Friday, 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? ;)

Thursday, 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!

Friday, 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.