Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review: The Duff by Kody Keplinger

Alright ladies, I've got a question: say you're at a scummy dance club that your friends all but forced you to go to. You're not having a good time. In fact, you're pretty miserable and can't wait to go home. As you sit at the bar nursing your Cherry Coke, a good-looking guy comes and sits next to you.

That would be nice, right? A good way to pass the time until your friends decide they've had all the man-handling they can take (for the night).

Well, say the hot guy in question turns out to be the village bicycle--"everybody has had ride!"--the infamous man-whore of your school/town. You're disgusted this vile creature is in your immediate vicinity, don't want him around. So you tell him to go away. And he doesn't. He tells you he needs your help because, in his words:

"You, darling, are the Duff. Designated. Ugly. Fat. Friend. No offense, but that would be you. Hey, don't get defensive. It's not like you're an ogre or anything, but in comparison..."

He proceeds to tell you that he's talking to you, the Duff, so your ├╝ber hot friends will think he's a nice, sensitive guy. He's hoping this will up his chances of getting into their pants.

How would you react to that?

If this happened to the person I am today I'd totally laugh in the a-hole's face and walk away. Because, really, I couldn't care less what a (most likely) STD-infected man-whore thinks of me, regardless of how ridiculously hot he might be. I'm an adult. I stopped caring what other people think of me. All that matters is what I think. (for the record: I'm happy with the way I look). Besides, I'm married.

But if that happened to me fourteen years ago... well, let's just say it would have destroyed--I'm talking completely pulverized--what little self-esteem I had at the time. Back then I was--comparatively speaking--the Duff among my circle of friends. I didn't get attention from guys when I was with my unintentionally hot friends (seriously. And they didn't even know it. They were all long-limbed, willowy, girl-next-door beautiful. I was the average height ethnic girl).

What's my point? My point is I can see why teenage girls would want to read this book. Like I said, I've been there. I get it.

BUT what I fail to appreciate is the way this story plays out.

Bianca Piper, the Duff in question, is a seventeen-year-old girl finishing up her senior year in high school. She has two good friends who really care about her. Parents who, dysfunctional marriage aside, love her. She's intelligent, witty, and successful--for the most part.

Bianca only real major downfall is she is much too cynical, especially when it comes to love, though I can't say I blame her. Bianca was only fourteen when she had her heart stomped on by an upperclassman.

It is her wit and cynicism that comes to her aid the night she's told that she is The Duff. She insults the man-whore, Wesley Rush, and throws her Cherry Coke in his face--**plus twenty points for Bianca, am I right?**--and walks away in a dignity-at-all-times manner.

Unfortunately Bianca doesn't walk away completely unscathed. She is unable to get over the fact that she's the so-called "ugly fat girl" among her friends. It starts eating away at her self-esteem.

And to make matters much worse, her home life begins to crumble.

Instead of dealing with her problems, Bianca masters the art of escapism. Totally understandable. I've been there. But instead of losing herself in a good book, movie or yogalates, she loses herself in the bed of...(wait for it)...Wesley Rush, resident man-whore. The guy she hates with the intensity of a thousand suns.

Oh, it gets better. He lovingly nicknames her 'Duffy'. That's right, as in The Duff. And Bianca has a bevy of insults to hurl at Wesley whenever it pleases her. Neither of them them pretend their relationship is based on anything other then sex. Call it what you will: escapism sex, hate sex, cheap sex, a hook-up, sex buddies, booty call...I could go on. Regardless of the label, this is where the author starts to lose me.

I hope I'm not coming across as 'holier then thou', because, seriously it's not like I was an angel when I was a teenager. I had a wild streak back then, I made mistakes. Lots of them. It's just my mistakes involved less sex. Okay, sex was never involved. Neither was nudity. But I kissed (read: had total make-out sessions with) a bunch of guys. Sometimes with the sole intention of getting my mind off my problems. So really, I understand Bianca's motives. I even understand how in a twisted way she felt pretty, more desirable afterward.

That being said, I can't understand why/how she's able to repeatedly hop into bed with a guy who makes her skin crawl. She's with him as much as five times a week. Not that I'm a sexpert (see what I did there? I combined sex and expert. Hee.) but I'd wager to say that's a lot of sex for a couple of teenagers who are using each other. Especially considering how cheap and dirty Bianca claims to feel afterward.

While reading this novel I was all, "Stop it. Stop having sex with the guy you hate. Just STOP! Go talk to your friends or a counselor. You need help." But clearly, she didn't stop. It wouldn't have been so bad had she felt more guilty or ashamed afterward. And I could understand her need had it been described as some sort of an addiction. Or perhaps the author could have described Bianca's home life much worse, making her incessant need to escape that much more plausible.

But yeah, my point is: I just couldn't relate. Not entirely. And so this story fell apart for me. Okay, that's a lie. It didn't fall apart--the story was still in one piece when I finished this book, but just barely.

The only real redeeming thing about The Duff is the conclusion Bianca comes to near the end of the novel, about what it means to be a Duff. And she realizes how stupid she and Wesley were by having so much sex, regardless of how much protection they used (for the record: condoms and the pill).

And though it pains me to do so, I'll admit that I'm sappy enough to like how this book ended. (Kill me.) It wraps up so neatly with a giant bow on top, Pretty Woman style. Three stars but just barely, and if I were I being totally fair I'd have to give it just two stars (waaaaaaaaay too much swearing going on in this book. It's completely out of control). But I liked this book, despite all it's faults, so yeah, three stars.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

 Young Katniss Everdeen has survived the dreaded Hunger Games not once, but twice, but even now she can find no relief. In fact, the dangers seem to be escalating: President Snow has declared an all-out war on Kattnis, her family, her friends, and all the oppressed people of District 12. The thrill-packed final installment of Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy will keep young hearts pounding.

Updated! Further thoughts/explanations as to why I gave this book five stars at the end of the original review. Warning: addendum contains some spoilers.

I've thought long and hard as to how I should review this book. For starters I feel I need to say upfront, this book is not for everyone. Mockingjay is the darkest book of the Hunger Games trilogy, containing excess violence, brutality, and ugliness. People die. It would be naive to expect otherwise in a book dealing with war.

If you're all about puppies, kittens, rainbows, unicorns, and disgustingly sweet happily-ever-afters don't bother reading this book. Faint of heart need not apply, I mean it.

This story isn't told by Katniss, The Girl Who Was On Fire. It's told by Katniss, the quiet girl from District 12 who unintentionally inspired a revolution through one simple act of defiance. Needless to say Katniss, ever weary of the roles she's been forced to play, is reluctant to officially step up, to be the Mockingjay, to lead the revolution against the Capitol.

President Coin, leader of District 13, makes it clear from the start she is no fan of Katniss, saying they should have saved 'the boy' first. Katniss agrees with President Coin here--Peeta was always better with words, had a way with people--but otherwise Katniss does not trust the woman. Life in District 13 isn't all that it's cracked up to be.

Though Katniss doesn't desire the spotlight and never wanted power she finally agrees to take on the burden of leading a rebellion. Hoping that in doing so she might save Peeta's life and finally put an end to President Snow's. And so, with Haymitch, Gale, Beetee, Finnick, and her old prep team backing her up, Katniss becomes the Mockingjay.

So much happens in this book, so much I didn't expect. That being said, I love this book. I love this series. Mockingjay is a hauntingly-beautiful conclusion to an enjoyable, thought-provoking series. This series will always have a home on my bookshelf, and I hope that one day, when my girls are old enough to read it, they'll appreciate it as much as I do.

P.S. And it needs to be said: even though the Peeta-Katniss-Gale love triangle is very much present in this book, it's not the focal point of the story. It never was. The Hunger Games series is about so much more then teenage angst, or romantic love.

P.P.S. The epilogue is what finally pushed me over the edge, made me cry.


Further explanation/thoughts about why I think this book is amazing (contains some spoilers):

I didn't cry with either of the major deaths in this book, though I felt more when the first one happened, probably because I felt more connected to the first character then I did the second. The second death was tragic and senseless. But I don't think the second death undermines the whole series, like many critics of this book have said. Nor does it make the story pointless.

Many have said that they felt detached from the story while reading this book. I felt that detachment too, but I genuinely feel that is what Suzanne Collins was hoping for. Here's the deal, my father went to Vietnam and experienced a lot of senseless violence, lost a lot of friends and acquaintances. In all my life I've only heard him speak about it, in a candid manner, once. Otherwise he speaks about it in a detached way, as if he read about it or watched some footage of it instead of actually experiencing it himself. I feel it is his way of coping with it, which is kind of sad.

I feel that Katniss, by starting that book about everyone she knew who died, was doing what my father needs to do (although, as far as I know, he probably has done something like that. Like I said, he doesn't ever talk about it). She was finally facing and working through the all the grief and pain. My point is, the reason we felt detached from the story is because Katniss was already so detached. She was so messed up by all the senseless violence that she'd already checked out emotionally. And when reality threatened to take over, she took drugs to make it all better.

Under similar circumstances I think every normal person would shut down emotionally. If Katniss had continued to function normally after going through all that, we'd have a sociopath on our hands. Like Peeta said, when you kill someone you lose a part of yourself, you're killing a part of your soul. Suzanne Collins did a fantastic job illustrating that.

Katniss triumphs in the end because, even though it took time, she confronts the pain, works through it. She lives her life, no longer the actress, the puppet, the victim. I especially love that she does what she vowed to never do. She has children. The best part is, her children, everyone's children for that matter, won't ever know the horrors of Reaping Day and the Hunger Games.

I feel she ended up with with the right man. And no, I don't think she settled for him. I knew she truly loved him when she started fighting for him, not only for his life but for all those lost memories, for his love.

I also feel Katniss is a romantic person, just not in the traditional sense. The girl kept the pearl, would take it out when she was thinking of him! Carried it with her into battle. Didn't even throw it out when he rejected her, tried to kill her (on more then one occasion)! Speaking of, talk about the ultimate rejection. I think my heart broke on Katniss behalf when that happened.

P.S. I might add more thoughts throughout the next few days.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Review: Before I Die by Jenny Downham

Tessa has just months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, drugs with excruciating side-effects, Tessa compiles a list. It’s her To Do Before I Die list. And number one is Sex. Released from the constraints of ‘normal’ life, Tessa tastes new experiences to make her feel alive while her failing body struggles to keep up. Tessa’s feelings, her relationships with her father and brother, her estranged mother, her best friend, and her new boyfriend, all are painfully crystallised in the precious weeks before Tessa’s time finally runs out.


  I feel like a jerk for not giving this story more stars. I mean, it's a book about a sixteen year old girl trying to live life to the fullest before dying of cancer. I keep thinking only a heartless baby-eating monster would give this book less then four stars.

Well, I suppose I am that monster, minus the whole baby-eating thing.

It's not like the premise failed to pull at my heartstrings--as I read this book I genuinely felt for the girl. And it's not like the author went out of her way to manipulate her audience. This book never crosses the line into full on manipulation, though there are times I feel it comes close, but not enough to bother me.

My problem lies with the protagonist, Tessa.

Yeah, you read that right. I don't like the main character, a teenage girl dying of cancer.

Before you start throwing things let me explain. Like I said before, I felt for Tessa, because her situation is incredibly tragic, but, I'm sorry, she sucks. I know she's dying but that doesn't give her an excuse to manipulate everyone around her into doing what she wants them to do. Dying young isn't some "get out of jail free card" you can wave around when your actions have negative consequences that you'd rather not face.

Here's the deal: Tessa has a list of ten things she wants to do before she dies. Sounds good, right? Well, the majority of the things on the list are reckless or selfish or illegal or just plain stupid. Sometime a combination of all four. And you know what? That's not so bad, doesn't necessarily bother me. Teenagers do stupid, selfish and/or illegal stuff. Tessa wants to sow some wild oats before dying. I get it.

What bothers me is the fact that she believes the rules shouldn't apply to her because she is dying--she can do whatever she wants, damn the consequences.

What's worse, Tessa demands a lot from her friends and family. At times she asks them to do things that, even under the tragic circumstances, are too much to ask. When they seem reluctant to comply she tells them that whatever it is she's asking happens to be on her list. Most of the time these things were not on her list until, conveniently, they were. It's her manipulation that really gets to me. I hate that she resorts to manipulation to get whatever she wants.

At one point Tessa throws a monumental fit (I mean, off the charts huge) because she doesn't get what she wants when she wants it--to make love with her boyfriend. Don't get me wrong, I knew her her freak out had more to do with the fact that she's dying so young, before she's old enough to really do anything, be anyone, then anything else. But still, she took it a little too far, I think.

In the end I got the idea that she had a full grasp at what was truly important in life. But for me, Tessa's understanding came too late in the game. It happened so late, that I, heartless monster that I am, had already spent some time wondering when she was going to "just die already". Yes, this really did go through my mind, more then a few times, near the end of this book--if this weren't a total work of fiction, I'd be going to hell for that, I'm sure.

I know I'm a monster for not giving this book more stars, unfortunately I'm unable to give this book more then the two stars I've given it.

P.S. Because I'm unable to recommend Before I Die to anyone I'm going to go ahead and recommend Before I Fall, which is another YA book which deals with death and is, in my humble opinion, infinitely better then this book.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Review: My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate -- a life and a role that she has never challenged...until now. Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister -- and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable, a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves.
My Sister's Keeper examines what it means to be a good parent, a good sister, a good person. Is it morally correct to do whatever it takes to save a child's life, even if that means infringing upon the rights of another? Is it worth trying to discover who you really are, if that quest makes you like yourself less? Should you follow your own heart, or let others lead you? Once again, in My Sister's Keeper, Jodi Picoult tackles a controversial real-life subject with grace, wisdom, and sensitivity.


 Anyone who has a kid has probably, at one point or another, battled with them at bedtime. That's what I do, every night. There is much yelling, crying, begging and pleading. It's horrible.

Kid #3 is out like a light, so she's not part of the problem. Kid #2 puts up a good fight, whining and tantrum throwing, but eventually she succumbs to her sleepiness. Kid #1, however... well, she's another story altogether.

At night, she's afraid of everything and feels that if she sleeps something will get her. But she's not invincible, she has to sleep sometime. So after being assured that she's safe, she'll lay down and relax--this can only happen in the master bedroom, because in her mind the master bedroom is safe from everything.

Once she's been lulled into blissful unconsciousness either me or my husband will move her to her room. Typically this goes off without a hitch. But every once in a great while she wakes up and totally freaks out, because she realizes she was tricked. By her own parents, no less. She feels betrayed. She doesn't believe us when we swear that we won't move her again (because we will and she knows it). And so, because of her her general mistrust, her fear of everything, not to mention all the sobbing, she is awake for another couple of hours, at least. The whole situation is very dramatic and it totally sucks.

How does this relate to My Sister's Keeper? It doesn't--not exactly but I do have a point. Let me explain. I spent years avoiding Jody Picoult's books like the plague. They frightened me. I don't know why. Perhaps it's the fact that every woman over thirty can't stop raving about Jody Picoult books, which means they're probably not my 'cuppa tea'. It may even have something to do with the fact that the woman has the ability to crank these insanely thick books out like she's some sort of writing machine from hell. I don't know, it just doesn't seem natural. Besides, no author is capable of writing so fast. At least, no good author can do such a thing, amirite?

But finally, after being assured that Jody is actually quite talented, that her books are intriguing and worthwhile, I relented and picked up Nineteen Minutes. And you know what? It wasn't horrible. Actually, I kind of liked it. Alright, I admit it--I liked it a lot. It wasn't the best book ever, but it was the sort of book that makes you think, stays with you after you're finished reading it. *shrugs* I happen to like that sort of thing.

So I immediately picked up My Sister's Keeper. And I liked it too. In fact, I was only half way through the book when I was positive I'd be giving it four stars. Sure the sub-plot about the lawyer and the child advocate falling in love was incredibly stupid, but could I blame Jody for throwing it in? No. I'm sure her target audience expects that sort of thing to be in every book they ever read. So I was willing to forgive it. I even forgave all the cheesy cliches.

Because sometimes I'm able to ignore stupid subplots, ridiculous cliches, irritating characters (and by irritating I mean 'so monstrous they deserve to die a horribly drawn-out and painful death'. Yes, I'm talking about the mother in this book), formulaic--that's a word, right?--writing and even the lack of good editing when a story has peaked my interest. It happened when I was reading Twilight and it happened while I was reading this book.

Besides, I'd already come to the conclusion that I'd like this book because I liked Nineteen Minutes. I even had visions of myself adding Jodi Picoult to my list of favorite authors, adding the whole of Jodi Picoult's published works to my TBR list, happily reading said books on the beach over summer break--it was going to be so awesome!

But then, when I was nearly finished with this book, Jodi Picoult went and ruined everything. EVERYTHING! I don't even have the desire to finish this book. I feel manipulated, betrayed, lied to, cheated, and totally violated! I also feel incredibly stupid for thinking that Jodi Picoult was a good writer. Because she's not. She totally sucks and I hate her.

So. Even though I've wasted hours of my life reading, and thinking about, Jodi Picoult novels, it hasn't been all bad. I've learned two things from this whole experience. First, I should trust my initial instincts when it comes to books. Second, I'm an a-hole for lying to my kid. It's no wonder she doesn't trust me, and she'll probably need years of therapy because of it. I wouldn't blame her if she threw me in a really bad nursing home someday.

I gave this book two stars because it isn't horrible until the end. That's when Picoult whips out the most manipulative, unnecessary twist, and thus ruins the whole experience.

Now let us never speak of this again.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Review: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

Five stars.  I know what you're thinking. "Five stars for this book? Why???"

If you've been following my reviews then you know I tend to stress over how many stars to give a book, and I'm not one to hand out five-star ratings willy-nilly. I'm usually quite cautious when it comes to handing out that all-important fifth star. I'm stingy. That being said, every once in a while a book--that may or may not be amazing--comes along and wows me.

And now you're (probably) thinking: "But Penny, it's a book about zombies. Zombies! Disgusting rotting corpses that stumble around, looking to sink their teeth into any living thing. How--how could that sort of thing wow you? Are you, like, smoking crack???"

First things first: No--I'm not smoking crack. Everyone knows crack is cheap--I much prefer the real thing*. Now that I've cleared that up, lets move on, shall we?

So. World War Z. I really enjoyed it, which was a surprise because I didn't think I would. This book is not something I would've picked up on my own. Had it not been for a couple of really nice Barnes & Noble employees who practically shoved this book in my hands while gushing about its supreme awesomeness, I definitely wouldn't have purchased it. But since they didn't have the book I was looking for (Storm Front by Jim Butcher), and since I'd already been bitten by the zombie bug over a year ago (The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan) I took a chance and purchased this book.

Despite the fact that Max Brooks used to write for SNL, and also happens to be Mel Brooks son, this book isn't funny, nor is it meant to be. Max Brooks tells this story through a series of interviews given by survivors of The Great Panic, or World War Z (the Z stands for Zombie, in case you didn't, you know, put two and two together...).

The interviewees come from different parts of the world and they tell their accounts of what happened to them, what they thought when they first heard of what was first referred to as "African Rabies", what happened when the Great Panic started in their part of the world. A lot of these stories are sad and/or terrifying, but mostly I found them incredibly intriguing.

Before I go on I need to add that I totally geek-out over documentaries, and this book--were it in movie form--would be a documentary. I'm one that appreciates the method Max Brooks uses to tell this story.

To me the beginning of this book has more to do with the way things are done in this world--politics wise--then anything else. Of course, as the book goes on and more and more governments are collapsing due to the fact that zombies are basically taking over the world, we get a good look at human nature during times of crisis. I found the whole thing interesting.

Hardcore zombie lovers need to know that this isn't a book that follows one set of characters--though some interviews have been broken up, and so a few characters are featured in this book more then once--rather it is one story told by several different people. There is continuity in the order in which the stories are told to us, and sometimes one survivor's account answers a question that was raised by another survivor.

That being said, there is quite a bit of zombie slaying action. Lots of blood and guts and gore. We get to learn how best to stop a zombie--and let me assure you, there are many ways. We also learn about newest in improvised zombie killing weaponry and effective warfare techniques to decimate a raging-out-of-control zombie population.

But seriously, I loved reading it--everything in this whole entire book. Me. A church-going mother of three. Although, yeah, I'm not your typical church-going mother of three. But still...

P.S. I'd have finished this book a long time ago had it not been for my husband, who kept stealing this book away from me so he could read it too. He's really liking it, btw.

*To those who have zero sense of humor, it must be said: I'm kidding, I don't do any drugs, and you need to chill.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life? 

Samantha Kingston has it all: the world's most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.
Instead, it turns out to be her last. 

Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing. 

(Before I get to the review I just wanted to let everyone know I don't typically write reviews for books I love. The reason being, I'm not good at writing worth-while and positive reviews. (As opposed to my uncanny ability to write crazy rants about books I totally loathe.) Or rather, I know I'm not up to the task: writing a review worthy of a book so beautiful, so eloquently written I can't stop thinking about it long after I've finished it. I know there is nothing I could say that could not be better said by the book itself, or even just a review written by someone who is smarter then me has a way with words.

That being said, here I am, attempting to write a review worthy of Before I Fall. If I fail, which is more then likely, please don't hold it against the book--it isn't the book's fault I'm not a talented writer.)

So without further ado...

Popular girl, Samantha Kingston thinks a lot about the what she's done during her seventeen years of life while reliving her last day--February 12--over and over again. In all Samantha is given seven chances to relive her last day to figure out what went wrong, why she really died. Seven opportunities to change, to make things right. Seven days to save herself.

When we first meet Samantha--Sam--there really isn't anything particularly special about her. Sure, she's popular but other then her superior social standing she's basically your average teenager. Her biggest concern the morning of February 12 is over losing her virginity, which she plans on doing that night. Other then that she's wondering how many roses she'll have by the end of Cupid Day, and if she looks okay considering she slept in and didn't have time to shower.

During the duration of the day she cheats on a test, flirts shamelessly with her calculus teacher, cuts class, gets drunk and treats her classmates like garbage--Sam and her friends are especially cruel to one girl in particular. All in all it's an average school day for Samantha Kingston.

Clearly I didn't like Samantha Kingston at the beginning of this novel. She's a horrible self-absorbed teenager. What's worse is the fact that she thinks so highly of herself and her friends, saying: "I'm not going to lie, though. It's nice that everything's easy for us. It's a good feeling knowing you can basically do whatever you want and there won't be any consequences." and then, "If high school were a game of poker, Lindsey, Ally, Elody and I would be holding 80 percent of the cards."

After Sam finishes recounting her last day--in which she clearly doesn't come out looking so good--she tells us about how she died, then says: "Before you start pointing fingers, let me ask you: is what I did really so bad? So bad I deserved to die? So bad I deserved to die like that? Is what I did really so much worse then what anybody else does? Is it really so much worse then what you do? Think about it."

I went to high school with girls like Samantha Kingston and her friends. I haaaaated those girls. So. Much. Who wants to read a story about a bunch of horrible teenagers? No one. But you know what? When I was seventeen I was not that much better then Samantha Kingston. I gossiped, lied, cheated, cut class--the works. And I treated a lot of people badly--peers and adults. But I haven't really spent too much time thinking about the person I was in high school, that is until Sam asks us if what she did is so much worse then what we do.

That's why I kept reading.

As Sam relives February 12 we see her grow and change. Though at first her attempts at being a better person are so half-hearted you wonder if she's actually trying. And yeah, as the reader I got frustrated with Sam. I wanted to see her change right away, and she didn't. Then I remembered she's a spoiled teenager that hasn't been made to work for anything in her life. Remember, it was Sam herself who admitted: "It's nice that everything's easy for us. It's a good feeling knowing you can basically do whatever you want and there won't be any consequences." That's Sam's reality at the beginning of this story.

But then Sam learns that Juliet Sykes--the girl Sam and her friends have been mercilessly cruel to over the years--kills herself in the middle of the night (early morning of February 13th). Through this horrifying turn of events Sam is forced to take a good look at herself, at her friends, and what she sees drives her to an all-time low--when Sam hits bottom she really hits bottom.

Sam needs that low point--the chance to spiral out of control--even if it's just for one day. Because it is only after she's humbled that we see her make any significant changes. She starts to look at all she has (or rather, had) and be grateful for it. She looks at her family in a whole new light, and realizes just how much she loves them. She looks at her little sister specifically--a sweet little seven-year-old who is proud of who she is. Sam realizes she admires her little sister because she embraces the things that make her different from all her peers.

After Sam's low point her thoughts, her ideas become downright beautiful/amazing. There were many times I stopped to reread passages, and even consider them for a bit. It's at this point that my feelings from this book went from like to love.

"Maybe you can afford to wait. Maybe for you there's a tomorrow. Maybe for you there's one thousand tomorrows, or three thousand, or ten, so much time you can bathe in it, roll around in it, let it slide like coins through your fingers. So much time you can waste it.

But for some of us there's only today. And the truth is, you never really know."

And no, Sam still doesn't get things right away. She still struggles, but the important part is she's really trying, really working. She learns from her mistakes, makes corrections. Sam realizes--despite her belief that she can't be fixed--it's never too late to change. Some of Sam's changes don't come about until the 11th hour, but they do come.

And yes, I love how this book ends. I know there are a few people that simply didn't like this book because of how it ended, and for the life of me I cannot understand why. Any other ending would have been a complete cop-out (think about it). I happen to like ambiguous endings, because I get the opportunity to think about what I just read, can draw my own conclusions. I'm not going to say anything more because I don't want to spoil it for anyone.

I love this book, it is one of my favorites. I haven't been able to stop thinking about this book since I finished reading it two weeks ago, and because of that it will always have a home on my bookshelf.

By the way, I've spent an embarrassingly long amount of time trying to cobble together a semi-decent review of this book. Now go read it, stat. :)

P.S. this book deserves six stars.

Update April 4, 2010: my husband, who typically doesn't like the books I like, just stayed up all night reading this book. When he finished it he woke me up to thank me for recommending this book to him (and he wasn't being ironic. Believe me--I checked). He really likes this book. More then anything he loves the way Lauren Oliver writes. But overall he likes this story quite a bit. It was nice talking to him about it this morning. :)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Review: Tempted by P.C. Cast & Kristen Cast

Have you ever read a book that's so irritating you can't help but think, It would be great if most of the characters died right now, especially the main character because she sucks?  Possibly even go so far as consider writing and posting your own ending to said book on fanfiction.net?  An ending in which Buffy the Vampire Slayer shows up and kills everyone in a hilarious yet incredibly violent fashion? 

If your answer is YES then you've probably been reading this series. XD

Seriously though, Tempted killed my addiction to the House of Night series.  And I know I should be grateful--in a way I am--but, more than anything I can't help but be incredibly disappointed.  The first HON book had some potential but instead of getting better as the series continued, it just got worse.  So.  Much.  Worse. 

Zoey Redbird went from being a normal teenage girl, who just so happened to be a vampire, to a complete slut-faced ho bag vampire with extrasuperspecial powers by the sixth book.  To be completely honest, the full transformation to Supernatural "Slut-Face" Sue occurred a few books back. 

Zoey is so much worse then Aphrodite was at the beginning of the series.  And I think we can all agree Aphrodite was kind of slutty way back then, what with her forcing her company on an obviously uninterested, slightly disgusted Eric all the time.  Now that I think about it, that's way more sad then it is slutty.  I digress.   My point is now Aphrodite is committed to a nice guy who loves & respects her, and Zoey is lusting after/sexing/heavily-petting/groping/making out with just about every guy that comes her way. 

For whatever reason Zoey's behavior is not considered slutty because she's a priestess, or whatever.  Apparently if you wield the power of Nyx you can get away with anything, even being the Whore of Babylon. How nice.

Erik/Stark/Kalona/everyotherwaytotallyhotguyevuh?  Hate them.  So much.  Because seriously, Zoey is the Whore of all Babylon, has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, yet they're all hot and bothered over her.  Morons.  All of them.  Obviously Kalona is just some disgusting, evil...God?  Demon?  Whatever! who wants to get Zoey in the sack and then kill her--I'm sorry but where's the downside to that plan? Just kidding! (not really)  And I really don't understand Erik's attraction to her, especially since she cheated on him with THEIR ADULT TEACHER the same day Erik became a full-fledged vampire (It was, what?  An hour after the fact???).  And Stark?  Ugh!  Don't even get me started on the Stark/Zoey 'ship.  That whole complicated/nonsensical mess just makes me want to bash my head against a brick wall.  Repeatedly.  

Moving on...

The gay couple in this series is completely ridiculous.  Look, I don't have an issue with homosexuality in YA fiction, but I do have a problem with the way it's portrayed in this series.  Damien and Jack are like a parody of a stereotype, if that makes sense.  Their relationship is so--dare I say--gay, for lack of a better description.  It's just a bunch of rainbows, puppies, kittens, lollipops, fluffy clouds, sunshine, glitter-farting unicorns, and of course fabulousness! in Damien-and-Jack Townshipville.

The Twins?  Sooooooo stuuuuuuuuuupid.  These are two of my least favorite characters and were I to write a Buffy the Vampire Slayer/HON crossover, these two would go first (at the exact same time).  It wouldn't be pretty, either.   

Stevie Rae?  I don't even know what to think about where her story is going.  I mean, seems like the girl's gonna be gettin' it on with some sort of demented raven-man thing, which is incredibly disgusting.  That whole weird relationship aside?  Stevie Rae just isn't the same.  In fact, she hasn't been since she died and came back.  Stevie Rae just flat-out gives me the creeps so I don't like her either. 

Then there's Heath.  Poor, stupid, very mortal Heath.  One of the few characters I still kind of liked in this horrible horrible, oh, so very horrible series.  And yes, I know I'm probably the only person who actually liked Heath (you slags were wanting him to die and you know it!) but I don't care.  The fact is, he's the only person that really knew Zoey and he still loved her, despite all her faults.  He loved her so much he decided it was time to grow up and quit drinking/partying. And put his life on the line for her.  He's the only person that kept Zoey grounded (besides her grandmother, of course).  I actually liked the interactions between Zoey and Heath. Their conversations were cute, and sweet, and fun.  I actually kind of liked Zoey when she was with Heath--I could relate to her.    

And what did the Casts' do?  They killed him.  KILLED!  At the end of the last chapter!  And because he's mortal he's actually dead dead.  As in, never coming back dead (unlike Stevie Rae and Stark whou should have stayed dead, IMHO).  And I've got the feeling the Casts only killed him because their story got away from them and they didn't know what else to do.

The Casts are going to drag this series out for SIX MORE BOOKS, people!  And considering the fact that they've already lost control of their story, It's pretty safe to say that this series won't end well.  (Don't say I didn't warn you.)

And it needs to be said, I am dumber for having read the first six books in the House of Night series.   

One star.  That is all.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Welcome to Penny's Tuppence:'Rantings of an Overly-Opinionated, Admittedly Ridiculous, ADHD Havin', Book Devouring, Gen-X Latina', Or 'Why Book Blogging is the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread'. I'm Penny, and I'll be telling you like it is--one review at a time.

Why the name Penny's Tuppence? Because Penny's Two Cents was already taken--by someone who hasn't bothered to post anything since June 2009. So, I went with Tuppence--Two Pence--an old-timey coinage that was equivalent of two cents. How clever am I? (Don't answer that)

So yeah, feel free to follow me--I don't mind--or check back soon. I'll be updating this blog fairly often, I swear!