Tag Archives: College

A Million Junes – Emily Henry

A Million Junes – Emily HenryTitle: A Million Junes by Emily Henry
Publishing Info: May 16, 2017 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Magical Realism
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: May 17, 2017
Related Posts: The Love That Split the World

For as long as Jack “June” O’Donnell has been alive, her parents have had only one rule: stay away from the Angert family. But when June collides—quite literally—with Saul Angert, sparks fly, and everything June has known is thrown into chaos.

Who exactly is this gruff, sarcastic, but seemingly harmless boy who has returned to their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, after three mysterious years away? And why has June—an O’Donnell to her core—never questioned her late father’s deep hatred of the Angert family? After all, the O’Donnells and the Angerts may have mythic legacies, but for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them.

As Saul and June’s connection grows deeper, they find that the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers seem to be conspiring to reveal the truth about the harrowing curse that has plagued their bloodlines for generations. Now June must question everything she knows about her family and the father she adored, and she must decide whether it’s finally time for her—and all the O’Donnells before her—to let go.

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** Warning: This review DOES contain spoilers for the book! I will be talking about specifics! ** 

A MILLION JUNES was a very solid sophomore novel from Emily Henry with her debut, THE LOVE THAT SPLIT THE WORLD, being one of my favorite reads of 2016. I’ve been having a hard time with sequels/sophomore novels lately so it was so refreshing to enjoy this book and get lost in the same sort of writing style that I experienced with THE LOVE THAT SPLIT THE WORLD.

Emily Henry has a unique story-telling experience and her books are ones in which you totally lose yourself. While THE LOVE THAT SPLIT THE WORLD was magical realism, it was a also a little bit science-fiction so it was really great to see the same sort of feel and concept with the magical realism aspects but ones that took the stage even more so in A MILLION JUNES. Depending on your view of the book, it’s magical realism meets paranormal and it’s truly a magical experience to read.

Possible spoilers in the rest of the review! No giveaways about specific plot points but things that may be a general spoiler if you want to go in blind to certain aspects of the shape of the book. The thing that I really took from this book the most is the family aspect. It’s not the usual family dynamic or lesson that you see in a lot of books because it approached the topic from a totally different angle. The O’Donnells and the Angerts have been in a feud for at least four generations and after the passing of her father, Jack IV (aka Junior aka June) is left to decide whether she wants to hold that grudge or let it go with her generation. Her mother still holds those feuding values although not as tightly as her father and and June loved her father so much that she had every intention of following in his footsteps until she falls unexpectedly head over heels for youngest Angert, Saul. Without rehashing the whole plot, throughout the book, June is able to experience the memories of her father through the “whites”, which are a sort of wraith or spirit (glowing white, hence the name) and through these memories, she learns a lot about her dad… and not all of it is good. The stories of the past lose shape and take on new ones the more they get told so June learns a lot about her family’s past, spanning back to the first Jack O’Donnell all the way down to her father and his relationship with his family, including June. She realizes that the truth about him and how their family history played out is very different than what she thought it was. It’s especially hard since he passed away when she was eight. She still idealized him and didn’t know some of the darker truths or grittier details and it was shocking to realize that her dad wasn’t as perfect as she thought it was, and I thought this was a really, really great concept to include in the book. It’s so interesting to think of your parents’ history. There are so many things I know about my parents through the stories they tell me of their pasts and childhoods and yet I know that there’s so much more that I don’t know or from which I’ve been shielded. It was really interesting to watch June go through this experience and wonder what exactly I’ve been missing from my own family’s history because it’s not a pretty story to tell. My parents have told me a lot of things throughout the years and I’ve gained a lot of family knowledge as we’ve grown up but it’s so interesting to think of really how much history there would be to learn when experiencing memories first-hand. There are only so many stories that get told and no one wants to constantly tell the negative ones so it was just a really curious thing to think about!

I really loved the connection between June and Saul. I loved the bond that brought them together so fiercely and how it was the requirement that they stay apart that patched their worlds. Their chemistry was excellent and I loved how real their characters felt. Both characters were simply them, not trying to be someone else and not wanting to be, and I could just feel their personalities really come through.

The ending was a little different than I thought it was and sometimes I have trouble when magical realism takes a little turn into a little bit more magical than I expected. There were a few things in the end that crossed over from magical realism into more of a fantasy-type concept so that changed the tone of the book for me a bit and I wasn’t a huge fan but it was still a solid ending to the book.

THE LOVE THAT SPLIT THE WORLD holds a special place in my heart for the way it made me feel and the books that it reminded me of but A MILLION JUNES is a wonderfully solid novel and great sophomore book from Emily Henry. I’m a big fan of her writing and the atmosphere that she creates in her books and I really am able to feel myself in the story. I’m up for her next adventure and I can’t wait to see what it holds!

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Kept Me Hooked On: The blur between reality and magic. While THE LOVE THAT SPLIT THE WORLD was magical in a sci-fi way, this was definitely more magic and hedging on the paranormal. There’s still a possible bit of a sci-fi angle but I love the uniqueness of how reality blends with the impossible.
Left Me Wanting More: Structure. I guess structure isn’t the right word, but the ending felt a little too… untethered. I think I just wanted something a bit more concrete and it kind of ventured more into the magic.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

I love Emily Henry’s story-telling and this book continued on the great path of bending reality and expanding beliefs.

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BOOKS LIKE A MILLION JUNES

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    BONE GAP

Flat-Out Love (Flat-Out Love #1) – Jessica Park

Flat-Out Love (Flat-Out Love #1) – Jessica ParkTitle: Flat-Out Love (Flat-Out Love #1) by Jessica Park
Publishing Info: May 18, 2011 by Independent
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: April 29, 2017

Something is seriously off in the Watkins home. And Julie Seagle, college freshman, small-town Ohio transplant, and the newest resident of this Boston house, is determined to get to the bottom of it. When Julie's off-campus housing falls through, her mother's old college roommate, Erin Watkins, invites her to move in. The parents, Erin and Roger, are welcoming, but emotionally distant and academically driven to eccentric extremes. The middle child, Matt, is an MIT tech geek with a sweet side... and the social skills of a spool of USB cable. The youngest, Celeste, is a frighteningly bright but freakishly fastidious 13-year-old who hauls around a life-sized cardboard cutout of her oldest brother almost everywhere she goes.

And there's that oldest brother, Finn: funny, gorgeous, smart, sensitive, almost emotionally available. Geographically? Definitely unavailable. That's because Finn is traveling the world and surfacing only for random Facebook chats, e-mails, and status updates. Before long, through late-night exchanges of disembodied text, he begins to stir something tender and silly and maybe even a little bit sexy in Julie's suddenly lonesome soul.

To Julie, the emotionally scrambled members of the Watkins family add up to something that ... well... doesn't quite add up. Not until she forces a buried secret to the surface, eliciting a dramatic confrontation that threatens to tear the fragile Watkins family apart, does she get her answer.

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I picked up FLAT-OUT LOVE in an Audible sale because Julia Whelan is one of my favorite female audiobook narrators and I had seen a lot of positive reactions from my Goodreads friends. I really didn’t know what it was about before I started but I was pleasantly surprised with its content and tone!

FLAT-OUT LOVE was a wonderful mix of serious and sarcasm. Main character Julie ends up moving in with a family friend (and the family that comes with her) after being scammed on an apartment listing for college and ends up staying there throughout the year. The story revolves around the family that Julie moves in with and their delicate balance of affection and stoicism, most noted by 13-year-old Celeste’s attachment to a cardboard cut-out of her older brother Finn, who is away travelling the world. I won’t rehash the whole plot but essentially Julie brings levity and a fresh outlook on life to this family and really breaks through a point where they were all standing still, holding their breath. I loved Julia’s personality and attitude. She brought a light to that house and so much humor, sarcasm, and high spirits. There were plenty of serious moments, as this book is clearly harboring some deep secret with Celeste’s quirks that no one will talk about, but I thought the balance was really well done. If this had been a strictly serious or tragic book, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it nearly as much.

Every relationship was really well-crafted. Julie is able to connect with each person in the house on a different level, even if it’s not deeply. Julie shakes things up and yes, breaks a few hearts by making them admit the “bad things”, but ultimately is able to show them that standing still is no way to live if you can’t ever move forward. I don’t really know how I feel about the romance because without spoiling anything, it gets complicated on soooo many levels and there’s a level of trust that was broken with me as a reader that I don’t think I could have personally come back from, but Julie is a forgiving soul and of course she wants to make the relationship work because it is quite sweet in its core.

While FLAT-OUT LOVE was a quick and addicting read for me, I really don’t have any interest in its companions. I tried reading FLAT-OUT CELESTE and her voice was just very difficult for me to at least listen to, though I don’t know about reading, and I don’t have an interest in FLAT-OUT MATT since it’s really just the same story but in parts from Matt’s POV. Julie was the best part of the book and without her, the stories don’t really have a draw for me.

I think FLAT-OUT LOVE is a great contemporary read and good book for those who don’t want to shy away from real life but also appreciate some good humor and lightness in times of darkness.

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Kept Me Hooked On: The nitty gritty. I’ve been shying away from the more rough patches of life and have had a strong preference for the light and fluffy. I’m glad I read FLAT-OUT LOVE and that the balance of light and dark was there.
Left Me Wanting More: Honesty. If the family had been able to just tell Julie what their life-changing situation was, there wouldn’t really be a book… so obviously that’s why there’s a secret there, but I wish everyone had just been a bit more honest. I know they didn’t want to talk about the THING but it seemed silly to keep it from the person who was living in your house.

Addiction Rating
Check it out

I actually really enjoyed this one, which surprised me! I loved Julie’s outgoing, sarcastic, and friendly tone.

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BOOKS LIKE FLAT-OUT LOVE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    MY LIFE NEXT DOOR

Last Will and Testament by Dahlia Adler: Release Day!

Happy LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT release day!

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Today is the day that LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT by Dahlia Adler is available for purchase! WOO! (Well, purchase and instant gratification of owning it. Hopefully you guys pre-ordered it too!)

I’ve never been a big new adult fan up to this point. Mostly because I haven’t found the right book or exactly the right style for me. See, I’m more into the college side of new adult! Ever since I’ve been in college, I wanted to read books about college and I haven’t really found many that I really click with, mostly because they all seemed like romance novels (ROMANCE romance, not just contemporary) but at a younger age. Well romance novels aren’t really my thing. Yes, I do love a GREAT love story, but I don’t always need to know ALL of the details of the sexy times and sometimes things go a bit too far with the naughty bits for me. I’m not averse to reading them whatsoever, but the few new adult books I’ve read have just felt like overboard. Transition into my read of LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT

I’ll have a full review coming later so I won’t say TOO much but I will tell you that this was a fantastic read for me. It had the college experience, a steamy romance (with just the right amount of details), a great conflict, wonderful friendships, diversity, family, and more! Honestly, it was the perfect blend of everything for me. I’m SUPER grateful to Dahlia Adler for the review copy and for having me be a part of this release day!

Last Will and Testament by Dahlia Adler: Release Day!Title: Last Will and Testament by Dahlia Adler
Publishing Info: December 9, 2014 by Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: November 30, 2014

Lizzie Brandt was valedictorian of her high school class, but at Radleigh University, all she's acing are partying and hooking up with the wrong guys. But all that changes when her parents are killed in a tragic accident, making her guardian to her two younger brothers. To keep them out of foster care, she'll have to fix up her image, her life, and her GPA—fast. Too bad the only person on campus she can go to for help is her humorless, pedantic Byzantine History TA, Connor Lawson, who isn't exactly Lizzie's biggest fan.
    But Connor surprises her. Not only is he a great tutor, but he’s also a pretty great babysitter. And chauffeur. And listener. And he understands exactly what it’s like to be on your own before you're ready. Before long, Lizzie realizes having a responsible-adult type around has its perks... and that she'd like to do some rather irresponsible (but considerably adult) things with him as well. Good thing he's not the kind of guy who'd ever reciprocate.
    Until he does.
    Until they turn into far more than teacher and student.
    Until the relationship that helped put their lives back together threatens everything they both have left.

Purchase Links!
AmazonB&N | iBooks | Smashwords | Kobo

(UNOFFICIAL) ABOUT THE AUTHOR
(or my millions of thank yous to Dahlia Adler)

DahliaAdler (533x640)Dahlia didn’t give us an official “about the author” section but I just wanted to say a couple things! I haven’t read BEHIND THE SCENES yet (total shame on me. Dahlia already knows this and I have a copy and I PROMISE I am reading it soon. For real, cross my heart.) but when I saw on Twitter that she had review copies available for her new adult book (that would be this one!!!) and was also looking for bloggers to help out with promotion and spreading the word, I immediately jumped on the opportunity.

I explained a bit earlier that before LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT, I hadn’t read a lot of new adult. So why immediately grab this book? Honestly, it was all because of Dahlia. We ended up tweeting back and forth a little bit closer to the release date of BEHIND THE SCENES (just about things in general and I won a copy of her book too! Yay!) and we actually met at BEA but I don’t think we really knew who each other were (or did we? If so, not well anyway). Ever since then, I’ve been following Dahlia on Twitter and we still tweet back and forth and she is SO incredibly wonderful. She’s replied to so many of my tweets whether they be about life in general, books (DANGEROUS GIRLS!!!), and everything else in between — and she’s even taken the time to comment on my blog! Just the little things like replying to tweets and chatting back and forth really helped me make a personal connection and that connection motivated me so much to not only pick up her books but help promote like CRAZY. I really like Dahlia Adler and wish her all of the success possible with her books so I made it a point to do everything I could to make sure people not only knew about this book but felt motivated to buy it and fall in love with it too.

Anyway. Long story short, I just want to thank Dahlia again not only for this opportunity but taking the time out of her day to tweet readers and people who haven’t even read her books yet! She’s been so kind and so responsive and it’s just been a pleasure talking to her, working with her, and reading her book! (Soon to be bookS!) So yes, I loved LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT, but I also love Dahlia. Go forth and buy this book, you guys!!! It was such a fun read, a great love story (whew, I am still thinking about this romance, and steamy too!), and you’ll be supporting a fantastic author to boot.

Make sure you keep your eyes peeled for my official review of LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT AND an interview with Dahlia Adler coming up here soon too!

A ROOMIE Story + Giveaway!

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If you haven’t read ROOMIES yet, NOW IS THE TIME! I got to read this book before it came out and let me tell you… Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr totally knocked this one out of the park! If you don’t know much about it, ROOMIES is the story of two girls in their summer right after high school and before college. They’re both from different backgrounds and the book highlights their own personal lives as well as their email interactions with each other as the summer progresses.

The great thing about ROOMIES is that even if you didn’t have the “traditional” summer after high school going into college, it’s still easy to relate to these two girls and their stories. I actually did NOT have the same experience although I identified with so many similar aspects of moving in with roommates and going away to college.

MY STORY

** Small disclaimer: I will be telling some negative stories about my roommate experience in college but although they were tough times when we went through them, I don’t harbor ill will towards the roommate we had the disagreements with. To prevent from slandering her name all over town (not like you know her, but still), I’m going to use initials for all of my college roommates instead of actual names. **

The backstory: I actually didn’t go away to college right away. Having no idea what I wanted to do as a career and the fact that my sister didn’t go away to college (I have a tendency to look to her for advice) left me unsure of my future. We could have afforded me going away to college my freshman year, maybe taking out some student loans to help, but my parents (being the experienced and bright ones in the family) came up with a sort of a bargain for me: If I stayed at home and went to community college for two years and got my Associate’s degree, I could apply to a university my junior year and move straight into an apartment as well as being able to take my mom’s old car as my own (her buying a new one) since I would need it to commute to classes.
As much as I wanted to have that “traditional” (or should I say “expected”, in my town and circle of friends) college experience that so many of my classmates were about to have, I took the deal, accepting ownership of a nice little Hyundai Elantra. I actually applied for the scholarship that my high school offers to one person in the senior class and got it, making the deal even sweeter. I attended my first two years of college totally and completely free (with the exception of books and lab fees) and didn’t have to pay for room & board, food, tuition… nada. My parents were thrilled because it saved them even MORE money and totally helped pay for my two years at Illinois State without having to apply for student loans.
I knew I would still have a friend at home because one of my best friends, Lisa, was actually doing the same exact thing.and we even took a few classes together! It didn’t bother me that I was still living at home because, well, it was all I ever knew at that point! Lisa and I had our own friends from high school who were doing the same thing as well and we’d take a few adventures down to visit our friends at their fancy schmancy universities to give us a taste of the sweet life before we actually moved down there ourselves.

Junior Year: Junior year was my first year away at college. I went down to Normal, IL to check out apartments with my parents and with my future roommate AR, who was still one of my best friends from high school. We had planned to get an apartment with us two, her roommate from the dorms, LT, and her twin sister LJ . Long story short, we had looked at a few apartments and decided on the cheaper of the selections, but without knowing it, LJ had signed a lease on the more expensive of the options so we wouldn’t lose it… but we couldn’t afford the more expensive one. We all felt really bad and really awkward but AR, LT, and I signed the lease for the cheaper apartment which forced LJ to sublet the more expensive one and she ended up living in the dorms junior year instead of with us. (Looking back, I don’t know why she had to live in the dorms… I think something like breaking a deposit or still having to pay some kind of rent…? So she couldn’t afford to live with us that year.) This also put us in a tough spot (as much as we all loved LJ) and forced US to sublet as well. Just a room. To a total stranger when we all knew each other. Since I was still living at home and NOT down at school when this all happened, I was totally out of the loop… Barely knowing this was going on until it all happened, unable to meet people that could potentially be living in our apartment and only finding out who did get chose after the fact. A girl that LT chose that was more like her but that AR and I had nothing in common with. Sooooo. That was super awkward.
My parents helped me move down to school and I moved in a week early to try to find a job, explore the campus (since I was a newbie) and settle in. My dad and I had a huge fight before they left and I was left in a strange apartment in a strange town WITH a stranger (mostly. LT was there but we had only met a few times when I had visited AR in the years before and we had never really talked before). I think I spent the first day crying my eyes out and holing up in my room.
Junior year got better though! I worked in the bookstore for a week and once they didn’t need summer help anymore, I had to find a new job all over again. LT and LJ both worked at the restaurant in the Student Center called McAlister’s — and guys. This was the best job of my life. I made friends, had fantastic bosses, had my first big crush in college (which didn’t pan out, but that’s clearly all for the better now. See: Engagement ring. And don’t tell him, but some fuel for my WIP), and actually had a ton of fun making sandwiches, salads, and spuds. Another story for another day, but thinking about McAlister’s is so bittersweet because I had such fond memories of working there and the people I became friends with but I don’t talk to ANY of them anymore. But that’s more of a post-college story than anything full of messy details. (Intrigued now, aren’t you?)
Random roommate ended up only staying for the first semester so then it was AR, LT and I for the rest of the year. It was actually hard with us three because AR and I knew each other from high school and AR & LT were roommates in the dorm. LT was totally cool but we just had such different personalities that it often created conflicts… not of epic proportions (yet) but AR and I had our high school friends that we hung out with and LT didn’t always feel comfortable hanging out with them because they weren’t her people, ya know? So although we invited her out, she’d come with a few times but often times she stayed behind or went to hang out with her other friends that weren’t the group that we hung out with. We ended up getting in a few spats because she felt left out, which I can totally understand but AR and I felt like we weren’t doing anything wrong since we invited her. Looking back, we probably should have made a better effort to have more “roomie nights” but the divide started growing already.

Senior Year: Senior year things started to work out! LJ was able to move in with us (yay!) and the four of us signed a lease for a new apartment, closer to the center of campus. The place wasn’t as nice and somehow I was the one who ended up parking on the street instead of in the parking lot (we only got two parking spaces) so…. upside, I learned how to parallel park and downside…. mostly everything else about parking on the street. Having to move my car every 24 hours to not get a ticket, someone ripping part of my car off and then driving away, scratches, not being able to find a parking space… Sometimes it was a real nightmare. I tried to suck it up and just avoid the conflict of bargaining to park in the lot (because I’m too damn nice sometimes) but of course my dad pushed me to get into the lot every once in a while and rotate because it should be even and fair. (In hindsight, I JUST WANTED TO AVOID CONFLICT. It was such an awkward spot to be in with my dad pushing me one way and desire to NOT have fights pushing me in the other.)
Oh my god! I almost forgot THE EPIC FIGHTS. The epic fights. The summer before AR and I came back from home and moved into our new apartment, LT got a dog. An adorable, sweet, black lab puppy. At first we were like, “Awww, puppy! She’s so cute!” Except, OH WAIT. One: our apartment doesn’t allow dogs. Two: PUPPY. APARTMENT. PEEING ON THE FLOOR. Three: We like dogs but we did NOT want a dog in our apartment. How were we supposed to bring this up? Why in the world didn’t she talk to us about it? And you know my parents were going to throw their two cents in there because they didn’t want us getting in trouble and they’re parents. That’s what they do. (Except it was yet another awkward spot of parent versus roommate.) I think I partially blocked out these roommate fights, honestly, because it was so incredibly tense during these times. We fought with LT and still had to live in extremely close quarters. Eventually she agreed to get rid of the dog because it would be too big for the apartment and it was hard to train a puppy. But then……… a new dog came around. A small dog. That still wandered everywhere, forcing us to close our doors all of the time so the dog didn’t hop up on our beds or wander in our rooms. (Furthermore enforced after the dog left fleas in my bed, leaving nice itchy spots all over.)
Things finally came to the breaking point when THE epic fight of all epic fights happened. It was the very end of winter break and my other roommates had already gone back to school and I was due to leave in a day or two when I heard that things came to PHYSICAL BLOWS. I guess a big fight broke out and AR finally said what she had been dying to say with no holding back. She and LT ended up physically fighting with LJ jumping in. I was not there to witness it, but AR filled me in on everything and needless to say, it was VERY uncomfortable coming back after that. I was MAD and upset that I had to live with that situation in the house.
We actually went on spring break together senior year and LT didn’t come with, which was another sensitive subject. We invited her and she said no and I think at the time, it was better for her and for us but it was still a very tense situation and naturally, she still felt left out.

NOW: I don’t still talk to LT but I honestly and truly don’t hold any ill will towards her. We had a lot of hard times rooming together, but it was really because we were such different people. I tried to be the least confrontational I could be but sometimes things just had to get put out there. I DO still talk to AR and I’m actually going to LJ’s wedding this year! It was definitely not a situation I’d like someone else to be put in but we all learned several things from these situations and I hope she doesn’t hold any bad feelings towards us either!

Despite the fact that I used initials to not throw anyone’s names out there, I do still want to share pictures from my time at college! So… enjoy these pictures without knowing who these people actually are haha! You can at least tell who I am and some are the roommates… Some are just friends. So enjoy the PICTURES FROM THE GOOD TIMES! <3

     

Spring Break 2009: And yes, my sunburn REALLY WAS that bad.

Bone Student Center bar crawl senior year (with McAlister’s friends)

There you have it, my dears! My college experience in a nutshell! So many of these college experiences — both good and bad — have also influence my current WIP (which I actually haven’t really touched since NaNo buuut…) so you can see how much they’ve shaped my life as well as much I still carry around from that time! It’s been a pretty big deal in shaping my life in more than one way. 

GIVEAWAY

And now for the giveaway! Little, Brown is offering one copy of the fantastic book that inspired these posts (and my CRAZY LONG roommate story — sorry I shared my WHOLE college experience with you)… ROOMIES by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr! I read this book back in December and totally loved it so I’m so excited to be able to give one away!!

Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr are going on tour this winter too!! They won’t be anywhere near me in Illinois but check out the schedule below and see if they’re coming to a city near you!

  • January 12, 2014 – New York, NY: McNally Jackson [venue link]
  • January 15, 2014 – Salt Lake City, UT: The King’s English [venue link]
  • January 16, 2014 – Provo, UT: Provo Library [venue link]
  • February 4, 2014 – San Francisco, CA: Books Inc, Opera Plaza [venue link]
  • February 5, 2015 – Petaluma, CA: Copperfield’s Books [venue link]

Hope you get to see these amazing authors on tour!

Want to win a copy of the book? Just enter the Rafflecopter below! US entries only please!!

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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 // Goodreads
Date 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

Top Ten Tuesday – August 13, 2013: Top Ten Favorite Books Taking Place in College

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It’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the wonderful blog at The Broke and the Bookish!
This week’s topic: Top Ten Favorite Books With X Setting

TOP TEN BOOKS TAKING PLACE IN/AT COLLEGE

I’ve been craving books that take place in college since I started college… in 2005!! So basically I’ve been dying for these novels for 8 years. FINALLY we see the rise of “New Adult” fiction, but like many others, I’m not entirely happy with the genre and how it’s been sort of stereotyped as tons of sexy times. Honestly, I have no problem with the sexy times, but what I was really craving from “New Adult” was more of the college experience and more focus on college living, roommates, and living away from home for the first time.

I haven’t read most of the NA books that are out there because I just haven’t found the right ones for me yet, but here are my top choices of “Books That Take Place in/at College”!

THE ONES I LOVED

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 FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell

I just recently read FANGIRL (review coming soon!) and this is exactly the kind of “New Adult”/college age book I was looking for. Rainbow Rowell did a great job of portraying the college life, especially highlighting the woes of an incoming freshman.

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ANATOMY OF A SINGLE GIRL by Daria Snadowsky

If you’re not familiar with it, ANATOMY OF A SINGLE GIRL is the follow up to ANATOMY OF A BOYFRIEND by Daria Snadowsky. Dom, now fresh out of high school and starting college, has to start adapting to the changes not only with school, but also with her family, friends, and dating life.

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JUST ONE DAY by Gayle Forman

JUST ONE DAY is actually half the summer after high school and half Allyson’s experiences in college. I know some people who didn’t quite latch onto the book had issues with how quickly and easily Allyson fell into a depression but let me tell you, if everything is going wrong and you’re miles away from home, best friends, and family, it’s pretty easy to lose yourself. I think Gayle Forman did a great job of portraying the quirks and seriousness of possible college situations.

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WHERE SHE WENT by Gayle Forman

Whoops, another Gayle Forman book (oh, who am I kidding? Gayle dominates most of my top lists…) and again, she totally nailed it. I loved seeing Mia at Julliard and Adam out in the real world, both kind of lost without each other. You see them really start to become grown-ups and mature at a rapid rate.

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DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor

Although it’s not the main focus, we do see a lot of Karou at the university/art school. I think I just appreciate the university life style because it’s more laid back and there’s a lot more freedom for the character instead of sticking to a rigid school schedule and stuck in the same halls and same walls. I feel like Karou’s story would have been vastly different if she was still in high school (not like I know what the Prague “high schools” are like, but still). I also really liked seeing her be able to focus on what she really loves and wants to do.

THE ONE I’M CHEATING BY USING

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THE TROUBLE WITH FLIRTING by Claire LaZebnik

Okay, so technically Franny is still in high school, but the theater camp takes place at a college, so I’m counting it. It’s still got a taste of the college experience with the kids in dorms and although they’re not attending class, they’re still performing plays and learning in workshops. Franny’s also got a bit more freedom (well, kind of) by staying with her aunt and all of it is a new and exciting experience.

THE ONES I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH… BUT STILL COUNT

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THE ELEMENTALS by Francesca Lia Block

I didn’t particularly care for this one because it was a little off-the-wall, but this was another book set in college. I just really appreciated all the freedom Ariel had and without it, the story would have been MUCH different.

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COMMENCEMENT by J. Courtney Sullivan

I really only picked up COMMENCEMENT because it took place in college! I loved the idea of seeing these girls develop such tight friendships in college but it was really too feminist for me AND the story took a weird turn at the end. It wasn’t quite the book for me, but I really appreciated the university setting!

So that was really only seven but I have several more on my TBR list and I’m ALWAYS looking for recommendations for books that take place in/at college or university! If you have more suggestions for me, as always, please let me know!!

The Elementals: A Perfect Example of New Adult

The Selective Collective reads THE ELEMENTALS by FRANCESCA LIA BLOCK

Intro to The Selective Collective

You may know us as the ladies behind Casting Call, but I am so excited to say that Sandie and Diana (Teen Lit Rocks), Tee (YA Crush), Dixie and Maggie (Gone Pecan), Candice (The Grown Up YA), and I have officially formed a book club called The Selective Collective. Each month we’ll bring you one or two new releases or upcoming books to read, review, and discuss, exclusively in the genres of YA and New Adult. Each blog will host a specific feature to discuss the book whether by questions, review, discussion, etc., and the blog to host each feature will flip every book so we all get a chance to explore these amazing reads in different ways.

Without further ado, let’s jump into our very first book for The Selective Collective, and that was The Elementals by Francesca Lia Block (provided to us by the publisher, St. Martin’s Press exclusively for the use of our book club).
Check out Goodreads for a full synopsis and more information.

The Elusive Genre of New Adult

When we first received The Elementals for our October read, I was expecting more of a young adult novel based on the Goodreads description, specifically when it refers to The Elementals as a coming-of-age story. The further I got into the book, the more I realized how it was quite far from young adult! I’m happy to say that this is one of those elusive New Adult titles I’ve been craving ever since my college days.

Toto, We’re Not In High School Anymore…

The Elementals tells us the story of Ariel, a freshman at Berkeley, who’s struggling to cope with the new revelation of her mother’s breast cancer and the unresolved case of her best friend Jeni’s disappearance a year prior to her arrival at college. For the first time ever, she is truly on her own. Ariel had a really close relationship with her family and her that family dynamic has totally been turned upside down with the introduction of cancer into the mix. Her parents try to shield her from the horrible experiences that her mother is withstanding and Ariel also does her best to avoid any awkward or uncomfortable topics. Ariel is also now completely alone in the fact that her best friend Jeni was her other half. From childhood throughout high school, they were inseparable and did everything together, even down to applying to the same college and living together there. With these two giant rifts in her life and the separation from the home she’s always known, Ariel takes a really big step to becoming independent at the most unstable point in her life.
The New Adult genre is quite different from Young Adult in the fact that our main characters are now experiencing life in a totally different way – they’re completely independent for the first time in their lives and must now face multitudes of responsibilities, many of which can be overwhelming. I think Francesca Lia Block did a great job of having the reading experience all of these brand-new changes through Ariel. I really felt a sense of how alone she must have felt being in a strange place, living with a stranger who is quite the opposite, as well as taking more difficult classes and managing her own extra-curriculars and actively building social connections. We’re separated from the high school environment where we had friends in every class, most of which were probably kids we went to school with all of our lives, as well as food, shelter, and money being provided by dear old Mom and Dad. We see all of the above in Ariel’s story – she’s lost her family connection by moving out, and she’s also lost that familiar connection with the absence of Jeni in her life. Jeni really was her rock, the one person she could count on as a social support, and it almost seems like with this huge hole in her life, Ariel’s not quite sure how to create healthy relationships. It also seems a lot harder for her to meet people in college when she really has to go out of her way to talk to people and make real connections.
Even if a New Adult novel doesn’t necessarily focus on the college experience, the characters are reaching the age when it’s time to leave the house and focus on building a life for themselves. They now have the freedom to go out and pursue new experiences, many of which they couldn’t do under their parents roofs.

Not Suitable for Younger Audiences

College and/or moving out of the home does force a lot of responsibility, but it also allows for quite a bit of freedoms, many of which Ariel chooses to pursue throughout The Elementals, one of which is exploring her sexuality for the first time in her life. This seems to be a REALLY big difference between New Adult and Young Adult with the specific example of The Elementals in mind. We do often see sexual encounters and teen relationships developing in Young Adult novels, but I think a big difference we see here is the detail in which the relationships are explored. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying it’s anything like a romance novel – but the descriptions and details of the sexual side of the characters are much more explicit and are also taken to different and darker places. Throughout The Elementals, we deal with abuse, drug influences, hazing, bullying, and passion all intertwining with sexual elements. That’s not to say we don’t see any of these topics in Young Adult literature, but they are not discussed as in depth or are used so prominently as themes throughout the book. Sex is definitely a major theme in this book and I would also say that it’s definitely geared towards more maturer audiences.
On a smaller level, we see a large selection of other freedoms that Ariel experiences as well: Freedom to leave her home as she pleases – or on the flip side, to choose not to come home and to stay with John, Tania, and Perry. She has the ability to dabble with alcohol and drugs, although on a minor level of wine and marijuana use with her friends. We do also see these elements in some young adult novels, but I think the difference from that and New Adult is that even a few years makes a difference: I feel that readers, in general, are a lot more receptive to all of these kinds of experimentations for a teenager transitioning into adulthood and figuring out their own choices at 18/19/20 whereas the same situations at 15/16/17 may come off as intense, inappropriate, or damaging.

Truly a Coming of Age Tale

I really do feel like The Elementals could only be described as a New Adult book. Even though I was a bit thrown off by the fact that it was described as a “coming of age” tale – something I usually attribute to the young adult age range – I’ve really started to change my mind of what “coming of age” really entails. After reading The Elementals and really connecting this with my own personal experiences, I couldn’t agree more that when I was a “new adult”, those were the times I started to change the most. Away from home, making my own money, truly making my own decisions without parental influence, taking steps to make a real future for myself – That’s really the time I started make a lot of changes towards the person I am today.

So what do you think? How are you enjoying the development of the New Adult genre? What do you think are the defining elements between Young Adult and New Adult? 

And please don’t forget to check out the features from the other ladies in The Selective Collective! We each have a post to feature a different side of The Elementals so please go visit their take on the book as well!

Review:  The Elementals – Tee @ YA Crush
Author Q &A + Giveaway:
  Francesca Lia Block – Candice @ The Grown-Up YA
Casting Call:  Who would you cast in The Elementals?
– Diana & Sandie @ Teen Lit Rocks
General Discussion/Book Club Questions – Dixie & Maggie @ Gone Pecan