Movie Review: "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies"

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Happy Valentine's Day everybody! What better way to celebrate the holiday of love than watching an adaptation of a Jane Austen classic with the walking dead thrown in?

Last Wednesday, a small group of ladies from my book club joined me to watch "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," which was directed and written by Burr Steers. I was feeling optimistic going into the theater, because I had skimmed several positive reviews and thought the casting was great.

The actors did not disappoint. Lily James made an excellent, feisty Elizabeth Bennet, Sam Riley played a brooding and badass Mr. Darcy, and Douglas Booth provided major eye candy as Mr. Bingley.

What surprised me the most, however, was how much was changed from Seth Grahame-Smith's parody novel. I don't want to spoil either the book or the film, but there were certain characters who were supposed to transform into zombies and never did, as well as vice versa. The movie also added the element of "vegetarian zombies," ones that could eat animal brains to slow down the progression of the sickness.

Despite the leaps of faith you have to make with this plot, I was certainly entertained. There were elements that I missed from the book, including Elizabeth eating the hearts of ninjas and kicking the ass of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, but it was clever and female-empowered. Matt Smith played a hilariously flamboyant Mr. Collins who had just as much of a crush on Mr. Darcy as the women in the audience.

"Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" isn't Oscar-worthy, but nobody who sees it will be expecting that high of quality. Critically speaking, it's currently rated 6.4/10 on IMDb and a 5.5/10 on Rotten Tomatoes, but it's still great fun.

I don't know any other movie where you'll both swoon over a love story and scream at jump-scares. If you're a Jane Austen fan and are looking for a passionate film for Valentine's Day that the man in your life will actually enjoy, I recommend "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies." As the tagline promises, it's "bloody lovely!"

Book Review: When in Doubt, Add Butter

Rating: 3 out of 5

As the summer comes to a close, I like to soak up the sun with some good chick-lit: something cheerful, funny, and easy to read while laying by the pool.

Beth Harbison writes good chick-lit. I've already read Shoe Addicts Anonymous and Secrets of a Shoe Addict, so when I saw When in Doubt, Add Butter on sale, I picked it up without a thought.

This 2012 novel stars private chef Gemma Craig (no relation to Jenny Craig), who is struggling to make ends meet in Washington, D.C., while cooking for a different client each weekday. She works for an eclectic group of people, including a Russian psychic, a morbidly obese online poker player, and the uppity Van Houghtens who are 'allergic' to everything.

Then there's the elusive Mr. Tuesday, nicknamed that by Gemma who has never actually seen the workaholic lawyer, but finds herself inexplicably attracted to him. What will happen when their paths finally cross--in the most surprising of ways?

I'll admit that while I enjoyed this book, I could have been content if it remained a story about love and cooking. Unfortunately, Harbison throws in a few plot details that cost her a couple stars in my opinion.

One thing that I really don't like is a bait-and-switch. When Gemma reveals that she became pregnant as a teenager and gave the baby up for adoption, I was immediately turned off. This is something that I believe should have been included in the book summary, especially since it's mentioned so early in the story.

My blog followers should be well aware by now that I'm not a fan of kids. I'm childfree in life, and I prefer my reading to be as well. I love reading about love, but there's nothing that makes me roll my eyes harder than when a romance novel ends with marriage and a baby carriage. It's cliche as hell, and it promotes the stereotype that all women are dying to get hitched and knocked up.

Now don't get me wrong--I'm not insulting the women who do value these things. There are more than enough books out there to support this domestic vision. But I'm also not going to hide the fact that I actively avoid chick-lit or romance novels with main characters dealing with issues related to having or raising children. Personal preferences are exactly that--personal.

My point is that I would have appreciated a heads up that I was getting into a book filled with guilt and angst over giving a child up for adoption (not to mention, another kid-related plot twist further into the novel).

There's absolutely nothing wrong with adoption--or abortion or raising a child as a single mom, for that matter. But if you're going to write about any of them, include them in the book summary, for goodness' sake! Plenty of people will still read your book, just not me. This failure to divulge soured an otherwise lighthearted tale about bonding over butter, which is all I ever wanted.

For those who are looking for great chick-lit/romance without all the baby mama drama, check out the stand-alone novels of Sophie Kinsella and the U.S. Attorney series by Julie James. 

Book Review: P.S. I Still Love You

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

When I read a book like P.S. I Still Love You, I'm reminded of why I feel conflicted about reading YA that is not wrapped in the dystopian or supernatural. With no layer of escapism, all that you're left with is teenage drama--and let's just say that I had enough of that to last a lifetime.

For those like me who were nerdy and unpopular, who valued good grades and good books over football games and house parties, high school was definitely not 'the best four years of your life.' In fact, if anyone does happen to spew that nonsense at me, I immediately distrust them. Someone could build a time machine and offer me $100 million to relive my high school experience, and I would still laugh in his face without a millisecond of hesitation.

So when Jenny Han's sequel to To All the Boys I've Loved Before opens with the aftermath of Lara Jean Song's class ski trip, in which someone secretly filmed her steamy hot tub make-out session with her boyfriend Peter Kavinsky and then put it online for all to see, it struck a nerve, and I felt a deep empathy for her.

I can't imagine how difficult it must be to suffer through your teenage years in the digital age. My generation was the last to know what the world was like pre-social media, considering that Myspace and Facebook had only started gaining popularity when I was in high school. I was bullied mercilessly without the assistance of cyberspace, so I'm filled with horror when I think about just how much worse the torment can be nowadays.

It is extremely difficult for me to set aside my biases and review this book objectively. Every step of the way, I see myself in Lara Jean's shoes. I give Han credit for making Lara Jean seem so young; there were many times that I felt that her character was way too naive, but I realize that I can only sense this after years of disillusionment. I have to remind myself that I too was equally sheltered and gullible, until my horrible peers shredded my innocence and my ability to believe the good in others.

My less-than-enjoyable high school years also made me despise Peter with the fire of a thousand suns. His decision to emotionally support his ex-girlfriend instead of Lara Jean, thereby making her look like an utter fool to the entire school, eerily mirrored my own relationship drama and left a bitter taste in my mouth. Boys who care so much about making everyone happy and not picking sides are cowards who will not stand by you when you need it the most. In other words, Switzerlands don't win wars.

That being said, this book is wonderfully written and kept me turning the pages. I thought it cute to incorporate Lara Jean's volunteering at a nursing home, and I'm still a fan of the Song family dynamics, which have now extended into the dad's dating life. I also really loved the reunion between Lara Jean and John Ambrose, who is a shining light among the sea of loser guys who go to this school.

I'm sure that I'm not the only one who was woefully disappointed in Lara Jean's choice at the end of the book, and I hope that Han writes another sequel just so her protagonist can grow up and learn from her god-awful relationship mistakes. I'm happy to read more about Lara Jean's teenage years, even if it means coming to terms with my own in the process.

Book Review: It Happened One Wedding

Rating: 4 out of 5

I love when I have an author whom I can rely on for always writing great stories. I have read every single novel by Julie James, renowned romance novelist known for her FBI / U.S. Attorney series set in Chicago.

You can read my reviews of James' other novels by clicking the links below:

This book stars FBI Special Agent Vaughn Roberts and investment banker Sidney Sinclair. When a blind date goes bust for Sidney at a coffee shop, Vaughn tries pulling some moves on her instead, but she doesn't fall for his playboy ways and turns him down.

Later that night, they end up at the same restaurant only to find out that their respective siblings are marrying each other! Awkward yet sexual tension commences as they're forced into close contact to help plan their wedding.

This is a fun story that's refreshingly realistic, because it takes some time before true feelings emerge. Insta-attraction, definitely, but none of that horrible insta-love that plagues romance novels these days.

In fact, Sidney and Vaughn casually hook up for most of the novel, with Sidney afraid of falling for another womanizer after suffering a broken engagement to her cheating fiancé, and Vaughn enjoying his bachelor lifestyle too much to settle down. I appreciated the slow burn as both characters realize their undeniable connection throughout each chapter.

That's not to say that little happens between them. Rest assured, the love scenes are hot, which I've come to expect from James. There's just something about combining crime-busting with lip-locking that keeps me coming back for more of her books.

If you're looking for a contemporary romance that's sexy without being sappy, I recommend this book and any other by Julie James.

Book Review: Invisibility

Rating: 3 out of 5

Oh, how I wanted to enjoy this book more! Invisibility, a collaboration between David Levithan (Every Day, The Lover's Dictionary) and Andrea Cremer (The Nightshade series), was published in 2013 and seemed to be every YA lover's dream. But while the story started out great, it only got more disappointing with each page.

The book's structure is certainly unique. The authors alternate chapters between two teenagers living in Manhattan: Levithan writing from the POV of Stephen, a boy cursed into invisibility by his grandfather, and Cremer writing as Elizabeth, his new next-door neighbor who discovers that she is the only one who can see him...and possibly cure him.

This sounded similar to Every Day, since it also features a paranormal romance, but I quickly found out that it's subpar to Levithan's solo story. In that book, the protagonist known simply as "A" wakes up in a new person's body every day (hence the title), and the reader is given almost no reason as to why. I appreciated that sentiment also seen in Kafka's Metamorphosis, because the audience must take a leap of faith and begin in media res.

However, Invisibility attempts to explain Stephen's condition with poorly designed world creation in which magical curse-casters and spell-seekers exist in constant tension with one another--the former like Stephen's grandfather whose nature it is to spread cruelty, and the latter like Elizabeth who have the power to keep them in check.

There are so many plot holes in this story that it would take forever to list them, but the most egregious is that there is no explanation as to why Elizabeth is the only spell-seeker who can see Stephen when there are others who can't. The rules of this magical universe are haphazard, and the overall logic is just abysmal.

In addition, this novel suffers from the common YA mistake of 'insta-love,' given that Stephen and Elizabeth are willing to die for each other only a few weeks after meeting. I won't give the ending away, but even a hopeless romantic like myself has a hard time buying that their relationship could possibly have a 'happily ever after.'

As much as the book is entertaining and keeps you turning pages, I find it a rushed, terribly thought-out tale that reads more like mediocre fan-fiction than a legitimate novel. I rated this 3 stars because Levithan's writing prowess is undeniable, but it far outshines Cremer's. While I'm happy for her for getting the chance to ride his coattails, I'll stick to the work of her writing partner in the future.

Audiobook Review: To All The Boys I've Loved Before

Rating: 4 out of 5

This was a book that I couldn't resist after reading so much great feedback from other book bloggers. Jenny Han was a new author to me, and I'm glad that I was introduced to her work.

To All The Boys I've Loved Before is a young adult fiction novel that follows Lara Jean Song, a high school-aged middle child. Her older sister Margot just broke up with her boyfriend Josh and is studying abroad in Scotland. Her younger sister Kitty is obsessed with convincing their dad to get her a puppy. And Lara Jean finds herself in the most mortifying of predicaments.It turns out that her habit of writing love letters to the boys she was once in love with has epically backfired, because somehow the letters get mailed. And one of those boys just happens to be Josh.

To save face, Lara Jean impulsively decides to pretend to date her old middle school crush, Peter Kavinsky, who also received a letter. Peter agrees to fake-date her to make his ex-girlfriend jealous, which adds even more drama because nobody crosses the queen bee and gets away with it.

This was a great audiobook, because Han imitates a teen girl very well with her short, simple sentences and conversational tone. However, as much as I loved the fact that Lara Jean was half-Korean (seriously, why aren't there more protagonists of color in literature?!), you could obviously tell that the narrator was unfamiliar with certain terms, like incorrectly pronouncing the Japanese manga that she reads as "main-gah" instead of "mahn-gah." A small quibble, but I couldn't help but cringe during these moments.

Other than that, I enjoyed this story because it was so relatable. Lara Jean, inexperienced in relationships, must learn to adapt when her once-unrequited loves start to show interest in her. She must also navigate her changing family life, dealing with her older sister so far away from home. With their father raising three girls alone after their mother's death, Lara Jean has to step up to be a role model to her younger sister.

I was a bit disappointed by the conclusion, since the story took too many turns toward the end that I couldn't predict where it would stop. Once it did, I felt that I would have outlined it differently. However, I learned that Han has a final sequel planned for April 2015 called PS: I Still Love You, so hopefully the plot comes together better in the second half.

To All The Boys I've Loved Before is a fun, lighthearted read that will make you empathize with your teen self and nostalgic for your own coming of age.

Book Review: A Lot Like Love

Rating: 4 out of 5

A while back, I read Julie James' About That Night, a romance between ex-con Kyle Rhodes and Assistant U.S. Attorney Rylann Pierce. I realized that I had skipped a novel in her FBI series, so now I've filled in the gap!

This book stars Kyle's twin sister Jordan, who manages an upscale wine store in Chicago. Every year she attends a swanky party hosted by Xander Eckhart, who has made a fortune in the restaurant and nightclub business.

When the FBI learns that Eckhart is supplying that fortune with the mob's drug money, agent Nick McCall is assigned to an undercover mission to plant bugs in Eckhart's office to gain crucial evidence to convict him. His way in? Acting as Jordan's date to the party.

However, when the mission is compromised, Nick and Jordan must continue behaving like a couple, and soon the the line blurs between what is work and what is real.

Julie James is one of my favorite romance novelists because she excels at drawing from her own legal career experience and creating great stories. In fact, if I were to make a checklist of what I'm looking for in this genre, here's what it would look like:

  • Strong female characters with lives outside their relationships

  • Great chemistry with plenty of witty banter and innuendos

  • Electrifying sexual tension building up to hot and heavy love scenes

  • A suspenseful plot with believable obstacles and antagonism

  • A satisfying happily-ever-after conclusion

James meets all of those qualifications in her stories--all of which would make fantastic chick flicks--which is why I keep coming back for more. I always know that I'm jumping into a fun, light-hearted read.

This one in particular is excellent, because I loved the power play between Jordan and Nick. Both are used to being in control, and throughout the novel, they must learn to trust and be vulnerable around one another. They also realize the importance of honest communication, and that at the end of the day, your career isn't worth sacrificing love and family.

I also preferred A Lot Like Love to About That Night, because Jordan was my favorite Rhodes twin, but I'm glad that I now know both sides of their story. Out of Julie James' seven novels (one that is being released on Tuesday!), I have now read five of them.

Next on the James list is Love Irresistibly, but first I want to finish A Well-Tempered Heart, Jan-Philipp Sendker's sequel to the exquisite The Art of Hearing Heartbeats. Can't wait!

Book Review: About That Night

Rating: 4 out of 5

If you have ever watched "Law and Order" and thought to yourself, "You know what this needs? Sexiness to spice things up!" then this book is for you.

Author Julie James practiced law for several years before writing full-time, and each of her seven current novels revolves around the legal profession. Because she writes what she knows, her stories are credible--as well as fun.

It's her strong characters, suspenseful plots, and sexy scenes that keep me coming back for more. I've almost read her entire work, including Just the Sexiest Man Alive, Practice Makes Perfect, and Something About You.

About that Night is the third book in James' FBI / U.S. Attorney series (which started with Something About You). Due to an organizational mishap, I accidentally misplaced the second book A Lot Like Love, which didn't make my  2012 to-read list and clearly went into hiding for all of 2013! I didn't re-discover it until I finished its "sequel."

And while each book can stand alone, they contain recurring characters who are in some way connected to the U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago. Something About You starred Assistant U.S. Attorney Cameron Lynde, who has since been promoted. In About that Night, Rylann Pierce is the assistant reporting to Cameron.

The story follows Rylann and her love interest Kyle Rhodes, who met while Rylann was in law school. Due to unforeseen circumstances, they are not reunited until nine years later--on opposite sides of the courtroom.

Kyle is a computer security expert and heir to billionaire Grey Rhodes who created the most popular antivirus software. After a betrayal by an ex, Kyle has an angry, drunken fit, hacking into her Twitter for revenge and then shutting the social network down. Now dubbed the "Twitter Terrorist," he faces charges for his white collar crime.

Rylann is given the assignment to prosecute Kyle, but what happens when she finds out that he's a witness to an even bigger scandal? And how will they deal with all their unresolved sexual tension from nine years ago, especially given their taboo relationship of prosecutor and defendant?

About that Night is an easy, light-hearted read that focuses less on criminal suspense and more on navigating a complicated relationship in the real world. Rylann is an admirable female lead, with a sensible head on her shoulders and an ambitious devotion to her career. More romance novels need characters like Rylann who look before they leap and won't drop everything for a man.

It will be interesting to go back and read A Lot Like Love, which stars Kyle's twin sister Jordan. I'll get a peek into Kyle's Twitter fiasco and learn about how Jordan began her relationship with undercover FBI agent Nick McCall.

All I know is that when it comes to romance, you can't go wrong with Julie James.

Book Review: Wedding Night

Rating: 4 out of 5

Sophie Kinsella, author of the beloved Confessions of a Shopaholic series, has done it again with her latest stand-alone novel Wedding Night.

This chick-lit story begins much like the movie "Legally Blonde:" 33-year-old Lottie is out to dinner with her boyfriend Richard, assuming that he's finally going to propose. Of course, this is just a miscommunication, and Lottie finds herself deeply saddened and embarrassed when he doesn't get down on one knee.

It just so happens that an old flame contacts Lottie right afterward: Ben, her teenage fling during her gap year in Ikonos, Greece. After a night of reminiscing, they impulsively decide to get married and honeymoon where they met 15 years ago.

The chapters swap between the points of view between Lottie, and her older, recently divorced sister Fliss, who is determined to prevent Lottie from making what she sees as the biggest mistake of her sibling's life.

This book is hilarious, but it also addresses serious issues like love, marriage, divorce, and overall compatibility. Lottie feels such an insane urge to get married that she jumps into a relationship without so much as asking what Ben does for a living.

That societal pressure is something that I see among many girls my age; they believe that marriage is the Holy Grail of "having it all," feeling so rushed to settle down in their 20s regardless of whether they've met the right person.

But Wedding Night also brings up the idea of intervention, whether it's better to let someone make their own mistakes, even if the consequences could be dire. And although the interventions in this novel are often absurd, it's fun nonetheless to see what lengths Fliss will go to in order to sabotage Lottie's plans.

If you're looking for a light read that will be sure to make an excellent rom-com one day, then Wedding Night is a great way to start off your 2014!

Book Review: Every Day

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

I would say Happy Super Bowl Sunday, but most in my neck of the woods aren't happy since the San Francisco 49ers lost the big game. I was in tears myself, but not over the score. I just finished David Levithan's novel Every Day, which got me pretty emotional towards the end. I know that many of you have read this book already and want to hear my thoughts, so let's jump right in!

If you aren't familiar with this story, my summary's going to sound very strange. The narrator is a disembodied spirit who calls himself A and wakes up every day in a different 16-year-old's body. I say "himself" due to hetero-normative biases, but technically A has no gender. Levithan does his best to fight society's definition of normalcy, by placing A in a variety of bodies: male, female, straight, gay, transgender, obese, gorgeous, introverted, hostile. There were even a couple heart-wrenching chapters in which A found himself in people suffering from addiction and depression.

Because of this body-hopping, A has observed a vast amount of life in a short amount of time, dealing with countless combinations of sibling rivalries, financial situations, and school cliques. But it isn't until he falls in love with Rhiannon after possessing her boyfriend Justin when he realizes just how much he's missing. Not only can he never meet her friends and family, he often has to face waking up hours away from her, or with too many obligations to the person he's inhabiting in order to see her.

This book could be narrowed down to a simple boy(?)-meets-girl plot, which Levithan writes extremely well, navigating the roller-coaster of teenage love. However, it's A's unique struggle that allows us to feel grateful for things we take for granted, like the security of knowing that someone is there for you and the hope of growing together. Luckily, the author places limitations on A's travels, given that he'd be treading in ethically murky water if he could become people of any age. A also never seems to have to deal with being inside the truly dangerous and psychotic, thank goodness.

I'm not trivializing the difficulty of trying to find love in A's world. Life is hard at 16 or 61, but I sometimes thought of how much easier it seemed when you didn't have to worry about finding work or paying rent. The love between A and Rhiannon is as stable as it could be in such circumstances, with so many innocently sweet moments. It's interesting that with such a weird premise, you can still catch yourself walking down memory lane. That's the beauty of the story--it doesn't matter who you are, we're all bound by human experiences.

However, I did appreciate the realism amidst the fantasy. A would suffer from the naive thinking that love conquers all, but Rhiannon struggled to remain open-minded when meeting a new person every day. Yes, it's what (or who) is on the inside that really matters, but the outside isn't irrelevant. Physical attraction and sexual orientation do play important roles, and I'm glad that Levithan depicted Rhiannon as a tolerant yet grounded individual with a life outside her relationship, and not as some infatuated princess willing to drop everything for a boy.

All in all, Every Day is a beautiful novel with some wonderful insights on life and love. As much as I would have liked to see some perspectives included (teenage pregnancy? special needs? bullying?), I understand that it's less about chronicling different points-of-view and more about discovering who you are and what you want when you have no frame of reference. Quite a feat for a writer!

This is one book that gets people talking, so share your views in the comments! And whether you're already a fan of Levithan or are inspired to check out his other work, read my review of The Lover's Dictionary while you're at it!

Book Review: The Innocents

Rating: 4 out of 5

I was pleased with Francesca Segal's The Innocents, her modern adaptation of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence.

To sum up the original story, it follows the forbidden romance between Newland Archer, engaged to the simple-minded May Welland, and Ellen Olenska, May's scandalous cousin. It's a quintessential battle between love and societal obligation.

Segal's version is basically the same plot, but swaps the New York elite of the 1870s for the Jewish community in today's London.  Adam Newman is also a lawyer, and the object of his desire Ellie Schneider faces similar judgment for her provocative behavior.

But even if you've read The Age of Innocence, Segal provides an engaging adaptation with plenty of unique aspects. No one can compete with Wharton's prose, but Segal's writing is insightful, offering cultural commentary on what it's like to be part of a Jewish family.

The characters were also multidimensional: You feel angry with Adam's quickness to commit adultery, but at the same time, you understand his frustration from passively submitting to his high school sweetheart-fiance instead of experiencing more of the world.

The Innocents is an apt reminder that lovers not only enter into a relationship with each other, but also with one another's friends and family. It's so important to know who you are and what you want, because although you should respect those closest to you, you should not let them dictate how to live your life.

I won't spoil the ending, but Wharton fans won't be surprised. Adam soon realizes what's at stake when a whirlwind of lust threatens his solidifying future, and I enjoyed his emotional journey as he decides whether to take the risk. Wharton will always be queen of her story, but Segal certainly makes the royal court.

2011 Book Review Catch-Up: Part 3

The time's come to review my final two books of 2011, which I read this past summer. Both books are young-adult fiction, Abandon by Meg Cabot and Matched by Ally Condie.

Abandon by Meg Cabot (Rating: 4 out of 5)

One of the first books I reviewed on this blog was Cabot's vampire sequel Overbite, which I would not recommend unless you absolutely cannot get enough of anything vampire-related. However, I have read almost every single one of Cabot's novels, and for the most part I love them to bits. Her most famous series, The Princess Diaries, is excellent, and I also love her Runaway and Queen of Babble trilogies. So naturally, when I heard that she'd be releasing a novel during the spring based on the ancient Greek myth of Persephone and Hades, I was excited. I wrote my 20-page senior project on two poems about Persephone (Tennyson's "Demeter and Persephone" and Swinburne's "Hymn to Proserpine," which I'll probably discuss in a Masterpiece Monday sometime). As a Classics minor, I was ready to get my nerd on with this modern adaptation.

Persephone and Hades are reincarnated in this story as 17-year-old Pierce Oliviera and her love interest John Hayden. After a near-death experience a couple years earlier, John is determined to bring Pierce back to the Underworld. The novel suffers from weaknesses seen in other Cabot works, namely predictability and cheesy dialogue. However, she nicely infuses folk tales from Florida's history and incorporates other mythical elements like the Furies. While many might find Pierce annoying and John more of a kidnapper than boyfriend material, I didn't mind it because their relationship should be more like Phantom of the Opera at first, because what girl with any brains would willingly choose death over her loved ones? (*cough*Bella Swan*cough*). I could be wrong, but I trust that Cabot will have their relationship grow some more before Pierce makes her decision. Can't wait for the sequel Underworld to come out in May 2012!

Matched by Ally Condie (Rating: 4 out of 5)

This dystopian novel which was published last year ponders the idea of having the government choose your significant other. At her Match Ceremony, 17-year-old Cassia Reyes is partnered with childhood friend Xander Carrow, which proves to be a rare match since they live in the same borough. All the teenagers receive a microchip with their match's personal information, but when Cassia insert hers in her home port, another boy named Ky Markham pops up on the screen. Unfortunately, because Ky is known as an Aberration for a crime his father committed, he's not supposed to be matched with anybody. So what explains this anomaly?

In this world, people survive on soma-esque pills to cure anxiety and erase memories, all their time is scheduled, and they are euthanized on their 80th birthdays. Only 100 poems and 100 songs have been approved to exist, but Cassia comes across a forbidden copy of Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night," which sparks her need to rebel against the system. While some may call this yet another love triangle tale like Twilight, I enjoyed the mystery--and of course the literary references. I'm looking forward to its sequel Crossed, which I received for Christmas. Keep an eye out on this trilogy, because Disney bought the film rights before the book was even released! What's up with Mormon authors like Ally Condie and Stephenie Meyer making major bank on their young-adult novels? Coincidence? Or should I seriously think of converting to board this success train? Well, either way, Matched was worth its hype, and I hope Crossed doesn't disappoint!

Now that I've caught up, I'll be posting my master list of 20 books, from best to worst, by Thursday. Hope you enjoy it!

Movie Review: What's Your Number?

Rating: 3 out of 5

Over the weekend, I saw "What's Your Number?," a movie based on Karyn Bosnak's 2006 novel 20 Times a Lady. It stars Anna Faris ("The House Bunny," the "Scary Movie" franchise) as Ally Darling, who reads in a magazine that the national average of sex partners for a woman is 10.5--almost half of her own record of 19.

The magazine also claims that women with over 20 partners usually never marry, so Ally's determined to not sleep with anybody else until she's found 'The One.' She decides the best way to do this is to revisit her 19 exes and see whether they've become husband material.

She enlists the help of Colin, played by Chris Evans ("Fantastic 4," "Captain America"). Colin is her commitment-phobe neighbor who hides in her apartment whenever he needs to escape the morning after his one-night-stands. Using his father's detective skills, he helps Ally track down her exes--of course, falling in love with her in the process.

Unsurprisingly, this movie was cliched, predictable, and often unrealistic. I knew that going in, so I can't complain. This movie was definitely better than Faris' "The House Bunny" and "Scary Movies," but I understand that's not saying much. I still find Faris funny, because even though the situations she gets into are downright embarrassing, she comes off witty and relatable.

Of course, the gratuitous shots of Chris Evan's pecs and biceps make it easier to excuse this chick flick's faults!

But what I liked most about this film is the conversation it sparks regarding society's views on sex and the double standard between men and women who play the field. From what I've heard, the book it's based on is partly autobiographical, and Bosnak was turned down many times for writing about a single woman with an above average number of notches on her bedpost.

Many publishers wanted the author to round the number down to 10 'boyfriends,' as if the score was bad enough, but how she got there was even worse. I laughed at this trivial worrying, since the gals on "Sex and the City" easily rank into the dozens--and in Samantha's case, hundreds. And they still manage to be role models to millions of female fans.

But I also cringed, because no one would even bat an eye over a man with 19 lovers. This notion that promiscuous men are 'studs' and women are 'sluts' needs to stop. As long as you're being safe and are happy with your decisions, no one should shame you for your number.

Overall, the movie was funny yet forgetable, but the message was worth it: Be proud of who you are, and don't waste your time with people who can't be proud of you too.