The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn't think she's the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She's also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her "Duffy," she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren't so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that Wesley isn't such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she's falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

Review: Ok, first things first: There is a LOT of swearing in this book, and a lot of teenage sex. So go into it with that knowledge.

That being said, I actually really liked this book. Even though Bianca's coping strategy isn't one I would try or recommend, I can totally understand where she's coming from. When there's an issue you want to avoid dealing with or thinking about, finding something to distract yourself can help you stay sane. But it can also be unhealthy to constantly escape from your problems instead of dealing with them or solving them, which Bianca came to discover. I felt like her journey was believable and relatable, and I was happy to follow along with her.

Goodreads Shelves: addictive, bechdel-test, fluffy, funny, is-a-movie, is-this-a-kissing-book, snark-attack



Burial Rites by Hanna Kent

Summary: A brilliant literary debut, inspired by a true story: the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829.

Set against Iceland's stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes's death looms, the farmer's wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they've heard.

Riveting and rich with lyricism, BURIAL RITES evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?

Review: What a lovely book. Reading the description, I'm not really sure why I wanted to read it. It doesn't really sound like my kind of book, but when I thought about what kind of book it would be like, it really did sound like something I'd enjoy.

And I did enjoy it. Despite the problems I had with it, which come to me the more I think about it, now that the book's done. At the time, it was a very enjoyable book to read. It was interesting and riveting, and I'd read more by Hannah Kent.

Although. Although. I don't know. It's a little convenient, isn't it, that the spurned lover of a murdered man has such a convenient story of how little she was involved with the actual murder, don't you think? But the more I think about it, the more sense it makes. Because she goes on and on in the beginning about how she's gonna protect herself and not open up and tell people the truth about who she is. But it didn't seem to me like it took much effort to get her to change her mind and start spilling her guts. UNTIL I remember one of the first things she says to Reverend Tóti, which is, "I could tell you anything."

Which makes me think, maybe she's not such a reliable narrator after all? And few things intrigue me more than an unreliable narrator.

I do wish there had been more of the main story. The first half of the book is about 70/30, but the second half (basically once she gets to the juicy part of the flashbacks), that ratio is pretty much reversed. I guess because there's only so much interesting stuff that can happen on a small farm in the middle of nowhere, beyond listening to a convicted murderer tell a crazy story about the guy she supposedly murdered.

Overall, I was a big fan. I liked reading about Agnes's gradual acceptance into her temporary home, and I liked getting glimpses into her mind. Despite the grisly subject matter, it was a nice book to read.

Goodreads Shelves: bechdel-test, is-or-would-be-a-good-movie, my-kind-of-woman, thought-provoking



I need to stop

So I got a Kindle this week, and now I... I can't stop buying books for it.

I mean, I know that it's important to load up my new device, but I DO already have a Nook, and downloading library books onto the Kindle is surprisingly easy.

It's just...

There are so many cheap books!!

And I keep buying them...

I've also been buying Nook books. My defense is two-fold: I rarely pay more than $3 for them (3 of them were free, in fact), and also I got a $5 gift card from B&N this week (which is why I splurged on Dear Mr. Knightley, which I'm excited about after reading Lizzy and Jane a couple weeks ago).

PS. It's been less than a week, and I feel a little guilty, but...   ...   I think I love my Kindle more. I KNOW, RIGHT? I've been a Nook girl for FOUR YEARS, and all of a sudden I switch teams at the DROP OF A HAT!? What. Is. Wrong. With. Me.


Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Summary: On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, she dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilization.

Wildly inventive, darkly comic, startlingly poignant — this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best, playing with time and history, telling a story that is breathtaking for both its audacity and its endless satisfactions.

Review: It's been about a week since I finished this book, and I finally feel like I have enough distance to talk about it.

It's a beautiful book. It's extremely well thought-out, and very skillfully written. The story is incredibly complex, and I have to give Atkinson props for keeping it all straight.

I have a couple of things to talk about-- I feel like the summary gives the promise of closure for the book, which the book then fails to deliver. The teaser at the beginning of the novel also did that, but I liked where she took it later on.

Also, I'm super bummed about Ursula's search for love. Clearly it's not as high a priority for Ursula herself, and this book also doesn't have ANY examples of actual True Love (except with Ursula's siblings -- the only constant is how close she is with her older sister and younger brother), but I was always waiting for her to fall in love and stay in love. Although that's also the point of the book, I think -- nothing's forever.

My other big issue was the fact that it's set, for the most part, during World War II. I'm just not that into stories about WWII -- that doesn't make me a bad person, does it? It's not that they're not interesting, because they are, but I'm just not that into them.

[SPOILER] I do have one more spoilerly thing to talk about -- I saw a theory on Goodreads that I really liked, that says that maybe her mother can start over again like Ursula can, and she can remember her past lives sometimes, too. Because of the part at the end where she says, Practice makes perfect. I really like that idea, because it explains how Ursula's not the only thing that changes every time-- outside factors are affected by other people having more chances as well. Although that sends me down a depressing theological rabbit-hole when I contemplate that Atkinson seems to be saying that we all just repeat our lives-- what, forever and ever? There's no end, just this, always? Ugh, it makes me tired just to think about. (PS, if other people besides Ursula could remember past lives the way she could, don't you think there would be a huge mob at the hospital the day Hitler was born? It reminds me of Asimov's idea that if time travel were possible we'd be surrounded by tourists from the future.)[/SPOILER]

Anyway, clearly this book gave me a lot to think about.

Goodreads Shelves: bechdel-test, funny, is-this-a-kissing-book, my-kind-of-woman, pretentious, snark-attack, thought-provoking



How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Summary: “Every war has turning points and every person too.

Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy.

As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way.

A riveting and astonishing story.

Review: The book itself is pretty good. It's short, it's a quick read, and it's nicely written. It took me a while to get into the style, because at first the fact that she didn't use quotation marks for dialogue drove me nuts -- I couldn't tell when someone was actually saying something, or just thinking it. Although she did a good job giving me context clues, so I could figure it out pretty easily.

It was a little much, to create a story based on a fictional modern-day world war and then add in the telepathy on top of it, but at the same time, I LOVE stories about mind readers. (Except a certain vampire mind reader, but I at least love to hate that story.) So I was on board with that. In fact, I'm a pretty big fan of the whole book.



Except for the part where she's in love with her cousin. Because, ick. Like, really really big ick. I mean, was that necessary, Meg Rosoff? Seriously?

So yeah. That's my review in a nutshell. It's a great book, except for the thing with Daisy and her cousin.

Goodreads Shelves: bechdel-test, is-a-movie, is-this-a-kissing-book, pretentious



2014 Wrap-Up

So last year I participated in the 2014 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge. My goal, at the beginning of the year, was 15-19 books, and my goal for the 2014 Goodreads Reading Challenge was 25.

Halfway through the year, though, I was doing so well that I adjusted my Goodreads goal to 50 books.

And I made it! I read exactly 50 books.

I only read one that doesn't count towards the 2014 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge -- Rickshaw Girl was only 96 pages. So my official count for the challenge was 49 -- I beat my 2013 total by 40 books!

Yeah, that feat will probably not be repeated this year. Still. Pretty good.

Jamie's 2014-outdo-yourself-challenge book montage

The Seer and the Sword
The View from Saturday
Agent of Change
Sloppy Firsts
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
Let It Snow
Aunt Dimity's Death
To Kill a Mockingbird
Dancing with Fireflies
The Four Doors
Me Before You
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
For Darkness Shows the Stars
Split Second

Jamie's favorite books »


Paper Towns by John Green

Summary: Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life–dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge–he follows.

After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues–and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees of the girl he thought he knew.

Review: It's like this: When I'm constantly hearing people talk about something, be it a book or a movie or whatever, I can only go so long before I need to check it out for myself.

Which is basically why I read Paper Towns. John Green kept filming vlogbrothers videos from the set of the movie, so I figured it was time to read the book. (Which is also why I bought and reread The Fault in Our Stars that one time.)

I think I've mentioned previously that I'm kind of over John Green's Preciously Clever Teenagers. But mostly because I used to be one, and those days are pretty much over for me (what with my ten-year high school reunion coming up this summer. Seriously, where does the time go?). In fact, I was thinking how weird it is that there are always these characters with a nickname that has literally nothing to do with their name, but every single person calls them by that nickname and knows some weird story about why they got it. And I was like, who is like that? Who even does that? And then I remembered a friend I went to high school with who went by Hot Sauce for no apparent reason but every single person called him that. And also a kid who was such a big fan of University of Alabama football that he went by Bama, and there were kids who didn't even know that his real name was Josh. So... John Green gets a pass, because I guess that really happens.

Paper Towns was interesting. It said some things to me about people, and about how you never really know what's going on inside someone's head. It also kind of made me want to read Leaves of Grass, maybe?

I liked Margo. I liked how Quentin worked so hard to figure her out, and he thought he saw beyond what she showed people and saw deep into her soul and stuff, and then at the end he realized that he'd done it wrong and read too much into a ton of random stuff. Margo, as seen by Quentin, is a lot more real and complicated than she seems, but also less mysterious and unattainable than she seems, too.

Random thought: I HATE books that are written in first person, but you don't know what the main character's name is. Like, after you've finished it. Have you read books like that? Where you can't remember the MC's name because the book was in first person and they just didn't say their name enough? This book isn't like that, although it's kind of close: I kept getting thrown off every time somebody called him "Q," because he called himself Quentin too much. I always thought of that as his name. Anyway.

I've said it before, but bear with me: I think I'm getting a little too old for YA books. My unofficial New Year resolution (I know it's February, but I finished Paper Towns back in December) is to read more grown-up type books. (Spoiler: So far it's going well.)

Goodreads Shelves: addictive, bechdel-test, fluffy, funny, is-a-movie, is-this-a-kissing-book, my-kind-of-woman, nook-ya, pretentious, thought-provoking



Bumped and Thumped by Megan McCafferty

Summary: When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society. Girls sport fake baby bumps and the school cafeteria stocks folic-acid-infused food.

Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and have never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Up to now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend, Zen, who is way too short for the job.

Harmony has spent her whole life in Goodside, a religious community, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to convince Melody that pregging for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from.

When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls’ lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common.

From New York Times bestselling author Megan McCafferty comes a strikingly original look at friendship, love, and sisterhood—in a future that is eerily believable.

Review: Like my review of the first two Jessica Darling books that I put up the other day, I'm combining these two novels into one review. Mostly so I don't get them mixed up during two separate reviews, because they're pretty much just one story split into two books.

Also like the Jessica Darling books, I read these because I bought the first one for 1.99 a couple months ago (years ago?) and finally got around to reading it, followed by being interested enough to check out the second book from the library.

In case you didn't catch the other similarity, let me point it out: They're also by the same author, Megan McCafferty.

All that being said, let's talk about the books now.

So, I'm not sure exactly WHY I was surprised, considering the premise of the book as stated by the summary above, but I was in fact surprised by how much sex there was in these books. Not that there was a ton of sex, because there actually wasn't very much, but they talked about it a lot. Like, A LOT. And I wasn't really on board.

Although it was intentional (or else why contrive such a ridiculous virus that makes artificial insemination impossible?), I think it took away from the social issues that McCafferty was trying to highlight. In fact, with artificial insemination in play, the entire issue of paying girls to have babies would have been a lot less uncomfortable (on paper), because then you weren't paying them to have sex.

Of course, without it in play you have the issue of True Love and stuff...

So anyway, what I'm trying to say here is that clearly these books have an intriguing premise, but I wasn't terribly impressed with where it went. Among other things, Melody and Harmony weren't particularly compelling characters, and I wasn't a fan of the Insta-love.

Goodreads Shelves: addictive, bechdel-test, fluffy, is-or-would-be-a-good-movie, is-this-a-kissing-book, thought-provoking



Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle

Summary: Sparkling white snowdrifts, beautiful presents wrapped in ribbons, and multicolored lights glittering in the night through the falling snow. A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. Thanks to three of today’s bestselling teen authors—John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle—the magic of the holidays shines on these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.

Review: What to do here? Let's take this one at a time:

"The Jubilee Express" by Maureen Johnson - This one was cute. I really liked the thing about her parents' hardcore miniatures collection; it was a fun detail that definitely added to the cuteness factor. I liked the love story, although the more I read and older I get, the less patience I have with super-quick love stories like this one. Although that's the nature of story collections like these, so I guess it's my own fault.

"A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle" by John Green - I think John Green sometimes overrates the charm of clever teenagers, which is probably just proof that I'm not a clever teenager anymore. I also found this story a bit unbelievable, because too many things Happened, and it felt like they were just Happening for Making the Story Longer purposes.

"The Patron Saint of Pigs" by Lauren Myracle - Aaand this is where it all fell apart for me. Although there was some charm to it, I couldn't really take it seriously. This girl is SUPER self-absorbed, and nobody's ever told her that before? And then this one thing happens, and suddenly a switch is flipped and now she's not conceited any more? How convenient.
(As a side note: The only other thing I've read by Lauren Myracle is her story in Prom Nights From Hell, which already left a bad taste in my mouth bc it's not even an original story -- it's just a rehashed, prom-themed version of "The Monkey's Paw".) I did like the wrap-up scene at the end, with all the characters from the other stories, just for the sake of closure.

Overall, it was nice to read a Christmas book at Christmas time (because I wasn't really feeling Christmas time -- Christmas isn't ubiquitous here like it is in the US), but most of the good feelings I have for it are for sentiment's sake, not based on its own merits.

Goodreads Shelves: addictive, bechdel-test, fluffy, is-this-a-kissing-book

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