Saturday, January 25, 2014

Review: Meant To Be by Lauren Morrill

Title: Meant To Be
Author: Lauren Morrill
Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction
Publishing Information: 304 pages; November 13, 2012 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Series: Standalone

Where I got it: E-book from the library

Synopsis from Goodreads:

"Meant to be or not meant to be . . . that is the question.

It's one thing to fall head over heels into a puddle of hazelnut coffee, and quite another to fall for the—gasp—wrong guy. Straight-A junior Julia may be accident prone, but she's queen of following rules and being prepared. That's why she keeps a pencil sharpener in her purse and a pocket Shakespeare in her, well, pocket. And that's also why she's chosen Mark Bixford, her childhood crush, as her MTB ("meant to be").

But this spring break, Julia's rules are about to get defenestrated (SAT word: to be thrown from a window) when she's partnered with her personal nemesis, class-clown Jason, on a school trip to London. After one wild party, Julia starts receiving romantic texts . . . from an unknown number! Jason promises to help discover the identity of her mysterious new suitor if she agrees to break a few rules along the way. And thus begins a wild goose chase through London, leading Julia closer and closer to the biggest surprise of all: true love.

Because sometimes the things you least expect are the most meant to be.

Main characters: 3.5/5

Julia was an entertaining main character. She may have started out as the typical type-A main character with a stick up her butt, but she ended up having a lot more complexity than I imagined. And her voice was so hilarious, which is part good writing style and part good character development. Jason was a riot but I definitely followed some of Julia's ups and downs with him. I love how more of his depth came out as Julia got to know him. And as a bonus,  there was no insta-love!

Secondary characters: 1/5

The secondary characters were unfortunately very one-dimensional. I was confused by the large cast and got Sarah and Susan confused a lot, since they were differentiated except as the "mean girls". I wish that the secondary characters were as funny and as well developed as Julia and Jason.

Writing style: 4/5

Morill's writing style was roll-on-the-floor funny; I loved the situational humor (right off the bat Julia accidentally grabs the businessman's thigh instead of the armrest) and the humorous voice of Julia and Morill's writing style. Jason and Julia's back and forth was slightly juvenile but I enjoyed it- it reminded me of high school. The pacing was excellent. One of the downsides was that there was a little too much of Julia antagonizing over her decisions and feelings. As much as I love seeing the thought process behind characters changing their minds, sometimes these parts would start to drag.

Plot: 3/5
The plot actually reminded me of the Lizzie McGuire movie at first which I adore cause I'm totally a 90s child. While nothing was new or unique about the plotline, it was enjoyable to read. Add that to the fact that the situations were hilarious, and the plotline definitely kept me entertained. For example, the brawl scene at the party was excellent. The comedy of misunderstandings is funny, but it was maybe a bit too overused here, especially when I knew what was coming the entire time. However, even though I saw most of the shots coming, Morill changed it up at the end with a big twist. I wish I had paid more attention to some of the smaller details so there would have been a bigger trail of the "ahhhh" moment. 

Ending: 4/5

Pretty effective. I wish that there had been a tiny bit more time for them to wrap things up because the end happened so quickly after the shocking twist, but I love how the end incorporated the themes and didn't come out of nowhere.

Best scene: Julia playing secret agent and following Jason or Julia accidentally volunteering for a street performance

Positives: Hilarious situations & voice, surprisingly complex characters, twist at the end

Negatives: Drab and stereotypical secondary characters, some stereotypical points, I saw most of the plot coming

Cover: I can't really decide. I love it all but the one element I'm not sure about is the rainbow overlay.

Verdict: Cute and funny, a light romance!

Rating: 6.2/10 (3 stars)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Review: Tempest by Julie Cross

Title: Tempest
Author: Julie Cross

Genre: YA Paranormal
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Length: 352 pages
Original Publishing Date: January 17th, 2012
Series: Tempest #1
Where I got it: I honestly don't remember! It's an ARC so I assume it was from a giveaway? I feel bad but I just found it buried away somewhere and was like, "I totally forgot that I had this!".

Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads:

"The year is 2009.  Nineteen-year-old Jackson Meyer is a normal guy… he’s in college, has a girlfriend… and he can travel back through time. But it’s not like the movies – nothing changes in the present after his jumps, there’s no space-time continuum issues or broken flux capacitors – it’s just harmless fun.

That is… until the day strangers burst in on Jackson and his girlfriend, Holly, and during a struggle with Jackson, Holly is fatally shot. In his panic, Jackson jumps back two years to 2007, but this is not like his previous time jumps. Now he’s stuck in 2007 and can’t get back to the future.

Desperate to somehow return to 2009 to save Holly but unable to return to his rightful year, Jackson settles into 2007 and learns what he can about his abilities.

But it’s not long before the people who shot Holly in 2009 come looking for Jackson in the past, and these “Enemies of Time” will stop at nothing to recruit this powerful young time-traveler.  Recruit… or kill him.

Piecing together the clues about his father, the Enemies of Time, and himself, Jackson must decide how far he’s willing to go to save Holly… and possibly the entire world."

Main characters: 4/5

I wasn't sure about Jackson at first, but as the novel went on he seemed to gain more complexity and depth. Sometimes he was tedious and a little boring, but more than anything he just seemed like a normal kid. I liked that he was a "good guy", but he still had these flaws and quirks that made him not just that "good guy". He was kind of a player at times, and that made me giggle. I also really liked the fact that Jackson was a male narrator and that he had a girlfriend before the book started.

Secondary characters: 3.5/5

Holly was sweet and I liked the back and forth between 2007 and 2009 Holly, but she was a little less developed. Part of it was because we weren't as deep into her mind as we were Jackson. I really liked Jackson's sidekick, Adam, both for his role Jackson's foil and for his humorous inputs. I also thought Jackson's dad was an interesting addition to the story and I liked their family history. 

Writing style: 3/5

The dialogue in Tempest was refreshingly real, and the pacing was excellent. Once I started, I couldn't put the book down. The one spot where the pacing fell apart was toward the end, where we started bouncing around at breakneck speeds. I was finding it difficult to keep up with all that was happening. The descriptions were perfect and the writing was entertaining and Jackson's voice was funny and unique. My only negative was that the novel was a bit long and it dragged a little in the middle.

Plot: 4/5
The time-traveling in Tempest was surprisingly fresh: I liked the details that made it different. The rules, the "home base" time, all of that was fun and unique. I also liked the conflict: Jackson being stuck in time and trying to get back to save his girlfriend, Holly. Cross seemed to have the worldbuilding down. Some of the plot conflict was sparse in the middle and then jampacked at the end.

Ending: 2/5

It's not that I didn't like the ending, I just felt like there was so much that my brain was completely overwhelmed. It didn't help that a lot of it would hurt my brain anyway. Also, there was definitely a bit of a cliffhanger.

Best scene: Jackson and Holly's picnic in Central Park

Reminded Me Of: The Time Traveler's Wife

The refreshing aspects of the time-travel trope, a strong male narrator, the writing style

Negatives: Some of the pacing was off (middle and end), slightly less developed secondary characters, the ending

Cover: I really like this cover. The font, the background, the foreground image... all of it is so pretty!

Verdict: An entertaining twist on the time travel trope.

Rating: 6.6/10 (4 stars)

What I Was Listening To: 
I love some throwbacks and while I was reading Tempest I was satisfying my classic rock addiction. PS- this is also a great song to run to. 

Your Thoughts: Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven't, will you be adding it to your TBR list? How does it compare to other time travel books you've read? Let me know!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Review: Storm by Brigid Kemmerer

Title: Storm
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Genre: YA Paranormal Fiction
Publishing Information: 353 pages; April 24, 2012 by Kensington
Series: Elemental #1

Where I got it: E-book from the library

Synopsis from Goodreads:

"Becca Chandler is suddenly getting all the guys; all the ones she doesn't want. Ever since her ex-boyfriend spread those lies about her. Then she saves Chris Merrick from a beating in the school parking lot. Chris is different. Way different: he can control water just like his brothers can control fire, wind, and earth. They're powerful. Dangerous. Marked for death.

And now that she knows the truth, so is Becca.

Secrets are hard to keep when your life's at stake. When Hunter, the mysterious new kid around school, turns up with a talent for being in the wrong place at the right time, Becca thinks she can trust him. But then Hunter goes head-to-head with Chris, and Becca wonders who's hiding the most dangerous truth of all.

The storm is coming

Main characters: 3/5

Becca definitely had some spunk, but I never really found what made her a unique and interesting character. Chris & Hunter on the other hand, broke some of the stereotypes about the love triangle.  Both Chris and Hunter were really likeable characters to me, which is interesting for a love-triangle. I feel like normally you are supposed to favor one character over the other or one is the "bad boy" character, but I felt that both were really balanced and for a while there was no front-runner. I like how both of them struggled with their powers and dealing with their families. 

Secondary characters: 3/5

The interactions of the brothers was alien to me, as I'm an only child, but I thought that it demonstrated their personalities well. Michael has to balance being a parent to his brother with being their actual brother and his interactions with Gabriel show that well. The scene where Michael meets Becca's mom also serves to humanize him more and allow both Becca and the reader to see him as a young adult or kid rather than a "dad" figure.
Quinn was cute and fun. We see some tension between her and Becca because of the amount of time they spend together and how often Quinn is over at Becca's house, but I liked the fact that Quinn was portrayed as almost a "party girl.

Writing style: 2/5

I noticed that some of the language seemed pedestrian and repetitive, for example using the same verb like "look" or "walk" multiple times on one page. I would have appreciated some variety in verb usage. The pace was a little slow in some parts and didn't flow very well; sometimes I would get distracted on a sentence because it just didn't sound right, and it would pull me completely out of the story.

Plot: 3/5
I liked how the supernatural powers served to emphasize the real drama that was already there, at least in the personal relationships between the brothers. Just some minor research problems I came across: Becca taking two shots and starting to stumble already within 2 minutes? A little overdramatic. The plotline itself also wasn't anything original, but it was entertaining at least. I liked how Becca saved Chris at the beginning, but then I felt like she fell back into a stereotype and didn't have any awesome moments like that again.

Ending: 3/5

The big plot twist at the end was overdramatic and obvious, but I enjoyed the way that it ended without a cliffhanger, but definitely open for future books. The plot twist also opened up a whole new can of worms regarding Becca in a way that I thought was overdone. It would have been unique to leave her out of the action, but this plot twist throws her right back into that stereotypical character.

Best scene: Becca punching Gabriel

Positives: Strong female main character who can stand up for herself, thought-provoking use of the love-triangle, good family interactions between the brothers

Negatives: Mediocre writing, stereotypical plot & some characters, overdone plot twist

Cover: Yuck, I hate this cover. It looks so 90s.

Verdict: Another paranormal romance that gets lost in the crowd

Rating: 5.6/10 (3 stars)

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Title: Pushing the Limits
Author: Katie McGarry
Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction
Publishing Information: 392 pages; July 31, 2012 by Harlequin Teen
Series: Pushing the Limits #1

Where I got it: E-book from the library

Synopsis from Goodreads:

"No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

Main characters: 4/5

Besides the fact that the characters could easily be grouped into their stereotypical archetypes- the "bad boy" with a good heart who only goes for girls who are easy, the quiet "good girl" who has been hurt in the past and gives him a chance- I did connect with Echo & Noah.They were both thoroughly sketched characters, meaning that they were well-rounded and imperfect. Some of their decisions were sorely lacking and that made me connect with them because they seemed like real people. My only negatives were that Noah and Echo were stereotypical stock characters and that there was some insta-love.

Secondary characters: 4.5/5

I liked Isaiah and Beth. They were described as "stoners" but they were good kids and funny too. I thought that it showed a lot of depth to show them as more than the bad kids; a lot more realistic. I appreciated the fact that all of the characters in this novel had depth or layers. Even when I hated characters, I could still see their motivation or understand that they weren't purely evil and I think that's the mark of an excellent author.

Writing style: 3.5/5

I like some of the subtlety worked into revealing things to the reader. Some of it worked to mirror Echo's own memory which had been repressed while others simply served to add tension to the story. The writing moved at a quick enough pace that I wasn't bored, but it had enough details that I could see everything clearly in my mind. Some of the downsides were that the book was a bit long and though nothing particularly dragged, it seemed a little much. Another knock was that some of teh conversations were slightly overdramatic and "soap-opera"-y, which is I think a downside to McGarry's writing style. There's a line between emotional and heartfelt and over-the-top.

Plot: 3/5
As with the characters, I felt that the plot was slightly stereotypical in parts. That being said, I appreciated the twists and the way that the plot unfolded was realistic and entertaining. The biggest merits of this novel are that it is character driven, so the fact that the plot has a lower score is not a negative toward the book itself, but rather a difference in the way that the novel is written.
Ending: 4/5

Yes, everything was wrapped up in a nice pretty bow, but I loved how the characters evolved throughout the novel and the ending was a good representation of where they ended up. 

Best scene: Finding out what happened to Echo- the buildup had made it so dramatic!

Positives: Characters! Pacing and description, subtlety

Negatives: A little long, some stereotypical characters and plot points, sometimes slightly overdramatic

Cover: I'm gonna be honest, I've seen this book around before and I have never been a fan of this cover! It looks like a sub-par self-published e-book cover.

Verdict: A complex character driven romance that was supremely entertaining

Rating: 7.6/10 (4 stars)