Charmed Thirds

Charmed ThirdsCharmed Thirds by Megan McCafferty
(Jessica Darling # 3)
Three Rivers Press, 384 pages

Jessica Darling’s in college!

Things are looking up for Jessica Darling. She has finally left her New Jersey hometown/hellhole for Columbia University in New York City; she’s more into her boyfriend, Marcus Flutie, than ever (so what if he’s at a Buddhist college in California?); and she’s making new friends who just might qualify as stand-ins for her beloved best friend, Hope.

But Jessica soon realizes that her bliss might not last. She lands an internship at a snarky Brooklyn-based magazine, but will she fit in with the uberhip staff (and will she even want to)? As she and Marcus hit the rocks, will she end up falling for her GOPunk, neoconservative RA . . . or the hot (and married!) Spanish grad student she’s assisting on a summer project . . . or the oh-so-sensitive emo boy down the hall? Will she even make it through college now that her parents have cut her off financially? And what do the cryptic one-word postcards from Marcus really mean?

With hilarious insight, the hyperobservant Jessica Darling struggles through her college years–and the summers in between–while maintaining her usual mix of wit, cynicism, and candor.

One of my favorite books back in college was Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty, so when I heard that there will be a next book for Jessica Darling (even if I was really content with how the second book ended), I was thrilled. Of course, being the paperback lover and not having my own income back when it was released, I didn’t get it until I just quit my last job. You’d think I’d read it immediately, too, but no. I ended up reading, stopping, reading, and finally just stopping, until I lost my copy in the 2009 Ondoy/Ketsana flood that almost engulfed our house. Before I knew it, there was the fourth and fifth book, but I never got to read the third so my Jessica Darling world only existed until she graduated high school.

Well, I finally got around to it shortly before I left for Europe, thanks to that complete collection ebook that I bought a few months back. Jessica Darling is now in college, and you’d think things would be easier for her, right? After all, she’s out of Pineville! But of course it’s not. Charmed Thirds brings us through Jessica’s college years as she gets into the dream internship that turns into a not-so-dream, finds new “best” friends who may or may not be like Hope, and falls into other scrapes that go in the way of her relationship with the sometimes no-contact boyfriend, Marcus.

Just as when I tried to read this the first time, I actually stopped right in the middle of Charmed Thirds before picking it up again. I was in Europe then so I didn’t feel like reading Jessica’s adventures. I have to admit that somewhere along the way, I just got…disinterested. Jessica still is witty and hilarious, and there were some heartwarming moments in the book, but I felt the same way as when I reread Sloppy Firsts. Jessica is so angsty! She thinks a little too much and sometimes, I can’t help but think that she makes her own life miserable with all that thinking. Not that the other people around her aren’t as strange or dysfunctional, and that I’m discounting the truly sucky things that happened around and to her…but I can’t relate. I guess it’s because I had a pretty okay college life, and I’m normally a happy person? Or maybe because I’m past all that already? Jessica is such an overthinker that I couldn’t really keep up with her. I also had a hard time with reading Marcus and Jessica’s seemingly non-relationship. It’s hard to decide who was at fault here because they both equally had strange ways of dealing and working with their relationship. And honestly, it’s not really something that I want. No matter how Marcus made up for it in the end, and no matter how sweet and sensitive he may seem. Even if that’s the part of the book that made me go aww and like this book (But not as much as I liked Second Helpings).

Not that Charmed Thirds isn’t fun to read, because like I said, Jessica is still witty and hilarious and her encounters with her Pineville people were also fun and cringe-worthy at times. Even her parents started becoming more interesting (especially when Jessica walked in on them — oh the horror!). I thought Jessica was still brave for facing the things she did and sticking it out until the end. Her decisions aren’t always wise, but she’s definitely tough even if she doesn’t know it.

Maybe this is how growing up really is. It’s never clean-cut or organized thing, right? It’s always messy, and even the smartest ones don’t go unscathed.

Oh, and of course I’ll still read Fourth Comings. I’m in this until the end — I want to see where Jessica Darling ends up. :)

Rating: [rating=3]

My copy: ebook from Complete Jessica Darling set from Amazon Kindle store

Cover & blurb: Goodreads

Other Reviews:
Liv’s Book Reviews

Reviews for other books in the Jessica Darling series:
Sloppy Firsts
Second Helpings


Bumped by Megan McCaffertyBumped by Megan McCafferty
(Bumped # 1)
HarperCollins, 304 pages

When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents are forced to pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society.

Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and had never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Until now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend Zen, who is way too short for the job.

Harmony has spent her whole life in religious Goodside, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to bring Melody back to Goodside and convince her that “pregging” for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from.

When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls’ lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common.

When I first heard that Megan McCafferty of Jessica Darling fame is coming up with a YA dystopia novel, I kind of squee-d. I wasn’t sure if I was squee-ing because it’s a dystopia novel, or because it was written by Megan McCafferty — probably both, so it was one of my highly anticipated reads for 2011.

It was the year 2036, and teen girls are the most important people in the world. Girls under the age of 18 and are fertile, that is, after a virus has spread that renders adults incapable of producing offspring. Teen girls — the ones who allow themselves to be, that is — are now surrogettes, allowing themselves to get “pregged” for a couple who wants children, at least until before they become infertile, too. Some girls make use of their fertility as a business, prepping themselves up with talents and health just so people would bid on their wombs, and they’d get pregged by top guys who are obviously selling their fertility as well. This is where we find Melody Mayflower, who’s 16, a pro-pregg but still waiting for her agent to get the best guy to pregg her for her very picky clients. Melody’s life has been planned from early on, until she meets one person she never expected: her twin sister, Harmony.

Now if Harmony had the same viewpoint as Melody, there probably wouldn’t be any problems. But she’s not. Harmony comes from the Goodside, a little community that believes that pregging for profit is a sin. When Harmony finds out she has a twin, she goes to the Otherside to visit her, and intends to help her twin see the light and bring her to Goodside. That is, if Harmony’s own secrets don’t chase after her.

Bumped is fun. I was immediately faced with loud, strong characters who fought for attention from page one, but I never really felt overwhelmed by them. Just like in Jessica Darling, Megan McCafferty had the characters’ voices down pat. I actually really liked Harmony, even if I know most people were annoyed by her. I think it’s probably because I saw the churchy side of me in her. I never felt lost between the switching POVs, and I found the twins very endearing despite their differences. The supporting characters were quite fun, too, especially Shoko and Zen and even Johndoe, even if I was never really sure about Johndoe’s personality. McCafferty definitely knows her characters, and it was a pleasure to read them.

The world that the characters moved in is kind of confusing, so it took a while for me to get fully immersed in it. There were a lot of familiar things but it took me a while to place them, especially the technology that they were using. I don’t think this represents the kind of dystopia that people are used to or that people expect, but as far as the world building is concerned, I think it’s pretty stellar. You can see that the author really built her world from the ground up, taking care to make sure details fit, and that it all felt real. Take a bit of patience getting yourself familiar with the world, and soon you’d also want to have your own MiNet contacts (like Facebook, Twitter and all other social media thing combined — maybe even uses some kind of web conferencing), or even wonder if anyone has a Stalker app on you. :P

Overall, I found Bumped not only enjoyable, but actually quite relevant especially in the light of all the Reproductive Health Bill issues happening in my country right now. I don’t have much opinion over that debate, but I think the story that Bumped tells can be connected with that — whether for pro or anti, I’m not really sure. I do think this book tackles issues existing today in a thought provoking but funny way, and it would be useful to start good discussions on teen pregnancy, sex, and religion among others.

The ending wasn’t really such a big cliffhanger, but I do want more. I’m curious to what will happen to Melody and Harmony. Bumped is another good one from Megan McCafferty, and I think missing this one would is a neggy thing to do. :)

Rating: [rating=3]

My copy: Kindle edition

Cover and blurb: Goodreads

Other reviews:
Steph Su Reads
Forever Young Adult

Second Helpings

Second Helpings by Megan McCaffertySecond Helpings by Megan McCafferty
(Jessica Darling # 2)
Three Rivers Press, 368 pages

Jessica Darling is up in arms again in this much-anticipated, hilarious sequel to Sloppy Firsts. This time, the hyperobservant, angst-ridden teenager is going through the social and emotional ordeal of her senior year at Pineville High. Not only does the mysterious and oh-so-compelling Marcus Flutie continue to distract Jessica, but her best friend, Hope, still lives in another state, and she can’t seem to escape the clutches of the Clueless Crew, her annoying so-called friends. To top it off, Jessica’s parents won’t get off her butt about choosing a college, and her sister Bethany’s pregnancy is causing a big stir in the Darling household.

With keen intelligence, sardonic wit, and ingenious comedic timing, Megan McCafferty again re-creates the tumultuous world of today’s fast-moving and sophisticated teens. Fans of Sloppy Firsts will be reunited with their favorite characters and also introduced to the fresh new faces that have entered Jess’s life, including the hot creative writing teacher at her summer college prep program and her feisty, tell-it-like-it-is grandmother Gladdie. But most of all, readers will finally have the answers to all of their burgeoning questions, and then some: Will Jessica crack under the pressure of senioritis? Will her unresolved feelings for Marcus wreak havoc on her love life? Will Hope ever come back to Pineville? Fall in love with saucy, irreverent Jessica all over again in this wonderful sequel to a book that critics and readers alike hailed as the best high school novel in years.

When I reread Sloppy Firsts a few months ago, I was surprised at how much I didn’t really like it. I call it a case of growing up and getting over the teenage angst that I probably never had. I enjoyed Jessica’s wit, but I wasn’t a fan of her angst anymore now that I (sort of) know better. That’s why I took my time rereading the next book in the series, Second Helpings. I loved this book back in college — it was one that I remember rereading more than twice and loving it just as much as I used to the first time. I was kind of afraid that I wouldn’t find this one as entertaining as it used to.

Spoiler warning for the first book up ahead! Second Helpings starts shortly after the first book ended, where we find Jessica is back, but not exactly better than ever. Recovering from the events in the first book, Jessica is determined to make some changes in her life, starting with removing all traces of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named aka Marcus Flutie from her life. This is obviously harder than it looks once she starts school, and it’s not the only thing Jessica has to deal with. There’s college, the Clueless Crew (2/3 of it, anyway), the release of poseur Hyacinth Anastasia Wallace’s book based on Pineville, family antics including her wacky grandmother, who also just happens to be friends with Marcus Flutie. I think if Jessica could have bumped her head on her desk repeatedly, she would’ve done so. What’s a girl like her to do?

Like I said, I was kind of scared that Second Helpings would lose its magic on me after a reread now that I kind of know better, but I’m very glad to say that it didn’t. I liked this book as much as I did the first time. Jessica loses some of her angst here, and I found her more engaging this time. Maybe it’s because she’s decided to open up slightly, make choices for herself rather than let other people make choices for her. I found myself laughing a little more here, cheering on Jessica as she steps outside of the box she had created for herself before. It was almost like I was watching someone I know grow out of her shell, you know? :)

But the best part of Second Helpings — and I think most readers would agree! — is He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named Marcus Flutie. Oh wow, wow. I remember developing a huge fictional crush on him right after I finished reading this! Marcus Flutie is not the perfect guy that every girl would want, but he sure knows how to make a girl want him. Hee. He was coy and clever and a player in Sloppy Firsts but he was different in the sequel. Oh, he was still coy at times, and his jokes can definitely make a girl blush, but he knows how to get into a girl’s heart, especially Jessica’s. The prom scene was swoon-worthy, and I can’t believe I actually forgot the YOU. YES. YOU. scene. I’m not really a fan of sex outside of marriage, but the build up in this novel was just…sigh. I will echo the question I and a handful of other friends who’ve read this book have asked back then: Where is my Marcus Flutie?!

So yeah, I liked Second Helpings a lot on the second read. :) Really liked it a lot. Now I can finally move on and read Charmed Thirds. Yay!

Rating: [rating=4]

2011 Challenge Status:
8 of 20 for TwentyEleven Challenge (Back in the Day)

My copy: ebook from Complete Jessica Darling set from Amazon Kindle store

Cover & blurb: Goodreads

Other Reviews:

Sloppy Firsts

Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCaffertySloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty
Jessica Darling #1
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Number of pages: 280
My copy: ebook from Complete Jessica Darling set from Amazon Kindle store

“My parents suck ass. Banning me from the phone and restricting my computer privileges are the most tyrannical parental gestures I can think of. Don’t they realize that Hope’s the only one who keeps me sane? . . . I don’t see how things could get any worse.”

When her best friend, Hope Weaver, moves away from Pineville, New Jersey, hyperobservant sixteen-year-old Jessica Darling is devastated. A fish out of water at school and a stranger at home, Jessica feels more lost than ever now that the only person with whom she could really communicate has gone. How is she supposed to deal with the boy- and shopping-crazy girls at school, her dad’s obsession with her track meets, her mother salivating over big sister Bethany’s lavish wedding, and her nonexistent love life?

* * *

I first discovered Jessica Darling through my friends in college. I was looking for a new book to get when a cheerful lime cover caught my eye. I knew my friends liked this a lot, considering this as one of their favorites, so I was fairly confident that I would like it too. And I was right — I did. I remember re-reading this a lot because I didn’t have a copy of Second Helpings yet, and I wanted to keep a journal the way Jessica Darling did.

I lost my copy of Sloppy Firsts in the flood that Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) brought in our country in 2009. It was disappointing, since I also never got to read any of the books beyond Second Helpings. I was planning to get the ebooks one of these days, and it wasn’t until Valentine’s Day that I saw that the entire Jessica Darling set was only $9.99 on Kindle. Amazing deal, right? I can’t not have it.

Jessica Darling is miserable. Her best friend, Hope, moved to Tennessee a few weeks before her 16th birthday, and she has never felt more alone in her life than ever. She hates her so-called friends, the Clueless Crew (who all has the personality of a floor stand). She couldn’t get along with her mother and her soon-to-be-married sister, and she couldn’t talk to her dad about anything other than running. Feeling extremely misunderstood, she sticks to writing in her journal about the people around her and the ever increasing confusion she feels for “Dreg” Marcus Flutie, who is slowly working his way into her heart.

Ah, Jessica Darling. She is your not-so-typical hyper observant smart, slightly anti-social and angsty sixteen year old. It’s been a long time since I last read her, but her voice is still familiar, almost like we were never separated. A few pages into the book and I was already laughing and shaking my head at all of her snark. This is the mother of all journal-form novels. Jessica’s voice is clear and her wit shines through even in her most emotional moments. And it’s not that the secondary characters aren’t as witty or exceptional as Jess because they are — from barbie-like ex-best friend Bridget to gossip-monger Sara and even Jessica’s best friend, Hope, had a strong presence in the novel even if we never hear her side of the correspondences. And of course, Marcus. Marcus Flutie. I had a hard time remembering what he looked like and how they got to know each other here, but once the said event has happened, their interactions where unstoppable. Talk about sizzle.

But if I may be perfectly honest this time, I found that I didn’t really love Sloppy First this time around. Oh, I loved it during the first few reads, and I still like it now, but I found that I couldn’t really take all of Jessica’s angst. I like her, and I like that she grows in the novel, but there were so many times that I wanted to shake her and tell her to get a grip, lighten up. It’s not the end of the world. It only feels like it’s the end of the world, but there’s more to life after that. High school is just a small part of your life, don’t fret over it too much! There was a little too much angst in Jessica that I realize that if I was in her class right now, I wouldn’t want to be friends with her, especially if there’s such a cloud of gloom over her all the time. I’m not saying that I am better than her when I was in the same age nor am I belittling her situation — I know I had the same amount (maybe even more) angst then — but now that I know that all high school worries will pass, I wished I could tell her that so she can lighten up.

I think my reading experience of Sloppy Firsts is the perfect example of how we won’t always love the books that we loved when we were younger, and how our age and experiences and environment influence how we see a book. I still think Sloppy Firsts is a good book and I like the book very much, but I also think that I’ve outgrown Jessica’s angst.

But you know what, I think this just makes me more excited to read the rest of the books. Jessica can’t stay that angsty forever, right? :)

Rating: [rating=3]

2011 Challenge Status:
6 of 20 for TwentyEleven Challenge (Back in the Day)

Other Reviews:
Good Books and Good Wine
Makeshift Bookmark
The Crooked Shelf
Attack of the Book

10 for 2010: Most Anticipated for 2011

The best thing about being a book blogger this year is I get to find out about all the new titles coming out in the next few months and years. Before, I’d just rely on bookstore releases and sometimes I find out about them late! Thanks to the great blogging community and social networks, I find out about future releases so early! So early that sometimes the waiting time is unbearable. :P

So presenting today’s 10 for 2010: Most Anticipated Books for 2011.

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

1. What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen (May 2011) – If you’ve known me for a while now, you’ll know that Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite contemporary YA authors ever. Just Listen got me started on the contemporary YA genre, and I’ve devoured all her books ever since I read that. When I found out that she’s releasing a new book in 2011, I squeed. I absolutely cannot wait for this next novel — in fact, I am already planning a Dessen marathon to prepare myself for this new release. :)

2. Deadline by Mira Grant (May 2011) – Feed was one of my favorite books for this year, and the one year wait for its sequel is already long enough, don’t you think? More zombies, more politics and more blogging must be in Deadline…and maybe even a radio thing? I don’t know. But I am definitely looking forward to this one.

3. Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal (March 2011) – Two words: Sweet. Valley. Need I say more?

4. Bumped by Megan McCafferty (April 2011) – I loved the Jessica Darling series, and I like Megan McCafferty. This dystopian sounds really awesome, and I’ve seen very good reviews about this, too. :)

5. The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan (March 2011) – While there are other zombie books that I liked more than Carrie Ryan’s series, I am still in love with her writing. After I’ve read The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves, I cannot miss the third one. I hope more questions will be answered by then. :)

One of Our Thursdays is Missing6. One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde (March 2011) – Just like Sarah Dessen, Jasper Fforde is on my auto-buy list. Thursday Next is one of my favorite heroines, so it’s imperative I get a copy of the sixth book. And maybe refresh myself with the series, too.

7. Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews (May 2011) – I think I’ve professed my love for the Kate Daniels series enough this year? :) If not, I must say it again: I love this series. And like all the other fans I know, I cannot wait o get my hands on the next installment in the series. :)

A Monster Calls8. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (May 2011) – Okay, so I’ve only really read one book and a novella from him, but I like him already. While I wait for his new book, I will finish the two other books in the Chaos Walking series. Yes, I will.

9. Winter Town by Stephen Emond (Fall 2011) – Happyface is undoubtedly one of my most favorite books in 2010, so knowing that Stephen Emond will release a new book is just exciting. I love the premise too: “…told from two perspectives and accompanied by scrapbook entries and comics, childhood friends grow up, grow apart, and eventually fall in love.” Being the president of his fans club, it is my responsibility to get a copy of this as soon as its released. :P

10. Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee (Summer 2011) – This is my most anticipated collaboration for 2011. Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee, two of the big names in Christian fiction — this is going to be good, I can tell. :)

Runners Up:

  • Allison Hewitt is TrappedAllison Hewitt is Trapped by Madeleine Roux (January 2011) – I saw this book on The Book Smugglers and I loved how it started out as a blog, too. Blogging and zombies again – one of my favorite combination. Must get this one.
  • Sweetly by Jackson Pearce (August 2011) – I love the cover, and I love the Hansel and Gretel retelling idea. I enjoyed Jackson Pearce’s Sisters Red, so I am excited to get my hands on this one, too.
  • Where She Went by Gayle Forman (April 2011) – I loved If I Stay, and the idea of the sequel is just…well, awesome. I can’t wait to know what happened after Mia’s ordeal.

Check out my other 10 for 2010 posts!
10 Favorite Male Characters
10 Favorite Female Characters
10 Favorite Couples
10 Favorite Authors

I’m giving away some of my favorite books in 2010 in my Anniversary Giveaway! Know why Patrick Ness is one of my auto-buy authors now through The Knife of Never Letting Go! Every comment you leave is one entry — the more comments you leave, the more entries you get! :) Click the image for the mechanics and the list of prizes!