Make It Last by Megan Erickson | Estelle Reviews

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Make It Last by Megan Erickson ( web | tweet | facebook )
Part of Bowler University new adult series.
Published January 6, 2015 from William Morrow Impulse
Pages: 384
Format read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss (Thank you!)
Last reviewed: Make It Right

Summary: Before figuring out next steps post-graduation, Cam returns home to take care of his mom only to be bombarded with strong memories from his past. Can he leave Paradise for New York or should he give a second chance a shot?

â—Š

They say you can’t go home again, but sometimes you have to.

Cam finishes up his degree at Bowler University a semester and heads home to take care of his ailing mother. He’s avoiding his hometown of Paradise since he went away to school, but even the time away has not lessened how difficult it is to be there. Memories of his past with high school sweetheart, Tate Ellison, are everywhere and he’s surprised (and frustrated) to discover after all her big plans, she’s still working in the same diner and living at home.

Sure, there’s a possibility he can survive the summer in Paradise and head to New York City for his new job without dealing with Tate or all the bad feelings he still has over their break-up. But, kind readers, if this was the case we would not have a story and what a sweet, sexy story it is.

Unlike the rest of Megan Erickson’s BU series, Make It Last does not take place on a college campus. Instead, we’re thrown into that “in between” time when you feel awkward returning home after time away and aren’t so sure of the next steps in your life. Cam has always been a mystery to me throughout the series but I quickly fell for him. He’s thoughtful, loyal, responsible, and, um, extremely hot. (And tattooed.)

It’s never a good time to bump into an ex, especially one you pictured your entire future with. Cam was never a monk in college, but he also never found a girl worth spending more than a short period of time with. He doesn’t want to feel anything when he sees Tate again, but he can’t help but slip into this caregiver role when he finds out things haven’t been great for her. Even if she did totally betray him.

One thing: I rarely see a guy falling into this kind of situation. It seems so common for the girl to overlook someone’s faults and just try, try again. Or not even try. Reemerge as a presence in the life of someone who didn’t treat you well. So to see Cam wanting to be Tate’s friend, even if he’s not over what she did and can’t seem to forget how it felt to be with her, it was a nice change.

Erickson truly delivers in this story of second chances because it’s more about moving forward than trying to relive the past. Tate and Cam can’t deny they are different people know that they have been apart, but the commitment and the care they had for each other, though tested, still lives. Is it enough to make part 2 of their relationship an actual thing?

Honestly, there’s a lot standing in their way. Some very serious things and this little, well, twist that I did not see coming. (It’s so nice to be surprised in books.) Though Cam and Tate’s home situations mirror each other a bit too similarly, I loved the supporting characters that came along with it. Tate’s dad was laugh-out-loud funny, and I loved how Cam’s mom has an arc about her own feelings for Tate too.

This book is so incredibly different from Make It Count and Make It Right, that I could definitely see new readers jumping into the series and reading the third book as their first. You do meet up with the crew from the other two books a bit but it’s not enough to spoil the journey of their stories. I should warn you though: for once, I was glad it was so cold outside while I was reading this because a few of these scenes were so scorching hot.

It’s always such a treat to read a new book from Megan — the balance between character development with a healthy dose of sexy is so spot-on — and I’m pumped to see what she has up for us next!

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Why in 5: Make It Count by Megan Erickson

Make It Count by Megan EricksonMake It Count by Megan Erickson ( web | tweet )
Book 1 of Bowler University series.
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow Impulse
Pages: 384
Target audience: Mature young adult/New Adult
Keywords: college, tutoring, learning disability, romance, friendship
Format read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss. (Thanks!)

Summary: Kat is desperate for help in statistics and can’t believe her luck with her boyfriend’s roommate, Alec, turns out to be her tutor. He has absolutely never liked her. Suddenly, she’s looking forward to tutoring sessions because of, well, not the smoothies or the statistics. It’s true Kat isn’t much into long-term commitments; she lets a relationship run its course and then moves on. But there is something about Alec — she wants to talk to him about things she never brings up with anyone. After a lousy breakup with his high school sweetheart, Alec isn’t ready to trust anyone again but when his tutoring gig leads him to Kat; he finds himself feeling a way he hasn’t let himself in a long time even though he knows he shouldn’t.

five (see? I’m being mathematical) reasons to pick up MAKE IT COUNT

1. I feel like I need to say this is not a cheating book. I know a lot of readers have a hang up about this so I don’t want this detail to deter you from picking up Megan’s book. When we meet Kat and her boyfriend, Max, it’s so obvious things aren’t working out. Max is acting differently; Kat is holding back and it’s only a matter of time. Even so, Alec and Kat’s tutoring sessions lead to an automatic friendship. (A playful, almost-immediately intimate one.)

2. Kat is not a perfect student, and as the story goes on, readers learn about her struggles even as a young kid. Her parents didn’t push her to go to college because she was never much of an academic. Right off the bat, I admired Kat’s drive. But the second part? I have yet to read a book where a character had a learning disability. She goes through a range of emotions (esp. in the way she finds out about it) and I think Erickson wrote this part of Kat’s character with so much care and thoroughness. Too many times characters in NA don’t have this kind of depth and I appreciated this layer to Kat and how this struggle caused her to grow as the story went on.

3. Alec is geeky hot. And his nickname is Zuk like Danny Zuko in Grease. How adorable is that? Immediately, Alec felt like a mature and super laidback character. He was concerned about his friends; he has that “fixer” quality that I so understand in people. (I have it too.) He’s also respectful and super thoughtful. But he’s also not perfect. Like anyone, he doesn’t know how to handle all situations even though he wants to be. He hasn’t had the happiest childhood (though his mom is a treat) but has used tragedy to propel him forward. As a leading guy, he knew to keep his distance because his friendship with Max was important to him (they are childhood pals) but also preferred having Kat in his life SOMEHOW. Even if it wasn’t the way he wanted it to be, at first.

4. Let’s hear it for the supporting characters. Erickson did a great job of evolving each of the main character’s separate stories. Alec’s voice of reason was Danica, one of his classmates, who always tells him how it is (even when he doesn’t want to hear it). And for Kat, there’s Tara. The two girls have obviously spent a lot of time together, they know each other’s families and there’s just a nice comfortable feeling to their friendship. Even as we got further into the book, Erickson did not stop developing great side characters. I had a nice handle on this group of people, how they operated, and how important they were to each other.

5. The best for last? The chemistry between Alec and Kat was insane. Despite all the “life” things on my mind this week and all the plans we had, I could not could not get Alec and Kat out of my mind. WOULD THEY EVER KISS? OMG I CAN’T STAND IT. CAN I POSSIBLY SNEAK MY BOOK AT THIS VERY INOPPORTUNE MOMENT? Yes, it was that kind of book. A nice, slow burn. Totally worth the wait. Bonus: you could tell the author worked carefully to create Alec and Kat as two separate characters. Yes, they complimented each other but they weren’t dependent on one another to live their lives. I respected that. Yay for healthy relationships!

I think you know where I’m going with this…

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Estelle: Stir Me Up by Sabrina Elkins

Stir Me Up by Sabrina ElkinsStir Me Up by Sabrina Elkins ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 268
Target audience: Young adult/mature
Keywords: Marines, cooking, post-high school fears
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley! (Thanks!)

Summary: When Cami’s stepmom’s nephew, Julian, is terribly injured in Afghanistan, he moves into Cami’s bedroom and she moves into an alcove. Turned off by his moody behavior, Cami tries to forget he is even there, going on with her cooking at her dad’s restaurant and her secret hang outs with her boyfriend. But when Julian’s tough exterior finally starts to break down a bit, Cami is surprised by what she feels for him. Could this ever work?

Sabrina Elkins can tell a story. An absolutely addicting story. Here’s why:

  • Cami has valid insecurities just like any of us. It’s her senior year of high school and all Cami wants to do when she graduates is cook. Not go to college like her dad wants, but to cook in a restaurant, like the one she has grown up in. It’s not easy to balance what you want and what your parent wants for you. In addition, Cami is in a relationship that is leading up to her losing her virginity and she is petrified. She really doesn’t want to. I wish more characters were open about this fear (instead of automatically being a crazy sex goddess before they’ve lost their virginity).
  • Since his injury, Julian is going through a lot of physical and emotional changes. In ways, Elkes’ characterization of Julian reminded me of Travis in Something Like Normal. He’s seen some terrible things, he’s been through a horrific ordeal, and he is angry. He is really really angry. Even when his anger is displaced (most of the time), this felt so true to his situation. And his recovery? The details of his rehabilitation? I like that Elkes took the time to go into that part of it too.
  • Cami and Julian’s slow burn romance. These kids did not rush into anything. In fact, they deserve some applause because I think they did a commendable job of trying to stay away from one another. (It is kind of awkward since Cami’s stepmom thinks of Julian as her son.) But you know, Cami is the only one who will put Julian in his place and when they start to warm up to each other, he’s really nice and helpful and wants her to figure out what she wants out of life (with or without him in the picture). There’s a friendship and tenderness there.
  • It’s not all about sex. Don’t misunderstand me. This book is hot. (I think the first kiss goes down in history as one of the best ever.) But sex is not the end goal. It’s just a thing that may or may not happen. And most importantly, the depiction and the moments leading up to all of it, it all comes down to a boy and a girl. Not who has more skills or what words they use to describe things. It’s just about a boy and a girl.
  • Parental pressures. Cami’s restaurant-owning dad is concerned that he may not have been around for her much because of his work schedule. He so wants Cami to understand the sacrifices he had to make because of his passion for food, which is why he wants her to go to college and “do more with herself”. I like how this plotline subtly popped up during the story. (And a main character with a serious hobby? Loved this. Elkins doesn’t joke around either; there are recipes included at the end of the book!)
  • Lastly, it’s funny. Stir Me Up is not only about chemistry, or serious post-high school decisions. Cami has a great best friend who texts the best messages, and Cami’s dad is a Grade-A food snob and this leads to some very interesting family dinners.

Have I convinced you? It was so nice to read a well-rounded new adult book with two character that certainly had baggage, but it was believable baggage that made them oh-so relatable.

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Estelle: My Favorite Mistake by Chelsea M. Cameron

My Favorite Mistake by Chelsea CameronMy Favorite Mistake by Chelsea M. Cameron
Publication Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Pages: 400
Target audience: New adult
Keywords: college, secrets, love/hate relationship
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley (Thanks!)

Summary: Taylor’s sophomore year has a surprising beginning when she finds out housing has paired her with the tattooed Hunter. She immediately can’t stand him and the way he looks at her, and she’s not sure how she can get through the year with him living in her room. Still reeling from an event that happened during her childhood, she has put up a lot of walls but no matter where she seems to turn, Hunter is right behind her. Will she lose control and fall for him? Does he have some secrets of his own?

I haven’t had the best luck with “new adult” books. There are already so many books I love with college-aged characters without slapping a label on it. But that was before the cliche of new adult began. The bad boy, the smart girl, the sex, and more than likely, the secrets from their past.

I know My Favorite Mistake seems to check off all of those things one by one, but after a decent Publishers Weekly review, I decided to give it a whirl. I’m happy to say that Cameron certainly gave me the well-rounded characters I’ve been looking for in this genre. Taylor is a self-sufficient sophomore in college who loves to read (she works in the library) and is super close to her sister. While Hunter may be tattooed and hot (even Taylor comments how typical this is), he can cook up a storm, play Taylor Swift on his guitar, and is really good with kids.

When they get stuck in the same room together (though Hunter doesn’t see it this way), Taylor is beyond bothered and Hunter comes up with a simple solution: prove to me that you either love or hate me and I’ll move out for good.

I never did get this ultimatum. It was so open-ended, but oh well. It seems Taylor is sort of scratching her head over it too and the tension between the two, the sweltering chemistry, builds and builds and builds until I thought I was going to crack. Cameron definitely excels in the slow burn romance, lighting little fires here and there. All their friends know they are into each other but they resist for so long.

There is the bad stuff though. Hunter and Taylor bond over their pasts, even though they don’t know each other’s stories. When they realize they both have pretty bad nightmares, some of their baggage seems to give way and they start to form (gasp!) a friendship. (Not without that whole attraction thing though.)

Unfortunately, more than halfway of the book, a book that I was more than addicted to and couldn’t stop thinking about, My Favorite Mistake lost a little steam. Was the book too long? Probably. Why did Taylor and Hunter speed things up when they took so so long to get somewhere? I have no idea. The reveals of the secrets didn’t bother me as much as the sudden caricatures Taylor and Hunter became. I needed them to put on the brakes a bit.

As far as New Adult goes, I’m definitely going to keep up with Cameron and what she writes next. My Favorite Mistake really had a ton of promise and kept me preoccupied throughout a lot of travel time, and I’m hoping she takes the plunge in book 2.

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Estelle: Levitating Las Vegas by Jennifer Echols

Levitating Las Vegas by Jennifer EcholsLevitating Las Vegas by Jennifer Echols ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: May 6, 2013
Publisher: Pocket Books / Simon + Schuster
Pages: 300
Target audience: Adult / mature young adult
Keywords: paranormal, Vegas, mind reading, levitation, conspiracy
Format read: ARC via Edelweiss from Publisher. (Thanks!)

Summary: For the past 7 years, Holly and Elijah have believed they had mental disorders and have been forced to take medication and keep secret about their conditions. Because of it, they forfeited dating one another (they had no idea each had the disorder) and have lived sheltered lives under the surveillance of a Las Vegas casino. When Holly and Elijah’s prescriptions run out, Elijah believes he can save them both by kidnapping Holly and finding the factory. In the mean time, the attraction between the two is undeniable and a war is breaking out in their casino.

Hands down, Jennifer Echols is the one of the best when it comes to writing tension between two characters. In young adult books like Such a Rush and Going Too Far, as well as her adult debut Star Crossed, she is at her best.

Unfortunately (fortunately), the chemistry between main characters Holly and Elijah was the only thing that kept me hanging on in Levitating Las Vegas. It’s almost the perfect kind of love story — two characters who have known each other forever and are forced apart by complications they can’t even explain to one another. What’s also interesting is that they remained in each other’s lives from a distance: both worked at the casino (Elijah was a carpenter and Holly was a showgirl assistant in her dad’s magic show) and even graduated college together.

It’s not until the necessary medication for their respective “mental disorders” runs out that they start crossing a lot closer paths. Of course, the whole thing is being orchestrated by casino security/Holly’s closet friend, Kaylee, (but they don’t know this) so it’s not as happening as organically as the two think.

Oh my, the drama! Abusive boyfriends, lying parents, mind changers, etc.

I’m not a paranormal reader. In fact, the only reason I picked this up is for Jennifer Echol’s name alone, and despite my inexperience, the plot felt a bit discombulated and could have used a bit more organization. Even when I thought I was finally catching on, the last few chapters blew up in my face and I got the feeling Levitating Las Vegas was more of an action packed novel/good vs. evil than a romantic paranormal.

More balance, attention to the dialogue (Holly and Elijah alternated between sounding older than 21 and younger than 21 at times), and more understanding of the powers associated by these two (shouldn’t he be able to read her mind ALL the time?) would have made this a smoother, more enjoyable read. As a genre, I would imagine that paranormal is a lot harder to write because you have to make the unbelievable feel believable in every day life — at least somehow and that was truly lacking here. (So were Holly’s clothes… she was always wearing a bathing suit top!)

If you are looking to read some Jennifer Echols (and you should!), I urge you to read Such as Rush or Star Crossed. And I’m certainly looking forward to her next young adult book, Dirty Little Secret, this summer!

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