Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill

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 ha11721314zelnut 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.

First Impressions: I loved the cover, which is partly why I picked it up. It’s a sweet and simple love story. Characteristically YA, it is exactly what I love about the genre. Falling in love, discovering the truth and finding yourself. I read it in a day and I know it is going to be one of those books that I routinely go back to for comfort and laughs. Definitely a good one.

Honestly, I bought this book mostly because it takes place in London, and I’m so excited to go that I’ve been trying to read as much about it as possible. So when I read the back cover, I instantly added it to my list.

Julia is a straight-As-making, rules-following, risk-avoiding type of girl who loves Austen and Shakespeare and is waiting for her MTB (‘Meant to Be’) Mark to finally get around to noticing her. When a cruel twist of fate lands her partnered with the resident class clown (and class jerk, is Julia’s opinion) Jason Lippincott, she thinks that her London trip is destined for doom. One drunken party later and she starts receiving mysterious texts, making her think further about what it means to be an ‘MTB’.

I really liked this book. It is short and just what I want from a Young Adult book. To top it off, the writing is hilarious. Not often do I literally laugh out loud at words on a page, but Morrill writes with such wit and comedy that I was laughing the whole way through.

It also doesn’t that Julia reminds me a lot of myself. If I think about it hard enough, I can almost always find a way to identify with a character. But with Julia, it was easy. She’s just like me. You know, she wants big things for herself. An awesome education, a good job and a nice guy to be with. Who doesn’t want that? But she has this tendency to get a bit too wrapped up in what is ‘safe’. She doesn’t take risks. She doesn’t break the rules. Then, she gets partnered with Jason.

Jason was interesting to read. He is unlike many YA leading boys. He’s goofy, obnoxious and embarrasses Julia much too frequently for her liking. Jason’s just that kind of guy and that is his way of communicating with her.

As I traveled with Julia and Jason on their mystery texter chase, I watched their characters develop and become more emotionally complex. The best part was seeing Julia actually doing something with herself, pushing her limits and doing what scares her.

It’s all about setting yourself free. Julia has her whole life planned out, and that’s not a bad thing, but it’s restricting. By putting too much emphasis on her plans, she squishes herself in this relentless box and it’s preventing herself from actually living. It’s preventing her from experiencing what and who her life throws at her. And that’s not what being a young person is about. When you’re young, you should be open to everything and everyone. That’s the only way to learn about yourself and who you are ‘MTB’. It’s awesome to see Julia slowly break down some of her self-constructed walls and it’s awesome to see Jason  right next to her, helping (and bugging) her along the way.

9 out of 10!

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Thursday Thoughts: Thanksgiving…a week late

Last week, I really wanted to write a run of the mill post about Thanksgiving and what I’m thankful for and all that jazz. But Thanksgiving was on Thursday and I honestly did not want to blog on the hungriest holiday of the year. It was quite fun though. This year, my family got together and played our first annual game of kickball, which was comical at best. With a few exceptions, we are not an athletic family. I mean, I am not athletic at all. My idea of “sports” is Irish dance (which I am pretty good at) and golf (which I am the living worst at). Anyways, it was pretty funny and awesome. I’m very thankful to be so close with my cousins. I’m also thankful that I have parents who are helping me find my way ti England next semester (!!!) and I’m thankful for all the people and all the things. Now, enjoy some embarrassing pictures of us attempting to play kickball.

Waiting on Wednesday: Love and Other Perishable Items

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly blog event hosted by Breaking the Spine that features upcoming releases that we are eagerly awating. Of course, the book I’ve chosen is written by a debut author, and as soon as it comes out, I will hopefully post about it.

Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo

From Goodreads:

Love is awkward, Amelia should know.

From the moment she sets eyes on Chris, she is a goner. Lost. Sunk. Head over heels infatuated with him. It’s problematic, since Chris, 21, is a sophisticated university student, while Amelia, is 15.

Amelia isn’t stupid. She knows it’s not gonna happen. So she plays it cool around Chris—at least, as cool as she can. Working checkout together at the local supermarket, they strike up a friendship: swapping life stories, bantering about everything from classic books to B movies, and cataloging the many injustices of growing up. As time goes on, Amelia’s crush doesn’t seem so one-sided anymore. But if Chris likes her back, what then? Can two people in such different places in life really be together?

Through a year of befuddling firsts—first love, first job, first party, and first hangover—debut author Laura Buzo shows how the things that break your heart can still crack you up.

Thursday Thoughts: How and Why We Read – John Green

John Green makes these videos on YouTube that are essentially mini school lessons in a much more entertaining form. He recently finished his series on world history and just began his series on literature. Here’s the introductory video. Just thought I’d share it here because I think he really explains how and why people read- what we get from it, why we get what we get from it.

Check out the Crashcourse channel here! It has videos done by the Green brothers about history, literature and biology.

Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

Title: Other Words for Love

Author: Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Ari Mitchell feels invisible at her Brooklyn high school. Her hair is too flat, her style too preppy, and her personality too quiet. And outside school, Ari feels outshined by her beautiful, confident best friend, Summer. Their friendship is as complex and confusing as Ari’s relationship with her troubled older sister, Evelyn, a former teenage mom whose handsome firefighter husband fills Ari’s head with guilty fantasies.
When an unexpected inheritance enables Ari to transfer to an elite Manhattan prep school, she makes a wealthy new friend, Leigh. Leigh introduces Ari to the glamorous side of New York—and to her gorgeous cousin, Blake. Ari doesn’t think she stands a chance, but amazingly, Blake asks her out. As their romance heats up, they find themselves involved in an intense, consuming relationship. Ari’s family worries that she is losing touch with the important things in life, like family, hard work, and planning for the future. 
When misfortune befalls Blake’s family, he pulls away, and Ari’s world drains of color. As she struggles to get over the breakup, Ari must finally ask herself: were their feelings true love . . . or something else?

First Impressions: I loved the cover, that’s why I bought it. The characters are a lot to get used to, but they showed promise.

Pick it up if: You like a book that realistically portrays the mind of a sixteen year old girl, including the constant frantic, stressful, and insecure thoughts that fill the minds most teenage girls. I’d also pick it up just for the conflicts between Ari and her older sister, they’re very interesting and give the book that extra something that makes it worthwhile.

I’m not going to lie, after the first fifty pages, I told myself that my review on Other Words for Love would be the first truly negative one I’ve ever written. I mean, I did NOT the story at all at first. I was really disappointed about it too, because I’m a sucker for teen romances set in New York (preferably the ones written by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan). But I just totally hated Ari, who is the main character. Throughout the whole beginning of the book she was so critically observant, judging almost everyone, including her pregnant sister and her mother. There was one moment when she mentioned the layer of fat that was accumulating underneath her pregnant sister’s chin and her knee dimples and she said that it was too bad because her sister used to be beautiful. And then there was a time when her mom was wearing a tank top shirt, and Ari said she shouldn’t because she was overweight and it showed in her arms. I’m just sitting here like, WHAT ARE KNEE DIMPLES DO I HAVE THEM TOO?! And I thought to myself, this isn’t why I read books. I read to escape my brain and my own insecurities, not to be made aware of potential new ones. I was mad at the author too, for bringing these things to light and it sort of made me feel bad about myself, and that’s not what books should be about (in my opinion).

But there was no way I was going to stop reading it because that’s a sin and I had a little faith that the story would grow on me. And it turned out it did.

Ari isn’t a judgmental person, she is an insecure person, and the whole book is about her finding a way to feel good about herself and to feel happy. Looking back at those first fifty pages, I’m no longer mad at the author. What she did is the hardest thing to do when writing a book. She wrote honestly. She wrote the way a sixteen year old thinks, and she didn’t leave any of it out because it wasn’t nice. And I think that sometimes authors get stuck on the idea of being nice. Rosenthal didn’t, and that made all the difference between a mediocre beach reading book and an intuitive story filled with impressive character development and heart.

Ari desperately wants a boyfriend and points out everything that’s wrong with her as an excuse for why she doesn’t have one, which is something I think a lot of sixteen year-olds do. And then she finally gets one and everything’s great until it’s not anymore. I’m trying really hard not to reveal anything that’s not on the back cover.

She goes through these waves of emotions and changes from an insecure girl to a depressed one. And then she has to figure out how to pick herself up, because sometimes there’s no one around to help you and life goes on. And to clarify, it doesn’t bring out my own insecurities, not in a bad way at least. Ari’s own self-consciousness makes me aware of my own too, yes, but it’s good because I travel with her down this road and I become a little bit more powerful, a little bit more hopeful, a little bit happier. So I apologize for being such a hater earlier.

I loved the ending. It’s inspiring to watch Ari pick up the pieces of her scattered life and fit them together again. She finds the strength within her that she always had, but never knew about and she emerges changed. She surfaces with dreams and a future and hopes and the realization that she doesn’t need the safety net of a man to get what she wants from life. And that right there folks, is some serious character development. And it’s why I read books.

8.5 out of 10.

Thursday Thoughts: From a Coffee Shop

Last week in my journalism class, we discussed descriptive writing, which is basically creative writing for journalists. They don’t use it as much, because basic news stories don’t need it. But sometimes they do, especially when they’re writing a feature story or a focus story or something like that. Anyways, the assignment in class was to go out and write what you saw. So, because I can’t think of anything else to write about for Thursday Thoughts, I am going to show you what I wrote. Feel free to ignore this post, as it is not applicable to anything else that I write about. Perhaps it will get you in the autumn spirit.

The coffee shop on Court Street warms patrons as they walk in. The smell of dark roasts fills the nostrils of hasty work-goers and tired students. Murmurs come from across the room as a pair works on an astronomy project. The cash register steadily beeps in the background and the barista sings along to “All My Loving” by the Beatles, tapping her foot to the beat of the music.

Two men sit at a long dining room table in the back. One is young, with glasses and a scruffy chin. The other is older, with thinning hair and a full gray beard. They discuss an essay on Atlas Shrugged over drinks in red mugs.

Autumnal colors decorate the shop, making the atmosphere cozy and comfortable. Squat orange pumpkins sit on tiny hay bales in the window next to bunches of artificial sunflowers and orange maple leaves. A cluster of dried wheat stalks as tall as the door stand in every corner of the shop. Despite the unseasonably warm weather outside, there is no question that within the walls of Court Street Coffee, it is fall.

The espresso machine whirs back to life and milk steams as the barista hurries to finish brewing an order.

“Small mocha with whip!” she calls, placing the drink on the counter.

A man wearing thick brown work boots, an old pair of Levi’s and a plaid flannel shirt retrieves his drink. When he takes a sip, he winces from the hot liquid and a bit of the whipped cream sticks to his black speckled mustache. He does not notice it though, and leaves the shop, the bell on the door ringing as he goes.

Waiting on Wednesday: Not Exactly a Love Story

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly blog event hosted by Breaking the Spine that features upcoming releases that we are eagerly awating. Of course, the book I’ve chosen is written by a debut author, and as soon as it comes out, I will DEFINITELY post about it.

Not Exactly a Love Story by Audrey Couloumbis

Random House Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: December 11, 2012

From Goodreads:

It’s 1977. 

Fifteen-year old Vinnie isn’t having a good year. He’s recovering from the worst case of galloping acne his dermatologist’s ever seen. His girl moved to California without even saying good-bye. And the ink on his parents divorce papers is barely dry, when his mom announces that they’re moving from Queens to Long Island.

The silver lining in all this is that they move next door to Patsy—everyone’s dream girl. Not that she’d ever notice him. But when Vinnie calls Patsy one night, it leads to a chain of anonymous midnight conversations. Under the cover of darkness, Vinnie becomes Vincenzo, Patsy’s mystery caller, and the two share a side of themselves they would never reveal in daylight and develop a surprisingly real connection (despite the lies it’s built on). As Vinnie gets to know Patsy in real life though, it becomes clear both identities can’t survive and he’ll have to find a way to hangup the phone and step into the daylight. Fraught with complications and crackling with witty dialogue, and all the angst and electricity that comes with always being just a phone wire away from the one you want, acclaimed author Audrey Couloumbis’s YA debut is a smooth-talking Cyrano meets Saturday Night Fever and tells a quirky, flirty, and smart story that will appeal to fans of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Frank Portman’s King Dork, Natalie Standiford’s How to Say Goodbye in Robot, and John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines. It’s not exactly a love story . . . but it’s pretty close.