May 27, 2015

Welcome to Hundred Oaks

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Release Date: December 1, 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Source & Format: Library; Paperback
Series: Hundred Oaks #1
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Brief Thoughts on Catching Jordan
I started my series binge at the very beginning, though I'd been told by a few friends that this was the weakest book. I thought about starting with a different one, but I wanted to be able to appreciate the character cameos later on. I'm not a sports fan and only like the Friday Night Lights TV version of football, but I still found Jordan's story interesting! I loved that she was a quarterback and stood out in a male-dominated sport. I enjoyed the way her team listened to her and followed her lead as captain. I wish she'd been a little less judgmental of other girls and hated the way her best friend used girls, and yet I was still rooting for them. However, Jordan very quickly went from "not at all interested in guys" to crazy over the attractive new guy who was very one-dimensional. Their whole relationship progressed so quickly, and I had a number of issues with it. Certain things felt inconsistent, and I was surprised by how sexual it was at times. This whole series is actually a lot more mature than I expected! But what did I love? The family dynamics! She's got an awesome older brother, an incredibly supportive mom and some issues with her father but you know he cares about her. Seeing her relationship with her mom and dad was definitely a highlight for me. While this is my least favorite, I knew I wanted to read the second book when I finished. | So Okay With It

Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally

Release Date: October 1, 2012
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Source & Format: Library; Paperback
Series: Hundred Oaks #2
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Brief Thoughts on Stealing Parker
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, but I was both pleasantly surprised and a little shocked by the story. Parker's perfect life is in shambles after her mother's secret comes to light. Her family is coming apart, her friends have ditched her, and she's abandoned the sport that used to bring her so much joy. Because she's hurting, she starts making rash decisions. She's confused and not really thinking clearly, but it makes sense for her character. I ached for her, and I kept wishing the people in her life would notice what was going on. She writes prayers/letters to God, and they broke my heart. You can see just how lost and confused she is about what she believes and what's happening in her life. She pursues a hugely problematic relationship with someone, and both people do things that made me livid. However, I hold the other person (an authority figure) way more responsible because he's an adult. It's an uncomfortable situation, and it was definitely my least favorite part of this book. But, at the same time, I can see how it's crucial to Parker's growth and loved the strength she found in herself because of it. My favorite aspect was her friendship with Drew and Corndog. She relaxes around both of them and they brought out the best in her. Corndog, in particular, quickly became my favorite Kenneally boy. My third favorite in the series! | So Liked It

Things I Can't Forget by Miranda Kenneally

Release Date: March 1, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Source & Format: Library; Paperback
Series: Hundred Oaks #3
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Brief Thoughts on Things I Can't Forget
Of all Kenneally's book, I think Things I Can't Forget is the most polarizing. Kate Kelly has always been the good girl, but she's carrying a huge secret. She's about to spend her summer as a camp counselor, and she's hoping to put the past behind her. Kate is a really difficult character because she's very judgmental. She's grown up in church and never questioned what she believes. I think most readers will be immediately turned off by her attitude, which is likely Kenneally's intention. And while I didn't like Kate, I was mostly just sad for her. She's in a church where the rules matter more than a personal relationship with Jesus, so it's not surprising that she thinks and acts the way she does. I appreciated the message that Kate is questioning her faith, needs to decide for herself what she believes and can't force those beliefs on other people. But Kate herself isn't really what bothered me about this book. This is influenced by my own faith, but I was deeply troubled by the fact that the book only portrayed judgmental Christians or ones who believed in God but basically did whatever they wanted. Both exist, so it's realistic, but I was never able to enjoy the book because of it. I'd love to see more faith in YA, but I was disappointed with its portrayal here. I wouldn't have continued this series if I'd read this one first, though I loved seeing Parker and her boy again! | So Okay With It

Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally

Release Date: December 3, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Source & Format: Library; Paperback
Series: Hundred Oaks #4
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Brief Thoughts on Racing Savannah
I grew up riding horses, so I was probably predisposed to love this book! And I'm a sucker for love stories where the characters come from two different worlds... I think I can blame that on my Pride and Prejudice obsession. Savannah's dad takes a job at Cedar Hill Farms, and the owner's son is supposed to be off limits. They keep spending time together, and neither one can deny their attraction. But let's talk about the setting first. I think my love for horses and my familiarity with life in a barn is a big reason this is my second favorite book in the series! I loved the moments Savannah spent with Star, trying to figure out what he was afraid of and pushing her dad to let her take risks while riding. As with previous Kenneally books, I was so happy to see that family was important to Savannah and to Jack. Though not without problems in this book, it's refreshing to read about characters who are close to their parents. Past characters (and some of their siblings) appear in Racing Savannah, and that's one reason I love this series. I love how connected everyone is, and it's so fun to see where characters end up in the future. But what about the romance? It wasn't my favorite. I liked Jack, but then he royally pissed me off. And he never quite got back in my good graces after that, though I was so proud of Savannah for standing up for herself. | So Enjoyed It

Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally

Release Date: July 15, 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 320 pages
Source & Format: Library; Hardcover
Series: Hundred Oaks #5
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Brief Thoughts on Breathe, Annie, Breathe
And now we get to my favorite book in the series! Having read all five books in the span of three days, I can definitely attest to how much Kenneally's writing improves over the course of the series. I think it's enjoyable from the very beginning, but I think it's strongest in Breathe, Annie, Breathe. From the plot to the characters, this is the book I'd be most likely to re-read. Annie hates running, but she's determined to finish a marathon in memory of her boyfriend. She's grieving his loss and blaming herself for it, but the race gives her something to focus on. However, training is harder than she ever imagined. She's got an excellent coach helping her along, but her body can barely take the pressure. Of the whole series, I was the most emotionally invested in this story. There's something about Annie's guilt and grief that drew me in, and I was proud of the way she started to move on. Of course, it's not a Kenneally book without some romance. Jeremiah Brown completely won me over, and he and Annie balance each other out perfectly. He's my second favorite Kenneally boy, but Jeremiah and Annie might be my favorite Kenneally couple. They have a lot of issues to work through - individually and together - but I loved getting to read about that journey! | So Loved It

7 comments:

  1. I have read all of these books except Breathe Annie, Breathe and I loved them all. I do think the first book is the weakest but it is still enjoyable. My favourite one was definitely Racing Savannah! So glad you enjoyed it XD Lovely review! :)

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  2. Great post. I really enjoy this series and have already inhaled the latest in the Hundred Oaks bunch, Jesse's Girl (which was another great addition to the series). Racing Savannah is probably my favorite too.

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  3. The only one I've read is Catching Jordan and I felt similarly; I thought it was okay but something about the writing felt young while the material felt mature. Not one I would reread. But I keep hearing such good things about these books so I bought Stealing Parker to try and now I want to see about Breathe Annie Breathe! Did it feel similar to The Start of Me and You? Can't believe you read all 5 in a three day span, that's seriously impressive!

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  4. I'm so, so happy that you binge read the Hundred Oaks series! Aren't they such great contemporary reads? I really enjoy how Miranda writes stories that are refreshing, authentic and populated with such great, complex characters. My top three, personally, are Stealing Parker, Breathe Annie Breathe and Jesse's Girl!

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  5. I picked Racing Savannah as the one Keneally book I could buy at a signing last year. Glad to hear it was one you enjoyed!

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  6. I was so excited for this series and than I read Catching Jordan and felt really disappointed. So many of the things you mentioned just really bothered me. But reading your thoughts on the series and knowing it's one of the weakest makes me think it may actually be worth giving this series a second chance.

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