Review: The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend

The Duff: Designated Ugly Fat Friend by Kody Keplinger

Pages: 280

Genre: New Adult, Chick-lit

My Rating: 3/5

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

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“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 “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 she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.”

* * *

So I admit, I started reading this because I was always the “ugly, fat friend”, at least in my eyes, but this book actually has a great message. You never know what someone else is going through, so try not to judge them.

DUFF reminded me a lot of my own life. Perhaps not in high school, or all of the experiences, but the confusion and problems that kept arising made me take a look at my own life and consider what I was doing. It might have even made me question my actions a bit – am I doing things right?

I gave this a 3/5 stars purely because it was a little “young” for me. I feel as though a lot of books I read get lower ratings purely based on my age. I still read books I loved as a kid, so sometimes ratings suffer a bit. If I were around 14 again, I would have given this a 4-4.5/5 for sure.

Even with my age, I found this an enjoyable, short little read.

If you feel like reading something short, that also has quite a good message, I’d suggest reading it. But don’t be too weirded out if you feel a little too old to “get it”.

Enjoy, and happy reading!

Review: The Forestwife

The Forestwife by Theresa Tomlinson

Series: Forestwife Saga

Pages: 170

Genre: Fantasy, Childrens, Fairy Tales, Adventure

My Rating: 5/5

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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“Deep in Sherwood Forest, there lives a community of outlaws. These heroic people have escaped the cruelty of medieval England’s lords and their unjust laws. The brave young Robert (alias Robin Hood) is one of these rebels; the Forestwife, a woman with magic healing powers, is another. Soon a fifteen-year-old orphan named Mary will flee into the forest to avoid the fearsome marriage her uncle has arranged for her. She will not be heard from again, but the legend of Maid Marian, the Green Lady of the woods, will have begun.”

My loverly friend and I have started sharing books with each other, which works especially well considering we’re both big into fantasy. Even Friendly Giant has told me about books I need to read, so be prepared!

The Forestwife was a lovely book, full of magic and intrigue. I have a wild imagination, so this really piqued my interest. As you can tell from what the back of the book says, it’s about a girl named Mary that runs off into the woods to escape a terrible marriage she wants no part in. Luckily, Agnes, a good friend, helps her in her journey.

Personally, while reading this book, I imagined everything, from the trees to the deer. When it talked about the Forestwife’s house, I imagined a very large oak tree with a door in the trunk filled with shelves upon shelves of herbs and healing potions… corners with burlap sacks full of grain… I’ve always been into learning about natural approaches and this basically is how I always wanted to be.

If you have a vivid imagination, it’s a wonderful read.

I didn’t even really grasp the romance. It wasn’t pronounced or ugly, it was just… there. Hell, I didn’t even mind the birth stuff… not that much anyway.

And the ending? Holy bajebus…

It’s always fun to share books from your past, and I’m really glad she shared this with me (onto the next one, right?!). I gave it a 5/5 because it dragged me into the world, and I actually liked the main character for once. Not only that, but this is the type of book I would’ve read when I was younger, and it was beautifully written, thus, appreciated even at 21.

Enjoy, and happy reading!

Review: Splintered

Splintered by A.G. Howard

Series: Splintered

Pages: 371

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Retelling, Romance, Adventure

My Rating: 5/5

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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“This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.
When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.”

As most of you know, I’m incredibly stingy when it comes to giving out 5 stars. Very few books I’ve ever reviewed have received a full 5/5 grade.

Splintered is about this girl named Alyssa who has to go to Wonderland so she can have the answers she’s been craving and also to get her mother out of the asylum.

Personally, I’m a huge Alice in Wonderland fan. I liked Disney’s movie, I like the books, the retellings, even the games. If you give me something that’s based around Alice in Wonderland, I will generally fall in love, and Splintered was no exception. I fell for this book almost immediately after reading the first paragraph. It takes you into a new world; one you’re vaguely familiar with, but becomes something wondrous in its own right.

I don’t read things to look smart or show off, I read things that appeal to me, which sometimes means I’m reading children’s books, like The Twits or a Goosebumps book.

Splintered really dragged me into the world of Alyssa and her family. She was a young, courageous, innocent girl that did nothing more than follow her heart. And the writing style was fantastic. It wasn’t written in a “sing-song” way, or a dumbed-down way either, it was just perfect. The imagery within made you feel like you were apart of the story. You could see the stars, feel the ocean, taste the oysters, and smell the decay. All throughout this novel, you were part of the story, you were Alyssa, or Morpheus, or Jeb. You were one of the characters. You felt what they felt, you were there the entire time. A lot of books don’t have the power to drag you in like this one did.

I really liked Alyssa, she reminded me a lot of myself. Innocent and shy with a lot of pent up emotion, just to come out later on as a woman who knows what she wants.

I liked how the characters weren’t solely based off of the Disney movie, nor were they based purely off the book. Howard gave a part of herself when she unleashed her imagination, which was a dark, sometimes grotesque picture. I loved it.

What can I really say about this book? I loved it and if you like Alice in Wonderland, chances are you’ll like it too. I can’t even really complain about the love triangle (that happens in EVERY YA book) because it was interesting. Personally, Morpheus reminded me a lot of M, which sounds weird, but just the way he acted… very protective.

So why did Splintered receive 5/5?

Truth be told, I’m extremely biased. I love Alice in Wonderland and I love reading about other peoples’ interpretations. It’s more of a girly read, but hey! I’m a girl, so it’s okay! And I’d definitely recommend it if you like even the thought of Wonderland and the creatures within. Just keep your mind open, for your own sake.

Enjoy, and happy reading!

Review: House of Leaves

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

Pages: 709

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Literature, Speculative Fiction, Adult

My Rating: 4/5

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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“Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command. Starting with an odd assortment of marginalized youth — musicians, tattoo artists, programmers, strippers, environmentalists, and adrenaline junkies — the book eventually made its way into the hands of older generations, who not only found themselves in those strangely arranged pages but also discovered a way back into the lives of their estranged children.

Now, for the first time, this astonishing novel is made available in book form, complete with the original colored words, vertical footnotes, and newly added second and third appendices.

The story remains unchanged, focusing on a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story — of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.”

Um, wow.

This was an interesting read, and by no means a fast one. Within this novel (if you’d even call it that) there are probably 4 stories and all of the quotes and references it makes constantly have you flipping through pages to find the next thing. There are pages with one word on it, pages where you have to turn the book upside down or sideways, and to be honest, there were times I didn’t know what was going on. This book really tests your ability to multi-task because there is so much going on and you are constantly flipping from one subject/story to the next, and it isn’t as though it ends before it switches, oh no, no, it will switch right in the middle of a sentence. You have to remember what was said so that 4 pages later, after reading the other part, you can continue with what you first started reading.

Confused yet?

In all honesty, it wasn’t that hard to follow, there was just a lot of information from within. It definitely gives you a lot to think about in regards to how novels are written; it challenges everything you know!

What made me choose this book was the fact it’s about a house that’s bigger on the inside. I’m a Doctor Who fan and it (obviously) made me think of the tardis, though it’s not even close to being similar.

Basically, this guy named Johnny collects papers from Zampano, and puts it all together. Simultaneously, we’re reading about the Navidson record and what’s happening with Navy and Karen.

There’s a family living in this house that (did my font colour change? No, not the blue. I just realized I could change the colour) finds closets pop up out of nowhere and there are hallways that lead, seemingly, to nowhere. The Navidson record is a bunch of photographs and recorded information from when they decided to search this area.

It’s hard to explain, you’d have to read it for yourself.

I was actually quite freaked out while reading this. The growling in the dark really disturbed me (I’m terrified of the dark) and I had to put the book out of sight for a while just because it got to me. I think this book is a real psychological thriller. Not in the way that other novels are, but this makes you think. What is real? What IS reality?

I started questioning my sanity!

Is this house controlled by psychological fear? It seemed that everything that was happening was based on someone’s psychological state. The book, at one point, even states something about the psychological state. Now THAT really made me start thinking!

The ending also got to me. Johnny’s mother was in an asylum. She was constantly writing letters to him, and I don’t know if she was actually insane or not. A lot of the same things had been happening to Johnny (ie. nightmares). His mother seemed more sane than anyone in the book! But it got me thinking… was Johnny real? Early on, I questioned whether Zampano ever existed. Was his mother actually him? Did any of this really happen?

So many questions…

Maybe I misunderstood some stuff (I skimmed some parts), but I don’t know if there’s anything to misunderstand, it seems to be open for interpretation. And I couldn’t imagine how long it took to write, it seemed like a lot of these references were made up! I also didn’t find it “terrifying” like some did. It made you think more than feel like running away.

Anyway, if you’re looking to read something out of the box and different from what you’re used to, I totally suggest this book. It wasn’t the greatest, but it was pretty good. I gave it a 4/5 just because of the sheer insanity within. I’ve never seen a book like this before (besides an I-spy book) where you need a mirror to read pages and do all this other stuff.

This book isn’t a read. It’s an experience.

Enjoy, and happy reading!

Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Pages: 352

Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Young Adult, Paranormal

My Rating: 4/5

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“It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that Miss Peregrine’s children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow – impossible though it seems – they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.”

* * *

A lot of people rated this book quite low, and my reasoning on why was the fact that this story wasn’t exactly scary. No, not in the slightest. But I don’t think that was the intention. Sure, the photographs were, at times, quite creepy, but most old photography (1800’s – early 1900’s) does look to be quite eerie.

Despite it not being horrifying (and thank goodness for that), I really enjoyed being taken on this journey. There were times I thought Jacob was a whiny character, but c’mon, he’s a 16 year old boy with no friends (kind of reminds me of me at that age). The way the pictures are paired with the story is absolute genius. It’s always fun to use your imagination and you always do while reading, but having a bit of an “imaginational push” was great! I’m a sucker for anything old though.

I thought the grandfather was great. As kids, what’s better than our grandparents telling us these lavish stories about their lives? Their accounts of things, their experiences, their history.

And even better than that, what’s better than a *spoiler alert… well, sort of* bunch of kids living in a time loop?

I think the thing that really captivated me about this story was the adventure. This boy, Jacob, goes on such an adventure. He doesn’t know if his grandpa’s stories are true or not – he doesn’t see how they could be and even questions his own sanity, despite all of this, he still goes on the adventure to find out the truth. And let me get started on these children. What is cooler (actually, it’s rather hot) than kids that have these… powers? Fire, invisibility, the ability to float – freaking awesome.

Overall, I gave this book a 4/5. I’m usually pretty stingy on giving stars, but I thoroughly enjoyed this read and I’d suggest to anyone to give it a read despite all of the 1-2 stars people seem to endlessly give it.

It won’t have you jumping out of your seat but there are some disturbing aspects and it really is a fun journey.

Enjoy, and happy reading!

Review: A Clash of Kings

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

Series: A Song of Ice and Fire

Pages: 1,009

Genre: Epic Fantasy, Adventure

My Rating: 5/5

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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“In this eagerly awaited sequel to A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin has created a work of unsurpassed vision, power, and imagination. A Clash of Kings transports us to a world of revelry and revenge, wizardry and warfare unlike any you have ever experienced.

A comet the colour of blood and flame cuts across the sky. And from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns. Six factions struggle for control of a divided land and the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms, preparing to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war. It it a tale in which brother plots against brother and the dead rise to walk in the night. Here a princess masquerades as an orphan boy; a knight of the mind prepares a poison for a treacherous sorceress; and wild men descend from the Mountains of the Moon to ravage the countryside. Against a backdrop of incest and fratricide, alchemy and murder, victory may go to the men and women possessed of the coldest steel… and the coldest hearts. For when kings clash, the whole land trembles.”

***

What can I say about this book? Wow. I’ll start off with wow.

A Game of Thrones was a wonderful novel, one that dragged you into the story and A Clash of Kings isn’t any different in that regard. I found myself drawn in from the moment it began, partially from being familiar with some of the characters already.

A lot of things have changed. We watch the children grow up, not just in age, but in soul; they have to grow up, either that or face death. And death is a constant rock on your shoulder, it’s always there to remind you that any moment could be the last. I think that’s one of the selling points: the author isn’t afraid to hurt the main characters. We see Sansa get beaten by Joffrey’s men, we see Sansa get beaten, we even see Tyrion get hurt badly. There is pain and grief for every one of these characters, Lannister and Stark alike.

The story focuses mainly on the fact that the Lannisters are bound by incest and should be killed.

Boy, there is a lot of talk about incest in this story. Not just incest, but sex. There’s talk of women and men being raped, the incest between Cersei and Jaime, and it goes on and on about “maidenhood” and whores and who’s bedding who. This isn’t the kind of story I’d read to a child every night before bed.

One of the best parts that I’d like to point out is the magic. In a lot of fantasy novels, magic is there but more so. Characters can depend on it and save themselves with it. In this series, it is briefly touched upon and while it’s there, it isn’t the premise for the entire story. It’s touched on lightly, which is a nice change from the “bam, in your face” that most novels seem to have these days. There’s even a supernatural aspect to all of this. Example being Bran and his third eye. I don’t want to get too far into detail, but there’s things like this as well as, I think they were called “green dreamers.” Children of the forest blood is likely.

And the ending. My goodness! That was surprising, though I took the news happily. I had worried through so much of the book, feeling disgusted and uneasy with what had happened. Thankfully, all of those thoughts were put to rest.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, I would. Of course, after you read the first in the series. I gave this a 5/5  because, again, I felt like it was written quite well, the language is up to par (with what, don’t ask me), and I thoroughly enjoyed the story. Parts of it stuck with me and made me feel. I’ve grown attached to these characters and definitely will be continuing with the series after I take a short break from it. Contrary to popular belief, well, with what most people seem to think, I liked this one a bit more than the first. There were also certain parts that were kind of difficult to get through. I felt like it dragged on when it could have been finished much quicker. Yes, I know, that goes hand in hand with epic fantasy, but some parts I just didn’t enjoy.

Prepare yourself for a big surprise!

Enjoy, and happy reading!

Review: A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

Series: A Song of Ice and Fire

Pages: 864

Genre: Epic Fantasy, Adventure

My Rating:  4/5

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“In A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin has created a genuine masterpiece, bringing together the best the genre has to offer. Mystery, intrigue, romance, and adventure fill the pages of the first volume in an epic series sure to delight fantasy fans everywhere.

In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the North of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the centre of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavours to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.”

Now I’m not going to lie, it’s been a few months since I read this book and I’ve started on the second in the series, so I apologize.

Epic fantasies are one of the greatest things to read, in my opinion. They take you on an incredible journey, one away from your own, where you delve into the world of these unforgettable characters.

I’d like to get this off my chest: Winter is coming.

At first, it was a bit slow, nothing too fancy or outstanding, but give it time, I promise it will get better. I like to give things chances, even if they don’t immediately hold my attention, and I’m glad that I did. I fell in love with two of the characters right from the beginning: Arya Stark and Tyrion Lannister. Arya reminded me a lot of myself. She was stubborn and didn’t want to be a lady, she wanted to be free and defied all that stood in her way. And she is pretty smart too, considering she’s such a young girl. Tyrion, what can I say about him? His wits! His lovely, lovely brain! He is portrayed as an incredibly ugly man, ahem, half-man, who has everything working against him. But he is full of cunning wit and sarcasm. I can see how the characters in the book dislike him, but from an outside perspective, he has to be one of the greatest characters I’ve ever read about.

So as we read, we learn that Lord Eddard Stark, or informally, Ned, was chosen to be King Robert’s Hand. King Robert was a seemingly harmless man, though he loved his booze, food, and hunting. Ned has to leave behind his wife, Catelyn; his sons, Robb, Bran, and Rickon; his daughters, Arya and Sansa; and last but not least, his bastard, Jon Snow, who later joins the Night’s Watch, despite being so young.

Jon was another good character. Young but so full of life.

I grew to really like Ned, and was shocked by what ended up happening. Yes, I was a fool, I couldn’t see what was happening right before my own eyes, I thought everything was going to turn for the better.

Joffrey is an ass, there isn’t much more I can say about him, and I feel sorry for Sansa, being betrothed to him. Cersei isn’t much better, and it would seem that all the Lannister’s are some sort of evil, though the Imp is loveable.

I also really grew to love the direwolves. I love the name Nymeria, it has stood out to me. While out, they found 6 direwolves (direwolf being the sigil of the Starks) and one was given to each of Ned’s children, including the bastard. The children trained their wolves and they proved to be the most loyal companions.

So why did I give this book 4/5 stars? Well, I did enjoy it, thoroughly, I did. But the beginning didn’t hook me as much as I would’ve liked, and there were things throughout that weren’t the most appealing. I love the way it was written, almost in Tolkien fashion, and again, big words. I love learning new words, so reading this has extended my vocabulary.

Overall, this was a great book and I’ll definitely be continuing the series. I mean, what’s better than knights, princes and princesses, jousting, and magic?

In the words of Scar, be preeepaaaared!

Enjoy, and happy reading!