Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

Warning: Unavoidable spoilers to those who have yet to read the first book, Delirium.

I absolutely loved Delirium (read review here), so when I read other reviews for Pandemonium (Oh, how I envy those lucky people who get advanced copies!), I was slightly disappointed when I heard how she’s now alone in the wilds. My first thought was, is this going to be like New Moon by Stephanie Meyer? When Edward Cullen disappears after the first chapter and I found myself frantically flipping through the book trying to find a mention of his name, thinking when is Edward coming back?!? I had that same sense of panic with Pandemonium.  Alex can’t be gone. He can’t be dead! From the very beginning I held onto the hope that Alex HAD to come back, no matter what Lauren Oliver had to pull out of her hat. I don’t care if he comes back as a zombie. I need Alex to come back, for Lena’s sake.

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver is an amazing sequel. It will suck you in. It will take your breath away, and not give it back. It will consume you; every thought, feeling, and emotion Lena feels, you will feel just as deep. It will become real to you.  It will hurt a little, okay maybe a lot, but that’s what makes this novel so good. Oliver reaches into the very heart of her readers and squeezes, draining the heart dry, only to fill it back up again.

I’m pushing aside the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana and my old school,
push,
push,
push,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame.

I feel as if I’ve been through an emotional reawakening. Oliver’s writing is so beautiful. It paints beautiful and tragic pictures. I loved the depth of Lena as a character. The emotions were so real and so raw. I am right. there. with. her. With the help of Oliver’s hand, I felt every emotion at my very core. Oliver captivates the reader with her beautiful prose, where emotions become tangible objects. Here’s an example: “Hatred is a high tower. In the Wilds, I start to build, and to climb.” As I read those words, I felt my own hatred build — for what I’m not sure — and I started to climb. For a sentence to have that kind of effect, it just blew me away.

Oliver is amazing because she never loses her reader. I started reading with a defensive mindset; I didn’t want her to leave Lena all alone, yet Oliver drew me in with the very first page. I will never doubt her again.

I’m convinced Oliver is a literary goddess. She created an amazingly crafted story and I loved the back and forth sequence between Now and Then in the chapters.  Each emotion or stream of thought flowed seamlessly between the different moments in time. I’m in awe of this genius. I can see that this took a lot of work to put together so effortlessly.

Lena is such a real person to me. I can relate to her love of running, to where running becomes therapeutic to push through the pain both physical and mental, and use the fact that after the run you are not dead, and therefore, if the physical pain from the run won’t kill you then maybe you can hold on to the belief that the emotional pain won’t kill you either. It was a very impactful tie between physical and mental, reader and character.

I absolutely love Lauren Oliver. There is something about her writing that touches me. It creates that feeling that feeds my love of reading. She stirs emotions and creates excitement. I literally thought I was going to have a heart attack when I finished this book. There is a twist at the end that surpasses all twists. I was hanging on Oliver’s every word, eating out of her hand when BAM!, punch to the gut. She leaves the reader with the most tragic dilemma. What in the world is Lena gonna do!?!  What am I gonna do?; I have to wait until February 2013 for the third and final book, Requiem!

I do not just highly recommend this book. I COMMAND everyone to read this series!

XVI by Julia Karr

Let’s be honest, XVI by Julia Karr is a futuristic novel about the exploitation of sex in the media and among teenagers.  The story of Nina’s plight within the controlled society she lives in brings forth a lot of questions about sex in media today. Unfortunately, it read almost like a Public Service Announcement.

Nina is about to turn sixteen, and she is not looking forward to it. It’s Chicago in the future and all girls must be branded with a XVI tattoo on their wrist on their sixteenth birthday. Once she’s sixteen, she’s legal; and the tattoo is the universal signal to boys everywhere that she’s of age for sex, hence the term, sex-teens. Nina does not want to be one of them, and when her fairly normal life takes a devastating turn, there may not be anyone there to keep her safe. Enter Sal, the attractive and mysterious boy who has all the answers.

I thought this story had a really great message. Karr tried to include the underlying message that teens should wait for sex. She isn’t very clear about how long they should wait or why, but it isn’t exactly a subtle message either. Anyone can blatantly see this message throughout the text. I’m sure some teenagers would feel like the message was being shoved down their throats. Like I said, I like the message; execution? not so much. It was a little too straight forward and it was too easy to see through the plot and characters. It’s almost like the verts from the story (constant media messages transmitted on the streets), very obnoxious and it interrupted the story a little too much for my taste.

Karr did a good job developing her characters. I had very clear pictures of them and their personalities. I enjoyed reading about them. The relationship between Sal and Nina was sweet. Sal seemed the right amount of protective, however, he never really did anything to protect her. Nina always had to fend for herself. The characters were great; it was the plot that I had an issue with, more specifically, the plot had too many unanswered questions. For example, the plot is set up with Nina realizing her dad may still be alive and the story is driven on the notion that she MUST find her father to save her, her littler sister, etc. **Spoiler Alert** This never happens! I’m like, what?!? Another example, this book is about her turning sixteen. She doesn’t turn sixteen until the very last page. Again, What?!? I’m so confused!

Ultimately, there is a lot of build up but no climax. There are a lot of exciting things that happen, but none of it brings the story together. The actual story was very disjointed from the plot. Since it was so disjointed, the reading experience wasn’t entirely pleasurable. I wanted to see what happened in the end, but I wasn’t excited about it. This book was missing something; I can’t put my finger on it. The story needed to come together more and the questions needed to be answered. I think Karr meant to leave questions for the next installment but there were just too many and it leaves the reader frustrated, not intrigued. The sequel, Truth, came out January 19, 2012.  I’m not sure if I care to read it, maybe just to find some answers.

Releases and Recommendations

It’s Tuesday! I am highly anticipating the release of the sequel to Veronica Roth’s Divergent. Insurgent by Veronica Roth is being released on Tuesday, May 1, 2012.

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth’s much-anticipated second book of the dystopian Divergent series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.

I’m so looking forward to seeing where Tris and Four’s relationship goes, especially after all that has happened! Veronica Roth has such strong, gripping writing, and I’m fully prepared for her to rock my socks off! Can’t wait!

Hawksong by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

It’s been awhile since a book has taken my breath away, and Hawksong by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes did just that.

Danica Shardae, heir to the Tuuli Thea, is an Avian shapshifter who goes to unexpectable lengths to ensure peace in the bloody war against the Serpiente people. She arranges a marriage with Zane Cobriana, the leader of the Serpiente. The Serpiente and the Avian people have been at war so long nobody knows how it all started. In this short tale, a girl’s bravery and a boy’s desperate desire for peace bring together two totally different worlds.

This book was recommended to me, and quite honestly, I dismissed it initially. I mean, look at the cover; it doesn’t exactly peak my interest. The worn and tattered copy I received from the public library didn’t bode too well either, but I decided to give it a chance. This story was written when Atwater-Rhodes was only 19  and published in 2003. I can hardly believe I’ve missed it all these years.

I absolutely loved Hawksong. I was totally and utterly intoxicated by this short novel; it’s only 243 pages. I was immediately drawn into this world of shapeshifters. It’s a little out of the ordinary with the shapeshifters being birds and serpents, but it made it that much more enjoyable. Danica made an amazing Queen and her decisions reflected the fierce leader she was. Zane was also very loyal to his people to the point of giving up everything to stop the bloodshed. This story had an amazing message of peace by overcoming differences. The Avians had their steely reserve where as the Serpiente people were fluid and emotional. Atwater-Rhodes brought everything together beautifully.

The only complaint I have is I want MORE! The chapters flew by and the scenes were brief flashes. Even though it seemed too short, I was pulled right in to the point where I was longing for more. I wanted to hear more about their world, and I wanted to read scene after scene of Zane and Danica’s interactions. I was so enthralled, it got to the point where I was irritable if anyone or anything had the gall to interrupt me! (Sorry hubby!) I was thoroughly impressed by the writing for such a young author. Granted, I wanted more detail but that didn’t mean there wasn’t a lack of depth in the story. I would highly recommend this book. From the cover and the length, it seems to be for a younger audience, but I found it enjoyable and refreshing; it explored real issues in a mystical world. Amazingly — and to my sheer joy! — this book is the first in a series. The second installment, Snakecharm, will soon be gracing my bookshelves.

A Perfect Blood by Kim Harrison

Kim Harrison is one of my favorite authors. When I read books by my favorite author, it’s hard to write a review because my initial instinct is to gush about how much I love it. Which is true, I did love A Perfect Blood. Harrison delivers, yet again, an action-packed adventure starring the lovely, badass Rachel Morgan.

Rachel Morgan is being called out. Hideous murders are turning up around Cincinnati and the disfigured corpses point to HAPA, an organization against the Inderlander’s existence. As an official day-walking demon, Rachel must find the culprits. Once she discovers they are after her Demon Blood, Rachel has to deal with everyone telling her to stay out of danger, including her new werewolf bodyguard. Mostly defenseless due to Elf magic, Rachel might have to finally accept her Demon side in order to survive.

Book 10 in the Hollows series, A Perfect Blood is a great continuation of Rachel Morgan’s story. Harrison continues to come up with original, heart-pounding plot lines, and I love it. I love Harrison’s imagination; her characters are extremely original and I love delving into her world. Along with all the danger and murders, Harrison expands on Rachel’s personal life in this book. She’s melancholy still about Kisten’s death (I miss Kisten soo much! He was my favorite!), and she’s feeling left out, since both Ivy and Jenks are moving on with their lives. There are still plenty of flirtatious interactions between Rachel and some of the most unlikely people, but I like how she’s taking things slowly. There continues to be a surprising amount of sexual tension between Trent and Rachel, and I can’t wait to see what comes of it! As much as I miss Kisten, Rachel’s laundry list of lovers leaves readers intrigued to see what happens next. Touché, Harrison. It makes for a quite compelling series.

I love Kim Harrison and this book is a great example of why. Each installment in her series continues the story of Rachel but each book is wrapped up neatly in the end, with tons of foreshadowing and open-ended questions for the next book of course. It leaves me coming back for more, time and time again. I highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys a good Urban Fantasy. Rachel Morgan is one badass witch. If you’ve never read her series, start with her first book, Dead Witch Walking, and enjoy!

Everneath by Brodi Ashton

 So anyone who really knows me (and reads this blog) would know that even though it says I’ve been currently reading Everneath by Brodi Ashton for weeks knows it’s not true. I’m an impatient person so I naturally rotate through books quickly. I read it weeks ago in two days; I just haven’t had a chance to write this review. The hold up is partially because I didn’t really enjoy it.

Eveneath by Brodi Ashton is the retelling of the myth of Persephone. (Note: I know NOTHING about Greek mythology so I had no idea how this book would end.) Here’s the synopsis.

 Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she’s returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld… this time forever.

She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can’t find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there’s a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he’ll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.

As Nikki’s time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she’s forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole’s…

I really wanted to read this book when I first heard about it, but I quickly realized it wasn’t that great. The writing was fine but the story was not believable. (I know, I know it’s based on Greek Mythology, but come on, can’t the characters have normal human reactions at least?) This book really irks me because it’s another one of those girl makes a really, REALLY dumb decision and we’re expected to feel bad for her. I didn’t and still don’t, that’s probably why I didn’t really like it.

Nikki falls into the cliché teenage issue. Something bad happens and she looks for a way to take the pain away. Unfortunately for her, there is a super hot immortal who can literally take her pain away. I could totally accept this if something REALLY bad had happened but it was something really stupid, more like a misunderstanding. Who gives away their soul/life for a misunderstanding?? It didn’t make any sense. A normal human being would never do that. I’m almost pissed at Ashton for creating the character Nikki like this. It influences young adults to think its okay to overact. It was like committing suicide because of spilt milk. Ugh.

Anyway, the only thing I liked was the human character Jack. Nikki and Jack have a really intense relationship. It was one of the only things that seemed real, it had a lot of tension and regrets. Even though I hated Nikki and thought she was dumb, Jack was the only reason I was rooting for them in the end. Their love redeemed this novel somewhat and the sacrifices made on each other’s behalf were heartwarming. However, I was left extremely dissatisfied in the end. I guess I can’t blame Ashton because that’s probably the way it went down in Greek Mythology, but it reaffirms my distaste for mythology; and I didn’t really enjoy the book as a whole.

Everneath is the first book in a planned trilogy. I can’t say I would recommend this book. I kind of want to forget I ever read it simply because I hated Nikki, but who knows I might pick up the sequel come when.

The Host by Stephanie Meyer

Okay, so apparently I’ve been living under a rock, a gigantic, life-sized rock. I just stumbled across the most amazing news! The Host by Stephanie Meyer is being made into a movie, like right now. The release date is March 29, 2013, only a year away!

If you do not already know, I LOVED The Host. Anytime anyone asks about Twilight or Stephanie Meyer, I always tell them to read The Host because it is ten times better than Twilight. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Twilight and I can never get enough of my favorite characters, (*cough* Team Jacob *cough*) but The Host is an amazingly written, original, unique novel. It. blew. me. away.

I was extremely skeptical when I first picked it up. I find that most authors who have a really famous series don’t usually succeed as well in their other writings, especially since Meyer jumped from Young Adult to Adult Fiction for The Host, AND  she wrote it between Eclipse and Breaking Dawn! Despite all my skepticism, The Host was magnificent. Here is the synopsis.

Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. Our world has been invaded by an unseen enemy. Humans become hosts for these invaders, their minds taken over while their bodies remain intact and continue their lives apparently unchanged. Most of humanity has succumbed.

When Melanie, one of the few remaining “wild” humans, is captured, she is certain it is her end. Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, was warned about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the glut of senses, the too-vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn’t expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

Wanderer probes Melanie’s thoughts, hoping to discover the whereabouts of the remaining human resistance. Instead, Melanie fills Wanderer’s mind with visions of the man Melanie loves – Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body’s desires, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she has been tasked with exposing. When outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off on a dangerous and uncertain search for the man they both love.

Anyone who bad mouths Stephanie Meyer has to eat their words after reading this book. This story has so many complex layers and such a strong, out there concept, it’s utterly genius and completely unexpected from the Mormon mom who brought us sparkly vampires. Meyers’ true literary colors shine through with her biggest strength, character development. In this book, she literally develops two characters trapped in the same body. It’s extremely impressive and it makes for a great read. If you like tension and suspense in your romance, you will LOVE this book.

I am so glad that this book is a standalone novel. It left me satisfied when the book came to an end. It felt complete, and as much as I love being able to continue reading a series, leaving this novel to itself was a great decision. I would highly recommend this book, especially if you’ve read the Twilight series, but even more so if you could care less about Twilight. This book doesn’t have any creatures of the night or werewolves, just aliens and humans, an amazing sci-fi adventure for everyone.

I am so, so excited to see this one come to life! I just pray it isn’t horrible like the movie Twilight, but better produced like the more recent Twilight films.

Watch the teaser trailer for The Host movie below.

Awesome, right? I’ve got goosebumps!! I’m interested to know, did anyone else know about this?