squeaky-clean path of self-sacrifice—which could mean taking the secrets of the virus with her to the grave.
Warning: Features a strong, chocolate-loving heroine who takes no prisoners on the way to saving the world from an epidemic and winning a captain’s heart.

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I really, really loved this book! I was pretty confident before I even picked it up since I enjoyed OF POSEIDON so much and I just knew we’d see more of Anna’s sarcasm and wit woven into every page of DEGREES OF WRONG.  Right off the bat, I loved Elyse. She’s a strong personality and doesn’t take crap from anyone, even when she’s faced with a sour drill sergeant and stumbles upon (or literally into) gorgeous ship captain Nicoli Marek.

Unlike my usual reads as of lately, DEGREES OF WRONG takes us out of the realm of YA and into more of adult lit. Personally, seeing as Elyse Morgan is 24, I can almost categorize it as New Adult. As a 25-year-old, I tend not to relate to books where the main character is quite established in career, relationship (engaged/married), and home at 23/24/25. Although Elyse is quite the genius for her age and a well-established and decorated doctor, we see a lot of… what’s the best way to put this…? Immature tendencies in her that show us that Elyse is still growing up a bit — Or that we girls learn how to pinch, stick out our tongues, and give the silent treatment at a young age and hold onto those talents well!

Oh what fun it was to get to know our love interest of the story, Nicoli Marek! Somewhat of a genius himself and the captain of the Bellator submarine at only 29, Nicoli has no problem handling Elyse’s temper (which only infuriates her more), but has the exact smoldering demeanor and sexy grin that captures Elyse’s heart (okay, and mine too)! The descriptions of Nicoli Marek do not let us down in the book and make for a great, great romance. What I really loved is that it’s a slow burner. Yep, it’s got us dying for these two to get together all the way through the book, and I have to say, I think these are my favorite kinds of romances! Anna Scarlett’s elaboration on this relationship was just perfect for me!

Also, what a great plot! I admit, I was a little bit wary about how much the naval and military aspects were involved in the book at first, but it quickly became a non-issue as the plot unraveled and I got to know the personalities of the characters. There were a few plot twists that I never saw coming and I’m always baffled at how authors come up with these twists, so bravo, Anna! You really got me there!!

Overall, I absolutely adored this book. It’s straight romance with a lot of sarcasm and banter, so I think almost anyone can enjoy it! If you liked OF POSEIDON, I dare say you might like DEGREES OF WRONG even more!


And for a special part of the blog tour, I had a blast being able to create a soundtrack for the book! Here’s my soundtrack for DEGREES OF WRONG by Anna Scarlett (all links will take you to YouTube)

Want to listen to the whole soundtrack? Go to the mix that I created via 8tracks.com @ Degrees of Wrong Soundtrack

1. Where Nobody Knows – Kings of Leon
Lyrics: I can’t hardly reach you and I know it’s getting harder to be you/So I’ll be dropping you where nobody knows/City ought to take you/It would take a little second to break you/So I’ll be dropping you where nobody knows

2. Won’t Go Quietly – Company of Thieves
Lyrics: Said it all along, we’ll be dead and gone/It’s closer than you read, so batter up, kid/Everything, everything is caving in

3. Girl Sailor – The Shins
Lyrics: You’ve won one too many fights/Wearing many hats every time/But you wont win here tonight/You’ve made it through the direst of straits alright/Can you help it if plain love now seems less interesting?/You haven’t changed an ounce in my eyes/And I cannot lecture you

4. I’ve Just Seen A Face – Across the Universe Soundtrack
Lyrics: I’ve just seen a face/I can’t forget the time or place/Where we just met, she’s just the girl for me/And I want all the world to see we’ve met

5. I’ll Be Your Man – The Black Keys
Lyrics: Need a new love, yeah I’m ready/Want my time, yeah I’m willing/’Cause I’m the one who’s gonna show/When there’s nobody/I’ll be your man

6. King of Anything – Sara Barielles
Lyrics: You’ve got opinions, man/We’re all entitled to ’em/But I never asked/So let me thank you for time/And try to not waste any more of mine/Get out of here fast

7. She’s A Lady – Forever the Sickest Kids
Lyrics: She’s a lady and ladies shouldn’t be messed with

8. Hot Summer Night – Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
Lyrics: You make me feel like it’s a hot summer night/Even though it’s the middle of the winter/And it’s really bad weather/It’s a hot summer night/When I’m next to you

9. Pumpkin Soup – Kate Nash
Lyrics: You chat to me like we connect/But I don’t even know if we’re still friends/It’s so confusing, understanding you/Is making me not want to do/The things like I know I should do/But I trip fast and then I lose/And I hate looking like a fool/I just want your kiss, boy

10. Love You Much Better – The Hush Sound
Lyrics: I can love you much better/If you can’t see it you’re blind/I can love you much better/And you know someday I’m going to make you mine

11. Impossible – Anberlin
Lyrics: You’re impossible but lovely/So impossible to win or please/I’m wearing you out, just wearing you out/but I’m wearing you down

12. Sort Of – Ingrid Michaelson
Lyrics: And if I was stronger then I would tell you no/And if I was stronger then I would leave this show/And if I was stronger then I would up and go/But here I am and here we go again

13. Last Request – Paolo Nutini
Lyrics: Grant my last request/And just let me hold you/Don’t shrug your shoulders/Lay down beside me/Sure I can accept that we’re going nowhere/But one last time let’s go there/Lay down beside me

14. Hanging On Too Long – Duffy
Lyrics: It was just my false hope thinking we’d last/It was just my false hope, forgot all your past

15. Light Outside – Wakey!Wakey!
Lyrics: I know you want to stay in bed/But it’s light outsideIt’s light outside/So know I am going to stay right here/Because you saved my life onceYou saved my life

16. Back To You – John Mayer
Lyrics: Over you/I’m never over you/Something about you/It’s just the way you move/The way you move me

17. Where I Stood – Missy Higgins
Lyrics: ‘Cause I dont know who I am, who I am without you/All I know is that I should/And I don’t know if I could stand another hand upon you/All I know is that I should/’Cause she will love you more than I could/She who dares to stand where I stood

18. Kiss With A Fist – Florence + the Machine
Lyrics: You hit me once/I hit you back /You gave a kick/I gave a slap/You smashed a plate over my head/Then I set fire to our bed

19. Love It All – The Kooks
Lyrics: See I got this woman here/She loves me all the time/No need for excuses/A lone precious in my mind/And she said love it all, love it all, love it all