Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Review - Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally

Title:  Breathe, Annie, Breathe
Series: Hundred Oaks #5
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Release Date: July 15, 2014
Pages: 306
Goodreads Rating: 4.10/5 Stars
My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
My Content Rating: Mature YA (Sexual activity, not explicit, but described; Some language)

Summary from Goodreads: Annie hates running. No matter how far she jogs, she can’t escape the guilt that if she hadn’t broken up with Kyle, he might still be alive. So to honor his memory, she starts preparing for the marathon he intended to race.

But the training is even more grueling than Annie could have imagined. Despite her coaching, she’s at war with her body, her mind—and her heart. With every mile that athletic Jeremiah cheers her on, she grows more conflicted. She wants to run into his arms…and sprint in the opposite direction. For Annie, opening up to love again may be even more of a challenge than crossing the finish line.

I won Breathe, Annie, Breathe from Goodreads First Reads (after I'd already gotten it from NetGalley!) and was very excited to read it because I'd heard a lot of buzz about it at BEA.  Then I realized that it was the fifth book in a series!! Now, I will say that this actually is one of those books that you could read as a standalone - you really wouldn't be missing much besides some fun references to past characters. But I CAN'T DO IT! I always feel like I'm missing out, so I had to go read the first four books before I could start in on this one.  Well, I breezed through all four easily (these books are exceptionally quick reads) and I'm so glad I got to know all of these characters!  I think Breathe, Annie, Breathe was my favorite Hundred Oaks book yet!

The synopsis describes the book well, so I'm going to skip right to my review.

  • Annie's story.  I was completely drawn into Annie's story. We find out about Kyle's death early in the book, but the history between Annie and Kyle and the story of what actually happened to him is revealed slowly throughout the book. Annie's heartbreak over Kyle was palpable - and it made this book really resonate with me. She was trying so hard to honor him by running the marathon, even though the training was torture for her. Then, the added confusion over her feelings for Jeremiah just compounded her pain. Annie's story was messy - certainly not always pretty - which is just the way it should be!
  • The marathon.  Last year, my husband ran his first marathon and I can attest to the fact that the training is grueling! Kenneally did a fantastic job of portraying Annie's pain throughout the marathon training process. While Annie's physical issues were different than my husband's were, I know firsthand (well, okay, secondhand) that this type of training is ridiculously intense and incredibly hard on your body. Since I, like Annie, am NOT a runner, I could totally imagine what it was like for her - how torturous the process would be and how she would totally WANT to quit, even while wanting desperately to complete the race for Kyle.
  • The relationships. This book explored not just the romance between Jeremiah and Annie (which I loved), but also her relationships with her friends and family. How did Annie's relationship with Kyle affect her friendships? How did his death affect her relationship with her family - and his family? These questions and more were explored in a realistic way. This book wasn't only about the romance between the two main characters!
  • Old friends.  This book wove in A LOT of characters from the previous books, so we got to see how their lives are progressing. Matt, Jake, Savannah, Vanessa, Rory, Jordan, Sam - they're all here!  And, of course, Jeremiah is Matt's brother, who we got a glimpse of in Stealing Parker. I love seeing these old characters tied into each new story!
The negatives:
  • Jeremiah's issues.  I don't want to go into what Jeremiah's issues actually were, but this was the one area where I was a bit unsure. First I thought maybe everybody was making a big deal out of nothing, but then as the book went on, I could kind of see where they were coming from a bit more. I still thought everyone was being a bit overprotective of him (but that was redeemed somewhat in the end). My main problem is that there was this little niggling worry at the back of my mind that Jeremiah's issues might not really be permanently solved and they might cause Annie pain at some point in the future. But that's realism, not fiction - I just needed to let it go!
    Breathe, Annie, Breathe is an emotionally compelling examination of love and loss that will make you want to embrace the things that make life worth living!  I give it 4.5/5 stars.

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    About the Author
    Growing up in Tennessee, Miranda Kenneally dreamed of becoming an Atlanta Brave, a country singer (cliché!), or a UN interpreter. Instead she writes, and works for the State Department in Washington, D.C., where George W. Bush once used her shoulder as an armrest. Miranda loves Twitter, Star Trek and her husband.

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