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.

My Thoughts: I found out about The DUFF at Angie’s blog, where she gave it a glowing review. YA novels about high school have become kind of hit-or-miss for me. I either really like them or am so bored by them that I can’t finish.

The DUFF definitely exceeded my expectations and as I was reading it I was making note of several things I was very impressed by and that I wanted to tell the author about.

1. I love the narration. Bianca’s voice is spot on and while I’m sure the author has probably received some flack from parent’s groups or uptight reviewers about the expletives, I think it was pitch perfect and never overdone. Teenagers talk a certain way, end of story.

2. The friendships. I’m not sure why this is such an issue, but in most of the YA novels I read that are aimed at girls, very rarely do we see much positive and fleshed-out interaction between two girls that are friends! It’s a problem. So many novels are too focused on the romance between The Girl and The Guy. While The DUFF definitely has romance, I was still very impressed by how real and unique the friendship between Bianca, Jessica, and Casey was. As well, Jessica and Casey weren’t just two blah-blah supporting characters, but had depth of their own. I appreciated that.

3. I wish I had read this book when I was in high school. The way the book dealt with sex and the horrible misogynist stereotypes forced on teenage girls as a result of sex was great. Having sex doesn’t make you a whore (even in a purely hookup relationship) and girls going around calling each other whores and sluts is probably one of the worst things about high school–and so many girls don’t even realize how it hurts themselves, as women, to do this. I wish I had realized this while in high school. I participated in this vicious cycle as a teenager and I didn’t see the light until college. I was frankly delighted with the way this was handled in The DUFF. Not preachy or full of it.

Can’t wait to read Keplinger’s next novel, Shut Out.

Author Website: http://kodykeplinger.com/

Prince of Ice by Emma Holly

Rating: 5 out of 10
Summary: Humans like to call them demons, but the Yama are an old and civilized race, far too civilized to fraternize with lesser beings. It is only through subterfuge that a quarterhuman infant, one Xishi Huon, is raised side by side with the Midarri heir, whose own peculiarities make her his soulmate—at least until the whispers of their unnatural fondness get her banished to an orphanage.

Coming of age as a courtesan, Xishi excels in the erotic arts. But when Corum Midarri becomes her new owner, the relationship will test the limits of her gifts. Corum is the Prince of Ice now and not the sensitive boy she knew. If he succumbs to the temptations of her human touch, their love will defy every convention his kind holds dear. If he doesn’t, his uncontrollable sexual needs might drive both insane. Summary from emmaholly.com

Commentary: I was almost not going to review this because it was such a non-event in my reading line-up… just look at that cover! The cover basically tells you everything you need to know about this book.

I’m not going to say the sex scenes were badly written, but nothing really happened for me. I didn’t feel the chemistry. Some parts just seemed so outrageous that I couldn’t focus on the actual story because all I could think of was “he has an extra appendage on his penis?! What the hell?!?!?!

I have to give the author kudos for an interesting idea. Her “demon” world seems to be built on a lot of Ancient Chinese culture. Places had names like “Thousand Plum Blossom Street” and “Tea House of Lovely Chrysanthemums” and things like that. Corum’s teacher’s name was Master Ping.

Not a horrible way to waste a half-hour. Don’t buy it though.

Dark Magic by Christine Feehan

from bn.comRating: 4 out of 10
Summary: Young Savannah Durbrinski was a mistress of illusion, a world-famous magician capable of mesmerizing millions. But there was one–Gregori, the Dark One–who held her in terrifying thrall. Whose cold silver eyes and heated sensuality sent shivers of danger, of desire, down her slender spine.

With a dark magic all his own, Gregori–the implacable hunter, the legendary healder, the most powerful of Carpathian males–whispered in Savannah’s mind that he was her destiny. That she had been born to save his immortal soul. And now, her in New Orleans, the hour had finally come to claim her. To make her completely his. In a ritual as old as time… and as inescapable as eternity (from book jacket).

Commentary: Quintessential, typical “dark fantasy romance” book. Beautiful young woman fatally attracted to T, D, and H male with domination tendencies. He loves her! He wants to protect her and bring her back to his various mansions and palaces scattered around the world! But she resists! Because she is beautiful, and young, and determined to hang on to her independence, because by god, she is an Independent Woman! A Super Strong Heroine! And did I mention Young And Beautiful?

I think my strongest memory of this book is remarking mentally how many times the author used the words “small rib cage” and “tiny waist” to describe the heroine. Probably like once every 20 or 30 pages.

Just another one vampire/fantasy/erotic romance trend. I pick these up on the off chance that one day I might find a passably decent one that’ll change my opinion about the genre. Sadly, nothing’s really worked out sof ar.

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

COVER catcher in the rye by j.d. salingerRating: 5 out of 10
Summary: Salinger’s classic coming-of-age story portrays one young man’s funny and poignant experiences with life, love, and sex.

Commentary: Gosh I really don’t like modernist literature. Holden Caulfield means nothing to me.

The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Thomas Roszak

from bn.comRating: 8 out of 10
Summary: In The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein, Theodore Roszak offers us a subversive, erotically charged counterpart to Mary Shelley’s classic, Frankenstein. It is presented in the form of a secret autobiography, a soul-baring document intended for the eyes of a single reader: Elizabeth’s brother, lover, and spiritual other half – Victor Frankenstein.

The writings are discovered by Sir Robert Walton, the Arctic explorer who, in Mary Shelley’s original novel, recorded Victor’s deathbed confession. Walton becomes obsessed with learning the full story behind the mad doctor’s last words. From the tattered pages of Elizabeth’s journal and the scattered clues Walton finds as he re-creates her life, a compelling tale of moral horror unfolds. In her memoirs, Elizabeth emerges as a spirited woman far ahead of her times. Rescued as a child from the Gipsies by the brilliant Lady Caroline Frankenstein, she is raised as young Victor’s adopted sister.

Under Lady Caroline’s guidance, Elizabeth is initiated into a circle of “cunning women” – outsiders would call them witches – who are the guardians of long-forgotten pagan ceremonies and healing arts. She and Victor are schooled in ancient teachings that have been transmitted through female adepts who understand the mysteries of nature. The goal is to unite the two in the “chemical marriage,” a step toward the union of all opposites that will restore the Earth to balance.

The two youths pursue their education through the shadowy realms of alchemical lore and tantric sexual rites until a moment of weakness disrupts the quest. Tormented by shame and anger, Victor turns to the “unhallowed arts” that result in his misbegotten Creature, the vengeful fiend who will haunt Elizabeth’s fatal wedding night (from BN.com).

Commentary: Read this on the plane back from Mexico and finished it (425 pages) in about 2 hours–it was engrossing and I could not put it down. I was kept reading it as I was waiting for the American Airlines representative behind the counter to find my ticket and check me in to my flight.

I read the real Frankenstein novel by Mary Shelley a couple of years ago and loved it. I passed Elizabeth Lavenza off as a weak-minded, shallow woman who was much too dependent on Victor even after all he had done to her–leaving her alone with no notice for long periods of time, creating this horrible monster that ended up destroying her on her wedding night.

Although nobody will ever know Shelley’s reaction to this novel, it’s definitely feminist and goes on and on about the wrongs of the patriarchal society. At many points throughout the novel I was surprised and had to keep reminding myself that, yes, it had been written by a man. It had many valid points (although I don’t consider myself a full-blown feminist, I ardently agree with gender equality and all those things we’re supposed to have in today’s free-thinking, modern world) even when it delved into the slightly more fantastical world of alchemy and secret female cults.

The above mentioned “magic” was interesting and provided some good mysticism and mystery for the novel, as well as a substantial amount of eroticism. Not a novel for the young reader who thinks it’ll be a sequel to the classic, humorous kids’ Halloween movie Young Frankenstein. Sex and the glamour/mystery/ associated with it in Romantic literature is a very prevalent part of the novel, contributing greatly to the plot and tone.

Quite entertaining and a good, fast read. I’d definitely recommend reading the original Frankenstein first.