Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry.

13560086Pushing the Limits, Book One

392 pages

Published June 1st 2012

Noah and Echo are two broken people, looking for answers and fighting for what they want.

Echo has repressed memories of a night two years ago when something horrible happened to her. She has the scars, and the incomplete story that people told her, but beyond that, nothing. She wants to find out the truth, but is scared it may break her even more.

Noah has been in the system since his parents died, and he’s had his run of bad foster parents. Because of some of his bad choices, he’s lost most of his access to his younger siblings. He wants it back, and is willing to do anything.

Just as Echo is starting to put herself out there again, she and bad boy Noah keep getting thrown together. There’s obvious attraction there – but does she want her old life back, with the footballer boyfriend and peppy friends, and her father controlling her? Or does she want a new, better life, where she can have all of the things she really wants?

 

There was so much hype about this book. While I thought it was pretty good, I found it a little tedious. I think my main issue was that I hated how Echo just let everyone tell her what to do, and I could not wait until she finally started doing what she wanted to do. It seemed to take ages. I understand that that’s who she is, but I was uncomfortable while reading it.

The characters were all right. While I sympathized with Noah and Echo and their issues, I didn’t really connect with either one of them.

I’m not sure if I’ll go on with the companion novels or not. But I would recommend it to people who like high school novels with a bit more substance. The style of it sort of reminded me of Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles.

My Rating: 3/5

Goodreads Rating: 4.13/5

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Crush by Lacey Weatherford.

16045855Crush, Book One

eBook, 332 pages

Published October 20th 2012 by Moonstruck Media

Cami is a good girl but Hunter is not a good boy. He’s new to town, but the rumour mill already has him pegged as a druggie and a player.

Still, Cami can’t deny that she has a crush on him. And it seems like the feeling is reciprocated.

As the two of them hang out and become closer, Hunter wages war with his inner demons. There’s a secret he’s keeping that could destroy their relationship, and he really shouldn’t be putting Cami in that position, but he just can’t help himself.

Meanwhile, there’s another stumbling block in their way – Cami’s best friend, who’s decided that now is the best time to profess his undying love for her. But when she doesn’t return the sentiment, he turns totally, weirdly, crazily jealous and possessive.

 

Crush starts out with both of the leads already crushing on each other, and their relationship moves forward pretty quickly from there. I liked the way this was done because the rest of the novel would have been too rushed if we’d had to watch an initial meeting and all of that before getting to the crushing.

Cami is very likeable. She’s the smart girl who also happens to be like catnip to all the guys – only she doesn’t realise it. Hunter is also likeable as the sweet and smokin’ bad boy who woos her.

Crush is set in high school, so it’s young adult, but it’s closer to the new adult end of the scale then the teenybopper end (the second book is set in college, so I imagine it’s even more new adult-y).

I could kind of see what was going to happen with some things, but it was still exciting to read, plus there was a twist that I didn’t see coming at all. Nothing was revealed too quickly, so it keeps you guessing. I found that as the book went on, the more enjoyable it became. At first, it reminded me of books from the eighties and nineties, like I Know What You Did Last Summer, because the dialogue was kind of dry and proper like it was in those books. But it seemed a lot more natural after a while.

Crush ended up being pretty different then what I expected, but it was also better than I expected. I’m looking forward to continuing on with this series. I just read the blurb for book two, and I am super keen!

My Rating: 4/5

Goodreads Rating: 4.02/5

Geek Girl by Cindy C. Bennett.

12026682318 pages
Published July 26th 2010 by Createspace
Goth-girl Jen bets her friends that she can bring Geek-boy Trevor to the dark side.  Jen begins her pursuit of the actually-quite-cute Trev (“It’s Trevor“), but the more time they spend together, the more Jen likes him. First as a friend, but then as more. Is she corrupting the Geek, or is he dragging her out of the dark?
Jen is seventeen and has been kicked around foster families for years – her own parents so far out of the picture you’d need some kind of super telescope to even see them. A while ago, she decided that she would be the one to decide when it was time to move onto a new family, and start acting out until her current family can’t handle her anymore. Now, with Trevor in the picture, and the fact that the Grants, her foster family, actually seem to care about her, Jen starts thinking that maybe it’s time she settled down?
But when Trevor finds out about the bet, will Jen be able to convince him that it wasn’t all a lie?
Jen plays to win, she just never imagined what the prize would be.
Geek Girl really impressed me. Once again, I found myself in the position of wanting to transition from new adult books back to young adult so I can hopefully tackle some of the many novels of that genre that are lying in wait. I try to pick the transition book carefully because sometimes I find the much younger main character very annoying after reading people’s voices that are my own age. Anyway. I really really really liked this book.
Jen and Trevor are just great. It’s always exciting and fresh to read a teen romance where the girl is bad and the boy is good, as opposed to the never ending list of bad boy/good girl novels out there. Their romance is also just very well done. It isn’t rushed – they start out as friends and slowly move into more. Even when they are together as boyfriend and girlfriend, it’s quite innocent. It’s refreshing to read a book without sex or swearing.
I also really love Jen because here is a girl that has had the worst childhood, but she’s finally beginning to accept that she might have a second chance. She’s finally growing up and wanting to settle down. I’ve always enjoyed reading about people who are broken being put back together again (but it has to be done the right way – even though so many contemporary new adult novels are about broken people, they aren’t as nice as this. I think it’s the innocence thing – but I’m not sure).
My fellow young adult readers, definitely give Geek Girl a try!
My Rating: 4.5/5
Goodreads rating: 4.09/5

Legend of the Oceina Dragon by J.F. Jenkins.

10676662

Book One in The Dragon Saga.

Kindle Edition, 187 pages

First published February 21st 2011

Tai lives on a small island where water dragons fly overhead and there are priests who communicate with them. Every eight years, a sacrifice is made to one of the dragons. A pure young woman of their choosing will be presented to the dragon for, it is thought, consumption. The truth? Those dragons can turn into men, and the girl they choose becomes their bride.

Darien has been watching Tai from afar for years, hopelessly falling in love with her. Once they are married, Darien takes Tai to the mainland, far from her island home. She can never return, as everyone thinks she is dead, and the dragon’s secret must be kept hidden. Tai is unimpressed with being forced into a marriage with Darien, but promises to stick around – at least for a little while.

Darien’s father is the Great Dragon Lord of the Water, and seems to be grooming Darien to follow in the political ways, so Darien keeps having to leave his new bride to attend meetings with his father, much to his despair. Still, Tai seems to be thawing towards him. But what will it mean for the couple when the fire dragons threaten the water dragons?

This was such an amazing idea for a story, and there are so many cool aspects involved as you read it. The flaw, for me, is that it seemed kind of rushed and jumpy. Also, I wish that the world building had been more developed – Legend of the Oceina Dragon was set in modern times, which interested me, as the idea of a small island being protected by dragons with a whole dragon related religion just seems so opposite of modern. I wanted to explore that some more, but this book, at least, didn’t quite deliver.

Still, I feel like this series will get better as it goes on, so I am going to read some more and see how it goes.

My rating: 3/5

Goodreads rating: 3.67/5

Shut Out by Kody Keplinger.

10757771Hardcover, 273 pages

Published September 5th 2011 by Poppy

At Lissa’s high school, the soccer and football teams have a massive rivalry going on. In autumn, it’s war! Often when Lissa and her quarterback boyfriend are having ‘couple time’, some idiot from the soccer team will attack and Lissa’s idiot boyfriend will go after them. She is sick of being second best to some stupid rivalry and assembles all the girlfriends together to hatch a devious plan – the girls will withhold sex (or whatever they happen to be giving their boyfriends) until the boys stop this little war! It starts out with just the footballers girlfriends, but soon the soccer player’s girlfriends join in too.

Soon the boys find out. For a while they don’t do much about it, but then the unattached and unattainable Cash, one of the star soccer players, smarts up and leads the boys properly – strategically trying the lure the girls back into their arms. It just so happens that Cash and Lissa have a bit of a past, which makes all this withholding business that much harder. Who will cave first?

The battle is on.

This is my second Kody Keplinger novel, and once again it is all about teen sex. When I read a book like this, I am always like “seriously? these teens are having that much sex??”. My high school experience was so opposite to this book. Obviously, this may be because of the crowd I hung out with, the fact that I live in a different country to Lissa and also my own views and opinions about teen sex (they are obviously very different to the authors, but I will put that aside). Anyway, I am always a bit incredulous to start with when I read something like this, but I get over it after a while and just settle into the story.

There were some good questions/thoughts raised about the double standards of sex, i.e. a girl who has sex a lot is a slut, but a guy who has sex a lot is a hero. Also, it makes you think about the way girls are treated: like a girl who doesn’t ‘give it up’ is a prude, or a tease, but then if she is having sex, then she’s a whore. It’s really not right for women to be treated this way but we all know it happens. (now I’m digressing …) One day I was thinking about how there are hardly any movies where there is a strong, woman heroine – in this day and age, you know? I guess that’s why novels are so great – there’s plenty of heroines out there.

Anyway, back to Shut Out. I think I liked it. I read it all in one go in the bath just now. I think that it was a superior book to The Duff, the first novel by Kody Keplinger.

If you like young adult books that are unafraid to be bold about sex, then I guess this is for you.

My rating: 3/5

Goodreads rating: 3.74/5

House of Night series by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast.

First Book Published in 2007

In the House of Night world, vampyres are just a fact of everyday life. As a teenager, you may become marked, which means you are going to go through the change and turn into a vampyre (or you may just die). Then you go to a special school for blood suckers to train to become an adult vampyre. There’s a heavy focus on a higher power. In this case, it’s the vampyre goddess, Nyx. There are high priestesses and lots of ceremonies and stuff.

Zoey is our main gal. She’s just been marked and moves to the house of night school in her city. She is more special than your average vampyre fledgling. She quickly makes friends, love interests and enemies while learning about vampyre stuff and battling evil.

I’ve no doubt that you would have seen the House of Night series around. Maybe you’ve even read some of them. I bought the first three at the same time, and if I had only bought the first one then I doubt that I would have kept going. To begin with, these novels are pretty frustrating. There’s a shameless amount of name dropping, silly replacement swear words, annoying characters and ridiculous romance elements – that’s right, there isn’t just one guy after Zoey, there’s three!

But after book three, it improves a lot. Everyone seems to mature, the love square disintegrates and the plot is a lot better too. There’s ten books out so far, with more to come. I’ve only read the first seven or eight, but I’m going to catch up one of these days.

So if you gave up early on in the series, then why not give it another go – I promise it gets better!

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler with art by Maira Kalman.

10798418

354 pages

First published January 1st 2011

This is the box, Ed. Inside is everything. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket from Greta in the Wild, a note from you, a box of matches, your protractor, Joan’s book, the stolen sugar, a toy truck, those ugly earrings, a comb from the motel, and the rest of it. This is it, Ed. The whole story of why we broke up.

Min and Ed are two teens from opposite ends of the high school/clique spectrum. Ed is the gorgeous and popular co-captain of the basketball team. Min (short for Minerva) is ‘arty’ and ‘different’ (as Ed puts it) – she wants to be a director and loves obscure old movies. They’re two people who shouldn’t really be dating, and neither one particularly enjoys spending time with the other one’s friends. But for whatever reason, they really like each other.

Why We Broke Up covers their entire relationship, from start to finish, through objects. I just love that idea. Each object has it’s own page (or two) and has been depicted in beautiful art, by Maira Kalman. The art is lovely and quirky, which really suits Daniel Handler (who, as you may or may not already know, also writes as Lemony Snicket).

I think that the reason I enjoyed this so much is because I adore Daniel Handler’s sense of humour and all the stuff he comes up with. For example, Min describes all these old movies, and after a while I was thinking, ‘well, these sound like awesome movies that I would like to watch’, so I went to iMDB and looked a few of them up – but they weren’t there! I’m pretty sure that he just made them up! I’m not surprised, because after reading A Series of Unfortunate Events, I know that Daniel Handler is very clever and creative. ASoUE is, of course, totally different to Why We Broke Up, seeing as that series was written for children, and this is quite mature (swearing, sex, etc). But I can’t help but compare the two, because that same humour and love of cooking and strange, different way of looking at things from ASoUE runs right through Why We Broke Up. So if, like me, you love that Daniel Handler/Lemony Snicket eccentric style, then I think you’ll like this.

As you read this, knowing the whole time that Min and Ed are going to break up (it’s in the title, after all), the while thing takes on this heartbreaking and bittersweet quality. They do all this cool stuff and seem to really dig each other, and so it’s like, ‘what’s going to happen that causes them to break up?’ I sort of dreaded finding out, because Ed is so sweet sometimes (he’s also an idiot, at other times … jocks – enough said, eh?) and Min is the best – funny and eclectic and … she’s just the best. I wanted them to be happy, but I know that in reality they are heartbroken.

Speaking of reality – I think it is very realistic that this is a high school romance about a break up, because even though some people meet their soulmate/future spouse/love of their life in high school, a lot of us don’t. I guess it’s refreshing to read about a break up every now and again, amongst all the sweeping high school romances that end happily.

I really loved it. But like I said, I’ve liked everything of his that I’ve read – children’s picture books, middle grade, young adult – I only have a proper adult one yet to try, but I will definitely get onto that soon.

My rating: 4/5

Goodreads rating: 3.49/5