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Mandafofanda Reads Lots

The world isn't just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no?

And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no?
Doesn't that make life a story?

- Yann Martel, Life of Pi

The Lost Girl - Sangu Mandanna Can this please please not be the ending?? I'd love to read more, maybe even from another perspective, like Nikhil's!

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald Though it took a couple attempts to get past the first chapter or so of this book, by the time we met the mysterious enigma that is Jay Gatsby, I couldn't put the story down.

Oh Gatsby, you poor loveable fool, and Daisy, you shallow girl who didn't deserve him.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks - E. Lockhart Frankie Landau-Banks is quite literally the book equivalent of Veronica Mars. And she's awesome. And also a bit scary.

This is the book that I think every girl should read, even though many may not have the patience for it. The writing is a bit report-like and clinical, though you do get a thorough analysis of Frankie's thoughts in every situation. There is some romance, though it's not really shown or described in a way to make you feel it. This is a book that brings up good insights into struggles with being female in a patriarchal environment, how much of yourself you should compromise in a relationship, and feeling underestimated. Is Frankie right in her way of solving things? Not always, and she can be a little extreme in her drive to prove herself. But I can't help but admire her for her values and her tenaciousness.

I recommended this book to my 19-year-old younger sister who just finished her freshman year in college in a male-dominated program, and asked her what she thought of it after finishing the book. She told me "Well, I'd give it maybe 3 stars... or 2... between 2 and 3." After asking what took away from the book's enjoyment, she told me that she thought Frankie was a little crazy (I'm guessing meaning she takes things ten steps further than necessary), and the ending was ok (she didn't end up with Alpha!), and the reveal about Porter was kind of random (sure, I guess it didn't add much to the plot), but reading about the pranks were fun. I felt a bit disappointed that it didn't strike as much of a chord with her as it did with me, but I couldn't really explain what I hoped she would take out of the book. Thinking on that now, I'm going to try to elaborate on that:

This book was able to verbalize thoughts that I'm not even sure I fully realized I was thinking whenever I felt out of place, out of the loop or just inadequate for being a girl. This book made me reflect on other times when I did or said things that discounted my femininity without even thinking and what my willingness to do so and ignore values I have says to the male population. I'm not saying that after reading this book, I want girls to see boys as the opposition and the enemy or to not do things that society would deem "feminine" or "masculine" if it's really what they want and are comfortable doing. I want girls to come out of this book relating with that feeling of disconnect just for being a girl, recognizing it in situations in their own life, and deciding for themselves how they want to act in those situations. Whether it's agreeing and going along, reaching a compromise, or arguing their point of view, I want girls to understand the strength of having each of those choices.

Some more thoughts.

There's a couple specific paragraphs that really hit home for me. Frankie muses on the three different ways most females will act "when confronted with the peculiarly male nature of certain social events":

1. wonder what the point is, shrug, and opt out for more feminine pastimes

2. will be bored but still wanting to be supportive, marginally participate and seem interested

3. jump into whatever is going on with possibly false enthusiasm and gain the boys' respect after they've "proved their mettle"

As a girl who attended a largely male-dominated engineering program at university, I knew exactly what this is like. Guys are funny and cool and fun to hang out with, but it always felt a little disconcerting to gain the compliment of being "so one of the guys" when you show your competitive side, athletic skills, ability to trade cutting barbs, or at the very least, not get easily disgusted or offended by things. Like I had to put up a certain front in order to be an accepted part of the group. I'm not trying to point fingers or villainize boys for making girls feel this way, but just showing my personal connection to Frankie and this book. Anyways a lot of the time I liked being able to be more aggressive around guys, though that might also say something about the differences of how girls act around guy friends or other girl friends.
Blood on the Bayou - Stacey Jay So I only picked this up because though I was overall disappointed with [b:Dead on the Delta|9467196|Dead on the Delta (Annabelle Lee, #1)|Stacey Jay|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327890979s/9467196.jpg|14352253], I was sufficiently intrigued by the worldbuilding and protagonist to be curious to see where the author would go with this series (hopefully improving!) Unfortunately, this second installment fell short for me.

This second book is less sleuthing and more characters eventually revealing what they know, discoveries of magical abilities, and a lot of boy drama. Annabelle is a bit of a makeout slut. She won't sleep with all of her boys (not both, but all, there are three of them) but she has some good long kissing scenes with each of them. Sorry, Annabelle, but you've dropped a couple points in my book. It's okay to be confused and take some time to decide what you want, but you should probably not be swapping saliva with multiple guys while you're doing the deciding. But that ending! I seriously thought that whole exchange with Tucker to get him to stay conscious and walk home was a joke, then that epilogue revealed that she actually started sleeping with him? Without officially breaking it off with Cane? Ughhhh

Dropping the series..
Dead on the Delta - Stacey Jay A pretty big disappointment because this is one of the more original UF ideas out there. I mean, killer fairies? And I thought West Nile was bad... Though coming from the same author that thought up [b:Juliet Immortal|9972882|Juliet Immortal (Juliet Immortal, #1)|Stacey Jay|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1358273112s/9972882.jpg|13479602], I'm not surprised she can think outside the box.

The book started off pretty good, even with a protagonist who's basically every potential in-law's worst nightmare. Annabelle Lee is an alcoholic med-school dropout slacker employee with commitment issues. I liked her. She had heart, even if a lot of her time was spent boozing or thinking of boozing or wondering if she can get away with chugging down a quick cold one for "liquid courage" before gearing up for something. All while denying that she has a problem.

The characters are interesting, if not very complex. The murder mystery is compelling. The worldbuilding is creative, though some random additions to the mythology was a bit off-putting the Invisible people.

What killed this book was the big climactic reveal scene. First of all, any reader who was paying attention could've figured out who the killer was when Annabelle is explicitly told that she was talking to him/her earlier, though she jumps to the wrong conclusion as to who the person was talking about. You mean you don't remember talking to Libby earlier that day? C'mon. I was paying attention. Second of all, the fact that there was a big climactic reveal scene. A scene in which Annabelle is on the verge of passing out for an extremely long time, it seems, for someone who is so allergic and the killer(s) decide(s) to have a long and conveniently detailed conversation that revealed everything short of what colour underwear they were wearing. Seriously.

However, other than that I still liked Annabelle in all her crazy screwed-up-ness, and I'm still curious as to where the author will take this worldbuilding, so I'm going to check out the second book before discounting this series.

PS. Rooted for Cane.
Reboot - Amy Tintera Interesting concept - what if infected humans who came back to life after they died (basically zombies) were enslaved by the general population and trained to become unemotional super-soldiers?

I enjoyed the first half of this book the most. Wren 178 is the least "human" Reboot in the Texan complex, being, at 178 minutes, the girl longest dead before coming back to life. She's ruthless, unemotional and good at her job. That is, until new recruit Callum 22 arrives and starts to wreak emotional havoc on her.

I adored their interactions. Callum is all "Oooh, a cute girl" and acting friendly while ignoring or protesting against the unwritten boundaries that Wren has rigidly lived by for so long. Wren is all confused and feeling attraction for the first time and finding many of her coldly logical arguments cracking. I just wanted to hug her in all her social awkwardness, though I'd be scared to because she wouldn't have any compunctions against snapping both my arms in the blink of an eye. There is a very [b:Divergent|13335037|Divergent (Divergent, #1)|Veronica Roth|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1328559506s/13335037.jpg|13155899]-esque feel in the beginning half as Wren becomes Callum's trainer in hopes of getting him to become the tough soldier that the corporation needs.

I liked that the author included themes of class division, what it means to be human, and slavery, so it wasn't just a mindless fluff dystopian read.

In the second half of the book, the two begin to uncover a sinister plot with Reboots becoming more feral and try to escape the complex. The action keeps the pacing of the book up, but I just didn't enjoy this part of the story as much and it wasn't as original as the beginning.
Golden - Jessi Kirby I love the brazen girls of YA. They're beautiful in their loudness, their fearlessness, their charisma, their overt confidence. Yet I read their stories with a bit of awe and wistfulness, because while I admire so much about them, they're not who I am.

Parker Frost is me. I've actually never read about a fictional character that was quite so me. It's not any of the obvious things, like her family situation, her small-town-ness, her appearance or nationality. It's her personality, her thoughts, the way she views the world. It's her not being quiet but just the quieter one. It's her pressure from her parents, her pressure on herself, how she deals with boys and crushes, her sense of morality, her tendency to be introspective, her love of the arts, and ultimately, her disinclination for brazenness.

So when I read books with a protagonist like this, there's a deeper sort of connection I can feel with her. It's like her mistakes are my mistakes, but her journey and development and triumphs are also mine to share and celebrate.

So thank you, Jessi, for writing her story.
Unteachable - Leah Raeder Brutal and poetic.

This book is like reading the point of view of someone whom many would think of as their Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She is beautiful, mysterious and fearless.

She is also attracted to men much older than she is (think twice her age), so it's like reading [b:Lolita|7604|Lolita|Vladimir Nabokov|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1377795869s/7604.jpg|1268631] from the young girl's perspective (if she was an 18-year-old).

Maise reflects back on the tale of the night she met, seduced and felt a very real pull towards a man who turned out to be her teacher, and their passionate, tumultuous affair in the months afterward, while she was his student.

This book isn't just about a forbidden romance. It's about finding a true friendship. It's about straddling that divide between feeling young and naive and thinking the world knows more than you do, and feeling old and worldly and thinking the people your age are silly and juvenile. It's about discovering a love and a passion for something, and creating something to share with others.

Reading this book is like going on a rollercoaster rush of feeling, with writing that is both sharp and honest and beautifully evocative.

I don't love this book because I think this is the perfect relationship. It's actually rather screwed-up in many ways. Maise has problems that can never really be neatly wrapped in bows and Evan gave off lots of creepy vibes throughout the book especially when his previous relationship with a seventeen-year-old was revealed. I love this book because I love Maise's fierceness and her slow-building willingness to freefall. I love it because the characters all come alive, flaws and all. I love it because I felt that visceral stab of pain at that moment when Wesley's film was revealed. I love it because after reading Ash Wednesday's review I saw the beauty in an ending left up for interpretation, when I originally though it was straight-forward HEA (though personally being skeptical about their long-term resilience). I love it because I loved the feeling of always being in the moment and I wanted to quote half the paragraphs in the book.

So don't read this for the perfect story. Read this for Maise's story and get swept up just like I did.
Tuck Everlasting - Natalie Babbitt A quiet story that does a good job of introducing ideas of the pros and cons of being able to live forever.
The Fault in Our Stars - John Green In the world of [a:John Green|1406384|John Green|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1353452301p2/1406384.jpg], teenagers are witty, worldly and muse philosophically with large vocabularies. If you can get over this fact and, like, you have a soul, you'll fall for this book just like I have.

John Green is a very thoughtful and honest writer, and he takes care to write a full story for his characters. You find out near the middle of the book that one character is close to dying. There isn't a quick death, with the one left behind gazing mournfully at a sunset. Just as the beginning half is giddy with the sweetness of falling in love, the second half chips away brutally at your heart with the realities of a person slowly succumbing to a disease. I was shedding tears even while laughing at the humour the characters still brought to their situation.

I can't wait for the movie.
Magic Rises -  Ilona Andrews Absolutely perfect and plothole-free? Probably not. But [b:Magic Rises|11544421|Magic Rises (Kate Daniels, #6)|Ilona Andrews|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1359571572s/11544421.jpg|16484134] has just surpassed [b:Magic Strikes|4345498|Magic Strikes (Kate Daniels, #3)|Ilona Andrews|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1331615093s/4345498.jpg|4393420] as my new favourite Kate Daniels book.

A new exotic setting! An overseas adventure! A deliciously evil yet gah I can't hate him completely villain! An epic sword fight! Relationship drama (ok, not my favourite thing, but it allowed for growth)! Return (and slight redemption) of an old character! All my loveable shapeshifters back to band together and save the day! Crazy clan clashes! Foreign accents! Sucker punches that made me cry in horror! A fabulous flame-filled and shit-storm ending!

Like Magic Strikes, I'm basing my 5-star rating on the fact that I was once again completely glued to this book, and rode the emotional roller-coaster that Kate endured throughout. I also loved the plot - I'm a sucker for the is he evil? do i see his side? do we trust him? villain. But oh, god Curran - I wanted to strangle you for a lot of this book.

On to the next book!
Tampa - Alissa Nutting Read alongside [b:Boy Toy|733111|Boy Toy|Barry Lyga|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1272339482s/733111.jpg|719300] to get the full impact from both the student and teacher perspectives - recommended! Obviously not the same story, and their endings are drastically different, but they both tell the tale of a female middle school teacher entering a sexual relationship with one of her students, and it was highly intriguing getting some perspective from both points of view.
Like Mandarin - Kirsten Hubbard The relationship between Grace and Mandarin is reminiscent of Tracy and Evie in the movie Thirteen. Grace is young, naive, and wishes to stand out in her small town. At Mandarin's side, she gains notoriety as the only friend of the local beautiful bad girl.

I read this book after loving Hubbard's second novel [b:Wanderlove|9807262|Wanderlove|Kirsten Hubbard|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327877152s/9807262.jpg|14697582]. It's well written and doesn't give simple answers in a right and wrong way, yet I was never really able to connect with the characters. This might be because I myself am not from a small town, so I couldn't relate to the need to find some way to escape, but overall, it was an okay read though not one that will stick in my head for too long.
The Distance Between Us - Kasie West I haven't met a protagonist that I've liked this much in a while. The girl is the queen of deadpan sarcasm. And I loved it.

I could wax poetic about the awesomeness of the girl, the sweetness of the boy, the aww-inducingness of the romance, the entertainment factor of the banter. But this book contained another aspect that made it appeal to me.

During the course of the book, both Caymen and Xander are conflicted with the difficulty of determining their futures after graduation while weighing the complications of familial obligations. She has a mother who owns a doll shop going under and highly depends on her to keep things running. He is feeling the pressures of a father grooming him to take over the family empire. She has more or less accepted the fact that she will defer future plans for a few years to help her mother out. He feels boxed in with a future that was decided for him without getting the chance to find his own great passion and skill. Together they decide to plan out "Career Days" for each other to give the other an opportunity to explore different interests. While this served as a cute gimmick to demonstrate how well each were able to observe traits in the other, I liked how in the end Caymen learned to feel comfortable in forging her own path separate from her mother, and Xander found acceptance in being a jack-of-all-trades who would make a great leader for the company.
Stolen - Kelley Armstrong While not going through the emotional journey of [b:Stolen|11330361|A Stolen Life|Jaycee Dugard|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327928284s/11330361.jpg|16258764] (but of course, how many times can you put relationships through that much drama), Stolen still has a kick-ass Elena, but focuses more on world-expansion, mystery and new characters. Overall, a really good follow-up to the first book!
The Rising - Kelley Armstrong I'm pretty disappointed with this conclusion. Or lack thereof. Or just really vague and hand-wavy-type everything's gonna be okay now! solution to all your problems. Basically, Maya told us that she sat through a meeting where it was discussed what would happen, while she argued as spokesperson for her and the other kids. Do we get any details, any of the dialogue, or anything that makes me think that Armstrong actually took the time to think through and come up with a sound solution to the great problem that spurred the events of this trilogy? Nope.

For those who have read the Darkest Powers trilogy, you got to see some much loved characters reappear. For me, it was kind of like, oh some new people, I think I'm supposed to know them? Wait, how does Maya know their names?

So in the end Maya & co. decided to put their lot in with one of the cabals, or something. When did she decide they were trustworthy? But I guess they couldn't really escape them all due to the fact that they need their drugs and help. I guess no benevolent Professor X-type here...

Thoughts on the series overall:

The good - characters, portrayals of relationships, lots of humour, witty dialogue, cats are cool

The weak - shaky worldbuilding, a lot of telling instead of showing, convenient mystery-solving, lack of complexity of sophistication in given answers or the conclusion, no deaths?

This isn't a bad trilogy overall, but I'm fairly disappointed in the something that could've been.