The DUFF ~ Kody Keplinger

The DUFF: Designate Ugly Fat Friend by Kody Keplinger

Review:
Bianca Piper is not the prettiest of her friends. Well, that’s what Wesley Rush thinks anyway. He tells her she’s the “Duff”. Designated Ugly Fat Friend. See, Wesley’s plan is to be nice to Bianca in order to get closer to her two gorgeous friends, Casey and Jessica. And just who is Wesley Rush? He’s the hottest, richest guy in their high school. Every girl has a crush on him. Almost every girl, anyway. Bianca certainly doesn’t believe in young, teen love and really doesn’t see why other girls are fascinated with Wesley. He’s really NOT all that.

Bianca is furious with Wesley for labeling her this way. She vows not to speak to him and avoids him at all costs. But this changes when she’s paired with him for a school project. What started out as a “I HATE YOU” relationship turns into an enemies with benefit relationship. Bianca and Wesley start sleeping together and initially Bianca feels she has it under control. Sex with Wesley is a means to an end. She’s using him to distract herself from how terrible and out of control her home life is. Soon, things take an unexpected turn for Bianca when she realizes she has developed feelings for Wesley.

The DUFF may not be a book for all readers (but in fairness, can’t that be said for any book?) due to its sexual content. Yes, Bianca and Wesley have a lot sex. . . casual sex which raises red flags given their age. It’s quite easy for the reader to quickly judge Bianca for her actions and easily conclude she’s no different from the girls she ridicules.

It’s here where the reader needs to take a step back and focus on why she makes these decisions. The world that she knows, the world that she’s so protective of is falling apart and there’s nothing she can do but watch it crumble. To distract her from the pain, she sleeps with Wesley. But what she doesn’t realize is her emotions are causing her to connect to him on a level that is just as equally frightening.

Bianca certainly isn’t an easy character to like. She’s cynical, flawed and very judgmental. She’s secretive and withholding, but she’s scared and so insecure. She’s a teenage girl who sometimes doesn’t make the best decisions. Although circumstances may be different, some readers may see a little of themselves in Bianca.

The DUFF was a quick read for me, as I read it in less than three hours. I admit, I picked it up for that reason only so I was quite surprised that I was still thinking about it days later. Recommended.
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Book Details:
Pub. Date: September 7, 2010
Publisher: Poppy, an imprint of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 277
ISBN: 9780316084239
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Library

Review: Blast from the Past ~ Meg Cabot

Blast from the Past by Meg Cabot
Allie Finkle Rules for Girls, Book 6
Narrated by Tara Sands

Mini-review:
Allie Finkle has never been on a school field trip. At her previous school, her class went to the children’s museum (which included a Barbie exhibit!) and Allie was beyond excited about. Her then BFF Mary Kay suggested Allie give her signed permission slip to Mary Kay because Allie may lose it. So of course Allie did. On the day of the field trip, Mary Kay accidentally on purpose forgot to hand Allie’s in. So Allie had to spend the day at school while the rest of her class went on a fun day to the museum.

When Allie’s teacher Ms. Hunter announced the class would go on a field trip, Allie was thrilled! This time she would hand in her permission slip! And the best part is the class would have to take a school bus there! Allie walks to school so she’s never been on a school bus before. Unfortunately Allie’s excitement is short lived when she learns her former school will also be joining in on their field trip. Which means she will have to see Mary Kay and other the mean girls from her former school. To make matters even worse, Mary Kay is assigned to be her buddy! Can anything good come from this day?

Length: 3 hours, 55 minutes

Source: Library

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To Have and To Kill by Mary Jane Clark

To Have and To Kill by Mary Jane Clark
A Wedding Cake Mystery, Book 1

Review:
Piper Donovan is down on her luck. She was recently written out of her soap opera, A Little Rain Must Fall. Not having any callbacks from her auditions, Piper is forced to give up her Manhattan apartment. She returns home to Jersey to live with her parents. Her father is a former cop and her mother owns The Icing on the Cupcake bakery. It’s there that Piper spends most of her days when she’s not auditioning.

Piper stayed in touch with the leading actress from A Little Rain Must Fall, Glenna Brooks. When the two friends meet for lunch, Glenna announces she’s getting married on Christmas Eve and asks Piper if her mother would be so kind to make her wedding cake. Piper immediately accepts on her mother’s behalf. It’s also during this lunch that Glenna discloses she has received a disturbing letter (anonymously written) about her upcoming nuptials. Piper warns Glenna to be careful.

Days following their lunch, someone close to Glenna is mysteriously murdered. All clues lead back to this letter. And it’s not until another person from the soap is left for dead that Piper begins to realize someone is determined to not see Glenna walk down the aisle and will kill anyone that is in the way.

To Have and To Kill is the first book in Clark’s new Wedding Cake Mystery series. I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed her previous Key News series, so I was looking forward to reading this mystery. As usual, Clark did not disappoint. She has created a likable and intelligent amateur sleuth in Piper. There’s a hint of a love interest for Piper, but it doesn’t overshadow the mystery. Piper’s parents round out the storyline as her mother is battling personal issues that may threatened her livelihood.

Overall I really enjoyed To Have and To Kill. It’s a light, cozy mystery that is perfect reading for a lazy afternoon. I’m looking forward to reading future mysteries starring Piper.

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Book Details:
Pub. Date: December 28, 2010
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 303
ISBN: 9780061995545
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Source: Library

There’s Cake in My Future ~ Kim Gruenenfelder

Title: There’s Cake in My Future
Author: Kim Gruenenfelder
Genre: Chick Lit
Pub. Date: December 21, 2010
Pages: 358
Source: Library

It’s a week before Nicole’s wedding. The night of her bridal shower, Nicole informs her best friends, Seema and Melissa, that she rigged her cake in order to give each woman her “happily ever after”. For Melissa, Nicole wants her to have the engagement ring. Melissa is currently dating Fred and he still “hasn’t put a ring on it”. And it’s been six years. SIX!!! Seema will get the red hot chili pepper. She’s been secretly in love with Scott and is afraid to tell him in fear it will ruin their friendship. And for herself, Nic wants the shovel. She was laid off from her newspaper and desperately wants to find a job. The shovel represents a lifetime of hard work.

Unfortunately neither woman pulls her intended charm: Nic gets the baby carriage; Seema gets the shovel and Melissa pulls the red hot chili pepper. Not completely buying into the fate of the pulled charms, each woman begins to panic when it appears as though the charms are leading them down a road they are not ready to explore.

Gruenenfelder did a fantastic job of bringing these friends to life. Told in alternating chapters, the reader can easily slip into the characters’ stories and root for each to find happiness.

There’s Cake in My Future is an amusing and engaging read. The ending left an opening for a sequel and I hope Gruenenfelder will bring back these characters. I felt as though I met new friends and I want to know what’s next for these three women. This is one not to be missed by fans of chick lit. Recommended.

The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendshp ~ Lisa Verge Higgins

Friends Sarah, Bobbie Jo, “Jo”, and Kate are shocked to their core when Rachel, the most daring and vivacious of the group, suddenly dies of cancer. After her passing, each woman receives an unexpected letter from Rachel. In her letters, Rachel requests something of each woman: to experience life outside of her comfort zone.

For Kate, that means sky-diving. Kate was spontaneous and care-free before she become a married mom of three. Somewhere along the way her marriage to Paul become routine and stale.

Jo is a high-powered business woman aiming for the vice presidency at her company, a position that is so close, she can see the name plate on her office door. Rachel’s request for her is to become her daughter’s legal guardian. And Jo knows absolutely nothing about being anyone’s mother.

Rachel’s request of Sarah is to reconnect wtih her one true love. Either Sarah makes it work with him or find closure so she can move on and find love again.

The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship is a book about taking risks. Leaving what’s comfortable in order to discover the treasures life has to offer. As each woman fulfills Rachel’s requests, she learns valuable lessons about the woman she once was and the woman she has now become. Rachel’s presence is very much felt throughout the book, making her a significant character. I enjoyed how the author used her letters and flashbacks to tell her story. I could vividly picture Rachel as I was reading.

I’ve been looking forward to The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship since I first heard about it last summer. I’m very pleased to say it was worth the wait. Highly recommended.

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Book details:
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Pub. Date: January 26, 2011
Pages: 352

My copy of The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship was provided by the publisher for my honest review.

Anna and the French Kiss ~ Stephanie Perkins

It’s Anna’s senior year and she’s not happy. Her dad (without consulting her) decided she needed a good learning experience and living in Paris would accomplish that. Just like that, Anna is whisked away to the School of America in Paris. Of course that summer, things were finally starting to happen with her crush Toph. Anna is almost certain they would become a couple. Now thanks to her father, she’ll have to wait until holiday break to see if her hunch is correct.

Her first night in Paris, she meets her neighbor Meredith. And St. Clair. St. Clair is the gorgeous guy every girl has a crush on, but he’s currently dating Ellie.

As Anna settles into her new school and begins to make friends, she finds herself gradually falling for St. Clair. Could the beautiful St. Clair also be falling for her too?

Anna and the French Kiss is a story the reader can easily get lost in. I read most of it on a Sunday afternoon and could not wait to pick it up again Monday after work. I found myself interested in Anna and her budding friendship (and romance) with St. Clair. Although I thought Anna’s holiday break was very predictable, it didn’t take away from the story. In fact, I think it helped with Anna’s character growth.

There’s a lot of buzz about this book. So much so, I almost did not want to read it. I wondered if the book would live up to its hype. But after I finished the book, I’m so glad I did. Anna and the French Kiss is a wonderful addition to the young adult genre. What’s even better? Perkins has two companion novels in the works: Lola and the Boy Next Door and Isla and the Happily Ever After to be published in September 2011 and 2012 respectively.

Adult fans of young adult fiction will not be embarrassed to be caught reading this book in public. It’s a heartwarming love story. Highly recommended.
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Book details:
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: December 2, 2010
Pages: 372
Source: Library

The Transformation of Things ~ Jillian Cantor

Jen Levenworth is at the hair salon when she sees the breaking news story. Her husband Will, the youngest judge in Deerfield County, has been indicted on bribery charges. Shocked and embarrassed, Jen flies out of her chair with damp hair and races home to find Will.

Will is home when she arrives and looks beaten and distraught. A look that is uncharacteristic for him as he is always put together and everything is its place when he’s around. Seeing Will this way frightens Jen and she begins to wonder about his innocence. And her marriage.

The Transformation of Things is a story about seeing things for what they are versus what we want them to be. Which we all now is very, very hard (and scary) to do. Early in their marriage, Jen and Will lived a great life in the city. Being newly married and having great careers allowed them to be young and carefree. After making Partner at his law firm, Will set his sights on becoming a judge. This decision uprooted them from city life to suburbia. Jen’s job at the magazine became a distant memory as she attempted to settle in as being country club housewife.

This transition did not come easily for Jen. No matter how close she was with her friends, she thought she was still kept at arm’s length in their immediate circle. This was evident when the news story about Will’s arrest broke and her friends started to pull away from Jen. Slowly Jen and Will are trying to pick up the pieces after being ostracized from the country club. As Will begins a new job, Jen also finds herself freelancing at her former magazine. Will’s change in behavior is at first uncomfortable for Jen, but soon she cautiously welcomes it as she ponders the future of her marriage.

And then the dreams begin. Jen has vivid dreams about those close to her: her sister Kelly, Will, Kat, a former co-worker and friend at the magazine, and Lisa, another country club member. Jen had preconceived notions about each, but after her dreams, she begins to question how well she truly knows them.

There’s an unexpected twist at the end that I really can’t say more about without ruining the book. I’m not sure how I feel about it to be quite honest. It took away from the book just a bit for me. Having said that, I still recommend The Transformation of Things to fans of women’s fiction.

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Book details:
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Pub. Date: November 2, 2o1o
Pages: 270
Source: Library