Book Review: The Nerdy and the Dirty


Book Review: The Nerdy and the DirtyThe Nerdy and the Dirty by B. T. Gottfred
Release Date: November 15th 2016
Publisher: Macmillan
Pages: 304
Source: Library

His classmates may consider him a nerd, but Benedict Pendleton knows he's destined for great things. All he has to do is find a worthy girlfriend, and his social station will be secured. Sure, Benedict is different--but that's what he likes about himself.

Pen Lupo is sick and tired of hiding who she is. On the outside, Pen is popular, quiet, and deferential to her boyfriend. On the inside, however, Pen is honest, opinionated--and not sure that she's quite like other girls. Do they have urges like she does?

When fate intervenes, Pen and Benedict end up at the same vacation resort for winter break. Despite their differences, the two are drawn together. But is there such a thing as happily ever after for this unlikely pair?

I wanted to love this book. I really, really did. I first saw it on Edelweiss, but I didn’t get to it before it was published. I love  frank sex talk for teens ala Forever (Blume). I truly believe teens need those type of books; however, this is not it.

But it got good professional reviews and has decent buzz! Indeed it has gotten lots of praise, but I found the book incredibly problematic. I seriously cannot understand why no one but School Library Journal pointed out any of it, even as a precaution. While this is a rant for another day, I will say we need to do better. Hopefully, by the time I’m finished, you’ll agree with me.

Okay, let’s start with the writing. I found most of it to be choppy and stilted, especially when it came to Benedict. I do believe this was done on purpose, to highlight his “tin man” likeness, but it drove me crazy. Here’s an example of what I mean:

When I got home, I wanted to talk to my dad. He would have great advice. He’s brilliant. I’m not saying that just because he’s my dad. He’s a psychiatrist and an author. (p 17)

I know there’s technically nothing wrong with the sentence structure, but most of the book is in this format. For me, it’s jarring and pulls me out of the story. I honestly almost DNF at page 30 because of the writing.

Benedict as character has a lot of issues. I would wager by the way he talks and acts, that it is possible he is on the spectrum. I do not know this for sure, though, so it’s strictly a guess. However, if he is, the whole storyline that he can just be “normal” if he tries hard enough is problematic. Although, even if he is, that does not excuse some of his actions/allow him to be a jerk. I absolutely hate the way he treats his mother. Several times it is mentioned that his mom is the beauty and not the brains. She couldn’t possibly help him because she’s not intelligent enough to help him. It has to be his dad. I know a lot of this was force fed by his father, but it’s still not okay, especially since this attitude is basically applied to all women. I will give points for Benedict back pedaling on this train of thought as the book continued, though.

Of course, there is sex in this book. I’ll admit at times it is gratuitous, like telling me which hand is used to masturbate, but most of it isn’t too bad. I do like that most of the sex talk is straightforward. No cute slang for genitalia and consent is usually asked (at least with Benedict and Pen). However, it does at time makes the scenes seem a bit unrealistic, especially the first actual sex scene. It felt a bit too mature, however, that’s me mainly being nit picky. What is not okay is how female masturbation is treated. Pen repeatedly calls herself a freak because she likes to masturbate and think about sex. She even gets sent to in-patient church therapy when her mom discovers her in the act. Benedict does tell her it’s healthy and that more girls should masturbate, but there is still a sense that Pen believes she’s a freak. Also, I do find that hard to believe that none of the girls on school talk about sex, even with religion thrown into the mix. I can remember sitting in 7th grade and listening to girls talk about their sex lives. Considering that was over 20 years ago, I can’t imagine it’s changed too much, especially the amount of times I’ve told my teens our program talk is PG-13.

I’m going to start delving into some of the stuff that really bothered me. The top of my list is abuse. Pen’s (ex) boyfriend, Paul, is highly abusive mentally, sexually, & physically. Here are just some of the passages that highlights how abusive he is:

“You’re not beating him up, Paul,” I say. Shit. I never tell him what to do or not to do. You know. I always do my passive thing….
“Babe, you can’t talk to me like that.” (p 24)

“I love you too.” I always said “I love you” after he did. I said it first once and it weirded him out. So I say it second. Always. (p 34)

After school, Paul grabbed me under the arm and dragged me out to his car. He kept twisting the skin under my arm. It felt like flesh would tear off, and I never told him to stop. Just take the pain, Pen. It’s okay. Paul would never really hurt me…..”If we hadn’t had sex, i would totally break up with you, Pen! But I love you and we’re going to get married. But we’re going to hate each other like your parents hate each other unless you stop acting like a cunt.” (p 52)

“How are you going to make it up to me?” ….Before I even undid my seatbelt, he put his hand behind my head and started guiding me down toward his crotch. It’s not like he shoved me down there. But, I don’t know, I guess I made it up to him. (p 53)

There is more I could pull, but I’ll stop there. Paul is abusive, no excuses. He breaks up with her after her mom decides Paul shouldn’t join them on vacation at the resort. He knows she was sent away for therapy, but doesn’t know the details. Instead, he uses it as an excuse for them to take a break and for him to mess around with another girl. During this break is when Pen hooks up with Benedict. Three days. Three days is all it takes for her to magically break “free”. When the vacation ends disastrously (I’ll get to this in a bit), she goes to see Paul. She doesn’t even care that he cheated and tells him it’s over. He refuses to let her go and then hits her, which she reports to the cops. I’m glad that she that she reported it, but it feels unlikely that after being in an abusive relationship for years she could stand up for herself so fast. It makes it appear that walking away from abusive partners is simple, but in real life it would have been way more of a struggle. Also, I hate how it was kind of swept under the rug/explained away because his own mother was abusive as well. It was odd how Pen was just like “well, that explains it” and go on her merry way.

Pen’s mother is also pretty abusive, which again is swept away with an explanation  as to why it happens. Not only does Pen mother send her away to therapy for masturbating, but she also calls the cops to assure she goes. It’s also implied many times that Pen’s mother is verbally abusive. The reason? View Spoiler »

If that wasn’t enough, the way crazy, retard, & whore are thrown around is horrible. This is the area I’m most upset that professional reviewers didn’t at least call out as a precaution. Pen repeatedly calls her mom or herself crazy or nuts. I hate how loosely the word is thrown around. This passage struck me the hardest

So, yeah, it was a panic attack. I’m crazier than my mother. (p 83)

No. No, no, no, no. I hate the implications this makes on people who experience panic attacks. How would a teen who experience panic attacks regularly feel after that statement? It’s an illness that no one should be ashamed up and it certainty doesn’t make one crazy.

As for retard and whore, once Benedict and Pen are discovered in a warming hut naked, those words are thrown around without care. Her mother repeatedly called Benedict a retard and Pen a whore. A sentiment that his father echoes. A sentiment that Benedict starts to repeat to himself/believe.

Do you think she ever wants to see a boy again whose father called her a whore? Use your brains, retard. (p 225)

If I’m correct and Benedict is on the spectrum, this is unforgivable, especially since no one tries to stop them from saying it. In fact, only Pen says not to use those words, once, to Paul during their fight. That’s it. One could argue it was the parents lashing out, but I’m extremely disappointed by how casually those words are used.

I wish I had more positive things to say about this book, but it was a complete miss in my eyes.

30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 4

Well, this week was rough. I only got 3 books read. Admittedly, one of them was over 800 pages though! That puts me at 22 books in 30 days. Not quite the full 30, but I’ll take it.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 4The Looney Experiment by Luke Reynolds
Release Date: August 4th 2015
Publisher: Blink
Pages: 208
Source: Library

Atticus Hobart couldn't feel lower. He's in love with a girl who doesn't know he exists, he is the class bully's personal punching bag, and to top it all off, his dad has just left the family. Into this drama steps Mr. Looney, a 77-year-old substitute English teacher with uncanny insight and a most unconventional approach to teaching. But Atticus soon discovers there's more to Mr. Looney's methods than he'd first thought. And as Atticus begins to unlock the truths within his own name, he finds that his hyper-imagination can help him forge his own voice, and maybe just maybe discover that the power to face his problems was inside him all along.


This was a middle of the road book for me. I can totally see middle school boys liking it, especially those reluctant readers who like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. It was a bit predictable and I would have loved a bit more depth to it. An okay read that’s worth checking out.

 


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 4Boys Don't Knit (In Public) Release Date: March 24th 2015
Publisher: Macmillan
Pages: 272

I’m still not sure how I feel about this one. I was expecting something a little different. It had some funny moments, but nothing that I laughed hard about. (Well, except for the old granny chasing bullies with a giant knitting needle.) Language and  sex chatter move this one to solid high school. I will say that I didn’t like how Ben’s friends treated most women. There one scene, which was the worst, where they watched a girl on crutches putting her groceries into her car because when she bent over you could see under her skirt. The one friend even taped part of it, which ew! However, there was alway the implication/comment that what they were doing was wrong and that Ben needed new friends. Still doesn’t make it 100% better, but at least it’s not being applauded. But I will say they protected their friend when he needed it the most, which helped redeem their uncool behavior a bit as well.

 


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 4Winter by Marissa Meyer
Release Date: November 10th 2015
Publisher: Macmillan
Pages: 832

Aw, man, this book was a beast! Over 800 pages, whew. Main verdict is that I liked it and was happy with how the series wrapped up. The fight scenes with Levana and the ending dragged on a bit, which is probably my biggest complaint. Although, I don’t feel like things were a bit too open ended with Cinder and Kai. It would be years before Lunar would be under control again and it’s hard to believe that he would wait that long. I mean, long distance relationships are hard enough when you’re on the same planet. I can’t even imagine what it’ll be like for them. However, it was fitting at the same time so I can’t complain too much.

As a side note: I listened to about 1/2 of this on audio, which was absolutely fantastic. However, it was 23 hours long! I don’t get a lot of opportunity to listen to audiobooks (mainly in the gym) and simply could not wait to found out how this one ended, which is why I delved into the print book instead of listening it out.

 

Book Review: The Tree of Water + excerpt (#treeofwater tour)


Book Review: The Tree of Water + excerpt (#treeofwater tour)The Tree of Water by Elizabeth Haydon
Series: The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme #4
Release Date: October 28 2014
Publisher: Macmillan
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher

The epic voyages continue in The Tree of Water, the fourth adventure in bestselling author Elizabeth Haydon’s acclaimed fantasy series for young readers, The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme.

As Royal Reporter of the land of Serendair, it is the duty of young Charles Magnus "Ven" Polypheme to travel the world and seek out magic hiding in plain sight. But Ven needs to escape the clutches of the nefarious Thief Queen, ruler of the Gated City, whose minions are hunting for him. His friend, the merrow Amariel, has the perfect solution to his dilemma: Ven and Char will join her to explore the world beneath the sea.

As they journey through the sea, Ven finds himself surrounded by wonders greater than he could have ever imagined. But the beauty of the ocean is more than matched by the dangers lurking within its depths, and Ven and his friends soon realize that in order to save thousands of innocent lives, they may have to sacrifice their own. For everything in the ocean needs to eat…

I walked into The Tree of Water having never read the series before. I had fears that this book would not be readable as a standalone, but my fears were unfounded. Yes, you can tell that there have been past adventures, but most things that are important are explained within the story; which was mainly the relationship between the characters and the how their adventures had progressed to this point. The story itself is fully contained within the book; while I felt like I may be missing some character development, the plot was welcoming to newcomers.

The Tree of Water is  an adventure from start to finish. Ven, Char, & Amariel find themselves in trouble almost at every turn. Perhaps even a little too much for my taste. While the sense of doom at the the end of each chapter is great to keep readers wanting more, it exhausted me. So much happened in a very short period of time. Just when I thought things would slow down for bit, something major happens again and again and again. While some of it was necessary, I do think there could have been a couple that could have easily been dropped. However, younger readers (5th – 7th grade) who are looking for a fun, quick ride will most likely love that aspect to it.

One of my favorite things about The Tree of Water is the ever present theme of friendship. I loved the lengths that they were all willing to go through for each other. Yes, Char and Amariel bickered a lot, but when it came down to it they had each other’s back. None of their relationships were perfect, but they were willing to go that extra mile for each other…even if it meant going to the furthest depths of the sea. That is the perfect definition of friendship to me.

I also really enjoyed Ven and his growth as a character. At the start of the journey, he’s ready to jump in both feet without thinking about the dangers that the ocean holds. There were times I thought him extremely thoughtless or selfish, but as the book progressed that happened less and less. I liked that he thought often about why he was really on this underwater adventure and if there was truly was a main goal/mission involved. I won’t spoil anything, but I did like when he finally settled on. He could have bragged about how important his role had been, but instead focused on the wonders he got to see and the overall experience. I hope that attitude continues into the next books.

Final Verdict: While there were a couple of things that didn’t work for me, overall, I did enjoy Tree of Water. It’s a perfect choice for middle schoolers looking for a fast paced novel filled with adventure and magic.

And as a special treat, I have a Tree of Water Excerpt for you to check out. Happy Reading!

Book Review: Never Slow Dance with a Zombie


Book Review: Never Slow Dance with a ZombieNever Slow Dance With a Zombie by E. Van Lowe
Release Date: 2009-08-18
Publisher: Macmillan
Pages: 256

Principal Taft's 3 Simple Rules for Surviving a Zombie Uprising:

Rule #1: While in the halls, walk slowly and wear a vacant expression on your face. Zombies won't attack other zombies.
Rule #2:  Never travel alone.  Move in packs.  Follow the crowd.  Zombies detest blatant displays of individuality.
Rule #3:  If a zombie should attack, do not run. Instead, throw raw steak at to him.  Zombies love raw meat. This display of kindness will go a long way.

On the night of her middle school graduation, Margot Jean Johnson wrote a high school manifesto detailing her goals for what she was sure would be a most excellent high school career. She and her best friend, Sybil, would be popular and, most important, have boyfriends. Three years later, they haven't accomplished a thing! Then Margot and Sybil arrive at school one day to find that most of the student body has been turned into flesh-eating zombies. When kooky Principal Taft asks the girls to coexist with the zombies until the end of the semester, they realize that this is the perfect opportunity to live out their high school dreams. All they have to do is stay alive....At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.

Never Slow Dance with a Zombie is one of those reads that is fun and quick, but one I just didn’t click with. I really can’t put my finger on it other than the fact that the premise was too far fetched for me. I know, I know zombies are far from realistic, but co-existing and even dating one?! Where is the running in fear? Where is the need to fight and destroy them? Okay, so maybe the whole virus scenario makes these zombies a little different, but would you really want to date one? Decomposing lips aren’t really that kissable. (You know I’m right!)

On another level, I totally appreciate what E. Van Lowe was trying to accomplish the whole popularity & “it” girl message. I even liked the subtle message of mixing with people you may not normally hang out with. After all, if you only judge a book by it’s cover your sure to miss an excellent story within. I just wish there would have been more done with it. I was kind of sad to see how it all ended. In this case I definitely think that more would have been better. (I know I’m being a little vague, but I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone!)

If you LOVE zombies (or even if you don’t) I recommend giving Never Slow Dance with a Zombie a try, especially if you’re looking for a quick, light read. And, as always, be sure to drop me a note if you do! I always love to hear what others think!

P.S. This post is part of zombie week. Be sure to check out the September Zombie blog for even more Zombie-goodness.

P.S.S Yes, yes I know I usually write my own summaries, but I’m strapped for time lately. You may see a couple more product description summaries as I try to catch up, but I promise they won’t be here to stay.

Book Review: Eyes Like Stars


Book Review: Eyes Like StarsEyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev
Series: Theatre Illuminata #1
Release Date: July 2009
Publisher: Macmillan
Pages: 368

The only home that Bertie Shakespeare Smith has ever truly known is the Théâtre Illuminata. No, she's not an actress, she actually lives there. This may seem odd, but the Théâtre Illuminata is not your normal theatre. It's a place that characters from every play ever written call home, where a scene change magically happens by speaking into a headset, and where four tiny fairies can be your sidekicks. It's also a place where your main love interest can either be a dashing pirate or a seductive airy element. The Théâtre Illuminata is the only place that Bertie has ever wanted to be, but now she may just lose it all. After a stunt gone wrong, Bertie must prove that she is invaluable to the theatre. Will Bertie be able to do it or will she'll be forced to take her final bow and brave the world outside alone?

I really don’t know what I can say about this book other than I simply ADORED it. It did take a couple of pages for me to understand what was going on, but once I did I couldn’t put it down. It was fun to see my favorite Shakespeare characters come alive in a way I had never seen them before. I couldn’t help but giggle at the traits that the characters carried on and off the stage. Of course, there are plenty of smaller characters I’d never noticed before, but will never forget after reading Eyes Like Stars. (Team Nate!) And Bertie…I loved her with her blue hair and mischievous spirit. She’s the type of heroine you secretly wished you had as a best friend. She may get you into a lot of trouble, but you’d be sure to have fun along the way!

Eyes Like Stars will have you laughing, cheering, and possibly screaming at your favorite characters with every page turn. There was never a dull moment and I thoroughly enjoyed the journey with the Bertie. The only bad point? I want more NOW. As in yesterday. I seriously hate waiting and have no idea how I’ll be able to handle to a year-long wait to find out what happens next. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to read some Shakespeare to hold me over until book two hits the shelves!