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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 Calling - Kelley Armstrong Definite second-book-syndrome. I mean, when people say in middle books the characters are merely running around and biding time for the grand finale, they don't mean that the characters should actually be running around biding time for the grand finale. The Calling found our protagonist & co. running around a forest for the most of the book, getting lost, avoiding bad guys, getting suckered, conveniently overhearing or discovering "important plot points" and trying to solve a mystery while neck deep in the middle of nowhere.

And the conclusion? Yeah, you can't solve a mystery when you're neck deep in the middle of nowhere. While the characters and humour move this book along, there's plenty of frustration while reading. For example, at what point did Maya decide to take things she learned from people that I would deem at the very least slightly questionable as pure fact? Why are all new clues always conveniently overheard or stumbled upon in cabins in the middle of the woods?

This book also has a lack of satisfying resolution and a cliffhanger ending like the first. So... on to the finale for all the answers!

The only thing I'm got out of this book is that I'm totally shipping Daniel/Maya at this point. I can ship an non-existing couple, right? Oh god, I'm actually wishing for a love triangle!
The Gathering - Kelley Armstrong Reviewing this as someone who hasn't read the Darkest Powers Trilogy

I got introduced to Kelley Armstrong through [b:Bitten|11918|Bitten (Women of the Otherworld, #1)|Kelley Armstrong|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1306101770s/11918.jpg|2606334], which I loved, and decided to check out her YA books. Heard that this second Darkness Rising trilogy was better than the first, so I skipped out on Darkest Powers and dove right into this one.


[b:The Gathering|7896345|The Gathering (Darkness Rising, #1)|Kelley Armstrong|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1277820938s/7896345.jpg|11137563] is pretty good. I saw some other reviews saying that the beginning is a bit slow, and it's a bit frustrating knowing more about what's going on than the characters, but I didn't have this problem since I didn't know anything to begin with, so I enjoyed the unraveling of the mystery.

What brings up the awesomeness of this series is the protagonist Maya. She's funny and has good relationships with her parents and her best friend Daniel. She's real and relatable and she's kind of like that cool girl that you want to be friends with.

What brings the book down for me is the complete lack of resolution and cliffhanger-type ending. This doesn't feel like a complete book on its own, and these types of books are annoying since they make you feel like the entire trilogy could've easily been one book and was just split into three "parts" to milk the cash cow. Unfortunate, yet effective in making me want to read the next book.
Bitten - Kelley Armstrong More than just your typical snarky heroine mystery-solving action babe book, [b:Bitten|11918|Bitten (Women of the Otherworld, #1)|Kelley Armstrong|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1306101770s/11918.jpg|2606334] has emotional depth and really well-developed characters that makes it so much more.

After reading this as well as Clay's story in [b:Men of the Otherworld|3422075|Men of the Otherworld (Otherworld Stories, #1)|Kelley Armstrong|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320501705s/3422075.jpg|2860439], and Clay and Elena's story in [b:Tales of the Otherworld|6539105|Tales of the Otherworld (Otherworld Stories, #II)|Kelley Armstrong|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1258763216s/6539105.jpg|6731327], I am a total Clelena shipper. If you look up "Tumultuous Love Story" in the dictionary, they will be there.

Plus, it takes a fabulous writer for me to actually highly enjoy all the wolf-POV scenes. I mean, I'm not really an animal person - I actually haven't been able to get past the first page of [b:The Knife of Never Letting Go|2118745|The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, #1)|Patrick Ness|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1277071696s/2118745.jpg|2124180] after reading dog's dialogue and I haven't been able to get too into [b:Shiver|6068551|Shiver (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, #1)|Maggie Stiefvater|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1328839272s/6068551.jpg|6244926], so I would normally basically run away in horror. But Armstrong writes these scenes with such joy that I can't help but love them.
We'll Always Have Summer - Jenny Han I absolutely HATE this last book. Not that the writing got worse, or I didn't get the ending that I was rooting for (because I did!), but I felt that the entire book was so contrived for the reader to only be able to come to the one conclusion.

What happened to Jeremiah? He's such a sweetie in the first two books, and in this one he comes off a such an ass with multiple highlighted flaws. Now, I know that people can change after two years, but it just felt like the author was trying so hard to make him unlikable for the entire book that I had a hard time remembering why I rooted for him at all previously.

I'm disappointed that we didn't get more resolution and explanation for Conrad's actions in the previous books. Sure, we get a look inside his head, and he seems to have had always held a torch for Belly that he never lost, but I wish that we got actual reasoning behind the "prom incident" or the "funeral incident" or just his constant hot/cold flashes other than it being chalked up to him "being angry" and "promises to his mother on her deathbed". I could see that he'd matured greatly from the previous books, however. He was a lot less broody in this book. Yet, every positive I saw in him here felt a bit tainted because it felt like the author was just constantly showing the good sides of him to compare to the assedness of his brother.

Now, the wedding. Gahh this entire book was about a stupid wedding that was obviously a horrible idea. I mean, the entire time, everyone was asking Belly, "Why now?" and she never had a good reason. Hello, Belly? That was probably a sign. I mean, do you want to tell your grandkids one day, "Well, your grandfather cheated on me while on spring break, but then he felt really bad about it, so he realized that he wanted to be with me forever and proposed." Yeah... great story. Plus, your getting engaged will forever be tainted with that memory. Unfortunately, the entire book was about planning and preparing for the worst wedding ever which killed a lot of the book's appeal for me because it was just, well, stupid.
It's Not Summer Without You - Jenny Han So onto the second book of this series, and still liking it. After being blown away that I wasn't completely repulsed by [b:The Summer I Turned Pretty|5821978|The Summer I Turned Pretty (Summer, #1)|Jenny Han|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1361666855s/5821978.jpg|5994018] (that's my extremely less embarrassing way of saying that I enjoyed it), I was all set to be finally proven right that all teen love triangles are stupid in [b:It's Not Summer Without You|6584188|It's Not Summer Without You (Summer, #2)|Jenny Han|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1257803831s/6584188.jpg|6777681]. But to my utmost horror, Belly, Conrad and Jeremiah still endear themselves to me with all their immature drama-filled glory. I feel pretty bad for Steven - he is one of the core summer four, after all, yet he's getting left out of all this angst.

Snarky first paragraph aside, here are some signs that I've fallen for this series:

1. I see a bit of myself in each character. In Belly, her sense of humour, her selfishness, her pride. In Conrad, his introvertedness and his willingness to push people away. In Jeremiah, his playing peacemaker, his unrequited crushing.

2. I honestly find myself analyzing each relationship. Belly, Conrad and Jeremiah clearly love each other, in a lasting familial way. They've grown up together, been through a lot and have intimate knowledge of the positives and negatives of each others' personalities. They have, however, reached a stage in their lives where they're opening up to the possibility of romantic relationships, and this is where angst and drama ensue.

I think that Conrad needs Belly more than she needs him. He's so serious and broody and keeps everything to himself that it seems like everyone's constantly telling Belly to "look after him" or make sure he's okay. But he needs a bit of levity in his life and Belly brings that with her, well, immaturity. However, his great flaw is his inability to open up and say what he feels, and to clam up and push everyone away. Personally, I relate to Conrad and get his character because, well, I'm basically the female version of him, haha. However, Belly and him would have to work out a lot of things to work.

Jeremiah comes off as such a cutie in this book. As the opposite of Conrad, he's sweet, he brings laughter and Belly and him have an easy relationship based on their friendship of many years. He deals with some feelings of always coming in second to Conrad in everything, so there's some jealousy issues there, but overall he's the caring mischievous one.

3. I'm dying to read the last book.

I liked that this book had a bit more structure and plot than the first one, with Jeremiah and Belly going to find Conrad, and then with the whole stopping their father from selling the summer house. I would've been so sad! I think this book is better than the first.
Burn for Burn - Jenny Han, Siobhan Vivian I'm disappointed at how shallow this book turned out to be - it was a too petty and hurtful to be juvenile, but not hard-hitting enough to be gritty. While the initial idea of it caught my interest, the actual reading turned out to be the pretty immature revenge antics of three girls who I really thought could find a lot of better things to do with their time. As the book continued, I slowly got more and more annoyed with each of the three main girls and wished they would all just grow up a bit. Lilia, because she wasn't mad at the right person The one that actually took advantage of her! and how her issues could be solved with some simple questions to people who would come clean to her if she just asked. Kat, because while she was the gutsy one, she just couldn't bring herself to confront the boy about that summer and clear the air between them, and I felt that this one thing would just make her less angry at everything. Plus, her revenge person barely got anything coming to her! As for Mary, okay, I shouldn't be so annoyed at someone who has gone through actual trauma in her life, but I just she would actually talk to the boy in person to get it off her chest, as well as find another therapist and move on. Who was the idiot that thought it would be a good idea for her to move back to this island?

But the biggest issue I had with this book is that none of the girls actually tried to confront the people they wanted revenge on or gave any explanation to the people to why they did what they did. I don't think that any of the people had any idea why things were happening to them. At the end of the book, I don't think that anyone grew as characters or learned anything from the events of this book.

So skip this book, but if you're looking for something that, while not covering the same plot, does go into high school politics, revenge wars and a gritty "all comes crashing down" mentality, I would highly recommend Courtney Summers' [b:Some Girls Are|6624871|Some Girls Are|Courtney Summers|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1317791700s/6624871.jpg|6819111].
Hit The Road, Manny - Christian Burch I have a crazy love of The Manny Files is moreso Manny's story, though still told from Keats point of view. We continue to see his upbeat zaniness, but we also get to see some more vulnerable moments, as well as go into his past. Keats now knowing about Manny's relationship with his uncle Max, he gets exposed to the intolerance of homosexuality that doesn't exist inside his close-knit and accepting family.

While I love that Manny became more of a fully realized character, I think that I enjoyed The Manny Files better it had a deeper development of Keats' self-confidence and self-acceptance with Manny's help. There are some lessons learned in this book, but I felt that it didn't hit as hard and more just skimmed the surface of issues.

But yet again, the characters I grew to love are back and up to more hijinks - I laughed hilariously, and had some teary moments of both the joyful and morose varieties. And while I would totally continue to read about Keats' adventures if this series continued, if this is the end of that journey, it definitely ended on a high note.
Exit Kingdom - Alden Bell I just fall for Alden Bell's writing. His way with words, his descriptions of landscapes, his morally grey characters - it just strikes a chord with me.

I loved the depiction of Moses in [b:The Reapers are the Angels|8051458|The Reapers Are the Angels (Reapers, #1)|Alden Bell|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1317066698s/8051458.jpg|12707063], and this book confirmed a lot of things that I guessed about his character in Reapers, as well as bringing up some interesting new tidbits about his past that make me continue to wonder and speculate. For example, the fact that he was married and had a daughter that he lost brings up some new ideas about his connection to Temple in Reapers. One thing that surprised me in this book was, well, how old he was, and his age difference with Abraham. They have a fifteen-year age gap between them, and in this story he is approximately forty years old, making his age in Reapers about forty-five. While reading that book, I think I always pictured him to be around thirty or so, I don't know why. But this brings some new perspective to his character, because he was about twenty when the "meatskins" first came about, and so he has spent half his life in the "normal" world, and half in the "new and desolate" one.
Haze - Paula Weston The good: Still a really fun and interesting read, with spunky characters and funny dialogue

The bad: Meandering plot and continuing lack of answers

While I still like these characters and their chemistry together, this book definitely has middle-book-syndrome.
Huntress - Malinda Lo While I finished this book, unlike [b:Ash|6472451|Ash|Malinda Lo|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1286563960s/6472451.jpg|6550542], I think that I just don't connect with Lo's storytelling. It's atmospheric and fairly serious and with emotion, but with little humour. I liked Kaede, because she had a bit of a spark to her, and Con had a bit of a sense of humour, but the others never really endeared themselves to me. The plot itself seemed a bit oddly structured, with a great portion of the book spent on describing the band's journey to the fairy land, as they slowly dwindle in number and are threatened by unknown supernatural forces. I would've liked if this significance was explained a bit more in the end. For example, was it important that only Kaede, Tasmin and Con make the final journey to Elowyn's palace? When Tali died, I guessed that this would be the case, and was unsurprised when Shae and Pol never made it to the fairy kingdom, but the purpose of this was never further elaborated on.
Every Day - David Levithan You know when you see those TV show or movie casts where the director made it a point to be inclusive! to the extent that every character is just a representation of a person/gender/race/etc.? Like, Jock Boy, Nerd Girl, Gay Boy, Asian, Black, Anorexic, Overweight! It's one of the reasons why I hated the movie Valentine's Day so much. It's like the character is just there so that they can bring up issues specific to their type and so their actual personality and character become second to providing an outlet for whatever ideas the author wants to express. This happens a lot in Every Day.

However, the concept for this book was definitely interesting, even if I found the actual book a bit less than compelling while reading it. Levithan brought up a lot of good points regarding gender, equality and morality. For example,
It's only in the finer points that it gets complicated and contentious, the inability to realize that no matter what our religion or gender or race or geographic background, we all have about 98 percent in common with each other. yes, the differences between male and female are biological, but if you look at the biology as a matter of percentage, there aren't a whole lot of things that are different. Race is different purely as a social construction, not as an inherent difference. And religion--whether you believe in God or Yahweh or Allah or something else, odds are that at heart you want the same things. For whatever reason, we like to focus on the 2 percent that's different, and most of the conflict in the world comes from that.

In any case, I think that, like [a:Neal Shusterman|19564|Neal Shusterman|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1246977170p2/19564.jpg], Levithan is one of those authors who like to think really hard about those What If? questions and write books that really delve into them and bring up interesting and thoughtful ideas. However, I wish I wish that I was able to get a much better feel for the characters in this book so that I was more emotionally invested in their story.
Why We Broke Up - Daniel Handler, Maira Kalman This book plays a cruel, cruel trick on your heart. I went in knowing what to expect, then slowly started to fall and hope and wish and second-guess with all the optimism in the world... It's kind of like the YA book version of 500 Days of Summer - it captures the initial rush of first meeting, the confusing middle, the sweeping highs, the muddy lows, and all the devastation of brutal endings.

I can't even see the cover now without feeling a bit of splintering in the cardiac region.

Daniel Handler's writing is one that you'll either love or hate. Myself, having grown up and adoring the Series of Unfortunate Events books, really loved this style. Handler writes teenage-girl-stream-of-consciousness so well, with all its random asides and tangents, that I really got a feel for Min's character. Did I think that she could go on a little too much about old films that I've never heard of? Well, yes, sometimes. But this is her story, and like Ed, I liked seeing her unabashed enthusiasm show.

I went into this book thinking hmm, a letter to her ex, interesting gimmick, could be really cheesy and corny or dredge up a lot of nostalgia and past emotional trauma, let's see. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), this book brings the latter in a way that's both bittersweet and heart-crushing. This is a difficult book to read because even though Min is telling the entire story of her and Ed's relationship, including much adorableness, there's a constant feeling of heartbreak permeated throughout and recalled at the end of each chapter, and an onslaught of feeling in Min's writing. But there's a reason why while half of pop songs are about falling in love, the other half are about break-ups and exes and getting over past loves - most everyone has gone through or will go through both in their lives and can find a sense of solidarity in knowing that there are people out there who have gone through the same things, felt the same things, were hurt by the same things. I'm glad that I read this book, but I'm not sure if I'll be reading it again soon.

My cardiac region needs a bit of healing first.
Charm & Strange - Stephanie Kuehn The best way to read this book is to not read anything about it beforehand. Just open the cover, turn to the first page, and get sucked in.
The Death Cure - James Dashner When the book begins with the protagonist refusing to get answers to things that the reader is dying to know (and is really the only reason she is bothering to finish this trilogy in the first place), the reader starts to dread that this series will just be a complete mindfck of frustrating non-answers.

And it was.

When the reader starts to think, "Yeah I'd be ok if this major character offed himself," it's not a good sign.

When the reader thinks "Why are the characters making such stupid decisions when they're supposed to be super smart?" it's not a good sign.

When the reader hates all the girls in this book, it's not a good sign.

When the only answers to any Why's you get are *clap clap, jazz hands* "Because Variables," it makes the reader bash her head against her desk and get annoyed at the author for not thinking that his readers are smart enough to appreciate a well-thought out reveal.

Just so this review isn't all negative, here are some things that I did like:

The slang was fun.

Minho could be pretty funny.

The last chapter or so was action-filled and engrossing.

Yeah, that's about it.
Keturah And Lord Death - Martine Leavitt I'm surprised at how enjoyable this story was, given that it's written in a kind of older fable-esque kind of way, and also you pretty much know the end given, well, the title. But the story itself feels timeless, Keturah as a protagonist was utterly endearing and relateable (to the extent that I can relate to a hopeless romantic whose greatest wish is to marry her true love). But as much as the clich├ęd aspects of the story would usually make me roll my eyes, I didn't, because I couldn't. The story itself is just too heartwarming.
Friday Night Bites - Chloe Neill Ok, so this series is still fairly interesting, and the characters are pretty entertaining. Except... Merit pissed me off with her treatment of Morgan. Plus the mystery resolution was a bit underwhelming.