September 26, 2014

Mini Reviews: Pandemonium and Requiem by Lauren Oliver

With the cure, relationships are all the same, and rules and expectations are defined. Without the cure, relationships must be reinvented every day, languages constantly decoded and deciphered. 

Freedom is exhausting.
-from Requiem by Lauren Oliver

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For the sequels to Delirium I've decided to give you two mini-reviews together. I figure if you haven't started the series you won't want to read them anyway because of the necessary spoilers for Delirium and if you have read them then it's a good jumping off point for discussions. It's also funny because I have such differing ratings for both books.

Don't forget: these reviews contain spoilers for Delirium and the Requiem review contains spoilers for Pandemonium.

Pandemonium (Book 2)- 5 Stars
This was by far my favorite book in the series. It picks up a few months after Delirium left off but alternates chapters with what happened to Lena immediately as she entered the Wilds and after she became acclimated. I didn't necessarily care for this back and forth at some points and I feel like by the end, Oliver kind of forgot about it and stuck with the present anyway. It seemed like the flashbacks slowed things down for me. Lena has found herself in the Wilds and is being cared for by a group of (what society calls) Invalids involved with the Resistance. Lena begins to learn their ways and eventually finds her way back into society as part of a plan for the Resistance. But when the plan goes wrong and she's in captivity with the poster-boy for a Deliria-Free America, Lena must use everything she's learned to gain her freedom back.

The best part of this book to me is Lena's growth. She finally becomes a protagonist I can cheer for but she doesn't become a super hero overnight either. She has to learn to depend on her own strength now that she doesn't have Alex to lean on and press her forward. I really enjoyed seeing Lena blossom in this way. I also enjoyed seeing her in the driver's seat of a lot of the action. I would have never expected this from the Lena in Delirium, but she has learned that to have freedom you must fight for it and bleed for it.

Another thing that I enjoyed unexpectedly was Julian. He kind of came out of left-field for me but I liked him a lot. It was interesting to see a boy who is so similar to Lena before she left society and then to see Lena's influence on him as someone opposed to the cure. It was a fascinating dynamic to consider and see play out. Not to mention, Lena and Julian's captivity and all the action was edge-of-your-seat material. I felt like this book flew by because it was so action packed and had a great ending.

Requiem (Book 3)- 3.5 Stars
Requiem started out so promising but ended so abruptly, I wanted to cry. Basically following suit of most other dystopian series, Requiem is the big political book where war is waged against the big bad government to initiate a whole lotta change. This book alternates with chapters giving both Lena and recently-cured Hana's perspectives. At first I didn't care for Hana's point of view but she grew on me and I became anxious for the two characters to intersect. It was interesting to see the experience of a cured and an uncured.

I had heard a lot of negative reviews about the conclusion to the Delirium series, but I never read them because I didn't want to be spoiled. One major complaint was how nothing seems to really happen through much of the book. Personally, I didn't really realize how aimless this book seemed until I really thought about it at the end because there were so many emotions that went through me throughout that I didn't mind so much. I mean, that love triangle that kind of magically materialized itself just killed my heart. The growth of Julian (who reminded me so much of Peeta in The Hunger Games), the angst of Alex, the inability for Lena to even deal with the situation - it was enough for this superficial little reader (ha).

Up until the last few pages I couldn't understand all the negative press because it was a decent book. But then Lauren Oliver called and phoned in the end. Remember when I said that Delirium was too long of a book and could have used some editing? Well, the opposite for Requiem! First off, I was so irritated by Hana and Lena's interaction: the Hana that Lena sees is not the Hana we have been hearing throughout the book. I felt jipped and lied to. Hana proved to me through her narrative that she had much more substance even if she was flawed. But that interaction was crap. Finally, the end was tied up in a cute little bow that had a dozen loose strings hanging from it. I have so many more questions! I knocked a whole star off for this ending. If you haven't read this book yet, just be forewarned. I probably would have been more disappointed if I hadn't known the general consensus from the book blogging community.

Bottom Line: Someone needs to lock Lauren Oliver and Tahereh Mafi in a basement and tell them both to write fulfilling epilogues to their series so that this girl is a little bit more satisfied. Now I'm really going to go off on some tangents....

Have you read the Delirium series? How did you feel about it? Am I crazy? ;)

September 25, 2014

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Love: a single word, a wispy thing, a word no bigger or longer than an edge. That's what it is: an edge; a razor. It draws up through the center of your life, cutting everything in two. Before and after. The rest of the world falls away on either side.

-from Delirium by Lauren Oliver

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In seventeen year old Lena's world, love is a disease that the government has inoculated. Every male and female are cured on or around their eighteenth birthday and then paired with a member of the opposite sex to live a normal, structured life. Lena can't wait to be cured, it's something she has dreamed of her whole life. Until, of course, she meets a boy. When Lena meets Alex, her ideas of love and the government's control are challenged. She begins to wonder about the world beyond her society's walls and where she belongs.

Let me just say that I love Lauren Oliver, no matter what I say in my reviews, mmmkay? ;)
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Delirium had a lot of hype to live up to, so perhaps I had unfair expectations, but it took me awhile to get through this book. In the end, it was worth it (hence the four-stars), but I felt like it took too long for Oliver to get to the point. I really enjoy Lauren Oliver's writing and there was no problem there other than the fact that she maybe writes too much. For the most part I think the average reader knows where this story is headed before Alex even enters the picture (Hmm, what sort of conflict do you think will be in a book about abolishing love?); I just don't think it should take 400+ pages to get that story out. Funny enough, Oliver then skims through how Lena and Alex's relationship grows so quickly that it took me awhile until it felt solid and believable. I just this story was better paced and/or edited.

That said, I still did enjoy the book overall. When I finished I found myself extremely invested in the series despite it taking awhile to win me over. While the idea of love as a disease is nothing new, Oliver builds a frighteningly controlled world stripped of all emotion because of its lack of love and gives a refreshing perspective. Without love as the centerpiece of life, everything changes and in Delirium, readers get a clear picture of all of the effects.

Lena and her best friend, Hana, give a good balance of perspective as a teenage girl on the cusp of being cured. While Lena is a rule-follower and a very trustworthy narrator, Hana is more care-free and apt to break the rules. Being able to see both angles gives readers a better sense of the experience of teens in their world. I might be jaded from reading so many dystopian series, but I found myself impatient with Lena through a lot of the story while Hana was able to balance that a little bit. After finishing the series as a whole, I was better able to appreciate Lena in Delirium because of how much she grows and evolves.

While I would still recommend the Delirium trilogy to any dystopian loving reader, I will warn that I found it a little long. I don't know that "slow" is the right word, but maybe somewhat anticlimactic given the length. I still really enjoyed the book overall and it made me want to jump right into the next installment of the series.

Bottom Line: Too long, in my opinion, but still a really great kick start to a strong series. The writing is solid and the climax will have you at the edge of your seat! 4/5 Stars.

Oh, and P.S: Save your time and don't bother watching the pilot of the series on Hulu, it is so cheesy and terrible!

September 19, 2014

Champion by Marie Lu (Legend #3)

Sometimes, the sun sets earlier. Days don’t last forever, you know. But I’ll fight as hard as I can. I can promise you that.
-from Champion (Legend #3) by Marie Lu

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Amazon | Goodreads

This review contains spoilers for Legend and Prodigy

Champion is the climactic ending to Marie Lu's dystopian Legend series. Taking place almost a year after Prodigy left off, The Republic of America is making great strides toward resolving a lot of the problems that made it corrupt due to its new leader. But when a peace treaty with the Colonies of America falls through because of a plague outbreak in the Colonies, the Republic needs to call upon the help of Day and his brother Eden again. When Day and June reunite, they must put their past aside to help save the new Republic.

While I didn't love Champion as much as I loved Prodigy, this was definitely a fitting end to a great trilogy! The story begins somewhat aimlessly to me, with peace talks one minute and then the Colonies making illegal attacks on the Republic the next. I wasn't sure who to trust and I didn't know if Lu intended for me to be so disoriented or not, which made it feel aimless. Similarly, the romance of June and Day seems a bit disjointed as well. There is one climactic point emotionally that I loved, but the following chapter seemed to eradicate any progress made between June and Day. I was really frustrated with that, even if I could understand it (I know, I make no sense but I'm avoiding spoilers!). There was just too much resentment too quickly following such a beautiful scene.

Despite those frustrations, I really did enjoy the movement of the book and the evolution of not only the characters, but the Republic society as a whole. There is so much growth seen in this system that I have not seen in any other dystopian books which I think sets this series apart. Through the leadership of Anden and the encouragement of Day, the Republic slowly shifts into a government that the people support, love and are willing to fight for which is so different from the Republic in Legend.

My favorite theme in this book is that of sacrificial love. Many of the characters must sacrifice something for the greater good of their society. Early in the series we see many characters sacrificed for standing against the Republic, but in Champion the characters are given the opportunity to sacrifice themselves for a better government which gives a different dynamic to their sacrifice. Day must contemplate sacrificing Eden for a plague cure (which may not even be his call to sacrifice at all). Day sacrifices his relationship with June for her well-being. There are many more that I won't spoil, but this book calls into question what you would sacrifice for the greater good and what you would sacrifice for the ones you love.

The end of this book and series was truly one of the best I've read. Everything comes full circle and while we've seen a lot of  loss throughout the series, there is also so much hope with the ending. While I'm sad that it's over, I'm so satisfied with the end and can highly recommend this series to any fan of dystopian fiction!

Bottom Line: While it was a little bit aimless at times, it was a wonderful book and a fulfilling series-end! 4/5 Stars.

September 18, 2014

Prodigy by Marie Lu (Legend #2)

June squeezes my hand; I'm reluctant to let go. She is from a different world, but she gave it all up for me. Sometimes I take this for granted, and then I wonder how I have the nerve to doubt her, when she's so willing to put herself in danger for my sake. She could easily leave me behind. But she doesn't. I chose this, she'd told me.
-from Prodigy (Legend #2) by Marie Lu

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*This review contains spoilers for Legend*

Prodigy continues the story Marie Lu began with her dystopian novel Legend. June and Day are free from Batalla Hall, but now they're on the run from The Republic. When they turn to the Patriots for refuge, they are asked to be involved in a plot to assassinate the Elector. But once separated June and Day start to assess the government of the Republic, the Patriots, the Colonies- everything- in very different ways. With no way to communicate with each other, June and Day must work toward doing what they can to make their world right, whether they have each other to back them or not.

Remember when I was underwhelmed by Legend? Well, Prodigy set me straight and now I am a firm believer in this series! I don't know if Marie Lu refined her skills, if her publisher gave her more support, or if this story is just plain better, but Prodigy was one of my favorite dystopian books I've read across the board. With non-stop action, just enough romance, more impressive world building and a constant question of who can be trusted, this book pulls all the punches for an edge-of-your-seat adventure.

The action drives this book forward at a pace that I thoroughly enjoyed; other writers might have dragged this book out to 500+ pages, but the way Lu keeps so much action crisp and concise in under 400 really packed so much into the story. There are multiple settings and readers still get points-of-view from both June and Day. Sometimes I found myself really wanting to get back to June's story, sometimes I wanted to get back to Day, but overall they were equally entertaining throughout. Both June and Day seem to have an added element of humanity to me since reading Legend. I can't put my finger on what was missing in Legend, perhaps it wasn't as fast paced to me (which sounds kind of silly because it wasn't slow...), but the dynamics of the two characters in Prodigy are very enjoyable.

Underneath the action, this book has more of an emotional draw for me than Legend with the questions that it raises. There are questions that complement the action (Can we trust Anden?) and questions that maintain the pulse of the romance (Can two people from different worlds work out romantically?). Along the same emotional vein, I like that there isn't a love-triangle, per se, but there is the question of whether June belongs with someone more her status (i.e. Anden) and if Day belongs with someone more with his background (i.e. Tess). Day and Tess make sense to be coupled, but does love need to make sense? Why can't June and Day cross the lines between social classes through their shared passion and intelligence? So many questions, such a great book for a book club.

I found it interesting that there are some references to The Hunger Games in this book (perhaps the series overall). I've read that Marie Lu would enjoy meeting Suzanne Collins, which makes me wonder if these references were done on purpose or just coincidental. The phrase, "Know who the enemy is," was most prominent for me, but there are a few other less obvious allusions (that now I forget...oops). I thought this was interesting to note for big dystopian fans.

Bottom Line: Read this series if you enjoy action, adventure, and/or dystopian! Actually, just read it no matter what, this book is great. The end has so many feels! I hope the last book keeps up with the pace Prodigy has set! 5/5 Stars.

September 17, 2014

Legend by Marie Lu

If you want to rebel, rebel from inside the system. That's much more powerful than rebelling outside the system.
-from Legend by Marie Lu

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In this first installment of Marie Lu's dystopian trilogy, Legend introduces us to two protagonists from different sides of the tracks: wealthy and prodigiously intelligent June and the government's most wanted low-class criminal, Day. When Day is framed for June's brother's murder, June vows to track him down to avenge her brother's death. But amidst uncovering Day, she also uncovers the darker side of the Republic, a government she has sworn her allegiance to her whole life. June must decide whether or not to conform or shed her entire value system.

Okay, so don't hate me but I did not adore this book as much as I feel like I was supposed to. (Blogger note: Please don't just read this paragraph and skip the book because I do say nice things in later paragraphs!) I'm going to be honest and say that I was a little overwhelmed with life when I began reading, so perhaps I didn't give it a fair chance with a clear mind/emotions; but I also want to argue that a good book should wipe out reality. I really loved the bones of this story, I just wasn't knocked over by its execution. The world-building didn't feel to extraordinary and while the prose was fine, it wasn't all that impressive. I just don't think I got the "feels" that I was supposed to when shocking things happened which either makes me heartless or simply detached from the characters (I'm going with the latter).

All that said, I did enjoy the characterization, even if I didn't feel especially attached to June or Day. I know that sounds strange, but I appreciated how different both characters are and yet how similar they become as the story progresses. On the exterior they seem like foils: June is rich, Day is poor; June got a perfect score during her Trial, Day failed his Trial; June is a government official, Day is a wanted criminal. But the more readers learn about the two, the more similarities are revealed.

While I didn't connect with this story as much as I wanted, I will say that this book sets a great foundation for the rest of this series. I am writing this review after I've started (and almost finished) reading Prodigy, the second book in the series. I can very adamantly say that the story does pick up speed and I am very much enjoying the Legend series overall! But to get to Prodigy, you need to read Legend, and while it's not a bad book by any means, it just doesn't pack the punch I expected.

Bottom Line: This was a good book, but not my favorite series starter. However, I highly recommend for the series overall, especially if you love dystopian (The Hunger Games, Divergent, etc). Great for a book club for the analysis factor, especially regarding varied moral codes/opinions. 4/5 Stars.

September 16, 2014

Top Ten Authors I've Only Read One Book From But Need More!

Hey guys! It's full fledged wedding planning insanity over here in my world right now! Only 33 days left!! While I'm pretty well organized and on top of everything, it's still chaos and I'm just going to accept that. My bridal shower is on Saturday which basically means it's crunch time! I'm so excited for this weekend, especially to see people I don't get to see all the time (my cousin Wendy is coming in from Arizona!!!). Unfortunately because of all this fun chaos, I have not even touched a book in an embarrassingly long time! Maybe recalling these authors I loved and need more of will jump start something! :) 

Top 10 Authors I've Read One Book From But Need More!
(in no particular order)

Leila Sales
What I've Read: This Song Will Save Your Life

Jeffrey Eugenides
What I've Read: Middlesex

Jhumpa Lahiri
What I've Read: Interpreter of Maladies

Wally Lamb
What I've Read: She's Come Undone

Liane Moriarty
What I've Read: What Alice Forgot

Matthew Quick
What I've Read: Silver Linings Playbook

Jenny Han
What I've Read: To All the Boys I've Loved Before

Katie Cotugno
What I've Read: How to Love

Rob Sheffield
What I've Read: Love is a Mix Tape

Gillian Flynn
What I've Read: Gone Girl

September 12, 2014

Gathering Blue (The Giver companion) by Lois Lowry

"Take pride in your pain," her mother had always told her. "You are stronger than those who have none.”
-from Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

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Amazon | Goodreads

While Gathering Blue is a companion novel to Lois Lowry's The Giver, there is really no common thread between these two novels other than they are dystopian depictions of what our world could be like someday if we continue to value certain things to the extreme. Maybe throughout the entire series we finally find a greater commonality, but between these first two installments I found little. 

What this novel does give us is the story of Kira, an orphan in a community that puts the physically strongest members at the top and weeds out the weak. Kira is an anomaly in her world because she was born with an injured leg and somehow her mother was able to allow her to live instead of taking her out to The Field to die. But once Kira's mother passes from a disease, Kira finds adversaries who wish to cast her out into the wild where dangerous monsters lurk, the same monsters that murdered her father. Kira cannot offer laborious work, but she may have something else to offer the community if they would give her a chance. 

This story started out so slow for me and it might be simply because of its relation to The Giver. The Giver is such a huge story that set the bar for dystopian fiction, so I think I was expecting a story of the same caliber with Gathering Blue. I tried hard not to let the previous story affect my opinion of Gathering Blue, but it just fell a little flat for me in comparison. Eventually I did grow more attached to Kira, especially because of other characters who are introduced, especially Matt and his dog Branch. If you begin this story and find yourself a little detached, I recommend you persevere and read the entire story. 

There are some twists in this story, some of which I anticipated and some I did not. Even though I figured certain things would happen, I still enjoyed Lowry's execution of the story. I'm not sure if I enjoyed it enough to read the next book in this companion series, but by the end of the book I did not regret finishing. 

Bottom Line: Although I didn't like this one as much as The Giver, Lowry maintains her strong and creative writing with another dystopian world. I would have given this four-stars if it hadn't taken so long for me to become attached to it. If you loved The Giver but find yourself not into this book after a few chapters, I recommend persevering because it's a good story overall (and if you do hate it, at least it's short! ;]) 3.5/5 Stars.

September 11, 2014

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It's the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.
-from The Giver by Lois Lowry

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Dystopian books may be widely popular right now, but they're anything but new. Before there was The Hunger Games and Divergent and Legend and every other new dystopian YA series, there was The Giver (which I suppose can technically be considered an utopian series, depending on your opinion). I wanted to revisit one of the classics that I remember being fascinated by as a young reader but didn't remember in detail, so I listened to The Giver on audio book and reconnected with a book that reminds me why I love reading.

In eleven year old Jonas' world, everything is controlled and perfect. Decisions for every facet of life are made by the government, from who they marry to how many children they have and what their job will be in society. When Jonas turns twelve he is assigned the special role of Receiver of Memory in which the Giver of Memory transmits the history of the world to Jonas by memories. With pleasing memories such as snow and love come painful memories such as sunburn and hunger. As Jonas receives memories, he begins to develop feelings that everyone else in society are void of having and he struggles with living in a society where he must carry the weight of emotions alone.

The premise of this story alone is fascinating: a government in which no decisions are made and everything operates perfectly. Nobody truly feels love and in effect nobody really feels loss when a member is "Released". While life may sound somewhat boring, it's simple, and even lively members, such as Jonas' friend Asher, are able to find a place. The understanding that everything that leads to choices, opinions, and emotions is sacrificed by society in order for members to live a "perfect" life becomes too great of a price to pay for ignorant Jonas as he gains emotions. This poses the same question for readers: Would we be willing to sacrifice all the good things in order to protect ourselves from the bad things? Would you sacrifice sunshine to avoid sunburn? Would you sacrifice seasons to avoid hunger? Would you sacrifice love to avoid loss?

This book is not very complex. The premise requires some imagination, but the questions Lowry poses can be processed by readers of all ages. As a child reader and as an adult reader I was and am captivated by this story. It causes the reader to consider life and society from any position on the spectrum of your lifespan. It calls to question whether a utopia is even achievable without sacrificing so much that said utopia can be viewed equally as a dystopia. No matter the age of the reader, this book is a great conversation piece for what we're willing to give up for a perfect life before that perfect life becomes less than ideal.

Bottom Line: Everyone should read this book. I believe that even people who don't consider themselves readers will be drawn in by this world and the questions this book poses. 5/5 stars.

September 5, 2014

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

"There must be something in books, things we can't imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don't stay for nothing.
-from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is a classic dystopian novel that this English major cannot believe she had never read. Guy Montag is a fireman in a future version of America where books are illegal and nearly extinct. Instead of putting out fires, Guy starts them, burning any books that surface along with the houses that hide them. When he meets Clarisse, a girl in his neighborhood who thinks differently than the status quo, it gives Montag a new perspective of how people operate in his world and he begins questioning why books are forbidden. He also recognizes his wife's addiction to television and how it's destroying her. When Montag gets his hands on a book of his own, the world as he knows it begins to unravel and he must make a decision whether to remain ignorant or discover a whole new world through written words.

This book would be wonderful to discuss in a classroom setting or in a book club and I'm really disappointed that none of my high school or college courses had me read this book. There is so much unsaid in this book that Bradbudy conveys through imagery and metaphor; most obviously the irony that a book is trying to communicate the necessity of books to society. I especially enjoyed the world Bradbury created without books and how it illustrated that the absence of books leads to violence, self-absorption, ignorance, conformity, a loss of humanity and an editing of history- amongst many other things. For the time it was written especially, it is fascinating to read about a world without any written accounts and to imagine classic literature completely wiped away from history.

My only criticism also has to do with the time it was written, which is that the style of writing felt very dated to me. This criticism is highly subjective to the reader, but the dialogue especially made me feel like I was reading movie dialogue from It's a Wonderful Life. Similarly there is a lot of meandering detail, sometimes I got a little bit lost in what I was reading, but overall it was a fascinating and easy book to read in a day.

It's almost eerie to look at our world today and see our dependence on television similar to the world in Fahernheit 451; I know many people who relate to the Kardashians as their family in the same way Montag's wife related to her television "family". People would rather spend time watching programs together than sitting on the porch talking the way Clarisse's family chose to spend their time. Bradbury was truly ahead of his time when he predicted the universal addiction of television. Fortunately it doesn't look like books are going anywhere any time soon, even if they have expanded to Kindles and Nooks!

Bottom Line: A must read for any book lover, an easy classic to read in a day if you haven't gotten the chance to read this yet. This would make a great book club read for discussions! 4/5 Stars.

September 1, 2014

Monday's Reading Recap


Happy Labor Day!! How. Is. It. September? My wedding is next month!!!!!! Fortunately I knew that I would be feeling overwhelmed about now and I already planned for a fun book blogging month: Dystopian September!! I finally get to share my reviews with you for all the popular and classic dystopian books and series I've read this year. I've been stockpiling them for you and hope you'll enjoy a month full of government chaos and brave protagonists! I'll probably be putting this blog somewhat on autopilot and might be skipping my Monday updates (not that they've been consistent over the summer!), but I'm still here behind-the-scenes. Frantically putting together centerpieces while doing squats and trying not to eat any carbs. Ahhh, the life of a bride-to-be. #AreWeThereYet? ;)

Last Week I Finished Reading

So I'm officially adding A Clockwork Orange to my DNF list. I swear I have struggled with this book for so long that it feels good to label it this way. I feel bad that it now belongs in the same category as Chelsea Handler because I don't think it deserves that, but I just couldn't drag myself through it!!! The futuristic vocabulary and violent dystopia just wouldn't allow me to care enough to read on. I secretly hope someday I do finish it because I think the 213 pages will haunt me if I don't... 

  This Week I Plan on Reading: Uglies by Scott Westerfield (I think!). 

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This Week I'm Sharing a Review For: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

What books did you recently discover?