Review: The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

Title: The Duff: Designated Ugly Fat Friend 
Author: Kody Keplinger 
Series: Stand-alone 
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, YA 
Publication date: September 7, 2010 
Rating: ★★★★

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 the man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her ‘The Duff”, she throws her Coke in his face. But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him. Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that’s she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

Okay, this book definitely won’t win an award for it’s intellect or it’s extraordinary story or its depth or it’s remarkable characters. But – I liked it. I liked it a lot, actually. Sometimes I’m just complete trash for this kind of romance. And, I promise, it’s a lot better than the synopsis makes it out to be. Yes, it’s a bit predictable; yes it has some obvious cliches. Yes. But I’m going to tell you why you might enjoy this anyway.

First of all, it’s predictable, but it’s also not. I thought this was going to be your typical plain girl hates hot guy, but then gets to know him better and decides he’s a worthy person after all, but she’s afraid because she really isn’t as hot as his usual girlfriends, but he doesn’t care and he starts hanging out with her and eventually he takes her to prom and on the last page of the book they kiss and they spend the rest of their lives together in one big happily ever after. But it wasn’t! In fact, it might have been the opposite. Wesley is the womanizer of the school, but it’s Bianca who starts using him because she needs to distract herself from her problems. Which is an interesting lead, actually, because not a lot of authors dare to make their female main character so open-minded about hook-ups and one-night-stands. She’s the one making decisions, she’s the one taking lead.

No matter where you go or what you do to distract yourself, reality catches up with you eventually.

Which brings me to the second reason you might like this book: Bianca. She’s really great. Confident (most of the time), loyal, mature and delightfully cynical and sarcastic, which is the trait I appreciated the most since I’m basically a native sarcasm speaker. Also, she’s told she’s the Duff in her group of friends (not particularly ugly - although the word suggests otherwise - but definitely not as hot as her friends and therefore more ‘approachable’) and she takes this well. She struggles with it, not being able to deny the truth in it, but she doesn’t let it define her. Bianca sticks with being herself, despite the Duff label, and I think that’s admirable.

Third reason: there’s Wesley Rush. I know he’s a horrible cliche of a guy, but I can’t pretend that I didn’t feel attracted to him. He’s handsome, he’s a womanizer and (to use Bianca’s words) screws everything he can lay his hands on. But he’s an honest one, if that makes any sense? He doesn’t make false promises and doesn’t lead anyone on. I’m not sure if it justifies his actions, but at least he doesn’t pretend to be someone he’s not and the girls he sleeps with know what they’re getting themselves into. Him sleeping around wasn’t the reason I liked him, obviously. Honestly, I’m not even sure I did like him until the third part of the book (by then I definitely did). I think I just thought he was really hot and compelling and I fell for him. Yeah, I know. I told you I was trash. But he has his good sides. For instance, even though he called Bianca the Duff, he doesn’t treat her any different from other girls. At first at least, because they obviously become friends and then things do change. But he doesn’t try to ‘improve’ her, doesn’t even once hint at her being less attractive or a bit chubbier than others. In fact, I think her not being a Barbie kind of turned him on. Which is a welcome change in this messed up world where everyone needs to starve him/herself, thank you very much.

I also liked the maturity level of the book. The story is set in high school, but I think it’s portrayed pretty realistically. They’re seniors, they’re not some inexperienced kids anymore that fuss about an almost-kiss. There are no taboos, no things that are ‘inappropriate’ to talk about. I haven’t read a lot of YA that handles sex so openly. Maybe I just haven’t read the right books, idk, but I appreciated it in this one. Don’t think this book will go all fifty shades on you, though. Not at all. But there’s a lot of intimacy and it’s handled well. Not too implicit, not too explicit either. There’s a good balance.
But I should soften this up a bit, because in some ways (not often) it was still somewhat immature. Mostly when Bianca started comparing her relationship to the complex relationships in Wuthering Heights. Sorry, but there’s no way that comparison will ever make sense in this kind of book. It’s just been done too many times and never actually right.

The subplot is enjoyable too. Bianca’s family is struggling and it’s what drives her to Wesley in the first place. It’s a believable story, with the right amount of drama. There are serious parts in this book. It has more depth than I originally thought it’d have and it teaches some valuable lessons. Not everything’s lightheaded. And there’s also somewhat of love triangle and although I usually feel strongly opposed to those, here it didn’t bother me that much. Okay, it did annoy me. But it was over before it could really ruin anything.

In conclusion, if you like romances, I think you might enjoy this. It is definitely relatable and it handles subjects we’re all susceptible to. The book has enough depth to keep you interested and involved. You should try it. I enjoyed this more than I thought I would, and perhaps even more than my head says I should.

I was the Duff. And that was a good thing. Because anyone who didn't feel like the Duff must not have friends. Every girl feels unattractive sometimes. Why had it taken me so long to figure that out? Why had I been stressing over that dumb word for so long when it was so simple? I should be proud to be the Duff. Proud to have great friends who, in their minds, were my Duffs.

Note: I have also watched the movie. The only reason I picked this book up was because I’d heard about the movie (starring Robbie Amell!) and I wanted to read the book before I watched it. Eh, I’m way less positive about the movie adaption than I am about the book. Remember how I said this book was more mature than you’d expect? Or that I really liked Bianca? Not in the movie. They made her a total stereotype. Dressing her in awful baggy clothes, making her a social disaster that totally bails on her friends and blames them for being prettier than her. In fact, this movie told the exact story I thought the book was going to tell before I started it. The one that ends with the perfect kiss at prom. The names of the characters and the Duff-thing were the same, but there weren’t that much more similarities. There was definitely no mention of her ‘physical’ relationship with Wesley. Too disturbing for all those sweet little teens, I suppose. Haha. It had Robbie Amell and he’s bae, so that made it a bit more interesting, but it really wasn’t a good movie. Especially not when you’ve just read the book.

Review: The Knife Of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

The Knife Of Never Letting Go Patrick Ness Chaos Walking
The Knife Of Never Letting Go Patrick Ness Cover Chaos Walking

Title: The Knife Of Never Letting Go 
Author: Patrick Ness 
Series: Chaos Walking #1 
Genre: Science Fiction, YA 
Publication date: May 5, 2008 
Rating: ★★★★½ 

Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him – something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily quiet creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn’t she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? Propelled by Todd’s gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he really is.

Spotlight #2: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Genre: Fantasy, YA, Romance (?!)  
Expected publication: October 6, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Pages: 384 pages

Simon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything.
Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story, but far, far more monsters.

Why This Book Deserves The Red Carpet:

I really had no choice but to put this book in the Spotlight this week, because we got the cover reveal a few days ago and.. I’M CRAZY EXCITED ABOUT CARRY ON. I have been since I found out Rainbow Rowell was writing it. Now that the cover is here, things are getting real and with the publication date set in October, the book is only a few months away! It was hard to believe this would actually happen, don’t you think? It’s a story about characters from a story set in another story. It should be impossible, if you think about it. I’m not sure this has ever been done before, but I love Rainbow Rowell for taking a chance on it. I loved the Simon Snow parts in Fangirl. The story and the characters both. And let’s be honest here, aren’t we all desperately waiting for the thing to happen? October 6th, mark the day on your calendar!

Journey to Hogwarts

Okay, okay. I realize this isn't very book related, but it still sort of is. Because, you see, I went to Hogwarts. Sort of. Which is Harry Potter and thus book related? I'm a huge Potterhead. I fell in love with reading when I fell in love with J.K. Rowling's magical world and I've adored it ever since. This series will always have a special place in my heart. When I visited the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London it felt like heaven on earth. It was so amazing to walk through those sets and experience everything first hand. I wish I'd never left. I could literally feel the magic running through my veins. Have you visited it already? If not, I can only encourage you to go. Yes, it's crazy expensive, but believe me when I say it's worth every pound.

April, the month I got a bit carried away..

I don't usually buy nine books in one month. Not that I don't always want to, but I need to keep myself in check. Storing books in my bedroom is starting to become a bit of a problem and I obviously need to save up some money. The struggle is real. But this month was different, because I'd already bought four books on my trip to London and because I'd finally read the Throne of Glass series and I just had to own those books, you know? Sometimes you just have to. I still need Heir Of Fire, the third book in the series, but this edition's paperback will only be released the 1st of september when Queen Of Shadows comes out, so I'll buy it later. And since I was busy buying books already, I decided to order Lola And The Boy Next Door along. I didn't particularly like this one to be honest, but since I loved Anna and Isla SO, SO MUCH, I needed my series to be complete. And while I was adding this to my cart, I somehow noticed Red Queen was on sale and it had been recommended to me and.. I really couldn't help it? It just sort of happened. Oops! 

Spotlight #1: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Series: Red Queen #1
Genre: YA, Dystopia, Fantasy
Release date: February 10, 2015
Publisher: Orion
Pages: 383 pages
Goodreads rating: 4.15 stars

Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood – those with red and those with silver. Mare and her family are lowly Reds, destined to serve the Silver elite whose supernatural abilities make them nearly gods. Mare steals what she can to help her family survive, but when her best friend is conscripted into the army, she gambles everything to win his freedom. A twist of fate leads her to the royal palace itself, where, in front of the king and all his nobles, she discovers a power of her own, an ability she didn’t know she had. Except… her blood is Red.
To hide this impossibility, the king forces her into the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his sons.  As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks her new position to aid the Scarlet Guard – the leaders of a Red rebellion. Her actions put into motion a deadly and violent dance, pitting prince against prince and Mare against her own heart.

Why This Book Deserves The Red Carpet:

This book has only been released last February, which means it’s hardly three months old. And yet a lot of my friends and acquaintances have added this book as ‘to read’. It could be the pretty cover, I admit. But those who have read it were wildly enthusiastic and now I’m of course really, really, REALLY excited! I’ve already ordered the paperback and it should be delivered later this week. Victoria Aveyard is a new author, this is her first book. I’m thrilled to find out if she’s as good as people say she is!

London book haul

I went to London last weekend and I really couldn't leave without going shopping and buying some books.. Obviously! I'm very happy with my purchases. I've already finished The Young Elites and We All Looked Up. Sometimes I wish I was a slower reader..

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

We All Looked up tommy wallach
We All Looked Up Tommy Wallach Cover

Title: We All Looked Up 
Author: Tommy Wallach 
Series: Stand-alone 
Genre: Contemporary, YA 
Publication date: March 24, 2015 
Rating: ★★★½ 

Before the asteroid we let ourselves be defined by labels: the athlete, the outcast, the slacker, the overachiever. But then we all looked up and everything changed. They said it would be here in two months. That gave us two months to leave our labels behind. Two months to become something bigger than what we’d been, something that would last even after the end.

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

The Young Elites Marie Lu
The Young Elites Marie Lu cover

Title: The Young Elites
Author: Marie Lu
Series: The Young Elites #1
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Publication date: October 7, 2014
Rating: ★★★★★

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever, marked by a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Branded as a malfetto – an abomination – she is cast out from all she has ever known and loved. Adelina finds sanctuary with other malfettos and discovers that the disease has left her with more than just a scar – she has a mysterious and powerful gift. She is a Young Elite. But Adelina’s ability is stronger than any Young Elite before her. Unless she can control the vengeful darkness growing in her heart, Adelina could be a danger to them all.

A Thousand Pieces Of You by Claudia Gray

A Thousand Pieces Of You Claudia Gray
A Thousand Pieces Of You Claudia Gray cover Firebird

Title: A Thousand Pieces Of You 
Author: Claudia Gray 
Series: Firebird #1 
Genre: Science Fiction, YA
Publication date: November 4, 2014 
Rating: ★½ 

Synopsis: Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him. Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.

Review: The Rule Of Thoughts by James Dashner

The Rule Of Thoughts James Dashner The Mortality Doctrine
The Rule Of Thoughts James Dashner cover The Mortality Doctrine

Title: The Rule Of Thoughts 
Author: James Dashner 
Series: The Mortality Doctrine #2 
Genre: Science Fiction, YA 
Publication date: August 26, 2014
Rating: ★★★½ 

Synopsis: Michael completed the Path. What he found at the end turned everything he’d ever known about his life—and the world—completely upside down. He barely survived. But it was the only way VirtNet Security knew to find the cyber-terrorist Kaine—and to make the Sleep safe for gamers once again. And, the truth Michael discovered about Kaine is more complex than they anticipated, and more terrifying than even the worst of their fears. Kaine is a tangent, a computer program that has become sentient. And Michael’s completing the Path was the first stage in turning Kaine’s master plan, the Mortality Doctrine, into a reality. The Mortality Doctrine will populate Earth entirely with human bodies harboring tangent minds. Any gamer who sinks into the VirtNet risks coming out with a tangent intelligence in control of their body. And the takeover has already begun.

The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas

Title: The Assassin's Blade 
Author: Sarah J. Maas 
Series: Throne Of Glass #0.1-0.5 
Genre: Fantasy, YA 
Publication date: March 4, 2014 
Rating: ★★★★★ 

Celaena Sardothien is Adarlan's most feared assassin. As part of the Assassin's Guild, her allegiance is to her master, Arobynn Hamel, yet Celaena listens to no one and trusts only her fellow killer-for-hire, Sam. In these action-packed novellas - together in one edition for the first time - Celaena embarks on five daring missions. They take her from remote islands to hostile deserts, where she fights to liberate slaves and seeks to avenge the tyrannous. But she is acting against Arobynn's orders and could suffer an unimaginable punishment for such treachery. Will Celaena ever be truly free?

Dorian Havilliard
Aedion Ashryver
Rowan Whitethorn
Chaol Westfall
Sam Cortland
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