Book Review: The Trouble with Destiny by Lauren Morrill

At first I hated this book. I could not connect with the main character, Liza, who I felt was way too uptight and controlling. I was tempted to put the book down (or in this case, my Kindle) but I didn’t and I’m actually pretty darn glad that I finished it. The Trouble with Destiny by Lauren Morrill stars Liza Sanders, a drum major who has just found out her band is losing funding. Armed with her clipboard and baton, she finds Destiny – a luxury cruise liner hosting a Spring break talent show complete with a $25,000 prize. Throw in an old friend (a.k.a. new flame), the school jock, and an ex-bestie/current arch nemesis and you’ve got a recipe for YA Contemporary gold.

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You see, when I was in my senior year of high school I finally took Musical Theater, the only art credit that would fit into my perfectly crafted schedule where I attempted to spend the least amount of time in school, little knowing that I would be selected as Stage Manager for our Winter performance. If you don’t know what a Stage Manager is, they’re basically that person that does everything – they have to make sure that everything and everyone has what they need, is where they need to be, and doing what they’re supposed to be doing. I was one of the only senior’s in a sea of freshman, given the burden of stage managing as well as having to perform “Can You Hear the People Sing” from Les Miserables. Suffice it to say it was one of those terrible, horrible experiences that you sort of chuckle about years later, but also still feel weirdly bitter about. In the middle of running around moving people and props on stage I had a classmate open the stage door on my finger, ripping my fingernail up and backwards off of my nail bed exactly one act before I was supposed to perform. The pain in combination with angry stress left me crying angry tears. I still remember going on to perform and hearing my musical theater teacher whisper from the front row “sing LOUDER Krista”. I don’t think anyone could have given a more genuine French revolution-inspired (pardon me, June rebellion) performance.

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This tale of woe has a point (I promise), you see while I initially abhorred Liza’s over-controlling personality I began to understand her. I could identify with stress and pressure and feeling like you’re the only person who can see “the big picture”. I can identify with giving yourself over to stress in such a manner as you do and say things you instantly regret. For people who are natural born leaders, like I believe Liza is, there is a struggle with trying to get people on the same level of motivation when they are not as invested. Which is why I loved that the story ended the way it did.

Of course, there were some parts that I just couldn’t even – like when she got in trouble with her band teacher. I get how in terms of moving the story along that would be a quick way to get Liza out of leading the band, however, I just didn’t like how it was written, I didn’t like that that was what ended up happening. I also didn’t like her antagonistic relationship with Russ throughout most of the book – I liked Russ instantly, as a reader you know he’s the good guy so every time Liza is mean or just plain rude to Russ it makes you sort of kinda hate her. I went to a city school where I feel like cliques weren’t as big of a deal as they might be elsewhere, so I’m not sure if this sort of resentment has any root in reality but I wasn’t a fan of the sports team-hating on Liza’s part – it felt a little too cliché. Also, the ending is really rushed – like the author is tying up all these loose ends that have been floating around – Liza’s relationship with Demi gets a quick and unrealistic ending, which brings me to the conclusion of this lengthy review…

I realized while writing my review that the issues that I had with the story were all mainly issues with the tendency of the writing to be unrealistic. I mean, would you really do what Liza does? Would anyone? And then it hit me – this book is a literary chick flick for the younger set – does anyone bump into a billionaire in the street, end up interviewing with them, solve their corporate issues with your knowledge of shopping, and magically fall in love? Not often. In the same way no one would really raise enough money for a luxury cruise ship excursion with the entire band in the middle of being defunded, and casually compete to win $25k in between buffet bars, jacuzzi’s, and romantic entanglements? Probably not. But we love these stories just the same, which is why I can gladly give The Trouble with Destiny a tidy recommendation.

Pick up your copy of The Trouble with Destiny here!

Title: The Trouble with Destiny
Author: Lauren Morrill
Pages: 272
Genre: Young Adult, Teens, Fiction, Contemporary
Publisher: Random House, Delacorte Press

*I received a digital copy for review via the NetGalley, find more of my reviews and talk books with me on goodreads!

What’s On My Kindle: The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

It’s been such a long time since I’ve been able to pick up a piece of fiction and finish it. If the book doesn’t suck me in within a few pages, chances are I won’t keep to it. In addition to my literary pickiness I’ve recently been in sort of a fiction reading slump – nothing has really sparked my interest. At least that was the case until this weekend, where I finally got around to opening The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley – a book I had downloaded onto my Kindle ages ago, but hadn’t really felt up to reading.

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Here’s the description/blurb from amazon:

“History has all but forgotten…In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.

But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth-the ultimate betrayal-that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her…”

Basically, the book centers around Carrie – a writer who is working on a novel about the 1708 attempt to return James Stewart to Scotland and the throne. Carrie’s writing becomes almost entirely based on the memories she seems to have inherited from her ancestor, Sophia – now the main character and heroine of her tale. I’m not going to spoil it all for you, but if you’re in a reading slump this is one of those really great I-stayed-up-all-night-reading books.

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The history woven through the tale ensures that this tale is not purely a romantic novel, giving depth to the story and kindling an interest in the reader (at least this reader) to do a little research of her own into the time period where our main character is meant to exist. The writing of the characters and detail of the setting just make this an entirely engaging story.

Personally, as a reader, I’m not the biggest fan of time travel nor am I the biggest fan of parallel storylines. But it was written in such a way that I became just as invested in Carrie’s life as I was in Sophia’s. And despite the plot twist (at hello, 72% of the way through) I hung on and was rewarded with a satisfying – if not unsatisfying in the way all good books are – ending.

Although there were a few bumps, it still rates for me as a great book, one that pulled me out of a reading slump and one I have happily added to my collection! Find it here on amazon.

*SPOILERS*: If you haven’t read the book, then read no further! This next bit is for readers who have already read The Winter Sea and wouldn’t mind commiserating over it.

First off, I loved the dynamic between Stuart, Graham, Jimmy and Carrie. They read so well to me! It was easy to picture and sympathize with all four of them. Also, I loved that Kearsley wasn’t so heavy handed with the romance – which would have cheapened the book in my opinion.

I also really love Sophia’s interaction with most of the other characters. I especially loved the character of the Countess, and wish that there was more development or storyline featuring her. She came across as such a strong female character, I definitely could see her having a story of her own.

What I Didn’t Love:

Her leaving Anna behind. I mean after she “meets” (and I say that so as not to spoil anyone who hasn’t read the book and has scrolled down too far) McClelland, I get why they ditch Anna – but prior to that, I just don’t get it. In fact after her and McClelland make their plans I still don’t get it – that decision feels far more selfish to me then what I’m guessing the author intended – which leads me to my second point…

What is with the implied incest there at the end??? So weird, so just NO. It really detracted from the book for me. Up unto that point I would’ve even been up for an epilogue – more story to tell me what happened to Sophia – but instead I was like “ew! what!? why? why would you just drop that in there and run?!”. Also, I could’ve done with more interaction between Carrie and Graham and wouldn’t have minded if she ditched the genetic memory storyline altogether – it was unnecessary, as I reader I had already suspended disbelief the second I found out the character was having memories from hundreds of years ago.

Have you read The Winter Sea? What are your thoughts on this book??? Let me know in the comments!