Author: Emily Murdoch
Date: May 2013
Source: ARC from publisher
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THERE ARE SOME THINGS YOU CAN'T LEAVE BEHIND ...
A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen-year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey's younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and the girls are found by their father, a stranger, and taken to re-enter the "normal" life of school, clothes and boys.
Now, Carey must come to terms with the truth of why their mother spirited them away ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won't let her go ... a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn't spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.
Simply, this was a beautifully sad but uplifting tale. When I began reading, my heart ached with that familiar feeling when I know I’m reading something special. If You Find Me had me loving, laughing, crying and hoping nothing but the best for the girls. Big hugs to them both.
The book starts at what Carey considers ‘The End’. Home for Carey and her sister Jenessa is with their drug-addicted mother in a beat down camper van hidden away in a Tennessee national forest. One day, after her mother has been gone for over a month, her father and a social worker come to see the girls to introduce them back into ‘normal’ life. Carey has terrible memories of her mother taking them away from her father, and Jenessa has been mute for a year, ever since a faithful incident that haunts Carey’s conscience.
Seeing Carey and Nessa’s struggles with readapting back into society was beautiful. I was so touched every time they found joy in such mundane things, like taking a shower, or having food that wasn’t beans. I began to appreciate everything more, and realised how lucky we are to have all the comforts we take for granted like food, shelter and clean clothes. It was incredibly moving when Carey started to miss things from her life in the woods, like the wood smoke from their campfire and the sound of the trees, and this book is littered with so many other little glimpses of humanity.
I attribute this to Murdoch’s evocative writing. Carey is a wonderful narrator—her complexity of feelings and point of view is fascinating. Murdoch uses Carey’s unconventional upbringing to bring a beautiful lyricism to the writing and the quirks like Carey’s tendency not to pronounce ‘g’s or call everyone ‘Sir’ added a touch of realism. Apart from her unique voice, I just really admired Carey. She’s one of the bravest characters I’ve read in YA fiction, not because she’s jumping on trains or great with a bow and arrow, but for her sheer tenacity and ability to act and accept like she does, despite her horrible luck in life. She’s truly exceptional. I was so pleased for her when she made friends with Pixie and Ryan, who I thought was incredibly sweet.
I walked the line between happiness and heartbreak throughout the whole book. I wanted so much good to happen for the girls that I was on my toes the entire time, praying that nothing will go horribly wrong. I loved all the goodness that the girls experienced and how they were treated by their new family, but queasy with dread whenever I read about their life in the woods. My only qualm is that I didn’t feel the flashbacks were integrated smoothly into the story, and broke the flow.
Safe to say I cried at lot at the end. It was an incredibly moving book and one that will stay with me for a long time. A real must read!
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Date: March 2013
Source: ARC from publisher
Battling against a society in which love has been declared a disease, Lena now finds herself at the centre of a fierce revolution. But the Wilds are no longer the haven they once were as the government seeks to stamp out the rebels. And Lena's emotions are in turmoil following the dramatic return of someone she thought was lost forever...
Told from the alternating viewpoints of Lena and her best friend Hana, Requiem brings the Delirium trilogy to an exhilarating end and showcases Lauren Oliver at the height of her writing powers - emotionally powerful and utterly enthralling.
I fear the end of an incredible journey with a series. Partly because I don’t want the world to be closed forever, sometimes it’s because I don’t want the fandom to end, but mostly it’s because I don’t want to be let down. I want it to end WELL. So as much as I was looking forward to Requiem after the fantastic Pandemonium, my fears were realised. It didn’t quite live up to my expectations.
Requiem takes place after the shocking end of Pandemonium. It alternates between Lena’s point of view and Hana’s. Lena is back in the Wilds, and struggling with her personal demons (boys, naturally) while the Invalids plan a big stand against the government. On the other hand, Hana’s wedding to Fred, the new mayor of Portland, is fast approaching. While her life seems perfect, she’s starting to question whether her cure is working and discovering things about her future husband-to-be that make her very afraid.
I didn’t dislike the book, quite the contrary. The same things I loved in the first two books were present in spades, like Oliver’s beautiful prose and how she tugs on my heartstrings. Lena’s sorrow and pain are beautifully described and my emotions switched between heartbreak and anger at the Lena, Alex and Julian situation (mainly because I thought it should’ve clearly been Julian). I also thoroughly enjoyed Hana’s return, and I found her life and the mysteries in it very compelling. It was interesting to read from the point of view of someone who is essentially supposed to be devoid of emotions, but struggles how to deal with these feelings bubbling to the surface.
The book definitely suffered from the ‘Deathly Hallows’ syndrome, where too much of the story was unnecessary wandering around the Wilds. I felt awful for the situation that they faced, but raced through these frankly boring parts. The Invalids seemed aimless for most of it, and despite the brief little glimpses where Oliver explores the pain of having loved and lost, it should’ve just fast-forwarded to the story’s culmination in Portland.
I was so annoyed about these slow sections because about 80% through the book, I found myself thinking and writing ‘holy snapple’, a phrase I have never once uttered. The book got GOOD. The rebellion was in full force, everyone had a plan, the tense excitement I felt for much of Pandemonium was back—this was what I was waiting for. Then I started to panic as I realised I only had a measly 50 pages left of the book and so much I still want to see happen and resolve…that never did. There were some fantastic scenes towards the end, my favourite being the one where Lena and Hana finally meet, but what about everything else? What about the characters I have come to know and love? What about the state of the world?
So there you have it, a disappointing ending to what I still feel is a great series—not because of the quality of the book, but because I wanted more. And I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling like this.
Author: Lauren Oliver
Series: Delirium #2
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Date: September 2012
Source: Review copy from publisher
The eagerly anticipated sequel to the international bestseller DELIRIUM, one of the most addictive books of last year. Unflinching, heartbreaking and totally addictive, this novel will push your emotions to the limit.
Lena's been to the very edge. She's questioned love and the life-changing and agonising choices that come with it. She's made her decision. But can she survive the consequences? PANDEMONIUM is the explosive sequel to the critically acclaimed and bestselling DELIRIUM.
Even after the intense ending of Delirium, Lauren Oliver exceeded my expectations with this book and more. Word circulated that Pandemonium was a lot better than Delirium and I agree wholeheartedly. Not only is it filled with gritty action and true emotion, it also introduced a boy that I love a whole lot better.
Pandemonium starts a while after Delirium, but also immediately after. It’s told from Lena’s ‘Now’ and ‘Then’ point of views, the ‘Now’ being the current timeline and the ‘Then’ flashing right back to the events after Delirium and Lena’s start in the Wilds. Lena is now part of the resistance in New York City, with a fake identity as an active member of Deliria-Free America (DFA) in order to bring the organisation down from the inside and to keep an eye on its poster boy, Julian Fineman.
I fell in love with Oliver’s writing once again, especially when she describes Lena’s sorrow. The ‘Then’ point of view was so heart-breaking. Lena struggled with survival, fitting in, adjusting to life now that her whole world and beliefs had been cast aside. She was also wracked with guilt, believing that she was responsible for Alex’s death.
As much as I enjoyed the beauty in her sorrow though, it was the ‘Now’ timeline that I raced through the book for. From Lena attending her first DFA meeting and throughout Lena and Alex’s imprisonment and escape, everything that happened was heart-poundingly exciting. When the book built up to the amazing climax, it really was impossible to put down. My heartbeat was racing, my palms were sweaty and I certainly felt like I was up against my own clock. My mind was screaming at Lena, as I wanted her to pull of her greatest feat yet.
I really admired Lena throughout Pandemonium, as she really came full-circle. From someone who was shown and taught throughout the majority of the story thus far, she has turned from being saved to becoming a saviour. I love the parallels between what Alex did for Lena in Delirium and what Lena did for Julian. I respected her so much for sticking to her conviction, for pulling off some amazing escapes, and also (in the immortal words of Demi Lovato) for giving her heart a break. Her emotions were killing her and I was so glad to see her slowly forgiving herself.
My absolute favourite thing about the book though was Lena and Julian’s chemistry and slow acceptance of each other. Julian really surprised me a lot as a character. I genuinely thought that his imprisonment with Lena was some sort of ruse by the DFA to get one up on the resistance (boy was I wrong about whose ruse it turned out to be). His quiet determination and innocence was very attractive. It was great to see his character develop as everything he knew to be true fell apart. He struggled a lot with the idea of Lena, and I thought he showed great bravery accepting everything that was thrown his way. I was really happy when Lena finally gave in to Julian’s love.
Best of all, WHAT AN ENDING. Oliver is again the master of the cliffhanger and has killed me dead. All in all, I loved this book so much for two reasons: a more kick-ass Lena and a much better male protagonist in Julian. Bring on Requiem!
Author: Lauren Oliver
Series: Delirium #1
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Date: February 2011
There was a time when love was the most important thing in the world. People would go to the end of the earth to find it. They would tell lies for it. Even kill for it. Then, at last, they found the cure. Now, everything is different. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Haloway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy. But then, with only ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable...
Love—in all its forms, it’s considered a disease in Delirium’s dystopian society. When citizens come of age, they undergo an operation that cures them of it. Lena is a 15 year old girl several months away from her cure, and wouldn’t you know it, she falls in love.
I’ve read similar books I didn’t enjoy, so I was a bit late getting to this. Luckily the lovely people at Hodder sent me Requiem and I was piqued by all the hype. Although I found Delirium somewhat slow, Lauren Oliver’s beautiful prose absolutely won me over, and in the end I found it to be an exciting, beautiful read. Amor deliria nervosa, you may have just got me with this one.
Most dystopian main characters are so ready to break free from their conventional lives, that I found Lena’s tentativeness refreshing. Initially, it wasn’t her, but her best friend Hana who rebels against society. Lena is resistant, and because her mother was taken away for contracting the disease, she prefers to live her life on the straight and narrow to avoid any further humiliation to her family.
As chance would have it, she meets Alex, who appears cured. After cautiously spending some time with him, she eventually realises she may have contracted this disease she has tried so hard to avoid. He shows her that the ‘Invalids’ who live outside the walls of society are real and reveals this whole world outside of her own.
When they fell in love, Lena’s reflections and feelings unfolded so beautifully I found myself clinging to every word. She had a genuine struggle over her new feelings and what she had always believed was right. She wanted to be brave, but she was scared. I absolutely loved her for that. Her characterisation was realistic and heart-breaking.
I was, however, let down by Alex. He was lovely, but altogether almost too perfect. He lacked personality and that spark, that flaw, which makes someone attractive. To me, he was an ideal instead of a love interest. I liked how his presence affected Lena, but I wasn’t sold on their chemistry. I did however, love Hana. She was fun and fierce and I loved their friendship throughout the book.
Where the book also fell flat for me was the pace. While I could sit all day and read Oliver’s lyrical writing, I wanted—no needed—more plot. I loved Hana, Lena and Alex’s camaraderie, but it wasn’t until the last quarter of the book where events ramped up, my heart was racing and I got really caught up in the excitement. I was impressed by Oliver’s ability to write heart-pounding action scenes just as well as the beautiful flowery ones. I found myself fearful and anxious right along with Lena.
I couldn’t wait to pick up the next in the series. Delirium slowly spun a web around me and now I’m officially caught in its world.
Author: Kiersten White
Series: Mind Games #1
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Date: February 2013
Source: ARC from publisher
She never chose her deadly gift but now she’s forced to use it. How far would you go to protect the only family you have left?
Annie is beset by fleeting strange visions and a guilty conscience. Blind and orphaned, she struggles to care for her feisty younger sister Fia, but things look up when both sisters are offered a place at Kessler School for Exceptional Girls.
Born with flawless intuition, Fia immediately knows that something’s wrong, but bites her tongue… until it’s too late. For Fia is the perfect weapon to carry out criminal plans and there are those at Kessler who will do anything to ensure her co-operation.
With Annie trapped in Kessler’s sinister clutches, instincts keep Fia from killing an innocent guy and everything unravels. Is manipulative James the key to the sisters’ freedom or an even darker prison? And how can Fia atone for the blood on her hands?
I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book because I thoroughly enjoyed Kiersten White’s debut Paranormalcy series. I purposely kept my knowledge of the book vague, but given both titles Sister Assassin in the UK and Mind Games in the US, I was generally expecting kick-ass sisters with cool mind powers. Instead I got so much more. The story was heart-pounding, dark action with an abundance of humanity.
I just loved it. It’s told from the alternating point of view of orphaned sisters Fia and Annie, both of whom currently reside an institution for ‘special’ girls. Annie, the elder sister is blind, but has visions of things to come. I thought it was really poetic that the only time Annie knows what anything looks like is through her visions. Fia on the other hand, has perfect instincts—she instinctively picks the right horse to win the race, or knows which direction to turn to avoid an accident.
It starts off with a bang, when Fia is sent on an assignment to assassinate someone. It then moves between Fia and Annie’s past and present until you get to the intense and pretty awesome climax ending. I loved how even though the plot was fast-paced and exciting, it slowed down through the shifting timelines, which revealed wonderful little moments in the past. Reading about when the girls lost their parents or Fia’s first kill made my heart ache for them and really helped me understand their motives.
I found both sisters’ voices to be very distinct. I absolutely fell into Fia’s erratic, somewhat careless and harried way of thinking as much as I fell into Annie’s more descriptive, thoughtful, sometimes anguished narrative. Both girls have their moments of pettiness and frustrations, but at the heart of most of their actions is the need to take care of each other—Annie, because she’s the older sister and Fia, because of Annie’s disability. At the end, my heart broke for Fia and Annie’s impossible situation and absolute care for each other.
There were some boys in their lives, namely the sweet genius Adam and anti-villian James, and numerous other peripheral characters and great big organisations. I’m almost sure there was a conspiracy theory in there somewhere, as well as a plot to bring down the man. I think I will care so much more about all of that when I read the sequel, and believe me, the potential of this series is phenomenal. But as for this book, the first in the series, everyone should relish it for the wonderful story about Annie and Fia and their inspiring sisterly love (ok, and maybe a few kick-ass moments).